A short final update for this volume. Enjoy!
Epilogue: Kuzu is Kuzu
<Ah-ah-ah—Aaahh… Testing… Ahem. All right! Good day, ladies, germs, princes, princesses, grandpas, and grandmas. Time for more half-baked radio badness, straight into your eardrums! Whoo! Lemme give you folks a little sneak preview. We got a special guest for tonight’s Buruburu Airwaves on the Street… the youngest girl in the history of our broadcast! FYI, we don’t want any business with freaks underground who’re on the internet all the time! Unlike your one-track brains, this kid’s mind thought of makin’ a map of this whole damned maze! Her name’s—>
“Yua? I’m ready to order.”
Midday at Iizuka’s Restaurant was just as crowded as usual.
A tanned girl looked up at Kuzuhara and hurried to him.
“One omelet-soba combo and oolong tea, please.”
Blankly watching Yua head for the kitchen, Kuzuhara fell into thought.
Why had Hayato Inui been so obsessed with Seiichi Kugi? If it really was a case of hating those most similar to him, Hayato could have easily just killed Seichi.
‘Was he trying, maybe, to save Seiichi from the same predicament he’d gone through?’
But thinking would get him nowhere. In fact, it even occurred to Kuzuhara that maybe Inui was trying to turn Seiichi to his side. But then again, Kuzuhara did not care to understand someone that insane.
So what had changed? It felt sort of like something about the city was different, but it also felt like everything was the same. In the end, Kelly never did broadcast the truth behind the incident over the radio.
After all, now that Seiichi was gone, his corruption meant nothing to his former organization. The city itself did not seem to care about the mastermind behind the incidents, either.
The only people in the city who cared about organization politics were people from the organizations. And in this case, as the surviving organizations already knew what took place behind the scenes, the truth did not matter.
Nothing was done to Kelly in the aftermath, and the incident came to an almost monotonous close.
The only significant change, perhaps, was that the group that ruled the Eastern District—the group that had been silent throughout the incident—had taken over both the Southern and Northern Districts as well. Yili’s family continued to rule the West, and had also taken control of the Pits as well. They must have cut a deal with the East beforehand. In the end, Kuzuhara remained on the volunteer police force, and the city’s economy remained the same.
The bigwigs of the Eastern District must have already spoken with not only Yili, but with Hayato Inui as well. Perhaps the whole incident was orchestrated by the Eastern District’s organization to begin with.
Kuzuhara decided he no longer cared. His thoughts moved on.
And as for the restaurant—
“Y’gotta buy, Kuzu.”
“C’mon, Kuzu. Now that Dad’s back, we’re spending way more money on food.”
“We know your ribs still hurt. Y’gotta buy, or I’m gonna poke you.”
“I’m gonna hit you.” “I’m gotta stab you!” “Eat you!”
Shoveling his omelet-soba combo into his mouth, Kuzuhara ignored the children.
“Hey Kuzu, did you know your ringtone was all over the island’s speakers the other time?”
“What…? Ah, right.”
When he thought, he realized that Kelly must have gone to the trouble of playing his ringtone over the speakers when he went to stop Seiichi and Inui. But to be frank, Kuzuhara had not had the ease of mind to hear the song. With his ribs broken, he couldn’t turn his ears to the speakers at the same time.
“That’s how Kuzu beat the bad guys!”
“What? Says who?”
“Dad said the rainbow-haired guy said so! Kuzu, that song brought you back to life!”
“I never died.”
“It’s the power of love! With you and Kelly!”
“Who powers up with the BGM? That’s so immature!”
Kuzuhara frowned. “How is that immature?”
“Hey! So you’re not denying the power of love thing!”
“All right, which one of you wants to be the first in line for a real tearjerker?”
Six children chirped and chattered as they surrounded Kuzuhara, who was blushing just slightly.
But when they saw their mother approach with a knife in hand, they scattered in terror.
In the woman’s absence, her husband got to working on the yakisoba in the kitchen, sweating profusely.
“So it’s all back to normal, huh.”
On one hand, it felt like he had accomplished nothing. On the other hand, he was relieved. He hadn’t really changed on the inside, either. But perhaps he would take some time off one day to visit a certain grave in Tokyo.
Quietly sipping his oolong tea, Kuzuhara remembered that one more thing had changed since then.
As if on cue, his oldest ringtone began to sound from his breast pocket.
In the city, where the noise from the speakers mingled with the people’s voices,
The ringtone sounded recklessly, on and on.
Epilogue 2: The Dog’s End
<Hah! As if handgun rounds would’ve reached from that distance! That was 200 meters, at least. I was expecting a sniper rifle or a rocket launcher or something, man! Were you even thinking back there?>
“…But you still came outside.”
<I couldn’t just run off. There was someone I knew on that boat. And if you really had a missile or something, it’d be my job to shoot it down like a badass. That’s the least I could do.>
“Figures. You’re an idiot.”
<You finally awake now? This ain’t a movie. It’s just plain old reality. Man-to-man duels aren’t as easy as those B-movies make it look like.>
<You better thank Mr. Kuzuhara. I was just playin’ around at first, but I’d have killed you if he wasn’t around. Anyhow, I’m prolly gonna be pulling some banditry or piracy or some shit in Southeast Asia, so if you wanna come along—>
Hanging up, Seiichi looked at the gun in his hand.
The large-caliber handgun had been at his side always during his time in the city. It was the one that had killed Kanae five years ago, and more recently broken Kuzuhara’s ribs. Seiichi had never reloaded the gun. And now that he thought about it, it was a miracle that the gun still fired after being unused for five years. It was the first and last gun he ever fired in the city.
Without a moment’s hesitation, he put the muzzle to his head and pulled the trigger.
There was a click. Nothing came out of the muzzle.
After staring for some time at the sea, Seiichi quietly said to himself,
“…Let’s go back.”
The lonely young man headed for the city. Not the one on the artificial island, but to his hometown. To the island where the snowy mountains loomed.
As he made the long walk, Seiichi thought to himself.
He wondered—was the town where he and Kanae grew up still there?
The man who escaped reality because of his powerlessness was now returning to reality for the very same reason.
The young man who had never grown up would return to take back his lost time.
To finally make things up to her, and to the people he killed.
It had been years since he looked up at the mountains of Kosado. There was no snow on the bridge, but the peaks were wearing thin caps of white.
The kites circling the sky overhead were no different from those he saw as a boy.
Watching the birds gliding so gracefully, Seiichi quietly fell to his knees and wept.