Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Garuguru! -Dancing Beast Night- (Part 2): Interlude 6

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

Enjoy.

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Interlude 6: Buruburu


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Inside the van in front of the hotel.


There is a yōkai known as the Buruburu.

It is supposedly an invisible creature that haunts people and makes them tremble. Some say the Buruburu is responsible for sudden chills.

When the nickname ‘Buruburu Airwaves’ first stuck, Kelly did not know about the Buruburu. When she first heard about it from someone, she had loudly laughed it off.

But now, as the DJ of Buruburu(Sōsei) Airwaves, Kelly knew that the Buruburu was haunting her.

“Heh…”

She chuckled, but that was just a strong front.

Her body was trembling for no reason.

Actually, there must have been a reason. But she was simply unable to define it.

Was she afraid of what was happening in front of her eyes?

Was she thrilled at the prospect of a scoop?

Was she too tense?

Or was it an omen of something terrible to come?


The world beyond the windshield was filled with an indescribable air.

Standing at odds were Lihuang of the Western District and Jun Sahara of the Guard Team, surrounded by the Western District’s men.

Though Kelly Yatsufusa knew she was trembling, she also knew she was enjoying the situation.

When the bombings first began, she poured her efforts into getting to the scene faster than anyone to give live coverage of the situation. And the island established a workflow of search-and-rescue efforts based on her information.

Normally, she would have started the emergency broadcast earlier. But she had yet to grab the microphone.

And that was because she had no idea what could possibly happen now.


◁ ▶︎


Recently, she dreamed more often about her childhood.

The one who brought her into the light from her life as a product in the Pits was a man named Yatsufusa, who ran a pirate radio station.

But the cast in her dreams was different now.

Instead of Yatsufusa, leading her by the hand was a tall man. Silent as a stone, yet lovable all the same.

Each time she woke up to these dreams, Kelly Yatsufusa recalled her past.

I never even dreamed of dreaming back then.

Supposedly, dreams were the brain’s way of processing information. Then was the information in her life the kind her brain refused to process? Or maybe she had simply forgotten that she had dreamed.

Kelly remembered the indescribable air that had filled the Pits then.

Dull and endlessly thick and murky. There was no victory or defeat, no distinction between murderer and murdered. The mere fact of one’s presence in the Pits signified one’s status as defeated and dead.

It was simply the air of a place crowded with things that should not exist.

Though Kelly laughed about the recent explosions being scoops, unbeknownst to all she was disgusted with them.

She felt like the entire island was turning into what the Pits had been back then.


Once more, that dull and murky air filled her vision.

But unlike before, there was a ray of light in that darkness.

The man who had just stepped off the van had the power to chase away that air.

At least, that was what Kelly believed. And it was true.


Kelly dreamed while awake.

The man before her—Sōji Kuzuhara—was the one who let her dream.

Knowing that, she could behave as she did in her dreams.

Free from all restraints, completely liberated—


◁ ▶︎


In front of the ruined hotel.


“What’s going on here, sir?”

The formalities were there, but the respect was not.

Kuzuhara understood all too easily the scene before his eyes.

A Western District executive and his men were surrounding someone from the Eastern District.

Whether or not Jun had done anything, the conclusion was simple.

“Are you trying to start war with the Eastern District, sir?”

“War? War? Look here, Mr. Kuzuhara. Does such a grand term describe our scuffles with the Eastern District? Even ‘conflict’ is too good for this lot.” Lihuang chuckled, shaking his head. “I don’t know what idea you’ve gotten into your head. We were simply trying to get some answers out of this woman. Scurry on over and do your rescue work now.”

“Then I’ll be asking you for help in this serious accident that’s hit your Western District. If you’re just asking some questions, the ones with the weapons should have nothing to do at this point.”

As Kuzuhara tossed aside even the formalities, Lihuang narrowed his eyes.

“Watch your tongue. There’s only one place for a dog that refuses to obey—the soup.”

“I don’t act on your organization’s behalf. And if you can’t accept that, prepare for some food poisoning.”

