Yamada Naoko looked at her meal happily. She was inside her rundown apartment and on her table was a set of grilled beef she recently acquired from her never ending quest of food hunting.
Today was lucky as she was fortunate enough to have the said food with the means she is not willing to reveal to anybody reading this. What's important for her now is she is sitting with the grilled beef ready in front of her.
"Itadakumasu!" she said with enthusiasm and snapped her chopsticks, ready to dig in, but at that exact moment, her front door—perhaps the only door—opened without warning and the familiar face and height of Ueda Jiro appeared and slid inside without further ado.
"Ueda-san!" she exclaimed, much to her own surprise with her eyes rounding, her chopsticks halting as she watched the Professor drop himself in front of her and joined her in the table. "What are you doing here?"
Ueda gave her a flashing smile and dropped some food on her table that made her eyes-if possible—go rounder.
"I have a business offer for you," he said casually as he slowly opened the food wraps and revealed roast beef, dumplings and spaghetti, "But let's have lunch first."
Yamada stared at the food in front of her with her lips pressed together. She looked really tempted, but of course, knowing Ueda Jiro for how many years now taught her a little thing or two about him: that she should think twice once he's being nice. So narrowing her eyes, she gave him a suspicious look and said, "Ueda… what are you up to?"
Ueda looked at her from his food with his eyes raised.
"What do you mean? I just said we should eat,"
"I don't believe you," she said directly, "What's the catch?"
Ueda gulped his meal and leaned closer to her.
"Why are you always suspicious of me?"
"Because I know you pretty well," she said in a matter of fact voice that made Ueda stare at her and bit his food at the same time, "So what's this business you're saying?"
Ueda chewed on his food and started explaining.
"Do you believe a person can heal diseases?"
Yamada's face contorted.
"Hai?" she asked.
"The most common and deadly disease that can kill a person is cancer. It's a terminal disease and incurable if early treatment is not applied. A person is claiming that she can cure that disease."
Yamada's frown was apparent this time.
"That's ridiculous," she said after awhile.
Ueda shrugged and continued eating and explaining at the same time.
"The healer's name is Aiko Hayase. I have already gathered information about her and base on the testimonies of people that experienced her miracle, they are claiming that she is a real deal."
Yamada blinked once.
"How can that be? Maybe the people making those testimonies are in cahoots with her,"
"That's what I thought too, but base on the locations of the people that gave those testimonies ad further look on their backgrounds, I found out they are all living in far areas and have medical records of having cancer. But then after visiting her they would miraculously be healed and send word around the world to know."
Yamada stared long and hard at the Professor. Ueda looked at her in a funny way, and then quietly ate on his own.
"Ueda," she said after awhile, "You… you're doubting that you can see through her tricks, aren't you?"
Ueda stopped dead and didn't look at her. Yamada leaned forward the table.
"And you also doubt that there's tricks to this aren't you?"
Ueda gave her a look.
"What about you?"
Yamada sighed and pursed her lips.
"I honestly don't care," she said after a few moments of introspection, "I mean—she's not actually doing anything wrong if she can really cure those people. We don't really meddle with these kinds of cases unless somebody complained being tricked or being threatened to death by these cults, right?"
Ueda didn't even blink. Yamada sighed.
"So what comes down to this is that, unless you only want to expose her for your own satisfaction, then we can't really go there and expose her as a fraud."
She looked him in the eye and then landed her chopstick on the roast beef he brought.
"So I don't think I'd make a deal with you this time," she said flatly and chewed on the beef she has on her chopstick. Ueda's nose twitched.
An hour later Yamada and Ueda is seen inside Jiro car with the Professor driving as usual.
"What the hell is the meaning of this?" she hissed with her eyes in slits as she gazed at the Professor.
"Hahahaha," Ueda laughed almost too predictably as he drove on, "I didn't bring you along, you insisted on coming."
"What the hell's that?" she retorted with a full frown on her face, "Ueda-san you can't just take me along with you whenever you wanted! I can sue you for kidnapping or any other violation against Japanese women, do you know that?"
Ueda grinned at her almost mockingly, "Who would believe that I kidnap you? Besides, your mother would agree that I was here taking care of you so you'd have no evidence."
Yamada looked affronted, but having nothing against that logical fact—since her mother seemed to be well taken with the stupid Professor—she pouted and then slump her back on the passenger seat while fuming.
"I really can't keep up with you. How can you be so self willed?"
Ueda looked at her rear view mirror and then at her with a smile on his face.
"What are you so upset about? I told you this is business, right?"
"A business where my life is always at stake, you mean?"
