The Case Files of Jeweler Richard Book 1 Chapter 1 (Part 4)
This part took a lot of work and probably needs some more editing, but hopefully it makes sense???? Also, the teaser PV and character designs for the anime came out, and let me just say that I cannot wait for January!!!
When the table with Chinese food lined up in a row leapt into her eyes, Hiromi exclaimed, “Wow!” Her reactions at times like these were more childish than me.
“Isn’t this too much, why did you buy so much food? Do you have enough money for food?”
“I do. I have a part-time job.”
“I didn’t allow for you to go to university for the sake of a part-time job. Please study.”
Around when Hiromi finished her night shift, I warmed up the large quantities of steamed pork buns and dim sum. Zongzi (rice wrapped in bamboo leaves). Shumai (steamed pork dumplings). Xiaolongbao (Chinese soup dumplings). Pepper steaks and steamed buns. Since there weren’t enough vegetables, I bought komatsuna (Japanese mustard spinach) on sale at a nearby business-use supermarket that I haven’t been to in a long while. I learned when I was in my first year of high school that it would generally come out okay once you throw in some oyster sauce and stir-fry it.
“Don’t leave the honorific off my name. What is it?”
“Do you know what this is?”
I took out the jewelry box from my bag and snapped it open on the table. The face of Hiromi, who had been so excited about the Chinese food, quickly turned cold.
I used to believe she didn’t know anything about it, but could it really be something that could be kept hidden for more than forty years?
Today, for the first time since I left home, I opened the hidden partition on the bottom drawer of the dresser. The prisoner number tag was gone.
When I kept quiet, Hiromi muttered some words.
“I do know. And that you took it with you when you left home. Isn’t it better if you take it? I’m not that bothered about it.”
“…And what about the story of the young lady?”
“More or less. I didn’t tell it to Nakata’s father, though.”
“You didn’t throw it away even though you knew.”
“There are things that can be thrown away and things that cannot be thrown away.”
Hiromi filled her bowl with the remaining pepper steak and gulped it down in one go like she was a customer at a gyudon restaurant (beef bowl restaurant). In the past, Grandma, Hiromi, and I went to one. It was in the winter of my third year in middle school. Only once. It was to celebrate my acceptance into high school.
“Was Grandma the one who named me?”
“Why do you ask that?”
My name. “Seigi.” The most spiteful act from a daughter towards her criminal mother. I had thought that was the case ever since I was little.
“Not just your Grandma. I also thought it was a good name.”
——I knew it.
I let out a deep, deep breath in my head.
Hiromi looked nonchalant and unbothered. It was the same expression on the day after our big fight, when she made curry. She let Grandma choose my name? Really? If so, why?
“Why didn’t you ever forgive her?”
Putting her bowl and chopsticks down on the table, Hiromi downed her tea in one go.
“Family isn’t about forgiving or not forgiving. We are connected by blood whether we like it or not after all. If she was by herself, she could have lived quite a lot easier.”
“But that’s not true. Grandma has a family.”
What did she know?
Because Grandma had a family, had a daughter, she kept working hard. For a long time, she earned money to feed two people. And then, she went to jail. She did something unforgivable by societal standards. But—probably—she regretted her own choices, but absolutely did not want to do them over again.
Because if she hadn’t done those things, my mother surely would not be here now like this.
The fact of the matter was, the one who should understand that the most was Hiromi.
Grandma entered the hospital in winter and died in summer. Hiromi, who practically lived in the hospital everyday for half a year, did not intend to let her die alone. Even though she was so cold to her and might have thought “What’s the use now”, but at that time, Hiromi’s ghastly face looked different from that sort of impatience and regret.
It was like she was being driven by a sense of duty.
She looked a monk trying to complete a strict and relentless ascetic practice.
While looking at the table lined with Chinese food, Hiromi was doing her best to have the same face she always did, making her eyelids twitch. When she let out a little sigh, I resolved myself and asked her a question.
“Hiromi…Mom, do you really hate Grandma?”
“All it is is that bad things are bad.”
“In other words, crime is crime?”
