Part 86: Admiration
content warning: threat of injury/death to elderly
BGM: Lion House Cafe
06/30 (SAT), Evening
Saturday, after school. We only have classes in the morning today, so the plan is to keep the store open all afternoon. I'll keep it open all tomorrow, too. It's been closed pretty often this week, so the least I can do is make sure it's running normal hours during weekends. Doing so reduces the risk of Scale trying anything funny, too. I doubt he'll take any risks with people in the store, not to mention the fact that the street outside is fairly busy. I told him loud and clear that I had every intention of eliminating him. It's entirely possible he'll let his emotions get the better of him and try to get information out of me through less civil means.
Do you mind if I have some coffee?
Naomi has come along with me today, too. We're taking a break from research today, so I told her to use her Saturday as she normally would, which led to her saying she wants to come over. I figure it'll be fine as long as she doesn't go home too late.
Sure, gimme a sec.
That makes Naomi my first customer of the day. Today's coffee is based on the blends you can get at standard coffee shops, but with a little arrangement done by my gran. We call it Gran's Blend. Not sour, per se, but very bitter. I make sure to brew it by following the notes she left for me, letting it steep for just the right amount of time before pouring it.
Oh wow, this one's delicious as well!
Phew... That's actually one of my gran's favorite blends. She told me it was about time I order ingredients for it when we last spoke.
Wait, does that mean...?
Yup. A relative of the person she's taking care of is heading there for a bit, so my gran might be able to come home for a day or so. I wanna make some coffee for her when she does. She'd always go on about how there's no bigger indulgence than sitting down with a cup of good coffee, so I want that experience to be my gift to her.
Ehehe! I guess I've been indulging myself a lot, then.
She offers a shy smile. We grew close after she said the coffee I made was delicious, now that I think about it. After our exchange, the day passes by at a relaxed pace. Naomi spends her time reading a book. Meanwhile, I deal with customers like normal and flip through a cook book whenever I have down time. Once done with her coffee, Naomi poses a question.
Th-This might sound weird, but... um, have you ever been in love before?
My voice quivers. This is not a topic I can deal with right now. I've been reading stuff with romance in it, but those don't bother me because it's not related to me. But when it is... Oh, boy...
Wh-What makes you ask?
Oh, the story I was just reading got me thinking. I was wondering what the difference between love and simply having an interest in someone is.
Sorry, but you're best off not relying on me for that. I'd be lying if I said I didn't care, but I've never given it a lot of thought before. How about you?
M-Me? Well... there is someone who's caught my interest, at least.
I never expected that. Then again, it'd make sense after she took charge for the culture festival. No doubt she made a lot more friends from that. She might have even gotten to know people from other schools. It could always be someone from her middle school, too.
It might just be admiration more than anything else, though... Not to mention the fact that there are plenty of hurdles to overcome in order to confess...
Miharu's face flashes through my mind unexpectedly. Can't blame Naomi for her reaction. I doubt gender is the first thing to come to mind.
I'm not too sure about all that myself, but I think the best way to get your feelings across is to give them a voice.
The fact that Miharu was able to do that and confess to me is amazing. Meanwhile, I still haven't been able to give her a reply. I'm such a loser. Ugh, just thinking about it is making me all embarrassed... That's why I try to forcefully change the topic.
So... who grabbed your interest?
Sorry. I shouldn't put you on the spot like that. Feel free to ask if something comes up, though. I'm not too reliable, but I'll do what I can to help.
Her cheery response helps me to settle down a bit. And it gets me thinking. This moment feels as normal as they come. Just a regular part of my daily life, almost as though we aren't in the midst of Divine Selection.
BGM: Rinka's Room
06/30 (SAT), Night
Once I send today's report to my gran, I return to my room and find Lethe inside.
You sure do turn up more often these days. Come here.
I slither into bed and curl up with Lethe. I doubt anyone would judge me for spending a day like this every now and then. Two hours of lazing about later, I decide to take a shower and go to sleep.
Lethe is nowhere to be seen after I finish my shower.
07/01 (SUN), Early Morning
Sunday. I get woken up by that godawful ringtone on my phone. It's ringing far earlier than my alarm, judging by the time displayed. I then notice that it's my gran calling, which jolts me awake. She's definitely not looking to chat if she's calling this early in the morning.
BGM: A Dot on a Piece of Paper
Maybe I messed up yesterday's report. That, or maybe something happened with the relative... Now I'm making myself nervous. After a deep breath, I accept the call.
A gasp of surprise slips out of my mouth. It isn't my gran's voice on the other end. It's Scale Jones's. He proceeds to speak, knowing I'm not about to waste time asking questions.
You'll never guess where I am. A little town up in the Tohoku region. One you might know quite well, actually.
He says the name of the town loud and clear. A small place with a small population, almost the exact opposite of Tokyo. It's where my gran was born, and where she's been since March.
I'm sitting here with your lovely grandmother. Well, maybe that's not entirely accurate. I've taken the liberty of confining her inside a car a couple miles outside of town.
I could kill an old bag of bones like her with ease, but I'd rather not. The last thing I want is to afford you the opportunity to bring her back by eliminating me. That's where the car comes in. I slipped her some medicine, so she's sleeping tight, nestled in with a briquette. Two secs.
He uses her phone to send me a picture of the situation. As he said, she's tied up in the back of a car with a coal briquette tucked under her arm. The windows are all taped up, too.
No... How could you...?
I know exactly what he's hinting at. He wants to kill her through carbon monoxide poisoning. That's... He can't...
Calm down, calm down. You know where I'm going with this, right?
You want my information, don't you? That way I won't be able to elect you!
You've got five minutes. Type up your cause of death and regret, along with the relevant information, and send it to me. She's a goner once those five minutes are up or if you send me information I can't make a card out of.
You realize you're at risk if you kill her, right? In fact, you already are if word gets out that you've kidnapped her.
Oh, don't worry. I'll be sure to pass this off as suicide. Though, let's say I do get caught. So what? I'll just be killed by you soon enough.
You've got two options here. Save granny, or let her die. Simple. Assuming my theory's correct, you won't be able to bring her back so long as I don't play a direct role in her death. But hey, who knows, I could be wrong. I certainly won't be giving you extra time to think it through. Five minutes and counting. Got it?
He ends the call right away.
I can't help but scream. He's got my grandmother. He's kidnapped my one and only family member. It might be possible to save her by eliminating him, even if worse comes to worst. I can't risk it, though!
What do I do...?
I'll never be able to live with myself if I let her die. There's no guarantee that I'll be able to bring her back. What's guaranteed is that she'll be safe if I die in her place. Ahh, it's all my fault. My inability to realize that he would target someone other than me or Naomi caused this. My hesitation to speak to her about Divine Selection out of fear that she wouldn't believe me caused this. It's my fault... All mine...
I open up the messaging app on my phone. My fingers are trembling so much that I can barely type. I don't have any time to waste, though. Just then, my phone rings. I think it is from my gran's phone at first, but it's a restricted number.