Recently I went to the movies. I'm not gonna bore you with the name of the movie, what it was about, the small minute details of it, or that one scene that made me laugh.
Instead, what I'd like to bring up is the characters. On some level, at least, I identified and sympathized with the men and women on the screen: their happy moments, their times of sorrow, their dilemmas, and their difficulties in associating with one another. It was compelling enough that as I was watching, I forgot that the people on the screen were actors, or, that is to say, people who pretend for a living.
By that definition, I was once an actor too. I pretended, not to make money but because I was expected to, because me pretending was perhaps the only thing keeping my sanity intact.
I went with my friends to the mall. I enjoyed the vibrant atmosphere, the diverse array of places to shop, the delicious foreign food and the gorgeous outfits that we could spend our money on from time to time. We would hang out outdoors; I liked the breeze that made my hair flap around. In the late autumn, I would go outdoors in sandals and experience the coolness on my feet.
When I went to bed at night, I had a soft mattress beneath me, blanks covering me, comfortable pajamas, and a ceiling fan above my head for the summertime. I had a phone, and sometimes I would sit down and watch the evening news with my dad. Just like I had always done.
On the evening news men, and occasionally women, were arrested for heinous crimes. Murder. Rape. Possession of child pornography. Whatever the crime, we the public could rest assured that the perpetrators would be punished.
They would be thrown in a dimly lit concrete box, from which they'd only be let out a few hours every day. They were given terrible food, and they had to wear ugly orange suits. Their lives were in near-constant danger because of the other prisoners. The guards treated them as less than human, as did society. Unlike humans, these criminals did not have rights. They were like animals in cages: whatever little they were given was an expression of the state's benevolence and mercy. And like animals, from time to time the state saw fit to put them out of their misery. They were shot, hung, electrocuted, or injected with poison.
When I thought about what those men had to go through, I thought of all the privileges I enjoyed in life. And I thought to myself, it's not fair.
Because I'm no different from them. A long time ago, I drove a girl to kill herself. I am a murderer. I am a bad person, and the society I grew up in needed protecting from me.
But instead, I lived a double life, as an actor who had no break. I went to parties. Danced with boys. Attended high school. My mother and father had such high hopes for me. I told them I wanted to be a doctor.
But one day, the time came when I couldn't pretend any longer. Something inside was tearing at me. It had been doing so for a long time, but for whatever reason, that feeling suddenly got worse. And worse still. And soon I realized that I was trapped in a nightmare.
And that caused me to snap, at long last. I cut myself off from my old friends and family, and gave myself the punishment that was long overdue. I traded physical pain for peace of mind.
And at some point, I came to believe in a dichotomy: pretty people are shallow. They've got ugly souls. I wanted a clean, respectable soul. A beautiful soul. And to this end, my body was a tool. I desecrated it, poisoned it, until one day I looked in the mirror was satisfied with the fruit of my labors.
I would live the rest of my life as an ugly hag. I could live with myself like this, the way she would've lived, surely. After a while, I just got used to it.
And then, I came to find joy in it. Immense joy. I am happy now, more so than I've ever been. I am surrounded by people I care about, and I know that they care about me. I even became a doctor, as I had once planned.
Am I fooling myself? Am I just pretending once more? No, it doesn't feel that way. But if I really am happy now, then that raises the question:
Do I deserve it?
Kobayashi-sensei wrote a phrase on the board:
"Can anybody define this term?" Kobayashi asked.
There was an eerie silence.
"Conan-kun?" Kobayashi asked. "Do you know?"
He stood up and cleared his throat. "Civic Virtue is the meeting or exceedance of the obligations an individual has to his community and his country."
"Nerd," he could hear somebody muttering.
Why's she always have to call on me? Conan thought with an exasperated deadpan look, sitting down.
"And why does civic duty exist?" Kobayashi asked. "I'll call on someone else this time...uh, how about Ayumi-chan...huh? She's not here?"
Indeed: Ayumi had apparently skipped school that day.
She noticed that Mitsuhiko had his hand raised. "Yes? Would you like to answer the question?"
