So apparently Richard’s name is actually officially Richard Ranashinha de Vulpian in English, according to the English anime official website. Richard’s last name is from his mom, according to the third book (spoilers)
Also I just got the fanbook recently. Stay tuned for the short stories!
At ten-thirty on Saturday, she came exactly on time. The royal milk tea was also at just the right temperature.
“We’ve been looking forward to your arrival. Please have a seat.”
Mami-san had cut her long hair to all the way below her ears. Her complexion was better than it was when we first met her. But that was not the only reason why the air around her seems brighter.
Mami-san looked directly at me and smiled.
“Long time no see. How are you doing? I almost died in Asakusa last month.”
“I know that, what a cruel joke. Is your body doing alright now?”
“I’m doing well. The engagement is broken off, and now I’m looking for a new job.”
Two weeks ago, we devotedly waited and prayed at the Asakusa hospital. Even when Akashi-san and Homura-san arrived, completely exhausted, the emergency room’s door still didn’t open.
After sunset, when the nurse came and told us that she was all right now, Akashi-san, who was standing next to me, flew into the room at the back and embraced Mami-san, then broke down into tears. Mami-san, who had dazedly regained consciousness, slowly stroked her hair with a white hand.
Without stirring an inch, Homura-san silently watched the two of them from afar. That was already two weeks ago.
Richard returned from the back room with a jewelry box. It was the ruby Sasu-san brought with her under the name of Akashi and given to her by Homura-san. How complicated. With it was also a threefold evaluation document wrapped in plastic.
“3.05 carats, triple A class, and the stone is a product of Mogok in Myanmar, I believe.* It is an unheated special product. It is in all probability ten million yen.”
(TN: Mogok is a city where the best quality rubies are mined.)
I nearly turned over the tea tray. Ten million. Ten million. That gemstone she just left behind without batting an eyelid?
Mami-san seemed a little surprised at the amount, but all she said was, “Is that so?” and stared at the brooch that had finally been returned to her after all this time with a half-hearted expression. She looked like she was just looking into the mirror.
After I served the tea, I spoke up without thinking.
“Umm…why did you come here to check if the ruby was heated or not? You could have just asked Homura-san.”
“…I felt like I was drawing a fortune.”
Mami-san looked at Richard and me, and then began to speak little by little. For the brooch, Homura-san had given the stones he had on hand to a processing company and had it custom-made for her birthday. It was a present meant to eliminate pre-wedding blues, and so it became a brooch since a ring might make her too conscious of getting married and feel depressed.
“I researched a little bit, and learned about heat treatment. It said that the treatment to add heat to rubies in order to improve their color was common…I was a bit surprised. I somehow thought that all gemstones that are displayed were chiseled out as they were.”
Mami-san moved the hand holding the bottom of the box. The pigeon blood-colored stone sparkled when it was struck by light.
“They say that since heat processing treatment has been developed in the past few decades, no one knows what state the stones would be in after a hundred years. Is that true?”
“If you only focus on current processing technology, it is possible to say that, but the heating of rubies is itself performed for more than three hundred years. The history of processing is quite ancient.”
“The history of the pursuit of beauty, or something like that, eh.”
Mami-san smiled with only the shape of her mouth being crooked, she fell silent for a while, and then murmured a few words.
“I don’t regret my decisions. I’ve always wanted to be that sort of person, and I’m not wrong. But…as the wedding day got nearer, for the first time I was afraid of what I was doing. That’s why…”
I decided to make sure, she said.
If the ruby underwent heat treatment, she would marry Homura-san. If it was an unheated ruby, she would reconsider it. That was Mami-san’s “drawing a fortune.” Wait…
“Isn’t it the other way around? Stones that aren’t heated have a higher grade.”
“If that’s the case, then I all the more can’t marry someone who is trying to give me something like that. It would have been better if he didn’t care about me at all.”
I wiggled my eyebrows in a “What’s she saying” kind of way. Richard said nothing. Mami-san seemed to have misunderstood my reason for frowning.
“He isn’t a bad person. I was surprised about the detective, but he’s sincere and single-minded at heart. It seems that he sometimes acts rashly as well…but he truly is a kind person.”
Even now, I still didn’t know what kind of person Homura-san was. There were still parts I wasn’t satisfied about, but I didn’t think he was such a terrible person. That was why even she would consider marriage, after all.
Mami-san talked, little by little.
“Even though I planned on making a fresh start as someone different than who I was until now, I got an eating disorder, I felt mentally exhausted and worn-out…I wanted someone to tell me what to do. I was told about this store by a girl from a bar in Ginza. That there was a jewelry store that wasn’t very popular. I will return the brooch to Homura-san.”
