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Botsuraku Chapter 88
Volume 5: Chapter 2
“Boss, we’re done taking those boards apart.”
Boss… Did they mean Doolas?
No, they didn’t. If word spread that slowly in the confines of this prison, it would be uninhabitable. I was the boss. Me, Kururi Helan. It was almost like we were living in some zoo enclosure; once I’d sent their boss flying, having beaten him to a point well beyond recovery, his followers had made a rather sudden turn and adopted an attitude that was much more pleasant. They followed my orders well.
I was more than certain that each last one of them had done something that warranted their incarceration here, so I had few qualms about getting the most use I could out of them.
“All done, then? Bring them all to Cell 136.”
Another follower piped up.
“We’ve got beds, shelves, and books too. Do we bring ‘em there too?”
“That’s right. All of them, to Cell 136. The sofa too.”
So they had books too, did they? It certainly looked like prison life was about to take a turn for the better.
They even had a bed! Depending on how soft it was, I may have yet come to lose the need to call this a prison!
“What do we do about Doolas, the stinkin’ bastard?”
“Treat his injuries. I guess it all hinges on his attitude after that.”
This was the same bastard who’d accepted a bribe to beat me to a pulp. Forgiving him on the fly was obviously out of the question, but he still knew a lot. Using him effectively was the better option. Building a connection to a jailer who was, in all likelihood, paid from the pockets of the Dartanelle Family was especially important.
Once we moved everything we could get our hands on to Cell 136, we’d start with building the walls. We had a former carpenter in our midst, so I could just leave that bit of work to his expertise.
He certainly didn’t look like a charmer, but his skills weren’t anything to sniff at.
In the meantime, I’d take care of the room’s layout. The bed would be placed to the side where the window was, and the sofa somewhere around the middle. The bookshelves would be placed somewhere in the back, where they would be more inconspicuous.
Yes, that should do it nicely. I’d also have liked some flowers on the windowsill.
“Boss, it’s almost time for lunch. Please, go ahead and eat first.”
“Starting today, I’m the boss. That’s why we’re changing a few rules. Make sure that everyone here gets an equal share of food. We’re also going to share the jobs down here.”
“Are ya sure? Yer the Boss, ain’t no problem for us if ya eat as much as ya want…”
“I’m telling you it’s fine. We’re splitting it evenly, starting today. Punish anyone who breaks that rule. Give them a good smashing.”
“Roger that. I’ll jus’ be lettin’ everyone know!”
It wasn’t as if I had any intention of hogging all the chow to begin with, so that was just a rule I’d come up with on the spot, not giving it too much thought. That didn’t stop it from becoming an apparent innovation for this prison, and one prisoner after the other came to me just to show me their gratitude.
But regardless of their many thanks, the way none of them would even meet my gaze just imbued me with a sensation of great discomfort. I learned that the Boss was a figure meant to be feared, to be revered. I’d really managed to acquire a rather grand title in this prison, hadn’t I? And the only thing I was actually guilty of was wanting some wall décor…
Things were much more comfortable from there on out. I had a bed. I had a sofa.
I read my books while the sun was out and bright, and I went about doing my work once it went away. The food we had was frugal both in quality and quantity, but since I wasn’t really the type to overly delight in foods, it ended up being sufficiently fulfilling.
All things considered, I was rather happy.
I had food to eat, I had more than enough books to read, and I really didn’t have anything against the sunset.
Huh? Wait, wasn’t I just plain at peace here?!
“So, what do you normally do here?”
“Really only speakin’ for myself here, but I really didn’t do much ‘cept fer pickin’ on the new blood. Ever since ya became the Boss, Kururi, I really haven’t gotten a lotta orders so I ain’t got nothing but time to spare.”
“What about the other prisoners?”
“Up till now, they’ve just been pushed ta do the work no one wants ta do. They’re all doin’ ‘em together now, though. Pretty much everyone’s got time on their hands.”
True, the pure tedium was bound to rob them of their purpose in life… If only there was something worthwhile for them to do…
“Alright then, tomorrow we’ll start with something new. I’ve gotten pretty bored of just reading books all day.”
“Oh, what’s on yer mind?”
“I found shovels and pickaxes. What did you use them for?”
“Well, back when we still had us a jailer, we’d use ‘em ta dig through the walls. You know, to expand this damn hole. Nowadays we jus’ use ‘em as weapons, though.”
“Right then. We’ll pick that up again, starting tomorrow. We’ll do just enough for it to not be too much of a burden, about a few hours each day.”
“Gotcha. But Boss, just why are we doin’ that fer? If I’m gonna be honest, I don’t see the point…”
“It’ll probably hurt me to say this, but… No, I’ll be up and frank with you! You guys are stagnating here! And I’m not trying to nag you people! You’ll seriously start rotting away! People are supposed to work, eat, and sleep! Once they manage to get that cycle down, they can get their hands on a fulfilling lifestyle. I can nag you about your shabby looks, but above all, there’s barely any life in them! It’s the damn worst! I’ll make you lead proper lives and rehabilitate you!”
