Original novel by Yoshihara Rieko
Illustrations by Michihara Katsumi
Japanese translation and scanning by Shabriri
Spanish translation by Shiromori
In the far west of Ceres, surrounded by walls that stood, cold and stern, when night fell, Guardian displayed its tender white skin without remorse. The poisonous air of the turbulent colony didn’t reach this place. What was here was the warmth of innocent skin, and the unfathomable depth of pleasant dreams. And also a sinister and unknown menace.
“Tsk! It’s always the same. I’ve had it up to here. Even if this place were a palace. If they have money to waste taking care of a few kids, then they could use some of it to build a recreation centre in Ceres, I say. I don’t know what that Guardian riff raff are thinking.”
Kyrie clicked his tongue in disgust as he passed the medical check by means of which his identification was verified at Guardian’s doors. That check was as stringent as the one made at the entrance and exit of the Centre of Investigations in Tanagura. Nevertheless, once inside, he was able to move about freely in his old home which he knew like the back of his hand. Then, his legs relaxed, and he began to walk naturally with an air of self-assurance.
Ignoring the winding corridors, Kyrie crossed the inner terrace directly. That way, he was able to cross as unnoticed as possible.
‘Hmn… I’m ten minutes late. Well, fine. There’s nothing wrong with me being the one to make him wait for a change.’ Smiling to himself, Kyrie slowly opened the rec. room door.
Immediately, a frightful roar pierced his ears. Without having bothered to lower the soundproof barrier, Manon was shooting wildly with a ray pistol.
‘Tsk. Is the little snob maybe in a bad mood today?’
Manon was destroying objects one after the other with expert hands. He was quite skilled. He’d managed to reach level E which was the highest in the game. However, as if that had not managed to relieve him in the least, he clicked his tongue, and in a gesture of deep displeasure, threw down the pistol with all his might.
Scoffing at Manon’s behaviour, Kyrie flattered him sarcastically: “What happened, Manon? Are you pissed off because, despite being such a good player, you missed the mark, or what?”
Surprised, Manon turned to face Kyrie, frowning deeply. “Where do you get off being so familiar with me? If you want to keep your pass for Guardian to come and go as you please, from now on, you’d better call me ‘mister’ Manon,” he spat in an authoritative tone that spilled over with his unbearable tendency to consider himself above others.
“Sorry.” Kyrie hunched his shoulders exaggeratedly, but the sarcastic smile never left his lips.
Manon jerked his chin in an angry gesture.
Kyrie approached, walking deliberately slowly.
Manon’s eyes, watching Kyrie, narrowed with an air of impatience. In spite of that, Kyrie was not in the least perturbed. Furious, Manon bit his lips, and rapidly closing the distance that separated them, he rushed at Kyrie and pulled him to him.
Being jerked forward so violently, Kyrie stumbled and nearly fell, but Manon had been expecting it and was prepared, and he caught him in his arms. With their faces so close together, their eyes met, and Kyrie, with the intention of exciting Manon, gave his most enchanting smile.
With an almost voracious impulse, Manon brought their lips together. As soon as Kyrie responded, half opening his mouth, the other hurried to introduce his tongue which tangled together with Kyrie’s inside.
In was an intense and persistent kiss.
As he kissed him, Manon groped Kyrie’s body feverishly. Caressing every inch of his back, he grabbed his rear tightly, and, lowering the zipper of the jumpsuit that Kyrie wore, palmed his groin impatiently.
“Hnn… Don’t hurry… The night is long,” Kyrie whispered calmly once he had freed himself from that kiss laden with hot, clinging desire.
“Take your clothes off!” Manon ordered hoarsely.
As if it pleased him to unnerve Manon, Kyrie very slowly pulled down his zipper. From the first, Kyrie had come here with this purpose. He knew that the trick to exciting Manon was to display his body generously, but slowly and after much begging. To that end, he had worn nothing under the jumpsuit.
Manon swallowed loudly, his adam’s apple bobbing up and down. Once he’d divested himself of the black suit, so tight that it seemed like a second skin, Kyrie leaned back against the wall, giving his most seductive smile. That was enough to prompt Manon who began undressing, sporting a violent erection.
“Come on, come here.”
That invitation was the final straw that broke Manon’s self-control. Nostrils flaring, he rushed at Kyrie, and clung to him like a leech. Over Manon’s shoulder, a cold smile played in the corners of Kyrie’s lips.
‘Bait taken.’ That was what that expression reflected; the absolute certainty that, day after day, the son of Guardian’s elite was falling more and more into his hands.
