Part 21: The Place Where I Used To Be

The first thing that struck my nose was the scent of death. For those who have never seen a corpse, it's a bit hard to describe the sickly sweet odor of human decay—an odor so foul it makes you want to vomit. This wasn't my first experience with it, but I saw Richter looking a little queasy before he got used to it.

Go about 100 meters and set one up. I'll put a marker on your ma—o-oh, right, you can't... use it. What can I even do with these limitations...? Um, for now, just proceed straight ahead. I can't give you much useful advice like this...

'S all good, dawg. We've got Navigation Expert #1 here with a local to assist her.

It's not as though there were spine bridges along the tops of buildings last I came here, you know.

True to word, we don't currently have a map of the Evernight. This is unfortunate because the fact that the map exists is usually the way I place screenshots relative to each other for your benefit! As a result, this bit might be a little disorienting. Gomenasorry, reader-tachi.

Interesting. Do you suppose these bones are generated or constructed?


All three Imperial Dragons we've met thus far have had domains mostly predicated on the manipulation of existing matter. If this beast is capable of simply generating the materials to create this, that's quite impressive.

Hm. You're not wrong, but is this actual bone, or concrete wrought in bone-like shapes?

It's concrete.

It was too dark to see the roads below, so...

How can you tell?

Hm? Just a gut feeling, I suppose.

I only noticed it later, upon repeat visits to the place. On one of the spokes of that first spinebridge, there was an engraving in the concrete—Two Japanese characters under an engraving of an umbrella. One character was warped beyond recognition, but the other read 'arashi'.


Ohh! Oiii, Eri~!

Eri: Huh—Fudoji-san? I should've known nothing could kill you.

You know me! Never say die.

Friend of yours?

This is Eri. She works down at the chop shop—my son-in-law has this motorbike he's pretty proud of, so you get to know these people.

Ugh, tell me about it. This place reeks.

Eri: Now, you guys, you smell like the good life. I wanna come with you!

Good news! We've got a place for aspiring mechanics like yourself over in City Hall! I think you'll get along great.

Eri: Any corpses over there?

Only a reasonably normal amount for the situation. Plus we have disposal procedures and all.

Eri: You're the best, Fudoji-san!

We're going to be meeting a lot of people you know, huh.

Well, it's not as though I know everyone in the neighborhood.

Ah, and just when I was hoping to have a little fun, too. Great timing.

Alright, girls, let's take this one slowly—

The dragon released a piercing sound that caused even Youka to stagger, and when I looked over, her eyes looked a touch unfocused as she staggered about like she was drunk.


Mm fine. No worries. People hit Mama in the head all the time. Great. Yeah.

Oh she's out of it

Confusion does exactly what you think it does, and unlike a number of other ailments there's no real frills here, it's just Confusion. It is an unfortunate status ailment.

Now would be a good time for that dragonfly-killing move of yours, Chisa?

I concur!

I think its vitals are at about forty percent—just a bit more attacking and you should—


She, uh, she started laughing.

Oh, what, are you worried now? Please, what do you take me for? One of you meatsacks, huh?

Baaahahahahaha! See? I'm perfectly healthy. Not that you, still so attached to your bodies, would understand the purity of an existence governed entirely by one's soul.

Look, look, look!

She'd made a wound in her own arm using her own claws that Richter was currently trying desperately to treat.

I don't even flinch! Pain means nothing to me!

This is bad! I don't like these things!

Even through her stupor, Youka staggered forward and struck the beast. In my own stupor, I craned my head back to see this...

...and swung my blade to attack her. It struck her in the arm, and drew the tiniest bit of blood. My pulse quickened, and my eyes locked onto her. My hair started falling over my face. I didn't wield my sword like a sword—it was more like a bat I was wielding in one hand.

Uggg, not—not me, the—the dragon. You gotta. You gotta get your priorities in order.



See, there—there you—

Youka shook her head very hard and clapped her cheeks.

There you go!

Ow! Shit.

Um, I'm sorry, Youka! I'm really sorry!!

I frantically grabbed my blade with both hands again, to try and shake off how mortified I felt.

It's fine, let's just rip it open!

My thoughts exactly!

Alright, everyone. What have we learned?

Cap gets scary when she's drunk.

Ow, shit. Damn it, this hurts!

it's okay, koron. does koron want some cuddles to make her pokey wound feel better

What? We're in the middle of a mission, Satsuki.

