The nice thing about writing purely humor-related pieces - as long as you have your notes in place, you can come back to them several years later!
Anyway, this piece represents the end of "The Dressing Tube" series for the first game, which I believe also sets us up nicely for the second (when we get to it, heh).
Kindly note that there is at least one reference to the manga here as well. Further explanations are provided in the post author notes down below.
Disclaimer: Sakura Taisen is owned by Sega and Red Entertainment. I am not making a profit out of this fanfic, but still, this particular story is mine, so please don't take it.
The Odd and the Weird
"The Dressing Tube: High Command"
Lieutenant-General Yoneda Ikki watched as his subordinates rushed to the Teikoku Kagekidan's first battle scene. As soon as the Goraigo bullet train shot out of its hidden station, he took out a stop watch hidden in the front lapel of his military uniform and clicked the switch with satisfaction. "Three minutes and twenty three seconds from alarm all the way to deployment," he said. "Not bad, Ayame, don't you think?"
His vice commander Fujieda Ayame nodded in agreement. "Yes, sir. Our response time is really quite good."
"'Quite' good, Ayame? It's more than 'quite good'. It's superb! The army itself takes the same amount of time just waiting for their soldiers to get dressed and assemble!"
"Well… they don't exactly have advanced utilities in the army barracks, sir."
Yoneda's eyes gleamed with pride. "Yes, they didn't think about the advantages of having those dressing tubes, didn't they?"
"Umm… no sir."
He fondly placed a hand on the portrait that covered Sakura's dressing tube, nostalgia overcoming him as he recalled a distant memory. "Have I ever told you, Ayame? I didn't just think of the dressing tubes when the Teikoku Kagekidan was being formed. I actually proposed the idea to Yamazaki and Kazuma a long while back when we were still in the Tai Kouma Butai."
Ayame's ears perked up at the mention of their old colleagues. "What did they say?"
"Kazuma just stared at me looking as if he had a slight revelation," Yoneda answered. "You know how he is. I'm pretty sure he thought it was a good idea, but that it sounded impossible to do because we haven't really got the technology back then."
"And… what of the major, sir?"
"Yamazaki? He told me that his brain cells would rot if he ever tried to make the ideas of a perverted old man come to life, and to leave the inventing to someone else with good sense and a great deal sober," Yoneda replied, roaring with laughter. "Of course, he probably just said that because he didn't want to be disturbed from his work on the koubus."
Ayame bit her lip, but allowed a restrained smile on her face; it was the best she could do to not just simply burst out laughing at her superior officer. "I see."
"Ah, if they could only see these now. I really think they would believe the time and money invested on them is well worth it."
Time and money, maybe, but I'm not quite sure about the psychological investment on the girls' part… Ayame thought, though she didn't dare say it out loud. "There were many… difficulties encountered at the beginning, sir, but yes, they do appear to have been worth it."
"If we didn't have to bring the new captain up to speed, we probably would have been able to deploy faster," Yoneda commented, referring to the latest addition to the Hanagumi who was their newest captain, Lieutenant Junior Grade Oogami Ichirou.
"I'm admittedly rather surprised the dressing tube worked out well with him, sir, despite the fact that we haven't introduced it to him yet," Ayame said, having noted that – as the lone male member of the Hanagumi – Oogami had actually been the very first male to have descended the tube. He had looked stunned as he had exited, landing firmly on his chest (he seemed to share the same problem Sakura did...), but he probably hardly had the time to digest it properly since he had other surprises in store for him.
After all, the feeling of relief that he had not actually been demoted to being a mere ticket clipper fresh out of military school most likely weighed more heavily to him than machines reaching out to undress him.
That was the current theory, at least.
"We'll have to thank the girls for that. I'm sure they're rather glad all their past efforts had paid off as well."
That was also most likely true, although Ayame thought that the Hanagumi had been staring a little bit too eagerly at what they knew was the exit to their new captain's dressing tube…
"Now that I think about it, don't you think we could improve our time as well?" Yoneda surmised.
Tsubaki, who was seated nearby with her fellow Kazegumi, dropped her pen in shock. Yuri's jaw dropped open, and Kasumi squirmed in her seat.
Even Ayame looked quite uncomfortable from where she stood. She certainly did not like the direction where the discussion was moving to at all. "What… what do you mean, sir?"
"Think about it! We could shave off minutes from our response time if we used the dressing tube as well! If we could sound the alarm earlier, then deployment would be even faster! Efficiency at its best, Ayame!" Yoneda explained, looking very much excited with his idea.
"…you're not proposing that all of us here in the control room should have designated dressing tubes as well, are you sir?"
"Why not? We have plenty of room!"
"The overhead map begs to differ, sir!"
Yoneda snorted. "If we followed that map, then the hidden rooms don't even exist!"
In fact, nobody could still figure out how the hidden room or the dressing tubes fit into the Teigeki's over-all building plan.
"I do wish you would think this over more carefully, sir, especially since you're not you-"
"Nonsense! If Oogami could do it, so can I!"
A vein threatened to pop on Ayame's forehead. Are you sure you're not just jealous of him?
