Koji didn't see it, but a man in red had been watching their progress, and that of all the others. "Pacts confirmed," he mumbled as he removed the wall.
Meanwhile, Koji looked back towards Center Street and back to Kimiko, slowly taking his hand off her arm. "Well, we might be able to go that way, but there might also be a wall there. But maybe there's a way to remove this wall..." He put a hand against it to lean on it, and wound up falling through. "That's weird!" he called up. "The wall's just gone!"
Well, at least we can get through now... he thought. Out loud, he told Kimiko, "I didn't mean to grab you that hard earlier, but there's no other way for me to make sure we stick together. Unless you can think of one?"
"Nagi? I'm Rikio. Nice to meet you." He faced the Frog Noise, now with the tools to face them down. Rikio reached into his pocket, and pulled out a handful of pins. The first one he decided to try had a picture of a flame on it. He grasped the pin tight, pointed at the nearest Noise...and nothing happened. Crap, this one doesn't work. Better try another- Ow!
He winced in pain and fell to his knees as his frog slashed him in the chest. A second frog was approaching fast. Rikio frantically fumbled through his pins, this time selecting one with a picture of a missile on it. "This one better work..." he clenched the pin at pointed at the advancing Noise. It leaped at Rikio's face, but was stopped by a yellow burst of energy.
"Yes!" Rikio blasted the frog several more times before it stopped working. "No! I need to find another working pin..." He was aware of Nagi fighting the Noise as well, but Rikio was more worried about himself at the moment
The fabric of reality seemed to bend the moment the pact was made, the world began to fade and flicker as the crowds of Shibuya began to disappear one by one. The edges of the Crossing began to shift effectively sealing off the area whilst leaving Nagi alone alienated with the sapphire spray-paint amphibians.
"So these are the 'Zones ', That we're restricted to?" Nagi's self inquiry was paused by the brief interlude of a jovial chuckle.
"Let's have some fun..."
The first frog reared it's strangely stylized hind legs and propelled itself forward at an astounding speed. While the creature was airborne Nagi flicked his left wrist upwards sending a silver wire covered in barbs shooting up vertically through the beast. The 'Noise' was caught tangled on the wire, mid-air and flailing in what Nagi could only assume was some semblance of pain. Seconds passed while Nagi remained motionless, captivated by the dangling beast and its chorus of agonizing croaks. However, in his stupor, Nagi failed to notice the second frog adjacent to him that managed to flank him with some sort of 'Bubble attack'.
As Nagi was sent into hurtling backwards the chain that suspended the first creature flickered and disappeared, releasing it from it's incapacitation and effectively reducing Nagi's chances of survival even further.
Nagi lifted himself from the pavement once more, his mind wandering, trying to decipher how he got here in the first place? The smirk on his face reappeared, contorted ever so slightly from the pain of the previous attack. His mind was fragmented and twisted, but not missing. The memory of the bullet piercing his skull came flashing back to him.
That was pleasant now, wasn't it.
The Jacketed man slivered deep into his right hand pocket, thumbing over it's recesses, while with is left hand he made a similar motion he had made before, in the hopes that the wire that had halted the monster would activate and fell the damnable beasts, this was not the case. No matter how vigorous his swings the bladed string refused to summon.
"How did I know this was going to happen... How did I know this was going to happen?"
"It's... Gone just like that? I wonder what happened..." Kimiko said, had she been able to see she might have been able to see what had happened to make the wall go away. If they ran into another one she would have no choice but to hope her partner would be able to figure it out. After staring off in the direction the wall had been, she turned back to the boy.
He had a point. He would practically have to lead her by the hand if they wanted to get anywhere. It was probably the most embarrassing thing she'd eve been forced to submit to, and the fact that she had no choice had her fuming on the inside. Eventually she sighed and held out her hand in his direction. "Fine. I suppose if I have to. Just be more gentle this time, and make sure to warn me before you go dragging me around. I'm Kimiko Nakano, by the way. But you may refer to me as Ms. Nakano."
