Second Story – “Somehow Connected” – Part 2
“Ms. Yayoi Tachibana, 34 years old. Your job when you were alive was a hostess. You were stabbed by a regular male customer who had also been stalking you for a long time. Is that right?” Senpai asked in a business-like tone.
Looking fed up with frustration while sitting sluggishly on the sofa, Yayoi crossed her legs and said, “That’s right. How many times do I have to repeat it? I’m aware that I’ve died but looks like hell is also full of red tape, huh. I lived running around here and there but even here, I still have to be led around? It’s tiring. Hurry up and get on with it.” She expressed with utter impatience and ruffled her hair as the wrinkles between her brows deepened.
The client this time was Ms. Yayoi, a tall woman with a rather bony physique. She wore a dark makeup which made her look like a disgraceful woman. But from a different perspective, she looked like she had a unique and calm temperament. At least that’s the vibe she gave off.
“It is full of red tape indeed. Sorry for the inconvenience.” Senpai answered cheekily.
Perhaps she was irritated by Senpai’s nonchalant attitude, Yayoi raised her eyebrows as she retorted. “This is not a non-smoking area, is it? Even in hell, we should have the right to smoke, right? Better if I don’t have to do it somewhere else.”
Senpai winked at me and urged me to bring a cigarette and an ashtray. Everything in the office including anything pertaining to the client’s, as well as our clothes, food, and lodging were all arranged by the General Affairs Department. In other words, this was all pre-arranged without the human’s knowledge.
When I placed the cigarette and ashtray on the table, Yayoi didn’t say anything but simply picked up a stick and lit it before puffing out a dark purple smoke.
“But you gods of death still have it tough, huh. Even a gorgeous woman like me has to go through such procedures.” She smiled cynically.
I was a little annoyed but Senpai didn’t seem bothered and replied. “It’s not exactly wrong to think of us as gods of death since I don’t think there’s much difference, but I have to tell you, this isn’t hell. It’d be troublesome if you misunderstood it like that. It’s necessary for you to be aware that you died. Just consider this as some sort of an after-sales service after death.”
“Oh? Really? I thought for sure I’d go to hell when I die.” Yayoi laughed wickedly.
“And so what is this so called ‘after-sales service after death’? What can you do for me?”
Senpai answered in his usual nonchalant tone. “Our job is to listen to the souls as they voice out their lingering regrets, resolve them and send them to heaven. In other words, send them to a place where souls gather. In order to do that, we needed to talk to you.”
“Regrets? My lingering regrets, huh.” Yayoi pondered for a while before bursting into laughter and coughing up what she smoked.
“Didn’t you already know it? When I was a kid, I couldn’t study well, and when I fell in love and ran off with a man at 18, my parents cut me off. From then on, my life became miserable. After entering the nightlife industry, I was assaulted everyday. I had hoped to run away from it but unluckily I couldn’t do anything else so I got stuck in it. I lived an irresponsible life without thinking about anything. It was a miserable life awaiting only death. With that kind of life, what regrets would I have? Do you really think I’d have any? I don’t care about any regrets whatsoever, just hurry up and erase my existence. I never wished to be here in the first place.”
Hearing the hopelessness and desperation in her words, I felt my chest tightened. But at the same time, I felt an inexplicable sense of resentment.
She talked about her life as if it was nothing. Why didn’t she treasure her life more? Couldn’t she see the beauty of life? There were so many souls who wanted to live but couldn’t.
But perhaps this is why I was ranked D in the institute. I harbor such negative sentiments against the client. We were taught that we must always have an unconditional, unbiased and positive interest in clients. No matter how angry I am, I must accept it properly.
Don’t close your heart to any client.
No matter how repulsive a client may be, you must properly accept them.
This was the most basic principle we were taught agents must cultivate.
In response to Yayoi’s sentiments, Senpai looked a little troubled as he said. “This is a procedure that you must do. Indeed, there are those who have no lingering regrets. But since you are here, it’s proof enough that you still have lingering regrets when you were alive.”
“In that case, what is my lingering regret? I’ve no idea.” Yayoi asked bluntly as creases formed between her brows.
“That is what we need to figure out. In any case, it is a fact that since you weren’t sent to heaven right away, it means that you certainly have lingering regrets.” Senpai explained in an easy-to-understand manner.
Yayoi didn’t seem impressed by Senpai’s rather impudent attitude. Senpai scratched his head as he continued the conversation. “I’m not sure if this has anything to do with you but I found something interesting in your belongings.”
