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Junai - Volume 1 - Chapter 8




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Return: Chapter 8

 

The project progressed smoothly and before I knew it, it was completed. As usual, Shirai kept an eye on me and invited me out often on our days off from work. However, just as he had stated before, he never again touched me since that time he had grasped my hand at the movie theater.

“I’m happy to just spend time with you.”

I wasn’t as childish as to take his word for it, but even then, I still couldn’t help but continue going out with him, because I knew that Shirai had given me a salary reduction ever since I had committed the mistake that day. He had cut my salary, because it seemed that it had cost quite a lot to restore the system. This, I had found out from a project team member.

“Really, he’s a capable man,” deserving of no complaints, he said with admiration, but when he found out I felt responsible he looked openly flustered. “I’m sorry, I don’t blame ya at all, Shimizu. I’m just sayin’ the boss is a really good guy……”

“I know, but I think it’s natural that I’m to blame,” when I said that, he looked more and more sorry.

“I’m sorry. I really am. But I think the fact that the boss didn’t say anything to ya about it, means he doesn’t want ya to feel responsible, ya know?”

He backed him up, and I thanked him, feeling more sorry than ever. I decided to visit with Shirai after work.

“I’m happy you called me out,” Shirai said just as happily as he had been when he had accepted my invitation to go to the kissaten, but when I mentioned my salary reduction……

“Oh,” he said and shrugged his shoulders, looking openly disappointed.

“You can gain back the money in no time. It’s nothing to worry about.”

“But……” I can’t help being worried, I argued.

However, he gave a lopsided smile and said, “I know how you feel, but I really don’t want you to be worried about it. It’s nothing personal. I would give a salary reduction to any of my subordinates who make a mistake, no matter who they are, but I would never hold it against them.” So don’t worry, Shirai said, smiling, but of course, I couldn’t say, ‘I see,’ and give him my consent. “There’s no need to feel guilty.” The more Shirai talked, the more I understood that he was being honest, but it still bothered me. Was there any way to repay him? Without even thinking, I knew the answer. But I didn’t have the willpower to do it. Honestly, I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t dislike Shirai at all. I respected him and liked his character. However, I didn’t have any ‘romantic’ feelings towards him. I had clearly realized that when Shirai had grasped my hand at the movie theater. I hadn’t felt disgusted, but I had been at a loss of what to do.

It had felt overly wrong to hold Shirai’s hands. I couldn’t imagine kissing him. And what would come after that was even more unthinkable. But it seemed that Shirai definitely desired to hold hands with me, kiss me, and have sex with me. I couldn’t accept those feelings. I had made that clear to him, hadn’t I?

He always took control over our conversations, so it seemed that he still hadn’t clearly understood that I had rejected him. Before I could tell him exactly how I feel about him, Shirai always interrupted me and would not let me finish.

Here I go, blaming someone else, I thought, disgusted with myself.

Even though he interrupts me when I try to tell him that I reject him, I should say ‘no’ and stop him from talking if I truly want to refuse him. I have caused him nothing but trouble at work and when we were alone out of work, but he had always done so much for me that words couldn’t even describe it. On top of that, he got a salary reduction as well because of me. Perhaps the reason he had stressed ‘it’s nothing to worry about’ was because he still thought he was responsible that I had committed the mistake that day. That’s what it seemed like to me, and I felt more and more at a loss of what to do.

As we talked, Shirai invited me to go out golfing on the weekend. A golf tournament within the company was coming up, and Shirai knew I was a beginner, so he suggested we practice on the weekend. Actually, I wanted to practice but hesitated in accepting his invitation for a moment, wondering why out of all the other beginners Shirai was only inviting me.

But Shirai said, “I don’t have any ulterior motives. We won’t be staying the night, since I’ll take you back to your place by dusk,” so I couldn’t refuse. Shirai was good at teaching, so I could play golf for the first time in my life and think it was fun. “You have a natural talent for it, so you’ll become good in no time,” Shirai praised me.

