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The murders of Kira Yoshikage and Tsukumojuku, the three displays made from the bodies of murdered detectives (including Tsukumojuku’s), Morioh setting sail, the group suicide of village residents, the mysterious figure hiding inside Cube House…and now on top of all that another mysterious moving island sailing across the sea, just like Morioh…there were just too many things I had to think about, I thought. It had been one thing after another, and I’d had no time to really work any of them over in my mind. Oh well. I had to assume this was the speed events always unfolded at in Morioh; I had to keep up.
“Fuck! I’ve got no damn idea what’s going on. Let’s go take a look,” Nijimura Fukashigi said, and started to get on a dolphin.
“Hang on, Fukashigi,” I said.
“There might be people like you on that island, too. Better not to show our hands.” Morioh seemed to have quite a lot of Stand Masters. If that unusual quality had something to do with it floating away, then that could be true over there, too. If there were two island moving across the water, there might be similarly unique. How many other Stand Masters were there in Morioh, anyway? How many Stand Masters had been among the hundreds who died in Jozenji? Fukashigi grit his teeth, and got off the dolphin. The other island was getting steadily closer.
“Maybe these’ll help us recon,” Muryotaisu said, emerging from Arrow Cross with a telescope and a pair of binoculars, presumably Rohan’s.
“Oh!” I said, impressed. I was kicking myself inside, though.
“Muryotaisu, better not go inside Arrow Cross for a bit. Earlier, I found Cube House hidden inside it, and there was someone inside Cube House. Someone suspicious.”
“What…?” Muryotaisu looked at the new island, and back at Cube House, as if not sure which he should tackle first.
“I’ve locked Cube House up, and made sure we’ll know if anyone goes in or out,” I said.
“I dunno, man…how do you get in?”
“Oh, directly above and below the desk in the study.”
“Got it,” he said, and went back inside. He came out a few minutes later, and explained, “I set up a hidden video camera.” I was sure the camera was Rohan’s, too, and the idea of him just doing whatever he wanted with Rohan’s things made me want to laugh, but there was too much going on for that.
“Woah, that ain’t Japan! It’s some foreign island!” Fukashigi yelled. I took the binoculars off him and took a look. He was right; the view was nothing you’d seen in Japan. There were only a few buildings in sight, but they were mostly made of brick, and there were several windmills. Not sights you saw a lot in Japanese country towns. The crops waving in the wind looked like wheat. I looked down at the water’s edge. There were several ships with Italian names. I found a sign by the road leading from the docks to the town. It said, “Welcome to Nero Nero Island!” in Italian.
“Nero Nero Island, it says.” Muryotaisu went back inside Arrow Cross, and came back out with an encyclopedia. Nero Nero Island was about a tenth the size of Morioh, population roughly three thousand. I knew a bit more that wasn’t written in the encyclopedia “Nero is Italian for ‘black’. Nero Nero island has a long history as a Mafia base.” I had to do a lot of research about organized crime around the world for a previous case.
“These days Nero Nero Island is the headquarters of the Passione Family. They’ve got about three hundred members. Territory reaching to Rome and Napoli – Naples, in English. They’re competing with the Sicilian Mafia and the Camorra, so how a group this small survives…well, I didn’t know how before, but since Nero Nero is on the move, I’d bet there’s a good chance they’ve got a lot of Stand Masters in
their ranks. They’re already fairly unique in that there aren’t any records of the boss’s face, and he’s so secretive that not even the inner circle has ever met the boss. The only name anyone even has for him is ‘Diavolo.’ Italian for ‘Devil.’ Hey! What’s that?” Just like Morioh, the Nero Nero Island harbor and part of the ocean around were inside a giant bubble. I’d just found a truck racing down the road to the harbor.
“Looks like they’re in trouble,” Muryotaisu said, looking through the telescope.
“I can see people in back, waving at us.
What?” I looked, but the magnification on the binoculars wasn’t strong enough. I squinted trying to see, and the little truck suddenly went up in flame and rolled.
“Ahh!” we yelled. Figures emerged on either side of the burning truck, approached the people lying on the ground, and light flashed at their hands. Pop. Pop pop. Pop.
“Shit shit shit! Fuck! They’re killing everyone on the truck! Jesus! They ambushed that truck! God damn it, I gotta go help!” Muryotaisu tossed the telescope aide, and flew off into the sky with his three dolphins. All I could do was watch. There was a barrier around Morioh, and nothing inside or out could get through it. They’d rammed a jet fighter into it, and shot missiles at it, and couldn’t break through the wall, but if Muryotaisu somehow got through that would definitely change things.
“Shit! There’s still one left alive!” I could see someone running through the grass towards us. He must have slipped away while the gunmen were attacking the truck. He was waving desperately in the direction of Morioh, begging us to help. Light flashed behind him. Pop pop pop. Pop pop pop. Like he was knocked aside by an invisible hand, the man running towards us went sprawling on the ground.
“Can’t you do anything, dipshit!?” Fukashigi yelled. NYPD Blue had picked up the telescope, and was looking
through it. He bellowed back, “What the fuck do you want me to do? Shoot back!?” He pulled a gun out of his side holster; it was huge, and very real. He put it away immediately.
