Volume 3 Chapter 1
New day after ending the fight
Sleep for the time being
When you are already 31 year old, all-nighters become harsh. That’s why I slept in the plane.
From Japan to the travel destination there is 5 hours and 40 minutes. I was planning to sleep through that, but when I stretched while waking up it’s only been three hours. Despite that I’m no longer sleepy, though I feel that I haven’t slept enough.
With this different feeling I decided to stay awake until I once again feel sleepy. There is rather no point in forcing myself to sleep. One way or another I don’t anticipate any operation in the coming days.
I looked out the small window, which was next to the seat where a small girl slept. The plane was flying high in the clouds. It’s not my first time in the plane, but I stared deeply in the sky, thinking that it’s beautiful
International flights probably fly higher than domestic ones. Or maybe it’s the sky abroad that’s different than sky in Japan?
Staring at the deep blue sky I woke up completely. I smiled bitterly at the thought of Japan, that drove me out stating that I don’t feel anything towards it.
I’m more worried about the stirring of the young girl next to me. Or in any case her period of adolescence. There is a saying that sleep brings up a child well. It would be nice if she could sleep often though.
As my daughter, 17 years of difference is a subtle closeness of age, but after all sitting next to a child, that I think about as my own daughter is a bit embarrassing for a male parent. Despite that we see each other every day.
Maybe not so much embarrassing, but rather I don’t know how to approach her. Sweet season, when you could frankly come in contact with her and pamper ended a little while ago, when her puberty came. Because of this, recently I’m helpless against her moods.
I get a glimpse of the girl next to me, Djibril. She was sleeping strictly with her headgear. Or it just looks like she’s sleeping.
If she is asleep there’s no point talking. I avoid the problem, I know it myself, but at the same time I felt relief. Practically every, truthfully speaking pointless discussion with a daughter is hard.
Having nothing to do I look at the stub of a ticket. Though it wasn’t written on the ticket, the place that I was going to after being chased away from Japan was the Kingdom of Thailand. I don’t know much about it, I wonder if it’s a good place?
I put away the ticket in the breast pocket. If it’s a peaceful place, then it’s not bad to be in another country – I thought. Days without income are days when I can provide for the kids.
For being able to do so there is a need for wars and conflicts. Me and the kids were in such need as modern mercenaries, private military contractors. Someday I want to get away from this, but for now there’s nothing but to earn money from wars.
No, I shake my head in denial and change the way of thinking. There’s no point in being impatient. It will go how it will go and it’s hard to find such work in the plane.
In any case I wonder how fathers in the world confront their growing up daughters, or how they get along. In the hand baggage I have a book about getting along with an adolescent daughter, but I rather want to know how other fathers do it. Worrying about others rather than theory must be what makes me Japanese.
I looked sideways at Djibril and saw that she’s hurriedly lowering her headgear and pretends to sleep. It appears that she’s also tired of dealing with me in a father role. Fact that I put such burden on her pains my dull heart, but despite it I only wished for happiness for my daughter. I sighed. Still, it really got me. Even sitting next to a girl in junior high school wasn’t so awkward for me.
Being at a loss I look behind. I look at the sitting diagonally at the back Sophie, who like a queen with crossed legs has been shoving around detailed orders at the cabin attendant. Being able to make orders, she does it in such an elaborated way. Just like Americans. No well, she is an American after all.
It’s a girl that remodeled her own ears into long, slender, pointy elven ears. Quite preposterous, even among the lot of people I saw. Moreover, I think that not only her appearance is preposterous.
As a consequence of remodeling her body she ran into debt and had to escape abroad, then she found employment in a private military company. That’s not a mere individual.
On top of it, she completely ignores what others say and talks only about herself. Normal conversation with her doesn’t exist at all. I guess most people tremble in fear. I also did. I also don’t understand why I’m still friends with her.
This girl noticed me. After she smiled at me as if she were singing, she withdrew her crossed legs. It seems she was ashamed to show her thighs. With a slightly mocking smile I think, that in that case she shouldn’t have laid her legs that way.
Sophie only moved her lips as if she wanted to say something to me, but from the mouth movements I wasn’t able to understand what it was about. I am not that proficient in English. That’s why smiling bitterly I decided to just wave a hand. I look forward.
That’s not good. Being more friendly with that girl than with Djibril is decadent anyway. I need to reflect on myself.
The result of that reflection brought about a thought, that I have to find someone that will fill the role of the mother for Djibril and other kids. I have to start with looking for someone heroic who wouldn’t mind being a mother for two dozens of kids.
I’m being pulled by the sleeve. It’s Djibril that shyly pulled me.
On my question Djibril brought her face close to my ear and said that I have a hard look on my face. That was a very lovely view, so I reflexively smiled. This behavior of hers hasn’t changed since old days.
Rapid progress, when I think about times when I was thinking that marriage is a more impossible scenario than kids. As usual there are no chances for marriage, but I have 24 kids. Recently I’ve been thinking that the more kids the better. It might be strange for Japanese, but that were my honest thoughts.
