Saturday, 18 April 2015

5656! -Knights' Strange Night- Episode 2

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Sorry for the wait. Here's a 5656 update.

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Episode 2: Sleep=Death


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~My Heart-Pounding Nap Diary~
_______ __th, 2021.


I write diary. It is happiness. He said.

Nap friend Killer Ghoul. He said.

My face is bored. He said.

Sleep is happy. I said.

But he said.

Sleep is death. Enjoy not-sleep. He said. Or it is loss. He said.

I am adorable. He said. If I do not speak. I will make many friends. Enjoy not-sleep. He said.

I am adorable. He said.

I am happy.

But I said. Dream is happy. Many friends in dream.


Then he gave me. This notebook.

Heart-Pounding. It says. Every page.

If I write diary. I know what is dream. What is real. I am happy. He said.

I learn more Japanese. He said.

He is Killer Ghoul. But a good ghoul.

If he is shorter. He is adorable. If he is shorter. I hug. Hug.


I write happy things.

Morning. It is warm. It is cozy. I sleep. Happy.

Day. It is warm. It is cozy. I sleep. Happy.

I sleep now. Happy. Hug.


-----


‘Sleeping Beauty’.


It was the nickname of a girl in the Western District.

To most, the idea of a girl asleep in the concrete jungle evoked the image of a child dying of illness or rendered comatose in an accident.

But Sleeping Beauty had been put to sleep by the will of others.

In a world of darkness she slept. For days, months, years.

She was still young then.

After losing her mother, the girl spent years in pitch-black darkness.

She had no way of escaping, and no knowledge of why this was happening to her.

The most profound image of light in her memories was the scene she saw in the moments before the darkness.

A brilliant splash of gold.

She knew it was her mother.

But why wouldn’t her mother move? Why wouldn’t she open her eyes, even though it was daytime?

“All done saying goodbye now?”

Men with deep voices spoke quickly in Mandarin behind her.

“Poor thing. We’ll let you keep your life.”

“Not to worry, Lilei. Sleep.”

“Yili is known to the public, but not even Ei daren knows of your existence.”

“We cannot leave any seeds of conflict behind.”

“All you need to do is sleep.”

“Until the day your life ends, or something should happen to Yili and we come to need you.”

“Have no hope for the future. You were even given the chance to witness your mother’s death—let that be the light of the past in your life.”

“For you will never see light again.”


Then, the girl was literally granted a world without light.

A strange chemical had been applied to her eyelids and talismans had been stuck over them.

That simple act plunged her into darkness.


At some point, the men began to call the girl, not by name, but by a sort of codename—Sleeping Beauty.


Without even hope for true love’s kiss to finally bring her to the light, the girl was left in an artificial world of darkness.


◁ ▶︎


Ten years later. Somewhere on the artificial island on the Etsusa Bridge.


This island is disgusting.

Without thinking, I cringed at the scent of rust.


The first thing I understood after coming here was the hopeless fact that I had fallen very, very far.

The Etsusa Bridge—the longest bridge in the world, spanning Sado island and Niigata.

And the city-sized artificial island that stands in the very middle of that bridge.

People said that the island, several times the size of the ones in Tokyo Bay, was the pinnacle of Japanese technology and capital. But now it’s just a dump.

After all, development on the island stopped the moment the island was connected to the mainland.

In spite of the money, technology, and manpower poured into the poor artificial island, it was cast aside.

And the only people who gathered there were people without a future. People like me.

Aha. A modern-day Kowloon Walled City.

It’s a gathering of people with nowhere to go, but so long as you aren’t suicidal you have to survive somehow. So the outcasts who settled here came up with rules at some point and created a society of sorts, apparently.

Society and order. Words that are very far removed indeed from this island.

Rules were only rules, not laws.

In the end, I’d fallen into a dump.

That alone I knew for certain.


It had been only three hours since I arrived here.

I thought I was ready.

A week’s worth of rations.

A stun gun and pepper spray for self-defense.

Knowing it was dangerous here, I stuffed 10,000-yen bills into my shoes, too.

And now… I am wandering this island, barefoot.

Anyone could come up with those contingencies.

And those contingencies failed me against the island’s veteran criminals.


In the blink of an eye, I lost everything I had. I was struck by the urge to return to Japan.

Technically, the island was Japan too. But that was nearly an impossible statement to believe at this point.

Forget Japan—was this even real?

It was a robber’s den, just like the ones I saw in movies. Even now, with empty pockets and chilly feet, I couldn’t even tell if I was awake.

But I couldn’t go back now.

There was nowhere left for me on the other side.


I wandered hopelessly around the island.

I’d gathered info on the island ahead of time, but the first thing the pickpocket took was the cell phone with all that information.

It was probably one of the kids who crowded around me first, asking for money.

Can’t even trust children. What kind of hellhole is this?

…Then again, you can barely trust kids that age on the mainland.

This island isn’t an anomaly. This entire world is crazy.

And that’s how I ended up on this island. Fuck.


I was walking for a while when I heard a clamor.

I thought it was a fight, but it turned out that a group of children were cheering.

One of them might have stolen my phone, I thought, and headed over—and found an unusual scene.

I realized I’d stepped into a shopping mall at some point. This must have been the central hall or the entrance. There was a fountain in the middle and the lights from outside were spilling into the building.

Hanging on one pillar by the fountain was a 40-inch screen. It was about ten years old, and weighed only a kilogram in spite of its size.

But even that was old news on the mainland—screens these days are closer to sheets of paper.

The crowd in front of the TV was composed mostly of kids, though shady adults were also watching from a slight distance.

The TV seemed to be showing a pro wrestling match.

…Do they show matches at this time of day?

But the wrestlers on the screen soon answered my question.

A blond wrestler grabbed a knife and mercilessly slashed a masked wrestler.

Blood spilled from the cut on the masked wrestler’s arm.

The children cheered. There was no referee on the ring.

It was when I saw the faces of the people around the ring that I realized all this was taking place on the island, not the mainland.

The men who had mugged me when I was reeling from the loss of my cell phone. They were raising their voices, holding my money in their hands.

This must be underground wrestling. The rest of the audience was also enraptured—I could hear things like ‘Kill him!’ or ‘Carve him up!’ over the speakers.

And the children in front of the TV cried out as they watched the masked wrestler.

“Oh no! Zhang’s hurt!”

“It’s just a scratch. Zhang can take it!” “Fight back!”

“Greatest!”

The injured wrestler must be popular with the kids. Even through the screen I could tell he was quite tall.

A second later, the masked wrestler landed a kick on his opponent’s knife-hand. The blond wrestler’s wrist bent at an odd angle.

It was nauseating. I tried to look away, but the masked wrestler landed a drop-kick before I could and sent his opponent flying out of the ring.

The children cheered in unison, but I could not watch anymore.

Cheering at something so violent? These kids are not normal.

I worry for all their futures.


I was just about to leave that place, when I noticed something unusual among the children.

It drew my gaze without my knowing—

And I spotted a splash of pristine white.

From the Chinese dress coat over her to her skin and the large flowers in her hair. It was all white, so far removed from this dump of an island.

She must be in her mid-teens.

With her slender arms the girl in white was hugging the boy in front of her.

I thought the boy, about five years younger than her, might be her brother. But he was blushing red as a tomato and trying to squirm out of her embrace.

“Hey, let me go. You’re embarrassing me…”

The back of his head was buried in her surprisingly developed breasts. The boy was desperately trying to escape.

But the girl showed no sign of wanting to let go.

“You squirming. It is adorable. Hug.”

She mumbled in strangely accented Japanese and placed her chin on the boy’s head.

The girl’s eyes were half-shut. The dark circles under her eyes made her look almost sickly.

She’s cute.

I trembled.

I am not a pedophile. My taste in women is normal.

This isn’t sexual attraction. How do I express it? …It was something like looking at a sculpture for the very first time at an art gallery.

She looked so sickly on this mess of an island. And so she was beautiful.

She was the color white. She was separate from the world. And if this island was separate from the real world, maybe she was a fantasy from reality.

She doesn’t smile. She doesn’t frown.

A pure, untainted soul that has erased its own expressions…

Was I getting too poetic?

I haven’t even spoken to her. Why am I becoming so obsessed?

Why was I so drawn to her?

I think she reminded me of someone.

But I couldn’t remember who.

And, unable to find an answer, I found myself channeling my inner adolescent to say—


—I think I must have seen an angel.


-----


~My Heart-Pounding Nap Diary~
_______ __th, 2021.


Today, pro wrestling. In front of TV. In front of fountain.

Lots of children. Children around TV.

It is crowded. It is crowded.

Inside TV. Eastern man flying kick. Everyone cheer.

Hurray. Hurray. Yay.

It is adorable. Hug.

I hugged boys. I hugged girls. Soft. Warm. Adorable.

Boy is shy. Stop. He said.

It is adorable. I hug him more. It is adorable.


There is strange man. Looking at me.

Adult. Not adorable.

But it is like always.

He attack me. I hit with pipe.

Lead pipe. Led lead led lead.

I mix up spelling. Mr. Kugi teach me.

How to write. Lead pipe. Mr. Kugi is confused.

Mr. Kugi. Elder Sister’s bodyguard. Maybe boyfriend.

He is adult. But he is adorable.

But I hug him. Elder Sister is mad.

She does not say. But she look away.

It is jealous. I think. Elder Sister is adorable.


At TV.

Strange adult. Gone.

But I went home. Another man talk to me.

He tried to touch me.

He took off clothes.

He took off pants. Shake.

Not adorable. Beat him with pipe. Everywhere.

Man screamed. Western people dragged him away.

Guard Team came. Mr. Kuzuhara came. It is cool.

“It’s dangerous. Don’t come out. At night.” They said.

Mr. Kuzuhara knows. I am assassin.

“Old man unlucky.” Everyone said. Even Elder Brother.

Mr. Kuzuhara. Worried for me.

Mr. Kuzuhara. Treats me like girl.

He is good person. I think.

I wish he is adorable.

But radio woman said. Kuzuhara is adorable.

I do not understand. It is hard.


