For a moment I have to restrain myself to look at the woman with the dark brown hair, which is cut to a lob with a layered end, like an exotic animal. She transforms the crispy chicken katsu sandwich into bare air at breathtaking speed, while she occasionally slips a few potato sticks in between or sips from her can of cold oolong tea.
Satsu is in a class of her own. The petite and reserved-looking woman is always good for a surprise when she shows her true colors. It is not just a fact that can be observed in her eating habits. Otherwise her cheerful nature and the energy she radiates is almost contagious. Because of this, she was very popular among the other cadets during her time at the police academy.
"Chiyoko-chan, why are you looking at me like that? And above all, aren't you hungry? If you can't manage your potato sticks, I'll be happy to eat some for you."
In a brief moment of inattention, Satsu-chan notices that I am a little absorbed in the sight. At first she mostly eats the potato sticks and then she 'kindly' offers me to help me with my part. Sometimes I am amazed at the hasty behavior on her part. On the other hand, you can never be angry with her when you have that big grin and slightly flushed cheeks in front of your eyes.
"O-oh, nothing special. It always fascinates me how so much fits into you," I reply, a little embarrassed.
"How do you think that fits into me? I can't help it that you eat so little, " Satsu-chan says, unimpressed. Then she sips briefly from her can of oolong tea and slowly sets it down next to her on the bench.
"Or do you mean to say that I am voracious?" she suddenly asks and gives me a sharp look that clearly tells me 'don't you dare'.
"Nooo, no, not at all. It was just a remark, everything is fine," I try to talk myself out of it and wave my hands a little to drive her thought out. Even if I mean it, Satsu's aura is downright terrifying.
"Then I'm glad. I thought you'd look at me because I behave like an animal."
Critical hit. In a way, I am not sure if the statement is slightly naive or if she gets it and warns me of my hint. It is better to change the subject before she continues doing remarks.
"I'm really glad that it worked out today, Satsu-chan. I always feel a little bad when we don't see each other for a long time. But our schedules are really stupid at the moment."
"Now don't apologize, everything is fine. It's no different for me either. They're all going crazy about Umi no Hi the day after tomorrow. I hope the workload will decrease again in the next few weeks."
"Yes absolutely. I'm looking forward to having a few days off. This year is really tough. But I have to say, I learned a lot in this first year. The colleagues are very nice and experienced, especially in our koban."
"I'm really happy for you. I also learned a lot. My sergeant can be a pretty beastly woman at times, though. Sometimes I would like to have this Shiro-bucho as a superior. By the way, you still haven't shown me a picture of him. I'm sure he's hot and that's why you're hiding him from me, haha."
"N-not at all, nothing is hot about him. If you knew him, you'd know how annoying he is. Let me take a quick look, I think I have one that I took the other day. It should be there if you really want to see it, " I say, a little annoyed, and look through the recent pictures on my smartphone.
While I am skipping a few pictures of blooming plants and cute animals, I notice one from our koban. I took it unintentionally recently when I was actually trying to take a picture of a broken lamp on the ceiling. Even before I had properly focused the lamp, Shiro-bucho jumped in between, who then quickly repaired it himself. I accidentally took a picture of his side instead of the lamp. Somehow it was really interesting, that is probably why I did not delete it right away. And now it even pays off.
"Here you have one. Hopefully you are satisfied with it, your hints are really getting on my nerves," I tell Satsu-chan and hand her the smartphone over.
"Hoo. Hmm. Not bad, even really athletic-" it slips from her mouth. It seems as if drool is almost running down her face while she examines the slightly blurred image like an appraiser.
"Now stop it again. You've stared at him enough, I'll delete that now," I interrupt her focused gaze and try to take the smartphone out of her hand, but I encounter a little resistance on her part.
"Come on Chiyoko-chan. Don't be such a spoiler, I haven't really looked at him yet-" Satsu-chan says in a tearful tone when I can finally take the smartphone out of her hand. Then I delete the picture amid her feigned protest. It is enough that I see him often at work. I do not want to find him in between my pictures.
"No, that's enough now. Maybe I'll introduce him to you one day, then you can examine him enough. I don't want drool or chicken katsu ending up on my smartphone. And by the way, look for someone in your ward. I thought your sergeant had a fondness for you, " I remark and I know for sure that I hit one of her sore points.