“This bad boy is a Colt Python. It’s loaded with .357 magnums. It’s from the first production run they ever did; it’s damn close to being a work of art. This fucker hits you it’ll blow the back of your head clean off. If it hits you. Even the best gun has an effective range, kid. Bullets don’t fly forever. They slow down, their arc changes, then they turn into a bit of lead and land somewhere. That’s how bullets work. Even if I had a fucking sniper rifle I couldn’t hit them at this range. Even if I could, there’s a barrier between us. Probably two.”
“Argh! So you can’t fucking do anything!?”
“I am doing something! I’m gathering evidence. I’ll arrest all these motherfuckers.”
“Arrest…? Fuck that, we have to help those people!”
“No can do, asshole. Oh, looks like one of the murder squad is Passione’s Dolcio Cioccolata.” Four pieces of paper shot out of NYPD Blue’s side, fwp fwp fwp fwp from the gap of his shirt. I picked them up; they were copies of the files Interpol, the Italian police, the CIA, and the FBI had on him. Not only had he sold drugs in America, he’d even been involved in terrorist activity.
“I’m broadcasting video footage live to all four organizations. Heh heh…oh, Secco Rotario’s there, too. Passione members running around their base, killing ordinary citizens…either they’re trying to kill the boss, and cutting off his escape, or they already did it, and are cleaning up.” Three men who looked like farmers made it to the harbor, jumped in a boat, and headed towards us. Muryotaisu was in Morioh Harbor, trying to reach them, but was stuck helplessly behind the barrier. He’d begun throwing his shoulder against it, trying to break through, but the invisible wall refused to budge. Over on Nero Nero Island, the farmer’s boat crashed into another
invisible wall. The prow rammed headlong into it, the boat tilted sideways, and the farmers were flung out of their seats. One landed on the boat, but the other two went in the water. There was a good two hundred meters between the two barriers. Muryotaisu and his dolphins kept up their assault, but could not break through the wall. Two hundred meters away, boats came after the escape boat. Light flashed. Pop. Pop. Pop pop pop. Pop. Pop.
“Auggghhhh! Shit! Shit! Shit!” Fukashigi yelled. I couldn’t watch, and turned my eyes away, and saw more paper lying on the ground. I picked it up and read it. One sheet was Secco Rotario’s hospital records. It didn’t name any kind of psychological or physical condition; the only thing written on it was the name of his doctor. Dolcio Cioccolata.
Wait, he was a doctor? I looked back up and the slaughter had ended. The three in the boat weren’t the only ones who reached the water; there were other bodies lying on the docks. The Mafia members moved them out of sight, dropping the bodies in the water between the boats, or tossing them into the tall grass by the side of the road to the harbor. Most likely, they only bothered so it would be easier to kill anyone else who came running, if there was anyone left alive.
“Hey…they can see our island, right?” Fukashigi said, his lips quivering.
“How can they just kill people in plain sight?” I didn’t answer. But there was only one answer. Because it wouldn’t cause any problems. Or because they knew they could stop it from being a problem. The Mafia got rid of problems in three main ways. Bribes, threats, and murdering witnesses. There was no way they’d try and buy or threaten however many people there in Morioh. But would they really try and kill everyone here? No matter how many of them there were, could they really manage that? I remembered the message Hirose Kouji had received from the former American
President. He said if nothing changes, the American army will flip the island! That was delivered shortly after Morioh changed course. The sudden swerve West had put Funny Valentine in danger, so he had clearly noticed it; by ‘nothing changes’ he meant if we kept heading West, so we were still headed in the dangerous direction he’d warned us about.
Was it possible the Mafia was aware of the American army’s intentions? According to the records NYPD Blue’s stomach had printed out, Passione had already started operating in America, and there were no lines of business the Mafia couldn’t find a way to profit on, so they must have been making political and military contacts; perhaps these had informed them. But Nero Nero Island was running alongside Morioh. It, too, was traveling in the same dangerous direction. Perhaps Nero Nero had received the same threat from America, and they’d taken advantage of the panic to start in-fighting? Were they certain their powers would allow them to survive what was coming? Whatever was going through the Passione members’ minds, the threat to Morioh was still very real. Bariya Choumaru had suggested we would have to police ourselves, but that had mostly been an appeal to Kira Yoshikage’s state of mind, so in my opinion, we would need to be prepared for further attacks from the outside. As I reached this conclusion, Muryotaisu came riding back to us on his dolphin. He looked exhausted, physically and mentally.
“Fuck those guys,” he said, shaking with rage. I wasn’t sure what a high school delinquent could do against the Mafia, but he was in no mood to have this pointed out.
Whatever it was he could do, we all had to work together now.
“Muryotaisu, you have any idea how many Stand Masters there are in Morioh?”
He thought a minute, then shook his head.
“How could I?”
“How many do you know about?”
“…I can’t just tell you that.”
“Come on, this isn’t the time for that…” I said, and trailed off, gaping. It was starting.
“Shit shit shit shit shit! Here it comes!” Fukashigi shrieked. Muryotaisu turned to look. Nero Nero Island had been running off Morioh’s starboard side, but it had suddenly veered port-wise, towards us, the head of the island approaching diagonally.
We were headed straight West, so Nero Nero Island’s head came ramming into Morioh’s South side, into Morioh harbor, right before our eyes…! “Oh shiiiiiiiit!” I yelled, thinking furiously. The barrier had stood up to a jet fighter and a missile attack, but could it stop another barrier, another island? Morioh’s barrier was larger, but when two ‘ships’ crashed into each other, size was less important than the angle. Morioh was unable to avoid the attack…! Zzzuuun! There was dull roar, and Morioh lurched sideways as the other island slammed into it.
