Chapter 9 Her Side
"Maybe we shouldn't," Ayumu-san suggested, taking the very words from Hikari's lips.
"Come on Scardy-Cat. It can't be that bad. Besides, it's faster," she replied, Ayumu-san's thoughts exactly.
But before either of them realized, their shortcut had become 'that bad.' When the creepy face appeared, raising a stone over his shoulder to hit her friend, Hikari was sure they would die. She honestly was too terrified through much of the fight to notice details. The group spread out, revealing there were seven, maybe eight, members, and Ayumu-san really tried his hardest to keep them off of her.
Still, it seems the whole thing would have turned out the same either way.
Yes, all of their faces were shadowed with hoods, and not one of them wore a color other than black. There had been one jacket with white writing on it, but that was only a brand name or something. It was odd that they didn't want something from the two students. They had come out planning to kill and were only taking their first opportunity, it almost seemed.
They wouldn't come after her until after they'd taken care of him, she decided based on their actions, and he had a very suicidal, chivalric attitude, coming to save her every time. She couldn't take it like he could, though, backing away from the gang in fear as they came at her for the second time. There was no way to escape death, yet she still wished to stall it as long as possible.
When Konatoya-san hit the one approaching her, it knocked his hood back, and she at least got a look at one of the attackers. His hair was short, about an inch, and spiked. His face was…not round. It wasn't meager and unhealthy, but it was most definitely more towards narrow. And he wore an earring. Even that was hardly descriptive.
Then, the phone went flying as they were fighting over her. It landed at her feet, and she discerned from the incomplete number who Ayumu-san had been trying to call. While most of the group continued to attack the boy, she reached down to the phone, hoping to finish the call. A member of the gang not occupied with the Konatoya boy stepped up to her, crushing the phone beneath his foot.
Slowly, she looked up to him, knowing it was once more her turn. At least, the phone had served as enough of a distraction for her to call the police on her own phone without being noticed. She didn't think she could make it if she ran, though. Then, Ayumu-san slipped down the wall unconscious…
Here should be the point where Hikari's story took off, revealing parts of the event that her companion involved would not have known. It was her moment in the spotlight, her turn to be brutally pummeled. Instead, her account of the evening ended just as strikingly abrupt as Ayumu's had.
She concluded, "But as they all turned to me, I head a car in the street at the end of the alley. I ran towards it shouting, 'Help!' When I got closer, I realized it was a police car, and the gang stopped chasing me and disappeared. I don't think the police came because I called, though. It was too fast for that."
Once again Kyoko thanked the victim, and then he shut his notebook. The whole thing surprised him, really. Both insisted it had nothing to do with the identity of the pop star's son, yet he lay practically dead while she had hardly a bruise. He thought he was protecting her, but she had noticed the real reason: they were holding off on her. Maybe they were hiding something. More likely, though, was that there was something fishy in the attackers's motives. It had seemed to be the same in all of the day's cases. There was something behind it that he couldn't quite single out.
Instantly, his mind was filled with thoughts of what could be the cause, analyzing each of the cases he had worked. Soon after, he stopped himself, remembering he couldn't work anymore that night; he had something far more important. Determined to not think at all about crimes for the rest of what little remained of the day, Saburou clicked his pen on and off, once more thanked the two students for answering his questions, and slid his notepad into a pocket. With a small, "good evening" to the two officers, the man left the hospital room intending to become a father.
Leaving the room had not been quite as simple for the group as it was for the single man. Immediately recognizing their faces, the journalists, photographers, newscasters, and every other person with a microphone began pelting them with questions: What had happened? Was it a hate crime? Would Ayumu-san be all right? How did the mother react to the news? What would be the date of release for her next album?...and then, one very daring reporter inquired, "Who is this boy that's with you?" Every single other person there jumped on the bandwagon and asked the same question.
