Volume 2 Chapter 2
Studying Japan at a cheap hotel
Away group returned at the instructed time. It’s 7:50 now. None of the tactical units has been late.
“How was it?”
“There was a pretty riverbank.” – said Djibril with a somewhat cheerful voice.
“There were big red lights we saw yesterday” – said Omar, nodding deeply.
“It was like a maze.” – said Ivan while blushing.
“… I was shocked.” – was the only thing that Gini said.
Each of the four of them was listening to other reports with puzzlement. I smiled and said that’s all what Japan is.
“OK… I’ll listen to everyone’s stories after we eat. Before that tell me if you had a tail or something?”
I’ve been walking, saying it without much expectations. Even if we have a tail, something like that is beyond our expertise, even as specialists in military affairs. Three of the leaders replied that they don’t know if they had a tail, but one – Ivan, said that he thinks he had one.
Course which Ivan was taking had the most complicated roads from all of the routes. It was a way that is mostly hard to pass even for cars.
“I took a wrong road once and turned back.” – said Ivan in embarrassment. “A person I saw there was very surprised. A young woman. She had black hair.”
“Not an old woman?” – I asked. Ivan shook his head and said he’s positive.
“What are you going to do?” – said Omar, removing his sunglasses and looking at me.
“Well, there’s nothing to do.” – I said.
We reached a dining room. In fact rather than a dining room it was a reception hall. Food is lined on the long table.
It was genuine Japanese food, but with spoons and forks attached. Being grateful for the consideration I took the seat in the middle. Omar sat in front. On my left and right sits Djibril and Gini. Ivan sat hidden next to Omar.
“Why do you say that there’s nothing to do?” – said Omar, gazing at the small for him rice bowl.
After saying itadakimasu and putting my hands together I said:
“Enemy is intelligent and cautious.”
If war is one of the ways of diplomacy, this enemy shows a very refined manner of negotiation. Steadily observes and then acts. Or doesn’t act. Like Djibril and Gini who are hiding and peeping at me. Whether it’s a tail or a headgear the only thing different is the method. If I said it was favoritism that would be the end of the story, but I sincerely wanted to get along with Djibril and find something common with her.
“If the enemy is bright, isn’t it even more proper to do something?”
Gini doesn’t care much about the religious precepts. She takes off her headgear during a meal. She has curly red hair and big eyes. She looks at me with great interest. I smiled.
“Being bright means you can’t afford to be stupid. I think the enemy political position is complicated.” – I replied.
“He is in position in which he can’t attack?” – said Ivan and added after that:
“That’s sanctified, isn’t it?”
I nod. There’s no pork. I’ve been checking the menu since a few days ago. It’s not like the meal is made by a certified chef, but as someone from the secular world I’m not picky.
“He is in a position in which he can’t attack, but he makes reconnaissance. I wonder why.”
Gini with a bright face is poking her chopsticks into a salted salmon.
“It’s alright. That’s a kind of salmon.”
Gini ate the salmon and nodded. She seems pleased. I smiled and looked at the worried Djibril and Omar.
“To put it simple, he doesn’t take us as a threat. However I guess he just watches us.” – I said. Omar frowns.
“For now we’re just honest travelers.”
“Exactly. Actually we plan to do this for a while. That’s why we can ignore it for now. I have a few cards in my sleeve after that, but whichever I chose, it’s not the thing to do now.”
“I trust you Arata.”
“Me too.” – Ivan and Gini said one after another.
Late, but Omar says it too. Just so you know – he said. I laughed.
“I know all of that. It’s okay. Situation is not that serious.” – Not like in Djibril or Sophie’s case – I added in my mind. If I had to add more – I’m here now because everyone says that they believe in me.
I looked thoroughly. It seems like majority considers rice as a non-sweet sweet, so they’ve decided to eat it after finishing everything else. I eat rice together with other things. I’ve noticed that they don’t have a concept of the so-called side-dish.
I thought about how am I going to explain it to them.
After 15 minutes of the meal I decided to go to Ameyoko. But even if I go now, the stores probably won’t be open yet, so I chose to take them to Ueno. Zoo should be fine. Some other place would be okay too – I thought.
There’s around 2 km from Asakusabashi to Ueno. If I add to this our destination it will be 3 km. Speed of marching is 6 km per hour, so it’s 30 minutes. However since we wear light equipment now, I want to make it in 25 minutes.
Departure from the hotel at 8:30. We started moving in 4 rows.
I change teams during the travel and make leaders of the boys and girls who haven’t done it before. Commanding 5 subordinates and walking isn’t as easy as one might think. I instructed them to count every red thing along the way, except cars. Later I plan to verify their reports. Key is how to use subordinates.
