The President Who Shouted "Love" at the Center of the World - Part 2/3
Uh, I mean, what the heck!
Wait! Is someone trying to frame me by fabricating evidence?
Flustered, I looked up from the fabricated evidence, only to find the president glaring at me while declaring in conclusion,
“I believe that Sago-san is, uhmm.. in someway deeply involved in the smuggling of the package. This is why I had to call both of you today.”
“I-I didn’t do it. I’m being framed!””
“That’s what every criminal says.”
“I know that, alright! But I didn’t do it. I really didn’t do it. That just came out of my mouth on reflex.”
“Sago-san, please calm down. Take a slow, deep breath. I know that Sago-san didn’t do it.”
Kaburagi-san smiled at me as she held my hand, and I took a deep breath just as she said, but my nerves were still tight. The president was literally glaring daggers at me and my hand which was held by Kaburagi-san.
I’m innocent okay. Please forgive me.
“So, Kaneyama is clearly trying to accuse you, Sago-san. What should we do about it?”
I was really surprised when Kaburagi-san suddenly asked me for advice, but then I noticed that time had been stopped. Before, the world during stopped time would be in pitch darkness if she didn’t previously prepare a light source, but now it was stopped in such a natural state that it took me a moment to recognize it for what it was. The world was as colorful as it usually was, and everything looked completely natural. The fruit of Kaburagi-san’s daily efforts was on full display.
“Hm… isn’t it possible that President Kaneyama is also being tricked by someone?”
“Have you already forgotten about the card key? If it’s not me or you, then it has to be Kaneyama. I really thought he was better than that.”
Uwah, that cold tone and the dropping of honorifics… so she’s that disillusioned with him, huh.
What a poor…… but not really, no. I myself am literally just about to be socially murdered by him right now, aren’t I?
Ok yeah, the only thing I’m feeling is anger. But what was it that I did that caused him to hate me this much?
Was it the necktie? Did me coming over without wearing a necktie piss him off that much? No, no, no, that can’t be it. But no other incident comes to mind though.
“If he’s the culprit, then what could be his motive?”
“Kaneyama is in love with me, isn’t he? This is very likely envy toward the close relationship that I share with you.”
“Uh… you were aware of it? I had somehow thought that would be the case, though.”
“I don’t like to pretend to be oblivious and act all cutsie.”
Kaburagi-san said so, nonchalantly.
Well, if she had responded with something along the lines of “Eh~ No way~ But I’m just so ugly, there’s no way he likes me~” then I would have seriously doubted her sanity. It was a relief to see that she was her normal self.
But still, trying to pull me down due to envy.
Such a sham would never work, but from President Kaneyama’s point of view, it certainly seemed to have succeeded.
President Kaneyama was under the misunderstanding that the relationship between Kaburagi-san and I was only that of an employer and an employed representative. Or perhaps he had dug far enough to think that I was someone who Kaburagi-san had introduced a bartending job to, and that she was a regular customer at said bar. But never in his wildest imaginations would it ever occur to him that our closeness was on the level of being the co-founders of a secret organization match-pump.
If Kaburagi-san and I were really just employer and employee, or even just a bar master and a regular customer, then all the effort put into fabricating all this evidence could indeed have been sufficient. After all, Kaburagi-san and President Kaneyama were friends that went all the way back to high school. Would she believe an innocent old friend, or a business partner against whom plenty of evidence had been gathered? The answer was all too easy to see.
However, the true state of affairs was hardly worth talking about. President Kaneyama had apparently gone to great lengths in an attempt to get rid of the strange new man who had seemingly come out of nowhere and gotten strangely close to Kaburagi-san in a suspiciously short amount of time, but all his efforts had been in vain.
“The PSI drives we had in the vault were de-fueled, so there’s no worry about your esper abilities spreading. So, what do we do now? The victim is Sago-san, so I’m going to follow your decision. It’s about time, but if you’re still thinking, I’ll stop it again, okay?”
“No, it’s fine. Now then.”
“—Leave it all to me. Can you wait outside for a while?”
