The drama kicks in before Day 7.
From ngrey651: Thank GOODNESS she's not dead. I'm getting really, really tried of the trend in fiction to kill of characters just to invoke a sense of horror or dread in the audience and make them immediately empathize with the characters. It's a cheap trick.
From me: But not here. I want to expand a little more on Rhyme's character. Do enjoy her unsettling wise behavior for a young girl. :)
From Bob: Great chapter. Love the part where shiku goes bit crazy about buttons. Also I think u should update yr profile thing as it is bit old. So yeah Awesome chapter and thanks.
From me: Oh yes, I'll update my profile soon enough. Thanks for reviewing a bit. :)
From Koopacrazy: Great chapter this is gradually becoming my favorite fic can i ask if we'll see anything about the other smashers still near the mansion or the newest smashers getting away from Subspace.
From me: Oh, I don't know myself. See how things turn out here for now, okay? Keep enjoying the story. :D
From Ignore Me: I'm glad that Rhyme's alive, but how will they beat...um...the lady? (I'm not bothered to remember her name) without a - ? (Does it even matter? It's been a while since I played the game.)
From me: Shh, don't spoil things for others. I'll have something to fix that issue soon. ;)
From GuyroMaster: 1. When will we find out what happened to the other Smashers?
2. When I saw one of your DeviantArt pictures for this story Arc . . . I saw Lucario behind the group. Does this indicate that he may possibly appear in this arc, or was he put in the picture just for looks?
From me: Oh, finally! Somebody is finding the links between my story and my artwork! For what you found, there's definitely something…but not the way you think. This chapter should probably solve that doubt you have. ;)
From BOB JOHNSON: what
y-you can't just have rhyme not die that
that's KIND OF AN IMPORTANT EVENT
that sort of drives a goodly number of the rest of the game's plot threads in their entirety
and what... what the fuck
From me: Besides the unnecessary insults, do you really feel like calling me out for something that isn't happening right now? Seriously! It's people like you that think they know how everything is going to turn out when they don't. Have some patience, man!
From jj: Quick question the doctor who created Rob is that the doctor from cave story.
From me: Quick answer no.
From DeathclawVictim: I have to say I'm disappointed by the entry fees. It seems for the Smashers its all some variation on memories. This is copying the game without really getting the meaning, and doing so in ways that subtract from rather than add to drama.
For instance, take away Ike's ability to wield a sword. All he can do is clumsily swing it and harm himself in the process. Now the Smasher has to learn to fight in a new way to save himself and get his old swordfighting skills back. Then, once he does get his skills back, an antagonist could comment that he values fighting more than his own younger sister-cue drama. Similarly, Ness loses all his powers and only keeps his bat. Variations on memories don't give it as much potential.
From me: Believe me. I could've gone with that, but there's an even bigger, ulterior motive to the simpleness of their entry fees. In fact, this chapter discusses that…so I hope you like the explanation. :)
From NowhereStarr14: *sigh* I wish I knew more about, 'The World Ends With You' game, It'd be easier to understand and connect with the characters, I only know them from Dream Drop Distance.
From me: Buy a new copy from Amazon. You'll be completely in love with the game, I kid you not.
Also, there weren't two endings. It's just that people dislike having nasty cliffhangers that I wanted to cut them some slack and have a nice cliffhanger for a change. Thanks for reviewing. :)
From a guest: Could you do a DBZ arc? Goku's awesome.
From me: *Laughs hysterically* And gain cheap reviews that easily in this section? That is so cliché I'm not even bothering!
I had a few setbacks trying to finish this chapter (namely college), but in the end, I always get the upper hand. So then, I give you guys the new chapter. A lot more explaining about a few important things is given out. Also, Shiki gets to have more spotlight along with others.
I encourage all fashion designers to read on, enjoy, and review. :)
Disclaimer: Where is the Pichu love in this section?
Chapter 202: Shiki's Week – Shiki & Eri
The group of ten stared at the newcomer that came out from behind the fuming Uzuki. The new Harrier Reaper looked like he didn't care much about the situation that had robbed the angry Reaper from seeing Beat and Rhyme getting erased, cockily chuckling as he tasted his orange lollipop. "Like I said," he began, standing next to Uzuki, "it's my fault I couldn't erase one of them."
"You take it too easy!" Uzuki complained. "We gotta erase Players, or else we're the ones getting the boot!"
"Easy there, girl," her companion said with an amused grin, his lazy eyes under his transparent glasses gazing at the group. "We can still have our fun time with these guys."
Soren furrowed his brow. "Yes, that one is clearly against us," he said. "What a drag this has become."
"So this was a trap set up by you!" Ness suddenly said, stepping forward.
"I like to call it a surprise," the newcomer said.
The group stared at the second Harrier Reaper to get familiar with his looks. He had messy orange hair that slightly resembled a messy Mohawk of sorts, with a strand hanging on the left side of his face. He wore clear glasses over his lazy eyes and a lollipop that he never let go. He wore a black parka vest with the white emblem of a skeleton imprinted on top. He also wore pale magenta pants and white sneakers, with a chain hanging on the side of his left pocket. On the back of his vest, the trademark Reaper wings calmly fluttered a bit.
"From the looks of things, they seem to be partners on the job," Fox said.
Uzuki furrowed her brow at her partner. "Kariya, this better not lower our score," she said.
Koki Kariya is Uzuki's insufferable Harrier Reaper partner who accompanies her a lot. He is the polar opposite of the girl's overall being, liking to spend time being lazy more than putting effort in his job. However, there are rumors that he could easily be an office of the Game, though he has an ulterior motive about why he's not rising in ranks…
Koki chuckled, sucking on his lollipop. "Relax, Uzuki," he said. "We're far above the score to worry about missing one prey. But you gotta say, I was pretty close there."
"Ya punks!" Beat said, shaking a fist as Rhyme stood next to him with a serious look. "You tryin' to erase us usin' dirty tricks? We can plays as dirty!"
"But we're not allowed to fight them straight on," Ike said, recalling Hanekoma's lecture, "and they can't hurt us directly or else they get penalized."
"Bravo! You do know your stuff about the Game," Koki said with a grin. "BTW, whatever happened to that focus on the Noise I released on you? It's still around…"
Gasping, the group looked around the street to find the shark Noise. They suddenly spotted the shark fang symbol coming from the north, and its owner leaped out at them as if the concrete was water. Now that they were standing next to each other, a Noise battle broke out as the planes separated for a chosen set of Players…
The World Ends With You – Someday (Japanese)
Right in front of the most popular establishment of Towa Records, Ike unsheathed Ragnell and stared at its blade, Rhyme was playing around with the little bell on her neck, and Fox cracked his neck a bit. On the upper plane, Soren's total focus was on his wind tome, Beat circled his left shoulder, and Chris was looking up to the sky, hoping to get out just fine from the battle.
On both planes, a lot of Noise materialized out of black and white static. Both planes had frogs Noise. The first kind they had encountered from the beginning, the Dixiefrog, was accompanied by a brand new kind of frog Noise. This frog Noise, called Bigbanfrog, was just light blue in color with the characteristic of spewing damaging bubbles. The upper plane was devoid of the shady-looking tadpoles - called Bigbansprog - that circled the street on the lower plane. The little Noise liked to be in a big swarm to latch on Players' legs to slow them down while fighting the rest of the Noise.
Finally, there was a brand new, dangerous addition to the mix. A demonic-looking blue shark's fin was sticking out from the street, causing ripples of water to stretch out. It was the deadly shark Noise called Swing Shark that wanted to erase Beat.
"Ready for a beat down?" Beat asked. The battle started.
The Swing Shark dove down into the street and caused a distortion of space as it treated the concrete like water. Due to the mess of Noise, the group lost sight of it for the time being.
The Bigbansprog wasted no time in latching on the Players of the lower plane. "These things are at it again!" Ike said, trying to run away with a few Bigbansprogs circling his legs. "It's bad enough that I can't run that fast!"
Getting annoyed by the creepy critters, Fox grunted and used Fire Fox to burn them alive as he collided against two Dixiefrogs. It was not long before more swarmed his legs. "Damn these freakish things!" he complained.
"I'm glad I'm not down there," Chris said, shrugging at the sight of the Bigbansprogs. A Bigbanfrog latched on his face and jumped away, delivering a harsh blow that pushed him to the street. "H-hey!"
"Hey, be careful up there! I feel your pain, literally!" Fox told his partner.
Soren sliced several frogs with his wind magic, but then he gasped and stepped away when he saw a rippling distortion appear in front of his feet. The Swing Shark emerged from the concrete and chomped empty air brutally before diving back down. "That accursed shark is here," Soren noted. "I assume it's the leader of the pack. We must eliminate that monster soon."
"Leave it to me!" Beat said, boarding his skateboard and chasing the Swing Shark down. He noticed that its fin was up and, thinking that it was a weak spot, started scratching the concrete. The screeching of the skateboard's wheels sent shockwaves that dealt quite a lot of damage. As a last hit, Beat stepped back and slammed his skateboard down on the fin, making the shark roar in pain. "GET OUT!" he exclaimed, passing over a light puck to Rhyme.
Unfortunately, Rhyme wasn't as lucky on her end. While she was using Force Rounds to send energy blasts to the multitude of frog Noise, the shark on her plane bit her right arm, and she just barely pulled it back. The blow she had received made her yelp in pain. "Oww!" she yelped, waving her arm. The light puck vanished due to her tardiness. "That was such a nasty attack…"
"Rhyme, careful down there!" Beat said, feeling the stinging pain in his own right arm. "Dontchu let it chomp ya down!"
"It is my duty to protect my comrades," Ike said as he shook the Bigbansprogs from his legs and giving chase to the shark. "Take this!" He slammed Ragnell down on the shark's fin, causing it to roar in pain and stop swimming in the space over the street. It immediately resumed swimming around.
Soren held out his hand to cast a whirlwind of air that sliced the group of frogs. Suddenly, a green glyph shone under his feet, and he sharply turned around and called forth another stream of winds that tore half of the frogs down. "Wow, that came out pretty fast, Soren," Rhyme noted from the lower plane.
The Branded dusted off his tome. "It's my Adept skill that allows me to attack in quick succession," Soren explained, ignoring a Dixiefrog that was just about to latch on his back until Chris fired a stream of laser shots with his Blaster on the Noise. "It only comes up occasionally, but I don't rely on it too much."
"That's amazing…uh…whatever that skill means," she said with a bright smile. She gasped when spotting the Swing Shark going to their way. "I-it's coming to us!" she said.
Knowing that magic was kind of useless due to the amount of enemies focusing on them, Chris sighed and changed to his Moogle Knight job, unsheathing his small sword. "I-I'm slowly getting into close combat, kupo!" he proclaimed before he swung his sword hard. "Moogle Lance!"
At this point, the Shibuya Crew learned about Chris's unique ability to change jobs, though they weren't filled about the rest of his repertoire. "Aww, you look so cute in that job!" Rhyme said, to which Chris shyly blushed under his furred face.
Three aerial shockwaves shot out from the swinging motion, instantly colliding against the fin of the shark. Staggering, the Swing Shark stopped moving for a little. Seeing an opening, Soren conjured slicing winds to further damage the shark until a Dixiefrog latched onto his face and pushed him down. Gasping, Rhyme turned around and shot several energy blasts from her palms to keep incoming Bigbanfrogs away from her frail self.
Back on the lower plane, Fox sidestepped away from a harsh bite attack from the Swing Shark before he pushed his feet from the street to deliver a flying kick on the shark's nose, causing it to submerge into the rippling space. It was then that he got a light puck from Chris. Thinking quickly, he used Fox Illusion to deliver a strong slice, passing the light puck back to Chris. "Good!" he exclaimed, standing up. "We're doing okay!" He spoke too soon once two Dixiefrogs got on his face and pushed him down to the street.
"Spoke to soon!" Beat said from the upper plane, using his skateboard as a shield to defend himself from a Dixiefrog. He quickly rushed at it to send shockwaves by grinding his board's wheels hard into the ground. "But yeah, doin' great so far!"
"UGH!" Ike felt a sharp pain coursing through his body despite the fact he wasn't attacked at all. "S-Soren!"
"Sorry…" Soren spoke weakly. "That shark sneaked up on m-"
"AH!" Fox grunted in pain, almost losing his balance. "W-what the…"
"M-my frail body, kupo…" Chris muttered, breathing heavily. "That monster almost…ate me up, kupo…"
"A-alright, I just need to use this…" Ike used a Cure Drink pin to produce a soda can that he quickly drank. He tossed the empty can away over his shoulder. "Whew! That feels a bit better…"
Fox was also drinking his own soda can. "We can't fight just like before," he said, actually slamming the can into a Dixiefrog. "If we get banged up too much, not even we get the benefit of getting knocked out!"
"I know…" Chris said. "My reviving spells don't work as long as we're playing this dreaded Game, kupo…"
"Focus," Soren said as he sliced the Swing Shark's fin with wind. He caught Rhyme running away from three Bigbanfrogs. "Complain about anything else later. We're fighting for our lives here."
"Always the serious one… I can't argue you with that, though," Ike said. He felt a sudden rush of energy, and then he took out his Fusion pin. Instead of white void, a new picture surfaced. It was Ragnell's image with relentless winds surrounding it. "Soren, let's go!"
Soren closed his eyes. "Whatever it is, it must be good," he stated as Ike clutched the pin. An altered variation of Ike's Lvl. 1 CFS was unlocked.
The two planes briefly merged together to allow both friends to stand next to each other. Out of instinct, Ike prepared his Counter move while Soren awaited the Swing Shark to get closer to them. Taking notice, the shark Noise swam their way at a great speed. Once it lunged out to have a bite of Ike's face, the mercenary took it as an attack, and he immediately swung Ragnell hard into the shark's skull.
However, just before Ike struck the shark, Soren had mixed the power of the winds with Ragnell, causing a mystical whirlwind that covered the legendary sword for added extra offense. As a result, the harsh sword blow ended up causing the shark to spin madly in midair until flopping hard into the street without going back underwater.
The two planes separated, and the group gasped to see the shark stunned into place as it tried to swim back down into the street. Chris gasped and immediately sliced a Dixiefrog, felling it into a blur of white and black static. "The shark is out, kupo!" he said as he changed to his Space Mercenary job. "What's our next course of action?"
While Rhyme took it upon herself to blast the shark, Fox felt a rush of energy. Grinning, he took out his Fusion pin, accidentally having the backside up. "Silly me, taking this thing out backwards… Hm?" His ears perked up a bit after noticing an odd occurrence on the backside o the Fusion pin.
Unlike the head side of the pin, the tail side had a different image. The image looked like it resembled some sort of creature with an angry look on the white of its left eye while surrounded by blue and purple flames. Fox could also notice a few set of fangs below that angry eye.
"Huh…" Fox tilted his head, barely dodging a Bigbanfrog while doing so, his attention on the pin. "Wonder why this Fusion pin has two sides like this…" He looked to the flopping shark. Looking serious, Fox clutched the pin to activate its psych. "Well then, here goes! C'mon, Chris!"
The two planes merged back together as Fox and his protégé stood side by side…
And nothing happened.
"…" Fox looked around with Chris. "So… What happens now?" he asked. "I don't feel like pulling off some extraordinary move…"
"Well, if you ask me…" Chris began, looking quite perturbed, "I feel a very odd sense of solitude and…danger…"
The vulpine stared at the teen. "What does that mean?" he asked confused.
"I don't know…" Chris shivered. "But whatever this is…I…I really want it to end…"
Startled by the menacing roar that shook the very street they were standing on, the two gasped and looked up at the source of the roar. Fox's mouth hung open while Chris blinked in shock at the figure standing on top of a skyscraper. The vulpine's irises shrunk. "Is that…?!"
Chris's eyes widened. "A Lucario?!" he finished.
Standing on top of the tall building, there was a very pissed-looking Lucario looking down upon the battlefield, his fists flaring up with intense aura. "WHO DARES HURT MY TRAINER?!" he demanded before he leaped down from the high height, landing right in front of the startled duo without facing them. He growled menacingly at the flopping shark and the group of frogs. "I WON'T LET YOU DISTURB CHRIS ANY FURTHER!"
"W-what?" Chris asked, completely at a loss of words. When he noticed that the Lucario easily towered over he and Fox, Chris gasped. "O-oh my goodness, this Lucario is so tall!"
Fox wasn't so sure how it even happened, but it really became clear to him that Chris had no recollection of his own Pokémon. As the enraged Lucario brought his hands to his side to charge up an attack, Fox turned to Chris. "He's your Lucario, Chris!" he said. "I dunno how he even appeared out of nowhere, but I guess it's the Fusion pin that let him come out…"
"He's…he's my Lucario?" Chris asked.
His question was unanswered once they saw Lucario charging up an ungodly amount of aura between his palms. As his body radiated with powerful aura, Lucario let out an ear-shattering roar as he shoved his hands forward, firing off a massive Aura Storm that engulfed the unlucky enemies within its reach. The intensity of the attack was just too much for the Noise to take, and the Swing Shark died in a spectacular fashion.
The Swing Shark shone brightly until it shot out several lights. The lights then burst into a dome of light, just for the background to become a messy set of white and black static that grinded against each other, as if it were a television receiving no signal. Once the waves of black and white static came to a halt, the shark was nowhere to be found, along with its cohorts.
The two planes were still merged together, and the rest of the Players that participated in the fight appeared, looking quite impressed at the event that had taken place. Despite the fact the battle was over, the wild Lucario was still there, standing at his full height. While Fox smiled a bit at their victory, Chris only stared at the towering Pokémon's back.
"Hell yeah! That was tight!" Beat exclaimed all of a sudden.
The Reapers in charge of grading the fight were hiding inside an alley. They were nodding to each other until one of them slapped a B rank on the group's performance. "Short but easy," one said.
"Yeah, that was some intense finishing move," another one said.
"I wished there was more teamwork, though," a third one commented. "They're still a mess of uncoordinated blows it's not even appealing."