After we played and had a light meal at the golf club, he was taking me back to my home just as he said he would. The previous day, I had worked overtime and had stayed at the office until quite late, so I was desperately trying to fight off fatigue as we drove back to my home. I didn’t have a car, so Shirai had been driving me around in his.

I obviously couldn’t fall asleep while having my boss drive me around.

I thought I was holding out, but before I knew it, I had fallen asleep.

When I awoke with a start, I saw that we were driving through the neighborhood where Shirai lived.

“I- I’m sorry……!” I quickly apologized, wondering, just how long had I been asleep?

“No, you must be tired, right? It’s nothing to worry about,” Shirai laughed.

“Yes,” I said, remembering something.

“If you’d like, you can come inside? We could have dinner, but I only have pre-made food.”

“No…that’s okay……”

I declined, but Shirai insisted, “I know it’s not the best, but it would be troublesome to prepare dinner now, wouldn’t it?”

It seemed shameful to refuse now. I owed him one for falling asleep on our way back, so I ended up accepting Shirai’s invitation. He had said that he only had ‘pre-made food’, but various dishes he had purchased from the mall lay on top of the table. It seemed as if he had expected that he would invite me in, that’s why he had bought them.

“I know I didn’t take you to your home, but won’t you have a glass of wine?” he asked mischievously, offering me the wine. I wasn’t an expert in wine, but I recognized the label. It was the wine I had referred to as ‘delicious’ some time ago at the restaurant. I had taken an extraordinary liking to its refreshing taste. It seemed that Shirai had remembered me saying that.

“……….”

I really don’t know what to do anymore, I muttered to myself again as Shirai delightfully talked about various things. He talked energetically about how delicious the meal was and about golf. Shirai was really enjoying himself, and I felt like he drank faster than usual.

It’s not like I was being lured into this, but I also drank too much. By the time I realized this, we had already emptied the second bottle of wine.

“I’m glad we have a day off tomorrow.”

As I said this, Shirai uncorked a third bottle and said, let’s drink a little more, because the sports news was about to start. We then migrated from the dining room table to the living room. We sat down next to each other and watched the large screen TV together.

“This is kind of nice, isn’t it?”

Shirai murmured, gazing at me, perhaps considerably drunk.

“……….”

His misty eyes told one thing ‘I like you.’

I couldn’t reply nor look away, precisely because I knew that. I just gazed back at Shirai.

“Can I……break my promise?” Shirai asked nervously, reaching for my knee.

My hand was resting on my knee.

“……….”

When I didn’t answer him, Shirai hesitated a little and then grasped my hand. I almost jumped but controlled myself. It seemed that Shirai took this as me accepting him. I felt his grip on my hand become stronger. If I was going to shake him off, now was the time. If I kept my hand in his any longer, he would misunderstand my feelings more and more.

He’ll misunderstand……he’ll misunderstand, right? I asked myself.

If I didn’t shake off his hand, Shirai would think that I was accepting his feelings, but would that really be a ‘misunderstanding’?

Up until now, he had done many favors for me.

Up until now, he had shown me sympathy and had never forced me to do anything.

Then it was about time that I should accept his feelings, right?

I thought that using the word ‘should’ was proof that I was forcing myself. But forcing myself to accept Shirai’s feelings didn’t seem like the right choice to me. That is what I believed.

Surely, I will never see him again – that man who had called himself ‘Suzuki’. It was very rude to say that Shirai was his replacement, but perhaps it was necessary to throw away my feelings of longing for Suzuki now, since I would never seen him again. On the other hand, Shirai had sacrificed so much for me, but whether or not treasuring his existence was the right path to take was not something to decide on a whim. Nevertheless, I felt like I should rejoice that there was someone who was okay with me, that there was someone who wanted a useless, having-nothing-but-faults person like me.

That ‘should’ again, I sighed as the word popped into my head and then Shirai firmly grasped my hand so that I now could clearly feel his strong grip.

“……If……if you can’t accept my feelings, then pull your hand away. Don’t hold back,” Shirai said hoarsely, still passionately gazing at me.

“……….Um……….”