After passing the vicinity of Mitsui Memorial Hospital and crossing the Kuramaebashi-Dori there is a place full of one way traffic alleys. I gave Omar a challenge, asking how he would deploy troops if he were the commander of boys and girls. I walked, smiling. I sweat a bit. Sweating during the exercise makes a man feel a little better. That’s why I’ve put aside my troubles and walked, counting red things.
Djibril walks behind me. Almost trotting she asked if we’re still being watched.
“That’s obvious.” – I laughed and continued.
“I wonder if enemy will get support if something happens. It seems that they don’t have much personnel for this.” – I said.
I felt that Djibril got close and looking up at me, she said:
“Does Arata know who is the enemy?”
“Setting aside that I don’t know if it’s the enemy, yes.”
“Who? Who is that? You won’t tell me?”
Walking, I looked at Djibril. Her eyes peeking from the headgear were looking at me. I smiled. Why are you so worried – thinking, I reflected that it would be better if I didn’t tell this girl about my worries.
“It’s someone from Japanese government, it concerns public safety.” – I said.
“It’s about us?”
“In some way I guess, but I wonder how much.”
“Does the enemy think about what we can do with such forces? Or recognize Arata’s true strength?”
“If enemy had properly valued my strength, watching us wouldn’t be necessary, right?”
Objectively my career is a one big fall. It’s not worth appreciation.
“Arata” – after Djibril said it, she casted down her eyes.”Even with golden eagle’s wings and eyes you neglect it.”
“Thank you for appreciation.” – I said, smiling bitterly.
Djibril lowered her headgear and concealed her eyes.
Smiling, I think about hardships of adolescence. Adolescence, huh? That’s a convenient word – I thought. I’m afraid that I put blame for every slightest mistake at adolescence.
We’ve reached Ueno Station. We pass the park’s gate. I look at a group of students, who apparently came here on the school trip. Similar age to Djibril and the others. I guess middle schoolers – I thought and looked at them. They have elementary schooler’s innocence and awareness of a high schooler. They’re between that age. Small group of students with pimples, incomplete – standing between being cute and beautiful.
With a sidelong glance at a happily chatting big group I looked at my kids. I thought about what will happen if I have let those children go to school.
“We are almost there. It’s here.” – I said.
I didn’t plan to do this. I didn’t intend to show them the difference of environment. I bit my lips.
Djibril looks at my side.
“Arata. There are children, rather small.”
“I think they’re in a similar age to all of you.”
“I don’t think so. I mean…” – she said, without looking at the middle schoolers.
“Their faces are so relaxed.”
Is she comforting me? Djibril is my guardian angel after all – I thought.
Gini ran up to me. Excited, she lined up between me and Djibril.
“Have you seen those forces?”
“It’s a group.”
“It was as big as a tactical unit C, but it doesn’t have a leadership.”
Gini said with excitement. Those eyes are saying we’re better.
“Well, if they had won with us that would be a problem.”
“Now I know the reason why we’re being watched.”
Gini said it as she had understood everything. I laughed.
“So, have you two seen the whale?”
They stood and shook their headgears.
“Ok, all units. We’re dashing now, hurry up!”
I run off. I feel that my body wants to run away from school trip students. Deep inside I feel completely defeated. I thought that I need money.
In Ueno park, already from the entrance of the JR Ueno Station spreads a zone of museums and art galleries. Amongst them there is also National Museum of Nature and Science.
On the grounds of National Museum of Nature and Science there is a model of a female blue whale in 1:1 scale.
Just the huge size of this was enough to catch boys and girls breath. I laughed a bit because of it.
“It’s a huge fish.” – one of the boys murmured, fully satisfying me.
“It’s a mammal. Same like camel, horse, human or elephant. It’s a model with actual size.”
“In that case, isn’t everything the same?” – Said around 10 year old boy.
I found it quite a difficult question. I thought that when it comes to teaching kids, you must learn yourself first.
“Animals which produce milk are mammals.” – I said.
I said that like in the case of camels and humans, mothers give milk. I don’t know why boys and girl have frozen. Is it a cultural difference? I don’t know it too well. One of the kids, said on behalf of everyone:
“Milk comes from this fish too? How does it do it in the water?”
I was about to say that of course, but hesitated instantly. I was wondering how whales were doing it. I looked at an information board beside it. It’s alright – I thought.
Everyone gave me a wry smile.
“This museum will open up in 10 minutes. Till that time let’s observe the whale and the locomotive engine.” – I said.
Because they got permission, immediately each tactical unit moved their unit. Kids are in high spirits. They don’t make noise and behave like that to know it just from looking, but I can understand from the atmosphere.
