Lucky Dog 1 Short Story – Anniversary 1 – Heritage two
(Released in the 1st Anniversary collection version red. Unserialized. 2009.)
(Giulio mentions the Cool-B Superpack SS, Night Riders, which has not been translated yet, when he talks about the bonfire and staying a night in the woods with Gian.)
“Oh, right, right. I just remembered.”
“Yes…? What is it, Signor Gian?”
Signor Gian, who had been pushing the worn shopping cart, suddenly halted. A somewhat troubled, somewhat embarrassed smile appeared over his face.
“No, just … I just remembered what happened back then. You know … when I first went to your room.”
“Ah…” He is correct. The supermarket Signor Gian and I are currently shopping in is the same store … as before.
…We had purchased food and ice cream, and then…
“I wasn’t really thinking about it when I came in, but it really is the same store. Supermarkets’ve been popping up like daisies around here, so I couldn’t tell.”
“That … is true…” My voice catches when I remember what had happened before.
That day is the point at which my way of life and my body … had transformed.
The world I had wished for and the conclusion that I had wished for is right before me…
“But man, when the Lecher Gorilla went, ‘I wanna have those jumbo cabbages they’ve got at the market for dinner,’ my mind drew up a complete blank. …But, it’s all thanks to him I remembered this place. Haha, it sure brings me back…”
Signor Gian pushes the cart filled with the cabbage and bags of candy forward.
…and I walk alongside him… It is then, suddenly…
“…It kind of feels nice, doesn’t it? Us being like this.” Faster than I can interpret the meaning behind Signor Gian’s words, he continues. “…Love ya, Giulio.”
Signor Gian’s words cause me to blink and unbalance me.
The individual words disseminate and vanish into the mass of customers, but…
“I love you, Giulio.”
I believe his words were a casual utterance.
I believe it is one of Signor Gian’s usual kind words, said without too much importance behind them, like how he would always pet my hair whenever there is a misunderstanding.
Those words that he had uttered that day had pierced deep within me, burning within like a bonfire log.
…like the flames of the bonfire that had warmed us and boiled our coffee for us that day, when Signor Gian and I had been alone in the forest at night.
Warm, but ever so gentle.
“I love you.”
I loved those words.
I wanted to say those words more.
But, just hearing those words once was enough to warm me for an eternity.
And, when I try to articulate the words with my own mouth…
When I try to say them myself, it hurt because I could not form the words properly.
…Even though it was such a short phrase. “I love you.”
Signor Gian’s words that day ran circles through my heart, choking my breath, agitating my pulse, and making a fool of me.
The foolishness that I usually kept suppressed within me like pain to be ignored flared more powerfully than me that day and controlled me.
Sometimes, I become like this.
…I wonder how I was in the past?
…I have memories of being roused by foolish impulses and doing foolish things.
…It is an impulse I have long forgotten ever since Signor Gian had touched me. The impulse towards red blood and warm flesh, towards the stench of rotting meat had at some point in time weakened, shuddering like a small creature rather than the beast it was.
“Signor Gian…” I whisper the name.
And, to kill the facet of myself agitating me and making me do foolish things – to return myself to the way I was – so I can be of use to Signor Gian and Signor Gian’s allies, I return to my usual place, alone … and stay.
…is where I go to tune my body.
Erected in the final year of the previous century is a single mansion that lies on the corner of a residential area in the hills on the west of Daivan.
No one lives in the mansion. No one owns this mansion.
The only person who knows of the existence of this mansion and uses it is … currently, me alone. Even Signor Gian – and of course Bernardo – does not know of it.
That pitiful old man … the pitiful man who was once my grandfather, also did not know of this place.
This is because after its owner had died, the only one who knows of this place is me.
I enter one specific room in the mansion.
The vicinity of the mansion and the other rooms are cleaned by those who do not know of the situation, but the only one who enters this room is me.
I shut the door. The creak of the unwieldy wood and the metal echoes through the room smelling mildly of mold and then vanishes.
Inside the dim room, I shut my eyes … then open them.
The weak sunlight that passes through the faded curtains and skylights meanders through the empty room free of furnishing.
I walk forward a few steps over the floor coated with a light layer of dust.
And … I shut my eyes.
Just from remembering “them,” my head spins and my face slightly tilts upwards with a trembling mouth.
‘Signor Gian.’ I call his name without bringing air to my throat as the words Signor Gian had uttered revives from the bottom of my mind.
It is no good. My body is being shaken by the word and becoming foolish.
I cannot fight like this. I cannot protect Signor Gian like this.
I hold my breath … then breathe again. I open my eyes within the chilled, stagnant air of the room.
I … move my feet towards what I find.
“…One … two…”
I find “it” buried under the dust covering the teak floor of the room.
I reach my foot towards “it,” and … gently, I place my foot over it.
It is a footprint drawn in chalk on the floorboard.
It is the outline of a small shoe print that completely disappears when I place my foot over it.
It has almost completely disappeared from having been stepped on so many times ever since it was first drawn.
Though it is a trail of footprints, they are scattered through the room as though its owner were staggering.
They are drawn over the entire surface of the floor in a distorted circle.
“…three … four…”
As I step on the chalk footprints – gently, so gently – I move slower than the dancing dust returning to rest on the floor. I walk. I move my body.
These are the teachings and the last testament of my Master who had taught me to fight.
Master called them footwork. The basics of movement.
I slowly continue through the steps that I have repeated in the past innumerable times.
As I proceed, I can feel the foolishness agitating me immediately shrinking.
I proceed … and my feet advance. Avoiding the long, thin silk threads that dangle from the ceiling to the floor, they advance. And, I breathe with even breaths.
