Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Kino's Journey V: Chapter 2

It's too bad I didn't manage to get to this chapter two weeks ago to match the anime episode, huh? Enjoy.

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<<Chapter 1



Chapter 2: The Country Where Murder is not Illegal
-Jungle’s Rule-


The endless plains were covered in grass and trees.

Clear groundwater pooled in the low-lying areas to form small lakes that dotted the landscape.

It was summertime, with the radiant sun smiling upon the land and the water. Not a cloud was in sight, allowing the sky to spread undisturbed for miles and miles.

A lone, narrow road cut through the plains. It was covered in patches of grass, a sign that few ever traversed it. The road snaked its way around the lakes and went from east to west.

Moving west down the road was a motorrad. Its luggage rack was fully laden with travel gear that threatened to spill over the sides of the rear wheel. A silver cup hanging by the bags clattered each time the motorrad hit a bump in the road.

The motorrad’s rider was in a black vest and a white shirt with the collar unbuttoned. She wore a thick belt, and a holstered hand persuader on her right thigh. A slender automatic persuader was secured behind her back at her waist.

The rider also wore a hat and a pair of goggles. She was still quite young, likely in her mid-teens.

“Look, Kino. A horse,” the motorrad said without warning.

The rider called Kino narrowed her eyes and looked ahead. “I see it. And a person, too.”

Kino took her left hand off the handle and checked the persuader behind her back. She then switched hands to check the revolver on her right thigh. “We’re stopping for a bit, Hermes.”


A fully-laden horse stood drinking water by the road, at the edge of the lake. The sound of the engine woke up the man who had been lying next to it with a hat over his face.

The man was in his twenties, dressed in riding pants and boots with a light jacket. A .45 caliber automatic hand persuader was holstered at his right side.

He waved at the incoming motorrad.


“Hi there,” the man said when Kino stopped Hermes.

Kino disembarked without shutting off the engine, and propped up Hermes on his side stand. “Hello.” “Hi.”

The man asked, “You from the country up ahead?”

“No,” Kino replied, “We’re on our way there now.”

The man gave an approving look. “I’m on my way there myself. what do you say to heading there together? Mind if I put half my luggage on your motorrad? Your ride can take it,” he said without a hint of apology.

“I’ll have to decline,” Kino said, also without a hint of apology. Hermes agreed.

The man grimaced. “What? Can’t spare a bit of help for a fellow traveler?”

“I’m afraid not,” Kino replied, smiling. “And what if I were to steal your things? I might even reach the country first and sell them off.”

“Tch. …Anyway,” the man said, “Do you know about that country? About the kinda place it’s supposed to be?”

“Not really, but I’ve heard it was full of polite people.”

The man burst into laughter, howling. “Who told you that crap? It’s the complete opposite!”

“What do you know about that country, then?” Kino asked.

The man guffawed again. “All right, all right. Lemme tell you—that country over there? Murder’s not illegal.”

“What do you mean?” asked Hermes.

“Means murder’s not forbidden by law. Kinda funny, since theft is considered a crime. Either way, you can get off scot-free hurting or killing someone. Basically, if you die, it’s your own fault. A lawless jungle inside manmade walls. I thought everyone knew this stuff,” the man said, amused.

Kino asked, “Is that why you’re headed to that country?”

“Sure is. On my way to settle there. Place I’m from is stupidly safe and happy and peaceful. Smack someone and folks’d never get off your back. Illegal this, illegal that. So I took off and never looked back.”

“What’re you going to do once you settle there?” asked Hermes.

“Hm. I’ll give the place a try,” the man said, pausing dramatically. “And if someone ticks me off, I’ll put him down. I’ll finally get to be myself once I get there.”

“Huh,” Hermes said, uninterested.

The man had expected a better reaction. He continued, “And you know what else? This guy I respect lives in that country. Regel. You must have heard of him.”

“I haven’t.” “Nope.” Kino and Hermes replied.

“What kinda backwater country are you from?” the man sighed, and explained, “Regel’s a serial killer. Used to lead a band of terrorists and bandits in this big country down south in the old days. They arrested him, but he broke out of jail and skipped town before they could take him to the gallows. This was decades ago, but if they still haven’t caught him, he’s gotta be living in that country. People call it the killer’s final home, you know. Where every killer in the world goes eventually. I’m willing to bet he’s living like a real free man, knocking off anyone who bugs him and terrorizing people. I wanna learn from him.”

“I see. If you’ll excuse us, then,” Kino said, climbing back on Hermes.

“Real life of the party, aren’t you?” the man spat, but added, “Hey, you sure you won’t help me with my things?”

“Yes. You can take them yourself,” Kino replied matter-of-factly and took off on Hermes.

The man was left alone in the dust.

