Friday, July 31st
Streets of Morioh, Japan
Shizuka was wandering the streets aimlessly. She watched people pass her by both by foot and car. Everyone seemed happy. It was strange. New York was such a melting pot of culture. It seemed like no two people were the same. But here? Everyone was like her. She’d always been a foreigner in America, even though she’d lived there her whole life. That wasn’t the case in Morioh… It was her home, her culture, her people. They didn’t pay her any mind as she walked by because she belonged… It was certainly complicated in her heart. Despite how at home she felt, she couldn’t deny how odd everything was. The roads, the buildings, the signs… None of it was like New York. It’s funny. How could someone feel so at home, yet so homesick at the same time?
It seemed like evening was looming over the skies. She must have been unconscious for a long time. When she woke, she had gone upstairs and heard the adults talking. They were so worried about whatever was attacking Rohan. She didn’t want them to worry. No, she had her suspicions about The Circle Game. It was showing her tidbits of history at its own pace. It probably attacked Rohan because he was trying to skip the show. She just had to ride it out. She had been in danger before. The Circle Game didn’t feel dangerous… It didn’t even feel alien. Her memories of the visions were a little blurry, but she remembered the vivid grief she experienced at the sound of the woman’s voice. None of it made sense. She was determined to get answers. And if Josuke wanted to tear the Stand out of her with Crazy Diamond, she needed to avoid him for a while.
Her cell phone began to ring. She nearly ignored it, thinking it was one of her family members desperately trying to reach her. Still, she curiously lifted the device up and checked the caller ID. It wasn’t a number she recognized. She raised a brow, lifting it to her ear.
“Hello?” She asked skeptically.
“ Shizuka.” A familiar woman’s voice said seriously on the other end.
It took a moment to pinpoint the voice, but soon it clicked. “Marina? You actually called? I didn’t think you would. Did you make it home safe?” She smiled, pleasantly surprised by the call.
Marina didn’t seem like she was in the mood for a chat. Her tone was urgent and direct. “Wagner’s organization was waiting for me at my house. They burned it down. I took care of it.” She said.
Shizuka’s eyes widened. “Oh god. Your house is destroyed? What are you going to do now?”
Marina was currently cruising down the highway, heading for her father’s bank. Her scorched hair blew in the wind, blood stained on her chin and lips as she spoke on the phone. She sighed. “I tried to step away, but they wouldn’t leave be. I’m in it now, Shizuka. Like you. I know this sounds silly because we’ve only met once, but it feels like you’re my only ally on Earth right now. Where are you? I’ll come to you.”
“Sheesh… Wow, uhhh.. I’m in Morioh Japan.” Shizuka said anxiously, taking in everything Marina had to say.
“Never heard of it, but don’t worry, I’ll figure it out. Just stay put, okay love? I have a stop or two along the way.” She pulled off, nearly at her destination.
“Okay. Be safe. Really, really safe. Traveling is dangerous when these guys are after you.” Shizuka mumbled.
“They’ll be busy sweeping up the ashes of their operative for the next few hours. I’ll slip on out of the country in my father’s plane. And don’t worry, I’ll pilot it myself. See you soon.” She hung up.
Shizuka heard the line die and let her hand fall to her side. That was certainly a curveball. She sighed, looking around once again. It was hard to imagine anything violent happening in such a nice place. She walked over to a small tree overlooking a lake and sat down under it. If she fell asleep, she might have another vision from The Circle Game, right? It was worth trying… She turned invisible and rested her head against the tree. After some time, she felt her eyes getting heavy. The scenery was gorgeous, the weather felt just right, and there was nothing to worry about.. She was at peace. She was home.
Marina walked into her father’s bank. She caught several concerned stares as she approached the front desk. The man on the other end gasped when he looked up to see who was next. “Oh my goodness, Ma’am, are you okay?”
She nodded. “Just had a rough day. I’m fine. I’m Marina Archer. My father died last week, and I’m here to clean out his safe deposit box. Here’s his death certificate, and his will.” She mumbled, sliding them over to the worker.
