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Saving Face
Susumu, a young salaryman, has an eerie encounter in a strangely empty subway train. Now he's racing against time to restore what he's mislaid before it is lost forever.
Author(s): Rellawing | Editor(s): Trismegistus Shandy | 3 Warnings!
Content Keywords | Status: Completed | To Disqus!
MyReviews: 0
Rui shows Susumu around the neighborhood in Tokyo as they check with her peculiar contacts in an attempt to find clues that may lead them to a solution.

Chapter Three : Part  Three: Undersurface
Posted: 2018-10-22 07:35:58 | Updated: 2018-10-22 07:38:35
Words: 2504

“Fine. That’s fair,” I respond. When the bus arrives, I follow her on board and swipe my magnetic card over the reader; we ride for four stops. She pulls the cord before the fourth stop and leads the way off. We swipe our cards again on our way out. We walk through downtown through the streets. She leads me into a building, and we take another elevator up to the fourth floor. This time she doesn’t force me to take a separate elevator. I’d smile if I could. She takes me to a door that opens into a curious shop, full of antiques, strange decorations, and some particularly creepy things like fingers in sealed bags. I gasp when I notice them and look at Rui with a blank expression. I mean it to be a questioning look, but she doesn’t respond, of course.

She walks up to a girl managing the shop and holds her hand up, indicating that I should stay away. She walks over to her and chats with her quietly for a long moment looking in my direction once in a while. The girl nods and smiles. She’s taller than Rui, looking pretty goth with long dark hair tied up in twintails, her eyes a shining hazel to golden in coloration. She smiles at me with plump pale lips; I see fangs glint in the low light.

I flinch as I see them. Rui and she talk for a bit longer; then Rui leans in and plants a kiss on her lips. The girl grins, baring her fangs. Rui winks and steps back towards me. I look at her and she smiles. She’s wearing gothic clothing, shredded pants, and a halter top in black. It seems contradictory that she wears a necklace with various symbols on it looking like pentagrams. The centerpiece of the necklace is nested between her plump bosoms, a decorated black rosary with a red gem set in it. She wears metal-studded bangles on her wrists.

“Ume didn’t see any noh face recently. She told me about a rumor of a serial killer at large, or something like that.” She shrugs at me. “So, Miyata… we need to move along. We have ten hours.” She gestures and leads the way out and back down to the street. She leads me down the way for a half mile and up a narrow alleyway. We walk to another door. She opens it on a flight of stairs leading down into darkness. Rui walks down easily without any concern. I frown and try to gape. Was that girl dressed up for Halloween or was she actually a real monster?

I follow her, frightened more than I can say. I cling to the rail in the darkness as Rui carelessly dashes down the stairs. We go down what feels like two floors and come to a door. Rui opens it fearlessly and walks in. I follow her, looking around with fear in my eyes. The room is darker than the previous one. As we wait, a slurping noise echoes in the darkness. I scream as I see it come into sight. A large and faintly luminous greenish-yellow blob of something covered with eyes and teeth. It does not have a human like form at all, and the existence of it terrifies me.

“Good afternoon, Rickey,” Rui greets it. I stare, stumbling mentally over the name. Rickey? Is it an American yokai? Do those things exist? Or… why? I try to blink and draw away as it slurps and gurgles at Rui. Rui cups her ear with her hand and nods her head thoughtfully. “Oh, Rickey… no… it’s not food. I don’t barter for information. Don’t forget you owe me for not taking you down!” She waggles a finger at it.

The strange scene of her threatening a true monster floors me. What kind of fearless ridiculous person is Rui? “A-are you okay?” I ask her, stammering. I draw against a wall as it slurps in my direction.

“Oh… he was a victim of a yokai. I thought you might know about a serial killer. Come to think of it, where did this happen to you?” Rui looks towards me. The thing slurps at Rui and she blushes. “No… I’m still not interested in men, idiot. Keep your flattering to yourself! Hush!” she snaps at the thing, which flinches at her tone.

I have a meltdown at that exchange, but I manage to reply. “You only asked now? Really? What kind of an investigator are you?” I gasp.

