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HydroSphere
Feb 11, 2014



Setup.



  • Choosing to call Sasayama rather than Kajiwara prevents Achi's bad end. Calling Kajiwara also causes a bad end for Osawa – the call interrupts Kajiwara before he can tell Osawa the bug tracker Osawa has is broken, and Osawa goes mad from the incessant beeping.

Echo.



They powered their phones back on in order to call for help.

“Oh!” Hitomi chirped. “That’s me.” She took a look at the LCD display.



“It’s an email from Mr. Tanaka!”

“Ah, okay.”

Hitomi began typing out a response with practiced ease. More wild delusions rose in Achi’s mind.

General Tip – Wild Delusions posted:

Ideas or fantasies conjured up in one’s mind with no logical or factual basis. People can become deluded for varying reasons, about a whole host of different subjects; thankfully, Achi’s delusions here are of an ultimately harmless sort.




Stealing a quick glance at Hitomi, he noticed her gazing happily at her phone’s screen. His delusions ran even more wild.




While he was still fretting furiously, Hitomi finished typing her response.

“So, uh, what did you wind up saying?” Achi asked.

“I explained the situation.”

“That we’re trapped in a storeroom, you’ve got some guys chasing after you, and you’re looking for some van?”

“Yes. I also asked him to please keep this a secret from my family and the police.” Whoever this Tanaka guy was, Hitomi sure seemed to put a lot of trust in him.



A short while later, Hitomi’s phone chimed with a reply. She checked the screen in a flash, all eagerness.

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Flac
Sep 6, 2010

supposedly it frees you from anxiety and nihilism

Let's ask her about Tanaka

HydroSphere
Feb 11, 2014



Echo.



Achi couldn’t help but ask. “So, uh, what’s that Tanaka guy have to say?” A hint of jealously slipped into his voice.



“He says he’s going to try to find the minivan for us.”

“Huh? If he just comes and lets us out, I can go look for it myself.”

“He says he wants us to hide out here a little longer.”

“Ugh, what the hell? Seriously?”

“He says that if someone’s after me it’s safer to stay where we are.”

Yeah, I’m out of the running, Achi thought to himself. This Tanaka was clearly pretty concerned for her. And there was really only one reason a middle-aged man would think like that. “All right, fine. We’ll wait.” Achi turned his own phone off, then slumped back in a huff.

No music.



After twenty more minutes in the storeroom, the two were sitting in silence; Achi had run out of things to talk about.

“Do you...think you’ll ever be friends again? Um, you and that one guy. Susumu, I think it was?” Hitomi’s question caught Achi off guard.

He stammered, unsure how to respond.

Hitomi shook her head. “I’m so sorry. I barely know you. That was insensitive of me.”



“No, it’s all right. I mean, sometimes I wish things could go back to the way they used to be,” Achi said. He let out a tiny sigh. “What that Kiryu guy said was the truth. I...I was the guy who founded S.O.S. Do you, uh, do you know what I mean by that?”

Hitomi gave a slight nod.

“I mean, I never wanted to be in charge of a gang or anything. But I knew that if I left, S.O.S. would just fall apart. And I didn’t want everyone else to get all caught up over who would take my place, y’know? So I thought long and hard about it. Looking for a way for folks to stay friends even after I was gone.”

Confusion.



The loud voice echoed through the pool hall that served as S.O.S. HQ.

“What do you mean, you’re leaving?!” Susumu was positively red in the face.



“You’re our founder, Achi! You can’t just up and quit!”

General Tip – Pool Hall posted:

An establishment for playing pool, more formally known as pocket billiards. This particular place is a pool bar, serving alcohol. The standard pool table is rectangular in shape, sports six pockets (four in the corners and one in the middle of each long side), and supports multiple games, including nine-ball, eight-ball, and rotation. There are also tables without pockets; this style is known as ‘carom billiards.’

Susumu had been almost like a younger brother to Achi; if anyone was going to try to stop him, Achi knew full well it would be Susumu.

“Look, I’m not gang leader material. All I’ve been trying to do is make sure we’re all able to have fun.”

“That’s not true,” Susumu said. “Think about all that stuff you taught us. Don’t you remember? ‘Every man gets to make one request in his life that cannot be denied.’ Those are your words, Achi.”

“Did I say that?”

“It’s the heaviest thing you’ve ever said.”



Then, to Achi’s consternation, Susumu got down on his hands and knees. “I’m begging you! Please don’t leave! Without you, S.O.S. is nothing!”

Achi could feel his conviction waver.

“I’m begging you, here! From one man to another! This is my one request!”

“Susumu...I’m sorry.” Achi could barely croak out the words. “I’m leaving you in charge.”

“You can’t!” Susumu pleaded. “Please don’t say that!”

Achi turned his back to him in silence.



“Please, Achi! Why won’t you listen? I can’t possibly beg any harder than this!”

“Enough with all the ‘request’ nonsense.” Achi grimaced.

“What?”

“Look at you, down on your hands and knees like that. Pathetic.” Achi spoke as harshly as he could, fighting to mask his true feelings. “I’m fed up with you. All of you!”

General Tip – Pathetic posted:

Ultimately stems from the Greek pathetikos, meaning “subject to feeling” or “capable of emotion. ” Over time, the meaning changed to signify “exciting the passions,” and later on to the more modern sense of “arousing one’s pity.”

With each word out of his mouth, Achi could feel his own heart breaking. But if he could make the others hate him, at least it would give S.O.S. a reason to stay together.



“How can you say that?! Don’t you try and pull that crap!” Susumu’s tone had changed from sadness to anger. “Fine, then!” he railed. “I’m never asking you for anything again! I’ll do what you want! I’ll take the reins of S.O.S.!”

Achi walked away, waving vaguely without looking back. “Good luck. I mean it.” Once he’d stepped out of the pool hall, he wiped his sleeve across his face. It came away wet with tears.

No music.



“Sometimes I think that, maybe...maybe I could apologize to those guys and we could go back to the good old days again. But that’s never gonna happen. Not unless Suzune gets better.” He stared into the distance at nothing in particular. At least he’d sorted out how he felt about his former pals.

“Is there nothing that can help your sister?” Hitomi asked.

“She needs a heart transplant. And the problem with heart transplants is that the timing is tricky. Even if there’s a donor available, the transplant has to be performed within four hours or things get dicey.”

“Oh wow. I didn’t realize.”

General Tip – Heart Transplants posted:

The act of surgically implanting one person’s heart into
another’s body. Such an operation is typically only performed on a patient with severe heart disease who cannot survive without a new heart. There are strict requirements that must be met before a heart can be transplanted, however-chief among them, that the donor must first be brain dead.

General Tip – Within four hours posted:

Because lack of oxygen causes damage (referred to as “warm ischemia damage”) in any organ removed from a human body, a transplant must be carried out and blood circulation restored within a certain time window (known as the “total ischemic time”). In the case of a heart transplant, total ischemic time is only four hours; helicopters and charter jets are frequently used to rapidly transport hearts for such operations.

“Someone with a heart that’s a match for Suzune would need to die somewhere near her-somewhere they could perform the surgery within that four-hour window. The odds of that happening are so small it would almost be a miracle. Which is what my sister’s been waiting for.”



Achi thumped the left side of his chest. “If my heart would do the trick, I’d gladly let her have it. Dammit! And I’ve got a strong heart, too.” He thumped himself on the chest again and again.

He didn’t mention it to Hitomi, but Suzune’s blood type made finding her a heart transplant even more difficult.

She had Bombay blood.

It was one of the rarest blood types in the world; apparently there were only a few dozen people in all of Japan who had it. If Suzune were ever to receive a heart transplant, it would need to be from someone who also had Bombay blood.

General Tip – Bombay Blood posted:

A type of blood that does not correspond to the more
common types of A, B, O, or AB. In some instances, a standard blood typing yields a result of O in such individuals. First discovered in the city of Bombay (now Mumbai) on India’s west coast, the blood type takes it name from that city due to its relatively high incidence rate amongst the inhabitants.

General Tip – Rarest blood types posted:

Rare blood types such as Bombay are scarce enough that even nationwide blood centers seldom have them in sufficient supply. For this reason, when such blood types are discovered in everyday testing, samples are quickly taken to be frozen and stored at temperatures lower than 80 degrees below centigrade.



