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Element

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by roule, Oct 26, 2017.

  1. roule

    roule take it all or leave it... I Feel You

    Please stop me from writing more fics.

    Anyways I hope you enjoy! Sorry that I haven't been writing much, schoolwork has really really drained me lol...

    ELEMENT

    1.

    THE GIRL FROM DON QUIJOTE​


    Mizuki doesn't know why she's bothering.

    The painfully bright lights of Akihabara flash around her, cars zooming past as she walks down the street, loud cries of "ALL DOUJIN 50% OFF!" and "JAPAN POKEMON LEAGUE TICKETS HERE!" humming painfully in her ears, and large, elaborate signs for arcades and comic stores hang over her. As she moves, she tries her best not to bump into hip-looking teenagers walking with pikachus crawling up their shirts, and lonely, geeky looking men who she can smell even from a distance, pokeballs visible on their belt, who practically leer at her and her pokemon.

    The white cotton mask itches on her face, but she doesn't dare take it off. If she takes it off, some fan will probably recognize her and start a huge hubbub, again. Akihabara is her stomping grounds, and being here makes her extra paranoid.

    Why does the most reliable shop to get albums have to be right under her stage?

    And why does she have to get the stupid album, anyway?

    Riorin asked for someone to get it for her so that she could send it to her parents back in Sapporo. But, she couldn't get it herself, oh no, because she was scared of being stalked this late at night. And she couldn't wait for tomorrow, either! She had to get it now! Right, f*cking, now!

    To be fair, she should cut her some slack. Riorin is only seventeen. Mizuki used to be scared of being stalked too when she was her age.

    However, in this job, you get used to it quickly.

    So, naturally, she walked over to her senior, batted her dark eyes and smiled her sweet pink smile, and begged her to go get it for her. Mizuki probably should have told her to wait until morning, but the practice room stank of sweat, she had nothing better to do and she itched to step outside and focus on something other than dancing the same three songs.

    She regrets saying yes now, 'cause the city smells worse than sweat. Oh sure, it reeks of sweat, but out here, the smell of sweat mixes with piss, pokemon feces, cigarette smoke, and booze. It's nearly un-f*cking-bearable.

    Atsuko is still hiding her disgust, looking at her with a curious look in her eyes, and waving her blue-and-white flippers at people. The seal pokemon rests heavy in her arms, and her owner's arms wobble with the effort of picking her up. Mizuki almost wishes that her brionne would show her true emotions, but she doesn't either, so why should she care?

    Why should she complain in the first place, her mind asks, millions of girls would kill for your job, and yet you're angry over errands that can be done in about thirty minutes tops, and dancing? You literally sing and dance for a living, do you even realize how easy that is?

    She sighs and shakes her head as if to dismiss the argument, long strands of dark hair brushing against her face. Up ahead of her a large skyscraper, the Don Quijote building, juts forth, its LED screens displaying a large pink sign reading "AKB48 THEATER 8F", and displaying a large picture of about ten girls smiling warmly from the chest up, all wearing the same uniform of a plaid jacket, white button-up shirt, with red and yellow ties.

    Mizuki sees herself in the middle, with long dark hair down to her back and surrounding her round face, her bangs cut straight and swept to the side. She's smiling, warm and sweet for the camera, her dark crescent eyes looking down upon the street like she's watching the people passing by. Atsuko spots her owner, and makes a happy squeaking noise, waving at her like she could respond. Mizuki feels a chill run up her spine as she walks past the picture, even though it's the hottest day in July, and adjusts her grey t-shirt as she steps into the building, a blast of cold air greeting her.

    Don Quijote is an ugly, garish department store, with signs for literally everything covering the store, makeup, jewelry, chocolates, and an oddly named thong brand made specifically for men, you name it. The signs are bright colors, yellows and reds, blues and pinks and purples, that blend together into a blob of nothing a person's eyes after about five minutes of looking at them. The aisles seem to always be overflowing with all sorts of crap, almost everything is up too high for anyone to reach without an assistant's help, and the aisles are practically maze-like, almost impossible to navigate, all while a chirpy, annoying jingle plays endlessly in the background...

    Mizuki loves it.

    Over the years, she's found a meaning to the madness of the store, and fell in love with its tackiness and confusing aisles selling literally everything. It's pure chaos masquerading as a store, and probably the most convenient place to shop at, by far.

    She finds the music section after a few minutes of aimlessly browsing through t-shirts with weird designs, Atsuko singing along to the jingle and swaying with it. Thankfully, there's one copy left behind, the picture of her jumping the air, wearing an all-white dress and looking childishly innocent tormenting her. She imagines, for a brief moment, that the Mizuki on the cover is laughing at her, mocking her. But, Mizuki shakes her head and ignores the thought, as Atsuko clamors over her shoulder, squeaking loudly.

    "Whaddya want?" Mitsuki smiles, patting the pokemon on the back, trying to stop her from slipping off her body and falling to the dirty floor. Atsuko slaps her back, and squeaks, gesturing to the shelves behind her. Following her flipper, Mitsuki rolls her eyes at the sight of the bright metallic pink packaging of strawberry pokepuffs and stuffs them into her basket.

    "Now, don't say I never did anything for you," Mitsuki grumbles, a hint of a smile hiding under her mask. The brionne hums triumphantly, placing her flippers on her imaginary hips the best she can while being held, and smiling smugly at her owner.

    Mitsuki clicks her tongue almost in a chiding manner as she walks out of the music aisle aimlessly, not paying attention to where she's looking, mainly looking at Atsuko looking happily at her. When she finally looks up, she's close, mere inches away from collision close, to another customer. She's about to bow and apologize as she steps away, but she stops halfway through, staring in awe.

    The person in front of her is a tall, lithe woman, white t-shirt showing off her moderately muscular, yet pale arms, and… not so flat chest. Mizuki notices that white cloth bandages cover her knuckles and part of her index fingers, possibly from a fight. Her black Adidas sweatshirt wraps around her waist, like some sort of skirt, and she's wearing dark jean shorts, tight around her legs. Her dark hair twists and turns over her shoulders like waves, reaching to her back. However, what confuses Mizuki the most is that the girl is wearing some sort of red, possibly religious mask, completely obscuring her face. However, she cannot see the rest of the woman's mask, only the mask's mane of wooden black hair, the sharp red curve of its cheekbones and red horns protruding from her forehead.

    In the woman's hands, Mizuki notices a glossy pop culture magazine, open to some sort of gossip column, chattering about the current Prime Minister's bachelor status. Despite her best efforts not to intrude upon her, the idol finds herself watching as the woman turns the page. A picture of Mizuki looks up at the mask-wearing woman with an almost innocent look on her face, wearing only a black-and-white bra with a floral pattern, and lacy panties. The Mizuki on the page has one of her bra straps in between her fingers as if she was fidgeting with it. The real Mizuki feels her face burn red, and Atsuko shifts in her arms, squeaking softly at her owner. She vaguely remembers the shoot a few months ago - all her shoots tend to meld together nowadays - and she feels a mixture of discomfort at seeing the pictures again, and a weird feeling in her belly she can't quite pin down.

    The woman next to her lets out a sudden breath, as if she's been holding it for a long while, and stares at the picture. She's unmoving for a moment, and questions churn in the idol's head. Then, Mizuki watches as one of the woman's fingers reaches out to the page, and traces the outline of her body slowly and methodically, starting with her chest.

    Mizuki shudders, but before she can analyze the weird feeling coursing through her, a person wearing all red standing next to her steps around the woman. It walks towards Mizuki, and the idol realizes that it's not a person, it's a pokemon, a bright red insect about her height, with a thin abdomen, large oval thorax, thin red legs, and massive round pinchers, with black circular markings that make them look like heads. It looks at her with thin, orange eyes peeking through its metal carapace, almost studying her.

    Mizuki flinches away, trying her best to soften her posture and not provoke an attack from the scizor. That's what you should do, right? She tries to remember the guidelines for preventing a pokemon attack, taught to her in a pokemon training course that everyone who gets an ownership license has to take. However, she can't think of anything, the stare of the mantis too intimidating. It's focusing more on Atsuko, who is cowering in her owner's arms, with her head in her t-shirt and squeaking loudly.

    Before Mizuki can bolt away to safety, she sees the woman's hand tap the scizor's shoulder gently, mask still not visible. The woman speaks a Slavic-sounding language to her scizor in a low, raspy tone, and the scizor glances over at its owner.

    It nods and follows her out of the aisle, and Mizuki sighs in relief, before fuming internally. Why would that woman let such a dangerous pokemon out to roam in a department store full of people? What if it suddenly attacked her, or anyone in the store? Mizuki shudders at the thought of all that destruction and death and hugs Atsuko closer to her chest.

    Besides, she thinks, that woman was generally pretty creepy. The mask covering her face, tracing her semi-nude body… What was she, some sort of perv? It's tempting to just call the police, but Mizuki decides against it. Not worth the trouble, not worth the potential media coverage. Still, what did her mask look like? The idol feels curiosity bubble underneath her skin, and she tries to whisk the thoughts away, but the curiosity still remains.