The creature suddenly looms and gurgles in my direction.

“No, Rickey. That idiot is my client. Don’t do something stupid. I’m flattered that you think so much of me,” Rui says and Rickey deflates, turning back to Rui.

Oh, Kami… dodged a bullet… Why can’t I dodge all of them? I plead. “Um… it attacked me on the train. The Yamanote Line… it was so strange… this morning there wasn’t anyone in sight when I got on the train, and there wasn’t anyone on it, and it attacked me after it left the station,” I relate to her, my tone panicked.

“That’s a very odd story.” Rui frowns. “It’s hard to believe. When is a station deserted? And a train. They’re usually occupied.”

“I know that… I’m not an idiot,” I protest loudly.

“Definitely an idiot, but a sympathetic one.” Rui shrugs. “What do you think of that, Rickey? Do you know anything about an empty station?” she asks it.

Rickey hesitates and then gurgles for a long moment.

“A rash of concerned riders on the Yamanote lately?” Rui asks with a puzzled expression, fingering her chin.

Rickey gurgles for a while longer at her.

“Oh… really… the serial killer… Ume-chan mentioned that… I wonder… maybe I should ask Natalya.” Rui frowns. “Alright, thank you, Rickey. I’ll see if I can get you some of your favorite candy. I won’t forget it,” she reassures it. It gurgles in reply and shakes.

“Oh, good. See you again.” She waves and walks back towards me and the door. “Come on, idiot,” she addresses me and opens the door. I follow, casting a glance over my shoulder at Rickey. It gurgles somewhat menacingly, so I feel like I don’t dare correct her. She takes me upstairs, and I sigh in relief when we reach sunlight again. She gestures and I follow her once again. We walk for another period of time, this time around three quarters of a mile.

She leads me into a door on the first floor this time for a change. This time, oddly enough, it’s a clothes shop, full of women’s fashion. Rui walks in and wanders to a rack of clothing, and I start to wonder whether or not she’s taking this case seriously anymore. I stare at her as she casually looks through the racks of blouses, dresses, skirts, but she mostly focuses on the cute or trendy clothes versus professional outfits. I try to frown at her, but I can’t; she glances at me once or twice, but my lack of expression doesn’t convey anything to her. Only the way I stand, shifting from foot to foot, may convey impatience.

She ignores me largely and finally I walk over to her and groan. “What are you doing? It’s been an hour! You’re shopping with the time I have left? What’s wrong with you?” I shriek. Rui sighs and looks at me with a despairing expression.

She reaches up and pats my no-face through the germ mask. “Don’t worry about it, you fool. I’ll take care of it. When I take a case I’m serious to the end. Keep in mind that I’m not legally on the hook here, but I do feel for you. Just don’t forget to find a cute friend to give me a kiss. There’s nothing too hard about that, right? Who else would go to such trouble for your miserable butt for such a simple reward?” She smiles.

I try to gape at her. She thinks she’s so great. What an inflated ego! I moan internally. She’s a maniac, isn’t she? How can she so casually address…

An elegant woman walks into the shop proper with braided blonde hair. She’s dressed professionally and looks absolutely stunning. Rui squeals when she sees her and rushes into her arms. The woman spreads her arms for Rui and embraces her tightly. Oh… My… Kami… Why isn’t my detective like her? She looks so friendly, and so professional, and so amazing. Her eyes shine a beautiful and stunning blue as she embraces Rui. Her face is so gentle, yet so aristocratic with its European and Baltic features.

“Natalia!” Rui squeals and giggles as Natalia pets her and tousles her hair like she’s a child. The contrast between what I’m seeing now versus the unfriendly, threatening little girl who I’ve been dealing with so far makes me tear at my hair trying to figure her out. She’s bipolar! That has to be it! I scream internally.

“Kyaaaa! Natalia! Can I have a kiss today?” Rui asks cutely. I collapse.

Natalia bends down and gives her a kiss that defies all the logic remaining in my mind. She’s gone from a doting mother to a potential lover in a short period of time.

I stare at the floor, my eyes fixed, and zone out as they talk together quietly.

