Part 35: Memories of Battle
05/30 (WED), Morning
Here we go again, loitering around Ushizuka Shigetsugu's house. Seems like he's the kind of guy who enjoys his morning walks. He might be happy that he doesn't need to worry about his back pain, but c'mon. How does anyone enjoy walking the same path over and over again? Whatever. The only thing we care about is that there's no one home this time of day. We're trying to think up a way to sneak in while he's out. And when I asked Odette what we'd do inside, she gave me a quick answer.
Look for keepsakes or mementos.
Not that any more needs to be said. It's pretty obvious what we'll do. The only piece of info we're missing is his regret. Chances are he's been living here forever, based on the crappy condition of this house. That means he'll have stuff that's been sitting around for ages. The kind of stuff that'll point us toward his regret, most likely. So basically, we gotta find keepsakes or mementos that link to the life he's led.
All right, so how're we getting in?
Smashing a window in would do the trick.
Trust her to make it even more obvious that she's about to commit a crime. Geez... Ain't no way we can get away with doing that in a place like this. It's not the middle of the night, either. It's still way too early in the morning. We at least avoided the morning rush, but that doesn't mean the streets are empty. I let out an exasperated sigh loud enough for Odette to hear before offering my own suggestion.
Lemme handle this one. Thanks to my time in the mafia, I know how to pick a lock or two.
Huh. Guess you've got some use after all.
I dunno about modern locks, but I should be able to bust this basic one open in about three minutes. Keep an eye out for me, though. Maybe no one cares about him, but I think everyone would report a fella like me trying to pick the lock on someone's door.
Fine, fine. Go ahead and enjoy your moment.
Just as she shoots a smirk at me, someone makes their way out of the house. Bingo. He's off for another morning walk. After making sure he's far enough away, we slip over to the door.
Let's do this. Keep an eye on the street for me.
All right. Before you start, though... You were paying attention to what he did when he left, right?
So? Did he lock the door?
I get what she's talking about. He never did turn around to lock the door after leaving. When I think about it, he didn't lock it yesterday, either. I guess that's why Odette never mentioned anything about the lock in the first place. I bite my tongue to stop myself from cursing at her before twisting the doorknob.
So much for getting my time to shine. I open the door, remove my shoes, and carry them in one hand as I make my way in. The interior looks the way I expected. Dilapidated wooden furniture, newspapers and magazines littered all over, et cetera. But holy hell, is it small. I dunno if it's normal for Japanese houses or not, but you can barely fit anything in here. In fact, me and Odette can't stand shoulder to shoulder without getting pressed against the walls.
Great. Time for some good old-fashioned rummaging.
Her expression is glowing as she opens and closes her hands in a grabbing motion. We probably don't need to worry about being loud while he's out, but I'm not too comfortable with Odette speaking at her typical volume.
Their VA is listed as Miho Saito; this seems to be the only role they've ever been credited for, at least under this name.
That little question takes us by complete surprise. It's a kid's voice.
I don't recognize the voice, either. That geezer's supposed to be living by himself, so there shouldn't be anyone else here. I know I didn't imagine it, though. Someone definitely called out to us.
What a pain.
There are two of you, I take it.
The voice is more clear this time. But I can't tell if it's a boy or a girl. Definitely a kid, though.
I recognize those voices from somewhere... Oh, yeah! In the dream world!
Welp, that helps to explain things. Ain't no doubt about it now. The runt's a participant. Based on the voice, it's gotta be Numeral IV-
Didn't think I'd run into the blank kid here.
Numerals III and XI... I never expected you two would be working together.
And I never expected the old geezer to team up with Numeral IV...
We express our mutual disbelief simultaneously.
With that out of the way, the kid approaches us. Looks to be just over five feet tall. Ain't Japanese, based on the facial features. That's for sure. Looks real young, though. I'd guess they're in the middle of puberty, so... thirteen or fourteen? Their voice hasn't broken either, which makes it a doozy to discern gender. Based on their overall figure, though... I'd guess female.
