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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 discovers the only solution to his dilemma, which seems promising.

Chapter Two : Part Two: Facetious
Posted: 2018-10-22 07:35:58 | Updated: 2018-10-22 07:38:33
Words: 2932

“Reiko-chan! Are you alive? Was your death a joke? W-wonderful!” I cry aloud, exulting. “What an amazing Halloween prank on me!”

A creepy voice answers. “You must find the noh face, Susumu. Find it before the strike of the twenty fourth hour tonight or it will possess your face for eternity, and you will be a yokai, a noh face. Do what you can to survive. Surrender is not an option.”

I gasp as the voice speaks those words to me. I stare at the screen again, unable to believe that this is Reiko-chan’s phone. The voice is not Reiko-chan’s! The caller hangs up after completing its morbid message for me. “R-Reiko-chan!” I gasp out. That voice sounded inhuman! I rush to dial Reiko-chan’s number back, but no answer comes. I let it ring over and over again and sob for a long moment. When I note the time is 11:40, I sit up and scream.

“What if it’s true? Will I truly be a yokai for the rest of my life? Is that my fate? No! I will fight it with every fiber of me!” I yell aloud and run out of the wash closet to my living room and throw myself to my knees before the sitting table. I open up my laptop and turn it on, desperate to start up my web browser. I open it as soon as possible and start typing madly. Noh face attacked yokai victim what do I do?

I go through the results desperately, finding fiction, literature on what to do when someone encounters certain yokai, and a lot of random posts by people with user names like “Noh_face”, but the usual legends seem strange and silly. None of what I see seems credible, and I can’t find any steps for how to deal with noh face! How do I find it, how do I face it? I shriek and practically pull my hair out as I worry about it. I click through more bogus search options until something catches my eye.

“Shinohara Spiritual Detective Services, Tokyo,” I read aloud, my voice trembling and gasping. I peruse the page information, looking for a phone number, but I find none. I look for an email and none is posted up! As I click around, I see a physical address posted. I notice that the address isn’t too far away from me. I can walk it in a half an hour, but considering how I look now, how will I be able to make it there? I rack my brain, sending the address to my phone. I slam down the lid of my laptop and jump to my feet as I dash back and forth in my room wildly, panting and moaning. I throw myself onto my bed and curl up, hiding for ten minutes before I recall that I don’t have the luxury to whimper and hide.

I’ll be a yokai forever if I don’t fight it! I leap up again, dash to my closet, slam it open and rummage through it, making a mess of everything. I remove a pair of jeans and a button up shirt. I throw them onto the floor of my room, and continue rifling through my things for what I need. I find a superhero costume that I wore at the office two years prior when I first started with them. I remove the mask. I run back to the wash closet with it and tie the mask around my face. The ridge that goes over your nose makes it look somewhat as though I have one, but if someone looks, they’ll see that I don’t have one. I move my mouth muscles as though to chew my lip, but I can’t.

I look at myself, feeling a little better at least. It seems as though I have eyes at least due to its tinted eyeholes. I open my medicine cabinet and remove a box of germ masks. I pull one free and put it on and scream as I realize a fatal miscalculation on my part. No ears! I stare at myself in the mirror again.

I look at the strings that are supposed to hang from your ears. I throw the germ mask into the sink and furiously style my hair. I pull it down the sides of my face, and it springs back to where it usually rests, run water through it to force it down over where my ears would normally be.

I cry as I grab another germ mask and wrap it to create an elastic band that I can use to keep the mask in place. I loop it through the eye mask I wear and shake my head wildly from side to side seeing if it will stay in place, and it does, although it shifts a little. I sigh and groan as I step into my living room again. I dash towards the clothes I set aside earlier. I peel off the sodden suit and towel myself off, drying the remnant of damp coating my body. When done, I pull on a new pair of boxers and the jeans I haven’t worn in a while. I pull the button-up shirt on, button it, and finally grab my wallet, phone, and house keys and pocket them.

