Kabuki Condominium, Room 0973. I closed the creaky door of the room and looked out the window.
The sky beyond the window is the color of the TV after the broadcast was over.
… It is just something I wanted to do at least once.
He put his hand in his pocket and headed towards the elevator hub of the building.
“Hey, Masked Asian.”
From the left, I got surprised when I heard a sharp voice. Someone is calling me.
Masked Asian, is my nickname.
There are few people wearing a conspicuous dust mask, and even among dogs, ‘real Asians’ like me are even rarer.
So, it is just special enough to become a sort of nickname within my circle.
Turning around, I saw a Hispanic man with a yellow Mohawk leaning against the railing of the adjacent building, looking in the other direction.
A yakuza carp tattoo glowing with a purple argon symbol flaps on his forearm.
It’s cyberware for skin grafting. It’s applying organic light-emitting diodes to the skin for style. I still can’t understand that tattoo sensibility.
“Hey, you still have that cramped mask on. When are you going to take it off?”
The man spoke as he took out a cigarette from his mouth and exhaled smoke. The nicotine-infused aerosol hit my face, but I couldn’t feel the smoke because I am wearing a mask.
That wasn’t a real cigarette. Of course.
In this world, cigarettes made from real tobacco has long been in the realm of luxury goods, used by the rich.
They are fake cigarettes, electronic cigarettes made to closely resemble real cigarettes.
The liquid cartridge and atomizer must be inside the fiber. Nicotine should also be a chemical compound, not extracted from tobacco.
The unconventional cigarette is something that gangsters could use, and of course, that man is a gangster.
The man’s name is Shimizu-Dick.
As can be seen from his tattoo, he is a yakuza. This Asian town is a neighborhood dominated by the Japanese mafia.
Even if they are called Japanese mafia, their names, and appearances may be Japanese-like, but in reality, they are all Westerners.
Where did he say he belongs to? Is it the Mt Shimizu?
It’s probably right. That’s why he probably added “Shimizu” to his name. There is a culture in which you have to change your surname to become a member of an organization or a family.
Anyway, the man, Shimizu Dick, is a neighbor who lived in the room to the left of where I live.
My room is on the 10th floor, room 973 is his room, so I live in room 974 right next doors.
In short, my next door neighbor is a gangster. Well, It’s pretty common in Dusk City.
He may be a gangster, but he’s not that bad of a person. It’s just that his foolish actions were a bit troublesome. At least, that’s what we talked about when we met face to face.
It’s a very narrow building and the rooms are small, so I inevitably bump into him.
He is quite humorous, and unlike people who live in crime, he has a good sense of humor. You can say he’s a natural comedian.
He is a bit troublesome for an outsider like me, but what can you do? When the troublesome person is a gangster.
What would you do if you ignored what you said and shot him with a gun? In a city with thorough public safety, that alone is enough.
For that reason, we became close friends by demonstrating our maximum affinity for conversation.
We are just ordinary acquaintances who can exchange greetings and a few words when we meet, but not friends.
That is the relationship with Mohawk Yakuza Shimizu Dick, also known as the ‘Chicken Crest Man’.
The reason he is called Chicken Crest Man is simple. It’s because of his Mohawk hairstyle shaped like a chicken crest, which is a perfect attention-grabber.
But even though he doesn’t seem to like it, but what can he do about it? You can’t decide on a nickname for yourself.
Here, there is a culture among locals to call each other by nicknames rather than names, and just like I am called “Masked Asian”, Shimizu also became Chicken Crest Man.
The Chicken Crest Man with a cigarette in his mouth looked at me and smoked again. The white smoke covered my mask and goggles.
Why does he keep blowing nicotine towards people’s faces without any consideration?
He furrowed his eyebrows and shook his hand to disperse the smoke, then he stopped smoking and smiled.
“Oh, sorry. You didn’t say anything and just looked at the air blankly, so I thought you might have taken some medicine.”
The medication is something I take every day.
For some reason, today he is smoking regular cigarettes, not marijuana.
