After the incident with the unknown girl, I head to my workplace. There is no official name for the place I work for. It’s specialty is doll-making, but most of the job we get are construction-related. The president, Aozaki Tohko, is a woman in her late twenties and she is a weirdo that would buy an abandoned building to make into her office. It means that this is not a company, but rather an extension of her hobby. There are many reasons why I decided to work here, but this is my daily life now. I have complaints but I have no troubles. I rather think I am fortunate. There are problems but they are all things I can bear.
… While I’m thinking, I arrive at the building. The building is four-stories high and the office is on the fourth floor. This building situated between the residential and the industrial district feels rather empty. It’s not that tall, yet it puts pressure on the ones looking up to it. There are no elevators, so I go up the stairs.
When I enter the office, I see an unusual person within the usual junk scattered about. A girl with sharp eyes wearing a black kimono turns to me. … The kimono has some fish pattern on it…
“Huh, Shiki? Why are you here at such a place?”
“Sorry this place is “such a place”. This happens to be your workplace, Kokutoh.”
Tohko-san, who is sitting behind Shiki glares at me. She is dressed plainly like always with a cigarette in her mouth. She is wearing black pants with a white shirt. She’s wearing an earring in one of her ear. The color of course is orange. I don’t know why, but she seems to have this habit of wearing one thing that is orange on her.
“But you sure are here early today. I told you there’s no jobs for a while, so to show up around noon.”
“No, I can’t do that.”
That’s right. My wallet is not allowing me to do that. I feel rather uneasy when the only thing in my wallet are my train pass and a telephone card.
“By the way, why is Shiki here?”
“I called for her. I got something I need her for.”
Shiki does not say anything but rubs her eyes sleepily. … Was she walking around at night again? … It’s only been about a month since she recovered from her coma. For some reason, we are finding it rather uncomfortable to talk to each other. It seems Shiki does not want to talk so I sit down at my own desk. …There’s nothing to do, so I decide to talk. Fortunately, there is a topic handy.
“Tohko-san, did you see the news this morning?”
“You must mean the Broad Bridge. It’s not like some foreign country, I don’t think Japan needs that big of a bridge.”
I pull back at her comment. What she is talking about is a big bridge that is about 800 meters long planned to finish constuction next year. The town we live in is close to the port. If you drive for about 20 minutes, you can get to the port, but the shape itself is troublesome. To put it simply, there is another side of it. If you look at it on a map, it looks like a crecent moon and a long roundabout is forced if you want to get from the top to the bottom. The city’s construction group teamed up with a big construction company and put into action what they said is the solution for public complaints. They are building a straight route across the tips of the crecent shape in the form of a bridge. … Of course, most of the money to build this is coming from our taxes. I think it is a typical case of government saying they are solving public complaints which did not exist from the start, only resulting in creating more public complaints. The bridge is also to have museums, aquariums, big parking lots and such, and you can’t tell if its a bridge or an amusement park. It was called Baybridge until recently but according to what Tohko-san is saying, I guess it’s officially announced its name as Broad Bridge. Both Tohko-san and I do not like the idea of this bridge.
“But Tohko-san, even though you hate the idea, you already have a space in there for your gallery.”
“It’s not under my will. A person I knew just gave me that space as a pay. I can just sell it off but since I have some relationship with the Asagami construction company, I can’t just do that. Geez, a place that won’t make me money is worthless.”
From the say she’s talking, she seems to be having trouble with money. I get a really bad feeling.
“Um, I don’t want to say this so bluntly, but can I have my pay?”
“Kokutoh, about that… unfortunately, I don’t have any money. It’s an unfortunate thing but I’ll have to pay you all next month.”
Tohko-san declares so calmly. She sounds like I’m the bad guy instead.
“Wait a minute! You had 1.12 million yen in the bank yesterday! How could you say it’s all gone!?”
Tohko-san replies while rocking on her chair that it’s because she used it all. Shiki is looking at Tohko-san with some jealousy. …Certainly, Tohko-san looks like she’s having fun in the chair. No, I don’t care about that right now.
“What did you use the money on, Tohko-san?”
“Oh, what I bought was a boring thing. It’s an Ouija Board from the Victoria Age. I can’t expect much out of its effect but it’s not totally worthless because it’s over a hundred years old. No matter how uninteresting it is, some mana and long time will give it some additional value. Well, it still makes no difference that it’s useless. If I have to give a reason for buying it, you could say it’s part of my hobby.”
I just don’t understand this person. This person called Aozaki Tohko is a magus. I always think how much better it would have been if she was just a magician or something, but that’s the truth so I have to accept it. The magus continues her excuse.
“It was a sudden thing on sale, so I bought it out of impulse. Don’t get so angry. I’m out of money too.”
… Don’t be angry? That’s asking too much. As I have seen many miracles from her, I thought this part of her is rather playful, but I cannot be that tolerant today.
“So is that it? I’m not getting paid this month?”
“Yeah. Get some money from somewhere else.”
I get up from my seat.
“Then I’m going to go find some money to live off of this month so I’m leaving early. Is that all right?”
“Fine. By the way Kokutoh, I need to ask you a favor.”
Tohko-san says so in a different tone. Maybe it has to do something with the fact that Shiki’s here… I calm down and stop.
“What is it, Tohko-san?”
