Sanae Fujiwara - Carving a Path

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Pasonia
Posts: 174
Joined: Wed Jan 13, 2010 12:43 am

Sanae Fujiwara - Carving a Path

Post by Pasonia » Fri Oct 11, 2013 3:54 am

In the frigid mornings of Chiba's December, a sound rang out majestically into the early morning skies of the Katori Shrine, one that precluded any avian songs, yet one that sounded just like a songbird hailing for best wishes.

There lived a girl who grew up listening to this song, so she sang it every morning at the top of the voice, out of her own volition; her childish naivete precluded any very adult-like reservations, and nobody would stop her singing, anyway!

With a voice melodic, saccharine, and soothing to the soul, the girl bellowed out aloud to the winter skies, hidden from everyone else:

Cherry blossoms, cherry blossoms,
Across the spring sky,
As far as you can see.
Is it a mist, or clouds?
Fragrant in the air.
Come now, come now,
Let's look, at last!


A voice she knew would bellow aloud from a distance, across Chiba's frigid skies:

"Little miss! Spring is not here yet! We are halfway through winter, you know?"

There was a short silence in the air, but the reply from the would always be the same warm voice, accompanied by what seemed to be another girl's voice amidst childish giggles, and joined by a shamisen played with such depth skill that did not fit that of young hands.

Cherry blossoms, cherry blossoms,
Across the winter sky,
As far as you can see.
Is it a mist, or clouds?
Fragrant in the air.
Come now, come now,
Let's look, at last!


As far as the residents of the Shrine were concerned, they would rather not stop the girl and her entourage, though, they never knew who was the McCoy. It was a reprieve from the biting cold, and they would rather have the girl chase away the winter on their behalf.

All the Shrine's residents ever saw in the early mornings of Winter at that hour, though, were that of a girl who always had on a fake cherry blossom hairpiece. There was no man or woman with a shamisen, nor of a second child, but every morning she would visit the shrine, and the maidens were only too happy to have a child to play with to distract them from otherwise mundane duties.

There was one other thing she was exceptionally adept at, which opened her even further to the Shrine's residents.

She had an exceptional eye for a very old board game. After just six days of her visiting the shrine, the adults playing with her did not dare play with her any more. Unfortunate as it was, the devil hidden within the girl lay not on her person, but through the pieces that shatter confidences of even the most astute of adult players.

But the adults did pay no mind. It was just a little hiccup to a little angel, awaiting to shed her unintended devilry.

She would, with any luck, grow up just fine.

Right?
Pasonia
Posts: 174
Joined: Wed Jan 13, 2010 12:43 am

Re: Sanae Fujiwara - Carving a Path

Post by Pasonia » Sat Oct 12, 2013 1:45 am

"But, Dad, why are you stopping me? This is really my one and only chance!"

It was a day everyone dreaded; the day where tears were shed when everyone knew that nothing needed to be the way it was.

But the stubborn mannerisms of a traditionally-inclined Japanese man would not be denied of his right to rule what he - and he alone - thought would be in the best favor of his family.

"Sanae, you must not argue any further. This topic was up for discussion until we realized that we, the Fujiwara, had been harmed greatly by a delinquent."

Sanae knew what her father meant. It was her half-brother, the famous owarai comedian who would make explosive comments about the kinds of torture his father would put him through for performance practices when he was a kid.

None of the bad stuff was true. Who would believe a man who said he was punished with water ponding for simply hitting a note wrong?

As Sanae would find out, though, the answer was, to her eternal dismay, "everybody".

Sanae went through that too. So why is the guy, having already achieved fame, complaining that his father - or rather, his father by blood - tortured him?

Simple - he was left with nothing more to say on stage. New material would only spring forth from controversy.

But why was her father overreacting? Since six years ago, Sanae reckoned she had so dutifully followed up every day with four hours of vocal practice, and she wasn't without merit of her own. She had earned practically every folk song prize she could for her age group, so... why?

Why destroy all the work they had been doing, just for the sake of one---

"Sanae, please understand... our family's pride has been shattered... the son I abandoned has now come to bite me because I have failed..."

"No, that's so wrong, that's so wrong! He was at fault for bringing up the family when he was the one who voluntarily left us for Aunt Miyako! Why do you---"

"I cannot shame the Fujiwara name further... we're not at liberty..."
"Father! By stopping me from singing, you're breaking the wings you're trying to grow for me!"
"I cannot shame the Fujiwara name anymore..."
"You are not! That man is! He's not even worth your attention, worry and anger!"

"DO YOU UNDERSTAND AT ALL, SANAE?!"

With that, the senior Fujiwara stood up so abruptly that he knocked a vase over, directly slamming into her innocent kid brother Daigo. Then, with a force she had never seen her father capable of summoning, the head of the family had flung the family gramophone off the balcony, nearly hitting Sanae square in the face as she shrieked and cried all at once.

Sanae realized she had little time to cry. Daigo was bleeding profusely from the head, a large gash spilling blood out from his forehead. Nearby, her father had simply rolled up into a ball of a sobbing forty-something, almost as though he had wanted to summon his lifetime's worth of repentance to save his family's pride.

"Some... somebody call the ambulance!"

Without even stopping to think, Sanae dashed out of her house, her tears streaking her face and sullying her (albeit simple) makeup as she ran to her equally terrified neighbors' apartments, ringing every door multiple times.

"Call the ambulance, please! Please! My brother is bleeding! Please!"

She would do this until she could no longer put her thoughts coherently together, collapsing into a sobbing ball of a girl just like her father had. It was only then that the neighbors realized the entire household - save for the mother, who had been rather unfortunate, ironically, to be spared this drama with her daily morning commute to Tsukiji - was incapacitated.

But upon closer look, there was more trouble to come for the Fujiwara, as two, not one, ambulances came, blaring their sirens as they zipped past the city blocks to get to the one the Fujiwara family had been residing in.

It was thus a cry of shock for Fujiwara Misako - nee Shirakawa - when the Fujiwara matron saw her husband, still sobbing profusely, being taken away by police officers. Alert paparazzi journalists began their usual intrusive routines of snapping pictures of the latest trending news from celebrities and everything related to them, and the Fujiwara's turmoil would be put in the public spotlight.

Apparently, the gramophone had all the fortune of a devil's gavel to strike so squarely upon the roof of an SUV, injuring the mother and child within.

Thankfully, the school and the local town hall - having, perhaps, developed a deep fondness for Sanae's sweet personality, and having had the fortune to have her perform on behalf of the prefecture - had the heart to deny the paparazzi further information and threaten legal action for non-compliance to stay away, saving Sanae, Misako and Daigo from any further intrusions.

Thereafter, the Fujiwara would disappear from the public eye, and they will remain bereft of someone to take the stage on behalf of the Fujiwara, for the first time in two hundred years of their performance arts history.

For Sanae, the decision was simple.

Her voice was no longer needed.

For the rest of her life past this point, she would never again try to hit the notes of a song with her full effort.

Or, would she have a change of heart? Would there be anything compelling enough?

Who knows, really.
Pasonia
Posts: 174
Joined: Wed Jan 13, 2010 12:43 am

Re: Sanae Fujiwara - Carving a Path

Post by Pasonia » Sun Oct 13, 2013 5:07 am

Following that harrowing night and her father's subsequent arrest, Sanae and the rest of the family were left with very little else where to go.

In the end, she chose to go to Hibiya Middle School, right smack in the middle of Tokyo; her daily morning commute as a not-so-stand-out, talentless lass - so she sincerely believed - would consist of a squeeze past Tokyo and Shibuya every day, since her closest maternal aunt lived on the other side of Tokyo.

Being given a roof over their heads was enough blessing. There was also the problem of income; Sanae's mother cannot work due to the mental trauma that had accompanied the shock of seeing her husband handcuffed, but placing the burden of keeping them alive on her maternal aunt was quite unfair, too.

Sanae - who had to quickly grow up amid the chaos - knew about all these problems, but there was something she could do about it.

---

"Here! Put your legs a little higher... that's right. That posture is perfect!"
"Y-yes..."
"Yeah, that's right, give the camera a little bit more on the smile!"
"..."

The offer she had taken was for a series of gravure model shoot - and today's menu was for frilly skirts. Having developed a considerably noticeable figure for her age, and being blessed with one of the sweetest faces since young, it was inevitable that she would start getting these sorts of jobs.

She was cursorily aware of what gravure model shooting was mainly for, but decided to not say any further.

The money was the only thing she wanted at the end of the thing. As an under-aged, she was not allowed to receive monetary remuneration and all, but her aunt had pulled the strings and made that possible ("for my own good, anyway," she recalled her aunt saying).

If there was one thing from the vocal training she never wanted to forget, it was to remember what hardship felt like, and to not let the feeling conquer over her being.

A pity; if that really was all to take care of, Sanae would be golden. As with everything else under the sun, some things don't come for free - but some men do want their girls free. The photographer did exactly just that, as he began to reach a hand out towards Sanae's bosom while adjusting his angles.

"E-Eh?" The gesture momentarily surprised Sanae, but as soon as the initial shock wore out, all that came was a massive tinge of violation, even if the cameraman had not actually touched her. One that prompted Sanae to cover her assets protectively, her face nervous and tinged with a frightful mixture of horror and revulsion, her breathing short and sharp like a wounded creature gasping for air.

"Whoa, did I do something wrong? My apologies!" Feigning ignorance, the cameraman curtly would only answer Sanae's obvious shock with nonchalance, his smile all the more unnerving to the nubile lass. As she stared wide-eyed, alert for any signs of inappropriateness, she saw a man from the corner of her eyes, accompanied by an entourage of black-suited men.

Can... should I? But the man looks so eerie and scary...

This was only Sanae's third gravure shoot.

And there was the matter of that powerful-looking man in the distance.
Pasonia
Posts: 174
Joined: Wed Jan 13, 2010 12:43 am

Re: Sanae Fujiwara - Carving a Path

Post by Pasonia » Wed Oct 16, 2013 12:47 am

It wasn't so much disappointment as much as a curiosity that had overtaken Sanae when, out of any ideas to deal with the situation, she finally decided that an approach to that very powerful man was necessary.

As it turned out, he was "powerful", in every imaginable manner, and he was surprisingly affable to Sanae. The problem was that he spoke a dialect that was so difficult to get past, that it was hard to figure out what the man was speaking. Still yet more interesting was that he was so insistent on protecting Sanae, that no other men gets close; while this normally helps with easing Sanae's shyness, she instead got even more shy speaking to the man, whom she only knows the first name of - Hiro.

"Nah 'hero', but Hiro, y'not got 'at?"
"Y-yes, Hiro-san..."

Still, that approach was a lifesaver. The man would later say that Sanae had long been set up, and if he had not been approached sooner she would most certainly have fallen prey to vicious predators.

As Hiro puts it to her bluntly, "y'r brot'r ain't got nah a sense of shame in'im, hir'in all th's cruds to ru'n you and y'r fam."

That was possibly the only thing from Hiro she understood well enough. There was no person as horrible as Takao, going so far just to satisfy his appetite for revenge.

Hiro offered to protect Sanae's entire family - by way of crashing right past his terrified aunt and into her house just to talk - but Sanae politely refused, even though in the back of her mind she had wanted his protection so badly.

"Y'll be fah'n? Y'or prit'y sure y'll be a-okay wit'out mah help?"
"We'll... be fine, Hiro. You have saved me more than I had asked for, and I could not thank you any further. I fear I may not... be able to repay this debt of gratitude."
"D'n tell mah t'at's why y'll not ax'ept mah hl'p?"
"...no, it's not that..."

Hiro understood. Pride was at stake here, and the young lass wasn't sure how much of it she had cashed in when she asked for help. It was nothing to be angry about.

"A'll'ight, I g't it. It's fah'n. Just t'll me when y'll be in troubs, y'got me?"

---

Thanks to Hiro, she was introduced to a "prim n' props" producer who agreed to do more wholesome coverage of Sanae.

