Jokes, Whims, & Coincidences
Chapter Nineteen, Tagging Along
Tekichu Sosa: Things to Be Seen
It took less than five minutes for Aiako-chan to adjust from her second close encounter with one of Shizu-chan’s projectiles, and then we settled down on the elephant slide to tuck into our dinner. If I was right, things would be getting interesting soon, and I didn’t want the sushi to go bad before we could enjoy it. Considering that Aiako still went into a near panic attack every time Izaya so much as opened his mouth, she wasn’t doing too bad at accommodating to violence.
“Um, Sosa-san,” she said (I’d need to break her of that “-san” habit; shit seriously made my skin crawl), “the blonde guy was there the last time, too. Does he always go after Orihara-san like that?”
Had I seriously not gotten around to telling Aiako-chan about Shizuo yet? Well, I guessed we still had a little bit of time left, so we could have a teaching moment. Swallowing my latest bite of Russia Sushi special rolls (I’m pretty sure this one had some sort of candy in the middle, which was excellent in my opinion), I nodded. “Yup! Shizu-chan and Izaya-kun have some weird rivalry going on or whatever, so anytime they run into each other, you can bet that they’re gonna try and kill each other.” I stuffed the next bite of sushi into my mouth, kind of wishing we had grabbed some drinks to go. “It’s funny, because I talked to Shizu-chan a bit on his own, and he seemed like an ordinary guy except for that bartender getup. He’s almost boring until Izaya-kun gets him to flip his switch.”
But people who are boring at first glance and go nuts at the weirdest things make for some of the best toys if you ask me!
Hunched over on herself, Aiako looked way less enthusiastic about the idea. “I see…” She didn’t stop nibbling at her sushi, though, the fish bringing a smile to her face. “Why are they like that, though? I mean, sure, Orihara-san is scary and a super bad person, but that doesn’t mean it’s normal to go throwing stuff like vending machines at him anyways.” She blinked, looking back down to our elephant perch. “Wait, how can he even lift things that are so heavy?”
“Sounds like a mystery to me! You’re asking just the kind of questions I like to hear!” Come to think of it, while Shizu-chan’s shows of hatred were pretty damn obvious, Izaya didn’t like Shizu-chan much, either. There was definitely some history there. Aiako blushed from the praise, and I threw my arm around her shoulder, almost knocking the sushi box from her lap. “I don’t work tomorrow, so we can go on an adventure tomorrow and investigate. It’ll be great practice, my little protégé!”
“Ah, S-Sosa-san, my sushi! No, wait, I still have to go to school tomorrow.”
“Yeah, but it’s a half day, right? I’ll pick you up, and we’ll go from there.” Headlights flashed from down the road, and I stopped jostling Aiako-chan around to get a better look at the approaching vehicle. Bingo. “But first, there’s still an adventure for us to have tonight!”
Dotachin was the first one out of the vehicle, with Erika and Walker close behind him. Saburo followed the moment he had the chance to kill the engine, and just like that, the lovely Van Gang had assembled. I raised a hand in a wave. “Yo!”
“Oh, hey, it’s Sosa-chan!” Walker said, returning my wave, though his smile was a little more strained than usual. “I guess we did hear you on the other end of the phone, huh?”
“Ah, and who’s this little cutie?” Erika asked, her eyes lighting up the moment she saw Aiako-chan. It took less than a second for Erika to wrap up Aiako in a hug. “You’re so cute! I bet you would look great in cosplay.”
Walker nodded. “For sure. She’s got the moe vibe going on. She reminds me of someone, but I can’t think of who…”
“Come on, you guys know this isn’t the time,” Dotachin said, his deep baritone cutting through the chatter. Erika released Aiako, and she sunk back to her seat on the elephant with an exhausted groan. “You were here with Izaya, right? Where’s the guy who had Kazutano’s phone?”