The Reapers nodded and disappeared…
The World Ends With You – Underground
As the rest of the Players saw the other half appearing from their fight, they went over to join their side. The Smashers, though, yelped at the sight of the Aura Pokémon standing a few feet away from his trainer. "What in the heck?" Ness said.
"It's…it's Lucario!" Pichu said.
"Lucario?" Neku wondered, crossing his arms as he saw the Pokémon looking at them over his shoulder. "(So this is the guy that he forgot about…)" He looked Lucario from head to feet. "(Huh… He actually looks kinda cool…and badass…)" He lowered his face. "(Phew, good thing I didn't voice that out…)"
Once Lucario stared at Chris's surprised look, he smiled a bit and turned to face him. "Are you proud of me?" he suddenly asked as the Shibuya Crew exchanged glances. "Those monsters won't trouble you any longer, Chris…"
"Uh…" Chris shook his head, confused that there was such a big Lucario looking at him with a friendly look. In truth, there was something very deep in Chris's subconscious that told him not to be scared of the tall Pokémon. A weird feeling inside of him told him that running away shouldn't be done. "T-thank you, I guess…"
The Lucario made a happy expression and went over to his trainer. Chris's eyes widened once the Aura Pokémon pulled him to his side with his left arm, nudging his muzzle on Chris's hair. The teen blinked and blushed slightly once he heard the dangerous-looking Pokémon growl with affection. Still, Chris didn't want to escape the embrace. Consciously, he wanted to. Subconsciously, he didn't want to, and this side won over his decision, though there was a nostalgic feeling that he secretly cherished to himself.
"Aww, he's so cute for being so big!" Rhyme exclaimed, folding her arms behind her back.
"R-Rhyme, I don't think that's the right expression," Shiki said before staring back at their way. "…On second thought, that kinda looks cute…" she flailed her hands once Neku shot her with a look. "I-I'm a girl! I do find some things cute!"
Ike stared. "Wait, hold on… How can this be?" he asked, getting Lucario's attention. "Are you also dead?"
Lucario, surprisingly, shook his head. "No, I'm not dead," he said as Chris looked up at him. "I'm just a figment of Chris's mind that was given the chance to appear and protect him from harm…" He smiled down at Chris. "I'm not the real deal, but his mind yearned to be reunited with the real me. This is the best it could do to provide him with some assistance… And even then…" He pulled Chris to his chest, his cheek brushing against his fur. Quite a bit alarmed, Chris tried to escape, but he still didn't do anything. "His memories of me have a clear picture of my attitude."
Fox grimaced. "(How could that Fusion pin call him out?)" he thought. "(Does that mean the others can use a second Fusion move? But then, what about this…figment of Chris's mind?)"
"…" Chris chuckled. "You're a funny one," he said. "But seriously, do I remember owning a Lucario?"
Lucario gasped. "W-what?" he asked. "Y-you…don't remember me?"
"No…" the teen said, pushing himself away from Lucario's embrace. Somehow, he didn't want to stop for a reason but he ultimate chose to stop anyway. "I don't remember you at all, but I'm very thankful for helping us out… That was very sweet of you," he commented. The feeling of nostalgia got a bit stronger, yet Chris didn't remember. "I thought your kind would be the lone wolf type, but I'm wrong about that."
"…Ugh…" Lucario clenched his eyes shut. "How…how can you not remember?"
Chris looked worried. "Remember?"
"…" Lucario opened his eyes, shedding a small tear. "Please…remember Lucario…" And with that, the Aura Pokémon vanished, making some of them gasp.
"…" Chris stared the spot where the Lucario was standing. "Remember Lucario…" he muttered, feeling a small hint of loneliness. "Why is it that…just saying Lucario's name makes me feel…weird? It's like I feel…alone…"
Fox looked serious at him. "Chris, you and Lucario are inseparable," he said. "Look, I don't know how things are working around here, but there's surely something in your mind that's really attached to Lucario's memory… And no matter what," he pointed at the teen, "your subconscious IS yearning for you to reunite with him."
"I…I just don't understand how…" Chris shook his head in denial.
"You're his trainer," Pichu said. "You two are so close to each other! You've got to remember him!"
Soren frowned. "What chances does he have to remember his entry fee?" he asked. "Perhaps there is some kind of outside force trying to play tricks with his mind. I still am sketchy about this world affecting us in the weirdest of ways…"
The group of Players never noticed the presence of the same person tailing them from the shadows. Upon hearing the Branded's claim, he looked amused. "My," he began, "one of them is pretty smart to notice my little experiment on those Players… Luckily, though, it's just an assumption on their part. I'll see if the others have the same kind of power to hold on to their entry fees…"
"That was pretty weird, then," Ike said. "But how did he even appear?"
"The backside of my Fusion pin did that," Fox said, looking at everyone. "It turns out there's a second Fusion for us to use…I think… That's what called him here."
"Really now?" Shiki wondered, rubbing her chin. "That's kind of neat, but at the same time weird… Neku, have you found a second Fusion on the backside?"
Neku shook his head. "It never occurred to me to check that out," he said. "I'll try that out once we get the chance."
"Me too," Rhyme said. "I'm curious about a second Fusion…"
"…Wait…" Ike trailed off. "How do we know if it won't be the same?"
Shiki feared that it would reveal some kind of secret. "M-maybe it's not the same for all of us," she said. "Still…let's try that out once we're ready for it."
Now that the atmosphere was calmer, the group noticed that Koki and Uzuki were gone. "Those Reapers are gone," Pichu said.
"Tsk! Here I wanted to beat 'em up," Beat said. "Oh yeah!" he grinned and turned to Fox. "Thanks a lot for helpin' us back there, yo!"
Just as Fox grinned, the group of ten immediately lost consciousness and fell down to the street…
Shiki's Day 5 – Empty Urban Legends
Tipsy Tose Hall
"A popular corner whose arcade and karaoke boxes draw crowds. There's even a store specializing in American comics."
The new area where they were taken to was close to the northern section of Shibuya. On the south side, there was a small park area where, not surprisingly, a lot of people hung out, but many of those people were young teenagers who were a little bit too much into popular children's games like the addicting Tin Pin sport and manga. To the north side of the section, there were exclusive stores selling those very same magazines and video games. The northern left side led to one of Shibuya's costly stores while the right side led to a foreign street with foreign restaurants.
Rubbing his head, Neku stood up. "Oh, great…" he muttered, taking out his phone to look at the date. "Another day's passed…"
The others, sprawled on the floor, woke up and stood up, looking at their new surroundings. "Huh, this is Tipsy Tose Hall, isn't it?" Shiki wondered.
"Hell yeah!" Beat said, shaking an excited fist. "This is one of mah favorite places! Love wastin' a lot of my time in…" He paused and blinked, suddenly looking gloom. "…Uh…yeah, this place is great," he said in a less enthusiastic tone while Rhyme tilted her head at him.
Chris looked south where he saw a lot of young teenagers hanging out. He noticed that many of them dressed kind of peculiar. "And that's supposed to be the crowd I should be hanging out with," he said as he heard some enthusiastic yells…some very, very crazed enthusiastic yells. "…Okay, maybe not."
"So we passed yesterday's mission just fine," Ness said. "It's just a matter of time before we get a new one for today…" He eyed the nearby stores before squealing. "Magazines and comics! Oh boy, I need to start a new collection soon! Those are fun!" The nine gave him odd looks. "…Hey, I'm still young and naïve…"
"Suuuuuure you are," Pichu said with a suspicious look.
A nearby beeping indicated that the worst was just about to come. Turning to the Shibuya Crew, the Smashers saw them taking out their phones. "Mission's here," Rhyme said.
Free Spain Hill from the Noise. You have 200 minutes. Fail, and face erasure. – The Reapers
"Here it comes…" Ike muttered, and then they all flinched in pain, getting a new timer for the mission. "Ugh, I hate when that happens… So, where's this Spain Hill place?"
Shiki pointed to the right where an alley was, except said alley looked a bit too crowded with normal-looking people. To their dismay, there was a Support Reaper guarding the wall leading to the path. "It's right over there…but there's a wall for sure."
Soren grunted. "Let's get this over with. Only a few more days till we get out of this mess," he said.
A time passed as the group engaged into more Noise fight. Eventually, they gained entry to Spain Hill without much happening.
"A narrow, Mediterranean street lined with eateries, bookshops, and more. As you climb the stone-paved steps, you'll want to veer off and explore."
It felt like they were back to A-East, judging that there was almost no light coming down from the cramped buildings. The stone-paved steps of the path took anyone to the various bookshops and foreign restaurants. Just like all of Shibuya, there was a lot of people walking around, most of them liking dark places and indie stores.
"There are stores just about everywhere in this city," Ness noted as they walked up the steps of the hill. "And all of them are packed."
"I can just imagine how the economy prospers every day," Ike said. "Back in Tellius, we're still in an era where our economy is being retooled under Elincia's ruling."
"Ah, yes," Soren said. "From what I heard, the nobles aren't quite pleased with her decisions, even if she does have the best intentions for her people… Not any later, it won't be too long before a revolt erupts."
"Soren, stop being so gloomy about that," Ike said.
"I'm telling the truth."
"Soooooo…" Shiki broke in as they reached the middle section of the street. Chris suddenly fixated his gaze on the Mexican Hot Dog restaurant. "The mission told us to get rid of the Noise in Spain Hill…" She looked at Neku. "Let's scan the area."
"It's too bad we need to work…" Chris said, eyeing the entrance of the restaurant. "I wish to go in there."
"Mexican Hot Dog…" Fox read the green sign over the entrance. "Well, we do have three hours to spare, and we're already here."
Suddenly, from the automatic doors of the restaurant, two familiar faces stepped out with blank looks, though they both looked sad. Shiki gasped and backed off, seeing Mina and Ai walking out. "It's them!" she said.
Ike eyed Mina. "It's the girl from yesterday that caused you… I mean…" he trailed off. "It's not like you want to talk to her, though, if I remember."
"Y-yeah, there's no need t-" Shiki was interrupted once Mina started talking, conveniently stopping right in front of them.
"So yeah…" Mina told Ai. "Eri's been down in the slumps ever since Shiki died in that accident." She shrugged, remembering the newspaper article. "It was…so tragic. I shouldn't have gone over to the Scramble Crossing to see the big commotion… I saw the blood splattered on the street in a long trail and then I saw…" She shuddered, recalling the body's state. "Her family is suing the bus owner, but witnesses said that she crossed the street during a red light."
"Please, don't talk about it," Ai said, sighing. "It's not making me feel any better."
Shiki looked away, taking out a heavy breath. Pichu looked up at her with concern in his eyes. "I guess…that's how I died," she said. "I was…run over by a bus while I was crossing the street."
"That's unfortunate…" Fox commented.
"Yeah…but it wasn't really that simple."
Neku looked at her. "Not that simple?"
The fashionista shut her eyes. "S-sorry, I'm running my mouth again," she said. "I don't wish to remember what happened before that…"
As Pichu's ears drooped, he listened to the girls' conversation. "Eri is gonna attend her funeral in a few weeks. I'm going with her," Mina said. "I called her yesterday and she's been holed up in her house ever since she found out about Shiki."
"I see…" Ai muttered. "Well… Let's stop talking about tragedies for now," she said, oddly looking peeved. "What's on my mind right now is bothering me a LOT more than what happened to Shiki."
Mina raised an eyebrow before looking worried. Just today morning, Ai had been subtly trying to avoid talking to her for an event that she witnessed yesterday at Shibu Dept. Store. "Ai, are you mad at me?" she asked.
Ai closed her eyes, folding her hands behind her skirt. "Don't be ridiculous," she said.
"You…you sure?" Mina asked.
Ai felt irritated just hearing Mina's voice. She surely figured out the scandalous thing she did yesterday, Ai thought. "Yes! OK?" Ai said, raising her voice.
The group gasped when they saw several yellow Noise symbols surrounding the two girls. Although the symbols were swarming them, they didn't go after the Players. "Whoa!" Neku said in shock. "Look at all the Noise! What's up with those two?"
"Looks like they're having an argument," Shiki said, "and that's drawing all the Noise."
Ike narrowed his eyes. "You don't think that those are the Noise we're supposed to take care of, do you?" he asked.
Shiki nodded. "It must be them. Let's try getting rid of the Noise around them!" she said determined.
The group of Players nodded and scanned the Noise to draw them all to their side…
However, after defeating them all, the group came back to the UG just to find a lot more of Noise symbols swarming around the high schoolers. "No… Look!" Shiki said. "Here come some more!"
"What?" Ness said. "Aw, we just fought them without trouble! I knew this was too easy! No wonder why they gave us a lot of time for this mission!"
"If this keeps up, we'll never pass the mission," Chris said.
"Crap. This will never work," Neku said.
Shiki stared at the two girls, still looking at each other with doubtful looks. "Those two keep drawing more in," she said. "What's their story, I wonder?"
"Ah…" Soren nodded. "It's just like before back in day 3. The troubled draw Noise in because of their inner struggles that change their overall decisions," he said. "If we can somehow help these girls out, then perhaps… Let's listen a little more."
The group focused back on Ai and Mina. "Hey, Ai," Mina began, "are you free around this time next week to come to Shiki's funeral?" she asked, but Ai didn't reply back, her eyes shut.
"…Probably," Ai said, not opening her angry eyes. "Why?" she asked with an obvious hint of venom that scared Mina.
"N-nothing… Forget it."
"…" Ai remained silent as the group watched the yellow symbols getting even closer to the girls.
"I can feel all that negativity just standing close to them," Rhyme said, shuddering. "It's so creepy…"
"That should be attracting the Noise," Neku theorized. "It's like when they hijacked the tech because he was jealous of 777."
"But remember… He was possessed by the Noise," Rhyme said. "Those two don't look possessed to me. It's like they're calling out to the Noise…if that's even possible."
"Then we have to fix their issues with each other," Fox said. "But…how do we do that? Getting rid of the Noise through fights is easy, but we can't interact with the living unless they enter one of the shops."
Shiki knew where he was going. "N-no, we can't just wait for them to enter a shop," she said. "It could take a lot of time."
"True," Soren said, to which Shiki sighed in relief. "But first, we need to find out what is wrong with them before we go on to giving a helping hand."
The fashionista smiled and turned to the girls, not minding the fact that Pichu was still bent on figuring out her own share of trouble. They looked surprised when Ai suddenly put up a smile for Mina, but they could tell it was a forced one. "Mina…" Ai said. "You really didn't go to Shibu yesterday?"
Mina looked hesitant. "I…I didn't. I swear!" she said.
"What the…" Beat muttered. "HEY! She totally did go to Shibu yesterday!"
"Alright, we're getting somewhere after all," Chris said.
Mina smiled. "Quit asking, Ai," she said.
"Sure, whatever," Ai said.
It was then that the group saw the Player Pin appear on Ai. It told them that they were allowed to scan her very thoughts to imprint memes into her mind to change the course of her actions. For now, though, the group lacked memes to use, so they decided to read her thoughts instead.
What came out from her mind was a different sounding voice that bordered on murder.
"(She is so lying,)" Ai thought. "(I saw her with him. I'll never forgive her… If only I could prove it!)"
They stopped scanning her mind. "Oh… Yes, I saw Ai at Shibu too," Shiki said. "She looked pissed when she saw Mina talking to Makoto."
"Wait, something's weird here," Fox said. "What business does she have with that Makoto guy? It's obvious she was referring to him in her thoughts."
The girls continued talking with each other. "I'm serious!" Mina said. "Ai, please…"
Ai faked a nod of agreement, flashing a smile that unsettled the group. "Uh-huh. I believe you," she said.
Mina looked worried. "Arrgh. No you don't," she said. "Come on…"
The group gasped when they saw the Player Pin flashing on Mina. "Hey, she has her own set of thoughts going haywire!" Ness pointed out.
"This really is more complicated, then?" Chris wondered until they all read Mina's thoughts next.
"(Shoot!)" Mina thought in desperation. "(She's so onto me! Now what? Do I just tell her?)" she puzzled herself as she stared at Ai's unsettling smile.
"She's hiding something," Soren said. "And whatever it is, she doesn't want to tell Ai."
"It's OK," Ai said, chuckling. "I know."
Mina gasped rather loudly, and so did the others. "What?!"
"…How you feel," Ai added suddenly, making Mina sigh in relief.
The two stopped talking, and the group formed a circle to discuss what to do next. "So," Fox began, "we know that Ai is suspecting something about Mina regarding that Makoto guy."
Neku nodded. "And Ai herself is hiding the truth from her," he said.
"Mina is…" Pichu thought hard. "…Is Mina…um…in love with Makoto?"
Chris looked unsure at the claim. "Well, that's kind of the point I was considering, but I didn't want to reach that conclusion to…give them the benefit of the doubt," he said, looking at his group. "(…I wonder if they'll give me the benefit of the doubt if I mention to them that I saved their…)"
"Yes, that must be it," Rhyme said with a blank look. "It could explain why Ai is…jealous of her… No, she feels betrayed that Mina is taking Makoto for herself."
"So then," Beat said, "Ai's in love with him?"
"Yeah, but she was first before Mina came in," Shiki theorized. "…Oh no, this…this really can't be true…"
Soren furrowed his brow. "Let's not jump to conclusions ourselves," he advised. "We must figure out a way to imprint those meme things Rhyme told us about."
"Finding memes," Ness said. "We should start looking around for somebody spouting those key words."
They nodded and walked around with their partners to find someone else voicing out their thoughts aloud without much care. It meant that reading people's minds was out of the question. In fact, Fox wanted to read somebody else's mind until a very scary person appeared before them. "Holy crap, it's the she-male!" Fox exclaimed, and he and Chris hightailed out of Spain Hill to Tipsy Tose Hall.
Ike so casually mind-read the assumed she-male, thinking it was a girl. When he found out the truth, he looked away. "Honestly! Respect them!" Shiki said annoyed, not seeing that Beat was slowly dragging Rhyme away to the hall as well.
