A long time ago (a long time being late last year) this was part of Noise of Regalement as a Beat vs Rhyme story(my other multi-type TWEWY fic) But the plot was underdeveloped and didn't really fit, so it got cut. But it didn't die. Instead, months later, it mutates into this XD.
My theory of consumption applies to this fic due to its orgins, though it doesn't play a central role. Don't worry, it'll be explained this chapter. People who have read Regalement already know about the details. Aside from consumption, this story no longer bears a link to Regalement, so you don't have to read that one to understand this one (though people who have had read Regalement might be able to predict some things in this chapter ahead of time)
Also, updates for this will probably be erratic. I have things like COLLEGE and ART BOOTH to worry about. I do know that this will be a three-part fic.
I thank RikuAura777 and James Firebrand for beta'ing this for me. You guys rock! XD
Disclaimer: No I don't own TWEWY. There's no way I could fit everybody into this dorm.
"A guilty conscience needs to confess. A work of art is a confession." –Albert Camus
Scale 1 – Emptiness and Game Over
His back hurt. Daisukenojo Bito, better known as Beat, didn't know why his back hurt. Maybe it was because of his lumpy bed (how old was that thing anyway?), or maybe it was his part-time job moving furniture from trucks. Maybe it was from that awkward landing after his otherwise perfect skateboarding trick. Maybe it was from all that stuff…
But that didn't matter now, not when everything was so good. They were all hanging out at Ramen Don, the best ramen-and-noodle spot in Shibuya. Shiki was laughing at some silly little tune Neku had made up, something about puppies and kitties, their bowls of ramen already devoured. Beat himself was halfway through his second bowl of curry. Yep, Mr. Doi knew how to make good food.
"Geez, little runts are so noisy," groused Uzuki, her own bowl nearly empty.
"Those little runts have managed to kick our butts a couple of times too," reminded her partner Kariya, stirring his ramen restlessly. "They've earned a little rowdy time."
Beat grinned, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.
That's right. They had saved the world. Everything was perfect. Rhyme, his little sister Rhyme, sitting there smiling, was proof enough of that. And that was all that mattered.
Well, Beat supposed not everything was perfect.
For one, Mr. H, the awesome Mr. H, was out of town. There had been a note taped to the outside of the WildKat café, saying something about "being summoned by higher powers", whatever that meant. He hadn't even said when he was coming back. So that was kind of a letdown.
And Joshua was being annoying. Beat thought that the Composer of Shibuya would have better things to do besides animating their school supplies and making their food fly around the restaurant like birds, but no, he did it anyway. Then there was that time when he had to chase his psych-possessed skateboard all over Shibuya, while Neku raced after his flying headphones…yeah, he could live without stuff like that.
And then there were his parents, those upstanding parents he could never please. His loose clothes and big black skull hat were viewed as a youthful abomination, and such a bad influence on their dear Raimu (Her name's not Rhyme, they insisted, it's Raimu. Stop being such a child, Daisukeno- It's Beat, man, Beat! And she's Rhyme! - Don't speak to us in such an insolent manner! You can't even pass your classes on your own, your friends – They help, man, they help, that ain't cheating! Right, Rhyme? – Don't call her by that childish-)
…Anyway, that wasn't anything new. The Game changed a lot of things, but it didn't change that. It wasn't worth trying to change. Though he tried anyway.
And work sucked. Well, everybody's work sucked. Shiki worked at Sunshine Stationside ("I wish that guy would stop hitting on me!") Neku worked at the Le Grand clothes store. (Yeah, I wish the guy at work would stop hitting on me too. – Wha? But you're a – Exactly.)
And everyone would be so angry. Not because of the low pay and tedious exertion, but because of all the heckling: by customer, by employee, and by employer alike, how it constrained their freedom and creativity and talent…how they had come back from the dead just to sell their Soul to make money and survive, to end up ants like their parents…he sure didn't want to end up like his parents.
And his back hurt. Sometimes his head did too.
…But otherwise things were pretty good.
Art was thriving. It seemed like everyone in Shibuya was discovering some kind of creative talent, a revolutionary talent. Yeah, that was the word. Revolution. Shibuya was experiencing an artistic revolution.
Neku and Shiki were caught in the crest of this creative wave. Neku's music and graffiti, already commanding and enchanting, were becoming more legendary every day, at least in Beat's view. So were Shiki's designs for clothes and toys. They would lead this new revolution. He just knew it.
And his talent? Well…he had gotten better at skateboarding. And he could make more people laugh at his antics. Those were kind of arts, weren't they?
…Eh, he was never the artsy type anyway.
Though Rhyme, she loved art. Drawing, music, everything. She would always scamper over, eager to show off her newest doodle, her playful poetry…
She hadn't done any showing off for awhile, now that he thought of it. She hadn't been scampering around either.
"Yo, Rhyme!" Beat called out, his trusty skateboard tucked under his arm. "You wanna go to the park?"
The petite blonde, her form such a stark contrast to her towering older brother's, looked up at him with the usual mild smile.
"Sure," she answered, before her cheerful expression faded. "Oh wait, I can't."
"Why not? Somethin' wrong?" asked Beat, his own liveliness suddenly dulling. "You ain't feeling bad, are you?"
"No, it's not that," Rhyme answered, smiling again. "It's just Mom and Dad have grounded me."
"Wha?! For what?!"
Beat was stunned. Rhyme was a near-perfect, no, the perfect student. Rhyme didn't get bad grades. He was the one who got bad grades, not her.
"…What class, yo?"
"All of them," she said with a straight face.
He stared. He couldn't help it. He figured it was a bad teacher, and that's why she was doing badly. But that was assuming it was just one class…
He sat down beside her, putting his skateboard aside.
"Yo, what's going down? This ain't like you."
"I dunno…" she admitted, looking down. "It's just…"
"Just what?" asked Beat. "It ain't bullies, is it? 'Cause if it is, I'll-"
"No, it's not that," Rhyme interrupted. "It's…well…I can't seem to get motivated to do anything."
"I dunno…" Rhyme replied. "It's…it's like nothing matters anymore."
"…Yo, that sounds like depression."
"But I'm not depressed…not really. I'm not sad, and I don't have any reason to be sad. I'm just…not interested in anything. It's like I have no passion."
Beat was silent for a moment.
"Why didn't you tell me Rhyme?" he asked. "I mean, how long you been like this?"
"I didn't want you to worry," she replied, looking away. "I thought it was just some kind of phase or something…but, it's been a few months…it's been…since…"
"Since what?" Beat urged.
