Lucky Dog 1 Short Story – Anniversary 1 – Barred birthday



(Released in the 1st Anniversary collection version red and serialized on Tennenouji’s site in 2009 for Gian’s brithday.)


Barred birthday

I think I see stripes everywhere I look.

The hell is this?  Just as the words float across my mind … I wake up.

“… …Nngh … mm…”

I can’t tell if I’m awake or not.  Everything around me’s pitch black.  I can’t tell if my eyes are open.  I can’t even tell if I’m really awake or not.

…Um, let’s see now…

…My name’s Giancarlo.  I’m a hoodlum down in Daivan.

…This is … where is this again?

…Why was I asleep again…?  Why’m I awake?

The thoughts drift around as the darkness surrounds me.  Now that I think about it, if it’s dark, how’s it possible for me to see stripes just now?  I try to get up, but…

“Ngh … whoa…”  There’s … a snake.  There.  It’s there, in the darkness.

I can’t see it.  But I just know.

I can’t tell if it’s a small snake or a big one, but it gives me the willies.  Even though it’s got bandages wrapped around its eyes, it’s looking my way and leering.  There’s a snake hunched there with its crooked wings, watching me.  Laughing.   Wait, do snakes laugh?

Do they even have wings?  Besides, why the hell’s there a snake here in the first place?  …Oh well.  Doesn’t matter if there’s a snake or not as long as it doesn’t bite me…

A cold sensation caresses me … and I suddenly remember…

“…!  Oh crap, today’s the day we’re pulling off the—!”

I jump up in the darkness.  Tonight’s the day we’re pulling off the jailbreak – we’re breaking out from Madison Pen … and I’ve gotta take the others here with me…!  I’ve only got one chance.  If I screw this up, then everything’s over.  It’s the biggest gamble of my life… … …

…Others?  The others…

Ah, yes, them.  The captains of the CR:5.

Bernardo, Luchino, Giulio, and Ivan.  They’re my important friends and allies, my subordinates as the Second Boss, and, though we’re both guys, my precious…

…Captains?  Subordinates?  …Huh…?

…I’m just a regular wiseguy in the Daivan Mafia, the CR:5, so why would I have people as high up as captains as my pals…?  …The Second?  …’s no good.  It’s pitch black again.  Everything’s unintelligible to me again.

The vague, hazy thoughts wisp about like an unremembered dream before vanishing into thin air.

…Oh right.  I became a captain myself in the slammer, and I brought the other captains along with me as we escaped…  Right, the escape.  Tonight, we’re going to use the hidden tunnel to…

…I see.  The reason it’s pitch black here is because I’m already in the tunnel right now.

…Huh?  Where’s the others?  …No one’s here.  The only other thing here’s … that pitch black snake.

“What is this?  …Just what the hell’s … going…?”

Happy birthday.

The words come from someone’s mouth.  …Was it the snake’s?

“…Ah, right.  It’s my birthday, isn’t it…?”

Haha, it hadn’t even occurred to me.  Mm, my birthday, eh…

I completely forgot it was my birthday.  For as long as I can remember, all these years, I’ve never paid any attention to my birthday.  I didn’t, and no one around me did.  About the only time I remember my birthday is when the coppers take down my rap sheet when I screw up and get pinched.

“…Plus, last year we had more important fish to fry…”

My birthday last year had whizzed on by without me even noticing.

I’d taken the other captains, broken out, escaped, and then there’d been that war back in Daivan … and us two, my partner and I, we’d taken on the GD gang in the showdown of a lifetime.

…Partner…  I’d learned the ropes while helping Bernardo out, and supported him when he was dead exhausted from being the pressure on both sides, from both the enemy’s schemes and our own allies’ distrust…

…I’d stuck by Luchino like ham on cheese as he showed me around, and we had our share of struggles before finally raiding our way into the enemy HQ…

…I’d wandered the streets with Giulio and dyed the streets in the gangsters’ blood…

…Ivan and I’d became partners and all through the streets of Daivan we rode the white …

…Huh?  That’s weird…  Things are getting mixed up…

Something’s off.  Who was I … partners with…?  Partnered with?  Um…

The snake’s looking my way and snickering again.

“…Hey.  The fuck is this?  Quit jerking my chain.  Of course I know who my partner is.  It’s—”

I try to chase away that weird snake … but my arms can’t move.  …Am I still asleep…?

“…Shit.  And of all days, my birthday…”

…Birthday.  My birthday…  …Someone wishing me a happy birthday.

When was that again…?  …Alone in the darkness, I roll the thought over in my head…

◇                ◇

Mm, it’s sweet.  I’ve never tasted anything better.  The taste fills every corner of my brain.

It’s a great, big cookie.  Even with two hands clenched around the nicely browned chocolate chip snack, it’s still spilling through my fingers.

I juggle one cookie in each hand as I take bites first from one and then the other, restlessly stuffing my cheeks full with each nibble.

I munch away, not caring about the gummy dough getting stuck in the gaps between my teeth.

Crumbs crumble all over my worn, stained shirt.

And then … soft white fingers gently brush the specks away.

“…Giancarlo…”

I hear a familiar voice from overhead.  Sweet, just like the cookie, but somehow still sounding sad…  It’s a voice, soft and gentle as those fingers.

“I’m sorry.  Even though it’s your birthday … those are the only things I could make for you…”

I raise my eyes which’d been glued to the cookies.

There in front of me’s an apron dress, color faded from being washed too many times, and … soft bulges of breast that make me want to drop the cookies and reach for them.  Above that, a milky-white skin, a throat…  And the throat…  The throat’s trembling, barely noticeable.

“I’m sorry, Gian…  I’m…  I have to…”

The voice embracing me starts to grow hoarse and fade away.

I … for some reason, I really, really feel like crying – want to so badly that one of the cookies slips from my fingers.

Those kind fingertips caress my face, my hair ever so gently.

