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AweStriker
Oct 6, 2014



Check the logs.

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asymmetrical
Jan 29, 2009

the absence or violation of symmetry


Men of science don't go jumping to any conclusions. Check the logs.

ChaceRider
Aug 15, 2009

and above all else, be kind


Yeah, check the logs. Once you see who supposedly did it and determine whether they actually did, THEN you can run around figuring out more elaborate tricks of getting past security if need be. (I mean, this is fiction, so probably it WAS some crazy trick. But hey, better to rule out the easy answers first.)

HydroSphere
Feb 11, 2014



Kenji Osawa.



“Let’s check the entry logs for the storage section.”

Anyone who wanted to get inside had to present their ID card to the security guard on duty. It should be possible to check the computer logs to see if there had been any suspicious activity in the system.

Tanaka shook his head. “I already checked the logs, sir. There was no evidence of anything suspicious. You’re welcome to check for yourself, though, if you’re that worried.”

“No, I believe you.”

Yet the fact was that the antiviral had been used for clinical testing.

Either Makino had taken it from the laboratory personally, or someone working on his orders had done so.

But...how?

Was there really some way they could have bypassed lab security without anyone else knowing?

Osawa couldn’t think how it would be possible.

Music stops.



The living room door opened with a soft creak.

It was Kajiwara, and he looked stiff and pale. “Something terrible has happened,” he said.

Visions of tragedy flooded Osawa’s mind. “Maria...Is she...?”

Kajiwara shook his head. “No, it’s not that.”

“What is it, then?” Osawa asked, his voice trembling.

“Sir. I need you to stay calm.”

Osawa swallowed the lump in his throat.

“You see...”



Toilet.



Plunger in hand, Osawa stabbed vigorously at the recalcitrant toilet bowl, struggling to loosen the unseen blockage.

Kajiwara was at his side, wiping up the floor with a rag.

“How did this even happen?” the detective groaned.

“Are you kidding? I was hoping you could tell me that.”

General Tip – Plunger posted:

A cleaning/utility implement consisting of a soft, hemispherical rubber suction cup attached to the end of a dowel. By pressing the cup over the opening of a drain
that has been clogged, one can apply suction pressure to jostle the blockage free. Makes a variety of sounds when used, such as glub, glork, schluck, schlorp, schloop, and pop.

The plunger sucked and schlorped at the porcelain basin.

This was a first for Osawa. He’d never tried to unclog a toilet before in his life.

“Think of it as a blessing in disguise, Mr. Osawa.”

“What the hell are you talking about? What about this constitutes a ‘blessing’?”

“I just meant that at least this happened before you needed to, ah, do your business.” Without the slightest hint of guile on his face, Kajiwara picked up his bucket and headed for the sink back in the washing area.

Grumbling to himself, Osawa pumped the plunger over and over again.

This was almost funny. Almost ridiculous, in fact.

His daughter had been kidnapped, and he was stuck unclogging a toilet.

He was quite possibly caught up in a major corporate conspiracy, and here he was, unclogging a toilet.



Tanaka poked his head into the bathroom. “Did you fix it yet?”

“If you need to urinate, then use the restroom on the second floor.”

“That’s all right. Here’s fine.”

Music stops.

Tanaka stepped in beside him and abruptly shut the bathroom door.

Now the two men were crammed together in the narrow lavatory.

“Hey!” Osawa hissed. “What the hell are you doing?”

Tanaka made eye contact with Osawa via the mirror.

He spoke in a hushed voice. “I’ve been waiting. For a moment I could get you alone.”

Maneuvers.



“What?!”

Tanaka sidled around to face him, giving him an intense stare.



“Sir, could you please be quiet for a moment?” Tanaka had tears in the corners of his eyes. “This’ll only take a moment.”

Osawa could feel the warm breath of his deputy whispering against his cheek.

Tanaka reached for something inside his coat.

Ibblebibble
Nov 12, 2013




Duel me with your own plunger, dammit! (A)

AweStriker
Oct 6, 2014



A. Stall fight! Stall fight!

(what is the mood of this scene even supposed to be)

asymmetrical
Jan 29, 2009

the absence or violation of symmetry


AweStriker posted:

(what is the mood of this scene even supposed to be)
Somewhere between "horror" and "I think I saw a porno like this once" I think!

Osawa is definitely on his last nerve by now. We're not going down without a fight (A).

Kangra
May 7, 2012



Take the plunge

HydroSphere
Feb 11, 2014





“Hey! Come on, knock it off!” Osawa lifted the plunger like a weapon.

“Quiet!” Tanaka chided again, taking out a cell phone.



“Here. Take a look at this.”

“Huh?” Osawa could never have anticipated what he saw on the LCD screen.

HydroSphere
Feb 11, 2014



We're currently down to Achi and Minorikawa.

Wes Warhammer
Oct 19, 2012





Well, that was... anticlimactic. Let's go back to Achi.

CrashScreen
Nov 11, 2012



Glad I caught up. Anyway, now that we've resolved a problem for Minorikawa, I'd like to go back to him.

asymmetrical
Jan 29, 2009

the absence or violation of symmetry


Minorikawa.

AweStriker
Oct 6, 2014



Sounds like Minorikawa.

HydroSphere
Feb 11, 2014



Setup.




No music.



“Chiaki?”

Was she done with her interviews, maybe?



“It’s no use. People won’t stop to talk no matter how hard I try.” Her voice broke up into further sobs.



“Look, I’ve got my own problems to deal with. You’re just going to have to find some way to manage.”

“B-But...I can’t-”

“Sorry. I’m hanging up now.” And so he did.



He had to hurry. Had to get to the demo venue.

But he’d lost the map, and forgotten the location. Think, man, he told himself.

Where would they hold an event like this? Probably someplace big, right?

And there ought to be a guide or someone out front, too.

With these assumptions in mind, Minorikawa broke into a run, searching ahead as he went.

Mystery.



He stopped when he caught sight of a particular multi-tenant office building.

A whole stream of women were filing inside. All of them looked a little heavy, too.

Pay-dirt!

This had to be the health food company’s sales demo.

He hurried into the building.



The women were queued up down the hallway.

This was definitely the place, then.

More confident by the moment, Minorikawa made his way up the stairs.

Finally, he reached the front of the line.



There was a notice posted outside the doorway ahead. Minorikawa read it out loud:

“Auditions for the starring role in Sun TV’s Sumo Queen 2?”

It was a sequel series to a recent TV drama featuring full-figured actresses.

428 Tip – Sumo Queen 2 posted:

A suspense drama about a string of murders that crop up while
a group of female sumo wrestlers tour the country. The maegashira, komusubi, sekiwake, and ozeki-the fifth through second-place wrestlers-from both East and West are all killed in sequence, leaving only to the two top-ranked yokozuna. With the real killer still unknown, things come to a heated climax in the ring during the final match, when the loser tearfully confesses to her crimes. It concludes with the victorious wrestler, who’d also been playing the part of detective, sorrowfully looking the culprit in the eye and stating, “It’s off to the big house with you.”

“That’s it!” Minorikawa exclaimed, a new project proposal springing fully formed into his mind.

He felt as if he’d been struck by a bolt of divine inspiration.

Music stops.



“Big Bodies, Bigger Names!” A New Arena Opens for Aspiring Plus Sized Actresses.

Never mind the diet drink demo-this was going to be Minorikawa’s big story!

Minorikawa managed to meet the deadline.

The show, however, wound up being a massive flop.

Sales of that issue of Four-Star General Gossip were likewise lackluster, with an unprecedented number of copies going unsold.



yamiaainferno
Jun 29, 2013



We've gone this long without switching to Achi, we might as well hop back to Tama and split up.

I'm enjoying the thread, by the way. The game swings wildly between ridiculous and serious in a way that I find very Japanese, but it's charming all the same and I am genuinely curious about what's going to happen next.

HydroSphere
Feb 11, 2014



Setup.



Game.




  • Tama's currently blocked by a “Keep Out”.

Setup.



Yum Cha.