I watch this, forgetting about giving instructions to move from that spot. Omar came near me and looked at the same scene.
“When you spend time like that, you lose motivation to work don’t you.”
In our case work means war. I nodded in full agreement.
Seriously. I will think for many years that it would be better if they had just arrested us when we entered the country.
In the National Museum of Nature and Science kids were having a lot of fun. However while everyone was making wide eyes, watching dinosaur fossils I myself made a sort of discovery. There are things written on the information board I didn’t know.
Things too obvious, not even worth a bitter smile, but I wasn’t particularly distressed by it. There’s no need to find answers for everything. It’s like this information board, isn’t it better to just buy a book, where the answer is written? – I thought.
Japan is surprisingly a major country when it comes to publishing books.
I entrusted this place to Omar and went to the museum shop.
For starters I bought a picture book with whales. I intend to explain breastfeeding with it. When I was smiling, I saw a familiar woman standing next to me. It was that impressive long black hair.
“Were you able to buy a cellphone?”
“I have to do it, but before that I thought about explaining breastfeeding of whales to the kids.” – I said frankly.
Standing next to me, she slightly laughed. So she’s wearing ordinary clothes. Long skirt and simple blouse with a cardigan on it.
“That’s a shame. I thought we could exchange phone numbers.”
She said it, as if she really felt regret. I glimpsed at her direction and smiled.
“Right. Today afternoon I’m not going to shop at Akihabara, but at Ameyoko nearby. I’ll buy it together with shoes, wristwatch and a suit. I think it will be a prepaid cell phone though.”
“Thank you very much. I appreciate that.” Ms. Ito bowed her head.
I smiled. We encountered each other faster than I thought. I feel that it’s too early to sound a warning, but it doesn’t seem well if the opposite side puts cards on the table. I thought about it from the perspective of an enemy.
Also holding a book in her hands, Ms. Ito said quietly:
“I heard that the police department in Chiba will send a letter of gratitude.”
“I just wanted a word of gratitude during the investigation. That’s all, I got it, we’re even.”
Ms. Ito is looking at me. It is said that Asian people look young, but indeed with just different clothes she looks younger. I continued:
“It’s bad for kid’s education. I have to properly teach them that doing good deeds is worth praising. If that gap will be empty, even if they’re going to be praised the effect will be halved.”
After staring at me, she suddenly laughed. It was a natural laugh. She shrugged her shoulders, returned the book and said:
“I’m surprised. You’re different than it was stated in the documents.”
I picked up a picture book with dinosaurs which I planned to give to Omar.
“Thank you. This is what I’m in reality.”
“But I hope you don’t become an enemy of Japan.”
“But that’s just between us.” – I said to Ms Ito. “We’re unarmed.”
She burst into laughter.
“Yes, I know.” – She said just that.
I shyly looked around. I see that Djibril comes running.
“I’m very glad we’ve met. Don’t forget about a cellphone.”
“Even without it, I am not going to do anything bad. If I do, I’ll talk to you before that.” – I said honestly.
I thought it would be good if she takes that words as they are.
If they’re going to take the children and if they give them legal permission to stay I can’t ask for me.
I took them to this place, but I was severely crushed by this past few hours. I was thinking that rather than saving money I want to borrow aid from this country and send those children to school.
If only I would be able to borrow it.
“Of course. Forgive me. Organizational system of our organization is different, so we can’t communicate directly, but I will unofficially notify the prefectural police.”
Ms. Ito smiles and disappears after paying at the cash register. She bought a book with whales.
Djibril had to rush here so much, that she was out of breath.
After buying the picture book in a hurry, I sat here on a bench.
“Are you okay?”
I haven’t seen such Djibril even on the battlefield. She’s breathing hard. She probably ran too fast.
“Who is that person?”
“Person with whom you were talking with friendly.” Rather than scowling, she’s gazing at me.
“Ah, Ms. Ito? See, Ivan said she’s the one who he saw. I think she’s the one who was following us. Seems like she thought that she saw a familiar face, so she promptly contacted me.”
I collected my thoughts, explaining it to Djibril. I thought that talking with people means putting in order your own thoughts. Djibril looked away and said:
“I know that much.”
“You’re still gasping. Are you okay?”
After some hesitation, Djibril nervously took off her headgear. She’s looking at me. Her face is red.
“What will you do if we’re going to be attacked?”
“You said that the enemy is cautious, right? Enemy won’t take such measures just like that.”
Is she sweating? She looked at me, hiding her wet forelock.
“Arata is” – she stopped and cast down her eyes. “Sometimes too prejudiced.”
Maybe – I thought. Or perhaps I should say “indeed”.
