Hello! I am finally ready to put this chapter out there! Hopefully, I can finish the whole book before the anime comes out in January.
Case.1: Pink Sapphire of Justice
(TN: The title plays with Seigi’s name, which means “justice”).
I started working a part-time night shift of a television station at the invitation of my university friends.
The responsibility of my job was to be the security guard at the guardroom where several tens of studio keys were managed in numerical order. Around the clock, there must always be at least two people inside. We lent out the keys to people using the studios, and took them back and returned them to the shelves when they were done with them. That was all. Shifts were irregular, but the work itself was lax, it was in Shibuya, and I could often even meet celebrities. Of course, everyone was working, so I was not spoken to.
It was unexpectedly unbearable.
Aside from winter vacation which had just started, the lifestyle of going to university four days a week, working at night, sleeping in the morning in the nap room, and then university again, was a direct hit to my biological clock. I was always in a daze. I had more money in my savings account, but I couldn’t think of anything to do with it. My friends and I were all called “Guard-san,” never being called by our names even once. Lately, my meals weren’t tasty. It might be dangerous if it kept going on like this. Even though I entered an intense semester with civil service exams, when could I start studying for them at this rate?
I had never thought of myself as sensitive, but I felt that this was a matter of time and degree.
This April would make it two whole months since I started the job. I would reduce my shifts, and if it still seemed too tough, then I would find a new job. That’s what I would do.
As I was thinking about those things generally while walking along the path at Yoyogi Park at night, I heard the voices of drunkards from the neighbouring sidewalk across the road. It sounded like a quarrel. The tall plantation was like a wall, so I could not see well. Since I got off work early today, right now it was midnight. Even though it wasn’t a day with events where I could cut loose or anything like that.
I cut across the road and ran towards the voices.
Four people, or five. Men in worn suits were making a noisy racket. In the center of all that, a person carrying a suitcase was stuck, then they slipped and fell. The drunkards cackled and pour the beers in their hands on the person’s head. I took in a breath.
“Police! Over here! Quickly! Someone’s getting assaulted!”
The drunkards who had gotten carried away scattered and escaped towards the station.
The person left behind took out a handkerchief from their breast pocket and wiped their head.
“Are you okay?”
“…You saved me.”
Beneath the light traps, that person turned around. Golden hair. Blue eyes. Unfaltering Japanese. And above all else, intense features. I made a small groan, and I wanted to pray that they did not hear it.
I affirmed it. I had never laid my eyes on such a beautiful person in my life. High cheekbones, a straight nose, golden hair that had a habit of being loose, smooth white skin. There were shades in those blue eyes, and it felt like I could stare at them forever. A creature who seemed to have gathered all of their parts from the world’s most beautiful people, and they harmonized together with a miraculous balance. Even time, air, and dust particles flowed around this person in a different rhythm. I was about to sincerely believe in that so-called something. That something of fate that began after you helped another—if the other person was a woman.
The most beautiful man I had ever seen in my life brushed off his grey suit and stood up.
His name was Richard.
The two of us walked along Yoyogi Park to the police box in front of the station. I recommended him to file a criminal complaint. His black cloth-covered suitcase had a broken wheel. Even though I kept offering to carry it for him, Mr. Richard stubbornly refused.
“Richard…Rana…? Sorry, one more time.”
The police officer assigned to the region of Harajuku were not used to katakana, was directly inputting the criminal report into his desktop computer. The golden-haired man gave him a card from his wallet. It was a business card with horizontal Western writing. When turned over, it became a business card with katakana.
Richard Ranasinghe Dvorpian, a name like a tongue twister that got harder to say in the last half, was inputted by the night police officer while constantly referencing the business card. The other person next to him gave us each a bottle of green tea, but he never spoke. He didn’t seem nervous. Was it a religious reason or something?
“You have Japanese citizenship?”
“My citizenship is British, officer.”
“Is the purpose of your stay tourism? Business? What’s your job?”
“I am here for business. I am a dealer in gemstones. A jeweler.”
Jeweler. Even if I wanted to get acquainted with him, apart from going to department stores or jewelry store, he had the type of occupation that makes me have no idea how to get to know him. Why at this time?
When asked back if he was a travelling merchant, Mr. Richard unzipped his black suitcase. The inside was packed with many candy box-like objects. He took one of them out, and removed the rubber band. Inside, there were a number of small plastic bags all lined up.
The two officers, probably wondering if they were illegal drugs, bent forward, and then gasped in unison. I also sunk my teeth into it.