It was a job that added to the family's income; Sanae's mother had barely recovered enough to resume duties as a home-maker, so Sanae, working tirelessly through her youth, swore that she would not let the remnants of the family crumble because of her.

Unfortunately, that alienated her from the rest of her classmates. Mature beyond her eyes, Sanae had trouble trying to talk to her classmates, whose worries were never about surviving the day-to-day, but of movies, boys and idols. In fact, the only person she could relate to in the entire school was the janitor, an elderly Zainichi Korean she alternately calls "Madam Choo" or "Madam Hye-soon".

It was through Madam Choo, in the confines of the school's janitor's room that seemed more like a cozy half-room home, that Sanae would while some one and a half years playing Go - or Baduk as the old lady would always insist. Because it was a quiet corner, it was practically soundproof from the rest of the school.

Then one day, at the age of fifteen, the school announced that there would be a Go competition. Most of the school wasn't interested in an old game like Go, preferring their PlayJunctions and QBOX consoles over uninteresting board games, but Sanae went; the only reason she did was that there was a seemingly attractive cash prize.

Made all the more important when Daigo was suddenly hospitalized.

Again, Sanae reminded herself not to just run for anybody's help. This was no time for Hiro to play hero, she had decided in her mind; she would later realize that this was foolish stubbornness.

This competition - touted as a multi-national company's effort to break into the local market - was hotly contested because it featured a cash prize never before seen at the prefectural level for middle-school students.

Sanae did not care. Everyday, the determined woman-in-a-girl would pour over ten books espousing advanced tactics of Go every day, scrutinizing every detail, coming up with her own theories, and, to the surprise of her aunt, ended up watching live television broadcasts of high-level games of Go and explaining every detail of the game without even consciously realizing where she stood.

While her aunt thought that Sanae was merely playing the delinquent, having neglected her studies amid the furore of the competition and her brother's stay in hospital, Sanae was determined that she would win the competition.

When the tournament came, she eagerly swept everyone away, blowing a hole through the grand finals forcibly as she pitched herself in feverish battle after feverish battle, but never forgetting this graceful, light, if determined smile on her face no matter the heat of the battle on the three-hundred and eighty-one squares of black and white.

On the day of the grand finals, however, an unexpected shock awaited Sanae.
Pasonia
Posts: 174
Joined: Wed Jan 13, 2010 12:43 am

Re: Sanae Fujiwara - Carving a Path

Post by Pasonia » Mon Oct 21, 2013 2:26 am

There was no hiding.

Sanae knew that by standing on the stage, she risked someone suddenly recognizing her from all those years ago, but this was no time to be scared about herself.

There was much more at stake - her brother's health depended upon her winning.

Her heart felt like fairly heavy machinery upon a camel's back - designed to withstand loads, but not quite the same load as one might expect.

Naturally, it was all going to hell in Sanae's mind until, at last, she could take her seat - stealing a glance of her would-be opponent.

"Eh, Hye-soon nee-san?"

Sanae stared hard at her opponent, unmistakably Korean in appearance but, to Sanae, unmistakably Madam Choo herself... or not.

Yet the other girl in front of her was visibly shocked, too, suddenly muttering in a language Sanae knew to be Korean.

"She definitely isn't Hye-soon nee-san," thought Sanae, remembering with some amusement that Madam Choo didn't like to feel too old, and that Sanae had casually called her an "older sister" out of affection, only to have it stick ever since.

"You... how did you know my mother...?"

Sanae was about to recover from her shock when another bombshell came.

"... I-I think you misheard me just now," Sanae replied hurriedly, trying her best to remain calm. "L-Let's start this."

Stones clicked and clacked upon the goban, and when that was over, Sanae was handed a bowl full of white stones.

"I am White... my preferred color."

The battle began in earnest - but Sanae was in for a surprise five moves into the game.

"Hye-Soon nee-san's opening...?!"

There was a particular way that the obasan liked to open her game as Black - "first two stones for land, one to shore it up, and two for the galaxies." - meaning to fight with trickery for late-game influence, and Sanae had learnt many a lesson on never taking her eyes off the table when Madam Choo played this particular opening. A remarkable feat by the old lady, considering that there had never been a single adult who could best Sanae.

And now, if anything, the goban clearly communicated the same message the other girl had been saying.

"She's definitely related to nee-san!"

Sanae willed herself to calm down, even though her fingers trembled with excitement. In front of her was a lady, a dignified if assertive young girl who claimed legitimate relationship with something from her own past. It was like having someone much younger play the bogeyman to scare her.

Alas, Sanae had not been slacking off.

"If you want to build two galaxies, I'll come up with three; if you come up with ten, I'll catch you with eleven!"

Thus, Sanae snatched a stone from within the bowl, rattling it with no small measure of menace, and at last slammed the stone into the dead-center of the goban.

When she lifted her head again, the answer was all there. There was no need for words to be exchanged, but she knew what the other girl was thinking.

I'll beat you into telling me how you knew everything! Come at me!

Sanae let out a trembling heave. Get me, I'm here waiting!

Although the board game had been set up for three hours of play, with each player given ninety minutes to consider all their moves, the pace of the game suddenly quickened, and old men who had found themselves away to grab food or drinks suddenly found that, less than thirty minutes into the game, both girls were already having at each other's throats.

"Wh-what is going on? Did someone forget to tell them that the finals isn't to be played like a video game?! Are they even taking it seriously?!"
"L-look at that! They'd been pitting galaxies at each other from move ten! There's no way they could have been serious... but they really are!"

Forty minutes in, the fight was coming to an end, and neither player had an idea how anything could have swung. The board was in a terribly fragile state of equilibrium.

"I've caught her in two places... but I let her take something more than I'd expected," grimaced Sanae, knowing that any mistakes would cost her dearly. "She's no Hye-soon nee-san, but she knows how to play like the devil herself!"

Sanae thought long and hard. There were five points of focus, and all the problems needed to be addressed in one move; with space so constricted now, Sanae knew that finding any more breakthrough would be like poking holes in a watertight argument - there must be some loophole for her to bring the table to her side.

Where was it? Where isit?
Upon the three hundred and eighty one intersections, which one could have been it?!

A sudden gust of wind blew across Sanae's mind-scape, like a warrior who had just been struck off his horse and into the grassy knolls, the lush plains of Kantou. It was somewhat painful, but more peaceful than anything she could have imagined.

"... where am I?"

The black and white dots seemed to merge into a singularity. There was no answer upon a singular question made up of more than five layers.

Or was there not?

"Right where the heart is, young lady..."

For some reason, Madam Hye-soon's voice appeared within her minds.

No, in fact, she was standing right beside Sanae.

Sanae looked up suddenly, throwing her opponent off as her attention, too, shifted. But Sanae was left in a mindless shock upon seeing Madam Choo floating upon mid-air, her legs nowhere to be seen.

"...nee-san?!"

Sanae had wanted to scream out aloud, but she grabbed the chair she had been sitting in, convincing herself that she had been too stressed out. Yet, there was no denying that Madam Choo was floating, even if Sanae wanted to argue that it wasn't the case.

"Thank you for accompanying this old lady. I hadn't expected to see Mi-hee, all grown up and so adorable. I treated you like I would my dear daughter. I'm sorry I never told you anything..."

Tears welled up upon Sanae's eyes; the young lady could only helplessly watch Hye-soon's image fracturing in mid-air.

"I... might be unfair to Mi-hee... but I taught her, too... she should know she cannot get away with such a careless move."

Careless move? Was there any to be had?

"You remember how I play you, Sanae-chan! How can you possibly let two galaxies live when it does not have a grip upon the lands they were meant to bless, right?"

Sanae's tears had eked out so slightly, but the lady was determined to hold it all in; before her, Choo Mi-hee could only watch with great trepidation, a premonition that something untoward had already occurred.

"... that's it!"

For the last time in this unexpected crossover of events, Sanae would rustle hard upon the stones for an answer she had been made to seek hard, and Mi-hee would regret the day she let her oft-reminded carelessness get the better of her.

With one resounding smack, the game was over... even though nobody would tell either of them that, it was clear as day to discerning observers, clearer than the brilliant blues and greens of the high seas for both girls.

Mi-hee stared upon the board hard, alternating between peering into Sanae, and peering into the board. Shaking her head softly, Mi-hee would repeat her curious actions, until which time her head could not take it any more, a great tsunami of void suddenly crashing over her fragile facade of peace.

"I... I... I l-l-lost... I... lost..."

Mi-hee's face was about to be wrecked by her uncontrollable emotions, playing with a person who reminded her too much about her mother, but Sanae was quick on her feet; uncharacteristically, Mi-hee found herself suddenly standing up, then hugged by an equally emotional Sanae; she could only helplessly witness the last of Madam Choo's figure dissipating, into the air overarching the hall upon which fate had visited the two acquaintances.

A thunderous applause went across the hall, but the two young girls would share the knowing hug for all of a minute, with Mi-hee finding herself strangely comfortable enough to cry all she had wanted, all she had stored into her heart, into the shoulders of a girl only slightly taller than her.

---

"I... hope your little brother would be all right."
"I know he will be! He has been so brave as to endure everything until now."

The roller-bed carrying her little brother, slowly ushered into a room with a strangely eerie sign lit up that said "Operation in Progress", and Sanae slowly watched the door close ominously.

Hopefully, that was just her stressed mind playing tricks, as it always did.

"...I didn't know you could see ghosts..."
"...neither did I," Sanae had chuckled somewhat awkwardly. "I had been wondering why nobody knew that Hye-soon nee-san existed. I had asked the homeroom teacher before about her, but all he said was 'I don't know the janitors'..."
"She did work as a janitor, but she was always so low-profile... She was a Korean. We are both Koreans, by blood at least."

Sanae had been forced to accept - rather recently, through all the bad news that both countries were having at each other's throats again - that the two neighboring countries had never been on great relations. Nonetheless, she could not help but marvel at the fact that nobody had known anything - not even herself.

"...she'd accompanied me for so long, and it is only now that I realize I know so little..."

Sanae let out a sigh, only to be suddenly tickled by Mi-hee.

"Uwa-ha-ha! Mi-hee, what's that about?!"
"'Stop acting like an old lady'... that's what my mother would have said. Don't you think so?"

Sanae could only smile awkwardly in agreement. "I remember that..."

Even though the operation was somewhat dangerous, Sanae did not feel any of the fear about her brother's operation being successful. Instead, a little girl, a peer whom she had to fight hard to win against, was taking away all of that in silly, girlish banter that Sanae never had a chance to.

Perhaps, the girls were just so similar in fate. Nobody else could empathize, and that put Sanae off from most other girls; Mi-hee's cheerful disposition suggested that, if anything, she was not at fault, but neither can she place blame on others for not knowing her plight - it was just human nature to not be that curious about others' businesses, especially in this part of Japan.

How could you ever be so happy...?

This question, Sanae thought she would store it away, but for some odd reason, Mi-hee herself had brought it up when she asked:

"Why are you not happy?"

Sanae could only laugh awkwardly again. "Iya... no one gets me, so I don't like people... I've only ever been used or abused by them."

Mi-hee's lips pouted in mock-anger.

"You're getting it wrong if you think people exist solely to eat you up."

Unsure whether Mi-hee was being intentionally offensive about it, Sanae's shoulders nevertheless presented a defensive posture; how would Mi-hee have had known her plight, eh?

"That's all I would have seen when talking to strangers and adults..."

"...if all you expect is hurt, that would be true. Come, pinky promise me something."

A pinky promise?

"Don't hate on people. They need you to open to them for them to see your problem. You have to see through the pain, silly girl."

Those words were simple. Strangely, it actually meant something significant. Sanae knew she had no problems with it, even though, for so long, she would have had issues.

"Yubikiri genman (Pinky Promise)..."

Mi-heeraised her pinky; so did Sanae. They proceeded to recite the remainder of the verse, rhymes that they had known since young:

"...uso tsuitara, (if I ever lie)
hari senbon nomasu, (I'll drink a thousand needles)
yubi kitta! (and break my pinky!)"