Suddenly I became embarrassed. I’ve been convinced that I was right, but I’ve been mistaken. A narrow solution can be a big error. I’ve learnt that for sure in exchange for the population of one village.
And yet. No, I guess that’s it. It’s exactly it – I rebuked myself for trying to find excuses. It’s not supposed to be said at an age of 31, but I have to become an adult. Without excuses.
“Sorry.” – I said just that.
There is a part in me which intends to be unconditionally a great person toward children – I thought. This is also a reflection.
By finding those two problems my mood slightly improved.
My mood improved probably because Djibril was out of breath. I don’t know. I thought that whatever the cause I will do my best. One by one, till I find a good conclusion.
Djibril looks at me and puts on her headgear. Before that I felt that her face became even more red.
I must had a very stupid face, thinking about all those things. I must be more mature so that Djibril and the rest won’t be embarrassed by me.
Ameyoko and a cellphone
Around 11 o’clock the kids have gathered. They seemed more fatigued than after a battle. Perhaps there are kids who still wanted to watch exhibits, but I thought that there are also ones among girls who probably have enough. For instance like Djibril, who must have looked for me in the free time.
“How was it?” – I asked and everyone has uniformly remained silent. I thought that it would have been better if I had made assembly time around 10.
“There was a lot of things. Really a lot.” – said Ivan, like he was squeezing it out of himself. I thought that he had something particular in mind.
Standing next to him, Gini looks up at me.
“I was shocked…”
“What shocked you?”
“I thought about catching one in the desert and raising it.”
I will have a lot to teach them – I thought. Well, at least I have the picture book I bought. Although I wasn’t happy when teachers made me write an essay with a summary of my impressions, I want to make them do it, it’s stronger than me. This time won’t come back again and having some written memories is very precious, so it was stuff I wanted to read and collect.
“I want to show you an American museum.” – said Omar silently to me.
“Good idea. Let’s go there next time.” – I said it and laughed. If there’s an objective, there’s also motivation to hang on.
And then we went toward Ueno-okachimachi, to Ameyoko.
Ameyoko is a shopping district. It extends between Ueno and Okachimachi, that’s why it’s called Ueno-okachimachi, which makes a 400 meters long shopping street. It’s also said that number of stores is 380. Apparently less than before, but for me that number is still too high.
“It’s like a bazaar.” – said Djibril happily. Everyone’s eyes are telling that they feel that too. Even with a different religion, climate and customs, shopping districts are probably much the same.
I gave each of them around 3000 yen for spending. Order is “Shop until you spend it all”. I thought that shopping will also have an educational purpose. Well, I guess that there are few soldiers who’re using up all ammunition if ordered to do it. They always take insurance. Probably each one will be left with 300-500 yen. Well, that’s good.
Reshuffled tactical units have moved. Fixing members isn’t too good. I switched them, because I’ve been ensuring that they will be more flexible according to the situation. War and battle will inevitably bring losses. I always have to take into consideration that part of them will die, but even so I have to confirm that they won’t lose their combat strength.
And again… my mood fell down.
After deciding the assembly time and place, everyone spread out. Djibril stuck with me.
“I told each tactical unit to move.” – after saying that, Djibril stood before me, methodically pulling down her headgear.
“I’m doing it. My tactical unit S is for protecting Arata.”
After I thought about that I told them to move freely I laughed bitterly.
“What about shopping?”
“I’ve already done it.”
Djibril show me a small hand-mirror. Truly a thing a girl would buy. I was a bit hurt. I don’t know myself why. Probably I noticed that I haven’t been letting her do things, which girls usually do.
“I’m going to buy a cell phone.” – I said and went toward a place, where there are Docomo and au shops. Wondering which one I should visit, I enter the closest one.
Even if I wanted to buy just 6 sim cards I was declined. It seems that even with an ID it’s no good. There’s possibility that they are going to be used for crime – that’s why I’ve been refused. I see. That’s right. – I think. Practically we’re that criminals. Although without cell phones it will be hard. Radio would also be good, but without a license the output signal will be very limited. Short calling distance from the point of degree of operation freedom would be restrained. After all in the city cell phones are a necessity.
“Sorry, but find Omar for me.” – I say and Djibril nods, giving a hand signal. I saw other members disperse and hide skillfully.
“Hide skillfully ” is my honest impression. Nearby, Djibril is looking up at me. I saw her gaze and smiled.
“I’m glad you came with me. Thank you.” – Djibril shook her headgear and looked the other way. I thought that she probably was fed up with selfish adult behavior.
“Black hair may strike again.” – Djibril said it with a tone like that thing was exactly the threat. It’s not an assassin – I think. If anything, it’s an agent. However I wonder if someone in her age would understand such explanation. Growing up is difficult – I thought.
