Chapter 1: In Another Time And In Another Universe (L)
It probably ended differently in another time and in another universe. The world wouldn’t be able to correct itself. Generations of passion would go unnoticed, sinking to the bottom with forgotten masks wedged between red stones and skewered swords.
This was not that ending.
It started with a request, and here they both were, shuffling down the sidewalk with throbbing red noses. The few centimeters of snow from last Friday had melted back down into the sewer drains, but it was still cold as hell. The November weather wasn’t always kind in Morioh.
Josuke tried burying his face deeper into the warmth of his uniform’s collar, but gave up with a sigh as the tips of his ears were still stinging and raw to the touch. Besides, they were almost inside anyways. The entrance to the Morioh Grand Hotel was only a block away. He wished Okuyasu would just teleport them to the glass doors. Instead, his friend blew puffs of his hot breath into the air, watching the tiny clouds dissipate into the atmosphere.
Was it weird bringing your pal with you to meet your half-sister for the first time? There really wasn’t a help book about this sort of topic. Then again, he probably wouldn’t have read it, anyhow. Don’t get it wrong, he was flattered she wanted to meet him. Better late than never, right? Still, this was Jotaro’s mom. She was going to be intense. Probably wore leather. She’d have a permanent scowl, give him a punch on the shoulder and call him ‘squirt’. Maybe even ‘mamma’s boy’.
He invited Okuyasu for extra support, on the condition he would keep his comments about Holly’s appearance to himself. That, and the draft in his friend’s house this time of year was insane. Saving the power in the generator for air conditioning in the summer had some drawbacks. He could’ve asked Okuyasu to steal candy from a child with terminal meningitis for some time in a warm home. That and ice cream, or really any food. Wow, it was really easy to bribe-
“Ahh! Mother- shit!” Okuyasu stumbled backwards, covering his forehead that had just made direct contact with the swinging door. Josuke ignored this. His attention was on his nephew stepping outside.
Josuke rubbed the back of his neck. “Hey, Jotaro!”
“Oh. Uh, sorry about that.” He watched Jotaro for any reaction to the apology. All he got was a frown and a dead pane stare. Damn, the guy hardly even blinked. “It took a while to convince Mom I was spending the night at Koichi’s.”
“H-huh, come again?”
“Why didn’t you take a cab?”
“Oh. Just trying to save a yen or two here or there. University isn’t going to pay for itself, ya know?”
Actually, he had been eyeing a pair of gold trimmed cuff links for the past week now. Jotaro didn’t question his intentions. In fact, he seemed uninterested in the conversation at all. He just sighed, pulling his hat over his eyes while mumbling, “Good grief,” under his breath.
The three made their way to the rental vehicle. There wasn’t an objection to Okuyasu getting into the back seat. Josuke may or may not have announced his friend’s addition to the dinner. At worst he got was a glare from the driver. Or maybe the stern lines etched on the biologist’s face were accentuated by the flash of car lights whizzing by.
There was a smell of past owners in the car from the ashtray. Years of multiple cigarette brands perfumed the tan nylon seats. It took two good turns of the key before the engine growled, shaking the hood ever slightly.
“Good Evening Morioh!” The radio blared, recapping the news before the weak signal turned to static.
Stepping outside, the chilled little particles in the air seemed to stab extra hard at the new swollen orb on Okuyasu’s forehead. He squinted, grimacing from leaving the confines of the warm carbon dioxide enveloping the car.
“Ohm...” Was his first response at looking at the place. The house was fairly big. Single story, but it was probably bigger than his first glance gave him. The foliage disguised the connected rooms that travelled further back into the weeds.
He heard Jotaro say, “Sorry,” before opening the door. It was only until Jotaro pointed to his forehead that he got the memo.
“S’ fine.” Okuyasu slipped off his shoes inside. He felt a finger tap above where his scars crossed, therefore crossing his eyes to make out Crazy Diamond coming and going in an instant. He felt much better now.
It only took seconds for Jotaro to state, “She’s not here,” with deadly accuracy.
Josuke stopped placing his shoes on the floor. “Should we wait outside-?”
“Warm up in here. I’ll be back”
The sliding door locked.
The walls were beige and the floors were another shade of brown. Boring . The minimalist design left Okuyasu’s mind to wander. Really the only decorations of interest were a few framed photos scattered across the shelves. “Oi, Josuke. Whose that?”
Josuke peered over his shoulder. “I think that’s Mr. Joestar.”
“Why is he wearing a crop-top?”
“Guess that was the style in the forties.”
“Huh… whose that?”
“Bro, that’s Jotaro.”
“What a fucking edgelord.”
Josuke pulled the picture of the shelf, pulling it close to his face. “I think that could be my grandmother. Could be wrong.”
Josuke shrugged. “I don’t know.”
“Oh. Then who's that?”
“Bro, I have no damn clue.” Most of what he knew of his family was the words of his father and nephew. The photos were almost stock images, total strangers. “Where are you going?”
Okuyasu had gotten bored of quizzing Josuke on his family knowledge. Now there was absolutely nothing interesting in the room. Forgetting the cold he was trying to escape an hour earlier, he stepped out onto the outdoor walkway toward the other rooms. “Exploring.”
“Okuyasu! Get back inside, man.” Josuke jogged up to his friend peeking through the translucent paper panels of the rooms. “This is like peeping-Tom levels of rude.”
“I’m not spying on chicks in the bathroom, idiot.” He slid open a panel to sneak a look, then put it back in place. “As guests, we should be given a tour of the place. A self-guided tour is better than none.”
“You don’t just snoop around in someone else’s house. You wouldn’t do that- you haven’t done this when I’ve invited you over, right?”
He ignored his friend’s question. One: he was invested in his new quest. Second: the answer was not what Josuke wanted to hear. The knowledge where Tomoko stored the extra supply of bubble bath would surely come in handy someday.
Okuyasu ran past the shoji and ignored all of the other tanks in the office for the tiny bowl labeled ‘Sea Monkeys’ in the desk. He turned on the lamp to see the little creatures swimming in sporadic circles. There were hundreds of them in the bowl. This did not stop him from trying to give them all names. So far there was Aki, Hana, Takadoshikuto, Eggroll, and Gorilla. Eggroll was the immediate favorite.
“Guess he moved his whole freakin’ zoo here while visiting.” Josuke flicked on the lights. The Morioh Grand Hotel wouldn’t allow aquatic guests to check in. Jotaro has renovated his childhood room into his research lab. Saltwater starfish and giant slugs clung lazily to the sides of the aquariums. An oranda goldfish here. Moon jellies floating upwards in a cylinder tank there. Okuyasu was right. This was a much more interesting space.
“Okay, we saw more stuff.” Josuke tugged on his friend’s collar. “Now we should get going before Jotaro comes back.”
“Have you read any of his journals before?” Okuyasu stayed in place. He was watching a sea monkey hatch. Or maybe it was pooping. Either way, he giggled in fascination.
“No. No I haven’t.”
“I don’t get that science shit. Too many big words, ya’ know?”
Josuke flipped through the scattered notebooks on the desk. There were a lot of big words. Turritopsis dohrnii. Pyloric stomachs. Dropsy disease. It was like his biology textbook, and he gagged on reflex. He understood a sketch of sea floor elevation around the coast. He noticed his eye was taken away from the words and now towards the loose sketches. Most of them were renditions of different fish bones. There was the ribs of a bottlenose dolphin, and the spikes of a lionfish. One skull had the shape of a cow, and another fish resembled an arrow-
Amongst the piles of marine anatomy charts, Josuke pulled out a diagram of the stand arrow. It was the same shape as the one tucked away in Kira’s house, and the other that have plunged in self into Koichi’s two years ago. The hairs on his neck stood up.
The date in the corner was November 12, 2001.
That was two days ago. The sketch outlining the delicate details of the weapon had been finished after Jotaro had came back to Morioh. Josuke was led to the obvious conclusion the referenced item in question…
He opened the drawer under the desk. He tried closing it nonchalantly.
Okuyasu’s neck snapped away from Eggroll. “Oh shit, is that a stand arrow?”
Damn. Before he could close it, Okuyasu snatched up the arrow with ease.
“Dude! Put that back!” Josuke jumped to grab the arrow, but Okuyasu went higher than he could reach. The Hand has erased a tiny amount of air above his user’s head.
“Chill out. I lived with one of these bad ma’ama jammas for years. I know how to hold these things.”
This did not comfort Josuke.
“I thought you said he gave this to the Speedwagon Foundation?”
“He did. At least, that’s what he told us.”
Okuyasu felt the warmth of arrow’s handle in his palm. The faint pulse made him stiffen. “Do you think this is another one?”
“Possibly.” Josuke took a step forward. Okuyasu took a step back. “What pisses me off is him bringing one back so close to Morioh. It’s a little too soon.”
“Yeah. I guess so.”
“Let’s put it back and just stay in the living room.”
“I guess you’re right.” He looked down at the arrow in his hand. It’s tip reflected the waves the tiny filters made in the tanks.
“Put it back in the drawer.”
Okuyasu did not move.
“Whatever you’re thinking… no.”
“Okay, but you can only throw it once. Once. And you can only throw it at that tree.” Josuke let Crazy Diamond float over to the black skeleton of the plum blossom tree meters outside of Jotaro’s office. “It’s already dead. A tree stand is not needed in this world and never will be.”
“Hell yeah.” Keicho had never let Okuyasu ever use their bow and arrow. It was probably for good reason, but he had matured. Last week he got a seventy-five on his math test. Clearly, there was a tangible sign of growth. Forget graduation, this would be the defining ceremony of his adulthood.
Okuyasu aimed for the center of the trunk. Crazy Diamond vanished as he raised his elbow back. “Take this- bitch!”
The arrow speared it’s way toward the tree, spinning in a clockwise motion. It did not hit the trunk, but rather smashed into the spiderweb of top branches. Twigs and branches flew in every direction. Splitters rained down like a light snowfall. The plum blossom skeleton looked bald, or got a friar’s haircut.
“Dammit!” Okuyasu stomped on walkway. The Hand swiped the arrow back into his user’s grasp. “I was so close!”
Josuke stepped down to the shattered remains. His sister would surely notice half of the tree lying around on the ground. Sure, it was dead, but it wasn’t a good impression breaking something in someone else’s house. The warm glow of Crazy Diamond reaching out for the broken limbs helped deflect the chill in the air.
Just a little lower, Okuyasu thought. That’s it? Damn! He had been practicing his aim at swiping away air with The Hand for a while now, and he would say he had gotten pretty good at it. It really busted his balls how he couldn’t chuck a stupid arrow where he wanted. The arrow seemed to feel the sentiment. It’s tip slowly pointed upward to the trunk once more.
Just a little lower…
“Oh SHIT!” Okuyasu darted to the tree. Even if he said it felt like the arrow had changed trajectory on its own, that didn’t change the fact it had gone straight through Crazy Diamond’s hand mid-restoration. “Josuke! I-I’m so sorry dude! Hold on.” He grabbed the handle and pulled. The visible pieces of Crazy Diamond’s arm shattered. Bright flashing lights illuminated from the cracks.
“What?” Okuyasu shouted, stumbling back. He turned his head away from the breaking stand. He found Josuke crumbling into the ground. His throat made a gurgling sound as foam trickled down the corners of his mouth. The whites of his eyes pushed his pupils up into his skull.
“Josuke!” He slapped his friend on the back, but he stayed unresponsive on the freezing grass.
If piercing a person without a stand gave you the power, would impaling a stand do the opposite? Did he just break Crazy Diamond?
Did he just kill Josuke?
“Shit! Shit! SHIT!” he grabbed Josuke’s prone form under the arms and heaved. Piss and mist, why was he so heavy? He only got a few meters before his friend’s body became impossible to move. He’d have to use The Hand to drag Crazy Diamond.
More cracks ravaged the frozen stand as The Hand tried pulling it by the arm.
“Dammit! Why did it have to be me?” He tried taking in a calming breath, but the cold stung his lungs. “Okay. Okay. Gentle.”
As delicately as a reality ripping spirit could, The Hand picked up Crazy D. by the waist, both stand and user inching back into the front room.
What do you do when someone’s choking? It took Okuyasu a few moments to remember before laying Josuke on his side. He placed the arrow inside his coat before getting down on both knees. He listened for- something. Breathing. A Heartbeat. Josuke calling him a dumbass. Anything. Too bad he couldn’t hear anything over his own erratic heartbeat.
“Come on man.” Okuyasu shook Josuke’s shoulder. “Yur’ being a real dick right now. C-come on, say something!”
Josuke continued to shake on the floor. His stand stayed frozen in time, like the weather had finally took hold of it.
Okuyasu heard something scrape across the carpet. He whipped around. There, around the door, vines began slipping between the frame.
An enemy stand user? Now? Okuyasu rose to his feet. He pushed Josuke under the shelves. No one was allowed to hurt his best pal. Well, no one except himself, apparently.
He shook his head around to focus. He rested his weight on his back leg. The vines wrapped around the door’s lock. The Hand appeared with its right arm at the ready. He winced as the sound of Josuke struggling to breath stopped. Please don’t be dead. Please don’t be dead.
Alright ya’ punk slab of meat. Okuyasu thought. Once you open that door, your heads comin’ right off!
The door opened.
The Hand vanished.
“Oi, Jotaro! And uh- you. Hehe. I don’t think we’ve met before.”
The woman held out her hand covered in vines expecting an American handshake. The other arm carried bags of groceries. “You can call me Holly. You must be Okuyasu. Jotaro said you’d be joining us tonight!”
“Oh. Y-yes Ma’am.” He took her hand and awkwardly shook it up and down a few times.
