Sunday, 5 October 2014

Mew Mew! -Crazy Cat's Night- Chapter 1

(Download the updated version in PDF/epub format here.)

A chapter. Enjoy.

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Chapter 1: Chainsaw Cat


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Wednesday morning, mid-July. Somewhere in the Eastern District.


Brrrrrrrm. Brrrrrrrrm.

Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrm.


Off-kilter vibrations shook the morning streets.

The sound of generators spinning their rusting motors.

The sound of the reddened saw at the butcher shop cutting through frozen chunks of pork.

The sound of a motorcycle’s engine spinning idly.

The sound of a dusty air conditioning unit struggling to circulate air.

The sound of an ancient washing machine rattling and splashing.

All kinds of vibrations tangled together to shake the air of the city.

And in that endless resonance of noise, she slept like a baby.

The room was by no means large, with tools and electronics heaped together like rubble. The young woman was sprawled out in her underwear as though filling the gaps.

She was probably not yet twenty. Her long bangs covered her closed eyes. And though she had an attractive figure, there was something quite childlike in her sleeping face.

It was past 9 in the morning, but sunlight would never enter the room. It wasn’t that the windows were covered—only that the light from outside was artificial.

Overhead outside was not a blue sky, but a ceiling of concrete. The young woman’s smooth, fair skin reflected the cold fluorescent light on the ceiling.

And just as she stirred, the cell phone lying on the floor began to ring.

The ringtone was a song from a decades-old slasher flick about a madman who killed people while wearing human skin. It was a poor fit for the girl’s looks, and if she had to fit the film’s setting somehow, she would probably work best as the victim.


“Mmm…”

Opening her eyes at the melody filling the room, the girl reached over to the cell phone a slight distance away. Though her skin was pale, her slender arm did not look particularly frail.

Taking the call, she replied in a drowsy voice.

“Yawn… hello?”

<Slept in again, you lummox?!>

“Eek?!”

The girl flinched.

Her hazy consciousness instantly cleared as she righted herself with the force of a jack-in-the-box.

“M-Mr. Zhang! Yes? Wait, huh? What’s a lummox?”

<Shaddap and wake up, Jun Sahara! Your shift’s started ages ago, so why the hell is the first thing I hear a yawn? Well? Get off your rear! Brush your teeth, eat your breakfast, put on some clothes, and get your ass over here on the double!>

“Ahh, yes! Okay!”

Her eyes began to spin again.

The girl named Jun Sahara did not wait for the man to continue. She hung up, and with a yawn, breathed something like a sigh.

“Uhh…”

Tears streamed from her eyes. They had probably come from her yawn earlier, but she still felt like crying.

“…Wait. Today’s Wednesday. Don’t I have the day off?” She wondered, and turned to the calendar hanging from her door.

It was definitely Wednesday—she had Wednesdays off—

“…Oh…”

Noticing the irregularity on the calendar, she moaned.

Today’s date was circled in red, and in the space below the date were written the words ‘Go to work today!’.

“How could I forget…?”

Jun had completely forgotten about it and chatted with her friend Misaki over the phone until late last night. It was clearly her own mistake. Normally, she would have struggled to vent her anger, but this time she blankly folded her blankets without looking particularly anxious.

Then she stood up and began to move, heading off to do her business.

Though she had only just woken up, her fair skin was already shimmering. Her eyes were still covered by her bangs, but her nose and mouth hinted at her attractive features.

She was very calm for someone who had been so badly chewed out—there was no wasted movement in her actions. In several minutes she had changed and was opening the refrigerator as she fixed her sleeves. She took out a pouch of nutritional jelly from the door and sucked on it as she walked.

Though quick, there was nothing rushed in the way she moved.

Other than the mess of junk around her blankets, the room was quite clean. Jun crossed the room again and again as she prepared to leave, covering the shortest distance possible each time.

Her short hair was clearly brushed, but her bangs still covered her eyes. Yet it didn’t seem to obstruct her vision as she didn’t try to push it aside.

After putting on a well-cut leather suit, she put on pants instead of a skirt. Inside her opened jacket she only wore a T-shirt, allowing glimpses of her lovely curves. But Jun did not care about such things; she was dressed in a way that allowed her great freedom of movement.

When the jelly pouch was empty, she tossed it in a trash can and muttered a word of thanks even though no one was there to hear.

Finally ready to set out, she grabbed something unusual at the door.

Two long leather bags were leaning by the door. They looked like baseball bat pouches, but two sizes thicker.

Straps were attached to either end of each pouch. Jun slung both over her shoulders; they looked like small cannons on her back. It was jarring to behold, but Jun did not seem to mind. She opened her locked door and stepped outside.

At first glance, it looked like she was in an underground shopping mall.

In fact, from the layout alone the area was a shopping mall. To be specific, it was once meant to be one.


From the looks of the people traveling the corridors and those opening up shop in their own corners, the area did not seem like it was underground. Unlike a normal shopping mall, it was like an aboveground slum had been transplanted into a basement.

But the graffiti-riddled ceiling overhead turned the atmosphere of the city on its head. And it was not only above—walls, the floor, and the shutters of stores that had yet to open were filled to every last corner with graffiti.

It was different from the way young people in cities left gang symbols on walls. The graffiti here was mostly scribbles.

Most of the scribbles were written in Japanese, and though 80% of the people walking down the street were Japanese, the city was completely different from any region in Japan.


“Oh, Mr. Take. Good morning…”

“Mornin’, Jun.”