Two minutes later Omar has showed up, holding a single takoyaki in hand.
“It’s good if it’s not burnt.” – when I said that, Omar let out vapor from his mouth. His lips were moving like that for 3 seconds, but he didn’t make any sound aside from the released air. I just nodded humbly.
Around 10 seconds later, Omar said that he didn’t think that it’s such a dangerous food. I look at Djibril. She turned her face away. Growing up is tough – I think, putting on an earnest expression.
“Well, putting that aside, I want to get a cellphone, but you can’t purchase many sim cards at once, you see.”
“You want to do it yourself? What now?”
“I want us to do some hopping together .” I don’t know how it’s “hopping” in English, that’s why I could express it only in such words.
“What does “hopping” mean?” – said Omar, poking quietly takoyaki with a toothpick.
“Well, something like visiting several places I guess.”
“I see. It’s a slang.” – said Omar and came along with me.
Starting with adjoining stores, together with Omar we purchased a sim card each from three stores. Now it’s time to buy cell phones themselves. It would be okay to purchase them from different stores, but I wanted same models if possible. Handling is different in each one, so it will be hard to instruct everyone. There’s nothing better than uniform equipment.
I search for a small store. I found a small one which specialized in second-hand cellphones. I purchased 6 phones, with modifiable LCD, which can be used over blister packs even with gloves. There wasn’t any selling restrictions in this store. Sim cards weren’t associated with phones for a few years now, but thankfully it became very convenient. Not traditional folding phones, which can be seen only in Japan, but straightforward ones. It had more than necessary functions for military use.
“You’ve saved me, thanks.”
“What’re you talking about. Next I’m going to eat taiyaki.” – said Omar in return grinning and walked away.
When we gave away phones during the walk, Djibril brought along a member from a different tactical unit. It seems that they intended to buy and immediately consume all food. Or perhaps they delicately stopped their pointless action of guarding me.
And then we eventually became alone with Djibril. She looked at me.
“Please don’t tell me to go away.”
“I’m not going to.”
Shaking her headgear, she pondered a while and nodded.
Me and Djibril set off. I wonder where shall we go.
“Do you want to eat something?”
“I think I ate this morning.”
“Well, that’s right. Yes.”
I felt like all my plans died. So what now.
“Is there something you want to buy?”
“I want a handgun.” – instant reply.
“In this country it’s hard to get one to begin with.” – I said as we walked. Djibril is following me one step behind.
I recall a place, where I was being held captive, long time ago in the village in Central Asia. Back then Djibril was walking three steps behind me. Since yesterday she walks one step behind. Soon, she will walk ahead of me – I thought. Despite that I want that to happen, at the same time I hate myself for feeling slightly down because of it. I need to get back me, who was pushing the blue button without hesitation.
“I need a weapon.” – she said. Maybe because of this crowd of people, she followed behind me as to not separate from me
“I must protect Arata.” – she said stubbornly looking down.
I made contact with an enemy, or I should say – something that protects Japan, but it seems it was a great shock for her.
“Forgive me it’s not about weapon, but I’m going to a bookstore. Are you coming with me?”
“Why do you ask me about it?”
Here we go, adolescence. It becomes troublesome.
“It’s a bit of a walk.” – I said innocuously. Djibril looks suspicious.
“Is something wrong with walking?”
“Well…” – it’s obvious that you walk to a place you need to go to in her birthplace. I scratched my head with embarrassment.
“If you don’t like me, just say it.”
“Djibril. I haven’t told you before, but now I will be honest. I love you all and want to protect you.”
“…I knew it from a long time ago.”
“So why are you saying such things?”
I looked at Djibril. From the headgear I saw that her eyes were full with tears. In that moment she ran off.
Is that my fault? I’ve reached Ueno Station with a feeling of dissatisfaction.
I bought a platform ticket and entered the station. There’s quite a big bookstore here. Book Express. Before, when I was still in Japan, I was dropping by here after work, but now I have a feeling like it’s a lie. Back then I was coming here to buy LN and graphic novels. But now it’s different. I’m here to look for a book about how parents deal with their adolescent children. With confidence I can ignore the right corner with magazines and the left one with comics. I aimed at the middle shelf, close to the inner wall and tackled it. I search the book.
An old woman nearby is looking at me and smiles. I saw her gaze but didn’t look back.
“If it’s cellphone number, I’ll tell you. All 6 of them. “- that’s all I said. Old woman is smiling.
“You have such good memory, don’t you?”
“It’s not like memorizing a map. Just numbers from enumeration. It’s not a big deal.”
“But it seems that you also remember me.”
