Second Story – “Somehow Connected” – Part 5
“We’ve met your daughter.” Senpai cut to the chase as usual.
“Oh, and then?” Yayoi pulled out a stick of cigarette and lit it with a lighter.
Looking at Yayoi, she reminded me of a haughty, uncultured woman who was waiting for a customer in some squalid outskirts of the city. But she did work as a hostess so I suppose it must come as second nature to her.
In any case, she still didn’t sit well with me.
“She’s still a middle school student and yet she’s grown up to be so mature and understanding. Even though she knew she was adopted, she said she was happy now.”
Actually, I think what makes Yayoi and Asuka different from each other was the huge gap between their roles as mother and child. After all, there weren’t many middle school students who could be that polite and strong-willed. Compared to the more serious and honest Asuka, Yayoi gave the impression of a reckless and ditzy adult.
After hearing Senpai’s report, Yayoi’s eyes wandered around.
She repeated it again as she puffed out a smoke.
After a while, Senpai continued. “We wanted to tell her about you but she refused. She said she was happy now and didn’t want to hear anything about her real mother.”
Yayoi shrugged. “There’s nothing good to say about me anyway. I’m glad to know she’s happy now. Even though I was such an awful mother, I still did one thing right. I have repeatedly abused her and ultimately abandoned her. But now she’s happy with her new family. I’m really glad I abandoned her.”
The irresponsibility in her words made me tick. I’ve been restraining myself until now, but my patience was at its limit. I wasn’t sure whom I was mad against—Senpai who remained silent or Yayoi who was far too arrogant. But either way, I was still involved in this.
“Ms. Yayoi, are you really not concerned about Asuka? She’s your own child whom you carried in your womb for nine months, isn’t she? I just don’t understand. You gave birth to her but you abused and abandoned her instead. And you even think it was a good thing you abandoned her? How can you call yourself a mother?!”
But even though I lashed out at her, she didn’t look the least bit offended. Instead, she continued smoking and even puffed out smoke right in front of my face as though to ridicule me.
“What a righteous girl you are. Do you think I’ll be relieved to know that my daughter was happy now and feel sorry towards her? I’ve never loved her, not even a bit. I don’t want to be preached by a little girl who hasn’t given birth nor experienced the hardships of raising a kid alone.”
I was stumped for words. I had no right to preach about life experiences nor the hardships of living.
However, I couldn’t help feeling regretful. I still couldn’t accept this person. Empathy was better than logic.
Yayoi extinguished the cigarette on the ashtray as though to ignore me, who kept my silence.
“Well, it’s over, right? Asuka is now happy. And I’m sending her my regards. With that, my lingering regret is resolved. Come on, just get this over with. It’s a waste of time.”
Her indifferent attitude ticked me off again. Unable to control my emotions, I spoke once more.
“That’s right. I think Asuka is more than happy to be separated from such an awful mother like you. As you say, it’s better to just cut off your lingering regrets. Unless you still plan on inflicting more harm to her?”
“I’m sorry to disappoint you but I can only make her more unhappy.”
“What?!” I fumed in anger. Seeing me lose my composure like that, Senpai interjected. “Apprentice, stop talking.”
He bowed slightly towards Yayoi, who just puffed out another smoke before laughing.
“I’m kidding. If she’s happy, then good for her. Anyway, isn’t this meaningless conversation over already? Go ahead and send me to heaven or wherever.”
“Please pardon her emotional outburst. This kid is still inexperienced.”
As I was glaring hatefully at Yayoi, Senpai reproached me with those words.
He’s always calm no matter what the situation was. But now, I could only regard that calmness with hatred.
Senpai, please say something. Don’t let me down. Please explain the importance of a parent-child relationship to Yayoi and what a true mother should be like. In my heart, I was desperately screaming these words.
“I’m really sorry about her behavior. She’s still an apprentice so she gets emotional easily. As you’ve requested, we’re going to cut off your lingering regret and send you to heaven soon. You’re already qualified to go to heaven. But… are you really fine with ending things this way?” Senpai asked.
“Are you really fine with ending it this way with Asuka?”
Yayoi looked relaxed as though she was relieved as she lit another stick of cigarette.
“Of course. I’ve said it in the beginning, didn’t I? I really have no lingering regrets.”
Senpai stared at Yayoi before talking to me. “All right. Apprentice, process the procedure in sending Yayoi to heaven.”
Senpai spoke in a laid-back manner. “I think your soul will be sent to the heavenly world within a few days. Sorry for all the trouble.”
“Wow, that’s pretty quick.” Yayoi lit her third stick and cackled.
Meanwhile, Senpai kept staring at Yayoi. It wasn’t pity or sympathy or mockery; I felt that there was some hint of pain in his expression.
“Senpai! I really can’t sympathize with Yayoi this time. She’s too awful. Too selfish.” After the discussion with Yayoi, I felt aggrieved and ranted.
“Mm?” Senpai quipped back nonchalantly.
“I thought the bond between a parent and child was much stronger and more heartwarming. I really can’t accept her. But… How come you are so calm and composed? Don’t you feel anything?”
Senpai simply shrugged and sipped his instant coffee.