When Jun came outside, the owner of the ramen place next door was preparing to open up shop. They saw each other almost every day, but perhaps it was her personality—or the man’s intimidating face—that Jun often found herself cowering in front of him.

Jun, the owner of the ramen shop, and everyone who had a business or home in the neighborhood was there illegally.

If things had gone according to plan, this area would have been the biggest shopping mall in Hokuriku. But it had become a den of illegal residents.

How had such a thing happened?

What was this place?

Those might be the questions on the minds of anyone who set foot here without doing their research.

But no one came to this city without the answers to those questions.

There were many ways to reach the island. One could walk across the bridge from Sado or Niigata. Naturally, the entrances to the bridge were sealed off and heavily guarded by the police.

Another way was to take a boat. There were several professional transporters who undertook such jobs using motorboats or fishing boats. The only downside was that they cost a fortune, and that passengers were likely to be robbed of everything they owned the moment they came ashore, abandoned on the island by the transporter. And as going to the island was illegal, the victims could not even go to the police for help after that.

Even before that, the island had been abandoned by the law-governed nation of Japan—someone who had lost everything on the island might not even be able to make it back alive.

In other words, those who came to the island were people who had no choice but to escape there, or young people and journalists who visited out of curiosity.

Or—


“Look what we have here.”

“Hey babe. Heh. Let’s be honest here. You’re done.”

—people like these.

As Jun headed for work on the same route she always took, people approached her in a deserted stretch of the path.

It was in a stairwell leading aboveground that a group of young men seemed to materialize out of a background of graffiti, getting in her way.

“…?”

Momentarily confused, Jun widened her hidden eyes and looked around.

There were six or seven of them.

A group of young men dressed in ways that flaunted their stupidity had taken charge of the stairwell, and were surrounding Jun.

“Check it out. Betcha she’s wondering why we’re picking on her.”

“Nice. Hey, lemme see your eyes. C’mon.”

The young men chattered with no concern for her feelings. Jun knew what they were thinking.

And as though having seen through her, the men continued to ignore her personhood.

“What’d I tell you guys? This chick walks through this empty stairwell every morning.”

“Can’t believe dumbasses like this still exist.”

“C’mon, let’s grab her and go.”

Jun could only tilt her head at the flow of the conversation.

‘Why are they picking on me, of all people?

And with intense curiosity, she opened her mouth. Yet there was no hint of fear or anger in her tone.

“Um… everyone? Do you… not know about me?”

She paused hesitantly from time to time, but she was not scared.

“What the hell about, bitch?” One of the men spat, grabbing Jun by her collar. “We just said we know you pass by here every morning. You know what’s gonna happen if you don’t hold still?”

‘Oh, I get it.’

Jun inwardly clapped her hands in understanding.

‘These people haven’t been on the island long. They just happened to see me and pick me out. If they’d been watching me for a while, they wouldn’t have been waiting for me on my day off.’

Realizing that the men were just thugs who were after her money or body, Jun breathed a sigh of relief.

‘In other words, they’re not work enemies.

She tried to put a hand on her chest, but one of the men was still holding her collar.

“Um…”

‘Could you let go of me?’ Jun was about to ask, but in that instant the thug growled.

“What?”

“…No-nothing. I’m sorry.” She backed down without thinking, intimidated.

“You got a problem, pussycat? You’re in for a world of hurt if you try to fight back… Or you know what? That might be more entertaining. Do your worst.”

Jun hung her head apologetically, and mumbled—

“…Okay.”

“What?”

A second later, her hand slid back and reached into one of the cylindrical cases behind her.

“Hey! What the—”

The thug’s first instinct was to grab her arm, but Jun’s movements were utterly efficient. No one had noticed her move until her hand was inside the case.

Was she planning to take out a stun gun, the thugs wondered. They were not naive—even they knew that women in neighborhoods like this armed themselves for protection.

But their confidence that no weapon could beat their numbers ultimately sealed their fate.

The newcomers to the city knew much too little about their new lair.


The object that slipped out from her back was—

“Wha…”

—the thugs could feel their breaths caught in their throats—


Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrm.


The growl of a beast echoed through the concrete stairwell.

Realizing where the sound was coming from, the man holding Jun’s collar instantly let go and leapt back—but lost his balance and fell on his backside.

The other thugs froze at once, and one of them dropped the cigarette he had in his mouth. He did not even glance at the fallen cigarette as his lips trembled at the sight of Jun’s weapon.

The object she had drawn shone an eerie silver; it let out a ghastly howl.


It spun.


And spun.


And spun.


Around the edges of a metal guide bar, a sharpened chain spun like a linear motor car.


Countless spinning blades slipped out of the red engine. The weapon was as thin and sharp as a bat.

A modified chainsaw.

“Wha…?”

“A chain…saw…?”

This time, the men were left confused. And Jun’s expression also changed.

Her apologetic look did a 180, leaving an angelic smile on her face.

Her eyes were still hidden, but she seemed to wish peace on all who saw her.

Perhaps the chainsaw was not as heavy as it looked—she raised it with one arm without a single labored breath. In fact, the chainsaw’s engine was much smaller than the standard design, and the long, thin blade almost had the form of a katana.

Holding up her unusual and dangerous toy, Jun introduced herself with a smile.

“Ahem… nice to meet you, everyone. My name is Jun Sahara, the person in charge of guarding the most powerful man in the Eastern District!”

Her earlier awkwardness vanished, giving way to a spirited introduction. As soon as she finished speaking, her chainsaw growled even more loudly.

The roar once more filled the space, noise bouncing off every wall and stair.

The blades spun mercilessly in the narrow stairwell.