Mami-san murmured that he told her that she could keep it, then she closed her eyes and shook her head. What could I really say to him? Her murmuring voice was bitter.
“Talking for such a long time is tiring. Have some tea, if you like.”
Encouraged by Richard, Mami-san took a sip of tea. Her eyes went round with an “Mmm!” and looked me full in the face.
“…This is really good. Thank you.”
When I told her with a triumphant look that it was a skill directly handed down from the owner, Mami-san smiled wryly and looked at Richard.
“‘Human relationships based on a goal aren’t love’, was it? Those are some great words.”
Richard gave a shrug of the shoulders. Was he remembering the things he had said at that time? I looked a bit embarrassed, and Mami-san said it was revenge, then laughed.
“Thank you for saving me. I’ve always longed to die, but it’s somewhat strange that a day would come where I would say this.”
Again with that? Was she really alright?
Richard took out the evaluation document and indicated the “Client” section. Mami-san widened her eyes. “Akashi Mami” was written as the name.
“The correction couldn’t be made in time. Please tell me one thing. Why did you use a false name?”
“…I’m sorry. Even I don’t really know why. When I was living together with Tatsuki, it was a name I used occasionally to mess around. I haven’t spoke it at all recently.”
Mami-san took another sip of the royal milk tea I made. Though I wouldn’t say she was a hundred percent bright and sunny, her expression looked refreshed. But I couldn’t tell either way.
“Um…I don’t mind at all if you won’t answer this question, but why did you force yourself so much to marry a man?”
“Why, because that’s ‘normal’ for the majority of people in this world.”
I goggled at her, and she continued.
“Are there any among your friends who are living with a same-sex partner? Probably not, I would think. It’s not just problems like discrimination or harsh criticism, but it’s tiresome, like growing a kitchen garden in the middle of a desert. Why is it only me who has to experience hardships that other people don’t have to go through? I wonder if this is what they call the grass on the other side of the fence.”
“But, there are people who don’t want to get married in the first place.”
I heard about the education policy of her family. “Don’t cause trouble for others.” “Don’t stand out unnecessarily.” Live normally, go to school normally, getting married normally, have children normally, raise them normally, and grow old normally. That was the least difficult way to live comfortably without standing out. For example, maintaining a figure that would fit the medium sized clothes sold at mass retailers. Medium size. The size worn by the greatest number of people.
During her middle school school trip, her home was washed away by a huge typhoon, and her whole family perished. The tragic incident was reported in the national papers. That really made me stood out, eh, she said, smiling without moving her face very much.
“Tatsuki is the exact opposite of me. She hated stuff like “normal.” She was someone who would make her own clothes. I fell in love with her when we first met, but we were poor living together, and I couldn’t see a future, so I thought, it’s good to be ‘normal’ after all. I wanted to live more easily. I also decided to work as a full-time employee.”
“But it wasn’t so easy after all.”
“Yes. It was so uneasy it was deadly.”
Mami-san laughed. It was brighter than that desperate sound I heard at the shrine. But I was still a little bit worried.
“It’s better not to do that anymore. If something happened to you, Mami-san, there would be people who would be unbearably sad, so if you cherish and love yourself, you would also be cherishing those people. That sounded kind of like a sermon, but it’s true. Do you see that?”
“Well…hmm, that was somewhat unbelievable to hear. It’s strange. That even though I’m a complete stranger without a family, there are people who will be hurt just by me treating myself badly.”
“That is strange. When starting to love someone from the bottom of their heart, people will become more and more strange…it’s strange and natural. Isn’t that what it means to fall in love?”
Mami-san was silent. Was it that she couldn’t believe there was possibly someone who loved her? I thought there was a great number of people who didn’t like themselves, but it was probably a minority who hated themselves so intensely that they wanted to kill themselves.
However, the current her looked so heartrendingly, apologetically, almost somewhat unbearably, happy, to the point of my chest feeling tight.
After wiping her eyes a little, Mami-san looked at me with the face of a contemptuous queen.
“You don’t look younger than me. Have you ever been called cheeky?”
“Isn’t a certain someone just being childish?”
“What a truly uncute lifesaver.”
I grinned, and Mami-san smiled, looking a little embarrassed. For the first time, I understood just a little the feelings of those would run around Tokyo and cry for her. She was an awkward person.
The store owner, who had been listening in silence, nodded without saying anything, then took a sip of tea and put down his cup.
“Sasu-sama, do you know what is the unit called carat?”
Like how this ruby is 3.5 carats? Mami-san asked, and Richard nodded, saying Exactly. And then he looked at me.
“Seigi, do you still remember what a carat represents?”
“…It’s the unit for the weight of a gemstone, right? One carat equals to 0.2 grams.”
