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With sleepy eyes, the girl with the bloodstained lead pipe mutters.
With sleepy eyes, the girl with the bloodstained lead pipe mutters.
“On island. There is gunshots again. Like always. People die. Like always.
Dog and dog. Inui and Mr. Kugi. Try to kill each other. Like always. Eastern boss. He is creepy. Like always.
Nap friend Killer Ghoul. Kitty in East. Sword woman in East. Elder Brother Lihuang. Adorable detective’s not-adorable brother.
Everyone is clumsy. Clumsy love. Like always. Chaos on island. …Like always.
So like always. Island is like always. It is simple.
So like always. I find adorable children. I hug adorable children. Hug. It is warm. It is cozy.
…Sleepy. Sleeeeeep. Mmm… zzz…”
It’s time for the lively Etsusa Bridge short story collection!
“There are only three kinds of people on this island.
The second are the fools who cannot read the flow.
And the third and final kind are also fools.
Those who are fully capable of reading the flow, yet choose to ignore it.
The swindler of the East, the seven-colored dog,
The radio woman, and even my personal shadow belong to that category.
And in the latter’s case…
He ignores the flow in order to reject himself. The most foolish of them all.”
“Strictly speaking, they should intervene as little as possible in this outrageous festival.
They should simply observe from afar,
Taking no part in the chaos.
And though they know this full well…
They nevertheless approach the fray and set foot inside.
…And in Seiichi’s case…
My chiding would never convince him to end his game with the seven-colored mongrel.
Such a fool, that dog of mine.”
“Yet it is only more charming, you see.
For a man to be very slightly foolish.
Although I suppose you’re a little too young to understand this, Lilei.”
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. Loved by Yakumo.
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, now with pirate experience. 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.
Nameless man: A new arrival to the island. Convinced that Lilei is an angel.
Early morning. A certain day in a certain month in the year 2021.
At that moment, the island was unquestionably peaceful.
Though it had been but a few short months since the serial bombings, everyday life was coming back to the islanders.
Then again, ‘peaceful’ was a purely subjective descriptor of the island.
A man and a woman were crossing a ruin littered with debris and garbage.
The ocean breeze was tinged with the scent of rust and stale oil.
The area was likely intended to be an event hall in a large shopping mall or department store. Sunlight refracted in every direction, casting a gentle glow in the space the couple walked.
But whatever the original design, this place no longer served its intended function.
The floors were not polished to a shine, instead coated in wind-blown dirt. Weeds shook in the breeze, screaming the fact that they were growing in a ruin.
Dotting the graffiti walls were what seemed to be bullet holes. The area was full of tools and abandoned construction material, where only the places people walked were cleared.
In the center was a dried-out fountain. Several people lay around it with pieces of plywood under them, but none reacted to the couple’s presence.
Some of the colors on the wall were clearly bloodstains. Anyone who had lived a normal life would see them and think—
—that it was not a good idea to be there.
But everyone in that space had set foot inside with full knowledge of that fact.
At that moment, it was peaceful.
The surroundings were difficult to identify as such, but the couple looked quite at ease, like they were returning from a shopping trip.
There was no gunfire, and no screaming.
That was all it took for them to deem the moment a peaceful one.
“There. Hey, maybe this is a good place?”
A woman in blue shades was carrying a plywood-thin screen.
With her fair skin and shimmering blond hair, she could pass for a typical beauty if she said nothing; unfortunately, it seemed silence was a foreign concept to her as she spewed a spray of words into the air.
“Fuck it, it’s goddamned peaceful today! Boredom being lethal’s usually just a saying, but in my case entertainment puts food on my table and I am five seconds away from starvation! Boredom kills hearts and bodies. It’s the world’s most prolific killer. You kill one man, and you’re a murderer, and you kill a hundred, and you’re a hero. Then what’s boredom? It definitely bumps people off, yessir, but nobody can prove it. Then what? Then maybe boredom’s not a hero or a murderer—maybe it’s closer to being God or the Devil! Heehahahahaha! Maybe I should come up with a new religion while I’m at it. There are three doctrines. Don’t have fun, don’t get angry, don’t get sad! Would that work? We’re already dead to society, anyway. See? There you have it, folks! Boredom is lethal! Heehahahaha! I’m right, right? You think so too, right, Kuzu?”
