Hariyama-san, Center Of The World / Hariyama-san, Center of the World Volume 1 Chapter 1 part 2

Hariyama-san, Center of the World 1
Urban Legend (Genre “urban legend”)
B Side: “Axe Man Comedy”

“This is a follow-up report on the serial murder case in Saitama the other day.  We have received information about the murder weapons from the autopsy results.  The weapons seem to be two large tools, an axe and a hatchet.  Authorities say…”
I left my room, sending a backward glance at that broadcast.
The serial killer who had been disturbing the peace of society.  Seems like he’d alsobeen using an axe and stirring things up.
‘What a coincidence.’
I myself… had only just bought this sharp axe today at the home improvement store.
For what?
Naturally – to kill someone.
Right, “someone”.
Anyone was fine.
As long as they would go along with it.
No, but if I could, I’d like a cute girl.  And if my opponent was a man, I would be attacked back and killed without any effort at all…
Anyway, they should struggle futilely in the end.  I wanted to kill and kill until I was killed myself.
I would establish proof that I had lived.
No matter what kind of bad name it gave me–
Ah, it was already the end.
This was the end.
Everything in my life ended today.
It ended a little while ago.
No, I might not have had a life to begin with.  Everything was a dream or an illusion.
I was dumped by my girlfriend.
That was all.
To be more accurate, she was the girl I had planned on making my girlfriend.
When I gathered my courage and confessed to her, it turned out she already had a boyfriend.
And yet, her relationship with him wasn’t the kind where they kissed and fooled around together.  It was the kind where they were more than friends but less than lovers.
What’s that about?
Don’t screw with me.
I lost to that sort of ill-defined guy?
Ahh, even I was surprised.
I was despairing so much just being rejected by a girl who wasn’t going out with anyone yet.
I had never failed at anything before.
I had always been the best in academics and athletics from kindergarten to middle school.
…It was a public school, though.
Well, there was nothing I could do about it!  If I went to a private school, the people around me would’ve been on a whole other level and I might’ve failed!
That was why I took the high school entrance exams for all my backup schools and didn’t take the exam for my favored private school.
It was so I could live without having failed.
The same for my girlfriend.
She was a girl with a strange name who was a bit out of place in our year.  I didn’t know what she was like, but her looks were above average, and to be honest, I fell in love with her at first sight.
It might turn out to be my first taste of failure since I was born.  I was prepared for that when I confessed!
But in the end, what’s “I have a friend who’s less than a lover” supposed to mean!?  And also laughing brightly like she was really really happy!
Her cheeks flushed a bit when she said they were less than lovers!
This stupid thing was my first failure in life?  My loss?  My defeat?
There was no way.
I wouldn’t let it be like this.
“It’s over.”
That was what my body told me.
It felt like my head, my hands, my legs, my tongue, my eyes, my brain, my spine, my heart, my stomach, everything, everything was laughing at me, no, like everything was angry.
I was in despair.  My body had left me in despair.
“It’s already over for you.  You’ve tasted your first failure over a tiny thing!”
Even my soul cried out.
It was strange.  It was just being rejected by a girl.
But it couldn’t be helped.
The end.  It was the end.
Damn, why, why did it turn out like this?
It was their fault.  It was because of them, the one who caused me to experience such a stupid failure: Lulu, and – her less than lover, that guy called Muu.
I would kill them.
I’d kill lots of people anyway.  I would kill them first.
After turning me down, Lulu had brazenly mentioned to me.
They had plans to go shopping at the electronics store and after that they would hang out at Muu’s place.
An ambush.
I would ambush them and kill them both with this axe.
Their blood would open the curtains on my final fireworks.
I would become a legend.
Ahh, I didn’t care if I would be a disgrace or whatever, my name would become legend.
Like I knew how many people I had to kill.  Anyway, if I killed a lot more people than Stalin’s Great Purge, I would make my mark on history.
This time, I would not fail.
I would definitely, definitely do it.  I would kill the two who had planted that idiotic failure in my heart and make it so the failure had never happened–
Before I noticed, I was in front of the apartment building.
