“Sorry I scared you.”
They were in the village’s police box. Yamato sat in front of a heater burning bright red. It’d been impossible to resist, since a physical struggle was what he had to avoid.
“There’s a young escaped prisoner carrying a gun, I got the message from headquarters.”
As he spoke, the kind policeman went into the kitchen to make a nighttime meal. “What are you doing, dry off your head. You’ll catch cold if you stay like that.” Next to Yamato was a towel he’d been given, but he didn’t use it. Even with the slightest contact, he could infect the man...
“Sounds like it’s been hard, in Makuhara.”
At the words, Yamato looked up abruptly. “Hard?”
“The cleanup after the earthquake. I heard they can’t make any progress at all, isn’t that right? Isn’t that why you left there, because you couldn’t stand it?”
Yamato stood up without answering. “Sorry, I should be going.”
The guard motioned him back. “Don’t worry. I can see you don’t have a gun. I’m not going to do something like turn you in.”
“So? What will you do? Where do you plan to go from here?”
“I see. Well, first of all, you should think about it carefully. Not just about the reason you escaped. It’s your life, so you should do what you like with it. You’re still young. You still have time to fix it, you can do anything.”
Yamato’s expression became grim. Young? Me? I can fix it, I can do do anything? Is that really true? Am I actually young? And do I - do we have a future?
But the policeman continued talking without realizing Yamato’s thoughts. Laughing, he said, “Listen to me, preaching at you. Maybe because I’m old? Talking to myself in the middle of the night, I’ve wanted to have someone else here. Here, eat this while it’s still hot.”
He put the food in front of Yamato. Steam was rising, and there was a delicious smell. Yamato’s stomach growled.
“You’re probably hungry. I can tell just looking at you. Don’t be modest, you’ll feel better once you eat.” Saying this, the policeman picked up the towel. “What’s with you, you still haven’t dried off.”
Yamato stood abruptly. “Don’t touch me!”
The policeman looked startled at this over-reaction, but he soon grew a wry smile. “You are a weird kid,” he said, and left for the toilet.
Left alone, Yamato stared at the delicious-looking pot of steaming soup. There was white rice, and miso soup, and pickled vegetables...
He reached out a hand without thinking. But, the thought of everyone waiting in Makuhara rose in his head. Takeru, Kiichi, Yuuri... everyone is waiting for me to come back. They’re eating cold canned food and waiting for me...
When the guard came out of the toilet, the food was still there just as he’d left it.
Yamato limped through the dark town. He noticed a phone booth, and after a second of hesitation, he entered and picked up the reciever.
“Hello?” After a long time ringing, he heard the familiar sound of Suzuko’s voice. “Who is this?”
But Yamato kept silent, just listening to her voice. Her tone changed suddenly.
“Yamato? Is that Yamato? It’s Yamato, right?”
Each time she said his name, it was like a lantern burning inside his chest.
She kept frantically calling. “Hello? Isn’t it Yamato? I’m right, aren’t I? Please, say something!” Her voice changed to the sound of crying.
Burning with his own painful thoughts, Yamato hung up the phone with a clatter.
Night ended. In the morning mist, the impressive gate printed with “NO ENTRY” loomed large. The guards stood as sternly as always.
A small figure came limping from the distance. It was Yamato. As one, they pointed their guns at him.
“You done with your stroll?” As he came up to the gate, one of the guards spoke to him sarcastically.
“I came back... I came home,” Yamato said decisively. The guard became indignant.
“What are you saying? We’re to kill you on sight, that’s the order. Ready, aim!”
With metallic sounds, every gun was pointed at Yamato. He closed his eyes. But before they could fire, Shibazaki appeared.
“So you’re the one who ran away.”
Seeing him up close, Yamato felt a strange lack of animosity. He was as expressionless as always, but there was the strange look in his eye of a man who has reached a decision.
“I didn’t run away. I went to buy the medicine you wouldn’t give us.”
Puzzled, Shibazaki led Yamato into a nearby tent. “Sit down.”
“Is it all right for it to be just the two of us?”
“It’s not because I trust you,” said Shibazaki, and pulled a gun out of his coat’s pocket. “Why did you come back?”
