Cutscene: stage one.five - LIVIDO
swearing blah blah rating blah
There is a certain building in Tatsumi-shi near Fra Mauro that was the point of interest of an ongoing investigation into a drug known as Cintamani. Friday, a raid was conducted on the site in order to discover its secrets. Friday, a shockwave originating from this location wiped out power across the entirety of Sumaru. Friday, the team sent to look into the facility was not heard back from. There was nothing to be found in the facility.
Sunday, the first thing to emerge from the building is a horde of newborn, shadowy life that bursts from the building's underground stairwell like a broken spigot. Five thick geysers of negative life come spiraling out of the building one after another, their shapes constantly shifting as they literally start to construct themselves from basic metaphysical building blocks; amidst these five torrents of emotions yet to be given proper shape are countless spidery creatures caught within the momentum of the far greater forces like insects flushed out of hiding during a flood. Four of the formless masses spread out and disappear.
The fifth, the last, hesitates only a moment in the sky, before surging outward in its journey of discovery.
And in the city streets, the shadow spiders - the Children - eagerly spread themselves across Sumaru, unseen by human eyes, following the paths of their betters.
"So! What do you remember about the outside world?"
"... What? What kinda stupid-ass question is that?"
"Come on, don't be like that. I'm being serious. You're paying me to keep you in the loop on everything, aren't you? It's not going to do you much good if I just retread old ground, is it? Believe it or not, I'm not psychic."
"Well, if you don't want your money's worth, that's fine. Though I don't think you get easy enough access to it in a place like this to be flippant with it--"
"Shut up. Christ. I get it. What do I remember about the outside world, huh? ... Nothin' good."
"Hey? Hey, I need some help here."
The Children stretch their spidery limbs across the pavement leisurely as a man wearing a black-and-blue sweater walks into a building in Hirasaka that should by all rights be vacant. The men inside, the table, and the lockbox full of cash with them suggest something different: this, like many vacants, has been turned into a clinic for a very particular kind of prescription.
"Sorry bud. Closed up for tonight. You're gonna have to try an' find something tomorrow."
"But I really need some help here. You haven't even heard me out."
"Listen, junkie, you want your fix, you're gonna have to--"
One gunshot, and the grousing dealer hits the wall in a spray of blood. His companion has barely yanked the gun out of his pants before a second shot buries hot metal into his heart. As the last man falls, the first slumps into the ground, alternating between clutching the wounded side of his neck and his lockbox, as if unsure which is more precious.
The man in the sweater walks up. Without a thought, he tears the lockbox from the man's grip. "You're probably going to die," he explains callously. "But if you don't, tell your boss: sucker punching Sumiyoshi-kai doesn't make you a badass. It makes you an idiot."
The fallen man only gurgles something bordering on insulted before his assailant takes the lockbox and leaves.
The Children, unseen, eagerly follow with the skittering scrape of limbs across gravel as a dark Shadow passes overhead.
"Wanna hear a story? I knew this guy. Eh? Doesn't matter what his name is. Shut the fuck up for a second.
"Anyway, this guy. He'd go around convincing people he was an agent with the Public Safety Bureau, investigatin' yakuza shit, an' that he had it on good authority that such-an'-such chump was bein' targetted for some bullshit reason or another.
"He'd start gettin' these people to believe he was bringin' 'em in on his mission, an' then, oh no, somethin' fucked up, an' we gotta go underground. Of course, if he's gonna keep all these dumb fuckers safe, he's gotta have money to organize security an' shit right? So they give 'em all the money they've got an' he keeps 'em squirreled away in some hidey-hole separated from all their family an' friends for months while he bleeds 'em dry of all their money. Seriously. The guy gets these assholes to agree to being basically kidnapped an' ransomed.
"Best part of all that? Public Safety Bureau don't even give a shit about what the yakuza do. Ain't their problem. Shit's handled local. Who knows why they fell for it? Maybe they thought they really were special or somethin'. Maybe they just wanted an excuse.
"People are fuckin' dumb. An' people only know enough to take advantage of other people bein' fuckin' dumb when they see it."
At Yoshida Pharmaceuticals, secretaries diligently started shredding papers the power outtage ends and news gets out of how the event is believed to be centered somewhere in Tatsumi-shi. They don't know why they're doing it, but they can make an educated enough guess to tell them it's better they don't know. Akane Chinen strides past them with a face that tries not to let her worry show. She stops just at the entrance to Takumi Yoshida's office. She hesitates only a second, hand lifting to her collarbone briefly before she steps inside.
The young woman nods her head as her employer greets her in. Cautiously, she takes a seat at his desk, adjusting her red neckerchief as the man speaks.
"Unfortunately, Chinen-san, we're going to have to make this meeting as brief as possible," begins the man. He looks to be in the process of gathering materials around his office. "I have somewhere I need to be. As I've told you -- it's come up a bit abruptly, but I have to take a small trip. For business. There's an opportunity that I cannot afford to pass up."
"... Of course, sir," murmurs Akane, her eyes lowering almost as if trying to prepare for something.
