Sunday, 26 February 2012

Baccano! 1931 - The Grand Punk Railroad - Local Episode (Part 2)

Part 2 of the Local Episode, which had to be split for length. Remember to read Part 1 first!

-----


"Oh no!"
"Eeek! What is it, Isaac!"
Miria nervously clung to Isaac, scared by his sudden outburst.
"This is terrible! We've forgotten something of the utmost importance!"
"Wh-what could it be?"
Isaac anxiously opened his mouth with utmost seriousness.
"We forgot to buy a gift for Ennis…"
Silence. Miria bowed her head long enough to take a breath, then looked up.
"Wh-whatever will we do? We can't just go visit Ennis empty-handed! No! That's not right! We can't!"
As tears welled in Miria's eyes, Isaac instantly tried to cheer her up.
"Don't cry, Miria. I have a plan."
"What is it, Isaac?"
"We can buy her a gift in New York! After all, they say that everyone loves New York gifts."
Cheer returned to Miria's face.
"That's perfect! You're so smart, Isaac!"
"Of course, of course! Ahahaha!"
As the duo laughed, they reached the entrance to the second of the freight cars.
They initially panicked when they came across the corpses and blood in the first of the freight holds, but when they realized that it wasn't Jacuzzi, they suddenly regained their calm.
Isaac drew a crucifix over his chest and sang a hymn with his hands over his heart.
Miria, in turn, mourned the dead through a ceremony from a different denomination.
They remained cool and collected even in the presence of a violently mutilated corpse, as if they were very much used to such sights. But they honestly wished for the dead to rest in peace.
Isaac and Miria then left the room as if nothing had happened.
And they had lost themselves in this irrelevant discussion on their way to the next car.
They were at the entrance to the second freight car. Isaac slowly opened the door, and saw that the corridor was empty.
He sighed in relief and prepared to step forward, when a single gunshot rang out across the car.
"!"
The duo curled up in terror and hurriedly shut the coupling door.
"Wh-wh-what was that?"
"I'm scared!"
When they looked into the next car through the window on the door, they saw people exiting from the freight hold door. There were three of them in total--all were dressed in white, but one of them had his suit covered in red speckles. In his hand was a smoking rifle.
Isaac anxiously tried to see what was going on, then noticed that the trio was walking right towards him and Miria.
"This is bad, Miria! We have to hide!"
"Like the secret service!"
They rushed back into the first freight car, ducked beside the door, and stilled their breaths.
Of course, even though their breaths were stilled, they continued to chatter.
"Listen up, Miria… I think those guys must be the 'dangerous people' the big guy told us about earlier."
"Eeek!"
"It's all right, Miria. They're no match for my billion guns!"
"Really?"
"Of course! Have I ever left you behind, Miria?"
"Nope! Never! I'm still alive, after all!"
"See? So just leave everything to me!"
"All right!"
Isaac and Miria finally stopped chattering and focused their attention on the situation outside.
They soon heard a door opening. It was probably the door of the second freight car. It was less than six feet away from the door that Isaac and Miria were hiding beside. The sound of footsteps, accompanied by voices, drew near.
"Why'd you have to kill 'im, Ladd? That was a pretty sweet deal."
"True, it was a pretty nice offer. But did you see the look in his eye? Acting like there was no way he was gonna be killed by me! He was seriously thinking that I wouldn't kill him! He was looking down on me! Ladd Russo! Well, to be perfectly honest, I just offed him 'cause he was annoying and infuriating."
"But still-"
"Did you see that annoying look on his face? Even when I blew his face off he acted like nothing was wrong! …Damn, this is annoying…"
The sounds came to a stop at the door, but the door itself did not open.
Isaac and Miria then heard the voices growing distant--going upwards.
"???"
After a short amount of time, Isaac looked outside through the window on the door, but the coupling was empty of people.
"There's no one there…"
"A locked room disappearance!"
They opened the door and found that there really was no one there. Only the freezing winter air kept them company.
The air cooled their heads, and Isaac remembered that one of the names he had just heard was familiar to them.
"He was looking down on me! Ladd Russo!"
"Ladd Russo!"
"Ladd Russo!"
"Russo?"
He was sure they had heard the name before.
Isaac and Miria were thieves. Only that very morning, they had stolen a large amount of cash from a mafia transporter.
"Miria… about the money we stole today. Which Family did we steal from again?"
"It was the Russo Family!"
Isaac's ill premonition became a reality.
And his brain came to a completely unexpected conclusion.
"I see… Then, surprising as it may be, I deduce that the men in white suits must be after us!"
"Eek! Chasers?" Miria trembled dramatically. Isaac embraced her tightly and nodded.
"Don't worry, Miria. We'll make it out of here safely. We'll escape the clutches of the white suits and the Rail Tracer!"
"So we'd better hurry and find Jacuzzi and the conductor!"
"Yes, yes! We'll make it happen soon! After all, there shouldn't be anyone further ahead in our way-"
Isaac had a thought.
The path ahead of them should logically be empty of people.
Then who was on the receiving end of Ladd's shot just now?
"AAAAAHHHHH! Jacuzzi! Please wake up! Your injuries aren't that serious! You have to live!"
"There's nothing wrong with your injuries!"
The duo began spouting off unconfirmed information as they dashed through the corridors and arrived at the freight hold entrance.