“…Gian … my dear Gian…  You truly are just like him…”

The voice embracing me smiles just a little and sounds sad.

“…Giancarlo … I’m sorry.  I’m so, so sorry… ”

The hand stroking me moves up … and covers her face.  The woman…  I think she’s crying.

I … I hold out the cookie, the one that’s still in my hand, and I hold it out, offering it to her.

“…!”

Her voice chokes up … and suddenly, her arms wrap around me in a hug so tight they could’ve picked me up straight off the ground.

“…Gian…!  Thank you…!  I’m sorry…  I’m so sorry…!”

I’m surrounded by the gentle strength and the softness.  A smell – a fragrance like milk.  Like soap.  Like the sun.

“I can’t protect you anymore…”

I stick my strangely puny arms out from the gap between the arms embracing me … and touch her hair, a gold so bright it was like the sun hit that spot and that spot alone.

What a beautiful blond…  To think that such a color, such a texture existed in this world…

The lips that touch my cheek in a kiss tremble.

“…But, you’ll be all right…  They’ll … they’ll protect you.  …Alex!  Theresa…!  Please … God, protect this child…!”

The arms wrapped so tightly around me … let me go.

I feel like crying more than ever.  She wraps a hand around the nape of her neck and takes something off … and ties it around my neck.

…It’s an old string, and on that string’s tied a golden … ring.

“…This is yours now, Giancarlo…  This is yours…!”

The trembling voice shakes with tears as she holds me in her arms.

“…You must live…!  I love you, Gian!”

The woman cried.

I struggle in those arms.  I try to see her face…

…These are my memories, but despite that I still struggle to catch a glimpse of that face that’s long faded from my memories…

…to see the face that belonged to my…

 

◇                ◇

“…Gian!  Hey, Giancarlo…!”

“Mmgh … ah…”

I wake up.

I’m … at the Daivan Hotel.  The ceiling in front of my eyes is familiar.

I’m draped over, sinking deep into a sofa in the reception room on the top floor of the hotel … and I wake up.

“O-Oh … my bad.  I nodded off just now.”

“Are you all right?  …I’m sorry.  These few days you haven’t even had the time to get some proper rest.”

Gramps – Counselor Cavalli – peers concernedly into my face before shaking his head and calling one of his men standing by at some distance to bring some coffee over.

“Perhaps it would be best for you to return to your room and get some shuteye.  …You appeared to be groaning in your sleep.”

“No … I just had a dream.  Don’t remember what kinda dream it was, though.”

“Don’t push yourself.  The event is taking place tomorrow.”

“Naw, I’m still a young hopping whippersnapper, so I’ll be fine.  Sorry.  I shouldn’t be letting someone your age deal with my problems, too.”

“Impudent brat!  …But, this is a predicament…  I can’t believe they would specifically target your birthday with their finagling…”

“No surprise there’d be people other than those old windbags up in the Board — uh, I mean, other than those cunning elders – targeting this day.”

I get up and scrub my face.  The faint sensation of tears barely dampens my fingers before vanishing.

“…Sorry.  It’s my fault and Alessandro’s that we did not make enough preparations to counter the Board.  …To think that there are still those against your inauguration as the Second…”

I pick up one of the cups lying on the luxurious, dazzling table and take a sip.  …It’s good.  One of the wonders money can bring seeps into my body.

“Well, whatever happens, the kangaroo court masquerading as a birthday party’s tomorrow.”

“That’s exactly what shouldn’t have happened under my…!”

Counselor Cavalli’s harsh voice wisps away, like a candle being blown out.

Tomorrow, my birthday party’s being held here at the Daivan Hotel.

Originally, we were only planning on holding a seeecret quiet bash, just amongst ourselves…

“But the poor daughters, they’re the ones with the short end of the stick.  After all, they might become the bride to the Second Boss to some Mafia straight from the boonies.  I think I’d throw myself off a cliff, too.”

“What do you mean ‘boonies,’ you fool!”

Oh, shit.  My shin’s in danger again … but just as I think this, Counselor Cavalli lets out a long, heavy sigh before sinking down into the sofa again.

“…I’ll say this.  With your generation, we the CR:5 will be larger than we have ever been according to this year’s calculations – even larger than it’d been during Alessandro’s time.”

“Eh?  You serious?!”

“Yes.  Thanks to that, the Finance Department’s been keeping a tight eye on us…  But this is because Bernardo, Luchino, Ivan, and Giulio – everyone has been doing an excellent job.  And you, Giancarlo, It’s thanks to you bringing them all together.”

“You think…?  …I haven’t really done anything, though.”

“It’s because Alessandro didn’t have such captains during his time…”

Gramps’s eyes go serious and look far into the distance as he brings up the coffee cup to his lips.

“Mmm…  Wow I’m an awful boss.  I don’t even know what’s cooking in my own kitchen.”

“That’s the captain’s job.  However … to think that talk of your wedding would arise at such a positive time…”

“All sorts of things come charging once the view starts looking good.”

All of this trouble came up only a week ago.

Originally, when it comes the day for the family boss’s birthday, everyone from the captains to the Consigliere to the Directors to even the bigwigs in the city gather together for a big, grand party.  Usually, they’d gather and talk money and connections and whatnot … but with the previous generation’s CR:5 boss Alessandro, we’d restrained from holding such parties.

Plus, I’ve only just become the Second.  No matter how good the view is, the family and I are still fussy babies sitting on a teeter chair … and Old Pops Alessandro and Cavalli and I all know this very well.

The captains looked like they were going to give me presents, too … but I explained what I just said to them and told them to keep out of the extravagant.

Which was why we’d been planning to settle with just a quiet dinner for my birthday, just amongst ourselves, and that would’ve been that … but…

…the Board of Directors that’ve been glaring hostile daggers at me this whole time and the bigwigs up in the New York Five wouldn’t let it fly.

