Appearance of Japan from the plane was the same as usual, which seemed strange to me.
No, it’s wrong to think that because I’m different now ,the country also has changed. I understand that much myself.
After 1 year, at least seen from the sky, it seemed that there wasn’t any change in Japan. I recall my room, where I lived back then. Room full of figurines, manga and LN’s.
I smiled bitterly, when I recalled about my otaku days. Now those are only memories I barely remember. I’ve done too much evil for money, to fully enjoy them. You’re disgusting – I think to myself. Originally I found that new job for my modest hobby of manga and figurines.
I’ve changed. From NEET, through getting a job and becoming unemployed, having problems with buying food, to finding work at a foreign private military company. I became a mercenary without a weapon, but I left that too. And now I’m jobless again. Furthermore – adding to this 20 kids. Child soldiers, my former subordinates.
What a great success – I thought. Or great fall.
I was thinking of how to judge it, that in addition to being jobless, I’m unmarried and have two dozen kids, but I smiled and accepted that fact. I think that man fails trying. I’ll enjoy the situation for now.
I look at the back seats. Everything is in order. There are 24 kids. Now they’re going to enter the country with a tourist visa. Some of them are nervous, some can’t calm down if they don’t hold a weapon. Some sleep like a log, some look at me. One who looks at me is a girl with an angel’s name – Djibril. Soon – I only moved my lips. Djibril kept nodding.
Well, I guess everyone is anxious – I thought. Even sleeping kids were pale before getting on, so the fact that they’re sleeping now is probably their reaction to this. They have no experience flying an airplane. Not many of them even knew where Japan is. They just knew Japan as a land of anime. I think that a while back it was a land of electronics, though. So Japan has probably changed as well.
We’re landing very soon. I looked at the kids again and turned my head forward. Why is my heart pounding? Because I’m back? I have a feeling that’s not the case. Isn’t it because I’m with kids? No, that’s not it too. I smiled. I’m enjoying my fall after all. It’s fun to fall with a bang.
Someone would say I went mad, but then I would always answer that I do what I like so leave me alone.
For the time being I wondered if I’m going to be arrested. No, I guess you don’t get arrested just like that. I think there’s questioning. I believe that bringing at once 24 kids to the country, trouble will occur. In Afghanistan I bought them passports and nationality for convenience, but considering their value I doubted their reliability.
Well, even if I get arrested it’s my win anyway. – I thought. If they discover false passports they will find out that it can’t be said from which country those kids are, which will probably make quite an uproar. My win is undeniable. Just entering Japan is a victory. No matter what, kids won’t run around with weapons on a battlefield.
We’re landing. It says “Welcome to Japan”. With a smile on my face we went down to the airport. Mixing with the crowd we climbed the escalator and went to the immigration gate. There we go, now it will happen.
…Nothing was wrong.
We easily entered the country. Unexpectedly I was disappointed. What a pity. And here I thought I will be able to relax.
Kids are waiting for me. I changed the operation plan in my mind. But hey, I have many of them in my pocket.
For Japan’s entryway Narita Airport is more shabby than Haneda. I’m thinking about absurd things like that I wanted to show kids the Haneda Airport especially.
“I guess it’s quieter than I thought.” – I said, while pulling up a suitcase.
Leader of the 24 kids, a girl with a headgear – Djibril, seemed disoriented and said:
“Is that so?”
I smile. Well, wanting to show them an imposing airport seem childish. I have to be more like an adult.
If I won’t Djibril or someone else will have to quickly become one.
I know that I’m already 31. Seats for kids are limited, so if someone won’t grow up, the new kids won’t be able to sit on that seats.
To make children sit on children seats I have to move forward.
I just noticed that recently I keep becoming aware of things. While I’m enjoying an adult’s reflection I decided to take responsibility for other adults and bear that unbearable weight. Specifically saying I decided that beside me I’ll tell those complaints to my only friend, honest and sober, my business partner friend, Omar.
“Omar went ahead, what about him?”
“I’ve heard he’s eating tempura.”
“I see. Shall we also eat?”
Djibril agreed and went with me.
I see a woman in a suit, who stately walks across the airport. Maybe because I became used to seeing sharply chiseled faces, the moderate one feels like something new. Long black hair are beautiful. I saw that Djibril looks at the same person. No, she undoubtedly perceive in a broader extent, clearly deciding if it’s a danger or not. She put on her headgear even deeper, rushed over to me with a trot and asked:
“Don’t you feel ashamed?”
I think for a while and smile bitterly.
“You mean that woman? Yeah. To tell you the truth I’m a bit ashamed. I was away from Japan for too long, you see.”
Djibril’s eyes sparkled from inside of her headgear with satisfaction.
“Then it’s fine.”
I didn’t know what’s fine, but I gathered the kids and we started marching. I wonder if 25 people will be able to seat in a tempura store – I thought.
I examine the map on an information board and look for a tempura store. So it’s on the 4th floor. Lack of scale on it annoys me, but it’s due to the nature of my former job. I looked toward nearby telephone box and based on a distance measured by eye I calculated the scale of the information board.
I turned to the same direction as the person with black hair a moment ago. We took the escalator.
“What… are we going to eat!?” – said with embarrassment one of the former soldier boys in English. He hides behind Djibril.
You may say that he has a small frame, even smaller than Djibril. Which isn’t surprising for a 10-year-old. Voice, which asked what are we going to eat was high. If I was in my 20’s I would probably say it was noisy. As a 31-year-old I don’t have a problem with it.
“Fried Japanese food. Fish and prawns with sesame oil, and deep-fried vegetables.”
Faces of the former boy soldiers showed disgust. Maybe it’s because of differences in their cuisine, in which deep-fried food isn’t very popular. Although that would-be fried food, which we were eating at the camp was something even I would want to avoid. I don’t know what technique they were using, but the fact it doesn’t cause heartburn is it’s only credit.
