The final update will be posted tomorrow. Enjoy.
Final Chapter: Rats
Sunday. Somewhere on the island.
It was a disgusting place.
It was neither filled with garbage or human trash like the Pits, nor was it full of noxious poison and corpses.
There was simply nothing there.
It was a tiny space about the size of a small room, which had existed since the island’s construction and had been forgotten when the island was abandoned.
It was connected to nowhere, and was not remarkable enough for anyone who happened by to remember.
It was one of the remotest branches of the sprawling underground passageways.
Beyond a mountain of rubble was a cracked wall and fallen pipes and scaffolding. A warm, musty breeze escaped the few vents at the tops of the walls. The ceiling was not very high, and there wasn’t even a single cobweb in the desolate space.
Fluorescent lights seeped inside from the gaps between the walls and the ceiling, but it was no better than a crescent moon, let alone good enough to read by.
No one who lived a normal life on the island would climb over piles of rubble. The locals knew by instinct that that was just a waste of energy.
In a corner of that forgotten space, a boy sat leaning against the wall.
With his legs stretched before him, he stared into the darkness.
For hours and hours and hours—
Blinking blankly in the darkness, the boy in white could only think.
Why he was in a place like this.
Why his legs no longer moved.
“Hey there. I suppose this is the first time we meet in person? Good, good. You look about the same as I imagined from your voice.”
The boy hung his head before the man with the gentle smile.
The man looked him up and down as he chattered enthusiastically.
“Here I was worried that you might be a big lug like Zhang. No, no. I appreciate childlikeness. Looking at how mature you are, I’m not surprised Hiraiwa let his guard down. Ah, yes. Hiraiwa would be one of our executives. The one you murdered last night.”
The man paused, then, and the boy felt beads of cold sweat on his back.
The boss’s office was surprisingly plain.
The room was the size of a convenience store, with a few desks and bookshelves that made it look like an administrative office. There were sofas and a table near the door for entertaining guests, an in a corner of the room in front of a window was a wooden desk.
There was a computer and a phone on the desk, and mounted on the wall beside it was a large television.
They were in a hotel near the Eastern District’s casino.
In a room near the top floor of the building, the boy in white faced the youthful man of ambiguous ethnicity.
Though he looked young, it was difficult to guess how old the man was. In some ways he seemed to be in his twenties, yet in other ways he seemed to be closer to middle-age.
Gitarin—the boss of the Eastern District—and Nejiro—the former leader of the Rats.
“We landed a big haul thanks to you betraying your friends. A whopping fifty of the newest model—we’d been bending over backwards to get our hands on ‘em. And thanks to you, we now know for certain that the Western District is after us.” Gitarin recited the facts, walking up to the boy. “Now, then… your reward should be membership with our organization, but…”
Then, with a quiet smile, he asked a mischievous question.
“Why are you so obsessed with power? With your control over your fellow Rats, you could have had a decently happy life on this island.”
Nejiro hesitated, but he soon decided to confess everything. From how he was abandoned on the island, to why he sought power. That he wanted power that would take him back to the outside world—
“I see.” Gitarin nodded and grinned. “If this was a cutesy fairy tale, there would be a church or an orphanage on the street corner, and children like you would have been raised with love by nuns or matrons. But. People that nice would never come to this island, is that it?”
Gitarin sounded snide, but Nejiro did not feel like retorting. Not only did that pose no merit, he also determined that he had no reason to talk back to his future employer.
“But then again, there’s always exceptions. For example, Mr. and Mrs. Iizuka, who took in an orphan girl on top of all their kids. Or me, who took in a little girl playing with a chainsaw ten years ago.”
Nejiro was silent.
At that moment, the smile left Gitarin’s face. His eyes changed visibly.
There was something dark in his green eyes; something far more sinister than anything he’d seen in the eyes of the islanders—
“You say that the Western District is too exclusive, but that’s only one aspect of their complexity.”
As if on cue, the door opened behind Nejiro.
There stood a beautiful woman in a qipao and four suit-clad men behind her.
Nejiro did not reply. The woman spoke expressionlessly as though in his place.
“I appreciate your effort, Gitarin. So… is this the child?”
The woman’s expressionlessness was different from that of the Rats. It was not emptiness, but controlled emotion.
