There are no more Distortions left in the cellar. All that remains are the bodies of 46 people.
“…Go ahead and tell us what to do next, Doctor Moses.”
Vespa asked me in a cynical tone.
“Huff… We should go up, of course.”
I can’t put my hand on my forehead or smoke from my pipe anymore. I can’t seem to move my left shoulder as I will. I twisted and moved every part of my body I could to aim the rifle with only one arm, but I guess that wasn’t enough to mitigate the gun’s recoil. My left shoulder is dislocated, and my right shoulder is gone. I’m completely powerless.
“Ezra, please carry me on your back.”
“You bet, detective!”
“Vespa, I want you to exert physical strength on my behalf for a while. I can only take responsibility for you after we’ve finished this job.”
“…If you wish.”
Vespa gave an icy reply. Ezra picked up the smoking pipe on the floor and held me in her arms.
“Ezra, I asked for a piggyback, not this?”
“It’s easier for me to respond to danger in this pose!”
Can’t believe I’m being carried like a bride at this age. I yielded myself to Ezra’s embrace. YuRia was sitting on top of her head before I noticed.
Leaving this cellar is going to be a fairly easy task. The floor of the stage we fell from didn’t appear to be very solid, and it isn’t too high above us, so Ezra and Vespa will be able to easily break the ceiling and secure us an exit. The real problem is what comes after we go up. I’m frankly afraid to imagine what kind of scenery might await us. We traced our way back to where we fell. YuRia closed the door to her workshop and withdrew it. When we opened the steel door again, a heap of rocks were waiting on the other side. The wall of large rocks crudely and doggedly piled on top of one another is reminiscent of the townspeople’s vehement disregard.
“The exit is right above us, Vespa.”
“Am I to slash open the ceiling?”
Vespa brandished his blade without asking further. After a few trails of yellow light flashed in the air, the stage floor broke down. Ezra smoothly dodges the debris falling from above. We jumped up to the ground floor.
When we got up, carnage was unfolding before our eyes. The polychromatic scene stimulates and overwhelms my mind. A hellish landscape we can do nothing to fix. This might be one of the five most detestable sceneries I have seen in my life. Right… This is what is destined to happen when Distortions are entwined with each other. This is not like what happened in the cellar. While the Distortions I faced down below were akin to people with multiple heads each asserting their own thoughts, the ones here are independent beings expressing their unadulterated desires. I should’ve known that better than anyone, yet I was oblivious of the fact. No, I merely buried it in the back of my mind, not wanting to bring it up again.
“Doctor Moses. I regret to inform you that I am not capable enough to control this situation.”
Vespa said in a low-pitched voice.
“Detective Moses… The situation here looks worse than in the basement…?”
YuRia said, hiding on the back of Ezra’s head. I can hear Ezra gulp from nervousness. The Distortions, each different from the rest, are killing each other in their unique ways. The strong harass and tear into the weak, as if to flaunt and demonstrate their powers. This scenery is the truest manifestation of the town’s collective mind that had been suppressed until now. A glaring variety of colorful Distortions grapple and rip one another; this is what I would call the festival of the town. …Can I really manage to save one of them. Noticing our presence, some of the Distortions turn to us and fix their gazes. A white-furred beast in the shape of an ape that has no eyes. A red tetrahedron with eight eyes. A yellow mantis with the head of a lion. I sense hostility from those three entities. Vespa and Ezra will be able to handle the ape and the mantis somehow. The tetrahedron, on the other hand… My pipe will be needed. I closed my eyes. And I made up my mind.
“…Ezra, put the pipe in my mouth, please.”
I ought to save at least one of these Distortions. The choice I made in the cellar will be pointless otherwise. Ezra placed the pipe to my lips as I asked.