From Jun’s perspective, the men were all within cutting range. Some of them had knives in their belts, but they were so cowed by the chainsaw that using the knife didn’t even occur to them.

One of the thugs finally came to his senses and swung a lead pipe—but there was a flash of sparks as the pipe was knocked out of his hand.

Before he knew it, the chain was spinning rapidly under his chin. It chipped away at his stubble, punctuating the air with each hair cut.

The man had barely noticed Jun move. Like the wind she had brought the saw to him without a single wasted movement.

The newly shaved man could not even scream. The moment Jun drew back the chainsaw, he wobbled to his knees and lost consciousness.

“You bitch!” One of the thugs howled, pulling a blade from his belt.

It was a gigantic, 30-centimeter knife. If the thug were to use it for anything other than making threats, he would have to prepare himself to kill.

With newfound confidence(perhaps owed to the massive weapon), or maybe with the mindset of a cornered rat, the man raised a battle shriek and swung.

But—

“You’re slow. …Hup!”

He swung too far back; in the brief opening, the chainsaw drew near in silence.

Jun had her back turned to the man, and in her left hand was the roaring engine.

And the weapon threatening the man’s wrist was the object in Jun’s left hand, a chainsaw that had not yet been started. No one noticed that she had taken out the second saw.

There was something almost comical about the way the girl dual-wielded chainsaws. Who in the world would even try such a thing?

But the girl before the thugs was quite real.

Finally drawing their weapons, the men glared warily at the nightmare they faced.

Knives. Stun guns. Modified truncheons. A full collection of thuggish weapons.

Though none of them had guns, they were armed enough to kill a man and then some.

And yet their collective force seemed small and powerless before Jun.

A chainsaw was not a tool for hurting people. But it exuded an air of danger beyond those of knives and stun guns.

As the thugs gulped in unison, Jun alone grinned—not a drop of sweat on her face—and looked around at them cheerfully.

“Ah! So you’re still not going to leave!” She hollered over the roar of the engine, trying to see if her foes were still intent on a fight.

The answer came from the thugs’ leader, who was still on the floor.

“Wh-wh-what the hell, bastards? Kill the bitch already!” He cried, nearly shrieking. The others moved as if on cue.

Jun also moved.

She simply pulled the black trigger-shaped lever on the chainsaw in her left hand.

The second chainsaw roared to life.

The spinning quickened at the moment of ignition. It was like the chainsaw was customized to allow its wielder to start it single-handedly.

“Eek!”

The thug holding the large knife tried to back away in terror—which was quite understandable, as the chain had begun moving right next to his hand.

“Fuck! What the hell, bi- ARGH!”
The man’s screams were overpowered, and just as he stepped back, he hit the wall.

The second layer of vibrations led even the thugs’ hearts to tremble. Lowering their weapons, they stared at their foe with cold sweat covering their backs.

The girl who was until a minute ago their prey had become an enemy—and the moment she started her second chainsaw, she had become a predator.

Almost provocatively, Jun spun as the thugs watched in horror. She twirled like a top and the chainsaws danced just centimeters from the men.

“Aha!”

She laughed cheerfully. Even amidst the echo of the chainsaws, her voice reached the thugs.

But perhaps they were just hearing things.

Beneath her bangs they caught glimpses of euphoria and manic ecstasy.

It almost seemed as though she were in a trance, delivering beauty and fear to the eyes of all who watched.

“Aha! Hey, everyone. Hey hey hey hey.”

The moment she drew her chainsaws, Jun had become someone else. As if a second personality had arisen the moment she started the second saw.

“Why did you come to this island?”

In spite of her mad grin, her tone remained polite.

But that was what terrified the men most.

She was like a reaper, out to coldly take their lives with a smile.

“Have you come to move this island?”

Her emotions exploded to a high in sync with the roar of her chainsaws. Drawing all that energy into herself, she spoke with a mask of tranquility. Slowing the engines, she continued to question the thugs ecstatically.

“Will you become this island’s engines?”

But they could not hear her—not because of the engines, but because they no longer had the ease of mind to listen.

“UAAAAAAAAAARGH!”

One of the men was pushed to his limit. He charged forward in a bid to escape the fear.

With Jun’s back in his sights, he swung his knife—

“Ahahaha! No, no, that’s no good!”

—but for some reason, she was facing him.

The moment he noticed her head looking at him, the rest of her body—first the chest and stomach, then her waist—and her arms and the chainsaws followed.

With feline agility, Jun put her whole body into the swing.

There was a deafening screech as chain hit blade, and before sparks flew the man’s knife was flung aside.

“Wha-?”

The man was by no means weak, but he could not overpower the weight of the chainsaw, which had been further strengthened by centrifugal forces. The only thing left in his hand was an agonizing impact.

Yet Jun did not stop there.

Her arm did not slow—in fact, she swung horizontally as her arm followed her body’s movements.

Clang.

The second she swung, a stun gun fell to pieces as it fell to the floor.

But Jun still continued. With her weapon in hand, she elegantly made a diagonal turn to the side. It was like the roar of the engines was not powering the chainsaw, but her body.

Each time she spun, one weapon after another fell.

And by the time every weapon had been sent flying, the thugs were frozen.

“Is it over already, everyone?”

Noticing the men, Jun loosened her grip on the trigger and quieted the engine little by little.

“H-hey! Wait, stop! Hold it! Please! We’ll do anything! Just let us go! We’ll stay away from you, swear to god! Please!” The man on his backside begged, his eyes wild, but Jun smiled.

“…Just me?”

“What?”

