Dad Comes Home
It happened on September 2, close to the end of summer vacation.
Since morning, no one in the house had been able to settle down.
Mom was restless: cleaning, fixing her makeup again and again, running around like a Japanese dancing mouse (I have no idea what a Japanese dancing mouse is; I’m just repeating what I’ve heard adults say).
Even though they were usually out on Sunday afternoons, my two sisters were home and watching a Korean soap opera on television. And even I should have been listening to my favorite music or playing a video game—or visiting those unusual friends of mine who lived nearby.
But today I didn’t want to take a single step out of the house. Why do you think that was?
You know, of course.
Actually . . .
Whoa. Before I talk about the reason, first a little about those unusual friends.
Until about six months ago I had not been treated well at school or home. I always had too much free time, and I was always below average in sports and my studies. I guess you could say that the only interest I had was creating, in secret, my own figurines in my room. I used them to act out meaningless little plays, steeping myself in deluded dreams . . . that is, as I said, until about six months ago, when during the long vacation of Golden Week, I got swept up in an adventure that could blow your mind.
It was through that incident that I had made my friends.
And they weren’t the kind of friends you just go out to dinner with or play computer games with, either. My comrades were psychics—people with supernatural powers—who took me on life-threatening but thrilling adventures.
Allow me to introduce them:
First is Ayano Fujimura, the girl who sits next to me in class. She’s half Japanese; her left eye is blue-gray, her right eye brown; and she’s the most popular girl at our school, Kikyo ga Oka Junior High, bar none. Her hair has a touch of chestnut and is straight, the effect of her eyes being different colors is striking, her height is just right at five-foot-two, and her weight, well, I don’t know, but it’s probably on the lighter side of average.
Frankly, half the boys in my class are in love with her. But she’s more than pretty. Ayano has a mysterious power.
It’s a power called “astral projection,” which basically means her spirit can cast off her body and do stuff like inhabit another person’s body, or see stuff that’s far away. In fact, my adventure of six months ago had started when Ayano’s astral projection had come into my room seeking help.
Next up is Kaito Himuro. Like me and Ayano, he’s fourteen years old, but Kaito looks older. Kaito, who grew up on the mean streets of Yokohama’s Nationless Quarter, is really tall and has a bit of a “bad boy” air about him. He is a psychoburner. Apparently that’s what you call the power to convert psychic waves into heat. To put it simply, maybe you could say he’s a psychic who uses fire.
Xiao Long Baim is half Chinese. Two years younger than me, he’s a seventh grader at Kikyo ga Oka Junior High. A slender, beautiful boy, Xiao Long has the power of qigong: he can use the power of qi to throw people and to heal illness and injuries.
And then there is Jôi Toma.
He’s a genius-level psychic. Although he’s supposedly just fourteen years old like me, there were rumors going around about him and Akira Hiyama, who worked as the school janitor. What kind of rumors, you ask? Well, that they were “involved,” of course! Jôi definitely spent a lot of time in Hiyama’s room, and when they were seen walking around, side by side, they made a lovely couple. But I knew all about how that wasn’t the real reason they were together so frequently.
Incidentally, Jôi has the power of psychometry, which is like mind reading. But he also has another, even more important ability: the genuine power of clairvoyance.
Now, I don’t want you thinking, “Yeah, sure he does.” The reason is that, unlike those psychic charlatans you see on TV, Jôi’s prescience is on-target one hundred percent of the time.
This was an amazing thing. Because if he said “the world will be destroyed tomorrow,” then you could be sure that’s just what would happen. But then, as you might expect, there also seemed to be things that Jôi didn’t know. And in those instances where Jôi, using his clairvoyance, would create a “time paradox,” or a contradiction in the flow of time, his powers didn’t work. But he’s definitely a super psychic, because things flashed into his head just before they were about to happen, allowing him to do things like dodge bullets.
Accordingly, of the four who had escaped from the Greenhouse, Jôi was definitely the leader. The Greenhouse was a psychic training center run by a group shrouded in mystery where my friends had once been held captive. They were the first friends I ever had.
But I had made two more in the course of my adventures:
One was Takemaru Hidama. He’s now my classmate, and probably my best friend, but, when we first met, he was my enemy. Takemaru tried to kill me with his amazingly powerful psychokinesis—a power so extraordinary he was able to destroy the gymnasium we were fighting in.
The second was Maya Kasuga. She had also once tried to kill me, but now we get along great. What can I say? A lot of things have happened. When we meet, we still playfully insult each other back and forth, but maybe she kinda, y’know, likes me . . . oh, forget I even said anything. You’ll think I’m the kind of guy who gets the wrong idea, so let’s just not go there.
