Monday, 8 September 2014

Kino's Journey Volume 16 - Chapter 3

Have a short but sweet Kino's Journey chapter.

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Chapter 3: Land of ‘Drunk Driving’
~Let’s Play the Game~


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A lone car was moving across the rainy plain.

The car was a small yellow mess.

The rain came down like a waterfall. The little car huffed and puffed along the straight road paved down the grassland.

The sky was very dark. Though the sun should have been shining from atop the world, it was nowhere to be seen.

A single windshield wiper was tirelessly pulling back and forth, but it was not doing a very good job of clearing the water. The rubber was worn out to begin with, and the rain was so heavy that the wiper could not keep up with the speed.

The roof of the car was made of fabric. On a clear day, it would be rolled up to turn the car into a convertible, but naturally, it was closed today. But the rain leaked inside through the roof anyway.

“This rain is dreadful. Don’t you agree, Master?” Asked the person sitting at the right, behind the wheel. He was a slightly short but handsome man. Everything below the right shoulder of his brown jacket was soaked. He had already given up on keeping it dry.

“Days like this happen in life.” Replied the woman called Master, who sat next to the man. She had long, shimmering black hair, and it was difficult to tell how old she was. She was wearing a raincoat over her elegant black jacket to keep it from getting wet.

In the back seat behind them were travel gear and persuaders(including rifles). It was all covered under a tent to prevent water damage.

The man very carefully followed the nigh-indistinguishable road. If the road was not a line of brown in a sea of green, it would have been impossible to proceed.

It was unlikely that they would run into another car on the way, but the chances were not zero. And even if they were safe from other vehicles, the road might suddenly plunge into a river or be blocked by a fallen tree.

Very carefully, cautiously, and with utmost vigilance, the man continued the rainy drive, doing whatever he could to minimize the shaking.


The place they arrived at twice as late as they expected was a large city in the flatlands.

Paved roadways crisscrossed the country, and many of its citizens owned motorized vehicles.

The sky had finally cleared, and their little muddy car hobbled along underneath as much better cars quickly overtook them. They signaled, switched lanes, zoomed ahead, then returned to the lane.

“Excellent driving etiquette.” The woman noted.

In some countries, cars drove right up to them and overtook them without a care for safety, tailgated them, or even honked the klaxon for no reason. But none of that happened in this country.

“It’s certainly a welcome change. Gets rid of any unnecessary squabbling.” The man commented, lightly waving at the car that so politely overtook them.

Of course, if the other car had picked a fight with these people, it would have been the losing one.


Now, it was evening.

Parking their car in the lot, the man and the woman stepped into the hotel with one suitcase between them. As they checked in at the desk, a middle-aged patron came up to them with a smile.

“Hello there, travelers. I see you drove all the way here. Have you, by any chance, come to our country for some ‘drunk driving’?”

“‘Drunk driving’?” The man repeated quizzically.

“Ah, so you didn’t know, then? ‘Drunk driving’ is only the most popular pastime in our country! You drink alcohol and drive, then hit ‘people’ or ‘other cars’. It’s certainly worth a try!” The older man exclaimed. “Enjoy your stay!”

With that, he was gone.

“Huh?”

The man frowned. But his questions were answered as soon as he entered the hotel room.

There was a pamphlet there, with the following words:

[Try your hand at Drunk Driving! Drink and drive! Drink to drive! National Drunk Driving Centers are open every day of the year!]


The next day.

Though they were skeptical, a drunk driving center was something they had never heard of before.

So the two travelers went.

They drove their own car under the clear skies to a National Drunk Driving Center, which turned out to be a massive facility.

There was a vast tract of land before them, on the edges of the country. It looked almost like a village. There were paved roads and houses lining the streets.

Upon closer inspection, they realized that, though the roads were real, the houses were intricate fakes like those used on movie sets.

“Welcome, travelers!”

Greeting them was a young woman in a suit, wearing a badge labeled ‘Guide’.

“Welcome to the 8th National Drunk Driving Center!” She said with a smile.

“So there are at least seven more of these facilities in your country.” The man noted. The guide nodded.

“Including civilian facilities of all sizes, we have twenty-four ‘drunk driving’ centers in the country.”

“Incredible.” The man replied, his tone somewhere between incredulity and awe.

“First, allow me to explain about the facility and ‘drunk driving’. A picture is worth a thousand words, so why not take a look?” The guide explained, leading the travelers into the tallest building in the facility—a lattice tower. After ascending about twenty meters on the elevator, they could see the entire mockup village at a glance.

It was about the size of four soccer fields. There were wide streets, narrow alleys, and traffic lights. On the sidewalks, they could even see plywood pedestrians.

“If you would turn your attention to the middle left and right.”

The travelers did as they were told. There were nearly a hundred cars parked in a massive lot.

