Epilogue 2
“Now then... the story ends here.”
I was so absorbed in listening it was like being ‘eaten’. A hand knocked a ‘pon’ on the table before I remembered I was someone in the year 2002.
“In this story, there are no world-destroying monsters, no princesses locked in high towers, or treasures that can buy the entire world. Even so, this is a very splendid ‘legend’ to us.”
I was completely drawn in by his words. Putting aside whether it was real or not, the story was extremely interesting. But was it really possible for so many coincidences to keep happening?
“Hahaha, isn’t the world’s history a tangle of coincidences?”
I didn’t really understand, but putting everything together made it very persuasive.
“... Did you believe it? The story just now absolute nonsense.”
You’re kidding, right?
In that case, nothing- wasn’t it good? Unless there were going to be questions?
Seemingly satisfied with this answer, the man said ‘My treat’ and even paid for my dessert.
“You’re a really strange person, thinking that this is a good story... Even though it’s a legend, it’s rare to come by listeners like you...”
It didn’t sound like praise. Rather, it sounded like subtle mockery.
But... Just where was the ‘story of the loneliness of the sorry man’?
“Szilard’s a lonely and sorry guy, isn’t he?”
...... I see.
But what happened to those who appeared in the story? Such as that robber couple...
“But aren’t they here now?”
He gazed further into the shop at the stupid-looking couple. The two’s bodies were completely wrapped in chains, and they were happily hanging lots of bells on each other’s chains. It was on the same level as pop culture.
Then, the skinny and fat ones sitting in that corner were...
“Pezzo and Randy. Pezzo’s been complaining recently that ‘I want to slim down because this body’s too fat, but the fat keeps growing back’, but even now he can still eat five meals.”
...................... Then, what about Firo?
His expression became strange.
“Isn’t he right here? ......Ah, I got carried away with the storytelling and narrated my own story like it was someone else’s... Ah... That’s right, I have yet to introduce myself. Well, normally with business associations, I just leave without having ever said my name...”
... What was going on? I had always thought that this man was Maiza...
“Aah, Maiza-san... He taught me the ABC’s of being conta è oro and has been travelling since 30 years ago... Something about searching for his alchemist comrades who’re scattered around the world... But according to the promise, it should be about time he returns...”
So that was how it was... But his image was completely different from what I had expected. I told him straight.
“That’s because more than 70 years have passed... Even someone like me would remember one or two manners... As for these glasses, they’re just smart, decorative glasses. So what do you think?”
As he said that, Firo Prochainezo gave a happy smile. He sure was lucky. I was a little envious.
That reminded me- how was Ennis doing now?
“Aah, she’s my wife.”
... This fellow really made one turn green with envy.
“Ah, no... It’s just... Un, if it were in some romance novel or picture book, the two people should fall in love with each other at that time... then you’d expect things to develop from there.”
Firo continued a little embarassedly.
“See... Ennis then was a skirt without much ability to feel love... um... So I was the only one who was excited... Maa, after all, this falling head over heels in love at first sight was just one-sided for me...”
A somewhat desolate smile touched his lips as he admitted the truth.
“I ended up spending a damn long time in the blind pursuit for marriage... Only, what... 50 years...?”
So the story was cruel at times. ...The problem of being a late bloomer.
To be together for over half a century still not tire of each other. Rather, it appeared that these two just grew so close they couldn’t be separated anymore.
No, wait... Ennis appeared to be part of Firo’s body... So in some sense, wasn’t this narcissism? Because this thought was too crass, I didn’t say it aloud.
“Maa, many things have happened, but somehow or another we always manage to succeed... Since the abolishment of the Prohibition Act, our revenues fell sharply and we were in dire straits...”
Then, he grumbled for a while about the harshness of fighting to secure new income, the turf wars and the life. ......But I knew that, all the while, they were very happy. Although it was other people’s good fortune, I felt as happy as if it were my own.
“Do you know? Eliot Ness... the Prohibition agent who was the main character of ‘The Untouchables’, alcoholism ruined the later years of his life... Isn’t it ironic?”
Just as we were getting into flow of the conversation, the young man from earlier returned. In his hand was the shiny, silver camera bag! Welcome back, my camera!
“Aah, Ronnie-san... Thank you for your hard work.”
“Not at all, since I’m free anyway... there weren’t any special problems. But that Bobby guy is a real idiot, doing as he wishes on our territory.”
Ronnie...... Aah, the person in the post of ‘chiamatore’ in the organisation...
“Well, no matter. Just as you said, ‘grilling’ them in a suitable manner would be good, no?”
... Was he Firo’s accomplice? How should I put it... Why did even this Ronnie speak such fluent Japanese? Moreover, he even used the word ‘grill’, a special term used by yakuza.
“Well then, I’ll be calculating the value of this item, so please wait a moment.”