Tipsy Tose Hall
The Players found nobody to get memes from, so they moved down to the hall once more. "Nobody was there in Spain Hill," Chris said. "Maybe we need to look around here…"
"Yeah," Ness said. "Somewhere, there's a guy talking to himself."
"You really don't know how bad that sounded just now," Fox said.
"So what? I come from Weird Land myself."
Soon enough, there was a businessman talking to himself! He didn't look particularly peculiar, but they stopped to hear him out. "Where is all this merchandise coming from?" he asked, sighing to himself. "First, Reaper Creeper," he said as he held a sepia paper with a coin. He then took out a red pin…that resembled the Player Pin a lot. "And now these Red Skull pins…" He pocketed it and sighed once more. "I'm not one to turn business away, but something about this mystery supplier… It smells risky…"
Neku rolled his eyes. "Well, let's not concern ourselves with his issues too much," he said.
"Hmm…" the business man muttered. "What should I do?" He suddenly gasped, getting an idea. "I know! I'll ask 'Reaper Creeper'!"
"?" Neku crossed his arms. "What's up with that guy?" he asked.
They heard the man say, "Reaper… Creeper…"
"…Oh, how sad," Ike said. "He lost it."
"No he didn't," Rhyme said, chuckling a bit.
Shiki wondered, "Hmm… It looks like some kind of divination…" They saw the man place the paper down on a ledge, putting down a ten-yen coin on top of it. He stared fiercely at the coin, as if waiting for it to move by its own over three different, Japanese symbols: a white yes, a black no, and an orange random. "See how he put that ten-yen coin on the paper? He's going to make a decision based on where it moves."
"…HA!" Ness laughed. "What, is he going to move it without looking?"
"It's not gonna move on its own," Neku said, frowning.
Shiki looked devious. "Unless we played a little trick," she said.
"…Where are you going with this, exactly?" Chris asked. "That look in your eyes… Oh no, is there another loose button?" Fox gasped and looked at himself just to be sure.
"Nope," Shiki said. She turned to Neku. "Think you could use your psychs to give the coin a little push?"
"Wait, I can do that?" Neku asked, his eyes widening.
"It's a little coin," Shiki pointed out. "It's not a living person. As long as it is some kind of small item, we can manipulate it just fine… Well, I heard this from some Players while I was looking for one," she explained. "I don't know the full details."
"…" Neku simply walked over to the man's side and quickly moved the coin to the black no.
"Gaah!" the man yelped at the sudden motion of the coin. "So quick! So decisive! That's my Reaper!" he exclaimed. "Marvelous!" But then, he fell silent. "…Huh? …Wait a sec. Last time, I'm pretty sure it moved more slowly." He sighed. "You know, I was so busy watching, I probably bumped it or something."
"For crying out loud!" Neku complained. The man didn't hear him.
"Hmm… Let's give this one more shot!" the man said.
"Ugh, fine," Neku said. "I'll move it slowly…"
"White! Go to White!" the man urged the inanimate coin.
"Okay…" Neku slowly moved the coin to the white yes, impressing the man.
"Whoa!" the man said. "White! An answer, clear as day! Nothing beats Reaper Creeper when you need answers." He closed his eyes as Neku backed off. "All right, White means… Umm… What did I ask again?"
Several groans came from the group. Neku kicked the man's rear out of frustration, but his foot went through, which actually painted a nastier picture.
"…Reaper…" the man began anew, "Creeper… What was my last question?"
The group almost sighed in unison. "Let's move on," Neku said, clearly annoyed.
"Let's," the others said, frowning at the unreliable man.
"Of all things," Soren said, looking at the man walking away in defeat. "We wasted some valuable time just trying to please this fat man."
Suddenly, the Shibuya Crew's phones rang. They took out their phones and saw that the meme "Reaper Creeper" was added to their phones. "Maybe it wasn't such a waste of time!" Rhyme said, looking relieved.
"Awright!" Beat said. "This meme might just work for us!"
"I'm not so sure that this is going to resolve the problem with those girls," Fox said. "Let's look around for more memes we can use to imprint on their minds."
After noticing that they could go east from their position, the group moved to a new area next to Spain Hill's path.
"A major Japanese CD store on Central Street. Nearby you can find shoe stores, lingerie shops, and other clothing boutiques."
Yet another row of stores awaited the Players, only this time the one with the big blue AMX letters standing in the center of the building to the east was the eye-catching one. From the steps leading to the store, many content people carrying CDs came out while talking among each other. The street in front of the store was big enough to allow a lot of people to walk and visit the various stores to the sides of AMX.
Down below the store's steps, the group spotted none other than Makoto in deep thought. "Hey, it's the guy the girls are fighting over!" Chris said.
"Please!" Shiki complained. "We're not a hundred percent sure if Mina even likes him!"
"…Something isn't right about that guy," Ness said, noticing that Makoto was making some harsh-looking grimaces. Curiously, the Onett boy used his Player Pin to scan his mind…and found a yellow Noise symbol hovering around him. "He's got one small Noise on him!"
"Let's swat it down!" Beat said grinning.
After successfully getting rid of the Noise, Makoyo suddenly brightened up, making a fist. "OK!" he said. "Enough self-pity. I have a job to do, and I'm going to do it! Persistence pays off!"
"What a youthful young man!" Ness exclaimed sarcastically.
"First, I need to find a ticket to the Tin Pin slam-off," Makoto said in high spirits before running off.
Neku frowned. "Uhh…first, you need to do your job," he said.
"I'd better hunker down and check the pavement!" they heard Makoto shouting to himself.
"…Loser," Fox muttered.
"Classy," Neku muttered.
Their cell phones rang, and the word "Tin Pin ticket" was added to their list. "A ticket for Tin Pin?" Beat said, scratching his head. "What's a ticket gotta do with this?"
"Well, only memes that are related to the mission add up to our list, so it maybe has a connection with our problem," Rhyme explained.
"…Come to think of it," Ike began, "I do remember Mina talking about a ticket yesterday."
"Hmm, the mystery between those two is coming together," Ness said. "Think we have everything now? Maybe it's time for them to confront each other." Shiki looked at him, but Ness didn't mind her. "Those two need to solve their problems before things get any crazier than they are. If they don't fix it up, then they'll end up not talking to each other."
"Yes, we need to hurry," Chris said. "We might lose them. Let's go!"
The group of Players ran back to Spain Hill, leaving a saddened Shiki behind. When he noticed that Shiki wasn't following them, Pichu went back to her. "Something is bothering you again!" he said annoyed. "Shiki, let's not separate from the others! The Noise could get to us!"
"…Oh, oh yeah," Shiki nodded before sprinting to Spain Hill with Pichu.
Deep down, the fashionista related to what Ness had said about Ai and Mina. It hurt her emotionally that she shed a few tears that she wiped away quickly. Pichu did notice the tears, and he grew even more worried than before about Shiki's stability. "(If only I could find out what she's hiding…)" Pichu thought.
The World Traveler had taken a small diversion by going into the Mexican Hot Dog. The group figured out that they could order food to eat while trying to help Ai and Mina out. Luckily, the two girls were still standing in front of the restaurant.
"Muchos gracias!" said the clerk inside.
"NO!" Chris was heard shouting. "Esa no es la manera de decir esa despedida! Que te pasa?! Se supone que deberias de decir 'MUCHAS gracias' en vez de 'MUCHOS gracias'! Que no sabes como hablar mi lenguaje o que?!"
"W-what are you talking about?" the clerk asked, barely understand the Spanish language. "I-I'm just working here for the money! M-my supervisor told me to say it like that!"
"Then tell that supervisor to talk proper Spanish! Me enfurece oir a la gente hablar sin saber que estan diciendo correctamente!"
The Players stepped out from the restaurant, most of them eating hot dogs. They were never going to forget the event that they witnessed. None of them understood a word Chris said back there. "Geez, Chris!" Fox said, looking shocked at his partner. "What was that about?"
Chris looked annoyed. "Let's just say I don't like hearing others talk Spanish with the wrong word usage," he said.
"Oh, so you're bilingual," Ness said. "Still, that was quite a scene you made there… I'm never learning Spanish."
The teen gasped. "N-no, it's okay if you try!" he said. "I'll be happy to teach some of you how to talk the language."
"Save that for later," Soren said as they approached the girls. "It's time for us to finish today's mission by giving these two a little push."
Neku clutched his Player Pin to convey a meme to Ai as she thought, "(She is so lying.)"
He was just about to imprint "Reaper Creeper" into Ai's mind until he remembered that they had gotten a new word at the Mexican Hot Dog… It was the word "Taco". Shrugging, he imprinted the word into Ai's mind. "There…" Neku said.
Ai fiercely looked at Mina. "I wish I could shove a Taco down your throat, Mina!" she said vehemently. "I wish I had a Taco in hand right now, actually! A Taco might just choke you up good on the street!"
Mina's mouth hung open until she closed it for protection. "U-uh, what?" Mina asked dumbfounded. "Ai, w-what are you saying? (Please tell me she's not losing it now!)"
A round of laughter came from some of the Players as Ai blushed to herself. "I-I mean, nothing!" she said. "I-I just don't know why I suddenly said that!"
"O-okay," Mina said. "B-besides, I already ate a hot dog…"
"Phew…" Ai muttered. "(Goodness gracious, what was that about?)"
"HA!" Beat laughed, clutching his hands on his stomach. "Oh man, that was rich!"
Neku sighed. "I let my curiosity get the better of me," he muttered.
"M-my funny bone!" Chris laughed.
Ness controlled his laughter and decided to imprint the right meme into Ai's mind… But there was a devious chuckle that came from the young psychic. "Seriously!" Ai said, glaring at Mina. "A Taco should solve my problems! Don't you dare underestimate the deadliness of a Taco! TACO POWER!"
"…Wha…?" Mina was completely dumbfounded at the statement, but they never heard the hollering laughter from the Players in the UG. Fox had been reduced to laughing on the floor, and so was Beat.
"Ack!" Ai yelped. "S-sorry… I don't know what's wrong with me all of a sudden!"
Soren was the only one who didn't find the event very amusing. Grunting, he took matters into his own hands and imprinted the meme "Reaper Creeper" into the suspecting high schooler. "There. That should take us somewhere," he said, closing his eyes in annoyance.
"Oh, Soren," Ike said stifling some chuckles. "We were having some fun back there."
"Sorry, I dislike times like these so much when we know that our very existence is in peril," the Branded said, waiting for the others to stop laughing.
"…Taco," Beat said, and they were back to laughing out loud. Soren grunted and stepped closer to the girls to hear them out.
Ai suddenly looked blankly at Mina's weirded out expression. "(…Reaper Creeper?)" she thought. "(Of course! Why didn't I think of that sooner!)" she realized, content with her idea. "Say… Mina…"
"Oh," Mina interjected. "Please tell me your sudden fascination with tacos is gone." Hysterical laughter ensued in the UG, much to Neku's chagring.
"What th-no!" Ai said annoyed, realizing too late the opposite of her response. Chris, defeated, fell on the floor. "I mean, yes! (Urgh! What was wrong with me?!) Um… Ever heard of 'Reaper Creeper'?" she asked, deviously thinking that she was about to shoot Mina down with her lies.
"Reaper Creeper…" Mina said before brightening up. "Oh, yeah! That magic game people were talking about at school, right? The one that answers your questions!"
Ai nodded. "Wanna try it?"
"Sure! Sounds like fun!" Mina agreed.
"Guys, c'mon! Pull yourselves together now!" Shiki said, clapping her hands to get their attention. "They're going to use Reaper Creeper!"
Rhyme stifled a small giggle. "S-should we fake it this time?" she wondered. "I guess there's no other choice but to play on Ai's side."
"Yeah…" Neku said. "The truth needs to be uncovered, sadly."
Shiki stared at Neku. "What does that mean?" she asked. "You're not thinking that Makoto is cheating on Ai, are you?"
"Dunno, but let's try it out to see what happens," the orange-haired teen said. "It's better that they stop lying to each other before it gets any worse."
"Agreed," Soren said. "Lying like that is just despicable and very low. Besides, our lives are in danger. We must resort to this method. Ai is going to find out about it eventually, but we need to accelerate the process a little bit."
"…" Shiki looked away in thought. "(Why am I comparing myself with them?)" she asked. "(Why do I hurt so much?)"
The group focused on the girls talking with each other. "OK," Ai said. "Reaper Creeper has a few rules."
"Like what?" Mina asked curiously.
"First, someone has to summon the Reaper," Ai explained.
"Kind of creepy to think the Reaper is supposed to be one of us," Rhyme noted.
"Ooh, let me do it!" Mina asked excited, oblivious to Ai's trap.
"…All right," Ai said as she took out the sepia paper and a ten-yen coin over her hands.
Mina smiled as she looked down at the paper. "Reaper… Creeper… Before we get in much deeper…" Ai looked confused. "If you're here all right, go to White!" Mina called out.
Neku shrugged his shoulders and slowly moved the ten-yen coin to White. The laughing stock slowly stopped laughing to concentrate on the mission. "There," he said.
"White!" Mina said impressed. "Cool… The coin really moved!" She looked at Ai. "So, like… We said, 'if you're here, go to White.' And it went to White."
"Just think of the possibilities," Ness said. "We can essentially manipulate people into doing stuff."
"Oh, please," Rhyme said with a blank look. "Let's not get too ahead of ourselves."
"Whoa…" Mina said in awe. "That means… The Reaper's here! Creepy! Can you believe it? Reapers exist!"
Neku frowned. "(I hope I'm not being compared to a real Reaper,)" he thought, discouraging the very possibility.
"That's right," Ai said. Her plan was slowly coming along. "And they can see right through a lie." She hinted a lot of venom in her last statement, but Mina couldn't see through it for now.
"Scary!" Mina commented.
"(You're gonna get it now,)" Ai thought. "All right, Mina. Next question."
"What are you gonna ask?" Mina asked.
Shiki sighed. "Here it comes," she said. "The moment of truth…"
"Hmm…" Ai faked not knowing what she was going to do. "Why don't I ask about you?"
Mina looked startled, having a small suspicion. "About m-me? Why?" she asked.
"(Because I'm onto you, you tramp,)" Ai thought. "(You and Makoto.) Reaper…" The group noticed that Ai's look turned into an angry scowl. "Creeper… If Mina has a boy she likes, go to White!" The two looked down at the paper. "Mina has a crush on someone, doesn't she?"
"…Well…" Neku turned to the group. "We're not absolutely sure about if Mina likes that guy for real."
"Oh! I guess not," Shiki said. "Let's try black instead."
Fox nodded, still eating a hot dog. "Right. Let's not assume the worst," he said.
The orange-haired teen slowly moved the coin to black. "Black?" Ai said. "WHAT?!" she shouted, completely torn apart by the answer.
Mina stared blankly at her. "Um, Ai-"
"(Black means NO,)" Ai thought in defeat, but she wasn't going to give in so easily and let things go as they were. "(But that can't be true. I saw her with him yesterday. Her and Makoto…together!) Next question!" Ai said, startling Mina once more.
Mina started to get worried about Ai. "Ai… This isn't like you," she said innocently, which further infuriated Ai.
"Oh no," Pichu said. "She's really losing it now!"
"So?" Soren asked. "It won't make a difference. We must press on."
"REAPER," Ai said angrily with as emphasis as she could muster up. "CREEPER. If Mina has secrets that should be brought to light…go to White!" She turned to Mina. "You're hiding something from me, aren't you?!"
"What?" Mina said.
"Yeah, she is," Neku said.
"…But on second thought…" Rhyme began, getting their attention. "How do we even know that she's really hiding a secret from her? Sure, we saw them talking to Makoto yesterday, but that doesn't mean she's REALLY hiding a secret in specific."
"How?" Ike asked. "She's keeping her meeting with Makoto a secret."
Annoyed that the group discussed about what to do, Neku decided to go along with their plans to see the look on their faces for their decisions by moving the coin to black. "Why is it Black?!" Ai asked furiously.
"Please…" Mina spoke softly. "Ai!"
"The Reaper is lying!" Ai came to a sudden conclusion. She had it with Mina. "I saw you!" she accused her.
"This is it, Mina!" Ai shouted. "Last question!"
"Ai, please stop…"
"REAPER. CREEPER. Yesterday Mina met with Makoto. And she LIED to me about it. If I'm right…GO TO WHITE!"
Mina felt that she had been found. "What?" she said. "Ai, you knew about that?" The tension between the two grew as Ai kept the sepia paper away. "Aww… You saw us?"
"Yes!" Ai said angrily. "I know all about you."
"Yo," Beat said. "Hopin' they don't get into a catfight."
"Brace yourself, then," Soren said with a dull look. "If it must come down to this, it was fated to happen sooner or later."
Ness shook his head. "This is sooooooo gonna be bad," he said.
Ai stepped closer to Mina. "You and Makoto and your little-"
To the surprise of the Players, Mina quickly smiled and handed out two items to Ai. "Here," she said.
Ai looked down, her angry expression still intact, at two tickets for the Tin Pin slam-off. "What… Two tickets?" She looked up at Mina as her eyes welled with tears. "How could you, Mina… You knew I liked Makoto."
"I'm sorry," Mina said. "I just wanted to help."
"What?" Ai and the Players said.
Mina looked serious. "Makoto wants to go to the Molco slam-off," she explained. "But he couldn't get a ticket. He told me yesterday." She warmly smiled. "So I started mailing my friends. I figured, you know, maybe if I scored two tickets…"
"Oh, Mina," Ai said, sounding calmer. "You didn't…"
"You and Makoto go have a great time."
A few of the Players gasped. Ai's mouth hung open a bit as she exchanged glances to the tickets and Mina's face. "You got them for me?" she asked.
"Yup!" Mina said smiling. "Now you can put the moves on him, hee hee," she giggled.
