Jorge Joestar Chapter 15: Beyond

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Lying half-dead on a back country road in Japan, the exact thing I needed to happen happened. When I woke up, the flesh from my back and ass was back in place, and the fracture in my skull was healed up. I was sleeping in a large bed surrounded by white walls and almost no other furniture, and a freckled young man sitting next to the bed said, in Italian,

“Oh! You’re awake, Jorge Joestar.”

?

“How do you know my name?”

I asked, also in Italian, a fact that took me by surprise. How come I spoke Italian now?

“Ha ha ha! The Japanese man who lives here has quite a useful ability. He made it so everyone coming in and out of here can speak English and Italian and Japanese. Including you!”

“…………? The hell does that mean…? Where is this? Japan?”

“Japan. Morioh! My name is Vinegar Doppio. But I wasn’t the one who saved you, that was my boss. Hang on,”

he said, and reached out for a book lying on the side table. There was a bizarre picture of a boy on the cover, and the book’s title was Pink Dark Boy: Part 8. Volume 112. It was just a bit too large to comfortably hold in the palm of his hand, so Doppio curled it a bit, and held it to his ear. Then he pursed up his lips and began humming a weird little song,

“Tomememememem ♪ tomemememememem ♪”

and proceeded to ignore me entirely, staring at nothing in particular and yet speaking to someone who wasn’t even there.

“Oh, hello! This is Doppio. Joestar’s awake! …yes, got it.”

Then he looked at me.

“Yo.”

“………..?”

“Think you can get up?”

I wasn’t sure, but I pushed the duvet back and lowered my legs to the floor. I was still dressed for my wedding, oh god, but I didn’t think mentioning that would be much use, and all I could manage was a groan as pain shot through me. My ass and back felt like they were going to rip apart, and my head felt like there was a wooden stake jammed through it.

“Seems to be in a lot of pain.”

He was calmly reporting the facts to some unseen individual, and it hurt enough I really wanted

to punch the little guy for it.

“If you keep moving you’ll get used to it. Come on.”

“No, I can’t!”

It hurt so much every part of my face was trying to go a different direction.

“Hey.”

“Hunh?”

“Who do you think you’re fucking with?”

he snarled, but my eyelids were twitching violently and I couldn’t even get a good look at his face.

“What…?”

“I’m a fucking gangster, buddy. Pick your words and your answers carefully, got it?”

Doppio pulled his shirt up and showed me the gun jammed in the trousers, and I instantly felt far better. I mean, there was no reason to hold back now!

“Don’t think I won’t use this just cause you’re injured!”

he said, and tried to lower his shirt, but I grabbed his wrist, snatched the gun with my other hand and smashed the grip up under his chin. Call yourself a gangster? You’re like what, fifteen? Sixteen? I’d been shot down by the Germans twice, crashed landed and survived in a god damn hornet’s nest so get fucking real. Doppio curled up, clutching his jaw, and I put the barrel of the gun to the back of his head.

“Tell me what’s going on here, wise guy.”

Doppio looked up and glared at me. Didn’t seem like he was trying to hide any fear at all. He might be young, but he had some stones.

“Ahhh? Wait a minute, asshole…”

he said, and raised Pink Dark Boy back to his ear. I found it hard to believe, but it seemed to be a phone. A book-shaped phone. Back in England, phones were the size of cuckoo clocks, and based on their planes and ships Japan’s technology wasn’t much more advanced, so if this was Japan it wasn’t 1920. So my problem wasn’t just where I was…it was when. Suddenly the stake in my head went plu pon pin para para pon ♪ shrill and high and vvvvvv vvvvv vibrated shaking my very brain.

“Auuuughh!”

What the hell!? The stake thing had just been a

metaphor a moment ago but now I was sure there really was a stake in my head playing music and vibrating!

“I said, don’t fuck with me! You thought I was just the guy on the end of the fucking phone, did ya? You going behind my back calling me Doppio the small talk loving phone phreak?”

Based on the crap the kid was saying he was the one sloshing my brains. He’d done something to me. With a phone. I had to make him stop. But the vibrations in my head seriously had me about to pass out and I couldn’t get my body to obey any commands from my brain so I couldn’t raise my arm, point the gun at Doppio, or pull the trigger. All I could do was feel my eyes roll back in my head, drool, and say

“Ackackackackackack!”

I was dying. I had a phone inside me somehow and it was ringing and vibrating. He was trying to kill me. I didn’t care how. I had to do what I could do. Point the barrel up. I couldn’t aim it so I brought the barrel to my own head, used my head and the floor to keep it as steady as I could, and put my last strength into pulling that trigger. I didn’t need to get a clean shot through. Mechanical things would stop working if even a bit of them broke! Bang! The bullet gouged out a gouge in my skin and skull seven centimeters long and seven millimeters deep, and clipped about two millimeters off the part of my skull that had been turned into a phone. That was enough. The vibration and ringing stopped. I never had feeling in my brain in the first place, but it was still a bit numb.

“Motherfucker…!”

Doppio yelped. I didn’t miss the flash of fear this time. My hands weren’t shaking any more. I turned the gun towards Doppio’s face and didn’t hesitate. Bam bam bam bam! But even though I was firing from less than a meter away, not one of the bullets hit; all wound up in the wall behind him. There was a man in a hat standing next to me, a gun in his hand.

“Knock it off,”

he said.

“He maybe a bit fucked in the head, but he’s a mafia made man, and if something happens to him we’d have to pay it back. That’s how the system works.”

He’d done something to make shots I’d never have missed

with miss. Who the hell were these people? Making phones inside my head…how the hell was any of this possible?

“Hey! Shoot him, Mista!”

Doppio yelled, and Mista turned his gun on Doppio.

“Shut the fuck up! I wanna shoot you myself! Get your shit together, you’re the fucking worst when you’re like this!”

“The fuck!? You saying I’m a phone-o-holic ring ring hello hello it’s me, Doppio  !?”

“What!? I don’t even know what the fuck you’re talking about! Fucking halfwit!”

Bang bang bang bang bang bang! Mista fired six shots right at Doppio. Uh, so you can shoot him? I thought, but then I saw… Well, I saw something. And heard them, too. Tiny little people in crazy peacock clothes riding on the backs of the bullets yelling,

“Noooooo! Kya ha ha ha ha ha ha ha  ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ !”

in deep, hoarse ♡ voices. As I stared in disbelief, they each kicked their bullet aside just before it hit Doppio, deflecting them just enough that three shots went on either side of his face, brushing his cheeks and thud thud thud thud thud thud into the wall behind him. The bullet trails left marks on Doppio’s cheeks like cat whiskers. Doppio must have seen what I saw because he froze in place, not moving a muscle, as Mista cackled wildly.

“Da ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Look at the itty bitty kitty cat! You’re so adorbs, Doppio! Wah ha ha ha ha ha!”

The six tiny people hovering around Doppio’s face laughed too.

“OMG, Doppio, that looks soooo good on you!”

“I love it, you’ve gotta keep the scars!”

“Yeah, Mista, gunpowder! Imprint this shit now and it’ll be the rendezvous of chic and avant garde!”

“Oh! Cat ears!”

“Ugh, no way, Back Left, that’s pushing it.”

“You are just getting too carried away being in Japan.”

“You’re the last person we need weebing out, Back Left.”

“Woah  Front Center! You sure ♡♡♡ know how to bring it!

They were quite the rowdy bunch, ♡♡♡♡♡♡ but what were they!? Were they alive!? But just as I hit peak confusion, a blonde boy strode into the room, followed by several others. He looked no older than Doppio,

with delicate yet not at all feminine features. Out of all the men I’d met, he was the only one to equal Tsukumojuku in beauty. It was like there was some blinding light pouring out of every cell in his body that made it hard to look directly at him.

“Jorge Joestar, I apologize for my men’s manners,”

he said. He was holding a cake of soap in his hand, and came over to inspect my wound. I was 189 centimeters tall, and he only came up to my chest, but he held the soap and his free hand up to the gunshot wound, and when he pulled his hands back the soap was gone, and he was holding a baseball cap instead. The boy looked the hat over, then turned to the bullet-filled wall.

“Doppio, you turned this into a phone before you handed it to me?”

Shaking like a leaf, Doppio fell to his knees.

“I’m sorry, Giorno! I just couldn’t help myself!”

“…once it’s become a phone, that quality remains…”

he said, staring down at the hat. It just looked like a hat to me.

“Hello, Jorge Joestar,”

he said, looking up at me.

“My name is Giorno Giovanna.”

There was a power to him, but it wasn’t intimidating. That specific gnarled edge common to those in the life was nowhere to be found. He reminded me of a world-class swimmer standing on land. Like he’d focused on one simple thing and made himself better at it than anyone else. But there was more to him. This boy had turned thugs like Doppio and Mista into his men. And he had some kind of mysterious ability, too. He’d healed the wound in my head again.

“What sort of power is this?”

I asked.

“I couldn’t begin to explain,”

he said, meeting my gaze.

“But we call them Stands. And those with them, Stand Masters.”

The Hamon masters call these Spirit Hamon, or Stands. A strange name, but people with this power can see the power

standing next to them, like a ghost.

That was fifteen years ago. The night of the mothman, when we’d decided to leave La Palma. As we sat before my father’s head, Lisa Lisa had told us about them. Stands.

“This manga artist, Kishibe Rohan, has a Stand that allows you to see Stands,”

Giovanna explained.

“Just as he made it so we can all speak Italian. Puts us all on the same page.”

One of the men who’d come in with Giovanna was a thin man with a sullen face. When my eyes met his he sniffed loudly.

“I just want you all to leave as soon as possible. That’s the only reason I’m helping. You’ve got blood all over my bed! I’m high-strung, you know! And the clock in my study’s gone missing! There’s a thief among us!”

The Italians all grinned, and the lone Japanese man looked even less happy. I was starting to get an idea what was going on here. Some bad guys were teasing the civilians.

“So? Now we’re on the same page, what? Why’d you want to talk to me?”

“I understand you spent time in the company of a detective,”

Giovanna said.

“I hear your time together left you with a new type of power called…a Beyond?”

“…….!?”

How did he know that?

“Oh, that was me, too,”

the Japanese man said, waving.

“In times like these, I’m glad a man like you came along. Seems like you handled that mess with the air force commander well. I feel like you’re the best man to solve this mystery.”

“Mystery…?”

“Nobody said? The man who died here is your old friend, Kato Tsukumojuku. I suppose you wouldn’t know, but the detective in charge of this case was your double, another Jorge Joestar. A detective from Fukui Prefecture. He seems to have switched places

with you and wound up in England, in 1920.”

Murder. I’m the victim. It’s all yours, buddy.

Tsukumojuku had mentioned this just a while ago. But I had no clue what anyone was talking about. Tsukumojuku was dead? He’d only just brought me here! And what did he mean, my double? Detective Jorge Joestar? Who’d switched places with me? While my head was still spinning Kishibe Rohan proceeded to explain the gist of The Case of the Three Murdered Detectives (including Tsukumojuku) and how their bodies had been arranged. He explained how this other

“Jorge Joestar”

had come here from Fukui, and about all the insane things that had started happening in Morioh and to the world after he’d arrived here. This only served to deepen my confusion. What had once been an ordinary small town had suddenly split off from Japan, and was now an island floating in the middle of the ocean, and based on another floating island, Nero Nero Island, Morioh most likely had legs and was swimming with them. Apparently. Ah ha ha ha ha ha. What the fuck.