‘As a boss, one should hold a grand party to show off one’s popularity!’ they say.  The captains would give presents to the boss, and the boss would return with double the gifts.  That is what it means to be a boss … so they say.

Plus, with this birthday I’ll be approaching my thirties (…I get the shivers just thinking about it), and a man getting to this age – and especially a family’s boss – that is still a bachelor is a question of honor for the family itself.  So say the geezers.

And so the Directors and the bigwigs up at the NY Five are coming down to my birthday parties with their expensive presents and pictures of their daughters or granddaughters or nieces, or maybe with said person herself … and even Counselor Cavalli’s got no way of stopping them.  This he told me in a tired voice.

“Seriously, they should just keep their noses out…”

“Well … as you know … Alessandro hadn’t married either, and I don’t believe you have any reason to be hasty, but … as you know … there are people who wish to have you married to their bloodline so they will be looked upon well. There were so many of those I couldn’t hold them back…”

“Sigh … just a little while ago I was just some Daivan stray, and now they all want my seed so badly?”

“On one hand, if you refuse all the marriage proposals flat out, then our relations to the Board will only worsen.  On the other hand, if you choose someone … that family’s influence will become too powerful.  …What a dilemma.”

“…Yeah, it’s all so tiring.  If that’s how it’s gonna roll, then maybe I should just pick up a random kid from the city?  Or maybe … oh!  Gramps, how about that chipmunk of yours, Miss Rosalia?

“Wh—?!”

“Whoa, whoa!  That was a joke!  I was just joking!  Jeez.  Don’t glare at me like that!”

“Guh … mrrgh…  This isn’t the time to be joking around!!  We must devise some plan before tomorrow…  The Five Families, Alessandro can talk to them … but the proposals from the Directors…  We have to put them off somehow…”

Seriously.  Come on.  This isn’t funny.

Me?  Marry some lady from who-knows-where?  Aagh, no way.  No way in hell.

…If that happens, we’re seriously done for.  Misfortune would come visit all of us.

…Because … well…  This is me we’re talking about.

…Aagh, why’d this have to happen to me?  Oh well, guess it doesn’t matter, ‘cause I’m a happy camper.

“But … seriously, where have Bernardo and the others gone at such an urgent time…?!  All of the captains have been incommunicado since noon!  Just what in tarnations is the meaning of this?”

Gramps sets down his coffee cup irritably.

…Aah.  Sorry, Gramps.  That’s my fault.  Rather, it’s ‘cause of my plan.

…I’m really sorry.  I still can’t tell you…  Rather, until the real deal tomorrow, I’ve gotta keep this a secret.  …Because if Gramps catches wind of this, he’ll definitely oppose it.

My plan … there’s no way it’s the proper way of doing things.

But, I want to bring as little misfortune as possible to those coming to tomorrow’s party, especially to those innocent ladies who’ve done nothing wrong.  This was the only way I could think of.

It’s a stupid idea, and it’s got a 100% guarantee of earning a scolding from Pops and Gramps.

But, the only saving grace … is that all the captains supported my idea and were willing to lay low and follow my orders out of sight.

◇                ◇

And the tenth rolled around.  Just as the needle on the clock points up towards the 12…

“Congratulations, our Capo!!  Our new family Capo!!”

Don Giancarlo!!  Capo del Monte!!  Here’s to a new generation!!”

The Directors are throwing around flattery so sweetly they’re bound to get cavities before they stuff in their dentures and start all over again, and just what is with this blatantly purposeful applause?!  …All of this is to welcome my birthday?  Wow.

Whether it’s purposely coinciding with the fall of the Prohibition or not, the party currently underway in the specially reserved lounge of the Daivan Hotel’s worthy of the palace of Bacchus with its champagne glasses and bottles and its cocktail bowls lined up like there’s no tomorrow.  It’s a Jerusalem for drunks, and it’s the land of birth, the Garden of Eden, for vomit and hangovers.

And standing there amongst this are the Directors and the Chief Directors and even the high-ups from NY and other states who’ve purposely come all the way here trussed up in their penguin suits.  With them all gathered together, it seriously looks like a picture I’ve seen of penguins flocks down in the South Pole.

“There isn’t a more auspicious, wonderful day than today, Second.  Your appearance as Capo is suiting.”

“With this, peace will visit Daivan, and Counselor del Salto can retire without a worry…”

“No, no, no.  Good times don’t continue forever.  Passing down our noble blood to posterity and laying the foundation for future development is also one of the Capo’s responsibilities, Don del Monte.”

…Oh.  Really.

I silently nod with my beaming face before raising my champagne glass, which I’d barely taken a sip from.  Whoo, applause, and more applause!  The thunderous unanimous applause!

…Since when did the CR:5 become a congregation spot for Commies?

Up in a corner of the senior seats of the meeting is Counselor Cavalli, forcing every agonizing breath of air into his lungs.  …In the end, he had to greet this day without any plan at hand…  His face looks like he’s prepared himself for the worst – for me to kick all the marriage proposals back in their faces and for me to rub mud in the reputations of all the Directors.

Speaking of, Alessandro the old Pops is currently in a conference with the fellows from the NY Alliance in a separate location.  Some of the guys might complain that my predecessor isn’t here at my birthday, but … I love ya, Pops, for handling those fussy, loud geezers from the Big Apple.  You gave me the best birthday gift ever.

It’s almost one…  Sorry, Gramps.  Now then, it’s about time…

After that, I think some bishop some meddling person specially called down all the way from a cathedral up in NY is going to come over and give me gracious blessings and a narrative speech of some sort.  And then once that’s over … it’s the time we’ve all been waiting for.  Just the Directors and me’ll be moving to a different room and we’ll exchange congratulations, and…

I pick up a thin cigar.  Instantly some soldier lights it for me and I take a draft.