I had lied to the guys in my class and asked them.  Was this his apartment?
…But which one?
There were two buildings lined up next to each other which looked the same, with a red roof and a blue roof.
Damn, neither one had a sign or a number displayed.  But they did say he was the only one who lived in the building…
Then I realized that the window of one of the apartment rooms was open.
The room on the other side of that window was completely covered in posters of Kimari Minohara, an idol who had recently become popular.
Hmph, what a sheep.  He even put posters on the ceiling, even though he was already in high school.
There was no sign of anyone living in any of the other rooms… it looked like this had to be the one.
It seemed like he hadn’t gotten back yet.
Haha, then I would wait under the bed to ambush them.
I was convinced this was his room, and I carefully entered through the window.
Into the room that faced the highway in the apartment building with the red roof–

‘Damn, there’s a lot of random stuff under the bed, too. But there’s no way I’m saying it’s too hard.’
About ten minutes after the boy with the axe hid himself–
He moved his feet to push a box on the ground out of the way, when from the direction of the entrance, he heard the clatter of the door being unlocked.
‘They’re here!’
The boy stilled his body, held his breath, and observed the room with nerves on edge.
He could see only a small portion of the room from under the bed, but there wasn’t really any furniture that stood out, save for the table right under the fluorescent light of the Western room and the bed he was hiding under.
The Western room had a size of about ten tatami mats, and in the space between it and the entrance, there was a slightly cramped eat-in kitchen and a door leading to the toilet and bath.
Ignoring the clutter, which was typical of a high school student, it could be said that this room really looked like the place for a murder, save for the posters.
However, the boy did not feel any shred of doubt.  He did not have the luxury to doubt.
He should have already been prepared, but the closer that moment came, his various thoughts started to become more and more scrambled.
‘Aren’t I about to do something really stupid?
‘If I really do kill those two here, isn’t that exactly what it means to be depraved?’
Those thoughts also crossed the boy’s mind, but he quickly denied them.
If he had felt this conflict a little earlier, he might not have done anything.  However, the boy was already concealed under the bed with an axe.
It was too late.  No matter how you looked at it, it was already too late.
His life on the run and his family’s faces as a result surfaced in his mind – but all of that was shut into the blade of the axe.
As he hid under the bed, only the gleam of the sharp blade shone in his vision.
‘That’s right. I’ll do it.  There’s no going back.’
This was not a fall from grace, nor would he lose.
I’m not crazy or anything.
I haven’t fallen.  I’ll become someone who will never fail again–
The moment he decided that, the front door opened–
“Whew.  It’s hot again today, dammit.”
“Makes you wanna beat someone to death, huh, Bro?”
Today, the boy tasted his second failure.

“Shit, that brat’s hard to handle.”
“Good job, Bro!”
The ones who appeared in the entranceway were two men he did not recognize.
One was a large man, wearing sunglasses atop a crewcut so precise it could be measured with a protractor.  In addition, he was dressed in a black suit.
The one who entered as if following him was a skinhead man who looked oddly like a truck; a wound from a katana ran diagonally across his face, cutting his ear in half.  In addition, he was wearing a violet suit, giving off a feeling that could be called neither matching nor unbalanced.
To sum it up – the two who had appeared in the room were textbook examples of men with scars on their cheeks.
[Yakuza stereotype.]
“I didn’t just smash his front teeth in but his molars too.”
“Pretty pathetic for him to have full dentures at that age.”
“Well yeah.  Nah, to begin with he can’t open his jaw, so he’ll be stuck eating liquids for a while.”
‘–What is this?’
The boy under the bed suddenly did not understand the situation he had placed himself in.
In front of the confused boy’s eyes, the two thugs came rudely into the room.
“Tell the truth, I wanted to sink him into the Tamagawa and turn him into seal food.”
“Yeah well, let’s just leave the rest to Boss.”
“I don’t need you to tell me that.  Oi, turn on the TV and air conditioning.”
The skinhead’s feet moved hurriedly, followed by the sound of the TV switching being flipped.  At the same time, a heavy impact ran through the bed he was hiding underneath.
