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Gazing at the sheet music he had already pored over numerous times, Naoki took a deep breath. His heart was racing and had no signs of abating. He was not going to be able to escape this condition until everything had finished. Naoki sighed this time. Yusuke looked at Naoki and laughed. Why are you making such a pathetic face? Its not like we are performing at the Budokan1. Take it easy, take it easy. Naoki frowned. Im in a fix because I cant do that. I havent sung in front of people for years. I havent even gone to karaoke. Youll be fine. And anyway, theres no need to sing perfectly at todays performance. What is needed is comfort. We just need to make the audience feel happy. Yeah, I know that. Naoki nodded. Naoki looked outside of the window. There was nobody outside on the field. How was that field being used? Naoki wondered, He had seen a movie about convicts playing baseball on a midnight TV program. Did Tsuyoshi sometimes run around with all his might from time to time? Ahead of that was a grey wall. It was the wall that separated them from the outside world. One could not see what was beyond there at all. Only a blue sky spread out above. Even if one yearned for the outside world, one could only imagine how it was like. His older brother had spent years seeing this scenery. Naoki turned his gaze away from the window. Naoki had phoned Yusuke a month ago. He had said he wanted to participate in the prison concert. Seemingly surprised, Yusuke fell silent for a while. I know Im being selfish by asking such a thing all of a sudden. But I just really wanted to do it. The reason is Yusuke interrupted his words at that point. Its fine, you dont need to explain. Im happy that you made up your mind. Its been a long time since we last performed together. Lets do this! It was as if Yusuke had seen through everything. After that Yusuke did not ask for more details. Naoki thought he would tell him on the way back once the concert had ended safely. It wasnt that he was purposely delaying it. Naoki did not have the confidence to put it into words at the moment. Nevertheless, after everything had ended, Naoki felt the words that would describe his feelings would come out naturally. He had to also tell Yumiko. This past month she had noticed the change in her husband and yet had not inquired about it. When he said he was going to hold a prison concert, she merely smiled and said, youll have to practice hard. A young police officer came into the waiting room. With his hair properly set, he had a slightly nervous expression. Umm, Imagine was it? The setting of the stage has finished. The convicts are sitting waiting so we are ready to begin at any time. Imagine was their group name for the two of them. It was a group just for today. Yusuke looked at Naoki and stood up. Shall we get going then? Naoki nodded wordlessly. Leaving the waiting room they headed towards the stage. The stage was in the gymnasium. Walking and following the police officer, Naokis heart started to pound even more violently. 1

His throat was parched. Worried that he would not be able to sing in such a condition his nervousness increased even further. His desire to run away and his will to not run away were clashing incessantly inside him. They entered from the back entrance of the gymnasium. The inside was quiet. Naoki had participated in a few small live concerts in the past but no matter how small the audience was their chatter had reached the backstage. He became flustered by the strangeness of this atmosphere. Ive said it a bunch of times before but do not try to liven things up, whispered Yusuke in his eye as if he had read Naokis mind. In a way the audience today is forbidden to get too excited. Just focus on singing so our songs reaches their hearts. Naoki moved his mouth to say okay but it did not come out properly. You may come out once I finish introducing you, said the police officer. We understand, the two answered. The police officer went out first onto the temporarily set up stage. After giving precautions concerning the concert he explained about the duo that was going to perform that day. Of course, most of the information was about Yusuke. Naoki was simply mentioned as his friend. Naoki looked at both of his hands. They were drenched in sweat. Closing his eyes, he took deep breath after deep breath. This was the only thing he could do so he had to do his best. This was the last time he was going to show the figure of his younger brother to his older brother, Naoki told himself. The conversation at the Ogata household revived in his head. Or it may be better to say the letter he had received from Ogata. Naoki was here today because he had read that letter. Dear Tadao Ogata, I am writing this letter to confess something very important today. I received a letter from my younger brother the other day. For a convict there is nothing as comforting as a letter from ones family. I started to read it excitedly. However, I was taken aback by the content of that letter. The letter stated that he was not going to write any more letters and that he was not going to accept any future letters from me. The reason my younger brother gave was to protect his family. What is more the letter continued on describing how he had suffered through so many things, how those sufferings were continuing even now, and how they were affecting his wife and daughter as well. This was all because he has a murderer as his older brother. A dark prediction was also written about how if things remained like this it may even impact his daughters marriage prospects. That was why he was going to cut the bond between older and younger brother, or so my younger brother wrote. He also asked me to not try and contact him after I was eventually released. Can you imagine how shocked I was when I read this letter? It wasnt because my younger brother had severed his relation with me. I was shaken by the truth that my existence had caused him so much suffering over the years. At the same time, I was enveloped in self-hatred to the extent that I wanted to die for forcing him to write such a letter. How could I be stupid enough to not realize such a thing when it was easily predictable? I have no words to utter. Being in a place like this I had not repented for my crimes in the slightest. What my younger brother said is totally understandable. I should never have written any letters to begin with. Simultaneously I realized. You must have been offended and displeased by my letters to you, which were like an action of self-satisfaction by the criminal. I wanted to apologize for that and therefore wrote this letter. Of course I will make this my last letter. I am extremely sorry. I wish you the best of luck and the best of health. Yours sincerely, Tsuyoshi Takeshima 2

