Sunday, 17 May 2015

5656! -Knights' Strange Night- Episode 4

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

Have a long update.

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Episode 4: Lips x Lips


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The Case of Jun Sahara - 1


The theme park office in the Eastern District.


“What is it that the Eastern District lacks? Love!”


A cry of romance echoed through the lonely theme park.

“…Don’t you agree, friends? I think this is the perfect opportunity for a mass confession. Let’s get started!”

The suggestion—accompanied by a clap—came from the most laid-back and scheming busybody in the Eastern District.

The Guard Team members gathered in the room responded to their boss’s proposal with a resounding silence.

“Poor boss… he’s finally lost his mind…” Carlos sighed, shaking his head. Zhang offered a pointed correction.

“He lost his mind years ago.”

“We lack love? Says the guy who walks around with a hot babe on each arm…”

“Boss, reciting pi should help you get your mind back in order. Let’s start with 3.1415.”

“Who cares about the digits? Three is more than enough.”

“Impossible! 3 times the diameter isn’t a circle—it’s a hexagon! Here, I’ll show you. …Now, a hexagon is is a collection of six equilateral triangles with each side equal to the length of the radius. So in the end, it fits right into a circle with the same radius!” The man explained, taking care to draw diagrams on the office whiteboard. The other members nodded in understanding.

“I see. So that’s why pi is bigger than 3.”

“Aha!”

“Who’s the idiot who said 3 was enough?”

“You don’t even need to learn the digits—we can just call it π!”

As the conversation degenerated, the man at the head of the group frowned.

“Ahem… Team? Why are you more engrossed by pi than my opinions?”

“Don’t get your knickers in a twist. We’ll pretend we didn’t hear any of your stupidity.” Said Greatest Zhang, the underground pro wrestling champion.

He cracked his joints menacingly as he slowly stood.

“A lot of local punks have been going missing or getting brutalized recently. And of all things, you’re saying we’re lacking love?!”

“…Uh. Well…”

Vigilance, am I right? You were going to say we lack vigilance. My ears’ve been going recently, boss. I thought I heard you say we lacked love. Almost snapped off your cheekbones there, jackass.”

Zhang approached the boss, looking ready to snap his spine more than his cheekbones. Gitarin nervously averted his gaze.

“I question the use of the word ‘jackass’ in the same breath as the word ‘boss’. And the… uhh… vivid imagery of snapping my cheekbones is also a minus in my book for the terror factor. I think you lack any sort of love or respect for your superior.”

“Fuckingsonovasoccerjackass—”

“Hey, that’s an insult to soccer loveeeeeeeeers?!”

Zhang strung up Gitarin in a Neck Hanging Tree.

“You’re supposed to be a mob boss, goddammit—what kinda gangster goes around saying we need more love?!”

“Heh… heh heh… Every villain who underestimates the power of love is doomed to die by love. That is the unspoken rule of the world, and I don’t want to die yet! Therefore, the rabble gathered on this island should work together for loooooooooooooo— Ithoughtyouweregonnaletmegothatwasprettycoolright—”

“It’s people like you who turn into dictators who wage wars over women. So I think this is a good time for you to die. You can apologize to your future victims in the afterlife.”

“Grrrrrk! I—can’t—breathe—uncle—uncle!”

The two women who were supposedly his lovers watched their boss turn blue and giggled.

“Don’t just stand there and watch—aaaaaargh—”

But the Guard Team ignored the everyday scene and chattered as they always did.

“Let’s get to work.”

“Uh-oh. Mr. Take sent a message asking for us to pay off our tab.”

“He’s gonna throw his knife at us if we go in without money again.”

“…zzz…”

“Ahahaha! Mr. Gitarin? Love? Hah hah hah hah! That’s crazy! Hee hee hee hee hee heehahahahahahaha! Ahahahahahahaha! This is a riot! I’m dying here!”

“A little late for that reaction.”

“Apparently Inui’s going crazy again.”

“Against a bunch of newbies from the mainland. He’s got this.”

“Mainlanders? Let him kill ‘em.”

“That’s scary, Mr. Gen.”

“Nothing good comes of messing with mainland gangs.”

The conversation shifted topics, slowly erasing the boss’s foolishness from their memories—


“S-sorry I’m late!”


The door opened and someone stepped inside.

She was a sweet-looking young woman whose bangs covered her eyes.

She had fair white skin, but her long, slender arms did not look particularly frail. She wore a stylish leather suit jacket and pants, along with a light T-shirt. Because the jacket was worn open, hints of her attractive curves were exposed to the world.

“Ah, Jun! Perfect timing!”

Gitarin’s eye glinted as though he had been rescued by an angel. He squirmed out of Zhang’s grip and hid himself behind his lovers before addressing the woman with hidden eyes—the captain of the Guard Team.

“Listen here, Jun! These people have been just terrible today. They surrounded me and took out a bunch of sporks! Tried to shove them into my eye sockets and pop! Pop! Can you believe this?!”

“Wh-what?! Everyone!” Jun gasped with a shudder.

“We did not!” Zhang replied, glaring at Gitarin. “Son of a three-legged anemone. Enough of your bullshit.”

“‘Son of a three-legged anemone’? …Anyway.”

Gitarin regained his composure, though he remained sheltered behind his lovers. With a relaxed expression and voice, he turned to Jun.

“I need you to take responsibility, Jun! As the captain of the Guard Team!”

“M-me?” Jun stammered.

What came next dropped her already-confused thoughts straight into a maelstrom of chaos.

“The answer is love! I need you to start loving!”

“L-love? Wha…?”

“‘I love you’! ‘Wo ai ni’! ‘Anata wo aishiteiru’! Come to think of it, the ‘ai’ sound is in the phrase in all three languages! That’s incredible! Which is why you should confess. Perfect!”

“C-confess…?!”

Question marks popped over her head in rapid succession and disappeared.

That was when her boss made an absurd suggestion.


“I’ve called Inui over, so confess your love to him.”


◁ ▶︎


The Case of the Detective Siblings - 1


The Private Eye Lizard, a detective agency in the Western District.


The office was in an abandoned hotel in the Western District.

At the door of a certain hotel room was a sign depicting a chubby lizard that resembled a tsuchinoko with adorable round eyes. It a poor fit for the artificial island, where criminals and outlaws roamed free. Then again, the agency itself—a forcibly renovated hotel room—was no better a match for the world around it.


A detective agency.

The hotel room had all the hallmarks of a detective agency, and then some.

Before the window on one of the walls was an old wooden desk and a leather armchair. In front of that was a sofa for clients and a glass coffee table, complete with ashtray. On the desk was a huge mess of documents, but most of the papers were suspicious flyers handed out on the island or leaflets advertising strange religious groups.

The room was practically built for a detective deducing his way through the island.

But unfortunately, the owner of the room barely qualified as a detective.


“Did you hear the radio, Sherlock Liverpool? A communal TV! I smell a case!”

A teardrop ran down Sherlock’s face.

“Eek! Wh-what’s wrong, Sherlock Liverpool?!” Cried Charlotte Liverpool, the self-proclaimed ace detective.

As Charlotte fretted, her young brother wiped his tear with an enlightened look.

“The fact that your thought process has devolved into complete non-sequiturs… it brought me to tears. I… I’m sorry, Charlotte. I thought I knew you well. I’m so sorry.”

“You’re apologizing to me, Sherlock Liverpool? Now this is a mystery! Let me try and fit this into Knox’s Decalogue. …But this isn’t good. There are so many Chinese people on this island that we won’t get a Knox-abiding mystery novel like this! …And come to think of it, Knox’s Decalogue is copyrighted, so you’ll get in trouble for reproducing it without permission. I smell a case!”

Knox’s Decalogue, written by Ronald Knox, was a list of rules to abide by when writing a mystery novel. One of the rules forbade the appearance of a ‘Chinaman’, which was supposedly a joke on his part that assumed Chinese people had magical powers.

But naturally, the decalogue had nothing to do with the communal TV or Sherlock’s tears.

“Wait a second. I’m not trying to write a mystery novel, am I? So where did I get Knox from? This is a mystery!”

“You’re hopeless, Charlotte. You always have been, and you always will be.”


After several minutes wiping his tears, Sherlock turned to his sister with his enlightened look.

“…So why do you smell a case from the communal TV? You’re not mistaking the smell of dust for mystery, are you?”

“Ever the comedian, Sherlock Liverpool. Dust doesn’t smell like… wait, does dust smell?”

“So what’s this about a case?” Sherlock said with an angelic smile, giving up on pointing out Charlotte’s contradictions.

“Umm… Oh! The communal TV! In Japan, it was supposedly popular in the aftermath of World War II! The Shōwa era! The Shōwa era isn’t far from the Taishō era. And when you think Taishō, you think of the novelist Ranpo Edogawa… and Kogoro Akechi, the ace detective! In other words, I smell a case in the Taishō era! Humanity is in danger!”

“Heh… The Taishō era must be a dark age for humanity in your imagination, Charlotte…”

“And when you think ‘communal TV’, the first thing that comes to your mind should be ‘pro wrestling’… They say a man called the Destroyer is exploring the limits of destruction. A serial destroyer enters the island! This calls for a detective!”

“I think it calls more for the police, really.”

Sherlock smiled pleasantly at his sister, having left behind his sanity beyond a proverbial field of flowers. Charlotte gave him a concerned look.

