Dirty Hands



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The Novel- Chapter Ten

chapters cast of characters author bios

Shounen Ou ("The Boy King") by Enokido Youji, Hasegawa Shin-ya
Chapter 10 (Newtype, July 2000)
translated by Mark Neidengard
version 0.1

commercial use of these translations is prohibited


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Translator's Notes: "Vendemiaire" is pronounced "vahn-de-me-air". It finally becomes clear what the naming convention for the twelve Countries is: the months of the Napoleonic calendar. Hence "Frimaire".

The title of this chapter "Aoi Houseki no Kimi", can be read variously "Azure-Jeweled Ruler", "Azure-Jeweled You", "My Love, the Azure Jewel", etc.

My humblest thanks go to Kyoko Selden, Senior Lecturer in Asian Studies at Cornell, without whose brilliant and painstaking editing these translations would not have been feasible.


What is the the meaning of the object Mikoto drew from within the paragrine? Mikoto holds his fate in his own hands, and Ryuugen flies off into space... The shocking truth is revealed, and the door to a new tale opens!!

Chapter Ten: The Azure-Jeweled Ruler

The cybernetic bird's bodily fluids were more like oil than blood: thick and blue. The gun, regaining its silver gleam as the blood slipped away, was Mikoto's Andrea. Mikoto held the grip for the first time. It was a very strange sensation.

From the moment he grasped it, he became aware of having chosen a single way of life. The air regained its former freshness, yet he was seized by some sort of nameless anxiety. The gun's appearance was like the one in Ryuugen's hand. However, its grip was decorated with sapphire and an engraving he had never seen before. There he read the engraving "Vendemiaire".

Only twelve Andreas existed in this galaxy - so Ryuugen had said. And that the kings choose the Andrea. But Mikoto didn't have time to ponder the meaning of those words now. He felt a rapid deceleration within his whole body. The carriage was attempting to stop. It signaled the beginning of the battle.

Mikoto jumped from the slowing carriage. He attempted to make a soft landing, but the wound in his back still complained mightily. If his energy failed him now, he might just collapse on the spot. He quickly found some object that would serve as cover and hid behind it. He had expected a much vaster underground world, but this hidden space seemed no larger than a gymnasium. Mikoto clicked his tongue slightly as he realized he could no longer use the paragrine's IR scope. His surroundings were shrouded in gloom. And what faint light there was faded out before his eyes could adjust, leaving him effectively blind. But it was what Mikoto glimpsed before the light vanished that surprised him.

illustration The carriage he had just been riding was actually a wooden merry-go-round horse. Or rather, it had turned into such a thing. The object Mikoto was hiding behind turned out to be the thick central pole of the merry-go-round. But when Mikoto had glimpsed it through the paragrine's sensor eyes, it had positively been a carriage. There was no sign of the white-masked man who had been in the driver's seat. With the enemy somewhere within the darkness, and there would have been no choice but to use the pillar as a base to hunt him out, but the enemy was boldly standing in a conspicuous spot.

The luminous white mask floated clearly out of the darkness. The mask was gazing at Mikoto. It appeared Mikoto's opponent could see him clearly. "It seems you finally got it," the masked man said. "The mightiest weapon in this galaxy."

Mikoto didn't remember the voice. But he fully believed it was the man he had met at the Institute long ago.

"Is that conspicuous mask supposed to be a handicap?"

"It doesn't matter whether you can see me or not," the man said. "You can't use that weapon right away anyway."

"...." Mikoto considered the import of such a trenchant statement. The gun had been sealed within the paragrine all this time. The paragrine had been made by the masked man. It might be reasonable to assume he knew something about this Andrea. There was certainly no guarantee he could use it immediately after drawing it from within the paragrine.

"Go ahead and shoot," the man said. "Do you understand the terror of firing it?" At that, Mikoto thought back to when he had fired Ryuugen's Andrea without permission and lost consciousness. He couldn't afford another blunder. Can't I use this gun...? However, he had no other weapons. If he was going to lose consciousness, he'd have to take out his opponent with the first shot. That was his only chance. His decision reached, he aimed for the man and put his finger on the trigger. But in that moment...

The aspect of his surroundings changed, and Mikoto received a shock akin to time freezing. His field of vision grew rapidly brighter, but it wasn't because of natural illumination returning. The spectacle around him had abruptly changed, as though he had been transported to a totally different space. Actually, maybe he really had been transported. Where am I? It was a rapid change to the room he found himself in, but Mikoto felt a sense of deja vu, which changed to shock as he realized where he was.

He was inside the Institute where he had been raised. The high row of windows that admitted light. The floor and walls of wooden planks. The nostalgic smells of varnish and stoves. Without out a doubt, he was inside the familiar building of the Institute. This room was the so-called "self study room" where one went to write up self-evaluations from training. Within that spacious room were large multi-person tables -- Mikoto had always written his reports in the seat farthest in the corner. What kind of trick is this?

