Tuesday, July 28th
Renaissance Amsterdam Hote l
Time… It was a complicated thing. Many argue that “time” is merely a concept created by man to explain the passing of days and the sequence of events in our lives. To refer to it as a tangible, physical thing that flowed along with us? Well, many would say that’s foolish. It’s true, most people are merely ravaged by time, longing for days long since passed. It’s not something that can be fought, tamed, or touched. We are all hostages of time. Lambs standing on a conveyor belt leading to the inevitable meat grinder at the end… Jotaro Kujo, on the other hand, could exist outside of time. If only for a brief moment, he could step off the conveyor belt and watch from the other side. He could grab, bend, and manipulate time to his will. Surely, such a power would change a man’s life. The things he could accomplish with an ability like that were too numerous to count. Still, instead of being where he wanted to be, doing what he wanted to do, he was sitting in a hotel room, absolutely covered with vinegar, watching an unconscious woman while his adoptive aunt showered in the other room. His flip phone beeped, causing his eyes to glance down at his coat pocket.
He slowly lifted the device from his pocket and eyed it over, noting that it was also wet from the vinegar bath. He groaned, flipping it open and looking at his notification. His stomach sank when he saw who it was from. It was simple, blunt, and painful.
Maura Kujo: Where in the hell are you? You can’t just drop divorce papers off at my office and disappear like it’s nothing. Call me. Now.
He sighed, resting his forehead against his phone. He had no idea what to tell her. What did she want from him? The truth? She might believe that she wanted the truth, but she didn’t. She really, truly didn’t. If he told her the truth, she’d never sleep again. He certainly struggled, and he was the powerful one. If she knew that every moment he spent in that house was a beacon for danger, she’d have divorced him years ago. He had to let her go. It was stupid to get involved with a woman in the first place. Stand Users didn’t get happily ever afters. The only case he knew of was Joseph, and his wife spent years working with supernatural martial artists. Maura was normal. Human. Perfectly unremarkable in the most pleasant way. He loved his time with her. He loved her. But he couldn’t share that life with her. Eventually, when he let his guard down for a moment, danger would strike. He just knew it. At least when he was away, there was no threat of enemy stands killing them all in their sleep. In fact…
He lifted his head, looking Marina over with disdain. Another loose end. Another problem… He rubbed the bridge of his nose in frustration and exhaustion. Then, his phone beeped again.
Maura Kujo: Jotaro… Your daughter has been hanging around with gangsters and criminals. She won’t listen to me anymore. I know she’s getting into more trouble than I can handle alone. I need my partner. I need you. Even if we’re not together anymore, we need to help her. So pick up the damn phone and be a father for once.
His fingers hovered over the keypad, and for a moment he truly considered responding. Maybe Jolyne was biting off more than she could chew? Was Shizuka’s conflict more important than his own daughter? Was watching Marina really the best use of his day? As he thought about it, Shizuka finished up in the bathroom. She walked out, still drying her hair with a towel as she adjusted her new clothes. She noticed Jotaro’s expression and raised a brow.
“Everything okay, Uncle Jotaro?” She asked, easily identifying his conflicted state.
He closed his phone swiftly, putting it into his pocket and nodding. “I was just waiting for you. We need to talk.”
Shizuka always hated that phrase. It was always the harbinger of bad news and hurt feelings. She nodded her head, dreading whatever he had to say. “Yeah, sure. What’s up?”
Jotaro looked at Marina, then to Shizuka. “I think you’re taking on a lot. You want to fight your way to the Morioh Grand Hotel and learn about your biological parents? That’s fine. But you’re also getting invested in the Archer family. What’s next? Let’s say Marina wakes up and vows to avenge her father? Will you follow her on that mission?” He asked without a hint of resentment or sarcasm. He was truly questioning her motives, plain and simple.
