Dirty Hands



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The Novel- Chapter Seven

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Shounen Ou ("The Boy King") by Enokido Youji, Hasegawa Shin-ya
Chapter 7 (Newtype, April 2000)
translated by Mark Neidengard
version 0.1

commercial use of these translations is prohibited


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TRANSLATOR'S NOTE: The pronounciation for "Prairial" given in the Japanese text is: "pray-ree-al".

A disturbing dream assails Mikoto, gravely wounded and unconscious. When he awakens, he has no time to relax as Ryuugen reveals the shocking truth. And then, as though mocking Mikoto's perplexity, the world is...

Chapter Seven: Memories of Guns and Forests

Around, and around, and around. The world had become one gigantic turntable. And he, situated in a corner of that world, naturally rotated with it. AROUND, and AROUND, and "around". The place where Mikoto was now was undergoing violent horizontal rotation, wracking Mikoto's body with discomfort. Although he didn't feel anything physical like centrifugal force, his innards were still knotting unnaturally. Worse, the pain was being inflicted because of someone's malice. Whose? Was this some kind of revenge by the blood of all those Mikoto had killed before? That man, that woman, that boy... was this Mikoto's pain as a penance for all his sins?

But I was just a pawn, following orders.

As his mouth formed the despicable excuse, a familiar voice sounded in his ears. Yes, you're a pawn. That's why you're subject to the world's rotation... Torn by a primal fear, Mikoto tried to scream a silent scream...

...!

He squinted his eyes at the brilliance of the room's lights. He had awoken in a bed in an unfamiliar room. Come to think of it, this was just like that time he lost consciousness on his first day as a transfer student. It had been the Earth-man in the room then, but this time it was Ryuugen watching over him from his bedside.

"Where am I?"

"My room. Yours is rather bloody at the moment."

Mikoto's torso was bare, wrapped in a bandage from his shoulders to his side. Mikoto now fully recovered his faculties, and grasped the situation he was in. That's right. She stabbed me. He glanced around the room. Ryuugen's room wasn't too different in floorplan from the guest room he occupied. However, the window was covered by thick drapes which blocked all light. One wall was taken up by a large bookshelf, lined with what appeared to be Ryuugen's books. Their spines contained letters Mikoto couldn't read.

"How long?" Mikoto asked.

"You've been out two whole days. Unfortunately, the deadline to assasinate me has elapsed. A black mark on an otherwise brilliant record." Ryuugen took a bottle of brandy from the shelf, poured some into a cup and offered it to Mikoto. Mikoto hesitated a second, then accepted it and drank it down. "You do your agent's training credit. You just barely avoided a fatal blow. I heard a noise and ran to the scene just about the time your paragrine destroyed the window and entered the room. I'll leave it to your imagination what kind of dispute I had with that bird in order to save both your lives. Does it hurt?"

Mikoto gingerly attempted to move his arms, shoulders, and back. He instinctively avoided making any large motions, but there wasn't that much pain. The treatment must have been quite good. "Thank you. It doesn't hurt. But perhaps due to blood loss, the world feels like it's spinning."

Around, and around, and around. It was as though his nightmare still clung to his body.

Ryuugen lifted the lid from a pot on a nearby wagon, and ladeled Mikoto a plateful of soup.

"I'm nauseous."

"Just take it a little at a time. You should drink it."

Mikoto lifted the spoon to his mouth, but simply couldn't work up any appetite. He couldn't forget. He had come here to assasinate this boy. And then developed an illicit love for his lover, and gotten stabbed for his stupidity.

"That 'paragrine' bird is a truly well-made weapon."

"Doubtless." Mikoto touched his bandages. "It can't protect its master when he needs it most. Perhaps it's as stupid as its master."

"No, its performance is truly extraordinary," Ryuugen said, looking like he meant it. "I'm quite impressed that Frimaire's science could produce something like that." Ryuugen took the "ring" out of his pocket and gazed at it in admiration. Mikoto had lost his trump card, and was now totally helpless. However, Ryuugen blithely handed it over to Mikoto.

Mikoto took it, looking at Ryuugen's face in amazement. "You can't be serious."

"Don't worry. This room is outfitted with a device that disrupts its electromagnetic waves. And although it's a "well-made" weapon, it still can't take me down."

