Port Island - Iwatodai Strip Mall
Iwatodai Station is one of the busiest monorail stations in the entire prefecture. Taxi services are plentiful, and many people park their bikes off the main path. But the main draw is the nearby strip mall, just a crosswalk away. The number of bicycles parked on the sidewalk is a testament to how big a draw it is for such a small place.
The three-story strip mall is a great place to go if you are hungry, and the restaurants are fiercely competitive. The Wakatsu and Wild Duck Burger make wilder and wilder claims to draw customers in, though a smaller sweets shop and a beef bowl shop pull in their numbers through sheer specialization. A shady takoyaki stand (which serves food with no actual octopus) has prices that can't be beat. Hagakure, the frontrunner, is one of the most popular ramen stops in the country and a must-visit if you're from out of town. There are also two bookstores, a manga shop called Book-On and a used books store called Bookworms.
Disconcertingly, this is where many victims of Apathy Syndrome - otherwise known as "The Lost" - seem to gather. It is not uncommon to find one or more lounging around underneath the somewhat rusty spiral staircases, but usually authorities will relocate them to a hospital before long. This has not stopped them from continuing to favor this particular part of town.
The summer break has given Fumiya plenty of time to idle his time away out in Inaba, and occasionally Okina, but he's been dragging his feet when it came to going back home to Port Island. First of all it would mean his folks breathing down his neck again, despite his intentions to not spend much time there. But there's also a bunch of other people Fumiya would rather avoid. For as bad as he is at making friends, he's pretty damn good at making enemies.
So this weekend his parents insisted he make a trip out there, and Fumiya figured he'd grab a few extra superfluous belongings he had left behind. A simple trip to his home from the Iwatodai Strip Mall shouldn't be eventful, he figures.
So he is quite surprised indeed when, just as he walks by an alley coming down from the monorail station, a meaty fist grabs him by the collar and drags him out of the light of day, and slams him up against a brick wally.
Fumiya winces, though knows who his assailant is before even seeing his face. "Oh... hey Gouri. How's tricks?"
The large, imposing, teen isn't very pleased with Fumiya. His grip tightens as another teenager, a lackey of his, stands off to the side to make sure Fumiya doesn't try to run. "Don't gimme none of that lip, Watanabe. I told you what would happen if I saw you again."
Meanwhile, not so far from Fumiya's little predicament, who else could be walking out of the Book-On manga store but HAPPY-GO-LUCKY GOGGLE BOY Shiki Ichimonji! With both hands, he's carrying an oversized bag stuffed to the brim with manga of all shapes and sizes. Or, more accurately, dragging it. Where does he find the time to read all this, anyway? And more importantly, why didn't he think to ask for a second bag? It might just rip apart at this rate!
Nevertheless, he makes his way towards the station. However, his goggles suddenly flash, a mere glimpse at them capable of making a grown man blind. Indeed, they're reflecting a shade of pure neon visible even from a dark alley! Before the reflection can cause any more permanent damage to passerbys, he himself notices the flashy boy, from the corner of his eye. Hey, it's...
"Fumiya... Fumiya Watanabe!" Shiki makes his way to the alley, congratulating himself on his excellent memory. The bag is now slung one-handed over his shoulder, which makes him look cool but also turns out to have been a much better idea in theory than in practice. "I didn't expect to run into you here!"
However, only then do his pupils start adjusting enough to the shade to let him see more of the scene. He stops in his tracks, mouth widening as he notices that the thugs in him don't seem as enthusiastic as he is about seeing the 80s kid again. "...Am I interrupting something?"
Surely, with a silly flaming shirt like this, Shiki and Fumiya must be part of the same cult or something.
In spite of the beefy teenager holding him up by the collar, Fumiya tries to remain upbeat, defiant even. "Hey, what are you so upset about? It looks like your nose healed up fine." A pause. "Mostly." This causes Gouri to lift Fumiya up away from the wall briefly, only to slam him back into it a second time.
Truth be told. Gouri's nose does look a little crooked. He doesn't have a very handsome face to begin with, so that might be hard to spot at first. There are more imposing teenagers out there, but Gouri is still threatening. He's at least a few inches taller than Fumiya. There's no visible tattoos or anything that would identify him with a major gang, he's really just a small-time delinquent that has a grudge with 80s kid. His smirking lackey is considerably slimmer than Gouri, wears a bandana that partially covers his left eye, and nonchalantly holds a dagger in his right hand. Gouri just sneers. "When I heard you chickened out to Inaba, I knew I should keep an eye on the train stations. It wouldn't be long before you went crying home to your folks again."