“Fuuuuck!” we yelped, hastily crouching down in the grass.
We put our hands on the grounds to steady ourselves, but to no avail. There was a zhump as Morioh recovered that sent me and the Nijimura brothers rolling head over heels towards the harbor.
When we managed to stop ourselves and look up, we saw Nero Nero Island slowly rising out of the water. It had not stopped moving forward on impact; instead, the two barriers slid against each other, forcing the smaller island upwards. Soon we could see what was propelling the island forward. Nero Nero Island had not just been floating. It had been swimming. As the underside of Nero Nero Island came into view, two
massive legs appeared, skittering against the side of the barrier! “Uhh…I’m not too good with insects,” Fukashigi said. There was a ear-splitting rumble, the ground shook…and then there was a thundering crack as if lightning was hitting the entire sky at once, and we all clapped our hands to our ears as Nero Nero Island came crashing through the barrier dome, and landed in Morioh harbor. The weight of the other island had broken through the barrier. The barrier’s sound proofing was gone too. The massive island hit the sea with a horrible thuuuuuuuud. A white wall of waves rose up, rocking the still waters of the harbor, doing terrible things to the boats and the coastal parts of town.
While the wreckage was still being tossed around in the churn, Nero Nero Island moved forward, the two legs reaching up. Two more massive, muscular legs reached out from the sides of the island, hooked their claws onto the sides of the hole in the barrier, and began squeezing the rest of its body, the island, through the gap.
We no longer remembered to scream. The sound of the waves in Morioh harbor echoed off the interior of the dome, the thuds slamming into our bodies. It was painful, like our ears were ripping open, like someone was driving a nail into our head. But we didn’t dare close our eyes. Nero Nero Island had twisted its massive body into the sky above Morioh harbor, and was now standing on six legs. It was neither island nor ship, but an insect. My legs were shaking, and my entire body felt numb. I couldn’t move a muscle. Muryotaisu and Fukashigi were both standing perfectly still, mouths open, all color drained from their faces. Only the Stands were moving. Grand Blue’s three dolphins slid up next to Muryotaisu, and started shoving into him, chirping, “Kikiki.” He snapped out of his trance just as… BANG!
An explosion rang out over the sound of the waves. I jumped and spun around and found NYPD Blue aiming his Colt Python at Nero Nero Island, smoking curling from the barrel.
“Heh,” NYPD Blue grunted.
“I know perfectly well that didn’t reach them. That was a wake up call, you little fucks.
We got no time to stand around gawking.
Wake the fuck up, you punk motherfuckers! What now? If I was in charge here, I’d say we retreat and regroup.” I had no objections to that plan. The Nijimuras and I stood up, dashed past Arrow Cross House to the other side of the hill, and were about to jump on Muryotaisu’s dolphins when I remembered something. Sugimoto Reimi! I let go of Johana’s fin, dropped back to the slope, used the momentum to swing myself into a U-turn and dashed back up the hill.
“Hey, where you going?” I heard Fukashigi call after me, as his dolphin carried him away.
“Reimi!” I yelled. Just as I reached the white pebbles around Arrow Cross, a voice behind me said, “Thank you, Jorge. I’ll go. You run.” Grateful for these words, I turned around and found Rohan flying behind me, Blue Thunder on his head. He passed me by.
“Let me take care of Sugimoto!” But I didn’t leave. No detective would leave until he was sure everyone was safe! And I had also remember the figure inside Cube House. I couldn’t run until I’d figured out who that was! Scrnch scrnch scnrch gravel flew in my wake and I caught a glimpse of Nero Nero Island making land in Morioh harbor through the sunroom window. The waves had already demolished the town, and now the island’s giant legs were crushing the rubble. The ground in town couldn’t handle the weight of the island, and with each step the insect took, bmmff, crnkk, pbbbbbggg, its feet sank into the ground, and the hollows filled with maybe sea water? Ground water? Either way, the sea extended itself via these pocks. I almost stopped to gawk at it again, but I forced myself not
to. I heard for the West sunroom, where Muryotaisu had carried Sugimoto. Rohan and Reimi were there. They were watching Nero Nero Island trample Morioh harbor, terrified.
When I saw that Sugimoto had her arms around Rohan I hesitated, but there was no time to spare.
“Rohan! Reimi! Can you get out of here?” I called out through the window. Sugimoto jumped, but shook her head. Right, she was a Stand, I thought..
“Jorge,” she said.
“I think this is the safest place. I think.”
“If it was the old Cube House, it definitely would be. To the Cube House, the outside world is beyond the world’s end, and not something that ever affects it.” I knew what she was saying, now. Yes, normally the seven cubes of a tesseract formed the inside of an eighth cube that wrapped around them. Cube House was a tesseract made of square walls, so inside it was a single universe, an entire world squeezed inside, so the Cube House itself was not part of our universe. Nothing would affect it, which meant you could attack the crap out of it and it would never reach the inside. The walls of the Cube House were the ends of that world.