Mitsuhiko stood up. "We all benefit from modern society, so we should all give back to it however we can, if only so that it isn't replaced by something worse."
"There are different ways that we participate in civic virtue," Kobayashi said. "Adults participate in our democratic institutions by voting. They pay taxes for the upkeep of our police, our roads and bridges, the army that protects us...and of course, the school building you're all sitting in right now. Sitting and learning, I would hope."
That elicited a few giggles.
"Nobody chose to born into modern society," Kobayashi said. "However, nobody has a right to deny that they have responsibilities towards their communities, because nobody eschews the benefits that come with being a part of such."
Genta raised his hand. "Eschew? Is that a kind of noodle?"
"No," Kobayashi said bluntly. "Anyways, this arrangement, called the Social Contract, was first explored in length by European philosophers, such as John Locke."
A girl raised her hand. "John Locke? Wasn't he that bald guy on the island?"
"Uhh, well, England is an island, yes," Kobayashi said. "I don't think that he was bal-"
There was a screeching, staticky noise coming from the loudspeaker. And then:
"Conan Edogawa, please report to the nurse's office. I repeat, Conan Edogawa, please report to the nurse's office."
(Cup of Trembling by B'z)
(Each fresh breath of life is a fresh chance to start anew! A sudden trip to the nurse's office at Teitan Elementary piques my curiosity! With the body of a child but the mind of an adult, my name is...DETECTIVE CONAN!)
Above all, I'm afraid of you seeing me like this
The youthful vigor sapped from my bones
Too afraid to proceed, too afraid to turn back
A wretch, recoiling from my own shadow
Wallowing in self-pity like a pig wallowing in its crap
I can't check my phone, lest you might try to call
I can't live at home, lest you might try to visit
All I have left is the clothes on my back and
That dreaded bottle, whose contents I dare not drink
Oh I'm going nowhere, a pinwheel spinning in circles
This Cup of Trembling I now raise to my lips and swallow
So I may face the demons haunting my restless nights
I can't show my face to you until I can call myself a man
Until I've walked a full moon carrying my cross
Silence on the Stable Grounds! Part One!
Conan slid the door open.
Hmm? he thought. That isn't-
"Ah, you must be Conan-kun!" the woman waiting for him said. "If you're looking for the old nurse, she...retired very recently, and I'm her new replacement. You can call me Namiki-sensei."
"Namiki-sensei" was shockingly young, around 25 or so at the most. Her hair was braided and parted to the side. She was wearing a blue gown with a floral pattern on it.
Her most immediately striking feature, however, was her enormous size. She was a very heavy woman, to put it politely.
"Uh, hi," Conan said awkwardly. "You wanted to see me?"
"Yes. Have a seat, please. Up here."
Conan climbed up onto the exam table and sat down.
"So, I hear you suffered a seizure recently?" Namiki-sensei asked.
Conan nodded. "It was during a vacation to the Ogasawara Islands. After getting back I saw a doctor for it, and an MRI revealed nothing wrong with my brain physically."
"Hmm. You've had any more seizures since then?"
"No ma'am," Conan said. "I believe it was triggered by environmental factors which aren't present in the city of Tokyo."
"And what leads you to believe that?" Namiki-sensei asked.
"I just know," Conan said.
Well, it's not like I can tell her about a repressed memory from ten years ago, he thought.
"Um, okay. If you ever have another seizure, I've got something that might help with that."
"And what would that be?" Conan asked, maybe a little more rudely than he intended.
"It's a product made from a plant called cannabis in botanical language."
"HEEEEHH?!" Conan exclaimed, climbing down and standing up abruptly. "Are you talking about marijuana?!"
Namiki-sensei grinned. "Maybe. Maybe not. School isn't really the place to be discussing this matter. Come visit me at my home after school lets out if you wanna learn more about it."
She wrote down her name and address on a slip of paper and handed it to the boy.
"Hold on to this just in case you're interested," she said with a wink. "Alright, you can head back to class now."
"You sure you want to do this?" Nancy asked as they walked home.
Conan sighed. "Yeah. If there's any chance that the new school nurse is involved in the cultivation of marijuana, it's my duty as a detective to check it out."