However, a surprise awaited them.
"Huh? There's nobody here."
"It's empty!"
There was no one in the freight hold--no people, no injured, not even corpses.
"That's strange. I could have sworn I heard them talking about having shot and killed someone here."
"They said they got an offer from someone, but they turned it down and killed the person!"
Isaac and Miria voiced their questions aloud as they carefully inspected the room, but they could not find so much as a drop of blood.
Their anxiety snowballed as they continued their search.
There was something on this train, clothed in neither black nor white.
As their imaginations slowly became a reality, they quickened their pace in their search for Jacuzzi.
<=>
Meanwhile, Jacuzzi was going in the opposite direction from where Isaac and Miria were headed. He had been moving towards the front of the train, and was now nearly back at the dining car.
They stopped just short of exiting the Second Class car. Nice went out into the coupling to assess the situation.
They had discovered the corpse of one of the white suits along the way, but did not linger very long.
The corpse had been cut down with a sharp object, so they had determined that it was likely the work of one of the black suits.
The black suits and Ladd's gang were both significant threats at this point, but most terrifying of all was the Rail Tracer--the monster that lurked somewhere on this train.
"How's the dining car?"
"Not good. They're got two guys on guard, and they've both got machine guns. They’re looking real serious about this." Nice reported back. Jacuzzi was at a loss.
"Is everyone from before still back in the dining car?"
"Well…"
Nice hesitated for a moment, then reluctantly spoke.
"I don't know about the people at the tables, but there's no one left an the counter seats."
"Wh-what? What do you mean?"
Nice told them that Isaac, Miria, Czes, and the Beriam family had all disappeared from the counter seats. Perhaps they had moved to a spot that wasn't visible from their angle, but what was for certain was the fact that they were no longer at the counter.
"Maybe they've all been taken away somewhere…"
"People you know? Maybe they're just sittin’ under the tables or somethin'?" Nick asked a dark-eyed Jacuzzi.
"I admit my eyesight isn't that great, but setting aside the Beriams, I would never miss Isaac and Miria." Nice argued, her tone formal in Nick’s presence. She pushed up her glasses. "I could never miss Isaac's costume or Miria's bright red dress."
Nick looked lost. Donny nodded.
"Whoa. Strange."
Suddenly, Jacuzzi and the others heard a low moan. They tensed for a moment, but then realized it was coming from the vicinity of Donny's shoulder.
"Jack!"
It seemed that the blood on his face had dried. He slowly opened his mouth to speak, flecks of blood falling from his face.
"Donny… you idiot… we… ran into… those two…"
It seemed that his consciousness and eyesight had recovered somewhat, seeing as Jack remembered the little fiasco between Donny and Isaac.
"What do you mean? You met them, Donny?"
"Uh."
Donny concentrated and looked through his memories, finally calling up a vivid recollection of their earlier encounter.
"Uh. Yeah, yeah! Two good guys. You were on roof. I met gunman. Woman in red dress. Thought I was Rail Tracer."
"…! That must have been Isaac and Miria! S-so which way did they go?"
"Uh. Find friends. Save from Rail Tracer… To see conductor."
Jacuzzi could feel his face go pale.
'They're going around this scary train… to save me?'
It was unbelievable. He had boasted that he would save everyone, and fight the black suits and the monsters, but in the end Jacuzzi had ended up endangering his new friends.
And the fact that they headed for the conductor's compartment just as he was climbing onto the roof meant that they would have run straight into Ladd and his gang.
"Uh. No worry, Jacuzzi. I warn about. White suits. Calm down. I think."
"We can't just think they're okay! What do I do…? We have to go back and save ‘em!"
Jacuzzi decided to again go straight through this perilous train, and gave orders to his team.
"Nice, you and Nick climb onto the roof and see how things are on the other side of the dining car. Don't bit off more than you can chew, all right? Donny, you're with me--but first we gotta do something for Jack…"
"D-don't worry 'bout me… Jus' toss me in one of the cabins… Easier for me that way."
It pained Jacuzzi, but he had no choice but to go with Jack's suggestion.
All right. Then I'll be going, Nice. I'm gonna come back, so don't overdo it, okay?"
Jacuzzi lightly kissed Nice on the lips and ran back to the rear cars with Donny in tow.
Nick decided to tease Nice a little.
"Whoa, gettin’ pretty hot in here, huh?"
"That was our first kiss…"
"Wha-?!"
Nice pretended not to notice Nick's confusion and stepped out into the coupling, climbing onto the roof.
Nick followed her. "That was the first time he kissed you?! You two've been an item for ten years, and you've never even kissed?! Jacuzzi's understandable, but you're almost up there with him, boss!"
Despite calling Nice 'boss', Nick spoke to Jacuzzi as an equal. Nice ignored him and stepped onto the roof.
The wind pressure made it difficult to breathe. The train had left the forest from earlier, now coming out into an empty, moonlit plain. The ground faintly reflected the moonlight, giving off a strange atmosphere.
There were no obstacles in their way, but they could not stumble and make sounds when they hit a curve in the way, lest they alert those inside the car.
Nice and Nick decided to carefully crawl across the dining car roof.
<=>
A girl whose hands had been bound behind her back was pushed into the frontmost cabin in First Class, where Mrs. Beriam was being kept.