Which all made me wonder why Rohan and Fukashigi had avoided exploding by being placed under Arrow Cross. I had assumed it formed a vacuum, but this was clearly not the whole story. If it had been, they would not have survived there for long. They had lived because they were not just under Arrow Cross, but under Cube House; because the world’s very end lay on top of them. A zone where everything was reset to zero, the absolute buffer. Pushing aside my excitement, I said, “Then let’s escape into Cube House.”
“But it’s turned into Arrow Cross, so I don’t know if its old power remains.”
Sugumoto didn’t know her own power. If a Stand was power manifested, perhaps it was the same as people not knowing their own strength.
“No, Cube House itself exists simultaneously,” I said. She looked surprised, and I led her and Rohan into the study. First I checked the rug. It was still in place. I inspected the top of the desk as well. Nothing out of place. No one had gone in or out. Then I moved the desk away from the door.
“Ah! Hey, don’t touch that! To a manga artist, a desk is like a chef’s kitchen or a teacher’s podium! It’s not something anyone else should feel free to just move around as they like!” I ignored him.
When I moved the rug aside and revealed the door, he shut up. Sugimoto looked just as surprised.
“Uh, so I went below this door earlier, and there was someone there. I don’t suppose you know who?” I asked.
“OK. Then…” I debated whether I should say anything, but decided I should.
“Worst case scenario, Tsukumojuku’s murderer is hiding out inside here. Our working theory is that Rohan didn’t notice the killer arranging the display of Tsukumojuku’s body and escaping because he was asleep,” I said. Rohan shook his head.
“That’s your theory, not mine,” he insisted. I cut him off.
“But it’s possible Rohan didn’t notice his escape because he hasn’t escaped yet. Because he’s below this door.”
“I see,” Rohan said.
“So he made that locked room without my eyes and ears detecting a thing because he made this a temporary way point? He carried everything he needed, including Tsukumojuku down here ahead of time, and then began work once I left the study?” Despite the events outside, Rohan sounded so calm it effortlessly dissipated all the tension I was trying to create.
“I certainly considered that, but I don’t believe he would have had
that much time to kill Tsukumojuku. After all, I met Tsukumojuku last night, at 11:30 PM, in Fukui, in the town of Nishi-Akatsuki. No matter how fast he worked I don’t think he could have killed Tsukumojuku before dawn, or gone through all the steps he would have needed to plan this. But this isn’t really the time to discuss it in detail. Rohan, do you have anything that would work as a weapon?”
“Maybe a golf club?”
“Can I borrow that? And a rope.”
“I have some mountain climbing gear.”
“I’ll borrow that, too.”
“Just so you know, both were forced on me by my editors. They keep saying I should exercise more. I haven’t touched them since.”
“I really don’t care. Sorry, kinda in a hurry, here.” I stood back up and looked around for the hidden camera Muryotaisu had set up. There. It was hidden behind a plant in the corner of the room. As I was checking the camera, Rohan came back with a golf bag and a bundle of rope.
“Ah! That’s my camera!” he yelped.
“I had Muryotaisu set it to record in case anyone went in or out of this door,” I said. I turned the desk so it straddled the door, tied the rope to the desk, and opened the door, letting it fall into the room. Rohan peered into the space below, and muttered, “Ooof… this was under my feet this whole time?” I dropped the rest of the rope through the door.
“Jorge,” Sugimoto said.
“Going in there is dangerous.”
“Cube House is meant for a single occupant. If two or more people run around inside, it could be very bad.”
“It could lead to contradictions.
With floors and ceilings.
The rooms inside turn to accommodate the people inside.”
“Oh, I see…as long as you move horizontally from the study, nothing can go wrong, but…”
“Right. If you go below the floor or above the ceiling, the floor of the room next door is the wall of the room next to the study.”
A: “The floor is weird!”
B: “The ceiling is weird!”
“…hmm. …So, uh, how does the Cube House handle these contradictions?”
“One of you will be pulled into a parallel universe. He’ll be lost in that world, and never get anywhere.” Jeez, that was hella scary.
“…has that happened before?”
When Cube House was Cube House I was all alone in here. But I know. That’s how it works, with powers. You know things without having to test them, but there’s still lots you don’t know. You know?” …I wonder if the intruder I encountered had grocked to the danger of parallel worlds, and run from me? I wasn’t sure.
“Um, but then, if we go down now, isn’t it still dangerous?” Rohan asked, anxiously. Sugimoto smiled.
“Don’t worry, Rohan. I’m the owner of Cube House. I’m the basis of its behavior. I decide where the floors and ceiling and walls go.” Good! But we had to hurry.
“Then let’s go in!” I said. I took a firm grip on the rope.
“Wait,” Sugimoto said.
“Make sure you don’t fall straight down.”
“I’m the the door down there would catch your fall, but if you broke through the door, and did that three times…it would be very bad.” I looked up. The third door she mentioned was the door in the ceiling. The room below the room below the room below this one was the study, so if I broke through all three, I’d fall forever.
What would happen then? If gravity increased my fall speed here, I’d fall until I hit terminal velocity.
“Everything’s so extreme and permanent,” I muttered.
“It’s the Cube House,” Sugimoto said.
“Can’t be helped.”
True. This was a world of its own.
All three of us made it safely down the rope to the room below. It was immediately obvious Sugimoto felt more at home down here in Cube House. She smiled more.
“Let’s go find this rude interloper,” she said.
“Should we really leave the door up there open?” Rohan muttered, looking up at it.
“If that giant insect monster steps on it, what’ll happen? I guess we’re on a pretty big hill. It probably won’t try climbing up here.”
