by Issui Ogawa, translated by Camden Hine
“The next customer is ready,” my assistant called from the waiting room. The young man entered the interview room and looked around as I rose from the sofa to observe his appearance. He had a medium build and was wearing jeans with a long-sleeved pinstripe dress shirt. It looked like it had been about two months since his last haircut. His black hair was sloppily combed down with gel. He had small eyes and large ears. He was probably about 22 or 23. He seemed unassuming.
He looked a bit drawn, though that applies to most people who come here. People who are worried enough about work to come here generally don’t come in looking excited.
The room was a decent size. The glass table in the center didn’t take up too much space. There was a rod and a box on the table. Those, along with the table and the sofa across from it, were all the pieces of furniture I had. The window was covered with shutters on the inside, with a deep blue rug across the floor and a light blue cotton print on the wall.
That’s right, a deep blue floor and light blue walls. You don’t see this color scheme in a normal shop or house. That was one way the room stood out. The fact that our customers had never met a vocationologist before was more expected. It’s exactly because they’ve never met one before that when they meet me they think, So this is what a vocationologist looks like.
I wore dark slacks and a white dress shirt with a silver tie. I figured this was appropriate for a vocationologist, though I’ll save why for later. I gave a simple introduction, and then motioned for the customer to come over to the sofa.
“I’m Shouhei Kanno, Vocationologist. You heard about me from Mr. Hisamaki, correct? Thank you for coming in.”
“Ah, yes, that’s correct.”
He sat down awkwardly on the sofa. My assistant came in, quietly poured us tea, and then left. Before I could even open my mouth, he began to speak. “Okay, I’m going to say this up front, I am not a NEET. I have the ability and the will to work. At least I think I do. H-however, I don’t really get it. Compatibility, that is. I’ve felt like there were times when I was a good fit with my job, but getting along with coworkers, adapting to a work environment… I’ve had trouble with stuff like that. I’ve had two jobs. But even though I want to work, it is too hard. I always end up quitting.”
“I understand,” I said. “Could you tell me your name?” As he opened his mouth to speak, I added quickly, “It’s fine even if it’s not your real name. An alias or nickname is fine too.”
“Ogi…—I’ll go with Yoshida.”
“Okay, Mr. Yoshida. Then I will give you a short explanation of how this works.”
“Ah, right. Sorry, I got ahead of myself.”
Yoshida (alias) looked towards the floor, slightly depressed. To this day, I still don’t know how to make my customers feel more comfortable. I wish I could. What I can do is explain how the process works.
“Mr. Yoshida, I understand your situation. Such being the case, I have something that I will say up front as well,” I said.
“Vocationologists do not choose your occupation. I cannot tell you what your goal is. And I cannot tell you what job will grant you a higher income. The only thing a vocationologist can tell you is what your calling, your vocation, is.”
“Right. So, I have a normal driver’s license and a Master’s in Public Sanitation…”
“That’s wonderful. I will ask more about that later. As a vocationologist, I will use a special method to determine your vocation. I will ask you to perform a series of actions. It may sound strange, but this is how we can determine your vocation.”
“Okay… What kind of actions?”
“First, could you stand over there?”
Yoshida got up from his seat and stood next to the sofa. I went over and stood next to him.
“Please do the next set of actions carefully,” I said.
Yoshida used both hands to stick things on the wall, albeit rather sloppily. He wasn’t trying too hard, but he was putting in some effort. I looked very closely at his posture.
No, that isn’t it. He isn’t doing it fast enough, I thought. I’ll give the next instruction.
“Look to the left… now the other way… okay, now look back over there…,” I said as I adjusted his posture. Yoshida followed my instructions despite being confused.
“Next, take this rod and hit the back of the sofa as hard as you can.”
“I’m sorry, what?”
With the rod extended, aware of my complete lack of dignity, I said, “Vocationologists look at people’s movements. How they wave, how they move their legs, the depth of their breath, the movement of their eyes… by examining these behaviors, we can determine what occupation you are suited for.”
“I-I see…,” said Yoshida, looking even less convinced than before. I pulled out my trump card.
“What did Mr. Hisamaki say about this practice?”
Hisamaki is the one who told Yoshida about me. Hisamaki also came here after being referred by someone else. Currently, I am using this “through the grapevine” method to convince people. It is very difficult to convey what I am doing if I don’t do it this way.
Yoshida’s gaze drifted around slightly. He was probably remembering what Hisamaki told him. If possible, I wanted him to remember as much as he could. I imagine that people who have been analyzed by me can explain what I do better than I can.
After a while, Yoshida reluctantly nodded and took the rod.
“Okay, strike it… drop your waist slightly… next, face forward and assume the stance. Like you’re doing kendo. Next, hold this box. It’s heavy, 20 kilograms.”
I made him do several poses and looked closely at both the movement of his body and his facial expressions. The muscles in his upper arms swinging the rod. His lower limbs stopping the weight of the box right when he picked it up. As he moved, I saw his doubtful expression disappear. When performing everyday actions it is easy for the mind to wander, but when being forced to focus on something new, most people lose the ability to think about other things.
“Hold the rod, lean back and look up. Just like that…”
As he inclined his body and bent backwards, I finally saw it. Well, honestly speaking, I’d had an idea the moment he came into the room. But in that moment, I finally got it.
Everything has its own process. What’s really satisfying is the moment when I can confirm my guess. This sensation is a bit hard to explain, but I have a feeling it is similar to when a hairdresser puts the finishing touches on a beautiful haircut, or when a doctor sets a dislocated joint. The moment I was able to confirm it, I was satisfied. After that, I made him do about two minutes of exercises and then asked him to stop.
By then, Yoshida’s breathing had grown a bit heavy. He collapsed onto the sofa and I had my assistant bring him some tea. I took out a notebook and pretended write down my thoughts while Yoshida sipped his tea. It was all to buy time. After a while, I abruptly spoke.
“I’ve got it. For the most part, I think I have found a vocation that seems to fit. Shall I tell it to you?”
“Ah, yes.” Yoshida placed the cup on the table, and leaned forward intently.
Speaking very clearly, I told him, “Utility pole serviceman.”
“Utility pole…serviceman?” He blinked several times and quietly muttered to himself. He definitely didn’t know what that was. I didn’t even know exactly what it was. To be able to explain jobs in situations like that, I only have the surface level information that I have memorized from books and websites.
“Utility pole serviceman. They climb up electric poles, go up in a boom lift, lay down electric and phone lines, things like that. I suggest you work for an electric company or a phone company.”
The reason that I call this job “vocationologist” (even though I don’t really like the name), is because of the expression that I see in this exact moment. Yoshida furrowed his brow in surprise and then quickly opened his eyes widely. It was as if he was trying to burn a hole through me with his gaze.
“Utility pole…I’ll climb up…” Yoshida slowly looked upwards as though he was looking up at a utility pole, “…to the top of the pole…power cables…”
He looked up for several seconds. I waited, silent. I knew from experience that for the customer to fully understand what I’ve told them, this much time is necessary. He finally lowered his eyes. His face was beaming with excitement.
“I can’t believe it.”
