Chapter 4 Part 1: Think About the Outside World
(“Broadway,” Alcatraz. Night time)
“Hey hey hey, you there.”
In the evening on the day that Ladd was sent to the Dungeons, Firo was awakened by his neighbour.
Firo didn’t have anything to do, so he had turned off his light earlier, earlier than lights out, pulled the blanket over himself and went to sleep. He now woke, groggy, to the excited greeting from next door.
“Yup. So what was going on this morning? With our bro?”
“Mmmm….Oh…you mean with Ladd?”
“What a toughguy. First time I saw a hit like that. Man.”
“Yawn…but Jack Dempsey’s even better.” Firo just gave any odd answer for the sake of an answer, but he couldn’t help recalling the dreamlike events of this morning. He really hoped that he’d wake up to find that everything from first coming to this prison had been a dream, but reality refused to cooperate with his wishes.
“Man…it was mind-boggling…not just his strength, but he actually went for that elephant.” Dragon seemed to get more and more excited. “He’s so tough. His left arm’s fake, right? Hey, maybe he fought a man-eating bear and sacrificed his arm for victory, or maybe he was on a deserted island and his arm got eaten by crocodiles…heehee. I bet it was delicious.” Firo heard lip-smacking sounds from next door.
“So, I wonder which Peter Pan got his hand.” He thought that his joke was a bit lame, but it might get something out of Dragon. “I guess you’d be pretty familiar with the tale of Peter Pan, right?”
Peter Pan came from a very popular British novel, a novel which was also published in the United States.
Before, Firo had read the novel after Claire finished with it.
--- a teenager forever…Claire really wished that could be true. Whereas Firo himself couldn’t wait to grow up and become stronger. As he thought this, Firo let out a bitter smile. Perhaps Czes was Peter Pan.
Then he realized that his neighbour hadn’t answered him. “? What’s up”
“Oh…nothing. Actually, I used that book to learn English before.”
“Oh really. Then that means your English should be really good.”
“Yeah, not bad I guess, ‘cuz I didn’t live with the other immigrants.”
--- Heh. Firo didn’t really believe him. During meals, Dragon always chatted fluently with the other Asians. He was just about to question Dragon when footsteps echoed through Broadway.
This sound, bouncing between the iron-barred doors, was like a death knell.
Firo immediately went back to bed and buried himself in his blankets, waiting for the footsteps to fade. However –
They stopped right outside Firo’s door.
“Hey, you in there. What are you hiding?”
He couldn’t deny it. The voice was talking to him.
Firo had no experience with this kind of thing, so his instinct was to snuggle deeper into his blankets and wait for further developments. But then his door creaked open. The sound made Firo stick his head out.
The warden who showed up was young. Without any warning, he immediately went over to Firo and yanked his blanket aside.
“Hey, what is this?” Firo scrambled to stand up.
The warden’s voice was icy. “That’s exactly what we wanted to ask you.” And he opened his hand to show Firo a small, shiny knife. It was a small knife that could be concealed in one hand, and it seemed to release a faint scent of brand new metal.
“…huh?” Of course Firo had never seen it before.
But the guard smiled a little at Firo and grabbed his wrist. “This is a warning in case you ever plan to do something like this again.”
Firo was dragged from his cell, utterly confused and still groggy. He wanted to do something to test that he wasn’t dreaming, but the cold steel of the handcuffs cruelly reminded him that this was reality.
He looked around as he was pulled along and realized that the other inmates were all staring his way.
The warden also realized that Firo was awake and understood his predicament now. He waved the knife at Firo. “So then. Why don’t you give me a good explanation for how you got this in here?”
“…you’re getting some time to think hard about it in the Dungeons.”
They went down a set of stairs, through a heavily guarded gate, and into a long passageway.
Although they had passed many wardens and guards at that gate, only Firo and the guard with the knife went through the gate. As the gate shut behind them, Firo spoke up quietly. “So, I guess you’re working under Missouri, right?”
The guard didn’t even turn. “I guess I’m spared from having to explain then.” His voice was cool.
“Couldn’t you wait a few days? I just arrived.”
“It’s because of an urgent matter.” The warden was expressionless, and Firo frowned.