"The fact that we can reach those in need faster is a good enough reason to do this, right?" Yoneda nodded to himself. "So, Kasumi, could you get in touch with Kanzaki and get him to send over his people here on the double? I'd like to have those new tubes installed as soon as possible."
Ayame tried one last argument. "Shouldn't you try the existing tubes first to see if they're really suited for you?"
"I already like the tubes, Ayame. After all, I'm the one who came up with them, right? And I do so love the results I see. I do not need further convincing."
Kasumi stared at the steam-powered phone in front of her, not at all unaware of the horrified look on Tsubaki's face and of Yuri shaking her head from side to side, as she reached out towards the receiver with shaking hands…
Yoneda frowned and sniffed disapprovingly as he stared at the two new tubes that had just been outfitted into the wall of the hidden room. "Just two?" he asked. "Currently set for Ayame and me? How about you three? Shouldn't it have been five?"
"They only had enough supplies to create two, manager. The rest will come as soon as the materials are delivered," Kasumi answered, almost too immediately.
A suspicious Ayame would later discover by browsing through the expense reports that Kasumi had really only requested for an additional two new dressing tubes. Theatre gossip would further reveal that she had done so because she had hoped that Yoneda would change his mind; there was no point in spending more money than absolutely necessary for this little "experiment"…
"Meh… well, can't argue with that. Well, Ayame? Let's try it out!"
Whatever may be the case with Kasumi's disobedience, Ayame was left wishing that only one new tube was created.
Having gotten used to the Hanagumi's initial reactions with the tube just prior to going inside, Yuri was quite disturbed with the level of eagerness their manager was displaying. It even seemed to exceed Kohran's when she had first visited. Yoneda acted like he was about to play with a toy he had longed to have for so long, and yet only got it now.
For Ayame, she couldn't help but think that Shinguuji Kazuma and Yamazaki Shinnosuke got off lucky, and wondered if it would be too late to join them…
Of course, Yoneda went into his tube first, laughing all the way.
"Mother said father mentioned in one of his letters that Uncle Yoneda's age and drinking habits 'appears to have caught up with him' and that 'his mind seems to be starting to wander into strange territories and giving him odd ideas,'" Sakura said.
Once again, Ayame had to bite her lip so that she wouldn't burst out laughing.
Oblivious to her superior officer's predicament, Sakura continued. "Perhaps Uncle Yoneda's idea that he could go down the dressing tube despite his old age is one of those moments father was worried about?"
The Hanagumi had gathered in the second floor salon after just having arrived from the hospital, where Yoneda was taken after his little joy ride, this time howling all the way about his aching back.
"Well, maybe Uncle Yoneda just didn't want to wear his uniform underneath his regular clothes anymore..." a thoughtful Iris asked.
Her team mates looked at her with eyebrows raised, wondering how Iris knew about that information, and worrying if they should start questioning if they actually had any dignity to show towards the powerful little psychic. Especially the only male member.
"I mean, that's gotta be how Uncle Yoneda and Ayame get to the briefing room so fast even without the dressing tubes. Isn't that right, big sister Ayame?" Iris innocently inquired.
Ayame merely smiled.
Oogami stroked his chin. "So how come we can't wear our uniforms underneath our clothes and just simply take them off when there's trouble?"
"And sweat underneath all those layers of clothing? You have got to be kidding, ensign!" Sumire practically growled. "Besides, do you really think I could wear my uniform underneath my gorgeous kimono?"
The Hanagumi captain fought the urge to say that wearing the uniform would at least help prevent people from thinking that Sumire always seemed to be in a constant state of undressing.
"Will the manager try again after he gets back?" Maria asked.
The vice commander shook her head. "I doubt it. The doctor said his back wouldn't be able to take it. And even if he did, I wouldn't let him."
Sumire crossed her arms. "What in the world made him think that he was young enough to land on his feet after those monstrosities spit him out, anyway?" she commented.
"But what would happen to those two extra tubes now?" Sakura wondered.
Ayame sighed. "Well, we already paid for them, so they'll just have to stay there until they're needed."
"... Why won't you use yours, Ayame-san?"
All the women stared at Oogami, contempt written all over their faces. Sweat pored all over his face as he wondered what he had said that made them hate him this time. "W-what?"
"I'm disappointed with you."
"Big brother is a bad, bad person!"
And with that, everyone turned their backs on him and marched out of the room.
"Whaaat? We already paid for it! Wouldn't it make much more sense to use it?" Oogami defended, crying out towards them, though no one paid attention as they walked further away.
Still, there just might be some truth to what the girls had said.
After all, for some strange reason, Oogami just couldn't seem to vision himself falling down the tube, and always saw Sakura instead.
- OWARI -
Goraigo at 9.8 m/s^2
Post Author's Notes:
For those who had not read it, in the official manga, when Oogami was "introduced" by Sakura to the dressing tube, the poor man was essentially pushed down by Sakura feet first into the gaping hole (and, much like the reactions of most of the Hanagumi in this fic, was rather horrified by his first experience on the way down). And yet he still somehow came out head first. Much like Sakura in the PS2 version, except she does it the other way around.
And then, going back to the game, even though the player plays from Oogami's point of view, we always, always see Sakura coming down the tube instead.
Oh, Oogami, you really are a pervert! :D