I was grinning at these thoughts when a feminine voice inside my head said: You were thinking that maybe I what . . . ?
It was Maya. Speak of the devil. It seemed she was peeking inside my head from somewhere else. Let me tell you, telepaths can be scary!
What’s a guy gotta do to be able to have a quiet think around here?
What, again? I told you, you can’t just go peeping inside someone’s head anytime you want! I showed my anger without speaking aloud to her, naturally. It felt like Maya had left, but my sister Hanae, who was sitting diagonally across me, eyed me suspiciously.
I cleared my throat as a cover-up, and, doing my best to make sure it didn’t show on my face, I faced Maya inside my mind and addressed her directly: It is in poor taste to peek into someone’s head. It’s an invasion of privacy.
Oh, my, Maya laughed, that’s just because you’re worried about what I might see. But forget about that now. Are you doing anything today? Back at the station, I found a bakery with the most delicious sweets. You don’t have anything going on, do you? Want to go?
Was this any way to invite a person out?
Maya was always like this. Well, it wasn’t like she meant anything by it, but who wouldn’t be rubbed the wrong way? It didn’t make me feel so good, but it didn’t make me feel so bad, either.
By the way, Maya was pretending to be someone totally different at school: Sayaka Mamidori. Using her power of telepathy, Maya could make people see her however she wanted. She had made herself look really pretty, so she was the next most popular with the boys after Ayano. Kind of sneaky, maybe.
Well, if they knew what she was really like, they’d probably all back off.
I mean, her face was cute, but personality-wise, she was really, really ill-natured.
Well, excuse me if I have some personality problems! Maya’s angry voice resounded inside my head.
She seemed a little hurt, and I couldn’t bear that.
Oh, no, all I mean is, if you’d just be nice, I would think you were cuter, that’s all, I followed hurriedly.
Y-you think so? What is nice like? I don’t know. Explain it to me.
Explain it to you? That’s not as easy as you think.
Even though I thought Maya was a pretty strange girl, lately she’d begun to grow on me . . . no, what was I saying? Ayano was the only one for me . . .
Huh? What was that about Ayano?
Uh-oh. Not good. Maya and Ayano fought like cats and dogs.
C’mon. Is something going on with Ayano?
No, nothing. Anyway, sorry about today. Can I go with you to the bakery next time? I have something going on where I can’t leave the house.
Oh, I see . . . Shoot. Well, that’s okay. But you’re definitely coming with me next time. Telepathic access cut off, like someone hanging up a phone on the other end.
Had I made her angry? Well, that’s the way it went. Besides, today was . . .
Oh! I’m getting sidetracked. I’m always with these same people, and lately we’ve been having lots of fun. But let’s get back to the reason why I’m not leaving the house at all today.
Drum roll, please. . . .
The reason is . . .
Dad’s coming home!
Huh? What do you mean, no big deal? Well, okay, maybe so, but to me and my family, it was kind of amazing.
Dad had been sent by his company to work in another city and had been living far from his family for a long time. Now he was coming home.
We’d heard about it suddenly one month ago. That day the atmosphere inside the house had brightened. Dad was absolutely essential to the Hase family. It wasn’t because he did anything particularly special. Mom prepared all the meals, natch. Mom and Suzue, my oldest sister, did the cleaning. Hanae, my next oldest sister, cleaned the bathtub, and for several years now, it had been my job to change the lightbulbs.
Even when Dad was home on Saturday, he didn’t do much. He read the newspaper, ate, with apparent en- joyment, the food Mom made, and sat around on the couch. But the moment there was any kind of bad atmosphere hanging over the family, Dad could clear the air with just a word of advice. That’s what made Dad Dad.
Even if he was just your typical businessman who worked at some company that wasn’t particularly famous, he was the mainstay of our family. Without him, me, my sisters, and, of course, Mom, too, would fall apart.
I’d come to realize how true this was a little over a year ago, when Dad’s company sent him to work in Kyushu—without us. After he left, Mom burst into tears, my sisters got angry, and I couldn’t sleep from the anxiety. I remember well how, on the day Dad left, the rest of us just sat around the house in a daze. In the end, we ate take-out udon noodles for dinner.
My mom and sisters had mercilessly turned their anger on the only male, me. My life became a bed of nails every day for the next year.
But recently, because of all the things that had happened, I had done a lot of growing up. Now I was better able to slip through the constant barrage of gunfire my family continually shot at me.
Well, this was why for the past three days our home hadn’t been able to settle down. Yesterday, Mom, my sisters, and of course, I, too, had hardly been able to sleep a wink. Just half a day more . . . just five hours more . . . just two hours more . . . just one hour more . . .
Four people sat at the dining room table that was just a little too big for four, pretending to be calm but fidgeting, too embarrassed to let the other three see it.