After a minute, the concerned man cleared his throat. “I-I’m sorry, of course. Right this way.”
He lead her through a few hallways, arriving at a secure room. All along the walls were tens -if not hundreds- of lock boxes filled with personal treasures. They arrived at Neil Archer’s, and the worker respectfully pulled it out. It wasn’t very big, certainly not big enough to house anything too important.
Marina held the box in her hands, eying it carefully. She turned to the man, gently asking, “May I have the room, please?”
He nodded. “Of course, ma’am. Take as much time as you need. When you’re ready, just leave the way you came.”
“Thank you..” She nodded, rubbing the box with her thumb as she waited for the man to leave. Once he was gone, she set it down on the table in the middle of the room. She took a deep breath and opened it up. She didn’t really know what to expect, but she certainly didn’t find what she was thinking.
Inside the lock box were three items: a small camcorder that she recognized from family trips, a key hanging from a silver chain, and a black feather… She raised a brow. What a strange assortment of items. Though, something was definitely off about the feather… She’d seen bird feathers kept as relics before. This particular feather was different… It wasn’t aged at all… It was still just as lush and soft as if it was just plucked from a bird. Not only that, but it wasn’t stiff and straight. It wavered as she moved it. It seemed to be in perfect condition as well… Not a single strand was missing from the steam. It was large too…. Almost unbelievably so. What bird could such a feather have possibly come from? Her eyes drifted over to the camera. She picked it up, turning it around and switching it on. The viewfinder lit up, and she clicked the media button. One video… Her throat tightened up when she saw Neil as the thumbnail. She quickly clicked the play button, waiting for whatever he had to say.
“Marina… If you’re ever seeing this, it means that I wasn’t strong enough. I’m sorry.” He began.
Her eyes watered as she saw her father alive and kicking in the recording.
“It’s July 20th, 2009… I just finalized preparations for my… transaction. As far as you know, I’m bringing us to Amsterdam on business. I suppose you must be wondering why I even took you if I planned on dying…” He chuckled weakly. “Well… I just wanted to spend one more day with my little girl. I’m sure we’ll do some fun things before my meeting on Sunday night…” He wiped his eyes, sniffling. “Don’t cry for me, honey… I’ve known this was coming ever since I met your mother. Cynthia told me I wasn’t strong enough for a Stand of my own. But maybe… Maybe if I need to protect you, I can find it within myself. That’s not the reason I’m doing this though... “ His eyes got serious. “You’re going to be in danger soon… Both of us are. And if I can’t protect us, then I can at least give you the tool you need to protect yourself… I’m doing this so you’ll have a Stand, Marina. I know you’ll be strong enough…”
Marina’s face scrunched up, and she covered her mouth with her free hand, sniffling a bit. Everything was coming together in her head. The way her father had been acting his last week alive… The way he hugged her before he left… His death… It was all for a reason. It was so she could have Bubblegum Bitch.
“Cynthia wouldn’t tell me much. She just wanted to move past it. She did tell me, though, that this organization was a danger to all of mankind. They call themselves Red Eden.. Some type of apocalyptic cult… I honestly don’t know much about them. I just know that you need to be careful. There’s also one thing you need to do… The black feather in the lockbox? Keep it safe at all costs. You cannot let Red Eden get their hands on it. Don’t worry about being delicate with it, though. As far as I can tell, it’s indestructible. Feel free to shove it in your pocket.”
Marina held the feather closer to her chest, understanding her mission. Neil smiled on screen, looking right into the lens.
“I believe in you, Marina. I’m sorry this is falling onto your shoulders… But you’re a woman now. You’re inheriting the world from Cynthia and I, and inheriting its problems too… I just wish we could have left you a better one. But don’t fret… I’m with her now. And even if this all goes wrong… We’ll have you with us too. So just do your best for the world. And for yourself…” He sighed, wiping his eyes again. “That’s all I really have to say. I’m rubbish at endings… Just… be good. Okay?” He smiled, reaching over and ending the recording.