Feeling that her nasty suspicions had been shot down, Ai wiped her tears away and stared at Mina's bright look. "Mina… I'm so sorry…" she apologized. "I totally got the wrong idea…"
Mina grabbed Ai's right hand and placed the tickers on it. "No worries," she said. "It's partly my fault for fibbing to you. We're friends. What's one little argument?"
Ai kept staring at her with a sad expression, but then she chuckled. "…Yeah," she said.
"…" Soren narrowed his eyes, spotting the yellow symbols decreasing in numbers. "Now's our chance to attack," he said.
An easy Noise fight later, the group looked down to their timers. They had vanished. "Phew! Mission complete," Rhyme said. Fox facepalmed in the background.
Shiki, relieved, looked over to Ai and Mina. "Looks like Ai and Mina made up, too," she said, making them look over to the two best friends.
Ai smiled. "Hey, let me take you out to eat," she offered Mina. "It's the least I can do."
"Really? Awesome!" Mina exclaimed. "How about sundaes?"
"Sure!" Ai agreed. "Let's hit that family restaurant up the street." As Mina cheered a bit, the two girls made their way up the stone-paved street, all the while giggling and having a fun time.
As most of the group smiled to one another, Shiki looked quite perturbed just seeing the two girls laughing without a care in the world. Trying to keep her thoughts to herself, she focused and came up with a natural reaction. "Aww…" she said, turning to Neku. "See how nice it is to have friends?"
The simple question was a bit too much for Neku. "(No,)" he thought.
"Sure, you may butt heads now and then," she continued as he turned to her with the group, "but life is more fun that way."
"(Fun? Right. Every time you argue, you end up meeting halfway and getting nowhere,)" Neku thought. "(What's fun about letting other people hold you back?)" He waved her off. "I don't see the point of a relationship built on lies."
"Excuse me?" Fox asked, looking a bit peeved. "What is that supposed to mean? We don't have relationships built on lies." Chris looked away, unsure about his own dilemma. The World Traveler never knew that the vulpine looked sideways at his direction, raising an eyebrow briefly. Fox then focused back on Neku. "You gotta open up a little more."
"Whatever," Neku said. "I hope you're not thinking that I'm actually enjoying my time with all of you. We're just working to get back our lives."
"Neku…" Shiki muttered, seeing some of them were shooting glares at the teen. "You don't lie to MAKE friends. I agree that wouldn't be right. But sometimes, you need to tell a fib because you ARE friends. Not all secrets are bad secrets." Sighing, she took out her phone to stare at her photo of Eri and herself.
Neku turned to her. "(Her and that photo…)" he thought.
Shiki pocketed her phone. "Hey, Neku?" she asked. "Is it really okay for you to think that you don't need friends?"
"That's right," Neku said. "It's just…not my thing. If people don't like my train of thoughts, let them be."
"Huh," Ike began, "looks like you remember your attitude before you died."
"And I'm happy I didn't build a new one with complete amnesia," Neku said. "I don't need anybody to help me out."
To this, Shiki decided to step in. "But I…I do have someone I need," she said. "Eri used to do everything for me. There was nothing she COULDN'T do. She had a ton of friends. Everybody at school loved her, because she was so outgoing. And the outfits she designed were so cute. Eri was the one who got me started making clothes."
Neku casually said, "I thought that pig of yours was the reason."
"He's a CAT!" Shiki said angrily. "Ugh. Anyway…" She smiled. "She saw me making Mr. Mew. And then she said: 'Wow, you're really good with a needle.' So we got talking, and she let me help her make clothes."
"That's a nice story," Ike commented.
Shiki nodded, feeling a bit at home. Pichu took the opportunity to climb her right shoulder. "I owe her everything. She gave me purpose. Meeting her, talking to her, getting to know her… It made me want to be something more."
Rhyme giggled. "I really want to find my own purpose someday," she said. "Just hearing you out makes me want to try really hard." Beat grinned, proud of his partner.
Neku looked away. "We better get this over with," he said. "Only two more days till we win."
"Hello, young lady," a baritone voice spoke from behind the group, causing them to turn around and gasp at the towering figure.
"Who's there?!" Shiki asked.
"One of those Reapers!" Fox said, looking fierce.
The World Ends With You – Forebode
"Correct," Higashizawa said. "But not just any Reaper."
The group backed off once Higashizawa appeared out of the blue to greet them all. None of them could compare at his obscene height of seven feet. "H-he's huge…" Pichu whimpered, clutching himself to Shiki's face.
"I am Yodai Higashizawa… Game Master by proxy," the Reaper introduced himself.
"Game Master?" Chris wondered, Fox standing in front of him for protection. "Are you in charge?"
The hulking Reaper nodded. "HEY!" Beat shook a fist. "Are you the one who wanted to get me and Rhyme erased yesterday?!"
"Wow, he's quick into blaming others," Ike said. "But really, he kind of has a point if he's in charge of everything that's happening to us."
Yodai crossed his massive arms over his equally massive chest. "No Players were meant to escape yesterday's chowder of destruction," he said.
"Tough luck there," Fox said, glaring up at Yodai. "We managed to survive that trap your subordinates set up for us."
"Again, correct," Yodai said. "You managed to survive because you are strong and smart enough to predict the result of your recipe. It's a dog-eat-dog world. A logical hierarchy, much like the food chain."
Soren raised an eyebrow. "Where are you getting with this weird analogy?" he asked.
Yodai continued. "The strong reach the top and win the Game," he said, "while the weak are left behind, the heels of the proverbial loaf."
Shiki hesitated, but she stepped forward while Pichu looked serious. "Are you trying to say Beat and Rhyme were meant to die yesterday?" He nodded. "Rhyme tried to protect Beat herself! You call that weak? Take it back!"
Yodai chuckled amused. "I admire your courage and loyalty, young lady," he said. "Delectable. This calls for a taste test!" He cracked his massive knuckles. "Let us see how you fare as fare for the Noise!" Immediately, the group was pulled into a Noise fight…
The World Ends With You – Transformation
The stone-paved street of Spain Hill became empty with people as Neku, Rhyme, and Ness stood their ground on the lower plane while Shiki, Beat, and Pichu took the upper plane once more. "Again, we've been separated from the others," Rhyme said. "But we can't lose this fight! I know it's gonna be tougher, but we can hold on!"
"Yeah!" Shiki said as one single Noise materialized in front of them. "Look! It's just one of them!"
Except things weren't looking so good for the only two Smashers of the group. "…!" Both Pichu and Ness breathed heavily after noticing the small Noise.
Beat looked down at Pichu. "You okay, little rat?" he asked.
"I…I can't…" Pichu stammered, completely in shock. "It can't be…!"
While Pichu was paralyzed into place, Ness examined the Noise before them. It wasn't just a normal Noise that was a heavily altered animal with demonic features. No, it was a familiar-looking Noise that greatly resembled a person both Pichu and Ness knew very well.
They were confronting Pikachu, or at least, something that was trying to look like Pikachu. Although the main body looked intact, its paws and feet were transfigured into clawed symbols along with the long yellow tail that was the most distinguishable body part with a set of twisting spirals. The brown stripes on its back were all jagged up.
"Do you like my kitchen's rat?" Yodai asked, his voice echoing. "It's a Pikander. It dislikes other rats from entering the kitchen just to eat the food. Suffice to say, it likes burning others into tasty raw meat using electricity."
Ness shook his head in disbelief as the Pikachu, or rather the Pikander, hissed at them. "How did you even create that…monster?" he asked. "I'm pretty sure this world doesn't have Noise like that!"
Neku looked at Ness. "You know that thing?" he asked.
"Y-yes," Pichu said. "It looks like somebody we know back at the mansion. How did you do this?"
"Ah, interested?" Yodai asked. "Your memories are fine spices for our grand feast, little one…"
"Enough talk! Don't let the food spoil!" Yodai said, directly starting the battle.
"CHUUUUUU!" The group of Players was taken off-guard as the Pikander used Thunderbolt, shocking them all. The quick attack took about a fifth of their overall health once it stopped to regain some energy.
"Holy crap, yo!" Beat said, grunting in pain. "We gotta take care of the pest quick!"
Shiki shook her head to regain her composure. "T-that attack was dreadful," she said. "But we're six against one! We gotta make this count!"
Pichu looked the least unfazed from the six, given that he had no memory of Pikachu for the time being. "It's just a monster trying to look like Pikachu," he said. "His electric attacks won't do much against me. I'm an Electric-type myself! I can try to fight it…if I don't get overpowered."
"Charge!" Neku said, and the six Players were upon the Smasher Noise.
Of course, the six were separated into groups of three; therefore they were facing two Pikanders that shared the same body. Just as Beat was about to grind the wheels of his skateboard on the Noise, the Pikander avoided his blow and scurried away back to Shiki and Pichu. "C'mere, you little monster!" Beat said.
Shiki gasped and ordered Mr. Mew to launch himself into the offensive. The stuffed cat hopped over to Pikander, but the Noise sidestepped from the furious slashing blows and lunged all the way to Shiki's right leg. "H-hey, get off m-AAAAAAAAAA!" Shiki shrieked as the Pikander rained down a severe Thunder on her, pushing her down to the street.
"N-no!" Pichu said as he used Skull Bash, colliding hard against the Pikander. The evil Noise hissed and backed off, giving Pichu enough time to go over to Shiki's side. Beat suddenly came from behind and gave chase to the bastardized Pokémon. "Shiki!"
"…I-I'm okay, I think," Shiki said, shivering, as she stood back up. Mr. Mew lifelessly waltzed to her side. "That Noise isn't like the others! It seems a bit too smart for my tastes!"
"It really is acting like the Pikachu I know," Pichu said, looking perplexed. "He's very quick. You need to be careful where it goes!"
"Yeah, we kind of found that out already," Neku spoke from the lower plane as he called a trail of flames to burn the Pikander inhabiting their side. Luckily, the full attack staggered the demonic rat into place. "Go!"
"Right on it!" Ness charged a PK Blast that went over to the trapped rat. A massive green explosion was set off, and the rat hissed loudly as it was blasted away, only for Rhyme to follow it up by shooting energy blasts from her palms. The rat spun madly in midair, but it then used Quick Attack to zigzag its way back to the floor, its cheeks sparking with electricity.
"It's too fast!" Rhyme said.
"Don't let that throw you off!" Neku said as he launched himself to the rat, sending slicing blows. Just as he thought that he had trapped the rat in some nasty blows, the Pikander's body emitted electricity, shocking Neku's body and stopping his flurry of attacks. He was paralyzed by the static. "D-damn!" he grunted.
"Neku, hang on!"
"That had better not been a joke!"
"N-no, it wasn't!" the blond girl said. Rhyme took out a brand new pin that she had obtained during some Noise fights. It was a pink pin with the image of an incomplete beam. It was called the Happy Beam. Unlike the Force Rounds pin, the pin let her fire a multitude of bullets. She did so, but the Pikander noticed her moves and dodged the bullets. "Ugh…"
"PK Fire!" Ness suddenly shouted, firing a small bolt that collided against the Noise and trapped it in a small tower of fire. The boy quickly went over the tower of fire and smacked his baseball bat hard, sending the Pikander away into the air.
"Damn this static!" Neku muttered, as he found his movement greatly hampered by the sparks jumping out from his body on occasion. "It needs to be lifted up soon or else I'm gonna lose it…"
"Don't worry. I've got your back!" Rhyme called out, but the teen would rather not have anybody back him up if it was a less dangerous situation.
Back on the upper plane, the other trio dealt with their Pikander zooming around the field. Beat tried hard to keep up with the bastardized Pokémon using his skateboard. "You gotta stop moving someday!" he called out to the rat, but the Pikander spun around and fired a ball of concentrated sparks that crashed into Beat, pushing him twenty feet back. "Augh!"
"Hang in there! Mr. Mew is coming!" Shiki said as she commanded Mr. Mew to go over the Pikander's side to initiate a slashing combo. Four furious slashes later, Mr. Mew spun its right chubby hand and uppercutted the Pokémon into the air. "Go!" Shiki called out, jumping into the air.
Pichu stared at her. "You keep doing that whenever Mr. Mew does that uppercut," he said.
"Sorry, force of habit," Shiki said sheepishly until she noticed the Pikander smacking its tail into Mr. Mew to push him away. It locked it maddened eyes to the two and quickly dashed to their side. "A-ah! It's coming!"
Pichu looked serious and blocked the Pikander's way. "I-I always wanted to be a Pikachu. Don't make me have nightmares with you in them!" he shouted as his cheeks gathered sparks. He used a Thunder Jolt that bounced along the stone-paved street, but the Pikander swiftly dodged it and smacked its tail right on Pichu's face, pushing him back a bit.
"Don't hurt poor Pichu!" Shiki yelled as Mr. Mew stood back up and hopped over the Pikander's side, delivering a flying kick that pushed the monster aside from Pichu's range. "Pichu, get back up, quick!"
Pichu coughed and stood up, his left eye twitching. "I-I can do this just fine!" he encouraged himself. Clutching his Pin, he flung a bicycle against the Pikander, pushing it further away.
"Our Fusion pin is charged up," Rhyme said from the lower plane. "We can't take any chances against this Noise. Beat!" She clutched the Fusion pin to activate its psych.
The two planes didn't merge together, but the two blonds could feel the latent power of the Fusion pin coursing through them all the same as they got in position. "Pick it up, Rhyme!" Beat called over.
"Yeah!" Rhyme said.
The two Players quickly started teleporting around the field while delivering shockwaves and energy blasts against the hissing Pikander on both planes. The Pikander tried to shock them with static, but it was always taken off-guard by the blonds disappearing from each plane just to teleport back and forth between the two dimensions. A flash of light manifested, and Rhyme and Beat were back to their respective planes.
The Pikander flinched in pain, but it charged at the group on both sides. "That still wasn't enough!" Beat said, shaking a fist.
"Not on my watch!" Ness called over as he rushed to the Pikander, grabbing him with his mind. The Pikander shrieked in frustration as it tried to use a Thunderbolt on the boy, but Ness acted quickly by flinging the rat into a nearby wall. Upon collision, the Pikander yelped loudly before it vanished in black and white static. "There! The fight's over!" Ness said, much to the relief of the Players.
The Reapers in charge of grading them saw the whole battle from the Mexican Hot Dog restaurant, all of them holding hot dogs. They slapped a B grade on the group's performance. "Not bad," one of them said, "just like this hot dog."
"Ugh, I don't like mine," another one complained, coughing a bit. "Too many spices… It's too heavy for me."
"Idiot," the third one commented as the two planes became one once more…
The World Ends With You – Forebode
Out of thin air, the six Players that had fought the Noise fell down to the street. The other four were left out to wait for them to come out, and thus they looked surprised to see them all back, running to their side. Yodai then appeared before them, looking very pleased at the outcome. "I see I've sunk my teeth into something good," he said.
"Wha… What was that we just fought?" Pichu asked, looking up at the towering Reaper. "I…I saw Pikachu in that Noise monster, but it wasn't him!"
"What are you saying?" Chris asked.
"Oh, details," Yodai said as the group looked up at him. "You, my clients, happened to fight one of our finest meals that we are mass producing as we speak," he said. "It is thanks to your individual minds that we Reapers have reached a new development for our master plan."
"Stop talking in circles," Soren said, furrowing his brow. "Get to the point."
"Fine, young man," Yodai said, staring at the Smashers. "We know the lot of you doesn't belong to this menu…or rather, this world, for one."
The six otherworldly travelers gasped and so did the others. However, Neku was the one who looked a little bit more confused at the development. "(What?)" he wondered. "(These guys are really not from Shibuya?)"
"Second," Yodai continued, "your entry fees – your memories – are the finest condiments that we have ever laid our kitchen mitts upon. Through those memories of yours, we are able to confirm the belief that you are special in more ways than one." He held out a massive hand. "Thanks to you, Mr. Kitaniji is working in a very important project through the use of your memories. In fact, your little friends here faced a Pikachu that we have turned into Noise…"
"A Pikachu turned into Noise?" Fox said. "Just what are you doing with our memories?"
"I'm running my mouth," Yodai said. "To put it simply, expect your own memories of the past to erase you from the Game when you least expect it."
Ike shook his head as he rested his hand on Ragnell's hilt. "How dare you use our precious memories against us?" he demanded. "That is plain dirty!"
"We are a very curious bunch," Yodai chuckled. "My master chef doesn't want me to keep talking about the matter. For now, don't go easy on us."
Shiki put herself in front of Yodai, not minding the fact he was like four heads taller than her. Pichu shyly climbed her right shoulder. "We'll never lose to you!" she said, and the rest of her group glared up at the Reaper.
"Sadly, I've had my fill for the day," Yodai exclaimed. "I only came here to meet you, young lady."
The group looked confused at the statement as Shiki's serious look was almost lost in thought. "Me? …Why?" she asked.
"To get a closer look, of course," Yodai said before he cracked his huge fists. "At the charcoal-black envy beneath the barbecue of your heart."
"…" The group just blinked at him. "…I'm sorry?" Ike said, not sure what Yodai meant with his food analogy.
"I don't understand what he's trying to say," Shiki said.
Soren, though, was slowly deciphering the Reaper's weird wording. "He just said that, deep down inside of you, you're envious about something," he said.
The fashionista gasped and shook her head. "W-what? No! I'm not envious of anything or…or anyone!" she denied.
"Oh, don't you, though?" Yodai asked, sounding amused. "You can't fool me. You know the feelings are there, so you bury them. You talk of loyalty, of dreams and friendship. They're no more than a lid on your stir-fry of jealousy."
"…" Pichu noticed that Shiki's eyes were trembling. "S-Shiki?" he whimpered a bit. "A-are you okay?"
"Y-yeah," Shiki said, but her tone sounded troubled. "H-he's just pissing me off a bit, that's all…"
The Electric-type forced a glare on Yodai. "Y-you big meanie! Stop insulting Shiki!" he yelled. The female teen wanted to smile at him, but her inner thoughts were far more conflicting.
Yodai continued. "Oh, how deeply you must hate yourself," he said. "You have EXACTLY what you always wanted…but it's not enough, is it?"