Kuzuhara was unintimidated by the many blades drawn before him. His eyes seemed to wander for a split second, however, betraying his worry that people were in need of rescue.

But the fire was on the first floor of the hotel. People almost never approached the area because it was used for storage. The fire had not yet spread to the residential areas above the third floor, and the sprinklers seemed to have kicked in and dampened the flames.

Though he thanked the hotel’s fireproof construction, Kuzuhara feared that someone might be trapped in the storage area—but his worries were blown away in a matter of seconds.

He saw several other members of the volunteer police force running over, having heard the explosion.

They stopped for a moment when they spotted the scene in front of the hotel—the face of a normally-reclusive executive and his men—but hesitantly stepped forward when they saw Kuzuhara.

“M-Mr. Kuzuhara, what’s going on?”

“Never mind. See if anyone’s injured and put out that fire.”

“R-right.”

Though intimidated by the gazes of Lihuang’s men, the volunteer police hurried into the hotel. Because the explosions were ongoing, they had already equipped themselves with makeshift masks and fire extinguishing supplies.

Kuzuhara watched them depart, then took a a step toward Lihuang.

“…If you can’t give me a reason to cooperate, then I will carry out my duty as captain of the volunteer police force.”

“Your duty?”

“I’m going to ask you to do three things. Cease hostilities. Put away your weapons. And calm down.”

When Lihuang heard the mechanical listing, his smile disappeared as he shot Kuzuhara a glare.

Kuzuhara was one of the tallest men on the island, but Lihuang was more than a match in height.

Two of the West’s leaders stared each other down from the same level, refusing to take a single step back.

Jun hesitated for a while, but perhaps she decided to trust Kuzuhara; with a determined look she put away her chainsaws. Then, she held up her open hands to show she was not going to put up a fight.

Kuzuhara cast her a glance, then went back to glaring at Lihuang.

“…Look. Your opponent’s calmed down and put away her weapons. If you insist on making accusations now, you’ll only lose face as an executive of the Western District.”

“Obeying the orders of a dog would be the greater shame. We simply want to talk to the woman.” Lihuang shot back, holding his broadsword crooked. Though he was relaxed, he did not for a moment underestimate Kuzuhara.

“Funny. It looks to me more like you’re planning to scapegoat her. Blame her for all the murders of the executives.”

“Even if that were true… what could you possibly do about it?” Lihuang said, trying to cement his superiority by expressing it in words.

Kuzuhara, however, denied that stance.

“I don’t care about your backing or position. I just don’t want anyone to get hurt for no good reason on this island.”

“What?”

In an instant, Lihuang’s icy expression shifted into laughter.

“…Hah hah hah… Ahahahaha!”

“What’s so funny?”

“Hah hah hah hah hah! But this is a riot! Men, laugh!”

Lihuang raised a hand, and the men around him joined in. Kuzuhara felt like he was the subject of a laugh track.

“?”

“Of course. I see. So you wish for a peaceful world where no one is hurt.”

What, is he going to say it’s a stupid idea? I know that already. But he’s laughing too hard for that.

With a smirk, Lihuang answered Kuzuhara’s question.

All too easily.

And all too brutally.

“Then let me ask you this, Sōji Kuzuhara! Who is responsible for these explosions?”

Casting brief glances at the black smoke, Lihuang loudly slapped the lanyard of his sword against the ground.

“…!”

“Ginga Kanashima. A name you know well, I’m sure.”

Instantly, Kuzuhara’s vision went hazy. But not from any physical shock. He was so mentally rattled that his nerves seemed to fool his brain into staggering.


Ginga Kanashima.

An enemy I should never forget. A stray bullet. In the girl’s head. I killed her.

He took aim. I lost him. She was hiding. Revenge. My superior.

Open fire. Aim for the arm. Justice. Lies. I was just scared.

The girl’s father used the same gun he used to use…

The bastard might be the bomber here.

I knew that. I… I knew that.


“You can’t deny it. This man has never once forgotten his goals—unable to forget, he continues to torment you to this day. I’m almost in awe of his determination. He caused the deaths of many executives this summer, as well. I would forgive you if you claimed ignorance. However…”

Lihuang paused then, taking a breath, and continued.

