nomy, perhaps Nathan was right – there was something very wrong.
Although it would be natural enough for a corporation to profit as a result of an increase in inmates, increasing inmates in pursuit of profits was getting defeating the purpose of prison.

“Criminals deserve to be punished,” Nathan said.
“But who’s going to regret and reflect upon their crimes when they’re thrown into prison solely to be segregated from society, and don’t even receive rehabilitative education? Just think about it – inmates who are treated unfairly and abused are only going to let their anger and dissatisfaction fester.
As a result, they’re going to develop an even more antisocial mindset.
Unfortunately, human hearts tend to be just as elastic as our brains.
It’ll take the shape of any vessel it’s put into, whether it be round or square.
Humans are controlled by the environment around them.
―Yuto, don’t you notice your mind becoming twisted the longer you live here? Even an honest, straight-laced man like you have probably been influenced by the mindset and actions of the inmates around you.
Can you really say you haven’t been swayed at all by the prison atmosphere?”

“―It sucks to say it, but I can’t.
Right now, I feel like I’d do anything in order to protect myself.”

“And that’s perfectly natural.
If you find out someone is planning to attack you, you’ve got no choice but to get them before they get you.
It’s like a battleground.”

Nathan looked at Yuto and smiled wanly.

“It’s difficult to be yourself in an environment you never wished for, isn’t it? You can say I advocate for prisoners and study about prisons because it’s my own form of escape.
Maybe I’d rather distract myself by putting my efforts into other things, if it means I can stop thinking about the despair that lies before me.”

“Nathan, don’t say that.
You’re an incredible person.
I respect you with all my heart,” Yuto said firmly.
Nathan lightly patted Yuto’s shoulder.

“Thanks, Yuto.
I’m glad you came to talk to me.
Not many inmates are interested in this kind of stuff.”

Just then, Dick rose to mind.
Nathan and Dick often had conversations alone together.

“What about Dick? Don’t you talk with him?”

“Dick isn’t interested in these kinds of issues.
He sees society as an enemy from the start, and think it’s wrong to hope for anything in the first place.
He’s a little biased.
Well, it’s understandable, given his crime.”

Yuto felt a jolt of nervousness.
Nathan knew Dick’s crime.
The truth that had bothered him for so long was now right within reach.
Yuto felt an irresistible temptation.

He wanted to know what Dick had been sentenced for.

“What did Dick do?”

Nathan hesitated, which was unusual of him.
Yuto felt a sudden onset of anxiety and tension.
Was Dick’s crime that unmentionable?

Yuto burned with nervous impatience as he waited for Nathan’s next words.

“He murdered a police officer,” Nathan said.

“What…?” Yuto thought he had misheard.
“What did you just say?” he prompted.

“He killed a police officer,” Nathan repeated, his eyes darkened.
“Dick killed a police officer.
Killing law enforcement carries a severe sentence.
He’s in for thirty years.”

―He killed a police officer.

Yuto’s head was swimming in those words while he made his way back to Block A after parting ways with Nathan.
He didn’t know the circumstances of Dick’s crime, but it weighed on him more heavily than any other.
There was his own past as an agent, but it was also the murder of his partner Paul, which had left an ugly scar in his heart that still throbbed painfully to this day.

Yuto wondered what Dick had thought when he opened up about his partner being murdered.
Did his guilty conscience pain his heart as he reflected upon his own crimes? Or did he coldly dismiss Paul, thinking that a guy with a job like his was a murder waiting to happen?

I know what it feels like to lose a close friend.

Although Yuto believed Dick’s words to be true, he could no longer appreciate them wholeheartedly due to this new discovery.
Yuto stepped into Block A, still annoyed at his own narrow-mindedness.

He inhaled a deep breath as if to ward away his unpleasant feelings.
It was then that he caught a glimpse of Hawes’ bony shoulders.
He watched the man trudge dejectedly into his cell, and remembered how Micky was talking about how Hawes had been depressed ever since Matthew was sent away.

Yuto went up to Hawes’ cell and stopped at the entrance to peer inside.
Hawes was sitting on the bed and staring blankly at a spot on the wall.

