Part 64: Kid - Second Day - Part 5TrackZweitestock
"Yeah...but where do you plan to hide?"
"I'm thinking about that as we speak."
We kept running.
"Alright. What are we gonna do?"
As we scanned the area for trouble we looked for a hiding place.
"Unless we hide somewhere unexpected, he'll find us right away."
"Well, let's go in a room for now."
As I said that I heard something.
"Somebody is coming?"
"It's probably Mayo and Sora."
We peered through the darkness in the direction of the sound. We could see someone's silhouette. That build could only be...
"No. It's Takeshi!"
"Hurry! We've gotta hide!"
It was the elevator hall.
"What're we gonna do? There's nowhere to hide."
Takeshi steadily approached.
"I know! Let's hide in there!"
You's finger was pointing...at the elevator that was stuck on its way to Zweite stock. It was the one that Sara had been stuck in the day before. The door was still open. First You lifted me on her shoulders and I hurried into the elevator. Then I pulled her up.
So we were able to hide just an instant before Takeshi came.
No emergency light even lit the elevator. Just profound darkness...and silence... I could hear You crouched next to me, breathing. I thought I could almost hear my heart.
"I...I hope he doesn't find us."
"Ssshhh! He's here."
It seemed that he hadn't pinned down our position. He was still glancing around. My heart rate rocketed. It pounded in my ears. I put my hand on my chest as if to hold it in check.
(Oh...oh...please don't let him find us...!)
Takeshi just stood there. It was as if he were sure that we were around.
"That's strange. I coulda sworn I heard footsteps over here. I guess it was just my imagination."
It looked like he had finally given up.
Just as I thought the crisis had passed.
A sneeze welled up inside me.
I clamped my hand on my mouth as I desperately tried to hold it back.
...Somehow I had managed to keep it in.
"Tee, hee, hee..."
"He found us! Run!!"
Where could we run?
"No problem! Leave it to me!"
The next instant You threw herself out of the elevator.
You made a spectacular dive...turning it into a stunning drop kick!
We fought well, but Takeshi found us.
A short while later he found Sara and Sora, too.
"Alright! Now I just need to get Tsugumi."
Takeshi stepped on the can, looking satisfied.
"Still, it's kinda weird..."
"Weird? What is?"
"The can when it was kicked before...it was still in the same place."
"Huh? I don't know what you are trying to say."
"I mean that the can should have been kicked, but it was still standing up!"
Takeshi said this as he squished the can some more.
"It was like no one had kicked it."
"Isn't it likely that the can was toppled and righted itself? Theoretically it is quite possible."
"In the same place I put it?"
"But shouldn't you go looking for Tsugumi?"
"Yeah. If you're gonna be a sore loser, you should at least go do that."
"I'm not the loser here - you guys are!"
"Whatever. You're right. It's exactly as you say..."
"We got it already. Now get out of here and search."
You and Sara waved Takeshi away.
"Geez. You are so full of yourself.... It doesn't even feel like I won..."
Takeshi left the room grumbling. Soon after that -
Clatter, clatter, clatter...
The sound of a can being kicked rang out in the darkness.
"Wh-what was that?"
"I have no idea, but..."
"Now is our chance!"
"Do...do you think we should...?"
"I wonder...if it's okay?"
In the confusion we made our third escape.
We heard Takeshi shouting soon after. Of course, neither I, You, Sara nor Sora...none of us had kicked the can.
'Oh, that had to be Tsugumi again. She probably sneaked into the room without anybody noticing.'
That was what we thought.
Ultimately, Takeshi soon caught us again. He howled that we had cheated and started out to find us right away, so we didn't get far. Takeshi checked to make sure everyone was there and stepped on the can (even once for Tsugumi.) The next time nobody kicked the can....
"Alright. So I count to one hundred, right?"
"Alright, here I go... O-n-e, t-w-o, t-h-r-e-e..."
They left the Conference Room fleeing around the floor.
I set the empty can by my feet. It was as far from the entrance as I could get it. Scanning the dark area around me, I didn't see anyone.
(Well, I guess I'll go looking...)
Yep, more location choices. Well be visiting the Ruins, the Rest Area, and the Control Room.