In financial and existential terms the mercenary business doesn’t know what tomorrow brings, but I enjoy life. If their lives were not in danger, I feel that I could enjoy those few short days before I would be shot and died.
When I smile Djibril looked happy and carefully fixed her headgear. Puberty is hard.
Suvarnabhumi International Airport
Time difference between Thailand and Japan is 2 hours. Despite that the travel lasts around 6 hours, in the end only 4 hours pass. That means that it’s not even noon.
Taking a blank form for the application for entering the country, with a feeling of guilt I woke up one after another the still sleeping children.
I synchronized my watch with everyone’s and decided to write the application for being admitted into the country. I write sightseeing onto the checklist. In other words the gist is that there’s no problem from my side.
Supposedly there are some limitations in bringing in electrical devices, but luckily it seems that I don’t have anything that would result in an arrest. After I wrote the application I waited 20 minutes for landing.
It occurred a bit later than planned.
Inspection didn’t last too long and I managed to enter the country. It wasn’t certain if it was real but just in case I also had a return ticket for leaving the country prepared. Without that arrival would be impossible anyway.
I walk through the gate and collect the luggage. The entryway of Thailand in the form of Suvarnabhumi airport is a huge and white airport. A well-functioning and modern, looking much more imposing than the battered airport in Narita.
I felt a bit stupid about the bias that I had against Thailand. I’m starting to think that the position of Japan is slowly falling. Though my worries won’t change anything here.
Looking sideways at the airport’s duty free store, I change a bit of cash to the local currency at the currency exchange.
Gathering everyone I decided to talk with the adults about what to do next.
“Alright, we were chased away up here, we are here and what’s next?”
“Looking for work probably?” – said a big black man, my sworn friend Omar. I agreed.
“True, but looking at this splendid building, I don’t really see as if there is a war here now.”
Thanks to peace that is here now, those splendid buildings could be created. I don’t know what others think, but to mercenaries splendor of buildings and the danger of conflict are strictly connected to each other. Saying it another way, a place with beautiful and big buildings don’t smell of war.
“That’s right.” – agreed Omar looking at the splendid high ceiling.
“Do you see war in the ceiling?” – asked with amusement Mr. Shuwa, a Japanese, former priest soldier of a new religion commanding a group of five people. They joined us based on a verbal agreement, though really I don’t know how long it will take.
I nodded, looking at the solidly built body of Mr. Shuwa.
“Not the ceiling, the building. Yeah.”
“I see. Interesting.”
Mr. Shuwa really looked interested.
I looked at the standing nearby Sophie, but she looked as if it didn’t interest her at all, with interest she was looking around.
“For now we will lodge somewhere and search for regions with conflicts on the Internet.” – I said.
Arranging lodging also requires Internet. I wonder if at the airport they have a computer for rent. I decided to look for an information board.
From the opposite side a person with an impressive long black hair was approaching.
When it comes to long black hair I know one person. Ms. Ito, if it’s her real name, who works for the government.
I opened my eyes widely to see if it’s not her again, but luckily it looked as if it’s someone else. I don’t think bad of Ms. Ito, but when I speak with her I have a feeling that she leads me by the nose, so I feel relieved.
The woman, wearing cheongsam, was approaching. She was raising slightly both of her arms, which means she must have known us.
I was ashamed that I thought of her as stupid when she didn’t join the conversation, but was looking around the area and I just realized that she was keeping watch on the surroundings.
From what she sees, it seems there is no enemy. While my sideway glance was showing apology and gratitude to Sophie, I took a look at the person with cheongsam. In this country such appearance is strangely conspicuous.
“Hello, children-user. Are you looking for lodging?” – she said in fluent English. Her English was much more solid than mine. She was smiling, but I didn’t feel like laughing at all. Children-user was my shameful nickname in the mercenary world.
She suddenly smiled even more. Her smile was like a flower in full bloom, but I couldn’t stop the feeling that somewhere inside there were thorns.
Suddenly her face came closer. My reaction was delayed. After cheerfully smiling, she slapped me hard.
I was more dumbfounded, rather than hurt. Even more after Sophie paid back the cheongsam woman with the same. I stopped them after shaking off from the double shock.
“Wait please. Sophie, you’re resorting to violence too fast.”
I noticed that the children have been surrounding the cheongsam woman. I also stopped this in a panic. They seemed ready to kill her.
“Hey now, don’t get angry. Move away a bit from her.” – I said, rubbing my cheek.
Djibril was looking at the cheongsam woman with clearly murderous eyes. I stretched my hand and pat Djibril’s head, separating her a bit.
Mr. Shuwa watched the whole situation with interest. As for Omar he was looking at me with eyes clearly asking what is this lover’s talk. I frown giving him an intimidating look, that it’s not that. What the heck is this all about?
“I expected that someone will stop it, but I haven’t expected that it will be you.” – said the perpetrator, the cheongsam woman. She said it seeming more relieved, rather than unashamed.
Is that so? – I thought, rubbing my slowly heating up cheek. I wasn’t especially seething with anger. I simply can’t hold grudge at someone, if I don’t even get money.
“I don’t get much of this. You abused and slapped me. I wonder why?”