"You need a hobby, man." Fumiya retorts.
Gouri seems about ready to let Fumiya have it, when Shiki shows up. "The hell are you?" He grunts, and just motions with his head towards the manga-writing intruder. "Get rid of him, Kappei."
The slim thug takes a few steps forward, juggling his dagger as if putting on a show. He doesn't speak, but the look on his face isn't friendly at all.
Fumiya, at least, seems positive about the situation. "Heya Ichimonji!" He calls out, in complete disregard to the nature of his predicament. "Nice day for a stroll, huh?"
Shiki's bag is dropped behind him with a loud thud. It doesn't take long for the manga boy to realize that he might have gotten himself into trouble. Scary! He takes a step back, catching his foot on the manga bag in the process. He falls over backwards, sending some of the volumes sprawling around the alleyway. Naturally, they're all shounen manga titles.
As Kappei approaches him, however, Shiki remains paralyzed for a moment. Instead of doing what many other boys his age and size would have, however, he doesn't run away. No, he gets up and faces the challenge head-on! He can't back out on a friend in need! Or, um... a friendly acquaintance in need? Eh, still counts as a friend!
Shiki looks at his opponent in the eyes, attempting but not really succeeding at reciprocating the menacing stare. "N-no! I'm the one... who will get rid of you!" He reaches into his jacket's inner pocket, and draws out... another knife?! It's a smaller type, the kind used for throwing, but a very real, sharp knife indeed! What's he doing with that?! Much like the one facing him, he shows off a bit, juggling the knife and-- fumbling it out of his shaky hands.
Problems can sometimes get much more imposing when you can't blast a Knight of the Round Table at them out of your head.
Shinjiro Aragaki, in fact, had NOT been watching silently for his dramatic cue from a lofty and Batman-esque standpoint. He had, at the time Fumiya found himself ensnared and dragged into that dark alleyway, just rounded the corner onto the far end of street from which Fumiya was forcibly plucked. He catches a glimpse of neon being dragged away, sees Shiki drop what he's doing and trot right into the alley after, and... heaves a rather long-suffering sigh.
Time to put on 'that face.'
Years ago, Shinjiro had to learn the hard way-- much like Shiki is doing now-- that mundane problems are a lot more difficult to solve when they cannot simply be taken care of via ethereal headmonsters. Given his several-year head start in this field, Shinjiro has a much better idea of how to take care of himself in the street-- and in the (violent, punishing, retributive) process of learning that, he established the reputation he has now.
For a few moments, Shiki stands alone in the face of the knifewielding thug. Then, out of seemingly nowhere, a rather... taller form appears behind him, deliberate steps prefacing its entry into the alleyway proper. Aragaki brings his presence in with him, a heavy shrouding pressure that inheres especially in the slant of his glare and the steeled slope of his shoulders. Narrowed grey eyes glance straight past Shiki, past even Fumiya, focusing on the thug and his assortment of lackeys.
"Enough." It's only one word, and it's said quietly, but then again Shinji doesn't need to raise his voice to make it carry. "Drop him."
Fumiya tries not to sigh as Shiki fumbles with his own knife. At least he's trying. He seems like a decent guy, and Fumiya would feel bad if he got hurt over this. But 80s Kid is still trying to think of how to talk his way out of this, and unfortunately Gouri seems a little too pissed off this time. Sheesh, you break a guy's nose once in front of his pals, pull his pants down, and kick him in front of a group of shopping girls and he hates you for life!
As Shiki holds their attention, Fumiya very slowly begins to unbutton his pink shirt. But it's about this time a wild Shinjiro appears. Fumiya is dumbfounded by his appearance; as is Kappei who nearly drops his own dagger in surprise. The thinner thug quickly flicks his wrist and hides his dagger within the sleeve of his shirt. He seems to know better.