“What are you saying, Sherlock Liverpool? The police would never come to the island. I hope you haven’t been replaced by an impostor again—”

“Argh… no fair, Charlotte. Do you have to bring up that part of my life and come up with a clever retort at the same time?”

Veins popped over Sherlock’s saintly smile, threatening to make his countenance outright demonic.

“Oh. Umm… I’m sorry, Sherlock Liverpool. Was it something I said?”

“Keep apologizing obliviously like that, and my blood pressure’s going to skyrocket. Tee hee hee.” Sherlock said snidely. Charlotte felt a chill run down her spine—

But at that moment, the phone rang.

A distinctive sound rang from the old-fashioned rotary phone.

The phone was actually a joke item with real buttons and an LCD screen on the receiver, but ever since the siblings got a hold of it Charlotte had been enjoying her even more ‘authentic’ detective life to the fullest.

The telephone was also a prop of sorts for her role, but the sight of the phone often led clients to doubt her more than anything.

“Yes, hello? Thank you for calling Private Eye Lizard!”

Something was awkward about the greeting, but the client on the other end explained their situation anyway.

Charlotte nodded along affably. But Sherlock was struck by a sudden chill.

The only thing that would get her so pumped up was a new case.

Not many people came to their dubious little detective office, especially as money was crucial to survival on the island. So though a new job should have been cause for celebration, it only made Sherlock anxious.

Doing detective work on the island meant exposing themselves to danger.

In the past, doing an investigation made his heart feel like it would explode. But after a certain incident several months ago, he had come to trust his sister to a certain degree.

But that didn’t mean all his fears were eased.

Sherlock wondered what commotion they would be embroiled in today. Charlotte, brimming with hope and pride, hung up.

“Heh heh heh… I’ve done it! This is incredible, Sherlock Liverpool! It was a client! A job!”

“Wow. Great.” Sherlock nodded sarcastically, but on the inside he was confused and panicking about the contents of the request.

Charlotte twirled around before her brother and held her head high.

“And it’s from a Western District executive! Can you believe it?”

“What?”


“The mysterious mainlanders wreaking havoc on the island must be part of a criminal organization! We must investigate them and reveal their identity to the public! That is our mission!”


◁ ▶︎


The Case of Lihuang Ei - 1


A Chinese restaurant in the Western District.


<How goes the investigation, Taifei?>

The phone call came from Lihuang, the boss of the Western District. Taifei replied with the phone stuck between his shoulder and face, continuing to eat as he responded.

“Munch… the investigation’s going smoothly. We’re a little low on on-site info, but if I went in person I’d get chopped up and sold to a butcher. I love eating, but I’m not too enthusiastic about the opposite. That would hurt, and being hurt would make me hungry. …Munch…”

<...>

He heard an astonished sigh from the phone, but Taifei continued without a care.

“Anyway, I’ve taken some measures. You know how there are some detectives in our district? I sent them requests to look into the cases.”

<…Detectives…?>

For some reason, the voice on the phone sounded flustered.

“Munch… I know you don’t like relying on outside parties, but I said it was a personal request. Didn’t spill a thing about the group. A good intelligence officer knows when to rely on brokers… Munch… Although it does get bothersome trying to filter out all the incorrect pieces of info.”

<…Which detectives did you hire?>

“Hm? Well, there were something like four of them… Ah. I hired her too. Remember the white girl who got caught up in the Ginga Kanashima mess half a year ago? She’s been getting on well with Lilei recently.”

<...>

“Mm… this Peking duck with curry is to die for. I thought it was just an unusual combination, but you can’t judge a book by its cover! …Hm? Hello? Hello?”

Lihuang had long since hung up. Taifei furrowed his brow.

But he was quickly distracted by the new foods served at his table. He resumed eating without a second thought.

Did Taifei realize how badly he had rattled the boss of the Western District? It was impossible to tell from the smile he wore as he dug into his food.


◁ ▶︎


The Case of Nazuna Yukimura - 1


One day ago, at a martial arts dojo in the Eastern District.


There was a building in a corner of the Eastern District that was originally built as an all-in-one sports complex.

Why did an artificial island need a sports complex? No one knew, but perhaps it was meant to serve as an accessory to the small marina on the island.

In a corner of the sports complex was a martial arts dojo, complete with traditional tatami and wooden floors.

Even now, when the island was a ruin, the dojo and its rows of rooms were neat and tidy. There wasn’t a patch of mold to be seen on the tatami mats.

The sun shone through the window and hit the board walls, filling the dojo with a warm but tense light.

Though it was only a part of the sports complex, the dojo was truly a home of martial arts—and it was one of the few calm places on the island.


That was when a man dressed in white—and splattered with human blood—appeared with an awkward smile.

“H-hey there. It’s been a while.”

When the man gave a clumsy wave, the woman standing before him—Nazuna Yukimura—sighed and smiled.

“C’mon, we just saw each other the day before yesterday.”

She had short, shimmery black hair. There was a katana at her side.

That alone made her a perfect fit for the dojo.

Nazuna was a member of the Eastern District’s Guard Team, but she spent most of her time off here. She had been training alone at the dojo today after work, when the man in white—Yakumo Amagiri—appeared.

In terms of appearance they had nothing in common. But they didn’t seem to dislike or feel uncomfortable with each other.

Yakumo wondered what he should do, before plunking down on the floor in a corner of the dojo.

“Umm… don’t mind me. Keep going.”

“Are you sure? You won’t get bored?”

Nazuna had been doing iaido practice for some time. She was worried that Yakumo would get bored watching someone as unskilled as her repeat the same motions over and over, but Yakumo shook his head rhythmically and smiled.

“Not at all. Your movements… are really amazing.”

“Flattery will get you nowhere.” Nazuna laughed off the embarrassing comment.

“I don’t need to get anywhere. I’m still happy.”

Nazuna nodded at Yakumo, who was quite removed from reality, and returned to her training.

She elegantly swung her sword, again and again. The pale young man watched innocently.

It was quiet and calm.

Watching Nazuna in the evening sun, Yakumo raised his clock speed to its limit in the hopes that the moment could last forever.

That was when loud footsteps began to rumble in the distance. Several figures appeared in the corner of his vision. Disappointed, Yakumo slowly returned to normal.

“Oh! It’s Yakumo!”

“He’s back!”

Bursting into the room was a group of five or six girls. Some were as young as kindergarten-aged, while others could mingle with older elementary school children. When they spotted Yakumo and Nazuna, they ran over with glinting eyes.

“Ooh, you’re so lovey-dovey!”

“You should get married.”

“Ask her out! Confess!”

“Kiss! Kiss!”

“Do something sexy!”

As the girls chirped and chattered, Nazuna sheathed her sword with a wry smile.

“We’re not kissing yet. And Yakumo’s already confessed to me.”

“Y-you’re counting that?!”

“I don’t have an answer yet, though. We still don’t know each other very well.”

Yakumo’s pale cheeks turned beet red. He rolled around the floor in embarrassment.

The girls seemed amused by his actions. They surrounded him and began showering him with requests—”Dance, Yakumo! Dance!”, “Show us the robot dance!”, they cried.

This time, Nazuna smiled warmly.

She hadn’t regularly smiled like this until a few months ago, when Yakumo had begun visiting.


The girls at the dojo were orphans in Nazuna’s care.

At first they had been wary of Yakumo. But after he showed them some of his dance moves, they quickly warmed up to him.

Then again, even I didn’t expect him to be such a good dancer.

But is it really normal to be friendly with a man covered in blood?

On one hand, Nazuna worried about Yakumo’s potential influence on the girls. But she remembered that she herself was already on friendly terms with him, and reminded herself that she had no right to worry about the girls.

Even as she thought, the orphans busily chattered with Yakumo.


“Hey Yakumo, aren’t you giving Nazuna any presents?”

“Presents…”

Yakumo trailed off, then looked up in surprise.

“Come to think of it, when is your birthday, Miss Nazuna?”

Yakumo despised himself for not asking such an important question earlier, but he did his best to not let it show.

But Nazuna’s answer surprised him.

“I don’t have one.”

“What?”

“Well, you see… I’m an orphan, too. The person who raised me wasn’t exactly the most responsible guardian. So I don’t have a birthday.”

“…”

Nazuna’s tone was nonchalant, but the content of her words justified a full ten seconds of thought for Yakumo. It was a short time for most, but more than several minutes for him.

It was impossible to tell what he had meditated on and at what density, but after teaching the girls a few dance moves, he slowly headed for the doors.

“I’ll be going now. Can I come visit again sometime?” He asked timidly. Nazuna’s response was calm.

“Sure. But don’t pull something while I’m off-duty and lead Jun or Zhang to the dojo like last time. Then I’d be obligated to capture you.”

“Don’t worry. I’ll make sure to lose them before I drop in.” Yakumo replied, missing Nazuna’s point. He turned.

Rather than correct him, Nazuna smiled bitterly and saw him off.


Once Yakumo was gone, the girls went up to Nazuna with mischief in their eyes.

“Hey Nazuna, do you like Yakumo?”

It was a straightforward question—perhaps too much so—but Nazuna did not seem to mind.

“Hm… I don’t know. I can’t say for sure yet.”

“But you’re almost never this friendly with a guy.”

“It’s true that I don’t dislike him.” Nazuna admitted. The girls squealed.

“Wow! What do you like about him? You never liked any guys before—how’s he different?!”

