"Well, where do we go now?" asked Neku. "The Ouendan booted us, and Mr. H is on 'business leave.'"
"I don't want to go yet," Shiki said, looking down at a lifeless Mr. Mew. "I still want to go to the concert."
"I gotta have some ramen at Ramen Don before I leave, yo," Beat grumbled.
"So... You guys want to do some final preparations before we go? You could say something to Eri if you want," Neku said, looking at the shiny new pin he received from his dream.
"Oh right! I forgot about the dress I had to make for her... Do you think we could go shopping for a while before we leave?"
"Sure. I'll see if we can get some train tickets," Neku said.
"Beat and I are going to go to Wild Boar for a while, okay?" Rhyme asked in her usual cheery tone.
"Cool. Let's all meet back at 104, just to make things easier."
Everyone went their separate ways, leaving Neku to get the tickets. Fortunately, multiple games at Stride have given him loads of money for various things. He was just about to go inside to buy some tickets, until he heard his phone ring. Strangely enough, Neku never bothered to buy a new phone, even though his was incredibly outdated by now.
"New mail, huh? I wonder who it's from..."
Subject: Before you leave...
I know that you were requested to leave this place. However, it would be wise of you to stay here for the moment until things settle down. If you turn to your right, you will see a familiar face conversing with someone. Help them, and you may be rewarded. I am unsure as to what will happen if you do leave, but the results will almost definitely be negative. So do whatever you like, but just remember: the path you chose was your choice alone.
Sincerest wishes on your journey,
The e-mail was signed using a small butterfly character. Neku didn't know how that was even possible, but he was just used to the world trying to screw with him by now. He was at a crossroads: should he follow the e-mail's advice, or should he ignore it and buy the tickets?
"Hmm... well, I could follow his advice, seeing that he isn't really that bad. I still don't know if I can completely trust him, though. Why can't he just do all of this himself?"
While, he was pondering, he saw a girl his age talking to someone wearing an oddly-styled pair of shades and a bit of a tan. She reminded him of the girl he saw in his dream, with the same orange hair and brown eyes, except for the fact that she didn't wear glasses, and seemed a lot more... confident than her dream counterpart.
"Isamu-kun, how are we supposed to do this mission?" the girl asked.
Isamu responded in a seemingly disinterested voice, "Well, we could try imprinting-"
"No imprinting, Shotaro!"
"How many times do I have to say it? It's Shotora, not Shotaro. Anyways, I think that guy over there is staring at us." He pointed at Neku staring blankly at the both of them.
"Hey," Isamu called. "Are you another Player or something, or are you just trying to make us feel paranoid?"
"Oh, sorry. Anyways, maybe I could help you with the mission. I actually have a little experience when it comes to the Games, so yeah..."
The girl seemed rather interested in what Neku had to say. "So is that why you can see us? I'm pretty sure that you shouldn't see us even then..."
"Let's just say that my game was a little... special."
Isamu was a little sceptical about the whole offer. "Even if you could help us, it probably wouldn't work. Unless you're some sort of superstar, the Prince won't even bother with you."
Neku sighed. "Another mission involving him? What does he need now?"
"Why don't you read the mail yourself?" Isamu handed his cellphone over. Neku was a little envious that his cellphone was a lot newer than his. (Then again, a lot of cellphones are newer than Neku's.)
He began to slowly read the mail to himself. "Mission: Help the star rise up from his slump. Time limit: 30 minutes. Fail, and face erasure."
"So basically, Keiko-san and I are trying to figure out how to cheer him up," Isamu said in a flat matter-of-fact voice.
Neku sighed. "Why don't you actually try reading his mind?"
"Well, all he said was that he wanted to go eat ramen somewhere, so..."
From those words, Neku just had a flash of realization. "Wait! A few days ago, Reika was talking about meeting the Prince somewhere, then seeing two kids around. Maybe she was talking about you two; and the Prince wants to go eat ramen with her!"
"What does she usually look like?" Keiko asked.
"Well, she has blue hair for some reason, it's usually in two curls on either side of her head and she usually wears traditional clothes unless she's training."
"Great! Now all we have to do is figure out how to find her. Shibuya is a crowded place, after all."
Isamu tried to find the Prince, but he was nowhere to be found. "Umm... I think we lost him."
"Wait," Keiko yelled, "he's over there!"
Neku turned to find the prince being carried by Moo Moo mooks. "H-help meeee!" he yelled.
"Just great," Isamu sighed. "How are we going to catch him now?"
"Come on, there has to be something we can do to get him back! If we don't, we'll..."
