...So it would be super-appropriate for my story to die now, right?
Thread 1: >>86709
Thread 2: >>120476
Thread 3: >>136605
X Talk to Inaba about people who can smash through walls on their own.
The hallway is as plain, labyrinthine, and Japanese as it was the first time you saw it. Clean, too. You take every turn expecting some sign that this place is “under attack”, as Inaba's said, but if it weren't for the fact that someone tried to personally knock your block off, you almost wouldn't believe it.
...Though those crashing sounds off in the distance do lend some credence to the notion. The shouting, too. It's muted, coming through the walls as it is, but it's undeniably there--and thankfully, not here. You tighten your grip on your nail-stick and turn the pointy bit out.
“I don't suppose you can tell me who's attacking this place?” you say. “I'd like to know who I'm running from.”
Gin doesn't even bother to glance over her shoulder at you. “That information is strictly confidential.”
“In other words,” Inaba says, grinning, “she doesn't know either.”
Gin's footsteps become noticeably stompier, which is no mean feat considering that neither of your companions are wearing shoes. You decide to direct all further queries towards the party that seems less inclined to murder.
“Well, you must have a theory, at least. Any rivals? Mortal enemies?”
“Oh, yeah, plenty of enemies. The folks here aren't exactly popular, you know.”
“Really? Can't imagine why.”
“I know, right?”
Inaba's grin expands a notch. You almost find yourself grinning back, but stop yourself just in time.
“So...enemies?” you ask.
“Plenty of enemies,” Inaba says again. “Problem is, there isn't one of them that fits the pattern.”
“...There's a pattern?”
Inaba raises her eyebrows. “Sure,” she says, and then, “Isn't figuring out this sort of stuff supposed to be your job?”
That stings, partially because it's true. You haven't really managed any competent detecting since you landed here. “I've only seen one guy, and one guy isn't a pattern. Just tell me, will you?” you grumble.
“Well, it's real simple.” Inaba gets a wise look on her face--or maybe “wiseacre” is more like it. “They're attacking Eientei, so you know they're morons,” she says. “But they've got organization, so they're not total morons. See?”
“...And that doesn't fit the enemies you know.”
“That's right. Say--maybe you're a detective after all!”
This girl--she's yanking at your chain with nary an attempt to hide it, which just makes the fact that you aren't angry at her all the stranger. You ought to be angry at her--you know yourself well enough to be able to say this with complete surety--but for some reason, you--
...Or maybe you're looking at this wrong. Maybe the reason you haven't fantasized about throwing this girl to the sharks yet is because she's being so straightforward, rather than despite it. You might just be grasping at straws here, but it feels like she's indiscriminate in her ribbing, which almost kind of makes it okay. And the fact that she's so cheerful about it...
Charisma, you decide. That's what it is. You aren't going to get a logical answer because there's nothing logical about it. It's charisma, plain and simple--and plain and simple, that's what this girl's got. In spades.
“Hey, you alright? You got all quiet, all of a sudden.”
“It's nothing.” You refocus your attention on Gin and her hallway to forever. “Are we there yet?”
Your question's come out a bit more childish than you would've liked, but luckily Inaba doesn't seem to notice. “Almost,” she says. “Just one more right turn, and you can ease up for a bit.”
“...We just took a right turn back there.”
“Our last three turns were right turns!”
“Take it easy--we're just taking the scenic route, that's all. Come on, Gin, tell him.”
Gin stops marching and turns on her heel to gaze at the both of you. There's something very crisp about the movement, something very military, and you suddenly get the idea that this girl wouldn't stoop to a sneeze if there weren't a purpose behind it. “We've taken an alternate route to avoid enemy contact,” she says.
“See? Like I said.” Inaba smirks again. It's probably meant to be reassuring. Somehow, it even is. “If it's Eientei, Gin and I know it all--no way we'd be lost. Stick with us and you'll turn out fine.”
“...Yeah?” you say.
“Sure,” Inaba says.
Gin, never one for harmonious accord, elects to makes a strangled gasping sort of noise instead.
To be fair, the guy you thought you left on the storeroom floor crushing her rib cage in one meaty hand is probably a factor.
You don't like Gin. You didn't like her almost from the moment you met her, and that's why you can watch what happens next without completely losing your head. First the man tightens his grip on the girl. There's a cracking sound, and Gin's mouth goes wide in a voiceless scream.
Then he spikes her.
Like a footballer celebrating a touchdown.
There's a sound to go along with that, too.
And then, having taken out Gin to his satisfaction, the man, hand torn, head gushing blood, looks up to direct his murderous fury elsewhere. Specifically, towards you and Inaba. Mostly towards you.