“What do I like about him? …That’s a hard question to answer.”

What do I like about him?

Until the incident half a year ago, he had simply been her enemy.

But she came to understand him over the course of the incident, and he had eventually gone from ‘enemy’ to ‘friend’.

She sometimes heard that people turned down love confessions by asking to be friends. But when Nazuna said the same thing, she had meant it in an optimistic way.

However, she could not pinpoint exactly what about him it was that she liked.

Saying I just do… might be a bit mean to Yakumo.

“C’mon, Nazuna! Tell us.”

The girls refused to back down. Nazuna thought seriously for some time.

And she finally gave a reply.

“…His face, maybe?”

It was an awkwardly realistic answer.

Then again, ‘awkward’ was the perfect word to represent the state of their relationship.


◁ ▶︎


The Case of Yakumo Amagiri - 1


Upon deliberation, I came to a conclusion.

I’ll give her a gift.

Tomorrow, I’ll give her a birthday present.

Then I’ll say this.

I’m giving you the gift of a birthday. Today is your birthday. Congratulations. Happy birthday. Happy birthday. Mayday. Mayday.

…Perfect!

…Wait, what did ‘mayday’ mean again?

I’m pretty sure you say it to congratulate someone.

Now, I’m giving her the gift of a birthday to show her my love, but what should I give her as a birthday present?

What do you normally give someone on their birthday?

Clothes, maybe. But all the clothes on this island are pretty much the same.


When in doubt, ask someone.

I could consult my nap friend Lilei, but she lost a friend a few days ago. It would be rude to ask her something like this while she’s still mourning.

Come to think of it, the reason I rushed to see Miss Nazuna in the first place was because I heard Fei was murdered. I was afraid for Miss Nazuna.

Miss Nazuna is strong, but just in case.

I may be the Killer Ghoul, but I was gripped by a sense of loss when I was faced with the death of someone I knew—even if I hadn’t known her for long.

I was scared of what might happen if Miss Nazuna was put in the same situation.

I was terrified.

And I was reminded of this:

I love Miss Nazuna. This is a reality, truth, and fact all in one.

So I wanted to choose her birthday present with the utmost care. Who could I ask for help?

I had thought to myself as I climbed down from my napping spot. That was when I spotted a strange man loitering in front of the building. I also spotted the Iizuka kids running off. It seemed like they had led the man here.

He was trying to meet Lilei, he said. It seemed like he was relatively new to the island.

Perfect.

Someone who still thinks like a mainlander might know what kind of gift I should give to a girl. So I asked, and—

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


Handmade chocolate.

What does it mean?

Chocolates. That’s Valentine’s Day. I thought that was when women gave chocolates to men to confess their feelings. But wait… come to think of it, when I was a kid, there was an event where men had to give chocolates to women in return for what they got on Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day… come to think of it, I think I got about fifty chocolates the year I won that dance contest. They were delicious.

…Wait. I’m getting off-track again. Why did this man suggest giving chocolate as a birthday present? There’s a mystery here—I can smell it. Damn it. If Charlotte were here, she’d deduce her way through this case with ease.

But she said she likes me. If I asked her for help, she might get the wrong idea. …And I might end up falling for her, too. I can’t do that. I am devoted to Miss Nazuna. Even if she’s not completely sure about me.

I’m getting off-track again.

Um… Where was I… Right! Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Day. Let’s try to remember the meaning of the holiday.

I know it’s the day that someone called Saint Valentine died. Saint Valentine ignored the king’s orders and blessed marriages, and was executed as a result. …What an awful king. Killing someone for blessing a marriage? Maybe this king was more of a killer than I am. Now, what else about Saint Valentine? …Wait. I get the feeling that Valentine was actually executed for doing miracles in prison or something. Healing someone’s eyes… So doing miracles gets you executed too? This isn’t just awful, it’s terrifying. So is this what a witch hunt is? In other words, the king treated Saint Valentine like a witch? But Valentine was a saint. Who does the king think he is, calling a saint a witch? …Right. A king. But wait. Was Valentine a man or a woman? I remember they sent a letter to the last person whose eyes they healed… Why is it that I can remember trivial episodes like this and not the saint’s gender? I wonder if Saint Valentine would forgive me.

Whoops. Another tangent.

So… right. A letter.

Saint Valentine sent a letter.

A love letter.

Of course. A love letter is the first gift. The beginning of a romantic relationship.

I thanked the man and let him go.

What did he want with Lilei, anyway? He said something about a long-lost sister. I wonder if he was telling the truth.

Oh well. Lilei could take care of a man like that easily.

Now… I should think about what kind of a love letter would make Miss Nazuna happiest.

And what should I attach as a present? …This is going to be a challenge.


◁ ▶︎


The Case of Jun Sahara - 2


The theme park office in the Eastern District.


“What?”

Jun gaped, stunned and confused.

The Guard Team members who understood what the boss had said held their breaths, a variety of expressions on their faces.

Every member of the Guard Team knew that Jun admired Hayato Inui.

But everyone knew not to mention him in front of their timid captain. Not only that, there was no personal connection between Jun and Inui.

In other words, Jun came to admire Inui after seeing him from afar or while listening to the island’s radio broadcasts. At least, that was what the Guard Team believed.

“…Huh? Wh-what? Pardon?”

As the understanding dawned, Jun managed to somehow blush and pale at the same time.

“Y-you mean Mr. Inui is coming here? A-and I’m supposed to confess?! Whaaaaaat? I-I don’t understand, boss! What do you mean by that?”

“I’ve been waiting for those words! ‘Rabbits die of loneliness. Men die without love. These facts cannot be scientifically proven, but can be artistically represented’ quoth Saint Jororogis III. That is what I mean.”

“What? …Umm…”

Jun contemplated for a moment. Then—

“I… I don’t understand, boss.”

Carlos chimed in with a grin.

“So who the hell is Saint Jororogis III?”

“You mean to say you don’t know?! My god! And you call yourself a member of my Guard Team!” Gitarin sighed dramatically, his head in his hands. Carlos didn’t even blink.

“Hey, anybody got an answer for me?”

Noting that nearly everyone in the room was shaking their head, Carlos turned to his boss with a look of mock-anguish.

“Sorry boss, it looks like none of us qualify to be part of the Guard Team. We’ll just be heading out now.”

“Oh. Sorry. I’m sorry. I lied. I told a teeny tiny lie. Sorry. ‘Saint Jororogis III’ is a nickname of mine.”

“You added a ‘Saint’ to your own nickname?”

“Wait, that’s what bothers you?! Anyway, forgive me. I’m sorry.” The boss groveled. Jun raised her voice.

“A-anyway! Why is Mr. Inui coming?”

“Because I called him over.”

“Why?!” Jun demanded, just about ready to cry. Gitarin turned his gaze to the air and lowered his voice.

“Because I want to see you overcome your fluster as you quietly confess to Inui… or is that not a good enough answer?”

“It’s not just ‘not good enough’! It’s completely unconvincing, boss!” Jun raised her voice in a rare show of anger.

The other Guard Team members began whispering to one another, seeing the signs of entertainment about to begin.

“Oh, so Jun really is besotted with Inui?”

“Which century did you get that word from?”

“I guess I understand. I mean, she even has a Western District wanted poster of him posted on her wall.”

“Oh, the one the boss doodled on?”

“But Jun and that rainbow-haired freak?”

“Ahahahahaha! This is hilarious!”

“Don’t be stupid, Mii. It’s not nice to make fun of people in love.”

“But you know, Jun had a lot of chances to meet him. Why didn’t she confess earlier?”

“I-if that was physically possible for Jun, she wouldn’t be agonizing in front of us now.”

“Then again, Carlos goes around saying, ‘Yo lo amo’ to every girl he meets ‘cause they don’t know Spanish.”

“I could say it in Japanese if you’d like.”

“Hey. Forget this womanizer.”

As the members chattered on and on, Jun was struck by a dizzy spell. She staggered out of the office.

“Where’re you going, Jun?”

“I-I need to wash my face…”

Pale, Jun headed for the bathroom at the end of the hall. Perhaps she was too confused to even get angry.


Washing her face with cold water at the sink, Jun decided that she should cool down and get a hold of herself.

She stared at her reflection as she thought of how the conversation had gotten to that point.

“Let’s see…”

First, she had to get her own feelings in order.

How did she feel about Hayato Inui?


They first met several years ago.

Back then, the island still had Northern and Southern Districts, and Jun was not yet captain of the Guard Team. It was sometime then that Gitarin warned the team to be wary of a certain individual.

“He’s just a business contact. But to be honest with you, he’s a bit of a loose cannon. Watch yourselves around him.”

With that, he showed them a photograph of a certain young man, taken from a great distance.

Though his features were unclear, his rainbow-colored hair was easy to identify.

“You’re doing business with someone that dangerous, boss?” The man who had been the Guard Team captain at the time asked.

In response, Gitarin gave them a wry grin.

“We’re just exchanging information. This man essentially unified all of the Pits under his command. And after talking with him, I got a bit of a read on him. He’s the same kind of guy as Mr. Gen.”

“Did you call?” A middle-aged man in sunglasses responded from a corner of the room.

The man was toying with a grenade in his right hand and held a bottle in his left.

“…Right.”

Listening to the exchange, Jun thought that this Inui must be a terrifying individual.

Jun appreciated Mr. Gen as a member of the Guard Team, but she was well aware that he was impossible to control.

