Part 80: Shadows Fore and Aft

A lot of stuff has happened, but let's all be grateful we're mad alive!

Uggghhh, fuck... where am I?

It was September 20th, the day before the equinox. Again, we'd been staggered, but this was the first time I'd gotten to experience actively waiting. Mio had been first, then me, then Richter, on the 19th. Koron had awoken early in the morning on the 20th, and here was Youka, slouching into existence again a few hours later.

!! Youka! You've regained consciousness... you're alive!


Jeanne was bawling like a baby. She's been in here the whole time waiting for all of you to wake up.

I—w-well, that's not true!


Oh, haha. C'mon, kids, don't fight over little ol' me. There's enough Mama Fudoji for everyone—

Ow, shit. My back hurts like a bastard.

I told them to put you on the couch.

Oh, you're awake for once?

Really astonishing, isn't it?

Are you really okay to stand up?

As I'll ever be. What day is it?

It's the 20th.


She's been thanking us all as we get up. Very cute of her.


Okay, so there's Chisa, Mio, Koron, Richter... Where've you got Sumie?

There was a moment of silence.

Sumie... um...

She's not up yet. She took heavier injuries than the rest of you, so she's in the Medical Ward.

Wait, what? But I was the one in front, how'd that ha—

Oh, right, that thing she did right at the end there.

Don't remind me. I'm already worried enough as it is.

Well, um... when you get a moment, please head by HQ! Everyone will be happy to see you're all awake!

Saved your bento for you, Youka!

Oh, thanks.

Without me?! Lisa, I'm hurt.

Lisa: Well, I tried to tell him we should pour it down your throat, but they told me that was 'medically unsafe'.


Youka, tha—

I'm kidding, Richter.

Hey, kiddo. You doing alright?

As best as you can, I would hope.

Nah, moping around ain't how Neko rolls! I'll pick up the work for everyone else if I gotta!

...Glad you guys are okay, though.

LE GASP?! Five outta six ain't half bad, it's go rock! Hero-tachi!

You're all awake! Oh, thank goodness.

Good morning, Shizuka.

I see Sharon hiding those requests behind her hands, so I can only imagine we have updates from you.

Let's see... first of all, Mr. Kirino finally pushed a firmware update to our terminals. They've been running at much higher efficiency, but I'm unsure if that will be particularly useful to you.

This option lets you change your characters' portraits. It's basically how you can use a Lucier portrait in a fresh playthrough. Yes, this option costs 10 Dz. It is a bit of a pain.

Res Ward D! We've got it good, hero-tachi!

It's good to see you've all made such progress while we were out of commission.

As per the usual, the floor head would like to speak to you.

And lastly for the moment, we've constructed a lounge!

The Steward wished to say hello. It's been some time now since he was able to work, after all.

Nice, nice.

Apologies, Sharon, but in this instance it may be better for us to do our rounds and report in at HQ first.

Hai hai! I'll be waiting as ever, my tomodachis!

Oh, you're here. I've been waiting.

Miya? To what do we owe the pleasure?

I wanted to check in, since it's been a minute.

So... what do you think of the Lounge?

It's incredible.

You guys did awesome!

That's good to hear.

And now, we've outfitted and retrofitted the whole of the Diet Building. Sure, there are a few floors left, but every fixture, every screw, every i-beam, everything in this building will support the people in it in extreme circumstances. We aren't taking that raid lying down, is what I'm saying. Of course, I'm on the construction team, so you'd expect me to be proud.

I'm grateful to you guys.

Much like in the first game, completing quests will make the various NPCs who aren't dead at this point huck goodies at our faces. In this case, it gives +30% EXP. Thanks, Miya!

and this too

I will admit I miss working more directly with you all, but that's my problem to worry about. Anyway, that's all. Keep up the good work.

Alright. Thank you.

Yoshida: Please let me be the one to serve you! Relax, and have a lovely time!

Man, though, this place really is nice.

Lost Woman: This place is amazing, don't you think?

Privy Man: A playground for adults. It's nice once in a while, don't you think?

Takano: Please, make yourselves at home. Everyone deserves a break sometimes.