“So you’re saying that… you’ll keep running wild in the Eastern District?”

The moment her eyes narrowed, the engines roared again.


BRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRM.


“Argh! Wait! No!”

“Ahaha! You can ask me to wait all you like, but—”

Shouting over the noise of her chainsaws, Jun passed a death sentence with an angelic smile.

“—I’m sorry! These two here are being so loud! I can’t hear what you’re trying to say! So I can’t wait! Ahaha! I’m sorry!”

“You did hear it…” The thug pointed out, teary-eyed, but he was drowned out as the engines’ roar grew louder.

“Ahaha.”

With an innocent grin, Jun began to shake back and forth.

“You guys! You don’t fit on this island! So I’ll help you to feel like never coming back here! It’s for your own good!”

Jun considerately decided to teach the men a lesson rather than let them go.

But her kindness was overpowered by the sound of her weapons.

The thugs struggled to flee, but the roar of her engines and the shrieking of the chains would not let them escape—


BRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR—


▶︎


Aboveground, the Eastern District. An area originally intended to be a theme park.


The Etsusa Bridge was the world’s biggest over-sea bridge.

It was also incomplete, left abandoned due to multiple circumstances.

If things had gone according to plan, it would have been by now the biggest tourist destination in the Hokuriku region. But no car had ever traveled down the length of the bridge, and ultimately the bridge was rubble before it was even complete.

The bridge itself was relatively unremarkable in that sense, but the problem was with the massive seaborne fortress standing in the middle.

Oversea construction techniques made great advances in the early 21st century, and the artificial island was created with the best of Japan’s technology.

The island dwarfed the Umihotaru in Tokyo bay. Plans for the Etsusa Bridge and the island were the nation’s most prominent architectural projects at the time.

But thanks to waves of economic recession, failing foreign policies, and accidents during the construction itself, the bridge and the island were abandoned by Japan. And now, people who were likewise cast out of society took themselves there and erected unauthorized buildings, creating a Kowloon Walled City for the modern age.

The artificial island was divided into several levels. There was the aboveground, with its haphazard mix of facilities and residences; the belowground, once intended to be a shopping mall but now filled to the brim with homes and businesses; and the dangerous yet mysteriously alluring Pits—an area once intended to be a parking lot—which was a dump even in comparison to the rest of the city of vagrants. It was said that the Pits were overrun with hopeless thugs and drug addicts, and rumors said that things that could not be found in the higher levels were in abundance there.

The areas other than the Pits—in other words, the ‘higher levels’—were divided into several districts that included both the aboveground and belowground levels. Each district was governed by gangs from the mainland, the Chinese mafia, or other illegal organizations that oversaw the transactions that took place. They were in charge of many things, from smaller disputes like mediating the amount of protection fees to be paid in proportion to one’s income, to overseeing dealings with the mainland and every matter related to exercising their privileges. In other words, there was a ‘ruling class’ for each of the districts.

Until the end of the previous year, there were four districts—one for each cardinal direction. But a lone assassin eliminated the leaders of the Northern and Southern Districts, essentially leaving behind only two—the East and the West. And it was the leaders of those two districts that oversaw everything that happened on the island.

Criminal syndicates on the mainland that were in charge of the Northern and Southern Districts were at the remaining groups’ throats, but the groups ruling East and West did not give them another foothold on the island again.

East and West each had their own office aboveground. The Chinese mafia, which ruled the Western District, had taken over an entire fifteen-story hotel that had been closed just short of opening day. The multinational mafia of the East had taken over an incomplete theme park and its leisure hotel as its base of operations.

Inside the theme park was an unfinished ferris wheel and rusted roller coasters, lending a terribly desolate air to the area.


Jun Sahara confidently walked past the gates and stopped in front of the park office where she worked.

Because the office was located right next to the gates, she could go straight inside without having to look at the ruined park.

If the theme park had been completed, the office too would have been decorated in ways that would make a child’s heart leap—but no such thing existed now. The graffiti-covered walls were supported by metal framework, and sheets of galvanized metal stuck out of the roof for some unknown construction work.

However, the graffiti on the office was different from those on the rest of the island. It was much more intentional, with frightening yet beautiful combinations of stylized faces, dragons, skulls, and distorted letters.

Unfortunately, next to the strangely tasteful graffiti were scribbles like ‘Strongest in Hokuriku’ or ‘Westies better watch their back’—phrases that not even delinquent biker gangs used anymore.

The windows were obscured by thick curtains, making it impossible to peek. It was impossible to hear what was happening inside, either. It was almost like the world beyond the door might be frozen in time.

Jun hesitated at the door for a moment, but eventually nodded, took a deep breath, and grabbed the doorknob.

Bowing deeply, she slowly opened the door.


“Umm… I’m sorry I’m late…”

Her deep breath escaped in a foolish squeak that seemed to hobble across the office.

Jun’s enthusiasm from earlier was gone, leaving her as feeble and timid as a frightened baby animal.

The office was a far cry from the dark air outside. It was decorated with pictures, posters, and a wall clock that matched the interior. That, at least, was befitting a place to conduct business, but the fact that the posters mostly featured unusual films(‘Double Beretta - Dual guns. Dual planets’) and women in revealing swimsuits was a bit of a detriment to their credibility.

Yet none of that reached Jun’s eyes because she was hanging her head. And even if she could see them, the posters would not affect her because she saw them almost every day.

Wondering how her co-workers would react to her tardiness, she hesitantly looked up—

—and saw the soles of someone’s feet.

“Wha-”

Something cut through the air as a massive figure passed by her head.