Chris tilted his head. "What do you mean by that?" he asked. "Shiki lost her most valuable possession as her entry fee, didn't she?" He saw Shiki embracing herself. "…Shiki?"
"No one loves you," Yodai said, to which many of them gasped and fumed a bit at the statement. "You can't love yourself. And so the jealousy consumes you."
Shiki glared up at him, her hands turning into fists to the sides of her skirt. "Stop it!" she demanded loudly.
"Stop being such a big jerk to her!" Pichu warned, his cheeks bouncing a few sparks out. "I-I'm warning you, really!" He knew very well that attacking someone who could potentially erase them in a snap was not a good option.
"Don't listen to this guy," Rhyme told Shiki, standing next to her. "He's trying to make you lose it. It's probably their job to make things stressful for you while you complete missions."
But the Reaper drawled on. "That friendly sugar coating can't sweeten the selfishness inside you," he said. "You think you're more important than anyone else. And THAT'S where jealousy begins…"
No one else other than Yodai knew, but Shiki felt that she was being read so easily. She denied Yodai's claims, but her denying was never going to stop the haunting feelings that she was bottling up. "No…" She looked at a loss of words. "I'm not-"
"You are," Yodai interjected. "And you know it." He grinned. "Why else would your entry fee be-"
Almost immediately, Shiki lost it as tears formed up on her eyes. "Stop! Don't say it!" she cried out. The group gasped after noticing the abrupt change of mood in her.
Yodai chuckled in amusement. "That complex of yours is a bruise on the tomato of your soul."
While Soren thought that Yodai's food analogy was screwing up with the mood of the scene, he saw Shiki backing away in fear from him. "No, I… I'm just…" She stuttered a bit.
"Nothing will change if you are restored to life," Yodai said, further confusing the group as to what the two of them knew that they didn't. "You'll just go on hating yourself and being jealous of everybody else."
The young teen looked to be in deep emotional pain. "No. Please, no more…" she muttered under her breath. Shutting her eyes, Shiki avoided looking at the group as she sprinted away from the scene. Pichu unluckily fell down to the floor on his feet, but he yelled for Shiki to come back. Fortunately, Shiki stopped running, but she didn't want to approach them, fearing that they had found out about the dark secret she kept.
Neku looked shocked. "Restored to life?" he said. He turned around to look at Yodai. "What are you trying to say with that about her?"
"Oh, all in due time, young egg," Yodai said. He turned his back on them. "See you in Day 7. Keep it fresh."
Chris was glad that the imposing Reaper was just about to leave. He felt very undermined to have an enemy with such a huge body stalk them from the shadows.
"…Oh, that reminds me," Yodai began, looking over his right shoulder at the World Traveler," young man, it is completely disgraceful to lie to your friends about your little adventure."
"W-what?" Chris said.
"Don't act dumb," Yodai said. "Your rotten apple core can't keep you safe from my sharp knife. You were…kidnapped, I believe."
The teen shook his head as his group looked perplexed at him. "J-just how much do you know about my memories?!" he asked. "I still have many of them in me!"
"We do keep copies of what we see in each little head of yours," Yodai said. "But that's not the point here. What I'm trying to say is…that befriending the one that killed your friends is a heinous act indeed. And even if you were put under stress of the situation you were, you truthfully became his friend in the end… Why, you even sacrificed your own life for his."
"(No!)" Chris shouted loudly in his mind, and soon the Smashers stared at him.
"…" Fox looked sideways at Chris. "Chris… What is he saying?"
Chris could spy that Fox's right hand turned into a fist. From the looks of it, the fingerless glove was being stretched a bit too far. "He's not…he's not…! (Yes, that did happen, and I even said I was going to defend ROB for his acts. But I never thought I'd get into this kind of problem with his victims at all!)" He felt cornered, and he knew there was no going back. "It's…it's true."
"What?" Ike said.
Yodai chuckled as he disappeared into the darkness. "I cannot stay here any longer. See you later, Players," he said, his dark chuckles echoing.
As the rest of the Shibuya crew watched the scene, Chris felt a lot of weight trying to crush his body with the stares his group was giving him. "I…I did befriend the Ancient Minister…I mean…ROB…" Chris muttered, making Ness, Ike, and Pichu gasp. "In fact, through the arguments I had with him, I managed to find that he was just as troubled as we are about Tabuu… I…I kind of saw myself in him because both of us felt alone in the world because we didn't have real people to rely on…"
Pichu gulped. "A-and that thing about sacrificing your life for Kirby's…"
"…was a lie," Chris finished. "The reason why I died is really because I pushed ROB out of the way of getting killed by the Halberd's cannon… Kirby was never around." He looked worried at them. "But you've got to believe me! I really hated him for what he did until he showed me his true colors! I…I believe that he's changed for the better!"
Ness looked away, Ike scratched his head, and Pichu looked unsure.
"…I…I'll just have to show you once we win the Game," Chris said. It was then he noticed Fox was giving him a hard look. "Fox?"
Fox was not pleased that Chris had lied to them. He suspected that the teen was hiding something the moment Neku commented about building relationships on lies. In retrospect, it looked quite odd that Chris stuttered a few times when asked about his last adventure, but Fox brushed them off as simple shocked reactions. After all, Chris would never experience anything like this beyond his home world. "Just how many times are you gonna keep lying to us?!" he suddenly yelled at Chris. "How many times are going to take till you learn that we can understand your issues?!"
Chris trembled in fear. He didn't want Fox to be the one to snap out so violently. "I-I didn't know how to say this!" he said. "I mean, I helped your murderer to escape death! I thought that was a bigger issue!"
"I give a rat's ass about that guy who put all of us in this stupid situation in the first place! He's nothing to me anymore!" Fox yelled, taking a hard step forward towards Chris. "I care a LOT more about people not lying to me just like that! Seriously, I can't believe you because of this!" He turned his back on Chris. "You vowed a long time ago that you were never going to keep secrets and truths away from us!"
The teen looked sad. "I-I know," he said. "I just didn't want any of you to get so angry at me fo-"
"Shut up!" Fox yelled. "And you asked me to be your big brother?"
Chris could already tell where the vulpine was going to with the rhetorical question. "(Oh no. Please, don't!)"
"How the hell can I have a little brother who's not willing to be honest?"
The teen stepped forward and put a quick hand on Fox's shoulder. "This is just a small mistake on my part!" he said, feeling Fox's body shake very slightly with rage. "I don't want to keep lying like that ever agai-" But Chris couldn't avoid what happened next. Turning sharply, Fox lifted his left fist and almost nearly broke Chris's nose. However, as Chris froze in the spot, he saw Fox's fist barely brushing his face. In front of the fist, the teen's irises shrunk in horror. "A-ah!"
"…" Fox begrudgingly pulled his fist back, glaring fiercely at his partner. "The only reason I'm not breaking that nose of yours is because you're my partner for this stupid thing," he said. He closed his eyes and walked a few steps away from Chris, who was now on the verge of collapsing in tears. "We're in this together…but that's it. There's nothing else in specific I want to talk about."
"…Uh… U-uh…" Chris fell to his knees and covered his face, muffling his whimpers as he cried to himself. He waited for a Smasher to console him, but Ness was conflicted with the news. Pichu was confused about what to do, but he chose to console Shiki over Chris. Ike was debating himself about the truth of the teen's situation. Fox now shut himself off from ever talking to Chris unless it was about the Game in general.
Neku looked away, not wanting to get involved into their troubles. "(This is why people drag others down,)" he thought. "(So…their relationship is really built on lies…)"
Just like that, everybody lost consciousness. Another day went by, but that didn't stop the unconscious Chris from shedding tears to the cold, stone-paved street…
He would find out later that Rhyme actually cared a whole lot about both he and Shiki. She watched the entire scene, and it felt wrong to her to see everyone getting torn down so easily. The young blond didn't have enough time to express her feelings, given that they were knocked out cold…
The World Ends with You - Calling
Shiki's Day 6 – Superiority/Inferiority
Fazed after feeling a forced sleep-induced event, Neku stood up from his spot and looked around. "Back at the scramble…" he muttered, only to find a red pin on his palm. The pin in question looked like the one that the businessman from yesterday was holding, but Neku didn't remember it. He stared down at it. "(Where'd it come from?)" he asked. "(It looks kind of like the Player Pin… It doesn't work for scanning…) Hmph. Weird pin." He pocketed it and saw that the others, except for Shiki, were standing up.
"Yet again…we've been taken away somewhere else," Ness commented. "Oh, it's the crossing again." He felt an item on his palm and he looked down at it, finding the same red pin. "Hey, where did this come from?"
The other Players saw that they also had the mysterious pin with them. "I don't recall having this with me," Soren said. "Those Reapers surely gave this to us."
"So, is it dangerous to have these?" Rhyme asked.
"Could be," Fox said. "But I have a feeling we're gonna be using these sooner than we think."
Neku nodded. "…Where's Stalker?" he asked. Suddenly, their phones rang. "The mission!"
Dominate the scramble crossing view at 3:00. You have 180 minutes. Fail, and face erasure. –The Reapers
They flinched in pain as a new timer got imprinted on their hands. "Right on cue…" Neku muttered. "(Hmm… Strange mission… We're standing in the scramble now – but what's the view? …Dammit. I don't know Shibuya well enough to make sense of this.)"
"Dominate the view?" Rhyme perked up. She looked at the several huge TV screens on the buildings surrounding the crossing. "Hmm, maybe it's about the TV screens, but I might be wrong."
Just as Neku thought that they had a clue, he turned around to find Shiki standing there. However, she looked lifeless with the blank look on her face. "What do you make of this?" Neku asked.
Shiki folded her arms behind her back, looking away. "Dominate the view? …No idea," she said.
The orange-haired teen crossed his arms in frustration. "(Wow. Thanks for giving it all the thought,)" he thought. He now noticed how depressed she looked. "(What's gotten into her?)"
"Um, Shiki?" Beat said as the others grouped together. "You okay? You look down, yo…"
"…" Shiki didn't respond to his question.
Neku was just a little bit perplexed that Shiki wasn't being so open unlike yesterday. The speech Yodai gave to her greatly affected her, he could tell that much. However, the fashionista looked like some sort of empty shell due to how emotionless her face had become. "Well, wait… Look again. Maybe there's a hidden clue," Neku said.
Shiki rubbed her chin, her eyes looking still sad. "The scramble crossing at three o'clock?" she wondered in a dull tone.
"Yo!" Beat called out. "Somethin' are gonna happen, or maybe we make it happen!"
"Um, I think it has something to do with the TVs around here, but I'm not very sure," Rhyme said until she turned around to look at the rest of the team. "Let's go have a look…oh…"
The otherworldly people listened to the talk about the mission, but other than that, there was an unsettling silence as Chris stared at them with a pained expression. The teen felt so ashamed for lying to them about the Ancient Minister, and he hoped for dear god that they would forgive him. "Please… You can't be angry with me," Chris said. "I was only doing what I thought was right!"
Ike was actually more open to forgive Chris, but his small speech got interrupted by Fox. "Tsk, and you thought lying was right," he said, driving a nail deeper into Chris's skin. "Some decision…"
"Now," Ike started, "I know the fact his little lie was…not a good thing to do, but…Chris was just doing what he thought was…well, right," he said. Soren looked dully at him. "Look, I feel a little peeved that he did it, but I already went through this problem a long time ago with another guy until he told us his reasons for his motives. I can give him a break." The teen needed all the relief he could get.
"Hmm," Soren wondered. "So this Ancient Minister guy was your murderer, and he went on to aid him to escape their base," he said. "That is a hard dilemma to solve in the values department so simply."
"Soren, you're not helping."
The Branded shrugged a bit. "While his actions sounded wrong," he began, looking at Chris, "there was no harm done in the end."
"That's what you think," Fox said, shooting a glare to Soren. "Chris went through a lot more events than we did when we died. Who's not to say he's lying about something else?"
Chris gasped, looking a bit pissed. He felt guilty just looking angry. "I'm not lying about anything else!" he shot back, but then he stepped back when Fox's eyes went to him.
"How can we tell you're not lying now?" Fox demanded. "We're unlucky that we can't read Players' minds with our Player Pins, but I wish I could do it on you right now. In fact…" He looked down at Ness. "You're a natural mind reader. Go ahead, and read Chris's mind."
Ness blinked a bit. "What?"
"You heard me. Read his mind."
The Onett boy felt a bit torn apart as he stared at Chris. "L-look, I REALLY don't want to read somebody else's mind like his," he said. "It's…again my code of ethics to read any of our group's minds…"
"Oh, that's bullcrap!"
"Hey! I only read minds when I feel something is pretty off!" Ness complained. "He's not thinking something nasty, and we always know he never does anything that bad!" He looked up at Fox and pointed a finger at him. "Well, now that I thought about it a little more, I think you're the one taking things a little bit out of proportion yourself just because of one simple, harmless lie!"
Fox gasped, not expecting Ness to side with Chris. "I-I'm not!" he said. "It's just…!"
Chris felt a little more relieved until Ness spoke. "I feel pretty shaken up myself…because he helped our murderer," he said. "I…I don't care about his little lie to sugarcoat the truth. Don't get me wrong, but I still want to talk to him. Not now, though. I want to…I want to let the fact that ROB is actually working with us…"
The vulpine grunted and looked at Pichu. He frowned. "Why do I bother with you," he muttered. "You're obviously with him, too."
Pichu looked sad, trembling at Fox's imposing glare. "I-I have the same reasons like Ness," he said. "You…you need to be less strict with him!"
The vulpine looked at the teen with a confused look. Shaking his head, Fox only walked away as the others watched on. He couldn't walk far away, so he simply turned his back on them. Looking at the others, Chris said, "Um… Thank you for defending me a bit…"
"It's kind of okay," Ike said. "Fox just took it a little more personal for some reason. I think it comes as a burden to him because he's a leader… And me, being a leader, I understand him a bit, but I already reflected on my attitude."
Soren recalled what Ike meant. "You mean about Nasir," he said.
Ike nodded. "Yes, exactly," he said. "Back then when he did some unquestionable actions against our fight against Ashnard, we found out that he was only doing it for his granddaughter. Chris, I don't really believe that you have bad intentions like…backstabbing us in the back."
"Of course not," Chris said, trying to sound as composed as possible to avoid anyone else from thinking he was not being sincere when he was not. "All of you are…very important to me, and I wouldn't try to piss you off for anything in the universe."
"Yeah…but is it okay with you if we don't talk to you for a little bit?" Ness asked, dismaying Chris. "We're still friends, don't worry about that, but we want to reflect a little on you-know-who being a good guy."
"…" The teen sighed, but he understood nonetheless. "It's fine. We're on a timer, anyway." He looked over at Fox and sighed depressed.
"Give him some time, too," Ike suggested, forcing a small smile. "Just leave him alone until he can find forgiveness for you."
"But…what if he doesn't?" Chris asked, and he felt it was right to tell them. "I really was looking to the idea of him becoming a big brother figure…"
"Aww, that's so sweet!" Pichu said until looking a bit serious. "Yes, give him some time! He'll be talking to you before long!"
Fox was actually overhearing their talk, and while there was a part of himself to forgive Chris, he strongly believed that he shouldn't so casually go back on his words. Unfortunately, he was a very proud guy who didn't like lies too much. He never saw the apologetic look Rhyme was giving him from afar…
After cheering Chris up a bit, the Smashers approached the Shibuya Crew. Pichu then recalled Shiki was out of it. "Shiki, are you… Oh, who am I kidding…" he muttered, frowning. "There's something wrong, I know that…"
"That Yodai guy was a jerk," Ness said. "Did his words get to you?"
"…" Shiki didn't reply and looked away.
"I'll take that as a yes for now… But pull yourself together," he said. "So…just let it all out, girl! We know now that you're jealous of somebody you know, but it's okay!"
"No, it's not," Shiki muttered, loud enough for them to hear. "I'm…a nasty, repulsive person…"
"Oh no, that's how emo people talk! Don't you dare go emo now!" Ness said, thinking that Shiki would chuckle a bit. He thought wrong. "…Shiki, snap out of it. How can you even be a nasty person? You're not a traitor. We already confirmed that…"
"Ugh…" Shiki shook her head. "…We…we need to get busy with the mission…" she muttered.
Pichu sighed. "Shiki…" He debated if he should talk to her. "…Is…your envy that bad?" It looked like Neku cared to hear what was troubling her, only because he felt everything would go down the drain if he didn't pull herself together.
"…" Shiki's eyes turned to the east where she saw a familiar person standing on the corner of the street. "…Makoto is over there."
While Pichu thought that she was avoiding the questions, the others looked over to see the businessman looking down to his feet. "Oh, it's that guy who we thought the girls were fighting over," Soren said. "Leave him be. He could lead us to yet another girl fight."
Unaware of dead people looking at him, Makoto sighed to himself as he said, "I'm done for…"
"What's that guy mumbling about?" Neku asked. They went to his side to listen closely. Soren wondered why they needed to do that, but he rolled his eyes and followed.
"I can feel time slipping through my fingers," Makoto muttered. "Three more hours… Then I'm gonna get the ax. So long, Makoto. Heh…"
"He said three more hours…" Chris muttered.
Neku suddenly put the pieces together in his mind. In three hours, it was going to be three o clock. "Hey! I think this guy might be the key!" he told the others. Shiki remained silent again.
Thinking back, Shiki did a lot of help in figuring out the missions' objectives. It nagged at Neku to think that she was very useful, but it nagged him even more that she was at a loss of words in the last days they needed to win the Game. Getting a second chance at life was too close yet so far away that pressured Neku to talk to her. "(T-talk, dammit!)" he cursed mentally. "(Why is she so quiet today?) So, um, yeah… Let's scan him, OK?"
The others stared at Shiki's emotionless expression. "…Well…let's go read his mind, yo," Beat said.