---

It came via air-mail, and for some reason it was written entirely in Korean.

Sanae had to go all the way to the city hall to find someone capable of translating the letter, even though Sanae's instincts told her that something terrible had occurred to Mi-hee.

Even the Korean translator at the city hall was hesitant to proceed, but when Sanae pressed with as much polite niceness as she could, he caved in.

"You... have a friend Choo Mi-hee, right? This letter was written by her."
"Yes..."

"Here goes...

'Dear Sanae, please don't be sad when this letter reaches you. Knowing you, you will find someone capable of translating my message. By the time you see this letter, I would have joined my mother in heavenly embrace... I hope (laughs).

Knowing that my mother was dead was one thing, but being able to accept her being forever lost to me, made my life for the past five years somewhat... actually, absolutely pointless.

Personally, I feel very sorry for being so selfish, and I wish I could... but, you know, I accept that maybe I have no place in this world.

I'm sorry for being so selfish. I wished I could have been eternal friends with you, I really do. Don't forget the pinky promise, though! It was meant for you!

Farewell,
Choo Mi-hee
'

The translator had sobbed so loudly - unable to comprehend the pain that had gone through this poor little girl's friend's mind - that after ten seconds of his howling, someone from the staff had to whisk him away before anyone else figured out what had happened. For Sanae, though, all she would say is a quick thanks, asking for the letter again as politely, and as long as her smile would allow her to hold herself together, while she walked down the corridor as briskly as her shaken heart could.

As though to give herself strength in crisis, using her clearest, melodious voice, her pinky song could be heard down the hallway by the city hall employees.

"Yubikiri genman!
Uso tsuitara,
hari senbon nomasu,
yubi kitta!"
Pasonia
Posts: 174
Joined: Wed Jan 13, 2010 12:43 am

Re: Sanae Fujiwara - Carving a Path

Post by Pasonia » Sat Dec 28, 2013 4:21 am

It was not long before word of Sanae's prowess began to spread throughout the Go circles of Tokyo. In one such Go salon at the heart of Setagaya City, Tokyo, a discussion began when one old taxi driver, wrinkly-faced exposing all of his seventy-five years of age, began speaking to his five other high school friends.

"Did you guys remember that game, our own little girl fighting against a Korean one at that MNC's competition?"
"Yeah, I heard that. I also heard that the Korean girl couldn't take the loss so she took her own life. That true?"
"Oh come on, you still think this is the bad 40's or something? We ain't got that kind of animosity thing with Koreans anymore, you know."
"Hey hey hey let's get back into this, cut the chatter. Sumie, do you have the kifu? I need to recreate the game here for the lads."
"Will be just a sec- welcome, little girl---"

Everyone froze when a little girl came rushing into the premises on the second floor, evidently in some unnatural hurry.

"Konnichiwa, I'm Fujiwara Sanae. I'm sorry to intrude but may I borrow the restroom for a while, please?"

Even though Sanae's quick eyes immediately spotted the familiar, fateful game being prepared at the tabletop near the old men, she pretended not to notice.

"Ah... ah... What's the matter, Genji! Hurry up and say something!" The old lady nudged the man hard.

"Ah, ah, oh, that's, that's right! Um, the restroom, please, go ahead and use it... Sumie, please show her the way."

---

It was all Sanae could do to contain her urge to cry, but she could not break her promise just one month after, could she? She was determined not to break down, and always be strong even when everybody else was suffering.

In fact, that was all she felt she could really do - hang in there, be strong. The motivations, however, manifested in the painful recesses that dominated her thoughts ever since her brother's operation and recovery.

All these men think women are weak, don't they? Even boys do think that of me. Old men too. Dad too. Look at them squirm when they knew who I was.
Mum became hollowed out because of Dad.
Mi-chan gave her life because she could not.

I am not walking that way.


---

Before the men could even bring themselves to keep the kifu - the game record that describes a match - Sanae had already emerged from the washroom, all refreshed.

The first thing she did was to address the old men's concerns.

"Excuse me, I know I have just met you, sires, but would you like me to demonstrate and explain the kifu for the Championship match?"

Genji, the old man who brought the idea up, dropped his jaws.

"Ah, I mean, well... um..."

He could not bring himself to refuse. The headstrong lass's eyes had already given him the answer he was forced to accept.

"...please, do as you may," grunted Genji weakly. "We were on move 20."

Sanae remembered that move well. "That move... it completed my taunt to her. I once played an opponent whose moves were like hers, and it was my way of saying 'I know what you're up to, now get to the point', you know?"

Someone in the room laughed out loud, before noticing the icy-awkward atmosphere in the room.

"It's okay, you know, just speak normally, please," Sanae spoke as she immediately discerned the discomfort in the room, "or I won't enjoy teaching you what I know, would I?"

With Sanae's repeated assurances, the salon's worth of patrons began to ease a little on the tension, their smiles slowly returning to their uncertain faces.

"...and so, here, I initiated a taunt for a small ko fight. I often start ko fights in situations where I find myself in a bit of a tangle, but in this case the taunt did not work as I had expected."

"That's because she started one of her own... here, right?"

"Yes. Which was quite strange to me because she had been eyeing this patch of territory when her own was on shaky foundations. Mine were, too, but because of the reinforcements from move 26, and 34, there was a little bit of coverage I bought myself and it proved helpful when going into the middle game where she she gave up."

"Why did she give up, though?"

Why did Mi-hee give up, huh? Honestly, I really wouldn't have known.

"Let me try to go to the end of the game... and play it out from there."

With the trained hands of an experienced amateur, she played out the rest of the game in the sequence as illustrated on the kifu, finally placing that piece down where she had forced Mi-hee to quit.

"...here, she gave up. Now, I am going to assume Mi-hee's thinking and play out the rest of the game."

One of the amazing things about Go, Sanae thought, was that once a player is at a level where that player can discern an opponent's thinking, the player can think what the opponent thinks on each and every move, and on top of that, the player can feel the strength and depth of a fellow player, even if that player has passed on.

In this case, she could feel the effects of her deceased friend's presence on the other side of the goban; the feeling of playing out an apparently unfinished game using nothing more than mental images and imagination, was somewhat gratifying and intoxicating to Sanae, who knew no vice.

With her trained imagination, she played out the rest of the game at the same speed in which the pair had fought their battle. In her mind, the board began to resemble something like a continuation of an intergalactic fight that spanned whole planets.

It was brutal.
It was grand.
It was absolutely mesmerizing, almost like a form of indulgence, guilty pleasure.
It took the breath away from the one who was imagining the fight alone, demonstrating her capabilities in front of old men she had met for the first time, all enamoured with the lady's every move.

At last, she placed the final piece, and it felt as though the Death Star itself had exploded.

"This... should be the expected last move. Where the game had ended, it had silently flipped the game on its head; everything that belonged to the both of us now became each other's liabilities."

The old men were fairly excited, yet also shaken. They came in assuming some childish one-sided display, but came away with an altogether different opinion of Sanae. Finally, after what must have been near ten minutes of contemplation as Sanae silently guided her hands towards areas of interest, the men finally began to murmur, as if robbed of their own voices for those ten minutes.

"...your liabilities lessened, and hers just practically multiplied..."
"That's quite a stunning reversal, young lady."
"...that move was incredibly powerful... I'd never understand why."

Without further ado, Sanae quickly requested for the kifu, and then began to write atop it.

"What are you doing, Miss Fujiwara?"
"Completing the kifu."
"But... your opponent..."

Sanae let out a sad, but sure smile. "I'm sure she'd approve of it. She knew this was going to happen. We both knew it was going to play out this way."

She penned her final moves onto the paper - which had evidently seen better days, almost as if it was used because there was no other choice - and then set the paper down with a glum, pouted smile. As if on impulse, she quickly penned a notation at the side, before hurriedly leaving the men to their devices.

By the time the lady of the Go salon had emerged from the pantry, Sanae was gone.

"Ara? Where did the little lady go to?"
"She left very hurriedly after writing everything, wifey."
"Is that so... hm? What's this?"

She noticed the completed kifu on the side, but also the words she wrote. They were slightly stained, having been written over what seemed to be wet surface; the old lady did not remember seeing anyone drink, or that Sanae had been served tea.

But as the old lady looked a little closer, she understood why it had been wet.

Sanae's remarks reflected upon herself.

"This kifu, complete as it were, remained tsurai koukai - a painful regret. I wish it upon no other pair of players."
Pasonia
Posts: 174
Joined: Wed Jan 13, 2010 12:43 am

Re: Sanae Fujiwara - Carving a Path

Post by Pasonia » Tue Apr 15, 2014 1:19 am

[this is going to be very short and of course, is barely a fifth of the original post. For now!]

It wasn't several years later that Sanae went onto the news again.

The story this time, however, could not have been any more different. Even the queerest of chivalrous men, the man Sanae knew as Hiro, read the news with his cup of coffee headed straight for the floor.

"Th's couln'e'er'hv been true! NOT 'ER!"

Yet, the Kesa Shimbun could not have been more cruelly alarmist in the manner of its posting:

ドラマよりの悲劇!若い囲碁天才は転落!
"Tragedy Beyond Drama! Young Talented Go Player has Fallen!"

The newspaper ran a front-page report of a well-known player, who had fallen into the depths of bad youth subcultures, and had actually fallen so far that blood, finally, went unto her hands.

"Found unconscious at the scene of a violent crime at 2 AM at a back-alley in Shibuya, a young lady with heavy brown makeup was arrested as soon as the Tokyo Metropolitan Police discovered her unconscious along with the lifeless body of Mr. Asakita Kouzou (42), a pimp said to have underground connections.

Suspect Fujiwara Sanae (17), a winner of the renowned Hitotsubishi-Drof Middle-School Go Challenge, is currently in remand, and will answer court hearings in two weeks."

Hiro seethed, tearing up the newspapers as he angrily reached for his mobile phone. Even his own bodyguards were taken aback by the ferocity in which their client had taken out his own glass table, and then two expensive vases along the way to the table that held his phone ransom.

"Fuck! Fuck! Wher'd that nasty ph'ne go!?--- THERE Y'ARE!"

He furiously punched the phone keypad for a number he knew well.

"Kakuta!"
"Yes sire?"
"Git me our best lawyer!"
"You in trouble, sire?"
"WHY'D Y'ASK? DO'S I SAY!"

Before poor Kakuta could react, he swore he could have heard the last moments of the phone before it violently impacted a nearby wall and buzzed out on him.

"Holy shit. The boss's serious. Now where's my contact list when I need it...?!"

---

"Moshimoshi, Kamion here. Ooh, it's you, Kakuta. Yeah, I heard the news. What do you mean you're surprised? Isn't that an open secret by now? Yeah. You better handle your side of matters, make sure the boss doesn't spill over and land me a KO. What do you mean you don't remember? Anyway, just do your job. I'll be looking into it now."

Troublesome. I can't say I haven't seen this coming, but this is more annoying than usual. Asakita wasn't the kind to play nice, especially around girls he thought he could sell, so anyone who knew him knew that he was probably a walking dead man. But the girl... I didn't think the Yamanashi Zaiban would had wanted this either.

Now they got blood on their hands. I just knew it's the Zaiban behind this, but it seemed to be harder to prove that in court.

I'd had had to look for the whodunit, but the evidence trail at Shibuya's got so tight, I couldn't even take a peek. God damn rightists fucking up our rice bowl.

That was worrying though. Given the assholes at the prosecutors' office, they probably wanted to make their hyperbolic, insanity-laden "evil smart student" case as soon as they got the chance to. With all due respect, I didn't think they cared what happens to the girl, and I knew - although not entirely for altruistic reasons - I did believe she was innocent.

That just meant a mountain more work, sheesh.
All in a day of work with me, Kamion Jou, I suppose.

I am a defense attorney.
I'm the best there is to offer in Tokyo.
I know I don't do always-clean jobs.

...who cares, money comes in, defense goes all-out. That's the only way I've worked law, and that's how it's always going to work.