There was an impact.

Jun couldn’t even scream at the ear-splitting noise, freezing on the spot instead.

She desperately tried to calm herself and quickly realized what had happened.

And—

“…Eek.”

With a feeble scream, she turned to the man who now stood next to her.

The one who landed a spectacular drop kick to the wall by the door was a tall man in black. He seemed unamused by Jun’s scream.

“I can’t hear ya, Jun. Speak up, why don’t you? And sorry ‘bout yelling at you over the phone. I was out of line.”

“I-if you’re feeling sorry, what was that drop kick for…?” Jun pointed out nervously. The cracked concrete wall behind her was making unnerving noises. Was it already old to begin with, or had it been cracked because of the kick? It scared her more to think about it, so she decided to stop there.

“If I wasn’t gonna apologize,  I’d have landed it on your face.”

“Eek…”

“And if I was still angry, I’d have smashed you against the door.”

Jun could not respond. She wanted to think he was joking, but Zhang—the man in black—showed no hint of humor on his face. They went over to a corner of the office as they continued their terrifying conversation.

There were just enough desks in the office to make it look like a conference room, and fifteen men and women were gathered there. Each was dressed in his or her own distinctive style, with Zhang and Jun being the only ones in suits. Then again, Jun herself was not wearing a completely ordinary suit.

“You’re late, captain.”

The people in plainclothes snickered as Jun came over.

This mismatched group of men and women were the Guard Team of the organization that oversaw the Eastern District.

They were the executives’ shields and bullets—an elite force that devastated their enemies.

At least, that was what the recruitment posters on the wall said.

And from the sounds of the team’s conversation, the ever-nervous Jun Sahara was their leader. Supporting that claim were the words on the poster—


‘Want to be our captain? Take part in our monthly rock-paper-scissors tournament!’


It looked like a bad joke, but these posters were plastered on the walls of the Eastern District—aboveground, belowground, and even in the Pits. And it was absolutely true that this laughable group was the Eastern District’s personal guard team.

Then again, the name ‘Guard Team’ was just that—a name. The members also ran errands for executives, did odd jobs, and sometimes maintained a balance of power against enemy organizations. They were more accurately the Eastern District’s personal mercenaries.

At times, they even took on dirty work like assassination. But the Eastern District’s executives were known for being moderate, and Jun had never been given such orders.

“Um… I… I’m sorry, everyone.” She said, bowing again and again. But the others smiled.

“It’s not like this never happens. Don’t sweat it, Jun.”

A man with a mohawk gestured for her to raise her head. A man leaning against the wall—a handsome man with blue shades and brown skin—chimed in.

“Still. It took you a while to get here after Zhang called.” The Spanish man said in fluent Japanese. The Chinese man replied, also in perfect Japanese.

“You’re right. So you fell asleep again, Jun Sahara?”

“N-no…” Jun stammered and explained herself.

She had been surrounded by seven thugs, and had ended up forcing her way through with her two chainsaws, she explained.

Most people would have laughed; but none of the Guard Team members disbelieved her. For one, they trusted Jun to be honest about why she was late. For another, things like that happened all the time on the artificial island.

“Tch. You should have just sliced one open, and the rest would’ve scampered off with their tails between their legs.” Zhang sighed, but Jun vehemently shook her head.

“How could I?! Chainsaws aren’t tools for killing people!”

“Then you’re using ‘em for self-defense? …Guess I’m preaching to the wrong person, Mrs. Jason.”

Dissatisfied at this statement as well, Jun hesitantly raised her hand.

“…Um… that’s not…”

“What?”

“Eek.”

Jun hung her head, looking just about ready to cry. That was when the Spanish man—Carlos—quietly walked up behind her.

He pulled out a chainsaw from Jun’s bag and shoved it into her hand.

Then he placed her finger over the trigger and forced her to start the engine.


Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrm.


“Here’s to a fair fight.” Carlos chuckled. Jun’s eyes began to glimmer.

Her passive attitude dissipated as she met Zhang’s intimidating gaze.

“How could you, Mr. Zhang? That was an awful comparison! Jason never once used a chainsaw in the Friday the 13th series! He’s a gentleman!”

“Are we talking ‘bout the same kind of gentleman here?”

“It’s Leatherface from the Texas Chain Saw Massacre! He’s the one with the chainsaw!”

Holding Zhang at chainsaw-point, she ranted passionately about his trivial mistake.

“Anyway! I consider chainsaws to be my family. Please don’t compare us to a serial killer like him.”

“Says the girl who has the chainsaw-murderer’s theme tune as her ringtone.” Zhang pointed out, but Jun did not even blink.

“Please! Movies are movies, and I’m me. Can’t you distinguish between fiction and reality, Mr. Zhang?”

“I’m starting to feel a little upset.” Zhang muttered, and immediately balled up his hands into fists—

—and, undaunted by the whirring chainsaw, he grabbed it by the guide bar in the middle.

“Ah.”

By the time Jun screamed, it was too late. Zhang had pulled away the chainsaw with raw strength.

Jun’s finger left the trigger, and the chain began to slow. And as if on cue, the glimmer in Jun’s eye grew fainter.

“Umm… I’m so sorry, Mr. Zhang… I… I didn’t mean to hold a chainsaw at—”

“Damn…” Zhang sighed as Jun returned to her timid self.

Meanwhile, Carlos—the cause of the commotion—was howling with laughter.

Then he changed the subject.

“Anyway, that was kind harsh, Mr. Zhang. Chewing out a superior on the phone. Yelling at her, even.”

“Shaddap, Carlos. And what’s with the shades?”

