The Longing Of Shiina Ryo:Bonus Disc Red Orchestra Chapter 3 – Overture

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Part 1 – Kyomu Densen[edit]

I’ve heard already that Duomo di Monreale, or Monreale Cathedral, was the main sightseeing in the town, but I never thought the very sight of it would be so overwhelming in the real life. That was the power which was held in the history of the building, I guess. For your information, Cathedral was built in High Middle Age when Norman King, William II used Conca D’Oro as his hunting grounds. And His already dead Majesty must’ve been very generous to place the seat of Sicilian metropolitan archbishop in a province just for the sake of turning the tables around on political game board.

Your Hidemore will sue you for thinking in such style.

The building was located on the big plaza with a neat fountain in its centre. Rich green tropical plants surrounded area, filling the air with their aromas in which the influence of bright and warm sunlight was most notable. Speaking of the Sun, its Majesty Star of our Galaxy had yet to rise high in the sky so the temperature and humidity was still mild for Sicily. So, thanks to carefully chosen time, I was able to enjoy light blue morning sky without any problems regarding hot climate of the famous island.

Nice thinking, genius.

Returning back to Cathedral which already drew attention of some tourists, who could be quite early birds in foreign countries, it was magnificent, bathing in weak rays of Apollo’s arrows- aren’t I redundant here?

You are.

Back on topic. Architect, who managed to create such design with mix of several cultures, was surely a genius. West-facing elevation consisted of two asymmetrical towers in ancient European style and white portico which was lying on four columns connected by three arcs. Behind towers was seen brownish wall adorned by pseudo-arc Arabic ornament with massive door which had its footing right on portico. And the roof of the Cathedral was hardly seen, not that its beauty was shadowed by that particular fact.

You’re quite short on words here. What’s wrong? Is it too hot for you?

Looking at the Cathedral from more practical point of view, it was unlikely that I could use the tower on my left hand for escape. Granted, it was lower than that on my right hand but it had fewer points which I could use as handholds. Two narrow vertical holes in its lower half didn’t leave me any choice but toss aside a silly thought.

I shielded my eyes with my right hand and looked at the right tower. It was more useful in terms of escape – two loopholes which left me some room for climbing on the tower. After that I could use embayment in the wall to get on the portico and open the door. Or it would be in reverse order.

Parkour again, huh? It didn’t save you from fighting last time you used it to escape those thugs. And I really doubt that it’ll be useful now.

I returned my hand back to its place near the right side of my body and stepped forward, moving closer to Cathedral. The door hidden behind columns slowly filled my field of vision with its engravings in Bible motif. Black walls created quite gloomy atmosphere which ignited the sparkle of fear in my heart but I still moved forward until I wasn’t forced to stop in front of a scarlet bronze door.

My hand touched enormous masterpiece made by Italian masters, slid on its writings in Vulgar Latin and finally pushed it. The door creaked and opened inwards, letting me through. When I stepped in the Cathedral after a moment of hesitation I froze on the spot enchanted by magnificent view of beautiful mosaics. Well, that was what I wanted to say originally. Not that I could deceive myself when there were no mosaics. Or, maybe, it wasn’t quite right. After all…

There was nothing.

The floor was non-existent.

Black clouds which appeared from nowhere served as ceiling.

And thick walls disappeared in the gray smoke.

“L'esprit de l'escalier, huh?” I mumbled gritting my teeth. That French term was used by Diderot who only thought of needed comeback when he already got to the bottom of the stairs, returning home from dinner at Necker’s place. And it was most appropriate for my situation when I noticed everything when it was already too late.

Silent sigh escaped my mouth when I realized that I hadn’t heard my own voice.

And then I fell, just like character of cartoons who was running on the air for the sake of childish joke.

Right into embrace of Mystery.

Part 2 – Staple Stable[edit]

When Shin-tsu finished at that part, he let out tired sigh, rubbing his temples. “I guess it isn’t where we stopped last time, right?”

“Are you trying to play off your use of L’esprit de l’escalier?” I inquired with my eyes squinted.

“Maybe.” He nonchalantly shrugged off my remark.

“So what happened next?”

“I was being chased for a while and then something kicked me out of Cathedral.”

“And why I feel like you hid the most important part?”

“I’d have remarked that you’ll make a good Tsukkomi but-“

“You mean that I’ll make you pay for it immediately afterwards?”