Now I sleep. Good night. Zzz…


-----


Ten years ago, somewhere on the artificial island.


Talismans had suddenly been placed on the girl’s eyes and she was left to live in darkness.

A female helper was assigned to help her with meals, baths, and the bathroom, but eventually the girl was able to take care of herself.

At times, the helper peeled off the talismans and cleaned her face.

That was probably to keep her eyelids from developing gangrene, but the talismans were quickly reapplied after each treatment.

The talismans almost gave off the air of mysticism and magic, but the only thing sealed in her girl’s eyes was the perfectly realistic power known as ‘influence’.

It seemed the color of her eyes meant something very important to the men.

They could not blind her, for they might someday have a use for her. But they could not let the color of her eyes be exposed to just anyone.

That was why they had sealed her eyes shut.

It was like killing two birds with one stone. Her freedom had been taken with ease, and her eyes were concealed from the world.

By logical standards, it was an outrageous act.

But logical standards did not apply on this island.

And those outrageous restraints deprived the girl of light.


Perhaps, at first, she had cried out in fear.

Perhaps the little girl had anguished and despaired at the world.

But no one knew that anymore.

Anyone who was connected to the girl ten years ago was by now fish food.


◁ ▶︎


Nine years ago.


“Here… I’ll get you out of here.”


It had been about a year since the girl was locked away in the dark.

The helper’s warm voice filled her ears.

The voice was brimming with sympathy and the hope that her desires would be heard.

“I’ve fallen as far as I could now. But an adorable girl like you shouldn’t be here.”

From the voice, the helper seemed to be around the same age as the girl’s mother.

But those words came as a shock to her.

The helper had never once spoken to the girl before, and she had never answered any of her questions. The woman’s voice truly had come out of nowhere.

“—Ah—…? …————…”

The girl hadn’t used her voice in over half a year. She realized that she could not speak properly.

No matter how much she tried, she could not produce a voice.

But the woman seemed to understand, constantly speaking to her.

She kept a voice playing in the darkness that was the girl’s world.

“I hope you’ll be free in our stead.” Said the helper, gently taking her hand.

She probably didn’t peel off the talismans because she knew that sudden exposure to light might damage the girl’s eyesight.

“I have a daughter around your age, a little younger than you.”

With her hand around the girl’s, the woman led her somewhere.

“I watched over you because I at least wanted to free my little girl, but those people never intended to let either of us go in the first place. But you’re different… if you could meet Master Lihuang… be free… free… we’re, done, but, yes. Adorable children should be happy. But, you’re adorable, but my daughter too. Yes. If an adorable girl like you is happy, my daughter will too…”

The woman mumbled almost maniacally as she led the girl outside.

The confused girl, meanwhile, wracked her brains in the darkness.

She had almost given up on conversation by then.

But she now had hope for seeing the outside world again.

She even began to fantasize that her mother was still alive.

The girl’s mind—sharpened to the point of utter clarity—and her honed hearing clung to each and every word out of the woman’s mouth. As though desperately craving information, the girl carved the words into her mind and desperately tried to decipher them.

But she was too young.

Before the girl could even determine if the woman was in her right mind, the flow of information came to a sudden halt.

The second the girl thought of her mother and reached out for the light of hope, the minutes-long escape was stopped in its tracks.


There was a noise, followed by a splatter.

“Agh.”

The woman’s voice.

It sounded more like gasping air than a word.

Something warm splashed onto the girl’s face. She smelled metal.

“She must have lost her mind. Can’t believe she’d try to escape with her.”

“This is getting ridiculous. Should we just get rid of the girl? We have no idea if we’ll ever get to use her.”

“No. Taifei suspects something. If he’s gotten wind of this, she could be a valuable card. We can’t dispose of her now.”

“We’ll just have to hope her sister dies of illness. It all depends on her.”

The girl could hear the men.

The voices of the men who had sealed her eyes a year earlier.

She still did not understand them.

The men patted her on the head and whispered—gently but threateningly.


“You were just having a bad dream. Now, go back to sleep.”


◁ ▶︎


Nine years later. Somewhere on the island.


It’s been a week now.

Frankly, I’m impressed I managed to get this far.

I was held up when I didn’t have a single coin on me. I almost got seduced out of whatever I had left. I was inspected by some volunteer police force. I can say with confidence that I know the true definition of misery.

The volunteer police are apparently on edge because there have been some murders and disappearances recently. Is that supposed to be news here? I thought murder was commonplace on this island.

Meanwhile, I slowly figured out how to get by and managed to secure myself some time.

At first I’d worried about how I would get food. But I soon found out that I could buy that stuff at the restaurants and stores in the Western District underground, provided I had money.

I wondered how they got a hold of fresh pork, ham and things like that. It turned out there were middlemen who regularly shipped foodstuffs to the island every day.

It’s tax evasion and a lot of other illegal things in one bundle, but it’s not necessarily cross-border smuggling so they’re probably not going to get arrested. The middlemen probably have it rough already, competing for those lucrative jobs.

I was left broke on day one, but I helped carry some of those smuggled goods at the docks and got some pay.

It was less than minimum wage by mainland standards—not even pocket money—but it felt for all the world like a pile of treasure to me. Which was natural, as it was enough to fill my belly on the island.

I always assumed the island would be like a lawless stone-age world where the strongest preyed on the weak, but apparently there was some semblance of society here.


Society.

At that point, I remembered my past.


How had I come all this way?

I was just trying to abide by the rules of society.

I’m not saying I tried to become a paragon of justice.

I just wanted to be someone who could hold his head high.

That’s how I ended up here.

I… believe I did the right thing.

By the rules of society, what I did was right.

But apparently that went against the customs of the company I worked at.

There were countless awful injustices surrounding the company.

It was one of the country’s top corporations. And one filled to the brim with corruption.

I expected I’d be ostracized at work.

I expected I’d be despised.

But what I did was right. What was there to fear?

All I did was throw a stone.

I believed that throwing one stone into a pond would naturally create ripples that spread into its every corner.

The courage to act first is very important.

That was what I thought. So what am I doing here on this island?


Thanks to pressure from a politician, the press never publicized the article.

If I’d known that would happen, I’d have just posted it on the internet. At the time I didn’t trust the net, so I had used it as little as necessary. I sent the evidence by email to the police, but I was worried that the evidence might be swept under the rug if I released it publicly.

When I realized that something powerful was at work, I began to wonder if I should post the evidence on the internet after all. But the company was quick. The moment the police launched an investigation, they concealed the evidence completely and even had me framed for embezzlement and got me arrested.

The company crashed over me like a fearsome wave.

I was taken by surprise. I had to do everything in my power to protect myself. And while I was called to the police station, a burglar snuck into my house and swiped my computer and all the evidence I had collected. Although the evidence wouldn’t have changed a thing anyway.

In the end, the stone I threw never got to create ripples in the pond—it was destroyed before it hit the water.

In the span of two weeks, I understood—to my horror—that in this world existed things that no one person could resist.

Soon, I was fired—


“Hey, Mister. Never seen you around before.”

The children’s voices quickly dragged me into reality.

‘Iizuka’s Restaurant’ was written in marker on the wall. In front of me was the cheapest item on the menu, tsukudani rice topped with dried seaweed. I must have been zoning out for a while.

All kinds of shops lined the so-called Western District underground.

From unlicensed doctors to restaurants like this one, general stores, and barbershops, it was a small shopping mall and a food vendor alley mixed into one.

After my first payday, I began to frequent this restaurant—the cheapest in the area. Although it mostly served snack items, like yakisoba and okonomiyaki. The employee cafeteria back at the company was much better—

No. Let’s not think about the company anymore.

The restaurant was brimming with energy in spite of the drab interior. And I was surrounded by walking bundles of energy—the children of the owner.

“It’s good, right?”

“We added a bunch of stuff, you know!”

“Our special ingredients!”

“Like turmeric!”

“And vitamin supplements!”

“Lots of supplements!”

“So if we sold this at regular price, we would never break even!”

“So could you spare us poor kids a tip— Ow!” “Oh!” “Gah!” “Urgh!” “Wah!” “…”

The owner—the woman who seemed to be the half-dozen children’s mother—brought the handle of her kitchen knife down on their heads, one after another. The children screamed in time like a piece of music.

“Rip off the customers all you want, but do not lie about the food here!”

“Hey! You’re supposed to believe in your kids, Mom!”

“How could you doubt your own children?”

“Don’t ignore us just because of our age!”

“Yeah!” “We’re not lying! We really do add supplements when you’re not—”

But the last child was cut off by a glint in the woman’s eye.

“…If you did, next time I won’t be using the blunt end.”

“…”

The children went silent. They averted their gazes and began whistling innocently.

The woman sighed and marched back into the kitchen.

The children reminded me of the girl I’d seen last week.

It seems like these kids were born and raised on the island.

They don’t seem to be as bad as the ones who took my phone. If those kids were raised and influenced by the seedier part of the island, these kids here were probably influenced by the more benign part. If there was anything benign on this island to begin with, anyway.

But the girl seemed to have been influenced by neither.

Or maybe she was raised on something pure—however little of that was left on the island.


…?

Why am I thinking about her again?

I never even spoke to her. I just looked at her.

So why won’t she leave my mind?

It would be a crime, no two ways about it, if a man my age were to lay a hand on her.

But something’s bugging me.

This really doesn’t seem to be romantic love. And it’s not sexual attraction.

Why is her face etched into my memories?

I… I think I might have seen her before somewhere.

But I don’t remember when.

It might not have been her, specifically. But she still looks familiar.

Before I knew it, I was speaking to the children around me.

“Kids. Have any of you seen a girl with white flowers in her hair? She’s a little older than you.”

The kids exchanged glances.

“White flowers, huh.”

“You think it’s her?”

“Mister, you mean the Chinese girl with shadows under her eyes?”

“Oh yeah, she always looks so sleepy.”

“She’s got big boobies.”

The children haphazardly listed off a series of features. I remembered the girl’s appearance and noted that they seemed to match, so I nodded.

The children made strange faces and looked at me.

“You should stay away from her, Mister.”

“N-no, that’s not—”

I thought they had the wrong idea about me, so I tried to deny it.