“Jorge Joestar”

had gone to Mars with one of the gangsters, returned with some American astronauts only to crash land in a ball of fire on Morioh, but his ship had vanished when it hit the house I was in, the Arrow Cross House, and he’d wound up in the England I’d come from. And on top of that, my dear old England had been overrun with zombies, and they were headed to London, certain it had been turned into

“Desolation Row”…a fact that made me want to get the hell back but apparently Giorno Giovanna intended to take control of the Passione Family now that their boss was dead, and wanted me to solve the murder of their boss, Diavolo, and until then had no intention of letting anyone involved leave the Arrow Cross House.

“What’s critical is that we clarify exactly who it was killed Diavolo when nobody knew who he was,”

Giovanna said.

“Diavolo was found with the body of a serial killer named Kira Yoshikage, so we’d also like to clarify their relationship. And we need to figure out if the murder of Kato Tsukumojuku, which also took place here in the Arrow Cross House, had anything to do with Diavolo’s case. In other words, what I’m trying to do here is to understand the big picture view of these events, Joestar.”

I ignored Giovanna, and began by picking up the copy of Pink Dark Boy from the floor. But I didn’t know how to use it. I had to ask Doppio.

“Call England with this.”

He took it and glanced at Giovanna, who said,

“Do it,”

so he did.

“…mm? Hunh?”

“Oh, come on, pull the other one,”

I said, annoyed.

“No, seriously. Weird, my phones could call outer space and England but…”

“…………”

“Nah, Joestar,”

Mista said, glaring at Doppio.

“I’ve never known him to lie about phones. He’d a bit weird that way.”

“Why, though? It was working a few minutes ago,”

Doppio said, tapping the phone and flipping it over, trying to get it working again. He did seem legitimately confused by it, so maybe Mista was right. A little square machine in Mista’s pocket rang and when he answered Doppio swore.

“See!? It does work! Problem isn’t on this end, but over there. Dunno if theirs broke or something else went wrong but…I doubt theirs broke, Narancia’s phone is just a pebble. Not that easily broken. If they dropped it or lost it, it would still ring just fine. Either they somehow broke a rock or they’ve wound up in some weird ass place where even my phones are out of range.”

Since he said it should call anywhere I got him to tell me how to work it and called the Joestar mansion, but couldn’t get

through. What was happening in England? Doppio took the lightbulb out of the lamp by the bed, turned it into a phone, and tried a few more things.

“Well, we can connect to our Rome offices. And San Diego. Tijuana’s still working. Guess it ain’t the drugs, eh heh heh. Yeah, Joestar, only place that’s fucked up is England. Although Morioh itself is pretty fucked up, too. Like the whole town’s in a weird fucking mood.”

“Um,”

said a mild-mannered looking gangster, raising his hand. Nearby, another man – one with a bob – answered like a school teacher,

“Yes? Fugo?”

Fugo pointed at the window.

“That sky looked like the night sky, but I don’t believe it is. We can’t see the moon and stars, but there’s no sign of any clouds covering them, either. Instead, there’s something else…floating, or rather, swimming.”

The window of Kishibe Rohan’s bedroom was at the top of a hill overlooking the harbor and bay. There were boats in the water, making quite a fuss. The boats had their lights aimed at the sky, illuminating a giant creature swimming overhead. It was a whale, and a big one; over two thousand meters long, swimming upsidedown, its back to us. A great white sperm whale. Although at the moment, it is floating upside-down in the Pacific.

“Well, there’s Moby Dick,”

Fugo said. The others let out yelps of surprise. The giant white whale floating upside-down like a spaceship was not the only one, either. All kinds of giant fish were swimming upside-down, or flitting about in schools. Some schools were swimming around the sides of Morioh, and if you peered carefully you could see black shadows gliding over the top of the hill.

“So…I guess this means Morioh is floating upside-down in the water, then?”

Mista said.

“And is Morioh shrinking? Like…this sounds dumb, but from the water pressure?”

He got a lot of shocked looks for that one, and a few derisive laughs, but no one argued his point. The giant white sperm whale passed over the fishermen, lit

by their searchlights. It turned slightly, getting a good look at the upside-down town, then either lost interest or ran out of breath, because it turned and dropped away beyond Morioh’s horizon; the surface was beneath us.

“Yikes, the fuck is that?”

said a pair of sturdily-built twins in school uniforms. I followed their gaze, and saw a giant octopus stuck to the side of the barrier surrounding Morioh, climbing up (down) the side, its suckers covering half the sky to the south.

“Joestar, is this any time to be sky-gazing?”

Giovanna said. But I’d already started thinking. Not about the murders, but about how to get back to England, how to see Lisa Lisa again, how to make sure she got that wedding. The zombies must have taken over after I got sent here, so I’d already missed my wedding day. But…Lisa Lisa would be fine. I knew she wouldn’t die. She wasn’t weak enough to get killed by any zombies. That alone I was certain of, no room for doubt in my mind. Thank you, Lisa Lisa, I thought. I may be in this crazy place in a huge old mess, but at least I can put my faith in your strength. I had to get back to her. But how? I had to use Beyond. In what way? What had I done before? I’d thought it through. But what had I thought, specifically? I’d been told, Believe in Beyond, and you will overcome your fate. So I’d tried to believe. Believing in Beyond meant…there was an author writing a story with me as the main character. And in a story, you couldn’t have things that didn’t make sense or just showed up out of the blue. So I had to create the flow. What did ‘narrative flow’ mean here? If I first had to pay heed to the situation I was in, then I’d have to do as the mafia said, and solve the murder of their boss. Shit. I’m not Tsukumojuku! But before I yelled that, I had another thought. Maybe meeting Tsukumojuku and spending all that time with him on our adventures meant I could use that as a foundation to solve this mystery here? Yeah, that’s exactly what I had to do.

Fuck it.

“Giovanna, tell me everything,”

I said. Giovanna smiled like a flower blooming.

First, I’d do as I was asked. Diavolo and Kira Yoshikage’s bodies were lined up on the floor of the study.

“We were forced to grab them and haul ass out of the house temporarily when the damn spaceship crashed, but when the ship vanished and the house rebuilt itself we brought them back in. The police are a shit show right now, and with a case like this, you’ve really gotta be a fucking Stand Master to stand a chance of solving it,”

said a Stand belonging to one of the sturdily-built Japanese twins, Nijimura Fukashigi. It was called NYPD Blue. Some Stands had minds of their own, I was told. Not just him; Kishibe Rohan’s girlfriend, Reimi, looked totally human, and was giggling and whispering in Kishibe’s ear as he muttered sullenly about how unfair all of this was. Was this any time to flirt!? Anyway. Diavolo and Kira had had their throats slit from ear to ear. Loads of blood. When they told me Tsukumojuku’s throat had been slit, too, I got pretty agitated, but I forced myself to concentrate. I had to look at these one at a time. Kishibe used his Stand, Heaven’s Door, to turn the two bodies into books. The side of their faces split open, and their skin peeled back like pages, leaving a big hole where the eye had been. But every page was filled with the word ‘death’ in different languages. Apparently while people were still alive he could read all sorts of information about them, their past, their personality, even things they themselves had failed to notice or had long since forgotten. But at the moment of their death, all of this was overwritten with the word ‘death’. I also took a look at the records made by Leone Abbacchio’s Stand, Videodrome. Both Diavolo and Kira appeared in the study for an instant, let out a cry, had their throats slit, and died. Kishibe had him pause Videodrome a moment before their deaths, and turned these recordings into books, but both volumes were almost

entirely blank, with only the most basic of personal information recorded within. Just their names and Stands. Everything about their feelings or memories was totally gone.

“They knew they were about to die, and to a certain extent they’d accepted it. See?”

Kishibe said, turning to a page that had already begun to be buried in the word ‘death’.

“Death begins while we are still alive.”

And these two were murdered, and their bodies abandoned, right where Kishibe and the police were moving in and out of here. How could that be? Were Japanese people way more self-absorbed than I’d ever imagined? I couldn’t tell what passed for morality here in the future. Didn’t matter. I just had to get all the facts lined up. Kishibe made it so they were no longer books.

“Any images of the killer?”

I asked. Abbacchio shook his head.

“These are records of the victims lives only.”

“Were they brought here and killed at the same time, or is there a time lag between the two murders?”

“We can’t tell from the recordings,”

Abbacchio said.

“All we can tell is what happened to each one individually. But we can say that the estimated time of death for both of them is twelve hours ago, at eight AM this morning.”

What happened to them…?

“But there’s no records of what they were doing before they appeared here?”

“Yes. Which is very strange. The only way I can explain it is to say that these two men did not exist until they were killed, or that they were brought here to be killed from some day other than July 24th.”

“You can’t check records from yesterday or any other day?”

“Videodrome can only check the day of. From midnight until midnight.”

“And that only gives us one second? Or, I suppose, if we look at it from another angle, they could have died a second after midnight. And the estimated time of death is what’s wrong.”

“……….”

He had no answer to that. I had Abbacchio replay the recordings, and did my best to soak in every detail. Just like Tsukumojuku used to do. If the facts were as stated, they’d been dead most of the day. Comparing the 3D images Videodrome made with the actual bodies, and considering this house appeared to have some sort of temperature control that kept it cool, even though it was summer, the condition of the bodies seemed to support that. I spent a bit of time looking from one to the other like I was trying to find the six differences, but nothing stood out.

“Hmm, guess these god damn gangsters ain’t trying to pull one over on us with their Stands,”

said NYPD Blue. He’d come up beside me at some point.

“Eh? Yo, nitwit, the fuck you joining in for? Get back here!”

Njimura Fukashigi yelled, but NYPD Blue was having none of it.

“Shut the fuck up! This is a murder investigation! No damn way I’m leaving it up to some amateur!”

He turned to me.

“Sorry, buddy. Please, go on.”

Go on with what? I didn’t have anything! But I went ahead and said,

“Right!”

and turned back to the bodies, and I guess because I’d been distracted, I noticed something. Kira’s face was covered in sweat, and it was dripping off his face onto his shirt, but it dried the instant it hit. The way snow vanishes as soon as it hits the ground. ? What did this mean? Sweat fell from his cheeks to his chest, but never landed. Could sweat really evaporate that quick? I started to reach out, then asked,

“Does touching these let us feel the bodies?”

Abbacchio nodded.

“But it is a recording, so even if your hands or clothes appear to get blood on them, it’s only temporary.”

“Oh, yeah?”

I said, and, not making a big deal about it, I just reached out and touched Kira’s shirt. There was no undershirt or anything between with the shirt and his skin, but it was dry as a bone. As sweaty as his face was, the rest of his body should be soaked, but the shirt wasn’t even damp. I wasn’t up on advances in the textile industry since my day, but sweat generally took a bit of

time to dry. It didn’t just evaporate like it was dropped on a hot frying pan. If he’d been volcanic rock hot, I could see it, but from touching him I could tell he was a little warm, but well within the range of normal. This had to be a clue, I thought.