“Could we talk about this later? I want to get the medicine to my friend right away.”
“Is that really your purpose?”
Shibazaki watched him with sharp eyes, so Yamato answered clearly.
“You didn’t touch anyone while you were outside?”
Yamato shook his head.
“You didn’t tell anyone about this place?”
Yamato shook his head again. Shibazaki took a small breath.
“Itf that’s the case, then what you did was completely unreasonable. You could have been shot.”
“I couldn’t just watch silently while my friend died.”
Shibazaki was looking at him as though he were a strange sort of animal.
“Why didn’t you run away? You were outside. You didn’t consider going back to your own house?”
“I thought about it.”
“Then why not?”
“Because I had to save my friend.”
Shibazaki started to look surprised that this young person could answer him calmly, without fear.
“I’d heard that many of you inside have been fighting.”
“There’s not only people like that. There’s a few of us who don’t.”
“Can I please go back quickly?”
“You left as you pleased and want to go back in right away? That’s not possible. Whatever your reason, you broke the rules.” As soon as Shibazaki said this, Yamato held a hand out in front of the man’s face.
“I’ll touch you. If you don’t let me go back in, I’ll touch you.”
But Shibazaki’s expression didn’t change. The gun appeared in his hand pointed at Yamato.
“I’ll shoot you before you do.”
“Then I’ll touch you before I die.”
For a moment their gazes locked. Yamato didn’t know how long it lasted, but Shibazaki was the first to break. He put the gun away and stood.
“You’re the kind who doesn’t give up. Promise me one thing. Don’t try this again. Tell your friends the same thing.”
“If you promise me something.” At Yamato’s words, Shibazaki’s eyes became harsh again.
“What is it?”
“Please listen to our requests. Why couldn’t we get medicine? You can’t see the people who are injured or sick. You think if one of us dies, it can’t be helped?
After a moment of silence, Shibazaki, with an almost sad expression, opened his mouth.
“You don’t have enough faith in me. I’m not keeping all of you in quarantine for spite. If I could, I’d like to let you out.”
“Then why - “
“Until the time that we’re able to, I need you to obey me. That’s your duty. Maybe you don’t understand why. But believe that I’m trying to protect you.”
Leaving Yamato as unsettled as before, Shibazaki slowly left the tent.
On the other side of the gate, Yuuri was sitting by the roadside.
The rain had been falling continously since midnight, and she was shivering with cold, but she was still waiting for Yamato.
The gate swung open, and a figure could be seen. It was him!
Dragging his leg, but smiling, Yamato returned from the outside world. In his hand, he clutched the medicine.
Yuuri stood without thinking. A smile also came to her face. But the only words that came to her mouth were a sarcastic, “You’re late!”
They returned to the gym, Yamato leaning on Yuuri’s shoulder. The faces of the members waiting there brightened. “Yamato!”
Mori ran to him, grinning so hard his face wrinkled up. “Welcome home.”
“I’m back,” Yamato said, with a broad smile.
Akira and Makoto shook their heads in disbelief.
“He came back.”
“What an idiot.”
Takeru stood, and put his hand on Yamato’s shoulder. “What do you mean, just saying “I’m back.” you should have been back a long time ago.”
“I thought I would be. In the end I didn’t know what else to say.”
“You weren’t brave enough to run away?”
Kiichi, on the verge of tears, looked up at the two of them sharing a smile. Yamato sat beside him and pulled out the medicine.
“You’re still alive? You’ll be fine now.”
Kiichi tried to say something, but the words wouldn’t come out. Yamato was the same.
To cover up his embarassment, Yamato looked at everyone standing around them.
“You know, I was so surprised. The high school girls outside aren’t wearing loose socks anymore.”
“What are they wearing now?” asked Makoto, deeply interested.
Yamato answered dramatically, “Navy-blue knee socks.”
Everyone was smiling, sincerely from their heart. Mori and Makoto and Akira and Kiichi, even Yuuri.
But Takeru alone, troubled by something, had a strange expression on his face as he snuck glances over at the carefree laughing Yuuri.
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Our Courage, Chapter Five (part e)
“Sorry I scared you.”