What could possibly go wrong with wanting more money?

--

As it all turned out, I couldn't had been more wrong.

There's this recent saying going around in Tokyo - "run ten loops around the Yamate Line and you'll find someone you know." A little bird told me that my niece, Kinuko - really the product of an illicit affair involving my second brother - knew the girl in remand. Well, it was not like I showed her my case files and PI stuff, but in my case I accidentally let it slip when she was desperately looking for a lawyer to defend a "great friend" of hers.

Boy, I got at least three days' worth of tongue lashing... which is not too bad, perhaps even par for the course; and, when I decided to keep my silence on it, I got me a sulky lady in my house who refused to do the housework.

That was when I realized I had to do something to avert this natural disaster.

So, armed with a prayer and a hope, I visited Miss Fujiwara at the detention center, hoping to pry information for the case. I really did not want to doubt the young lady, but from my point of view, if you ask me what a girl can be doing meeting that Asakita, I'd have said "your guess is good as mine, and it can't be good". Just had to make sure Kinuko never heard this from me.

And so, wait I did, for about nearly an hour. It wasn't an entirely dull wait, to be honest; the prosecutor office's opinion - they bluntly put it to me while I waited at the detention center lobby - was that they had evidence so solid that anything I did would be a waste of time. I was not entirely sure it had to do with the manner in which I earned my acquittals, but I just simply shut their bluff out. I'd proven them wrong in the past, and if I can just know some more about the current case, I could prove them wrong again.

In a country when there is a 99 percent conviction rate, appeal to logos and pathos pale compare to that against ethos.

---

I finally got to a visit between myself and Miss Fujiwara. By this time it became apparent, both to myself and Kinuko, my impromptu assistant, that she had been questioned so hard that she must have had cried her makeup all over her face. It was not a pretty sight, compared to the photo Hiro and co. gave me of the original young lady.

Somehow, she managed.

"...Miss, my name is Kamion Jou, and I'm a defense attorney."
"...Nice to meet you," Miss Fujiwara responded behind the booth with a bow I hadn't expected, "my name is Fujiwara Sanae. I'm in your care now... but who hired you?"

"My company was hired by Mr. Hiro, and we're here to act as your legal defense. Sorry to be talking to you at this hour. I know it's late, and we all are sort of tired---"
"It's... okay. It's fine. I'd let too many people worry about me now. I apologize in advance."
"No, don't be. We can ease on the formalities a little. So, with regards to the current case, I need to know a few things from you personally..."

At the end of fifty minutes, I smelled the problem. Instead of the solid evidence I'd been hearing about, all of the questions I asked Miss Fujiwara about, well, the questions the police had asked her, painted a picture of incompetence. Whoever was heading the detective's office was headed straight for a pay review, I guess, but that was if the jig went up like the fourth of July.

I had a hunch that perhaps the papers played it up way before the police could actually get a proper grip of the scene. Give an amateur a camera and he plays a cheap drama up the nines. Feeling a little more confident, I approached the court date with confidence that I can overturn the premise and stay the police's grubby hands away from my client.

The key here's to strike fast, and strike hard. There's no telling what might happen after the first hearing.

---

The courtroom is a place I like. For ten years now, however I worked and whoever I worked for, I could smell the tears of the prosecutors. There were reasons why they couldn't win against me. I'm the one who always made the 1 percent of hope flourish and bloom.

But truth be told, I really wasn't too sure. For one, Miss Fujiwara had no proper alibi. That made the case difficult to fight based on alibi. The other reason was that, one day before the trial, the police announced that they had their chemical testing done and that they found Miss Fujiwara to have had party pills in her system.

Again, remember that logos and pathos don't work in Japan. I was left with a cliff to jump, really, but perhaps if I could base jump the trial with Miss Fujiwara, I could land with everything intact.

Now or never.

I'd be fighting an intense three hours against the 99 percent of guilt.

---

-- Transcript of Initial Hearing, December 22nd, Tokyo District Court, Courtroom 2 --

Judge: Initial trial is now in session for the murder of Asakita Kouzou. Is the defense ready?
Defense: We're done with all preparations, Your Honor.
Prosecution: The prosecution is also ready, Your Honor. Our opening statement is as follows.
Prosecution: On December the 8th [year redacted], police responded to a 119 call from primary witness [name redacted] at about 1.30AM. Upon arrival, the police found the body of Mr. Asakita Kouzou beside an unconscious woman, who is now the defendant we seek to indict for the crime of murdering Mr. Asakita.
Judge: Very well. Please continue.
Prosecution: We call upon our first witness, the patrolman on duty that day, Mr Nisegawa Kanba.

[this transcript will save on vows as and when necessary]

Prosecution: Patrolman Nisegawa, can you please describe to us what happened on the day of Mr. Asakita's death, in details?
Nisegawa : Yes, certainly. We responded to a distress call at about 1.32AM, the time when dispatch center came with instructions over radio to investigate the scene of the crime. When we reached there, there were no other personnel we were aware near the scene - it was an abandoned alley we knew was used for drug-dealing, but there was no other activity that day.
Judge: A reminder to the witness that brevity is of importance when giving testimony.
Nisegawa: I apologize for the oversight. As my patrol team and I entered, we saw Miss Fujiwara Sanae and Mister Asakita Kouzou prone on the ground, and we also made a note of the scattered powder on the man's hands and the girl's lips. We have not thoroughly investigated the cause of death, but at the moment the detective's office has not ruled out anything.
Prosecution: The prosecution moves to assert that on the basis of Patrolman Nisegawa's assertions, we can safely move this case to the High Court to try for murder of the first degree.
Judge: Very well. Defense, you may begin further cross examination.
Defense: Thank you, Your Honor. I would like to begin by questioning upon this "scattered powder" you have just told the court about, Mister Nisegha
Nisegawa: Right, that... the powder we recovered is, without a shadow of doubt, cocaine.
Defense: So let me get this straight, one more time. You found cocaine powder on my client's lips?
Nisegawa: Yes, but.
Defense: Would it be convenient for me to say, then, that you had already indicted my client in your head based on the circumstantial evidence of powder on her lips?
Prosecution: Objection! The defense is attempting to lead the witness, Your Honor.
Defense: I have no further questions, Your Honor.

[short interval]

Judge: As per the witness list submitted by the prosecution, we will now summon the second of the patrol team, Patrolman Darou Sou.

[vows redacted]

Prosecution: Patrolman Darou, please describe to the court what you witnessed on the day of Mr. Asakita's death, in details.
Darou: Yes, sir. We received a call at perhaps somewhere around 1.30AM or 1.35AM. Nisegawa and I responded to the call immediately, that's right.
Prosecution: So, what did you witness when you arrived at the scene?
Darou: The lady over there [referring to the defendant] was unconscious, but breathing heavily. As I was the only patrolman in the team trained for CPR and lifesaving, I was tasked to check the man immediately, that's right.
Prosecution: So, what happened of the man?
Darou: His body was limp. I could see nothing on him that was a noticeable injury. I cannot come to a conclusion as to why, or how he had died.
Prosecution: That is enough. Thank you. The prosecution would assert that the man was dead at the scene in which he was found.
Judge: A reasonable judgement. The defense may begin its cross-examination.
Defense: Thank you, Your Honor. Sire, may I ask for further detailed on what you observed, physically, when you arrived at the scene.
Prosecution: Objection! The defense is attempting to lead the court again.
Judge: Objection is overruled. Witness, you must answer to the court.
Darou: Yes, Your Honor. I noticed white powder around her face area, as well as the man's. I could remember the man's face more clearly.
Defense: And what would compel you thus?
Darou: Well, his face was obviously pale and lifeless. It seemed like rigor mortis had not set in, but his body temperature was well below the average.
Defense: I see. Then, what of the lady?
Darou: She was fine, but breathing heavily. For what reason, I was unsure.
Defense: Alright. So basically, you assert nothing, as of yet, but you would like to?
Prosecution: Objection! The defense is again leading the witness, Your Honor.
Defense: I have no further questions, Your Honor.

Judge: The defense has no further questions from this point forth, it would seem. This means that the Prosecution's case--
Defense: I have no further questions, Your Honor, but that does not mean I do not question the motive.
Judge: What is the meaning of this? Defense attorney, please do understand that interrupting a judge---
Defense: ... undoubtedly, "obstruction of justice", Your Honor. And that is exactly what the defense is moving for. Specifically, the defense team calls into question our second witness's entire testimony.
Prosecution: Objection! The defense is attempting to twist the facts here.
Defense: Am I, Prosecutor? The court will do well to remember that three years ago, the hasty turnover of investigative officers to establish a case has resulted in a miscarriage of justice. If the Prosecution is unwilling to clean up their act, then it is the defense attorney's responsibility to society to correct that on behalf of their clients.
Judge: Objection thus overruled; however, reminder to defense attorney never to do this again. Now, the court would like to hear your rebuttals.
Defense: Thank you, your Honor. Now, let's assume for the sake of making a point, that my client is guilty. This is what the Prosecution claims - my client, after killing the victim, had proceeded to drug herself with cocaine and feint a fainting spell. It would have been ingenious, except, as I recall case photos kindly given to me by the investigators, that my client had not at all shown signs of drug-abuser's high.
Judge: I am to take it that you wish to overturn the Prosecution's argument today?
Defense: That is correct. This court will now recall the following testimony - my client had been spotted with "cocaine on her lips and a dead man beside her". The implication to the public at large is clear - the young lady killed the man. This would have been maliciously reputation-shattering, but this I have the evidence to prove that it was a set-up.
Judge: Has this been admitted into evidence?
Defense: Yes, Your Honor, it is. We have submitted this into evidence. It is the medical report of my client, filed under Evidence 003.
Judge: I see this report, but the period for this medical report was... last year? Surely do you not want to be held in contempt of court, defense?
Defense: But it's important. To first understand how the cocaine got on my client's lips, the background behind this incident must first be fully understood. I would like to call on the prosecution's next witness, Mister Han Im-nak.
Judge: Sorry, could you repeat yourself. Did you just say you would call, not your own witness, but the prosecution's next witness?
Defense: Yes, Your Honor. After all, in the affidavit submitted to the court by the Prosecution, this man was listed as the primary witness. I would like to have him give his testimony before the court on how my witness was found in that state as the prosecution claims.
Judge: This is a highly unusual request, but... okay, the court accepts this request. As this Court is still unable to deliver a clear verdict pending the defense's claims, this Court will now be in recess for the summoning of this witness.

[court recess interval]

--

That look was priceless. The prosecution's lawyers surely must be flustered now; they thought that they must have had me with all that evidence, but if I sort of kind of believed that my client was innocent, then surely someone must be lying.

I really am not one to talk, so other than a few "Are you alright there"s and "Hang in there, this will be done soon"s, I don't really know how else to comfort my client. I know the boss is watching, and he was literally glaring at me to make it good.

I fear I might not walk out alive if this drags on. I have to end this trial in one go.

Happily convenient for me anyway, because, now that I think about it...

--

Judge: The court now resumes its session. As the court went to recess, the defense claims that the calling witness's testimony, the third witness from the prosecution, is crucial to the understand of matters at hand. Prosecutors, have you prepared the witness yet?
Prosecution: Yes, Your Honor.
Judge: And of the defense? Are you ready?
Defense: Yes, Your Honor.

