[summary] No.6 ~ 2526
Author/Circle: Kino Hinoki, Asano Atsuko
Nezumi and Shion are out of time, now, and have been found out by the Correctional Facility security team, it seems, and they’re racing to reach their goal before being captured.
Shion is getting the sense that someone or something’s helping them, as the situation’s going almost too smoothly, and for some reason…he senses Safu’s involvement. They set aside such suspicions to focus on their next obstacle—a door with an older model lock on it—when they realize they have company, as Nezumi shoves Shion out of the way just in time—
—to dodge a shot from some guards.
Nezumi goads the guards on a bit before leaping into action (along with his mice XD), and the hallway erupts into gunfire and slashing blades and gnashing little teeth. They manage to get the door open and quickly duck inside for refuge, slamming it shut behind them, and find themselves faced with a long, dark, ominous staircase.
Nezumi remarks, as they ascend, that Shion didn’t make a fuss.
Shion: “A fuss?”
Nezumi: “With the guards. Before, you would’ve given me a neverending lecture about how I shouldn’t hurt others and all.”
As realization sinks in, Shion admits that he would’ve, before, but it couldn’t be helped in this case—they were enemies and therefore had to be defeated. If Nezumi hadn’t done so, they would’ve both been killed.
This gives Nezumi pause.
Nezumi: “…’Couldn’t be helped’? You seriously feel that way?”
Shion: “…I do.”
Nezumi accepts this and qualifies that he held back a bit before, because he had the luxury of doing so—but from here on out, he might not be so lucky. If he doesn’t take out their enemies, they’ll be killed, so…
He trails off, and Shion asks him to speak up, but Nezumi doesn’t seem to want to continue and brushes him off. He sighs to himself—before clenching his jaw and recalling the old woman he used to live with warning him against sighing on another’s behalf.
“You must never trust another, nor must you give your heart to any other. Heed me—if you want to survive, then carve out these words within you. You’re the only one…the only survivor.”
He silently begs for her forgiveness—for he’s disobeying her wishes. He’s sighed countless times on behalf of another, has trusted, has given his heart to another. He’s shackled his own feet of his own accord—but he couldn’t help it. He just couldn’t cut Shion away.
At Nezumi’s silence, Shion asks him what he’s thinking, and Nezumi simply replies that he’s focusing on getting to the top of these steps—and on what’s waiting for them after that…but in his mind, he’s much more honest:
I was thinking about you, Shion. About you.
He knows in his mind, in his very bones, that it’s kill or be killed in here—but has Shion stopped considering that oft-repeated ‘third option’? When Shion had chastised Nezumi for making everything black and white and never considering there might be another alternative, for a moment—if only a moment—he actually felt that there might be such a thing. A path leading not to retribution but coexistence, one where he chose not revenge but forgiveness. And now Shion’s saying it can’t be helped?
If in the future Nezumi must kill someone…or Shion himself must shed the blood of another—will Shion still feel that it can’t be helped?
They reach the top—but it seems to be a dead end, and Shion quickly directs him to a panel in the ceiling just as guards break inside, shooting at them. Nezumi leaps up first, reaching down and grabbing Shion by the hand to haul him up—and a bullet grazes Shion’s leg.
It’s the first time he’s ever been shot, Nezumi presumes, painting the experience as a brush with a dangerous woman, and Shion confesses he hopes to not soon repeat his ‘date’.
Nezumi boosts Shion into an old air vent—and as he does so, his hand brushes Shion’s leg, coming away bloody from the wound.
He frowns and clenches his fist tight—but before they can escape without issue, the guards find them again, and after delivering a sound kick to the nearest one’s chin, Nezumi uses his gun to take out all of his followers. He scavenges what weapons he can from the man, and then the pair start down the long, dark vent that Shion, remarkably calm, likens to the burrow of a wild rat.
They share small talk, touching on the fact that if either of them were fatter, they couldn’t fit, and while Inukashi would have no difficulty, Rikiga wouldn’t even be able to get this far, let alone fit in the shaft.
Shion pauses when he comes upon another vent—and they peer through to find a computer bank, what appears to be a lab full of scientists. Nezumi has a plan to distract them and urges Shion back, quieting his questions with the urging, “Just watch.”
It’s a tiny bomb, and Shion seems dreadfully curious about it, but Nezumi urges him to pipe down and take cover—when it goes on, they’re going to have to make a run for it, so he’d better be ready. Shion protests, though, that because of their positions, Nezumi’s acting as Shion’s shield against the blast.
Nezumi reminds him that from where they’re sitting, it really doesn’t matter what position they’re in—and releases another sigh on Shion’s behalf.
Both Shion and Tsukiyo survive the blast unscathed, and the pair leap down into pandemonium. Nezumi dispatches the scientists who accost them, waiting for orders from Shion—but Shion is distracted.
Nezumi draws up close to the window through which Shion is staring…and finds them overlooking a series of long conveyor belts…atop which sit dozens and dozens…of bodies.
To be continued…