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Atsuko Asano

NO. 6
Volume 01

Chapter 1: The Drowned Mouse

A mouse[1] crawled into a hole. He breathed in quietly, wrapped in pitch black. He could smell the faint odor of damp soil. He continued on, slowly and cautiously. The hole was narrow. It was scarcely big enough for a mouse to squeeze through. And it was dark. There was no light to be seen. But he felt at ease. He liked dark and narrow places. The larger creatures bent on catching him couldnt get to him in places like this. It was a fleeting moment of peace and quiet. The wound in his shoulder was aching, but it didnt really bother him. The real problem wasnt the pain, but the amount of blood he was losing. The wound wasnt especially bad. It was just a small hole in his shoulder. It should have started to clot a while ago. But The wound Still felt slimy and warm. It was still bleeding. They must have put an anticoagulant in the bullet. The mouse bit his lip. I wish I had some hemostatic agent. Im not asking for anything fancy. Thrombin or aluminum sulfate, either would be fine with me. At the very least, I wish I had some clean water to wash the wound. His legs buckled. He was feeling light-headed and dizzy. This is bad. Im probably going into shock. In which case, Im in serious trouble. I wont be able to move anymore. Thats fine. I heard a voice in my head. Maybe its fine if you cant move in this damp darkness. Youll drift off to sleep and die peacefully. You probably wont suffer much. I bet itll just feel kind of cold. No, thatd be too easy. Your blood pressure is dropping, your breathing slowing, your body becoming numb of course youre going to suffer. Im sleepy. Youre sleepy. Youre cold. Youre in pain. You cant move. You only have to suffer a little longer. Come on, just give up this futile struggle and sit still. Even if the people chasing you get here, no ones coming to rescue you. No one will save you. So just give up on living already. Just curl up here and fall asleep. Just give up already. He forced his feet forward, bracing himself against the wall. The mouse smiled wryly. His body is defying the voice telling him to give up. What a pain.

An hour. No, thirty minutes? I can only keep moving in this condition for about thirty minutes. During that time frame, I need to stop the bleeding and secure a place to rest. Thats all I need to make it through this. The air stirred. The darkness in front of him began to lift just a bit. Step by heavy step he walked on. He emerged from the dark, narrow tunnel into a vast space surrounded by white concrete walls. The mouse knew that it had been in use as part of the sewer system until tensome-odd years ago at the end of the 20th century. Compared to the surface sections of No. 6, abandoned underground installations were quite commonplace. Installations left untouched from the previous century were scattered about underground. It was a most appropriate environment for a mouse. He closed his eyes and recalled the map of No. 6 that hed pulled down from the computer. This sewer should be disposal route K0210. It ends up near the upper class residential area, Chronos. Of course, there might be dead ends before that. If you want to survive, you have to keep moving forward. Right now, the mouse could not allow himself to waver or get picky. The air is stirring. Its not the stale, damp air from before, but fresh, humid air. Speaking of which, it was raining heavily on the surface. This place is surely connected to the outside world. The mouse breathed in the smell of rain. September 7th, 2013 was the day of my 12th birthday. On that day, a tropical cyclone, in other words, a typhoon, which had developed in the southwest portion of the North Pacific, strengthened as it headed north and made landfall in the city where I lived, No. 6. It was the greatest present Id ever received. Im so excited. Its just past four oclock in the evening, but its still dim. The trees in the yard sway in the wind, and the leaves are torn off. That rustling sound is so nice. Its a complete change from the dead silence of this residential area. My mother preferred trees to flowers, so she ended up planting flowering plums, Camellias and Japanese maples all about the yard. Instead of a garden we had a small grove of trees, so the noise today was so full. Each tree had its own groaning voice. The leaves and twigs hit the glass and clung to it before being blown off again. Even the wind itself hit head on. I was terribly tempted to open the window. There was no chance that a natural gust would break the impact glass. In this environmentally controlled room, the temperature and humidity were constant, nothing ever changed. Thats why I wanted to open the window. I want to open the window and invite in this wind and rain which are so different from the normal atmosphere in here. Shion[2].

My mother called to me over the intercom. Dont try to open the window or anything like that. Okay. Alright, good but Did you hear? The lowlands in the West block are under water. Its terrible. My mothers voice didnt sound even remotely troubled. No. 6 is divided into North, South, East and West blocks, the majority of the West and South blocks are farm and pasture land. They provide 60% of the produce and 50% of the livestock for the residents of No. 6. The North block is comprised of mountains and forests of broadleaved trees. The region is completely protected by the Central Control Committee. You cant enter the area without permission from the Comittee. Not that anyone would want to set foot in an almost completely unmaintained, wild forest anyway. In the city center, over a sixth of the area is covered by an enormous woodland park. You can enjoy the nature of each season, and there are about a hundred different varieties of small animal and insect with which you might come into contact. The nature of the park is more than sufficient for most of the citizens here. But Im not very fond of it myself. I always hated that the town hall towers over the center of the park. Its a dome shaped building with five floors below ground and ten above. Its pretty tall for a place like No. 6 that doesnt really have any skyscrapers, but maybe it doesnt really tower per-say. But, for whatever reason, its rather intimidating. There are people who call it the Moon Drop because of its round, white exterior, but it just reminds me of a blister. Its a blister in the center of town from a beating or a burn. The city hospital and public affairs office are lined up around it. Theyre connected by passages that look like glass pipes. And then, all of that is surrounded by a green forest. That forest continued into a quiet and relaxing woodland park for the citizens. The flora and fauna that live here are minutely controlled. They know everything, from when and where a flower blooms and bears fruit to where the animals live. The citizens can even look up the best locations and times to observe and admire the area through the citys service system. What meek and mild nature. But, at least today its quite lively. It is a typhoon after all. I opened the window. The wind blew the rain in. It was the first time in a long while that I could hear the grumbling sound of the wind. It was almost like the sound of the ground shaking. I brought both my hands to my face and tried shouting. My voice was erased by the wind, not a soul could hear me. I made a wordless cry. Raindrops fell came flying into my throat. Even I knew I was acting childishly, but I couldnt help myself. The pouring rain started falling even harder. I wonder how nice it would feel to take off all my clothes and leap out into the rain. I imagined myself, naked, running around in the storm. I would probably look totally delirious. But, it was an irresistible temptation. I opened my mouth again and drank in the rain. I tried to suppress this strange urge. Im scared of whats inside me. Harsh and violent emotions assail me from time to time.

Break it. Destroy it. Destroy what? Everything. Everything? I heard an electronic noise. It was a warning sound indicating that the internal environment had been compromised. If things were left alone, the window would shut and lock automatically. Humidity and temperature control would kick in and the area wet with rain, myself included, would be dried out. I wiped my dripping wet face on the curtains and walked over to the door to turn off the environmental controls. I wonder what would have happened if I had obeyed the warning noise back then? If I had closed the window and decided to stay in the more-or-less dry room, how differently my life would have turned out. I dont regret it though. Not one bit. Its just curious. It was curious that the thing that changed my, up until then, strictly-controlled world, was the act of the window during the typhoon on the seventh of September, 2013, purely on a whim. I dont believe in God, but once in a while the phrase the hand of God seemed appropriate. I turned off the switch. The electronic noise stopped. The room fell silent right away. Hmph. I could hear a weak laugh at my back. I instinctively turned around and let out a little whine. A soaking wet boy was standing there. Though, I didnt realize it was a boy right away. He had hair down to his shoulders and his small face was buried in his hair. The arms and neck protruding from his short sleeved shirt were all quite thin. I couldnt tell if it was a man or a woman, young or old. More than anything, my eyes and mind were fixated on the part of his left shoulder stained red, nothing else entered my mind. Its the color of blood. This is the first time Ive ever seen someone bleeding so showily. I reached out toward him almost unconsciously. Before my hand reached him, the intruder disappeared. At the same time, there was a crash. A strong force pressed me against the wall. A cold and terrifying sensation hit my throat. Five icy fingers closed around it. Dont move, he said. He was shorter than me. I looked into his eyes as he was reaching up to grasp my throat. His eyes were dark grey. Ive never seen eyes that color before. His fingers dug into my neck. I could have never imagined that hed be so strong, my whole body was frozen. He knew what he was doing. I see. I said in a reckless tone. You know what youre doing.

His ash-colored eyes didnt blink even once. Those unwavering eyes were calm as flat ocean, I sensed no threat, fear or intent to kill from him. They were really clam eyes. I was suppressing my own agitation. Ill treat your wound. I said, licking my lips. Youre injured, Ill treat the wound. I could see myself reflected in the intruders eyes. I could feel him inhale sharply. I lowered my eyes and slowly repeated the same words. Ill treat the wound. You need to stop the bleeding. Ill t-r-e-a-t the wound, okay? The force grasping my neck let up a bit. Shion. My mothers voice came over the intercom. The window is open, isnt it. I tried to take a deep breath. Itll be fine, I thought. Its fine, I can act like nothings wrong. The window? Yeah, its open. You shouldnt have opened it. Youll catch a cold. Okay. My mother started to laugh all of a sudden. Even though you just turned 12 today, you really are still a child. I said okay Oh, mom. What is it? Im working on a report, so please dont bug me for a while. A report? But youve only just decided to enroll in the special course. What? Whatever, there are a lot of subjects Okay Dont work too hard. Please come out for dinner. He took his icy cold fingers off my throat. I was freed. I stretched out my hand and let the environmental control system do its thing. But I left the foreign body detection system off. Without it, the intruder wouldnt be recognized as a foreign body and the obnoxious alarm

wouldnt sound. Confirmed legal residents of No. 6 wont set off the detection system when in the room. It doesnt consider them foreign bodies. But, I didnt think there was any way this drenched intruder could be a legal resident of the city. I closed the window and warm air started to flood the room. The grey-eyed intruder sat down, clinging to the bed as if he might collapse. He took long, deep breaths. He looked incredibly worn out. I pulled out the first aid kit, and tried taking his pulse. I cut off his shirt and cleaned the wound. This is I couldnt help but stare. Id never seen anything like it before. Shallow groves were carved into the flesh of his shoulder. A gunshot wound? Yeah. He responded in the positive right away. A bullet grazed me. Whats your peoples technical term for it? Im not a specialist. Im still a student. In the special course? Starting next month. Heh, nice. You must have a high IQ. His tone had a tinge of playful teasing to it. I looked up from the wound and met his eyes. Are you making fun of me? Making fun of you? Now why would I make fun of the person tending my wound? Not a chance! So, whats your major? I told him it was ecology. Id only just decided to enroll in the special course. Ecology. Im not at all prepared to be treating a bullet wound. Its my first time. Its a bit exciting. Um, so what should I do first? Disinfect it, stop the bleeding right, I have to stop the bleeding first. What are you doing with that? He stared at me as I took the syringe out of its sterile case and suddenly gulped. Its a local anesthetic. Alright, here it comes. Hang on a second. What do I need anesthetic for?

Stitches. Of course this is me talking about it long after the fact, but at the time, I think I was smiling like I was so happy I couldnt bear it. Stitches! Youre going to use such a primitive treatment? This isnt a state-of-the-art hospital. And moreover, a gunshot wound is pretty primitive in its own right. The citys crime rate has always been nearly zero. Public order is maintained, so there really shouldnt be any ordinary citizens who carry firearms. The only exception should be for hunting. The ban on hunting is only lifted twice a year. People take old firearms into the mountains. My mother doesnt like those people. My mother wasnt the only one either. Regular opinion polls show that 70% of the population is uncomfortable with the idea. Killing animals who havent done anything wrong is terrible. Its cruel. Awful But, bleeding before me was no fox or deer, but a person. I dont believe it. I whispered. Dont believe what? That theres anyone who would turn a gun on another person Dont tell me a hunter shot you by mistake. He closed his lips a bit. He was smiling. It wasnt a hunter. Well, I guess theyre sort of like hunters. But it wasnt an accident. They knew you were a person and shot you anyway? Isnt that illegal? I dunno. Instead of hunting foxes they just hunt humans. A man hunt. Its probably not really a crime. What do you mean? There are those who hunt people, and people who are hunted. I have no idea what youre talking about. I know, right? Thats probably a good thing. Anyway, are you really going to give me an injection? You wouldnt happen to have any topical anesthetic, would you? Ive always wanted to give someone an injection.

After I disinfected it, I injected the anesthetic three times in areas around the wound. I was nervous, so my hands trembed a bit, but somehow it worked out fine. Then, I bring thread to the wound and You sew. Right. Have you ever done this before? Nope. I have no interest in medicine, so of course not. But, I do know how blood vessles work at least. I saw a video about it. So youre totally clueless. I took a deep breath, he was staring right at me. His lips were thin and drained of blood, his cheeks sunken and his skin was pale and dry. No matter how looked at it, this wasnt the face of a living person. He really seemed to be some game which had been chased down, worn out and forced from its hiding place. But, his eyes alone were different. Even if they revealed nothing about what he was feeling, I could sense that he was alive. You might call it a spark of life. Up until then, Id never met a person with such impressive eyes. Those eyes stared at me unblinkingly. Youre weird. Why? You havent even asked me my name. Oh, right. But you didnt give me your name either, so were both to blame. Youre Shion, right? Is that the name of a flower?[2] Yeah. My mom loves trees and wildflowers. What about you? Mouse. Excuse me? Thats my name. Mouse Thats not right. Not right? His eyes werent mousy at all. They were much more elegant than that. Theyre kind of like the color of the sky just before dawn breaks

I blushed. I was embarrassed at the clumsy poetry I was thinking up. I spoke loudly on purpose. Alright, here I go. Come on, remember the basic process for suturing blood vessels. I should anchor it in two, no three spots, and then use that to support a running stitch I have to do it accurately. To do a running stitch I have to My fingers trembled. Mouse was wordlessly fixated on the tips of my fingers. I was nervous, but I was a little excited too. I was putting something that had previously only been a piece of information in my head into practice. It was a pleasant kind of excitement. I finished the sutures and wrapped it in sterile gauze. Sweat was dripping from my forehead. Perfect. Mouse was sweating a bit too. I just have talented fingers. Its not just you fingers, youre bright too. Youre only 12 years old, right? Youre a super elite to be entering the High Institutes special course at this age. This time, it didnt sound like he was teasing me. Or praising me for that matter. I silently cleaned up the used gauze and utensils. Ten years ago, during my 2nd-year city checkup, I was certified as top rank in intelligence. If youre certified as top rank in intelligence or physical ability, you are guaranteed a top-notch education from the city. I took lessons in general education and fundamentals from expert teachers with several others in a state-of-the-art classroom until I turned 10. After which point, we were all expected to specialize in the field to which we were best suited. I was given my own personal teachers. My future had been arranged ever since I was certified as top rank at age two. Unless something crazy happened, that is. Nothing crazy should have happened. Your bed feels comfortable. Mouse whispered, still leaning on the bed. You can use it. But change first. I tossed a clean shirt, towel and box of antibiotics onto Mouses lap. Then I got the idea to make some cocoa. With an induction cook top even I could make a simple drink like that. Is it to your taste? Mouse picked up the plaid shirt and snorted.

Well, its preferable to a bloodied, stained and torn shirt. I handed him a mug full of cocoa. That was the first time I saw any trace of emotion in his grey eyes. Joy. Mouse took one sip of the cocoa and murmured that it was good. Its good. Much better than the suture operation. Dont compare the two. It was my first time. I think I did a pretty good job all things considered. Are you always like this? Pardon? Do you let your guard down for anyone like this? Or are all the pure elites this unaware? Mouse continued, holding the cup of cocoa with both hands. You all live without fear or wariness of intruders. I am wary. And I am fearful. Im scared of dangerous situations. Im not so naive to believe that someone crawling in through a second floor window would be an upstanding citizen. Then why? Yes, why indeed. Why did I tend an intruders wound and bring him cocoa? I dont think of myself as a particularly cold hearted person. But, I dont think Im the sort of saint who would reach out to just anyone who was injured. I hate bothersome things and causing problems. And yet, I took in an intruder. If the city authorities find out, Ill be in serious trouble. Maybe Im just lacking in common sense. But if then I met his grey-eyed gaze. He looked like he was smiling slightly. Almost as if he knew just what I was thinking. He shot me a profound glare. If you had been a threatening man, youd have tripped the alarm right away. But you look like a little girl and even now you look so pale you might collapse at any moment. Thats Thats why I helped you. And And, your eyes are a fascinating color that Ive never seen before. That piqued my interest. And? And I wanted to try doing sutures. Mouse shrugged and finished his cocoa. He wiped his lips with the back of his hand and lightly caressed the sheets on the bed. I can really sleep here? Yes, really.

Thanks. That was the first time he thanked me since he barged in. I sat down on the couch in the living room. My mother was staring at the LCD panel on the wall. She pointed at the screen when she noticed me. A female announcer with long, straight hair was reading a warning to the residents of Chronos. One of the prisoners in the correction facility in the West block had escaped and was on the loose near Chronos. As the Typhoon was approaching as well, the whole region was put under curfew. Tonight, all outings are prohibited save for special exceptions. Mouses face appeared on the screen. The letters VC103221 were emblazoned in red under his face. VC I ate one piece of the cherry cake that was sitting on the table. My mother would always bake cherry cake for my birthday. Since my dad brought home cherry cake the day I was born. According to my mother, my father was careless with both women and money, but he loved alcohol more than either, a borderline alcoholic. He sounds like he was a hopeless man. The three cherry cakes that man bought under the influence were delicious and I guess she still remembers it every September 7th. My parents divorced just two months after they ate that cherry cake, but I dont remember my good for nothing, borderline alcoholic father at all. It never really caused me any trouble. Ever since I got stuck in the top rank, my mother and I were granted this perfectly secure lifestyle, living in this house in Chronos thats cozy and plain, yet furnished with state of the art creature comforts. No troubles at all. Speaking of which, the alarm system in the garden is still off, but its probably fine. My mother stood up slowly. Shed suddenly started gaining weight lately and her body seemed sluggish. What a pain. If a cat came over the wall, the alarm would sound and the public affairs department would come to check it out right away, itd be such a pain. My mothers use of the phrase such a pain increased in proportion to the weight she put on. At any ratee, hes so young. I wonder what he could be doing in with a VC. VC. A V-chip. Short for Violence Chip. In the past, it was the name of a silicon chip used in American televisions to restrict access to certain kinds of programing. If you installed it in your TV, you could set it to avoid especially violent scenes and so on. If I recall correctly, the name came from the American FCC in 1996. But, in No. 6 VC is something much more serious. People convicted of murder, attempted murder, robbery and assault have the chip implanted in their bodies, through which a computer can track the prisoners location, physical condition and even emotional state. VC has become a colloquial shorthand for someone whos committed a heinous crime.

