See, /tg/ dude? I told you soon.
Ya act. The moment this dude's got her eyes trained outta your direction, ya run for it. Not away. 'Cause, like, that'd make sense, right? Run away from the angry dude behind the death cannon, and maybe if ya zigzag she won't time it right to getcha.
But no. Like ya said, that'd make sense. So that's not whatcha do. Instead, in that pinpoint in all of existence where both cannon and dude've forgotten you're even there, maybe, ya run at the both of 'em. Like, straight line. Ya aren't even disguisin' it here or tryin' to act in any way sneaky so it's no surprise that Rika notices the whole thing of you gettin' at 'er when you're only halfway and reacts like like any sane dude would.
Lucky for you, reactin' consists of fumblin' at her tank-insides to start swivelin' the cannon back atcha again, and by the time that starts happenin', you're already there—clamberin' up and over and onto the body of the whole deal, even as Rika's stopped rotatin' and started revvin' it tryin' to catch ya under the whole mess. She gets close—the toe of your sneaker fallin' into the shadow of the tank-front before ya manage to scramble it up after ya—but only close. And “close,” as you've heard one dude or another say, is a deal that only works out in horseshoes and hand grenades.
Speakin' of which: “Yo—Mac—got any hand grenades?”
Rinnosuke's standin' at the end of the room like a football player mid-play who's somehow still not sure which way to run. The only thing savin' his chattanooga at the mo is the fact that Rika looks to be operatin' similar, if the way the turret's jerkin' is anything to judge by. The cannon lurches back towards Rinnosuke—back towards you (totally ineffective as that'd be)—to him—to you—
“Do I have what?” Rinnosuke says, and if it's a sorta distracted answer ya can't really blame 'im for it at the mo. Like, at all.
The cannon does another lurch, your way again, and then does a second lurch in the same direction. Ya look at Rika, who's lookin' at you pretty clearly now, eyes narrow, teeth showin' as she mutters something ya can't hear over the racket, and you suspect she's decided on a target here. “Grenades!” ya shout, as ya make yourself neighbor to the side of the cannon, which is a terrible place to be but prolly a lot better than straight in front. “Do ya have any grenades?”
“That's not an item familiar to me!”
Just say 'no,' Mac. But okay, then—time for plan B. Or at least it's gonna be time for that, once ya actually think up a plan B to put in motion. You're not gonna lie; ya sorta went off at this half-cocked here, which is the main reason the next thing ya do is grip onto the side of a tank cannon, sleeves protectin' your grippers as much as that counts for, as the turret the deal's attached to turns your way and then keeps turnin' your way—you attached—the dude turnin' it tryin' to dislodge ya off it so she can blast ya proper.
“Get off,” she says, and she's not mutterin' now. “Get off, get off, get off get off get off—”
Yeah, ya kinda wish she'd get back to mutterin'. “Yo, Mac!” ya yell. “Stop this crazy thing!”
“And how exactly do you expect me to do that—”
The idea gets moot, though—in a good way—'cause another ring-'round-the-rosie between you and the cannon and ya swing just right to find a place to stand, lettin' yourself get deposited back onto the tank front like a dude steppin' off at the train station (the cannon continues, clippin' ya odd over the skull on the pass, but that's just gravy—you can count bumps and bruises later).
From there, it's not too hard a step up one more to the roof of the thing, where Rika's pokin' her head out, still lookin' atcha like ya shivved her dog. You ignore her snarlin' and whatnot (“Waiting game—I'm done waiting—done being extorted—”) and as the cannon halts in its turn and starts unturnin', the best to make friends again, ya go for the main problem in this shop, fingers scrabblin' at the tank-roof's slope before finally findin' purchase and friction and everything ya need to pull yourself upwards—
And then your face explodes in what-the-hey pain and ya lose all grip ya had and fall—and stumble backwards—lose your footin' and slip and fall some more and then land, square on your back on the shop floor with a solid thwack through the back of your skull and out the anterior.