The woman guffawed like an automatic laughing doll, her face reflected on the paper-thin screen that weighed less than a kilogram.
The person she called ‘Kuzu’ was a towering man carrying a collapsable stepladder behind her.
“Sorry, didn’t catch that.”
“Aw, what the hell, dumbass? Is the heat getting to you? Or did you hit your head on a cicada from the mainland and lose your brain whole? Heehahaha.”
“My brain’s perfectly fine. Which is how I intentionally filtered out everything you said.”
“Heehahahaha! Die, jackass! Gimme back everything I just said! Don’t you feel bad about all that energy drumming at your ears? Looks like trash really doesn’t know a thing about energy efficiency.”
Then the woman stopped in the midst of her angry laughter, and looked up at a lone pillar standing before her.
“Then again, I could kill you real good under the blankets back in the van later. We gotta hurry and get this job done first.”
“…What’s the point installing a screen here when it’s obviously going to get stolen or vandalized? This place isn’t clearly on either of the sides—it’s almost like the Pits. People who couldn’t fit into either district end up here.”
“Yeah, yeah. But even if the thing gets stolen in one hot minute, it’s cool to work hard for even that one hot minute’s sake. Heehahahaha!”
“You’re not doing a good job of convincing me.”
Though he complained, the man readily unfolded the stepladder and got to work with tools in hand. He seemed to be installing the screen onto the pillar.
“‘Nuff complaining. If you wanna make it worth your while, just get the volunteer police to watch the thing day and night.”
“What are we, your personal cronies?”
“You’re already Yili’s personal cronies. What’s the harm in adding one more boss?”
The man sighed and climbed the stepladder, then attached the TV stand to the pillar.
“Anyway, are you serious about this? The radio’s blubbery enough without the video broadcasts you’re plotting.”
“Heehahahaha! Who the hell says crap like ‘blubbery’ to a lady? That’s a word you reserve for boiling zombies in a stew!”
It was hard to tell if they were being hostile or affectionate, but the man continued to work.
“Apparently my grandfather loved communal televisions when he was young. Back then, no one would have expected that every house would have a TV. He said the entire neighborhood gathered in one place to watch things like pro wrestling.”
“Heehaha! Pro wrestling? That’s damned fantastic, Kuzu! Whoo! Whaddaya say to calling Zhang over for a scuffle in front of the camera? You served him good once, didn’t ya?”
“I just got lucky.”
With a wry grin, the man received the screen and installed it on the pillar. He checked to see it was steady, and mumbled.
“…It might look more impressive if we try matching the Shinjuku Alta building. This really looks like a communal TV straight out of the 20th century.”
“Time doesn’t mean shit on this island!” The woman said, leaning against the stepladder, and burst into manic laughter. “So did time abandon the island, or did the island abandon time? That is the question. Hah! It’s not like the island’s got a mind of its own. It’s ridiculous! And time? Who’s that? If I see him on the street, I’ll end up saying, ‘Hey, it’s time’. Heehahahahahaha!”
“Who the hell laughs that hard at their own joke? Seriously…”
The woman was doubled over on the ground, laughing her head off.
The man she had called ‘Kuzu’ shook his head.
But the screen reflected the smile that soon rose to his face. And beyond that, the interior of the ruined shopping mall and the endlessly wide ocean beyond the gaps in the wall.
This was neither the mainland nor the island.
It was Japan, yet not.
It was neither land nor sea.
The longest bridge in the world, spanning Sado Island and Niigata.
And the nameless artificial island that stood in the very middle of that bridge—
What would the screen display here, at the crossroads of many destinies? And what would the broadcasts show the people?
Images flashed to life on the screen, the future uncertain.
To display the fates of some, and to control the fates of others.