She looked up to him.
Beat barreled toward the Shibuya River on his skateboard. He happened to rush past Kariya, who looked kinda pale. Then again, Kariya was always naturally pale, so what did that matter?
"Hey hey, where are you off to in such a hurry?" he asked boredly.
Beat didn't bother to pause, much less answer.
"Hey, there's a-"
The teen crashed into an invisible, electrifying force. He was thrown onto his back, while his skateboard landed beside him, still crackling with the unseen power.
Beat pushed himself up, slightly singed but no less determined.
"What the hell?! Why's a wall up?!"
"So not just anyone can walk in, obviously," Kariya replied dryly, unwrapping a pop and sticking it in his mouth.
"But I ain't jus' anybody! I'm Beat, man! And I'm here to see the Composer!"
"Oh, are you?"
"Yeah!" the strong blonde barked, stomping toward where the invisible wall was. "Yo, prissy boy! I know you hear me! Heeey!"
"Ah, so it is the petite prince who's in charge, hmm?"
Oh crap, I'm suppose to keep my trap shut about that.
"Don't worry, I'm not about to overthrow the Composer. Too much work," the tangerine-haired Reaper assured. "Carry on."
Beat waited a few moments, and then turned back to the wall.
"Heeey! You ain't gonna ignore me! I won't let you!" he continued yelling. "Let me in already! I wanna talk to you!"
"Must still be looking for new officer Reapers," Kariya concluded. "You know, to replace those you and your friends erased. Might want to come back and try again later."
"No way! I'm gonna see 'im, and I'm gonna see 'im now!"
He picked up his skateboard, let out a mighty yell, and smashed it against the wall. It sizzled loudly, cracked, and then, when he applied more pressure, shattered.
Kariya couldn't help but stare as Beat stood there panting, skateboard scorched but still intact. Shards of the now-visible wall were scattered everywhere. Hot blood slid from cuts on his face and shoulders.
"…Not bad Skulls," the Reaper finally spoke, a slightly nervous grin on his face. "Though I don't think this is going to make Jo- excuse me, the Composer – any happier to see you. Why are you so desperate to talk to him anyway?"
Beat didn't answer. He just rushed forward into the dark tunnel beyond the broken wall.
The gray-maned teen glanced at the panting human in the doorway, his indigo eyes brimming with irritation. The cluster of Noise before him all turned to stare at Beat, the only being there with a rushing heartbeat, with any heartbeat.
The Composer sighed.
"Will you all go outside for a moment?" he suggested to the mass of monsters before him. "This…acquaintance of mine apparently won't be ignored."
The Noise exploded into a swarming horde of tattoo lines, causing Beat to jump back. Their monstrous figures stripped away, Beat saw that they were Reapers, some of whom he recognized in their human form.
That unnerved him. He wouldn't have known they were Reapers if they hadn't changed back to human form. He wouldn't have known they were Noise if he had just met them on the street while they were human. Wouldn't have known that in a moment they could have become monsters, demons, and attack him if he was in the UG.
Beat wasn't interested in knowing everything, but he didn't like not knowing that.
The sharp lines wove themselves into large wings, folded flat against the Reaper's backs, and vanished beneath their clothes.
Grumbling, the now-human Reapers sulked out of the room, passing by Beat as if he wasn't there. But they knew he was there. Beat felt their eyes, some still with a yellow light, burn into him as they walked out.
Joshua watched them leave, and then turned his gaze to Beat. The gray-haired being floated over, the fish beneath the glass floor following him hungrily.
"So what is so terribly important that you must break up my recruiting session?" he asked, a cool smile on his face.
Previous fear evaporated (no, that was just uneasiness, that's all), Beat didn't hesitate.
"It's Rhyme, man. You have to fix Rhyme."
"Fix her?" asked Joshua. "But she's already been fixed. Or do you prefer her as a Noise? She certainly was cute, riding on your shoulder all the time."
"That ain't what I mean, man!" Beat shouted. "I mean, you fixed her, but you didn't fix her right! Somethin' wrong, yo. Rhyme said so herself."
"Oh? And what did she say?"
"She said she can't get motivated anymore. Like she can't get excited about anythin'. Passion, that's what she said! She don't feel passion no more."
"No passion?" the Composer mused, before his eyes lit up. "Oh yeah, that. Her passion was her entry fee for the Game."
"Wha?! That was her entry fee?!" Beat exclaimed. "Now that I think of it, we never found out what her fee really was. Hell, didn't know my fee was her memories of me until Ironface told me…"
"Yes, a most unusual circumstance," stated Joshua. "For most people, the entry fee is part of themselves. Memory, talent, or whatnot. Even selfless Rhyme lost part of herself as her entry fee. But not you. Not a single particle of you, Soul or matter, was touched. Do you really value yourself so lowly?"
"But there were people who had other people as their entry fees," Beat countered. "That's what happened to Neku in the second and third of that special Game of yours!"
"True," said Joshua. "Which makes your case all the more interesting."
"Whachu mean, man?" asked Beat, stepping into the room. The fish under the glass floor swarmed under his feet.
"Do you value your sister?"
"Of course I do!" Beat barked.
"Then why wasn't she your entry fee?"
"Huh?" Beat asked. "Uh…well, she couldn't be in the Game if she was held as my entry fee! So they took her memories instead 'cause it was the next best thing, or somethin'."
"Being a Player doesn't keep you from being an entry fee," Joshua replied. "It certainly didn't keep the next Player population from being Neku's fee in the third week, did it?"
"Oh yeah," Beat answered. "Then it must've been…uh…"
He looked down at the fish swimming just below his feet. They were zealous, sharp jaws snapping and eyes glowing yellow.
Snapping jaws and glowing eyes? These fish were Noise too! The only thing that protected him from being devoured was a thin plane of glass.
"Oh, did you just notice them?" the gray-maned boy spoke, his eyes laughing. "Pardon my pets. Living, bloody prey especially excites them. But don't worry, all they can do look."
Beat glared at the ravenous aquatic beasts. He backed up into the dark corridor anyway.
"Anyway, the entry fee is what you value most, without exception," the Composer continued, smiling. "There is no next best thing."
His indigo eyes locked with Beat's dark blue ones.
"Which means that what you value most is not Rhyme herself."
"Wha?! W-Whachu talkin'-"
"Her memories. You lost her memories of you instead of Rhyme herself," said Joshua. "Now, what do you think that means, hmm? What does that say about you?"
"W-What does that…" Beat stumbled. "Look, this ain't about me! This is about Rhyme! If passion's what she's missing, then give it back!"
