The Summer UFOs in Iriya’s Sky – Volume 2 Chapter 1 – How To Steal a Scooter Part 2
He was extremely modest. In exchange, she was unreserved. Total: Spicy Ebi Croquette Burger, Green Apple Pie, Mango-Banana Shake, Double Fries, and ‘Summer Special Spicy Chicken’ (12 pieces).
It was impossible to finish.
But Yuuko wasn’t going to go easy. Anyway, Suizenji was footing the bill. And, he paid up without a single complaint, bellowing with a voice that would make anyone sitting at the counter turn around:
“A hearty appetite indeed Miss Asaba! Now, if only your brother could have a taste of whatever concoction’s got you going – that would be great for him if he could!”
Even the girl at the register was laughing. Yuuko channeled all her strength into giving him the evil eye, but Suizenji was totally unfazed, and so she ordered ridiculous heaps worth of food that even elephants would find difficult to swallow. With a fistful of napkins and an indecently stacked tray, Suizenji leapt up the narrow stairs with his gargantuan basketball shoes, springing from the heel. First floor: Window & counter seat. Second: Non-smoking area. Third: Smoking.
They’d already confirmed it. Her brother and Iriya Kana were located at a corner of the third floor.
An admirable choice, she thought. It was off the meal hours so new guests wouldn’t come. Even if you didn’t head all the way up there, there were still plenty of empty seats everywhere else. That was probably why he had decided on that. It was the emptiest, and there was small chance of those rowdy little shits sitting next to you, or people from your class catching sight of you.
Suizenji went up first, and he stopped on the stairs part-way to make space for a descending couple. Yuuko also stuck herself to the wall, and remained hidden within the shadow of Suizenji and the stacked tray, allowing the two to pass. A single bud of an earphone dangled out in front of her from his bag. She plugged it into his ear. The electrical waves fired out from the corner of the smoking area translated clearly into familiar voices.
Her brother was talking.
“Erm… I’m really sorry all that had to happen… and I mean, that kind of strange stuff that popped up halfway. We didn’t even finish the movie… and then there were also the fire engines… but we got free tickets… so I guess, it’s okay…”
“Well… it seems to be something that happens a lot around here. Like some strange smell… some strange bag… appearing in a place with a lot of people, like a cinema or a station or a mall, and then those guys, the police or fire engines, will come in and stuff…”
“And… there was those bunch of weird guys in the back running around weren’t there? What were they up to, I wonder…?”
Silence. Surrounding noise entered, like the sudden entry of a contrastively & immoderately cheerful female voice. Thanks for waiting! I’m heeeere for tag number 4 – one of our regional specialties – UFO Pizzaaaa!
Suizenji placed the tray on a four-seater located in the innermost part of the 2nd floor. He thrust his hands into his bag to fiddle with the tuning. And, while seated, gave Yuuko a clear-cut answer to the mystery of the ‘crybaby girl’.
Correspondent Iriya was, most likely, not crying – he explained.
“Then what was all that about? I saw it. My bro rarely brings a hanky around too.”
“Simply put. A nosebleed.”
Suizenji munched on a hamburger and explained with chipmunk cheeks.
To summarize: Iriya Kana was the sparkling new member of the club. Her debut appearance was Thursday, after school. And, today being Sunday, that meant only three days’ worth of Newspaper Club history. And, within those 3 days, Suizenji had seen spurts of blood shoot out of her nose many times, for no reason.
He was already on the second hamburger.
“A potentiality – but, the data I have gathered from subsequent views points to frequent excitability. A high intensity of emotion seems to stir her blood up to her nose!”
What the heck was that?
That was soooo like a Manga, thought Yuuko. Suizenji finished off his remaining half-hamburger all at once, swallowing without proper chewing.
“The next issue. That of Iriya’s so-called ‘club entry form’.”
Yuuko gave a weary explanation while sucking on her straw. Her brother’s dictionary. The thing stuck inside. Iriya’s name. Desire to join a club. As well as reason.
While laughing a deep-throated laugh, he started on his third hamburger. It was the kind of sight that, like, just made you feel full. What was he, some kind of bear preparing for hibernation? So she thought. It was the first time she had seen such a hearty appetite.
“Correspondent Asaba hiding such a thing from me is of no concern – but for him to take such measures like hiding it in a dictionary. That kind of thoroughness. Especially for a club form. It’s as though he wanted to consign it to an oblivion forever.”