…I’ve never seen the guy before.  He’s probably one of many young’uns being recommended for seat as a new captain…  But, sorry.  I don’t think we’ll be broaching that topic tonight.

“Now that I look … I haven’t seen any of the captains around…”

“Oh, them?  …Don’t worry about them.  They’re whipping up a present for me and all of Daivan.  They should be back soon.”

The Directors smile, like they’d emerged victorious over something, when from behind them…

“Pardon me, the Second – Capo del Monte.”

An old man that looks like the head penguin, so fat that he’d probably burn for a month if you set him on fire, makes forward to stand in front of me.  …This man – Mr. Gardelli – is one of the Chief Directors, and he’s been squabbling with Counselor Cavalli over power in the Board ever since Old Bondone’s gone missing.

“…Hey.  Thanks for tonight.  It was great of you to prepare this for me despite your busy schedule…”

The old man waits with a smirk for me to finish reciting the words I’d repeated at least a hundred times already before continuing.

“The Bishop is about to make his speech.  …Do you have any plans after that?”

I wonder what kind of face this tub of lard would make if I said that I did.

“Pardons, Capo del Monte, for presenting her in such a place, but…  Come, you greet him, too.”

The blubber-filled penguin whispers a harsh command.  Then, from behind him … a form draped in a tiny dress that looks like someone’d turned a pure white rosebud straight upside down steps out and greets me with a curtsey.

…Aah.  She’s probably Gardelli’s granddaughter or something.  Good work, preempting the rest.

…Aagh.  She looks scared stiff.  …She’s just a kid.

…Guess it’s no surprise.  She was dragged here to get introduced to some guy she’s never met before, someone who’s actually a Mafia boss, and on top of that someone whom everyone’s cursed and called a stray or whatever, and if things go wrong someone who’d snap her up in what was basically sanctioned rape.  No surprise she’s scared.

I give a bright smile to the little lady … and I look up and around the party area.  …Aah, there they are, the misses who look like they’ve wandered into the wrong room.

Guess there’s quite a few lowlifes in the world who’ll bring their families and wives here … along with the daughters they want to breed off with the Lucky Dog.

Some of them smile at me awkwardly.  Some seem determined and are doing their best to give me that “bewitching, voluptuous smile.”  Some of them have dark expressions, looking like their lives are over.

…Being a guy’s tough, but I guess being a girl’s just as hard.

…At the end of it all, the one thing I don’t like is making girls cry…

…I think it’s been this way ever since way long ago.  Even though I liked sex and all that.

It was then…

“…All or nothing.”

…A corner of party starts raising a murmur.  The sound of the door creaking open reaches my ears, accompanied by a crash as air meets air, demolishing the atmosphere of the room.

“…Please excuse us.  I must apologize for my tardiness.  The roads were a little packed on the way here.”

Appearing is a figure boldly stalking forward across the carpet thick enough to get tangled around your heels … a dandy who’s always appeared and will always appear to be much more of a grand’uomo* than I ever will.  Presenting, Luchino!

Behind him are two of his men, dandy and snappily dressed just like him.  Then, following them … are several working class-looking men clad in servant clothes pushing along some kind of cart.

“Hey.  Happy birthday, our Capo Giancarlo Bourbon del Monte.”

“Hey.  I was half on the verge of tears thinking you’d abandoned me today, you know?”

“Have you ever heard of a barking cat?  …Sorry, the preparations took some time … but, all is as ordered.”

Eccellente.  Now then, it’s about time…”

“…My apologies, Signor Gi—  …Capo del Monte.  I am late.”

…Whoo, he’s a sight no matter how many times you look.  The ladies and little squirts around us stare fish-eyed at the sight of a real-life Prince Charming standing before them in the flesh, clad in full dress ensemble.

“Hey, Giulio.  You’ve kept me waiting.  …Are the preparations good?”

“Yes.  As you have ordered, here…”

Giulio also has some of his men following him.  Each of the black-suited private soldiers is hugging enormous baskets in their arms as they file into the lounge.  Inside are shiny heaps of candy.

“That’s my dear.  After that … oh, guess he was here first.”

This time, no area of the party raised a stir.  With an expression and aura around him like he’d been standing there the whole time … a man wearing an unusually conspicuous hood stood there in the middle of the party grounds…

“I am sorry to have keep you waiting!  Now then, is it all right if I start distributing them?”

“Yeah.  Chop chop, let’s get ‘em out.”

The man smiles with a smirk of his eyes hidden behind a pair of sunglasses … before he – the janitor Ragtliffe – starts distributing one card after another to the Directors, still dumbfounded by the sudden appearance of the strange-looking man.

“Wh-What…?!  Y-You’re the cleaner…!!  Capo, just what is the meaning…?!  Why is someone so filthy soiling this occasion…?!”

One of the Directors who seems to know Ragtliffe’s “occupation” raises his voice in a panic … but when he receives a card along with a smile from the man in question, he snaps his mouth shut with a snap.

“Ah, please don’t mind him.  This is just one of the side shows.  Besides, he’s one of our important members.  If you have complaints about him being ‘filthy’ … please bring it up to me next time.”

A blare of silence … and then a different sort of commotion than before envelopes the crowd.

The penguin Directors look between me, the late-in-coming captains, the janitor … and then finally realize the meaning behind the cards they’d been handed.

“…Th-This … is a bingo card?  Capo del Monte, just what—?!”

The aforementioned Mr. Gardelli starts pressing me with his veins literally bulging out from his forehead.  What an easy guy to figure out.

“Didn’t I say?  This is a side show.  Today’s my birthday, so why don’t we all enjoy it together, right?”

I slap him on the shoulder, causing the man’s eyes to bug out and he backs up a few steps.  …The little lady from before is now hiding behind Gardelli’s back like she’s trying to keep something between her and the filth standing here.

“‘E-Enjoy?!’  …Don’t tell me you intend to hold such a low-class game at such a gathering?!”