“And where’s our man of the hour?”
Okuyasu looked over his shoulder to see Josuke standing behind him. Upright. Completely fine. Not dying in the corner.
“Josuke!” Holly embraced her brother in quick hug. The vines kept the grocery bags from falling. “It’s so nice to finally meet you! Jotaro, could you please put the cake and tempura on the table?”
Jotaro grunted, making his way past the other to the set table. Okuyasu watched Josuke’s face for an explanation, or maybe a confirmation that he was alright. All he got was an empty stare before Holly let go of him.
She clapped her hands together, the vines vanishing. “Let’s eat!”
If Okuyasu were just a bit more perceptive, just a bit less focused on social niceties and introductions, he would have noticed the tremble in Josuke’s voice as he said “Right here”, the way he had tucked his hands firmly in his pockets to hide their shaking. An action which didn’t last long, for as Holly outstretched her arms for a hug Josuke outstretched his own in kind. The hug was brief, then Holly stepped back and clapped her hands together with the widest of smiles on her face.
Josuke was surprised that Jotaro had been raised by this woman; she nearly radiated warmth, the way she bustled around them and how the smile-lines around her eyes scrunched up as she grinned and asked all the ‘how have you been’s and ‘you must be hungry’s and et cetera and et cetera that he would expect from a grandmother or an older aunt. He nodded and answered her as best he could, though his brain still held a fog he couldn’t shake no matter how hard he tried to ignore it.
He couldn’t believe that she was a Joestar, much less his half-sister. But as her Stand curled around her, leaves sprouting from her back and shoulders like feathers and vines snaking out to help put groceries in the refrigerator and open cupboard doors, her resemblance to Mr. Joestar started to show. Which still said nothing for her resemblance to her son. Jotaro must have taken after his father almost entirely. He stood near the door, surveying the kitchen with cold hawk’s eyes like he was on watch or something, neither saying a word nor betraying anything on his stony face, so different from Holly’s animated features.
“Oy, Josuke,” whispered Okuyasu from behind him. Josuke jumped a bit, and Okuyasu startled almost as much. Josuke forced a chuckle.
“Sorry. Just….out of it.” He scratched the back of his neck with a huff. “Y’know.”
“That’s what I was gonna ask,” Okuyasu whispered still, pulling him to the side. When Okuyasu was worried, his eyebrows drew so close together that his scars nearly touched. He had no poker face whatsoever. “Y’okay, bro?”
Oddly, besides the brain fog, he was. If you had told him that nothing had happened, that it had all been a dream of some kind, he’d be inclined to believe you; the minutes between the arrow meeting Crazy D.’s hand and him coming to again behind the shelves felt like a dark haze, pinpricked through by lightning shocks that had dragged him to the ground and slowed his thoughts to the rate that one might move in one of those nightmares where you’re running and running and your legs simply won’t carry you away from your sleep-born assailants.
“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine,” he mumbled. “Prob’ly just need some air.” He shrugged, and straightened his back with a pop of his spine that banished at least a bit of the tension he’d been holding in it.
In the living room, Holly was looking for all the world like a rosebush had sprouted from her back. If rosebushes could hold dishware. Each vine held in it part of a place setting, which she carried out to the table, humming a little tune as she did.
“So your Stand,” Josuke asked tentatively, fishing for anything he and his sister could find in common to talk about, anything at all. “What does it….do?” He gestured to the vines. Holly pondered a second.
“Oh, not much that I know of, besides helping me carry things.” she said. “At least nothing special like Jotaro’s time-stop or whatever Joseph’s stand does. Photography, was it?” She shook her head with a laugh. “At least I’m not breaking the bank on cameras. I swear, every time he used his power he’d have to buy a new one.”
It occurred briefly to Josuke that he had no idea what she was talking about, as he’d never seen his father use his Stand except to grab ahold of Shizuka when they’d first found her. It hadn’t even occurred to him that it did anything more; he’d just figured it was….well, kind of useless honestly. He let the topic go.
He hoped desperately that the others would let the topic go as well, before questions turned to Crazy Diamond. Bringing up Stands had been a Mistake. Not the worst mistake, though, he thought, recalling the sharp sting of the arrow and all that had come after. Was he angry? Oddly, no. It was hard to stay mad at Okuyasu, in any case.
What he was, was afraid. Which was why Crazy Diamond stayed packed away in his mind. It was still there, he could feel it, that presence which had been curled in the base of his subconscious ever since he’d woken up in that hospital as a child with all traces of fever mysteriously gone. But there was something different, something just off enough to make his stomach churn at the thought of bringing Crazy D. out into the forefront. Like someone had taken the scales that kept Stand and user in balance and quietly added a weight to the Stand’s side.
It was like Crazy D. wanted to be let out. And that’s what terrified Josuke the most.
“Dinner’s all set!” called Holly, beckoning them with a wave of her Stand. Jotaro exhaled audibly as he finally moved from his place near the doorway, and Josuke thought he saw a hint of a smile, perhaps a trick of the light. The four of them gathered around the modest-sized table, taking their seats without much fanfare or conversation. The tempura that Holly had set out smelled heavenly, and Josuke realized just then how hungry he had become. He could hear Okuyasu’s stomach rumble loudly. His friend didn’t seem even a bit embarrassed; he wondered if he’d noticed, and knew that even if he had he wouldn’t care. Okuyasu was like that.
The meal began in a silence that started to cling to the edges of the room. Josuke began to get the sense, as Holly picked at her meal without comment, that she felt the same way that he did about their meeting: torn, between the idea of their siblinghood and the reality that they did not know each other, had little in common, and belonged generations apart.
“So how’s Shizuka doing?” Josuke asked between mouthfuls. Holly perked up a bit.
“Amazing! Joseph said she’d turned visible a few weeks ago. Not long enough to snap a picture, unfortunately. But long enough for them to see her!”
“It’s progress?” Josuke ventured with a shrug.
“Progress,” Holly repeated. She took another bite. “Stands are still so alien to me. Seems like just yesterday an invisible baby was the stuff of movies.”
“What movies‘re you watching that got invisible babies?” Okuyasu piped up, one eyebrow raised. He’d already finished eating. Holly chortled.
“Hypothetical ones,” she answered. “Truth be told I’m not much of a moviegoer.”
“I mean, if I were a film director I’d be all over that,” Josuke said, miming a film camera. He pointed it at Jotaro, whose plate was also nearly empty save for a few pieces here and there. “Sir, sources say your Stand can even stop time. Is that true?”
In response, Jotaro just popped a piece of veggie tempura in his mouth. The number of bits on his plate hadn’t changed. Josuke blinked, and looked back at his own plate, which looked ever so slightly emptier. He laughed.
“Put the camera down, it’s impolite,” Jotaro deadpanned. “Besides, maybe Holly’s stand is more similar to Gramps’ than she thinks.”
Holly waved with a thorny tendril. Josuke carefully, ostentatiously mimed putting the imaginary camera away. What was with Joseph’s stand and cameras, he wondered again.
Then Holly turned to him. “So, Josuke, I hear your Stand is impressive,” she said. “I hear its healing’s gotten my Jotaro out of more than one pinch?”
“Uh,” Josuke gulped. All eyes were fixed on him; Okuyasu’s were wide with the same anxiety Josuke felt, while Holly’s held a curious gleam. Jotaro just raised his eyebrows. Josuke shrugged.
“I wouldn’t say more than one pinch,” he explained humbly. Then he grinned. “But yeah, there was the one.” Had to keep the conversation going. Had to try to deflect, please don’t ask to bring out Crazy D.
Holly clapped her hands together. “Do you think you could show me what he looks like? I’ve been dying to see him.”
As if on cue, there it was. Josuke exhaled. Okuyasu seemed to be holding his breath, poised as if to get out of his seat and run if need be. Josuke inhaled sharply, almost but not quite making a hissing sound through his teeth. “I—“
“Oy,” Okuyasu interrupted. “What about the pinch I got you out’ve?” he asked with a bared-teeth grin, leaning back in his chair slightly. Josuke chuckled nervously.
“If I’m gonna be honest I think Okuyasu’s stand is cooler than mine,” Josuke said with a gesture that deferred to his friend. Okuyasu beamed. As he should; the compliment wasn’t entirely just deflection. The Hand was a formidable Stand in and of itself, and as Okuyasu got better at commanding it, Josuke’d rank it among the best. “Show her, Okuyasu.”
“Right!” Okuyasu nearly shouted. Without hesitation, The Hand appeared behind him, leaning over him as if to protect him from some invisible foe. “Check this out!” Okuyasu took a few pieces of tempura from Josuke’s plate—eh, Josuke thought, I’m not that hungry anyway—and flung them into the air. The Hand swiped them out of the empty space with ease; a breeze rustled all their hair as the air closed in behind the vanished food with a bass-heavy ffffbbbbttt. Holly looked at them as if she were watching a magic trick, and Okuyasu would pull the tempura out from behind her ear. He shrugged.
“Well, ‘s gone now,” he said. “No idea where it goes.”
“Some other dimension full of tempura-loving aliens?” Josuke postulated.
“Like Mikitaka? That’d be neat.” Okuyasu stroked his chin contemplatively. “I wonder if Mikitaka does like tempura….”
Before Josuke could be asked to bring out Crazy D. again, he switched the subject to the first thing he could think of.
“Um, Holly,” he asked sheepishly, “Is there a toilet I can use?”
Still in awe of The Hand’s display, a few sets of vines applauding like spindly pairs of hands behind her, Holly pointed further down into the labyrinth that was her home.
“That direction, then you’ll want to take a left and another right,” she directed. Josuke nodded, having no idea what she was talking about but eager to leave the table and maybe get some fresh air and not have to confront the looming spectre of just what had happened. He stood abruptly, bowed slightly, and thanked Holly. Then he was off, leaving Okuyasu to eagerly explain The Hand’s various applications.
As he left, he made the mistake of eye contact with Jotaro. As hard as it was to read the man, he knew suspicion when he saw it. Or was it just his imagination, his own fear projecting itself onto Jotaro's blank slate?
Josuke took a few deep breaths as he left the room. Crazy Diamond was squirming in his brain, like an animal in a cage, and ignoring it was starting to make him nauseous. He tried to breathe slowly, in through his nose and out through his mouth, as he vaguely followed Holly's directions. And then forgot them. And then turned the wrong way, then doubled back and turned a different direction and how hard was it to find a restroom in someone's house….
Until suddenly he was back in the garden. His breath fogged in front of him. It billowed like miniature clouds before vanishing in the air, which hung like a frigid curtain without even a breeze to move it. Josuke put his hands in his pockets before his fingertips could go numb.
There was the tree, looking almost as it had when he and Okuyasu had approached it before. Scraggy, limbs stretching every which way like they'd lost track of the sun and had tangled themselves up trying to find it again. But now those branches were studded with dots of green. Josuke approached, reaching a hand up to tug down a cluster of tangled twigs; his breath hitched. The branches no longer had the brittleness of dead wood, but instead were springy, speckled with the pale green beginnings of leaves. Delicate little things, curled up in their buds, heralding the coming of spring. Except it was November. And the tree had been dead. Josuke let go of the branches and let them return to their height with a loud SNAP, stepping back and getting another good look at the tree as a whole. A breeze had started up again, and it swayed along with it. Josuke shook his head. A headache had begun to settle in at the top of his spine.
Fine, he thought as loudly as thoughts could be. He took a deep shuddering breath, clenched his fists, and summoned his Stand.
"Josuke hasn't been back in a while," Holly said as she swept the dishes from the table in a flurry of vines. She was frowning, working absent-mindedly, heading to the kitchen to get the cake out of the fridge and setting the plates down on the way, her Stand curled against her back.
To Okuyasu, her Stand looked kinda like one of the villains in his bro's american comics, a guy with goggles and metal arms on his back that he controlled with his mind. Okuyasu'd found a box of the things up in Keicho's room once, and tried to read them one by one, carefully without ripping the pages or smudging the drawings or making any rustling that his bro could hear, but his english had never been too good and all he remembered really was what he could glean from the art.
At that point it had never occurred to him that he'd live in a reality of superheroes and supervillains (of sorts); the world of his brother's comics seemed almost mundane in comparison. He didn't know what happened to that box of flimsy paper issues. He hadn't been near Keicho's room since his death.
He absent-mindedly wondered if Holly's stand could also lift her up and let her cling to walls and crawl around like a spider. Probably not, and she didn't look like she cared to try.
Holly held the cake in her own two hands and set it on the table. "I hope I didn't say anything to make him anxious," she said quietly.
"Nah," Okuyasu shrugged. "He's just anxious in general." Some reassurance.
"I'm sure he is," Jotaro said. Okuyasu withered under his stare; the dude would be terrifying even if he wasn't onto them, and he was definitely onto them. At least he knew something was wrong.
"I'll go find 'im," Okuyasu said, standing abruptly, his chair scooting back with a grating sccrrtch. "Josuke won't wanna miss the cake."
A breeze near his head, and Star Platinum put a hand on his shoulder firmly enough that he sat back down instantly, sheepishly. Jotaro glared. Star Platinum glared harder.
"No, you stay here," Jotaro ordered. "I need to talk to both of you after this."
Okuyasu nodded. Star Platinum patted him on the shoulder and Jotaro strode past him, his coat somehow billowing behind him even in the stale indoor air. Okuyasu and Holly were left alone at the table. Holly sighed.
