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It's a Compliment, Really

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Sharu had been living in the crawlspaces and walls of the building, feeding upon rats and cockroaches to keep up her strength while she finished her evolution. 

To the casual (and let’s face it, soon to be dead) observer, she might have seemed like a normal psychotic killer who had become a porn actress in pursuit of new experiences to inscribe upon her soul; she knew, after all, that she could not become a god until she had consumed the life-force of a dozen different industries, each one steeped in sin.  The voices told her this, and clearly they wouldn’t lie, they were the will of her future self from Nega-Earth bouncing backwards in time off the choir of souls she would one day claim as her slaves, their bloody song carrying her into the God Palace.  And so, she absorbed the dark power of Shokumura as she hid in the walls of this place, waiting until her transformation was complete to go forth and seek the next stage of her Divine Evolution. 

And then it had happened! To her, in her dark kingdom, had come another fine victim!  The girl spoke of hacking, of the darkness upon the web of light known as the internet! She was a sinner, one who walked in the realm of nightmare and one whom Sharu could consume, becoming one step closer to the immortal horror that she knew she was always meant to be!

A casual observer might say that at this point, Sharu had burst through the thin drywall with a rat in her mouth.  Sharu herself (she had long forgotten her real name) would say this was silly, for she was actually descending from the Nightmare Realm with the Raiment of Souls wrapped around her, the blood of her victims forming an immortal armor. 

Makoto wasn’t super-casual, though, and she would say that she stepped forward, intercepted the attack, and with the finely-tuned reflexes of a lifelong aikido practitioner, used the woman’s own force to send her flipping head-over-heels to slam into the floor face-first without the slightest loss of momentum, leaving her heavily concussed and instantly unconscious with a sickening crunch.  Makoto then, just to be safe, knelt down to put the woman’s right arm in a joint lock, and with a twist and a yank and a sound that made everyone slightly ill, snapped two bones in the limb in rapid succession. “There! Even if she wakes up, she won’t have use of her dominant hand. We should definitely be able to hold her for as long as needed. Does anyone have any rope?”  

The rest of the group, not really having any time to react to any of the above, kind of just stared.  Finally, after a few seconds, Ryuji said, “I… I thought aikido was supposed to be non-violent.”

Makoto smiled sweetly.  “I put my own spin on it.”

Haru shuddered. “Okay, yeah, I’m never again claiming to be the scary one,” she said in a dull, dead sort of tone. Futaba, in a display of sisterly solidarity, fist-bumped her.

“Really, though, we could use some rope. Or at least handcuffs. She does not seem polite.”      


 

“Hissssssssssssssssssssssssssssss!” Sharu said, impolitely. 

The group had elected, rather than to risk taking Sharu somewhere that she might slip away from, to remain in the ruined apartment floor.  There was a filthy mattress to tie her to, and rope had been disturbingly easy to locate considering there actually hadn’t been any in the movie thus far. Everyone felt that they were getting an unwanted preview of what was coming up when they went back to the film, and the notion was genuinely disturbing.   

It said something that they all (barring Futaba) felt more comfortable interrogating a bound murderer than they did watching a bad porn.  High school really was a strange time of life.

“Now… what do we call you? Sharu?” Akira began. 

She smiled, which released a horrible smell from her bloodstained teeth as one of her eyes rolled into the back of her head.  “My name was abandoned when I became a demon queen. But I have grown far beyond that now, simple fools! You may call me GOD.”  

“… Yeah, no.  Anyhow, we need to find the filthy disgusting inexcusable porno people that you so ably left behind.  Unfortunately, the trail has gone cold. The only person who might know where to look at this point is you.” 

She giggled, her eyes continuing to stare in opposite directions. “Ah, yes. I remember them well.  They were my fifteenth victim, and the one that marked my ascent to the fourth layer of Heaven, where I gaze down upon you now.  Valhalla burns with my ascent to a higher plane of divinity.” 

