Sunday, 11 January 2015

Garuguru! -Dancing Beast Night- (Part 2): Interlude 4(Part 2)

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

“It looks like things are taking a turn for the annoying here. Explosions going off one after another, execs from every organization dying off one after another, a pair of dogs coming back to the island, a pack of ratlings stirring in the shadows, and the cat getting toyed with like no tomorrow.

Add to that the crazy inter-district relationships just before the explosions. What is going on here?

Is it the end times for the island, or is it— …Then again, that doesn’t really matter.

Whether the island burns or dissolves or the people die en masse, it’s no big deal.

Because that’s what this island is.


So before we discuss the island’s future, let’s talk about the ending of this dance—where the ghoul and the girl dance together without even looking at each other. Shall we, friends?”



-----


Let the beasts dance like mad on this night…


-----



-----


Dramatis Personae


Yakumo Amagiri: The man rumored to be the island’s most atrocious killer. His catchphrase is “I’m normal”.
Charlotte: A clumsy half-American half-British girl who’s all about detective work.
Sherlock: Charlotte’s younger brother. Sardonic.
Nazuna Yukimura: A swordswoman in the Eastern District’s Guard Team. In critical condition and unable to receive visitors.
Sōji Kuzuhara: A former police officer, and captain of the Western District’s volunteer police force. The island’s guard dog.
Kelly: An informer and the producer-slash-DJ of Buruburu Airwaves, a pirate radio station.
Gitarin: The boss of the organization that controls the Eastern District. Also known as the Demonic Rogue.
Yili: An executive of the organization that controls the Western District. Half-Chinese and half-British.
Hayato Inui: A former bandit, currently a pirate. The mad dog who was once at the center of the Pits.
Seiichi Kugi: A young man who has given up on everything. A hunting dog who was previously Yili’s right-hand man.
Lilei: Yili’s younger sister. A member of the organization’s executive squad who wields a lead pipe. Likes cute things.
Lihuang: Yili’s older brother. An executive and an overseer of the Western District. A vicious man of little pity.
Spring-heeled Joplin: The island’s urban legend.
Ginga Kanashima: A weapons dealer with a grudge against Kuzuhara. His right arm is supposedly a highly functional prosthetic.


-----


Well, friends.

Let us resume our observation.


-----


Interlude 4(Part 2): The Dark Night’s Suffering


-----


The moment their eyes met, something seemed to explode in the distance.

He spied the flames and the smoke out of a corner of his eye.

But that mattered nothing to the man.


The rainbow.

Here before my eyes the rainbow-colored dog.


Those were the senseless series of words that flitted through his mind.

How long had it been since he arrived on the island?

The time he spent gazing out at sea seemed like minutes, hours, or years.

But it was over.

Even an eternity was less than a second once it was finished.

The curtains had simply come down and gone back up. There was no intermission to this play.

“<It’s been a while…>” Said the rainbow-haired man. Then he ended the call. “No point in the phone now, I guess. I’m almost outta batteries anyway. Good to see you looking so lively. Lemme be honest—I thought with a personality like yours, you mighta ended up killing yourself somewhere down the line.”

Kugi suddenly became very aware of his own expression.

What kind of face was he wearing now, facing this man?

He didn’t even need to check; Kugi knew he was wearing a faint smile.

Even though he was facing the man responsible for his exile from the island. The rainbow-haired man he should rightly despise.

So… why am I smiling?

He was his mirror image.

Which is what made him all the more hateful.

He wanted to kill him. He wanted to shatter his own mirror.

Was Kugi smiling because the time had finally come?

To… fulfill that desire?

Was it possible for him?

Was it possible when he was without a gun and completely unarmed?


Or perhaps he had been waiting for this moment.

Perhaps he had been waiting to be reunited with the rainbow-haired man like this.

And—


And… and what?

‘Why… am I here?

Why did I come to this place?


This place is… here…

…?

Where am I?

The front door.

the small front door and the entrance. A familiar sight.

Why?! Why am I remembering this now?!


The day after dueling the rainbow-haired man, Kugi began to drag himself in search for someone.

Shattered to bits, the young man began wandering in search of his friend’s family.

Supposedly they moved away the very year he went to the island—so the young man went from place to place, running after their trail.