"This has to be hard for him," she said. "An entire family he doesn't even know. No wonder." She drummed her fingers on the table. "It's hard enough to relate to the family you do know, and he's had so much happen recently…"
Okuyasu wasn't sure why he was the ear Holly had chosen to listen to her venting, but he wasn't about to be a bad listener, so he nodded and wracked his brain for anything to try and assure her that she was 100% wrong about the situation. Because she was. If it was possible to be more than 100% wrong about something, she was. Okuyasu twiddled his thumbs.
"Well," he said, "Only family I got left is my dad." He shrugged. "I bet Josuke thinks y'all are pretty great."
Holly nodded and smiled. "Thank you, Okuyasu."
Okuyasu gave her a pretty awkward thumbs up.
Josuke slammed into the ground with enough force that his shoulders ached from the impact. His ears rang; he coughed and pulled himself up on one elbow, squinting in the sudden bright light. He blinked as he looked up at his Stand and his heart dropped.
Crazy Diamond was different. Energy radiated from it, beams of light nearly blinding and heat enough to counteract the winter cold. As the glow began to fade, Josuke saw a figure far different than the one which had accompanied him for years.
It carried itself like a dancer, staring down at him with eyes that were mere pinpricks of light in the impossibly deep shadow of its helmet. It was as if someone had taken Crazy Diamond, stretched it like clay and carefully carved patterns into it, rows of dots and ovals and lines running along its armor. It tilted its head to the side.
Josuke Higashikata, it thought to him, in a voice almost mechanical and entirely unfamiliar. Josuke opened his mouth to say something but then thought better of it, shutting it before he looked like a dead fish. He swallowed the lump in his throat.
" Josuke Higashikata." Out loud this time, from somewhere behind him and for a second he thought it had been his Stand speaking again. But his Stand was in front of him. He knew exactly whose voice this was...which was much, much worse. Crazy Diamond fixed its gaze on the source, and Josuke turned his head to follow it.
Jotaro stood at the edge of the garden, Star Platinum in a combat position behind him. His eyes were set in a narrow glare, shadowed by the visor of his hat. Star Platinum’s eyes gleamed; the duo was surrounded in a menacing violet and gold aura.
"Shit," Josuke muttered.
Hoo boy is Josuke in over his head.
A piece of lemon cake fell from Okuyasu’s mouth back into the paper sack. He took one piece for himself, one for The Hand (himself), one for his Old Man, and one for Koichi.
Josuke didn’t even mind the obnoxious lip smacking his friend made in the back seat. In fact, he wanted to thank him for saving his ass over an hour ago. Right before Jotaro was about to pummel him into a fine powder, Okuyasu came out with Holly in tow.
“ That’s Shining Diamond?” Holly had said. A vine shaded her eyes from the spectacle of a thousand tiny gems twinkling across the stand’s body.
“Whoa.” Okuyasu’s jaw dropped. It almost unhinged Tonio style. His head leaned all the way to take in the full effect. “It did the puberty thing.”
“Huh?” Josuke was more occupied with Jotaro towering over him still then trying to listen to his friend.
“Yuh know, like Echos. You got a sparkly Act 2!”
He might’ve been embarrassed at the moment, but it had gotten Jotaro to make Star Platinum fade out from the garden. He recalled Crazy D. as easily as before. This time, however, it was heavier in his head. Was that the right word? Maybe ‘denser’? In any case, After Holly and Okuyasu gawked about the shiny pink robot for a minute more, the conversation turned itself onto the topic of dessert.
But now they were back in the car. With Jotaro. Alone.
Josuke kept his attention to the black silhouettes of power lines rolling past the side window. Eye contact with his nephew would’ve made his stomach twist for the second time that night. Vomiting all over the rental would’ve made the mood even more sour. He didn’t have to look to know Jotaro’s knuckles were white from gripping the steering wheel like it was a rattlesnake he had to tear the head off of. Hopefully he hadn’t found the arrow in a different spot then his office when they had gotten home. Then again, even Josuke wasn’t sure where Okuyasu hid the darn thing. God. What if Okuyasu had just left it in plain sight? It could’ve been on the shelves the whole time. Josuke sure as hell wouldn’t have noticed. He was too busy trying to make light pleasantries with Holly while fighting back one of the worst migraines of his life.
The worst part of it wasn’t the inevitable beat down he was going to experience. That he could prepare for. He hadn’t planned on Crazy Diamond changing anytime soon, and boy had it changed. The stand he knew before was like a nice pinch of cinnamon atop a roll in his brain. Now, it was like someone had taken a ladle and dumped ten spoonfuls over the pastry. His mouth felt dry. The new spirit made his whole body ache, the eye straining lights and thunderous voice that made his ears pop. He couldn’t even bring out Crazy D.- well- the real original Crazy D. out, to comfort him.
Radio static. “ If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with periodic chlamydia after Botox, you may be entitled to compensation.”
Josuke flinched in his seat. The signal returned as they passed the radio tower. He bit down hard on his lower lip. The startlement had made the new unfamiliar creature in his body want to break out of his chest. His stand had always came out when he wanted it to. Now it was hard just to keep it inside in mundane situations. A stand with unknown abilities was one thing, but a stand that couldn’t be controlled… he didn’t want to think about it.
Tomoko hadn’t been completely lied to when her son told her he was spending the night at a friend’s house. They pulled up beside Koichi’s driveway. The hound, Police, lazily looked up from its doghouse, sniffed the air, then let its jowls lay back on the concrete with a soft flump.
“Thanks for the ride, Jotaro!” Okuyasu stepped out of the car before the driver could lock the doors. Lucky bastard, Josuke thought. “Tell Ms. Holly I said thanks again for dinner! And the cake. This s’stuff’s great!”
Josuke reached for the door handle. A hand clutched his shoulder.
He shouldn’t have waited to write up his will.
Jotaro waited for Josuke to face him before opening his mouth, but before he could let a word out-
“Can our stands change like Echos?” Josuke blurted out. Maybe if he spoke first, he could have the upper hand. “Like, is that possible?”
He could’ve sworn Jotaro’s grip softened just a bit. “Tonight answered that question.”
He gulped. “Has Star Platinum ever transformed before?”
“If it has evolved into a next act, refrain from using Crazy Diamond until you know what it can do.”
Josuke nodded. Great, another point of concern he forgot to consider. He didn’t want to think about Crazy D. losing the ability it always had. He squeezed the bridge of his nose. Another headache was coming on.
“Was she overbearing?”
“Huh?” Josuke cocked his head to the side.
“Some people find her annoying.”
Was this some sort of sick test? Jotaro must’ve been itching for any excuse to smash his skull in.
“What? No!” Josuke yelped, probably a little too loud. “Holly’s great. She really is. I just feel a little sick is all.” He slowly opened up the passenger door, ever so slightly crawling out of the vehicle. “It’s not every day your stand suddenly decides to go ham with a bedazzler on itself.” He slid onto the curb’s sidewalk. “I just need some rest, I think.” The door closed.
Mission success. Getting out of the car and escaping bodily harm was possible after all.
He turned around. Darkness engulfed the inside of the car except the shine of a golden dolphin pendant.
There was a growl in his nephew’s voice. “I lived in that house for eighteen years. That tree stopped blooming when I was thirteen.” Josuke’s lungs turned into lead. “I’ll be back in three days. When I get back… you're fucked .” The window rolled up, and the omen swerved down the block, disappearing behind dim street lights.
Josuke sprinted into the house. He almost trampled over Koichi when he opened the door.
“Hello to you too.” Koichi locked the door. He was already donning his bedtime T-shirt and boxers. Half of the slice of lemon cake on his plate was already gone. The remains were just crumbs on his lips.
“I have seventy-two hours to live,” Josuke moaned.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa. What happened?”
Okuyasu shouted from the kitchen table with a smirk and a mouth full of lemon flavored batter. “Jotaro’s jealous, because Crazy D.’s balls finally dropped.”
Koichi’s brain ceased function for a moment, trying to comprehend what was just said. “Excuse me, what?”
“I’m going to die,” Josuke’s lips turned into a snarl as he pointed at the table, “and it’s all because of that smug bastard!”
“Hey! I don’t get why yar’ so pissy about this.” Okuyasu inhaled the rest of his second slice. “You should really be thankin’ me. I’d kill for an upgrade like that.”
“Well good for you, because you’re about to kill someone. Me. You’re going to kill me. Jotaro’s already onto us. Actually, he’s just onto me. You got away scott free.”
“Can somebody please catch me up to speed on why Jotaro’s going to murder Josuke?” Koichi asked.
“Oh, right.” Okuyasu cleared his throat. “I stabbed Josuke with an arrow.”
“You did wha-”
“But it’s okay, because it evolved like Echos! Dude, it looks so badass. Show em’, Josuke!”
Instead of doing that, Josuke slouched, making his way to Koichi’s room. He didn’t feel like being Okuyasu’s bearded lady. Step right up! You thought having a stand was the end of life’s oddities? Come inside the tent to witness something absolutely bonkers! No thanks. Josuke decided to pass on that. “I’m gonna go to bed.”
“Aw, come on bro.”
But sleep didn’t come to Josuke as easily as he had hoped. First, it was the racket his friends were making in the kitchen that kept him up. Then it took them twenty or minutes to get ready for bed, giggling and crashing into things as they went. Police howled at a rat scurrying across fence posts. A T.V. was left on in the living room. Reruns of late night talk shows filled the air with the whipping of fan blades. Sheep refused to appear to be counting. He could even hear Okuyasu fall on bathroom floor with a screech. His face felt hot, and his whole body felt clammy. Cars driving past the bedroom window flash their lights into his closed eyes. Good gravy, the lights . It was a constant shine. He tried flipping back and forth between both sides of the sleeping bag, escaping the lights and the thoughts. These thoughts that wouldn’t let him go to sleep, wouldn’t let him want a piece of cake, and seemed to want to tear him from the one being of comfort he had for almost as long as he could remember.
He didn’t want to wait till his brain was fried to pass out. He would need to keep his wits about him if he wanted to escape Jotaro’s wrath. Maybe if he slammed the pillow in his face he would fall unconscious from lack of oxygen. Risky? Yes, but he just wanted this night to be over.
“Josuke. Psst, Josuke.”
He felt Koichi shake his shoulder. He sat up, rubbing his eyes, “What is it?” He opened his eyes. “Oh.”
It hadn’t been car lights. Crazy Diamond, or this thing, was standing over Josuke’s sleeping bag. A soft hum seeped from creases of darkness inside its helmet. It’s head was toward the window, studying the outside with intense interest. Stands couldn’t have separate minds from their users, right? Their souls were one in the same, so why was Crazy D. acting like it was thinking, learning?
“I’m sorry,” Josuke apologized. “How long has he been out?”
“About ten minutes,” Koichi confirmed. His eyes were straining to stay open, but it seemed he couldn’t look away. “I thought we had to be conscious when summoning our stands.”
“Yeah, well, I wasn’t really asleep.”
“Ah, I see.”
Police’s collar jingled from the outside. There was shuffling from the bathroom.
“Josuke. When Okuyasu said he shot you, h-he didn’t mean with-”
“A stand arrow?”
Koichi swallowed. “Oh dear.” The comforter of his bed started to move. Not by itself, but from his hands starting to shake. “I-is it the same one-? Keicho’s…”
“I don’t know. It was just- there. No lock or key. Just an ordinary droor.”
“How many do you think they’re are?”
“I don’t know. And honestly, I don’t really want to think about it.”
His friend nodded, understanding the sentiment. “Well, Okuyasu wasn’t kidding. It’s bright all right. We might get sunburns from being this close.”
If it was any other situation, Josuke might’ve laughed. “How did you feel?”
“Like, the first time Echo evolved. What did it feel like?”
“Oh. I guess it felt like, nothing.”
Josuke slumped. He wasn’t sure if that was or wasn’t what he wanted to hear.
“Truth be told, I didn’t feel anything while Echos molted,” Koichi admitted. “The shells were the only evidence of there ever being a change. How does it feel for you?”
“My head hurts like hell, man. And I think I might’ve passed out at one point? Someone’s taken an egg scrambler to my brain.”
His friend was silent, taking in Josuke’s words and stand before them.
Josuke continued, “And dude, it’s like Crazy Diamond feels different. I mean, obviously he looks a lot different, but he feels different in my mind, too. He was like a heart, or an involuntary organ. Of course you would know. Echos is the same way for you, probably. I guess it’s like he changed from a heart to a bicep, if that makes sense? Like, I have to be conscious of him. I am hyper-conscious of him right now. Like a pair of braces? Like your teeth have always been there but now they also have this weird weight that hurt your mouth? And I mean I guess I’m slowly not making sense on account of how tired I am and now I’m sort of rambling- ”
“Josuke, I know you said Jotaro wanted to kill you right now, but I think you’re gonna need his help.”
“Puh!” Josuke’s nose scrunched. His top lip puckered. “No. If I bring up the arrow, I’m as good as pre-packaged lunch meat for elementary kids.”
There was a dip in the conversation. When one of Crazy D’s fingers would move, or the weight in his legs would shift, both of them finched.
“You stopped talking.”
He already knew, but Josuke wanted to confirm they were both on the same wavelength. “Why do you think I’m going to need Jotaro’s help?”
His fears were confirmed as Koichi shrunk back into his covers. “I don’t want you to worry, but…”
“Spit it out.”
Koichi sighed. “This isn’t an Act II.” His head bobbed up and down. “This- this is different.”
Crazy Diamond’s head turned. Josuke only had one glance into the tiny white dots of his stand’s eyes before summoning it out of sight.
What had they done.
“Josuke. H-hey, Josuke. Josuke!”
Again, Josuke was being shaken by his friend of small stature. He guessed he had finally fallen asleep from exhaustion. This time, however, Koichi was shaking him with a bit more force.