"Well, I would call for help, but I already used it..." Neku said.
Thanks to what Neku just said, Isamu had an idea. "O... O... OUENDAAAN!"
At the Dojo, the Ouendan were just finished with yoga.
"Beep!" Sayaka said with her ponytail pointing to where Isamu was.
"Why don't we handle that, Amemiya?" Hayato asked in a slightly condescending tone.
Reika went up to Hayato, due to a feeling she had about the situation. "Saionji-san... Why don't you let us go help this person?"
"I'd think that you would want to rest after what happened with your first encounter with Ulala-san and Sakuraba-kun's fight with a mysterious assailant."
"Umm... Actually, I don't feel tired at all, but... I have a strange feeling when it comes to this situation..."
"What exactly do you mean by that?"
Unfortunately, Reika already left with Sayaka and Honoka.
Shinta waved at the door. "Get an autograph for Makoto-chan, okay?"
As the level started with a cover of Kyosuke Himruro's B Blue, Reika and friends were at a nearby Def March concert for a little while until Sayaka yelled, "GO!"
Isamu got Keiko's scooter out, calling her to jump on. As they blazed towards the Prince, Neku was left to run on his own two feet.
"Guys, aren't you forgetting someone?" he asked, reaching his hand out towards the speeding teens.
"Iku wa yo! 3, 2, 1, Go!"
As the cheergirls' combo went up, Isamu could feel his spirit burning with passion. Unfortunately for Keiko, she could barely hold on, and could feel her grip loosening by the second.
The three teens passed by 104, where Shiki had just finished talking to Eri.
"So you see, we're not going to be back for a long while, but I'll be sure to work on your designs when I- eek!"
Suddenly, Shiki saw herself being dragged by Neku, who seemed to be in a blind rage.
"Slow down, Neku! Did you get the tickets yet?'
"Apparently, we don't need the tickets. Just RUN!"
Isamu had a little more trouble chasing down the mooks that took the Prince this time, as the streets became more and more crowded. Isamu usually liked the hustle and bustle of Shibuya's streets, but now was an inconvenient time to be reminded of it.
"Isamu-kuun, look out!" Keiko yelled as they were almost about to crash into a wall. In a split second, Isamu turned, finding a glimpse of the Prince's trademark frilly outfit. This gained the attention of the Bito siblings, who saw that Neku and Shiki were getting a bit tired from running for so long.
"Here, grab this!" Beat yelled, tossing the Melissas to Neku and Shiki.
"Thanks Beat! We were getting really tired, and we still have a long way to go!" Shiki said. "But what about you guys?"
"Don't worry, we still have our old boards!" Rhyme remarked.
"You're starting to really mess up my hair, you know that?" the Prince whined.
One mook grabbed at his sleeve even harder at that remark. "Who cares? You're going to die either way, so why not help the victors doing it?
"D-die!? Victors? All I ever wanted to do was make my fans happy; I never would have expected this to happen!"
Another mook began to chuckle. "We're almost there, Princey. The journey will only take a second..."
Isamu was starting to lose energy, most likely due to the cheergirls missing a beat. He suddenly felt incredibly tired, the Prince almost becoming a dot in the horizon.
"C'mon, Isamu-kun!" Keiko cheered from behind him.
Just as Isamu was about to pass out from exhaustion, he felt another sudden burst of energy, picking him right up. Unfortunately, he couldn't find the Prince, but he found a perfect opportunity to catch up.
"Keiko-san? Could you please hold on as tightly as you can? Because this ride is going to get a little bumpy."
Isamu put in all of his energy so he could speed up to a nearby ramp, conveniently placed in the middle of a busy Shibuya street. In a leap of faith, he launched himself up the ramp, trying to find the location of the Prince.
"Isamuuu! He's right over there!"
He could see him now, flailing around wildly on top of a bunch of masked people. Defying everything that his tutor ever taught him about physics, Isamu dove down to where the Moo Moo mooks were, and tailed them at breakneck speed.
Keiko bent over to her side and answered, "What do you guys want with the Prince!?"
Isamu reminded her, still focusing on the target, "They can't see us, remember?"
It was the final stretch of the song, and Isamu could just feel it. If he gave up now, all of this effort would be for nothing. Keiko finally settled down, cheering Isamu on and generally enjoying herself. Neku was still trying to catch up, along with his friends who had no idea why he was chasing Isamu and Keiko down in the first place.
"Gotcha!" Isamu exclaimed, imprinting one of the mooks. "Time for a distraction!" He decided to use the word "Panties" on the one who seemed to be doing the most work.