How’re you feeling?”

Hawes flinched, although Yuto had meant to speak as quietly as he could.

“Oh, it’s you, Yuto,” he said.
“I’m managing.
How about you? Heard you were in bed with a fever.
You better now?”

“It’s much better.
I heard you’re getting out at the end of the week, huh? Just a little more to go.”

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“Yeah,” Hawes said, his head nodding shallowly.
Although the man was just about to finish up a long sentence and see the light of day at last, his aged face looked anything but happy.
Perhaps he was still worried about Matthew.

“Hawes, I’m sure Matthew will be fine.
He’s still young – he’ll recover and be back to his energetic self in no time.”

“I―I guess so.
I agree, Yuto.
My only regret is having to leave this place without getting to say goodbye to that boy.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll let him know when he gets back.
You can count on it.”

Hawes smiled weakly.
Feeling reassured, Yuto turned to leave the cell, but was stopped this time by Hawes.

D’you think you can come with me to the showers before lunch tomorrow? I need some help washing my back.
Can’t even raise my arms anymore with my stiff ol’ body.”

Yuto knew that Matthew used to help Hawes bathe occasionally.
He reckoned Hawes must be having a hard time without the boy around.

No problem.”

“Much obliged.
I’ll see you at around eleven-thirty, then.”

Once Yuto returned to his cell, he lay down on his bed.
Even the slightest movement made him exhausted, perhaps because of his lingering fever.

“Yuto, are you asleep?” said a husky voice at Yuto’s ear, just as he was about to dose off.
Yuto bolted upright to see Tonya sitting beside his bed.

“I’m sorry.
I woke you up.”

“No, no, I was just… surprised.
Did you come by yourself?”

I’m with one of Neto’s guys.
He’s right outside.”

Yuto glanced outside to see a Locos Hermanos member standing in the hallway with his back to them.
Come to think of it, there was no way Tonya would visit another block alone, since everyone thought she was Neto’s lover.

“I heard you have a fever? Neto was worried.”

“It’s come down now.
I’m fine.
I went to the infirmary to get checked out earlier.
…So, do you have some business with me or…?”

So I can’t just visit you because I want to see you?” Tonya smiled alluringly, making Yuto unwittingly look away.
He felt like he was lying in bed alone with a woman.
As much as he knew that Tonya was a man, it was easy to forget with her beautiful face before him.

“I didn’t mean it like that,” he murmured.
“Of course you can.
I’m happy you took the time to visit.”

“It makes me happy to know that.
Now, about Galen…” Tonya said, lowering her voice.

“Yeah?” Yuto nodded, waiting for her next words.

“There’s no burn scar on his back.”

“But I heard he has a scar from a gunshot wound.”

“He does, but it’s not very noticeable.
It’s from a long time ago.
You’d have to hunt for it to notice it.”

Yuto was crestfallen.
Galen’s gunshot wound was too insignificant to be a physical characteristic.

“Was Galen in contact with others outside?” Yuto asked, still refusing to give up hope.

“No,” Tonya said promptly, shaking her head.
“Galen fell out with his friends outside.
He didn’t seem to be in touch with anyone.
No letters, phone calls, or interviews.”

It was becoming even more unlikely that Galen was Corvus.
Although he had been Yuto’s top candidate, it seemed better off now to simply strike him off the list.

“I don’t know what’s going on, but I hope you find who you’re looking for,” Tonya said encouragingly, patting Yuto’s knee with a firm hand.

I’m glad I was able to talk to you.”

Tonya left the cell, accompanied by Neto’s subordinate.

Now Yuto was back at square one on his search for Corvus, but he had no time to wallow in disappointment.
There were three suspects left.
Right now he didn’t feel particularly suspicious about any inmate out of the three.

He had no choice but to go through them one by one.
Yuto lay back on his bed.
There was Edward Perry, and ex-mechanic.
Carl Bison, a lowly member of ABL.
Michael Becks, who worked in the cafeteria.
Yuto closed his eyes and imagined their faces one by one.
Who was Corvus? Who should he narrow his target down to next?