‘It’s a way of showing my gratitude and returning the favour to Guardian.’ It had only been one month since Kyrie began returning to his old home, speaking that phrase with a flattering tone and bringing toys as gifts for the children. For half a month, he developed a thousand wonders in his role as generous older brother, never neglecting other concerns such as his ‘casual’ encounters with Manon.
Despite being a year younger, Kyrie was harder and more daring, and his way of thinking much more flexible than prideful and ignorant Manon. He knew perfectly well when to pressure someone and when to back off. His astuteness was an innate quality. In fact, Kyrie had been the first to approach Manon.
With able words, he’d stroked Manon’s pride, praised him exaggeratedly, and indirectly urged him on time and again. Kyrie knew that his chances of success were little. He had confidence in his body, but Manon, unlike the Mongrels of the slum, was not now restricted from sexual contact with young women. However managed to make him fall into his nets depended entirely on chance. Nevertheless, to Kyrie’s surprise, Manon had fallen with almost disappointing ease. Not only that, but after having tried it once, it was Manon himself who took the initiative, showing himself always ready and interested. Manon’s body was hooked on the service offered to him by Kyrie who had no reserve about doing it with men and had perfect knowledge of all his erogenous points.
The only reason that Kyrie had chosen Manon was because he was the firstborn son of the Cooger family. He thought that it would not stand him in bad stead to have a more or less secure bond with one who, one day, would inherit the directorship of Guardian. Manon’s constant act of superiority irritated him, but it wasn’t something that he couldn’t handle with a little patience. Furthermore, occasionally during their amorous chats in bed, he got some or another bit of substantial information.
“What? Who did you say?”
Suddenly, Kyrie raised his face as a name filtered between Manon’s lips which seemed familiar.
“The one with the scar on his cheek?”
“What? Y-yeah… that bastard… ex-Furniture… good for… nothing.”
Kyrie frowned thoughtfully. Unavoidably, the image of Riki flashed in his mind.
A moment later, Manon protested in an whining voice, “Hey… don’t stop.”
“Yeah? What about him?”
“Nothing in particular… It’s just that guy forgets his true place, and acts like he’s such a big guy. But you’ll see, one day he’ll have to lick the bottom of my feet.”
“Fine, fine, but what were you going to say a moment ago before you stopped talking?” Kyrie asked in a low voice as he slid down, covering Manon’s back with his body. “Tell me,” he breathed into Manon’s ear while he twined his legs with Manon’s and stroked his flagging erection.
Manon started to breathe heavily. Kyrie caressed his earlobe from top to bottom, tracing it with his tongue, and unexpectedly, biting it hard. A small shiver started in Manon’s shoulders and ran down his arms like an electric current.
“What business could bring an ex-Furniture come Black Market broker to Guardian?”
“That’s none of your – ” Manon moaned, and the last words of that sentence were lost.
“What’s the matter? You can’t tell me? I thought we had a relationship… or is it that the information is confidential?”
Instead of replying, Manon just continued to moan. It was a hoarse and cloying sound as if it started from his nose and flowed inside his head, resonating in his skull.
With Manon’s erect member firmly in hand, Kyrie slid one finger of his free hand down and shallowly penetrated his anus.
Manon arched back as a spasm shook his abdomen.
Once again, Kyrie whispered in his ear, “Come on, tell me, Manon. That is, if you want me to put it all in. If you refuse…”
“… you’ll stay like that. The last time was a week ago, right? And now you’re so desperate you’re damp to the ass. The son of the noble elite family of Guardian can’t get it up unless you give it to him in the ass. What would happen if that got out? You can’t resist, eh? The only one who knows how to touch you here with such care and dedication is me, only me… so, what do you decide, Manon?”
Kyrie withdrew his finger, then, and Manon’s pitiful moans rose again, begging him not to stop. Their encounters were a weekly affair. Maybe Manon was so hungry for him that, with Kyrie stopping in the middle like that, the intense shivers that tormented his body threatened to drive him crazy. Kyrie smiled ironically. He thought of the good amount of aphrodisiac he’d mixed into the gel he’d used on his finger, and how the effects were starting to manifest themselves now.
“If you want me to continue, tell me what I want to know.”
“He came… to buy Furniture for… Eos,” Manon gave up finally. Licking his lips, he confessed the truth in a low voice with one clear and simple phrase. His reason and his self-control told him that he should not give up that information, but they were nothing against that absorbing and lascivious sensation that had taken hold of his body. He suffered a perfect syndrome of abstinence because of his addiction to that poison.