“What? There something wrong with Kira Yoshikage’s chest?”

Abbacchio asked. He was standing next to me, watching my face intently.

“…you found something? Don’t even think about keeping it secret. Tell the truth now. I used to be a cop. I can tell if you’re lying.”

I wasn’t a good liar in the first place. But before I answered, the Stand behind me said,

“Woah there, punk. You used to be a police? Then you know the drill. Before you resort to brow beating, have a think for your damn self.”

And with that, NYPD Blue reached out and started pawing Kira’s clothes himself.

“Hmm. I think you just might be on to something.”

“Tch,”

Abbaccho said, and stepped up next to NYPD Blue, putting his hands on the dead man’s chest. Kira was looping rapidly, letting out shout after shout as his throat split opened and snapped closed again and again. I moved on to Diavolo, who was stuck in a very similar loop, and began watching him closely. Since I knew what I was looking for, I found it quick. A drop of sweat from his cheek that fell on his shoulder and was gone. Same thing. I reached out and touched the thin shirt that clung to Diavolo’s body, but it was dry, too. He, too, was sweating all over, but…just to be sure, I peeled back his shirt, and put my hand inside. Yep. Diavolo’s belly was drenched. But none of it got to his shirt. How could that be?

“All three of you are acting like total freaks,”

Mista said, and he and Fugo cackled wildly, but I ignored it. There was something here. How could something like this happen? This wasn’t some insta-drying shirt. If it was, Abbacchio and NYPD Blue would have pointed it out. Precisely because this was impossible, the two of them were looking baffled, and investigating further, ignoring the hecklers. So if it wasn’t a fast drying shirt, then…fast drying sweat? That seemed equally unlikely. No matter when I was, sweat was

sweat. Physics remained physics. Drying takes time. Hmm…but to what extent did physics apply here? Look at what lay just in front of me. A tangible recording of a human’s death. A humanoid superpower investigating a crime of its own free will. Everyone here was beyond my experience. They could turn books into phones, replace skulls with soap, and make six little drag queens ride bullets. The entire situation was fucked up. A town upside-down in the ocean, surrounded by an invisible wall. The fish swimming past us weren’t gigantic; we’d been shrunk somehow. Could we judge anything based on conventional physics? We couldn’t. It seemed there were still rules in effect, but physics were only relevant to a limited extent. This was the work of a Stand; this sweat, this instant death, and the way he dragged them into this room and killed them without them even trying to resist. If physics didn’t apply, then perhaps things that should take time not taking time was…wait…time? Kira Yoshikage’s Stand, Killer Queen, could turn time back an hour with Bites the Dust. Diavolo’s King Crimson could predict the future, and erase that time. Both Stand powers involved time. And both owners of those Stands lay here dead, together. Speaking of time, Tsukumojuku had fallen through time from England in 1904 to Japan in 2012, and then time traveled two more times before dying. And there was one more.

“Mister Kishibe,”

I said. The thin artist turned towards me.

“Didn’t you say something about a clock?”

“I did!”

he exclaimed, thrilled someone had actually heard him. He strode forward.

“There was a clock right here, in my study, on this very desk! And it’s gone missing! It was the only way I had of telling time in this windowless room! It was hardly a valuable piece, so I’ll gladly buy whoever took it one of their own, but I’d

like mine back, thank you!”

“What for?”

Mista said.

“Just buy a new one for yourself! Sensei ! ♡”

“I have affection for my own things!”

Kishibe snapped with such vigor that Mista actually backed off.

“Uh, no need to shout,”

he said. Kishibe had a knack for making everything he said sound oddly convincing.

“I mean, sure, I get you. I care about my stuff, too,”

Mista said.

“So give it back! I won’t let anyone leave until it’s returned!”

I thought the gangsters were keeping Kishibe here, but apparently he’d just turned those tables on them. I could hear people laughing quietly, impressed with his bravado, but I put my mind to thinking. A missing clock? There must be a reason for that. If Kishibe was telling the truth, and it was a cheap clock, there was no benefit to stealing it. Unless whoever stole it had a reason to think having a clock here would be bad news for them. Again,

“time”. That was the key word behind all of this. The only problem was how? Time for sweat to dry. Why did it dry in an instant? Ignore physics, and find the answer! Push through it! Sweat wouldn’t dry instantly. It took time to dry. It only appeared to take no time. That amount of time was sped up to look like only a moment. It looked instantaneous, but it was no such thing. And by the same principle, the second it took to kill these two was not actually a second. A much longer period of time just looked like a second. Time had been sped up. And he’d hidden the clock so we wouldn’t noticed this had happened.

That was it, I thought. I was confident I had the answer. But thought they were clearly sped up, neither of them were

moving like they were in a movie being cranked too fast. Humans bodies are never completely still, so when sped up their movements are always jerky, clearly unnatural to our eyes. But there was nothing unnatural about the way they were moving, or even the speed of the blood as it came gushing out of them. Only the sweat was strange. It formed on the cheeks slowly, like normal, then pooled and swelled and dangled and fell and dried unnaturally fast. Not just that. If this was all happening normally, I’d be able to put my hand beneath his chin, and catch the drop of sweat as it fell. But the speed of their sweat was so unnatural I couldn’t figure out the timing of that. What did that mean? The people were moving normally, but their sweat was sped up…the instant it left their cheeks, it fell and dried really fast. Hmm. The instant it left their cheeks? So human skin was the borderline…border surface. And the flow of time was different within and without? Was it possible for time to flow differently inside your body than outside? It must be. Otherwise this situation wasn’t possible. Proof lay in the Stands these two had. Killer Queen could make someone explode so hard they had to relive the last hour over again, but only the person who exploded remembered what had happened. Which meant time flowed differently for the bomb guy alone. King Crimson worked the same. Diavolo could predict the future and delete that amount of time, so if events happened in the following flow: A→ B→C, and he deleted B, then for everyone but Diavolo events would flow as A→ C, but for Diavolo things would be A→ His prediction of B→ deleting B→ C, extended by the act of using his Stand, but changing the flow of time for everyone else. In other words, time could flow differently inside a person and out. Most of the time, those times synced up, but if this type of Stand was used, they’d stop lining up. Diavolo created a smaller disconnect, but with Killer Queen, whoever he’d turned into a bomb would repeat that time more often the more they got scared and tried to get help. The gap between their time and real time would

get bigger and bigger. And wasn’t our internal sense of time always a little off? Even without the involvement of Stands? I couldn’t begin to believe that the time I’d spent being bullied on the Canary Islands, the time I’d spent fighting in the war, and the time I’d spent gazing at Lisa Lisa’s hair streaming in the wind and gleaming in the sunlight could all have been flowing at the same speed. And the time I’d spent facing Antonio Torres inside William Cardinal in the Motorize Manor definitely didn’t flow at the same speed as the time I’d spent deducing things next to a pair of corpses surrounded by gangsters here. When we concentrate, the flow of time within us speeds up. We can think an incredible number of things in mere minutes, seconds even, so compared to the external time, the time insides us passes in a flash. Like, wait, had it really only been a minute? So right this very moment as the wheels in my head spun furiously, I was building up a gap between my internal time and the time outside of me. If time within a human being was different from time outside of us, then if you were to control one of these times, which would it be? Killer Queen turned back time inside the bomb person only, and King Crimson deleted a portion of time that only he had experienced from the timeline outside of him. And here some unknown individual’s Stand had sped up the external time for Diavolo and Kira. This one second they spent yelping and dying might well be only a second for them, but externally a much longer period of time was taking place, super compressed. I wasn’t yet sure how long that was. But at the least, I had solved the mystery of the sweat. And I suppose I had also explained how no one had witnessed their murders.

“Mister Kishibe, is it at all possible that this room could have been left empty for say, an hour, around eight this morning?”

“Hunh? No way,”

Kishibe said.

“That would have been the absolute busiest time. All the cops flooding in because we’d found Tsukumojuku’s body.”

“Okay.”

Yeah, it wasn’t just their murders nobody had seen; nobody had seen the bodies lying on the floor. So it seemed likely time had been sped up around them from midnight to the estimated time of death to the time they were found. If he would compress eight hours to a second to kill them why not keep it up and do another twelve, bringing us to eight PM, the present time? If eight hours took a second, and midnight to right now was twenty hours, then that was about 2.5 seconds. It was not out of the question for there to be 2.5 seconds in which nobody was in this study. Assuming the same scale; obviously they could have sped things up even more after their deaths and made those twelve hours into one second or .1 seconds but for the moment I just needed a figure to theorize with, so let’s go with 2.5 seconds. They were both killed in the first second, and in the next 1.5 seconds twelve hours worth of decomposition occurred. In only 1.5 seconds? Looking at the bodies, this had clearly happened, but…was there any way to be sure?

“Mr. Kishibe, do you happen to have a body thermometer?”

Kishibe grinned at me.

“I do! Are you planning on doing an autopsy?”

I was a bit taken aback, but I guess it wasn’t out of character for this guy.

“Yeah. If you’ve got anything else that would help…”

“I do indeed!”

Kishibe said, far too happily.

“I’m drawing a horror mystery manga, you see. I was curious to know just what coroners do! I’ve never tried them on a real dead human, but you find dead birds and cats as you wander around town, and they were most illuminating.”

“…………”

I wasn’t the only one who’d gone quiet, but Kishibe paid no heed at all, and began expounding the details of his experiments on dead animals until his girlfriend put her hand over his mouth.

“Uh? Mmph…oh, the body thermometer, right. I’ll bring the whole kit.”

“…thanks.”

I turned the duo glaring at the mystery of the dry clothes in Videodrome’s recordings.

“Abbacchio, NYPD, I’ll need

your help with this.”

“….?”

Mm? What?”

Abbacchio and NYPD Blue had clearly both been so preoccupied they’d missed what we’d just said.

“We’re going to perform a simple autopsy,”

I said.

“Mind taking the rectal temperature?”

“….? Whaaaaaat?”

“Now look here, buddy, I’m just a regular police, I ain’t up for no CSI shit.”

They both spoke at the same time, but when I said,

“You can’t let an amateur do it,”

they reluctantly agreed, and took the thermometer from Kishibe. He had two.

“You did sterilize them, right?”

Abbacchio said, suspiciously. Kishibe was indignant.

“Of course I did! How rude. Who knows what awful bacteria lurk in the guts of wild birds and cats! I washed and disinfected them!”

“Wild…birds?”

“The last time I used them was on a wild boar. It must have wandered down from the mountains and got hit by a car! But it was luckily hit in just such a manner that the body was intact, and I took a photo every hour, stuck that thermometer in its rectum, and kept detailed notes on the state of the body. I even edit together a video! If you have fifteen minutes to spare you can see a boar be entirely consumed by maggots and reduced to nothing but bone.”

Abbacchio was looking a little green. Kishibe hastily wrapped things up.

“At any rate, those are quite clean.”