“Yeah?” He yawned. A strand of hair fell on his tongue. The perfectly pronounced pompadour on his head had flopped into a saggy liver shaped monstrosity overnight. Great. It was gonna be a beast to untangle later that day. He pulled out the follicle from his mouth. “What time is it?”
“Eight? Huh, not bad.” He finally noticed the wobble in Koichi’s legs. There was no sign of Crazy Diamond accidentally being summoned, so why was he looking into a face of pure terror? “What’s wrong, Koichi?”
He opened his mouth, but only a squeak came out. His hand waved, motioning for Josuke to follow him out of his room.
With a sigh, Josuke stood up, popping his back as he did so. The weight in his head was still there, much to his dismay. He had hoped half of what happened the night before was a fever dream brought on by some over cooked fish. Whatever, it was Saturday morning. He had a whole weekend to get used to his situation.
“Alright, how bad is the damage?” Josuke asked as they walked down the hallway. “What do you need help cleaning up before your family gets home?”
“Could you speak up a bit?”
“House is fine.”
“Oh.” He raised a brow. “Then what’s the problem?”
He didn’t need Koichi to answer that question. When they rounded the corner, Josuke was assaulted by the image of the stand arrow laid across the dining table. A blue school jacket hung over the seat closest to it.
“Oi! Just in time. Eggs are done.” Okuyasu came out from the kitchen in an apron that most definitely belonged to Koichi’s mom. He had a plate in each hand. The Hand followed suit with the third plate. In its second hand held Okuyasu’s cup of milk tea.
Attached at the dislocated waist, The Hand’s third arm held Koichi’s glass of orange juice. It’s fourth arm had Josuke’s cappuccino. It even had two arms on the hips to spare.
Six hands. It’s eyes and topper like center rapidly flashed in seizure inducing colors and patterns. The rays of morning sun bouncing off its exterior reflected off the walls like disco lights.
Josuke blinked. He looked down at his plate, then back up at Okuyasu’s toothy grin.
Poor Koichi has no idea whats happening and neither does anyone else really
Chapter 4: Crazy Diamond, We Have Made A Mistake (D)
In Which Things Continue to Escalate Quickly.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Koichi acted before Josuke could remove his jaw from the floor and get his brain out of its constant loop of oh god oh no we’re so fucked . He took the arrow off the table and held it away from both of them, far away from himself.
“Okuyasu!” Josuke shouted when he’d managed to get it together enough to think, “You didn’t—why the hell would you do that?”
Okuyasu seemed genuinely confused for a moment, eyebrows scrunched. He and his Stand began setting plates on the table. The Hand shone like it was under a dozen spotlights; Josuke squinted.
“…what, make breakfast?” Okuyasu asked. “Never seen a slumber party that didn’t end in breakfast. Figured I’d make it.” That same toothy grin, and he folded his arms across his chest. “What, you don’ want breakfast?”
“No, I want—“ Josuke facepalmed, “—I want breakfast , but you’re deflecting the issue!” He gestured to Koichi, who had wrapped the arrow carefully in an extra T-shirt and was rummaging in a hall cabinet for something to tie down the fabric. Just like Koichi to be so proactive. “Why the hell would you shoot yourself with the fucking arrow?” And why the hell was he so….fine?
“…well,” Okuyasu shrugged as he explained, “T’be honest I wanted to see what’d happen.”
From across the room Koichi glared at him.
“You just wanted to see what would happen….with the Stand arrow,” he deadpanned. “With the Stand Arrow, Okuyasu.” Koichi often operated in two modes: entirely calm, or entirely panicked. He was starting to move more toward the panicked side of things, as he pointedly held out his hand containing the thoroughly taped-up Stand arrow. “We don’t’ know what it did to Josuke!”
“Yeah!” Josuke agreed. He gestured at himself in wide sweeping gesticulations. “We don’t know what it did to me.” He pinched the bridge of his nose, as if thinking about his Stand made it feel heavier. “It’s been giving me a killer headache, last night it just….came out, on its own, and stood there. Like it was thinking, Okuyasu.” Josuke grabbed Okuyasu by his shirt, and was about to shout something else, but it died on his tongue when he saw his friend’s face. Okuyasu’s eyes were wide, and his entire body was as tensed as a spring. Josuke relaxed and took a step back. “…Look. It’s not that—“
“It’s been doing all that?” Okuyasu asked in earnest. Josuke blinked. Okuyasu didn’t….
“It hasn’t to you?”
“Nah. I pricked The Hand on the hand, figured that was the best spot, and….well, it hurt when it first happened, yeah.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “All that electric shock. Felt like the time with Chili Pepper. After that though….” He got that grin on his face again. “Check this out.”
He took the mug containing Josuke’s coffee, threw it up in the air, and swiped it. It vanished.
“ OKUYASU!” Koichi shouted. “My mom is going to kill us. That was one of her favorite mugs. ”
“No she won’t,” Okuyasu remarked cockily. He snapped.
“The Hand! Bring ‘er back!”
And The Hand unfurled its left fist. It reached its left hand out in front of it, like a swimmer preparing to dive, and swiped backward.
Koichi’s mother’s favorite mug fell to the ground and shattered into a hundred different shards of ceramic. The Hand flinched its hand back and looked to Okuyasu, who frowned.
“Well, she might still…” he pondered, but Koichi interrupted him.
“Never mind my mom, did you just….” He picked up one of the shards and examined it thoroughly. “….Hold on.” Josuke and Okuyasu waited for what seemed like forever while Koichi vanished upstairs. It was barely a minute, though, before he returned with a canister of tennis balls. “We might not have Crazy Diamond right now, so use these if you’re going to do….that, again.” He handed one to Okuyasu. “Make sure we’re all not just seeing things.”
“That’d be one hell of a collective hallucination,” Josuke muttered, nudging the shattered mug with his toe. He’d have Crazy Diamond fix it to avoid the wrath of Koichi’s mother, but….
Okuyasu flung the tennis ball out of the air. Swiped it away with that pfffpfpfhhtt. Then a few seconds later, that swimmer’s stroke, another sound, and the ball bounced back onto the floor, still at the same point in its trajectory, as if no time had passed at all. Echoes Act III caught it with ease as it bounced. Koichi seemed concerned, but said nothing. Okuyasu held up his hand for a high five, and The Hand hesitated before returning the gesture with one of its smaller, non-universe-swiping sets of arms. Its free-spinning waistplate continued to blink a billion colors.
“See!” he beamed. “Still don’ know where it goes, but it can come back.”
Josuke sucked a breath in through his teeth.
“That’s great, just, let’s….not do that anymore, ok?” he asked. Okuyasu turned to him and after a second nodded.
“Alright, The Hand,” he said, and snapped, and The Hand vanished. “I’m gonna go get you another cappuccino.” Okuyasu strode back into the kitchen, and Josuke sat in front of his breakfast. Truth be told he was barely hungry, but he took a few bites anyway as Okuyasu emerged with another mug of coffee and set it in front of him.
The three of them ate in silence, no-one knowing quite what to say about….well, anything. Koichi had the hunched-shoulders look of someone who’s way in over his head and just wanted to be anywhere but where he was . Okuyasu, on the other hand, acted as if nothing had happened.
“….So nothing really happened to you?” Josuke asked. “No….”
Okuyasu made a long contemplative ‘hmmmmmm’.
“You know,” he said, “at Tonio’s, whenever I didn’t get much sleep and I’d drink the water and my eyes’d flush out but I’d feel fantastic afterward?” He nodded. “That’s me right now.”
“Great…” Josuke muttered. He put his head in his hands. “Okuyasu gets the side-effect-free Stand upgrade.” Crazy Diamond squirmed at that. Josuke shoveled the rest of his eggs into his mouth in hopes that would shut his Stand up. He chugged his coffee, which was an immediate mistake as it scalded his throat on the way down. Koichi stood, scooting his chair noisily.
“I’m going to clean up the mug,” he said. Josuke and Okuyasu nodded.
While Koichi swept, Okuyasu summoned The Hand again and finished the cleanup. Josuke just….sat there. Focusing on the eggs churning in his stomach and the Stand churning in his brain. Trying most of all not to vomit. Crazy Diamond wanted to be out. That was indisputable. It wanted to be out and observing, but Josuke recalled the look in its eyes as it gazed out at the world and thought , those two pinpricks saying nothing at all and yet so, so much, and he decided then and there that until he figured this out then Crazy Diamond would stay firmly where it was.
And stay it did, as they said their curt farewells to Koichi (who kept the arrow by unanimous vote, which was probably the wisest decision either Okuyasu or Josuke had made in the past day) and made their way back home. Okuyasu waved goodbye as he vanished into the shadowy, drafty hall and shut the door behind him. Josuke waved back and entered his own home.
The minute he got to his room, he turned on his N64. Booted up the Zelda game he’d gotten Koichi to let him borrow. He couldn’t remember where he’d left off on his game, but he loaded up his save file and went for it.
The elf guy in the pointy hat. Right. That’s who he was. Josuke turned Link in circles, made a few test swipes with the sword, getting a hang of the controls again.
He was in the middle of a canyon, dry and parched. It was empty of the life that filled the rest of the game; the rest of this area, too, had been concerned not with the living but with spirits and ghosts and such. He turned Link until he saw something: A girl sat by the only source of water there, a small stream rendered in jagged polygons. Josuke had Link approach her; as he did, she ran. Into her house, which he had barely registered before. Locking the door behind her.
Josuke grumbled, and sat down for the waiting game that was so common in this area. He could see how it would go now: he’d wait, she’d open the door, he’d go inside. That had to be the next location, right? Yeah, Majora’s Mask wasn’t too linear, but it was linear enough.
Soon enough, the girl left, and Josuke had Link walk slowly, slowly into the house. There within stood a corpse—wrapped in sheets like an Egyptian mummy, shambling across the dusty floor, it turned toward him and stared with sunken eyes.
He paused the game. He knew what to do now, too. It was predictable enough: Take out the ocarina, and play its tune of healing. Josuke absently wondered how the game would go if the ocarina were to suddenly change, shape-shift into an instrument that Link didn’t know how to play, that hadn’t been with him for over a game now. Could he still play?
What would happen if he couldn’t?
Josuke saved the game and exited, and lay back on the carpet. He twiddled his fingers through it and picked at the fraying threads, anything to occupy himself. Staring at the TV had brought his headache back with a vengeance. Maybe, he figured, all he needed was a nap. He’d gotten little enough sleep last night, what with Crazy D. being….well, whatever it was. He dragged himself to his feet and lumbered to his bedroom. Switched the lights off, closed the curtains. Nearly leapt into bed, not even bothering to pull the blankets over him or adjust his hair when it smooshed into the pillow. For once in his life, sleep preceded hair in his list of priorities.
And now, sleep came easily, though Josuke did not dream. Or at least, he didn’t remember if he had. He’d heard somewhere that you had four to five dreams a night, whether you’d remembered them or not. Ever since, he’d wondered what dreams he forgot. At least, he figured, it was still daytime; he hadn’t slept too long, maybe he could still meet up with Koichi again and—
--The shadows on his wall were weird for daytime. He turned around slowly and groaned. Crazy Diamond stood at the window, shining like its namesake. Josuke leapt to his feet.
“C’mon, man, what are you doing up?” he stage-whispered. His Stand did nothing; it merely turned its head slowly, mechanically, until it was staring at him again with those pinprick eyes that burned like tiny, tiny stars. Josuke put his hand in front of his eyes and held up the other one defenselessly. “Look, can we just….” When he looked again, Crazy D. had turned its head again to the window. Outside it was the dead of night, car lights illuminating trees’ winter branches against the stark silhouettes of houses.
And it moved forward. Bump, against the glass. And again. Bump. Josuke just stared at it.
Bump. Bump. Bump.
“You ah….you want to get somewhere?”
His Stand paused its bumping for a stretched-out second of reply, then back to bump, bump, bump.
Josuke sighed. He yawned and stretched until his back popped and he felt just a little more awake.
“Fine,” he acquiesced. “Fine, we’ll go where you want this once, but then you go away until we figure out what you do, ‘k? And no danger. I don’t want to fight anyone.” He was talking to his Stand. Wasn’t that just like talking to yourself, in a way? Your Stand was your soul, wasn’t—
But Crazy Diamond nodded. Josuke wasn’t sure why he trusted it, but he held out his hand, and Crazy D. took it, and they shook.
Josuke barely even noticed that his headache was gone.
Okuyasu answered the knock at his door with a grunt of greeting, rubbing eyes bleary from almost having gotten to sleep (but not quite). He blinked a few times, then gave a start.
“Josuke! You have Crazy D—“
“I know,” Josuke said wearily. He had a grip on one of the pipes that looped across his Stand’s back; the Stand, to its credit, seemed like it wouldn’t have moved without Josuke’s grip, yet could have moved easily despite it. Okuyasu yawned.
“I was almost asleep , bro, whaddya doing here this late?”
“I need to borrow your motorcycle.” Okuyasu looked at Josuke for any signs of bullshit, but Josuke was dead serious.
“My—no!” Okuyasu yelled. “You’ll just crash it! Y’ain’t supposed to drive with a migraine, y’know?”
“And you’re counting Stand upgrade-induced headaches as migraines.”
“Fair enough.” Josuke shrugged. “We gotta follow him somehow or he won’t leave me alone, you wanna drive?”
Okuyasu nodded vehemently, and a minute later they were whizzing down the main road with Crazy Diamond leading the way, the sound of the motorcycle breaking through the quiet of the night. Last Josuke’d checked as he left his house it was around 10pm. His head was surprisingly clear as they followed his Stand to Morioh’s town limits, then through the tunnel to S City. In the dark, Josuke might have worried; but Crazy Diamond’s light illuminated the curve ahead, and they exited the tunnel without issue.