"Urgh, just stop it. I don't want to think about the way she stares at me sometimes. I wish I could give her a lot of trouble at sparring, but instead she takes me apart with relish and usually defeats me by putting me through the wringer."
Within a second, Satsu-chan's humor turns into a slightly depressive trauma. Even if I notice that she overacts a little.
"Yes I can feel your pain. But even if Shiro-bucho is quite athletic, I can still get a lot out of him when sparring. Technically, I've improved a lot lately. I would like to show you, maybe I'll get the opportunity some time."
"Oh, that sounds really tempting. I already experienced your progress in the academy. We really have to do this again. How I would like to have Hikaru-chan with us too."
"Yes, you maybe. I don't know how she would see it. I never got the impression that she was extremely fond of the martial arts. Nevertheless, she is quite talented, I have to give her that."
"It's a shame that there is so much going on at the moment. Especially in Shinsui, Umi no Hi is one of the most important days of the year. It would be really great if the three of us could meet soon again."
She is right. I have not seen Hikaru-chan in a long time. Only in our chat group do we regularly exchange ideas and send each other pictures from different occasions. From time to time the three of us talk over the phone. At the moment, however, a little less because she works a lot of night shifts, unlike the two of us. I wonder what she gets to do on Umi no Hi.
"I'm sure it will be fine somehow. Now enjoy the day, even for the two of us it is difficult enough to find a suitable day."
"I absolutely do. It's kind of nostalgic hanging out in front of a convenience store. We often did that in school after club meetings."
"Yes, really? It was the same for me. I miss my school days a little. On the other hand, I'm really happy that I made it this far. A few years ago I would not have believed it. I mean to work for the police."
"Do you mean it? I don't know. Maybe you are right. I had so much planned for the time after high school. And then I kind of let it slide and the first time I just bridged it by helping my parents in the restaurant. It wasn't a bad time and I think they were quite happy about it. But on the other hand, it was also uncertainty that held me. At some point taking courage to go to the police was foreseeable. Maybe I didn't believe myself to do it at the beginning."
"That doesn't sound like you at all. For me you are always the person whose energy and joy I would like to have."
Until now, I have never really thought much about why Satsu-chan only started training to become a police officer when she was twenty. She mentioned that she bridged the time at her parents restaurant, but not for what reason. Based on the energy that she radiates, I have always assumed that she had a good reason.
"What, how strange that sounds. But still. That's really nice when you say that. I always try to be a role model for others. Somehow I think that's my obligation. Even if I wake up in the morning and feel bad. I still want the people out there to have the impression that I am doing my best for them. Even when it rains or bad news is told over and over again on the radio," Satsu-chan says almost as if she were reminiscing.
"You know ..." Satsu-chan begins, "… I've never really told you that before, I think. When I was a child, my father always loved telling me stories from the Heian and Kamakura period. I know that sounds a little silly, but I was very interested in stories like this as a kid and still am. Somehow I am fascinated by this world back then, even if it actually seems more like a hobby for guys."
"No, not at all, it's perfectly fine to be interested in something like that. I was never really interested in history, but I like to listen to it every now and then."
"Thank you. In any case, every time I was really drawn into this world. As if I were part of it or at least I could watch it. Even though I know that many things were probably very cruel and glossed over in literature. I think one figure has shaped me the most."
"Which one is it?"
"Tomoe Gozen's life has always fascinated me. Somehow she has always been a figure to me, a kind of idol. She may be so famous today mainly because she is one of the few female warrior characters in our history. It was not uncommon for women to take part in the war at this time. It was customary to train women in regions with few male warriors as well. "
"Oh really? I wasn't really aware of that-"
"The events were recorded later in the fourteenth century in the Tale of Heike. In general, it is about the Genpei War, a civil war between the great Taira and Minamoto clans. Her father was a great supporter of Minamoto no Yoshinaka and her mother was one of his wet nurses. In the Tale of Heike, it is said that she was not only extraordinarily pretty, but also an extraordinary archer. And as a swordsman she is said to have been worth as much as hundreds of warriors, ready to confront a demon."
"Don't you think that's a little exaggerated? I mean one person worth as much as a hundred men?"