    After a little more browsing, she ends up walking towards the front, by the counter, which seems to be overflowing with cigarette containers towards the back and duty-free goods for tourists. The woman is standing in front of her, the scizor by her side, shifting from one foot to the other. The cashier, a short man with a round face and a fake smile, attempts to engage her in conversation.

    "Are you a fan of AKB48, miss?" he asks, smiling up at her, as he scans a package of cookies.

    The woman shrugs.

    "I'm more of a… casual listener," she grumbles, her Japanese fluent to the surprise of Mizuki. "I have too much shame to be anything more."

    It didn't look like she was a casual listener back there, Mizuki growls to herself.

    The cashier laughs and reads her final price. She pays, and tears at the paper receipt, placing it in her bag with a quick motion. Slowly, Mizuki watches with anticipation as she turns around to leave, letting her get a tantalizing glimpse of her mask.

    She almost jumps out of her skin.

    Her mask is a deity's red face, his eyes wide open and staring at her, two eyes where they normally would be, and one open sideways on its forehead, between its eyebrows. Its mouth is open wide in a grimace, long white fangs visible, and Mizuki can just make out the woman's eyes peeking out in the gap of its mouth. Mizuki can't bring herself to say anything or move out of the way, just stares at the woman. The woman stares back, hand clutching her plastic bag, scizor by her side.

    "Sorry," the woman says, her hand twitching nervously. She slides past the idol, scizor close behind her. Mizuki stares incredulously at the woman as she walks out of the building, the door shutting behind her.

    "…Alright," Mizuki mutters to herself, before shaking her head. The cashier just shrugs his shoulders.

    "After working here for two years," he sighs, as he scans her items, Atsuko squeaking at him and waving. "You just kind of accept the crazy ones… Not like she's hurting anyone."

    "Is she allowed to have a scizor in here?" the idol asks in her best 'concerned consumer' voice, her eyes wide. The cashier shrugs, a smile on his face.

    "She has a license and a permit for it," he says, reaching out to pet Atsuko, who sings happily to herself. "And it's one of the better-trained ones I've seen. Most of 'em that come out will see themselves in the mirrors by the cosmetics section and try to fight themselves, and some of them cause a big mess. This one just kinda looked at itself, then walked past."

    "Huh," Mizuki hums in response, before the cashier thanks her, and she walks out into Akihabara, the loud street noise almost overpowering her. Atsuko snuggles into her t-shirt, eyes slowly shutting, and she smiles and pats the seal pokemon soothingly.

    The idol spends almost the entire walk to the subway station thinking about the woman in the terrifying deity mask. What the f*ck was her deal? What did she get out of wearing a mask that scares the sh*t out anyone who looks at her? She's seen her fair share of weirdos, but none have gotten under her skin like this. Why? Why does she care so much?

    Probably 'cause she looked at that picture of me like a starving animal, she snarls.

    She shakes that thought from her mind.

    Mizuki climbs down the stairs to the train station quickly, scans her pass absentmindedly, and sits down on a bench, waiting for the train to arrive. Her mind floats back to the woman, but she closes her eyes tight, trying not to think about her. No point in getting angry over some nameless person, it'll just waste her energy away. What was the point of lingering on her anyways? It isn't like pontificating about her will make her stop somehow...

    The train pulls into the station with a screech, thrusting the idol from her thoughts. She steps on the train, sitting in an empty seat. Mizuki fidgets with the mask on her face subconsciously, the cotton itching and feeling unnatural. The phantom feeling of eyes staring at her itches under her skin, a burning, searing sensation, and she shivers. Briefly, the idol wishes that she brought a coat to hide into, but deep down, she knows she wouldn't end up using it.

    During the trip to Shibuya, the train teeming with people standing in front of her, she mainly stares at her feet and picks at the fuzz on her dark yoga pants, Atsuko asleep in her arms. Mizuki cannot bring herself to look up, afraid that someone will see her here, and try to talk to her, ask for an autograph, or make a move on her. Still, she feels someone looking at her, but she brushes it off as paranoia.

    After the robotic announcer reads her station, she slips out of the train, before the train makes a loud hissing noise, and the idol jumps out of her skin. Atsuko squeals, suddenly awake, tugging at her owner's shirt sleeve. Mizuki frowns, and coos comforting words down at the seal pokemon as she leaves the station, stepping out into the bright streets of Shibuya.

    Slowly, as she's making her way down the darker residential areas of Shibuya, Mizuki begins to notice a low, clicking noise. It's metallic in tone and follows a strange rhythmic pattern that confounds her. However, what scares her the most is the fact that it's following her, not moving away as she walks down the street, towards the studio. After a little bit, she hears a woman's voice speaking in a low tone, inaudible to Mizuki but… familiar. However, she just ignores it, letting the thoughts of paranoia and "stalker?" roam her mind.

    When she's three blocks down, close to the studio's steel building glinting in the moonlight, Mizuki loses her patience. The clicking is closer, louder now, and the voice is lower in tone, as if not to startle her. It's itching at her mind, scratching bright red, and if she keeps hearing it, she'll punch this person in the face and run all the way to the studio screaming.

    She whips her head around to see the mask-wearing woman from before, looking over at the scizor, who clicks its pincers in an odd rhythm, left sometimes and right other times.

    She wasn't losing her mind, she was being followed! By that creep from Don Quijote! The woman had seen Mizuki's picture in that magazine, and stalked her to Shibuya, and intended on doing dirty things to her!

    Mizuki knows that Atsuko holds no chance against the mantis, the brionne being not very fond of combat, much like her owner. So she reaches for her can of mace, always in the front pocket of her purse.

    Before she maces the woman, she shouts at her, waggling the can in front of her:

    "You think you're really sneaky following me over here, don'tcha?"

    The woman looks over, and freezes, hands in her pockets. The scizor doesn't react, just looks over at Mizuki, staring with an unreadable expression.

    "Didn't think I'd notice, huh?" Mizuki growls, finger twitching. "Did you really think I wouldn't notice you following me?"

    "I'm not following you," the woman says lowly, not moving. The scizor makes a low humming noise.

    "Then what are you doing?" the idol snaps, anxiety searing through her body.

    "Walking home," the woman says stiffly, and points to one of the pale, modern and fancy apartment complexes, jutting up around them. "I live there."

    "Really?" Mizuki asks, anxiety slowly leaving her veins. "You aren't lying?"

    "Why… why would I lie about living here?" the woman asks, cocking her head. Her scizor imitates her, crossing its arms.

    "You saw me in Donki," the idol says bashfully, darkness hiding her blush. She tucks her mace away in her purse pocket, Atsuko sniffing at her hand. "I-I thought you might've been trying to…"

    "No," she says frostily, a layer of venom to her voice. "I'm just heading home."

    "Good," Mizuki sighs before a pang of anger comes over her again. "Then, why are you wearing that f*cking mask? You do know that wearing a mask like that makes you look more suspicious, right? If you didn't wear a mask covering your whole face, especially one with a screaming demon face, maybe people like me won't think you're a crazy murderer!"

    "I can't take it off."

    "Why can't you take it off?"

    "My face is broken," the woman murmurs, a sad tone to her voice. Her hands fidget in her pants pocket. "I can't take it off."

    Mizuki sniffs at that response, rolling her eyes. She should call bullsh*t, but Mizuki feels embarrassment at randomly yelling at some lady off of the street, and a little bit of… sympathy? The idol sighs, shrugging her shoulders, and the scizor starts clicking her pinchers again.

    "Well," the idol scoffs, itching at her elbow. "You should still wear a happier mask. One that's less scary. Why are you wearing this specific one?"

    "I thought it was a nice mask," the woman says, a smile in her voice. "It's painted and carved beautifully… The cashier told me it was hand-carved."

    "Well, it's scary regardless!" Mizuki retorts, crossing her arms. The woman jumps back a little. "There are young girls living in this neighborhood, and if you keep wearing it, they could call the cops on you, even if you're doing nothing! Would you want that?"

    "...No," the woman says glumly, shaking her head. She stiffens, kicking at a rock on the ground. "I wouldn't want that."

    "Then, you should buy a new mask," she huffs, adjusting Atsuko in her arms. "You seem like a nice lady, so you should wear a mask that reflects that!"

    "Hrm," the woman nods, and the scizor snaps its claws again. Suddenly, the woman barks out a laugh, and turns towards the insect, chattering in a foreign language to it.

    Then, the woman turns towards Mizuki again. The idol raises her eyebrows, Atsuko squirming in her arms, smiling up at the mask-wearing woman. The woman's hands slip to her sides, a pale bluish in the moonlight

    "Thank you," she says softly, in a warm, complimentary tone. "You're very kind. I hope this isn't the last time we meet."

    Mizuki nodded, and her feet itched to leave. Sure, this lady was nicer and less of a creep than she expected her to be, but practice probably ended about ten minutes ago. If she didn't get back soon, she'll be chewed out by Mii-chan and their manager, and she wants none of it.

    "Yeah, you too," she hums absent-mindedly, rushing for the glass door of the studio building. Atsuko squeals in her owner's arms as Mizuki scrambles to get up to the third floor, rapidly clicking the metal up button on the elevator. For a few seconds, she thinks she's free from a lecture, that she's made it back in time.