By the time Crazy Diamond slowed, it was around midnight. It pulled to the side and guided them down residential street after residential street, a labyrinth of unfamiliar houses and trees. Okuyasu looked at teach street sign as they passed; Josuke’s gaze, however, was only on his Stand. It drifted back and forth like a ghost, a will o the wisp leading them to who-knew-where. Josuke found himself torn between trusting it and feeling incredibly, incredibly afraid.
And when Crazy Diamond finally stopped, it was in front of a cemetery.
“Dude,” Okuyasu muttered. “Yer Stand’s bein’ spooky.”
“I know.” Josuke dismounted the motorcycle. Crazy Diamond stood at the edge of a path that Josuke could barely see snaking through the grass. Crazy Diamond nodded as if to beckon; Josuke stepped onto the curb.
"Dude, we're gonna get caught." Okuyasu's harsh whisper. Josuke ignored him, shuffling steps taking him further into the shadow-soaked cemetery grounds, his footsteps muffled by scraggly lawn grass as he moved as if completely mesmerized by his stand's every action. Crazy Diamond floated a few inches from the ground, gliding forward on autopilot, drifting past headstones and pathstones and goods left by mourning families, briefly illuminated by its faint glow before swallowed again by the night. Josuke stepped delicately, eyes kept firmly on what had once been his Stand but was now something different entirely, something that now wished him to follow it into a forest of the dead.
Crazy Diamond stopped above a headstone and nodded gravely without turning back to Josuke. It was too dark to read what the grave said, and Josuke dared not get closer. Crazy Diamond hovered, leaning forward ever so slightly. Two of the pipes on its back unhooked, a slight whistling emanating from them as they hummed to life.
Josuke scrambled back as the sky began to shimmer. Specks of gold began to pull themselves from the clouds, twinkling like thousands of tiny tiny stars until they coalesced in swirls of shining mist that curled around Josuke and drifted toward the open pipes, vanishing into Crazy Diamond's back. Josuke mouthed a silent what….
Crazy Diamond exhaled. A great silent sigh escaped the Stand's lips, and from its mouth streamed the same mist, clouds of billowing gold and amber glowing even in the dead of night and seeping into the dirt, sinking into the earth, all centered on a single point. The grass briefly waved in that soft, soft breeze, before everything faded to dark again.
Crazy Diamond did not move. And the dirt began to part.
"What the fuck," Josuke hissed, taking another giant step back. He was about 10 yards away from the dug-up grave now, and 10 yards away from the Stand which had dug it up. "Crazy D, get back in here."
Crazy Diamond ignored him. It locked eyes with him and tilted its head to the side ever so slightly.
Watch, the Stand thought at him.
So he watched as from the parted dirt rose a body. It hovered briefly as the earth beneath it returned to its original state, even the grass completely undisturbed. Then it sank to the ground….
….and sat up. Scrambled to its feet. Er, his feet; the body belonged to a man, silhouetted in the distant street lights, slightly shorter than Josuke.
Josuke's night vision was bad; the silhouette was pretty much all he could make out.
The guy trembled, and nearly doubled over desperately clutching at his stomach; after a split second, he held his hands in front of him, staring at them as if they were an anomaly, and finally looked around at his surroundings, standing straight once more.
He saw Josuke, and he clenched his fists.
A zombie, Josuke thought. Is this what you wanted to show me, Crazy D? A zombie? You can make zombies?
Crazy Diamond shook its head. Not zombies, no. We are far above that.
"H--h--" the guy stammered, more of a breath than an attempt at a word, pointing in Josuke's direction with a trembling hand. Behind him, the beginnings of a glow began, and a figure appeared: a silver face set in a shimmering verdant surface, so utterly mechanical, utterly alien it could only be one thing.
"A Stand," Josuke muttered to himself. And he ran. He nearly stumbled over his own feet as he scrambled back to the motorcycle. "Okuyasu!"
The guy stepped forward.
"E-em…." His voice was still hoarse, wavery, but his Stand seemed to get the idea. There was a sound somewhere between a breathy whistle and a ringing; a volley of something whizzed past Josuke and embedded into a tree behind him, digging noisy gouges out of the bark and sending splinters arcing. One of the projectiles nicked his ear; he felt a trickle of blood slide down his neck.
"Fuck--" Josuke muttered. "What was--"
Another volley, this time striking Josuke in the shoulder and slamming him backwards into the same tree with a whump . He gritted his teeth and felt for what had hit him. One of the projectiles was stuck into the wound; it was cold, faceted almost like a gem and hard as glass. As Josuke examined it, it disappeared.
"Rocks?" He shouted. "Your Stand throws rocks???" In its defense, it had thrown the rocks hard.
Okuyasu was sprinting toward them, The Hand at his back. "Josuke!!!" He yelled, standing between Josuke and the guy. Josuke stood with a cough.
Crazy D, he thought, get the hell back in my brain. And at his bidding, Crazy Diamond vanished. Josuke determined he would stay that way. That was the goddamn deal, and Crazy D better follow it or else…
….or else what? It had just raised the fucking dead. The dead which was now sprinting away from him.
Crazy Diamond, we have made a mistake, Josuke thought through gritted teeth.
"Wait! Fuck! Okuyasu!" He yelled frantically. "He's a Stand user! Don't let him leave!" They couldn't very well let a dead guy run around town, Stand or no Stand. Thoughts of zombie movies kept running through Josuke's head, mixing with his father’s stories of vampires and pillar men and all those impossible realities.
I told you, Josuke Higashikata. Oh, so Crazy D could talk to him in his head. No escape from him. Fun. I have not created a zombie. I have merely mended threads of fate; the soul I have returned is as human as you. He will get used to living.
Great, Josuke thought. That's so much weirder.
Okuyasu swiped away the air in front of him and sent himself flying toward the runaway undead. Okuyasu sprinted at top speed, shouting "Josuke, check it!" as he swept in The Hand's new swimmer's pose….and the Stand user was blasted forward by a sudden rush of space, crashing to the concrete, caught at the last second by his Stand's tendrily limbs. Okuyasu grinned, and kept running….
A tendril had stretched in front of him, and it caught in his ankles, yanking them back and slam dunking him onto the street with a short yelp. The Hand flinched. A swipe; a reverse swipe; and the Stand user fell again. Okuyasu's relentless strategy of doing the same tactic again and again until it worked was sometimes effective, but now only prompted the other Stand to trip him up yet again.
Josuke had an idea. He had pulled ahead of both of them despite his injuries--if anything, Okuyasu's tripping up had slowed their target down--and he could easily tackle….
The guy saw him. Illuminated in the street lights, he didn't seem to be any older than Josuke. His hair was scraggly from the fight, tangled red strands plastered to his forehead and nearly covering one eye; his wide mouth was set in a grimace. He pointed again to Josuke, and, his voice stronger now, shouted.
His Stand put its hands together with that same whistle-ringing. Josuke kept his sprinting pace, though his lungs burned and his shoulder was throbbing. Emerald-like projectiles rocketed from the Stand's hands, and--
Swipe. The Hand swished them from existence. Undeterred, the guy whipped at Okuyasu's face with a Stand tendril, drawing blood.
"Ow!" Okuyasu clapped a hand to the wound. "Shit, man."
Before Josuke could respond, he felt tendrils wrap like vines around his arms, pinning them to his sides. The green Stand put its hands together for another 'emerald splash' and--
The Hand's swim-stroke. Emeralds sprang from thin air and struck their own user squarely in the stomach; his Stand managed to deflect many of them, but a few punctured through his clothing with short thunks . A streak of blood appeared at his lips; he flew back and crashed hard onto the asphalt. Josuke was let go; he dropped to the ground.
"Dammit," he muttered, rushing to the defeated stand user. Okuyasu, too, sprinted to join them.
Crazy D, you still fix things?
Fix Okuyasu's cheek first. Then get this guy.
Crazy Diamond rose behind him, and reared its fist back to prepare for a volley of punches.
"Dorarararararararararararara!" The Stand cry rang through the empty street, and Josuke felt a swell of near-joy at that moment of cooperation, that moment when he and his Stand were on the same wavelength again. Then Crazy Diamond retreated, and the moment was over.
Okuyasu got the stand user in a headlock before he could do anything else.
"Yo, man," Josuke said in a tone he hoped was disarming. "Despite what it looks like, we really, really don't wanna hurt you." He raised his hands in the air. "We're as confused as you are. Ok, probably not as confused, but we're pretty confused anyway--"
"Where are we," asked the guy quietly. He made no further attempt to summon his Stand.
"We're…" Thinking about it, Josuke had no idea where they were. Crazy Diamond had been leading him like a sort of mental GPS, but he didn't know where it had taken him. He had to answer something, though. "We're in Japan."
"Japan…." The guy shook his head. "Japan. So we're not in….Cairo…"
" We're not….Dio…" he continued, then tensed, eyes widening. He struggled in Okuyasu's grip. "Dio! I have to tell...I have to make sure they know…."
Josuke and Okuyasu locked eyes. Josuke sucked a breath through his teeth with a soft hiss.
"Dio...the time guy? The vampire?" Okuyasu asked. The guy seemed to panic at this; the green Stand whipped into the air with a vengeance.
"Woah woah woah!" Josuke yelled. "Dio's dead, dude."
The guy blinked.
"Yeah," Josuke explained, "He's been dead for what...twelve years now? That's what Joseph told me anyway."
"Joseph…. Twelve…twelve years..." The Stand disappeared; the guy slumped over as if something in his brain had cracked, staring into the middle distance. "Twelve years…."
"Yo, Josuke," Okuyasu interjected. "Let's get 'im to Holly's place. I saw the street sign a second ago, we're like three minutes away by bike."
So that's where they were. Josuke didn't know how he hadn't noticed--perhaps he had simply been preoccupied by Crazy D's overwhelming presence, the way it commanded his entire attention. And also raised the fucking dead.
"I don't…" he didn't want to burden Holly with whatever the entire hell had just happened. But then again...where else would they take him? Morioh? Koichi's house again? Would that be kidnapping? Gravenapping? There wasn't a precedent for this, goddammit. "...Yeah, ok. Help him on the bike."
Three was a crowd on this motorcycle, and The Hand used its non-swiping sets of arms to hold them all in place like a sort of seatbelt. The undead guy kept sliding forward, barely able to stay upright. Josuke felt that. He himself was utterly exhausted, and he silently thanked Okuyasu for driving. Josuke's shoulder still pulsed and stung and ached all at once; he didn't know how much blood he'd lost and didn't care to find out.
Don't suppose you can cure my wounds now, ey Crazy D?
Josuke hesitated to knock on Holly's door. Okuyasu supported the other guy, standing a few yards away. It was weird to think that the last time he'd approached this door had been….well, a regular day. Seems like those were in short supply.
A full minute must have passed in utter stillness, and Josuke worried that Holly was for some reason out of the house, or too asleep to hear his frantic rap-rap-rap.
Then he worried that Holly wouldn't be the one to answer the door at all. That Jotaro would fling the door open and Josuke would have to petition his stand to do its best to bring his own ass back from the grave.
He let out a breath he didn't know he'd been holding when thorny vines curled around the doorframe and he was greeted by a pajama-clad Holly. Her Stand was raised in defense, and she held a baseball bat firmly in her hands. When she saw him, she lowered the bat, but her Stand stayed alert.
"Josuke!" she exclaimed. "What are you…."
Then her gaze shifted from Josuke to the two people behind him, and her face fell. She pressed her lips together, eyes narrowed in uncharacteristic anger. "Come inside."
As they entered, Holly drifted to a closet and pulled out three futons, dragging them across the floor with her Stand as she led them further into the house without another word. Josuke never thought he would dread the wrath of Holly Kujo, but he found himself wondering if she didn't resemble her son more than he'd initially thought. She certainly had the same ominous silence about her: her eyes held in them a quiet seething cocktail of something incomprehensible.
"I assume you three will be staying the night, considering it's after midnight," she said in a perfect deadpan. "I'll set these out for you." She turned to Josuke. "I haven't woken Jotaro, and I'm not going to, so you should get some sleep before he gets up in the morning. He's an early riser."
"Thanks for letting us st--"
"I need to talk to you first." She poked him in the chest with a vine. " Now . Okuyasu and Noriaki can get settled in here."
"Ok, fine, th--wait, you know this dude's name?"
"Outside. Now." She ordered him with such venom that he just raised his hands defenselessly. Holly caught the edge of his shirt with her Stand and used it to whirl him around toward the door to the garden.
Holly led him without further comment to the tree at which this had all began. Now, despite it being the middle of november, it was covered in blossoms, surrounded by a ring of fallen petals as if it was mid-spring. Already, though, the flowers had begun to freeze over in the frigid winter air, wilting where they had so recently bloomed.
"This tree died in mid-April, years ago," Holly said, placing her hand on the bark. "It looked exactly like this. It's as if time didn't pass at all." She turned to him and said, "Did you do this?"
Without hesitation, Josuke nodded, too tired to lie or deny. Holly sighed and took her hand down from the tree.
"That," she hissed, "Barely begins to explain the dead man in my living room."
Does your stand ever just vape so hard it brings back the dead
Also, it's not a fanfic if no one lets out a breath they didn't know they'd been holding.
Chapter 5: A Friend from Yesterday (L)
Starting with this chapter we're gonna be posting once a week, since we're halfway through our backlog :0
Hope you enjoy!!!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Holly. I’m ...I’m terribly sorry.” Josuke’s lip quivered. He didn’t want to lose his cool in front of his sister, especially on their second encounter. It was his fault for bringing this to her. He swallowed back bile before speaking again. “I don’t know how this happened. Well, I mean I can’t explain some parts of it.”
