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Yuko never enjoyed large, noisy crowds. Banzai was promoting the latest remastering of one of its classic RPG’s in various arcades around Tokyo, including the one in Shibuya that she visited from time to time. Naturally, otakus had lined up to get their grubby hands on some beta gameplay of a game they had already played and probably finished a dozen times. But, the remastered version had slightly better graphics and more shoe options for the player’s avatar, so it was totally worth what amounted to a minimum wage employee’s salary for the deluxe edition.
“Enjoy your five extra shoes, nerds…” The teenage delinquent muttered under her breath. RPG’s weren’t her thing anyway. What was her thing, you ask? This old Fatal Kombat machine she was sitting in front of. Sure, that game had come out before she had even been born, its graphics looked horribly outdated and had been deemed far too violent by every concerned parent group on the planet, but nothing could beat the TRUE classics!
Besides, unlike a certain parallel world, all the violence in Fatal Kombat was completely imaginary…
“Haha, yes! You’re dead, asshole!” Yuko triumphantly exclaimed, after killing her latest CPU opponent in a graphic explosion of blood and gore.
It was that wonderful time of year, once again. ‘Comp time’ had begun. The small window of time between post-production and the start of the next game. After all of that overtime; all the worry and stress get the game out on time – the staff had been given two wonderful weeks of freedom.
Winter had struck hard, at least on this morning. Ayari found herself in the midst of the bustling town, wrapped up warm in a coat, gloves, and scarf. Watching her breath rise up in small icy clouds. Her partner, Mite clutched in her arms, hanging limp and doll-like as he was instructed. Hopefully, he wouldn’t cause any trouble. So that she could just go in; get her game and go home.
Although, she received a free copy of the game after working on it for the past year. She didn’t receive all the extra DLC, which was divided between the various stores. Each offering small differences and bonuses with the remastered game.
Nostalgia was definitely a big part of the sale of remastered titles. So seeing a game – that she had played as a child remade – and then knowing that she had a part in restoring it was quite an honor. Not to mention seeing the crowds of others, piling into the store, some of them having waited for hours for the store to open to nab that place at the front of the line and be one of the first to get the game.
As the line slowly moved into the store, Ayari caught sight of a girl, not in the queue, but on the sidelines; her head bent over a cabinet machine. She appeared to be doing well; from the excited remarks that spewed from her mouth. Ayari silently wondered if the girl was going to wait until the line died down before getting her own copy of the game? Meanwhile, doll Mite blinked twice, his blank eyes focusing on the 'colorful' stranger with added interest.
The punk-looking girl stretched after her session was over, and noisily cracked her fingers. Fatal Kombat was known for its brutal combo moves, which weren’t that easy to pull off on this old arcade machine with its big, clunky buttons. The only reason Yuko was remotely good at this was because it was the only game she played when coming here.
While catching her breath, the colorful delinquent caught a glimpse of a young woman hugging what looked like a plush toy, which blinked at her… Wait a minute, it blinked?! “Naaah…” There was no way THEY had found their way to the real world… She shrugged it off, and put another coin into the machine, starting a new session of simulated ultraviolence and savagery.
In walked an individual who was even more colorful. Obscenely colorful, as a matter of fact; Tall and lean, with pale skin and long blonde hair that covered one of his eyes, he was clad in a bright purple suit adorned in peacock feathers and exotic flowers. Upon entering the store, the eccentric stranger blinked in confusion, as if sensing that something was… off. “Naaah…” He shrugged and walked around with a confident strut, his dress shoes and aristocrat’s cane clicking loudly against the floor.
Sure enough, the line slowly inched forward until Ayari was met with the most amazing sight. Ten or so full-sized cardboard standees of the main cast lined both aisles. Some of it, was, art that Ayari had made. It was quite a humbling experience, she must admit. But, secretly she was quite happy that no-one knew who she was. Social interaction was definitely not her best suit.