"Are you so sure? I haven't gone up against you for real yet."

illustration Ryuugen extended his right hand toward Mikoto at light speed. Instantaneously, that gun Andrea appeared within it. Its muzzle was aimed squarely at Mikoto's forehead.

"You should fire," Mikoto said. He set the plate of soup down on the nearby wagon. "Let's end this farce. My performance as an agent couldn't be any worse."

"That is being arrogant," Ryuugen said with more violence than he had ever displayed before. "You're in NO position to get cocky. My real enemy is someone else. I'll spell it out for you: it's the people of your country, the Frimaire Kingdom who are trying to trying to rapidly expand their oppression and upset the balance of the galaxy, and threaten my country - who are my true enemies."

"Your kingdom...being?"

Ryuugen showed him the Andrea's grip. Next to a shining emerald crest were graven the letters 'PRAIRIAL'. "That's the crest of Prairial, my country."

"Then, you're..." Mikoto regarded the boy with no small amount of surprise. He had never seen Ryuugen as anything more than a "king" of his own "country". ...Does that mean that he's really "His Highness"? Mikoto's job as an agent primarily consisted on acting on "other planets." Of course, he knew of the existence of the "other countries", but they might as well have been "other worlds" due to their immense distance. All of Mikoto's former jobs had been exterminations of traitors to his country. An agent raised in the Institute, Mikoto had always sought value in his life within the environs of the kingdom. The "other countries" on the other side of the galaxy had simply been outside the "scope" of his life until now. However, before his very eyes was a boy from outside that scope, from those other countries. And was a king to boot.

"The Frimaire Kingdom has requested an alliance with my country. That's why I came to this school, in order to choose whether to form the alliance or to fight. And to see the "Become-A-Stranger apparatus", the root of their expanding influence, with my own eyes. Although it's also true that the reason I'm here now is because of my 'stupid gamble'."

Stupid gamble. He had said that last night, too. "What's so stupid about this stupid gamble?"

"A gamble is something to be done for fun. Making money or even earning a living gambling is truly stupid. Do you want Karin?"

"What?..."

"You can't have what you want because you're subject to rules you don't know about." You can't have her unless you kill me. Mikoto remembered Ryuugen's words. "If I eliminate 'Your Highness', she'll never be anyone's again." As the words forcefully left his mouth, Mikoto became fully aware of his love for Karin. "But could you tell me a bit about her? She was deeply grieved when I told her you had called her your fiancee. What sort of relationship do you two have? And where's this 'forest without lies' she keeps talking about?"

"Forest without lies...yes, Karin calls that prison the forest. It's situated deep in the woods, you see."

"Prison?"

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"It's the place where I first got my Andrea...." Murmuring that he only had a little time left, Ryuugen poured himself a glass of brandy. (Only a little time left?) "This is just a story from long ago. But it's a memory I've never shared with anyone. That prison is the place where Karin was born and raised, so it's not that long ago." In the wavering wine within his glass, the boy gazed at a distant horizon. And began to recount his memories of the forest.

*

"It wasn't that large a building. About the same size as this mansion. Karin would slip out of the castle and run around playing when she was little, and her favorite playground was the prison. Apparently she found the key to the back door and went there to play almost every day. On top of that, that prison was a place where those condemned to death were sent. It was their final holding area while waiting for the sentence to be carried out. I presume that she only got as far as the outside of the bars, but the only way to know for sure is to ask her herself. To be sure, the criminals weren't all top-class; there were plenty of rapists and the like mixed in too, but according to Karin it was the only place where "bad things" didn't come.

Mikoto was silent. Those "bad things" must be the monsters, he thought.

"In those days, I was living alone with a man who called himself my father. We had no permanent home, and always ended up living wherever our work took us. Not a very fun lifestyle. I haven't found out for certain, but it seems he wasn't my real father but rather someone who either bought or kidnapped me before I was old enough to remember. Thinking back on it, he was definitely the sort of man who'd do that kind of thing. He would punch me and kick me on a daily basis, and sometimes force me into doing even more humiliating things. He abused me. Really, it was bad enough I'm surprised I didn't suffer dissociation from it.

He was an executioner. Or more accurately, he wasn't an executioner in the service of the state, he was just a hired hand to actually do the killing. The actual process wasn't all that bad, but almost all the money he received got eaten up by alcohol and gambling. Probably, he was just a cowardly small- time punk who didn't like getting his hands dirty. It was always me who did the actual disposal. Yes, that was the reason my "father" needed me. He handled the paperwork, and I did the heavy lifting. I was still just a kid, and couldn't refuse doing the work."