“Many people say that since it’s a high-class food it’s tasty.” – I added and then the eyes of the former boy soldiers sparkled.
Shine in their eyes express surprise. Former girl soldiers are wearing headgears, so I don’t know about them.
“But that prawn animals are spiders.” – Says a 10-year-old boy. Even for his broken language that was too abridged.
I think that those former soldier boys birthplace isn’t far from Aral sea, but food from it probably isn’t used. I wonder why. Maybe because it’s expensive.
“It’s a completely different kind. Appearance too.” – I said and laughed. The 10-year-old boy was overwhelmed.
I’ve reached the restaurant on the 4th floor laughing. This floor was an observation deck with a big window. Immediately after, I’ve heard a short scream. I saw that former boy and girl soldiers are all acting the same. I taught them spreading out and prostrating. This is what I expect from them, but for Japanese people, who don’t have a sense of danger it was perceived as something strange.
I strained my ears, wondering what’s happened. There’s no gunshots. The scream continues. I guessed that somebody had an edged tool. I suspect a random slasher. This time when I saw Japanese who were starting to make an uproar I thought it’s stupid and wanted to laugh at them, but actually I didn’t say anything, because Djibril and the rest organized 4 separate tactical S units and entrusted command of the single reinforced unit P to me.
“Arata, your commands.” – said Djibril, with a face literally as if she has been entrusting her fate to me.
However it wasn’t entrusting made in desperation. Neither in resignation or acceptance. She had a face, which was just automatically awaiting orders.
I smiled. Well, shall we do a little exercise before a meal – I think.
“We still don’t have a radio or cellphones. We’re going to cooperate with eyesight. From now on I attach to each tactical S unit letters A C D E. SD, SE. Aim for a near trash can. Check if there are any explosive materials. If not, collect cans to throw. Let one person from 2 units, who doesn’t have any special instructions and is good with grenades link together and start throwing them. Hurry up.”
I stopped thinking about turning around and running, because if I were the enemy I would first gain control of the entrance. I still don’t know the adversary that much to expect stupidity from him. I don’t know if there’s any enemy in the first place.
“SC commander Djibril on the spot. Waiting for orders. SD, SE are back so give me directions. I request for SA assistance. I think for myself. It’s good, right?”
Djibril softly nodded. She’s somehow proudly looking at me. I ignored it. She sometimes overestimates me.
“Ok, SA and I will have a picnic. Let’s go. We’re going to provisionally call the enemy B1.”
I moved out, proceeding close to the wall. For some reason there’s not much people who stick to the wall in this emergency. I used that fact.
Many people are running away. There are screams. People fall down one after another. A person holding a knife with a blade about 40cm long is running. It seems that people who failed to escape are being stabbed from the back.
“Looks like an amateur.” – I said to a boy from SA.
He closes one eye and is watching the person with a knife.
“Yeah amateur. Without even a backup.”
I wanted to return already. I can’t say the threat is very high.
You’re not going to help? – I felt like I heard Djibril’s voice. I make a frown. She’s really an angel – I thought. Recently even if she’s not near, sometimes her remarks reach to me.
I think for a second. Well, for educational purposes it’s not good to let someone die without helping – I thought. I remember that it’s not what was taught at the mercenary job, but I want those kids to grow into better adults.
“Before first corner to the right there are signboards of the Ramen and Italian restaurants. Bring them here, we’re going to use them as a weapon. Quickly.”
Two boys had run off.
I knocked the wall seeing that in a military sense it was an amateur criminal. My hand hurts. I think I’ve been knocking too vigorously. I wave my hand to the enemy. B1, holding a knife approached me. Skinhead, late 20s or early 30s. In other word, about similar age as me. I’m sorry for my prejudice, but I thought he is an unemployed or a NEET. I thought that I saw somewhere a similar mass indiscriminate killing, I probably remember it because the summer was hot or something, though it’s May now. I don’t know if being a mercenary wasn’t a worse thing. I dropped the smile. Boys did the same. And then we’re standing face to face with him like that.
He probably didn’t like it or something and he started running at us.
Oh dear. We’re unarmed but even without me there are 4 of us. Former boy soldiers are dispersing and flanking him. He probably realized he went forward too far and constantly watching his back, brandished the knife. It seems that it was his tactic to not let anybody draw near him. It can only be described as clumsy. I can’t stand that he injured someone like that. – I thought.
“I apologize for the delay. We’re coming for backup.” – The voice from behind hasn’t finished talking, while can throwing has begun. It was simultaneous.
He doesn’t like that former boy soldiers are surrounding him and distanced himself. Djibril stood at the front to protect me. B1 shouts something and while trying to thrust at me, he fell over. He trampled down on the can. That’s what happens if you don’t watch your steps. Former soldier boys came right away with a standing signboards and pinned down his right hand and head. One from squad A trampled down vigorously on his knee and broke his leg.
If we break his legs that would be a full course torture, but I stopped it. Not because of compassion towards the criminal but from an educational point of view.
“Confiscate the weapon and wait for policemen.”
Airport staff and policemen come together. I think it will be hard to escape in this situation. Morality of the children will be probably Investigated.
I thought something is odd because running onlookers were taking out their cellphones and started recording. Now I’m scared. I said to Djibril to start aiding the wounded people.
Our schedule went out of order. Even contacting the hotel has been delayed.
Today we’re gonna stay at a cheap ryokan in Asakusabashi, although we’re not even there yet. It’s probably around 3 pm now.
Currently we’re at the Chiba police station. Incident was probably big considering investigation at the airport. It was not far away, but we traveled here by a minibus. At least it looks like it’s close from here to the station.
That was my first time in the interrogation room. It was dreary, but had calm colors and was much more modern than in television.