The next day came along, and all the prisoners were gathered together. I’d had them count their own numbers, and they’d churned out a whopping 369. Barring those that weren’t able to work, I arranged for them to dig away at the walls.
“This is a dried up, sterile piece of land. Normally you’d think that there isn’t much point in trying to cultivate it, but we won’t know that until we try. We’ll just dig up the walls for now. It’ll give us a bigger living space, and who knows. Maybe we’ll find something else. But one thing takes the cake: your faces look dead. Work, and taste the fruits of your labour!”
One of the prisoners raised his hand.
“Speak, I allow it!”
“Sir Boss, we’re really thankful that you split up the food between us. But if we’re gonna have to do hard labour, whatever we have won’t be enough.”
“Don’t you worry. I’ll talk to the jailer.”
They broke out in cheers of joy. They delightedly fell into conversations, discussing how their current boss was even willing to argue with their jailer.
And so began the development work on the hall. From all around me, I could hear the vibrant, lively voices echoing about. Yep, now it finally felt as if I’d actually met with real, living human beings.
“Boss, Doolas is here!”
“That so? Let him through.”
Word was that Doolas had pledged his loyalty to the new boss. If that was really the case, then I was ready to make him work at his most earnest.
“Boss, please forgive my earlier impudence. I was young and foolish.”
“Let’s forget about that for now. We have to focus on more important issues. You have some method to communicate with the outside world, right? Looks like you even have people that bring you goods and materials.”
“That’s right. The same night that food gets delivered here, one of the paid-off jailers comes down with the stuff. Supplies and contact with the outside are done through them.”
“And when’s that supposed to happen?”
“Right. That would be today.”
Well, good timing. That jailer was stained with his own injustice. Whatever punishment the Heavens had in store for him could wait. For now, I’d just put him to good use.
Once the prisoners had found silence in the slumber brought on by the sheer exhaustion of their midday activities, a lone man descended with the elevator. It was the jailer that had been paid off. He, as usual, made his way to the room where Doolas was supposed to be.
That was when he first caught wind of the situation. He noticed that the only structure that was supposed to be fine and furnished now was nothing more than a shabby shack.
“What the damn Hell happened here?”
The follower that came to receive him was the one with the worst looks about him.
“The Boss’s been replaced. That’d be me from now on. Hand over what you promised.”
“Oh, so that’s what happened. Here you go. Sweets, books, some liquor…”
He looked through his things to make sure that everything was present and accounted for.
“The Boss might’ve changed, but we’re going to continue our deal with the Dartanelle Family. I’m leaving the rest to you.”
“Sure, that makes things easier for me too. Back to business. Did you take care of what I asked? How’s that newbie noble doing?”
“That went just as planned, obviously. Stomped on him like you wouldn’t believe.”
“Really? That’s worth a good report, then. I’d like to take a look at the evidence, though.”
“Well, can’t say I mind… But are ya sure you wanna see it? Well?”
“… No, I think I’ll stay away for now. As long as the job’s been done, it doesn’t matter.”
That was when the body double let out a long sigh. Purposefully, almost exaggeratedly.
“By the way, about the reward… There’s something I’m not too happy about.”
“What is it? I’m giving you what I said I would, aren’t I?”
“We need more food here. Loads of it.”
“That really puts me on the spot. I don’t know if I can until I ask the Dartanelles.”
“Shut yer yap! Just bring more food here, tons of it! Ya don’t and we’re gonna stop baptisin’ our lil’ noble!”
“That’s not what we agreed on! We said we’d arrange things so you can at least suckle on some sweet nectar, didn’t we? What’re you planning to do with that much food?!”
“Eat it! Listen up. Next time, you bring us food. A lot of food. You’re gonna negotiate with the Dartanelle Family. If I don’t see it, our deal’s done. Ya got that? You’re gonna bring food here twice a week!”
“I-I get it already. I’ll try to bring it up, alright? As long as you can take care of that noble, I can probably find a way to make arrangements.”
The jailer made his way back. The ill-demeanored prisoner managed to end the encounter with plenty of threats towards him. The body double did his job well.
He rushed to where I was hiding, not too far away.
“Boss, you think I did okay back there?”
“Yes, you did just fine. You think this’ll give us enough food? I want them to be healthy when they start working again tomorrow.”
If I had to look at the results, I’d say that the negotiations went well enough.
The deal was to ‘take care’ of the noble. As long as that part of the bargain was upheld, negotiations would go on as they were. By ‘taking care of the noble’, they of course meant beating me into a fine paste. Sending any kind of believable report should be enough.
