Everyone leapt up from behind the tables at once as the lights flew on, and several streamers, as well as a modest cake, were illuminated into vision. "Happy birthday!" everyone present—except Natsume, who was in here attempting to do a bit of work and was not much for celebration—called out. Satsuki, Reimi, Sharon, and Mr. Nagataka all blew some party horns, and no doubt, twenty years' worth of confetti wound up landing on Koron's cape.
After a moment to spit a piece of confetti out of her mouth, Koron said, "You know, I'd been wondering why you were all hiding behind the tables—"
"Happy birthday, honey!" Mrs. Nagataka was the first to move over and tackle her daughter for a hug. "Turning twenty in twenty-twenty! Not everyone gets the privilege, you know." Koron gritted her teeth and clicked her tongue.
"—but this," Koron grumbled, attempting to wriggle free of her mother's arms and levying a glare at Satsuki, who was clearly in position to chain another hug into the combo afterwards, to attempt to cow her, "this is ridiculous. What are you doing? Surely there are more important things to worry about."
"See, that's what I said," said Keima, who still had pieces of dried cake batter in his hair. "I told them, 'hey, I bet she'd appreciate a new weapon better'!"
Reimi lightly tapped Keima on the forehead and laughed at him. "Well, Keima, that's why you'll never understand a girl's heart~"
"I'll eat the cake, mind you," Koron grumbled, taking a chair in front of it, "but this really was a waste of time. I'd expect this from some of you," and then she looked up at me and Richter, who had gravitated into the 'less talkative' crowd, "but surely you must have considered what a waste of time this is."
I shook my head. "Of course not, Koron. I think it's worth celebrating your birthday."
"Yeah," said Mio, who sidled up behind me, putting her hands on my shoulders, "she wants to live vicariously through you since she missed her own birthday—"
"I do not!" I sputtered.
Amidst a whirlwind of positivity, one lone grumpy woman sat, slowly munching on a cake that was baked for her. "C'monnnn," Satsuki said, sitting next to her, putting her arm around her, "what's the problem?"
"There's nothing to celebrate," Koron said. "Who cares if I've turned twenty? You should be celebrating if I turn twenty-one, instead. That would be worthy of celebration."
"'If'?" Mr. Nagataka chimed in. "You make it sound like you won't, sweetie!" Koron grunted, and rolled her eyes.
—Well, she was right, of course. There was no guarantee any of us would live to see 2021. It made sense to me—Koron was a realist above anything else, really. And yet... I didn't understand why Koron would feel so strongly, yet. I didn't fully understand the strength of her character... how much stronger she was than me.
Part 25: the quiet rooms
We had gone to sleep the night before, having performed routine duties and with no new pressing matters to attend to. I'm sure everyone in the building expected that the next day would be much the same, as City Hall had settled into its normal.
There was always a bit of noise around City Hall—the walls weren't completely soundproofed, and with so many people, you were bound to hear at least a few things during the day.
...On that day, there was nothing. The silence was so deafening that it made me realize that I had forgotten what utter silence even sounded like. When was the last time I had heard it, I wondered?
Then there was a noise—one I expected to hear. When Mio slept on her back, which she did not often do unless she had collapsed from a hard night's work, she would often wake up with a loud snore.
Cock-a-cock-a-doodle-doo, chant this charm you'll feel so good, cock-a-cock-a-doodle...doo... charm'll make... y'dreams come true.
Oh good, you are here.
Should I... *snore* should I not be?
You should get dressed. Something strange is going on.
Operatives of Murakumo awoke to the same silence I did. A member of the Work Team, I was told, came to find that her coworkers were simply not there.
It permeated the walls, making the sunrise feel more ominous than calming.
...Nothing. The man who always greeted me upon leaving my room—even he wasn't there, and I knew from experience that that man did not sleep in. He hadn't learned the meaning of the phrase.
Is it quiet in here?
Evidently, even whoever guarded the fourth floor from civilians entering into the workplace of active Murakumo members was mysteriously off-duty. I knelt down beside him and put my hand on his shoulder.
There, there. What's wrong? Do you need someone to help?
Crying Boy: When I woke up, my mom and dad were gone...
Crying Boy: Where is everybody?! Dad! Mom!
Well, we are.
Morning. This is Fudoji. I'm checking the outer premises right now.
Satsuki insisted on inspecting the elevator shafts, so I'm currently assisting.
I'm standing right behind you, sir.
Oh! Oh my god!
Oh. Oh thank god you're all okay. I, um... Well, nobody expected a situation like... Chisa, Mio, what's the situation on your floor?
It's very quiet.
That's, uh, thank you, I... Sorry for the sudden call, I'm a mess right now. You see, ah, the truth is—
That would explain it, yes!
We're still taking count, but, ah...
If whatever happened vanished that old crone, it's probably something pretty serious.
We don't know how it happened yet... even the SDF troops on guard last night have no recollection of the incident. There's a possibility it was the Dragons—we're gathering evidence right now.