“No, it’s just…hold on. A utility pole! Yes! That’s it! They’re all over the place, those types of workers. After you’ve said it out loud, I see it, but I can’t really explain it… Why didn’t I notice before!?”
As he said this, his hands were gesturing wildly. His expression was like a happy child.
“It’s just like you said! This is amazing, how did you know?”
Trying not to look smug, I gave him a gentle smile.
“It’s my job.”
“That’s incredible. I wonder how you knew! That’s it, utility pole serviceman!”
“However, if you absolutely want to find a profession related to public sanitation, I won’t stop you.”
“Related to what?”
“Something related to your Master’s?”
He flushed red and waved this off. “Ah! No, that’s fine, I really only got that because I was going along with the people around me.”
“It seems that you are satisfied with my prediction,” I said. “Thank you very much for stopping by today.” I rang the bell, motioning him to the door.
My assistant opened the door and showed him to the exit where I saw him off with a forced smile. Finally alone, I stretched my legs out over the table. He was my last customer of the day. Before I could even light a cigarette, a loud voice came bursting in from outside. I almost dropped my lighter.
“Shouhei, let’s hang out! You’re here, aren’t you?”
For a moment I thought about pretending to be away, but I quickly gave up. I hadn’t tried that on Kanna before. In any case, my assistant, Shinano, wasn’t having any of it.
“Kanna is here. You heard her, didn’t you?”
“Yes, let her in.”
Before long, she sauntered in, relaxed, her trademark straight, long black hair swinging about.
“Hey Shouhei. You’re done with work, right?”
Kanna lives on the top floor of a nearby apartment complex and works in the Atre next door. She comes over here whenever she feels like it. She had come by that day in the evening, but usually she just comes whenever she wants, whatever the time. Mainly she comes here to mess with me.
“Nope, not at all. I still have customers in the evening.”
“Then show me. Looking at your face from the side is amusing.”
“I’ll probably go eat before I start the rest of my work.”
“Oh, good, I was planning to invite you out to eat. What are you going to eat? I’ll come along.”
She looked at me from where she lay sprawled over the sofa and grinned widely. The 25-year-old had on little makeup and her smooth skin glowed under the lights. She had on a sky blue dress and a fancy-looking pair of white boleros. Her brightness and beauty was enough to make even the most confident men feel timid. Then there was me, a sketchy looking self-employed man. Her brightness was enough to make me avert my gaze.
With that said, I felt like I was in no position to refuse her offer directly. Well, I can’t refuse her invitations at all, really. My practice, which isn’t even in the yellow pages, is really only successful due to Kanna. She’s helped me out more times than I can count. Even so, this middle-aged man wasn’t going to just nod and go along with whatever she wanted. I tried to decline one final time.
“Is that really something that a young girl should be saying to a middle-aged man?” I said.
“It’s fine. It’s not like you’re doing anything anyways,” she said.
I heard Shinano giggle in the other room. I gave up and went along with Kanna.
“What’s that person’s vocation?”
“Gardener, I think.”
“Accountant…No, an inspector for a tax office.”
“Some sort of job removing moss stuck to the inside of water tanks on the tops of buildings.”
We walked about fifteen minutes from the office to the shopping district where we found a western-style restaurant owned by a friend of mine. I ate dinner while answering each one of her questions. We were looking at the people passing by on the street. Everyone had an inner self that I could see, but only vaguely, sort of like a camera out of focus. That’s what their “vocation” was.
“Hers? The girl wearing the pink mules.”
“Something dealing with large animals… Cows. A cattle hand, or maybe a dairy farmer.”
Kanna stopped as she was about to eat a forkful of spaghetti. Her eyes widened.
“A cattle hand? The girl wearing the pink mules?”
“Yes, the girl wearing the pink mules,” I said while nodding.
“I wonder what sort of face she would make if you told her that.”
“I mean, she would probably just brush it off, right?”
“But isn’t that the job that’s best suited to her?”
“All I can say is that for her, if she were able to brush the warm body of a cow, she would feel content. She would probably also struggle with the low salary and lack of human interaction, but if she could overcome those struggles, being able to work with cows would lead her to happiness.”
“Really? Even if someone struggles with their vocation, will they be satisfied?”
You can only say that because you’re a genius, I thought as I gulped down my beef stew.
Kanna is an artist. To be precise, she is a very talented person who can draw, though that is only one of her potential vocations. She refuses to show me her work, so I can’t accurately judge her abilities, but I do know how talented she is. In the street artist community, there was something called “Kanna style,” and it has spread so much that it had actually become almost too famous. In the north, there is an old, run-down art museum that was brought back to life after Kanna put three of her pieces there. Anyway, I’ve heard several of these types of anecdotes about her work.
But if I told anyone that four years ago Kanna had been working part-time handing out tissues in front of a cell phone company office, who would believe me? If you look at how popular she is now, probably nobody. But it’s true. And I can say with confidence that I was the one who found her and made her into an artist.
Actually, “made her into” is a bit presumptuous. I merely informed her of her vocation. She believed me and took up a paint brush, and after a year and a little effort, she was able to accomplish all of this. In that one year, with only one paintbrush and one pair of shoes, Kanna pursued her art all over the city. The reason I said that she is a genius was because she persevered through all that hardship.
“Hey! You have to use the bread to get all of the stew out of the bowl! Like this!”
It didn’t look like Kanna’s frugal nature would ever go away. Looking at Kanna as she enthusiastically cleared her plate, I murmured, “What is talent, really?”
“People like you are truly talented. You have several potential vocations…all these possibilities lying dormant. But most people just have one.”
“Eh?” she said sharply. “You’re going to say that to me? I’m just a normal person.”
“Hey, don’t talk about me like I’m not a human,” I said.
“What do you mean? You have psychic powers.”
“Yeah, but psychic powers are different from talent.”
“That’s true, but they aren’t worth less than talent.”
She looked a bit annoyed with me, but compared to how other people look at me, I much preferred this.
I am not a traditional psychic. Actually, I don’t know whether or not traditional psychics even exist, but I don’t fit into the category of “psychic” in the traditional sense of the word. I can’t use telepathy and I can’t see through things. I can’t even see people’s futures, so you can’t really call my ability precognition. All I can do is see a person’s vocation, albeit in a strange way. It may be that I see an individual’s parallel self in a parallel world. But I’ve never heard of psychic powers like that. Even then, the image that I see isn’t clear, and the number of times that people actualize the vocation that I reveal to them is small. There are even people who have several vocations.
A representative example of someone with several vocations is the person who sat right in front of me: Kanna Sanryo. I could see six vocations in her. The reason she had become a painter was only because it was one of those six. The other five were all incredible, but she said that she didn’t need to know and didn’t want to know. Because of this, I began to think that my psychic powers really didn’t amount to much.
Still, I’m able to eat and pay my bills due to these psychic powers, so I guess they’re not all that bad. When I first realized that I had these powers, I was baffled. To be honest, I am still baffled. For you see, there is only one confirmed psychic in this world: me. As far as I know, all the “psychics” I’ve seen on TV and in real life are fake. There are people who believe that I’m also a fake, but I don’t feel a need to meet them. Meeting them won’t change anything in my life, after all. I still don’t know if my powers are scientific or magical, or if there is anyone else like me out there. Even the job title of “vocationologist” is itself made up. There is no such thing as “vocationology.” It’s just me. Me alone.