If I didn’t pull away, he would think I was accepting, right?

He had been very clear with his words, so now I was at a loss of what to do……

Then, I made up my mind.

“Shimizu-kun……!”

I can’t believe it – was what Shirai’s voice and facial expression read. The reason for this was because the action I had taken surprised him immensely. I hadn’t pulled away. I had willingly chosen to return his grasp in the end.

“Is this okay?” Shirai asked in a hollow voice and peered into my eyes.

“……….Yes……” I only said one word, but I sounded terribly hoarse.

“……Thank you…….” He thanked me in a choking voice befitting his facial expression, and I returned his grasp, squeezing his hand harder but then he suddenly pulled his hand away.

“Ah…….!”


He pulled me to his chest, and I inadvertently exclaimed, because I almost spilled my wine.

“Sorry,” Shirai said, took the wine glass out of my hand, put it on the table, and embraced me again. My heartbeat echoed inside my head like a ringing in my ears. Is this really okay? I asked myself over the loud noise that brought on a headache.

I couldn’t decide whether or not this was okay.

But right now, I had made up my mind that it was ‘okay’.

Right now, I didn’t feel anything beyond indebtedness to Shirai, but maybe some kind of new feelings would develop if we start dating.

I hope that happens…yes, that would be nice, I nodded to myself as Shirai tightly embraced me for a while but then finally removed his arms from my back and pulled himself a little away from me.

“Shimizu-kun.” He touched my cheek with his fingertips and slightly lifted up my chin.

A kiss? I guessed, closing my eyes and then heard a loud gulp.

“Sorry.” I immediately heard Shirai say, sounding a little embarrassed. I casually opened my eyes. “I’m getting greedy, aren’t I?” Shirai started to smile, holding my gaze.

“No……” I replied. At that moment, Shirai’s cellphone ringtone began playing.

“……Who is it?”

I wondered, but he said, “Doesn’t matter”, trying to ignore it.

“It’s okay with me. Please answer it,” I told him probably somewhere in my mind wanting to forestall the kiss for as long as possible.

I had willingly made up my mind to do this, so forestalling to do this could only be called being a ‘coward,’ I thought. But then I made up a convenient excuse in my head that actually, if this was an important phone call from work that could not be missed and he didn’t answer it, it would be a problem.

“Really?” Shirai said, looking disappointed and took out his cellphone from his pocket. However, he immediately looked surprised. “Excuse me,” he told me, excusing himself and answered it. “Hello?” He headed outside the living room as he talked.

“………?”

It’s an important phone call after all, I guessed and of course felt curious. Not only was it important, it was something he didn’t want me to hear. I could only think it was the company calling. Perhaps he was taking the blame for my mistake and salary reduction was not the end of it. The moment that thought occurred to me, I couldn’t stop my desire of wanting to find out if I was right.

I’ll just listen in a little. If it has nothing to do with me, I’ll return to the sofa immediately, I told myself as I tiptoed towards the door Shirai had gone out of. Shirai was in the middle of a conversation with his back turned fully away from the room. It didn’t appear that he had noticed me moving outside.

“……I see. The investigation revealed that the psychiatrist is certainly located in the area where Shimizu-kun lives, right?”

“……….”

Huh……?

I was surprised to suddenly hear my name come up, but even more so, I was overwhelmed with shock when I heard the word ‘psychiatrist’.

What did this mean?

Could this mean that Shirai had made someone investigate the Suzuki I had told him about before?

That’s absurd, I thought, shaking. Shirai’s voice rang in my ear.

“I hear that doctor called himself ‘Suzuki’ to Shimizu-kun……Yes, it appears he used a hypnosis and had imprisoned him. Hmm? That doctor even has a villa in Karuizawa? It’s a new property, you say? ……I see, that’s the decision, is it?” Thank you, I heard Shirai say as I stood there absolutely dazed. “Then, could you fax me the results of the investigation immediately?” I came back to my senses at the sound of his words. “Thank you for your cooperation.”