“Achi?” Hitomi sounded like she was on the verge of tears.

Wow. She must really feel bad for Suzune.

“If you did manage to find a heart for your sister, what would you do?”

“What do you mean?”

“Say, if you happened across someone who was a donor match?”



“I would do anything.”

“Anything?”

“Yeah. Whatever it took. I’d risk my own life if it meant helping Suzune. I mean at that point, I’d assume God had granted me a miracle or something, y’know?”



Mr. Tanaka?” Hitomi’s voice was barely a squeak.

For a moment, all was silent.

“Maybe it’s just a cat?” Achi suggested. “Or not.”

Suddenly someone hit the door, hard. It sounded like they were trying to break the lock.

428 Tip – Mr. Tanaka? posted:

Unfortunately for these two, it’s not Mr. Tanaka. Right now, Tanaka is at the Osawa residence on his way to speak with Kenji Osawa, who’s washing dishes after lunch.



“You really think that’s Tanaka?” Achi asked.

“I’m not sure. If it were him I think he’d probably say something.”

Achi grabbed Hitomi’s hand. “We’d better hide.”

The two of them slipped behind a large piece of plywood stage dressing.

Maneuvers.



The door swung open with a loud creak. In stepped the man with the cane.

“What the heck?” Achi whispered. “What’s he doing here?”



Gun drawn, the assassin prowled slowly around the storeroom. Achi and Hitomi crouched behind the plywood prop, trying not to make a sound. The man moved out of their line of sight. Achi gazed longingly at the door.

Nephrite
Aug 18, 2006
[img]https://forumimages.somethingawful.com/images/newbie.gif[/img]



Lipstick Apathy

I just beat this game the other day and am very happy other people will get to see it.

AweStriker
Oct 6, 2014



Wait.

HydroSphere
Feb 11, 2014



Maneuvers.



No. They needed to wait for a safer chance to escape.



Achi heard the sound of a cell phone vibrating from behind a tall piece of plywood leaning by the door.

The assassin stepped out from behind it. He still hadn’t spotted his quarry.



“I’m sure this is the place.” His voice was low and confident.

Uh-oh. Did he have friends? Still clutching his phone, the assassin wandered deeper into the storeroom. Achi and Hitomi took the opportunity to slip out the door.



They ran through the alleyways back toward the main road. Before they reached it, however, they suddenly found their path cut off by one of the foreigners who’d chased them earlier-the accomplice of the man with the pipe.



He stood waiting for them, holding a knife in one hand.

“Out of the frying pan and into the fire...” If they turned back, Achi knew, the man with the cane might catch up with them-and he had a gun. Achi slipped off his sleeveless jacket and wrapped it around his left arm.



He was going to have to use his left arm to guard against the knife while punching with his right hand.

He clenched his fist and braced himself. And then, suddenly, he froze.

No music.



“Huh?”

A small, dark silhouette dropped from somewhere up above. Landing deftly, the newcomer lunged toward the man with the knife, closing the gap between them in the blink of an eye.

“Urgh...”

The figure delivered a swift chop to the back of the man’s neck.

Contemplation.



He dropped to the pavement like a dead man, finally giving an Achi a clear view of the shadow behind him.




Achi couldn’t believe his eyes. It was a small-statured young woman with Middle Eastern features.




Hitomi let out a little gasp. “Canaan?”

HydroSphere
Feb 11, 2014



Osawa and Tama are available.

mycelia
Apr 28, 2013

just a big doofus fightin pokemons





If we can hang out with Tama it is our moral obligation to do so.

Ibblebibble
Nov 12, 2013




Always Tama.

Jade Rider
May 11, 2007

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




Tama time.

HydroSphere
Feb 11, 2014







  • Tama is very close to the end of the hour, so I decided to cover both Tama and Osawa.



Osawa took the bug tracker from his pocket and handed it back to Kajiwara. “I won’t be needing this anymore.”



Violation.



As soon as they had left the kitchen, Tanaka leaned in close and whispered to him. “I got an email from Hitomi.” He showed his cell phone to Osawa.



It looks like my sister is being held captive in a blue minivan somewhere in Shibuya. But that man is still chasing me, so I can’t really go looking for it.

“A blue minivan?”

“Allow me to handle this, sir. I’ll figure something out.”

Osawa knew he trusted Tanaka for a reason. “Thank you,” he said with a bow.



“Oh-you wouldn’t happen to know anyplace she might have gone, do you, sir?”

“What?”

“It’s just that all she’s told me is that she’s ‘been moving around.”’

“I’m sorry. I don’t really have any idea,” Osawa replied. He was ashamed to say it. There wasn’t a single place he knew of where his daughter might be inclined to go.

“Ah. I see.” Tanaka, picking up on his discomfort, was visibly embarrassed himself. He hastened to change the subject. “By the way, how did your talk with Mr. Makino go?”

“I confirmed that he was behind the human testing. But I don’t know who sent me those emails.”

Tanaka paused for a moment in thought, looking like he might have a hunch. “All right, then,” he said. “We’ll have to talk in more detail later.” With that, the Assistant Director headed for the front door.



“Mr. Osawa?” Kajiwara spoke from the kitchen door.

“Peeping in on me again, huh?” Osawa grumbled. Thankfully, it didn’t appear that the detective had overheard his conversation with Tanaka. “And good grief, that thing is noisy. If it’s broken, why don’t you just throw it out?”

The sounds from the bug tracker grew fainter and fainter. Something wasn’t right, Osawa now realized.

“Mr. Osawa,” Kajiwara said, “this is my bug tracker.”

“So?” Osawa huffed.

“What I mean is, sir, this one isn’t broken.”

Circumstances.

“What?” A chill ran up Osawa’s spine. He swallowed audibly.

“I’ve pinpointed the source of the signal,” Kajiwara said. “It’s coming from Mr. Tanaka.”

No, Osawa thought. I must have misheard that. “Hold on. Say that again?”

“I’ve located the source of the signal. It’s coming from Mr. Tanaka,” the detective repeated. This time, Osawa heard him crystal clear. “I’m certain of it. Mr. Tanaka has a listening device on him.”



Osawa felt the blood draining from his face. If someone had been listening in on the conversation just now, then they’d heard about the email from Hitomi. If the kidnappers were the ones listening, that meant Maria’s life was now in danger.



“I’ll go after him, sir!” Kajiwara broke into a sprint; Osawa followed close behind.







Fatigue.



The sales demo is over, and against all odds, I managed to get paid. Money clutched in one paw, I head to the knickknack shop to finally buy that necklace I can’t stop thinking about.

“Hello? Anyone here?” I call out.

There’s no reply. Is the shopkeeper out?

“Ah, just a moment!” Panting, the salesclerk comes scurrying into the shop behind me. “Sorry about that! Just had to pop out for a sec. Whew! You would not believe what I just saw!” He leans against a pillar, gasping audibly as he tries to catch his breath.



“Ah, you’re here about that necklace?”

“Do you still have it?”

“Of course.”

“Thank you so much! I have half the money here, and the rest is in my-oh.” I suddenly remember something very important. “Oh, no!”



The salesclerk gives me a curious look. “What’s the matter?”

“My wallet-it’s still in here!” I pat the costume around the tummy.

“So why don’t you just take that outfit off?”

“Well, I mean, the zipper’s kind of broken.” I wouldn’t be having all this trouble if I could just get out of this darn costume.



“‘Kind of’ broken? It’s way more broken than that.”



The salesclerk points me to a full-body mirror.

He’s right. The zipper in back is hanging open. Taking this thing off will be a cinch, now.

“Oh, thank you!” I give him a bow.



“I’m not sure you need to be thanking me,’ he says.

“No, I do! If you hadn’t pointed that out, I might have let myself stay stuck in here forever! So, really, thank you so much!” I bow again and again.

No music.





Regallion
Nov 11, 2012



Of course, of course.
That was coming from a mile away huh?
how in the hell do you forget you got kidnapped tho??

Ibblebibble
Nov 12, 2013




What the hell lol

Robindaybird
Aug 21, 2007

Neat. Sweet. Petite.



I think we all figured it out soon as we realized Tama had amnesia and how the came contrives to keep her in costume.