The crewcut man had sat down directly above him.
The two sat in the room watching TV without taking off their jackets.
He could not see their faces from under the bed, but the skinhead had sat on the floor, so he could see everything from the chest down.
The legs of the crewcut man were right in front of his eyes.  They were so close that if he breathed roughly, he would be noticed even without being heard.
‘What is this!?  What is this!?’
The axe boy could not escape his confusion.
Could it be that that guy Muu owed a debt to loan sharks and they had come to collect?
But when he thought about their behavior and the fact that they had the key, it seemed like that was incorrect.
He could come to a simpler conclusion, but the axe boy pretended he did not realize it.
‘No way, there’s no way.
‘There’s no way I got the wrong room!’
He had checked the room before entering.  To begin with, if this apartment belonged to these delinquents, what was up with the idol posters?
When the axe boy thought about that, the skinhead called out to his superior, as if reading his mind.
“Anyway, Bro, this has been bothering me for a while… those posters, are you into that kinda thing?”
‘Good question, Baldy.  I kind of want to make you my spokesperson.’
When the skinhead asked shyly, the crewcut answered quietly.
“No way.  You making fun of me?”
“I-I’m sorry!  Then, then why…”
Flustered, the skinhead lowered his head, and after thinking for a while, the crewcut spoke slowly.
“She’s… my little sister.”
Underneath the bed, the axe boy’s eyes widened in shock in tandem with the skinhead’s voice.
Now that he mentioned it, all of the posters on the walls were of the same girl.  She was definitely that new idol, Kimari Minohara.
“Yeah… she’s always dreamed of entering showbiz… but I’m this kinda guy, a yakuza.  I cut ties with her so I wouldn’t cause her trouble.”
“But ya know, I didn’t really mean to cut ties with her.  That’s why I thought I’d at least stick up her posters here to distract myself.”
The boy’s hands were trembling slightly, having heard the crewcut’s story.
‘Don’t stick up posters for that kind of reason!  I got the room wrong thanks to that!’
He finally acknowledged the truth when he felt that misdirected, undisguised anger.
That he had mistaken the room.
‘What the hell.  I thought I was turned down for a half-assed reason, and then I got the wrong room because of another half-assed reason, and now I’m in this mess!’
His anger, once lost amidst his confusion, flared up.  Now once again it burned within the axe boy.
‘Damn, if it’s like this, I’ll start by killing them!  I’m the one with an axe!  If I just keep hiding like this and wait until they’re asleep–’
Just as he thought that, the outlaws’ television began broadcasting the evening news.
“The series of axe murders–”
A different channel was playing the news the axe boy had heard earlier.  The wording was different but the information was fundamentally the same.
“It’s a dangerous world, huh, Bro.”
“Yeah, seriously.”
‘Like you’re ones to talk.’
He really wanted to retort, but it would be unfavorable for him to speak now.  When the chance presented itself, he would take out one of the unarmed men, then the other–
As the axe boy analyzed the situation calculatingly, the crewcut man spoke up in a low voice.
“Boss’s really pissed.  He’s doing what he wants on our turf.  If we get thrown in the slammer…”
The unpleasant sound echoed, and beside the bed – a silver light stabbed, right in front of the axe boy’s eyes.
“…we’ll make him wish he were dead.”
“Bro, please don’t wave around a sword inside the room.”
At his friend’s words, the crewcut pulled out the blade of the Japanese sword which had momentarily been stabbed into the floor–
“It’s my room.  Where I stab a sword–”
In the next moment, the Japanese sword was thrust into the bed, and the blade went straight through the thin board and into the floor.
The blade appeared mere centimeters from the tip of the axe boy’s nose and was reflected in his fear-filled eyes.
“Is up to me.”
‘This is the apartment landlord’s place not yors yur ye wsedrf…’
Fear swallowed up the last words of the retort made within his heart.
‘I’ll die.’
That was when, for the first time, he gained a clear sense of the concept of “death”.
Even though it could be called the end of everything, in the end he had been focused only on killing – he had come here, obvious death had been thrust in front of his eyes, and fear of death had suddenly overtaken his heart.