No. He reminded himself that he needed to finish his article.

Besides, if this young lady looked anything like her father, he’d just as soon pass. Minorikawa went back to his typing.

It took a few minutes to reestablish his writing groove, with the two still bickering across the room, but thankfully, he soon regained his focus.

No music.



What's that?

A strange beeping sound broke Minorikawa out of his writing reverie. Upon looking up in confusion, he found his attention drawn to a young woman at a another table.



“Let me just repeat your order back to you. One Japanese-style beef patty, one spicy fish roe spaghetti, one chicken casserole, one French onion soup, one fruit parfait, one chocolate parfait, and one deluxe chocolate parfait. Will that be all?”

The waitress anxiously awaited confirmation.

428 Tip – Waitress posted:

Ryoko Kakinuma, a second-year student at Midoriyama Academy’s law school.

She was hassled by a pair of hustlers on her way to work and showed up five minutes late for her shift. The manager told her that those five minutes were coming outof her pay, so she’s a bit irritated right now.

“You forgot the large caramel shake.” The customer was a full-figured young woman ensconced at a nearby table.

“Oh, my apologies!” The waitress quickly jotted down the addition to the order.

“That’ll do it for now,” the young woman said.

For now? Yikes. She’s actually planning on ordering more after that?

Marveling at this display of appetite, Minorikawa went back to typing.



Now what?

He heard the strange beeping sound again, subtly different than the first time.

And this time it was closer.



  • The thread previously voted to ignore the sound, so we'll go with that again. Investigating the sound leads to a bad ending – Minorikawa ends up arrested after getting into an argument with Ai. (Osawa's wife.)

Well, never mind. I need to focus on finishing this article.

Minorikawa immersed himself in his writing again.

Before long, he stopped worrying about the curious sound.



The plump young woman set about devouring all the food she’d ordered despite the strange looks she was getting.

Now that was an appetite to be reckoned with.

It took her under three minutes to polish off the lot. Then, looking not the least bit sated, she picked the menu right back up.

Was she seriously going to order more?

Mystery.



Minorikawa was starting to take an interest in this young lady.

There might be a story here.

He conjured up a series of headlines in his mind.

Woman Inhales 30,000 Calories in 3 Minutes

No. He needed something with more punch.

General Tip – 30,000 calories posted:

This is the equivalent of 100 pieces of shortcake, 300 glasses of milk, or enough steak and rice to feed about 30 people.

Food for Thought: An Exposé on Obesity

No, that was no good. He wasn’t writing for a fashion mag, here.

A Gourmet Day in Shibuya

That
was it!

He’d be able to whip something up if he went with the foodie angle.

Minorikawa got up from his seat.



“That’s pretty impressive!” he said to the hungry diner. “Do you always eat that much?”

The young woman glared back at him. “Not always,” she said.

Suddenly tension filled the air.

Oops. Was that way too blunt of me? I mean she is a young lady, after all. Maybe I should change up my approach.

“Who the heck are you, anyway?” the woman asked.

“I’m a freelancer writer. I was hoping I could do an interview with you real quick.”



“You want to interview me?” The suspicion was plain on her face.

“I do! I mean, girls all over the world worry about their diets, right?”

“I hear that, yeah.”

“So would you be willing to share your secret, or your technique or whatever, for how to eat without getting fat?”

“What, me?”

“Sure. I mean look at the figure you’re maintaining despite eating all this food.”

Best.



The young woman’s expression brightened up. “Oh, you noticed? There’s actually a lot that goes into all this.”

“Yeah?”

“The basic thing, though, is to eat ten meals a day.”

Minorikawa struggled to keep his jaw from dropping. “Ten meals a day?”

She flashed him a chubby-cheeked grin.



“Heheh. You don’t know how diets work, do ya?” she chuckled. “Eating only one or two meals a day-that’s what’ll make you fat. You gotta space your food out into smaller portions throughout the day. That’s the fundamentals of dieting right there.”

Right, but what happened to the ‘smaller portions’ part?

Minorikawa had to bite his tongue.



“Ah, I see,” he said. “Any other pro dieting tips you could share?”

“Well, for the basics, I’d say always drink protein instead of tea, yeah?”

Drink protein all day? Seriously?

Once again, it took all of Minorikawa’s willpower to keep his thoughts to himself.

“Let’s see, what else? Oh, there’s this stuff called Burning Hammer, too, but...” She trailed off with a little wince.



“Wait.” Minorikawa perked up. “Did you say Burning Hammer?”

“Oh, you know it?”

“I’ve heard of it, anyway,” Minorikawa replied. He decided he was better off keeping his plans to head to the sales demo a secret.



“There’s a sales demo later on, if you’re interested,” the woman said as if she were reading his thoughts. “Though, full disclosure, I am working for them right now.” She handed Minorikawa an advertising pamphlet.

There was a more detailed map for the venue included.

What a stroke of luck!

Now he didn’t need to rely on the crummy map in the project proposal anymore.

He’d have no trouble finding the venue with the building’s various floors all broken down for him.

“And actually, I gotta get back to work,” the woman said.



“Sure. Thank you so much for your time. I’m going to hang back and finish up my copy, here.”

The woman left the café, and Minorikawa went back to his laptop.

No music.



He’d gotten some new info on the Burning Hammer sales demo, but he’d also lost some more time.

The surveillance camera piece still wasn’t finished. It was going to be a near thing to get it done before the sales demo started.

Yet instead of returning to his writing he got out his cell phone.

What if Toyama had gotten another of his crazy ideas? If he’d tried to hang himself again-the thought had Minorikawa too worried to work on his copy.

The phone rang several times before someone picked up.



“Mr. Toyama, where are you right now?” Minorikawa asked.

“Right now? I’m on the run, somewhere near Shoto.” Toyama was speaking in an oddly hushed tone.

“Shoto?”

“After you left the office, some guys came by to collect on my debts. So I made a run for it.”

General Tip – Shoto posted:

An upscale residential district. Despite being smack-dab in the middle of the city, it’s a quiet neighborhood, rife with greenery. The residence of the former Governor of Tokyo is here, built on a massive 2,200-square-meter plot of land. There’s a shady hotel district a short walk to the south, making for quite the juxtaposition.

Okay, so he wasn’t dead, but the situation was still pretty bad.

HydroSphere fucked around with this message at 20:53 on Jan 4, 2020

CrashScreen
Nov 11, 2012



If he's on the run, staying still doesn't sound like a safe idea but neither is going back to the office. I guess he's found somewhere safe enough to call, so A.

Jade Rider
May 11, 2007

All the pages have been censored except for "heck," and she misread that one.




B) Get back ASAP. That may help Kano out of his bad end.

differentiating
Mar 30, 2019



As bad of an idea for Toyama as it sounds to go back to where there were a bunch of thugs, we need them to not be free-roaming if we want to advance the plot. So I agree with B.

yamiaainferno
Jun 29, 2013



Honestly, it's hard to tell if the loan sharks caught Toyama wherever he was loitering, or on his way back home. But let's try heading back to the office. That seems to be where the thugs wanted him to be, anyway.

Also, it's probably not gonna happen, but I'd really like it if the game cut out this body shaming poo poo with Chiri already.

HydroSphere
Feb 11, 2014



No music.



“You need to get back to the office ASAP.”

“The office? But they’ll find me there for sure!’ Toyama’s voice was little more than a pathetic whimper.

“It’s a little bit of reverse psychology. The last place the debt collectors are gonna think you went is back to the office, right?”

“Ah. I see,” Toyama said. He sounded impressed by the suggestion.

“For now, just stay hidden until I can get these articles finished.”

“All right,” Toyama said weakly.

He hung up.

Minorikawa let out a deep sigh, then turned back to his laptop.



Setup.



  • Sending Toyama back to the office didn't solve Kano's bad end.




  • Achi is the only available character right now; Osawa and Tama are currently locked into Keep Outs as well.

Contemplation.



Achi and Hitomi scampered through the backroads along Center Gai, white sneakers and pumps slapping on the pavement.