Koji sighed and replied, "Okay, fine, Miss Nakano, if this is what it takes. I'm about to start pulling you past Shibu, and we don't have time to stop there. Everything's too expensive anyway. Once we get this...mission done, we'll probably have a lot more time for it. Oh, and my name's Koji Naname, just so you have something to call me." He took her hand as lightly as possible and started walking forward, glancing at the billboard. Not that it really mattered; Pegaso was always the popular thing to show off outside Shibu, where its main branch was located.
"Much better, Koji." Kimiko said with a bit of a smile as she followed him through the streets. "Oh, I didn't really want to go shopping anyway. Can't pick out things that look good on me if I can't see after all. Although, I wonder if the old man at the pharmacy would have anything for my eyes..." She pondered aloud. Of course, since her sight had been her entry fee it probably wouldn't be that easy, but it never hurt to try. But that was something she'd have to worry about later. Like Koji had said, they needed to hurry since they were timed.
Of course, they weren't too far from Towa Records now. Just through Cadoi City and they were there. "I wonder why they want us to go to Towa Records. I don't think there was anything special up there..."
"It's probably just to weed out the stupid ones," Koji replied, "or the ones too slow to get a partner. I doubt they'll stay this easy, though - we have another six days to work through, remember."
"Yay! They're done!" Suki and Tuxedo took off after Koji and Kimiko. She wished she had waited closer. "Hey! You! Guys! Wait up!" She stopped for a few seconds beside the red reaper, glaring and then sticking out her tongue at him before bolting after the pair of players. Tuxedo followed her diligently, darting through the crowds gracefully.
"You guys have a pact don't you! Hey!"
Mitsuko was unprepared for the bright light that enveloped the two of them once she agreed to the pact, but it was nice. It was pretty. The frog things that had emerged in front of them afterwords, not so much.
"Dammit, If it is not one thing its another. Looks like we are going to have to fight these things are you ready?"
"Yeah sure. Ready," she confirmed. Wait, no I'm not. What am I going to do against these things? Mitsuko looked over at her new partner, she seemed to have something ready for this, another pin. Wait do I have more of these? She fumbled around in her vest pocket, and came into contact with another metallic trinket. She pulled out a pin, red with a couple of stripes that looked like road markers.
Here we go, so I just point this at the frog and then... She expected the pin to do something, judging from what she could remember from the message, but nothing occurred. The frogs were still advancing. "Come on, do something!" she pleaded with the inanimate object, but it refused. She started waving it around, trying to get it to work. She brought it across her body when all of a sudden a projectile, similar to a bullet, fired off at the frog, nailing it in the face. "Cool!" she noted. "You see that! I just nailed that thing!"
"C'mon, c'mon, I need another pin." Unfortunately, the frogs weren't giving him enough time to figure things out. Rikio half rolled, half tripped out of the way of a frog's leap and behind a motorcycle on the outskirts of the zone. He wasn't sure why a motorcycle was in their combat zone, but he didn't care either.
Safe for the moment, Rikio selected a black pin with a white hand on it. He held the pin tight and pointed, but instead of a blast, the motorcycle Rikio was hiding behind flew forward and slammed into the nearest frog, destroying it.
"Alright!" Rikio flunug the motorcycle at the second frog, and looked at his pins. The first one he had used seemed darker than before, but it brightened in his hand after a second. Does that mean theres a timer or these pin attacks? He wondered. Maybe his partner had an idea of how the pins worked. "How are you holding up, Nagi?"
Six more days... I really have to stay like this for six days? How I am I supposed to keep fighting like this?! Kimiko thought with a heavy sigh. All these voices that she could hear but couldn't see were really starting to get on her nerves too. One of them stuck out at this point, the voice of a little girl. She was yelling something about... a pact? Shye must be a player then. How often in real life do people run around yealling about pacts after all?
"Hey, Koji. Do you hear that girl? I think she's talking to us."
"Cool! You see that! I just nailed that thing!"