Marina cleared her throat, letting tears run down her cheeks as she thought about the video… She had to get to Morioh, to Shizuka and Jotaro… They’d be able to help her. She was certain of it. She wasn’t as alone as Neil thought.
Shizuka woke to the feeling of two arms shaking her gently by the shoulders. She was startled, turning visible again in shock. Her eyes adjusted, and she saw Josuke kneeling in front of her. She rubbed her eyes, looking at him in shock.
“J-Josuke? How did you find me?” She questioned in amazement.
“You left a couple hairs on Rohan’s couch. Crazy Diamond returned them to you. I am a detective you know?” He chuckled, looking around. “So why don’t you tell me what’s wrong? Before Jotaro and Rohan catch up?”
Shizuka sighed, looking down at the grass. She balled her hands in her skirt a bit as she looked for the right words. “I don’t want you to remove the Stand, Josuke.”
He seemed at a loss. “But Shizuka… It could be dangerous. It attacked Rohan.”
“I can feel something in me, Josuke… Something protective. I think it’s the Stand… I can’t really explain it. I’ve been having these weird dreams… Dreams that show me things I shouldn’t know. Things that should be impossible to know. But I’m having them. And they’re detailed. I think the Stand is trying to tell me something, I just need to wait long enough to figure out what.”
Josuke frowned, deep in thought. “I suppose we can try to wait it out… If you really think it’s the right move.”
Shizuka nodded, hugging her legs as she leaned against the large tree. There was a brief honk from a passing car. She noticed, leaning to the side to see. A woman had stopped in the middle of the empty road, lowering her window.
“Josuke! Still out and about? You’re working yourself right into a grave!” Tomoko called out.
Josuke’s face went pale, and he turned to see his mother. “Oh, hi Mom! Don’t worry! This isn’t anything big!”
Tomoko raised a brow. “Who’s the kid? My boy isn’t giving you any trouble, is he hun?” She asked Shizuka.
Mom? Was this Josuke’s mother…? Why didn’t she know who Shizuka was. Didn’t he talk about her? How could she have never come up? Come to think of it, how had she never met Josuke mother? Before she could say anything, Tomoko just laughed.
“I’m just teasing. Josuke, you should come over for dinner tonight. That is, unless you have a date? Hmm?”
Josuke sighed. “Mom, I already told you I’m too busy with work to date. I’ll be there, I just need to get this child home, okay?”
She nodded, waving. “Alright, alright.” A car honked behind her, wanting her to move along. She turned her head. “HEY! Watch it! I’m talking to my son here! What’s so damn important?”
Josuke laughed wearily as she slowly drove off. He knew something that couldn’t be undone just transpired. He looked back to Shizuka with hesitation, scanning her expression. She just looked down at the grass, twirling a small flower stem.
“So… your Mom doesn’t know I exist?” She mumbled, not looking into her brother’s eyes.
He sighed, rubbing the back of his neck. “Shizuka… I don’t know how much you’ve been told about the family situation. You’re pretty young.”
“Maybe you can finally explain to me how we have different Moms. I’ve talked to people at school, and that’s not normal when both Moms are still alive…” She mumbled.
Josuke rubbed his face, realizing that he was the one who had to explain their father’s infidelity. Great. That was totally fair. He sighed, taking a deep breath and sitting down in the grass with her.
“Do you know what a bastard child is?” He asked softly.
She looked up in shock. “That’s an insult, right?”
“Yes, but it also has a meaning… It means that I grew up without a dad. Because Joseph Joestar got my mother pregnant, and went home to New York.” He explained slowly.
Shizuka looked totally lost. “What…? But… You have kids when you’re together. And married?”
“I’m not gonna go into details. That’s really not the point of this talk.” He laughed nervously. “But… he did something bad. He cheated on your mother with mine… And that’s how I was born.”