As though that would be enough to redeem him of his sins.


Finally, he arrived at the family’s home.

He pressed the newly-installed doorbell and waited. And waited.

To beg forgiveness.

Or to die. To be punished.


The true nightmare was waiting for him inside.

And because he knew that, the young man waited… and waited… for the door to open.

To move on from his past.

Or to accept his past.


Where am I?

Though he was facing the rainbow-haired man, Kugi’s thoughts were focused on the door in his memories.

The color of fire illuminating the world slowly enveloped his vision—

—and it turned to the color of dusk in his mind, dragging out the memories of the past more clearly than ever.


That dream…

The dream he had several hours earlier replayed itself in his head like a hallucination.

It felt like a fire was crackling somewhere.

The eerily warm light shone the very color of that day upon the door in his mind.

When Kugi changed the color of the island’s light into the color of dusk, the dream he had rejected—the rest of the story—was forced from the back of his memories.

All with the rainbow before him as the catalyst.

The door in his mind finally opened, accepting Kugi as he stood lit by the rainbow and the fires—


And something abhorrent emerged.


◁ ▶︎


“Well, if it ain’t Seiichi.”

The bearded man chuckled, surprised.

Emerging from the door was a nostalgic face from his memories.

The father of the childhood friend he killed.

“Ah… ah…”

His knees began trembling at the sight of his face.

What was he supposed to say?

Teeth chattering, Kugi realized the depths of his ignorance and feared the being standing before him.

He had come to seek redemption, but he hadn’t thought of what he should specifically do. He was simply prepared to accept whatever the family had in store for him.

He had, in the end, given up on thinking and left his fate in the hands of others.

And as Kugi’s trembling grew worse at the realization, the victim’s father gave him a calm look.

An undisturbed face. Peaceful eyes.

With a voice far warmer and kinder than before Kugi took his daughter to the island—

“Is… is Kanae well?”

What?

For a moment, he was lost.

He had confessed everything to the police when he turned himself in.

The prosecutor’s office and his state-appointed lawyer had said the Orisaki family should have been contacted.

But for some reason, Kugi had received no word about the incident afterwards and it had taken him a long time to find this address.

As Kugi stared blankly, Kanae’s father smiled.

“…I’m sorry, son. That rambunctious daughter of mine’s always been causing you nothing but trouble.”

“No, I—”

“Manami! You remember Seiichi? Your sister’s friend?”

“…Huh?”

Kugi spotted a girl in the shadows of the hall behind Kanae’s father.

Oh, I remember… she had a little sister.

He had seen her in passing several times. He froze.

‘…She looks like her.

Her lack of emotion bothered him, but it was painfully clear to Kugi that the girl there was Kanae’s sister.

The way she did her hair and the way she dressed—it was all a dead ringer for Kanae.

As Kugi reeled, Kanae’s father spoke warmly to him.

“Look at you, Seiichi. You’re a grown man now. I can rest easy and leave Kanae in your hands. We got word a few days ago about her being dead, but that’s another one of her crazy ideas, eh? Just running away from this boring world by pretending she’s dead? Hah. I almost feel like I’m dumping her onto you. I’m sorry, son.”

He was being kind.

He was being too kind.

“N-no… that’s not it, Mr. Orisaki!”

“Hm? What’s not it?”

Nauseated by reality—so different from what he had expected—Kugi steeled himself and raised his voice.

“Kanae… Kanae is dead! I killed her… with my own hands.”

It felt like his soul had left his body along with the words.

Preparing for his head to be bashed in, Kugi looked up at the man.

But Mr. Orisaki looked no different.

“That so? Well, what does that matter?”

“…What?”

It was only then that sense returned to Kugi’s mind. It forced itself back into his thought processes.

The moment he became calm, the sensitivities he had honed on the island brought a series of needless understandings into his mind. Even the things he should not understand were awakened by force, like a punishment.

The girl in the house was glaring at Kugi, then at her father, than at Kugi again. There was almost no life in the face he had assumed was merely emotionless. Only a hint of fear and hatred.

The old him would never have noticed.

It was because he had lived on the island that he understood the color in her eyes.

I know that look.

