“Can you elaborate on that?” [Store Owner 5]
“Right… Do you know any alleyways with many boxes? Or stores where supplies or garbage are piled up in front of it? Or perhaps a place where a carriage has stopped. This carriage could have stopped only for some time, but if anyone knew about it, someone could use it for mischief. Anything that can obstruct prying eyes can be used for hiding, and if the things piled up are combustible, they can be used to start a fire.”
“Now that you mention it, criminals do tend to make conditions favorable to them.” [Store Owner 6]
“So this safe map of yours means to identify places like these and try to fix them?” [Book Store Representative]
The number of people asking questions have increased. The representative from the book store I frequent has even started to participate. He’s normally so lackadaisical, but look at him now.
“Exactly! And if possible, I’d also like for your children to participate in making this map too. Adults and children have different perspectives. After all, children have places they can enter or consider entering that adults would never even think about.” [Ryouma]
I used Niki-kun’s secret base and talked about what happened at Fatma Territory.
“As someone with a child of my own, that’s a really scary story. I’m sure there are hidden places in town too.” [Store Owner 8]
“It would be best to consider places that children can hide in as places where one can hide children in. For example, boxes can be used to hide children without anyone knowing, bigger areas could be used to confine children in, and medicines could be used to knock someone out. In order to minimize danger, parents should know the places their children frequent, and also explain to them the danger of places like those previously mentioned. If you could encourage your children to heed caution too, that would be for the best. While we can’t just keep children locked up inside just because the public order is bad, I believe it’s unwise to simply let them move around without thought.” [Ryouma]
When I said that, voices of agreement resounded.
“Hear, hear! Alas, that brat of mine keeps playing outside until the very last moment.” [Store Owner 7]
“Same… I’m glad to have help buying stuff, but he keeps using that road barely frequented by anyone.” [Store Owner 8]
“At least your kids help… My kids are just—” [Store Owner 9]
…Somehow, this meeting turned into a parent’s competition on who has the worst kids.
“Well, I wasn’t one to listen either when I was a kid.” [Darson]
When Darson-san said that, the adults all looked at each other.
I’m sure everyone has one or two moments in their lives as a kid when they didn’t listen to their parents.
“In other words, there’s not much point telling kids what to do since they won’t listen, huh. Well, I am a kid myself and I’m doing something like this here.” [Ryouma]
When I broke the silence, this time everyone laughed. There were some who tried to keep themselves from laughing, but it was in vain.
“Did I say something strange?” [Ryouma]
“Oh, not at all, Ryouma. It’s just that when you’re the one saying it…” [Hyuzu]
Hyuzu-san said something, but I didn’t really get it, and then the rest of the people in the meeting started speaking as well.
“I beg your pardon, but don’t you think it’s really funny for a child such as yourself to talk about a child’s heart?” [Store Owner 9]
“You act so much like an adult, I’ve actually forgotten you were a child as well.” [Store Owner 10]
Voices of agreement raised in response to those comments. In that moment, I could feel that the stiff atmosphere that had been permeating the air had finally left.
After that more questions around my proposals were brought forward. We ran out of time in the end, so we decided to adopt a simple policy for the time being, and then discuss the specifics at a later date.
I saw most of the store owners off, then went back to break room, where Darson-san, Pauline-san, and Zeke-san were waiting. When they noticed me, they greeted me.
“Thank you for coming out here today. And thank you so much for all the help you’ve given me!” [Ryouma]
“W-What is it all of the sudden?” [Darson]
“Today’s meeting was a success, and when everyone went back home, they were all satisfied. What’s more is that they even apologized to me about what happened in the last meeting.” [Ryouma]
At that time, I was surrounded by unfriendly gazes all around and was really isolated. I didn’t want to be led astray by some vague words, so I took on a firm attitude.
I don’t think I said anything wrong that day, but I was still too tense at the time and was even ready to… No. At that time, I had definitely given up on everybody and was ready to abandon all hopes of cooperating with them. That’s why my words were so harsh.
“I didn’t help you to make you lower your head.” [Darson]
“Ryouma-kun, you’ve always been thinking about other things as well on top of your store, right? Those feelings have reached everyone today. I think that’s really all there is to it.” [Zeke]
That’s what Darson-san and Zeke-san says, but I believe a gulf had formed between me and those people because of the recent events. They were the ones who filled that gulf by proactively asking questions.
If my feelings were able to reach them, then it was only because Zeke-san and the others mediated on my behalf. If not for them, I’m sure we wouldn’t have even been able to talk.
“Well, it’s true that it was a bit hard at first, but… You haven’t forgotten, have you? The people who came here today are those who left the meeting midway. They were already people who acknowledged you to some extent.” [Pauline]
“I think it’s because of that, though. At that time, Ryouma looked just like a wounded monster trying to protect its cubs.” [Darson]
“…Is that so?…” [Ryouma]
“We may have been the impetus for those guys to come here, but I believe if you just reached out to them many times, they would have eventually lent you an ear.” [Zeke]
Does that mean that they didn’t see me as someone simply on edge but someone dangerous? I-I suppose I have some reflecting to do then…
Regardless, although it was only some of the store owners, there’s no mistaking that I successfully mended my relationship with them today!
So from here on out, I’m going to do my best to form a good relationship that benefits both sides!