Wait, that's still today?!
Unfortunately, the Americans couldn't know about the situation here. It is very poorly timed.
Please join me when you have a moment—ah, but first please find Dr. Akaneno.
What's wrong with Mom?
We're not certain if it's related, but she received a blow to the head last night in the lab. She might be suffering from a concussion, and she needs rest.
By the good name of Earl Hargreaves, Mother!!
We found her staggering around near the vending machines on the very same floor, thankfully enough.
Fuckin yeedle deedle, told you once I've told you a thousand times.
...She evidently hadn't let herself be cared for, as her head was a bit bloody from the impact still.
Oh hey girls, what's happening?
You're bleeding from the head!
She patted at her wound, and I involuntarily scrunched up my face.
Mother, you interminable nitwit! Why are you even standing? Mean you to give me a hernia?!
Well I'm tryyyyingggg to fuckin, woozle my doozles! My doozles are all woozled!
My doozles are woozled! And there's a thing that's on the tippy-tip of my brain, and it's—it's—it's—and there's a thing that's on the tippy-tip of my brain and walking around makes my brain go tap!
...Oh, no. She's hung over, too? How long did you two spend drinking last night?
Mom got into the elevator, and we were incapable of stopping her from hitting the button for Miku's floor.
Ow ow ow ow the fuck is that light? Shit!
Blasted hate orb! Fffff. Eat! I'll eat you! With my mouth!
FUNNY ROBOT GIRL have you seen Nacchan?
Sorry. She's... not at her best. Do you know... anything about what happened, Miku?
Thank you, Miku. We'll take that into consideration.
Residential B was nearly empty. Several of the people who'd been there just yesterday... simply gone.
...I'll admit seeing Mrs. Nagataka still up and about at the flea market was a relief, though.
Mrs. Nagataka: Oh, hey, Chisa, Mio! Up early! Investigating?
And attempting to keep our mother from killing herself.
What kind of girl do you think I am, daughter? Some kinda... uh...
That thought trailed off and was never concluded.
Mrs. Nagataka: We're still taking roll call over here. Should I give the form to Kirino as usual?
Yes, please, but in a bit, we have a meeting with the Americans.
And Residential A...
MANIC Manager: Whoa whoa, this is freaking nuts, right?! Seriously friggin' nuts! Totally kickin' gruesome! Wicked, ain't it? Freaking wicked!!! And that's a gnarly head wound!
Wound? Are you girls hurt?
No, mother, it's just the northern lights.
I fuckin' hate those things! Stupid, making my eyes hurt! Pieces of garbage! I'll invent Light 2! Then they'll see!
OOH! OOH! Call for Homura! Call for Homura!
Old Softy: ...Homura?
HEWWO MISTEW. I AM HEWE. HEWWO. UWU.
And then she started gravitating toward the Laboratory...
Calm Scientist: Dr. Akaneno. Up and about already, I see.
Yeah, I'm just up, uh,
Looking for Nacchan! That was it. Whassup.
Have you found anything?
Calm Scientist: Estimated time of disappearance is from midnight last night to this morning.
...Huh. That sounds... familiar.
But that's just a theory.
A SCIENCE THEORYYYY
Ow! Who bled on me!
Not particularly, but—
Hey hey hey hey hey hey hey hey tell them the stuff!
Mad Scientist: Oh, I'm always happy to share! Did you know that even touching the Bloom can deleteriously affect humans?
Mad Scientist: You see, Captain Inomiko, from the readings we've taken, it appears you're unaffected due to antibodies you generated during your month-long coma.
Mad Scientist: Miss Kazuki and Miss Fudoji also developed similar antibodies during their time stranded in the outside. For the time being, we in City Hall have also developed a level of defense—most of us, anyhow. The more immunocompromised among us have been slower to develop it.
Wait, so some people have been experiencing chronic fatigue and headaches this entire time?
It took me a few weeks to get past it.
Mad Scientist: Yes, approximately twenty-five people in City Hall still lack sufficient antibodies to defend against the Bloom's toxicity. Or, well, however many of them are still around, you understand, haha!
Mom got a desperate look on her face on the fifth floor.
Nacchan. Nacchan where are you. NACCHAN. Come out come out wherever you are!
The Navigators were harder at work than I'd ever seen them, and hardly even responded when we walked in.
Mass hypnosis? What the hell happened?! They're just gone without a trace.
Widen the search radius! We can't lose the trail!
I thought it pertinent to not interrupt them.
Over in Aoi's room...
You and me both. I—
The hell happened to her?
HIIIII FUDOJIIIIII HEEEEEY
She's doing her best to make me have a heart attack and she won't sit down!
Tanaka and Haru are among the missing. So's Mr. Omori from the entrance.
Do you mind coming with me to see Sharon?
No, not at all.
Even Sharon's ambient noise couldn't make the entrance less quiet.