"Sorry, no refunds," Joshua stated flatly.
"She lost the Game," Joshua answered, as if it should be obvious. "Losers don't get their entry fees back, even if they're revived later."
"But that ain't fair!"
"The world's not fair," the Composer replied nonchalantly. "You should be grateful she was brought back at all. I only did it because Sanae insisted."
"Now really, you should worry more about yourself for once," Joshua continued, eyeing Beat's cuts. "You're dripping blood all over my floor. Now my pets will be frenzied for hours."
"What, you a clean freak all of a sudden?!" Beat snapped. "Fine! I'll jus' take my trashy hide outta here then, 'cause you ain't gonna be no help!"
He raced back down the corridor, the darkness swallowing him. Joshua did nothing to stop him.
He punched the garbage bin outside. Hard.
"Dammit!" Beat hissed, punching the bin again. "Dammit! Dammit! Dammit!"
Burning tears slipped down his cheeks, and he leaned against the bin.
While looking down, his blurred vision noticed a red-and-black pin. A discarded Red Skull Pin, he realized.
He crunched it under his heel, grinding it into the ground. He felt a hint of satisfaction in that small deed.
If nothing else, he could break things.
"Yo, where's Shiki at?" asked Beat, as he slurped down more curry at Ramen Don.
"Holed up in her room, sketching out design ideas nonstop," Neku replied, drawing on the counter with a pen. "Which means I don't get to see her much."
"You guess? Ain't you two going out?"
"Not officially, no," Neku replied, blue eyes on the doodle instead of Beat. "And I've been swarmed by songs and art ideas myself, so it gives us both time to sort things out."
"Oh. Uh, makes sense."
Mr. Doi walked up.
"Ramen's ready!" he announced, before noticing Neku's sketching. "Hey, stop that! I just cleaned that counter!"
"Stop what?" asked Neku, before registering the drawings. "…Oh. Oops."
"Dude, you didn't notice that until now?" questioned Beat.
"But you've been looking right at it!" stated the muscular teen. "Man, you've been out of it today Neku."
Just then Uzuki walked in, unusually quiet.
"Yo Pinky!" Beat greeted.
Neku simply waved distractedly.
"My name's not Pinky," Uzuki growled. "It's Uzuki."
"What difference do it make?"
"Say, where's Lollipop at?" asked Beat. "Usually you two are together all the time."
"Kariya," she spoke with emphasis. "Is…not feeling well."
"Not feeling well?" asked Neku. "How does a Reaper get sick? You guys are already dead."
"Yeah," Beat echoed. "Only thing I've heard of…crap, it ain't consumption, is it?!"
"…You know about consumption?" Uzuki asked warily.
"Ah, just find out about that, Uzuki?" Mr. Doi replied with a smirk. "Shoyu or Miso tonight?"
"Miso," she answered. "…And I've known about it for awhile, it's just…awkward."
"What is consumption?" asked Neku.
"Dude, it's when a Reaper goes nuts and tries to eat other Reapers!" Beat exclaimed.
"…Eat them?" Neku replied, turning to Uzuki. "…You guys cannibals too?"
"Well, eating isn't really the right word…" said the pink-haired Reaper. "How do you know about consumption anyway, Skulls?"
"Yo, I was a Reaper too, ya know," Beat answered. "Porcupine told me about it."
"Porcupine? Oh, 777. There was a good Reaper. Old friend of Kariya's."
Mr. Doi sighed and turned to Neku, who still appeared confused.
"More accurately, consumption is when a Reaper, through physical or emotional stress, is overcome by their inner Noise," he explained as he waited for the curry to finish cooking. "The Reaper has to consume another Reaper, or be consumed by the Noise itself. It's the key to Reaper evolution, and therefore an necessary evil of Reaper society."
"But that ain't fair man!" Beat protested, slamming his fist down on the counter. "What kinda screwed-up system makes you eat your own friends?!"
"Go ask the Composer," said Neku. "It's his system."
"I don't even wanna see that guy's face!"
"…Whatever. I don't wanna see his face either. Just a suggestion," Neku answered passively, as he began to tap on the counter and hum a tune.
"But don't it make you mad, Neku?" asked the exasperated blonde. "Don't you wanna change it?"
"…Yeah," the orange-haired teen answered, his expression still sleepy but his tone different. "Shiki was saying the same thing the other day. Things need to change."
He turned to Beat, a cool smirk in place.
"Let's change the world."
Beat was ready to wholeheartedly agree, ready to raise the steaming bowl of curry just placed before him to those words, but something stopped him. It was something about Neku's eyes.
"Well before you start a world revolution," said Mr. Doi, standing in front of Neku. "Stop drawing on my counter!"
Beat remembered his Reaper days. He didn't really like those Reaper days.
It wasn't the Reapers. Well, actually it was kinda the Reapers. Most of them heckled him, since he was the new guy, the "Freshmeat". That made him really mad, actually. But now that he knew that all new jobs were like that, at least any job he could get into, it didn't seem so bad now. Besides, he knew them now, they were his friends…sorta…well, at least he understood them better after the Red Skull pin incident.
Anyway, 777 and his friends had been there for him. Known as his favorite band Def March in the RG, not only did he get to meet them, but they backed him up and showed him the ropes of Reaperhood. 777 even understood about Rhyme. If only he hadn't been erased…
So the Reapers he could have gotten used to. Erasing Players to survive off their Soul was something else. He never could being himself to erase one, which almost caused him to fade away later…but he didn't get erased, even past his time limit, and that's what counted. He didn't think about why he survived…didn't want to think about it.
Consumption was another part of Reaperhood he wanted no part of. 777 hadn't told him exactly…he found out about it when he stumbled upon a part-Noise 777. He was lucky that the other Reaper had regained control, or he would have been consumed. It had been scary as hell, seeing "Porcupine" with actual red-and-yellow quills jutting out of his arms and back - red and black is a friend of Jack, red and yellow could kill a fellow – a yellow light shining in the pupils of his eyes – like an animal, an animal in darkness – a hungry grin on his face – mad, demonic, the demon that you thought was your friend –
No, he didn't want to go through that again. He didn't want to put anyone else through that.
But even more than that – well really it was related – but even more than consumption, what scared Beat the most during Reaperhood was his shadow. Because that thing wasn't his shadow – It was his Noise, personified in his shadow, a dark thing modeled to look like him, but was not him. It was never him! Since the time it stirred when he got his wings, it was never part of him!