I’ve been questioned in detail by a polite policeman with uniform under the presence of an interpreter about things like current stay contact address. I don’t really know why there’s an interpreter, although I understand that for the boys and girls it’s necessary. I thought that I will be questioned by a detective with a suit, but it was different than I’ve been expecting. Everything is an experience.
Because of that performance of people, who were recording wounded people, I felt like I already tasted enough of Japan. I wasn’t expecting any words of appreciation and I didn’t get them anyway.
When I was living in Japan I wasn’t aware of it, but now I know what kind of country Japan is. As a plan B, besides being arrested, I thought about founding a security company, but I felt that intention suddenly faded away. This country is bad for the children’s education.
Asked about the schedule from now on, I told about sightseeing plans. In fact I planned to do it for a while and I had current reservations in hotels at several places, so in that area questioning wasn’t strict. However, as always – bureaucratic bungling took a sick amount of time.
When they thanked for our effort and released us it was already past 5 pm. When I thought that those thanks was said like to a subordinate I felt subtly angry. Although I knew that will happen, it stirred me from educational perspective. Humans are selfish.
Kids, who were released before me were sleeping at the same police station hall, on the bench placed along the wall. Sun was shining from the west, but wasn’t setting yet. I thought that for a human it’s a delicate, lulling light. In Central Asia because of dry air, the setting sun was terribly strong, bright and it ended in an instant. There’s no such thing in Japan. For better or worse Japan is a mild country. It can be probably said that the nature is kind.
Djibril is sleeping at the very edge with a tilted head leaning on 3 boys. I was satisfied with myself that there’s no assault rifle in those hands. I must praise them somehow – I thought. If we’re going to eat tempura I’ll have to add them one prawn.
When I smiled, a person who was leaning their back on the wall, moved and approached me.
When I took my eyes off the children, someone called me and I saw a standing figure. I remember that bundled pretty black hair. It was the woman in a plain suit, who passed us before on the airport.
She probably walks a lot, that’s probably why she doesn’t wear high heels, but because of it she looks short. But still… higher than Djibril. Lately I somehow can’t get rid of referring to Djibril in every comparison, I wonder myself why.
When she bowed her head vigorously, I was surprised. It was in Japan, where I first got a proper battlefield etiquette. She thanks me for the rescue. Despite what everyone thinks, there isn’t anything more after that in Japan.
“No, I’m glad you’re alive. You were just heading in the same direction.” – When I replied, she looked at me with surprise.
“We passed each other.” – She was passing strictly before me, but explaining that would be bothersome so I just answered like that.
“Oh really? Well… you’ve got great memory.” – she said, getting a little red on her face, though mainly the tips of her ears were getting red.
“No, I just happened to remember that pretty black hair.” – when I frankly said it, she concealed her ears.
“What is it?” – I asked.
“No, it’s nothing.” – she said, still concealing her ears.
“I see.” – Not knowing what it’s about I pretended that I understand. I think about changing the subject. Me and ears don’t get along well. That’s why even if they’re becoming a subject, I try to not get too near them.
I observe her. She waits for me to say something. I wondered how old she could be. By looking at her I guessed she’s probably a bit younger than me.
“Did you happen to wait for me the whole time?”
To thank? – I was about to say, but I kept silent. She probably looked after the children as well.
So there are still decent fellows in Japan – I thought. No, there probably were decent people when I was living in Japan too. I just couldn’t see them.
“Thank you.” – I said. I felt somehow embarrassed, using Japanese after so much time.
“No, I’m the one who should say thanks. You saved me.” – She bows her head again. I have a feeling that there’s a sense of closeness in this. Different than common behavior of Japanese people or in business I belong to. I concluded that she’s one of those people that have a hard time making a living.
I’m not that close with anyone except Djibril, kids and Omar.
Before I knew it I saw that she was looking directly at me.
“Can I ask your name?” – she said, concealing her ears.
“Arata, you write it as 新田. Arata, Ryota.”
After she stretched her back and slowly separated her hands from her ears, she took out a business card from the hanging shoulder bag on her arms.
It was a simple business card with just a personal name. Stiff paper, which makes a pleasant sound when flipped. I know it from that dirty small design company, those were empty business cards.
I tried to remember what kind of customers were using them.
She’s looking at me.
“What is it?”
“Ms. Yukie Ito?”
“Yes, correct.” – she said with shyness.
Ms. Ito hesitates with her words at strange points.
Besides the very good quality of the paper, the font is also very refined. I think about it. Such things are expensive. Customers, which are using empty business cards are from night business or politicians. The latter one, considering the cost of it. I looked again at Ms. Ito. I can’t imagine she’s from the night business, but she also doesn’t look like a politician.
“Excuse me, is something wrong after all?”
“Ah, forgive me. It’s a business card with just a name, so…” – I said frankly.
“That’s true. I’m sorry. That’s because of the nature of my work.”
“I see. Work?”
“Yes. Erm, are you from an NGO?”
“Yes, how do you…?”
“I heard from those kids….”
Ms Ito looked at the row of deeply sleeping kids on the bench. They are like angels, sleeping. In fact there is one, with an angel’s name. I smiled, but I didn’t have the intention to do it.
“Oh, you took care of them. Thank you.”
“A school trip, isn’t it?”
She said concealing her ears in panic, with an expression as if she didn’t know if such way of talking is appropriate.
I knew what she wanted to say, so I nodded.
“I wanted to show them Japan. I thought that eventually by the time when this kids grow up and they build a country, village or make their own kids, what they saw here will do them good.”
“I see… I’m sorry. Make use of your valuable first day then.”
Ms. Ito bowed her head. While concealing her ears. And red face.
“They moved with great unity. It will probably make a good lesson for Japan kids too.”
I considered a bitter smile, but couldn’t make myself to do it.
“I don’t know.” – I said.
“They move like that, because they were at war.”
She put a hand on her mouth and kept silent. She looked ashamed.
“It’s okay. Well then, we have to head to the hotel.”