Mind explaining things? Why'd you call them the 'blank' kid? Their name? If so, how'd you learn it?
Ohhh, I never told you. This kid's name card was part of my initial batch. But for whatever reason, the card's blank. I figured it'd appear once I met them in person, but that hasn't really been the case.
The kid's expression shifts upon hearing Odette's claim. Their guard has just gone up.
So if it's blank, does it mean this kid don't got no name?
Who knows. Care to find out?
Do you really think I'd tell you?
The kid tries to provoke Odette with a glare, so she scoffs back.
Even if I wanted to, I wouldn't be able to tell you. I don't know my own name. I realize that I'm a participant in Divine Selection, but I don't remember a single thing from before that. How I died, what my life was like... Not even my own name.
...Amnesia or something?
Sheesh... That little goddess sure doesn't understand a thing about fairness. You can't just scrape someone up after dying and throw them back into the world without any memories.
Wow, you can actually sympathize with someone?
It ain't sympathy, dumbass. It's pity.
With that, she moves her sights back onto the kid.
Are you working with the old crone, then?
Working? No. We don't plan on getting involved, so we're just living out our normal lives.
...Wanna run that by me again?
So you're fine with getting killed off?
Of course not. But if we let you people eliminate each other, then we'll eventually be the only two left.
What'll you do then?
I want to let him live. He helped me when I was lost and took me into his home, even though I'm a participant. I don't have any memories, so I don't even know what my regret is. My life is fun with him, though. That's why I want it to last as long as possible.
Both of us are staring the kid down, but they don't flinch in the slightest. Normally I'd call bullshit on a story like that, but the kid's different. Their expression makes it clear they ain't lying.
Well, you probably guessed that we're here to find anything that'll point us toward the geezer's regret.
His regret? Not his cause of death?
Too bad, kid. That one's in the bag already.
I'll have to make sure you leave empty-handed, then. I'm sorry, but you can't set foot inside this house.
They lower the tone of their voice, making their threat obvious to us both. This sudden shift takes me by surprise, but I mean, we're dealing with a kid.
In other words, there's something here that'll give us a clue. Either that, or you already know it yourself.
H-Huh...? How did you...?
Got yourself to blame for tha tone, kid. Shoulda kept your mouth shut.
Oh, right... This is the first time I've met any participants other than Shigetsugu. You two must be desperate... That's why you're reading into everything I say.
Screw this. We've come this far, so let's just force our way in.
I glance over at Odette to get her agreement. She smiles and nods in response.
Ain't everyday that we agree on something. Let's shut this kid up and find what we're looking for before that old bag of bones gets back. Wouldn't be hard to shut him up when he gets back too, but we've still got a few days before the next election. Last thing we need is for them to call the police.
I am thinking the same thing. Things would get real annoying real fast if someone were to cause a ruckus here. Our passports and stuff might be good fakes, but it'd be tricky to sneak around with the police on our asses. We ain't the most decent people in the world, either. They'll find plenty to hold us on if they're given a reason to check our histories.
I don't see any cameras, so all we gotta do is make sure you won't spill the beans.
Don't get any funny ideas, kid. We'll let you go if you beat it now.
Damn. You sure know how to act all tough against people weaker than you.
BGM: The Battle Begins
Both of us move toward the kid. But they still won't budge. Hell, they provoke us even more.
I'm going to protect Shigetsugu from you.
Heh, the brat's got guts! You handle things here. I'll keep an eye out at the entrance.
The quickest way to shut someone up is to crush their throat. It won't kill them, but it'll keep 'em from singing for a few solid days. I step through the narrow hallway, my hands aimed at the kid's throat. They manage to move quickly enough to dodge under me.
Speedy little brat!
It's pretty common for smaller targets. But in the end, a kid's just a kid. I've got the longer reach, not to mention the physical advantage.
They turn their back to me and make their way further into the house.