Yabai! Homura-sensei's head is freakin' YABAI!
Now you listen here you ratfink I have a QUEST for you and it is FIND MY FRIEND WHERE IS SHE.
Ya gotta seishiki-shake it, Sensei! And kyouday's quests are for my kyoudai in Unit 13!
Well, we might as well see what's up so we have something to do later.
The commander is majorly kawaii! She was all nervous making the re-quest, ya hear? "Taihen! Dai pinch!" And she was talking all, yaddayaddayadda, too fast for Sharon-san to wakaran! Something about her own commander, ne? Gomen, ne? Go ask her about it!
I'm glad Major Dojima is up on her feet again.
She's a fighter, that one.
Another request from the SDF. Their transport vehicle's gone MIA?
Hai hai! If it is, that's double plus un-good for us, ne? The SDF Barracks are ground zero for the search! Ikugo!
Waaahaahahahaaaa where's my friend
Prime Minister Inazuka: M-my assistant! Where's my assistant?
Secretary Makabe: This is... Where did you go, Representative Hatano?!
Isn't it time for the meeting.
Secretary Makabe: We needed a moment... is Dr. Akaneno alright?
It had been a bit more than five minutes, but nothing could be done about that. Koron and Satsuki were the last to arrive, and arrived just as I'd managed to wrangle Mom into letting me bandage her head wound.
Thanks for checking, anyway.
It's fine. Have the Americans gotten on the line yet?
Secretary Makabe: I'm putting us on the line... now.
It's good to see you all safe. I'd like to start with the good news.
If we can defeat the final Dragon here, we can turn our attention to aiding you.
That got a reaction out of most everyone present. Myself included.
Prime Minister Inazuka: Oh!!
But enough of that. How are things faring over there? Is Ms. Hikasa unwell?
No, we're just having a bit of trouble over here. I'll be stepping in and reporting in her absence.
Very well, then. We'll discuss that after your report.
Right now, Murakumo and the SDF have defeated three Imperial Dragons. However, given the... overwhelming disparity in force, the situation remains precarious.
Naturally. But, well, do what you can with what you have.
Here in the US, it's held true, and in our discussions with the EU, they've confirmed seven Dragons. Given that, I'd expect there to still be four more in Tokyo.
Still four more?
Don't be so pessimistic. You've managed three—you can handle four more. Assuming you're able to defeat the last, we'll send you aid immediately. Until then, you'll have to hold on with your present strength, as will we.
I see. ...Good luck out there.
Our anti-Dragon research chief, Emille, had some questions for you. Go ahead, Emille.
It was that blonde woman again. I saw her eyes dart toward me once more.
Don't give excuses. Why isn't Natsume here?
Well, uh...mm. At, uh, dawn today, about half of our civilians and military disappeared from City Hall. Ms. Hikasa was among them. That's all we know, and we're currently investigating.
...Could it be the effect of a Dragon, or... No, we can't rule out any other possibilities without investigating.
Huh? Data access?
Yeah, yeah. To that, uh. That, uh, database.
...Who are you, exactly?
Me? I'm Homura Akaneno. Hi. Hi! You know, Nacchan's secret mystery database, that she has!
...Ah. I didn't recognize you with the bandages on your head.
Ms. Hikasa had a 'secret mystery database'?
Actually, wait. What gives you the right to be belligerent about our affairs when you're not going to explain yourself? Is there intelligence you could share about the Dragons? 'Emille', you said your name was, yes? If you have access to the database yourself, then you could always just have someone else get into it for you. Presumably you have credentials.
I could swear I saw the woman Emille grinding her teeth inside her closed mouth.
Apologies, Mr. President. I'm sure I have an idea, but you would be?
Captain Chisa Inomiko of Murakumo Unit 13, ma'am. I'm the one who leads the unit that actually fights the Imperial Dragons.
And a successful unit I'm sure it is. Unfortunately, I'm under no obligation to explain myself to you, especially seeing as how I don't believe any of that information would do well in your hands, Captain Inomiko. So why don't you get back to swinging your sword like the mindless beast you are? I find it would suit you better than playing at the politics of men.
There was a pause as everyone, up to and including President Muller, digested this exchange.
Have. Have I done something to—
President Muller cleared his throat very loudly.
Our, our current goal is defeating the remaining Imperial Dragon, so once we succeed we'll be in touch. We'll be praying for you.
The communication was hastily cut.
The hell was her problem?
Prime Minister Inazuka: Kirino... what's going to happen to this nation? Half the people gone from City Hall, including our leader, Natsume. No matter how smooth a talker their President is, there's no guarantee they'll help us. What are we meant to do?
We'll defend the people as we always have, sir.
Prime Minister Inazuka: Again, the burden is on you and yours, Captain Inomiko... It breaks my heart to place it on one so young, but you've grown into a true champion of Japan. Our nation's fate rests with you.
Moving to the matters at hand... Unit 13, are you all ready to sortie?