Kyrie’s finger, having insinuated itself again a moment ago, wormed its way within the fleshy walls. Immediately, Manon’s arms and legs convulsed with little spasms, while, as if in a feverish delusion, his lips let Katze’s name escape again.
Manon, who always looked down his nose at everyone, and forced his will on others, was in no decorous state now, while Kyrie, younger than him, worked his anus at will.
Before he met Kyrie, he’d only ever experienced penetration with his own virile member, but ever since, a little from curiosity, he’d let Kyrie do it to him, he’d discovered a new type of ecstasy that hooked him like a drug.
Just thinking about fingers thrusting into him there, or something bigger yet, was enough to give him an erection so intense that it was painful.
Meanwhile, Kyrie tried to calm his rapidly beating heart, still astonished by the surprising revelation that, with the hoarse voice that filtered through Manon’s lips, he could not stop the sly smile that rose to his face. In that expression, there remained not even a faint vestige of the Kyrie who was once virgin. All that could be seen there was the hard, fierce countenance of someone calculating, ambitious, and self-seeking.
The cold rain fell in an incessant torrent. Just the disagreeable sensation of wet hair clinging stickily to one’s skin was enough to depress even the most optimistic of people.
With a cigarette between his lips, Riki watched the night time street languidly. Everyone who passed him threw him looks tinted with curiosity. Some of them took the liberty of approaching him as if they had known him all their lives, but one fleeting glance at Riki’s hard and silent stare was enough to send them fleeing, terrified.
The hour of the meeting was long past. Nevertheless, first he’d waited ten minutes, and then another five, and so on, reluctant to leave.
‘Did he stand me up?’
Riki was hesitant to leave, and he refused to accept that displeasing reality. The invitation had come from Guy. He’d wanted them to have a drink together in Eden since it had been a long while since they’d seen each other.
Riki had accepted eagerly.
Although it was not apparent at a glance, resentment built up inside him, piercing his heart like a thorn. He didn’t want to leave the ghetto without first clearing things up with Guy.
‘I suppose it doesn’t make much sense to wait for him any longer.’
Riki butted out the cigarette against the wall, and threw it on the ground. Then, he began to walk slowly, not even bothering to protect himself from the rain.
The downpour that pelted the ground with such force that drops rebounded into the air was slacking rapidly, but the rain threatened to continue for quite some time.
Beneath a light that seemed imprisoned in the darkness, violet tobacco smoke floated across the floor, coiling on itself and drawing spirals.
After having joked and laughed a while, spirits had fallen until silence imposed itself completely.
A sigh escaped from someone’s mouth.
In their usual hideout, time was passing, grey and insipid. Only Guy seemed unsettled, and unusually anxious of the clock.
From close by, Luke said in a sardonic tone, “What, Guy? Have you got an appointment? If you do, you’d better get out of here right now. Don’t worry about us.” His tone made it clear that he knew perfectly well who Guy was supposed to meet.
It was only ten minutes to the hour that he was supposed to meet Riki. It was a perfect time to leave, and Guy got up slowly. “… Well, pardon me, but I have to go.”
Luke’s eyes flashed, and, thinking that he saw another sort of hostility there besides jealousy, Guy frowned.
At that moment, the back door opened with a sinister creak. For an instant, everyone held their breath, looking at each other with the same expression of panic reflected in their eyes. And then, several strangers barged into the room.
“Who are you?” roared Sid, showing obvious hostility to the recent arrivals. Nevertheless, that was the only angry shout that was voiced. The rest remained frozen in his throat. He, like his companions, had seen what all of those men wore at their belts. That dark, sinisterly reflective rod, no more than twenty centimetres long… What was its official name? Nobody knew, but among them, it was known as a Shock Eye. If the tip of that rod touched a person’s body, they were immediately seized by shock so strong that it felt like sparks would shoot from their eyes. At full power, it was capable of bringing down any man, no matter how fierce or violent they were.
Nowadays, such obsolete though immediate weapons were mostly disused. The Midas police were among the few who still employed them. Known for their extreme violence, there were anecdotes told of street fights broken up simply by waving one of those rods in the air, all of the participants suddenly seeming to freeze in place.
Nothing like that to cause such deep psychological damage that it demoralized them, and drained their fighting spirit. So, it was understandable that Guy and the others had tight faces and knots in their throats.
“Where is Kyrie?” asked the man who seemed to be the chief while, one by one, he pinned them all with his eyes. His tone a voice, low and cutting, as well as his cold and lambent gaze, seemed to threaten to twist their balls if it would get them to answer.