And in Inui’s case, supposedly it had only taken him a few years to bring the outlaws of the Pits under his control.

He must be someone terrifying, she thought.

And if he was as uncontrollable as Mr. Gen, it was only natural that the Guard Team be wary of him.

Jun noted the name ‘Inui’ and his seven-colored hair on the ‘to-avoid list’ in her mind. She decided to keep an eye out for him, with the determination that she would destroy him should he choose to act against the Eastern District or the island.


That night, with that determination fresh in her mind, she went out to sate her hunger.

She stepped into the ramen shop under her apartment and was slurping down her order of Etsusa Naval Warfare ramen—the most expensive item on the menu—when a certain ‘encounter’ took place.

It was a sudden, unexpected meeting—and an absurdly improbable one, to boot.

“Hey Mr. Take.”

Jun was the sole patron in the shop with only two seats.

That was when a second customer showed up and took the other seat, cheerfully greeting the owner.

Jun had just been bringing noodles towards her mouth. She hunched forward slightly so as to not bother the other patron, not looking in his direction.

But never could she have expected Mr. Take’s response to the new customer.

“Get out.”

“?!”

“You’re gonna make the lady’s ramen taste stale. Go wait outside until she’s done.”

“Whoa! That’s cruel, Mr. Take!” The man sighed, smacking his forehead.

Jun looked up at Mr. Take in confusion, but she could not read his stoic expression.

That was when the other customer spoke.

“C’mon, babe. Back me up here. Your ramen’s gonna taste just fine even if I’m around, right?”

“Oh, yes! I don’t mind at—”

Jun looked back reflexively as she responded—

“AAAAAHHH!”

—she burst out screaming, leaned back, and ended up falling out of her chair.

It was only natural—after all, she had just come face-to-face—almost literally—with the man from the photograph in all his rainbow-haired glory.

“Pah! What’d I tell ya? You scared her!”

“Uh, wait! Shit! No way! I… umm… sorry, did I scare you? Funny… I thought the rainbow would be a hit with the girls… makes me look like a fairy or something.”

“You want to be popular with girls who fawn over rainbow-haired fairies?” Mr. Take growled. The rainbow-haired man raised his head proudly.

“Sure, why not? Life’s long enough for all kinds of fun experiences!”

“The way you behave, I’d say you’re liable to get a one-way ticket to death before the day is over.”

“Well you know what? Two hours is more than enough for one movie. Long as it’s dense enough, you could call it a long time.” The man said with a childlike grin, then held out a hand to Jun.

“You all right, babe? Sorry for scaring you. While you’re forgiving me, why don’tcha become the heroine in the movie of my life? Lulz.”

“Ah—”

Jun took his hand and began to respond—

“Enough of your jokes—get outta here before the lady runs off crying!”

“Tch. Fine. I’ll come back before closing time.”

Before Jun could say a word, the man was gone.

Without an inkling of how much he knew about her position, Jun’s first meeting with Hayato Inui ended in the span of a minute.


Time had passed since then. Now they were fully aware of each other’s positions, but they had never had a chance for a proper chat. Part of that was due to Inui’s year-long absence from the island.

Even now, Jun did not have her feelings completely in order.

I admire Mr. Inui. Yeah. That much… I know.

During a certain incident on the island, Inui had been framed and had become a wanted man across the districts.

But when Jun heard the truth about the incident from Gitarin—how Inui had not only accepted the blame but also had the audacity to use it to his advantage—she was moved. That boldness was something she lacked.

But admiration was not necessarily love.

When she consulted her friend Misaki, who worked at the casino, Misaki had replied,

No! He’s just asking for trouble, Jun! You’re in enough danger as it is!

Carlos, who happened to be there, had chuckled, “Whoa, looks like someone’s seeing green.

N-no! I’m not jealous! Mr. Carlos, you idio- …Ah! EEEEEK! I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry! I lied! You’re not an idiot, Mr. Carlos! I’m the idiot!”

The conversation had ended there with Misaki’s panicked apologies, and Jun never got her answer.

But everyone on the Guard Team—with the obvious inclusion of Gitarin—seemed to recognize that there was an ambiguous issue between Jun and Inui that needed addressing.

Right. I have to set things straight.

‘I’m going to meet Mr. Inui… and figure out properly if I do like him or not.

Confessing might be a bit much. But… I have to move forward…

Being such a good-natured person, Jun decided to treat this opportunity as a gift from Gitarin.

She wondered for a moment if she should let herself move to the roar of her chainsaws, but she decided against it; it would be more meaningful to confess while in full control of her faculties.

Wiping her face with a handkerchief, Jun steeled herself and anxiously returned to the office where the others waited—with a grateful heart, just like the gentle person she was.

Thank you, boss. Thank you for giving me a chance to finally be honest with—


“One, two!”

“Lalalalala—lala—lalalalala—lala—”

“Bam-ba-bam—ba-bam—”

“Dadadadadatsktsksii—tsktsksii—”

“Nananananana—nananananananana—nana—nana—nanana—”

A bizarre chorus of voices greeted her when she returned to the office.

Gitarin was flourishing a conductor’s baton, and the Guard Team was singing sounds in rhythm like a group of human instruments.

It was an eerie sight.

What dazed her even more was the fact that the noise almost sounded like a coherent piece of music.

“Umm… what are you doing, boss?”

“Ah, you’re back.”

Gitarin lowered his hands, and the Guard Team went silent in unison.

As Jun watched nervously, Gitarin held his head high.

“What else? Prepping the BGM.”

“What?”

“You won’t get much of an atmosphere without any music. Sorry to pop this on you so suddenly, but we need you to accept the team’s collective love power and become a great skier ranking at about 700 million on the superhuman scale.”

“S-superhuman scale? A skier?! I… umm… wasn’t I supposed to… uh… meet Mr. Inui alone?” Jun asked, managing to form a question in the midst of her confusion.

“WHAT?!”

Gitarin was utterly baffled.

Jun nervously looked around. The Guard Team members exchanged glances.

Then they beamed and gave her a thumbs-up in unison.

“I don’t understand! A-and where’s Mr. Zhang?”

Zhang was usually the one to put a stop to zany schemes like this, but when Jun realized he was nowhere to be found, she became even more afraid.

“He said he was done with this and went off to eat.”

“N-no way! …Huh?”

At that point, Jun noticed the pink booklets the other Guard Team members were holding.

“…What’re those?”

“Primers. The boss just handed them out.”

“Primers for what?” Jun wondered, borrowing a copy from a nearby member and skimming the title.

She fell to her knees.

‘The Lovey-Dovey Jun Sahara Operation! ~The roar of the engines echo through the hot spring steam. The scent of death on the Love-Love Chainsaw~’

“…”

As she dropped the booklet, Jun landed on the ground and screamed—out loud and internally.

She gaped at Gitarin, but he was already holding up a video camera and humming.

“Hm-hmhmhmhm~ Lights, camera, action?”

“What?”

Held in his hand was a camcorder from the mainland. It was the latest model on the market.

“Wait! Don’t shoot! Wh-why do you have a video camera running, boss?!” Jun complained, almost in tears. Gitarin flashed a confident grin.

“Hah hah hah! You’re forcing my hand, Jun. Check the back of the booklet.”

“The back?”

Jun scrambled to pick up the fallen booklet and scanned the back cover.


‘Sponsored by Buruburu Airwaves’


“…Um… What is going on here?”

“You know, Jun. The Western District’s population’s surged recently thanks to the volunteer police and Kuzuhara, and Yili playing nice. They still charge protection fees, but it’s not even the Western District’s main source of income so it shouldn’t be a problem in the first place.”

“…Right.”

“But the thing is, if we invite rich people from the mainland to our casino, all they’ll see over eastside is a deserted district. And on top of that, we’ve got a load of dirty and not-so-dirty skeletons in our closet.”

It was unusual for Gitarin to be so earnest about his position as a boss. Jun was confused, but she continued to listen.

“And so, I had an idea! What is it that the Eastern District lacks? Love!”

“…”

The Guard Team members stared at Gitarin, who had just now been discussing heavy organization politics. Jun, overwhelmed by his energy, whispered “Love…” under her breath.

“Which is why I want to announce to the island via the radio and the new communal TV at the fountain… that the Eastern District is home to an innocent and adorable girl like you, and your love!”

“B-but boss! I’m not adorable! And I’m not—”

“The Eastern District=Love! I’m going to need you to become the island’s idol and draw every eye in the city!” Gitarin raved, without even waiting for Jun to retort “According to my schedule, three minutes after your confession, you and Inui will kiss.”

“W-wait a second!”

“Five minutes later, the wedding ceremony begins! This is where Inui declares, ‘Our love is only just beginning!’!”

“That line wouldn’t surprise me, but boss! A wedding?!”

Gitarin’s enthusiastic discussion plowed forward. Jun could not respond. The other Guard Team members watched, holding their breaths, but the more impatient ones were already whispering, “Hey, can we get a bridal registry going on the island?” or “Yamato the transporter could pull it off…”.

Jun wondered then if all her firsts—first confession, kiss, and even marriage—would be offered up to Inui.

How many in the Guard Team had noticed the glint in Gitarin’s eye?

“And the moment they kiss, the doors open.”

“—I’m not ready to get ma-… what?”

