I entered Ando Finance and sat down in the front seat with a poker face.
The angle was bad from here, and because of the partition, about half of Kyouka's figure was hidden, but I could tell that four people, including Kyouka, were sitting in that seat.
I quickly noticed that one of them was Akuzawa.
However, the other two had faces that I did not recognize at all. They are probably not employees of this company, judging from the fact that they do not look familiar to me at all. One of them was dressed like a thug, so it was easy to imagine that he was related to the Rindou group.
The other was a timid-looking middle-aged man. Since the man was also covered in a purple aura of "fear," just like Kyouka, it could mean that he was also a victim of Akuzawa, just like her.
In any case, when I saw Kyouka's worried face for a moment, I became very anxious.
I wanted to take Kyouka and leave this place immediately.
But it's not a good idea to cause a commotion here.
It is indeed a last resort.
While it was possible to forcibly rescue her, it would be better to refrain from causing a scene here. It is not because I can't do business with Yasunaga in the future. It was because there was a possibility that Akuzawa already knew where Kyouka lived.
However, so far it does not seem that Kyouka was being harmed by Akuzawa. Given this, should I consider that the turning point was when I received the email from Kyouka?
I could not be absolutely sure, but if that is the case, it was undoubtedly better to save Kyouka using other methods.
For now, I need to find out why Kyouka was brought to this place and how Yasunaga was involved in this matter.
"I'm sorry. Is Yasunaga-san available?" I asked.
"Yes, Masuda-sama. I believe Yasunaga-sama is currently in a meeting with President Takayanagi in the back room. I will call for him to come to you shortly, so please wait here for a moment," the receptionist replied.
"Oh, no. I'm not in a hurry, so it's fine to wait until Yasunaga-san's business is finished," I said.
To tell the truth, I was hoping to get more information from Akuzawa and the others by stalling for as long as possible. So, I did not mind waiting a little longer.
However, the heavily made-up female employee who assisted me should know me well.
I couldn't pretend to be a regular customer, or else Yasunaga would come here right away once contacted.
Now, although Kyouka and the others were a little far away, I could hear Akuzawa's conversation just enough with my good ears. I wanted to get as much information as possible before Yasunaga arrived, so I sat there and eavesdropped on their conversation discreetly.
"So, here's the deal, young lady. If you don't sign here, your father will be in deep trouble. You know he's in debt, right? I've come to your house a few times already. I hate to say this, but I'm in a lot of trouble too. 8 million yen is a lot of money. If I let such a large sum of money get burned, I won't be able to make up for it with just one or two bottles of Enko (a type of Japanese sake) as an apology for my negligence to the higher-up," said Akuzawa.
"F-Father..." stammered Kyouka.
"Ah... I'm so sorry, Kyouka. I really messed up," apologized her father.
"It's fine, young lady. You just pretend to be my companion every once in a while. I mean, you have to entertain some people with drinks sometimes. But there's nothing to worry about. It's just a part-time job. If you don't like a customer, you can refuse them, and I'll teach you how to handle them properly," reassured Akuzawa.
"It’s 8 million yen, father. Why did you lent that much money?" asked Kyouka.
"I-it's... it's for a business I'm trying to start up," explained her father.
"That's right. Your father is trying his best to give his family a comfortable life. But you know, he failed in business and went bankrupt once. Since your mother was also a guarantor at that time, the couple can't get a loan from the bank," interjected Akuzawa.
"But I'm just a student..." protested Kyouka.
"Doesn't matter if you're a student or not. I just need you to lend your name and I'll need some cooperation from you, but it's your father who'll be paying it back," explained Akuzawa.
"But..." Kyouka hesitated.
"K-Kyouka. Please, I'm begging you. Just this once, will you sign it for me? I promise I'll pay it back in six months... no, three months," pleaded her father.
I overheard their conversation
From the sound of the conversation, the middle-aged man seems to be Kyouka's father.
