Fourth Story – On Becoming Independent – Part 3
“I think you should take charge of this case.”
That’s what he said but what should I do? Senpai had left the office saying he had something to do, so there I was pondering all by my lonesome amidst the ticking sound of the clock reverberating in the dark room.
—I want to take revenge.
Shuto’s pure, unadulterated inner darkness concerned me. Senpai had said I could take on this case because I had struggled in a similar fashion, having been continuously ridiculed as “Yuma the failure”.
—No, you have to do it.
Why is that?
Because I’ve been through the same darkness that Shuto went through? Maybe that’s what Senpai had expected. It might be egoistic of me to think so, but I felt like it was. Senpai might be sloppy but he’d always encourage my growth. Which was probably why he entrusted this esoteric case to me.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I could take on this case alone. But I had to try. I had to do everything I could to help Shuto resolve his lingering regret.
—Do I want to take revenge against the professors and my fellow students?
I’ve always asked myself that. And I have certainly considered it. But now, I realized that such ugly thoughts reflected how ugly I am inside.
I finally understood in my heart what Senpai had told me during my first case.
“We’re constantly changing. When I said you shouldn’t get used to the job, I don’t just mean about facing clients. You should also look at your ever-changing self.”
That’s right. We’re constantly changing. No matter the situation, we should always reflect on ourselves. Know thyself. Shuto wasn’t just one of the clients. He’s an irreplaceable individual. What could the ever-changing me do for Shuto? How could I touch his ever-changing heart? How could I help resolve his lingering regret?
“Revenge, huh.” I spat out the words with a sigh, as if it were somehow an otherworldly idea.
What should I do to carry out the revenge he wanted? Physically, it might be very easy. An eye for an eye. I just needed to pay them back for what they did to Shuto. For example, make myself disappear, break into the school, or hide their shoes. Or even place chrysanthemum flowers on their desk as a funeral tribute. They would never know who did it, and it would drive them insane. Then perhaps, they might start reflecting on their actions. Making them feel crazy over inexplicably creepy things like that would never be as close to how much pain Shuto had felt when he was alive.
But… if they became suspicious of the people they had been friends with until yesterday and sowed discord against each other, who would be saved?
It would just be meaningless.
If they could no longer trust each other, would that satisfy him?
I shook my head.
—I want to believe in humans, after all.
I would like to believe that if the bullies were remorseful, Shuto would have it in his heart to forgive them. I knew though that hoping for such an impossible happy ending was selfish of me.
Then what about me? Everyone looked down on me but I still chose the job of being an agent because I wanted to prove them wrong. Did I do it for revenge? Perhaps. That might have been what initially propelled me to do this line of work.
But that didn’t matter anymore. The more I learned about this job, the less I could explain it, and yet I felt more inexplicably drawn to this profession as an agent.
In that case, there was only one thing I could do. If revenge was impossible, there’s only one way left—to let Shuto face them head-on.
I didn’t realize how long I’ve been pondering over it. When I looked outside, I noticed that it was almost dusk, rays of sunlight peeked through the window.
“Sorry I got home a little late, all because of that idiot Sasamine. Anything happened while I was away?”
“Nothing in particular.” I answered while trying to hide my happiness and relief at his return. Then I straightened myself to let him know the decision I’ve come to.
“What is it? It looks like something’s bothering you.”
I took a deep breath. “Please allow me to have an interview with Shuto. Regarding this case, I think only I—no, I think I need to find the answer along with him.”
Senpai stared at me with a serious expression on his face, muttered “oh”, and said, “Well then, go on, conduct your interview. This time, I’ll just be your back-up. You have my support so do whatever you want.”
He patted my head. “Apprentice.”
“It’s Yuma. Coffee, I know.”
“You know me so well. That’s right. I’d like that delicious one you found the other day.” He broke into a slight smile. “I remember when you first came here, you were all self-conscious and unreliable, but now you’re starting to be more dependable.”
He looked happy as he gave my head another pat.
I sat directly opposite Shuto.