“…You cannot claim innocence. This is your fault.”

Kuzuhara’s vision shook again.

This time, something had hit him.

Lihuang had reversed his grip on his broadsword and jammed the hilt against Kuzuhara’s jaw.

“Grk!”

The impact moved up his jaw, all the way to his brain, and the hilt of the blade hit his unguarded temple. If Lihuang had used the bladed edge, it would have been a fatal series of attacks. But even the blunted blows were enough to throw off Kuzuhara’s thoughts.

Lihuang kicked the staggering Kuzuhara in the gut and spat,

“And because of these repulsive bombings, our organization takes the brunt of the islanders’ censure. All thanks to the radio station here fanning their flames!”


◁ ▶︎


Though her activities were disparaged, Kelly did not notice. Her eyes were locked solely on the staggering Kuzuhara.

“Sōji… what are you doing?!”


◁ ▶︎


“They look down on our organization, the rabble in the East, and even your volunteer police, accusing us of being powerless to capture the bomber. Hmph. Tough words, coming from insects who crawled to the island to live like leeches. How does it feel to be scorned by insects? If I had the freedom, I would turn each and every one of them inside-out and flay them alive before burning them.”

“…”

Kuzuhara was on his knees on the ground now; Lihuang pressed his sword against the back of his head.

“And yet the people of the island call you a hero. Is that what charisma earns you? You’ve done a fine job earning so much trust in only a few short years. Snatching what we’ve worked at for over a decade from right under our noses. It seems you’ll wag your tail at anyone you see, dog.”

It’s people like you that earn the organization so much resentment.’ Kuzuhara might have replied with a counterattack, if he were his usual self.

But now, he did absolutely nothing as he was attacked.

Lihuang was right. Kuzuhara had been agonizing over these things for a long time.

Kuzuhara would have preferred that people called him powerless, or blamed him for failing to protect them. He would have been at ease if they hated him.

The incidents on the island were his own fault; but he was the only one who blamed himself for it. Encouragements and words of thanks only pained him more.

He was trying to deceive the pain away, or trying to close his eyes. But when he realized how he truly felt, Kuzuhara felt a surge of self-loathing and allowed himself to be beaten, unable to retort.

And because he understood his own position, Lihuang’s words broke him all the more.

That was enough for Lihuang to utterly destroy Kuzuhara.

At this point, Kuzuhara was more physically injured than emotionally; he could soon end up dying without even getting a chance to put up a fight.

“Stop this!”

The one who finally halted Lihuang was a loud female voice.

Jun, who had put away her weapons, raised her voice with a determined look.

“I’ll go quietly. That’s what you want, isn’t it?”

“Ah. So you listen to reason.”

With a ruthless smirk, Lihuang took the broadsword away from Kuzuhara’s neck.

“W-wait…”

Kuzuhara tried to stand, but his knees felt like jelly. Jun went up to him, feigning worry, and whispered.

“…Don’t worry about me, Mr. Kuzuhara. But the two detectives were taken to the Pits. I’ll free them and escape.”

“What…”

Was Jun talking about the caucasian siblings who lived at the hotel, Kuzuhara wondered. He had never met them in person, so he did not know why the siblings had been taken.

What distressed him more was the fact that Jun was being taken into the Western District’s custody. That was not all. One wrong move could spark all-out war between East and West, from which the residents of the island would not come out unscathed.

The bombings wouldn’t be the only thing he was responsible for. The island itself could collapse because of his own mistakes. Kuzuhara felt his vision go hazy again at the realization.

“Hey…”

When he raised his head to speak, Jun was already boarding a car with the men in black.

The car was parked in the shadow of a ruined building. It seemed close enough for Kuzuhara to run to, yet so far that he would never reach it. His legs did not move. His body strained under the pressure of the damage he sustained, and his thoughts were also anchored by a similar weight.

Lihuang called over two of his men and stared down at Kuzuhara.