This attraction was designed with the motif of a lost continent believed to have sunk to the ocean floor ages ago. Standing there in the darkness in that eerie setting, it almost made me imagine that I had sunk to the bottom of the ocean. No, that was only half true.
Huh? It sounded like a footstep.
(Is someone there...?)
I wondered if it were my imagination. It wasn't. In the darkness...in the building in front of me was the dim outline of a person. But in that light and at that distance, I couldn't be sure who it was. It was like the person was holding their breath waiting for me not to notice. But he or she looked like she was ready to dash off in an instant. I thought that if I bumbled closer, the person would run away. I'd have to figure out who it was from afar... Uh...it had to be...
"You...I found you!"
As if it had given up, the silhouette started toward me.
"How did you know it was me?"
It looked like my hunch had paid off.
At first it looked like there was no one there either...But... Then I noticed something. One of the stone pillars silhouettes in the open area was an odd shape. No, it was the top of the pillar that had something strange about it. I edged closer.
There was definitely something there. From where I was, I couldn't tell exactly what that 'something' was, but it was definitely a person. Maybe they thought they were acting like a koala. What did they intend to do if they fell?
(I mean, can you really call that hiding?)
I called out to that clinging 'something.'
"Uh, isn't that tiring? It sure looks dangerous."
"But you sure have got a lot of guts. You're tougher than I thought, Takeshi."
"Arrrggh...! How'd you know it was me?"
Takeshi slid down the column.
(The only person stupid enough to hide there was Takeshi.)
I didn't think there was anywhere there for anyone to hide...
The room was set up with the center surrounded by a giant monitor and console. There was Tsugumi. She sat sloughing in her chair staring blankly at the monitor.
"Tsugumi, I caught you!"
At my declaration, Tsugumi looked at me like I was a fly in her soup.
She glared at me.
"I'm not playing."
"Come on. You already kicked the can twice."
Takeshi might have fallen for it, but not me.
I walked around Dritte stock looking for the two of them.
I heard footsteps in the direction of the Conference Room. I was sure it was Sara.
(Gosh, I hope she isn't planning to kick the can!?)
I made a mad dash for the Conference Room. At the entrance to the room - the two of them were just at the door - - Sara and Sora. I sprinted into the room on their heels.
Pata, pata, pata...
But Sara just ignored me and kept running. Her eyes were on the can. It was as if she knew where the can was.
(D-damn! I thought I changed the location of the can.)
I also ran toward the can.
Pata, pata, pata...
Would she kick the can first? Or would I step on it first?
The next thing that I noticed, I was on top of Sara. Sara's eyes were open, staring at me. I barely managed to support my body with my arms so that I didn't come into contact with her, but... Her face was closer to me than I had ever imagined.
I felt like I might be sucked into her eyes and was captivated by her cute nose, slightly opened lips and glimpse of her tongue...
I felt her breath on my face. She had been running until that time and I felt the heat rising from her skin. It smelled of sweat. The smell of our sweat mixed together. I felt the warmth of her body against me. It was hard to breathe...my mind started to go blank. My whole body stiffened and I couldn't move. It was as if our bodies were paralyzed as we lay there staring at each other.
(Oh...oh...danger! She's mad...)
This was not what I should have been worrying about. The can...? Where was the can? I turned by neck searching for the can.
There it was!
"Sara and Sora! I gotcha!"
And I stepped on the can triumphantly.
"That was twice as fast as Takeshi."
"When I was 'it' everybody was cheating."
"Wow. I can't believe you guessed everybody right in the dark. It's pretty amazing."
Everyone crowded around me and started making a fuss.
"Nakkyu...what are you talking about?"
"Oh, Mayo, you don't know? This kid..."
As You placed her hand on my head, she explained about how I had caught her and Takeshi.
"Hey, Tsugumi! Give it up. Why don't you just come out and admit you were playing too?"
At some point Tsugumi had returned to the Conference Room. Tsugumi sat in a chair pretending to be asleep and ignored Takeshi. I felt someone watching me and turned around.
Sara was looking at me strangely. I thought she might be angry again...
(It was just an accident...)
I avoided her look uncomfortably.