I say "seems" because I did not know Kyouka's father at all.
Moreover, I had never met him before, and Kyouka had always given off a vibe that she didn't want me to visit her home.
However, for some reason, I recognized the voice of the man who claimed to be Kyouka's father.
I was sure of it.
It was the same voice as the man who was about to be trapped by Akuzawa and burdened with debt when I went to visit Ando Finance and talked with Yasunaga.
I didn't get a good look at the man's face because I went into the office right away, but it must have been the same man. That would mean that the man at that time was Kyouka's father....
As I was thinking about this, a heavily made-up female employee came in with Yasunaga and Takayanagi.
"Well, well, Masuda-san, welcome back. Did you come to do business with us today as well?" Yasunaga greeted.
"Yes. You said it was okay to come early, so I did. I'm in need of cash these days. I'm sorry to trouble Yasunaga-san, but..." I replied.
"Thank you for saying so. Well then, here it is." I placed the attaché case on the desk, and Yasunaga turned to Takayanagi. "Thank you. Hey, Takayanagi, just like always," Yasunaga said.
"Got it," Takayanagi replied, taking the attaché case and disappearing into the back office without checking its contents.
"We shouldn't stand around here chatting. I can only offer you a cup of coffee, but please go to the back of the office," Yasunaga suggested.
"I'm sorry to bother you, Yasunaga-san. I'm fine right here this time," I declined.
"Is that so? I see, I see. By the way, the women of 'L'OASI' were looking forward to your visit as well, Masuda-san. I'm a little busy today, so I won't be able to to accompany you, but if you have some free time later, would you like to stop by over there as well?" Yasunaga mentioned.
"I would love to, but I have plans after this. I'm sorry. I'll definitely drop by next time. By the way, I heard that Akuzawa-san might be coming. Is that related to this?" I inquired.
My question made Yasunaga's gaze suddenly sharp.
For a moment, Yasunaga looked as if he wondered if it was all right to talk to me, but he quickly decided that it was okay. Unlike the last time, Kyouka, who is a minor, is involved this time, so there's no doubt that it's a dangerous situation.
The fact that he was still willing to talk to me was a proof that I had earned Yasunaga's trust.
"Yes, well, something like that," replied Yasunaga.
"I'm sorry. I know it's a rude question, but I couldn't help but wonder. You know, there was a time when Akuzawa-san was here when I dropped by before, just like this time. I remember hearing about a 2 million yen debt and a conversation with Yasunaga-san. I couldn't help but notice the similarity in voices," I continued.
"You have a good memory, huh? And, yes, that's right. As you say, Masuda-san, that was the worthless scumbag who was here last time," replied Yasunaga.
"As I thought. And the woman sitting next to him?" I asked.
"That's Amasawa's daughter. Oh, that scumbag's name is Amasawa, by the way. Poor girl. She has no idea she's about to fall into hell," Yasunaga replied.
"Hell?" I asked.
"That's just what I think Akuzawa is planning. He's going to take her to his room to pay her debts, and after he uses sex and drugs to trap her, he's going to drown her in the sex industry. She's young and good-looking, so she could make him a lot of money," Yasunaga explained.
Yasunaga's words brought back memories of a scene from my past.
If I don't do anything, will the result be exactly the same as the scene in my memory?
However, I do not know how Akuzawa came to know about Kyouka, but I could roughly understand why Kyouka is in this place now.
At the same time, I can vaguely understand how Yasunaga was involved in this situation, albeit vaguely.
"What? Are you saying that her father sold his own daughter? I don't mean to criticize what Akuzawa-san is doing, but he's her own father, isn't he?" I asked, trying to feign curiosity.
I have heard of parents selling their daughters in poverty-stricken areas of certain countries, and even in Japan, it had happened in the past.
In any case, I must avoid the situation where people might suspect that something is going on between me and Kyouka. I have to pretend that I'm just asking out of curiosity.