“Finally on the ground as a dog should be. But know that I do not despise you. That is why I resorted to verbal debate to weaken you.”

Lihuang was indeed looking down at, but not condescending toward, Kuzuhara.

“I have faith in your abilities. Continue to devote yourself to the work of the volunteer police.”

With a faint smile, he finally added,

“For the Western District.”

Turning his back to Kuzuhara, Lihuang gave brief orders to his two subordinates. One was holding a Chinese sword, and the other had a holstered handgun.

“I’ve shaken up his head and insides, but give him a little more just in case. Do not let your guard down.” He spat coldly. But he never looked back.

In his head he plotted out one move after the next, followed by another, followed by another, as though there was nothing in his way to begin with. And he smirked in satisfaction when he carried out his plans.

With the unshakable belief that everything was playing out in the palm of his hand.


◁ ▶︎


The car carrying Lihuang and Jun drove past the van, eventually disappearing from sight.

Watching them depart through the rear-view mirror, Kelly clapped her hands with a gleeful laugh.

“Heehahahaha! There they go! Thanks for ignoring me, assholes! No, really! Makes me feel a hell of a lot better!”

But what she felt on the inside was the very opposite.

Hey, Hey. This isn’t right.

Her gaze was locked on Kuzuhara, still kneeling, punching the ground angrily.

That’s not like you, Sōji.

She heard the exchange between Kuzuhara and Lihuang.

The parabolic microphone installed on the van conveyed to Kelly everything from Kuzuhara and Lihuang’s conversation to the jeers of the Western District men around them.

No. That’s not you. That’s not Kuzuhara.

“Heehah… Heehahahahahaha.”

Expelling manic laughter alongside carbon dioxide, Kelly burned the image before her into her mind.

The two remaining men left fresh kick marks on Kuzuhara’s face.

They were not two peons abusing the defeated. The men were trained killers, attacking to damage their opponent.

Something vibrant and red spilled from Kuzuhara’s mouth.

“Heehahaha…”

The image reminded Kelly of something.

A memory of blood.

It was not an image from the Pits, where she was sold. And not from a bloodcurdling murder.

It was the conversation she had with the man who bought her, just before he passed away.


“Ahh, my not-really lovely pale assistant girl. Heehahahaha!”

“Mr. Yatsufusa, are you going to die?”

“Probably. C’mon, look a little sad or something. Heehahaha!”

“I don’t understand.”

“Me neither. Heehahahahahahaha!”

“What do I do first when you die, Mr. Yatsufusa?”

“Whoa, that ‘first’ made me really sad there. Take that out, and you mighta been able to make that sound pretty heartwarming. Heehahaha! Just let the island know and start the party of your life. Don’t follow the trends. Make ‘em… You know, even this stuff is fun once you get into it. Heehahaha.”

“Make trends?”

“Yeah. Your broadcasts are gonna move the island! I guarantee it’s gonna be a blast. Heehaha! Hahah!”

“I don’t understand. What am I supposed to do?”

“I don’t know. But maybe you should start by moving.”

“Moving?”

“People who aren’t moving usually start moving when the people right next to them are moving. Then the people next to them start moving, and then the people next to them… Except for the stubborn ones who’re dead set on staying put. It’s like water. You stir it, and it becomes a whirlpool, and you blow on it, and it becomes a wave. But y’know… Hee hah hah… Getting the first person to move. That’s harder than hard. But there’s a trick around that.”

“I just have to start moving, right?”

“You’re a quick one! Exactly! Moving people’s hearts? That idea’s prouder than prouder than proud. Once you get into the groove, people around you are gonna start moving. The faster and flashier, the better! And don’t think about good or bad when you’re moving! If you’ve got time to brood about that stuff, just run straight ahead! If the world calls you crazy or awful, ignore ‘em and run! Even if the world cheers for you, keep running somewhere nobody’s ever going to reach you! Doesn’t matter if it’s a legend or God or the devil. There’s no higher high than the moment you escape all that argh now I want to run again heehahahahahaha… hah. Hah. Hah. Hrk!”