But no matter how much he stewed in his thoughts, he found himself coming back to Dick.
Exasperated, he inwardly scolded himself to knock it off, but it was ineffective.

Yuto felt a budding urge in his heart to ask Dick outright about the truth of his crime of murdering a police officer.
He was sure that Dick had a necessary reason, and was deep in the kind of circumstances that left him with no other choice.
Dick would never murder an officer without a justifiable reason.
He was not that kind of man―

As much as Yuto told himself so, he knew he was only selfishly trying to reassure himself.
After all, hating Dick’s crime would be the same as hating Dick himself.

He didn’t want to hate Dick.
He wanted to believe him.
He wished he was allowed to believe him.

His desperate wish was not for the sake of Dick, but for his own self who was beginning to be attracted to the man.

“Hawes, let’s head to the showers.”

The next day, Yuto dropped by as promised to pick up Hawes.
Hawes came shuffling slowly out of the cell, holding his towel.

“We should eat lunch together afterwards,” Yuto suggested.

“That sounds good,” Hawes said glumly, in the same depressed mood as yesterday.
His mind was elsewhere, and his face was troubled.
Yuto also felt the same.
He’d been thinking about Dick’s past ever since then, but didn’t have the courage nor the audacity to ask him directly for details.
All this time, he’d been mulling it over by himself.

As they walked down the hall, he heard Nathan’s voice from behind.

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“Yuto, heading for the showers?” he said.
He was carrying a few books in the crook of his arm.

“Yeah,” said Yuto.
“Are you going to the library again, Nathan?”

“I’ll be stopping at the infirmary first.
Dick passed along a request from Choker to borrow some books.
He’s quite an avid reader.
He’s always reading something every day, even though he’d bedridden.
His willpower is admirable.”

After parting ways with Nathan, Yuto remembered what he heard yesterday.
Choker had told Dick that he wanted to read a calming novel.
It was his way of saying that he wanted to reach the end of his life in a serene state.
Yuto had heard that Choker refused to be transferred to an external hospital, and that he had no living relatives.
Perhaps even a place like this was home for him.

The timeslots for the showers were rotated between blocks every week.
Today, Block A had the morning timeslot.
Surprisingly the showers were empty, perhaps because it was close to lunchtime.
As Yuto and Hawes were getting undressed in the change room, one guard named Cowen approached Hawes and clapped him on the shoulder.

“Out in two days, huh, Hawes? Congratulations,” he said cloyingly.
Hawes looked flustered as he mumbled his thanks. 

Yuto did not like Cowen.
He wasn’t a violent man, but instead wore a constant unsettling sneer on his face as he made snide remarks at the slightest things.
Although he treated inmates with contempt, Cowen himself willingly took bribes from the gangs and participated in their bets.
Compared to Cowen, Yuto much preferred an uptight, stubborn guard who barked complaints at them instead.

“You better be on your best behaviour for the next two days.
It’s for your own good,” said Cowen before he left in a good mood.
Yuto, feeling relieved that Cowen didn’t hang around any longer, stripped naked and wrapped his towel around his waist.

He took Hawes by the hand so he wouldn’t slip, and accompanied him to the showers.
Yuto turned the nozzle, and hot water shot out from the showerhead mounted on the wall.
He stuck his hand out to check the temperature before turning back to Hawes.

“Do you want me to wash your hair first? Or your back?”

“Yuto… I… I’m…” Hawes gasped unintelligibly.
He was shaking his head over and over like a broken doll, his face contorted painfully.

“What’s wrong? Are you feeling sick?” Yuto asked anxiously.
Clearly Hawes was not well.
He reached out to touch Hawes’ shoulder, but the man staggered back as if to flee from him.

“I’m sorry… I’m so sorry.
I didn’t have a choice.
Otherwise I’d be stuck here forever.”

Hawes opened the change room door with shaking hands as a group of clothed men burst inside.

Terror pierced Yuto’s heart like ice.
All the men were black – members of the Black Soldiers.

