"Tell me, Eri, what do I do?" she whispered. "It hurts but I know they're right. I'm not cut out to be their leader. I've tried everything, but it just keeps getting worse. I can't even be of any use anymore."
'No, Shiki, that's not true.'
"It is. They don't...they don't need me anymore."
'They do - of course they do.'
'You can't say that. Even if they didn't need you, what would you do?'
What could she do?
If they don't need me...then maybe...No, that's a stupid idea. But...but if it'll stop me from being a burden...
"...I could just-"
The thought made her stomach churn, but maybe it was the only way.
"- leave Deck."
The atmosphere at the Club's base was riddled with the tension that had not been completely dissolved from the heated discussion the day before. Yet it was an increasingly colder morning in the base than the Clubs were used to. The temperature seemed to fill the room and seep into their skin.
"Brr. It's cold," Fumi said through chattering teeth. "Who set the AC to freezing?"
"It's broken, remember?" Yumi reminded him, though she too was rubbing her arms in attempts to warm herself. "The technicians are supposed to come later today to fix whatever's wrong with it."
"I hope they get here soon," said Fumi.
He glanced at Rayca, who was sitting on the living room sofa. She looked unperturbed by the cold. Her expression was one of irritation but it was more likely to do with the conversation she had with Shiki the day before, rather than the cold.
Makoto's head popped around the door. "Guys? Have any of you seen Shiki?"
"Not me," Yumi answered. "Haven't seen her since yesterday."
Shiki had locked herself in her room last night, despite Tsubasa having tried to get her to come out and talk to them.
"She hasn't been down for breakfast," said Makoto.
"Did you check her room? Maybe she's having a lie in," Yumi suggested.
"That or she's still shutting herself in over yesterday," said Fumi, which earned him a nudge in the stomach from Yumi.
"Yeah, there wasn't an answer. Her door was unlocked and the room was empty."
Fumi and Yumi exchanged a look and Rayca seemed to now be paying attention to their conversation too.
"I've asked everyone else and no one else has seen her. She doesn't usually go out without telling anyone…" Makoto's voice grew quieter as he ended his sentence.
"She probably just needs some time alone for a while. I'm sure she'll be back soon," said Fumi, with a tactful approach, for once. Even he could sense Makoto's real concern for their leader. "In the meantime, maybe we can convince Rayca to apologise." He attempted to shoot a grin at her, though she sniffed at him, looking like she wouldn't change her mind anytime soon. "Or not."
"Fumi's right. She'll be back in no time. It's Shiki we're talking about."
Makoto, seeing his teammates' positive outlook started to relax slightly. He always was one to worry the most. "If you guys are actually agreeing about something, then I guess I'm going to have to trust you on this one."
"Exactly!" They both said in unison, causing all of them (excluding Rayca) to burst out laughing.
Shiki would be back soon.
Of course she would be.
Chapter 08 - Spade – Storm Warning
As Neku had found out early on after his enlistment to Deck, stopping school didn't mean that his days of reading long pieces of text or writing essays were done. Oh no, they had gotten even worse. Now he had to read and write technical reports, and that was on top of all the academic work that he still received through his tutoring. Well, at least Deck's tutor classes were very efficient since they were conducted one to one with external teachers, so they never dragged on too long.
Now, the report that he was currently reading was dragging on for far too long. It heavily and meticulously explained all of what had occurred recently - the recorded message from the Noise and the unusual attacks on the Diamonds and Hearts.
'The Noise, in this particular scenario, were dispersed evenly among the Kiiro District in great numbers. This frequency of Noise has not been recorded before.'
The orange haired youth found this sentence particularly interesting, though he noted the following one just as much.
'Noise of greater power than are usually encountered were concentrated in a singular area in great numbers. This occurrence is not typical of recorded Noise behaviour.'
Two incidences that had not happened before in all of Deck's records (yes, they had double checked the previous records) and they before happening in a space of only just under two weeks. Taking into account that there were instances where Noise had not been encountered at all for the same period of time, Neku concluded that the events couldn't be coincidences. With the recorded warning, it pointed in the direction that the Noise had started openly targeting Deck, staying true to their words of 'we're coming for you'.
But that's not all, is it? He pondered, there's something else about this –
His CARD blared out an alert loudly in his previously completely quiet office and he jolted up in his seat. He readjusted his headphones which had gone crooked around his neck. Thankfully there wasn't anyone to see that.
"CARD. Answer," he said, recognising that the sound had been the indicator for a call.
"Yo!" shouted a voice.
"Yo," he automatically replied, having never expected that as a greeting. "I mean, hello."
"This is Phones, ain't it?"
"Yes." He managed to refrain from correcting Beat, because it was 'Neku' not 'Phones'.
Neku knew it was him calling because his CARD automatically brought out his profile. The bad thing about CARDS was that you could contact any other Deck member without having to get their phone number, which meant that anyone, such as Beat, could go on and bug Neku with messages at any time. "What is it?"
"You're Shiki's friend right?"
"I told you, no, we're acquaintances –"
"- 'cause Shiki's been missing for three days now and no one knows where she is! The Clubs haven't reported her as missing officially yet but Kyo contacted me an' the other Blanks. Yo, did she say anything to you?"
Missing? "No, she hasn't contacted me at all," he said slowly. "You sure that she's really 'missing'. It's only been a week. Maybe she just wanted to have a break somewhere."
"You don't have breaks in Deck without tellin' anyone where you're at," Beat said. "Something musta happened to her."
Something…wait, there was 'something' about Shiki in the report.
He looked at the screen on his desk, and scrolled down the other report he had just been reading. This had just been sent out today; Neku did think it was a bit unusual that it was written by the Jack instead of Shiki.
"'While a milder form of attack occurred, it is noted that the Queen of Clubs' psychokinesis ceased to function. It is unknown whether this was a result of an attack, and a full analysis has not yet been completed. More information to be added,'" he read to Beat, "That definitely sounds like 'something'."