“Er, Mr. Arata.”
“What is it?”
“Don’t you have a cellphone or something?”
“Yeah, I want one, but still haven’t signed a contract. It will be nice to have one at least for a short time.”
“Oh, is that so? I see. Excuse me, erm…” – after hesitation she looked at me.
“Maybe we’ll meet again someday.”
I wore a smile and bid farewell to her.
I think about how I will wake up the children. Shall I shake their shoulders or poke their cheeks.
I couldn’t help myself and I woke them by poking their cheeks. I saw Djibril’s twinkling pupils from the inside of the headgear. She wakes up, confused.
“So that’s how it is?”
So that’s how it is, what? I woke up everyone, thinking about it.
Unfortunately the kids are waking up other kids, so I couldn’t poke their cheeks more than half a minute. What a shame. There won’t be another chance.
“You have to be hungry. This time for sure we are going to eat tempura.” – I said. In the meantime I have to look for Omar. Where could he be?
Leaving the police station I wondered how I’m going to find him. He’s a big black man, besides also an adult, so I’m not worrying. But I also feel uncomfortable that he’s not with us.
I should have rented a cell phone on the airport. No, without knowing his number it doesn’t matter.
I concluded that Omar will eventually join us at the hotel. In that case, he will forgive me that I didn’t look for him. I turned around and apologized to kids, who weren’t hiding their boredom, and said that we’re going to the hotel.
Everyone nods. Except one. That was Djibril. I look forward feeling bad about it, but I can’t walk looking at Djibril behind my back all the time.
She behaves grumpy.
A meal is important – I said to her in my mind and smiled. No matter how powerful a force is, without food it will break in 3 days.
We’re going toward the nearest station from the police. I had a hard time here, but I missed Japan’s soil, so I cherished those few hundred meters of walking. It’s May. Shortly after the Golden Week.
Now when I think about it, Japan had a lot of holidays. When the kids and Omar will hear that in every month there are national holidays they’ll probably make a strange face. That is a bit peculiar thing about Japan.
“There are a lot of metal boxes.” – said Hakim, one of the former boy soldiers.
After I nodded with a grave expression I said that those are vending machines. Hakim looks like he doesn’t understand.
“Vending machines are in Japan for a long time. They are stores, which are selling drinks.”
“Where are the people?”
“Don’t they break or make mistakes?”
In the same moment Hakim said it, kids assembled and started to ask a lot of questions. It seems like the conversation between me and Hakim wasn’t interesting enough for them. There weren’t any vending machines in the camp after all – I thought.
“How does it make drinks?”
“How thieves deal with it?”
“What happens during the holidays?”
For them holidays were sacred. They even feel like it’s forbidden to work during that time.
I struggled with explanations. It seems like Japan is a stranger land than you can imagine. I bought a single can of orange juice and passed it to Hakim. He dropped the can, probably because of the shock from the cold temperature.
On those words the kids made an uproar. In my case, as for a common Japanese I think that drinks are good when they’re cold, but for them it apparently appeared odd. It’s on the same level as when you see ice floating in the alcohol for the first time.
“There are warm drinks and there are cold drinks.”
“It cools down the body.” – said annoyed Djibril and picked up the juice. Despite that they’re from central Asia, where the sunlight is stronger and it’s hotter than in Japan, in the countryside they believe with confidence that it’s bad for health to cool down the body. To the extent that they were especially drawing lukewarm water.
If you want to drink cold water you must go further west from central Asia, to Iran or Iraq.
There’s a lot to explain – I thought, while we were walking. Few steps further I found Omar at the ticket gate.
Thankfully the big, black man stands out. You can count on that. I smiled and lined up with Omar. Tired of waiting Omar also finally smiled. It was one of the precious things I gained outside of Japan.
“Was tempura good?”
“It was the best. I knew that there was some uproar, but it was so good I couldn’t leave my seat. It was that good.”
“So you can eat one more, right?” – I said.
Omar removed his sunglasses and looked at me again. I laughed.
Not far from the Kaminarimon in Asakusa, there is a restaurant called Takenawa. Maybe it’s an old restaurant, but they serve quite good tempura. Near the same period as I was working in the small design company I liked to eat there. Although that company is bankrupt now.
Thankfully I made a telephone reservation. There were a lot of people.
We sit in the tatami room without partitions and private rooms. Former boy and girl soldiers are taking their places without any troubles. They formerly led a life on the floor, where there were spread carpets, so they didn’t feel especially uncomfortable now.
It seemed like only Omar didn’t get used to that. Incidentally, he’s big, so he looked cramped.
Tempura comes one after another. Both boy and girls are not familiar with chopsticks. I stare in wonder at how they’re trying to use them. There is already one kid, who looks like he’s going to cry. Omar smiled, took and ate a shiitake from the tempura with bare hands. Everyone emulated him and did the same thing. I smiled grimly a little and sent an apologetic look to the store employee.
Tempura was very popular. A Large plate has been emptied in a moment. A second helping comes. And it disappears too.
Rice wasn’t very popular, but I think it was good. Boys from unit SA are telling Omar about the incident. It seems like they’re speaking about me, but I intentionally failed to hear it. They mostly overvalue me.
“As usual, you can handle a situation in a place you’ve never even been before.” – said Omar quietly and earnestly.
Apparently he was talking about the signboards. I answered that they are usually in Japan at storefronts. I look at Djibril. She pulls on her headgear deeper and looks down.
“You didn’t like tempura?”
When I said that, she looked at me with upturned eyes. They were half-closed.
“Sorry. I should have listened to you before.”
When I said that, Djibril pointed in the unexpected direction. I look there. There’s a smiling actress, wearing western clothes on the Asahi Beer calendar. I turn my eyes back.
There is less food on the plate. I see, she doesn’t want to show how she eats.
“Let’s take out the food.”
