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And so, as I leaned against the wall of the hotel in a corner of the entertainment district, I gulped down a 60-yen Coke from a vending machine labeled "Very Cheap".
It's almost eleven o'clock. Three hours have passed since Kizuna entered the convenience store.
Maybe it's a bad location, but during those three hours, I was asked four times by dirty-looking old men, "Nee-chan, how much?" but each time I just pretended to be a tourist who didn't understand Japanese to get by.
As I observed the hotel closely, there are many people coming and going from the hotel. Some of them are probably my classmates, after all, some of their faces looked familiar to me.
Then, looking up at the towering hotel, I felt a ridiculous feeling as I thought, “Everyone is having sex in this hotel...”.
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The fact that facilities dedicated to that exist without a care in the world makes me feel the depth of humanity.
But while I was thinking about such unimportant things, I saw Kizuna coming out of the convenience store.
She had her hood pulled up tightly to cover her eyes. And with her hands in the pockets of her hoodie, she starts walking down the street of the hotel towards the station.
Her steps are slow, as if she's gauging the distance between her and the person in front of her. As I follow her, I look beyond Kizuna's gaze to the person ahead of her.
There is a couple walking close to each other. Rather than cuddling, they are holding each other in their arms.
As I saw it, I realized that Kobayashi-sensei is dragging the woman, who is walking unsteadily as if she is drunk, by his side.
（...What kind of situation is that?）
The person Kizuna is following is Kobayashi-sensei. That's for sure. But the woman's face is not clearly visible from here.
However, when I saw a passer-by who passed Kobayashi-sensei and the others looking at them, they have startled expression.
（...What’s wrong? Is he a celebrity or something?）
After following them for a while, Kobayashi-sensei and the others went into a narrow alley.
However, Kizuna stopped at the entrance of the alley they had entered, and instead of entering the alley, she began to walk quickly down the street toward the station.
It was as if she is running away from this place.
◇ ◇ ◇
I heard Sensei's groaning voice, but due to the impact of someone knocking into him, I, who couldn't even stand on my own, separated from Sensei's hand, staggered, and fell on my buttocks.
It's like a fender bender. If I had bit into a piece of bread, I would have fallen in love with him. That's what I thought.
As I put my hand on my bruised hip, I look up.
But my eyelids are swollen and my vision is narrow.
So I look into the darkness of the back alley with a blurry scene, and there are two men fighting each other, illuminated by the neon lights coming from the street.
One is, of course, Kobayashi-sensei.
The other is a slender man in an aloha shirt.
Oddly enough, the man's face is hidden by a wooden mask that looks like a folk art from Southeast Asia.
（Eh!? Eh!? Wh, what!? What is this?）
My mind is in chaos. After all, it's not like someone came to save me from Kobayashi-sensei's hands. It must be a knockout robbery or something. Or so I thought.
「Gugh... W-Who are you... bastard...」
With a look of pain on his face, Sensei punch him, and the mask of the man who had been knocked away bounced off the ground with a clank, clank!.
Seeing the face of the man who appeared from under the mask, Sensei's expression showed a hint of confusion.
「Huh... seriously, who are you?」
In the flickering neon lights, the man's face is illuminated for a moment. Short, unkempt blond hair, scorched skin the color of deep coffee. He had a strong face with a bit of gills and a strong chin... that's what the man looked like.
Apparently, Sensei doesn’t know him. Of course I don't know him either.
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The man's eyes are bloodshot and his chest is up and down as he breathes hard. He doesn't seem to be used to this kind of thing. Rather, I saw more desperation, as if he was in a panic.
Without saying a word, the man made an effort to force himself, and Sensei screamed, "Guuagh!".
With that act, Sensei collapses to his knees. But, as I watched in amazement, I saw a bloody knife in the man's hand.
Is it a survival knife? It is a heavy knife with a blade nearly 20 centimeters long.
Seeing it, I realized for the first time that Sensei had been stabbed.
He fell to the ground, moaning and shaking. I could see a dark-red stain spreading around his side.
「No... no way, eh...」
I couldn't keep my mouth shut. My head is in complete confusion from the sudden event.
But the man, who is breathing hard, looks at me. And then--
「You saw my face, huh...」
He spat bitterly and started to walk towards me with his face tense.
◇ ◇ ◇
I stopped at the entrance of the alley.
（...I thought she was following Kobayashi-sensei...）
I looked around confusedly at Kizuna's back, which was moving away quickly, and the dark alleyway that Kobayashi-sensei and others had entered.
But just as I turned my eyes toward the alleyway, I saw something shining in the dim darkness, reflecting the flickering neon lights.
（What is it?）
As I stare at it, I see the figures of several people.
A shadow of a person lying on the ground, a person cornered against the wall, and another person with a knife in hand approaching. Such a scene.
This, as expected, made me panic.
No matter how I looked at it, it’s the scene of a murder. A murder is about to occur right in front of me.
（Wh-Wh-Wh-What should I do?）
But I'm a saint, I can't let this go unnoticed.
Before I could think of anything scary or dangerous, I started to run towards the man. However, I'm in charge of the rough stuff. I'm not as strong as others. There's no way I could win in a fight.
I shouted at the top of my voice as I rushed towards the man and I jumped up in surprise. And then, the man ran away to the back of the alley as if in a hurry.
To tell the truth, I was relieved. My heart is pounding like a fast bell. It's really fortunate that the other side ran away.
The one lying on the ground is Kobayashi-sensei. I don't know if I should call him lucky, but he's letting out a groan. Still breathing.
Then, I sat down and turned my eyes towards the girl who is in a daze. Because it was dimly lit, I couldn't make out who she was, but her face is swollen to a pulp, as if she'd been beaten up pretty badly.
（Anyway... police and ambulance...）
I pull my phone out of my hip pocket and tap the number 110.
Outside the alley, a crowd of people must have heard me shouting. After all, there is a noise, which sounds like the rustling of awn in the wind.