Carlos spread his arms dramatically and shook his head.

“Ah, I see. I see. You don’t know anything, Mr. Zhang. These shades of mine? They’re the same model as the one Miss Kelly from Buruburu Airwaves wears.”

Buruburu Airwaves was the city’s only pirate radio station, officially known as Sōsei Airwaves. A woman named Kelly Yatsufusa ran the station as she raced across the island alone in her sky-blue van.

“They don’t sell this model on the island, so I had to personally ask Yamato the transporter to bring it in from the mainland. I might work in a place like this, but I still want to look good.”

“What’s that matter, asshole? Spaniard like you looks best in jail doing capoeira.”

“Capoeira? That’s Brazil. I think you’ll look better than me in jail, all handcuffed and doing kung-fu.”

Jun watched from a distance as the men argued. She then turned to a female subordinate.

“Um… is Mr. Zhang upset about something today?”

“Yeah, a little.”

Just as unusual as the others, the woman was wearing a bondage-style bikini and a pair of jeans. She glanced dubiously at Zhang.

“Umm… is it my fault after all?”

“Actually Jun, you’re not the only one who’s late today.” The woman replied calmly, not answering Jun’s question. “Half the Guard Team’s late, including you—the leader. I mean, that’s pretty normal around here, but we’re actually missing the VIP.”

“Oh…”

Jun looked around.

If she had to give up her day off and come out to work, there must have been an especially important job today that dwarfed any mission she had before.

Normally, her job was to guard the leader of the organization that controlled the Eastern District. And because there was supposed to be a meeting with the Western District today, it was a given that she would be on her toes all day—

“Huh?”

Jun looked around. Once, and again.

Most of the Guard Team was present, and the few absent had been suspended from duty earlier because they made trouble.

But someone very important was still missing.

The man whom the Guard Team was supposed to be guarding.


“Forget this crap. Jun. Call him.” Zhang said as he came up to Jun, finally breaking off his staredown with Carlos.

The others in the room were trying very hard to avoid making eye contact, unwilling to rouse the sleeping lion.

Jun took out her cell phone from her breast pocket and looked up.

“Didn’t you try calling him, Mr. Zhang?”

“…My number’s blocked. And he won’t pick up when we call from the office.” He growled, grimacing.

Jun breathed a tired sigh, searched for the number under the name ‘Boss’, and pressed the call button.

Understandably, there were no public facilities on the artificial island. But the antennas that were installed during construction were still live, which meant that cell phones were completely usable. The antennas were relatively new models that could even deal with increased traffic, so with the right equipment it was possible to even use the internet or data on cell phones.

Several rings later, a sleepy male voice came from the other end.

<Yawn… Hello?>

The thought of having sounded this way left Jun reeling in embarrassment. Friends were supposed to resemble each other, but had she really acted in the same way as her own employer?

“Umm… um… hello. This is Sahara.”

<Ah! If it isn’t Li’l Jun!>

The voice seemed to wake instantly, quickly revealing an accent that was very difficult to place.

The voice on the phone was incredibly energetic. That alone made it sound like that of a man in his mid-twenties.

“Um… good morning, sir.”

<Well, well. Who’d have thought you’d be calling me, Grandeur Ratzfend Zorba Gitarin Santamaria Masamune, at the crack of dawn? Lady Luck will be with me all day long; I can feel it already.>

Jun did not even blink at the long-winded name.

“…Did you change your name again, sir?”

<Aye. Until yesterday, I was known as Sturgeon Lyrefit Nuzo Ferdonaldo Gitarin da Rakchart Sasha Murasame. But that seemed to give me nightmares for some reason, so I thought I’d switch things up. Call me what you like.>

“‘Boss’, then. Um… we have a meeting with a Western District exec today…”

The Eastern District was run by a foreign-funded mafia. But it did not belong directly to organizations like the Sicilian mafia or South American syndicates—this organization was an unusual one that received funding from many different countries. Even opposing countries and peoples invested into this one group, and were paid back with money made by people from yet another country. Normally, such a thing was unthinkable—but there were eccentric people in every country and group. There were always people abandoned by the mainstream or bound more to personal profit than nationalism or religion. But it was also true that most of such groups had no great power. Even with the lucrative revenue source known as the Etsusa Bridge, these groups were not nearly powerful enough to take over an entire district on their own.

That was when these groups from all over the world came to an unspoken agreement and banded together to stake a claim on the island—which was the origin of the multinational mafia that oversaw the Eastern District.

The investing groups from the different countries(along with, naturally, Jun and the others) had no idea exactly what kinds of groups from what countries were backing the Eastern District. They only wanted to make a profit off their investments—they did not concern themselves with the others that were funding the district.

The group that ran the Eastern District was, essentially, like a corporation. It didn’t possess the mystique of other syndicates in the world or the Western District with its Chinese mafia, but there were currently no particularly notable movements against the Eastern District’s investors. Even if one investor in one country were to be destroyed, the Eastern District’s leadership would survive so long as others continued to invest.

And trying to destroy the Eastern District itself was a surefire way to stir up international antagonism. Although rumors said that the organization behind the Eastern District was quite small, it was impossible to know the specifics.

The Eastern District’s group also presented benefits to other syndicates as well. The former’s main source of income was money laundering—that is, to ‘wash’ dirty money and return it to the owner for a profit. The system was also open to use by other syndicates, bringing in many clients from the Japanese mainland as well. From criminal organizations to illegal financial institutions, to politicians, businessmen, and religious groups—all kinds of people came to get their money cleaned.