“From the doors emerges… me. Holding a massive cross in my hands. Yes! A gigantic, cross-shaped chainsaw! And with this, I turn Inui to dust! Heh heh heh heh heh.”

“Wait, boss?”

Gitarin received a sizeable package from his lovers and took out a large object.

A massive, ornately decorated cross.

One side of the cross was a large blade. It was about double the thickness of Jun’s chainsaw.

“What the hell is that?!” The Guard Team members cried in shock. Gitarin chuckled.

He snickered.

He laughed.

Madly, sickly.

“Heh heh heh heh heh. What do you think? I got a mainland client to get this custom-made for me. For only 7 million yen out of my own pocket!”

“Umm… boss?”

“Yes! The Love-Love Chainsaw that smells like death, which is part of the title of the script. This title was a deception on my part to make viewers believe that the chainsaw in the title is referring to Jun’s weapon. But the truth is, my own chainsaw is the Love-Love Chainsaw in question!”

So the Love-Love Chainsaw was a proper noun…’ Everyone thought, but they all knew that there were more important things to point out.

Yet the sheer number of things that they could point out prevented any of them from breaking their silence.

“Heh heh heh… In front of thousands, I will force Inui to kiss dirt—and death.”

“Boss? Snap out of it!” Jun cried, shaking Gitarin by the shoulders, but he dramatically placed his own hands on her shoulders.

“I may use you as a pawn of the Organization, Jun. But it’s also true that I care for you as if you were my own daughter.”

“Way to be blunt, boss.”

“That’s not really a problem, though.” “Ahahahahahaha! Literally a pawn?”

“Hey, maybe that’s it!” “Wait, so it’s not ‘pawn’ as in ‘pawnshop’? Hah hah hah hah!”

“Then I suppose that makes me a very expensive pawn.” “Go get ‘em, Mr. Gen!”

“That’s right… I am a diamond pawn!” “That just screams nouveau riche!” “Go get ‘em, Mr. Gen!”

Gitarin ignored the Guard Team’s prattling and looked into the air dramatically.

“But even Jun, who is like a daughter to me, will someday marry and begin a new life with another. As her guardian, I wish for Jun’s happiness. But to think I’ll have to hand her to the mad dog… Simply put, it makes me unfathomably jealous!”

Jealous?!” Jun cried, starting off a round of criticism.

“So that’s the reason behind your petty hatred of Inui?!”

“I thought you were being pretty cold to Inui! I assumed you had a better reason!”

“Ahahahahaha! The boss is such an idiot!”

“This is about as dangerous as the 20000th digit of pi.”

“Zzz…”

“…I can’t say I don’t sympathize.”

“Th-that’s enough, Mr. Gen.”

Gitarin continued to completely ignore the voices filling the room and continued.

“As a father figure to Jun, I want to respect her choices wherever possible. So I won’t try to stop you from loving him, Jun! All I have to do is kill him, and my problems will be solved!”

“Please, boss! This just… isn’t like…”

Jun remembered at that point that this was precisely the type of man Gitarin was, and corrected herself.

“No, well… this is like you, boss. But killing Mr. Inui is just… I mean, from a human perspective…”

“What are you trying to say, Jun? If you’ve got an opinion, speak up! Hee hee!” Gitarin grinned and hit the switch on his cross-chainsaw.


BRRRRRRRRRRRRMMMMMM.


Had he forgotten in the midst of his excitement? Or had he been planning this from the very brginning?

The roar of the engine awakened a certain kitten.

The ferocious kitten that surfaced as Jun’s emotional high. On its collar was the name ‘Exhilaration’.

The kitten sensed the foreign engine and began to claw at Jun from the inside.

“…Heh heh… Hah hah hah hah hah…”

“Hm?”

Her gaze emerged from behind her bangs.

A grinning demon seemed to dance madly around Jun as her arms flew up like a pair of spring-loaded toys.

How had she pulled them out of the cases on her back? She was already holding in her hands a pair of unusual chainsaws.

“…Ahahaha!”

With a roar, Jun pulled the throttle.


BRRRRRRRRRRRRRM.


And the office was soon filled with the rumbling of three engines.


◁ ▶︎


The Case of Nazuna Yukimura - 2


The entrance to the theme park.


“Okay, I admit I hit it big at the casino today. But aren’t you kicking me out a couple minutes too soon?” Complained the rainbow-haired man. Nazuna sighed.

“I heard you got into a scuffle with a shady group not too long ago. We can’t have them charging into the casino and causing a scene.”

“It’s fine. They’re chumps; your usual security could hand ‘em their asses on a platter.”

“We’d rather avoid fighting altogether in the casino; one of the employees is the type to attract gunfire, unfortunately.” Nazuna said firmly, the end of her sheath against her shoulder. “And before all that, the boss called you over. …What in the world is going through his mind?”

“What’s he want with me? ‘You’re startin’ to be a real pain in the ass, Inui, gonna sic the Guard Team on you’? Creepy. But it actually sounds interesting, now that I imagine it.”

“If the boss wanted you dead, Carlos would have put a bullet in your skull already.”

“Whoa. Scary.” Inui chuckled. But Nazuna knew well that he was always on guard.

Though Inui seemed simply like a flippant young man, he was a person of interest to the Eastern District. A potential threat who once ruled the Pits.

Nazuna had brought him along after her shift at the casino, but as they approached the theme park office she heard something vaguely familiar.

Engines?

Something squirmed in the pit of her stomach. She fixed her gaze on the office.

The roar of Jun’s chainsaws, and another roar from an unfamiliar engine. And the sounds of shattering glass and something being carved away. Nazuna and Inui both heard it all.

They went around to the side entrance and opened the door, getting a good look at the commotion inside.


Surrounded by the rumbling of three engines, Jun was swinging her chainsaws in a euphoric trance. Gitarin, who was holding a massive cross-shaped chainsaw, was busy trying to avoid the swings under the protection of his two bodyguards.

In the background was Mr. Gen with a veritable armory of grenades on hand. The Guard Team members around him were desperately trying to prevent him from pulling the pins.


“…”

“…”

After a moment’s silence, Inui spoke.

“Looks like they’re having a blast.”

“…Umm… Yeah. It looks like they’ll be busy. I think you can go home for today.” Nazuna said plainly. But Inui was teetering at the doorway, clenching his fists in anticipation.

“Shit! Shoulda come earlier… I have no idea what’s going on now, and that means I can’t jump in in the most entertaining way possible!” He hissed.

Nazuna sighed, ready to tell him to leave—

“Seriously! What. The. Hell? I’ve always dreamed of a scene like this! It’s like the second half of ‘From Dusk Till Dawn’! Dammit, now I’m itchin’ for some action… Somebody tell me who I should side with for maximum cool factor!”

Inui was so excited that he was even shaking Nazuna by the shoulders.

“Wh-what?” Nazuna breathed, sensing the stress building up in her head.

Amidst the sound of engines and destruction, she wondered how she should silence the mad dog—

“What’s happening here, I wonder?”

Another voice joined them from behind, turning the air to ice.

“You’re not trying to do something terrible to Miss Nazuna, are you? For example… hitting on her. You couldn’t be trying to do something so awful, right?”

Inui felt a chill run down his spine.

It wasn’t the exhilarating rush of staring down the barrel of Kugi’s gun. It was pure terror.

Realizing the identity of the man behind him, Inui turned with a shrug.

“Is this your girlfriend? Sorry, man.”

Wait, he’s not as scary as before.’ Inui thought, inwardly breathing a sigh of relief. But—

“She’s my friend. We’re starting off as friends.”

The sense of relief was instantly shattered by the Killer Ghoul’s gaze.

His eyes were clear, but endlessly dark and deep.

Heh. Spoke too soon.

“Okay, okay. I lose to the power of your friendship. You know what? Your friendly friendship moved me to the point that I think I’m gonna take off like Melos, the symbol of friendship. Although I’m not gonna be back in three days like in the show!”

With a thumbs-up, Inui ran for his life.

A near-death experience from several years ago had flashed through his thoughts.

Can’t go dying so soon, now.

Inui put on a wry grin when he realized that he was enjoying even the terror of death, and at the same time made sure the information in his pocket was still safe and secure.


“Grk… I want to go after him, but right now Miss Nazuna comes first.”

When the dog leapt over the theme park wall and disappeared from sight, the Killer Ghoul flinched and turned back to Nazuna.

“W-w-wait, Miss Nazuna. I know I said ‘right now’, but… I lied. Actually… I always… um…”

“Don’t worry about it. …What are you doing all the way here, anyway? If Zhang catches you, there’s going to be a big commotion.”

“Y-yeah.”

The Killer Ghoul—Yakumo Amagiri—shyly averted his gaze and put on a dark smile.

“Miss Nazuna… Today, you are going to be born anew. Heh heh heh.”

There was a moment of silence. Several seconds passed before Nazuna finally broke the ice.

“…Why do I get the feeling I’m about to be murdered or imprisoned and my hands and feet hacked off?”

“…I think I just messed up.”

“I know. Don’t worry about it.” Nazuna said, having come to understand Yakumo’s personality more in the past few months. “So, what is it?”

Yakumo looked around nervously before handing her an envelope.

“Umm… So. Well… Happy birthday, Miss Nazuna.”

“Huh?”

“I’m giving you a present. A birthday. So your birthday is today… Hmm… Maybe I should have picked a special day instead? I can wait for a day you like, if you want.”