"P-Panties? Why am I thinking of that right now? Although I'd pay a hefty sum to see Masuyo-kyou in her underpants... I'm betting on them being black!" Drifting off into a sea of thought, he dropped the Prince almost immediately. Everyone else followed suit. Next, Isamu imprinted "Whip!" on the unsuspecting guy.
"Everyone, RETREAT!" he yelled, running from the Prince at the same speed he's been running trying to carry him, if not faster.
"Hey, get back here!" the rest yelled while chasing after him.
The Prince got up, still a little disoriented from the experience. "Thank goodness I'm still alive!" he exclaimed.
After a couple of seconds, Neku and friends arrived where the Prince was standing, looking to find his way back from where he was standing.
"Hey, I remember you!" the Prince said, looking straight at Neku. "I see you're still wearing the same old types of messes..."
"Hey, I'll dress anyway I want to," Neku said, insulted.
"Anyways, I guess I have you to thank for saving me. As a reward, I'll give you guys free tickets to my concert on the 28th!"
Shiki let out a sheepish laugh. "Actually, we already have tickets, and I'm not sure if you should be thanking us..."
"All right, then. Oh yeah, I heard from one of the Tin Pin pros that you were actually pretty good. There's a tournament at Molco tomorrow, and I hear that there's going to be a lofty sum."
"I'll be sure to check it out," Neku said.
Beat had a quick glance at Reika, so he tried to shove Neku and friends out of her sight. "Well, we hafta do something over at... Mexican Dog! Yeah, that's it, yo. We'll be seeing you soon, kay?"
Just when Beat was able to hide everyone, Reika saw the Prince playing a game of Reaper Creeper.
"Do you think she'll come?" he asked. "White for yes, Black for no and Red for when the world ends."
Isamu had no idea what he was talking about, but he wanted to make sure he could gather up enough inspiration to finally sing again, no matter how horrid he thought the Prince sounded.
"You had better not screw this up," Keiko said.
The coin inched closer and closer to Red, until Reika walked up to the Prince and asked, "Oh, is this some kind of game I've never heard of?"
Upon hearing her voice, the Prince immediately dropped his board. "I don't wanna die!" he whimpered.
"Hmm? Well, it's nice that I finally get to see you again."
"True. I was a little worried that I wasn't going to see you again. I've never seen someone who had such refined tastes when it comes to ramen."
"Well, I've been cooking some as practice, you know. Do you want to try some at our place?"
"Of course! It won't take us very long, will it?"
Reika walked ahead, to the bus where Sayaka and Honoka were standing nearby. When they turned away, Beat urged everyone to move to Mexican Dog for the day.
As they entered, Hideki greeted them with his usual, "Bienvenido, everyone!"
"Hey there, Kikuchi," everyone mumbled.
"Hey, I heard that you guys met my cousin. So how is he? Did he fool you guys at first?"
Neku looked a little ashamed. "If you're talking about his gender, then yes."
"Don't worry, it's happened to everyone at one point or another. Just ask his sempai!"
"You mean Saionji-san? I never heard anything about this," Shiki said.
"Well, it happened a while ago, and my cuz isn't really that willing to talk about it, so..."
All of a sudden, Neku heard his phone ring.
I see that you were able to help those two complete their mission. You'll need all the help you can get in order to defeat the enemy. Remember your Persona? That'll be very important during the fights to come. Of course, the only way to get more Personas is by using the Velvet Room, which may or may not appear later on.
PS: You should follow the Prince's advice, for something interesting awaits you.
PPS: Contrary to what you may think, I am not insane.
Neku closed his phone, puzzled by what he just saw. He took a moment to ponder what that just meant.
"Did he just... read my mind?"
His phone rang again, for a call this time.
"Why, yes I did."
You think this will be over soon? This isn't even halfway through yet! (Yes, I'm crazy ambitious...)
-The gods be lazy, and a little bit crazy in this story. Of course, they're all working for a good cause. At least, the ones we've seen so far. Sho could be a quasi-example, considering he's a little reality-warping now, and he's on the Chaotic Neutral end of things.
-What happened to the Agents? Well, I'm not so sure myself... I want to add them somewhere in a later chapter, maybe reference a few other fics in the process...
-I also just realized that the cheergirls do most of the actual cheering in this fic. Could it be unconscious wish-fulfilment, or just the fact that I pretty much play on Karei ni Ouen exclusively? I'll need to include more of the guys when it comes to cheering action later on. Pretty weird considering I'm a quasi-yaoi fangirl, too.