End of the year, let’s review what has been done so far…
1. Clockwork Planet got licensed
2. Imouto Sae Ireba ii got licensed
3. Sangatsu no Lolicon got licensed
Way too many licenses. (Where’s Quarkboy, I’m gonna strangle him)
But hey, at least I managed to do something related to them, somehow. Not bad for a guy who was supposed to take at least 5 months leave.
Meanwhile I somehow ended up with more projects than what I have licensed.
Cue “Welcome to my Life” by Simple Plan.
Well, this is what happen when you are a kleptomaniac translator.
I swore that Kamiinai will be my final project. It’ll probably be 3017 by the time I’m done with it. And I pretty much chose it as the last project because the loli dies at the end.
Oh did I say that the loli die?
Yes I did say that the loli dies.
So far on Hellping, I have two completed projects, Hikaru and Bokushinu. Well, there is a drama CD of sorts for Bokushinu, which I have no idea whose stupid idea it is. I’m still planning to get baft to do it instead. Too lazy.
As for 2018 scheduling, this is what I have at the moment. (It’s been a long while since I did scheduling for my projects)
Unicorn 10 + Kamimemo 5
Kamiinai 1 + Kamimemo 9 + Strangled 3
Magdala 5 + 6
86 v3 (THIS ONE IS TOO LONG)
Magdala v7 + Kamiinai v2
Looking back, there isn’t a lot of series for me to do I guess, especially given the inevitable license of 86.
……Author said that she planned for 13 volumes at least.
And speaking of 86, something a little special. From the special edition of v1:
Shinn sensed some weight leaning upon his hand. Looking down, he found that Krena, who was playing with the cat, had fallen asleep.
With his hand nimbly keeping his unfinished book open, Shinn went silent.
Krena had fallen asleep, sounding blissful. To put it somehow, it seemed she had not grown mentally, let alone physically.
Whatever, Shinn ignored the girl next to her, and continued reading. Surely she would wake up if she kept sleeping like this; if she did not, he could just call Angel over to deal with her.
So he thought, and his Para-RAID rang.
Lena, with her usual silver bell-like voice, said her usual greetings.
“…Good evening, Captain Nouzen”
Ah, this isn’t good.
So he instinctively thought, realized this thought was incomprehensible, and frowned.
…What’s not good?
The usual gang was not around, as they were out dealing with maintenance or other matters. Shinn was the only one in the room.
So Lena thought, but amidst the conversation, a breathing sound not belonging to Shinn could be heard. She tilted her head.
This quiet breathing…was probably, someone sleeping.
“…Is there someone?”
“Well…Krena’s sleeping .”
It seemed Shinn was unable to move as
Krena was clinging onto him
After a short moment of imagination, Lena chuckled.
“Lieutenant Cucumila does appear to be a cute little sister.”
“She’s latching onto me for some reason.”
Shinn spoke with a perturbed tone, as though he brought a kitten home on a rainy day, and it got clingy to him. Lena sensed the pained look on Shinn’s face, and laughed.
At the same time, she could sense a stinging pain in the bottom of her heart.
By the time she realized it, this displeasure escalated. Why was it?
Why did she feel so angsty?
Lena sensed that she was rattled, and Shinn, connected by the Para-RAID, would surely have noticed.
“What is it?”
Lena spoke with a spiteful voice, one even she was startled by.
“No…did you just, seem a little peeved?”
“Not at all.”
Again it happened.
“…You seem very unhappy.”
“I am not!”
Shinn went silent. Unlike what she was saying, Lena was grabbing the cushion next to her with enough force to strangle someone.
Now then, since you (probably) went tl;dr till this point and might have closed the screen before looking at the bottom, I guess I’ll go about with some random, possibly heartfelt stuff, probably thinking that you might not read this.
It might be strange to say, but after working on so many series, after so many years, I do find myself to end up pretty distant from what I may call ‘fans’, ‘readers’.
Simply put, I do feel distant from my contemporaries, aloof per say.
Perhaps it is a subconscious decision to distant myself from others.
Perhaps it is a dedication I tasked myself to follow through with every time.
Perhaps it is a reluctance to pick up fetters that bind me down.
As I may say, and others will agree with, I do find myself to be too much of a workaholic. So much so that when I am ‘forced’ to take breaks, I find myself more interested in working. Call it an East Asian thing, if you may, but I suppose this is why I do think of Magdala as my favorite series to work on here, because of the ‘restless’ part.
It pretty much gets to the point where if people talk about anime, I can hardly name 5 in a year.