Senpai was perched comfortably to my right, looking in my direction with uncharacteristic intensity as though to show that he was supporting me. But to be honest, him being next me already gave me a sense of security. It felt like he was a parent bird watching me quietly as I’m about to fledge from the nest, spread my wings and fly away and finally become independent. It was more than enough to give me the courage to come out from my taciturn shell.
Shuto seemed a little more uncomfortable than last time but as soon as the interview started, he opened his mouth to speak.
“So, did you get revenge on them? Did you really kill them?”
Against his panic-stricken tone, I decided to respond in as softly a manner as I could.
“No, I’m not doing anything.”
A look of relief flitted over Shuto’s face but his face immediately turned sour as he spoke with a rough voice.
“Why aren’t you doing anything? You promised to make sure they suffer as much as I did!”
I kept my calm. “Yeah—yes, I did. But revenge is such a strong word. Is that what you really want? Is that really your lingering regret?”
His brows quirked up, anger clear on his face.
“You don’t have to do anything—I don’t want to listen to such grandiose words! I want them to feel the despair I felt! Even a tiny fraction of it!”
I took a deep breath. Unfocused anger, unheard dark emotions and unaccepted by no one—the pain that swallowed me a little while ago just before I came here bounced back to myself through Shuto. However, I was able to keep my calm because of the way I am now.
“Would you really be satisfied with that? Do you really think your regrets would disappear that way?”
Shuto’s gaze dropped to the floor with a sharp expression.
“I’m going to disappear anyway, won’t I?” Shuto asked.
“Shuto, did you live for revenge? If you were born just for that, wouldn’t your life be meaningless?”
Shuto was aware of how foolish it was of him to have revenge as his lingering regret. He had said it out of intuition that was quite akin to conviction.
“But I still have to take revenge. Otherwise, my life would be even more meaningless. I was born just for revenge. What’s there to life? It didn’t make sense, but what could I do? At this rate, I wouldn’t really know what I was born for.”
Feeling struck by his fading voice that resembled a cry of anguish, I told him as gently as I could.
“I’ve also been the subject of ridicule from everyone—even my teachers—who kept saying how much of a ‘failure’ I was. So I can quite relate to your feelings. I’ve also held a grudge against everyone. It’s not a pleasant feeling to be hurt, laughed at, and not think about revenge.”
I inwardly asked myself. What would change if I kept holding onto the grudge in my heart? I knew that revenge was nothing but a tool to feed the ego that ultimately bears no fruit. Still, I couldn’t help feeling resentment. I understood that painful feeling all too well.
“But lately I’ve been thinking. Perhaps there’s something more important than revenge. No matter how ridiculous or terrible you are, you have to look ahead and face yourself. I realized that no matter how terrible it was, it was still my life. The horrible people will always be there but knowing that I don’t let them control me made me feel better. And so, I think it’s better to have a life where you can walk on your own.”
Shuto chewed on his lips. “But I’m already dead. I don’t have my own life anymore. I don’t have a future. In my case, how can I think of walking on my feet? Where do you suppose I can go? It’s all over! I don’t want to hear another sermon like this is only the ‘beginning of the end’ or some crap lines from a manga like that!”
As I felt the torrent of anger and despair coursing through his body, I took a deep breath.
“Well, you may not realize it right away. And I may not understand it myself. That’s why, let’s take our time. Our time might be limited but let’s make do with what we have. I hope our discussion will give you an opportunity to think about your life. The road ahead is long but I want to walk on it slowly along with you. Remember Shuto, you’re more than just a bullied child, you are irreplaceable.”
Shuto stared at me, looking as though he was about to burst into tears. I could see the distress in his eyes, as if he was hopelessly gasping for breath in a bottomless swamp, forced to struggle even after being told what he already knew to be true.
“Well… I don’t know…” Shuto spoke with a voice that came out like a squawk.
“Revenge… I still want it. I just can’t help it…”
I took it in and just said, “Yes.”
During the interview, there was only one thing I was convinced of.
That Shuto, this little boy was actually too kind to have revenge as his lingering regret. He was too young and too pure to have dark emotions at the core of his heart. Perhaps those innocent feelings just ended up translated into revenge.
As I thought over it, I said, “Well, then.” And the interview concluded that way.