“We’ll take care of the traitors on our end, but what about you?”
“I did exactly what I said I’d do. We took the guns and set the little rodents free.”
What was going on? Nejiro had countless questions, but his throat was in no condition to squeeze out a voice at will. Perhaps he knew, instinctively, that he was in mortal peril.
“Now, Nejiro… there’s some bad blood between the Western District executive you contacted and Yili here. To get to the point, all of the Western District people you killed were part of Yili’s faction.”
At that point, Nejiro understood everything.
To run, or to resist? Before he could even make a decision, he was pushed to the ground by the four men.
“Now, now. We’re not going to kill you, if that’s what you’re worried about. If I remember correctly, we made a promise. But… we need you to take proper responsibility. After all, your very existence could be the trigger that sets off a conflict between our organizations.”
“Oh? There’s a very real chance he’ll lose his life, Gitarin.”
Nejiro now knew what was in store for him.
And when he realized his fate, he also noticed that he was surprisingly calm.
Looking up at Gitarin, he spoke in a sad tone.
“This is unfortunate. I didn’t think you were this type of man.”
He was trying to provoke sympathy. But Gitarin laughed sheepishly.
“Did you trust me? Or… did you doubt me endlessly until you decided that I was a trustworthy person?”
Nejiro was silent.
“The thing about doubt, you see… Even if it was just a misunderstanding, and even if the misunderstanding was cleared up, doubt leaves behind something called guilt. Guilt about having doubted that person. And the thing about trust? When someone betrays you, it just might break you. I’m not kidding. Trusting or doubting someone takes resolve. And if you don’t like that, you shouldn’t be trusting or doubting people in the first place.” Gitarin said quietly, as Nejiro remained silent.
There seemed to be something like sadness in the man’s eyes. But was it sympathy for Nejiro? Or for himself? No one else would know.
“When you become connected to someone in any way, you will never not need resolve. You refused that resolve—you refused to be connected to this island. Maybe that’s why this was your fate.”
He stopped there. Nejiro looked up quizzically.
“Are you a good person? Or a bad one?”
Gitarin slowly shook his head.
“That’s for an objective observer like you to decide, don’t you think? Although… the only me that you know is the me on this island.”
“I received support from syndicates all around the world to maintain this island. I even lent a hand with money laundering. All the while knowing exactly what they would do with that money.”
Confessing his own crimes, Gitarin nonchalantly described the kind of man he was from a mainlander’s perspective. As though repenting to someone who was not there.
“If I had to decide, I would call myself a bad person. Rotten to the core. A hopeless villain who wears a good guy’s mask on this island alone. Did you really not notice?”
Gitarin hesitated, but soon turned to Yili.
Understanding what he wanted, she nodded without a word.
Gitarin gave a relieved smile and revealed one of the island’s secrets.
“You see, although the Eastern District is supported by more organizations you can count… one of them is the very same group that supports the Western District. In other words, we share roots.”
Even Nejiro had never known that information.
According to Gitarin, the Western and Eastern Districts were links from the same chain, helping one another and fighting one another.
“This island is essentially a castle balanced miraculously on a massive ruse. That’s why… I want to protect this work of art, no matter the cost. If I can keep this island safe, I can sell a new subordinate or two without even blinking.”
Finally understanding the truth behind Gitarin’s self-satisfaction, Nejiro felt like a fool.
In surrender he said nothing and quietly closed his eyes.
But Gitarin did not stop there.
As Nejiro prepared to accept even death, he drove in the final nail in his coffin.
“But… to a certain extent, you knew this might happen. Right?”
Nejiro was silent.
It was true. A part of him did suspect something like this might happen. But perhaps that part of him just didn’t care.
Fear of death was not enough to stop him.
“Or are you thinking that, through death, you’ll be able to escape this world?”
“Not just that, you’re not trying to go back to your old world. What’s waiting for you there? I think you just wanted to get revenge… on the people who used to be your mother and father.”
Nejiro tried to retort, but his chin was pressed against the floor now. He could not move.
“Foolish. Just foolish. You wanted to escape this island more than anyone here—and you rejected this island more than anyone here—but you couldn’t see the outside world.”
Gitarin’s voice just continued to fill his ears.
“Your group. ‘Rats’, you called it. It’s a perfect name, if you think about it.”