“Kyrie, the one with the odd eyes. I know you know him, so don’t try to pull anything.”
Nobody opened their mouth. Or rather, even if they’d wanted to answer, they could not find the words. The thing that the man brandished in his right hand paralysed them all completely. Nevertheless, the man attributed their silence as a show of what was called ‘ghetto loyalty’, and he said, “We have information confirming that Kyrie frequented this place, so any foolish attempt to hide it would be futile.”
It wasn’t that his tone was aggressive, but the softer the threat that flowed from that man’s lips, the more it raised the hair on the back of their necks.
“K-Kyrie… He hasn’t… been here in… a long time.”
When the man’s gaze rose and caressed his face slowly and sharply, Luke’s voice became hoarse: “I’m telling the truth! Once he got money, he didn’t come back here.”
He didn’t know if the man believed him or not. His stare was so cold it made him tremble from head to toe.
“All those who dealt with Kyrie are here?”
For an instant, the image of Riki rose in everyone’s mind. The man wasn’t so ingenuous as not to notice it.
“It would seem that there’s someone else, wouldn’t it. Who is it?”
The man’s eyes were now locked on Guy with whom he stood face to face. Guy swallowed, his mouth bitter. His body went rigid, and his feet went numb.
“What’s his name? Where does he live?”
“There… There isn’t anybody else… Just us.”
Immediately, the corners of the man’s thin lips curved upwards, sketching a glacial smile.
A shiver ran down Guy’s back. Without giving him time to blink, the man buried his fist up to the wrist in Guy’s lower abdomen.
A soundless cry passed the lips of the unfortunate Guy. His face contorted in an expression of panic. He felt as if his stomach would heave up and come out his mouth. Unbalanced, Guy fell to the floor, overcome by intense nausea. The pain was so bad that his vision was spotted with white, and for a moment, he thought his heart had stopped beating. A cold sweat started from all his pores.
The other members of Bison who had witnessed the entire scene stood petrified with terror.
Guy lay on the floor, moaning and huddled in pain, and that man, as if to exhibit the incredible strength of his well-trained muscles, he grabbed him by the front of his shirt, and hoisted him into the air up to eye level.
“Who is he? Where does he live?” the man asked again without altering his tone in the slightest.
Powerless, his lips trembling, Guy shook his head, so, without the slightest compassion, the man began to cuff him again and again.
“Riki! His name is Riki! Please! No more!”
Noris’ tearful cry allowed Guy to reconnect momentarily with reality.
“No… no… Ri… ki… Ri…”
Staggering and shuffling along, Kyrie wandered through the Ghetto under and incessant rain.
Worried, he constantly surveyed his surroundings, but even that was not enough to convince him that he was not being followed. Occasionally, he would turn around to make sure that nobody was sneaking up behind his back, and then he would continued his limping walk.
But where could he go? Even he himself didn’t know. All he could do was repeat to himself, “I have to get away…”
With an irritated gesture for the persecutory mania that had imprisoned him, he broke into a run, trip and picked himself up again with trembling legs. He didn’t have time to feel pain. Suddenly, he realised that he’d come to the area of the Colony.
His heart beat furiously in his chest, and it pained him as if needles were being driven into him. His feet felt heavy, as though he were wearing shoes of lead, he was soaked to the skin, and his teeth were chattering. But he could not allow himself the luxury of resting. If he took only one step, it was still one step further from his pursuers.
With that in mind, holding himself up with the walls, he continued to drag himself through the filthy alleys. Nevertheless, his legs, though impelled by the force of his spirit, had their limit. Moreover, even the rain that pelted him without mercy, far from slackening, grew more intense by the moment.
Kyrie staggered and collapsed to the ground. His body was paralysed from the waist down and his limbs wouldn’t respond to him any longer. For the first time, Kyrie began to sob. He cried long and bitterly as if all the tension that had been building in him let loose all at once.
Shortly thereafter, the weeping became a sharp whisper: “Damn it… Damn it…”
Not knowing what to do, he raised his face to the sky, and half unconsciously, he began to scream.
“Somebody help me! I don’t want to die! Ri… Riki! Help me!”
Ceres, Third Colony
It was a little after N20:00 when Riki got home, soaked to the skin. As if it were the middle of winter, the rain that had fallen was as cold as ice. His lips trembled as he headed towards the bathroom to give himself a hot shower.