“Sorry, but your Second Capo absolutely adores such low-class games.”

I snap my fingers and the janitor hauls a drum filled with bingo balls up onto the table with a thump!

“G-Guh…!  Just what are you thinking, doing this in the Bishop’s presence…?!”

“Wasn’t it written in the Bible somewhere…?  ‘Thou shalt play bingo’?”

Mr. Gardelli stumbles backwards like he’s suffering a stroke … and, as I thought, beelines straight for the rest of the penguin flock and starts chatting up something with the other directors.

Now then, next is…

“…Hey!  My bad for being so late!!  Shit, I did go as fast as I could, though!”

“I’ve been waiting, Ivan.  …Hey, everyone, this way!  Come on here.”

…Agh, the stupid idiot.  He forgot to put on a suit.  Oh well.

Ivan trudges into the lounge, shoulders climbing up and down with each heaving breath.  …And then, he stops and waves to something behind him.

“Hey, don’t hold back.  Work those legs and charge on in.  Today, you guys are like the special guests of honor, so go!!”

At Ivan’s words … a group of people jutting out from this party even more than the janitor did earlier appear.  …But, to me, the crowd that appears is a familiar sight, like someone’d taken a needle and poked a hole to let out the tension building in my stomach.

They’re the party of orphans I’d invited from the orphanages around Daivan.  Of course, the brats from the orphanage belonging to my lovely St. Rita’s Abbey are also there.

“U-Ummm…  Ah … aaaah?!”

Some of the pipsqueaks seem to recognize me and point at me with raw, wild screams.

“Hey.  Thanks for making it.  Now, now, just enjoy yourselves over there.”

Spread out before me is the sight of a flock of chimney swallows invading the land of the penguins.

The kids do look like they’d been put in their best pretty clothes by the orphanages, but compared to the Directors and ladies in their suits and dresses, they look like a pile of dirty handkerchiefs.

But … in a sense, that’s exactly what I am.  I came from that.

Standing behind the orphans are their chaperoning Sisters, looking like a bunch of Christians that’d been kidnapped by savages.  …Among them, I don’t see the female gorilla … Mamma.  …I’m relieved, but also a little lonely.

“Wh-Wh-Wh—?!  What is this?!  Giancarlo?!”

Gramps Cavalli finally seems to have caught a grasp of the situation as he presses me for answers.

“What do you mean ‘what’?  This is a birthday party!  …Sorry, Gramps.  I’ve actually had this in the works for a long time coming.”

“Wh-Wh—”

“Just wait a while longer.  Once all the guests are here, I’ll explain…”

I feel bad for not explaining to Gramps, but … if I’d said something, he definitely would’ve opposed it…

As I shrug my shoulders, I catch sight of some black shadows wavering by the party entrance.

“Heey!  I’ve been waiting, Bernardo!”

“…Sorry.  …Don’t tell me I’m last?  My apologies, but that village really was very far.”

Bernardo comes into the lounge, dressed in a snappy, stylish suit like a paragon of Mafia personified.  …But then he turns and beckons the people behind him to enter, too…

“…Uh, excuse me, but ‘s it really all right fer us t’be here…?”

“S-Seems like we’ve stepped ourselves into somethin’ miiighty fishy here…”

“N-No, the fella says we’re good, so…”

And following him are … the gentlemen and ladies of the boonies, so to speak, probably wearing the best clothes they’ve got in their wardrobe.

…Aah, I recognize some of them.  Oh the nostalgia!

“Welcome, ladies and gentlemen.  I apologize for the sudden invitation, but … howdy there!”

The peasant misters and missus all look at me with wide, gaping eyes…

…when the little squirts hiding in their shadows spot me and,

“…Oh.  Oh!!  Aah!!  It’s the stripies!!”

The roar of a shriek echoes through the party, raising a commotion of its own.

“Oh, you’re right!!  It’s the guy from back then!  And the old person’s there, too!”

“…O-Old person…?!”

Some of the captains are receiving the shock of their lives, but I ignore them and return a wink.

“Hey.  I’ve been waiting, dear fellows from the lovely Bowick Village.  It’s most bottomlessly, absolutely gracious of you to have accepted so full-heartedly my invitation for today.  …Please, just settle somewhere.  We’re holding a festival today.”

“H-Huh…  ….U-Um, we … uh…”

“Dear me … to think ya really were true jailbirds — ah, pardon, I mean Mafias…”

“See?  Didn’t I tell y’all so?  They’ve got that feel to ‘em!”

“Oh quit piping yer horn.  Yer the one who was practically trippin’ over yer shoes tryin’ t’pay ‘em ‘dear actors’ ‘til they had ta stop ya!”

As expected of the villagers from Bowick.  They’re riding the wave just fine.  They’re making themselves perfectly at home in this place completely out of their zone of comfort.

“Hey, everyone.  Help yourselves to the drink and food.  Woohoo!  Waiters!  And you soldiers, too!  Please try not to disrespect our dear guests … ‘K?”

The ones I feel the worst for are the waiters and the soldiers I practically suddenly hoisted off a cliff.  They’re jammed in that hard place between my orders, as the Capo, and the very hostile, unhappy aura all the Directors are giving off … but in the end, they set on an expression like they’re ready to walk the plank and attend to the orphans and the nameless peasant hillbillies.  …Sorry, but this is what it means to be in an organization.

“Now then, now that the guests have all arrived … shall we get started?”

Luchino laughs as he hands me a new glass.

“Yeah…  The plan calls for a few more people to come running, but … oh well.”

I call Ivan over and have him lug over one of those huge mike stands chairmen use in big meetings.

“Ah.  Aah, aah.  We’ll skip the testing and just go straight for the real deal.  You all hearing this?”

The janitor standing at the entrance hugging his big empty drum waves back.