I’ve seen it back on the island—


◁ ▶︎


No… I’ve seen it right here on the island—

“…Whoa, what’s with those eyes? You look like you’ve seen a ghost, man.”

For a moment, Kugi returned to reality.

The rainbow before him was staring quizzically, but Kugi’s eyes failed to reflect him.

“Anyway, it looks almost like the island’s on fire. And come to think of it, I set the place on fire the last time we had ourselves a scuffle, too. Leave it to Mr. Kuzuhara to jump in there like that… Hey, you even listening to me? Hello? Hellooooo?”

The rainbow put his cell phone back and continued to speak, but Kugi did not react at all.

He simply reminded himself of the air on the island and returned to his memories.

I’ve seen those eyes here on the island countless times. On men, women, and children. To the point of nausea. …And I pretended not to see.

I know what those eyes are.


◁ ▶︎


The eyes of someone who’s been abandoned.

They were not abandoned by people. They were the eyes of pitiful rats who had been abandoned by the society outside, found themselves without acceptance even on the island, and could not find people to hate for it.

The very same eyes as the boy who led the island’s urchins. The boy’s name was Nejiro, if Kugi recalled correctly.

With that unnecessary realization, anxiety surged in his heart.

“Um… is Mrs. Orisaki out…?”

“Hm? Ah, my wife?”

He had asked the question to quell his fears.

But at that moment, Kugi noticed the girl’s eyes darken.

At the same time, he heard the man’s voice, unchanged and hazy.

“Well… heh. The second she heard Kanae died on the island, she screamed about it being a lie and went off. Left me and Manami behind. Haven’t heard from her since, so I assume she’s doing just fine there. Maybe she’s found the darn girl already.”

It was supposed to be a heavy topic. But there was no weight to Mr. Orisaki’s words. Even though the man who destroyed his family was standing right there.

Even though his daughter’s killer was right there.

Even though his wife was missing.

Why was he smiling?

Kugi realized that the girl in the hall was staring at him. She had been looking around before that, but she must have reacted to his confession about killing her sister.

From her eyes it looked like she blamed him, or like she desired something. Kugi began sinking into a a bottomless pit of fear.

Noticing her gaze, the bearded man turned. The girl flinched.

“…What’s wrong now, Manami? Making eyes at Seiichi?”

The slightest hint of a shadow crept into Mr. Orisaki’s voice. That also was a subtle change Kugi would not have noticed before his time on the island.

“…I’m sorry, Seiichi, but I’d prefer it if you went on home now.”


What in the world is going on here?


How much time had passed?

Kugi expended a great deal of time, effort, and energy into understanding the situation.

What was wrong with Mr. Orisaki?

What had happened to him?

Kugi had seen the man several times in the past, and he seemed no different now.

Almost to the point of being unnatural.

If Kanae’s mother had gone to the island and still not returned, she was not likely to be alive. The underground area of the Western District was safe enough, but if she had stepped into the Pits—or the shadows of the Western District in search of Kanae—

The face of a woman in a qipao flashed through his thoughts. Something seemed to run through his nerves.

He stood before the home of those left behind, wondering what he should do.

But as he lingered on the sister who so resembled Kanae, a strange noise reached his ears.

The sound of something falling to the floor, and intermittent impacts.

And a short, subdued, scream.

Kugi came to a realization. He approached the house, crept into the yard, and carefully observed through the window.

The noises continued. There was the sound of breaking glass, followed by dull impacts and the subdued screams from before.

He hadn’t noticed from a distance, but now Kugi could hear a voice.

A calm voice.

The voice of Kanae’s father—the very same one he had just heard.

But the calm only pertained to his voice.


                                                  “You, too?”

                              “You, too?”          “You hate me, is that it?”

                                        “Enough lies—”

                                                 “You were staring.”

                                                                 “Making eyes at that son of a bitch.”

                                          “First Kanae.”

                                                    “Now you.”

                                                        “—raised you, goddammit—”

                                                  “Why the hell—”

                                                                        “—you little whore.”

                                                                        “Filthy slut.”

          “Fucking around like a—

                                                                    “Like a— like a— like a—”

                                                  “—never going to accept—”

       “How’s that— —little bitch— —how’s that, Kanae you little shit?”


A series of incoherent words.

But the meaning was clear.

What did Kugi do then?