"Mary!" Mrs. Beriam screamed. Goose grinned as if being thanked.
"There's no need to worry, ma'am. We've managed to rescue your daughter from those sickening white suits."
Mrs. Beriam glared at him with a look sharp enough to kill. Goose seemed unaffected as he began to tell her of their upcoming plans.
"If a flare goes up above the bridge we're scheduled to pass by tomorrow, the passengers of this train will live. For the time being."
"…?"
"I'm talking about the negotiations. It is impossible to carry them out from here on the train, so my subordinate is currently negotiating with your husband." Goose put his hands behind his back and looked at the Beriams as if criticizing them.
"Should your husband refuse to agree to our terms, we have decided that we will force him to understand our determination by throwing your daughter's corpse onto the tracks."
"Please, no!"
"Please don't even think about asking to be killed in her stead. We're telling you this now so that we will not have to bother with making you accept this at a later time. And your daughter will also be killed if we happen to spot the police along the tracks. For your information, we will be shooting her, so prepare yourselves…"
Having finished saying his part, Goose left the cabin. Mrs. Beriam didn't try to talk back as he left--she already knew from his attitude that resistance was useless, and she knew that one wrong move on her part would endanger the other passengers.
Watching this, Chane silently looked away.
She looked into empty space with eyes filled with worry--or disdain.
<=>
Jacuzzi and Donny laid Jack down in a nearby Second Class cabin and left, heading for the cars further back.
Left alone, Jack looked up at the ceiling and sighed, his face still aching. He had said to his friends that he was all right, but in reality, he felt like his face was going to break at any moment. His eyelid was so swollen that it hurt his eyeball.
'Am I just gonna die like this?'
His life didn't quite flash by before his eyes, but his mind began to relive some of his memories.
He remembered his childhood, when he buried the bodies of his parents--dead of malnutrition--under the floorboards. The people in the slums, none of whom could afford proper graves, had always done so. The foundations under the old apartments in immigrant districts were probably filled with hundreds of thousands of corpses.
He and his fellow delinquent Nick, who lived nearby, had frequently gone around making nuisances of themselves.
'Kinda feels stupid to say this, but we were pretty bad back then. Wouldn't be strange to want to beat up kids like that. Wonder what I'd do if I could go back in time and see my old self? Would I beat him to death? Or would I just hug the kid and cry like an idiot?
'It's been half a year already since we met Jacuzzi in Chicago. Used to think he was just a stupid crybaby. Said something about making liquor and gathering friends, so I thought maybe I'd become leader and turn 'em into my very own mafia. I was an idiot.'
Jack had not yet noticed the fact that a grey shadow was stirring on the second floor of the bunk bed in the corner of the cabin.
'He said this and that, but in the end he was the smartest one of us all, and he never turned a blind eye on any of us rotten bastards. Too nice of a guy, that Jacuzzi.
'He's always crying, but in the end he always worried about other people before himself. He's gonna live a pretty hard life, from the looks of things. I guarantee it. And idiots like us who stick by that kid's side are probably in for a lifetime of this stuff.
'Am I really just gonna die here? Damn that John and Fang. They just had to bring up this stupid mission. I'd understand if it was gold, or cash, but why would they be interested in something that crazy? …I guess Nice, that bomb freak, was the one that wanted it in the first place. And Jacuzzi went on about stealing those new bombs so it wouldn't hurt any of those total strangers in New York. Tch. Everyone in this damn little gang's incurable. And that goes for me, too. Shit!'
Suddenly, the memories he had been recalling were interrupted.
Jack's line of sight had been halved by his swollen eyelids. And his narrow view of the ceiling was suddenly covered by a huge grey mass.
The mass had the form of an outlandishly dressed person who was completely covered in grey clothing, with the exception of a small part of his face.
Strangely enough, Jack was not scared at all. He did his best to move his aching jaw to speak to the man.
"Ohh… The reaper, eh? You the grim reaper? Just wait a while, okay? I'm still good. I can keep goin’. I can keep at it… Just need to rest for a while, then I'll go help Jacuzzi. Those two are an idiot-crybaby team, so they can't do a thing without me. Don't take me away, y'hear?"
Jack grinned.
The man whose pale face was covered in blood--almost like a corpse--had smiled.
Seeing this, the man he had called the reaper also smiled.
"I see. So you wish to live, young man?"
The man in grey opened the bag beside him.
"It's nothing strange for a man in his prime to want to live. To be frank, I'm quite jealous."
There was someone watching them in silence.
'It' watched them from outside the window. Its figure, illuminated by the moonlight, was red--a portentous figure covered in crimson.
The creature looked almost like red wine, contained in a human-shaped bottle.
<=>
Nice and Nick carefully crossed the dining car roof to make their way to the next car.
Though they could have easily jumped the distance between the cars, they decided to climb down to the coupling and climb back up to the next car for fear of making a commotion.
The smoke coming from the locomotive began to block out the moonlight, and soon they were covered in darkness.
Nice put a hand on the rooftop and came away with soot-covered fingers. But she nonetheless continued to move forward in the darkness.
Some time had passed. They could now see a very faint light. It was coming from the next coupling, likely from the window on the car's door.
However, Nice suddenly froze.
'No. That's not it.'
She was overwhelmed by a sense of fear. Her mind kept shouting, 'Something's wrong! There's something dangerous here!'.