"Her powers stopped working?" The shock in his voice was not missed by Neku. For some reason, no one had told Beat. Well, Beat did have access to these reports too but Neku was sure no one expected him to read them.
"That's what it says," said Neku.
"Damn…But if that's true then Shiki maybe she…"
"She ran away," finished Neku bluntly.
"Bwaaah! Don't say that!" Beat yelled over the line, causing Neku to wince. "Why would she run away 'cause of that? We'd all try and help her get her abilities back, yo."
"I don't know what she could be thinking. The fact that the Clubs haven't reported it straightaway must mean that they thought it wouldn't be strange for her to be absent for a while," he reasoned. "She told me that she's been in Deck for a long time. It must have come as a huge shock for her when her powers suddenly stopped working. It isn't surprising if she took off because she panicked."
"Makes sense. When…when do ya think she'll be back?" Beat asked him.
"I don't know…" Neku admitted. "She'll come back eventually, though. I'm sure of it."
"You don't think she's gone for good?"
"No, she's not that kind of person. She wouldn't abandon you guys like that."
There was a pause.
"For someone who says you're not her friend, you sound as if you are close to her."
"I'm not." The scar below his neck prickled. "It's just from what I do know of her, I don't think she could leave you guys so easily."
"I geddit Phones, and you're right about Shiki." Beat's tone got lighter. "I guess she'll go back to Clubs when she's feels like it."
"If that's it, I've got some work to do so I'm going to hang up now," Neku informed him.
"Huh? Oh, okay. Yeah, bye! Catch ya later!"
With the conversation finished, Neku started drumming his fingers against the table, thinking about what he told Beat. He didn't mention this to Beat, since he was sure that he would have thrown a fit and demanded that they called a search party to look for her immediately, but it was a possibility that she might have been attacked by Noise and maybe kidnapped. Without her abilities there was not much she'd be able to do. It was one of Neku's more unlikely theories, since the Noise hadn't exactly 'taken' anyone before either, but just as the report had stated, many unusual things had happened.
He still thought that Shiki leaving on her own will was more likely.
He certainly wasn't close enough to Shiki to say that he knew exactly what she was thinking but yes, he could guess that she was upset. He would know as much, since he had seen her upset the last time they saw each other. Especially after that Hearts prick had said those things to her. She had already been losing self-esteem from what Neku could tell, and the loss of powers must have just made it worse.
He honestly did think she would return on her own, but depending on the extent of her emotional state, the length of her absence might stretch out for longer than would be preferred for her Suit. They must have sent people out to look for her, but she must have left the Midori District if she wasn't found by now.
Maybe I should just go look for her myself…
Neku blinked. Did he really just think that? That was really unlike him. Like he told Beat, he wasn't even really her friend.
Another prickle near his throat.
Yeah, friend or not, there's still that.
His CARD went off again.
This time it was a notification – it looked like he was getting a visitor.
"We need to get rid of the pizza boxes!" A feminine squeak sounded as a thud indicated the speaker had slipped.
"Pipe it down, I get it already!" was the grumbled response.
"Fold up, pick it up, turn around, lay it down. Clean up, you lazy f-"
"Okay, okay, I get it! Sheesh. Stop rapping at me."
"I'll stop spitting if you can start picking. Pick it up, up, up –"
"Imma wack you, dammit."
"No in-Suit violence please!"
Every single time. Neku let out a long sigh before the doors do the Spade's living room opened for him. The scene before him looked as if he had accidentally hit pause on a sit-com show – in this scene it would be two brothers having an argument while the sister was trying to break it up, all the while creating more mess when their intention was to clean up.
Shigemi Toda – Queen of Spades
He walked over to the trio, snatching the pizza box that lay on the floor and disposing it in the dustbin in the corner of the room.
"Job done. Case Closed. K1. Okada out."
Keiichi 'K1' Okada – Ten of Spades
The tall man strolled by Neku, leaving the room.
"Oh, so once the pizza box is gone he thinks that he doesn't need to help clean up, huh?"
Sota – Jack of Spades
"Was he the one who created the mess, or was it you?" While Neku found both of them a bit of a pain to speak to on different levels, out of the two of them, he thought that Sota was the more likely one to be the cause of the upturned room.
"…You got me." Sota raised his hands in defeat, though he was grinning now.
"K1 and I agreed to help Sota clean up, since we got the notification that Prof. Omura will be arriving soon, but after about five minutes Sota stopped cleaning and just sat on the sofa," Toda explained, though she didn't meet Neku's eyes. She always seemed to avoid looking at him directly, for some reason. "S-sorry."
"Aw," Sota ruffled the top of her head, displacing her brown bangs. "No need to apologise for me, Shigemi! I'm sorry for goofing off. Look, I'll finish up here." He started moving the rest of the empty soda cans off the table. "See?"
"Thanks Sota! Oh, I know. I'll go get Anna, she can probably help with the stickiness. " Rushing out, ducking her head as she passed Neku.
Neku began re-arranging the pillows that had been strewn about. The shade of the red pillow seemed very mismatched with the black sofas.
Sota seemed to notice Neku staring at the arrangement. "Oh hey, Boss. That goes on the bean bag." He nudged his head in the direction of the bean bag.
"Right." With a well-aimed throw, the pillow landed gracefully on the bean-bag.
"Nice," praised Sota.
"Thanks, I guess." Neku shrugged.
Suddenly he felt pressure on top of his head. He's messing up my hair!
"Aw, isn't this great? You never come out here to hang with us," said his Jack. "No need to be a loner."
Ouch. "I'm not a 'loner'." Well, okay maybe a little bit.
"Don't you want any friends?" Sota didn't seem to have heard Neku.
"I've been getting the feeling that everyone thinks I don't have any but I do have friends."