Thanks, but it's pretty early, and they'll yell at me.

Splendid Steward: Ahaha. My thanks for restoring the Lounge. The accessory is, of course, complimentary. By all means, when battle has wearied you, come see me for a pick-me-up.

Alright. Shall we visit the D Ward?

It feels a bit wrong to visit flea markets without Sumie, but...

No-pressure Gal: Huh? Where are we? Oh, right, the new Res Ward. Sorry, I have hypotension.

Perhaps you shouldn't be here!

Glad-eyed Girl: This is a thank-you from me. I use it when I play hide-and-seek!

Glad-eyed Girl: We're refugees again, but... I get to live with nice people, so it's okay! So it's okay to run, Unit 13! Don't get hurt!

Sorry, kiddo, but that's kind of our job.

No, our job is killing Dragons. Don't lump the rest of us in with you.

Gentle Husband: A lot has happened since we took her in... A year goes by so quickly, huh?

Gentle Wife: Have you seen our child yet? Hasn't she gotten so much bigger this year? I'm sure you hardly recognized her!

That's for sure. She was one of the firstp eople I saw when I woke up last year, and it's hard to imagine she could ever frown like that anymore.

Hey, what else are we good for but facilitating such heartwarming family stories?

Boy Scout: By the way, you tired of scrounging? I've got some good stuff in today! I call this my Hot Spring Magic Set! 1000 Az sound good to you?

It's 10 things of Quality Fuel.

Boy Scout: Thanks for shopping! Have a nice dip in the Murakumo bath~

I don't trust this guy.

Girl Scout: But we can't ask you to go home emptyhanded. We're giving everyone these Iai Teachings!

...But I'm just about the only person in here that could make use of those.

What about Izumi?



Pffffft, good one, Richter.

Thank you, I'm glad I could make you all smile.

It's 10,000. As in the first game, Iai Teachings let Chisa start in Iai Stance. I buy them.

But what the hell was that laugh, Mio?

What? Don't know what you're talking about.

Timid Engineer: Umm... is Mr. Kirino alright? It's because he saved me that... his arm...

Unless something has gone very wrong within the past few hours, he's doing quite alright, thank you.


Social Engineer: Whatever happens, we'll bang this together. So you get out there and bang it out too... Bang!

Pensive Soldier: I've always been interested in Japan. Honestly, I first came here to sightsee. I thought it was a beautiful country, even with the Dragons all around us. So I decided to stay here.

With that said, let's head to a meeting.

The Diet Building theme sort of unceremoniously changes here to its lategame form.

Koron, Youka! Then everyone except Sumie is up.

Welcome back, everyone! Congratulations on a job well done on the 18th!

If only we'd been able to do the job better.

We don't have time for 'if only's.


The absence of our interim president was cleanly felt in the room, but I like to think we did an alright job making up for it.

Alright, well, I've retaken my position as president of Murakumo. Everyone, let's get to the day's work. First off, Unit 13.

It's kind of our job.

Well sure it's your job but you do it good, too.

That's for sure. I would've looked like a dope if you hadn't.

We are faced with another invasion, the Dragons once again taking many victims—including some of those close to us.

I'd like to recognize your bravery and ability in saving us from that most dire of situations. Everyone, a round of applause, please.

Ugh, fine.

It's only polite, Miss Neko! Anyhow, next on the itinerary.

"Congratulations on reclaiming your base. We, too, have suffered many casualties, but somehow, we will persevere. Dire though the state of affairs may be, let us fight together from now on as one."

A bit late, isn't he?

Seems this sudden assault caught them off guard. It's not surprising that they'd want to cooperate upon realizing what kind of threat we're truly up against.

Well, we've checked out this orichalcum, and it seems effective. We've just gotta work on purifying it.

Oh, did you get it in a finished state?

Yes, luckily. It shouldn't be a concern from here on.

Good man.

Prime Minister Inuzuka: Bit by bit, it seems we've forged our way forward.

Oh, hey, speaking of apologies.