The first time he made a pact with his shadow, he watched in amazement as the flat thing rose off the ground and became a three-dimension thing, just like him except dark. It stared at him, apparently just as amazed, red pinpoints of light burning where the eyes should have been.
Then it sneered at him, as if he was the shadow instead of it. As if it would love tearing his world apart while he watched. As if it would love to devour his friends, his parents, his sister…
He jumped back and immediately deactivated the pact. The thing melted back into a flat pool of regular shade.
"Don't like it?" Kariya had asked, laughing at his reaction. "Yeah, I don't care much for mine either." And then he walked away.
He didn't realize it until later, but the other's shadow had been shaped like a fox.
…But yeah, he didn't like his shadow after that. He still didn't like it, even though he was no longer a Reaper. And Neku always wondered why he was jumping at his own shadow during the third week of the Game. He never did figure it out, though. How could he know? He'd never been a Reaper.
It was just as well he didn't know. No one could know.
…He was glad he wasn't a Reaper anymore.
"She rejected it!" Beat heard Shiki shriek behind him. "How could she reject my designs?! They were perfect!"
Beat kept his gaze on the blackboard ahead. The formulas didn't make any more sense than they did five minutes ago, but at least he was trying. That was more than could be said of most of the other students, which included Neku and Shiki behind him. That was strange really, since they were usually pretty studious. For that matter, where was their teacher? Class should have started twenty minutes ago…make that twenty-one minutes ago…
"Teachers are stupid," Neku replied, his voice bored rather than shrill. "They think that they know it all, but they don't. Especially those art teachers. They can't accept change in a system that's always changing."
"I know!" Shiki agreed. "Shibuya's trends are always evolving! One week Natural Puppy's popular, and the next it's Hip Snake. It's the natural state of Shibuya to experiment!"
Beat looked down at his desk as his friends continued their artistic rant behind him. Like most other desks, it was covered in graffiti and writing. This desk bore a sketch of a raven, its beak open and its eyes red. Just outside its gaping mouth were streams of stylized fire curling upon themselves and the raven.
"Free! Free! Must be free! The free will be! Quintessence will come on red wings!" rambled the words above the raven and fire, written in black ink.
How do people come up with this crap? wondered Beat.
He hoped Rhyme was learning in her classes. He sure wasn't.
22 minutes. The teacher still wasn't here yet.
Beat flopped face-first onto his bed. He had been arguing with his parents again.
It wasn't his fault that Rhyme's grades were bad now. He wasn't the one who had stolen her passion. But how the hell was he supposed to explain that to his parents? Uh, Mom, Dad, you see, when you die, there's this Game…
…But maybe it was all his fault. If he hadn't gotten the both of them killed and involved in the Game in the first place…if he had treated her better beforehand…If he had just tried harder at life…
He buried his head in the pillows.
His back hurt. His head hurt. His heart hurt.
"The usual, huh?" asked Mr. Doi. "So where's everyone else at?"
"All they wanna do is work on artsy stuff," Beat answered, plopping down in his usual seat. "And Rhyme's still grounded."
"I see…Sorry to hear that."
"Whatever. It don't bug me. I'm jus' hungry for some curry."
"You sure sound bugged to me."
Beat jumped and turned to Uzuki, who was sitting a couple seats away. The two seats where Neku and Shiki normally sat. Where they should have been sitting now.
"Well, I ain't!" Beat retorted. "…Much. So where's Lollipop at? He still got consumption?"
"Yo, you sound depressed."
Uzuki slurped up some more noodles, her bowl of ramen half-depleted.
"It's just…frustrating," she began. "I know he's avoiding me to protect me, but…well, I can't help him if he's always running off. We're partners! We're supposed to help each other out! And…he can't run from it forever. He might fight it off again, but one day he won't be able to. I think he's starting to realize that, and it's scaring him real bad."
She stirred her ramen restlessly.
"Of course I don't want to consumed either," the violet-eyed Reaper went on. "Though it's all or nothing in the end…somebody's gotta consume or be consumed…I guess I'm just being selfish…"
"I understand whatchu saying though," Beat answered. "Consumption's scary, man."
"That it is," she agreed. "…But why am I even telling you this, Skulls? I hardly even know you."
"I dunno, man. I ain't you."
"Maybe that's why."
"Wha?" asked Beat, but then the strong blonde was presented his curry, and his body and mind became wholly devoted to his food.
He'd been having weird dreams lately. He hadn't told anybody. He hadn't even told Rhyme.
Well, it wasn't like there was a whole lot to tell. He would be in the middle of darkness when suddenly a whole bunch of colors would start spinning around him. The psychedelic cyclone of hues was quite pretty, actually, and it wasn't doing anything to him, not even ruffling his loose clothes. But it unnerved him all the same. Why it unnerved him, he didn't have a clue.
…Well, maybe he did. Sometimes the colors briefly formed into Noise-like creatures before dissolving back into the clashing colors.
"Actually, the Noise are at an all-time low," Uzuki informed him, as she finished up her second bowl of ramen. "Been dropping since the fake O-Pin incident."
"You mean them Red Skull pins?" asked Beat, before diving into his third bowl of curry.
"Same thing," Uzuki replied. "…And will you please not talk with your mouth full? That's disgusting."
"Actually, they're not fakes," Mr. Doi corrected, as he set a new bowl of ramen in front of Uzuki. "They're O-Pins rigged with imprinting, but they are genuine O-Pins."
"They are?" asked Uzuki, warming her hands over the ramen as she waited for it to cool. "How do you know?"
"I analyzed one of them myself," Mr. Doi answered, wiping the counter with a damp rag. "Wanted to see how it worked. I figured that they were real though, considering how many Reapers start to evolve afterward."
"Like Kariya," said Uzuki. "Good point."
"How's Lollipop anyway?" asked Beat, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.
"Better," Uzuki replied. "Still doesn't want to get close to me, but he sounds more relaxed when he calls. Says he's actually feeling bored."
"What, no Games?"
"No, there have been Games, but they've only lasted a couple days each," she answered. "Stupid Players can't use their Player Pins right. Can't scan or imprint to save their lives, literally."
"Damn. Even I could do that."
"I know. It's embarrassing really, for the newer Players to be outdone by a meathead like you."
"Hell yeah! Take that, noobs!"
"…That wasn't a compliment, you know."
Beat was hurrying to work (Crap, he was late! Crap!) when he noticed two Reapers standing around Kariya, who was sitting on the ground and holding his head.
"Hey, you okay?" asked one of the Reapers.
Kariya chuckled darkly.
