Wednesday, 3 June 2015

5656! -Knights' Strange Night- Episode 5

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

The second-to-last update. Enjoy.

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Episode 5: 1 & 1


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Dispassionate text flashed across the screen.

‘Charges: robbery and murder’

‘In middle school, led a group of students to bully a classmate to death’

‘Served only 3 years at a youth detention center before release’

‘3 months later, committed robbery and murder and found on the run before being taken into custody’

After the flashes of text came a shot of a windowless room.

From the characteristic stains on the wall and the state of the floor, it was not difficult to tell that this was somewhere on the artificial island.

In the center of the shot was a young man, gagged and bound.

His wrists and ankles were handcuffed. He squirmed on the floor like a de-legged insect.

In his eyes was despair.

The camera slowly zoomed out. The rest of the room came into view.

A fluorescent lamp cast a cold light on the claustrophobic room.

Around the man were several figures holding metal bats and pieces of lumber.

The figures were wearing balaclavas and masks over their faces. They said absolutely nothing.

It was almost a familiar scene to any B-movie fan. But that familiarity only made it more ghastly.

The man on the floor floundered. His arms and legs swept the ground.

About 20 seconds later, one of the masked men moved.

He raised a long piece of lumber over his head. He swung.

With a bloodcurdling noise, the piece of wood—and something else—snapped.

As if on cue, the other men slowly raised their weapons.


◁ ▶︎


“And that’s the gist of it.” Gitarin said with a smirk, pausing the video playing on the computer. “After this comes pliers, hammers, scissors, and a potato peeler, if you wanted to have a look.”

“I don’t feel like watching butchers at work.”

The mechanical yet disgusted reply came from Greatest Zhang, a member of the Eastern District’s Guard Team. Standing in a line beside him were Carlos and the other members. Gitarin, heavily bandaged and still in his bed, let go of the mouse and continued his explanation.

“This is just a recording, but sometimes they do livestreams. They stick mostly to streaming video. Also, you can’t even access this stuff without a video player custom-made for this stream.”

“In other words, the mainlanders are trying to make Hollywood out of the island with snuff films?”

“Yes. Although there are only 3,000 people in the audience.”

The wrinkles in Zhang’s forehead grew deeper as he listened.


A series of murders and kidnappings targeting so-called ‘villains’ had taken place on the island recently. Gitarin had called in some of the Guard Team members, saying that he would explain the truth behind the incidents.

Many of the men who had been wreaking havoc on the island had been killed or incapacitated, and there had been a mass arrest overnight. The two districts had taken the survivors into custody.

“The Western District got most of ‘em, so I only know a few details—but I got a hold of some info from the mad dog just before the confusion.”

“Cutting a deal with a guy you tried to tear apart with a chainsaw? You’ve got guts, boss.” Carlos commented.

“Heh heh heh… it’s a perfect example of laughing on the outside and crying on the inside.” Gitrain replied. Then he returned to his explanation.

Supposedly, this group had been a small-time organization that dealt with things like voice phishing. But as they expanded and gained more and more connections to the criminal underworld, they entered a new line of business.

Their new enterprise: claiming to be champions of justice and selling videos depicting the execution of ‘villains’.

The group found snuff film lovers and people with money and power. Then they created a secret members-only club that allowed members to view the films for a steep price and the promise of protection.

It was too dangerous to be an attractive proposition—at least, from a normal perspective.

But—

“Suppose the victims in question happened to be unrepentant criminals. Fugitives on the run from society. The group executes such people in the name of justice. That pretext boosted membership exponentially. The lofty cause of ‘justice’ lessens the viewers’ guilt. It’s like illegally distributing movies online and telling yourself you’re just helping to publicize the movies, in order to alleviate your guilt.”

The name of justice.

Though the viewers knew that ‘justice’ was only a front, it was good enough to win over those teetering at the edge of morality.

“If this guy really was the piece of shit the text made him out to be, he might have deserved it. I’m not condoning this crap, but some people really might have held a grudge against this guy. …This isn’t ‘social justice’—not by a long shot—but it’s not something we should poke our nose into, either.” Zhang growled, holding back his rage. Gitarin chuckled.

“That is, if the victims were villains at all.”

“…So they pulled the text out of their ass?”

Gitarin nodded easily.