I wonder what he did to get a chip. If he still has the chip in him, the search system should be able to locate him easily. They should be more than capable of arresting him without alerting the citizens. Yet, they went as far as to make a public announcement that a VC escaped and instituted a curfew, so they probably cant locate him. Could that gunshot wound have been no, thats impossible. That was the first time Id ever seen a gunshot wound to human flesh, but that was definitely caused by a shot from some distance. If he had tried to dig a chip out of his shoulder himself, it would be a more serious wound accompanied by a burn. Itd have been much worse than what I saw. Even though its your birthday, its been pretty dull, hasnt it? My mother sighed as she sprinkled parsley into the stew sitting on the table. She had developed a habit of describing things as dull too lately. My mother and I were quite alike. We were both neurotic and socially inept. The people around us were all fine, unremarkable people. Both my classmates and the people in this region were quiet, intellectual and well mannered. No one was ever verbally or physically violent. There were no strange or out-of-place people. Everyone had access to proper health care, so even slightly heavier people like my mother were rare. In this world where everyone enjoyed the same stable tranquility, where my mother was growing fat and complaining about things being a pain and dull, I became acutely aware of how bad I was at dealing with other people. Break it. Destroy it. Destroy what? Everything. Everything? The spoon slipped from my hand. Whats wrong? Youre spacing out. My mother looked over at me. Her round face suddenly cracked a smile. What a rare sight. You, spacing out! Do you want me to get you a new spoon? No, its fine. I forced a smile smile. My heart was beating so fast it hurt. I drained my glass of mineral water in one gulp. Gunshot wound, blood, VC, grey eyes, what the hell was all that? Those things didnt exist in my world until today. Why did they come so unexpectedly, so abruptly into my life?

I had a premonition. A premonition that something big would change. Just like a virus infiltrates a cell to change or destroy it, perhaps that intruder would end up changing or destroying my world. Shion? Whats really going on? This time, my mother gave me a serious look. Sorry, Mom. Im worried about my report, so Im gonna eat in my room. I lied to her and stood up. Dont turn on the light. He said quietly when I entered the room. I hate the dark so I usually leave the lights on in my room. Now it was completely dark. But you cant see anything. Thats a good thing. I cant move if I cant see. I was frozen holding the plate with cake and stew on it. That smells good. Its stew and cherry cake. I heard him whistle in the dark. Want some? Of course. In the dark? Of course. I slowly started to walk. I heard him laugh a little. You cant walk comfortably in your own room? Im sorry but Im not exactly nocturnal. Can you see in the dark? I am a mouse after all. Obviously Im nocturnal. VC103221. Mouse froze in his tracks. You had a closeup on the TV. Youre famous.

Heheh. The real thing is infinitely better. Oh, this cake is good. I sat down on the bed and as my eyes adjusted to the dark, I could see Mouse. Did you run away? Of course. What about your chip? Its still in me. Are you going to remove it? Another operation? Gimme a break. But Ill be fine. It doesnt work anyway. What do you mean? The VC is just a toy. Its easy to break it. The VC is just a toy? Its a toy. For the record, this whole city is like a toy. Its a cheap toy that just looks pretty on the outside. Mouse seemed to have cleaned his plate of stew and cake. He gave out a sated sigh. So, are you sure you can escape from the middle of this high-security city? Of course. People who arent registered citizens are labeled trespassers, and there are strict checks for them. The system stretches throughout the entire city. I dunno about that. That system that you think is so perfect, isnt functioning at all in this city. Its full of holes. How can you be so sure of that? Because Im not part of the system like you people are. Because you fit neatly into the system, you think this fake city, riddled with holes is a utopia. Well, maybe thats just how I see it. I dont think so. What?

I dont think this is a utopia. The words just slipped out. Mouse fell silent. There was only darkness before me. There was no hint of his presence. I see, he really is a mouse. A little, nocturnal animal lurking in the dark. Youre weird. He said, in an even quieter voice than before. Really. Youre weird. Thats not something a super elite should say. Wouldnt you be in trouble if the city officials found out? Yeah, serious trouble. Youre harboring a fugitive VC and youve failed to alert the authorities Thatd also get you in trouble. Sorry for all the trouble. No problem. He grabbed my arm all of a sudden. His thin fingers pressed into me. Are you seriously okay with that? What happens to you is none of my business, but itd bother me if something I did ended up ruining your life. Id feel really guilty Youve got a strong sense of duty. My mama raised me not to cause other people trouble[3]. So, youre going to leave? I dont want to. Im tired and theres a hurricane outside. Since I finally secured a bed, I think Im going to sleep here. Hypocrite. Papa taught me theres a time and a place for everything. Sounds like you had a good father. He let go of my arm. Im glad you turned out to be a weirdo. Mouse whispered. Mouse.

Yeah? Howd you get to Chronos. Thats confidential. You escaped from the correctional facility into the city? Is that even possible? Of course it is. But I didnt sneak into No. 6 by myself, I was brought in. Although, I didnt really want to. You were brought in? Yeah. More commonly described as being escorted [under armed guard]. Escorted! Where to in the city? The West block where the correctional facility was had heightened security. Office which handles requests for permission to enter No. 6 is there. Its easy for people with special licenses from the city officials, but for those without it takes at least a month after submitting the application, at the earliest. And then, less than ten percent of applicants are granted permission to enter the city. And on top of that, the length of their stay is strictly limited. Naturally, people are piling up in the West block. Naturally, there are people waiting for their permits to come, and there are lodgings, restaurants for those people, along with many people who work and do business there. Ive never set foot in there, but it seems like a diverse and busy place. There is a lot of crime too. The VC of the correctional facility are largely residents of the West block. At the correctional facility, the incarceration period, from as little as one year to a life sentence, is determined based on age, criminal record and severity of the crime. There is no death penalty. In a sense, the West block is a crime breakwater. Its been given the role of a fortress to prevent anything crime-related from entering the city. And a VC was escorted from the West block to the city. Where to and for what purpose Mouse crawled into bed. Probably close to the Moon Drop. The town hall! I was surprised. Why were they taking you to the city center? I wont say. Its probably better if you dont know. Why? Im tired. Would you let me sleep already? Do you mean you cant say?

Can you forget something after youve heard it? Can you make like you never heard it? Can you play dumb? You might be smart, but thats a skill only adults usually have. Thatd be Then dont ask. In exchange, I wont say a word about that. Huh? About what? That you were shouting from the window. He saw me. My cheeks burned. You startled me. Id just snuck into the garden and was trying to figure out what to do when you stuck your face out the window. Hang on a second. So, I went to see what you were doing and you startled me again when you started shouting. To see a human making that face and shouting Shut up. I leapt at Mouse. But I just landed on the pillow. Mouse flew at me with unbelievable speed and twisted my outstretched hands. My body abruptly made a half-turn. I ended up on my back with him straddling me, pinning both my arms with one hand. He tightened his legs around my waist. My toes started to feel numb right away. It was so vivid. I was being pressed into my own bed so hard that I couldnt move or offer any resistance. Mouse twirled the stew spoon with his free hand. He put the handle to my neck and dragged it across my throat. If this were a knife He leaned over me and whispered right in my ear. Youd be dead. The muscles in my throat twitched. But, wow. Wow. You know how to do that? What? How do you disable someone so easily? Is it pressure points? The force pressing down on me let up. And at the same time, Mouses body hunched over. He was trembling with laughter. Youre funny. Youre really funny. Youre totally clueless.

I wrapped my arms around Mouses back and stuck my palms under his shirt. Hes hot. His skin felt hot and sweaty. This isnt good Youve got a fever. You should take the antibiotics. Dont worry about it I just want to sleep. Youll just get weaker if that fever doesnt go away. Youre burning up. Youre pretty warm too. Mouse whispered softly as he took a deep breath. People are warm when theyre alive. He had fallen right asleep. And before I realized it, I fell asleep holding his feverish body. The next morning, Mouse had disappeared. The plaid shirt, towel, and first aid kit disappeared with him.

[1] This is the name of one of the main characters, but this spelling is also used interchangeably with references to the animal, so Im translating the name. In this section, its ambiguous whether its using it as his name or using it metaphorically to compare him to the animal. In Japanese the distinction is insignificant and both uses can be carried simultaneously with 0 effort, but it doesnt work that way in English. I was going to use Rat because it works better for most things, but Shion makes a pun (sorta) on his name and mousy just fits so perfectly. [2] The other main characters name. Leaving it as Shion because its not used the same way Mouses name is. But for reference, Shion is Aster tataricus. It has antibacterial properties. [3] Noting it now since this is the first time in my TL that it becomes really obvious (tl;dr Im a terrible writer), but Mouse speaks in a different dialect than Shion. The main thing is that he uses instead of for the copula, but thats not really enough to say what regional dialect hes speaking (several of them do that). Its probably not meant to be indicative of a particular region in Japan so much as the idea that he speaks differently/less properly than Shion who was raised in the high-class neighborhood, Chronos. Anyway, like I said, Im a shitty writer so Im sorry if this doesnt come across much in the English text.

Chapter 2: Quiet Beginnings

Index Case (first discovered instance) Male. 31 years old. Employed by a biotech firm. Engineer. Dead upon discovery. Legal address A man sitting on a bench in the woodland park sighed. How many times had he sighed that day? He sighed and gazed at the head of lettuce in his hands. And then sighed again. The head of lettuce had glossy, tightly wound green leaves, it was a first-rate product. He plucked the outermost leaf and ate it. It had a subtle flavor and a flawless texture. It was a first rate product for sure. And yet, it wasnt selling. The lettuce was this mans product. The man had always been working on bio-engineering perishables, mainly leafy vegetables. He believed that because they were safe, cheap and tasty bio-engineered products, they would solve the supply issues and become a major part of the food supply. He had plenty of confidence. But, when he saw the demand at the market, hed overestimated things. The man was extremely disappointed. The customers had chosen the field-grown vegetables from the East and South blocks over his bio-engineered produce. The tendency was especially noticeable with leafy vegetables like cabbage and lettuce. He was told that now his superiors were considering ending production. Lately, hed been getting a creeping, prickly pain at the base of his neck. In the past, he was the type prone to getting stress rashes. He would probably end up getting a huge red rash all over his body tonight. He was having nothing but trouble today. He sighed. The lettuce in his hands was heavy. An electronic sound came from his breast pocket. A young womans face appeared on the mini cell phone screen of his ID card. Im with the city information service center. The city infant examination information you requested is ready. To confirm, please enter your citizen registration number The man punched in his citizen number before she finished speaking. Today was the day of his only daughters 2nd-year examination. His daughter was a bright and adorable child. He would never say it out loud, but he was secretly expecting her to be certified as top rank. Thank you. Your number and finger print have been confirmed. Here are the results. His daughters name was displayed, followed by tiny numbers. Weight, height, chest measure, healthiness, nutritional state, developmental state, special ability ranking They were all graded from A to C, meaning she was completely normal. Shes not particularly developmentally delayed or advanced. Thats all. He stared at the screen for a while before putting the card back into his pocket. He recalled his daughters smiling face.

Oh well. The man murmured, looked down at the lettuce and laughed. Talent or no talent his daughter was still his daughter. Adorable. Beloved. That was enough. At that moment, something suddenly occurred to him. Havent I been obsessing over this top rank lettuce? It is most certainly a flawless lettuce. But, didnt its perfection backfire? Perhaps the reason those identically perfect heads of lettuce were for naught was because the consumer kept them at a distance. Contrary to what you might think, perfection puts people off, doesnt it? A cleaning robot drew near. It had a silver torso with a round head. Its two arms stretched out picking up garbage and dropping it in the receptacle in its torso. My lettuce is like that robot. Its clean and orderly, but its too artificial. The vegetables the consumers chose were more unique and natural The lettuce rolled out of his hands. He was about to rush to collect it when he raised an eyebrow. Hm? His fingers went stiff. His vision suddenly became dim, his breathing labored. The robot grabbed the lettuce, and paused for a bit. A young mans voice asked, May I dispose of this as garbage? The man opened his mouth and started coughing violently. White things came spilling out of his mouth as he coughed. Teeth. His teeth were falling out. If its okay, Ill dispose of it. The lettuce was tossed into the receptacle and the robot left. Hang on, help me The man reached out and screamed. His outstretched arms were covered in spots. His body felt heavy. The man staggered and collapsed between the bench and some shrubs. Shion, come here. It was after 6 p.m. when Shion was called by his colleague Yamase. They were the only people in the parks management office. They were in charge of managing the three maintenance robots making the rounds in the park. The cleaning robots were much simpler in comparison to the manual labor robots, which were still in the prototype stage in another division somewhere, but they did break down from time to time. Controlling them was annoying too. They couldnt really determine what was trash and what wasnt. They were designed to recognize trash and register that with the computer and then automatically clean it up, but they often sent unable-to-identify errors. One such error happened about 30 minutes

ago. The image it sent appeared to be a lettuce and Shion himself was forced to make the decision for the machine. Occasionally hed get things that he wasnt sure why it considered them garbage, like a baby bird fallen from a tree or a hat with a gaudy feather, but this was the first time it was a lettuce. Whats going on? He stood behind Yamase who was sitting before the controls. Hmm, Walkers acting weird for some reason[1] Yamase had given each of the three robots nickname. Walker was the one in question. Today it was working in the far corner of the park. And the one that had picked up the lettuce was Walker. The screen before him was flashing red to indicate an identification error. Whats the image? Yeah, thats I dont know how to say it, but its weird. Weird? Yamase, 20 years old, was four years older than Shion, but he was rarely quietly confused. Shion liked working here for two reasons: as he was working with machines, he wouldnt have to talk to other people and he enjoyed his colleague, Yamases calm disposition. Come on, take a look at it. The image on the screen changed. Could you bring it into focus a bit more? Sure. Yamases hands moved frantically. The image came into focus. Thats Shion leaned forward and gulped. Legs? A pair of trouser-clad legs were sticking out from behind the bench. He could make out a brown shoes too. Is he sleeping? Yamases voice trembled.

Lifesigns? What? Expand Walkers sensor range as far as itll go, please. Walker had several sensors that could measure temperature, noise, and mass. Yamases voice trembled again. Oxygen, body temperature undetectable. Lifesigns zero. Im going to check it out. Oh, Ill come too. They hopped on our bikes, and peddled with all their might. There had been a bike boom the last few years. The statistics department had announced that each citizen owned between one and three bikes. Jogging shoes were flying off the shelves too. It seemed that people were starting to choose to walk and peddleto use their own bodiesover more convenient vehicles. Although, for a student like Shion, inexpensive, maneuverable vehicles with no energy cost were a necessity, boom or not. There was a speed limit for bikes inside the park. They sped down the path theyd normally take slowly. Most vehicles have an automatic control and they were designed to engage the breaks automatically if the speed limit was exceeded for a certain amount of time. Bikes were no exception, they had a controller in the hand brake. But, since Shion had an old bike, it didnt have one. If the transit authority were to find out, hed be fined, but, right now, he was thankful that he didnt have to worry about his speed. It was a quiet spot surrounded by trees. The wind made a pleasant sound as it blew through the trees; Walker had stopped below them. With its head tilted slightly, somehow it almost seemed like it was lost in thought. Walker. Its eyes glowed green in response to Shions voice. Shion was petrified after he peered behind the bench. Shion, whats wrong? Yamase, who arrived just after him, said in a muffled voice. That man laid behind the bench as if to conceal himself. His mouth was agape and his eyes open wide. It wasnt an expression of terror or pain, but more like shock. Like he saw something unbelievable just before he died. Thats the kind of face he had. His hair was completely white and his cheeks were covered in age spots. And deep wrinkles. He appeared to be very old. His shirt is unusually flashy for his age though.

Shion thought upon seeing that his shirt was a pale pink. Mr. Yamase, please contact the public order department. What? Uh but Okay. Ill do it right now Hello? This is Yamase from the the park management office. Shion tried touching the mans body with his hand while listening to Yamases quivering voice explain the situation. He was in full rigor mortis. That doesnt make sense. He muttered unconsciously. Its too soon. Rigor mortis setting in one hour after death is pretty fast, normally it takes two or three hours. Normally it starts at the jaw and works its way down to the feet. In other words, the man must have died a few hours ago. But, the corpse only found its way here thirty minutes ago. Otherwise Walker would have noticed it. He knew that someone had been sitting on the bench. When he confirmed the lettuce was garbage, Walkers sensors picked up a persons lifesigns. He couldnt be sure if it was the same person though. No, theres no way it was the same person. Theres no way the body would be in full rigor mortis in just thirty minutes. But then, that would mean someone sat on the bench without noticing the man. Thats not possible. Shion let go of the mans arm, which felt harder and colder than Walkers. Theres no way. If, for arguments sake, the man died without anyone noticing, Walker would have picked it up. And yet, when Walker sent an unable-to-identify error earlier, there was no corpse here. Its almost like the corpse moved. Of course its just my imagination. But Shion ended up grumbling a little more. The area around his chin should be completely stiff, but its started to soften. And he could smell a faint sent of decomposition. The man was lying face down and a dark, nearly black, stain was growing behind his ears. It wasnt there before. At the very least, it was visible to the naked eye. He drew closer for a better look. Theyre here. Shion let out a sigh of relief. The public order department car was quietly, slowly making its way there. Tens of minutes ago, he was in full rigor mortis, yet, its subsided Theres no way that could be true. Safu said plainly after she swallowed the piece of chocolate doughnut in her mouth. The fast food restaurant near downtown was crowded with an assortment of customers.

And then, there was that rotten smell, so bacterial decomposition had probably started. Theres no way that could happen. Even if it was summer, rigor mortis would take over 30 hours to set in and subside right? Under ideal conditions, in summer it takes 36 hours, in winter, three to seven days, in the current climate, about 60 hours. Thats what my textbook says. Shion averted his eyes from Safus face and brought his cup of black tea to his mouth. He was depressed and tired. Was the public order departments investigation intense? Safu peered over at him. Her short hair cut complimented her delicate face and gave her a strange, androgynous charm. Safu was classed as top rank in the 2nd-year examination. She was one of his fellow elite with whom Shion had shared a classroom with for 10 years and now 16, she was one of Shions close confidants. Her field of study was physiology and she was leaving for another town as an exchange student soon. For now, its considered an unnatural death. Its suspicious, so of course the police interviews were relentless. The Safu Shion knew in school was a short and quiet girl. Shes probably the same in the lab. But when she was alone with Shion, Safu laughed and ate a lot and spoke quite a bit in a friendly tone. Shion finished his black tea and slowly shook his head. No, it wasnt as intense as Id thought it would be. Actually, the public order offices questioning was handled rather disappointingly quickly. Walkers data on the corpse had been seized and Yamase and Shion were both asked for their explanations of the situation. Right after Shions official address was confirmed to be downtown, near the East block, the public order officers tone became more strict, but he was already used to that reaction, do it didnt bother him much. So, why do you look so upset? You look like a troubled young man. Yeah Im just stuck on it. The rigor mortis and how fast it subsided? Yeah, that. Just like you said, it makes no sense. It really doesnt make any sense. No matter how much I think about it, theres nothing I can come up with that would make rigor mortis set in and subside that quickly. You mean, there werent any external conditions like temperature or humidity that could have done it. Without an autopsy, we have no way of knowing if there were any internal factors contributing to it. Internal factors? Like what?