HydroSphere
Feb 11, 2014







“Ah! Oops! Sorry to keep you waiting!” a girlish voice exclaimed.

A moment later, a furry figure came charging into the demo room.

The crowd fell silent at the sight of a young woman in a cat costume.



The cat-girl panted visibly; her arms were loaded with cardboard boxes.

“You’re late!” the event organizer snapped. “What the heck have you been doing?” Grabbing the newcomer by one paw, he vanished with her into the back room.



The chubby-cheeked girl wrapped up her magic routine and hurried after them. The audience stared at the now-empty stage in confusion.

Eggplant.



Several minutes passed before the organizer reappeared. “Ladies! Terribly sorry to have kept you waiting!” he called out. “But now, I’m proud to introduce to you the worldwide sensation that is Burning Hammer!”



At his signal, the young woman and the cat appeared on stage.

“Allow us to explain just how this revolutionary new diet drink works its magic!” the young woman exclaimed cheerily.

The cat nodded and threw out her arms. “For the first time in human history, you can drink a single bottle and lose a whole kilogram! Just drink and drink and burn that excess weight away!” And with that, the sales demo was underway, a good twenty-five minutes behind schedule.

Impatience.



Five minutes into the presentation, things began to go awry.

An angry clamor filled the room.

“What the heck are you trying to pull?!”

“I can’t believe you’d actually try to sell something like this!” The outrage had been triggered by something the young woman on stage had said. She’d inadvertently let slip that Burning Hammer was the sort of thing you could buy at a 100-yen shop.

The would-be customers were furious to learn that they were about to he played for suckers; most of them had immediately tried to storm out of the room. Now, the organizer, the full-figured young woman, and the girl in the cat costume were at the door, doing their best to hold back the tide.

Things had gotten pretty interesting, really.



Minorikawa pulled out his digital camera and started firing off snapshots of the angry crowd. Unfortunately, their frenzy was so intense that he was soon caught up with the flow and pushed out of the room.

Fine. I guess I’ll just need to do some interviews instead of getting pictures.

General Tip – Digital Camera posted:

Some modern digital cameras come with the remarkable ability to automatically trigger the shutter when the subject smiles. This function also works if the camera is presented with a TV or photo image of people smiling. There are even cases of cameras recognizing faces in the wood grain of ceilings. After all, if we can make out faces in the wood when we’re gazing lazily up at the ceiling, we can’t fault a camera for doing the same.



“Excuse me,” he asked one woman, “would you mind if I asked you some-”



“Shut your mouth!”

“Would you mind telling me a little abou-”



“Don’t you talk to me!”

“Could I get a word on-”



“Unbelievable! Just unbelivable!” The women were so enraged that Minorikawa couldn’t get any of them to give him the time of day.

No music.



Before long, the entire crowd had surged out of the room and departed.

“Ah, well. Guess I’ve got enough to do a write-up, at least. Though it would be nice to get a quote from somebody...” He decided to try for an interview with the man who’d organized this fiasco. How did the guy feel, for instance, about his product scam falling through?



Heading back into the event room, Minorikawa passed by the cat mascot. The cat gave him a tiny nod, and walked off without a word. He couldn’t see the face of the girl inside the costume, but she seemed genuinely dejected that Burning Hammer had been a bust.



“Hey. I’m Minoru Minorikawa, freelance reporter. I was wondering if I could have five minutes of your time?”

The organizer sat alone in the midst of his ruined displays. “Oh. It’s you.” The man’s voice had lost all of its earlier punch.

“Here. My credentials.” Minorikawa handed him a business card.



The man introduced himself as Yanagishita, and Minorikawa got right down to business. “So, your sales demo is over, Mr. Yanagishita. How do you feel right now?”

Implications.

“How do I feel? Well, tomorrow is another day. I guess.”

Minorikawa was impressed by the guy’s candor. “I’m a little surprised to hear that,” he said. “I figured you’d be more disappointed.”

“Oh, I’m plenty disappointed. I took a big gamble here to repay my debts, and I lost.” Yanagishita didn’t seem to be trying to hide anything.

“Debts?” Minorikawa asked.



“There was...a girl I was in love with,” Yanagishita said. “I wound up spending everything on her.” He stared wistfully into the distance.

“Ah. Interesting,” Minorikawa said. “You wouldn’t be the first man to go to such lengths for a woman.”

“Yeah,” Yanagishita said. “I suppose not.” A rueful smile crossed his lips.

This guy didn’t strike Minorikawa as some dyed-in-the-wool scam artist.

“But I decided that it was time to stop feeling sorry for myself,” Yanagishita went on. “There are plenty of people in the world who have it way worse off, you know?”

“You got that right.” Minorikawa nodded in agreement.

“So I just figure, well, as long as I’m still alive, maybe another opportunity will come my way.” A more earnest smile broke through Yanagishita’s forlorn expression.

Minorikawa wished Toyama could have been there to hear this fellow.



“I have a friend who’s in an incredible amount of debt, myself,” Minorikawa said. “He runs a publishing company, but there was a big mix-up with the scratch cards in his magazine and-”

“Scratch cards?”

“It’s not important,” Minorikawa said hurriedly. Letting more people know about the whole scratch card fiasco certainly wouldn’t do Toyama any favors.



“Anyhow, debt is a terrible thing.” Minorikawa nodded sagely. “Oh, by the way-this is unrelated, but are you familiar with a group called S.O.S.? Apparently they’re some ‘legendary’ street gang here in Shibuya.”

“S.O.S.?” Yanagishita shook his head. “No, never heard of them.”

Guess I’m not gonna get any leads on that case here. Minorikawa wondered if there was anything else worth asking this guy.

AweStriker
Oct 6, 2014



Let’s ask Yanagishita about the survey.

HydroSphere
Feb 11, 2014



Implications.



Maybe Yanagishita would be willing to take his “Shibuya NOW!” survey? Taking a little bit of the burden off of Chiaki seemed like a good idea. “I have another question: how do you feel about your life right now?”

“Huh?”

“How do you feel about your life? Your products aren’t selling. You can’t repay your debts. And yet you still refuse to give up, believing opportunity will come your way. How do you feel about all that?”

Yanagishita paused in thought.



“I’d say I’m a pretty lucky guy.”

Minorikawa was taken somewhat aback by that response.

“I haven’t been able to sell any Burning Hammer. And sure, I can’t pay off my debts. But even so...” Yanagishita looked Minorikawa right in the eye. “The two cute young girls I’ve got working for me have stuck with me through thick and thin. Sometimes maybe you just need to be content with something like that, y’know?”

That was refreshingly forthright; Minorikawa was surprised.

“And I mean so what if I’ve got debts?” Yanagishita went on. “In the long run, none of that matters. Not really.”

No music.

There was a knock at the door.

“Oh-excuse me a moment,” Yanagishita said. “I wonder who that could be?”



He opened the door and his face froze. “drat. Wasn’t quite quick enough. Er, Mr. Minorikawa?”

“Yes?”

“You’ll have to pardon me. I’ve had a little something crop up, here, so if you don’t mind...”

“Oh, sure. Not a problem. I’ve got other interviews I need to get to, anyway, so I’ll just...”

But Yanagishita was out the door before Minorikawa could even finish.



Stepping out into the hallway, Minorikawa could faintly hear voices from the adjoining demo room. It sounded like Mr. Yanagishita and two other men. Minorikawa couldn’t make out any words, but he could tell they were arguing about something. It was probably some consumer complaint against one of his products, or an issue with a client company-something along those lines.

“Man, people who run companies sure have it rough. You hang in there, Mr. Yanagishita.”



“Oh, perfect timing!”

Minorikawa stopped short as a familiar voice called out to him. It was the man he’d spoken to earlier that afternoon about the surveillance cameras.

“Hey, come here for a sec!” The man waved him over.

“Ugh, what is it? I’m real busy right now.”

“I’ve got a scoop for ya! Saw it with my own eyes!”



Minorikawa raised an eyebrow. “Give me the details.”

“Okay, so a little while ago, I saw some foreign guy in handcuffs arguing with someone who looked like a detective.”

A foreigner in handcuffs? Had there been some kind of international sting or something? Whatever the case, it wasn’t such a rare thing to see.

“Where was this?”

“Just over there, behind the police station.”



