Chapter 1: A Bomb, a Book, and a Grey Town – Part 1

“Colio Tonies.”

Someone said in the darkness.

Colio Tonies raised his face. He couldn’t see anything. He peeled his cheek off the stone floor.

His chest hurt, and the sound of wind would pass through its back whenever he breathed. The inside of his mouth was hot, covered in dry mucus, and by moving his tongue he could feel that something was peeling off. It was immensely painful. However, Colio wasn’t in the right state of mind to care about that.

When he tried moving his hand to wipe the dirt off his face, nothing came of it. His arms were bound by some sticky wet rope. Both of his hands were crushed under his body that faced upwards, and he couldn’t move even one finger.

“Colio Tonies. What are humans?”

It was a man’s voice, but there were no human figures around. Next to Colio on the stone floor was an antique gramophone with a spinning copper disc. The man’s voice resounded from the gramophone’s speaker.

Facing that, Colio answered.

“Humans are the favorite amongst God’s children. They are the ones able to connect the lights of Heaven and Earth. Using love and freedom, they weave the tapestry of happiness with their lives.”

Colio no longer understood what he was saying. He just had to say it.

He had a feeling he hadn’t eaten anything since the noon of the day before yesterday.  His memories were fuzzy, so he couldn’t remember if he had actually eaten or not.

His bound wrists hurt. His skin was sodden with sweat and his uncovered flesh began festering.

He couldn’t feel his fingers. He didn’t even know if he had fingers.

“Continue, Colio Tonies.”

“A wounded human must be helped.

A suffering human must be saved.

A lonely human must be loved.”

“Why is that?”

“It is because all humans were born to become happy. They were born to be loved.”

“I’ll ask once again. What are humans?”

“Those with the right to gain all the happiness of this world. Those who will love, be loved, be satisfied, will not suffer, and gain supreme bliss for their entire lives.”

“Good.”

Colio continued his conversation with the gramophone.

The contents of that conversation were already decided in advance. He was not allowed to say anything other than what was decided. He was also not allowed to think of anything other than what was decided. Colio had no value to the gramophone.

“So, Colio Tonies. Why do you act like this?”

“Because Colio Tonies is not a human.”

“What is Colio Tonies?”

“Colio Tonies is a bomb.”

“Colio Tonies is a bomb.”

“Colio Tonies is a bomb.”

Suddenly, Colio realized someone was looking at him. The door to this stone room that could contain only two people had been opened at some point, and a lone man entered.

Colio’s right shin ached. The man had stepped on his leg. It was crushed against the stone floor, his bones creaking in pain. Just when he thought his foot was going to be separated from his knee, now his hip was kicked. Colio’s body rolled across the floor like a pencil. He weakly raised his neck while lying down.

At some point, the gramophone had stopped. This time, a man had inquired him directly instead of it.

“Colio Tonies. What are you?”

“Colio Tonies is a bomb.”

Colio’s answer seemed to please the man.

“A satisfactory answer.”

As he said that, the room was lit. Colio, blinded by the light, raised a pained cry.

“Seems like that’s enough.”

The man said. What exactly was enough, Colio wasn’t able to understand. His body ached and tired. He didn’t want to think about anything, nor did he want to feel anything.

“Colio Tonies. I will tell you the reason you were born.”

The voice said to Colio who was lying on the cold stone floor.

“You were born in order to kill Hamyuts Meseta. Repeat after me, Colio Tonies.”

Despite tiring and aching, Colio accepted the man’s words. Who was Hamyuts Meseta? Why is she to be killed? How will I kill her? There were all sorts of things he didn’t understand, but he had no problems with that.

“Colio Tonies was born in order to kill Hamyuts Meseta.”

The man standing next to Colio said.

“Once again, repeat.”

“In order to kill Hamyuts Meseta.”

“Once more.”

“In order to kill Hamyuts Meseta.”

“Kill Hamyuts Meseta.”

“To kill Hamyuts Meseta.”

The rope binding Colio’s wrists was undone. Feeling pain when his skin came in touch with the surrounding air, Colio frowned.

“Kill Hamyuts Meseta.”

“To kill Hamyuts Meseta.”

Colio crawled and rose on his feet.

“Kill Hamyuts Meseta.”

“To kill Hamyuts Meseta.”

Colio muttered. The gramophone had already stopped, the man had already left, and no one was talking to Colio.

“To kill Hamyuts Meseta.”

Inside the empty room, Colio muttered to himself.

That was Colios Tonies’s earliest memory.

 

A wind came blowing in from somewhere. That stagnant wind stank of dust. Colio Tonies awoke by this smell. In front of his face was a wooden bed that smelled the same, as well as flimsy bed sheets that hung on top of it. Colio realized he was awake.

It was bright outside; it was morning. Beyond the smoky glass window, an even smokier sky and clouds could be seen.

He hadn’t dreamed in a long time.

It was a dream of Colio’s earliest memory.

To kill Hamyuts Meseta. From the day he had learned those words, half a year had passed.