Still, the Eastern District chose its clients. After all, working for something like a large-scale terrorist organization would make the entire island an enemy of Japan.

It was the job of those who oversaw this district to create just enough benefits for secret organizations all around the world that the group’s presence would never rise to the surface.

And the man who led the group—the man who supposedly negotiated in person with the many organizations around the world for support to create a foundation for the ‘corporation’—was the man Jun Sahara and the others called their boss.

The man constantly changed his name. Even in the Eastern District, very few knew what he was actually called.

It was the same with the Guard Team that protected his life. Whenever they complained about not knowing his name, he replied that they were free to call him whatever they liked.

His nationality and age were unknown, but in all other matters the man was easygoing, and he was quite liked by the others in his organization.

Though he was a suspicious man of many secrets, he at least seemed to possess the charisma required of leadership.

That was why, among the Guard Team, their employer was often just called ‘Boss’.

<Not good! I just had a lot of stuff to take care of last night. Sorry about that.> He said after a short pause, perhaps because he had to look at a clock.

“Please, boss…” Jun pleaded uselessly. Zhang grabbed her phone.

“Hey. Boss.”

The man on the other end of the line instantly changed gears.

<Ugh! …Yawn… who iff it…?>

“Don’t pull that crap. Asshole.”

<And who might you be? I am the traveling guitarist, Ando Banderas. You, my friend, seem to have the wrong number.>

“Shut your hole.”

Noting his employer’s silence, Zhang continued.

“All right, boss. Those shits from the Western District are gonna sit their asses down in ten. Minutes. So why the hell are you so calm?”

Zhang not only swore freely at Jun—his superior—he also extended the same courtesy to his employer.

<Ten minutes? Hmm… then I’ve got fifteen more minutes to catch some sleep.>

“Check your math, dammit.” Zhang replied, holding back the twitching of his temple. His vocabulary was already far from calm.

<I think we’ll be fine. Yili will wait another thirty minutes—>

“Fuck it, boss. Get your ass here on the double, or I’ll beat you to death and pickle your intestines.”

<…I don’t know why, but I suddenly feel like I need to get over there immediately.>


Five minutes later, the boss arrived with a beautiful woman on each arm.

He had brown skin but Japanese features. There was also something caucasian about his eyes.

The boss seemed to be somewhere in his twenties or thirties, but because of his ambiguous ethnicity it was difficult to tell how old he really was.

“Thanks again, ladies. More fun again tonight, then?” He said, sending off the two women. They were caucasian and Southeast Asian respectively, and were always by the boss’s side. As they left, they grinned and waved even at the members of the Guard Team. Carlos waved back affectionately and Jun watched uncomfortably from the side.

It looked foolish at first glance, the way the boss brought women to his workplace. But Jun had noticed a long time ago that, until the moment the boss was safely under the Guard Team’s watch, the women were smiling with their lips and surveying their surroundings with their eyes.

The women were likely the boss’s bodyguards before he reached the Guard Team, and were also his human shields. The boss had never said so himself, but Jun and the other Guard Team members—even Carlos, with his flirtatious waving—had noticed their roles.

In other words, if everyone knew, there was no need for questions or answers.

Each time she watched the women disappear with confident steps, Jun was reminded of what kind of place the island was, and just how dangerous the place she had stepped into was.

Yet she had no intention of fleeing that world.

Being so clumsy at living, she did not know if she could choose another way of life.

Jun could not think of a workplace where she could blend in more than the Guard Team.

She had just one desire.

To remain on the island,

And to quietly watch over its future.

For that simple reason, she stepped into the darkness again that day.


▶︎


Ten years ago.


Jun Sahara had first come to the island when she was eight years old.

The island was only a foundation at that point; all kinds of buildings and underground facilities were being planned for its future.

Her father was the construction manager of the heart of the island—a leading-edge piece of technology, the part that controlled the height of the massive floating island according to the tides.

He had lost his wife early, and raised their daughter alone. And that day, because his daughter mentioned that she’d wanted to see the place he worked, he received official permission and brought her on-site.

Ever since she was young, Jun had an unusual habit. When she was exposed to the sound of engines or motors, she either became very calm or very excited.

Her father assumed and decided, “It must be because your mother went into labor when she was on a truck”. Jun eventually came to think the same.

But then again, Jun’s father often worked in places filled with the rumbling of engines and motors. Perhaps, spending so much time in such environments, the young Jun had been influenced in some way. But there was no way to know for certain at this point, and Jun herself did not really care, either.

To the girl who heard the cacophonous roars as a lullaby, her father—the man who controlled those noises—was a subject of admiration and someone with whom she could feel at utter peace.

After all, it was at her father’s instructions that countless engines sang to make roads and buildings, piece-by-piece creating a world for the girl.

She loved to watch that process, so she had begged her way to the site that day. But the sound of the engines around her pleased her so much that she ended up drifting off to dreamland in the bed of the truck.


She only returned to reality because the rumbling of the engines stopped.

What happened?

Opening her eyes with a simple question in mind, she found herself gripped by unease.

The sounds filling the island—the rumbling of the construction vehicles and tools, and the noises going to and fro on the island with all the ease of a man in his own living room—seemed to have vanished completely.

What replaced the engines was the sound of shouting.

They were not cries of danger, but the girl could tell clearly that something terrible must have happened.

‘Where’s Dad? Why’d the engines stop?

The girl had always thought that her father was the one who controlled every engine. So the moment the engines went silent, something dreadful began to take hold of her.

“Dad…”

Nearly in tears, she looked around the truck. But her father was nowhere to be found.

