Here's 16. Enjoy.
We waited until dawn before taking the first train. Despite being morning, the sky was still grey, and looked as if it was about to rain.
"Hey, you should be going to school, right?"
Mafuyu asked while we were sitting in the wobbling train.
"Skipping it. Doesn't really matter if it's only a day."
Moreover, I've already skipped plenty of lessons for all sorts of reasons, but I decided not to tell her.
"Did you leave a message for your father?"
"Nope. But I don't think he cares much about me disappearing as long as there's breakfast in the fridge."
She herself was a runaway girl, but Mafuyu was surprisingly caring towards others.
"Look, you're the one who asked me to leave with you! Why are you still worried about things like that?"
"...... I thought you did it on a whim yesterday, and that you would return today."
So she was actually looking down on me.
"You're the one who's really running away from home! Your father is probably looking all over for you right now, yeah? Moreover you're a repeat offender......"
Mafuyu shook her head.
"There is a performance tomorrow. That person should probably be heading down to the airport already."
"That can't be, right? We're talking about his daughter disappearing......"
"But for that person, or the band, it will be a much bigger problem if the conductor is missing, right?"
Well, she's not wrong, but......
Though it's not like we'd be found out that easily, I guess it'd be much better if we were more careful when passing by the police stations? Mafuyu was someone who had shot advertisements before, so there might've been people who could recognize her at a single glance.
"Where are we going?"
"The district office."
We alighted at the station located in the middle of the city, then walked through the north entrance of the station to make our way towards the office streets. In response to my suggestion, which lacked any serious consideration, the runaway-girl Mafuyu seemed pretty scared.
"What if they realized we're running away from home......"
"It'll be fine if we walk in with our heads held high! They probably wouldn't even consider the possibility of two people running away from home entering the district office just like that, right?"
Then again, it was a little abnormal for me to be carrying luggage and a guitar case, so I made Mafuyu take these two things and hide in the bathroom while I walked into the environmental office by myself.
"Large rubbish? Ah, we do, there's a chart over there."
The fat lady at the counter took her ballpoint pen and tapped the waste classification chart before I finished my sentence.
"Urm...... What I want to ask is, I don't really want to throw it away, but rather, where would I find the things I accidentally threw away?"
The lady tilted her head and looked at me.
"Meaning...... I've thrown something away by mistake......"
"What? You mean you want to find something? Impossible, absolutely impossible." For a brief moment, I had a really strong impulse to just slap her on her head. After hounding the lady for quite a while, I finally got some information about some environmental center. It was a treatment plant where they crushed the large-sized rubbish into smaller pieces.
"But even if you go there...... it's impossible, you definitely won't find it. Do you know just how much rubbish is sent there daily? Do you really think you'll find it after getting there?"
I quickly ran out of that place. She actually asked me if I thought I would find it after getting there? I think I can, so how about that!?
The environmental center was located on the fringe of the other end of the city. We alighted at a station I had never been to before, and it took us another twenty minutes to arrive at our destination, which was located on a small hill. When we finally saw the sheer size of the building, amid the green forestry, both Mafuyu and I stopped in our tracks unconsciously.
Trucks filled with large trash rumbled past our sides. The two of us could only stand by the side of the road and watch on in amazement as we narrowly avoided being crushed by those trucks.
"It's so huge......"
Mafuyu mumbled, as if to voice my feelings.
Our school could be considered rather spacious, but this place was of another level altogether. The structure we saw was already many times larger than our school, and was constantly giving off loud sounds.
The words of the lady at the environmental office rang in my ears again: "Impossible, absolutely impossible!"
"In any case...... let's take a look first?"
When we reached the entrance, we were almost run over by an outgoing truck. Mafuyu was coughing hard due to the dust blown up by the truck. "Environmental Center—Waste Crushing Plant"—that was what was written on the doorpost.
"Where should we go?"
As I was looking around, Mafuyu quietly pointed towards the left. There was a sign that said "Registration Lobby" and an arrow pointing to the left. At some distance, in the direction of the arrow, we could see a small building similar to that of a petrol station.
As we got closer, we could see a large roof extending off the building. Beneath it was a metallic plate about the size of a car, and next to it was a machine that looked like a mailbox. A large "STOP" was painted on the asphalt in white.
"This should be used to measure the weight of the trucks?" Mafuyu said. I see, so they have to weigh themselves upon entering and exiting the place? If so, there should be people at the registration lobby, right?
"Do you think you can find your bass in such a huge junkyard? It might have already been crushed, you know?"
"I won't know...... if we don't check it out."
It sounded like I was trying to console myself.
When we walked to the "STOP" right before the weighing area, the door of the registration lobby suddenly opened. We flinched in shock and stopped in our tracks.
"No no, I said no! Are you guys coming here to throw your junk away? You can't!"
The mister walked towards us aggressively, causing the frightened Mafuyu to hide behind my back.
"We don't accept small-sized rubbish here...... Eh? Hmm?" The mister suddenly walked right up to me, "Isn't this a guitar? You can't throw that guitar away!"
"Eh? You don't take guitars here?"
"We do, but I won't allow it."
"Guitar is the soul of man! It'd be sad if the King of Blues, B.B. King, abandoned his signature Lucille guitar, yeah? It'd be even worse if Brian May from Queen abandoned his Red Special!"
What the heck is this person talking about?
"But Jimi Hendrix burned quite a few guitars before, right?"
"That's not throwing it away, is it? He's burning those as offerings to the god of rock! I can forgive that because he's Jimi Hendrix. Eh? You look pretty young, but you've actually heard of Jimi Hendrix before?"