‘This is bad.  This is bad.
‘I don’t want to die.  I really don’t want to die.’
Little by little, his heart began to shake more strongly, but he could not let the shaking extend to his body.
The crewcut man was sitting above him right now and holding a Japanese sword.  If he made a wrong move, not just his way of life, but his life itself would end.
Complete and total despair.
When that despair began to eat away at the boy, he regretted his actions from the bottom of his heart.
Those small failures were such trivial things, compared to losing his life.
Within the dark, narrow space, the boy, who had come here never having faced “mortal peril” and not knowing the value of his own life, fervently cursed his circumstances.
However, the boy did not yet know.
That true terror and despair lay at his feet–

“Oh yeah, Bro.”
“Remember when we steamrolled those punks in the city, the stuff you got back from them… where did you put it?”
“Ah, the bang?”
Did they mean narcotics?  Cannabis leaves?  No way.
The axe boy tried to come to that conclusion, but the conversation between the men would not allow that.
The forceful banging of the futon being beaten was transmitted through the other side of the bed planks to the boy’s shoulder as he lay sideways in hiding.
“That stuff’s hidden under the bed.”
The situation had become even worse.
As sweat ran down the axe boy’s back, he tightly gripped the axe in his hand.
Most likely, it was the box near his feet that was getting in his way a while ago.  The moment the skinhead looked down to check, his presence would be exposed.
In that case – could he win against a Japanese sword with an axe?  It was probably hopeless.
‘Ah, his legs – the moment I’m found, I’ll cut the legs of the guy sitting on the bed.  I’ll take that chance to run or I’ll get rid of the both of them.’
The problem was that it would be difficult to wield an axe in this cramped space under the bed.  Would he be able to inflict a wound severe enough that the victim couldn’t move his legs?
The axe boy realized that his legs were trembling uncontrollably at the danger that suddenly fell upon him.
‘I’m scared. I’m scared. I’m scared. I can’t I can’t I can’t.’
Once again, the axe boy was overwhelmed by a wave of fear.
If he was seen under the bed now, unable to move, he would end up screaming pathetically.
However, without peering under the bed, the skinhead opened his eyes and cried out loudly.
“Hey… i-is that okay!?  Leaving it there in this kind of summer?”
“It’s fine.  S’why I left it under the bed where no one will see.”
“N-no, but if it explodes, it shouldn’t be at our place…”
“Can’t leave it with the guys either.”
Hearing that dangerous word crop up in conversation, the axe boy realized his assumption had been wrong.  That is, bang wasn’t referring to the narcotic, but–
‘Bang… is explosives.  That means…’
As he came to that conclusion, he was hit by a fear of the thing at his feet much greater than his fear of the yakuza.
[this is impossible impossible impossible and I gave up. The word the yakuza use is “happa”, which is slang for marijuana, but can also mean “explosives”. that’s the boy’s mistake here, but there’s no word in English that really refers to both. I tried.]
There was another layer of danger to the situation he had placed himself in.
He didn’t know the scale and power of the bomb, but after seeing the skinhead’s reaction, it was clear that it was not just a firecracker.
As the boy gripped the axe, he felt that the world enclosing him was going to change even more.
He had the cold, heavy sensation that everything that surrounded him was related to “death”.
He started to be consumed by the delusion that the narrow space under the bed where he had hidden himself would become his coffin.
‘I have to escape.’
To escape from that fear, there was a different fear he had to conquer.
He would have to tightly grip the axe, extinguish his fear of the two people in front of him, and break out of this room.
That made him more nervous than he had ever been before.  It was not nervousness born from fear.  It was the feeling of nervousness that accompanied resolving to take action.
‘I’ll do it… I’ll do it, I can, I can do it.’
The boy had grown used to avoiding failure and taking challenges that were beneath his capabilities, and the actions he would take from here on would clearly be a gamble with the odds stacked against him.
To put it in game terms, he was the type of person who always played on easy mode but had suddenly started on hard mode of a game he was playing for the first time.
And in that game, his life was on the line.