“Don’t worry, Rohan,” she said.
“There’s no way it could do anything to Cube House.” That square house – the neighbors called it Cube House – supposedly was moved here from a town called Nishi Akatsuki, in Fukui. How that rumor got around without anyone having any idea who owned the house, nobody knows. I remembered Rohan saying that. If nobody could do anything to it, how could anyone have moved it? “I don’t know,” Sugimoto shrugged. I sighed, and raised the golf club, ready for anything.
“Hey! Don’t act like I’m supposed to know that. That’s the very core of my being! Most humans couldn’t tell you anything like that. Ask someone how they became what they are, go on.” She had a point, I admitted, as I lowered myself into the room below. Sugimoto and Rohan stayed in the room below the study, and I went down a room below that, opened the door in the floor, and made sure the room below that was empty. I was in the room below the room below the study, which was also the room above the room above the study. Three center doors were open, and if I fell through here and broke through the ceiling of the study,
Sugimoto had said I’d fall forever without ever escaping Cube House.
“Then come back up.” Easier said than done. But with a little effort I managed to scramble back up the room to where Rohan and Sugimoto were waiting, in the room beneath the study.
“Then we just have to check the four rooms around this one. Let’s do that quick.” I glanced over, and Sugimoto was watching the display on the video camera I’d brought with us.
“I can’t hear the giant’s footsteps any more,” Rohan said. Sugimoto laughed without taking her eyes off the display.
“Not in this house, no. Even the study is a room in Cube House now. No longer part of Arrow Cross.”
“I sure bought one hell of a house…” I opened the door to the east. Nobody inside.
“OK, then I’m going around to the right, ” I said. Rohan nodded, and tightened his grip on his golf club.
“OK, but Jorge, when you open it, don’t do it slowly. Just slam the thing open like the cops do in movies. They way you’re opening doors is more like a horror movie, and it’s making me nervous.”
“Sure thing.” I went in a circle around Sugimoto and the camera, opening doors. Slam! Nobody in the north room. Slam! Nobody in the west room.
“At this speed, no way he could get out in time.”
“Right.” I’d saved the south door for last, for good reason. This was the door I’d sensed the intruder’s presence behind, and if he was still down here, he’d be behind this door. My palms were sweating, but I couldn’t put it off any longer. I put my hand on the doorknob,
and glanced at Rohan. He nodded, but before I could open the door, Sugimoto shrieked, and staggered backwards three steps, staring at the camera in her hand.
“What is it?” Rohan said, moving over to her. But I still had to check behind this door. Slam! Empty! Good! “Wh-wh-what does this mean, Rohan?” Sugimoto said, her voice trembling. I ran over, looked at the screen, and my jaw dropped as far as Rohan’s had. On the screen…was Tsukumojuku.
He’d climbed up the rope to the study, closed the door, put the rug back, straightened the desk he’d knocked over, put everything on the desk exactly back where it had been so that nobody could possibly tell that anyone had come through the door, and then Tsukumojuku – who was very clearly alive – looked right at the camera, and walked towards it.
We could hear his footsteps on the carpet, and a thundering crash from outside. It was the sound of Nero Nero Island crashing through the Morioh barrier. On screen, Tsukumojuku looked up, alarmed. That proved this video had been made a few minutes ago. Tsukumojuku looked back at the camera, staring right into the lens, and grinned.
“Ha ha ha, I guess my life belongs entirely to Jorge Joestar. To both Jorges: Don’t worry about it. In the words of Iason Sobra Quarto: ‘Life is an explosion.’ My life is exploding as we speak. Ha ha! See you again.” And with that, he vanished.
We stared at it dumbly for a minute, unable to think, but I couldn’t afford to not think all day, so I went outside instead.
“Uh… take care,” Rohan said, his mind elsewhere. Confused, Sugimoto looked up at me as I was clambering through the door.
“Do humans come back to life sometimes?” she asked.
“Ha ha ha,” I laughed, buoyed by the sudden possibility that Tsukumojuku might be alive. I wanted to talk to that strange boy one more time.
“I think some people just don’t die that easily.” Why was it I couldn’t just trust that he’d come back to life?
I pulled myself up into the study, left Cube House, closed the door behind me, left Arrow House through the west sunroom, and ran down the hill. Nero Nero Island had clambered out of the harbor, and was headed into the center of Morioh. The sheer weight of it definitely made it move slower on land. It took ages for it to simply lift one of those giant insect feet. And each step sank deep into the ground, so to pull one foot out, the other five had to dig in, which made them sink deeper, and threw the entire island’s balance off. Somehow it managed not to fall over, and precariously move its foot forward, smashing buildings as that foot sank into the ground again. As rickety as the island’s movement was, I still couldn’t even begin to catch up with it. My legs were too short! I mean, they were normal lengths and I was probably on the good side of athletic but after experiencing the joy of riding Johana around my two legs felt like slugs! Blue Thunder couldn’t be reloaned, apparently; it had vanished the second Rohan took it off. And there were obviously no taxis running…my feelings were getting ahead of me and I could almost cry but as I got further down the hill and reached a larger road and saw the stream of emergency vehicles headed for the destruction, the drivers’ grips on their wheels, and people hanging off the fire trucks by their fingernails, to a man looking like their worlds were ending I stopped caring about my speed at all. How many people could be kept safe under Arrow Cross? Things were so bad now it might
have been better if the people in the harbor had gone crazy too. I dashed down a dirt road through a field, looking up at the sky. It was almost five, and the sun hung low in the west.