Did he jump inside to save the girl?

Did he call the police?

Did he decide to pretend he saw nothing?

The answer: none of the above.

After several intervals, Kugi turned away without a second thought.


◁ ▶︎


“I ran…”

Kugi mumbled suddenly, like his mind was elsewhere.

“Back up.” The rainbow-haired man furrowed his brow. “What?”

“I… I ran away.”

“Hello? What year is this? Aha. Is this flashback time? Funny taste you’ve got there. Too bad Mr. Kuzuhara ain’t around to spice things up like before. …Hold on. Did you say that the last time we did this?”

The shadows slowly returned to Kugi’s eyes as he was quietly driven back into his past.


◁ ▶︎


Before he knew it, he was walking in an unfamiliar place.

He had finally tracked down Kanae’s family.

Analyzing every bit of what happened there—what surely must have been happening all along—was meaningless.

That was what his instincts dictated, and by the time his sense of reason came back to reality, he was wandering aimlessly down an unfamiliar street.

As he calmly looked back on his situation, a self-deprecating look rose to his face.

This might actually be a first for me.

Even when I first went to the island, I found a guide almost right away.

He remembered the girl in the qipao, who still had a hint of childhood in her looks.

A second later, he caught himself with a bitter smile.

…!

He became afraid.

Of the fact that he was returning to the way he was on the island.

Into the self he had abandoned completely when he pulled the trigger on himself on the bridge.

How could he run away from this destroyed family when he had come to pay for his crimes?

…No…

He was afraid and scared and lost—

…I… I have to do… something…

I… I have, to, be, punished.’

Several days later, he went to the house again and snuck inside unnoticed.

It was so simple.

If he wanted punishment, he had to commit a crime.

Not on the island, where people pretended that nothing had happened.

On the mainland that was—that should have been—his reality.

Seiichi Kugi decided to commit a sin.

With such terrible ease.


The longest bridge in the world, spanning Sado Island and Niigata.

The nameless artificial island that stands in the very middle of that bridge—

It was the very first time that he killed someone who was in neither of those places.

It was frighteningly simple.

Compared to the thugs on the island, Kanae’s father fell much too easily.

At Seiichi’s hands, without even a gun.

Like a man-sized mass of clay the body fell slowly to the cold, hard floor.

Right before the eyes of the youngish girl who resembled Kanae so very much.


◁ ▶︎


Soon, reality returned to Kugi’s eyes.

“…”

“What’re you grinning about? I’m grinning too, but at least I’ve got a reason.”

The door was gone, replaced by a smirking man.

The loathsome rainbow-colored dog. Or a rainbow-colored reaper there to grant him punishment and death. Which was the one Kugi wanted? After his trip to the past, his agitation was gone.

Kugi found himself wearing a wry smile, but he was no longer scared.

Nothing felt out of place.

Because he was on the island.

Because his twisted reflection was also clearly smiling.

“Hah hah!”

This time, he laughed out loud without a hint of bitterness.

How many years had it been since he genuinely laughed? The very question made him laugh even more.

“Heh…”

How had he taken the laugh? The rainbow-haired man also began to chuckle.

“Hah.. hah hah hah…”

“Heh heh heh… Ahahahahaha! What the hell, man? You getting high off the air ‘cause you’ve been gone so long? So what’s your game? How’re you gonna move and yap and put on a show for the audience this time? And would ya look at that, our lighting crew’s that big campfire in the middle of town! How-do-we-respond at this very moment?”

Little by little the rainbow-haired man stepped forward, slowly but surely closing the distance as he pulled out a handgun.

“Let’s say we start off with hellos again. That little reunion we skipped over.”

The handgun was a common model on the island available to anyone with enough money. It boasted decent accuracy and safety; not a stand-out as far as weapons on the island went, but in his position it essentially spelled his victory.

After all, Kugi had only just come to the island—he had no guns on hand, let alone proper weapons.

But Kugi’s smile did not disappear.

Kugi knew that the man was capable of shooting. For some reason the man seemed to like him, but Kugi knew he was whimsical enough to pull the trigger at any given moment.

Yet Kugi smiled.

He savored the reality of having returned to the island.

“It was… all the same.”

“Huh?”

