Won’t let her meet Saotome-san
I want to meet you. While I was struggling to figure out what she meant, Watase Mikako divulged information that couldn’t be ignored.
She said『Aa-chan is still with me, at my house』
With endless doubts, eating me out, I got down at the train station near the designated meeting place.
The meeting place is the residential district in Yokohoma city, Kanagawa prefecture. It’s near her parent’s house and it is likely that it is Mio-san’s hometown as well.
Soon, a woman looking similar to the girl in the picture came. After that, inside the bus heading towards her home, Watase Mikako started talking about Mio-san’s past without me asking anything.
「In the first place Mio was a clumsy kid. Apart from me, there wasn’t anyone else she got along with」
Holding the grab handle tightly, Watase Mikako broached the topic.
「Since she was like that, it seems like she was also bullied a lot. Missing things or finding them broken or sullied was an everyday occurrence. In school as well as the abacus class that she used to go to」
Now, the things she is rapidly summarising coincide with the diary entries.
「And amidst all that you were the only person who was different?」
「Yes, upto midway that is」
She is making a face that looks like she has swallowed a bug.
「I was threatened that I would also become a target if I kept sticking with Mio. Indirectly that is」
「So what did you do?」
「I was helpless. I wasn’t particularly strong in character as well, I couldn’t save her and there was also a limit as to how much I could protect her. I tried resisting as much as possible but there was no use fighting」
Getting down the bus, we walk through the residential area. The very normal red-roofed house that is visible at the end of the street seems to be her parent’s house.
「In order to clearly break off ties, I stole and hid her plush toy. I mean, we were already in our fourth year, it was high time to move on from plush toys and I thought she would also get it」
「Then 『Aa-chan』 is?」
「It’s the name of that plush toy, it’s not a human」
Watase Mikako, who gradually started speaking faster, headed towards the garden as soon as we reached the house.
Just when I thought it might possibly be inside the room. Looks like it is in the outdoor storage room.
「It should be in here… let’s see, that one?」
「I understand the circumstances which led you to snatch Mio-san’s plush toy. But why would you keep it with you all this time?」
「I wanted to apologise, I might have been forced by the circumstances but I still hurt her after all」
「Even though she was crying at that time, I believed she would have definitely understood later on. ….. I wonder where it went」
I got an odd feeling looking at Watase Mikako rummaging through the storage room.
Regretting the bad things you did to your friend long back, wanting to apologise for it and holding on to the thing you stole.
Something doesn’t add up.
「Ah, found it!Ahh…..」
Looking at the object she retrieved I understood why I was feeling that something was amiss.
「….. This is 『Aa-chan』?」
「It seems like water leaked in… and it isn’t like it’s something that is going to be used after all this while…..」
Looks completely different.
Filthy and torn apart, even the mechanism inside is visible. It’s in such a condition that even after being told that it is a plush toy, you will barely be able to recognise it as one.
Taking it on my hands I could feel the dampness. It should be one that talks on a battery, but judging from the looks, the circuit should have also been submerged and should be unsalvageable.
「Would it be possible for me to take custody of it?」
「Sure, please take it along with you. I have always felt like I would be able to get my feelings across when I return it. Phew! I feel relieved」
With a bright face, Watase Mikako pushed “That” towards me.
I put Aa-chan who looked like it would collapse at any moment, into the paper bag that I brought.
With this my work here is done. I have learnt about all that I wanted to know.
I should be returning back immediately, but my legs won’t move.
「…… the only one who is feeling relieved?」
I realise that it might not be my place to be saying something like this.
Still, I can’t just leave without telling anything to this lady in front of me.
「At the back of your mind you carried on with the guilt and regret from having betrayed
Mio-san and just when you started forgetting about it I called you up. You took this opportunity to discreetly push it onto me, getting rid of the burden. I am right, amn’t I?」
「What is all this, suddenly?」
「It’s nothing, it just struck me that you wouldn’t have said such things if you had imagined the pain and bitterness that Mio-san might have through after being betrayed by you」
『Where is Aa-chan. Mika-chan why?』
For Mio-san, this clump of slightly dirty cloth, cotton and circuits denotes being seperated from something dear and at the same time also embodies the betrayal of a close friend. A trauma haunted her when she was feeling lonely and depressed, delirious due to fever and even in her dreams.