“…”

“So my normal gift is a birthday. And that letter is your birthday gift… It’s complicated, but congratulations.”

At first, Nazuna did not understand.

But she remembered the conversation from the other day. Nazuna recovered from her surprise and held up the envelope.

“Can I open it?”

“Sure.”

Yakumo nodded. Nazuna pulled out the contents of the envelope. It must have been a rather rushed job, as the envelope was not even sealed.

On the letter was a simple handwritten sentence.


‘I would like to confess my love to you, so please come out to the TV at the fountain square tonight at 12.’


“…”

“…”

Silence fell over them again.

But this time, it meant something different to Nazuna.

Yakumo looked nervous, as though he had crossed a line he should not have crossed. Nazuna looked him in the eye.

“A birthday, huh.” She whispered to break the silence. “Do you think… I deserve to have a day to celebrate? Just like other people?”

“Of course.”

“Remember what I said before? About how I killed people on the boss’s orders?”

“…”

“The girls at the dojo seem like they know what I’ve done. But none of them will mention it.”

A dark look came over Nazuna’s face.

It was a look of surrender. An expression so subdued for a realization that it almost seemed like self-loathing.

“I want to tell you. …Some of those girls—I’m the one who killed—”

But Yakumo cut her off.

“No.”

“What?”

“I understand what you’re trying to say. But… that’s not something you should tell me yet. Because we don’t know each other well enough.”

There was an unusually grave look in his eye.

Though Yakumo was always serious, his gaze had never been so strong.

“So… I’d be happy if you’ll tell me after we start dating—once I understand you better and I can be your pillar of support.”

Nazuna almost fell into silence for the third time.

But she grinned and raised her head.

“I see. You’re right. Sorry for trying to vent.” Nazuna said with her usual confidence. And she looked at Yakumo’s letter with a hint of a smile.

“But you know… you already confessed.”

“…I guess you could say that.”

“You could have just honestly said you wanted to go on a date.”

“Actually, I wanted to enclose a present with the letter. But I couldn’t think of anything.”

Such a way of thinking was very much like Yakumo. Nazuna understood.

“You’re giving me so many presents.”

“So I decided that my present will be me.”

“…”

“Tonight, I’m going to go wherever you want to go, and help you with anything you need. I haven’t really decided on a time limit… but I guess until you’re satisfied, Miss Nazuna.”

He was practically forcing his presence onto her.

It sounded almost like what a stalker would say, but Yakumo had no malicious or benevolent intentions. If Nazuna refused, he would simply apologize.

But Nazuna understood his twisted sense of innocence. So she repeated herself.

“You could have just honestly said you wanted to go on a date.”

Setting aside her past and her reality, she simply flashed Yakumo a smile.

“All right. I have tomorrow off, so we can have fun until morning.”


“…!!!”

Yakumo felt as though he had been jolted.

The Killer Ghoul raised his clock speed to the limit and lengthened out several seconds of time to near-infinity. And he carved that moment of joy into the eternity in his heart.

Engines were still roaring in the background.


In a setting very, very far from romance,

One man found euphoria,

And one woman found a small happiness.

And the slightest hint of sweetness filled the island’s air.


◁ ▶︎


The Case of the Detective Siblings - 2


Night had fallen on the island, but a head of sunshine gold bobbed along the back alleys of the Western District.

This particular area was quite close to the Eastern District border, which meant the volunteer police did not patrol it as much. Supposedly the Chinese mafia that ruled the district guarded the area instead, but they never surfaced unless necessary.

It was a setting both dull and eerie. But the one who wore that head of golden hair declared confidently to the black-haired brother walking behind her—

“Now we begin to tail the suspect, Sherlock Liverpool!”

“We don’t even have a suspect to tail, Charlotte. Let’s go home already.”

“What? But our tailing is only just beginning!”

“Where’d you pick up that phrase?”

Whether or not she’d heard her brother’s resigned sigh, Charlotte squeaked energetically.

“Not only that, we received that anonymous phone call!”

“Huh? …Oh, right. The one after the client. You were finished with that one pretty quick. What did they say?”

“Would you believe it, Sherlock Liverpool? He simply said, ‘Drop this case if you value your life’! Then he hung up!”

“All right. I’m with our anonymous caller.” Sherlock declared. He took Charlotte’s hand and turned to leave.

“W-wait, Sherlock Liverpool! Cases don’t happen at home! They happen on the scene!”

“The biggest case in my life is the case of whatever is going on in your head, Charlotte.”

But at that moment, Sherlock’s keen senses seemed to catch something. He stopped without thinking and covered Charlotte’s mouth.

“Mmph?”

“Quiet.”

He pulled her into an alleyway—

And spotted a group of men hurrying over.

They quickly passed by the Liverpool siblings, who stood holding their breaths.

“Which way?”

“The fountain square.”

“We’ll take him down.”

It was clear from their voices and eyes that they were ready to kill.

Sherlock was anxiously holding Charlotte against himself, but once the men were gone he felt a different sort of anxiety.

“S-Sorry, Charlotte. Are you all right?” He asked, quickly letting go of her.

Charlotte didn’t seem at all affected by the embrace. She looked in the direction the men had gone, as enthusiastic as ever.

“I smell a case!”

“I do too. So let’s get out of here!”

“No! If a detective knows a case is going to happen, it is her sworn duty to stop it. A detective shouldn’t be praised for solving a case if she knew beforehand that it would happen!”

The glint in her eye was already rushing off after the men.

But Sherlock—though he couldn’t help himself sighing—tried to stop her.

“Look, Charlotte. I know I’ve been lecturing you about this forever, but… isn’t there anyone you love?”

“W-where did that come from, Sherlock Liverpool?! I… I did sometimes and didn’t sometimes…” Charlotte stammered, turning red. But Sherlock continued gravely.

“Then suppose there’s someone who loves you just as much as you love him. How do you think he’d feel if you threw yourself in harm’s way and died or got hurt?”

“…”

Charlotte was quiet. For some reason, Sherlock felt guilt weighing on his heart.

But he had to be blunt. He could not sugarcoat things. That was when Charlotte broke her silence.

“Sherlock Liverpool.”

“Wha- yeah? Do you understand?”

“Thank you for reminding me. When I thought about all the people who love me and the people I love… I realized that I must press forward after all.”

“Why?!”

Charlotte smiled, a little bittersweetly. Sherlock had known her long enough to understand how she felt, but he did not want to acknowledge it.

“Because… I love this island and the people on it.”

It was Sherlock’s turn to be silent.

Then, Charlotte landed the final blow.

“I care about the people here just as much as you care for me, Sherlock Liverpool.”

“…”

Charlotte.

Without a hint of an ulterior motive, she cut to his very heart.

Charlotte… you really are cruel.’ He thought to himself.

How many times had they repeated this exchange since they arrived on the island?

Thirty-five times.

The fact that he remembered meant that he had counted over thirty times as well.

Yet each time, the fire in his heart remained unchanged.

Sherlock reminded himself—

That he was a hopeless fool, that his sister was innocent but cruel,

And that, being the fool he was, he loved that cruel sister of his.


◁ ▶︎


The Case of Lihuang Ei - 2


In a dark room.


Looking over the island at night, Lihuang Ei lost himself in the past.

He had thought that he was only ever permitted to breathe an air damp with the scent of blood.

For as long as he could remember, he had been raised as a potential organization executive. He had never set foot in a school, raised only in the closed world of the Ei family.

When he came to the island, he thought that he had finally stepped into a new world. But nothing had changed. The island was even cruder than the Ei family. The air itself was hopeless.

That’s right. This is the only air I need.

He realized that fact at a young age.

No matter how strong he became, so long as he was raised in a world like this he would inevitably end up throwing himself into an even bloodier world.

And if he ran, he would be pursued as a traitor.

Then again, he never even wanted to consider that option.

In that world, there was only one person who possessed a different ‘color’.

The blue-eyed woman. Yili and Lilei’s mother.

Supposedly she was a mistress of his father’s from England. She had been kicked out of the house immediately after giving birth to Yili.

Though Lihuang’s memories of her were hazy, he remembered that in the air of the Ei family, she alone was kind. She had tried to be like a mother to Lihuang, who had lost his own much earlier.

Lihuang could not bear that fact.

Though he was only a child, it had bothered him that someone ‘different’ was being so kind to him. He had feared that, if he let himself be colored by the air around her, he would be cast away from his father and his world.

So when the woman disappeared, he had breathed a sigh of relief.

Or at least, he thought he had.

Even when he heard several years later that she had died, and when he heard that Yili’s sister was on the island, it simply bothered him—and nothing else.

But the arrival of Lilei—a girl who had absolutely no regard for the air around him—and his meeting half a year prior with a certain young woman slowly but dramatically began to change his life.

And because he had no idea if the change was positive or negative, Lihuang resolved to quietly accept it. Until the day he found his answer.


When he boarded the car in the hotel’s underground parking lot alongside his bodyguards, his cell phone began to vibrate.

<Hey, about that gang from before. It looks like they’re fighting Kugi in the Eastern District… Munch.>

Taifei was reporting in, as relaxed as ever.

“I see. We’re on our way.”

“In person? …You never did mind getting your hands dirty. Munch… You’re the boss now, so hold yourself back—is what I’d say out of principle. But I’m letting you go because I’m curious—are you hoping to die in battle? Do you just enjoy these things like the elders do? Or do you not think at all about these things, just like Lilei?>

“It doesn’t matter. This island’s small enough that where I go doesn’t affect things in the slightest. …And are you worrying about me? That’s not like you at all, Taifei.”