‘I can do it, I can do it.  I’ll say goodbye to this bomb.’
At the moment the boy once again gripped the axe tightly–
The game difficulty suddenly spiked.
A chiming sound.
A simple “ding-dong” sounded, and the simple electronic sound echoed–
“Hello, Shibazato-san.”
“We brought the sake you asked for.”
Several men, not as stereotypical as the skinhead and the crewcut, but obviously still not respectable, all trampled in without waiting for a response.
“Yeah, come in, come in.”
“This sake’s from Boss.”
“We would’ve been fine… Boss always sticks his nose in.”
The men seated themselves on the floor of the Western room and began to drink merrily, completely blocking the path from underneath the bed to the exit.
‘There’s more of them.’
That simple truth was more than powerful enough to completely crush the axe boy’s initial resolution.
And so – the longest day in the boy’s life continued.

The delinquents’ meager banquet unfolded as they all began to smoke.
The room was clouded white with smoke in the space of a moment, and the smell of nicotine permeated even under the bed.
As the boy desperately fought down the urge to cough, he concentrated every fiber of his being on the men.
“So, what happened with that brat?”
“Wasn’t too tough, just cut his eyelids up a bit and he started bawling.  Thought I’d have him shorten his finger, but…”
“Yeah, I got a suit like the one Shou Aikawa was wearing in that movie we saw cheap on the Net–”
“The way our group bleeds, crocodile’s impossible… d’ya know?  The belt Boss wears isn’t real leather either.”
“If I asked something like that he’d kill me.”
“Didja know the guy who runs the bar in front of the station beat it?”
“Haven’t been squeezing much from ‘em lately.”
[yay yakuza slang. shortening his finger: yubitsume. the movie is technically V-cinema: a film released directly to video. “bleeding” and “squeezing” are both for extorting money.]
Perhaps it was because they were becoming drunk from the sake, but the delinquents’ conversations were gradually starting to drift in different directions.
Not understanding just the contents of the conversations, but also the language the men used, the boy just let his legs tremble a little as he gripped the axe.
‘Why, why did it turn out like this?’
However, to put it another way, it could be said that this was his chance.  At this rate, he could quietly slip out from under the bed and flee from this dangerous situation after the men got drunk.
To do so, his presence must absolutely not be discovered until the very end.
‘Don’t breathe, they absolutely can’t figure out you’re here.  Nothing, become nothing.’
As he repeated this impossible wish inside his head, the boy tried with all his might to control his fear.
‘No matter what, I’ll get through this no matter what.’
Half of his enormous fear was due to the disrespectable people right in front of him.  The other half was due to the one-way ticket to death that lay at his feet.
Inside the cardboard box that occupied one portion of the space under the bed was the bang the men had spoken of – it was packed with dynamite.
However, as time passed, his fear of the bomb lessened.
‘There’s nothing to panic about.  It won’t explode without fire.’
A while ago, he had been desperate to get even one step further away, but when he thought about it, he should be feeling more threatened by the yakuza in front of him than by the unlit bomb.
The bomb had plunged him into an unordinary situation and he had lost the ability to make rational judgments.
However – he had plunged into this unordinary situation through his own wishes.
‘Calm down… at this rate, it’s fine if I just hide my breathing.
‘Then everything will be decided.
‘I’ll be able to get out of this room unhurt.’
As he continued repeating those positive thoughts to himself, he realized something discomfiting within the darkness.
Under the bed, he could see a small light in the darkness near his feet.
‘A light?’
Though he thought it ridiculous, the boy craned his neck, trying not to make a sound, and slowly directed his gaze towards his feet.
Then, when he realized the true source of that small light – he fully cursed his fate.
And that curse was immediately justified.
As the red light let off a small trail of smoke–
It began rolling vigorously toward the cardboard box containing the dynamite.
It was an ember.
It was a small, small ember.
It was a cigarette butt, not even five centimeters long, rolling in the wind from the air conditioner.
The boy did not bother to think about whose it was, and such a thing was meaningless anyway.
What mattered to him was–
There was still a smoldering red flame on the tip of that cigarette butt.
‘No way.’