"What? Really? Who?"
The younger boy shrugged. "Just some kids I've known since I was young. I was classmates with them until I joined Deck."
"Oh yeah, you went to a regular high school." Sota plopped down onto the bean-bag. "How was that like?"
Neku guessed he was done for now too, thinking that the area was sufficiently tidy. "Nothing special. Just a normal high school. Went to school. Did club activities after. Did my homework. Hung out with my friends on the weekend."
"So you really do have friends?"
"Yes, I do." Neku rolled his eyes. "Is that so hard to believe?"
"…Don't answer that."
"Ahaha, sorry. You just don't talk to us a lot so I thought maybe you didn't like people."
"I don't go out of my way not to like people. That'd be stupid." There just happens to be a lot of people who manage to bug me. Not my fault. "There's just not a lot of people who…agree with my personality, and who I agree with." There, that was a better way of putting it.
Put another way, Neku probably wouldn't be close to his friends if he hadn't known them since childhood. He probably wouldn't have approached them. Though to be honest, they probably weren't all that different from some of the people in Deck. However, he didn't join Deck to make friends. He considered the people he worked with to be more in line with 'colleagues'.
"Well, even if you don't want to be friends, I think you're pretty cool, King," Sota decided. "As long as you consider us team-mates, that's enough for me."
He nodded. He needed to give Sota more credit - the two of them were different kinds of people but they could cooperate.
He then remembered something about Sota.
"Hey, you're a Blank right? Like Shiki?"
"Yeah." He looked down at his hands.
"I heard she's missing."
Sota looked surprised. "Thought there wasn't an official report yet. And you don't go on Thread, right?"
"There isn't and I don't. Beat called me. He thought she'd have contacted me."
"He called just a few minutes before I got the notification message about the visit."
"I didn't know you were close to her."
"No…I'm..." I'm what, Neku? You're not really gonna tell him, are you? "I'm just a fellow Court Member, that's all."
Sota didn't say anything, seeming to wait for more.
"And I owe her." That's as far as I'm saying.
"Okay." Looked like Sota was willing not to push any further. "So did she contact you?"
"No," he said. "What I don't get is why he'd think she would."
"Well, Shiki can be a bit shy with people she doesn't know. But if Beat saw her warm up to someone quickly, he'd probably take that as a good sign."
Neku really didn't think she was 'warming up' to him because she wanted to. If anything, he had the suspicion that she felt obliged. Perhaps they were similar, in that sense.
"And as silent as a gentle stream, the girl sneaks into the living room," came a voice in a dramatic whisper. "She walks over to where the Jack and the King sat and as quick as lightning – Aqua Monster – she washes away the dirt on the table, leaving it spick and span!"
Anna Aoi – Five of Spades
Hands on her hips, the blond straightened up. "There you go! A job well done, if I do say so myself!"
"Awesome! Thanks Anna." Sota got up and ruffled the top of her short hair.
Unlike Neku, Aoi seemed happy to receive the positive attention. "Hehe, I am awesome. Right, Boss?"
"Mmhmm." Neku found that when communicating with Aoi, if he just agreed, or said that he agreed, with what she was saying then there would be no issues with dealing with her. "Where'd Toda go?"
Aoi's eyes lit up. "Shigemi!" she called out. "The boss wants you in here!"
"Eep!" Toda's head peeked out from the side of the door. Upon seeing Neku she squeaked again before rushing over. "Y-yes?"
"No, I just thought you'd be with Aoi since you said you were getting her. That's all, I didn't need anything." Sheesh, why was she shaking so much? "…Sorry?"
"N-no! I'm sorry, I'm really sorry, really, really sorry!" And then she bolted out of the room, with a cackling Anna trailing behind her.
He could only stare after her.
"I know I said people don't agree with me but I don't think anyone's been that scared of me." He was honestly just taken aback by how intimidated Toda was by him.
"Oh King, and I thought you were more mature than me but looks like you still have a long way to go." There was a sort of pitying smile on Sota's face.
"…Sure." Whatever that was supposed to mean.
A moment later, Toda returned, slightly calmer now and accompanied with who Neku assumed to be his visitor.
"Oh! So you're Prof. Sakuraba's son! I've heard a lot about you! Professor Tatsuya Omura, at your service." The man stretched out his hand, which Neku shook.
Tatsuya Omura – CAT – Head of Communications
Though Neku considered it to be a light shake, the professor stumbled forward slightly. The glasses he was wearing slipped down his nose, which he hastily pushed up. He had a messy appearance, Neku noticed; his coat hung loosely on his shoulders and his hair stuck out in odd places.
"The name's Neku," he said, introducing himself too.
"What a wonderful name," he said, all smiles. He looked around. "Oh. Ms. Toda and Mr. Sota are still here. If you don't mind, I was thinking of having a private conversation with the King?"
"Of course," Toda said, exiting immediately.
"Sure Prof, but you know we'll find out about whatever top secret thing you're talking about eventually!" Sota followed Toda out.
"It's always great to be back at Spades," he said as Neku offered him a seat on the sofa. "Each Suit has different atmospheres to them and I love popping my head around each base once in a while."
Neku nodded, unsure what to say in reply. Would it be rude to ask to get straight to the point? Probably…and if he was rude his dad would give him an earful about it.
"In case you were wondering, I'm under the Communications Division in CAT, so I'm in charge of making sure the CARD system keeps up and running. How are you finding your CARD?"
"It's pretty useful," Neku said.
"Good, good!" He looked pleased at that. "Feel free to send in a message at any time if there's anything wrong with your CARD."
"I'll keep that in mind."
"Ah right, I also wanted to know how you've adjusted to life with Deck. Have you been faring well?"
"It's been okay, I guess?"
"If there's any questions about Deck you have that hasn't already been explained to you, feel free to ask me questions about that too."
"Thanks, but I think I know most of the important things, now."