I let out a deep, pale breath; it’s the sensation of lifeforce leaving the body. This breath is beautiful for it is respired at the cost of life. A translucent, turquoise powder taking on the hue of apatite scattered over the town hall. Casting a blue glow, the powder adheres to the Distortions. They begin to slow down not long after. This is a powder of death. It brings the living closer to mortality. Death signifies silence and cessation. All living beings are brought to a stop.
…My lungs aren’t big enough to exhale a breath that can stall this many Distortions at once. Still, it’ll earn me some time to confront at least one Distortion. Even if I can only save one of them, I must do what I can. Dammit, this might very well be my last breath.
“Detective! You promised not to use that breath!!!”
Ezra blew a gasket. I ignored her furious scolding.
“…Vespa. Don’t strike the Distortions unless they attack first.”
“I’m afraid I won’t be able to obey that, Doctor Moses.”
Vespa reaches for the hilt of his sword.
It would appear that his patience has reached its limit.
And yet I thought I could reason with this young man to an extent…
‘BANG!’ A blast similar to the explosion of a firework was heard from outside the town hall.
And footfalls rumble the ground at the same time. I can hear the steps of multiple people, all wearing shoes.
Familiar footsteps I’ve heard in the past.
A group of people in black longcoats and golden masks adorned with the single symbol of an eye storm into the building.
…Fixers under Dias’ immediate supervision.
They form a dark wave as they wield their scimitars and ruthlessly charge into the Distortions.
…So that’s how it is.
The Distortions, rendered immobile by the pale breath, are helplessly incapacitated one by one.
“Please forgive our abruptness, Doctor Moses. And I must say, you didn’t disappoint. I knew I could trust you to subdue the Distortions of this town without unnecessary casualty.”
Han Hee-joon walks towards us from the town hall’s entrance.
This request wasn’t issued by the Seven Association.
…Han Hee-joon. He once again serves as Dias’ obedient little lapdog, he always has.
I’m a hypocrite.
Once again, I couldn’t save anyone.
Our party and Vespa were moved to a corner of the town square where we sat down to lick our wounds. Udjat, the private military force under Dias’s command, cleanly sorted out the town’s situation. They cage the Distortions and make assiduous preparations to transport them, as well as treating our injuries with great care. Ezra won’t say a word. She still seems upset about me using the pale breath. Then, Han Hee-joon approached us.
“Doctor Moses. Have this cup of warm tea as you rest.”
“What is Dias planning to do with the Distortions?”
“How can I possibly grasp what’s on her mind.”
“Anyway, I didn’t quite expect you to be with Vespa Crabro, the taboo hunter of N Corp.”
“Is he that famous?”
“Those in the know are familiar with him. I work for Seven Association, you know?”
Ezra and Vespa are sitting next to me, still keeping their mouths shut.
“And I’ve brought news for you, Vespa Crabro, sir.”
Is there any sincerity in a thing Han Hee-joon says? He knows everything he needs to know. Even the fact that Vespa will be with us.
“…What is it.”
Han Hee-joon handed an envelope over to Vespa. He opened it and took out the letter inside, shortly before crumpling it and throwing it to the ground.
“Han Hee-joon. Give this poor fellow a shirt or any clothing to put on. It’s embarrassing to look at you know.”
The jacket and shirt Vespa was wearing have been torn to rags after repeated battle.
“As you wish, Doctor Moses.”
Han Hee-joon beckoned his finger to an Udjat, who brought him a white dress shirt.
“I’ll invite you and your company to Lady Dias’ place once this has been tidied up.”
“Let me ask you something, Hee-joon.”
“What is it, Doctor Moses?”
“Is it fun to mess around, sitting on the top of my head?”
“It’s not very pleasant, to be honest.”
After saying goodbye, Han left us and walked off to the site of apprehension for the Distortions.
“…I hear that you can see the Distortion from people?”
Looking at me, Vespa asked.
I answered, smoking a cigarette with my patched up left hand.
”Then tell me, Doctor Moses, what do you see from me right now…”
“…I see the tattered wings of a bee on your back.”
Vespa has been expelled from N Corp.
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