Shizuka dug her heel into the carpet, shrugging. “I haven’t really thought that far. Hermit Purple pointed me in a direction. I’m gonna follow it until something else pops up. If Marina wants to face the man who killed her father, we can take her to him. Right?” She mumbled.
Jotaro just adjusted his hat, resting back in his chair. “I guess that’s possible.” He mumbled, out of character.
Shizuka noticed. “Is something wrong? You seem off.”
He stood up, stretching his legs. “I need to change. Press the emergency button if she wakes up. I’ll be back in five minutes.” He mumbled, walking out of the room with a short wave of the hand.
Shizuka frowned, looking over at the unconscious girl and sighing. She plopped down in the chair Jotaro was occupying, huffing with her arms crossed as she slumped in boredom. Sure, the man seemed aloof, but she didn’t exactly know him too well. Maybe he was just constipated. She was more worried about the woman in front of her. Cruel time droned on, and Shizuka felt like she was going to scream out of boredom. Then her ears perked up when she heard a soft sound. What was it? She narrowed her eyes at the girl and sat up. Was it possible that Marina had woken up, and was pretending to sleep while she awaited an opportunity. Better safe than sorry. Shizuka reached behind her and grabbed a water pistol filled with vinegar, aiming it at the sleeping enemy.
“ Don’t. ” Shizuka growled.
After about ten seconds of dead silence, Marina sighed. Bubblegum Bitch appeared beside the bed, her bat slung over her shoulder. “Where’d you get a water gun?” She groaned.
“Gift shop.” Shizuka said plainly, shrugging.
“Lovely…” Marina leaned back in bed, crossing her legs and looking around. “So, where’s Mr. Punchy Punch Teleports-A-Lot?” She questioned with a huff. “Out pricking innocent blokes with super-power-serum?”
Shizuka wasn’t impressed. “It’s not a serum, first of all. It’s a fragment of an arrow. Also, Mr. Punchy doesn’t work for those guys. We’re completely uninvolved. In fact, we were trying to stop the guy at the hospital.”
“Oh really? Super Man and his two-foot-tall sidekick fighting zombies in a hospital? Forgive me if I’m skeptical. It reads like a fifth-grade creative writing assignment.” She groaned, eyes darting over to the door. “If you’re really good guys, why am I here against my will?”
Shizuka laughed. “You kind of tried to kill us in that alley, remember?”
“If I recall, I was running away from you. You and Goliath chased me for a solid two minutes before I was cornered. Doesn’t seem very noble, ey?” She mumbled dryly.
“I was just trying to help, okay? We realized that you had the same power we do. The power that got your dad killed. It’s not a coincidence that we’re both here. Stand Users always run into each other. We figured it’d be best to stick with you before something bad happened.”
“ Stands? ” Marina raised a brow. “That’s what you call them? Why…?”
Shizuka was at a loss. “ That’s what you’re hung up on? The word Stand?”
The blonde simply nodded.
“Well… They stand behind you… Y’know?” The young girl tried to explain.
“Mine appears to be floating.” Marina countered.
Shizuka pulled the trigger, squirting Marina right in the face with vinegar. The girl spat, blocking her face and cursing. Shizuka just grunted. “Are you done?”
“ We’re done. I’m leaving right now. If you’re such good people, I’m sure you’ll let me go.” Marina said confidently, standing up and walking toward the door. Suddenly, she was on the bed again.
It took Shizuka’s eyes a moment to adjust. Standing in front of the door was suddenly Jotaro and Star Platinum. The door was even closed. Where did he come from? Shizuka was beginning to piece Star Platinum's power together, but wasn't entire sure on the specifics. It seemed to be able to accomplish a great deal in the blink of the eye. Could it really be what she thought it was? Surely not. Stands couldn't possibly be that strong. Meanwhile, Jotaro just growled and looked at Marina with irritation.
“You’re not going anywhere. We need to talk.”
Marina’s face had a small trace of fear on it for the first time since the chase began. Shizuka watched as the girl tried to comprehend what just happened. It must have been truly disorienting. She looked a tad more humble than before, waiting for Jotaro to continue.