Like, if the person was particularly weak to begin with, the rigor mortis would be pretty weak too, it wouldnt last very long either. I dont think it wouldnt be too apparent in someone poisoned with phosphorous or newborn babies either That man was definitely not a baby. Safu whined and glared at Shion. I was just throwing out examples. Youre as cynical as ever. Anyway, without any data we wont know anything. Yeah Shion vaguely nodded his head and unconsciously bit his lower lip. Data, textbooks, manuals theyre all completely useless at times. Four years ago, everything he believed was true, everything he thought was absolute, was shattered in an instant. Shion. Safu had brought her hands together as if in prayer and rested her chin on top of them as she gazed at Shion. Id like to ask you something. What? Why are you getting so formal all of a sudden? Why didnt you take the special course four years ago? It was like she could see right through him. He picked at the all-too-sweet apple pie with his hand. The gooey insides spilled out onto the plate. Why are you asking all of a sudden? Because I want to know. Objectively speaking, youre the better student. You pick up and utilize information better than I do. All of your teachers had high hopes for you. You flatter me. Its a fact. The numbers prove it. Do you want me to show you your talent evaluation from four years ago again? Safu. There was a bitter taste in his mouth. It was a bitter taste bubbling up from inside him. What do you expect to accomplish by asking me that now? Four years ago I was not qualified to take the special course and all my special privileges were revoked. I didnt decide not to take it. And now, Im working at the parks control office to earn my tuition and taking the the manual labor departments engineering course. And Ive only made the bare minimum

number of classes, so Im not even sure if Ill graduate. Thats the truth, or in your words a fact. But how did you lose your qualifications? I dont want to talk about it. Come on, I wanna know. Shion licked the pie crust off his fingers and firmly shut his mouth. He didnt want to talk about it. Rather, he couldnt explain it, he just didnt have the words to explain it so that Safu would understand. It was actually very simple. The public order office had found out that hed harbored a VC and let him escape. His mother, Karan thought it was suspicious that Shion had turned off the foreign body detection alarm system in his room. Since the systems in each house were all connected to central control computer in the city hall, it was easy to figure out what happened. Not one hour after Mouse had disappeared from the room, several men from the public order department came to the house. After that the investigation just went on and on. You knew he was a VC? Yes. But you didnt report him right away? Well Please answer the question. Theres no hurry so please answer carefully. Well, he looked about the same age as me and he was really hurt, I was worried So you sympathized with a VC, failed to alert the authorities, treated his wound and helped him escape? Thats what ended up happening, yes. The head of the public order departments investigation was named Rashi, he never dropped his gentle tone. He never raised his voice or exercised violence. When investigation ended after a full two days and Shion was released, he even patted him on the shoulder and said, good work. But Shion noticed that his eyes never smiled once. Even now, four years later, he still dreamed about those eyes from time to time. Un-smiling eyes staring at him. They were so disconcerting that on those days, hed wake up drenched in sweat. Aiding and abetting a criminal. For that crime, Shion was barely punished, but since the judgment and [punitive] action were strikingly lacking, all of his special privileges were revoked.

After the typhoon let up, Shion and Karan were tossed out beneath the dazzlingly clear sky. They had no home or means to make a living. The special ecology course and everything, were farther away than the clouds, far out of reach. Everything that had been firmly within my grasp until yesterday, until just a short while ago disappeared. Rather than being blown off by a strong wind, the leaves leapt off. That was the first time in my life that Id ever tasted loss. No. 6 had no welfare system. Though there was a graduated system of assurances for those authorized to work for the city based on how much they contributed. Shion and Karan were treated as people who could not fulfill their civic duties let alone contribute to the city. They were bottom rank. They were just barely allowed to stay in the city, which meant that they had to give up all their aide and assurances. The pure elite. Mouse had said so that night, but thats exactly what it was. I realized for the first time when I was thrown from that pure coffin. No. 6 is a magnificently ordered hierarchical society. The upper and lower ranks are arranged into a perfect pyramid. If you slipped from the upper echelons, it wasnt easy. Youre making a weird face. Safu laughed. Alright, I get it. If its that hard to explain Ill stop asking. Sorry. Shion turned to Safu and made a begging gesture. He was relieved that shed stopped pressing him for answers. Stating facts is easy. He also thought he wanted to tell Safu about the change happening in his body, he wanted her to ask him about it. But, Shion loosened his grip, it was his current self that felt it was too difficult to explain. He couldnt understand this strange feeling of regret. He fumed silently at the fragility of his situation, along with a dormant feeling of loss. But, he was thinking about the four years hed lived through. What would he have done differently if he could turn back time to his 12th birthday? Would he call the public order department? Turn on the alarm system? The answer was always no. Even if he could go back to that night, it would have been the same. He would invite the intruder in along with the wind and the rain. He was perplexed by his confidence in that notion. Its not like he was particularly satisfied with his current way of life. He still longed terribly for ecology and the rich educational environment, and his life without want, and while were at it, the words and looks of encouragement and praise he was surrounded by back then. And yet, hed still do the same thing. If embracing Mouse lead to his destruction, then he wouldnt hesitate to chose destruction again. He didnt regret what hed done one bit. But he couldnt explain it. Many typhoons had come since that day. The feeling Shion had upon hearing the rustling of the trees in the wind was not regret, but a sort of nostalgia {herp, bad word choice}. He wanted to see him again. He didnt have the confidence to explain that feeling to Safu. He couldnt say a word. Shion, lets go.

Safu stood up. The shop had gotten so busy it had gotten difficult for them to hear each other over the noise. Ill walk you to the station. Naturally. Youre not so unrefined as to make a girl go home all by herself. Look whos talking. You were always really strong despite how thin and short you were. And agile too. I secretly thought you were more suited for martial arts than P.E. I know, right? Even though I was usually really quiet, I had to be careful not to get too worked up. Maybe Im not suited to being a researcher. They followed the street to the station. Since, aside from part of the restaurant district, late night businesses werent allowed to operate, in just a few hours there would be almost no foot traffic. Shion lightly pressed [his hand] against Safus back. Because Safus voice sounded weak. Why would someone who passed the selection test and decided to study abroad say something so pitiful? Safu raised her head and giggled a bit. Youre jealous, arent you? Yeah, totally. Youre a little frank. Be honest with yourself and be kind to strangers, its sort of my motto these days. Liar. What? You were never jealous. They stopped. Safu looked up at Shion, as if challenging him. Just as he was about to say something to her, a strong hand landed on his shoulder from behind. Excuse me. A man about a head shorter than Shion was standing there, smiling. He was wearing a public order department uniform. It was a subdued two-piece, navy blue garment, but it was made of a special fabric called a super fiber. Ten times stronger than steel, it was plenty effective as a bullet proof vest, and on top of that it was light and breathable. The closer you get to the West block, the number of people in the public order departments defense section uniforms increased. Shion slowly removed the mans hand and asked, Can I help you?

No, I just wanted to ask you something How old are you two? Sixteen. Both of you? Yes. Theres a curfew in effect, people under the age of 18 arent supposed to be out past nine oclock. I know. But its only eight. Shion. Safu whispered. She was telling him not to defy the officer. The public order department uniform behind him unconsciously reminded him of the eyes of Rashi, the head of the public order departments investigation. Rather than standing down, he opposed him. Could I see both of your IDs? Did he notice Shions defiant tone? The mans smiling face was replaced with an expressionless one as he requested their personal identification. Safu handed him a silver ID card. Shion handed his over in silence. Please recite your citizen registration numbers. SSC-000124GJ QW-55142 He removed the card from the small reader, turned to Safu and gently lowered his head. What is a special course student doing here at this hour? You should hurry home. I was just going home I was heading to the station. Ill take you to the station. No, need. Ive got him with me. Safu grabbed onto Shions arm. Im taking her. Thats why I was walking with her. Lets go, Safu. Shion nearly snatched the cards from the man, took Safus hand and started to walk briskly. He looked back after a bit, the short man had been enveloped by the crowd. That was surprising.

Safu was clutching her chest. Ive never been warned by a public order officer before. It happens all the time around here. Hed have been a lot harder on you if it werent for that special ID card you have. Really? Really. Youre going to get on a train, but because you have that ID card its not a regular car, but a special one that you get to ride. Thats the kind of place this city is. People are discriminated against based on talent, assets, and various other factors. I dont know if Id call it discrimination. People are people. Not trash or things. Safu, this isnt a question of humanity. Its just an issue of whether youre a productive citizen or not. Shion You called me a liar just a bit ago. I wasnt lying. Of course Im jealous. You get special treatment and get to research what you like. Im jealous. Frankly, I might even call it envy. You have everything I dont. Shion let out a deep breath. I said way too much. How rude of me. Petty. Embarrassing. Pitiful. He chastised himself in his mind. Safu sighed too. Youre such a liar. What? Are you deaf? I called you a L-I-A-R. I should have stuck a massive in front of it. Youre just pretending to be jealous of me. Or do you not even realize that youre lying? Youre such a dense boy. Safu, you know If you were really jealous or envious of me, you wouldnt have been able to eat with me. Werent you just laughing and eating and talking and cracking jokes like normal? Thats because even I have pride. I couldnt let myself do something so lame as to let my jealousy show. Shion, my specialty is the relationship between brain function and behavioral change and hormones. Yeah, I know.

Id be mad if you didnt. Ive said it I dont know how many times. You know, if you were pretending to have a good time while hiding your envy of me, that should be really stressful. Yeah, it was The thing about stress is, when you feel stressed out, its because your adrenal glands have excreted a corticosteroidor more plainly a steroid hormonewhich affects the brain. And consequently your behavior changes. Safu, I said I know. Gimme a break. If Id wanted a lecture, Id have asked for one. Listen. You werent stressed at all. Youre not jealous of me. Shion, what do you want to do? What? If you wanted to continue researching, fine, be jealous of me. But, you dont. You said I have everything you dont, but what do you have? Dont tell me nothing. A person who has nothing is No, thats not right. A person who thinks they have nothing couldnt laugh like you do. Youd need to be specially trained to have such complete control over your emotions such that they wouldnt have an effect. You never received such training. I dont think youre an especially emotional person. But, I dont think you have 100% control over them either. Since you were fine talking and laughing with me, its because you have surplus emotion. Safu, what youre saying is just an empty theory. People have complicated emotions. Theyre not lab rats. I dont think you can explain the connection between emotions and actions that simply. Its conceited to think that theres a scientific explanation for everything about humanity. Safu shrugged. The station building came into view. I never took you for a writer. Safu. Then stop talking like a poet. Surplus emotion in other words aspirations, or dreams. You have those, dont you. So you dont need to be jealous of me. Shion, what do you aspire to? Aspiration. He mouthed the word silently. Its a word he hadnt used in years. It wasnt bitter or sweet. It slowly permeated his body with warmth. Aspiration. What do I aspire to? The future I was promised had crumbled to dust. All I had left was my mother, a job by which I could earn meager compensation and my sixteen year old body. But I knew it wasnt hopeless. They entered the station. Shion lived in a district on the boarder of the West block. It served as a buffer zone between the city center and the West block. They called it Lost Town. Compared to the quiet in the city center, it was a crowded, chaotic place. Even this building was overflowing with people. It smelled faintly of fried food and alcohol.

This is fine. Safu stopped. A small, winged insect landed on her shoulder. Shion swatted it away and innocently asked, Take care. Oh, by the way, when are you leaving to study abroad? The day after tomorrow. The day after tomorrow! Why didnt you tell me earlier? I didnt want to talk about it. Speaking of which, arent you going to give me a farewell present? Safu tilted her chin up. Shion, theres something I want from you. Yeah. But I dont know if we have time now Your sperm. Safu stared at Shion unblinkingly, and said it. Shion looked down at her, mouth agape. Did you hear me? I want your sperm. Uh what? Safu. um Of all the people I know, youre the best candidate for sperm donor. Dont you think my eggs and your sperm would produce a superior child? I really want it, Shion. I want your sperm. Do you have the citys approval for artificial insemination? Getting approval isnt a problem. Shouldnt the city be encouraging artificial insemination for people with superior genes and abilities? Shion gulped and looked away. A bug crossed his line of sight. As if induced by the sound of those wings flapping, an unpleasant feeling came over him. Safu Maybe I never mentioned it, but I dont know anything about my father. Not his personality, his genetic makeup, his appearance, or his medical history. I know. But this has nothing to do with your parents. DNA, the human genome, has been 99% decoded. Its simple to look at what kind of genetic data you have. So, you look at it and. What if, what if you find something you dont like? Then

Safu, what are you thinking? Do you think humans are nothing more than the base sequences that make up their DNA? Even if you read my DNA and understand my genetic makeup, you wont know anything about me. You cant simply bring a child into I know a lot about you! Safu interrupted with a shout. It was so loud that everyone around them turned to look. Weve been together since we were two years old. I know what kind of person you are, what you like I know it all. You say you understand. but you dont! What? Safu mumbled something. He couldnt understand it. He leaned in a bit. I want to have sex. Safus words reached his ears right away. Safu I dont need your sperm. I dont want to be artificially inseminated. I dont care about having a kid. I just want to have sex with you. Thats all. Um, wait, hang on a minute Safu, um Right now. Shion took a deep breath. The thick smell of fried food flooded his lungs. The eight oclock chime sounded. Not now. Why? Do you not like me? Are you not interested in sex? I like and am interested in both. But I dont want to do it with you right now. You mean, you cant do it with me? No, my body would probably respond. But, I dont like the idea. But Thats why I dont want to. I dont want to sleep with you just because Im aroused. So you mean you dont have any romantic feelings for me. Yeah. I think of you as a friend. Youre an idiot. Safu let out a big sigh.

Youre still such a child. I mean seriously. Whatever, Im going home. Safu, two years. What? Your study abroad term is two years, right? Ill give it to you when you get back. You mean have sex? Yeah. You really are a complete idiot. You must have been raised to be really care-free. Take care. Dont over do it. Im gonna put my nose to the grindstone. Ill try not to go after any other guys though. As Safu lightly waved her hand and turned to walk away, she let out a little whine. A little ash-colored creature ran past Safus feet and jumped onto Shion. Eeew a mouse! A little mouse the size of a pinky finger climbed up Shions shoulder and sniffed. Im surprised there are any mice in town. But it is pretty cute. He seems to be a pretty friendly fellow. The little mouse brought its face close to Shions ear. And whispered. Youre as big an airhead as ever. Electricity ran through his body. Thats what it felt like. When he reached out to grab the mouse, it lept from his shoulder and ran to the stations exit. It was downtown, but it was unusual for a mouse to be in Lost Town which was within the city limits. The sanitation department diligently took care of the extermination of rodents and insects. People werent used to mice running between their feet. It caused shrieks and commotion in the crowd. Just before that, Shion saw ash-colored eyes. It was just for a second. Again, a numbness ran through his body. Mouse! Shion, what are you doing? Safu, you can get home from here, right? What are you talking about? Of course I can. I was just about to leave, wasnt I? Whats wrong? Why are you in such a rush all of a sudden?

Sorry. When we part, I wont see her for two years. I have to see her off properly. At least until she disappears into the crowd She wants to have sex with me, but to me, Safu, is an unshakably important person to me. I cant part with such an important person like this. I know that. I know that all too well, but I ignored it. My senses returned to me and my body began to move. Ah, I experienced this four years ago too. My senses told me which road to take. Running the alarm system. Reporting to the public order department. Rejecting an odd person. I went against all that. The same thing was happening now. I was following my heart. It was raining outside. The rain thatd just begun to fall, hit my face. There was one face I recognized within the quickly moving crowd. Shion! Karan opened her eyes when she saw her son come home. Youre soaked. Where were you? Out on a walk. In this rain? Where to? The station. Why did you keep walking while getting drenched again? It calms my mind. I give up. You really are care-free. Safu had said the same thing. Shion started laughing without thinking about it as she dried his hair. The rain chilled him quickly. Just an old style space heater warmed the room. Karan yawned lightly. It was bedtime already. Karan had opened a hand made bread shop in a corner of Lost Town. It was a small shop without even one proper showcase, but I guess the fragrant aroma that wafted from the shop starting early in the morning drew people in, it was fairly popular. Early to bed early to rise. 9 p.m. was the dead of night to Karan. I think Ill make more butter rolls starting tomorrow. And Ive made up my mind to try making simple cakes instead of just muffins. What do you think? Cherry cake? Yes, yes! I want to keep it at a price people can afford for a mid-day snack, but I think it should be more expensive than the bread and muffins. A modest commemoration for a special day, that sort of thing. It might work.

Right? Itll feel kind of fun with a bunch of cakes lined up in the shop. Shion nodded and left the living room. In this house, they didnt have the luxury of separate bedrooms. Karan slept in a corner of the living room and Shion slept in a room that had become a store room for the bread shop. Shion. His mother called and he turned back. Did something happen? What? Did something happen that made you need to cool your head? Karan continued, not waiting for Shion to answer. When you came home, you looked like you wee in a daze. Like you didnt even realize that youd been soaked by the rain And even now Even now? Youre making a face like youre agitated and lost in thought. Do you need a mirror? Shion sighed. Someone died in the park today. Really? In the woodland park? I didnt see anything on the news. It didnt make the news? Does that mean he died of natural causes? It was sudden, but it was explainable. An extremely normal death that didnt even make the news. Shion wiped his face. I guess things like that do happen. The bodys rigor mortis time and that green spot were weird. That isnt normal. Id only explained what he looked like when I found him to the public order department. I pretended not to notice the rigor mortis or the mark. I thought that was the best thing to do. I dont know why though. A voice inside me told me to play dumb, pretend not to notice. It was a voice like the instinct small animals have to hide themselves when they sense enemies near. It was informing me that danger was near. Look, even I have instincts. I was moved not by reason but by feeling. Even though I turned my back on reason, I readily follow instinct. Shion took another deep breath. He was having a little trouble breathing. So youre a little agitated? Yeah, I guess. It was the first time I saw a dead body.