It pretty much gets to the point where I only have three manga series on my to-read list.
It pretty much gets to the point where I have hardly any understanding of whatever games people are catching up with.
Truly, adolescence would be nice thing to have, but I cannot remain as the kid who continues to pout and flail.
As a working adult and (somehow) contributing to society in some way, I do feel like I am bored with everything else, even translation. Habit is pretty much the only thing pushing me through.
One day I may crash and burn, like the past few times I tried to ‘retire’.
Already, more chains of responsibility have been imposed on me, and I have to admit that I am slowing down with whatever I can contribute.
Now, some may ask the age-old question: “Why aren’t you a pro?”
At this point, it would be a lie to say “I don’t want to be working on something I deemed a hobby.”
Because I don’t really enjoy translating at this point.
Already, I am setting bets, mostly to keep myself motivated, setting deadlines so that I have accountability. Going pro, or even setting up ‘donations’, or keeping series for the fan attention, none of these interest me at this point.
Do I ever feel like breaking down? I’m already mentally replaced with a robotic work ethic.
Whatever tears and blood I once had have all gone into the keyboard. Well, that’s what happen when you go through lots of things over the years, just an emptiness within that is too tired to be jovial or cynical.
So my (supposed) New Year resolution of 2018?
The question is, how?
While I have always advocated ‘be yourself’, I do consider myself to be an ‘introverted showman’.
Well, I guess I’ll have to figure this out sooner or later anyway. Can’t be running away from my own problems, especially when they are insignificant compared to what others struggle with.
Truly the downpours nowadays reflect my mood. And as the rain dissipates, the sun shall shine.
On Valentine’s, there will be a special series from me, not to be uploaded here, not on BT, but on a certain other site.
But for now, what I shall focus on
Ehh, it’s Summer in Australia. That’s something…
==Chapter 2 – The Detective and the Love Professor==
Actually, there were times where I was curious as to how old Alice was. I heard that she never attended elementary school, but I had never heard about her not attending middle school, so I guess she should be around twelve or so. She was always saying all sorts of big stuff with a haughty attitude, stunning me, so maybe that was the reason why I never thought of her to be that old. Also, with those ridiculously poorly eating habits and undeveloped body, she might not be as young as she appeared? In any case, she didn’t seem to be older than me.
Alice’s the girl who lived in the room above the ramen shop I worked at. The Room 308 had a stupid ‘NEET Detective Agency’ signboard, and every day, she was holed up alone in the room. Alice called herself the NEET detective, but she was always dressed in pajamas, sitting on the bed, facing the keyboard; in fact, she was merely in charge of hacking passwords on the internet. She hardly had a tan, didn’t exercise, and had an unbelievably small appetite; her limbs were astonishingly white and thin.
I didn’t know the environment Alice grew up in, and I didn’t know her real name, family and age; even I found that part unbelievable. I get tired whenever I was around Alice, due to various factors, so I didn’t have the time to ask personal information like her name and age, things that I should logically know.
Despite this, there were times where I would be curious about them. Like this one time,
On a certain evening in the beginning of May, I, working at ‘Ramen Hanamaru’, entered the shop, and was ordered by the lady boss Min-san to deliver a takeout to Alice.
“It’s Chinese don. She doesn’t like rice, so if she doesn’t eat, tie her up and stuff it into her mouth.”
Min-san’s dressed as a fighter, the sarashi wrapped around her, and a tank top over it, her hair tied in a ponytail; she might be acting as Alice’s mother, but she often said some overbearing things. It’s no wonder, for if she did not force Alice to eat, the latter would spend the rest of her days living on Dr. Pepper. I didn’t know when it started, but the job to get Alice eating had become a daily routine for me.
Min-san doused soup on the rice that was the size of a baby’s fist, and I put the bowl of mini Chinese don on a tray, carrying it to the detective agency on the 3rd floor.
“Alice, I’m going in. It’s time to eat.”
The office’s a one room flat, and there was a little corridor from the entrance. The bedroom acted as an unpleasant server room, three walls were buried behind various equipment. The strong cold winds were blown downwards, and on this day, Alice was sprawled on the bed, typing at the keyboard, her long black impressive hair like a plant growing in the shadows, and the bare slender legs beneath the pajamas suddenly reached towards me just when I was about to enter, and I turned my face aside.
“…Put on some clothes before you work.”
“I’m busy now. Electronic signals pass through the circuits at lightspeed, and this is a absolute law in the universe. Ordinary values will not put on my clothes for me.
Alice said without giving me a glance. A torrential downpour of keyboard tapping could be heard along with the words.
