[Chapter 4 – Periwinkle in the Evening]
“It’ll be fine,” I had told myself, “There should be no one at the park at this time.”
Papa had warned me frequently, “Rinako, a young girl like you should be careful at night. I trust my daughter, but whether I trust everyone else is another story.”
I should have listened to him.
Yamanaka-san easily beat the other guys, but something changed when the last one taunted him. Compared to before, his eyes… are dead.
Then, he mutters something under his breath.
“What’d you say, kid?” the thug continues to harass Yamanaka-san. Yet Yamanaka-san’s words are still inaudible.
“If a loser like you has something to say, say it out loud,” the thug continues.
Suddenly, Yamanaka-san clutches the sides of his head. “Shut up! SHUT UP!” he shrieks.
Tears stream down his face as he lowers and shakes his head. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” he repeats over and over. Yamanaka-san drops to his knees.
“Your name…” he softly speaks.
“What’s your name?”
“What? Takeuchi Shusaku. What the hell do you need that for?”
“Takeuchi…” Yamanaka-san mutters as he ponders, “Good. It’s much more fun when you put a name to your game’s face.”
“What are you saying? You son-of-a…”
Takeuchi will never finish that sentence. In rage, Yamanaka-san leaps at Takeuchi. Yamanaka-san’s movements are nothing like during the previous fight. Yamanaka-san advances with bloodlust, not determination. He charges forward, sidesteps around Takeuchi to get into a blind spot, and strikes before circling around Takeuchi again. Takeuchi must only be able to see Yamanaka-san while they are far apart; he has no idea where he’s even hit until Yamanaka-san’s already retreated. Instead of aiming for an immediate knockout, Yamanaka-san toys with his new victim. He accompanies every attack with a swift retreat, darting in and out of combat and preventing any counterattacks, as if he is a falcon diving over and over again at a single prey.
“You bastard! Stay still!” Takeuchi screams to no avail.
Takeuchi starts to panic as he realizes the difference in strength between him and Yamanaka-san.
“Stop it!” he cries.
Unable to block Yamanaka-san’s punches, Takeuchi resorts to simply protecting his head with his arms and embracing the pain.
“Well, it’s no fun if you give up, now is it?” Yamanaka-san teases Takeuchi as he trips the thug with a large sweeping kick.
With Yamanaka-san towering above him, Takeuchi scrambles on the sand to get away.
“Well then, Takeuchi-kun,” he mockingly adds the “kun” suffix, “Why don’t we fix that awful, slanderous vocabulary of yours.”
“Get away from me!”
“Come on now, I only want to play. Cooperate and the worst that’ll happen is a broken jaw.”
While crawling on the ground, Takeuchi finds the knife one of his underlings dropped and clenches the handle. However, Yamanaka-san slams his heel on Takeuchi’s hand.
“Oh my, that’s a dangerous thing you found there.”
Takeuchi struggles as Yamanaka-san crushes the hand under his shoe.
Yamanaka-san continues, “Now… let’s teach you what happens when you mess with my friend, Sorai.”
In a panic, Takeuchi grabs the knife from under his hand with the other and slashes upward at Yamanaka-san, who quickly dodges backward. With his right hand free, Takeuchi pushes himself up and rushes Yamanaka-san, who has yet to recover from his jump.
Takeuchi shouts, “Die, you monster!”
All I hear next is the sound of metal scraping bone. Takeuchi’s knife was aimed at Yamanaka-san’s temple but was blocked. With the blade embedded in his forearm, Yamanaka-san rips the knife from Takeuchi’s hands and staggers backward, blood trickling out of the wound. For a moment, Takeuchi’s former overconfidence returns as he realizes that he has struck a critical blow. However, Yamanaka-san yanks the knife out of his arm and wields the blood-covered blade. The bloodlust in Yamanaka-san’s eyes changes to murderous intent.
“Boss! Let’s get out of here!”
The other five thugs have regrouped (although one of them is still unconscious and is carried by the fat one), urging Takeuchi to leave.
“That’s right! This guy’s crazy! We have to run, Boss!”
Now without a weapon, Takeuchi realizes his disadvantage, retreats to his gang, and flees.
When the six men disappear from view, Yamanaka-san finally moves again. Blood still flowing out of his arm, he collapses on a nearby bench.
‘… Hayashida-san, right?” he addresses me.
“Huh? Yes!” I quickly reply and run to his side.
“Can you help me out here? Do you have a handkerchief or something?”
“Um, yeah! Here! How can I stop the bleeding?”
“Wrap it around with some pressure around the wound. Not too tight, though.”
As I cover my snow white handkerchief around his wound, it quickly stains a deep crimson red.
“Sorry about that,” Yamanaka-san comments.
“Huh? Sorry about what?”
“The blood probably won’t come out easily.”
“You’re bleeding and hurt because of me and you’re worried about my handkerchief?”
I should have listened to Papa. If I had, I would not have tried to cut through Paulownia Park and run into a bunch of thugs. If I had, this stranger, this Yamanaka-san, would not have had to rescue me. If I had, Yamanaka-san would not be hurt.
“… Thank you” I continue.
“I didn’t do anything to save you. Sorai did.”
“… What? I thought your name was Sorai?”
“Sorai fought the other guys. I did nothing. Hell, I even got Sorai wounded.”
“What do you mean?”
“Take care of him. Don’t call the police. Don’t call a hospital.”
“But the wound is serious!”
“Promise me you won’t.”
“… I can’t say no when you glare at me like that.”
“Thank you. I have to go now. He’ll wake up soon. When he does, don’t tell him about me.”
“So, you’re not Yamanaka-san?”
“Yes. Well, no. Eh, it’s tough to explain.”
I finish wrapping his arm. “Is this alright?”
“Good. The bleeding has almost stopped, but Yamanaka-san won’t know why he’s wounded. Just tell him one of the others got him from behind and they ran away after that.”
Yamanaka-san closes his eyes and leans back on the bench. After a period of silence, he speaks again, “Alrighty then, ciao.”
“It means ‘bye.’”
“… Okay. Ciao.”
“Thanks for the help, Hayashida-san.”
“… Rinako. Call me Rinako.”
It does not take long before he is sound asleep. A nearby clock rings eight times to signal the time. He and I are alone in the park; two strangers who had never met before sit on a park bench, exhausted by what had happened the last hour. Or should I say… three?
END OF CHAPTER