“Your dad, Neil Archer? He was killed by Stefan Wagner two days ago. He was trying to purchase a Stand. Wagner didn’t fill him in on the details, though. If you don’t have a fighting spirit alongside an iron will, your stand will cannibalize you. It varies from person to person, but your father died pretty quick after the cut. Shizuka was there. She tried to save him, and even fought Wagner head on. She’s the one who beat the shit out of him at the hospital yesterday. Because of her, Wagner’s been taken into custody by a foundation focused on the paranormal. Any questions?” Jotaro explained concisely.
Once again, Marina said nothing. It took a few seconds for her mind to process all of that information at once. She looked over to Shizuka, piecing everything together. “Wait, so you’re Shizuka?” She mumbled, catching up.
“Uh huh. Nice to meet you.”
“Why do you have an American accent?” Marina questioned, raising a brow.
“I’m American.” She mumbled, shrugging.
“But you’re Japanese. And he’s got a Japanese accent. Isn’t he your dad?”
Shizuka couldn’t help but laugh. “What? No! He’s my Uncle. Actually, he’s my adoptive nephew, technically. We’re not related by blood. Super cool of you to assume things though.”
“Well I don’t know! I thought this was some kind of fucked up ‘Bring your kid to work day’ or something. Excuse me.” Marina sighed, rubbing her forehead.
Jotaro chimed in, getting a little irritated with the pace of the conversation. “Like it or not, you’ve got a Stand now. The arrow gives all of your living descendants Stand abilities. That’s how you got it. That means you’re gonna run into trouble sometimes. I’ve found that it’s easier if you don’t travel. Less likely to run into strangers that way.”
“It’s true.” Shizuka mumbled. “I’ve never left the states until this week, and I went my whole life without running into another Stand User.”
“So wait, you’re telling me that I could run into them anywhere? Why would they want to fight me? I haven’t done anything.” Marina protested.
Jotaro adjusted his hat, sighing. “We didn’t do anything either, and you still almost killed us. Misunderstandings happen every day. Add superpowers to the mix and you’ve got a mess.”
“So what? Go to work every day and hope the cute new secretary won’t melt my face or something?” She questioned, the stress clear on her face.
“Something like that. It’s the price of power.” Jotaro mumbled grimly. “Isolation and anxiety. But hey, you’re strong.”
Shizuka pinned a mental note to bring that up later. She was beginning to get the idea that something was seriously wrong in Jotaro’s personal life. Unfortunately, Marina was the bigger problem at that very moment. “Do you have any family besides Neil?” She asked softly.
Marina had to think for a moment, everything feeling like a blur. Part of her mind hadn’t even processed her father’s death. Sure, she knew he was gone, but she hadn’t gotten as far as to consider life without him in the long term. “Uhm..” She mumbled, sitting back a bit. “An Aunt in Wales, but I’m not moving there.” She sighed, wiping under her eye for a moment. “I suppose Dad’s wealth goes to me.. I don’t really need someone to stay with.”
“How old are you?” Jotaro asked.
“I turn nineteen next month. Fully independent, if I have to be.” She mumbled. “There isn’t a chance that you two are just fucking with me, right? No possibility that life can just go on as normal?” She asked, voice trembling a bit.
Shizuka shook her head somberly. “No, sorry..”
Marina sniffled once, wiping her eye again before lifting her chin. “Okay then. That’s life, isn’t it? Always an adventure.” She rubbed her hands together. “Thank you both for filling me in. If you don’t mind, I’d like some time to think.” She slowly walked to the door, stopping in front of Jotaro. “Mind if I pass, Gandalf?” She asked tiredly.
Jotaro stepped out of the way, watching the girl exit the room and walk down the hall. He crossed his arms, thinking to himself.
Shizuka just frowned, hugging her knees in the big chair. “She’s not okay.” She mumbled.