“No, won’t you catch a cold if you don’t put on socks?”
A pile of previously used pajamas was on the floor at the end of the bed, and the brand new white knee socks were taken out and tossed aside. This room filled with electronics had air conditioning on the entire time, so it was really cold. Even if her tolerance to the temperature was inhuman, she should be feeling cold since she’s barefoot, right? Alice actually said this to me at this moment,
“Put the socks on me. My hands aren’t available.”
“Who else is around? Don’t ask the obvious.”
“Even if I do explain, I think you won’t understand. Time is of the essence when I hack in while the system is undergoing maintenance. Miss by a second, and the fate will differ. You aren’t telling me to wear my socks and have me verbally command you on how to operate? Considering the work efficiency, you should know this isn’t possible!”
Nobody thinks that, okay. I’m telling you to pause and wear your socks.
“Narumi, hurry up.”
Alice’s eyes never left the monitor as she kept kicking her legs to prompt me. I sighed, hesitated for a long while, picked up the socks, and climbed onto the bed.
Good thing she was wearing shorts. That made me relieved.
Objectively looking however, this really isn’t good. So I put the socks on Alice without touching her skin, somehow. If there just so happened to be someone entering the room while I was putting her socks on, I would have been punched all the way to India.
“And wash my clothes.”
Once she’s finally done with dress up, Alice ordered me as she continued to tap at the keyboard. I lowered my head, and could vaguely see some frills under the pile of pajamas, probably underwear or camisole. I’m a guy after all, doesn’t she have a sense of shame or something…?
So on that day, I dumped the clothes into the washing machine of the office, thinking about something. I guess she never thought of the opposite sex as she’s still a kid. No, Alice never thought of the concept of a boy because it’s Alice we’re talking about here. Likewise, I never really thought of her like that, I guess?
“What? Why are you looking at me? You really like watching others eat. I’m too lazy to correct that blatant habit of yours.”
“Eh…ah, no, sorry.”
Alice was seated on the bed, holding a spoonful of the Chinese don that cooled off. (but had no intention to put into her mouth)
I stared blankly at her, not realizing this at all.
“And I ordered for Chinese don without rice…”
Alice continued to grumble away, not willing to eat a mouthful, so I could only take out a can of Dr. Pepper and hand it to her. I guess it’s not that farfetched to say that half of Alice’s body was nurtured through this carbonic drink.
Alice pulled the ring, and was suddenly giving a pained look as she raised the can up high, intending to pour it onto the rice. Hold it right there! That’s desecrating 4000 years of Chinese history!
Luckily, Alice put away with those thoughts before that, and I heaved a sigh. I turned my back on Alice, who was by the bedside, and started pondering.
Alice’s a NEET, one who never left the house, but she was surrounded by guys of all kinds—the ex-boxed Tetsu-senpai, college military nerd Major, gigolo Hiro, and the young yakuza gang leader Yondaime.
Hm, all of them are older than me, and always enter this room at well, so they’re already used to Alice’s antics—I guess that’s why they never thought of her as a dating partner? These NEETs…why are they so careless about this?
“It’s all because of you.”
The sudden voice from behind caused me to turn around in shock. Alice was grimacing bitterly. Eh, me? Eh, what, what did I do?
“It’s because you’re watching me eat nowadays that Master’s been ignoring my orders, always adding noodles, rice, causing trouble for me!”
Alice continued with tears in her eyes,
I dropped my shoulders hard.
“What’s with the gaudy look? You’re acting stranger than usual today.”
Once she cooled down, she realized she was embarrassed, and could only retort haughtily. Goodness, I was really off on that day. Maybe it was because I had anticipated what was going to happen, I guess?
I took the empty bowl and tray back to ‘Hanamaru’, which had began operations for the day. There were already people at the seats of the cramped counter soon after business started; that was a rare sigh.
“—So I guess I had to close the shop.”
“Since you’re closed for the time being, go on a trip! Bring your mom along!”
“I don’t have that money! Eh, this is troublesome.”
Conversing with Min-san across the counter was a young man. He was probably of the same age as her, about 25, 26. His energetic, bearded face gave a wild impression. I would guess he’s her acquaintance.
I entered the kitchen from the back door, “welcome”, nodded towards him, and put on the apron.
“Uh, huh? You hired a new part-timer? A boy this time? Hello there.”
This man before me showed a hearty smile, so hearty he was unlike those loitering around ‘Hanamaru’, and that surprised me.
“Hello.” I responded politely, and glanced aside at Min-san.