It was clear that the room he was currently in wasn't real. After all, the building this self-study room was in had been abandoned two years ago. The Institute had moved to a newly-constructed building, and the old one had been demolished and was now a landfill. This room should no longer exist. The white-masked man stood on the opposite side of the table.

"What have you done?" Mikoto asked.

"Nothing," the man said patronizingly. "Yes, I've done nothing. It's true. This catastrophe is your doing."

"Mine?"

"More accurately, this phenomenon is caused by your Andrea. Now then, I wonder who that could be." Upon inspection, a young boy appeared seated at one of the corners of the table. He was absorbed in writing something in a diary-like notebook, probably the results of all the training he had done today. Mikoto, being faced with his former self, felt all his forgotten feelings from those times resurfacing. He, who had seemingly been sold by his parents. The nights spent all alone within the Institute that had taken him in, wrapped in anxiety. Those bygone days where unknown terrors waited behind every wall. The white-masked man walked over behind the Mikoto from the past. And from his pocket, he extracted the ring and extended it to the former Mikoto. And his past self looked up, and accepted the circular, metallic control device. Mikoto thought back to the scene being replayed before him. Yes, it was this room where the man had given him the ring.

You may be able to do it, so he had said to Mikoto. I feel something special in you. You may be able to control that paragrine. No, you're surely the chosen one.

Perhaps that's when I became me. Perhaps what supported me all this time was the pride at being able to control the greatest secret weapon in the kingdom. Perhaps the fact that only I could control the paragrine was the basis for my being an Agent. If so, was this masked man the one who supported me...? No, that's wrong, Mikoto cried out within his heart. Wrong, incorrect. Because

During his anxiety-filled childhood, he had already realized that he had no choice but to confront that anxiety and move on. That young Mikoto had known that he had nowhere to run, that crying wouldn't solve anything. And he had always told himself over and over: the world didn't solely exist to cause me to suffer. That living was therefore a game between him and the world. Yes, I was already me before I started controlling the paragrine; the me who knows how to fight against the world all alone.

"Have you remembered yet," the masked man asked, "who you owe for giving you the paragrine?"

"Yeah, I remembered," Mikoto answered. "Just who it was who hid my Andrea." That was a carefully plotted seal. That was the beginning of the imprisonment Ryuugen had spoken of.

The white masked man smiled while patting the younger Mikoto on the head. "You used to be so cute and obedient. But you're right - that paragrine was built with the finest technology in the kingdom to hide your Andrea."

"Why?" Mikoto asked. "If I was such a nuisance for having an Andrea, you should have just killed me right away. Why'd you have to go so far out of your way?"

"To keep the balance of the galaxy. Even if a single king dies, it's not like the kingdom itself disappears. Even if we had killed you back then, the Andrea wouldn't have vanished. Had we killed you, the gun would have simply chosen someone else and vanished from out of our hands. That's the way the ecosystem of kingdoms in the galaxy works. Even in this age, noone is able to change the system. But then a certain strategist thought of something. What if there was a king who never found out about his Andrea because he never got it. What if it were possible to secretly hide it from its owner? Even if extinguishing one of the kingdoms from the galaxy is impossible, perhaps sealing one away would be possible. And the "experiment" was a success. Or, it was succeeding until just a moment ago."

"...." Mikoto looked at the Andrea in his hand.

"Are you planning to join forces with the king of Prairial, Ryuugen?" the masked man asked. "Then let me warn you, sooner or later you're really going to regret it. You're probably misunderstanding Ryuugen."

"Misunderstanding?"

"He's dangerous. He managed to domesticate Kareena FL and keeps her close to him. He's the most ambitious dynast in the galaxy. Even the other kings in the Federation don't realize it, but had his country not been as threatening as a potential supernova, Frimaire would never have joined hands with the Archdemons and upset the balance that's lasted a hundred years."

Despite appearances, His Majesty an emotionless a man. I know that well. He treats Karin well enough, but he certainly doesn't love her. He merely uses her for his own ends! Mikoto suddenly remembered the student council member K-suke's words.

"It's not yet too late," the man said. "If you love the peace of the galaxy, you should fight for Frimaire's sake."

"What do you think you're asking me to do?"

"Steal that girl, Kareena FL, away from him. That's what you wanted too, isn't it?"

Mikoto pointed his gun at the white masked man. He grasped it with both hands, taking careful aim. So, he's trying to use me after all. And after all, I won't have it.

"Can you actually fire?" the man sneered. "If you shoot, you'll lose something important."