Thats a lie, mom. I saw those eyes again today. I saw Mouse. I had a premonition. I feel like something about to happen. So Karan smiled and said good night. It was a calm and gentle smile. He told her good night, and left the living room. She was still as plump as ever, but his mother looked more youthful than before. It seems like the move from Chronos to Lost Town didnt bother her at all. She enjoyed making and selling bread with a smile on her face. She wasnt just putting on a brave face for her son. Karan really didnt bemoan living here. It was different from the completely provided life in Chronos, but Karan built her life in Lost Town with her own hands. And thats why I didnt want to ruin it. I dont want to do anything that could uproot her life again like what happened four years ago. At the very least, I dont want to involve her in anything. He collapsed into bed. He was shivering a bit. His head was pounding. It didnt stop even when he closed his eyes, all sorts of images appeared inside his eyelids. A green spot, a rolling lettuce, a pink shirt, Safus face. When she asked to have sex with him. A small mouse running up his body. And whispering in his ear. Youre as big an airhead as ever. His body temperature rose. His pulse quickened. It wasnt a dream or an illusion. Mouse was definitely in the crowd at the station. That was a pretty showy entrance. He tried mumbling, dumbass. What are you trying to say, making me believe you appeared like that. What are you trying to do? Shion awoke on his bed. Safu is probably unrelated, but I wonder if the body at the park and Mouse have anything to do with each other. Mouse appeared the night I discovered the corpse. Was that just a coincidence? Theres got to be a connection somewhere An electronic sound started up. The cell phone in his ID card was ringing. It couldnt be. Theres no way it could be Mouse. I knew that, but my heart wavered. The fingers holding the card trembled a bit. The two characters that made up Safus name glowed on the screen. When he pressed the accept button, the name was replaced with her face. Shion, were you already asleep? Oh, no. Right, I should have called her. Ive gotta make up for that half-assed farewell.

Safu, Im sorry about earlier. Um, Was it really such an important person? What? Safus face on the screen was making a bitter smile. It was a beautiful, adult expression. Id never seen you make that face before. Do you know what kind of face you made? No, um, uhh, I made that weird of a face? It was funny. I could never get tired of that. At first you were really surprised, and then Yes, what was that? Joy, perhaps? Like you were dreaming. Like you were blown away by something. And then you left me alone in the station and ran out. How awful, I mean really. Sorry. Im really sorry. Dont worry about it. Oh, so this person, this person who made you make that face, who let me see this completely new expression of yours. Hey, Shion, the person who made you make that face, who is it? Theres someone you care about so much that youd run after them in a trance? Yeah. I was surprised that I answered in the affirmative so quickly. Um, Safu, dont get me wrong here. I dont have a lover or anything like that, um, I cant really explain yet, but, how to put it This is the first time Ive seen you confused and unable to explain something too. Its fine. I dont mind if theres someone you like I guess Im bluffing a bit. I have a bad habit of acting like Ill be fine regardless of what happens. I dont think so at all. Safu, youre always honest with yourself, arent you? Only in front of you. Safu continued, making a face as if to say, you really never noticed? Safu, I really mean it, take care of yourself. When we meet again in two years I love you, Shion. I love you more than anyone else. She didnt even wait for Shion to answer before hanging up. He could hear the sound of the rain. Something was moving in the corner of the room. Mouse?

In this storehouse piled high with flour and sugar, only the sound of rain could be heard. He grasped his knees and sat alone in the dark, listening to the rain. The rain was pouring with no sign of letting up, it continued that way throughout the night.

[1] Ive translated the robots nickname. This might be a number pun (since there are 3 robots), but without the others its hard to say. I dont think its really terribly significant, just that Yamases the type of person who nicknames service robots.

Chapter 3: Run for Your Life

He put his ID card into the park management offices key sensor. The door opened without a sound and at the same time the rooms air purification and temperature control system started up. No one was in the office. It was rare for Yamase not to be in by now. Shion flipped the parks control system switch. His daily work was beginning. Good morning. Along with the voice, the city hallthe Moon Dropappeared on screen. I pledge my unwavering loyalty He held his hand up to the Moon Drop and slowly repeated, I pledge my unwavering loyalty to the city. Your loyalty is appreciated. Have faith and pride in the city and perform your daily duties. The Moon Drop disappeared and text reporting the status of the parks wildlife appeared. He sighed. Every morning Shion was troubled by this loyalty ceremony. Although the park management office was on the outskirts, it was under the direct control of the city, so he was obligated to pledge allegiance to the city every morning. If he refused, hed lose his job. Its not really that big of a deal. You just hold your hand up to the display and repeat a set phrase. However obvious he felt that was, he was fed up with the cliched words of the oath and the ridiculousness of the ceremony itself. Performing such a cliche and ridiculous act every morning painfully ate away at his self-respect. Speaking of which, Safu had complained of the same thing. Since the lab where Safu worked also had a city control mechanism, they surely have to preform the pledge too. Shion blew lightly on his palm. Theres nothing I can do about it. As long as Im a citizen of No. 6, as long as I want to live here, even if Im concerned about my self-respect, theres nothing I can do. Thats what he told himself. The office door opened. Yamase entered. Standing behind him was a woman in her 20s. Yamase greeted her softly. The woman shook her head and bowed lightly and left at a brisk pace. She was a petite woman with long hair. Ooh. Shions hands stopped over the control keys. He was fixated on Yamases square face. Mr. Yamase, its really unusual for you to bring a woman with you. Could it be..

that shes your girlfriend, I was about to continue, but I shut myself up. Sitting in front of his controls, Yamase had an awfully stiff expression as he pledged loyalty to the city. This wasnt the time to be teasing and cracking jokes. Mr. Yamase, is something wrong? Shion, that woman just now Yamase turned toward Shion. Shes the wife of the man who died yesterday. What? If thats true, theyre what you might call a May-December couple. In No. 6, as long as the people involved are both legally registered citizens of the city, there arent any particular restrictions on marriage. Obtaining an official marriage license was rarely a problem. The real problem was having children and whether an appropriate environment in which to raise them had been prepared. Those who could not satisfy the citys requirements were not allowed to have children. Shion didnt know what those requirements were exactly. At any rate, marriage was unrestricted, so seeing a couple with such a large age gap wasnt really that strange. They only had three between them. Yamase quietly mumbled. I didnt know what to make of it. According to the wife, they only had three years between them. Three years Theres no way. Yamase nodded. The man who died yesterday was 31 years old. No way! I exclaimed without thinking. Theres no way that could be true. He was definitely an old man when I saw him. Yeah I was shocked too. And the wife hasnt received the remains yet either. The authorities are hanging onto them. Hanging on to them Then I guess an autopsy wasnt enough to determine the cause of death. Yeah, maybe. They couldnt pinpoint the cause of death. Someone could die of something No. 6s cuttingedge medical technology cant determine? Its unthinkable. Medical science had long ago

entered the realm of the nanometre scale world. The average diameter of a cell is about 20 micrometres. And one micrometre is equivalent to one thousand nanometres. If it had been a pathological change on the cellular level, they should have already figured it all out. He shivered. That weird rigor mortis, how fast it subsided and how the body definitely looked like an old man What did it all mean? I just dont get it. Yamase spoke up softly, Apparently, the wife was told that he died in an accident in the park and was asked to wait until the investigation was completed. It seems like they at least told her where the accident happened. Accident! Thats crazy! Yeah, totally insane. Its a huge lie that it was an accidental death. Yamase scratched the base of his neck out of frustration. Mr. Yamase, why did the authorities have to lie like that? And isnt it weird that they cant figure out the cause of death too? Yeah I dont really know. If even the authorities cant come up with an explanation, I guess that means this is a completely unprecedented cause of death? Unprecedented? Something that no one knows about and has never experienced is the cause of death or seems like thatis it unthinkable? Shion! Watch what youre Yamase turned blue. I think the blood had similarly drained from my face. Would you like some coffee or something? Yamase stood up as if he couldnt bear the tension in the atmosphere a moment longer. Um, I Ill take care of it, dont worry about it. You like lots of milk in yours, dont you? Sorry But, an accident? Itd be obvious upon seeing the body that that was a lie. Yamase turned around. His always gentle, round face twisted into a strange expression. Mr. Yamase? Shion, you can make up a body.

What? Before Before I started working here, I was as the municipal hospital. I made up bodies. Made up bodies What do you mean by that? Id never intended to tell anyone about it, but Actually, Shion, have you ever seen a dead body before? At my maternal grandfathers funeral, I saw his body in the casket. And? And He had a calm face. Everyone looks like that when theyre dead. You really think so? Am I wrong? Medical technology had not only made strides in treatment and prevention of disease, but also in pain management. Pain from accidents, disease, and surgery has been significantly reduced compared to the past and for those on the verge of death, difficulty breathing, acute pain, discomfort from convulsions and the like can be almost completely eliminated. Anyone would have a calm face when they died if they could greet death without pain. Thats what hed heard. Yamase handed Shion a coffee cup. He scratched his neck and kept his eyes on the floor to avoid making eye contact with Shion. State-of-the-art medical technology is just a bunch of incomprehensible jargon to someone like me, but regardless of how advanced medical technology becomes, theres no way that every human could die calmly I know that much at least. Yamases face grew increasingly warpped. The hand he held his cup in was shaking too. Id worked for a very long time in the basement of the municipal hospital. I spent all my time down there, making up up the bodies that came through. Mr. Yamase, what does it mean to make up a body? Its a simple job. Right after a body is confirmed dead, the face is painted with a special chemical and its covered with a special piece of equipment. And then And then? They all smile. They kind of make a face like theyre having a nice dream. His voice raised suddenly. When I saw my grandfathers dead face when I was 9, his expression was just as Yamase described. He was smiling.

Kind of like theyre having a nice dream. I remembered my mother, Karans crying voice. Of course, most of the deceased dont need the make up process. If they have proper medical care at the time of death, I think they genuinely meet death calmly. But, you know, thats just the majority not everyone. Its probably a small fraction of the population, but there are people who die with horrible pain on their faces. Like? What? Like, what sort of people are they, Mr. Yamase? Yamase took a breath and finished his coffee. I dont know. I just applied the chemical to the bodies faces and pulled the equipment over them. They never told me how these people died with such pained and pitiful expressions on their faces. Though There was one day when a middle aged man had diedjust before you apply the chemical, you wipe the faceand when I wiped that mans face, it was stained with dry tears I thought that he must have been crying just before he died. When I realized that he was crying when he died I wondered if it might not have been a suicide. Suicide? A citizen of this city would never Never commit suicide? In the last ten years, only 0.05% of deaths among the citizenry were attributed to suicide. As that includes those who die from going into fits from temporary derangement, its not a strict category. Though this is all based on official city information. Official city information, huh. There is no despair in No. 6. Any citizen can live safely and comfortably. There is no hunger, grief or war. Nor any pain before death. You think this fake city, riddled with holes is a utopia. Mouse had said that four years ago. And that was exactly how Shion felt now. In Lost Town there are many people whod lost all hope. They can eat and they can live. But, they have no dreams for the future. No, its not just Lost Town. The same thing happens in Chronos too. Really, how many people are there who are satisfied with their lives to the point that they can die with a smile on their faces? Mr. Yamase, youve manipulated records for the city, havent you? Shion! Yamase furrowed his eyebrows and shook his head.

Dont say something like that like its nothing. Were employees of the city. Weve sworn our loyalty. We must not question it. I guess its partly my fault. Forget what I just said. Please. Okay Alright, lets get Walker and the others moving. What was the focus region for today again? From JK02 to ER005. The main task being sweeping leaves. Alright, lets get started. Right. We hit the operation keys for Walker and the others. Yamase let out a little groan. Mr. Yamase? Oh, sorry. I my fingers are acting up a bit. Are you hurt? No, its not like that they just feel a little stiff Yamase seemed to stand up aimlessly, then cover his face with his hands and crouch down. Are you alright? My eyes I cant see Its hazy Shion reached out a hand to help support Yamase, but he froze in an instant. Yamases hair was turning white. Spots were spreading on the hands covering his face. Shion, whats. happening to me.? Shion was frozen, and before his eyes, Yamase started aging rapidly, his body curled up into a ball and he turned on his side. His back was heaving. His breathing was becoming labored. Shion rushed for the emergency key. Its an emergency. Send an ambulance right away, right away please. Yamase coughed. It was a weak cough. What the hell? What the hell is this? He couldnt believe what was happening before his eyes. It didnt seam real. He trembled. He didnt know how to deal with it. But some part inside Shion was calmly directing him: Observe. Examine. Keep your eyes on it. Dont look away. Absorb everything you can pick up as data.

Shion gulped and embraced Yamase. After he convulsed weakly, he stopped moving. Mr. Yamase? His face looked like that of an old man. And it wasnt the face of a living person. Shion took his pulse and examined his eyes. Yamase was rapidly losing body heat in Shions arms. His eyes were agape. Just like the man from yesterday. Shion, I dont believe that something like this could be happening. His slightly open mouth seemed to be saying. At least, close my eyes Shion tried to force his eyelids down with his fingers. They wouldnt stay. His eyes wouldnt close. Its already started. Shion squatted next to Yamase and made a fist. He gazed intently at the body that had only just been speaking to him. He wasnt scared or sad or in pain, he wasnt wracked by any such emotion. It felt like his emotions had been partially paralyzed. Observe. Examine. Keep your eyes on it. Dont look away. Absorb everything you can pick up as data. And remember it. Remember it. Remem. No breathing or pulse. Falling body temperature. Rigor mortis. Hypostasis. Rigor mortis lets up. Things that should happen tens of hours after death were occurring in 15-16 minutes. He predicted what would happen next. He started to sweat. The heat of the sweat dripping from his temples to his cheeks reminded him that he was alive. People are warm when theyre alive. Mouse, youre right. People are warm because theyre alive. You knew that four years ago. A spot appeared on Yamases neck. It was a nearly black green. Shion chewed his lip. He could taste blood. After this. I dont know what happens after this. Something Ive never seen, or heard about or experienced is about to begin. He laid out the body. The spot moved. That part of the skin was swelling a bit, moving. The buzzer sounded. Walker had sent an unable-to-identify error. Walker and the others were going about their normal duties completely unaware of the unusual events taking place in the office. Shions attention did not waver. There was no time. All of his attention was focused on the spot. He didnt take his eyes off it. They were glued to it. Ugh Shion clutched his chest. He could feel his heart racing through the palm of his hand. He jumped back without thinking.

Part of the spot on Yamases neck tore open and a single bug crawled out. It was the same color as the spot. Shining silver fur, six legs, antennae, a needle-like ovipositor. A bee. Thats impossible. Theres no way a bee could come out of a human body. Thats just The insect flew. At which point Shion could see the ambulance pull up in front of the office. His vision started to go dark. Shock induced anemia. One black insect was flying around in his darkened field of vision. Shion moaned and cowered on the floor. When he opened his eyes, he was blinded by light. He could hear a soft voice. It was a man. Youre awake. Backlit by the window, the mans face was completely engulfed in shadow. He spoke, Please get up. I have a few things Id like to ask you. It was a familiar voice. Shion realized that he was lying on the sofa in the office. They were trying to carry Yamase out covered in a white cloth. He was in a stupor for a few minutes. Mr. Yamase. He said the name without thinking. He remembered Yamases smiling face. How he loved coffee and would drink several cups in a day, the calm atmosphere, how hed stare at the floor when he was embarrassed, all sorts of things about Yamase came flooding into his mind at once. We werent particularly close. He was just my senior at work. We never talked about our personal problems or about anything difficult. Yet, I liked Yamase. He never stuck his nose into other peoples business, but he wasnt indifferent either. He was a good person. And now hes gone. Mr. Yamase My eyes burned. There was a light clap on my shoulder. Could you hold off on the sentimentality for a bit? The man spoke in a slow, monotonous voice. My heart was pounding. Could you explain the situation?

That voice, those words, Id definitely heard them before. Youre Its been a while, but I guess you remember me. It was Rashi, the head of the public order departments investigation office. His gentle tone and unsmiling eyes hadnt changed at all in four years. Tell me everything you know. I nodded. I knew my cognitive abilities had been compromised. My head and my body were languid and my voice sounded so far away when I spoke. This is bad. A voice of warning sounded inside my head. But, just like yesterday, I couldnt control my body very well. I continued to drone on as I was questioned. A bee? Rashi knitted his brows. He turned his head to look around the room. There were no winged insects in the room, let alone a bee. Its hard to believe. Please take a look at Mr. Yamases neck. There should be traces of it I swallowed the words. There should have been traces. They should have been there on the neck of that man from yesterday. The authorities looked into it as an unnatural death. Theres no way they wouldnt have noticed. They noticed but they still told the family he died in an accident. They dont want the cause of death to get out thats whats going on. Shion looked away to escape Rashis gaze. He stopped talking. He stopped telling him almost anything about what he knew. Its something that mustnt be disclosed, a secret that the authorities are frantically trying to conceal. If thats the case You were majoring in ecology, werent you? I wanted to major in ecology. I have nothing to do with it now. So, you probably were interested in insects and the like. Ecology is all about the relationship between living things and their environment, so no, I wasnt only interested in insects. Oh, I see. Could you explain the relationship between living things and their environment in simple terms? Its

Shion broke out into a cold sweat. Rashi smiled while leading this incoherent conversation and never took his eyes off Shion. Two clerks from the public order department entered. One of them whispered something into Rashis ear. Sorry, but would you mind coming down to the public order department? What? Its nothing serious, I just want to talk to you in more detail about a few things. What? Itll be over soon. I dont think itll take up much of your time, so, Im sorry, but please come with me. I The buzzer sounded. Walker continued to send the unable-to-identify error. Im sorry. If I dont manage the maintenance robots. Put it all away. Theres no way you can continue working today, right? Shion turned to the screen to get rid of the error and turn off the screen. On the screen, there was a little, grey mouse. It was climbing up and down Walkers arms and running energetically with its mouth open. He had an earphone on and turned on the noise sensors. Shion. Mouses voice came through. Run. Youre in danger. What? Run. Click. He heard the noise at his back. When he turned around, he saw the barrels of two guns. He didnt really know much about small arms. But, he knew those werent smart paralysis guns, but old style ones that could kill. The kind of weapon the amateur hunters loved to use. Shion softly switched on Walkers speaker. Now their voices would reach Mouse. Do you intend to take me by force? It might end up that way. Anyway, wont you come with us? You must have a reason to use force. Reason? I dont need a reason. Well, if youre going to be like that I know, how about your bike?

My bike? Youve been using a bike without speed control. Thats a violation. Its a perfect reason to take you into custody, dont you agree? Youre Youre going to use such a stupid pretext to stomp on due process? Is it really okay to take a citizen into custody in such a dirty manner? This is a human rights issue. Citizenship? Human rights? Rashi chuckled. It sent shivers down Shions spine. You think you have either of those? Tch. He could hear Mouse click his tongue. Am I too late? Shion took a breath and turned off the control system. Just before he turned it off, he could clearly hear Mouses short message. Shion, stay calm. Ill save you. Thats right, I have to stay calm. Keep cool. Collect myself. Buy some time. Please dont do anything untoward. Of course. As long as you do as we ask. Wouldnt it be pointless to oppose you? So youre the type not to do anything pointless? Youre a good boy. You catch on quickly. Its too good to be true. Too good to be true? What is? You are. I dont understand what you mean. You will soon. Even four years ago, you were smart and quick to understand. I was caught between the two public order officers and put into the car. Outside, it was a perfectly clear autumn day. The wind was blowing softly. It really was a calm and peaceful ordinary day. The car slipped out.