“So what’s this urgent matter then?”
“As a prisoner, you have no need to ask about what’s going on outside prison.”
--- Well, look who mentioned it in the first place.
Firo wanted to launch all of his protests at the warden, but then thought that it would do no good. He could only ignore the warden’s bad attitude.
“So, what’s the deal?”
“It seems that Huey has already discovered that you’re here. In which case it’s best to just let you meet him up front. If you have any questions for him, go ahead and ask. Because he’s sure to have questions about you.”
“Talk about messy tactics. Did that tool Missouri really give you this order?”
Firo was expecting the warden to snap and yell at him, but he only smiled and never broke stride. “Of course not.”
“Missouri is my superior, however he only asked me to bring you down to the Dungeons to question you about your future plans.”
Firo felt dread descend upon him. It almost felt as if something was sitting in his stomach, a very corporeal sense of dread.
He remembered his boat trip to Alcatraz. It was a similar uncomfortable feeling, and even then he sensed that something untoward was going to happen.
“Ah, so you’re Missouri’s man and Huey’s man at the same time?” Firo asked in despair.
The warden looked at the miserable Firo, smiled, and nodded. “It’s nice to talk to someone so savvy.”
They were under the prison basement now. Ahead was a door concealed in darkness, and then there were tiled stairs. Ahead was further into the inner sanctum, under underground.
In this place was a room.
As Firo went further down into the underbelly of the prison, he fancied that he was also going deeper and deeper into the prison’s history. However, when they reached the final level, this sentimental thought evaporated.
It was just a space sealed off by cold metal and concrete and three sets of security gates.
Although the space between each set of gates was only one metre wide, each gate was still securely locked.
After the three gates was another passageway, and at the end of the passageway was another gate. This gate was slightly different from the last three – it had a window. There was also a flap for delivering food.
--- …so that’s why they needed those gates. To completely seal him off.
Although immortals couldn’t turn their bodies into jelly, it was might be possible to squeeze oneself through a small opening such as the flap if the immortal didn’t mind the pain. Perhaps even the air ducts had three layers of security somewhere inside.
Why not just cut off oxygen for the length of his imprisonment? This cruel punishment surfaced in Firo’s mind. It would be like sealing an immortal in a barrel and then sinking him into the river bottom to die over and over again. Then another thought occurred to Firo – compared with that, Victor’s way of dealing with Huey made him seem positively benevolent. He grimaced.
--- So even though there are traitors and double agents among the wardens, it really doesn’t amount to much.
The warden seemed to have guessed what Firo was thinking and let out a sarcastic smile. “The guard who greeted you at the docks was sent off to the mainland. He won’t come clean, of course, and we can’t interrogate him, so we can only watch him.”
“I see…if I report you, I guess you’d just meet the same fate.”
The warden was unperturbed by such feeble threats. “That’s right. If you report me, another will simply take my place.”
“…Okay…so how do you think we should proceed with this little manoeuvre? If you give me some hints, maybe I can leave this place behind me by tomorrow.”
“How about you ask Master Huey that? Maybe he’d tell you.” The guard was still smiling. “And don’t think prison break is so easy. Even if there are traitors like me here you saw all those guards back there.”
There might be an escape from this special holding area, but the way towards the surface was full of dangers. And Firo had heard that the Chief Warden had a certain flair for his life’s work. Although it would be difficult to say whether even half of the wardens were still under him command, because of the Chief Warden’s reputation, breaking out of here would still be a difficult thing to do.
“However…ah, I think you’d be released soon.”
“…from the prison?”
“Well, it wouldn’t be too hard for Master Huey.”
--- Hey hey, wait a sec.
Although Firo had only been on this island for two days, he was already chafing under the strict wardens. He might be an immortal, and the choppy waters of the bay might not have sharks, but even so he doubted whether he could swim his way to San Francisco. Escape was impossible.
But Firo’s “wait a sec” had nothing to do with the possibilities of escape.
If Huey escaped, what would happen to Firo himself?
He was here to learn how Huey was directing his subordinates from inside prison. If Huey escaped before he got this information, perhaps Firo would be hauled back to finish Huey’s sentence for him. For the rest of his life.