“Oh, and there was this stamp for ‘Shiina’ as well”
“When you join a club they have that square that you have to get some advisor and form teacher to stamp it – right? The advisor spot was empty, but there was this Shiina in the form teacher spot.”
“Shiina. I see. Could this be Shiina Mayumi from the Infirmary?”
“Like I thought too – right? There was like no one else in the school that I could think of.”
A far look. As though he was thinking of something.
But Yuuko wasn’t really curious about the meaning of that ‘Shiina’. Iriya Kana had probably chosen whoever was okay as her teacher, and all she did was beg the person he interacted with the most for the seal – she thought of it like that. More importantly, why did she even bother with that for a guerilla club anyway? That was more pressing. Perhaps, an experimental kind of love letter, you couldn’t rule that out at all – it was just too weird.
“Your club isn’t a club. Why do you need a club form?”
“Ah. There is a high probability that she was not aware of it.”
“That we’re a guerilla club of course.”
How could that be – Yuuko pondered.
And she was suddenly angry.
She joined Field Hockey. It had little competition. It had a few members, so beginners were easily chosen for the team. Some even made it to the big tournaments. That was how some girl convinced her. But this was a world where minorities were oppressed! Even in the allotment of grounds, there was a hideous apartheid! Contrary to its popular face, the true nature of the school was one where Justice was undermined!! We had that kind of club in the first place? – someone had said that and Yuuko almost threw a fit right there and then. And, in exchange, the fame of the newspaper club was no small deal to her. Only three members, and four with Iriya, and they had lawlessly annexed one empty clubroom for themselves. A true guerilla group. Even then, although there were people who didn’t know about the Field Hockey club, there was not a single person that didn’t know about the Newspaper Club. In front of the club’s Kaiser, she was fuming with the rage of an oppressed minority. If you want to be a guerilla so much go to Tel Aviv and die in a minefield!
She beat her little fists on the table.
“What do you mean she didn’t know?! What about those kids in the news that fish in rivers with land mines?! What kind of joke are you making them into?!”
“What strange words, Miss Asaba.”
Snapping her teeth.
“Is there even like anyone in school that hasn’t heard of the club? This kind of shameless guerilla club that shamelessly does anarchist PR all over the place?”
He knitted his eyebrows. The conversation was going parallel. Feeling as though there was some sort of massive misunderstanding going on, he decided to spin the dialogue wheel one step back.
“Pause a moment, Miss Asaba. Truly we are not considered a lawful institution on these premises, but it was not impossible that Correspondent Iriya did not know of such a thing.”
“Why. Is. That?”
“She transferred only recently.”
At that moment, in one of the earbuds, the stoically silent Iriya finally opened her mouth for the first time.
Why are you asking?
No… I mean… my intention… that Enomoto said he was like ‘your brother’ or something right? Is he really? Kawaguchi said something about… some ‘brother’ that worked in the self-defense force… was that it? Do you really live together?
I mean… hey, that guy calls you ‘Iriya’ right? Siblings calling each other by surname… is just weird, and it felt weird to me. That’s why…
I-I’m sorry for the weird question… you don’t have to answer if you don’t want to.
Suizenji placed a finger on his earbud to hear better.
That her brother was an aviation officer, that much he knew. But, this was the first time he had heard the name ‘Enomoto’. A few doubts rose.
A pointer. If their sibling bond was really the usual kind, it was definitely weird that he called her by surname. What did ‘your brother or something’ mean anyway?
Another pointer. In the first place, how did Asaba Naoyuki know about the name of Iriya Kana’s brother, and the fact that he called her by her surname? Did Asaba Naoyuki meet this so-called ‘Enomoto’? If that was the case, when, where, and under what circumstances did this meeting take place?
“Asaba. Do you have any remembrance of a name like ‘Enomoto’… why are you giving me that kind of face?”
“A transfer student.”
“A transfer student. This Iriya Kana.”
Suizenji had a ‘what now?’ kind of look.
In Yuuko’s head, a new neural connection had been made.
In the first place, transfer students were rare.
“Then… perhaps… that shelter incident… with my bro…”
“Could this be? Did you not hear? The girl that is currently accompanying your brother, as well as the girl that was involved in the shelter incident the other day – that person was none other than Iriya Kana.”