But the children seemed to be thinking of something else.

“You’ll die.”

“…What?”

“She’s really nice to us. She does stuff for us… like hot stuff.”

“But she’s gonna say you’re not adorable. She won’t even look at you.”

“You’ll end up a stain on a lead pipe if you tried to touch her.”

Lead pipe. Way to take the conversation to a whole new level of terror.

“And she’s someone important in the Western District.”

“She’s the former boss’s lovechild.”

I wasn’t expecting a word like that.

“I guess she is from a whole other world.”

The oldest of the children smirked, checked to see that his mother was in the kitchen, and whispered into my ear.

“But… I just might know where you could find her.”

“…”

“But you’re gonna have to perform a magic ritual to get the answer. All you have to do is make an offering of 500 yen to my wallet!”


The boy grinned greedily. And I was once again reminded:

I don’t think I’ll ever come to like this island.


◁ ▶︎


The children led me to one of the many abandoned buildings on the island.

‘Abandoned’ is a misnomer in a way, since apparently it was never used. It wasn’t furnished at all. The building was a pile of concrete walls and pillars home to mounds of junk.

I had been surprised to see how clean the island was.

When I asked around, I was told that each district was governed by an organization of sorts that took care of their respective areas. They had people clean communal bathrooms or collect food waste.

Apparently the most stable job on the island was running a bath business out of a hotel suite. But most people in that business were affiliated with the organizations controlling the island.

That aside, when I tried to step into the building—

—the children tugged at my clothes and shook their heads condescendingly.

“She’s not in here, Mister. She’s on the roof.”

“?”

She took naps on the rooftop, they’d said.

So doesn’t that necessitate going into the building?

“This building’s full of junk, Mister. You’re not gonna get through.” Explained one of the boys.

“Then how do I get up there? Is there a ladder I can use?”

I glanced at the gap between this building and the next, slowly raising my head—

—and I spotted something red and white fluttering against the backdrop of the sky.

“…?”

For a moment, I thought it was her.

But I quickly realized my mistake.

The figure was a long-haired person, although their gender was unclear from this distance.

The figure seemed to be rhythmically spinning and twirling down—so quickly that I could not believe my eyes.

I would never be able to do something like that, even under the threat of death.

Acrophobia wasn’t the issue. Just the thought of crossing from the rooftop to the scaffolding sent a chill down my spine.

As I shivered, the red-and-white figure descended low and made landing with ease.

“Ah! It’s Yakumo!”

The children shrieked and bolted in every direction.

“H-hey!”

“Bye, Mister! Just keep waiting there and you’ll see her eventually!”

“Try not to die!”

“Wh-what?! Hey! Hold it!”

I tried to stop them, but the children took off like frightened puppies and disappeared into the alleyways.

What the hell.

I had to know what I’d gotten myself into now. I turned to the figure.

And I found myself face-to-face with a young man.

“AGH!”

He wasn’t standing up close, but he was still within an arm’s reach.

I stepped back without thinking and scrutinized the man.

He dressed like what you’d get if you dumped a bucket of white paint on a rocker, but there was something eerie in his eyes.

This guy’s not normal, it occurred to me.

So I decided to play nice.

“E-excuse me. Do you have some business with me?”

“That’s my line.” He said mechanically. “Those are the Iizuka kids. Less than a hundred people here can match my face to my name, and those kids are part of that chosen hundred. Although I’m not the one who did the choosing.”

What is he talking about?

He seemed to mumble to himself before he looked me in the eye and asked,

“So what do you want with me? If you want to die, I’d prefer if you just killed yourself instead of bothering me.”

That’s a bad joke… or at least, it would be if not for the gravity in his eyes.

And the red stain along the bottom of his clothes didn’t help matters. It looked like blood. I wanted to believe it was just a fashion statement, but I felt an instinctive surge of fear and felt my mouth go dry.

“N-not at all. This is a misunderstanding. I… umm… was curious about the girl here. The, uh… the one with the white flowers in her hair.”

“…Aha. Lilei.”

His eyes softened in an instant and he languidly stepped back.

“Li-Lilei?”

“You didn’t even know her name? Are you another pervert drawn by her sickly babyface? I’m not obliged to kill you so I’m going to warn you. I’m warning you to give up. Even if you’re going to just hit on her, I can’t recommend it. The tattooed warrior boss and the witch of the Western District both adore her. So if you tried anything, you’ll end up getting your hand dissolved in diluted sulfuric acid over the course of several days.”

Before I could say anything, the man spun and danced oddly.

There was a disturbing number of distressing words in his advice, but I tried my best to ignore them.

The man ignored my fears and continued his rant.

“Dissolving. That can only be excruciating. Being drenched in sulfuric acid is one thing, but we’re talking about having your hand dissolved over days in solution diluted to its limit. At first your fear’s the only thing eating away at you, but that slowly shifts to the reality of a tingling sense of pain. Your blood vessels finally come to the surface. The membranes tear, and the sulfuric acid finally mingles with your blood… That’s pretty sickening, now that I think about it. Which is natural, since I’m talking about something very sick. Anyone would be sickened by this. It’s only natural. You think so too, right?”

“Ahem. Excuse me. Can I go now?”

It’s dangerous to stay here any longer, I think.

I want to leave somehow, but I can’t shake the thought that taking off is only going to provoke this man.

“I… umm… I was curious about the girl because she resembles my long-lost sister. I’m not going to lay a hand on her.”

“Hm?”

The man’s piercing gaze seemed to scrutinize me.

“Your clothes say you haven’t been on the island for long.”

“Huh? Oh. No. Only about a week.”

I remained civil, even though he wasn’t being particularly polite. I shouldn’t anger him. His entire being seemed to reek of danger.

“Then maybe you’re still normal. I guess you could call this a stroke of fate.”

He nodded to himself, then clapped his hands together.

“Okay. Listen. Suppose there is a birthday.”

“Wh-what?”

“I can’t tell you whose it is, but there’s… someone very important to me. Important in the romantic sense. Very very important. I want to hold a surprise party for this person… or maybe just surprise them. But a surprise necessitates that I can’t ask what this person wants ahead of time. So what would be a good surprise? This is a very important answer for my personal future. So I want you to give me a good answer.”

His eyes remained as droopy as ever, but his tone grew firm.

This isn’t good.

I feel like he’d kill me no matter what I answered. Or is this just my imagination?

“I-I guess you could go for the classic. …Maybe handmade chocolate?”

What the hell am I saying? That’s for Valentine’s Day.

And men aren’t supposed to give women chocolates on Valentine’s, either.

…Wait. Maybe this guy’s gay, and he’s talking about getting a gift for a man…?

“…”

But the man furrowed his brow and stared at me.

His eyes are murky.

I’m no expert, but even I could see at a single glance.

He’s no villain.

He’s not like the suits from my company, either.

He’s just abnormal.

A plain old villain might be easier to talk to. Because I’d know what would move him to act.

This man, though. He looks normal, but I can tell his gears don’t fit together with people like me. If he were a cog in a clockwork mechanism, he’d be the type whose teeth squirm randomly in… no no no no no let’s not go in this direction ugh this is freaking me out—

It’s over.

But at that moment—

“I see.”

The man backed even further away and nodded with surprising ease.

“In other words, I just have to send her a love letter. I understand.”

“What…?”

“Thank you. There really is no beating a normal person for answers like this. As a token of my gratitude I’ll pretend I never saw you so you should hurry and leave or climb up to see Lilei. Oh, but you shouldn’t wait around here for her to show up. She’s got a posse of men following her to the building entrance.” He said plainly.

I could only nod.

I could feel cold sweat evaporating off my face.

I… must have preserved my own life.

The man continued to ramble without giving me the chance to calm myself.

“Lilei is a princess of the gang that controls the Western District. Not the oldest princess, but her siblings adore her. So if you do touch her, you’ll really end up with your hand in a beaker of sulfuric acid. Bye.”

With a wave of the hand, he began to walk away.

He slithered into an alleyway and disappeared.

What… the hell…?

What just happened?

I must have been dreaming or hallucinating or something.

I said chocolate. So why’d he talk about a love letter? That’s more than just a case of broken telephone.

Anyway, I’m glad to be alive.

The girl still bothers me, but I should back off for today.

The Western District. A gang. A princess.

I’ll tell myself that it’s not a bad haul of information.



Wait, what am I saying?

‘Today’?

Am I going to keep searching for this girl tomorrow and on and on?

I tasted death when I met that man.

And I don’t necessarily have anything to say to that girl. I don’t necessarily want to befriend her.

So why am I so drawn to her?

Because. That’s all I can say.

But why? Why…?

But. That’s right. But.

I don’t know why. But I’m drawn to her.

It feels like I mustn’t understand the reason, but at the same time I have to know.

Is this island driving me crazy?

On this island—my mind broke.



As if.




AAAAAAAAAAAAARGH!

“AAAAAAAGH! GAAAH!”

As if!

“IIIIIF!”

Why the hell do I have to lose my mind?!

I did the right thing!

I was just trying to expose corporate corruption! So why?! Why did the company boot me out?! Leave me to come to the island?!

I’ve never once broken company regulations!

I’m not like those minors who smoke on street corners!

I’m not like those punks who loiter in front of convenience stores at night!

When I picked up a wallet on the ground, I brought it straight to the police without touching the contents!

When a classmate joked about shoplifting, I went straight to the teacher!

When someone retaliated, I made them face justice!

Society protected me! Because I did what was right by society!

So why?! The corporation that flaunts the foundations of society—its laws—is immensely powerful, while I’m stuck being a helpless nobody. Why?

Why the hell am I on this island?!

Why, goddammit?! Why do I have to fear death at the hands of a lunatic in white?!

Answer me! ANSWER ME!

“—MEEEE! Agh! UAAAAARGH!”

———.

——————.


The more emotional I got, the less my voice seemed to work.

By the time my throat began to burn, I was calm again.

It’s useless.

This island makes people useless.

It’s an island of useless people. It makes even healthy people rot.

It’s sick. This island is sick.

Maybe that’s why that girl has such ill eyes.