    However, she sees the shorter woman standing to the right, leaning against the door. Her hair is short, only reaching to her round chin, and she's scowling at Mizuki, eyes dark.

    "Zuki-chan," Mii-chan says lowly, looking her up and down. "Where were you?"

    "Uh, nowhere," Mizuki says, smiling widely. Atsuko smiles up at the idol, waving wildly. "We were just walking around the block, really."

    "Don't lie to me, you have a bag in your right hand," the other girl snaps, her eyes wide in anger. "Why did you shirk practice?"

    "Riorin wanted me to get a copy of the new album!" Mizuki exclaims with a fake smile, showing off her plastic bag. Mii-chan looks down at her bag, before looking up at her with a bored expression.

    "Why did you listen to her, then?" she snaps, pointing her finger into her chest. "You should always be focused on your training! Riorin could have waited, but you took the initiative to skip out on practice!"

    Mizuki sighed internally, and prepared for a long lecture about how she should always 'put AKB48 before anything else in her life'. Of course, Mizuki understood why Miichan was always so harsh on her. She'd once gotten caught with her boyfriend at the time, and after a gigantic scandal that involved a shaved head, she was forced to become a trainee again. She worked from the bottom up, back into her current position as leader of team K, and didn't want the same to happen with Mizuki. All her rants came from a kind place, out of protection.

    Didn't make it any more fun to listen to…

    However, Miichan stops talking, the noise of metallic footsteps filling the room. Mizuki looks over her shoulder to see the scizor from before, walking over towards the girls. The senior idol shouts in horror, dashing backward to protect herself. However, Mizuki stays frozen out of shock, unable to move her feet to run. Its owner is nowhere to be seen, so it must've gone rogue, like all those pokemon attacks shown on TV! What was it going to do? Atsuko squeals angrily at the scizor, trying to wriggle out of the idol's arms to get at the scizor.

    The scizor walks up to her, and stops, staring at the two of them again. Mizuki's feet are frozen, and her body shakes profusely. It tilts its head to look at her, before reaching one of its pincers out, towards the idols chest. She looks down and sees the pink metallic bag of her pokepuffs in its round claws.

    "Oh," Mizuki says, exhaling shakily. It just wants to return her pokepuffs. She points to her chest, the gesture hopefully visible to the mantis pokemon.

    The scizor nods, and nudges its pincer closer to her chest. Gingerly, Mizuki picks the bag of snacks out of its razor-sharp claw, hands shaking. She bows in thanks, and the scizor tilts its head again. Its unmoving for a few moments, before slowly, gracefully curtsying, causing Mizuki to giggle.

    With that, the scizor dashes out of the studio lobby, it's wings humming softly, moving very quickly. Mizuki can see the red pokemon bolt across the street, probably running towards its owner.

    Suddenly, Mizuki notices a dark car sitting in front of the studio, barely visible in the night. She can barely make out the fuzzy, dark shape of a person sitting in the driver's seat, yellow streetlight surrounding their form like a halo, head looking over at her. They look at each other for two minutes, four minutes, eight, then the person turns, hits the accelerator, and speeds away.

    The idol blinks in shock, briefly wondering if she's made a serious mistake, before Atsuko' squealing brings her back into reality, as Mii-chan drags her into the elevator to scream at her some more.

     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2017
  2. JX Valentine

    JX Valentine Ever-Discordant

    I have to say, this is probably one of your better openings, if not the best. On a technical level, all of the elements here are pretty much spot-on. At the risk of bringing up older works, a lot of the basic issues present in the first chapters of snowstorm or even Across the Delta and a lot of the awkward language of All Mon Are Brothers aren't present here, and I mention that only because it's rather awesome to see how far you've come in such a short time. I mean, you started snowstorm last year, and there is a definite difference between the level of quality there and the level of quality here—which is to say, excellent job!

    Getting into the specifics here, what I think is satisfying so far is that you're very quick to plunge us into the world of your story (that signature real-world-meets-Pokémon that you tend to do), but you do it subtly. You describe your Japan just enough to give us an idea of bustling crowds, of the cluttered Don Quijote, of bright lights and loud signs, but you don't rely on exposition to do it. You weave every detail into Mizuki's excursion to Don Quijote and back, so we're drawn into this world by way of seeing it through her eyes—a nice little stroke that gives us an idea of what this world is like as well as who Mizuki herself is. (You can tell off the bat that she doesn't seem to be a people-person, for example, by how she's walking around with a mask and actively avoiding the "hip-looking people" and all. Granted, she has valid reasons for both, but still.)

    And then you have the nameless character. I admit I kinda laughed when Mizuki nearly attacked her with mace, only for her to go, "I live here." It's just interesting to see Mizuki, who's clearly this character full of energy, jumping to all sorts of conclusions about this mysterious stranger who, apparently, just wants to be left the eff alone. Granted, the mask is a bit of an odd touch, but hey, eccentrics. That and you do an excellent job at establishing that one will definitely be hearing a lot more of this girl from this point forward. (Already, her chemistry with Mizuki is amazing, for one.) Also? Fantastic job at making this girl seem hella creepy right before Mizuki tried to attack her. I was definitely getting the vibes of those Japanese and Korean ghost stories about those vengeful spirits who'll literally cut you if you encounter them in an alley. You know the ones. (Hoo boy, that one comic, amirite?)

    In any case, I admit there was only one thing I was really confused about here, and that was Mizuki's reason for being out and about on her own in the first place. For a celeb (even one that had been bumped down to "trainee" status), it seemed odd that all she had to protect her was a pokémon and the hope that no one would recognize her if she wore a mask. (That ... probably wouldn't work, but then again, Mizuki doesn't strike me as the brightest bulb in the bunch. We are talking about a girl who nearly jumped a stranger with mace just because they were walking in the same direction.) That and one would think that she'd be able to get copies of her own CD pretty much for free. Or via assistants, if she really wanted.

    On the other hand, again, Mizuki doesn't seem like the brightest bulb in the bunch, so maybe that also says something about her.

    In any case, this was a lighthearted yet fairly strong start, and I'm interested in seeing where you go from here. Keep up the good work!
     
  3. Cutlerine

    Cutlerine Gone. Not coming back.

    I have to say, I agree with Jax here: this is a much, much stronger opening than many of your previous fics, technically. What's particularly great is how saturated the whole thing is with Mizuki's character; you really capture that sense of what it is to be someone in her position, someone who is both more at risk of being stalked than others and also hyperaware of that fact. It's because the world is so strongly filtered through her psychology that the woman in the mask doesn't necessarily seem that strange, I think. Like all of us, Mizuki does her thinking partly in her head and partly using the space around her, and the fact that you represent that so well means that the woman in the mask kind of slips between being an independent entity and a figure in Mizuki's imagination. There's this sort of … I don't know how you'd describe it, poised surreality maybe, which means I don't know quite how to take the masked woman, and that means that it's much easier to accept her as an entity roaming around the story than it would be if you simply played it straight and said “yeah, there's a woman walking around Tokyo wearing a full-size Himalayan deity mask”. It works really nicely.

    I think the only points of potential criticism I'd offer in terms of how you set out the story were the ones that Jax already mentioned, so I won't repeat them, but there are a few typos and other things here and there that I noticed:

    'Lowly' is only really ever used as the adverbial form of 'low' in the sense of low in position or humble; when talking about speaking in a low voice, it would be more natural to just say 'in a low voice', I think.

    You're missing a full stop at the end there.

    You're missing an S there.

    Other than those really minor things, though – yeah, there's not a lot to find fault with here! It's an atmospheric, spooky, funny opening, and when you can apply all three of those adjectives to the beginning of the same story you know you're onto a good thing. Definitely looking forward to finding out where you plan to take this in the next chapter.
     
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2017
  4. I haven't reviewed something in a while, so I decided to go with a new fic to take myself off the hiatus.

    Now, I have read a little of Across the Delta, but other than that I'm not really used to your work. I can say that this piece intrigues me more than the former, mainly due to me not being a huge fan of war fics (both fanfic and original fic) in general, but like Jax and Cutlerine I can say that the writing in this is really good. I did note a few typos here and there (mostly the ones shown by Cutlerine), but everyone makes them!

    Now, onto what the fic is actually describing. While I do think that Mizuki could've been a little more clever with her anti-fangirl plan - mainly getting a Pokemon that can defend itself well, although that may just be my perspective - I do understand where it's coming from. In my experience of being online, some (and may I emphasise some, not all) K-pop and J-pop fans are completely obsessed with their favourite bands to the point where band members are sent death threats if they marry someone or have a child, so I think Mizuki has got a good idea going with her mask.