In the end, it remained a mystery who kicked the can those times... We passed the rest of the night uneventfully... It was a peaceful time... And I decided to enjoy a satisfying rest.
I scooped up water with both hands and splashed it on my face. The instant it made contact, it sent a sharp shock to my brain.
I snapped open my eyes, completely awake. I thought I had (probably) repeated this ritual several thousands of times. It was my way of refreshing myself in the morning. I lifted my face and wiped it with the towel. A smooth white counter, a sink...and a finely cracked mirror. I stared foggily at my reflection in the mirror.
"Hey, don't look so depressed Takeshi."
"Nah. I'm just tired is all."
"Well, a lot's happened in the last couple of days. Are you tired?"
"I'm alright. I just need to wake up is all. See ya."
Saying that he headed off to the bathroom.
The two of them seemed wired.
"Hey, Kid. You don't seem very good? You having trouble waking up?"
"No. I'm awake."
"I know. He's not a morning person or maybe he's got low blood pressure. Like me."
"I don't know about that..."
Sara sure didn't seem to have a problem with mornings. I was just glad that Sara appeared to be in a good mood.
"I know all about it. I hate mornings. They are like hell on earth. I have destroyed more alarm clocks than I can count..."
"Mayo is always in the worst mood in the morning. I thought she might kill me today."
"But Nakkyu got me in this wrestling hold..."
"Enough. There are children around."
...I was getting a headache. Maybe it WAS low blood pressure that made me not a morning person....
Finally, when Takeshi came back conversation turned to breakfast.
"But Tsugumi and Sora aren't here."
"That's true...but they'll probably show up eventually."
"With those two you're probably right."
"Everyone okay with hotdogs?"
"They have hotdogs here?"
"Well, I found a few in the back of the fridge. Must've been on the 'stealth menu.'"
With that, Takeshi disappeared inside the kiosk. It looked like Takeshi would be chef for another day. But...
"What in the...?"
Takeshi had let out a surprised yelp from inside. Looking into the shop, there was Takeshi frozen in front of the freezer with the door open.
"What's wrong is they're gone!"
"Gone? What are?"
"The stuff. The hotdog stuff. The sausages that were in here are gone."
"I'll bet they weren't there to start with."
"No. They were here when I checked last night. I found them when I made dinner last night."
"You think they were stolen?"
"Damn! Who would do something like that?"
Takeshi slammed the door violently shut.
"Calm down. We're not out of food. We'll just go with the regular menu."
"Just forget about it and start cookiiiing. I'm starviiiing."
You and I were of the same opinion. We weren't expecting hotdogs to begin with...and I was hungry. Takeshi still looked peeved. Maybe it was because he was hungry too. The first thing we had to do was fill our stomachs. In the end, we gave up on hotdogs and went with our standby menu - chicken sandwiches - for breakfast.
You and Sara were especially boisterous. Takeshi said that the two of them easily made as much noise as three or more people. But that was just Takeshi being himself... The two of them never seemed to run out of things to talk about and kept jabbering away cheerfully about the most meaningless things.
"Hey, Nakkyu. Do you remember Mr. Konishi, that teacher at our school."
"Konishi? Oh, you mean Konnie? The music teacher that was built like a tank and a completely crazy animal lover."
"Yeah. That Konnie."
"He's still there. He's been around for ages."
"You know what? The other day he bought a robotic dog."
"No kidding? He did? That mechanic phobe?"
"Yeah. But his pets kept dying on him. And he'd take time off...I think it just wore him down."
"When I was still going to that school, he was trying to bring one of his pets back through cloning."
"But that clone got sick and died, too. I swear he's cursed."
"But really, that Konnie...I tell you, that robot dog looks so much like the real thing that I'll bet he is treating it like a normal pet."
"Hey, didn't you have a robotic dog at your house?"
"Yup, sure do. Actually, it's my mom's though..."
"I think it's one of those really old types, but it just keeps ticking along happily. It never breaks. Thinking back on it, Mayo, you never came over to my house to play, did you? You have to next time. I'll show you it."
"You can come over anytime. We're friends, right?"
"Hey, can I ask you something?"