The massaging spray that came from four directions was little by little leeching the cold from his limbs. His frozen body seemed finally to wake from its lethargy and Riki gave a deep sigh of relief. But suddenly the doorbell started to ring clamorously. Riki thought at first to ignore it, but it continued to sound insistently. How bothersome. Riki tsked and pulled on his bathrobe.
“Who is it?”
Nobody answered on the intercom.
“What do you want?”
The bell continued to ring insolently.
Furious, Riki opened the door.
A tall man with a sharp gaze stood there before him. “Are you Riki?” asked the man with a blank face.
“So what if I am?” asked Riki abruptly, not bothering to hide his foul mood. But when he saw the form of a Shock-Eye suddenly appear before him, he startled and backed away.
“Are you alone?”
The man pushed him unceremoniously to one side and entered the apartment, examining the interior suspiciously. Then, he said sharply, “I want you to accompany me to the Police Centre.”
Beyond his arrogance, his tone exuded a different kind of coercion.
“You’ll at least give me a minute to get dressed, won’t you?”
Riki obeyed docilely. Not even an idiot would dare contradict that man.
The rain silently beat down on the Police Centre. The austere, blocky grey façade appeared almost vulgar next to the gaudy and sometimes extravagant ultra avant-garde designs of the vainglorious Midas.
The air-car in which Riki and that man rode ascended, cutting through the strident flood of neon, to the highest floor of the building. The man escorted Riki to the elevator and they went down eight floors until they reached the second sub-basement.
Suddenly, a light started to blink and the elevator door opened soundlessly. They walked side by side down a passageway so brightly lit that it was painful to the eyes.
The fact of being inside the famous Police Centre so excited Riki’s curiosity that he couldn’t help but let his gaze roam from side to side.
Curiously, he felt no fear. Keeping his cool gave him a certain confidence despite the fact that not knowing the reason for which he’d been brought here left him in a state of confusion close to anguish.
Without realising, Riki frowned.
Occasionally, they passed people who saluted them gravely. The respect that could be read in their expressions said much for the calibre of that man.
After being hustled from place to place, having his picture, his fingerprints, and imprints of his voice and iris taken like any criminal… Riki realised that his mind had entered an instinctive state of alertness. And by the time they put him in an isolated cell, he’d begun to feel as if his blood was burning in his veins.
There were no windows or any sort of furniture except for a table and a few chairs. It gave the impression of being one of those secret rooms in which the sounds made within could not be heard outside. Too open and empty, the effect was truly sinister.
That man had already taken a seat on the other side of the table. In addition, a young official stood behind him taking notes.
“Okay… So what am I supposed to have done?”
“What I’m interested in is knowing about Kyrie. Where is he?”
Riki made a face, not bothering to hide his displeasure. “You’re asking the wrong guy. I have no idea where that bastard is or what he’s gotten himself into.”
Immediately, a kick to Riki’s side knocked him from his chair. Without even giving him time to protest, the aide picked him up from the floor by the hair and sat him in the chair again. Riki gritted his teeth furiously, conjuring up the hated face of that cretin Kyrie.
“Continuing to deny it won’t get you anywhere. Where is he?”
“… I… I don’t… know!”
“How is that? Isn’t he one of the guys you hang around with?”
“Who… told…?” Riki’s throat convulsed before he could finish the sentence, and instinctively, he grabbed for the table. A fist had hit him in exactly the same place as he had been kicked only moments before. An indescribable pain spread throughout his body even to the very tips of his fingers. Something inside him broke and a pained shout escaped from between his lips.
Above his head, the young assistant who was perhaps the same age as Riki himself spat coldly, “We don’t have time to continue playing with you. Confess!”
In that instant, a sound coming from the left arm of the other man suddenly interrupted them. The micro-receptor which, at a glance, appeared to be a bracelet emitted an emergency call signal.
With a sidelong look to his aid, the man lifted the bracelet to his lips. “What is it?”
“It’s about that G105 you brought in a few minutes ago…”
“What about him? Has he got any priors?”
“No, he’s clean, but the iris registration check turned up an unusual connection.”
“What? Stop beating around the bush and come out with it, already!”
“Look, it says the subject’s been registered as a Pet for the last four years.”
“A Pet? But he’s a Mongrel from the Slum. Are you sure there’s no mistake?”
“I thought so too, but I checked several times and it always came up the same: Pet registration number Z107M, code name Riki, male, black hair, black eyes, born in Guardian-Ceres.”
“And whose Pet is he?”
“Did you not hear me? Who’s his owner?”
“Iason Mink, a Blondie from Tanagura.”
