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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
Susumu learns about a surprising skill that Rui possesses.

Chapter Four : Part Four: Multifaceted
Posted: 2018-10-22 07:35:58 | Updated: 2018-10-22 07:38:36
Words: 2316

I follow her quietly, looking to my own cell phone from time to time marking the time. We reach the nearest Yamanote station via a bus ride. She leads me down into the station and we swipe our passes to run in; as we reach the platform, we find something jarring. The station is crowded this time, but oddly, like me, everyone else is wearing germ masks. Rui studies them all with an alarmed expression. “Is there an outbreak?” She looks at her cellphone, flipping through page to page and shakes her head. “I don’t see any major postings… what’s going on…? Was it just recently announced?” She blinks and looks at me.

“Did you somehow start a fashion statement in only a few hours?” she jokes.

“No! I don't think many have seen me today. Don’t be an idiot,” I growl.

“Well, I think it’s possibly the former… and honestly… I’m not comfortable going without one. I have to say, you at least blend in. Maybe you should have worn a costume. Wasn’t that mask of yours from it?” she inquires.

“W-well… yes… a superhero costume… but I’d feel like an idiot running around in it all day.” I reply bashfully.

“Well, you are an idiot. And it’s Halloween! Don’t forget. It won’t be long before we start seeing people dress up. I would too if I weren’t on the job right now. Because of you, I can’t have fun tonight,” she chastises me rudely.

“Um, I’m sorry…” I trail off, drooping visibly.

“Oh… it’s okay. Don’t be such a pansy. Guys are supposed to be bold and strong. I have to say I like that you seem to be gentle. You seem like the suffering quiet type. Tell you what, if you lose your job and we don’t find your face you can be my bodyguard.” She smiles at me.

When did she ever need a bodyguard? She’s fearless. She’s small, I will admit that, but she’s ridiculously fierce!

She leads me quickly onwards through the crowds in germ masks towards a vendor on the platform. The shop has some delicious-looking bento on sale. I gaze at them longingly. How can I eat anyhow now? Oddly, my stomach gurgles as I stare at the food. How do noh face eat? Oh no… do they grow maws in their stomachs? Oh, Kami… if so, I’ll be a real monster! I scream aloud and people stare at me and oddly Rui pats my arm.

“Be quiet, idiot,” she admonishes me. “They don’t have any germ masks. Hurry. We need to move along quickly! I will not catch something on your account!” She waggles her finger and dashes away.

I follow her quietly, tears pouring from the general region of my non-eyes again. She stops in front of the kiosk and inquires. “Do you have any of these germ masks for sale?” she asks cutely, looking up at a man behind the counter. But she hates men! Why did she flip that switch now? She wants something? Oni! I think, staring at Rui. The man smiles warmly at Rui and nods.

“Come to think, I keep a few with me just in case, and I’m not worried about it, but you can have one, no charge.” He turns into his kiosk and rummages around, producing a wrapped mask and handing it to Rui. “Have a great day! What’s your boyfriend there supposed to be anyhow? Creepy superhero street bum?” he asks.

“Why yes, it’s a self-invented hero. He prowls the streets looking for lowlifes to beat down, but he’s a germaphobe… he’s afraid he’ll get sick. He doesn't have much money so he wears street clothes. He has a great benefit in that he can blend in when he takes off the eye mask, but when he puts it on he’s super serious and you know you’re going to get your butt kicked,” Rui makes up. I try to gape at her, but I feel happy that I can’t since that would have ruined her weird story. Rui smiles warmly and waves and leads me away, unwrapping the germ mask, and pulls it on over her ears, pulling at it until it covers her chin and nose and mouth. She winks at me. “When I put on my germ mask, I’m serious.”

She’s going to kick my butt? I panic. She doesn’t beat on me, at least. I can thank Kami for that. We wait another minute to board the train. I look at the direction the train is going, and think to myself, this will take me back to my station, the site where my pain today started. I feel traumatized. I’m terrified to board this train… I don’t want to be anywhere near the station. They chased me out. When I hedge and try to draw back she grabs my sleeve and hauls me into the train with surprising strength. This girl needs a bodyguard? Oni!

I look around, terrified, as we stand in the car. I draw up against the far door and squeak as I realize something might reach through the window and grab my throat. I scream and push my way towards the center of the car, but I don’t feel any better. Rui watches me and sighs as she pushes her way to my side.

“You’re such a girl… you were a guy, right? You smell like one.” She rolls her eyes. “Hey, Susumu… lift me up. I can’t see around these heads. Don’t you have the strength enough to do that?” she criticizes me.

I gape and glare at her, though of course my expression is blank. I sigh and clasp my hands for her to step onto. I wince as she steps up and lift her as much as I am able. She nods to me and grabs a nearby handle, holding onto it and taking a lot of her weight off of me. I hold her up while she looks around the car. People around stare at us, and I start fidgeting at the way people stare. Oh Kami, don’t let them see my face. I hope no one here saw me before! I worry unreasonably.

We ride like that and I brace my knees for the turns and rocking of the train. We stop from time to time and passengers board and disembark. Everyone stares at our spectacle. I try to bite my lip but I can’t. I look around nervously.