She pushed up her glasses and concentrated on her left eye in order to find the source of her anxiety.
"Boss…"
Nick, with his good eyes, was first to spot the source of this air of danger.
The wind blew sideways, momentarily blowing aside the smoke above the cars.
They could finally see.
Across the faint glow of light, at the other end of the next car, stood a woman.
A killing machine in a black dress, holding a knife and looking as though she would draw in all darkness into herself.
Chane's form, standing in the smoke, had perfectly blended into the darkness--it almost gave her a sense of ethereal beauty.
"This is bad…"
Cold sweat ran down Nice's face, but the droplets were wiped away instantly by the wind.
She could theoretically take out a bomb from her pocket, but she would likely be killed by Chane's knife before she could light the fuse. Nice could tell by Chane's silent form that she was no amateur when it came to battle.
If Nice hadn't seen her with the orchestra earlier, she would have had little trouble mistaking Chane for the Rail Tracer. She exuded just that much of a sense of power as she stood on the rooftop.
Nice almost wanted to place her hopes on the off chance that Chane would hit something as she stood there and fall off the train.
But unfortunately, there was nothing but flat plains all around them. Not a single tree or tunnel stood in their way.
'Wish she'd just show a weakness somewhere…' Nice thought. she then looked at Chane and realized that she was not looking back at herself.
'Behind me… is she looking at Nick?
'No… She's looking further ahead.'
Being careful not to raise her upper body, Nice hesitantly looked back.
The very next moment, her eye widened in shock.
The white suit reflected the moonlight, making its wearer stand out greatly.
And the hand that stuck out of the suit’s white sleeve was holding a rifle.
Ladd Russo, the man in white, began shouting loudly enough to overpower the train itself.
"Hey there! Aren't you cold, standing out here in a dress like that?!"
Ladd was trying to provoke the woman in black standing in the distance, not even sparing a glance at Nice and Nick.
"The fact that you're dressed like an orchestra means that you're here to play me a song, right?! A lovelyrefreshingsad little song for little old me? Thank you! Thank you so much!"
Although it would have made sense for him to attack in the middle of his rant, Ladd's rifle, even as Ladd danced in glee, did not budge from its aim on Chane's chest.


"Just when I thought the first movement ended and things got boring, you came all the way up to the roof for me! How am I supposed to express this kinda happiness? You came all this way here to play me a song of tearful and hilarious screaming! Is this love? Is it love now?! Unfortunately for you, I'm already engaged, but I will accept your love, young lady! And that means, I'm gonna have to kill you!"
Ladd suddenly stopped, and put pressure on his trigger finger.
"I love you! Now you die!"
With a twisted whisper of love, he slowly pulled the trigger.
There was a gunshot.
It was followed by a metallic clang.
Ladd, covered in gunsmoke, found himself letting out a rather undignified "Huh?".
The image of the moment burned itself into Nice's eye. The second before the gunshot, Chane had spun around to dodge the shot. The bullet had hit her knife by pure coincidence. All of this was believable, but what shocked Nice was the aftermath.
Chane neither dropped the knife nor staggered.
The force of the impact of the bullet against the knife should have been enormous. The angle and speed of the bullet were variable factors, but Chane had merely fixed her grip on the knife as if nothing had happened.
"Seriously? Are you serious?! You blocked my shot? You blocked my shot, darlin'?!"
Ladd seemed to be under the impression that Chane had consciously deflected his shot. He began to ramble, his eyes shining like that of a child who had gone to see a talkie for the first time.
"What the hell is this, sweetheart?! How does this happen?! Not even Tarzan can do that! I thought you were just a girl, but don't tell me you're actually Popeye on spinach?!"
Ladd began stomping his feet on the floor, flatteringly comparing Chane to a comic strip character.
Chane, who had so far shown no emotion whatsoever, twitched ever so slightly.
At the same time Ladd raised one foot into the air.
The next moment, Chane launched a knife from her hand. A glint of light made its way straight towards Ladd's throat.
"HAAAAH!" Ladd yelled, as he stomped his foot down with all his might.
The silver glint disappeared into the arc of his kick as if it had been absorbed into his foot.
Chane's icy expression finally changed. Her brow furrowed slightly, and it looked like she had pursed her lips. Of course, it was impossible to tell for sure, as they were illuminated by nothing but moonlight.
Ladd excitedly took hold of the knife at his foot.
"AHAHAHAHAHAHA! HAHAHAHAHA! We're even now, you stupid bitch! Whaddaya think? I stomped right down on your knife, just like that! You angry? You wanna die? Though I'd kill you anyway, even if you didn't want to!"
"He was planning to do that… what a monster."
Nick could feel the cold sweat running down his back. He also fought with a knife, but to be perfectly honest, he had not been able to get a good look at the way Chane threw her knife. And this lunatic called Ladd had simply ground it into the floor with a single kick.
Unlike Chane, who had blocked the bullet by accident, Ladd's action was completely deliberate.
Ladd swung the knife around in ecstasy, but Chane regained her calm and reached behind her.
"Hahahahah…hah?"
Ladd's laughter trailed off. Chane's hands came forward again, this time holding a pair of even larger knives.
"You've gotta be kidding me! Right, sweetheart?! Tell me this is a joke!"
Ladd turned around suddenly, carrying the rifle at his side, and ran away as fast as he could.