“I dunno who Kazutano is, but if you’re talking about the phone Izaya-kun answered, then it’s over there,” I said, offering a helpful point in the direction of the passed out body by the pile of garbage. “You guys probably know this already, but he’s part of some lame human trafficker group, so be careful.” As an info broker, I probably shouldn’t have mentioned that without a fee, but at least I didn’t give up the real goods—like who they worked for and stuff. I had the feeling that Izaya-kun’s patience would only go so far if I brought of stuff like Yagiri Pharma without his permission.
Saburo was already cursing at the guy and shaking him, with Dotachin watching overhead with his body language stiff. The delightful otaku duo seemed way less zoned in, though. “Erika, Erika,” Walker said with the same enthusiasm he’d had talking about manga before, “look, if we count Sosa-chan and her friend, we score both a little sister and an older sister helper fairy character in the same move.”
Erika nodded, her head looking just about to pop off at any moment. “Whoa, you’re right, Yumacchi! I wish I had that good of luck when it came to gachas.”
Aiako looked up to me, on the verge of tears. “Sosa-san, who are they…?”
“Oh, it’s Dotachin and Van Gang,” I said, only half answering her question. If she was gonna be my protégé, she’d need to start introducing herself to people and figuring stuff like that on her own. “They’re super fun, and part of the Dollars, too. You can trust them.”
Aiako-chan probably would have believed me if Erika and Walker hadn’t whipped out some hardware, an obvious threat to the unconscious human trafficker. Dotachin scolded him like a stressed out dad would, to minimal effect.
“But the longer we wait to find Kazutano, then—!”
“She’s right! The longer we wait that means the closer they get to killing him!”
“Kill?” Aiako asked beside me, her voice a whimper.
I ruffled her hair. “Don’t you worry your pretty little head, Aiako-chan. These guys aren’t the type to let their friends get hurt.” They were earnest like that, pursuing their own ideal of justice—cool in its own way. And while I couldn’t care less if some stranger went and died (less humans around was okay with me), Aiako-chan wasn’t at a point where she’d be desensitized to that sort of thing yet. I’d have to bide my time or botch having her as a protégé altogether.
But that’s a risk I’m okay with taking.
Dotachin was the one that solved their little issue with no excessive violence involved, shaking out the trafficker and using a call on the guy’s cellphone to get the drop off location straight from the horse’s mouth. I wasn’t sure whether to be more impressed at Dotachin’s quick thinking, or at the dumbass trafficker for not realizing he’d been tricked.
Either way, the team had figured out how to find their missing friend, and that called for a celebration, all four of them bursting out into excited cheers and rapid-fire chattering. Even the normally deadpan and serious Dotachin started singing (I faintly recognized the melody from some opera or another, but his lyrics were a Kadota Kyohei original), and I took the opportunity to record what I could on my phone. Guy had a decent voice, plus it was powerful enough that I couldn’t quite make out whatever the pink-hoodied trafficker was saying when he blearily woke up. Their response, though, made it a bit easy to guess.
“We are—” Everyone together: “The Do-oo-laaaaars!”
“Su! And don’t you forget it!”
From my vantage point, Saburo had a pretty decent punch form, and then the unfortunate Yagiri lacky was back to the land of unconsciousness. Aiako-chan yelped, and I tapped the stop record button before hopping to my feet to join the team huddle. “You guys are goin’ after those guys, right? Can we come with?”
Walker was the first to nod, ushering me along to the van. “Having more party members totally means boosted stats, right?”
“For sure!” Erika said, corralling Aiako along in the same direction. After everything that had happened, my protégé didn’t put up a fuss, though her already pale complexion seemed to have lost what remaining color it had. “With all of us together, there’s no way we won’t get Kazutano back!”
“Can you two stop babbling nonsense for five seconds and take this seriously?” Saburo yelled over his shoulder as he unlocked the van and hopped into the driver’s seat.
