April 4th (Saturday): Setting up Camp

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Five thousand yen.

 

That was Corona House’s monthly rent for room 106.

It was a wooden apartment building that had endured for twenty-five long years. Apartments were very inexpensive in this area since they were far from town, but even so, five thousand yen for a six tatami room with a kitchen, bath, and toilet was shockingly cheap. All of the other rooms in this apartment were ten times more expensive than this one. Moreover, room 106 didn’t require a security deposit or any key money, and was completely exempt from mutual aid expenses.

There was a reason why only room 106’s rent was so low though; without exception, every former tenant had left before his contract expired. Most of them left after only three days; the shortest time a tenant had lasted was three hours, while the longest time was three months. As a result, although room 106’s rental value had begun at a respectable ten thousand yen at the beginning of the year, it had plummeted to a meager five thousand before spring arrived.

“Watch it, McKenzie. That box is worth more than your life,” said the boy who was moving in.

“Aw come on, Kou. I’ve always been more careful than you.”

“As long as you get it… Now get back to work, McKenzie-kun.”

“Yeah yeah, who’s helping you move…? Jeez.”

These two boys were Satomi Koutarou, the new tenant, and Matsudaira Kenji, his childhood friend. Kenji gave Koutarou the nickname ‘Kou’, so in return Koutarou called Kenji ‘McKenzie’. Both of them were fifteen years old, and in two days they were going to attend their school entrance ceremony to become first-years.

 

Today was Saturday, the fourth of April.

Koutarou’s father needed to move away from home for his job, so starting from this spring, Koutarou was to live by himself. After learning about this, he went to see real estate agents and managed to find Corona House. His father had raised him alone, so he didn’t want to be a burden on him. This was why he eagerly took the room without asking for the reason the rent was so low.

“Anyway, Kou, your timing was great, don’t ‘cha think?”

“I was lucky. I went for it right after my dad told me about the transfer.”

In the two and a half months after the transfer was finalized, Koutarou had finished his high school entrance exams and awaited the results.

“Anyway, his co-worker was injured, so that’s that I guess.”

“Uh-huh.”

Originally, his father wasn’t supposed to be transferred; a co-worker was to go instead. However, the co-worker was seriously injured in an accident, so Koutarou’s father had to take his place.

“I was surprised that my dad left so suddenly, but this is also a chance to become independent. I’m already in high school, after all.”

“That’s pretty optimistic, huh?”

“Let’s celebrate my journey to manhood.”

“What the heck?”

Both of them were carrying a suitcase; they had been transferring luggage from the moving van for a while now.

“Is it alright to put the fridge next to the sink?” asked a uniformed middle aged man who was poking his head out from Koutarou’s room. He was the one who drove the moving van, and now he was helping them move their luggage.

“Yes, please!”

“Gotcha.”

The mover went back inside with Koutarou and Kenji following behind.

“It’s really only five thousand a month? That’s way too cheap.”

Kenji sighed again as they walked through the door.

“You’re just jealous.”

“For five thousand, I would’ve rented it too.”

The room was old fashioned, but it was clean and well maintained. It had an entrance corridor with wooden flooring and a six tatami room further in. From the same corridor, there was a kitchen on the right and a bathroom on the left.

“Watch it, Kou. You’re gonna hit the wall.”

“Got it, got it.”

“You sure? Old man, we’re coming through.”

“Oh, sorry, Glasses-kun.”

Koutarou and Kenji entered the main room, passing the mover who was setting up the fridge. They weaved through the boxes and luggage on the floor.

“So what are we gonna do with the suitcase?”

“Oh yeah, let’s put it in the bottom of the wardrobe.”

“Okay.”

They bent down to fit Koutarou’s luggage into the wardrobe. The mover walked in as they stood up again.

“Sir, was that the last of your luggage?”

“Ah, yeah, that was all of it.”

“Alright, I’ll be on my way then.”

“Thank you very much for your help!”

Koutarou, who had just been taught to value physical labor, bowed respectfully to the mover.

“I’m the one who should be bowing. Thanks for choosing us,” the mover said as he bowed with a gentle smile. After leaving behind some paperwork, he left.

 

“Well then, let’s take a break.”