By my estimations, we should be just near the point for the first probe.


Yes, this is the place and position. Please place the first probe here.

Unit 13, can you hear me? I've confirmed the first probe—I'll start analysis posthaste. Even with just this one probe, I think I'll be able to get the map running

Mr. Ayafumi! Are you okay?!

Are you good, Mr. Kirino?!

Kirino sniffled a bit, then sneezed again.

Wait, seriously?

Oh! Chamomile tea always works best for Mr. Ayafumi's colds—do you know how to brew it, Aoi?

Then, um...

...we saw a number of SDF members. Or, no... 'former' SDF members. One with his head severed, flat on the ground—one impaled on a fence pole—one floating, pale and clammy, in the air.


Whoa, whoa! Senpai! What was that just now?!


Don't just say it out loud!

G-ghosts don't exist!

Hey, what now? Show me!

I didn't get a look, but it kinda looked like a person or two? But kinda spectral, maybe?

It was ghosts.

No, it was not! Be quiet!

...are you gonna be okay, Mr. Kirino? You might not be too reliable here.

Geez, don't pull your punches or anything. Jeanne, what are you seeing?

I can't see anything!

We can't rely even on our own eyes. When we don't have reliable data, we can't trust what we see!

It was just ghosts, what are you all freaking out about?

Please stop saying the g-word!

Specters! Spirits! The departed!

Agent Nagataka, I will report you!

We'll go place the second probe down, then. Don't worry, everyone.

No matter what it is, Mama Fudoji will break it down!

that actually does make me feel much better thank you

Yeah, agreed.

...I'd concur.

On the next building, graves littered the landscape. It was a veritable cemetery buried in this roof.

...Youka. Are these graves all constructed?

...No. I recognize a few of them. But...

"Kuromatsu Seto — 1967 - 2020."


So Kuromatsu's dead... Not too surprising.

You mean...?

Seems like there are graves here for people who died during the attack. Kuromatsu was a good friend to me. We had a nine-year age gap, but we got along well, like we were old classmates. He gave me a job at the store he ran—it was an old candy shop he'd inherited. I had it for a few years. The pay wasn't great, but it was comfortable.

His son—Minato was his name—moved out to the country a year or two ago, well outside of Tokyo. I hope he's doing alright. Bit of a thrill-seeker, since his sense of fear doesn't work too well... hopefully he didn't charge into a dragon's mouth.

Wish I had some incense to burn. I'd pray for them all.

The Rafflesias can use Draining Pollen to inflict a damage debuff on your whole party, as well as Blinding Pollen to Blind them. Singing Frogs have a song that inflicts Sleep.

Heef heef. Heef hee


Heef heef.

That's our Satsuki!

Jeanne let out a sigh.

(Don't worry about it.)

(I don't know how not to worry about it.)

(She'll handle it, okay?)

Damn walls. Waste my time, why don't—

Alright, guess we've gotta find another path.

Everyone, engage!!

There's a few extra varieties of Bloom Seeds as the game goes on to keep their rewards relevant. We've upgraded to DX now.

Nice work!

You ever think about how Chisa has a move that's weirdly good at killing those things? What's up with that, Cap?

...I... don't know. I would think it's a coincidence.

For the record, this is around back of the first row of graves.

"Masayuki Mochida — 1935 - 2020".
"Kikuko Mochida — 1933 - 2017."

So, Mochida-sensei finally got to go meet up with his wife again...

Mochida-sensei was one of the teachers at my middle school. He was old, sure, but not an unlikeable guy. As a child, he lost his father and sister in the Nagasaki bombing, and it left him sensitive to death. As such, he'd always have some talking point about how fighting wasn't the way to peace. Strict on discipline. He taught my daughter, too, and meeting him again after all that time... he hadn't changed. He didn't look away from me, either—"Fudoji-chan, you'll always be a kid to me, but I know you're stronger than most other girls your age. But, you need to learn to ask for help. If you ever need assistance, come to us. I'll never turn away a student."

...After his wife died in 2017, though, Sensei lost something. I knew he was always looking into the distance, waiting for the day he'd go to meet her. They met in the late 50s, and had never been split apart in the time since.

...I always wore a ring when I spoke to him. I didn't want to admit to him... that I was a little jealous.

Ah, here we go!

Ready for some revenge, girls?


Thirsting for it.

All three enemies we've met thus far have been weak to Fire, btw.