Colio stretched his body inside the dusty bed.

It was a narrow room in the second floor of a small inn, housing just three beds. There was a moth’s corpse on the kerosene lamp hanging from the ceiling. Colio was lodging in this room full of spider webs.

“…If I’m not touching it, it’s not painful. But just moving my body hurts.”

A voice said. Next to Colio’s bed, two men were talking. Colio knew both of their names. Relia Bookwatt and Hyoue Janfus. Hyoue Janfus was lying in bed, half naked, while Relia Bookwatt sat next to him. It seemed Relia was looking at Hyoue’s chest.

“Does it hurt when you bend forward?”

“It always hurts when I move… here look, it’s festering.”

Hyoue groaned in pain. When Relia looked at it, he grimaced.

“Ah, you’re right. It is festering.”

“Yes. I’ve been feeling strange since last night.”

Relia’s bed was tidied up. It seemed the both of them already woke up earlier.

“What’s wrong?”

Colio asked Relia.

“Hyoue feels bad.”

Relia said.

“He’s festering. Maybe some dust entered the hole in his chest. Doesn’t seem like it happened to me… what about you, Colio?”

As he said this, Colio put a hand on his chest. His chest was thin and skinny such that he could feel the texture of his ribs.

In the center of his chest, a little right to his heart – Colio’s hand could feel a large stone.

Colio carefully stroked the stone embedded inside of him.

Now that he thought about it, he was feeling some discomfort. By pressing the stone and feeling the pressure on his lungs, he became breathless.

“Maybe. I think it’s because of the outside air.”

“Oh. I think so, too.”

Saying this, Relia unbuttoned his grey shirt. He exposed his chest that looked just as unhealthy as Colio’s.

In the middle of it, just like Colio, a large stone was embedded.

“Because the air here is bad… look. Dust is gathering between the stone and the flesh. We should have wiped it before.”

In order to bury the stone inside, some flesh in their chests was gouged out. Their skin was cut like a dissected frog, and a gaping hole opened in their breast. Some of their ribs have been removed.

After embedding the stone, they covered the skin that was torn open and sewed the stone to the skin with nails. The stretched dead skin became blackened and dry. The gap between the torn dead skin and their ribs and dead muscles allowed wind to flow in.

A clay-like reddish brown stone was implanted inside. It was about as large as a fist.

Bare copper wire stood out on the surface like blood vessels. It was padded by nails and metal pieces around it.

A vacuum tube was adhered to the bottom. It contained black powder inside. The black powder was gunpowder that could explode at room temperature.

“If you make a wrong move, it might explode. I don’t think it’s going to happen now, but…”

Relia said anxiously while stroking the stone. Both Relia and Colio knew the clay-like stones were filled with highly explosive material. If the vacuum tube would be cracked and the gunpowder ignited, everything in the proximity would be reduced to ashes.

Relia had a bomb embedded within his chest.

“We’d better be careful. If one of us explodes, we’re all going down with him.”

Hyoue said. His chest also contained the same bomb as Relia, of course.

“Ah, right.”

Colio who said this was the same.

The three men who had bombs inside of their chests looked anxious.

“Hyoue, does it still hurt?”

Relia was stroking Hyoue’s bomb. Hyoue moaned as if about to vomit.

“…But, it became a bit better. If I rest for a bit, it’ll be fine.”

“I see, well, for the meantime I’ll wipe your wound. And afterwards…”

Trying to continue speaking, Relia’s words stopped short.

Colio knew why they did.

“Relia, there’s no ‘afterwards’.”

Colio said. Relia’s expression didn’t change.

“Oh, right.”

“Let’s quickly kill Hamyuts Meseta before my bomb is broken.”

Hyoue said with a frown.

“Right. Let’s quickly kill Hamyuts Meseta.”

Colio repeated after him. Relia repeated it as well.

“Let’s kill Hamyuts Meseta.”

“Let’s kill Hamyuts Meseta.”

“Let’s kill Hamyuts Meseta.”

The three men repeated the words again and again, as if becoming a chorus.

 

“Have you calmed down?”

Relia said. Hyoue nodded and lowered the hem of his shirt.

The three were seated on their beds. In the room of the cheap inn they were staying in, there was almost nothing other than the beds. There was not a table or a single chair.

“If you begin festering again, wipe it quickly.”

Relia said.

“Okay.”

Amongst the three of them, Relia had tentatively acted the role of a leader.

There was no special reason for this – perhaps because he was the oldest, or because he had some knowledge. Colio thought he was in his twenties. But he couldn’t tell for sure.

With his fearless, strong eyes, Relia naturally became their leader.

Hyoue was older than Colio, but should be younger than Relia – around seventeen or so. He had no special features to the extent Colio had trouble remembering his inconspicuous face. This boy who had the complexion of a sick person always looked fearful even while just sitting.

Amongst the three, Colio was the youngest. He was probably around fifteen years old. He was the shortest of them, and he looked even smaller because of the way his back was hunched while standing.