"Damn, it tried to take over while I was in the RG," said the russet-eyed Reaper. "Didn't know it could do that. Well, now I know."
"Damn, that's scary."
"Yeah," replied Kariya. "My RG body couldn't take the power and got fried. If I wasn't already dead, I'd be…well, dead. Seems to have knocked it out for a while at least, though."
The conversation fell out of earshot. He didn't have time to stop. But that didn't sound good for Kariya. Or Uzuki.
His school wasn't an education center anymore. It was an artistic sacrifice.
Graffiti was everywhere. It was on the walls, on the floors, on the ceilings. On the windows, on the desks, on the books. On the mirrors, on the stalls, on the toilets. Hell, there was graffiti on graffiti on graffiti.
And the teachers? Well, a lot of the graffiti was theirs. Not that the adults were getting along any better with the equally vandalizing students. If anything, they fought with them more, considering the school their territory. The kids still came, not to learn, but to compete.
Actually, everyone was competing, fighting, everywhere. Everyone seemed to think their stuff, and only their stuff, was the best, and no one gave way. Even Neku and Shiki fought over whose designs were best. Everyone was so angry.
Beat didn't know why he came to school at this point. None of the teachers were interested in teaching, just surpassing. Maybe it was to see what new forms of art had emerged since the other day. Or maybe he was trying to set a good example for Rhyme. Though from what he'd heard from her, things weren't much better at her school either.
He was just trying to find his classroom – it was hard when the surroundings just kept changing – when he noticed the wolf.
It was huge, stretching across the wall of the hallway, its scarlet fur wild and flaming. Its black eyes gaped ravenously at Beat, its open maw and serpentine tongue just as eager to devour him.
And there, misting the creature with a spray can, was Neku, humming some alluring tune to himself, as he always did nowadays. He turned to Beat, a red smear across his cheek, his blue gaze distant.
Beat felt a chill when their eyes locked. Why was that? It was just Neku.
"Uh…yo," Beat greeted uneasily.
"…Hey," the distant-eyed teen answered, before turning back to his red work. He began to hum again as he used his hands to feather out the fur.
"So…whatchu doing?" asked Beat, even though he already knew. Neku was so hard to have a conversation with these days. It was almost as bad as when they had first met during the Game.
"What does it look like?" the red-stained teen asked crossly, not stopping his work. "I'm showing these idiots here what art really is."
He continued on with his humming, shaking the spray can.
"…Well, later Neku," Beat finished lately, walking away.
Neku didn't even answer, spraying on another layer of paint.
"It's like everybody's goin' crazy, man!" Beat exclaimed, throwing his hands up in the air and nearly knocking over his bowl of curry. "I mean-"
"Maybe you're the one going nuts. Ever think of that?" Uzuki asked with a smirk, her ramen finished long ago. "…By the way, what are you drawing?"
"Wha?" asked Beat, looking down at the counter.
There were ragged zigzags everywhere, all in black. Crude lightning-bolts maybe? He couldn't tell. At the center was the rough, very rough, sketch of a…thing? What was that, a gorilla? Or maybe a bear…yeah, it was definitely a bear…well maybe not definitely…but his gut told him it was a bear. So it was bear…probably. A bear roaring.
When had he drawn this? He didn't remember bringing out a pen…He wasn't even aware that he had a pen with him.
He glanced at his right hand…and it was still drawing. It was in the middle of sketching a floating wolf head, teeth bared. Above it was a hissing cat head. They were opposing the bear. Or the bear was opposing them. How was he supposed to tell?
He grabbed his arm and yanked it off the table, staring at it like it was possessed. Maybe it was possessed. That stuff on the table…he didn't understand any of it. He didn't even know he was drawing it until Uzuki pointed it out…
The said pink-haired Reaper stared at him for a few moments, and then peered at the wild drawings.
"…Freaky," She finally spoke, pulling back. "Everybody's drawing such freaky stuff lately. Normally I'd blame the Noise, but there's hardly any Noise at all in Shibuya…It's weird…"
Beat stared at the crazed doodle. He didn't like it. He didn't like it at all.
Hastily he smeared the drawing with his arm, staining his skin black with the ink.
He woke up out of breath, his heart hammering. Why was his heart hammering? Why was he out of breath?
He stayed curled up under the covers, waiting for the phase to pass. This was the third time it had happened. Where were these attacks coming from? Those strange dreams weren't that scary…were they?
The pounding of his heart lessened, and his head began to pound instead. His back was stiff and sore.
He groaned and pulled the covers back over his head, not wanting to know what time it was. He had to go to work later.
"Wha?! Whatchu mean there's no curry?!"
"Exactly what I said. There's no curry," answered Mr. Doi dryly. His kitchen was a mess, which was unusual for him.
"Man, I was really looking forward to that curry," Beat whined, slumping forward. "Work makes me hungry."
"Well if you hurry you might still be able to catch something to eat," said Mr. Doi, looking disgruntled. "The dolls that ran off with my ingredients might still be nearby."
"Wha? Dolls? Whatchu talkin' about?" asked Beat, staring at the ramen chef.
"You know, rag-dolls and mannequins and such," Mr. Doi replied. "They came and ransacked the place. It was all I could do to drive them out."
"This kind of crap isn't supposed to happen in the RG…"
"I'll go get it back, yo!" Beat declared. "Them dolls ain't gonna get away with this!"
"I thought you might say that," Mr. Doi answered with a smile. "You get those dolls. I'll be here to make sure nothing else breaks in. They'll have to answer to my frying pan if they do."
"Gotcha!" the teen replied, rushing out the door. "Cya!"
Then he rushed back in.
"Hey, wait a sec! How do you know about the Reapers and the RG and UG and stuff anyway?! You're just a ramen and curry guy!"
"This 'ramen and curry guy' was a Player once."
"Seriously?! How long back?"
"Oh, about three years back," said Mr. Doi. "Not everyone worthy of the Game is a youngster, you know."
"And you won?!"
"I'm alive again, aren't I?"
"Dude, that's just…" Beat began. "That's just awesome man!"
"You gonna go catch your curry or what?"
"Oh yeah! Be right back yo!"
Beat had more than dolls to worry about.
It was like he had stepped into one of those old cartoons, the ones where the car argued with the stoplight while the lamppost tried to stop the squabble. Because everything around him was alive, actually alive and talking.