    Noam onto red mask lady. Firstly I must say that until I actually saw the mask she was wearing, I had an idea of a more elaborate version of Kane's mask from WWE (don't ask me why, he's not a deity and the mask doesn't cover his whole face), but I think that's just a me thing, and nothing to do with you. Onto her personality, I find her really intriguing in that since we are seeing her from Mizuki's POV, we have no idea if her kind remarks are genuine and she's just a civilian with an odd mask or if she's actually a really creepy stalker woman with an odd mask. (I do have one suspicion about her based on one of my original ideas of my own fic, The Back Aleeys of Ecruteak, but I'll leave that for now.) As for her Scizor, blimey, isn't he(?) just a gentleman! I'm a fan of how you make this brutish Pokemon so polite, sicnr it almost works as a comedy factor and gets a little chuckle out of me. Either way, can't wait to see mask woman and her civilised companion later on!

    Just before I round this off, I feel I have to mention that I can't stop picturing Miichan as an angry little Nintendo Mii. Thanks, brain.

    So yeah, this is a great start, and I can't wait to see where it goes from here! Good luck!
     
  5. roule

    roule take it all or leave it... I Feel You

    Thanks to Jax, Nerdy and Cutlerine for your feedback! I'm glad you all enjoyed my fic (enough to nominate it already :p), and it feels nice that I'm improving and not staying stagnant...

    Anyways, I mentally chalked up Mizuki going out late at night to get something that she could've gotten easily otherwise as her going stir-crazy and wanting to leave. I probably could've added a few more lines in, but I'll try to clarify it in Chapter 3. And I'll make sure to fix the grammar errors! Someone alerted them to me on FFnet, and I fixed them there but not here, lmao.

    Anyways, please enjoy!

    2.

    ONE OF ONE​


    AGATKA

    The woman slowly opens her eyes, her dark hair covering her face. She blinks to the clear the crud from her eyes and scratches at the base of her neck. It takes her a few seconds to recognize the bleach-white walls of her brand-new fancy apartment, and remind herself that she's in Tokyo now. Back home. Where she belongs.

    AGATKA WAKE AM HUNGRY!

    The woman grumbles to herself, rubbing her eyes again. Sasha is at the foot of her bed, staring down at her with her amber eyes. She stares back, blinking slowly. The scizor clicks her claws very quickly, tapping out an audible message in Russian morse code for her.

    WANT FOOD VERY HUNGRY AGATKA LISTEN

    "I knoooow," the woman responds, placing a cotton mask on, barely covering her broken face. "I know you want food, Sasha. I gotta get up first."

    AGATKA MAKE FOOD?

    The scizor tilts her head, seeming to visibly lighten up.

    "Yeah, what else am I good for? " she jokes, sitting up from her bed. The scizor makes some sort of cheerful noise, clicking out a constant tapping of 'AGATKA', and runs out of the room, towards the kitchen. The woman shakes her head in amusement and disbelief.

    'Agatka' wasn't anything close to what her real name was. Originally, Sasha called her what her uncle called her when the woman lived with him and his wife:

    Wh*re.

    It wasn't her fault. In one of her uncle's better moments, he told her that scizors like Sasha have the intelligence of a five-year-old child, the smartest bug-pokemon alive. Had to do with the minerals that made up their carapace or some bullsh*t the old man told her. Their intelligence made them both hard to train and easy to train. The mantis just repeated what he had yelled at the woman more than once, without any knowledge of it being wrong.

    However, she doesn't know how 'wh*re' became Agatka, but after they had left home for Moscow under… bad circumstances, the scizor only called her Agatka. No more 'wh*re'. Any attempts to ask her how she decided on that name, especially why she chose a Polish spelling of the name, proved futile, with only a response of "DON'T KNOW" in return. Not that she complained. Agatka was perfectly fine because it was far, far away from her real name and real identity. Perfect.

    Speaking of that, she thinks, as she slides into the kitchen, she needs a new name for Japan. She doesn't feel like Agatka is necessary anymore, like it's a remnant of an extremely bad time in her life. It'd be nice to use her real name, sure, but with those skeezy-looking f*ckers from the competition tailing her now, she doesn't want to risk it. But… what will it be? She tries to think up some good names, but she comes up blank.

    The woman shakes her head, turning towards the fridge. For the next few minutes, she busies herself with getting breakfast ready, cutting up chicken and frying an egg on her stovetop, smiling and singing happily to herself.

    She's missed this. A lot. Back in Moscow, when she lived with Nikita in their cheap-*ss Soviet-style apartment, she'd mostly settled for kielbasa and cheese on white toast, before the two of them ran off for work. He'd go to work at a local 'Matrix' supermarket, the woman would go to her desk job at a natural history museum. Crappy jobs, sure, but they kept food on the table and their lights on. Now…

    Distantly, she hears her ringtone go off, an upbeat enka song her father loves to sing to. The woman walks back to her room quickly, and snatches up her phone, placing it between her shoulder and ear.

    "Hello?" she asks, her voice raspy with sleep.

    "Good morning, little mouse," Nikita chirps, and the woman smiles at the familiar nickname, "I'm assuming it's morning there. Is it?"

    "It is," she says softly, moving towards the kitchen, "I'm actually making breakfast now."

    "What is it?"

    "Omurice,"

    "What is that?" Nikita says, a tone of curiosity in his voice

    "An omelette over chicken rice, drizzled with ketchup," she describes, and Nikita makes a humming noise in response, "my dad would make it for me when I was little."

    "Mm," he says, and the woman imagines that he's rubbing his nose with his index finger, a habit of his, "speaking of him, have you visited him at all? You are a lot closer now..."

    "No," she sighs sadly, twirling her hair, "it's better that we don't see each other. Especially since now that they know…"

    "I know," Nikita says soothingly, and the woman sighs out of her nose. "I just think I would be good for you. You seem to be talking a lot about him, recently."

    "I just… see him a lot more now, Nikita. With his new job and everything. It's really hard, because I know he's not, like, deadbeat. He loves my mom, was always there for us, and he'll be ecstatic to see me… But…"

    "I know, dear. Try your best to keep your head up. Everything will smooth itself out in the end. They'll leave us alone when they can't get what they want."

    "Enough about my problems," the woman sighs, running her hands through her hair, "what about you? How's England? Meet anyone new?"

    "It's going well!" Nikita says, his tone upbeat, "I got a job as a barista at a local cafe, while I wait to hear from the colleges I've applied to…"

    "That's good," the woman hums, nodding her head, "better than me, at least."

    Nikita laughs, before pausing. There's a short, awkward pause.

    "I'm also seeing someone."

    "Oh?" the woman says, her eyebrows raising, "Who?"

    "He's from work. His name's Kavi," Nikita explains, slowly, as if he's worrying that she'll be upset, "He reminds me a lot of you."

    "How so?"

    "Well, he's very mysterious, like you were at first."

    "So you're looking for that trait in guys now, huh?" the woman jokes, drizzling ketchup over her plate of omurice. "I did have an effect on you!"

    Nikita laughs, snorting in between breaths.

    "Kavi's really quiet and reserved when you first get to know him," he says, cheerfully, "but when you get closer to him, he's just like a big teddy bear. All cuddly. You'd like him."

    The woman smiles, rubbing her eyes. Pride rushes through her at his excitement. Good for him.

    "You're lucky, Nikita," she sniffs, looking over at the blank television. "I met a cute girl last night, but she almost maced me."

    "Was it the mask?"

    "Yeah, I chose a new one that wasn't… ideal. Very pretty, but…"

    "Let me guess," he says, amusement palpable in his voice. "you chose a mask with like, a demon's face on it."

    "...You could say that."

    Nikita sighs, and clicks his tongue chidingly at her.

    "Next time, you should text me the picture of the mask before you buy it," he says, and the woman sighs, "it'll save you a lot of trouble."

    "Yeah, but we're not in Moscow anymore. By the time I get to Donki, you'll be asleep."

    "'Donki'?" Nikita asks incredulously.

    "Don Quijote. Weird department store," she says, and out of the corner of her eye, she sees Sasha approach, "it's like Matrix on cocaine. Three floors full of the most random-*ss sh*t in existence."

    "Oh boy," Nikita groans, "I'd hate working there… All that crap to s-"

    WHO PHONE?

    "Nikita," the woman says, looking over at the scizor, "just Nikita."

    I SEE

    Sasha bobs her head in a nod, before walking back, towards the couch. She sprawls out on it, leads spread apart, and the woman snorts.

    "Was that Sasha talking to you?"

    "Uh huh," she says, as she walks over to the fridge, grabbing a chicken breast, and a massive container of superworms, "listen. I gotta go. I need to eat breakfast and feed Sasha and Layka."

    "Oh, well, I'm glad you're doing well," Nikita says, his melancholy audible. "but if they contact you again, call me straight away, alright? Two heads are better than one."

    "Right," the woman says softly, "bye-bye Nikita."

    "Bye, little mouse."

    Click.

    The woman stares at her phone for a few moments, unable to move.

    If this were normal, like in the movies, she should feel angry or miserable that Nikita is moving on so quickly after their time in Moscow, but she doesn't. Instead, she's glad. She's f*cking ecstatic! Good for him for finding someone who actually could love him, like he deserves!

    WANT FOOD AGKATA

    The woman shakes her head as if dislodging something from her brain. She walks over to the kitchen counter, and slices up the chicken into halves, and quarters. She scrapes it all into a bowl and sets it on the floor. A few seconds later, she hears claws scratching on the wood flooring as a tan wolf approaches her, looking up at her with baby blue eyes.