Anyway, that’s the answer.
Come to think of it, the Chicken Crest Man asked me something earlier. Was it about the mask I am wearing?
That’s a ridiculous story, I said in a skeptical tone.
“I’ll take off my mask when the air quality in this neighborhood improves.”
And that day never came. In other words, it won’t be coming off.
The pollution level here in Dusk City is terrible. It’s not an exaggeration to say this city, it’s like the end of the world.
As water and soil are polluted, even ordinary agricultural products have become the exclusive property of the wealthy, which made it difficult for ordinary people to access.
Every day, the fine dust concentration exceeds 1,000㎍/㎥. If it were like earth, the worst fine dust would have been on the news, but here it’s every day.
It’s much better because we’re inside the city boundary and under the protective dome.
I’ve heard that outside the city is not only polluted but also like a death zone where human survival is impossible.
That’s why I got this mask with multiple filters, small air purifiers, and protective goggles,
The enormous and thick dust mask, resembling a gas mask, attracts many people’s attention when it’s worn.
Indeed, it’s not a matter of choice, but a necessity. To survive, one must wear a mask when going outside. It’s also essential to install air purification systems and clothing sanitizer in one’s home.
Otherwise, my lungs would be ripped apart in no time.
Not wearing a mask while going out in an atmosphere filled with heavy metals and toxic substances from the military factory, is like committing suicide.
Of course, there are also people who do not wear masks.
“Hey, don’t be such a coward. The machines can handle it.”
A typical example of this is the Mohawk yakuza right in front of me.
The human respiratory system, consisting of the throat, nose, and mouth, has its own air-purifying cyberware.
This is one of the necessary body modifications that must be installed in order to live in such air pollution.
Thanks to this, everyone can safely walk in this polluted air, without wearing uncomfortable and stuffy masks like me.
How great would it be if my body had such an automatic purification system like that.
How innovative it would be if a mask filter were already installed in our respiratory system, so that we wouldn’t have to wear a mask every time.
However, I could not enjoy the innovation.
It’s not that I am called Masked Asian for nothing, wearing a dust mask that made it difficult to breathe every day.
I don’t wear it because I want to wear it. I’m wearing this because there’s no other choice.
It’s not expensive because of the mask itself, but is expensive because of having to replace the filters every day.
It would be better for me to receive artificial respiratory system modification. If I could obtain it, I would do so.
It means that there is a reason why I cannot do it.
First of all, the purified cyberware that people in the city usually pay to install when they are born or when they relocate doesn’t exist for me at all.
Because I was born in Korea in the 21st century and never did any physical modifications.
Of course, it’s not just me who cannot have an automatic purification system, and there are many poor people who cannot afford even basic respiratory modifications and have to buy cheap masks.
After living like that, if you work hard and eat well enough to be full, you can save money and also receive an automatic purification system that liberates you from the masks.
In this case, it could be 0.1% of the whole population.
In the end, the point is that even if you haven’t received an automatic purification system yet, if you have the money, you can receive a new implant.
In my case, I am a member of the lower class, but my situation is much better than that of poor people. I can somehow save money with the money I’ve accumulated so far.
But it’s not money, it’s something else.
Identity, damn biometric ID, nanomachines. It’s usually fine, but because I have a fake ID.
However, if a thorough physical examination is performed for cyberware transplantation, one can be caught immediately.
My body doesn’t have any nanomachines and my ID is fake.
Therefore, I couldn’t have the cyberware implanted in a regular facility. You would be reported immediately.
Then the remaining option is informal medical facilities, commonly known as underground clinics… Am I crazy to go to a place where human organs are sold or traded?
Of course, if you look carefully, you can find a clean underground clinic somewhere, but if you don’t have the ability or network to get such a reliable non-regular medical facility.
Moreover, the cost of surgery at an underground clinic is extremely expensive.
In the end, it means that there is no other option but to continue using a gas mask.
… However, I couldn’t tell that to the Mohawk Yakuza directly.