Whoa, paydirt! Guess we're gonna be busy today, eh, Cap?
Kokubunji... the Scaber's been preventing our access to the city through the subways.
Funny that a wandering reading appears just as so many of us disappear.
So, everyone going missing is somehow connected to these two Dragons?
I think it's highly probable, but for the moment, we'll have our hands full just dealing with them ourselves.
Kokubunji's a fair ways off.
That's why I'd like to have Unit 13 scout that area.
Private Makita: But how're they gonna get there? Even with all five of them, there's too many Dragons topside, and underground there's that... thing. Maybe if we illuminate the tunnels, if it is really scared of the light...
The Scaber's a puzzler. We haven't seen any activity from it lately, and I don't want to wake it up, but I'm afraid we'll have to risk the lights. Richter, do you have those plans drafted up?
Yes, sir. Everyone, we'll need to construct a Power Room, as our electricity situation has deteriorated with the additions to City Hall. For that, Captain, we'll need to assist Miya in its construction before heading to Kokubunji.
Right, got it.
Aoi?! I—do you hear yourself? Unit 13 won't be there this time! Do you know how dangerous that is?
Ugh, you already sound just like Ms. Hikasa. I'm a member of Murakumo, too! We can't just leave it all to Unit 13—we have to help them!
It took a moment before Kirino responded.
...You're right. We have been relying too much on all of you. Alright. Aoi and I will head to investigate that signal.
You too, sir?
Someone needs to handle the technical aspects.
So you want the SDF to stay behind?
I'm asking you to please be the last line of defense for the people, no matter what.
That's fine. We've all recovered from Ikebukuro.
Private Makita: Defense is what we were trained for. Leave it to us!
Alright. If everyone understands their roles, then... Unit 13, we're counting on you out there!
We won't let you down!
That was when Satsuki finally managed to get a sedative into Mom, getting her to fall down and no longer endanger herself.
Oh thank god.
She's definitely a bit less... coherent than usual.
...It looks like there are pieces of glass in her wound? She might've been struck by something—probably a wine bottle, if I had to guess. I'll have the people at the Clinic do more.
I'm sure Yuki and Nami will be able to give us what we need.
But... who would've attacked Dr. Akaneno like this?
Where'd they find her?
In the Lab, I think?
We can hunt for the culprit once we've taken care of the dragon in Kokubunji.
Chin up, Satsuki. I'm sure they'll find them. Kirino and Aoi are good kids.
i think kirino is older than me
I'm forty-four still. I'm allowed to call all of you 'kids'.
I got some requests from the SDF that seem rather conveniently timed. While we're working on construction, I'd say we should help them to ensure that we have our defenders in top shape, right?
A reasonable thought.
That'll light up the subway, alright... We'll probably need some of the big cables from the underground junction... well, as long as we've got access, we'll be able to build it just fine. The sample you got from the Jigowatt works great as an electromagnetic power source—we just need a burly body to hold it in.
And that's my cue! Nobody knows the organization of materials at City Hall better than yours truly.
Sorry to make you work at a time like this, sweetie.
Oh ho ho, how you underestimate me, darling. Menial labor and repetitive work is only the best way for the Dark Queen Mio to keep her feelings down! Why, building this 'power room' you desire would be ideal to suffuse myself with dark energies as well.
You're a strong girl, Mio.
A lot of people would break under this kind of pressure. You're a strong woman.
Ahhh buh buh b-buh, I mean,
Aw, come on! You guys are the strong ones, here!
I mean, I'm not out there fighting dragons, all I do is move stuff—
Please take the compliment. It's true.
Why, if I'd had to deal with Chisa as a partner for nine years I'd likely have snapped a long time ago.
Okay, that one's a bit much.
What? I mean, I didn't mean it rudely, it's just true. I'd say the same thing about myself, really! I mean, imagine being my partner.
I'm gonna get to work and let Koron take this L, okay? Okay.
I mean, you're not wrong, I mean—
I'm sorry, okay? I—
No, no, I—I mean, I'm a bit of a basket case, I know, I. I have serious mental issues and all.
If you've never been in a relationship yourself, I think it's a bit improper of you to be commenting on how these two relate to and support each other like that.
I know, bold words coming from a spinster and all, but Mio's attachment to Chisa isn't the kind of attachment where her, uh, her foibles are giving Mio the exact kind of stress you're imagining.
Did I use that word right?
Yes, Miss Fudoji.
Mio's a strong girl, and it's thanks to Chisa that she can stay strong. Other way around, too.
'Sympathy is in community', hm? The reason these two are a unit is because there are parts of each other that only the other can understand. My perception of Chisa is fundamentally different from Mio's in a manner that gives me a poor perspective on the matter.
I'm sorry. I've...
Table that thought?
Hello, Private. We've heard there was an issue?
Private Tonami: I'm really grateful, but... having people in your position help me with my responsibilities feels really selfish.