"I didn't see anything," looking back over her shoulder "Where are you?"
The frogs continue to move closer to her. Tugging on her pin, she can't seem to get it to work. "Dammit, they're coming closer. Why won't this thing work." With the frogs still approaching she jumps back to increase her distance. As she does bursts of flames surround her. Shocked at first, she jumps back towards the frog, lungeing past it and hitting it with the flames. Back and forth over it again and the it turns in to static and disappears"
Goes fight the other frog but the flames no longer surrounded her "Urrg, now what!"
Koji cocked his head a bit. "Actually, now you mention it," he said, slowing to a halt, "I do hear somebody around, clearer than the crowd..." He looked around, not really seeing anything. Then his eye passed across the small girl, probably pre-teen, in the lolita dress. "I might have spotted her for you," he told her. "And she's definitely coming this way...Thing is, she doesn't have a partner."
Happy that they stopped, Suki easily caught up. "Hello! I'm Suki! This is my partner, Tuxedo~" She bent down and picked the cat up, showing it to the pair. "I saw you two fighting Noise. Well, I saw you go to fight them. Are you hurt? Did you do alright? Did you get the message too? Going to Towa Records? Can I come?" She gave them puppy dog eyes. "Pleeease?"
"The cat is your partner?" Koji asked. "How does that work? I didn't think it would be able to accept the offer. Or use any of those pins."
"Oh, come on Koji, how could she know how it works? She probably just got here like the rest of us. Besides, nothing about this game makes sense." Kimiko said before turning to Suki and giving her a gentle smile. "Hi Suki and Tuxedo! My name's Kimiko. And this is my partner Koji." She introduced herself, thankful that Koji had mentioned that Tuxedo was a cat. Otherwise, it would probably have been awhile before she found out and that would have been awkward.
"Anyway, if we all have to go to Towa Records I don't see why we couldn't bring her along. An extra pair of eyes couldn't hurt since we seem to be short a few."
"Oh, no," Suki laughed. "It was his entry fee. He got turned into a cat. Or, I think so. She doesn't talk. I don't know if he can. He can fight noise pretty good though, but we're trying to avoid them... he got really hurt last time we fought." The cat meowed in reply, rubbing against Kimiko's side. Tuxedo came up to her waist, and his fur was soft and sleek. "See? He likes you! Say hi! Did you get the text too Kimiko?"
Suki walked beside them, skipping happily. "Have you been here for a long time? We got here a little while ago. It's so nice to find someone else to talk to, you know?"
"Little while ago?" Koji asked. "I thought all the Players just started off here today. All at once, and all crammed into the crossing." Definitely suspicious... he thought. But if I tell Nakano, she'll just get angry...If we have to fight as a team, I can't afford that.
"Yeah. It's been... half an hour maybe? Maybe less. I'm lucky I found Tuxedo. Although I didn't know what he wanted at first. I thought he was a cute kitty that could see me. It was scary: I thought people were ignoring me..." As she spoke, she kept an eye out for any Noise symbols. "I wonder what we have to do at Towa Records?"
Well, as long as she isn't hostile, I suppose she can tag along, Koji thought. He could get a better look at her once the crowd had thinned out, which it usually did around Cadoi City. "The message didn't say anything, it just told us to go there," he said. "I'd assume that the mission ends once that happens. Nakano-oujo, I'm about to grab your hand again." He grabbed, and started walking again.
Kimiko had a bit of a soft spot for cats so feeling Tuxedo rub up against her made her want to squeal with joy. She restrained herself of course, helped by the somewhat disturbing fact that it used to be a person. "So his entry fee turned him into a cat... I guess I'm a lot more lucky than I thought." She said to no one in particular as she cautiously felt around for the cats head and started petting him. "Yeah, I got the text too Suki. I think we all must have the same goal. Although, the text was creepy wasn't it? I don't want to find out what erasure is..."
Then she heard Koji and felt him take her hand again. He even addressed her the way he had been instructed to. It was nice to have such an obedient partner and would make this game go much more smoothly. "Ah, yes I suppose we should get going. It's not too far now. Although based on what Suki said, we should still have an hour and a half left. That's plenty of time.
