Chapter 25: Nostalgia

David got up to go home around six o’clock. He said he would be staying at a hotel near Akasaka branch. When he got into the taxi that Ryuuji called, he looked up at the sky and frowned.

“It’s gotten pretty cloudy. Looks like it’s going to rain.”

Soon after he said this, it began to rain.

A little while later it was raining in earnest. Even late into the night the rain continued unabated, tapping hard against the building like countless fingers playing a piano.

Ryuuji sat alone on the living room sofa, a pile of cards expanded upwards in the partial shape of the Tower of Babel on the table before him. It was beginning to return to its previous state; Ryuuji just needed to stay quiet to finish it. Perhaps this would have a calming effect on the rain too.

Well, let’s see if I can play the great detective, he thought. By basing this on what I’ve gathered so far and the information David brought today, and by combining it all, I can try to ascertain the solution.

The placement of the cards was stronger than ever before. The arrangement piled up in no time at all and the blasphemous tower was steadily completed.

However, a dull gray haze come over Ryuuji’s mind. He couldn’t foresee anything. No flash of insight came to him.

He had a vague inkling of something, but it seemed that he was not as sharp a detective as he thought he would be. He wondered whether he was wrong to change jobs. CyberConnect was a good financial deal. The severance pay was also very good compared to that of Durga Sharma’s offices. He would have opened a stylish cafe with the money he had and it would have been nice to be the boss for a change. If he had just done that, he wouldn’t have gotten punched by his client and gotten the bruise of his eye. He also never would have had his brush with death by being attacked by the rats…

His mind got off track and he became distracted when Lilie entered the room and sat next to Ryuuji in her pajamas.

The hands on the clock had already gone past eleven. It was unusual for her to be at this time.

“Are you still awake?” she asked.

“Uh-huh.”

“Is there a TV show you want to watch?”

“Uh-huh.”

“You should go to bed. You must be tired.”

“Uh-huh.”

Lilie called out to Grid and was about to turn on the TV, but instead looked at Ryuuji. He had a case of bedhead. It seems he had gotten back into bed after having already gotten out of it before.

Ryuuji turned the deck over, took a card, added a card to the pile, and then took another one.

“I do that all the time,” said Lilie.

“I see.”

“Interesting?”

“Yeah, it’s very interesting. Hehehe.”

“Really?”

“Not really.”

Ryuuji put the cards in a pile and pushed them aside, then turned towards Lilie.

“What’s up? Is something wrong?”

Lilie had her head down and hesitated, then held out her mobile terminal as though hiding behind it.

Ryuuji took it and looked down at the terminal. A “Notice to Parent/Guardian” page displayed on the screen. It was information on a study-abroad program. It involved short-term homestay and study-tour programs with language courses over the spring break. It proposed language courses suitable for middle school students and overseas homestay, as well as a way to experience a different culture, among other benefits.

“There,” said Lilie as she pointed out the place.

“It’s a list of schools that are accepting applications.”

There was a German school listed. The address was in Schwabing.

“Ahhh,” Ryuuji stammered.

He placed the mobile terminal on the table and looked directly at Lilie.

“Do you want to go there?”

She did not answer immediately.

“I had a dream recently. I dreamed of the time I was there. Mom and Dad were there,” she said softly.

“But, I didn’t remember their faces. I only know my mom and dad’s faces from pictures now. It’s not only their faces, I don’t even remember their voices or behaviors anymore. My memories of them are almost gone,” she said.

At this point, Lilie stopped talking.

The sound of the rain seemed louder than ever.

Ryuuji waited for her to continue talking.

“If I go to Germany, I think I should be able to remember,” Lilie said.

Lilie spoke again after a while.

“But… I’m scared. I’m scared to go there. I’m scared that I won’t remember anything about Mom and Dad. I’m scared that I’ll just remember the terrible things that happened instead…” she said.

“I like my life in Japan and you’re here. I get to ride on trains and go on school trips with friends. So, I thought it’s better here for those reasons. At least until recently. But…”

She lifted her face and looked at Ryuuji.

“But, Ryuuji, what should I do? Should I stay here in Japan? Or should I go to Germany?”

“That’s a tough question…,” said Ryuuji.

“What do you want to do?” Ryuuji asked, speaking softly.

Lilie cast her eyes down.

“I want to be reminded of my mom and dad,” she said.

She shook her head.

“But… I don’t know what I am going to do,” she said.

Six years ago, when Ryuuji adopted and started treating Lilie Weiss, she had been haunted by “cognitive distortions” that transported her from a happy world to a world of her own filled with darkness.

Everything had been corrupted by a despair that nothing could repair. She blamed herself for what had happened.