Bro, we wanna help. C'mooooon.
Private Tonami: ...Fine, but I'll have to pay you back later.
Oh that's easy, just let me hold one of your guns
Private Tonami: ...I'll... consider it.
Private Tonami: Of course, the goods on board are important, but I'm more worried about the people... I know 'em all from way back. Ever since the disappearance this morning, they haven't been able to sit still, and I... let them overwork themselves like this. Please, you've gotta help me look for them!
We owe a lot to the SDF, the situation itself besides. We'd be happy to help, Private.
Private Tonami: Thanks... The truck was last seen on the Shuto Expressway, heading toward City Hall, so I'd start looking there. I'm counting on you to find my friends!
There will be no more deaths in the SDF on my watch.
Glad to see you're back in the conversations, Satsuki.
Oh I was just imagining it.
Huh? You need something, Chisa?
To assist you with your request.
My reque—You took it?
You'll have to forgive her. She's a chronic do-gooder.
Well, I know that. Ugh, what'll the troops think... No, no, we are working together on this. Doesn't make sense to keep it.
Tachibana passed away on the day of the attacks in a different location. At the time, there was chaos everywhere—we weren't able to find his body. Using his personal effects now, though, we could probably ID him.
Well, if there's anywhere with a bunch of SDF corpses it'd likely be in Yotsuya. She was a greedy one, the Imperial there.
You were still recuperating during that operation, Major. The Imperial Dragon in Yotsuya animated several SDF corpses as zombies to attack us all. If the SDF corpses have aggregated there, it's likely that Mr. Tachibana was among them.
Yeah, I know. It's crazy. Completely insane.
You've gotta be kidding me... Fine. Unit 13, I'm asking you to find Tachibana's zombie. I'm... uncertain that I could retain my composure in that position. He was a colonel, so the commander will be wearing a six-pointed star. You wouldn't know him by his face, but the insignia and the medals'll prove it. I'm counting on you.
Of course, Major.
I don't know whether it's something about me or just a matter of how things have managed, but frankly, Chisa, you and Mio are the first friends I've ever had who were actually in a relationship. Even my parents divorced when I was rather young—I don't know what a relationship is meant to look like. I can see how the two of you might find comfort in each others' presence, of course, but I've never had reason to consider it.
I don't mean to be rude when I say it, Chisa, but you don't exactly have the healthiest mental state in many senses.
Oh no, it's true. Absolutely.
But I mean it when I say that I would say that about myself. I suppose sometimes I forget that you're not as hardened to your own flaws as I am—it comes with the territory.
I don't think you give yourself enough credit. I think you're much kinder and more considerate than you think.
Koron paused for a moment to mull that over, and popped out one of her eyes to polish it. I think it was a nervous tic.
...Was it kindness, or consideration, really? Would they... welcome me with open arms?
Shit, I said that out loud.
Here, I'll table that thought for you.
A colossal golem of trash, like we'd found in Ikebukuro, was menacing the soldiers.
Sergeant Ochi: Just glad we're in one piece... I'll guard this stuff with my life!
Private Irie: Y-yeah!
No need for that today, dawgs. Outta the way!
Sergeant Ochi: R-right! We'll take refuge—we'd only get in your way!
It looks like it's gathering energy, Chisa! We'd best be careful!
The Garbage Golem's Earthquake hits everyone twice. It does a lot of damage. Here, you can see me bungling directly into it like a dork. Don't be me.
Of course. Satsuki, watch out!
I forgot to watch out
Idiot. You really need to watch out more.
OWWWWWWWWW OW OW OW
OW OW OW
I kind of forgot just how much of a gonard I was on this fight. Richter activated Airsoft Training twice in a row after that one, and it went down, but man, this thing was out for blood.
Private Irie: Unbelievable! You actually did it.
Sergeant Ochi: You really saved us, guys... but what are you doing out here?
Tonami sent us.
Sergeant Ochi: Geez, that blockhead... fretting as usual.
Private Shibata: The rig's not gonna go anywhere like this... what do we do about the cargo?
Sergeant Ochi: We can only move so much by hand... it's probably best to just send another car once we get to City Hall.
Private Irie: We're just gonna have to pray the stuff stays safe, huh...
Youka, some assistance.
You got it, boss!
Richter and Satsuki assisted us as well, but Youka really did most of the work.
Unit 13 canonically right a topped transport vehicle with, presumably, their bare hands. That's real. That's not me exaggerating in the slightest, that is dead-ass real.
No sweat, y'all.
Sergeant Ochi: Well, uh... if the engine's still intact, we're in business. Irie!
Private Irie: I'll check it at once, sir!
It was a moment's wait, then...
Private Irie: This is very, very bad... The engine won't start!
Private Shibata: Huh?! W-well, keep trying—
We could just tow it, y'know.
Private Shibata: We... we should just tow it! It's a long way to Shinjuku, sure, but...