"You don't have to worry about anything at all; I'm here to take care of everything."
"I told you stop misleading people into believing that you are reliable. You and your big penis know how a weakling you are."
"Oi," he hissed with a frown, "That's very personal."
Yamada pressed her eyes closed.
"I wonder what my life would be without you, Ueda-san," she muttered after awhile that made Ueda half glance at her direction, "Probably I would have a peaceful meal everyday without you barging into my house every now and then. Maybe I would also have a free-risk-zone that would not put me in any mortal peril…and maybe now I would have been having a great show that can earn me money without worrying of losing my head or too much killing tricks and that entire sort."
"Oi," Ueda was deeply frowning now, "Are you that sick of me?"
Yamada rolled her eyes.
"Nobody who knows you like I do will get sick of you as I do."
Silence followed her statement.
The car went on.
Ueda didn't say anything anymore.
They arrived in a remote area with people staring at them as they arrive. Ueda and Yamada both looked around and saw many banners pointing out where the location of their prospect was. The people around watched them like hawks that made Yamada a little uncomfortable.
"Why are they staring?" she asked as she walked side by side with Ueda.
"It's a common courtesy here to pay their respects to the person with sickness." Ueda answered.
"But we're not sick," Yamada insisted.
They stopped in front of a small hut located at the far end of the town. To Yamada's surprise, a great number of people were present there, even forming a very long line from the entrance of the hut till the forest area.
"Where are these people from?" she asked more to herself with her usual frown.
Ueda didn't answer and walked straight to the hut's entrance. Yamada followed suit.
All at once, three tall men stopped them.
"I'm sorry sir, but you have to fall in line." said one of them.
"Fall in line?" Yamada muttered, with her eyes following the long line of people around, "That'll take us forever here, Ueda-san…"
Ueda followed her eyes and then looked back at the men. Being tall himself, he was able to look the three men in the eye level.
"Excuse me," he started,
"Wait a second," said the second man all of a sudden, "Aren't you that famous writer? Ueda Jiro?"
Yamada bit her tongue so as to not make any comments. She could almost see Ueda gloating at being well-known, but to her surprise, Ueda merely bowed his head with an extreme polite expression in his face that she hasn't seen ever in her life.
"I am," he muttered so softly that gave the final straw for Naoko to almost tumble over where she was standing.
"Who are you?" she hissed behind him but he didn't answer.
"What are you doing here?" said the third man, "Are you here to expose our miracle healer?"
At once, there were murmurs around and people's head turning to have a better look at the professor. Yamada looked back at them and then at Ueda, who again, seemed to be in a trance and didn't act accordingly to his character.
"I am here to see the sensei," he said quietly, "Hayase-san?"
"Sensei?" Yamada mouthed in disbelief.
"Even if you are the famous Professor," said the third man gruffly, "You still have to fall in line like the rest of the people here."
"Wait," said a female's voice that made Naoko look pass Ueda's shoulder.
A woman in her late twenties came out of the hut, wearing a white kimono. Yamada took a good glance at her and could only say one thing: she looked clean.
"Ueda Jiro-sensei?" she said with her eyes at the Professor, "This is not surprising. I smell death."
Ueda stood straight and stared back at the woman while Naoko's eyes rounded.
"Death?" she muttered, and then her eyes fell on Ueda's back. A sudden foreboding feeling developed in her chest, "Ueda-san…?"
"Everyone," said the woman, "Would you please let me attend to this lone man first? I think he doesn't have much time to waste…"
The people around nodded without question and the woman turned to Ueda.
"Follow me, Ueda-sensei," she said quite glamorously.
"Stay here," Ueda muttered to Yamada.
"What?" she muttered as she watched him walk toward the woman, "Why?"
But Ueda didn't answer her and followed Hayase inside the hut.
Naoko blinked confusedly.
Half an hour later, Ueda came out of the hut followed by the healer looking sombre.
Yamada was waiting quietly for him in a corner and when she saw him, she immediately stood up and made her way to him.
"Ueda-san!" she said with lots of questions in her eyes but Ueda looked back at the healer.
"Thank you," he muttered softly and sincerely.
"Take care of yourself, Ueda-sensei," Hayase-san said with unwavering look at the Professor, "I wish you good health."
Yamada stared at the two of them.
They were inside the Jiro car again and heading back to Tokyo.
The two had been silent since they left the remote town.
Yamada was frowning and every now and then she would shot Ueda a look as if expecting him to explain something. Ueda, on the other had remained quiet for the better part of the ride.
When she can't take his silence anymore, she sighed and expressed herself.
