Oh shit. This is feeling pretty bad: JJ and Tachibana split up and are running around the car park being pursued by Dragon Head goons, while Tachibana is reflecting on the fun times he’s had with JJ.
Which can only mean one thing.
And sure enough: he trips, encountering a Dragon Head goon, who shoots him, promising him he’ll get Death Scythe, too.
Meanwhile, JJ is hiding out, hearing the Dragon Head guys approaching, and he grabs his knife, thinking about the last time he used one.
Sure enough, the guys approach, and JJ kills the one who gets to the room he’s in. After all seems quiet, he’s feeling as apprehensive as I was at the start of this chapter about Tachibana, and he wanders down the corridor, wondering how come the lights are off again.
And holy fuck, jump scare extraordinaire.
Seriously, I was not expecting to see Ugajin, looking absolutely terrifying, but there you go… and as can be expected, Ugajin’s not playing around.
So, how I ended up here with Tachibana? An expected, but still bad end.
After a night of passion, JJ wakes up alone, feeling melancholy, Liz Phair’ s Fuck and Run style… only with more realising that he’s actually come to care about people in his life, and that since Azusa rocked up, and now that he and Andy the lovebird are gone, he’s all by himself… and he’s entirely unused to that.
Then he has a spidey sense that something is wrong.
Sure enough– and okay, it sounds far-fetched and coincidental, but in a game like this, I’m actually inclined to trust characters like JJ when their instincts tell them that something is up, given that so much of their understanding of the world is intuitive and reactionary– Tachibana is running upstairs, freaking the fuck out because Dragon Head are suddenly after them.
Can we all collectively say, “Oh, fuck,” ladies and gentlemen? Because that is what this is: shit has officially hit the fan, and Dragon Head do not mess around when they’re fucked off with someone.
They make their escape, and Tachibana admits there’s a price on his head, which probably has something to do with them icing all those drug people before the yaoitimes.
Tachibana is pretty sure this is connected to the people he was running from in Osaka– where he was before he hooked up with the host club drug dudes– who were basically the crime gang who took him in as an abandoned youngster. Again, similar to JJ’s situation, only with more mobsters and less jungle warfare, but roughly the same amount of sexual abuse and killing people.
Unlike JJ, though, Tachibana’s boss drugged him, which is pretty much where Tachibana’s distaste for drugs comes from. Because he’d had a problem with them, even though he unwillingly got into them, and as every addict who’s come out the other side knows, getting off drugs is majorly fucking nasty.
Also, Tachibana got roped into killing his boss… and then had a price put on his head for doing so: the expectation being that he was meant to have been cleaned up in that mess, too. But having the same sort of luck as JJ, he’s survived, and now there are mobsters after him.
Tachibana decides that the only way to deal with this is to go to Osaka and deal with the mobsters head on. And of course, he wants JJ to come with him.
…And while they’re discussing all this, a couple of Dragon Head goons, who are after the bounty, appear and decide they’re going to take them out. JJ and Tachibana deal with them, and then decide to high tail it to Epilogue Bar and see what Todo has to suggest they do.
Big problem, though: these sexy manbeasts are waiting for them. Not only are they Dragon Head people, they’re higher up Dragon Head people, which is very much Bad Fucking News for everyone.
They flee, only to pursed to the Black Market by Dragon Head mobsters. And of course they squabble on tactical solutions: JJ wants to move quietly and unseen, Tachibana wants to kill everyone in his path. Once again, I’m wondering how the hell Tachibana has managed to stay alive for as long as he has.
Anyway, they escape to an underground carpark, where JJ gives Tachibana a knife and asks if he knows how to use it. Tachibana gets annoyed, because he’s “the machine gun of Naniwa,” not some knife user, and JJ is very much “WTF?” because that combination of machismo and stupidity should not have allowed someone to survive as long as Tachibana has.
Maybe this is why I can’t get that invested in this ship: I can’t suspend disbelief here, because Tachibana seems too stupid to live, let alone hook up with JJ. And I’m also at the point where I feel like whatever choices I make, Tachibana is randomly going to do something collossally careless and dumb anyway, which will result in a Bad Ending for everyone.
They continue fighting, and JJ decides that he might as let Tachibana do whatever Tachibana’s gotta do. After all, the guy’s survived as long as he has without any common sense, right?