Just then Takeshi jumped into their conversation.
"You two seem to be close, but how do you know each other?"
"Oh? We didn't tell you?"
Takeshi shook his head as he gulped down cola.
"You and Sara are from the same school. You graduated already. I think she said she was at Kyumeikan Girls High School until this last March..."
I answered for them, but You nodded. And when You was a senior, Sara entered the school as a scholarship student, You added.
"A scholarship student?"
I'd never heard that word before.
"Do...do you mean one of those people that sneaks in the backdoor?"
"You always have such a twisted take on everything."
"No I don't! I'm not half as mean-spirited as you."
"Due to my situation at home, I never really planned on going to high school..."
"But the principal of Kyumeikan was a friend of the family and helped get me in as a scholarship student."
"He didn't want her unpolished genius to go to waste."
It sounded like Sara was a bit of a protégé and sort of famous.
This and the information from the day before about Sara's computer skills made me think that she was might be on a different level than the rest of us.
"It's no... It's no big deal. Really."
Sara looked bored as she said it. Maybe it was no big deal for her...
"So you went to the same school but were in different classes? Were you on a team or in a club together or something?"
"Nakkyu was leader of the school club I joined as a freshman."
After eating the sandwiches, Sara held the pop can with both hands and gazed at the ceiling with a distant look in her eyes.
"That was a year ago. Right after I had entered Kyumeikan..."
A light wind made the cherry blossoms dance in the schoolyard as and dust gently tickled the nose. There were groups of new students walking packaged in starched new school uniforms and expressions full of nervousness and expectations. There were senior students eagerly calling out to them to join their clubs. It was probably a scene played out on most school campuses. As I let my imagination run wild I was looking around the campus trying to get a feel for my new surroundings. All of the sudden, from among the din of voices and activity someone called out to me.
"Hey, you there!"
I stopped. Looking in the direction of the voice was a girl student, her face one big smile. From the ribbon on her uniform it was clear she was a senior. Her hair was cut short enough that it just hid her ears. It also made her look like a go-getter. When I pointed at myself to see if she meant me, she nodded smiling.
"Yeah. I mean you."
The smiling girl approached me.
"Do you have a minute? Sure you do, right? If you are up for it, can I talk with you? Don't worry. It won't take much of your time."
What was it with this person? I wondered if she were trying to pick me up...or...I had a bad feeling about the situation. Seeing my skeptical face, the girl with the bobbed haircut tried to explain herself.
"Don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to...I simply wanted to... I was just wondering if you would like to join our club."
...So that was it. I wonder how many people had asked me the same question. I was pretty sick of the whole thing.
"No thank you. I'm not interested."
"Oh really? Have you already decided to join somewhere?"
"I've decided not to join anything."
"Oh, don't say that...won't you just come take a look at our club room?"
"No thank you."
"I'll bet you are wondering what our club is all about."
"Not in the least."
"Okay, okay. Just come take a look. We don't bite."
"Listen! Stop talking, shut up and come with me!"
So that persistent senior dragged me to their club room half by force.
"You got it."
"She hasn't changed a bit. I mean you're exactly the same, You."
"Be quiet. I was desperate then. There was nothing else I could do!"
"Why were you so eager to get Sara to join?"
"It...it was a matter of life or death for the club."
"It could have been the end of us."
"She means they were short on members and were about to fold."
"Oh, I see."
"I mean, including Nakkyu there were only three members."
"Ha, ha, ha! That's pretty grim."
"I was going to graduate that year so we had to get new members or we would have had to close. I just couldn't stand by and watch the club that we had built go to waste."
"Well, I guess I see what you mean."
"So, it was the only choice I had if our club was going to survive."
"So exactly what kind of club was it?"
"We were a robust model of an intelligent beacon of education while working in the public interest."
Takeshi took a swig of his cola.
"And? What did you guys do?"
"We were hackers."
"Stupid! Hacking is not robust and certainly isn't in 'the public interest'!"
"What are you talking about?"
"It's a crime, that's why."
"You don't know what you're talking about! Hacking isn't crime!"
"Huh? You sure?"
Takeshi looked at me. His eyes said, 'What the heck is she talking about?'