[short interval]

Judge: For the court record, please state your name and profession.
Han: My name is Han Im-nak, and I am a security guard for the Tokyo Branch of the Zainichi Minrenkai.
Prosecution: According to the affidavit, you were the caller, the first witness to the crime. Please give testimony based on this.
Han: As a security guard, I have to take care of the area I was assigned to. On the night, at 1.28am or so, I saw the girl fainting after the man. I thought something was wrong, so I made the call to the police.
Prosecution: There was nobody else on the street?
Han: Yes, there were some people on the street, but they were mainly rushing to catch the midnight train. Shibuya's train system isn't too kind to late home-goers.
Prosecution: Please do not add unnecessary details. Describe to the court about the defendant's fainting.
Han: She was smearing something on her face prior to fainting. I could not tell what it was from the darkness. That is all I know.
Judge: That shall be enough, Mister Han. Defense, you may begin further cross examination.
Defense: Yes, Your Honor. Mister Han, I would like to know what a security guard of the Zainichi Minrenkai would be doing at Shibuya.
Prosecution: Objection! The testimony is unrelated to the case, Your Honor.
Defense: The defense asserts that it is vitally important. In fact, their business includes our client's expertise, wouldn't that be right, Mister Han?
Judge: Objection overruled. Witness, you must answer.
Han: Our businesses at Shibuya includes a go salon, and a karaoke bar.
Defense: As further evidence, I have submitted case file number Z023-89. This case is also known as the money-lending war. The case file states that the Minrenkai and the group known as the Yamanashi Zaiban, were involved in a secret turf war in the late hours inside of Shibuya. This is nothing new to the prosecution, but the defense asserts that this is vital information.
Prosecution: Objection, Your Honor! The defense is attempting to mislead the court. There were no other parties to the crime.
Judge: Objection overruled. Please continue.
Defense: The defense would now like to raise attention to the quality of the jacket that Mister Han is currently donning.
Judge: That is not part of the---
Defense: There are too many coincidences here, and the unusually exquisite nature of this jacket... The defense is sure that the witness has stolen his current jacket.
Judge: Please be direct and to the point, defense.
Defense: My apologies, Your Honor, but this is too important. The average salary of a security guard is about two hundred and fifty thousand Yen, for mid-level ones such as our good gentleman here. However, the jacket he dons belong to the prestigious Giordi Mamano brand. According to research also submitted to the courts, the GM brand of jackets come in at no less than two-and-a-half million Yen.
Judge: Be that as it may, you are unable to prove that this jacket was stolen, can you?
Defense: That is the key point, Your Honor. Because of the cost of each jacket, the company prides itself on the workmanship and quality and uniqueness of their jackets. Hence the owner's name will be embroidered within an inner layer, in English. The defense asserts that an on-the-spot analysis must be done to the Jacket.
Prosecution: Objection! That is an invasion of the witness's privacy! Furthermore, no witness can be subjected to jeopardy---
Judge: Overruled. Bailiff, please arrange for the necessary spot checks.

[short interval]

Judge: The test results are in. It is as the defense claims. Further results related to the jacket are also available in the new evidence affidavit.
Defense: The defense now has ample reason to suspect that my client is not at all involved. This new affidavit also proves that there were suspected traces of cocaine in the jacket, consistent with the victim's role as pimp... and drug-pusher.
Judge: It now seems that the defense's case is very well established. Does the prosecution have more to add?
Prosecution: The prosecution has nothing to add.
Judge: This court will now provide its opinion. The prosecution has asserted that the case is a simple case of murder by the defendant which will have to be tried further in court. However, the defense has also established a case where the defendant's culpability in this incident is not without reasonable doubt, due to the nature of the incident.
The court has opted to reprimand the prosecution for acting based on circumstantial evidence; no evidence in the Court Record points decisively and conclusively to the defendant's guilt, and this was brought into motion before the investigation was complete.
As such, this court finds it compelling to release the defendant not amounting to acquittal. If the police should find further evidence in the next thirty days, this ruling can be appealed.
Court is adjourned.

-- End of Transcript --

--

Despite hearing the gavel's strike on the judge's bench, I felt no relief.

Ironic, given that I really, really viewed myself as the kind who'd work for anyone given the right amount, and I am being paid a pretty nice figure to get this done, but the tension did not ease at all, and as I watched the defendant's face, I suspected that there was more to this.

A "release not amounting to an acquittal" is just that. I'm not too sure my client can take a second stand, but I must prepare for it.

Or so I thought, but the first thing that greeted me just as we got out of the Defendant's Lobby was a furious prosecutor dashing after me.

"YOU! YOU---!"

It was all his colleagues could do to restrain him from breaking the law.

"Oh, the prosecutor from earlier. Well, did you want to punch me?"

"Why? WHY? FUCKING WHY? Every time I see you in court you always twist the facts of the case! WHY?"

"Um, you want me to lose my client's case? You gotta be kidding me. I'm not a knight of justice, you know. I'm just acting like I'm told to - defend my clients and get them acquitted. I'll have you know I broke no law nor forged evidence."

I reserved a particular newspaper article, compressed for size so I could whip it out to joke about it. It ran headline news some years ago about a man wrongly convicted for murder because of forged evidence.

I flashed this article in the prosecutor's face, then blew my nose into it like I would tissue, then tossed it into the paper bin nearby. I broke no law. I simply blew my nose.

"YOU SCUM! I HOPE YOU ROT IN HELL! YOU'RE AN ENEMY TO HUMANITY!"
"Stop it already, Sazaki-san!"
"GET AWAY FROM ME, NAEGI-SAN! I --- I---"

*SLAP*

Out of the blue, I found myself knocked hard against a nearby wall, to the surprise of everyone who had been focused on my argument with Prosecutor Sazaki. A red-hot sensation was rising upon my cheeks, but it wasn't until a full half-minute later that I realized I had been slapped.

"......what the...?"
"... You never believed in my innocence, did you, Mister Lawyer?"

It was my defendant, speaking out in near-monotone. I found a rising discomfort in my mind, my brain having registered that tone as a sign of utter abandonment.

"... no, how could I? Haha."
"Stop lying. Look at me."

The kogal I had been defending shoved her face to within inches of mine.

"Look at my face, Mister Lawyer. Tell me what you think of me."
Both the prosecutors' side and myself were utterly stunned by the rather open, confrontational gesture. Particularly me - I'd never had a defendant unhappy at being released until this one came along. Deep inside, a strong feeling of unease kept nagging at me.

That voice was practically expecting one of two things:

A. A white lie from me, to which she would call me out, and I would not be able to hide it.
B. Honest answer from me, to which she would say something along the lines of "I'd expected it, you don't believe me" and so on.

Faced with the choice, I defied them. "How'd you want me to answer?"
"..."
"You win, young lady. I can't win this little game of yours where any answer from me will screw me over."

Just right in time, the Boss came rushing in after spotting the stand-off from the other end of the corridor. Without any answer forthcoming from me, she simply shoved me aside, and then walked away, her face still crooked with anger. To be honest, I spotted a tear drop or two eking out gingerly onto her eyelids, but the mascara did its job well enough to hold her false bravado in.

I wonder if I did the right thing. Something is off. Real off.

--

"You say you are... Sanae-chan's lawyer?"

The only resort I could have turned to was my client's school. If there were any stronger clues about what Sanae was as a person before, this would be it.

"No, no, don't think of it this way. I'm, you know, just a really concerned friend of hers. I just happen to be a lawyer."

"..." The teacher was guarded. Her face was etched in a "I don't really know... it doesn't seem nice to reject this man" mode, which I didn't really have the heart to blame her for. After all, all I had to my claim was a purported picture with my client.

Granted, I'd asked for this meeting out of the blue, but my gut intuition told me that there had to be more in my client's background that could push her case either way. Even if this is close to the end of the fall semester, even if everyone was about to go off for Christmas and all, I was not about to stay still and let my client screw herself over.

"... Sanae was a good child. You are her friend, you know that, right?"
"... yeah, I could."
Not. But I'd rather believe she is capable of niceties.

"... I blame myself, I should have done more instead of letting Sanae get bullied by the seniors... She wouldn't have ended up there if I'd done more..."

"... I don't follow, Madam Yamagishi. Who are these girls?"
"... The Yamanashi sisters."

Great. Not the Yamanashi again.

I'd heard, some days ago from the Boss, about Sanae's background. The moment I heard those, I had in me this irrational want to help the girl, even if she had treated me to palm sandwich the other day. I doubted that pity and sympathy was what the girl wanted - in fact, to have made it all the way to high school with a largely spotless record, in my book, that's kind of a win and more of a testament to the girl's grit.

To break such a person's grit to the point where she is right now, something must have happened, a "trigger" if you will, that one bad experience that makes shit smell like perfume comparatively.

As it turned out, that trigger was right up at the foulest spectre of human emotions - the show business.

---

I went paying a visit to the Yokumoto Kogyo, the talent agency that is at the top of Tokyo's showbiz. From the little information I had gathered other than the teacher's self guilt-trip, Sanae frequently showed up here with a very strange stage-name - sagagetsu.

My imagination told me she's "looking for a moon" or something.[1]

The show she was regularly featured on, was a talk-show where they invite normal high-school girls - "normal" here being, of course, exaggerated stereotypes - to talk about the latest news and of inane Japanese history. It was a show aimed at the middle school to high school crowds.

From the shows I researched on, at least those where my client had made her appearance, it seemed that she was the designated book-worm of the set. Give my client a pair of spectacles and she'd fit right in that, I suppose. Her kogal/ganguro appearance on the set, though, was quite the strange contrast.

It was then that I met up with a man, Maeda Takao. I recognized him nearly instantly - he was best newcomer (comedian) of the year. His shows were quite crazy laughable, and the (somewhat pretentious?) analysts were all saying he was a rare talent in the mould of the other great manzai group, Uptown.

He was the producer of the show that Sanae was on, per special request. From his face, I could immediately tell he was proud of his job.

But then I noticed, right as I was meeting him, a prosecutor's letter. We exchanged the customary greetings before I got right down to business with him, discussing Sanae's role.

"Oh, so you're here to talk about Miss Fujiwara. Hmm... well, if ya ask me, I'd say she wasn't quite up to scratch, I'm afraid, but I guess sometimes that's the kind of dud you'll get out of the showbiz, ya know."

Not up to scratch? She was performing pretty admirably on the shows anyway. Come to think of it, nearly everyone on the show would tease her in some way.

"Well, she came to the company on request of a certain big client of ours whose name I forgot. There's so many big clients wanting a certain people entered into the 'biz any given year. Like I said, I don't think she'll go far in the business if she keeps this up."

"But weren't you a freshie up until last year?"

"Yeah, I guess, but hey, I'm here now, so what'd you expect, a two-bit comedian with a lame high schooler's face? You gotta be jesting. That's also why I could tell you who can make it, and who can't."

Ugh. Give a young person a big job and his inner dick goes right up like Foundation Day flagposts.

"Guess that's all I have on the girl. I don't think I could help."

Totally saw that coming.
If you think this discussion is over with, I have tricks of my own. I'm not the attorney before you if I don't have this little trick!

"Would seem like a great pity we couldn't talk more... about your familial relationship with my client, right?"

"...what do you mean?"

"You came from a previous marriage with my client's father."

The expression went from smug to worried in a flash. Couldn't say I wasn't satisfied. Still, he had it in him to protest: "That's a baseless accusation. On what grounds---"

"I've done all the necessary background checks before I come, so before you start throwing smoke bombs left and right of me, I'll have you know I'm cutting you no slack. You just officially signed your name change to strike your own name off the Fujiwara register right here in Tokyo, when you could very well have done it in Osaka."

Seeing that fat bag of shite sulk worse than a scorned tengu makes me happy.

"Now tell me, what's your relationship to the Yamanashi?"

"... I'll have you know this; I thought myself a very polite person and I'd have been done with you had you not raised my history up. Now that you did, however... I'm afraid the conversation has ended here, right now."

"Very well. Watch the tabloid front pages tomorrow---"

"I DARE YOU! GO ON!"

That determined shout caught me off guard.

"...Give me a reason I wouldn't dare, ex- Mr Fujiwara?"

"Oh, I don't know. For example, you're not an investigator. You overstepped your bounds questioning me for information. You invaded my family's privacy while investigating our background."

"..." I couldn't believe he came just as well-prepared. This is a nasty first.

"What say you to a fair trade, huh? You keep that secret deep in your heart forever, and I will overlook this. Mutual benefit. Otherwise, I'm going up to the police, and when that happens, let's see you try to defend that whore from the verdict she deserves!"