“Come on, let me feed you two.” Natalia speaks up, and for the first time I notice that she speaks with a Russian accent; she sounds so polished and elegant. I look up at her with my eyes... Well, honestly, I don’t have eyes, but if I did, they’d be sparking at her. No, I look at her blankly.

“Oh… Natalia! He doesn’t have a mouth…” Rui corrects Natalia with a rueful smile. It dawns on me and I start crying, and somehow the tears pour down my face and soak my germ mask.

“Oh, my. How insensitive. I’m so sorry. Please come along and relax a least. What an unfortunate existence. Being a yokai isn’t too bad, you know. You get used to it. Some of us can find a place in society, but there are many of us who are very unsociable, or otherwise can’t compensate. At least you can. That’s a good thing. You don’t look wonderful, but maybe a full cowl would help… with prosthetics… I understand that you don’t have any facial features at all,” she comments sympathetically. I gaze into her eyes and cry tears of joy for her compassion.

She steps up to me and helps me to my feet, leading me to the rear of her shop and a comfortable-looking sofa in a room decorated in a very western style. I smile and drop gratefully into the comfy looking sofa, happy to be able to relax a moment. “I don’t know what I can offer you to refresh yourself… I wonder if you could take fluids via IV? I have a set somewhere,” Natalia offers solicitously.

“N-no need…” I reply. She has IV equipment? Why? I try to gape -- wait, and she’s a yokai? Why does she have something like that?

/^(o.o)^\ /^(o.o)^\ /^(o.o)^\ /^(o.o)^\ /^(o.o)^\ /^(o.o)^\

I stare at her again when she lets her ears and tail appear, just as blonde as her hair, with dark streaks across the rims of her ears and marking her tail. She winks at me and honestly, she has to be the sexiest looking yokai I’ve ever seen, and she gives me hope for an existence as a yokai if things go south. No… I can’t think that way! I’m not like her! What is there to feel better about my situation? What if I turn into something worse? If I’m a noh face, will I look like it did? Will I moan unintelligibly for the rest of my life? Oh, Kami! Spare me! Save me! I shriek mentally.

“So, Natalia, have you heard anything about a yokai serial killing along the Yamanote line?” Rui asks. “A noh face stole…”

“I know. You mentioned it, Rui-chan.” Natalia laughs. “Hmmm…” She thumbs her cheek and looks at me with a puzzled expression. “Come to think of it, I’ve heard some customers complaining about strange looking people showing up in the stations along Yamanote over the last month or so… noh faces, or so they thought. I wondered about it, but it could be related,” she suggests. “But it’s not really my job to track these things. I’m a clothier after all.” She smiles warmly at Rui.

“I love your clothes, Natalia! They’re so inspired. You capture the spirit of Japanese fashion so wonderfully, with a wonderful Russian tint to it.” Rui giggles, gushing.

“Awww… that’s so sweet. I’m so happy that you’re a fan, cute Rui-chan. Stay as long as you like. My shop is a haven for you two.” She smiles warmly. I blink as it occurs to me that she’s Russian and she’s a kitsune maybe. Do they come from other countries? They must since foxes exist on many continents… they exist in England, too.. Or the ones left… so I wonder what an English Kitsune might be like?

“You’re so amazing, Natalia-sama!” I exclaim, blushing at using her first name, but I haven’t been given a last name. She smiles warmly at me.

“Oh, thank you very much.” She winks at me.

“We have to go, though, Natalia! We don’t have a lot of time. It’s obvious that we need to search where it’s hunting. Now that we have information, we should figure this out.” Rui pulls her phone from her bag and nods to herself. “Just five hours remaining. Let’s go!” she exclaims.

I vault to my feet and gasp, stunned at how I’ve been lured into wasting time here. “Let’s go! Right now! Thank you, Natalia-sama!” I bow deeply to her. Rui hops to her feet and smiles.

“You’re not such a hopeless idiot, I think,” she notes as she leads the way out of the rear of the shop. Natalia follows us to the door of her shop and waves to us. I cry tears of sorrow as I wave back to her and follow Rui. She’s so crass and cruel to me… I want Natalia-sama! I moan internally.

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