Actually, the reason why the office is the way it is, and the reason why I dress the way I do, and why I forced Mr. Yoshida to do those weird exercises, was to hide the fact that the whole idea of “vocationology” is fake. It’s a way to give the job some substance. There isn’t any other secret meaning to it whatsoever. I can’t understate this, as it’s an important point. This is something that I have gained through many difficult experiences over the last twenty years. If you stop someone on the street and say, “There is a probable future in which you become a journalist and write about the drug crisis in Central America and win the Pulitzer Prize,” most people won’t stop, thank you, and pay up.
On the contrary, the chance that doing something like that would cause you trouble is pretty high. Obviously. It’s for that reason that I did all I could do to get an office. To put it bluntly, as long as you have an office, you get taken seriously. Lots of people who don’t have any skill whatsoever do this successfully. Though, when I think about it, I get depressed thinking about this stuff.
“Latent potential or psychic power, whatever, it doesn’t matter,” I said. “What I’m saying is, your paintings can move people whether they’re rich or poor, and that’s a fact.”
Kanna stared at me for a bit, then exhaled. “That doesn’t sound like something that someone your age would say,” she said.
We had finished most of the dishes on our table. I looked at Kanna, who was frowning, and lit a cigarette. Everyone in the restaurant was having friendly conversation, but somehow it was all a little bit off. I don’t mean off in the sense that they weren’t matching the mood, but “off” in the same sense of the way the people passing by on the street earlier were “off.” These were people who weren’t doing their vocation. People who couldn’t become what they wished to become. People who didn’t know what it truly meant to be satisfied with work. People who looked like they’d lost interest in what they were doing.
This may surprise people who don’t know, but almost 100% of people have at least one vocation. Even people who spend their lives just eating and sleeping have a job that they can devote themselves to with every fiber of their being. However, it seems like the probability of happening across your vocation naturally isn’t that high. The streets are full of unhappy people. That’s why I run this business. To find out why realizing one’s vocation is so rare.
The bell rang. The front door opened and two people came into the restaurant. There was an elderly man and woman wearing inexpensive but decent-looking attire. I held my breath slightly as I studied their vocations. They weren’t acquaintances of mine, but I had seen them come into this shop many times. The main staff on the floor went over to greet them with a big smile. They must be regulars here, I thought.
“Hey, Kanna—” I said, turning to tell her their vocations.
“Are you free tomorrow morning?” she interrupted.
“Hm? Tomorrow morning?” Although I wasn’t sure what she was about to ask me, I quickly made up an excuse. “Sorry, I have about ten appointments tomorrow morning.”
“Great, then your afternoon must be open then, right?” she said. “Come by my apartment at noon. Is there anything you want to do? If not, I’ll go ahead and decide for you. I’m going to the beach after that, so I guess I should lend you my work gloves before that.”
“Huh? Your work gloves?”
“Okay, sounds good. Then I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Just wait a second!”
“You said it was fine, didn’t you? You’re not going to make me carry a 100 x 80.3 cm picture frame by myself are you? Or is it too easy? Should I find something more difficult for you to do?”
“This isn’t funny.”
“Great, so I’ll lend you my work gloves. Just make sure to wash them before returning them.”
“Now, hold on a second—”
When I raised my voice, Kanna looked at me with a surprisingly hesitant expression.
“Think about others a bit, will you,” I said.
“I’m sorry. Then you decide what you want to do in the afternoon—”
She smiled so brightly that the people around us turned their heads toward us. Oh yeah, this is also a form of talent, I thought. I wish there was at least something I could tease her with, but I didn’t have anything of the sort.
The following day. I thought I would finally see one of Kanna’s pieces, but it was completely wrapped up in cloth. On top of that, the picture was already framed and padded, so I didn’t even need to use the work gloves.
“Why didn’t you ask an art gallery or a moving company to do this?”
“Isn’t it obvious? It’s because I wanted to go on a date with you.”
“Right, right, a date.”
Responding to each and every time she teased me was exhausting, so I responded half-heartedly and picked up the package. The actual reason she asked me to come over may have been that she wanted to be there for the delivery. Or maybe she just didn’t want to spend any money.
Of course, we didn’t go by taxi or anything like that, we went by train. She wore a beret and a cape and kept a frightening amount of distance from me, staring at me condescendingly. Was that really the sort of attitude you should have when making someone else carry your stuff? Though I also thought that I looked sketchy enough to stay away from.
I was a bit angry, so I chose a cheap soba restaurant for lunch. Still, Kanna ate with a grin on her face. I had forgotten how frugal she was.
I had wondered what part of the coast we were headed to. It turned out it was an avant-garde office building where a famous television show was being filmed. After exiting the station, I looked at the building towering above us and then back at the package under my arm. “Are you taking this to an appraisal?” I asked.
“The price is fixed. This was already ordered by someone.”
Kanna pointed up at the top of the building and I didn’t feel like asking more after that.
We headed towards the building, went through security, and entered the hall. Kanna let out an appreciative “wow.”
“Amazing,” she said.
We entered a large lounge area with a sofa. In one corner, there were several young people wearing numbered tags. In another corner, there was a group of people wearing dog and tiger costumes with just the head taken off, taking a break. There was a woman with bird-like fluffy hair who was reading a newspaper with a serious look on her face. There was a group of people who looked serious at first glance, but who kept repeating things like, “It’s fine if it’s close, actually it may be better if it’s close.”
So this is what a television set is like, I thought. I had heard rumors, but I thought they were just rumors. This wasn’t anything like a normal office. That reminds me. There’s something I need to explain about the relationship between people and vocations.
Just by looking at someone I can tell what their vocation is. Everyone has a vocation. Even people who lack talent and competency, even those who seem like they don’t have a single redeeming feature, they all have one. It only looks like they don’t on the surface. In fact, I have never seen any healthy person who is completely talentless. However, there are people whose vocation I cannot determine. There are two types.
The first type includes people who have vocations which I cannot comprehend. When I see someone’s vocation, it appears as a double image that is slightly disconnected from the person. If they are climbing a telephone pole while wielding tools, then I think that their vocation is “telephone pole technician.” If they are sitting in front of an easel holding a paintbrush, then I have good reason to believe that their vocation is “painter.” People sitting at a desk in an office are the hardest to confirm, but even then I can usually get an idea of what it is from their attire or movements. However, I have to know what the job is. If I see a person sitting on a bamboo pole in the middle of the open ocean, I have no idea what to call that kind of vocation That is the first type of person whose vocation I cannot determine.
The second type is people who have already found their vocation. Do I have anything to tell people who are already doing what they feel they should be doing? When I get a glimpse of people like that, I know immediately. It is elegant. It isn’t that these people become beautiful, but their expressions are good. They have strength. There are people who are happily thriving and people who are not suffering from the weight of responsibilities they don’t want to shoulder. They are aware of what it is that they are supposed to do, and you can see it clearly on their faces.