He knew that his heartbeat had accelerated so vigorously that, at this rate, his heart might be the first to explode.
‘Why…!  Something like this…!’
As he thought back on what he had done, he realized sweat was dripping down his whole body like a waterfall.
‘Calm down!  Calm down!  It’s just a cigarette butt!  There’s no way it would set the box on fire that easily!  I might get burned, but if I just stretch my leg out and crush it–’
With those thoughts running through his head, the boy slowly began to move his leg within the darkness – and then he realized.
‘Where the box meets the floor!’
The wind from the air conditioning seemed to blow there.  That was why the cigarette butt was rolling in that direction.
When he looked ahead to see where the red ember would end up – piled up against the corner of the box on the floor was a collection of cotton cloths, gray with dust.
By the time he realized, it was already too late, and the cigarette butt had already reached one of those cloths–
Before even a few seconds had passed, that ember had evolved into a blaze.
By the time he thought it would create smoke, the red light was already spreading.
‘T-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-this is bad!  This is really bad!’
If it let off more smoke, one of the delinquents might stop the explosion.
However, it meant he would be discovered at the same time.
If they didn’t notice, he would die in the explosion.
He didn’t know about all the delinquents, but at the very least, he would certainly die.
To save himself without being noticed, he had to extinguish the fire spreading to the cardboard box.
There was no time.
The corner of the box was already turning brown.  If he didn’t think of something fast, his life would definitely end.
‘Not here – there’s no way I’m gonna die here!  Think, think!  I can’t stomp it out with my leg any… no, maybe it’ll go out if I hit it hard, but then they’ll hear the noise!’
All he could do was pour water on it.
That was the answer he immediately came up with, but of course there was no water at hand.
But – he had realized.
That there was a method.
However, he had to prepare himself, and there was great risk involved.  And if he just got through that, it was clear that new problems would surface afterward.
However, he no longer had time to hesitate.
‘I – I will live!’
The flames of his “resolve”, which had been crushed before, were once again lit within him.
‘I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die!’
It was a false resolve, spurred on by and born from fear.  Still, it was undoubtedly resolve.
For the first time in his life, he was prepared to be hurt.  He had prepared himself to challenge an unknown stage, and he had prepared himself to accept the pain – the risks involved.
He had been broken by a single failure because he had always run away from such resolve.
However, as a result of that, the boy was about to do something he had never been able to do before.
‘I, I, I – don’t want to die!’
It may have been an extremely awkward reason when examined closely, but just to escape from that instinctive fear–
He held up the axe a little underneath the bed and deeply cut his own foot.
The sharp blade sent intense pain running up his foot, his spine, and his brain.
However, he could not allow himself to scream here.
He concentrated all his strength on his foot – a large quantity of blood was gushing from his wound.
Each time the vein pulsed, intense pain lanced through his body.  It was only his foot that had been wounded, but it felt as if the same wound had been inflicted across his entire being.
However, he did not scream.
Everything was so he could escape–
After enduring the pain for a while, the boy slowly brought his blood-covered foot close to the cardboard box–
The burning flames were completely extinguished at last from the large quantity of the liquid called blood.
He had forgotten one problem.
Even if it was blood – the sound when it evaporated was no different from that of water.
Both the timbre – and the volume.
“What was that?  That sound just now.”
“Sounded like it was under the bed.”
‘It’s over.’
The delinquents stopped moving and all of them focused their attention toward the bed.
‘It’s all over.’
The delinquents were sitting when they looked.  They shouldn’t be able to see the boy’s body like that.  However, it was only a matter of time before they peered down.
‘If this is the end, isn’t it exactly the same as when it started?’
The boy’s body filled with power.  A power born when humans who had lost everything fell into despair… a power began to boil within him like that which he had had in the beginning, when he had bought an axe and hidden himself in this room.
‘But, but it’s no good, I don’t want to die.’
However, what differed from the beginning was that – now his goal was only to cling stubbornly to life.
‘I won’t die. I don’t want to die.’
“Huh?  Something under the bed…?”
‘I’ll do anything to live!’