He rhythmically ran over the shaking rooftops and jumped over the couplings without a moment's hesitation. He looked like he was truly enjoying his run to the back of the train.
Chane gave chase, propelling herself from the roof.
It seemed that her new knives were not for throwing, as she did not launch them at Ladd. She dashed forward, the heavy blades in her hands weighing down her arms.
Chane passed right by Nice and Nick, who were lying on their stomachs on the roof, and went straight for Ladd. Eventually, their disappearing forms were both completely obscured by the smoke and the darkness of the night.
Nice and Nick, however, did not move. They had been paralyzed by something like a sensation of impending doom as Chane passed them by. Nice tightly clenched her fist, realizing that her sweaty palms had rendered her bomb unusable.
'What kind of people were those two?
'And if those two are humans, then what in the world could the Rail Tracer be?'
Nice clenched her fists and remembered a certain tattoo-covered face.
She then looked up, preparing to move forward.
She then found herself facing down the barrel of a long sniper rifle, and the face of a villainous-looking man.
"Looks like you two've been lying here for a while now." A man in black who only had his upper body on the roof--Spike--snickered from the coupling. "Why don't ya just come on down with your hands in the air? You've had a pretty tiring trip, I'd bet."
<=>
"What in the world could have happened here, Miria?"
"It's a mystery!"
"You think this was the work of a monster?"
"It's just like a horror show!"
Isaac calmly looked around the conductor's compartment, having discovered the two bloodied corpses.
Miria was answering Isaac's questions as she usually did, but she was standing back-to-back with him, not even looking in the direction of the corpses.
"I wonder where Jacuzzi could have gone."
"What do we do? What if he was already eaten?"
Unusually for her, Miria's tone became serious. Isaac, determined to keep her spirits up, replied in as bright a voice as he could muster.
"Don't think like that, Miria! Not to worry! The fact that his body isn't here means that he must have been swallowed whole! He still lives on in the monster's belly!"
"B-b-but we don't even know where the monster is!"
"Don't worry! The Rail Tracer always goes for the entire train! That means, that as long as we're on this train, we'll run into it eventually!"
"Yeah… I hope Jacuzzi's going to be safe until then."
"Don't worry, Miria. Jacuzzi's a good guy! There's no way that someone nicer than us could die before us!"
"You're right. …Jacuzzi!" Miria yelled suddenly.
Isaac shook his head and spoke cooly. "He won't come back just because we yell out his name, Miria."
"No, no, Isaac! Look! It's Jacuzzi! Jacuzzi's coming this way!"
When Isaac turned around, he saw the giant they had run into earlier, accompanied by the tattooed young man.
"I-I'm so glad… you're both safe…"
Jacuzzi had lost his smile after seeing the corpses here in the conductor's compartment, but ironically enough, he had found his smile again in the same place.
He was in such a rush to get here that he was gasping for breath, and there were tears running down his face.
"Jacuzzi! I'm so glad you're all right!"
"You made it out of its belly!"
Miria's words confused Jacuzzi, but he let out a sigh of relief.
"Oh right! Jacuzzi? We're sorry."
"Sorry!"
"We're really sorry!"
Isaac and Miria's sudden apologies confused Jacuzzi even more.
"Huh? Uh, no! I'm the one that's sorry. I ended up worrying the two of you." Jacuzzi bowed his head.
Isaac and Miria looked at one another.
"Hey Miria. What's the score now?"
"3:3! We're tied!"
"All right, then we'll just have to apologize one more time."
"But, but, Jacuzzi's a good person, so he might end up apologizing to us again!"
"That's true. Then we'll apologize to him lots more!"
The moment they finished this conversation, Isaac and Miria began giving meaningless apologies to Jacuzzi like no tomorrow.
"We'resorrywe'resorrywe'resorrywe'resorrywe'resorrywe'resorrywe'resorrywe'resorrywe'resorrywe'resorrywe'resorrywe'resorrywe'resorrywe'resorrywe'resorry…"
"Sorrysorrysorrysorrysorrysorrysorrysorrysorrysorrysorrysorrysorrysorrysorrysorrysorry!"
"Huh? Uh, um. Uh. I-I-I'm so sorry! I don't really get it, but I'm so sorry! I, I'll apologize, so pleasestopapologizingtome! I'm sorry! I'm sorry!"
Jacuzzi's confusion reached its limit as he began to bow his head in apology over and over again.
"Uh… What. You guys do?"
The exchange of apologies continued in the eerie conductor's compartment until Donny finally managed to bring them all back to reality.
"L-let's get out of here for now and get to one of the freight holds. I'll explain everything then." Jacuzzi said, and everyone left the cabin.
A strange noise began to sound in the cabin of corpses.
The door at the rear end of the conductor's compartment--the door leading outside--began to open to the rhythm of the shaking of the train.
And when the noise stopped and the door had opened completely--
'It' emerged from the darkness--a crimson silhouette of blood.
<=>
"A red monster? Don't make me laugh." Goose said in the First Class cabin, astonished.
"I'm tellin' ya, it's true! There really is a monster on this train!" Nick yelled, trying to lunge at Goose. Of course, the fact that his hands and feet were bound and he was lying on the floor made it quite difficult for him.
"Hm. Then let me ask you another question."
