“Mikiya-kun, do you know about the Mother of Mifune?”
This was after a memorial party celebrating the completion of a hotel, the design of which our office was involved in.
Having returned to the dimly lit office, director Aozaki Touko, still wearing her dirtied evening dress, mentioned this delicately nostalgic name.
August 3rd, clear sky.
The sun, so bright that just looking up will daze you, engulfed the skyscraper cityscape in moist heat.
Today’s temperature, fixed at ‘uncomfortable’, was the year’s highest recorded.
Summer, which had finally entered its peak, shaved off the possessions of its pedestrians. Water, naturally, not to mention composure, calmness, and even peace of mind.
The overflowing shadows of people passing by were the sparsest in one particular place, and it seems, not only because of the sun’s rays.
Having passed ten in the morning, the day was entirely presided over by the blue sky. This heat will probably continue until the evening, but of course, you can always take refuge in the air-conditioned buildings. It was the right choice to meet with Shiki at that intimately familiar place, cafe Ahnenerbe.
The vain search for the Mother of Mifune had ended, but at least this had the result of determining that the person I’m looking for isn’t here.
I headed to our rendezvous, moving from a small side street between the buildings not quite dark enough to be called an alley, to a larger road.
– The Mother of Mifune was a famous street fortune-teller from some time ago. I remember she used to set up shop around here until my second year of high school. There was nothing that I had needed from her, but the girls of the class fairly seriously depended on her, so if nothing else I remember that name.
There was a boom in fortune-telling at the time, but the woman called the Mother of Mifune had apparently been around for a long time, appearing frequently with her fortune-telling on a whim.
She wasn’t a famous fortune-teller because of her appearance or the accuracy of her tellings. She was proficient not in telling the future, but in avoiding tragedies.
‘You will soon be in a perilous situation with your lover. Two days from now, actually. What, you’re still not fed up with him yet? You want to be together even though you have to compromise? Well, then go on a trip for three days. Alone. And don’t forget the souvenirs.’
…And just like that, the tragedy would be completely averted with this sort of frank advice.
Despite this her fortune-tellings are, paradoxically, high-praised as 100% accurate. However, according to the sullen Mother of Mifune herself, ‘I’m not predicting the future, so stop saying pointless things like that.” After that, fans of hers stopped spreading rumours outside their own circle of friends, and she wasn’t given higher praise than she deserved.
Even with her fame, recently there have been almost no news of her. Maybe she found a new haunt; maybe she was only a figure of legend in the minds of high school girls. The Mother of Mifune, who had been here two years ago, vanished without a trace.
“…Well, most of a fortune-teller’s business is done at night. I wonder why Touko-san is interested in a fortune-teller…”
A constant booming sound shook my eardrums.
The corner just before the shortcut into Ahnenerbe was under construction. A section of the road was completely blocked off… I’m not a fortune-teller, but it would be better for this sort of work to be done at night if the road has a lot of traffic. Maybe it’s because of the summer heat, but I’m complaining a lot for no reason.
After walking for about ten minutes, I reached the exit I remember by sight.
A white light shone, so bright that for an instant it reminded me of waking up from sleep.
Unlike the small path covered by the shadows of other buildings, the sunlight was unforgiving on the road. The rays reflecting off the sides of buildings turned to heat, scorching the asphalt.
The road at noon flowed with all sorts of pedestrians.
As it was summer time, there were more teenagers in casual wear than workers in suits.
Each of them, with their different experiences of the same day, saw and took in the crowd, and processed it as a single view. It’s the same with me. You would waste the entire day if you cared about every single person passing by.
Our lack of concern for the people around us may be a virtue twisted by modernisation, but that wasn’t it. Of course, we always keep a certain distance when faced with others; otherwise we would lose focus of our own selves. This has been the truth all along. If you were empathic towards everything else, you would fall from your place as the leading character.
Because of this, even if the ‘someone’ passing by had a horrible expression, obviously you should ignore it to the best of your abilities to continuing living life without hindrance… I guess this is common sense.
I know that I’m just an average person. But, if I purposely overlook someone clearly in trouble, I get the feeling that I failed to live up to my own standards.
If, right in front of the cafe I was heading to, there was a girl clinging to the arm of a man in his thirties and looking like she was about to cry, I have to try and do something.
There was a small empty spot in the road. The crowd avoided the pair, moving around them; the man, and the girl holding onto his arm, looked as though they were on a circular stage.
The man scolded her, sounding irritated, but the girl, her face a pale white, desperately pleaded with him about something.