Achi kept his eyes peeled, continually checking ahead and behind as they darted through the gaps between the buildings.

Finally, they stopped in a narrow alley.

“There’s no way he’ll find us here,” he said. “No one knows about this place.” He took another look around, then let out a sigh of relief.

It seemed they’d managed to shake the gunman for now.



Back when Achi was with S.O.S, he had come through Center Gai practically every day.

The gang had started out as little more than a group of local teens.

They didn’t do much in particular, just horsing around and killing time. What mattered was that they were having fun.

428 Tip – S.O.S posted:

The abbreviation for “Studs of Shibuya,” the name given to the group by Achi when he founded it. Originally just a bunch of like-minded young people hanging out together, it has since become known as a gang that picks fights around Shibuya.

But it wasn’t long before it wasn’t all fun and games.

Achi couldn’t help but notice the slobs who were making a mess of Shibuya, dirtying it all up.

He wasn’t about to let them get away with it. Most frequently, it was folks who tossed cigarette butts out on the street or plastered walls in graffiti. When they didn’t respond to his more gentle warnings, he found slightly more forceful ways of getting his point across.

S.O.S. got a reputation. Street punks started trying to pick fights with its members.

Those guys required a bit more force to handle.

And when it came to the worst of the lot-the drug dealers, the muggers, the guys who tried to force themselves on women-it was full-on battle, no holds barred.

Before long, S.O.S. had established itself as something of a bigilante corps. Soon it became known as one of the biggest gangs in Shibuya.



“Let’s lay low here for a bit and see what happens,” Achi said.

The alley where they hid was like a dimly lit chasm, obscuring them from view.

The only problem now was figuring out what to do next.

They needed to find that blue van again. Which meant figuring out the best way to get back to Dogenzaka without the man with the cane catching them once more.

No music.



“Achi?” Hitomi whispered.

“Hmm?”

“I think I can handle myself from here.” She got to her feet and gave Achi a deep bow.



“Whoa!” Achi held up a hand. “We’ve been over this already. You’re not gonna be okay. That guy has a gun.”

If he let her go up against that assassin alone, he might as well be the one to pull the trigger himself.

“Thank you so much for everything you’ve done for me,” Hitomi continued as if she hadn’t heard him. She started to shuffle out of the alleyway.

“Hey, what did I just say?”



“Really, Achi-I appreciate your concern. But I can’t in good conscience put you in danger any more.”

“But...I mean...”

Achi tried to press the point, but Hitomi cut him off. “There’s no good reason for you to risk yourself to keep helping me.”

yamiaainferno
Jun 29, 2013



This is, what, the third time she's tried to ditch Achi? It's getting increasingly suspicious. Hitomi knows more than she's letting on, I think-- maybe the twins organized this themselves in order to run off with their dad's money? Osawa sees to be a pretty distant dad and their step mother is a real piece of work, so it could be some elaborate running away scheme. Alternatively, I've been speculating for a bit now that perhaps Hitomi was the intended target to begin with, rather than Maria. Either the kidnappers took Maria by mistake (since they seem to be hired foreigners and would have been going off of a picture), or took her as plan B when Hitomi never showed up to the party. Hitomi could have figured that out herself (maybe because she knows why someone may want to kidnap her) and is trying to exchange herself for her sister.

Regardless, letting her go off alone sounds like a bad idea. Let's stick with Hitomi.

Kangra
May 7, 2012



Help her anyway because I can't see Achi doing otherwise.

HydroSphere
Feb 11, 2014





Still, Achi was determined to help her anyway. He refused to back down.

“Look. I want to help people who are in trouble. What’s so wrong about that?”

“Huh?”

He looked eyes with Hitomi, willing her to understand.



“I’m not the most dependable guy. I know that. But still, I just...”

Hitomi dropped her gaze, and Achi trailed off, feeling like an idiot. “Oh, it’s no use. I’m no use.”

He hung his head with a sigh.



Just then, a bit of light shone into the alleyway from above.

It looked like someone on the adjacent building’s upper floor had turned on the lights.



428 Tip – Building posted:

The Nokane Building. This multi-tenant building has seven floors, but a decade-old urban legend tells of a mysterious thirteenth floor. A diet aid sales demo is being held on one of the upper floors today.

Hitomi Osawa.



The light illuminated Hitomi’s face.

When Achi saw the look in her eyes, he reconsidered his decision. She was trying her hardest to hide it, but she was clearly terrified.

No way was he letting her go back out there alone. Still, if he tried to insist, she would only refuse him again.

“Hitomi? Humor me for a second, here. Tell me, what’s the proper way to dispose of a plastic bottle?”

She stared at him in surprise. “Uh, well, first, you remove the cap and the wrapper. Then you rinse out the inside, and crush it...”

Achi let out the breath he’d been holding. “Okay, good.”

“Huh? I-I don’t understand. What’s good?”



“You gave me my reason why I have to help you out. I super-respect people who respect the environment. I’m one of those whatchamacallits. An environmentalist.”



Achi pointed at his Mean Clean t-shirt.



Hitomi hesitated. “And what was your plan if I’d said the answer was to toss the plastic in with the trash?”

“Well, then I’d need to stick with you to help teach you. Environmental awareness begins with good education.”

“So then you were going to tag along with me regardless.”

“Look, I’m just super-pumped to learn that you care so much about proper recycling.” Achi cracked a huge grin.



“Okay, then.”

“Okay...?”

“If you’re really that sure about it, I guess I could use your help a little while longer.” Hitomi flashed him a little smile.

Man, she’s so cute, Achi thought.



Then something else caught his eye. “Huh? What’s that there?”

No music.

It looked like something black was stuck to the top of her head.

“Achi, what are you staring at?”

“Uh, you’ve got something stuck there.”

“What, on my head?” Without thinking, Hitomi reached up and plucked it off.

Dread.



It was about ten centimeters long, its body a glistening black, sporting feelers and several pairs of legs.

It began to writhe and wriggle between Hitomi’s slender fingers.

“Gah!” Achi yelped. “It’s a cockroach!” He jumped backward, but Hitomi didn’t so much as flinch.

“Whew-sorry. That gave me a bit of a start,” he continued. “Guess it must’ve fallen from one of the windows up there?”

Still, Hitomi did not move.

“Hitomi?”

She didn’t appear to hear him.

“Uh, hello? Hitomi?”

“Ooghuf” With a muffled gurgle, Hitomi passed out on the spot, her body as stiff as a mannequin.



“Wha-?! Hitomi, are you okay? Hitomi! Hitomi! Hitomiiiiii!!”

But no matter how loudly Achi called her name, Hitomi would not come to.

Implications.



From that day onward, Achi devoted even more of his time and energy to collecting trash. It became his personal passion to see that his city was a clean one, devoid of cockroaches. That was the mandate he had been handed-or, if nothing else, his atonement.



yamiaainferno
Jun 29, 2013



I...what? Pardon? Excusez-moi? A cockroach caused her to die of fright?

Whatever. Let's continue to perpetuate these weird gender stereotypes by having Tama run away from the cockroach, like a proper woman.

HydroSphere
Feb 11, 2014



Setup.



Dread.



I snatch up the cardboard box and make a run for it.

Setup.



Hitomi Osawa.



No music.



Sneaking out from the alley, Achi and Hitomi began to make their way along the side streets back toward Dogenzaka. It was a pretty big detour compared to taking the main thoroughfares, but that would be worth it if it meant they avoided the man with the cane.

Achi looked over at Hitomi as she walked alongside him. Her face was solemn. He could feel the intensity of her worry for her sister.

“Ooh, well, well, well! Look who’s got himself a little cutie!”

The sudden call startled him; he spun around.



“Yo, Mean Clean! Over here.”

Achi spotted a young man up ahead, sneering at him.



At his side were two others. Achi recognized the lot. S.O.S

Hitomi let out a nervous squeak. “Achi?”

“Don’t worry about them.” He led her onward, attempting to stride right past the trio.