Ryuugen paused a moment and closed his eyes. His noble face seemed to cloud over somewhat. "I fired from outside the bars of the prisoners' cells. Come down to it, it was just that simple. In those days, I was nothing but a tool to that man. There for convenience. While he was out drinking, I'd be in one prison or another, pointing the muzzle of a gun at some prisoner, and pulling the trigger. I always shot for the head, so they wouldn't suffer. I got so good those days that I could always hit them even if they were trying to dodge. And the looks they gave me, the words they said to me before I shot them - I clearly remember to this day. I've been cursed countless times. Always me, never him."

"Then one day, the prison I visited was the one Karin frequented. As always, I shot the designated prisoner. And as I was on my way out, I ran into him dragging along a little girl. Karin. I said the job was done and asked what the deal was with her. He said he'd picked her up here. He had this leer on his face as he roughly held her breast. At that time, Karin was like a rabbit in torpor. I could easily imagine what he'd do to her next. And at that time, revulsion for the man spewed forth in my guts. The accumulated resentment of all those years had finally broken free. I was this close to not being able to endure being with him any more. Before I knew it, I'd told him to let her go and leveled the gun at him. I remember him looking at me and laughing. He saw through the bluff instantly - he'd always given me only as many bullets as I has prisoners to kill. I always had to do them in one shot, and he didn't tolerate missing. So my gun was empty after the job. He had a gun too, but he didn't draw it as he came closer....

Yes, that's the first time I prepared myself for my own death. Heck, I figured I'd rather die than continue being at his mercy. But at the same time, a new emotion blossomed inside me. Bloodlust. I wanted to kill him. I, who'd been acting as a killing autonomaton until then, wanted to kill someone under my own volition. He seemed to enjoy my expression of hate and jeered at me. The girl was white with fear as he grabbed onto her arm. And that was the precise moment I 'chose'."

"...Chose?"

Ryuugen smiled at the memory. "As he got closer, he got this strange expression on his face. And he said, What's with that gun? I looked, and somehow the gun I was holding was this silver-white gun I'd never seen before. Man, what a surprise. It was the Andrea, manifesting in my hand for the first time."

"Manifesting...." Mikoto had seen that gun appearing and disappearing into thin air right before his eyes. That Andrea was definitely no ordinary weapon. And he remembered how he had pulled its trigger once and lost consciousness. He figured that was because he had been unable to withstand whatever power the gun possessed.

"There are only twelve Andreas in this galaxy. The other eleven are all in the hands of eleven different people. It's pretty clear that the moment I chose Andrea was the moment 'this fate' began. I shot him. He died instantly. Karin was still stunned, but she finally figured out that she'd been saved, and smiled at me in front of his corpse. That's how we met. Two little kids holding hands and standing in the pool of his blood."

"I don't think I understand what this 'choosing Andrea' business means."

"Do you know how the king of your Frimaire Kingdom becomes king?"

"Well...." He remembered the time he'd posed that question to his instructor shortly after entering the Institute. At that time, the instructor had told him that you weren't a king unless you were born that way.

"The current king of Frimaire has the 'Frimaire Kingdom's Andrea'. That's why he's the king."

"So, you're saying the gun chooses the king?" Mikoto asked dubiously. "Properly speaking, it's not a gun - it's a holy relic. It's actually an alternate-dimensional life form, and all it's done is chosen to appear as a gun right now. It's said that a boy sculptor gave it this form long, long ago. All the kingdoms throughout the galaxy who were unable to acquire Andreas are long since destroyed. And there are no records in current history of any country with an Andrea being destroyed."

"Does this mean that the kings of the galaxy are puppets of the countries the Andreas have chosen?"

"Hardly. It's not that the Andreas choose the kings. It's that the kings choose the Andreas. Choosing an Andrea means choosing the lifestyle. At the moment you choose a lifestyle befitting a king, the gun appears. Both the king of your Frimaire Kingdom and I, king of Prairial, became king that way."

"...."

At that moment, a phone rung in a corner of the room. Ryuugen picked up the receiver, said he understood, and hung up. "It seems Karin's regained consciousness."