Gonna run after all that talk, huh?
All they've done is move into another room. Noise travels pretty easy in a cramped house like this, so as long as it ain't one of them ninja houses, it shouldn't be hard to find them.
I'm not running.
They pop back out from the room they ran into. I kick at them with my left leg. It creates enough distance so that they won't be able to reach me.
That won't work...!
They dodge under me again, but it's not a big deal. As I bring my leg back down, I smack the kid with the back of my heel.
It connects with their shoulder, causing them to falter for a moment. I was aiming for their head, but they ducked out of the way in time. With my foot planted back on the ground, I move in for the kill again.
The hell are you doing?! Move!
Before I can react, the kid has slid right beneath me. They used the impact from my heel hitting them to close the gap between us. Don't tell me the brat actually let themselves take the hit... It's too late for me to do anything, though.
I have no idea if I manage to let out a scream or not. I tried to block it, but there was no way.
The kid clenched their first and let loose with a flying uppercut straight into my crotch. Before the pain kicks in, I lose all feeling in my body for just a moment. And then the sharpest of pains rushes through me, almost like the organs above my groin are being strangled. My hands cover my crotch on reflex as I crumple to my knees.
They don't stop there, though. Pain starts to rush through my shoulder next. This isn't pain from a blunt strike, though. It's from a sharp object.
Tch. I missed.
They're holding a knife in their right hand, which they had used to stab my shoulder.
Holy shit! That hurt!
Fortunately it hit the seam of my jacket, so I got away with a minor cut. They must've run into that room to grab the knife, so I assume it was the kitchen.
That's odd. I'm sure I was on target for the carotid...
I do my best to collect myself, but the pain from my crotch isn't making it easy to move. They retract the knife and take aim for a second stab. Somehow, I manage to throw myself out of the way just in the nick of time. Although doing so leads to me faceplanting into the floor. I turn to face them, and see no hesitation on their face whatsoever. At least the pain's starting to fade. I raise my knees in order to kick myself back onto my feet and dodge the knife. Turns out that isn't their plan of attack. Instead, I can tell another shot at my crotch is coming.
Not wanting to experience that again, my body unconsciously ducks in order to dodge it.
I won't miss this time.
The next moment, a mammoth shadow passes over top of me.
Odette has launched her massive leg right into the kid. They block with both arms crossed in front of their face, but the impact still sends them flying across the hall.
You're kidding me. You lost to a little kid?
Nobody in the world would believe that. If I'm being honest, I am terrified by how focused they were on decimating my loins.
The kid flings the knife across the hall toward us. Odette dodges it with ease, which leads to it clattering harmelssly on the floor. But the knife wasn't twirling around or anything in mid-air. It flew straight as an arrow.
Who the hell are you, kid?
I'm not sure. I just know that I can do this kind of stuff.
Your body remembers what your brain doesn't, I'd say!
Odette plucks the knife from the floor and chucks it back at the kid with even greater speed and precision. They knock it aside with a frying pan they've grabbed from nearby before scuttling off into the room across from where they got the knife. It was a tiny window of opportunity, but they took full advantage of it.
Off to get another weapon, huh? Hey, get your ass off the floor!
I jump to my feet the millisecond she shouts at me.
BGM: The Battle Begins
Tch... What're they gonna bring out next?
I made the mistake of trying to kill you when participants can only die via elimination.
They reappear, muttering something at us.
But how will you handle this?
They brandish something in both hands, which they then heave toward us. Guess I'm their target again.
Ain't gonna hit me like that!
Looks like they've decided to chuck screwdrivers this time. Four of them, each around four inches long, are heading my way. Not like they'll hurt unless they catch you right in the eyes or mouth. Not great weapons, unlike the knife. All four scatter across the floor as I dodge them with a backstep. Odette charges in as soon as I step back to evade the flying tools.
He ain't the only one you gotta deal with, kid.
She prepares to use a spin kick.