“I’m sorry, Yuto.
Forgive me,” Hawes cried, his face twisted in agony as he hobbled out of the showers and disappeared into the change room.
BB came in just as the man left.
He looked at Yuto triumphantly.

It was then that the realization dawned on him.
He’d been set up.
Hawes, Cowen – they’d all been in on it.

“Hey, Yuto.
Looks like we can finally go on a date,” BB smirked as he came closer.

Yuto knew there was no escape, so he lunged straight at BB without hesitation.
But BB’s men were fast to act, and latched onto him at once to stifle his attack.
Although Yuto fought tooth and nail, his limbs were quickly held down by the stronger, burlier men.
He was made to stand facing the wall.

“Let go! Don’t touch me!” he yelled.

“Keep him still.
He might have a pretty face, but he took down Bernard in one hit.
Yeah, that Bernard.
So don’t let your guard down.”

BB pressed up against Yuto’s back and grabbed his hair, yanking it to make him look up.

“You’ve got some guts to make eyes at Libera, huh? He fuck you yet? What was it like?”

“Fuck you,” Yuto spat.
“We’re not like that.”

“Well, I’ll just have to see for myself, won’t I?” said BB as he wrapped his arms around Yuto’s waist and slowly ran his tongue along Yuto’s earlobe.
Yuto felt goosebumps forming from disgust.
Almost on impulse, he swung his head back and head-butted BB in the face.

“Ugh…!” BB grunted as he staggered back.

“Little fucker!” yelled the man to his right, grabbing Yuto by a fistful of hair and slamming his head into the tiled wall.
His forehead split open and blood rushed out.
The blood ran into his eyes, colouring Yuto’s vision red.
He felt the impact more than the pain, and for an instant he almost lost consciousness.

“This is what you give us for showing you a little kindness, huh? You think you can take advantage of us like that?”

He heard the metallic clinking of a belt being unbuckled.
Yuto felt his whole body seize up in horror.

Not that.
Anything but that.


Yuto could feel BB jamming his rigid member forcefully into the narrow opening.
As the man thrusted aggressively against him, he felt a searing pain ripping through his body.
It was so painful he almost forgot to breathe.

BB thrust himself in and out with brute force.
Yuto gritted his teeth and withstood it.
But no matter how much he tried to suppress his voice, intermittent yelps of pain slipped from his lips.

“…Ugh… ah…!”

He had begun to bleed from the violent motion; after a number of thrusts, Yuto felt a slippery sensation where they were joined.
Ironically enough, the blood acted as a sort of lubricant and eased his pain for a few short moments.
But the unpleasant sensation of pressure from the inside, like someone was stirring his insides around with a flaming rod, was only getting worse.
Yuto began to feel nauseous.

The men around him held him down as Yuto’s body went taut in agony.

“BB, what’s it like inside the yellow bitch?” one man asked him lewdly.

“Damn good.
Nice and tight.
…I could’ve gotten a taste of this sweet ass sooner if Choker didn’t give me shit.”

BB thrust into Yuto with the force of his entire body.
Trapped between the cold wall and BB, Yuto continued to emit moans of pain.

“Shit, I can’t hold it anymore,” BB growled like an animal as he released himself inside Yuto.
He exhaled, seemingly satisfied, and stepped back from Yuto.
The rest of the men flung Yuto aside as if to say they were finished with him.

“Behave, and I’ll be gentle to you next time.
Make eyes at Libera and insult me like that again – you’ll be passed around the rest of these guys next time.
Remember that.”

As Yuto lay on his stomach on the floor, BB spat those last words on him before leaving the showers with the rest of the group.

Even after he’d been left alone, Yuto still could not get to his feet.

His heart was even more tattered than his body.
He had been so thoroughly beat down that he had no energy left to lift a single finger.
Unspeakable defeat and humiliation closed in on him, eating away at his soul.

The stream of water from the shower pounded against the floor, sending a spray that continued to wet Yuto’s body.
Yuto lent himself to the warm rain that soaked him.
He let go of his consciousness, letting himself slip into the deep pit of despair.

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