It was a pronounced case of someone who had lost her family due to an accident. Ryuuji was able to understand her feelings very well. He could understand all too well.

Now Lilie was fully recovered from her PTSD. There was no doubt about it. There were no longer any behavioral issues in her daily activities in Japan. Yet, could Ryuuji be sure that she was completely cured? He knew well that treatments for PTSD could be undone when patients return to the circumstances before the onset of their illness. Sometimes you had to let the patients come to terms with this harsh reality themselves.

Although negligible, there was a small chance that she would revert back to her previous state. A visit to her homeland for the first time in several years would certainly have a significant impact on her. When she clearly remembered her parents, this could perhaps lead Lilie to relive the intense memories of the unfortunate accident. What kind of effect would this have on her personality, her spirit? Something might happen. Then again, nothing may happen. There was just no telling.

“I see. But you know that I can’t make that decision for you,” Ryuuji said.

“It’s important to you. So you have no choice but to decide for yourself,” Ryuuji added.

Lilie lowered her head more than ever at this point. She gave a little shrug.

“It’ll be alright. I think this is evidence of the strength you have within you. There is no right or wrong here. This is not a decision you need to make right away. Don’t get flustered. It’s okay whether you participate in this program or not,” Ryuuji continued.

Ryuuji said it as though it were nothing, then smiled at Lilie and handed back her mobile terminal.

“There’s no need to rush things. I will help you in your decision. You can talk to me about anything. I’ll always lend an ear. Just like now,” said Ryuuji.

Lilie nodded while still facing downward.

She hesitated a moment.

Then she opened her arms for a hug. She pressed against Ryuuji, grabbed the end of his shirt and started to cry.

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For a while they just stood there, Ryuuji gently patting her on the head.

As they hugged, Ryuuji remembered when Lilie was younger and he would comfort her like this when she was frightened.

Before they knew it, the rain seemed to have lightened up.

The patter of the rain and Lilie’s sobbing had subsided.

It must have stopped five minutes before. Lilie stood motionless and Ryuuji let her go. She wasn’t crying anymore. She wiped her eyes with the back of her hand and laughed somewhat awkwardly.

“Oh? What was that?” he asked.

Ryuuji placed his hand to his ear.

“Did I just hear a laugh?” he asked.

“I didn’t laugh,”said Lilie, feigning indignation.

Yet, she stopped moving and put her hand to her mouth and let out a big yawn.

Ryuuji stood up.

“Listen, you should go to bed. I’m getting pretty sleepy myself.”

He went to the kitchen, took a carton of milk from the refrigerator and filled a cup. There was still a cup of milk left in the carton.

As he drank the milk, he thought of a punishment for Lilie for staying up so late, then poured another cup of milk and went back into the living room where he found Lilie already sleeping peacefully on the sofa. It was too soon.

While he stood amazed at how peaceful she looked, he placed the cup on the table, and stealthily tip-toed to Lilie’s bedroom. He opened the door and entered, then turned down the bed’s blankets.

As he made his way back, he was startled when he accidentally kicked the wooden sword that had been leaning against the wall, and narrowly caught it before it hit the floor.

“This security system is perfect, isn’t it?” he muttered to himself and returned to the living room.

Lilie gave the impression of being deeply asleep now.

He picked her up and carried her to her room. Ryuuji staggered a little, but was able to keep his hold of Lilie.

She was heavier than he thought.

He laid Lilie down on the bed, taking care not to get her hair caught under her. Once she was placed in the bed, he left the room and closed the door quietly.

Then he went to the kitchen and poured the rest of his whiskey into the empty teacup, then sat down in the chair by the window. The light was off.

He was never much of a detective. He was unaware that his adopted daughter had been languishing. It had been right in front of him. The stylish cafe owner had been better at this. But how could he be angry at the stylish cafe owner?

Ryuuji took a candy from his pocket, took off the wrapper and put the candy in his mouth.

Time flies by. A child grows up. Lilie is confronting her past. She had already gone to Kyoto by herself on a train and was able to buy a wooden sword.

Then, perhaps she should be able to go to Schwabing. To her hometown. It’s not as far as it seemed before.

A faint pain ran through Ryuuji’s chest.

It’s not impossible, he thought.

A moment later Ryuuji felt something odd in his mouth.

He spit out the candy and looked at it. It wasn’t coffee-flavored. It was a similar color, but the shade was different. It was too bitter. It had a depressing aloe taste.

He put it back in his mouth with a sigh and look out the window. The rain continued to fall quietly.

He smelled the moist air as he tasted the bitter candy.

Soon it’ll be the rainy season, he thought.

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