"Confident, are we?" Prof. Omura smiled. "Pop quiz! Where do the Noise originate from?"
Easy. "The other dimension."
"Hm, half right!"
"Instead of just 'the' other dimension," the professor elaborated, "it would be more correct to say 'one of' the other dimensions. From our data, we've concluded the possibility of another dimensions as well. Though the only one that seems to be open to us in Tokyo is the Noise dimension."
"And the pathway was opened accidentally in Tokyo because of an unusual explosion in a lab, back when Deck was just a research facility."
"An explosion that was probably caused by an experiment," Neku finished.
Prof. Omura perked up at that. "Within Deck, it's taught that the explosion was a freak accident. How did you come up with that theory?" The stare that he gave Neku was very intent.
"Well, it had to be. Talking to the other Deck Members, we're all taught that the O-Energy spread out from the origination point. The reason that the Noise is successfully limited to within only Tokyo is because there are a number of Deck's receptor towers stationed all along the city's borders to prevent appearances outside. But I don't believe they could have been built that quickly to prevent the escape of Noise to other prefectures just when the path opened. It must have been a prepared counter-measure."
"You're a sharp one, I see."
He hadn't meant to say that much. These were just things that Neku had wondered about on his own, like why Deck was a secret organisation and the necessity of memory wipes. Even if the excuse was that it would cause panic to the citizens, Neku had felt there was more to it. He figured that the government didn't want the public to know because it was partially sponsoring the company that somehow caused the presence of the Noise and could face a huge outcry.
"You've got the right idea," said Prof. Omura. "We don't say it outright even after all these years; our country isn't the greatest at admitting their mistakes. Of course, while the general public has no clue, certain people in each department of each prefecture would know about this, in case in the future another pathway was to open somewhere else."
"Do you think there may be pathways open elsewhere?" Neku asked.
"That's likely, though not necessarily to the Noise dimension. We can't have been the only ones experimenting."
"You'd think they would have tried to experiment somewhere else?"
"Most definitely. Dimensional research only has its facilities in Tokyo, so while it wouldn't be in Japan, I'm sure the other big nations would have tacked it as well. Whether they were successful or not…well every government has its secrets and I'm just a low ranking researcher, so who knows. That said, even I don't know the exact details of what happened in Deck's case. It was a few decades ago. Both of us weren't even born yet."
Prof. Omura did look pretty young. Neku wondered how a goofy looking person like him got the job. Then again, he did sound competent while testing Neku. And you'd only test someone if you had some confidence in yourself.
His CARD went off for the third time that day. This was the alert for the appearance of Noise.
"Looks like our meeting is being cut short," said Prof. Omura. He stood up, looking worried. "How many are there? I'm hoping it's not another unusual case?"
"There's just one but it's moving at abnormal speeds." His CARD was showing it to be an unknown type of Noise. It was always trickier to go against ones that had never showed up before, and usually took twice as long to take down than a usual swarm. Those battles would always bring on strong fatigue for the Suit.
He fiddled with his collar, gritting his teeth. He could now feel a sense of prickling, not just at his neck but all over his skin which was a very bad sign considering that it didn't seem at all close to the base.
"Sorry Professor, I'm going to have to leave now and deal with the situation. You should be safe if you stay here at base. We'll try not to take too long."
Without looking back, Neku put his headphones on and took a deep breath.
Time to get to work.
Urgh. The Noise that had appeared refused to stay still. While the Spades that were already on patrol were closing in, they couldn't quite reach it. Anna Aoi was driving him and the others who were at the base with him to catch up with them. Okada had just left base with his motorbike as Neku started talking to Prof. Omura, so he was a few minute ahead of the car.
Where's the Noise going to go next…?
"Boss! How come you're letting Yammer go with the others and not me!?" Shooter complained through Neku's CARD.
"You're not ready." Neku didn't have time to explain; while Shooter's combat skills were a lot better, Yammer did know how to follow orders, and with an unknown entity, this was definitely an important attribute. "Keep Prof. Omura company and don't contact me until the battle's over. That's an order."
The call window closed down, leaving Neku with the map of the district. From the way it was moving the next place it would most likely head to was the local park. The Suit call window that was still open indicated that the others was still had their CARDS activated and he could see the other members' locations on the map. "Everyone, we're converging at the Aoi Gardens."
"Aoi and co. enroute to Aoi gardens, at once!" cheered the blond; the car swerved as she made the next turn.
"Woah, careful there!" Yammer said. "Don't get us killed before we get to fight!"
Itaru 'Yammer' Yokoyomada – Three of Spades
Almost there…Bingo, Yoji and Narumi had reached the park.
Less than a minute later, the Noise entered the park too.
"Yoji, you're closest, get in there and get as many civilians out as possible."
"Roger that, Boss! Frantic!"
"Good, Yoji's mist should clear everyone out. It was raining just an hour before this so there shouldn't be a lot of people about, but Narumi since you're there with Yoji, make sure anyone who is around gets out safely."
The Noise's movements, according to Neku's map seemed to slow by a fraction. That was an indication that it did depend somewhat on visibility. Right, that was something that Neku could take advantage of.
"Narumi, is everyone out?"
"Yes, I think so!"
"Okay, put up walls around the entrances, the North and the West, in that order." There were three entrances and if Narumi took care of those two entrances then – "Okada, stay at the south east entrance. Don't let it get past you."
"No matter how fast, it won't get past!" Okada affirmed.
So far so good. His map showed him that the Noises' movements were still scrambled and it didn't seem to be able to escape the park. Narumi was always reliable for her quick work.
"Oh, oh no it's heading right at me. Wha – oh God – argh!"
A loud thud resonated through the line.
"Hold on Yoji, we're coming for you!" Aoi suddenly accelerated, winding her way in between the gaps in traffic and causing a trail of angry beeps to sound after her.