“Take it slow.” Holly put a hand on each of his shoulders. It was slightly comforting, if not for the fact that she still had a sharp frown on her face. “Tell me what you can.”
He took in a deep breath. “Okuyasu stabbed- oh you might not know what that is… Great. So, Okuyasu did something, and now my stand has evolved.”
“Yeah. Some stands can do that. Our friend Koichi’s did it twice. But it’s different. Crazy Diamond is talking to me like he’s his own entity. He’s never done that before.”
“Has he ever brought the dead back to life as well?”
The sourness in her tone made him shrink. “No, not until now. My abilities had clear set limits before. Now… it’s like it has a mind of its own!”
Josuke realized his voice was raising higher and higher. He closed his mouth abruptly. The idea of Jotaro waking up to the noise made him quake with anxiety. Shit, he had never felt less cool in his life.
“Who is that guy, anyways?” Josuke asked, whispering. “You knew his name.”
“You brought someone you don’t know back to life?”
“I didn’t have much say in the matter.”
Holly sighed. She looked up at the sky like it would help pull back memories far out in the cosmos. “His name is Noriaki Kakyoin. He went with my father and Jotaro on the expedition to find Dio.”
“The Egypt trip?” He watched her nod with a heavy head. “Mr. Joestar has told me bits and pieces about it, but I can’t recall much about the guys he traveled with.”
“Well, for as vague as the story is to you, the memory is very vivid for my son and our father.” Her nose was red from the nippiness in the air. It’s draining warmth drained into the steam made by her breath, a dragon with its kettle stomach boiling, ready to burst. “It’s also painful. Very painful.”
Huh. Hearing a memory being ‘painful’ for Jotaro didn’t sound right. The dude barely bat an eye when his hand was turned into sloppy joe by Bug Eaten.
“Noriaki didn’t make it,” Holly exposited. “We had a funeral once the body was returned. His parents… they…” She rubbed her eyes and wiped her nose. “It was rough. Not only was their son dead, but no one could explain to them why. ”
“How old was- is he?”
“He’s… well he was just a year younger than you are.”
“And our Dad just let him tag along? No questions asked?”
“He also took my son as well, if you remember,” Her tongue flicked with venom between her teeth. “I now have my own opinions about that as well.”
“Right.” He rocked back and forth. He had put his hands in his pockets to help heat them up. “So, now we…”
“You’re spending the night,” Holly’s vines spun him around to face the door. “In the morning we’ll try and sort this out.”
He paused when reaching for the knob.
“What?” Holly asked.
“I… I thought you’d be more mad. Ya’ know, yell or shout at me a little.”
“Oh trust me, I am beyond exasperated at this point, but I don’t need to be your parent tonight. Tomorrow when your mother realizes you snuck out of the house, you’ll have all the disciplining you need.”
Shit! Before he could ask for the landline (or realize it was too late in the night to call), Holly closed the door behind him. Back in the living area, Okuyasu was already fast asleep, sprawled over the futon like a second blanket.
The other guy, this Noriaki Kakyoin, was still wide awake, sitting upright on the stiff mattress.
“You should get some sleep,” Josuke said. Then he wondered if this guy did need any sleep. After all, he had been technically resting for the past twelve years.
Still, the revived man did not protest. He began sliding down belly up with a sigh. Josuke did the same. He stared at the ceiling, rubbed his face, and tried to forget about what was just to the right of him.
It didn’t work.
“Ms. Holly said your name was Josuke?”
Josuke looked over to see Kakyoin also staring upwards.
“Uh, Yeah. Yeah it is.”
Kakyoin bowed his head. “I apologize for attacking you earlier.”
“No, you don’t have to apologize. Really, it’s fine. This is just how we make friends down here.”
Josuke thought he would be the only person chuckling at his joke, but he was surprised to find a snicker sneak past the resurrected’s guard.
“Your friend’s stand,” Kakyoin said as Okuyasu snored, “it’s very powerful.”
“Yup, that’s The Hand for you. Don’t tell him you think that though. He’ll get a big head about it.”
“And your stand,” He looked up and down his arms, “It healed my wounds, yes?”
“What else can it do?”
Josuke sunk into the futon. The ceiling became fuzzy. He could smell the stench of rot and bloated worms coming from Kakyoin’s suit. “I don’t know.”
Coffee wafted its fragrance gently across his cheek and nose.
Mmm. How nice it was for Keicho to make breakfast this morning.
Okuyasu shuffled out of bed. The floor came quicker than he remembered. It was also warmer, and not so splintery. He stood, confused as to where his slippers and alarm clock had gone. A good solid three seconds passed before his brain rebooted into maximum overdrive. The memories of the night before came back in a whiplash. He was left groggy and maybe even a little more confused than before.
Josuke was passed out cold on the fold-out closest to the door. The new guy was still here too. However, he seemed to be in a lighter stage of sleep. His nose twitched at the cappuccino in the air. In the light, Okuyasu noticed the thin lines that sliced between the dude’s eyes. He touched his own scars, wondering if he got them the same way he did.
Okuyasu decided to help Holly with breakfast. It was the least he could do. In fact, it was one of the few things he could actually do well. In fact, he’d say he was pretty great. He could make a mean piece of toast. Drenched in butter, sprinkled with powdered sugar, a dash of whipped cream, and topped with a strawberry sliced like Tonio would. He drooled just thinking about it.
Stepping into the kitchen, it was clear the six foot three man sipping a cup of joe at the counter was not Holly.
Perhaps if he slowly tiptoed away…
He peeked his head back in the doorway with a stretched smile. “Mornin’ Jotaro!”
“Can you explain to me why you’re here?”
“U-uh, to eat breakfast of course! That’s what kitchens are for!” He could tell Jotaro knew he wasn’t that stupid. Drat. The one time his stigma could’ve gone in handy.
Then, a tap on his shoulder.
“Excuse me,” The zombie said, trying to straighten his hair a bit, “I forgot your name. Are we going to eat soon? I’m oddly famished.”
Jotaro set his cup down. “Who was that?”
“Nobody!” Okuyasu yelped. “Practicin’ ventrilquo-alism.”
“...Jotaro?” Kakyoin pushed himself past Okuyasu’s door blocking. He stood still, taking in the scene before him. A friend from yesterday with aged bags under his eyes.
Jotaro’s face hardly moved. It was just the way his eyebrows raised slightly above the brim of his hat that terrified Okuyasu. As the biologist moved away from his seat, a purple aura warped around his silhouette. His black hair extended, pulling a sharp purple face out with it. Star Platinum’s muscle’s rippled as he stepped to the side of his user. The gold around his wrists glittered as he balled his fists. Its blue eyes, while bulged, were furrowed under a twitching brow. Okuyasu had never seen Star Platinum twitch.
But this guy Josuke pulled out of the grave showed no fear of this infamous stand. He kept his stance, gawking at the spirit like he was seeing a familiar face. Did Okuyasu detect ‘relief’ from the way his shoulders were relaxed? This guy was crazy! It least Okuyasu had the common sense not to test the wrath of the time stopping purple people eating titan. There were a few screws loose in his brain, that was for sure.
Of course, Kakyoin didn’t walk forward. He stayed where he was, waiting for Star Plat. to be called off or wait for it’s fighting stance to cease.
They stared at each other for a moment, studying each other. Okuyasu watched from the sidelines. Each second felt like eons.
Kakyoin raised a hand up as a peace sign and surrender. “I am not an illusion.” He let the tendrils of his stand wrap around his legs. It would have to be a pretty impressive enemy to get even his stand right.
Jotaro did not let his stand falter. Clearly, he was going to need more that just Kakyoin purposefully showing him proof to trust his own eyes.
Jotaro, in a voice hardly audible, muttered, “Baby.”
“Baby?” Kakyoin repeated.
“Baby?” Okuyasu echoed. Clearly everyone was losing it today.
Suddenly, Kakyoin’s face lit up in acculization. As if just saying this random word out loud actually made any sense. “Oh! Baby!” He pulled down the left sleeve of his suit. A blemish of odd angles branded his arm’s skin. Another scar, Okuyasu observed. “Baby. Stand.”
Star Platinum vanished.
Okuyasu had one thought. What the fuck just happened? It was a phrase he was thinking a lot recently.
Jotaro cracked his knuckles. He charged toward Okuyasu, but once he caught sight of the last person in the living room, he pushed his way toward the sleeping stooge in need of a good long rest.
“ Josuke Higashikata!”
The roar shook a vase on its side. Josuke shot up with a yell of pure terror.
“ Get your ass in here , NOW!” He stomped back into the kitchen, pulling the lid of his hat back over his eyes. “And you,” He looked down at the man completely unphased by his outburst, “You smell like the time Iggy took a shit in the car. Go take a shower, for fuck’s sake.”
Okuyasu was starting to doubt he would get to make toast this morning.
Yare yare daze
Chapter 6: Forces Beyond Your Control (D)
Thank you all SO MUCH for your comments! Seeing people enjoy this AU makes us smile so much. We're having a ton of fun with it ourselves!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Seeing Star Platinum raise its gold-clad fists, ready to lay an unholy beatdown on its target before you could say yare yare daze, was usually pretty awesome. That is, when it was about to do it to someone who wasn't you.
Josuke woke to Jotaro's echoing yell, to his Stand standing ready to Ora-ora-ora him into next month. Sleep still fogged his head and he could barely react to the sheer speed at which Jotaro was power-walking toward him, a venomous glint in his otherwise neutral expression. So Josuke just screamed, throwing his blanket off and scrambling back toward the wall. Star Platinum reached for him and he flinched instinctively; but the Stand, rather than punching his teeth out, just grabbed him by the shirt collar and lifted him off the ground until he was making direct eye contact with it, nary a foot away from its face. It was visibly fuming, eyes narrowed and face contorted in a grit-teeth snarl. Its other fist was at its side, clenched tightly.
Josuke glanced wide-eyed from Jotaro to Star Platinum and back again, and gulped. Star Platinum squinted, and as Jotaro re-entered the kitchen it dragged Josuke after him. The Stand dumped him unceremoniously on the floor directly in front of Jotaro.
"Explain," Jotaro growled.
"I can't," Josuke said. His voice cracked fearfully; he shook as he stood to face Jotaro. "It's Crazy fucking Diamond's doing."
Jotaro sighed and put his hand on his temple. Star Platinum had its arms crossed, glaring down at Josuke with unbridled fury. And then slightly less fury, and slightly less and slightly less until it seemed more melancholy than anything.
"Then bring it out," Jotaro grumbled. "Bring out your goddamn Stand so I can talk to him."
Josuke did so with reluctance, shuddering as Crazy Diamond shimmered into being like a mirage in a desert, gemstone facets sending fragments of light across Jotaro's shadowed face. Jotaro pulled the brim of his hat down. He wouldn't be able to talk, Josuke thought, Crazy Diamond wouldn't talk to him and then….
"Yare yare," Jotaro muttered.
Then suddenly he was behind them, without a trace of motion. Before Josuke could turn, Star Platinum's fist sped through the air and connected with Crazy Diamond's face. Josuke flinched back at the impact, putting a hand to the side of his head. It hurt like hell ….but his face was undamaged, and so was Crazy D's. The Stand turned around slowly to meet Star Platinum. Its pinprick eyes glinted like tiny gems. It squared up, straightening its back and rising toward the ceiling until it was looking down at all of them. Jotaro seemed almost incredulous at the lack of damage his mighty Stand had inflicted.
Is this how you speak? Crazy Diamond boomed. Jotaro blinked once, the only surprise that registered on his face. Crazy D tilted its head. With your fists?
"Jotaro--" Kakyoin tried to cut in, but Jotaro just glared, and whatever he was going to say died on his tongue. Okuyasu just stared wide-eyed.
"I didn't know you could speak at all," Jotaro said to Crazy Diamond. "At least you can tell me what the hell is happening."
Fate, Jotaro Kujo. Fate is happening--I am merely mending it. That is all.
"By messing with forces beyond your control?"
It might have been Josuke's imagination, but Crazy Diamond almost laughed.
On the contrary, Jotaro Kujo, I am completely in control.
And Crazy Diamond vanished. The back of Josuke's head throbbed; he put a hand against it with a grimace.
"That makes one of us," Josuke mumbled through grit teeth. He held his hands out in surrender and shrugged at Jotaro. "Believe me now? I told you, it does whatever it wants." He paused and his face fell; he put his hands in his pockets. "Sorry it had to do this."
Before Jotaro could say anything more, Kakyoin interjected again.
"Jotaro," he repeated. His face was ashen; he looked like a ghost, and Josuke still sort of doubted Crazy D's reassurance that he was not in fact a zombie, "Right then, moving behind Josuke. You….stopped time?"
Jotaro paused. He pulled the brim of his hat over his eyes, and he nodded.
"I owe you an explanation," he said.
"I think I've got it figured out," Kakyoin said. "It wasn't that hard to put two and two together, honestly. One moment I'm lying in a water tank and the next I'm standing in a cemetery across the world." He paused. "Josuke said Dio has been dead for twelve years….which makes it 2001. And here I am, no different than the day I died." He struggled a bit on the last few words, like anyone would really. He let them hang heavily in the air.
Then he shrugged. "I do have one question. When did you learn to stop time?"
"That's….a longer story than you'd think," Jotaro said. "We should all sit." He pointed to Josuke. "Josuke, don't think this is over. Kakyoin, I told you to go take a shower."
Kakyoin frowned at his tattered, stinking clothing. "Good idea," he said, and left to do just that.