Minorikawa furrowed his brow. A suspect arguing with a cop outside a police station wasn’t all that weird. Still, he had a feeling he was missing something, here.

“Well, the big thing is what happened afterward,” the man said.

“Afterward?”



The man leaned in conspiratorially. “The detective undid the guy’s handcuffs and let him run off .”

“Whoa, what?”

“I’m telling you, man! It had to have been, like, a bribe or something!”

“A bribe?” That seemed unlikely.

“I swear that’s what it had to be! There was some wheel-greasing going on!”

“You’re not making this all up, are you?” Minorikawa asked. He regarded the man coldly, but the guy still seemed quite legitimately worked up.

“It’s all true! Please, you have to report this to the police right away!”

“Why do I have to?” Minorikawa asked. “If you have a tip for the police, go give it yourself.” He didn’t quite manage to stop himself from saying that out loud.

“No, I can’t. I’m no good when it comes to police. Besides, they’re never gonna believe someone like me!”

Okay, so maybe he had a point, there.

“But you-you’re some world-class reporter, right? The cops will totally take your word over that of a random nobody.”

Minorikawa didn’t have time to debate the point; it was easier just to make the call. He phoned up the police to leave the tip. The man bowed repeatedly, looking pretty grateful.



“Oh, thank you so much. I haven’t been able to get any business done with those scary thugs around.”

“What thugs? What line of business are you in, anyway?”

“Wha-?” The man suddenly went pale. “I-ah, whoops! I gotta get going!” He skittered off in alarm.

Minorikawa was left to wonder what this guy’s line of work actually was. But he had more important things to worry about at the moment. He hurried off in the other direction.

Yum Cha.



Before long he arrived back at Cafe Lautrec. The clock on the wall showed that it was close to two o’clock. He had to somehow fill six more pages before the loan company came to Heaven Publishing to collect.



He booted up his laptop.

“What’s with this coffee shop?” said a low, stern voice. “You’ve got no good magazines here.”

Minorikawa looked up.



An older man was complaining to one of the waitresses.

It was the same guy who’d been yelling at his daughter earlier. Evidently he’d been here at the cafe this whole time.

“Haven’t you got any magazines for me to read?” The man’s face was a mask of irritation.



Minorikawa glanced at the magazines in the rack. They were mostly geared toward a younger reader.

The waitress sifted through the stacks and pulled something from the back. “Perhaps this would be to your liking, sir?” she said. She held out an issue of Four-Star General Gossip.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” the man spat dismissively. “This is vulgar, low-grade filth. I wouldn’t even use the paper it’s printed on for compost.”

That was a harsh way to put it, but Minorikawa couldn’t fault him for speaking the truth.

The man continued grumbling as he went back to his seat.



Minorikawa headed over to the magazine rack himself and picked up the Gossip. He opened the front cover and found the scratch card still inserted within. If these things were still out there, it was bad news. Toyama might end up even further in debt.



“Bah!” Minorikawa yanked the scratch card out and tore it to bits.

“Sir, what are you doing?!” The waitress rushed to stop him, only for the pieces to rain down on her like confetti.

“The magazine itself is still perfectly readable,” Minorikawa said. “There’s no problem, here.” He strode back to his seat and gazed at his laptop screen. It still hadn’t finished booting up. In the meantime, he decided to give Chiaki a call.

No music.



She picked up right away.

“Hello?” Minorikawa asked.

“Hi there! Good to hear from you!” Chiaki replied.

“How’s progress?”

“I did it!” Chiaki said, her voice overcome with emotion. “I managed to get people to hear me out!”

“'Course you did. You got your pointers from me.”

“Yes! I couldn’t have done it without you, Mr. Mino!” Her mood had done a complete one-eighty. Minorikawa allowed himself a little sigh of relief.

“Okay then,” he said, “head back to the editing department and put together an article for me.”

“You got it, sir!” Chiaki chirped in reply.

“I’ll email you as soon as I’m done with things on my end,” Minorikawa told her. “Just use the DTP to slot your piece into the right spot in the layout.”

“Sure thing!”

Minorikawa hung up, then rolled up his sleeves.

General Tip – DTP posted:

Abbreviation for “desktop publishing.” Refers to the process of editing a manuscript’s layout on a computer preparatory to sending it to the printer. Also used to refer to the software used for creating such layouts. Creating layout data that is ready for printing but has not actually been printed yet is also sometimes called DTP.



He sure was toeing a pretty narrow line today. The Burning Hammer event had kept him a little longer than anticipated; now he needed to clean up his copy as soon as possible in order to stick to his schedule. When he turned back toward his laptop, however, he froze with shock.

“What?!”

His laptop monitor was still a black, empty screen. There’s no way it would take it this long to finish booting up.

Oh, it couldn’t be... No, no, don’t let it be true...

Dread.



Had his computer decided to pick now, of all times, to give up the ghost? Minorikawa felt the blood drain from his face.

HydroSphere
Feb 11, 2014



Kano's still blocked by bad end, anyone want to take a guess at how we could get around said bad ending?

AweStriker
Oct 6, 2014



There's so much going on that I'm a bit lost as to what we could change.

PlasticAutomaton
Nov 12, 2016

Artoria Pendonut




I'm going back and trying to figure out what the hell happened at 13:40. I'm half wondering if ignoring the old man's call will cause a bit of a chain reaction with Minorikawa, but I can't think of a way to derail them more than the traffic accident.

HydroSphere
Feb 11, 2014



AweStriker posted:

There's so much going on that I'm a bit lost as to what we could change.

PlasticAutomaton posted:

I'm going back and trying to figure out what the hell happened at 13:40. I'm half wondering if ignoring the old man's call will cause a bit of a chain reaction with Minorikawa, but I can't think of a way to derail them more than the traffic accident.

  • Fair points, there are a lot of decision points and without the time chart it's hard to know which one happened when.

Setup.






  • In this case, only Minorikawa and Tama / Maria had a decision at 13:40 - if we run into this situation in the future, I'll include some screenshots of the time chart so you can see what the possible decisions are.

Implications.



No, nothing really came to mind.

It was about time to wrap this up.

“Thank you for your time, Mr. Yanagishita. If you’ll excuse me, though, I have to get to another interview.”

“Oh, no, of course. Allow me to walk you out.” Yanagishita rose to his feet as Minorikawa got up to leave.

“Oh, that won’t be necessary.”

“It’s no trouble. I’m heading out now, myself. Gotta run before those guys show up.”

“Hm? What guys do you mean?”

“Oh, nobody, nobody. Just a personal thing is all.”

They parted ways outside the building, and Minorikawa headed off to the café to put his article together.

Setup.




No music.



At long last, the traffic began to move again. Almost as soon as it did, however, Stanley had to slam on the brakes.



A frantic-looking man had jumped out in front of the car.

“Whoa, hey! What the hell are you doing?” Kano sputtered. The stranger plastered his face against the passenger-side window.



“Open up!” he shouted. “Open the door!” The guy showed every sign of total panic.

“Don’t do it,” Stanley warned.

Kano hesitated. It wasn’t like they could just drive off with this fellow clinging to the car.

428 Tip – Guy posted:

Jun’ichi Yanagishita. Something happened just after he parted ways with Minorikawa, and now he’s running this way-and in quite a panic, at that...



“Please! You gotta help me!” The man slipped his fingers in through the gap in the window, trying to force it further open. “Help me!”

“Whoa, hold on! What’s your deal?”

“Help me!”

“Sir, just tell me what-”

“Help me!”

“Look! Up ahead!” Stanley exclaimed suddenly.

Pursuit.



Kano whipped his head around. There, walking along the sidewalk ahead, was al-Karawan-very much not in custody.

“What the hell?!” Kano tried to jump out of the car, but the frantic stranger had gotten his upper body wedged in the window, and the door wouldn’t open.



Stanley-his usual steely expression replaced with a look of shock-exited on the driver’s side and went after al-Karawan himself.



“Get in!” If the guy was that desperate to get inside, Kano wasn’t about to stop him. Besides, he needed to get the guy to calm down and let go of his arm.

“Ow!” the man yelped. “Let go! Let go!” He was the one holding on; why was he demanding to be let go?

What the hell is going on? Just as Kano’s thought was forming, the crazed stranger was yanked back out of the car, dragging Kano with him.



A pair of rough-looking men had grabbed him by his lower body.

