Chapter 12:

The Town Crier

The Fall of Prince Hayashi

The train ride to where the Daily Kumano news was only a couple minutes away. Of course, a couple minutes on the train meant a couple of hours by foot. Even though it felt like a waste of money, I couldn’t deny that it was beneficial to save time. Also, the look on Imai’s face at the idea of walking was a clear sign that none of us where healthy enough to be walking for more than thirty minutes at a time. Bookmark here

The station we reached was completely different from the shopping center near the other stop. This place was even closer to the edge of Kumano, a little too close for anyone to really travel to for shopping. Here were all the real businesses. Not the ones like bakeries or cafes, but the places like law firms or company headquarters. Everyone on the train with us was either wearing clothes that screamed ‘professional’ or seemed to be a person heading to one of these ‘professionals’ at the stop. Me and Imai fit the second group, both of us staring around for any sign of a person from the Daily Kumano newspaper. With our luck, no one on the train seemed to show any signs of being associated with the news. Bookmark here

The train arrived, and we both left to be greeted by the ‘professional’ center of Kumano. Everything was a dull shade of gray or black, and everyone here seems miserable in their own way. I would have felt bad if I actually cared for any of these people. Bookmark here

“So how do we get there?” Imai asked, looking around like a true tourist. Bookmark here

“I have an idea,” I said. I decided not to comment on her fascination, in hopes of keeping her good mood up. Pulling out my phone, I opened the GPS app.Bookmark here

GPS Search: Daily Kumano News Headquarters Bookmark here

Destination is 10 minutes away on foot. Want to proceed? Bookmark here

Imai looked over my phone as I pressed ‘proceed’. Bookmark here

“Ten minutes away on foot?” she sighed. “I’ve been walking for way too long today.” Bookmark here

Looks like her good mood was just as sensitive as she was. I grabbed Imai’s arm and starting heading down the path the GPS set for us. If I was going to have to hear her complain the whole ten minutes till we reached the headquarters, I would rather make the trip quicker and get yelled at later. Bookmark here

Bookmark here

After a quick ten minute walk, me and Imai finally reached the headquarters. Just like every other building in the area, the headquarters was a brilliant shade of gray and seemed more like a prison then a workplace. I let go of Imai’s hand, and stared at the big sign on the front of the building that said “Daily Kumano News Station”Bookmark here

I dropped Imai’s arm and she pulled it back in fake disgust. Ignoring her childish behavior, I turned back to the building and put my phone away in my pocket. Bookmark here

“Looks like we’re here,” I said. Bookmark here

“But why did you have to drag me here?” Imai complained, stepping into the building entrance without me. Bookmark here

I tagged behind her, looking at the building directory. “I dragged you along because I knew that you would complain, even if it was just a stupid ten minute walk.”Bookmark here

Imai didn’t seem to deny the fact that she would’ve complained, and instead chose to focus her attention on the building directly in front of us. There was a long list of names, most of them useless to us. What we were looking for was the section of the newspaper that focused where Imai and Hayashi lived in Kumano. Bookmark here

Where you used to live too. Remember? Bookmark here

“Hey,“ Emma pointed to a small line on the directories right underneath the huge buildings name. “This name seems kind of familiar.“ Bookmark here

I looked at the name in my mouth dropped open. Koki Kageyama. He was working here. And not only that, he was in charge of the local newspaper. God my luck must’ve been so bad my whole life. Maybe I was born under the wrong star or something. That would explain why every single moment of my life how to give me some form of misery, one way or another.Bookmark here

If Imai noticed my sudden bad mood, she rightfully did not comment on it. After all, how was I going to explain to her that I told Kageyama that I was a huge businessman planning on taking over the area of Kumano, only to come in begging for his help to find out what happened to Hayashi. Embarrassing was a light word for what I was feeling at the moment.Bookmark here

