“The serial killer, Hirota Jito, who has been accused of murdering 6 civilians in the Ikebukuro region has been apprehended late Thursday evening. Thanks to the local police force, residents are now able to reside at home with ease.”
The radio made a soft fizzing noise before a new voice blasted through the speakers.
“Yes indeed, thank you to the local community for their assistance during this case! The police force is very grateful for the input of the witnesses.”
“As of now, the accused has said no words to the media since his confinement. Any news of the trial will stay confidential. Once again, our hearts go out to the family of the deceased. We thank you for your cooperation.”
“Next, regarding the weather, central Tokyo has been experiencing extensive amounts of rain for the past few days. Please remember to bring your umbrellas with you! Indeed, the gloomy weather will persist throughout the next…”
The radio’s sound faded slowly as the sound of the rain hit the windows. In a small dark room, a couple of monitors were placed on the floor, facing a messy futon. The electric blue lights emitted from the various screens reflected onto the walls. Books, empty noodle cups, wires, and stacks of papers were sprawled all over the floor. In a corner of the room, a big desk was barely visible under the piles of things covering it. There, in the middle of the room, was a big blanket-covered silhouette facing the many monitors.
“Fifty, fifty-one, fifty-two. Um.”
A pale hand reached for a bag of marshmallows that looked like it was ripped open by a hungry bear.
She took a big bite out of the marshmallow. Her hands were pale and small. They looked like glass that could shatter at any moment. She hastily typed with her free hand, jerking her hand this way and that on the keyboard. Her movements suggested she was in quite an impatient mood. Suddenly, the sound of someone pounding on her apartment door was heard. The muffled voice of a man called out from outside.
“Ko-chan, open this door. How many times do I have to knock?”
He started clicking the doorbell over and over, like a child slamming the elevator buttons.
The mound of blankets did not budge. In fact, the hand was typing even faster now.
“YAH! You make me run errands for you and now you don’t let me in??? Do you know how much money I make in a day??? Do you know??? I don't need to take babysitting as a side job!”
The door opened as the man let out a gasp.
“Huh? It’s not locked.”
A tall man in a black suit walked in. He had a cigarette in his mouth, with some stubble on his face. He must’ve been at least 6 feet tall, seeing as he nearly slammed his head into the doorframe. His very messy black hair was long; down to his shoulders. He had tied it back into a loose ponytail. Holding two white grocery bags, he slammed the light switch on while kicking off his shoes. The pile of blankets moved slightly.
he said, dropping the bags in the room,
“they only had the spicy curry flavor left.”
The hand reached for the bag and emptied it on the floor. Various cups of ramen, all spicy curry, toppled down to the floor. After a brief moment, the girl looked up at the man. Her blue and grey eyes looked sharp, despite her dark circles. Her forehead was covered with a long fringe of messy black hair, which stopped just above her big eyes. The rest of her hair was very short, like a boy, but it stuck to her face in all sorts of weird angles. Despite the overgrown fringe and sharp eyes, she had a very gentle feel about her. Pale skin, rosy cheeks, and a tiny body. Just like a porcelain doll. She opened the first bag.
“......there aren't….the marshmallows...”
She emptied the other bag and shoveled through it, this time cans of soup rolled over the messy floor. The man huffed, leaving a cloud of grey smoke floating near his face.
“I brought you a bag of those things just yesterday. How many are you planning to eat in one sitting? Just eat the noodles.” There was a moment of hesitation as he scratched the back of his head and knelt, placing his big hand on the top of her head.
“I’ll cook you a real meal this week. You can’t live off of those blocks of sugar forever.”
The girl’s gaze shifted onto the man’s hand.
“Oh..then I am indebted to you. Thank you.” she bowed slightly.
The man smiled and stood back up. As the girl picked up a can of soup and read the label, the man walked over to the desk and pulled out the foldable chair. He shifted his cigarette from one side of his mouth to the other.
“The boss wanted me to convey his thanks to you on his behalf. He says you’ve turned another unsolicited case into a closed one. To be honest, he’s just going to keep asking for your input since you’re so...perceptive. Why don’t you take it easy for a while, our dear Kitamura Haruko-san? You aren’t an official member of the investigators' team and they're already whispering about how much of a genius you are... This feels like child labor...”
Haruko stood up slowly from her blankets and brushed the dust off of her very obvious oversized white t-shirt and jeans. She faced the man, laughing slightly at his change from formal to informal speech.
“I’ve worried you. I apologize. The cases aren’t...difficult to do. Hirota Jito’s case… he was kind of a messy criminal. Anyone would be able to see through his actions.”
She smiled and placed her hands behind her back. Seeing the man’s blank expression, she glanced around her, then back at his face.
“Yulan? What’s wrong?”
“Please don’t tell me that’s my shirt.”
“And those pants?”
“They’re yours as well.”
There was a moment of silence. Yulan stood up rapidly and yelled.
“KO-CHAN! If you need new clothes, just tell me!”
He dropped dramatically to the floor.
“A young girl such as yourself....wearing such unfit garments...an unmarried woman wearing a grown man's clothes…I CANNOT ACCEPT THIS!”
He pointed his finger towards Haruko with a look of determination on his face and pulled out a pink magazine from the messy desk. The title read: “New summer addictions! Custom tails and furry wails, get your very own cat maid outfit today!”
“Here! Pick anything you want from this one.”
Haruko felt her tired, sharp eyes widen. She stared at the model on the front page who wore nothing but an apron over her frilly skirt. A long, black tail stuck from behind her.
“That’s a maid cosplay magazine, mister.”
The sound of the rain hitting the windows continued. The man stood, at a loss, with his magazine in hand. Quickly, he slapped his cigarette out of his mouth, smoothed his hair back, and chucked the magazine to the floor. His face sparkled.
“Ko-chan, don't get any ideas. I am simply a man with certain needs-”
The small girl threw the cup of ramen right into Yulan’s very unfortunate face, cutting him off mid-sentence.
“Hah…those magazines take up so much room...”
she said, pressing the palm of her hand on her head. She looked exhausted but embarrassed at the same time. Seeing Yulan tumble over on the desk, she smiled contentedly.
“....Since you’re here, take all your weird magazines with you.”
She coughed slightly.
“This place is too small to fit them all.”
Haruko looked up quickly and winced at how this small girl said “them all.” His forehead had a nice bright red mark on it now. While fixing his hair, he pushed himself back up.
“Hahhhh, this terrible treatment...even after everything I've done for you…here.”
Yulan quickly switched the subject by handing Haruko a thick, yellow envelope. It had been stamped with red ink and the front read “Miyazaki High School. Recipient: Kitamura Haruko.” The small girl quickly opened it and stared reluctantly at the paperwork inside.
“It says I passed...the entrance exam. They...sent the results so soon as well.”
Yulan bent down to Haruko’s height and smiled.
“Congratulations on your acceptance. You’ve now graduated from being a Hikikomori.”
Yulan turned the small girl around so that she would face the door. He knelt beside her and placed both his hands on her shoulders. His black eyes looked like they were soaked in rainwater.
“Hikikomori. A social hermit. Now, go out and enjoy the final year of your youth.”