Jotaro pushed the door shut. “She’ll be fine. You did a lot for her, Shizuka. You’re a real stand up kid. But everyone’s problems aren’t yours to solve. No Stand can fix what she’s going through.” He mumbled.
“Mine sure can’t. It can only hide things.” She sighed, sitting up. “You really think she’ll be okay on her own?”
“She’s got an Aunt in Wales if she needs anything. Just relax a bit. I need to make some calls. I’ll get you for dinner.” He opened the door, looking at her closely for a moment. “You’re pale. Call room service. You didn’t actually eat this morning.” He sighed, closing the door behind him as he walked away.
Shizuka was once again shocked by his consideration. He noticed she was hungry? She didn’t even notice that. Well, not until he pointed it out. To be honest, the sound of food was pretty appealing. She rolled off the chair and fumbled over to the bedside table lazily. Under the protective laminate glass was a room service menu. She followed the number with her finger, grabbing the phone. She was actually starving. The last real meal she enjoyed was on the plane. For a little bit, she decided to focus on herself. Marina would be fine. She just knew it.
Wednesday, July 29th
Renaissance Amsterdam Hotel
Despite going to bed with a fully-happy stomach for the first time in days, Shizuka didn’t rest easy. Her dreams were haunted by strange visions and sounds. She was trapped between the states of waking and slumber. Her mind drifted along, filled with anxiety and confusion. It felt like she was out of her body. In the distance, she could hear the faint sound of music. It was strange… The sort you’d hear at a theme park or something. Maybe… Carnival like? She couldn’t place it. Then, there was a hum. The hum came from a lovely, soothing, beautiful woman’s voice. The humming became louder, filling Shizuka’s head with pleasant music. She’d honestly never felt more at peace. Her eyes opened, and she saw herself floating in a blue void. Random static images surrounded her as far as the eye could see. People typing away at computers, sleeping, walking, kissing, laughing… She could see these moments frozen in time. Their faces were all too detailed… It couldn’t be a dream. Her subconscious mind began to wander, considering how such a thing could be possible. That’s when the humming became singing.
“ And the seasons… they go round and round. And the painted ponies go up and down.. We’re captive on a carousel of time…” The lovely voice sang.
Those lyrics were familiar to Shizuka. Like she’d heard them before. She couldn’t think straight, though… Everything was a blur. The images before her began to smear and drag across her vision. Static filled her ears as the singing got louder.
“ We can’t return, we can only look behind from where we came… And go round and round and round in the circle game….” The woman sang.
Shizuka’s head began to slowly tilt and turn to the music, spinning in a sort of hypnosis. Her eyelids felt heavy, and she could barely think. Voices joined the woman, singing the soothing melody in the void. It was an impossible feeling to describe. Tears streamed down Shizuka’s cheeks, and she slowly began to sob. She wasn’t sad, though. Quite the contrary. She’d never felt at such peace. She’d never felt so complete. She had never felt so happy….
“ And go round, and round, and round in the circle game…” She woman sang.
Shizuka opened her eyes, and saw that the void had been replaced by green hills. She didn’t recognize her surroundings… They were moving around her like some sort of projection chamber, sweeping over the hills and through a rustic town. Eventually she found herself staring down at a lovely, expensive English manor. She saw a sign at the end of the path leading to the home. Her eyes took a moment to adjust after crying, but eventually she read “Joestar Manor.” Shizuka didn’t exactly have a common last name. No, she knew with absolute certainty that whoever owned this estate was related to her. Then, in the same blurry sweeping motion, her surroundings shifted to a wonderful bedroom. From the decor, she had to assume it was inside the same building she was just admiring. The door flew open, and a young man with purple hair, a strong chin, and passionate eyes walked in. He closed the door, leaning his back against it. Tears began to well in his fiery, willed eyes.
“Dio…. you damn fool.” He whispered, wiping his eyes.