With the barrier broken, the wind was blowing again. The humid, sticky sea breeze was making me sweat, but it was still an improvement. My feet felt lighter. A lot of baggage was slipping away. The sound of Nero Nero Island’s footsteps was getting closer. I turned my gaze forward, and sped up. I was almost at the battlefield.
I ran through Morioh suburbs. Nero Nero Island’s feet had crushed an awful lot of houses, but they’d been evacuated in time, and I didn’t see any signs of loss of life. I passed the rear legs, and as I drew closer to the middle legs I glanced at the deserted station, and crossed the tracks. I could make out people scurrying around the front legs. Budogaoka Academy appeared to be the center of activity, probably because lots of people had already been gathered there. I slowed down, considering my approach, when the surface of the road next to me went pssht and I jumped. A gunshot? I dove off the road into a garden and hid behind a wall. I looked around, but didn’t see anyone. Then three more bullets went psst psst krashht moving from the road to the wall; I could feel the impacts on this side. Thunk thunk. At last I realized these weren’t coming from my level. Above me. I looked up and saw the coast of Nero Nero island above me. Someone was absently shooting at me. Nero Nero Island’s belly was a good 200 meters thick, so it was around 300 meters from here to the island’s surface. I couldn’t make out the face of the guy shooting at me, but I thought I could hear him laughing.
Skrnch skrnch spshhht the bullets kept coming, all hitting the other side of the wall but if I stayed here he was bound to get lucky eventually. 3, 2, 1! I summoned my nerve and broke away from the wall. I threw myself onto the porch of the house. Spsh spsh! Thunk thunk thunk thunk thunk thunk! Bang! Bang! Ba-bang! The hail of bullets followed after me, slamming into the roof but once I was out of sight he gave up. I laid low until I was sure the gunfire had stopped. I let myself breathe again, then figured I should at least check on the owners of the house, since they’d saved my life. I peered in through the window, but all was quiet, no signs of anyone there. I knocked on the window and called out, but there was no answer…except for a high pitched whine coming this way, followed by a massive explosion. A house a few plots away had exploded into a pillar of fire. A rocket launcher!? Was I in a fucking war zone? Wait, if they’d been aiming the gun at me, they must have been aiming that rocket at someone else. I jumped up and ran off the porch. Someone saw me go and hastily started shooting. Behind me and to either side I heard pshht pshht pop! Chnk! Pshhtpshht psht! Pounding into the pavement. But at this distance firing blind would never hit me if I kept moving. The rocker launcher probably couldn’t get me either. I hoped whoever they were aiming that at was safe! There was a ton of smoke, and plenty of fire left. As I drew near the impact site, I called out, “Hey! You alive!?”
“Jorge!” someone answered.
“Over here!” Hirose Kouji was hiding in the garage, on the other side of the rubble.
“Oh! Good! You’re not hurt?”
“I’m fine!” I ran into the garage too.
“They might fire a second missile down, so we should keep moving,” Hirose said.
“They’ve got a shit load of weapons.”
“Here. Just think and it’ll fly you there,” Hirose said, and put a Blue Thunder on my head, too.
We flew right out of the garage. Vrrooom! This was…even better than the dolphins! I could really steer it at will, with no hands. Every thought I had turned to action, as if I was really flying on my own! But since the propeller was on my head I couldn’t shake the feeling that my neck hurt. (It didn’t.) I followed after Hirose as we flew serpentine through the neighborhood, flying just above the ground so as to better hide ourselves from the shooters on Nero Nero Island.
We dodged propane tanks and bicycles, vvwip vvwip vvrrr vvrrr until we flew into a factory and found the Nijimura brothers.
“Ohhh, you’re alive, Jorge?” Fukashigi said.
“What about Rohan and Reimi?” Muryotaisu asked. I let them know the two of them were safe inside Cube House inside Arrow Cross. I didn’t mention Tsukumojuku just yet.
“What’s going on here?” I asked. None of them said anything immediately. Sensing the Nijimura brothers didn’t want to admit they were in trouble. Hirose finally broke the silence.
“Shock and awe.
We’re occupied and they’re in control.
While everyone was still in a panic because the island was stomping Morioh flat several Stand Masters with weapons came floating down, and kidnapped all the exhausted, half-dead folks in the gym. One of them has a Stand like a tornado, and it vacuumed them all up.”
“That was Dolcio Cioccolata,” NYPD Blue said.
“I got the evidence.”
“Fuck, man…don’t just record shit, do something about it!” Fukashigi yelled. His voice was hoarse, and the yell was more
anguished than angry.
“Look,” NYPD Blue said.
“You order me to go into the mafia HQ alone, I ain’t the type to back down. Like I said, up to you.”
“Tch, you’re just a punk kid. You talk big, but talk is cheap. You gotta grow up. Match your build. Pathetic.”
“Raggh, damn it! Then what the fuck should I do?”
“I told you that, too. Sit tight and wait. Diving empty handed into a war you can’t win ain’t what a man does. It’s what a fool who can’t stand embarrassment does. For a man to sacrifice himself he needs a better reason than shame. You gotta grin and bear it, keep your mind flexible, and wait for your moment.”
