Two years have passed since the third round of the Liar Game. My life has at last returned to normal. I won't have to be forced to deceive people again. I still believe that there is a way for everyone to be happy in this world.
My father's health is getting better, and I've been visiting him everyday. Aside from college work, I have no other worries or stress. It was as if the Liar Game never existed.
But it did. I find myself still thinking about it, or dreaming about it at night. I remember Yokoga-san deceiving me, taking advantage of my honesty. But in the end, I couldn't watch him face his debt alone. No human is truly bad to the core, that was my belief. I entrusted the final round of the Smuggling Game to Akiyama-san, letting him decide Yokoga-san's fate. My faith in Akiyama-san paid off, for he saved Yokoga-san. He was able to put his revenge aside. I believe he did the right thing.
I haven't seen him in the past two years. I still have his phone number, and sometimes I wonder if he would pick up if I call. For some reason, I can't bring myself to do it, though I desperately want to know how he's doing. However, it was me who got Akiyama-san into the Liar Game in the first place. How can I bother him anymore? If he had chosen to leave without telling me, then I'll just leave it be.
But deep inside, I have this ache that won't go away. Every time I think of Akiyama-san, the same wish enters my mind.
I wish he was here.
The streets are still as narrow as ever. People walk past me, talking and laughing. It is a bright, sunny day. The shop owners are promoting their products, but I don't pay attention.
I'm back in Japan.
After the third round of the Liar Game was over, I had left Tokyo, going abroad. I was like a nomad, hopping from one country to another without ever staying in one place for more than a month. I don't know why I decided to come back, but here I am.
"Hey young man, would you like to buy a hairpin for your girlfriend?" a man asks as I pass by his stall on the left side of the road. I turn and look at him. He's holding a silver pin in the shape of a bow, sparkling under the rays of the blazing sun.
I ignore him and walk away. He calls after me, "I'll sell it to you for cheap! Please help me out, my family is depending on me to pay the bills. I haven't sold a single hairpin all day!"
At the desperation in his voice, my footsteps come to a halt. The guy might as well be lying. Isn't that the nature of man, to deceive and lie in order to benefit themselves? Why should I believe him?
Is it bad to be stupidly honest?
Her voice echoes in my head, pure and innocent. I remember our last meeting, before I left without a word.
It's okay, I had told her.
She was the purest one of us all in the Game. She wanted everyone to be happy. She was so honest and trusting of people that they all took advantage of her. But she never complained. She believed in the goodness of humans.
Just like my mother.
My legs turn around on their own accord, and I look into the shop owner's pleading eyes. He might be telling the truth. Not everyone lies. And not everyone has to believe that to be true.
I stop in front of his display of hairpins, finding it to be incredibly awkward. I don't have anyone to give it to.
That's not true.
I take the silver bow from the man's hand. Her face pops into my mind. She would like this kind of thing. I can just picture her thanking me profusely and then happily putting the pin in her hair.
That's stupid. I won't see her again. Besides, I've never bought a gift for a girl. This isn't like me.
But my hand won't move to place the pin back on the table. I stare intensely at it, as if it were a complicated map that I need to decode instead of a simple, female accessory.
I believe in you, Akiyama-san
That was what she told me after letting me be the last smuggler in the third round. She believed that I would help Yokoga.
In my mind's eye I see her huge smile after the 30th round was over, when I had given 100 million yen to Yokoga.
Before I can question my sanity, I reach into my pocket for my wallet, take out a wad of bills, and hand it to the shop owner. Then I put the hairpin in my pocket.
My bag drops to the ground, making a light thud. I stand frozen on the street as people pass by me.
I can hardly believe my eyes.
I want to call out his name, because I am happy. I'm so happy I can hardly speak. He's back. He's here, just a few yards away from me.
At that moment, he turns, and our eyes meet. If he's surprised to see me, he doesn't show it. It seems like I'm the only one shocked.
"You should move, it's a crowded street." His voice is just as I remember: deep, calm, and matter-of-fact, with a hint of sarcasm.
"Akiyama-san!" I finally find my voice, and when I call his name, I begin to run.
I come to a halt right in front of him, almost losing my balance. What had I been thinking?
I wanted to hug him, but at the last moment, I remember that it's Akiyama-san. Though he's been kind to me, very kind, I don't think he would appreciate it if I did that.
My cheeks burn, and I cast my eyes to the ground.
"Aren't you going to ask why I suddenly disappeared?" Akiyama-san asks. I raise my head, finding him with his hands in his pockets, looking right at me. I gulp, my heart thumping. What is wrong with me? I am so glad to see him, and yet I can't say anything.
"N-no," I stammer. "It's none of my business. If you don't want to tell me, I won't ask."
Akiyama-san cracks a smile, just a lift of his lip.
"You haven't changed at all."
I stare at him. "Huh?"
He sighed. "You haven't heard from them, have you?"
I know right away he means the people from the LGT office. I shake my head.
Akiyama-san's eyes flash, and he straightens. "That's good."
He starts to walk, and I follow him.
"Where are you staying now, Akiyama-san?"
He remains stoic. "I have a place. Don't worry."
I know Akiyama-san is secretive, so I won't pry any further, though I do want to know exactly where he's staying. Is it a decent place? Does he cook for himself?
"Um…Akiyama-san?" I ask nervously.
"Do you want to come over to my house? I can cook for you."
He stares at me, making me even more nervous. What if he says no? After all, we haven't kept in touch these past two years. Maybe Akiyama-san thinks I'm a nuisance.
"Can you cook?" he asks skeptically.
I smile, nodding excitedly. "Of course! I cook for my father before he was in the hospital. Besides, I'm a girl. I should at least cook for myself, right?"
He smirks, and I smile wider.
I hold back the urge to jump up and down. Somehow Akiyama-san's agreement makes me incredibly happy. Finally, I won't have to eat alone. I'm sure he doesn't cook much, if at all. It's time he gets a decent, homemade meal.
"Oh," I say, remembering something. "Akiyama-san, you were standing at a hairpin stall, right? Were you forced to buy something?"
I didn't expect much of a reason from Akiyama-san, but he suddenly picks up the pace. I jog to catch up to him.
"You did, didn't you?" I laugh, looking at his frowning face. "It's alright. Let me see. Which pin did you choose?"
When he keeps walking, I ask again. "Please, Akiyama-san. Please?"
He stops in mid-stride, reluctantly taking the pin from his pocket.
My eyes light up when I see the pretty silver bow in his palm.
"It's so pretty!" I exclaim. "Akiyama-san, it's so nice of you to buy one. But you can't use it, can you?"
I giggle at the thought of Akiyama-san having a bow in his hair.
He clears his throat. "You can have it."
I look up at him, then back down at the bow. "I can?"
He turns the other way. "I don't need it, do I? You're a girl, this is perfect for you."
I pick up the pin, my mouth spreading into a grin. "Thank you, Akiyama-san! I'll wear it right now."
I slide the pin onto my hair and snap it together.
"How does it look?" I ask excitedly.
"Fine," he says shortly. "Let's go."
I nod, slinging my bag over my shoulder. This is turning out to be a good day. Akiyama-san is back.
I'm so happy.