“Let’s just focus, guys. We don’t have time to waste!” Dotachin said. Well, how was I supposed to argue with that. I joined Erika and Walker in the back of the van, helping them safely secure Aiako-chan into a seat, and the sound of several doors shutting in unison made an impressive echo. “Let’s go save Kazutano!”
And with a roaring shout from everyone, we set off.
“A-and I’m Susanuma A-Aiako! Nice to m-meet you all!”
She may have stuttered, but I had to give Aiako-chan some mad props for introducing herself to strangers without much of a hitch. Bonus points to her for doing so in a van that was racing along at a rate way above the posted speed limit. Saburo may have had an unhealthy obsession with his van, but he could put the pedal to the metal when the situation called for it.
“I absolutely cannot,” Erika said, grinning at Aiako. “She’s too adorable. I want twenty. Can I adopt her?”
“No can do,” I said, pulling Aiako into a hug. “She’s my protégé, and she’s not for sale. However, if Aiako-chan wants, I’m not against her being friends with you guys.” Considering everything she’d been through, it would be good for her to branch out a bit—plus these guys were fun, and they’d be a good way for Aiako to adjust so she could eventually act in full capacity as my protégé down the line. “What do you think Aiako-chan? I vote yes.”
Aiako squirmed a bit, but then relented once she realized I wasn’t letting go of her anytime soon. “Sosa-san, was that even a real question?”
“Well, yeah, but I still think yes is a good idea.”
“Um, I…” She glanced between Erika and Walker, who looked much less intimidating without their tools out and about. “I guess that would be okay?”
The otaku threw up their arms in a synchronized cheer, and I gave a satisfied nod of my own. Aiako-chan would do just fine if she kept going the way she was. If only I could get her to stop panicking whenever Izaya was in the immediate vicinity…
“Hey, Kyohei,” Saburo said from the front, “you see what I’m seeing?” That was enough for all of us in the back to spin towards the windshield. If I squinted enough, I could see the shadow of another van against the edge of the highway.
“Yeah, that’s gotta be them,” Dotachin said. “Let’s roll.”
With a vengeance, Saburo gunned it until it almost ran over the punks, and the Van Gang spilled out of the van in coordinated motion. Aiako-chan stayed behind, while I hung out of the open door, trying to get a good view of what was going on. It seemed the remaining two dumbass traffickers (who were, in fact, the same ones that had helped out with the Magenta-chan situation) were ready to throw down. None of the Van Gang seemed impressed, though, and I shared similar sentiments. These guys weren’t anywhere near good enough to win when they were outnumbered three to one.
And then it happened—
The sound of Celty’s motorcycle in the dark.
I knew it was a good idea to come along for this!
The grin stretched across my face as I stood up as much as I could in the van’s space, trying to catch sight of the shape of Celty’s shadow. Even Aiako had perked up, and in my peripheral vision, I could see her eyes going wide. “That’s the Black Rider…” she said, and the only reason I could hear her so clearly was because she’d also moved to look out the door with me, putting us shoulder to shoulder.
A position from which we had the perfect view of the trafficker duo panicking, scrambling to release the old foreign guy I presumed to be Kazutano, and then hightailing back into their van. Come to think about it, Celty had been the one to pick up Magenta-chan for us, so I guessed they had had a less than stellar first experience with her. Out of the van gang, Saburo was the first one to move towards their friend as the traffickers started to drive away.
“They’re running?” Aiako asked, but that would have been a super boring outcome, so I shoved my way into the front seat at about the same time that Dotachin was opening the passenger door and Erika and Walker were cramming into back. Lucky me, Saburo had left the key in the ignition and the car idling, so all I had to do was shift the gear and hit the gas. “S-Sosa-san?!”
As fun as it would have been to gun it and take chase, I could already see Saburo turning livid, so I just turned the car around before pulling up to him and Kazutano so they could join us. Walker helped the foreign guy in, Erika shut the backseat door behind him, Aiako scrambled to get out of the way, Dotachin managed to give me an exasperated look, and Saburo was already storming around the front of the idling van, his mouth shouting something that I couldn’t even hear until he practically threw open the driver’s door.