Perhaps feeling that he was making me wait, Shirai hastily tried to end the phone call. Realizing this, I quickly returned back to my seat with feelings of confusion whirling inside my heart.

“Sorry. It was about work,” Shirai said and sat down beside me after opening the door and returning back inside the room.

He was about to grasp my hand again, but I told him, still in a daze, “……Um……You… you can take a shower before me……”

“Huh!?” Shirai exclaimed, surprised because perhaps this was very sudden, but then peered hard into my face. “……This is okay?”

Perhaps he was suspicious of me? But then I saw that I had nothing to worry about. There was not the slightest color of suspicion in Shirai’s eyes, even though he had asked in a hollow voice.

“……Yes……” I nodded; my voice was still terribly hoarse, but it seemed that Shirai hadn’t noticed, because he was getting excited.

“……Thank you. So much,” he said, overwhelmed with emotion and hugged me tightly.

“……….!”

I knew I was trembling, but it wasn’t because this felt disgusting. I was trembling with excitement at the strangest thing that I was about to do. Of course, Shirai couldn’t read my mind, and it seemed that he thought that I was just nervous.

“……Think about it a little while I take a shower, okay?”

He removed his hands from my back and smiled at me. As if I didn’t already feel guilty enough, now I felt worse by seeing him smile, but my desire to know surpassed that.

“Yes,” I nodded as he gazed lovingly at me for a moment and then suddenly stood up, smiling. I watched him leave the room and waited it out a bit. When I was sure that Shirai was in the bathroom, I slowly stood up and tiptoed out of the living room.

Shirai had instructed for them to send the fax immediately.

Where on earth is the fax in this place? I thought, searching for it.

It probably wasn’t in the living room. He wouldn’t instruct them to send a fax if there was a chance I would see it. Then perhaps it was in his study or maybe in his bedroom? It was a large apartment; it seemed that there were four rooms.

If I search, I will find it soon, I thought, opening every door I saw.

The first room I barged into was his bedroom. No fax. The next door I opened led to his study, and there, I discovered the fax papers he had received. Inadvertently, I rushed over to it. I gazed at each page that was there.

“Ah!” I gasped out with surprise at seeing the documents that appeared to be several sheets of photographs. I quickly grabbed the papers and stared hard at them. Even though the photograph had come out grainy on paper, it was without a doubt Suzuki.

“I knew it……”

Shirai had been investigating Suzuki. At that moment, I was sure of it. I could guess the reason why he had done it, but I wasn’t sure about the details.

Still……, I thought, gathering the stack of investigation results from the fax-receiving tray and began to read, wide-eyed, from the first page.

The name that was written on there apparently was Suzuki’s real name. His current address was on there as well, and a picture.

Ahh……I thought, almost crouching down on the spot, but kept my head up, thinking now was not the time. Clutching all of the documents in my hand, I rushed out of the room. I ran towards the entryway, put on my shoes, and flew out the door.

In the documents, ‘Suzuki’s’ address was in Kobe.

I didn’t think that he lived in the Kansai area, I thought, and ran down the street as I looked at the documents, trying to drill the address into my head.

I should go there after I get home and research on the Internet the route to take to get there, one part of me screamed this inside my head.

But I couldn’t wait!

I raised my right hand up high to call one of the empty taxis in the lot.

“Excuse me. Please take me to this address.”

I showed the address that was written on the document to the taxi driver. At the same time, I checked to make sure this car accepted credit cards.

Good, I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw that it did.

“Kobe? It’s quite a cost, you know?”

The driver looked at me as if saying, you probably should take the train, but I disregarded his thoughtfulness. That’s alright, I said.

I wanted to be taken right up to his place. If I went to Kobe by train, then from there, I would have to take a taxi to his place. This would be wasting time.

“You have my thanks then,” the driver said, now in a good mood, and picked up speed.

“……….”

Soon, I would get to see him; I would get to see ‘Suzuki’! From just this thought alone, my heart beat uncontrollably fast, but I loved how calculating I was.

I now realized how much I desired to see him.

The taxi raced down the road through the night, carrying me straight to Kobe.

 

 

 


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