As though she’s sick of the injustice surrounding us all…


At that point, I stopped and decided to go to my makeshift bed.

Someday, I will learn more about her.

It’s a small island.

Almost no one leaves this place, so I know I’ll see her again.

Unless one of us becomes a corpse before that.


-----


~My Heart-Pounding Nap Diary~
_______ __th, 2021.


Yakumo Amagiri is happy. Today.

He said. Happy birthday Nazuna. He said.

Sword woman in East. It is strong. I know.

It is adorable. It is cool.

I meet her. Meet few times. Want to hug. No. She said. It is sad.

But Yakumo likes Nazuna. Nazuna does not not like Yakumo.

Yakumo can hug Nazuna. Probably. Hug. I am jealous.

Yakumo is happy.

Roll roll roll beside me.

Roll roll roll roll roll roll roll roll.

It is like cat.

It is adorable. Hug.


Today I hug. Hug adorable things. Many adorable things.

I find Yua.

Yua makes maps. It is cool. It is hardworking.

Wow. It is strong. It is adorable. Hug.


Rats are adorable.

I hug. Hug.

Nejiro in wheelchair. Nejiro escapes.

It is adorable. Hug.


I find Charlotte. Detective Charlotte.

I hug. Hug.

It is embarrassed.

It is adorable. Hug.


Kitty in East. Engine turn off. It is shy. It is adorable.

I try to hug.

No. Elder Brother said. It is mean.


I hug lots. And lots.

Hug.


Today I dream. It is bad dream.

I am not happy.

So I hug.

Adorable things. Lots and lots.

Hug. Hug. Lots of hugs.

It is warm.

It is comfortable.

Hug.


Not sleepy yet.

More bad dreams. It is bad.

Not happy.

I am sad.


-----


Nine years ago, somewhere on the artificial island.


It had been a year since the ray of hope in her world was gunned down.

The replacement arrived not long afterwards.

This one said nothing, unlike the woman.

It must be a scary, strict person, the girl assumed. But something was not right.

The new helper’s movements sounded haphazard. They did not try to approach the girl very much.

But they did not get too far away, either.

Who was the new helper?

The girl without hope began to speculate, as though to fill in the gap in her heart.

After all, she had no light and no hope for the outside world.

At this point, the girl with the sealed eyes could take care of herself reasonably well. But one day, the helper lost their balance and stumbled on their way to serve food, and the girl ended up catching the helper in her arms.

The helper was very thin and frail. She felt no strength in that body.

The girl had known from the footsteps that the helper was not large, but this was even lighter than she had imagined. Smaller.

When the helper flinched, the girl realized the truth.

The helper in her arms was a child around her own age.


Afterwards, the girl did everything she could to try and communicate with the helper—whose gender she couldn’t tell—but no amount of speaking or prodding would provoke a voice out of them.

Eventually, the girl gave up on talking to the silent helper and decided to take their simple presence as a bond.

With even the shards of hope extinguished, the girl began to wander between dreams and reality in the darkness.


After all, the only place she saw light was in her dreams.

Those born without sight do not see in their dreams.

Those who lose their sight through accident or illness receive visual information in their dreams based on their memories.

Though the girl’s eyes had simply been sealed, just like the latter case the memories of the world she saw before her blinding came to life. And they merged with her fantasies and delusions to create all sorts of dreams.

In her dreams, she clearly saw the world from before her blinding. She saw her mother’s face clearly.

Her memories with her mother, which were fading in the waking world, were reenacted in her dreams with stunning clarity. Perhaps that was a system her brain was creating to protect her psyche.

For the girl, her dreams were her light.

Because she was permitted only to sleep, that was the only proof of her existence.


But the long darkness threatened to take away even her dreams.


A month passed—


And for the first time, she felt fear.

It was different from the terror of being locked in darkness. This fear crept into her heart with the return of her sense of reason.

What had the men done to her previous helper, who had spoken to her?

The girl no longer even remembered the color of the men’s eyes—even though that was the least thing she had seen in the light.

And it was because she had lost all hope—because she grew used to the darkness—that she could fight the fear head-on.

What were the men going to do to her?

Before that, who were they?

Did they know her mother?

What were they going to do to her?

Who were they?

The same questions echoed in her mind endlessly, and with each round something slushy in her mind seemed to grow more and more viscous.

The fear slowly took on solid shape, and eventually became a monster in her world of darkness.


Two months passed—


The girl was pursued by fear.

The mysterious men created by her fear.

Sleep was supposed to be her one place of rest.

But fear incarnate—the very fear she had personally nursed—began encroaching on her peaceful dreams.

The fear grew out of control in her dreams, each and every stem sprouting countless leaves. In her dreams they were twisted—the men’s hands—

Their hands hands hands hands hands hands hands hands hands hands hands hands hands hands hands hands hands hands hands hands hands hands hands hands hands hands hands hands hands hands hands hands her eyes handshandshandshandshandshandshandshandshereyeshandshandshandshandshandshandshandshandsreachingforhereyessmoothlystrokingthesmoothsurface—

The eyes fell out of the men’s faces, leaving behind gaping holes.

The scene was playing out in color in her dreams, but the holes left where the men’s eyes had been were pure darkness, just like her waking world.

Pitch black holes.

Three pitch black holes in each face. They pulled in even the sounds of her dreams as they slowly drew near.

More and more fingers popped up to stroke her eyes. From each hand sprouted a dozen masses of flesh as they began to stroke and stroke and stroke and stroke and stroke and stroke and stroke and stroke and stroke and stroke and stroke and stroke and stroke and stroke and—

—and they became rough.

The strokes degenerated little by little as the fingers scraped and scraped and scraped and scraped and scraped and scraped and scraped and scraped and scraped and scratched and scratched and scratched and scratched and scratched and scratched and scratched and scratched and scratched and carved and carved—

It was like her eyes were being carved out. The sensation ate away at her mind.


In her dreams, the fingers tore out her eyes.

Not by the tips of their nails, but by their rough fingertips. Little by little.

But the sheer number and energy behind the fingers was immense. Each and every one felt like a chisel.

They would turn her eyes into holes, just like their own.

The girl was helpless. She had to submit to her nightmare.


Three months passed—


The girl decided to fight.


Though she was a child, she understood.

There was no help in this deep darkness.

That went doubly so in dreams.

The nightmares twisted into even more grotesque shapes, the men’s bodies now no longer human.

The three holes in each of their faces spread to the rest of their bodies, and their figures grew to the size of giants. Countless hands and fingers sprouted from their bodies, and any empty space was filled by a gaping hole.

The men merged together and slowly encroached on her world.

By expanding the holes in their bodies, they would plunge her dreams into darkness.


And so her struggle began.

It was the moment the men’s twisted fingers reached for her dream-mother.

Before she knew it, she was screaming.

She could not make such a loud noise in the waking world.

It was in her dreams that the terrified girl finally remembered how to scream.

To protect her last shred of sanity—her memories with her mother—from the grotesque monstrosities threatening her mind.


At that moment, the world went dark.

She realized that she had awoken.

The waking world was immersed in deeper darkness than sleep.

At this point, blindness was no longer painful.

All that agonized her was the fact that she was permitted to do nothing but the essentials in her waking hours.

Was she to be thankful for at least having a clean home and good food? Or should she feel humiliated for being treated like a pet? She did not know.

Perhaps, then, it was a miracle that the choice to fight had occurred to the girl who was not yet ten.

While awake, she thought about what she could do.

How could she remove the men from her dreams?

All kinds of images from her days before the darkness flashed past her thoughts.

She wracked her brains for a solution.

She could not think of any way to control her dreams, but eventually the girl came to a conclusion.

She had to become strong.

She just had to become strong enough to fight off the finger monsters.

At that point, she imagined herself driving off the monsters.

But she didn’t think punching and kicking would make them go away.

Then she remembered a cartoon she had seen with her mother in the past.

It was a show about a magical girl who fought monsters with a magic wand.

—Magic. Wand.

In the darkness, she began to search for a potential weapon.

Naturally, she found nothing.

So she decided to speak to her helper for the first time in a very long time.

“…———…—————————.”

First, she slowly practiced using her voice.

Then she stammered,

“I need… stick. Strong. Stick.”

Naturally, there was no response.


The girl gave up on the helper and began to brainstorm ways to fight barehanded. But the concept of martial arts did not yet exist in her mind. And even if it did, she had no one to learn from and no example to emulate.

Being blind was no disadvantage. She wasn’t going to fight her captors to escape—she simply wanted to destroy the monsters in her dreams.

Perhaps she could use the fact that she fought in her dreams to give herself magic or special powers. But even with her near-lucid state in her dreams, she could not train herself as she wished.

One reason was that she suspected monsters like the ones in her dreams might exist in the real world as well. So she needed a weapon she could also use in her waking world.


Change came again some time later.

As the girl thought late into the night, she heard a clang.

She reached over; she felt a cold, hard stick.

The helper must have heard her request.

“Thank you.”

The girl breathed a sigh of relief at the fact that she could use her voice, and grasped the stick.

It was only later that she understood that the weapon was a lead pipe the helper had snuck in from a junkyard.

Now the girl had a weapon from the waking world to help her fight her nightmares.


She began by swinging her unrefined stick.

She waited for the helper’s footsteps to grow distant so as to avoid hitting them—

—and she began to swing to her heart’s content.

Her movements were inelegant.

It looked like nothing more than the tantrums of a frustrated child. But it was a good start.

The lead pipe that had once been doomed to rust in a junkyard had given the girl a purpose.

And her heart once more fell into her dreams.


Half a year passed—


She fought her nightmares in her dreams.

In the darkness of reality, she swung and swung, and built up the strength to control her movements efficiently.

The sensation of swinging the lead pipe was burned into her body and mind, reflected in her dreams.

Each night in her nightmares she fought off the endless waves of monsters.

But as long as fear existed in her heart, the monsters knew no surrender. They sprouted up again and again.

Even faster.

Even heavier.

Even more grotesque.

The things she saw were, perhaps, not simply dreams. Perhaps they were delusions she had created. She dreamed about the same things to the point of curiosity, and each time she faced off against even stronger monsters.

