Ghost Hunt Volume 8 epilogue
If there's someone who's going away, it's common practice in Japan to hold a farewell party.
I don't remember who in the bungalow suggested giving a farewell party. However, I remember everyone quickly agreed. To be honest, the two we're sending off hate festivities. So, this is deeply affectionate harassment.
The truth is, there's no one in our group who can say, "We're having a farewell party," and drag those two along, but we're strong this time since Mori-san is with us.
The day after Gene's body was found, it was returned from the police, cremated, and sent directly to his home country by plane. Naru's parents returned to England ahead of the others, and Naru, Lin-san, and Mori-san were to return soon after that.
—It was on that day, before those three went to Narita, that we decided to hold the farewell party.
I headed to Shinjuku considerably earlier than the appointed time. This was under the pretense that I had something I wanted to ask Mori-san. To be honest, my ulterior motive was simply to get a quick look at the place where the secretive Naru-chan had been living.
Skyscrapers lined up around the vicinity of Shinjuku West Entrance. The so-called Shinjuku Subcenter. That was the location of the designated hotel and venue of the farewell party.
I called from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building and asked Mori-san if I could visit her. She readily said, "Let's have a cup of tea until it's time." Half-nervous and half-excited, I headed to the entrance of the luxury hotel.
When I looked into the specified tea room, Mori-san was sitting directly in front and raised her head.
"Hello. Have you finished all the preparations for your departure?"
"Yeah. I don't have much luggage anyway."
"Thank you for meeting with me when you're busy. It wasn't that important, but I was curious what kind of place this was."
When I said that while ordering, Mori-san laughed in a pleasant, hitch-pitched tone.
"Eheheheh. —Where are Naru and Lin-san?"
"They're probably organizing their luggage since there's still time."
"It must be difficult."
After all, we returned from Nagano yesterday. I expect they haven't had any time to sleep.
"For the time being, they'll send as much as they can, and if they don't finish packing in time, I guess they'll send the rest at some other time."
"Will they be coming back?"
Mori-san tilted her head to one side.
"Hmm… I think I might be the only one coming back."
"Really? I wonder what I should do. I can't afford to wait, then."
"What's the matter?"
"I wanted to know Naru and Lin-san's addresses. I was hoping I could write them letters."
"Ah, I see."
"If it's not okay to have their addresses, I thought I'd have you tell me the lab address. Then I can send the letters addressed there, right?"
"I don't think there's anything wrong with it. Why don't you ask them personally?"
"Is that alright?"
"I'm sure it's fine. They're not particularly secretive by nature. —Although, I think it's best not to expect a reply."
I released a sigh. Mori-san smiled wryly,
"Lin-san is quite conscientious, so he'll probably write a reply right away. …But Naru..."
Well, I already figured that.
"By the way, have you heard what's happening with the office? I haven't returned my spare key..."
The office hasn't opened at all. It's remained closed for the time being. I have some personal effects there, but I haven't had the time to go for them.
"Anything you have questions about, ask personally. I'll tell you whatever those two don't."
Saying so with a smile, Mori-san pointed up.
"Go on. Room number 3212."
I followed Mori-san's finger and looked up at the ceiling.
"...I wonder if it's okay to go."
Somehow, I feel like I'll be treated very unkindly.
"You'll lose if you hold back."
Mori-san said so and smiled.
"The trick to dealing with Naru is, more or less, to be assertive. That child won't interact with others of his own accord, so if you hold back, you're ties with him will be cut."
"But, if I don't hold back, I feel like he'll yell at me."
"It's quite alright. Even when people gather at the office, he doesn't get particularly angry, right?"
Ah, now that I think about it…
"He gets in a bad mood, but I don't think he gets angry."
"Don't worry even if he gets in a bit of a bad mood. If you try to gauge how he's feeling by his expression, you'll lose. If he's seriously angry, he'll be become unresponsive, so it's fine if he's being sarcastic."
"Therefore, someone who's assertive wins. If he complains, ignore it. If he's sarcastic, shake it off. If you do that, you'll be able to deal with him."
"As long as my patience lasts?"
When I said that, Mori-san laughed pleasantly.
"Right. As long as you plan to associate with him."
"Naru appears extremely strong-willed, but when it comes down to it, he gives in surprisingly easy."
...Perhaps she has a point.
"Now that you mention it, even when he argues, I can pretty much win. As long as I don't back down."
I looked upward.
"Well then, I guess I'll try being assertive."
I rode the long elevator and walked down the peculiar hotel hallway. I took a deep breath in front of room 3212. When all's said and done, pressing the doorbell requires as much courage as sticking your finger into a tiger's cage.