The kid must've seen it coming, though. They grab Odette's leg with their left hand and propel themselves upward, in what looks like a handstand. The ceiling is low enough that their feet reach it after that maneuver. Following that, they utilize the ceiling to propel themselves toward me yet again. With an even bigger knife in hand, mind you.
Why's the kid gunning for me?!
I ain't dumb enough to let someone leap straight into me. Their skill might've taken me by surprise, but I can dodge this, no problem. I slide my right foot back to do so.
Christ, how can you be this stupid?!
Her insult isn't directed toward the kid, but to me. My foot doesn't slide across the floor when I pull it back. Instead, I trip over something.
It's not like I've tripped over thin air, either. My foot has caught on something hard. It's one of those screwdrivers the kid had thrown at me a moment ago.
Now you're mine.
The kid uses the opening to thrust the knife into my side.
This time it digs deep into me. They retract the knife immediately and put some distance between us, their eyes watching Odette all the while. Blood starts to gush out of me, dousing my jacket. Fortunately, my ribs took the brunt of the blow, so my insides aren't damaged. I probably have a few cracked ribs, though. That probably would've killed me had the kid been a bit stronger.
Tch... Useless son of a... Let's jet.
I am already starting to lose consciousness when she says that. From what I manage to hear, the kid has no intention of chasing us down.
BGM: The Memory Remains
And then I dream. A dream so foreign to reality that I almost think it is another world entirely. I dream a dream about the one thing I've ever truly cared about. About the regret that only I could know about. There's an even more simple reason behind how I can tell it's just a dream. Because... there's no hope of me ever achieving it. This is a reality that will never come to fruition. A desire that I've convinced myself to give up on. The fact that I'm dreaming of it now proves I've still got regrets about it, though.
BGM: Chilling With Sidekicks
Just as I start to wonder why my ass hurts, I notice that I'm sitting by a road. Odette's standing beside me, a plastic bag in hand. I assume she dragged me all this way from that house. Must've stopped by a convenience store on the way to buy provisions, too. My side is still killing me, but it's all bandaged up and treated.
First-aid's a key skill on the sea. Can't let a wound like that fester, otherwise you'd be a goner.
You're a damn weakling, you know that?
I can't find any words to rebuke her with. I just click my tongue and shake my head. I looked down on the kid because of their age, but it wasn't just that. They completely outplayed me.
That aside, chances are the kid went through some kinda training that they forgot about thanks to their amnesia. That's why... Hey, what's wrong?
Wouldn't you have been better off just leaving me behind?
Gross. I'm gonna puke if you keep talking like that. Besides, I told you we'd work together, and you've still got some value. I ain't the type to break a promise. Usually.
Usually, huh? Doesn't inspire much confidence.
Shut up and have a drink.
She hands me a miniature bottle of wine. Normal folks wouldn't give an injured person alcohol, but hey, she's anything but normal. As further proof, she's already downing a drink herself.
Chilean wine, huh...? Oh, well. I'd be pissed if they sold the good Italian stuff in some crappy store around here.
You'll be fine if you've got enough energy to run your mouth. Even so, you should probably take it easy for the next week or so.
Just me, huh... No point in arguing with her when I know she won't listen. Instead, I pour the wine down my throat like it's water. It ain't top shelf stuff, but Chile's wine is pretty decent for the price. The taste of red wine helps me to settle down. You won't find may people out on the street drinking wine straight from the bottle back in Italy, but I gotta admit, I ain't against it. After enjoying our wine and a sandwich, we trudge back to our hotel.
That kid's gonna be real fun to deal with. I'll make sure to crush 'em next time.
I can tell that she isn't gonna go out looking for revenge on my part. That'd be pretty unnerving by itself. But I know her, and she's doing it for her own sake. It's been over a month since Divine Selection started, so I've managed to pick up enough clues to figure out what she's thinking every now and then. It's pretty ridiculous, but she's just looking forward to pummeling that kid.