"...defend that whore from the verdict that she deserves!"

I stopped the playback button on the recorder. "Thanks for the business."

"What the---?! Y-You were actually recording this conversation?!"

"What, YOU think I'm DAFT, HUH?"
It was my turn to roar right in his face. Man, that felt surprisingly wonderful!
"You THINK you know law, but let me tell you, amateurs can't play this game without burning themselves to the ground! Oh, and I suppose I should also thank you for defaming my client. Expect a lawyer's letter soon."

Once again we swapped places on the scales of emotion, as Maeda suddenly pulled me back just as I was about to leave the room.

"Wait, wait, I'm sure we can still discuss this--"
"No room."
"No, you'd want to hear this, I swear, it's about the Yamanashi sisters."

I halted. Gut instinct told me the information would be useful.
"Okay. What about them?" I blurted out aloud.
"You... you see, the Kogyo's Tokyo branch is run by the Yamanashi's head. I'm just following orders, honest. It's just a coincidence that Sanae was on this show."
"Judging from what you said earlier, you were the producer. I'm not buying that sham of a story."
"You've gotta listen to me! They said they will pursue me all the way back to Osaka, wreck my career if I didn't help them. I... just kinda gave in to them along with my hatred... since it was Sanae anyway."
"Okay. Sure. I still don't buy that. You're the producer, you call the shots, don't you?"
"I call the shots on production, scheduling of segments... but I'm not calling the shots on personnel. Honest. As a producer, I just use everything I have to make a good talk show. It's impossible for me to manage everything."

I knew it. This guy would only shove the blame onto everybody else but himself. Thought it was a major exercise in frustration, it was all I could do just to get the dirt on the Yamanashi.

Hiro's going to have to up the security detail if I'm going to want to walk away from this unscathed. I'd been digging too deep here, but I had no choice.

---

[1]How Kamion imagined "sagagetsu" was that he rearranged the name such that it would look like 月を探す(getsu o sagasu, lit. "Searching for the moon"). He probably wasn't that far off.
Pasonia
Posts: 174
Joined: Wed Jan 13, 2010 12:43 am

Re: Sanae Fujiwara - Carving a Path

Post by Pasonia » Sat May 24, 2014 3:20 am

[quick jot-down]
-- Transcript of Initial Hearing, January 3rd, Tokyo District Court, Courtroom 2 --

Judge: Court is now in session, for the murder of Asakita Kouzou. Is the defense ready?
Defense: We're done with all preparations, Your Honor.
Judge: And of the prosecution?
Prosecution: The prosecution is ready, Your Honor. Our opening statements remain unchanged; we once again indict Miss Fujiwara Sanae for the murder of the victim, Asakita Kouzou. We appeal against the previous ruling set by this court on December 22nd, [redacted].
Defense: The defense concedes that appearances may deceive the public mind into thinking that an otherwise friendly young lady could be a murderer, but we continue to assert that the prosecution's claims are groundless.
Judge: All right. Summon the first witness.
Prosecution: We summon Miss Yamanashi Akiko to the stand.

---

Judge: For the court record, please state your name and profession.
Yama-A: Yamanashi Akiko. Student.
Prosecution: Please tell the court what you have witnessed on the night of the murder.
Yama. A.: Must we do this? Sheesh, all right. I was walking along that whatsitsname alley, and we saw the man and the lady walk into a cold part of it from the main street side at around 1 in the morning. I don't really go there - shady things happen all the time.
Prosecution: Do not add testimony that may cause defamation.
Yama. A.: So? I don't care. I know Sanae from school. She's what we call a free-rider, you know what I'm saying?
Defense: Objection! Your Honor, this malicious witness is attacking my client's character.
Yama. A.: I have nothing more to add to my statement.
Judge: Objection sustained. The court will remind the witness that a second infraction will constitute perjury.
Yama. A.: Whatever, old [redacted gross language].
Defense: The defense requests for a cross-examination, Your Honor.
Judge: You may proceed.
Defense: Thank you, Your Honor. Now, Miss Yamanashi Akiko. You claim that you saw my client go into the alley with the victim.
Yama. A.: That is right.
Prosecution: The prosecution would like to submit a cross-diagram of the area in question. Here, you will find that the witness is in a viewing angle that will allow her to see the alley's entrants in clarity.
Defense: That is exactly the problem - I object to the evidence provided. Security footage earlier in the day clearly showed that from the angle at which Akiko stated - the main street side, where she claimed she saw my client and the victim in clarity - it was unlikely that she would ever be able to see my client. The lights were partially out along the main street due to a power malfunction, and TEPCO has provided me with data on the periods of power outage. Based on the time of entrance, and the time of the power outage, it was impossible.
Prosecution: The defense has only pointed out that it was possible, instead, for the witness to see the defendant. Supplementary lights were on as part of a routine fail-safe, and the only lights affected are the lights on the witness's side. If the lights did not fail inside the alley, the point the defense raised is moot. Instead, the occupants of the alley, if you will, becomes more obvious - the defendant and the victim were most likely already together by that time.
Defense: Objection! The prosecution is leading the court. Besides, TEPCO has also shown that lights were also out on the other side of the street.
Prosecution: That's actually right! However, we did not say that the lights on the buildings of the alley were affected - it only affected street lights and street electrics, not those inside the building. The building in question had a backup generator that was up and running within moments of the outage.
Yama. A.: The lights in the building were definitely turned on. That was the main Yamanashi building we are talking about. We pride ourselves on our service delivery, so we cannot afford to have the building's lights shut.
Judge: Does the defense have any more objections?
Defense: No objections, Your Honor. However, I'd like to further cross-examine Miss Yamanashi Akiko about this strange voice I heard in the security footage. The camera's angle prohibited me from finding the source, and it is the defense's assertion that Miss Yamanashi's testimony would be very important.
Judge: The court agrees with the defense. Miss Yamanashi?
Yama. A.: Well. I heard a sound, and it was an unmistakably loud, shrill scream. I am certain that it happened around twenty minutes before the police came.
Defense: Wait a minute there, Miss Yamanashi. You just said this - the event happened twenty minutes before the police arrived?
Yama. A.: Yes.
Defense: Bizarre. Your Honor, I would like to raise the court's attention to the police file on the case.
Prosecution: Objection, your Honor! The defense is attempting to stall the court for time!
Defense: Your Honor, I find the Prosecution's premature remarks rather unprofessional.
Judge: I agree with the Defense. Prosecution, you will refrain from interruption. Defense, please watch your mannerisms.
Defense: My apologies. Now, the case file states that a 1-1-9 call was lodged at 1:20am. Following protocol, exactly twelve minutes later a call was dispatched to the patrol that contained our witness from yesterday, Patrolman Nisegawa. My question then is thus - what happened in the eight minutes between the call and the dispatch of duties, knowing that it took four minutes for the right patrol team to be located? Now, allow me to present to this court a possible source of the shrill scream - that coming from our witness from yesterday, Mister Han Im-nak.
[video evidence presented to court for two minutes.]
Judge: The court will admit the Defense's evidence into the Court Record.
Defense: Thank you, Your Honor. The defense contends that there is a contradiction with Miss Yamanashi's account based on these two facts. Specifically, that Miss Yamanashi was, in fact, very involved in the incident; she was not simply a witness. Based on the same video evidence, which actually captured the time of the scream, the recording began at the same time as the purported murder. The defense hereby asserts that there must have had been more to this story than Miss Yamanashi is letting on.
Judge: Hmm. By all accounts, that is an unusually compelling theory.
Defense: The defense is aware that in a court of law, factions do not matter; it is the truth that does. The truth I have uncovered is that the Yamanashi Zaiban is of a dubious origin, and had an altercation with the Korean underworld that handles the specific area in Shibuya where . On the night of the murder, it is to the defense's understanding that a meeting was scheduled between the two groups at Zakichi, the Sushi restaurant two blocks away. The location was a posh restaurant; now, it's reduced to broken glass, and this incident happened right after the scheduled time. The short story - a turf war between rival gangs happened, and the victim and my client were unfortunately embroiled in it. The defense's theory explains, too, why Mister Han was screaming - he had witnessed the murder. The defense wishes to summon Mister Han to the stand once again.
Judge: Very well. The court approves this request. The court will take a twenty minute recess.
[intermission ]
Judge: Court now resumes session. Prosecution, what has become of the witness?
Prosecution: Complications have arisen. It seemed that Mister Han is nowhere to be found in the premises. We are currently unable to locate him.
Judge: Well, what does the defense have to offer as alternative?
Defense: The defense now submits further evidence to this court.
Judge: What might this evidence be?
Defense: A voice-print analysis. The video was of sufficient quality to allow for this analysis to be undertaken. As I understood it, the analysis was conducted by a neutral party not involved with the prosecution, or the judiciary, or even myself, as defense. However, the analysis results show that the voice screaming was that of a male. Moreover, since the voice quickly left the scene, it left behind an effect the analysts called the Doppler effect - essentially, it's the same effect on sound when an ambulance blaring its horns goes past a listener in a moving vehicle. This showed that a male was running away screaming. Based on known facts of the crime scene, only Mister Han fits the bill.
Prosecution: Objection, Your Honor! The defense is acting purely on conjecture.
Defense: The defense would like to question the other lady in the video. As the court might have noticed, a second lady other than Miss Yamanashi Akiko showed up. That other lady is Miss Yamanashi's twin sister, Miss Yamanashi Yukiko. The defense will ask the court to set aside the topic of the screaming man.
Judge: Understood.
[intermission]
Yama. Y. I get the drill, sir. Name's Yamanashi Yukiko. I'm a student.
Judge: That is good. May I remind you to please respect the court of law while you remain on the witness stand.
Yama. Y. Mmhmm. So basically, here's my story, let's get this over with. That girl over there? She gets high all the time. She bought it from somewhere close to me, then she drugged the man and killed her. Must've been about the money - maybe fucking her for fifty thousand yen just wasn't enough. One thing's for sure though, she looked high as heck.
Defense: What did she say that made you suppose that was possible?
Prosecution: Objection! The defense is interrupting the proceedings before the court has granted the right of cross-examination.
Defense: This is important, Your Honor, what exactly my client had said at the time is of grave importance.
Judge: Objection overruled.
Yama. Y. She didn't say much. She just laughed like a maniac, then her voice died down.
Defense: Or maybe it was your voice, witness. Perjury is serious.
Judge: The defense will explain its position to the court now.
Defense: The second video camera located at the side of the alley, also had its own voice recording functions. If my client had screamed and cried like a maniac as the witness claims, surely, surely the video would have recorded audio that indicated so. Yet there was none to be had here.
Prosecution: Objection! The prosecution would like to clarify that the evidence in the court records pertaining to the video only include video images. The audio track from the angle in question, has been altered in such a manner that to play it in court will cause aural discomfort.
Defense: This is not an excuse, Prosecutor. Play that recording to the court this instance.

[Court Records entry: The voice of a woman screaming, "You're going down, Korean [redacted]" - demonstrated to the court and all attendants.]

Prosecution: As the defense can probably tell, the angle from which the voice emerged could only have been from the defendant.
Judge: Does the defense have anything they wish to add?
Defense: The defense requests... for a recess. We need time to review the body of evidence before us.
Prosecution: Objection! The defense is clearly stalling for time here. What we have here is an open-and-shut case.
Defense: Objection! The prosecution did not inform the court of this piece of evidence prior. The defense has reason to believe that it was staged in a manner as to jeopardize my client.
Judge: The defense has a point. However, as we have had a prior recess, the court will not accede to a formal recess. You have five minutes in this court.