His long bangs concealed his eyes and the hair on the back of the head reached the nape of his neck. When looking from the side, it seemed as if he had some rags on his head.

His face was as gloomy and lifeless as Hyoue’s. Only his eyes were tinged with some strange dark light.

The three were wearing khaki-colored pants and grey linen shirts. As they were not ironed for years, the clothes were wrinkled and faded.

On hangers by the beds, three brown jackets faded in a similar way were hanging. Besides their different sizes, they were exactly the same product.

“What are we doing now?”

Relia said to the two.

“We’ll kill Hamyuts Meseta.”

Colio answered. So Relia asked again.

“So, what are we going to do for that?”

“…”

Colio hadn’t thought of anything.

“For now, we’re just tourists.”

Said Hyoue.

“Let’s go sightseeing.”

Colio and Relia looked at each other.

“Right.”

“That’s good.”

As they said that, the three of them slowly stood up.

The three men’s luggage they had at the inn was small. It all fit inside a small brown bag for each of them.

“Should we bring this?”

Colio asked.

“I think we should only take what we need.”

Said Relia.

“Right.”

On the inside of the cloth bag, written characters could be seen.

‘Kill Hamyuts Meseta’.

Inside the bag were things like a change of clothes, maps, a diary, a wallet, a pen and ink. Words were written on the pen’s handle.

‘Kill Hamyuts Meseta’.

On the map, something was written in red.

‘Kill Hamyuts Meseta’.

He used the diary every day. That was also true of Relia and Hyoue. The diary’s contents were the same every day.

‘Today I haven’t killed Hamyuts Meseta.’

Something was written on the last page. It wasn’t Colio’s writing.

‘Today I exploded with Hamyuts Meseta.’

For now he took out the map and wallet. He didn’t know how to use anything else.

“What about the knife?”

“I don’t know, just bring it.”

Relia said.

There was a knife in a hidden pocket inside his pants. Colio found the knife inside. And even on that knife’s blade it was written:

‘Kill Hamyuts Meseta’.

“Let’s go.”

Relia said.

The three slowly left the room.

 

They left the inn and went into the town.

Colio’s eyes reflected the white-tinged grey sky, as well as the black-tinged grey town.

The three were in a town known as Toatt Mining Town.

With 5000 people living in it, it was a small town.

Toatt Mining Town was on the western edge of the largest country of the world, the Ismo Republic, and located in the middle of the Plote mountain range.

The town was surrounded by a huge mountain range that extended from north to south, bordering on dry Great Plains to the west, and a vast ocean to the east.

Besides the port city to the east, there was no inhabited place within one hundred kilometers there. It was as if the creator of the world had, by mistake, placed Toatt Mining Town in the middle of nowhere.

There was only one reason a town would be created in this place.

It was because this place had a mine to dig out Books from.

Most people who lived in Toatt Mining Town were working to mine out Books and lived while being involved with Books. The town was supported by Books.

Toatt Mining Town was already bustling in the morning.

A herd of people exited their houses, headed for the mines.

Carrying their work tools such as pickaxes and hand drills in a knapsack on their shoulders, the bodies of the men who walked around town were ingrained by the smells of dust and machine oil.

They were heading down the mines to wade through the soil and rocks in order to look for Books.  If they were to successfully dig out Books, they would be able to feast on some beer and smoked pork in the evening. And if they didn’t find any Books, they would probably have to sip on some bean soup.

Most of the men walking around town were those kinds of people. Colio and the others were walking amongst this smell of machine oil and coals.

Tracks crossed the middle of town. Passing through them was a mine cart piled with coals. Four men were pushing the mine cart, headed towards the mountains.

From the opposite side a mine cart laden with Books came down screeching as it passed along the track.

The men pushing the carts were singing together.

“We are miners. Moles are our friends, and roots are our allies.

Is the mine heaven or hell? Scary Armed Librarians are behind us!

If we find the Book of that beloved girl,

Let us give her a kiss…”

The mine cart the man had been pushing passed Colio and the rest and disappeared.

The track led to a station at the town’s entrance. The Books were then taken by train to the neighboring town, and from there a boat would take them to the Library.

Colio and the rest came to Toatt Mining Town using that train two days ago.

“Hey, what is that?”

Hyoue asked.

He was pointing towards a group of chimneys protruding from the mountainside.

Since they were far away, they couldn’t see it very well, but they appeared to be very large chimneys. All of the chimneys emitted great amounts of grey smoke that covered the sky.

“What horrible smoke.”

Hyoue said. Indeed, this town had the smell of ashes no matter where you went. As the sky became white, the whole town was dim.

“Inside the mines, they’re burning a lot of coals. They dig with machines, looking for Books inside the soil.”

Relia said.

“Can nothing be done about that smoke?”

“Who knows… probably, those Library people are too busy.”

Commented Relia.

A town of coals, steam engines, dust, smoke and Books.

That was Colio’s impression of Toatt Mining Town.

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Chapter 1: A Bomb, a Book, and a Grey Town – Part 1

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