I decided that I would post chapter parts by word count, like every two thousand words or so. I think this would take the stress of translating huge chunks as well as make it easier to read.
It was a story set in Tokyo right at the height of its high economic growth, during an April that was still chilly. Tae-san said she was sixty-eight years old this year, but at that time she was twenty and her name wasn’t Miyashita, but Uemura Tae, and furthermore, it was arranged that in two months’ time she would become Tae with another surname. After the war, her family established a food importation company, and everything went smoothly and well when it was founded, but they were too ambitious in the economic boom and before they knew it, they had major failures on the stock market, their debts piled up, and they were driven to the point where they were considering family suicide or skipping town. The fact that if there were people who gained, there were people who lost, was still true today.
In order to escape their plight, her father devised a resuscitation strategy, which was to be acquired from a rival business. As groundwork laid for her father who was desperately defending his chair of representative director, she was ordered to marry the president of the other company. He was thirty years older than her, and kept several mistresses.
Tae-san said that she felt like her life had ended before anything had started.
The engagement ring with a pink gemstone was apparently a rare item obtained from a foreign country, and she said that she thought it surely was the price of a girl’s lifetime.
Tae-san walked to Ginza in order to wander around alone. She watched women working in a department store, walked to around Shimbashi, and then took the Yamanote Line. It was the opposite direction from home.
She recklessly rode through several stations at random, and after she aimlessly got off, the ring on her left hand was gone.
“Even now, I can remember what happened at that moment as though it was just yesterday. I was not even a little, not even a little bit, sad. The jewelry is innocent, but to me, that ring was a collar with a chain.”
She felt as if someone had unlocked the door to her cage, Tae said, laughing.
Of course, it wasn’t merely a funny story at the time. Her house was in an uproar, Tae-san’s father struck her, shouting what on earth did she do. When she still didn’t feel sad, she realized her own lack of filial piety. Above her entire family being unhappy, she couldn’t endure her own unhappiness.
“I didn’t think there was any way I could be useful to my family anymore, and that there was no point in living, so I decided to die at that same station the next day. But even though I jumped, the only reason I didn’t die was because one of my legs got caught. I was told by those who rescued me that it was a miracle, but from that day on I became the most burdensome one in my family. My engagement was broken off, and I couldn’t move my right leg anymore. I was imprisoned into a confined hospital room and thought I would never be let out for the rest of my life. But there, you see, a charming medical student who spoke in a Kansai dialect and who I was much obliged to, became taken with me.”
“Who can know what will happen in life?”Tae-san said, smiling. She seemed truly happy. She had a son who was now living with his wife, and her grandson was in elementary school.
Until her death, my Grandma had never once…
Noticing how stunned I was, Tae-san tilted her head to the side and asked what was the matter. I bowed my head and excused myself, then somehow managed gather the soppiness in my chest. In my palm, the pink sapphire ring that was not accepted glittered.
“…I think Grandma decided not to forgive herself by keeping this ring for all this time. But I…love Grandma. I want to put an end to all of this. Please, won’t you accept it?”
When I couldn’t say anything else after that, Tae-san called my name. The maid tried to interrupt many times during it all, but Tae-san continued to speak without minding her.
“Seigi-san, do you like gemstones? Are you as knowledgeable about them as Richard-san?”
“No, not at all…I only know this ring.”
“I see,” Tae-san smiled gently. “Well, there exists something called the ‘language of gemstones’ for each gemstone. For diamonds, it is ‘eternity,’ for emeralds, it is ‘clarity’ and ‘joy,’ and so on. They seem to have various meanings depending on the country and the era.”
“Say,” Tae-san looked at Richard. The jeweler complied like a capable butler. “What does my beloved pink sapphire mean in the language of gemstones?”
“I believe it means ‘justice for the weak.'”
As I was gaping, Tae-san gently reached out her hand to my face and stroked my cheek.
“At that time, your grandmother, me, my family, and your mother were all the ‘weak.’ But no one helped us. We could only bite our lips and endure it. Even now, those who are truly in need will endure it all in that same way.”
“…But, it’s because of Grandma that—”
“It was fate. I have never bore a grudge. Seigi-san, please be someone who helps the weak. Like when you helped Richard-san when he was in a bind. That is what is right. From now on, whenever you look at this gem, please remember my request. Then, could you leave this message before your grandmother’s altar? ‘Thank you. Please take the burden off your shoulders and rest peacefully.’ You must.”
I’ll be in your care, Tae-san smiled. “Now, it is finished,” she said, impishly greeting the maid.
I held it in until I left the mansion because it would be embarrassing. I did my very best. Still, I was sobbing hard as soon as I exited. While being amazed and telling me to get a hold of myself since I looked pitiful, Richard-san lent me an expensive-looking handkerchief. The taxi driver was trembling with fear, but it seemed he didn’t have the courage to speak to a crying man and a model-like foreigner. I was incredibly ashamed.
It was only when we reached Shin-Kobe Station that I was able to look directly at the scenery around me.
“Do you want to eat?”
Richard was holding a Chinese steamed bun out to me. Subdivided Chinese food were tightly packed inside a paper bag from a chain restaurant in Kansai. More than half of it was frozen food.
“Their bestselling items are these steamed pork buns. People never get tired of them, among other things.”
“…How much did you know? About the ring.”