Small groups of people, most of whom, already carried bags containing the game – were standing together between the aisles, busily discussing the game and how excited they were to be able to play it again in full HD. As Ayari drew closer to the front of the store, she caught sight of another amazing sight. Someone from the store’s staff had dressed up in full cosplay for the release event. Ayari gave them a small smile as she passed, but thought it would be better to say nothing.
As she paid for the game and wandered back around towards the door, considering how well this event was going and how all that hard work was well spent. Ayari caught sight of someone else, in an eccentric outfit. If she had not done a majority of the concepts for the game, she’d have thought this man was another character from the game. Ayari wouldn’t help but stare at his exotic-type appearance.
Clad in a bright purple suit with a short fringe of peacock feathers and hanging flowers. Long blond hair and swinging a cane. This man definitely looked like he would have fit perfectly into this game. In fact, Ayari thought he resembled one of the villains from Sixth Fantasy, except far less creepy and scary in personality. “Oh, um, excuse me,” Ayari said as she passed the man, quickly realizing she had been staring, putting her head down and moved towards the door. Ayari wasn’t the only one, though. Mite, still clutched in her arm, blinked again and slowly turned his head to stare in the direction of the strangely dressed stranger. Without waiting for them to be someone a lot less cramped and more private; Mite spoke. For the first time, with two words. “Princess. Monster.”
Ayari jumped at his sudden speech. Blushing hard, again as various people turned to look at her and Mite with interest. “I’m sorry. It’s just a toy. I must have accidentally activated him,” she said, with a false, nervous laugh before turning again. In a lower whisper, she pulled Mite higher so they were face to face. “A-Are you sure? H-here?” Mite nodded his large head, ever so slightly.
“Oh, don’t worry, mon cheri~” The handsome, strangely-dressed stranger waved his hand dismissively at Ayari, smiling at her in a charming manner. What a dapper gentleman! He continued walking around, as if looking for someone, until eventually he spotted a certain girl playing at an arcade machine. “Ah, Yuko, there you are!”
Yuko’s pink yes widened in shock. “Jokah?! What the hell are you doing here?!” “Ah ah ah… It’s Jack White. We’ve been over this.” The man wagged his finger condescendingly, wearing a smug expression on his face, as he approached the teen. “I needed your input on something… What flowers should I get for Hana? Does she like roses, or is she more of a posey person?” He casually asked. “I thought I told you to stop hitting on my Mom!” Yuko retorted, before slamming her joystick in much frustration. “Shit! See what you did? You just made me lose the fight against Sub-Celsius!”
Their bickering session was cut short when they both heard a voice speak of monsters, and they both turned to look at the woman holding the plush toy, while whispering to each other. “Uuuuh… Jokah?” “Yes, Yuko?” “Is that…?” “Yes, I believe it is.”
Under the pretense of checking the “doll” that Ayari had “accidentally” activated – the young girl ducked behind one of the tall shelves. The shelf was stacked high with the cases of hundreds of discounted games, making it a perfect cover – or so she had thought. Quite unaware that both the “colorful stranger” and the “exotically dressed man” could clearly see her, she continued to whisper to Mite.
“Y-you’re not s-serious, right? I mean... a… a one of you, here? Right here, right now? W-what are the chances of that?” Ayari stuttered, trying to keep her voice low but also keep calm. “How can… how can there be one here?”
Unhelpfully, Mite said nothing in response to Ayari’s babbling. It was only after a few minutes of allowing her to let it all out. Mite raised a one of his tiny arms and pointed a single finger right at the exotically dressed man. Ayari tilted her head a little to one side.
“But...b-but, he’s human right? I mean he dresses a little… differently. But that doesn’t mean he’s one of you?”
Unsure what to do Ayari jumped up and looked over at the pair, her head still tilted to one side. Just as she did so, a member of staff who was carrying a very large stack of discounted games walked right into the tiny girl. Both Ayari and a shower of games fell to the carpeted ground. “Will you watch where you going please!” The staff member snapped, giving Ayari a dirty look and scrambling to pick up her the boxes.