“Albino lab rats were bred from common sewer rats. They were created by humans to be used in experiments.”
The men’s grips on Nejiro grew stronger. His consciousness grew faint as he listened to Gitarin. The sensation from when Kanashima tried to strangle him returned… But this time, the chainsaw woman would not come to help him.
“When you were abandoned in this city, you essentially made the other children—common sewer rats—into lab rats. But I admire that about you. If you manage to survive, I just might accept you as—”
Before Gitarin could even finish, Nejiro’s vision went dark.
What happened afterwards was predictable.
His legs were broken in multiple places.
And he was abandoned somewhere on the island—a place forgotten by all.
And time alone continued to pass, little by little…
How many dozens of hours had passed?
Left alone in a forgotten space on an island abandoned by the world.
Sitting against the wall, Nejiro endured the agony and stared into empty space. Rather than call for help, he sat quietly in the dark with a blank expression.
He might have a chance; but he did not even try to take it.
‘Even if I do make it out, what’s waiting for me out there?’
He had manipulated everything, betrayed everything, and lost everything.
So what merit was there in surviving?
Unable to find an answer, he neither struggled to live nor took his own life as he allowed time to pass.
Perhaps Gitarin was right.
“Or are you thinking that, through death, you’ll be able to escape this world?”
The words echoed in his mind over and over again.
‘Maybe he was right. No matter how much money or power I have, maybe the original world would never take back someone who was abandoned.
‘Then why was I so obsessed with power?’
“You’re not trying to go back to your old world. What’s waiting for you there? I think you just wanted to get revenge… on the people who used to be your mother and father.”
His words came back to Nejiro.
‘Now that I think about it, he’s right.
‘Most of my knowledge of the old world was stuff I learned from my parents.’
He came to a realization.
The world he had so desired—the world that had abandoned him—he had always thought it was everything outside the island. But that wasn’t true. The world he had wanted was just the world around his parents. To him, ‘the world’ was the parents who abandoned him.
In the darkness, he slowly closed his eyes.
“This… must be despair.”
Finally, he remembered the words of the Guard Team captain who rescued him from Kanashima.
“You know… this island may take away your hopes in the blink of an eye, but it’s the same with despair. The island also takes away despair before you know it.”
The woman with the chainsaw had smiled, then.
‘She lied. If what I feel now is despair, then how can this island—this disgusting, empty world—get rid of it? Unless you got lucky—’
At that point, he sank even deeper.
He found himself rejecting his own life.
‘Ah… I see.
‘She must have meant… that people who despair die before you know it.’
He was gripped by the mistaken notion that that was the truth of the universe. With nothing to acknowledge or argue that idea, Nejiro sat there and eventually gave up on thinking.
How many more hours had passed?
He heard something.
It sounded like something was crawling through a vent.
Was it a rat, he wondered, and turned his attention away—
But then, the grate on the vent began to rattle. Rusted metal screeched as it was pushed outside.
Soon, a small figure poked its head out of the vent. A moment later, the light the figure was holding shone blindingly in the space.
It was much too bright for Nejiro, who had spent so long in the darkness.
He shut his eyes without thinking—when a shocked voice echoed from overhead.
“Oh… Oh no! Are you all right?!”
The figure was a girl, slightly younger than he was. He remembered hearing her voice on the radio a few days earlier.
The girl in light blue clothing had dark skin for a child on the island, and had a notepad labeled ‘Map #34’ around her neck.
The girl who was recording every last corridor on the island to create the only complete map of the city. The girl who had followed her parents to the island, only to be left orphaned.
They were so very similar, but she had chosen a completely different life.
“Oh, yes! …B-but before that… we have to get you to a doctor!” She cried, panicking at the sight of Nejiro’s wounds, but he didn’t care.
There was nothing waiting for him outside. Fate had a cruel sense of humor, sending him help just as he wished for death.
But if he told her to leave him, she would obviously call for help. And it didn’t seem like she would understand his thought process even if he explained.
But then he remembered something.
‘If I’m going to die, I might as well be killed by the other Rats.’
They must hate him now for his betrayal, he thought. And he would be killed by them. That must be his responsibility and repentance, he assumed.
“I’m going to tell you where to go. There’s some other kids there who use that place as a hideout. I’ll give you a few names… so if you’re going to call someone, call them.”