This idea filled Firo with disgust, and the nasty feeling in his stomach threatened to rear up.
He was too preoccupied to realize that he and the warden had already arrived at the last gate. His task accomplished, the warden took a step back and motioned for Firo to go in.
“Hey, you aren’t planning to clap your right hand over my head the moment I step through that door, are you?”
“If that’s what I was planning, I might as well have really locked you in the Dungeons and given you your last meal laced with sedatives.”
Firo took one last look at the sarcastic warden, and pushed open the door with a long face.
He didn’t let down his guard. As the door opened wider, he saw one lone man sitting in the center of the room, and felt slightly safer. But then, as the door opened fully –
“Oh hey, Firo! So you were called down here too eh?”
Firo felt a shiver pass through him and jumped back towards the doorway.
Suddenly, a hand flew out from the shadow behind the door, right for where Firo had been standing a moment ago.
Firo took a deep breath and readied himself to act.
An enemy – it must be an enemy.
However, in the second that Firo took in the scene before him, the tense atmosphere seemed to have eased a little.
The hand from the shadows – Firo realized that it was a left hand.
Another moment later, the other hand also reached out from the shadows. The two hands began to clap slowly.
“As they say. Very beautifully done. Your judgement and your reactions aren’t bad at all…perhaps even comparable to Ronnie and Denkuro.” The first half seemed like praise, the second seemed like the man was just thinking aloud to himself.
The man emerged from the shadows. His uniform was different from those that Firo had been issued; they were completely white.
“Hello, Firo Prochainezo. And so we meet for the first time. Or, if going by your memories, perhaps it should be ‘long time no see.’”
His voice and tone seemed utterly alien to his surroundings, and he looked at Firo with a light smile on his face.
Firo matched the face of the man before him with the memories of the alchemist deep in his mind, and slowly relaxed.
“Well, I’d like to say ‘goodbye’ to you as soon as possible, Huey Laforet.”
“Ah, so you wanted to ask something?”
It was only thirty seconds after they had met.
Firo had cautiously walked into the room on Huey’s invitation, looking all around. However, there didn’t seem to be anything out of the ordinary. It was more spacious than his own cell, but otherwise they were the same.
Huey stood at one end of the room and Firo stood with Isaac on the other.
Firo didn’t bother to hide his unpleasant feelings. “All right, let’s hear it. What use does someone like you – practically all-knowing demigod– for an ordinary fellow like me?”
“Ah, you want to ask why Isaac is here, correct?”
Firo shot Huey a murderous look and Huey just smiled.
It was hard to say what bothered Firo about Huey. He didn’t get the sense that Huey was a liar or an evil man, but something made him uncomfortable. If he really had to give an example, he could draw any number of things from how Huey greeted him just now, but it wasn’t small details like that. Whatever it was, the instincts that Firo honed as a part of the Camorra told him to keep his distance from this man.
The air between Firo and Huey was charged with a peculiar kind of electricity. The guard stood waiting outside, and the only thing between them was Isaac. Isaac seemed completely oblivious to the tension, and only perked up when his name was mentioned.
“Hey what? Me? What about me?”
Firo stopped talking to Huey and turned to Isaac instead, hoping to have a change from the tense mood. “I was saying, how come you’re here?”
“Oh, me? I was called down by the guard and then chatted some with this fairy master there.”
Huey was an immortal and not really human, so from a certain point of view Isaac wasn’t entirely wrong, but why would he choose this word?
Firo was just about to ask, but Isaac seemed extremely smug and continued with his outrageous ideas. “Did you know that in Japan the beings who reside in one place like this are called zashiki-warashi? House spirits, you know? And if you upset them then terrible fortune will come to you! If you meet them on the road, you have to put your shoes on your head and drop to the ground! There’s been evidence for this kind of thing, so you be careful, Firo!”
Firo felt the veins at his temples pop. “…Oh, get real…it might be a good change that Miria isn’t echoing everything you say, but how come you’re even more far gone?”
In contrast, Huey took a step forwards and smiled at Isaac. “Thank you for today, Isaac. Very fascinating, everything about you…I have some private matters to discuss with Firo now, so I’m afraid our meeting is at an end for today.”