The group clutched their Player Pins and read Makoto's troubled mind together. "(Waaaaaah…)" he whined. "(Has the boss lost his mind? Shelling out the money for Q Floor… The commercial will only last a few seconds. Not enough to catch the eye…)"
"Catch the eye?" Rhyme wondered. When she looked up south at the building looming behind them, she figured something out. "Oh yeah, now I get it! This is our mission!" she brightened up.
"Really?" Shiki asked, without as much enthusiasm like she used to show.
Neku frowned at her, having figured out the message. "Think about it," he said. "The time matches up – 3:00. And catching the eye… Eye? View? Same thing."
"Oh, now I see," Ike said. "His issue must be related to our mission through comparisons." His face fell. "But what's the Q Floor place he mentioned?"
Shiki looked to Rhyme's direction, where she was looking to the building south of their position. "Everyone. Up there…" she called out weakly to the giant TV screen, possibly the biggest one of the entire city, embedded to the building's top portion. It was playing different sets of commercials from time to time. "The big screen – that's Q Floor."
"Wow, that screen is huge…" Ness said, mesmerized at the high quality of said television. Ike felt the need of destroying the damned thing with his sword as it looked too…dangerous, but he didn't want to make a scene and embarrass himself in front of Soren. The Branded just brushed the fact that there was some sort of big window in the vicinity.
"It's a TV designed only for commercials to show up for the people around here to see," Rhyme explained to the group. "You should see the uproars when something unexpected shows up in there! People go crazy."
"This is all starting to make sense!" Neku said.
"So dominating the scramble crossing view," Shiki began, as Pichu noticed the lack of eagerness in her voice, "means getting the crowd here to watch that guy's ad?"
Beat shook an eager fist. "Yeah, that shulbee it!" he said.
But then Shiki said, "That'll never happen," surprising the group. "People look straight ahead when they cross. Or at their feet."
"…Shiki…I never expected you to say that like…that," Chris muttered. "You sound way too negative for my tastes…"
"…" Neku crossed his arms. Maybe she just needed some more time, he thought. "Our mission is to get them to look UP. They have to see that ad."
"What do you think the ad's for?" Shiki asked, averting her eyes from them all.
"Like I know," Neku said sarcastically. He turned to see Makoto. "…Maybe he can answer that."
The group looked over at Makoto sulking. "It's all over," he said. "I'm doomed… Trapped in the flaming wreckage of my own life…" No sooner he said that, some of them groaned when a yellow symbol circled around his head.
"Great," Neku said with emphasis. "The Noise have a hold of him." He turned to Shiki and the others. "You know what that means."
As Shiki didn't say another word, Beat stepped forward. "Another beat down is needed!" he said.
The overall negativity of the atmosphere made most of them feel a bit overwhelmed by the young teen's attitude, but they went on to defeat the Noise plaguing Makoto's mind. The Noise battle went down badly, mostly because the perturbed ones – Chris, Fox, and Shiki – took part of it. These three were conflicted with their thoughts that it didn't seem like they cared much about surviving. Luckily, they pulled through.
"Ugh, that was a mess back there," Fox said. "Chris, your performance was just too bad."
"Says you…" Chris muttered. "You got ganged up by those crows the most."
"Did not," Fox said, even though it was true. "Do better next time or else my head is gonna get handed back to me definitely."
As Rhyme continued to look at the development, the others looked back at Makoto. He was now smiling and making a fist. "Chin up, Makoto!" he said. "Snap out of it!" From his right pocket, he took out the same red skull pin the others had obtained. "True, these pins show no sign of becoming the next big thing. But it's my job to MAKE them the next big thing!"
"Huh… He has the same pin we have right with us," Ike noted as some of them stared at their newly acquired pins.
"So…is he advertising it?" Ness asked.
Pichu gasped. "Maybe…maybe he was the one who gave this to us!" he said. He gasped a second time after thinking things a little more thoroughly. "Then he's…a Reaper!"
The group digested the possibility for a little while. "…Naaaaaaaah!" most of them said.
"It's just a regular old pin," Shiki said, almost in a monotone voice. "No one's gonna watch an ad for it."
"That's for sure," Neku groaned. "But the guy's a pro, right? I'm sure he's at least got a plan." They looked back at Makoto.
The young businessman closed his eyes in deep thought until he opened them, chuckling at a new idea he got. "OK! First, I'm going to hand free pins out," he said, "and fill Shibuya with walking billboards!"
"Alright," Ness said nodding, "he's getting somewhere."
"Hmm…and to get people's attention, I need some 'hip' one-liners like that book suggested." He closed his eyes to remember the book he read. "Let's see… How about, 'Totally gnarly!'"
Pichu winced as Ness pinched the bridge between his eyes. Beat likewise winced and scratched his left shoulder.
"'Come get some hot stuff!'"
Fox began debating if Makoto was totally straight while Ike backed off a bit. Neku shook his head in shame.
Soren pitied the man a bit, closing his eyes, as Chris shook his head in pity. Rhyme sighed silently.
"Perfect! The slang of the moment! If I get everyone talking about the pins in time, they're sure to watch the commercial!" Makoto showed his white teeth in success.
But the rest of the team was thinking the opposite. "Uhh…no?" Neku said. "They're going to think you're nuts."
"And they'll even question if he's into women," Fox added.
"'Come get some hot stuff'?" Shiki said. "That sounds like a pickup line… And pins aren't exactly a hot topic to begin with. No one's going to take them."
"Then we gotta help the idiot out," the vulpine said.
Suddenly, the three poor excuses of pickup lines were added to the Players' phones. "Aww, hell no!" Beat groaned. "These lame-o lines got added to our phones!"
"That makes it even more obvious that this is our mission for the day," Neku said. "We've got to use these stupid lines to promote this weird pin of his."
The group saw that Makoto had caught the attention of two random passerbies. As the Players looked on, the businessman sweated and fidgeted a bit. "Oh no, he's a lost cause," Ness said. "Let's see if we can use these memes on his head."
Most of them decided to listen to Makoto's conversation with the passerby, but not all of them were focused. Shiki was looking away, staring into empty air as her right hand held a weak grip on her phone. She wanted to look at the picture of her and Eri one more time, but she didn't want to do it anymore. She felt crushed and humiliated, even if the group had listened to her argument with Yodai and didn't know much about her personal issues. Still, she felt horrible. She didn't want to tell anything to anybody.
Pichu was not going to have any of it, and so he made his way to her as the group helped the helpless Makoto out. She heard his little footsteps and immediately knew where he was going. "Pichu… Don't say anything," she muttered, sighing. "I want to be all alone…"
"…Screw that," Pichu said, finally bringing himself to say the "s" word, but it wasn't enough to faze Shiki. "Shiki, it's gotten a lot worse now! You keep hiding this deep dark secret, and it's making me feel so worried about you!" He wanted to climb to her shoulder, but Pichu didn't want to risk being pushed off by her. "You need to pull yourself together or you're gonna keep mopping around like this!"
"You know everything you need to know from me…" Shiki muttered, her tone still stuck in a monotone type. "I…am a failure of a friend…"
"Failure of a friend?" Pichu shook his head. "You're not a failure!"
"But I am… I can't show my face around after you saw what happened yesterday…"
"But I still don't understand this jealousy you have towards someone else!" Pichu said. "I've felt jealous about other people in the past. I know I'm not the strongest fighter there is, but…but I don't let that drag me down! I'm happy the way I am!" He looked away. "Well, I do plan on evolving to a Pikachu someday…" he muttered and looked at her back. "It's just a small bit of jealousy for sure!"
"…" Shiki looked up at the sky. "…And I feel really horrible for it," she said. "I don't deserve to live and see…"
Pichu blinked, thinking that Shiki was running her mouth. He wanted her to accidentally slip information, but Shiki was far more focused in keeping her jealousy in the shadows. The Electric-type's ears drooped as he frowned, looking to another way to think about a way to help her out.
He could only look on as a giggling Shiki walked northeast of the scramble crossing.
"…Huh?" Pichu's eyes widened a bit. He felt that his mind was playing a nasty trick in his eyes, but he could've sworn that there was a second Shiki around the area. He really wanted to chase the second Shiki down, but it wasn't advised to leave Ness behind to become Noise bait. Pichu was probably seeing things. The second Shiki he saw looked alive and real. Blinking a few times, Pichu looked up at the Shiki stuck in the UG. "Uh, Shiki… Do you happen to have a…twin sister?"
"…" Shiki was now clutching Mr. Mew with both arms. She decided to stay silent for real.
"Oooh…" Pichu muttered under his breath, his face looking down the street. "(I…I could've sworn there was a second Shiki right there!)" he thought alarmed, looking to the area where the other Shiki went. "(What is going on around here? I need to solve this before the end of tomorrow!)" The small Smasher looked over his right shoulder at the others as he thought hard about the solution for Shiki's troubles.
"Look, those two he's talking to look kind of tough," Ike said as he eyed the two people, who looked like they were a couple that were into gangs. "Maybe the memes we got have to relate to them…"
"It's such a simplistic method, but we don't have another choice," Soren said. "Nothing bad can come out of this."
"Except for Makoto getting kidney-punched mercilessly," Ness said. "With that in mind, let's choose…
And Makoto was forced to say, "Totally gnarly!"
The punk named Sota gasped. "'Scuse me?" he asked, making Makoto sweat bullets, thinking that he had annoyed the young couple.
"I mean... umm... My...my grandpa!" Makoto breathed out. "It's my grandpa. He's...he's all gnarly!"
Soren looked frustrated. "My, what a stupid excuse," he commented.
"Gnarly?" Sota said, staring intently at Makoto. Makoto took it as a warning sign that he was getting it.
"F-from his arthritis!" Makoto said. "The poor man beats himself up because no one wears these pins. When I see his gnarly hands tremble with guilt, I..." He sniffed sadly. The group of Players rolled their eyes. "I just... Ohh, Grandpa!" Makoto took an unnecessary moment of silence to add more to the drama, seeing that Sota and Nao – his apparent girlfriend – looked a bit confused at the weirdo. "So, um... Would you do me a favor, and wear one of these pins for him?"
"Here comes some old-school beating," Ness said dully. "There's no way this guy bought that stor-"
Much to their surprise, Sota grinned and said, "Hells yeah."
Makoto gasped. "Whoa! Really?"
"What's your name?"
Makoto stuttered for a bit. "It's... Makoto Miki. Friends call me Mick."
"Mick..." Sota nodded. "You're a good man."
Nao giggled. "Yeah! Like, that was totally moving?"
"Somebody shoot me, yo," Beat muttered. No one shot him.
"Handing out pins for your grandpa in the scramble..." Sota actually shed a small tear. "That's aces, dawg."
"Like, I think I'm in love?" Nao said, stifling a small giggle. Soren face-palmed.
Sota shook hands with Makoto, grabbing a pin for himself and Nao. "We'll wear your pins. It'd be an honor," Sota said.
Makoto shook his head in disbelief, but his wide smile made it evident that he was really happy. "Th-thanks!" he said.
"Hang in there, Mick. We'll be rootin' for you."
Nao nodded in agreement. "Hope your granddaddy, like, cheers up?" she said, and then the two were off, wearing the unpopular pins with a lot of pride. Beat stuck out his tongue and pointed at it.
"Who?" Makoto said, forgetting about the fictional grandpa with arthritis. "Oh! M-me too..." He chuckled, confident of himself. His plan was working! He could actually pull it off if he put his mind into it! There was no way he could lose now. "Wow, I'm on fire today! OK! Time to hand these out someplace else!" With his renewed faith, the young businessman walked up northeast to Center St. Entrance, ready to face the next challenge.
"I can't believe it," Ness said. "Yet one more thing added to my list of most unbelievable crap I've ever seen."
"It works all the same," Neku said. "Follow the loser down!"
The group went up north. As Pichu walked close to an emotionless Shiki staring into the distance, the others saw that the way northeast was blocked by a Support Reaper in a red hoodie. This Reaper was a little bit out there once he started a weird quiz time called "Reaper Review". Confused at the development, the others faced a small session of three questions about Shibuya. Solving the review would grant them pass to where Makoto went.
Fox could've been ready to take on the quiz, but he was stopped short once Rhyme pulled him back from behind his jacket. "Fox, I need to talk to you," she said.
"What is it?" Fox asked, giving her a friendly grin.
Rhyme crossed her arms. "I wonder if you'll look at me with that face after telling you this," she began, making him arch an eyebrow, "but your reason for being angry is completely…unfounded."
"…" Fox sighed, knowing full well that Rhyme was one of those who were wise beyond their years. He looked away with a blank look. "Why are you interested in this?" he asked, looking from a distance at Chris's back. "This is between him and me. Don't get into this, Rhyme."
"Sorry, but I have to," Rhyme said, giving him a serious look. He looked down at her. "Otherwise, there won't be a happy ending."
"Fox, really," the young blond began, "he lied to you once, so what? There's no need to be so aggressive."
"He lied to me twice already about…something else," Fox said, shaking his head. "I gave him a chance after that one, but I never knew he'd pull this out again. It pisses me off to have reliable people who keep hiding secrets under my nose because they don't trust me... It stinks."
"I don't think I should ask too much about the first time he lied in the past," Rhyme said. "All that matters to me is for you two to become friends again in the present where you need to have a stable teamwork."
"Are you honestly going to never talk to him in friendly terms again?" the young blond questioned. "You don't seem like the type who wouldn't talk to someone close to you, even if you do have quite a sharp face."
Fox rolled his eyes. "Listen, I don't want you to ge-"
"Don't give me that," Rhyme interjected. "From how I see things, you're slowly starting to become a worse example than Neku himself."
At this, the vulpine forced a glare. He didn't like to be compared to someone worse than he was. "Are you telling me I'm worse than that anti-social jerk?" he asked.
"No, but the way I see things, you're descending into his area while he's getting out of it," Rhyme said before she pointed at Neku. Fox looked over, and he saw the orange-haired teen trying to get Shiki to talk to him.
"Hey, you," Neku said, sounding a bit rude. "Snap outta it."
"…" Shiki averted her eyes from his. "Everything is…useless. It's worthless."
Neku frowned at her. "What's gotten into you?" he asked. "I need you to stay focused. It means that…I need you to be back to your cheerful self. It might cost us the Game." He grunted a bit once she gave him the silent treatment. "This isn't like you."
"This isn't like me, really…" Shiki muttered. "I'm a horrible person because of that…"
"What?" Neku grimaced. "I feared your grip on reality was coming loose." He turned his back on her and looked away. "You better change that attitude. It's…not like I care much, but this is a dire situation for me. If we weren't partners, I probably wouldn't give you as much attention… Ugh," he muttered. "Why is this so hard to do? I knew people drag others down. I don't want her dragging me down…"
"I dragged all of you down…" the emotionless Shiki said, much to Neku's dismay. Pichu overheard her and, once again, looked preoccupied. "I shouldn't live again…"
"…Maybe…maybe I need to give you some air," Neku said, his hair obscuring his eyes. "Yeah, that must be it. I need to give you some space so that…uh…you can reflect on your problems."
"…It's useless, though."
Neku grunted and walked away. "(Damn it! She better get it back together!)" he thought as he reunited with the others, not noticing Rhyme and Fox staring his way. "(It's so annoying…)"
The vulpine and the young blond looked back at each other. Rhyme brightened up. "Neku is defrosting," she said. "But you're freezing. If you freeze, you're not gonna have a nice time."
"Says you," Fox said, crossing his arms. He furrowed his brow in thought. "…Rhyme, why are you so interested in getting into my business?" he asked.
"It's just…" Rhyme fiddled her fingers a bit, "I'm doing my best to come up with my dreams, y'know? So, when I watched all of you getting so stressed over the events from yesterday…it made me think that maybe my dream is to be...a good friend." She chuckled, embarrassed about what she said. "See? How silly of me. That's not very descriptive." She folded her arms behind her back. "While I chase whatever dreams I want to find, I want to be a good friend and help you out while I have time. I dislike wasting time."
Perhaps, if he could change the topic a bit, Rhyme would get off his case. "Why don't you like wasting time?" Fox asked, though he learned from Falco that wasting time was just that: a waste of time.
"I'm a very active girl," Rhyme said. "I don't like to brag, but I'm sort of a prodigy at school. My parents are so proud of me for being a very achieving student. I'm proud of what I've done, and I wish my older brother was kind of like me." She looked a bit depressed. "He…he probably is not lamenting my departure."
"(Oh, sweet. Now I feel like the bad guy,)" Fox thought dismayed. "(I've got to cheer her up now...) Why'd you say that?" he asked.
"My brother is kind of the total opposite of me," Rhyme said, looking up. "He does badly at school, my parents get on his butt a lot, and I feel that he is jealous of me because of who I am. I remember that he's given me a few reprehensive looks whenever my parents looked the other way… But still," she forced a small smile and nodded, "I like him a lot. I really like him for who he is. It's a bit sad he doesn't have the same thoughts for me. He's a bit stupid, though, but that makes him funny."
"…" Fox looked away. "(…This girl is downright mature for her age… She's probably even more mature than I am!)" He gasped mentally and shook his head. "(Hey, hold on there. You can't go thinking that! It's like I'm saying she's winning!)"
Rhyme blinked, forgetting about her depression. "Oh, how silly of me. I got distracted talking you about my past life," she said, giggling a bit. "Let's go back to your issue."
"Wall open!" the Support Reaper said as the wall blocking the way northeast disappeared. Nodding, he walked away, never to be seen again.
"Hey, the wall is open!" Ike called out. "Let's move!"
"Oh!" Rhyme turned around, though she looked up over her shoulder at the vulpine. "You're a bit lucky, Fox. We'll continue this at a later time. We've got something else to do." She ran with the others to the next area.
The vulpine stared her way for a while until he sprinted off, stealing some glances at the worried World Traveler who never directed his face at him. Grunting, Fox focused on the mission at hand.
Fox never noticed that Beat heard their talk from the beginning. The punk clenched his teeth and went to Rhyme's side without much of a word. She looked up at him and smiled, and he instantly grinned, forgetting about their talk for a brief moment to enjoy Rhyme's sweet smile.