Her turns were even sharper, causing Toda to fall against Neku.
"S-sorry! I'm really sorry!"
Again with the weird amount of sorries. Never mind about that though, they were here now, as they abruptly found out when Aoi slammed her foot down on the break, causing them to stop right in front of the entrance where Okada was standing, looking apprehensive.
"Damn." Sota's voice sounded choked up.
The moment they stepped out of the car, the sensation he was getting from being at this proximity with the Noise was way beyond uncomfortable. Still, there was no time to waste.
"We're here," Neku said through his CARD. No response from Yoji or Narumi.
"Yammer, stay next to me. You have to clear the wind ahead of us." Neku, noticing that Yammer was slightly shaking he put a hand on his shoulder. "Don't worry, it's going to be fine." He turned to the others. "Okada, Aoi, Sota you're with me. Toda, you're staying here in place of Okada."
"M-me? By myself?" she squeaked.
"You're not Queen for nothing, Toda," Neku said.
"Roger that, Boss!" she said stiffly.
While she seemed jumpy, it was true, Neku thought Toda seemed like an experienced enough fighter from the training he had had with her. She could handle herself here, he thought.
His map showed that the Noise wasn't moving around just as much. It must still be fighting the other two, which was why there was no response from them. The King motioned for the others to follow his lead, and the Spades raced through the clearing mist towards the location specified on the map.
It didn't take them too long to reach the other two, but the sight of the Noise awaiting them was enough to make Yammer trip over himself.
Neku didn't blame him – the Noise seemed to be in the shape of a buck, jagged red antlers protruding from an eerily shaped face. It had distinct features similar to other Noise, their bodies seemed to be made of streaks, but this one seemed to emit a whole different sort of aura. It was twice, the size of what a normal deer would look like.
"Come on, Natural Magnum, hit dammit!" Narumi had steel blocks materialise and bullet towards the creature. Yet, for a Noise of that size it moved ridiculously fast, dodging every single one of the blocks.
Yuu Narumi – Eight of Spades
It shot back dark balls of energy straight back at her, and she only just managed to get up a block to protect herself.
"F-frantic!" Yoji, who was lying on the ground just behind her had cast a blast of strong cloudy mist right into its eyes, blinding it momentarily.
Neku had to act fast.
"Narumi, get Yoji to back to Okada, you've done your part." They didn't need any convincing, and ran for the entrance. "Yammer, just like in training, pressure now!"
"Tin Pin Wind!" Yammer faced an open palm towards the Noise and bolts of wind circled the Noise and continued pelting the Noise.
"Okada, don't let it make a single move!"
"I don't play nice, so Love Live the Ice!" He placed his hands on the ground, letting the ice spread towards the deer Noise, freezing its legs to the ground.
"Not so tough when we're all here, huh?" Aoi grinned.
"It's your turn, splash it with water."
"Huh? Just splash it?"
"Just do it!"
"Aqua Ghost!" Aoi created a bubble just above the Noise and let it fall until it splashed down on the huge Noise.
Neku glanced at Yammer. There's no time.
"Yammer can't hold the wind pressure much longer than this, the moment he lets his has down, everyone get out of the way. Sota I want you to create a barrier around me and the Noise."
"What!? Just you?"
"This is it, Boss!"
Yammer's knees gave way.
"Meteor Spike!" Sota roared. True to its name, spikes of rock rained down around Neku and the Noise, enclosing them in a large circle. Neku had to hand it to him, Sota made sure that was enough space for Neku to move around in but not enough for the giant Noise to try and wriggle itself out of this situation.
As he expected, after Yammer's air pressure was gone, the Noise gained enough energy to break out of the ice that bound it to the ground.
"It's just you and me," Neku murmured.
"Argh." Neku's head throbbed horribly. The Noise's mouth didn't move. Yet there was definitely a sound that buzzed in his ears. He could hear the other Spades' sounds of discomfort too.
"You don't seem surprised to hear me speak," the Noise commented. There was no change of expression in the Noise.
"We did listen to your warning, you know. 'We're coming for you', if I'm remembering right." Neku needed to accommodate to the pain in his head before he could function properly in the fight; he tried to keep the Noise talking. "Why'd you send that to us?"
Right. Neku didn't buy that at all.
"Is terrorizing the citizens here really that fun too?"
"The lower Noise enjoy that. I found Deck's panicking a lot more amusing. So much squabbling amongst yourselves."
Narrowing his eyes, he silently scanned the area. It didn't seem like this Noise was going to be joined by any more soon. With the aura that it was emanating, Neku doubted that it would need any help.
"You seem to be the strongest human out of all of those here," the Noise observed.
"…" So if I do this…
"But surely you know, you're no match for me."
"…" and then follow up with…
"So, you blocked the others off so that you could sacrifice yourself for them. How noble."
"…" …and then it should land right here.
Okay, this should work.
"Thunderbolt!" Clicking his fingers together, electricity surged towards the Noise, striking at its yellow eyes.
The Noise roared at a high pitch, causing Neku to flinch. It then shot several bursts of dark energy towards Neku who leapt forward into a roll to dodge, dragging his hands along the ground. Knowing that the Noise was fast on its legs, when it turned to charge at him he ran towards it, sliding underneath its legs to end up behind it. As Neku had thought from seeing its movements on the map, though it was fast, it wasn't very agile. Another lightning was thrown its way.
"I'm over here," Neku taunted, running towards another side of the enclosed space.
The Noise roared again, clearly agitated this time.
It charged once again at Neku, who once again dodged it. Once again, Neku hit it with a spark of electricity. They went back and forth like this a few times, almost like a little dance. At this point, Neku was starting to get worn out. He managed to avoid getting directly hit by the dark energy balls, but one did manage to graze the side of his shorts before hitting the pillar behind him. The place where it had touch was singed. Sota's pillars were also slowly being eroded down.