Goose turned to Nice, who was bound just like Nick, and asked her about their connection to the men in white.
"You say you have nothing to do with the white suits. Then what is your purpose on this train?"
"We're on our way to see some friends in New York."
"Still trying to worm your way out of this? If what you're saying is the truth, then why did your ally here threaten the dining car?"
"You threatened the dining car?"
Nice was confused, but she could see that Nick had suddenly gone pale.
"Is this really the man?"
"Yes, Goose. I only saw him from afar, but there's no mistaking his clothes or his voice." A man in the corner of the cabin answered. His shoulder was injured--he must have been the survivor from the trio that first attacked the dining car.
"Care to explain, then?"
Nice knew that Goose's subordinate was telling the truth and understood why Nick had done such a thing from the moment she looked at Nick's face.
She realized that she was partially to blame for this predicament, as she had been the one to give out the vague order to take care of the dining car. She then desperately tried to find a way to trick Goose.
"This guy here's a marijuana addict. He must have been hallucinating when he threatened the dining car."
"Then I suppose we can assume that the red monster he saw was also a hallucination. Then there's no longer any need for this scum of society, is there?"
Goose was smiling, but his eyes made it clear that he trusted no one.
Nice could tell from her one lie that this man would not be so easy to trick. Determining that any more fabrications would worsen their situation, she decided to tell him the truth.
"Hm… So you were nothing but a bunch of train robbers. I don't know how many of your friends are aboard this train, but know that anyone who resists will be killed without mercy."
Goose left the room with a look of complete disinterest.
Nice, however, had not told Goose the whole truth. She conveniently neglected to mention Jacuzzi, and the contents of the cargo they were after. Goose seemed to think that they were merely after the entire cargo of the luxury train, and did not pry any further.
In reality, Jacuzzi's gang was only after a certain type of cargo--the things hidden in the secret compartment in the freight hold. If Goose were to find out about it, no doubt he would try to use it for his own ends. Nice had no way of knowing the black suits' goals, but if they were to take control of the cargo, they would become nigh unstoppable. She had to avoid such a situation at all costs.
Nice let out a sigh of relief and whispered to Nick.
"I'm sorry, Nick. I should have been more specific about my orders…"
"Don't worry 'bout it, boss." Nick forced a grin, trying to cheer up his friend. "'Sides, no one'd be stupid enough to think you weren't one of us, considering how you look."
"That’s not much consolation, is it?"
Nice remembered her own appearance, and began to try and think of a way to escape this situation, despite her budding self-hatred.
Suddenly, the door opened again. Goose stepped in with a troubled expression.
"You two told me earlier that you saw a corpse in the freight hold on the way back from the conductor's compartment, correct?"
Nice and Nick nodded.
"What of the conductor's compartment? Did you see anything strange there?"
Something was troubling Goose. One of their members was supposed to be in the conductor's compartment, and he was to kill his fellow conductor. So why wasn't this woman also taken care of when she went to the conductor's compartment?
This reminded Nice that she hadn't yet told Goose about what she saw in the conductor's compartment.
"Yes, that was where we came to believe in the Rail Trace's existence."
"Tell me the truth. And make it quick."
"We found two corpses in a sea of blood. They were both conductors--one had been shot, and the other looked as though he had been half-eaten. That was all we saw."
The new information he received led Goose to wonder about something else.
The conductor's compartment was schedule to send an 'all clear' signal to the locomotive not long ago, but the train was still going. How could this be, when they had yet to take over the locomotive?
Goose poked his head out the window and looked towards the locomotive.
At the very front of the train was the locomotive, giving off a faint light, and the smoke coming from the front showed no signs of weakening.
"What's going on here?"
Goose quickly stepped out of the cabin and sent five men to check on the conductor's compartment.
If the woman was telling the truth, who had killed their ally in the conductor's compartment?
He then recalled the bloodbath in the freight hold that he had heard over the radio.
Nick's description of the scene came back to mind.
"One of your men was in the freight hold with his whole lower body missing! It's a monster! The red monster--the Rail Tracer's on this train!"
Goose tried to ignore the thought as best he could, but his heart slowly gave way to the fear of the Rail Tracer.
The terror slowly but surely ate away at him, moving just like the train itself.
<=>
"I see…! This train is now like the 'Romance of the Three Kingdoms'!"
"The biggest love triangle in the Orient!"
Jacuzzi and the others were currently going over the situation in the freight hold at the very end of the train. Isaac had suddenly made this declaration just as they were clearing up all of their respective situations.
"The Romance…?" Jacuzzi tilted his head, confused by the completely unfamiliar name.
"Yes! You see, the Romance of the Three Kingdoms is a famous historical record! The tale of three great samurai who divided the kingdom and battled each other! Uh, let's see. Their names were 'Cao Cao', 'Liu Bei', and 'Yuan Shao'…"
"They're often compared to the snake, the snail, and the toad!"
Isaac and Miria built up suspense as they continued to spout off their dubious information about the Orient.
"This train's like a big platter where the black suits, white suits, and the Rail Tracer are all at each other's throats, right? Jacuzzi! You have to upset the balance! Upturn the situation, platter and all!"
"Then you'll take over the entire train! You'll be a lord! A king! An emperor! A tyrant!"
"H, huh?"