I got “Good for you” as a response. Speaking of which, I remembered asking in this store why were carats used instead of grams. It was the day Mami-san first arrived.
“It was said that in ancient Greece, goldsmiths weighed gemstones with locust bean seeds as weights. One seed was about 0.2 grams. Around the Mediterranean, locust beans were called ‘kerátiοn‘ or ‘carob’, and so that was corrupted into ‘carat’.”
A single bean, one carat.
For some reason, I imagined people with curly hair dressed in white putting beans and gems on a balance scale. It was true that beans and gems were similar in weight and size. That must be a scene from thousands of years ago.
“In short, this unit is a custom unit used only for jewels, for the sake of jewels, by jewel craftsmen. Compared to centimeters and kilograms, its versatility is far more inferior, but it is still useful for weighing gems. Of course, it can be expressed as grams, but even so, I believe that a world where many types of weights and measures exist is easier to live in, more beautiful, and richer.”
Mami-san, as though she had comprehended something, giggled.
“You look cool, but you are quite passionate. I hope I can become a rich person like you, too.”
“Everyone has their own universe. The difference is whether you turn your back to it, or richly cultivate it as your own ocean. You mentioned it was a fortune slip earlier, but a gem is a mirror that reflects its owner. It does not lead you to an answer you do not want.”
“When you came here, Sasu-sama, you already had your answer.”
“…So, you mean that I was the only one who didn’t know that.”
Richard smiled gently, a smile as calm as the sea at a lull. Even this man could make a face like that? Mami-san smiled feebly. Since she was able to ignore that face, she was quite the woman.
“So, there’s also the fee for the evaluation documents, but how much was it again?”
Richard took out a business card from his wallet. Richard Ranashinha de Vulpian. There were other customers who had visited the store for the first time, but this was the first time I saw him give one to a customer.
“You do not need to worry about the bill. I think what you need currently is not jewelry, but something that would shift your attention to your own shining beauty. If someday, you truly want a jewel that will come close to your own shine, please contact us. We promise a wonderful item for you.”
“…Thank you so much for everything. I am indebted to you.”
Mami-san bowed her head deeply, put the ruby brooch into her shoulder bag, and left the store.
I was a little worried, so I went to see her off after a bit of a time delay. Before my eyes I saw a bike with two people on it rev up its engine and speed past me.
“I also thought this on the return train from Kobe, but you’re actually a really empathetic person. You care more about your customers than immediate profits. Is that like a ‘sometimes the best gain is to lose’ kind of thing?”
“I would not go as far as to say it was a loss. I was able to make a connection with Homura-sama.”
“I have met him once more since then. His family is a greatly ambitious jewelry collector. We made an arrangement to show him more the next time we meet.”
As expected of a merchant who traveled all over the world. It was true that nabbing someone who owned such an amazing stone shouldn’t be a loss. But it wasn’t like I couldn’t hear him hiding his embarrassment.
“Did he say anything?”
“He would like me to show him if I had any good stones. Nothing other than that.”
He was also a strange person. Telling someone he truly loved that “you can cheat.”
Maybe if you were truly, hopelessly in love with someone, you wouldn’t mind that you weren’t the one they loved the most and just wanted to be by their side. No matter what form it took, no matter what you had to give up.
If that was the case, I felt like I understood that, just a little bit.
But it was just I “felt like” I did. I couldn’t say I truly understood pain that drove you to death.
“…Hey, Richard, this was the first time I talked so much with a lesbian. I saw a parade in Shinjuku, so I just assumed that those sorts of people were proud of their sexualities, even if they had to hide them, but not every single person is like that.”
“Do all Japanese people like sushi and sumo? Making judgements by lumping people together as ‘those sorts of people’ is a brutality equivalent to confining your mind and spirit to a cage. In addition, statistics show that five to ten percent of the population identify as homosexual. You are merely indifferent to their existence.”
It was true that when people introduced themselves, they didn’t expressly say if they liked men or women, and nobody asked. I didn’t think I had ever thought about things like that until now. I didn’t even care. That was because for me, liking the opposite sex was—normal.
Just as what was natural for me was an emotional truth to Mami-san, I might not understand at all what was natural for her and Richard. When I was in this store, it was just like a different form of the world you saw until now came into view. It was the exact opposite of my night shift part-time job. To be honest, it was sometimes scary, like the ground was shaking beneath my feet. But I didn’t feel like leaving this place.
“Seigi. You also affirmed it when I hired you part-time.”
“‘I won’t hold prejudices based on race, religion, sexual preference, nationality, and anything else, and I won’t make discriminatory remarks,’ right? I know that. And I like that a lot about you.”
“The presence or absence of prejudice is not a matter of good or bad; it is the minimum requirement for humans to be humans.”