"Your strikes are nothing but an annoyance to me. You can't beat me like that."
True, his sparks only hit the Noise at one place, and seemed to not be causing much damage.
"Well, you're not as impressive as I would've thought, either."
The Noise's hooves clattered against the ground as it lowered its antlers again towards Neku.
Neku smiled. Gotcha!
He aimed two bolts of electricity at its feet. "Storm Warning!" It slipped and crashed into the pillar of rock just besides Neku, its antlers getting caught in the gap between one pillar of rock and the next.
"All that running around has tired me out," Neku said. He clicked his fingers, once more.
The parts of the ground where Neku had traced out while avoiding the Noise's attacks started to glow. The Noise had also stepped all over Neku's intricate web of sparks.
Huge bolts of lightning originated from the web and struck the Noise all at once. The Noise emitted a pained shriek that echoed heavily in Neku's head. It started to crackle, as all Noise did as they were defeated.
"Looks like I really underestimated you," the Noise said in a raspy voice. "You win."
"You like naming us don't you? I suppose it makes sense, as you can't exactly ask the lower Tenor Noise for their names. They can't quite grasp the frequency for human language." The Noise looked at Neku out of the corner of its eyes. "I'll give you a name for me then, before I cease. Let's go with Dorcas…Dorcas Canor."
The Noise dissolved, leaving Neku alone in the ring.
Neku blinked, finding himself staring at the ceiling. What? I swear I was fighting the Noise.
"Oh, are you awake?" came the voice of Prof. Omura.
"Yeah, I'm – ouch ." He had tried sitting up, but it seemed that his muscles very much disagreed with that.
"It seems like you've overexerted yourself."
"It definitely feels like I have," Neku agreed.
Looking around, he could see that he was in the base's medical bay and the professor was sitting on a stool beside him. "How long have I been out?"
"Just over an hour," he replied. "I'm impressed that you've woken up this fast, seeing how much energy you used up."
"Well, thanks, I guess." Neku could make out faint sounds of breathing on the other side of the curtain that partitioned his area from other beds. "I'm guessing that's Yoji in the other bed. He seemed to be doing badly when we arrived. How are the others?"
"Yes, it's him," said the professor. "The others are fine, I think they're in the living room. They all wanted to stay with you here but I told them it'd be best to give you some space for you to recuperate."
"It would have been a bit much to have Shooter shouting at me the moment I woke up." He internally winced at the thought. "Alright, time to get up." He made to stand up, but stumbled a bit. The soreness wasn't unbearable by any means, but it was uncomfortable.
Prof. Omura was quick to react and one of Neku's arms over his shoulder to support him. "Are you sure you don't want to rest here more?"
"No, I don't really like…hospitals or anything similar to it," Neku said in a low voice. "Besides, I need to debrief the others."
"Alright, if you say so," said the professor, as they started to slowly make their way towards the lift. "If you don't mind me asking, how come you chose to face the Noise alone?"
"I thought that if too many of us tried to fight it at once, it would have turned out badly. Would be harder to predict its movements with more variables put into play. I think more of the Spades would have been injured, too,"Neku explained.
The lift had arrived at the upper floor with a ping and the two stepped out. "It's quite remarkable that you could predict its movements. Your O-Energy levels must be very high. That and the combination of your talent for mastering using it makes it no wonder that you've risen to the King position so quickly."
Before Neku could reply, they entered the living room and there was a collective outcry of 'Boss!'
Neku suddenly found his already sore bones being crushed by a giant hug.
Shuto 'Shooter' Dan – Two of Spades
"Seriously, Boss!" Shooter cried, with tears and snot running down his face. "You were so so cool when you beat that Noise! It was like watching my favourite anime, it was so totally intense! Like bam and all that! I was so moved!"
"T-thanks. Now will you quit that?"
"Oh, sorry!" Shooter's crying stopped instantly as he backed away and he rubbed the bottom of his nose with a giant grin.
Making his way to the front of the room, Neku turned to them and cleared his throat.
"This Noise was unlike anything we've had to fight so far. Narumi, you and Yoji holding back that Noise helped us out a lot and made sure there weren't any civilian casualties. Toda, good work with guarding the entrance, you would have needed to step in if the Noise had knocked me out." Toda blushed. "Okada, your ice formation is getting a lot quicker, glad to see you've been practicing. Aoi, your water made it a lot easier for me to damage the Noise, so thanks. Yammer, you did a good job out there, for your first time out of the field." Yammer stuttered out a thank you. "Finally, Sota, your pillars did a solid job at keeping the Noise contained."
"Rock solid," Sota chipped in.
"…Yeah, sure," said Neku, choosing to ignore the pun. "I think we're getting better in our fights, especially from what I saw today. That said, I'll remove the next cap in the training simulator so that everyone can access the next level in their solo training sessions"
"Does that include me?" Shooter piped up.
"Shooter I'm increasing the times for your supervised training sessions. We'll be skipping to two levels above your current one."
Neku nodded. "I might have been able to defeat the Noise, but keep in mind that there's a big gap between my training level and most of yours. It also wasn't an easy fight at all. There was something clearly different about this Noise, not least the fact that it could speak to us."
Sota shivered. "Urgh. Dude, just thinking about it gives me the creeps. What did it say its name was? Dorky Canis?"
"Dorcas Canor, I believe it said," Prof. Omura corrected. "I agree, there were a few additional frequencies on top of its voice, as I heard when it came through my CARD. It was almost like the sound of music playing."
"Yeah, I don't know what kind of music you like Prof, but it sounded pretty awful to me," Aoi said, shaking her head.
"Hmm, well perhaps it has to do with you members having the O-Gene," he mused. "I'll need to report this back to CAT."
"Alright, I'll also try and write my report as detailed as I can," said Neku to Prof. Omura. He turned his attention back to the Spades. "There could be more encounters with Noise like that, so we've all got to keep on our toes. Don't even think of facing it alone if you do encounter something similar to it. I'll draw up a schedule for extra training as soon as I can. I think that's all I wanted to say. Go get some sleep everyone."