“What is it?” As she lit her second cigarette, Yayoi looked at Senpai incredulously.
“A drawing. Seemingly drawn by a child.” He said as he pulled out an old piece of paper.
“You brought her up, didn’t you? On the back was the name ‘Asuka Tachibana’. She’s your daughter, isn’t she? What can you say about this?”
Yayoi averted her eyes from both Senpai and the piece of paper and continued smoking.
I quickly took a look at the drawing. In it was an illustration of a red demon with horns and sharp, upturned eyes shaped like a fox staring straight at you, as though the child’s naivety and foolishness could struck your heart with pain.
“Nah, that’s a drawing of me. My kid drew it. Great drawing, ain’t it? In my daughter’s eyes, I was a demon. Well, I didn’t do nor care much as a parent so that was expected. I don’t even know where she is nor what she’s doing.”
“Our researchers have traced her. Currently, your daughter, Asuka, has been adopted by the Shiina family. She’ll be in her third year in middle school this year.”
“Oh, middle school, huh. What a tough year for entrance examiners. I hope she’s not an airhead like me.” She laughed as though to mock herself.
What irresponsible words for a mother. No matter how her life ended up, it wasn’t her child’s fault.
I thought inwardly. There was that inexplicable feeling tightening in my chest again.
It was her child but she talked as if it was someone else’s. As I opened my mouth to give her a piece of my mind, Senpai sent me a piercing glare as though he could read my mind.
I swallowed back the words I was about to say.
Preaching the client was useless, I know that. Agents must always act accordingly. But can Senpai really accept such a person?
After her laughing dispersed the cigarette smoke, she went silent. Neither she nor Senpai said anything and time passed by silently.
This time, Senpai didn’t say much. When we sat with the client before, he spoke more, but this time, it seemed like he was weighing the client.
But somehow, I could understand.
Senpai wasn’t just messing around with Yayoi, but rather, he was trying to open her up. Regardless of the emotions swirling within me, I could somehow see that. Senpai doesn’t teach me these tricky strategies directly but since I trust his way of doing things, this is an invaluable opportunity for me to learn firsthand.
Yayoi opened her mouth as though she couldn’t handle the silence any longer.
“Regrets, was it? I think it might be my grudge against that child. Born from a crappy father, she made my life miserable. In order to support my child, how much do you think I’ve sacrificed? I was forced to be a mother from morning till night. In order to earn enough to support her, I had to sell myself to different men. And when I got home, she wouldn’t stop crying out, ‘Mama, Mama’ even if I beat her to shut up. I was fed up. I wonder why I gave birth to her. I didn’t even want her. So I threw her away. I didn’t want to be forced to be a mother anymore. She should live well on her own. It’s nice to be away from such a nasty mother, don’t you think?”
Senpai didn’t humor her a response and kept staring at her instead.
Sometimes silence can stimulate the client’s emotions instead of a thousand words. I learned it at the training institute but I think those who can carry it out are amazing. For me who’s straightforward, it was a difficult feat.
Even at times like this, I still wanted to throw a few words. I’m still young or you could say I’m just bold as brass.
Eventually, Yayoi heaved a sigh as though to surrender to Senpai’s knowing eyes, which could seemingly see through her heart.
“Yeah, yeah, that’s my biggest regret. Am I worried about that child? I’m not such a good mother. What a horrible woman am I to hold a grudge against her child even at the end of her life. Ridiculous, isn’t it?”
With that, I finally snapped. But somehow I could feel that Senpai was trying to restrain me so even though it was difficult, I managed to not say anything.
Patience. I’ve got to accept it.
After all, I trust Senpai. Although he was hard to grasp and full of nonsense, he’s always serious when it comes to work. I sometimes question that striking gap but even if I don’t say anything, what goes around comes around.
Senpai continued staring at Yayoi, who averted her gaze. He shook his head slightly.
“We’ll try our best to get in touch with your daughter, Asuka. She seems to be your lingering regret. We can’t say if it’s good or bad, though.”
Hearing those words, a look of surprise flashed across Yayoi’s face.
“What?!” Yayoi blurted out and was about to stand up but sat down again almost immediately and let out a sigh.
“Fine, whatever. Do what you want. Cut off my lingering regret. What a mess.” She grumbled, clearly absolving herself of responsibility.
I really feel an aversion towards this person. Now it was clear.
Senpai, who had been quiet for a while, broke his silence and in a rarely firm tone, said. “Yes, that’s our job.”