“Whoa, hey now! You just gonna ignore me? That’s pretty drat rude, especially coming from someone who used to he an ol’ buddy.” The three toughs moved to bar Achi’s path. “Ooh, she is hella fine. C’mon, ain’t you gonna introduce us?”

“Sorry, man,” Achi said.“I’m in a bit of a hurry here.” He gave them a tepid smile.

General Tip – Hella fine posted:

Extremely attractive.

The etymology of ‘hella’ is somewhat unclear, but its meaning is undisputed: “very,” “a lot of,” “totally,” and the like.

Potential synonyms for “hella fine” include “mighty fine,”“fine as hell,” and “bangin’”.

“A big hurry, huh? Where to? Some love hotel in Maruyamacho?”

Too rich,” another chimed in. “She a screamer, Achi? Ahh, ahh, Ahh-chi!” They burst out howling like a gang of monkeys.

428 Tip – Ahh, ahh, Ahh-chi! posted:

Take a stereotypical way to poke fun at a would-be amorous couple.

Now take Achi’s name. There you go.

One of them cackled like a grinning idiot. “Ah...Achi! Ahhhhhh-chi!”

yamiaainferno
Jun 29, 2013



B. As much as they probably deserve it, it would be just our luck to have the kidnapper come and snatch Hitomi away (or her run off) while we were distracted.

asymmetrical
Jan 29, 2009

the absence or violation of symmetry


We're on a mission; there's no time for fools (B).

HydroSphere
Feb 11, 2014





But there was too much at stake. He was just going to have to suck it up and ignore them for the time being. Gritting his teeth, he tried to slip past them; but the largest of the three grabbed him by the collar.



“You ran out, man. Susumu’s the one who runs this town now. You got no right to keep acting like you’re the boss of us.” He shoved Achi up against the wall.

“Says who?” Achi asked. “Susumu?”

“Say what now?”



“Did Susumu say I’ve got no right to act like the boss?”

“Bitch, please. Susumu ain’t got time to worry about your sorry rear end!”

“Ah. Is that so?”



Achi’s fist flashed out, catching the man clean on the jaw.



“So, tell Susumu this: everyone in Shibuya needs to just play nice and have fun.” Achi kept his tone light and jovial, but he eyed the two other toughs like a hawk eyeing its prey.



“Is...he going to be all right?” Hitomi murmured. She looked at the man Achi had laid out with some concern.

“Aw, he’ll be fine. If that’s all it took to knock him out, he’s got no right to act all badass.”

“Achi, huh? I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure.”

Confusion.



A taller man with an angry gleam in his eyes had appeared atop the steps nearby. He must have turned up during the commotion. He radiated a distinct aura of menace.

“That’s me,” Achi replied. “And just who are you?” For once, it was someone he didn’t recognize.



“The name’s Yoji Kiryu. I joined up with S.O.S after you left. Now I’m Susumu’s number two guy.” The newcomer stared at Achi’s face, sizing him up. “Our legendary founder. I’ve heard so much about you.”

428 Tip – Yoji Kiryu posted:

Used to roll with a gang from Ikebukuro until a few months ago. Known as “The Killer Whale of ‘Bukuro,” he answered any and all resistance with his fists. His crazy antics led to him being kicked out of the gang, however, and lately he’s been hanging around Shibuya.

The founder. It had been a long time since anyone had called him that. There’d been a bunch of arguing over who would take charge of the new group that was forming to set things straight in Shibuya. At some point, folks had started hailing him as the force behind S.O.S.

But ‘founder’-that was just something his buddies called him. He had never paid it much heed. Shibuya was a place for fun, not hierarchies. At least, in Achi’s mind, that was how it ought to be.



“Like how you busted up some mean ol’ drug dealers, rescued your pals from yakuza bondage-you’re a real hero.” Kiryu’s tongue flicked from his mouth like a snake’s.

Hitomi shuddered; Achi couldn’t blame her for being creeped out.

General Tip – Bondage posted:

Here, “bondage” is used strictly in the sense of “captivity.”

Any other types of “Yakuza bondage” will not be featured in this game.

Sorry if the Tip link here got your hopes up.

“But that’s all in the past now, isn’t it?” Kiryu continued. “You went modestly on your way. It’s up to us now. And we’ve helped S.O.S. grow by leaps and bounds to help carry on your legacy-no matter who stands in our way.

That thought didn’t sit right with Achi. If aggressive expansion was the name of the game, the gang was losing touch with its roots; it wasn’t about keeping Shibuya safe and fun anymore.



“Make S.O.S bigger, huh?” he said. “I’m guessing that was Susumu’s call as well?”



Kiryu didn’t answer his question. His mouth merely twisted into a knowing sneer. “In any event, I think these boys here need a little lesson in manners. The Guillotine ought to do the trick.”

The other gang members started in alarm.

“Whoa, hey, just calm down, man!”

“Please, anything but the Guillotine!”

Kiryu pointedly ignored their pleas.

General Tip – Guillotine posted:

A capital punishment device invented in 18th Century France. The condemned is executed by decapitation, by means of a heavy blade that descends from above. Named for physician Joseph-Ignace Guillotin, who advocated its use to the National Assembly. Both King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were executed by guillotine.

“Whoa, hey. What’s the Guillotine?” Achi asked.

Kiryu smirked.



“The Guillotine is the Guillotine.”

No music.

“With me, worms.” Without a glance back, Kiryu strolled away. His two underlings followed him unhappily.

Achi wondered what lay in store for them, but right now he had more important things to worry about. “Come on, let’s go.” He took Hitomi by the hand and they were back on their way.

The World Doesn't Change so Easy.



“Oh!” Hitomi perked up. “That’s me.” She reached into her pocket and took out her cell phone. “Huh?” She stared at the screen with consternation.

“What is it?” Achi asked.

No music.



“It’s an email. From Mr. Tanaka.”

“Who’s Mr. Tanaka?”

“He works with my father. I’m...not sure what I should do.”

Achi remembered that the criminal had warned her against contacting her family or the police.

She seemed reluctant to even open this message.

“I’m sure it’s fine to just read an email,” he said. “And besides, he’s not the police and he’s not your family.”

“Yeah, you’re right.”



Hitomi scanned the message anxiously. “It sounds like he’s worried about me,” she said.

“Then does he know? About the kidnapping?”

“Yes. I know my father trusts him. And he’s always been so-” Hitomi cut herself short; still, it was clear to Achi that she and this Tanaka person had some sort of close relationship.



“I wonder if it’s safe for me to let him know what the situation is.”

“I think it should be,” Achi told her. “I mean, the kidnappers aren’t gonna know you sent an email, right?”

Hitomi Osawa.



Hitomi began typing out a response.

Achi watched over her, wild speculations running through his mind. There was no way a mild-mannered young lady like her could be dating one of her father’s coworkers, was there?



Unless she was all about finding herself a sugar daddy?

No, he was being ridiculous. Achi banished the thought from his mind.

Besides, Hitomi’s personal life wasn’t the problem right now. The problem was that psycho with the cane and the gun.



“Is something wrong?” Hitomi asked. She’d finished sending her email.

“Oh, no, nothing. Nothing at all.”

Achi did his best to look nonchalant. It was a good thing she couldn’t read his mind.

Achi Endo.



They exited Center Gai and resumed their approach toward Dogenzaka by way of Maruyamacho-another long detour to decrease their odds of running into the gunman.

General Tip – Maruyamacho posted:

There are many hotels in Maruyamacho. These are not ordinary establishments, but rather the sort of hotel where two people who are so inclined might [redacted]. A couple heading to this kind of place in the early afternoon would, without a doubt, be assumed to be bent on [redacted]. You might be wondering whether an option for these two to get up to mischief will appear as a selection prompt. Well, don’t get your hopes up. This isn’t that kind of game.

They made an unlikely pair: scruffy Achi, limbs lackadaisically swinging to hide his embarrassment, and brisk, purposeful Hitomi.



Achi found himself watching her out of the corner of his eye. He could still feel her anxiety. He wished there was some way he could ease her fears.