She punched ya in the face, ya realize, somewhere between the thunder. She punched ya in the face and then ya fell down. That's totally unfair. She shouldn't be allowed to punch ya in the face. She's already got a tank—
Ya think someone says your name at this part, maybe. You're not sure. Everything's gone kinda tinny, like you're 'speriencin' the world through a Strombus shell. That's sight, too, by the way—you've gotta blink more than a few times before the shadows and lights sort themselves out and your eyes go back to deliverin' like they're supposta.
Though part of ya kinda wishes they hadn't, considerin' that when ya bend up your neck to assess the evolution of the whole sitch as it's gone while you've been dazed, it's the cannon you're face to not-face with direct. The end of it you'd prefer not havin' so close, to be specific.
It'd be a good time for a bout of dramatic silence, with the whole world holdin' its breath for that infinite sec, 'cept the tank's still a tank and doesn't stop rumblin' and clankin', tanklike, so that doesn't happen.
“It's your fault,” Rika mutter-mumble-says, far up past her end of the cannon, and even though she's not shoutin' you can hear her enough to understand. Maybe that's the drama kickin' in. “I'm running behind—even now I'm running behind—that's your fault. You're all extortionists, but you're the one who started this.”
“Dude,” ya croak back, “you're a cracked egg.”
You're lyin' on the floor and Rika's got a tank pointed at your sweet mug. Obviously, you're in prime position to insult 'er from here. And she's gotta be thinkin' the same, guessin' by how her mouth stretches out into a double-row wall of teeth and she reaches down one more time to activate the pseudoanachronism that's about to reduce ya to Planck smithereens—
And then something small, angular, and multicolored flies through the ether like a fragment of rainbow shrapnel, shatterin' into plastic-gloss chunks against Rika's brow, sendin' 'er rearin' back—and the cannon does that too, the danger end of it suddenly jerkin' itself upwards and away from your mug with the unintended pull or push or you-dunno-how-tanks-work that Rika's accidentally done in there, in the same mo blastin' like it and she intended, but it's too late and maybe the shot's loud, like the sound of someone testin' a nail gun by your head, and maybe ya feel the heat of it, even, but it doesn't hit ya, and that's what's important—just goes flyin' bare feet over your nose like the worst limbo consequence.
There's a sound of more wood becomin' not so much anymore, but you don't've time for assessin' the damage—ya roll, put your hands against the shop floor, push yourself up—
And ya see Rinnosuke there, just for a sec—only for a sec, 'cause that's all you've got to look at him in, but ya see 'im in that sec, feet in a stance, one arm millin' back, the other outstretched in something kinda like a lunge 'cept not exactly, 'cause a lunge and a throw aren't the same thing at all, and if there's anything else ya catch in that sec it's how definitely not tucked-away-in-a-position-that'd-stand-up-to-tankin' he is.
There's something there, something ya oughta get, but ya seriously don't've the time here. Maybe later, when ya do. But for now? There's a dude in a tank, who has a tank, and also the tank, and all that's still a major factor right now.
(And if you've got a head to ruminate with later, maybe you can cover how ya keep gettin' your bacon pulled out at the last possible. 'Cause—that? Not a trend you appreciate.)
Rika gets her head back on in 'bout the same time it takes for you to get to your feet and start scramblin' back towards maybe-safety, which is either a nice enough coincidence or a really unfortunate one. She shakes her head to dislodge the concussionesquity like a character out a slapstick cartoon, then her eyes go back to narrow and focuses in on what she's got marked as the main threat in the room. Which isn't you anymore—good news!
Bad news—it's the dude who just took a crack at Rika's cranium long-distance, i.e. everyone's favorite shopkeep. Rika snarls—like, legit snarls this time, no words, even—and cranks her turret over himwise without anything even like a quantum of hesitation.
Which means it's your turn to make the rescue—like you were ever gonna leave Rinnosuke's save unrepaid. “Yo, eyes on me, gearhead!” ya holler, takin' a threatenin' step in the unwisest of directions once more.
“Stop talking!” Rika says, and the turret goes your way again—only to pull a version of a repeat of that whole unsurety routine it had on earlier, the cannon waverin' back and forth before settlin' with pointin' unsteadily in a spot between you and him. Rika seems a lot more aware of it this time, though—kinda settled down from her whole tank-aided berserker rage that she was all 'bout earlier. Maybe whatever Rinnosuke threw at 'er knocked something the opposite of loose?