“That’s pretty much it. I’ve made you worry about me for a long time, I see.”
“Even if you say pretty much…So what exactly do you mean?”
“So… I, at least, must not forgive what that person did. Absolutely not.”
When I raised my eyes, Hiromi’s mouth was pressed shut. She looked like she was about to cry.
“You know, I think everyone in the world has been through difficult situations. No matter what reason is given, stealing is a crime.”
“That’s true, but if it’s truly necessary, then do it! If there was no other way.”
“Then are you saying that if there was no other way, you can pick on anyone? So you can say to those who are at their wit’s end when their wallet is stolen on the train, ‘Please let it go because it was a single mother with a young daughter who did it’? Even though she was a bad-natured habitual criminal? Even though a young yakuza who had her taught him the tricks of pickpocketing unashamedly told her daughter that ‘Your mother is a champion of justice’?”
Hiromi cried. What was different from usual was that she was sobbing. I doubted my own eyes. The one who was crying was Hiromi. There was no one else. But.
In this place in this house, Grandma had been sobbing.
With a face that was exactly like my mother’s.
Grandma wasn’t a “right example.” But she lived while protecting her precious one. They might have died if she hadn’t done it. The only ones who could assert that it was completely wrong were surely Grandma—and her precious daughter.
“I…if by any chance the me who could eat with that person’s earnings and told her ‘thank you’ with a smile…that would be a story I won’t be able to live with.”
“Seigi, get me a tissue.”
After I passed her the tissue box on top of the TV, Hiromi blew her nose and roughly wiped her eyes. She threw the rolled-up tissue into the garbage, carelessly ate a shumai, and hollowly remarked how delicious it was. I was born when she was thirty-five years old. I might had been a child she never thought she could have. Even so, she gave birth to me and raised me. Ever since I was little, she had always been this kind of person. A powerful and obstinate hard-worker, no matter when.
I thought that she was someone who was always fighting with something.
“…Is the Chinese food good?”
“Mmm, very good. Where did you buy it?”
“Oh, I don’t know that shop. But the stir-fry is yours, right? It has an oyster sauce taste, so it must be. Your fatigue just disappears when you eating delicious food.”
“…We’ll talk about a lot of things when I come home next time.”
“If I’m not in a hurry, we’ll do that. I’m tired today.”
There was no particular need to put the dishes on the table all at once. Because for me, family was something everyone held together while not quite understanding this sort of not-quite-understandable atmosphere. This was the same when Grandma was here, as well as now.
Before we divided the food that we would dedicate at the altar between the two of us, I rang the bell once and pressed my hands together in prayer. It was to the person who taught me to relax a little and make my hands like the bud of a lotus flower when putting my hands together.
After I called up that long message in my mind, I opened my eyes, and saw my mother also pressing her hands together next to me.
At the end of April, I was walking around Ginza’s 7-chome neighborhood.* I passed through Chuo-dori Street, went by an old public bath and headed towards the street with retro buildings. I felt more relaxed around there.
(TN: A chome is a district, kind of. It’s mainly used in addresses.)
I walked while looking at the map sent to me by text, and found my way to a seven-story multi-tenant building. My destination was on the second floor. After I pressed the intercom at the place up the stairs, the door opened with a click. It seemed to have an electronic lock.
A voice welcomed me.
“Did you have trouble finding the way here?”
“No, the map was easy to understand.”
The blond-haired blue-eyed man dressed in a suit was standing in the middle of an empty room. This room only was about twelve tatami big.* There was a door with a sturdy doorknob directly facing me at the back, as well as a hallway on the right side and at the back that led to maybe a washroom or something. Near the window on the left, there were four single red sofas that looked comfortable to sit in, and between them was a low glass table with an attache case placed on top. A bookcase with Western books stood against the wall. The fluorescent lights were bright white like in an office, but the place somewhat had the ambiance of a coffee shop with no tables.
(TN: 12 tatami is about 19 square meters.)
I held up the present I brought with me.
“The cake shop near my university is pretty famous and their cakes are delicious. Freshly baked is the best, but if you like…”
“Thank you for your consideration. So what was the occasion for your purchase?”