"C'mon, c'mon, I need another pin."
The very words seemed to echo within the confines of his skull, almost mockingly considering the situation at hand. With each passing second Nagi was forced backwards, it was either a powerful leap that he would barely manage to dodge or a strange bubble attack that the noise would fire in great volleys. The first one leapt at Nagi once more, just managing to scratch his left cheek with the malformed paintbrush claws of it's hind legs, then came the second, there was no chance of dodging this one.
As the creature was making it's powerful pounce something miraculous happened. It seemed to let out an agonizing shriek, mid-flight, before disappearing in a static silhouette. The death of the creature seemed to awaken something in Nagi, a type of euphoria one gets when they realise victory is well with their grasp. With the brief pause amidst the chaos of battle he took the opportunity to scan his pockets once more, this time, coming up fortunate.
"How are you holding up, Nagi?"
"Just Fine, thanks to you."
Nagi withdrew his grasp from one of his jacket's many caches and rose his hand to the lapel adjacent to the one he had adorned moments earlier. Almost symmetrically, gracing his attire was yet another pin, it was red, much like the other, and marked with a black cartoon-ish depiction of an iron ball bomb.
The frog was rearing once more, preparing for yet another attack. The 'charge up' time was roughly 3 seconds and it would take about 1 more for the attack to make contact. Nagi pointed at the ground in front of him with his right hand and in it's blace was a black sphere that radiated some sort of ethereal smoke. The frog was winding up, like those accursed 'Jack-in-a-box' toys used to frighten children. As the seconds passed the obsidian sphere began to pulsate with a faint red glow at the core.
A few more seconds...
After what felt like an eternity, the frog finally pushed forward, moving in for the kill at it's astounding speed. The world seemed to slow down, cracks were growing all along the edges of the sphere, the crimson glow seeping, expanding, through the prison that contained it. Nagi leapt backwards, giving him those extra microseconds before the monster took off his head. Then it happened; The great ball of midnight hue erupted in a powerful gale of shining scarlet just below the beasts exposed underbelly. The force sent Nagi hurdling along the pavement and into an invisible wall at the edge of the crossing. However, this paled in comparison to the fate that the poor Noise must have befallen, as the familiar screech of pain pierced the buzzing echoing within Nagi's very cranium.
"I think we're done..."
Rikio looked around. He was indeed back in the normal Shibuya. He and Nagi had beat the Noise. "We did it," He said in wonder. "These pins are so weird...You can have this one." He handed Nagi the flame pin. "It didnt work for me for some reason." As he spoke, Rikio took the two pins that did work for him, the missile and the hand, and attached them to his shirt. The process took twice as long as it should have, due to Rikio trying to hide his newfound clumsiness. Nagi might not trust me if he found out how incompetent I am without my entry fee. I'll just have to be really careful.
"Come on." He said when he finally attached the pins to his shirt. "We need to reach Towa Records, right?"
Cadoi City was the last part of Shibuya on the way to Towa Records and the completion of the first mission. A much more affordable store than Shibu was on this street, and a man in a red hoodie stood on the far end of the area, in front of the entrance to Towa records.
The thought that her new partner did not see what Mitsuko just accomplished should have disappointed her, but she was used to her achievements being overlooked. To her parents, doing something right just meant she did what she was supposed to, no kudos needed. Still, for Mitsuko, it was a little thrilling to be able to do something that out of the ordinary.
She looked around for her partner, the flames in the area helped. As they died down, she could see the girl staring down one more frog. "Hey, I'm coming!" She charged at the frog, trying to replicate the motion that got her pin to fire off the first time. It took a couple of tries but another bullet was produced, launched at the frog.
Junko sees as the other frog disappears on its own, her partner must of taken care of it.