At times, she was pierced by over a thousand tentacles.

At times, the monsters’ fingers stretched so quickly that they poked out her eyes.

At times, she was dissolved in the acid the monsters secreted.

When the girl woke up, her dreams engulfed by darkness, she thought to herself.

How could she beat them? How should she move? What should she do?

Those were the only thoughts on her mind. And she did as her conclusion dictated: train herself to move with the speed and force she desired.

Without any clear instructions on her training, she practiced with only her delusions as a guide.

She had plenty of chances to practice in the battles in her dreams.

The experiences in her delusions were compiled into her body, and the training from her times in the waking world put a framework to the experiences from her dreams.

But no matter how many times she defeated the darkness, each time she fell asleep yet new monsters arose in her dreams.

She did not give up.


Between the cycle of dreams and reality, the girl remembered what had happened half a year earlier.

Before the previous helper tried to take her away, she had said, “an adorable girl like you shouldn’t be here”.

The girl didn’t know if she really was adorable or not. and even if she did, it wouldn’t make a difference.

But she continued to fight in her dreams.

She had no way of knowing now where the helper had been trying to take her.

But she knew—even at her age, she understood.

That dreams were her last refuge now.

When she lost her dreams—when she gave up—she would truly disappear, along with her memories of her mother.


The monsters were not allowed to be there.

They were not adorable.

Go away.


The monsters her mind created regenerated and grew endlessly.

But each time, they were destroyed by the magic wand in her hand.

Again and again and again and again.

So long as the darkness of reality was cast over her dreams.


So long as light existed in her dreams.


◁ ▶︎


Eight and a half years later, somewhere on the island.


It’s been nearly 24 hours since I escaped from the psycho in white.

I found myself in front of the TV at the fountain.

I thought I could meet that girl again if I came here.

But there wasn’t a big crowd of kids here today.

A few people with time on their hands stopped and stared at the screen. That was it.

This is a waste of time.

I’ll come back when the wrestling show’s on again.

Although it’s not like this TV has a programming schedule. Nobody knows when wrestling’s gonna be on again.

With a sigh, I turned to leave—

But I stopped when I spotted a flash of white on the screen.

<Here’s an update on the Western District cutie who returned to the great beyond recently. The Western District officially expressed its grief and will be holding the girl a funeral. Not surprising, since she was practically a celebrity. The volunteer police are down in the dumps too, but the one who should really be thrown in the shityard would be the sick fuck who killed her—>

The DJ’s voice grew distant in my head. I was distracted.

The victim shown on the TV was wearing white flowers in her hair.

Did someone kill her?!

I ran over to the TV, drenched in cold sweat—

But she turned out to be someone else wearing the same flowers. She wasn’t the one I was looking for.

What a relief.

Almost jumped to conclusions there.

It wasn’t her.

I almost lost it just now, when I thought the girl named Lilei was the victim.

…I really am obsessed with her.

What’s going on?

Maybe I should just leave. Force myself back to the mainland.

No. I can’t.

I couldn’t ever go back to that company.

I have to spend the rest of my life here. I have to live with the strange reality that I am being attracted to a girl I glimpsed just once.

I decided to leave with a sigh, but the pirate radio playing from the screen and the speakers all over the island shook my thoughts again.


<We’ve had a rash of villain deaths on the island recently. But I hope none of you bastards are happy ‘cause you think you aren’t villains. We don’t even know who’s behind this crap and what they’re trying to do. You never know. Maybe they’ll char-broil you with a flamethrower after they accuse you of exhaling carbon dioxide and contributing to global warming. All the veterans here know their shit. The rules from five minutes ago don’t mean fuck now. On this lawless island, good and evil can switch places depending on which side of the bed the other person woke up on!>


I felt something stir deep in my gut.

Villains are being killed.

That’s nothing to get upset about.

I know all too well that some injustices simply can’t be punished by the law.

So I wouldn’t be surprised if vigilantes went after wanted criminals hiding on the island.

But there was no guarantee that only bad people were murdered.

The girl I’m looking for—in the words of the psycho in white—has blood ties to a gang that controls the island.

That alone raises the chances of her death.

…No.


In fact, it’s reason enough for someone to want to kill her.


Seized by terror, I found myself running through the alleys.

I was headed for the roof of the building the kids led me to yesterday.

They said the interior was so full of junk it was impossible to navigate.

But I have to get there, even if it means clearing that hurdle.

It was only when the possibility of her murder occurred to me—

—that I finally understood.


Why was I so drawn to her? Because she is completely pure.

That’s why she looked so familiar. Because I must have seen that same purity in another child on the mainland.

A girl like her doesn’t belong on this island.

Someone has to rescue her from the malice lurking here.

It’s the right thing to do.

I have no reservations in my heart.

This is how I felt when I revealed my company’s injustices.

The people of this island might look down on me. But I don’t care.

I lost everything before I landed here. I have nothing more to lose.


◁ ▶︎


Two hours later. The rooftop.


I’m finally here.

Finally. I’m here.

I crawled over haphazard heaps of trash, climbed mountains of junk, and sometimes crept between broken wires. No wonder people never come here, even to look for a place to sleep.

In other words, the girl is isolated.

I don’t know how she got up here. Maybe there’s a secret passageway.

But there’s no time to look for one.

I was covered in scrapes and cuts, but there was no time to worry about that.

And now that I think about it, that psycho in white is a problem.

I saw him climbing down from here.

He climbed the walls of the building. Like some kind of lunatic.

It’s dangerous to be alone with a psycho like him.

She might be safe now, but who knows what he might do one day?

And even before that, her mind might break.

Maybe it already has.

Then that’s all the more reason to help her.

Who would help her? Obviously, me.

Because I wasn’t brought here by my own faults or wrongdoings.

I was exiled here for doing the right thing.

…Maybe I’m acting self-righteous. But that doesn’t matter.

Because… if I didn’t have any purpose at all, my mind will be the first thing crushed under the island’s weight.

I wanted to rescue my mind as well by rescuing the girl.


I forced the rusted door open. A warm breeze stroked my face.

And there she was.


“…”

The door creaking must have surprised her. She looked at me.

But her eyes were the same as before. As if she were looking at the world from far away, from a world behind a glass wall.

“H-hey. …Nice to meet you… I guess?”

I didn’t know how to start. So I dusted myself off and smiled.

She didn’t smile or frown. She took a step toward me and spoke.

“…I see you. In front of TV. I hug children. You watch me.”

Her Japanese isn’t very good. Maybe she really is from the Chinese gang.

I wondered how I should tell her about my wanting to help her escape this hellish island. About everything that led up that realization. I eventually decided to begin with a light chat.

I have to make sure we have no misunderstandings between us.

“Oh. Umm… Well… so you know. So I, uhh… don’t want any misunderstandings here. I don’t know if you’ll believe me, but I just want you to know that I’m not attracted to you. I’m not going to try and do anything to you!”

“…It is not interesting.”

She mumbled, and took another step.

Damn it. How am I supposed to explain myself?

I should have thought of something before I clambered here.

I don’t see the gangsters who’re supposed to be her family.

At that moment, I heard a gunshot.


“?!”

More followed. The gunshots shook the air.

I froze. But she was unfazed.

“Gunshots. It is below. It is no matter. It is Inui. It is Mr. Kugi. Kill enemy. Or each other.”

“Oh. Um. I… see?”

I had no idea who ‘Inui’ and ‘Mr. Kugi’ were but from the girl’s complete lack of fear I could tell she was not normal.

The island must have destroyed her mind.

I have to do something.

And what is going on down there? Why is there a shootout happening below?

At one point I had assumed that gunfire was part of daily life on the island. But the volunteer police seemed to be on top of things. I rarely ever heard gunshots in the Western District.

“H-hey. Get down so you don’t get hit by a stray bullet. Listen to me.”

I doubted that a girl standing in the middle of the rooftop would be hit by a stray bullet, but I had to figure out a way to start the conversation.

Without even an icebreaker in mind, I began by reaching out my right hand.

I had to show her that I meant no harm.

It’s all right. She’ll trust me.

Because I’m doing the right thing.


Clang.


I heard a metallic noise behind her.

She must be dragging something around.

What is it? I can barely see her face, but the moonlight and the glow from the buildings hit the object and—

—at that moment, she flicked her right wrist.

And then, somehow the long object in her hand moved—faster than my eyes could follow—


Crunch.


It was completely different from the earlier sound.

At the same time, my body was shaken.

“Agah.”

I stuttered foolishly.

Why did I just… why… whaaaaaaa…?


What the hell.

I realized that my right wrist was limp—like it was a completely separate creature—and at that moment, I was overcome by pain.

“Wha…? Ah… GAAAAAAAAAAAH!”

I screamed. I howled.

The pain in my wrist ran up my arm and coursed through my body, and my own shrieking threatened to rupture my eardrums and tear my vocal cords.

And as though filling in the gaps—

Her gloomy voice echoed coldly against my ears.

“I see you. In front of TV.

“I should have. Should have kill you. Kill you then.”


-----


~My Heart-Pounding Nap Diary~
_______ __th, 2021.


On rooftop.

Not-adorable person. It comes.

I kill. I did.


-----


Seven years ago, somewhere on the artificial island.


Change came to her life about a year and a half after she began to battle her nightmares.

She had managed to conquer her nightmare for the day and was about to drift into a deep sleep—

She heard angry voices from afar, she thought.

Then the sound of small explosions.

If her memories were correct, those were gunshots.

With that in mind, she slowly woke herself.

By then, a scream that seemed to curse the world had already shaken the darkness and faded away.


And in less than a minute, she heard the door crash open.

She felt someone cling to her. From the person’s weight she supposed it must have been her helper.

And from the way the helper shook, the girl supposed that they must be terrified.

She wondered if she should say something. But when she opened her mouth she realized that she was once again barely capable of speech.

At that point, she heard footsteps from the door.

“Turn out the lights. She’ll be in pain if it’s too bright.”

She heard a sharp voice.

The voice belonged to a young man. And it occurred to the girl that she had never heard that voice before.

“Making a second child with that whore… Father’s more careless than he lets on.”