Point is, in the time it takes for a dude to throw a knickknack at a second dude who's in a tank and then for the first dude to realize the possible profundity of regret, this whole deal's settled into a weird equilibrium. In this corner, Rika, who is a dude in a tank. Like some sort of Gensokyo tank that shoots magic bullets, but still a tank, with all the entailments bein'-a-tank's got attached. Up against her? The tank-bashin' tag team of the awesome Christie Christoferson and the also-awesome Rinnosuke Morichika. Only, Christie and Rinnosuke can't bash a tank easy at the mo, 'cause tank, still with the entailments. And the dude in the tank can't take the obvious route a dude in a tank would think of takin', 'cause if she makes to 'splode you again Rinnosuke's likely to take the opportunity to strike, maybe, and also swap the names if it's him she goes for instead. You're in a stalemate, in other words. Holdin' each other in check. And maybe she's got her king in ace position, but you dudes're bishops, 'cause you can move diagonally, and this chess metaphor went rank seriously quick but ya don't have time to construct a proper one, not now, not with a tank potentially pointed at your face. It's a matter of priorities, and priorities are kinda obvious, right now.
Point is, whatcha need—or whatcha don't need, maybe, dependin'—is a tiebreaker.
Ya see 'er the moment ya think 'er, like the answer to a prayer ya haven't gotten the chance to kneel for even—a dark figure out the shadows with a mug beatific (and how'dja miss a shinin' face like that, ya can't say). She's a shootin' star in a black dress, tracin' down a swoop of night, a dive bomber with an angel's smile—
And then also a lot like most shootin' stars she totally fails to actually hit a dude, smashin' face-first into the side of the turret just shy of anything Rikaform instead with a sound to make Chuck Barris nostalgic and then bouncin' off into a crumpled heap on the shop floor.
Which ya guess would make 'er a meteorite now, followin' the metaphor.
Since now she's landed.
“What,” says Rika, takin' her eye off the two of you just long enough.
And this time, you've got a plan to go with it.
Okay, so it's not a complicated plan—“do exactly whatcha did last time, 'cept this time don't fail,” basically. But with you knowin' 'zactly where you're goin', and with all of Rika's attentions on the wrong dude—
She's bendin' over out of her tank head to look; it's like she wants to give ya a bigger target; it's too perfect—
It's the sorta scene that wants a slow-mo shot wide. Here's you, runnin' for a tank like your life depends on it, 'cause it does. Here's Rika, still sufferin' momentarily under the effects of what-the-crispies-was-that. Ya spring—
Some subconscious inklin' worms its way through Rika's head; ya watch 'er turn—
One foot landin' on the tank-front but ya don't even pause; no time for that; just another jump, your fingers itchin' for the handhold ya didn't grasp proper before—
Rika's body still turnin', eyes goin' wide, her realizin' what's goin' on—
Ya swing yourself up, to where you're gonna do the most good—
Rika almost lashes, almost shields herself, tries to split the difference, doesn't—
And ya punch 'er in the schnozz.
It isn't a very hard punch, you've gotta admit. You're at a too-funky angle for it and goin' for gettin' the hit at all instead of gettin' it right. But four fingers and a thumb do what they're supposta do, which is enough, which is get the first bop in so you can string it up in a combo—
Rika's head snaps back—her body goes back, slammin' itself against the lip of the into-the-tank—slips, starts to fall in—
Oh, no way you're lettin' 'er back into with the guns. Ya grab the collar of her shirt before she can drop, haul 'er—
(It's either her bein' light or you bein' all hopped up on determination, or maybe it's both, but she lifts easy, and ya aren't 'spectin' that—)
And ya pull too hard, 'cause she goes up, and you go back, and it's fallin' tank tank fallin' tank tank floor head.
Ow. Also, why does that keep happeni—.
Your totally righteous grouse 'bout head injuries becomin' a thing is cut off as your view of the shop roof stops bein' a view of the shop roof and suddenly starts bein' a view of an angry woman draggin' herself up over you. Ya thought she was ragin' before? Well, she was.