Gouri, however does not. He's not quite as streetwise as his pal, despite seeming to be the guy in charge. "And who's this clown?" He asks, though only barely has time to finish speaking before Kappei shoots him a sharp 'STFU' look that startles him enough to give Fumiya the time he needed to slip out of his now unbuttoned pink shirt. Lucky for everyone involved he was wearing a black tanktop underneath it today. "Hey!" Gouri shouts, and grasps at Fumiya with his large hand. Kappei moves surprisingly quick and grabs him by the wrist to stop him, simply shaking his head very slowly.
Fumiya, meanwhile, scrambles away putting himself between the pair of thugs and his pair of apparant rescuers. "Yeah! You guys better give it up." He announces, placing his hands on his hips. "Or my boys will teach you both a lesson, you dig it?"
Shiki briefly considers drawing another knife and trying again. Of course, the resolve isn't really there: He doesn't want to have to hurt people! Before he can realize in exactly how tight a spot he is, however, Batman appears!
--Senpai. Senpai, not Batman. Right.
Before he even knows what he's doing, Shiki has taken refuge behind Shinjiro's comparatively gigantic frame. With some delay, he notices what he's just done, and steps out of the older teen's shadow, holding a pair of knives (steadily, this time)!
The redhead can't hold back a small cheer when Fumiya manages to make his cool and daring escape. His little taunt doesn't fall on deaf ears, and not a second later, Shiki has rushed to his side, knives at the ready. He can be confident, now! Aragaki-senpai is on their side! The tables have turned!
Complementing Fumiya's own pose, Shiki makes a cool one of his own, holding his knives much like some kind of ninja would. Surely Shinjiro will complete the set! Maybe he'll throw his hands up in the air or something?
Shinjiro holds his stance, a near-six-foot pillar of immovability in the dark center of the alleyway. For all he seems to take notice of the various scurrying movements transpiring around him, he might as well -be- a rock.
His glare reroutes instantly to Fumiya at that 'my boys' comment, though, the look loaded with venom. It's sort of like the glare Fumiya got the -last- time he pissed Shinji off in Inaba, except about ten times worse. The look expands to include Shiki when the younger SEES member -encourages- such nonsense, his stare attaining a certain foreboding 'I will deal with both of you /later/, you terrible awfuls!!' quality that is extremely difficult to miss.
"You idiots... both've you just stay outta of my way..." he growls at the enthusiastic duo uncharitably, taking three long, fearless steps forward to stand a little in front of the two. Shiki, being slightly more familiar with Shinji's particular quirks, may recognize 'idiots' as a mere generalized descriptor Shinjiro applies to everyone, even (especially) his friends, rather than any actual pejorative. He may, if he is especially good, be able to translate the entire phrase, for that matter: 'get back where it is safe and stop being a dumb.'
His attention settles heavily back on Gouri, grey eyes thinning, mouth hardening in clear displeasure at 1) not being recognized 2) being challenged. It is, as is everything else he's doing right now, part of The Image. "...Your friend's a lot smarter'n you are," he finally comments, and-- terrifyingly enough-- he actually smiles on the tail of his words. The expression is totally lacking in any sort of humor, but it makes up for it in malevolence.
"But hey, you wanna know who I am..." His voice slides low, syllables inflected as precisely as chiselblows, whetting itself a sharp edge of threat: "Stick around if you want to find out." He fuckin dares you.
No, Gouri isn't the smartest thug in Port City. He's /heard/ of Shinjiro, at least, he just never paid any attention to a description of him. Who would've thought he'd run into the guy? Let alone run into him protecting Fumiya. Gouri doesn't get filled in directly on Shinjiro's identity, though, as Kappei is already gone. Clearly he is the smarter of the two. Gouri keeps a tough act up, but with each word that Shinjiro speaks his resolve breaks apart. Like an animal sensing there is something wrong that it can't quite comprehend, Gouri starts to back up a bit as Shinjiro approaches. Finally he just turns and runs in the same direction Kappei left a moment after Shinjiro threatens him to stay. Though he has just enough balls to call back, "I'll get you eventually, Watanabe!" He neglects to add 'and your little dog too'. Shiki didn't make a large enough impression, especially after Shinjiro arrived.
"You'll have to catch me first, Gouri!" Fumiya calls back to them. As the thugs flee with their tails between their legs, he darts over to his discarded shirt to recover it. He gives it a slight flick to get any alley gunk off of it before placing it back on, returning his thin shield of neon between himself and Shinjiro's decreasing patience. "So Ichimonji..." He turns his attention to the manga artist "Good thing Aragaki showed up, or else we would've had to get serious. Am I right?"