Boys with hands glittering with oil were smiling, showing their teeth. Do they still want to eat? I smiled too. I recalled my adolescence, when my grandmother was smiling with her whole face, watching as I was cheerfully eating. I feel that I know now, how she felt back then. I think that I could spend time like that all the time if I had money.
Over the last year, roaming Euro-Asia, we worked together a lot to guarantee a tranquil life for the kids, but I don’t feel as if I became rich at all. The reason was being a subcontractor. It’s common in mercenary business to take subcontractor jobs. There were a lot of subcontracts of subcontracts of subcontracts. Wages of subcontracts were naturally getting so thin, that there were even times, that I wondered if working as a part-timer at a convenience store would be more profitable. There are also cases that the fact that the workers are kids is being taken advantage of.
That’s why I chose Japan. I want to establish a private military company here, only in a developed country, where I don’t have many rivals. Even with the law barrier for using children, without any competition, the degree of conflict is low. It surely wasn’t a bad plan.
I need money. I think one more time about things I’ve been thinking about last year. I did my best last year to make some savings. With 26 people wages become low, but it’s quite a large sum anyway. Thanks to that we’re here in Japan now.
But I wonder if it was good. I got anxious. Images of people taking photographs with cellphones at the crime scene are floating across my mind. And then that way of that policeman’s appreciation. Is that a country that can make those kids happy? There’s no reason to complain, but I think I should have worked harder to make this country better when I was young. By properly expressing thanks for instance. By not filming a human’s misfortune. That’s what I mean. Even as a NEET or jobless I could do that for sure. I should have spread that behavior too.
Everybody is full. With satisfaction I pay 60 000 yens and take everyone out of the restaurant. I give them instruction to wait, and run a short way to the convenience store for a tube of packed wet tissues.
I have to wipe everyone’s greasy hands from oil. When I was running back I saw Djibril, who was trotting to me. I stand at her way. Djibril moves one step back. When I looked at her, she lowered her headgear and concealed her whole face. Apparently she’s in a bad mood today.
“Let’s walk together.” – I said.
She seemed like she was in a conflict, standing still for a while, then she peeked with her pretty pupils from the gap of her headgear and said that she also has black hair.
I didn’t have any idea, what she was talking about.
When I returned, boys and girls were waiting before the store, standing in two rows. For some reason Omar was also lined up, well, probably to not hinder the passage – I reflected.
“Omar, why is everyone standing in a line?”
“Haven’t you told them to wait?”
“I see.” – I replied, giving everyone one wet tissue per person.
It was an obvious thing. However it was obvious in my former job, not now.
It’s been an extremely short time, since I returned to Japan and common things here are bringing back the absurdities of the job. I got into a complicated mood. I wonder how many days I need, to become a normal Japanese.
Everyone’s waiting for my speech. Whatever the fate is, I’m their operator. I don’t hate it, but I’m sometimes uneasy about it.
I worry a lot, don’t I. – I thought. I have a lot to worry about. First time in my life I have so much things to worry about. I haven’t been worrying so much at work. I was even a bit proud of it.
“Wipe your hands, we’re going to the hotel.” – I said. Everyone’s laughing.
“It was in the television!” – said Omar as their representative.
“What was?” – I asked again.
“Did they even come to a tempura restaurant for filming?”
After I said that, Omar took an exaggerated look at everyone and started laughing with them.
“Our OO is a war hero.”
The mercenary operator, in other words Omar, was saying this about me.
“Whatever happens, eyes of the golden eagle are watching from above.”
“He took us to the place, no one could have thought about. Yet his wings are so strong.”
Former soldier boys and girls were saying one after another, like they were singing. There is no religious scale in their song, but instead there’s splendid intonation in it.
Former girl soldier, a pert girl Gini said:
“Charming on the surface.”
Everyone is having great fun. But they are not laughing loud. They just make a smile and show their white teeth. I blinked.
Even without being able to drink alcohol I thought that their merry state is a much greater thing.
No, even after alcohol I’m not like that anyway.
Djibril stood up at the front as if she was to protect me.
“I don’t understand the situation. Please explain it.” – said Djibril as my guardian angel.
Hmmm, I also had a feeling that it was too quiet, so I rallied my readiness. Distress delays decisions. It’s a dangerous state – I thought. On the battlefield it kills your subordinates.
Omar said with a soft voice:
“Before, at the tempera store, there was a TV.”
“It was the news.”
“Yes, when I was leaving I think there were. It was just 9 pm after all.” – I said. Omar nodded in assent.
“Narita Airport showed up.”
I finally understood the situation.
“So we flashed there.”
“It’s our first great battle result for expanding into the Japanese market. We got promotion worth several tens of thousands dollars by capturing a foolish amateur. Your operation was properly done.” – said Omar and gently smiled with truly honest, upright posture.
“We’re taking a great pride.”
I felt somehow shy. It’s not a conversation to do at the front of a tempura restaurant. I said it doesn’t matter, so let’s go to the hotel, and started walking.
“Apparently that random attacker was a member of some cult and the divorce was the reason that it happened.” – Omar gave me a rough explanation.
It couldn’t be helped that the kids were curious that the vending machines were running even at night, but I hurried them to the station.
I see they all grimace at the statue on Kaminarimon and then we immediately enter the near subway station.
There are just two stations in Toei-Asakusa Line, so it’s a straight line to the hotel in Asakusabashi.
We could go there even by foot, but I thought I want them to ride a metro. Anyhow, they haven’t done it before.
Actually I think that for training walking would be better, but well, I reconsidered that we’ll do some strolling during the day tomorrow.
Kids are talking about red paper lanterns and pagan statues.
Inside the train I lined them up not near the entrance, but at the front of the seats. Half of the kids can’t reach a handrail. I said to grasp them to those who can reach it.
Old woman, who is sitting before my eyes smiled and asked in Japanese if that’s a school trip. I replied that’s correct and apologized for causing troubles. Old woman said it’s not a trouble and that she’s happy to see such lively kids.