“The man being butchered in this video is a criminal and a ‘bad guy’, yes. But he’s not a murderer. He was actually a shady judicial scrivener who fell into debt and went bankrupt. Another example would be… ah, yes. They introduced an old man who was quite obviously a hobo as a former politician who drove several secretaries to suicide and received 2 billion in bribes.”

“They didn’t give two fucks about trying to sound believable.”

“But the audience pretends they’re convinced. After all, the viewers aren’t after justice so much as a gorefest. The audience includes people from all over the globe, not just Japan. And the list keeps growing. It must feel like you’re one of the ancient Romans watching a slave warrior killing a criminal in the Coliseum.”

Zhang was irritated by Gitarin’s nonchalance as well, but he held himself back.

“…So now what?”

“What else? The group knows that the police won’t lift a finger if the victims are all from the island. So we’ll have to give them an in-depth lesson in the same. That no one will lift a finger if we kill them. Although I suppose most of them must have learned after last night’s carnage.”

Then, Gitarin accessed the website with the password he extracted from one of the men in their custody. Then he deciphered the encoded message on the website with the key he had received from Inui—

“…My bad.” He said suddenly.

“What?”

“I thought we’d taught them their lesson, but it looks like these people aren’t willing to learn.”

“Hm?” Zhang frowned.

Gitarin finally withdrew his grin and muttered indifferently.


“‘Livestream at 3. “Exorcising” a cute girl who committed arson during a school trip and killed her classmates’, it says.”


◁ ▶︎


The Western District. Iizuka’s restaurant.


“C’mon, just lemme off the hook this one time.”

“Shaddap. You’re staying here till Mr. Kuzuhara gets back.”

In a corner of Iizuka’s restaurant was a member of the volunteer police. He was keeping watch on someone tied to a chair in the corner of the restaurant.

A mad dog with seven-colored hair.

After the battle the previous night, he had said goodbye to Jun and the others and left. For some reason, Lihuang had shown up and caught Kugi. So Inui had bolted before he could get caught up in the mess.

“Can’t believe I was so distracted running that I crashed right into Mr. Kuzuhara. I’d give the scene a standing ovation if it was a movie. Too bad my hands’re tied.”

“Tough luck. Once Mr. Kuzuhara gets back, you’re gonna spill your guts. About who you’re fighting and why they’re after you.”

“C’mon, at least get me a lawyer. A hot, bouncy one with at least a 90 on the bust scale.”

“Don’t worry, we’ll find you an ex-sumo wrestler.”

They bantered endlessly as they waited for Kuzuhara’s return. But at some point, a ringtone from a certain movie began to play from Inui’s chest.

“Hey man, this might be an important one. Could you at least untie my hands?”

“No.”

The volunteer police pulled the cell phone out of Inui’s pocket, pressed the talk button, and stuck it between Inui’s face and shoulder.

Inui shifted his neck to get a firm grip on the phone.

“Yep, hello? …You serious?”

Inui’s eyes turned to dinner plates.

He focused, trying to listen in—

“HEY! It’s Kuzu’s Flunky 1 and Inui!”

“You finally got caught, Inui!”

“Your luck’s run out!”

“Bye-bye!”

The Iizuka children gathered around to make fun of Inui and the volunteer policeman.

Then, Ms. Iizuka came over.

“Don’t bother them, kids. By the way, has anyone seen Yua?” She asked, her expression clouding.

“Nope. Haven’t seen her.”

“She must’ve gone off somewhere again.”

“Yua’s a strong kid.” “Children are simply offspring of the wind.”

The children responded all in their own ways. But Ms. Iizuka pensively turned to the volunteer policeman.

“Have you seen Yua? She’s been gone since morning. She always drops in for lunch before she goes out to survey the island… I’m a little worried.”

“No, I haven’t seen her. But I’ll make sure to ask the others.” The policeman said, and turned—

The rainbow-haired dog slowly stood from his seat.

“Sorry, man.”

“What…?”

Before he knew it, Inui had cut himself free.

Inui nodded apologetically—

“Something came up. I gotta head over to the mainland for a sec.”

With that, he bolted past the other patrons and escaped the restaurant.

“H-hey!”

The policeman quickly realized that there was no point to chasing Inui. Instead, he grabbed his radio and broke into cold sweat.

