Chapter Five: Finally Resolved

Kazuho looked at the broken house, knowing full well that this was the place. He had asked around thrice just to ensure that had he been in the right place. Even as Shinrou raised his eyebrow to ensure that he had been serious about it. But they were here now, without doubts.

Though both Shinrou and Masami had been really skeptical of his methods. “I’m pretty sure we don’t need to ask three people the same question.” As they were outside now.

“It’s for good measure.” To him he would always be cautious, that was how he worked. Although both of them thought it was a waste of time for no good reason at all in their minds. Although Kazuho wanted to be absolutely certain it had been the right place to enter. Now he was sure and thus they entered inside.

There was no one on the outside, and it had a rather leaky roof as it was. The walls were old, even as they opened the door. Where it had made a creak when it was opened. Inside, was a small short table. On old tatami mat floors. Even as they were standing at the the beginning of the house, and they took off their shoes knowing what to expect.

There was another room behind there, but he figured that he would check it later. Since it would be a bedroom undoubtedly.

There was no one here, even as the table suggested that someone did live here. With empty cups on the table and left unwashed. This was a sign that someone still lived here. Even as he took it up, not real;y caring whether his footsteps had sounds or not.

“Kaoru, is that you?” The voice had been a woman, and suggested that perhaps it was his mother. He waited to see if she was coming. While both Masami and Shinrou took to the opposite side of the walls in front of the room, as though hoping to see an attack.

In a moment, he could guess that she was not mobile. But she was alone, and perhaps there was no one who would visit either. Which could be both good and bad at the same time. It meant that no one was here, but it also meant that whoever did come must have had a motive.

“Kaoru, can you come into my room if you’re here?” This could not be a good thing, since it meant that she would expect them to come regardless. And it would be difficult to answer why they were here.

“How about I enter first?” Masami asked. She could suggest that she was either lost, which would be taken rather well. A bonus was that she was dressed like a normal girl, with her hair tied using cloth into the same braid. An unusual hairstyle choice but something that many could accept. She stepped in with both of them observing.

“Who are you?”

“I simply lost my way, and stumbled into this house to ask for directions.” She gave an awkward smile, hoping to full her. Even as it was clear that it was almost impossible to do so at this point. Both of them looked at each other, and wondered just whether she would buy into the charade. Although they would not bet on it, it was largely impractical to do so.

“You must be lost.” She got up, just as the girl had helped her up. In which she seemed able to handle this. Even looking for a kettle, where there was none. Shinrou ran to take one, managing to be rather quiet despite all. Before passing the kettle when she came out. And quickly poured it out.

Kazuho remained quiet, though they were beginning the observation of a very interesting sort of situation. And would require them to not speak at least until she was finished. Although Kazuho could find many ways that even this would be badly affected. And it was obvious since the boy could make his return anytime. That was the only thing that had bothered him here at this point.

“Yes I am. I’m here to visit a relative in the city. Kaa-san hopes that I can find work there. It’s been tough times.” Understandable, with not sign of a slip-up. “Although I have not been able to find the street. Okiban is so big and they all seem the same, with people that I don’t recognize at all.”

She ran her hand through her head. While making herself sound as much of a ditz as was possible. Shinrou had looked out, since he was better at observing without being found out. Although Kazuho kept his ears close to the wall. “You come from afar, how about have a drink before you leave. I don’t have anyway to tell you how to go on. But once you leave this street it would to a big main street, filled with banks.”

“Of course, thank you very much.” She gave a deep bow, one which showed her sincerity. Something that they were more than happy to do so. Even as she took the chance to leave. There was some flaws, but allowed her to be reasonably taken in. Even as she explained just why it was possible for him to commit thievery. It was an easy thing to do and choose. Just as Shinrou chose to open the door and close it to give the impression pf someone leaving.

Even as they opened while seeing the kitchen. As long as they had kept their voices hushed, they were able to discuss. Kazuho had a couple of ideas on how it was best to handle this. Or whether they would be noticed. “I’ll stay at the door, since we would be waiting for him.” Kazuho gave a nod, knowing that it was the best way to find him.