“… Guys, wanna huddle up for a sec?” Akira asked.  When the group had gathered up outside of Sharu’s hearing range, he whispered, “Okay, I think we have a problem here. Maybe I’m missing some detail or other, but I think that we are not going to have a lot of luck getting information out of her.” 

Yusuke nodded. “Yes, I see the issue.  She is exactly like the real Haru.”

Excuse you?!” Haru snapped. 

“He meant it in a good way, Haru. Focus up,” Futaba said. 

“There is no ‘good way’ to mean that!” Haru said, while Sharu spoke in eldritch tongues in the background.  

“You are practically twins. It would take weeks to list all the ways,” Yusuke said mildly. 

“Keep it up, Kitagawa, and we’ll see about making you more like Shyusuke,” Haru said, very softly. 

“Isn’t Shyusuke dead…?” Ann asked, suddenly uncomfortably aware of the fact the group was still huddled up and therefore all really close to Haru. 

“You’re a very smart girl, Takamaki-chan.” 

“Okay, I’m starting to see the similarities too,” Ryuji said, taking a few steps backwards. 

“We are nothing alike!” Haru hissed. 

“Hissssssssssssssssss!” Sharu hissed. 

Everyone else took a few steps backwards too.  “So, leader, what do you propose we do?” Ann asked.

“About Haru or Sharu?”

“Either, honestly.” 

“Hehehehehe…” Morgana chuckled, stepping out of the shadows with what he probably hoped was an air of drama. The fact that he had to have deliberately gone to find a patch of shadows to hide in, so he could emerge from them sort of hurt the effect. “What would you people do without me?”

“Be happy?” Ryuji muttered. 

“I’ve been watching you flail about, and don’t get me wrong, it’s been amusing. But when a superior gentlemanly Phantom Thief needs something done, he doesn’t use brute force.  We need to trick her into giving us what we need, clearly,” Morgana said, idly grooming his tail.  It wasn’t as cool looking as he probably hoped. 

“HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEHEHEHEHEHEHEHEHE! THE HEAVENS ROAR THROUGH ME IN A RIVER OF BLOOD!” Sharu shrieked.

“Well, I can’t say her mind has me amazed, so outsmarting her won’t be too hard,” Akira said.  “Can’t imagine getting much in the way of coherent answers, though.”

Morgana smirked, which you’d might think would be a weird expression on a cat, unless you’ve ever actually owned one.  “I’ll need five minutes, and the assistance of our team’s finest actress. Lady Ann, if you don’t mind?” 

“Okay, now I know you’re bullshitting us,” Ryuji said with a grin, right before Ann smacked him upside the head.


 

Sharu alternately giggled and hissed as she gazed upon the world through a haze of red, like normal.  “You are foolsssssss, foooooooolssssss, hehehehehe.  Though I am trapped here in body, my mind travels the cosmos! The souls of the dead have already removed me from this vessel of meat and bone. How can you bind a perfect, immortal, rat god?!”

“Through the divine power of the Cat Lord, Amon-ra!” screamed the voice of someone who was finally making some sense to Sharu’s fragmented psyche. The blonde girl from the group of filthy heretics strode up to her, holding aloft…  

“Bwahahahaha, fool!” Ann shrieked, using her very finest acting skills, which were if anything slightly below porno quality and therefore resonated perfectly in Sharu’s half-lucid brain. Above her head, she held Morgana reverently, the cat’s blue eyes locked on Sharu’s own in what he probably hoped was a look of divine wisdom but honestly mostly looked like he wanted kitty treats.  “By raising yourself to the spirit realm, you have opened yourself to new foes as well! Gaze upon the almighty god of cats, a divine beast that has walked the world since the days of the Pharaohs!”

“If this works, I’m going to give up on life,” Makoto whispered.  “I can’t live in a world where this plan works.” 

“I mean, it’s definitely the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard, but a lot of the things I’ve heard today have been the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. So, we might as well give it a shot,” Akira murmured back with a shrug.