“I’ve heard about you from the sisters. Since then I always wanted to slap you. Before we talk about work.” – she said that while snorting. Completely pointless.
“I don’t understand at all. First: what sisters?” – when I asked that, the cheongsam woman frowned.
“Sisters are sisters.”
“I don’t know them.” – I said.
She smiled bitterly and replied:
“I don’t know what name she called herself to you. She was Kojima for me.”
“Now I somehow get it. To us she called herself Ito.”
“From Japanese government.”
“Yes. Indeed she said so. Not like I can confirm that.”
She nodded on my words. From how Ms. Ito used her, it seems like she is in a similar position as me. In addition she bragged:
“I have nothing to do with Japanese government. It’s my client, though. There are also times when it’s not.”
So why did it came to this? I mean, why did she slap me? I don’t know what’s going on, but it seemed that she wants to tell that while having connections with Ms. Ito, she’s not really with her.
“Why did you hit Arata?” – Sophie said for me, what I wanted to ask. Yes, exactly this.
“I want to ask you about many things, but before that I wanted to do that.” – The cheongsam woman said this nonsense thing with relief. I feel like I see for the first time someone, who is harder to talk with than Sophie. Forgive me Sophie, there is always someone better.
“I always despised children-user mercenaries. To use children… “
I finally understand something from her words. So that’s what it’s about?
“I see. I can understand that.”
Now it’s obvious why I was slapped. So that’s what it’s about?
The cheongsam woman introduced herself while looking at me. She seemed a little younger than me. A Chinese beauty, greatly different than Japanese cuteness.
“My name is Seiran Lee.”
“Ms. Lee. I’m Arata. If you’re satisfied leave us please. I have to arrange a place to stay for the kids.”
“You are generous.”
I was going to shrug my shoulders, but I refrained.
“Thanks a lot.”
“I can offer you a job. Unfortunately.”
“Unfortunately, huh? Sisters referral?”
“I was told you do a good job. How much I respect that opinion is another story though. I was thinking to use you on my own will.”
I looked again at Ms. Lee. That was ironic that someone who hates a children-user is planning to use him, but perhaps she arranged a job which is not dangerous and too easy to hire someone else.
That would be nice anyway – I thought and smiled. It was a so called business smile.
“Why are you smiling?”
“I just thought that someone like you wouldn’t put children in a dangerous job.” – when I said it Ms. Lee turned her head sideways.
“Probably. But not completely. Just the best one you can get. Come with me.” – she said and walked out.
After I looked at everyone I said that apparently we got a job, so let’s go. Everyone seemed like they wanted to say something, but I laughed to hold them back.
“You don’t look like that and slap the leader to make his team vigilant if you’re going to attack.”
Yes, there’s no doubt she just wanted to slap me from the bottom of her heart.
Smiling bitterly I walked with Ms. Lee. I think she’s careless, but deep inside I partially admired her. Partially, because getting slapped is discouraging.
“It was all of a sudden, so I couldn’t prepare a bus. We will move by an elevated railway. That’s Ok, right?”
“Yeah.” – I said. Djibril and Sophie stood on my sides.
“Why are you following this person?” – said Djibril briefly, though with a heavy tint.
“Arata, do you like to be beaten?” – blurted bluntly Sophie. And soundly at that. My thoughts head to the wrong direction.
I reached out with both of my hands and embraced both of them, walking at the tips of my toes and taking a bit of distance from Ms. Lee.
“She says that she’s giving us a job.” – Djibril was disgusted with what I said.
“What’s more, she claims she hates using children. There’s high possibility we’ll get a calm job.”
I was implying that it must be quite a strange job. Moreover that woman can’t calculate and doing such unexpected things like slapping me. I can have much expectations on this matter.
“You can not care about such things Arata, but I’m against it. It’s not something on which you have to give up your pride to do.” – said quietly Djibril. That’s after all a daughter of a clan, which for it’s pride fought against America.
Nonetheless, it’s about living expenses. Even if Djibril and the rest say that they can endure, I want to make them live comfortably. That’s my real intention.
Looking to the side in search of agreement I see a marching Sophie with a flushed face. Her lips were flapping like carp’s. When I was going to ask Sophie what’s wrong, Djibril suddenly strongly pulled my sleeve, dragging me away from Sophie.
I saw that the rest of the kids alongside Mr.Shuwa and Omar have been intensively excited looking at us. I didn’t have time to think about what it’s about, because Djibril stretched herself and said:
“I also have black hair. So please stop following after them. And you are not allowed to be deceived by an evil djinn too.”
“I’m not following black hair. I’m following rolls of banknotes.”
“This is even more not allowed.”
“This is disappointing, but we need maintenance.”
“I will do my best and work.”
Djibril seemed serious, so I patted her head.
“You aren’t coming?” – says irritated Ms. Lee.
I moved out, saying to at least hear what she has to say. For some reason Sophie hid behind Omar. As always I don’t really understand her reactions.
Thailand is quite an industrialized country. Through many years of economical assistance and Japanese corporations, including among others extending of the car industry, changed this country into industrialized nation inside the jungle.
The view of the districts from the elevated railroad did not differ that much from Japan, aside from incredible traffic jams.