Prime Minister Inuzuka: What? ...Oh. You mean me? Ah, for the... Yes, well, I'm very grateful to you for ensuring that my plan wasn't necessary.

Uh, ahem.

The Jigowatt... It makes sense Fomalhaut would want to revive as many as he could.

This should be the final Imperial he's capable of reconstructing, correct?

Right. He could have a go at trying to reconstruct the Scaber, but whatever Imperial has appeared underground is more than a replacement.

And, speaking of.

The harbor?

Details aren't final, but its habitat appears to be accessible by the expressways.

The heart of the nascent Imperial from the Diet Building assault, according to Marina, is essentially equivalent. So, we have five. We need three more—the two for refinement, and one to forge the sword itself.

Forging a sword out of the hearts of Imperial Dragons. The people of Earth really are something.

Well, it was Emille's idea to begin with, wasn't it?

Yes, but having the idea and putting it into practice are two different things. ...Besides, Emille was as much a person of Earth as the rest of us.

...Yeah. Quite. There's no room for error moving forward, but I'll spare you the lecture.

We'll be sending a team to each zone. Unit 13, SKY, the SDF, and... uh...

...hey, where is SECT11, anyway?

Now that you mention it, I haven't seen them around recently, either.

There's two of them loitering about in Res Ward D, but aside from them, who knows?

Can those guys seriously not even help right?

Nami: E-er, excuse me!

Yuki and Nami burst into the room, visibly out of breath.

What's wrong?

Nami: Most of SECT11 are leaving the Diet Building!

Yuki: They said—they said they were going to Ikebukuro. They looked like they were ready to die!

Are you serious?!

Oh, come on!

SECT11, on their own, in Ikebukuro?!

Change of plans! Unit 13, proceed to Ikebukuro with the SDF! Our top priority is safely extracting SECT11! I want SKY and the rest of Murakumo to secure and fortify the Diet Building! Everyone heading out gets the AB Vaccine!

Right on! You got it, boss man!

These lunatics! Alright, fine.

Off to Ikebukuro on their own. Are they insane?

What's your take on this one, Hamachi?

Hamachi: It's better up where it's wetter, I know. I can't believe they'd start trying to swim upstream like that!

I know! Crazy!

Hey, guys!

What's up?



Thanks to that bastard, we lost a lot of good people last year. I'm not letting another tragedy happen. But... is there anything we can do to stop SECT11, now that they're running amok in there?

What does Izumi think she's doing?

...She's been shut in her room without leaving since the decontamination squad disbanded. She's seemed pretty rudderless. I... don't know if it's right for us to go ask her to get right back in the fight. She's having a hell of a time.

You seriously think she's capable of that?

Look, if anyone's gonna be able to get them to listen, it'll be Shouji's sister. It has to be her, and we've gotta get her back on the field somehow.

Ugh. You want us to go talk to her?


I mean, I'm pretty good at cheering people on, but I don't know if that's gonna work on her.

Well, we just need to try before we head out. She's in the Dorms.

Hey, Sharon! I hear you have quests for us!

...Really? They've all just gone off on their own like that. Incredible.

Ne, ne, Richter-kun, no moping around! It's 'Let's working', not 'let's moping'!

An acutely cute li'l otome-chan has made a request to all us onii-chans and onee-samas. We're family, ne? "Miss Kitty seems hungry, so cat food, please!"

Huh. Cat food. Koron, you know where to get any of that?

Sumie has a brand she's fond of we can go find some of.

So who is 'Miss Kitty'? That Neko? A real neko? Who's in furs? Curiosity's gonna save this cat!

Oh what?! No!


Hey, hey, you heard this one? Kitte kudasai! It's running yabai all over the netto, this Alan Smithee suicide incident! Hiroe-chan's got the deets again!

That bastard.

There's a heckin' dangerous bakemono outbreak in Shuto! Don't think anyone's in danger, but isn't it dangerous to just leave them? Hop to it, hero-tachi!


The untapped power of the Nihonjin! Our working damashii's second to none! And now's the time to show it! Here's a request from an engineer hoping to do the same and get everyone genki! Seems like they're chisai on parts, though...