“Mm, OK.  …Sorry for springing the surprise on you.  I’m really thankful all of you’ve gathered for my birthday here, so … my deepest apologies to the dons from the Board and the ladies that I must’ve surprised so suddenly.

“Seems like quite a few people outside of the family’s gathered here, but … well, just think of it as an early Halloween.  Now, why don’t we get the birthday party on the road?  First off…”

It’s then that, with the set expression of a hero waving the sword of justice, Mr. Gardelli takes a few steps forward and challenges me in a loud voice,

“Just what is the meaning of this?  There’s only so many practical pranks we will take!  Everyone here has cut into their precious, busy schedules to make time to give you their blessings, Second!  Do you intend to ridicule us?”

I reply to the old man who seems in such high spirits how that he’s got an excuse to criticize me,

“No way.  Ridicule?  How could you think that!  It’s quite the opposite…”

I wash down my throat with the cola Giulio hands me…

“…I’m sure you’ve heard of my nickname.  I’m the Lucky Dog Giancarlo.

“Just a little while ago, I was just a hoodlum on the streets.  A stray.  And now, I’m here as your Second Boss.”

At those words, the crowd that’d been making a ruckus immediately silences.

“Of course, I don’t for a second think that me climbing up to the seat as the Second Boss is because of my luck or my own abilities.  The reason I’m here – the reason I’m still breathing and standing here with you this very moment – is because of everyone that’s supported me, because of every one of my captains, and because of all my friends in the Board.  And also…”

I turn and raise my voice towards the penguins gaping at me for mentioning them … and at the sisters and orphans staring blankly at me without a clue as to what’s going on, and at all the villagers.

“The ones who’ve protected me, supported me, and kept me alive are these ordinary citizens, these people of Daivan, of the whole United States whose faces and names I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t met them just a little while ago.  The reason I am able to stand here and live to see my birthday pass … is because of all the people in this world.

You have my thanks.  Thank you.”

In the silent party lounge, I take a deep breath and say,

“I am a man of honor.  A Mafia sprung straight from the slums, and your Second Boss.”

At my words, the Board starts murmuring and shifting about, but I ignore them and continue.

“And what’s allowed me to live to this day is this city, and this land, which is why I will spend my days on this land and, someday, die here.  …Which is why, before that happens, I’d like to give my small … but my best all-out thanks to the world that’s kept me alive up until now.”

In the corner of my eyes, I see Bernardo give a tiny nod.  He signals some of his men who then go into the stage behind me and drag out some kind of machine.

“Wh-What … are you planning…?!  Capo del Monte…?!”

“Mm, well, when you think about what people like us can do to repay respectable fellows … this comes to mind.  You know, donations.  Charity.  The Directors in the Board will be willing to cooperate with me on this, right?”

Mr. Gardelli shrinks back with a groaning “Guh.”

“Now then!  It’s the time we’ve all been waiting for!  Let’s start this bingo game!!”

As my voice screaming through the mike echoes away, the men of the Board gape wide-eyed at the card that’d been distributed to them … and Bernardo and the others also pick up their cards with expressions full of sighs.

“Wh-What are you doing, Giancarlo?!”

“Oh, Grampa Cavalli, you’re a guest, so you don’t really have a say.  Or would you like to try your hand at bingo, too?”

“Grngh … and here … I thought you were hiding something from me…!  Bernardo!  And you others!  How could you go along with this…?!  Just what are you planning?!”

“Ahm, naw.  They’re just men following my orders, so aaaall the responsibility is on me here.”

A big penguin waddles over, practically shoving past the poor Grampa Cavalli, trembling from head to toe.

“B-Bingo?!  How is that even related to donations—?”

“Yep, bingo’s the way we’re doing it.  I mean, haven’t the guys up in Finance been raising up a ruckus lately?  Even if we go the normal route and take out money from the treasury to dole around, by that time even the healthy and hale stomachs’ll be needing open stomach surgery.  This way … things’ll be so much simpler and faster if we just give out hard cash in this public forum.”

As I say this … I give the bingo drum a spin.

The first number that bounces out with a kerplunk … is a one.  Wow.  Bau.

“Aaand, the first one is a one!!  Come on, everyone, pop a hole in that card of yours!  Go on!”

“Wh-Wh—  How is this charity…”

Mr. Gardelli still keeps snapping as I spin the drum a second time.

“Didn’t I say?  Think of it as an early Halloween.  First to ‘Bingo!’ gets to donate one dollar, and so on … and I was thinking we’ll have the winners take part in a bit of dress-up.”

“Wh-What?!  D-Dress up…?”

“Yup.  I was thinking we should act out of our age every once in a while!”

I give a signal and I can feel Luchino’s shoulders slumping behind me.

“…Now then, as the boss orders, let’s get started…”

At Luchino’s orders, the troops standing by in the back and some workers of some sort start moving.

They open up the containers sitting on the carts they’d pushed in earlier, and there, they pull out one vivid, flamboyant costume after another and line them up on hangers.

“Yaaay!!” shout the kids, and the villagers raise excited voices, too.  And, an “Eek” leaks out from the Directors’ throats as they realize their fate.

“Um, let’s see…  We’ve got quite a bunch here.  There’s pirates, magicians … and, look, here’s Snow White and her dwarves!  Oh!  And here’s that Martian princess that’s been all the rage lately.”

“…Seriously, what a Capo we have.  To think you’d have someone like me prepare such absurd garments.”

“Aw, but you’ve done a Luchino-level job here!  Just means I did the right thing taking a shine to you.  This is perfect.”

At the sight of the costumes lined up before them … the Directors start slowly but steadily backing up towards the exit, looking as though they’d been dealt the Death card.

But … standing there in front of the closed door … is the janitor, still holding the empty can in his hands.

“Wh-Why is he…?!”

“M-Move at once!  You can’t make us take part in this foolish—!”

Of course, Ragtliffe doesn’t budge an inch.  Instead, having failed to make the man move by force, the Directors aimlessly standing around … spot a very frightening sight.