“…Yeah.” He exaggeratedly shuddered.

In return he gained only tired sigh. Silence lasted for about five minutes until I decided to return conversation back on its rails.

“So you won’t tell me about it?”

“Not now, at least.”

“Well then, let’s close this topic.” I took a sip from my tea, soothing my throat. Shin-tsu slightly smiled and closed his eyes with sly look on his face. Only then did I decide to stop his farce. “Shin-tsu, no need to deceive me if I know that nothing is wrong with my tea.”

His smile immediately disappeared. “How many jumps it took for you to realize that I was trying to set up a fake trap, Maria-san?”

“I’m neither Maria, nor Aya.” I brushed off his reference to certain light novel, or rather its first volume. “Besides, you should know who you’re talking with.”

“Yeah, yeah, I’m sorry, crazy Freudian.”

“Thank you for compliment, my beloved crossdresser.”

Shin-tsu hung his head. “Ugh… That was a sucker punch, you know? Whatever, what’s the score now?”

“Two against three, you’re still leading.”

“I don’t want to know what you used in different timeline.” Shin-tsu shook his head.

“And you don’t need to. Besides, aren’t my two equal to zero, if we take into account our conditions?”

“Who knows?”

With that rhetoric question Shin-tsu decided to continue his story.

Part 3 – Magia[edit]

When I managed to escape from Cathedral, the Sun already hid on the other side of our planet. It seemed like that place was warping time and space but my mind stimulated by adrenaline wasn’t able to took any notice of it until I found myself in front of my house. My breathe was irregular and rigid as if I just ran a marathon which wasn’t that far from truth if we take into account that Newton’s physics wasn’t working properly in there. Or, maybe, I just exhausted my entire reserves of hormones.

And, of course, everything related to brain activity. It seems that your knowledge of memory is as bad as always.

Wouldn’t you be the first one affected by it?

Who knows? According to you, I’m not part of your mind whatsoever.

Hey, don’t talk as if you’re my girlfriend and I just messed up with something important!

Isn’t it amusing to have a girlfriend inside of your mind?

Not even in slightest. But I’m glad that you changed your tone; I’ve had enough of chills running up and down on my spine.

Oh dear, how could you be so mean…? Ah, I see. Are you acting all cool just to show me your affection? I see, I see.

What’s wrong, dear? You became so silent… Do you have a fever? Let me check your temperature, it’s sooo important to be in good health. I need you, dear.

That’s not nice, for you to ignore me. I’m worried and I can’t even take care of you. Do you know how painful it is when your beloved is in pain but you can’t do a thing?

You…

Ah, I’m so glad! Why did you not talk to me before? I was very, very worried, you know! Don’t scare me like that-

“SHUT UP, YOU DAMNED ILLUSIONARY BEING WHO DOESN’T EVEN EXIST IN REALITY!” My shout seemed to chase away all birds who were misfortunate enough to be in my vicinity. The very sight of dozens of frightened doves and the thought of possible aftermath of my thoughtless outburst returned me from the back of my mind to real world in which I nearly forgot to believe. And flabbergasted, yet somewhat interested looks of respectable citizens of Monreale didn’t encourage me enough to resume my voice practice. Most likely, I just gave a nice topic for heated discussions to kind and understanding Sicilian housewives for a week or so. I’ll leave the work of calculating approximate time period, during which my bones will be washed clean with soothe and sweet words, to statisticians.

Without wasting time on unneeded movements I flew to the extravagant front door of my new, yet so reliable house, unlocked the door and hid in the narrow corridor. Darkness found me once again, but now I wasn’t bothered by it. Not when I know that I have a cover above my head and no traps are awaiting me here.

Letting my agitated body cool down, I walked down the corridor, utilizing my knowledge of qigong. My movements became more fluid adapting to changed rhythm of my breath. That was due to the amalgamation of various teachings which included philosophy, martial arts and religion, known by the name of qigong, or chi kung, or chi gung. Using breathing and walking as form of self-hypnosis a warrior could clear their mind and control their body more effectively and efficiently.

…I really pity the fact that mysterious voice disappeared somewhere during confusion. My tired mind needs to be distracted by something, be it annoying, irritating, selfish, cocky, insolent, cheeky, bothersome, provoking, arrogant, unnerving voice which sounded funny, strange, unfamiliar and familiar simultaneously with snarky, sarcastic, mean, nasty, venomous, poignant comments…

I’m tired of your long and loving depiction, so make it short.