    "It's all yours, Layka," the woman gestures with a sweep of her arms, "enjoy."

    Layka sniffs up at her, before sniffing at her food. Quickly, she chows down, tearing at the meat with quick jolts of her head. The woman watches for a moment, before grabbing her omurice and Sasha's superworms, and walking to the dining room. Layka follows her to her seat, dragging her bowl with her, and Sasha sits in front of her and grabs the container. The scizor slices it open, and begins to feast.

    The room is silent for a few minutes as the three of them eat before Sasha clicks out a message:

    YOU SEE NO FACE GIRL AGAIN?

    "Hrm?" the woman says, picking at the remains of her rice.

    NO FACE GIRL

    "'No face girl…' The girl from last night? With the mask?"

    YES. YOU SEE AGAIN?

    "Oh, I don't know Sasha," the woman sighs, resting her chin on her palm, "I don't think she likes me."

    WHY?

    "I scared her because of what I was wearing. She thought I was going to hurt her."

    YOU WEREN'T

    "I know I wasn't," the woman says, rubbing the bridge of her nose, Layka lies her head across her owner's lap, looking up at her, "but… To her, I looked scary. A masked lady with a scizor doesn't get you a lot of friends, especially that late at night."

    TRY AGAIN

    Sasha taps impatiently, hitting the table with her pincer.

    "I will, I will," the woman groans, before looking up at Sasha and narrowing her eyes, "why do you care?"

    LIKE HER. SWEET GIRL.

    The woman rolls her eyes and shrugs. It's better than Sasha hating her, and trying to fight her on sight. And… she sort of understands why.

    Half of her face was covered by that cotton mask, and yet, she'd been immediately drawn to her. Maybe it was because she sort of looked like that idol in her magazine, Mizuki Shiro-something, how her eyes looked or whatever. Usually, those AKB48 girls freaked the woman out, most of them had this creepy innocence to them, with photoshoots or music videos of them wearing school uniforms, or getting into pillow fights. Stuff no adult does. It made the woman want to pull down the blinds while watching it like she'd be humiliated or arrested if she was seen with the video on her computer. At least in Russia, when she gave in to her base urges, the models looked like adults. Here… they look like teenagers, barely grown up.

    However, that Mizuki girl from the magazine seemed more mature, like an actual adult. Sure, she was smiling childishly to the camera, but she wasn't dressed like a schoolgirl, more like a normal woman. Jean shorts instead of pleated skirts, simple grey t-shirts instead of the sailor suit. The woman actually found it sort of endearing, how personal she acted with the camera. She understood why that magazine sold well, why it was the only copy left. It gave you the illusion that you were the person she was looking back at, with her cheery smile, that you were the one that made her that happy. It filled her with a warm, fuzzy feeling (amongst the normal hot feelings that arose from seeing an attractive woman half-naked) that soothed something painful and blue in her heart.

    So, the woman ignored that nagging voice that told her to not be overt about her… preference and she bought the magazine. She remembered the rush of adrenaline and anxiety sitting awkwardly at the base of her belly, churning painfully as the cashier tried to joke with her. That's the difference between countries, she thinks, if she'd been this stupid in Russia, she would've been either humiliated for it or taken outside and then been beaten until her face looked even worse than before. Here…

    The woman tries to distract herself from her thoughts, running her hands down her face. If she thinks about Russia, she'll just be standing here for the next hour. She's in a different cultural environment now, but that's part of why she came. That's why they both left. And she just has to adapt, be like the reeds instead of like an oak tree.

    After cleaning her dishes, she grabs the offending mask of Mahakala, it's wide eyes glaring at her. It's still rather pretty, but now, she sees why she shouldn't wear it. The voice in her head screams at her for being so f*cking obtuse, overlooking other people's feelings for her own. Idiot, idiot, idiot, the voice chimes, no wonder she doesn't like you. The woman grimaces, and puts down the mask, running towards the bathroom.

    She looks at herself in the mirror, examining her face. With the cotton mask, she notes, you couldn't see most of her scarring. However, two scars, one across her nose bridge and one diagonal across her forehead, are visible, despite her best efforts to hide them with her bangs. She groans, knowing that she'll be unable to hide them without severely limiting her vision or putting band-aids on them, so she just decides to keep them visible. Still, she feels ill looking at herself, stomach twisting into knots.

    After a hot shower and chugging a can of ginger ale to try and ease her nausea, the woman is ready to leave for Donki, wearing her ratty black Adidas jacket, and dark shorts. Sasha practically bolts over to her, hissing happily to herself. The woman turns back to look at her lycanroc, who is looking at the two of them.

    "You be good, okay?" she says, gesturing with her pointer finger. "I'll be back in about an hour, then I'll walk you."

    Layka sniffs and walks over to the couch. She jumps up on it and curls up on the pillows. The woman snorts, before slipping through her apartment door and locking it. The two walk through the apartment's pale yellow halls, feet clicking on the linoleum flooring.

    The elevator ride down is shockingly silent, Sasha is too busy staring at her reflection on the metal walls to ask the woman any questions about where they're going, and what things are. Sasha is odd, in that she never attempts to attack her reflection, only looks at it. The woman wonders if Sasha knows it's her own reflection looking back at her, not some other scizor. She thinks it's possible, but the woman knows no way of testing that.

    She's taken from her thoughts by the elevator chime as it reaches the first floor, and they step out into the lobby. Granite walls span out in front of them, greenish with flecks of black and white, with a wood desk towards the side. The receptionist, an older woman, is sitting at the desk, the newspaper in her hands obscuring her face. As the mask-wearing woman approaches, she lowers her newspaper, glancing at her with round eyeglasses.

    "Good morning, Ms. Nakano," the receptionist smiles, setting the newspaper down, "taking Sasha for a walk?"

    "Sort of," the other woman sighs, adjusting her mask nervously. "I'm going to the Don Quijote in Akihabara to get some things I forgot last night."

    "Oh, the place under that girl group theater?"

    The woman nods, and Sasha makes a low humming noise out of boredom.

    "You know, I see some of those idol girls around this part of Shibuya," the receptionist says, the smile fading from her face, "their studio is a few paces from here… Some of them are only thirteen! Can you imagine doing all that at thirteen, Ms. Nakano?"

    "No," she says plainly, "I was ugly and insufferably annoying at that age, so I'd probably get kicked out in a matter of seconds."

    The receptionist laughs, but there's a layer of worry to it. Her eyes stare up at the woman, her eyebrows arching upwards.

    "Don't say stuff like that! I'm sure you were cute enough, and you're not annoying at all!"

    The woman nods, the mask covering her sad smile. Stop joking like that, her mind snaps, leave it to yourself.

    "Maybe so," she says softly, stretching her arms, "still. It's not the job for me. I wouldn't like the press breathing down my back."

    By chance, her eyes drift down to the newspaper lying open on the desk. The face of her father looks back at her, a relatively young man, silver glasses resting across his nose. His dark hair is longer now, reaching about to his ears. He's smiling, a familiar smile that the woman knows deeply, feeling a warm feeling resting in her chest.

    The woman wonders if her mother still does his hair when he gets up in the morning, teasing him with a smile. If she makes him his simple breakfast of eggs and toast in the gigantic residence they live in now. She wonders if the geezer is still lying to them whenever they call, so he can collect her monthly allowance. Saying that she's busy, can't pick up the phone right now, but she's doing just fine!

    He must be. They'd be searching for her if he wasn't, right?

    ...Right?

    "Are you alright, Ms. Nakano?" the receptionist asks, looking at her in concern.

    The woman shakes her head, almost dismissively.

    "I-I'm fine," she says, breathing in and out, heart thumping in her chest, "Have a nice day."

    Before she can hear the receptionist's response, the woman slips out of the revolving doors

    Shibuya in the morning is already bustling with swarms of people, heading back and forth, to work, school, or wherever. The woman really didn't f*cking care about any of that, the only thoughts in her mind being of her father, and his new job.

    When the news of this new position of his first reached her, she was sitting in a pub in Moscow with her tight-knit group of friends, where the music was always just too loud and the old wood tables too crowded, but the beers were cheap enough for the lot of them. She'd been drinking with her friends, Nikita close by her side, his dark hair curled around his ears and his smile bright, as he held her hand gently under the table.

    The woman — her name was Agatka at that time — was slamming down her sixth shot of a cheap whiskey that tasted like gasoline and zoning out from the conversation at her table when Nikita had spoken to her, nudging her shoulder softly.

    "Aggie, didn't you live in Japan?" he asked, and her face contorted in confusion.

    "Yeah, I did. I was born there, actually," she said, and looked at her then-boyfriend with a smirk, "Why are you asking, Nikita? Wanna brag about your sexy girlfriend?"

    "As much as I'd like to… No," Nikita grinned, and gently elbowed her, "but I think you may be interested in what's on TV."

    He gestured towards the television that hung in the corner, and the woman glanced over. Russia-24 was blasting on it, loud enough for her to hear over the chatter of the rest of the pub. A dark-haired newsreader looked back at her, a white smile plastered on her face.

