48 Hours a Day - chapter-35
After getting off the bus, they took a fifteen-minute walk, and after crossing an intersection, they finally arrived at the destination.
Zhang Heng looked at the small shop called Kurahara Seafood and asked, “Your father lives here?”
“Yeah. It doesn’t smell so good inside… so you can wait for me outside.” The closer they were, the more perturbed Ameko looked but she was ever so considerate.
“Since I’m already here, I might as well go in with you.” Zhang Heng, on the other hand, was not reluctant.
The both of them passed roll-up banner stands and an abandoned old freezer as they walked into the seafood supply shop. A pungent fishy stench immediately assaulted Their noses as they took in the overpowering smell of fishes and prawns—all sorts of seafood—everywhere. But there was no one in the shop—all but a Moray eel struggling inside a polystyrene box.
“Father! Father!” Ameko called out, but no one replied. “Could he really have gone to the hospital?” The girl muttered and hesitantly walked up the stairs with Zhang Heng following closely behind.
The wooden stairs had not been mended for a long time, leaving cracks and chips everywhere. Every time they took a step, the stairs would groan and creak under pressure threatening to give up the load they could barely bear.
If Zhang Heng thought the ground floor was packed like sardines, there was barely any space to walk on the first floor. There was dirty laundry, beer bottles, and even porn magazines scattered all over the place. An unshaven, half-naked man was lying on the ground, snoring away.
‘I’m such an idiot! I believed the same lies over and over again!” Ameko held her forehead in her palm.
“In some way, this is also good news, right? It’s better than lying on a hospital bed.”
“This is even worse, so much worse! Why do men who lie to their own daughters exist in this world?” Ameko pulled the man by both hands and tried to get him onto the tatami on the side.
When he saw that Ameko seemed to be struggling, Zhang Heng offered to help. “Come, let me help.”
As they were dragging the man, something fell out of his pocket. Ameko picked it up to examine it. It was a brown wallet. She was stunned and appeared to be lost in thought when the man suddenly sat upright on the tatami! He lunged for Ameko, shouting at her furiously!
In an emergency, Zhang Heng instinctively employed the defensive move that Bell had taught him and threw the man onto the floor with an over-shoulder throw. The man fell to the ground with a loud hard thud; his eyes rolled to the back of his head as he slumped to the ground, unconscious.
Only then did Ameko react and shouted, “No! Is he dead?!” The girl jumped backward in shock.
“Err, no! But it will be a while before he wakes up. What is he screaming at you about?”
“Give me back my wallet…” Ameko mumbled.
“I will go back and continue learning Japanese.” Zhang Heng answered sheepishly.
After that, the both of them carried the drunk and unconscious man back onto the tatami.
Zhang Heng saw that Ameko was still holding onto the worn wallet and asked, “Why? Is there a lot of money inside?”
Ameko shook her head. “No, this wallet was a birthday gift from my mum twelve years ago. I can’t believe he’s still carrying it.” She opened the wallet and found an old, yellowed picture through the semi-transparent film on the right flap. It was a family picture.
Ameko pointed at the one-year-old baby and said, “This is probably me, and that’s my mum and dad at the back. Mum said that wasn’t a gambler back then. We were all very happy!”
Zhang Heng’s gaze fell on the very eye-catching Nissan behind the man. “You never told me that your father was into car tuning.”
“Car tuning? No, no. How is that possible? Don’t see him for what he is right now. He was a great role model when I was younger. When the seafood supply shop first opened, business was not very good. It couldn’t compete with the local competition. To increase the shop’s income, he began learning English, scouted for overseas clients, calling them one by one, and sometimes even showing up at their doorstep! At the store’s peak, he even sold seafood to London, Los Angeles, and even Peru! Such a serious man wouldn’t have ever been involved with the bosozoku… and since I can remember, he has never driven a car. The goods have always been delivered by hired hands.” Ameko recalled and then took another look at the picture. “This car must have belonged to someone else. They probably parked it there when the picture was taken.”
“Oh, is that so…” Zhang Heng did not ask any more questions but said, “I’m quite interested in cars. This car is probably a relic now, huh. Can I take a picture of that?”
“Sure, but keep me out of the picture. I was an ugly child.” Ameko blocked out her one-year-old face with a finger as Zhang Heng took a picture.
After that, she rinsed two teacups and boiled some water with the electric kettle on the table. She rummaged through a cupboard and found a packet of black tea leaves.
Ameko brought it up to her nose and sniffed. “This… is probably oolong tea.”
The pair chatted as they enjoyed the tea. But the conversation was mostly Ameka talking about her childhood. After about half an hour, the stubbled man on the tatami opened his eyes and rubbed his throbbing shoulders. When he saw Zhang Heng, his eyes widened with caution.
Ameko quickly explained their relationship.
Only then did the stubbled man relax a little. The animosity quickly turned into disregard, and then father and daughter spoke in native Japanese.
Finally, Ameko took out 15,000 yen from her bag and placed them on the table, but the man did not look very happy. His speech became even more impassioned, and he got up from the mat angrily.
Zhang Heng stood protectively in front of Ameko, his forehead creased! The results of his workout had been pretty evident lately. Although he was not super muscular, there was not an ounce of extra flesh hanging from his body. On top of that, after that shoulder throw Zhang Heng had given the man, the man’s manner softened a little at the sight of him.
Ameko pushed herself off the floor, looking crestfallen and the rims of her eyes red and raw. “Let’s go!”
All the way back on the tram, Ameko only stared out the window. Zhang Heng was careful not to interrupt her. After a while, he took out a packet of mixed-flavored gum and said in broken Japanese, “Don’t eat. I’ll eat strawberries.”
“It’s ‘if you don’t eat one, I’ll eat all of the strawberry-flavored ones,” Ameko corrected as she picked one. The crease in her brows slowly disappeared, and she switched to Mandarin. “I’m sorry, Zhang-san, that you had to see all those unhappy things.”
“Not at all! You have always been helping me; letting me help you once in a while makes me feel pretty good! So. What happened? Did the two of you end up in good terms?”
“No. My dad’s employee is returning to his hometown this month. He couldn’t find anyone suitable to help him deliver the goods. The store is not going to survive for much longer. He always finds all kinds of excuses, anyway! I couldn’t be bothered to differentiate the truth from lies, so I gave him all my allowance for his month. That should be enough to keep things peaceful for now.” Ameko said helplessly.
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