So Abbacchio and NYPD Blue took their temperatures, and they’d both gone down between ten and eleven degrees. Helpfully, Videodrome also allowed us to measure their initial temperature, from when both were still alive. Neither Diavolo or Kira Yoshikage were at all overweight, so their temperature would drop one degree an hour, for the first ten hours, and then half a degree for every hour after that, so it fit my theory exactly. Next we examined the inside of their mouths and their eyes. Their mucous membranes were partially dried. Corneal opacity was about half peak (usually reached between 24 and 48 hours after

death.) Then the postmortem lividity. We lifted the bodies and checked, and the coloring was pretty much at max. This hit peak after twelve hours, so was also consistent. The bodies were quite stiff, right at the peak of rigor mortis – also reached ten to twelve hours after death. Good.

“That’s enough,”

I said. Both Abbacchio and NYPD Blue collapsed to the floor.

“Figure anything out?”

Abbacchio asked, but I ignored him. I dodged the thermometer that came flying, and thought. Thought through the sound of the thermometer shattering and Kishibe’s yelp of anger. Explanations should only occur after all deductions were complete. Cops are always so impatient, no matter the time or the place. The bodies definitely had approximately twelve hours worth of decomposition. I’d been proceeding with my theory unchanged while we did the autopsy, so those first eight hours must have felt like one second to Diavolo and Kira. But their corpses seemed to have experienced the twelve hours since their deaths as twelve hours, not 2.5 seconds. So maybe this Stand’s time compression somehow excluded living people?

No, humans weren’t the only ones who experienced the flow of time. Animals felt it too. And zombies. OK, if this Stand could compress time while excluding those who could perceive time, then the differential between the two flows of time left the sweat hanging off their cheeks as inside, or a part of their body, and the moment it disconnected from their jaws it became external, and not part of their body. It looked like their clothes also counted as external, but could that be because Diavolo and Kira weren’t in any condition to consider their clothes as part of their self-image? In other words, what counted as internal was based on what your mental image of ‘yourself” extended to, and everything else counted as internal, and thus became affected

by the other flow of time.

So, I thought. Next. I had the killer’s profile. He was a Stand Master with a Stand that could speed up time. He’d killed Diavolo and Kira in that sped up time. Slit their throats. But was it really possible to cut a living person’s throat this deep, this easily? Neither one of them was bound in any way. And they were Stand Masters, so even if they couldn’t move their Stands should have been free. Had the Stand Master been hiding somewhere, so they couldn’t fight back? That didn’t make sense. Diavolo had his Stand out, and King Crimson would know the attack was coming and make it so the attack never happened. Kira, too; if he just used Killer Queen he could make anything it touched explode or turn into a bomb, but somehow he couldn’t defend himself? They were up against a Stand that could speed up time. There was a rule that there could only be one Stand per person, which meant we could also say that the killer couldn’t do anything else. His Stand couldn’t hide him. The only thing you could do with sped up time was move really fast. But was it that hard to avoid an opponent who was just moving fast when you had bombs at your disposal? I wasn’t sure, so I did the math on it, and if eight hours were passing in a single second, and the killer came running at Diavolo and Kira at ten kilometers an hour, then relative to them he’d be going 288,000 kph. 800,000 meters a second. 241 times the speed of sound. That seemed pretty fucking insane. How would you even think to put a bomb out? At any rate, they clearly couldn’t use their Stands. Or didn’t. Why? Was their opponent too fast for them to do anything? If he really was going 241 times the speed of sound that made sense. But they both had glazed over eyes, and were just staring at nothing, not even trying to resist. They looked like they’d already given up. But

this was a mafia boss, who’d led a group of Stand Master gangsters like Giovanna, and a serial killer who’s survived in a small town like Morioh while being chased by multiple other Stand Masters. Would they simultaneously give up on surviving this and just wait to die? No, no, absolutely not. Diavolo’s predictions used his own internal time so it would still work, and however fast the killer was going he’d still predict the attack ten seconds ahead of time and make it not happen. He would have done that. Any soldier would. No soldier stood around with their gun holstered waiting to be shot. No matter how fucked you were if you still had your knife you’d use that, and if you were out of bullets you could use the pommel, and if your dander was up you’d give it a shot bare handed, and if you were so gravely wounded you couldn’t move you could still try and bite them. But they didn’t even try to resist, I thought, forcing myself to think this through. What if they were in a situation where they couldn’t use their Stands, or thought it wasn’t necessary? Couldn’t use them? They were uninjured until their throats split open, and if they themselves weren’t hurt, their Stands should have been just fine, too. And vice versa. There was no way they couldn’t have used their Stands. So if they thought they didn’t need to? Hmm, yeah, that had to be it, it’s the only thing that made sense, after all they were both sweating fiercely and yelping aloud, too surprised and confused to realize they were in danger. But what was it that surprised them? What confused them? Since the enemy Stand had sped up time, had the world in front of them turned into a swirling maelstrom? I looked around me. They’d died in this study, with nothing in it but a desk. There were no windows in the walls, just doors. No windows in the ceiling, either. What would change here even if an hour was compressed down to a second? Most likely nothing would change at all. There was nothing

here I could see that would provoke such surprise or confusion. So what got to them? If there was nothing around them, then someone other than themselves must have been here, and that couldn’t be the killer. The killer slit both their throats without them noticing. He would have been hiding. So what did Diavolo and Kira see, and what thoughts ran through their head that rattled them like that? Each other. Two Stand Masters who could control time. A mafia boss and a serial killer. And Giovanna and Kishibe seemed to believe they were the source of whatever power made Nero Nero Island and Morioh start moving. They were together when they died. Why? Because they were fighting. I had it at last.

Kira Yoshikage’s Stand, Killer Queen, had a 3rd power called Bites the Dust that turned people into bombs that would go off if anyone tried to find him through that person, and when it went off it would send them back in time an hour to start over. For a serial killer who wanted only to live his life without attracting attention, this was the ideal power. The bomb would go off if they so much as said his name, and if anyone unwanted died in the blast, he could just defuse the bomb after winding back an hour, and undo the fated death. But the one flaw is that the person he’d primed retained their memories and time, but Kira himself had no way of grasping what was happening. Since he had no idea who his bomb was killing, he had no way of knowing who was coming after him, and unless he looked into it, he had no way of knowing just how close they were getting. Of course, he could just keep his distance from the person he’d turned into a bomb, and preserve his peaceful life that way, but

while it was active he couldn’t use any of Killer Queen’s other powers, so he was left rather defenseless. And even if he was forced to defuse Bites the Dust without knowing what was going on with it, he might leave people after him alive, inadvertently sparing them their explosive fate. He’d have to make sure that didn’t happen. And the only way to do that was to get close to the bomb, which also put him at risk of encountering those after him. The only way to compensate for this flaw was to avoid the fear and trouble caused by distance from the bomb, and become the bomb himself. Killer Queen’s normal abilities were enough to kill anyone who got in his way normally, but by using Bites the Dust on himself, he could reset an hour of time when it went off, figure out a better way to kill whoever was after him, and correct any errors he’d made. He’d gain knowledge, experience, and foresight. Since he was a serial killer trying to hide his true identity, he had to pick the time and place to safely blow up his enemies, but Bites the Dust made that discretion unnecessary. No matter who was watching, he could just blow up whoever he wanted to. Then go back an hour, wait until the time that enemy blew up, at which point fate would kill them off for him, leaving no one around with any idea why they suddenly blew up. That hour reset was very effective. So, with a detective dead and more detectives gathering in Morioh, Kira set Bites the Dust on himself so he could be prepared for anything. At which point Diavolo appeared. What would happen then? Kira’s Bites the Dust would activate, trying to kill Diavolo, but Diavolo’s King Crimson would sense that future, and prevent it from ever happening. But since the result of the explosion was that time was fated to turn back an hour, Bites the Dust would still send him back. But in that case, Kira would have no memories of having blown Diavolo up, so he’d trying to blow Diavolo up again, King Crimson would delete it again, but the hour reset was still fated to happen – so every time Diavolo deleted his own death, time would be reset an hour. Kira and Diavolo would be trapped in an infinite

time loop.

The only one who could change fate in that hour was Kira, and the only way to escape the time loop was to defuse Bites the Dust, but when a serial killer and a mafia boss were facing off, was that something that would even occur to him? Especially since Kira would know that time was resetting, know he must have blown someone up, but have no memory of doing so. That would make him incredibly nervous. Kira had no way of knowing what King Crimson’s power was, so his best option would always appear to be attacking him with Bites the Dust again. But no matter how hard he tried to get rid of Diavolo, Diavolo could make all his attacks not happen. And yet, the more desperate Kira got, the more he’d depend on Bites the Dust somehow bringing a better result. The time loop they were trapped in would shift a bit here and there, but essentially continue.

I was pretty sure that was the basic gist of it, anyway. Like Tsukumojuku always said,

“When you’re right, you know it without verifying.”

For the first time, I knew what he meant. He wasn’t just referring to confidence. Detectives (and me) didn’t just believe in themselves. They believed in everything. The world. And God. They were convinced that the state of all things existed for themselves. That gave Beyond power, and Beyond gave them power. With Beyond on my side, I could move forward without hesitation. To the next problem – why did this have to happen at the Arrow Cross House? The flow of time was divided by human consciousness. Was it possible for a Stand attack to penetrate that fuzzy barrier? No, and nor had they. If Diavolo and Kira had had their own perceptions of time sped up, that time would vanish at the moment

of their deaths, the sped up effect would end, and their bodies would be left lying on the study floor. But despite no such thing happening, their bodies had begun to decompose, and Kishibe and the police had gone in and out of the room without ever seeing the two bodies because time in the Arrow Cross House room had been sped up. Arrow Cross House could do that. Strictly speaking, the former version of it, Cube House. A house was not a person. A house had no consciousness. With any normal house, if the killer’s Stand tried to speed up time it would be left manipulating the boundless infinity of space time. Manipulating time for the world itself. And not just Earth, but all of the universe, which I could not begin to imagine, but even if that was possible, once time sped up humans would notice that it wasn’t matching up to their internal time, and panic. For a killer just trying to kill two men in secret, mass hysteria was less than ideal. But the Arrow Cross House, the Cube House, was no ordinary house. It was a Stand. The area of consciousness of a Stand with a human name, Sugimoto Reimi. Its construction contained a space time of its own. A Tesseract. Arrow Cross House was built on top of the Cube House. With that in mind, I asked Kishibe,

“Bring me all the clocks not in the study.”

Kishibe grinned at me.

“You’re starting to act like an oldtime detective! No explanations along the way, hunh?”

He and the other Japanese people started gathering clocks. How did modern detectives act? One clock from each of the four sunrooms, four clocks in all. I inspected them. All clocks showed the same time, 8:13 PM.

“What the fuck, even the second hands are perfectly in sync! Hella creepy, Rohan!”

“You seriously need a shrink,”

the massive twins said, but Rohan was having none of it.

“I’m simply not as sloppy as you nitwits.”

I absently checked my own watch. 11:15 AM. I should be in the middle of the wedding ceremony, putting a ring on Lisa Lisa.

Making my vows. Maybe defending myself after a service buddy jokingly objected to the wedding taking place. But I hadn’t lost that time. It might be in the past, but the past still existed, and I’d get back there somehow….! I put my head back to deducing. The sped up effect occurred in this study. Put another way, it didn’t happen in the additions that turn the place into the Arrow Cross House. The border was defined by the Cube House.

“Reimi, mind if I ask you a few questions?”