The man grumbled under his breath, but the girl did not understand. Then he began to gingerly peel off the talismans from her eyelids. She thought he might tear them off by force, but he showed surprising care as he slowly removed the talismans.

Once they were off, the girl felt something on her face—it felt just like when her face was being washed.

But something was different this time. A strong-smelling liquid was applied to her eyelids, then carefully wiped away.

She finally noticed the unusual sensation on her face.

Her eyelids moved.

At first they barely opened, but as she lifted them little by little, she began to see the things she had only seen in her dreams.

“…”

“How does it feel to see the light for the first time in years?”

He had said that the lights were off.

The only light in the room should have been the dim glow from the hallway.

But even that was too much for her.

The faint light hit her eyes and began to run wild.

It was like going outside after an all-nighter, but magnified a million times. Even the dim glow was excruciating for her eyes, for so long adjusted to darkness.

That her vision returned over the course of only a few minutes was perhaps thanks to the realistic dreams she had faced every night.

But it took her yet more minutes to finally be able to see.

Her eyes and her head still hurt. But she did not scream.

Her optic nerves remembered how to see and kicked the muscles around her eyes into action. Meanwhile, the young man spoke as though to himself.

“These eyes… I knew it. They’re just like that young vixen’s.”

Another voice then spoke.

“You’re still quite young yourself, now.”

“Please, Elder.”

The young voice and a voice clearly belonging to an elder were conversing.

Drip. She heard something falling.

In a corner of her recovering vision she saw something red dripping from tip of the shining object in the young man’s hand.

But the girl was not afraid.

After all, the men in her dreams rose from pools of blood and breathed blood like fire.

“Do you remember your name, little girl?”

The young man asked in Mandarin. the girl took a few seconds to prepare her voice, then mumbled.

“…Lilei. Lilei Horrocks.”

“I see. You will no longer need your mother’s family name.”

“…?”

Confused, the girl—Lilei—slowly looked up.

She saw the face of a boy. He had sharp eyes, and he seemed to be about five or six years older than herself.

The boy with tattoos on his face placed his Chinese broadsword across his shoulder and continued, his eyes as cold as ice.

“And if you cannot overcome the trial I have prepared for you… you will not need our family name. Or your own, for that matter.”

He gave a signal. A group of men in black entered the room.

They dragged in a small figure and threw it at Lilei’s feet.

As her eyes adjusted, Lilei realized that it was a young girl, only a little smaller than herself.

At the same time, she came to a realization.

This girl must have been the helper who had been at her side.

“Her vocal cords seem to be damaged. Did they do this to keep your existence a secret? An obsolete strategy. It would have been over for them the moment she learned to communicate.”

“…”

“Condition aside, this girl is one of the people who took away your light.”

The young man pressed down on the back of the helper’s head with the broadsword.

Then he raised his chin. One of the men in black drew a knife and offered it to Lilei.

She took it and stared, wide-eyed.

The boy gave her an uncharacteristically cold look.

“Kill her.”

A single command.

“We’ve killed the rest. This pup is all that’s left. She may have been your caretaker, but no matter the circumstances she is one of the rabble who imprisoned a member of the Ei bloodline.”

“…Kill…?”

“You must take revenge. We have no need of anyone who is incapable of such a trivial act.”

Lilei comprehended what he meant.

She was to kill the girl who had taken care of her—the girl whom she had only now seen for the first time.

If not, she would die as well.

Lilei was only about ten years old. But she could sense the bloodlust in the boy’s voice and bearing.

It was the first time she ever felt such bloodlust.

But she was not particularly shaken.

After all, she had lived in the carnage of worse things; the grotesque creatures she had created in the dreams during her time in darkness.

Lilei was silent for a long time. But she eventually looked around, her eyes finally adjusted to the light.

Her eyes came to a stop at a certain point. She tossed the knife aside and walked over—and before the men could react, she picked up the object on the floor.

It was a partly rusted lead pipe.

“So you’d prefer to bludgeon her to death?”

Ignoring the boy, Lilei stared at the pipe.

It wasn’t as colorful as she had imagined.

But she was not too rattled.

After all, the magic wand in her dreams was already long stained with blood.

She walked back to the boy and the girl along the very same rhythm as before.

This time, she stared down at the girl on the floor.

The girl’s vocal cords really must have been damaged, as she moved her mouth but did not vocalize.

The girl, who was covered in injuries from head to toe, looked up tearfully at Lilei.

She was a nondescript girl. Simply an adorable child.

Why was someone like this looking after her, Lilei wondered.

Then she remembered something.

What had the previous helper said as they ran?

“I have a daughter just about your age, a little younger than you.”

“I watched over you because I at least wanted to free my little girl.”

“Adorable children should be happy. But, you’re adorable, but my daughter too. Yes. If an adorable girl like you is happy, my daughter will too…”


In the jumble of memories, Lilei came to a conclusion.

This girl must be the previous helper’s daughter.

She quietly went up to the girl and knelt.

“…”

Then she placed a gentle hand on her head. The girl flinched, but when Lilei patted her head she stared, wide-eyed.

She reminded Lilei of a puppy.

“…Adorable.”

“What?”

The boy frowned. Lilei continued mechanically. For herself, the one who protected her world.

“This girl. She is adorable. She has to live. Or I can’t live. If the adorable girl is happy, I am happy… She said.”

“I don’t claim to understand completely… but you mean you cannot kill her.”

To the tattooed boy, Lilei’s words must have sounded like delusional rambling.

He raised his broadsword and drew an air around himself to cut down both Lilei and the girl in one stroke.

“Not to fear. You will die together here and now.”

Lilei looked at the broadsword, and instead of trying to run, she thought to herself.

What is this.

What is he trying to do?

Is he going to kill us?

I’m not scared.

I’m not scared this time. But—

He’s an enemy, too.

She did not differentiate between dreams and reality now.

She could defeat the enemy that threatened to take away her light, just as she did in her dreams.

That was all that mattered to her.


Lilei simply glanced at the boy.


The boy with the broadsword felt a chill run down his spine.

His pores seemed to scream as the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end.

What’s happening?

He was a stranger to this sensation. The boy froze without thinking.

No. I’ve felt this before.

I know this sensation…

It’s just like the time I faced a gun for the first time.

Like the time I first felt a blade against my neck.

The boy who had clawed through countless battles felt his instincts screaming.

He had just stepped into mortal peril, they warned him.

Impossible!

Am I… afraid of a child like her?!

Refusing to accept the fact that he was cowed by a single glance, the boy decided to shake off that fear by swinging his sword.

But then, he felt an impact on his hand. Something glinted as it flew across the room.

The moment he realized that the object was the tip of his sword, he saw that the girl at his feet had moved.

But it was too late. She had moved out of his line of sight.

“?!”

He heard a resounding impact near his left temple.

He saw a creaking lead pipe right before his eyes, and a foot clad a black shoe that had deflected the pipe.

“My word. I thought I’d taught you well, Lihuang.”

The one who saved his life was the old man who had come to the room with him.

“You must obey your instincts when they cry out in fear. What I taught you was self-defense.”

“…”

Even as the old man spoke, Lilei continued to swing her pipe at uneven intervals.

The man Lihuang had earlier called ‘Elder’ parried the attacks with practiced ease as he spoke to the girl in Mandarin.

“Not to worry, young one. We will do nothing to you. Or the adorable young lady.”

No sooner were the words out of his mouth than did the attacks stop.

“…Really?”

“Yes. I swear I will make them stop.”

“Elder.”

The boy stepped forward, disgruntled that the old man was pursuing the matter without his input. But he quickly noticed the sweat on his hands and instinctively realized that he had just narrowly escaped death.

The old man laughed jovially.

“Lihuang. I will take your sister under my care for the time being.”

“…What will you do with her, Elder?”

“What I taught you and Yili was simply self-defense. I did not instruct you in the ways of killing. However…”

He grinned fiendishly and gently put his hand on Lilei’s head.

“I’ve gotten the urge to teach this child ways to kill and break people. I am not a young man anymore. And though these techniques may be of little use in modern times, I do not think it would be such a bad idea to pass them on.”

“But Elder…”

The boy was stubborn. But the old man was ruthless.

“I can’t have you getting jealous later, so I will tell you now. This girl is more talented than you are.”

“What…?”

“Talent aside, you almost lost your life to her just earlier.”

“…!”

The tattooed boy’s expression changed. The elder continued.

“I know what you’re thinking, Lihuang. ‘How could a concubine’s daughter surpass me’, you wonder. Worry not, boy. This talent did not come from blood. It is clearly learned. Remember; even your own father has little talent for battle.”

The old man walked up to Lilei and stroked her head.

“Aha… I will raise you to be stronger than me in five years’ time. I will turn you into a weapon—unnecessary in peacetime, wastelands, or battlefields, useful only on this island. What you do with your life after that is up to you.”

The girl thought for some time on the difficult words the old man used.

Then, still looking quite gloomy, she replied.

“I’ll be strong? …So no one interrupts my dreams?”

The question seemed to come from nowhere, but the old man nodded firmly.

“Of course.”

“Okay then.”

The girl accepted her fate with surprising ease. The old man guffawed and stroked her head again.

“Ah! Splendid! I like your honesty. Now we have nothing more to discuss, Lihuang.”

The old man turned. The tall boy stared anxiously, but eventually he resigned and turned to Lilei.

“Lilei Ei. That is your new name. And from this day forth, you are my sister.”

“…Sister?”

“You’ll understand the circumstances soon enough. Do you have any questions?”

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you’ve been saved, said the look on Lihuang’s face.

A new hell will be unveiled before your eyes, said his expression.

Lilei looked at him, her led pipe dragging against the floor.


“Sleepy.”


“What?”

“I’m going to sleep. Sleeeeeep.”

Immediately, Lilei lay down on top of the helper and closed her eyes.

The helper froze in surprise. But the warmth from Lilei’s body seemed to calm her down.

“…What just happened here…?”

“She took the wind right out of your sails, I see. I have the feeling that someone similar to her may be fitting for your future wife. A woman who can instantly deflate the air around you.”