“Oh… I think… something…” Rui suddenly says. I freak out when she speaks and she shakes and wobbles as I panic. “No! Idiot, keep stable. I don’t want a broken head!” she yells at me, and everyone stares at us again. More than a few people laugh and point.

“Oh… they’re cute together…” I overhear one girl’s comment and I scream internally. No! You’re reading it wrong! I’ve never had a girlfriend! I’m hopeless, but I’m not desperate! I will not date an oni in a tiny body! Maybe she is a yokai and I don’t know it! How else could she be so comfortable around them? One of them! Of… of us… oh no... I cry again.

When we approach my station, Rui hops down and pats my head on the way down. “This is your station, isn’t it? Let’s go. We need to look around. I have an idea.” She gestures imperially and I flee from the train almost as much in panic as earlier when people chased me out. Returning to the scene makes me scream endlessly internally. She leads me up and down the platform, finally heading towards where the tunnel leads back in the direction we came from. She studies the chained-off path for maintenance purposes. She frowns and looks at me. “We need to explore. Let’s go,” she says and moves to jump over the chain.

I turn and see a familiar face and I scream internally. The same police officer from earlier! The one that chased me down! No, no, no, no! All the no! I tug on her shirt sleeve and she looks back at me straddling the chain; she notes where I’m looking and sighs when she sees the officer. She smiles brightly.

“Oh daddy… I’m so sorry… I messed up… I didn’t realize it was off limits…” She puts her finger cutely to her mouth and blushes prettily.

ONI! I look at her and flags raise high up. She’s showing yet another frightening side of her. “Uh... um… yes… sweetheart… we… You need to behave. Let’s go. We really need to go.” I try to act. I’m such an idiot, I can’t act at all! I berate myself.

The policeman stops in front of us and Rui pours on even more cuteness and with her skirt and shirt she can pull it off, but it still reads: ‘I’m not weird. I’m just yuri.’ Huge contradiction, idiot oni! I think fiercely in her direction. She just continues to smile fetchingly, and for a wonder the policeman smiles and nods.

“Have a wonderful day, you two.” He waves and I stare at him, grateful that the eyes on the mask are tinted. He can’t see any expression on me.

“Why, thank you! P-please have a great day yourself!” I try. Rui tugs me away and casts an exasperated expression at me, rolling her eyes as we hurry along the platform to the stairs.

“When you lie, don’t compound it… keep it simple. You’re so bad at it,” she sighs.

She’s an expert liar… FLAGS! I think. She smiles at me and leads me up the stairs.

“So that didn’t work out… but I have an idea. I have a friend not too far from here…” she comments.

ANOTHER one? Who is she? WHAT is she? I gape.

I follow her quietly, wondering. Even though she’s an oni she seems somewhat reliable and capable. Somewhat.

“Were you just thinking I’m incapable?” She seems to read my mind.

O-ONI! I flinch. “Not at all, I think you’re amazing… so multiskilled…” I laugh stupidly.

“Oh… that’s nice.” She smiles.

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

She leads me from the station and we walk for a mile this time. She said it’s nearby! ONI! I protest silently. Along the way she stops at a konbini. She stops by the drinks and looks at me. “You look like you’re low on funds… I’ll get you a tea. Oh wait… I’m so sorry… but I’m so thirsty. How are you doing?” she asks me, seeming to be concerned for me.

ONI! ONI! ONI! I’ve started crying again.

She selects a drink and leads me to a rack with large umbrellas. She selects one and wields it like a sword for a moment before using it like a walking stick. She looks at me and winks. I look outside again, seeing it’s getting dark. It’s also not looking at all like it will rain to me. “It’s not going to rain?” I comment as I study the weather reports to reassure myself and I return my no-gaze towards her.

“Why do you need an umbrella?” I ask her. She peruses the candy aisle and chooses some strawberry chocolates, and takes all the above to the counter. She’s wasting my time again! She’s so evil! I should just give up and resign myself to being a monster for the rest of my life. Maybe I’ll find that roof that Reiko-chan threw herself from. If I die there, maybe we’ll be together forever! I’m still crying. Rui looks at me and pats my arm comfortingly.

“Don’t worry, we’ll be going soon.” she smiles. “I’ve calculated it out.” She completes the transaction, and uses the umbrella as a walking stick. She hands me the candy and drink, expecting me to carry them for her. I do so, because I don’t dare resist her, I think wryly.

She rudely makes a call as we walk, and I sigh tiredly as I trudge after her, thinking about where that exact roof might be. I don't feel much better at this point. Can a noh face fall to their death like a human can? I wonder morosely.

She speaks into the phone for a while, then hangs up and grins at me, winking again to try to encourage me, as though she thinks she’s an idol or something. She even poses for a moment with her fingers up on her forehead like a warrior of justice. I shake my head and follow her. She leads me into an alley, another dark alley. Of course it’s another dark alley, night has fallen. I study my clock. 21:20. Just short of three hours to be human… if I’m human anymore now as is. I’m going to die.

We walk up to a dead end and I stare at her for a long moment. She looks at me. “Are you an idiot? Why did you lead us here? There’s no door here!” I yell, panicking.

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