But she could see that the people on site were all looking in the same direction.

The vehicle entrance leading underground was a gaping maw in a corner of the aboveground area. The workers’ worried eyes were all locked on the opening, and several were shouting as they leapt inside.

“Daddy—”

She was half-sobbing as she ran for the entrance.

Her father was there—she was certain.

The dead silence was scaring her.

Bright halogen lamps, along with lightbulbs hanging from points on the ceiling, cast orange lights on the concrete walls.

Slipping past the workers’ arms as they tried to restrain her, the girl ran only toward the center of the shouts and the murmurs. And when her line of sight suddenly opened up, she arrived at a larger area of the underground.

There she saw—


A massive engine that filled her line of sight, vibrating heavily enough that she could measure its speed with eyes alone.

Later, she was told that the ‘engine’ was just a part of the mechanism used for raising and lowering the island and not a true engine—but she had no way of knowing that, and at the time she was completely overwhelmed by its size.

The next moment, someone pulled her into his arms. He was an adult she had never seen before, and in his suit he was a poor fit with the rest of the crew.

“It’s dangerous here. This way, now…” He said, voice trembling. She spoke in a trembling voice as well.

“Wh-where’s… where’s Dad?”

As if on cue, the engine shuddered. Thud.

Jun’s eyes were drawn to the engine, and the man in the suit covered her eyes with the palm of his hand.

“Don’t look!”

With Jun in his arms, the man ran aboveground.

But she saw.

In the arms of the running man, she remembered the image burned into her eyes.

Her father’s safety helmet, rolling around near the thud of the engine.

And the nauseating spray of red on the helmet.


‘Oh, I get it.

When had she begun to think that way?

‘Dad must be moving that big engine.

Perhaps it was the moment she saw the helmet, or after she understood the fact of her father’s death. Or perhaps it was very recently.

‘Dad became one with the engines he loved so much. So now he’s with the big engine forever.

She knew it was all just a fantasy.

But it felt like, if she didn’t at least think that way, ever her heart would be swallowed by that massive engine—


One year later, she returned to the island.

With no relatives to look after her, she was shunted from one facility to another.

But when she heard news that construction on the island was halted, before she knew it she was climbing over the ‘no entry’ fence and crossing the long bridge and looking up at the clear blue sky from the center of the island.

No matter how long she waited, the engines no longer hummed.

The underground entrance leading to the great engine—her father—had been sealed up, the barricades too strong for a child to break through alone.

Under the endless blue sky, it seemed that others had come to the island as well. She could see them walking around. But she did not approach them. Because she knew that, even if she went to someone, the sound of the engines would never return to the island.

So she began to walk. To start the engines herself. To bring back that old sound to the island.

‘Dad was looking forward to finishing the island. He worked hard. He worked so hard. So the noise can’t stop. I have to start it again—I have to—

She knew she was struggling in vain. But the girl continued to move in search of an answer—any answer—that would satisfy her.

Was there any engine she could start herself?

After wandering to the end of the day on stiff legs, she finally found something.

It had been forgotten in a corner of the construction site—

—a chainsaw with a rusted blade.


Careful to keep the chain away from herself, the girl struggled for several minutes trying to bring the spin back into the chainsaw.

She pushed and pulled but the engine refused to move. It occurred to her that the chainsaw might be out of fuel, and when she checked there was indeed not a drop of fuel in the tank.

But she did not give up. Over and over again the girl tried pressing buttons everywhere.

Her efforts finally paid off—the moment she lowered the safety bar and pulled the switch,


Brrrrrrrrrrrrm.


The previous owner had not finished off the fuel, it seemed. What little that clung to the carburetor ignited, sending quiet rumbles into the air around her.

‘I did it!

She knew that that didn’t actually mean anything, but the girl was above all happy that the sound of an engine had returned to the island.

So she basked in the sound with all her body.

But the fuel left behind was quickly consumed. The roar of the engine grew quieter and quieter, about to be extinguished altogether.

“Ah—”

Jun found herself reaching out. Someone grabbed her hand.

“Eeek!”

With a scream she tried to shake off the stranger, but a gentle voice came to her from above.

“Are you all right? I don’t think this is a children’s toy.”

A young man of ambiguous ethnicity grinned at her.

So innocent was his smile that Jun forgot even her scream and calmed down.

The chainsaw’s speed was set to the lowest, and the chain was vibrating without a destination. The spin had slowed even more now than when Jun reached out—it would probably stop if someone pressed the chain to the ground.

But that vibration as well grew weaker and weaker—

And with one final groan, it stopped.

It was like watching a man in his death throes.

Noting the engine’s death, the young man let go of Jun’s hand.

“Hey there. I came over when I heard the engine. But my heart almost started fluttering just now, watching a child playing with a chainsaw.” He said jovially. Jun slowly spoke.

“Um… what are you doing here?”

The man was clearly suspicious, but perhaps he was a construction worker here to start things up again. With that hope, she looked up at him gravely.

“Me? Right… Let’s see…”

After a moment’s thought, the man glanced at the chainsaw at her feet and winked.

With the answer the little girl wanted to hear most.

“I’ve come to restart the engine on this island.”


-----


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3 comments:

  1. "The man’s screams were overpowered, and just as he stepped back, he his the wall." (his > hit)

    It looked like a bad joke, but these posters were plastered on the walls of the Eastern District—aboveground, belowground, and even in the Pits . (space in front of punctuation)

    Thanks for the translations!

    ReplyDelete
  2. u made my day !!! thanx for the translation !!

    ReplyDelete