It's just that, now, she looks like she's gone so far she's come out the other end.
She's got a mug like she stepped it through a cloud of sindoor. She's got her teeth so tight ya wouldn't be surprised for one to get flyin' out. It's her hands on your collar now, bunchin' up the fabric tight in a coupla clenched fists. Her eyes—
—are wide and wet.
“Years,” she hisses, without movin' her jaws. “Years.”
You try sittin' up. It doesn't work. For obvious reasons.
“I have spent years saving,” says Rika. “Years and years. I'm not going to throw away years saving just because you're starting this now. There are prices for buying and buying for selling, and I'm running in place—almost running in place—and I have so much to do to her.”
“Dude,” ya say, and it's harder than you'd like with the feelin' of fingers way, way too close to your neckway, but ya manage, “I have no idea what you're talkin' 'bout.”
And then Rika takes the whole neckway problem an inch further, or farther, or more than an inch anyways, and takes that collar you've got and pulls. Not far, not all the way to you sittin' up, just enough that you're sorta hoverin' over the floor and it's mad uncomfy. And also your shirt fabric's prolly gettin' stretched. Like whoa.
“I am buying things and selling things and I am making profit,” Rika says, and you've got no idea here if she's tryin' to 'splain things to you or just goin' at it like the light at the end of a fuse. “I'm not making enough and that's okay; it's positive, but then you say 'raise the price' and he raises the price, and the kappa don't work for free.”
“'Kappa'?” ya—ya kinda gurgle, to be honest.
“There's a tank—I haven't built it; I haven't had it built, but it's up here—” And Rika makes a motion with her head, and her fingers pull, “—and they want it in a lump sum—the kappa—and I have spent years. I have spent years and years and I'm almost there and there's a better tank to build. There's a miko.”
“What's a miko?” ya ask.
And it's kinda funny, 'cause it's this question that stops up this verbal lahar. She just sorta freezes, not pullin' ya up, not pushin' ya down, just stares, her features relaxin' with the broadsideage of it all.
“What?” she goes
And then before she can say any more than that a hardback book comes cartwheelin' through the air stage left and gets 'er in the temple straight on, right with one of those pointyish corner bits.
She's barely up enough to stumble, but she does, off to the side again, her fingers goin' loose and finally lettin' your shirt be shirt. But yo, forget the sartorics—this seems like prime opportunity to get away from the dude who's been tryin' to do ya in, so ya do that, scootin' yourself backwards first of all and then gettin' to your feet and coverin' the rest of the distance in leggin' it, over to where Rinnosuke standin' tense.
His eyes go over atcha, just for a tick, and then return to the dude on the floor. His hands're up in front of 'im—not zombie-esque, but more like just hangin' there limp and curled, like he doesn't know what to do with 'em.
“Nice shot,” ya tell 'im, readjustin' your collar. “Ya really threw the book at 'er.”
“I just grabbed what I had,” Rinnosuke says. “I don't think I damaged it, but I can't be sure.”
Oh, right, the idiom isn't gonna exist in Japanese, obvs. Also, ya can't believe ya actually said that. Seriously, that's shame ya feel right now. “What was that thing ya threw the first time?” ya ask. “Y'know, right before I was gonna bite it.”
“A sort of puzzle cube,” says your savior to the power of x. His eyes don't lift from Rika, now. Ya join' 'em in starin'.
Dude's just lyin' on the floor, face-down.
She's alive, right? Rinnosuke can't've hit 'er that hard.
“You can turn the faces of it independently,” continues Rinnosuke in that weirdly distracted way he's got goin' on right now. “I can't tell for certain, but I think the goal was to shift the faces in such a way that each face was only one color.”
“Yeah, sounds 'bout right.”
Thanks, Ernő Rubik.
“So,” ya say, “Mac—what do we do now?”
Rinnosuke doesn't answer you, at least not with words. But he glances at you as you glance back, and then like on some signal unheard the two of you start approachin' the dude, slow and wary. 'Specially slow and wary, as ya get within potential strikin' distance. A snake can getcha even with its body chopped off, and plus ya have seen a horror flick, ever.