Nice weather were having. Rashi said, still facing forward in the passenger seat. The officer sitting to Shions right nodded in reply. Were having much milder days than usual this year. Suddenly, Rashi turned around and smiled at Shion. Do you have a car? I do not. Biking and walking are preferable, mobility-wise. Thats good. You should use your body while youre young. This is an electric car, but it has a good ride. Itd be pleasant were it not for the current situation. He said it as sarcastically as possible. Rashi shrugged softly. It uses a fuel cell, but you probably know the science behind how that works, dont you? Not particularly. What do you know? Nothing in particular There is scientific knowledge that I dont have too, you know. The officers on either side of him moved simultaneously. They firmly gripped his arms. Just what you know is fine. Try saying it. Rashi asked in the tone of an interrogator. What I know? I just know normal things. Like? Although it was a short, unpretentious conversation, it felt like a weight was coiling around me. Like a damp cloth was tightening around my neck. I felt nauseated. So through electrolysis, water and alcohol are split into oxygen and energy is Energy is what? Where are we going? Shion sat up without thinking. He was pulled hard, down into the seat. Were not going to the public order office, are we? The route is different.

The public order office was next to the city hall. If you go through the park, it should only be a few minutes by car. But, the scenery outside the car window indicated that they were going in the opposite direction. Where do you think were going? I just asked you that. You have no right to ask questions. Thats insane. Why Oh, I didnt tell you? Youre the prime suspect in these incidents. Incidents? Youre a suspect in the two murder cases today and yesterday. I was speechless. The blood drained out of me. The sound echoed in my ears. Youre a dangerous person. You have a wealth of knowledge and have the brains to use it. I can tell from talking to you. But, youre not happy with your current situation and you feel a strong desire to rebel against the city. Excellent abilities and anti-city sentiment. If you had just one or the other you wouldnt be particularly dangerous. But, youve been blessed with both. Youre dangerous, you really are. Thats a false accusation. False accusation? Is that so? Rashi pushed the silver button next to the steering wheel. Shion and Yamases voices flowed out of the speakers. Mr. Yamase, why did the authorities have to lie like that? And isnt it weird that they cant figure out the cause of death too? Yeah I dont really know. Shion closed his eyes. It was the conversation he had with Yamase just a few minutes ago. The room had been bugged. There must have been a mic planted in the controls for Walker and the others. Why would they need to do something like that? Mr. Yamase, youve manipulated records for the city, havent you? Shion! Rashi pushed the button lightly again. The voices stopped. In an instant, the car fell silent. Do you want to hear more?

Please stop this Youve got it all mixed up. Do I? Ive never killed anyone. Then, is this bee you claim came out of the body the criminal? Yes. Thats crazy. Thats a pretty lame story for a super human like yourself to come up with. Why would I kill Mr. Yamase? Thats what were going to find out. In my opinion, you wanted to cause some trouble. Excuse me? You wanted to cause trouble. Something that could shake the foundation of the city, for fun. You think youre some down-and-out genius, dont you? So, you begrudge the city that didnt treat you as well as youd have liked and you hate its citizens. You think you deserve more attention, so you came up with the idea to kill someone and make it look a strange death, since itd surprise the world. You have more than enough ecological and medical knowledge to pull it off. You probably used some kind of weird drug. Shion shifted in his seat. His whole body felt exhausted. He realized hed walked into a trap. He was caught in a brilliantly devised trap. He licked his lips. They were completely dry. I see, I should have done a better job. Though, that would make for a boring story too. I wonder. Well, let me investigate thoroughly to find out if its boring or not. There was an unnatural clanking sound. The officer to Shions left cuffed his hands. Those have a transmitter in them. We can easily determine your location at any time. Ill remove them when we arrive. From Rashis words, Shion got an idea where they were headed. The West Block. Correctional institution. If theyre investigating over there, it means theyre going to imprison me as a criminal just like that. Ill have a VC implanted in exchange for removing these cuffs. Mouse, youre too late. I cant run now. I closed my eyes an took a deep breath. Yes, youre a good boy. Just behave. I hung my head and gnawed my dry lips.

Ill save you. Mouses voice echoed in my ears. My heart calmed. My legs shivered. It wasnt out of despair or fear, but anger. Anger toward the people who had tricked me. Mouses voice encouraged that anger. The car entered Lost Town. Mom. Youre worried about your mother, arent you? What Whats going to happen to my mom? Your mother? Nothing really. We dont deprive suspects mothers of their rights. Rashi whispered something to the driver. The car made a drastic right turn. Familiar streets appeared. Look. Rashi pointed. Karan was handing a package of bread to a girl in front of her shop. She said something to the girl and she nodded. Both Karan and the girl smiled. In the red-tinged autumn light, it looked just like a painting, or a scene from a drama. He leaned forward. You have a kind mother. Take a good look at her. Rashi pointed with his chin. The car moved forward. Because this is the last time youll see her. Rashi chuckled with his back to me. What? Doesnt that bother you? I mean, at first your mother will be sad and shocked. But, somehow shell get on with life. Thats whatll happen. Well, no matter how much you worry, theres nothing you can do about it. And you wont have time to worry for long either. Rashis words pierced my heart. My breath hitched. The anger and rebellion that had been swirling in my heart until just then withered. I cant go back to my old life anymore. Ive been cut off. Seeing my mothers figure only made my despair deepen. This is all calculated. Its not like they stopped the car near his house out of sympathy for Shion. It was to be the finishing blow. Give up, despair, youll never return. To break his will to fight back, it was an ingeniously cruel method of smashing all hope. He tried muttering. Hell save me. Hell save me.

Hell save me. It was just a single phrase. But, his voice was full of confidence. Ill believe in that. They cant snatch away everything I believe in. Speaking of which, what did he look like He thought all of a sudden. He tried to remember. But he could only picture those bright, grey eyes. Well meet again soon, wont we, Mouse? What was that? Rashi turned around and furrowed his brow. Were you laughing? Me? Never. I dont have the courage to laugh in this sort of situation. This sort of situation, huh You seem very calm, but you do realize that you got yourself into this situation. I know that all too well. And yet, youre composed. Im an airhead[1]. What? You said it yourself. You sure are an airhead. Rashi silently stared at Shion. The car left Lost Town and headed toward the west of No. 6. This is the first time hed come here. Normal citizens were prohibited from entering the area after all. No. 6 was a fortress. It was surrounded by a wall made of a special alloy. Aside from the part in the West block, the wall was camouflaged by trees. Here it was all laid bare. The car drove past the front of the entrance control office. Dont you use this gate to enter the West Block? There are two gates. This gate is only for entering the city. The other gate, is the gate to the correctional institution. It leads straight to the institution. Because its a special institution inside the correctional block. Its completely isolated from the normal population. You didnt know about it? I did not. Well, youll know all about it soon. The road narrowed. The number of trees increased and blotted out the sunlight.

Its a wasteland after this. The other side of the gate is the same. Say goodbye to this greenery. Burn the image into your mind. The car stopped. Whats wrong? Nothing, um The driver pointed ahead of the car. A grey mass was lying in the middle of the street. It slowly rose. Walker? Shion gulped. What the hell is this. Why is a maintenance robot here? Isnt it maintaining this forest? I havent heard anything about that. Walker moved its arms, gathering up leaves. You two, stay near the suspect. Rashi got out of the car and drew near Walker. Walkers body was shaking. It stretched out its arms and collapsed before it could embrace Rashi. Woah. Rashi collapsed in the trees embraced by Walker. Ah! The driver opened the door and leaned out. Immediately after that, two tiny shadows entered the car. Little grey mice. They bit the public order officers throats. Dont move. Came a small voice. Someone slipped into the passenger seat. He had a grey colored cloth over his head and wrapped about his shoulders. From those shoulders, a little brown mouse lept at the driver. They have small bombs in their bodies. If you arent careful, theyll blow your heads clear off. Ehh Hand over your weapons. Then the three of you leave the car.

No one moved. Hurry! Im not in a very patient mood today. Move. While they were still biting the officers necks, something inside the mices bodies made a metallic click. Click, click, click. The cuffs came off. And the three tumbled out of the car, bleeding from their throats. Mouse! Well talk later. Mouse grabbed the wheel. He made a U-turn and floored it. Mouse, are you really going to blow them up? There arent any bombs in my comrades you idiot. It was just a bluff. Are those little mice robots? They look so real. And what did you do to Walker? Shut up. Mouse tore off the cloth he was wearing and tossed it into the back seat. Curl up into a ball and cover yourself with this. Is this that super fiber? Why do I need to wear this? Because were going to crash. Crash what? This car. Um what? Mouse tightened his grip on the wheel. Shut up. Just shut up. Cant you do anything but ask questions? But, cant we use this car to escape? Id planned to. But But? This is going too smoothly.

The wall separating the West Block from the rest of No. 6 came into view. The car was heading straight for it without slowing down. Its strange that Id be able to get you out that easily. Really? I dont know how you can be such an airhead. Its the most dangerous when things are going too smoothly. So were getting rid of it. Crashing it. When I give the sign, cover yourself with this cloth and jump out. What about you? I know what Im doing. I dont need an airhead to worry about me. I couldnt even if I wanted to! The wall drew near. Go, open the door! The second Mouse shouted, the car came screeching to a stop. My body was floating. My body had been falling forward and in the next second I was thrown back into the back seat. Had it not been for that shock-absorbing sheet, my bones probably would have been broken. Shit. Mouse kicked the door with all his might. It didnt move. The automatic control system kicked in? Shion asked, his face twisted in pain from his now injured shoulder. I broke it ages ago. Both the alarm system and the obstacle avoidance system. Damnit, this car has a remote control. Heh heh heh. Rashis laughter filled the car. You sure gave the public order department quite a run for its money. How embarrassing. But the car youre in is an escort vehicle. It doesnt look like it though, does it? You cant treat it so lightly. Bastard. Mouse muttered. I never thought youd have allies. It was quite a surprise. Youre quite brilliant and skilled, arent you? Impressive. Lets have a nice, relaxing talk. The car changed direction. It started moving on its own.

Your ally here sure is quiet. Wont you talk? Or would talking be a problem? Heheh, your voice has been printed, hasnt it? Which means you have a criminal record. You talk too much. Mouses hands were moving frantically. Im sorry, but I dont have time to chat with old men.[2] Mouse moved from the drivers seat to the back seat and pushed Shion down. Lay down and cover yourself with the cloth. Hang on tight. Hey! What are you doing?! Rashis voice was noticeably agitated. Farewell, old man. Youre gonna lose one of your precious, high-tech escort cars. What are you It sounded like an explosion. Itd crashed. Jump! The voice filled my ears. The door opened before my eyes. Hot air crashed in. Out, somehow, we have to get out. Shion flew into the outside world with his eyes closed. His body rolled. A huge explosion resounded behind them. The car had flipped on its side but the tires were still spinning. Good job. Mouse whistled. Youre pretty good at rolling for an airhead. Are you hurt? I scraped my arm. What about you? I told you, I know what Im doing. What did you do back there? I destroyed the system that runs the wheels. Destroyed? How? So, with escort vehicles, the exterior is built very solidly, but the interior is comparatively weak. As long as you set it in the right place, a single small bomb is enough to put it out of its misery.

Youre well informed. I know what Im doing. Alright, lets get out of here. Can you run? Of course. When we left the forest, we could see several public order department vehicles drawing near. It appears that this region has been placed under special alert. Get rid of your ID card. Mouse said quietly. Hurry, dont hesitate. Just holding that thing is dangerous. I know. The ID card has all of your personal information on it. And its connected to and maintained by the citys control computer. The second the card gets new information, it sends out a weak electromagnetic signal that can be used to locate it. Holding onto the ID card would be like waving a flag around to give away my location. Its a dangerous mobile device for anyone trying to escape, hide or lay-low. Mouse had told me to get rid of it. But once I throw it away, Ill never have one again. It means throwing away my life in No. 6. You need the card to buy things, get paid, communicate, enter your place of work or school, and use public transit. You cant live here without proof of citizenship. Get rid of it. Mouse repeated the same, short, quiet words. If I dont throw it away, I cant escape. But if I do, I can never return. Grey eyes gazed at him. He was in no hurry. He wasnt testing me. They were calm, unreadable eyes. Shion threw away the ID card. A grey mouse emerged from a clump of bushes, grabbed the card with its mouth and disappeared again. Hell take care of it. The authorities should be at a loss for how to locate you. Its a childish prank, but it should buy us some time. Lets go. The patrol car turned right and entered the forest. Theyd locked onto the cards signal. We ran in the opposite direction. Hurry. If the public order department switches over to the satellite system, they can see everything on the surface. Weve got to get out of here while theyre still bumbling around about the ID card. Where and how are we going to escape? First, that. A small truck was parked under a huge beech tree. It was from the park management department. A cleaning robot was loaded in the back.

Walker no, wait. This is Stepper. Yeah. The two of them whined that they wanted to save you, so I brought them along. Theyve been pretty useful though.[3] The truck moved. Mouse, this area is definitely under surveillance. Theyll find us right away if we move around without ID cards. We a card. Where? Hes got it. Mouse turned toward Stepper in the truck and pointed with his chin. Stepper has one? Oh, I see. Even robots have to be registered with the city. Machines employed by the city like Walker and Stepper are equipped with verification chips registered based on their primary function. Thanks to his chip, we shouldnt be caught in the inspection system. But, Stepper and the others chips are for maintenance robots. Wont it look suspicious if we wander around areas they dont belong in? Well wander around places they do belong in. What? I could see a silver gate. When you pass below it, it performs an automatic check and if it judges that passage is not allowed based on the data in the chip, it shuts the doors. Youre forcibly detained. The truck passed through the gate without slowing down. The gates hazard lamp didnt flash. Nothing happened. I took a deep breath unconsciously. Mouse chuckled. Dont let this get to you. This is just the opening act. I dont know what Im doing. You will soon. Itll be a lot of fun. Im not having much fun though. Really? You look like youre having fun though. Shion took another deep breath and stared at Mouses face in profile.

What are you staring at? Nothing, I was just thinking about how much youve grown. You too. Its been four years. A long four years for us. Itd be weirder if we hadnt changed. Yes, four years is a long time. It was a long four years full of transitions. But, compared to the last few hectic hours, they seemed like rather peaceful months and years. Exhaustion crept into my body. Mouse laughed again. Did you notice? Notice what? Im taller than you now. Liar. As if. Havent you been eating well? Youre so thin you shouldnt even undress in front of your lover. What do you know? Have you ever seen me naked? You shouldnt just say things because you feel like it. If I said I had, what would you do? Mouse continued to laugh, his shoulders shook with the cloth wrapped around them. I tended to a wound in his shoulder four years ago. Hes gotten a lot more buff since then. His long hair had been cut shorter so that it just covered his ears, the line from his chin down his neck was thin but it didnt look frail at all. There wasnt a trace of that frailty that demanded Shions protection on that night four years ago. Mouse, have you been watching me this whole time? What do you mean? Dont play dumb. You appeared like you expected this to happen to me. How is that possible? Have you been watching me this whole time? Dont flatter yourself. I dont have time to do that. Then explain how you knew. Youre always like this. If your brain doesnt comprehend it, your body wont move. You just want lectures and explanations. What do you know about me? Dont act like you know me. I just want to know. How did it end up like this? And what are we doing now? I cant move in chaos like this. The truck stopped. Mouse grabbed Shion by the collar and shook him.

Move. Dont you dare say something so naive as I cant move again. Dont you get it? They dont even consider us human. Theyll crush us like bugs. Remember that. Shion caught his breath and gazed at Mouse. What hed said shook him to the core. Human rights? You think you have any? The public order department investigation officer had said that without so much as flinching. Theyll crush us like bugs. Theyll just exterminate us. Get off. Mouse opened the door. Well walk from here. The unmanned truck made a U-turn and slowly headed back down the road they had just come from. It switched into autopilot and was headed back to the park management office. In the back of the truck, Stepper looked like it was hanging its head. There were garbage processing and RDF (refuse-derived fuel) plants here. Garbage from the city was brought here and turned into RDF while the other recycling plants surrounding it sort treated materials. About 80% of No. 6s energy comes from solar power. Every house in Chronos was fully equipped with solar panels and heat retention technologies. But, in Lost Town, there were many homes which utilized cheap RDF. Its a solid fuel no bigger than an adults thumb. It only gave off a faint odor when burned. That smell was always in the air there. I see. A maintenance robots chip would get us through a garbage processing plants gate. Though a nursing robot or a pet robot wouldnt be able to get through. Mouse, were you thinking this far ahead in bringing Stepper and the others? Another question? Mouses shoulders raised slightly as he walked ahead of me. How long had that little grey mouse been sitting there? I looked less suspicious going through the city with them. And heading westward, where the garbage processing plants are, wouldnt set off the monitoring system. Theyre really quite useful fellows. It was a little annoying that the transport truck couldnt speed, but that old fart took a detour around your house. That earned me some more time. But But? Id have liked to have made off with the escort car. Well, the real world isnt that easy. Its a little difficult now. What?

There was an explosion. I turned back and could see white smoke. Mouse knitted his eyebrows. The truck was blown up in the gate. But, it should have read Steppers chip It did read it, a destruction order was sent to all the gates. Because the other robot was left at the scene. Itd be easy to identify the other from that. Stepper and Walker had been destroyed. He grabbed my wrist suddenly. We have to escape from here, well be found soon. Run! Hurry! His fingers were as strong as they were slender. Mouse, youre hurting me. Shut up. Dont get separated from me, understand? Alright already. Let go already. Youll break my wrist. He clicked his tongue. A weak little rich boy will be a problem. Im no rich boy. Its not like how it was four years ago. I dunno about that. When I look at you, I get pissed off. You do know you might have been killed, dont you? I do. Liar. Am not. Then whats with that face you just made? You have the time to feel sorrow for those robots? Youre just a little rich boy who doesnt understand anything. Mouses fingers held him harder. They pressed into his wrist. Shion grit his teeth and bared it. Having been told all that, theres no way he was going to cry out. He let go. If you want to live, come with me. No matter what happens, dont get separated.

Mouse started to run. There were no people in the garbage processing plant. There were a number of surveillance cameras, but they were all old models so they werent really all that useful. Its not like many people sneak into garbage processing plants anyway, so surveillance cameras werent really needed. And yet, Mouse gracefully found his way into the cameras blind spot. Giant funnel-shaped processing machines were spinning en mass. The remaining trash that couldnt be recycled or used as fuel was dried into a pancake here and sent to the incinerator. Sewage spewed from the mouths of the machines pipes into a collecting pool below. That water slowly flowed toward the purification system outside. It looked like a river after it rained. A muddy river. But nothing lived in that river. They ascended the stairs right next to it and the stench was overpowering. The ground was slippery. If you werent careful youd fall right in. Mouse stopped and tossed something at Shion. Goggles? Yeah, they have infrared sensors so you should be able to see in there. In there? Mouse pointed to the flowing water. Interested in scuba diving? Were going to dive into that? Were diving. Into that. I tried to take a deep breath. The stench pierced my lungs. Shion silently put on the goggles. Hey, youre awfully obedient. I though you were going to fight me on this one. I dont want to die. Im sorry if I dont want to die like a bug. Ill do whatever it takes to save myself. Ill even dive into sewage. Mouse turned toward Shion and smiled just a little bit. Follow me. Of course. The humming of the machines stopped. The ceiling lights came on all at once. The sound of footsteps resounded above their heads. Theyre here. Mouse faced the stream of sewage and held his hands straight in front of him. A small mouse jumped from his hands.