“Hey, Hitomi, mind if I ask you something?”

“Hm? Uh, sure. Go ahead.”

“Okay, so like, I realize this might be kind of a weird question. But-” He put on a serious face. “...what does the ‘eco’ in ‘eco-friendly’ mean?”

“Huh?”

“Like I know it’s about helping the earth and all, but I don’t know what it really means, you know?”

Hitomi thought for a moment.

“I’m pretty sure it’s short for the English word ecology. Which is the science of examining the relationship between man and nature.”

“Oh, right, science!” Pleased with himself, Achi chattered on excitedly.

A faint smile crept back onto Hitomi’s face.

General Tip – Ecology posted:

A subset of biology that deals with the reciprocal relationship between organisms and their environment. Nowadays, the term can also refer to cultural and social effects on the global environment. The latter usage can be broad and imprecise, making the exact meaning somewhat difficult to define.



“Say, you ever hear about the clean river here in Shibuya?”

“A clean river? In Shibuya? Really?”

Ask a hundred youngsters outside of Shibuya Station the same question, and you’d probably get that same answer a hundred times.

“Yeah, the Shibuya River. You know, that drainage channel we saw earlier.”

“Wait, that? That’s the ‘clean river’ you’re talking about?”

By no reasonable definition was the Shibuya River what anyone would call ‘clean.’

“That’s the one!” Achi grinned at her confusion. “See, the river used to be clean a long time ago. I read about it in this old book called Science Strikes Back.”

428 Tip – Science Strikes Back posted:




“I used to have that book!” Hitomi chirped, her eyes wide with excitement. “You’re talking about that bit with the river that got turned into a song, right?”

“Yeah, that’s the one! You read it, too?”

“I did!”

Achi felt a giddy rush at this unexpected connection they shared.

General Tip – The river that got turned into a song posted:

The famous 1912 song Haru no Ogawa (‘The Spring Brook’),

With lyrics by Tatsuyuki Takano and music by Teiichi Okano. It is said that the song was inspired by the view of the upper course of the Shibuya River during Takano’s childhood. In the modern day, there is a stone monument bearing the song’s lyrics along the Odakyu Line between Yoyogi-Hachiman and Sangubashi.

“Imagine if there was still a clean, beautiful river here in Shibuya! It’d be the perfect place for taking a romantic stroll.”

Hitomi looked up at Achi. She seemed to share his joy in this idea.

“Wouldn’t it be amazing,” Achi said, “if that dirty little channel could be clean like it used to be?”

“It would!”

Maybe as amazing as the look on Hitomi’s face right now, Achi thought.

“Hitomi, tell me some more ecology stuff! Hit me with whatever you’ve got!”

She seemed happy to oblige. And so as they walked along, Hitomi explained the bits of knowledge she’d picked up over the years. Achi was quiet, hanging on her every word.



The return to Dogenzaka became an impromptu environmentalism lecture. Hitomi continued until she’d exhausted her ready knowledge.

“I just don’t get it,” Achi grumbled when she paused at last. “I mean, why’s it a bad thing if the planet gets warmer? Wouldn’t that make winter in places like Hokkaido way easier?”

“No, you see, because if the whole planet gets warmer, it’ll cause the whole ecosystem to collapse.”

Achi wracked his brain. “And the ecosystem is what again? Is that like a solar system?” Images of the cosmos filled his imagination.

“No, not-not really,” Hitomi said.

“So is it more like a sound system, then?”

“Not really...”

“Oh. But anyway, you’re saying the problem is with the, uh-what was it, again? Carbon...Carbon, uh...”

“Dioxide.”

“Yeah! Yeah, that stuff! I’m going to have to cut down on that!”

“Uh, sure.”



“That settles it!” Achi declared proudly. “No more soda for me!”

“Soda?” Hitomi asked.

“Yeah! It’s carbonated, right?”

Hitomi burst out laughing.

“What? I’m serious! You don’t think I can do it?”

“I’m sorry,” Hitomi said, catching her breath. “It’s just-”

No music.



Her face froze, her mirth abruptly vanishing. “Oh, no.”

“Huh?” Achi stared at her face in alarm. “What is it?”

Escape.



He turned his attention in the direction Hitomi was looking. The man with the cane was bearing down on them.

“Oh, come on! You have got to be kidding me!”

He grabbed Hitomi’s hand and ran.



This time, he headed for the main road, hoping to get lost in the crowd.

Hitomi struggled to keep up; she was exhausted after all their earlier running.

“You can do it!” he told her. “The guy’s got a cane! We can outrun him!”

The assassin was still hurrying after them.

“Once we get around the next corner we’ll be out on the main road!”

“Yeah...Okay...” She strained to get the words out. Bit by bit, her feet were slowing down.

It was another fifty meters or so to the main road. Achi realized that they might get caught before they got there. “Sorry, Hitomi,” he exclaimed, “but I gotta do this!” He scooped her up in his arms.



“Eep!”

By the time the squeak had escaped her mouth, Achi was already running full-out.

“Um, Achi? Please, please put me down?”

“Don’t worry. You’re super light.”



Achi glanced back and saw the assassin, now far behind, break off his pursuit. But just as they rounded the corner, he heard the man call out to him.




Achi almost stopped on reflex.

Hold on. Did he-did he just shout my name? How the heck does he know my name? Quaking with unease, Achi slipped into the crowd.

No music.



“Um, Achi? Could you please set me down now?”

A meek voice pulled him from his panic.

“Huh?” He looked down at the girl in his arms.



People in the crowd all around them were watching and chuckling.

“I mean, I’m really happy you saved me and all, but being carried around like this is, uh...”

Hitomi was blushing beet red, but Achi’s expression had gone pale.




Had he really heard that right? That’s what it had sounded like.

He set Hitomi back on her feet, then used his shirt sleeve to wipe the sweat from his face.

“You okay?” Hitomi asked.

“When we were running just now, did that guy say anything?”

“Not that I heard, no.”

Huh.

Had he just imagined it, then?

Maybe. Achi was sure he didn’t recognize the man.



“There’s something weird about that guy, though,” Hitomi murmured. She furrowed her brow. “No matter where we run, he keeps catching up to us. It’s almost like he knows where we’re going.”

She was right. Finding a particular pair of people in a place as big as Shibuya bordered on the impossible. And yet, somehow, the assassin had tracked them down several times now.

“Yeah,” Achi said. “It’s like he’s got some way of locating us or something.”



He got a sudden idea. “That’s it! What if they’re doing the whole tracking thing, but like, backwards?”

“What?” Hitomi’s eyes widened.

“Okay, so you know how in police shows they always stick a tracking device in the bag with the ransom money? Like that, but backwards.”

“Backwards?”

“Yeah. Like, instead of putting the tracker on the money, they put it on you.”

General Tip – Tracking Device posted:

Okay, so “backwards” isn’t the right way to describe this, but Achi doesn’t realize that. He does seem to know what a tracking device is, at least: a radio transmitter that can be located by the signal it emits. The Japanese police sometimes refer to this as a “beeper” (not to be confused with the English slang term “beeper,” meaning a pager.)

Hitomi frowned. “I don’t see how I could possibly have a tracker on me,” she said. “I mean, I’m just wearing my clothes from home.”

“Oh. Huh. Well then how is he doing it, then?”

Barely a moment passed from the moment he got the words out of his mouth.

On The Move.



Once again, the man with the cane stepped out on the road ahead of them. It really did seem as if he’d known exactly where they were going to be.

“How the hell is this happening?” Achi groaned.

He reached for Hitomi’s waist, ready to pick her up again.

“It’s okay, I can run by myself!”

Achi took her by the hand instead, and they raced into another alley.

yamiaainferno
Jun 29, 2013



A. Achi doesn't have the proper license to operate that forklift, and Achi follows the law.

Seriously though, I kind of love this big dumb idiot. He's great.

Jade Rider
May 11, 2007

All the pages have been censored except for "heck," and she misread that one.




As much as I'd like to see the Fugitive Alien route, let's A) toss some boxes.