“………!” Fukashigi grit his teeth and went silent.
“Once they had hostages, all resistance ceased,” Hirose said, resuming his explanation.
“They called for Mayor Shishimaru, and made him their puppet. All orders from the mafia have been relayed through him. Right now they’re dragging Stand Masters into the open. Promising not to harm anyone who comes forward of their own accord. But if they have to find us, we’ll be punished. In a very mafia-esque move, they’re encouraging people to turn in anyone they know. They’ve got a number of people in the last hour alone. Our names may well come to light soon.”
“So?” I asked.
“Is that it? Nothing else has happened yet?”
“Eh? Uh, yeah…”
“If they’ve got hostages and the mayor working for them and are hunting Stand Masters they’re still trying to get control. They’re pretty far from getting us under their thumb completely. It just feels like they have. But really, they’re still trying to get us in line. And they haven’t let us know their real goal yet.”
“Their real goal?”
“You think they really want to occupy Morioh? They’re the
mafia. There’s no enemy mafia group here; they’ve got no vested interests in the town at all. I won’t go so far as to say there’s nothing here the mafia might be interested in; there’s money and women, but everything that goes on in this town right now is being watched very closely. It’s 2012. There are satellites chasing us around, manned and unmanned probes in the sky, monitoring the town in real time. Any yen the mafia steal right now can’t be spent. They can’t launder it or hide it. They can’t sell any women. They know that. And they know it’s only a matter of time before someone with real power hits these two islands, and occupies us for real. The barrier’s already down; they did that themselves. It won’t be much longer.
Whatever it is they’re really trying to do will come out soon; something they can accomplish with all this going on. Something tiny, that the satellites and aircraft won’t ever notice, but something very important to them.”
“Very important how? What can Morioh people do for the mafia?” Hirose asked.
“Our current theory is that Kira Yoshikage is moving this island, probably to escape from all the detectives descending on the town. It’s a good theory; it’s probably the truth. So something like that might be happening on their end.
Would these psychos run from a detective? Probably not. It’s a mafia island, and we saw them killing each other on Nero Nero Island from Arrow Cross hill.
Whatever these psychos are up to has something to do with trouble in the mob. Like NYPD Blue said, if the mafia are killing bystanders…”
“Either they’re trying to kill the boss, and cutting off his escape, or they already did it, and are cleaning up,” NYPD Blue said, repeating his own line.
“I did say that. Mafia headquarters are where the boss feels most safe. A place where even the noncriminals will protect him. For many, it’s where they were born. They’ve dropped as much dough as they can there, greased the
wheels, and can expect a good return. But now it’s in chaos. Either they’ve killed the boss and are purging the last of anyone who’d come back on them, or they’re trying to kill the boss and making sure he can’t get any help from the locals. Driving him into a corner. Either way, the boss dies, lots of people go with him.” I was the first to break the silence.
“I dunno if NYPD Blue’s theory is right or not. But it’s clear the mafia are attacking for a reason.
Which begs the question – why do the mafia think whatever they’re after will be here? Because they’ve done their homework on the place.
Why would the Italian Mafia have even heard of Morioh? Because Morioh started swimming out to sea. That was all over the news, and something this weird’s gonna be broadcast in every country in the world. The mafia would have seen it. They’d know a killer named Kira Yoshikage lived here, and know that several detectives were murdered here.” When they saw Bariya Choumaru’s press conference, I had speculated that there were other detectives here besides me. I had based that speculation on solid grounds, but would the mafia even need that? And I considered this, I heard the same truck that had delivered the call to the town meeting broadcasting a new message through its loudspeaker.
“Would the detectives Daibakusho Curry, Runbaba 12, and Jorge Joestar please hurry to the Budogaoka Academy Garden?” Hunh!? I thought. On several layers at once. They were summoning me by name? Daibakusho Curry and Runbaba 12 were both from Nishi Akatsuki, too! All three of us were Nishi Akatsuki detectives!? Why would all the detectives in Morioh be from the same place? Even though no other detectives had been able to get here? And the timing of this summons was too perfect. …well, timing always worked like that. Good or bad, things were always perfectly timed.
“Yikes,” Fukashigi said.
“What’ll you do? Don’t go.
your moment.” That was NYPD Blue’s advice from a moment ago, so I laughed, and called him a dipshit.
“Shut the fuck up, moron,” NYPD Blue roared, so suddenly both Fukashigi and me snapped our mouths shut. See? Timing. I tried a different approach.
“Detectives don’t back down at a time like this,” I said. For them to know my name… I’d only told it to the three boys here, and the two in the Cube House. That means someone had done some digging and found my name. Kira Yoshikage. Had he sold me to the mob? Was he waiting for his chance to strike? Interesting.
I asked the Nishimuras and Hirose to provide whatever backup they could, went alone to Budogaoka Academy’s garden, and found the town residents gathered there and a young Italian man in a well-tailored suit sitting on a chair in the center with Shishimaru Denta standing next to him.
When Runbaba 12 and Daibakusho Curry saw me they smiled ruefully. They were both good looking men, but had clearly been through some shit; their shirts and pants were both soaking wet and ragged. Mine weren’t much better.
“You still alive?”
“Eh heh heh.”
“Didn’t think we’d have a reunion here.”
“What a pain. Let my curiosity get the better of me…”
“Yeah, but if you were watching this on TV you’d be kicking yourself.”