And it's a good thing ya did that, too, 'cause that's about when Rika starts stirrin', and ya don't mean soup. One arm reaches out like a spider's leg, bracin' itself against the floor—the head rises—
Rika looks up at the two of you lookin' down at her, and ya think—things've gotta look really awful from where she's lyin', don't they?
Her jaw creaks open.
“Qui patiens est multa gubernatur prudentia; qui autem impatiens est exaltat stultitiam suam.”
'Cept of course, it isn't Rika who says that. It's Rumia, instead, who's just joined ya at the Rikaside, makin' your duo a trio. She raises her arms in a T-pose, apparently no worse for the wear, and ya think—that's good. That's totally good. You were seriously worried, after that whole slam-into-the-tank deal she fell into—
And suddenly, laser.
It doesn't vaporize Rika, not like it did the poltergeist, which, y'know, lucky her, but also lucky you, 'cause you're kinda not up to watchin' somebody die today, even if this dude woulda been all for it happenin' the other way 'round. What the laser does do is send the dude skiddin' 'cross the shop floor like a spider hit with the full blast of a hair dryer. She goes tumblin' end over end, a sprawlin' silhouette in this whole lightshow of pain Rumia's cheerily dealin' out, up till she slams up against one of the walls she didn't bust, bouncin' off it in a way that makes shelves rattle and you wonder if Rumia isn't actually all up into the idea of ironic comeuppance.
That is ironic, right? The whole concept of irony's been kinda floaty lately. Not that that's new or anything. Like, who uses it to mean “playin' Socrates” nowadays?
Point is, Rika doesn't try gettin' up again. Ya don't know if she's unconscious—detectin' that sorta thing is totally not your forte, dig—but maybe she's gonna be disinclined to give it a second go either way. Even determination's got its limits.
“Rumia?” ya call out, keepin' your peepers careful even as ya look otherwise.
“That was totally sweet,” ya say. “Like, totally. More than made up for the whole dramatic-entrance-only-to-smash-yourself-in-the-head-with-a-tank thing.”
Rumia's smile droops at the edges into something kinda sheepish. “It's bright,” she says. “I can't see well when it's bright.”
“And I get sleepy.”
Ya all stare at the dude on the ground some more. Dude still hasn't stirred. Maybe she is conked out proper this time.
Rinnosuke is a presence. “Yes?”
“I've gotta asterisk here.”
“You need to do what?”
“A word of warnin', Mac, warnin'. It's just that, uh, considerin' real recent developments, I don't think rememberin' this dude's name's gonna net ya a repeat customer. Like, even if ya do remember her name.”
Rinnosuke's head turns on its axis. Very very carefully, like it might fall off, till it's facin' you and not watchin' the dude who might or might not get up again like it oughta be doin'. “Do you really think so,” says the mouth attached to the front of it.
“Yeah, Mac,” ya say. “Just a hunch. There's some attitudes even hoomalimali can't soften up, y'know?”
The eyes that're also things attached to the head regard ya. At least, you're pretty sure they're regardin' ya. You're not lookin' 'em straight, for various reasons.
“I don't know what that means,” says Rinnosuke.
“My customer tried to kill me, two of the walls of my shop have been badly damaged, a significant amount of merchandise has been destroyed beyond salvaging or selling, and I don't know what the word that you used means.”
Various various reasons. “Um,” ya try, “well, look on the bright side, Mac. You've got us here with ya, right? We can get through this together.”
Somewhere behind ya, there's a grand crack as some construction gives up the ghost. And then the sound of alotta smaller other somethings hittin' the floor all at once in what you can only call a chord of destruction.
Or a mess.
“A mess” works.
Rinnosuke makes a sound somewhere 'round his velum.
“Yep,” ya say, and maybe it ya say it loud enough it'll have miraculous effects, “Gonna get through this together. You and me, and also Rumia. But seriously, Mac, we're just gonna blaze through this, you'll see. You'll be up and back to chargin' people in no time—”
“Stop,” says Rinnosuke. “Please stop.”