"It may well be that they exaggerated a little here. Nevertheless she defeated two thousand warriors of the Taira clan with only three hundred samurai as first captain of Minamoto no Yoritomo. If you think about it carefully, everyone must have beaten around six to seven opponents. Isn't that insane? It's an achievement that I don't think anyone really understands these days. Times have changed, there are other problems. Wars are no longer as linear and simple as they were then. At that time, however, it was an achievement that only occurs every few centuries."
"Hmm, you're right there. For me it is always difficult to grasp. I mean these are events that happened hundreds of years ago. What is it that fascinates you most about her? Don't you think there is something negative about warfare too?"
"I'm not sure, it's more of a feeling. Such a deep admiration that I feel when I am absorbed in the epic reports. But maybe it is also just this idea of a perfect figure, which shines in almost every area and achieves a performance that nobody could believe. Which we still talk about today. And which is also a role model for many others today. I'm not sure if I can or want to blame her for something negative. In the end it was her job and her duty to stand up for her clan and wage war. It was about protecting her loved ones. Even if it was the same on the part of the Taira. I think in war there are always reasons to be carried out. Whether the general trigger for war makes much sense is questionable and probably wars are generally to be abhorred. I think you can not blame the actors for doing their best. Often you just don't have a choice. In the past in particular, only death could have made up for the shame of refusing to."
Satsu-chan pauses for a moment.
"It may sound a little childish and dreamy. But before I applied to the police academy, I always had this desire. To do such an act once, which causes a stir, admiration and is a role model for many. But it's not that important to me now. When I see all these lives in the streets that fill the cities, I know that it is enough to give my best every day in the job I am doing. It doesn't always have to be the one big act that you will read hundreds of years from now. It is enough if it has contributed to the fact that in hundreds of years people can still live in peace and justice."
When she finishes, I have to laugh a little. It slips out of my mind without me being able to do anything. Still, it is not the fact that I would find her motives ridiculous or childish. No, Satsu-chan is really inspiring and I am not used to that from her. Philosophizing about things in such depth is by no means her style.
"What are you laughing at, hey!" she complains. But she notices that I have no malicious intent and almost has to laugh a little herself.
"I don't know. I never thought you'd deal with something like that. I only know how you plunge into situations full of vigor and then either solve them or make them even more chaotic. When I think about what people would read a hundred years from now about you, it's more likely your win of a local fast food competition, haha."
That is necessary, I think to myself. Somehow the mood is a bit gloomy and I feel the need to annoy Satsu-chan a little. Suddenly Satsu-chan grabs the bag of potato sticks and lifts her left index finger against it as if she wanted to threaten it.
"Ah yes, if that's the case then you don't mind if I train a little before my big win and eat these potato sticks," Satsu-chan says in a slightly bitchy tone and pouts a little.
"Think about it well enough, otherwise you will go down in history as a balloon."
I can not stop laughing and it just bursts out of me. Satsu-chan is visibly shocked and desperate as to whether her hostages are still usable as hostages. The conflict between hunger and a little shame only makes me laugh more. Then she seems to no longer want to put up with it and takes a large portion of potato sticks, which she devours right at once.
"That's what you get for poking fun at me, hmph!" she says while her mouth is overflowing and I almost have to laugh more.
"Nooo, not the potato sticks, then at least give me some of your chicken katsu," I say a bit overly dramatic. Nevertheless, it really hurts me a little that she is now claiming the deliciously seasoned potato sticks for herself.
"That would suit you so well, haha."
Now Satsu-chan has to laugh too when she says that. The way we sit on the bench, eat our fast food and annoy each other really takes me back to the past. At a time when I have not thought much about what is going on in the big wide world. It is like we are in middle school and the sports club just finished.
"Phew, I'm really full. The sandwich was really great, I could eat it every day," says Satsu-chan as we walk along the sidewalk.
The sidewalk leads past a few smaller, narrow houses where people live. Every now and then a vending machine is set up and street lamps rise into the sky. It seems to have recently been renewed due to its contrast with the surrounding area.
"Yeah, it was a really good idea of yours not to stop at a restaurant. I haven't eaten in front of a convenience store for a long time."
"Well, if you need help to find a good meal in Kanbaya then call me anytime. I know all the menus here inside and out," Satsu-chan shows off as if she is some kind of restaurant tester.