There are also people who don’t show it on their faces. There are people who have a strong reason to hide something, who hide their feelings through pain and joy. Yet even with people like this, their awareness comes out through the way they carry themselves. You can tell that they know what they are. They have a complete identity. To know one’s vocation means to realize one’s personal goals. For people who have entered that stage, there is no gap between their present self and their ideal self. Here, in this commercial broadcasting station, I found one of those people. But he was bizarre.
First off, he wasn’t alone. He was with a tall, middle-aged man who had long, black hair that fell to his shoulders. The older man quickly went out the entrance. The young man, however, was amazing.
He looked around twenty years old, the same age as Kanna, but he was already in the process of realizing his vocation. The actualization showed on his face, which held a triumphant look. His hair was cut short, almost a buzz cut. He had large eyes with thick eyebrows and stubble left over on his cheeks from shaving. He was wearing a thick leather jacket, which I thought was odd, as it was summer. He was concealing his stomach with his hands, as if there was something important inside.
“They said it’s on the eighth floor, that elevator over… Shouhei?”
Kanna had come over to talk to me after talking with the people at the counter, but I didn’t hear any of it. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. I slowly lost feeling in my arms, and then the feeling in my legs faded. Don’t look at me, I prayed to myself. If you look at me, you’ll know that I’ve found out.
The man was brimming with confidence. He glanced once at the tall ceiling of the entrance hall, headed towards the elevator nearby with a hop in his step, and disappeared from sight.
I took a sudden breath and placed my hands on my knees. I was hit with an intense wave of dizziness and felt like I was going to throw up. I quickly placed the painting on the ground. Right before it fell over, Kanna grabbed it, placing her hand on my shoulder.
“Hey, are you alright? Your face is pale. Was it the soba from earlier?”
“No… the food was fine.”
I staggered over to a bench nearby and sat down. Kanna looked at my face intently.
“Should I ask if they have a nurse or doctor here? Ah!” She gasped as I grabbed her hand.
“Who is your client?” I whispered to her urgently.
“The person who ordered the painting. Is it a manager here? An executive? Anybody is fine, just I need to talk to someone in charge!”
“Is it an emergency?”
She pulled her cell phone out of her pocket and quickly opened it. Looking closely, her face had changed. I didn’t remember her being a woman who could have that sort of calm, composed expression. Ah, I thought. That’s right, this isn’t an ordinary artist. She is much more talented than that. Disappointed, I lowered my head and nodded.
“There’s a suicide bomber.”
“What did you say?”
“The young man with the shaved head, wearing the leather jacket. He was hiding a bomb strapped to his stomach. I don’t know the type or how he’s going to detonate it. But without a doubt he’s going to blow himself up. We need to evacuate everyone now. He believes that he can destroy this entire building.”
“How do you know?”
“Because that’s his vocation. Suicide bombing, martyrdom, destruction. I could see pure happiness in him giving his all to follow through with those types of things. I saw it. Do you understand? I need you to understand.”
I saw Kanna’s nervous face and thought, She’s not getting even one tenth of this.
“This is what I saw,” I said. “This is something that many of his companions are expecting him to do. And if he is able to do it, he will be able to feel an incredible sense of pleasure. There will be a magnificent ceremony. He’ll receive the attention of the whole world. His life story will be told in full. There will never be a day as grand as this in his whole life. Just by pressing a single button, that will all happen, and the pain won’t even last for a second. Everything will be complete in a single moment. Tell me, is there any other vocation that that could be?”
Kanna’s shoulders shook. I could see her mouth slowly open.
“That’s not a vocation.”
“Don’t tell me that. It is. It’s his. So how about it, can you make that call?”
“I’m calling right now, ah, hello? Thank you for picking up, this is Sanryo. I apologize for contacting you all of a sudden, I am currently in the lobby…”
Kanna finished the greeting quickly and started speaking directly. She was nodding quickly as she informed them of the situation. She avoided direct mention of my abilities. Instead, she told them she had witnessed someone sneaking into the building with a bomb.
I stared up at the ceiling and considered the worst case scenario. Kanna had steadily built up trust with them, so I didn’t think that they would laugh it off as a prank. However, there was a chance that the response would be too late. In the first place, just finding the man would be difficult. The elevator had stopped several times as it went up. We aren’t going to make it, I thought. I wasn’t going to be able to stop the destruction of the building.
“Hmm…” I took a deep breath. Then I stood up and grabbed Kanna’s hand.
“Wait,” she whispered.
“We’re going outside.”
“You’re going to run away by yourself?”
“Do you want to get dragged into this?”
I hesitated. Within Kanna’s eyes there was an anger that I had never seen before. She pulled my arm back and pointed at the floor.
“Are you going to let all of these people die without doing anything?”
Just as she pointed, a field trip group of about twenty people went right past us. At a glance, there were close to one hundred people in the room. To me, this was just a regrettable number of people who I didn’t know, but to Kanna, this was a room full of talented people. I held back my desire to drag her out of the building with me. I could do it, but if I did she would never forgive me. Instead, I approached the fire alarm and placed my hand on it.
“You’re still on the phone, aren’t you? I’m going to set off the alarm, so tell them to broadcast from the phone,” I said.
“Is that OK?”
“What else are we supposed to do? Just yell ‘bomb’ and run around in circles?”
Either way, I was going to have to explain myself afterwards. This way was a hundred times harder than just grabbing Kanna and running. Kanna finally gave in and nodded.
I pulled the lever and pressed the alarm button. Right after that, a deafeningly loud bell rang throughout the hall. Kanna grimaced and yelled into the phone. The people in the hall, surprised, looked around at their surroundings. The security guard noticed immediately and started to run towards us. I mumbled to myself, already having partly given up.
“If we don’t do this right, they’ll think that we’re the actual culprits.”
“It’ll be fine, they connected me directly!”
Right in front of the security guard, completely ignoring the fact that she was wearing a skirt, Kanna scrambled up the monument next to us. It was about double my height, and she yelled in a loud voice.
“Everyone in the hall, please listen!”
At the same time, Kanna’s voice poured out of the speakers in the hall. Everyone was quite surprised, and it took a while for people to take in the situation. Kanna pressed the cell phone up against her cheek. They had connected her to the broadcast system.
“Everyone in the hall, there has been an incident in the building. Please stand up and evacuate outside. Please slowly walk to the entrance without stopping and without running.”
Kanna’s voice reached the maximum number of people. Her delivery was perfect. I think at least half of the people thought she was a real announcer. Even me, who knew that “announcer” was not one of her six vocations, thought that she was a real announcer.
However, people were moving slowly. A lot of them were exchanging glances and grinning at each other. Then I remembered where we were.
“This is a television broadcast building!” I called out urgently to Kanna. “They don’t believe you!”
I saw on Kanna’s face that she understood. She spoke again, this time changing to a harsher tone. “Everyone in the hall, this is not a drill. This is an emergency!”
The effect was immediate. People’s faces became stiff. After seeing the group of people start to move quickly, Kanna finally came down to the ground and grabbed my hand.