Okay, I’ve just realised that it’s going to be a bit harder and weirder to write about the different routes chapter by chapter now that things have diverged, but I’m still going to attempt it.
The decision made at the end of Chapter Three changes everything. And not wanting to accidentally spoil people (though I hope anyone afraid of that just reads the game entries in order and stops where they’re up to in the game!) I’ve categorised this as “D” for “declined offer [to work for Kind Caesar].”
So basically JJ’s gone, “Thanks but no thanks,” and had a friendly drink at the bar with Todo, and left.
I dunno, but can’t help but think that the relationship between Todo and JJ is fascinating.
And each twist and turn– I got the feeling that Todo had been suspecting, for some time, what JJ did for a living, given the fact that the dude’s an information broker and JJ was working in his neck of the woods– and yet he still quietly and kindly decided to address that when he needed to, rather than just blurting it out whenever. There’s a whole of of concern and decency in Todo, and even though JJ’s learned that the Epilogue Bar is just as “tainted” as the rest of the world, there is something safe and decent about it, still.
Todo was basically the second character to seriously pique my interest, after the typical kichiku megane did, just because it’s rare seeing an older character like that in these games (and I am NOT including Mizoguchi from Hadaka Shitsuji here as an example of a “typical” character!) and because of their relationship.
Like JJ, Todo is an outsider; in the same way that JJ and Tachibana are; top of their game, and unaffiliated with any of the gangs though working within their world, they occupy a rather odd position, and don’t have the protection the guys in King Caesar have, and the guys in Dragon Head would like to think they have. He’s an outsider looking in, too, with the information and his bar and connections, but he’s not quite there himself, and hasn’t sworn loyalty to anyone. He just follows the code of silence in the underworld because that’s what you do (unlike Tachibana), whoever you are: no one likes a snitch. So in a weird kind of way, I ship it. Age differences in relationships don’t bother me, and it wasn’t like he had any motivation beyond wanting to look out for a traumatised kid when he initially wanted to take in JJ, and he does seem to genuinely give a shit about JJ off the bat, with no bullshit or games or cruelty. JJ hasn’t had to prove himself to him, they’ve always just had a natural bond there.
Like JJ, Todo is a people-reader and a strategist and knows how and when to do things, and isn’t hotheaded and rash, but chillingly calm about how he does things: he’s a true professional.
Anyway, JJ leaves the bar after a gin and tonic, a little pissed that Todo tricked him into a job that nearly got him killed. And then, because this is total cowboy country, he hears gunshots, and runs off to see what’s going down.
And who should he run into, but this guy.
Tachibana reminds me of Larry Butz from the Ace Attorney series: Whenever something smells, it’s usually the Butz, right? (Even though he has the whole rockstar, Klavier Gavin thing going on, appearance-wise.) Like my first thought when I saw Tachibana was, “JJ, don’t get caught up in this shit, matey.” My second thought was, “He’s managed to stay alive after basically blabbing about everything to an accomplished assassin in a room full of BAMFs, like five years ago? Like, how?”
JJ is a better person than me, and instead of watching the trainwreck from a distance or getting the fuck back home, he goes up to aid Tachibana once he realises the dude’s been shot. The dudes shooting at Tachibana scatter, leaving him alone with the guy.
JJ takes some sympathy on him (“We have no place to belong and there’s no one who has our backs”), and wonders what else he remembers from five years ago. Tachibana is convinced JJ is Death Scythe. JJ is all, “Nope, you’re mistaken.”
Tachibana, even though he’s been shot, is still mouthing off, though, and making sick jokes about it, which makes me think the guy’s a bit tougher than he comes across. Maybe he didn’t need brains and silence to survive, just toughness and a sense of humour? Anyway, deciding he can’t just leave the guy, JJ takes him back to the hideout.
Initially Azusa thinks JJ shot him (to which JJ is almost offended: not only would he do such a sloppy job, he wouldn’t then bring the target home with him!) but helps out when JJ says that they need to remove the bullets from Tachibana or else he’ll die of lead poisoning. All seems to be going to plan until Tachibana refuses any kind of narcotic pain relief.
So with Azusa playing nurse and preparing everything, JJ ties up Tachibana, which seems like the only reasonable course of action since the dude’s refusing pain relief.