Once we evenly distributed the newly obtained food, the labour work inside the prison jumped ahead by leaps and bounds.
A good week passed by, and a healthy sheen of life glazed the faces of most prisoners. I’d been right, it seemed; people needed a set of proper guidelines if they wanted to life a proper life.
Thanks to all of that, the days when I was showered with their gratitude still came. They were even capable of looking me in the eyes as of recently.
It somehow feels as if this is the first time in my life I’m truly alive. I was getting told that plenty of times too. Sound health was a wonderful thing.
“Boss. The dried up ol’ gramps wants ta meet with ya.”
“And who’s this ‘dried up ol’ gramps’?”
“The oldest member of this ‘ere prison. Says he’s got somethin’ important to tell ya, Boss.”
“Alright then, let him through.”
The elderly man who entered the room was indeed reminiscent of a thin, withering tree. Didn’t he get enough nourishment here? Despite all of that, his spine and posture were surprisingly straight and rigid.
So this was the oldest inmate… I had to admit, he had a sort of dignified presence.
“I want to express my gratitude, Boss.”
That was the sudden statement that flew my way, spoken in a withering voice.
“I haven’t really done much that warrants gratitude. I just did what I could to make myself more comfortable.”
“I see. Nevertheless, I’m grateful. Most of the people here, myself included, are just dregs of irredeemable scum. I wish to express my gratitude for taking these scraps of waste and giving them a purpose. For making them human.”
“If that’s the case, I’ll gladly accept that gratitude. But let’s get to the point. You have something that needs to be done, don’t you?”
“Yes, that’s right on the money. I wanted to repay my debt to the new Boss, see? I don’t know how useful it might actually be, but there’s this bit of odd land. The walls of my room, Cell 002, are a bit damp. I’ve always kept quiet about it, but I can’t shake the feeling that that patch of earth is a little different.”
“Ohoh, well that certainly peaks my interest. Cell 002 is on the Western side, isn’t it? We might just get something interesting out of it…”
Lending an ear to what the old man… no, the dear elder had to say appeared to have been worth it. I felt as if I’d stumbled on an excellent story.
The next day came along, and I was all too eager to start digging up the wall on the Western side.
Just as the Withered Old Man had said, the more we dug, the more unsuitable the earth became for this dry environment. It became damper and damper. In light of this new discovery, the willingness of the others to proceed with their labour was stirred up to great effect.
Even once the work hours had passed, there were still dozens of people digging.
I set in place the rule that all those working tomorrow would not be fatigued in the slightest, I only allowed those who actually wanted to work to go on.
Then the next day came. The transformation was rather sudden. While I held a pickaxe in both hands and heaved it at the wall, digging it out, someone nearby let out a yell.
“I was just focusing on this especially damp spot and – Aaaaaaah!”
For a moment, we were all assaulted by the sensation of the ground shaking beneath our feet. Not long after the great rumbling noise began, an intense spout of boiling water burst from the walls.
By the time things had settled down, it was already noon. The jailer peeked in on from above, and the prisoners themselves took in the view as they surrounded the phenomenon from a distance.
“It’s a hot spring!”
This was one curious twist of fate. We dug and hit a boiling hot spring. It certainly seemed as if I had been blessed with ridiculous luck.
“Well, letting it all spill out is just a huge waste. We’re starting maintenance tomorrow!”
Everyone was practically overflowing with eagerness and excitement. They opened up a hole, went about spreading rocks, and filled it with the gushing, boiling water. Within this hellish nightmare of a prison, we had created a hot spring.
I wasn’t sure how else to put it, but this was already far beyond simple comfort. Some of the people here hadn’t had the chance at a hot bath in years, others in decades. Every last one of them had the face of someone that had been brought back from the brink of death. It somehow began to feel as if coming here had never been that bad a thing. Everyone had a powerful, radiant expression on their face.
The hot spring itself wasn’t all that spacious, so we made due by taking turns. Once it was my turn, I slipped into the hot spring. Accompanying me was the Withered Old Man.
“Really now, nothing but good’s been happening since you became the Boss.”
“You think so? I think we have you to thank for the hot springs.”
“Oh no, it should be you. It took thirty years of me knowing to get to this paradise, but it only took you one day. Oh, I really do feel like I’ve been revived…”
I felt the same way.
When I first came here, I’d spent my time thinking about how things would turn out. Now, that worry was far from my mind.
“What did you even do to get thrown down here? You really don’t seem like someone who belongs in here.”
“Well, it’s a long story. Oh, right. I forgot something important.”
Why did I get thrown in here? Well, I’d been set up for one thing. For another, a certain group of people was supposed to be here, wasn’t it?
I relayed the information to the followers, and told them to bring the ‘Violent Money Grubber’ Psyshin Upstol and Hunter Galdmira to me. They should have been here.
I had to hear the truth straight from the horse’s mouth…