Last Story – A Bouquet For Your Smile – Part 3
Based on the business card I received the other day, Mr. Sasamine’s office seemed to be on the second floor of a beautiful multi-tenant building, which might have been newly built. However, no name was indicated on the label for the second floor. Although it was a multi-tenant building, I suppose there were places that were inaccessible for ordinary humans, just like Senpai’s office.
I took the elevator to the second floor and rang the doorbell in front of the unlabeled office. I waited a moment before a woman dressed in a suit opened the door. Upon seeing my face, she looked a little puzzled, but when I mentioned my name, she broke into a smile and said, “You must be a guest of Mr. Sasamine. I’ll call for him now, so please wait inside.” She urged me to sit on the sofa, which was in a rather cramped space separated by a transparent cabinet.
Shortly after, Mr. Sasamine appeared in his usual Hawaiian shirt and sandals, which was very inappropriate for an office attire. He bent his right hand at a right angle and said with a carefree smile, “Hello! I’m glad you came!”
“Have you finished considering my offer? That was quite fast!”
“Oh, no, that’s not why I came here.” I momentarily hesitated but then briefly talked about the client Senpai and I had the other day.
“I came here today because I wanted to know about Senpai’s past… I’m sure something happened with Kyoko Kasuga. I know I’m overstepping my bounds trying to probe into his past, but still, I want to help him somehow….”
After talking continuously, Mr. Sasamine sighed with a little disappointment. “My, my, Yuma, how much do you know and what do you want to do?”
I bit my lips. “I don’t really know anything. And I might not be of much help at all. But I thought that I could help ease Senpai’s pain… even for a little bit.”
“Hmm…” Mr. Sasamine folded his arms. “Well, I wish I could tell you everything. I’d like to tell you everything, but if I do, Shindo will inevitably kill me, so I’ll keep my mouth shut. But if you already know that much, I’m willing to give you a way to find out for yourself. I hope you won’t tell Shindo that you learned about it from me. I’ll tell you the information the adult way, although it’ll probably be obvious that it came from me.”
“Information?” I asked incredulously.
“I’ll take you to where Shindo went when he once left you alone in the office.”
“That’s right. This is where humans think the dead sleep. Let’s see, I think it should be this way.”
Mr. Sasamine led the way and we walked along the narrow gravel path between the tombstones.
Although I had expected it midway through, Mr. Sasamine brought me to the place Senpai had visited. It was a desolate and austere temple graveyard. The fact that Mr. Sasamine knew about it, and the fact that Senpai made an effort to visit, and above all, the fact that the name “Kyoko Kasuga” was involved, made it easy to figure out.
After a while, we reached a tomb at the end of the path with wilting colorful flowers and the residue of burning incense.
—The gravestone was labeled “Kasuga Family Tomb.”
“This is Kyoko Kasuga’s…?”
The photos and documents I saw at that time must have been stamped with “Consigned” and “Unresolved”. Kyoko Kasuga was already dead and her lingering regrets have been resolved.
“This person… Kyoko’s lingering regret had something to do with Senpai, hadn’t it?” I asked Mr. Sasamine.
“Oh no, Shindo wasn’t involved in Kyoko Kasuga’s lingering regret.”
I was quite sure of it, but Mr. Sasamine replied with the complete opposite of what I had assumed.
What? Then what’s with this tomb? What was the cause of the lingering regret? Why did Senpai react like that?
“It’s understandable that you’d think that way. You don’t know much, after all. I can’t talk about it in detail, but I won’t stop you from digging about it. And well, I think it’s fine if I bring you here.”
Feeling exasperated, I knelt in front of the tombstone and put my hands together in a prayer.
Mr. Sasamine whistled in jest. “Like master, like disciple, huh? There’s no one else here. Any lingering regrets had already been resolved. You know that, don’t you? Why do you have to do that useless gesture like a human?”
Indeed, what he said was true.
But, despite knowing that the souls of the dead weren’t here and that it’s a useless gesture, I still offered a prayer to wish for them to rest in peace.
As expected, Mr. Sasamine gave a snide remark over it.
“What’s up with humans? They don’t believe in the idea of souls, God, or the devil, and yet they build graveyards and tombs despite knowing that they’re all but empty. No one could possibly stay in this place. I really don’t understand you guys.”
The words “you guys” struck a chord with me and I couldn’t help but clarify about it.
“Did Senpai also come here to offer flowers and incense sticks?”
“Yes, Shindo comes here every year on her death anniversary. He brings a huge wilted bouquet like that. I’m not sure if it’s just courtesy to the dead the way humans do, but it seemed like it carried a different meaning. But it’s irrational of him to do that for a former client. Everyone makes mistakes. Sometimes, things are out of your control. Agents shouldn’t be dragging their past around to such an extent. And most of all…”
“Most of all?”
There was something more? I tilted my neck in puzzlement.
Mr. Sasamine let out a sigh.
“Isn’t he annoying?” He laughed out loud.
I momentarily forgot that he was that kind of person.
But well, he’s got a point. It was true that none of the dead would be lying here, but it made me wonder… Among Senpai, Mr. Sasamine and I, which of us had the right behavior in this case?
I decided to ask. “Mr. Sasamine, do you think it’s a waste of time to pay respects to the dead like this?
“Well then, let me ask you the opposite. What makes you think it’s not a waste of time? I just don’t get it.”
I couldn’t say anything and pursed my lips.
“That’s one thing we need to work on little by little from here on out.” Seeing me silent, Mr. Sasamine spoke in a soft tone.
I didn’t agree with him, or rather, I couldn’t agree with him, so I decided to focus on gleaning the thread of clues that he had given me.
I was certain that Kyoko Kasuga was somehow involved in Senpai’s past.
However, Mr. Sasamine said that Senpai wasn’t involved in her lingering regret. The case was consigned to someone else, and it wasn’t Senpai who solved it. So then, who was the person in charge who solved it…?
All of a sudden, something in memory sparked. The not-so-distant past and recent events overlapped in my mind.
When Mr. Sasamine dropped by the office, Senpai told him, “You’re going to ask me to return the favor, aren’t you?”
The relationship between Senpai and Mr. Sasamine… The dots were finally connected.
“Senpai once said that he had a favor to return to you. Could it be that… you were the one who resolved Kyoko Kasuga’s lingering regret?”
Why did I overlook the name of the person in charge at that time?
While berating myself for not checking properly, Mr. Sasamine proudly answered with a smile, “Yes, it was me who sent Kyoko Kasuga’s soul to heaven.”