They pushed through the crowd in formation like they did it all the time, the bodyguards leading the way, Carli ushering Masami ahead of her. None of them spoke a word. Nori followed behind in awe and amazement at all the people and all the cameras taking pictures. It all felt so unreal. Two microphones crossed before his chest, blocking the path Atsushi had cleared, and a kind looking woman with a Devilish hunger in her eyes asked for his name.
Being from a town with fewer people than he had seen in this single day, Nori was a little sheepish before a mob closed in around him, voraciously seeking information, so it was understandable that he would only quietly stumble out, "Kyoko-kun."
Notepads flipped open. Cameras flashed. Fifty press workers leapt with the glee of a tad of information. Atsushi and Masami stood pressed against the outside of the crowd, screaming Nori's name, trying with all their might to reach back in to save him, but elbows locked, the media formed a great, unbreakable wall. Nori couldn't even hear their pleas for his safety as the microphone was held out before his wide-open eyes.
"Are you Konatoya-kun's friend?" The question shot at him like an arrow, sweeping him away with their tide faster than he could dodge the piercing aftereffects.
Not realizing it was a problem, Nori nodded, still embarrassed by the attention. Masami fell to his knees, knowing the slip up—and related gossip—would fill magazines for a month, and it would probably result in him being followed more than normal. That dramatic reaction only lasted for a second, however, as he tried to keep unattractive pictures of himself out of those same magazines.
Still, the questioning of the imprisoned boy continued, "Who's 'Celebrity Child' are you?"
Blinking a few times, Nori stared blankly at them. That question made no sense at all. They reposed it and rephrased it several times in famous people lingo before he finally understood they wanted to know his parents' names. Much to Masami's dismay, he responded with his father's.
The crowd paused, looking at one another for a moment in confusion before the kind lady stated, "I've never heard of him. What line of work is he in?"
"He's a police officer," Nori answered proudly, now that he knew.
"In what movie?"
The question seemed odd to the boy, not knowing that Masami—currently having an internal crisis on the other side of the sea of people—was expected, as the child of a celebrity, to have friends who were also famous. None of them suspected real life, the reply Nori soon gave. A murmur spread through the crowd. A real police officer? That couldn't be.
Suspecting he must at least be a famous police officer, the lady demanded to know one of the crimes he had solved. Nori didn't know at all, so once more he just stood there blankly. This renewed Atsushi's urgency, and he doubled his efforts to get to the securely guarded boy. It was all in vain, however, as all the thoughts rushing through Nori's minded melded to one: make something up.
Slowly, the boy opened his mouth, killing the hopes of every member of the Konatoya household, "Once upon a time…there was a guy."
Kyoko entered the hallway to a perplexed, but touched, camera crew, as his son—obviously not answering their question—captivated their hearts with the finishing touches of his story, "Then, he suddenly realized what it was: a pig, with a very curly tail."
Masami sat in a chair across the hall, plugging his ears in agony, and pleading, "Carli-san, please make him stop!"
"He is your friend, Konatoya-kun, for better or for worse," the older bodyguard noted, tired of the boy's complaints.
"But I didn't make him my friend for that!"
"But he is your friend," Carli restated for emphasis. "You should have told him about the press, or at least rescued him from it."
Knowing he couldn't fight back, the boy just crossed his arms and leaned back in the chair.
If Kyoko had wanted to discretely make his exit, he would be disappointed as a couple journalists quickly noticed him there and imposed their questioning on him. Would Konatoya-san be all right? How serious were the injuries? What could he reveal about the crime? Did the police have a main suspect?
Fortunately for him, there was a law giving him the right to simply say, "The details are still classified," and they had to leave him alone.
He made his way over to his son, just in time since Nori was about to start into another story that would have left poor Masami seizing in a pool of blood on the floor, and he said only, "Let's go home now, Nori-kun."
They left the hospital like there was no one else in the world, while a mob of reporters gaped in shock at just how ordinary of friends the celebrity Konatoya family chose for company. Miserable, the cause of the whole problem began to dread his mother's reaction to the certain multitude of magazine articles that would soon be written. He was doomed. And, peacefully assuming everything was fine, his older brother drifted back to sleep.