“Sure,”

she said, and trotted over to me.

“Solving things is going swimmingly, is it? Swimmingly? Did it look like that? I was taken aback for a moment, then I realized time was flowing differently inside me than it was for the rest of them.

“Reimi, I wanted to ask about this building…about the Cube House.”

“Yes, yes?”

From what she told me, the ‘facts’ that Cube House had been in Nishi Akatsuki and that it had been moved to Morioh were both second-hand, and all she remembered was finding herself here in Morioh, as the Arrow Cross House, with next to no memories of anything that came before.

“Stands can grow. They unexpectedly evolve,”

Kishibe added. He’d been listening to us talk.

“It’s only natural you’re not the person you were then, Sugimoto.”

I suppose he meant that to be comforting, and she smiled back, but I spied a trace of sadness to it. The sadness of not being the person you once were, or of not having memories of your past was not something a full throttle forward type like Kishibe couldn’t really understand.

“Muryotaisu’s Grand Blue have increased in number. That sort of thing happens all the time,”

Kishibe said.

“Has anyone else lost their memories when that happened?”

I asked.

“Eh? No, not the human Master. But the Stands themselves have been known to change inside and out, so it stands to reason

they might wind up completely overwriting the old version.”

Reimi looked even more downcast. Time was flowing for her, too. I couldn’t help myself.

“Kishibe, have you ever felt the fear of forgetting what happened to you? Ever felt like you’d lost time you knew you’d lived through?”

“Nothing frightening about it,”

Kishibe said, and it didn’t seem like he was bluffing.

“The vast majority of my life contains nothing of any consequence whatsoever. I’ve thrown all of myself into drawing manga, so that’s all there is!”

He hmphed arrogantly. Reimi just gaped at him. At this point the Japanese kids behind me, Hirose and the twins, put their two cents in.

“Jeez, Rohan, you’re being a real jerk here!”

“That ain’t Jorge’s point! Don’t you get that?”

“C’mon, use your imagination! Man, you’re useless when you aren’t in front of the drawing board.”

Something in that seemed to get through to him and he abruptly turned towards Reimi.

“Eh? Ah! Oh, no! I wasn’t thinking! Just because I’d be fine doesn’t mean you are! Sorry, how thoughtless of me!”

He clapped his hands together in front of him and bowed his head low, and this was so desperate that Reimi almost burst out laughing. Ptbbbbbb.

“OK, that’s enough, Rohan! You really do live for manga, don’t you? I understand the point you’re making, too.”

“No, I’m really sorry. I sometimes forget to distinguish between myself and other people, and assume everyone else can do what I can do. Other manga artists criticize me for that all the time. I’m really not trying to be a conceited ass! I just expect too much from people! That’s entirely my fault!”

“That’s the most arrogant thing you’ve said yet!”

“What the? You expect too much from people? Just how amazing do you think you are!?”

“Ah ha ha ha! You gotta be kidding! That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard! Aha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!”

Hirose collapsed, laughing hysterically. I’d assumed Kishibe was joking, too, but he seemed genuinely pissed at us.

“What’s so funny!? Kouji! I’m trying to apologize seriously

here, and you mock me for it!?”

Eh? Seriously? Hirose’s laughter subsided, replaced with a look of glazed horror. Reimi laughed.

“You’re hopeless, Rohan!”

I didn’t have enough hours in the world to deal with this, so I got the conversation back on track.

“Reimi, I get that you’re a very unusual stand, but fundamentally every Stand has a ‘Master’ and they’re job is to ‘stand by’ that Master, right? I would definitely say a Stand forgetting their Master is kind of an exception, a pretty unique situation. Especially for Stands with minds of their own, forgetting their Master when they ‘grow’ or ‘evolve’ would be kind of a big problem.”

Reimi looked very serious suddenly, and the others went quiet to listen.

“That’s why I don’t think you grew or evolved. I think it was more like…something shocking happened to you.”

Shocking? I was aware of something rather like that. Trauma. Wounds. Harm sustained could give you power.

“Reimi, do you remember being injured, or suffering in any way?”

I asked. Her eyes really did look like a human’s. There was a light in them, and that light went out at my question. It was like I was tumbling into a deep abyss within them. My words had struck a nerve.

“A wound,”

I said, the certainty of Beyond behind me.

“I…”

she said, and the light in her eyes flickered back on. The words she’d bottled up inside came flowing out.

“My back…it’s been hurting for a while.”

“? Your back?”

“Yeah. Oh…”

Reimi went beet red. She screwed her eyes shut, and grit her teeth.

“Hunh? Sugimoto…”

Kishibe said.

“What are you doing?”

“….ah! Ah. Ahh. Ahhhhhhhh!”

Her breathing heavy, Reimi’s

body suddenly jerked as if stabbed in the back. She hastily pulled the straps of her dress off her shoulders, and pulled her top down, baring her back. Sleazeball gangsters started making wolf-whistles and one even let out a particularly creepy

“Ohhhhh!”

and then an arrow showed up, right between her shoulder blades, and not just some symbol but an actual arrowhead inside her, raising the surface of her skin as it moved, and it looks so painful and uncanny that we all went deathly silent.

“Ahhhhhhhhhh! It’s burning up! It’s on fire, Rohan!”

Reimi screamed, and the skin on her back split open, and the arrowhead came sliding out onto the smooth surface, but no blood came with it. The arrowhead looked to be made of stone, and had elaborate carvings along the surface of it. Free of her body, it dropped to the floor, and Reimi collapsed beside it.

“Sugimoto! Are you…!? Kishibe yelled, rushing to her side. Breathing heavily, she said,

“I remember now, Rohan. About myself, and about my Master.”

She picked the arrowhead up off the floor.

“I was asked to keep this arrowhead, and make sure nobody else took it. I locked myself up inside the Cube House, but then I accidentally – or maybe not, I’m not sure, but I stabbed myself with it.”

She moved the tip of the arrow head near her arm, and a strange wind swept up around it as if the arrowhead itself was pulling her skin towards it. This was clearly no ordinary arrowhead; it had a mind of its own. She pulled the arrow away from her skin, took a moment to catch her breath, and turned to me.

“I remember now. It’s been such a long time, Jorge Joestar.”

She smiled at me, as if looking at an old photograph.

“……………? You know me?”

“Of course. I’ve been searching for you for a long time. And protecting this arrowhead. I know why I came to Morioh, too. I was waiting for you to get here. All this time.”

“……………? What do you mean?”

“I mean I love you.”

“…………!”

I wasn’t the only one blown away by that. Kishibe was left speechless, and the twins and Hirose all shrieked. Reimi turned to find Kishibe gaping at her. She smiled at him.

“Well, not me. My Master loves him. Obviously. I, myself, have never even met Jorge.”

A high-pitched whine left Kishibe, like a leaky balloon, and then he made a show of coughing.

“Well, that’s not my problem,”

he said. The twins and Hirose all relaxed and began chattering at Kishibe, but I ignored them.

“So who is your Master?”

“There’s only one girl waiting for you who can make locked rooms. Penelope de la Roza. Jorge, honestly. How could you not know that already? Boys are the worst.”

It was very like Penelope to treat a man about to turn thirtyone like a ‘boy’.

“So! Let’s get back to Penelope, Jorge,”

Reimi said, standing

up.

“Yo, wait, you think we’re just gonna let you leave?”

Mista snarled.

“Yeah, Jorge,”

Fugo said.

“You still haven’t figured out who killed Diavolo.”

“Why should he?”

Reimi said.

“Jorge has no obligation to do that whatsoever.”

“Obligation? We aren’t talking about no ‘obligation’ here,”

Mista said. He was smiling, but his eyes were narrowing.

“We ain’t asking, either. We’re telling him to do it. However he has to.”

“Hmph,”

Reimi snorted.

“You can act like big shots all you like, but remember where you are. You’re inside me.”

Right. We were inside Reimi. Inside the realm of Reimi’s consciousness, so if time sped up here, it wouldn’t affect anything

ouside.

“A moment ago I became my old self,”

Reimi said.

“This isn’t the old Arrow Cross. The arrow’s not in me any more. This is the Cube House now. It has no doors or windows. If you don’t do as I say, you’re never getting out of here. And remember, when I say ‘never’, I mean that literally.”

“What!?”

Fugo and Mista ran to the doors and flung them open.

“Shit! The furniture’s still here, but no doors or windows!”

“Fuck! A polar bear! Tch, why the fuck is this thing here!?”

“Wait, wait, wait…why is your face over there!”

“Mista? What are you doing back there?”

As the two henchmen encountered the tesseract for the first time, Giovanna rose to his feet.

“It looks to me like you’ve already figured everything out,”

he said.

“Joestar. Will you share your answer with us?”

I ran over my reasoning – if I could call it that – in my mind again. I knew what the killer’s Stand must be. I could sketch a fairly complete picture of how he’d done it. There weren’t any mitigating circumstances that countermanded it. But I didn’t have the killer’s name…what had Tsukumojuku done in moments like this? He’d just left it up to the mood, or the energy in the room. By acting the part, he’d get things going his way. That was what all detectives did. They’d create the flow, create the mood. The same way that Beyond did. Believe.

“I dunno the killer’s name,”

I said.

“But I know their Stand. It has the power to speed up time. They lured Kira Yoshikage and Diavolo here. Kira had primed Bites the Dust on himself. The killer set them against each other, had them attack, and King Crimson deleted the moment where Bites the Dust blew him up. With both still alive, Bites the Dust turned back time an hour, and brought the same fate around again. As time began to loop, the same events

happening again and again, the killer sped up time, compressing it until neither of them could move at all. Then he slit their throats.”

When I finished my speech, there was a long silence. Over by the corpses and Videodromes, Abbacchio and NYPD Blue were gaping at me.

“I see…!”

Giovanna said, trying unsuccessfully but adorably to conceal his surprise.

“That’s all,”

I said.

“I don’t have anything else worked out yet. But it seems like you might know something about a Stand that speeds up time, right?”

Giovanna had been so quietly calm all this time. Why had that description rattled him so? But he just shook his head.

“No idea, I’m afraid.”

“……….? So why were you so surprised…”

No, maybe this wasn’t surprise. There was a sadness in his eyes.

“Why was this such a shock to you?”

As if that brought him back to himself, Giovanna’s usual mask slipped back over his features.

“It didn’t.”

There was clearly something here. Something not right.

“Is your boss lying?”

I said, turning to Bruno Buccellati. He’d been watching everything closely from behind Giovanna. Giovanna spun around, not expecting this, and his eyes must have met Buccellati’s.

“………….!”

Buccellati didn’t answer immediately.

“…….? Mmm? …I can smell it, Giorno. A smell I shouldn’t be smelling.”

“Buccellati, don’t.”

“I shouldn’t ever be smelling this in my own family, on my own team. So why the hell am I?”

“You’re imagining it.”

“I’m WHAT!?”

Buccellati roared. Mista and Fugo came running back to the study.

“What’s up, Buccellati?”

“Shut the fuck up, Fugo!”

Buccellati snapped, seething with rage. His men fell silent.

“This stench just got even more distinct. Giorno! You just lied to me! I’m not imagining this shit! You know damn well I can smell a lie a mile away! I’ve proven it countless times, Giorno! My nose for lies! Is! Never! Wrong! You’re keeping something from us!”