Center St. Entrance
"A stomping ground for Shibuya youth. In the 80s, it gave birth to the 'Shibu-Kaji' (Shibuya Casuals) fashion movement."
The small street had a small space for people to walk through, but the towering skyscrapers on both sides of the street weren't enough to stop the light of day to shine down. Up northeast, the way leaded to AMX, though the group had no business to go there unless Makoto had to.
They saw the weirdo businessman about to talk to his new prey: it was a young teenager who looked a little bit too much obsessed with the Tin Pin sport many liked, but not like him. Shooter, the teen's self-proclaimed nickname, was a hardcore guy who would jump in glee to join up with somebody else to talk about the greatness that was Tin Pin. His overall, over-the-top appearance made him look like he came out from an anime. He had everything. He wore a large red bandana, wrapped on his forehead, with its tails running behind his head; a band-aid placed on his left cheek; big, black, fingerless gloves; an orange jacket over a white T-shirt, tight blue pants… He was the epitome of a rabid fanboy.
It freaked Chris out a bit. For a second, he thought he had seen the guy somewhere else before, but he was probably confusing him with other characters from the anime he had seen.
Not that this was anime, he thought.
"Ooh! That kid's sure to take one," Makoto said as he approached Shooter, the latter who was looking the other way. "Hey, there, slugger."
Shooter turned around with a wide grin on his face. "WHOAAA!"
"Hoo boy, this is going to be rich," Ness said in a deadpan manner as they looked at Makoto's startled look.
"Lemme guess, bro," Shooter said. "You want me to make you one of my Slammurai... Right?"
Soren sighed. "This city is just full of weird Beorc," he muttered.
"Uh..." Makoto didn't like where this conversation was going. "I didn't-"
"Don't be shy!" Shooter encouraged, further confusing both Makoto and the Players. "It's cool! SLAM ON!"
Makoto never dropped the startled look on his face. "No. I'm not here to-"
"What's your favorite whammy?"
"What are you ranked?"
"I...I... I don't know!"
"Sheesh," Ness commented as the Player Pin flashed on Makoto. "This kid is…unbelievable."
"Just looking at him makes me want to slow him down," Chris muttered. "…Violently," he added, muttering to himself more than anyone else. The group went on to read Makoto's mind to give him a hand with Shooter.
"(Who...who is this kid!?)" Makoto thought in shock. Feeling that there was nothing else in his thoughts, Ness knew the right meme to use. He imprinted "Unreal, bro!" into the businessman's mind. With renewed determination, Makoto smiled and said, "Unreal, bro!" to Shooter.
"WHOAAA!" Shooter was thoroughly impressed once he caught a small glimpse of one of the pins Makoto was holding in his other hand.
It was enough shock for Makoto to look startled yet again. "Huh?"
"What's that pin?" Shooter asked, pointing at one of the pins.
Makoto looked confident. So many mood changes for a day, he thought. "Oh, this?" he asked with a pleased grin.
"Yeah! Tell me where you got it!"
Makoto had a speech and everything! It was bound to sell! "Well-"
"What's its Attack?" Shooter interrupted.
Makoto's speech was obliterated into pieces. "Uhh... unreal, bro?"
Fox grimaced. "For god's sake, he's not really describing it usin-"
"Seriously?" Shooter said, impressed. The vulpine grunted loudly. "How about its Defense?"
"Unreal, bro!" Makoto said with more enthusiasm. Things were getting back on track! There was an opening to make his next move, and he didn't want to waste any more time t-
"Whoa! BRO!" Shooter said before stepping back. "You and me gotta battle. I want that pin!"
"Huh?" Makoto and every single Player responded with the same reply.
Shooter took out a bunch of pins from god-knows-where, scaring Makoto. "Ready?" he asked, even if he was already in high gear. "Slaaam...ON!"
There was a bright flash that startled the Players. The flash was so brief that it went away. Makoto stood there, astonished at what had happened. Naturally, Shooter didn't look shocked. He was rejoicing and looking happy. "What in the name of Crimea was that?" Ike asked. "All I saw was this flash and…"
"Woo...hoooooo!" Shooter panted while Makoto stared into space, his left hand stretched out with one of the red pins. "I won, bro! Better practice up. Rely on pins alone...and you'll never be a true Slammurai!" Shooter encouraged, oblivious of Makoto's stunned expression. The hyperactive teen chuckled and took his prize from the businessman's hand. "I'll be taking that pin. YOINK!"
"…" Makoto shook his head, not minding the fact Shooter was kissing the pin with extreme affection that was enough to cause the Players to look away from him, utterly disgusted. "Huh? But... OK..." Makoto smiled and walked north to Tipsy Tose Hall. "It worked!"
Makoto ignored hearing Shooter say, "I'm gonna be the best like no one ever was with this baby!"
"Okay, now I'm extremely perturbed," Soren said as he pressed his brow, following Makoto. The others stared at Shooter rubbing the pin against his cheek and, morbidly disturbed, followed the Branded in a hurry. "This should be the last time we get to see another unsettling person…"
It turned out that Makoto met the tech guy who had repaired the stage back in Day 4. After using the "Come get some hot stuff!" meme several times to instill a reaction, the group was officially horrified of what they saw: the tech guy looked like he was thinking in deep thought with closed eyes, looking the other way before Makoto showed up from behind and kept repeating the same line over and over. With each try, the tech guy, his eyes still closed, slowly but surely approached Makoto without turning around…getting a little bit too close; too close to make one think that the techie was invading Makoto's privacy zone, but the businessman didn't mind. He even broke the sentence apart to emphasize his point, with a stressed look on his face all the while. It just worsened the overall mental picture.
"Come get some hot stuff!"
The techie looked giddy.
"Oh! Hot stuff!"
He chuckled and moved closer.
He moved even closer…
"Yeah, hot stuff!"
He was literally several inches away from touching Makoto.
"Come get some!"
The techie turned around. "...I'll take one."
"UGH…" most of the Players said in disgust.
"Now to witness a phenomenon in the making!" Makoto cheerfully said as he looked up at the big TV. "I bet I'll have to BEAT back all the fans. Let me walk around and observe."
The group was back to the Scramble Crossing, watching on as Makoto walked around to see if people were wearing his pin. Truth to be told, the path to success was never easy. He had only handed three pins to three random people; two of which were not quite right in the head, though Makoto himself could be a potential third. "Oh, come on," Neku said. "Handing out a few pins isn't going to ignite Shibuya. We better go after him."
"This guy is a big…loser," Ness said, feeling pity for Makoto. "He takes everything for granted. And if he doesn't succeed, WE ARE THE ONES GETTING THE BOOT."
"It's true about what we've said before," Ike said nodding. "The universe doesn't like us."
"Just...give it up." The group blinked after hearing Shiki talk. The fashionista had been silent the entire time ever since she spoke to Neku, or barely spoke to him. "Even if we do clear the mission... I'll still... I'll never be..."
Neku grunted loudly and turned to her. The others were ready to keep him from doing something unforgivable. "Hey, what gives?" he asked, but Shiki simply stared at him with an emotionless look in her eyes. Looking a bit embarrassed, Neku looked up and scratched his head. "You've been acting really weird today. It's almost 3. We need to get moving, or we'll fail the mission."
This was his chance to question Shiki with the rest of them paying attention. Pichu stepped forward and looked up at her. "Shiki, why are you so down? We know you're jealous of somebody. You can redeem yourself!"
Shiki was now looking away, feeling horrible beyond words. "...So what?"
"There's no point. You heard what that Reaper said," Shiki said.
Beat grunted loudly and slammed a step on the street. "Hey, yo! Quit it already!" he said. "We bustin' our heads over you here! You used to be all bunnies and rainbows yesterday before that bastard gots to talk to ya! Are you still bummed?"
"..." Shiki didn't want to think about it. She shook her head and said, "Even if I finish the mission... win the Game... Even if I come back to life... I'll still just be me. What do I do..."
Ike tilted his head. "Shiki, I'm afraid you lost us there," he said. "What are you trying to say? You need to stop being so cryptic."
"We shouldn't bother her too much if she doesn't want to," Soren said, having enough of the young teen's attitude.
Ike knew that Soren was going to insult Shiki with the next sentence that was going to come out of his mouth. The Branded didn't care much about others that weren't part of the mercenaries. "Soren, stop right there," Ike said. "Don't say anything else. Neku needs Shiki to get it together."
"…The rules of the Game," Soren muttered. "Fine, but I don't see how we're going to fix her personal trauma with herself."
Neku grunted and got closer to Shiki, not caring about what the others would say to him for actually caring about her issues. "What were you asking just now?" he asked. "What is so wrong that's making you so…out of character?"
"I thought I'd changed. But I'll never change. I'll just go on hurting," she simply said without turning back to them.
"What?" Pichu said in confusion. "What do you mean you never changed? What…what does that mean?" he asked as he frowned at the puzzling question.
Shiki sighed and turned around, folding her arms behind her back as she looked down at her feet with her eyes. "I was never pretty...or smart..."
Thinking that he had the answer, Chris blushed a bit and said, "W-well, I can attest that you are both of those things," he said. Pichu nodded in agreement, but they were dismayed when Shiki shook her head in denial. "W-wait, that wasn't it? (Maybe she wants more…?)"
"There was nothing special about me at all," Shiki continued. "I hated myself. I wanted to change, to be somebody else…" She stiffened her blank look. "…To be Eri."
"Eri…" Pichu muttered. "…Isn't she your friend? The one you kept mentioning to us a lot?" Shiki nodded. "But I don't understand! I remember the photo of Eri and you. She…well…not to be rude, but you look prettier than she is…" He noticed that Shiki had finally gotten a new look on her face, but it was a negative one. She was grimacing. "I-I didn't mean to insult her, really! Don't look like that, please…"
"…But it didn't work," Shiki said. "I never got to be like her like I thought…"
Neku stared at her, until his eyes slowly drifted away behind her back. The others suddenly looked behind her and gasped in surprise. "I don't-"
"Oh my…goodness!" Rhyme said, covering her mouth with both hands.
"Holy…" Fox trailed off as his eyes widened, "crap!"
Neku backed off. "WHOA!" he exclaimed as Shiki looked deadpan at him. The headphone-wearing teen pointed behind her. "Over there! Is that... you?"
Shiki immediately yelped and turned around in complete and utter shock, though Pichu wished there were a positive reaction. "Ahh!" she shrieked.
"I-I knew it!" Pichu said with his little beady eyes wide. "I didn't see things!"
The group was at a loss of words as they watched an exact duplicate of Shiki giggling and talking to Mina among the crowd of people that crossed the scramble. It was another Shiki that looked exactly like her. Their eyes weren't seeing things. The Shiki they saw was alive and breathing without a care in the world.
"Shiki's got a twin sistah?!" Beat said in shock. "Why didn't she say anything about her?!"
"I-I…" Shiki composed herself, her eyes looking away from her apparent doppelganger.
"What is going on here now?" Rhyme asked until the group overheard the second Shiki talking enthusiastically with Mina.
"The other day," she began with extreme excitement, "I found just the cutest outfit at Ten-Four!"
"Seriously?" Mina asked, knowing full well that this Shiki knew what she was talking about. She wasn't wrong about her critiques towards fashion, so Mina needed to see the outfit. "Hey, why don't we head over there?" she suggested brightly. "You've still got some time, right, Eri?"
There was a strange, sudden reaction after hearing Mina calling the second Shiki with the name Eri. They recalled that Eri was supposedly the girl with glasses in Shiki's photo. "…Eri?" the group of Players repeated, looking back at a dismayed Shiki.
Not wanting to confront reality, Shiki sniffed and almost made a run for it had it not been for Pichu blocking her way. "T-this has got to stop!" he yelled angrily at her. "I…I… We can't handle this anymore! What is happening here?! Don't go running away now!"
"Just who are we talking to right now?" Ness asked, stepping forward. "If that girl over there is…if she's you, then… Well, what should we believe?" He grabbed his head in pain. "Ugh, this is so confusing…"
Soren narrowed his eyes. "That person in the living world… She must be the real Eri," he said, getting looks from everybody else. Shiki bit her lower lip as she stared at him. "And the person we're talking to here is nothing but a phony of her."
The group gasped. "Soren!" Ike scolded. "Think about before speaking!" He crossed his arms and stared at the fashionista. "True, maybe she's not the real Shiki…or Eri…or whatever… But that doesn't mean she's been giving us trouble from the beginning."
Chris looked back and forth between the two Shikis. "If that's truly Eri, then who is Shiki?" he asked.
Shiki's eyes trembled with sadness. She ultimately fell cornered once more. Sighing with a frown, she chuckled silently and stared at the group. "So now you know," she said. "It was futile for me to keep hiding it any longer…"
Neku crossed his arms. "Know what?" he asked.
"…What my entry fee was," Shiki responded, to which the group blinked in surprise.
"Wait, hold on there," Fox said, giving her a tough look. "What are you saying? What was your entry fee exactly?"
"My appearance," Shiki said, looking down at her feet. "I…gave up the way I really look."
"Your appearance?" Neku said in utter disbelief. He looked back to Eri. "Then-"
Shiki nodded mournfully. "This is Eri's body," she pointed out, much to Pichu's overall surprise. "I don't really look like this…"
The Players exchanged bewildered looks with each other before staring back at her. "Oh…my…god…" Ness trailed off, heavily emphasizing each word. "Your entry fee was your appearance?"
"That girl with glasses in the photo…" Rhyme trailed off. "That was…you?"
Shiki nodded once more, feeling that it was about time to explain her story to them. "Yes, that was the old me… When I got to the UG and I saw myself..." she looked back at Eri talking with Mina, sitting down on nearby bench, "I freaked."
"…Yeah," Neku said. "I would, too."
"But it was a happy kind of freaked."
Pichu's ears perked up at this. "You were…happy?" he said. "Why'd you be happy?"
Shiki chuckled at the thought. "Because this is what I always dreamed of - a new me," she explained, forcing a strained smile. "I hated who I was. All I wanted was to like myself… To be cute, and smart, and perfect...like Eri."
Soren realized the truth behind her. "You are jealous of Eri," he said. Grimacing a bit, Shiki slowly nodded. "This is what led you to think yourself as inferior, so you yearn to be like her. Eventually, though, you knew that you wanted to be just like her…and then, from there, you became increasingly jealous…"
"…" Ike shook his head, disapproving of Soren's little speech.
"…Hold on. Something doesn't add up," Fox said, blankly looking at Shiki. "Hanekoma said that our entry fees were the things we value the most. You just said you hate yourself… So then, why would the Reapers even take your appearance away?"
"H-he's right!" Pichu said nodding. "Why was your appearance your entry fee, Shiki?"
Shiki looked doubtful at them. "At first...I didn't get it either," she explained before smiling sadly. "I was so excited to be Eri that I even acted like her- all bubbly and cute..." She frowned and looked depressed, staring at her fake hands. "But it was just an act. Inside, nothing changed. I'm still the same person I've always been." She chuckled, a small tear falling down her left cheek. "Then…I realized. I'll never be Eri. Deep down, I never wanted to be…" The tears were almost coming down full force. "I was just jealous… The Reaper was right… What I value most is ME!"
"S-Shiki…" Pichu sniffed. "Y-you don't have to…you don't have to be so sad…"
"But I have reason for that, Pichu…" Shiki whimpered, looking over at Eri laughing with Mina. "Eri has all the things I don't. Looks, brains, design sense. Lots of friends... I envied her. And now that I'm inside her body, it just hurts even more… It's the proof that I'm horrible…"
Neku obscured his face. "(All this time...she's been as confused as me,)" he thought.
Shiki turned a bit vicious. "The truth is, I'm scared!" she said. "I keep trying to sound brave, saying we need to win the Game, but... I'm scared of getting a second chance!" she pointed out, a few tears falling down to the street. "What if it's like the Reaper said? I don't want to come back to life if it means being jealous of Eri all the time!"
"C-calm down!" Pichu told her. "Get a hold of yourself!"
The fashionista panted a bit until she calmed down. "I…don't want to be that person," she said. "That's why I think that…I shouldn't go back to the way I was if it means hating myself for something I am not…" She clutched her hands over her chest and sniffed. "This eats me every time I think about it… You don't know how it feels…"
"In the end, it's a matter of jealousy," Soren said.
"It sounds so simple, but…" Shiki shook her head. "I never thought I'd end up here in Eri's appearance… I shouldn't have committed suicide if I knew this was going to happen! I should've disappeared from everyone's eyes instead of dying!"
At this, most of the group gasped loudly. "You committed suicide?!" Chris asked.
Shiki sniffed. "Yes… My death wasn't an accident…" she muttered. "I pretended to be ignoring the bus that was coming down the street, walking all alone… I wanted everything to end quickly so I couldn't suffer any longer…" She embraced herself. "Before that happened, I had a horrible argument with Eri over the phone about the fashion design idea I had come up with that I had been working over months to no end… She said that I wasn't meant to be a fashion designer…and that's when I lost it…" She stared at them, trembling. "The person whom I wanted to be deep down…told me the most horrible thing…"
Rhyme looked worried. "I don't want to sound rude, Shiki, but…wasn't it a bit too much to overreact like that?" she asked, hoping that she wasn't touching a nerve.
"…It was everything I had," Shiki said. "At that moment, I didn't care I wasn't like Eri. Being a fashion designer was everything I had that made me happy… It gave me hope to live." She looked back at Eri and Mina. "I worked so hard in the fashion design idea for months… Then, one day, after I told her how frustrating it was for me to come up with something good, she went ahead and told me I should just drop it because I never quite got the design right. That…that made me furious…" She took out Mr. Mew, looking down at him. "There was a storm of emotions in me when she said that. I became crazy; so crazy that it made me think…life wasn't worth it…"
"…" Pichu stifled a small sniffing sound.