"Well, that was...something. I think I remember them saying that those things won't attack us any more unless we challenge them. Unfortunately we might have to do that to learn how to use these pins properly. The game rules might challenge us with a few fights. *sigh* This whole thing seems like such a hassle." She pauses for a moment to collect her thoughts. "Well, I guess I had better take you to that store like I promised. come on" She leads Mitsuko down towards the department store, walking past the man in the red sweat shirt as he says "Pact confirmed, wall removed"
Koji, Kimiko and Suki all walked past the smaller department store, heading towards Towa Records. Koji was the first to find the second wall. Bouncing off it just like the first, he let go of Kimiko and yelled in pain again. "What the--Why did the wall have to be right here?!" he asked nobody in particular. "This is the only way through to Towa Records. And it's blocked by another of those invisible walls."
Mitsuko followed after the girl, she seemed to be very blasť about this whole situation. There wasn't much desire in her to really do anything. Still, she was true to her word. She was taking her away from the Shibuya Scramble. They walked past a man who didn't even move. He just said something about a wall being removed.
As they passed him, Mitsuko was struck by a thought. For a girl that was already proving such a help, she didn't even have a name for her. That wasn't right. "I'm Mitsuko, by the way. Ono Mitsuko. I just thought..."
What she just thought seemed to evaporate as she got a look inside the department store windows as they passed by. They offered a view of the clothing section, and there were articles in there that caught Mitsuko's eye so much easier than the drab grey and white clothes she had on now. In fact compared to the clothes inside, her current outfit looked like it belong in the rag bin. "Hey!" she called out. "You think we can like go in there so I can like buy some things? I would love to go in there and grab some stuff, replace this boring outfit. It just doesn't feel right, you know?"
Since Koji was thoughtful enough to let go of her hand, Kimiko was able to stop herself from crashing into the wall this time. "Another one?" She said with an exasperated sigh as she felt along the wall for any openings. Just like it's predecessor though, there were none. And Koji was right, she had racked her brain but there was no other way to Towa Records that she could think of. "Well... I guess we'll have to figure out what brought down the first wall." She said as she began pacing, very carefully, and thinking through the events that had gotten them through the first wall.
"It must be a test. I mean it's too easy if all we have to do is walk around, right? Maybe... We need to fight more Noise? We did have that fight right before we went through the first one after all." She finally concluded, stopping and turning back to the others. "Yeah, that's it. Let's do that."
Suki stopped as soon as Koji hit the wall. She had almost forgotten about it. It would have blown her facade too early. "Whoa! Are you okay Koji-sama? Kimiko-sama?" She spotted the Reaper nearby, but pretended not to see him. "We could try fighting Noise, I guess. It took down the wall last time, right? I can help if you want." she offered, holding onto Tuxedo's collar.
At that point, the guy in red walked over to the group and spoke up. "Want to get past this wall?" he asked.
"Why wouldn't we?" was Koji's immediate, sharp reply. Rather than get offended, the strange man just stayed stoic.
"In that case..." He used two fingers to point at Koji and Kimiko. "You two, erase two Noise symbols, here where I can keep an eye on you." He started walking back, but Koji had another question.
"Where are the Noise symbols?" he asked. "I don't see any here..."
"The world is more than just what you see," was the reply. Koji shook his head, wondering what he meant. That guy is definitely strange... he thought. But then again, what about this isn't?
"Awww, thanks for the offer Suki, but I think Koji and I should handle this. We wouldn't want to let cute little Tuxedo here to get hurt again, would we?" Kimiko cooed as she knelt down and petted the cat gently some more. A new voice from behind her made her stand straight up again out of shock. Whoever it was, this guy knew a lot more about the game than they did and offered to take down the wall for them.
"Looks like I was right then, as usual." Kimiko said with a bit of a smug smile as the strange man who had spoken to them out of the blue instructed them to defeat Noise. "The world is more than just what you see, huh... Well, I guess I can definitely understand that now. I don't hear anything unusual though..." She cocked her head and kept an ear out for any strange noises that would indicate any Noise they could fight.