“Oi, McKenzie.”

Koutarou threw a bottle of tea at Kenji, who was adjusting his glasses.

“Whoa, thanks.”

Although Koutarou threw it without warning, Kenji easily caught the bottle. He was used to it since they had been friends for a long time.

“Sorry, it’s a bit warm. They just installed the fridge,” said Koutarou as he pulled another bottle from the plastic bag they’d gotten from the convenience store.

“I know.”

They simultaneously opened their bottles with a crack and began drinking.

“Haah, this is refreshing!”

As they drank, Koutarou sat on the second row of boxes while Kenji leaned against the doorway. The calendar hanging on the wall caught Kenji’s eye.

“Time’s passing quickly. The Entrance Ceremony’s only two days from now.”

“Yeah, so I gotta finish this today.”

Koutarou looked at the calendar that he’d put on the wall along with a clock earlier.

“Huh? What about tomorrow?”

“I’ve got work.”

“You’re still going? You could at least take a break after moving.”

Kenji stared in wonder through his glasses.

“I need to save money for the beginning of spring. Don’t lump me together with you guys who live with your parents.”

“If it’s about money, didn’t your dad leave some behind?”

“I’m not going to use that if I can. It’s the smart thing to do.”

“…I’m not sure if it’s ‘the smart thing.’ What if you collapse?”

“Unlike you brainy people, I’m at least confident in my stamina.”

“Yeah yeah, sure.”

Kenji shrugged at Koutarou, who had his chest puffed out in pride.

“So, Kou, when are you heading to work tomorrow?”

“Same time as usual: in the morning.”

“Okay, then I’ll come get you like always.”

“I’d appreciate it.”

They’d both been working at the same place since last month. After finding out that they passed the entrance exam, the two of them applied for work someplace close to school. Fortunately, they were both hired.

“…Hey, Kou. Will you wake up properly when school starts?”

“I will, I will.”

“I’ve had to wake you every Saturday for work, so you’ve got no reliability there.”

“You’re fussy.”

Koutarou was bad at getting up in the morning, so Kenji ended up coming over and waking him up for work on Saturdays.

“I’m living on my own and joining the realm of men now, so I can’t keep acting like a child.”

“Then you won’t need me tomorrow, right?”

“This and that are different things, McKenzie-kun. Make sure you come tomorrow.”

“You’re really…”

Kenji dropped his shoulders in amazement.

“Sorry as always, old man.”

“…Maybe I’m too old to help you then.”

“If you’re gonna say that, then you’re young.”

*Dingdong*, rang the doorbell.

“Huh?”

“A guest?”

Before Koutarou could reply, the person opened the door and came inside.

“Good day! Satomi-san, have you settled in yet?”

A girl’s voice rang from the entrance.

That voice is definitely…

“It’s the landlady.”

“Landlady?”

“Ah… I’m coming!”

Koutarou called out towards the entrance while getting up from the boxes he’d been sitting on. After seeing that, Kenji also stood up from the wall he’d been leaning on.

“It’s a pretty young voice.”

“Come on, McKenzie, and prepare to be amazed.”

“Hmm, okay…”

With that, the two of them walked together to the entrance.

 

“Hello, landlady.”

“Hello, Satomi-san.”

A girl with an apron draped over her normal clothes stood in the entrance. After her greeting, she bowed deeply. The girl seemed to be as old as Koutarou, but her somewhat childish features and her long hair tied up in a large ribbon gave off the impression of a sweet young girl.

“Eh, by landlady, you mean her?”

“Yup, she’s the landlady here. Surprised, McKenzie?”

“Ah, yeah.”

Kenji gave a wide-eyed bow. He was taken aback since he couldn’t see the lovely girl in front of him as a landlady.

”I was surprised at first too.”

“Everyone always is surprised. Fufufu…”

She faced Kenji with a light smile.

“It’s nice to meet you. I’m the landlady here, Kasaki Shizuka.”

“N-Nice to meet you, I’m Matsudaira Kenji.”

“I hope we’ll get along, Matsudaira-san.”

“Yeah, same here.”

Kenji and the girl — Shizuka bowed to each other.