“It’s incomprehensible. A Blondie’s Pet wandering around the Slum? There’s no indication that he’s been sold or that he should have been erased from the register. Just in case, do you want me to check with them?”
“No, leave it. That will only complicate the matter. The best course would be to erase this G105’s records to save ourselves any trouble.” His voice sounded nervous and, perhaps becoming aware of his surroundings, he tsked and hit the com. button.
Apparently unaware of that conversation, Riki was still whimpering in pain. Sweaty locks of black hair were plastered to his pale brow and his shoulders rose and fell violently with his every laboured breath.
The man raised his chin to his assistant, signalling him to leave. Seeing it, the assistant left the room. The man gave a sigh and then proceeded to address the subject directly.
“Well… It looks like you’re a Blondie’s Pet, eh?”
Instantly, a nervous tremor shook Riki’s shoulders.
“Maybe it’s because among the finest harems of Midas, one called Numbers has started recruiting black-haired Pets. Still, it’s a common colour among Mongrels from the Slum.”
There was no sarcasm or envy in his tone. On the contrary, it was surprisingly inflectionless.
“You can go.”
The man didn’t seem to have any interest in discovering what a Blondie’s Pet was doing in the Slum. Silently, Riki rose, holding his ribs with one hand. The pain it caused was so intense that Riki could not help the pitiful cry that escaped him. His legs trembled so much that he feared they would fail him and he would collapse to the floor, but Riki grit his teeth and began to walk. The man watched in silence. Apparently, he had not the least intention of lending a hand, but perhaps his sense of duty as a policeman pricked him because, before Riki crossed the threshold, he said, “Do you not want to know why we’re looking for your friend?”
“He can die like a dog for all I care. And anyway, you guys don’t need any reason or excuse to persecute us, do you? I want to puke when I think of all the times I’ve seen shit like this. If you really want to find Kyrie, wouldn’t it be easier to just fumigate the whole Slum with nerve gas and then sort through the corpses? It would be a lot faster than dragging in everyone he knows one after the other and wasting your time shaking them down for what they don’t even know.” Riki’s tone was full of resentment and bitterness. When he saw that the man was not going to comment further, he continued on his way.
The rage he felt gripped his chest so hard that he could barely breathe. Flashes of Kyrie’s face mixed with the face of that man went through his mind, worsening the pain in his ribs.
It still hadn’t stopped raining. He wanted to hurry back, but thanks to the pain that seemed to crack his spine, his body wouldn’t respond and each step was torture. The only way out was to take a taxi.
The taxi was a capsule with room for only one passenger. Riki had never been so grateful for the fact that the taxi was piloted by an artificial intelligence. That way, even if the passenger was a Mongrel from the Slum, if he had money, he was just a customer like any other. He didn’t have to worry that the driver would give him a disparaging look and refuse to pick him up.
In front was a small panel with an extensive map of Midas. With the simple touch of a button located above, he could signal his destination. Of course, Ceres was not included on the map, but just getting close would suffice. He took out a bill which he had carefully hidden, folded in the heel of his shoe, and slipped it into the money slot. He chose his destination and almost immediately, the capsule rose into the air. Riki gave a sigh of relief and leaned back in the seat.
The next morning, the intercom woke Riki early. It rang insistently as if demanding that he open the door immediately. Cursing, Riki went to open the door, not even bothering to check who was calling and, suddenly, he found himself face to face with Guy.
“I’m sorry to come over so early in the morning… Are you okay?”
Riki realised that he wouldn’t be able to get away with a simple ‘Why do you ask?’ Guy’s pitiful face, covered in blue-black bruises already beginning to purple, told him that Guy knew everything. Guy’s face also confirmed that he hadn’t stood him up the other night like he’d thought. Riki gave a sigh of relief.
“It’s all right. Come in.”
“Well, if you’re okay, I won’t hold you up…” Guy said a turned to go, but Riki caught his arm insistently.
“I told you can come in. You at least have time to drink a morning cup of tea with me, don’t you?”
Riki dragged him forcibly inside.
Concentrated soup cubes didn’t really help to cut the morning fatigue, and adding water made them smell and taste horrible, but even so, it was better than nothing. Riki served a cup to Guy and slowly took a seat.
Watching his unnaturally slow movements, Guy must have felt guilty because he lowered his gaze with a sombre expression. “Like I thought… They worked you over, didn’t they?”
“Just a kick. But aside from that, they took pictures and fingerprints from you guys too, right? We’re going to have to be extra careful now not to put a foot out of line.”
