The D-Shutter Chronicles
The Sins of Our Guardians
Keisuke Tachikawa would miss Shinjuku Central Park. The sun peaked between the high rises and the twin towers of the government building and dazzling god rays descended upon the sleeping park. Frosted cherry blossoms caught in the drifting sunlight caught fire, and Seisuke walked past glowing trees of fucia and bloody pink, breathtaking color that saturated even cold stone. His gait slowed. The pond that dominated the park's center was hushed in morning shadow. The acidic waft of fertilizer lingered in his nose. Somewhere the groundskeepers were forking great piles around the many trees that obscured the park from the outside world.
All was quiet. The only noise accompanying Keisuke was the gallop in his dress shoes. Part of him so desperately wanted to squat on the many empty park benches he passed and allow the park soothe him, to let his eyes roll backwards and absorb the stillness, but alas he could not. There were monsters in Japan. Beasts that haunted his dreams and woke him in a heavy sweat. After the catastrophe at the convention center, he imagined them waiting, stalking for Keisuke to drop his guard and come rushing not for him, but his wife and daughter.
And Keisuke Tachikawa would move from the heavens before that would happen. Spirited by resolve, he shifted the briefcase to his other hand, finishing his walk through the park. Keisuke could see the lobby into the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, but it was the guards posted between the sliding doors that gave him pause.
They were a forehead taller than him wearing armor akin to riot gear; molded, vermilion armor over coal gray fatigues . Their right shoulders were painted black with an image of a sword wrapped in garland emblazoned large upon the center. Their heads were hidden behind blank, full helmets and re-breathers. Keisuke felt his resolve flee as fast as it came. Never had he seen guards like them before or weapons that required both hands. They watched him approach.
"Halt." The closest guard barked. Keisuke obliged, struck by the ugliness in his Japanese. "State your business." The guard challenged in a metallic drawl.
Keisuke reached into his shirt pocket and produced a letter. "I've an appointment with Eldritch Emerald?" He said, pinching it between his middle and index finger. His inflection betrayed his discomfort. It was the faceless helmets, unable to read the expressions underneath.
The guard snatched the letter, letting his weapon swing on its strap. He read it. Motioning his partner to watch Keisuke, the guard turned his heel muttering to himself, probably talking on a microphone. Though the guard's eyes were hidden behind the opaque visor, Keisuke could feel his stare rake over his interview dress—a copper colored vest over a white dress shirt, partnered with tan, pressed pants. He shifted his briefcase again.
Minutes passed. More people started appearing along the sidewalk. Most ignored Keisuke and the guards, but a few, the joggers and children in particular, stared. The guard turned around again, offering the letter into Keisuke's waiting hand. "Guild Master Emerald is expecting you, mister Tachikawa. The elevators are to your left. Fortieth floor, suite seventeen." Again the ugly Japanese marred any sincerity. Convinced the guard was foreign, Keisuke curtly bowed. "Enjoy your visit at the Tokyo Metropolitan Building."
The guards stepped aside and, feeling a sudden sense of urgency, Keisuke darted between them. The lobby was unremarkable. More vermilion guards stood among columns or manned the security stations, watching people trickle in from the street. None challenged him. He stepped into the nearest open elevator and hit the button.
The car ascended. Keisuke lingered on his reflection in the elevator wall. He stared into it, remembering, waking from an unsettling dream one night to find himself and his family lying on the convention floor with hundreds of others. His wife had been in tears. His daughter has been possessed, insisting on fighting them. All he managed to so was put them in danger, driving a golf cart into a monster taller than the convention center itself. The subtle shriek of the elevator doors closing snapped him from his daydream. Wedging them open with his forearm, Keisuke stumbled into the fortieth floor.
There were guards up here also. Instead of the striking vermilion downstairs, these men wore forest green armor plate over their brighter, more rugged fatigues. On their right pauldron was the side-profile stencil of a dragon's head in white. They pointed Keisuke toward suite seventeen in the same grating, forced Japanese as he passed; all the way at the end of the floor, the door with no window. Once there, he straightened his clothes and made sure the part in his hair looked properly creased. Engraved on the door written in gold filigree was Eldritch Emerald's name and beneath that a longer, more winded title, 'Guild Master of the Alchemists.' Puzzling it, Keisuke knocked three times. A muffled voice invited him inside.
It was dim. Closing the door behind him, Keisuke waited for his eyes to adjust. Soft runner lights in the tile floor illuminated enough to make out a ghostly hallway. He followed it, noticing the acute taint of recycled air was getting stronger, and the temperature dropping as he came to an open door at the end of the hall. He stepped through the threshold.
Emerald's office was windowless. The runner lights continued from the hallway, tracing the floor's edge until completing the circuit. A naked fixture hung from the ceiling's center. Cold, filtered light revealed the sparse room and the ghoul behind the desk in, what Keisuke could only describe, illuminated shadow. The air grew colder still. He could feel his skin prickle against it. His glasses hazed with condensation. Something nagged at the back of his neck, but Keisuke dismissed it as reacting to the sudden cold.
"Wonderful, you are finally here." Emerald said from behind his desk. The man gestured towards the single chair on the opposite side, urging Keisuke to sit. "I was beginning to think the monsters finally caught you, mister Tachikawa. But I see my patience has rewarded me." He said in his deadpan burr.
Keiskue took his seat and set the briefcase on the desk. "Yes, well, the discussion with my wife was more heated than I thought it would be. I'm sorry to keep you waiting."
