Chapter 2 | Warmhearted People

“Good night.”

“Hey, good night! What happened to you? You’re bleeding!

“Oh, my God, you’re bleeding! Hey, you’re bleeding! Get the first aid kit!”

When the boy enters the newspaper delivery store where he works part-time, the employees, who had been smiling at him as a conditioned reflex, shout in surprise.

Even though they were in the middle of their work, many of them stopped and ran to the boy, eager to help him.

“Hey, you guys are in my way! Which one of you has stopped bleeding already, do you feel sick or have any aches or pains?”

A man in his fifties chases away a crowd of employees with a first-aid kit in his hand and checks the wound.

The boy shakes his head, and with a relieved look on his face, he quickly wipes off the blood and dirt and applies a large, square-shaped adhesive bandage to the wound.

When he is finished, the boy begins to prepare the newspaper for delivery, despite the men looking at him with concern.

Unlike at school or at home, the people here look at the boy warmly.

The people who work with him cannot possibly dislike a boy who works so hard and diligently at an age when he would not normally work, and with a much smaller body than average.

Despite their worries, this is a workplace.

Each person prepares their own deliveries and collections and begins sorting flyers for the next day.

“So, how did you get hurt? School, or home since you’re changing clothes, or did that guy hit you again?”

The man who was tending to him asks.

The boy shook his head without saying anything, but one could tell by the look on his face that it was the truth.

This man is the president of this newspaper company and the boy’s employer.

The boy started working at this newspaper delivery company when he was in the first year of junior high school.

It has already been almost two and a half years, so the employees have a rough idea of what is going on.

The boy, who was even younger than he is now, desperately asked to be allowed to work here, so naturally, they asked him why, and they also checked with the woman who said she was his mother.

As a result, they discovered that the boy was being treated at home in a way that could be described as abuse. Furthermore, they were trying to extract most of the wages from him.

Of course, it is unacceptable to put a child who has just entered junior high school to work unless there are very serious circumstances.

It is easy to say no, but then the boy will try to work somewhere else. If it is a decent place, fine, but if it is not, the boy will be doubly exploited.

The boss thought so and decided to hire the boy and told the woman that the wage would be lower. He kept the rest for the boy and gave it to the woman whenever it became necessary, making up various excuses so that she would not find out.

He had been helping her as much as he could, but even so, it was far from enough. He can’t always be with her.

They tried to prepare meals for the boy, who was not getting enough to eat, but were only able to do so once or twice a week because his mother would find out and lose her school lunch money if they did it too often. Moreover, the employees are now competing with each other to get the boy a meal.

The man who lives with the boy also seems to be a pimp, playing around without working hard, and once he even yelled at the company to raise the boy’s salary.

Even if they gave him a raise, there was no way he would spend it on the boy.

At that time, the president and several employees surrounded her and threatened to turn her away, but for a while, they tried to get him to switch his place of work to another place.

Well, there was no way they could find a place that would hire a junior high school student who looked like an elementary school student, so they gave up in the end.

I once thought about reporting him to the Child Guidance Center, but the boy asked me not to do so.

According to the boy, neighbors had reported their concerns several times since he was a child, but each time an official came to visit him only to leave after a few words with his mother, and after that, the situation became worse.

Besides, they were also told that with a junior high school student, the Child Guidance Center would deem the situation less urgent.

“Boss, shouldn’t we just kick that scumbag to the curb and take custody of ‘Tatsu-bo’?” [TLN: This hasn’t been mentioned yet but his full name is Tatsuya Inoue]

“You idiot, custody is a strong thing. If you are not careful, they will think he was kidnapped and send him to another place. If that happens, we won’t be able to help him.”

“My wife loves ‘Tatsu-bo’ so much she wants to adopt him.” 

The men in the store never stopped working, and the employees kept arguing with each other.

The employees of the company are all concerned about the boy and want to help him.

The president himself has an idea in mind, which he plans to discuss with the boy when the time comes.

“Thank you very much. Umm, I’m off to make a delivery.”

Perhaps feeling tickled by the concern, the boy left the store with the evening paper on his bicycle, his cheeks flushed with a little embarrassment.

The employees’ anger toward the boy’s guardians grew more and more heated as they watched on edge as he pedaled away with a pile of newspapers on his small body.

Kitty, clatter, clatter, clatter.

The boy runs around the darkened residential area carrying a newspaper.

Compared to morning newspapers, evening newspapers are delivered to fewer houses, so he often rides his bicycle a little and puts the paper in a newspaper box in small increments.

The wind in December is cold, but it feels pleasant to run around delivering newspapers.

The delivery area is larger than that of the morning paper, but the number of copies delivered is not so large. Since he has already collected the money this month, he will be able to return early.

After that, he will prepare the leaflets for the morning paper and study for the final examinations starting tomorrow for about two hours in a corner of the store.

“Good evening.”

“Oh, good evening. Thank you for everything.”

As he was about to put the newspaper into a house near the edge of a residential area, the boy was approached by a woman.

She was a woman in her 40s and was often outside like this at the time the boy was to deliver.

“Oh, my! What happened to you? That injury! Are you all right?”

She looks at the bandage on the boy’s forehead and raises her voice in concern.

This woman seems to care about the boy a lot, and perhaps the reason why they see each other so often is because she is worried about him.

“I’m fine now that I’ve been patched up. Thank you for your concern.”

“Really? Are you sure? If you’re having a hard time, you can always talk to me, okay?”

This is an excessive degree of melancholy for a mere acquaintance, but it is also a usual occurrence.

About a year ago, she saw the boy making his rounds to deliver newspapers, and being concerned about his young appearance, she inquired about him at the newsstand.

Since then, she has often approached the boy, offering him cold sports drinks and ice cream in the summer and hot soup when it gets cold.

Once, she even came in a hurry to give him a paper bag with an envelope of cash mixed in with the drinks and fruits.

She has a son in elementary school, but he has been hospitalized for a long time with a congenital incurable disease.

Perhaps because of this, she is concerned when she sees children around the same age, although the boy is actually much older than her son.

However, it is not a life-threatening disease, and she visits him almost every day.

Today, after a moment of worry, he gently hands the boy a bottle of nutritional drink.

The boy accepts it with a deep bow and heads off to his next delivery destination.

After that, the father of the butcher in the shopping arcade offered him croquettes while also worrying about his injuries, and at the grocery store, while the cheerful proprietress said, “They’re starting to hurt,” she handed him a pack of shiny strawberries from the shelves of the store.

After the delivery was over, the boy returned to the store and finished preparing the next day’s advertisements with a familiar look on his face.

He borrowed a desk in the corner of the store and began to study for his exams, as he could not study well at home.

The boy is not allowed to go to high school, although the examinations at this time of his junior year are important for high school entrance exams.

Nevertheless, he dreams of taking the college entrance examination and attending college if he is able to leave home and become independent one day.

So, even if he gets a job, he intends to continue his studies.

In an effort to support him, some of the employees gave him some reference books and problem books that their own children had used.

The boy is having a hard time at home and at school, but he is still able to live straight and earnestly because warm people around him have been watching over him.

And finally, the time comes when he will be rewarded.


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