Ah, the 'make Kirino some kind of present' quest.

If you say so, ne? I'm counting on y'all! Let's working!

Alright, let's hurry.


Glad-eyed Girl: Her ears were bobbing up and down, and she said that she was hungry... I want to give her some cat food, so do you think you could help me look?

Hey, question, when you say 'big', how big are we talking?

Glad-eyed Girl: People size! Her ears were really real, and they kept flopping around, but people seemed kind of afraid of her.


Oh yeah, we know her.

(She doesn't eat cat food, does she?)

(If she and Sumie are biologically identical then no, she doesn't. Sumie only eats cat food as a joke.)

As it happens, there's a pet store over in Dogenzaka that my girlfriend and I frequent. We'll head over.

Glad-eyed Girl: Oh, yeah! My dad told me about that one!

Glad-eyed Girl: So I think it'd be great if we could use this to make friends with her, even just a little bit!

(So we're getting this cat food, right?)

(She'd probably be pretty happy about the present either way.)

Timid Engineer: Eeek! O-oh, it's you, Unit 13. Um... well, this might be good, actually. Would it be possible... for you to lend some assistance to a selfish pet project of mine?

Of course.

Timid Engineer: I-I mean, it's not for me... Excuse me, I'm sorry, I really owe you for this...

You're fine!

Timid Engineer: Well, um, you know... since... Mr. Kirino lost his arm from helping me.

Timid Engineer: I'm ashamed to admit it, but ever since then, I've been depressed, hiding in my room. But when we took back the Diet Building, even with one arm, Mr. Kirino made a vaccine, and you all, Unit 13, you saved us all by diving headfirst into the Bloom. I couldn't stand by any longer!

Timid Engineer: But can't I build the best thing I can, to repay Mr. Kirino for his kindness in saving my life? Don't I owe him that, at least?

That seems like a lovely idea. Of course we'll help.

Timid Engineer: I've almost completed the blueprint, but I have no idea how to get the last component.

We don't have any at the moment, but we're about to head out. We'll bring you some.

What's going on?

Maybe this time we can throttle the bastard.

Hiroe: After last time, Tokyo In Touch has put stronger access controls in place, and they've tightened moderation too. The situation should've calmed down with Alan Smithee's posts down, but... something happened we didn't anticipate.


Hiroe: Examining the logs, we've seen a drastic increase in postings since Fomalhaut's attack on the Diet Building. We'd hoped everyone could work toward reconstruction, but... many people still can't deal with the trauma they've experienced. If we don't do something about it, it's only a matter of time before the next incident!

We will stop this.

Hiroe: I'm counting on you guys. Here's the URL.

Hey, Marina. How's it going?

Hello. I feel happy, I think.

Have you been doing alright? No adverse effects from the process?


What she's asking is, does purifying orichalcum make you feel sick?

Mm-mm. I feel fine.

That's good.

We've got work to do, but don't worry about us. We'll be alright.

I trust you. We're 'family'. And... Sumie is, too.



Your eyes come out?

Yeah, she does that.

Alright, let me see here.

Real on the nose, ain't it?

Let's see... recent posts...

"No matter how many times I beg the doctor for deliverance from the Dragons, he refuses. I fantasize about seizing it by force."


...Are feelings like this even gonna disappear if we defeat the Dragons again?

We can only hope.

Ah, down here. Alan Smithee's entered the discussion.

"What further evidence could be required than the recurrence of a great despair, revisited upon us after a tantalizing year? We unhappy double-survivors are again locked in a prison with no walls, only jailers. Why is there a need for such suffering? I have readied a secret van, for those seeking a final refuge from past and future agonies."

Let's go! We've got jobs to do!

A trio of vaguely familiar SECT11 soldiers were in the process of being massacred by our target.

Frank: Shit! Another shiteating Dragon!

Ricky: It's gonna kill us! For sure! Even if it misses the first few times!!

Seems a few of them got lost on the way to Ikebukuro.

Frank: Who the hell are you?!

The ones who are going to save you!