Hell guide us. Now dont make a lot of noise. Get in slowly. He said as we descended. As I took a breath and dove, I remembered my mothers face.

[1] I used care free last chapter, but its extra clear that it doesnt make sense here, so I swapped it for airhead. Will fix chapter 2 later. [2] Its not really about this line in particular, but I just noticed that Mouses accent changed since we last saw him in chapter 1. Hes ending sentences with now, but hes still using a lot of slangy contractions. [3] Two things. 1) I was right, the robots nicknames are number puns (also all things related to walking), Im going with the walking half since its easier in English 2) Mouse refers to the robots with it implies that he sees them as people (at least, thats how Im reading it since they dont seem especially humanoid from the vague descriptions).

Chapter 4: Unending Terror

The flowing sewage was deeper and moving faster than Id thought. Unidentifiable pieces of matter floated before my eyes. Occasionally theyd stick to my goggles and obstruct my vision. And there was this strange smell Id never smelled before. Mixed into the rotten smell was something was a thick sweet smell and something caustic smelling. In the brown, polluted water, it was difficult to follow Mouse swimming ahead of me. More than anything else, breathing was difficult. My heart was pounding. My chest was tight and aching. Mouse moved gently to the side and pointed at a handle installed on the wall. Shion reached out and grabbed the handle. He turned and pulled it up at the same time. A round, gaping hole appeared. I cant breathe. I cant go on. I started to lose consciousness. The next instant I was sucked into the hole. I was pushed and pulled and tossed about. Ugh. My body crashed into something with great force. Pain ran all the way down to my toes. But, the feeling that I couldnt breathe because I was being smothered with a wet cloth had disappeared. I could breathe. I sighed and then coughed violently. I couldnt move like that for a while. You were done in a little too soon. Mouse said, out of breath himself. When I opened my eyes, I saw naked concrete. Where are we? The sewer. A relic of the 20th century. Well, its still plenty useful though. Mouse shook his drenched face side to side. Droplets of water came flying off. When the sewage gets above a certain volume, that door opens completely and this sewer is used as a drain. They drain the sewage here without processing it? Yes. Sometimes they do. Thats your beloved city for you. Where does it end up? The West Block. Thats just I cant believe theyd dump untreated sewage Shion shut his mouth. Mouse stood up.

The West Block isnt part of the city. Its an outlying area. They only think of it as No. 6s garbage dump. They? Mouse stood up without blinking. His gaze was fixed on the mouth of the drain. From which the two of them had just been washed out of along with the sewage. A thin strand of sewage was still trickling down over the concrete. Lets go. He deftly picked up the little mouse running about his feet and turned his back on Shion. I stood up in a rush. I still felt like I was going to throw up, but I could still stand. I still had energy left. It was going to be okay. I cheered myself on. The mouse that had guided us was sitting on Mouses shoulder and chittering cutely. Oh. Shion rubbed the base of his neck with his hand. It felt a bit uncomfortable. The base of his neck was numb. When he touched it, there was a small blister. It was itchy. He scratched it lightly. A cold wind blew through his body. His heart shrank. This action, this action of scratching ones neck, someone else did this. Mr. Yamase. I clearly remember Yamase scratching the base of his neck when he was pouring coffee and talking. No Mouse turned around. Whats wrong? Its nothing. Youre not going to cry that you cant walk any further, are you? I need the exercise. But you can carry me if youd prefer. I think Ill pass. The little mouse made a sound. Shion came alongside the mouse. Im over thinking things. Its just a regular blister. I shouldnt worry about it. The bruises and scratches on my chest are much worse. Its just a blister. Its just a little bliste.. Why are you making such a serious face? Want your mommy?

My mom Mouse, do you think you could contact my mom? Not a chance. Dont say that so quickly. You really dont get it, do you? Right now, the public order department is monitoring your house down to the contents of your garbage can. Unless youre telepathic, theres no way to contact her. Yeah, I guess. Mom, Im sorry. Right now, all I can do is apologize. Because youre safe Because youre alive I dont want you to grieve me. I dont want you to be sad. Stupid. Whats stupid? You are. Youre a complete idiot. This was the first time he insulted me to my face so frankly. Do you have something to say to me? You act like all this stupid shit is so important. Mouse half-closed his eyes and glanced at Shion. It was a sharp look, bordering on animosity. Just when I was about to ask what he meant by that, Mouse started to climb the wall. When I took a better look, there was a rusted ladder attached to the wall. When I climbed up, I could see the sunset sky. Wed come above ground. The sky was dyed the vivid colors of sunset and the cool air enveloped me. I guess thats when we entered the West Block. Off in the distance, the wall around No. 6 was glittering in the sunset. The West Block was in the lowlands, so you had to look up to see No. 6. The giant city, wrapped in that glittering wall, was beautiful, perhaps even sublime. Mouse was heading in the opposite direction of that wall. When we came out of the sparsely wooded forest, there was a dilapidated house. And smoke. And a peoples voices. Does someone live there? Many people do.

Several barracks were lined up next to the house. Over there. He tugged on my arm. There was another dilapidated house. It looked about the size of a storehouse, but half of it had caved in. Well hide again. Mouse pushed on part of the wall and it moved horizontally without a sound. I could see the same naked concrete as was in the sewer. A little mouse came running out. There was a door in front of the staircase. Inside was pitch black. A light came on with a little clink. Shion gulped and was frozen in place. Books were piled up. Rather, the room was almost completely buried in books. Thats a lot of books. You look like youre about to be eaten. Ive never seen so many books before. Youve only read things electronically, havent you? Uh, no, thats not it this is just, amazing. While were at it, Im guessing you havent read Molire, Racine or Shakespeare. And youve never heard of the Chinese classics or Aztec mythology. Yeah. I responded honestly. I was overwhelmed. Then what do you know? Mouse asked while combing his wet hair. What? What did you learn? I mean, other than how to systematically organize knowledge, using high-technology, how to read and understand academic papers and so on. Lots of stuff. Like? How to bake bread, how to make coffee, how to maintain a park, how to get into the sewers

I know I interrupted you when that female friend of yours asked you for sex. I guess that didnt go too well though. Shion looked up and gazed at his grey eyes. If youve got time to tease me, why dont you let me get washed off? Me first. He pulled a towel out from in between the books and threw it at me, Dont get mad. Mouse said. I wanted to say that you seemed a lot more serious than you were four years ago. Youve learned a lot of useful things other than how to make hot cocoa. Thanks for the kind words. I said dont get mad. Mouse disappeared into the mountain of books. I could hear the sound of a shower right after. I took the opportunity to look around. The surrounding bookshelves were packed full of books. It didnt really look like they were organized, but more like most of the books were just shoved in here and there. It felt busy like a crowded station. Books were stacked up on the worn out carpet that looked like it was probably green originally, and the bed seemed to be encased in them. There were no windows. Or a kitchen. There wasnt really much furniture to speak of at all. Chip chirp. A small mouse cried from atop a book. I grabbed the book and flipped through the pages. It smelled faintly of paper. This smell is from long ago. On top of this warm soft feeling something was rocking my memory. I cant remember well though. The small mouse climbed onto my shoulder. It twitched its whiskers and cried loudly. You want me to read it? Chirp chirp. It had a bookmark in it. When I opened it to that spot, I read aloud. Heres the smell of the blood still: all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh, oh, oh! What a sigh is there! The heart is sorely charged.

I would not have such a heart in my bosom for the dignity of the whole body.[1] Before he knew it, another little mouse had appeared at his feet. It had adorable, purple eyes. The mahogany colored mouse that had been atop the book, moved its head up and down as if to urge me on. To bed, to bed! theres knocking at the gate: come, come, come, come, give me your hand. Whats done cannot be undone.To bed, to bed, to bed! He turned noticing someones presence. Mouse hung his head low with a towel around his neck. The shower is free, your majesty. I have prepared you a change of costume. Mouse, this book Its Shakespeare. Have you ever heard of Macbeth? The name sounds familiar. Figures. Are all of these books classics? No, your majesty. Your favorite ecology textbooks and science magazines are also here. Are they all yours? Another interrogation? Lets eat. Hurry and take your shower. Mouse suddenly turned away. The shower was old, the temperature control was poor. Even though it came out alternately warm and cold, it was pleasant. I hadnt had such a nice shower in a long time. And before Id noticed it, the blister on my neck had disappeared. Im alive. He saved me. I thought about the warmth of the water flowing over my body. I dont know what will happen tomorrow. But today I am alive and can even shower. I didnt even thank him. He rescued me. He risked his life to save me. And yet, not a single word of thanks has passed through these lips of mine. I just realized. When I left the bathroom, a little mouse came running toward me.

It looks like he took a great interest in your reading earlier. Mouse was stirring a pot on a little stove. Steam was billowing out. That alone gave the room a warm atmosphere. Ah. I said without thinking. I remembered. I know what that warm, nostalgic feeling I had when I opened the book was. What is it? Whats with the sudden gasp? Nothing, I just remembered something. A long time ago my mom read me books. She read you Macbeth? Of course not. I was really little. My mom read to me while I sat on her lap. What story was it, I wonder. She turned the pages slowly. Karans voice, high and low, strong and soft, echoed in my ears. I could feel the warmth of her body and smell the scent of the paper. Youre totally useless. Mouse said in a cold voice. What are you talking about? Like I said before. Burdening yourself with all that stupid stuff will just make you useless. What are you calling stupid? Your memories, your lingering affection for the citizens of No. 6, your pleasant lifestyle, your ego about your abilities, your assumption that youre a chosen one, your hubris, all of that. But the real kicker is your mother. Do you have an Oedipus complex or something? I cant help being wary of someone so attached to his mom. Werent you just about to suggest going back to the city to see your mama? [2] Is it really that stupid to think about your mother? I know what kind of situation Im in now. I know I cant contact my mom. But I still have the freedom to think about it at least. You just find fault in everything. Get rid of them. Mouses voice was much colder than before, it sounded almost metallic. Get rid of those thoughts. Why do I have to go that far

Because theyre dangerous. Thoughts are dangerous? You just threw away your citizen ID card. Because it was dangerous. Your feelings for certain people are the same. Theyll be used and abused and before long youll chase them into the danger zone. Your mama, your papa and your grandma, theyre all strangers now. You dont have time to worry about strangers. You have to focus entirely your own survival alone. [3] So I have to get rid of it all. All of it. Cut all your ties to anything you held dear before now. Shion made a fist at his side and took a step toward Mouse. Then what about you? Me? Whyd you save a stranger like me? Whyd you step into the danger zone You dont practice what you preach. You really have an unpleasant personality. You should be a bit more respectful if you think I saved you. Mouse stretched out his hand and grabbed Shions collar. I owed you. He whispered quietly into Shions ear. Four years ago, you saved me. I returned the favor. Thats all. Then you overpaid. Ill have to make change. He tried to smack away Mouses arm and grabbed his wrist. The tense muscle didnt relax at all beneath Shions fingers. Unhand me. You first, rich boy. Ill bite your nose off. My teeth clicked as I gnashed them. An opening. I slipped my hand around the back of Mouses neck. Biting off the nose is my signature move!

What? No way. Hang on thats playing dirty. I forgot to mention it earlier, but Ive learned how to fight in the last four years. Cut it out, biting is the cheapest. Ah! Our legs tangled and we fell onto the books. The pile of books pressed against the bookshelves and they fell on top of us. Oww, this sucks. An encyclopedia smacked me in the head Shion, are you alright? Yeah Whats this? Chumayel Balam? [4] Theyre Mayan scriptures A story of humans and gods. But youre probably not interested in that. Why do you say things like that? Because its the truth. Have you ever once before had an interest in stories of humans and gods? Humans? Gods? Stories? I never had thought about those things. Not even once for sure. Until now at least. Shion looked around and breathed in the warmly scented air. This is a completely unfamiliar world. I wonder what Ill see and hear and learn and think about in this world. For some reason, my hearts pounding. It was just for a moment, but my heart was throbbing just like the first time I saw the ocean. He was ashamed to make that face in front of Mouse, so Shion leaned over and picked up a book at his feet. Whats this? An anthology of Hesses poetry. Seele, banger Vogel du, / My heart, you are a frightened bird, Immer wieder musst du fragen: / Over and over you must ask: Wann nach so viel wilden Tagen / After these tempestuous days Kommt der Friede, kommt die Ruh? / Is peace coming, is calm coming? [5] Know it? Nope Thought so. If you thought so, dont ask. If you dont know, you should learn.

Isnt this stuff stupid? It might be useful someday. Hey, the soups Mouse swallowed his words. His eyes opened wide. Mouse, whats wrong? Shion, your hand. What? Your hand How long has that spot been there My shirt sleeve had been rolled up to the elbow. A blackish spot was spreading out over my exposed arm. It wasnt there when I was showering. It definitely wasnt there. What? What the hell is this? I screamed. At the same time a sharp pain ran through my head. Shion! The pain came in waves. Like a wave itd ebb and flow. My fingers stiffened. My legs cramped. Shion, hang on, Ill call a doctor Shion reached out his free hand as far as he could and grabbed Mouses clothes. Its too late. Dont call a doctor. What should I do? Shion, what My neck Your neck? The blister on my neck Cut it off I dont have any anesthetic. Dont need it hurry I was losing consciousness. I knew my body was being lifted up. I cant faint. If I do like this, I probably wont wake up. I had no basis for that conclusion, but I had a strong feeling about it. Right after I fell onto the bed, the image of Yamases frozen body floated through my head when the pain receded.

Mr. Yamase didnt suffer He didnt writhe in pain. He became an old man in an instant and collapsed like a withered tree. The symptoms are different. In which case, maybe I can be saved A red hot needles pierced my brain. They came from all directions. I writhed in a pain Id never felt before. My own screams alone pierced me like burning needles. I was sweating bullets. I was violently nauseated. My mouth filled with blood and stomach acid and flowed out. It hurts, it hurts, it hurts. I wasnt thinking about wanting to be saved or not wanting to die anymore. I just wanted to be released from this pain and suffering. I dont need to open my eyes anymore. I dont need to keep living. I dont care anymore. Just make it stop It felt like someone had grabbed the hair on the back of my head and was dragging me into the darkness. I sighed. Ill just give in. Itll be fun. I can finally sleep. A bitter and gooey fluid was pouring into my mouth. It was hot. It flowed down my throat. At the same time, my mind rose out of the darkness. It also meant being drawn back into the pain. Open your eyes. Grey eyes peered at me. Mouse just let me die My cheek was struck with a clap. Dont screw around. Im not letting you die that easily. Drink. The thick, bitter liquid was forced into my mouth. The darkness cleared. Quivering pain ran through my head. Shik Shik. Shik I heard a noise. Was it a hallucination? It sounded like my brain was being eaten alive. There were countless little black insects crawling on my brain, making a shik shik sound. Eating. Eating. Eating. Was I imagining it? Even so. it hurts. I cant stand it. And Im afraid. A scream escaped as if it pierced my throat. Good, scream. Dont give up. Youre only 16. Youre much too young to give up. Power was draining from my body. It felt heavy. Like I was covered in lead. There was pressure too. But the pain lessened a bit.

Shout. Stay awake. Im going to operate. There was a silver scalpel in Mouses hand. Its not a fancy electric knife, so dont move. Shion didnt move a hair either because he was half paralyzed by the pain or because of how weak he had become. He couldnt move. Three little mice were sitting huddled together on a book. There was a round clock on the wall above them. It was analogue. It made a tick-tick-tick sound. It was the first time Id heard that sound, cutting up time. One second, one minute passed. Before my eyes the world blurred into a mist. My cheeks burned. Tears flowed down, touched my lips, and soaked into the sheets, still warm. Im done. Mouse took a deep breath. I heard a clanking sound, the knife had probably fallen to the floor. You didnt lose too much. Does it hurt? No I just want to sleep. Not yet. Hang in there a little longer. Mouses voice sounded far away. I could only hear the ticking of the clock. Shion. He shook me. I told you to open your eyes. Im begging you, just keep your eyes open for a little longer. Shut up. Just shut up. How long is a little longer. I told you not to screw around. Even if youve had it really hard, dont just go off and die so easily. Shion, your mama would cry, you know that right? And what about that girl? That Safu girl? Have you even done it with a girl yet? She even propositioned you directly and you refused. Shut up. Just shut up. Shut u You really dont know anything. You dont know a thing about sex or books or fighting but youre okay with dying? Shion! Open your eyes! I opened my eyes. I saw eight eyes. Two grey ones belonging to a human and six grapecolored ones belonging to little mice. Thats it, baby. Im proud of you.

Mouse Yeah? Your name I never asked you My name? Your real name Hey look, theres another thing you dont know. Ill tell you when you get better as a present, so look forward to it. I was forced to drink that bitter liquid several times, almost fell asleep and was woken up. It felt like it went on forever. I developed a fever. I would sweat from the high fever and vomit over and over, I felt like all the moisture had been wrung out of my body. Water I asked I dont know how many times and each time cold water came flowing down my throat. Delicious. Isnt it? Its part of the world, so dont throw it away. Mouse gently petted Shions hair with his hand. Its okay now. You can sleep. I can sleep? Yeah. Youre out of the woods. You made it. Its quite an accomplishment. The fingers caressing my hair and the tone of his voice were both affectionate. A sense of relief flowed through my body. Shion closed his eyes and fell asleep. Mouse could noticed that Shion had fallen asleep while still caressing his hair. He was a little frail, but calm. He wasnt upset. Hes out of the woods. It wasnt an attempt to flatter or encourage him, he really thought it was quite an accomplishment. Hes stronger than meets the eye. Hes incredibly stubborn. Mouse realized just how tired he was when he looked at Shions sleeping face, who had collapsed out of exhaustion, but still breathing. His body wasnt tired, but his mind was. He couldnt fully comprehend what had just happened before his eyes.