“No! No!” he screamed. “I can’t do eighty days’ hard labor!” Somehow he was still managing to cling to the car door.

“Just give it up and let go already!” snarled one of the assailants. The pair shifted their grip and pulled even harder.

Kano heard the sound of tearing fabric as the two toughs tumbled backwards.



Just like that, the crazed stranger was stripped down to his boxers. He let out a pathetic wail. “Awwwww, maaaaaaaan!”

The two toughs burst into uproarious laughter at the sight. “Now’s our chance!” one of them managed to sputter.



The pants-less man snatched up his ruined garment and bolted like a startled hare. Still cackling madly, his two pursuers rushed after him.

Kano was still staring dumbstruck at the spectacle when Stanley returned to the car.

428 Tip – Like a startled hare posted:

To dart off incredibly quickly, in the manner of a fleeing rabbit. Yanagishita runs a lot more like a rat than a rabbit, though.

No music.



“No luck. I lost track of him.”

“This doesn’t make sense,” Kano said, forcing himself to refocus on the case. “Al-Karawan was taken back to the precinct. What’s he doing walking free?”

Stanley gave him a dubious look.



“Have you seriously not figured it out?” he asked. “Or is this some kind of strange Japanese joke I’m not getting?”

“What are you talking about?” Kano replied. “Do you know something I don’t?”

“Evidently I do. Your Detective Tateno let him go on purpose. That’s the only explanation.”



Enraged at the suggestion, Kano took a swing at him, but Stanley coolly caught his fist.

“It’s not me you should be punching,” the American warned. “It’s Tateno.”



Abashed, Kano radioed up Kuze on the wireless. “Sir, did Detective Tateno bring Tariq al-Karawan in to the precinct?”

Tension.

“It would appear that, ah, Detective Tateno has gone rogue,” Kuze replied with chagrin.

“He what?” Surely Kano had misheard?

“We’ve received an eyewitness account-someone saw him allowing the suspect to go free.”

“No...no, it can’t be...”

“We currently do not know Detective Tateno’s whereabouts. Or-or just what the hell is going on with him.”

After Kano ended the call, Stanley let out a low chuckle. “Heh. I see. Looks like you had a traitor in your midst.”



Kano grabbed him by the collar.

Stanley snorted. “What are you trying to pull, here?”

“Tell me what you know!” Kano snapped.

“All I did is state the facts.”

“Look-I watched that man risk his life to talk down a would-be arsonist. He’s a dyed-in-the-wool detective. He’d never betray anybody!”

“I see,” Stanley murmured. “Then he’s the real deal.”

Kano stared in surprise. He’d expected an argument. “Good,” he said. “I’m glad we’re on the same page.”

“Tateno risked his life in order to get people to trust him. He’s a dyed-in-the-wool spy, is what he is.”

Kano didn’t have the words. His clenched fist trembling once more, he fumbled for his cell phone again.



He dialed Tateno’s number. The phone rang five times but failed to connect.



“There has to be a reason for this,” Kano muttered. “Tateno must know something we don’t.”

“Really now?” Stanley scoffed. “And what makes you so sure of that?”

“Because Detective Tateno was sure this kidnapping wasn’t about the ransom.”

Unrest.



Kano’s mind drifted back to 9 o’clock that morning.

Ahead of their stakeout at the scramble, he was walking with Tateno through the halls of the Shibuya precinct.

“We’re going to do a bang-up job out there, Detective Tateno!” he chirped. He was maybe a bit too excited about getting to take part in such a major case.

Tateno patted Kano on the back. “You need to take a step back. You’re not letting yourself see the forest for the trees.”



“What do you mean, sir?”

“What I mean is that this is no ordinary kidnapping.”

Tateno’s words triggered a little revelation. “You’re talking about the location for the ransom handoff, aren’t you?” Kano said. “It doesn’t make sense for the criminals to pick such a major intersection.”

“Warmer,” Tateno replied.

Kano frowned inwardly. He’d been so sure that was the answer.



“Have you thought about why they asked to have the sister make the handoff?”

Kano thought some more before answering. “Because women are easier to deal with?” he suggested.

“Colder. If that was the case, why not pick the mother? No, what worries me is the fact that the Osawa girls are twins. They’re having us send someone to the handoff who looks identical to the girl they kidnapped. What’s going to happen when we do that?”

“What is going to happen, sir?” Kano asked.

“I’m not sure yet. But I have a feeling the kidnappers’ plan hinges on it.”



The two exited through the precinct’s main entrance.



Up ahead, rows of buildings stood tall against a backdrop of bright blue sky.

Tateno let out a quiet sigh. “To think that so many terrible things are happening out there on such a beautiful day... Solve one case and another’s waiting,” he went on. “As always. What is it about people that drives them to do such horrible things? A girl, abducted out of pure greed. When I think of how her parents must feel, I almost can’t bear it.”

They made their way toward the scramble; Tateno continued talking in a quiet voice.



“My father was a raging alcoholic. The house was always a complete mess. He was loud, violent. Never had any money, always reeked of booze. My mother, she would cry and cry. I was afraid to come home. Every day, I stayed out playing as late as I could possibly manage.”

Kano could hear the pain in Tateno’s voice.

“That life took too much of a toll on my mother; she died when I was still in grade school. And my father, he just got worse. I was there with him at the end, after he’d wasted away to almost nothing. Not the sort of childhood I’d ever wish on anybody.”

“It sounds like you really went through a lot.” Kano hated himself for uttering such an empty platitude, but he had no idea what else to say.‘

“Kano, as old as I am, I still don’t really know what it is to be happy. I think that’s probably because I’ve never known what it’s like to have a happy family.” Tateno sounded so forlorn. “The only happiness I know how to protect...is other people’s happiness.”

Kano heard in those words the soul of a true detective.

No music.



“I just hope you’re ready.” Kano did his best to keep his voice as calm and level as he could, lifting up his clenched fist.



“Because if I find proof that Tateno is innocent, I’m planting this right into your jaw.”

Stanley just cracked a wry smile.

The syndicate’s hangout was in Tomigaya, to the southwest of Yoyogi Park.

Shinya Kano



The ratty building looked like it might come crashing down at any minute. The “Black Lodge” sign out front looked deliberately ominous. Kano knew the place as a bar frequented by expats from various countries, as well as a hotbed of criminal activity.



“I’ll take point,” Stanley said. “You back me up.”

He pulled a handgun from his suit pocket. It was a compact Glock, a model frequently used by the FBI or CIA.

Kano drew his own gun, and the two cautiously made their way inside. At the end of the hallway was a wooden door. Stanley signaled with his eyes. Kano gave a tiny nod, and Stanley kicked the door in.

No music.

The stench of blood hit them as soon as they stepped inside.



Kano let out a startled gasp. There were nearly a dozen bodies sprawled out across the floor.



He recognized them all: they were men who’d participated in the repeated attaché case handoffs. Each appeared to have been stabbed to death.



Stanley took a closer look. “The blood’s not fully dried; these guys weren’t killed that long ago.”



Kano quickly scanned the bar high and low, but there was no sign of a killer in hiding. There was no trace of Maria, either.

One of the fallen men let out a faint, strained groan.



“Hey!” Kano called out. “Stay with us!” He hunched down beside the wounded man.

“Ugk...” A brief gurgle rose from the man’s throat. He was clearly struggling to say something. But his voice was too garbled, too indistinct for Kano to make out any coherent words.



“Ca...Canaan...”

“What was that?” But there was no more. The dying man went limp and still.


PlasticAutomaton
Nov 12, 2016

Artoria Pendonut




...Huh. That is not what I expected to do it.

If we have a choice, let's start back with Kano since he spent the entirety of the last hour at unavoidable bad ends.

HydroSphere
Feb 11, 2014



Setup.




Unrest.



“Canaan?” Kano muttered. “What’s ‘Canaan?”’ The stench of blood hung heavy in the basement bar.

Stanley was silent, staring at the criminal’s corpse.



“Hey, do you know anything about this?” Kano asked. Still Stanley gave no response. “The silent treatment again, huh?” Kano huffed.

The American glanced at him gravely. “In all likelihood, the one who did this was acting alone.”

“Alone? Against this many other people? Who on earth-”



“There’s no need for you to know.”