“………….!”

“I don’t even need to lick that cold sweat off your brow! You’re lying! Spit it out, Giorno! What the fuck are you hiding!?”

“I…”

Giorno said, then sighed.

“I was just a bit thrown by Joestar’s reasoning. I mean, this Stand speeds up time? How would you ever fight that?”

He wasn’t a Mafia leader for nothing. He’d recovered his calm, and the cold sweat was gone. Wait. The sweat that was on his shirt…was already gone?

“LIAR!”

Buccellati screamed. Then he grew deathly quiet.

“Giorno…tell me the truth. If you’re hiding something, I have to dig after it. It can’t be that important! I’m not saying we can’t have secrets from each other. I respect your privacy. This line of work, that’s all we have sometimes. But right here? When Passione’s top dog has just been murdered? There’s nothing worth hiding, Giorno! Say it, Giornooooo! Say it!”

he rose to a shriek at the end, and his Stand appeared behind him. It looked like a girl, and held a needle and thread in its hands.

“Don’t, Buccellati!”

“If you don’t tell the truth I’ll stitch your mouth closed! Do it, Stepmom!”

As the female Stand grabbed Giovanna’s lips together, stuck the needle through them, pulled the thread after, and began sewing them together at fearsome speeds, Giovanna yelled,

“Buccellati, no! I’m not the one lying! I was lied to!”

“What?”

Buccellati said, and stopped sewing.

“I’m the one who was betrayed.”

“What do you mean!? Betrayed by who!?”

“………..”

Giovanna fell silent. Behind me, NYPD Blue suddenly said,

“Mm? The fuck is

this?”

I turned around and found NYPD Blue still examining the bodies. His hands were on Diavolo’s corpse’s face, but they weren’t just resting there. Diavolo’s face had opened up, and he was looking inside. Kishibe Rohan’s Stand, Heaven’s Door, which turned people into books filled with their memories and history. NYPD Blue and Abbacchio had a brief whispered conversation about something, and then Abbacchio turned to me.

“What do you make of this?”

Diavolo’s face was in book form, the pages spread open. The pages were all covered with the word ‘death’ in all kinds of languages, but Abbacchio was pointing at the very bottom corner of the page, some tiny, tiny letters in either corner. The right page read 121. The left read 123.

“Hunh?”

I said. This was weird.

“Right?”

Abbacchio said, and flipped to a different page. The right read 237. The left read 239. It only had odd pages.

Were pages missing….? No. If that happened, two sequential pages would be missing. This was something else. I picked another page and looked at the front and back of it, and the front was 323 and the back was 325. This book only had odd numbers in it.

“What the…?”

I looked up, and Kishibe had come up behind us, and was peering over our shoulders.

“Any idea what this means?”

I asked. Kishibe put his hand to his lips.

“I’ve never seen anything like it. I can only think of one explanation.”

NYPD Blue and Abbacchio said as one,

“Someone else had the even pages.”

Kishibe said much the same thing.

“I stopped looking when

I saw the word ‘death’ everywhere! How careless of me! Diavolo had a split personality!”

“C’mon, Giorno! Spit it out!”

Buccellati yelled.

“Who is it who betrayed you?”

“I don’t know…”

Giovanna said, his eyes hollow.

“God?”

“Don’t you even dream about fucking with me right now!”

Buccellati yelled. Stepmom sewed more of Giovanna’s mouth shut, and threw a few stitches through his cheek as well, completely wrecking his even features.

“Tell me the damn truth, Giorno! You’re our fucking boss! What the fuck are you up to!?”

“I’m telling the truth! I’ve been betrayed by God!”

“Arghhhhh! Grit your fucking teeth, Giorno!”

Wham! Buccellati just straight up punched Giovanna in the face. Reimi squeaked, and hid behind Kishibe. The twins and Hirose were completely at a loss now, frozen in place. Blood sprayed from Giovanna’s mouth, and tears from his eyes. …he was crying? Blood and tears fell to the floor. The blood dried, and the tears vanished. In an instant.

Kishibe spoke up.

“I’ve looked inside almost everyone alive in here, so Heaven’s Door could make you all able to speak all three languages. Only two people I haven’t looked at! Giovanna, who could already speak Japanese and Italian! And the empty-eyed boy who showed up late, following Giovanna. Vinegar Doppio! Where is he?”

NYPD Blue and Abbacchio looked around, but there was no sign of Doppio.

“Hunh? He was just here!”

“Shit! Where is he?”

Kishibe yelled.

“Find him! Jacques! Enzo! Johana!”

Nijimura Muryotaisu yelled, unleashing his Stand,

which looked like three dolphins.

“Might be faster to call him,”

Abbacchio said, grabbing Pink Dark Boy off the floor. A moment later, plu pon pin para para pon plu pon pin para para pon rang from under the floor.

“(Click) Hello Hi What’s up? Call me anytime! I’m shiny sparkling Doppio and I love phones!”

His bright voice and then some dolphins squeaking and he yelped.

“Augh! What the fuck!?”

“Bring him back here, Grand Blue!”

Muryotaisu yelled and the hole in the center of the study slammed open and a dolphin flew up out of it with Doppio on its back, and the door in the ceiling opened and the other two came back as well.

“Hey? What the fuck, I’m on the phone!”

Doppio snarled, holding his shoe to his ear, barely holding onto the dolphin with his other hand.

“Ha! Trying to run!?”

Kishibe cried.

“You can’t escape from the Cube House! Heaven’s Door!”

I wasn’t super sure why he was shouting his Stand’s name, but he rapidly drew a transparent figure in the air and Doppio’s face exploded. The pages of his book flew open, his hand slipped off the dolphin’s fin and he fell to the floor, rolling several times.

“Everything you said was half-crazed and I’ve had my eye on you! Let’s have a look!”

Kishibe strode over to him, and checked the pages of Doppio’s book.

“Hunh?”

he said, flipping through several more pages.

“He’s got odd and even numbers! He’s normal! He’s just a bit nutty!”

Kishibe cried. All eyes shifted towards the only other candidate. With all eyes on him, Giovanna stared off in to space, and whispered,

“Are you abandoning me, God?”

Another tear rolled down his cheek, but the moment the tear left him, it sped up, and evaporated before it hit the floor.

“Something stinks!”

NYPD Blue yelled.

“The bodies are rotting faster!”

Abbacchio yelled.

Time inside the Cube House had sped up again.

“Yes, he has. Can you blame Him for it? Giorno Giovanna.”

The speaker was a man standing in the door to the North, dressed in a form-fitting silver garment that looked like something out of an H. G. Wells novel. There was a cross on the front. Who…? The Japanese twins and Hirose yelled,

“Enrico Pucci!”

So that was the name of the man who could speed up time.

“God is gravely disappointed in your weakness,”

Pucci said.

“Giorno Giovanna, you failed to bear the burden of your sins, failed to get your own hands dirty, pushed all the bad things onto a poor other mind you made within you just so you could be a good boy. Then you tried to play the hero, and punish Diavolo for handling you dirty deeds. What a shameful tale. Thus God forsake you. You can feel it, right? He hates sad stories like that more than anything. He won’t have anything more to do with you. That’s why He sent me to take care of you. You will never see His face again, but if you have any last words for him, say them now.”

Giovanna wiped his tears away with his arm.

“You saying that will not make me believe it, and I will not be giving you a message to take back.”

Pucci said nothing, but crooked his head.

“………?”

Buccellati’s half-sewn threads dangling from portions of his face, Giovanna smiled.

“You don’t get it. You aren’t here to finish me off. I’ll be finishing you. You’re the one God has forsaken. This was always the plan, poor priest. If only you had never realized how you’ve been used, you might have been happy to the bitter end. But I am the son of a God who is both kind and cruel, and I must act accordingly. Father Pucci, my father never expected anything

from you. He knew you would never be able to connect the loop. That was never possible for you, or for any version of you. He sent you on this path knowing that only too well – because you being on this path was part of his plan. You are a half-formed man, driven by fruitless desire. A narrow-minded man, unable to accept anything but your own ideals. A self-absorbed low-life who has the gall to try to bask in God’s love. So vain you’ll do anything for a modest scrap of praise, and for a fleeting moment’s emotion you’ll act as if you’ve risen to Heaven and activate your bizarre power. He had a use for that power. But that use has been and gone. If you were but a little more rational, he might have allowed you to remain by his side, useful or not. But in the end, you are a man of no experience, incapable of deeper thought, incapable of seeing the big picture, a fool dancing at the whims of your betters. Since he saw no value in keeping you around, he has tossed you aside like yesterday’s trash. Are you prepared?”

There was an awful crackling sound all around us, and the Cube House’s wallpaper and carpet faded, peeled, tore, rippled, rolled, and disintegrated. Time was going faster and faster.

“Auuugh! The evidence!”

I turned at the scream, and saw NYPD Blue hurriedly carrying the rapidly rotting bodies of Kira Yoshikage and Diavolo out through the east door. In the north door, Enrico Pucci had gone beet red.

“Silence, boy…!”

Giovanna laughed aloud.

“See? You know I’m right. That’s why you’ve gone red. But you don’t even realize that throwing a childish tantrum to deny that fact just proves how shallow you really are.”

635

“I said, shut up!”

“You mean, ‘I’m so flustered I can’t come up with a come back so please stop talking, sir?’“

“……….!”

There was a snapping sound, and Kishibe’s work desk in the center of the room collapsed. I looked at the clocks sitting on the rotting desk; those with needles had long since spun so fast the needles flew off, and those projecting numbers onto glass were changing so fast it was impossible to read the time. I could barely even read the date, but I could just about see the thousands place in the year changing. 5…..6……9…..13….Oh, wow, I thought, they even included a fifth digit! The desk had turned to dust, and even the sturdiest of the clocks at last stopped working, and turned to dust as well.

“You’re going to die! But first I’m going to slaughter all your men!”

Pucci yelled, and if he used this sped up time against us there was no way we could stop him. This was well beyond mach speed. He would be moving faster than the speed of light, which was supposed to be the fastest speed possible. But even now Giovanna just smiled.

“Heh. Father Pucci, do you know what this insect is?”

he said, pointing to the air. There was a rhinoceros beetle flying there.

“…………..?”

Pucci frowned.

“This is the arrowhead I just took from Reimi,”

Giovanna said.

“I turned it into something living to prevent the flow of time from damaging it. Given the size, a Japanese rhinoceros beetle was a good fit. But you know, I’ve been thinking. Was there really only one arrowhead hidden in the Arrow Cross House?”

“………..?”

Pucci was still thinking. Giovanna didn’t wait for him.

“I mean, there’s more than one arrow outside.”

“Ah! Ahhhhh! Ahhhhhhh it burns! Rohan, it burns! It’s so hot I can’t bear it! Auuuuughh!”

Reimi screamed and grabbed onto Kishibe, her back thrashing violently as another three rhinoceros beetles surfaced on the skin of her back, tearing their way out of her.

Giovanna laughed.

“Heh heh. The four rhinoceros beetles. You see your mistake now? This is the real prophecy!”

Pucci broke his silence at last.