In my mind I thought to myself, that it would be hard to find war here, looking at the landscape full of skyscrapers and present everywhere convenience stores and shopping malls
I wonder what kind of job we’ll be given in such a place.
“There is also a lot of Japanese who are missing the old Thailand. People who like the squalid Thailand, without western influence.”
Ms. Lee has a harsh face. Why harsh, I don’t know.
“It’s my first time in this country, so I don’t understand it, but wasn’t the progress done because formerly the situation was bad?”
“Yes, that’s right. But people who come from abroad don’t try to understand it and just nonchalantly say that poor times were good.”
Listening to Ms. Lee’s words I remember Djibril’s words. Asking with teary eyes: “Because I’m a pitiful kid from a developing country?”. I thought that must be a similar feeling.
Then, when she told me that, I could only show my anger. Now it might be different. Thinking for a bit I respond. As if Djibril from that time admonished me.
“I think they just liked it as it was. Liking it without change and saying not to change are different things. I don’t know if I properly conveyed in my English what I meant though.”
Ms. Lee’s face flushed and she turned sideways. I guess I didn’t successfully convey it, so I scratched my head. Anyway, the stations we were passing through looked modern. I don’t know what determines a developed country, in any case those stations were at this level.
A few minutes passed from the break in the conversation when Ms. Lee opened her mouth:
“I know that.”
That’s good – I was thinking in silence. Ms. Lee seemed irritated. Did that person have some natural calcium deficiency or something? That’s why she is angered easily.
“I’m saying I was wrong.” – I opened my eyes widely at what she said. I look at Ms. Lee. Her face is strangely red.
Which reminds me of Sophie. I am troubled by her last unexpected reaction, more than ever. She doesn’t look like the same person, which with confidence waltzed into the locker room when I was changing in the gym. That elf is always unpredictable for me.
“Japanese have bad personality.”
“Is that so?”
“I don’t know which class you were, but in this country it’s not a good attitude.”
“What is class?”
Ms. Lee’s face looked like it was struck by a bitter blow.
“That’s why Japanese are like this.”
“Forgive me. I really don’t get it.”
“Class is class. Japan is a socialistic country, so that’s why you probably don’t understand.”
I wondered since when Japan was socialistic. Anyway, I understand one thing, Ms. Lee not only can’t calculate, but her mind has been scattered. I gladly welcome softhearted clients, but too stupid ones are a problem – I thought a bit.
“I know it’s not a socialistic country!” – she said pouting.
“Oh, that’s really great.”
“Are you politically antisocial?”
“No. I just have difficulty in understanding what my client is saying.”
Ms. Lee sighs. She looks outside.
“Soon.” – she said. That person’s mind is really scattered.
We get out at a station and go down outside on long escalators.
It’s hot. Hot as if I had a tightly tied tie. A big difference compared to the cool interior. Or actually it’s because in Thailand cooling is generally overused.
On the street, cars without pause bump into each other. Huge traffic jams. In front of my eyes drive only compact cars. Honda Fit which I know from Japan, but also Mitsubishi Mirage. Though apparently the name they have here is different, they are still Hondas and Mitsubishis. Looking at them I have a strange feeling. I feel like I have arrived in Japan.
“It looks like a developed country, right?” – said with satisfaction Ms. Lee. I replied affirmatively, looking at the sky filled with annoying heat. It’s a different kind of sultry air than in Central Asia.
“Everyone alright? Are you not stuffy? If you feel bad say it.” – I say to the children and follow Ms. Lee. Close to the station there is a big hotel. That was our target.
Guided to the conference room I feel the excess of cooling is taking it’s toll on me. I’m worried about children’s health. Omar and Mr. Shuwa will probably handle this somehow. And Sophie. For some reason when I look at her, then with a cold eyes she looks away. I was confused by her stance, so different than shown up to now.
I can’t stay without end in confusion, so I raise my eyes and look at Ms. Lee. Work first.
“Are you Chinese?”
“Thai, of Chinese descent. Overseas Chinese. Why?”
“You looked happy because of the development of this country.”
“It has been 200 years since my ancestors came to this country. Here is my country.”
I looked again at Ms. Lee. I felt like I sensed a feeling of alienation from people and country, something that Japanese don’t understand. And at the same time I also sensed strong pride.
“I see.” – I answer, on what Ms. Lee crosses her arms with irritation. Since she is upset then I probably said something bad. She said to me:
“I’ve heard about the children-user. It’s often talked about a careerist for a mountain tribe, mercenaries working far away from home.”
“If the rumors are nice, then I don’t mind.”
“Well… too bad.” – sneered Ms. Lee.
Not particularly. I can image what is being said, besides I don’t care. Taking care of the kids is in the first place.
“Children-user does low priced jobs. And he does it good. Why he values it so low? Because he can dispose of the children they say.” – immediately after those words Djibril raised sharply her voice.
“Arata does not take losses that easily.”
After Ms. Lee looked at Djibril, she immediately moved her eyesight on me.
“Oh, is that so. Still, I’m hearing such stories. Be silent young lady.”