“I… I had it all wrong. I always thought… that the world outside wasn’t paradise, but that it at least wasn’t hell. The reason I escaped to this rotten island and stayed was because I thought it was the hell I’d been given. The hell where I would take revenge on the bastards who put us through this, and remain to suffer forever. But in the end, I couldn’t stand even that and tried to change this hell. And then you got in my way.”

“Well sorry to bother you, then. What, you want a written apology signed and sealed?” Rainbow-Head shrugged. But Kugi shook his head.

“No. For all that I hate you, I’m actually grateful. If not for you, I never would have found the truth.”


“…?”

Something was different from before.

The rainbow-haired man sensed something strangely off about Kugi.

And as if to emphasize that mystery, Kugi stepped forward with a calm smile.

“It was all the same.”

With the burning island in the background the two shadows drew closer, and Kugi slowly held out his right hand at the rainbow-haired man. As if there was nothing wrong. As if there was nothing to fear.

Perhaps a gun would pop out of his sleeve like before.

Rainbow-Head hoped for it for a moment, but Kugi was unarmed after all.

Kugi quietly grabbed Rainbow-Head by the collar and calmly hauled him forward. His tone grew more and more forceful.

“It was all the same. Outside this island, and on this island. …No. In fact, I suffered an even worse hell out there.”

“Hey, you feeling all right? I can’t believe I’m the one saying this, but maybe you’re still drunk on yourself?”

Kugi ignored the man and muttered to himself.

“Hell followed me. I was my own hell.”

“…”

A chill ran down the rainbow-haired man’s spine.

Alarm bells were going off in his head. Kugi was dangerous, his instincts screamed.

They were very close now; it was clear that something was different about Kugi’s eyes. They glinted in a frightening mixture of madness and bloodlust and despair.

“Hey, hey, cut that out, man. We need a bit more buildup before you break out the character death.” The rainbow-haired man said, even though he was the one who pulled out the gun. “Seriously. See that fire over there? Dunno what’s up, but any dog could tell you Mr. Kuzuhara’s gone over there. He ain’t gonna block any shots for you this time.”

“Yeah…”

Kugi exhaled, let go of the other man’s collar, and lowered his hand.

“Perfect.”

At the same time, he turned and reached into his coat. Even as he moved he did not break the rainbow-haired man’s gaze.

And noting bloodlust ballooning in Kugi’s eye—

“…!”

Rainbow-Head reflexively leapt back.

He was the quicker one, and he had a gun. He clearly had the advantage. But he did not have any intention of killing Kugi. At least, not yet.

And even if a fight broke out, he had the upper hand. He could easily knock out his opponent with a controlled strike.

But a second later, that fantasy was smashed to bits. Kugi began to exude a bloodlust more sinister than the rainbow-haired man could ever have imagined.

He had experienced such situations countless times in his years overseas. So he acted out of reflex.

So he did have a gun on him?!

Even as his thoughts scrambled his body was moving in midair.

Oh, shit!

A gunshot, then a click of the tongue. He had reflexively relaxed his arm and shifted his aim.

Yet the bullet drove itself into Kugi’s body—

And without a shred of mercy, it shot through his ribcage.

Blood spewed from the hole in his back. It looked black by the light of the fire.

And without a sound, without a hint of sentiment, it glinted.

Glint was all it did.


“Agh…”

Kugi fell to his knees, his breathing ragged. But the adrenaline pumping through him would not let him lose consciousness.

He was overwhelmed by a sense of emptiness entwined with his pain. Kugi slowly pulled out his right hand as the rainbow-haired man watched, frozen.

His hand was empty; the pointer finger and the thumb were held out to resemble a gun.

“…Asshole.”

Very slightly, Rainbow-Head’s expression shifted.

Kugi looked upon such a face for the first time and mumbled again, as though to himself.

“…Finally… got him back…”

His lips twisted into a smirk as he slowly lowered his head.

Kugi did not fall, but he was unconscious.

“Goddamn, that wasn’t bad at all.”

Though Kugi seemed to be in danger, Rainbow-Head slowly got to his feet with a joke.

He dusted off the dirt from his fall and grinned childishly.

“What, so you’re gonna say all that bloodlust was aimed at you and not me? You’re gonna tell me you used me to kill yourself, you son of a bitch?”