“There are not many refined old women in the metro past 21 in Japan. Though I don’t know if I should say this to Japanese.”
“You look like Japanese.”
“I have also Japanese blood and was born and raised here.”
“But your heart is somewhere beyond this country?”
“No. There’s no such thing as a country in my heart. If that country protects my children however, it’s a different story.”
“You answered without hesitation.”
“Is it something to be hesitant about?”
As I was thinking that this person asks strange questions, the old woman laughed a little.
“Right. By the way, do you realize that there is a power which protects Japan?”
“In the past I didn’t know about that.”
“Now, you know?”
“Vaguely, lot of things happened. I don’t think I can protect or improve this country, while hoping all the time for enemy’s incompetence or a coincidence.”
“Right. It doesn’t concern work but what are your thoughts about it?
“I don’t have any specific ones. If possible I want to protect my children with this strength. I don’t have anything else.”
“Irrelevant things don’t matter. I wonder if all people who get money from war are like that.”
“I don’t think like that. I just don’t have any thoughts.”
“You’re from a vocational school, but you look much smarter than that.”
Obviously, they’ve checked my personal history. Good job – I thought. Although their opinion about me seems unexpectedly high.
“Things taught in school alone are not everything.”
I destroyed a village once, basing my judgment about the world only on my own thoughts, which were based only on the world that I saw with my own eyes. That time I’ve noticed. My thoughts were not divine. Since then I’m an atheist. At least I’m not worshiping my own thoughts.
“And here I am, just about to read a book to learn something.”
“I wonder if I disturbed?”
“No. If you can I want you to give me some recommendations. I’m looking for a book about how to deal with an adolescent daughter.”
“Are you serious?”
“From the bottom of my heart.”
Listening to my words the old woman spontaneously laughed. It was a very youthful and cheerful laugh.
“Let’s leave it to subordinates. And please give them those telephone numbers too.”
“Thank you very much. I’m sorry, for taking tax money.”
“The book is from my pocket money. It’s not a workplace, where there are inspections, but a dam collapses from a small hole. You know this right?”
“I found out that moral values are important.”
“That’s right. But still it’s surprising. To think that the famous in mercenary world children user thinks about them.” The old woman, without hesitation spoke about my downfall.
When she said “children user” I didn’t change my expression or anything. I thought that also scorning everyday at my own fall means something.
“It’s just that there’s no other way to live” – I replied. “There’s a lot of more wretched jobs than a mercenary. I mean choosing children was the best choice. If you want an even better choice please use Japan’s strength in Central Asia.”
“That’s impossible. There’s no understanding among citizens.”
I remained silent. Old woman smiles and points at a bookshelf. She stood at the place with a shelf, which has a lot kinds of new books offering for sale in Japan.
“How many of them exactly explains things about Central or Central-East Asia?”
I kept silent. I don’t know what she was thinking, but the old woman smiled.
“Well, you’ve passed.”
“I don’t intend to be tested.”
“And I didn’t intend to do so, youngster.”
“Thanks a lot.”
“You’re so full of energy.”
“No, I just don’t feel grateful when someone looks down on me.”
“But you got angry.”
“That’s what you do in your job, but what angered me is the lack of interest among Japanese people.”
“Weren’t you once the same?”
“Yes, I was.”
I didn’t forget about that. I remembered how my tears withered completely at the outskirts of the village.
“That’s why I got angry.”
“But it’s okay to not deny one’s past. There’s no need to hate Japanese, like there’s no need to hate one’s past, right?”
The old woman is looking at me. Despite her age, she has pretty eyes.
“Perhaps some day they will realize the truth like you. Perhaps they will grow up.”
So is this an organization that keeps watch, so maybe it will never come?
I see. Now I understand. Organization, which I’m dealing with is one of this typical to Japan feminine organization. With mother’s tolerance, it gently keeps protecting this country and citizens. This organization has that deep, great refinement which I felt from my mother as a child.
I sigh. I felt like it was an adolescent child talking towards a mother. But I’m the one who pretends to be an adult and the country is like the adolescent child.
“I wonder if you understood.”
“Well, I don’t know if I grasped it as you expect me to do it.”
“You’re a smart Japanese. It will be fine.”
“Forgive me for being a son who doesn’t pay his living expenses.”
“It’s not under your jurisdiction, so you don’t have to apologize.”
I had mixed feelings. Even if it feels like a mother, isn’t it this country organization after all?
Those women and me
Standing around and talking in the bookstore could be a hindrance for others, so I said that we shall talk in the coffee lounge nearby.
“Sure. See you. You can continue there.” – The refined old woman says and smiles.
While wondering why we can’t go together, I entered the cafe first. At the window seat, there is Ms. Ito, strangely stiffening her shoulders.