The atmosphere isn’t too good. I scratch my head. The subject of the conversation can’t be changed already.
“I have a request. Even so, keeping a poker face, huh?”
“What is it?”
“I thought you will be more angry.”
The kids started to visibly look with murderous eyes at Ms.Lee because of those verbal provocations. I spread both my arms and held them back. I can’t let them kill a person, when we don’t even get money out of it. In fact even if we were paid I wouldn’t like it.
“Whether you call me crazy or children-user, I think of it only as annoyance. But, I’m just happy that I found people who get angry for me. So what are you doing by provoking me?”
“I wanted to test you. I’ve heard another rumor from the mountain clan. About children-user, who wants to take the children to a place, where they will be able to live in peace. That was just idle gossip though.”
“I’m just looking for a place, where there’s no killing.”
“I don’t know of such a place, but with a plan and money isn’t killing unnecessary for a while?”
“Yes. It’s a happy scenario.”
“You keep a poker face.” – said disgusted for some reason Ms.Lee. I scratch my head.
“I just don’t know what expression I should make. What kind of job you have?”
“Lately there appeared someone who following children-user’s example is planning to use children from this country as mercenaries.
Ms. Lee looked at me and gently smiled for a bit.
“For the first time I saw a human expression on your face.”
I squinted and look diagonally downwards. I held back from bursting into anger. I think it’s a punishment. A punishment someone gave me for using children for fighting.
“I’m a monster, not a human. Continue, please.”
I did a great job to not become hoarse. I haven’t even noticed since when Djibril, my guardian angel, has been standing on my side to protect me.
I smiled. I can’t make children worry.
“They’re exporting children. The merchants. Children from this country.”
“Why the police isn’t doing anything?”
“Because they are children from a class, which police doesn’t care about.”
Class? It seems that class thing in this country is something more deeply rooted than I thought.
“I see. That’s why you want to use us. But why? It seems like you’re trying to help a class, which there is no need to help.” – Ms. Lee thought for five seconds when I said that. She slightly nods.
“That’s right, but don’t you feel displeased? I can pay you some money for that. I thought you would understand it, if the idle gossip was true.” – said Ms. Lee.
I pretend that I’m thinking.
“If we will be able to survive for that then that will do.“ – I said with difficulty.
Talks about the job have been settled swimmingly.
The amount was unexpectedly big. Converting into Japanese currency about 15 000 000 yen. Besides the pocket money of Ms. Lee who is an owner of a high class hotel in Thailand, it seems she gathered the money from different places.
That’s how many people don’t like this – that’s the words of Ms. Lee.
When I received half of the amount in cash, I wondered how to stock up on weapons.
We had accommodations in a hotel of another group, so we went on foot to a different hotel. The external appearance was much worse from the previous one, but it was free, so a great thing.
I explained simply the new job to the children, Omar and Mr. Shuwa’s people and gave them free time.
I went outside to wait for Ms. Lee to talk with her in order to quickly get weapons and information about the enemy. Djibril followed me instantly.
“You need a bodyguard, Arata.” – said Djibril.
“Alright, alright” – I replied and we walked together. I looked to the side at Djibril, who despite having a headgear on her, you could see that she didn’t look pleased.
“After all you can rest in the hotel.”
“You always say that and try to keep me away, Arata.”
“I don’t. You’re always beside me, Djibril.”
It’s a bit different from saying that she’s reliable. I wonder what to say. Djibril stares at me. I felt the need to quickly say something more.
“Well… I have a really good time.”
Djibril looked away.
“In that case always stay beside me. Without going away.”
“Yeah, but you know. As an operator when the battle already starts, I’m resting, unlike you which take part in it. That’s why it seems to me that it would be better to rest now.”
Djibril turned to my direction.
“The time when I rest is…”
“Now, this is how I’m resting. But you never want to accept that, Arata.”
“I don’t?” – when I said that, Djibril got angry. I thought it would go well today and we will do without a quarrel, but it will be difficult. It seems that I lack experience in successfully comforting a child. Surely lack of different experiences in young age causes problems later.
I return to the high class hotel and talk with Ms. Lee. She says that her subordinate will take care of me. I thank her and wait for a while in the lounge.
This hotel is crowded with foreign people. It’s close to the airport after all – I thought, idling.
When I started wondering whether to order a coffee if it will take longer, someone approached me. It was an overseas Chinese, who thanks to his glasses made an impression of being intelligent.
“I’m Lee Sei. I’m a long-term advisor.”
“My name is Arata. She’s Djibril. First-class bodyguard.” – I said, on what Mr. Sei for a fraction of a second looked at me with something like contempt. Kind of like Ms. Lee but with different look.
I smiled, shrugging my shoulders in my head. It often became so. No matter who is the superior, subordinates doesn’t understand his intentions. It’s the same at my place. If in such a small group being like a family it is that way, then what about such a big group of hotels.
“How can I help you?”
“From the request I got, the situation felt to me like it’s better to hurry up in rescuing the children.”
When I said that, Ms. Lee’s subordinate glanced at Djibril. He probably shrugged his shoulders in his head the other way. Well, I want to think that we are in the same boat.
