“You said you weren’t a fan of killing, yet now you’ve got blood on your blade.”
“I didn’t kill them because I wanted to. It was simply retribution for what they had done.”
“And that gives you the right to decide who gets to live or die?”
“There was a mound of severed heads behind them. I suspect those belong to the people who couldn’t afford the toll.”
“What a hero you’ve become. You’ll have to follow every order I make if you want to receive Dias’ aid to get your job back. If our mission ends in failure because of your imprudent behavior, Vespa, you’d better forget about returning to N Corp, because Dias will sink you to rock bottom and ensure that you spend the rest of your life in misery.”
“…I will keep that in mind.”
Vespa replied as he slowly closed his eyes. Ezra sits next to him, seemingly lost in thought and fiddling with the plate Vice Captain Yuri gave her. Beneath her feet are bundles of cash that amount to 10 million Ahn, hurriedly collected back from the dead Syndicate member. The bills have smidgens of blood on them, but there should be no problem using it.
“Detective! Maybe we can still use this plate?”
Ezra turned to me and asked.
“There won’t be any problem using it to pass through turf under the Kurokumo Clan, of course. I don’t think there’s anyone that could figure out who killed Vice Captain Yuri.”
“No, that’s not what I meant! Could I get free drinks with this?”
So that’s what she was looking forward to. Where there is alcohol, there is usually snack; it is little wonder that she’s showing interest.
“Sigh… Ezra. You can eat anything you want, alcohol or whatever. With the money Dias gave us, we may very well order food that has never existed before.”
Vespa’s ears twitched slightly. This young man is quite a hearty eater, isn’t he.
“Give me that plate.”
The word ‘Kurokumokai’¹ is written in Kanji on the front side of the plate. On the back side is handwriting that appears to be the signature of Vice Captain Yuri. This might be handy later on.
“So, Detective Moses. If I’m not mistaken, the Laundry of Dreams is a location-type similar to my atelier?”
YuRia asked from my shoulder as if the commotion didn’t happen. It seems YuRia has gotten a lot less talkative since we started heading for L Corp’s Nest. Perhaps she has difficulty maintaining the Psychoment. I should talk with her about that soon.
“Could you explain what a location-type is, Doctor Moses?”
Vespa showed interest as well. Ezra scowled at Vespa trying to correct him, and Vespa retaliated with a gaze just as fierce. I can almost see sparks flying from the staring contest.
“Ezra. I don’t care how Vespa refers to me, so don’t waste your energy pointing it out every single time.”
“But…! He’s the newest and the youngest member of our Office…!”
Vespa’s veins pop out on his forehead once again.
Ezra conceded, and I resumed the conversation.
“A location-type Distortion is a certain spot being subject to distortion, as the name suggests.”
“But you described the Distortion as a phenomenon that individual humans manifest. Are you saying that a person can transform into a location?”
“Precisely. In most cases, it takes the form of a place or building that is unable to move on its own. It’s akin to a trap to the average person. You should be mindful of the fact that a location-type Distortion is not the same thing as a Distortion encroaching upon its surroundings.”
“The stronger that encroaching Distortion is, the more warped the area around it gets!”
Ezra chipped in.
“Like she said, the Distortion can overflow, and a powerful one can influence its surroundings if left uncontrolled. That was the case with ‘The Carp’, the most recent case of the Distortion I solved. It was a child who turned into a giant carp. It would generate a pool of depressive water around it…”
“That’s because sadness is most commonly distorted as the form of water!”
Ezra butted in.
“Yes. Melancholy is like water. Perhaps we could talk about categories for such things at a later date. Anyway, a strong Distortion can alter the area around it and become a host to subordinate entities. It’s easy to confuse it for a location-type Distortion.”
“You could publish an encyclopedia of Distortions with all that knowledge.”
Vespa made a sarcastic yet harmless remark. A book. That’s funny. I’d be surprised if there’s any library that’s willing to collect a book like that.
“Yeah, detective! That sounds so educational and fun.”
Just as Ezra spoke, the car was slowly brought to a stop.