“Koki Kageyama was a student in our grade,“ I stared at his name as if the nameplate would come alive and bite me. “Let’s just say, that me and him don’t have the best relationship right now.“Bookmark here

Imai I didn’t look surprised at all. “I would have been more surprised if you actually had a good relationship with someone that wasn’t your mom.“Bookmark here

“How could!-”Bookmark here

This time it was me that I Imai was dragging around. After finding out where Kageyama‘s office was, she took it upon herself to guide us both straight to his office. Well, that was fine with me. I had to spend my energy on what exactly to say to Koki “Red” Kageyama to make sure that we both don’t end up in the dirt below us. At least Imai had her looks to protect her from getting severely beat up. Not only did I lack looks, let’s just say Kageyama was used to his hands beating up my face.Bookmark here

Thankfully the building had an elevator. Today, me and Imai must have walked a couple of meters, heading to Hayashi’s house, the shopping center, and now the newspaper headquarters. We were both walking around all day in the summer heat, and now that the sun was starting to set, things were getting cooler around here. The office were Kageyama worked was on the fifth floor. That gave us about five minutes till we reach the dragon’s den. Even the cooling day couldn’t help me from stop sweating over the fact that I was going to meet someone that I threatened on the train just two days ago.Bookmark here

“Imai, I have to tell you something,” I whispered. Bookmark here

She scoffed. “What is it now?” Bookmark here

If this wasn’t embarrassing, I didn’t know what embarrassing was.Bookmark here

“When I said that me and Kageyama don’t have a good relationship,“ I fiddled with my fingers as the word slipped out of my mouth. “– that means that I met him on the train when I was coming here and said some… Threatening things to him.”Bookmark here

Imai’s eyes widened and she turned to face me, her face not hiding any of her slight discussion at me. “How…? Should I even ask how?“Bookmark here

Somehow within the five minutes of reaching his floor, I was able to explain to Imai all the stupid stuff I said to call Koki “Red“ Kageyama on my train to Kumano. With every minute passing by, Imai’s face slowly shifted from confusion to just plain anger. I couldn’t blame her. But could she really blame me? She must’ve known how I felt when I saw Red on the train. How he so easily called me a creep, despite three years passing from the last time I met him. Despite the fact that the person he was talking to was right in front of him. Red still decided that if he saw me, he was certain that I would still be the person I was so long ago. Shouldn’t Imai understand me? She had every right to be angry, but so did I. He was a jerk. Scaring him a little bit wasn’t a bad thing. That kept people humble. Bookmark here

Imai took a deep sigh, and ran him through her hair. “Look Fuji, I’m not gonna sit here and say what you did was a really smart idea. Yet, I’m not going to say that it wasn’t some thing that I would do either.“Bookmark here

I let out a stress struggle. “So…what should we do now?” Bookmark here

“Let me handle it,” Imai took a deep breath, and focused her attention on the door. “If you think your a master at lying, then you haven’t seen me yet.” Bookmark here

Imai let out her hair and fixed it up into a bun. She took out something from her pocket (lipstick?) and smeared it over her lips. The elevator above us dinged, signaling our arrival at the office. Imai lifted herself up, a serge of confidence flowing through her. Bookmark here

The office was like any other office, where the moment you entered, cubicles of workers were crowded everywhere. This room was hot, even hotter than the weather outside after a hot summer rainshower. Most of the noise in this office were either coming from small fans blowing or the sound of typing echoing through the air. All the workers carried the same plain face and plain attire, making it almost impossible to spot Kageyama anywhere here. Bookmark here

A random worker walked by, his face screaming for a small break from work. Imai took a step forward, stopping the worker in his place. She grinned at him, her angelic features blessing his eyesight numb from looking at the screen all day. I could see him relax with her smile, something that made me feel a little on edge for what was going to happen next. Bookmark here

“Um...hello,” Imai said, crossing her hands behind her back. “Can you help me find Mr.Kageyama.” Bookmark here