“We’re ready here, too.  We can start any time.”

There, by the side of the stage, are several memorial cameras set up, standing on humongous stands like the ones used for machineguns.

“Wh-What are you planning—?!  Do you intend to insult us?!”

I amble towards the costumes, all lined up neat in a row, and say,

“Of course, I know veeery well that everyone of the Board is mighty busy.  …Which is why, if you’re sooo swamped and absolutely must leave, I won’t stop you.  Instead, you can pay the janitor standing there the cost for the bingo card and go on your way.  The price is … a hundred bucks.  Per person.”

I ignore the malevolent atmosphere wafting up from the party floor and spin the drum again.

“OK!  Next is … another one.  Uno!  Any bingos?  …Naw, guess that’s impossible just yet.”

…Just as planned.  The penguins by the exit growl – some even slap the janitor with their card – before the flock slowly files away through the door.

But … some of the Directors … are persistently remaining behind, and the ladies they’d brought with them stay with them, too.

…You want the Lucky Dog stallion that badly?

“OK!  Now for number three!  And exciting number four!  And exhilarating number five…!!

“…Now then.  Let’s go, Bernardo.  Ivan.  Giulio.”

“…Sigh.  I guess we really are going with it…?”

“Yep!  Where’s the instruments?”

“…Will we be playing the same as before, Signor Gian?”

“Uhm, yup!  Luchino, get the instruments and change of clothes ready.”

“I know…  Jeez, we’ve found ourselves under quite the boss.”

“Forgive me for being such a tyrant.  Ready?  …Let’s go!!”

I leave the mike stand behind…

“Hiyah!  So nostalgic and so did not want to see myself in this again!!”

Fwoosh!  I grab a fistful of costume and pull it out.

…Zebra stripes, black and white.  A very familiar prisoner outfit.

“Wh-Wh-Wh-Wh-What is this?!  Giancarlo?!  Just what—?!”

“D’aww, I feel like if I wear this, I’ll get sooo nostalgic I’ll just wanna break into song!”

“S-Song?”

“Yeah.  …It’s a thing from our past.  …It’s also one of the reasons I’m – we’re – still alive, which is why, I wanna give it a shot again…”

“…My apologies, Consigliere…  This may look like nothing more than one of Giancarlo’s pranks, but this is also one of the aspects of our charity project, so please forgive us…”

I ignore the parrot-transformed Gramps as he repeats “Charity?!” as I…

“…?!  Eeeeeeeek!!”

The ladies on scene notice what my captains and I are doing and raise a shriek.

I strip off my jacket and necktie…  Luchino removes his coat and have his men bring forward changing curtains…  Bernardo gives another sigh as he hands his jacket to his men, and Giulio drops his expensive-looking clothes to the floor without an ounce of hesitation…

…and all of us pick up a washed but still raggedy set of prisoner clothes and start putting them on.

Just as I start to take off my pants … the rest of the ladies and their escorting executives – each and every one of them – hurl a Ben Frank or their business card into Rag’s empty can before disappearing from the lounge.

The only person left … is poor Grampa Cavalli.

“Woo yeah!  Mm, it’s been so long since I’ve worn these stripes I can feel myself straightening up to attention … or not.”

“…I’m putting this on your tab, Gian.  Damn.  Those were some bad memories.”

“Why did something like this have to be order-made?  I’m never doing this again.”

“Gian!  You might be used to this and all, but we’re not!  …Agh, shit this stinks!”

“…It is … a little nostalgic.  …Even now, I remember what happened on the grounds…”

We change into our prison clothes, and…

“Aaah!!  It’s the stripies!  The stripies!!”

“Hey!  Hey!  Do that again!  You know, that thing you did before!!  Old person!  Do it again!!”

The eyes from the squirts from Bowick light up like stars as they scuttle towards us and surround us.  The orphanage kids, still not knowing what’s going on but getting caught up in the excitement all the same, surround us, too.

“Ooh!  That’s just like way back when!  Aah, sure brings me back…”

“…T’think, y’all really were Mafias, eh.  Mm, it’s like it was nothin’ more ‘n a dream.”

The scene from when we’d stopped by the village right after we’d broken out revives before my eyes as well.

…If we’d screwed up back then back there or if anyone from the village had suspected us, we wouldn’t be standing here right now.

“Thanks, Bernardo, for bringing everyone.  I feel myself ready to cry.”

“No problem.  Since our Capo has forbidden us from spending even one dollar on his birthday … this is the least I could do.”

I lightly slap Bernardo on the back.  Before me, my eyes catch sight of…

“Oh…  Nice going, Luchino!”

…the little old lady decked out in fine clothes, her cheeks rosy red like a faraway fire.  And then I see that she’s surrounded by a forest of crimson red roses, and I remember that night from super long ago and laugh.

“Now then, put in your all, guys!  We’re gonna… …Hellooo?  Where’s the instruments?”

“I have finished my preparations.”

Giulio’s in his prison clothes and holding a violin – not the one from “that time” but one that’s shining with a kinda dreadfully shiny gloss – in his hand.

Bernardo moves towards a set of drums his men had set up as he scratches his long hair, and Luchino’s hugging a stern-styled guitar and strumming its strings.

“Hey, gimme something too, will yaaaeh?”

Just as Ivan says this to the men distributing the instruments…

“Hey, hey!  Triangle old person!  Do the ding!! thing!!”

“Wh-Whaaa?!  Wh-Why—”

“You just don’t know when to give up, do you, Ivan?  Don’t you even dare think about touching another instrument after all this time!”

I take up the mike stand again.

“…All righty!  Bernardo, how’s the recorder?”

“It’s ready anytime.  We can have up to ten retakes.  The disks are rather expensive, after all.”

“OK!  Luchino, the cameramen are standing by, too?”

“Leave it to me.  I’ll put together the best jacket possible.”

