On that clear blue day, Kanzaki Nao made a more-sensible and, some would say, better decision. The warning on the invitation was read and heeded, if not entirely understood. Two men in suits and surgical masks collected the box of latent money, and that was the end of the Liar Game for Kanzaki Nao. Her dear teacher Fujisawa never scammed her, and when Akiyama Shinichi left prison, not a single person came to him crying for help. If he’d known the alternative, surely he would have been relieved at the non-event that occurred.
Lives went on. Lives were easier, even: no debts to worry about for her, no precious fools to worry about for him, no need for either of them to face down the den of vipers they would have encountered. If perhaps some lives were ruined in exchange, it was a few dozen or so that neither of them could have taken responsibility for. Certainly there were no more than a hundred, maybe two or three if someone thought of the collateral damages—the family and friends of the unfortunate chosen ones.
Kanazki and Akiyama’s lives were easier, at least, in that they avoided the gift of the struggle.
At this hour, the train is crowded, and the faces on the train all crowd together in slivers of faces, jackets, and bags as commuters come and go. Akiyama holds on to the strap and lets his gaze flick from person to person, and imagine his stifled brain in some sort of sympathy with the humanity around him. Who is in a rush? Who seems to revel in their own world? Who manages to relax themselves enough to catch a few precious moments of sleep en route to their destination?
Who is having the worst day of their life?
To that last question, Akiyama suspects a young woman sitting in the seat just behind the door. The sickly fluorescent lights of the train shine directly on her, revealing a face both wan and blotchy from what Akiyama would surmise from a recent fit of tears.
She clutches an open box on her lap filled past the brim with various objects. As people move and shift, he catches the flash of a book’s cover, a patch of pinstriped pajama fabric, and the porcelain gleam of a flower vase, accoutrements of the recently ill. It’s this void this young woman peers into until it’s time for her to shuffle, automaton-like, off the subway.
As she passes, the urge to do something rises. The heart keeps wrapped up tightly wants to leap out to her. The haze encompassing him since before his release lifts for one sharp, lucid moment. He wants to tug at her jacket sleeve until she turns around and tell her the most comforting falsehood he can think of.
"Everything will be okay."
He doesn’t actually do such a thing, of course, nor would he have seriously considered it. For one, Akiyama has never met this girl in his life, except that they might have passed in the street once or twice. More importantly, though, he understands how not all right things can become.
Still, as the train continues its scheduled course along the track, he cranes his neck to keep her in his sight until the distant figure and the urge to connect with her both fade away. The haze descends again, and the wall between him and the subjects on the subway stands strong as ever.