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At least you'll never be a vegetable

Even artichokes have hearts.

Chapter 14 - 二重螺旋 Double helix
Tego
9kinds
The chapter opens with Kouta being released from jail two days after the fight. He sits down at a bench in front of the train station and turns on his phone to see that he has missed calls from Mitsuko, Megumi, his mother, DDL, the hospital where Misaki was sent, as well as a message from Misaki saying that she was safely discharged from the hospital and that she’s sorry for causing trouble. She thanks him for everything and says that she broke up with Shizuku and is going back home to Gunma.

Kouta calls Mitsuko back, and though she answers she doesn’t say anything. Kouta apologizes and she asks him if he’s ok and he tells her that he’s fine physically. Kouta tells her what happened and can tell that she’s disappointed and angry but is calmly reigning it in. She tells him that they should think about what is best to do next, for now he’s to message DDL and explain why he couldn’t make it to the second day of the internship, hiding the fact that he’s a host but telling the truth about everything else.

He starts to head home, and while on the train types out and sends a message to DDL on his phone. When he gets home no one is there. He heads to his room where the papers for his internship are still laid out on his desk, and pulls the curtains and goes to sleep where he is able to forget the panic and regret for a bit. He wakes up when Meme comes home and yells that he’s home upon seeing his shoes in the entryway. Meme runs up to his room and starts hitting him. Despite being sleepy still Kouta gives up on sleep and picks her up and takes her downstairs where their mother is.

Kouta feels uncomfortable at how maternally his mother looks at him. The day he was arrested the police had called her, and Megumi probably also knows what happened. Kouta tells Meme he needs to talk to their mother and asks her to go play in her room. Kouta apologizes for worrying her and comes clean about working as a host. His mother says that he had a reason, and though he doesn’t say anything knowing that it would just be an excuse, she apologizes.

Hearing his mother say to him what he had said to Mitsuko earlier is tough. Being apologized to makes him feel guilty much more than apologizing does. His mother tells him that he should be honest with Megumi, when she found out he was arrested she had cried. So Kouta messages her to tell her he’s home and to ask to meet up so they can talk. She responds saying that after her training is over in about 2 hours she’ll come over.

Kouta goes back up to his room to wait for Megumi, and can’t bring himself to do anything. He pick up the internship materials on his desk and stares at them. He’s reminded of a certain scene in Mishima Yukio’s novel ‘Inochi Urimasu (Life for sale)’. In one scene, [the main character] tries to pick up and read a dropped newspaper despite the fact that it’s covered in cockroaches, but the letters turn to cockroaches and flee. The letters in the documents he himself had made seem to squirm like cockroaches, and feeling sick he throws them away into the trash.

He opens the window and starts to smoke and begins to feel like nothing matters. He notes that this is just like how he felt on that night in Shinjuku after giving up on job searching and throwing up in the streets. He ends up thinking of Mitsuko, and feels like he might be crushed by the guilt he feels towards her.

Megumi shows up after three hours, and Kouta belatedly realizes that he got a message from her saying that though the training is over her peers aren’t heading home yet so she can’t leave. She apologizes for being late when she enters his room, and Kouta doesn’t understand why everyone is apologizing to him. Seeing her in a suit, Kouta forgets what it is that he should be apologizing to her for and stays silent. Seemingly annoyed at being kept waiting, Megumi puts her bag down and tells Kouta to explain everything.

When Kouta asks what she means by everything, Megumi explains that she means everything he’s been hiding from her. While looking down on him sitting on the bed, she says asks him what work he’s been doing since it clearly wasn’t at a restaurant. She opens up the closet where all the clothes Kouta had bought for work are, pointing out that he couldn’t afford these kind of clothes before. Kouta notes that she must have been suspicious of his work for awhile, and tells her that he’s been working as a host. He explains all the details, and she asks him what he’s going to do and he tells her that he’s going to job search, but until he gets a job he’ll continue to work as a host.

Megumi admonishes him, saying that that’s no good, if he doesn’t focus on job searching he’s going to fail again like he did last year. The way she speaks to him as if she knows she’s correct irritates him, and he tells her he needs money. She tells him money will work out, he can borrow some and pay it back later. Fed up with her self righteousness and arrogance, he tells her that he can’t and asks her if she’s going to support them and pay for Meme’s cram school fees then.

Megumi counters that he should sell the clothes and accessories that he’s bought and that he can’t save if he spends everything he’s earning. Kouta sees that she’s wearing the M necklace that he bought for her. Megumi argues that it’s because he’s working as a host that he couldn’t participate in the second day of the internship that would have helped him get a job. It’s all due to the host job. She also tells him that he can’t be a host, that it doesn’t suit him and he should find a part time job that suits him more.

Unable to bear anymore, Kouta kicks the trashcan and the internship materials scatter across the floor. He tells Megumi to leave but she refuses. She neatly picks the papers up and lays them on his desk before gathering her bag and opening the door. Outside is Meme, who asks if she’s leaving. Megumi looks at Kouta, but he pays no attention and crawls into bed, pulling the comforter up he resolves not to think about anything and falls asleep.

He doesn’t know what Megumi does in that time, but the next time he awakes is to the sound of the light being switched off, and Megumi climbs into bed with him, stroking his head and hugging him. Kouta is fed up with it and tries to go back to sleep, but is too bothered by her presence to fall asleep. Megumi whispers that he '人の匂いがする’ which can mean either that he smells human, or that he smells like someone else and Kouta frees unsure which she means. He can’t help but feel that he is probably seeped in the smell of not just Mitsuko but the customers and hosts from the club, and feels sick. He’s itching to wash himself, but stays still and pictures the demon king in his head, calling out to him over and over again to help him.

The next night, Kouta heads to Tuberose, where news of what happened with Shizuku seems to have already spread. The other hosts tease him, and ask what happened to Shizuku and Kouta explains that he’s still with the police. Due to discrepancies in testimonies from those involved, and the fact that the owner of the store with the broken window filed a claim, Shizuku is being held for longer than Kouta. According to the police, the reason Kouta was released after only 2 days is because Shizuku covered for him saying that he was uninvolved.

Kouta is hailed as a hero by the other hosts for fighting with Shizuku. It seems that many people, including customers, had been anxious about Shizuku lately, because that night Kouta receives champagne from other hosts’ guests and get asked for by Shizuku’s customers. While he’s puzzled by the new way he’s being treated, he takes advantage of it and works hard to increase his sales.

About an hour before the club closes, Mitsuko arrives. Though she acts the same as usual, to Kouta it appears as if she’s pushing herself to smile. He apologizes, and she says there’s no need and that it’s her fault for making him do this job. When he protests she says that all his problems are her fault, and those words pierce him.

He says that it’s because she failed him at the interview that they were able to meet properly, and come to know each other in this way. Kouta notes that among all the sweet lies that get told here, this alone is the truth. He thanks her for failing him in the interview. Mitsuko only stares at him and though he can’t read her expression it seems that she accepts what he said.

Mitsuko then tells him that that’s no good, he’s just running away. Kouta himself doesn’t know if he’s fighting or running. Once work is over they head to Mitsuko’s place, and though Megumi calls him Kouta doesn’t answer. As they have sex Kouta thinks about how Megumi said that he smells like someone else, and thinks about how Mitsuko’s scent is seeping into him and his into her. As he thinks about that, the shape of their intertwined bodies changes into the double helix of DNA in his mind. It connects and joins their past and future, and they become one. Wound together like a rope, they are long and endless. He loses himself into those thoughts and holds Mitsuko tight.