“Shit! What am I supposed to tell Mr. Kuzuhara now?!”


◁ ▶︎


The phone call had been from someone in the Eastern District.

Gitarin never normally called Inui—it seemed like he had something against him, for some reason—but this time he made an exception. A girl—or a young woman—had been kidnapped from the island, he said, and was to be executed at 3 in the afternoon.

And as it happened, it was the moment he received this information that he heard news about a girl he knew going missing.

Fuck! I might make it if I hurry.

Using the information he had as a basis, he ran for the mainland.

The volunteer police did not seem to be chasing him, but he kept running.

I was gonna sit back and enjoy the show… but can’t exactly do that when Yua’s been kidnapped.


Did Inui realize?

The Hayato Inui who had first arrived on the island would have simply treated Yua’s gruesome death as part of the movie of his world.

Just as Kugi had changed by meeting Inui and Kuzuhara, Inui also had changed—not much, but changed nonetheless—by meeting Kugi and Kuzuhara, and maybe even the island. And no one knew where this change would lead him.


◁ ▶︎


Two hours later. A warehouse district somewhere on the mainland.


“…Let’s get this started.” Said the rugged man as he checked his watch.

His subordinates—tension clear on their faces—were ready for the moment of truth.

The ritual called ‘justice’ was their source of income. But this was not justice—it wasn’t even a farce. The men knew that better than anyone.

And even if this was a simple farce, they had already gone too far.

However, even those who had taken many lives on the artificial island felt a strange sense of tension when they had to do the same on the mainland.

The island was special to them.

It was a wonderland where anything was permitted.

Perhaps that was the thought ingrained in their minds.

Perhaps that thought was what allowed them to do such cruel things.

The boss must have sensed the changed air among the men. He cracked his neck with a grin.

“Where’s the laughter here, chucklefucks? Laugh.”

“…”

The men stiffened, but the boss snickered.

“There’s always been a lot of demand for bad little girls. The second we sent the regulars her picture, one of them offered 2 million for the recording. And one of the regulars in the other business said he’d give us support as a token of appreciation.”

“Support, boss?”

“S’right. We lost a shit-ton of weapons yesterday, but he got in touch this morning. He’s coming in with a new shipment today.”


◁ ▶︎


“I’m Ginga Kanashima.” Said the man who appeared at the warehouse entrance. He fixed his sunglasses.

In the driver’s seat of the small truck behind him was a workman. In the bed of the truck were things resembling sacks of cement.

“Ah. So you’re the one the organization referred to us.”

One of the goons walked right up to the sacks of cement and tore one open with a knife. Straw practically burst out of the sack—and in between the yellow were black, gleaming pieces of metal.

“…Looks good. You sure we can take these?”

“These models here are cheap and not very accurate. But they’ll be enough to scare most anyone. They come with built-in suppressors. And don’t worry about the price—I’ve already received my payment.”

On one hand, the men were leery of the deadly-calm weapons dealer. On the other hand, they were practically swelling at the sight of all the weapons.

“I’d like to have a word with your superior to discuss the details.”

“Whoa. Pat-down first.”

“Just to warn you, I have a gun on hand for self-defense.”

The weapons dealer pulled a handgun from his coat. He shook it lightly by the barrel.

“You’re gonna have to leave it with us for now.”

One of the goons took he gun, then patted down the man’s suit and sides. He did not find any other firearms.

Still wary, they opened the warehouse door.


That was when it happened.


The weapons dealer named Ginga Kanashima was the first to point it out.

“…What is that?”

Kanashima turned. The men did as well—

And they spotted something drawing rapidly near.

Was it a motorcycle, they wondered. But they quickly realized that they did not hear an engine.

“…A bicycle?”

It was an unexpected method of transport. And as there was only one, the men did not assume the rider was hostile—

But the moment they glimpsed the splash of color in the man’s hair, the goons paled.

A man was racing to the warehouse on a mountain bike, his rainbow-colored hair aflutter.

“Th-that’s him! That’s the son of a bitch!”

“Call the others!”

The goons panicked as though having accidentally disturbed a beehive. Some of them even grabbed guns from the bed of the truck.

The weapons dealer, however, remained unflappable. He tilted his body slightly and held out his right arm.

A moment later, a handgun popped out of his sleeve and entered his grip. Though it was small, from the length of the barrel the goons guessed it must have been concealed in the crook of his arm.

