Chapter 56 - Inside Out (3)

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Shuffle—

The two widened their distance from Gyosu.

“You’re insane?”

“I! Wording!”

“What? I’m right! A mental illness means you’re insane. Am I wrong?”

Gyosu laughed bitterly at Ian’s response. He wasn’t wrong. There was a voice in his head, and that voice sometimes even controlled his body. It was basically a multiple personality disorder.

There was a post on the Community. They said nobody in the Wasteland stayed sane, so you could only hope to go insane ‘well.’

He wasn’t sure, but he thought that a multiple personality disorder that had this strong of an alternate personality didn’t fit in the ‘well’ section.

“Oh yeah, you guys are still using those code names.”

“Hmm? Ohh, that? As you said, we’ve become pretty well known after what happened in Area 45.”

“Hepburn, me, and I. We’ve become pretty famous. It’s been helping out with the business, so we’ve been using it.”

“Don’t we have a bounty on those names?”

“Yep, there were a bunch of flies that came to us once we started using those names. We made a nice penny out of them too. The ones that are all talk are usually the ones with nicer guns.”

“Area 43 is infamous for its fights. Not even the Raptors usually come here. Those guys have a lot of enemies, so they’ll need to fight all day just to try and get in.”

Hmm……. They’ve gained fame? That helps their business out?

Gyosu looked around, thinking how much fame three people could even gain, but he could see the people around the three of them whispering and pointing.

“Hey, that’s…. V and I, right?”

“A big guy with a metal case and an old man…… I’m certain they’re the spice merchants.”

“And the one in front of them, they called him Hepburn.”

“It’s them. The Tyrants of Area 45, HIV!”

“Why are the big guns even in these ghettos..?”

Murmur. Murmur.

Whisper! whisper!

Their responses were… stronger than he expected. It wasn’t a bad feeling. Being famous in the Wasteland meant you were a target, but it also made it easier to arrange trades and call people in when needed. It also filtered out the untrustworthy, so it was nice. It was nice and all, but……

“Why are they calling us that? HIV (human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS) is such a s****y name!”

“Why? I think it’s fine. You die for sure once you’ve encountered it. Mhm, isn’t it menacing?”

“Hepburn, the people in the Community were the ones that made that nickname. We don’t really have a way to stop it.”

Still, being called ‘Team HIV,’ my first-ever nickname in the Wasteland is an STD!

As Gyosu muttered to himself with his hands on his head, Ian, who was laughing at him, opened his mouth.

“So, what exactly happened that made you go insane, and in what way? You were fine last time we saw you.”

Hmm. It sounded like they were walking around the question. After all, he asked.

“So…. A small problem happened while I was playing a game…..”

“Oh.”

“Ooh.”

The second the word ‘game’ came out of Gyosu’s mouth, both Ian and Vex looked solemn. What? Why are they acting like this?

“A game, you say…… you mean ‘that’ thing…….”

“H-Hepburn! It’s okay! There’s no good or bad job…… I think it’s all good as long as you’re trying your hardest!”

“Oh, what? You guys saw my playthrough? How was it? Was it fun?”

Whoosh—

When Gyosu replied with a bright tone in response to a familiar topic, the two became even more anxious, taking even more care in choosing the next words they wanted to say.

‘What? Why are they so solemn? They must have really watched it. But why are they so serious?’

“Uh…… um…..”

“It was very avant-garde…… ahem! It wasn’t bad. But if you’re going crazy because of it, I personally recommend that you quit.”

Looking at their reactions, they must have seen a boring part.

Ignoring the two’s desperate attempts to comfort him, Gyosu continued on with the explanation of his symptoms.

. . . .

“So…. you got infected by a mutated virus inside the game, and the consciousness that came from that virus did something with your brain, and it exists in real life now?”

“Yeah. You got it.”

With Gyosu’s response, Ian’s face, which had been smirking until now, became slightly disgruntled.

“Wow, this bastard’s seriously crazy.”

“Don’t call me a crazy bastard. It makes me feel like I am actually a crazy bastard.”

“You have a mental issue, and you’re a guy. You are a crazy bastard. I’ve only seen multiple personality disorders in movies, though. This is pretty interesting. So, how is that buddy of yours?”

“Buddy?”

Ian poked at my head with his large finger.

“I’m talking about the buddy in that head of yours! It’s going to stick with you if you can’t cure it, so we should know what it’s like too, don’tcha think? What if we see you going batshit crazy someday and accidentally shoot you in the head to calm you down?”