“He’s my classmate in high school, Tomozou. What’s your family name again? I forgot after calling you Tomozou, Tomozou all the time.”
“How cruel of you. Okabayashi. Same as the shop name.”
“Ah, I see.”
I stared blankly at Min-san, who was exchanging looks and smiling with Tomozou-san. Min-san during high school? I couldn’t imagine…no, even if Min-san did have her youthful teenage time, it’s just…woah! I got a lot of questions to ask, what kind of girl was she like during high school? Did she have a sarashi wrapped around her chest since then? “Ow!” I got punched in the back of the head, and squatted due to the pain.
“What was that about!?”
“You’re thinking about something stupid again, so I’ll just beat you up.” Min-san responded with such harsh words. But well, she’s right.
“You know the Okabayashi Sundries? It’s a little hostel, near the high school you’re at. He’s the boss there. A shoddy little shop, but it has all kinds of imported alcohol. Back in high school, I was always drinking what’s stolen from his shop.
No, erm, shouldn’t you be at least twenty?
“My dead dad always went to places like USA all the time! It’s troublesome to keep importing for personal use, but I did inherit this business. The most expensive ones always end up finished by me though.”
Tomozou-san explained with apprehension. I see, so this hearty attitude’s due to his non-NEET background, huh?
“Troublesome? I see that you’re enjoying yourself there, aren’t you? This guy’s always boasting about his knowledge on booze all the time, even called the booze professor. Once we talk about booze, there’s no stopping him.”
Min-san interjected, and Tomozou-san grimaced.
“If you want to try your first wine in life, come look for me! I’ll pick a strong one for you, not so much that you’ll die, but that you’ll understand how terrifying it is.” The booze professor kindly told me, “Did Hanada get your drunk before? She’s bad at holding her liquor, so be careful.”
Hanada, so I momentarily wondered who it was. I guess it’s Min-san’s name?
“Tomozou, one more word and I’ll beat you up. Your shop’s doomed if they find out you’re selling booze to underaged kids. Anyway, your shop’s about to close, isn’t it?”
You’re saying that…wait. Close down?
Tomozou-san gave a wry expression, scratching his head.
“There’s a supermarket opening next door. Some strange things happened recently, so I had to close for the time being.”
“—Something weird happened?”
“Something strange—” I asked, only for the back door to the left of the kitchen to open suddenly. Steam floated outside, lifting the long black hair.
“Tomozou, you could have said you were coming! Why didn’t you discuss such an urgent matter with me? Didn’t I say I’ll do anything as long as it’s for you? Don’t you trust me?”
“What! Even Yuuko was told…?”
I could hear Tomozou-san grumbling as I stared blankly at Alice. It was the first time I saw Alice rush downstairs for a customer, and someone actually addressing her by her given name. Also, erm, anything for you…what’s with that? Anyway, I was so shocked that I turned around, momentarily rooted, only to recover when Min-san hit me in the back of the head.
The following day, I took a detour to Okabayashi Sundries to have a look.
So I had seen this shop often, and it was a five minute distance from the back door of my high school. It sells beer, cold drinks, miso, sauces and other condiments, a little, old-school merchant shop. While I had rode past it a few times, high school students would never enter this shop, and the signboard was long faded due to the sun, so I had no impression on the shop’s name at all.
Next to the Okabayashi Sundries was the new supermarket, ‘Ricomart’, the banners at the door promoting its special prices fluttering around, with lots of cars at the parking lots nearby. I was thinking that such a strong competitor wasn’t a good thing, but I parked my bicycle at the parking lots of the supermart opposite.
Okabayashi Sundries just so happened to be located at the supermart deep inside. I tapped at the glass door with the ‘closed’ sign, and heard some movements before the door opened.
“Righto…huh, isn’t this Narumi?”
Appearing at the door was not Tomozou-san.
“Senpai? What are you doing here?”
“Testing the goods.” Tetsu-senpai said as he pointed at a dark corner of the shop. Soon after, I saw Tomozou-san excite with an apron wrapped around his waist.
“You’re not exactly helping out when you’re dropping by uninvited, aren’t you? Just trying to steal a drink while I’m not around?” Tomozou-san grinned as he tapped at Tetsu-senpai’s shoulder.
Tetsu-senpai once studied at my high school before dropping out, and he’s a pachinko player. While Tomozou-san’s pretty sturdy looking, he does look a little weaker when standing side by side. As to be expected of a former boxer, I guess; those firm muscles are really different from ordinary people.
“You know Tomozou-san too, senpai?”
