Chapter 2: Love Letter
The very embodiment of water and oil, Suizenji Kunihiro and Sudou Akiho bickered whenever they came face to face with each other. However, between the two they did have a few things in common.
First: they were both good at rock-paper-scissors.
Second: they both possessed voracious appetites.
The way Suizenji devoured his food, you’d think that he had bugs living in his stomach, and the way Akiho devoured her food, you’d think that she had a bunch of kids in hers. The “Shimizu” diner nearby Sonohara Middle School was like the Newspaper Club’s second clubroom. Asaba, the only one who ate normal-sized servings of rice with no second helpings, was constantly teased by the old lady who ran the place. It was only natural that Suizenji, a healthy young man with a full-bodied physique, ate extra large servings; but it was even more amazing that Akiho ate just as much as he did. The two of them always had mind-bogglingly huge bento boxes, and were constantly munching on something in the clubroom. Standing on the sidelines observing, it was indeed odd that even though they ate that much, they didn’t put on any weight at all. But Asaba thought of this as more of a matter of “how much vigor they put into living life each and every day.”
And today, yet again, Suizenji arrived at the clubroom with food in hand. He wolfed down an anpan1 and a pork-cutlet sandwich, and chugged a bottle of unhealthy-looking colored juice.
“Iriya, Kanaaa?” Suizenji contemplated for less than a second, and declared, “What kind of porn star is she? Amateur?”
“You’re one to talk, having a name like an Enka2 singer,” Asaba thought silently. “Never mind, forget it,” he replied.
Asaba sulked and looked away. “Asking the President for advice was a mistake in the first place,” Asaba thought to himself. Suizenji pulled out three onigiri3 from the school store bag and began to munch on them. After scarfing down two of them, he glanced at Asaba from the corner of his eye.
Suizenji’s Adam’s apple shifted abruptly, and he instantaneously cleared his full mouth.
“What is it?”
“Upon opening the gates of my heart and listening carefully, the sigh of a distressed young boy who wishes to share his inner thoughts comes drifting my way. Or is this just my imagination?”
“It’s just your imagination.”
Suizenji withdrew all too easily. This time, he pulled out a yakisoba cup from the school store bag, and started to pour boiling water into it with Akiho’s personal electric water kettle. Staring at Suizenji with a half-amazed expression, Asaba mused over the thoughts he had carried over from the classroom.
“At any rate, I’d like an opportunity to talk with Iriya,” he thought to himself.
“First off, I want to apologize to her. I have a ton of things I want to ask her, and if she really is isolated from the rest of the class, then I’d like to at least be someone she can talk to,” he thought. That being said, he really didn’t like the idea of being shunned together with Iriya. Even if Akiho were to call him a huge coward, he couldn’t help thinking that way.
He racked his brains. “If only there was an excuse I could use to talk to her,” he thought. “An excuse so that even if I talked with Iriya in front of everyone, it wouldn’t arouse their ire.”
“Anyway, you’re eating a lot today too, huh?” Asaba changed the subject.
Suizenji, who had been disposing of the yakisoba cup’s boiling water out the window, turned around quickly. “I got called out suddenly during lunch break, so I didn’t have any time to eat.”
“You got called out? By who? By a teacher? By a bunch of thugs?”
“A first year girl. We ate a really fancy homemade bento together.”
“So you did eat,” Asaba muttered.
“That’s pretty rare for this time of the year,” Asaba thought to himself. “The ‘Hot and Popular Suizenji Phenomenon’ that inevitably takes place early spring among new female students usually dies down by itself around the middle of first semester. Suizenji’s personality usually spreads and makes itself known by then, but occasionally there’s the sort of girl who becomes obsessed and continues to be misled, only to hand him an exceedingly out-of-fashion love letter.”
“Well? How was it?”
“Terrible. Like I’d get full eating that tiny thing.”
“No, not that, I meant how was it talking to her.”
“Not worth speaking of. In the end, the name Jesse Marcel4 didn’t come up. She’s not my enemy.”
“Suizenji-san. Why is it that when you’re together with a girl eating her handmade bento that she poured her heart into, you talk about the Roswell Incident?” Asaba thought in his mind.
With a Buddhist-like state of mind, Asaba extended his condolences to the unnamed and mysterious first year girl. “Live strong,” he thought. And with that, his earlier thoughts were reaffirmed: “it would be useless to ask the President for advice about Iriya. Suppose he even does listen seriously to what I have to say. The most he’s going to say is crap like,
‘If you want to apologize, go apologize.’