Emerald waved it away. His pale face wrinkled with amusement, making him more unsettling somehow. As an international accountant, Kesiuke could place a nationality over the phone in a single conversation or glance, but Eldritch Emerald broke that skill. His skin was gooey white, face blemished and shining like an Eastern European. He filled his wool business suit perfectly. There was an old grease spot on his lapel. His hair looked styled, no gel, cut short and swept to his dominant side. But the most terrifying thing about him was his eyes.
"So I assume that she agrees?" Emerald asked. Keisuke nodded. "Splendid!" The exaltation sounded like air escaping from a tire. "Which means you brought it?"
Keisuke nodded, setting his hand on his briefcase. "Sure did. I'm a bit curious though. Why on Earth would you be so interested some little toy?"
Emerald set his hands on the desk. "It is quite simple, mister Tachikawa. It is a special toy from our fiercest competitor. Only nine were made. It would be quite advantageous for us to," He stopped. He struggled to find the right word, Kesiuke could see it in his expression. "Borrow it?" The words came out more like a question, and Keisuke puzzled at him. "Not to imply that we would keep it for ourselves. Nothing is more tragic than a child losing her favorite toy until, well, she gets a better one."
"Well I'm not trying to look a gift horse in the mouth. I'm just curious is all."
Emerald shrugged. He reached into his desk and pulled out a vanilla folder, placing it and a pen in front of Keisuke. "Your daughter will be none the wiser."
"You haven't met Mimi. That girl can make anything a fashion statement, and let me tell you, that thing might be gray plastic to you and me, but to her its like some piece of jewelry." The father joked. He opened the folder, pen in hand. "Mimi never leaves the house without it. Part of the reason why I'm so late was waiting for one of her beach days where she leaves the thing in her room."
Emerald scowled at that. Not an annoyed scowl, but something far more telling. The man recovered and cracked a thin-lipped smile. "Of course. Children are so wrapped up in their toys, are they not?"
Another thing about Eldritch Emerald was he spoke perfect Japanese. It almost came across as purposeful, pronouncing every syllable using his entire mouth. "Right." Keisuke said, eyeing him. He rifled through the papers. It was the contract that finalized his move to America, what his new position entails, and the benefits his family would be receiving for the foreseeable future.
"You know, I never thought anyone would be willing to help me out after what happened. Everyone sort of laughed at me until you came along." Kesiuke said as he started scribbling his signature on dotted lines. He dug into the paper in some parts, when he remembered the reaction of his current employer and others when he told them about leaving Japan. The laughter seemed more a misery than the monsters. "All for a simple toy. It almost seemed unreal."
"I am not one to squander such," Another pause. Another moment thinking of the right word. "Investments? It means a great deal to have that toy in our possession."
"Sort of like the right man in the right place for once?"
Emerald smiled. "On the contrary, mister Tachikawa. The right man in the wrong place can make all the difference in the world." Keisuke felt the weight of his statement. In the back of his mind, something nagged at him again, but he pushed it aside. Setting the pen down, he closed the folder. Emerald swept the folder back into the drawer. "Now that your needs are taken care of, perhaps you should provide the payment." He said, gesturing at the briefcase.
Keisuke nodded enthusiastically. As he worked on the locks of the briefase, Emerald leaned in, elbows on the desk, fingers webbed together. His expression hungered. Keisuke undid the clasps and flipped the case open. Inside was his usual work attire; notepad, blackberry, assortment of pens in holders, and a calculator. But inside the pouch where he kept the picture of his wife and daughter, he reached in, pulling out the toy that bought his passage to America.
It was a small, rectangular device, something similar to one of those virtual pet eggs Keisuke had seen in claw machines. At first, he mistook it for one, until his daughter told him otherwise. Encased in manufactured plastic, part of him wondered what his daughter, who breathed fashion, would become enamored with such a thing. The in-laid gold running around the screen glowed in the cold light. Emerald snapped it from his hand, taking Keisuke by complete suprise.
Emerald held the device up, clasped between thumb and forefinger, admiring it. "Such power given to the whims of children. How facile." Emerald muttered. The door to the suite opened. A floor guard strode into the room. Wordlessly, he caught the device Emerald pitched at him. "Take this to doctor Kleiner. Tell him that is priority, nothing else." Without a signal, or even acknowledgment, the guard turned his heel to leave. "Stop for no one."
And then the guard was gone. Confusion growing, Keisuke glanced back at him. "Um, what?"
Emerald's smile curled. "Sometimes the excitement gets the best of me. It is essential that we start work right away."
"So we're set?"
"We are quite set. Welcome to the Alchemist Guild. I expect your," Emerald paused again, but instead of struggling, his expression looked rather amused. "Talent? Will benefit the company. Expect your airline tickets within three business weeks. Your daughter will get her toy back once you're all settled in America."
Elated, Keiskue closed the briefcase. "Fantastic!"
"Make sure she doesn't receive it in the mail, to keep up the ruse."
He nodded. "Sure, sure. I can't say this enough, but thank you mister Emerald. I can sleep a little better now knowing we're leaving the monsters behind." He shook the man's hand. It felt weak, but cloying to the touch. "My wife and daughter thanks you." He gave a curt bow. "I'm sure this will work out for the both of us."
Emerald snorted. "Oh. You have no idea, mister Tachikawa." His eyes grew more intense, smiling wider. "You have not idea, at all."
Author's Note: After some soul searching and some self-revision, I decided to rewrite what I had started. Previously, my ideas were all jumbled around in my head and, through some advice from someone that shall remain anonymous (unless stated otherwise), I've decided to narrow the focus.
If there's any criticisms you might have, please leave a review. I accept everything from praise, complaints, and even flames so don't be shy.