What was in the plastic bag was not white powder, but blue stones. They were about as big as the crown of a wristwatch, and blue like it had been taken out of the depths of the sea as they were. I think there were about thirty stones in the bag. They looked like beads. There were many more different colored stones in the other bags. More, and more.
“Whoa. What are those, emeralds?”
“They are sapphires. Generally, items like these are sold in the customer’s home, upon reservation. Since it is often done after the other party has finished work, it ends up running into the late hours.”
“You’re carrying this with you at night? Aren’t you being careless?”
“Today’s circumstances are a little bit different from usual.”
What the jeweler Mr. Richard began to talk about was the story of what was probably the worst day of his life.
After completing a job at the home of a customer who had reserved a door-to-door sale, he took a taxi like always, but the driver he got was newcomer and didn’t know the way to Shimbashi Station, where Mr. Richard’s hotel was located. In spite of that, he had nothing but groundless self-confidence, and as a result, he continued to get recklessly lost, the meter turned around and around, and didn’t try to stop the car even at any cost. When Mr. Richard got off at Yoyogi Park as a last resort, this time he came across ill-natured drunks. He got beer poured on him, and his suitcase got broken. The listening officers began to laugh in the middle of the story, so he glared at them, and the older one shrugged.
“You really have to thank this young man. It would have gotten more serious. And excuse me, young man, but would you write your name? We need the witness testimony.”
I wrote my name with a ballpoint pen in the memo pad on the desk. 中田正義. Since my name was confirmed as “Masayoshi-kun,” I turned my head to the side and added furigana. Nakata Seigi.
“Oh! Your name expresses your character. So admirable.”
Suzuki and the older officer were laughing happily, so I complied with an ambiguous smile.
At twelve-forty-five midnight, we were finally released. When I told Mr. Richard that since I wouldn’t stop worrying about him until the time the taxi he called in the police box came, I would stay with him, he had a truly mystified look on his face.
“Are you a cavalier?”
“A gentleman,” Mr. Richard pronounced. I was someone who genuinely didn’t stand out at all.
“You accompanied me all the way to the end, even in the police box. Even though they told you that you can leave during the process.”
“It would probably be an inconvenience if they discovered an oversight in the investigation record or something after I left.”
When it looked like the taxi wouldn’t come for some time, Mr. Richard went into the convenience store next to the coin lockers in front of the station. He returned with two bottles of mineral water, and just when he pressed a bottle into my hand, the taxi came.
I spontaneously called out to him, detaining the jeweler.
“…I know you had an awful experience. But please, you must not hate this country. We don’t only have idiots like those here.”
“I know that very well. It is foolish to only judge humans based on large generalizations. You have nothing to be sorry about.”
Foolish. It had been a long time since I’ve heard that word. The blond man, who was more fluent in Japanese than me, put his suitcase in the backseat instead of the trunk. This strange meeting was about to end.
A chance like this might only exist now.
“Sorry, but there’s just one more thing! Richard-san, you also do jewelry appraisal, correct? For instance, rings…”
Mr. Richard looked surprised for the first time. His eyes, blue like the sapphires I saw in the police box, were looking at me. When the driver from the driver’s seat told him in an annoyed voice to please close the door, Mr. Richard abruptly put out one foot, a shiny leather shoe on the asphalt. He took out the business card from the wallet in his breast pocket and held it out to me in one hand. Jewelry Étranger. I had no idea what “étranger” meant. There was an email address and a phone number.
“You may call at any time. Would it be relatively easy for us to meet around Nihonbashi?”
“May we meet again somewhere, champion of justice.”
(TN: Richard says “seigi no mikata” in Japanese, mikata also meaning ally or supporter, which is yet another pun on Seigi’s name.)
Mr. Richard smiled broadly. The reason I couldn’t say anything was probably because it was so beautiful that there was no use arguing with him. Not only his features, but all of his mannerisms.
The taxi left behind orange taillights, and disappeared into the city at night.
I took what was nearly the last train on the Yamanote Line and returned to my apartment in Takadanobaba. When I finally checked my phone for the first time in a while, I had one unread text. The sender was “Hiromi.” It was from my mother back home.
“How are you doing? I’m doing just fine. I’m heading for my night shift now!”
She seems to be doing well. Since I’m living alone now, we often frequently exchanged texts.
In my boxers and tank top, I passively typed in, “I saved someone. He was amazingly beautiful. Maybe a model or something”, deleted all of that, and then wrote and sent “Good luck at work. Doing fine. Going to sleep now” like always. She wasn’t really someone who I could text everyday trivial matters to specially.