In a rush, I dash out of the room and slam the door behind me. I dart away in a panic, but I belatedly remember my door as I dash back to lock it. I pull the phone out of my pocket then and review the address I need to find, then bolt down the stairs to find it. I don’t want to be a sweaty mess when I get there in the process making a bad impression. I calm myself, panting, and force myself to walk it. If anyone gets a clear look at me and they see how I really look now under these masks, it will be bad! So bad! And the detective, if I’m sweaty and looking horrible when I get there, how can I fail to make a bad impression? He might laugh in my face, thinking I’m a bum!

I walk down to the street again and the people I pass by look at me and laugh at me, but the usual expressions of concern or fear seem to be absent for the moment at least. Now I’m just an oddity.

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

“Shinohara Spiritual Detective Services -- 8F,” I murmur as I read the signs on the tall building I stand before. I open the door nearby and walk along the cramped, run-down hallway towards an elevator. I press the button to activate it and wait, my hands stuffed anxiously in my pockets. I cast my gaze around as I wait impatiently.

I hope I don’t share the elevator with anyone. As I wait, a girl steps up the hallway wearing a skirt. She looks to be eighteen or younger, and she’s short. She has long dark hair that spills around her shoulders. She wears a shirt with words printed on it. I read them. ’I’m not weird. I’m just yuri.’ Seriously? She stops next to me; I look down at her and she slips her phone out of her pocket and flips through it. I finally look ahead so as not to be thought rude for staring.

“What were you looking at, moron?” she asks me. The elevator dings and she steps into the elevator and holds her hand up when I move to board it as well. I hesitate, and the doors slide closed. I watch as the elevator goes up. I sigh and my hands form fists as I slam my head against the nearby wall. I have to adjust my masks again, hoping they’re properly in place as I press the button again repeatedly. I can’t stand her! I groan. There is no reason we couldn’t share the elevator ride! What a snob! I exclaim.

I wait what seems like forever until the door opens again. I step onto it quickly and rack my brain to remember the floor the office is on. I hit the eight button and shift from foot to foot manically, waiting. The elevator rocks alarmingly as it starts moving upwards. Despite my concern, I reach the floor safely. Maybe it was for safety? I leap out of the elevator, looking back at it, and wonder if it’s a death trap.

I dash up the hallway on the eighth floor and look around for 8F. I finally find the correct door. A really unprofessional sign hangs on the wall nearby with semi-cute doodles of monsters, yokai, and rabbits for some odd reason. I see the name of the business there in handwritten kanji and hiragana. “Shinohara Spiritual Detective Services,” I read aloud. A little sign is tacked to it underneath which reads further. “No male solicitors are welcome at the moment.”

I gape, or at least I try and fail. I rack my brain trying to review mentally the information I saw on the website online. It didn’t say anything about them not accepting male customers! What kind of a professional business like this turns a customer away for their gender? That’s disgusting! I try the door and find it locked. I growl and knock fiercely on the door, slamming my fists on it repeatedly. I continue for fifteen minutes, and finally I hear the door lock disengage and I see a familiar face. It is the girl I saw at the elevator! She glares at me furiously.

“Oh, it’s you, idiot. What do you want, loitering around my office?” she yells.

“Loitering? I’m here for business! Where’s the detective? This sign is a mockery!” I yell, slapping the clumsy sign with the palm of my hand.

“Don’t damage my office, my door, or my expensive sign, or you will be billed and the bill will be enforced by local police,” the girl snaps, and moves to slam the door. I gasp and dash forward to slam my foot down in front of it to keep her from closing it on me and scream. The door hits it harder than I expected!

“Wait! I’m desperate! Tell me, where is the detective? I need a spiritual detective!” I yell out.

“Really? You’re a sexist idiot, aren’t you?” she accuses me with thinly veiled contempt.

You’re sexist! You little…” I yell back, stunned at her temerity to throw that kind of an accusation at someone else when she is clearly a man hater!

“Sexist? Me? Not at all, I just don’t care to see any ugly male faces around here today. Go away,” she growls, hands on her hips. “If you don’t start walking away, I’ll call the police. You’re incredibly creepy, and just exactly what kind of stupid costume is that supposed to be? What kind of halfwit came up with that kind of a costume concept? You’re a king of idiots.” She scowls witheringly at me.

“Wh-What? You’re way dumber than I am! How can you turn your back on someone in need? Find the detective for me! I’m serious here! My face was stolen! I was the victim of a yokai! I’ll be a yokai if I don’t find that noh face inside the next twelve hours! Please find some compassion in your little shriveled heart!” I gasp and scream as she slams the door repeatedly on my foot.