Supposedly innocent stopsigns would suddenly uproot themselves and try to whack him, chasing him into the next street. Skates and shoes darted about, while clothes floated around without wearers. He recognized some of the clothes being of Shiki's design, and suddenly worried about his skateboard. And Shiki. She must be running around in this chaos trying to get her stuff back…
The bedlam extended from the fringes of Dogenzaka, to the full of A-East, to the wide area before of the Shibukyu Main Store, where he was now. Said animated objects were harassing citizen and Reaper alike, who either fled, fought back, or, like him, were in pursuit of a certain target.
What the hell, man? Prissy boy must be having a tantrum or something. I mean, he likes possessing stuff and attacking people with it, right?
"Yo, what's happening?!" Beat yelled to a passing Reaper trying to catch a flying table.
"Hell if I know!" the Reaper answered, he and the flying table soon out of sight.
"Well that don't help much…" muttered the blonde, before noticing a pack of dolls and mannequins walking with a variety of food items…including curry ingredients.
"Hey!" he shouted, running toward the pack of dolls. "Give back tha' food!"
The dolls jumped and began to scurry away.
"Hey!" he hollered, chasing the dolls around the corner. "Get back he-"
Something quick and black hit him in the face, knocking him backward.
Floating in front of him was Shiki's favorite toy, Mr. Mew. The black cat toy was cloaked in a flaming purple aura.
"Wha…?" said Beat, getting back on his feet and looking around. Was Shiki here? Then again, Mr. Mew might have been berserk like everything else was. He didn't like the look of that aura. He hadn't seen that kind of aura around the black cat toy since-
"Yo, Shiki!" Beat called out, keeping a wary eye on the animated plaything. "Shiki, you here? Your stuffed cat jus' walloped me! Tell 'im to attack the other possessed stuff, not me!"
There was no reply. Beat looked around.
There were no other animated objects, besides Mr. Mew. There were no people, not even Reapers. The whole place was silent and empty. This place was never silent and empty.
Then the hairs stood up on his back of Beat's neck, and a chill slithered down his spine. It wasn't because he was alone. It was because he wasn't alone.
Something was behind him. Or someone. Something or someone was behind him, and it wasn't friendly. At all.
But worst of all…
"Yo…" he breathed, his head turning apprehensively.
…He knew this presence.
He was yanked off his feet as something long and sharp wrapped around his ankle. He found himself hanging upside down, blood rushing to his head, the chain around his neck hitting the ground loudly, while he stared into the eyes of his assailant.
It was Shiki…and not Shiki. Dark purple tattoos had transfigured into claws, and long cat ears floated just above her head. Behind her were two tattoo tails, made up of sharp fragments rather than a continuous line. It was one of these tails that had coiled around Beat's ankle, its razor edge biting into his skin. Hot trickles of blood seeped from his ankle and rolled down his leg.
But it was her eyes that scared Beat. The whites were black, with yellow pinpricks of light burning in the center of her pupils. Those eyes were merciless.
They were Noise eyes.
"S-Shiki. D-Don't you-"
She raised one hand and slowly traced a finger across Beat's cheek. The touch was slight, but the razor-like claws still left a thin scratch.
"Y-Yo…" Beat spoke, as she repeatedly and deliberately ran her claw across his cheek, leaving a new cut each time. "Whatchu…Whatchu doin'…?"
She paused, and, apparently unsatisfied, flung him into a nearby wall.
Beat watched her approach as he back onto his feet, the process hindered by his injured ankle. She paused and rubbed her cheek against docile lamppost, a feline behavior. Immediately the lamppost took on a character of its own, rocking back and forth as it sang.
Ah hell, she's the one that's-
Beat felt something ram into his side, nearly toppling over. He saw Mr. Mew out of the corner of his eye, looping around for another strike.
He ran, despite the hot pain in his leg. He had no other choice.
Beat didn't remember how he got to the alley. He didn't remember how he escaped her or all of her possessed objects. He just had. That's all that mattered, right?
His back hurt. His head hurt. His heart hurt. His heart really hurt.
Either way, he was leaning against the wet alley wall (wet with paint, probably…there wasn't a building in Shibuya without graffiti now), staring at the writing on the alley wall across from him, his bleeding ankle bandaged by his oversized black cap. It felt so strange, having it tied around his ankle and not sitting on his head, having it become hot and damp with red blood. Well, blood washed out, right?
He kept his stare on the writing on the wall before him, as he unconsciously wiped his cheek and found more hot scarlet. Crap, he hadn't done anything about those cuts yet.
"When you lose faith in the wonder and beauty of the world," said the writing on the wall, placed below a circle of flaming red ravens. "You die. Your heart will die, being lost."
He stared and stared at those words, as his mind spun, as his cuts bled.
That…that wasn't Shiki back there. It couldn't be Shiki. It couldn't be Shiki in any way. The Shiki he knew was cheerful. The Shiki he knew was kind. The Shiki he knew was human. That wasn't Shiki. That was a monster. That was a demon. The Shiki he knew wasn't a demon – The Shiki he knew – The Shiki he –
Neku. He had to find Neku.
Neku could fix this. Neku could fix her. Neku could fix everything. Neku had saved Shibuya before, and he could save it again. Neku –
"Whoa. What the hell happened to you?"
Beat snapped back to reality to see Uzuki standing at the mouth of the alley, her figure a silhouette.
"Didn't recognize you without the hat at first," the pink-haired Reaper continued, walking over to him and becoming more than a shadow. "…This is the first time I've seen you without your hat, actually. You've got a lot of hair. I thought that maybe you had premature baldness or something."
"Yeah, it's jus' frizzy and crap," Beat replied, running his hand through his hair. "…But damn man. It ain't just me. Everythin' really is goin' nuts."
"Care to explain?"
"…I dunno if I can explain much of anythin', but…"
Neku's apartment blared with ethereal music. Where were his parents? Who knew. They never were very attentive. Beat had never seen them, actually, and Neku never mentioned them. Sometimes he wondered if Neku even had parents.
Beat and Uzuki walked down the hall of violently clashing art and graffiti, the area suspiciously empty of anything besides the deafening melody. Had the song driven them out?
"If the kid knows, he's in denial. Loud denial," Uzuki yelled over the music. "But how'd she hurt you anyway? I mean, you're in the RG. If she's part Noise, she's either in the UG or in the Noise dimension. Either way she shouldn't be able to touch you, much less hurt you."
"Well she did!" Beat shouted back. "I don't get how she did it either, but she did!"
Beat rubbed his forehead as his head starting hurting again, probably from the earsplitting volume of the song. Probably.
"…I see why Skulls Jr. was worried."
"What about Rhyme?"
"She asked me to find you earlier," said Uzuki.
"Wha? Why?…And why you?"