“Cut the crap!” Kano snapped. He grabbed Stanley by the collar. “If there’s someone involved in this case who’s capable of something like this, I need to know about it! How am I supposed to do my job if you keep me in the dark?”

Stanley remained stone-faced.

“Look-I’m not afraid of the risks,” Kano said. “And I’ll be a lot more effective if you at least fill me in on the basics, here.”

“The more you know, the sooner you’ll wind up dead.”

Kano tightened his grip. “But it’s okay if I wind up dead while I’m still in the dark, huh?”

“Fine,” Stanley said. “I’ll answer your first question.” He brushed Kano’s arm aside.



“‘Canaan’ is the name of a covert operative from the Middle East. I believe she’s the one who killed these people here.”

“The Middle East? A covert operative?” Kano hadn’t expected spycraft to be involved with this.

General Tip – Covert operative posted:

In simple terms, a type of spy that infiltrates hostile territory to carry out various clandestine activities.

“Yes. She’s an assassin and a cryptanalysis specialist. Do you recall the mass jailbreak from Abu Ghraib prison a while back? Canaan was the one who provided the intel the escapees used to get out.”

General Tip – Abu Ghraib prison posted:

IA prison in Iraq, west of Baghdad. Under the Hussein government, it was an internment facility for political prisoners, but following the Iraq War, it was used by the U.S. Army to house prisoners of war. In April of 2004, photographs of detainees being tortured by U.S. Soldiers were released, causing a massive scandal. President Bush later made the decision to have the facility demolished.

Kano was at a loss for words. The case was suddenly starting to seem a whole lot more sinister. Whoever this Canaan was, she’d apparently killed nearly a dozen people with only a knife; she was clearly no one to trifle with. Just what kind of individual were they dealing with here? He could scarcely imagine.



Once again, Kano surveyed the crime scene. Each of the murdered criminals had had his throat slit. From the look of the deep, clean cuts, the killer hadn’t hesitated in the slightest.

“Okay, so then what connection does this ‘Canaan’ have with the mastermind behind this kidnapping?” If Canaan had killed all of the foreign syndicate members in this bar, did that mean she and the person behind the kidnapping were enemies? Or perhaps she and the kidnapper were working in concert, and she’d carried out these slayings as part of some plan, to get rid of some loose ends?

“I believe I said I’d answer one question.”



Turning away, Stanley picked up a file from atop a nearby table. Apparently he wasn’t in the sharing mood.

Realizing that further questions would be pointless, Kano peered sidelong at the file as Stanley opened it. Inside was a detailed map of Shibuya.



There were various routes marked with arrows and times.

“That’s...That’s the plan for the ransom relay!” Kano was so excited he blurted his thoughts outloud.



It appeared that the ultimate goal for the ransom was a condominium. The address and the time “14:20” were written in red ink. Kano put in an immediate call to the investigation task force to relay this information.



“The final destination is Ground Hill #405, in Hiroo 5—34, Shibuya.”

“All right,” Kuze told him. “We’ll look into who owns the condo in question. You and Stanley head over there now. I’m sending backup to go in with you. You have authorization to apprehend the suspect.” Finally hearing the order that he’d so long been waiting for, Kano felt a spark of determination flare inside him.



“All right, let’s go!” he said, some of his excitement slipping into his voice.

Stanley, still solemn, closed the file and followed him out of the bar.

No music.



Stanley drove along Inokashira-Dori toward Hiroo, where the finish line for the ransom relay was located. His demeanor was cold and brooding, in sharp contrast with Kano’s gung-ho readiness. He seemed lost in some deep and cheerless thought.



Kuze’s voice came in over the wireless as the car came out onto Meiji-Dori.

“We’ve identified the owner of the condominium. It’s...”

Kano held his breath in anticipation. The name Kuze spoke caught him by surprise entirely.

PlasticAutomaton
Nov 12, 2016

Artoria Pendonut




...And immediately into a keep out before we can do anything. Kano, buddy, you keep getting the short end of the stick. I guess let's keep the Canaan tree going with Achi.

HydroSphere
Feb 11, 2014



Setup.




Contemplation.



“You must be...Hitomi.” The girl called Canaan spoke fairly fluent Japanese.

Hitomi nodded in response. “Yes, that’s me. And you’re Canaan, right?”

“How did you know my name? Did Maria tell you?”

“Yes. She told me about this amazing girl from overseas she made friends with.”

A thin smile crossed Canaan’s lips at the word ‘amazing.’ Then her look grew sad. “Poor Maria...it’s-it’s my fault that she was abducted.”

“What?” Achi and Hitomi gasped in unison.

“That’s why I have to rescue her,” Canaan added.



“Hold on a second,” Hitomi said. “What do you mean, it’s your fault?”



Canaan replied by jerking her chin in the direction of the main road. “Better head that way,” she said softly. “Someone’s coming.”

But Hitomi didn’t back down. “Please, tell me! Why was my sister kidnapped?!”



Several sets of footsteps echoed down the alley. They could see figures approaching now-by the looks of them, accomplices of the man Canaan had taken down earlier.

“You two get out of here,” she warned. “I’ll handle this.” She stepped out in front of Achi and Hitomi, moving with such confidence that they didn’t doubt she could handle the threat.




“Come to the GiGO building at 3 o’clock,” she added quietly, never taking her eyes off the advancing syndicate members.

“Huh?” Hitomi squeaked.

“I’ll explain everything then.”



The criminals broke into a run.

“C’mon, Hitomi, let’s go!” Achi hissed. He took her by the hand and bolted from the alleyway.

No music.




The two didn’t slow their pace until they’d put plenty of distance between themselves and the alleyway.

“Canaan said this was her fault. What could she have meant by that?” The hard run hadn’t made Hitomi forget the other girl’s startling suggestion.

“Well, she said she’ll meet up with us again later,” Achi said. “We can ask her more about it then. In the meantime...” An ache in his belly had made Achi realize he’d been running all day and hadn’t eaten since the morning. “Maybe it’s not the best timing, but d’you want to get some food?”

“I’ll be okay.”

General Tip – Hadn’t eaten since the morning posted:

People on a diet need to be careful about skipping meals. Going too long without proper nourishment can cause the body to store up its energy reserves, leading to weight gain instead of loss. Proper eating habits and proper exercise are key.

Hitomi’s face was wracked with emotion.

It’s only natural, Achi thought.

Not only was she afraid for her sister’s life, but there were all these people out to kill her, too. And with this Canaan girl suddenly showing up, the situation was more confusing than ever.

Still, they might as well address the few problems they could control.

There was a fast food joint nearby.

“Let’s go in there,” Achi said. “You might not be hungry, but you should still make sure you stay hydrated.”

Hitomi shook her head, but her wan face practically radiated exhaustion.

“Come on, we should rest up a little.”

“But-”

“There’s no rush. If we’re going to meet up with Canaan later, it’s probably best if we don’t just wander aimlessly until then. Never know who we might run into.”

“I guess you’re right.”

The two went into the fast food restaurant together.



“Welcome!” said the girl at the register with a bright smile. “May I take your order?”

“I’ll have the spaghetti with meat sauce. How about you, Hitomi?”

“I’ll just have an iced tea.”

General Tip – Spaghetti with meat sauce posted:

Spaghetti with a sauce made from tomatoes and ground meat. Also known as Spaghetti Bolognese, if you want to sound more Italian. Like Napolitan Spaghetti, flavored with ketchup, it is a perennial favorite of Japanese children. Frozen packages at the supermarket for around 200 yen a pop make for a simple and decently tasty microwavable meal that’s also easy on the wallet.

“Hey now. You should probably eat at least a little something.”

“Okay...then I’ll have a strawberry parfait.” She sounded a little embarrassed to be ordering a dessert.

“So yeah,” said Achi, “one spaghetti and meat sauce and a strawberry parfait, please.”

“Coming right up!”

General Tip – Strawberry parfait posted:

A dessert of strawberries topped with ice cream and whipped cream.

Hitomi has been so worried about her sister that she hasn’t eaten anything since last night, but being with Achi has calmed her nerves a little, and her appetite has returned. Perhaps her reflexive order of a strawberry parfait is a sign that she’s not only hungry, but also still a little girl with a sweet tooth at heart.