Ding dong. The doorbell rang!
“Coming!” we all called out.
We all exchanged looks and then ran to the front door.
“Dad? Dad, it’s you, isn’t it!” from me.
“Sweetheart? Welcome home!” from Mom.
“Dad! What did you bring us?!” my sisters said at the same time.
“It’s the delivery man,” came the answer.
Four people lurched, deflated, almost collapsing.
But in the next moment, the door was opened and a pair of great big eyes like mine peeked in through the crack in the doorway. Smiling, he said playfully, “Hey, everybody, I’m home!”
We had intended to greet him serenely, but Dad’s dumb gag had stripped the four of us of our composure. The moment we saw his face, we burst into tears.
Summer vacation was winding down at Kikyo ga Oka Junior High.
The school grounds were open until three p.m. for extracurricular club activities. In a school like this, away from the big city and with nothing particularly outstanding about it, there weren’t very many students who were enthusiastic about club activities until the last possible minute on a day like today, when the weather was good.
Because of this lack of interest, most of the faculty advisers left a little after two. This left Akira Hiyama, the school’s caretaker and security guard, wondering, as she watered the lawn on the south side of the school grounds, what time she should close the school gate.
“Hiyama-san!” someone called her.
There were maybe only two people at the school who addressed her by name.
One was Kakeru Hase, and the other was . . .
“Geez, Jôi. I’m working,” she answered, purposefully keeping her back to him.
Lately, it had been somehow awkward to talk with Jôi one-on-one like this. She was scared her feelings would show on her face.
No, even if he didn’t see it on her face, he was a psychometer who could read minds. Better get rid of him before he figured it out.
“Scram. I’m busy.”
“Sorry to bother you, Hiyama-san. I’d like to talk to you.”
“You can talk from where you are if you have something to say,” Hiyama said.
“All right, in that case . . .”
The hose was spurting water, and the wind fanned it over her face in a little spray. Then the late summer sun dried the droplets on her cheeks, stinging her slightly.
“Lately, you’ve been missing work a lot and you’re not at the school. You’re almost never here on Saturdays,” Jôi said.
“Yeah, true. It’s because of the job. The other one. You knew that, right?”
The job she meant was her work with Crimers.
For the past two or three months, she and Kyosuke Sasaki, her former supervisor, had been investigating the repeated occurrences of supernatural phenomena in the town and adjacent areas. Between the two of them, they were beginning to reach a particular conclusion, but this was not something she could share with Jôi. Although, since this was Jôi she was dealing with, it’s possible he already knew everything about it: he might have already read Hiyama-san’s mind.
“You promised not to ask about that other job of mine, Jôi. And reading my mind is breaking the rules. You understand that, don’t you?”
“Of course I understand that. I mean, these days I don’t read your mind. Somehow I feel like I shouldn’t.”
“W-what’s with that? Don’t talk that way, it bothers me.” Feeling her face grow hot, Hiyama purposely sent some spray from the hose high in the air and looked up to catch some on her face. “That’s all you had to say? If so, scram.”
“No, there was something else I wanted to talk about but . . . it can wait. I thought it might be the last chance we have to talk.”
“Jôi . . .” Hiyama’s heart thumped as she watched Jôi’s retreating back.
Although she didn’t have the power to read minds, Hiyama felt as if Jôi’s feelings had come rushing into her heart.
Just as she was bewildered by being drawn to a boy more than twelve years younger than herself—one complete cycle of the Chinese zodiac—Jôi’s heart was in turmoil in just the same way for having feelings for a woman so much older.
The wordless exchange of feelings—not being able to put it into words—made Hiyama happy. But that last phrase stuck in her mind.
“The last chance we have.” What did that mean? Well, whatever.
Hiyama gazed up at a late summer sky that was as blue as blue could be. She lost herself in the sky’s blueness. The she started as she noticed a rainbow at the edge of the wide expanse. “Another rainbow . . .”
Yet it hadn’t been caused by water spray. The rainbow was up in the sky, no doubt about it. But it hadn’t rained yesterday, and today the chance of rain was supposed to be less than ten percent.
Which meant that, as she had suspected, the rainbow was . . .
“The last chance we have.”
Why today, on such a beautiful, relaxing day, did he say something so foreboding?
She was soon to find out the reason.
Just hours later, the curtain would rise on a battle in which the young comrades would once again risk their lives.
For at least an hour and a half after his return home, my dad wound up listening to a one-sided barrage from my mom, my sisters, and me about all the stuff, and I do mean all the stuff, that had been piling up for a while.
After the initial onslaught, my mom made coffee for the five of us. For the first time in a really long time, there were five cups, including one for Dad, on the table.