There was a few more rounds of cheers for Neku from the members before they all dispersed from the room. Neku himself accompanied the professor down to the entrance of the base to send him off.
"I must say, they seem to trust you a lot, those Spades," said Prof. Omura. "I can see why, though. Looks like you're a pretty good leader."
Neku shrugged. "You could say that."
"No, really, I think it's important that you've got them on your reins," he said with a smile. "The first rule of this organization is discipline, after all."
"Is it really?" Neku said doubtfully. "Hard to believe if you consider…say, the Diamonds."
"Haha, well maybe not the first rule, but definitely one of the more important ones."
Professor Omura stopped walking. "Listen, Neku. While you were knocked out, I listened to what your CARD caught of what the Noise said."
"It sounds like it knows too much about Deck."
That caught Neku's attention. "What do you mean?"
"It was only one thing it said, but it mentioned that we were 'squabbling' with each other," Prof. Omura said. "How does it know?"
"If you mean there's some kind of internal struggle within Deck, I don't know what it's talking about."
"Have you not been on Thread 104 lately, Neku? A recent argument between two Blanks was a hot topic."
"No," Neku replied. "I don't use it. Wait, don't tell me it was talking about that thing that happened with…Shiki and…whatever his name was. I was there when that happened. I mean sure he was a complete ass but it's not like it'd affect the whole of Deck, would it?"
"Aside from that, Joshua – "
"Right, that was his name."
"- seems to be having a bit of a rebellious streak with the Hearts. The Jack of Diamonds, Beat, also seems to be causing a bit of a commotion. I think that he and his fellow Blanks may have differing opinions than the other members as to what to think of Joshua. No to mention Shiki's disappearance."
"…So then it's true? There's really no one that knows where she is at the moment?"
"Not as far as I know. I hear that they found her CARD in her room under her pillow, which is probably why they're hesitating to report her as missing. Her members are starting to get increasingly more worried, though."
Neku shoved his hands in his pockets. If she purposefully left her CARD then, like Neku had thought, Shiki had indeed left on her own. However maybe three days was a long enough time to start to worry about someone not coming back home. "I don't know if she would have come to this district, but I'll keep an eye out for her just in case."
"I'm sure the Clubs would appreciate that," said Prof. Omura. "Anyway, as you can see due to all this, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the social environment in Spades seems to be a very stable one."
"Were you surprised because you expected the Spades to not like me?" Neku asked drily. "I'm told that people don't think much of my social skills."
The professor laughed nervously. "The truth is sometimes better left unsaid."
"Whatever, it's fine. Honestly, I think we're doing okay because the other Spades are very...happy-go-lucky." To an annoying extent, sometimes.
"Back to my point about the Noise you encountered today, I think the fact it commented on Deck having disagreements is a bit suspicious. Makes you wonder just how it knows." Prof. Omura's tone was now serious.
"What are you trying to get at?"
"I think that Prof. Nishimura's evaluation that the Noise have an understanding on Deck may be putting it too lightly. I think they might have somehow infiltrated Deck. If not physically entering our bases, then at least gaining access to our IT networks." Prof. Omura pushed up his glasses. "Or at least, that's my theory. In any case, at this point I'd tell you to be careful, but you're already taking measures to be more vigilant, so I'm sure we don't have to worry about the Spades."
Infiltrating the network? That wouldn't completely surprise Neku, seeing as how they did manage to send them that video clip. Actually physically approaching the base even through the other dimension would be more difficult, as even if the detectors were down, any member with the O-Gene would pick up on their pretence right away.
"Anyway, enough of that gloomy talk," said Prof. Omura, returning to a more cheerful demeanour. "It was fun to see how you operated Neku, despite today's trouble. I would be lucky if my next stop on my rounds – which is to the Hearts base – is half as pleasant. Oh right, don't forget to call your dad, I did tell him about the incident while you were unconscious."
Oh urgh, Dad's going to ask me all sorts of questions. Maybe if he wrote his report early the next morning he could avoid getting grilled for details for today.
"Alright, thanks for visiting Professor Omu-" thump "-ra…"
The professor had somehow bumped into the glass door on the way out. He laughed sheepishly before waving goodbye to Neku, who waved back (albeit slightly half-heartedly). Neku didn't know what to make of this guy, he seemed like he had a good head on his shoulders but the clumsiness was a bit of a mismatch. Oh well, everyone in Deck's a bit weird. (Except for Neku, himself, of course.)
He decided to go back to his room upstairs. It was adjoined with the office that he had here; it was pretty useful, especially on occasions like this where it would be too tiring to make the journey back home. Luckily he already told his mum that he wasn't coming going home today, since he was planning to stay overnight here anyway.
Not bothering to turn on the lights as he dragged his feet into his room, he headed straight for his bed. Sure, he was probably still covered in dirt from the battle, but he didn't care – he just needed some sleep. He was so exhausted that he just plopped himself face down on his gloriously soft double bed.
Except it wasn't gloriously soft.
Wait, that wasn't his voice! That voice belonged to –
"Eh, erm, haha… hi?"
Perhaps it would be a great task for Noise to be able to infiltrate the base.
But if we're talking about Shiki?
Two and a half years later…
TADAA! *crickets*. I would like to sincerely apologize for my absence (if anyone is still here). Uni life has been absolutely crazy. To be honest I think I've had a third of this chapter done for about…over a year. The rest of it I've finished in the past week. It's really weird to think that when I wrote Sanctuary I kept completely to schedule…sigh…I wish I had that much free time now. Though, as KH3D has been rereleased due to KH 2.8 prologue (no spoilers plz, I can't play until March), I've got a surge of TWEWY inspiration. Hopefully it'll last me until the end of the fic.