After that, I looked up the company name from the business card on my phone. “Étranger” apparently meant “stranger” in French. The jewelry store’s website showed up, but since it was only supported in English or Chinese, I gave up. They didn’t do online orders. Was there a physical store somewhere? In any case, he was a real jeweler.
Perhaps this was a welcome twist of fate…maybe.
I opened my fridge. Recently, I felt like skipping cooking for myself, so there was pretty much only preserved foods and condiments inside now. And, a small black box in the unused fridge drawer.
It’s been a long time since I’d so much as take it out.
Inside the cloth box, there was a single pink gem fitted into a platinum ring.
I stroked the snout of the lion at the Mitsukoshi store in Ginza for the first time. It was smooth.
When the subway emerged above ground from Ginza Station, a somewhat strange world spread out before me. Chuuou Ward. Of the twenty-three wards of Tokyo, it was the smallest after Taitou Ward. It was different from the unorganized business atmosphere of Shinjuku, and it also ran counter to the rowdy, “Cheers!” atmosphere of Shibuya and Harajuku. Buildings that were neither too high nor too low were neatly arranged, building to building, like high-priced bento box ingredients. It was a street like a diorama made for the purpose of pretty advertisements and buildings, and then rented out to humans. And despite all that, there were retro clock towers and bronze statues wherever there was space.
At the scheduled time, as I was waiting on the second floor of a coffee chain store near Mitsukoshi, the man with the face that could never be forgotten once you had met him, arrived pulling along a new black suitcase. It was a hilarious sight. The customers at each and every one of the tables he walked past all craned their necks at the same angle, like dominos falling, to follow that beautiful creature in the shape of a person with their eyes. Was he a panda at Ueno?
Mr. Richard, who lightly raised his hand in greeting, was dressed in a dark blue suit and a dress shirt. When I called him, he told me to meet with him in two replies. It seemed that since I had an item, there couldn’t be any discussion unless he could see it. He said that since students had lighter footwork, he’ll leave the meeting place to me, and so that ended up being right in the middle of Ginza.
The man who seemed to advertise men’s wear just by walking on the road sat down in front of me. I was wearing chino pants and a cardigan.
“Thank you very much for the other day. How are you?”
“Ah, hello…You really are excellent at Japanese.”
“Language is also an important business tool.”
Mr. Richard’s tray only contained a baked sweet and water. It was a bit surprising. Even though a drink was cheaper.
I straightened my posture before my undrinked coffee and broached the subject of the meeting.
“I have the ring with me. I would like to request an appraisal.”
I took out the black box from my backpack.
I snapped open the lid and showed the ring with the pink gem. Although it was only about the size of a plastic sphere on a sewing pin, it was continually polished into a beautiful polyhedron, it shone brightly when reflecting light. It was a stone with a lightly rolling luster, and its length and width were almost the same. There was no engraving on the ring made of a silver-colored metal, or traces of engravings.
It was the only piece of jewelry I had.
“…This seems to be a pink sapphire.”
“Is that so? I managed to look it up online, but I couldn’t be sure.”
Mr. Richard nodded in an “is that so” way. I continued.
“It is an heirloom from my grandmother on my mother’s side. She died when I was in high school, but…she always insisted that it was fake.”
I pressed the jeweler, who was looking a bit surprised.
“This is a strange conversation, isn’t it? But my family doesn’t have any other pieces of jewelry, so my mother and I don’t know anything about these kinds of things. It feels bad to leave it uncertain, so I would like to have it sent to a specialized place to appraise it.”
“The appraisal of a gem other than a diamond is called ‘identification,’ so our business here is identification.”
“Does that mean you can determine whether or not it’s genuine right here?”
He nodded, saying, “To a certain extent.” As expected of a pro. Was it something like that after all?
“However, recent counterfeits are well done, so I cannot be a hundred percent accurate. I want to fully make sure, if possible.”
When I asked if I could leave it with him, Mr. Richard had a hard expression on his face for a moment.
“Um…was it wrong of me to ask that?”
“Something precious like this are usually not readily entrusted to a person one meets for the first time.”
“Isn’t this the second time?”
“‘Almost’ the first time. If I am actually a bad man who cannot be compared to those drunks in Yoyogi Park and I am trying to cheat you out of your ring, your important heirloom will never return to you.”
Though I did not intend to, I almost laughed a little. So we are talking about this after all. I read in a magazine article a long time ago that jewels are expensive things, so it’s a business where trust means everything. This person must be someone who did business shrewdly and solidly.