“Enough of your jokes, sir.”

The boy sighed loudly, then turned to the girl supporting Lilei.

“What is your name?”

The girl flinched, but she wrote her name on the floor with her finger.

“So you’re called Fei.”

The girl nodded weakly.

“You were lucky, Fei. I will have you remain as Lilei’s helper from this point on. …Elder, I leave the rest in your hands.”

With that, the boy led the other men out of the room.

In her terrified confusion Fei came to two conclusions.

One was that she was spared.

And the other was that the one who rescued her was the girl snoring softly on her back.

Her tension drained in an instant. Tears ran down her cheeks.

As though giving her her blessings, Lilei continued to snore.


The girl christened Lilei Ei, who joined the Western District’s clan.

Several years later, people once again began to call her ‘Sleeping Beauty’.

It was a term of respect.

For her love of sleep, and for the eternal sleep her lead pipe delivered.


◁ ▶︎


Eight years later, the rooftop of an abandoned building.


“Agh… Grrrrrrrkaaaaaaaaaaargh…”

My own scream is echoing from the distance.

I’m so confused. I don’t understand.

What just happened?

What’s happened to me?

I can’t feel my right hand.

No… I feel something. I feel pain.

It’s like there are two of me. One’s screaming and bewildered. The other is watching calmly from afar.

But I still don’t understand.

What did I just do?

What did she do to me?

“Nrghaaaaaaaa… What… is thiiiiiiiiiiiiiis?!”

“It is loud.”

I shouted in the midst of my pain. Without even blinking the girl raised her rusted and stained lead pipe and crushed my left wrist.

“GAAAAAAAH! Urgh!”

By the time I thought to pull away, the pain was ringing through my body.

My wrist came loose. It dangled dangled dangled dangled dangled ohgodfuckfuckfuck

“GRAAAAAH! EEEEYARGH! AAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!”

What               is        this

             What     the  hell

          is

             this

I almost lost consciousness.

Writhing in pain, I began staggering around the rooftop like a drunkard.

My first instinct was flight.

My left knee turned. There was an impact.

“GYAAAARGH!”

I thought my leg had exploded.

The pain the pain the pain the pain the pain the pain the pain the pain the pain the pain the pain the pain the pain the paaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa—

…!

…!


My fading consciousness was jolted back into my body at times.

What’s happening?

Why

Why is this happening

What did I do           what

“AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!”

Calm down! Calm down!

I have to think! What is happening?!

I-I just came to help!

So why is she beating me with a lead pipe?!

Why? Where? How?

Where? Where did I go wrong?!

Think. Think! Once I figure it out, I’ll make it up to her—

And resolve this misundersta—

Ssshh.

I… think I heard something in my ear.

The noise turned to the sound of something deflating as it enveloped me.

As I dragged myself away, I began to feel like the world around me was moving very slowly.

I couldn’t move properly. As if I was dreaming.

I just didn’t understand what was happening to me.

I had to think.

Why is this girl beating me with a lead pipe?


I came to this island because I did the right thing.

I exposed the company’s corruption. That’s how it started.

The great power of evil tried to eat away at me. At the world.

…That’s right. Evil. You can’t really apply a black-and-white morality to the world, but I can guarantee that those bastards—the company bigwigs—were unquestionably evil. I only wanted to expose that and lead the company in the right direction.

But I was fired, and society didn’t protect me, either.

In other words, the power of their evil was stronger than the rules of society.


So I was fired.

But I didn’t give up.

I had to make them pay for their crimes and stop them from committing any more injustices. I had no intention of returning to work, but I had to do something to help the good people in the company and all the people who would work for it in the future so that they could lead upstanding lives.

The enemy was strong. The CEO, the chairman, and the media execs who covered up the news are all my enemies, too.

So I decided to begin by cleaning up my surroundings.

An executive from the newspaper company that tried to gloss over the corruption. I caught him having an affair on camera.

Then I used the photo to lure him to a deserted place. I hit him with my car and put him in the back seat, taking him deep into the mountains.

And with a great deal of effort, I managed to get information on the corrupt executives.

Once I had all the details, I no longer needed the man. I didn’t need to kill him, either, so I just left him in the mountains.

His arms and legs were broken and he had some ruptured organs, but if he managed to survive three or so months until hiking season, someone would definitely call for help. I don’t kill people without a good reason. Because that is not right.

After that, I used the information I obtained to take away the material possessions they had acquired illegally.

First I decided to burn down their homes. Real estate is the easiest way to use dirty money, after all. They might have had bond certificates—and if those burned too, it’d be like killing two birds with one stone.

Because I didn’t intend to kill them, I waited until the executives were out at night to start the fires.

Apparently some family members died, but it doesn’t bother me too much if I consider that the dirty money went into raising those people.

It didn’t bother me.

After that, I kidnapped the CEO’s daughter.

I met her as she went home from school, telling her that her father had collapsed. She followed me without a second thought.

You should never get into a car with someone you don’t know. It’s common sense. And foolishly enough, the company never took back my employee ID when they fired me.

Talk about careless. This is exactly why corruption runs rampant. So I decided to teach the CEO this very lesson by using my old ID to earn the girl’s trust. Now they’ll reflect on their half-baked system.


After kidnapping the girl, I talked with the CEO over the phone.

He didn’t need much convincing to see that I was serious. It was the right choice to send him his daughter’s severed fingers and thumbs.

If you want to kill someone, kill me! M-my daughter has nothing to do with this! I’m the one you want!” He cried.

He had the wrong idea.

I’m no murderer.

I’m not particularly out to get people killed.

I want him to reflect and repent.

What use was there in killing him before that? Killing him would be simply an act of self-satisfaction.

I’m not pursuing murder, I just want to complete the process—I want him to reflect, repent, and fear until the moment he dies.

I mean, sending a laughing madman to the gallows doesn’t wash away his crimes.

Everyone would agree. People like them should be tortured before their deaths so that they suffered and repented.

Everyone would agree. So it must be right. No one would think otherwise.

…In any case, if I wanted to purge the CEO and the company of their wrongdoings and create a wholesome world for the other employees, there had to be punishment. The CEO had to repent.

I let him listen to his daughter die.

He screamed more than she did.

What a relief.

If he’s so concerned about his daughter, it means he’s still not completely inhuman.

Now he’ll give up on his corrupt and unjust ways and give that love to his company.

I did the right thing.


But apparently my sentiments weren’t conveyed properly to the world. I became a wanted man.

If I was caught, I would obviously be judged by the law.

Then that would mean I am evil.

As if.

No. No. That’s not going to happen.

If it did, it would mean I was wrong.

And if I was wrong, what did the CEO’s daughter die for?

A girl dying in vain? Things like that only happen in an unjust world.

So I could not let myself be caught.

I had to be in the right, if only for her sake.

I ran so I could give meaning to her death.

That’s right. I did nothing wrong.

But the world still did not understand—

And as a result, I ended up here.


…?

Wait.

It’s on the tip of my tongue.

Something important. Something so important…


“Hraaagh! Argh! AAAAAAAGH! Stop… stop…”

Shit my mind is synching with my body agaaAAAAAAAHHHHHH—!

It hurts! I can’t think! Fuck! What! The! Hell!

I did the right thing! So… so why?!

“Stop… what did I… do to…”

She was as cold as ever.

“You kill Fei.”

“F-Fei?”

“Fei. White flowers in hair. Like my hair. Last week. You kill Fei.”

At that moment—

Another memory surfaced.

Not one from long ago.

It was last week—


◁ ▶︎


After wandering for a long time, I thought I finally found her.

But when I spoke to her, I realized that she was just wearing the same hair decorations.

She looked at me strangely. She was adorable, yes, but her eyes looked completely different from the girl I was looking for.

Unable to hide my disappointment, I asked her,

“Are those flowers popular on this island?”

“…?

“S-sorry. I was just looking for a girl with the same flowers in her hair.”

Then she suddenly began gesturing.

She seemed to be pointing at herself.

“No, not you. I’m looking for—”

Then she grabbed me by the sleeve and tried to pull me into the alleys.

…!

I came to a realization.

She was trying to trick me.

She would lure—seduce—me into the alleys and steal everything I had, or she would have a group of men ready to do that work for her.

I’ve been fooled enough times on this island. I see right through you.

I was furious.

Each time I was fooled, more anger piled up in my heart.

Maybe it was a side-effect of finally sensing danger before it it me. I lashed out with all my pent-up rage.

When I looked at her, I saw an adorable girl with a still-childlike face. Her eyes were different, but she somehow resembled the girl I was looking for.

That was even more unforgivable.

Dressing just like my angel—trying to fool me into thinking she was her. Trying to defile her.

That’s why this island is hopeless.

Even children like her try to pull the wool over my eyes.

You thought I wouldn’t see through this?

This island is hopeless.

So I will make this island right, I suddenly felt.

For whom? For the girl with the empty eyes, who did not match the rest of the island.

That was why I could not allow an impostor to exist.

I must do the right thing.

Because that’s what I’ve been doing all this time.


So die, you fucking whore.


◁ ▶︎


As the memory hit me, I cried out to the girl.

“W-wait! That ‘Fei’ wouldn’t be… those flowers… the same… URGH!”

The lead pipe shattered my left ribcage.

“You strangled. Your face. On cameras. I asked. Do not tell. Elder Brother. Elder Sister. Volunteer police. Only me.”

“W-wait…”

It was her. The girl on the TV.

I remember breathing a sigh of relief when I realized that the dead girl wasn’t Lilei, but a stranger.

I had no idea.

That was all.

How could I have known that she was her friend?!

The girl didn’t say a word! On this island of lowlifes!

My mind struggled to try and resolve the misunderstanding, but my body reflexively backed away—and soon I was leaning against the low railings at the edge of the rooftop.

“You are not adorable. I kill you.”

“Wait… w-wait. Wait! I-I was just trying to save you!”

All I had were questions—why was she holding a lead pipe? How could she move so inhumanly fast? But there was no time to ponder the answers.

Now that I think about it, I don’t know a thing about this girl.

Really. Why was I so drawn to her?

At that moment, someone grabbed me by the neck.