…And I absolutely didn’t intend to invoke it with strange incantations.

Quit being tsundere, you’re in Italy.

Alright, alright. It’s my turn to make witty and passionate remarks, right?

Spare me. I’ll go and sleep, if you please.

Please do. I’m fine with a draw.

Hoping that I won’t hear voice’s snort- is such phenomenon even possible?- I went in a living room and slowly walked to the computer which was stilling most of my time dedicated to sound sleep. Black display was brought to life by simple movements of my fingers, and while the computer was turning on I took my time to search for a small, clean towel to wipe off my sweat. Wet T-shirt was thrown in the wooden laundry basket and replaced by dry white shirt.

I let myself simply enjoy a pleasant feeling from light material of shirt, before sitting on the chair and resting my fingers on the non-QWERTY-keyboard. Fortunately, the numbers there were in their usual, mathematically right order and it helped me to grow used to unfamiliar keyboard layout. Speaking of which, original version of this kind of keyboard created by someone, whose family name could be easily mistaken with that of famous Polish composer, looked a bit different in 1930s, but that’s details.

Light and quick gliding of mouse on its mousepad resulted in appearance of eerie-looking site on the display. I smirked when my glance fell on the post count of certain videos. It seemed that my little tricks worked exactly as I wanted them to. For the sake of controlling the flow of heated discussions, I made two accounts for myself, dividing between them roles of harsh prosecutor and kind barrister in the imaginary court, and used them to artificially create topics for finding flaws and contradictions in those mini-movies for the sake of diverting everyone’s attention from mystical parts of DD’s horror masterpieces. After all, fake mystery loses its appeal after its cover is blown.

However, all I’d done was to back that strict and always dead serious plotovercharacter who wrote entire pages of a little dry text full of terms from various fields of science starting from biology and ending with criminology just to prove one point of someone’s argument wrong. Needless to say, she or he – unfortunately, the profile was entirely empty – replied to all posts which were addressed to her or him in such a manner with terrifying speed of typing words. I won’t be surprised if plotovercharacter ended up beating world record or writing more words than it was needed for certain Internet challenge for novelists in one day instead of a cold autumn month.

Today was going to be spent in the same way as last night: plotovercharacter would start the attack on one of the new videos, and then I’ll take part in discussions, playing big roles on both sides without drawing entire spotlights on me. Well, my plan was along these lines if I hadn’t noticed a little number one near inbox sign of my nickname, or rather both nicknames which were ‘ThreeO’ and ‘O1O’. Surprised sigh escaped my mouth when I saw who sent me private messages.

“Oh my, I was found out?” I couldn’t help but whisper in acknowledgement of plotovercharacter’s deduction abilities. My hand slightly moved the mouse and the message opened with a click.

‘Dear O1O,

I’m honored to have such a companion on this site where everyone seems to believe in magic, which is ridiculous explanation of these mortifying videos, when the truth behind Death Drive’s cruel tricks may be figured out with a help of simple logic and slight hint of deduction. You have my eternal gratitude for your great help.

However, I want to uncover your own trick which you were using all the time. Excuse me, if I’m wrong, but do you have two accounts on this site? I’m talking about this account and the other one which are O1O and ThreeO respectively. According to my knowledge of English language, the number 1 in its writing starts from letter ‘o’, and that perfectly fits in the nickname ThreeO if we take into account other O on both sides of number 1. I’m sorry for my forced pun and overly long explanation of my speculation.

As for the meaning of your nickname, I have nothing but one baseless assumption. The very first commentary of yours was starting with the line, ‘I’m, of course, an odd one, but my imagination isn’t…”. I’ll omit the rest of quote, if you please, because it’s unrelated to the topic. The important word here is ‘odd’, and I think that it’s what first O means. The meaning of second O is self-explanatory, but third alphabet needs more than a simple quotation of any of your commentaries. I believe that you intended to make a hidden message from your nickname and that requires the word which will deliver the meaning. I’m not trying to flatter you but you stand out from most people on the site. That’s one side of my assumption but O can be interpreted in other way. For example, you want to deliver the message to DD himself in which you try to stop him or tell him that he was caught in something. I don’t know what the exact meaning but only one word fits here and it’s ‘out’.