"Ueda-san, why did you bring me along?" she looked at him, "You did not plan on exposing her, you just went there to talk to her, so how come I had to go in this trip at all?"
"It's just for safety precautions," Ueda answered with a smirk at her all of a sudden. Yamada frowned at him.
"Ueda," she complained, "I don't understand you at all! And what did you talk to her about?"
Yamada noticed how that wiped the smirk of his face.
"It's nothing, just simple matters," he muttered on his own that made her even more suspicious.
They stopped a few meters to her apartment. Yamada was surprised at the short journey they shared this time.
"Ueda," she said again without moving on her seat, "You're not telling me something, are you?"
Ueda's familiar lying eyes caught in act almost proved her this.
"I don't know what you're talking about. Hurry and go," he muttered.
Yamada gave him a slicing look, before wrenching the door open. She was about to climb out when she changed her mind and looked at him again.
"Ueda-san," she whispered with pure of patience, "If you want to say something then just say it."
Ueda looked at her.
"I have nothing to say,"
Impatience got Yamada that moment.
"What does she mean 'smell death' and 'wishing you good health' then? Ueda-san if I read between those lines it all goes down to one thing."
They stared at each other.
"Ueda," she said seriously, "Are you sick?"
Ueda's eyes rounded as she gave him a look.
Yamada sighed deeply and shook her head. She did not climb out of the car but instead shut the door close.
"You did not want to expose her because you wanted to see if she is authentic. That only proves one thing and that is someone you know is sick, but giving the way how that woman treated you, it was apparent that you were the one who is sick."
She gave him a reprimanding look. Ueda merely gave her a quiet look.
All at once, Yamada's facial expression changed. Ueda blinked at how her eyes suddenly glistened and her lips slowly trembled.
"When do you plan to tell me this?" she muttered inspite of herself.
Ueda did not say anything but merely looked at her. His silence for once irritated the magician somehow.
"Ueda-san!" she exclaimed, hitting him by the shoulder, "What's your problem? You're not planning to tell me this are you? How can you be so selfish?"
"Oi," he started,
"Shut up, Ueda!" Yamada looking extremely bad tempered, "We're friends aren't we? Even though we're like this we can trust each other! What's wrong with you?"
Ueda tapped her forhead with her big hand all of a sudden and there was a smirk forming on his face.
"You," Ueda said this time sounding normal, "Don'T jump to conclusions. I'm not sick. Someone I know is sick."
Yamada immediately closed her mouth.
Ueda smirked at her and then shook his head, "I didn't think you'd be this worried about me considering this afternoon you were already day dreaming of a day without me in your life."
Yamada looked away.
"You weren't sick, huh…. What the… just say so already!" she mumbled and exclaimed at the same time, her hands quick on the door's handle, "I'm going…"
Ueda watched her but Yamada didn't go out at once. Instead she looked hesitant as she looked back at the Professor.
"Ueda-san you should stop being so self-willed, it makes people around you crazy…and about that… I didn't mean it to sound like I was regretting meeting you..."
"Don't you?" he asked with a look over at her. "You said you were sick of me, remember?"
Yamada contemplated a little, and then looked at Ueda.
"Maybe a little, but that doesn't mean I don't want to meet you at all," she said at once and then bowed. Before Ueda can say another word, Yamada had climbed out of the car and was gone like a lightning from his eyesight.
Ueda watched her go up her apartment and then made a face.
"What's that about?"
Up in her apartment, Yamada has just shut her door close and leaned on it for a moment.
"What was that about," she muttered with a frown, "Stupid Uedas…"
As she slowly sat down on her small table, she was still brooding over what had transpired between her and the sensei. Surely she could believe Ueda? And how can a happy-go-lucky person like Ueda be sick? As far as she was concerened, he was the healthiest person on earth added with his 'big' personality!
"Why am I so worried about?" she chastised herself.
Just then, her phone rang and she immediately answered it.
Yamada's eyes went large.
"Heh, I just realized how you were so worried about me... what's with you? If you're so concerned then just say so!"
Yamada's eyebrows contracted.
"Shut up. Did you call just to annoy me?"
"No... actually I just want to confirm that it was not me who was sick so you don't have to worry."
"You already told me that!"
"I know. I just thought maybe you won't be able to sleep because of worrying about me."
"Don't miss me too much! Goodnight!"
And he hang up. Yamada stared at her receiver and returned it on the phone with a frown.
"Really... just because I was worried doesn't mean he can be so happy about it."
But all the same, it made Yamada felt at ease.
Thanks for reading!