When I asked Richard, he was casually stuffing his cheeks with Chinese steamed buns. Shocked that I was actually seeing a handsome man in suit eating while standing up, my tears then subsided from the cheapness of my thoughts. Richard started to talk after he finished eating.
“I have been an acquaintance of Miyashita-san’s family for many years. I had also heard about the gem that was related to Madam’s eventful life. I thought it couldn’t be when I saw your ring, but what I heard from the specialist who did the identification about the stone’s polish and the ring’s creation and date matched with Madam’s story. To begin with, I judged that there was no mistake with the point in time when a padparadscha of that era was in Japan. When I sent the photos to Miyashita-sama, Madam said she greatly wanted to meet with you immediately.”
“Padparadscha. A pink sapphire that appears to have a unique orange color is called that.”
“Padparadscha. In Sinhalese, it means ‘lotus flower.’ That is the language of Sri Lanka.”
Sri Lanka. I felt like I had heard that name briefly in high school geography class. Richard seemed to see through to the interior of the head of me who did not get it.
“It is an island country that is located on the eastern side of the Indian Ocean. The name of its capital is long and famous.”*
(TN: The official capital of Sri Lanka is Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte.)
When I finished eating Chinese steamed buns, Richard talked, continuing to focus on something completely off-topic.
“This only has to do with me, but my grandmother was born in a city named Ratnapura in Sri Lanka. Since its yield in the 1950s, padparadscha sapphires could not be mined outside of that city’s mines at all until recent years.”
Then, this gem as well.
When I turned my gaze to him as though to confirm, Richard nodded lightly without saying anything.
My Grandma’s ring. The gem mined from Richard’s Grandma’s hometown.
“It really is quite interesting. The gem mined from Sri Lanka, polished in Europe and drifted to faraway Japan. If I were to describe it in a Japanese way, then perhaps I would say ‘this is also some kind of fate.'”
After the return train departed, I opened my wallet, then to Richard who looked suspicious I pushed twice the amount of money printed on the tickets.
“Transportation costs. I think you paid with your credit card back there.”
“This was a request of Miyashita-sama, who was always favors me. It is not charity.”
“This doesn’t have anything to do with that. I work part-time for times like these.”
“You are more of a stubborn person rather than honest and upright.”
“It’s my nature. There is a spirit called jingi in this country.”*
(TN: Jingi is a Confucian virtue that means “humanity and justice.”)
“As you can see, I am a foreigner, so I am not familiar with the culture and customs of this country.”
“Don’t make me laugh,” I said with a wry smile. Richard looked prim and indifferent. To put an end to the conversation that had reached a deadlock for the time being, I asked him one thing I was very curious about.
“When we met at the second coffee shop, you said that ‘there is a possibility this is a stolen item.’ Why did you beat around the bush like that? If you knew everything, there was no need for all that trouble.”
“At that time, I did not know what were your true intentions for asking me for the identification of that pink sapphire.”
Richard took a sip of water from the water bottle he bought at a kiosk, then spoke matter-of-factly.
“Recently, the business of reselling Japanese jewelry in India and China has become popular, but they do not readily deal with high-priced gems without identification documents. It is quite literally a marketplace of a mixture of gems and rocks after all.”
“…I’m pretty sure I told you it was an heirloom from my Grandma.”
“Most swindlers say things like ‘This is an heirloom’ or ‘This is a keepsake.’ In the first place, that ring was actually stolen once. It is reasonable to think that a pawned item would drift around and pass into the hands of an unrelated person. There is a ninety-nine percent chance of you being a complete stranger who has no relation to Miyashita-sama and is troubling over how to sell of a ring with an unknown history. If I ask in a way that leaves an escape route, those who have ill intentions will evade the question, and those who don’t know anything would deny it in a panic. Of course, I would not be able to read the reaction of someone foolishly good-natured.”
“There is a word called ‘touchstone.’ This is the true meaning of that word.”
“…Still, thanks for paying for today’s tickets.”
Richard narrowed his eyes. I don’t think it was a coincidence that the voice tone of the stewardess—who pushed the food trolley and had just passed by—became very high. The intensely beautiful man with classical features put his arm on his seat to turn away and sleep, and looked into my face as I sat in the aisle seat.
“I think those who have that much charm can live more easily.”
Calling me Champion of Justice once again, Richard narrowed his eyes and smiled. He seemed somewhat proud. Every one of his words were spoken like they were meant to be clear and easy to understand.
Before I could reply, Richard announced that he was going to sleep and turned his back to the aisle. He fell asleep really quickly and did not wake up until Tokyo Station. I thought about shoving the travelling expenses deep into his jacket, but I stopped myself because it would cause trouble if the surrounding people suspected me wrongly.
When we separated at the platform, Richard pushed the paper bag with Chinese food into my hands. When I told him that I couldn’t take even that as well, the jeweler said one last mysterious thing.
“I never told you to eat it alone.”
“…Eh, you mean with you?”
“That is not what I meant.”
He persuaded me to return to my parents’ home this once. It didn’t seem to simply mean that I have to report the events of today to my mother.
“There should still be some things to talk about. Perhaps more than you might think.”
Biding me a farewell, the jeweler in the suit disappeared among the crowds of people.
While feeling like a strange spell had been cast on me, I took the Chuo Line to Shimbashi Station, then headed for the Odakyu platform. The time to reach the city on the border between Tokyo and Kanagawa was at most forty minutes.