Six minutes later, a powerful explosion went off on the twenty-eighth floor observation deck of the broadcast building. We watched this from a road about three hundred meters from the building after escaping from the first floor. All of the windows on the observation deck were shattered. White smoke billowed out. The glass and building material glistened as it exploded onto the ground below. It was a beautiful sight, almost as if we were removed from reality. Watching this, Kanna held on to my arm and gripped it strongly.
“There were still people inside,” she said.
“Probably,” I said.
I found out afterwards that the two guards on duty died, and more than ten people were heavily injured.
“This is horrible… how could anyone… oh no, the painting!” she cried.
“Sorry. I didn’t see it,” I said. “Let’s come and get it later.”
Kanna looked angry once more. I wondered if someone had grabbed the package and turned to see if someone had brought it out with us. Then I froze. The man with the long hair was there. The man who had spoken with the bomber just before the explosion.
That man, staring at the observation deck among the crowd, began to slightly cry. The reason was clear. He was slightly off. I saw the vocations that he had not yet realized. He wiped away his tears, briefly glanced at us, and then disappeared into the crowd. I heavy, even heavier than when I saw the bomber. A wave of dizziness struck me again, but I endured it.
It was a weekday afternoon and I had begun my day as usual. I had dealt with about three customers rather well when Kanna came in, looking like she had something to say.
“What did you say to that girl that made her cry, Shouhei?”
“You saw that?”
“So it was your customer. We passed each other in front of the elevator.”
Unable to restrain myself, I said with a sour face, “I told her that her vocation is mailroom worker.”
“I don’t believe you. Did you ask her what she wanted to be?”
“She said that she wanted to be a cellist. Don’t look at me like that, dammit! If this weren’t my job, I would have told her a lie. But no matter how much she acts like a musician, mail worker is her true nature.”
I had just finished one cigarette and went to light another. Kanna, seeing this, opened the window and sat on the sofa. Today she was wearing a goth dress with a lot of lace.
“Can’t you lie even if it is your job? Or maybe you should lie because it’s your job?”
“If I start doing that there’ll be no end to it. What am I supposed to do, just say what the customer wants to hear?”
“Aren’t most jobs like that?”
“You’re not doing that, are you? And my job, telling people their vocations, is unreliable. I’m not saying that it’s set in stone that she is going to be a mailroom worker. It’s like your body fat percentage. You can’t change it however much you may want to, but you can try.”
“Isn’t that negligible?” she said.
I nodded, and Kanna sighed deeply. No matter how you looked at it, she hadn’t come here to hang out. Just as I thought, she wanted to talk about the same topic as before.
“I heard that Senseishou announced that this time they are going to blow up a skyscraper.”
“They didn’t go into that much detail. They’re not that crazy.”
Immediately after the television broadcast building incident a month and a half ago, the world was made aware of the mysterious cult organization which went by the name of “Senseishou Denzekaisaku.” The had left a letter in the building taking responsibility for the explosion. The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department opened a criminal investigation and raided Senseishou’s four bases the next day. However, the locations were completely empty. No one was arrested.
Before causing this incident, Senseishou was a group of college students who struggled to find work. The group had united over their feelings of social ostracism. Many of the members felt that they weren’t understood by anyone. They had appeared on TV once, but they were ridiculed and portrayed as an antisocial escapist group. Some members even committed suicide after getting criticized publicly. It seems that this experience gave the group a strong sense of unity, which led to the latest incident.
After the evacuation, Kanna and I were quickly brought in for questioning by the police. Legally, there wasn’t anything that we did wrong, and since we aren’t related to Senseishou or any organization, I thought we would be released quickly. We ended up being detained overnight. For the police, vocationologists and cult groups are in the same category, I guess. Since people had died, the investigation was harsh, and it got to a point where I was about to confess to a crime I didn’t commit. If it weren’t for the eye witness account and Kanna’s connections, I don’t know if I would have been released.
After that, Senseishou continued their desperate attacks. After the television station, they bombed the headquarters of the second largest bank in Japan, as well as the headquarters of the ruling political party. They were not suicide bombings, but they were all terrorist attacks. They always left letters taking responsibility. Although simplistic, their goal was clear. In short, they attacked what they saw as symbols of wealth.
When the political party was attacked, the Self Defense Forces were mobilized, but the group had still not been caught. It had become a hot topic on television, news, and social media. I didn’t know much, but Kanna had been coming every day to talk about it.
“Hey, Shouhei. I heard some bad news from a friend.”
“What kind of news?”
“Senseishou won’t attack the railways. The railways are the feet of the common people, so they won’t destroy them. That friend, she says she understands them. She says things like ‘they have their own clumsy way of life’ and ‘I feel sorry for them.’”
“That’s too naive.”
“I think so too, but…”
Kanna looked at me. I could imagine what she wanted to say after the “but.” After all, she didn’t start out living in the penthouse of this apartment complex. She probably couldn’t think of this as just someone else’s problem.
“I feel helpless that I can’t do anything about Senseishou… Can’t you do anything, Shouhei?”
“Are you telling me to go beat them up?”
“You saw the leader, didn’t you?”
“I don’t know whether or not that was the leader.”
“You talked about him like that was the leader without a doubt. You must have seen noticed something about him. You saw it, didn’t you? His vocation? Isn’t it about time you told me? I won’t tell anyone.”
“I don’t want to tell you.”
Kanna pouted. She probably mistook that for ill-intent, but I didn’t try to correct it.
“Fine. He was a genius,” I said. “I saw four vocations.”
“Four? That’s the first time seeing a person like that, huh.”
“Besides you, yes. The first one is actor, and the second is general. Neither of them are things that you can simply become if you feel like it. The latter is close to impossible in present-day Japan.”
“Actor and general… so then he’s full of charisma and decisiveness?”
“He has the ability to fool others and himself, and control them at will, or something like that. The third one is executioner.”
Kanna made a cracking sound in surprise.
“An unfeeling killer?”
“That’s a bit of a misunderstanding. An executioner is different from a normal murderer. An executioner is grounded in justice, and is a job where you are entrusted by society with permission to kill. The job itself does not have an evil nuance. If there is something evil, it lies within the legislative system that allows executions to take place.”
“I see. Then the leader has some good points, too? At least that one point.”
I felt a bitter taste in my mouth.
“With his case it’s different. He hasn’t been entrusted by society with anything. Instead of that, he’s shouldering the rules of Senseishou and his own sense of self-righteousness. On top of that, he believes that he’s doing it for society as a whole, and not himself. Do you think that he’s a good person?”
“He’s the worst,” said Kanna, frowning in disgust. I tilted my head.
“It’s not over yet. If it was only those three, it would be unfortunate, but he would just be a difficult person.”
“You’re saying that he’s something worse than that?”
Kanna stopped her breathing.
“Wait, he’s a woman?”
“No, he’s a man. What I’m saying is that he is suitable to be a mother as a job. Love and expectations towards his children. Hatred towards their enemies. Strong willpower. He thinks that no matter what he does, as long as it’s for the sake of his children, he will be forgiven. Whether or not he’s actually a mother is not related.”
“Isn’t that weird? After what he did to his friend… he made his own child blow himself up! That’s not a mother!”