“Yeah. He’s the master who taught me how to drink.” So senpai responded. Aren’t you supposed to be 19?
“Did Yuuko ask you to come over?”
Tomozou-san asked, and I hurried shook my head. Actually, I was curious about Alice’s attitude, and wanted to know what kind of person Tomozou-san was, but I really couldn’t mention this reason.
“I decided to drop by. I wanted to figure out what’s going on here…”
“Oh, come on in.”
The shop, with air conditioning blaring, felt extremely cooling, while the cupboards and fridges were covered with cloth, making them seem lonely. There were Japanese wines, fruit-based wines, whiskeys and all kinds of various wines lined neatly in rows.
“Oh? Another customer?”
A middle-aged lady poked her head out from the noren at the counter, and once she noticed me, she immediately turned around, entered the house, and soon returned with three sets of cups and plates.
“My apologies, this shop will be closed if left unmaintained, yet you came all the way here…”
The lady served three cups of Oolong tea on the counter, and Tomozou-san took one to drink, yapping unhappily,
“And that’s why we can’t leave this be! Alright, mom, enough with that. Go do the accounts.”
Yes yes, so the old lady said as she returned inside. So she’s Tomozou-san’s mother?
“Only the two of you in this shop?”
I asked Tomozou-san, trying to do some detective work. I did remember he said that his father passed away.
“Yeah. But I’ve always been out delivering stocks, and mom can’t stay in the shop to keep watch, so we don’t know when that happened.”
Tomozou-san looked really grim as he looked towards the wine lined on the floor.
According to Tomozou-san, it was first discovered by an old customer who would order crates of Japanese wine every month.
“I heard that he assumed the color and taste was different without drinking it. As a seller of wine, it’s really a humiliation for me to not notice it.”
It seemed something black (probably soy sauce) was added in. The bottle’s brown, and it was to be expected that he could not tell from the appearance.
“How did the culprit mix it in?”
“Opened the cap and poured it in. Look.”
Tetsu-senpai picked up a bottle by his feet, and handed it over. The bottleneck was made of a normal, thin metal, and there was a little round hole at the bottom, such that it would be pried out upon squeezing it, allowing it to turn.
“…Ah, was it held down by duct tape?”
It was a simple method. After tightening the opened the opened cap, a quick adhesive was then added at the seal. It could be discovered on a closer look.
Surely it was the sign of someone destroying it.
“This is a terrible thing to do to such wonderful wine. I found five bottles like this.”
Tomozou-san said with a dejected look. I see. So that’s why he closed down, and even Tetsu-senpai dropped by to test the goods?
“Do we call the cops—”
But before I could finish my words, Tomozou-san and Tetsu-senpai shook their heads in unison.
If possible, try not to let the police know. Even I understood this situation immediately. If matters got out of hand, the shop’s reputation would also be affected.
But who exactly would do such a thing, for what reason? If it was just a prank, that would be too much effort, wouldn’t it?
“Any threatening letter received or anything?”
Tomozou-san gave a wry smile, shaking his head,
“Why threaten this poor wine merchant? No good comes out of this. Seriously, I don’t understand why this happened.”
While the three of us went silent, the shrill, rock n’ roll styled guitar roll suddenly blared in the dim shop. I flusteredly removed the cellphone from my pocket. The ‘Colorado Bulldog’ ringtone clearly indicated that the caller was Alice.
“You’re done with school today, right? Tetsu should be at the scene now, so before dropping by the office—”
“Ah, yeah. I’m at Okabayashi Sundries.”
I cut off the NEET detective, and she, on the other end of the phone call, was momentarily left speechless.
“…It’s rare to see you so sharp this time. Did something happen?”
“No, it’s nothing…” I tried to play dumb, “Anyway, I heard the details from Tomozou-san.”
I narrated to Alice about how the wine was tampered.
“Hm…I understand. Anyway, bring one of the tampered bottles back; I want to have a look. Also, I called Major and Hiro to come over, so tell Tomozou that.”
“Hey, wait, Yuuko. I don’t remember asking you for anything. Don’t escalate matters this time. This is our shop’s issue!”
Tomozou-san growled as he approached my phone.
“Are your problems not mine as well!?”
Alice was not going to back now as she yelled back, as I instinctively moved the cellphone away from my ears.
“You’re trying not to pretend how much I value you? If it’s just to protect your shop, you won’t have to submit a request to me. ”
She hung up, and I stared blankly at Tomozou-san’s face for quite a while.
“…She’s the same as before.”
“Well, since we got nothing to do, leave it to us. We won’t charge you for this Tomozou-san. Don’t mind.”