The sudden turn of events turned Jacuzzi's eyes into dinner plates. He was, of course, planning to defeat the black suits and the Rail Tracer, but he never imagined that such an act could be interpreted as taking over the train.
"B-but… you really think I could do that?"
"Of course! Even in the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, one great man united the Orient in the end!"
"The champion!"
"Jacuzzi! That's why you have to become Yoshitsune!"
"Of Minamoto!"
"Yo-Yoshitsune?"
"That's right! He's a great man who crossed over from Japan to China, defeated the three kingdoms, and founded a country called 'Genghis Khan'!"
"He's amazing!"
Isaac's account of the history of East Asia was wildly anachronistic and inaccurate, but his energetic voice became a glimmer of hope for Jacuzzi.
"You really think I can be that great?" He asked quietly.
Isaac silently looked into Jacuzzi's eyes and nodded.
"Of course! You're the defending champion, who's defeated us countless times!"
"Isaac's an amazing person, you know? And since you beat Isaac, you're a really amazing person, Jacuzzi!"
Despite the boundless energy headed in his direction, Jacuzzi shook his head.
'I wonder why? I feel like I can tell these two everything that I can't tell other people.'
Jacuzzi nodded and began to explain himself to Isaac and Miria--to confess about the kind of person he really was.
"I do want to save the passengers and get rid of the black suits. But I'm honestly not that good of a person. I broke the law and bootlegged liquor, and yesterday I ended up killing five people."
Donny, who had been silent the whole time, finally spoke up to interrupt Jacuzzi.
"Uh. No, no. We killed 'em. Jacuzzi didn't kill. And. They killed friends, too."
"What's the difference? If I hadn't bootlegged liquor, our friends and the mafia guys all could have lived."
Hearing this, Isaac grabbed Jacuzzi by the collar and pulled him up to his own face, eyes wide open.
Jacuzzi initially flinched, thinking that Isaac was going to hit him for being an idiot, but there was a confident smile on Isaac's face.
"Don't worry about things like that! If everyone around you calls you a good guy, that means you're going to become a great guy! In other words, the only thing that decides whether you're a good guy or a bad guy is the feel of the moment! That's what decides everything!"
"The feel of the moment!"
Jacuzzi's mind marvelled at the illogical line of thought Isaac and Miria had reached, but his heart had already been swept up in their cheer.
"That's why! You have to be confident, because we think you're a great guy! Don't worry if anyone says otherwise! You just have to sweep them along in this wave!"
"Stand tall with your head held high and believe in yourself! But see? If you want to start this wave, you have to make sure that at least one person around you thinks you're a good person! That's why it means that you're a good guy, Jacuzzi! We'll make these waves for you!"
Watching the optimistic duo, Jacuzzi realized that his own fingers, hands, arms, and body were trembling. Could this be fear? Or something less sinister?
"Thank you." Jacuzzi said. Perhaps there was more for him to tell them, but that was all he could work up at the moment.
Normally, Jacuzzi might have said something like 'sorry', but he felt like it would be insulting to both himself and the couple to say such a thing.
"But if you think I'm such a great person, what does that make you two?"
Isaac and Miria were somewhat taken aback by the question.
"We're not quite sure ourselves. But you know what the man who told us about the Romance of the Three Kingdoms said to us?"
"He said, 'You two have to become the southeaster'!"
"The southeaster…? But that's not a person."
"Right? But I think it's a wind that gathers a bunch of things, like happiness or despair, and blows it towards someone all at once!"
"What's why we're going to send a whole lot of happiness along with this train!"
Isaac nodded.
"That's a wonderful idea, Miria! Then shall we go and blow away the Rail Tracer and the Russo Family?"
"Faster than this train, forever and ever!"
Isaac and Miria got up and began to leave with a smile.
"W-wait! Where are you going?" Jacuzzi hurriedly tried to stop them. Isaac and Miria responded with confident looks on their faces.
"Where else but to find the Rail Tracer?"
"We're going to ask it to go home! If not, we'll fight it off! And if that doesn't work, we'll run away and hide! After all, it'll have to go home when the sun rises while it's still looking for us!"
"Whoa. Monster strong. Gonna kill you. Don't."
Even Donny looked worried by their course of action, but the duo was undeterred.
"If the Rail Tracer finds us, I'll fight it off with my hundred guns!"
"You're so cool, Isaac!"
Isaac tapped on the holsters he wore all over his body. There was not a single firearm in his possession.
"But you don't even have one gun, let alone a hundred." Jacuzzi noted, his eyes wide open.
"Hm." Isaac nodded. "You're right. To be honest, I never expected things would turn out this way." He acknowledged.
But he continued to step towards the door. Isaac looked up, his face deadly serious.
"It'll be all right. A famous old gunman once told me this."
He looked straight into Jacuzzi's eyes and nodded.
"You know where a real man keeps his guns? His heart."
"Amazing, Isaac!"
"I don't think any famous gunman said anything like that!"
"That so? Then I'll become that famous gunman!"
"Amazing, Isaac! Just like Billy the Kid!"
The duo quietly opened the freight hold door, completely ignoring the astonished Jacuzzi.
"Don't worry about us! If anything happens, we'll make a run for it! Jacuzzi, you have to rescue Mrs. Beriam while we distract the Rail Tracer!"
"We'll be just fine! Running and hiding is our specialty, you know?"