“Nooooooooo! It cannot be!”

he yelled, trying to scream his way back to solid ground. But Giovonna pressed the advantage.

“Useless useless useless useless useless useless useless!”

The rhinoceros beetle near Giovanna’s head turned back into an arrow head, and began rusting quickly in the sped up time, but he was fast enough. There was a sound that shook the air and a yellow humanoid Stand appeared behind Giovanna just as the arrowhead stabbed it.

“Heaven’s not waiting for you, Enrico Pucci! But you’re such a coward you’d just speed up time in Hell to get through it! You’ll get the fate you deserve – I’ll trap you in the same loop you trapped Diavolo and Kira Yoshikage in when you killed them!”

“Auuuughhh!”

Pucci’s scream turned into a shriek.

“I’ve had enough of your smart mouth! Children should be seen and not heard! Die!”

And he vanished. He wasn’t gone, of course. The speed of his attack was just so great we couldn’t see him any more.

“Useless!”

Giovanna yelled, and his Stand, which looked a bit different now that it had fused with the arrowhead, swung its fist once through the air.

And the soft sound of everything inanimate in the room crumbling beyond dust into the component elements stopped. Only

silence remained. The sped up time had stopped. I looked around me. All decorations had vanished, leaving nothing but the plain walls of the Cube House. All the Japanese and Italian gangsters were fine, standing there stunned. A thought struck me and I hastily checked my clothes, but they were intact. Good. But that didn’t go for everyone; Mista’s clothes had disintegrated and his fellow gang members started laughing as he smiled blissfully and bragged about how free he felt. I supposed it was up to your own consciousness where that boundary lay. I asked Giovanna,

“…….? Is it over?”

He nodded.

“Yep.”

“I don’t see Pucci anywhere…?”

“My Stand sent him to a world where he has nowhere to go and no way of getting there,”

Giovanna said. He was staring at his Stand, now reborn in a new visage, covered in arrows.

“That world makes all his desires and actions be in vain. This is my evolved Stand, Gold Experience Requiem. Enrico Pucci is no longer even able to want to come back here. No matter where he tries to go he won’t be able to get there. Even if he longs for death, he won’t be able to die. But if he tries to live no life worth calling such awaits him. It is not life, and not death; a place both connected to nothing and nowhere, where he’ll wander lost for all of time.”

“Um,”

I said,

“Isn’t that a fate worse than death?”

Maybe a bit too much, really, but I let that go unsaid. I really didn’t know Enrico Pucci at all.

“If you feel sympathy for him, don’t bother,”

Giovanna said, as if he’d read my mind.

“This is the fate he deserved, and at the same time, a blessing. Since this is a punishment direct from God. It is quite simple to interpret endless punishment as endless love. For a man as self-absorbed as him, he’ll have done that already, and be rapturously happy.”

“………..”

Really…? Even as I doubted it I picked up on a

mismatch bodies and the number of souls, and turned to the artist Reimi was clutching.

“Kishibe.”

“?”

“Heaven’s Door.”

Thankfully he instantly grasped my meaning. He yelled,

“Heaven’s Door!”

and swish swish swish sketched a drawing in the air and bam! Giorno Giovanna’s face exploded into a book. We had to catch him by surprise to get past that Stand of his. Since we’d pulled it off, I stepped in to verify. Giorno Giovanna’s book had only one page, and the only place with anything to read was the back of the cover, his face. The page number was 2. And the text was just ‘death’ in all sorts of languages. OK, so he was dead. As I pulled back his page, I found a hollow within, with his eyeballs floating in the air. Our eyes met. But those eyes were something he’d made with his Stand. Holding his cover open, I moved around his frozen body, and looked Giovanna in his handsome, eyeless face.

“I see. You came here with Tsukumojuku, then? Antonio Torres.”

The cover of Giovanna’s book began to laugh.

“Heh heh heh heh! God damn, Jorge! You’re all acting like a real detective!”

It was Antonio, so he was speaking Spanish. I replied in kind.

“I just got used to you being a constant pain in my ass.”

My knees weren’t shaking any more. I’d been so scared of Antonio, but now I’d conquered him. I should have done this from the start. Never let Lisa Lisa save me, but fought him myself. Pop, pop. I looked towards the sound, and two balled up manuscript pages followed across the floor. Giovanna’s eyes. There was a hiss as the air leaked out of the holes in his face, as Antonio went back to being an empty skin. Gasps went up from around us. Giovanna was gone. Dead…? I wasn’t sure.

“Heh heh! Well? Now what? Jorge!”

Antonio Torres said.

On his forehead was a note written in Tsukumojuku’s handwriting.

“After the monster hunt on La Palma Island. Antonio Torres,

1900.”

Most likely, in all the commotion around the incident at the Torres home, he’d switched places with an ordinary skin, would up carried to school, and after the Alejandro attack Tsukumojuku had written that note on it. In other words, this was the original, before he split, the very same Antonio Torres that had tormented me years ago.

“Mm? What’s up, balsa blanco? Yo! Don’t fucking space out on me!”

He could yell all he liked but there wasn’t much he could do in book form. OK, I thought. What to do with this Antonio Torres? But as I thought, I found the answer to another question.

“Are you the one who killed Tsukumojuku?”

Light enough to get in and out of the Arrow Cross House without crunching the gravel, but strong enough to move a human, albeit a fifteen year old boy – only this paper-thin zombie fit both conditions.

“Heh heh heh! There it is! Good job! You got old as shit but way less dumb!”

Yeah, kinda of a lot happened. I didn’t have time to catch up with him, though.

“But you couldn’t have done it all alone,”

I said.

“I mean, they were arranged to look like Japanese folk tales. And the only people you could ever lead was that pack of kids you used to bully me with. Who’s the boss controlling you? What is it you’re trying to accomplish?”

Who cares about you? I’m just doing what my boss tells me to! Although it’s all the more fun when you happen to be

involved! That’s what he’d said during our big fight. Who was his boss?

“That would be me.”

I turned around, and the east door was open, and in it stood a man who should be dead. Diavolo.

“Auugh!”

“Shit!”

“What the fuck are you doing, Giornoo!?”

shouted Fugo, Mista, and Abbacchio, and each in turn attacked him, but all attacks came up empty. I could hardly believe this guy shared the same body as the fit but delicate Giorno Giovanna, but like R. L. Stevenson wrote in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, personality could change one’s appearance and physique. And behind this man’s broad back stood a Stand with a tiny face on it’s forehead. King Crimson. Of course the gangster’s attacks all missed. He was predicting the future, and deleting it. Giovanna, as Diavolo, pretty much walked straight from the east door over to me. This must not be a job he wanted to do. That’s why he’d reverted to Diavolo. But I wasn’t about to just take it!

“Arrggghhhh!”

I let go of Antonio Torres, and made a fist.

“Right then, Diavolo!”

I gave him my best punch. Of course I didn’t come anywhere near him but it didn’t even feel like he’d needed to delete time which made me very sad. Vvm! I felt a horrible blow, and looked down to find King Crimson’s arm sticking through my chest. Quite a lot of blood was spilling down on the now-carpetless floor of the Cube House. I was about to pass out.

“I avoided the heart, so you won’t die yet. You’ll need to come with me, Jorge Joestar! For an audience with the Secret

Emperor!”

Fuck no, asshole! Is what I wanted to say, but all that came out of my mouth was a horrible whistling sound. He threw my body over his shoulder, hole and all, and began walking away.

“Don’t let him go!”

“Stop!”

“Look at me, asshole!”

“The fuck do you think you’re going?”

The Japanese contingent joined the gangsters, trying to get after Diavolo, but King Crimson took care of them easily. A number got punched pretty hard.

“Jorge! No, don’t take him!”

Reimi shouted through her tears, and my body suddenly felt weightless. Diavolo had jumped through the door in the floor of the study. King Crimson punched through the door below that, and we went down. Grand Blue had left the next door open, so we went right through. We hit the study again and everyone took a swing but King Crimson went nuts, and every blow was blocked or dodged and whhpp whhpp whhpp whhpp we were still falling and going faster and faster until I couldn’t even tell what was happening.

“Jorge! Hang in there!”

Reimi yelled.

“I’ll come find you! Just don’t die!”

Uh, that last part seemed like a tall order.

But when my eyes opened I could heard the sound of water lapping. The sea at night, dead bodies all around me. I was on the deck of a ship at sea, near the open lid of a black, wet box. Diavolo was standing at the base of it, looking inside. And smiling.

“Heh heh heh..just as my dreams said. Wake up! Aren’t you tired after your hundred year nap?”

I’d never actually seen the box Diavolo was yelling at, but I recognized it. I’d imagined it, feared it, and it was as ominous as my mind had predicted. No wonder people had thought it was a coffin.

The man who rose slowly out of the box was thin, just skin and bone, but he wore a crown of thorns on his head. There was a hole in the hand he placed on the box’s edge. He stood up, stepped out of the box onto the deck. There were holes in his bare feet, too. Stigmata. It was like Jesus Christ had come back to life at last. But this man was not the son of the Christian God. This vampire was my father’s enemy, my mother’s enemy, my grandfather’s enemy, and the enemy of every living thing. It was Dio Brando.

For a while, Dio stood on the deck, gazing at the moonlit sea. His cheeks were sunken and his skin a wreck but his profile was possessed of an unearthly beauty.

“Hey! What are you doing?”

Diavolo said.

“We can’t be here all that long. Let’s go, vampire motherfucker.”

Without moving his gaze, Dio said,

“I went one hundred years without a single dream.”

“Hunh?”

“I’m tired, Diavolo.”

“I don’t care. Just get a move on, you doddering old man.”

“And I’m hungry. Since long before I slept.”

“Hunh? So…?”

“So first, I eat. You may not look it, but you are my son. Your blood will agree with me,”

Dio reached his scrawny hand out towards Diavolo.

“! What the fuck, asshole?”

Diavolo said, and King Crimson popped out, but Dio’s fingers were already in Diavolo’s neck.

“Ah!”

“Your Stand can’t see what happens while time is stopped.”

There was a gulping sound from his fingers; he was clearly drinking Diavolo’s blood through them. Behind Dio stood a Stand, humanoid, with what looked like air tanks on its back. What the? I thought. This was the Stand that had tormented

my mother. It could stop time? How the hell could anyone fight that? I was still dying here, so perhaps it didn’t matter. There wasn’t anything I could do. Dio let Diavolo fall to the floor, kneeling by his side..

“And when it comes to my blood, I can make prophecies of my own.”

The crown of thorns on his head began moving on its own. ? Was that a Stand, too? But Buccellati had said there was a rule, only one Stand per person….then I saw it. As life returned to Dio’s body, I saw a star shaped birthmark on his left shoulder. The mark of the Joestars. A mark an adopted son like Dio Brando should never have. He’d stolen that from my father. Stolen everything from the head down. And either the crown of thorns or the air tank guy was my father’s Stand.

“Heh heh…I thought so. Your blood agrees with me.”

Dio grinned. As color came back to him, he grew younger. Bathed in moonlight, he was almost glowing.

“But it’s not enough. You were originally such a tiny man…so weak. Don’t die!”

he roared, yanking his fingers out, and kicking Diavolo in the head.

“Nng!”