A moment's hesitation. And Mikoto affirmed the man's words in his heart. Yes, if I pull the finger I've got on the trigger, I'll lose something. I'll stop being the self I was. This is that kind of gun. The man had merely pinpointed the profound anxiety Mikoto had felt since acquiring the gun. But in the next moment, Mikoto pulled the trigger. It was the first moment Mikoto had ever tried to kill someone of his own volition.

In that instant, the surroundings were no longer the illusion of the Institution from the past, but returned to the darkened subterranean space. The broken mask fell to the floor. The shards gave off a dull glow. But the only thing broken was the mask. The moment of hesitation had given the man an opportunity. The optical arc had grazed the mask, but the man had barely gotten out of the way. And this time, he had hidden himself in the darkness.

Where is he? Mikoto started moving and seeking the now unmasked man's presence in the dark. Before Mikoto's eyes came a report and a passing gunshot: he had been fired upon. But it was the sound and the sight of the shot that surprised Mikoto. It couldn't be... Mikoto understood what it meant, and finally figured out the identity of his opponent. He understood who his enemy was. His opponent's gun was unmistakably identical to the one he had. The man had another Andrea.

"If you're gonna surrender, do it now," came a voice from the darkness. "You can't find me in the dark."

He moved several steps, glancing around warily. Frustrating though it was, he had to admit that his opponent was right: under the circumstances, Mikoto was at an overwhelming disadvantage. How could he find an opponent lost in the dark? Moreover, an opponent who knew where Mikoto himself was?

"You're not experienced with these guns like I am," said the man: Frimaire's king. His Majesty, King of Frimaire. The man who had used Mikoto. The Andrea's grip was slick with sweat. The far greater fear of actual combat assailed Mikoto. It was an ironclad rule of combat that the weaker the fighter, the more swiftly they would want the combat to end. And a true warrior would prevail over mudslinging. And a superior grasp of the situation and of the opponent was fundamental at all times. Mikoto had been trained not to let the excitement of battle cause him to overvalue his opponent. He therefore knew that his opponent wasn't bluffing. If I could only figure out where he is....

At that moment, a familiar voice came from the ring around his neck. "The carriage, at 2 o'clock!" Mikoto's response was swift. Before the voice had ceased speaking, the gun was already accurately aimed in the indicated direction and a shot fired. There was no scream, or anything else for that matter. But Mikoto felt a response through his finger on the trigger. Through the darkness, he heard the whinny of a horse through the darkness, followed by the sound of the carriage pulling away. As the lights suddenly came on, there was no sign of the merry-go-round horses or the man. But Mikoto savored his victory. His enemy had run off, and he was sure he hadn't fled unharmed.

I won.... As he looked around, he walked with his gun still drawn toward the owner of the voice which had saved him. On the floor near what looked like a light switch on the wall was the paragrine. "I'm surprised you can move."

"I had my regenerative abilities set to maximum," Fluttery said. "You're a servant of Frimaire's king, aren't you?"

"Yes, I deceived you. Even if I had been given an override order by the king, I still deluded you all this time. But after I failed at my "mission", you're the only one I have left to work for."

"I'm supposed to accept this just like that?"

"You should know better than anyone else how useful I am. And someone as sharp as you should realize that I have nothing to gain from deceiving you any further. I'm sure I'll be of use." Now that the exhilaration of battle had worn off, the pain of the wound in Mikoto's back returned. The paragrine at his feet had a similar wound on its back, and although it was healing faster it was clearly made by the same laser knife. Yes- both Mikoto and the paragrine bore scars from the same blade on their backs.

"Well, it's not like we don't make a good couple," Mikoto muttered.

Mikoto endured the pain of his injury as he climbed up the slope, toward the surface. Ryuugen's cheerful voice came from the ring around his neck. "Karin was saved, and I won my bet."

"It's not like I was fighting to save her," Mikoto said in a somewhat peevish tone. "You bet on whether or not I was the owner of the Andrea, didn't you?"

"Not quite. I already knew you were the Andrea's owner. The bet was whether you could hold it in your own hands or not."

"How? How were you sure I had an Andrea?"

"If you've fought with that gun, you should understand - what it means to fire the Andrea. An ordinary "subject" couldn't even manage to hold the grip without going insane. But you didn't just hold the grip of my Andrea, you even pulled the trigger. That's when I realized what the king of Frimaire was up to. How he planned to seal away one of the twelve kingdoms that ought to exist in the galaxy."

"Did you know that he, the king of Frimaire had come here as well?"

"No, that I didn't know," Ryuugen said sincerely. "It's true. You're probably unhappy about it, but everything starts now." Unhappy. It seemed that the past could always be summed up with that one word. "With your help, the Federation can stop Frimaire. The galactic ecosystem will change."

"He said that you're the most ambitious dynast in the galaxy. And that if I loved peace in the galaxy I should steal her from you."