I ordered coffee, which I received on the tray and sat nearby. Together with Ms. Ito I looked outside the window. She looked a little different than before. This time she had a black suit. It wasn’t probably a recruit suit, but it made me remember times, when I was desperately looking for a job.
“Please continue.” – said Ms Ito, reading the book about whales.
“You have a pretty nape when you raise your hair.”
She concealed the back of her neck with a book and turned red. I look at her surprised.
I sipped the coffee. Oh no, my thoughts are completely leaking outside.
“Forgive me if I surprised you.”
“Ah, no. We were going to continue, so…” – said Ms. Ito embarrassed, still concealing with both her hands the back of her neck with a book.
I wonder if it’s good to stand out like that in this job – I thought.
I imagine that she undoubtedly is one of those people whose work is not appreciated even in her workplace, or is it that her workplace has such low standards for personnel. When I think she’s similar to Sophie it’s even kind of charming. I cooled down, wondering at the same time if I will be able to get in touch with Sophie.
“Well then… continue.” - said Ms Ito, lowering her hair and tying it up. I thought about what I should say.
“Well, it’s a delicate matter, but I think that about seventy percent of your monitoring of us is pointless.
“Pointless… Isn’t it a good thing? I think that means it’s peaceful.” – she gently said. In her words could be sensed an implicit meaning: Don’t cause any trouble. I gave a grim smile.
She doesn’t trust me. Well, I haven’t been paying taxes for a while here, so it can be said it’s obvious.
“In that case it’s alright, but if you expect something I have to disappoint you.”
“Indeed, when you made a march drill, I was a bit confused. I’m sorry.”
“Ah, don’t be. I didn’t mean to. I’m the one who should be sorry. Suddenly making them lead an idle life is bad for education I suppose.”
“That’s for sure.” – she said, embarrassed. I looked at her. She didn’t turn her eyes away, but looked very embarrassed.
“If it’s beyond your jurisdiction I want you to say it, but if this children apply for, let’s say a political asylum could you get it through?”
She opened a book about whales. Thinking, she says:
“I think I couldn’t. Even if I try to rely on a NGO and make a humanitarian appeal, it’ll be difficult. Currently people from various nations are surging to this country. To the extent it becomes a social issue.”
“I see. That’s a shame.”
“My superior was concerned about illegal entry, worrying that you might make a terrorist company under the name of a private military company.”
I made a distant look. No, probably I’ve been doing it already for a while. I look around restlessly.
“I get it, but is that profitable in Japan?”
“Well, I guess not.”
I smiled faintly, thinking that it would be nice if you could live from that, even if it wouldn’t be too profitable.
Since we’re being watched and illegally reside here, if I plan to set up a company, that means I first need to deal with those women. I made a bitter smile.
“I think that too.”
“Well, that’s right.”
And so both of us dejected took a sip of coffee. Reality is quite harsh. Mercenaries, things like intelligence agencies, everything.
Holding a cup with both hands, Ms. Ito said:
“I… was thinking that you might have come to Japan to undertake a job.”
“You mean, a military one?”
“Unfortunately not.” I smiled bitterly. “I thought about ten percent would be giving this children lives, in which they don’t need to hold a gun, but not more.”
“What about the remaining ninety percent?”
“I just wanted to show them this country, for their education.”
“You love them, don’t you, children-user. Can I call you children-lover from now on?”
“Thank you, children-lover. Even with great deficits, you want to educate them? How nice, I wanted to be like that when I grow up.”
She said it in a way, that I didn’t know if it’s praise or sarcasm. I thought about what to say.
“You can take it as you want, but it’s not a lie.”
“I feel the same. Boss said that you don’t look like you strayed to the extent of making military movements in your home country.”*
“Thanks a lot.”
When I hear something like that I want to oppose it. But, that’s exactly adolescence – I thought and keep silent. Adolescence at 31 is embarrassing.
Ms. Ito is looking at me from under her brows. Behavior of this person is in some way cute.
“…So, well, there’s one more option.”
“Option? For us?”
“Yes. Won’t you try working for us?”
That was unexpected. I raised an eyebrow.
“There’s nothing odd in this. Whether we hire someone ourselves or a contractor it would be better to hire a Japanese, especially if you’re going to be employed by someone anyway. Such things also happen.”
“Thank you. This time when I finish a decent job I’ll pay taxes. However, we’re not taking any dangerous things.”
“Because you’re a children-lover, right?” – said Ms. Ito smiling. I smiled bitterly.
“That’s right. I’m sorry. You even bothered to introduce me to a job.”
“It’s nothing. I like people like you. Here, have this.”