The guy nodded, his face going red at hearing Imai talk. “Oh-Of course I can! Please! Follow me!” Bookmark here

The worker threw whatever work he had in his mind out the window as he rushed to show Imai (and me) where Kageyama was. He must have been on cloud nine after talking to Imai, with the hopes of asking her out to dinner on the tip of his tongue. I walked besides her, noticing how all the people around us seemed to be attracted to her presence. Like moths attracted to the presence of any light. I walked besides her, our hands brushing with each step. Bookmark here

“Never do that again,” I whispered into her ear, ignoring the looks of workers nearby.Bookmark here

She let out a huge laugh and hit me on the back. Her laugh wasn’t the usual devilish one she belted out whenever I was in pain. Rather, it was a soft artificial laugh. Bookmark here

Imai leaned near my ear, her demeanor turning normal for a split second. “Then next time don’t get revenge in such a stupid way.” Bookmark here

What she was saying wasn’t wrong. I was so eager to get my revenge that I didn’t even realize that my whole mission here was to find out what happened to Hayashi after he left. I was dependent on the people who were still at our high school after I left for any information on him. Luckily I found Imai in the convenience store that night. But what if I didn’t meet her in that time? Red would’ve been my only hope, the only person I met that went to our high school, and I automatically turned him against me. All in the name of a half-hearted revenge that didn’t even settle my anger towards him. Bookmark here

The worker opened the door to Kageyama’s office, and me and Imai would have not expected what was inside. Entering the office was like entering a whole different realm. In comparison to the bland and boring office workers on the outside, the workers inside the office seemed energetics and desperate. Most of them were running around, the AC on high. Paper was all around, scattering the floor and desks. Like it was a winter wonderland made of paper, with both of us dressed for summer standing at the front of the room. Bookmark here

Imai must’ve been as equally shocked as I was because her face morphed into pure confusion. Now that I think about it, every single time we enter a new place or get a new piece of information, Imai’s face always goes back to being sort of confused and sort of excited. Maybe that was just a standard emotion for her. Confusion. I let out a small chuckle as I observed her face a little longer. Here we were, both confused and out of our element. Bookmark here

My standard emotion: probably the ‘skunk’ emotion Imai said earlier. Bookmark here

“Well here you go ma’am,“ the worker said, his wrinkly face gleaming with happiness. He seemed impressed with himself for just guiding us to Kageyama‘s workplace. He must’ve been expecting Imai to give him her number or at least praise him for what he did. Poor guy probably didn’t meet that many women in a sad place like this. Bookmark here

Imai understood what the man wanted very quickly. He grabbed his shoulder and let out a high pitch laugh. “Oh my God, thank you so much for helping us! You’re a lifesaver!” Bookmark here

If he was red before, the worker was definitely a deep tone of red right now. Imai even added a slight tap on the back, which sealed the deal for the sad worker. Is this how Imai went through college and high school? Using her God-given good looks on poor desperate men to get what she wanted? She had no choice but to depend on her looks. Just like how I depended on my money. Bookmark here

Without any other words, Imai grabbed my shoulder and pushed me away from the worker towards the back door in this huge and different office. The workers all rushed by, avoiding bumping into us without even looking up from the ground. They must have been used to the rush. The back door had a sign, in big bold letters. Bookmark here

Head Editor Office for District 13 of KumanoBookmark here

“Are you ready to go inside then?” Imai whispered. Bookmark here

I let out a sigh and looked towards her. “Do you have a plan then?”Bookmark here

She shook her head no. “Who needs a plan when you have me?”Bookmark here

Before I could argue, she opened the door wide. There was no choice. I had to meet Kageyama again. I was ready for the fury of anger, the first against my face, and the well-deserved hate I would get from him. Even Imai couldn’t can protect me from what I gave myself after messing with him on the train.Bookmark here