Whats going on. No. 6. Inside that holy city, something is starting to happen. Something beyond human imagination has begun and is continuing to progress steadily. He pulled a petri dish off the shelf. Hed taken some samples from under the skin when he was operating on Shions blister. I cant believe it. Occasionally things happened that he couldnt believe. Reality always betrays people handily and drags your life onto an unexpected course. Or, deceives you. Even if its comically cruel and harsh. You cant have faith in it. Its not strange that something could happen. He knew that all too well. But, his reality was faltering. This sort of thing is possible? No it already happened. If Im being deceived theres nothing I can do about it. I cant act like I havent noticed. Mouse returned to the bed. He lightly petted Shions hair again. I wonder if youll be able to believe this reality when you open your eyes. Will he be able to accept it? Can someone who lived in the embrace of holy citys center until he was 12 and when this protected person then lived in this green house called Lost Town and was treated as a citizen until 16, accept this reality? Can he handle it? Is he strong enough not to be crushed by it? I dont know. Just how weak and how strong was this boy who was sleeping quietly before him. Can he bear it or will he crumble? I dont know. But, Shion survived. That too is reality. If you dont take a bite out of life itll take a bite out of you.However uncouth or painful it might be, in life only the greedy survive. He knew it in his bones. This boy had that greed. Its much harder to live an unsightly life than to die a beautiful, heroic death. And it means more. That knew he knew in his bones. Im sure youll be able to handle it. He wet Shions parched lips with water. Then he softly opened the door and went outside. Dawn was about to break. The sky was changing from black to purple, the stars were still faintly visible. No. 6 The giant city he called to rose, far off in the black distance. Just you wait. Ill tear out the source of your blight.

A ray of light shot across the sky. Birds flew by. The sun was rising. Dawn was coming. Mouse stood wordlessly opposite the wall of that holy city that started to glitter in the light as if it were sneering at the West Block which was still dyed in darkness. The city in his view was full of dazzling light. The scene of the morning he could see from the window of the room was so perfect that he couldnt take his eyes off it. Beautiful. Both the orderly townscape and the color of the trees, full of leaves, were beautiful. It was an efficient place that was also full of life. There were no useless or ugly things anywhere to be seen. This is the greatest human-made An electronic noise sounded. The long, narrow face of a man appeared in the screen on the wall. Pardon me for intruding so early in the morning. Dont worry about it. I was waiting for you anyway. The investigation has been completed. I would prefer to report the results to you directly right now. Directly? How shrewd. Is something bothering you about them? The suspect escaped. So it seems. I heard about it. But its really not a big deal. He is involved. He aided in the escape. The man on the screen lightly adjusted his glasses. They were speckled black and quite old. Perhaps he firmly believed that they suited him best, because he hadnt replaced those frames even once in ten years. Are you sure? Its been confirmed. The voice print is a match. Aided in the escape Whats his M.O.? Ive collected that in the report as well. Alright. Ill wait for it. Excuse me then. The image disappeared and the screen became just another part of the wall again.

The man slowly glanced around, and looked at the sky spread out on the other side of the special glass. It was a deep blue that filled his eyes. The season had changed again. So hes back. But why would he come back on purpose? Why appear again? The petals of the single rose adorning his desk fell without a sound. Is he trying to get the ones who ought to stay quiet to Absurd. He trampled on the red petals. They clung to the shaggy carpet in a manner reminiscent of bloodstains. Yamase was sitting down. Mr. Yamase. He called out. But there was no reply. Mr. Yamase, whats wrong? He broke down crying. Mr. Yamase, please dont cry. Shion put a hand on his shoulder. His cries sounded like his heart was breaking. It was hard to listen to. Why are you crying so much? Can I do something to help. You can. He grabbed Shions ankles. Shion, I dont want to be alone. Why did you survive? What? Dont you wanna come with me? Mr. Yamase, what are you doing? The hands on his ankles changed color. They started to rot. The flesh quickly began to rot off. He could see bone.

Come with me wont you? Shions ankles were being pulled. He was being dragged into oblivion. Yamases arms grew as they rotted and wrapped around Shions torso before finally tightening around his neck. Stop it. I dont want to go. Shion He reached out with all his might. There was something hard. He grabbed whatever it was. Hanging on to it, he shouted, I dont want to go! I woke up. My throat was so dry it hurt. Is something wrong? Mouse gazed at me with a serious face. Mouse ah you saved me Oh right, congratulations on your safe return. So, if you dont mind, could you let go of my hand? Youre pretty strong so youre hurting me. I was tightly gripping Mouses hand. I was gripping him so hard that my fingers were eating into his. My connection to this hand pulled me out of the darkness. Do you want some water? Yeah. The water was cold. It felt like it seeped into every nook and corner of my body. How many times did you give me water. Theres a nice spring near here. So you dont need to hold back. You saved me again I didnt save you. We dont have any decent doctors or medical equipment here. Even if we did it probably wouldnt have been useful No one saved you. You came back under your own power. It didnt look like a trivial struggle either. My opinion of you has improved a bit. I wont call you a rich boy anymore. It was all because of you Shion held his hand in front of his face. They felt rough and dry but there were no spots or wrinkles. It was a youthful hand. He was relieved.

I had a nightmare. I wanted to be saved, so I reached out with all my strength and grabbed your hand Was it really that scary? Mr. Yamase was there, he wanted to know why I was saved he wrapped his arms around me. From my torso to my neck Shion put his hands on his neck. He felt a bandage. From your torso to your neck? Mouse gulped a bit. He cast his gaze down and stepped away from the bed. Mr. Yamases not the kind of person to say something like that hes the kind of person who would be happy that I survived Why did I have such an awful dream You feel guilty. Mouse put on the super-fiber cloth. The small mice jumped from atop the books onto his shoulder. That Yamase guy is dead and youre alive. You feel guilty about it. Thats why you had such a stupid dream. You You think everything is stupid. The living are the victors. Dont feel guilty for surviving. If you have time to be guilty, survive for a day or even a minute and remember the dead from time to time. That should be enough. Are you talking to me? Who else could I be talking to? It sounded like something I would say. Mouse winked and stared at Shion, muttering stupid. Shion tried to get up in bed. Just as he thought, he still couldnt move. His torso was tightly wrapped in a white bandage. Why am I so You kept tearing them off when you were screaming in pain. Sleep. Its too early for you to move around. And take the medicine by your pillow. Ill treat you to soup when I get back. Youre going out? I have work.

Mouse turned his back to Shion and hurried out. I put the white pill in my mouth while he was still talking. A little mahogany colored mouse was chirping next to the glass filled with water. Thank you. The mouse nodded as if it understood my words of gratitude, it sat softly down on Shions chest. What work does your master do? Chirp chirp. Whats his name? What has he done until now? Where was he born I felt drowsy. My body felt like it wanted to rest a bit more. I dozed off. This time, I didnt dream. When I woke up, my body didnt feel heavy and languid anymore. Other than the dull pain from the wound in my neck, I didnt hurt anymore. It seemed that my body was recovering quickly. No one was around. It seemed that Mouse hadnt returned yet. The room was dim and quiet. Three mice were sleeping in a circle next to his head. Shion softly got up and put on his shoes. He desperately wanted to breathe the outside air. His chest wanted to drink in the fresh air. I tried walking slowly. My neck was sweaty under the bandage. I just took off the bandage on my neck. I could breathe easier. I felt light on my feet. I didnt feel nauseated or dizzy. I ascended the steps to the door. Right away, I could feel the cold wind permeating my body. The surface was wrapped in a faint, red light. It was twilight. Autumn leaves were falling from the trees. They danced in the wind and made a dry rustling sound before falling back to Earth. The shadows of nearly naked trees were stretched out atop them. He could see No. 6 far off in the distance. Suddenly, his eyes burned. But it wasnt out of longing for the city where he was born and raised. The harmless late autumn scenery pierced his heart. The faint sound of the fallen leaves, the smell of the earth, the color of the sky, pierced his heart so dearly he felt he might weep. When I see things like this, I know I can still smile. He chewed his lip to hold back tears. He took a deep breath. He heard a loud laugh from behind him. When he turned around, he saw three children approaching from the trees. There were two girls and one boy. They were probably the children of the people who lived in that dilapidated house. They all had similarly round faces. Just seeing those children laughing as if they were having fun made him happy too. Karan loved children and since she was always having half off sales for kids 10 and under the shop was always full of little childrens voices. They were outside No. 6. Even though it was like a different world outside of those walls, the laughing voices of children hadnt changed.

The eldest girl noticed Shion. She stopped and stared. Her expression hardened. She wasnt surprised. Shion raised a hand, Hello. He said in greeting. Behind the girl, a little boy burst out into tears. What? Oh dont cry. When he took a step closer, the girls face twisted. She screamed. SNAKE! She picked up the boy and grabbed the other girls hand and ran down the hill. Their shrieks echoed in the twilight. Shion was frozen, dumbstruck. Snake Was that what she screamed? What does snake mean? He couldnt understand what the girl had said. What did she see? He tried looking around. There wasnt anything there but the fall scenery. There were no snakes or birds. There were no living things anywhere to be seen. Did the trees shadow look like a snake? No, thats not it. She was looking right at me. She was just looking at me. He shivered. His scalp buzzed. He pulled on his hair. Hed developed a habit of doing that when he was confused. Huh He held his breath. Several strands of hair were caught between his fingers. They were so white they were nearly transparent. They glittered in the light of the setting sun. Theres no way He shoved his hand into his hair and pulled some out. Every strand was the same. He raised his hand over his head. The skin of his palm had a rich, elastic texture. It didnt seem wrinkled or loose. Instead, his neck felt uncomfortable. A small bulge was encircling his neck. Shion nearly tumbled down the stairs. A mirror, a mirror He tried knocking down the mountain of books. The little mice were confused and hid under the bed. He found a wooden door next to the bathroom. When he opened it, there was a space just big enough for one person to lay down. There seemed to be a mirror on one of the inner walls. The other walls were hung with all sorts of things, but he didnt have time to check. He

turned on the light and stepped up to the mirror. His feet quivered. His hands shook too. But, he had to look. Uh What was reflected in the mirror? Whats this This Snake! The girls scream echoed in my ears. I need oxygen. Or Ill die. I cant breathe. Shion stumbled and leaned against the wall. He gazed at himself in the mirror. He was transfixed on the mirror. He couldnt look away. His hair shone white. And there was a snake around his neck. A red snake about an inch wide wrapped around his neck. Thats what it looked like. He could definitely see it. This is crazy. He took his clothes off. And tried to remove the bandage wound around his body. The bandage that had been wrapped with expert care tangled around his hurried hands as if sneering at him. When the bandage gently fell from his body, Shion let out a groan. A red line stood out on his skin, it started at his left ankle, twined up around his leg, past his groin up to his torso, through his armpit and ending around his neck. It was almost like a snake coiled around his body. The snake undulated on his naked body. A red snake crawling. He felt weak in the knees and collapsed onto the bandages. White hair and a red snake. Is this the price for survival? Do you get a kick out of looking at yourself naked? The voice sounded like a whisper. Mouse was standing there, leaning against the door. Mouse what is this It appeared with the fever. The mutation is only in the upper layer of the skin. Its not like your veins have swollen up. In other words, its not impeding blood flow. Which is good. Good? Whats good about this. This is so If you dont like it get rid of it. We do live in a time where you can get artificial skin grafts. You can dye your hair if you want, though I dont think its really a problem. Although, Mouse shrugged lightly.

Your hair, we can probably handle, but skin grafts are pretty much impossible. We dont have that kind of technology here. He said in a calm, emotionless tone. There wasnt a hair of compassion in it. Shion curled up on the floor and stared listlessly at the bandages. Shion. yeah Do you regret living? What? Uh Did you say something? Mouse sighed and squatted down in front of Shion. He put a finger on Shions jaw and forced his face up. Dont hang your head, look at me. Pay attention and listen to what Im saying. Do you regret it? Regret what? Living. Regret That means to feel sorry about something, right. Yes, of course. Im not talking about egrets here. [6] Get a hold of yourself. Has that precious brain of yours gotten the better of you? Regret? Do I regret living? Do I feel sorry to be living now, sitting here looking like this.? Shion slowly tilted his head. I dont. I didnt want to die. I wanted to live even if it meant crawling through the dirt. I dont have any clear goals or aspirations. Without knowing what the future holds, my body changed and my heart warped. Yet, I dont think I want to die. The delicious taste of water quenching his throat, the color of the sky spread out in his vision, the peaceful evening air, fresh bread, the sure feeling of fingers, quiet laughter, Shion, what do you aspire to? the unexpected confession, confusion. Thats life. No matter what he looked like, he didnt want to lose those things. Mouse I want to live. One of the tears he had been holding back ran down his face. He hurried to wipe it away. Youre too slow. I saw it. Stupid. Dont cry so defenselessly all the time. Arent you embarrassed?

I cant help it. Im anxious, I cant control myself very well. Im still convalescing, so gimme a break. Mouse silently stared at Shions face and lightly laid a hand on his hair. Dont worry about it, well dye it later. But its really pretty, you know. This color. Mouse gently traced the red line on my chest with his finger. And having a red snake wrapped around your body is kind of sexy. I dont want to hear that from you. Its not like want to see you naked either. Put some clothes on. Ill make you some of my special soup and meat.[7] Come to think of it, I hadnt eaten anything in quite a while. I was struck with a feeling of hot emptiness in my stomach. What kind of soup? Let me help. Mouse winked. I guess you recovered faster than I could have imagined. What? Mouses voice suddenly became scratchy and low. Round about the cauldron go; In the poisond entrails throw. Toad, that under cold stone Days and nights hast thirty one Swelterd venom sleeping got, Boil thou first i the charmed pot.[8] What was that? Macbeth. Its a scene where three witches boil newts eyeballs and frog toes, and bat wings in a cauldron to make a special soup. Isnt it fabulous? I think Ill pass if its that sort of soup. Im using chicken instead of bad and heaps of fresh vegetables in place of newt, and a clove of garlic for the frog. It will be but an hour, your majesty. The special soup was hot and more delicious than anything Id eaten before.

[1] Macbeth, Scene V Act I [2] Mouse uses 3 different words for mother in this one paragraph. It sounds a little weird, but I wanted to preserve the effect since Im sure hes doing it on purpose. [3] again, Mouse sounds retarded using mama but hes using multiple familial terms for the same position to make a pointhes trying to sound belittling/condescending here so hes using more childish terms [4] One of the books of the Chilam Balam; found on the west wall of a Mayan archeological site, San Bartolo [5] from the Hesse poem Keine Rast, I couldnt find an English translation. My German is too awful to even attempt this properly, so Ive left the original in along with a translation of the Japanese translation so you have an idea whats going on [6] (regret) and (voyage) are homophones in Japanese, Mouse is making a stupid pun (the semantic content of this sentence is irrelevant since its entirely about the sound of and ). I tried my best to make it work in English. Rue and roux would have been perfect if rue didnt sound so fucking stupid in this context. (Not that I would put it past Mouse, like I said hes a pretentious faggot.) [7] Just had to note that if I rendered this line more literally it would sound even more creepily sexual: Ill make/let you eat [my] special hot soup and meat. And yes he does call Shions weird snake mark sexy in that earlier line. tl;dr Mouse is a creeper [8] Macbeth, Act IV Scene I

Chapter 5: The City Clad in Light

After they ate, Mouse placed the petri dish and a pair of tweezers in front of Shion. I pulled this out of you. Open the lid and take a look. It might be in your field of expertise. My field of expertise? In the dish was a black cord, about an inch long. I tried to grab it with the tweezers. He could just make out traces of a thin membrane on before a mass of black, gooey, melted-looking liquid. Its a wing? Thats what it looks like. I have no idea what Im talking about though. I took one other sample. Whats this? It was the black clump. It looked hard. It looked like something had chewed through it. Its a chrysalis probably. A chrysalis, like what moths and butterflies make? Oh, moths make cocoons right?[1] The cocoon is the covering of the chrysalis. Egg, larva, pupa(chrysalis), imago. Most insects develop in those stages. This is probably a bee. You can tell? I can kind of make out wings. Four membranous wings mostly. I gulped a bit. I saw it with my own eyes. A black bee flew out of Mr. Yamases neck. So this black thing is the same? Probably. It was in the middle of its metamorphosis as a pupa. Even though it chewed through the shell, it didnt become a complete imago. It failed. Why? Why? Hell if I know. The bee incubated inside Yamase and completed its transformation into an imago, so why couldnt it hatch in me? Was it just a coincidence? Or Shion mulled it over in his mind. I dont know. I do know that its some kind of parasite that lives in the human body. Mouse stared at the dish unblinkingly.

A parasitic bee I thought bees just drank the nectar from flowers. Those are honeybees and bumblebees. Most bees are actually solitary wasps.[2] Are there parasitic wasps too? I nodded. Mouses questions were simple and short and Shion knew more than enough to answer. But they werent off topic. They were nimbly and precisely getting at the core of the problem. As I answered, I felt uneasy as if I was being cornered. I felt like I was going to blurt out something awful that I couldnt take back. But, I didnt shy away. I cant just play dumb and gloss over it. I couldnt just pretend nothing happened and stop him from looking for an answer. I was a witness. Thats what I thought. I was a host to a parasite, I fought it and won. I had a red snake etched into me as proof of that. Yes, this is a seal. Shion caught Mouses gaze head on. There are thought to be about 200,000 kinds of parasitic wasp. Wasps and ants are hymenopterans, theyre highly specialized insects, and there are probably tens of thousands of species still unrecorded, and of those there are probably a lot of parasitic wasps I think. So you mean you dont know what came out of you two? I dont have proof. But you could get it. If I had the right resources. Arent you yourself the ultimate resource? You had a parasite in you, what was it like? Is it a new species of parasitic wasp? Youre really annoying sometimes. And youre always a pain in the ass. You dont have proof? Gimme a fucking break. You really have no idea how dangerous the situation is. Wasps are killing people. Most parasitic wasps do that. What? Most parasitic species of wasp could be more accurately described as parasitoids. They reach full maturity attached to a single body which they only need as a host during that period. Eventually, they devour the host. They eventually devour the host. The words echoed freshly in my mind. What kind of host? All sorts. Moth, butterfly and ant larva, fruits One species of ichneumonodiea rhysella approximators lay eggs in xiphydriidae larvae and use them as a host.

So wasps parasitize other wasps? And theres another kind of ichneumonodiea, the pseudorhyssa alpestri, which lay eggs in the same xiphydriiae right after the rhysella does and eats both the rhysella and xiphydriidae larvae. They even kill their own kind Amazing, I thought humans were the only creatures that kill each other. And? What? Are there an wasps that use humans as hosts? Ive never heard of any. There are a lot of creatures that parasitize humans though. Viruses, and bacteria do, and so do flees and ticks. Id heard that once a Warble Fly laid eggs into a boys head and one of them buried into his brain, but I think thats an isolated incident Ive never heard anything like that about a wasp though. At least I dont know. First of all, how does it lay eggs in a human body? How does it insert its ovipositor without the host noticing? You dont remember it at all? Nope. It didnt itch or hurt at all. I dont remember being stung by a wasp either. So, the parasite laid its eggs without you noticing at all. Also, they mature very quickly. At which point in time, they emit some substance. And it causes humans to age rapidly and die. Rigor mortis sets in and abates rapidly, and the now adult parasitic wasp chews through the corpse and leaves. Shion and Mouse stared at each other, breathing in tandem. You really survived. Yeah. Just thinking about it makes me break out in a cold sweat. There are too many questions. Where did this thing come from? And what is it? Hey, this sort of thing has never happened here before, right? Never. I was curious so I looked into it. There have been deaths in shootouts and drunks drowning, but never from abrupt aging. Unlike No. 6, here we dont have any information management or control. Unusual news should travel fast. The other blocks, the South and East blocks in particular, are probably the most likely places for a new species to develop. Mouse slowly shook his head.