What follows is then your typical mobster home-surgery type situation where heated knives are meant to cauterise a wound to prevent blood loss. (I’ll admit, I don’t know nearly enough about medicine to confirm or deny whether this one works, though would hope anyone trying this sort of deal would have a decent pain threshold and a shitload of antibiotics for the healing process afterwards.) They get the bullets out of Tachibana’s leg, with understandable pain and screaming from Tachibana, but the shoulder wound is even worse. JJ offers him pain relief then.
Tachibana still refuses.
And, okay, I get it. The guy wants to be a hardass, to show how much pain he can take. Admittedly, I’ve had occasions of “Yeah, no pain relief, thanks,” because I don’t see the point and also have a weird needle phobia, and also a reasonably good pain threshold, but trying to imagine getting shot and then someone plunging a burning knife into your flesh goes well beyond that little scale with the smiley and frowny faces they ask you to point to in the hospital. And honest-to-god, I’ve done childbirth twice with no drugs, had some raging infections which have left me feeling like my body was on fire, have had period pain that’s made me seriously consider taking a kitchen knife to my uterus to relieve the sense of *pressure*, I’ve pulled part of a botched dental job out of my mouth at home with no analgesia, fractured my sacrum (yeah, don’t do that, everyone)… and even I flinch at this one. Like, those dudes on YouTube going and sticking their hand into a fire ant nest think they’re being tough foregoing pain relief? Tachibana is being, like, ten times that stupid right now, IMHO.
Or maybe he just really doesn’t like drugs, but “I’m allergic to opiates” doesn’t really seem to be the issue here.
Azusa is freaking out a little, but JJ, precisely because he’s a traumatised bordering-on-sociopath, is quite efficiently dealing with the whole situation. I’ve actually read a few things about how sociopaths are excellent in crises because they don’t flip out and get all emotionally involved, and JJ does this perfectly. Precisely because he’s not just a sociopath.
Azusa and JJ are squabbling even as Tachibana recovers, and by the next afternoon, he’s very much alive. JJ encourages him to take the medication he’s acquired for him, but Tachibana needs to know, even in his agonised state, that they’re not narcotics.
Yeah, okay, this is a bit more complex than the guy having to save face.
Tachibana asks about Azusa and their relationship, leaving the player with the options “My brother” “My assassin” and “My roommate”. I went with “room mate” here. Nice and ambiguous, and the closest to honest.
Tachibana, because he’s all tact (not) says they seem more like they’re sleeping together. JJ dismisses that, but it’s clear that Tachibana, even though he’s brash and loud and irksome, is pretty astute when it comes to observing other people.
He starts recovering, but he’s also cramping JJ’s style, turning into the roommate from hell. He’s… just annoying. One of those people who has to talk all the time. He pries into JJ’s personal business, keeps calling him Death Scythe, and is burdensome in terms of resources… not to mention a potential security risk. JJ feels that if someone is trying to kill him, they’re going to keep trying… and when Tachibana won’t even tell him why he was shot, JJ gives him the ultimatum: to GTFO in a week. Tachibana seems to agree to that, but wants a send off party with nice food, which leads us into one of those CLASSIC cook-off moments often seen in anime and games.
I love the way they deal with the music in this scene, especially when the “fight” music pops up in the hotpot cookoff, where poor JJ becomes increasingly pissed off with Tachibana.
Weeks after the disastrous hotpot, JJ and Azusa now see eye-to-eye on something: both of them want Tachibana, who appears to have no interest in leaving, gone, Tachnibana is loud, in your face, flirtatious, and just, well, damned annoying. And Azusa seems a trifle jealous, watching Tachibana flirting with JJ, too. Tachibana seems to think there’s something between them, and casually asks JJ about their (non existent) sex life, only further annoying JJ.
JJ is still bothered by the circumstances surrounding Tachibana getting shot, and pops into the city and asks one of the information brokers for details. It seems that Dragon Head are involved somehow, that drugs are involved, and Tachibana has pretty much had the same effect on everyone else that he’s had on JJ– only there are people who want to kill him more than JJ does.
Making the decision that they’re no longer safe in the hideout and that they are going to have to move again, JJ returns, and the chapter concludes.