HydroSphere
Feb 11, 2014



On The Move.



“Ungh!” Achi snatched up the nearest box, turned, and threw it at the man with the cane.



He watched with satisfaction as it struck the assassin in the face; the man staggered sideways.

“Here, have another!”



One by one, Achi hurled every box in the pile.

“And one for the road!”



The last box wasn’t properly sealed; it broke open as it struck their pursuer, sending several bottles flying. They shattered as they crashed onto the street, splashing red liquid.



The assassin dropped to one knee, scrubbing at his face with his hand.

Achi looked on in surprise. He couldn’t possibly have hit the guy that hard. Peering at the man more closely, he saw that he was spattered in red liquid.

Apparently, the stuff in the bottles had gotten in his eyes.



“Now’s our chance!” Achi took off with Hitomi, leaving their pursuer kneeling in the alley.

No music.



Their ragged breathing echoed through the maze of side streets. All that work, just to wind up fleeing for their lives again.

Achi ground his teeth in frustration. “Hitomi,” he groaned when they slowed down to catch their breath at last. “I’m so sorry.”

Hitomi was nonplussed.

428 Tip – Ground his teeth posted:




“Sorry? Whatever for?”

“I keep saying how I’m going to help you, but instead I just keep putting you in danger.”

“Achi, no. If you hadn’t been with me, I’m sure I’d already be d-”

“No!” Achi hurried to cut her off before she could finish. “Don’t go there. Please!” He sighed, then spoke again more quietly. “I just want to help you.”

Clenching a fist, he looked up at the sky.



A tiny sliver of blue was visible through the narrow gap between the buildings.

Hitomi hung her head. “Honestly, I can hardly believe how much you’ve done for me. I do appreciate it, but still. The lengths you’ve gone to...”

Achi looked at his feet, then drew himself up. “Well, I admit it’s not just because of some gut instinct, or your love for the environment,” he said. “There’s another reason I’m doing this.”

“There is?”

Achi paused, searching for the right words.



“I’ve got a little sister. Her name’s Suzune. She’s cute and smart-kind of the exact opposite of me, y’know?”

His voice took on an uncharacteristic solemnity. “But she’s got a weak heart, so she’s in the hospital.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that. But...what does that have to do with wanting to help me?”

Devotion.

“Back when Suzune was first admitted, I’d go and visit her every day. But she-”



“Achi, you don’t need to come visit me every day, you know.”

The quiet hospital room made Suzune’s voice sound all the more frail.

“What are you talking about?” Achi said. “You know I’m worried about you.”



“I’ll be fine on my own, really.”

Achi had heard that line before. The more she insisted she was fine, though, the more reluctant he was to leave her.

“Besides, aren’t you the amazing guy who helps hold Shibuya together? They need you out there.”

Achi didn’t know how to respond to that. Much as it was flattering to think he played some important role, he was really just hanging out and goofing off with his pals. It certainly wasn’t anything for his sister to be proud of.

“I’d rather you spent your energy helping people who need it more than me.”

“What do you mean, people who need the help more? Who could possibly need help right now more than you?” Achi scratched his head in confusion, and his sister gave him a weak, tiny smile.

“You’ll figure it out,” she said. “I’m sure they’ll find you soon enough.”

“But I’m gonna be here with you.”



“I’ll be fine.” Suzune’s face was pale, but her tone was firm. “My big brother is gonna be out there, doing his best to help people. That’s what makes me happy. That’s what keeps me going.” Her voice was clear and unwavering, as if to head off his rebuttal.

“All right,” Achi said with a reluctant sigh. “So then, I guess, like, I’ll just go out there and help people who are in trouble?”

Satisfied, Suzune smiled. “Thank you. And can you promise me one more thing?”

“Of course. Anything you like.” He thumped himself on the chest.

“If you’re going to help someone, make sure you see it all the way through to the end. Okay?”

“Okay.”

“No calling it quits partway through, yeah?”

“You got it.”

“I just worry,” Suzune said. “I know you have a tendency to lose interest in things.”

“Look, don’t sweat it. I swear I won’t give up on this.”



Achi stuck out his pinky finger. “But I want you to promise me something in return. Promise me you won’t let this thing beat you.



Suzune hooked her little finger around her brother’s, her sad smile fragile as glass.



“And so there you have it,” Achi said. “Kind of a rubbish story, I know. Not very funny.”

“So your sister’s heart condition...it’s pretty bad?’

Achi nodded. “Y’know, she-she called me ‘amazing.’ There’s nothing amazing about me. Suzune, she’s the amazing one. She’s been in the hospital so long, in so much pain, but she never complains. All I do is hang out and goof off with my friends.” He gave a shrug. “But I just kept thinking about how happy she’d be if I really did help people.”

It had turned out that finding people in need hadn’t been all that simple.

The only helpful thing Achi had been able to think of was going around picking up trash. “And that’s why Suzune’s idiot brother left S.O.S. to be Shibuya’s garbage man.”

No music.



“Did your friends know?” Hitomi asked. “About your sister?”

“I didn’t tell them. I didn’t want to pin this all on her being sick.”

“Ah. I see.” At least now Hitomi understood what the fight with the local toughs had been about.



The sound of approaching footsteps jerked them back into the present.

The man with the cane appeared at the end of the alley. He raised his gun.

There was no time to flee.

Achi quickly stepped in front of Hitomi. “If you shoot us here, people are going to come running,” he said. “I’m guessing you don’t wanna get pegged for murder?”

The assassin didn’t flinch.

Doubt.



“Stay out of my way, Achi.”



This time, there was no doubt. The gunman had spoken Achi’s name loud and clear.

“How do you know who I am?”

The man stared at him through the sights of his gun. “She has to die, Achi. It’s for your own good.”



“What? What does he mean?” Hitomi whispered. “Achi, what is he talking about?”

Achi’s mind was awhirl. Things were coming at him too fast for him to process. “I don’t know this guy! Hitomi, please, you have to believe me!”

“But-”

Hitomi took a doubtful step away from Achi. The assassin didn’t miss his opening. He quickly aimed at her.



“Cut the crap, man! What do you mean killing her is for my own good?”



“Once she’s dead, you’ll understand.”



The gunman’s finger tightened on the trigger.

HydroSphere
Feb 11, 2014



Minorikawa, Osawa and Tama are available.

AweStriker
Oct 6, 2014



If we’re staring down a gun we might as well keep it dark with some Osawa.

HydroSphere
Feb 11, 2014



Setup.



Hitomi Osawa.




Setup.



Maneuvers.



“Here. Take a look at this.”

“Huh?”

Osawa could never have anticipated what he saw on the LCD screen.

It was an email from Hitomi. Stifling an exclamation, he scanned the contents of the message.

There’s a man following me. He has a gun and I think he’s trying to kill me. I’m safe for the moment, so try not to worry. The kidnapper warned me, told me not to contact my family or the police.

Please keep this email a secret.



“But didn’t Hitomi give the kidnapper the ransom?” Osawa said. “What could anyone want with her now?”

Tanaka shook his head, uncertain.

He wouldn’t know any better than I would, I suppose.

“Do the police know about this? And if so, why haven’t they said anything?” He felt himself start to tremble as he searched for answers in Tanaka’s silent gaze.



“Do...do you think this could be related? To that...other thing?”

“I doubt it. If it were, why would they got after Hitomi?”

“I suppose you’re right, but...” Osawa was shaking outright, now.

Tanaka laid a hand on his shoulder. “First, just calm down, and let’s think about what we know about the kidnapper.”

His composure helped Osawa keep himself under control.



“They’ve taken Maria,” the vice-director continued quietly, “along with a ransom of 50 million yen, and now they’re after Hitomi.” His gaze sharpened. “Sir, do you think this could be someone who holds a personal grudge against you?”

“A grudge?” Osawa considered. He couldn’t think of anyone who would have a reason to attack him. He’d been too caught up in virus research since his time in school to have formed any hostile rivalries He didn’t have any enemies that he knew of.