“Landlady, this guy’s my childhood friend.”

“Ah, is he?”

“He’ll probably be here a lot, so feel free to call him McKenzie.”

“McKenzie?”

Shizuka blinked a few times and looked at Kenji.

“You’re Japanese, aren’t you? You have a name like Matsudaira…”

“Ah, yup, he’s definitely Japanese, McKenzie is just short for Matsudaira Kenji.”

“I see, so Matsu- and -Kenji make McKenzie.”

Satisfied, Shizuka put her hand in front of her mouth and chuckled.

“Only Kou calls me that though.”

“Then, Matsudaira-san, what should I call you?”

“McKenzie is fine. I’m used to it already.”

“Okay then, McKenzie-san.”

Seeing Kenji shrug, Shizuka laughed again, causing her hair ribbon to sway gently.

“Oh yeah, you’re going to Kitsushouharukaze for high school this year too.”

“Heeh, what a coincidence.”

“If we’re lucky, we might even be in the same class.”

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“Fufu, I hope we get along at school as well.”

She said, bowing again.

“So, landlady, did you need something?”

“Ah, I’d forgotten.”

Shizuka clapped her hands together and pointed at the window behind Koutarou and Kenji.

“I saw the moving truck leave earlier, so I thought it was about time I came and helped.”

“From the window?”

“Yes, Mckenzie-san. Actually, I live in the room above.”

“It’s great to live right under a cute landlady.”

“Well…”

Shizuka’s eyes widened, and then she grinned.

“How flattering, Satomi-san.”

“Living underneath someone doesn’t mean anything. It’s an apartment, so obviously that could happen.”

“Don’t ruin the mood.”

“Fufufu, you two get along well… Ah, I shouldn’t say that. I came down here to help, after all. I couldn’t help with the physical work earlier, but I think I can definitely help from here.”

“You’ve really helping us out, landlady; Kou’s specialty is leaving a mess, but when it comes to tidying up, he’s no good.”

“Don’t make me look bad, McKenzie!”

“It’s true though, you always trouble me.”

Kenji let out a big sigh while straightening his glasses.

“So you’re always—?”

“Yup, I’m always helpin’ him out.”

“I’m grateful, you know.”

“…Nothing more though. Oh yeah, landlady, there’s something I want to ask you. That okay?”

“Yes, what is it?”

Shizuka nodded, still smiling.

“Why’s this room’s rent only five thousand yen?”

“O-Oi, McKenzie, don’t suddenly ask about that kinda thing!”

Koutarou knew about the circumstances and began to panic slightly.

“But aren’t you curious? The room’s nice, and the landlady’s a hardworking person, so I don’t really see any problems with it.”

“But her parents left this apartment to her, so—”

“It’s fine, Satomi-san.”

Koutarou was worried that Shizuka would get angry, but instead she smiled gently and shook her head.

“McKenzie-san’s worries are valid too. Fufufu, don’t you understand? McKenzie-san is worrying about you.”

“Landlady…”

“Besides, I can talk about this.”

“Haah.”

Koutarou bowed apologetically and Shizuka faced Kenji.

“Actually, this room is haunted.”

“What do you mean ‘haunted’?”

“Mainly that there are rumors of a ghost in this room.”

“G-Ghost…?!”

Kenji was surprised, and he looked restlessly around the room.

“I haven’t seen anything myself, but it appears all the tenants have… So no one lives here for long.”

“A ghost… it’s hard to swallow, but…”

“I’m the same, but the reality is that the tenants are leaving and making these claims.”

Shizuka shrugged with a bitter smile as she explained to a bewildered Kenji.

“Landlady, leave it to me. I’m not going to lose to a ghost.”

“I hope so. Make sure to live here for a long time to clear the rumors, Satomi-san.”

“I will!”

“But, a ghost in this room…”

Still not understanding, Kenji looked around the room again.

“Stop mumbling, McKenzie. Since the landlady came down just to help us, let’s start tidying up.”

“…Ah, that’s right.”

After Koutarou pressed him, Kenji shook his head sharply and his expression returned to normal.

“If it’s the thick-headed Kou, even a ghost will be fine.”

“Your words hurt.”

“That’s my intention.”