“That’s how it’s gonna be, eh? You’ll change your tune once we’re both in that country,” he muttered, watching Kino and Hermes depart.


The country’s boundaries were made up of stone walls, canals, and lakes.

The lakes in the area had been connected by manmade canals to form a moat around the country, and tall white ramparts stood around the inner perimeter.

It was already evening by the time Kino and Hermes arrived at the gates. The drawbridge slowly opened.

“I can’t wait to see what’s inside,” Hermes said casually, “A country where murder’s not illegal, huh.”

“Me neither.”

“Is your mind ready, Kino?”

“For now.”

“What about your persuaders?”

“Don’t worry, they’re always ready. Let’s go.”

They crossed the drawbridge.


“Are you a visitor? Or are you applying for immigration?” asked the guard-cum-immigrations officer at the small guardhouse outside the gates.

Kino identified herself as the former and asked for a three-day visitor permit.

“I’m obligated to inform you that murder is not forbidden by law in our country,” the guard explained. “Anyone here, whether citizen or traveler, is permitted to kill for any reason at all, and will not be held legally responsible. Do you understand this clearly?”

Kino nodded.

“Are you sure?” the guard asked once more.


“What a strange country,” Kino said, unloading her things.

The hotel room was humble, furnished with a bed and a chair, along with an electric lamp and a fan on the wall. In the corner was a fireplace that had been sealed because it was no longer used.

“Really? It looks normal to me,” Hermes said, propped up in a corner on his center stand.

“Exactly. It’s normal. The streets are clean, and people are out and about after dark. There’s no fear in the air, not a lot of police officers, and no stores with sturdy shutters. The locals are even friendly to travelers.”

Kino and Hermes had crossed a stretch of farmland on their way from the gates to the town. When Kino asked for directions to a hotel in town, everyone within earshot had gotten together to offer genuine help.

“What does that mean?” asked Hermes.

“It means public security’s great. Which is what I find so strange about this place.”

“I see,” Hermes said, “Since murder’s not illegal, I bet you were hoping to see armed mobs roaming the streets, duels over girls in the pubs, and dogs biting people’s hands, right? Too bad.”

“I don’t think ‘hoping’ is the right word.”

Kino put her things down next to the bed, then took off her holsters and vest. She pulled out Cannon, the revolver she had strapped to her thigh.

“I have a hunch,” she muttered, her eyes on Cannon’s black glint.

“Hm?”

“Never mind. We might find out before we leave,” Kino said, lying down in bed. She placed Cannon over her chest.

“What are you talking about? …Oh, I guess you can’t even hear me now, can you? Good night.”


As usual, Kino rose at dawn.

The sky outside the window was a vivid blue, streaked with feathery clouds. The streets were quiet.

Kino began with light exercises. Then she trained with Cannon and Woodsman, the latter of which was the automatic persuader she carried behind her back. Drawing practice came first, followed by drills for shooting with the holster. Afterwards, she took apart the persuaders, cleaned and oiled them, and put them back together and holstered them.

Kino showered and had breakfast at the hotel. She smacked Hermes awake around noon and left the hotel.

Old stone buildings lined the streets. The most developed area was crowded with stores that doubled as residences from the second floor up.


Kino stepped into a store and sold things she didn’t need and bought things she needed. The kindly middle-aged shopkeeper gave her hefty discounts when he learned that she was a traveler.

Behind the shopkeeper’s chair was a long rifle-type persuader. When Kino asked if the rifle was for deterring robbers, the man shook his head. “Not at all. No one’s ever robbed any of the stores around here. This here persuader,” he said, “is for killing people.”

“Oh. When?” asked Hermes.

“Who knows? Well, I guess I do know, but I keep the old thing here because no one really knows,” the shopkeeper replied.

“I see,” Kino said quietly.

Afterwards, Kino and Hermes explored the country. It was not particularly large—they were back in the middle of town by the afternoon.

Kino spotted a restaurant with a patio. She parked Hermes there and took a seat. A cool breeze blew into the shade.

When Kino asked for something sweet, the server insisted on a particular item on the menu, ordering it before Kino could even nod.

“Here you are. Take your time and enjoy.”

The server brought in a large plate stacked with layers of crepe and cream. It was a veritable mountain of dessert.

“Kino?” said Hermes.

“It’s important to never back down from a challenge,” Kino said, cutting up the crepes to pieces.

Eventually, she polished off the entire plate as Hermes watched in utter shock.

That was when a group of elderly people came by and sat at a nearby table. An old woman in gaudy clothing asked, “Oh my, are you a traveler?”

When Kino told her that she was, the women of the group broke out into excited chatter. They explained, unprompted, that they were on their way back from dancing, and that they always came by to this restaurant afterwards, which was why they were there that day.

“Don’t you find this a safe city, Traveler?” asked one of the old women.

“I do. It’s very impressive,” Kino admitted.