Nancy stopped walking. "You know what? I think I'll come with you this time."
"You got money for bus fare?"
They went to the nearest bus stop and sat down.
The bus driver pressed on the brakes.
"Thank you," Conan and Nancy said, and they both got off.
After asking some locals for directions, they found themselves standing in front of the gated property whose address matched that on the slip of paper.
It was apparently some kind of dojo. A wooden dojo sign was in place; it read, in Kana characters, from top to bottom:
Or, in English, Stable of Indiscriminate Grappling.
(Author's Note: In Japanese the word for stable, which is pronounced as heya, can refer also to a facility in which professional Sumo Wrestlers live and train.)
"So that means this place is a-
The wooden gate swung open.
"You came," Namiki-sensei said with a grin.
Then she saw Nancy. "And you are...?"
"I hope you don't mind me bringing a friend," Conan said apologetically.
"Hi, my name is Nancy."
"Hmm, so neither of you have Japanese first names?" Namiki-sensei mused. "Are you brother and sister, by any chance?"
"Uhh, no ma'am," Nancy said. "We do live in the same house though...and we even share a bedroom."
Conan was evidently flustered by that last part.
"Ohhh, you sly dog, you," Namiki-sensei said to him teasingly. "Please, come in. Make yourselves at home."
They walked past the gate and onto the grounds of the stable.
Having sat in the teacher's lounge for nearly an hour, Torishima folded the last of the papers and stood.
After a long day, he could finally-
There was a woman standing at the entrance.
A foreigner for sure, he thought. "Um, hello? Is there something I can help you with?"
"Yes," she said, approaching him. "My name is Jodie Saintemillion. I'm the legal guardian of one of your students."
"Oh? Is that so? It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance, ma'am."
"Likewise. Do you know which student I'm talking about?"
"Not really, but I think I can guess," Torishima said. "Kind of tan, with light hair? His name is...Shiro, am I right?"
Jodie nodded. "How is he?"
"Is he behaving himself?" Jodie asked. "He hasn't gotten into any mischief, has he?"
Torishima shook his head. "No, he's been no trouble at all. In fact, PE is very much his kind of thing. He's easily the fastest runner in the class...it's almost as if, in some other life, he was a famous soccer player or something. Crazy, right?"
Jodie's stomach muscles tightened. Fortunately, her facial expression didn't change.
"Why are you here?" she demanded.
"I beg your pardon?"
"Why are you stuck teaching PE to a bunch of elementary schoolers? A man like you, you could be doing something a lot more lucrative and prestigious than this, surely."
"One could say I was called here," Torishima said. "Not too long ago, when I was in a bind, somebody approached me and made me an offer I couldn't refuse."
"And what does that mean?"
"I'm sorry ma'am, but that's all I'm at liberty to say. Be rest assured, Shiro is in good hands. And from what I've seen of him, you've been an excellent surrogate mother. My hat off to you for that. If I was wearing one, that is. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a bottle of Cola with my name on it waiting in my fridge."
"Cola?" Jodie repeated.
"Oh yes. I had it imported in bulk from Mexico. It's sweetened with agave instead of sugar or corn syrup. It's quite different from the Cola you're used to, I'll bet. Well, bye."
They slid open the door and stepped inside the dojo entrance hallway.
The floors, walls, and ceiling were wooden and in traditional Japanese style. At the entrance was a replica suit of old samurai armor, and several photos on the wall.
"What is this place?" Nancy asked.
"EEEEHHH?!" Conan said, looking at the photos on the wall. "Isn't that Hasunuma Takanori?"
"Who?" Nancy repeated.
"He's a famous Yokozuna," Conan said.
(Author's Note: Yokozuna is a title afforded to a person who has achieved the highest rank in professional Sumo.)
"Correction: I was."
Hasunuma Takanori, age 33, had come to address the unexpected visitors. Like Namiki, he was morbidly obese. But then again, seeing as how he was a sumo wrestler that shouldn't have been too surprising.
Conan's mouth just hung there. One of the great Sumo legends of the 21st century, just casually standing there in a kimono.
