Chapter 3 | Sudden Visitors

“Excuse me.”

After the second semester’s closing ceremony and homerooms were over, the boy came to the student guidance office at dismissal time. He had been summoned by his homeroom teacher, Akaishi-sensei.

“Inoue-kun, I’m sorry, I know you’re busy.”

“Oh, no, I have no part-time job today, so I’m fine.”

The boy smiles wryly, and with a relieved look on his face, AkaishiMiya, the teacher, urges him to sit on the chair facing him.

Although he was called to the student guidance office, it did not mean that he had caused any problems or anything like that.

Unlike Aoyama, who was the homeroom teacher the previous year, Akaishi-sensei did not treat the boy coldly. On the contrary, she is somewhat aware of the boy’s situation, and she is very attentive to him.

She is a two-year temporary teacher who came to replace a teacher on maternity leave, and although she is a bit of a klutz, she is a good teacher who tries her best to help her students.

So the boy waits for Akaishi-sensei’s words without worrying.

“I was wondering, Inoue-kun, do you want to get a job instead of going on to higher education?

I looked at the results of your final exam, and you scored very well in all subjects, so I think it would be a waste of your time.”

“…I would like to go to higher education if I could, but my parents won’t allow me to do so. But once I get a job and can afford it, I’d like to take the college entrance exam.”

As a third-year student, he has received career guidance many times before.

This is an exchange that has been repeated each time.

The boy’s mother has never visited the school to meet with him. In fact, she has never even allowed the topic of career paths to come up at home.

So, the boy repeated his usual response.

“But you do want to go on to higher education, don’t you? If that’s the case, why don’t you just take the entrance exam? With Inoue’s academic ability, he might be able to pass the entrance exam for a school with a reasonable deviation within the prefecture. For example, if you are accepted to a public school such as K High School or T High School, your parents would be proud of you.

If it is a public school, the financial burden would not be so great, and there are scholarships available. You can continue to work and go to school as you have been doing.

In addition, there is a significant difference in income between a junior high school graduate, a high school graduate, and a college graduate. So, even if you start working a little later, I think you will be more attracted to the one that gives you more income.

If you actually pass the test, the teacher will go to you to convince them. What do you think?”

The boy thinks about what he was told.

Of course, he wants to go on to higher education.

He has not given up on it, and even if he cannot go to high school, he would like to go to college, no matter how many years it takes.

However, he doesn’t think his mother would approve of it, but at the same time, he’s sure that there is a part of him that is feeling vain.

If he could get into one of the best schools in the prefecture, he might be able to get some prospects, and maybe she would approve of him. But even in that case, he would have to continue to work part-time or work two jobs at once to earn money for tuition and other expenses.

But there is a big problem before that.

“I can’t afford to pay for the exam. Besides, I don’t think they will allow me to take the exam in the first place, so even if I submit the application form and receive the examination ticket, it will be thrown away.”

Akaishi-sensei was mortified by the boy’s words.

She probably didn’t think it would go that far.

She folded her arms and groaned as she thought about it.

Although the boy said that, there was a tiny glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, he would be able to talk to the president of his part-time job about it tomorrow.

“Oh, yeah! Then you can put the address on the application form in the teacher’s office! That way, I can give it to you the day before the exam, and you can return it to me someday since the exam fee is not that much for public schools. But you should take a practice test, so sign up for one at a major cram school in January. Sensei will take care of the cost, so you can pay me back in about 20 years with a loan.”

The boy’s eyes welled up at her jokingly laughing, but still serious, suggestion.

“What? Oh, um, Inoue-kun? If it’s too tough, we can go for 40 years, and I won’t even ask you for more money. Uh, let’s see…”

“Ah, that’s not what I meant, I’m just so happy that Sensei did that for me, uh…”

The boy stares at Akaishi-sensei with moistened eyes, choking on his words with emotion.

Depending on how you look at it, it is quite a frightening sight.

Akaishi-sensei’s cheeks are flushed and her fingers are wagging as if she is trying to hold back her scratching.

(What’s with this boy, he’s too cute! Oh no, I want to take her home! His parents act like delinquents, so he’s just like my child anyway.)

…Maybe I should call the cops.

After Akaishi-sensei ends the all-out war between reason and desire with barely a victory for reason, and after a few confirmations once again, the boy leaves the student guidance office.

“Oh, yes, Merry Christmas! I guess it’s a little early to say Merry Christmas. But I hope you have a good one. I hope you’ll see me again after the vacation.”

Just before closing the door, Akaishi-sensei saw the boy off with a smile.

Returning to the classroom to retrieve his bag, the boy headed home.

Today is a day off for the part-timers at the newsstand.

Although it seems that newspaper dealers are only closed on holidays, they actually take a day off on a rotating basis.

However, even though it is not a two-day weekend, but just one day off, the president of the company gives the boy, who is also a part-timer, a day off once a week.

However, since today was the last day of school, school lunch was not served.

Even on a day like that, if he has a part-time job, he can get by because his co-workers bring him something to eat, but this is not the case on a day off.