p.s. I want to write a letter of apology to my younger brother as well but have no means to do so. When Naoki had read that letter his tears had not stopped flowing. He thought himself that the letter in which he had broken off his relationship with Tsuyoshi was cruel. He had imagined that Tsuyoshi was extremely unsatisfied. The reaction of his older brother however had been completely different. I should never have written any letters to begin with You are wrong brother, Naoki thought. It was because of those letters that the current himself existed. If the letters had not arrived he would not have suffered but he also would never had searched for a different path. Please welcome on stage the duo Imagine. Naoki returned to his senses at that voice. He looked at Yusuke. Yusuke silently nodded in reply. The two of them went up onto the stage. There was no applause. There was no cheering. In such an environment Naoki slowly lifted his head. He swallowed his breath. A crowd of men, all with shaven heads and all with the same clothing were staring at them. They were eyes filled with anticipation and curiosity. They were yearning for contact with somebody from the outside world. Naoki also noticed that those eyes contained a light of envy, or more closer to jealousy. It was a jealousy for the people who could live in the outside world, for the people who could go beyond that grey wall. Hello, we are Imagine Yusuke started talking with a cheerful tone. Having already performed a number of times before he was probably used to such an atmosphere. He introduced himself while throwing in a few light jokes. The expression of the audiences seemed to be getting gradually warmer. Naoki looked around at the audience seats. Where was his older brother? It was difficult however when everybody had the same clothes and the same hairstyle. Yusuke spoke. We would first like you to listen to Imagine, by John Lennon, which is also what our group name is named after. Yusuke sat down in front of the prepared piano and nodded to Naoki. Naoki nodded back and turned towards the audience. Somewhere among the audience was his older brother. His brother was going to listen to his song. Naoki was going to sing his best, at least for this day. The accompaniment began. The introduction to Imagine started. Naoki dropped his eyes to the microphone and looked out towards the audience. He took in a small breath. It was then. Naokis eyes caught a section of the audience. It was towards the back and on his right hand side. That section suddenly shinned in his eyes. That man had his head bowed deeply. He was much smaller than the figure in Naokis memory. Seeing his position Naoki felt something hot swelling up from inside of him. The man had his hands joined in prayer in front of his chest. As if he was apologizing. As if he was praying. Naoki could sense his trembling figure. Brother, Naoki called out from inside his chest. Brother, why were we born into this world... Brother, will a day ever arrive when even we will be happy? Will a day arrive when we will be able to talk to each other? Just like the time we peeled those roasted chestnuts for our mother With his eyes fixed to that one spot Naoki stood frozen in front of the microphone. His body, as if paralyzed, did not move. It was hard enough to just breathe. 3

Hey, Takeshima Yusuke was playing the introduction over again. Naoki finally opened his mouth. He tried to sing. His voice did not come out. It just did not come out


p.1: Budokan- an indoor arena in central Tokyo literally translated as the Martial Arts Hall. Holding a concert at the Budokan is considered one of the milestones as a successful musician in Japan.