Two days after our adventure in Kobe, I received a second text messages from Richard. The results for the jewel identification were out, so he printed them on a single sheet of paper and that he had something for me. He also said that since it was a very fine item, if it was convenient for me, he wished to buy it. It didn’t seem like a bad price.
“…I thought you knew the answer. I came here because I wanted to pay you and I wanted to meet and thank you. I do not want to sell that ring.”
“I see. This is just as I expected.”
Just as he expected?
After looking all around his leased space, Richard looked at me.
“I have a proposition. I have always wanted a place that could serve as my base camp in Japan. Not a store to display jewelry, but a place where I could have talks with customers. I plan to use it on weekends for the time being.”
“Do you mean that you’re opening a store here?”
“Precisely. I am hiring for part-time positions. A quota of one employee. Their duties consist of miscellaneous chores. Mainly cleaning the store. I think at most ten times a month. There is no special dress code except for not dressing too casually.”
Working at a jewelry store.
When I asked him the face value of the salary without hesitation, Richard offered a number that blew away what I got paid from my night shift at the TV station.
“Would you like to do it?”
Richard’s eyes pressed me for a response. Did he mean that he wanted me to decide now? Well, there was all those favorable conditions.
But those were my conveniences.
“Are you really okay with hiring me?”
“Have you ever cleaned a room before?”
“No, I have, but…a jewelry store? I’m a complete amateur.”
“The one who is selling will be me, and the one who is talking to the customers will also be me. Sometimes, you may be asked to go on errands to the stationery store or asked to post mail, but that is the extent of your duties. It may not suit you if you are seeking worthwhile work.”
“I think in Japan, this kind of business would have more female shop employees.”
“I know that well, but due to personal reasons, I refrain from being left alone with another woman.”
Oh, so it was that was the case. When I nodded with a strange face, Richard’s brows pinched together slightly.
“What is it?”
“…Just that there’s hardships I can never understand…I made a horrifying face, didn’t I. There are lots of words like hunk and handsome man and pretty boy and Adonis, but none of them fit you. What should I call you? There’s a feeling of ‘just being there is enough’ …”
It was on the tip of my tongue. I knew this feeling. What was it. What was this man named Richard similar to? Not someone else’s name. What was it. He was perfect no matter what angle you looked at him from. Something completely different.
That was it.
“A jewel! You’re a living jewel!”
It fit perfectly, and I pointed at him with a big feeling of satisfaction. I felt great—for only two or three seconds. I then realized I said something outrageous and hurriedly put my hand down.
I lowered my head with an apology, and Richard told me not to dwell on it.
“Um…in any case, I’m not so skilled, so you don’t have to make too much of me. I think there are others who are more suited for this store.”
“I do not think so.”
An immediate answer. I widened my eyes, and Richard smiled. His smile was like the radiance of a jewel held up to the light.
“What I am requesting of you is to do a job that can honestly be entrusted to anyone, but that is exactly why I do not want to request it of anyone other than my chosen person. If I wanted a jewel specialist, I would not be hiring for a part-time position. Gems are objects one can take in one’s hand and cherish, but the concept of beauty is not something one can formally gauge. Beauty comes in infinite varieties, it is wide-ranging and plentiful, and it is a talent to be able to recognize that. In that respect, you already have the ability to appreciate beauty. Your sincerity and honesty are also certified. Even though I do know capable and appropriate people with too much free time to spare, it would be foolish to take the time to recruit.”
“…Hmm? Hmm? Wait a minute, so in other words, I was hired because I thought you were…”
Because I thought you were beautiful?
Richard didn’t say anything and looked amazed. That’s right, was it because he appreciated me treasuring Grandma’s jewel? What a humiliating misunderstanding. The jeweler raised his eyebrow.
“So, what is your response? Yes?”
“It’s just what I’ve been hoping for. I guess it’s better to call you Richard ‘-san’ after all.”
“Why is that?”
“There are not many workplaces where you can leave the honorific off your boss’s first name.”
