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9kinds

Chapter 10 - 割れた豆腐の白 The White of Broken Tofu

Mitsuko tells Kouta to come to a high-end hotel in west Shinjuku, and when Kouta gets there she greets him wearing a bathrobe. He comments that it’s pretty amazing that she was able to get such a nice hotel room on Christmas Eve and when she replies that it’s by chance he tells her to say that she got it for him and so she does shyly. Even seeing her like that does nothing for Kouta.

He asks her why she called him there, and thinks that this is the point where she takes off her bathrobe. When she invited him there to the hotel, he half expected that to happen. Shizuku told him that they shouldn’t sleep with clients because it could cause fights or the client might grow sick of the host. The best thing is keep them in the zone of more than friends but less than lovers.

While Kouta had agreed at the time, this night he is unable to suppress his curiosity. He has never been with an older woman, let alone one twice his age, nor seen them as a romantic possibility. Though he didn’t come to the hotel with this in mind, whether it be because he wanted to try and see a difference side of himself, or have the experience to laugh about later, he’s decided that he’ll sleep with Mitsuko tonight.

Mitsuko asks him if he plans on applying to DDL again next year, and says that she’ll make sure he gets an offer. Kouta asks if she wants money or something and she says that that's not it. Kouta comes up with reasons why it wouldn’t be a good idea and notes that when she’s talking about work, Mitsuko is very different- talking like a someone who has succeeded in the work world. Mitsuko tries to persuade him saying that next year DDL will start offering internships and she can give him advice.

Kouta doesn’t reply and instead takes off her glasses and kisses her. Mitsuko is surprised and resists Kouta’s advances but he persists. He pulls off her bathrobe to reveal her underwear and she returns to looking as she usually does- not the confident business woman and Kouta prefers it that way. Mitsuko quickly stops resisting and starts to pet his head.

Part of him doesn’t want to think anymore, but part of him wonders if he’s just running away from his failure in job seeking. He knows that it’s not so far in the distant future that he’ll have to start thinking of this again as he decided to take a year off and try again next year. He’s afraid of repeating the same mistake again, of the feeling that it’s proof that he’s unnecessary to society.

Mitsuko and Kouta have sex. All the while Kouta finds it miserable and disappointing, but continues to have sex as if he’s venting his anger and Mitsuko accepts it all without saying a word. He cums inside her and then passes out.

***

Kouta spends the new year eating new year’s day food and going to Hachiman Shrine with his family. Meme writes an Ema wishing for school success and after Meme tells him to, Kouta writes one for success in job seeking. The whole time he’s at the shrine he keeps thinking about Mitsuko and wonders if he really does still wish to find a job. He’s been unable to escape the feeling of being unsettled since he had sex with Mitsuko.

He leaves before the rest of his family and heads to Inarikio Shrine next to Tuberose. He’s never gone before despite it being close because he found the kanji in the name disquieting. The last two kanji in Inarikio (鬼王)  means ‘Demon King’. But that day he feels like maybe the demon king will clear away his gloomy mood.

There, he runs into Mizutani who he doesn’t recognize at first due to his sleazy appearance since his hair isn’t set and he’s wearing cheaper looking clothes than usual. They greet each other and Mizutani says that he comes to this shrine every day which surprises Kouta because he didn’t expect him to be a particularly religious guy. Mizutani invites him out to eat and they pray, Kouta wishing for his sales to increase, and then they head to Korea Town.

They eat at a hole in the ground type of restaurant and Mizutani greets the staff and orders in Korean. They drink and when Kouta comments on how Mizutani can speak Korean, Mizutani tells him that he’s a second generation Zainichi Korean. When Kouta doesn’t reply, Mizutani asks him if he’s the first one that he’s ever met and that there are a lot of them in Osaka. He asks Kouta if he’s afraid of him now, and then laughs asking if he was always afraid of him. Mizutani tells him that though he’s Zainichi, he’s the same as a Japanese person, even though people tend to treat him as a foreigner once they hear that he’s Zainichi.

Kouta apologizes and Mizutani tells him there’s no need and asks him if he didn’t feel like he wasn’t being recognized as a human when he failed at job searching. Mizutani tells him that he’s felt like that since he was kid. They were so poor that there were some days that they couldn’t eat, he’s gotten in countless fights and there’s been times when he thought he was going to die, and times when he wanted to die. But despite that he keeps living. He tells Kouta that he’ll make it through some how too, and that the important part is to not become discouraged. [He says ‘Kusaru na / 腐るな’ which literally means don’t rot]

This reminds Kouta of his father who passed away when he was in junior high school who often told him the same thing. Then their Chige Nabe comes and Mizutani tells Kouta to eat all the tofu because he doesn’t eat tofu. Kouta asks him why and he explains that it’s because tofu (豆腐) is fermented (rotted). When Kouta tries to transfer the tofu to a plate, the tofu breaks apart- the white insides contrasting from the outside that's been dyed red by the nabe broth.

Tags: waiting at tuberose, チュベローズで待ってる
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