He swung the axe widely at exactly the same time as the crewcut man peered under the bed.
The boy’s and the crewcut’s voices overlapped.
The boy had meant to jump out from under the bed, and his axe cut up the face of the crewcut man.
‘Now there’s no turning back.’
Slipping around the legs of the crewcut man, who was hugely surprised, the boy jumped out from under the bed.
Completely focused, the boy began to run toward the entrance as he swung the axe.
The men inside the room were surprised at the boy suddenly jumping out, and they crouched down to avoid the blade.
Leaping over those men, the boy ran for the entrance without stopping, opened the door from within, and fled outside.
He’d thought it would already be completely dark outside, but the sun was still just beginning to set.
However, he could not hope for anyone to save him.  In his current situation, holding an axe dripping with blood, anyone he asked for help would run away immediately.
It might have been better to discard the axe, but he also recklessly thought, “If they catch up with me, I’ll fight them off with this!”
And so, unable to discard the axe, he fled into the evening as fast as he could.
“Hey, waaaaaait!  Where’d you go?”
He could hear an angry roar.
When he looked behind him – the blood-covered man, blood streaming from his face, was holding the unsheathed sword and searching for him.
Perhaps it was because blood had clouded his vision, but it looked like he hadn’t yet noticed the boy.
‘I’m saved.’
The moment he thought that–
All the crewcut’s companions, having put on their shoes, saw him and gave chase.

“Dammit… where is he…”
The crewcut man, now covered in blood, walked through the twilit town with the sword dangling from his hand.
Luckily, there were no people on the street, and the only one to witness his actions was–
The boy peering outside through the window who lived in the blue-roofed apartment the next building over – only Muu Hifumi.

How much time passed after that?
How long did I continue to run?
But it was futile.
The next thing I knew, I reached a familiar highway, and I was frozen in place, stuck between the buildings with red and blue roofs.
I couldn’t run anymore.
I still had the energy to run.
Even so, my legs wouldn’t listen to me.
I wanted to live.  No matter how pathetic it was, right now I just wanted to escape from the terror bearing down on me.
He needed to hide himself somewhere, and so he faced the apartment premises and mustered the last of his strength.
He couldn’t return to the apartment building with the red roof.  He immediately entered the premises of the blue-roofed apartment building and hid himself beside the propane gas cylinder at the back of the building.
They definitely wouldn’t think he was still so close by.
Thinking that, he meant to take a break and calm himself, but–
The conversation he heard from the direction of the highway brought him back into the world of fear.
“Was he there!?”
“Nah, looks like he definitely came back this way…”
‘Why!?  Why are they here!?’
“Look, he’s gotta be around here!”
“Looks like that bastard’s hurt somewhere.”
Upon hearing that, the boy remembered.
He cut his own foot with the axe before.
At the same moment, he realized that his foot was throbbing with intense pain.
It wasn’t impossible to ignore the signals from his foot.  It could be called a miracle that he had been able to run until now with this wound.
However, it seemed that miracle was also at an end.
They were tracking him by his trail of blood and there was nothing he could do.
‘No.  I don’t want to die.’
Looking up at the night sky, he muttered over and over, like a stubborn child.
‘I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die…’
Anyone is fine, I don’t care if it’s a god or a demon, I just want someone, anyone, to save me.
As he thought such things, the next thing he knew, he was crying like a bullied child.
Anyone is fine, someone help – if I don’t call for help–
He searched for something to cling to, and the moment he looked around – he saw a pale light shining in one of the windows of the apartment building he was leaning against.
It was as if a blue flame was blazing within that room–
He didn’t have the time to think about what it was.  This time he could hear the voice of the crewcut man from the direction of the highway.
“…was he there?”
“Ah, Bro!  You okay?”
“I’m fine.  I’m asking where he is.”
His tone was calm, but his voice was filled with cold bloodlust far beyond anger.  Just hearing that voice, the boy’s entire body froze, and at the same time he understood.
If he tried to fight back with the axe, he would definitely be killed by that man.
“Sorry, looks like he’s hiding somewhere around here.”
“…kill him.”