    "Tonight in Japan, a shocking victory for one of it's newest political parties," she read, and the woman raised her eyebrows as she sipped her whiskey. "Hideaki Takenaka, a member of the newly formed Constitutional Democratic Party, is poised to become Prime Minister of Japan after an unexpected win over the ruling Liberal Democratic Party."

    The TV turned to an image of her father grinning, his hand gestured towards the blue rosettes lining the list of the names of his fellow winning party members. Distantly, the woman felt her shaking hands slowly set her shot glass down, as she stared at the TV with wide open eyes.

    "The forty-year-old representative of Iwate is the youngest prime minister to take office in the history of Japan," the presenter continued, barely heard over the blood that rushed in the woman's ears, "Takenaka's surprise victory heralds a growing tide of dissatisfaction with the…"

    Whatever was said next was hastily ignored by the woman, as she stood up shakily, face pale. She heard Nikita's voice distantly, as if he stood at the edge of the bar, while she ran outside, the bitter Moscow cold greeting her. The woman ran over to the curb, got down on her hands and knees, and hurled into the gutter. Above her, she heard passerby making disparaging remarks or huffing in disgust as she heaved again, tears blurring her vision.

    After a few more heaves, she felt a pair of arms lift her up, and she turned her head weakly. Nikita looked at her, his eyebrows turned upwards in concern. The woman coughs weakly.

    "Please don't vomit on me," he tries to joke, but there's no laughter in his voice. "I just got this coat."

    The woman snorted.

    "What the f*ck happened, Aggie? You usually hold your booze just fine, so something's obviously wrong…"

    The woman sighed sadly and closed her eyes. It was impossible to keep things from Nikita, so it was best for her to tell him now.

    "My father's the new Prime Minister of Japan," she slurred, and Nikita's eyes went wide.

    "Holy sh*t, really?"

    "Mhm," the woman choked, before sobbing weakly.

    "Well, why are you crying, then? That's f*ckin' great!" Nikita smiled, before his face fell, "D-did he hurt you?"

    The woman shook her head, snot running down her face.

    "I can't see him," she sobbed, "I haven't seen him in three-f*cking-years, Niki! My uncle told me that if I spoke to him, he'd reveal everything."

    "Everything about what?"

    "All my family's dirty laundry! They think my father's a bachelor right now, Niki… What would happen if the Japanese public found out he has a illegitimate daughter? When he was twenty-two, no less?"

    "Well, now you're away from that old rat-f*cker! Why not call?"

    "Dad still thinks I live with him… I don't want him to worry about me, and I don't want someone to snoop and find out about me either!"

    "Jesus-f*cking-Christ, man," he sighed, and looked the woman over, "well, let's get you home. We can talk more there after you calm down."

    She remembered nodding, as she walked down the street with him. Her head was slumped against his shoulder, and she remembered thinking, that if they were different people, if their orientations had ended up matching, she'd probably be in love with him.

    But of course, they couldn't be. Nothing could be as simple as that, apparently.

    The woman returns to reality, rubbing her eyes with her fist. Sasha is looking at her with some form of confusion in her eyes. She sighs, tapping the mantis pokemon's shoulder softly.

    "Sorry, let's go," she says almost robotically.

    Sasha nods, but steps closer to the woman, never leaving her side. As they walk, Sasha's head swivels around, surveying the crowd that they pass by. She's nervous, looking out for any potential predators in the crowd, and the woman doesn't think she can convince her to relax. The woman doubts that there's going to be any danger, the fact that she's walking with a f*cking scizor should be enough to protect her.

    Donki is just opening its doors by the time the two of them arrive, after a long and uneventful subway ride, a sleepy older woman guides them into the store with a gaggle of boys her age, maybe older. They're wearing relatively simple clothes of a black shirt and pants, but look pale, with sunken eyes looking at the woman. They reek of a mixture of sweat and what she thinks is onions, and she's suddenly very thankful for the mask blocking some of that stench.

    The woman practically darts into the store, speed-walking through the maze of shelves of candy and off-brand clothing until she reaches the stairs.

    BAD BAD BAD

    Sasha clicks out, and the woman wonders if it's either the smell or the fact that she's moving quickly that upsets her. Whatever it is, the scizor's body language is stiff, and her eyes move rapidly from side to side.

    "It's okay, Sasha," the woman smiles, placing a hand on her carapace, "did I scare you?"

    YES

    Her wings hum softly, and the woman feels a small smile grow on her face. It's hard to imagine an apex predator like a scizor being afraid of anything.

    "I'm sorry for scaring you," she hums, patting Sasha's chest.

    The scizor makes a happy noise, something between a squeak and a hum, and hops a little. She rushes up the stairs, stops, and looks back at her owner. The woman huffs out of her nose and slowly meanders up the steps.

    The third floor feels even tighter than the other floors, costumes of all sorts hanging from the black industrial shelves on hangers. Anything that's not an outfit is thrown onto the shelves rather haphazardly, hats, shoes, masks, anything really.

    She imagines that most of the clothes, the school-girl uniforms, the replica AKB48 uniforms, and all that, are mostly for indecent purposes. However, she doesn't want to live in a world where someone uses a bee costume in the bedroom regularly. Or a knock-off Mario costume.

    Through some careful shifting and searching, the woman decides on two masks that look less threatening. One is of a young boy with reddish hair over one eye, the other a yellow cat robot from a cartoon from the woman's childhood. Both of them she likes, they cover all of her face without the need for another mask, and she can walk and see what's in front of her. She holds the masks out to a bored Sasha, after deciding on the two.

    Sasha has always been very picky about what masks she liked her owner to be in. She found one of her tournament masks shredded beyond use once, on the floor of her Moscow apartment. It was a beautiful one of a latias, torn into plastic shreds. Sasha insisted that Layka "DESTROY UGLY MASK" when asked, even though the way it was cut was impossibly fine for the lycanroc.

    So, now she asks Sasha for her approval, so she doesn't waste money on something the scizor will destroy.

    Sasha stares at the masks, orange eyes flickering between the choices. Slowly, she reaches her pincher out and taps the cat mask.

    LIKE

    The woman sets the other mask down and smiles up at the scizor. She rubs her head softly.

    "Promise not to destroy this one?"

    DID NOT DESTROY. LAYKA DID IT

    Sasha growls as if to punctuate her point.

    "Okay, okay. Promise to tell Layka not to destroy it?"

    YES

    The woman hums, and walks downstairs, towards the checkout. Somehow, there are more sweaty teenagers around this time around, and she plugs her nose. Thankfully, none of them appear to be swarming the cashier, so she doesn't stay in line long.

    "What's happening today?" she asks the cashier, the same one from earlier.

    "AKB48's supposed to be here for some stupid promotion," she sniffs, rubbing at her eyes, "Those Team B folks or whatever. They don't give us warning until the day before, so I couldn't call out."

    "Aw sh*t, that sucks," the woman huffs, Sasha glancing over at her, "must be a real b*tch to be around these kids… You'd think they'd put some f*ckin' deodorant on."

    The cashier shrugs, watching as the woman slips the mask on after she pays. She opens her mouth to say something before suddenly, there's the loud screech of mic feedback from the speakers. Sasha screams with it, and the woman covers her ears.

    There's an older male voice alerting the people in the store that AKB48 is on the eighth floor and are patiently waiting for their devoted fans to see them! The man reads the script in pure monotone, and the woman barks out a laugh at the ridiculous nature of it all.

    After a few moments, the feed cuts out, and the boys rush up the stairs, probably to see the girls. Sasha tugs on her owner's jacket impatiently. She sighs and follows her up.

    They follow the gaggle of chattering fans up, the woman regretting her decision to follow Sash more with each floor they climb. The boys around her chatter about something, she's too busy blocking it out to pay any real attention. Her throat tugs at the proximity of these people, and she feels her body break into a cold sweat at the thought of something touching her.

    When they reach that final floor, the chattering grows louder, and the woman winces at its volume. The eighth floor is swarming with people, it's almost impossible to discern any sort of real decoration in it, other than some sort of food stand towards the end with a bright red sign.

    However, the influx of people moving in pushes the two of them forward, and she buries her head in her hands as she stumbles forward. The woman finds herself right by some sort of platform after she uncovers her eyes, and she watches as a group of twelve girls marches onto it. They're all wearing the same uniform, white frilly dresses, with blue ribbons and white high heels, and look frighteningly young.

    The receptionist's voice rings in her head as she watches young girl after young girl walk up on stage, to the roar of the crowd, some wearing pigtails, looking like they’re barely a teenager, others walking cautiously to their positions. It makes the woman want to vomit.

    Then, she sees her.

    A woman, with straight long dark hair down to her chest, walks onto the platform with a bright smile, bright enough for her eyes to turn into crescents, and the mask-wearing woman knows that it's that Mizuki girl. However, there's a different feeling of familiarity in her mind, like they know each other from something. In that moment, she hears Sasha squeal excitedly, and begin to click something out. Through the noise, she strains her ears to listen to it.