---

Defense: The defense has an alternate theory to which it would like to present.
Judge: Please do.
Defense: The defense would like to propose that, based on the medical report on my client, that it would have been impossible. The dosage suggested she was knocked out for the whole time she was accused of murder.
Prosecution: Objection! The medical report reported no such explicit comments from the doctor.
Defense: Oh, certainly it did. "Dosage of drugs was enough to render subject incapacitated between thirty minutes to an hour."
Prosecution: But the defendant was not awake until she arrived at the hospital in half an hour. In other words, given the time, she could have committed the act, then drugged herself!
Defense: In that case, we must perform a voice print analysis.
Prosecution: Your Honor, the defense is stalling for time once again.
Defense: If that really is the case, why don't we ask for a voice print comparison here in court?! All involved witnesses and my defendant are here to perform this very important examination!
Prosecution: ...the prosecution has no objection to that.

---

Judge: This is my final warning to both defense and prosecution. That said, the voice print analysis is in. The results are inconclusive.
Prosecution: That means the prosecution's case stands. The defense's bluster was admirable, but only just that - almost-persuasive bluster. Despite evidence being as circumstantial as they are, they all point to the guilt of the defendant.
Defense: Not yet! We're not quite finished discussing---
John Doe: Your Honor, I would like to present myself before this court.
Defense: Mister Maeda?
Prosecution: Witness! No! Your testimony is not required!
Maeda: Oh, but it is! In fact, I have not only on my person my testimony which will clear Miss Fujiwara, but also evidence that will conclusively prove the crime that had truly transpired.
Defense: The defense wishes to place Mister Maeda on the stand!

---

Judge: State your name and occupation.
Maeda: Maeda Takao. Comedian and producer for TV TASOGARE's "Takao's Everyday".
Judge: Please proceed with your testimony.
Maeda: I am responsible for the production of the TV Show. For this arrangement to work, as a newbie to the Tokyo scene, I hired the Yamanashi sisters Akiko and Yukiko to procure on-the-street talent for me. However, lately I have had to perform a private investigation of my own after word spread that I was being a harsh producer who forced my participants into buying new branded products.
Defense: Why branded products?
Maeda: The show was marketed towards the middle-high income bracket, as our show is full of all sorts of product endorsements. I've heard that my participants were participating in paid prostitution, although I do not have the resources to investigate that. Instead, I hired private investigators to tail my recruiters. I believed the root of the problem was there.
Defense: What did you find out?
Maeda: Evidence that they were actually pimping out other girls. I have photos submitted to the Court Records under File 190842.
Defense: Why did you not inform the court earlier?
Maeda: The prosecution promised that my side of the story will emerge, but they are reneging on that promise. Hence my outburst. I apologize.

---

As the judge's gavel fell upon the exoneration of my client, I made to quickly escort my defendant out of public eye.

"Miss, we should leave now," I urged, feeling my heart churn uncomfortably. "Just do as I say."

The kogal pursed her lips a bit, but eventually agreed to my suggestion somewhat begrudgingly. Just in time, as it turned out - the security detail were already beginning to escort and defend us from a wave of invading journalists who were attempting to cover this story.

Deep down, I felt like shit.

I lost the case. I knew I did. I did not exonerate my client - Maeda did. He was the worst possible person who should be doing this, but the circumstantial evidence dictated that I would never have gotten the upper hand no matter how hard I fought.

This close shave was nonetheless a sour taste in my mouth, as the both of us emerged from the district court's innards and into the car park area.

"Miss, here you go. Don't mind me, I'm driving you up to Mister Hiro's to report the good news."

The little lass would only nod her head. I could say nothing - immense shame came over me.

As I slammed onto the accelerator and sped up onto the Wangan en route to Kirishima, I almost wanted to puke at the thought of Maeda in court, strolling in and oh-so-casually giving his testimony. I was very aware that the evidence he produced was not forged, but they were too convenient.

But how?

---

"Mister Hiro, I'm done with my job. Miss Fujiwara is hereby cleared of all charges, as you instructed me to."

These words I uttered betrayed the shame I bore on my face, and I did not expect Mister Hiro to miss it at all.

"...Ah'm gassin' ya din'do it by ya own efford. More lark ya trai'd."

I did not like admitting to this, but I was so overcome by my own ineptitude that I could not get out of my bow - my tears did.

"... I let that scum Maeda play his card. He... he made use of my lack of evidence to stage a comeback and show the court that Sanae was innocent..."

Mister Hiro would only sigh. "What's importan's Sanae is good. Ya did all ya coud. Don't break ya back. Stan'up, Kamion. Da fight's ova. Now it's time for ya words, little girl."

Sanae looked confused, having stayed out of the conversation mostly. "...huh?"

"Whatcha mean, "huh"? Ya done bein' da way ya are?"

If Sanae was confused before, now she was plain angry.

"What do you know about me, old man? You and that lawyer both showed you both know nuts. I'm done. I'm going down. People are calling me a girl willing to go on enjo kosai. This farce is stupid. You're stupid."

This time, it was me to experience the shock of a full-force slap - but not on my person. It was Sanae, slapped across the cheek by Mister Hiro's right palm. The force was enough to send her crashing into a large sofa set nearby.

"... Sanae, litta girl. Don'test my pay-shens. I told ya - gotta prob, leavit ta me. I made ya dat promise years ago. I wanna help, lass, but ya hafta halp yerself!"

As if that would go well. I know Mister Hiro meant well, but the second he was done, the girl sprang from the sofa, pushed Mister Hiro hard enough that he crashed and broke through his glass table, and almost took me out as she dashed past me and raced for the door.

Without even thinking, I recollected my senses and dashed out into the corridors of the mansion, with no intention of letting Sanae run herself into danger again.
Pasonia
Posts: 174
Joined: Wed Jan 13, 2010 12:43 am

Re: Sanae Fujiwara - Carving a Path

Post by Pasonia » Tue Sep 16, 2014 3:03 pm

Shortly after the disaster that was the hijacked court proceedings, Sanae's mother went down with a severe case of high fever coupled with infection, leaving the family's hand tied after all the chaos and media parade that the court case brought.

I thought of taking up the responsibility for my failings; I'd promised myself before that if I ever lost a case, I'll do that. Truth be told, it was pride talking to my ego - I never made that promise with the intent of actually fulfilling it, but I decided to follow through with my principles.

Funny, for a man like me.

So, for two years after the court incident, I became a legal guardian to Kamion Hiroko, after I strongly petitioned to the metropolitan government to allow me to change Sanae's name for the duration of her high school education because of the damaging fallout to her name. If the Boss wasn't there with high enough connections, I reckon even that would have fallen through. I still think, even now, that those two years were years well-spent in self-reflection.

We relocated to a private high school within Tokyo, and every day I would drive Sanae to school before going back to work. I made sure to sign for a new, locally-made car under one of Boss's employee's name, because everyone in Tokyo who knew me knew I drove a very remarkable Bentley, and I did not want everyone to suddenly realize that I am actually taking care of a girl or something like that. Again, that was ego talking to my pride.

Those two years were weird, to say the least. Because Sanae had lost all sense of trust towards men and fellow girls, she became extremely quiet. Even though the high school I sent her to was known (at least, to my peers who have relatives there) for having very kind people, she remained very closeted. Her grades never suffered for the fact, that much I noticed; her studies were probably her only escape, having been bound by both family and, to an extent, Bossman. She owed it to him that she was not convicted, but whatever she did during that time remained a mystery to all of us.

For starters, even Boss didn't understand just why Sanae became a kogal. There were so many inconsistencies to Sanae's odd behavior around the time she began to rebel, and then so much changed.

To me, it was like handling a completely different girl than the one I had to deal with in court.

---

Some months later, the school emailed me about the annual Club Day. It was essentially a private, intra-school event over the first week of July in which the school clubs would set up their booths and recruit students to join, and as I was told it was a direct precursor to the summer festival that will open to the public one weekend later. I thought to myself, "maybe this would be a good time and let Sanae relax and stuff." I had never really seen her smile, and I thought if I could do it even once I'd have been a good guardian.

I approached her that Wednesday evening from outside her room.
I half-expected a no.

"No, I'm not going. I can do without a club."
"Um... why not?" I felt like I could have asked a much better question, but personally, it was so sudden and delicate that I feel like it was better not to ask more than I should.
"Simply because I feel it's not important. Do I have to remind you of why I'm now Kamion Hiroko? You expect me to join the Go club and reveal myself?"
"Well... that's... true," I conceded. "But... maybe you don't have to join the Go club?"
"No will do," she replied curtly, then swung the door sharp; my nose got in the way and I was knocked to the floor rather clumsily. She opened the door once, a little surprised that I did not get out of the way, but I did not expect she would do much about it; indeed, she just closed the door again, albeit a little more carefully the second time around.

However, by the second day her tone had changed.

"You know, I'm sorry about yesterday. Maybe I should go look for a short while, after all," she said on the ride to school the next morning, in the midst of traffic.
"You sure? I'm always okay if you are, Sanae."
"For now... it's Hiroko. I'm fine. Maybe you're right. Maybe she's right."
"'She'?" I found myself blurting that aloud.
"Never mind."

On Club Day, there was quite the crowd going for us - about a thousand of us crammed into a building that usually takes about fifteen classes of thirty students each, so that's a little cramped for the both of us, even if we're resigned to crammed trains at 8.02am. Still, it seemed like Sanae had some fun, even responded to some questions with a smile when girls hollered "Hirokoooooooo" at the top of their lungs, as though they had not seen her for the longest time.

If there was one thing that struck me, though, it was that Sanae seemed to always be looking for someone. She had this strange, respect-laden kind of gaze, the kind when looking at a person one thinks is better in every imaginable way. Kinda like how some of my people described me when I look at Bossman sometimes, something like that (and yes, after that crazy courtroom chaos I gained much respect for Boss - he certainly knows a lot more than I do).

I decided to leave Sanae to do all the looking she wanted to do, while I acted as the unofficial navigator; luckily, I was tall enough that I could act as the guiding beacon through the chaotic inside of that cramped school building. The only other thing I remembered was that we stopped at the photography club for a long time - maybe it was not a coincidence too that this club is the least popular and also the most out-of-the-way as far as Club Day was concerned.

"Hey, Shirokawa-san?"
"Yeah, Kamion-chin?"
"Have you seen Shimizu-san?"
"Yeah, I did, but she just left less than half an hour ago. Is there anything you needed from--"
"Ah, no, it's nothing. Say, who's joining the club?"
"Hmm... let's see. Other than myself and Shimizu-chin, there's nobody else."
"Oh... is that so... Also, it would seem you're close to--"
"Ah, sorry... it's a habit of mine, we aren't that close, ahaha, ahaha..."

That night, Sanae would approach me for a pretty expensive camera. I guess her mind was set, but then another question approached me, a curious one: Who was this Shimizu person, and what happened to Sanae to want to ask about her at all, given all I knew about the ex-kogal?

It looks like the road to understanding this girl is still fraught with many obstacles.

---

Despite my initial worries, though, it seemed to have worked. Throughout fall and winter, I could see Sanae really applying herself to the club in ways I never imagined possible - maybe, secretly, I had thought she would never recover. Her expression began to change from one of extreme moodiness, to one of a mixture between shyness and happiness. I had never really seen her work in photography, though, even with the changing countenance, and so I made use of my shadier links to keep tabs on Sanae; in this case, it was a simple hire for a private investigator apprentice, who happened to be a fellow student at the same high school. Somewhere in my heart, a nagging disbelief was biting at me, wondering if the girl was actually doing good or up to no good.

To my surprise, though, the PI apprentice quit on me after just one day at work, but his reason was an absolute riddle to me -
"I'm not going to play with fire."

For a period of time I was worried. Had Sanae learnt how to do all sorts of things without me knowing? Did I fail in my job as her guardian? More importantly, what was that from the apprentice about playing with fire? Is Sanae falling into bad company as well? Bearing all these confusing thoughts, I thought the only person who could answer all of it smoothly was the Boss.

And so, in the following February, I set forth to meet the Boss, after detailing these reasons over the phone but emphasizing that it didn't even begin to describe my confusion. I thought that such an important question beared asking in person. Yet, at the end of what surely must have had been two hours' worth of consultation:

"...so th'worries ah jus dat, Jou?"
"Yes, sir... I... I, um, I don't know at all. Really. I'm completely lost."
"Hiro t'ol'man woulda tol'you not-a worry, but well... y'wanna know wh'up there rilly?"