“I understand what you mean, but I think a truly bad person would not expressly say all of that. Have you considered the opposite, if I was the bad guy? Leaving a fake ring with you and ordering you to return the real thing. It’s fine, I have pictures of the ring from all angles. I printed two sets of photos at the convenience store, so please take this set. What should I do after that, stamp them or something…?”
I didn’t think he especially had me believe that this was “almost” our first time meeting, but I really just wanted to know about the gem——was what I said.
I appealed to him, but Mr. Richard stayed silent. I wanted to him to trust me, if possible. We did exchange our personal information in the police box after all.
“So, I don’t have a lot of money, but do you have an estimate on the costs?”
“…If it’s an institution within Japan, it would be from around 3000 yen to 5000 yen, at most.”
“So cheap! Oh, excuse me. I read online that it costs tens of thousands of yen.”
“It will cost that much if you place an order with a specialized institution in the United states and get a letter of identification. If you do not mind a Japanese institution, then it will cost what I said before. Are you fine with that?”
“Yes, I am. All I want is to know about it completely. How long will it take?”
“A week at the earliest, and a month at the latest.”
I bowed my head with a “Please,” and the jeweler nodded. Good, I somehow managed to get him to do it.
When I was drinking my coffee, Mr. Richard broke the silence.
“By the way, Nakata-san, are you a university student?”
“Oh? Didn’t you call me Seigi before?”
“Your name is Nakata Seigi, is it not?”
“Yes, but you don’t really have to call me by my family name. I’m younger than you, anyways.”
“I could not possibly do that. You are my client today, after all.”
“…Are you really not Japanese?”
Mr. Richard smiled a beautiful and cordial smile, then brought his glass of water to his mouth. I never saw him eating his baked sweets. Maybe he planned on taking them home in a plastic bag. There seemed to be a way for people who didn’t want to order any drink to enter a coffee shop. Maybe he was a particular person who was fine with the plastic bottle tea from before. I pretended not to watch him and drank my coffee. It has been a long time since I drank coffee that wasn’t in a can.
Mr. Richard took out a clear file with A4-sized papers inside and a ballpoint pen from his suitcase. The three letters of the alphabet that were printed on the papers were probably the name of the company doing the identification. While I signed them and wrote down my address at Takadanobaba, Mr. Richard took several pictures of the ring with a digital camera. I said that I told him that I did have photos before and took the bag out from my backpack, but was told that he was just making sure. Caution was important.
“Is this kind of thing a tradition from a long time ago?”
“Indeed. The history of jewelry is a history of fraud and thievery. Safety first became a tradition since ancient times to protect both consumer and dealer.”
“…That’s good to hear.”
After I told him some days when we could meet next, Mr. Richard told me that he would call me. When I tried to stand up, saying that I suppose this meeting was over, he interrupted me, saying that he had one more thing to ask.
“You said that your grandmother had passed away when you were in high school, but had you never thought about going to your neighbourhood jewelry shop ever since then? You can place an order for identification at any shop.”
“I never had the opportunity. I kept forgetting about the ring. Meeting you by chance the other day must be some sort of fate.”
Mr. Richard suddenly looked somber. The man in the suit, who could enchant passersby by just casting his eyes down, brought his glass to his lips, and then looked up.
“I will certainly take your request. It probably will be done at the start or the middle of next month, but as soon as I learn of the results, I will call your cell phone again, Nakata-san.”
“You don’t have to act so respectful towards me. I’ll be leaving everything in your care then, Mr. Richard.”
When I gave a small bow of my head, the jeweler’s eyes crinkled slightly. What was it? Did I say something funny?
“This is the first time I have met someone in this country who deemed that I was ‘acting respectful’ simply by calling them by their family name. “
“’In this country’? Oh, that’s right, I guess it’s normal in English-speaking countries? Everyone there call each other by their first names after all. I’m just not called with honorifics. I guess I have a first name that’s quite easy to remember.”
“I am also not very used to being called ‘Richard-san.’”
As if to say, yes, like that, the jeweler grinned. He looked about thirty when he was silent, but he looked a little younger when he smiled. How old was he? I wanted to try asking him, but the timing escaped me.
We shook hands and left the shop, and then Richard headed for Shimbashi Station. For no particular reason, I watched his retreating back until he was out of sight. Maybe I was reluctant to part. With the ring in his suitcase, I mean.
Praying that he would perform his role perfectly, I stared at the back of the jeweler.