“Move it, or I’ll wreck it,” the girl threatens me. I try to gape at her. She’s a foot or two smaller than me and she’s threatening me like she’s taller than I am! The girl stares at me expectantly and then clenches her fist under my no-nose. For the first time, considering the competent fighting stance she’s assumed, I feel actually concerned that she might really destroy me. I gasp and go to my knees and bow to her.

Please! Please help me! However you can! I’m desperate. I don’t know where else to go. Oh no… I’ll be one of them. It’s hopeless!” I sob and curl up right there. She remains quiet for a long moment and then I hear her exasperated sigh.

“You’re pathetic… what kind of a man are you? Really… fine, come in for a cup of tea, but if you try something funny, I will end you,” she threatens as she steps away and into the room. I look up, somehow tears streaming from my no-eyes. I crawl into the office and look around. The office is messy. There are piles of books, looking eldritch to me. As I right myself I see a desk with a classic magical array etched into it. In the corner of the office I see a rolled-up futon and rudiment cooking equipment.

Does she actually live here? Does she live with the detective? In this cramped office? I gasp as I look around and see her walk over to a water-heating machine. She opens a tea bag, drops it unceremoniously into a cup, and pours water into it. I climb to my feet, looking at her. She looks over at me with another ‘put upon’ sigh. She walks to me, proffering the cup. “Drink it, calm down, and get out. I’d tell you to go right away, but I don’t have enough cups. I can’t afford to lose any.” She frowns.

“What? You still aren’t taking me seriously? Why? What’s not a big deal about my face having been stolen?” I gasp as she presses the cup into my hand.

“Alright, that’s a big thing to claim. Why don’t you show me? Take care not to cough on me, though. If you make me sick, I’ll kill you,” she states. “Stop just complaining to me, back it up with evidence.” She frowns. I sigh and shake my head in response.

“I don’t want to mess up my masks, but alright. Here.” I reach back to unfasten the masks and do so with tears pouring from my no-eyes. She stares at me for a long moment, and shakes her head in disbelief.

“I’ve seen some pretty crazy things… You don’t look like a noh face, but honestly, maybe I can believe it.” She steps up to me, reaches for my collar, pulls my face down, and brings her free hand down on my face. It smacks my face hard. She feels all over and nods to herself. “You really don’t have some kind of elaborate mask… it’s real,” she exclaims.

She hesitates for a moment and nods. “Alright. Sit down.” She gestures to a seat, walks behind her messy desk and sits down. “So how much money do you have?” she asks. “What would you be willing to pay to find this noh face yokai?” she asks me. “The name is Shinohara Rui. Call me Shinohara-sensei or you can leave right away.” She scowls.

“S-sensei? Well, okay. Shinohara-sensei… I’m Miyata Susumu.” I take a seat and look at her over the desk and move to sip the tea and moan as I realize I can’t drink tea either! SO INSENSITIVE! HOW COULD SHE BE SO CRUEL?

She looks at me and facepalms. “You know, I didn’t know you wouldn’t have a mouth… so I’m sorry,” she mentions.

“I… I don’t have much money. I haven't worked a lot lately. A friend of mine died and it hit me really hard,” I explain, sighing.

“Oh… that’s rough. Life really is crapping on you, isn’t it?” she comments, sounding halfway sympathetic. “Alright, I’m not hurting for money. I’ll help you, but only if you find a cute girl to give me a kiss. I’ll take that as payment,” she says.

“W-what? A kiss? You’re cute… why are you that desperate?” I ask her, trying to blink at that.

“I’m not. I like kisses.” She smiles. “Not from men.” She waggles a finger. “You can owe me.”

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

Rui leads the way out of the building. Once again she stops me from entering the elevator with her, and the idea that it is for safety and not for the sake of being rude is reinforced. I wait and take the next elevator down, finding her waiting in the lobby; she leads the way out and up the street to a bus station, then points to the sign.

“We’re taking the bus, but it’s not on me. You’d better be able to pay or I’ll leave you here.” She waggles her finger imperiously at me. I groan and shake my head.

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