She slumped lower on the tree, her face reflecting the state of her mind as she learned these things. “Cheated? Dad? How? He loves Mom so much…”
Josuke sighed, looking for a way to explain it. “Sometimes… people are impulsive. They do things without thinking about the long term consequences, or how it will hurt others. That’s much easier when you’re drunk, and a pretty woman is tugging on your arm…”
“Why wasn’t I ever told about this? You’re so much older than me… This happened before I was even born. They’ve always known… And they never told me?”
“They moved past it. I get why they didn’t want you to know… But you deserve to, I get that. I spent my whole childhood thinking my Dad was some jerk who left without a word… I don’t think they wanted you to think that about Joseph.” He reasoned.
She stood up, crossing her arms. “And this is better? Learning about it now, from someone who wasn’t even involved? Do they even love each other anymore? Or are they just together because it’s easier?” She questioned.
Joseph stayed sitting, shrugging. “Those aren’t questions for me, Shizuka… I’m sorry.”
“And you!” She got even more fired up. “You’ve gone ten years without telling your mom about me? I’m your sister! What’s the deal? Are you embarrassed of me? Does she even know Dad has other kids?” She questioned, raising her little voice more than usual.
Josuke took the temper without anger. “My mom’s still in love with Joseph Joestar… I don’t bring him up, ever. I don’t know if she’s aware of Holy, but she’s not aware of you. I’m afraid that if you met her, you’d remind her of…” He frowned. “The life she could’ve had with him. If he was single when they met. I’m just trying to protect my Mother… I’m sorry, Shizuka.”
She looked away. “How am I supposed to feel about all this? My dad’s a cheater… He broke Mom’s heart. Am I just meant to move on like everyone else did?”
Josuke thought for a moment, realizing where they were. He smiled softly, pointing down the hill and toward the pond. “See that? The day we found you, you rolled down this hill and into that very pond…” He stood up, taking her hand and walking her down. “Dad was so afraid, so was I… You flew right into the water, and became invisible… We tried to find you, but it was looking bad... “ They stopped right by the water.
“Then.. He took a knife and cut his arm open, bleeding everywhere. He did that so we could see where you were in the water… He didn’t know what Crazy Diamond could do… He didn’t plan on getting better.” He explained. “He just wanted to save you. That’s all that mattered. Before he even knew you. That’s what Joseph Joestar does.”
Shizuka stared at the crystal pond in awe, the setting sun casting an orange glow across the sparkling water as her brother spoke. Still, it didn’t feel right. She crossed her arms, frowning. “That was life or death… I’m talking about how he is every day. The little things… What does any of it mean if he cheats?”
Josuke pondered this for a moment, remembering a conversation he had years ago. “Do you know why Dad does what he does?”
“Real Estate? Because there’s money in it, right?” She mumbled.
He chuckled, shaking his head. “No… He had money. He would've done anything. He could’ve been a doctor, a police officer, a politician, a teacher… But he was drawn to Real Estate. Wanna know why?” He asked.
Shizuka just shrugged, not seeing where Josuke was going with this.
“The little things. Sure, he could save lives, but he already had his fair share of that. He could mold young minds, but he doesn’t really have the patience for that… He decided that he wanted to help people find their home. The perfect dream house. If they didn’t have money, he’d work for free… He’d call in favors, haggle prices, and strong-arm landlords as much as he could to make sure his clients got their perfect home… He said that no matter how hard life is, having a lovely home to return to every night makes it all manageable… That’s who our father is. Yes, he cheated… But he’s not a cheater. He made a mistake, but it’s over. SuzieQ was furious, but she chose to move past it… They’re not unhappy, at least I don’t think. They got married before they were even twenty, and have been together for seventy years… It’s pretty amazing, when you think about it. They’re the real deal. And they refused to let anything change that… So you can look at our father as the sum of his mistakes… Or you could appreciate his accomplishments… You know he saved the Earth, right?” He chuckled.
Shizuka laughed a bit, nodding. “Can’t get through a barbecue without hearing that story…”
Josuke wrapped an arm around Shizuka, pulling her against him and looking out over the pond. “I’m happy to have you in Morioh… And you can come with me to dinner if you want. Mom will be happy to meet you.”