And so, I could only decipher your nickname as the phrase ‘Odd One Out’.

I think that my explanation is sufficient enough to convey my thoughts. Allow me to explain myself, I wrote about that to clear that secret because I believe that friendship is impossible with secrecy and conspiracy. And that’s what I wanted to do with this letter – I attempted to clear the path towards our friendship. I hope that you accept it.

Thanks for your time.

Sincerely yours, plotovercharacter.’

The amused grin defeated my self-control without any resistance met and spread over my face.

It seemed that I made the right choice.

Part 4 – Perfect-area Complete![edit]

It seemed that Shin-tsu’s self-control was as weak as he admitted it – wide smile appeared on his lips without him noticing it. I sighed and silently extended my hand, taking his hand in mine.

“Eh, what are you doing, Kou…!” Shin-tsu’s face twisted from pain, thanks to pressure to his carpal bone on the joint between thumb and wrist.

“Shock therapy.”

“Don’t mistake terms with such self-confidence! Acupuncture is totally different from shock therapy!”

“I’m not using needles.”

“Hey, with your sharp nails you have no need in needles…! That hurts!”

“Are you done day-dreaming?” I casually asked.

“What about you acting as some yandere girl…? Wait, wait, wait, I am, I am.” Shin-tsu hastily answered. I let go of his hand and silently watched as he tried to relieve pain breathing on his palm.

“There was no need to repeat yourself, Shin-tsu.”

“Hey, stop randomly choosing roles from light novels which don’t suit you.” His comeback was quick and unexpected. But it could be used against him.

“Then what roles do suit me?” I asked, trying to maintain my poker face.

“…why I feel that my hand is in danger again?” Shin-tsu mumbled with caution. “Just don’t act. You are you, and not some character.”

Ridiculousness of situation forced me break my mask and let out small laugh before stopping. “What about your hand?”

“Nothing important. I won’t go in your acupuncture service.”

“I won’t let you enter my shop in the first place.”

“I doubt it.”

“Why?”

Shin-tsu involuntarily looked at his hand.

“Don’t you have more important questions?”

“I’d have asked why you are able to remember that message in all details but it’s irrelevant. Besides,” I made a pause. “I won’t fall for your trick thrice.”

“Did I praise you for your deduction ability in previous timelines?” Shin-tsu slyly smiled.

“That’s irrelevant.”

“Bad try, Kouma. You didn’t avert your eyes nor did you bat your meticulously tinted eyelashes - your self-control is as good as ever but even I can’t possibly miss a slight movement of your fingers when you tried to divert the topic. The frown on your face obviously says that you’re trying to remember if you had done such a silly mistake, and it completely gives you out. Besides, the phrase thrown by you is already a proof of my remark being said in other timeline.”

“Brilliant work, sir detective.”

That remark was left unanswered.

Part 5 – Again[edit]

Sometimes even I could be surprised by how different one person might be from first impression clearly printed in my twisted to some degree mind. After exchanging some information needed for further interaction, the discussion was continued in chatroom of a program which wasn’t the part of that gloomy site. The very first phrase of my virtual interlocutor nearly forced me fall from my chair.

‘Hi, I’m Shiina Ryo. :3’

The phrase itself wasn’t anything unordinary. It was a simple greeting with a brief introduction; however it contained enough letters, words, bits and bytes of information to leave me with my mouth agape and my fingers trembling from the feeling quite similar to culture shock. Or, maybe, her phrase just busted my stereotypes.

Yes, she was a girl, and this particular fact was one of the reasons why I was so shocked. I bet, if I were to ask ten people, whether or not there was any Japanese girl who was graduating from Middle School this year and was writing like a mature, middle-aged and overly serious man, all of them will be… as shocked as me, learning the truth, if they didn’t hold any biases or have any misconceptions about Japan.

Your constant remarks ruin your own statements.

Anyways, I was shocked and somewhat relieved that my new acquaintance was a girl. At the same time, I was quite worried about her personality but it doesn’t matter.

It does.

Don’t ruin my gloomy happiness.

How could you possibly come up with such contradictory pair of an adjective and a noun?

That’s an oxymoron.

Thanks for information, cap’n!

That being said, I was pleasantly surprised that Shiina Ryo was able to keep up with each and every reference made by me. By the way, she knew in and out of Japanese imageboards kitchen and was pretty capable in controlling certain information’s flow. What a peculiar girl she was.