“I see. Pardon me, but why “hurry” ?”
“The faster the solution is found the better for everyone, right? Regarding information about the target and since we are completely empty-handed this time, I was thinking if you happen to know any ways to provide us with weapons?”
“You can’t get any information regarding weapons from me, but I think that someone from the guards might provide such information. I will contact you tomorrow.”
“Thank you very much.”
“As for the target… I think it would be best to ask directly the NGO about the merchant, who is exporting children. It was them who originally got this information.”
NGO. Non-governmental organization? – I searched through the scraps of my knowledge and had a vague recollection. I had an image of voluntary service, but perhaps they were doing something more than that. It doesn’t look like Mr. Sei has been lying.
Very well – I say, smiling after receiving the contact address.
I don’t know if Mr. Sei is a bad person, but whether he’s good or bad with every new person the information degradates. If it’s possible I would want to acquire information directly.
Mr. Sei nodded and spoke after a moment of hesitation.
“Only an advice.”
“What is it about?”
“It’s better to not bring kids when you will meet with the NGO.”
“They don’t like kids?”
“The opposite. I think, that they think about you probably as a heinous person.”
That’s the way it is, huh? – I thought.
“I see. Understood. Well, though it doesn’t seem to me that they are too mistaken about that, but got it.”
I was led directly to the hotel counter from where I went to the store with cell phones, where I bought a SIM card. Inserting it inside the cell phone bought in Japan, I called the received number.
“BKK Council for Street Children and Slum.”
“I’m calling from Ms. Seiran Lee’s referral. My name is Arata.”
“Yes. That’s correct.”
The voice is male. It seems not too young.
I try to talk with a relaxed voice:
“I would like to gain some information regarding stopping children shipments. Can I ask about it directly?”
“…Please wait a moment. I’ll get the representative for you immediately.”
A brief noise. I patted Djibril’s head, who was looking around without losing caution even for a moment. She scowls at me and then quiets down.
I wait few minutes. When I finish patting Djibril’s head, at the other side of the phone speaks a voice.
“Thanks for your patience. Were you saying that you’ll stop the shipping?”
An elderly woman voice. Calm, making an impression that it really belongs to someone in a position of leadership.
“Yes. That’s right. I’m taking up such request from Ms.Lee.”
“That’s the greatest news for the last few years!”
I smiled a bit. Although I might have not seen many battlefields, her voice was clearly a voice of an ally. That’s the feeling that voice was giving out.
“It’s not like I’ve already succeeded. Currently I’m on the stage of gathering information. If it’s possible I would like to ask about what you know.”
“Yes. Certainly. It’s just…”
“Could you come to an indicated place?”
“Very well. But, why?”
“I just want to help people, but sometimes I feel danger. Especially in this kind of situations.”
Does it mean she’s being targeted?
“I understand. I’ll come to the pointed out place then. I also sometimes feel danger, so I wish we both will have a safe spot.”
The time and date have been settled. It has been decided that we’ll wait with the discussion until tomorrow.
Being satisfied with the developments, I decide to go back to the hotel slowly with a detour.
I go across the main street to be able to take a walk with Djibril.
Walking I’m wondering. I understood one thing from the phone call before. Enemy seems to be a criminal organization.
It’s not a job like private military contractors, who are making profits balancing between what is legal and illegal. Even when it becomes rough, their goal is to look legal on the outside, but the enemy here is a professional criminal, like mafia, who does his job even when everybody knows it’s illegal. Of course if someone disturbs them he risks retaliation. That’s what it seems to me.
In Japan I also had a criminal organization as an enemy, but it was a rather easy job. Thinking that it would be nice if it was also the same this time, I came back to the hotel while checking if I didn’t have a tail. It would be the most dangerous right now, before I acquire weapons.
If the opponent was in the same business, then he would surely plant a wiretap or something, but now I don’t know what a criminal syndicate will do. I thought about increasing security.
I noticed, that someone is pulling my sleeve. It was Djibril.
“My hair is black too.”
“Lately you are really bothered by that, eh?” – I said, patting Djibril’s head. With this puberty nothing is sure so I think I should stop doing it, but I can’t help myself. Once I will not be able to do it, I’m probably going to feel lonely.
Djibril looks around.
“It’s you that is bothered by that Arata.”
I’m wondering about the meaning of the things she is saying. I don’t have any ideas.
“It seems to me that it’s not.”
“Recently all clients have black hair.”
Djibril stares at me, carefully adjusting her headgear. It means that she must be angry. Perplexed I scratched my head.
“In that case, why did you get a job so fast?”
“I just thought it looked good.”
“It’s possible that it’s a trap.”
“If they were to set a trap then it seems to me that they would direct it better.”
“It’s possible that it’s a woman that is a trap. You seem really susceptible to such things, Arata.”
I look that distressed in the presence of women? Well, I am, but it’s not like they desire me, so I don’t have difficulties. And that’s what we should be sticking with. I worked out an ultimate excuse at the time I was a NEET, that I just don’t put any effort into it.
I looked at Djibril with eyes expressing full denial. Unfortunately she was looking to the side so my expression came to nothing.