Isaac and Miria's confident smiles made Jacuzzi feel like everything really would be fine. He also realized that nothing could stop them from leaving.
So he decided to send them off with a smile.
"Please promise me you won't die."
"All right. We promise you! And if we break our promise, we'll cut off our fingers or slit our bellies!"
"You have to come back alive, too. Okay, Jacuzzi? Donny?"
With this, Isaac and Miria stepped outside and headed for the conductor's compartment in search of the Rail Tracer.
Jacuzzi watched them leave as he decided to finish what he had set out to do.
"Have you ever seen anyone that stubborn, Donny? I don't know who they are, but they're so much more like villains than people like us." He said quietly to Donny, looking upwards.
"Huh?"
"Yeah. This train's full of bad guys and small fry. That includes us, too."
Jacuzzi stopped and once again glanced back towards Isaac and Miria's direction.
"Those two are bad guys who're so much worse than me, but I just know that they're dozens of times nicer than someone like me."
"Uh. Jacuzzi. Lonely?"
Jacuzzi did not answer. He continued walking.
"Let's go. We're gonna go do our own thing. We'll become the biggest bad guys on this entire train. Right, Donny?"
Seeing him nod confidently, Donny realized that he had never seen Jacuzzi this way before.
"Jacuzzi look like. Enjoying yourself."
<=>
Mary buried herself in her mother's arms, trembling as though she had run out of tears.
How much time had passed since she was captured? The terrifying woman had left the cabin a little while ago, but a guard armed with a gun was still watching them.
She wondered what had happened to Czes. Was he safe? Perhaps he had returned to the broom closet to find her missing, and was worrying about her. Perhaps he had already been captured and killed.
Terrified by her own imagination, Mary leaned against her mother.
Her eyes filled with tears again.
<=>
The quintet of Lemures passed through the dining car and the Second Class cars, and were running through the Third Class car. They were heading for the conductor's compartment.
"Careful. It sounds like Chane and one of the white suits were headed for the back, too." The leader of the team said, just as they heard the sound of a window breaking.
"What the?!"
"It came from the cabin!"
It sounded like it had come from one of the Third Class cabins.
"Where's the Third Class team?"
"We lost contact with 'em, just like Second Class."
The black suits took a deep breath. Two of them would search the car, and the other three would go ahead to check out the conductor's compartment.
Once the team of three had departed, the remaining two quietly approached the cabin door.
Some time passed in silence, and as one man gave a wordless signal, the two of them simultaneously kicked down the door.
"There's nothing here."
The cabin was empty. Only the sound of wind blowing in through the broken window occupied this space.
One of the men cautiously approached the window, cleared some of the debris from the frame with the butt of his gun, and poked his head out the window to get a clear look.
He stared downward for some time, then hurriedly looked around.
"What's the matter?"
"C'mere for a sec. …Look at that."
The second man followed his ally to the window and looked out and down the frame.
"Ugh…"
What they saw illuminated in the lamplight and the dim moonlight was a grotesquely twisted human body.
The body looked like it had been stuck to the metal ornaments at the base of the car. It was impossible to see all of it from their position at the window.
But the black suits were quite sure that the body was a corpse.
It was missing its right arm and both its legs. Perhaps they were torn, or even eaten off. The right arm was missing everything from the shoulder down, and the cut was very messy.
It was probably secured to the train at a place they could not see from their angle--likely by the clothing or its left arm.
The black suits were quite used to the sight of corpses, but that itself was not what shocked them.
The shock stemmed from the fact that the corpse was that of a young child.
No one could expect to see such a thing--they were not in a war-torn land, but on a train in the United States.
Chane and Goose likely would not have blinked at the sight, and perhaps Ladd would have ended up laughing. And if Jacuzzi could see this, he would have started wailing like a madman.
The corpse of the child had a rather difficult name to pronounce--Czeslaw Meyer.
<=>
"I hope Czes is all right." Mary said to herself, her tears finally gone.
"Of course he is. I'm sure Czes, Mr. Isaac, Miss Miria, Mr. Jacuzzi and Miss Nice are all just fine. So don't worry. Mama's going to make sure you don't have any bad dreams, so go to sleep, Mary." Mrs. Beriam reassured her.
Mrs. Beriam gently stroked her daughter's hair.
Tap Tap Tap Tap
"!"
The noise was coming from the window.
It was the sound of something hard hitting glass.
The lone guardsman opened the window, gun in hand.
"…?"
He looked around outside, but there was nothing there.
He then leaned out of the window and sat on the frame to get a good look at the roof, when his view of the night sky was suddenly covered by darkness.
"GAAAH!"
A pair of sturdy work boots landed right on his head.
The owner of the boots held on to the window frame and stomped over the man's face.
"W-wait! AHH! AAAAAAHHH!"
The man's body was dragged out the window, and finally fell out of the train. He rolled across the gravel by the tracks and was soon swallowed by the night.
The Beriam family, shocked by the sudden development, looked upon the person who entered through the window.
It was a young woman wearing fatigues.
Mrs. Beriam vaguely remembered seeing her sitting by the window seat back in the dining car. As she searched for more memories of her, the young woman spoke.
"Are you all right?" She asked stoically. She was perhaps in her early twenties. Her already messy outfit was covered in black smears, making her look even dirtier than she was back in the dining car.
"If you're not hurt, let's get out of here."
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