Its hard to imagine. If something like that happened, all of the gates would have closed right away, but that hasnt happened. Produce is being brought in from the South and East blocks just like normal. The same goes for the North Block. Yeah, thats true, but the notion that this wasp could have developed in No. 6 is unbelieveable. Unbelievable for sure. Mouse lightly tapped the dish with his finger. His shoulders shook a bit. Mouse? He hung his head and a laugh leaked from his mouth. It quickly turned into a roar. Laughter echoed throughout this book-filled underground room. Mouse fell onto the bed, rolling around laughing. Shion grabbed the water pitcher and dumped it on Mouses head. Woah, what are you doing, stupid! Are you alright? Do I look alright? Im soaked. I thought you were having a hysterical fit. Why does it have to be a hysterical fit? When you suddenly burst out laughing, I was sure. I was just laughing because it was funny. Funny? What was funny? Mouse vigorously shook his head. Droplets of water hit Shion in the face. It was just laughable. Where did that thing come from? No. 6 of course. Theres a strange man-eating wasp flying around in the middle of that model city thats still called a utopia. In this futuristic city, full of state-of-the-art science of all places! And its a bee, laughable. Its no laughing matter. People have died. Mouse stood up suddenly and faced Shion. He really was tall. Easily several centimeters taller than Shion. [3] Whats your problem? Shion unconsciously took a step back and pressed his back into the wall of books, puffing his chest out with all his might. For an instant those grey eyes glistened with a sharp light, that felt like it could pierce him with their ferocity.

Thats an incredibly stupid question though. He said it in a monotonous voice. At the same time, he put his fingers around Shions throat. Have you ever killed a person? He increased the pressure with his thumb slowly. No I couldnt. His thin lips were slightly upturned. It was a cold smile. Of course. But, remember this: the wasp kills its host in order to further its own survival, but humans kill humans for much simpler reasons. And humans attempted to kill you too. I get it. Liar. You dont get anything. I do! Shion grabbed Mouses wrist. I get it. If Id been taken to the correctional institution like that, Id have been framed as a murderer instead of that wasp. And I might have been imprisoned for life, or worse, sentenced to death The city authorities were stalling for time. Until they could confirm Mr. Yamase and the other mans cause of death so they made me into a criminal and turned it into a neat murder case. Thats what you mean right? Mouse let go. The mark from where his thumb had been burned. Correct. A young man obsessed over being dropped from the Elite Course, turns his resentment against the city and resorts to crime. Using a special drug of his own making, a pattern of crimes pile up. But thanks to the hard work of the public order department, the young man was arrested. The citizens are safe. That was their script. What a cheesy melodramatic plot. With your knowledge and history, you fit the role of the criminal perfectly. The city has complete records on every citizen. Finding a person who fit the role perfectly is an easy matter for them. Or rather, you were marked from the beginning. What? Youve been marked for surveillance ever since you helped me. They stood watch over you every day, who you met, what you talked about, what you ate with this incident I started to wonder if the city really had fabricated all this to arrest you. I was wrong of course. But why

Because you dont submit yourself to the will of the city. Mouse said as he wiped his wet hair dry with a towel. He cut a handsome profile. It looked almost artificial. Blood flowed through the skin, in which body heat, rashes, flesh, and fat fluctuated, it could express human emotions and sweat. But it did not look like the face of a human, but that of an exquisite and scrupulously made doll. Yet, Shion made a fist. The wrist he had just grasped, had a regular pulse. Hey, youre spacing out again. Is what Im saying that boring? Huh? Oh, no, not at all. I was just wondering what you meant by not-submitting-to-the-willof-the-city. He blushed for some reason. Mouse snorted. That city wont accept anyone who doesnt obey it unconditionally. Conversely, if those who raise objections or oppose it are rejected. Foreign objects are completely expelled. And thats my take on what happened. So Im a foreign object? You are, and a fine foreign object at that. You harbored a VC, doubted the citys information control, and saw through their ruthlessness. Unqualified to be a citizen, a nuisance. The city just waited for a chance to expel you. Hey, how does the human immune system function when a virus enters the body? Huh? Well, first the natural killer cells called lymphocytes seek out and destroy cells contaminated by the virus. Next and RNA degradation enzyme is activated and the virus is prevented from reproducing. And then Thats enough. When you get into that lecture tone, youre really obnoxious. It pisses me off. Youre one to talk. Oh I see how it is. In any case, to the city you were a virus. So it tried to eliminate you. But Im a person. I cant be eliminated so easily. Mouse gave a big sigh. People have no trouble killing other people. Shion made a fist again. But, we can save them, right? What are you babbling about?

You saved me. Mouse, parasitic wasps cant help each other out, but people can save people, right? Mouse smiled faintly and took his eyes off Shion. You really are a hopeless idiot. How can you spout such gross lines. I told you before, I was just repaying you for what you did for me. And I told you that youd paid me back ten times over. How generous. Do you really value what you gave me so little? And do you really value it so highly? Mouse took a long breath and looked up. He chewed his lip as if he was at a loss for words. The little mice were at his feet. You just dont get it. No matter how or how often I try to explain it to you, youll never get it. On that day, four years ago, I had almost completely given up. If Id given up thatd have been the end of it. I knew that. Yet, I didnt think anyone could help me or lend me a hand. Thats what I believed. I had nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. I snuck into a Chronos residence. I was thinking it was just a matter of time before Id be unable to move out of exhaustion It was a horrible feeling. To think that I was born just to die so miserably Dont laugh. He didnt mean to laugh. But the sound of that night four years ago resounded in Shions ears. The undulating sounds of the wind and the trees and the falling rain overlapped and a drenched little boy crouched in the darknessthe, image crisp as the day itself, played out in his mind. And then, a window opened. You opened it on a whim. And then you spread your arms wide. Yeah, I remember. I dont know why, but I was itching to shout. To me, it seemed like you were calling me in. I thought it was a miracle. And you even left the window open when you went back into the room. I was trying to turn off the environmental control system. Why you did it doesnt matter. That unguarded, open window was a miracle. And it was also a miracle that you didnt call the public order department, but treated my wounds and fed me. I never knew something like that could happen. You were the first person to show me. that a hand of salvation can reach out to you, miraculiously. Just like Mouse slowly looked around the room. Just like in the many thousands of stories here, something beyond human expectation happened. And thats why I survived Just as you said, it is possible for people to save

people. You showed me that. You were the only one who showed me that It is an incredibly valuable gift. Regrettable as that fact may be. Mouses voice was nearly at a whisper, but it clearly and pleasantly resounded in my ears. Shion spread his fingers as if to say, oh, so thats how it is. When I threw the window open with these hands that night, I called a miracle along with the wind. Dont get carried away. Mouses tone grew harsher. I just thought Id take care of you for a bit to repay my debt to you. If you let it go to your head Ill toss you out without a second thought. Okay okay, for what its worth, Im not the type to let things go to my head. But, how did you know I was in trouble? Have you been watching me for four years? Mouse picked up a little grey mouse and held it out. It was the smallest of the mice. Ive been watching you very closely. Shion let the little mouse onto his palm and brought it close to his face. Its a robot? Its well made, isnt it? Its got all sorts of sensors inside. Because its so tiny, it can evade the citys control network and move around to a degree. Depending on the area of course. Did you make it? Basically. This little guys been sending me data on you ever since I left No. 6. Shion lightly grabbed the little mouse in his hand. It was warm like a living creature. He picked up one that was loitering about his feet. With this one, it was faint, but he could feel both warmth and a pulse. I didnt know how or when the city authorities were going to try to eliminate you. Youre young and gifted. Youre useful in many respects. So I didnt think they were just going to drive you out. But instead, I figured theyd try to use you. Its easy to frame someone for murder or something. You became a scape goat. Youd be dragged out for all to see at a festival and showily beheaded. They were raised in captivity for that purpose. First a virus, then a goat? Not bad. Goats are cute. I have much more affection for them than I do for you. Gee, thanks. So, these guys sensed any unusual phenomena around me and notified you?

Yep. A man died an unnatural in the park where you work. That was when the authorities started to amp up the their observation of you. And then your coworker got hit. It was the optimal time to arrest you. Their observation of me I never noticed that I was being observed. They did it so you wouldnt notice. And by the time you did notice, it was too late. Creepy. Youre just realizing that? Mouse laughed in his face. Shion brushed his bangs out of his face. Its a mess. Does what happened or whats going to happen matter at all at this point? I really dont know anything. I hate not knowing things. A single idea flashed through Shions mind. Mouse. Yeah? Its the park. Huh? The woodland park in the center of the city. Where I worked Thats probably where the parasitic wasp developed. Why? Its the heart of No. 6. Even if you call it a forest, all of the life within it is controlled, so its more of an artificial forest. Theyd know right away if a parasitic wasp or anything like that developed. Thats true, but if a new species were to develop within the city, thats the most likely place Everyone who was affected, myself included, was in the park Of course, I dont know if there were any other cases elsewhere, but the city framed me as the culprit because the incidents were centered about the park, right? In which case The monster was born right under the eyes of the control system and it didnt pick it up. Its conceivable, right? Plus, the park is a gathering point for people. So there are plenty of hosts. If a creature that hunted people was living in this beautifully and conveniently maintained park for the citizens Its spring. I muttered. Mouse asked me spring? in return.

The wasps activity should cease in the winter. They go dormant. The eggs that have been laid will probably remain eggs during the winter. The ones in peoples bodies? Yeah. And when spring comes and they can function in their adult form, theyll all hatch at once. In the season overflowing with sunlight and flowers, black wasps fly off, having torn through human bodies. How many will there be? And how many people will be sacrificed? If we dont do something What can we do? Youre not suggesting that we return to the city, are you? Well be killed. You have no idea what youre talking about. We cant risk trying to slip through unobserved and move around. Wed probably be shot to death the second we enter the city. We dont have a secret weapon or anything. Actually we might have one. Mouse narrowed his eyes. I survived that wasps attack. My body should have produced antibodies against the wasps toxin in which case, a serum can be made from my blood. Mouse had a look of disgust in his eyes. He gazed at Shion and shrugged. Alright then, youre just gonna walk right into the citys health department, and say, Please examine my blood. Please make a serum. Its idiotic. Theyll drain your blood and toss you out with the garbage. I know youre trying to sound cool, but are you really prepared to sacrifice your life for the sake of strangers? I dont want to die. Then, dont even think about shit like that. Theyll kill you whether you have the antibodies or not. Itll happen sooner or later if youre caught. Then what should we do? We dont have to do anything. Just leave well enough alone. Shion raised his head. Leave well enough alone? Yeah, isnt it a wonderful setting? The holy city wrapped in the light of spring, on the verge of collapse. And weve got front-row seats. Mouse!

Hey, dont throw water in my face again! Do you really think the West Block is safe? Were both humans. The parasitic wasp might have infested this area too. Mouse closed his mouth and a faint smile appeared on his face. Were not both humans. What. At least, people inside the city dont see the people who live in the West Block as human. You still dont know what kind of place this is, do you? This is the holy citys garbage dump. All of the undesirables are tossed out here so that No. 6 can flourish. See for yourself. Mouse This is just my take. But, those monsters chose the residents of No. 6 as hosts. They live in a sterile environment, where all the undesirables have been forced out, with only people in good health who have no want for food. Those monsters are gourmets, I tell you. How can you be so sure? Shion, I dont know shit about bugs. But, why would wasps, or locusts for that matter, leave an area where food is abundant? If its about population density, it is much higher here than in the city. But, there are no monsters here. Basically, they have no hosts or prey here. Shion was at a loss for words. His thoughts were in chaos. There was a dull pain in his head. Mouse touched his cheek with his hand. Im sorry I didnt mean to torment you. I forgot. You used to be one of them. I dont even know if Im one of them or not. Of course you dont know. You people never even tried to understand whats outside those walls. The thought to find out about it never even crossed your mind. You ignorant, arrogant, fortunate people but also pittiable. That is from whence youve fallen. Full of thoughts I couldnt put into words, I gazed at Mouses eyes. Not knowing anything, and not trying to know anything, if I was arrogant on top of having that fortunate life I had up until now, fine, even if I get rid of it. Im satisfied with my fall. Mouse. Yeah? I want to know the truth of the world. I want to know whats real, whats happening to the world Im living in and what it really looks like.

Mouse shrugged and smiled. Youre such a kid. Were the same age. But our life experience is different. Only Hamlet would say something as embarrassing as I want to know the truth of the world. Hamlet who? A prince of Denmark. Before you learn the truth of the world you should probably broaden your knowledge a bit. You have absolutely zero knowledge of the classics, dont you. But I didnt need to know about them We werent really encouraged to study the arts Mouse reached out his hand, and pulled two books from a shelf. So if what you said is true, they should quiet down in the winter. Well have a reprieve until spring. Probably. Then theres no need to hurry. Though its not like we could if we wanted to. Until youre back to full strength, Ill let you read him. Him? A mahogany mouse scurried into Shions lap and stood on its hind legs. Macbeth is his favorite. And this onehave you heard of Faust? Nope. Mouses face twisted, he took an unnatural breath. Youll neer attain it, save you know the feeling, Save from the soul it rises clear, Serene in primal strength, compelling The hearts and minds of all who hear. [4] And so on. You must train not only your mind but also your soul. Your mama read you books, didnt she? Yeah. The little mice chirped. Oh, thats right. Speaking of your mama, you got a message from her. I almost forgot.

Huh? Mouse blushed just a bit and turned away. Since you managed not to die some how I thought Id at least let your mother know you were over here. You went to see my mom? Not me. I stayed underground. This guy went. A mahogany colored mouse tilted its head. I sent it. With a note in its mouth. I guess thats a classic method too, but somehow the observation net didnt catch it. Here. Thanks. Im begging you, dont give me a formal thank you all teary-eyed. Arent you embarrassed? I was saying it to this little guy. Oh. I see. I was so grateful. I was grateful from the bottom of my heart that someone who had known such hardship already had braved scaling those walls to send notice to my mom. I see, is this what it means to get it? Your old lady is pretty old too. She knew how to write a response out of sight. Mouse tossed me a piece of paper rolled up to half the size of a fingertip. There was a row of hastily scribbled, hard to read characters. Near LK 3000, Latch Building 3F Not sure K What does it mean? Mouse glanced at it without looking. This is a memo from my mama to her beloved son. Have you no heart? Nope. I thought the K was the first letter of your moms name, but I dont get the not sure part Its probably an address. This place doesnt have house numbers or anything like that though The Latch Building lets look it up. You think your mom knows someone in the West Block?

I was surprised. I never heard Karan say that she knew someone in the West Block. Mouses fingers made a pleasant sound. Oh, what if Huh? Its your father. Not a chance You read too many books. Arent you embarrassed to say that sort of thing? Tch, youre slow to retort. But, well, I guess youre right. Thats a typical melodrama plot line, isnt it? The long estranged father and son have a tearful union after 16 years. Mouses voice abruptly got deeper. I missed you, my son! And I too, father! Shion lept into Mouses open arms and hugged him. He was warm. He reflexively remembered how cold Yamase was. Remember this warmth, this heat in my arms and not that coldness. I want there to be living people other than myself. I dont want lives to be taken arbitrarily. The pleasant feeling of a warm, breathing body endowed with life pierced me to the core. Mouse pulled away gently. You catch on quick. Yeah. Ive grown up fast. You really are an excellent student. Alright, lets go. Where to? Outside. - {side note: if you have the first Star Driver OST, play the track Head while reading this bit, its a nice fit imo} It was dark outside. Here, darkness and night were basically synonymous. A cold wind chilled me to the bone. Look. Mouse pointed. No. 6 cut through the darkness, shining in the distance, wrapped in light. Morning, noon or night, it always shines like that. Isnt it beautiful?

Yeah. But, youll be living here from now on. The area was sunk in darkness, only a few spots were illuminated here and there. The meager light made the darkness even more prominent. The clouds broke and the moon peaked out. It was a crescent moon. The thin moon looked kind of like a nail clipping, floating in the empty sky. Mouse leaned over. He was pinching something between his fingers. Look. It was a wasp. A dead one. This is an ordinary paper wasp. Like you said, the wasps active season is over. Until spring, somehow Until spring, we have until spring, probably. Weve been granted a few months reprive. If you really want to fight that parasitic wasp, I wont get in your way. However, I wont help you save No. 6. Do you hate No. 6? He didnt answer. The wind picked up. The treetops made a dry sound as they swayed in the darkness. Shion. Yeah? The city where you were born and raised is also a parasite. Huh? It attaches itself to a host and sucks it dry. Before long its consumed everything. Thats the kind of city it is. Parasitaer-Stadt, a parasitic city Do you understand what Im saying? Nope. I get it now. You said you wanted to know the truth of the world. But once you know, you can never turn back. Prepare yourself. Its too late already.

That it is. Mouses faint laugh mingled with the wind. It was a dry tone, as if to match the sound of the wind. If you think youll still want to protect No. 6 after you learn the truth of the world Then, youll also be In the darkness, Mouse turned his face toward Shion. I could feel his gaze. It seemed like the only thing I could see clearly was the grey of his eyes. my enemy. Its cold, lets go inside. Mouse said in a completely different tone, and turned around. He descended the stairs, whistling. Mouse. He stopped whistling. You never told me your name. A mouse is a mouse. Thats good enough. But it doesnt suit you at all. Plus, you promised. If I survived youd tell me your name. I could hear him chuckle and then go right back to whistling. When I heard the sound of the door closing, silence enveloped the darkness. Left behind, Shion stood alone, frozen in place. The wind tease his hair. Somewhere in the distance, a dog was howling. He looked up at the city painted with light. Parasitaer-Stadt. The city Mouse had given such a disparaging name was dazzlingly beautiful. Shion averted his eyes from the light and took a deep breath. And then he slowly descended into the underground room.
[1] Chrysalis and pupa are the same word in Japanese. No English speaker would equate pupa with cocoon like this so even though it might be inaccurate in the case of a bee (chrysalis = pupal stage of a butterfly) Shion wouldnt be making this mistakepupa doesnt really work here [2] this is another case of Japanese not differentiating between two things that English does (at least in common speech, there are probably technical terms that do). can be a bee or a wasp. Im switching to wasp from here out because thats what theyre actually talking about. [3] stupid Japanese prose, why is the narrator saying shit like in the middle of an obviously 3rd person sentence. Also LOL METRIC SYSTEM. [4] from Goethes Faust, Scene I: Night