An expression of disappointment crossed Isaac’s face, but then he smoothed it over with a happy smile. “Is that so! Well, I hope you bring joy to everyone here! I always felt as if everyone here was unhappy – I suppose everyone has their troubles.”
“Yes, it would be grand if everyone could lead happy and satisfied lives. Ah, please keep this a secret – or else the happiness might escape.”
“All right! Trust me! I’m great at keeping secrets!
--- is that so…then how did you end up here? Firo thought. But he didn’t see how he could pursue this question, so kept his mouth shut.
Isaac couldn’t tell what Firo was thinking, so got up cheerfully from his chair. Huey saw him out, smiling, until Isaac was taken away by the warden. Firo thought that Isaac would probably stay in the Dungeons overnight and just be quietly brought back to his cell the next morning like nothing happened.
Behind him, the door closed. Firo turned to again study the man before him.
His smile had more ice to it than when he was looking at Isaac. He pointed to the chair in the centre of the room. “Please have a seat.”
“You can sit.”
“I accept your generous offer.”
Without any more token courtesy, Huey sat himself down. Firo felt even more put out – Huey wouldn’t be easy to deal with. To compose himself, Firo took a deep breath. At the same time, Huey started to speak.
“Apologies for before. Even I want to play pranks like a child.”
Firo understood that he meant hiding behind the door and thrusting out his left hand as Firo entered, and made sure that his face was expressionless. “…Doesn’t matter. I got the same from Victor.”
“Ah, I see. Well, that is indeed like Victor. But tell me, if it doesn’t matter, why are you looking at me so accusingly?”
“…Did you want something? If not then can I leave?” Leaving would probably cause more problems for Firo in the future, but he really did want to get out. Huey didn’t say anything, and to fill in the silence, Firo spoke again. “So why did you call Isaac down here too?”
“Ah, that’s because I heard that he was an immortal too…and I wanted to have a chat, that’s all. What an interesting person. He fascinates me.”
“Did you call me down for the same reason?”
“Of course, that is part of it…” Huey sat silent for a moment with his shoulders hunched. “Well, I have some matters to ask you. Victor aside, don’t you have some questions for me?”
“…You should have said so earlier. Well, it’s nothing I want to ask you now, really, but some stuff I need to say.”
Firo stood with his back to the wall and crossed his arms. “All right, listen up. I don’t really give a damn about what you’re planning to do, and I don’t want to devour you either. Maiza doesn’t have anything against you in particular. If you want to make yourself an enemy of the state, or if you want to take over the world, fine, as long as you don’t bother us and our own little business, be my guest. So don’t drag us into it. I’m already pissed enough about having to come to this hellhole.”
“I see…you must really be fond of Ennis.”
Firo’s eyes flashed. “That’s none of your business.”
Huey’s voice was still light and composed. “Hmm…it seems that one of my subordinates was rather discourteous last year. I believe Christopher and his associates had some ill intentions towards Ennis.”
“So you know it too.”
“And I don’t believe it is necessary to involve Ennis either.” Creak. Huey shifted in his chair and the cold smile on his face became colder. “…as long as you are willing to cooperate.”
“Szilard Quates’s memories and your existence are of the utmost importance, you know.”
Firo frowned. Huey might have only somehow deduced that he had devoured Szilard, but Firo felt that he couldn’t underestimate Huey’s scope of influence.
“I don’t really get it. They don’t seem that important to me at all, that stuff.”
“No, no. They are important – the lore of how to create Ennis, the incomplete knowledge regarding the elixir of immortality. Very important.”
Huey smiled at Firo. “And I am also interested in you yourself. …I have never had the experience of devouring another immortal. Szilard, on the other hand, devoured many people in his lifetime, perhaps even dozens. Whether something has changed inside you as a result of devouring Szilard, or if nothing has changed…your past, your present, your future, they all deeply intrigue me.”
Firo was furious. “Shut up, you nutcase. I am still who I am.”
“…so you have never doubted yourself?”
Firo had no retort to that. Truth be told, he had. Huey smiled again at Firo’s obvious distress and continued.