“If we are talking about quantity, then there are fewer workplaces where you don’t call your colleagues by their first names.”
“Oh, are you talking about the world as a whole?”
“Precisely. And so this room is also a part of this wide world.”
I look forward to working with you, Richard said, and held out his hand. After we lightly shook hands, he took out two clear files from the attache case.
The first one contained the papers with the identification results for Grandma’s ring. 0.382 carats. Pinkish orange. A genuine article without a doubt. The other clear file contained my contract for the part-time job.
“Please read through the contract carefully. There is also insurance I will have you included in. We shall seal it another time. You may also sign it. By the way, do you still have some time today? You shall receive some simple training.”
I nodded, and then Richard took off his jacket and stood. Training. In front of me who suddenly got nervous, the store owner felt around for the attache case. There was an orange box inside. Were there a lot of gemstones contained inside? When we went through the hallway with him holding the box, I was met with a surprisingly small kitchen. A large sink. Two gas ranges. A red single-handled pot hung from the heavens. A big fridge. He could open a restaurant here if it was small-scale.
Richard took the pot and brought out a carton of milk from the fridge. Five hundred millilitres. Nonhomogenized. A picture of a peaceful cow on the outside.
“Remember the way to make royal milk tea. It is simple.”
The contents of the orange box were not gemstones, but entirely tea leaves. Was that something a person should be carrying around?
He tapped the spoonful of tea leaves in the big plastic spoon into the pot with boiling water, let it simmer over a high flame, threw in milk when the color of black tea appeared, and when the boiling bubbles approached the rim of the pot, he turned off the flame. Thanks to the inflexible and stiff way his hand turned the stove knob, I was able to think for the first time that this living jewel was also a human being.
The cupboard next to the gas range contained one round plastic tray and four plain white teacups. All of them had saucers with the same design. When I looked in the back, I saw a number of flat-bottomed Kiriko-cut glasses.
(TN: Kiriko cut is a type of traditional Japanese glass cutting method where intricate patterns are hand-cut into glass.)
Over two teacups on the tray, Richard alternately held a tea strainer and poured milk tea into them from the pot. From the bag of granulated sugar that was in the fridge, he stirred one spoon of sugar into each cup. Lastly, he gently put ice into the cups one by one from the fridge, and then returned to the hallway we originally came here from. After I nervously moved the attache case from the low table to one of the sofas at his instruction, Richard gave me a nod.
With a nervous look, I sat down on a sofa and took a sip, then made a “whoa” sound.
“Delicious! What is this, it’s so good!”
“This is genuine royal milk tea. Everything else, is not, genuine.”
Is not, genuine.
The way he said that was funny, and I let out a small laugh. “What is it?” Richard said, his eyebrows drawn together.
“…So the reason you didn’t try the tea at the police box was because it ‘wasn’t genuine’?”
“I have no desire to ingest with such a blasphemous taste. Tea will die the moment it is put into a plastic bottle.”
“That is, not, a drink.”
“Is this alright with you, Seigi?” My new boss called my name. Richard Ranasinghe Dvorpian. A British man who is proficient in Japanese. His grandmother was born in Sri Lanka. A rare beauty. A royal milk tea extremist.
This strange creature really existed in the same world as me?
When I reduced my shifts at the TV station, I was called out by my university friends. Their voices that asked me what happened were laughing.
“Because you looked like an essential part of you is missing.”
I was told that I had changed a lot.
What was the “essential part” that was missing from me? Was it Grandma’s regrets or my ill feeling towards my mother?
Sometimes, I would take out the ring hidden in my bookcase and try to hold it up to the light. There was a mysterious depth in that lovely color, and you feel like you would get drawn in when you look at it. I still had no idea how I would keep on living from now on, but when I look at that brilliance, I felt strangely cheerful. No matter how turbulent and difficult a life awaited me, if I think about Grandma and Miyashita-san, I would surely get through it.
Grandma said she was a bad example, but I still wanted to live strongly and resolutely like her. I loved my Grandma, and I thought that the resolution of not having to forgive the person most important to you was—even if it wasn’t right—tragically beautiful.