I nodded furiously.

"Rumor's haddit dat da big'door'ta of a Family's there, but ah'd no ideer which Family."
"Huh. I never heard half of this before."
"Non'it I, eitha. But ah'd tink not-a worry at'oll."
"Why?"
"'Coz things-ah'd gon'a mad house if she'd be mean an'crazy, ya? Maybe she be avoidin' tings."
"...Which means we can neither confirm nor deny that there's a Family's big daughter at all, eh."
"Ah'think ya worry much. Hav'ya a girlfrien' 'fore?"

I could feel my face turn a shade of ghost. "Um, why does that even matter..."
"'Coz ya ain'na understand we'men when'ey hav'a resolve. She maht'a look okay, but mah ol'lady is da spookest, scarest bitch'ta me, and ah'tink most'a we-men be scary when'a they be resolute. Maybe it'a be in Sanae. Maybe it'a be in'er friend, friends. Maybe she'a learn'a tings from daymonstrat'd ack-sampls."

Strong friends that influence, is that right? I could buy that... but how do I make myself truly accept these strange things surrounding my legal ward?

---

Because of the Bossman's influence with the Family at Asakusa, we were able to obtain free entry passes to the Hanayashiki, one of the oldest theme parks in Japan. Not a big place, and we certainly weren't looking to pinch pennies, but for a June weekend getaway in the city, this is beyond cheap.

At least to me.

Sanae, for the most part, seemed really engrossed in taking pictures everywhere she went. The way she ran and sweated, you would have thought she was maybe three years younger than what her body suggested. It was almost as if the experience was a long-lost make-up for things in her past.

Still, she wouldn't really conversate with me. She had not bothered to converse with me anything at all, even though she had evidently been really happy. Sometimes, looking at Sanae, I wondered if I really project such a negative existence to people, but the people in my office and outside of it only served to reinforce those thoughts.

"Have I really been a dick to people, people?" That was the first question I asked one of my assistants, Hiroshi, as Sanae disappeared into the roller-coaster ride out of earshot. Hiroshi, all twenty-seven years of him with a somewhat odd shtick of pulling his collar when nervous, nearly strangled himself just by listening to me ask.

"...Did I do anything wrong, boss?! I'm sorry---"
"You massive dolt! I didn't even say you did... well... I'm sorry." I caught myself calling Hiroshi a dolt - which was the truth, but only I would voice it aloud, I noticed, as the two other assistants Maya and Shinobu could only give awkward looks away from Hiroshi.
"Um, Maya, Shinobu, just go and have fun."
Even those two were hesitant. Oh god.
"...seriously, Maya, Shinobu, you... okay, you know what?"
I roughly grabbed at my wallet, one which had seen better days; I ought to replace it, if not for the fact that this was my mother's last present to me five years ago.
"If this makes it easier, you're dismissed from work today." I handed over two 10k-yen bills onto Maya's hands, even though I was pretty sure I was angry enough to have distorted paper Fukuzawa's expression into crumpled frowns. "Go. Have. Fun. Please, for my sake."

The two girls took me seriously at last, then scuttled off away from my line of sight.

"Now, Hiroshi... the truth, and only the truth."
"Y-y-y-y-y-y-y-yes, boss..."
I was this close to losing patience, but Sanae suddenly rounded the corner from the exit of the roller-coaster ride. A frightened feeling coursed through my body, and I ended up dragging Hiroshi behind an ice-cream stall.

"Seriously now, I need an answer, Hiroshi---"
"YES! YOU HAVE BEEN A FUCKING, SELFISH, ONLY-YOU-THINK-YOU-HAVE-FUCKIN'-PROBLEMS DICK, BOSS! FIRE ME!"

Hiroshi's outburst caught everyone's attention. I saw a kid with his ice cream cone going "splat" on the floor, but all he was concerned with was giving me a "you are a villain" stare. Shit.
"Um... we're just doing some, uh... some... method acting! Yeah! We're practicing our voice talents! Excuse us!"

This was beyond embarrassing - the sight of me shouting barely-matching lines from a crudely-conceived drama.
Wasn't this just about what I am to Hiroshi?
How did it all come down to this?
All these questions floated about in my head, but all I could think was that I truly must have been a massive dick.

"Okay, Hiroshi... I got that loud and clear... I'm sorry. I won't ask again. I've treated you badly. If you think it's better for you, you should leave the law office. I'm not---"
"I-I-I-I am sorry, boss... got too excited there..."
...thanks for trying to reassure me, Hiroshi.
"...you... you are not so bad a person... but... you are really mean to people..."
"...mean, you say? But I've always compensated you for work... and stuff?"
"...but, you say mean things, Boss... and it stings hard. I am everything you said... I know, I'm a massive dolt."
D'oh. Okay.
"...I'm weak... I cannot work without Maya-cchi or Shinobu-oneesan's help... but I want to..."
"Help me? You did plenty... handling the website, handling incoming clients and liaising with them... you did a lot there. I can see it for myself, Hiroshi, why did you think I made you my assistant?"
"B-b-b-b-but... I feel like I'm always dragging you down... We don't move as fast as you, nor do we think as fast as you..."

It was then that I had a moment of clarity.

In building up my reputation as a barrister in ultra-cutthroat Tokyo, I've always had to be the first to react to many things. I have to be on top of the situation so I can give my best and nastiest to the incompetent, but well-backed idiots at the Police Department. I have to make my cases so strong that I leave no room for a comeback. With the number of assistants who'd come and go in my law firm, I finally realized that the only reason for the high attrition rate at my office was me. It was not because of general incompetence - I repeat, I do not hire incompetent people because I have the foresight - but because I had been too harsh on people.

Maybe I worked that into taking care of Sanae without even knowing it.

I thought carefully about what I had been doing for Sanae. I recalled setting down ground rules on day one - change your name, hide your old self and do not mention it to people, no returning beyond 8pm, report grades to me, do not object unless absolutely necessary... Wow, I must've been a stifling bastard for a guardian, now that I put myself in Sanae's shoes. Why do I want to go home at 8pm when things are more fun at 8pm? Was it because I took the decision based on her being a girl? Could I have done better?

That night, I wrote a letter to all three of my assistants, and emailed it to them. Succinctly put, I told them that I would fire them effectively immediately, but not because of competence; I wanted them to apply back at the company only if they sincerely thought it was okay for them to put up with me and work with me. I do not know if it had any consolation effect, but the only person I admonished was myself. I made sure to personalize my praise to all three of them because I wasn't some corporate bastard who would give stock letters like a dead HR department in a big office. I was not so divorced from people that I would do that, anyway.

---

I put it to Sanae bluntly at the living room, as she got out of the main shower that night.

"Sanae."
She would only glance at me. "What?"
"Remember the ground rules I laid out?"
"Oh, yeah. I did, just in case you flip out. I'm now Kamion Hiroko, not Fujiwara Sanae, and I return home before 8 each day and I report my grades every semester, and I'm generally..."
"No."
Her expression turned into a frown.
"I mean, you're absolutely correct, but -- here's a deal, Sanae. I need to protect you, but I'm pretty sure I'm fucking it up."
"You do know I... never asked to be protected, right?"
"Yes, but your mother did..."
"Which is why I complied. Any little thing I do, she's probably going to take it the wrong way and amplify it until her depraved senses with massive confirmation bias agreed, that I am a disobedient girl not worthy of her love. And then she'll forget it, and then she'll act up, and the cycle continues..."
"I suppose I didn't help."
"No, not one bit. Your looking down on me - and what I am capable of - reminds me of my half-brother."

I paused for a moment, but then I recalled. "Maeda..."
"Yeah, look at you being just like him, while fucking it all up in my name."

For the first time in a year, she finally looked me in the eye. It was something she'd wanted to say for the longest time.
"... well... um... Sanae... I'm, uh... I... am sorry."
That frown turned into surprise.
"...huh? Wait, what's going on here? This is not you falling in love with me or some shit like that---"
"NO, WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU THINKING GIRL? Ah, sorry..."

Sanae laughed out loud. It took me a moment to realize that she was actually teasing me.
"Did you just tease me?"
"Maybe I did? Maybe I didn't. That said, I've always wanted to speak casually. I've started to understand some things on my own too, you know."

I had forgotten that people do grow up.

"...well, okay, but I am at least a decade older than you, for sure," I protested.
"Well, act it then. You only scare the shit out of everybody around you. Hey, I'm the one with ears on the ground - everyone looks at you like you're their biggest bother ever. Most of them told me that the reason they never quit was solely because, for a bastard, you paid the best. So it's kind of a fair trade that they get a earful from you but earn just as much for their troubles."
I shook my head. "So practical, these people..."
"Welcome to Japan," she mused. "Seems like I've developed some sardonic commentating abilities from you, maybe it's not a bad thing after all."
"You're speaking so freely now..."
"Huh? So I'm mistaken? So you still want to lord over my life, I guess?"
"Don't put it that way. Legally I can't just throw you to the streets. I am prepared to give you freedom but I want to know what is in store for the both of us. What do you want?"
"... I don't know. We can still... kind of operate with those house rules, I guess. It's not like I hate them. I can do most of my photography in the day, and editing work in here..."
"I thought you were a Go specialist?"
"Yeah. I never abandoned that. Oh, so that means you've never gone to my room before, huh."
"What do you mean?! How can I, a guy, and your legal guardian at that, go to your room without your express permission?!"
"Eh, well, this is unexpected... I thought you'd be all 'I am worried about Sanae so let's check her stuff'..."

I threw my arms into the air. "I give up. Your misconception of me went that far, eh."
"W-well, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to be so mean. Well, I've not given up on anything, if that... is what you are asking."
"Huh?"

Sanae quickly rushed into her room to put her toiletries down, then plonked herself into the sofa.

"Oomph! That felt good!"
"..."
"...well, what I meant... was that, yes, I was angry that you interfered with my lawsuit and stuff... but I think it's been a year since, and each day I could only imagine a little more of the amount of stress you must have been through trying to save me from imprisonment. I was really that close. I guess I really did owe you there, and I never properly said it."
"...Of course! That's what Bossman paid me to do! Of course I must see it through!"
"...yeah, but why? I don't deserve your saving."

That was right, actually. At the point of time, given what Sanae embodied, she definitely did not warrant me saving her. Why did I do it?

"...I... was hell-bent on always defeating the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department's incompetent lawyers. Actually, it was so ironic, come to think of it. My childhood ambition was to be a servant to justice, like, police."
"You wanted to become a prosecutor?"
"Yeah. So... your case was, at the time, no more than just me trying to beat my own chest, you know. Like, 'fuck you for not picking me as your prosecutor, I'm screwing up every single one of you until the day I die'... is the one thought that drives me every day - nothing more, nothing less. As it turned out, this became my reputation for the years following my rejection from prosecutor academy."

Sanae fell silent. "Well... okay... Guess there are always people who can literally do whatever they want..."

"...but I found myself sympathizing for you once I heard more for myself, and sometimes from Hiro's underlings."
"Heh? What's this?"
"They seem to know a few things about you - and frankly speaking, you reminded me of another girl in my high school years. What they said kind of sounded like that girl."
"Eh?"
"W-well, she's not like you, not absolutely... but she also had family problems... and was sullen. I secretly liked her, even wishing for her to be successful in the future. She did become successful but I guess she's out of my scope."
"What do you mean?"
"Well... she's now CEO of the TV company Maeda is from."
"!"
"Yeah, well... and it seemed like I worried for nothing. I'm always an idiot, I guess, but I kinda... I don't know. Anyway, you're just like her in terms of fighting spirit."
"...I don't know if that was confusion from you, or simply excessive praise I don't deserve..."

We talked way into the night; thank goodness for weekends. After one year of anguish trying to figure out if I'd done right, all I realized at the end of the day was that I'd been too uptight. Thank goodness such an idiot like me retained the services of all three of my assistants the following Monday.
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