“—and who the hell said you could even get close to the steering wheel of my van—?!”
“I like drove for a grand total of five meters, calm your tits!” I said, not that it had much effect on Saburo’s ire. “Listen, Saburo-chan, I enjoy pissing people off on a regular basis, don’t doubt me there, but I also think tailing those guys is going to be way more interesting for me. ‘Sides, you don’t want to let people like them get away with kidnapping your friend, do ya? So let’s call a truce and get this show on the road, mmkay?”
Just like I’d been aiming for, Saburo’s rage slipped away from me and latched onto a much more worthwhile target, which quieted his ranting at me near instantly. His face turned into a determined glare. “Move to the back,” he said.
Since that matched up with what I wanted anyways, I didn’t protest and dutifully hopped my way to the back (almost elbowing Dotachin in the face in the process). I hadn’t even settled down in a seat before Saburo slammed his foot on the accelerator in a squeal of tires. The car shot forward, tumbled in the opposite direction, and it was Kazutano who managed to stop me from faceplanting right into the ground through a lucky catch.
“Dotachino!” he said with a heavy accent as I managed to slip into a spot between Aiako and Walker. “You no tell me you make new friends. Where did these beautiful ladies come from?”
Despite the dim lighting, it was incredibly easy to see that Aiako’s face had flushed a deep red. Walker held up a proud finger. “They’re the older sister and little sister helper fairy combo that helped us figure out where you were!”
“I see, I see,” Kazutano said with the air of someone who didn’t understand at all.
“Will you stop spouting nonsense in a time like this?” Dotachin called from the front seat. “Well, I guess you’re right that they helped us, but still… Let’s just say they’re some friends who wanted to make sure you came home safe, alright?”
Saburo, meanwhile, was laughing like a maniac. “You think you can just slip away? Wrong! Aaand turning right!”
The force of the sudden turn splatted Erika and Walker into the windows, and I halfway crushed Aiako-chan underneath me. That didn’t stop us from laughing, and the conversation around us became even more nonsensical—just the way I liked it. Aiako groaned as I worked on sitting us both back up straight.
Not that it lasted long, as Saburo’s next move after the trafficker’s van slipped down some alleyway that was too wide for ours to fit in was to drive his car down the next available set of stairs. “Oi! Where do you get off telling me not to drive your van when you’re treating it worse than I did?!”
“Shut up! What I do with my van is none of your damn business!” As if waiting for the perfect opportunity to do so, Saburo cranked the wheel, swerving us off the stairs and right into the path of the trafficker’s van. Erika and Walker went tumbling, making the perfect cushion for Aiako as she toppled back off her seat and on top of them, yelping all the way. I’d managed to keep my balance by snatching onto the back of Saburo’s headrest, and it looked like the trafficker’s had crashed their own vehicle into a nearby fence.
Dotachin was out the door before Saburo had even finished pumping the breaks, and the heftier of the two traffickers had gotten caught between his door and the fence. The skinny one was making a clean break, and I hopped out as well, sprinting off after him while Walker and Erika scrambled to follow behind me.
While the trafficker wasn’t out of shape by any means, it didn’t change the fact that I was faster. I snagged onto his jacket, he tried to worm his way out of it, and in the seconds he lost focusing on his upper body I was able to sweep his legs out from beneath him and effectively trap him under my body weight. He put up a decent effort at struggling, I had to give him that, but—
“You know,” I said, digging my knee into his back in the most painful way I could manage from my angle, “I happen to be friends with the Black Rider. If you don’t cooperate, I won’t have a problem calling her up to help us out a bit.” As expected, the guy’s struggling stopped in an instant.
I hadn’t been expecting him to faint, though. Bonus!
And while it may have looked like our little escapade had finished, I was pretty sure the fun had just begun.