Katou Minoru saw the light on in creole and opened the door to see that the only customers were Hirosawa and Tashiro. It was already nine o'clock and the sign saying that they weren't open was hung but the Master, Hasegawa, gave him a welcoming smile.
"Welcome. It's been a while, hasn't it?"
Yes, Katou murmured. A certain gloom hung over the shop interior. Maybe he had such an impression because Hirosawa and Tashirou were in mourning clothes.
"Hirosawa-san, was there a---Ah, at the hospital."
Hirosawa nodded. He heard that Kyouko from the Ozaki Hospital had died. Katou himself didn't have a particularly deep connection to Ozaki Toshio, much less to Kyouko.
"I heard the Ohkawa Liquor Shop's Atsushi-kun has died too."
Hearing Katou say that, Hasegawa gave a nod and a sigh. "Two houses in one day today. ......Really, I don't know what's going on."
"The Young Madame, too?"
Tashiro nodded to the question of the unspoken disease with a dark expression.
"Right. Seems it took a toll on her body. Toshio worked himself desperately to try to treat it but said it was no good."
"That's, the Junior Doctor must be quite down about it too."
Yeah, Tashiro nodded. "......No, well, he's not the kind of guy to show it. So I mean, he was the same as ever but still. Lately he'd been constantly at her side, he seemed incredibly worn out. He seemed worse off for that more than anything."
Is that right, Katou murmured as he took a seat on a stool.
"......I'm beat," Tashirou mumbled to himself. "It was a tense vigil. Even the Mourning Crew seemed to be pretty cold hearted."
When Katou tilted his head, Hirosawa gave a wry smile.
"You know, because there are the rumors that it is an epidemic. To put it bluntly, they probably didn't want to help. Considering it was a vigil for the Ozakis, there weren't many mourners. The temple has their hands full too, so it was quite the understated vigil. And so the Elder Madame was in quite the foul mood."
"Right. So she took it out on the nurses," Tashiro sighed. "The nurses themselves had enough to be worked up about, it really was a dangerous atmosphere."
"Worked up about?"
"You know, with how busy they are every day. The hospital's open on Sundays now too. Lately it seems they haven't been getting enough time off, they must be tired I'm sure? On top of that to be treated so cruelly by the mourning crew. Don't touch the food, they were told, chased out of the kitchen, I heard. It can't be helped with the rumors of it being an epidemic but still. If it is contagious, the hospital would be its front line base, after all."
There were rumors that it was a contagious disease that was behind the continuous deaths but Katou himself was skeptical. It was true that there were a string of deaths in the village but it wasn't as if a disease would spring up in the village of all places that lead to deaths that didn't correspond to anything ever studied to date. Even putting that aside, to the nurses it must have been even more absurdly unreasonable. They were giving up their own days off for the village's sake, and he had the feeling that they'd lose their tempers over the village itself ostracizing them for it.
"That's not all, it seems like one of the nurses has gone missing. A girl called Yuki-chan. Everyone's worried but lately Toshio's had his hands full with Kyouko-san. So because of that they've got some animosity towards Toshio too it seems."
Hasegawa nodded. "I hope she didn't get caught up in something at least."
Tashiro spoke with open annoyance. "Really, what's going on in the village here? This number of casualties isn't normal. It was just the other day Yuuki-san's place's son died here, and Mutou-san's place---"
"How has Yuuki-san been since that? When I had last seen him at the funeral, he had seemed to have been at quite the loss but..."
And furthermore he'd heard that Yuuki's wife had left him behind and returned to her family home.
Hirosawa shook his head. He answered Hasegawa with a sad smile. "......At times like these, it'd be impossible to just get over it, I'd think. It was his only child after all."
That's true, Katou murmured. "It must be hard on Hasegawa-san just remembering such a thing."
Hasegawa had lost his only son before moving to the village.
"No," Hasegawa smiled. "I've already worked through my feelings on it. Enough time has passed for that in my case." So Hasegawa said with a smile but his tone was lonesome. He set a glass before Katou and poured in the water. "......Time is kind, in regards to these things. and it's impartial. I'm sure it will be kind to Yuuki-san as well."
"That's right," Katou nodded but he knew it was only their hope. Katou had a son too. He was the only child left behind by his deceased wife. When he imagined Yuusuke going before him, he couldn't be too sure that the day would ever come when he would recover from the shock.
"After taking all of the trouble to move to the village. What on earth happened, I wonder?"
Hirosawa murmured, to which Hasegawa nodded. "Indeed. Yuuki-san may possibly move away on us."
That that was possible. Katou was a resident of the village. He didn't belong anywhere but here, but that wasn't true for Yuuki. Maybe Yuuki, too, thought that if only he hadn't come here, in regards to the situation. Maybe he planned to leave the village as soon as the funeral was finished. He couldn't think it odd if that were what he decided.
"Should I try paying him a visint?" Katou murmured. Even if there was nothing that he could do, nothing that he could say.
"You seem busy these days, though."
When Hasegawa said as much, Katou nodded. "But not at the shop."
"Ah, with the Contractors? It must be something for them, to have to hire outside help such as yourself."
Katou gave a vague smile. Katou had an electronics shop. He didn't exactly have it out on a sign board or anything but he also did work as an electrician. He was frequently enough subcontractd by the Contractors not only as an electrician but as one who could learn how to handle small household fixtures by watching, which meant that he had been relied on from time to time when the contractors were short on help.
"The contractors are in a pinch right now, aren't they?" Hirosawa said to which Katou nodded.
"Yes. After all, Tokujirou-san had at last died on them."
The president of the Yasumori Contractors was Yasumori Mikiyasu. He inherited the business from his father Tokujirou but ever since the son Mikiyasu had died, the firm was once again looked after by Tokujirou. After that, Tokujirou had collapsed and the baton had been passed to Takeda who had been with the firm for a long while. As long as there were still employees there, they couldn't just shut everything down. It was possible that Tokujirou's son-in law or his sibling, that a parent company would inherit the Yasumori Contracting Firm.
"So I guess this is about it for them?"
"This isn't it at all. The contracting firm has Takeda-san looking over things, and it isn't as if things are particularly hectic because of Tokujirou-san's death." Hirosawa tilted his head. Katou gave a sad smile. "......At any rate, there is a lot of work to be done lately arranging the grave sites."
Ah, Hirosawa and Hasegawa both murmured unpleasantly.
"And with their workers busy with that, there's a lot of small service calls. There are a lot of work orders for sliding storm shutters or window frames."
At Hasegawa's questioning, Katou smiled wryly. Why he should have to smile in such a way, he himself didn't quite well know.
"Somehow lately everyone is cautious of locking their doors up it seems. It looks to be a trend. There are a lot of people replacing their old storm shutters, having steel frames put on their windows. Installing locks on them and the like."
"Is that.... right."
The same complicated type of smile that Katou had rose up on Hirosawa's face as well. Come to think of it, Hirosawa said as his head tilted. "Our neighbors had construction done. They had it done on their entryway, they used to have a glass door but it'd been replaced with a proper door. ......I see, so that's a trend going around now, is it?"
"It seems to be. Turning household sliding doors to regular doors, or people blocking up their windows."
"Blocking their windows?"
As Hirosawa blinked, Katou nodded.
"I wonder what's happening to this village?"
It was like they were afraid of something lurking outside of their houses. It was like they were protecting themselves from it. If you asked them individually, they would say it was because the fixtures were old, the doors weren't fitting as well, or because the children were grown up now; they all had appropriate reasons, but none the less.
"......It's like everyone is preparing to hole up in their houses."