“It’s not like I don’t like women, but that’s not why I accepted this job.”
It couldn’t be helped, so I replied seriously. I feel like it is a bit infantile reply for a child.
“So, why? We don’t mind tightening our belts.”
“Well, you don’t, but still. In fact, you see, Gini says she want to learn horse riding and soon I would want to allow everyone to learn normally.
“If it’s about learning to shoot from weapons we have enough of it, and what else do we need?”
Ascertaining that it’s a way leading to a quarrel, I remained silent. After starring at me Djibril show some tears. It starts to get nasty. Puberty is a tough thing.
Walking, I pat Djibril on the head.
“I’m always thinking about you in the first place.”
“And that’s what I don’t like. You’re saying that and at the same time keep me away.”
With hazy from tears eyes, Djibril says that I am the most important above all.
After that, there wasn’t any conversation.
Evening meal and a discussion
We returned to the hotel in the late afternoon. I was quite tired because of the two hours longer day, caused by the time difference.
Everyone decided to eat together in the hotel, judging that it would be easier to deal with an attack in the hotel than outside.
It was quite comfortable, because it was possible to order food for Muslims. I spoke to the waiter with the intention to praise the staff and from what I’ve heard Thailand is a Buddhist country, but people here also believe in spirits, Hindu, Islam and other religions.
I wait a while. The food is separated on a few round tables. I’m eating something that I only know about that it’s a chicken. I don’t even have an idea if it’s boiled or roasted. A sweet-sour-spicy mixture. I managed to somehow identify tom yum kung soup with shrimp and that’s all. Beside that I didn’t know anything. I didn’t know if it’s good or not. I’m can’t compare those dishes to anything to evaluate them. If as according to Ms. Lee Thailand likened itself to Europe, then what was before?
A steamed long and narrow rice in a bamboo basket appeared. It’s also different than Japanese.
When I look at the children I notice that they’re eating meekly without any conversations. Well, before I acquire weapons there is only eating things everyone is accustomed to left. Things like steaks, seasoned by just salt, pepper and garlic.
After the meal there is something called lotus tea. I don’t know what’s lotus in Japanese, but it was quite good.
When I look at Djibril and the rest of the kids who without interest drink tea, Omar and Mr. Shuwa with his people approach me. It can be felt that they want to say something. I nod and look at the children.
I told the children that still looked sleepy to rest as long as necessary and we went to the hotel lounge for a conversation. I had a feeling that the sofa is too soft. Maybe it really is. I sat at the innermost seat from the window. Distance from a window gives a feeling of security in case of a shootout.
Looking out the window Mr. Shuwa spoke first, speaking in Japanese that it’s cold here. I nod. After Mr. Shuwa laughed he looked at me and somehow corrected his sitting posture.
“You decided on this job damn fast. Why?”
“I thought it’s a good job.”
“You didn’t feel any risk?”
“The job is always risky. Putting that aside, if you ask me if there’s something worth mentioning, I think there’s nothing.”
“Is it alright to take a job like that, without batting an eye?”
“It depends on the situation. It’s a business when once out of two times you don’t get paid. This time I have half of the amount, besides I think that the case is quite right. Is there something that you’re concerned about?”
Mr. Shuwa crossed his arms and started contemplating. I wait for him to speak. Omar is also waiting in silence. He doesn’t understand Japanese too much.
“If because we joined you moving capital will become difficult then I think we made a mistake.” – said Mr. Shuwa.
“No, no. None of those things. It’s all right.”
“We don’t really know this business.”
“I also didn’t really know it. You will get used to it fast.”
“If I live that long.”
“I would like you to live. If you die, the children will be in danger too.” – I say with seriousness on what Mr. Shuwa laughs.
“Okay. I don’t know what, where, and how, so for now I will look and execute well the orders I will be given.”
“Thank you. What about you Omar?”
I said the second half in English. Mr. Shuwa doesn’t understand English well on the other hand. It’s quite a complicated discussion.
“Are you sure about accepting such a job?”
And the conversation instantly returned to the starting point. He is worried about it that much?
“I don’t have personality for money.”
“It’s the too stupid customer that’s a problem.”
“That woman Lee seemed like that.”
“Yeah, there’s no doubt about it.”
“So why did you accept it? You’re not going to say it’s because of your interest in women with black hair or something, right?”
First Djibril, now Omar, what are they thinking about my interests?
I frown and say:
“I don’t like Ms. Ito’s type. Of course I don’t like even more the ones who slap me out of the blue when they see me.”
I wonder if those simple words explained everything. Seeing the laughing Mr. Shuwa I gave him a sharp look and scratched my head. I look at Omar. Seems like he is completely not convinced.
“It’s not like you feel sorry for the slum kids, right?”
I kept silent, so Omar looked at me with a cold stare.
“We are not a charity, We aren’t saints either. The only thing we care about is what to do with 24 children.”
“I know. I know that!”
“Arata, I recognize your talent. But…”
“Omar. It’s alright, I told you.”
I stopped Omar, who wanted to say something. I know what he would say.