A chime sounded inside and the door immediately opened. Naru appeared. As soon as he saw me, he looked down at his wristwatch.
"Is it that time already?"
"No. It's a great deal earlier. There's something I wanted to ask and after meeting with Mori-san, she told me to try asking personally."
Naru frowned slightly in annoyance.
"Can you do it later?"
...As expected, his guard concerning his privacy is firm.
Dejected. ...But I mustn't back down.
"Can I help with anything?"
"There's no need."
"A person's kindness is something you should readily accept."
"If you help, what needs to be done won't get finished."
"That's not true. I'll be more useful than a cat. Leave it to me."
"I told you, there's no need."
"When you can take it easy, you should. There are things I wanted to ask. It's reasonable if I ask while I help you clean up. Right?"
I imitated Mori-san, grinning and such.
...Then Naru sighed.
Whoa! I won. I see, this is what I had to do.
Naru opened the door wide and gestured to the inside of the room.
The room was a spacious and tidy double room. There was a large window with the curtains opened; Shinjuku Central Park was visible directly below. It's certainly a nice room, but I have to admit it feels bleak. When I think about him having lived in such a place for more than a year and a half, I can't help feeling a little sorry for him.
"Lin-san's room is next door?"
There were several cardboard boxes stacked up in the middle of the room.
"Will you pack my clothes? You can fold them however you want."
He opened a door, revealing a closet that had already been half cleaned out. The sight of nothing but black clothes hanging up was slightly laughable. Naru was packing files stacked on top of a desk into a box.
"Your home is in Cambridge, right?"
"Will you tell me your address?"
"To write you a letter. Why else?"
Be assertive. Be assertive.
"...Can you write the address in English?"
"I can do that much."
"I underestimated you, then."
He's really not cute!
Oh, what a pity. If Gene were alive, and by some chance we happened to get married, I'd be this guy's sister.
"Your father is a professor at Cambridge, right?"
"What about it?"
"What does he teach?"
"Does knowing that have anything to do with you?"
"Of course it does."
"It will satisfy my curiosity."
Naru sighed deeply again.
After saying that, Naru smiled wryly.
"Really? In addition to the 'SPR'?"
"The 'SPR' is something like an academic society. Four years ago, it came to directly manage a laboratory, but he's not a researcher."
Hmm. I don't really understand.
"You're a researcher?"
"At Mori-san's lab. The Fieldwork Lab?"
"If you know, don't bother asking."
"Hey, what's fieldwork?"
Naru looked at me with raw contempt.
"You really don't know anything, do you?"
That's none of your business.
"It's actually going to a site and gathering information. Things like investigating a haunted house. It's almost the same as what we do now."
"After sending off the video and data, the rest is another team's work. Such as the video analysis team. Similarly, organizing the analyzed data and incorporating it into theory is also the job of a specialized team. More or less."
"More or less?"
"I'm actually a theorist. Lin is primarily a mechanical specialist."
Why did you come all the way to Japan together?
"Madoka is the chief of fieldwork. So, she gathered all the people who could speak Japanese and it ended up this way."
"Ah, I see."
That might be just like Mori-san.
When I indicated that I was finished packing his clothes in the box, Naru tossed me the packing tape. Catching it, I shut the box.
"What will you do after going home?"
Naru shrugged his shoulders.
"Hold a funeral."
Who's talking about that near in the future?
"I didn't mean that. You're a researcher at 'SPR', right? Will you still keep ghost hunting at the lab?"
"Naturally, that's what I intend to do."
"What are you going to do with the office? Just in case, I brought Taka's spare key, too."
"You can hold onto it."
I looked at Naru.
"Madoka will return soon."
"The office is staying, then!?"
"You're lucky you won't lose your part-time job."
Yeah. —Or rather...
"What changed your mind?"
He had said he was going to close it.
"A change in circumstances. We obtained permission to maintain the branch office."
"But you're not coming back, are you?"
"I'm the one who submitted the request, wasn't I?"
"And again, why?"
"The spiritual phenomena in Japan are interesting."
"...Is that so?"
"For some reason, there seem to be good conditions for spiritual phenomena. So, I thought we should keep the branch office the way it is and submitted a request."
He's a workaholic to the core.
"But what are you going to do about university?"
"I've been thinking about what to do. I could withdraw or I could apply to study abroad."
"Then you won't return soon."
Naru smiled wryly.
"It'll be impossible for a while."
As I expected…
"If nothing else, my parents wouldn't like it. I'll have to stay for a while."