"Don't look so glum, Chinen-san. Consider this an opportunity: while I'm away, I'm going to put responsibility over all of Yoshida Pharmaceutical's day-to-day business and related dealings under your direct purview."
The dark-eyed woman immediately looks up. "Sir, but I-- that's not necessary, for me to--"
"Chinen-san. Considering our relative positions, who else do you think would be better for shouldering this responsibility? It will not be long. I promise. Nothing will happen."
Akane Chinen stares at Takumi Yoshida for a long, silent moment. Her mouth opens, but words hesitate to find her -- as if gleaning meanings behind meanings. Her voice dies briefly at her lips.
"... Of course, sir," murmurs Akane, her eyes lowering in defeat.
From the window beyond, something like a black cloud of ichorous disease swells past.
"... Anyway. This guy, right, you think eventually, he's gotta know every man's got a limit. Gotta know when to cut your losses, or what the fuck ever. Nah. This guy keeps goin'. He even starts marryin' some of the girls he gets squirreled away in his little hidey holes for some weird shit. Anyway, point is, you keep doin' somethin', eventually you're gonna slip up. An' sure as shit enough, eventually this clown tries to convince the wrong fuckin' lady the yakuza are after her. We sure did have a good fuckin' laugh when we heard from one of our people that there's this guy runnin' around like an chicken with his damn head cut off tryin' to convince her we're out to kill her or sell her into a sex trade or, I dunno, hurt her feelings real bad or somethin'.
"What'd we do to him? ... Well, y'know. You act like you're full of shit, you oughta be prepared to eat shit with a grin, right? Yeah. We had a good laugh over it afterward. Fuckin' moron. We let 'em go after that. Small fry, didn't really matter. Police eventually found 'em, found the people he was 'protectin'.' Ruined all their lives but end of the day, he makes himself a sweet deal a gets a minimum sentence. Was stayin' at one of those white collar places last I heard.
"You wanna know what the world is? It's a buncha idiots tryin' to get one up over all the other idiots. So in the end they all just end up fuckin' each other repeatedly an' no one wins.
"That's what I remember about the world."
A bleak, formless mass, born from the aftermath of the explosion in Tatsumi-shi, slithers its way above and around the streets of Sumaru. It is directionless, purposeless. It has yet to define itself. From its black, gelatinous mass, masks form and recede, as if briefly glimpsing the world beneath it to try to find meaning for its existence within snapshots.
It continues to look. It passes by the sick, the happy, the angry. Past a gang hit executed at the cusp of war. Past a business executive laying claim to his scapegoat of a manager in a desperate bid to evade responsibility. It devours the Children riding on its back, hoping in consuming them it might learn its own shape. Now it is simply lonely.
It continues to look. One of its masks briefly snaps a shot of violence in the streets before it shrivels away. Of police trying desperately to quell a riot. The fear and distrust is processed with the quaver of its slippery body.
It no longer needs to look.
"'Course, I got worse stories than that. But that ain't the point. People all play pretend at gettin' along because they don't wanna get screwed over. Fact is, it happens anyway. But as long as they pretend like it ain't 'normal' then everything's all fine again.
"... Well. End of the day, you ain't gonna live long if you can't even trust one fuckin' person. That just makes you one of those losers holin' themselves up in a bomb shelter waitin' for the apocalypse like a goddamn bomb shelter's really gonna help 'em. You gotta be able to trust some people. Have somethin' you think of as family. You ain't even somethin' worth givin' a half a shit if you don't value that of all things.
"Most of the people in the world are fuck ups. But some of 'em know what they're doin'. You find those people, those people find out -- you get the chance to put stock in 'em... you get to be part of the lucky crowd of people who ain't quite totally fucked. Loyalty to the people that matter - makin' sure you pay that debt back in full for bein' lucky enough to be saved from the trash heap - that's the only thing worth givin' a shit about.
"Hm? Oh, nothing, nothing! I was just thinking, 'I never knew this scary-looking guy was such a wide-eyed optimist.'"
"You're an annoying piece of shit. You know that?"
"Ara? Really?? ... Well, I guess that means I'm not part of your trustworthy people club, huh? That's okay, though! I think I prefer being in this corner over the other.
"Anyway... I wouldn't worry too much, Matsuda-san.
"With a sunny disposition like yours, I'm sure you're going to do great things when you're back in the real world~."
"... Goddamn smartass. I'm done here."
"Huh? Hey, wait, I still need to--"
"... Whoops. Oh well~. Next time I guess!"
In the aftermath of the riot, the unformed creature of negative space follows inquisitively after a police car until it reaches the Konan Police Department. It oozes into the cracks between walls, eyes unseen watching in betwixt the spaces between molecules as men and women, tired and overworked, futiley attempt to corral their workspace into any sort of order. Morale is low. Frustration is high. Paranoia is what this place's fertile ground is composed of. The creature ripples.
Unseen, the mass of despair released by the darkest depths of the human soul burrows itself deep, deep underneath Sumaru's police department in Konan. Its roots spread wide and fathomless.
And as it feasts on the hearts and minds of Sumaru City's last line of defense, it begins to finally take shape.
It has purpose.