It was quite a while, into the afternoon. Where Masami mostly served water, although they did have a hearty meal before coming here. Deciding that it was a far better choice of action to have something first, since there would be nothing here. And Kazuho didn’t feel it was right to asking for food in such a poor house when he had no issues affording it himself.

Just as the door opened in another instant. Even as Shinrou held out the check. The check that caused his eyes to widen in shock and horror, he recognized it. “Kaoru, is that you?” Shinrou placed his hand on the boy’s shoulder. Even as he gave the allowance for him to go. And have the chance taken by Masami and Kazuho to come out. Feeling as though he was beginning to learn how to infiltrate quietly when all he wanted was to get back his stolen check.

“Well, it seems we don’t have to wait too long after all.” They had the feeling since it had been a full two hours since then. And possibly meant having to eat. Yuki had been given enough cash to tide her by and then have her walk any street she wanted as long as she could come back. Since this was far more pressing, and she would have time to sightsee.

He had been finished. “How about we head outside and talk?” Kazuho stood there. “I’m the owner of the check.” Even as the boy gave a nod, one which was hesitant. He had headed out first before waiting for him.

One thing that got him was knowing that there had been no traps. Outside was fairly clear due to the lack of space, as there had been a small patch of land before the street pavement. And this was where they were now free to talk. “You’re not going to turn me in?”

It would been fairly easy to tell since he could have simply went to the Shogunate to report this. But he was here, dealing with him personally. That was a sign that he had no intention to do so. And this boy had been able to tell that. “Yes, I’m not. It’s not out of some noble reasons but because I have better things to do than to go through a tedious process.”

And this was far easier to handle personally than that. Kazuho knew that the shogunate often dragged things out for quite a bit, as they would have needed time to decide his crime. He was young, but he was also desperate and poor. It was unfair to be harsh towards him for that alone. As such, it would take a far longer time for it to be finished.

“I’m willing to pay for a doctor and give you some cash. As long as I get the check back.” And knowing that he had not put it into the bank since he was not welcome to them. And none would have believed that a boy who was covered in dirt.

He nodded. “Do you want it back?”

“Yes. Or you can get rid of it.” It was obvious since it could still be forged easily as long as they could refer to it. The boy ran inside to take it, knowing full well where he hid it. He took out later, slightly crumpled but well maintained. Even as Kazuho kept it within his checkbook for later disposal. Since he would never present something that crumpled to anyone. And he had plenty of extras and could easily get it.

“Shinrou, would you find a doctor?” He nodded knowing that it was best for him. He knew Okiban the best and in most cases doctors rarely changed their practices. Even as he passed the man a large sum of cash, the amount he estimated would need to have a doctor come to this place. They would not turn it away, business was business after all.

Right in front of Kaoru as a sign of honoring his end of the bargain. Even as he gave him a much smaller sum, in a nice purse that would fetch a good price on the market. He opened it and widened his eyes. “It is so much, thank you.”

He nodded, even as Masami and he knew that it would barely make a dent in his finances. All that was left was to wait for the doctor to come. “Well, it seems you did part with money after all. Guess I win that bet.”

“What bet?”

“Last night, Shinrou and I bet whether you would choose to simply leave him alone or you will give some of it away.” He nodded, knowing that it was common for them to do so. Even as he was uncomfortable being treated as such. Even as it lapsed into silence between each other since neither Masami nor Kazuho knew better than to speak of anything important.

He was a child, but he was still capable of thought and this was something that he knew was far better to be simply left to when they reached home. “Why didn’t you want to do it?” He figured that since he was here, it was best to ask him the question why. It was indeed something that didn’t seem to have any sense behind it.

“I’m not exactly from this city.”

“Like from the countryside?”

“Do I look like I’m from the countryside? She doesn’t count since she made herself to be seen that way.” If he had heard anything from his mother regarding them.

“No, you seem even more refined than some of the merchants I have met.” Well, considering that some of them came from the countryside. “But how far are you from?”

“I’m not even from this country. Like those cargo ships which often leave for sea, I came from an entirely different place. And I have my reasons why I do not want be found. And the shogunate would the moment they learn I’m a foreign merchant.”

“There are plenty of those.” Which made this didn’t have much merit as to why he felt the need to cover his own identity.

“Well, it’s complicated.” Even as Masami rolled her own eyes at his explanation.