Just like all girls you knew in your life.

I wonder.

And so, with every day of our conversations I grew more and more interested in Shiina Ryo. She was a textbook example of a girl who could be a complete mystery, despite being so open on the matter of revealing private information. I can’t say that I’m an expert in reading girls’ hearts but she is a unique being. And that was what brought the misfortune on Shiina Ryo.

It’s said that abnormality is a magnet for another abnormality. I can just admit that wise phrase and blame this universe’s laws for a certain message sent by Ryo.

It was, after all, a SOS-call in only two words, ‘Help me”.

Part 6 – The World[edit]

Long story short, Shiina Ryo was attacked. When she tried to open the door of her locker to retrieve her shoes, the trap was activated and it released a sleep gas which stole her consciousness. After that she was brought into hospital and there she underwent some analyses which ensured that gas hadn’t left any aftereffects.

Of course, it was just an official version, slightly corrected with my help and Shiina’s skills in controlling information. Fortunately, attacker didn’t seem to know in which locker her shoes were so he set up the trap in the wrong locker. Shiina ended up being the first to find poor unconscious girl and she brought help, hiding the note from the culprit. I guess she wasn’t to be underestimated because Shiina altered the name of the girl and managed to fool everyone until special news was released.

Right after first news with altered name of the girl appeared in the Internet, on the website was published a post which was a long-winded, theatrical warning to plotovercharacter and any of her helpers. It could have been just a coincidence, but I had lost all my hopes in such a possibility after all my adventures. Therefore, my paranoia almost went into frenzy when DD for the first time commented something on his own site after learning the fact that Shiina was safe and sound. By the way, it was another warning which turned out to be more psychotic the latest post on the site.

With all these facts on my hands, I couldn’t have possibly ignored the report from police which informed me that in Japan occurred several cases of kidnappings with following mutilations of people. My kind and caring contact managed to send me a clear photo from scene of crime. And I wouldn’t advise anyone to look at that picture.

The most innocent murder was sinking an unfortunate guy in his blood bath. It was a usual crime, if there wasn’t one particular fact which made me worry about connections of the killer – poor boy had hemophilia. Due to that his body was dried to the point where you could think that there was a vampire running wild under darkness’s cover. By the way, the guy lost his parents in his early childhood and lived in specially allocated to him house with nurses working there without any holidays. His place wasn’t a secret but no one would be allowed to come near him for no reason. That obviously raised suspicions.

Other cases were more gruesome so I’ll omit details. The only common trait was that all victims had some illnesses like sepsis, leukemia, tuberculosis, etc. Other than that, police didn’t have any clues to the identity of mysterious killer. At the very least, not ordinary policemen.

I didn’t think that Interpol would be interested in some local psycho-murderer without any basis behind their investigation. After some search in the Internet I was able to find that there were similar cases in, at least, three other countries aside from Japan. Most likely, Interpol was monitoring DD’s site in order to make sure that it was just a prank, and now, with that idiotic post, Death Drive just released a bunch of piranhas into his moody lake of horrors.

However, I would have cast aside all those troublesome attempts to search for any valuable information if Shiina Ryo hadn’t requested me to do it. She believed that Death Drive declared her a war, and decided to come up with a counter-plan. And my long hours of surfing the Internet were for that purpose.

When I asked her in the chatroom, what her plan would be based on, Shiina answered me with her exceptional speed of writing:

‘Game theory, of course. :3’

Just to elaborate the thought in simple terms, game theory was a study which was used mainly for marketing, and its main priority was to help people to make decisions with more preciseness due to calculating chances of making profit and simulating all possible options. Or, rather, it simply studied the very matter of decision making. Game theory was quite a strong footing for a plan, but there was one flaw – all calculations were made with assumption that opponents were rational beings. Shiina’s answer on that question made me wonder if she was a genius or just a naïve simpleton.

“Yes, my odds would be low if I were the only rational player here. But I’ve never said that I’m just a rational girl without any tricks in my sleeves. :3’

There was only one thing left after her nonchalant message, and I never regretted my idea despite it leaving a bad taste in my mouth. When the request for information was sent to my contact, I could do nothing but patiently wait for the answer.

Who knew that after receiving new message with needed Intel of some sort I would write down a warning to Death Drive with a start?

In the end of the day, contents of my comment were simple:

‘KEN’s in the game.’