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by Haikasoru

He stopped speaking. He noticed that Kazuo was shaking his head. Mitsuru moved his tongue, which had now turned gooey, and continued, “Then we’re escaping? All right then, we’ll find a boat–”

Kazuo said, “Listen.” Mitsuru stopped again.

Kazuo went on, “I’m fine either way.”

Although Mitsuru clearly heard him, he kept on blinking. He didn’t understand what Kazuo meant. He tried to read Kazuo’s thoughts from the expression in his eyes, but they just calmly shone in the shadow over his face.

“W-what do you mean, you’re fine either way?”

Kazuo lifted his chin and pointed it at the night sky, as if he were stretching out his neck. The moon shone brightly and cast a gloomy shadow on Kazuo’s well-defined face. He kept this pose and said, “I sometimes lose track of what’s right and wrong.”

Mitsuru was even more confused. That was when an entirely different thought occurred to him. Something was missing.

And then he realized what it was.

The Kiriyama Family consisted of Mitsuru and Ryuhei and Hiroshi, whose bodies were lying there, plus Sho Tsukioka, who was missing. He’d left before Mitsuru. So then why…

Of course Sho Tsukioka might have lost his way. Or he might have been killed by someone else. But Mitsuru had a sudden feeling that the truth was more ominous than that.

Kazuo went on, “Like now. I just don’t know.” The sight of Kazuo going on like this seemed, strangely enough, sad. “Anyway.” Kazuo looked back at Mitsuru. Then, as if he were following a musical score that had suddenly switched to allegro, he began speaking rapidly, as if it were beyond his control.

“I came here. Izumi was here. Izumi tried to escape. I held her back.”

Mitsuru held his breath.

“That’s when I tossed a coin. If it came up heads, I’d take on Sakamochi and–”

Mitsuru finally understood, before Kazuo finished talking.

No, it can’t be…

He didn’t want to believe it. It was unbelievable. Kazuo was the king and Mitsuru his loyal advisor. It was supposed to be about absolute loyalty and eternal service. Even Kazuo’s hairstyle. Right around the time Mitsuru’s broken fingers healed up, he’d been the one who insisted on it to Kazuo. “It looks good. You look so bad, boss.” Kazuo kept the hairstyle after that. It was a silly little detail, but for Mitsuru it symbolized how close they were.

But, Mitsuru finally realized, maybe it was too much of a hassle for Kazuo to change his hairstyle. He might have been too preoccupied with other stuff to fuss over his hair. Then there were other things he realized. Mitsuru had firmly believed his relationship with Kazuo centered around a sacred team spirit, when in fact Kazuo might have been in it just for kicks or just–“just,” yes, just an experience, just an experience to be had, no feelings attached to it whatsoever. Kazuo himself had once said, “This is fun too.”

All of a sudden, the one thing that had disturbed Mitsuru from early on returned with full force. Mitsuru thought it wasn’t such a big deal, so he’d done his best to ignore it all this time: Kazuo Kiriyama never smiled.

Mitsuru’s next thought might have been touching on the truth: And it always seems like a lot is going on in his head, which is probably the case. But maybe there’s something incredibly dark going on in Kazuo’s mind, something so dark it’s beyond my imagination? Maybe it isn’t even something dark. Maybe it’s just an absence, a kind of black hole–

And maybe Sho Tsukioka had already sensed this about Kazuo.

Mitsuru had no more time to think. He was completely focused on his index finger (one of the fingers broken that fateful day) on the trigger of the Walther PPK in his right hand.

A breeze blew in and the scent of the sea mixed with the odor rising from the puddle of blood. The waves kept crashing to shore.

The Walther PPK in Mitsuru’s hand quivered slightly–but the school coat draped over Kazuo’s back was already moving by then.

There was a mildly pleasant rattling sound. Sure, it was different, but something about the pulse of bullets, a thousand rounds a minute on average, resembled the tapping of an old manual typewriter you’d find in an antique store. Izumi Kanai, Ryuhei Sasagawa, and Hiroshi Kuronaga had all been stabbed, so these were the first gunshots to echo through the island since the game began.

Mitsuru was still standing. He couldn’t see under his school uniform very clearly, but there were four finger-sized holes running from his chest down to his stomach. His back, for some reason, had two large can-sized holes. His right hand, holding the Walther PPK, was trembling by his waist. His eyes were staring up toward the North Star, but given how bright the moon was tonight, the star wasn’t clearly visible.

Kazuo held a crude lump of metal resembling a tin dessert box with a handle. It was an Ingram MAC-10 machine pistol. He said, “If the coin came up tails, I decided I’d take part in the game.”


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