“You still have work to do! Keep your wits about you. Or would you rather I made you into a filthy zombie?”

At this, Diavolo reached out a trembling arm, as desiccated as Dio’s had been before, and touched Dio’s feet.

“Take me there. And don’t try anything funny. Bad children get punished by Daddy.”

He turned to me.

“That goes for you, too. You even think of moving Daddy will make you fetch a switch. Ha ha ha ha! Come on, you fool!”

And with that Dio stomped on Diavolo’s head again, and there was a sound of bone cracking, and a groan, and Diavolo and Dio vanished. They’d traveled through time. Just as Diavolo and I had left the Cube House and come to this ship. 646 The Cube House’s tesseract construction worked precisely

because it was a house, allowing for an infinite tunnel through the center. Anyone who fell through – by what logic I did not know – would wind up able to time travel, like Tsukumojuku had. Tsukumojuku had come here from Nishi Akatsuki to work as a detective, and figured out that Cube House was built to have a time travel device within. He’d led me places twice, and then been murdered by Antonio Torres, who’d been traveling with him. Said Antonio Torres had come to Nishi Akatsuki on his boss’s orders. Which had been relayed to him by the Japanese-Italian gangster, Giorno Giovanna; but the main orders had all come from this true boss. If he ordered every appearance of eleven-year-old Antonio Torres, then he’d been on La Palma in 1900, Wastewood in 1904, and all over England, France and Germany in the war that started in 1914. The only boss that could do that was a vampire that could time travel. Dio Brando. This was all that vampire’s doing. He had not been sleeping quietly at the bottom of that ocean. He’d woken up, immediately broken through the space time barrier to attack us, and my family had now been tormented for more than thirty years by this dastardly adopted son. Even then, he was acting much too quickly, I thought. Like everything had been prepared, his actions scheduled, and he’d just been waiting for the right timing to start. Or…had he? That crown of thorns Stand. And when it comes to my blood, I can make prophecies of my own. Was that line just explaining the Stand’s power literally? In that case, he may have predicted a lot about me. Maybe he’d known everything. I could only hope that wasn’t true, but if he knew my entire life’s story, perhaps even up to the moment of my death, right here. That would explain why he’d been unimpressed by our arrival; it was all part of his plan, and he was simply annoyed by anything that slowed him down. You may not look it, but you are my son. Your blood will agree with me.

What did that mean? Was it possible he had a child born and raised in Italy? Giovanna? Who’s life and fate he knew as well as my own? How much of the future did Dio know? I went one hundred years without a single dream. Had he spent the entire time peering into the future with his crown of thorns Stand? At the bottom of the sea? For a hundred years? I passed out. And I dreamed.

Of Lisa Lisa.

“…wake up,”

Dio said, stomping on my face. I opened my eyes to find it was almost dawn. The sky was beginning to lighten. Diavolo was lying on the deck next to me, painfully thin, on the brink of death. And one other; a half naked man with long hair and horns on his forehead. This man’s eyes were open but he did not appear to be alive. But from the color and pallor of his skin he didn’t look dead, either. He had bite marks on his throat. Was he a zombie? But he was an unusually gorgeous man, and I found it hard to believe he could be a zombie. Plus those horns. I’d never seen a vampire or a zombie with horns. Who was he? What was he? 648

“…we have no time. We must hurry. Before I’m no longer a vampire…”

Dio was acting very odd. His step was unsteady, he was covered in sweat, and his gaze unfocused. Like he was sick. And he held a large Eastern sword in his trembling hands. Dio caught me looking, and as exhausted as he looked, he still managed a grin.

“Heh…this is a Japanese katana, Jorge. Beautiful, isn’t it? Supple and strong, the sharpest blade in the world. See?”

And with that he held the sword aloft, the blade turned towards him, and with a sharp breath schunk! He brought it down upon his own head. The sword split Dio all the way to his chest in one blow.

“Nnnnnnnnnn~~~~! As they said…! No…resistance! One swing, and it cuts this far! Heh

heh heh!”

The two halves of his face was still grinning down at me.

“This…is something your father, Jonathan, taught me. My life…is so strong I can be cut in half and not die. Heh heh heh. Observe! Your father’s sword only cut me to my guts, but…unhhhhhhh!”

With a mighty grunt, Dio pushed the Japanese sword still further, straight down through his crotch until he’d cut his entire body in half.

“See? I live! Even cut in two!”

I was pretty flabbergasted, but I wasn’t really sure if it was showing on my face. Dio didn’t seem to care if I reacted one way or the other. That was fine, I thought. You’re a damn fool, Dio. I dunno what the shit you’re up to but while you’re showing off, the sun is rising behind you!

“And…farewell, Jorge Joestar. A man with no Hamon, no Stand, and nothing else to write home about.”

Dio raised the bloody sword, and I could do nothing to stop him. He was right. I couldn’t use Hamon. I didn’t have a Stand. But I did have Beyond! As I remembered that fact, I realized Diavolo had turned back into Giorno Giovanna, and had his Stand out. Gold Experience Requiem. The Stand that turned everything to nothing. Go for it!

“Like I said…I know what my blood…will do.”

Dio’s Stand was out; cut in half but still moving, its hand around Gold Experience Requiem’s throat.

“I don’t care…if I kill you, Giorno. Do you want…to die right now?”

Lying on the deck, red marks on his throat like he was being strangled by an invisible hand, Giovanna said,

“I don’t mind. But I do have one favor to ask.”

“……..? What…?”

“Make me the one who gets your soul. Make me your…Dio Brando’s double.”

“No. It won’t work with you. The train robber’s son doesn’t have the star mark.”

Train robber? What?

“But I have it!”

Giovanna said.

“I am your true son, father.”

“What…?”

Dio pointed his sword at Giovanna, and cut his clothes at the left shoulder, checking. He did indeed have the star mark.

“Are you…?”

“I canceled my own death, survived in a place between life and death until I arrived here. I followed you here, to this far off universe, and waited. So I could be useful to you, father. So I could become you.”

As Giovanna spoke, the crown of thorns appeared on Dio’s brow again. He was looking at the future.

“Hmm…I didn’t pay much attention to you after you took Diavolo down. But it seems that is your fate.”

“It is the power of my will, father,”

Giovanna said, tearing up. Without hesitation, Dio thrust the sword into his heart.

“Ngh!”

As Giovanna died, Dio said,

“No time for idle chatter.”

Giovanna reached his arm out towards Dio…then it fell to the deck. In Dio’s Stand’s hands, Gold Experience Requiem faded, and vanished. Something hot and furious rose up inside me, and I longed to fly into a violent rage, but I couldn’t move so much as a finger. I wanted to scream, but couldn’t make a nose, wanted to howl but all I could manage was some pathetic snivels. Dio looked annoyed.

“That’s no way to cry!”

he said.

“Are you not Jonathan’s son? Your father…cried rather a lot, but never in quite that pathetic a manner.”

I couldn’t keep my emotions in check. I kept crying, unable to stop the tears.

“You heard him. This is what he wanted,”

Dio said, tossing his sword aside. Then he plunged his hand deep into his own left

chest. Zumm!

“Mmmmmm! Heh…heh heh heh…”

he laughed.

“I have come to know the shape of life, to understand it. I can remove it!”

He pulled his arm out of his chest, carrying with it a translucent half-Dio. He was holding half his own soul in his hand.

“Heh heh heh heh heh! Thus I divide my own life!”

The way he spoke, as if convincing himself, was how I behaved when trying to use Beyond. Forcing myself to believe, because in belief lies power. And in that instant the sun showed itself above the horizon, and we were bathed in the sunlight I’d been waiting for. With a whoosh, Dio’s body burned, and I thanked Beyond. Yes! The sun rose in time! But then Dio yelled,

“Arghhhh! This is bad! The sunlight doesn’t hurt that much!”

It doesn’t?

“I must hurry! Rrraghhh!”

he yelled, and took the left half of his soul soundlessly from the left half of his body, and shoved it into Giovanna’s dead body. Abruptly, Giovanna’s flesh bulked up, his very bones growing, his limbs stretching, his features growing sharper, until he was another Dio. Dio’s personality inhabiting Giovanna’s flesh had physically transformed it. Just as Diavolo had changed him.

“Unhhh…shit…was I in time…?”

Dio said, and staggered sideways till the two halves of his body were pressed together. The instant the two halves lined up, the cut vanished, and the two halves were one whole again. In the sunlight, his entire body was on fire, but the fury with which that fire burned was waning. This man had conquered the sun. Smoke rising off him, Dio picked up the sword from the deck, and sliced Giovanna’s far too tight clothes off the other Dio. The other Dio fell to the floor, half-naked. The original Dio looked down at him, the crown of thorns appearing again.

“Hmm, looks

like I made it in time.”

Dio picked up ‘Dio’, threw him in the open coffin, and closed the lid. Then he sat down on the lid, and let out a long sigh. As he did, his body stopped smoking, and all trace of any burns vanished. He’d been breathing heavily, but now that, too, returned to normal. He let out one more long sigh, and looked up with a grin on his face.

“I feel amazing! Ha ha ha! Such power! This is the world of the Ultimate Thing!? It’s astounding! Ha ha ha ha ha!”

Ultimate…Thing?

Dio stood up and walked over to the man with the horns, lying on the desk beside me. He bent down beside him, and with a pleasant smile, bit him. He began drinking the man, chewing as he went, the speed with which he ate growing until he was straight up devouring the man.

“Wa ha ha ha ha! I can eat him! I can eat the ultimate being and make his flesh my own! Blood! I just have to make the blood agree with me! Ha ha ha! Blood is everything! Becoming a vampire was the best decision I ever made! He’s delicious! Cars is the best meal I’ve ever had! Ha ha ha ha! Hahh ha ha ha ha ! I’ve never felt better! WRYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!”

He let out a shrill scream. He’d eaten Cars’ face and brain and chest and belly and a third of his limbs and it was so disgusting I passed out again. Maybe I was better off dead.

But I woke up to him kicking my face again. Dio had blood all over his face.

“Wake up!”

he said.

“I could just leave you here and let the vampire ‘me’ snack on you when he wakes, but you’re a Joestar, for better or for worse, and there’s no telling what you’ll do that I failed to predict. So I can’t let you die here. Take me where

I’m going while the Cube House effect is still on you.”

I didn’t have the energy to do anything, go ahead and toss me aside, don’t worry.

“I’ll hide and sleep for two years until the fake me that shares my mind and soul is killed. But come for me then so I can collect the Stand again. Then go to the Canary Islands, to England, and in the same place, on the back of Morioh, to 2012’s England thirty-six times through the birth and death of the universe. Your wife is waiting for you there.”

Lisa Lisa.

Even now that made me want to try a little harder. I managed to push myself up on my elbow, just high enough to see that there was something Japanese written on the deck in blood. A dying message left by Giorno Giovanna. Dio couldn’t read it, but I knew hiragana well enough.

ゆうき

“Courage”, of course. He was telling me to be brave. Giorno Giovanna had sacrificed himself to save me. Shit! Shit! Shit! Because I didn’t have enough courage, he’d had to die! I couldn’t just manufacture narrative flow. If I wanted this Beyond to work for all of us, not just myself, I needed courage. I had to start being more proactive.

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