Second Story – “Somehow Connected” – Part 6
The next day, we waited until Asuka’s classes were over before ambushing her.
After Asuka parted with her friend on the way home, we blocked her path and stood in front of her, just like when we first met.
“Didn’t I tell you not to bother me anymore?” Asuka looked at us and sighed. But she spoke with the same honesty and austerity as before.
Senpai lowered his head in a gesture of apology. “I’m sorry for going back on our words but we’ve got something important to tell you. Without your help, Yayoi’s soul won’t be sent to heaven.”
“I don’t understand what you’re saying. If you’re recruiting me to some sort of religious faction, then I refuse.”
“It’s logical for you to think that way, I understand.” Senpai quipped. Asuka looked skeptical.
“But we have no such intentions. It’s just that you have a responsibility. A responsibility to help resolve Yayoi’s lingering regret. To that end, we must tell you the truth. But of course, it’s up to your discretion whether you want to believe it or not. But I think you ought to know everything before you can decide.”
Senpai took a deep breath. “Can you come with us for a bit?” This time, his tone was more firm than before.
We ushered Asuka to an old run-down wooden apartment. As to how old it was, I didn’t know.
“This was where your real mother, Yayoi, lived. It’s a 1DK apartment. (1) This type of housing is already considered a relic from the last century, you know? No one has rented it after Yayoi so it was left as is.” Senpai introduced. “Would you mind coming in?”
“An apartment like this…” Asuka muttered but didn’t finish her words, perhaps due to shock.
After climbing the rusty metal staircase, we entered Yayoi’s room.
There was nothing in the room, but the musty smell hit my nose. The rays of the sunset shone through the window, creating a lonely desolate atmosphere.
“Your real mother lived in this place. She died alone and lonely, without relying on nor seeking help from anyone.”
“I see…” Asuka clutched her chest, as though trying to soothe the pain she felt.
But without minding the painful look on Asuka’s face, Senpai continued. “Yayoi worked as a hostess, but died after getting stabbed by a man who had been stalking her. The incident made news and was featured in a small newspaper. It was said that she led a lonely life.”
Unable to say anything, Asuka bowed her head in silence.
“Do you remember? You used to wait for your mother to come back from her job at the nightclub. But when she comes back, she would hit you, beat you and press cigarettes onto your skin. You had to endure a miserable life until Yayoi abandoned you.”
Asuka pursed her lips and said, “That was the kind of mother I had, didn’t I?”
“Yeah.” Senpai nodded, then took a cardboard box on the corner of the room and placed it in front of Asuka.”
“This was all that’s left of Yayoi’s things when she lived here for 34 years. All her clothes and other stuff have already been disposed of.”
Senpai then took out a piece of paper. “This was an illustration you drew when you were a kid. It’s a drawing of a demon. In fact, you drew your mother. When I saw this, my heart was filled with pain.”
Asuka’s eyes widened as she stared at the drawing. Perhaps she recognized the demon as the one she saw in her dreams.
“I’m sorry but I don’t remember. In any case, my real mother was such a terrible person. But what do you want me to do after telling me this? Do you want me to sympathize with her? I’m no longer Asuka Tachibana; I’m now Asuka Shiina.”
“I guess you’re right.” Senpai scratched his head. “It’s just that there’s something that puzzles me.”
“What’s that?” Asuka asked in curiosity.
“Your real mother said that this demon was her. It pierced my heart with sadness when I looked at it, but she didn’t throw it away and kept it with her until the day she died. I don’t know how she felt about it, but she carefully kept it with her until her last breath.”
Asuka was at a loss for words, her eyes kept glued to the drawing she did when she was younger.
Seeing her in that state, Senpai spoke, as though to admonish her.
“You know, Asuka, I think it’s difficult to be a parent. The struggle of raising a child as a single mother without asking for anything in return is no easy feat. Your mom couldn’t handle it and had to give up on you. There may have been times when she hated you. I’m not saying that blood is the only connection between parent and child. But the fact that she cherished this drawing meant that she couldn’t abandon that special bond with you. She treasured this drawing, all while carrying the pain of guilt in her heart.”
A tear fell down Asuka’s cheek. “But I don’t remember her. Did she keep this because she hoped for me to be well and happy? I…I’m happy now. I’ve always wanted to free myself from that dream. And now you’re telling me all this out of the blue… Just what do you want me to do?”
“Take this drawing with you and seek for the truth in your heart. No matter how long it takes, you have to open that door in your heart. Whether it’s love or hatred, it doesn’t matter. Can you express your true feelings to Yayoi, your real mother?”
Asuka shook her head, like a child throwing tantrums.
“That’s… Even if you ask me…” Asuka rushed out of the room along with the drawing.
As I was about to chase after her out of reflex, Senpai grabbed my shoulder and stopped me with his hand.
“Senpai, don’t stop me!”
But Senpai kept his hand on my shoulder and said ruefully, “It’s all up to Asuka now.”
- １ＤＫ – one room apartment with dining and kitchen area.