The cashier promptly assembled their meal and set it out on a tray. “We’ve got a special contest going on right now,” she said. “Please check it out if you’re interested!”

The World Doesn't Change so Easy.



The girl handed Achi a flyer.The girl handed Achi a flyer.

It read:

Iron Stomach Eating Contest. Eat 1000 Scoops of Ice Cream and Win 10 Million Yen!

428 Tip – Iron Stomach posted:

A competitive eating event held by this establishment. Backed by Sun TV, the competition has been shared with the entire country over the Internet. Many contestants have entered for a shot at the ten-million-yen prize, but so far, no one has been able to complete the eating challenge. Due to the large number of competitors who suffer from gastrointestinal distress as a result of their efforts, roughly thirty portable toilets have been set up outside the restaurant.

“What the heck?” Achi stared at the flyer as he took a seat at an open table. “A thousand scoops? That’s impossible!”



“Anyway, let’s hurry up and eat.” As Achi stuffed his face with spaghetti, he thought back to their encounter with Canaan.

The girl had helped them out, sure, but could they really trust her completely? It might be dangerous to meet up with her again. Still, Hitomi needed to know more about what had happened to Maria. And Canaan obviously knew something about that. It looked like they’d need to take that risk.

“My sister really is amazing.”

“Huh?”



Hitomi’s quiet words drew Achi from his ruminations; he paused with a forkful of spaghetti halfway to his mouth.

“My sister met Canaan while she was on a trip to the Middle East with my father.” Hitomi nibbled at her parfait, looking lonesome.

“Cool. But...how does that in particular make your sister amazing?”



“It’s typical of her, is all. She’s so dynamic and gung-ho about things,” Hitomi explained, her gaze turned inward. “It was just my father and sister who took that trip to the Middle East. I didn’t go with them. I guess my mental image of that part of the world is mostly that it’s really dangerous . To me going there seemed like a huge risk. But Maria didn’t see it that way.”

“Heh. Your sister sounds like a bit of a loose cannon.”

“But if you can’t bring yourself to take risks, to do things,” Hitomi continued, “you can’t meet new people and have new experiences. That’s the part I always get hung up on-the risk. I’d never be able to make a friend like Canaan.”

Flac
Sep 6, 2010

supposedly it frees you from anxiety and nihilism

Interesting set of choices...A I suppose? I wonder how each would lead to something different.

HydroSphere
Feb 11, 2014



The World Doesn't Change so Easy.



She and her sister might be twins, but each of them was still unique. “Okay, I’m gonna stop you right there,” he said. He held up a hand to cut her off.



“Huh?” Hitomi’s eyes went wide.

“Why are you comparing yourself to your sister? I mean I don’t know what it’s like to be a twin, but can’t you just be yourself?”

“Professor Palmer said the same thing.”



“Hm?” Achi didn’t recognize the name.

“Oh, sorry. Leland Palmer. He’s my university English professor. He’s given me advice on a whole bunch of things.”

That sounded rather...intimate.

All sorts of worrying images shot through Achi’s mind. “Uh, hmmm. So, uh, how old is this teacher of yours?”

“Huh? Um, around forty or so, I guess?”

Great, Achi thought to himself. Another middle-aged guy.



His mind filled with another sequence of slightly more upsetting images.

Optimism.



“Oh, hey! Ain’t that Hitomi Osawa?”

“Oh, wow, you’re right! It totally is!” A college-aged couple sitting behind them were talking in hushed, excited tones.



“Man, she really is a cutie!” the young man observed. He made no attempt to hide the fact he was looking Hitomi over.

“Hey, hold on, Masa!” said the girl. “What gives?”

“Well, I mean she is Miss Midoriyama, right?”

Miss Midoriyama?!

428 Tip – Masa posted:

A first-year student at Midoriyama Academy who works part-time as a delivery driver for Dogen Hut, a noodle shop on Dogenzaka. He’s taken the day off work today in order to attempt a dry run of the “Iron Stomach” eating competition, hoping to strike it rich while his girlfriend looks on. But now that he’s eaten two parfaits, his stomach isn’t feeling well, and he’s just gotten back from his fifth trip to the toilet.

Flac
Sep 6, 2010

supposedly it frees you from anxiety and nihilism

B, as the neutral option between getting any information and not drawing more attention than we already have.

Kangra
May 7, 2012



HydroSphere posted:

His mind filled with another sequence of slightly more upsetting images.

Me too, Achi.



Let's get the answer right away about which twin is Miss Midoriyama. A.

HydroSphere
Feb 11, 2014



Anyone willing to break the tie?

cardinale
Jul 11, 2016



B, let's eavesdrop

HydroSphere
Feb 11, 2014



Optimism.



Achi said nothing, but kept his ears tuned to the couple’s conversation.

“Hmm. You sure that’s her?”

“Yeah, it totally is.”

“No it isn’t. Isn’t that Maria Osawa?”

“Oh. Huh. Maybe?”

“Either way, she’s super-cute.”

“Hey now, Masa! What gives?”

428 Tip – Masa posted:

A first-year student at Midoriyama Academy who works part-time for Dogen Hut, a noodle shop on Dogenzaka. He’s just back from suffering in the restroom, his stomach rather upset from eating too much parfait. While doing his business there, he happened to spot a magazine on the wall rack. Flipping through nonchalantly, he came across a potential 100,000-yen scratch card inside. Seeing that it hadn’t been scratched off, he considered trying for the prize-but then, deciding that it was no time to press his luck, left the restroom without scratching it.



Achi turned back to Hitomi. “Is that true?” he asked, peering intently at her face.

“Um, well...yeah.” She nodded with an awkward smile.

“Well, I mean, you are really cute and all,” Achi said. “Miss Midoriyama. Well, I’ll be.” He nodded to himself as he took it all in.



“It was Professor Palmer who convinced me to enter that beauty contest, actually,” Hitomi said.

“Huh.” Achi’s smile twisted up a little.

“He said if I really wanted to change myself I should try entering.”

428 Tip – Beauty contest posted:

The Miss Midoriyama contest at Midoriyama Academy is considered one of the top student beauty pageants in Japan. Pin-up shots of both Hitomi and Maria have already graced the pages of several magazines. Talent agencies have also made attempts to scout them, but both girls declined, claiming that they entered the contest just for the memories, and that they have no interest in show business.



Achi maintained his outward composure, but inside his heart was racing. Tanaka and Palmer-which of them held Hitomi’s true affections? Or...was she possibly leading on two middle-aged men at the same time? The more he thought about it, the worse his delusions became.

“What actually happened, though, is my sister and I both won the prize.” Hitomi’s words snapped him out of his funk. She sounded disappointed.

“Huh? They gave out a double prize?”

“Turns out my sister had entered the competition, too.” She smiled a self-deprecating smile. “Guess twins really do think alike, huh?”

“Hey, double schmuble. You still won a prize, right? That’s pretty impressive.”



“Nah. They just picked me as an afterthought to my sister, because twins sharing the prize made for a good headline.” She looked away, sadly.

“Did they say they picked you as an afterthought?”

“They didn’t have to. It was obvious that my sister really won.”

No music.

“You can’t know that. Maybe she was the afterthought. Come on. You need to believe in yourself.”

Hitomi just hung her head. “But I’m...I’m such a terrible person.”

Hitomi Osawa.



Suddenly her eyes welled up with tears. “I hate myself so much! I can never forgive myself for what I did.”

“Hey, whoa!” Achi watched her with trepidation; she looked like she might start bawling at any moment. “What’s the matter?”



“The night my sister was kidnapped, I was supposed to go to a college party with her. But then all of a sudden she told me not to go. I kept asking her why not, but she just kept insisting I couldn’t.” Hitomi’s face was bleak with regret. “We both got mad, and I wound up blowing up at her.”



“Okay, I get it. I don’t need to go to the party. Fine. I’d just be your little tagalong, anyway. Just like in that beauty contest! You couldn’t just let me enter that by myself, could you?! You always have to be the center of attention!”



Maria scowled. “Fine. The party starts at seven o’clock. Try not to forget, okay?”



“I was kicking myself as soon as I’d told her off. My sister isn’t the sort of person to tell me what to do or not do. She must have had a reason for not wanting me to go. I was planning on apologizing to her after the party, but...”