Either Fumiya has less sense than he lets on, or he's just picking the wrong time to try and be funny.
T-this pressure! Shiki is surprised to find that Shinjiro isn't joining the two of them. Worst of all, he doesn't seem to approve of this plan at all! Shiki's burning enthusiasm instantly melts away when the street-wise senpai's stare falls on him. Huh-oh.
When Shinjiro steps forward and speaks, however, the goggled boy only gives him a silent, determined nod. He seems to understand the meaning of what's been said, partly thanks to having gotten somewhat used to the larger boy's mannerisms, but also as a quirk of seeing the world in Optimism-O-Vision. /Certainly/ Shinjiro just doesn't want them to get hurt. He is soooo cool!
...and the enemy is routed, before the short boy even has time to attempt an escape. So cool indeed! Silently, he crouches and begins gathering the few volumes of scattered manga. Phew, they're all right! Fumiya's joke, however, gets him a quick, disbelieving look. Shiki would have loved to help, but he had to rely on his senpai. No, he's not strong enough yet. Why is it that he can't even...
Just as suddenly as they came, those thoughts are stomped back down, and Ichimonji's expression lightens up. "...Yeah! I haven't seen you use your true power yet, have I, Watanabe-san?" He grins, before resuming dragging his large bag as he turns back to the heroic Shinjiro. "Thank you so much for helping us, senpai! I don't know what they wanted, but it couldn't have been good, right?"
Shinjiro watches as the thugs turn and run off, no trace of satisfaction in his narrow stare. He conducts himself, really, as if this were merely a messy bit of business at which he is particularly good, but which he takes no particular pleasure in. Once he's certain the threat is gone, he turns back to Fumiya and Shiki. He... does not look inclined to relax, or to let up the pressure of his /intense disapproval/.
It only gets worse when Fumiya makes that quip. The flattest of glares is shot Fumiya's way. "I'm in a mood now, /Watanabe/," Shinjiro warns, turning to fully face Fumiya and Shiki. "Don't make me expend it by kickin YOUR ass."
He looks then at Shiki, silently, not even offering to help the boy pick up his manga like a normal person would. His brows just furrow a little, the troubled look moderating some of the harshness of his expression, and he shakes his head to shrug off the thanks. "They had knives," he points out to Shiki, with remarkable patience. "Course they didn't mean anythin good..."
He shuts his eyes, exhaling a long sigh and pushing his hands into his pockets. "Take it you didn't leave Port Island on good terms." This, to Fumiya.
So far Shinjiro has been the only person in recent memory to actually succeed in getting Fumiya to shut his pie hole, if only briefly. His intense stare, and threat-laced warning, is more than enough to convince Fumiya that /this is not a good way to continue the conversation/. Reputation is a powerful thing, but /presence/ is another thing entirely.
Still, Fumiya clings to his cocky attitude even in the face of Shinjiro's potential fist, though he decides to be much more conservative than he would normally be. At Shinjiro's question, Fumiya clears his throat to answer confidentally. "Depends on who you ask, I guess. Gouri's not the only one that has a beef with me, if that's what you're wondering." It's not that Fumiya didn't leave friends behind here either, but he's oddly quiet about bringing them up. "What can I say? Some people can hold onto a grudge. He has to get over it someday." He decides not to elaborate on just what it is Gouri needs to 'get over'.
In an uncommon move from the 80s Kid, he tries to move the conversation away from himself. "So what brings you around here anyway, Ichimonji? More of your research?"
Shiki is, all in all, very lucky that Shinjiro is on their side, for his glare alone is enough to drain the spirit out of him, even if it's not directed directly his way. It actually occurs to him that, strictly speaking, Shiki himself was probably carrying more knives than those two and all their friends put together, and he certainly means well. Actually /talking back/, however, never crosses his mind. He grows paler for a short moment, but it soon passes when the senpai's attention returns to Fumiya.
As the 80s Kid gives his explanation, Shiki doesn't speak up, but he does shake his head in approval. That's stupid! No one should hold on to a grudge for that long. And Fumiya, of course, hasn't done anything wrong... right?