“Mr. Yatsufusa.”

“‘Course, I can’t even move now! Heehahahahahahahahaha… hah. Hah. Bah. Bleugh.”

Laughing, Yatsufusa vomited massive amounts of blood.


And several hours later, the DJ passed away laughing.

When Kelly saw his image overlap with Kuzuhara in the distance, she actually found herself calming down.

“Heehahaha… Heehahaha… Is he just like him?”

Kelly knew something was wrong. She knew that Kuzuhara was plagued by nightmares, waking as he cried out Kanashima’s name.

But she had always kept herself out of it, saying it was Kuzuhara’s business.

“Can Kuzuhara not run anymore?”

Hey, hey. This isn’t right.

She didn’t want to see him suffer.

That’s not like the now-me.

Sad or happy, she was just glad to have Kuzuhara alive by her side.

No. That’s not me. That’s not me!

“…”

Her laughter ceased as she revved the engine.

Things are different now.

There was still a vestige of laughter on her face, but this time, it represented her emotions completely.

With an invincibly mad smile on her face, ready to take on the world—

I can change things this time!

—Kelly hit the gas and barreled toward the enemies before her.


◁ ▶︎


By the time they heard the engine bearing over them, it was too late.

The van had been modified in many ways to avoid the many thugs and delinquents on the island, but now it was moving at far beyond the speed of escape. Now it moved for the mission of plowing aside its enemies.

“Ah—”

The moment the man with the gun tried to kick Kuzuhara—

His friend with the sword flew into the air, hit by the blue van.

Like a cue ball struck with a powerful massé shot, he spun low in the air as he landed, rolling along the ground and hitting a nearby heap of junk.

“…Kelly?”

When Kuzuhara heard the engine and the impact, Kelly and her blue glasses rose to his mind.

He forced his head up to see, and spotted the man who was about to kick him, pointing a gun at the van and opening fire.

He shot at Kelly’s van with a gun.

That was all Kuzuhara managed to process.

And it was enough to spur him to action.


Cracks spread instantly on the rear windshield, obscuring the interior.

The man with the gun made to fire even more shots, when he heard something stir behind him.

“?!”

Sensing danger, her turned. There stood a demon who had erased his own emotions.

Bastard… when’d he get up?

Sōji Kuzuhara stood intimidatingly behind him. The man felt cold sweat on his back.

Kuzuhara was facing forward. Only his gaze was looking down at the man.

His eyes were heavy, sharp, and at the same time chilling to the bone.

His face framed in shadow, Kuzuhara spoke with a voice just as heavy, sharp, and chilling as his gaze.

“What did you do?”

W-was this guy always this big?

Even the man had heard of the fear in Sōji Kuzuhara’s name. But Kuzuhara was ultimately just a volunteer police, he had assumed. He took him too lightly.

“What… did you just do?”

“…”

So to escape the fear, he took aim at Kuzuhara.

He had the resolve to kill, the training, and even the experience.

Kuzuhara, standing before him, was so scared of killing that he never took up a gun—

His thoughts stopped there.

Kuzuhara did not use guns.

Fights on the island always escalated to mortal conflicts, where guns and knives were drawn to the surprise of none. Kuzuhara had, as a member of the volunteer police, intervened in such fights for years.

He had defied death countless times.

Without even a gun.

With the handicap of keeping all his opponents alive.

The Western District underling realized his own mistake.

If he had prioritized his own safety, he should have shot Kuzuhara, not the van.

A shot to the head, to kill him instantly.

The cause of the hapless man’s realization was pain.

The gun he was holding had somehow ended up in Kuzuhara’s hands, and the right hand that had been holding the gun was a throbbing mess of agony.

He saw something, in the instant before he screamed. His right hand being squeezed like a used rag—his fingers being twisted in macabre directions.

“Aaah… GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!”

The moment the man’s scream filled the world, Kuzuhara’s massive hand covered his face.

The man was raised over 2 meters into the air. It felt like his spine would pop as his right hand continued to ache. And yet the man was set on destroying the demon before him, taking out a spare gun with his left hand—

—and was able to do nothing.