“Shit!”

The weapons dealer ignored the flabbergasted men, instead shooting at the man on the mountain bike—

And at that moment, every ear heard the sound of the flying shell casing mixed in with a different noise.

The noise belonged to a gunshot muffled by a new type of suppressor. It sounded so unlike a normal gunshot that the goons did not understand what had happened.


But the man on the bicycle seemed to realize before it was too late. He shifted his balance on the fly and leaned away.

“SWEET!”

He cut through the air; his rainbow-colored hair rose.

“…Hah! Jackass!”

With a grin, the man on the bicycle—Inui—took a hand off the handlebar and drew a gun.

His gun was also equipped with a suppressor. Hushed gunshots whipped toward the weapons dealer at subsonic speeds.


“…”

The weapons dealer glanced at his foe’s gun and stood still, as though the shots would not hit him.

The bullets narrowly passed him by. But unlike Inui, the weapons dealer did not even flinch.

Instead, a man standing behind him was hit. He fell before he could even scream.

“K-kill him!”

A dozen men bolted out of the warehouse and opened fire. but Inui read their movements and swerved a second earlier, zooming into a gap between containers.

“Get him!”

In unison, the men rushed into the gap. Inui could not so easily evade gunshots in such a narrow space.

The weapons dealer, however, did not move.

“Son of a bitch!”  The man who had given him a pat-down ran over, swearing. “So you did have a gun on you!” He drew his gun and raised it up to the dealer’s head—

But a second earlier, something clicked.

Another gun appeared, this time in the weapons dealer’s left hand. It spat a chunk of lead into the goon’s forehead.


Not even realizing that one of their friends had just been killed, the men who had gone after Inui drew their guns and reached a corner—and were faced with an unbelievable scene.

Inui had done a 180 on his bike and was now rushing towards them. The mountain bike, in fact, was barreling down along the wall.

The men tried to raise their guns, but it was too late.

Inui launched himself off the wall again and jumped over the men, keeping the bike nearly parallel to the ground. And in the same instant, he peppered the ground with multiple gunshots and took out three men at once.

He landed. Then, he looked up.

“The shit?!”

Before his eyes was the weapons dealer.

Though Inui had no idea that the dealer was going by the name of a dead man called Ginga Kanashima—

Kugi, you son of a bitch… What—are—you—doing here—?!

Pedaling forward, he escaped the line of fire.

And like before, a muffled noise passed by where he had been only a second earlier.

And the stray bullets drove themselves into the goons who had been behind him.

The weapons dealer, who was actually Seiichi Kugi in disguise, killed the rest of the men gathered there as though collecting leftovers.

And without a second thought, he turned his guns on Inui.

Inui read his line of fire and fled with a deft use of the bicycle, making sure to return fire all the while.

Kugi could no longer remain rooted to the spot. He leapt a second before it was too late.

However, only the first of Inui’s shots had been aimed at Kugi. The rest hit the goons rushing out of the warehouse.

That was when the ones guarding the back of the warehouse began to arrive. Inui and Kugi were now forced to continue the shootout.

Between kills, they did not forget to fire ‘stray’ shots at one another.


“Grk… fucked-up… bastards…”

The men fell one after another.

And when their helpless groans finally came to an end, Inui stopped his bike and turned to Kugi with a smirk.

“What were you trying to pull here?”

“…That’s my line.” Kugi said with a frown. Inui’s excitement did not diminish.

“Shit. Who’d have thought we’d be firing away at each other on the mainland, too? There’s no way this ain’t fate. Didn’t think you’d come all the way here.”

At that point, Inui remembered something.

Kugi had once tried to kill Yua, leading Kuzuhara to pursue him.

“Hah! Makes sense now. You tryin’ to make it up to Yua or Mr. Kuzuhara? Well look at you! Trying to win back some honor, eh?”

“…?”

“Or maybe your organization pushed you into this crap. Either way I’m just here to rescue the princess, so can we not get serious this time?” He said flippantly. But Inui’s eyes remained as clear and alert as ever, scanning their surroundings like an attack dog.

His eyes were not only on Kugi, but on the truck, on the warehouse entrance, and the blind spots around them.

Kugi returned Inui’s gaze with an icy glare of his own, also wary of his surroundings with all the alertness of a military dog.


