Fourth Story – On Becoming Independent – Part 4
Since the first interview, I’ve met with Shuto several more times under Senpai’s guidance.
However, after the meeting this time, I was so exhausted and felt like I was about to collapse. When I complained to Senpai, he shook his head in acknowledgment.
“Well, you know, apprentice. That’s because when you focus on things like what you can do to help him, you’re essentially limiting your relationship with him as strictly business-like, instead of treating him on equal footing like friends do.”
I was far too ahead of myself. I was focused on proving myself to Shuto. I think that’s what Senpai was trying to say.
But maintaining the trust between us and keeping my integrity was really tiring. It might be unreasonable but I couldn’t help feeling that way.
That’s what I told Senpai and he responded as though it wasn’t much of a big deal.
“Well, even if it’s reasonable, you’d still need to keep building trust. For example, when people say ‘yes,’ they are more likely to open up. So, you know, why don’t you try to create situations that make it easy to say ‘yes’? How about practicing for a bit?”
“Yes… Ah, that one doesn’t count.”
Senpai shrugged with a wry smile.
He’s going to make me say ‘yes’ repeatedly? I waited on tenterhooks to see what Senpai was up to.
“What time did you wake up today?” Senpai asked languidly.
“Huh? About 7:30.”
“You got up at around 7:30.”
“What did you have for breakfast today?”
“Bread, omelet and salad.”
“You had bread, omelet and salad for breakfast.”
“What’s your favorite drink?”
“Hmm, milk tea I guess.”
“Your favorite drink is milk tea.”
Er, that’s another ‘yes.’
“Alright, let’s end with that.” Senpai clapped his hands.
“Now, you just said ‘yes’ three times, didn’t you? Try to incorporate that naturally into ordinary conversations, including what I’ve taught you so far. The downside to it, though, is that you might end up overdoing it. So make sure you do it in moderation so you won’t lose yourself.”
“Well, then, it’s almost time. Let’s go meet Shuto. You’ll do the talking. I’ll be next to you.”
That was all he said but it gave me the much needed encouragement.
“I’ll do my best!” I beamed enthusiastically.
“Good luck but remember not to overdo it. You can’t be too fragile in this job.” Senpai smiled.
Shuto came to the interview room, and our discussion started with trivial things.
“Shuto, what’s your favorite food?”
“Hmm, I like hamburgers. I think those from DOS Burger are delicious, although they’re expensive.”
“You like DOS Burger (1).”
“I asked you this before but what’s your favorite hobby?”
“Reading manga. Especially action, I guess.”
“Your favorite hobby is reading manga. Especially action.”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“What’s your favorite song?”
“Mostly anime songs, but I’m not really an otaku.”
“Okay, so you like anime songs. The recent animes have pretty good songs.”
“Yes, I think so too.”
As we continued talking, I felt like I was getting closer to Shuto. Our gestures and even our breathing were in sync.
It’s time to get down to business.
“So, Shuto, about your lingering regret…”
“Right, the revenge against those guys.” Shuto replied without hesitation.
“What if you don’t take revenge against them?”
Shuto was aghast. “What? No way! Then the meaning of my life would be gone.”
Even though the tone of our conversation had been light, I held myself firmly and asked, “I see. To whom would the meaning be lost?”
Shuto tilted his head in confusion. “Well, to me, of course. To me, the meaning of my life would be gone.”
“To you, the meaning of your life would be gone. What would happen then?”
“Huh? Why are you asking that? They all messed up my life! It’s all their fault!”
“If you lose the meaning of your life, does that mean you were born to be messed up by those kids?”
“Not exactly, but…”
I took a deep breath and tried to sync my breathing with Shuto’s before asking, “And how is it any different?”
“I’ve lived my life with meaning, but they ruined it.”
Shuto seemed ill at ease, but I felt that the thread of trust connecting us had not broken yet, so I continued.
“What would have happened to your life if they didn’t exist?”
“I don’t know… that sounds so cruel.” Shuto frowned with a touch of innocence.
“I suppose it is, but I have to ask you another difficult question. In your life, who mattered the most until now?”
As he tried to answer, the words caught in his throat and his face turned red.
“Y-You want me to answer that? Fine, I admit. Those guys mattered the most… I was always at their mercy; they toyed around with me whenever they could. All I could think about was my hatred against them…”
“I see. But now, you no longer exist to be their plaything. Your suffering is over.”
I offered a few words of sympathy and continued. “That was a tough question, I’m sorry. By the way, Shuto, this might be unrelated but if you were reborn as a human being again, what kind of life would you like to live?”
The question seemed to catch Shuto off guard, and he looked absent-minded for a while before speaking, “If I didn’t get bullied, I think I’d have lots of friends and have fun everyday…?”
This was the point of this interview, and I nodded in understanding.
“Then, listen carefully, Shuto. Maybe what you really wanted wasn’t revenge, but a safe and mediocre life where you weren’t bullied and had many friends, don’t you think?”
Shuto was visibly upset. “Well, that’s… That’s true, I guess, I didn’t want to be bullied. I wanted lots of friends! But I was actually bullied! And driven to my death! I wanted a safe and mediocre life, but they all got in the way!”
However, I’m not letting Shuto run away.
“Right. Shuto, this may be difficult, but I’d like you to think deeply… You wanted a life with many friends without being bullied, so for what did you jump down from your apartment?”
“For what? Because I couldn’t stand their bullying… No one helped me…”
“Right, but I wasn’t asking for the reason, I’m asking your purpose for doing so. When you jumped down and committed suicide, did you do it because you wanted to?”
“What are you saying?! Of course not!” Indignant, Shuto answered.
I tried again, this time with a softer tone. “What did you think would happen when you took your own life? What was it for?”
Shuto was at a loss for words as his face reddened.
“Um, I-I don’t want to admit it…but that was too cruel, wasn’t it?”
“That’s right, it was too cruel.”
Sensing Shuto’s pain and anguish, I tried to ask the question one last time.
“Let me ask again. What did you jump down for?”
Shuto shook his head, clenched his teeth, then balled his hands into fists, but spoke firmly. “Um, okay, I get it… I admit. I did it as revenge. I wanted them to understand the pain I felt, even just a little. I wanted them to feel guilty. I knew that the adults around me who didn’t notice the bullying and those who didn’t help me would be overcome with regret and despair. That’s what I wanted…”
“I see. That was a great answer. I’m glad we were able to talk today. Let’s talk again soon. Thank you for your time.”
“Okay.” When Shuto sighed in exhaustion, I also felt relieved in my heart and looked to Senpai for approval.
Senpai nodded, seemingly approving of the way I handled this interview.
The meaning behind the revenge that was his lingering regret was gradually unraveling. The rest would be up to Shuto. Feeling validated by Senpai’s approval, I suddenly remembered the words he had said many times before the interview.
“We can help guide the client to the waterfront, but it’s up to them if they would drink the water or not. Even if you force them to, you can’t take away their freedom and responsibility.”
1. DOSバーガー(DOS Burger) – a parody of the Japanese burger chain “MOS Burger”