“No, it’s not about the money.”
“Just give me a bottle of Hennessey as reward.”
“I’m not giving you one drop at all, so go back now.”
I casually overheard their conversation, still unable to believe what Alice had just said. She said that…how much did she value Tomozou-san?
“…mi? Hey! Narumi!”
Tetsu-senpai slapped me on the face, getting me to recover.
“Eh? Ah! Wh-what?” I didn’t know why I was this stunned myself.
“What are you spacing out for? Here, it’s the wine with other stuff inside. Didn’t Alice tell you to bring it to her? She’s gonna be angry if you keep dilly dallying here.”
Senpai stuffed the brown bottle into my hands, and shoved me out of the doors.
“I’ll continue to inspect the goods here.”
“What? You’re acting weird today, Narumi? You alright? Did the NEET virus finally get to you.”
“No, it’s fine, I’m completely fine.”
What’s the relationship between Alice and Tomozou-san? I swallowed this question back in. It’s really hard to ask Tetsu-senpai about this.
But I really should have asked at this point. It would have made the ending a little better.
As I was too dumbfounded, I did not notice the white foreign car while exiting the parking lots of the supermarket, and so the front wheel clipped the bumper, causing me to tumble hard.
“—Are you alright?”
A woman with long hair opened the door, and poked her head out of the door. I had fallen on my backside, and kept nodding away.
The woman parked her car at the outer end of the parking lots, and hurried out of the car. She was dressed in a white one piece suit, with a beige cardigan over her. She’s a posh, pretty lady.
“Are you hurt? Fine?”
“Yeah, I’m alright. Really sorry about that.”
I suddenly remembered the wine bottle on me, and patted my bag. Good thing it wasn’t broken.”
“Thank goodness…” The woman let out a sigh.
“Sorry for being careless…” I lowered my head repeatedly, and got onto the bicycle again.
I was about to cross the road, and casually turned back to look, only to be more confused.
“Hello, is Tomo-kun in?”
The young lady who was driving knocked on the door of Okabayashi…who’s she? Tomozou-san’s friend?
After having a whiff of the Japanese wine, Ugh, Alice stuck her tongue out, and immediately corked the bottle, returning it to me.
“It is said that humans began brewing wine once they discovered cereal, but I do find that incomprehensible. Why would people think of drinking such things?”
The girl saying such things was surrounded by walls of stacked Dr Pepper, and thus, her words were not convincing in the slightest.
“Anyone will have the urge to get drunk once in a while…”
I tightened the cap, saying pretentiously,
“Oh? It does sound like you seem very experienced?”
Alice draped her blanket on her shoulders, giving a mischievous smile, and I could only look aside awkwardly.
“I guess. Like when my mind’s in a mess.”
“Will it not mess with your mind further?”
“Well…I forgot if it was in ‘The Little Prince’ or something, but drunkards drink to forget all that’s embarrassing to them.”
“Like getting drunk, for one.”
Alice laughed out loud, her long hair sprawled upon the bed.
“That is amazing. Is life not like this?”
She said as she wiped the tears from her eyes. Was it that funny? As I stood amidst the cold wind blowing his, I gradually felt that my messy thoughts were meaningless.
“I really do what to see a drunkard fall into that trail of thoughts as a bystander. While that is a precious bottle, you can finish it youself, Narumi.”
“I’m not.” And anyway, isn’t there supposed to be soy sauce mixed inside or something? “And, you can’t be saying such things to other people so carelessly. Even I don’t know what I’ll do if I get drunk, you know?”
“Then give one example. What will you do?”
This one here actually asked with a bemused look,
“No, it’s nothing.”
Why ask me with such a serious look!? I’ll end up thinking about all kinds of this here!
“It’s fine. No matter how ugly you may become, I will record it all down with this highly potent digital camera, and upload it into the vast network to be promoted as your digital history.”
I sighed, and put the bottle back into the fridge. It really did seem that lots of things did not matter.
“Anyway, are we sure the Japanese wine isn’t the only thing touched?”
“Eh? Ah, ah, well, no.”
Alice suddenly reverted back to the topic, and I was a little giddy,
“Not just the Japanese wine. The whiskey and rum have been tampered with.”
“Hm. That eliminates the possibility of the imports being tampered en masse. Looks like they were tampered after they entered the shop.”
I see. It seemed the wine Okabayashi Sundries imported would vary based on type. If the Japanese and Western wines were both tempered, it’s easy to think that they were tampered after entering the shop.
“But…what’s the purpose of doing this here?”