These strings are also Master’s teaching. I must not touch or cause the threads to move as I walk. I cross through the forest of strings, so fragile that a sigh may snap them, slowly, so they do not waver.
Ever since I was a child left alone, I walked through this room alone, training.
I had traced after the footsteps Master had left behind. Though I did not understand the meaning behind it, I had continued to do so. And, even though I have now come to understand its meaning, I continue to train within this room.
These footprints teach me many things, even now. I can feel the meaning behind the many moves Master had shown me when I walk.
Movements that I had only seen once – many movements, some with a knife, others with bare fists, and yet others that would be useful outside of battle – come to life with these footprints and once again sink into me.
Master died when I was a child.
Master died being ripped apart by bullets before my eyes.
Master, who was stronger than anything else in the world, died not being able to protect who was to be protected.
Master died not being able to protect Father and Mother and died along with them.
Master had looked at me before the light had left those eyes … and died.
“…Five … six…”
I move one lap through trail of footprints. The sun entering through the skylights angles and becomes gentler and slightly tinged with red.
The day before dying, Master had given me the key to this room.
I think Master had probably known death was coming.
I think Master left this room to the small child I was, who knew almost nothing, to teach me strength.
Master is no longer here, so I cannot ask, nor can I experiment.
The knife Master had given me had protected Signor Gian and broke.
Just how strong have I become?
For how long can I continue to protect Signor Gian?
I wonder … if I can become one-tenth as strong as Master was?
I cannot remember Master’s face very well anymore.
Master was a small person. The man who was once my Grandfather always oppressed and treated Master as lowly trash.
Master was said to be Mother’s old friend, but I am not sure if that is the truth. Master is a woman older than my mother, of an age where her hair was mixed with white.
Master was just one of the guards protecting my parents and me, but she failed her duty and died.
Sometimes, I wonder.
Was Master’s death – her life, her body – in vain?
She died by the same bullets that had cold-bloodedly killed my parents.
It is still difficult for me to dodge a rifle bullet, but Master could do it perfectly. However, Master had died being ripped apart by a machinegun.
The day she had given me this room, Master had embraced my small body for the first time and left me the words, “My son,” before dying.
I wonder if Master’s life and her strength were all in vain.
Will my body and my strength also become useless with time?
I stop the footwork and walk towards the desk in the corner of the room.
I remove the cloth covering it and reach for the precision scale lying beneath it.
It is a machine often used in banks or hospitals to measure money or drugs to the milligram using a gradating scale.
I hold my breath … then breathe again…
I remember Signor Gian and his words.
My body shakes, but it is immediately suppressed. Only good feelings spread through my heart and spinal cord before disappearing as well.
I take my right index finger and … gently, press it on the dish of the scale.
The needle … must not waver.
Until the needle begins smoothly, slowly turning, I press with my entire body on the scale through my hand.
…100 … 500 … 1,000.
I regulate the pressure in my finger as I watch the display. …This is good. My body is moving as I wish. 5,000, then 10,000 … 20,000.
And then, I gently relieve the pressure.
My lips and body move, but the needle does not budge.
I remember those words.
However, the needle does not waver as it gently moves, gradually tilting like the angle of sunlight.
The sensation of the words “I love you” envelops every part of me and sinks in.
A sensation so warm, so gentle. Firmer than steel. Hotter than bullets.
I love those words.
I love that Signor Gian says them to me.
Someday, I also hope to try saying them. Again … and again.
Even if Signor Gian only feels one-thousandth of the emotions I feel at my words, oh, how happy I would be.
“Signor … Gian…”
The intoxication of heroine and the violent passion of cocaine are nothing in the face of these emotions. Narcotics are a base, manufactured chemical that is persistent and leave nothing more than lingering aftereffects. Even if it was under that man’s orders, I had put such a thing into my body and even tried to propose Signor Gian to do so as well. I want to kill my past self for doing such a thing.
My finger resting on the scale stops. I still.
Just as Master had protected me, taught me, and enabled me to live in this world, I want to protect Signor Gian with my entire body…
…in this world surrounding me… …with all the magnanimity permitting me to live.
My eyes follow the scale on the display.
The needle had stopped at 10,520. As I look at those meaningless numbers, I stop my entire body and just … exist in this world … this world that surrounds me and permits me to live.
I slowly withdraw my hand, and the needle gently moves.
My body has finally returned to me. The foolish trembling has stopped.
If Master had not left this room to me…
If my child self had not realized the meaning behind this room…
I would have unquestionably died, without ever meeting Signor Gian…
My body trembles just slightly, but it immediately stopped.
This is an auspicious sign.
When the foolishness grows strong, there are times when coming to this room does not even occur to me.
I believe this is an auspicious sign.
I embrace those warm words within me.
…I wonder what this sensation is called? Enjoyment? Pleasure? Happiness? No, this is something different.
I feel like Master had said the word for this emotion at that time.
It was so long ago that I have forgotten, but I may remember it yet.
“I go now.”
I return the cloth over the scale and leave the room.
After this is the dinner conference with the captains and counselors.
I will have dinner with Signor Gian and our other allies.
Within my body, that warmth whose name I do not know shuddered.
I can protect Signor Gian.
It is so warm.
Perhaps, I will also die a futile death like Master.
But, until that final instant, I will live my life, dedicating it to Signor Gian.
I may come to understand.
Understand the meaning of the emotion behind the smile on my Master’s face as she looked at me in her last moments, after the bullets had ripped her body apart.
When I shut the door, the dust on the floor drifted upwards, and I see the shower of silk descending from the ceiling waver softly.
(Tennenouji, 2009, Poll Result SS –Unpublished– )