Sergeant Ochi: Just because it's a long way, doesn't mean we can't do it. How else are we gonna get home in this shape without anyone's help?
Phew. Worked up a bit of a sweat there.
Private Irie: We... we did it. Yeah... phew...
Sergeant Ochi: Sorry we needed your help, ma'am. We might need... more training...
Sergeant Ochi: You've earned my thanks, and my deepest respect, too.
Sergeant Ochi: We've both got work to do, so hurry out!
Private Tonami: What she told me was a huge relief. Forget about the cargo... I thought I might have lost my best friends. I'm truly grateful. Take this, please.
ah, i see. memorabilia from the careers of popular opera stars. you're a more worldly man than i envisioned, tonami
Private Tonami: Still plenty of people missing... We should work as hard as we can to find as many as we can. Easier said than done, but all we can do is try our hardest.
We also get an SP Up 200.
Friends of mine, from years ago. It's been a long time since I've seen them. I had assumed that they would hold a grudge for the circumstances under which I departed.
...It's a... long story. Perhaps when we're not working.
nobody hates you, koron
Now that Lore-a-Lua is no longer present, the area with the Lost Woods gimmick is now clear. That being said, we can now obtain the last few treasures in the area.
Take the upper-left exit to get here...
...the lower-left to get here...
Lisa: Kyaah! Zombies again?!
Nope. At least, last I checked I was mostly alive.
Lisa: Whoa, Ms. Fudoji? I mean, I know it makes sense you'd live through this, but... You're sure you're not a zombie?
Hey, Satsuki, do I smell like rotting flesh?
No gangrene here, chief.
Lisa: Cool. Thanks. Um... can you get me out of here?
Friend of yours?
She was a waitress at Cocona's favorite restaurant. We were all regulars.
...and the lower-right to get here!
ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh loot. loot loot loot. maybe you can replace the holes in my heart left by people who've gone missing.
That's not very funny.
It really isn't! My sense of humor isn't working right!
What if I lose all of my defining characteristics and just become a faceless, nameless NPC?!
Hey nice belt
What if, huh?! How am I supposed to maintain my personality with all of this stress and trauma?! How do superheroes make so many quips in the face of stuff like this?!
I figured it was a defense mechanism.
Are you okay?
Actually, you know what? I'm not gonna let this get me down. Nope. The beautiful Satsuki is going to level up today.
My idiotic positivity is going to be full of beans! Why, think of how many people aren't gone! You guys aren't gone, Mio's not gone, Jeanne and Miroku aren't gone, Unit 4 aren't gone, Kirino's not gone, Rin's not gone, Dr. Akaneno's not gone, Masaki, the trash can guy, Sasaki with all the status ailments?
Really, I'm a very lucky girl.
So no matter how life may throw wrenches in my path, I'm going to continue being positive! Let's Positive Thinking, a wiser reporter than me once said.
and eventually, my conduct will be rewarded by my ascension to true catgirl-hood.
Hold up one sec
beep. beep. beep beep. beep beep.
It seems your nose is in great form today, Satsuki!
Good job, Satsuki.
please, please. hold your applause. i'm only amazing.
Jeanne, do you have a moment?
Always... individual without lifesigns, dead ahead!
Sure enough, it was the man in question, shambling toward us.
The smell of rotting flesh is a lot weaker in here these days, so I followed it.
I don't suppose we can talk you down, Colonel?
He moaned at me.
It doesn't seem like it... please, defeat him, Unit 13!
Sorry about this, Colonel!
This puts a bad taste in my mouth, but nothing for it.
You stay back, Mama Fudoji. I think you'd break his stuff.
Oh, for sure.
Ooh he's a sturdy one.
We should expect him to heavily retaliate, considering his position.
Only a moment after I said that, Colonel Tachibana blew himself onto the ground with a hail of bullets that grazed uncomfortably close to important points on each of our bodies.
Tch! Satsuki, how many bullets does he have left?
After that, no way he doesn't have to reload—we've got a bit!
Their physical capabilities aren't great. Richter, keep us afloat—Satsuki, with me!
Chisa and Satsuki both Exhaust up, and...
My blade shall guide you/o noble-souled warrior/to heaven above!
Captain, you should be able to stay up!
But barely's all we need!
Nice shot, Satsuki!
It should be...
Ah, yes. This one?
I've got a question, Jeanne.
I'm pretty sure I killed the Dragon making the zombies rise, right?
So how did—?
TALKING ABOUT THIS!!!!!!
I-I agree! We aren't! This isn't a conversation!
HAHA! SHE'S SO RIGHT. LET'S GO NOW.
Yeah—this is it! It's the commander's—in Yotsuya, huh...
Rin's face twisted for a moment, but she let it go.
Better not to think about it. I'm glad you could set him free, at least. Thanks.
Not that I did much, but there should really only be one Ghost of Yotsuya, if you ask me.
Oh, your opinion on the matter was made very clear.