Very nice.

Mama's a little drunk again

'mm fiiiine. God, you kids're such worrywarts.

There's a two-way split in the path here. Which way should we go?

I'm deciding this way totally arbitrarily!

"Shiori Saeki — 2003 - 2020."


Saeki... I knew her family. Shiori was an up-and-coming pop star—she hadn't made it big yet, but listening to her music I knew she had a shot. Her parents loved her to death—they'd never shut up about her. They'd tell her to stop talking to me, but I think she just wanted to do it anyway—talking to me made her feel rebellious and independent.

I guess the parents outlived her... shame.

Hoo. Okay. I think I'm finally used to the smell.

I don't get what the big deal is.


This dragon almost looked like it was imitating Youka, with its rippling muscles, knuckles... this, too, had the body of a killing machine.

Meet our Bloom wall Dragon for the dungeon, Destroyer Dragons. These guys have some pretty serious bulk on them, and can be serious threats for reasons we'll see shortly.

Youka, ready to catch it?

Who do you think I am?

Oh, dear. She's been petrified!

Muscle Eye can inflict Stop, which also does exactly what you think it does. It's also not a contact move, unsurprisingly. Chisa got her attack for the turn off before getting Stopped, but Stop will cancel actions that haven't gone out this turn as well as prevent action until it wears off—a slow character getting Stopped can be a real bummer.

The only parts of my body I could move were my eyes, so I was able to see the dragon's colossal arm come in for a huge strike, its knuckles striking Youka across the face as its fist struck her body. wasn't really a shock to see her come right back with a mirrored hook, making the mask on the dragon's head rattle.

Can you move again?

—hooooooooo it was not pleasant not being able to breathe!


Youka, watch out! It's readying an attack!

I... I really don't know how else to describe this one. The dragon leapt into the air to deliver a flying dropkick to Youka, barrelling its entire weight into her.

Try coming back in about ten years, kid!

And she survived, and after being staggered back without losing her footing, leapt forward like an angered ape to deliver several crushing blows to the dragon's chest. I don't know how much that dragon weighed, but I know it couldn't have possibly been pleasant.

Anyone petrified?

No issues here.

I'm still raring to go!

Break it down, Youka!

The fist came in...

...and, wreathed in flame, Youka grabbed it by the knuckle, lifted the dragon, and tossed it behind her back, loudly shattering its spine under its own weight as it crashed to the floor.

Youka, I really just can't recommend these sorts of situations. You're clearly injured—

I'm happy to help, Richter. What am I here for if not to divert attention?

Well, I understand that. Your superhuman endurance is frankly rather frightening. I just worry you might retain more permanent injury if you continue taking the brunt of the punishment—


I'm fine. You really don't need to worry unless I'm laid out on the floor. Koron did plenty there.

Yes, thank you, Koron. I know you'd probably rather be hurling fireballs.

I won't deny that, but charging ahead on full offense against such a powerful foe would be ridiculous.

Besides, having Youka hurl my fire is really just as good in its own way.



Oh, it's just... actually, Koron, do you want to know what your initial personality evaluation on admission to Murakumo read?


'Unpleasant, standoffish personality. Likely to be ideal for individual missions, but doubtful whether she can work well in a team environment.'

Wait, you wrote that about Nagataka-senpai?!

I—look, be quiet! Ms. Hikasa writes most of those, alright? I just take them down and add the occasional comment of my own!

man she has no idea

To be fair, my initial impression of Koron told me something similar, but...

If we were to evaluate it now, I imagine Koron would get the highest marks of any of us for coordinating with her allies.

All of you quit verbally fellating me and get back to work.

The light of the moon above didn't stretch down to the roads below, even on a long stretch of bridge like this. It was as though we all hung above a bottomless pit, and falling would send us to Hell itself.


Is that a soldier?

He was certainly a genuine soldier, but his eyes were distant and a bit glassy.

We are... We weren't expecting any SDF. The mission outline had us coming in largely on our lonesome.

Vacant Soldier: Well, I'm relieved to see you... My friends and I—they're over here—got sent in advance. Let's go meet them... yeah, they're right over here, I'll lead you there.

Huh? SDF forces sent in advance...? I didn't receive any data about that... wouldn't the president have told us?


I'm suspicious, too, but it's not like we have any other choice. That's the right direction, isn't it?

Yes, it is... please be careful.