Dio? Shizuka could vaguely remember that name. She’d heard her father mention it once or twice while on the phone. Was he a relative? A rival? Why was the young man dressed like that? He was wearing a full suit and tie, despite looking to be only a year older than Shizuka. Things didn’t seem to be adding up. The young man walked right through Shizuka and approached his desk. He touched a framed painting and sniffled. It seemed to be a lovely piece of art of the boy and his dog.
“Danny.. You didn't deserve that.” Jonathan sniffled, putting the painting face-down so he didn’t have to look at his deceased companion.
Shizuka wanted to approach the crying boy, but she couldn’t seem to control her environment, nor her body. She could only watch what was before her, like a movie. There was a knock on the door. She watched the boy stiffen up, clearing his throat and standing. “Yes?” He called toward the door.
“Jonathan,” A gravely, mature voice began. The door opened, revealing a tall man dressed just as nicely as the child. “My boy.. We need to talk about Danny.” He sighed.
Jonathan balled his fists, but wouldn’t dare speak up against his father. “Yes, Father?” He asked softly.
“Dio is horrifically offended by your accusations. And, I must admit, I can’t say I blame him. What makes you think he’d do such a thing?” George asked, closing the door for privacy.
“Father, Dio’s been trying to upstage me since he got here… He resents me, and I don’t know why! I’ve only tried to befriend him. He’s tortured my social life, turned everyone against me, and shamed a local girl just to spite me!” Jonathan explained, clearly distressed.
“Do you have proof of any of that, boy? You can’t just say something and make it so. If you can prove that boy has done such things, I’d send him to boarding school. But Dio has been nothing but a high-class gentleman since his arrival. I can’t help but think…” George paused, regretting what he was about to say. “I can’t help.. But think you’re merely jealous of Dio. He’s charismatic, a hit with everyone he meets.. Could it be that he simply won that girl’s favor over you?” The father asked, sounding somewhat ashamed to ask these questions.
“He killed my dog, Father! I know it was him! He’s a mad man! You must believe me!” Jonathan begged.
George looked even more pained. “My boy, the mail delivery man admitted to locking your dog in the furnace.” He sighed.
Jonathan’s entire posture dropped. His shoulder slumped, and he looked defeated. Still, his face showed profound confusion, along with disappointment. “W-What?” He mumbled.
“He said that Danny sprinted at him out of nowhere. He felt threatened, and was backed against the furnace. He was trying to defend himself.” He explained.
Jonathan couldn’t believe it. He stepped back, sitting down at the chair by his desk. “The mail boy…? He’s the one?” He mumbled under his breath. “I was sure that Dio was the culprit…”
“Get some rest, my boy. I know it’s hard, sharing so much with someone you know so little. But I hope you and Dio will grow close. Your mother and I weren’t able to give you siblings… Maybe this is a blessing in disguise?” George smiled.
“Maybe..” Jonathan sighed, looking down at the carpet. “Goodnight, Father. Thank you for clearing that up.”
“Of course, son. I’ll see you at breakfast. I love you.” He walked out of the room, shutting the door behind him.
Shizuka could only watch as Jonathan wiped his eyes, sniffling once more. He stood, stumbling over to his bed. Then, he buried his face in his pillow and began to cry. That dog was everything to him. He was an only child, and formed an unbreakable bond with Danny. The fact that his best friend was gone so swiftly… And because of what? A terrified mail boy? It was too much for him to bear.
The room began to melt just like the static images before. Shizuka could feel her consciousness being removed from the strange void. The music faded back in, but never quite reached the volume from before. Then, shockingly, she was back in her hotel room. She was gripping the bedsheets in a cold sweat, panting as she looked around. Her throat was dry, and she felt like she’d slept for years. Was all of that a dream? Why was it so specific? Why did the name Dio sound so familiar…? She looked over to the clock. It was eight in the morning… Jotaro would probably check in on her soon. Good. She had some questions for him...