She didn’t know at all.
Even with communications closed off between them, she still heard it in school, whether she liked it or not. During the air-defense drill, one of ‘Suizenji’s flunkies’ was involved in an attempted sexual assault case. Guilty as charged. Such was the rumor. Even in her class, it was a hot topic. During the drill, taking a female transfer student to the shelter in the midst of all the confusion…
It couldn’t be.
That weird girl… was the transfer student?
Suizenji laughed loudly.
“Correspondent Asaba never told you?! Could this be what they call animosity among siblings?! Truly, I thought the matter was weird – but could it be that the purpose of your tailing was merely because you did not know about this at all?!”
The exact moment he thought his laughter had ended, he doubled over again until his shoulders shook.
“Well. I suppose both are different matters. I do not expect that Correspodent Asaba could have told his sister anything in such detail. But, did you not catch any of the rumors floating about? Truly it was a masterpiece of the first order! That Correspondent Asaba somehow brought a female student into the shelter, ow!”
Suizenji had giggled so thoroughly that he had to hang his head down, and at that moment. Bonk! Yuuko gave him a good one.
“What are you doing?!”
She pulled out her headphones, and gave his chair a good kick.
“Violence is unbeffiting in civilized society!”
And, bokabokabokabokabokaboka – a rain of punches came down on head on back on shoulders.
Suizenji stood up in a panic.
“Wa-wait – Miss Asaba!”
A loud shout. Yuuko’s. And then, headphone:
What’s wrong? A wire?
They almost missed it.
Having reached out from his seat to grab Yuuko, Suizenji stopped moving. Pressing the earphones in. Focused listening.
“I said let me go!”
Yuuko tried to shake him off. But he neither blinked nor reacted. The earnestness of a submarine radar – all of his consciousness converged into that sound. And,
The toilet’s over there, but…. Hey… wait, what are you doing?!
The sound: violently getting up from a seated position.
Another sound: a falling cup of water
“We’ve been caught.”
Yuuko’s dubious face. But he grabbed his bag, and grabbed her. Running. She, not knowing anything.
“What are you doing?!”
No reply. Ignoring, running. To the third floor – middle of the stairs, suddenly, within the earbuds, a zhhhtt noise. Without reception, the receiver’s squelch circuit kicked in, cutting the noise, and plunging it into a silence like a blank sheet of paper. Already useless – but despite the thought, he stopped and tried to change channels. Definitely useless. Backup wires were, one by one, being taken out, ending with the position tracer hidden in the sole. No response.
A fierce smile. Suizenji’s.
“It seems that I am blessed to be surrounded by females of such Amazonian capability.”
Guessing the situation. Yuuko.
“Caught… as in the bug? We’ve been found out?”
But, even as he said that, Suizenji’s face wasn’t one of sadness at all.
Returning from the bathroom, Asaba saw that Iriya was hunched over the table writing something. What is it? – he asked, and she quickly raised a finger to her lips. Presenting a napkin.
Written in ball-point:
There’s a wire. Shut up and follow me to the bathroom.
“What’s wrong? A wire?”
Iriya leapt forward, suddenly, hand-on-mouth style silencing. Surprised, he reflexively brushed her away with one hand, and she forcefully grabbed it, pulling him to wherever.
“The toilet’s over there, but…. Hey… wait, what are you doing?!”
Iriya’s fierce gaze returned over to him, and fingers to lips again. Seems like talking was bad – that much, he understood. But why he couldn’t, and why he had to be taken to the toilet, he didn’t know.
A switch had been flipped, and her actions were fast with mechanical precision.
Exactly like that time in the shelter.
No time for questions – Iriya dragged Asaba into a female toilet. It was cramped and dirty – three stalls and two sinks – but, fortunately, no one else was there. Dragging him, unwillingly, into the nearest stall, she threw some small something into the bowl. She immediately flushed it – that white, round, button-sized something.
“What was that you just threw?”
“Both hands. On the tank. Now.”
Even if he didn’t follow, she’d make him follow – that was what he could tell from her fearsome gaze, and so he obediently put both hands on the water tank and spread his feet apart. From behind, with both hands, she mercilessly began a search. It was like a police officer from a foreign film doing a strip search. She took his wallet from his trousers pocket and flipped through it, finding, in the card-slit, another one of those button-sized objects. Discarded. Flushed.