When he felt the centrifugal forces on his own body, he saw the sky between the fingers on his face—and that was the last thing the man saw before losing consciousness.

Kuzuhara had spun the man around in midair before slamming him to the ground faster than gravity could. But a second before impact, he let go to let the man fall on his back rather than his head. Perhaps Kuzuhara’s instincts had held him back from potentially killing him.


◁ ▶︎


Ba-dum.

I hear it.

Ba-dum.

I hear Sōji’s heartbeats. I heard them, damn it.

Ignoring the black lumps stuck in the bulletproof windshield, Kelly let her heart race at the scene beyond the cracks.

Not knowing that the heartbeats she heard were her own, drawn out by the man before her.


◁ ▶︎


Kuzuhara breathed heavily as a familiar voice heaped expletives over him.

<Finally… took you long long long long long enough, fuckin’ Kuzu!>

“Kelly!”

Without even catching his breath, Kuzuhara ran over.

“Are you okay?!”

The moment he reached for the driver’s seat door, the back door opened automatically.

He hesitated, but leapt in through the back and approached Kelly in the front.

“…Kelly, you dumbass! What were you thinking?!”

Kelly was there, the same as ever.

“Heehahaha! Where’s my thank-you, Kuzu?”

“I’ll have time for that later! Lemme get the anger out of the way!”

Kuzuhara raised his voice without thinking, swelling with relief. But Kelly laughed off his anger and stepped on the gas.

“All right then, Sōji. We’re off!”

“What?!”

The door he came in through quickly closed and the world around them began to move.

“What are you doing, Kelly?!”

Kelly ignored the question and kept driving.

“Now I’m a wanted woman, y’know! For knocking over the Western District lackey!”

“Right… I hope you haven’t killed him.” Kuzuhara said, burying his head in his hands. Kelly cackled.

“So—let’s—just—say—you got your ass in here to arrest the crazy hit-and-run bitch! But then she got you with sex appeal like BAM-BAM and knocked you out cold with a double-barrel bleeder! And before you knew it, she was dragging you away! How’s that for a good story? Heehahahaha!”

“Ha. Ha. Ha. Idiot.”

“Heehaha! We’re waltzing straight to the Pits, you got that?”

“…What the hell?!”

“We might catch up if we start now. You’re not gonna just plunk your ass down here and wait, right, Kuzu?”

Kelly was enjoying this. Kuzuhara shot back with unease.

“Hey, you’ve got nothing to do with this! I can still cover for you hitting the guy—”

“How the hell’re you gonna pull off that shit? I’ve come this far; might as well go all the way! Heehahaha!”

“But…”

The same shadow from before came over his eyes.

Kuzuhara was afraid to drag Kelly into his business.

But when Kelly looked at him she laughed nervously and said,

“Heehahaha! C’mon, Kuzu. Why so serious?”

Her tone was the same as ever; but there was a something different about the way she spoke.

“Listen up, Kuzu. Even if the explosions are all your fault! Even if this is all just that asshole Kanashima’s rampage! And even if you leaving this place is gonna solve everything!”

She listed off the immovable facts.

But she finished off with one more.

“—Who gives a fuck? Even if people died because this jackass has a vendetta against you! And even if the whole damned island sinks! How much is that worth?!”

“…!”

“Is all that reason enough for you to run? Is that enough reason for you to back down?”

“…”

Silence fell over the car.

Unable to take the pause, Kelly’s own laughter broke the ambience of the engine.

“Heehaha… hee hah hah. Heehahahahahahahaha! Heehahahahahahahahaha! Damn, Kuzu! Don’t make me say embarrassing shit like that! Heehahahaha!”

Her laughter never ceasing, she changed the subject before Kuzuhara could react.

“Heehahaha! Reminds me of the good old days, right?! It’s just like running from Kugi last year!”

“…Yeah.”

“You were all fired up about catching the bastard, running off on your own into that crazy mess…”

“Nostalgic.”

Oh shit. Did I make him mad?’ Kelly wondered, inwardly sweating bullets.