“What you took from Szilard is not just knowledge about facts and figures. I do not know whether you have done such an experiment, but suppose you want to drive a car, all you have to do is draw out Szilard’s memories and your body would begin to move on its own.”
Huey’s almost detached voice continued. “As such knowledge and memories filter slowly into your being, Can you say that you remain yourself? Can you tell whether you are different from the self before you devoured Szilard? Have you never had a hint of suspicion about who you are now?”
He wasn’t threatening Firo, nor was he trying to convince Firo; he just seemed to be asking innocent questions. His expression was calm and composed as he spoke, as if he wanted to encourage Firo to also look at these questions as objective scholarly interest.
But Firo felt that there was something behind his calm face that was discomfiting. He shivered.
“So…what are you going to do?” Firo couldn’t help himself.
Huey considered for a moment. “Ah, yes…my ultimate goal is to create a ‘demon.’ You could say, perhaps, that it has been my goal from the very beginning, but…” Huey sounded like he was talking to himself, and seemed unable to express his thoughts without repeated self-correction. He was silent for a while, and when he looked in Firo’s direction again, his words had a hint of doubt.
“In the future…my future…I would really like to know.”
“I just want to understand.”
His words were incomprehensible to Firo. “What?”
“Exactly, ‘what.’ All ‘what’s. It doesn’t matter what the subject is.”
Huey shifted and sat up straighter and began a long monologue that seemed directed at both Firo and himself. “Why were we born? What is the meaning of our existence? Why do we kill one another? Don’t you think that there ought to be people who ask such questions once in a while, even though the questions seem irrelevant? When I was young, I thought of myself as a philosopher, and pondered these questions as well – however, I grew quickly tired of them. Not because there were no answers, but because there were too many. I could obtain many answers myself, fudge my way through them and have an illusion of understanding, but I didn’t have any interest in doing that. Even if I knew that I held the answers somewhere in my heart, I wouldn’t feel regret at never accessing them. But…I want to know what other people think, be they philosophers or innocent little children, evil people, good people, fools and prophets, each person will come up with their own little answers. And for questions such as the meaning of life and the truth about the world, each person only can hold their own interpretation and conclusions – I simply want to know...all. I simply want to understand it in all of its totality.”
“The ones living today, in the past, in the future. Or, in another words, whether they are living matters little, but anyone who has ever existed. I want to understand their inner being. That is just one aspect. Other than human matters, where are the boundaries of the universe? Does the smallest component of matter take the form of a dot or a line? Can we turn back time, and do other dimensions exist? Grand questions like these that have nothing to do with our daily lives, more humble questions relevant to our survival, such the truth behind crimes. Who is Jack the Ripper? The true face of Ice Pick Thompson, the killer who shook New York? How long does it take to cook white fish? Do superhuman abilities exist? What is at the foot of the rainbow? Even such question…yes, everything, in all of its totality.”
Huey was sitting still in a purely white uniform, but in his melodious voice was a hint of enthusiasm and madness.
“Suppose I do find out everything I want to know, what then? Perhaps I will be bored, or perhaps all the knowledge would destroy my mind. Or perhaps these discoveries will lead to new questions. I just want to know.”
“…well, what’s the point? Knowing all these things?”
“Perhaps there’s no point, or perhaps a point will manifest once I obtain all of this knowledge. Everything now is hidden in utter darkness. To know everything is the meaning of my existence. If the world does not let me live in this way, then the world must be destroyed.”
“Okay, in another words, you wouldn’t mind destroying the world to find out more about it?”
“To get answers, it’s the only way.”
--- He’s insane.
Firo stared at the man before him. Talk about overboard. He must really leave as soon as possible –
Huey was also watching Firo in return, and began laughing at his expression. “Hahahahaha! Ahahahaha!”
--- He must be completely whacked out.
But then Huey stopped laughing and gave a childlike smile and shrugged. “I was just kidding you.”
Firo was open-mouthed with confusion, but Huey went back to his cold and composed state. “Were you really thinking that all my efforts have been motivated by such a nihilistic attitude? Don’t worry. Wanting to destroy the world and such things are just foolish ideas of my youth.”