“These lousy events bring in all the pains in the ass. Should stop running them, we should. But no, the boss is making us and on a Saturday too.” The staff member mumbled under her breath as she skulked away continuing to give Ayari a disgusted stare and no sign of an apology.
“What do we do?” Yuko asked ‘Jack White’ in strict confidentiality, pulling him behind the arcade machine. “I fail to see why this is such a big problem.” The eccentric, strangely-dressed man nonchalantly replied, his form stuttering for a split second as he straightened his fine suit, almost like TV static. “I mean, this is hardly the first time you’ve seen another Digidestined.” “Yeah, but here of all places? And parading the you-know-what in public too?” The multicolor-haired teen sighed, looking around the corner to realize that the woman and her ‘doll’ were gone. “Shit, where did they go?”
Her question was quickly answered thanks to an incident involving dropped game cases and a very grumpy employee. To be fair, Yuko would be grumpy too if she had to work on a Saturday. “Well here goes…” The young delinquent got out of her hiding spot, and brushed past Ayari just close enough so that she could whisper without anyone else hearing them. “Meet me behind the store. Make sure nobody follows you…”
And then she walked out, the exotically-dressed gentleman following after her with a much more leisurely gait, swinging his cane while whistling an upbeat tune.
Ayari stood up gingerly. Quickly panicking, bowing her head several times in the direction of the member of staff who was continuing to give her a dead-eye stare, halfway across the store. Thankfully, the store had begun to empty as most had got their game and left. Though, some still stood close in groups, chatting about their gaming expectations. If it wasn’t for the fact that an actual Digimon with human form was nearby. She’d consider, maybe, going to join them… or at least lurk nearby and listen to their conversation.
However, before she could too, grab her game and make a quick exit. The youth with multi-colored hair wandered past Ayari. Just close enough, that she brushed against her. Just close enough, that she could whisper and only Ayari would hear. She jumped, anxiously, at the words.
“I’m not... uh… well, okay.” She muttered, unsure if there was a way to get out of it. As they left the store, first the scary-looking girl and then the exotically-dressed man, swinging his cane.
Ayari wandered over to the counter and without really thinking about it, picked up her own copy of the game. Completely ignoring the cashier who was trying to chat with her about the game, dropping her credit card as she drew it out before making a very quick exit. Instead of walking out of the store and going back towards the town with most of the crowd. Ayari made a quick left and made towards the back of the store… as instructed.
A chain fence blocked her path, though; thankfully the gate lay unlocked and open. The alleyway beyond connected the line of stores. Each had rising metal slat doors for unloading and loading stock. Although, it was clearly used by troubled teenagers judging by the graffiti which was sprayed on most of the stone surfaces. Combined with the puddles of unidentified water and the smell of unchanged bin. It wasn’t exactly a nice place to be.
“Why had they wanted to meet me h-here...” Ayari whispered, more to herself than to Mite. Fright had taken over – her arms shook, causing Mite to wobble from side to side.
A narrow, smelly alleyway really wasn’t a fitting place for a cute girl like her to be at. The punk that had invited here there looked a bit more at home with her whole getup, but even she was too clean for a place like this. “Are you sure nobody followed you two?” Yuko asked the other girl once she had arrived, while running her hand through the graffiti-filled wall. She recognized some of the scribbles as the ones made by taggers who wanted to mark their territory. Overall, those were your common, night-dwelling thugs. Nothing like the gangsters that prowled Shibuya’s darker, seedier parts.
Noticing how much Ayari was trembling, the delinquent cracked an awkward smile, and tried her best to break the ice. “Hey, relax, okay? I just didn’t think it’d be a good idea to talk in a public space. So, let’s get this out of the way… I’m Himura Yuko, a Digimon Tamer… like you.” She introduced herself, holding up her red and purple Digivice as evidence.
Behind her, a man framed in shadow tapped his cane against the floor, before his form shifted into a tall, slender, humanoid silhouette, wearing what looked like a jester’s hat. In the darkness, a single red eye shined menacingly.