Of course, the newsstand itself is open, and he knows that if he shows up, all these kind people will be happy to welcome him, but the boy feels ashamed to go there expecting such a thing, so he chooses to be patient.

He was able to eat his school lunch yesterday, so he will be fine for at least one day today.

And since it is just before Christmas, his mother is probably already out of the house by now, meeting with her favorite customers.

Every year during this time of year, when sales are good, her mother is in a good mood. On those days, she is not angry at him for eating at home, so he’s hoping for the best.

And even the men who stay at home often stay out until night during this time of the year.

As the boy was thinking about this as he walked back to his apartment, his home, he saw a large white passenger car parked on the side of the road.

(What an amazing car. A limousine, I wonder? But why is it parked here?)

This area is a common residential area with many apartments. It is not a place where such a luxury car would come, and I have never actually seen the boy.

The boy, who had no idea that this was something that concerned him, passed by the luxury car, feeling as if he had gained something from seeing it up close and personal for the first time, and was about to enter the apartment building.

“Um, Tatsuya Inoue-san, right?”

“Eh?”

Suddenly, he is called from behind, and he turns around in a hurry.

There, the limousine door was opened and a woman was standing in front of it.

The woman was still young, dressed in a neat business suit, with slightly wavy semi-long hair, and surprisingly good-looking.

She looked like an actress playing a career woman in a TV drama or movie, the boy thought vaguely.

“Tatsuya Inoue-san, is it?”

The woman asked the same question again.

The boy, shocked by this, hurriedly answered back.

“Yes, yes, that’s right.”

The woman smiled softly at the boy who seemed embarrassed at having been admired.

“I apologize for the sudden appearance. My name is Ayane Shibusawa.”

The woman then offered her business card to the boy.

The boy hurriedly put his bag on the ground and accepted the business card with both hands.

This was not about the etiquette of exchanging business cards, but rather about accepting a business card with both hands because it was offered to him with both hands.

The business card was marked with the name Ayane Shibusawa, her contact address and cell phone number, and the word “lawyer”.

“Um, you’re a lawyer, right?”

He couldn’t help but ask a question.

He was surprised to learn that such a young and beautiful woman was a lawyer, but more importantly, he had no idea what a lawyer wanted from him.

“Yes. There is something I would like to talk to you about.”

Since she stopped him, she must have something to do with him, and he is off from his part-time job today. But even so, if he doesn’t get his chores done first, he’s sure to be in trouble later on. His mother might come home in the middle of the day, and the man he lives with might not always be out of town.

“Oh, um, I have to take care of the house first, if you don’t mind I’ll come back later”

Ayane smiles kindly at the boy as he tells her this.

“You seem to be concerned about a woman named Masami Inoue and a man named Koji Shirai who live together but rest assured, they will not be returning today. The two of them will not be returning today. 

Also, I have informed the two of them that I will be visiting them, so there is nothing for you to worry about.”

“If that is the case, then yes, I understand.”

Although he felt a little caught up in the words, the boy nodded his head and thought that if those people were not there, it would not be a problem to have a little talk with them.

Ayane’s smile deepened as she heard the boy’s words, and she began to invite him to join her in the limousine.

“We can’t just stand around talking, so let’s change places. Please get in.”

The boy had never seen a limousine before and was too nervous to make a move.

Still, Ayane’s kind and reassuring look at the boy without rushing him makes the boy willingly get into the car through the open door.

He was also aware that there was nothing to be gained by deceiving someone like him, and more importantly, he felt that he could trust Ayane because her smile seemed infinitely kind.

Inside the car they boarded, there were two rows of seats facing each other that were wide enough for a person to lie down on, with a table and a refrigerator in between.

The windows made it impossible to see the inside from the outside, but from the inside, it was surprisingly bright and spacious.

There was a partition between the driver’s seat and the rear seat, with a section of clear glass inset like a window.

Ayane got in after the boy and sat on the side facing the boy, near the driver’s seat.

The long legs of the woman, with her knees together and tilted at an angle, caught the boy’s eyes and he turned his head to the side in a hurry.

Ayane did not seem to pay any attention to the boy and slightly gestured toward the driver’s seat, and the limousine started to drive off without a sound.

“I’m sorry for scaring you all of a sudden.”

Ayane said in a gentle voice to the boy who was fidgeting restlessly in the car with no sound from outside or even the engine.

“Ah, no, um, uh I was just, uh, thinking about…”

“It’s a bit complicated, so let’s have dinner first. Is there anything you can’t eat?”

“Uh, no, but I don’t have any money, so…”

A boy who does not even get a meal should not have money. When he first started his part-time job, the boss gave him a 10,000 yen bill separately from his part-time job allowance, saying, “If you are in trouble, use it.”

He was so happy with the kindness that he kept it as a good luck charm and never used it, and he never intended to use it unless his life really depended on it.

Ayane looked at the boy’s face for a moment, but then she quickly dismissed his concern with a smile.

“I invited you here, so you don’t have to worry about that. Do you like Chinese food?”

The limousine carrying the boy, who nodded vaguely, arrived at a hotel in the center of town shortly after.


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