After awhile, she gave up. She couldn't hear anything useful. Just the usual hustle and bustle of the streets of Shibuya. Well, they gave us these pins to help us out here. Maybe they do more than just fight? It was worth a shot. Kimiko tried touching the two pins she used in battle, but nothing happened. Then she remembered the third pin she had attached to her sleeve. She hadn't tried that one yet and when she touched like others, the sounds of the world around her seemed to change. Not only could she hear the voices of the people around her, she could hear them speaking in a much different voice. Were these their thoughts?! And not just that, she could hear a familiar static like noise buzzing all around her. It had to be the Noise.
"K-Koji! I found them! Do you have a pin like this?" She said excitedly, showing Koji the pin she had touched.
Koji looked at the pin Kimiko was showing him, finding the design familiar. "As a matter of fact..." he said, pulling it out of his pocket and placing it on his sleeve with the flame pin. Suddenly, the world took on a blue filter. A box popped up on a passer-by, but he was more interested in the reappearance of those symbols from before. These symbols seemed a lot more docile, though, simply floating around aimlessly rather than attacking.
"Whoa, this is crazy," he said quietly. "So, to fight these things, we have to..." He looked, harder than he intended to, at one of the symbols. Almost immediately, it became aggressive, quickly floating over on top of him. "Hold on tight, here we go!" he shouted to Kimiko before both were pulled out of the Underground again.
Meanwhile, the man in red walked over to Suki. "You know," he started, "I've been doing this beat for a while and I still don't know why you don't just erase 'em before they partner up, like the others..."
Kimiko barely had time to prepare herself before she felt that strange sensation again and found herself someplace seemingly empty. Koji, Suki, Tuxedo, the strange man, all gone. It was just Kimiko here... Until she heard the growling. "Uh-oh... This sounds worse than the frog things somehow." She muttered nervously as she slowly backed away from the Noise. But that wasn't good enough this time, as she moved back she heard growling behind her as well. Then barking and the sound of paws hitting the ground, running towards her from both directions.
"Left or right? Left or right?!" She yelled in panic, trying to figure out which direction she should dodge. Just as the wolves were upon her, she hit the pin on her right hand and the sword from last time appeared. Quickly, she swung it wildly in all directions, feeling it connect with the wolves and driving them back. But instead of the howls of pain she had expected to hear, Kimiko heard growls of anger. Her attack hadn't done much damage from the sound of it, it had just made them angry.
The sword disappeared and like last time, wouldn't come back when she touched the pin again. She needed more pins if this was gonna keep up. Keeping an ear out for the wolves movements, she dug through her purse to try to see if there was one still in there that she missed. Eventually, her hand gripped something very familiar to her. "My... Paintbrush..." She said, pulling it out and holing it in both hands. It wouldn't do her much good here, but just having it made her feel better.
But she had been so caught up in her paintbrush that she had hardly noticed the wolf that was now right under her nose. She was startled back into reality by the growling that was right in front of her and quickly touched her other pin. She could still feel the paintbrush in her hands, but she felt the spear as well. It felt stronger now for some reason. She braced herself for the charge, and plowed straight into the wolf with it. She heard the satisfying howl of pain from the wolf as she came to a stop. "Now THAT'S more like it." She said as she gripped the paintbrush tightly and turned to face the Noise once more.
Suki nodded, picking Tuxedo up in her arms. When the reaper approached, she didn't even acknowledge him, her eyes glued on the fight. "You know, I've been doing this beat for a while and I still don't know why you don't just erase 'em before they partner up, like the others..."
"Well, that's why you're stuck as a stupid support reaper, and I'm the Harrier!" she shot back angrily, in a rare slip. "...I've erased enough of them already. I'm not going to kill them all the first day. Even if I don't kill them, and some other dummy gets to them first, I won't lose that many points. I'm going to erase them one by one. Ellis says that pain and death are part of life. To reject them is to reject life itself. This is their life now. They'll never leave." There was a good amount of obsession in her voice, but a few breaths later she calmed down, simply staring at the fight wordlessly.