"Now I'm just a has-been who dreams of old glory," Takanori said.
"Don't talk like that," Namiki said. "Founding your own stable is a greater feat than being out in the ring. If anything, you're at the pinnacle of your career right now."
"By the way, who're the guests?" Takanori asked. "They relatives of yours or something?"
"Uh, no, they're students at the school where I got that new job," Namiki said. "They're interested in seeing my garden."
"What? Don't tell me you're passing that snake oil onto kids now."
"Hmph, you didn't call it snake oil back when it treated you for-
"*ahem* Are you really going to bring up that matter around our guests?"
"Right, sorry. Are they still napping?"
"Hmm? Oh, yeah. I pushed them pretty hard today. I guess I'd better be getting them up about now."
"Um, excuse me, Nancy said. "Do the two of you have kids?"
"Huh? What? Goodness no!" Namiki protested.
"We aren't married," Takanori said. "I was talking about the boys who belong to our stable."
Five wrestlers belonged to the Musabetsu Kakuto Stable. At that time, all of them were fast asleep in the one room that they shared after having gotten up at 5:00 AM, started training at 5:30, and didn't break until 11:00 for lunch.
"So, uh, anyways, you said you were gonna take them out to the garden?" Takanori asked.
"Right, that," Namiki said. "I came inside to offer them some of our homemade mochi. If you two'll just give me a minute..."
She headed towards the kitchen and opened the fridge. Meanwhile, Takanori went to wake his boys up.
In the front yard of the fenced property was a small rectangular metal shed.
Namiki opened the door and they entered.
There was a UV light overhead and a bunch of plants contained within orange buckets filled with soil.
"Hold on," Nancy said, her mouth full of mochi. "Isn't that-"
"Yup, cannabis, from which the illegal drug called marijuana is harvested," Namiki said.
Conan took a close-up look at the plants.
"B-but why would you show us this?!" Nancy exclaimed. "Could you really trust us not to-"
"She has nothing to hide," Conan said.
"This plant is indeed cannabis," Conan said. "Cannabis Sativa, to be precise. However, there are multiple varieties of this species. One such variety is what we refer to as hemp. Am I right?"
"Yes, I'm very impressed with how much you know," Namiki said. "Hemp has been used for thousands of years to make clothes and rope. It was one of the first natural fibers discovered by man. However, you can't grow marijuana from it."
"The active ingredient in marijuana is tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC," Conan said. "That's what gives it its psychoactive properties, the 'high' that comes from smoking it. However, hemp is a variety of cannabis which has extremely low THC content. This is often by design: in Canada, for example, for a plant to be considered hemp, which is legal, and not marijuana, which is illegal, it must have no higher than 0.3% THC content. In short, you would have to smoke or ingest very large quantities of it to get high. I doubt that all the hemp grown in this shed would even be enough for one time.
"So you can just tell the difference right off the bat?" Nancy asked.
"If you mean to ask whether or not I can spot the difference in appearance between hemp and marijuana, the answer's no," Conan admitted. "However, there's some telltale signs. First of all, these plants seem to be spaced about 3/4s of a foot apart from each other. Marijuana requires much more specific growing conditions than hemp, including much more space in between plants in order for them to grow healthily."
"Yeah, but she might've chosen to prioritize quantity over quality," Nancy said.
"Ah, but there's another sign," Conan said. "In this batch, some of the plants are female, but others are male. That's something marijuana farmers try to avoid at all costs: only female plants can produce buds, which is the part of the plant that's usually smoked. But if the female plants are pollinated by the males, they'll produce buds with seeds. That end product has much lower THC content than would otherwise be the case."
"But she's growing it in a shed instead of an outside garden!" Nancy said. "You yourself just said that marijuana needs a controlled growing environment, whereas hemp doesn't."
"Yes, but you're forgetting something," Namiki said. "This stable does get visitors from time to time. It would be very easy for them to see my plants and jump to wrong conclusions. That's why I've grown them in here."
"Okay," Nancy said. "But why do you need to grow hemp? Is all this really just to save a little money on clothes?"
