17 June, Ritsuto Igarashi

文字数 3,190文字

Stay Friends


Cause of death: boredom.
  Just as these words crossed my mind, the doorbell rang. There’s no security monitor in my run-down apartment, and the door chain is too rusty to slide into the track.
  I looked through the peephole. It was Hina Tanaka, holding a package wrapped in

furoshiki

cloth.
  What are you doing here? I asked, upon opening the door.
  I brought you a present, she said, handing me the package.
  It was heavy and had an unusual feel to it. Noticing the sound of rain, I looked up to find that Hina had already left.
  Even after the state of emergency was lifted, our university has continued holding lectures online, so we’re pretty much forced to stay at home every day.
  I returned to my living room and removed the cloth, unveiling a tablet and a bunch of toy figurines. Confused, I switched on the tablet. It demanded a passcode:

  ‘Hint: Stay Home Friend’

  A friend who stays at home? Is it talking about me?
  Lining them up on my desk, I counted over 20 figurines. Among them was a polar bear and its cub (scarily realistic), a petite idol singer with long, blue hair (flashy costume), and two firefighters that looked like they were about to break into a sprint (why are there two?). It was a mix of random things, and they seemed to have nothing in common.
  I called Hina. Have you solved it already? she asked.
  I haven’t even started. I’m not into figurine collecting, you know.
  You don’t have anything better to do other than your assignments, right?
  Are you suggesting I play with dolls on my own?
  Not dolls,

words

. My online alias is Kana Hinata. It’s a similar concept. If you don’t solve this before the end of the day, the Gods will punish you. Beware.
  Staring at the call-ended screen on my phone, I now knew how to solve it.
  Hina Tanaka’s alias, Kana Hinata, is an anagram. ‘Stay Home Friend’ must be the same.
  But there were 14 letters, and I didn’t know how many possible combinations there could be. Tackling the letters one by one wouldn’t get me anywhere before the end of the day.
  Still, I found myself determined to solve the mystery. I smiled wryly.
  Opening a dictionary and spreading out some writing tools on my desk, I started to rearrange the letters.
  HISTORY. FAME. DEATH. HANDSOME. MONEY.
  The words sounded like they could mean something, but the remaining letters didn’t quite fit. Before I knew it, the sun had set.
  Then, as I stared at the figurines, two words came to my mind. That was why there were two of them. And the remaining four letters, too, formed the perfect word.
  DASH. FIREMEN. TOY.
  I entered the product numbers engraved on the firefighter figurines into the tablet. The screen changed:
  ‘Are we going to stay just friends?’
  I glanced at my calendar before calling Hina again, sensing that the otherwise colorless June 17th was about to change color.


Translated by Yuka Maeno/Arranged by TranNet KK

Ritsuto Igarashi
Born in Iwate Prefecture, 1990. Graduated from Tohoku University’s School of Law. Passed the national bar examination. Made his literary debut with

Hōtei

yūgi

(Court game), for which they won the 62nd Mephisto Prize.

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