Yet the person we saw wasn’t Koki ‘Red’ Kageyama at all. Rather it was like the complete opposite of him. An older man, with square glasses and a squarehead. His frame was super thin, as if he ate nothing but air all day long. It was the type of guy who frequently would visit is the convenience stores for hot coffee and hot meals because they were too old to make it themselves at home. A soft man, in comparison to the rough look Red had since high school. Bookmark here

“Hello you two,” the old man walked up to us, hands behind his back. “What can I do for you two today?“Bookmark here

Thank God it wasn’t Koki Kageyama. I guess my luck wasn’t as screwed over as I thought it was.Bookmark here

I stepped up in front of Imai , confidence suddenly climbing back up. “Actually we were wondering where Kageyama was?” Bookmark here

The old man seemed confused. “Do you mean Koki Kageyama?“Bookmark here

“Yes, that’s him.”Bookmark here

The man motioned his hand backwards, towards the two seats near his desk. I moved towards the desk and took a seat, as Imai followed suit. Bookmark here

“We… used to know him and I was wondering if I can ask him some thing,” I crossed my hands. “He actually promised us that he’ll tell.” Bookmark here

Promise? The only thing he’s promise is to turn my head into pulp. Bookmark here

“Sadly Kageyama got fired a couple of weeks ago,“ the old man said down ash he sat down in is huge seat on the other side of the desk. “He was always a little bit… How can I say it without coming off as rude?“Bookmark here

I had to hide back my smile. “A little aggressive?“Bookmark here

The old man let out a huge sigh. “Yes, exactly. Sadly Kageyama was laid off a couple weeks ago. I’m the new head editor. Maybe I could help you if Kageyama made you a promise before he left.“Bookmark here

This was my slight good luck in action. This guy thought we were friends with Kageyama. When all actuality if he were to see me right now in his office, I had no doubt that he would beat me up in the matter of seconds. But there was no need to tell this old man that. I could tell by Imai’s calm face that she also had the same thought as I did. I guess a long time ago we were really “friends” with him at one point.Bookmark here

Imai pulled out the newspaper from her bag and handed it to the old man a.k.a. the new head editor. He looked at the paper and smiled, probably reminiscing about this issue from over three years ago.Bookmark here

I cleared my throat. “One of our friends, Kota Hayashi, Ordered over thirty copies of this newspaper over three years ago.”Bookmark here

“Thirty copies?” the head editor said. Bookmark here

“Yes,” Imai pitched in. “We were wondering if you have his purchase on record?”Bookmark here

The head editor laughed, his voice suddenly strained. “Is that all you had to ask? I can definitely show you his purchase record. Of course, being said, if he has any personal information on the person just record I can’t show you that.“Bookmark here

“That’s fine,” I fiddled with the hem of my shirt. “I think we both understand the reasoning behind that.“Bookmark here

The old man turned back to his desk computer, and with a sudden speed, started typing away. It made sense that he would be a fast typer. If you’re going to be the head editor of a newspaper you probably have to go through a lot of papers, for a long time. Still it was kind of shocking to see someone so small be so agile. This guy was a hard worker. No wonder that lazy Kageyama got replaced by him.Bookmark here

“Aha,” The old man stopped typing, his fingers floating in the air. He stared at the screen for a little bit adjusting his glasses. “Are you sure your friend brought these?” Bookmark here

The head editor turned to face us, his face plain and emotionless.Bookmark here

“Does it say that he didn’t buy it?“ Imai lean forward in her chair. I felt the tension get thicker, as playing with my shirt felt less and less comforting. Bookmark here

“How do I say this?“ The head editor held hands on his desk and looked us both in the eyes. “It says here that Hayashi worked for us.” Bookmark here

Notes from Zen: Bookmark here

Hayashi worked for the newspaper???? O.O What a shocker (of course, I knew bc I wrote it in). Also, I’m sorry I didn’t upload yesterday. That’s completely my fault. Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.