“But then she was abducted...right?” Achi polished off the last of his spaghetti. He set down his fork, then wiped his mouth.



“Hitomi, I get why you’re trying so, so hard to save your sister,” he said. “And maybe I’m not as tough as that Canaan girl, but I’ll stick with you to the end, if you’ll let me.” He tried his best to convey an optimism he didn’t really feel. “And once we’ve found her and she’s safe and sound, you can tell her you’re sorry about what you said.”



At long last, Hitomi cracked a smile.

No music.



A short while later, the two arrived outside the GiGO building. They were a little early for their three o’clock meetup with Canaan.

They had decided that searching at random for the blue minivan was too risky-it could easily draw the attention of the man with the cane or the foreign kidnappers. Getting information from Canaan seemed like the best next move.

“Oh, hey,” Achi said as they waited. “You’ve got a little rip in your top.”



Hitomi glanced at her shoulder and saw the tear in the fabric. “Oh, you’re right. When did that happen, I wonder?”

Must have snagged it on something while we were running, I guess. “We’ve got some time before Canaan gets here. Do you want to buy some new clothes?”

“Huh? Are you sure that’s a good idea?”

“We’ll stick out if we just stand around here waiting. May as well head inside until it’s time.”

Since many celebrities did their shopping at GiGO, there were back entrances for times when the place was crowded. Everyone who frequented the old shopping district knew about them-including Achi and Hitomi. In a pinch, one of those back entrances could be an escape route.

With this in mind, the two headed inside.



Shibuya GiGO was an entertainment complex featuring a video arcade and fashion shops.

General Tip – Shibuya GiGO posted:

At the time of this story, GiGO includes not only a fashion mall, but various amusements on its different levels. The second floor features all-ages fun with rides, games, and sticker machines, while the third floor sports the latest arcade games for the ‘core gamer.’ There’s also a food court that offers things such as crepes and loaded takoyaki octopus dough balls.

The ground floor and two basement levels of the building were designed as an amusement area outfitted with skee ball, claw cranes, fighting games, and the like. The second floor held a mix of photo booths and ladieswear shops. On the third floor were specialty fashion boutiques, and on the fourth were restaurants.

Achi and Hitomi took the escalator to the second floor.



Hitomi started heading for the shops, but Achi stopped her. “Hey, wait up!”

“What’s the matter?”

“A dude hanging around a women’s clothing store is gonna stand out. I’ll wait for you here.” There seemed to be nobody but female customers around. If the man with the cane or the kidnappers appeared, Achi figured, he would spot them right away. It should be safe for Hitomi to shop on her own for a short while.

“All right,” Hitomi said. “I’ll try to make this quick.” She began to head out onto the sales floor.

Eggplant.



“Whew!”A seedy-looking man poked out from beneath the door of a photo booth right at Hitomi’s feet.

“That was a close one, wasn’t it, Tama?” he said to her. “I thought I was dead meat for sure!” His tone was oddly cheerful, considering what he was saying.

“Who’s this guy?” Achi asked. “You know him?”

“No, I don’t.”

The sketchy fellow gave her an ingratiating look. “C’mon, Tama. Don’t be like that.”

Hitomi took an anxious step back.



“Hey man, knock it off!” Achi dragged the guy up to his feet.

“Okay, okay. No need to get all testy. Who is this guy, Tama? He your boyfriend?”

Boyfriend...

PlasticAutomaton
Nov 12, 2016

Artoria Pendonut




B.

We probably don't want to drive him off yet, as hopefully the question of "who the hell is Tama" should lead Achi and Hitomi back towards the missing Maria.

HydroSphere
Feb 11, 2014



Eggplant.



“Uh...I-”

“No, he’s not my boyfriend.” Hitomi denied it before the words were out of Achi’s mouth. He felt a little pang of heartbreak.



“What? So you’re not her boyfriend?” The guy flashed a broad grin.

“Hey! Listen, you creep! Who the hell are you?”

“Oh, me?”



The man’s face suddenly blanched. “Oh, crap! Tama, hold on to this for a bit, will ya?”



The weirdo shoved a worn-out magazine into Hitomi’s hands, then bolted off in a panic.



“The heck was that all about?”

“Yeah. I wonder why he ran off like that.”

Achi and Hitomi stared at one another.

“Well, anyway,” Achi said. “There are a lot of nut jobs out there, so just be careful, yeah?”



“Okay. If anything happens, I’ll give you a shout.” Hitomi flashed him an impish smile, then scampered off onto the sales floor.



As he watched her go, Achi muttered to himself. “Dammit. Why does she have to be so cute?”

No music.



Five minutes or more passed as Achi waited for Hitomi. He stood by the escalator, almost as if he were keeping guard.

Female shoppers began to give him icy stares for being somewhere he probably shouldn’t.

This sucks. C’mon, Hitomi. Hurry up and get back here. The longer he waited, the more uncomfortable he felt. How long was she going to take?



Then he happened to turn around to see Hitomi riding the escalator up. It looked like she had indeed bought some new clothes.

“Hey! Hitomi!”

Dav
Nov 5, 2009


Chekov’s twins!

A little bit louder now

HydroSphere
Feb 11, 2014





He decided to shout a bit louder. “Hey! Come on, wait up!”



Hitomi stole a quick look back at him.

“Where are you going?” he called. “It’s not safe for us to get too separated!”

Yet still she continued her flight toward the upper floors. Did she not realize it was him or something? Achi hurried in pursuit.



Achi followed her, but by the time he reached the top, she was out of sight. This was the restaurant floor, so it was more open than the other levels.

428 Tip – Restaurant floor posted:

A floor designated solely for eateries. Typically this is the topmost floor of a mall building like GiGO. Those who head up here during morning hours will likely find the place deserted. GiGO’s restaurant floor features a variety of different cuisines, including Chinese, Italian, creative Japanese food, sushi, tempura, and other delicacies from around the world.



He hurriedly began to look around. As he wandered, he bumped into a man talking on his cell phone.

“Ah, sorry! My bad.” Achi held up a hand in apology, but the man was too engrossed in his conversation to notice.



“No, you’re not getting it! The lock was undone, too!” The man startled Achi by suddenly shouting into his phone. “You need to consider the risk of it getting out!”

Whatever this guy was talking about, he sure was angry with whoever was on the other end.

“Look, I’ll figure out what to do about the minivan! You just handle things on your end!”

Minivan? Achi’s interest was piqued, but he needed to find Hitomi before he let anything distract him.



As he scoured the fourth floor, he came across a Chinese buffet, and noticed the large windows in its outer walls.



You could see a lot of Shibuya through those windows. Maybe Hitomi had decided to look for the minivan from up here?

One of the restaurant employees came rushing up as Achi headed inside. “Sir, I’m sorry!” she said.



“Ah, sir? You’ll have to forgive the inconvenience. We’re not open to the, ah, the public, not right now. Not at the moment I mean.”

The employee’s voice was oddly subdued, for some reason.

“Why not?” Achi asked.

428 Tip – Employee posted:


“Well, you see, one of our other customers ate all of our food.”

“They ate all of it?”



Looking around, Achi saw a chubby young woman camped out at a table by one of the windows.



Set out before her was a veritable mountain of plates.

“What I’m trying to say, sir, is that we’re...uh...closed for the rest of the day.”

“Oh. But I’m with her, actually,” Achi lied. Without waiting for a reply, he barged into the restaurant.



He took a quick look around, but there was no sign of Hitomi.

Before leaving, though, he figured he’d at least take a look out the windows. The huge glass panes looked out onto Dogenzaka. He had a decent view of the roads, but he didn’t spot a blue minivan.

Achi dropped his gaze to the sidewalk outside the building.



“Oh.” He let out a tiny gasp.

Even from four stories up, there was no mistaking what he saw. A group of black-clad foreign men had gathered outside the building. Had they figured out that he and Hitomi were inside? He needed to find her, and fast. He raced out of the restaurant, alert for trouble.

HydroSphere
Feb 11, 2014



Maria, Minorikawa and Osawa are available.

PlasticAutomaton
Nov 12, 2016

Artoria Pendonut




Let's see how Tama Maria got there.

HydroSphere
Feb 11, 2014



Posting to push to new page.

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HydroSphere
Feb 11, 2014



HydroSphere posted:

Posting to push to new page.

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