She gave me a bookmark of the bookstore, which was put inside the book.
“What is it?”
I take the bookmark. At the back there was a micro SD card affixed.
I see. Nicely done – I thought.
“There are details about the job.”
“Em… did you listen to me?”
“I did. It’s up to your strategic skills, how dangerous it will be. How about taking this into consideration and deciding then?”
“Don’t you have your own people to be able to tell this?”
Ms. Ito smiled gently. Like if it was saying: mother sees through such things.
I smile bitterly. Well, putting aside organization I’m dealing with, Ms. Ito can’t be hated.
“I’ll examine it, but as long as it doesn’t require weapons or things like that, I look forward to that.”
“Thank you. I’ll be glad if you just check it.” – said Ms. Ito smiling and left the store.
I slurped my coffee and put the bookmark into my pocket.
I felt that everything is flowing toward a different direction than I vaguely planned before. Not good, it’s a bad flow.
After I completely finished the coffee I went to the station’s toilet. Feeling refreshed after relieving myself, I thought about how Djibril was doing. I start to worry what she’s doing. When I worry like that, strangely I feel a bit relieved from all troubles, which made me smile.
Role of a father is quite enjoyable. That’s why I thought I have to live, even as the children-user, the worst pseudonym for a mercenary. I walk thinking and once again I leave the station.
There’s Gini at the entrance. I waved to her.
“Gini, how is it?”
She rushed up to me. She doesn’t have a headgear. Between her red hair, there are reddish brown eyes and freckles. She stares at me.
She still stares intensely at me. She turns her face away.
“Please don’t pick on Djibril.”
I felt lost. Honestly lost.
“I didn’t mean to.”
“Do I look like an adult?”
“? You look very adult.” – Gini replied immediately. I nodded.
“That’s a relief. Talking with older people, I was losing confidence. I’ll go to Djibril and apologize. Where’s she?”
Putting on her headgear, Gini started talking. I see, she tried to stand out at the station – I reflected.
“We are securing her with several girls.”
“Thanks. I mean sorry.”
“Honestly. During the marriage you know who should be the second wife.”
“And who’s going to marry?”
I look into the distance. Right, those guys are from a culture, which accepts bigamy. I thought that men in this culture must be amazing. Just one would be beyond my powers, but with a few of them that would be hopeless.
“By the way, I ask just out of curiosity. Why not the first wife?”
“I don’t want to fight with Djibril.”
They want to marry the father, ah they’re all still kids. – smiling, I walked.
Djibril was standing still under the huge whale, we saw this morning.
Seems like it was the only place she could go from the station without getting lost.
Don’t run – I thought, standing near Djibril. Before I noticed, Gini was gone. That girl is clever, quickly reacting to situation. Or does she just avoid the danger? Either way it’s a good ability.
“I’m the one should apologize. I couldn’t keep up guarding.”
“It’s not okay… it’s not.”
I saw that Djibril was crying. I felt like I was hit by a hammer.
“You’re in more danger than me.”
“If Arata dies, everyone dies.”
“…My bad. Don’t cry.”
From above her headgear I stroke her head. I thought that I want to quit fighting wars.
“Um… well, let’s just go for a lunch.”
I’m pitiful. In that situation I couldn’t say anything else.
“Next time I will make sure to be properly protected.” – I said.
Djibril nodded slightly. I felt a sign that she was hesitating whether to grasp my sleeve or not, so I reached out my hand. Djibril grasped it. Somehow I felt like it was wrong, but if it were the case that it wasn’t the sleeve I could have got into trouble, so I kept silent. Honestly, adolescence is tough. Because of all of this I completely missed the chance to talk about work.
I was heading toward a store with cheap seafood, but in fact I wanted to have a bite of tsukemen. I’ve noticed that I could live with people who’re not eating pork, although pork is deeply rooted in Japanese people eating habits. That also contains manju with meat filling, ramen, pork, it’s all popular Japanese food, but unexpectedly I couldn’t recommend them any of it.
^1. That’s more or less the word used, but the meaning is more along the lines of: is this food compliant with their religion.
^3. A word similar to bar hopping but with shop instead so maybe something like shop hopping? Anyway visiting many similar shops in rapid succession is what the author was going for – is what I think.
^4. Children user or “kodomo-tsukai” with use in a similar meaning like using a tool – can be taken as an insult that he makes children fight while he stays back.
^5. Literally “They” but pointing at women and as far as I recall there are no such words in English.
^6. Standard formal wear worn by students usually when going to interviews is what it means.
^7. Kodomo-omoi or children-lover here does not mean pedophile but rather points to like, similar to dog lover or cat lover. Simply someone who likes and takes care of children I guess.