Cutscene: Loose Ends

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IC Date: Monday, January 17, 2010

Characters Involved: Shiori Hibiki

Location: Somewhere in Port Island.

Despite the Dark Hour being quite some time away, Shiori had picked up a couple of shadows.

These were of the human variety, in the cloak-and-dagger sense. One of them loitered unobtrusively around the entrance to the cafe, while the other doubled back to the rear employees' entrance. Inside Cafe Chagall itself, Shiori noted two more serious-looking faces, a man and a woman, talking in low tones over their complimentary glasses of water. Shiori didn't know their names, but she was familiar with them, having sensed them in the vicinity of the Kirijo lab facilities before.

The manager had not been pleased when Shiori had handed in her letter of extended leave, but she was not an unreasonable woman, and understood that health concerns always came first, at least after she had ascertained that whatever Shiori had come down with, it was not contagious. Just some observation and testing, and then Shiori would be out again in no time. The documents the Kirijo Group had prepared for her were flawless, and possibly even legitimate, if one looked past the medical jargon. Shiori had insisted on handling the situation herself, though, and was surprised to have received permission to do so, provided she followed certain rules.

Always keep in sight. Don't do anything rash. Go straight back when you're done.

Shiori smiled and nodded and bowed apologetically, as the manager made vague sounds of commiseration, with promises that Shiori would always find a part-time job here at Cafe Chagall whenever she wanted. Besides, Shiori had worked so hard during Christmas, hadn't she? Selflessly taking up the shifts, never complaining once, always greeting customers with a smile.

Shiori continued smiling and nodding. Her own memories of Christmas had been fuzzy; surely she would have wanted to spend it with her boyfriend? But for some reason, she hadn't, and the extra wages in her bank account was proof of that. Maybe something had come up, something that made Shiori decide to spend Christmas working instead of a romantic date. Whatever it was, it clearly hadn't been all that important, since Shiori couldn't remember any of it.

She did not spend much more time at Cafe Chagall, leaving the manager to struggle over rearranging the work shifts. She paused to open her locker, and removed her nametag from her waitress uniform, before exiting out the back door, nodding amiably at the impassive-faced man waiting for her with a hand in his inner coat pocket. Shiori wondered idly if the concealed gun shot tranquilizer darts or real bullets.

Shiori amused herself on the way back to the Kirijo lab facility by reaching out with her Shadow-borne senses, lightly scanning her Kirijo-assigned monitors. Technically a breach of the rules, but who was going to know? To her mild disappointment, none of them had the Potential. Either they trusted her enough to expect that she would indeed be back at the labs on time, before the Dark Hour, or they were waiting for her to slip up so they could send the heavy hitters after her.

No. That was the wrong way to think. The Kirijo Group were here to help her, or so she'd been told. She'd promised, hadn't she? She'd promised to try to find a way to... not be the person she was now. Or rather, she'd let the Kirijo Group find that way. All she had to do, according to them, was to want it badly enough.

Shiori hesitated, just before the entrance to the innocent-looking office building that housed the Kirijo labs. A tiny part of her noted the sudden tensing of the three Kirijo guards behind her, and she fought down her initial reaction of amusement mixed with irritation, as she strode in, and flashed her special yellow-edged pass at the receptionist at the front desk. She could feel the receptionist's hard stare boring into her back, even without her Shadow senses. Nobody liked Shadow-Possessed roaming about free, a fact proven again by the security detail detaching themselves from their posts to escort Shiori into the facility proper.

Shiori had promised to try her best to let the Kirijo Group remove her Shadow, all for the sake of the one she loved, who had done so much for her sake. He was her anchor, in this world. He was the one real thing she could depend on, as solid as the earth, during a time when doubt tinged everything she sensed and her own memory played tricks on her. She would do anything for him. She would die for him.

And the Kirijo Group had given her quite a lot of freedom, hadn't they? She hadn't been locked away entirely, and she was even allowed to venture out for plenty of fresh air every day, provided she returned by curfew. Compared to others in her situation, Shiori had it good.

It was a thought she clung to often, especially now, as she ambled down corridors lined with Kirijo tech designed to disrupt and dissipate her spotter abilities. Slowly, surely, but necessarily, turning her blind and deaf, unable to see, to hear, to feel, to know.

Shiori managed to keep her balance for the last few steps to her assigned room, instead of stumbling like a lost, frightened child, groping in the darkness. An improvement, or perhaps just a fluke.

One of the guards held the thick steel door open for her. Shiori stepped through into the well-lit, comfortably-furnished room, certainly more spacious than any of her dorm rooms thus far, but the guided tour had pointed out the hidden cameras covering every angle, just before they shut the door behind her that first terrifyingly lonely night.

Shiori waited until she heard the locks slide into place behind her, before walking over to her desk. She opened a drawer, and placed her nametag from Cafe Chagall gently inside, before quietly sliding the drawer closed.

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