“If they’ve gone this far to find Kyrie, he must’ve gotten himself into a fine mess. I wonder what he could’ve done…?”
“It would be better to keep your nose out of it, Guy. Since we don’t know anything, we were able to more or less breeze our way through all this. I don’t want to have anything more to do with that jerk in my life.”
After hearing Riki’s abrupt statement, Guy shut his mouth and didn’t open it again. The silence made for a strange and uncomfortable atmosphere. It was as if a wall had erected itself between the two of them so that now even speaking a single word was a nearly impossible feat. Riki, holding in the nervousness he felt, looked at Guy sincerely.
“Guy… lately, there’s something strange happening with us. You hardly say one word to me, and when I try to start a conversation, you get this attitude and you won’t even look at me. You’re not giving me a lot of choice, man. So please tell me. Did I do something to you?”
“If you don’t say anything, I won’t know what’s going on. If there’s something you want to say to me, then come on and say it.” Riki didn’t want to pressure Guy, but his words were more passionate than he meant them to be. When he realised it and shut his mouth, the silence only became all the more heavy between them.
“Yesterday, I even got to thinking that you’d stood me up…. So please, tell me straight. I… can take it anymore. I don’t understand why you’re suddenly so cold and distant with me, Guy. I’m begging you, stop acting that way. You’ve always put up with all my whims, and when I turned around, there you’d be. If you turn your back on me now, I don’t know what I’ll do. So that’s why I’m asking you; please just tell me straight out. What did I do to offend you?
“It’s… not that. You’re wrong.”
On the heels of that flat denial came the most unexpected question: “Do you want us to be Pairing Partners again?”
Surprised by the sudden offer, Riki felt the muscles of his face tighten and his lips freeze.
So Guy began to laugh. “It was a joke! I was just joking. I didn’t think you’d take it seriously. But look at you! You really fell for it…” But Guy couldn’t hide behind such stupid dissembling. His eyes were dark with deep remorse.
Riki lowered his eyes and didn’t say anything further, but he felt as if Guy’s words had stabbed him in the heart.
‘You too, Guy. You want my body, too.’
Suddenly the memory of Luke came up, the expression on his face when he’d nearly won at a game of Gigolo.
Since even before they’d reached puberty, Riki and Guy had played sexual games together. Because of that, it was only natural that they became Pairing Partners after leaving Guardian. For the two years before Riki met Iason, whenever Riki proposed anything or got an idea into his head, Guy always acquiesced and supported him in everything with a sad smile on his face. The same was true when it came to sex. It wasn’t that Riki was selfish. It was only that, whether active or passive, Guy tried his hardest to be of service to Riki. It was as if it was ingrained into his psyche.
Because of that, even though Riki grew steadily more distant and finally abandoned the place where they lived together, Guy never made a single objection or tried to hold Riki to him by force. Contrarily, even though five years had already passed, the sense of debt that Riki felt for having so abused Guy’s friendship was still deeply ingrained in his heart.
‘It’s true,’ Riki thought. ‘It’s already been five years since then.’
At that moment Riki realised for the first time that in the three years since they had not seen each other, Guy’s shoulders had become much broader than his.
“Riki, I… I’m going to go.” Guy’s voice sounded flat and hoarse.
‘Hey, wait! … Hey!’ Riki shouted silently. Instinctively, Riki made as if to rise, but the image of Iason flashed through his mind, and his determination failed him.
‘It’s better this way…’
‘Is it better this way?’
Before his eyes, Guy’s silhouette grew farther and farther away, but nevertheless none of the emotions churning in his heart translated themselves into words and none passed his lips. Stunned by the hammering of blood in his temples, Riki had the sense that everything around him was beginning to twist and blur.
If Guy disappeared out that door, everything would be finished between them. Perhaps Guy had the same presentiment because his steps were heavy and slow.
The tension mounted.
And when only a few steps remained between Guy and the door, from some unknown corner of the room, terrible howls sounded.
Startled, Riki jumped to his feet, and Guy turned around in shock. Their gazes met, parted, and then moved about, searching for the origin of those cries, and it wasn’t until their eyes fell on the source that those screams ceased to tear the air.
In the cold shade of that place, there was not a single trace of human presence. From time to time, only an empty automatic car passed by without making the slightest sound. Save for that small exception, a gravid stillness suffused the surroundings.
The width of the road was only some three metres approximately, and as if it were some kind of labyrinth, at intervals of ten metres it divided into three-sectioned crossroads. Only a few minutes of walking were sufficient to lose all sense of direction. Left or right, on either side it was the same. It became difficult to tell if one was advancing or retreating on one’s path.