Unlike Kugi, Rainbow-Head was clearly talking to his opponent. He continued to talk to a silent man who would soon die if left alone.

“Hey. Hey… This ain’t right. This ain’t the ending we’re going for. Yeah?”

He stuck his gun into his belt and pulled the coat off the frozen Kugi, then wrapped it around his body to stop the violent bleeding.

“The hell kinda messed up writer puts the end at the beginning? I haven’t seen whatever script you worked off until now, asshole. …Wait, does that mean I’m not even supporting cast, let alone main? So I’m just some nameless Killer 1 who puts a bullet into your gut in the last scene?”

He laid Kugi down so the wound was lower than his heart, then took out a cell phone and called someone.

“As if I’ll let that happen. I’m not some chump extra who doesn’t even get a credit, you got that?”

A second later the call connected, and the man greeted the person on the other end of the line without a hint of anxiety to be found.

“Hey. It’s been a while, DJ babe. I was kinda hoping for Mr. Kuzuhara, but you’ll have to do. Lemme give you a scoop. It’s even bigger than the burning crap in the city.”

With a wry grin he enjoyed the DJ’s thrill and continued.

“But in exchange… you gotta let me use your van as an ambulance.”

Without waiting for the DJ to respond he described his location and sighed, not particularly tense but slightly disappointed.

“If you die, you die. You would’ve died anyway back then if Mr. Kuzuhara hadn’t saved your skin.”

The rainbow-haired man—Hayato Inui—turned his gaze to the flames spewing from the center of the island and shook his head.

“It’s a damn mess. Everyone and everything’s burning up like mad.”

Something was indeed happening on the island.

And though that air was clear on his skin, something in Hayato’s mind felt empty.


“Shit. It’s tepid.”


◁ ▶︎


In his hazy consciousness, Kugi had a very coherent dream.


It was a selection of scenes from his past.

Although to him, it was nothing but a simple nightmare.


The young man sought punishment.

So he committed a new sin.

After all, his punishment would be heavier if he were to be arrested after being chased by the police rather than if he were to turn himself in.

So he decided to wait blankly until the murder made the news.

<Eyewitness testimony pegs the suspect as a man in his fifties. Money and valuables are missing from the home, which suggests a burglary gone awry—>

When he first read the article, he did not even realize it was the same incident.

The sole witness to the crime—Kanae’s sister—had lied to the police.


The dream instantly flashed to the next scene.

Bypassing everything else, it stopped at a certain night, when he ran into Manami in the city.


“Oh, Mr. Kugi. …Thank you for before.”

She sounded strangely cheerful for a girl facing her father’s killer. Unable to understand the hidden meaning in her words, Kugi asked her a straightforward question.

“Why… why did you lie to them?”

“For myself.”

Though she was completely indifferent there was something resembling a hint of satisfaction in her voice.

“I’d like to ask something of you, Mr. Kugi. Please, don’t get arrested. Don’t ever turn yourself in.”

“What…?”

“Because you’d make me a liar… But mostly because I’d be so embarrassed if you got arrested and told the truth. It would make me nervous. If the person who abused me was a stranger who ran off afterwards, I would have made him pay even if it cost me my life. But my revenge is already over. You killed him for me.”

It took Kugi some time to understand what she meant, and it took him many times more that span to accept her intentions.

Kugi pushed his suspicions and doubts into a corner of his thoughts and gave up on prying deeper into Manami’s relationship with her father.

“So… what will you do now?”

“Who knows? Something, I guess. Anyway, I’m grateful to you, Mr. Kugi. I won’t hold you responsible for whatever you did to my sister, so please don’t poke your nose into my—our—business anymore.”

“But—”

“Did you save me because you felt guilty about Kanae? Or to make yourself feel better? It doesn’t really matter to me, but I don’t want you to start playing guardian angel with me.”

Manami’s cold stance convinced Kugi of the hopeless truth.

She had already lost her mind. She had already strayed from the path of normalcy.

But the madwoman’s every word was straight on the dot. They hit Kugi where it hurt, at the deepest scars of his heart.

She was completely correct.

Kugi had considered—if he were never to be punished for his actions, he would repent by spending the rest of his life protecting Manami.