    NO FACE GIRL COME HERE

    No f*cking way, she thinks, there is no f*cking way she's the same girl from last night. However, as Mizuki scans the crowd, their eyes meet, and the idol's face falls. She stares at them with an expression of shock, eyes wide, mouth ajar, and the woman is hit with the urge to leave. Sasha squeals excitedly, waving her pinchers wildly, clicking again.

    LIKE YOU NO FACE GIRL PLEASE COME OVER AGATKA WANTS TO TALK TO YOU

    "No, I don't!" the woman hisses, looking over at Sasha.

    Sasha just makes a clicking noise, shakes her head, and pushes her forward with a pincher. The woman stumbles forward, hands scrabbling for balance. Mizuki backs away a step with an expression of horror, and the woman is dangerously close to two security guards, who stare at her with disdain.

    "Stop it! This was a mistake, let's go home, Sasha."

    The woman feels people staring at her, and a murmur starts in the crowd at the sight of one of their idols afraid of someone in the audience. Someone takes her picture, she hears the snap of a phone through the blood in her ears. Her breath comes out in heaves, and her body is shaking at this point. Every ounce of her is screaming for her to run away. Run. Run, run, run, run.

    AGATKA IS VERY NICE NOT SCARY NO FACE GIRL! SHE LIKES YOU VERY MUCH

    "Sasha, that's enough!" she sobs and runs out of the crowd.

    Distantly, she hears Sasha growl as she makes her way to the stairs, then the clicking of her footsteps as the scizor follows her. The woman runs down the staircase, through the store, and out into Akihabara. She leans over the steps and hyperventilates for a few moments, sweat dripping down her neck.

    WHAT WRONG?

    Sasha taps her back softly, and the woman looks back at her slowly. Gently, she stands up, looking at Sasha. Part of her is screaming at her to yell at Sasha for sinking any chances of having a positive relationship with a hot girl, but that would make her no better than the geezer. So she stays silent, pressing her lips together.

    WAS I BAD?

    "Yeah," she sighs bitterly, shaking her head, "you really scared off No Face Girl."

    Sasha's body slumps forward, and she stares at her owner sadly.

    SORRY AGATKA

    "It's fine, Sasha," she tries to sound like she's smiling, patting her carapace, "there are lots of other people out there. I'll make a friend some other way."

    The attempt at comfort doesn't cheer up Sasha. She's sluggish the entire way to the train station, and on the way back. The woman tries telling her jokes, buying her favorite kind of yakitori for lunch (chicken intestine), or talking to her about stuff people walking past them are doing to take her mind off, but the scizor just sulks in silence.

    When she gets home, Sasha just walks over to the grey couch in front of the TV and sits down. Layka walks over to her and sniffs the scizor, resting her head on her legs and staring up at her. Sasha pats her head weakly.

    "Sasha," she says, walking to the scizor, "I'm not mad at you."

    KNOW THAT

    "Do you want me to do something to cheer you up?"

    TURN TV ON. WANT FUNNY SHOW

    So the woman turns the television on to some variety show, with a lot of physical humor. The scizor makes a happy chirping noise and leans towards the screen. She spaces out as she watches some guy get hit in the nuts over and over again, to Sasha's apparent amusement.

    Kick 'em while they're up, kick 'em while they're down, her mind sings as her eyes shut.

    She snaps awake about a half hour later to the sound of knocking against her front door. For a second, she forgets where she is and thinks it's them. She rushes over to her kitchen and grabs her cleaver, before setting it down with a clatter. No, she's not in Russia anymore. They can't hurt her. In fact, it's probably the police, coming on some sort of call due to the concert. Opening the door with a cleaver in hand isn't the way to show them that they're sadly mistaken. So, she walks over to the door, Layka, and Sasha in close pursuit, and opens it up a little, enough to show her mask's eyes.

    It's Mizuki, still wearing her ridiculous frilly dress from Donki. She glares at the woman, her arms across her chest and mouth tight. The woman almost wants to laugh.

    "Mizuki?" she asks slowly, and the idol doesn't react, "What's the matter?"

    She stays silent, looking straight at her. The woman swallows.

    "You know, people are going to think we have a thing going on," she jokes, getting no reaction, "what do you want from me?"

    Mizuki simply grabs the door and pulls it open. The woman barely manages to catch her balance as she loses her grip on the door. The idol's eyes narrow, and she marches into her apartment. Sasha squeals excitedly, happy that she hadn't been bad, No Face Girl is here right now, so she's a good girl.

    "What are you doing? And how the f*ck did you know where my apartment was?" the woman snaps, losing her patience.

    Mizuki looks back at her, her eyebrows raising.

    "Turns out, finding where you live was easy," she growls, and the woman tugs at the hem of her jacket, "you're not exactly good at hiding away, mask lady."

    "I'm not hiding anything."

    "Oh?" the idol smirks, sitting down at the kitchen counter, "Not even a stalking habit?"

    "This again? Look, I'm sorry I freaked you out at the concert, fan meeting, whatever the f*ck it was. Sasha gets a little pushy when she wants something, and she really wanted to see you again… I-I really shouldn't have let her rope me into it, and I'm dearly sorry about ruining your time up there, but-"

    "I'm not talking about the meeting."

    "Then, what are you talking about?"

    "The studio," she says, and the woman stares at her in confusion.

    "What studio?"

    Mizuki stands up, grabs her hand, and forces her out of her apartment, Layka, and Sasha close behind. The woman tugs angrily and manages to herself from the idol, who looks dangerously close to exploding in anger, her face bright red.

    "I need to get Layka on a leash and my apartment locked," she hisses, jabbing a finger into the idols chest, "or I'm gonna end up with a dead lycanroc and my sh*t stolen, and you're going to pay for both!"

    The idol huffs but waves her hand in a sort of 'go ahead' gesture. After the woman grabs a red leash, puts it on her lycanroc, and locks her door, she holds her free hand in front of her. Mizuki takes it and tugs her along again.

    They all pile into a thankfully empty elevator car and manage to make their way out of her apartment without engaging in any conversation with the receptionist, who isn't visible. Must be her lunch break, the woman thinks to herself.

    Mizuki pulls her through the crowds of midday Shibuya, where she can clearly hear people chattering about them, staring right at her. Layka walks close by her side, glaring at passerby, while Sasha is chirping happily to herself, a pep in her step. It honestly feels like she's being led to her execution, yet, she's done nothing wrong.

    At least, she thinks so.

    They march through the lobby of 'the studio', up another metallic, lifeless elevator, until they reach the fourth floor. The studio is a bright yellow room, with a baby blue couch, a flat screen playing music videos on loop, and portraits of every member of AKB48 on the wall. Well, walls. There are about one hundred portraits, and the management is dead set on fitting each girl in a space on one of the walls, so their smiling face is seen by every new girl who walks through. The woman rolls her eyes and shakes her head at the sight of all these young impressionable girls.

    Fed through the machine, she imagines Nikita saying, ground down into a palatable paste. A real pity.

    "What's your name?" the idol asks, snapping the woman away from her thoughts.

    The woman jumbles together ideas for a moment, before coming up with an actual name.

    "Nakano Jimmu."

    "Jimmu, huh?" she sniffs, and Jimmu nods, the name feeling somewhat natural for her, "Weird name for a woman like you."

    "My parents wanted me to live up to the name," the woman sniffs, and Layka glances up at her, "is that so wrong?"

    "No, just... bizarre," she huffs, pulling Jimmu forward once more.

    They walk through the hallways in complete silence. Occasionally, Jimmu sees one or two of Mizuki's bandmates dart past, usually wearing similarly ridiculous dresses, staring at her, and flinching away from Sasha. Eventually, Mizuki pulls her around a corner and into a bright pink room.

    The first thing she notices is the smell of rotting carcass, almost like her uncle's farm back in Russia. The smell hangs heavy in the air, and Jimmu notices Layka drooling on her shoes. She tries to focus on something else, like how close the walls feel, the makeup counters and desks leaning against the walls adding to the suffocating feeling of the room. There's a large portrait of all the AKB48 girls hanging on the wall in front of her, it's impossible to discern any individuals in the picture. A few of the girls from Donki are hanging around, their faces grim. One of them, a short girl with dark hair in two pigtails, walks up to Mizuki, but the older idol stops her from speaking and gestures towards one of the walls behind the mask-wearing woman.

    Jimmu turns to face it. There's a mint green couch against the wall, and she rolls her eyes at the garish color. On the cushions, there's a dark red stain nearly covering the entire couch, and the corpses of four dark rattata lay across it, their mouths hanging open and necks lolling to the side.

    The woman's seen dead pokemon before, having to clean the gory aftermath of a few scizor fights gone wrong. Usually, that mess was rather easily cleaned up by using a hose for the blood and a magnet for the remaining pieces of the losing scizor. They weren't really fond of leaving any mess behind when they killed pokemon.

    However, all Jimmu can think about is how much of a pain this mess is to clean. First, you destroy the bodies, which are probably already rotting and full of bugs, wash the cushions if possible, spray some sort of cleaner, and hope that the girls forget this.

    "Why did you do it?" Mizuki asks suddenly, hands on her hips.

