Chapter 1. Autumn: Autumn in Hot Spring

Toward a new world 2

"I cannot retire Araki." Keigo finished his story and bowed his head. "And even if I resign in his place, I know the company will still force him to leave his job. Araki has gone to the social welfare office and a children's counseling center to consult about Takashi-kun many times. His wife and daughter have temporarily moved to his in-laws' house because of his son's violence. Now that I'm aware of his miserable situation, can't I do something for him rather than pressuring him to quit? I do not want to be cruel and inhuman to him. Araki begged me not to tell anybody about Takashi-kun's behavior. Of course, private information should not be disclosed, so I have not even told my family about this. Kanalu-san, you are the first and only person I have told."

Kanalu calmly took Keigo's hands and looked into his eyes. "You have been suffering so much." Keigo saw tears gathering in Kanalu's eyes. Letting Kanalu hold his hands, Keigo felt his pain and sorrow fading away as if they were being absorbed by blotting paper. It was a strange feeling, and he wanted to cry and be comforted as if he was a baby on his mother's lap. He forgot where he was. He felt he might have been crying. Keigo did not know whether it had been a brief moment or an enormous time. However, when he came to himself, he felt that his sorrow was gone.

Keigo said, "I am very sorry I was upset. But now I feel relieved."
"It hurts if one has something that one cannot talk about. I think Araki-san might have felt relieved in the same way after you understood his situation," said Kanalu.
Keigo felt that he could not alleviate people's sorrows as the way that Kanalu did. "You are really amazing. How can you read people's minds?"
"I can't, really. It's just that I have lost something too."
Kanalu showed Keigo his sad and gentle smile. Keigo wished he had not asked the question.

Kanalu brought out two RUICAs. He made some adjustments and handed them to Keigo, saying, "Please use these RUICAs to communicate with Takashi-kun."
"They are for Takashi-kun and me, not Araki and Takashi-kun?"
"Yes, you are going to converse with Takashi-kun. The two RUICAs connect only Takashi-kun, you, and myself. I will only join the conversation if necessary. Please talk to him with RUICA. Become his friend. Help Takashi-kun rebuild his relationship with his father."
"Do you think I can do this?"
"Yes, you can. In fact, only you can do this. There are 130,000 children who do not go to school. They do not know how to express themselves. Some of them are violent and that is their families' greatest worry. Together with their families, there are more than half a million people who are suffering from this problem. You and Takashi-kun may find a clue to resolving it."

Keigo gazed at the RUICA. He wondered whether Takashi would be willing to talk with him. First of all, how could he even give the RUICA to Takashi?

It was growing dark outside. At night fell in deep purple, the orange lights of the workshop lit up the area as if with hope.

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