Hours passed, and several children came to Nejiro’s side.
They mumbled mechanically. Nejiro looked at them feebly.
“…Hey there.” He whispered in the dark.
There were about six boys and girls from the Rats. Noting that he knew them all, Nejiro breathed a sigh of relief.
“…Thank you. I’m not going to make excuses, and I’m not going to resist. Although I couldn’t, even if I wanted to.”
The children exchanged glances.
“Nejiro, is it true you betrayed us?”
“Did you sell us out?”
“To the Eastern District?”
“Did they give you money?”
‘As if you guys need to ask…’
Nejiro chuckled bitterly, but now that he had given up on life there was nothing to hesitate about.
“I betrayed you.”
He paused, then, and drove in the final nail in the coffin. To provoke the others to fury.
“That’s right, I betrayed you! I made a deal with the Eastern District to sell you out! So I could escape! You guys might have died—no, I was sure you’d have died! I was wrong, but I still tried to kill you! Are you happy now?!”
Tired, he hung his head.
With his eyes shut, he waited for the children to react.
But not in his wildest dreams did he expect their response.
“What are we supposed to do?”
“What are we supposed to do to you, Nejiro?”
“You always tell us what to do.”
Nejiro was confused.
“What do you mean? …Don’t you hate me? Just do whatever makes you feel better…”
The children exchanged glances, then replied mechanically.
“We don’t know much about that stuff.”
“We know betrayal is bad. We know we’re supposed to get angry. But we don’t feel like doing anything to you, Nejiro.”
“That’s not important. We can’t figure out how to eat.”
“It’s so hard without you. We don’t know how to live.”
Such mechanical words.
The moment he heard their emotionless words, he realized something. For the first time, he looked at them objectively and noticed something.
He had thought that the other children were suppressing their emotions, just like him.
But he now knew that they had no emotions to suppress.
No joy, no sadness, no anger or rage or greed—not even the instinct to live.
Nothing would change now.
‘These guys… no… it's all of us…’
Ironically enough, it was the very same thing Misaki Yasojima had said earlier—but Nejiro did not know that.
‘There’s no one more like this island than us.’
He had ended up creating them. He had ended up creating and raising a part of the island.
He was the one who created the Rats.
Whatever the form it took, Nejiro himself was the one who had created this part of the island—the part that was most like the island. In other words, he was now one with this world.
‘Even if I escape from this island, I’m already just a part of it.’
No matter where he went, even if he forgot the island, so long as the Rats existed—
At that moment, Nejiro knew that he could no longer escape.
As he sat in silence, the other children spoke, one by one.
“It doesn’t matter. Without you, we can’t survive on this island.”
“Two of the kids look like they’re gonna starve to death.”
“Teach us how to live. So we can properly get revenge on you.”
“That’s our revenge.”
“I don’t know what revenge really means, though.”
“It’s probably right.”
“It must be.”
A series of soulless words. Hearing their voices, not a single one containing a speck of emotion, Nejiro realized what he should do.
He would return what he had taken from them—their lost emotions. He would turn them back to normal.
By the time that idea took root, his wish to die had disappeared from his thoughts.
Inwardly, Nejiro smiled.
He just put on a quiet smile.
He tried to put that smile to his lips, but he struggled in vain.
Forcing his lips into an awkward curve, he spoke to the children.
“I… did something wrong.”
He could feel his voice tremble.
He could feel something rising from his throat.
But he did not stop. He continued to force the words from his mouth.
“Humans are so strong… especially the ones that live on this island.”
“If Nejiro says so.”
“Then it must be right.”
‘No one can break our bonds.
‘Not the sharpest swords, not the strongest chainsaws.
‘Because you can’t break something that never existed to begin with.’
How many years had it been since the last time he shed tears?
How many years had it been since he had shown such powerful emotion?
He had forgotten how to smile, but he remembered how to cry.
And he realized something. That the face he wore now was his first outburst of emotion since the day he set foot on the island.
That his fear at losing sight of his parents had left him sobbing until his tears ran dry, just like he was now.
Was he crying because of anger, or something else?
But he knew one thing for certain.
How lucky he was to have been found by Yua.
And so, he decided to teach his fellow Rats.
About the grief and joy contained in his tears.
That hope did indeed exist on the island.