Right, then. I lightly, calmly walked towards the stage.
It occurred to me that just a little while ago, two angry voices came together and told me off for being ‘too soft’. But in this case, even if it wasn’t me, I think someone else would intervene and try to settle things.
“Um, excuse me. What’s going on here?”
Both the man and the girl turned to face me.
His irritated expression reversed, the man uncomfortably averted my gaze.
The girl, teary-eyed, stared dumbly at the abrupt appearance of a third party.
“…What, do you know this girl?”
“Sorry, I’m just passing by. I might be intruding, but I couldn’t just let this pass. Did something happen with her?”
I apologise for my impoliteness again, questioning him as gently as possible. The man looked even more awkward. Judging from this, he doesn’t seem to be a short-tempered person.
“What? Uh, nothing happened. I didn’t – I was just walking, and this girl suddenly started hassling me.”
The girl’s head drooped at the man’s words.
It seems the one who was swept off by fate was not the girl, but the man. He was just holding a bag when suddenly, the girl started clinging onto it.
‘Holding onto that bag isn’t safe.’
The girl called out, stopping the man; he lost his temper when she refused to let go no matter what he said, and was just about to force the issue.
“Um… is that true?”
When I asked her, the girl nodded, replying ‘yes’ in a weak voice.
“You see? It’s not like I wanted to argue with a kid. I’m the victim here.”
“But, it’s true! If you keep holding onto that bag, how should I put it… you’ll be hurt in an accident. Um, to say it lightly, you’ll get minced by a dump truck!”
“This is summer, all right… take care of this weird girl for me, will you? I don’t have that much time on my hands!”
He sounded aggravated, as though he couldn’t tolerant the girl’s constant attitude…. I take back what I said. He doesn’t seem like a short-tempered person, but he doesn’t have a great deal of patience, either.
“Please wait. People don’t normally say these things without a reason, do they? Why do you think that will happen?”
She dropped her gaze and did nothing to explain herself, as though she felt guilty; she just desparately held onto the bag with her small hands. Even the defendant has given up hope.
Tired of her suspicious actions, the man pulled the bag away from the girl’s hands.
“Are we done? I’ll leave this to you. Tell her she should be thankful I didn’t have to hit her!”
“Please, um, at least don’t use the shortcut! Also, please reconsider your line of work!”
“Shut up! I’ll call the cops, you stupid girl!”
The girl’s shoulders shook with fear at the man’s shout.
With a last disparagement and abuse, the man walked away angrily.
Now it’s just me and the whimpering, short-haired girl.
“Are you okay?”
“Yes… um, I’m sorry. Thank you for coming here, you really helped me out.”
She quickly lowered her head in a nervous bow. The gesture reminded me of a puppy.
“But please excuse me, I have to go after him! Even that horrible man has a family who will grieve for him!”
– Even as she became more crestfallen, the girl took hold of herself, and raised her face. A stranger had gotten angry with her. Even though she was scared, she still wants to chase after him, tears in her eyes.
“Hold on. If you stop him again, he won’t hold back.”
“Um… that’s scary, but… I just, have to do what’s right, or I’ll be selling myself cheap.”
“Well, that’s a good attitude to have. But before you do that, let me ask one more time. Why do you think that man will be in danger?”
The girl hesitated again.
Crying not only because she was yelled at, but at a helpless sense of isolation,
“…Just, somehow. I have a good intuition. That man will get in an accident at the construction site ahead because of that bag; I just get that feeling.”
the girl spoke from her heart, wearing the loneliest face in the world.
I know that face.
The hope, of wanting to be believed…
…and the despair, of knowing that no one will ever trust her.
Just one step short of tears, and desperately hoping for something to stop her in her tracks.
It was quite a while ago.
It was the rain-stricken face of the girl who cried out to the winter night that she couldn’t do it.
“I’m surprised. Is that really intuition? I can see why he got angry.”
The girl began to speak, then frantically swallowed her words.
The way she hung her head after losing heart really reminded me of a puppy.
“But that is a problem. Is it all right if I talked to him instead?”
I pointed my finger at the dumbfounded girl who raised her head again.
“You can stay here. It might complicate things if I brought you along. I’ll report back if everything goes well.”
“Um, wha, you, huh…?!”
Leaving the shaken girl behind, I went after the man.
I couldn’t see him anymore, but if the girl’s words are true, there’s no way I can lose him. After all, the place he’s heading to is the one I just passed moments ago.