The Thunder Dragon is another one of those 'you're not supposed to be fighting this right now' enemies. It's internally level 53, outleveling the boss of this chapter, and has brutally high stats. Naturally, it is now Richter Gaming time.

I've managed to get a pre-emptive path in! You two, you're free to go on the offensive!

3160 HP. It's not too beefy, but its defenses are fairly high. It also has no weaknesses.

Koron, with me!


This is after both attacks of luvshock, btw.

Stay on guard! It's about to force me out—

Defend yourselves!


Oh, no, Richter, you good?!

Thunder Breath HURTS. It's always going to use Thunder Breath as its second action on its first turn, so I guarded just to survive it. ...The paralysis proc on Chisa was just 25%, haha, oopsie,

Just fine!


As you were, soldier!

We're... almost there...!


This fucker hits like a train!

Hurry up and die, shithead!

Chisa, if you please?


Phew. That was quite the powerful foe.

But we won. As per usual.

Jon: Oh... huff, puff... I'm good. Guess all those protein drinks... helped.

Frank: Yeah, what he said. We three are SECT11. We spit at death. We aren't gonna put up with you messing around during our mission.

That one was our mission too, pal.

Frank: Well, we ain't giving you that Dragon material. This one is our hunt, our kill.

You literally didn't kill it.

Frank: Not my problem.

Yeah, uh, good for you, guys. That's great. So we can take our share and you can have the rest.

We really don't actually care about you. Please just go.

Frank: Alright, well, seeya, then.

Oh, I remember him now. That was the man who rejected the thanks from the girl he saved.

Oh, that was that asshole?

I hate SECT11 so much.

Luckily, we're right here. It's in these boxes.

So Sumie likes this brand?

Apparently she used to chat with the owner online.

'Meowdens'?, that's 'Nyadens' when you say it in Japanese. I wouldn't have reacted to 'Meowdens', most likely.


Honey, why are you stinkeyeing the cat food?

Huh? Oh. I just... The name reminded me of something, but it's probably a coincidence.

...Hm. It's tickling my memory as well.

Much as I'm curious, the cat food is just cat food.

There! That van wasn't present before. Jeanne, would you please analyze it from a distance?

Oh, of course! I thought the same thing.

A moment's wait, and then...

That's a gruesome way to kill people. Bastard.

We should look and see if we can find anyone.

It didn't take long.

Three people were pinned down by one of the local fauna.

Shatter to bits!

I could've sworn one of the three was a young man we'd rescued last time, but the other two were new, and much more visibly cowering.

Ayame: Oh... oh... I... y-you helped me?

Jin: Oh god... I'm scared...

So, still wanna get in that van?

Jin: N-no way!! This place is scary... dying's scary!!

Listen. No matter how hard it is, you can't give in to these sorts of feelings. You've gotta keep moving forward.

Jin: B-b-but the radio signals are ordering me to! Die, die, die... Even, even though I don't want to!

...This isn't good.

Let's trust the SDF to dispose of the van. Please get everyone back safely.


It's not really about cultural exchange so much as just these guys being jerks.

But if we were all nakama, like nakamaaaaall, we could take out Dragons easy-peasy!

SKY-tachi, SDF-tachi, hero-tachi, everyone winds up together! Anyway, thanks for your hard work! Arigato gozaimasu, hero-tachi!

And three Heal Aero 4s. Thanks, Sharon!

Yeah, thank goodness.

Hiroe: The unauthorized forum's been shut down. Maybe we're just playing whack-a-mole, but closing them one-by-one's all we can do.

At the very least, we know he must be operating from within the Diet Building.

Hiroe: That's a good lead, yeah. You guys get back to work. I've gotta find a lead on him somehow, before he strikes again!

And a Hypno Crystal.

...This feels weird without Sumie.

Right? It's kinda... just a bit less fun.

Timid Engineer: Yes, I think this should... eureka! Please, wait just a minute! I'll try and fabricate it now!

It didn't take long, but personally I was glad for anything to delay having to talk to Izumi Sakuraba.


It was a pretty impressive piece of tech. Honestly, it looked like more of something out of a tokusatsu show than a regular prosthetic arm.