<If I were worried about you, I would have been nicer about it. …Munch… By the way, I noticed something interesting on the security feed.>

“What?”

<The detective… Munch… You know, the blond one.>

“…! I see. I pray she isn’t caught in the crossfire.”

<Hm? So Yili was right about you and the girl?>

“Don’t make me laugh. That woman’s very presence screams that the Western District is hospitable even for the most brainless of fools. If we lost her, it would affect morale among the volunteer police and the residents.”

<And that’s why you went to the trouble of calling her ‘anonymously’ just now?>

“…! Taifei! You bastard…”

<I recall teaching you how to make untraceable phone calls. You must have been pretty desperate if you even forgot that. I’ll take this secret to the grave, of course, but I think people should be free to date whoever they want. And you know, that girl’s a dead ringer for Yili and Lilei’s—>

Lihuang hung up. He struggled to regain his composure before commenting loudly enough for his bodyguards to hear.

“…Asking for a dozen new restaurants at the hotel… the nerve of that bastard.”

After lying through his teeth, Lihuang put on a fake smile and quietly fell into thought.

The bodyguards all knew that Lihuang was lying, and that he had—without realizing—begun to obsess over the blond girl from several months earlier. But they remained silent. Without a hint of derision or laughter, as though declaring that they were loyal to their boss no matter his choices.

Though it was unclear if he was aware of his subordinates’ consideration, Lihuang fell into thought.

Taifei… one of these days, I am going to wring the fat out of him.

But his intelligence is too crucial to lose… I can’t turn him against me.

And not only that… he thinks I am free to court anyone. Foolishness.

At that point, a question rose to his mind.

Perhaps he had held some admiration for Yili and Lilei’s western mother.

And that perhaps he felt the same way towards the blue-eyed detective, who also refused to blend into the hostile air around herself.

Impossible.

A girl like her?

…What does it matter?

Women mean little to me.

It does not matter whom I love. Not in the least.

Lihuang’s expression did not budge as he departed for the battlefield to put his life on the line.

—so the innocent smile playing at the corner of his lip also remained.


◁ ▶︎


The Case of Everyone


Somewhere in the Eastern District.


About 20 minutes before the detective siblings spotted the suspicious men—

“Ohh…”

Jun breathed a heavy sigh as she walked down the alley in the middle of the night.

Only when all three chainsaws had run out of fuel did she realize the state of the office.

Miraculously, Gitarin was the only one injured in the chaos. But the room itself looked as though an alien and a predator had dueled their way through a typhoon in the office.

That was cause enough for depression, but—

Inui? He saw the commotion here and left a while ago.

Nazuna’s explanation was what upset Jun the most.

He saw me acting like… that.

Of all the times for him to visit…

Though her sense of reason had been intact, she had flown into an otherworldly rage—and Inui had seen it all. The thought gave Jun no end of embarrassment.

She did not dislike how she behaved in her chainsaw high. But of all the scenes to show Inui, it had to be the one where she was swinging her chainsaws at her own boss in the office. Anyone who saw would think she was trouble.

With a series of sighs, she walked through the island at night.

So in the end, I never got to talk with Mr. Inui…

How am I supposed to face him?

And before that, Jun lived on the artificial island and loved the island itself. Did she even have the right to date people, Jun wondered.

Inui was a sort of symbol of the island. Perhaps that was why she admired him.

But that was also a problem in and of itself. Jun did not know if it was even allowed for someone like her to feel love toward a symbol of the island.

Jun wandered the streets with a heaping helping of self-hatred on her plate.

And that was when her cell phone rang.


<Ahahahaha! Hey, Jun! It’s Mii! How are you? Don’t feel down, okay? Ahahaha!>

A smile rose to Jun’s face at the sound of her smile-happy subordinate’s voice.

<You know, you know, apparently there’s a shootout going on at the building complex in the buffer zone near the Western District! You know, with Inui and Kugi, that guy from the West! Bang! Bang! Bang! Ahahahahaha!>

Jun didn’t understand what it was Mii found so funny, but she understood the information.

Quickly switching gears, she ran towards the scene.

But even in this new mindset, a part of her was disquieted by the promise of Inui’s presence.


◁ ▶︎


When his cell phone beeped, Yakumo Amagiri opened his eyes.

“…Yawn… Oh. Five minutes already? One hour to midnight… I should get going.”

Getting up as though five minutes of sleep were enough for him, he crept down the side of the building so as to not wake the girl sleeping in the middle of the rooftop.

On the way, the Killer Ghoul looked up at the night sky and thought to himself.

The stars are beautiful tonight.

Just gazing up like this with Miss Nazuna would be more than enough for me.


◁ ▶︎


“…Am I too early?”

Meanwhile, Nazuna Yukimura was already at the fountain.

She had never been on a date before (although she had pretended to be on one for a Guard Team mission), so she did not even know how early she should be there.

She did not have to worry about the girls at the dojo, as at night she always left them to someone she trusted.

What worried her, however, was where she should suggest going that night.

Maybe we could find a quiet place to go stargazing together?

Yakumo might make fun of me if I said that.

It was a strange point of consensus. But at that point, Nazuna spotted something out of the corner of her eye.

“Huh?”

Someone’s here. …Oh, it’s Inui.

When she saw the flash of rainbow hair, Nazuna decided for the moment to leave.

Inui hadn’t noticed her yet, it seemed. And it would be best that he never did.

If we started chatting and Yakumo showed up… this time he really might kill Inui.


◁ ▶︎


By the time Jun arrived at the building complex, a group of men were splayed out on the ground. Western District men dressed in black were rounding them up.

Realizing it would be a pain if they spotted her, Jun took cover in the distance and decided to observe for the moment—when she spotted a certain figure out of the corner of her eye.

The island’s very own Killer Ghoul, whose white clothes were dyed red at the hem.

Mr. Amagiri. What’s he doing here?

After Nazuna started contacting him, Yakumo Amagiri had caused considerably less trouble in the Eastern District. But he remained a person of interest to the Guard Team. They still worried that Yakumo might end up hurting Nazuna or worse.

Does Mr. Amagiri have something to do with this?

Though she was doubtful, Jun quietly followed after him.


◁ ▶︎


When Lihuang arrived at the retrieval site, he personally scrutinized the bodies lying on the ground.

“Weak. You mean to tell me these peons are running amok on the island, doing as they please?”

He did not bother trying to hide his abhorrence, glaring at the bodies. At that moment, he spotted a kitten out of the corner of his eye.

The kitten of the Eastern District. What is she doing here…?

At that moment, the captain of the Guard Team took off toward the center of the island.

Does she have something to do with this?

Suspicious, Lihuang quietly followed after her with four bodyguards in tow.


◁ ▶︎


“Maybe I’m a little early. …Huh? What’s going on over there?”

When Yakumo arrived at the fountain square, Inui and Kugi happened to be engaged in an all-out brawl.

Neither of them were using their guns, but both dogs were going out of their way to aim for each other’s vitals.

Yakumo watched with disinterest and decided it would be a bother if he were to be caught up in the fray. He headed up to the second floor of the mall.

“I don’t really care, but I hope they finish before midnight. I wouldn’t want our date to get interrupted.”


A second later—

A group of newcomers crashed into the scene, and a gunshot resounded across the square.


◁ ▶︎


When Jun arrived at the square as she chased after Yakumo, she spotted Inui and Kugi, surrounded by armed men.

“?!”

She froze, but quickly regained her composure—she was the captain of the Guard Team, after all—and assessed the situation.

Inui looked as laid-back as ever.

Kugi didn’t seem to have any expression to begin with.

I have to do something…

Quickly, she drew her chainsaws. But she stopped before she could start the engine.

Jun remembered what had happened that afternoon.

Would it really be all right for her to show something so unsightly to Inui again?

The question plagued her thoughts.


But—

Only for one tenth of a second.

If she refused to act just because she was afraid of seeming unsightly, she had no right to be the Guard Team’s captain. Jun’s body, thoughts, and the engine in her soul knew that fact full well.

As she moved, another question rose to her mind.

Was she, the captain of the Guard Team, justified in crashing a fight involving Inui and this unknown group?

But Jun shot down the question with a simple answer.

Right now… I’m off-duty!


She pulled the throttle.

She was starting the engine on her unquestionable determination.

In other words, the ‘Jun’ who stood amidst the roar of the engines was also unquestionably herself.

There would be no point in receiving Inui’s love if she had to hide that fact about herself.


And, allowing work to get personal, Jun let her engines roar.


◁ ▶︎


BRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRM.


“Jun?”

Nazuna, who had been watching the battle from the shadows, flinched at the sound of engines—and quickly spotted Jun leaping into the fray.

“…Was she tailing Inui all this time? She must really like him.”

It was a misunderstanding, but not completely.

Oh well. I have a date of my own waiting after this.

I still don’t know if I’ll be able to love Yakumo…

But I guess I should go help out Jun, for luck!

And she burst forward.

Without a sound, concealing her every footstep—

Nazuna became a gust of wind and threw herself into battle for the most selfish of reasons.


◁ ▶︎


“Miss Nazuna?!”

Yakumo, who had been watching from the second floor, screamed when he spotted Nazuna. And before he knew it, he was running.

