Chapter Twenty-Five | Compromising situations

The mood music inside Anna Miller's Restaurant all of a sudden shifted to an abrupt, jarring melody, which in turn gave way to a troubling news report.

<This is an NHK Radio News Bulletin: A massive explosion at Shiritsu Daitou High School and the attached Daitou Gakuen Middle School just rocked the Shinjuku district. Details are scarce at the moment, but reporters are heading to the scene. Shiritsu Daitou High School was also the scene of an ongoing police investigation this morning. More details when we know them. This is NHK Radio News.>

Piro held up his hand to silence Dom, who had been asking about how Piro and Largo met Ping. He looked around and noted that several restaurant patrons who looked like they might have students in school were moving for the exits. "Did you hear that?" he said, "An explosion in Shinjuku…and at a school of all places; how sad."

"Yeah, but it's not like we can do anything about it," Dom said, shrugging off the news and turning to face Ping, who had sat next to Piro. "So, Ping, was it? Since Piro and Largo aren't talking, how did you guys meet? I didn't think Piro was the type to take a random girl as pretty as you are to Japan."

"Oh…uh…" Ping said, blushing as she ran through her list of appropriate responses, "we share a mutual friend here in Tokyo."
"I see. And where is this mutual friend?"
"He's at work."
"And what does he do for a living?"
"He works as a contractor for one of the guilds downtown," Ping answered, looking to Piro for assistance, knowing full and well she lacked the capacity to outright lie in her current game mode.
"Oh. So he works in Shinjuku?"
"Yes," Ping said, nodding.
"Do you think he's okay, what with that explosion and all?"

At this, Ping bolted up, a look of realization on her face. "Piro, Largo; we should go." She took out a 5000 Yen bill from her purse and placed it on the table. Bowing, she said, "That should cover our bill. It was nice to meet you, Dom."

Stunned, Dom waived his hand goodbye as Ping led Piro and Largo out of the restaurant. "What a strange girl Piro picked up," he muttered to himself, musing on the strange coincidence that Piro and Largo happened to be in Japan this week of all weeks. Looking up a couple minutes later, he saw that who he had been waiting for had finally arrived.

"Hey Dom," Ed said, taking a seat.
"You're late."
"Sorry. Some bitch of a robot I was after for work shot me."
Ed laughed. "Nothing fatal I see. So, you kill it yet?"
"No, she got rid of my weapon and made it all but impossible for me to get away," Ed explained, pointing to his leg. "I couldn't move my leg until Enforcement brought me a health pack."
"Shame. Hey, you'll never guess who I met up with: Piro and Largo. Did you know Piro has a girlfriend now?"
Ed's shocked expression gave way to one of understanding. He pulled out his PDA and looked at the display for a second before saying, matter-of-factly, "No, he doesn't."
"What are you talking about?" Dom started to ask, but Ed was already gone.
"Why are all of my friends nut jobs?" Dom asked himself, shaking his head.

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"What's going on?" Piro asked Ping as they walked hurriedly down the sidewalk.

"Threat assessment; a Sony Enforcement operative is closing in on our location. He's at Level 9, too."
"Sony Enforcement? Level 9?"
"Yes, Sony operatives function on levels. I'm not quite sure what it all means; I didn't download all the data when I looked up the Enforcement division."
"But…why would a company need an 'Enforcement' division?"
Largo fielded the question ahead of Ping. "It is t3h E\/1l 3mp1re5' way of staying on top. Every major company has enforcement these days, n00b."
Ping nodded her head. "Largo is correct. Many companies in Japan have back-alley operations. Tsubasa-sensei is often recruited to do work for one company against another."

Piro shook his head. His entire worldview was being challenged today. But fate wasn't done messing with him yet.

"Piro! Largo!" Ed shouted.
"First Dom, now Ed," Piro thought as he turned around, "what a day."
"Uh…why are you pointing a gun at me, Ed?"
"I'm not. I'm pointing it at your…what did Dom call that thing...your 'girlfriend?' Nice job on the hair change. The concealment of the earblades is an especially nice touch. Pity you didn't catch the tracking device I put on you yesterday morning."

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