"There is another active ingredient in marijuana," Conan said. "Cannabidiol, or CBD. It doesn't cause you to get high; rather, it can actually be used to cure a number of ailments, such as seizures and possibly ADHD. Hemp has very low THC content, but its seeds are rich in CBD when converted into an oil and ingested. Demand for Hemp Oil has grown tremendously in the past few years; a fairly small bottle of Hemp Oil capsules can sell for a lot of money."
"At this time, it's marketed as a miracle drug," Namiki said. "And it's easy to see why: In 2013, the story broke in the American press that a girl named Charlotte Figi, who suffered from hundreds of seizures a week, had been effectively cured through the use of medical marijuana."
"And thus, you thought that you could help me with your homegrown Hemp Oil," Conan finished.
Namiki nodded. "Are you sure that you don't want it?"
"Yeah, I'm sure."
"So just to be clear," Nancy said. "She grows this stuff for the seeds, which she turns into medicine, and then she sells it?"
"Yup, that's the gist of it," Namiki said. "I hope to lower the market price for this stuff, so that it's more readily accessible to people who need it. That's my dream. That's what I'm doing here. I've been lucky that Taka...uh, that is, Hasunuma-san, has been supportive enough to let me keep this shed here."
She turned to the two of them. "Are you glad you came?"
They both nodded enthusiastically.
They stayed a little while longer. The five sumo wrestlers were woken and started on their chores.
Finally, around the time that the lawnmower in the front lawn grew to be obnoxiously loud, Conan and Nancy decided it was time to go back home.
They closed the front gate behind them.
"You said that originally she offered you medicine for seizures, right?" Nancy said.
"So why'd you think she was growing marijuana?"
"Remember, marijuana high in THC can also be high in CBD, so sometimes the illegal product that you smoke to get high can also be used for more benign purposes. But it's illegal nonetheless. One thing still bothers me, though."
"And what's that?"
"Takanori Hasunuma, the great Yokozuna, retired from professional sumo two years ago, reportedly after suffering the disgrace of losing a bout against a woman."
"And what part of that is disgraceful?" Nancy asked indignantly.
"Women have traditionally been barred from the world of sumo," Conan said. "Even a woman who's governor of the local prefecture isn't allowed to touch the ring during tournaments. Anyways, if those rumors are true..."
"What, you think Namiki-sensei was the woman who beat him?" Nancy asked.
"Well, I mean, she's certainly big enough, physically speaking. And good technique can make up for a slight size disadvantage."
"What was that?" Nancy said.
Instead of answering, Conan ran straight back towards the stable.
Twenty seconds later, they made it to the front gate and swung it open.
One of the sumo wrestlers was still on the lawn mower.
They ran up to him and began loudly asking him about the sound.
He stopped what he was doing, pushed a button on his phone, and took his headphones off.
"Mister, just now, did you hear something?"
"Uh, no, just my music. I usually have it cranked up really loud, so I wouldn't hear if a-"
Conan and the sumo wrestler ran towards the source of the sound, which was the shed.
Nancy had fallen over backwards in shock over the sight:
One of the wrestlers lay dead on the floor.
(Hoshi Monogatari by Egoist)
I know you've taken this from my cold dead fingertips
I wrote this to tell you what I never had the nerve to say
Because I know that right now, you're punishing yourself
Because you of all people deserve to know the whole story
Once I was only a child, but I was old enough to understand
Something important was missing, though I didn't know what
I wandered in the dark, calling to the crowd, "Excuse me, sirs!"
"Somebody, anybody, please, tell me what I'm doing wrong!"
Finally, on the starry night of Tanabata, I looked out my window
And said, "Kami-sama, if you could let me have a friend, just one.
One who's true and faithful, and funny, but most of all spirited.
This one thing I ask, and I'll never ask for anything ever again."
And then I met you, and in what seemed like an eternity I had
The chance to know you, and for the first time I was really happy
It never ended, you see, that initial bliss: it grew, as we grew closer
Thank you, my one and dearest friend, for teaching me how to love
Next Conan's Hint: Suppression