“W… what… fool, you seek to ensnare me with a simple cat?!” Sharu hissed, though doubt colored her words for the first time.

“BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!” Ann laughed madly. “Simple cat?! Your power is so weak it cannot even gaze beyond the third veil to the realm where His Majesty’s astral form dwells!  On earth he may seem a mere cat, but in the fifth circle of Nirvana where the Buddha and Zeus dwell playing Divine Poker, he is a three-headed lion with silver wings whose breath creates stars and whose litterbox is the center of the universe!”   

“Gasp!” Sharu said. She didn’t gasp, she said gasp.  “How could I have failed to sense such a thing?! His power must be beyond imagination!”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” Makoto said sadly, giving up on life.  Futaba patted her reassuringly on the shoulder. 

“Do you seek now to gain eternal power?!” Ann shrieked. She probably wasn’t trying to shriek, she just had a very certain definition of ‘acting’ that involved quite a bit of volume and not a great deal of forethought.  “Seek thee to abandon this prison of flesh and achieve true godhood?! Offer thineself to Amon Ra and become his divine archangel of blood!”

“Lady Ann, I know I said, ‘sell it’ but you might be going a little far…” Morgana whispered.

“BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!” Ann said.  She’d had a long day. 

“I shall serve the great one!  Guide me forth on the path to the Under-Hell, that I may become a claw in his unholy paw!” Sharu declared, her eyes bright with more madness than usual.

“Speak, child! Speak to us of where the fiends who portrayed our Holy Cat Lord as an ignoble goat might dwell, that he may feed upon their dreams and turn their blood into snakes!” 

“Ah, so this is what humans mean by ‘having too much fun,’” Morgana said. 

The Cat Lord’s meows fill me with unholy bliss!” Sharu hissed in a discomforting combination of arousal and agony.  “His foes are my foes!  To the village of Porurando you must go, on the 644th home on the cursed path of Takawa! Here, in the very prefecture of Tokyo it dwells, screaming out with dark agony each night as the rage of His Majesty wears away at it from the Cat Realms!  It is debased, milord, and unworthy of thy rage, but you shall spare not even the insects who dwell there! Down to the smallest germ, you shall purge it!” She fell silent, and then a few seconds later, with just as much anger, she declared.  “You can get there on the bus, but it will probably be like a two-hour wait, they don’t go often!  It’s kind of small!”

“Oh. Huh. Neat!” Ann said. “Okay, guys, call the cops on this cray-cray bitch. Futaba, find a bus terminal nearby? I don’t think anyone feels like driving.”

“Ann, next time someone tells you you’re a bad actress? Remember this moment,” Akira said. “You’ll still be a bad actress, but you’ll be one with accomplishments.”

“… … … I feel like I’m not sure if that’s a compliment or not.”

“HAIL TO AMON-RA!”


 

After calling the police on Sharu (Makoto wanted to burn the building down too, but they decided it would be more polite to just leave a note that the top layer of the actual room should be scoured down with some kind of acid), the gang sat at the bus terminal with their tickets in hand, preparing to venture forth of Porurando. 

They’d been there for about half an hour. 

It wasn’t a popular traffic destination. 

“So, like… anyone have something to do? I feel like we just defeated a serial killer, we probably shouldn’t be just sitting here,” Ryuji asked after everyone sat in silence for awhile, feeling somewhat underwhelmed by the universe in general.

Futaba grinned.

“We cannot watch the movie in public, Futaba,” Makoto snapped.  

“Why not? I have my third emergency backup laptop ready, and nobody’s here. Nobody cares about us.  We just look like a bunch of doofuses going off to some nowhere town in the countryside nobody ever visits,” Futaba pouted. “You know, isn’t this just proof that our actions as the Phantom Thieves didn’t matter?  We’re still looked down on by rotten adults who just assume we don’t matter because we’re young, when in fact we caught a murderer earlier this very day!”