A moment later, a low voice escaped the warehouse door.

“You asked for it, fuckers.”

The voice was seething. From the tone it probably belonged to the boss of the group.

The owner of the voice was nowhere to be seen; he was likely taking cover somewhere inside.

Perhaps he had more support waiting in the warehouse.

“I’m not gonna pretend to get why the dealer the organization introduced is teaming up with Inui. So I’ll pry the answers outta you both while you die.”

“…”

Kugi silently let the bloodlust wash over him.

Inui’s grin never left his face.

“If that looked like teamwork to you, you need to get your eyes checked, asshole. Retire while you’re at it. You couldn’t tell apart Two-Face’s two faces, let alone Batman and the Joker. The hell kinda champion of justice are you supposed to be?”

“Shut your hole! One wrong move, and I kill the girl.”

For once, Inui’s expression changed.

“Tch. Never heard of a champion of justice who takes hostages… Wait, never mind. I have.”

If the man was holding Yua hostage, Inui had no choice but to be more careful than usual. He had to exploit any opening he could find.

If we could just team up, we’d have this one in the bag.

Heh. As if that’d ever happen.

Kugi’d shoot me in the head before we could pull a co-op finisher.

With an internal grimace, Inui stared at Kugi and in the direction of the enemy boss.

And—

“I heard what you said, Inui. Here to save the princess, eh?”

A rugged man finally emerged from the door, proudly showing off his hostage.


When Inui saw the girl, he—


◁ ▶︎


The Western District. Iizuka’s restaurant.


“I’m back!”

“Yua! Where were you?”

Ms. Iizuka and the volunteer police officer were floored when they saw Yua. But they quickly sighed in relief.

“Sorry. Nejiro said that he found a new route, so I just had to go take a look.”

Ms. Iizuka, though relieved at Yua’s safe return, sternly reprimanded her.

“Yua. Your lunch got cold while we waited. If you knew you were going to be late, you should have called home.”

“I’m sorry…”

The Iizuka children listened to the conversation and each made a comment—”Hey! Why aren’t you hitting her with the knife?”, “You’re only nice to Yua, Mom!”, “This is discrimination!”, “Two-faced demon!”, “Two-faced demon lady!”—but Yua smiled sheepishly.

Ms. Iizuka and the volunteer police were finally calm, and Yua was smiling as usual.


With no inkling of the horrors taking place on the mainland, the island lived as it always did.


◁ ▶︎


“Huh…?”

The girl emerged as Inui and Kugi watched.

She stood behind the rugged man, watched by two of his goons.

Kugi did not even blink.

But Inui’s eyes turned to dinner plates and his jaw dropped.

“Hey…”

“Now drop those guns.”

“Hey, wait just a second here—”

“It’s too late to beg for mercy!”

Inui ignored the threat and turned his attention back to the girl.

Dragged out behind the rugged man with handcuffs on her wrists was a girl with white flowers in her hair and a dead look in her eyes.

The girl barely reacted to Inui and Kugi’s presence. She simply said,


“…Sleepy.”


The boss’s face twisted into a sickening grin.

“Heh! so the princess has no idea what she’s in for! Lemme let you in on a little secret, princess. You and your little knights in shining armor are gonna fall asleep for good!” He roared, pointing his gun at Inui. “What’s wrong? Consider yourself lucky you get to die with your princess—”

He felt an impact on his face.

“?!”

Numbness spread over his left eye. The man felt for a moment like the world had gone dark, but he soon snapped out of his daze and reaffirmed that the world was still quite bright.

With his still-functioning right eye he looked around for the source of the darkness—

“Wha…?”

And he realized that the girl standing at his left was no longer handcuffed.

She was toying with something in her hands. For some reason, her pale palms were wet with blood.

Then he understood.

The terrible understanding finally dawned on him.

The object in her hands—the little ball with a red tendon protruding from the surface—was his own left eyeball.

“Ah… Whaaaaaaa…? URGH! No…!”

The moment he realized that the girl had carved out his eye, his socket was overwhelmed by excruciating agony.

The goons behind the girl only then noticed what had happened. They pulled out their guns—

But the girl tossed the boss’s eye into the air and grabbed the men’s gun hands in one hand each, and forced them to point their guns at each other’s legs.