“Doctor Moses. I’ll need you to tell me the directions from here on out.”
It looks like we’ve fully entered L Corp’s Nest. Glimpses of buildings can be seen in the mist. This Nest might have shone brightly once, but now it is sunken in fog. This fog feels quite different from the fume that covered the City during the Smoke War. Unlike the smoke that rose to the sky, this mist sinks to the floor like a pool of stagnant water. It’s similar to the properties of sorrow we just talked about. Could this be a manifestation of someone’s serious melancholy. Regardless, I’m the only one who can find a way anywhere in this thick veil of mist. Or rather, the prosthetic arm Dias gave me will figure out a way for us. I scanned the barcode printed on the report of the Laundry of Dreams as instructed.
‘Urban Legend case, the Laundry of Dreams. Guiding to the most recent observed site. Turn right 300 meters ahead.’
A voice came out of the arm. A vocal guide in this day and age? Come to think of it, this may be a more effective method than hologram-based navigations in a fog as thick as this.
“Vespa, follow the instructions of this voice.”
The car slowly began moving again. Then Vespa opened his mouth.
“The man named Han Hee-joon said our work is to capture the Distortion. How are we going to seize a location, if I may ask.”
“We’ll shrink it. As I said moments ago, the Distortion will expand and warp its surroundings as it becomes more powerful. In other words, its influence will shrink as we neutralize its power. We will have to weaken it enough to fit in our hand… or at least the trunk of our van.”
This van is no ordinary vehicle. The entire cargo compartment is a massive dimensional bag. Since it was provided by Dias, it should have no problem carrying absurdly large objects. However, Distortions are ultimately people. It’s not a good idea to store people in a dimensional bag. I have no choice but to hope that Dias kept that in mind, and that we can load the trunk with Distortions anyway.
“Do we have to go into the so-called location-type Distortions ourselves, then?”
“You said that they are akin to traps. There is a risk that we will be killed as soon as we set foot in there, is there not.”
“Distortions are not weapons of murder; they normally aren’t artificial creations with a specific purpose. What they are is a cry for recognition of their mental afflictions. As you suggested, Distortions that harbor a murderous intent may try to kill us. But I can tell if a Distortion has such designs.”
“That means our lives lie in the hands of your judgement, Doctor Moses.”
“Course you should! All we gotta do is trust the detective, bitty baby bee!”
Vespa popped a vein once again. Ezra seems to be enjoying it at this point. The conversation halted there. Only the mechanical voice of my arm would break the silence. YuRia is being strangely quiet. When I looked to my left, the red teddy bear was lolling on my shoulder. Her synchronization with the Psychoment appears to be unstable as I suspected. Even if the teddy bear were to stop moving, that wouldn’t mean the death of her. Her real body is under the protection of Dou Gui Office, after all. The teddy bear suddenly flinched.
“Huuu… Detective Moses…”
“I see you’re having trouble maintaining your Psychoment right now.”
“Yeah… My consciousness is fading the deeper we get into this Nest, and the thicker the mist gets.”
“Rest up for a while. I’ll keep the teddy bear with me.”
“Thank you… I’ll take a short nap… Have to work like a dog…”
The teddy bear’s voice trailed off as its head was lowered.
‘You have arrived at your destination.’
A large, green neon-sign was flashing sporadically before us. The bright neon light turned the fog around it green.
“The Laundry of Dreams. We’re there, Doctor Moses.”
“Alright. Be prepared, everyone.”
Ezra took her dimensional bag, and Vespa took his sword and harpoon as we got out of the car. I placed the smoking pipe in my mouth. We walked to the entrance of the laundromat. And I puffed out smoke while I closely observed the exterior of the building. The tobacco smoke scattered into the air and became one with the fog.
“Now then… Let’s retrieve the Distortion.”
We entered the laundry of dreams.
- Translation Notes:
¹ “Kurokumo Clan” but written out with entirely romanized Japanese to reflect that it has been written in Kanji. The word “Kanji” is also used to reflect the source culture of the Syndicate.
ProjectMoon Official 님의 창작활동을 응원하고 싶으세요?