"I suppose so."
Only one half of the twins remained at home. It's unlikely they'd let him stay in such a distance country forever.
"Um, I heard they're not your real parents..."
"That's right. I'm adopted."
"That means you were an orphan."
When I said that, Naru lightly raised his brows.
"Just like you, right?"
"Hey, is that maybe why you gave me a part-time job?"
"What's the saying? Mutual sympathy? Mutual pity?"
"Fellow sufferers pity each other."
"I heard you were an orphan from your school principal. Although, I thought your living conditions were much harsher."
"Were yours harsh?"
"The orphanage? It was terrible. On top of that, I was a problem child."
"I see. ...Thank you. It helped a great deal, actually."
"That's good. —Anyway, there was room left in the budget. And we really didn't have enough workers."
"The 'SPR' is rich."
"We're different among research institutes. I'm special."
"I've been given an annual research budget of approximately 100, 000 pounds by a certain individual."
"Oh? How much is a 100, 000 pounds?"
"One pound is about 230 yen. You don't know something like that?"
It's different when it's the dollar, but I don't usually know something like the pound.
"To be exact, it's a 150, 000 US dollars."
"One dollar is about 160 yen, right?"
Humph! I know that much.
"So. That means 150, 000 is..."
Umm… is there no paper? Paper!
"Twenty-four million. You really are stupid."
After I said that, my face went pale. The sorrow of a commoner.
"Tw—twenty-four… million yen!?"
"That's not such a large amount."
"It's gone after buying one camera."
"Your sense on money matters is abnormal."
"I may use it at my discretion, though it doesn't cover the cost of living."
"Well, of course."
I said, then looked around the room.
"What about the cost to stay here?"
"It's covered by benevolent contributions."
"I'd like to see the face of the person who gives you benevolence like it's water."
"There are some who are good at judging people."
"If I act the part, I might be able to get double the current amount."
He had an oddly serious tone, so I inadvertently sighed.
We finished packing in time, and when we hurried into the small room at the hotel restaurant, everyone was already present.
"Mai~ I heard."
Ayako waved her hand.
"The office is staying, right?"
"Yeah. That's right~"
"Isn't that great? You don't have to worry about supporting yourself."
"Lucky you. You don't have to worry about me leeching off of you."
"My purse isn't so small as to be troubled by a petty bourgeois like you leeching off of me."
...Oh? That's good to know. I'll leech off you, then.
As Mori-san handed me a glass,
"I'll be the stand in director for a while. Let's do our best."
Hehehe. It's going to be a friendly workplace.
"What are you going to do, Lin-san?"
After I asked, Lin-san remained expressionless,
"I'll be returning for a while."
"I see. Please be careful."
That's right. There was something I wanted to ask him before it's too late.
"Umm…, there was a time before when we talked about how you hate the Japanese, right?"
"At that time, was it Gene who said the same thing as me?"
After blinking for a moment, Lin-san nodded.
It's true. My and Gene's way of thinking is a little similar. Hehehe. I'm happy.
While we were at the campsite, Mori-san told me a lot of things about him and I liked him even more than before. There's no longer any hope, but there's also no chance of being rejected, so in a way, it might be a good deal.
As I was grinning like a fool, my gaze met Naru's. He looked slightly appalled.
"Just now, you were thinking I'm a simpleton, weren't you?"
"How well you understand."
Hmph. I'm just a simple-minded person.
"—Oh, that's right. I almost forgot."
Naru removed a small bundle from the inside pocket of his jacket.
Wrapped in a men's handkerchief, it was business card sized, and a bit thick and hard. When I opened it, it was the picture frame that Naru's mother had.
Pictured in the photo was Naru and him, who was smiling.
...My chest hurts. I'm happy. And sad.
"...What's with this?"
Ah, I don't even have a picture of him. Even a small group photo with him would be nice, so I wish I could keep this with me.
"Luella forgot it. I don't think she cares if I get rid of it."
"...I can have it?"
"I threw it away. I don't know what happened to it after that."
My hand's a garbage can?
...Oh, well. I'm happy.
Naru's a pretty nice guy after all. Eheheheh.
"What are grinning you about?"
Bou-san grasped me by the nape of the neck.
"It's a secret."
It'd be wasted on him, so I hid it.
"Oh? I'd like to hear it."
"Tell me. Give it up."
"—Did you know love continues until you forget the other person?"
Bou-san blinked a little in surprise, then grinned.
"You've gotten cheeky, haven't you?"
The pocket that concealed the picture frame was warm.
You can be in love even if you're alone, so I won't cry anymore.