From President Kaneyama’s point of view, it would seem that I calmed down in an instant after being appeased by Kaburagi-san, and Kaburagi-san retired from the room out of sheer compassion for me.
The president looked pale. That last look must have been extremely effective.
“… Sago-san. I don’t plan on making a fuss if you admit your sins, and I’ll mediate between you two as well.”
“Are you talking into to a mirror right now?”
I asked, deflecting the words that the president only barely managed right back at him.
“You’re quite confident, aren’t you? With this much evidence, you’re still going to deny everything?”
“This isn’t about evidence, it’s about Kaburagi-san’s trust.”
“… What are you talking about all of a sudden?”
“There’s no point in making me a criminal if Kaburagi-san ends up hating you, isn’t it?”
The president fell silent from the precise jab at the heart of the matter.
He lowered his eyes briefly, then slowly stood up and walked toward the windowsill.
After gazing at the skyscrapers that dotted Tokyo’s cityscape for a while, he started talking.
“The smile on Shiori-san’s face when she was with you was too bright for me to look at. That was a gentle smile that came from the bottom of her heart, free of even the slightest hint of anxiety or nervousness. The moment I saw her make that face, I realized that the smiles that I had been looking at the entire time were all forced and superficial. This is a pretty pathetic story, isn’t it? I was envious of you. From the very bottom of my heart, I was envious of what you had…”
I stood up and walked over to the president as he was confessing.
“I have realised that no amount of trickery could destroy Shiori-san’s faith in you. Ok, I’ll admit it, I’m miserable. It was my complete defeat. In the eyes of society, I am a successful man. Everything that I’ve wanted, I’ve acquired. However, what I really wanted mos—hm?”
I gently patted his shoulder as he continued his monologue.
And then, I punched his left cheek.
I leaned over to him and punched again.
“This is for trying to frame me!”
Once more, I punched his right cheek. Is this the mouth that refuses to shut up?
“This is for the heartache you’re causing your parents with how terrible of a person you had become!”
Another punch to his left cheek. If he had earnestly apologized for what he had done, then I wouldn’t have laid a finger on him. But instead, he had gone and started blathering on about shit that I couldn’t care less about.
“This is on behalf of your friends!”
Right cheek again. After doing something wrong, the first thing you should do is say “sorry,” isn’t it? Even elementary kids know this.
“This is for the cops who are going to arrest you!”
Left cheek. I know they say that love is blind, but there’s a limit. I was about to be screwed by this idiot.
“This is for the lawyer who has to defend you!”
Here’s one more for me!
Lastly, one more for myself!
Alright, it’s done!
The president’s face looked awful, but my fists that I hit him with were starting to hurt, so I let him off. I think I’m going to break my wrist if I keep hitting him like this.
However, aside from the pain in my hands, I felt completely refreshed. Whoever it was that said that revenge only feels hollow and meaningless was lying. Thanks to having gone completely ham on doling out payback, all my indignation and anger was completely gone.
I grabbed the lapels of the barely conscious president and forcibly pulled him to his feet. Despite tottering severely, he somehow managed to find his balance and stand on his own. Then he looked straight at me with an exhausted expression on his red and swollen cheeks.
“I do acknowledge that what I did was a terrible thing. But I will not apologize. Even if I have to smear your name—”
“–in order to earn–”
“Apologize. Didn’t you hear that.”
“–Shiori-san’s love I–”
“Apologize. Say, I’m sorry.”
“… … … … …. … …. … … … … … … I’m sorry.”
I was worried for a while that he was so far gone that he wasn’t capable of apologizing after doing something wrong, but after several prompts, he finally gave in and apologized. What a relief. Now I can forgive him.
Although he had leaked the PSI drives for real, all the fuel had been taken out, so there was no worry about widespread misuse. I had also dodged the attempt to frame me at the very last moment. Though the incident had been upsetting, no permanent damage had been done.
No one was completely beyond succumbing to temptation. Though sometimes that leads to truly unforgivable acts, I wanted to forgive what I could forgive. I mean, I was feeling refreshed too, after having vented all my negative emotions onto his face.