I smiled and stretched my back. Kids and Omar are always displeased when I stand slovenly.
After some time of silence someone mildly pulled my sleeve. It was Djibril. When I smiled as gently as I could, Djibril hid her face by lowering her headgear.
I felt she was in a bad mood after all.
“What’s the matter?”
Djibril said my name silently in a whisper, so others wouldn’t hear, after which she continued with words in which the voice of her feelings was louder.
“Sometimes you treat me like a child.”
I thought that a year ago that girl said it’s okay though. I’m often told that memory I have is good after all. In Japan I was mostly just such a person. But it didn’t get me a job, that’s why I wasn’t actually feeling that it helped me. This time is the same case.
I make a serious face. I had a feeling that even without purposely making such a face it would become like that. Those kids probably don’t remember words from a year ago. I was also embarrassed when relatives were telling me what I said in early childhood I don’t remember.
“Is that so?” – in the end I said only that.
“Yes.” – She didn’t want to say only this, but we arrived at the second station.
I said let’s get off and did it first.
We enter a hotel near the station. Hotel, or it would be more fitting if I’d say ryokan. Maybe it’s because of a weekday, or maybe it’s always like that, but it seemed that there weren’t any guests except us. Three floor reinforced concrete building from Showa.
As might be expected from such a cheap hotel, it was falling apart from old age. Although we don’t have any complains. Not a single one. In fact we’re used to shared toilets and baths. You become defenseless in toilet or bath so you feel secure if those are mass places.
Previously I thought that separate ones are better, but if you change, other things change too.
We’re taking a small, medium and a large room. Medium for girls, large for boys and me with Omar.
For now we’re not using the small one, but if boys are going to make noise at night… I thought I can tolerate that much and planned to sleep there with Omar.
In fact we were very sleepy, so after establishing a sentry we immediately wanted to sleep.
“I’ll be the sentry.” – said Djibril.
I agreed. I wanted to say that in this country there’s no need for a sentry, but directly after arriving here there was that accident, so it was hard to me to find proofs for them that Japan is safe, or I just didn’t have the confidence to explain them that. Maybe I’m just getting used to Japan and incidents happening here.
“Chose one more person. You’re going to change after 3 hours.”
“I got it.”
Normally I would ask if she’s okay, if she isn’t sleepy, but after that thing at the subway I couldn’t say anything. I felt like asking such things would be treating her like a child.
Behind, kids were struggling with yukatas, lifting them and unfolding.
I was concerned about them same as I was about Djibril.
“I’m not sleepy anyway.” – said Djibril.
I tried to look at her expression. I can’t see it because of the headgear, but maybe I’ll see eyes at least. She pulled her headgear as she was protecting her eyes too, hiding her face completely.
“It will stretch if you’re going pull it that much.” – I said.
Djibril ran off, saying nothing.
Omar turns up.
“Djibril is grumpy recently.”
Omar nodded when I said that.
“She’s growing up.”
“So it’s different than puberty in Japan?”
“Arata. You’ve just said ‘puberty’ in English. It’s a little old-fashioned word, currently almost not used.”
“I see, so there is something like puberty in English?” – I said an extremely foolish thing like that with seriousness.
Omar smiled. Broad-minded smile only someone honest like him could make.
“If they live long enough and grow, that is.” – he said to me.
I thought he really got me. No, I was happy that if Djibril and everyone survived that much. I want them all to grow up if possible.
I was thinking that I haven’t been dealing with a girl in puberty before.
“What will be, will be” – said Omar quietly.
I was grateful to him. And also to his god that made me meet him.
“It’s probably right, but I’m worried, you know.”
Omar said to that, that he thinks it’s fine beyond the battlefield.
I pointed at children, who’re surveying yukatas.
“Those are kimonos”
“Well, they look like nightgowns though.”
“How about dressing them? They’ll surely be delighted.”
“What is it, my friend?”
“Which reminds me that in this country there’s a lot of ‘excuse me’, but not much ‘thank you’.” – said Omar.
“I thought about that too. I guess I’ve been with you for too long.”
“I think that the current Arata is likable.”
“That would be nice if that were true.”
I joined the boys, who were standing and watching unfolded yukatas.
I took off the jacket, unfastened my necktie and took a yukata, showing how to put it on. I tie an obi. Boys made bright eyes.
“I feel like it won’t fit for combat.” – said one of the boys. I nodded.
“Exactly. That’s why everyone doesn’t wear it, right?”
Boys were excited.
“But as a foreign custom it’s fun to wear it, isn’t it? Let’s do this everyone.”
Children were delighted.
Well, surprisingly I just thought that it’s good that I came to Japan.
I realized that girls from the next room opened the shoji a bit and are watching what we are doing. I smiled and said that I’m going to teach them a way to put it on, so try to put it on your clothes first.
It seems that girls in the next room were enjoying changing clothes. I hear only voices. Smiling, I thought that it would be nice if Djibril could have some fun later. Well, she probably won’t take off her headgear though. Thinking about the combination of yukata and the headgear, I smile bitterly.
Even so, the growing up thing will be difficult – I thought. That troubles me, but recently I have a lot things to think about. Results which I haven’t realized came up when I did my job recklessly. And along with those results, I made some kind of success.
But this success is a bit different than previous ones. It’s not good if I’ll keep doing it only that way. That’s why I felt like I was at the point, in which I hit a wall.
That’s difficult – I think. And it’s not like it’s only my problem. It’s different than my life, in this case I can’t let myself enjoy the fall.
“Where shall we go tomorrow?” – I said.
Around half of the boys were already sleeping in the lined up futons.
“I thought about sightseeing.” – said Omar, who has been already lying down. I lied down as well.
“Yeah, but where.”
“Whatever the place I’ll be happy”
“I know. But I want something which will make you even more happy.”