“You can tell if we are betting whether he is going to part with his money or not, that he probably has deep pockets.”

“So, if you’re a merchant what kind of merchant are you? I hope to grow up to be one one of these days.” The boy was excited, even as he was talking to a man whom he stole from. Even if Kazuho had forgiven the transgression, on the account that it would have been too troublesome.

“I don’t exactly sell stuff, but I often fund the capital to those are interested in opening their own venture.” Which had baffled the boy immensely, clear that he hasn’t been taught economics.

“Think of it this way, the money I gave you is something of a loan to begin your business. What I do is when you make a profit, I take a portion of it. And as long as I continue to invest in you, it means that I hold a share.” Masami was almost laughing at the suggestion of it.

“Maybe you should decide to say you’re a teacher. You do have the ability to persuade everyone to think of it.” Even as he folded his own arms, though he had gave an explanation on how he earned income.

He nodded, grasping the concept. “So, are you suggesting that I should take the cash you have and maybe invest in something.”

“It’s an analogy.” Though he had given them it to tide them over however they wanted. “You’re working aren’t you?”

“I help with delivering food, although it often brings me to more dangerous streets. And kaa-chan is always asking me on where I’m heading.” And why he wasn’t here, though he happened to stumble onto this because he worked with Houya inn. Even as he had spilled a lot. “No one wanted to take me in with the exception of Junri-san and Hajime-san.”

“You can ask them on how this can be done. I don’t really go deep into the main workings of a business.” Even as he felt that the conversation itself had headed into somewhere weird. Somewhere where he had not intended to leave at all.

“By the way, why did you say two names?” He had been curious. Although the boy could guess that he has walked into Houya inn before.

“Because the inn is run by a pair of siblings. The elder sister is the main chef and works with everything while the younger brother brews the alcohol after they’re finished and serves during the opening. They often have someone who comes and brings in a lot of money, and Junri-san would bring him to her office where they store all the accounts.”

So, something like an investor as it was. “Where do you exactly deliver to?”

“To the Geisha houses, nobody pays me any attention because I’m a boy and I’m still a child. It’s easier for me to walk among the crowds.” Which was almost convenient for him, since Shinrou had intended to contact Ayakazu.

“Have you heard of anyone named Ayakazu?” It was a name that Shinrou said was recognizable.

“It’s the proprietress of Tohana.” Which was exactly what he needed at this point. Just as Masami gave him a look, knowing that it was good news to them. They could use this to their advantage.

Just as Shinrou had came in with the doctor in tow, even as he was dangling the cash in front of the man. “You’re patient is in there, the boy will show you the way. No pay, no money.” Even as he entered inside. Kazuho didn’t feel good about being interrupted with this, but he knew that he could bring it up later on. And using cash as an incentive. This errand was important to him.

Even as all he had was checkbook paper. But it could still be well utilized, and still remembering the crumpled piece of paper. “Why are you looking at that with such eyes?”

“I learned something from him, he runs deliveries to Ayakazu directly.” In which he froze for a moment, knowing just how useful it was at this point.

“And he can help us deliver a message. We can just pay him even more to do that.” And would also be free for them to choose the timing on when they were arriving.

Even as he handed the man some ink and brush, which he always kept on hand. Shinrou knew that this was more for his own hands than anyone else’s. Since she was his contact first. He had written something on it, to whatever he decided was enough of a message. Even as his logo remained at the top, which was a shield with six circles.

Once he was done and the words on it dried, the doctor had came out. “I explained to him all he needed to know.” In which Shinrou handed over the full lump sum to be paid. Even as the boy followed out. And gave a deep bow to them as a sign of respect.

“There is something that you can do if you’re grateful. Would you mind ensuring that this reached Ayakazu’s hands?” Even as he took out extra cash to cover it. “Don’t let anyone else find it, regardless of the cost. When can you do it by?”

“Tonight.”

He nodded just as he took it even as he was almost refusing to take it. But he had insisted, knowing that this was important to him.

“So, in a way, we settled how we were intending to contact Ayakazu,” Masami said as they left.

“What date did you write on there?”

“Two days later.” He nodded, knowing that it was a reasonable time frame for such expectations. Just as they were leaving, he knew that he was making a step towards finding her.