Eccellente.  Let’s give this a roll, then…”

It was then…  …Sorry…  Counselor Cavalli, looking like he’d aged ten years, draws closer.

“T-Tell me!  Wh-What do you think you’re doing?  Dressed up like that?  Acting like a band?!”

“I said already!  It’s my birthday, so I’m throwing a bash, right?  …This is my … roots?  True nature?  Essenza?  …Which is why I wanna never forget it.”

“Ngh … even … after you’ve become Capo…?”

“That’s right.  Love ya for being so understanding, Gramps.”

“I-I-I-I-Impudent brat!!”

“…You have my deepest apologies, Consigliere…  Also, the reason this is charity…”

“As I recall, we will record the song and anonymously sell it to the radio.  All the money that will be earned from the label will be donated to charity.”

“The idea’s got stupid spelled all over it, but since it’s his birthday present and all, I’m going along with it.”

“…Signor Gian said that even if it earns only a little money, the money earned from our labor will have more worth.”

“N-Ngh…”

“Sorry, Gramps.  This is all kinda childish … and all the Directors are really pissed, but this was the only way I could think of to piss them all off equally without aggravating them too much.”

“Th-That’s not reason to…  You could’ve done things a bit more…”

I send a wink towards Grampa Cavalli’s complicated expression before…

“All righty, let’s start off with one song!!  First off, let’s start with that nostalgic single!!”

Bernardo starts beating a rhythm on the drums.  Luchino strums up an accompaniment, and Giulio follows along.  Ivan holds up the silver stick with an extremely complex expression on his face.  And I … I stuff the bingo card – the lucky card with its bingo numbers 11730 straight down the center – into my pocket for now.

(…Thank you…)

…I gather up my love for the world I still know so very little about in my heart…

…and I, the vocals, inhale a deep breath.

END

(Tennenouji Web Site, 2009, Gian’s Birthday)

* The original text uses “l’uomo,” with the explanation that it means “great man.”  The chain of logic is that “that man” can be used to mean someone great (like a celebrity) in Japanese, so it was used that way in Italian.  I am opting for … multiple language correctness, though, and I have a feeling this isn’t the way the phrase is used in Italian, where l’uomo literally only means “man.”  grand’uomo means, according to commenter silverlou, “In Italian it’ s used to indicate a good man, a men who has power or a man [with a] heart of gold… [We] also use it to describe a man who has done great things.”  Thanks, silverlou 😉


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15 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. allycat
    Sep 15, 2012 @ 05:04:03

    KYAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!! I LOVE GIAN!!!!! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! Sooo much for this. I really needed this after getting off work. Definitely the best birthday party ever! BIG WELCOME BACK and I hope you don’t overdo it too much. Your health is very important after all. Once again welcome back and thank you very much for this delicious treat! 🙂
    (setting off party poppers!)

    Like

    Reply

    • terracannon876
      Sep 15, 2012 @ 10:55:23

      Thank you for asking =) No, translating didn’t bring my health down any 😄

      On the other hand, my sister visiting me while she had a cold probably did, but that was last week ._. I mean. I love you, sis =)

      I’m glad you enjoyed the SS ^^

      Like

      Reply

  2. sc
    Sep 25, 2012 @ 02:54:12

    BL or not, good writing is still good writing. This was such a nice story… Where are the other specials? I remember one about Bernardo sending a letter to Gian in jail.

    Like

    Reply

    • terracannon876
      Sep 25, 2012 @ 10:05:02

      The specials are ones you get when you preorder the game, so they’re understandably rare. As such, I can’t just buy them like I do the anniversary anthologies (which hold the SS that were serialized on the site) and they’re … very elusive online. I’ve found one other, but this one won’t make sense until I translate one of Luchino’s birthday SS. Other than that, I can’t find them…

      A list of the SS (that may be a little incorrect) can be found on the LD Requests page.

      Like

      Reply

  3. silverlou
    Jun 21, 2013 @ 06:56:11

    Woow. Ok, now that I managed to read this, I can say without any doubt that Gian’ s brain is went on holiday! xD
    About the “grand’ uomo” question..
    Well, this phrase litterally means “great man”.
    In Italian it’ s used to indicate a good man, a men who has power or a man whit an heart of gold.. Uh, we also use it to describe a man who has done great things.
    Yeah, I think that in this case “grand’ uomo” fits better. And it sounds good for describe Luchino xD

    Like

    Reply

  4. Ageha
    Jul 23, 2013 @ 04:53:12

    [“Now then, put in your all, guys! We’re gonna… …Hellooo? Where’s the instruments?]<– missing double quote at the end.

    Like

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  5. Ageha
    Jan 11, 2014 @ 02:50:30

    [But this is because Bernardo, Luchino, Ivan, and Giuilo]<– Guilio

    *sigh* I hope you don't hate me for bothering you. =_=

    Like

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    • terracannon876
      Jan 11, 2014 @ 07:51:15

      No, these corrections are very helpful. It honestly saddens and annoys me that I can’t find these mistakes myself but such is the hazard of putting something online after only two drafts. …Funnily, most of the stranger mistakes happen AFTER I edit something… ^^;

      I can’t edit anything at the moment, though. Halfway around the world from home atm 😛 But keep pointing away!

      And, as always, thanks for reading 🙂

      Like

      Reply

    • terracannon876
      Apr 24, 2014 @ 16:21:29

      Fixed.

      Like

      Reply

  6. Ageha
    Jan 11, 2014 @ 02:54:19

    Sorry. Another one: [Each of the black-suited private soldiers are hugging enormous baskets in their arms as they file into the lounge.]<– Each… soldiers [is] hugging

    Like

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  7. Lanxin
    Apr 02, 2016 @ 13:27:47

    This is why I love Lucky Dog! xDDD
    Thank you thank you thank you! Your translations are absolutely amazing!

    Like

    Reply

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