...What, like that old folk tale?
Ah, right. I'd forgotten for a bit there. I guess I'll have to ask Oiwa-san her forgiveness for having obtained the title myself.
What the hell are you talking about?
It's... a long story. We'll tell you after the operation.
...but I was really only looking for him for my own regrets. Making mistakes, overextending myself... and I can't talk to him about any of it? It pisses me off how much time and effort I wasted being a mess—even blowing my stack at Murakumo when I know you five are just doing your best out there.
...So, your grudge against Murakumo...
I'm not exactly the most mature woman out there. Your boss, she just left us SDF to die out there on the day of the attack, sitting pretty in here with a cup of coffee and telling us it was justified. I looked up to Colonel Tachibana, and when he died and I was put in charge... I couldn't see you guys as anything but a bunch of cowards, and I lashed out. But now, I'm determined—I'm the major here, and I'm going to suck it up and be an adult, and work together with all of you to fight the Dragons.
Rin made a spitting sound.
God, this is embarrassing to talk about.
Thank you for talking to us, Major Dojima. I'm... very glad to have such a steadfast ally.
Just call me 'Rin'. We've known each other for months, and you and I—we both got thrust into a position we didn't want that day, right? We're peers. You just did better at your first field test than I did, that's all. Good luck out there, Chisa. I'll submit the report—you get out there and show that Dragon what for, got it?
...Right! Of course, Rin! From now on, let's give it our all!
My thoughts exactly!
Completing this quest gets us two SP Up 300s and another Survival Belt. We'll be swimmin' in 'em, babes! Soon, we too will be able to walk the streets of Tetsuya Nomura's Shibuya...
Belts are actually super uncommon in TWEWY. From the quick checking I did for this bit, the only belts I could find were Higashizawa and NEO Prince. Hishima might, though it's really hard to tell.
Oh, wait, nope, Motoi does, too. These are all, like, very normal belts, though.
...My first comment in almost a year, and it's about belts. Fuck me, man.
Oh, wait, nope, Motoi does, too. These are all, like, very normal belts, though.
...My first comment in almost a year, and it's about belts. Fuck me, man.
What's the sitch, Hoss?
Very satisfactory. While you were working, we've managed to renovate the south tower's top floor.
That's a bit of an inauspicious place for a generator...
That was fast. Mr. Nagataka again?
You misunderstand, Ms. Fudoji. I just got back to my desk. For the past hours, I've been working frantically. Mio remarked that she imagined I broke the human land speed record, for context. Yes, Mr. Nagataka assisted, but I am the head of construction here.
There's a Private Yamada standing guard. He'd like to speak to you at your first convenience.
Speaking of people who need to speak to you, we've also managed to refurbish Murakumo HQ on the fifth floor. Not flashily, but the tech should be improved. Accordingly, a Mr. Masaki wants to speak with you.
Right. Thanks, Miya!
The Power Room at City Hall was the warmest room in the building, considering the heat from the servers. Considering autumn was coming, the heat from buildings had been dampened, and the sun itself had been blocked for some time, the heat was actually a bit welcoming.
Private Shinezaki: Please leave this facility's security to us.
Private Yamada: It's not much, but I wanted to give you something for your assistance.
Private Yamada: I heard you guys had been collecting them. I had this little guy in my bags for a while, and I nearly plumb forgot about him—this poor little Yukihami needed a home, I think you'll agree!
Oh, absolutely. I couldn't agree more. Thank you ever so much, sir—he'll be safe with us. You know, the family of caterpillar that—Yukihami, right?
Private Yamada: ...Oh, right! You're German, aren't you, Mr. Esslinger?
Right, right. It's 'Snomnom' in German. In English, Spanish, and French, it's just 'Snom'. In French, it's 'Frissonille'. Anyhow, the family of caterpillar that Snomnom is based off of, 'Dalceridae', is really something. The covering is actually made out of gelatin in real life, but the beauty of it is such that they're referred to popularly as 'jewel caterpillars'. Ironically though, Mottineva is in a different superfamily above, and belongs primarily to the family Saturniidae's giant silk moths, particularly the Asian-American moon moths in the Actias genus. You know—did you know that the moths within Saturniidae lack mouths when they reach adulthood? This is why Snomnom eats so much as a child—young Saturniidae eat quite a lot to make up for their inability to eat as adults! So I suppose you could call it a sort of Dalceridae saturniid, though the influence from the Arctic woolly bear moth, Gynaephora groenlandica, is also hard to deny—
He likes bugs.
Private Yamada: I can see that!
—temperatures of as low as negative seventy degrees Celsius!
Whenever you're ready, we're ready to hit the lights!
That would be a yes, sir.
Isn't that the story of this whole business.
To be fair, sir, I was in a coma for a month and then I was put in charge of the military advancement against a threat of alien dragons.
Yashima: No pressure, right?
Yeah! No pressure!