Because of the time difference I was falling asleep, so I said that, while being pulled into sleep already. Omar smiled and I think he said it’s their good fortune that they have met me, but I don’t know if it was a dream or reality.
I already went asleep, but I also woke up early. Light isn’t shining through the gap in the curtain. Is it still night? If it’s night, I wonder what time is it. Since I returned to Japan I’ve been thinking that I need to buy a wristwatch and sneakers. And a suit.
Right, I had to decide where we will go sightseeing.
Even 10 years after opening, Tokyo Skytree is still a popular sightseeing spot. I think it’ll be good to climb it. I went to the corridor heading to the toilet, thinking about waking everyone up.
By the window in the hallway there’s Djibril in a yukata. She was illuminated by the light of the moon or some neon. I immediately know it’s her because of the design of the headgear.
“You haven’t changed shifts with anybody?” – I said, walking up to her.
She shook her head and looked at me.
“I can’t sleep.”
I gave up asking if it’s a jet lag. I remembered words which say that during growing up wherever you step there are land mines.
“That’s a problem.” – I said just that and then that I’ll be right back and went to the toilet.
I wash my hands in the bathroom. Water is cold, which satisfied me a bit. Moreover it’s undoubtedly drinkable just like that. I thought it’s a very nice place. Right, I also should buy a water filter. I wondered if I should make a shopping list.
I slowly went back to the window in the corridor. Djibril was standing and waiting for me there.
“Nothing for now. But there is a possibility that someone performed reconnaissance on us.”
“Why have you thought that?”
My mind immediately becomes clear. Djibril pointed outside the window. The distance between buildings is small, so it can’t be seen what’s outside like that. I move my head a bit and saw a road between buildings outside. It was still night, but street lights are bright.
“There was a person standing there, but quickly changed position.”
“We have to think if anyone needs to observe us in the first place.”
I considered a possibility that Immigration Bureau is acting. No, I guess it’s not that.
“Nothing. It could be in fact a reconnaissance, I don’t know.”
“I see. Are we increasing the number of sentries?”
“Increase it to 4 people.”
“Thank you. A Perfect response.”
I noticed that I was in a dress shirt. How sloppy of me. Since I’ve been working at the private military company I was always in a suit. Djibril unexpectedly took off her headgear. Shook the head and set her hair. I find it amazing that by such a simple thing like shaking head she could fix her hair like that.
They have grown a bit – I thought. Skinny face. I feel like the cheeks were more fluffy before, but there is a high possibility that’s just my impression.
Without looking at me, Djibril touched her head and said:
“My hair is black too, Arata.” – she said, like it was a very important thing for her.
“I know.” – I said.
Djibril looked at me and lowered her eyes down a little.
“In that case, it’s okay.”
I thought about stroking Djibril’s head, who was looking embarrassed. Is this a puberty’s landmine? It’s complicated. Complicated, but if she grows even more I won’t be able to do such things – I thought and stroke her head.
This is a moment, which won’t happen again. Djibril seems annoyed, but she kept silent.
“Is this an order, Arata?”
“I don’t want to give you an order.”
After hesitating, she looked up at me through a gap between her disarranged hair.
“If you stroke me one more time I will go to sleep. Please do it more gently.”
“Sorry. Did it hurt?”
I was stroking with caution. In a way to fix her hair again. Oh, yes, my cute child – I was satisfied with myself.
And then I went back to bed. Sleeping in time when you can sleep is also work for a professional.
It became morning. I woke up. My body was still sleepy but I wake it by physical exercise. When you are a mercenary you understand how important is exercise.
Right. I’ll record a radio calisthenics. I want an English version if there’s one. – I thought. It’s certainly a popular thing in the business world.
It’s 6 o’clock. At 8 I’ll tell them to go to the 2nd floor’s hall – zashiki (tatami room). That’s breakfast time.
I was concerned about free 2 hours till breakfast, I can’t call it nothing but waste. Everyone probably thinks the same.
“Let’s go for a walk. Gather at the entryway as soon you prepare your clothes. Leave your baggage.”
Everybody gathered in 5 minutes at the entryway. Djibril put on her headgear as if nothing had happened, but as she wears it I obviously couldn’t see her expression.
I drew a route with a red ball-point pen on four maps of the neighborhood which I swiped by habit from the hotel lobby. I show them a route, each tactical unit S will march.
“By the end of today I’ll get a radio, but till then we’ll contact by a telephone in the hotel. You have the number on the maps you got.”
Everyone said they understood. I nodded.
“Sentry reports that there’s a suspicion that we have been observed. This mission will be a verification of Japanese topography, Japanese traffic and as well checking if we’re being watched or have a tail. Traffic rules and signalization in Japan are as follows.”
Everyone, boys and girls have serious faces. I nodded and smiled.
“Do not engage in battle in residential areas. Prioritize evacuation. That’s all. Dismissed. Departure is after 60 seconds, unit every 30 seconds. We’ll use the same code as you were assigned yesterday: A, C, D, E. Omar will take command of A.”
Do not engage in a fight in residential areas was supposed to be a joke, but no one has laughed. Everyone started to move as instructed.
I was left alone at the hotel lobby. I take a newspaper and sit at the sofa near the pink telephone placed in the lobby. Each tactical unit moves along the route in my head. Omar’s moving toward Raimon and Djibril should march now toward Sumidagawaryokudo Park. Gini toward Akihabara. This tactical unit S is the only one, which is late in crossing the checkpoint transit time. They must be moving without running. Ibn is instructed to run through narrow alleys. I did it as a test. If he’s someone who can’t move by a map, he can’t be a leader of a tactical unit.
I glance through the newspaper, but in fact I thought that I would want an information illuminator and integrated information display. I once worked at the American private military company and that time soldiers had all information in one place. We, the operators who weren’t using guns, had everything at hand, displayed at an information terminal.
