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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 the way to another contact who has a skill which will allow them to slip past security.

Chapter Five : Part Five: Effacement
Posted: 2018-10-22 07:35:58 | Updated: 2018-10-22 07:38:38
Words: 1520

“You turn into a rude person when you freak out. Have some faith in me. I’m looking out for you now, you know. Shut up, idiot.” She lifts the umbrella and brings it down on my head gently. Afterwards she lowers it and strikes the wall before us low where it meets the ground. Amazingly, there’s a poof; the wall disappears and a man takes its place. I stare at him. His build looks burly and he has a long semi-puffy tail, and he has fluffy oval shaped ears. His eyes glow faintly. He has black and brown hair that seems peculiarly spotted, possesses thick lips and classic African features, but not they’re not exaggerated the way they’re portrayed in anime and manga. Akuchi wears a tee shirt with a hoodie over it despite the warmth. He wears something with a pattern on it that looks exotic and seems to be a skirt-like garment. I think about a name for it that is more manly. A kilt maybe? But is that what he calls it? I don’t want to ask. Or is it a real skirt?

He looks at Rui with a grin. “Nice to see you again, little one. I didn’t fool you at all, it seems.” He laughs merilly. I examine him further and try to gape. Is he African? Is he black? What is he exactly? A bear? A cat? I don’t often see those of that race, could he be a tanuki? I stare at Rui, who grins back at him.

“Akuchi, of course I’m wise to your tricks. Don’t waste any time. I explained it by phone. I played your little game, so follow me. You know the rules.” She waggles a finger at Akuchi. He grins broadly at Rui.

“Of course, little one. I’m always your steadfast companion. Show the way, and I will help you, but I am concerned… I don’t have the skill to hide my appearance… I can become invisible, but it could be awkward. I might sneak away.” He grins.

“Don’t worry about it, Akuchi. It’s Halloween; pretty soon you’ll fit in perfectly.” Rui winks at Akuchi and he chuckles.

“This western holiday. It has caught on here, I see?” He grins.

“With younger people, mostly,” Rui comments and pulls Akuchi. We follow Rui; passersby stare at Akuchi, of course, and myself as well. We look a strange group.

We walk for the mile again returning to the station, and I’m wilting at the end. Am I thirsty? Hungry? Do I need sleep? What kind of an existence do I have? Along the way, I notice that groups of young people walk together in cosplay or costumes, now that it’s late in the night.

We make our way down into the station again. We rest on the staircase and when the people around peter out a bit, Rui turns to Akuchi. “Do your magic for us. Like I said, we need to be invisible,” she says.

“Invisible?” I ask.

Akuchi nods and looks at me with a big grin. “It’s my trick. But it doesn’t last long on mortals. You have fifteen minutes to get where you need, and don’t bump into anyone. Good luck!” He grins and digs into his skirt, or kilt.

Does that mean I’m mortal still? Wait… where did he pull those leaves from? My thoughts are interrupted when he slaps them onto our foreheads. Rui doesn’t bat an eyelash, but she becomes transparent to my eyes and pulls me quickly along. I scream mentally, wondering where those leaves have been. She rushes me down into the station and we vault over the ticket-taking stands. I run after her, panting, and start sweating profusely again. It makes me remember my desperate flight from this station. Ironic!

We make our way through the sparse crowd in the platform back to the chain-blocked passageway; she vaults over it as well, and I follow her, stunned at how fearless she is. She plunges into the darkness of the tunnel, only dimly lit once in a while. I follow her, stumbling as we run through the darkness. I feel the leaf drop from my forehead after a short time in the passageway and scream as a train blows past.

I look into the lit train at the people on board. They stare at us, and some point at us. We are dimly illuminated, as it passes by quickly. Rui urges me along faster. I pull out my cell phone and check the time. ”Twenty-three-thirty!” I scream. It’s very nearly midnight! Oh, no! We wasted so much time! Nooo! Will I become a yokai down here in the darkness? Oh, Kami! I weep for my ruined life.

Some time later we come to a larger area along the walkway. Rui pulls out her phone and activates the flashlight function, shining it around; it bathes a nearby door with light. “Yet another door in a scary dark passageway!” I gasp.

“Don’t be a baby,” Rui admonishes me as she reaches into her bag, propping her umbrella against her leg. She pulls out a strange-looking object from her bag and shines the flashlight on it; it’s some kind of strange compass with symbols and writing on it. It looks eldritch. She studies it and nods to it, flashing a broad smile towards me, and points to the door. She pockets the compass and lifts the umbrella. “Break it down, idiot,” she orders.

I gape at her, or try to. When I think about what time it is, desperation kicks in and I slam against the door repeatedly. I panic and whale on the door, pleased that I finally have something that I can lash out at, as I was unable to all day. I slam and rail against the door that doesn’t budge, not that I’m the strongest. Finally, I gasp and sigh as I reach down to try to simply turn the knob to open it. Amazingly, yet frustratingly it’s unlocked! I look back towards her with exasperation fuming from my frame. I grit my imaginary teeth and clench my fists as I have a fit.

Rui laughs in a silly and cute manner. “Oh… I thought for sure it would be locked.. but don’t you feel better now? I know I would.” She grins at me.

I continue to face towards her and blink at her comment, or at least try to. After a moment I’m forced to nod to her. “I-I guess I do.” I no-facepalm.

Rui looks to me and chuckles gleefully. “Good. Therapy success! So let’s see if my theory pans out. Let’s go.” Rui salutes me again. I sigh and push in the door, opening it fully as I inspect the inside. As I do, I decide that I’m terrified of what I’ll see. I walk inside and see nothing for a long moment. I remove my cell phone from my pocket again, activate the flashlight function, and shine the light around; I scream shrilly as I see something horrifying indeed. Faces float in the room, like a gallery. I stare at them, and they gaze back at me emptilly. They’re complete with ears, noses, eyes, mouths. It’s like someone has cut off the entire face with everything attached to it. Come to think of it, without a nose or a mouth how am I breathing? How? How do I cry? Is it a part of being a noh face? Is it magic? That defies biology unless these “tears” are actually sweat or something. I panic.

The faces seem to peer into my soul; I gaze at them, consumed by terror. I’d blink if I could, but after another moment, it seems as though they draw closer to me. It seems like it might be an illusion caused by my stressed-out, nearly driven insane mind. I can’t help staring at the disembodied faces as my stomach clenches. There is nothing specifically about them that connects them. They vary from ugly to beautiful, male to female to androgynous, old to young. There are so many it terrifies me. I see one in the corner of my eye that I think I recognize, someone I think I know, but suddenly a heavy cold metal object strikes me over my head. I collapse forward to my hands and blood drips down from my scalp. I look backwards over my shoulder, grateful that despite the pain in my head, at least my vision is somehow not impaired by the blow. I stagger, feeling dizzy and unsteady. When I turn, expecting to see Rui standing over me with the weapon that assaulted me, I see her collapsed on the floor, her own hair bloodied. I see another familiar face… I look at the figure of our attacker.

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