"What do you mean 'regained'?"

"She's dying as we speak."

"But," Mikoto stammered, "when she stabbed me, she was..."

"That's not it. This has nothing to do with that night. The reason she collapsed tonight is because she's one of the FL Family."

"Why does being from the FL Family mean she's dying?"

"The women of the FL Family can sense the presence of monsters. Currently, the power of those monsters at this school is being amplified to an extraordinary degree. It's the sharpness of her perception of this that's affecting her."

"..." It appeared that Fluttery's report of them being just a financial conglomerate had been doctored after all.

Ryuugen regarded him with amazement. "You really have _no_ clue, do you? The FL Family is the one and only family in the galaxy whose ties and blood relations constitute royal lineage. The FL Family, especially its women, have that distinctive power, and Karin was born and raised as a daughter of that house. Basically, powers that other people don't have bring misfortunes other people don't experience." Mikoto thought back to Karin being carried to the medical room. Was that the beginning of her decline?

"Although, Karin's childhood may be making be making her more miserable than her powers. There was a reason behind why she'd visit a place like a prison when she was little. Karin's father, the previous king, died shortly before the two of us met. Her mother was married to him for political reasons, and was pretty much sold to the castle as a bride. She never harbored anything but hate for him, even at the bitter end. And she resented the daughter she'd gone through all the trouble to bear too, presumably because she was the child of the man she hated. Now, since Karin's father the king had died, Prairial had to find a successor.

A kingdom can't be without a king. And whoever was chosen as the new king, even if already married, had to treat Karin's mother better than his own wife, since she was a FL woman. Their stature is so great that it's said among the kingdoms that 'If Andrea is the bones of the galaxy, FL is the blood'. But ironically, it was little old me who chose the Andrea. I was too young to control her, and besides I was little Karin's lover. And just as mother hated daughter, Karin hated her mother back. My appearance in the castle set the mother-daughter relations on their ear. But I was too young at the time to predict the tragedy that would produce.

That night, Karin's mother came in person instead of sending a servant. Her weapon was a thin blowdart, aimed for my throat while I was sleeping. Perhaps that's how she killed Karin's father too. I woke up suddenly and leveled Andrea at her, but the dart hit me in the left eye."

"Then, your left eye is..."

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Ryuugen opened his eyes wide for Mikoto. Upon close inspection, the exquisite motion of the pupil was that of an artificial eye. "But I didn't pull the trigger then. Not because of the pain. She was already mad. Those who have lost their sanity are as good as dead anyway. All that had happened is my left eye had died a little earlier than the rest of me. But that wasn't the only wound. The dart she used was a microweapon that cancels out the victim's biomagnetism. The one she used was on a timer. In her maddened state, she had probably grabbed it indiscriminately from the armory. Even if the dart is removed, the biomagnetism canceller, in short, the "arrowhead", can't be removed or defused. It's inside my body even now, and there's no longer any way to know when it's set to go off. I've stayed alive for many years since, but it's quite possible I might just drop dead while I'm talking to you."

Ryuugen closed his right eye, and regarded Mikoto through his left eye alone. Within that false eye that seemed to see right into his heart, some deep, dark sentiment seemed hidden.

"But I'm grateful to Karin's mother now. The reason I can be king is because of this Russian Roulette. Since that time, I've had to stare my own death directly in the face. Everyone dies sometime. I have to go on living with that fact firmly in mind. And that can be a weapon against the cruelty of the world." Ryuugen took the laser knife out of his pocket and extended it to Mikoto. "Here's the tool Karin used to try to kill you."

"......" Mikoto accepted it. Although its output was quite high, it was a compact industrial laser that anyone could register to buy.

"It's yours. Do you hate Karin now?"

"I have no right to complain. Please don't forget: I came here to kill you, you, her lover."

Ryuugen stood and walked over to the window, taking the thick drapes in hand. "Before this happened I had planned to let at least Karin escape, but the power of the sorcery is growing and escape from the school's vicinity seems no longer possible. Which means, I need to be going."

"To where, may I ask?"

"If I don't stop this rotation, she'll die."

"...What rotation are you referring to?"

"The rotation you've been feeling all this time." Ryuugen yanked the drapes wide open. Mikoto, upon seeing the unnatural radiance outside, was totally speechless. The world outside the window was actually rotating!

to be continued next issue

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