‘It’s all over.’
And the moment the boy was completely crushed–
Out of nowhere, a shriek both human and animalistic resounded nearby.
“What’s that?”
Noticing the shriek, the delinquents stopped on the highway and peered around.
And again, several seconds after that–
The howl dominated the area once more as if to make known its suffering, and the violent sound of something crashing came from one of the apartment doors.
And then – with flames smoldering here and there across his body, a man carrying an axe rushed out, as if fleeing toward the entrance to the apartment grounds.
That man with the axe – the serial killer raised his axe at the delinquents standing at the entrance, as if to eliminate those who stood in his way.
However, just before he could swing it down, the crewcut man took one step forward, evading the axe, and brandished the sword in his hand.
The silver color shone under the streetlights and cut deeply into the man’s right leg.
The moment the murderer lost his balance, the crewcut brought the sword back around and stabbed the axe man’s shoulder, bringing him down to the asphalt.
The axe-wielding serial killer’s scream echoed through the night, as if to slash through the darkness.
Hearing it, the other axe man continued to look on from the shadow of the propane gas cylinder, as if he were trapped in a nightmare.
On and on–

What followed was horrific.
About five or six people ganged up on the axe man where he had collapsed.  None of them held back, and occasionally the sharp sound of bones breaking reached the boy’s ears.
After a while, when the lynching ended, the crewcut man bent over expressionlessly and spoke to the serial killer, whose face was so swollen he resembled a monster.
“Bastard… you hiding under my bed before… means you heard everything we said, right?  Yeah?  Mister Serial Killer?”
The crewcut man addressed the killer, who was already at death’s door, with eyes devoid of emotion.
“Just as promised – we’ll make you wish you were dead.  Don’t die until then, you maggot…”
As if following up, the skinhead added something unnecessary.
“Bro, he probably heard about your sister too.”
“…right, then… so the first thing we’ll do – we’ll start by pulling out your tongue…”
Muttering only that, the crewcut stood abruptly, and without wiping off the blood streaming down his face, turned on his heel and issued a single command to his companions. “Take him away.”
The remaining men nodded mutely in response to his words, picked up the murderer, and carried him off somewhere.
Left behind were the false axe man and – a huge pool of blood at the entrance to the apartments.

Had it been a dream?
I thought about what had happened a moment ago.
No, it couldn’t have been a dream.  My foot was still throbbing with pain, and no matter how long I waited, there was no sign that I would return to reality.
That meant it was the strange scene just now that had been false.
What should I do now?
When I thought that – I heard voices that sounded familiar.
I slowly peered out from the shadow of the gas cylinder – and who should I see there but Lulu Akagami and Muu Hifumi.
What the hell.
I finally ran into them in this kind of situation.
However, I no longer had the energy to kill them.
I was alive.
Right now, I was alive.
That was enough.  My life was complete.
Ahh, I felt so fulfilled.
As I thought about that – those two annoyances continued talking.
“Lulu, about what you asked me earlier…”
“Lulu, I like you.  Yeah, I really do.”
Seriously?  Confessing in front of a pool of blood?
What was with these two?
“I knew after what happened today.  I really do like you, Lulu… uh, I guess this is something like a confession.”
Say something smarter.  You’re under a starry sky and everything.
“Thank you… Muu… I’m sorry.”
What’ll it be?
“I… like you too, Muu.”
After that, the two just hugged each other.
Ugh, how stupid.  The two of them really were as stupid as I thought.  Even after something so unusual happened, they couldn’t act any smarter.
I felt somewhat relieved as I thought that.
I see, so with this the two of them were really dating?
Which then meant I had been rejected for an actual reason.  My failure today might as well have not happened.
We’ll go with that.  I would think of it that way.
I would start my life over again tomorrow.
I survived through today.  Most everything would go well.
That’s right, starting tomorrow I would begin a new life, but first–
What would I do with this axe?
As I gazed at the star-filled sky, so beautiful it was infuriating, I spaced out and thought only of that stupid problem.
I felt as if the sharp glint of the axe was quietly laughing at me.
Urban Legend” – fin.

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