"…So…I left home...and…and then I came up with…committing suicide…" She clutched Mr. Mew over her chest, falling into silence as many of them stared at her with perplexed looks. "…And that's how I got into this…"
Fox closed his eyes. "And to think you were so sassy when we first met…"
"…Because back then I was so thrilled to be Eri," Shiki muttered. "I was delusional… I thought I'd be reborn in her body…but that was just pure wishful thinking… I didn't care about anything else other than making friends and winning the Game. I felt like I had a new chance to start anew. I made friends with all of you…but I built my bonds on a nasty lie…" Some of them saw her whimpering sadly. Her hands started pressing Mr. Mew's sides. "In the end…everything I did here was just a big waste of time! This was just a dream before it turned into a living nightmare of my own desires!"
"T-that's not true!" Rhyme said. "You can't be serious, Shiki!"
It was then that the dreadful atmosphere got slightly shattered once Neku stared at her and said, "Well... I like you the way you are."
Shiki and the others stared at him. "Huh?" Shiki could only reply.
Further destroying the mood, Makoto's bewildered voice startled them all. "Noooooo! No one's wearing the pins! Why not!?"
Neku sighed. "Looks like we can't relax yet," he said, staring intently at Shiki. "Listen. We're going to finish this mission. So promise you'll focus on that for now. OK?"
"Ugh…" Beat muttered. "We're still on the clock, yo. I forgot aboudit."
The pseudo-fashionista cleared some tears and nodded, thinking that finishing the current mission was important. She didn't want to win the Game now, but it would be a major disgrace for everyone else who wanted to revive. Shiki wasn't quite done, though. She was dead set on disappearing forever. "…All right," she muttered.
The group focused back on the mission. They saw the Prince appearing to give Makoto some tips about making his pin popular. Even still, despite Makoto got his renewed spirit for the ninth time in a row, Rhyme explained to them that the pins they wore in combat made their brands popular with the people of the real world. It meant that they needed to use the red pins they themselves got out of nowhere in multiple Noise battles.
Sadly, the pin they got turned out to be a total hindrance instead of a good boon. Once equipping the pin, their movement in battle became very slow. They tried to run, but their running feet never took them too far away. Putting up with it, the group eventually made the pin extremely popular in the Scramble Crossing. People now were staring at a surprised Makoto and mumbling things among each other.
A giddy Makoto watched the people starting to get their hands on his pin. "Whoa... I get it. I really get it!" he said. "The trends are mine to command! Now that the word is out, I just need to wait for the ad to run…" He, creepily enough, giggled with glee. "This is my lucky day!"
"Screw you and your damned pin!" Ness said as he hopelessly swatted Makoto's head with his bat, only getting it to pass through his body. "This thing is annoying in battle! I got several crowds on my head thanks to you! Good thing we're never going to see this thing again!" Sighing, Ike pulled the angry Ness back to the group. Once motioning at Shiki, Ness calmed down. She was still gloom about the talk from earlier.
"Well," Neku began, "we did it."
"Did we?" Shiki asked.
Neku nodded. "Hey, we gave it our best shot. Let's just cross our fingers."
Shiki fell silent, recalling the talk they had a moment ago. "Neku...everyone… Umm... I'm sorry," she apologized. "If we fail, and it turns out to be my fault for slowing us down..."
She was taken off-guard after seeing Neku shake his head in disagreement. "No big deal," he said. Suddenly, he looked embarrassed and blushed a bit. "We all, umm..."
Neku gulped mentally once the eyes were on him. "We…all have our bad days," he nearly stuttered out.
Shiki's eyes blinked once. "Neku..." She forced a small smile that made everyone else feel fine. "Thanks."
"Yay!" Pichu cheered, his little tail wagging. "You smiled again!" And then, Shiki's smile faded away, much to his dismay. "N-no, you're not supposed t-"
Neku gasped and saw Eri and Mina close to where they were standing. "Hey, it's her," he said. Shiki yelped and turned around as the others looked at the two high school girls.
"So, Eri," began Mina, "How come you haven't designed anything lately?"
Eri suddenly looked gloom, making Shiki confused. She always saw her supposed best friend in high spirits every day, so it was very unlikely of her to look so down. It was her natural trait to be very upbeat, but seeing like this was almost unheard of. "Actually..." Eri trailed off with a concerned look. "I'm thinking about giving it up."
As Shiki and the Players gasped, so did Mina, who knew that Eri was a prodigy at fashion design. "What! Why?" she asked, fully shocked. "You're so talented!"
Shiki couldn't believe her ears. "She's giving it up?" she muttered. "Eri, why...?"
Neku looked at her. "If you want to know, scan her," he suggested.
She looked troubled at the suggestion. "What? I can't do that!" she said. "She's my…my friend. I can't eavesdrop on her thoughts!"
"Even after all you've said," Soren began, "you still consider her your friend?"
"…" Shiki closed her eyes. "I'm just confused about what to think, you know…" While looking at her, Ike frowned at his tactician.
They went back to listening on the two girls. "Eri, why would you give design up?" she asked, to which Shiki stared intently at Eri.
Eri then said, "Well, there was this girl, Shiki-"
Shiki's eyes trembled in fear. "Neku, everyone… I have to go!" But Neku grabbed her wrist to keep her from running away, surprising the group. "L-let me go!"
"You keep running away from your troubles! It's pissing me off!" Neku scolded her. "No more! You're gonna stay put and let everything outta your system!"
"Just drop it!" Pichu said, walking to her side. "You need to stop running off like that! It's not good for your health…I think."
"I'm..." Shiki trailed off, staring at the Players' faces. She looked down at Pichu. "…I'm sorry," she said before Neku let go of her wrist. "I didn't want to hear Eri talk about me. I was…afraid."
"Why should you be afraid of her?" Ike asked.
"Remember what I said before?" Shiki asked. "She said, and I quote, 'You're not meant to be a designer'. I never had her talent..." She looked very gloom, and everyone could tell she was descending into depression once more. "I guess she finally got fed up and-"
"Oh, would you cut the crap?" demanded a frustrated Neku. "Who ARE you?"
Shiki looked up at him. "Huh?"
Neku blinked. "You're you," he said. "You're not Eri. You'll never be Eri. You'll only ever be you."
"That is a fact," Soren said. "Your pursuit to be just like that friend of yours is useless. The minds of people are unique, and they should never strive to become a total carbon copy of someone else they think is better than they are. It is an insult to life itself to try to change yourself into someone that you will not clearly be no matter how hard you try."
"Soren!" Ike scolded. "Couldn't you put that with nicer words?"
Shiki shook her head. "He's right… I'm a bad person. But she's so much better-"
"Forget her!" Neku interrupted. "You need to live your own life. If she can do it, so can you. All that matters is that you try."
The Players were taken aback to hear the anti-social teen give her a speech that they thought Neku was defrosting from his negative attitude. From the corner of his eyes, Fox noticed Rhyme's smile directed at him. He looked away, feeling a bit flustered.
The seamstress stared long at her partner. "Neku-"
"You're lucky you're jealous," Neku told her. "It gives you something to shoot for. So...shoot."
Shiki couldn't believe she was chuckling after Neku told her that. A happy Pichu climbed to her shoulder. "I kind of don't like how everyone put it," he said, "but you can find something you're good at!"
"Something I'm good at…" Shiki muttered. "I always wanted to be a designer… After what I went through before I died…" She lowered her head. "Is there something I'm really good at?" Pichu gave her a blank look as he waited for her to talk.
The clock on the big screen in front of Q Floor indicated the time. It was 3 PM already. The screen beeped loud enough to get the attention of a few people walking by. Looking up, the Players saw the time. "The commercial's about to air, yo," Beat said.
Meanwhile, Makoto was biting his fingernails. "Sooo nervous..." he muttered. "Will people watch?"
Shiki feared that she had made them lose some valuable time. Looking apprehensive, she looked at them. "Everyone…"
"They've got to watch," Pichu told her. "We worked so hard!"
Sure enough, it wasn't long before they heard the random passerby talking out loud as they looked up at the commercial. The red pin showcased prominently on Q Floor. "Hey! Up there!" someone said.
"That pin. Who designed it? It looks like-"
"Hey, cool graphic."
"I never wear pins. But this one..."
"Where can I buy it?"
Shooter, the unsettling teenager into Tin Pin they met earlier, flashed his red pin to his fellow friend. "Hey, man, look what I got."
"You HAVE one?" his friend asked. "Aw, lucky..."
To Shiki's surprise, Eri and Mina looked up in awe. Eri pointed up at the screen and said, "Oh, I know that pin!"
"Ha ha," Mina laughed. "You would, Eri. Wish I had one..."
The seamstress's eyes looked at Eri for a long while. Forcing a smile, she looked at her group. "Everyone, can I have a minute? I want to go stand by her," she said.
The headphones-wearing teen saw that their timers had vanished. Their mission was a success. "Hey, you're off the clock," Neku said.
"...Thanks!" she said. With Pichu in tow, Shiki went over to stand next to Eri's side, the latter completely unaware of her presence. The others approached the two living girls to hear them out.
"Eri, you shouldn't give up design," Mina said.
Eri sighed, looking gloom. "I told you," she said. "This girl, Shiki… I'm nothing without her."
"…Huh?" Shiki blinked.
"What?" Pichu said. "She said she's nothing without you…"
Mina nodded at Eri. "Yeah, you said that," she said. "What, did you two have a fight?"
The World Ends with You – Lullaby for You (English)
Eri looked down. "A fight? I wish," she said. "Shiki died. In an accident the other day."
"I'm so sorry," Mina said. "It keeps making me feel so bad just hearing what happened to her."
Eri suddenly forced a smile and looked at her. "No one else could ever make my outfits," she said. "Shiki gave them life. Made them real."
"You must have trusted her a lot."
The designer chuckled heartily. "I did!" she said. "She was an amazing person. She cared about people - and always noticed the little things. If I missed something in my design, Shiki always picked up the slack. And her stuffed animals!" she said, recalling Mr. Mew. "I wouldn't know where to begin. She had a sharp eye, skilled hands. Motivation. All the things I don't have."
Mina smiled. "The way you talk about her, she must have been something," she said.
"…" Shiki sniffed, and Pichu tried to wipe her tears away with a hand.
Eri fell silent as she recalled a personal, tragic event. "The day before her accident... I said something I'll always regret."
Mina blinked, confused. "What?" she asked.
"She was upset 'cause she couldn't come up with a good design," she explained. "I wanted to cheer her up... so I told her 'You're not meant to be a designer.'" Recalling Shiki's image in her mind, Eri shed a tear. "I mean, she had such a great future as a seamstress. But I think I really hurt her feelings. I planned to apologize the next day...but I never saw her again…"
"E-Eri…" Shiki whimpered silently.
Eri looked up to the sky. "She's still my best friend. Even now. I want her back, so I can tell her I'm sorry...and so we can be a team again."
Mina sniffed a bit. "T-that's so sweet of you," she said.
"Ugh…" Eri wiped a few tears away. "The only thing I can do now is visit her funeral and…wish her the best of luck wherever she is right now…" Shiki got startled when Eri looked at her direction, but she knew she couldn't see her. It felt a bit too real for Shiki all the same. "Shiki, that day when I told you that… I wish I could've said that in another way that wouldn't make you snap out like that… I'm so sorry, my friend…"
"…Eri…" Shiki called her out, stepping forward while clutching a hand on her chest. "I…I'm so sorry, too!" Pichu nudged his face to her head to try to keep her some company. "It makes me feel so bad to be so jealous of you… I-I never thought you felt that way about me! I always looked up to be just like you, and I never would've thought you looked up to me… I thought I was…a bad friend…nobody would ever try to talk to…"
Eri smiled warmly. "Mina…" she muttered, still seemingly looking at Shiki's direction. "Don't laugh, but I think…I think Shiki heard me."
Mina chuckled. "That'd be so sweet!" she said. "It's like you two were true friends that not even death could take apart!"
"…" Eri turned to her. "Oh, don't put it that way! It feels a bit creepy," she chuckled. "This isn't the time for us to lose, anyway! I want to make something special for her event tomorrow. I don't want to be sitting down on a bench and do nothing. I…I want to make a speech for her and everything."
"Then we better come up with good ideas!" Mina said brightly. "A friend of yours is a friend of mine. Let's not disappoint her! She's probably watching over you as we speak."
Eri briefly grimaced, but she shook her head and nodded. "If she's watching over me...I hope she truly heard me out…" The two girls smiled at each other and walked north together, not minding the fact they were being watched by Shiki.
"All this time…" Shiki trailed off, covering her face with both hands, "all this time I thought nasty things about Eri…"
"Shiki!" Pichu shouted, making her look at him. He smiled and said, "See now? Your jealousy wasn't that bad! Eri felt the same thing about you…well, I think," he said. "I think neither of you was jealous of the others… I think that the two of you needed each other so badly because…because you are a team."
"A…a team…" Shiki muttered. "…Perhaps…perhaps you're right… I did feel lost without Eri, and she was always looking for me when she was stuck in her designs…" She shed more tears and caressed Pichu's left cheek. "And I was thinking both of us were downright jealous… Still…" she looked depressed, "I…I don't care about her looks or anything else she has that I don't have…but I wonder if I'll make a lot of friends…"
"…You did that already!"
Shiki looked at him. "W-what?"
Pichu pointed at the others. "None of us is really mad at you," he said. Shiki saw that many of them were smiling at her direction. "We like you the way you are!"
"I…I can't believe it," Shiki said. "After all I went through, you all like me?"
"It wasn't that bad," Ness said. "Everything was in your head."
Fox sighed. "You nearly violated my personal space," he said before he chuckled, winking once at her. "I can let that one go…this time. Next time, I won't let you near me."
"I truly don't mind either way," Soren said, "so as long as you don't cause us trouble. What happened in the past were mere little distractions."
Ike looked at Soren. "You were struggling there to find the right words, huh."
"…Quiet, you," Soren muttered, closing his eyes annoyed.
"You…you are a nice friend," Chris said, tilting his head. "I can't really deny that to you. You helped us out a great deal."
"And even if you weren't you," Beat began, grinning wide, "you should totally stick with that friendly face, yo!"
Rhyme giggled. "You were being regressive," she said. "You probably were so shy when you were alive. If you could only borrow a bit from Eri's personality…you could start doing lots of things."
"Yeah!" Pichu said, rubbing his cheek against hers. "You're okay the way you are, Shiki! We'll support you till the very end!"
Shiki blinked in surprise and looked at Neku. "Guess you two both need each other," he said.
"Neku... You think I'm OK the way I am?"
Neku, for the first time, flashed a small smile. "Hey, Shibuya's got room for all types. Who else is gonna make stuffed piggies?"
"He's a cat!" Shiki shouted, though without venom. She chuckled and wiped the last set of tears from her face. "Heh heh... Neku...Pichu…everyone… I want to see Eri again," she said nodding. "So we can be a team. I'm…I'm ready for a second chance!"
Pichu cheered and hugged the side of her face. "You're back to your old self!" he said. "Or is it a new self? I don't care! I'm so happy for you!"
Rhyme suddenly went over and hugged Shiki. Chuckling heartily, Chris joined them. Beat sighed and hung his left arm on her shoulders. Soon enough, Ike, a reluctant Soren, Fox, and Ness joined the small group hug. Shiki looked at each one of them and cried. This time, she wasn't crying because she was sad. She was crying because she had true friends who liked her a lot. For now, she relished the moment and leaned her head to Pichu. "Thank you…" she whispered. "Everyone…thank you so much… I'm so happy to have so many friends…"
Neku wasn't ready to do a group hug, but he at least chuckled, something he didn't question to himself. "All right," he said. "Then whatever it takes... Let's win... Let's live. Just one more day!"
"Yeah!" the others said. When they saw the flustered look on Neku's face, they laughed together and broke off from the hug. Neku obscured his face under his hair and pretended to listen to his headphones, turning his back on them.
Meanwhile, Shiki and Pichu, their cheeks against each other, looked at each other as everyone else laughed. "Pichu," she began, "thank you for trying to help me out. It means so much to me…"
"That's because I like you," Pichu said, rubbing his red cheek against her face. "I can't wait for this to end tomorrow! I wanna see your true self!" He giggled and looked embarrassed. "I really like how you look like in that photo… I have a thing for glasses girls…"
"…Pichu…" Shiki grabbed him by the sides and hugged him tightly, his cheek touching the side of her face gently. "Thank you…"
"Tee-hee!" Pichu giggled.
The seamstress looked forward with a serious look. "That Yodai…" she muttered. "He tried to get the best of me… Now it's personal," she said. Pichu looked serious. "He's gotta pay for trying to drag me down like that."
"Yeah!" Pichu said, his cheeks sparkling with electricity. "We need to give him a piece of our minds!" With her state of mind recovered, Shiki looked up to the sky with Pichu before they lost consciousness once more.
From an alley, a satisfied Hanekoma watched their bodies on the street. He grinned as he said, "Those guys are really somethin'."
The next day was the last. After that, their second chance was at hand…
TO BE CONTINUED…
"Shiki's Week – The Pudding of Their Doom"
Do you want to save your data?
Chris – Fox, Ness – Pichu, Ike - Soren, Neku – Shiki, Beat - Rhyme
- You SURELY caught one of them.
Whew! This chapter was a lot of fun to write, especially the second half.
Now the things you need to remember:
1 – The Smashers' memories are being used against them for something big…
2 – Apparently, the Smashers are being used as guinea pigs. Chris failed to remember Lucario, even if he was put in front of him.
3 – Chris is bilingual, and kind of a grammar nazi.
…Well, there weren't that many points.
Sadly, I don't have much to talk about here. However, what I can really say is that the next chapter will draw an end to Shiki's arc. Does that mean the rest of the team will get a happy ending too, though? Only I know. Yes, I'm that evil.
Special Note: I'm now a proud Wii U owner! If anyone wishes to follow my posts on Miiverse, look for "AuraGuyChris" in there.
I encourage all readers to review.
Or else Shooter is becoming the main character of an anime show, and he will never age, thus making you outgrow him in the ensuing years.
And then I'll shove a taco down your throat.