“You haven’t yet shown this false evidence to anyone except for me and Kaburagi-san, have you?”
“Uhh, yes. I didn’t show it…uh, you won’t call the police, right?”
What the hell is this guy talking about?
Why do you think I asked Kaburagi-san to leave? It was supposed to be a one-on-one, private conversation.
If I was going to turn you in, I wouldn’t have hit you in the first place. Instead of leaving it up to the legal system, I, as the victim, had already pronounced my own judgment on him. If I punched and reported him, then that would be double the punishment. I had also given him punches on behalf of the people who would have been inconvenienced or bothered if he got arrested, so the ledger was fully balanced on that front too.
Oh, my God. I just realized it was totally an aggravated charge. That’s why they say you shouldn’t take revenge on impulse after all.
As I slightly regretted my actions, President Kaneyama did his best to pull a serious face with his red and swollen cheeks.
‘‘I see… then, Sago-san. In light of your generosity, I have one favor to ask.”
“Though it pains me to admit it, it is clear to me that Shiori-san is happiest when she’s with you. So you go on and make sure that remains true, even if you have to die for it.”
“Hah? …you mean…?”
Although this was a line that I had heard a million times in manga and dramas before, they carried an unnatural weight when coming from this crazy psychopath yandere president. It wasn’t a request anymore, but an order.
At the same time, things clicked in my mind. No wonder he couldn’t grab Kaburagi-san’s heart. He didn’t understand her at all.
I am supposed to keep her happy even if I have to die? Why do I have to be so devoted to Kaburagi-san? Aren’t her friends and family supposed to do that? I wouldn’t be at all happy if Kaburagi-san laid down her own life to save me. I’m sure Kaburagi-san thinks so too.
Kaburagi-san is an independent woman. She can be sometimes vulnerable, but she’s not, by any means, a weak person.
She is not someone who needs to be protected.
And neither someone who is content just by being at the receiving end.
A single-sided “I’ll make you happy” is only a mockery of who Kaburagi-san is. The correct words to her heart are “I’ll make you happy, so please make me happy as well. Let’s live life together."
“Is something wrong?”
Then again, there wasn’t much point in rejecting him offhand here and, by angering him, sowing possible seeds of discord for the future. Therefore, I decided to reply in the affirmative just to get him off my case.
“All right. Though, this isn’t supposed to be an exchange, but I do have one favor to ask.”
“Let me hear it.”
“Don’t sue me for assault. Seriously. Please.”
Hearing me say that, President Kaneyama was startled for a moment and then burst out laughing. He might have laughed too much as he pressed on his wound and moaned. What’s so funny, man? You know this is really important.
After his laughter subsided, President Kaneyama and I had a quick discussion, during which I got him to promise to dispose of the fabricated “evidence” and re-collect all the leaked PSI drives.
As I was about to leave the room, President Kaneyama said.
“I was going to keep my mouth shut, but out of respect for you, I’ll say it. Lonalia Linalia Baba-Nyan has been moving suspiciously. You’d better be careful.”
I nodded apathetically. He didn’t need to tell me, I was aware. Most likely he was referring to all the things that she had done so that Shouta-kun and Touka chan would grow suspicious of her. This person sure is sharp in all the wrong places, isn’t he.
When I was finally out of the room, I found Kaburagi-san waiting for me at the entrance. We talked as we walked towards the parking lot.
“How did it go?”
“It’s settled, he’ll recover the PSI drive and dispose of the evidence.”
“But did you settle things properly? Maybe he’s pretending to be remorseful.”
“That whimsical guy who loves you told me to make you happy, so he must have meant it!”
“… And, what did you say?”
“Oops, I can’t answer that one, it’s a promise between men!”
Even if it was only lip service, “I promised to make you happy” was just so embarrassing that there was no way I could bring myself to say it out loud. I tried to gloss over it with a silly joke, which prompted her to giggle to herself.
For the next few days, Kaburagi-san was in a much better mood.