Huey ignored Firo’s confusion. “Ah, people who don’t know me might think I’m quite mysterious. I just wanted to see whether you would have the same response. Don’t worry – you can forget everything we just said.”
It slowly dawned on Firo that he was being toyed with. He felt both furious and embarrassed, but also felt a little less in danger. All these feelings thudded in his chest.
“You…you’re really a piece of work.”
“Well, didn’t I say even I like to play childish pranks sometimes?”
Firo felt all his muscles tense.
--- If I rush over and act now I’d be finished. If I rush over I’d lose.
He tried his best to compose himself. “I bet all the other alchemists found you annoying too.”
“I only had one friend.”
“Well, he must be really nice, a saint. Or else he’s a complete idiot, or a masochist.”
“No, he’s quite an evil man, and insane.” Huey seemed to be talking to himself again, and stared into space. When he spoke again, his voice seemed lonely, as if he missed someone who wasn’t there. “He is utterly and irrevocably insane. He’s always thinking, what would happen if the world was happy? He tries, very conscientiously, to make everyone happy, regardless of their ideas, religion, social background, whether they are good people or bad people.”
“…strange guy indeed. But I think I’d still get along with him better than I get along with you.”
From Szilard’s memories came the face of an unknown alchemist, but because it had nothing to do with Firo’s present situation, Firo banished it from his thoughts.
After a short silence, Huey seemed to have come back to the present as well, and got up slowly from his chair.
“Well, in the end, I would like your cooperation. If you have questions for me, you’re welcome to ask. If you ever want to give Szilard’s memories away in exchange for something you want, I promise you that I would try my best to pay the price you ask.”
“In this way, there is no need for me to involve Ennis, so it’s a win-win situation for both of us. I can also direct Christopher away from Ennis.”
This was the first time during the conversation where Huey put forth a concrete proposal. Firo thought for a moment and asked Huey how long he had to consider.
“I plan on staying here for a few more days. I will call you down one more time, and I would be grateful if you could tell me your answer then.”
This must mean that Huey was going to break out of Alcatraz in a few days, and Firo wasn’t the least bit surprised.
“If you accept my offer at that time, I will offer my method of communicating with my subordinates and my methods of turning over the guards to you as a kind of deposit. Isn’t that what Victor wanted?”
He seemed to know everything like the back of his own hand. Firo’s new questions were in a turmoil inside his mind, and only one came out.
“…Who the hell are you, really…”
It was a simple question, but Huey still adopted a thoughtful pose with a finger at the corner of his lips. After a few seconds, he smiled.
“Ah, I’m just a researcher. But I don’t think Victor and that Senator can quite appreciate this fact.”
Firo didn’t know when the warden had showed up outside the door, but he was taken away as his conversation with Huey came to an end.
The voice of a little girl came from the bed in the corner.
“Papa, you must be tired!”
“Ah, thank you, Leeza. How are things over there?”
“Oh, we had quite a powerful character causing some trouble for us! He has this humungous wrench, and he’s kinda mental! But really powerful, and the Lamia were at a loss how to deal with him…but it’s okay now! We understand him clearly now, so everything’s okay! ‘Cuz we got a hostage, so it’ll wrap up soon.”
“Is that so? Fantastic.” Huey was smiling softly at her, but then noticed that she seemed to have a different expression than usual.
“…? What’s wrong?”
“This is the first time I saw Papa so merry! Papa looked so so happy when he was talking to those Isaac and Firo people!”
Huey smiled even more at the girl’s undisguised surprise and jealousy. “Ah, Leeza. You wouldn’t happen to be jealous to see me so happy with people I just met, would you?”
“Uh-huh! Very jealous! I think it’ll be great if they died. But I can’t kill them, can I?”
“Oh, no, of course not! And they are immortals too, so Leeza won’t be able to kill them.”
For a while, Leeza seemed to be vexed by Huey’s answer and lowered her head in thought. Then she raised her head.
“But but~~…I think today Papa isn’t like how he is usually,” she said.
Huey sensed that she was still a little unsettled by his behaviour that day. “My talk with Isaac…reminded me of long ago.”
His old friend, and his old self.
“He’s…they’re very similar….their personalities, their strange ideas…yes, similar…”
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