Nori and his dad climbed into the car to drive home. The distance from the hospital to their apartment was not far at all, so the drive wouldn't take too long. They hit some traffic along the way, though, extending the trip a bit. They attempted conversation a couple of times. However, Saburou had no clue of what to talk about with a child in the car, and Nori was not accustomed to adults actually listening to him. Thus, neither spoke much.
Thankfully, traffic was lighter for the odd couple than it was for Hikari's family trying to reach the hospital, and they soon arrived at the fourth story apartment. Both tired out, they distantly removed their shoes and collapsed in the living room without a word. Finally, some higher power placed words into the mouth of the awkward father, giving him something to speak.
"How was school, Nori-kun?" He inquired.
"Good," Nori answered shortly, knowing neither Mick-san nor his mother would have wanted to hear more. Saburou nodded, considering the response acceptable. That was, after all, the answer kids gave to such questions. At least, there hadn't been problems.
Then, he paused. The two awkwardly sat in the quiet which seemed to deserve words, and Nori was soon inspired to fill it. "So the teacher, Matsui-sensei, is really nice, and I ate lunch with Masami-kun. He asked me to. The lunch was very good, but you forgot to pack me snacks. And Matsui-sensei gave me these papers for you."
Stopping his rambling, Nori reached into his bag and pulled out a stack of papers the size of a textbook. Without giving his father a chance to even look through them, Nori continued, "And I have homework. You're s'posed to help me—"
Suddenly, the boy was stopped by a loud rumbling in his stomach, so loud that even Saburou heard it. He looked curiously down at his abdomen, which prompted the father to ask, "Are you hungry? I'll go make dinner and we'll do your homework afterwards, okay?"
Nori agreed, so he went into the kitchen. Grabbing two microwave meals from the freezer, he began "making" dinner for them both. A little more than five minutes later, he dumped two complete meals onto real plates and set them on the table. That five minutes had seemed much longer to Nori—who had nothing to do while waiting—so he rushed to the table as soon as the plates hit. Saburou poured him a glass of milk, and then he too sat down to eat.
"Ittadakimasu," Nori said, in a hurry to show his gratitude so that he could dig in. He started to eat, gobbling down the food like if he hadn't eaten anything all day, so quickly that he no longer felt the need to speak. Dinner was all that mattered.
As fast as the boy could eat, Saburou finished first. He stood, taking his dishes back to the kitchen. He quickly washed them off and set them to dry before turning his attention back to his son's homework. Upon inquiring about the issue, however, he was surprised to hear no reply from the table. He looked over to his son, and found the boy fallen asleep in the last bite of rice on his plate.
Sighing, he asked the sleeping boy, "Exciting day, huh? I suppose your homework can wait."
Putting aside the things he was doing, Saburou lifted the boy into his arms and wiped off most of the rice from his face. Unable to change the kid into his pajamas while limp and sleeping, he laid his son into bed wearing the miss-matched school uniform, just barely able to overcome awkwardness enough to get him under the covers this time. He gazed down at the unconscious, drooling boy, knowing very well he had failed that day and doubtful he would ever improve. Nori was a good kid.
He flicked on the nightlight, remembering back to that morning when they found it searching for his shorts. Nori had been so excited to find it, and, looking at the bleek, empty room, he could see why. Every little thing that made him feel at home was welcomed ecstatically. Decidedly, he thought to himself, tomorrow they would unpack all his things.
Curiously, Masami looked up at Carli. "Hey, since Ayumu-san is here, does that mean I don't have to—"
"No," the nanny interrupted firmly from her seat beside him in the waiting room. She already knew what he was asking for.
"But Carli-san,' he pleaded.
"No," she repeated, almost cutting him off again. It wasn't an excuse to skip school.
Defeated and discouraged, the boy crossed his arms and muttered, "Okaasan would have let me."