"I dunno. First person she came across, I guess," Uzuki replied. "Anyway, she said that she thought you were sick, and that she'd buy me ramen later if I found you and kept an eye on you."
"Really, yo? Didn't know she was so worried," asked Beat, unconsciously rubbing his back. "But I ain't sick. I mean, day's been rough, but I ain't sick…"
They stopped in front of Neku's door. It was smeared with black and red paint styled like fire, a wild design that spread past the door itself. Behind them was a large window, painted yellow and purple.
"Yo!" yelled Beat, banging on the door with his fist. "Yo, open up Neku! Yo!"
If Neku heard, he didn't answer.
"Hey! Something's wrong with Shiki, man! We need help!"
There was still no answer. If anything, the music got louder.
"Ah screw it!" hollered Beat, backing up. "If he ain't comin' out, I'm goin' in!"
"Wait a minute, what are you-"
He let out a yell and charged forward, ramming into the door. It gave way with surprisingly little resistance, and Beat found himself sprawled out over the floor of Neku's apartment.
"Oww…" groaned the blonde.
"You know, I could have just generated a chump Noise on the other side and open it that way…" mentioned Uzuki. "…Damn, what are you made of, Skulls? The door's practically smashed…Whoa, speaking of freakiness…"
Beat looked up.
The place was a chaos zone. The carpet was blotted and stained with paint and ink, as were the walls and even the ceiling. Music notes were taped and tacked everywhere, with doodles or ramblings starting at the corners of the paper and overflowing onto the walls.
The music was everywhere…and then it stopped. There were footsteps.
His orange hair was a mess, but that was normal. The paint discoloring his clothes, the interconnected ink-made swirls on his skin, the ink-made thunderbolts just below his eyes, his faraway, angry gaze…that wasn't normal. That wasn't normal at all.
Neku's eyes narrowed. Beat felt a chill slide down his back.
"What do you want?" the other asked coldly, distantly.
"Neku!" Beat shouted, getting back on his feet. "We need help, man! You gotta listen to me!"
"Uh, Skulls…" Uzuki began. "…I don't think he's gonna listen…"
The slender teen continued to leer at him, and began to sway subtly from side to side.
"You're the sea. It is yours. I'm the sky. It is mine," he began to chant. "Do not take us as the same."
"Wha?" Beat asked, the hairs on the back of his neck standing up. "Whatchu talkin' about man?"
"You are you. I am me. Don't pretend that it's otherwise."
"You ain't makin' no sense, yo! You hit your head or somethin'?" asked Beat, trying to ignore the pit opening in his stomach. "…Seriously, yo, cut it out. You're creepin' me out."
"…Let's go," suggested Uzuki, appearing more and more uneasy. "…Maybe he'll be more…sociable later…"
"Neku!" Beat called out. "Neku, what's wrong yo?!"
A scarlet pinpoint of light sparked in Neku's pupils.
"I don't expect you to understand," he stated, as the whites of his eyes turned black.
The black ink on Neku's skin abruptly turned red and began to reform into tattoo lines. Soon his limbs began to be morphed from a human's to a wolf's. A bushy, sharp-edge tail appeared behind him, swishing back and forth.
"Shit! He's turning Noise!" Uzuki yelled. "Skulls, we're outta here!"
Beat stared, frozen to the spot.
No…No No NO! This can't be! CAN'T be! No no –
Beat didn't even see him move. The next thing he knew, he was outside, shards of glass around him, probably in him too. Neku was above him, Uzuki beside him, and the ground so far, far below him.
"Crap!" Uzuki shouted. "We need to pact!"
"Of course now! You wanna die?!"
There was a flash of blue light that enveloped both human and Reaper. Beat felt his Soul's power surge and flow through him, including the power to defy, break gravity's influence over him.
Using his skateboard as the medium, Beat forced the breaking power down toward the ground. The power connected, and abruptly his fall slowed to a feather's ease. Uzuki was also affected, though she had already lessened her plummet's force with the weaker anti-gravity ability of her wings.
Neku shot past them, landed with no injury whatsoever, and watched them crossly.
"Whoa," Uzuki said, placing her hand on her chest. "…Feels weird as hell having a heartbeat."
"Wha, you alive again?!"Beat exclaimed.
"Huh?" Uzuki replied, giving him a confused stare. "…It's your heartbeat I'm feeling, stupid."
Neku leaped toward them, a black static appearing behind him. Beat felt his skin go numb, a familiar feeling.
"Yo man, we in trouble," he said, as he felt himself and Uzuki being pulled into the Noise dimension.
"No kidding," replied Uzuki, as she and Beat suddenly vanished.
Nothing appeared different as Beat materialized in the top part of the Noise dimension. Or was it the bottom part of the Noise dimension? Uzuki usually appeared in the top part, and they couldn't both be here…
Ugh, I hate being in the bottom dimension! he heard her complain in his mind.
Well that answered his question.
Suddenly Neku appeared before him, black static sizzling behind him. The orange-haired teen was hunched over slightly, red tattoo claws forward, tail whipping behind him, scarlet sparks burning in his eyes.
Yo, Neku's up here right now, so-
What? But he's down here!
Wha? Beat asked, as he blocked a flurry of Neku's slashes using his skateboard. You mean his shadow?
Beat felt a sharp pain in his arm, Uzuki's pain from being cut.
Beat jumped back, mounted his skateboard, and struck Neku from the air. The half-Noise was sent flying, but recovered in mid-air and landed soundly. He snarled.
But he's up here! How can he be down there?!
Neku began to dash back and forth, becoming a vicious, growling blur.
Crap. He must be able to split himself like a Noise. This is worse than I thought.
Beat cried out as the speeding half-Noise slashed him again and again with each pass. Just what he needed, more bleeding cuts to bandage. Neku finally came to a screeching halt, his body down on all fours and snarling.
But that means that we can hit 'im from both sides, right? That'll wear 'im down faster.
Beat charged forward on his skateboard, but Neku leapt over him to attack his flank. He swiftly blocked the slash with his skateboard.
Yeah, but that means that he's really advanced into the Noise state. Splitting is usually one of the last things to happen before someone goes full-blast Noise. That's bad, Skulls.
Neku rammed into Beat, which knocked the blonde backward. The slender teen dashed in for a slash, but Beat evaded and struck Neku with his skateboard.
Hell…gotta get through to him…
"Neku!" he called out. "Snap out of it, yo! You don't wanna be a Noise, do you?!"
All he got for an answer was a summoned stream of fire. Beat hastily jumped away from the flames.