“Who knows? It’s hard to tell before we analyse what was mixed into the wine? If it’s not to harm the drinker, it is to harm something else.”
“…The reputation of the shop?”
“This is currently the only possibility I can think of, and also a chance of the culprit to do this again. We got to get Major involved again.
Like Tetsu-senpai, Major’s one of Alice’s collaborators, an expert at taking illegal photos, eavesdropping, and trespassing, so naturally, he’s capable of self-defense. Looks like we need him to contribute again.
As usual, there’s a drop in what I can do now.
“It’s unforgivable to do anything to Tomozou-san’s shop. I’ll give it my all to find the culprit”
Alice seemed really riled up. Goodness. It’s for Tomozou-san—right?
In other words, she had special feelings—for Tomozou-san, right? Well, it’s nothing strange, since Alice’s a girl after all…
Feeling really sulky, I exited the office.
It was the following morning, and Golden Week was in its latter part. I had to drop by school to take care of the flower garden (it might sound unlikely, but I’m a member of the gardening club after all). Once I left, I dropped by Okabayashi Sundries again.
The opposing (?) shop ‘Ricomart’ remained rife with business, and the parking lots were filled, so much so that some vehicles were parked before Okabayashi Sundries…huh? Didn’t I see this white foreign car before?
Right when I was about to approach the glass door and knock on it, I heard a sharp voice of a lady,
“…Why didn’t you tell me? Y-you asked those children to help you out?”
“I didn’t!” Tomozou-san’s voice followed, “And this is my family issue, nothing to do with you.”
“You always say this! Nothing to do with me, all the time! Whatever, I get it.”
I was wondering if I should drop by at a later time, but the glass door before my eyes opened abruptly, and a woman stormed out, “Keep on acting tough! I’m not going to help you when it’s too late!” She stated with a huff, not noticing me, and not bothering to evade,
The woman knocked me down from the front, and a cloud of dust wiped out, as all I saw was stars floating around.
“…So-sorry, are you alright?”
“Eh, ah, yes…”
Before I could finish, I could taste iron in my mouth. Guess I had a cut somewhere. The woman quickly got up, dusted off her short skirt, and held me by the arm, pulling me up.
“…Oh, you’re from yesterday.”
She was the woman who was driving and collided into me at the parking lots. It’s the second time we crashed. Both of us averted our eyes in embarrassment.
“What are you doing?” Tomozou-san poked his head out from the door, “Nothing!” and the lady replied, running back to her car parked by the road.
“Ahh, looks like you saw something embarrassing.” Tomozou-san scratched his head in frustration.
“How is it possible for a nice princess to be dating my son ehre…?”
We were at the counter inside the dim shop. Aunty served me malt tea as she noted,
“Goodness, if you don’t treat her well, she’s going to run away. How did you end up like your father here?”
“The only one worried about you would be that lady, isn’t it? Think about her, and just leave this shop already. It’s weird to say this…but you can use this chance to close shop and marry her.”
“That’s nonsense. We aren’t done paying the loans.”
“Besides, the neighbour wants to convert this place into a parking lot, so you should just sell the shop…”
“Alright, just drop this matter.”
“Goodness, you should seriously think this through!” The old lady raised her voice.
“Shut up. I’m thinking now, no?”
“I’m saying you should hear out what a woman is suggesting! You’re always deciding things on your own, like a certain someone.”
“In that case, don’t come to this shop anymore, mom! Go retire and enjoy your tea. I’ll handle everything in the shop alone.”
“That isn’t what I’m saying! You should have discussed this through with Yumi-chan—”
I shrank my neck back as I overheard this conversation happening before me. It seemed aunty finally remembered my existence as she glanced aside at me, closed her mouth, coughed lightly, and averted her eyes, quickly darting into the house deep behind the right side of the counter.
Business, marriage…I guess the life and work of ordinary people isn’t easy either.
“…Is that person just now your girlfriend, Tomozou-san?” I whispered.
“Yumi? Ah, hm, well, sorta.” Tomozou-san seemed to have difficulty in saying this as he answered. I see…so he has a girlfriend? I guess Alice’s feelings…yep, in other words, just a one-sided crush? I see…but why am I sighing in relief? I was taken aback by my own feelings, and took up the malt tea, drinking it.
“What’s it about selling the land?”
“The shop next door feel that the parking lots aren’t enough. There was an old geezer, probably the shop owner or something, asking us before they began work…”
I began to think. The location for this shop is a hinderance (for Ricomart), and if the place can be converted into parking lots, the space will be much spacious. I guessed they started work after all the surrounding land was bought and scrapped.
