Part 84: Scale
content warning: suicide mention
BGM: Chilling With Sidekicks
06/29 (FRI), Night
I've never been a fan of the atmosphere in this part of town at night. I come in regular clothing, but that doesn't stop random guys from trying to chat me up. There are also plenty of drunks around, despite it not even beeing 8 p.m. I come across a sign that I definitely would've missed had I not known about it beforehand as I make my way through this awful place. MILK CROWN is located here; its entrance is partially underground. Music from a popular rock band plays over the store's speakers. It's an all-girl band called Silky Strawberry, if I remember right. I've seen them on TV before. As for the customers, there's only one. A lone man sitting at the counter.
Yo. Federico and I used this place for our meetings, so I've become something of a regular. Well, Federico ended up getting banned after stirring up some trouble here, it seems. What do you want? My treat.
I'll have some juice. Whatever's fine.
It's obvious someone underage like me shouldn't be in a place like this. There are numerous bottles of various types of alcohol lined up on the shelf behind the counter. They seem expensive, judging by the intricate bottle designs. Scale has a glass already. Inside is a slightly transparent fizzy yellow drink. Obviously, I have no clue what it is, but it doesn't seem like beer. While nervous about being in this sort of establishment, I make it a point to not let Scale influence me.
I'm given a glass of mixed juice. It even has an orange slice wedged onto the rim of the glass. I thank him for it, and then Scale gets right to the point.
I want to stay on the side of justice as much as possible.
And what does that entail, exactly?
The idea of justice in our world has been debated to the point that it's become somewhat irrelevant, but I'm a firm believer that there's no ideal definition of what is and isn't just.
For example, let's say a young boy takes revenge on the person who murdered his parents by killing the killer. Both acts are criminal, but can you say the boy is an evil person for doing so? I can't.What's important is their mindset when doing so. He may have committed a crime, but I would say the boy's actions were just.
Sorry, but I'm not quite understanding you. What is it you're trying to tell me?
I once figured that both Alan and Federico were evil, but when I consider what happened to them in their lives, I've come to think that maybe they are, in fact, just. Now to get to my point... Don't you think we should all try to elect and protect ourselves?
You remember what Miharu told us, don't you?
Divine Selection is a ritual carried out to determine a vessel for the goddess. While true that we would be able to live on, Miharu made it clear that things will become tenuous if more than one participant remains.
That's why I'm saying we should try it. Parca allowed us to consider the possibility by hinting at its existence. We can decide what to do following that once we see what she does. Truth of the matter is that there's nothing else we can do until then. There's the possibility that it's all a ruse, too.
She did only say that we would cross that bridge if we ever came to it, after all. Being vague may have been her way of making us avoid that outcome in the first place.
What are you implying?
What if Parca herself would disappear if she is unable to determine a sole vessel to inhabit?
I gulp way too loudly. He thinks Parca would actually disappear? That's a bit much for me to process. I guess it's a bit easier to grasp when you consider the fact that she has to remain there. At the same time, I'd much rather understand what becoming her vessel entails, along with why she has to rely on the body of a human in the first place.
I'm not confident that everything would go smoothly in the first place, but well... The five of us made it this far. Wouldn't you say we've got it in us to make it past anything at this point?
His voice is full of confidence. The way he speaks reminds me of those politicians who go around and make public speeches. Chances are good that I can't conceal my suspicion toward him with that image in mind.
I'm well aware that you can't trust me, considering I tried to elect Miharu despite our alliance. Hardly a just act on my part, after all. That's why I'd like you to hear about my life first. You likely have all my info at this point, so I don't need to worry about handing you any new cards.
I say nothing, but he opts to continue anyway.
BGM: Intel Investigation Underway
My name's Scale Jones. Born September 30th, making me a Libra.
His life story follows.
He was born in America. Along the outskirts of Texas, to be precise. His childhood was as normal as could be. He lived a simple life with his parents, an older brother, and a dog. However, comparisons between him and his brother became common as he grew up. Not only was his brother always top of the class, he was exceptionally skilled at any and all sports. He was even on par with Scale's own friends on the football team who had been scouted. Scale was compared to his brother at every turn due to this, which became a source of stress for him. It led to him coming to hate the brother he once spent so much time with as a result.
However, it was a camera that saved him from all of that. His parents bought him one for his fourteenth birthday, which he became obsessed with. He was able to find joy in taking pictures. His parents soon came to understand that he was gifted with immense artistic sense. He was different from his brother and his parents began to accept this. Apparently it was Scale's own brother who suggested the camera to his parents, as they were at a loss with what to get him. This caused Scale's hate to turn to respect.