I want something like that thing. With that thing accordingly dispersed you can conduct a coordinated fight. – I thought.
In Japan direct weapons are not sold, but this kind of information weapons are nowadays much more dangerous and they’re practically sold without any restrictions.
I was taking into consideration establishing a private military company in Japan as a plan B, or as a plan B of plan B, securing a technician and a supply of equipment. That made me start to think about shopping today.
There is a phone call.
“This is Gini. There is a strange signboard.”
“Ignore it and proceed.”
The phone call ended. I raised up an eyebrow. I thought about going for shopping to Akihabara today, but it could be a bit too strong of a shock for them.
I frown and look at the newspaper. Someone from the hotel greets me, saying good morning. I smiled and said the same. I take the newspaper again. It looks like I was looking at a yesterday’s one. People here wake up late. It’s somebody else’s business so it’s probably okay – I thought. I focus my attention back and read today’s newspaper. Reading newspapers is neither my hobby nor a habit, but I thought it’s good for killing time in the hotel lobby.
The accident at Akita has been mentioned. That got me. I stopped reading because of embarrassment. Reading is best for killing time, but today it won’t work.
I thought about going for shopping today. I believe I can get everything in Akihabara, but though it’s not such an electronics district like in the past, there are still maids standing, so Djibril’s mood might get worse even more. For a parent, a growing up kid is like penetrating through a minefield.
I look through the lobby again. There was something nice. PC for loan, that means internet for loan. I put one 100 yen coin and started 10 minutes of use.
Now when I think about it, it’s been a long time since I used Internet. Formerly there was a time when I thought I would die without it, but that was just a fancy.
I look at Akiba Blog, which I have been watching everyday in the past, when I wanted to know what’s going on in Akihabara.
I blinked with my eyes, because I saw “Real elf is here!”. I scroll the screen a little more. Seems that a real elf appeared in Akihabara, walking lonely, wearing a mourning dress. I was about to push the close button, but my body shivered. No, if I close it now, it will probably get me by surprise later. Omar would probably whistle gloomily and Djibril’s minefield would without a doubt explode in a chain reaction.
The one displayed on the screen was Sophie… that was Sophia. In fact an American girl, who likes forest elves with pointed ears, so she underwent a plastic surgery on them. On this point she was already beyond the category of common sense, but she was my friend and a coworker. Was a coworker … past tense.
Indeed she’s wearing a mourning dress. In silence, which isn’t like her. With black clothes and even a veil with attached lace on face, but it was certainly Sophie. And I thought that it’s a girl who will smile when a camera is pointed at her.
There’s even an article about it.
It’s written that her Japanese sweetheart died, he promised her that he would take her to the land he loved, so she came here. I couldn’t bear it and pushed the close button. I was faintly breathing.
How in world did we became sweethearts? And what a bad luck is that supposed to be, that we came to Japan exactly at the same time? It doesn’t seem likely that she has such a refined hobby as reading newspapers, but there’s enough of a possibility that she watches TV – I thought.
It’s not like in the older days, but there are still a lot of large electronic stores, standing side by side along with expositions of TVs.
I shall give up on Akihabara.
I pondered. I feel bad for her, she was always so excited, but we can’t meet again. The difference in tension or temperature is too extreme. I will probably easily break like a roof tile left on the roadside in the desert.
Djibril hates Sophie and her remodeled ears. Maybe it’s because of her religion or maybe just a silly human emotion, I don’t know. I’m trying as hard as I can for Djibril that entered puberty, so I didn’t want to do anything that added fuel to the fire.
Problem is where we should go for shopping. Moreover, to not bump into an elf.
Paraphrasing an otaku saying: It’s dark after leaving Akihabara. Where should I shop. That’s a sudden problem. No, exactly in such cases, there’s Internet. I’ll search an appropriate place for shopping.
What I want is a wristwatch and shoes. I was troubled which words I should type into the search engine, but eventually I just wrote it like that. Ameya-Yokocho turns up.
Ameya-Yokocho, Ameyoko? I knew about it from year’s end news, but haven’t been there. It’s close to Ueno-okachimachi? I went to Ueno Park immediately after we came to Tokyo. – I thought.
Apart from that, a blossom viewing. I remember I went to Ueno Park for blossom viewing when I was a member of the small design company. Socializing back then was hard for me. I wonder what about now. I feel like I haven’t changed in that matter very much, but I felt like I could socialize. I don’t care whatsoever. Small design company went bankrupt, and I got a job at a mercenary company under the name of a private military company. Then my life rapidly took a plunge. I even enjoy it.
I push the close button. There’s a joy in falling down with a bang, which only people who experienced it understand. Thinking about it my thoughts returned to Sophie again.
Very well. Ameyoko it is then.
^1. In Japan and US (from what I know) you count ground floor as a 1st floor. So 4th floor here would be like 3rd floor in Europe for argument’s sake. Not like it’s relevant to the story.
^2. Ryokan – a traditional Japanese inn duh.
^3. This one can be confusing. Arata here is mentioning a manga/anime cliché that a girl falls in love with the guy that rescued her. So he points out that she thanked him and that’s all, no thank you coffee, no continuation, nothing (according to him anyway).
^4. Karameishi – only name, eventually cellphone. No address or anything else for that matter. Used by hostesses in bars that just started or are employed short-term (for example).
^5. Mizushobai – water trade, a term for Japanese night-time entertainment like hostess bars, cabaret clubs and others.
^6. This chapter is a nightmare with translation notes. Honestly I didn’t even bother with location names or common known terms like tempura or yukata. Don’t know them, google it. As for the 3 floor Showa reinforced concrete building I have no friggin idea how to put it in English.
^7. Shoji – the sliding partition thingie in Japan.
^8. A place from where you take water. Watering hole or watering-place, but hey bathroom works and once again it is absolutely irrelevant to the story.