Her fluid movements threw the men off-balance. They pulled the trigger before they realized what was happening.

Two gunshots. The men shot a red hole into one another’s kneecaps.

“AGH!” “GAH!”

The men screamed in unison. Then they felt impacts on their faces.

That was when the eyeball finally fell back down.

The girl—Lilei Ei—caught the falling eye, then tossed it back into the air along with her two new eyeballs as though juggling them.

“I do not have. Do not have pipe.”

The men howled in agony. She spoke mechanically.

“I can not control. I will not control.”

She had killed her emotions. But her lips were twisted into a faint smile.

“He kill Fei. He your friend?”

“?!”

It was an unfamiliar name.

Naturally, the men had no idea who Lilei was talking about.

The men who had jokingly called themselves ‘champions of justice’ did not know that, several days ago, a man who truly believed himself to be a champion of justice had killed the girl.

Even more ironic was the fact that this man’s body had happened to fall next to those of the goons, and was taken care of by the Western District as one of the false champions of justice.

“Fei smile in dream. Now Fei smile. But I angry. You are not adorable.”

But Lilei no longer cared if these men were connected to Fei’s killer.

She simply had to follow her brother’s orders to act as bait before joining forces with Kugi and destroying the group.

But when she sensed something similar about these people and the nightmares in her dreams, she allowed herself to make things slightly personal. And a second later, six eyeballs in total were in the air.

It signaled eternal darkness for three people.

“GAAAAAAAAAH! AAAAAAAAAAAARGH!”

The screams of the boss and his men blended into one homogenous noise. Lilei slowly handed down their verdict.


“You die. You die slowly.”


◁ ▶︎


Several minutes later. A medical facility in the Eastern District.


When the time came, the Guard Team gathered around Gitarin’s computer with bated breath.

On the screen, they saw men lying on the floor.

“Huh? Where’s the kid?” Zhang wondered, not sure if he should be relieved or not.

Gitarin seemed to have understood the situation.

“Aha. It looks like the Western District’s taken care of this one.”

Soon, a girl in a qipao entered the screen with a lead pipe in hand.

The flowers in her hair tipped off the Guard Team as to her identity.

The girl slowly raised her pipe, her gaze trained on the fallen men—


The Guard Team watched the grisly scene with disinterest for some time. Finally, Carlos broke the silence.

“So were these sorry shits after Inui because he had the website address and the login info?”

Gitarin smirked.

“Nah, they wouldn’t go that far for something that petty.”

“So what did he have?”

“Inui managed to get the list of all the rich and powerful folks who enjoyed these shows, along with all the transaction records proving their involvement.”

Gitarin then opened up a certain file on the computer.

“Is this the list?” Asked Zhang. Gitarin nodded.

“It is. The people on this list are probably wetting their pants watching the stream. Since they helped fund the show, they can’t just claim they stumbled onto the stream by coincidence. I’m thinking I should start calling them tonight to see how they’d react to us having their dirty secret. We can put up this info online to ruin them later. I can’t wait to see how badly they react to this!”

“Classy, boss. Not that I sympathize with these sick fucks.”

“We’re not champions of justice, so we might as well have fun like the villains we are.” Gitarin chortled, forgetting for the moment that he was still covered in bandages. “To be honest, I was kinda hesitant when Inui offered to sell us this info for a fortune. But then he said he’d give it to me for free if I agreed to give half the list to the Western District. Wouldn’t you know it? I think our mad dog’s trying to keep the balance of power in check in his own way.”

Gitarin complimented Inui in one of the few ways he could and scanned the list of 1,500 names.

“You reap what you sow. But I do feel a little bad for the people on the other half of the list. Our sadistic tattooed friend in the West is probably going to extort them for as long as they live.”


◁ ▶︎


Somewhere in the Western District.


“Munch… So this is the info Inui sent us for free… munch. It’s only half the list, but it’s still got 1,500 names. There are more than a few famous people here. I guess that’s because they got in contact with famous people mostly. …Munch.”

Taifei munched on a Chinese meatball and watched Lilei’s macabre dance on the screen as he handed Lihuang a pile of documents.

Lihuang sighed in disbelief.

“…It almost disturbs me to watch you gorging on food while watching something like this.”

“I don’t want to hear that from a man who stinks of blood all-year round. Munch… this doesn’t help my appetite, but I’m the one who gave Lilei these orders—I shouldn’t look away.”