“There are mothers in the world who say that it’s for their children, but who are actually using their children as tools for their own self-actualization. When all the harmful components of motherhood get mixed together, that’s what happens. I will say this, I don’t mean that all mothers are like this. What I mean is that people with ‘mother-like traits’ are not necessarily actual mothers. That man is harboring all of the worst traits of motherhood.”
Kanna closed her mouth. I could tell that she was disgusted, and her face went pale.
“Yes, so in addition to actor, general, and executioner, he has characteristics of a mother. For that reason, he was able to entice his friends and subordinates to blow themselves up without hesitation, all while surrounding them with their twisted affection,” I said.
“Why did it have to be this combination…”
“I don’t know, but it’s probably related to a complicated upbringing. However, the problem isn’t his character. If it was just that, there are certainly people out there who are stranger than him. The problem is that he isn’t actually actualizing any of these vocations.”
“That’s… he must be experiencing a tremendous amount of stress. There are people who are suffering just because they want to become mothers but can’t.”
“I’ll bet. That’s how the leader of Senseishou came to be.”
Kanna looked down and covered her head. She must have been intimidated by this mysterious figure.
“Then… then they’re haphazardly attacking those around them to protect themselves, right? Do you know where they are? Where are they aiming at next?”
“That, I don’t know.” I shrugged my shoulders. “Don’t forget, I don’t read minds, and I don’t psychoanalyze people. I can only see a person’s talent.”
“Right… Still, I think it’s useful.”
Kanna suddenly stood up, surprising me.
“What’s wrong?” I said.
“Is it alright if I go and tell people what we just talked about?”
“Tell who? The police?”
“The police, or anyone else who wants to know. Don’t worry, I won’t use your name at all.”
“That’s fine, but do you think the cops will believe you if you walk into the police station with this nonsense?”
Kanna told me to leave it to her, winked at me, and left. Still taken aback, I saw her out.
“I wonder if she thinks the culprit will be caught with that information,” I mumbled. I meant to say it to myself, but the receptionist, Shinano, overheard me as she walked in. She handed me the evening mail as she spoke.
“Doesn’t Kanna have someone in her group of friends who could help this situation?”
“Does she?” I asked while grabbing the mail. Shinano nodded.
“Kanna has a lot of admirers among your older customers.”
“This trend of older people flirting with young women needs to die out.”
“It’s because older guys aren’t as level-headed.”
After Shinano saw me frown, she started laughing.
“Not in a weird way. That girl is a great conversation partner. No matter what the conversation is, she always gives a well thought-out answer, and since she’s bright and full of energy, she gets doted on by the older folks quite a bit. You understand, don’t you?”
Despite the difference in age, Kanna didn’t seem to be aware of it. She really was a strange girl.
“She’s not going to the police station,” said Shinano.
I exchanged looks with Shinano, and let out a “hmm”.
“She’s definitely going to do something.”
“And that would be fine, but…” I said.
Shinano left, leaving me deep in thought as I sipped my tea.
If I was interested in doing something about it, I could probably get that leader caught. No, it’s impossible, I thought. For three reasons. First, the leader was a genius. He was crazy, his heart was rotten, but he had talent far beyond that of the average person. I wouldn’t be able to even find his location. Second, Senseishou was an entire organization. I was one person. There was no way a single person could win against those odds. Third, I was just an ordinary person, not a detective. I had no real methods.
“Well, it might be that way, but then again…” I said to myself. I pulled out my phone and looked around online. News related to Senseishou was all over the place. I found a video of a press conference held by the criminal investigation unit. I watched it for a bit. After I was done with my tea, I put on a coat and called out to Shinano as I left.
“I’m going to the station for a bit.”
“You’re going somewhere?”
“Yes, going to fulfill my duty as a middle-aged person.”
“It looks like you’ve got an idea. When will you be back?”
“Hmm, I wonder how many days it will take?”
Shinano looked at me with large eyes and asked if I was going on a trip.
“No, I’ll be in the station the whole time.”
After that, I quickly left the office. What I was headed for was the busiest station in Japan, where 3.5 million people get on and off trains each day — Shinjuku station.
And what is the duty of a middle-aged person, you ask? I can think of a few, but the first is to endure, and the second is to get dirty. Holding the light meal that I bought from a convenience store, I secured a position on a bench in a corner of the station, one that allowed me to have a wide field of view.
Then I watched. I watched the people as they passed by. From left to right, and from right to left. There were various types of people who passed by, and when I say that, I mean it was really varied. There were businessmen in suits, an old woman with large luggage, train conductors standing together, sailor uniform-clad middle schoolers. There was a young boy with a shaved head, a hostess with her chest exposed, a smelly homeless person, students going to class, students skipping class, a father with his daughter. There was a man with a guitar on his back, a man with a hunting cap and sandals, a man with a small mountain of a belly, an infant rolling around in a stroller.
In every single one of the people who passed by, I saw a double image. I concentrated on looking only at the shadow. It wasn’t a simple task. Even a detective looking for someone on a wanted list wouldn’t need this level of fixation. After doing this for some time I would lose my concentration, close my eyes, and rest for the same amount. Then I would open my eyes and watch once more.
I had one goal: to find a person with a very specific vocation.
I did not know if such a person even existed. However, if I walked around town, in the span of one year I would definitely come across two or three people of each vocation in existence. Actually, vocations aren’t tied to whether or not the person is doing that job. It isn’t guaranteed that a woman who is destined to dive in warm water for pearls lives near the ocean, and it isn’t guaranteed that someone destined to become a bear hunter lives in the mountains. In short, it’s completely random. This means that probability is decided by the size of the statistical parameter.
Thus, Tokyo should, in theory, have a higher number of people for every vocation than anywhere else in Japan. In theory, that is. When I actually tried it, it wasn’t that simple.
I continued this until ten o’clock at night, and went to the same bench at seven the following morning. For the whole day I sat down and gazed at the surge of people, rested and then opened my eyes, and then repeated this. The next day was the same, the day after that the same.
It took five days. I think I saw over one hundred thousand people, although I wasn’t counting. On the fifth day, just after 2PM, after the lunch rush had started to die down, the station was slightly empty. I had stopped staring for several minutes, and started to take out the curry bread that I bought from the convenience store. A man with white hair crossed through my field of vision.
“Ah!” I gasped. I dropped the bread and the coffee and dashed towards the man, quickly catching up to him, and the I fell behind and began to tail him. From his white hair and the look of his skin, he was older than fifty, maybe nearing his sixties. He wore a large, tight coat, and he walked quickly. It seemed like I saw his vocation correctly.
The problem was now, how was I to talk to him? As I considered that, I followed him around the corner. He exited the ticket gate, climbed a flight of stairs, and entered the men’s restroom. Unexpectedly, it was there that the problem was solved. He made the first move.
He started to piss, so I went to the urinal next to him. Immediately after I undid my zipper, he quickly left the urinal and went behind me. The front of his pants was not open. He did well tricking me. Before I could comprehend what was going on, he forcefully picked me up by my belt. His strength was ridiculous, especially considering his apparent age. It took all I had just to hold on to the door in front of me and not fall over.
“Who are you with? K4? Ballaize?”