Okuyasu tentatively raised his hand like a student in a classroom.
"Um," he asked, "I know this's important an' all, but I gotta get home. My pops needs me, y'know?"
Jotaro nodded. "Go ahead, Okuyasu," he said. He fished in his coat pocket for a second and pulled out a few hundred yen. He handed them to Okuyasu. "So you don't have to cook this morning."
Okuyasu nodded with a grin and pocketed the money. "Thanks, man."
"It isn't a problem. Go home, Okuyasu. Josuke," he said with a pointed look. "You stay here. I'll drive you home later."
Josuke nodded, wide-eyed.
Okuyasu left on his motorcycle and Josuke stood in the corner of the kitchen, rocking back and forth on his heels as Jotaro called his mother and gave her a very, very light version of the situation. As in, Josuke snuck out of the house and came here, there's a Stand-related issue and he'll be here for another day, omitting everything about new Stand powers and the undead.
His mom knew about Stands, to a small degree at least. Whenever Yukako's hair began to float about her head or Tonio cured a particularly bad bout of insomnia, Tomoko's eyes would get a glint like she was privy to some exclusive secret. Which was true, although she knew just the tip of the vast ice berg (The depths of which Josuke apparently didn't know either).
So "Stand-related issue" would have to be enough for her. Josuke hoped her curiosity wouldn't bring questions with it.
Jotaro hung up the phone and whirled around to face Josuke.
"So, Josuke," he said, "We have an entire day to figure this out, so we need to take it slow." He drifted to the table and sat. Josuke sat toward the other end of the table and the two remained silent for what had to be a full minute.
"Summon Crazy Diamond," Jotaro ordered. Josuke exhaled, squinted, and summoned the Stand. It hovered behind him, arms at its side. Jotaro crosses his arms.
"What do you know it can do?" asked Jotaro, steepling his hands in front of his face.
Josuke thought a bit. "I know it can speak," he said, beginning to count on his fingers as he listed things off. "I know it can make decisions, and I know it can bring back the dead."
As if on cue, Kakyoin wandered back into the room, wearing what had to be some of Jotaro's old clothes. His hair, now clean, was brushed back save for a springy lock that fell over his forehead. He pulled back a chair midway between Jotaro and Josuke and sat.
"Kakyoin," Jotaro greeted with a nod.
"Jotaro," Kakyoin nodded back.
Jotaro turned to Josuke again. "And all this came about because Okuyasu stabbed your Stand with the arrow. " His eyes narrowed. "The arrow that you weren't supposed to go near, which is in my office which you also weren't supposed to go near."
Josuke agreed with a sheepish thumbs up.
"Yep," he said. "That's how it happened. In fairness, Okuyasu convinced me to get the arr--"
Jotaro stood quickly, his chair screeching back.
"I think the arrow's worth examining then," he said, and began to head toward his office room, when Josuke raised a hand.
"Wait!" he shouted. Jotaro stopped. "It's….not in your office." Josuke grimaced.
"It's not in my office," Jotaro repeated, his voice beginning to rise ever so slightly. "You mean you didn't put it back?" He stood over Josuke with his fists clenched. Star Platinum stayed put away, though. "You mean you left the arrow somewhere we can't keep track of it?"
"Well," Josuke tried to make the best of this situation, "It's with Koichi, so it's probably pretty safe?"
"Why the hell is it with Koichi?" Jotaro shouted. Josuke winced. Jotaro speedwalked to the phone and began dialing what Josuke assumed to be Koichi's number. "You took it all the way to Morioh?"
"Shh." Jotaro put a finger to his lips as the phone rang.
"Hello?" Josuke could barely hear Koichi's voice over the line.
"Koichi, this is Jotaro."
"Oh, Jotaro! H-hi, uh," Koichi was fumbling. He knew exactly why Jotaro was calling. "Why do you, uh,"
"Do you still have the Stand arrow?"
"....Yeah." Koichi's voice audibly wilted. "Yeah I do."
"We'll be there shortly."
Jotaro hung up as Josuke could hear Koichi's frantic Wait, you're coming here? Whe--
" You two." Jotaro pointed at Josuke, then at Kakyoin. "Get in the car."
Josuke spent most of the car ride to Morioh staring out the window at the same landscapes he'd passed by as he followed Crazy Diamond. They looked so different in the morning--the frost-laden grass twinkled and trees swayed slightly in the wind, a far cry from the shadowed hills of night.
"Jotaro," he heard Kakyoin beside him, "You never did answer my question."
"Hmm?" was Jotaro's only reply.
"When," Kakyoin repeated, "Did you learn to stop time?"
Jotaro was quiet for a good while. He drummed his fingers on the steering wheel.
"Star Platinum," he said at last, "is the same type of stand as The World. It has the same abilities." He didn't elaborate further, and went back to driving in silence, staring at the road with his brow furrowed.
Josuke turned from his landscape-driven reverie and forced a chuckle. Anything to lighten the atmosphere.
"He used it against a rat once," he grinned. "The rat nearly kicked his ass."
Kakyoin raised his eyebrows.
"Jotaro Kujo, nearly defeated by a rat ?"
"Well," Josuke added with a shrug, "The rat had a gun."
"That explains nothing."
"To be honest that summer was kinda bizarre."
Josuke laughed genuinely now, a loud guffaw.
"Where do I even begin, dude?" He tried to fluff his hair, which at that point was a bit of a lost cause as his pompadour was hanging over his forehead like a melted hat.
He began trying to pull all the details he could out of his memory of that year (neglecting to mention the matter of his father). The Nijimuras, the arrow. Red Hot Chili Pepper. Tonio's restaurant. Bug-eaten. Yukako.
"He's still with her?" Kakyoin asked. "After all of that?"
Josuke shrugged. "Ain't my place to tell Koichi what to do. If he's into it he's into it."
When Josuke got to recounting Kira his voice hitched, and he fell silent as he remembered more and more and more.
Shigechi, a life turned to ash with little ceremony and less reason.
The blood smearing the sidewalk where Kotaro and Koichi lay half-dead.
Josuke standing with his breath held, the breeze of a bubble drifting past and then suddenly the wood floor crashing to meet him and….
He took a deep breath and paused to catch his bearings.
"Are you alright?" asked Kakyoin. "You look shaken."
"It's all good," Josuke said with a dismissive handwave.
"So Joseph came here?" Kakyoin asked, choosing to ignore the Kira business entirely and changing the subject at the speed of lightning.
"Yeah. Nice guy, really. He ended up adopting a kid--we found her crawling around, completely invisible. Didn't know babies could be stand users but here we are."
If Kakyoin had a drink he would have probably spat it out; he gave a sort of snorting laugh.
"Babies can absolutely be stand users," he said. "Hers turned her invisible?"
Kakyoin laughed again. Josuke chuckled along, despite having no idea what was quite so funny. At this point he was used to not knowing what was going on.
"I'll be honest," said Kakyoin, "I can't imagine Joseph as a father. I'm sure he was a good father to Holly, but he's so...chaotic."
"He's mellowed with age," Jotaro chimed in from the front. "But yes, chaotic is a good word for it."
They pulled up to Koichi's house close to noon. He opened the door as they reached his porch--he'd been waiting for them, and he had the Stand arrow in his arms. He held it out to Jotaro without even a greeting.
"I'm sorry," he said, "The arrow is safe, don't worry, it's been hidden in the back of my closet and…"
"Don't apologize, Koichi," said Jotaro, taking the arrow and unwrapping part of its fabric cocoon, inspecting the glinting arrowhead. Finding it acceptably undamaged, he tucked the bundle into his coat. Jotaro nodded to Koichi, who was slack-jawed in surprise at how utterly chill Jotaro seemed at the entire situation. If Josuke's still-aching cheek was any indication, Jotaro was decidedly not chill.
Koichi noticed Josuke and waved a little wave. Then he looked into his house, then back out at them.
"Um," he said, "No-one's home right now, do you all want to come inside? I have snacks." Snacks, and curiosity. No doubt Koichi wanted to hear more about Josuke's Stand--hell, Josuke wanted to hear more about his Stand. Jotaro shook his head, seeing through the ruse.
"Thank you for the invitation, Koichi. But you need to stay out of this ."
"Josuke is fine," Jotaro lied. Josuke shook his head, hoping Koichi would see. Koichi did see, and just acknowledged with a glance. Jotaro turned to Josuke and Kakyoin. "I'm staying here for a few more days. Kakyoin, I want you to stay with Josuke."
Kakyoin blinked, then nodded.
"And we're explaining him to my mom how…." asked Josuke. "I sneak out for a Stand-related incident. You drop me back off with a complete stranger--sorry, no offense--"
"--And what? 'He's a Stand user from another town, he's staying in Morioh now.'"
"You wouldn't be lying necessarily."
Jotaro sighed. "Tell her I'll explain later, that he's a friend and he needs a place to stay. Got it?"
"Yeah." His mom was already going to kill him, this was just the icing on the cake.
"Now that the arrow's safe, we all need to take a moment and regroup." Jotaro patted where the arrow was tucked safely into his coat. Koichi gave a thumbs up and shut the door.
Jotaro beckoned for Josuke and Kakyoin to get in the car; the ride to Josuke's house was silent and short, minutes passing like moments compared to the long stretch to get to Morioh in the first place.
Jotaro stayed in the car as Josuke and Kakyoin got out and stood on the sidewalk. He adjusted the mirrors.
"If you need me I'll be at the Grand Morioh Hotel," he said to Josuke. "I'll be back tomorrow. Meet up at Tonio's."
"Kakyoin," Jotaro said after a pause. He pulled down the rim of his hat slightly; it cast his face in harsh noonday shadow. "....I'm glad. That you're alive again."
"....So am I," Kakyoin replied. But from the emptiness in his voice, Josuke wasn't sure how much he meant it.
Jotaro rolled up the window. The car made a hoarse vvrrrrmmmm as it began to move forward, speeding up as Jotaro drove around the corner and out of sight.
Despite Jotaro's insistence, Koichi definitely does not intend on staying out of this.
(On another note, since we had a few people offhandedly bring up jotakak, we did want to clarify real quick that we're steering clear of that ship for this fic--due to Crazier Diamond's shenanigans, Kak is still 17.)
Chapter 7: I Wonder What Else I Can Find (L)
Well, a Saturday update schedule sure as heck feels less arbitrary than a Wednesday one so here we go.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The blanket fort only worked so well.
It held in the heat just fine, but like leftovers wrapped in aluminum, Okuyasu would have to pop his head out to breath. A stabbing chill from the inside of his house would poke and prod at his cheeks. Being responsible sucked. It really blew. The temptation to turn on the generator was like placing a gazelle in front of a hungry lion. Alas, he promised himself he would only use the last generator if it got really bad. When the tips of Stray cat’s leaves began to frost, then he would turn it on.
He wanted to head over to Josuke’s house, but he wasn’t sure if he was back. Moreover, both he and Koichi were more agrivatable than usual. He probably caused it, somehow. Okuyasu knew when he usually outstayed his welcome.
Would Tonio’s be open? He couldn’t tell if it was too early or not. The clock on his nightstand stopped working last week, and he decided on buying groceries instead of batteries.
He just wanted out of the house, and to be far away from his biology homework.
“Bye Pops!” Okuyasu swung a tattered coat over his shoulders, saluting to the green mass licking clean a bowl of cereal. “I’ll be back soon!”
Stumbling out the door, the sun was high in the sky, casting dwarf sized shadows of the street signs and strangers. It must’ve been close to noon. Boy, that nap in the fort must’ve been longer than he had guessed. The little skirmish last night really threw him and Josuke for a loop. They were out of practice, or a little sloppier then they should’ve been. A stand that projectiled a new-age mom’s chakra crystals should’ve been no problem. But he got them both good. He wondered if Josuke’s shoulder would be alright.
Such a weak stand, but clever. Who was this guy? How was he so powerful with such a ridiculous ability? How did Holly know him? Did Jotaro mentor him? Did Mr. Jotaro accidentally kill his apprentice, and that was the reason he was so pissy all the time? Was Koichi just a void to fill in the gaping vacancy in Jotaro’s legacy? Did he fight the time-turning vampire? Is Rohan a vampire, and that’s why he stays in his house most of the time? When was the last time the guy had eaten-
Okuyasu’s own stomach growled in response. He patted his tummy to console it. The thought of starving before reaching an adequate eating establishment made his pace quickened. He nearly used The Hand to teleport, but thought against it in case Mr. Jotaro was back in town.
The cemetery and Saint Gentlemen’s swished past him in a streak of familiar colors till he was at the doorstep of his desired location.
He swung open the door to the surprise of the restaurant patrons, making them nearly shoot out of their seats. He slouched. If he made himself smaller, maybe they would ignore him and go back to eating. The dining room did just that, and he slid toward the kitchen as a brilliant thought came to mind. Good ideas rarely came to him, or at least he thought they did, so at the discovery of what was brewing up in his brain, the scars on his face scrunched as he smiled. He cut around the corner. Steam from the fettuccine pot washed over his face. He was careful to locate the sink designated for cleaning dishes, and washed his hands thoroughly under the hot water. The frozen nerves throbbed in contact of the new heat.
He turned the faucet off as he looked for the voice coming from the pantry. “Hey Tonio! Need any help with rush hour?”
Tonio appreciated the sentiment, albeit a bit put off his customers felt they could just walk into his kitchen announced. Then again, Okuyasu was a special case. He thought about sending him out to wait on tables, but he knew his communication skills were… lacking, to say the least.
“The dishes need to be cleaned,” Tonio said.