It was an admirable sentiment, but the meatball in his hand negated much of his dignity. Lihuang half-listened to Taifei and scanned the list.

“We’ll use this list to advance our business even further. Now the organization will grow stronger than ever before.”

“That list alone was enough to pass off Kugi as a weapons dealer; it’s definitely powerful. Hayato Inui ended up stealing a lot of his work, but oh well. …Man, these meatballs are good even when they get cold. I’d better stock up.”

Taifei downed one meatball after another, but Lihuang ignored him and smiled with the list in hand.

“I almost pity the souls on the Eastern District’s half of this list. Gitarin the sick deviant will play them like puppets for as long as they live.”


◁ ▶︎


Several minutes earlier. The warehouse district on the mainland.


Lilei dragged the groaning men into the warehouse. The man who had been in the driver’s seat of the truck hurried after her, grabbing her lead pipe from the back.

He glanced at Kugi, who silently ordered him to go with Lilei. The man disappeared inside without a second thought.


Two dogs stared each other down by the warehouse, the silence broken only by the crashing waves.

“Now what?” Naturally, Inui spoke first. “How many shots d’you have left? One in your left hand, if my math is right.”

Kugi did not respond. He raised his left hand.

“You too, right? You have one shot left.”

“We’ve got a math genius here, folks! But that’s only if I had a full magazine when I got here.”

“…”

“…Wanna give it a shot?”

Inui copied Kugi and raised his right hand.

So smooth was the motion that it was like looking at a mirror.

“So we’re holding each other at gunpoint again.”

Inui chuckled bitterly. But there wasn’t a hint of annoyance on his face.

He almost sounded like he had been looking forward to this reunion.

“You still hate me?”

“Who knows?”

A breeze.

Inui’s smirk widened. And he asked a question with a very obvious answer.

“So why’re you pointing that gun at me?”

“Because you’re pointing your gun at me.”


Gunfire.


Two shots resounded at once, and the two bullets cut through the roar of the waves.

Each bullet was driven into a target, tearing through fabric and destroying a heart.


“…”

“…”

Inui and Kugi’s gazes wandered behind one another.

Both heard similar gasps of pain behind themselves.

Both saw the surviving goons fall to the ground, their guns still in hand.

“Whoa. Hey. That was our first real co-op finisher.”

“…”

“See? It’s not all bad.”

In spite of Inui’s enthusiasm, Kugi remained sullen.

If the two goons hadn’t coincidentally survived and stood behind the dogs, the duel would have ended in one way or another.

Inui put away his gun and sighed.

“Christ. First the suicidal son of a bitch gets in the way, and then these mindless shits show up. People just keep interrupting us—starting with Mr. Kuzuhara way back when.”

“…Yeah.”

“If us always shooting at each other is fate, maybe never getting to finish our fights is fate too.” Inui joked. But Kugi smiled and shook his head.

“I refuse to let fate describe my life.”

He was not smiling because he had come to a resolution. Kugi was smiling because he had resigned himself.

“I killed Kanae. I escaped to this island. I did all this of my own free will. …Isn’t that how it works?” He said in a rare show of emotion.

Inui put on a smile—a different one from Kugi’s—and nodded.

“You got that right.”


Another breeze.

“…Well, I’m off now. I’m only here because of a misunderstanding. Don’t feel like hanging around long enough for the cops to bust my ass.”

They must not speak any longer, Inui must have concluded. He slowly turned.

But as he climbed onto his bike, he half-turned to Kugi again.

“You know what? I’m still gonna believe in fate after all. We’re fated to pull some crazy shit together again.”

He chuckled. He laughed.

With a wicked grin on his face, the mad dog finally said the magic word.

“Later.”

The hound showed no emotion as he mirrored his fellow dog.

“…Later.”


Only the crashing of waves filled the warehouse district. The two dogs did not look back at each other.

But they had not lost interest.

They would meet again, and bark at one other again.

But now was not the time.

Knowing this, the dogs slipped away from the commotion in their own ways.


Like a dog finally recognizing its own reflection in the mirror and turning to depart.


-End-

-----


Exit.


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1 comment:

  1. “You’re luck’s run out!” (You're > Your)
    Thanks as always!

    ReplyDelete