“Can you lend me some money? I’m broke as you can see.”
“…… I refuse with all my might.”
I close the door hard and leave the office.
After looking at the conversation between Mikiya and Tohko for a while, Shiki finally opens her mouth.
“Tohko, about that thing.”
“That’s right. I don’t really like to accept this kind of a job but I won’t be able to live without money. …… Geez, I’m going mad over money when I’m not an Alchemist. This is all because Kokutoh won’t lend me any money.”
Tohko sticks her cigarette into the ashtray saying she’s in a bad mood. Shiki thinks Mikiya probably is in a worse mood than her.
“Well, about that incident last night…”
“I’ve heard enough. I know what’s going on.”
“I see…… I only explained to you the scene of the crime, but you already know? You’re pretty sharp.”
Tohko looks meaningfully at Shiki. Tohko has only explained the results of the murder that occured between 7PM and 8PM last night and Shiki is saying she understood what kind of crime it was. This is definite proof that Shiki is a person closer to the world Tohko.lives in.
“The client has some idea of the killer. Your job is to take the killer under your care if possible. But if the killer happens to fight back even slightly… the client said to kill her.”
Shiki just nods. The jod description is easy. Find the killer and kill her.
“But what about after that?”
“If you happen to kill her, they will clean it up and treat it as an accident. For the client, she is already socially dead. It is not against the law to kill a dead person. What do you want to do? I think this job rather suits you.”
“I don’t even need to answer that question.”
Saying that, Shiki starts walking out the office.
“You’re in such a hurry. Were you hungry, Shiki?”
Shiki does not answer.
“Here, it’s her picture and her status. What were you going to do without knowing what she looks like?”
Shiki only looks at Tohko, who throws her the file containing the information. The file drops to the floor.
“I don’t need it. That killer is definitely of my kind. … So if we meet, we’ll start to kill each other at that instant.”
Shiki leaves the office, leaving the sound of her kimono and a cold glare.
After I leave the office, I couldn’t help it, so I decide to borrow some money from a friend of mine. We decide to meet at the college cafeteria which I quit in June. A bit after noontime, Gakuto comes. He has grown much bigger since high school. When I tell him what I came for, he makes a troubled face.
“I’m surprized. Calling for someone just to borrow money? Are you really Kokutoh Mikiya?”
“Yeah. You’re special to me. You can be happy about that.”
“Heh, who would. Besides, why don’t you go borrow from your relatives?”
“I haven’t seen my parents ever since that fight I got into with them when I dropped out of college. How do you expect me to go back and ask such a thing now?”
“Haha, you’re pretty stubborn. Was it a pretty big fight?”
“That has nothing to do with you. So are you going to lend me some money or not?”
“Hm? You’re in a pretty bad mood today.”
I glare at him saying it’s none of his business, but Gakuto agrees to lending me some money.
“If I put your name out, I bet I would be able to collect 50000, 60000 yen quickly… and if you still need more, I can lend you some of my money. But, not for free.”
… It seems he also has a favor to ask of me. Gakuto looks around and makes sure no one is listening.
“Well, to put it simply, I want for you to look forsomeone. It’s one of our lower-classman, but he hasn’t returned home. It seems he’s involved in a strange crime.”
Gakuto’s story is not peaceful at all. The name of the missing lower-classman is Minato Keita. He is missing from last night and Gakuto says he is a member of the group that was killed last night. Minato Keita has contacted one of his friend last night but it seems he was acting strangely, so that friend came to Gakuto for help.
“Keita was saying something like he’s going to get killed. That’s the only call he made and he doesn’t even answer his cell phone now. According to the guy who talked to him, he was really screwed up.”
Screwed up… he must mean drugs by that. Easy drugs for beginners are cheap and relatively easy to get now. Even a high schooler can get his hands on L if they try, but they shouldn’t try…
“… Hey now. Do you think such a violent world suits me?”
“What are you saying? Looking for people is your specialty.”
I grow quiet.
“That guy Keita, does he do drugs?”
“No, the ones who used them were the ones that were killed. Don’t you remember Keita? He’s one of the kid that liked you.”
… During high school, I was liked by some lower-classmen for some reason. Maybe because I’m a friend of Gakuto or something.
“It would make things easy if he is just tripping from a new drug. Which kind of drugs do they use? Upper or downer?”
There are two types of drugs: Upper, the ones that make you mentally high and feel good and downer, the ones that make you depressed. The one Gakuto names is an upper.
“It’s bad if he’s using drugs to run away from fear. The killer really might be after this kid. All right, I’ll look into this. Tell me about his friends.”
Gakuto hands me an address book as if he was ready for me to say so. Having lots of friends is a characteristic of the member of that group and it seems he’s no exception. Many names with their cell phone numbers along with each group’s hangout place is written.
“I’ll contact you once I find him. I might get him under my protection but you wouldn’t care, would you?”
By protection, I mean handing him over to Daisuke Nii-san, a cop. Gakuto nods, understanding what I mean. We reach an agreement. To start off my search, I borrow about 20000 yen from him. After saying goodbye to Gakuto, I decide to go to the murder scene. It’s because I feel that I’ll have to really try if I’m to find him. Even though I know I shouldn’t concern myself, I also know this kid is in danger, so I could not decline Gakuto..