“Maybe someone’s jealous that I became head of a laboratory?” he suggested doubtfully. He had held his position for years at this point; why would that spur someone into kidnapping his daughter now?

“Has anything happened recently?” Tanaka asked. “Anything strange since you got back from overseas?”

“Since I got back?” Osawa’s heart skipped a beat, then started pumping faster. The first thing that came to mind was the solicitation he’d gotten from the American laboratory. If he accepted the offer, it would put Okoshi Pharmaceutical in quite a bind. Possibly enough to warrant someone holding a grudge over it. But the only other person who knew about the potential transfer right now was his wife, Ai.

“No,” Osawa said. “Nothing. Not that I can think of.” He couldn’t bring himself to discuss the transfer with Tanaka. He felt a surge of guilt for contemplating leaving his trusted assistant behind. If he did make the move to America, he planned to recommend that Tanaka replace him as department director. Still, he didn’t expect that to make up for his abandonment.

“All right. I’ll see what information I can find, then,” Tanaka said.

The kidnapper had forbidden any contact with either family or the police. But Tanaka was outside of that circle, and he knew how to handle himself with discretion.

“I’m sorry to have to put this on you,” Osawa said. “And...thank you.”

“For now, let’s see if we can get Hitomi to exchange some more emails.”



An uncomfortable thought suddenly occurred to Osawa. He blurted it out without thinking. “Why do you have my daughter’s contact information on your phone?”

Tanaka gave him a worried look. “Sir-I promise I can explain once all this is over.” And with that, he stepped out of the bathroom.



Something in the tone of his final words left Osawa to wonder. Could it be that Tanaka and Hitomi were dating? He hoped dearly for that not to be the case. Their age difference alone made the idea a disturbing one, let alone so many other considerations.

Trying to put aside his paranoia, Osawa resumed his struggle with the clog in the toilet.

428 Tip – Age difference posted:

Mamoru Tanaka is 40 years old; Hitomi is 19. This makes him just over twice her age. This does not necessarily mean, however, that they could not date or fall for each other; many couples with such an age difference between them wind up in a happy committed relationship.

General Tip – Clog in the toilet posted:

Most toilet clogs are caused by a buildup of flushable paper products, or by solid objects inadvertently dropped into the toilet bowl; but shockingly enough, on very rare occasions, they can be caused by someone taking a dump that happens to be that big that it gets stuck in the pipe. (Apologies to anyone who might be eating right now.)

No music.



“Oh, goodness!” Kajiwara reappeared, still toting the bucket.



“You seem to be having a lot of trouble there, sir.” He made it sound like the whole mess was Osawa’s fault.

“Of course I am. I’ve never had to do this before.”

“Really! I’d think the research you do would be a lot more difficult than this.”

“Fixing toilets gives me far more trouble, I’d say.”

“So it would seem.” Kajiwara stood watching, as if Osawa’s efforts made an interesting show. “I don’t know the first thing about viruses, sir. But I don’t find unclogging toilets to be that difficult.”

“Oh yeah?” Osawa snapped. “Then how about you fix the drat thing?!”

Kajiwara really was a world-class pro at pissing people off. “Are you sure? You don’t mind?” the detective asked.

“Be my goddamn guest!” Osawa shoved the plunger into Kajiwara’s hand.

Leaving the detective to handle the toilet, Osawa marched back to his study.

The World Doesn't Change so Easy.



He turned on the CD player and lay back on the sofa, squeezing his eyes shut. He was seriously on edge. Kajiwara had totally broken his stride.

“What now?!”

The door to the study slid slowly open.



“It’s Detective Kajiwara, sir.”

“Please don’t come in here without asking.”

“My apologies, Mr. Osawa. I just wanted to inform you that the toilet has been fixed.”

“Right. Fine.” Osawa hardly cared. He just wanted this guy to give him a little peace.



“Oh my. Is that really all you have to say, sir? Nary a compliment or encouraging word? Maybe a ‘good job, Kajiwara’? Or a ‘you’re getting a promotion, Detective’?”

Osawa blew out his breath in exasperation. “How? How are you a detective?”

“I’m not sure I get your meaning, sir.”

“You are completely clueless. I’d like to ask your superiors to replace you with a detective who knows how to take his job seriously.”

“Mr. Osawa, with all due respect, it’s unusual for a precinct detective like me to be stationed here at a victim’s home.”

“What’s your point?”

“Not to brag, sir, but I happen to be an exceptional detective.” Kajiwara beamed with pride. “In fact, I made an excellent showing in the ‘Superstar Detective’ contest we had on our police social media service.”

428 Tip – Social media service posted:

An online platform whose primary feature is allowing people to connect with one another. The police-exclusive social media network that Kajiwara belongs to, “poxi,’ is very strictly regulated, with any abusive language, slander, sexual content, or lame jokes deleted almost immediately.

For a moment, Osawa thought the bolt of incredulous anger that shot through him was the onset of a stroke. How could a single person be so utterly infuriating?

“And you can’t tell anyone about this,” Kajiwara went on obliviously, “but this summer, a new detective manga is starting up, based on me.”

428 Tip – Detective manga posted:

Planned for serialization in the MPD’s monthly PR magazine. The chapter titles have already been decided. Chapter 1: “The Fabled Detective Kaji.” Chapter 2: “Kaji Howls at the Sun.” Chapter 3: “Kaji Rides the Rails.” Chapter 4: “Kaji at Daybreak.” Chapter 5: “Detective Ka-jack.” Chapter 6: “Kaji, Queen of the Street.” Chapter 7: “Look Out, Kaji!” Chapter 8: “Kaji on the Edge.” Chapter 9: “Dance, Kaji, Dance.” Chapter 10: “Space Detective Kaji.” And so forth and so on...

Osawa spat out a peal of feigned laughter. “A manga?”



“I can tell you all about the plot, sir. Would you like to hear about it?”



“I would not.”



“It’s about a telecommuting detective who solves major crimes using just his wits and his computer. Surely you’d like to hear about that, sir?”

“I really wouldn’t.”

“I know I may not look it, but I’m pretty handy with computers.” Kajiwara’s eyes drifted over to Osawa’s desktop.



His hand darted to the mouse. In a matter of moments, he cleared the screen saver and booted up a web browser.

“Hey!” Osawa barked. “Don’t touch that!” But he was too late to stop the detective.



The monitor showed the page for AyaNET, a fan page devoted to Aya Kamiki.

Osawa’s imminent rage-stroke was beginning to make his vision grow fuzzy.

“You come to this site regularly, sir?”

“Regularly? Ah, well. I’m not sure I’d, ah...” Osawa trailed off, feeling the heat of a blush flare on his cheeks.

“There’s a lot of stuff on this site. Is there a section you primarily spend time on?”

“Well, I mean, for my part, I, ah...I really only go to the fan forums for folks forty and over.”

“Ah-hah!” With a twinkle of curiosity in his eyes, Kajiwara peered at the computer screen.

Having his privacy invaded to this degree was the ultimate disgrace. “All right!” Osawa huffed. “You’re an amazing detective, Kajiwara! Just incredible!”

HydroSphere fucked around with this message at 21:05 on Jan 26, 2020

yamiaainferno
Jun 29, 2013



Neither of these is going to work, but honestly at this point I think we need some air. Can we go on a walk or something? B.

Kangra
May 7, 2012



B. We're practically being screamed at not to give this guy a stroke. Unless the 'right' course of action is to force him into the hospital.

HydroSphere
Feb 11, 2014



The World Doesn't Change so Easy.



“Now would you please, please leave me alone!” He got up to leave the study.

“Sir, hold on! There’s something I wanted to give you.” Kajiwara reached into his pocket.

”I don't need a drat banana!”

No music.



Osawa fled the room. He needed to be alone, if only for a few moments. But even if he could somehow shake Kajiwara, the other detectives had eyes all over his house.

He had reached the limits of his patience; he couldn’t even think straight anymore. He headed for the back door, trying to avoid the police. Opening the door quietly, he slipped across the yard and out through the back fence.