“You’re just going to remind me of Kanae, Mr. Kugi. I… I can’t become her replacement, and I don’t want to. But I loved my sister so much.”

Kugi found himself rooted to the spot.

The childhood friend he had killed with his own hands, and her little sister. Perhaps he truly had been lost in his own fantasy.

Then what? What… was I going to do with this girl?

“You’re just like Dad, Mr. Kugi. You thought of me as Kanae’s replacement. I bet you never knew Dad used to beat her ragged. That’s why Kanae was never home, and that’s why you spent the most time with her. She was with you more than Dad, Mom, or me! But you never noticed, did you?”

She was merciless and straightforward. Kugi could not even turn his ears away.

“Did you know that man was our stepdad?”

He was not forgiven.

“Did you know how happy Kanae always looked when she talked about you at home?”

He was not forgiven.

“Then we heard that our real dad was on the island. So maybe Kanae wanted to find him there. Maybe she wanted to find a dad who wouldn’t beat her!”

Please forgive me.

“Did you know? The day she left for the island, she asked me to come, too.”

Forgive me—’

“I said no. Because I was more scared of going to the island than of getting beaten by Dad—no, that old pig. So I didn’t. Because I loved my sister so much. But you know what she said then? ‘Maybe if Seiichi went with me… I don’t think he’ll agree to live there with me, but if he’s the last person who sees me off, I can fight my way through any pain or suffering’.”

She clearly spoke the truth.

There was no lie in her words.

There was no sanity left in the calm madwoman for to be able to lie. How could she be so tranquil yet anxious? The air emanating from her told him that her words were truthful.

And they were powerful.

Powerful and sharp, perfectly honed to pierce Seiichi’s heart.

The truth could sometimes become violence. It was second nature to those on the island. And that same violence overcame him on the mainland.

“That’s right. Kanae never wanted to come back in the first place. Isn’t she awful, dragging you into her own escape like that?”

The words he no longer wanted to hear—the truth he never wanted to know—slowly seeped into him.

“So I thought Kanae was the worst. But I still loved her.”

“…”

“I loved her so much.”

She did not give him even a second to respond.

As Kugi stood in a daze, not even knowing what emotions to feel, Manami put an end to the conversation.

“So go, Mr. Kugi. And never come back. Because as long as you see Kanae in me, I’ll have to become her. And I know I’m going to want to become her.”

Eloquent, but tense.

“Then I’ll end up remembering Kanae. The sister I can’t forget because I love her. So please go, get out of my sight. I’ll even erase all your crimes from my memories. …Who are you? I don’t know who you are, but stop following me. I’m going to call the police.”

With that, Kugi knew he was free.

He wanted to say something, but he could think of nothing to say. So he spoke simply to excuse himself from that spot.

“…I’m sorry. I… mistook you for someone else.” He said in a trembling voice. The girl replied indifferently.

“Goodbye, someone I don’t know.”

As Kugi turned to escape, her final words were etched onto his back.

“I’m—I was—grateful.”

It was the ultimate blow.

If she had chosen to hate him, at least, he might have been released from his past.

No. Even if she did hate him, nothing would be different.

He was forever chained to his sins.

He had lost both his chance at redemption and his right to judgement.

But he did not have the courage to take his own life.


Finally, the dream reached the end of his wanderings.

A murky grey island that stank of rusted iron and the sea.

In the monochrome world, he suddenly spotted a rainbow.

A piece of lead came shooting from the rainbow and carved through his senses.

It tore through his consciousness, his past trauma, and even his future.

In the end, as he fell in his dream, Kugi reached for the city and the ruined buildings in the distance—


◁ ▶︎


What was I reaching for?

What was I trying to reach for, when I’d come so far?

It… it hurts… what… what is this…?


“It’s nice to see you again. Or should I say… welcome?”

The nostalgic voice alerted Kugi to the fact that he was awake.

Around him was a world of drab white.

There were four masses of black there, and at the very center a dress of striking red and pristine white.

It was a familiar sight. He hadn’t seen it in his memories of the past, so it must be a reality, Kugi understood. With that forced conclusion he took a moment to assess his situation.

'I’m alive.

Should he thank or curse himself for being so hard to kill?