The sidewalk disappears at a turn and the narrow path becomes a street. At most one car can still fit through.
"Don't your parents find it disparaging that you don't always eat in local restaurants?"
"Nah, I don't think so. I know they should be supported, which is why I like to eat around here often and with pleasure. But you don't have to overdo it and if you just eat a little fast food every now and then, then it doesn't bother them either. In fact, I've often suggested a few new ideas for the menu that originally came from the fast food sector. Different spices and combinations in particular are inspiring and have proven to be a hit."
"But next time we'll have dinner at your place again. I love your little restaurant, I always feel very comfortable there. Especially when you bring me the food, haha."
"Just wait and see. Someday I will get you to work for us. Then you know how it is to prepare my food," she replies and tries to put me in a headlock, which I can successfully defend against.
"You've been training really well since I last met you."
"Thanks and you have slacked off quite a bit," I add and she dares to try again.
"Ah, it's fine, that's enough. How would you like it if we sit over there on the bench next to the playground? The weather today is far too nice not to be outside."
"Oh, we used to hang out in this park after middle school. Gladly, let's sit down there. How's it going for you with men? You haven't written anything new lately. I'm almost a little worried."
"What is that supposed to mean? You sound almost like my mother. She keeps asking me that as if I were a couch potato who would never find anyone on their own."
"Well, she's not wrong. But you are not a couch potato, you focus far too much on jogging and your body. If you sometimes send pictures of yourself, I understand why the guys are not interested in you. I'm sure they are all afraid of being crushed by you when you hug them, haha."
"Oh really? And in your case one has to be afraid of being eaten."
The friendly conversation has once again turned into a battle of words that almost emits sparks.
"Yes, ok. I admit that it's not going well right now. The last guy I met was totally weird. Oh, I haven't told you that yet. Do you remember how I wrote last week that I changed my profile picture to one with glasses for fun, so that I look a little smarter? Then I went on a date with a guy. This Masaki-san who works at some bank. In any case, he said at some point when we were in a restaurant that I am somehow too crazy for him. He thought I was gentler and better mannered. I mean what is he actually thinking? That's what he says after knowing me for maybe an hour. At least he paid for the meal. But he was kind of snooty and a bit scary I think."
"Huh, that sounds really strange. I mean what did he want anyway. He probably thought when he saw your picture you were totally withdrawn and would never do any sport, haha."
"I'm sure he can read. As if I was tame and withdrawn, just waiting to be told to do something. I think I even mentioned my hobbies. He probably didn't read that. I hate that."
"Now don't worry about it. That can happen, the next one is definitely okay and it works out well."
It is precisely because of such stories that I find it difficult to find interest in the whole thing. But she is probably right and I will have to try it at some point.
"Hopefully, as you know, my last relationship didn't last long. I really want to have one again. And you should try it too. You are really much too dear to fight your way through the world on your own."
"Oh, I'm not so sure. Actually, I'm busy enough with other things right now. And inside the station, I don't know whether it would be such a good idea to do something with a colleague. What are your thoughts on that?"
"Hm, I'm not thrilled about it either. Word of that just gets around and in the end you are in a bad position. Besides, I'm a little afraid that the sergeant would find out."
"Well, you don't have a choice. At some point you have to get involved with her, otherwise she will initiate, haha," I state with a hearty laugh while Satsu-chan is traumatized again. I would love to meet her sergeant.
Suddenly I notice something tickling my leg and shrink back a little. It is not the wind but something fluffy that brushes the smooth skin above my socks. When I take a look I notice it is just a cute cat with a silvery gray fur visiting us. Unable to resist the temptation, I reach out my hand and start scratching her back a little. She stands there intently, as if she is waiting for more and I move my hand so I can stroke her head. She starts to purr.
"Yasuko, what are you doing here?" Satsu-chan asks when she notices me petting the cat.
"Oh, you know the cat?"
"Yes, this is Yasuko. She belongs to an elderly lady in my neighborhood. Isn't she cute?"
"Yes absolutely. She is actually really tame and quite courageous."
The little cat does not look scared at all and seems to really enjoy the way I pet her. Her fur is a little disheveled, but very soft. It does not feel scratchy or oily at all. Only now and then are there small remains of plants from the bushes.