I was shocked by the coldness in his voice. K4 or Ballaize was probably some sort of secret code, but I didn’t know what he was talking about. It was true that I was tailing him. He must have sensed that and determined that I was an enemy. I panicked and responded.
“Wait, wait! I’m not a part of those, I don’t even know what that is! That guy -”
He grabbed my left arm and shoved his thumb into a pressure point in a precise movement that was so painful that I thought my arm would be torn off. At the same time, he quickly grabbed my belt to secure me in a perfectly executed move. That cemented my belief that he was qualified for the job, but if this went on any longer my life would be in danger.
“I have something… I have something I need you to do! It… it’s about Senseishou!”
“Senseishou? I see.”
It seemed like he realized the misunderstanding. But he did not relax his grip. He was clearly ignoring the surprised looks of the people around us. With no other choice, I risked it all on the next words:
“Please catch the leader with the long black hair!”
He grabbed my shoulder and turned me towards him. I was somehow able to zip up my pants with my right hand, but when I saw the look in his eyes I gulped with fear.
“How do you know? Who are you?”
In his eyes was a dark, heavy animosity. It was far above the level of simply being cautious. That was the look of hatred, and one of regret.
I felt, from the bottom of my heart, grateful that I was not a member of Senseishou. I wonder what happened for him to feel this amount of hatred…Or regret? It was then that I remembered. For someone to harbor bitterness like this, I could only think of one reason. Perhaps for that reason, despite having this vocation, he has not been given a chance to use his skills. It was a guess worth betting on. I made up my mind and spoke once more.
“You should avenge your family.”
Immediately following that, I was thrown into the urinal. I think. I felt a sharp pain, I smelled something foul, and my breath stopped. I somehow made him angry?
However, I heard him say one thing.
“If I could do it I’d have done it already.”
Then he left the restroom. I didn’t let him go. He needed to hear what I had to say. That is precisely my job – to tell people what their vocation is. I jumped up and dashed out of the restroom. I saw him trying to blend in with the crowd, and I grabbed his shoulder.
“You can do it. You’re the only one who can do it.”
He stopped. I waited, preparing to be thrown again.
Several seconds passed in the crowd, and then he spoke.
“Tell me everything you know.”
I let out a deep sigh of relief.
The following day, I was awoken by a call from Kanna.
“Shouhei, Shouhei! Look at the TV!”
From her voice I could guess what had happened. With the telephone pressed against my cheek I crawled out of bed and turned on the TV. Just as I thought, on the screen there was a close-up of a building with black smoke coming out of it.
“I couldn’t stop it, Shouhei!”
It sounded like she had been crying. I was about to ask if one of her friends had gotten involve when I was startled by sounds in the background. A fire truck siren, orders angrily being yelled, a distorted voice from a radio transmission. This idiot! What had she been doing? I thought.
“Are you on the scene right now!?” I said.
“I’m at the command post, the police office command post. There was an announcement so I came!”
I wanted to shout as loud as I could, but I held it back. I couldn’t believe what she had done, or why she hadn’t told me beforehand.
“Kanna. You didn’t go inside the building, now did you?” I said.
“Of course I did,” she said breathlessly. “I was there when the TV station was attacked. I thought if I found that man with the long hair, I thought I’d be able to identify him. But I couldn’t find him, so I went outside. But right after I went outside…”
“You idiot,” I said, a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.
There was silence on the other end. I suddenly felt a strong desire to smoke a cigarette, but before that I shouted, “Place!”
“The place! Tell me where you are! I’ll head over now so hold on!”
For the first time in my life I gave a taxi driver a huge wad of cash to get me to the scene fast. The driver let me out about three hundred meters away, the area filled with a mass of people from the evacuation. I gave Kanna’s name to a patrol officer and he immediately took me to where she was, making me think, what kind of VIP status does she have. But Kanna had been placed in a riot squad bus parked behind some chicken wire for getting in the way. She was only there because she was needed to identify the suspect. After I entered the bus, I spoke first.
“I’m not alright. I heard five people died…”
She looked at the building with regret as she spoke. It looked like she wasn’t injured, and I mentally sighed with relief. Kanna stared at me.
“The person from the criminal investigation listened to what I had to say.”
“They listened? To an ordinary person like you or me? Which of your connections did you use?”
“I told them what I could, but really I was only able to give them a little bit of information. We were there during the TV station incident, so they listened. They’re lacking evidence, too, it seems. Shouhei, do you have any better leads?”
“You… you know you’re an artist, right?” I said. It wasn’t a place that I could smoke, so I watched her face in silence. “Aren’t you happy being an artist?”
“What is that supposed to mean?” she said. “Are you telling me to draw something? At a time like this?”
“No, not that. I’m asking why you’re willing to get so involved. Even if people die, it’s not your responsibility, is it?”
After I said that, Kanna stood up, her face flushed. She slapped me.
“Don’t talk about people’s lives like that!”
In today’s age, finding a person who is this straightforward is rare, I thought. Ignoring the fact that I was just slapped, I burst out laughing.
“I thought you’d say that, so I did what I could before I came here. Ah, maybe I should have said that first.”
“Did what you could?”
“Help me meet with someone in charge. An inspector, or a superintendent, anyone,” I said.
Kanna looked at me with suspicion but headed to the front of the bus. We asked and were granted permission to leave. A patrol officer guided us to a different area, probably the command post. We were taken to a van that had an antenna coming out of the roof. There was an officer in uniform alongside a plain clothes cop talking and gesturing at a map. When I approached, the older man in uniform pointed his gaze to Kanna.
“What is it, Ms. Sanryo?”
I stepped forward and spoke.
“Mr. Masame Handa is the person who you should contact.”
The men looked at me, confused. I spoke once more.
“I believe that you are aware of a man named Masame Handa. If you include him in your investigation you should be able to resolve this incident quickly.”
“And you are?”
“A friend of this girl. Thank you, that is all.”
After nodding, I grabbed Kanna’s hand and we left. The men still looked confused, but did not follow after us.
Once we had almost passed the riot squad bus from before, Kanna said, “Wait, Shouhei”, as she pulled my arm and stopped short. “What was that just now?”
“Kanna, I am a man without talent,” I said.
“I know, you say that. But that’s your choice, right?”
“No, listen. I really don’t have any talent. I am a man without a vocation.”
Kanna, realizing that I wasn’t making a joke, stopped talking. I pulled her into the shadow behind the bus.
“Every morning I look at the mirror and come face to face with a man who has no vocation. What that man can do is tell people what natural talent they were born with, and only that. Because of that, during this incident as well, I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t find the culprit, chase the culprit, or catch the culprit.”
“Shouhei… you don’t have to say things like that…”
“But, I can watch people. So I looked for a person. A person whose vocation is catching terrorists.”
Kanna opened her mouth in bewilderment.
“That person’s name is Masame Handa. His vocation is dealing with cult organizations and counterespionage, and he’s accumulated experience doing jobs like that. I proposed the idea to him, but he was already doing an investigation on Senseishou himself.”
“I see… but, if a complete outsider like that is recommended, there’s no way he’ll be allowed to participate.”