“I know… Anyway, let’s get started, landlady.”

“Yes, but you know, you two make a really good pair.”

Shizuka giggled again as she watched their exchange.

“Really?”

“Landlady, please don’t say such a disgusting thing.”

“McKenzie, aren’t you exaggerating a bit?”

With that, they started noisily storing the luggage.

 

With Kenji and Shizuka’s help, Koutarou got the room into a livable state before it was time for dinner.

“I’m leaving. We’ve got work tomorrow, so don’t stay up too late.”

“Got it. It’d be bad to oversleep, after all.”

“I don’t think you’ve ‘got that’.”

Kenji sighed, going to the entranceway and putting on the shoes he’d carelessly kicked off earlier.

“I’ll be going too, Satomi-san.”

“Landlady, you don’t have to call me ‘Satomi-san.’ We’ll be classmates they day after tomorrow, after all.”

“Umm, then, Satomi-kun?”

“That feels better.”

“Yeah, so I’ll call you that?”

Shizuka smiled, slipping on the shoes she neatly left in the entrance way. At the same time, Kenji opened the door.

“Thanks for today, landlady.”

Koutarou thanked them as they walked through the door.

“No, if it’s just this much, any time.”

“…Aren’t you going to thank me?”

“You’re a give and take kind of person.”

“Don’t think of me like that…”

“See you, Satomi-kun.”

“Goodbye, landlady.”

“Hurry up and go to sleep.”

“I will, I will.”

With a bang of the door, Kenji and Shizuka disappeared.

 

As Koutarou ate a convenience-store-bought lunch, he continued tidying up alone.

“Hmmm… Where should I put this bat… It’s a special one, so I guess I’ll put it in the umbrella stand.”

Koutarou fretted over the bat in his hand. The signed bat was once used by the legendary slugger known as ‘The God of Batting’ and is one of Koutarou’s treasures.

“Right, I’ll get a pedestal for it, but for now I’ll just put it in the corner.”

Koutarou leaned it against the wall in the corner and picked up a new cardboard box.

“What’s this then…”

Koutarou ripped the packing tape and peered inside.

“More treasures, huh?”

Trophies, certificates, commemorative shields and his favorite glove— these were all keepsakes from Koutarou’s middle school days.

“Okay, I’ll put this here.”

It didn’t feel as special to have so many keepsakes in one place.

“If I don’t put this in nicely then…”

It was a knitted sweater. Koutarou wrapped it carefully and tightly in paper. Then he put it gently into the suitcase inside the wardrobe.

“That’s fine.”

Moving away from the wardrobe, Koutarou clapped his hands together.

*Ring-ring*

At the same time, his phone that was charging in the corner started to ring.

“Huh? Dad?”

On Koutarou’s phone, there was only one contact that still used the default ringtone.

Satomi Yuuichirou.

His father’s name was displayed on the phone’s screen.

*Beep*

Koutarou picked up his phone, answering it before holding it to the side of his face.

“Hello, Dad?”

[Ooh, you’re there, Koutarou?]

From the phone, the voice that could be heard was definitely that of Koutarou’s father, Yuuichirou.

[How is it over there? All unpacked?]

“Getting there. McKenzie and the landlady helped, so I’ve got some time.”

[I see. Did you thank them properly?]

“Yup, what about you?”

[It’s a hostel for bachelors, so there’s nothing I have to do. I have food and a place to bathe. If I just had a change of clothes there’d be no pressing problems.]

“Glad to hear that. There’s less you can do than even me, so I was a bit worried.”

[Hahaha, that really hits home.]

Koutarou grew up with just his father, so Koutarou actually did most of the housework. Since it was Koutarou doing the work, he didn’t do a particularly good job, but if he hadn’t done it his father would’ve faded away. Yuuichirou was terrible at housework—

“It’s a good opportunity though, find a good person.”

So Koutarou wanted him to re-marry soon.

[Tahahaha, that’s a bit…]

But Yuuichirou still loved his wife he lost early even today. Koutarou understood this, so he couldn’t complain.

[Anyway, if you’re fine that’s all that matters.]

“You too, Dad. Did you forget to take out the rubbish?”

[No, I didn’t.]