And there’s a person who just superficially felt guilt and showed a bright face, returning it after all this time.
I have yet to become an adult able to flash a fake smile at such a person and move on.
「Y, you don’t have any right to be saying such things」
「Yes, that’s right」
「You said that you were her employee right? Are you a private detective or something? If you want to do a background check on me by using Mio as a pretext then I am sorry to disappoint you but I don’t have anything to feel guilty about」
「No, I am just an employee who has a direct employment contract with Mio-san. Do you want me to show you proof」
I am glad that I brought my identification documents along just in case. Watase Mikako stopped from taking my documents out. She then laughed out fearlessly making an understanding face.
「Ok, I got it. You are Mio’s boyfriend right?」
「You heard about the past and wanted to do something sweet right? Ah, it must be nice having such deep affection」
Sigh, this person really.
Mio-san became unable to trust people after deciding to trust them once. But this, I think from the outset she wasn’t able to trust people, might very well be the same with Mio-san’s instance as well.
「If you ask me」
If you actually ask Mio-san.
「I believe a person who without any type of contract whatsoever just keeps saying “I like you” doesn’t have any right to be saying such things」1
「Oh…. Then do you mean to say you have such a right? According to which contract?」
「I didn’t come here because I thought I had a right. I came here because I believe I have a duty to do so」
「You know what Watase-san, I am getting paid a hefty amount just to smile and say
『Tadaima』to Mio-san when she gets back home」
I got the plush toy.
I have also finished saying whatever I wanted to say. There is no more point in staying here now.
「By the way, Mio-san won’t be attending the alumni meet. It’s fine if I give it to you directly as well right?」
Pushing the 『Absence』 form from the alumni meet invitation into the hands of Watase Mikako who wanted to say something to me, I left the house.
My chest still feels stifled with an emotion that cannot exactly be classified as anger or frustration. It can’t be helped, I still have a lot of things left to do.
Actually I had anticipated that it would be in a bad condition.
I have also thought of a plan in case the situation gets difficult to hand it over to Mio-san directly.
「Of course, I didn’t think the condition would be this bad, but it doesn’t affect what I have to do now.」
It’s 12:30 p.m. now, during regular business hours, this should be the lunch slot.
I took my phone out, went to the call history and tapped on the name that I have become used to seeing.
「I get it, you are eating. Sorry Tsuchiya」
『Nah, I am working while eating』
Just the other day, this guy went all punk and said “Hence on the contrary, there is nothing that can be done.”
「You guys starting working?」
『Yup. The coordinator did a great job it seems, so the work started progressing step by step. To salvage the situation from such a bad position, it must be true that she is highly competent』
Coordinator. The marketer who is acting as the mediator between Tsuchiya’s company and the client.
There is no doubt that he is talking about Mio-san.
「I see… That’s great」
I frankly put across my feelings to both Tsuchiya as well as Mio-san, who is currently somewhere in Tokyo.
『Getting a call from you, now isn’t this rare. So, what’s the matter? You need help with something?』
「It’s fine, if you are busy I will somehow get it done by myself」
『That, there, is what makes people worry about you. Just tell me』2
「Then, I will be taking you up on your offer. You told me about it before remember? When you got your phone run over by a tofu truck and got it serviced by a godly serviceman」
『Yes, it even fell into the puddle on top of it, he still managed to restore it back to an almost perfect state. That serviceman is seriously so diligent』
「Tell me where it is. I have to extract data from 20 years back for Mio-san」
「And if Murasaki is nearby pass the phone to her」
『Ok wait a moment. And hey tell me about the situation in detail, I don’t want to be left out of the loop. Oi, Murasaki, come here for a moment!』
「…. I knew you would say that. I am sorry but I am a little tight on time. Once Murasaki comes, I will start scheduling」
The next few days passed by quickly.
Day by day Mio-san is returning home later and later. She is even working on Saturday aiming to do a perfect job. I, too, have been keeping in touch with Murasaki and Tsuchiya over the phone and getting ahead with the plan.
Slowly, next week arrived and it was Monday. The appointment date, 9 p.m. in the night.
Saotome Mio’s elevator opened its door on the 6th floor of the apartment.