As soon as he said that, he headed further into the store... and disappeared behind the door that seemed the sort only authorised people could enter. Goodbye, camera. Then again, I had promised to pay a cut.
Ronnie looked my way, grinning broadly.
Come to think of it... at the very end of Firo’s legend, he was described as someone like the ‘demon’... For the sake of seeing how the immortals wound up, the demon may have very well disguised himself as a member of the organisation. ... If it was the demon... Then it was reasonable for him to know a word like ‘roast’. For some reason I felt that way.
Inadvertently, I blurted out the thought in my head- ‘If you are the demon, then show me the evidence’.
I had no memory of what passed in the next few minutes, except for the incredible terror of Ronnie etched into my heart. The emotion that I had forgotten since the bear attack. ...Just what had I done?
Facing my stunned self, Ronnie said quietly,
“Strictly speaking I am no demon... Just an alchemist who had obtained too much knowledge during ancient times...”
After that, I paid the returning Firo 300 dollars for my camera.
But... what if, earlier, I ran away when Firo stabbed his own wrist with his knife, what would have happened?
“Eh? ...Then naturally I’d profit from the camera. That’s why I didn’t introduce myself, and why I didn’t ask for your name. In these million-in-one situations, it’s advantageous to make little judgements of what benefits me...”
Why did it turn out like this? My wishful thinking and fantasy that ‘good gangsters still existed’ were instantly quashed. ...For the first time since I came to this city, I erupted into gales of laughter.
“Aah, you finally laughed. Generally, the Japanese give blank smiles, but you had virtually no expression whatsoever.”
Why, thank you.
“At any rate... Back then, you said something like ‘mind your manners before your elders’... Edward... Actually, that was what Paul said the first time we met... Although there are some differences in wording, but you said exactly the same thing as he did... If it hadn’t happened, I probably wouldn’t have wanted to intimidate you... If you weren’t a person with no fear, then this legend wouldn’t have been told, don’t you think?......”
Was it really just because of these? These reasons you just told me about.
When I enquired about that, his gaze wandered as though he was a little puzzled, then he smiled as he spoke.
“... Truth be told, somehow, recently... I feel like my connection with the world is thinning. Our stay in this world will be longer than anyone else’s, so... perhaps I was hoping to connect to some people from the outside world. Especially with an honest person such as yourself... For those like us, it is enough to know that such people exist... perhaps because we wish to be satisfied with ourselves. With that, I feel like a weight’s been lifted off today...”
“I want to visit Japan once next time Mr. Maiza comes back. If you don’t mind, please be our guide then?”
No problem. I handed a piece of paper with my address and phone number to him. If it were Japanese in Japan, they would never give their phone numbers to others... as I pondered that, I finally succeeded in getting my bag back. Well, only after paying some money.
“Before you come, be sure to send a letter.”
Having made the simple farewell, I left the store behind me. This was a ridiculously simple farewell.
The Manhattan Bridge could be seen. After walking along this street for a while, the signboard of a large hat store caught my eye. Was this the shop where Firo and Maiza bought their hats?
I casually strolled into the shop. Every type of the most trendy hats were present, and over half had bandannas or buckets as accessories. The Japanese helmet... was nowhere to be seen.
The shopkeeper was a young woman. Come to think of it... the old man who never spoke wasn’t an immortal. That was only to be expected, but it made me feel terribly sad.
To my side, a tall man had taken up a bandanna. The man had selected a vivid, pearl-green, and he gave the impression of being about 10 years older than Firo.
I shouted without thinking.
The man turned to me and said something. But unfortunately my grasp of English was nonexistent.
Repeating ‘so-ri-’ many times, I left, the look of disbelief returning to my face.
...... Maiza. He had returned. There was no doubt about it. That was really Maiza.
Winning the grand prize I didn’t want, accidentally running into robbers on Martillo territory... Among the 30,000 NY police, meeting Paul Noah purely by chance... and repeating Noah’s words to the same person, and... being a person somewhat insensitive to fear... What kind of probability was it?
In the beginning, I sighed about my bad luck but... today might not be so bad after all.
The eternal prison. The spiralling prison. Those who were involved and myself, who had experienced a last ‘chance meeting’ with Maiza, were we really trapped in such a prison? (!)
While I pondered such things, I had already returned to Narita Airport.
2002 Summer Ikebukuro
A room that's like a steambath, three tatami wide... In some senses it was like a jail.
Sweating heavily, I checked the souvenirs for family and friends... and also my camera.
Inside the film case that was never once used,
“As thanks for listening to my story.”
Under the slip with the crooked hiragana words were three 100 dollar bills.
The money I had given to Firo had been placed within, in the very state I had given him.
Although he said he wanted to tour Japan, how would he explain the age on his passport to immigration?
I really look forward to seeing his expression then.
While thinking such idle thoughts, I’m still waiting for that airmail to come to this very day.
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