An old man with a cane in his hand and a grand white beard asked, “Where are you headed, then?”

“I don’t know,” Kino replied.

“Does your motorrad know?”

“No way,” Hermes said.

“Hm… Then what do you say to settling down here?” asked the old man.

“Yes, you simply must! We can help you with everything. Find you a lovely house nearby and register you at the office. It’s really simple, just write your name on a slip of paper and you’ll be all set to—”

“What do you say?” the old man asked calmly, cutting off his chatty friend. “I think this country would be a good fit for someone like you.”

“What do you mean?” Hermes asked. The old man chuckled.

“I mean someone who can kill.”

Kino thought for a moment and shook her head.

“Really? Such a shame. In any case, do enjoy your stay here. Traveling’s no easy task, I know, so get some rest and relaxation for yourself while you can.”

“Thank you, sir. I will.”

“I’d like to treat you to one of our specialty desserts, if you’d like. It’s quite good; a suitable gift for a traveler. You could tell us some stories from the outside in exchange, perhaps?” the old man offered.

Kino shook her head again, looking visibly upset. Hermes explained, “Too bad. Kino just finished an entire plate.”

“Really, now? That’s unfortunate. Then what do you say to some tea tomorrow before lunch?”


The next day. It was the third day of Kino’s visit.

Kino rose at dawn. She did light exercises and persuader drills before showering and having breakfast, a little disgruntled.

Afterwards, Kino packed up her things and secured them to Hermes.

Smacking Hermes awake, Kino headed for the restaurant from the previous day. The bearded old man was waiting for her with a cup of tea.

Kino told him stories from the nearby countries she had visited. The old man was smiling all throughout. He treated Kino to tea and dessert. They split the mountain of crepes between them.

“I think we should get going now,” Kino finally said. It was almost lunchtime. The restaurant was beginning to fill up with customers.

“Is that so? Such a shame. Thank you for sharing your stories,” the old man said. Kino thanked him as well.

Kino pushed Hermes into the street and started him. The engine began to rumble.

The old man stood, leaning on his cane. Kino nodded to him and put Hermes into gear.

“There you are! Hold it right there, punk!” said a voice. “Yeah, you on the motorrad! The one with the black vest!”

The man Kino had met two days earlier leapt out the doors of a nearby building. Kino cut Hermes’ engine.

“Perfect timing. Don’t you dare move!”

All eyes were on the man. It was dead quiet. The man strode up to Kino and Hermes. Kino disembarked and propped up Hermes on his side stand.

“What is it?” she asked, standing before Hermes.

“Unload your motorrad. Put all your stuff on the ground,” the man said from a short distance away.

“Why should I do that?”

“Because I’ll be taking them off your hands. Must be hard traveling with all that junk. I’m helping you lighten up, you hear? I’ll use what I can use and sell off what I don’t need. Gotta get some cash to keep me afloat, yeah?”

“I’m afraid I can’t impose on you like that. I’ll have to decline your offer.”

The man snorted. He flashed the holster on his right side. “I’m only gonna say this one more time. Unload your stuff right here and get lost, or I’ll put a bullet through your skull. I’ll even let you keep the clothes on your back. We got a deal or what?”

The people on the streets began disappearing inside.

“I see you must have decided to settle here,” Kino noted.

“Obviously. I’m a citizen now.”

“But you don’t behave like one.”

The man frowned. “I don’t give a shit. So what’ll it be, punk?”

Kino looked around. There was no one in sight. She saw silhouettes through the windows.

“I’m afraid I’ll have to decline. I was just getting ready to leave.”

“So no negotiations, eh?” the man threatened, spreading his feet and warming up his hands and shoulders.

“I’m sorry, Hermes,” Kino whispered. “I’ll be counting on you for a bit.”

“Fine. Just make sure you patch up the holes later,” Hermes replied.

The man drew his persuader. Kino turned.

“What the hell?” the man spat.

She took cover behind Hermes.

“Ha! Coward! Are your persuaders just for show?” the man taunted, taking aim with a step forward. “You brought this on yourself, kid.”

A crossbow bolt skewered his right arm.

His persuader fell to the ground. The man stared at his arm. A crossbow bolt was sticking out of it. He was bleeding.

“Argh!”

Another bolt. It neatly pierced the top of his right foot, boot and ground and all.

“AAAGH!”

The man writhed in pain, but his foot was pinned and he could not pull out the bolt from his arm.

“DAMMIT! DAMMIT!”

The townspeople began to gather, one by one. They all looked perfectly calm. They all came armed.

A middle-aged man holding a large knife. A young man with a persuader. A young woman with a club. A middle-aged woman with a crossbow, stepping out of a nearby apartment building.

Kino cautiously peered out from behind Hermes.