Masaki: Thanks a ton. And with that, I've got good news! Now, for Miss Satsuki...
Along with the usual packs of more effective ammo, there was an oddly-shaped set of daggers in the box Masaki produced.
Masaki: First off, your requested Bounce Gun ammo. Ideal for ricochet-ing shots from any surface you can imagine! Get used to on-the-fly trigonometry and you can shoot at most angles you can imagine!
OH THAT'S HOT
Masaki: As well as—
Yes, yes, the Venom Booster. I'm familiar. After all, I am the mother of this genius idea.
Masaki: You sound like Dr. Akaneno! Nice confidence.
Y'see, Koronyan, this blade is equipped with substances that don't poison an enemy by themselves—instead, they amplify the powers of the toxins already within their bodies. I believe I mentioned that this was on the drawing board some time ago?
Oh, you did! It's done?
Masaki: Oh it's done, baby, and ready and raring to go! Now, for you, Richter, I've once again got some extra sticks of RAM for you, as well as a practical demonstrative run of that 'A-Skill Caller' routine you came up with—pre-installed on your Gauntlet, of course. Run this, let us know how it goes, we'll workshop it.
That's lovely, sir, thank you.
Masaki: Now, ahem.
Masaki pulled out a document
Masaki: 'Operative 57-13-D, hereafter referred to as Youka Fudoji,' Blah blah blah, 'authorized to use the following techniques: the 'mach drop', the 'Bloody Quintet', the 'Bring the pain, shitheel!', the 'Fiend Shifter', and the limit on her action speed during operations has been loosened to a limit of four consecutive offensive actions within the span of ten seconds. Additionally, the development of new techniques has been allowed, so long as they do not reach or exceed the destructive force of the still-banned 'Drill Crawler' and 'Rage Bomber' techniques, or bring to fore the unrestrained retaliation of the 'Hard Target' technique.'
I'm gonna be honest here—who came up with some of those names?
Masaki: I hear tell they asked a few currently-imprisoned members of a mafia group. The Inoue clan—I understand you've had dealings with them?
Oh, right, those guys.
Masaki: Then they led Murakumo to the testimony of a woman named Botan Kaminari, who I take to understand worked at a nearby establishment to yours at the time you developed these moves?
And now I understand everything. If I see Botan again I'll have to chastise her about this whole 'coming up with names for my moves' thing. How'd you even find her?
Masaki: Well, funny you should ask—she was a candidate in the same Murakumo exam that Agent Unose was. We've been seeing about getting her applied.
Friend of yours?
We'd go out drinking after work a lot—she worked at a club right near the brothel. Real loud woman, had a laugh like a hyena—but hey, I can't deny it's good to be proud of yourself in our lines of work.
So she's a bartender?
She's a stripper, Chisa.
Oh! Oh. Duh. Sorry.
Murakumo hopefuls really come from just about every walk of life, don't they?
Masaki: Aaaaanyway, and for the little lady heeeere... We were delivered an anonymous note with a few marked-out plans for threading some little fabric into your little friend's clothes. Obviously we were pretty suspicious, but we got a little deliveryman too.
Masaki pulled out of the box... what looked like a plush polar bear, white with beady, black eyes. I couldn't really tell you why, but it looked a bit... sassy.
Masaki: Anyway, we tested out the science, and it's solid. We were originally thinking about giving you some arm-holstered gadgets like Richter for a similar purpose, but whoever came up with this plan is a genius in the field of psychokinesis. Even Dr. Akaneno was flabbergasted. Shouldn't look that different, but it should lower the strain of your temperature manipulation on your body by at least 38%. It said you'd know who sent it if I showed you the bear, too.
...It's telling the truth. You can trust this science.
Masaki: It also said to tell you—'If you're going to fight, give them at least as hard as you gave me.'
! What is that supposed to mean?! I always give it my all in every single engagement.
Masaki: If you know this person, bring it up with them, not me.
...And who found this note, if I may ask?
Masaki: Chelsea Toranosuke in Unit 11. Why?
Masaki: We've taken to calling those bursts of adrenaline things 'React' skills. I guess this is what sets you S-Classes apart from us normies, huh? Hellaciously handy—I don't know why you don't do this more often, Captain.
Masaki: Anyway, with this you should all have some access to that. Thanks for being such a lovely specimen for study, Chisa! I've got a reward for you—just turn around.
I'm not... I'm not falling for that.
Masaki: Yes, you are.
No, I'm not!
Masaki: Yes, you are.
No, I am not!
Masaki: Oh, hey, Mio.
Owwwwww ow ow ow ow ow ow ow, ow ow ow ow ow ow!
Masaki: Surprise injection, success! Looks like that's 3 for 0 for the Science Team vs. Captain Inomiko! Show us some more of that innate potential!
What do I get if I eventually take over and win the contest?
Masaki: A genuine Marvel 'No-Prize'!
Next time, we finally take care of those last four dragons in here and head on through to Kokubunji!
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