Less talking, more fighting!…Damn, I know my aim ain't that bad!
Neku had gone on another dashing rampage, and all Beat could do was block.
I don't wanna erase him!
And I don't want to be erased!…Dammit, why can't I hit him?! You getting any hits in?
Only a couple, yo.
Be serious here, Skulls. You can't hold back! Yow! Dammit! He bit me!
I ain't holdin' back, yo! Neku keeps dashin' everywhere! Makes him really damn hard to hit!
So I've noticed. I gotta – Ah shit! Take that!
Beat feltconfusion and panic flow up to him, and then a sharp pain in his chest and side.
…Shit, I really can't hit him! All my attacks passing through him!
Neku storm of rushes had finally passed, and Beat took the opportunity to hit Neku with a string of hits. The half-Noise retaliated with a slash across Beat's chest.
I'm hittin' him. Why can't you?
I don't know! Unless…oh hell…
Beat dodged another stream of fire.
Unless what, Pinky? Spill it!
He attacked you earlier…the window smashed…hell Skulls, he's still in the RG!
Beat leapt over Neku's dash attack, only to be struck by a lightning bolt while mid-air.
You said it.
Beat landed somewhat awkwardly, and immediately had to block Neku's slashes.
But ain't that impossible?!
Well, it would explain why I can't hit him. People in the UG can't touch the RG. Shiki must be in the RG too, if she hurt you earlier…hey wait sec, if you can hit Neku, then you must be in the RG too!
…Now that you mention it, I'm bleedin'.
I don't usually bleed here. I jus' get all static-y and stuff.
Hell, we can't fight like this! I can't hit him and you're somehow still attuned to the RG! We're pulling out Skulls!
Neku charged into Beat, knocking him into a nearby wall.
No buts, Skulls! I'm not getting erased for your sake, and you're not getting erased on my watch! We're outta here!
Beat felt himself getting yanked out of the Noise dimension. Neku was still leering at him.
They ran. They ran and ran and ran. But for all that running, it would make no difference against Neku, not with his newfound phenomenal speed. Luckily for Beat and Uzuki, Neku had no interest in pursuing them. In fact, he went the other way.
"Where's he going?" asked Beat, trailing behind Uzuki on his power-enhanced skateboard. They couldn't afford to turn their pact off in case they came across Neku again, or Shiki.
"Who cares! At least he's not following us!" replied Uzuki, gliding ahead at full speed. "We gotta find Kariya. He'll know what to do. I just wish he would leave his cell phone on for once…"
Beat barely registered what she said, as it all began to sink into his mind, his heart. The whole world was a too-colorful, too-bright blur as he skated by all the stores and buildings, all the stores and buildings buried under graffiti, graffiti, graffiti.
"-probably should find a hospital-"
He shut his eyes tight.
The colors, the colors, he hated the colors! All the blues, the greens, the reds – he especially hated the reds – the purples, the oranges, the pinks, the yellows, the browns, the grays –all of it! All he wanted was the blacks and the whites, perfectly clean and divided and understandable – like his cap. His perfect black cap with a white skull sewed on the front of it, perfect and simple – Only now it wasn't perfect and simple anymore, because it was stained with red, hated red. His red – which was coming out everywhere and staining everything – ruining everything! He hated red!
His back hurt. His back always hurt. Just like his head always hurt, and his heart always hurt. Why did it always have to hurt? What did he do, to hurt so much? It wasn't right! None of this was right! The art, the people, the Noise – monsters – demons – none of it was right at all! Wasn't everything supposed to be fixed after the Game?!
His heart rammed against his chest, as if desperate to get out. Ba-Bump Ba-Bump Ba-Bump! He could hardly catch his breath.
Why…Why?! Why was everything falling apart?! It was supposed to be perfect! Fixed! He had already gone through the ultimate nightmare of the Game! That was supposed to be the worst experience he would ever have! Everyone else, compared to that, was supposed to be easy, bearable, understandable – not like this! Not like this!
"-you alright, Skulls?-"
Shiki, Neku – his friends – they weren't supposed to be monsters, demons! They weren't like those Reapers in the room with the fishes, who just looked human, instead of being human…Were they? No no NO! It couldn't be! CAN'T be! No no NO! They were perfect! PERFECT! He was nothing, but they were PERFECT!
"Now, what do you think that means, hmm? What does that say about you?"
…Damn if he knew! He didn't know anything! Rhyme…he hadn't been able to do anything for her! Hadn't been able to do anything but watch her turn into a shadow! As if he was nothing but a shadow himself! But he wasn't a shadow! There! There was his shadow, on the ground, gliding ahead of him and his skateboard! As if it had any right to be in front of him! Damn shadow!
Shibuya itself – when you lost faith – Shibuya itself was – when you lose faith –
Shibuya itself was mad, a mad demon! No, the whole world was a demon, a mad, mad, heartless demon! So everything else in it was a demon, because the world was a demon! He-
"-Skulls?! Skulls, what's-"
It hurt! Everything hurt! His heart, his head, his ba-
Something tore from his back. He saw it for just a moment – wings. Reaper wings.
BA-BUMP BA-BUMP BA-BUMP!
Power flooded him. Too much power.
It was too much. Too –
So...crazy and chaotic enough for you? XD
I'm aware that this chapter sets up everything and explains almost nothing, and has the most evil cliffhanger ever. I apoligize. Things will be better explained in the second chapter.
Random Notes and Assumptions:
I obsess over the strangest details sometimes. You have been warned.
Have you ever actually watched the fishes in the Dead God's Pad? When you walk around, they follow you. Damn fishes creep me out XD. There's no evidence that they're Noise fish, but that's always been my assumption considering they live in the Composer's hangout area. Why would he have normal fish?
There is no evidence that Mr. Doi knows about the UG world, but he seems suspicious to me (particularly, he resists the Red Skull pin, which no one else was able to) Also he was a founder of Tin Pin in Another Day, which may or may not apply to the regular world, but it suggests he would be familar with pins, a key component of the Game. As a somewhat related note, I assume Kariya and Uzuki stop by Ramen Don a lot because...well, they like ramen a lot.
The Noise-in-shadow thing is my explanation on how Reapers are able to fight with their shadows, since the shadow doesn't mimic the Reaper's movements but does its own thing.
I'm running a one-shot contest til October 1st. Go here for details. (fanfiction).net/topic/60575/17000061/1/
Oh, cookies to whoever guesses how I'm getting the titles (it's probably pretty obvious)
Next chapter (whenever that happens): Detonation in SHIBUYA