“I wonder.”

At that time, Koutarou truly understood Kenji’s feelings.

[Anyway, there’s not much left to talk about, so let’s stop here. I’ve got some more cleaning to do.]

“Me too. See you, Dad.”

[Good night, Koutarou.]

“Night.”

And like that, they hung up.

“I wonder what it’s like to be suddenly transferred there.”

Koutarou plugged his phone back in.

“Anyway, I should be relieved. It’s good, it really is.”

Koutarou made a light smile and took a breath before resuming cleaning.

 

“Eleven o’clock, huh…”

Koutarou stopped tidying up as it approached eleven o’clock.

“I guess I’ll go to bed early tonight. If I don’t get up in time McKenzie’ll yell at me.”

The past few days of hectic moving had worn Koutarou out, and on top of that he had to work tomorrow. Going to sleep now would be a good idea.

“Sleep, sleep.”

After deciding to do so, Koutarou quickly took out his futon from the wardrobe. The flowery cover that Shizuka had prepared really didn’t suit Koutarou.

“Heave.”

Using his foot, Koutarou cleared some floor space for the futon and then just collapsed onto it, leaving the flowery cover in front of him.

“…Should I lay it out properly?”

After reconsidering, he decided to properly spread out the futon. Shizuka had prepared the cover for him, so if he treated it roughly like he usually did, it’d upset her.

“All right.”

After spreading the futon, Koutarou turned the lights off and crawled under the covers.

“Goodnight.”

Saying that to no one in particular, Koutarou closed his eyes. He was bad at getting up, but good at going to sleep. A few minutes later his breathing became regular.

Nothing moved in room 106, and Koutarou’s breathing echoed around the room. It was about as loud as the clock’s ticking, so when the TV in the neighboring­­ room 105 turned on or when Shizuka closed and opened her door upstairs in room 206, his breathing was inaudible. After a few hours, Koutarou’s breathing filled the room again.

*Clatter*

There was a small sound in room 106. It wasn’t from Koutarou. He was sleeping and hadn’t so much as twitched.

*Clatter-clatter*

The sound came from the window, but the frame wasn’t creaky and the wind wasn’t rattling it. Nonetheless, the window continued to rattle and became steadily louder as time passed.

Even so, Koutarou showed no signs of waking.

“Uhh~ McKenzie, cut it out already~”

Rather than waking, Koutarou was talking loudly in his sleep. The window stood no chance.

Strangely enough, with Koutarou’s muttering, the noise suddenly stopped.

“Guhefuefuefue.”

*CLATTER*

For some reason, the window acted up again right after Koutarou’s sleep talking. It shouldn’t have been possible, but it was as if the window was surprised that Koutarou was sleep talking.

For a while, the silence continued, and Koutarou’s murmuring finally stopped. Nothing happened for several minutes, but the strange phenomenon wasn’t over.

*CRASH*, *SHATTER*

A high pitched explosion pierced the night, sounding as if a small pot had been shattered. However, upon closer inspection, the source couldn’t be found.

*CRASH*, *SHATTER*, *SMASH*

The explosive sounds continued while at the same time a baseball rolled across the floor.

The source still couldn’t be seen.

*CLATTER*, *SMASH*

The sounds were getting more violent, and the window was making a tremendous noise.

“Kekeke, McKenzie, you’re a bad landlord? The landlady is cute~”

Even that didn’t work. Far from being awoken, Koutarou started mumbling in his sleep again.

“You might be good-looking, but you’ve got no guts~”

As if to drown out Koutarou’s speech, the noises got even louder. Things in the room started shaking, and the room was in the height of chaos. The furniture and boxes clattered as the noise grew louder.

Even though the sounds were right in front of him, Koutarou was still fast asleep. This much didn’t perturb him at all. After being friends with Kenji for so long, Koutarou wouldn’t wake easily.

“Uehehehehehe~”

The laughing paused when Koutarou talked in his sleep.

What if someone was the source of the noise and shaking?

“The clattering’s noisy, shut up. Cut it out, McKenzie.”

*CLATTER*

Whoever it was, that person must have been amazed at how soundly Koutarou slept.

 

Translator notes and references

None.