Suddenly she pulled up his shirt in one go.
Instinctive shout. But, Iriya’s face was grave throughout, and she stripped his upper half bare, examining the front and back. Almost to the point of licking.
Well… I did catch sight of her chest back then, but… but that was something that couldn’t be helped! I mean… she was unconscious and all… and…hey! Wait! Wait a moment! Not the briefs! Not the brieeeffs…..!!!
“Could it be here!!!”
With Yuuko under his arm, Suizenji barged into a third-floor toilet.
It was a joint male/female toilet, and the moment the door opened, it was a single use room, with nothing other than a bowl and a sink – so you couldn’t hide in that kind of cramped space – and there was nobody there. Although it wasn’t locked, there was still the chance that someone could have forgotten, and so it was a blessing that there was really no one inside. Sometimes, God does good work too.
“Hey! Lemme down now what are you doing you idiot lemme down! If we’re caught its sayonara good night sleep tight…right?!”
Well… that may not be the case – he commented.
“Correspondent Iriya. Let’s see what you’ve got hidden up your sleeve!”
He turned right around, still holding the shouting (let go of me let go!) Yuuko under his arm.
Additionally, they were as close as nose-to-nose, and she barraged him with incomprehensible questions. Have you spoken to any strangers lately? Where is the capital of America? Have you received any silent phone calls? Who in the Warren Commission was an alien? Have you ever felt that people were hiding in vending machines? List three reasons why the MJ-12 article is a fake.
The fourth floor toilet. With an extremely miserable face, Asaba put on his belt, and was immediately dragged by the arm through a narrow corridor lined with similar-looking doors.
They reached the back entrance at the end of the hallway.
Placing some ‘device’ on the door, Iriya grabbed Asaba’s hand and rushed down the rusty metal stairs. The long bicycle lot at the back of the building, flanked by three other buildings, with a single way out leading to the street.
Within the shadow cast by one of the buildings, she stopped, and spent a second thinking.
“Wait here. Give me 100 seconds. I studied it up.”
100 seconds? Studied?
Having no means other than to watch, he saw Iriya go down on her knees in the cobbled asphalt, opening the zipper of the bag that she carried with her the whole day. Inside: Laptop, Connector Cable, and various tools – all kinds of uses that he had no discernable clue about.
And. In front of her. A scooter.
One Knife. From her back, hidden in her uniform. She grabbed it out. A grip spun round with parachute cord, undoubtedly transgressing the Weapons Control Laws, that kind of fearsome sharpness – that kind of knife. Quick spin to underhand grip, blade thrust into the front of the scooter, prying up the FRP cowl like cardboard, revealing the immobilizer, connecting to computer cable, starting up the breaker, and with the speed & efficiency of a military chip – brute force attack on the cipher – cracking it, screwdriver thrust in keyhole, forcing the cylinder to twist – main switch ON. Withdrawing all her tools, she straddled the seat with both legs on the frame, turning the handle with all her might, breaking the lock with a crack. Brake. Off. Ignition. On.
And then, a huge uproar above their heads. Dumbfounded gaze upwards. The ‘device’ left at the door had activated. A fire-extinguisher hose spun around like a snake, spurting out white fumes.
“Get on now!”
The two disappeared down the street on their scooter. Through the white dust cloud, the white body of Suizenji came into view – standing at the 4th floor staircase, shouting:
“Bra-vo! Ex-qui-site! Correspondent Iriya, that was absolutely exquisite! You are more than fit to be a journalist!! I welcome you with open arms at once my comrade!! The Sonohara Radio Wave Newspaper’s finest specimen yet!!”
Under his arm, Yuuko coughed with a Kack-gak-gack!
Verbal abuse. At Suizenji.
“Let me go idiot let me go help anyone help!!! I’m being kidnapped!!! Childnapped!!!”
As the abuse changed into screams, Suizenji ran down the stairs at such a speed that she could hardly keep her eyes open, entering the bicycle lot, leaving the alley into the main street. While running, he confirmed with a side glance that the scooter was already 50 meters away from them, rushing opposite to the one-way traffic. Full-speed. Over the head, one ski-mask. Suizenji’s. And with the let me go, put me down now and wildly thrashing Yuuko still underarm, he crossed the street in 3 steps. As Yuuko had so fittingly said herself, nobody could see him as anything other than a kidnapper.