His interests shifted toward advertising following this. Thus, he made his way to the city to study graphic design at a local college. He did this because he figured that it would be hard to earn a living solely through taking pictures. His goal was to learn how to make the most from the pictures he would take.
I was always called out to the matches our school were part of in high school due to everyone knowing about my hobby. I wasn't too pleased with that, in all honesty. Things changed when I went to college and started living on my own, though. It felt like a whole new world opened up for me. That was the moment I realized just how engaging it could be to capture big moments in sports.
Each and every moment was valuable, though. You'd never capture the best shot without proper knowledge and experience, not to mention luck!
You really do love it, huh?
That's my honest impression based on his facial expression as he talks about it. He's almost like a little kid telling someone about their favorite toy. It's nothing like the impression I got from our search for his information and what Alan shared with me. He's very... human, I guess.
I doubt I need to explain the rest to you when you have all three of my cards, but I will say that the Olympics is the pinnacle of athletic activity to me. I always wanted to capture the moment someone from my country won a gold medal. So much so that it became my regret.
However, he moved into the entertainment industry after a brief stint at a newspaper. To be more blunt, he became a paparazzi. He made sure to detail that, too. It turned out that the father of one of his friends, who had been employed at a real estate firm, was a famous actor. However, the paparazzi had evidence of him committing adultery. What's more, it turned out it wasn't a single affair. He had been seeing others for years, and he even had an illegitimate child. I'm not too familiar with foreign films and stuff, but even I'd heard of the person before.
Not only did the mass media close in on my friend, he had to deal with harassment as well. Mostly by those close to the illegitimate child. None of it was major, but it piles up nonetheless.
Turns out that person was pretty horrible, too. He was jealous of my friend and the career he had built for himself. His logic was that there shouldn't be such a big difference between their lives when the same blood runs through their veins. Of course, the real difference was the amount of effort put in to get to where they are.
Some of the harrassment constituted minor offenses, too. It all ate away at my friend until he eventually chose to kill himself.
Ironically, that served as the trigger to wrap the whole scandal up. I bet you're wondering why I'd become a paparazzi after hearing that, though. It'd make more sense for me to hate them, wouldn't it?
I'm of the mind that my friend's father was most at fault. None of it would have ever happened if he hadn't cheated. There can't be evidence of something that never took place, after all.
Celebrities have the opportunity to fix their attitude should they be involved in a public scandal. That's why I see the paparazzi as more of a force that can stop them from doing what they shouldn't. That's why I feel that my decision to become one was just. Not that I expect you to accept that logic, haha.
With that, Scale's lengthy monologue ends. I now know a side of him that I never would have learned otherwise. He has his own convictions. His own way of life. I can't say I understand or feel for him, but I can't deny that he's gone through his fair share in life.
Electing Miharu was proof of my weakness. I feared the idea of her being able to gather my information with ease, and that fear drove me away from justice. To that end, I can honestly say that I'm glad she was able to protect herself. That relief brought me back to the side of justice. Now I want to make the right choice, which is for all of us to survive.
So please... believe me.
Scale places his arms to his sides and bows deeply. He must have done some research on the best ways to influence people from Japan.
I believe you.
There's no hesitation in my response. I already know how I feel about him. It was the answer I'd decided on as soon as he started his story. Perhaps since he called me, even.
I trusted you would say that. Thank you.
But I pass.
As much as I believe you, as much as you've convinced me that you're as human as I am, it doesn't matter. My decision has been made.
Even I'm surprised at how cold I sound right now. I never knew I had it in me to speak in this tone.
I'm going to elect you.
I chug what remains of my juice. The tart flavor makes me wince a little. Following that, I ask the bartender the price and then hand over 1200 yen. About as pricey as you'd expect from this kind of place.
I'm glad I was able to get to know you. Now I'm sure that I won't forget you after I eliminate you.
I leave a dumbfounded Scale behind after I walk away. Part of my doing that is to avoid him trying to convince me otherwise, as that's the sort of person he is. I knew how I was going to respond, but I'd be lying if I said my conviction didn't waver as I heard him out. I know I'm a big softie. It's in my blood, after all. The hustle and bustle of the streets outside is as loud as expected, and yet I somehow feel like I can hear a scream of pure anguish come from inside the bar. I grit my teeth and make my way back home. I have no right to feel bad about the decision I've made. I know that.
But I can't help but place a shaking hand over my shaking heart.