“I’m the one who doubts my talent the most. It’s alright. I only fight battles I can win. But, Ok, next time when a job comes I will probably discuss it with everyone. My bad.”
Omar tried to say something, but he exhaled air and in the end dropped his shoulders.
“I’m counting on you, golden eagle. Only your wings can help us. I don’t want to see Gini or Ivan dying. Even if a stranger kid will be sacrificed for that.”
“I know. I know! Me too.” – Omar nodded at my words. And that’s how the talks ended.
At the bar
The discussion has ended, but after returning to the room I didn’t feel like sleeping. I don’t relly drink alcohol beside social occasions, but now I had to have a drink.
I felt bad for the Muslim Omar and Djibril, but to have a drink I went straight from the lounge to the hotel bar next to it.
The bar is gloomy and foreigners are standing out. Maybe because it’s a cheap hotel, the appearance of the drinking clientele also seemed cheap.
Not really knowledgeable about things I glanced through the menu and I ordered whisky, which was called Mekhong. Maybe it’s an alcohol made from the delicious water of the river Mekong. Not really knowing what is it about when they told me to chose something I pointed at a single one.
Mild, amber liquid appeared in a small glass. when I closed my face, a strong scent of an alcohol caused eye pain.
So everyone drinks something like this? – I thought and looked at the glass not touching it. On a daily basis I stay with Muslims and only children which are forbidden from drinking, that’s why there is no alcohol in my life.
When I study the glass with one hand, thinking that Djibril would be sad if i drank it, I notice a person sitting next to me. It was Mr. Shuwa.
“What’s going on?”
“I wondered if all Japanese drink in times like this. So you were here, huh? I’m glad. I’m the only one who doesn’t know how to order something.”
“Is it okay for you to drink?”
“I’m a former Buddhist priest. Besides I drank when I was a priest too.” – Mr. Shuwa said and laughed.
“Can you order something for me?”
I ordered what he told me. A bourbon called Four Roses. I orderer on rocks, but it seems there’s none. So it has been diluted with water.
Apparently there is no custom here to put ice in the alcohol.
We raised a toast merely for the forms sake. I stare at Mr. Shuwa, who tastefully drinks alcohol. Diluted with water must be easy to drink, but despite that the odor was terrible.
“Someone gave you harsh words or something?” – said jauntily Mr. Shuwa. I wonder if it worried him. If so I did a bad thing.
“No, it’s not like that. It’s just I wondered if I’ve become a tengu.”
When I speak in English, I don’t use some words. One of them is “tengu” which appeared now, since I’m speaking with Mr. Shuwa in Japanese. It caused a slight smile to appear on my face. Differences in culture, differences in race. I felt that all of it was a paradox. With Djibril and Omar we are divided with cultural differences as well as racial differences.
Maybe from their perspective, that I supposedly like black hair is caused by good understanding with someone from a closer cultural circle.
I sigh. It would be nice if I could convey to Omar and Djibril that I’m thinking about them in the first place. It’s frustrating that words are not enough to properly express it.
“Tengu, huh?” – says Mr. Shuwa amused. It’s not an expression heard in other countries, that’s probably why he was enjoying it so, but I wasn’t amused.
Mr. Shuwa looks at me and thinks, after which he says:
“It’s okay to be a tengu.”
“No. Tengu is something local for Japan.”
“Subordinates will have a hard time if their leader is a wimp.”
“It seems that they have a hard time even if the leader is strong.”
Mr. Shuwa laughed. I couldn’t.
“More than enough is too much, it’s that way with everything. You can’t go overboard. Not too weak, not too strong. Balance is everything.”
I think about Mr. Shuwa’s words. It seems he isn’t mocking me.
“Balance? I haven’t thought about it.”
“Nature until now achieved balance, no? Although everything changes. Whether you grow old, learn something or lose something, the balance is lost. And each time the nature will fix it. That’s life.”
“I see. It’s a good story.”
“Though it’s a sermon from a former Buddhist priest.” – said Mr. Shuwa and laughed. This time I was able to smile a bit too.
“Balance, huh? I’ll think about it.”
“That’s good, but nobody can keep depending on nature. Balance in a human must be recovered by the human himself. You can’t dump everything on heavens like that.”
“Right. Thank you.”
Mr. Shuwa stopped at the third glass saying that he enjoys drinking moderately each day and he got up.
I left the bar not drinking the alcohol I paid for in the end. I thought that if Djibril and Omar were to be sad because of that, then I don’t want to do that.
After leaving the bar, in the elevator I thought that it’s incredible to learn from someone that you exchanged gunfire with just yesterday. You shouldn’t kill people just like that, because there might be your mentor among them.
Though I didn’t drink alcohol I felt like being exposed to the night wind.
I wanted to walk on the street at night, but I gave up thinking about the possibility of being attacked. Looking at the situation the likelihood of attack was probably low, but still it’s also pathetic to expect that the enemy is a fool. Opening the window in my room will be good enough – I thought while operating the elevator button. At the same time, a salaryman with similar clothes as mine entered the elevator.
That was our reunion.
^1. Like a lot of times lately no notes, since I’m lazy. Well learning how to sue google might serve as a good practice for later…