His name is Kusata. And he has me trapped in a dark supply closet with him.
It’s the only way I’m surviving my encounter with Yuri Motokawa, who stalks outside in the halls even as we speak. But I’m certainly no fan of being cooped up in a cramped room with a strange man and only a single dim LED light to illuminate our faces.
“You’re Ohata King’s lackey or whatever, aren’t you?” I ask. “His trusty advisor?”
“I play one,” he responds. “But that is certainly not my real job.”
“Not your real… Wait, you’re the advisor to the ‘King,’ and you’re betraying him?”
“Isn’t that a little overplayed?”
“Nevermind,” I say. “So, what’s your game here, exactly?”
“I want to help you,” he says. “I tried before, but everything went wrong. The plan wasn’t solid enough.”
I take a good look at this unassuming, unattractive middle aged man, just enough presence to be noticed, but not enough presence to stand out beyond existing.
“You’re the informant!” I yell/whisper.
He nods. “And you’re the one my contact asked me to meet.”
“Holy crap, you’re the mole and you’re way high up there already. That’s awesome.”
“I can give you all the information you need,” he says. “I hoped to tell you earlier, but the ambush ruined my plan entirely. Luckily, fate brings us together again.”
“Okay. Please tell me, like, everything about Ohata King. Please.”
“There’s not much to say,” Kusata explains. “He’s evil, but stupid.”
“I gathered that much already. What’s his whole deal, though? Why is he even here in Atlanta all of a sudden?”
“Now that is a story that is vital for you to know,” he says. “Ohata King was a mid-ranking mafia member in the Eastern Union. Just last year, he went down to Bonin where I live and operate. We’re a small rural island nation, not yet conquered by organized crime, and the weakest member of the Easter Union. King thought he could break new ground, and try he did. He committed atrocities that I simply cannot name for how dishonorable they are. He was chased out of Bonin by the government and his own people want to be rid of him. So King fled to Atlanta in hopes of starting fresh and working his way back up into good graces.”
“So he’s a lackey, too?”
“Exactly. But a highly dangerous one. He has just today teamed up with Yuri Motokawa and her mercenary organization, as you are likely aware.”
“Aware and nearly dead because of her, yes.”
“King has big plans for the Summer Festival,” Kusata says. “He wants to unleash a horde of chaos and terrorize the whole of J-District, all to make a name for himself. Specifically, he wants to target the Nebuta parade floats.”
“A terrorist attack at a festival? What a fucking animal.”
“Exactly my thoughts. King has been running guns for weeks now for this very purpose, and he has built up a cache of weapons and soldiers that could kill many, many people. We must stop it with everything we have so we can bring him to justice.”
“We talking justice as in standing trial, or justice like Charles Bronson?”
“My orders are to capture him alive, if possible. The Bonin government does not believe in capital punishment, but they do believe in the merits of redemption through suffering.”
“Got it,” I say. “And Mighty Slammer? The gold bars? What’s that all about? Is it related to the guns?”
Kusata cocks his head to the side. “I’m not sure what you mean.”
“You know, Mighty Slammer, the chick who’s destroying all the restaurants. She’s connected to all of this mafia stuff.”
His expression does not change.
He shakes his head twice.
“Mighty Slammer isn’t involved?”
“I haven’t heard anything of the sort. And I manage most of Ohata King’s affairs, after all. If she is under our control, it is extremely covert, but King is not one for subtlety.”
I was really, really hoping to finally solve this ridiculous conspiracy mystery thing.
And yet, standing here with the person who is literally the most knowledgeable in the whole world on the subject, I’m even more confused. Why does this feel like another quintessentially Morgan moment?
“I’m… My sleuthing is just absolutely baffling me right now. But okay. Ignoring the gold and the punchy lady, there’s a massacre in the works by this low-energy maniac, and we’ve got to stop it all. Isn’t there something your government can do, like send an extradition request or something?”
“Atlanta rarely honors its treaties. All my government could act with was by sending me, and I can only do so much to thwart his plans. The bureaucracy is my only power.”
“A powerful tool, to be sure.”
“But not powerful enough,” he says. “I need your help, um. Who are you, again?”
“Morgan Harding. Resident hero of Atlanta. I don’t have a catchphrase yet, but imagine I said something cool here.”
“Alright, Morgan Harding,” he says. Then he takes some keys and unlocks the handcuffs. For the first time in several hours, I can actually move my arms around freely. “I’ll let you go. There’s a secret exit most aren’t aware of through a garbage chute on the third floor. You can reach it through the ventilation shaft above us.”
I groan loudly. “No, not ventilation shafts… Not garbage chutes…”
“Just please, bring as much help as you can. Countless lives are at stake. I likely will not make it out alive, not unless things go spectacularly well.”
“I’ll make sure they do,” I say with a friendly wink. Even though I don’t believe it, it’s nice to instill confidence in the good guys.
Kusata turns off his LED light, and I jump up into the ventilation shaft and make my escape from Ohata King’s labyrinth of a castle. Wherever I end up, I’ve got a long road ahead of me to get home. And an even longer road to actually preventing the disaster that lies before everyone.
I’d been underestimating everything about this conspiracy. Just a bunch of crazy mafia dudes led by a surprisingly unengaging leader, I thought. Just a wrinkle in my more important search for Mighty Slammer, I thought. But that unengaging leader is also extremely uncreative, and thinks that mass murder is going to help him gain prominence in the crime world. If that’s not stopped, well, then I became a hero for nothing at all.
Everything I can do, from here on out, has got to be dedicated to stopping this maniac from carrying out his plans. No matter how the mystery plays out, that is absolutely paramount.
Follower progress report: Royal Road passed 1,000 followers! But, then I lost a few followers and it dipped back down. It’s at 1,001 right now, but I’m going to give it a week or so before I determine if it’s really above 1,000. If this thing holds, my next serial will be very soon to follow!