He didn’t want to venture too far from the house. He found a tiny alley and took cover there, thankful for a few moments to himself at last.

While there, he caught sight of a man and a young girl-a father and his daughter-running past on the main road. It looked as if they were running from something.

The man glanced anxiously back over his shoulder, dragging his daughter by the hand. Osawa watched absently as the pair rounded a corner and disappeared from sight.



Not long after, a pair of thuggish-looking men came running along, heading in the same direction.

“You there,’ one of them called out. “You see a guy and his daughter around here? They shoulda come by this way.” There was a hint of menace in his voice.

Osawa feigned ignorance. “Don’t think so, no.”

428 Tip – A guy and his daughter posted:

Teruo Toyama and his daughter Hana. They’ve come to Shoto while running from loan sharks. Just moments ago, Toyama was talking on the phone with Minorikawa.

“C’mon, Yutaro. Let’s go,’ said the older man.

“A’ight,” replied the other. The two dashed off in the direction the father and daughter had gone.

Osawa took several long, deep breaths. He managed to calm down slightly, but the worry gnawing away inside him still lingered.



Osawa groaned inwardly when he got back to his study. “You’re still here?”

“Yes, sir. I was told to keep my eyes on you, after all.”

“Believe me, it shows.”

“Mr. Osawa, if you’re going to go outside, I’d appreciate it if you let me know, first.”

“What?”

Had Kajiwara realized he’d snuck out of the house?

“But more importantly...” Kajiwara reached back into his suit pocket.



“I’ve been meaning to give this to you.” He held out a small plastic bag. Inside was a scrap of paper of some sort.

“What’s that?” Osawa asked.

“This is what was clogging the toilet, sir.”

With some hesitation, Osawa took hold of the bag.



“Huh? That’s...”

“The passenger name here is listed as Kenji Osawa.”

In the plastic bag was a plane ticket- specifically, the one for his upcoming flight to the U.S. the following week. He’d left it out on his desk. How had it wound up getting flushed down the toilet?

“This looks like it’s pretty important, sir,” Kajiwara said. “I must say, it was pretty careless of you to accidentally flush it.” A wry sort of smile came to his face. “Although,” the detective added, “I suppose the question of who flushed it is another matter entirely.”

Unrest.



Osawa was at a loss for words. Someone had tried to flush his plane ticket on purpose. He was sure of it.



He knocked on the door to Ai’s room, but there was no response. It didn’t look like she’d gotten back home yet. Osawa let himself in.



The stinging scent of her perfume pervaded the room, which was decorated all in white. Clothes were strewn all about, as if to put her slovenliness on display. She’d been like this ever since they’d gotten married, and Osawa had long since stopped caring.

It must have been Ai who’d tried to flush the ticket. He knew she didn’t want him going to America, but still-couldn’t she have found a better way to get rid of it?

Thanks to her, he’d been stuck hunched over the drat toilet, fighting with the plunger.

Osawa sat down on the bed amidst the brand-name clothing. Then he spotted something odd down by his feet.



It was a gold cigarette lighter.

Just when had Ai picked up smoking?

Osawa picked up the lighter and set it on the shelf next to the bed. He started out of the room, but stopped as he noticed a scrapbook on the bookshelf.



The rest of the shelf was filled with fashion magazines, so the scrapbook definitely drew his eye. Curious, he took it down and opened it.

The book was filled with articles and write-ups about the results of Osawa’s research and the company’s various achievements. Flipping through the pages took him on a trip down memory lane. There was even an old company memo welcoming Tanaka on-board as his new vice-director. There was a photo of Osawa shaking Tanaka’s hand at the party celebrating his new position.

It was a little peculiar to think that she had bothered to keep something so trivial.

A series of magazine articles was nestled between the pages further into the book. These hadn’t been clipped out for inclusion in the scrapbook itself.

Osawa glanced through them.



“Floundering Okoshi Pharmaceutical Arranges Marriage of Political Convenience”

It was a self-indulgent piece from some rag called Four-Star General Gossip, from right after he and Ai had gotten married. When the piece had first run, he’d been too furious to read it. Now he gave it a quick looking over. It was pretty much exactly what he’d expected.

It talked about how one of the corporate directors had sacrificed his own daughter in order to keep one of his researchers on board—referring, of course, to Makino offering Osawa Ai’s hand in marriage.

General Tip – Sacrifice posted:

Allowing someone else to come to harm for one’s personal gain. In this case, the term is used figuratively, not literally.

“Rumors Abound of Marital Strife Between the Newlyweds”

The article went on to talk about how Ai had been dating another man before she and Osawa had gotten married. The whole thing was a bunch of puerile rubbish.

Any marriage involved some kind of calculated self-interest, after all. Whatever the reasons for their union, nothing changed the fact that Ai was now his wife.

With a faint sigh, Osawa put the scrapbook back on the shelf.

No music.

Feeling disconsolate, he returned to his study and began flipping through his CD rack.



His eyes scanned for Aya Kamiki’s album For Tomorrow ~ForeverMore ~. A lot of her more experimental numbers were on that album. Given how discombobulated he felt right now, this was what he needed to hear.

Again, Osawa reflected on how there’d been a time when he didn’t care about music at all. He’d simply purchased copies of the most popular CD of the moment as birthday presents for his two girls. And that had just happened to be an album by Aya Kamiki.

Hitomi was thrilled by the gift, but Maria hadn’t seemed terribly fond of it. The next day, she’d tossed her copy back on her father’s desk. Figuring that throwing it away would be a waste, Osawa had stuck the CD into his computer to give it a listen.

He was immediately bombarded by an intense beat bolstered by bold, uplifting vocals. Aya Kamiki wrote her own lyrics, which did a fine job of conveying the emotions of a teenage girl.

Osawa could hardly believe it. After listening to just one track, he was well and truly hooked. Before the day was out, he had purchased her entire discography.



“Huh?” he muttered.

For Tomorrow should have been in the CD rack, but there was no sign of it.

Where the heck is it? Why isn’t it here?

For a moment he wondered if he was going crazy-and then he remembered:

It was at the lab.

He’d wanted something to listen to on break at work, so he’d brought the album there.

Dammit, dammit, dammit.

Not being able to listen to it made him want to hear it all the more. It wasn’t like he could just go out and buy another copy right now, either. He’d just have to borrow the copy he’d given to Hitomi all those years ago.



Unable to contain his need to hear that music, he went into Hitomi’s room. There, he quickly rummaged through the CD rack beside his daughter’s bed.

Part of him felt like he was being a little sneak-thief. According to the email Tanaka had shown him, someone was trying to kill Hitomi. Under the circumstances, he knew that what he was doing was ridiculous-and yet he still couldn’t resist the impulse to find this CD. But his efforts were to no avail. There were no Aya Kamiki CDs in the rack at all.



Osawa pulled out every CD on the rack, but they were all classical music. He slumped back in disappointment. It had to be somewhere here in her room.

Osawa jumped at the sound of his cell and fumbled to get it out of his pocket. Makino’s name was displayed on the LCD screen.

“I’m out front.”

That was all Makino said before hanging up.

Hurriedly, Osawa began tidying up the CD rack. As he worked he thought about what he was going to say to Makino.

To think that someone had violated corporate policy to such unethical ends! It sullied his research. Osawa wasn’t about to let anyone get away with it.



And yet, as he was about to leave Hitomi’s room, a sudden uncertainty gripped him. He hesitated.

Tension.

Did he have any right to condemn Makino for running trials in secret? His hand began to sweat as it gripped the doorknob.

No, he didn’t. How could he?

His hands were dirty in all this, too.



We need to keep this a secret. Just between us.



It’ll be fine. We’ve already cleared animal testing.





The memories hovered. Osawa himself had already administered the antiviral to someone, hadn’t he?

“It was...it was the only way.”

Muttering to nobody in particular, Osawa trudged toward the front door of his house.

HydroSphere fucked around with this message at 20:00 on Jan 28, 2020

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HydroSphere
Feb 11, 2014



Kano, Minorikawa and Tama are available.

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