Shizuka wiped her eyes, smiling wide as she turned her face and buried it in Josuke’s coat, nodding. He smiled, getting out his phone. “I’m just gonna call so she has some time to process…” He laughed, dialing her number.
It was about thirty minutes after dinner. Jotaro, Josuke, and Shizuka all sat in Tomoko’s living room. The adults were sipping wine, while Shizuka sat cross-legged on the floor with a cup of water. Tomoko leaned back in her chair, resting a hand on her brow as she laughed.
“I can’t believe you’ve had this family for so long, Josuke, and you never told me.” She smiled, crossing her legs and taking a sip.
“I was worried that you’d be upset, because it’s Joseph’s family..” He admitted.
“Oh hush!” She swatted the air at him. “They’re your family, and that makes them mine too. And look at you, so cute! I always wanted a girl~” She said teasingly as Shizuka, causing the young girl to blush.
Jotaro put down his drink, looking over at Josuke. “By the way, congratulations on making sergeant. You’ve always done everything you could to protect this town.”
Josuke laughed nervously, not very used to compliments from Jotaro. “Thank you. You’ve done your fair share too, y’know?”
“Oh?” Tomoko tilted her head. “Are you in law enforcement too, Jotaro?”
The room was quiet for a moment. Then, Jotaro spoke. “Of the sorts.”
“Really? What do you do?” She smiled, leaning forward a bit.
Jotaro didn’t particularly enjoy lying. However, they were in a bit of a bind. “I’m a Marine Biologist for a living…” He began. “..but in my free time, I’m a bounty hunter.”
“ Bounty hunter!? ” Tomoko giggled. “You’re shitting me! Oops, sorry Shizuka..” She laughed, her face turning red. She clearly had enough wine. “So you hunt down criminals?”
Well, that was a pretty accurate statement, actually. He didn’t have to lie much at all. “I like to think it’s more of taking out the trash.” He shrugged.
Tomoko loved that, laughing again. “Oh, you’re too much. I normally wouldn’t buy that for a second, but you’re pretty shredded for a biologist.”
Everyone laughed at that. After a bit, Josuke stood, nodding to Shizuka. “Wanna help me clean up in the kitchen?” He offered her a hand.
She accepted jumping up with the help of his strength. They walked into the kitchen, and Josuke began to place dishes by the sink. “Feeling better about everything now?” He asked, turning on the water.
Shizuka nodded. “It’s nice to just… be here. I never get to spend much time with any of you, y’know?”
Josuke smiled, turning to the sink. “Well, we can fix that. You can fly here, I can come over on holidays… It’ll be nice.”
She could hear Jotaro and Tomoko laughing in the other room. Jotaro’s laugh was an odd thing to be sure. Maybe it was more common when alcohol was involved. She didn’t know. Either way, it was a wonderful evening. She wished her Mom and Dad could be there. It was almost enough to make her forget about the looming danger of Wagner’s organization. Almost… That lingered in the back of her mind along with The Circle Game. However, for one night, she could just relax. Just this once, there was no one to fight, and no danger to be heard of. She could enjoy a bit of peace.
Outside the Higashikata household, a cloaked figure stood behind a few trees. He reached into his pocket, taking his cellphone and making a call. A woman picked up on the other end.
“ Yes?” She asked in a droning, apathetic tone.
“I’ve located Jotaro, Josuke, and Shizuka… I could kill all three of them if you wish.” The man whispered, staring at Jotaro through the window.
There was a pause of contemplation. “ We don’t have files on Josuke’s Stand, and Shizuka could be hiding her true ability. You need to be absolutely certain of this .” The woman warned.
“Do you want me to eliminate them?” He asked simply.
After another moment, she spoke. “ Yes.”
He hung the phone up, licking his lips. He’d never even struggled against a target before. He didn’t plan on starting now… No, he’d destroy all three Jojo’s, then maybe have some fun with the beautiful mother. Yes, that sounded like a plan…. He chuckled, sinking into the darkness. The perfect opportunity would arrive any minute…