"Eh? Yeah...... I quite like him."
The eyes of the mister sparkled. Seemed like he was a die-hard fan of old school rock.
"Oh, I see! I liked his music best when he was at The Jimi Hendrix Experience, though after the Woodstock Music Festival, he......"
The mister suddenly began to chat excitedly...... Go back to work already! I turned my head back slightly and realized Mafuyu had already run off to the faraway building to escape all this. Damn traitor. That forced me to listen to the mister talk about the Woodstock Music Festival—by myself—for a full twenty minutes.
"...... So do reconsider your decision to throw your guitar away. You should chase your dreams while you're still young!"
I finally had the chance to interrupt, and hastily shook my hands in denial.
"You're misunderstanding things. I'm not here to throw something away, but to get something back."
"Eh?" I began explaining to the confused mister about how I accidentally threw away my bass. The mister suddenly said this, unexpectedly with tears in his eyes,
"...... So...... So that's how it is...... After all, it was the first time you purchased an instrument by yourself...... a youthful memory that you won't soon forget......"
Urm, I never said anything about buying an instrument for the first time, yeah? Though you're not wrong to say that......
"You finally bought it after saving up your New Year's money for so long. Even before you could play the bass well, you had already thought up a name for your future band, and a name for your very first album. However, your mother hated rock music, and actually threw your bass away without your approval...... Regardless of the times, rockers will always face the fate of persecution......" Stop cooking up your own story! "And so, you went to the district office, which directed you here. I'm touched by how great you are. Remember to give your bass a lady's name after you've gotten it back!"
"Eh? Can I find it? You know it's been sent here?"
"I don't. Tons of rubbish is sent here daily, so how could I possibly know that!"
Don't be that cold all of a sudden!
"I don't think you can get it back, yeah? I'll tell you first, but I can't allow you to search the compressing facilities; and don't even think about looking in the pit, where everything has already been processed. I can allow you to search the heap before we process it, but you'll be hindering our work."
It felt like the chances were slim. Perhaps I really was too naive?
"Speaking of which, when was your bass collected? Today? Don't tell me it was last week!"
"Urm..... hmm...... It was the day before yesterday."
The mister suddenly opened his eyes wide, "Day before yesterday?"
I nearly thought he was about to transform. I retreated a step back in shock.
"Is it already too late...... if it was the day before yesterday?"
"Was it really the day before yesterday? That's impossible."
"We only collect rubbish on Wednesdays. You didn't take it here by yourself either, did you?"
I shook my head in confusion.
I did indeed take it to the rubbish collection center on Monday night, and I didn't see it on Tuesday.
"Perhaps someone picked it up and took it away?"
If that really was the case, then it was hopeless. I definitely wouldn't be able to find it.
"The television and the other stuff there were gone as well, so perhaps......"
"Eh? Then it must be the other operators!"
The mister crossed his arms and nodded his head as though he had figured everything out. Operators?
"You sometimes see some small trucks going around the city and broadcasting, 'We're collecting large-sized rubbish for free,' yeah? That. We call them weevils. See, all that rubbish—before it's thrown away—is labeled with stickers given out by the district office, yeah? If so, it'd be a crime to take that trash away!"
"Then...... do you know where the operators are?"
The mister lowered his head and pondered for a while. I guess he wouldn't know that.
We've come to this place already, and yet, it was all for nothing. So the chance of finding my bass really is zero?
I dejectedly nodded my head in thanks towards the mister, and said, "Sorry for disrupting your work." I then started to make my way towards Mafuyu. Just then, a voice suddenly came from behind me.
"Oi! Hold on, rocker. Where's your house?"
"If it's within the working areas of the operators I know, I can tell you about it!"
The instant I turned my head, the mister looked just like those muscular chaps like Freddie Mercury. He propped up his thumb and said,
"You want to get your beloved instrument back, right? Then obviously, I can't leave you by yourself!"
As Mafuyu stared at the sky through the train's window, she murmured, "Looks like it's about to rain."
I nodded. I was sitting next to Mafuyu, with the guitar clamped in-between my legs. I took out the list of information about the operators—written by that mister—and double checked it again. Despite him giving me the details of six operators, there was not one that he knew the address of. I guess even someone from the recycling plant wouldn't know that much. The listed operators had names like whatever-transport or something-something-agency or center. What was even more suspicious was that only the name of the person in charge, as well as his cellphone number, was available—they couldn't be a bunch of guys dealing with illegal things, could they?
"Those chaps ain't a good bunch of people, so you better be careful."
He did say that as well. Picking up large-sized rubbish wasn't exactly a serious crime, but you couldn't consider it a legit and honest career either.
"Are you really going to continue looking for it?"
"Mmm. In any case, we'll visit the district office again after lunch, to see if we can get the addresses of the operators from the phone book or their registration information."
"We definitely won't be able to find it......"
"If you're feeling tired, you don't have to follow me around. Do you want to wait for me somewhere and take a rest?"
"I am not following you!" Mafuyu suddenly became angry. "You were the one who said you were coming along with me to help me with my luggage. You didn't forget that, did you?"
"Urm, it's as you say, and so......?"
"And so, I am coming along as well."
Then stop complaining!
I looked out the window as well. The same scenery of the streets flowed past our eyes, but somehow, it felt different from what we had seen yesterday. Perhaps it was because it was lunch hour now? Would Chiaki be hungry without my bento? Images of school appeared briefly in my mind, but they seemed as though they were from a long, long time ago.
If I am to return to that everyday life, I'm bringing Mafuyu along as well. Therefore, I must definitely find my bass, and retrieve everything that I had abandoned—I must find that sound that binds us together.