They yanked me back toward the railings. …In other words, someone had pulled me from beyond the rooftop.

“Hey there.”

It was a familiar voice.

I didn’t have to turn.

I only met him once, but once was enough to burn his image into my mind.

“Thanks for yesterday.”

It’s the psycho in white!

Of all the times… Shit!

“Yakumo. Doing what?”

The girl stopped and asked the psycho in white.

The psycho named Yakumo replied lazily.

“Oh, well. I was just passing by. But I heard the news. I heard about it all. And it looks like you did something ridiculous. Of all the people you had to kill, it was her dear friend. The girl she thought of as a sister. It’s ludicrous from any perspective.”

…A dear friend?

…A sister?

What the hell. She never said a thing! Not even when I killed her!

I tried to respond, but the pressure around my neck and the agonizing pain in the rest of my body would not let me.

“Maybe you lost your mind on this island, too. Or maybe you came to this island because you’d lost your mind to begin with. I am curious, but I wanted to repay you because you helped me get closer to her.”

…Repay me?

“Lilei plans to toy with you for days. It would be only decent to save you, but I can’t forgive you for killing Fei. I only met Fei recently, you know. So I decided to compromise.”

What kind of crap is he spouting—

“I’ll just make it quick.”

—————————————————

“Bye.”

———————?

————————————?!?!?!

What happened to me?

I felt myself rising—the world turned upside-down—

The second I felt myself floating, a powerful force began to pull at me—

The irresistible force known as gravity.


I’m falling.

Down. Down.

Strangely enough, I was calm.

It felt like time had slowed around me.

A moment later, the memories of the past few days bubbled to the surface in clearer detail than before.

The girl I killed. Her gestures.

I saw the way she moved as she pointed at herself.

Now that I think about it, something was familiar about those movements.

…Oh. I get it.

Sign language.

…Maybe that girl couldn’t speak.

And when she heard I was looking for someone she knew—

Come to think of it… that alley she was trying to take me to… It leads straight to… to…

Oh. Oh!

Ahahahaha!

It’s here! It led here!

To this building!

What in the world did I do?!

She wasn’t trying to trick me! She was trying to take me to Lilei! She was just showing kindness!

But I misunderstood and ended up killing her!

Ah. I see. I understand.

My god… that’s what happened…




Then I guess I deserve to die here.

Because I killed someone without a good reason.

So I must accept this agony!

Because death is my punishment!

Punishment for my misunderstanding!

…That’s right. Other than that, everything I did was in the right!

I didn’t do anything wrong! My life was an upright one!

I can die with that understanding! Therefore I must have done nothing wrong!



But why is the world… so… slow…?

Why am I remembering the past? I’d ignored it all this time.


Oh, I see.

So this is how it feels to have your life flash before your eyes.

But the last thing I saw was not my past.

It was the ground, rapidly drawing near.

A rainbow-haired man and a black-haired man taking aim at one another.

Oh. I understand. I’m going to fall between them—

My memories continued. Specifically, they chased after me.

This is my final memory, and here I will—

That’s right. I finally understand.

Why I was so drawn to her.

Why she looked so familiar.

I understand! I finally know!

Why she wouldn’t leave my thoughts.

It’s her eyes eyes eyes eyes eyes eyes

Endlessly murky and endlessly pure eyes eyes eyes eyes eyes eyes eyes eyes

The girl I killed… the CEO’s dead daughter had the same eyes eyes eyes eyes eyes eyes

A hallucination rises out of the ground ground ground ground

The girl I killed rises up and reaches out to me me me me me no no no no no no my body body body body I’m sorry! It’s my fault! I was wrong! I admit it! I’m sorry please spare me forgive me the arms pulling at me no please forgive me I was was wa—


But a hallucination had no capacity for forgiveness.

A second before I landed, her hand touched my cheek.

Her hand touched my eye.

And something hot leapt into my eye socket—

my stomach my chest at the same time

cant even recognize

ohgodit’ssohotithurtsI’msorryithurtsitburns

brainfirstmyconsciousnessatonce

crunch.


-----


~My Heart-Pounding Nap Diary~
_______ __th, 2021.


I write diary. Write properly.

Misunderstand, Yakumo said.

Write properly. About yesterday.


Not-adorable person. Hurt Fei. Come to roof.

After die. Talk to Fei.

Fei cried. It hurt. She said. Died. She said. She cried.

I revenge. I promised.

No revenge, Fei in dark.

Break dark. With lead pipe. Happy.


So I broke.

I broke lots.

End. Yakumo dropped.

Died. Broke. Happy.

Sleeeeeep.


Fei happy.

Fei smiles.

We play. It is happy.

I sleep soon. Sleeeeeep. Hug. Hug.


-----


The rooftop.


Without sparing a glance at the falling figure, the ghoul in white shrugged.

“Was that nosy of me?”

Lilei shook her head.

“No. It is all right. Now it is.”

“I’ve never seen you kill someone so painfully before. Although I guess that’s natural, considering how much you cared for Fei.”

The girl seemed no different from usual.

Her voice. Her complexion. Her dead eyes. She was completely normal.

“He is bad dream. Break bad dream. Or not happy.”

“You can’t be happy?”

“Fei.”

“…I see. That’s sweet of you.”

The Killer Ghoul walked over to the stoic girl. He reached over between her flower ornaments and gave her a gentle pat on the head.

“It must have been hard on you, too. I think you could let yourself cry today, at least.”

“Why?”

“What do you mean ‘why’?”

“She is dead here. Not in dream. I see her anytime.”

Dragging her lead pipe loudly across the floor, she met the Killer Ghoul’s eyes.

“Adorable children. Must be happy. So Fei sleeps. Sleeps happily. With me. Always dreaming. So I kill. Not-adorable man. Breaks dreams.”

Then, she spun where she stood and walked over to the center of the roof—and with the lead pipe still in her grip, she sprawled out on the floor.

“So I sleep. Sleeeeeep. Hug.”


Seconds later, Lilei was snoring softly.

The Killer Ghoul, watching from a short distance, thought for a while. Then he came to a realization.

I see.

I always assumed Lilei couldn’t distinguish between dreams and reality.

But maybe she did try to distinguish between them. And maybe she concluded that they were one and the same.

So death doesn’t mean much to her.

Just like people don’t fear the void when they go to sleep.

Lilei isn’t scared of the deaths of others.

She’s trying to override the nightmares of her reality with her dreams.

From a logical perspective, it might seem like simple escapism.

But having spoken with the girl many times after becoming her nap friend, the young man realized that the signs were there all along.

“You’re an assassin, right?”

“I am.”

“Was there anyone you were reluctant to kill?”

“No. But when Elder Brother said. Kill you. It was lonely. Bye nap friend.”

“…You were pretty merciless, though. …Then what about someone else? One of those adorable kids you love so much? Like your friend Fei?”

“Elder Brother do not ask. From beginning. I say no. He knows.”

“But if you won’t do it, someone else will.”

“I save. If I can’t save. I apologize. In dream.”

“…?”

“People die. Die someday. But it is dream. Wake up someday. It is same. But I sleep. Dream again. So it is okay.”

“In other words, you’re a sad girl who can’t distinguish dreams from reality…”

“Do not want hear. From Killer Ghoul.”


Remembering that exchange, the Killer Ghoul thought.

Sleep was like death, he had said to her, handing her the journal. The girl had tilted her head curiously.

To her, there was no difference between dreams and reality, no difference between reality and death. Perhaps there was no difference between death and sleep worth mourning. Perhaps dreams—the state of nothingness in sleep—were a second life for her.

Wasn’t that something terribly sad?

She did not mourn her friend’s death, saying she could see her any time in dreams.

Was that really ‘living’?

Even if she loses a loved one… can Lilei not feel that sadness?

That’s heartbreaking, isn’t it?

Perhaps she was the most broken individual on the entire island.

The Killer Ghoul looked into the sleeping girl’s face.

“…”

She looked happy.

She was at peace, as she never was while awake.

Maybe she looks as indifferent as ever in her dreams, though.

The young man sighed. Though he felt pity for her, he wondered quietly if he was being too conceited. He lay down in a corner of the rooftop and looked up at the sky.

Moved by the sparkling stars, he thought to himself.

But… there are lots of stories about dreams that get so real you can’t tell which is real and which is a dream.

Then maybe it’s not so bad to pick whichever side you prefer and make it your reality.

If nothing else, Lilei looks so happy when she’s sleeping. …yawn…

The Killer Ghoul quietly fell asleep.

He simply let his mind fall to the void, without dreaming of anything.

As he did, he wondered if that really was death, and thought that he wouldn’t know anyway since he’d never died…


And in the end, two sets of soft snoring filled he rooftop.

As though the carnage and death from several minutes earlier had all been a dream.


-----


~My Heart-Pounding Nap Diary~
_______ __th, 2021.


Fei wake up.

Shadow hurting Fei. Gone.

Happy. Now we play.

Mom Dad here. Happy.

Everyone happy.

I beat dark.

Everyone happy.

Fei laughing. Adorable.

I hug. Hug.

Together forever.

So hug lots and lots. Hug.


Wake up. Yakumo pats head.

Adorable. He said.

Fei more adorable. I said.

“Yes. She is with you. More adorable.”

He said.

He is Killer Ghoul. But good person.

If dies, I take him. Take to dreams.

Sword woman. Take to dreams.

Will be friends. Friends with Fei. Everyone happy.

Fei is adorable. Everyone friends.

So everyone happy.


I smiling.

Today. I hug Nejiro. Lots. No escape. Hug.

Everyone adorable.

Everyone cool. Many people.

I am happy.

So I sleep. In peace.

I break bad dream.

So everyone happy.

I hug.

I hug everyone.


Why.

I want to write. Write lots today.

Want suddenly.

So now. I hug. Hug everyone. Right now.

First Nejiro.

Rats are adorable.

I hug lots and lots. hug.


Before. I stop.

Nap time. Walk with people in dream. Yay.


Good night. Hug.


-End Episode 2-


-----


Episode 3.



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1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the chapter.

    That man was past broken. Very much past.

    ReplyDelete