    For one second, Jimmu wishes she can beam her incredulous expression into the idol's brain.

    "What?"

    "Why did you kill all these rattata, and leave them for the world to see, huh?" she prods the woman's chest hard, "Why? Is this your way of confessing, having your scizor tear apart some poor rattata and leave them here?"

    "Zuki-chan…" one of the girls starts, and Mizuki waves her away.

    "You're obsessed with me, aren't you? You can't stop thinking about me, so you follow me down to Shibuya, go into our studio with that stupid demon mask on, and lea-"

    "Neckbone," Jimmu says quickly, staring at the corpses.

    "What?" the idol asks incredulously, as Jimmu turns to face her.

    The other girls look at them, their eyes wide. They're standing far far away from Jimmu, afraid that she'll try something with them. Jimmu begins to pace, her hands fidgeting nervously.

    "Scizor's pinchers have enough strength to cleave nearly any bone perfectly in half. When they attack something with the intent to kill, it's almost always a clean cut," she says, walking over to the couch, "so…"

    Jimmu grabs one of the rattatas corpses, to the screams and shouting of the teenagers watching. She turns toward Mizuki, whose face is pale with horror and disgust, and gestures towards the imperfect attempt at decapitating it.

    "If Sasha did leave you these gifts, the neckbone would've been perfectly severed. This looks like it was sawed off with a sh*tty f*cking kitchen knife."

    Jimmu pauses to set the rattata down. A wave of suspicion and fear runs over her, and she swallows painfully. Can't be them, she's been smart. She isn't using her real name. How could it be them? It's ridiculous. She runs a hand through her hair, sweaty with nerves and heat.

    "This is someone's sh*tty attempt at framing me."

    "Oh?" Mizuki says, crossing her arms, "And who would frame you for something like this, Jimmu?"

    When they'd been at their apartment, they'd always left some sort of hint. It'd be hidden away, in a cabinet, behind a dresser, but always would be there. It was KGB psychological warfare, Nikita told her, it meant that they'd either searched the apartment or bugged it to track them. If it was indeed them, and she prays it isn't, they would've left something for her, to let her know.

    But where would they leave it in here?

    Jimmu pulls the disgusting couch away from the wall and searches behind it. Nothing. She looks under the chairs, makeup counters, and desks. Nothing again. She looks behind another couch, this one purple and kind of saggy. Still nothing.

    Finally, she grabs the picture, to the protest of Mizuki and her bandmates, and pulls it off the wall.

    On the wall, there are three pictures and a thick envelope pinned to it with two push pins each.

    The first picture is of a torracat, standing upon its hind legs and gesturing wildly with an expression of shock. It looks as if it's from some old Soviet children's book.

    The text below it is in Russian, and reads:

    "LOOK AT THESE KITTENS!"

    There's only one kitten picture, and it is of a young litten, puffing up and visibly fearful of a little rufflet chick staring at it.

    The text reads:

    "COWARD."

    Jimmu takes a deep breath, in and out, before continuing onto the next image.

    It's of the torracat from before, its legs positioning like arms holding it's upper body up, and it winks knowingly at Jimmu. There's a note in red ink under the text this time.

    "Tell me, does anyone of you resemble these kittens?"

    "A certain bastard, perhaps?"

    They're here.

    They found her location somehow, even though the two of them had attempted to leave the country without a paper trail, followed her, killed all those rattata, and framed her for it. Nikita and Jimmu had escaped, and they have always wanted them back into the fold for whatever f*cking reason. And would stop at nothing to achieve it.

    Her hands shake, and she feels sick, bile itching and burning in her throat. Still, she reaches for the envelope, her vision blurring with stress. She tears it open, only to find a card with a cute little paper doll cut-out of a bride and groom holding hands. Looking closer, Jimmu notices the groom has a miniature red Mahakala mask, and the bride resembles Mizuki, even adding in a white facemask. She begins to hyperventilate for the second time today, probably some sort of new record for her.

    Jimmu opens the card, and a flurry of photographs fall from it. Picking one up and examining it, she sees the blurry forms of Mizuki and her in the Mahakala mask arguing late last night.

    They had been there the whole time...

    The card itself has print writing in Japanese, then the sweeping red ink Russian cursive underneath reads.

    The Japanese reads:

    "Congratulations on your big day!"

    And underneath that:

    "Thank you in advance for introducing us to Mizuki Shirogane! I'm sure the two of you together will be of great use to all of us."

    Jimmu stands still for a moment, just staring at the card, reading it until it made no sense anymore. Distantly, she sees Mizuki on her knees, picking up the pictures on the floor, and hears her group mates chatter in fearful voices.

    Then, her legs buckle, and Jimmu falls to the floor.

    Notes:

    One of One (1 of 1): a song from SHINee.

    The mask Jimmu buys: Dorami from Doraemon

    The mask Jimmu doesn’t buy: Kitaro from GeGeGe no Kitaro


    Kick them while they're up / kick them while they're down: lyrics to "Dirty Laundry" by Don Henley.

    The name “Jimmu”: The name of the first emperor of Japan

    The cat images: 1, 2, 3
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2018
  6. Cutlerine

    Cutlerine Gone. Not coming back.

    This continues to impress! I definitely think this is the strongest of your fics to date. Sasha has real character, much more than I think the other pokémon in your fics have had; I love the thought that's gone into how scizor might communicate, and her relationship with Jimmu is adorable. She has as strong a presence in the fic as any of the human characters, which, for a pokémon partner, feels very much like the right thing to me.

    The information we get in this chapter is so much better paced than it was in, for instance, Across the Delta – the way you integrate the discussion of Jimmu's various names and her history with her uncle with her back and forth with Sasha works really well, so that everything seems relevant and nothing seems forced. We don't get too much of it, either. With Yulia, I felt like we learned everything all at once, so that there was little more to learn about her as the story developed – but you're keeping things back here, giving bits and pieces as we go through the story and reach situations where the information becomes relevant, and it's much, much more technically skilful.

    If I had a single complaint about the pacing of your exposition, it would only be a very minor one – I feel like in that conversation with Nikita about her father, Jimmu reveals way more than seems natural for one impassioned outburst; I'd expect her to reveal the most important part, maybe, and then perhaps to take the details slower, when the two of them had got back home. She talks about this with what feels uncanny precision for someone in her state of mind. You wouldn't necessarily need to write her saying it all; you could just have her say what if they found out he had an illegitimate daughter and then add something about her remembering it all coming out later on, which is where the specifics would go. But like I say, that's a really minor point – for the most part, I really can't fault the way you've handled exposition here.

    I've also got a few minor things to point out here and there:

    There's some kind of punctuation missing between 'any more' and 'like'; you've got a few options when it comes to what you put there, though.

    That either needs a “she says” afterwards or a period rather than a comma.

    When you start a new sentence in dialogue after the attribution, as here, then the attribution ought to end with a period, not a comma. That's not the only instance – there are a few others, too, so it's worth just quickly reading through again to catch these things.

    I don't think this comma splice – where you join two complete sentences together with a comma rather than a semicolon or colon – works very well. You could break this sentence in half between “out” and “most” with a full stop, or you could put a semicolon in there.

    Same here; the point where you've spliced is between “silent” and “Sasha”.

    And this is where the plot starts to pick up, huh? I don't know what I expected, but this feels about right. I'm curious to know how Mizuki managed to track Jimmu down to her apartment without even knowing her name, though – it really feels to me like she didn't have enough information to find her. Still, that aside, this is a really excellent chapter; your prose feels more polished than before, and the characters and pacing are really well handled. Definitely one to keep an eye on!
     
    roule likes this.
  7. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    Holy crap, this is so good. Like, I’ve always admired the effort that goes into real-world Pokefic, even if I can admit that it’s not usually my cuppa tea. But this? Man, I was just flat-out hooked, unable to look away from my screen—and when I finally did, I realized just how much I was grinning.

    The narration is really colorful. Not only do you give a strong feeling of place (like, I can perfectly picture the setting, despite never having been there) but you capture the spirit of Akihabara using all the senses to really strong effect. The sights, the sounds, the people, the feeling of being there. That, and all your knowledge about idol culture shines through, from the creepy fans, to the way their personal lives are controlled by the agency, ect.

    I freaking love Sasha. The idea of a Scizor claw-pinching in morse code is ingenious and she’s just… really adorable. The way she returns the Poképuffs to Atsuko and is so happy to see Mizuki again at the fan meetup and tries to get her to come say hi to Agatka, and aaaa. I’m not even a Scizor fan, and I love her.

    And that’s to say nothing of how fascinating Agatka is! I love how terrifying her introduction is because we see it through Mizuki’s eyes, but then we switch to her POV and she’s just immediately so… likeable. And like, holy hell can we talk about interesting backstories? Her uncle’s abusive, her father’s the prime minister, she traveled to Japan to get away from the… Russian mafia? (maybe?) Or someone stalking her in a super creepy fashion, laying the groundwork for what I think is gonna be a badass suspense plot. And poor Mizuki’s been caught up in it too. Damn. Can’t wait to see where this goes!

    ~Chibi~;249;;448;
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2018
    roule likes this.

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