It was scary, but that was the logic of the Wasteland. It wasn’t unnatural for a friend you were laughing with yesterday to become a madman and attack you the next day. If it was someone you knew well, depending on the circumstances, putting a bullet through their head was the best thing to do for them.

‘And that guy would more than gladly do that for me, mhm.’

Gyosu thought about the parasite, Hyde, that he encountered.

“Let’s see…. First, he kind of feels like a kid. When I first met him, he was close to a kindergartener, but now he’s grown and is talking more like a middle schooler. It’s a little cringey sometimes. He was really hostile at first but is now pretty cooperative. It doesn’t look like he’s given up on taking over my body just yet, though. My left index, middle, and ring fingers are completely under his control, and he kind of scratches my body when he wants something or tries to get my attention. Oh, and his name’s Hyde. I got knocked out for a moment, and he’s been calling himself Hyde since then. And….. what else……”

[I have escaped the controls of my Mother, and have saved your and that female human’s lives before, and I love freedom and am curious, and oh! I like meat a lot more than fish! I can’t forget the texture of the meat you ate yesterday! Vessel! Let’s eat that more often! And raw, if possible! Mutes usually eat things raw!]

“Argh, shut up! Meat isn’t that common, you know. I know you were drooling when we went past that scavenger corpse in the Wasteland. If you even dare try and do that in my head one more time, I’m just going to shoot a bullet through my head.”

[Oh, you could tell? Go easy on me. Even if I am free from Mother, I was still born a mute. It’s an instinct to want meat, instinct. Humans have the highest meat-to-genetic ratio.]

“Uh, Hepburn?”

“This little…..huh? Yeah, Vex?”

“The…. other people are staring…..”

When I raised my head to look around, I could see the people standing in line next to me jump in surprise and turn away. The person sitting next to me even got up and went to the back of the line.

“What? Why’s everyone acting like that?”

“What do you mean by what? You looked like a pure madman just now. Something about drooling over a scavenger corpse, calling the personality by a name, saying that your finger moves on its own….. If this weren’t Old Man Woojin’s place, they would have started shooting without asking questions.”

As Ian said that, he took out a fancy revolver from his metal case and gave it to Gyosu.

“Take this.”

“What for?”

“It’s a light and gentle but sturdy little gal. Even if you’re weakened or….. your hand doesn’t listen to you, it’s easy enough to aim. I put in strong ones for the bullets, so you’ll go out painlessly.”

“So… You want me to pull the trigger if it’s an emergency?”

“Yes. Even for me, it’s hard to bid farewell to a comrade with my own hands. I can’t follow in your footsteps and die myself, you know. I’m not saying you should use it right now. Just when you need to.”

This fucking asshole.

“I’m not crazy!”

“Uh, Hepburn, that’s what all crazy people say.”

[Hey, vessel, your friends are so fun to talk to!]

On the outside, Vex and Ian, and on the inside, the parasite, were slowly making Gyosu lose his temper. If it weren’t for the turrets, he would have used the chance to act like he was actually crazy and charge at them.

But talking like this did make the time pass quicker. So we talked about the Wasteland and news about their business. I made a long explanation about what that gameplay was about, and in no time, the sun was already setting outside.

“Next! Hepburn! I, V! Come in!”

“Oh, it’s my… no, our turn?”

“I changed it while I was coming back from the restroom.”

“All of us need to get treated anyway. We might as well make it faster by doing it together.”

“…. Yeah, you guys do you.”

It was obvious why he did that. Although they joked about it, they probably wanted to know the condition I was in. They could hear the detailed diagnosis if they came in with me.

We got up from our seats and went into the treatment room, with dozens of cold eyes following.


Creak— click!

When we opened the thick, bulletproof iron door that looked like it was excellent at soundproofing, even with just a glance, a room that was the definition of a treatment room and that was neatly organized, unlike the outer waiting area, welcomed them.

And the old man sitting at the table in the middle of the room was the owner of this massive facility, Woojin.

There was a word that you could think of when you saw the man Woojin.

‘Mad doctor.’

A thin and frail old man wearing a white gown splattered with blood. He had a habit of making weird snickering sounds, and the scalpel was basically his extended arm. And he even sometimes licked the blade like some cliched villain. I had asked him last time why he licked the knife, and he responded that it was because he was lacking iron due to his age. This man was also definitely crazy. You have mountains of iron supplements in this hospital of yours. Why would you need to lick the knife?

But unlike his weird personality, the old man certainly had skill.