I had always wondered about the concept of 'eternal night'. After all, day and night were functions of the Earth's rotation around the Sun. How these brilliant stars remained stock-still in the sky above us, I didn't know—it was as though Yotsuya had been ripped out of the Earth and made to float in place in the vastness of space, always looking up at the same vision of starlight. Or perhaps, those weren't stars at all... but something I couldn't yet understand.

Feeling nostalgic?

Not quite. Just thinking what a poor shade this is for the sky.

The stars have been gorgeous these days, without all the light pollution. Maybe, once the sky goes back to normal, we can all come here and look at the stars together. I know a few great places for stargazing.

That sounds lovely.


You look like you're falling asleep on your feet, sir.

Fading Soldier: Maybe, haha...

Hey, Tatsuji.

Tatsuji: Miss Fudoji... Do you know where to go to get out of here?

I have a magic box for just that purpose.

This is Tatsuji. He's the best boiler guy in town.

Tatsuji: That's pretty flattering.

"Chihiro Uno - 1940 - 2020".
"Yoshio Uno - 1975 - 2020".
"Tsukuyo Uno - 1979 - 2020".
"Yuzuru Uno - 2003 - 2020".
"Kotori Uno - 2007 - 2020".

The sight of such a full family headstone was enough for every last one of us to stop for a moment of silence.

...Goodbye, Uno-senpai.

So, the deployment was over past those gravestones, right?

By the look of things, it seems we'll have to take the long way around.

...Um, sir, this seems like it would be the quickest route to—

He pointed over to the other way off of this building, then said no more.

...Why does his face look so scarily pale? Is my monitor coloration off...?

...Yes, we are. So, where do we...?

Eerie Soldier: Oh, it's... just past here.

...Sure. Alright.

Nope. I don't like this. This isn't making sense. This is a Bad Zone.

I've completed the initial analysis—I think I can restore your map. Jeanne, I'm sending over the cleaned data.

Right, of course.

I doubt I need to say this, but there was no land below us that wasn't covered in the fog. It was not a short drop.



Limpid Soldier: Well? Why are you hesitating? I thought Unit 13 was braver than this.

Data link established! Detecting map data and enabling—I-I, I can't locate a signature from Unit 13 anywhere in the area! What's going on?! And what on earth are these SDF troops?!

Vacant Soldier: Well? Well? Hurry up and jump, Unit 13.

It was a bad trick to begin with, but you should've worn some cologne. Then, maybe the smell wouldn't have been so awful.

These soldiers—they reeked of rotting flesh.

Zombies. Am I allowed to say that word? If we've banned the word 'ghost', I don't know if you want a blanket ban on all undead—

Please just help us put them back in the ground.

Right, right.

The zombies moved with an unnatural gait, as though they were marionettes controlled by strings. They didn't even fire their guns, choosing instead to strike with them.

...that isn't to say that seeing Youka strike a human body so hard that its chest caved in and its guts spilled out onto the floor as it collapsed wasn't frightening, though.

The remaining zombie's body parts began to stitch themselves back together, and I clicked my tongue.

They can regenerate! We need to be prompt about this!

Tah! Return to the underworld from whence you came!

We're fine. That wasn't particularly taxing.

They did look like SDF at first glance, but... er, Jeanne, are you detecting Dragons?

...None nearby.

...No way. So those people on the road really were the walking dead? It's hard to believe, but if anything could, an Imperial Dragon could—

I think this was the first time I'd ever heard Jeanne mad.

Jeanne, be reasonable. A zombie is a zombie.

No, you be reasonable! People rising from the dead... Do you believe that just because of the lack of infrared response? I've never seen readings that would indicate something so ridiculous!

jeanne those guys' flesh were literally rotting i could smell it from here.

Gangrene is a serious condition!

T-the data may be questionable, but those zombies really were the real deal—

Un-be-lievable! Everyone, please don't give into the gloom and start saying crazy stuff. Please return to the entrance, and let's proceed, this time with our eyes on the map! Let's focus on collecting data!

...I guess Jeanne doesn't do well with horror movies.

As we left, though, I saw there was a gravestone to the side, that I couldn't see the inscription on from the other end of this plot. Youka had cast it a glance during the battle.

"Kosuke Fudoji — 1956 - 2020."
"Otome Fudoji — 1955 - 2018."
"Youka Fudoji — 1976 - 1993."


Next time,

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