But to her surprise, he continued the conversation.

“Come to think of it, you said something to me then. About how you didn’t have a true self.”

“…Did I? I forgot. Heehahahaha!”

“I know exactly one ‘real you’ in you.”

“Heehahahaha! Where the hell’d that come from?!”

As Kelly howled in mad laughter—like the madwoman she was—Kuzuhara told her his honest feelings.

“You… you’re an incredible woman. And that’s a true self. A you unique to you.”

“Hee…”

Silence again.

Kuzuhara looked away regretting what he said, but blurted out something to end the silence.

“Thanks for before.”

“Hee hah hah… How’re the injuries? You were practically dancing out there just now.” Kelly replied as though nothing was wrong.

“…I was running off adrenaline then. I barely felt anything.”

“Now?”

“…Don’t worry about it.”

He was obviously putting up a strong front.

Though Kuzuhara was mentally shaken, Lihuang had managed to bring him to his knees. Kuzuhara must have been quite badly injured.

“Sōji.”

“What.”

“Win.”

“…Against what?”

Kelly braked, hard.

“Whoa?!”

Kuzuhara staggered, catching himself just before he fell toward the driver’s seat. From the lack of sunlight around them, he could tell they were already on the road to the Pits.

“Hey, what the hell—”

“Shaddap!”

Kelly turned and grabbed Kuzuhara’s face as he came over to the driver’s seat.

And she blocked his lips with hers.


A third moment of silence.


Though it was a short few seconds, the silence made the moment seem slower.

Kelly slowly pulled away and grinned impishly.

“Hee hah hah… Heehahahahaha! Heehahahahaha! How’s that, Sōji? Excited now? Feeling better? Heehahahahaha!”

There was no sensuality in the kiss and Kuzuhara was left in a daze, but he soon recovered and shook his head with a sigh.

“Look. Just… try to read the situation next time.”

“Heehahaha! I had this one in the cards since a thousand moves ago!”

“Hey. We’re talking life or death here—”

“Don’t die.” Kelly cut him off. “You! Are my dream! My waking dream!”

Giving him no time to respond, she hit the gas pedal again. This time, Kuzuhara staggered backwards.

“So… so hurry up and turn out the way I want you to! We’re not talking life or death, damn it! The Kuzu I know would never put in the death option to begin with! Heehahahaha!”

“…Sorry.” Sitting up, Kuzuhara spoke directly to the back of Kelly’s head. “I almost broke last year’s promise.”

“Hm? What was it again? …Oh. Something about no matter what bad things happen in the future… something something. Who cares? But you know, I don’t want to have a nightmare about you dying! Heehahahaha!”

Kuzuhara put on a gentle smile.

“I don’t know if I can give you a good dream. But I can say one thing. And this might not be the best time or place, but don’t tell anyone.”

He had no idea what might be waiting for him in the Pits.

War could break out between the districts, or Ginga Kanashima might make his move.


Thick in the stench of death, Kuzuhara raised the corners of his mouth and spoke, answering Kelly.

“Today… I don’t think I’ll lose to anyone.”

Flexing his fingers in his bulletproof gloves, Kuzuhara let his gaze grow sharp.


“From now on… I’ll be true to myself.”


◁ ▶︎


Kelly had no self. She herself knew that better than anyone.

Even the name ‘Kelly Yatsufusa’ was a pseudonym she used for convenience’s sake.

Her words, looks, expressions, and ideology were all imitations of other people, and she subtly cycled through them depending on the time and place. All her actions were lies, yet at the same time they were part of who she was.

Kelly always mimicked the characters of others. Her usual vulgar tone, the flashes of sensuality, and the mechanical face she reserved for interviews.


But that was only until last year.

The man named Sōji Kuzuhara.

Their link began when they exchanged phone numbers, and completely changed her life.

The Kelly who loved Sōji Kuzuhara was always a real self.

Believing that fact, Kelly continued to drive today.

In the direction her desires led.

She drove and drove.

So no one could catch up to them.

Dreaming of a certain man always at her side—


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