“It’s been a while, sir.”

“Right, and who are you……hmm? You called him Hepburn. That was you, Gyosu Park?”

“Well, things turned out that way.”

“Keheheh, those Raptor bastards are out of their game now. Getting beaten up by these little kids. So the ones that you moved with must be those idiots behind you.”

“Iz been a while, Old Man.”

“A while, my ass. You’ve been here two days ago.”

“I can’t help it. My work and that idiot made me.”

As Gyosu watched Old Man Woojin stroke his beard as he talked with the two, he sat down on the chair in front of him as if he had done this countless times before.

“Oi, you two in the back! There’s an emergency in the back, so do the cleaning and wrapping on your own. You know how it works, right?”

“Damn, are you even a doctor? How could you treat a patient that paid money to be here?”

“You guys know what to do as long as something isn’t broken. The money’s for the cost of those medicines. I’m busy, so get going! If you get stuck, just cut it and put it back to how it was!”

“That crazy old man…..”

Vex and Ian grumbled as they took out the bandages, disinfectant, and fishing hook-like surgical needles that they needed and started to treat their wounds.

“That Metal Jaw guy is a regular, so he knows what to do. That small guy next to him looked like he knew the basics too. Now then, it’s time to start the treatment for our Gyosu Park over here….. Seeing that I can’t smell blood, it doesn’t look like a wound. Is it this, I presume?”

Woojin pointed his thin finger towards his head and tapped lightly. Gyosu smiled bitterly and shook his head.

“That problem somehow solved itself. I’m here for something else today.”

“Eh? Really? That got cured? Oi, Gyosu Park. You know lying to get through treatment won’t do you any good, right? You really got over that trauma?”

Woojin spoke with great enthusiasm in his eyes as he stared at Gyosu.

“Hmm. Let’s make sure of it, then. Okay, say ‘mother.’ ‘Mom.’”

“….Do I really need to do that? I’m still a little…. uncomfortable.”

“There’s a big difference between what’s in your head and saying it out loud. Just do it this one time. Say ‘mom.’”

“Fuck…… m…. mom.”

Mother. Even saying that one word aloud made my heart ache. But it only hurt this time, and I didn’t black out from a panic attack or relive the memories of that day. I accepted that all of that was a part of my past that I needed to take responsibility for.

The old man smiled as he looked at me.

“……Not bad, kiddo. You really overcame your memories of that day. I’m proud of you! You’re all grown up now! Keheheheheh! To see someone actually get completely cured in this hospital, I should throw a party!”

We have known each other for quite a long time. When I broke my arm once while I was living alone, I came here only for Old Man Woojin to notice the state I was in right away, and since then, I have been persuaded into taking antidepressants and getting therapy. He was the only person that knew about my trauma as well as my own self.

After smiling happily for a while, Woojin spoke up with a slightly elevated tone, a smile still lingering on his face.

“So this must be the end of those quarterly visits of yours. So, what’s the reason for today’s visit? Is it a ‘goodbye and thank you’ for what I did?”

“Do I look that crazy? To travel through the Wasteland just to say hello to an old man. As I said, I got a new mental disease recently, so I’ve come to ask for some advice.”

“Ah, right. You said you got a new mental disease in the process of overcoming that trauma? It’s okay. It’s probably nothing compared to the one before. It’s normal to have one or two of those living here. So, let’s hear the symptoms you’re having.”

Gyosu could feel himself calm down as Woojin talked to him with a gentle tone and warm smile.

“I think I got ‘possessed’ playing the gam—”

Crasshh!

“You motherfucker! I told you not to play that game!!!”

In an instant, Woojin’s face changed from a warm grandfather’s to an angry god’s as he jumped over the table and grabbed Gyosu by the collar. Ian, who was watching everything happen, shrank into a corner as much as possible, and Vex was completely out of sight.

Woojin huffed like a furious beast as he pulled on Gyosu’s shirt.

“You better tell me every, single, little, detail that happened, or else.”

To Woojin’s rumbling threat, a scared voice peeped up from inside Gyosu’s head.

[V-Vessel. This old man is scaring me…]

‘Me too.’

There was a reason why the treatment room didn’t have a single turret inside it.

‘This old man is a hundred times scarier than those little automatic turrets.’

There weren’t many people capable of dodging the knife of the legendary mercenary that worked in this room, who was nicknamed ‘D(eath) R(eaper) Woojin’ in the past. If they wanted to walk out alive, they needed to stay obedient.

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