"I don't think there is anyone here in Kanbaya who would scare such a cute cat. I'm just a little surprised that she's hanging around here. Her home is not around the corner."
"Well, maybe she will walk with us and we can bring her over before we go to you."
"A good idea. Isn't it Yasuko?" Satsu-chan asks the small, warm cat and pets its fur as well.
To our surprise, Yasuko actually walks with us until we eventually pass the narrow, rather old-looking building with the white facade and the uneven windows. In front of the house, the old lady sweeps the narrow street like in the old days and then notices how we approach her with her cat on our side. She was a little worried because the cat did not appear for breakfast in the morning. After she thanks politely and Satsu-chan introduces me to her, we move on. Little Yasuko also seems to want to say goodbye and passes us a friendly 'meow' again.
"You know, I really like your outfit today. The white blouse with the knee-length green skirt fits really well. And your hat kind of rounds it off," Satsu-chan suddenly compliments me.
"Thank you, I think yours is very pretty too. You have to send me where you bought it sometime," I reply politely.
I am a bit pleased that Satsu-chan likes the outfit. I recently bought it in downtown Hajimeni because the parts caught my eye right away. Satsu-chan, on the other hand, wears a slightly longer white blouse over an almost black top. Including a beige short skirt that does not quite reach her knees and long gray socks. Additionally she wears a straw-colored hat that is not quite as oval as mine.
"Ahh, it's so nice today, I wish we could do this again tomorrow. But unfortunately I have a shift and on monday it's Umi no Hi. We also have to clarify the final details for the Daitoshi mission. I don't really understand all this hype," says Satsu-chan as if it were a minor matter.
For me, however, it is not. Until then, I was not aware that Satsu-chan would also be in Daitoshi. I would like to engage with her on the topic, but I can not. Our mission is not only secret but also undercover. It would be unwise to let Satsu-chan know about it if I can not share further details with her anyway.
"O-oh, is that so? I didn't know that your station was also helping out in Daitoshi. We have also promised a couple of teams. But I'm not there, we have enough to do ourselves," I lie out of necessity, even if it is difficult for me.
"I don't know as well. Actually, we don't do that because there should be enough officers in Daitoshi already. We have enough to do ourselves. But this year they made a few mistakes when assigning the officers and then a few other stations canceled because they were already assuring the surrounding towns of their support. After all, Daitoshi isn't the only town on the coast."
"I understand and then the people who are actually furthest away have to move up again. It's always like that. Sometimes I don't get what they think."
Somehow it makes me a little nervous. Even if I do not want to go into more details, I feel the need to ask for a little more information in a subtle way.
"Do you already know where you will be stationed?"
"Nah, actually not. I think I'll find out tomorrow. Probably a routine job anyway. I just hope I have a little time to see the attractions a bit too."
"Yes I hope so too. I mean that you have some time for those."
That was close, I am almost giving myself away. But Satsu-chan does not seem to notice. An unpleasant premonition creeps up on me, but Daitoshi is big enough. And at least I assume that no normal officers are used in our area anyway. The risk that certain secrets would leak out would be too great. It is the first time in a long time to withhold something from Satsu-chan. Even when I was at the academy, I found it particularly difficult when I was with Hikaru-chan. Even though we did quite well, we often had to change the subject or use certain excuses. Even now, this society is quite divided when it comes to the magic and the normal world. I wonder if the secret will ever leak out.
"Well, I'm trying not to think about it today. We still have half the day to distract ourselves. Do you want to go shopping before we play a few card games at my place?"
"Yes, that's fine with me. Even if my wallet doesn't like it. I only tortured it recently."
"Oh, don't say that, it must be happy because it has a little less to carry. Some things you just need to do. You could also invest some money in your hair, you know?"
"Ugh, yeah. You don't need to tell me, I noticed it recently. What do you think, should I change my style a bit or just have them trimmed a little?"
"Hmm, that's a hard question. Let's discuss it over tea. Some time ago I made a list of cuts I like, maybe there is one that you like as well. Fashion has changed radically again. It always happens so quickly."
"I'm glad I got you Satsu-chan. Without you, I would be really lost sometimes."
"Well, you understand how useful it is to know me. Maybe I should become an influencer, haha."