I do have a plan in my head for this…somewhat. Hopefully this chapter won't contradict anything I've already written. Or ruin what I originally planned for this fic. Although if it does I can always change it up I guess haha. Kind of like mangaka for weekly mangas. I really admire them, cause they always have to keep on their toes!
Also, if you were expecting an improvement in my writing…er sorry xD I haven't written or read much for a while, so my writing style and level is going to be about the same.
I haven't opened my emails linked to my fanfiction account since June 2016 as I never reconnected it to my phone again after it broke, so I'm sure I missed a lot of fanfic updates. Perhaps some reviews or faves/follows. Thank you to those who have done any of the mentioned. Shoutout to She Who Loves Pineapples who's review I noticed when I was opening the fic on ffnet to reread, (since I needed a reminder on what I actually wrote). I appreciate that you enjoy this AU! And I still love TWEWY! My interests never fade, more like they go dormant.
Not that I plan to disappear for another two years in a row again, but if you're ever in need for more Deck, if you haven't already, please check out Chronic Guardian's awesome AU of this AU, 'Deck: J0KER'. It's completed and is brilliantly written. Plus, it's longer than this fic actually is at the moment haha (that tells you a lot about my writing habits, haha).
Finally a super huge thanks to cutekitty5597 who designed a new cover for this fic! She happened to work on it in her free time and showed it to me. I mean, after seeing that, I was like 'wait whaaat I can't let this cover go unseen, it's beautiful'. So there you have it, you can thank Tash for me finally getting back to updating this haha, so go stare at the cover.
I'll most likely post it on the Deck website as a graphic along with Tash's previous cover. Speaking of the site, thanks for the poll…
Last chapter's poll question was:
Do you think Shiki will actually leave Deck?
I'm not going to answer. Just give us the new chapter already, then we'll all know for sure! 52.38% (11 votes)
No 38.1% (8 votes)
Yes 9.52% (2 votes)
In conclusion, I suck but thank you for voting. Feel free to check out the site for the new poll. I still need to update the site and hopefully can do that soon.
Thanks again for reading, and hopefully I'll update waaaay sooner for the next chapter.
- Dina (30/01/2017)
– Thread 104 –
\\Just another reminder to message me immediately if you see any sign of Shiki (MickyMouse)
- You've posted this yesterday, Makoto. Give it a rest. It's only been three days. Hikaru wanders off all the time. (BlackMay)
- You would worry too if Ouji went missing! Besides, it's not like Shiki to not tell us where she was going. (Yumin)
- I think that you accidentally wrote 'went missing' instead of 'got chased out by her own Suit (Ai-Love)
- 'Fess up, who told Ai what happened before Shiki disappeared? (Fumin)
- Me, of course. Just told her the truth. (SilverWing)
- No one 'chased her out'. I think she may have just…overreacted, a bit. (xxAyu)
- Yeah, keep telling yourself that. Hope it makes you feel better. (Ai-Love)
- Hey, we're not the ones that threw her off. Pretty sure it had to do with the Two of Hearts (Yumin)
- Thought he changed his title to Deuce :P Sensitive, much? (Fumin)
- Joshua has said some things that are uncalled for, but I wouldn't go so far as to make him the cause for Shiki going MIA (Mina-is-Happy)
- I dunno, I'd say Josh probably played a big part of it. You know how Shiki looked up to him (sotERRa)
- Let's try not to blame each other for what's happened and focus on finding Shiki, okay? (MickyMouse)
\\Auditions for Shigemi's wingmen/women are open! (Blue)
- Cause she's totally got the hots for our King, just saying ;D (Blue)
- Ooooh Sota and I will defs help you, giiiirl! (NaoNao)
- And my name is 'Ai' for a reason! (Ai-Love)
- I'm sorry, but as your rival I can't help you. But I'll fight you fair and square, hun! (Masuo-ka)
- I'll help either one of you if you pay me (itokyo)
- Anna! Take this post down! Pleaseee ;-; (ShigemiSun)
\\This is a Boss appreciation post, 'cause he was super freakin awesome today! (Shooter)
- He complimented me! (Yammer)
- The way he took down that Noise was just woah (sotERRa)
- Just woke up, but saw the replay of Boss' fight – just mind-blowing (Yoji-buraza)
- Shout out to the King, 'cause with him we always win.(K1ce)
- All hail King Neku! (Blue)
- We need to find out what his favourite food is…then maybe he'll finally join us for dinner (DoubleYuu)
- I'll try and find out. I'll get on those burgers that I said I'd cook soon (ShigumiSun)
\\Can we talk about that talking Noise, though? (JUN)
- I mean yes, the replay with the fight was cool but it was the talking Noise from the message. (JUN)
- But are we sure that the Noise in the message was the same Noise as from today? (Lily)
- Good point (JUN)
- So basically it's one boss fight down and ? number of fights to go! (Fumin)
- Yeah, there must be more where that came from. Would be cool if we knew how many more. (7Majima).
- Hopefully not a lot more (Miki-chan)
\\Teru-teru-bozu, teru bozu. Do make tomorrow a sunny day. Like the sky in a dream sometime. If it's sunny I'll give you a golden bell. Teru-teru-bozu, teru bozu. Do make tomorrow a sunny day. If you make my wish come true/ We'll drink lots of sweet rice wine (StrawbEri)
- "User 'StrawbEri' has been deactivated." Yep, just checked, it was definitely disconnected (Ai-Love)
- …So, it's really her ghost?! (kYO)
- Eri, if it's really you, please stop haunting us, 'cause you're scaring Nao (sotTERRa)
*** From now onwards, please refrain from commenting on the posts by 'StrawbEri'. I believe that it could be a hack by the Noise. More information on this matter will be posted at a later date. (Tatsuya Omura)
#Hit the Deck – Current Song - Fitz and The Tantrums - The Walker