During the year he had been working in Kyushu, he’d come home only three times. And even those times he had arrived in the evening and left the next morn- ing, so we never had time to drink coffee together as a family.
“Delicious! Mom’s coffee is the best there is,” said Dad. From anyone else this would sound like flattery, but from Dad it was different. Dad was the kind of person who never flattered idly.
Mom knew this and smiled. “Oh, my, there wasn’t someone else making coffee for you down there, was there?” She pretended to be upset to cover up how pleased she was.
As she said this, Mom looked as cute as a young girl. My mother the nag was a totally different person from this one. And my two sisters sipped their coffee happily, not once complaining about a single thing I did.
Ah, how peaceful it was.
Maybe, with Dad around, I would stay home on Saturdays instead of hanging out at Jôi’s place.
“Kakeru . . .” said my dad, after asking Mom for more coffee, “I hear you’ve made a lot of friends.”
I had told Dad about Jôi and the others in the letters I wrote to him every weekend. Of course, I hadn’t mentioned that my friends were psychics being pursued by bad people, and that I had become involved in this huge adventure where I had almost died, and that it was still going on.
My dad could smile and forget almost anything, but if I told him the truth, it might make even someone like him flip out and take me to the hospital to have my head examined.
“Yeah, Dad,” I said, trying to figure out where to begin, “they’re friends from school. They live in the neighborhood. Like I wrote to you in my letters, for various reasons none of them have any family to live with, but they’re a lot of fun. Oh, don’t worry, Dad. One of them might look kinda like a total drop-out on the outside, but inside he’s not like that at all. In fact, he’s all about doing what’s right.” That was Kaito.
“And when it comes to studying, one of them has the best grades in the whole class by far.” I was talking about Jôi. Maybe he was getting perfect scores on exams by using psychometry or mind reading, or maybe not, but he was definitely really, really smart.
“Oh, I almost forgot. One of them’s two years younger than us, and he’s from China. Sometimes he does this Chinese-style massage thing on me, and my health is great! It used to be that I’d get diarrhea or catch a cold every couple of months.” From time to time Xiao Long did health adjustments on my body with qigong. Once Xiao Long had saved me from getting sick after I’d gotten a bad clam in some spaghetti vongole I’d eaten at a restaurant near the station.
“And there’s this girl who’s so beautiful you’d be shocked. She looks like a model or a movie star.” That was Ayano, of course.
“He thinks about that Ayano girl all the time. Isn’t that stupid? Why would a girl like that want to spend time with him? There’s nothing special about him,” snickered Hanae, the younger of my two sisters.
I deliberately didn’t answer back. In my mind, I smiled. She doesn’t get it, does she?
I should mention that I’m not the same guy I was six months ago. Because, like an anime hero, I had gone through an adventure where my life had been in danger, and I had grown because of it.
My sister could say something like that only because she just didn’t know how important I was to Ayano. I mean, even me, I thought Ayano might love— No! I mean, I wasn’t so presumptuous that I thought Ayano might like me as a guy. But, y’know, she knew she could trust me, and sometimes, over time, that feeling can change into love, right?
“Ayano, she’s the girl who came to our house all those times to get Kakeru, right?” from Suzue, my older sister.
“I think maybe she’s half Japanese. It’s her right eye, or was it her left? They’re different colors, aren’t they? One of them’s blue, so I was thinking she had some Western blood in her. Well, pretty is as pretty does, but she has very nice manners and seems to be of quite good character.” As always, Suzue analyzed things coolly.
“And wasn’t there another girl, the one who caused all that fuss by disappearing with Kakeru? That girl was very pretty, too.”
That was Sayaka Mamidori, the fictional construct who existed only inside the head of the telepathist Maya Kasuga and her classmates.
While we all knew who she really was, and she was our friend—for now—Maya had transferred to our school as Sayaka Mamidori, and that could not be changed.
“Well, whatever. It looks like he’s showing interest in the opposite sex, the dummy,” said Suzue, and poked me in the head with her finger.
“Well, he’s made friends, and that’s a good thing,” said Dad, opening the newspaper.
After a pause, he said, “But if anything comes up, Kakeru, be sure to come to me about it. I won’t be surprised by anything, no matter how big it is, and I’ll be able to come up with the best possible solution for you. All right, Kakeru?” Still smiling, he looked down at a newspaper article. Just for an instant I thought I saw his expression harden and get serious.
I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but my dad might have already known all about it then. That what was about to happen in this peaceful rural community was on a different order of magnitude than anything that had happened before.
And what a cruel fate awaited me . . .
Excerpted from Psycho Busters: The Novel Book Three by Yuya Aoki Rando Ayamine. Copyright © 2008 by Yuya Aoki. Excerpted by permission of Del Rey, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.