“While I, who recommended him, am an outsider, Handa himself used to be a police officer. He just wasn’t included in this investigation. When I went to see the press conference at the criminal investigation headquarters, there wasn’t a single person there who was suited to catching terrorists. In an organization as big as the police force, there was no way that there wasn’t at least one person with that vocation. They had to be somewhere. It was possible that there were some sort of issue with human resources, and the right people weren’t assigned to the right area. Thinking that, I went looking for that person, and found them.”
“Do you think that someone who had issues with human resources is going to be hired that easily?”
“I’m not sure. I have a feeling, though. The person that I found was even better than someone who could potentially actualize their own vocation, he was someone who could easily reach it. Sort of like you.”
Kanna made a face as if she was confused and put her hand on her chest. She was probably thinking about her own unbelievable past, how she climbed her way up from part-timer to famous artist in one year.
“If it’s something like that… it’s believable, I guess.”
“I think you can have high expectations. The reason he was separated from the force isn’t a bad one. It was actually because they were worried about him.
“What do you mean?”
“That man, his family was taken from him. There were people in Senseishou who committed suicide, remember?”
“Ah, so that’s what it is. Were they his family members? So he’s personally connected to the incident…”
“He was put on as backup. It should be changed now.”
“Then we don’t have anything to worry about, huh?”
Kanna nodded several times, and then spoke with a curious expression.
“You did a good job finding such a suitable person out of the blue, didn’t you.”
“‘Out of the blue’ isn’t really accurate…”
I told her the story of my five-day struggle in Shinjuku station and the incident in the restroom.
“He needed one last push. The only thing I did was call out to him.”
“You found a person like that out of one hundred thousand people…You have more guts than I thought you did.”
“I told you, didn’t I? I don’t have any other talent. All I can do is be in the right place at the right time.”
After I said that, Kanna looked sad for some reason. She went out from the shadow of the bus, and started to walk away. I followed her, but she suddenly stopped, and said with a frown, “A man with terrorist catching as a vocation… that’s sort of sad.”
“If that’s what Handa’s vocation is, if he actualizes it, he should be happy. Well, as long as the conditions are met.”
“Shouhei, you know you’re… I think you’re too tied down by that. Before having a vocation, people are people, right?”
The ends of my mouth unconsciously lifted into a smile. Not wanting Kanna to see this, I turned away.
After a while, the leader of Senseishou, Sanuki, and his conspirators were arrested for the bombing incidents. At the televised press conference, Handa, the head of the investigation, stood alongside the Superintendent General while giving responses with a stoic expression.
During the conference, Sanuki’s upbringing and general disposition were revealed. Due to his being overly eccentric and arrogant, he had been hired and then fired over twenty times since he was a young boy. Over time, he had developed a hatred towards employment. Expressing sympathy for people in similar situations, he started Senseishou. It seemed like my guess about the Handa family was correct. Along with the evidence and testimony, Sanuki would also be questioned about the related suicides.
Kanna had come to the office for tea. She made a face like she had swallowed something bitter as we talked about the situation.
“Leaving aside Sanuki, I feel bad for the members who were being used. I understand where they’re coming from. Doing a job you don’t want to do, and the people on the street don’t even look at you. My chest feels tight…”
She had probably been reminded of her own past. I kept staring at her, and she tilted her head, looking slightly annoyed.
“I know, I know. ‘That’s no reason to go around killing people’ is what you want to say, right?”
I didn’t affirm or deny that. It’s not exactly a topic that makes you feel better when you reach a conclusion. Kanna had her arms around her knees as she sat on the sofa, and turned to look at me.
“You did a good job. You actually had that kind of strength inside you all along, didn’t you?”
“Not sure if that is what strength is. Me, I’ve never had a part time job handing out tissues.”
“You say that you don’t have any talent, but that’s a joke, right? The ability to decide people’s lives, that’s really amazing.”
“Real talent isn’t anything like that. There are people in the world whose vocation is to take care of others and make them happy.”
Kanna stared at my face, and told me that at that point, it’s just word play. I tilted my head.
“I’m talking about a real profession. Actually, it’s what people call politicians.”
“It’s not what you’re thinking of. I’m not talking about those thieves and ass-kissers with no talent. I know someone who was born to be a politician, well, her vocation is Prime Minister.”
“Prime Minister, you mean the Japanese Prime Minister? Who is it? Ah, that former governor who’s been gaining traction recently? Or is it that controversial person who keeps showing up on TV?”
“No, she’s a regular at a restaurant I go to.”
Kanna looked confused, so I explained further.
“When we went out to eat the other day, there was an older couple there. I’m talking about the wife. Every time I see her I see it clearly.”
“I don’t know her. At the very least, I don’t think she’s appeared on TV. She’s probably working in sales at some company, but if she became Prime Minister, I’m sure she would do a great job.”
“I think they’re friends with the manager. The next time I see them, I’m planning to tell her about her vocation and encourage her to pursue it.”
Kanna blinked a bunch of times. “What? Are you trying to fix the world now?”
“You don’t want that kind of change?”
“That’s ridiculous! You think that a single fortune teller can change a country? Hah!”
She nodded her head and giggled to herself, slapping her knee a few times. She looked at me, and then laughed again. This woman… who did she think she was laughing at?
I was trying to have a serious conversation with her… what a rude girl.… Well, this was much better than if she was sobbing. There’s that one consolation prize, as long as she stays bright like that.
The couple from the restaurant had some good qualities, but there was actually someone just as capable already close to me. The first person I met who was destined to be a politician was Kanna Sanryo.
She really has an amazing amount of talent. “Artist” was merely one of six vocations that this girl possesses. In addition to that, she could be a military officer, maze designer, prostitute, and she even had the aptitude to become a monarch. If she really wanted to, she could go much further than her current audience of fans and patrons. She had the ability to change the course of history for many years.
On top of that, her last vocation is still unclear. The image of her performing that job is something that I just can’t comprehend. It looks like she’s doing something amazing, but there isn’t anything on Earth that I can compare it to. Most likely, the profession that requires that talent does not yet exist on Earth; the same as the telephone operator before the telephone.
I remembered what Kanna had told me. Before their vocations, people are people.
It’s exactly that. It’s because I have affection for Kanna that I’m here, and I haven’t told her. Because I haven’t told her what would happen if she was able to use all of these talents.
With feelings of adoration and envy, and an even stronger feeling of curiosity, I looked at Kanna. As a vocationologist.
“Okay Shouhei, so do you know any candidates for mayor or governor? How’s the current governor?”
“There’s a person I think would be perfectly suited to be the governor of Tokyo. They’re currently in charge of breeding at the Ueno Zoo.”
“Go. Go and persuade him. I want to see this story unfold.” I began to take out a cigarette, watching Kanna as she laughed cheerfully. I returned the cigarette back to my breast pocket.
About the Author
Issui Ogawa is an award-winning science fiction author whose works can generally be categorized as late New Wave, focusing on interactions between characters and sociological issues.
About the Translator
Camden Hine completed his master’s in Global Media and Cultures at Georgia Tech in August of 2020, where he focused mainly on Japanese to English translation and Science Fiction. He is currently studying mathematics at Hokkaido University.