Fed up with it all, Kyrie stopped and turned towards Manon, sighing, but Manon only shook his head.
Left, right, forward, back… After a moment of indecision, they decided to turn right. Tap, tap… The sound of their own footsteps followed them, echoing loudly. Nevertheless, at odds with the situation in which they presently found themselves, both men felt a strange sense of relief. As such, they had long since ceased to attempt to muffle the sound of their steps.
Finally, at what seemed the end of the road, they came to a door. Manon and Kyrie both gave sighs of relief and ran towards it.
The door was not automatic, but with only the slightest turn of the knob, it yielded with deceptive ease.
It wasn’t that they were especially tense or anything of the sort, but the sense that in this place disturbing investigations were taking place left them with a feeling of defencelessness against what they might be about to discover. However, as soon as they set foot in the room, they were submerged in a deep and sinister darkness. It was the kind of darkness that paralyzed the senses and made it difficult to breathe. It gave the impression that the disquiet that floated through that fluid blackness had penetrated their beings and clung about their hearts.
But that feeling did not last long; only so long as it took for their eyes to become accustomed to the dark, and they found nothing there that aroused their curiosity. Disappointed, Kyrie turned to Manon with a scornful air. “Hey, Manon, this is supposed to be some kind of secret lab? There’s nothing interesting here. To think I walked all the way here because I swallowed your lure… Don’t make me laugh!”
“I didn’t know either! It’s the first time I’ve been here.”
“But the place Katze was talking so mysteriously about. It’s here, right? Bit of a disappointment, isn’t it?”
“What do I know? You’re the one who wanted to come with me, so don’t complain now.”
Hit where it hurt, Kyrie only tsked in annoyance. “Well, there isn’t much point in staying here any longer. Let’s go look someplace else.”
“Every place looks the same to me! I wonder if all this wasn’t just some trick of Katze’s to make me take the bait…”
Suddenly, Manon’s voice jumped and cut off strangely.
But Kyrie, ignoring Manon’s sudden reaction, replied, “What would a Black Market broker gain by making you swallow his bait, huh? Isn’t it more likely that you’re hiding something from me?”
“ …… “
“Hey, are you listening to me?” Kyrie turned around in annoyance and that was when he noticed Manon’s strange state.
Kyrie caught the man by the shoulders and shook him. “Hey, what… what’s the matter with you?”
Manon didn’t answer. He only raised his arm slowly. As Kyrie’s eyes followed Manon’s trembling, pointing finger, an inexplicable chill touch him and he felt suddenly as if he was being choked. Where before there had been only darkness now twinkled a multitude of eyes whose irises seemed to drip blood. The eerily lit darkness was dyed a dark and sinister red.
But no. It wasn’t that.
In reality, no one was watching them. The disquieting blood-hued lights were not eyes but condensation lamps, but that realization did not give them the luxury to relax. On the contrary, as each second passed, frozen terror invaded their bodies more and more. That was because at the point where the darkness ceded to the light of those lamps was revealed something so grotesque that they could hardly believe it could be real.
There they were, in sinister silence, in a collection of transparent cylindrical. How many of them were there, exactly? Some of them, cut into pieces, barely looked human anymore. Others had begun to turn into monsters. But most of them presented a truly horrible vision, reduced to nothing but brains and vital organs. The silence that reigned in that place was not calming in the slightest.
Was it not a ghastly abomination to keep such pitiful creatures alive even after having torn away their last shreds of dignity as human beings? But there was something that horrified Manon and Kyrie even more. How was it possible that such a monstrosity could exist in what was supposedly the only paradise left within Ceres? It was a grotesque aberration that surpassed all human sensibility. Here, before their very eyes, at their very fingertips, they encountered something they never should have seen. The shock it caused them was like a glacial cold freezing their pulses, deadening their limbs and obscuring their thoughts. The most primitive fear shivered down their spines.
That visceral terror brought bile to Kyrie’s throat, but though he vomited, the panic still wouldn’t subside. It clung to Kyrie’s nerves, devouring his heart from within, and refusing to release him from its grasp. Bathed in an oily sweat, Kyrie dragged himself slowly back. Having lost all semblance of self-control, he was not even capable of turning to look at Manon. Even as his gorge rose in response to the fierce pain he felt to the depths of his brain, he gathered what little strength remained to him and continued dragging himself with agonizing slowness out of that horrible room.