When I told him that I liked that about him, Richard cleared his throat.
“I have always thought this, but have you ever paid the price for saying careless remarks?”
Paying the price for saying careless remarks? What was this about? For as long as I could remember, Grandma told me over and over not to do anything that would hurt someone else. I thought my experience of calling Hiromi “demon witch” in middle school and being forced to eat extremely spicy fried rice was also considerably effective. Praise rather than disparage. That was for the sake of both parties.
When I answered, I don‘t think so, with a smile, Richard squinted his blue eyes. He looked like he wanted to say he was shocked. I didn’t understand why. No, wait, was this a test? About tolerance? It was true that the cause of all the trouble this time was because I carelessly revealed customer information. There was a reason to test me.
To Richard, who looked like he was looking for something, I grinned back at him.
“Man, even when you’re frowning, I think you’re an amazingly handsome guy.”
He could test me all he wanted to. This was my answer. I had done some serious soul-searching and penitence since then.
At that moment, Richard withdrew his sour face and smiled. It was like some sort of switch had been flipped. What was with that ice sculpture-like smile? It was so beautiful it was terrifying.
“Thank you very much. I think I understand your viewpoint very well.”
“O-oh, is that so. That’s good. But, you’re kinda giving off…scary vibes?”
“The shop’s standing sweets have run out. Could you run out to buy more, please?”
Telling me not to forget the receipt, Richard handed me a shopping list and a ten-thousand-yen bill, then told me that I could buy anything else I liked. I thanked him and went out, then unfolded the list. Melon jelly from Sembikiya.* Baum cake from Matsuya.* Mizu yokan from Seigetsudou. Leaf pie and limited-time lemon cheesecake from Shiseido.* Why did the names of all these sweets come up in one go? Did he mean for me to buy all of these things all at once?
(TN: Sembikiya and Seigetsudou are famous and high-class sweets shops. Matsuya and Shiseido are department stores. Mizu yokan is a chilled red bean jelly. Baum cake is a multilayered cake from Germany. Richard has some expensive taste lol)
“Too much stuff. Can‘t get them all. What were you thinking“
A new text came in just as I hit send. It wasn’t from Richard. At the word “Tanimoto,” my heart danced. Over and over again.
“Hello Seigi-kun! Did you really get in a sportscar in Asakusa? I heard from a friend who works at Nakamise that the driving was incredible. What a fun hide-and-seek!“
A misunderstanding. A big misunderstanding. Furthermore, there were embellishments added.
While I was going back and forth with her on the talk screen, I got a response from Richard. Many texts came one after another all at once.
“Hello. This text is a bit long.“
“I would like to take this opportunity to express everything I felt for you since we met.”
“You are like the embodiment of charm that humans could roughly imagine.“
“What deserves more mention than anything else is your frank disposition to sometimes praise people to the point of foolish honesty.“
“Every time I see your working figure, my chest is filled with fragrant euphoria.”
Huh? What the hell was this?
A confession of love? Impossible, absolutely not. Was he playing a joke on me? Why another one?
I stood still, reread the chain of texts, reread the chain of texts again, and when I reread it for the fourth time, I remembered our conversation from right before I left the store. I like that about you. A handsome guy even when frowning.
I felt like I could hear the sound of all my blood being drained out of my body, like the sound of rushing water. It wasn’t about how “careless remarks” were limited to negative words. It was the opposite. I certainly was being tested, but I hadn’t understood his intentions at all. I didn’t disparage him, that was true, but it was just like—
As I was fighting against heart palpitations and shortness of breath, I got follow-up texts.
“Now, is this a good time for understanding the effects of careless praise?”
“No matter how innocent and beautiful the words may be, it may not be taken as intended.“
“If you repeat such careless and insensitive words and deeds, you will one day end up in a situation where you will have to pay a large sum of money.”
“I advise you to understand all of that and eradicate the cause of your careless remarks. Richard”
On top of seeming conceited and pretentious, he was beating around the bush. Was he the type who could say all kinds of things to people?
Just when I was thinking of what to say back and had half a mind to go back to the store and give him a good punch like Akashi-san, and I got another text. I didn’t want to see them any more. I noticed I had switched screens after I sent my text.
“The sportscar was yours? Show me next time!”
My “Got it!” response text was attached to Tanimoto-san’s messages.
There was a phrase called “poetic justice.” I bought everything on the list, and then returned to the store, where Richard greeted me with a demure and unconcerned-looking face. Richard wasn’t bad. He was really, truly, not bad. I was the one who was bad. I knew that, but it was unbearable.
From now on, I would observe customer information strictly. I vowed I would protect it with my life. That was why, God, Buddha, Richard, please grant your forgiveness.