Last Story – A Bouquet For Your Smile – Part 8
“…In short, you should stop blaming yourself, Mr. Kobayakawa. I think you and Sana are always connected like the two wheels of a bicycle, so just please take time to think about yourself.”
In the interview room, Senpai spoke softly next to Mr. Kobayakawa.
Meanwhile, my mind was barely focused on the interview.
Humans were sent to heaven. But if the end was “nothing”, then what’s the point of the process?
“Hmm, now that you say that, that makes sense. I never said Sana was at fault. But I definitely feel like I’m being blamed and stretched beyond my limits.”
This person — Mr. Kobayakawa and other people’s “lingering regrets” — were what made us.
Our mission was to “send humans to heaven” because that’s what they want. In that case, aren’t we just crazy clowns?
—I don’t know. Who are we anyway?
“Mr. Kobayakawa, there’s one thing that bothered me… or rather, something I noticed.” Senpai spoke in a lower tone, as though he was about to say something serious.
That pulled me out of my reverie.
Senpai stared into his eyes and said, “Sana was deeply mourning your death. But you can’t let go because you’re worried that she can’t live on her own. And that’s what you think your lingering regret is, but in fact—”
Senpai scratched his head, but spoke firmly, “In fact, your lingering regret is that you think she needs you and that she can’t live without you?”
Mr. Kobayakawa shifted his gaze downwards and muttered, “I guess so,” and nodded with a sorrowful expression on his face.
I stared at him with mixed feelings.
—I thought of what I had learned and experienced under Senpai, and how I had no choice but to face what Mr. Sasamine called the “mindset of a proper agent”.
“Perhaps you will be forced to make a choice when you hear it? Will you side with Shindo and his heretic way or will you come back to me as a proper agent?”
His words kept repeating in my head, driving me into a corner.
The interview ended while I absentmindedly watched the conversation between Senpai and Mr. Kobayakawa, asking myself the same question I still had no answer for.
“Mr. Kobayakawa has now become aware of the boundaries between him and Sana. And so, he should be able to encourage her to become more independent little by little, right?”
“Huh? Sorry, what did you say?”
I was lost in thought, still pondering over what Mr. Sasamine said, so when Senpai called me out of the blue, I was flustered.
“What’s wrong, apprentice? Ever since the interview started—no, actually even before that—I feel like your heart isn’t here… Did something happen?” He stared at me sharply.
“Oh, um, sorry, I’m just…”
Senpai looked at me, then shrugged, “Well, it’s quite rare for you but everyone does have a worry or two…”
The way he trailed off must have meant that he had thought of himself too. His casual remark made me realize that he was also confronting himself, and on top of that, he also cared about me.
And so the words flowed easily out of my mouth.
“Senpai… What do you think happens after humans are sent to heaven?”
Senpai frowned for a moment, then glared at me so hard I felt confused and finally let out a big sigh.
“It was Sasamine, I see.” Senpai seemed to have figured it out in one go.
After staring at me, Senpai scratched his head as usual and said, “I don’t know. There’s no answer to that question. For us, at least.”
“—But Mr. Sasamine said that once humans are sent to heaven, they would be purified and become nothing. But if so, what’s the point of resolving human’s lingering regrets—”
“Are you saying there’s no point?” Senpai spoke in a laid back but firm tone.
I looked down and muttered, “I don’t know… I don’t get it. What is right? I keep thinking about who we are.”
“That’s good enough.” Senpai said lightly, as if it wasn’t a big deal.
“Who are we? What will happen to humans? Who’s to say it’s wrong to keep thinking and asking such questions? As a matter of fact, if you don’t ask such questions, you won’t be able to continue this line of work. At least that’s what I think.” Senpai said and suddenly looked far into the distance.
I could tell that he was thinking of Kyoko, as he put himself in my shoes.
Then Senpai crossed his arms and said, “Apprentice.”
“Apprentice, it’s a good thing to reflect and ponder over things,” he said as he let out a weary sigh, as if to release his tension.
“In the meantime, can you pour me a cup of coffee?”
“Sure.” And just like that, I got back to my usual routine.
After I handed the strong instant coffee I prepared in the kitchen, Senpai took a sip and with a satisfied expression, said, “It’s so good! As usual, instant coffee is the best.”
And then, he said as he swirled his cup, “Apprentice, your training period is over. Be prepared to say goodbye to the client.”
“Yes.” I nodded in understanding and decided to ask him one more question.
“Senpai, even if humans end up becoming ‘nothing’, will you still continue tackling humans’ lingering regrets this way?”
Senpai took another sip of his coffee before answering, “It’s just my way of doing things.”
He said it so nonchalantly.
“Is that so? I see…” I muttered, silently processing what Senpai had said in my mind.
—Senpai, Mr. Sasamine, and me.
As expected, we’re all different. In that case, there’s only one thing I need to do in this training.
—Find out my own truth.
It felt a little exhilarating, now that I’ve narrowed down what I needed to do and also have enough time to ponder it over.
And so I smiled and said, “Senpai, I’m sorry if I keep leaving my post a lot lately, but can I come out for a bit tomorrow?”
“Hmm… I don’t mind. I suppose your training’s final exam can wait.” He said as if he knew everything and tilted his cup of coffee.