“What the hell are you?! Goddammit…”

The old man with the cane stepped forward. “We’re only trying to stop you, young man. You tried to do something that we do not tolerate.”

“Wh-what are you talking about, you old fart? Get these things out of me! Dammit!”

“Allow me to answer your question,” the old man said. “You see, we do not tolerate murder in this country.”

“You’re a liar, old man! Murder’s not illegal here! That’s why I came in the first place!”

“And you are absolutely correct. Murder is not illegal, and that is why we are all here.”

People quietly began to voice their agreement.

“Wh-what are you going on about? You’re making no sense! Get these things out of me, or I’ll slaughter you!”

“I’m afraid I can’t do that. You see, in this country, we kill anyone who has killed, tried to kill, or tries to kill.”

“You just said that murder wasn’t illegal here! Are you senile, old man? It means I’m allowed to kill people!” the man demanded, losing his senses.

The old man continued calmly, “‘Not illegal’ does not mean ‘tolerated’.”

“Don’t make me laugh! Who do you think you are, anyway? What gives you the right to lecture me?”

The old man’s eyes narrowed.

“Who am I, you ask? No one of importance, really. Just an ordinary citizen. An old man named Regel.”

“What…”

The man looked up at Regel, mouth agape.

“My apologies, but you are a danger to us all.”

Regel twisted the top of his cane and pulled. A blade emerged, glinting black in the light.

He put his weight into the blade as he drove it through the man’s heart. Regel twisted once, and drew it back out.


The old man with the cane gently closed the corpse’s eyes. Everyone held a moment of silence.

Kino watched it all from the back.

“It’s always a tragedy when a fellow countryman dies,” someone said. Everyone nodded. Someone asked to make arrangements at the national cemetery, and another person volunteered.

And everyone went back to their business.

Regel walked up to Kino. “Take care.”

“I will,” Kino replied, starting Hermes. The roar of his engine filled the streets.

The old man stood, leaning on his cane. Kino nodded to him and put Hermes into gear.


A motorrad was traveling west along a road cutting through the plains and the lakes. The surface of the water reflected the motorrad and the rider and the sky.

“Look, Kino. A horse,” the motorrad said without warning.

Kino narrowed her eyes and looked ahead. “I see it. And a person, too.” She took her left hand off the handle and checked the persuader behind her back. She then switched hands to check the revolver on her right thigh. “We’re stopping for a bit, Hermes.”


A fully-laden horse stood drinking water by the road, at the edge of the lake. The sound of the engine woke up the man who had been lying next to it with a hat over his face.

The man was in his twenties, dressed in riding pants and boots with a light jacket. A .45 caliber automatic hand persuader was holstered at his right side.

He waved at the incoming motorrad.


“Hi there,” the man said when Kino stopped Hermes.

Kino disembarked without shutting off the engine, and propped up Hermes on his side stand. “Hello.” “Hi.”

The man asked, “Are you from the country to the east?”

“No,” Kino replied, “I’m a traveler. I stayed at the country for three days and left just now.”

“I see… Could I ask you something?”

“What is it?”

The man said, downcast, “I came all this way because I heard from a traveler that the country over there is safe and full of polite people.” He paused. “Is it true?”

“Yes, it is,” Kino replied.

The man was uplifted.

“Although it depends on your standards,” Kino added.

“My standards?” the man asked. “The place I come from was awful. No sense of security, with people getting killed every day. I had to kill countless people in order to survive. I’m sure they must have wanted normal lives too, but they had no other choice. I left my homeland because I don’t want to kill anyone anymore. I want to live in a safe country.”

“Really? Then you’ll like the country over there. Look for an old man named Regel. Tell him about your travels and he’ll help you out.”

“Thank you,” said the man.

Kino then asked the man about the countries to the west and how to get there. The man gave her as much information as he could.

Thanking the man, Kino started Hermes.

“Oh, I wanted to ask one more thing…” the man said hesitantly. “I heard a strange rumor about that country from another place I visited. If you know anything about it, could you tell me?”

“How did the rumor go?” asked Kino.

The man thought for a moment, but eventually shook his head.

“Never mind. It’s a stupid question. I mean, it’s kind of crazy, if you think about it. I’ll go see for myself when I get there.”

“All right. If you’ll excuse us, then.”

“Yeah. Take care of yourself.”

Once the motorrad had disappeared into the distance, the man climbed onto his horse. He began to ride eastward.


“I wonder if it’s true,” he mumbled from atop the saddle, bobbing up and down with each step the horse took, “that they serve piles of crepes by the plateful.”


2 comments:

  1. Too bad indeed, would have made a nice welcome to the new anime! Thanks as always :)

    (Feedly redirected me to the previous chapter's page for some reason, sorry about that)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Aw man, now I'm hungry for crepes. Again. This is all your fault!

    ReplyDelete