Expending all my emotions made me exhausted. Had I been a normal person, Senpai’s reproach might have been effective. After all, he was unmistakably a reliable first-class agent. Or at least that’s what I thought.
Perhaps I was angry at myself and projecting it onto Senpai.
“Do we have to accept that type of client? She didn’t value her life when she was alive nor was she concerned about her daughter after her death. She didn’t even take responsibility for her own death. I really can’t accept that type of person.”
Scratching his head, Senpai finally spoke.
“Apprentice, what do you want to do then? Stop getting worked up about it. It’s not us who are supposed to open the door to the client’s heart.” His tone was soft, as though he meant it as a reminder, not a reprimand.
“The client isn’t here for you. We are here for the client. Don’t get it confused.”
His words struck me hard, making me feel sad and for a moment, I faltered.
But the emotions brewing inside me pushed me to continue speaking.
“But… aren’t we supposed to be some sort of emissary, doing everything we can for the client?”
“Well, you’re right about that. I guess you learned that from the professors.” Senpai noted with a sigh.
Not expecting him to say that, I was shocked. My voice was breaking, almost on the verge of tears, as I spoke. “I thought Senpai was different from the professors. Maybe it was my wishful thinking but I thought Senpai would understand… Was it just my misunderstanding?”
Senpai shrugged as though he found it troublesome. “Yes, you misunderstood. I’m not such a magnanimous person.”
“No, please don’t say that. I don’t want to be disappointed. I want to trust you… Please let me trust you.”
Senpai heaved a sigh. “Apprentice, you don’t have to feel that way about me. Just do it for the client. Moreover, it’s not about trust, but rather, you should have faith in the client.”
As Senpai shrugged, a thought flashed in my mind.
“How many days again did you say it would take to send Yayoi to heaven?”
“About… two days.” Senpai confirmed as he sipped his coffee.
“Two days, huh.” As my eyes wandered, thinking about something, Senpai spoke again.
“We don’t have much time. We must contact Asuka again.”
That surprised me. “Huh? But didn’t Asuka already say she didn’t want anything more to do with Yayoi?”
“Asuka, yes, but Yayoi, no. If you have a warped sense of regret, even if you go to heaven, they tend to send you back. Before that happens, there’s something we must do. After all, it’s our responsibility to get involved with Yayoi.”
Senpai explained before sipping his already cold coffee.
“I just don’t know anymore!”
“There, there. Calm down, Yuma.”
At the usual family restaurant, Akiha tried to appease me who was going hysterical, slumped down on the table.
“But it’s just—” I pursed my lips but kept my face on the table.
“I just don’t understand Senpai anymore. I thought he was a far cry from your typical Agent because he directly gets in contact with the people connected to the client, but he’s just like the professors at the training institute after all, focused only on fulfilling the client’s request. I don’t know what to believe anymore!”
“There, there. It’s because you’re a good girl.” Akiha gently stroked my head, as though I was a baby she was trying to pacify.
“But honestly, I actually like Mr. Shindo.” Akiha said with a hint of jealousy.
“Huh? Why?” I sat up straight. Akiha smiled gently, “I mean…”
“Based on what you’ve been telling me, you just can’t accept that type of client, right? But no matter how self-deprecating or irresponsible the client seems to be, he never abandoned nor gave up on her. He says you shouldn’t just trust them but have faith in them. Doesn’t that sound great?”
‘Trust’ and ‘faith’. Those were the words Senpai told me.
“But Akiha, don’t they mean the same thing?”
“No, they’re totally different?”
I closed my eyes and pondered over it.
“‘Trust’ is hinged upon a sense of security. In other words, ‘No matter what state you’re in, I’ll accept you.’ On the other hand, ‘faith’ is unconditional. ‘No matter who you are, I’ll accept you.’ So which is it for you, Yuma?”
I opened my eyes suddenly and saw Akiha chuckle. She can be really profound at times. When she says things like this, it makes me think she’s more suitable to be an Agent than me.
“I guess, what I did was trust her, not have faith in her? I just feel really frustrated because the client doesn’t act based on what I expect her to be, you know?”
“I can’t say for sure, but at least to me, I think that’s Mr. Shindo was trying to say.”
“Yeah, I guess I didn’t think that far. You’re really insightful, Akiha. How about becoming an Agent, too?”
Akiha seemed more mature than me even though we’re of the same age.
“Thanks for the compliment, but no thanks. Being an Agent puts so much weight on your shoulder and I don’t think I can carry that. More importantly, I think you should learn to consider the client’s point of view and refrain from imposing your own beliefs if they end up being different from what you expected. It’s the flipside of your desire to help make the client happy. It’s not just because it’s logical to do so. After all, isn’t that one of the traits of being a first-class Agent? But you do have the tendency to let your emotions run wild. I think Mr. Shino has become aware of that, too.”
Noting how tough it must be, Akiha expressed sympathy on her face.
It is indeed tough. But thanks to Akiha, I feel a lot more enlightened. About acceptance and understanding.
That it’s not like I don’t have any choice in it…
“Nothing… It’s my treat today.” I said with gratitude. I realized how blessed I was to have a friend like her.
Even though she was confused at whatever brought that on, Akiha happily obliged.