‘If you have something you want to ask, go ask.’
‘If you want to be someone she can talk to, go be it. Don’t mind other people.’”
Asaba felt that, in a way, that advice was extremely appropriate. But, if he were actually capable of that, he wouldn’t be worrying in the first place.
Suizenji ceased picking up noodles with his chopsticks, and, suddenly remembering something, declared, “Yo, speaking of which, where’s Correspondent Sudou?”
“Huh? Ohh, right. Akiho said that she’d be staying late doing Air Defense Committee stuff, so she’d just head straight home today.”
Suizenji clicked his tongue. “I see. Disaster drills are tomorrow, huh?”
“You mean air raid drills, right?”
“Don’t be stupid. What part of those things are ‘air defense?’ Doing crap like lining up in the hallway when the siren rings, holding our heads and turning into turtles, waddling to the front of the shelter, lining up and counting how many people there are. If you could survive an airstrike with those idiotic drills, nobody would be suffering right now. No matter how much you believe in it, it won’t do a damn thing for earthquakes, thunder, fires, or fathers5.”
Suizenji reclined in his chair and looked up at the ceiling. “Damn, just skip that stupid committee meeting. Without her here, we can’t even decide on the layout for the next issue.”
“Oh, that’s right. What are we going to do for next issue’s featured article? The mountain camp was a complete wash, and we can’t write an article about just camping, right?”
“Hmmmm,” Suizenji deliberated. “Correspondent Asaba. Are you free next Saturday and Sunday?”
“Yeeaahhh, for the time being.”
Suizenji leaned forward, causing his chair to creak. “Correspondent Asaba. Since it’s come to this, how does sneaking into Sonohara Base’s restricted areas with a camera in hand and taking as many pictures as we want of UFO wreckages and alien corpses sound to you?”
Asaba answered bluntly, “We’ll get caught, 100%. If you’re going to do it, please do it by yourself, President.”
“As long as we can take pictures, who cares if we get caught, right?”
“If our film gets confiscated, wouldn’t it be the same as not being able to take any pictures at all? Let me just tell you, if we get arrested on a USAF facility, Japanese juvenile laws won’t amount to anything in there. We’ll definitely get handcuffed and thrown into interrogation rooms. Even your specialty asshole will get searched.”
Regarding this “specialty asshole,” allow me to elaborate. This year’s spring, during the “Spiritual Phenomena” Suizenji boom, there was an incident where Suizenji and Asaba snuck into the girls’ restroom at a train station that was rumored to have ghost appearances in order to gather data, when they had the police called on them.
This wasn’t included in the article in May’s issue, but, unfortunately, at that moment in time Suizenji and Asaba were cross-dressing as women. Naturally, this was Suizenji’s idea. The reason for this wasn’t because they were sneaking into the girls’ restroom to gather data, but rather, because, according to rumors, the ghost in question was “the ghost of an office lady who was brokenhearted and hung herself,” and “would strangle from behind any woman who entered the girls’ restroom who was more beautiful than herself.” Asaba, who was wearing his little sister’s uniform that he had brought, already looked suspicious enough, but Suizenji, who was about 175cm tall and outfitted with a “mother going shopping” look, was just a horror to behold. Someone from the neighborhood noticed them and called the police, and Asaba panicked when he saw the patrol car and ran like a madman. However, Suizenji didn’t move a step, voluntarily provided the officer with his student I.D., and declared, “I am a journalist in the middle of gathering data for a case.” Suizenji was taken to the Sonohara Police Station and given a grave warning. The next day, after school, Suizenji triumphantly returned to the clubroom with a grand smile, took out a roll of film from his pocket and threw it to Asaba.
“Th-this! Could this be the film from last night!? How did it not get confiscated!? Where did you hide it!?”
With a smile that seemed to declare, “This is a victory for journalism,” Suizenji answered in a thundering voice that shook the clubroom building, “In my asshole!!”
Ultimately, that film ended up not being used in the article. Akiho, in a fit of rage, used a pair of utility gloves and flung the film into the incinerator. But even now, Asaba thought the whole thing was quite a shame. Even if they didn’t include it in the newspaper, he at least wanted to have the film developed.
Perhaps there might have been something in the photos.
Some otherworldly being.