No time for embarrassment or awkwardness, because he’d fall off if he didn’t cling. Her waist, that was. Iriya weaved left then right then left, route changing at such a speed that equilibrium was off and the scooter made ridiculously scary inclines. Almost sliding off the seat. Knife at her back grazing his cheek that hurt like hell, and, wind whipping up her hair into his face so he couldn’t see anything around, and one of his sneakers skidding on the asphalt with ridiculous force, dancing down the white line as she went left then right then left. Almost 200 km/h, probably.
Suddenly. Car horns honked behind.
The pursuer was here. 30-meters-about back, crashing down a trash can with a sideways skid as the bike shot out the alley and yielded over to the centrifugal force. Considerably used Super Cub, with a masked rider. Male. Someone was riding as back passenger, but Iriya’s hair was in the way so he couldn’t see.
That exhaust sound.
Asaba turned back. Inadvertently eating a clump of Iriya’s hair in the process, but, brushing it away – that engine noise was somehow familiar to his ears. Confirmation needed. But, just in the act of… Iriya threw her body forward and left-swerved, bike flying in space before smacking onto the pavement and then heading off into a narrow alley. Bursting out the other side, doubling on the throttle. Horns blared, and an old man fell backwards onto the footpath, jeering while waving his stick at them.
Unshakeable. Could’ve been the bike or the technique, but every time Iriya turned a corner, it was as though the Super Cub was bearing just behind them.
“WEEEAAAAKKKK!!! Is that all you got Correspondent Iriya!! IS that all you GOT?! Are you a JOURNALIST or a CHILD?!”
“GAAAAAAAH STOOOPPPP NOOOOOOWWW HEEELLLLPPP DOOOOOWWWWNNN NOOOOOOWWW!!!!!!!!!!”
Chasing on. Summer heat striking their bodies like heavy clay. Not too far from the center of town, and yet there were no longer tall buildings in view. The fashionable shops fell away to the country stink, and from between the houses you could spot a field or a farm. Scenery blowing past their back like wind. Suizenji laughing. Yuuko screaming. The Super Cub gradually gaining on. Iriya lacked adequate knowledge of the area, and Suizenji had the chance to drive past her, but relinquished it, choosing rather to gnaw at her heels like a vengeful ghost.
Entering another alley, the scooter weaved through the parked cars into a county road.
Changing course from west to south. Reading her intention, he smugly smiled. Beyond here was shopping district, and it continued into residential area. Revving up an engine into a place like that would cause the inhabitants confusion – enough to escape. There’s no way I’ll let that happen. Cutting past railway line and red light, ignoring the screaming (stop stooop STOOOP!!) Yuuko and earnestly chasing on. At a bend, the road narrowed. Iriya narrowly swerved past a truck parked on the side and the brief contact sent the right-side mirror flying. The road gave way to a soft descent leading to a river that flowed into town and a bridge and an irregular crossroad – and,
A stray dog.
This moment. Through Suizenji’s eyes:
This moment, with seemingly extreme force, Iriya threw forth the bike into a steep incline at a ridiculous velocity, losing the tire traction and sending the rear wheel rolling forward, but, barely keeping the right turn at the cross, twisting the course of the scooter completely .
He saw it up to there.
Perhaps, if Yuuko had not been riding passenger, he could have done it too.
Perhaps, but he was so drawn to Iriya’s extreme action that he slowed down, and the confused dog that blocked his path was another calamity. The result: without anywhere else to go, the Super Cub forged forwards, brushing past the guardrail and flying over the No Fishing sign – dancing. Yuuko was dancing in space and Suizenji was dancing in space.
And she screamed:
And he screamed:
“THIS IS BLIIIIIIIIISSSSSSSSSS!!!”
And in the evening summer sky, it was beautiful.
The scooter decelerated, and Asaba could finally turn back, just in time to catch a magnificent column of water sprout slowly from the water’s surface.
“Ah! They fell, they fell! Into the river!”
Not knowing what was a good thing to say or do, he settled on repeating ‘they fell’. Goingly slowly, Iriya made a fleeting glance into the remaining left mirror, revved up the throttle, and changed Asaba’s ‘they fell’ into a ‘woooaaaahhh’.
Down the river’s sidelong road, they escaped.
(to be continued)