Not knowing whether he had wanted to live or die back then, Kugi closed his eyes.

He wanted to fall asleep forever, no longer bound to waver between life and death. But—

“You can thank the ear-splitting radio station. They stopped your bleeding as much as they could and transported you to me right away. Oh, but don’t worry about thanking our doctor—I plan to have you pay off every last cent of that particular debt.”

The heavily injured, sleepy-eyed patient stared at the woman in the qipao. His gut ached enough for the rest of his body, but Kugi continued to scrutinize the woman’s face.

Her face was just as beautiful and icy as it had been the moment they parted ways.

“Thank you, Yili.”

“…I see your conversational skills haven’t improved.”

“Heh. Sorry. …About that first question. I think… it’s neither.”

“Hm?”

“In the end, I never set foot outside the island. …Mentally speaking.” Kugi mumbled, as if to himself. Yili spoke indifferently.

“Anyway, you need to recover soon. I need you to become my right hand again.”

“…I thought you abandoned me?”

“On the surface, yes. This time, you’ll be working completely in the shadows. It’ll be more dangerous than ever before. But that’s the only place our organization can offer you.”

“That’s a little cruel. Don’t I get the right to choose?” Kugi chuckled, his joke turned against himself.

“The fact that you came back—and the fact that you’re smiling—answers that question.”

Kugi could not argue.

“Elder Brother Lihuang won’t take kindly to you, nor will a good portion of the others. But Taifei is in charge of this clinic, and he’s part of the neutral faction. So you’ll be safe here… unless the room suddenly goes up in smoke.”

The hints of emotion Yili showd reminded Kugi of the moment he was shot. He hadn’t thought much about it then, but he faintly recalled fire and explosions going off near the center of the island.

“Oh… the explosion. What happened?”

He was returning to a businesslike tone. Rather than trying to satisfy his curiosity, Kugi was seeking answers to help him determine his next course of action.

A complicated look rose to Yili’s eyes, but soon even that emotion faded and she explained the situation briefly.

“One, there’s a bomber on the loose. We haven’t received any warnings yet, but there have been a couple more explosions while you were asleep. There weren’t any flames or gas pipes in the area, so they must have been set up by someone. And I don’t think it has anything to do with the Eastern District or the Guard Team.”

“…By ‘one’, you mean there’s more?”

Yili was silent for a moment, before finally making up her mind to speak.

“…We’ve just got a monster loose on the island.”

“A monster?”

The only ‘monster’ on the island Kugi could think of was Kuzuhara. But if he extended the possibilities into the realm of rumors, he could think of one more individual.

“…Yakumo Amagiri. The Killer Ghoul’s declared war on the island.”

“You mean the urban legend?”

Kugi wanted to ask more, but Yili said nothing and stood to leave with her bodyguards.

Am I still not ready to be involved in that subject?’ He wondered with a wry grin, and asked one final question.

“…Was I a burden to you?”

Yili stopped and cast a glance at her bodyguards.

The men did not even blink as they filed out into the hallway.

When it was finally just the two of them in the room, Yili turned.

“…You’re still such an idiot.”

It sounded like words of mockery, but she wore a warm expression.

That was all she had to say after sending away her guards, but Kugi saw off Yili with an awkward smile.

Left all alone, he looked up at the ceiling and sighed, then glanced out the small window in the corner of the room.

The world outside was filthy. Rusted pipes and plumbing dotted with glimpses of the sky.

But that was enough for him.

Just by looking at the sky he felt death, decay, and a sense of lively energy.

The moment he truly understood he was back on the island, a strange sense of relief washed over him.

Wrapped up in comfort, as though he were finally home, he slowly fell asleep.


And time passed—


-----


Chapter 4.


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2 comments:

  1. this is amazing !!!!

    thank you for you're hard work !!

    ReplyDelete
  2. 'The hell kinda messed up writer puts the end at the beginning?' - um...I hate to be the one to point fingers and tell tales but seriously Narita...pot, kettle? That little self-deprecating nod made me ugly-laugh. ESPECIALLY AT SUCH A SERIOUS MOMENT

    Thank you so much for your translation, I've probably read this about five times and it's genuinely amazing. I feel bad for not commenting but I really appreciate all your work so thanks.

    ReplyDelete