My god… What is Miss Nazuna doing here so early? …Wait, did I write “11” on the letter? That’s not good.

No. Before all that… I hope Miss Nazuna doesn’t get the wrong idea and think I lured her into a trap. But that’s exactly what it looks like! I invite her out with a letter, and when she shows up, she sees a bunch of men armed with guns… It obviously looks like a trap!

Oh no. Oh no. How do I resolve this misunderstanding?

'Aha. I get it.

I just have to kill them all!

But to be honest… I don’t care if she misunderstands.

Even if she gets the wrong idea and ends up killing me…

I have to protect Miss Nazuna.

Because I love her.


◁ ▶︎


“Goddammit! Who are those freaks?!

The men who were on standby outside the square began to panic.

“Nobody warned us about this… This island’s full of monsters!”

“…Looks like we’ll have to resort to gas.” Said one of the men. In his hand was an object shaped like a grenade.

It seemed to be a weapon that sprayed nerve gas into its surroundings. The man made to pull the pin—

“Hold it!”

A proud but un-intimidating voice shouted from behind them.

When the men turned, they saw an energetic young blonde who was a poor match for the island’s air.

“Who the hell are you?”

“Heh heh heh… The criminal is among us!”

She was failing to read the flow. The men exchanged glances.

“…Who is this bimbo?”

“Good timing. Maybe if we take her hostage, some of those freaks inside’ll stop.”

The men grinned, pulling out guns from their jackets.

“So, who’s guilty of what now?”

“Umm… violation of gun control laws…?”


Sherlock, who had been watching the perilous scene from the shadows, was waiting for an opportunity with a gun in hand. He was hiding opposite Charlotte, and was hidden from the men.

There were three targets.

If he did not take them out—with one shot each—he and Charlotte were both finished.

Sherlock was not a remarkably good marksman, and he was afraid he wouldn’t make the shots. But time did not wait for him.

All right. Now!

The moment the men’s eyes focused on his sister, Sherlock made to step in—

But his charge was interrupted by a man who passed by him without a sound.


“Your crime is daring to breathe on my island.”


“What…?”

By the time the voice reached the men’s ears, it was already too late.

Their hands, still wrapped around their guns, fell heavily to the ground.

Blood began spurting from their wrists—


“And your sentence… is death.”


Before the men could even scream, blood gushed from their necks.

The man at the source of that violence did not even flinch. His broadsword dripping with blood, he whipped the tassel against the ground.


“It’s you…”

When he heard Charlotte’s voice behind him, Lihuang smiled bitterly at his own actions.

Going out of my way to save a girl like her? It seems I still have a long way to go.

But ultimately, he had committed murder before the girl’s eyes.

It seemed that this air of blood was the only kind he was allowed to breathe after all.

Now, scream.

Fear me.

Fear this island.

On this island, there is nothing more fitting for a woman like you than the sound of wailing.

Slowly, he turned to look at Charlotte—

When she grasped his hands and flashed him an innocent smile.

“Thank you! You rescued me!”

“Wha…”

“And you called the office this evening, too! I knew I recognized your voice! You were trying to keep us safe from harm!”

Charlotte showed no hint of fear before the blood-covered man with sharp eyes. And yet again, she destroyed the air he had built up around himself.

Lihuang had no idea how he should take that fact. In fact. he was unable to meet her gaze. He looked away awkwardly and spat,


“Don’t misunderstand. It’s not like I was doing this for you.”


Watching everything from the back, Sherlock was struck by a certain word.

…Tsundere…?

But out of fear for his own life, he decided to hold his tongue.


◁ ▶︎


Once she was reasonably certain that she had taken care of most of the rabble, Nazuna rushed out of the square before she was caught up in the cleanup.

A certain figure quickly caught up to her like a shadow.

Nazuna stopped once she turned into an alleyway and smiled at the pursuer in white.

“You came to help.”

“Was that unnecessary? …It must have been. I know you’re strong, Miss Nazuna, so I knew you didn’t really need any help… but I still wanted to lend you a hand.”

Yakumo continue to ramble at length before finally concluding with, “—no, that’s not what I was trying to say…” And falling into self-loathing.

Nazuna looked at him curiously, fascinated.

“Thank you.” She simply said.

Yakumo’s eyes shone as though that was all the reciprocation he ever needed.

Nazuna’s expression returned to normal, and she asked,

“So where are we off to?”

“It’s up to you, Miss Nazuna.”

“…Hmm… I think Mr. Iizuka from the Western District should just about be starting his night fishing session.”

Nazuna called on all her knowledge about the island to think of something, and ultimately let her initial idea shine through.

“I like fishing at night, too. I’m not good at it, but maybe we can just set up a couple of poles and have a chat under the stars… or maybe that’s a little boring…?”

“Not at all!”

Unusually for Yakumo, he replied without a nanosecond’s thought.

It surprised Nazuna to hear such passion from him, but she grinned and put a hand on his shoulder.

“Then let’s take our time.”

She put on a mischievous smile.

“We’ve still got half an hour until you’re supposed to confess to me.”


What kind of a second confession did Yakumo make? And where did they go afterwards?


That is a story for another time.


◁ ▶︎


The men from the mainland had all been incapacitated. The situation came to a close in less than three minutes.

Hm? I thought I just saw Mr. Amagiri and Nazuna.

Wait! I can think about those two later!

He’s here! Right before my eyes!

Mr. Inui is right here in front of me!

Jun’s eyes shone when she realized Inui was standing before her. She quickly composed herself.

Yeah! I have to say it! The answer to the proposal he made on the day we met!

“If it’s all right with you, I’ll be the heroine in the movie of your life!” You can do this, Jun!

“IF—————, HEROINE————————MOVIE——!”

“What?! I can’t hear you over the engines!” Inui cried. Surprised, Jun turned off her chainsaws.

And—

“Ah, that’s better. So what were you trying to say?”

“Huh?! Oh… umm… I…”


“Umm… well… huh…?”

I’m so embarrassed…

Confessing is embarrassing enough… but “I’ll be the heroine in the movie of your life”? That’s… so awkward!

Jun’s high came to an end with the roar of the engines, and she was left unable to say a word.

“You’re still as funny as ever, aren’t you?” Inui chuckled.

On one hand, Jun breathed a sigh of relief at the fact that Inui was not put off by her demeanor. But ‘funny’ was not the most encouraging thing to hear from him.

But—

“That was pretty kickass. Teach me how to use one of those chainsaws sometime?” He snickered, though it was hard to tell if he was being completely serious.

“Y-yes!”

Jun nodded firmly, and felt her heart swell.

“Whoa?! H-hey, why’re you crying?”

“Ah… Hah… hahahaha! Why am I crying?!”

Wiping away tears of joy, Jun trembled with emotion.

Perhaps fighting alongside and being acknowledged by Inui, the man she so admired, was more meaningful than even a kiss.

Of course, she had no way of confirming that, as she had never kissed him.

If nothing else, her heart was filled with joy.


And night grew deep for many young men and women on the island.

Not even realizing they might be feeling romantic love,

They accepted the minute changes in themselves.


◁ ▶︎


The next day. A medical facility in the Eastern District.


“Life is nothing without a dash of love.” Muttered Gitarin, lying in bed and covered in bandages.

After the commotion at the office, he had fallen and rolled with the cross-shaped chainsaw in hand and cut both of his legs.

His bodyguards had pulled him back in the nick of time, and he only suffered minor injuries. He was then moved to the organization’s clinic for bed rest.

But afterwards, the Guard Team and Zhang (who had come back after a meal) came over and left him covered in more bandages than a mummy.

Following them was a long line of Eastern District executives intent on lecturing him.

His bodyguards had left to eat, and the guards were outside the door. Gitarin was alone in the stillness of his hospital room.

“…Maybe I’ll watch a romance flick online.” He mumbled lethargically and turned on the TV.


“What is it that people lack? Love.”


He continued to prattle irresponsibly as he continued to love.

He loved his life and everything about the world—the island—around it equally.

Though twisted, he was full of love.


-End Episode 4-


-----


Episode 5.



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3 comments:

  1. Thanks for the chapter.

    “Then again, Carlos goes around saying, ‘Yo lo amo’ to every girl he meets ‘cause they don’t know Spanish.” <- It seems neither does he (he's saying lit. "I love him/it").

    The Case of Nazuna Yukimura - 3 <-Where's 2?

    Also, I was under the impression that Sherlock was blond too; did he dye his hair or was I mistaken?

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    Replies
    1. Haha, wrt Carlos, I don't know Spanish either so I wrote out exactly what I saw on the text. What's the right way to say it?

      The Nazuna numbering thing was an error on my part. I've corrected it.

      And as for Sherlock, his hair color is a retcon. It confused me in Garuguru when he was referred to as being blond, because in the illustrations he clearly has dark hair. There was probably a bit of a communication error between Narita and Yasuda and Narita decided to correct himself in this volume.

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    2. I know that was what Carlos says. If he was truly speaking Spanish, well, he wouldn't go with something as direct as that, but it would've been "te amo" (with familiarity) or "la amo" (with a bit of respectfulness), since the personal pronoun is often prescinded of (verb conjugation includes person). Usually, in Spanish, philanderers like Carlos, when picking up girls, would resort to tirar los tejos, which is mostly flattery mixed with veiled or not-so-veiled expressions of love; being so direct is almost always cause of being laughed at.

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