In that case, we got one party that can directly benefit once this shop closes down. But would they really tamper with the wine bottles for such reasons?
“Anyway, thinking about this is getting me all the more angry…I’m selling wine not for business, but that I like them, and want to share them…”
“Too bad the security of this shop is as non-existent as the Italian army.”
A voice suddenly popped up, causing Tomozou-san and I to nearly jolt in surprise.
“—Major? Where did you come from?”
Tomozou-san exclaimed. A diminutive figure dressed in the camouflage colors of the People’s Liberation Army, along with a safety helmet, appeared between us without us knowing.”
“I pried the back door open and enter, no more than 5 seconds even. The thieves on this world are too arrogant and ruthless. You really lack a sense of security.”
Thieves like you?
“Well, since Vice-Admiral Fujishima is here, help out. I’m going to install surveillance cameras and strength the locks.”
Major’s the only one who would call me ‘Vice Admiral Fujishima’. He rummaged for various parts from his bag, grinning as he placed the items on the table, one by one. He’s similar to an elementary schooler in height, and was born a babyface, but he’s really a college student.
“Hey, Major, wait! Aren’t these equipment pricey or something? I don’t have that much money on hand.”
“Don’t worry, Tomozou-san, I will not take a single Perica the currency used in Kaijifrom you, all these will be on Alice’s tab. This time, I prepared a highly unnecessarily potent surveillance system that is exceptionally practical, to be tested while using it. It’s of this size, but very capable of detection within 1000 meters, and even lets you know if it’s Osugi or PeekoTwins, artistes.
Even I can’t distinguish between them from 3 meters out. Wait, that’s not the problem. Alice is paying? This is a sacrifice worth crying over.
“It really does seem like the real deal.”
So we began to install the surveillance cameras, while aunty kept watch worriedly inside the house. There’s a corridor from the back of the counter, leading all the way to the storage, and on the left side, there’s a back door for goods movement. This would be the most probable point of entry, so we had a surveillance camera installed at the door frame, another three right outside the main door of the shop, and one right above the shop so that everywhere could be seen.
Major then opened a notebook PC, happily checking if all the surveillance cameras were working normally; Tomozou-san, whose shop had stuff installed everywhere, was looking displeased.
“Just in case, I want to install one more in the warehouse…”
Major stood at the end of the corridor, pushing the storage door aside as he poked his head to look inside the dark room.
“It’s really dark.”
“Hm? No lights?”
“There are, just that we normally don’t switch them on. Actually, we can’t have lights around when storing wine.”
Heh. Now that he mentioned it, wines are typically stored in the cellar. So other forms of alcohol need to stored in dark places?
“Eh, but to prevent theft—”
“No problems here. There aren’t any other entrances here.”
Tomozou-san switched on the lights, and led Major and me in.
The lights of the store were rather dim, and the air was dry and cool, probably due to the air conditioning. The undecorated metal racks were lined up, each level filled with various kinds of alcohol. Even so, not all could be stored, as there were cardboard boxes and plastic baskets laid out all over the floor.
Major scanned the storeroom, but could not find a single window. There was a duct on the ceiling, but it was impossible to climb in from there.
Positioned at the innerside of the shelves were wines, and other various goods like soy sauces, miso, and salad dressings, but I noticed something really intriguing over there.
There was something short, plump and round at the left side of the bottom shelf. I bent down to look, and found myself staring at a pair of round eyes, causing me to nearly tumble over in shock.
It’s about the size of two hands clasped together, something made of ceramic. Komainu—I guess?
“That’s not a Komainu, it’s a Shisa.” Tomozou-san noted, “This is something my dad left me. It was covered in dust on the shelves, and I just found this recenty.”
After hearing that, I again stared at that strange, humorous face. A Shisa should be a guardian beast from Okinawa, right? I remember it’s similar to a Komainu, comes in a pair too, right?”
“Yeah, that’s right. It’s a limited edition though, since so few of them are made…dad tried finding them through various means, and seemed to have gotten one; he died before he could find another one. So now it’s my turn to look for it…”
Tomozou-san kneeled down, and took a plastic wrapper to cover it.
“Good thing this one here’s safe. I’m still hoping to find the other one by the Sunday two weeks later.”
The Sunday two weeks later? May 13th…some special day?
“It’s a secret.” But Tomozou-san noted as he stood up. Major climbed up the shelves, checking with a serious look to see if the vents could be entered, but Tomozou-san dragged him out, nudged me out of the storage, and switched off the lights.