“Making it sound dramatic doesn’t work, Futaba. We know you’re just evil and want to watch an evil thing,” Ann said idly, looking over the bus schedule. 

“… But I wanna see what happens neeeeeeeeeeeext!” Futaba whined. “Just because the people who made the art are evil doesn’t mean the art is evil! Right, Inari?! You’re an artist, you wouldn’t condemn a painting just because it was painted by a bad person!”

“Normally, no, but in this case the sheer disgusting anti-quality of the ‘art’ means it is possibly eviller than its creator.  My one remaining hope in life is that none but us will ever see it,” Yusuke said. 

“That hope will die soon. There is no goodness or light in the world, and we are all being slowly digested by an amoral universe,” Haru said, cheerfully, fist-bumping Ann in hopeless solidarity.  

“Is it bad that I think after today, every time I think my life has gone badly, I’m just gonna remember Ann and Haru and feel better about myself?” Ryuji whispered to Akira. 

“I’ve already started doing that,” Akira murmured back.

“You two are awful,” Morgana whispered from his perch on the back of Akira’s seat. “… I’m doing it too.” 

“You guys are lame, you know that? You know you’re lame? The lamest,” Futaba pouted.  “Never letting me do anything fun at all!”

“Every! One!” Shakira said loudly, but not with a lot of happiness left in his voice, as if he was delivering the lines at gunpoint.  “I think it is! Obvious our next step is that! We must! Sex up! Prosecutors!

Futaba! What the fuck?!” Makoto snarled, slamming the younger girl’s laptop (which she could, it turned out, set up with surprising stealth) shut. 

You never told me I couldn’t watch.”

“Wh- yes! We did!”

“Oh, right. Well, I remembered I don’t care about anyone’s thoughts or opinions!” Futaba said, proudly.  “Besides, you should be happy. The more we watch, the faster it will end. Win-win.”

“I’m not sure that’s true. If we judge by how the movie makes you feel, it’s already lasted for ten thousand years and has no sign of ever ending,” Haru said. 

“Oh, we should probably just let her play it,” Ryuji muttered. “She’ll find some way to fuck us over if we don’t, and frankly I think it can’t get worse.  Like, that’s not me tempting fate, it’s just that we’ve hit the bottom and can only go sideways into things that are different, but equally bad.” 

“I cannot believe you people are even considering this! We are in a bus station!” Makoto hissed. 

“One that’s mostly empty. The only person who could see us is that hobo over there,” Ann said. “Hi, hobo!”

“Hi, kids!” the hobo said, before rolling over to go back to sleep. 

“He seems nice,” Haru said. 

“And I… do like the thought of just being done with it,” Akira said, slowly. 

“Et tu, Akira-kun?” Makoto snarled.

“Don’t pin this on me, Makoto. Nobody here wants to watch this thing except the tiny maniac. But it’s pretty clear that we don’t have a choice, for reasons that just keep piling up. It started with basic online blackmail and now we’re apparently in a snuff film murder mystery written by someone who’s done a lot of drugs,” Akira said with a defeated sigh.

“It’s not a snuff film unless they paid for the murder to happen!”

“Futaba, I think you need to stop trying that excuse. It gets less convincing with every use.”

“You know what? You know what?!  Screw you guys, I’m playing it. Gather around close so I can turn the volume down,” Futaba said with the grace and dignity of a sullen pre-schooler.  “You just don’t appreciate art.” 

I WOULD DEFINITELY BE DOWN FOR SUCKING THE DICK OF A PROSECUTOR!” Shryuji screamed, as soon as the laptop opened.

“You know, you’d think that would stop being grating after awhile,” Ryuji said, his eye twitching. “Funny how it just keeps getting’ worse.” 

But wait!” Shmakoto said. “The only prosecutor we know is my sister, and only I may suck her dick. Which I can’t, because she’s the most beautiful incestuous woman that has ever lived and doesn’t have one to suck.”

“I wonder if he ad-libbed that because he forgot his lines, or if the movie actually thought we needed explained that women don’t have penises?” Haru asked. 