The goggled boy, however, is all too glad to let the conversation move away from that particular subject, and onto one he particularly likes. Namely, himself! "Actually, no, I was just getting myself some manga. I've had deadlines to meet, so there was a lot of stuff for me to catch up on."
Enthusiastically, he shows off a few of the volumes in his bag. Powerlevel Boy Gokko! Yakuza Pete! Phoenix Ranger Featherman Gaiden! And, of course, the latest issue of the Shounen Super anthology, the one in which his manga runs. "--Oh, that reminds me! Guess who I made a character?" With only one hand, he flips the thing open at exactly the page he wanted. It shows a robot being punched by... someone who, more or less, looks exactly like Mr. T. Huh.
"It's Commander T!" he brightly explains, "He's this really cool character who acts tough and angry all the time, but he really just wants justice to prevail. He's a big boss who can be scary, but the team can count on him to show up in the nick of time when the going gets rough!"
Shiki looks like he's about to say more, but suddenly pauses. Oh, maybe he just remembered that Shinjiro is there, since the large senpai now gets a ten-second completely expressionless stare. Quietly, very quietly, he can be heard... humming? He turns back to Fumiya. "A-anyway, what do you think?"
No, Shinji would not exactly be pleased to be corrected on the point about the knives... though really, he'd probably just snort derisively and point out that if Shiki couldn't see the difference in intentions there with regard to USE of said knives, he was being even dumber than usual. Quite endearing, that Aragaki. Fortunately, Shiki doesn't talk back in the first place; seemingly satisfied with that show of obedience, Shinjiro releases him from the pressure of his attention.
Instead, he piles his attention right onto Fumiya. Nonviolently, now that Watanabe has been smart enough to clam up, but that's probably only a small comfort. Indeed, it's one thing to merely hear rumors and stories about a person; it's another thing entirely to actually be around them, to be subjected to their presence-- or, more to the point here, to be well within range of their hands.
The answer given is satisfactory enough Shinji doesn't have to throttle anybody. Instead, he just glances a little distractedly in the direction in which the other boys fled. Looks like Fumiya made his share of enemies before he left. "People like him don't really 'get over' shit," he comments eventually. His grey eyes turn back to Fumiya, a lot less intense-- but no less perceptive. He noticed how Fumiya's skating around the topic, but then again... it isn't any of his business. He settles for cautioning, "'d keep that in mind. I ain't always gonna be around like I was just now..." A slow frown hoarfrosts his expression. "...and I better not catch you usin' my name like that again." Shinjiro does not like the idea of someone purporting to have any control over him or his whims, nor will he tolerate being anyone's attack dog.
He falls silent as Shiki describes his new character-- and then stares uneasily at him. Shinjiro's expression does not change, except for the part where his eyes narrow very faintly.
"...You two wanna talk, you'd better do it someplace safer," he grouses, rather than respond in any way to that suspiciously-familiar description. He is already walking past them-- back towards the mouth of the alley.
Fumiya actually frowns a little when Shinjiro tells him how unlikely it is Gouri will 'get over' it. He doesn't want to have to deal with being stalked every time he comes to Port Island, but like hell he's going to apologize or let Gouri wail on him. Oh well, no point in worrying about it right now, he decides.
He's momentarily startled by Shiki's proud exhibition of the latest addition to his manga. It takes all of his willpower not to crack up at it, because he has a feeling doing that might prove slightly more fatal with Shinjiro still around. "Oh yeah? That's great, Ichimonji. That'll be a huge success for sure." Really. Truly. He's not holding back any laughter, why would he?
Lucky for Fumiya, Shinjiro decides to leave them, though not before reminding him that standing around chatting in an alley may not be the smartest thing. "Yeah, y'know, I'd better get going. But, uh, tell me about it some other time, Ichimonji!" He says while backing out of the alley. "I'll catch you later!" Somehow. Despite not having any contact information besides 'goes to Gekkoukan'.
"Oh, yeah!" Shiki had momentarily forgotten that he was in a dark alley... not the best place for gushing about manga characters. Before leaving, though, he stops to think for a moment. As Fumiya prepares to make his exit, an object comes flying towards him! Oh god! "Think fast!"
It is, it turns out, the Shounen Super magazine Shiki was just holding. Fumiya helped him come up with the character. He does deserve a free magazine. "My e-mail address is in there," he shouts. He didn't write it down or anything, it's just on the contacts page. Convenient!