Oddly enough, your first thought in this situation isn't that you're going to die, or even simply “oh, hell”, but something more along the lines of “this is bull”, and “this is entirely bull”, and “this is totally bull; he wasn't breathing, damn it, damn it, I even checked--”
But that is all the rumination you have time for before the less bloody of the man's fists lunges towards you.
There's nowhere to dodge except in the opposite direction, so that's where you go--and even “go” implies a level of elegance far past what you actually posses. It'd be more accurate to state that you stumble backwards on your heels, nearly fall on your tailbone, and only just manage to miss catching the man's blow with your face. Still, somehow you remain unpunched, and somehow you keep your balance, so before the guy can call for a mulligan you take the opportunity to turn around and hoof it. Inaba does the same, minus the mad scrambling--but she's not exactly the target of Big-and-Brawny, so she can probably hop into an alcove while the guy's busy ripping your limbs off. Really, you're the one with the main problem here.
“Plan?” you shout in Inaba's general direction. Your feet are working, but you're still worn out from the last exercise, and you don't think you can catch this guy by surprise again. Which is why you're hoping that Inaba's got a--
“Plan?” you shout again, a bit more frantically.
“Plan, huh...” How Inaba can sound this collected with a mobile mass of muscle bare feet behind her you don't freaking know. “How about an alternate route? Left!”
Inaba hangs left. You hang left. The guy chasing you hangs left and takes out a chunk of corner with his shoulder.
It slows him. For about a second.
“I thought that was the alternate route!” you shout.
“Well then, I guess this is the alternate alternate route.”
“What the heck--”
This turn you nearly don't make--your feet slip out from under you and you're only saved by Inaba's hand pulling at your wrist at precisely the right moment. Behind you, your pursuer is less lucky. The sound catches you by surprise--wood splintering, the impact of something heavy--and when you look back you see that the man's own momentum has sent him careening through another wall.
Maybe that nail to the head had some sort of effect after all. Still, you don't dare slow down--if a traumatic brain injury didn't stop the guy, you doubt a pair of skinned knees will do the trick.
In any case, he's not as hot on your heels as he was a second ago--and a fall like that can only disorient him further, right? Maybe the two of you really can outmaneuver the guy. Maybe Inaba can manage to trip him up again, and maybe this time he'll fall on something with a lot of jagged edges. And while you're dreaming, maybe they'll have a portal to Los Ojos waiting for you once you get to wherever you're getting to.
Your legs are dead weight.
And then Inaba tugs you around one last corner and stops.
“Here we are!”
“Here”, it turns out, is another damn hallway, but you're too busy trying to get your breath back to care. It's not like Inaba needs you to respond, either--she seems happy enough to babble on all on her own. “I told you you'd be fine,” she says.
“Yeah? And what about Gin?” you snap back.
...Not that you cared for Gin in any way, but Inaba just saw her comrade get smashed up a minute ago, and now she's prancing around like a girl on a noonday jaunt. Even you know something's not right about that.
But Inaba just grins like you've cracked a joke. “Hey, don't worry about it! We're youkai--we don't die even if you kill us. She'll be alright. We'll all be alright.” And you'd say something now, maybe, about how utterly bull this whole youkai deal is, but she's still talking and you're too exhausted to interrupt. “Anyway, there ought to be a bunch of rabbits waiting through that door--they'll take care of you while we clean up this mess,” Inaba says.
You wait for her to point or gesture or otherwise indicate. She doesn't. Just smiles at you. “Which door?” you ask, finally.
Inaba shrugs. “I don't know.”
“...Are you serious?”
“Well, it's one of these doors, anyway. I don't do much hiding, so I can't say for sure. Just try them all yourself--you're a detective, right? You ought to be able to figure it out.” And like you need a freaking visual aid, the rabbit-eared girl walks over to the door nearest and tosses it open.
“See?” she says. “Empty--so it's not this one. Easy, right?”
You refuse to respond to that with anything more than an expression of most obvious displeasure.
Inaba sighs. “Alright, alright--I'll help you out, seeing as apparently you can't do it alone.” She moves on to the next door, opens it, and closes it again. “Nothing in this one, either. Now you do the next one--”
And that's when the door opposite Inaba explodes outwards, and that's when you remember Big-and-Ugly actually snuck up on you in the first place, and that's when your pursuer catches up to the both of you and checks Inaba into the door, though the door, all the way to the far wall where there's a crack and a thump and she falls to the floor and doesn't move.
She doesn't move.
_ Stay mobile.
_ Stand your ground.
_ Rush forth.