“For sure.” Fed up with us whispering to each other, THUD! The mafia dude kicked the table between us. I didn’t jump, but maaan.
“Three of us here. He don’t need
“Well, we don’t need you.”
“Dipshit.” THUD! This time he had his hand in his suit jacket. Maaaybe it was time to knock it off. His hair might be okappa but he didn’t seem to speak Japanese.
We…or at least I spoke Italian, but it was a pain so I asked Shishimaru Denta, “So? What’s he want with us?”
“Eh, um, I believe this er, phone…any minute now someone will call this phone. I think.” His head was swollen in weird places so he must have put his own self on the line to protect the residents, so I forgave him. But there was no phone on the table he was pointing to. There was a filthy rubber ball and a right shoe and a pebble.
“……….?” But the pebble suddenly started ringing.
“Plu pon pin para para pon plu pon pin para para pon!” It also vibrated. Oh.
“A Stand,” I said, and the other two looked surprised.
“Eh? What, Jorge, you know what this thing is? What is it?”
“How is it ringing?” If they didn’t know about Stands, they were in for a rough ride. But they’d pick it up fast enough, like I had. I picked up the pebble. It had a display and accept call button, so I pressed it and answered.
“Hello?” To my surprise, the voice on the other end spoke Japanese.
“Hello? Is that Jorge Joestar?” A young man’s voice.
“My name doesn’t matter. You are…English, born in Japan?”
“I am. And you’re Japanese, born in Italy?”
“What’s your business?”
“I’m starting to like you.”
“You are? Then come on down here. Let’s talk face to face.”
“Let’s get down to business.”
“You want to hire me?”
“? ….what do you mean?”
“Hire me as a detective?”
“Then tell me the name of my client. As a detective…you let people use you, you end up in a sticky situation. Get used to that fact, you start turning down any jobs where the client’s identity isn’t clear.”
“If you don’t tell me I’m hanging up.”
“………….” I waited a moment, then took the pebble away from my ear, and was about to hang up when I heard him laughing. A gentle, light laugh.
“Heh heh heh…very well. My name is Shiobana Haruno. Nikkei Italian. I usually go by Giorno Giovanna. Satisfied?”
“Yes. Thank you. Please proceed.”
“I’d like you to look for someone. I don’t know their real name. All I know is what they’re called. Diavolo. The boss of the Passione Family.”
…well, that was pretty much what I’d expected.
“Is this person a Stand Master?” I asked.
“…….we believe so.”
“But neither I or the other two detectives can use a Stand, and we honestly know very little about them.”
“We will provide you with an assistant.”
“We can’t choose who?”
“Didn’t think so.”
“The man with you is Bruno Buccellati. His team will be working with you. He’ll lead, I’ll be in charge of communications,
and the other three will each accompany one of you detectives.”
“I see. Is there a time limit?”
“But our current situation can’t last forever.”
“No matter what the situation, no matter what happens, you must find Diavolo.”
“Understand me? No matter what.”
“……..and if we can’t?”
“There is no need to consider that.”
“I see.” I was better off not thinking about it, yeah.
“So, Jorge Joestar, I look forward to your success.” He hung up. Bruno Buccellati stood up, and spoke to me in Italian.
“You speak Italian, don’t you?” Shit, I thought, which was clearly a mistake. He laughed.
“Heh heh. I can smell lies. Remember that. Even if you keep something hidden, the taste and scent may be weaker, but that’s still a lie.” Three dangerous looking Italians came up behind him. They were all young.
“So?” I said.
“I do speak Italian, but…” Buccellati looked at the other too.
“You both speak Italian as well, detectives?” Both Daibakusho Curry and Runbaba 12 nodded.
“Si, si.” High-level communication was a necessity in our line of work. Buccellati assigned each of us one of his men. Daibakusho Curry got Leone Abbacchio. Tall, with stern features, he loomed over that not especially tall Daibakusho Curry. Runbaba got Guido Mista.
Well-built, with a hat. Apparently he smelled a bit, since Runbaba 12 sniffed once, made a face, and
kept his distance. I was assigned Narancia Ghirga. He was about the same age as me, with a boyish face, by the way he fixed me with a menacing glare suggested he was well aware of how young he looked.
“Don’t fuck with me,” he hissed, and he made sure I knew he had a knife on him, too. Clearly, he was the most dangerous of this group.
So, time to go investigate. I kept the pebble, Daibakusho Curry took the rubber ball, and Runbaba 12 the orphaned shoe. Runbaba 12 tried to convince us to trade with him but Buccellati roared, “Enough!” and I looked at Narancia and saw someone standing next to him. It was Tsukumojuku.
“…………!” He grinned at me.
“Hey! I am your instrument. A person needs your help. I’ll take you to them.” He grabbed my shoulder.
“Yo, what the fuck?” Narancia yelled, pushing me aside and pointing his knife at Tsukumojuku. In that instant we jumped.
“Whoops. Brought an anomaly along, but…it all means something, I’m sure. Bye!” Tsukumojuku vanished, leaving me and Narancia. On the H.G.
Wells, an American spacecraft launched by NASA. Passing around the dark side of Mars on its journey to the red planet, about to make a new discovery. Namely, that, in addition to Phobos and Diemos, Mars had a previously undetected third moon. Previously undetected because Mars had always been between it and the Earth.
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