“Those are the center’s vehicles.”

The cars were all normal vehicles of the same shape.

And each car was covered on all sides by thick metal piping. They were like sturdy birdcages, all dented or bent.

“And over there are today’s participants. We have a smaller group today.”

In front of the parking lot was a crowd too large to be called a ‘small group’. There were at least several dozen. They sat around tables set up under a tent, drinking merrily. It was too far to see just what was in their cups, so the man decided to ask.

“Alcohol, of course. The participants drink to their heart’s content and raise their blood alcohol levels to acceptable levels, though not enough to harm their health. They have to meet a certain level before they can start their ‘drunk driving’.” The guide replied.

The participants seemed to be ready; after one final swig, they put on helmets and safety gear and climbed into their cars.

Dozens of cars started simultaneously in the lot. And when a loud signal sounded, they drove off at once. Soon the streets of the mockup village were bustling.

Then, traffic started.

It looked almost like another day on the road. But perhaps the alcohol was working; over one way was a car swaying down the street, and over the other a car was veering into the opposite lane.

When the traffic light turned red, the cars stopped as they were supposed to.

CRASH!

That was when one of the cars crashed into another. And as though on cue, a chain of crashes and bumps and scratches began to fill the village.

“Now they’re finally getting some ‘drunk driving’ done!” The guide exclaimed.

A car that was speeding along a street tried to make a turn, but messed up the steering; the tires screeched and it hit the sidewalk.

There were dry cracks as plywood pedestrians were sent flying like bowling pins. They flew through the air and fell into the middle of the road. Another car tried to swerve out of the way, but—

Crack.

It failed, and ended up running over the pedestrians, leaving behind only pieces.

The mockup village was caught up in a frenzy of noise.

One car tried too hard to overtake another and ended up crashing into a wall.

Another drove off the bridge drawn on the ground and ran down the river.

Another hobbled along toward a pile-up.

Another rammed into a sturdy, reinforced pillar.

“It’s certainly lively.” The man admitted.

“I understand. The participants enjoy this.” The woman said to the guide.

“Yes. ‘Drunk driving’ is our country’s most popular pastime.” The guide said, to the tune of cars bashing into one another. “Participants drink to their heart’s content, then drive around in the center. They can choose from two rulesets.”

The guide explained, citing the rules.

“First is the ‘safe driving’ ruleset. In this case, participants try to drive for as long as possible while causing the least damage possible. In other words, they try to avoid accidents and try to follow the rules. But that’s not easy, with all the alcohol in their system. They’re bound to bump into one thing or another. Although it doesn’t matter if another car were to crash into yours. This is the ruleset being used at the moment.”

The travelers seemed to understand. The guide continued.

“The second is the ‘destructive driving’ ruleset. In this case, participants try to drive as dangerously as possible. They crash into other cars as much as they’d like, and send ‘pedestrians’ flying. They let their desires control them and enjoy the destructive power their cars afford them. It’s the perfect pastime for stress relief. We have this event scheduled for the afternoon. It’s a little noisier.”

Then, a loud signal sounded.

“That’s the time limit signal.” Said the guide. The cars returned to the parking lot.

“The cars are all equipped with cameras, with which we check the drivers’ records. By the ‘safe driving’ ruleset, the driver who got into the fewest accidents, broke the fewest rules, and drove the longest distance is the winner. It’s the opposite in the ‘destructive driving’ ruleset. Drivers score points based on how bombastically they caused destruction. We have national tournaments for both. Our country is known for its alcohol, you see, and we have many drivers. That is why ‘drunk driving’, which combines both pastimes, has become such a popular sport among adults.”

The drivers who returned to the lots got out of their cars.

When they took off their helmets, they all looked refreshed. Some were staggering as they walked.

“It’s a rather violent sport.” The man said honestly.

The guide smiled.

“What do you think? Would you like to give it a try, travelers? We give a special discount to first-time players. Everything from alcohol, side dishes, gas, and repair charges, for this low price!”

The travelers did not know if the price she suggested was a high one or a low one. But setting that aside, the woman spoke.

“I understand. But could I ask a question? Do drivers ever drink and drive outside the center—on public roads?”

“Absolutely not!” The guide replied, horrified. “Who would do such a thing? Drinking and driving on public roads is a dangerous act that could easily end lives. When a driver is caught in the act, he or she is sentenced to ten years in prison. If someone is injured because of a drunk driver, the sentence is increased to twenty years. And if the drunk driver kills someone, he or she is naturally sentenced to life in prison, just like any other murderer!”

“I see.” The woman nodded.

The guide smiled again.


“So, could I interest you in a round in our drunk driving center? We will naturally call a driver to take you to the hotel after the match. Just give it a shot! I guarantee that your stress will go flying after you crash into some cars and run over pedestrians.”

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