“How naïve, Correspondent Asaba. There are many more ‘holes’ other than the one between your butt cheeks.” Suizenji laughed defiantly, holding his yakisoba cup in his hand. “For instance, if you use a digital camera, a laptop, and your cellphone, all you have to do is send the photos you took outside of the base using FTP. As long as your laptop doesn’t leave a log, even if we get arrested the image files will be preserved.”
“We’ll just end up getting tortured.”
“Correspondent Asaba. Do you not desire to ascertain the true identity of the foo fighter? As a journalist, do you not desire to be thrown to the ground and to be Mirandized at least once? Ohh maaan, just thinking about it gives me the chills.”
Not knowing whether Suizenji’s comments were serious or not was quite frightening. Right when he was seriously considering putting a stop to the madness,
“Ah.” Asaba finally realized. “I see. I should probably ask Iriya.”
Suizenji had a puzzled look. “Correspondent Asaba. What are you talking about?”
“Umm, long story short, a transfer student joined our class today. A girl named Iriya Kana, whose brother works as an officer or something for the JASDF. They’re living in Sonohara Base’s residential zone at the moment. Restricted areas are probably no good, but if it’s just to observe the base, maybe if we ask her—”
“CORRESPONDENT ASABA!! WHY DIDN’T YOU BRING THIS UP EARLIER!?”
Asaba tumbled off of his chair. Suizenji hurled his half-eaten yakisoba cup across the room and stood up. He raced to the corkboard hanging on the wall, added an “Iriya” column to the “Great Finds Chart,” and suddenly pasted 10 stickers under it.
“Follow me, Correspondent Asaba!!”
Suizenji bolted out of the clubroom. Completely clueless as to what was going on, Asaba chased after him, but there was no way that a guy like Asaba could keep up with Suizenji’s full speed, considering that he ran an 11 second 100 meter dash. Cutting across the schoolyard and leaping through the doors, Asaba lost sight of Suizenji’s back around the first corner he turned. But, wherever Suizenji went, he left a wake of girls screaming, “Kyaaah,” and “Uwaaah,” so Asaba had a general idea of where he was going.
Gasping for breath, Asaba arrived at Class 2-4. The sunset pouring through the windows stained the room.
The few remaining students in the classroom were all dumbfounded by Suizenji’s sudden appearance.
Suizenji slowly looked around the classroom. “Correspondent Asaba. Which one is the transfer student from outer space?
Asaba hadn’t said a word about any of that, but it seemed that Suizenji already had his mind set.
“I-Iriya, was called, t-to the office, during fifth period, and went home early,” Asaba panted.
“Correspondent Asaba. No other clubs have set their eyes on this transfer student yet, correct?”
Trying his best to catch his breath, Asaba shook his head. “I didn’t exactly make sure, but there’s no reason for any club to scout out Iriya,” he thought to himself. “And I don’t think Iriya herself has shown any signs of wanting to join other clubs.”
“President, do you want Iriya to—”
Suizenji declared bluntly, “Heck yeah. Our club will be taking that transfer student. We can’t let those other clubs get the jump on us. Our Sonohara Radio Wave Newspaper Club is always in need of brilliant individuals.”
“What will we do if the actual person herself doesn’t want to?” Asaba thought.
However, he also saw another way of thinking about it. “If Iriya were to join the Newspaper Club, wouldn’t that be ‘an excuse so that even if I talked with Iriya in front of everyone, it wouldn’t arouse their ire?’”
He further contemplated. “If Iriya were to join the Newspaper Club, something about this completely inexplicable situation might be revealed. Whatever that might be, if I throw Suizenji into the fire, it’ll serve as a catalyst for the chemical reaction, and some kind of conclusion will reveal itself.”
Bathing in the sunlight shining on his face, Suizenji cackled defiantly.
The first day of second semester was finally over.
The cicadas were chirping.
1. Anpan: Japanese sweet roll most commonly filled with red bean paste.
2. Enka: a popular Japanese music genre considered to resemble traditional Japanese music stylistically.
3. Onigiri: a Japanese food made from white rice formed into triangular or oval shapes and often wrapped in nori.
4. Jesse Marcel: man who voiced his suspicion that debris he recovered on a ranch near Roswell in 1947 was “not of this world.”
5. A list of things that are generally feared.
6. The Miranda warning, also referred to as Miranda rights, is a warning given by police in the United States to criminal suspects in police custody (or in a custodial interrogation) before they are interrogated to preserve the admissibility of their statements against them in criminal proceedings.