No, that is not enough to solve the problem. I needed to come up with a suitable reason to take Kyouka out of this place peacefully...
"There are hopeless scumbags in this world who are addicted to gambling. When those people are in need of money, they will sell anything they can, even their own daughters. No, maybe they just think they still have a chance to make a comeback. Still, the loan is 8 million yen in total, of which only 1 million yen is to be given to Amasawa. It wouldn't be surprising if he thought he could do something with that money," Yasunaga explained.
"Is that because of gambling?" I asked.
"Probably so. What else do you think that scumbag could do?" Yasunaga replied.
"When we talked before, you said he had a debt of 2 million yen, right? And I believe we talked about keeping the interest rate temporarily low. Why did it suddenly become an 8 million yen debt?" I asked again.
"Well, he already loaned money from Akuzawa several times after that. It's within reason for the interest rate, not like loan sharks or anything. It's a common pattern where they pay off the interest and take on new debts to try to make a big jump. Moreover, he is a typical scumbag who spends more than half of the money he borrows on gambling, instead of allocating all of it to repayment," Yasunaga explained.
So, was Kyouka's life ruined over a mere 8 million yen of borrowed money?
And she was sold out by her own father.
Of course, even a salaried worker can have their life ruined with a 5 million yen loan from a consumer finance company, let alone from a black-leaning consumer finance company like Yasunaga's. And his father was even more in debt after this. And there is no guarantee that her father will not go further into debt later on.
"That's, uh, I don't even know what to say about that..." I muttered.
"Children can't choose their parents, so I guess the best option is to cut ties with such parents as soon as possible. Akuzawa also good at manipulating that kind of situation. He suggests to the daughter to do a little part-time work and help her parents out, for instance," Yasunaga explained.
"At first glance, that girl seems quite young, though?" I asked
"Yes. She's a 17-year-old high school student. However, even minors can borrow from consumer finance companies. But without the consent of the parent or guardian, there is no obligation to repay the loan, so usually lenders don't lend to minors without the consent of their guardians. In this case, since Amasawa, the parent, has consented to the loan, Akuzawa can't pretend not to know about it," Yasunaga elaborated.
"I see," I replied
"Well, the daughter could technically file for personal bankruptcy, but it's been promised that Amasawa will be the guarantor, so either way there won't be any loose ends," Yasunaga added.
"Even if the daughter goes bankrupt, Akuzawa will simply give up," I speculated.
"Yes, that's right. Considering Amasawa's current financial situation, there's no way he could pay back the 8 million yen we've lent, so it will fall on Akuzawa to cover the cost. And you know how it is with yakuza - once you show weakness, it's over. He'll push them until they break, even if it's reckless," Yasunaga concluded.
In that case, the only option would be for me to shoulder Amasawa's debt
There's no helping it.
8 million yen is a sum I can handle easily now. But why would James Masuda, a complete stranger, do that?
And there is also the problem of Kyouka's father.
Even if I temporarily cover his debt, it's unlikely that Kyouka's father will become an upstanding person because of it
In the end, the only way is to cut off the relationship with her father once and for all, but it was because Kyouka couldn't do that in the past that she fell into Akusawa's hands.
No, I shouldn't be thinking about that now. My first priority now is to get Kyouka out of here, no matter what it takes. What to do about her father will have to be considered later.
"Hmm. If that's the case, can I have a request?" I asked.
"A request?" Yasunaga repeated.
"Yes. But it's not a request for Yasunaga-san, but rather for Akuzawa-san," I clarified.
"I see. And what is it?" Yasunaga inquired.
I pause for a moment and take a breath.
I can't afford to panic now.
It's inevitable that I'll be a little suspicious, given that there's no real reason for James Masuda to want to help Kyouka from the beginning.
But I have to find a way to make this deal work.
"Would it be possible for me to take custody of that parent and child, rather than having them handed over to him?"
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