"Hmm. It seems Karin's misfortune hasn't ended yet."

"Are you really the dynast who will upset the balance of the galaxy and invade the other countries he said you are?"

"...."

"Is what he said true?"

"He wasn't mistaken," Ryuugen answered. "As king of Prairial, I'm always after control of the galaxy. That's the truth. And I may end up fighting you some day. However - you said the words "peace in the galaxy" fairly easily, but what sort of peace do you actually hope for? There's no absolute authority in this galaxy that arbitrates the profit and loss of the countries. Do you understand what that means?

Morals are illusions which only have force within the artificial constructs called 'countries'. I think those illusions have value. But created rules are nothing more than just that. Just like explaining human rights to wild beasts won't stop them from attacking, judging the national egos from within the frame of internal national morals is meaningless.

Now that you've acquired your Andrea, you should know that authority is not for the purpose of dominating others, but was originally for "not being dominated by others". That it's not a desire to dominate, but anxiety and fear about being dominated that give authority birth. That at the very least people who believe such a thing is bad can't become kings of the galactic kingdoms."

"That's easy for you to say since you've got a kingdom," Mikoto said. "But I don't have any such thing."

Ryuugen laughed. "It's a shame I won't be able to see your expression when you get outside."

"Is something outside? Why won't you be able to see my expression?"

"Karin and I have already left your planet. We're aboard a ship."

"Thank you," came Karin's voice. It had clearly retained its former health. "You saved my life twice. I'm sure we'll meet again somewhere in the the galaxy."

"Of course we will," Mikoto said. "I haven't settled the score yet. Some day, I am going to defeat him and make you mine." The girl's laughter spilled from the ring.

"Oh my," said Ryuugen. "The king of Frimaire sent a message for you.... 'Our Congratulations upon the Crowning of the King of Vendemiaire. Let him flourish along with a new age in the Galaxy. The King of Frimaire.'"

"Liars one and all."

"Not entirely," Ryuugen said. "This is 'foreign relations', but I suspect he personally does wish you well."

*

A carriage drove amidst the starlight. In it rode a beautiful young man, with a wound across his flank. He was the formerly masked, king of Frimaire. Seated snugly next to him was a girl. At her touch, the wound vanished before his eyes. Of course, her skin bore the tantalizing, beautiful "Shi-Ma pattern". Evidently the Archdemon, born from the illusion of death, could also emit the power of life. The young man was being healed rapidly. "I put mine into you. This means you've been intermingled with me. You can no longer be apart from me."

"Suits me fine," the attractive young man said. "The sealed kingdom, Vendemiaire, has started moving - quite a pain. I'm going to need an even greater power than before."

"Why are you smiling while saying that," the girl asked. "You sealed him yourself, you almost seem to be enjoying the birth of the new king."

"...." Yes, he was enjoying it. The king of Frimaire enjoyed the discovery of Mikoto, the new king, from the bottom of his heart. And the prospect of the battle to come heated his blood.

"What are you seeking? What is it you want so badly you'd couple with me?"

The king covered the girl's mouth with his own lips. And until they returned to the palace, the intermingled pair made fierce love to each other.

People became human by grasping the concept of "environment" and opening the dimension called the "world". People became human by eating the forbidden fruit because of that concept. The humanity thus born lends value to the kingdoms of the galaxy. However, it's a separate issue of what method to choose to put such ideology into practice. Treading humanity underfoot can occasionally be a means of protecting that humanity. The king of Frimaire knew this. The history of the kingdoms of the galaxy was dyed in spilt blood. The birth of a new king was nothing but the beginning of a new conflict. What lay at the end of such a history noone knows.

*

Having reached the surface, Mikoto exited the library and looked up at the night sky. Amid the jet-black sky, the stars shone like a scattering of faint gold and silver powder. The rotating phenomenon had completely ceased. Mikoto had ended it with his own hands. And there in front of him, there was a gigantic floating palace descending to the earth. Even in the darkness, its silver steel plating could be seen. The absurdly enormous floating building sent a deep, weighty vibration through the air as it slowly drew near. Its terrifyingly massive bulk entirely blotted out the night sky. But Mikoto already knew that this was his palace. The large engraved emblem in the silver steel walls was the same as the one on the grip of his Andrea. It had come to pick him up.

He began to hear Karin's singing faintly through his ring. She was probably singing at Ryuugen's side. It was the song she had sung in the field behind the school, "Azure-Jeweled Ruler".

At length, a beam extended from part of the palace to form a bridge at the new king's feet. "Shall we go?" Mikoto said.

"Yes, your Majesty," Fluttery replied.

As the girl's singing faded in the distance, the newly born king with the military bird on his shoulder began walking the long path to the stars alone.

[END of Book 1]

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