Timid Engineer: By analyzing Mr. Kirino's personal data, I've perfectly matched his shape and motion. Once he's used to it, it should be almost like having his own arm back again! But... even so, I don't feel qualified to be the one to present it to him. Mr. Esslinger... could you be the one to deliver it?

Of course. Thank you for your hard work.

Here you are. One can of cat food.

Glad-eyed Girl: Whoaaa, this is just the right kind, too! Thanks, dragon-fighting people! ...Um, I wanted something else. Could you come with me to see Miss Kitty?

Haha, of course. We are friends with her, after all.

And you wouldn't be allowed in there otherwise.

Glad-eyed Girl: Oh, you, um, got that part.

Glad-eyed Girl: She's here! Hi, Miss Kitty!

I... I have a name. I'm Marina.

Glad-eyed Girl: Marina! Aww, what a cute name! Oh, I brought you something to eat, Marina!

Glad-eyed Girl: What's wrong? Didn't you say you were hungry?

This... er... I don't... think I can eat this.

Glad-eyed Girl: Oh, um... what else can I give you... Oh yeah!

Candy... bar?

She looked over to us for confirmation, and I nodded.

Oh my! It's crunchy!

Glad-eyed Girl: We still have snacktime in the Res Ward! Rations have been a little short, I know... But I'll give you half of mine so you can have a snack too, okay, Marina?

Half of yours? But that means... when we eat, you'll only get to have... half?

Glad-eyed Girl: It's okay! Food tastes better when you have a friend. If you come to the Res Ward, you'll be able to learn and make lots of friends too. Come pay us a visit!

Sounds... cool? I'm... glad!

Well wasn't that just heartwarming.

Very worth the time.

And two SP Up 200s.

Glad-eyed Girl: Thank you! This is from me. Marina was so nice! Think we can play again soon?

She might have important work to do soon, but any other time? Of course.

Kirino, I have a gift for you.

Wait! Wait! Is this some sort of prank? Yeah, it must be a prank.

Would I prank you?

...T-this... this is... That engineer, is this what she was worried about? But, this is wonderful! I mean, I feel whole again! Not even because of the arm, just by looking at this absolute masterwork!

I'm really happy to hear it.

Man. I'll go and deliver my gratitude, and... Thank you, Richter! Thanks for this wonderful gift!

And an SP Up 300.

Man, what a sop.

Be nice, Miroku, let's be happy for him!

I am happy for him!


Richter, you've got a date.


You wanted to see me, sir?

I'd been meaning to have a chance to talk with you at leisure again. I mean... after I lost my arm, you must've wasted a lot of time worrying about me as I dealt with it.

I wouldn't say that much. I—

No, I don't wanna sugarcoat it. When that happened, I was a burden to you and everyone else. I'm ashamed just thinking about it.

No one blames you, Kirino. Least of all me.

I know, I know. You don't want me to beat myself up, right?

Ideally, no. You're at your best when you're self-confident.

...Heh. Glad I have an assistant that has that good of a measure of me.

I don't have your courage to fight, nor do I have the strength to face great adversity. When I look at you, heading to war, heedless of danger, I always feel frustrated, full of regret for how little I'm able to do. But I'm sick of wallowing in self-pity.


It means a lot to me that you feel that way. Thank you.

So listen, here. I brought you these. Fixed up the slacks and I made you something new, too.

'Did we just'—Yes. Kirino just gave us what's functionally the ultimate armor and weapon for the Hacker class. In Chapter 5. Thank you based Kirino

Wow, these are incredible! When did you find the time?

I had a bit of spare time after finishing up the AB Vaccine, and... look, if there's anyone I want to work for, it's you.

You flatter me.

I put everything I had into them. You're going out to fight again, so make good use of them. Oh, and...

Oh, thank you! I'll disseminate it among—



No, Richter. I want you to have it. Just you. Please. This is for you.

For me, si—


Oh?! Oh, you—

Yeah! Yes. Yes, you understand.


Yeah! Yes!

Oh! I see!

Yeah! So, uh, you get to work!

I'll do that!

Next time... a new ally?!

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