“50-50 chance either way,” Ann said. 

Pourquoi avons-nous déménagé? Ce dernier endroit était très sale, je n'avais pas fini de le nettoyer. Et cet endroit est sale aussi. Tu devrais me payer un supplément. Et pourquoi dois-je porter ce vêtement sur mon épaule maintenant? C'est un mauvais travail,” Shann said, gesturing to what appeared to be a cardboard circle with a little face on it that was taped to her shoulder. Written on its forehead was ‘Sharu.’ 

Yes, what she said. I enjoy… domination and… stuff? And my father died. I’m sad,” said a very uninterested voice off-camera.  It was clearly male, clearly half-asleep, and somehow managing to flub its lines despite presumably reading from the script.  “Look, can have I my thousand yen now? I really need to get back to delivering pizzas…” 

“Oooooh, Ann-chan, look at that, I’m being played by a cardboard cutout taped to your shoulder! We’re like sisters in the movie now!” Haru said cheerfully.

“God don’t say that, these people fuck their sisters, and I don’t think the image of Shann masturbating using that carboard circle would leave my mind ever,” Ann said with a shudder. 

 “Hahaha, foolish sexual thieves!  Though you hesitate to sex up the lovely Shsae, my genius deductions have told me that she is the one who needs sexed up most of all! My detective senses have told me!” said a voice from off-screen that sounded quite a bit like the eternally disembodied voice of Shmorgana (who was himself off on the edge of the shot chewing on a discarded string cheese wrapper), only higher and with a slight, unpleasant squeak to it.  Like someone was really straining their vocal cords to sound younger than they were, and not really succeeding.

“Is that Akechi. Was that meant to be Goro Akechi,” Akira asked, his tone mingled amusement and dread.  “Is the douchey production manager, who I’m pretty convinced is a 50-year-old drug addict with some kind of throat condition, playing Goro Akechi.” 

“But he’s got to play Morgana too. He can’t do both at the same time,” Haru pointed out.

“Hey, he’s voicing Shmorgana, get the name right!  I’m not affiliated with this production!” Morgana hissed.

“Maybe… maybe he’ll record Morgana’s lines ahead of time and have someone else play them while he’s on the set?” Ann wondered.

“You’ll all be hearing from my lawyer, as soon as I get one,” Morgana muttered.

“Goats can’t sue people, buddy,” Ryuji said.

“HSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS.”

Whose dulcet tones were those, which speak to us?” Shmorgana asked, only barely bothering to disguise his voice so he sounded different from the incoming ‘Shgoro Shakechi.’ “Because he sounds handsome and clever, like someone who saved the production the cost of an actor!”

“It is I, the legendary teen sex detective…”

“Please tell me he’s a teenager who detects sex, not a detective who has sex with teens,” Haru muttered.

“Haru. You know he’s both,” Ryuji said sadly. 

“Dammit.” 

“… ace genius Shgoro Shakechi!” Shakechi cheered, finally entering the set.  Or, rather, being pulled onto the set by wires not at all unlike those suspending the totally alive Shyusuke as the maggots ate him. 

“Oh God,” Makoto said.

“Oh no,” Ann said.

“Oh shit,” Ryuji said.   

“… … …” Haru said. Her grip on her seat tightened until the hard plastic splintered under her touch. 

“Now, Haru,” Futaba said gently, “I realize that it might seem disrespectful that Shgoro is being, erm, ‘played’ by the corpse of your dead father dressed up in a suit. But I have to remind you that the man in question was only an actor playing your father, and so it actually is no big d-“

She did not quite finish the sentence before Haru ripped the laptop from her grasp and, with an unearthly shriek, hammer-tossed it so hard it embedded itself in the bus station wall. 

“Damn. That sweater chick is pissed about something,” the bus station hobo said mildly, as Futaba buried her head in her hands. "... You kids got any cheap vodka?"

"God, I wish," Akira said.