Okuyasu nodded. He grabbed a hair nit from the cupboards and got to work. Sometimes he would get a meal on the house if he helped out. Some weeks he lived off of Tonio’s cooking when funds got short. Sure, he had a lot of money stored in his savings, but he promised himself he would only withdraw that cash in an extreme emergency, or to pay for school. He might’ve also forgotten the number to his account, again. Still, he liked being able to do something right for once.
“You usually come an hour later,” Tonio noticed, chopping up a zucchini and slicing it with Pearl Jam.
“Yeah, but uh, I wanted to ask ya’ something.”
“Oh? Ask away.”
“What would you cook for someone that woke up from a long sleep?”
“Do you mean they had trouble waking up like sleep apnea? Or do you mean they were in a coma?”
“I mean like… their heart stopped, then it started again?”
Tonio ceased his mechanical chopping. He set his knife down and looked over to his temporary dishwasher. “Are you alright, Okuyasu?”
“Yeah. I think so? Why wouldn't I be?”
The chef wiped his hand off with a towel. He placed the backside of his hand against Okuyasu’s forehead.
“It’s like two degrees outside.”
“Are you sure you’re not coming down with a cold?” He blinked. “Here, I’ll make you some tomato and basil soup once I finish these orders..”
“No you don’t- well I am kinda hungry.”
“But my question wasn’t about me. It’s about… well it’s kinda hard to explain. It’s still making my head hurt.” More dirty plates appeared by the counter. With a last bit of finishing garnish, Tonio loaded up the black platter.
“I’ll start chopping the tomatoes when I get back, then you can tell me what’s troubling you.”
Okuyasu was left alone, knowingly, in Tonio’s kitchen, a feat even gods couldn’t imagine. Perhaps it wasn’t a good idea getting the chef involved. He hardly understood what was happening, and he was present during the whole debacle. Putting everything into his work to take his mind off it did little help. There was hardly a dent made in the pile.
“I’m gonna need some extra hands.”
The Hand appeared behind him. Okuyasu placed a hair net atop its head. If he had to be in uniform, so did his stand, no matter the obvious lack of hair.
Not only was summoning objects back into existence a new plus, but the extra limbs made chores go lickety-split. With no enemies he could spot in the near future, mundane tasks were going to be his main obstacles. And boy, did this upgrade make washing dishes a breeze! One right after the other, plates apparated into the drying rack. It was like slamming the A. button rapidly while playing Mario Party with Josuke. He’s gotta be breaking a world record. Did using a stand count as cheating? Or, were world record holders all stand users? The latter seemed more likely to him.
Halfway through, he felt another presence in the kitchen. Tonio stared agape at the visual before him.
Okuyasu dropped the salad bowl in his hands. In a panic, The Hand swiped for the receptacle, vanishing from existence.
“Not the ceramic!” Tonio cried.
“Sh-shoot! Don’t panic, I got this!” With a softball throwing motion, the bowl flew up into the air. Okuyasu caught it before it smashed on the floor. He quickly put it away. “There, problem solved.”
“O-Okuyasu,” Tonio stammered, “Your stand. It’s different. It’s-”
“Shiny like a carnival ride, right? It’s fuh-freaking metal!”
“I guess that’s one way of putting it.” He took a peek around the corner to make sure his customers were occupied with their meals before turning back around. “Forgive me. I don’t know much about my own stand as it is, but I didn’t think they changed.”
“They don’t. Well, they usually don't.” He balled his fist and put them in his pockets. “This is part of what I was talking about earlier.”
“I don’t understand. You’ve rarely summoned The Hand in the restaurant… Did it change when Josuke revived you from Kira’s-”
“Nope,” He cut Tonio off before the memory swelled in his brain. “This happened like two days ago. Crazy Diamond got all sparkly too. He looks so cool now, man! You gotta see it!”
“And how does this pertain to your question?”
“Well, you see, or I guess I’m telling ya’ in this case, Josuke might’ve healed someone he shouldn’t have been able to.”
“His powers have grown?”
Okuyasu nodded. So did The Hand.
“Is that how you were able to bring my bowl back?”
“Yup. I mean, it’s not as busted compared to what Josuke’s been able to do in the last twenty-four hours.”
“Are you sure that is all this -evolution can do?”
Okuyasu squinted. He stuck his tongue out to make room for his thinking tank. “Crazy Diamond’s been talking to Josuke.”
“Can your stand do this as well?”
“No. I mean, I haven’t really asked it anything.”
Tonio made a hand gesture to say, ‘Ask it something.’ Okuyasu cleared his throat. He took a step back to get the full picture of his stand in front of him. The spirit had gotten taller since the addition of extra appendages.
“Okay.” The toes in his shoes curled. “Uh, hey man…” The Hand lowered its chin in acknowledgement, as if it had a mind of its own. Okuyasu slouched, suddenly feeling much smaller. “You got any other cool tricks?”
A whirring noise began to grow exponentially as the lights around The Hand’s disjointed waist flashed a color code of blinking lights. Okuyasu couldn’t move. The seizure party trick was hypnotizing. Each golden arrow tip glittered with a dramatic zip and zzzzzzOP. There was a clang, the sound of an unhitched latch. The middle of the stand began spinning like a top, the dome of a carousel. Faster and faster the arms raced. The pressure of the air felt like slaps against Okuyasu’s bare skin. The noises became too loud. A thousand screams, an electric shock. He plugged his ears. When the spirit was too bright to look directly at, he closed his eyes. He knees were shaking. His clothes thrashed against his body.
And then it was quiet.
It was too expensive on a cell phone, but the pay phone still standing on the corner was pretty cheap.
Most importantly, it took international calls.
Koichi’s palms were sweaty. He stepped into the booth and shut the glass door. It was hardly any warmer inside. He pulled the green scarf around his neck tighter.
He was risking Jotaro’s trust in him. That one thing he had that no one else seemed to have. It was like a gift, a secret treasure, or a special type of suitcase line that makes a collection once a year. It was his special connection, and this could tear it to shreds.
But Josuke’s Crazy Diamond…
An arrow he left still hunting within the shadows of Naples…
Koichi makes the call.
It was dark. Like really fucking dark.
Okuyasu was sure he was now blind from his own stand, and possibly deaf too. However, he could see his hand when he reached out for the kitchen counter.
Okay, so he wasn’t blind, but what had happened? Where was he? It reminded him of that dream he had when Stray Cat busted a hole in his side, but that place had a light in the distance. There wasn’t any directional glow. There wasn’t any tunnel. Squinting, he could make out tiny silhouettes. Of what, he wasn’t sure.
He realized he couldn’t walk. Gravity was practically non-existent. So, he made a swimming motion toward the closest figure. It was a perfect breaststroke, he thought.
The object was cold, his body heat absorbing into its surface. It felt like steel, or some sort of tough metal. He pulled the thing towards him. It was flat, a piece of bolted melted cut into a perfect rectangle. It was flawless of any human error, except for the sloppy handwriting in big white symbols: TRES.
“Tres?” His voice boomeranged back to himself. “The fuck does ‘tres’ mean?” The next thing he grabbed was just more pieces of metal. He flung himself up and around, using the beams to propel him to the various miscellaneous items stuck in the void. Nails and pipes. Panels of granite flooring. Strands of hair with their tips lit a flame. Piles of dirt with electrical wires-
Wait a second.
“No… passing. No TRESPASSING!”
Okuyasu’s voice bounded in a thousand different aimless directions. Holy shit, it was his stuff! Everything he had erased was all here. The place could use a bit of sprucing up, but this new discovery was incredible. No one would believe he found the place where everything went. They certainly wouldn’t ever find out if he didn’t return to Morioh.
“Uh, Hey,” He said. “How do I uh, get back?” There was no response, not even a breeze. His heart began beating faster. “Hand-o Bandann-o, where are you?” Bumping into objects as he floated around, Okuyasu’s face flushed trying to calmly think of a solution. If by calm you meant hyperventilating in the vacuum of his own creation.
“Dammit,” He cursed. Was he floating around or was he stuck in the same spot? Did he travel too far to where his stand couldn’t hear him? “Did I just erase myself?” He yelled aloud. Man, talk about ironic. It was probably going to happen one day. He just didn’t think it was today. Then again, he didn’t really have many plans for the future. It was a miracle in of itself he got this far. He had been slacking off more than usual to distract himself from the impending question: what comes after graduation?
Before he could answer that question, he needed to get back.
“Yo, bro. Can ya’ do the reverse swipe again? Can ya’ bring me back,” He closed his eyes, curling inward on himself with a soft whisper, “please?”
There was a faint whirring, and before Okuyasu could open his eyes again, he was already back, standing in the kitchen with Tonio’s jaw on the floor.
“Okuyasu!” Tonio rushes up to the boy as the stand vanished. He caught the “Are you alright?”
“I found it.”
“What stuff? You’re not making much sense.”
“Everything I’ve swiped away with The Hand! It was all there!” Okuyasu squealed. “I mean, it was a little spooky at first, but now… Holy shit, I’m a walking storage unit!” He finally noticed Tonio’s ashen expression. “Uh, sorry for vanishing like that.”
“Vanish? When did you vanish?”
“J-just now? Did you see it?”
“There was only a flash of light. I didn’t see you go anywhere.”
“Really? I was gone for a pretty long time. Hold on one second.”
The Hand reappeared with its second pair of arms rapidly spinning. There was a bright light like the flash of a camera. Okuyasu now had a few morsels of tempura in the palm of his hand. He plopped one into his mouth, chewing thoughtfully. “Tastes just like it did at dinner. Sweet! I’ll have the best leftovers of all time.” He dumped the last two bites down his gullet.
“Do you feel strange when you do that?” Tonio asked. “Are you having any sort of stand related reaction?”
“Tonio, the hell are you talking about?” He said as he chewed.
“I never met any stand users until I arrived in Morioh. One thing I’ve noticed amongst stands is the trade off of gifts. You could have an amazing ability, but at what cost? Pearl Jam is a blessing to me, but it’s also a curse in that it scares many potential clientele away.” He put a hand on Okuyasu’s shoulder. “I would be careful not to overexert your stand’s abilities. Perhaps it’s better to wait for some guidance from your parents-“
Okuyasu waved him away. “Nah, I think I’m good. The only way to know more about all the cool stuff my stand can do is by experimenting.”
He placed the hairnets aside and stepped away from Tonio’s comment and the kitchen. The Hand began to materialize slowly. It’s silhouette was transparent, and its arms were already spinning.
“I wonder what else I can find.”
Josuke’s new roommate sat on the couch in the living room. He hadn’t moved since they’d stepped into the house. The only sign of life from Kakyoin was his face turning red as he heard the agitated shouts of an exhausted mother from the room next over. There was clanking and clattering. Josuke’s voice rose up two octaves as he squeaked at one point. Someone was getting grounded for the month, maybe even the entire year.
Josuke returned with a bowl of milk and cornflakes for his guest. Jotaro had skipped getting everyone breakfast that morning, and surely a guy that hadn’t eaten in twelve years would want something to chow down on (hopefully not brains). Josuke was proven correct as he handed the bowl off to Kakyoin. Though he ate with proper table manners, it was clear he was battling to compose himself from a ravenous hunger that overtook him once he was reminded of food. He shook a few times, clutching his stomach as his digestive tract was waking back up. The bowl was licked clean in a few measly minutes. He wiped his face with the sleeve of one of Jotaro’s jackets. “Thank you, Josuke.”
“No problem.” Josuke rubbed the back of his neck.
There was an awkward silence between them. You could drop a pin atop the carpet and it would be millions of decibels louder than whatever micromovements made between the two teens. There wasn’t anywhere to take Kakyoin. It was too early to go to made, much to Josuke’s disappointment. Well, if he couldn’t run from the situation, he might as well make it bearable.
“So,” Josuke leaned against the wall, “you like throwing rocks?”
“Hmm? Oh, the emerald splash,” His guest chuckled. “They’re highly concentrated pockets of energy that take the form of emeralds.”
“They sting like a bitch.”
“Yes. Again, I’m sorry for your injuries.”
“You don’t-” But he cut himself off. He wasn’t going to get this guy to stop apologizing. Might as well drop the sentiment. “What do you call him?”
His chest puffed out a smidge. “Hierophant Green. I’ve had him since birth.”
“Cool.” He rocked back and forth on his heels. “So… what do crusaders do for fun?”
“Um…” Kakyoin’s stare fell onto the television. “Is that a game console?”
Josuke handed him the player two controller Okuyasu usually used on the weekends. He booted up the system, watching Kakyoin’s facial expressions. Perhaps it was rude, but it was fascinating seeing what little things through him off. The graphics across the screen were eons ahead of the eighties. Even the controller was an object of fascination. Perhaps it was the shiny buttons, or the way it fit into his hands. Either way, he seemed to inspect every nook of the device.
And Kakyoin didn’t just dabble. Just two minutes after choosing teams and starting lineups, Josuke was getting the snot beat out of him. Three home runs with just one out on the scoreboard. He wasn’t sure whether to rage or feel blessed having some real competition.
“Your father is very good at this game,” Kakyoin said with his fingers flapping against the A button, his eyes glued to the screen.
“Seriously?” Two outs. Finally.
“Even under the circumstances, I believe Jotaro had fun.”
Wait. Did Kakyoin think Jotaro was his-? Oh shoot. He opened his mouth to correct, but held his expression in the air for a few seconds. How was he supposed to communicate the correction in a delicate manner? Hell, did he even want this stranger to know about his parental heritage? It spoke volumes about the type of person Jotaro was when Kakyoin knew him. Talk about whiplash.
Bang! Bang! Bang!
Hierophant Green slithered around Kakyoin as he dropped the controller. He bounced to his feet, already in an attacking stance before Josuke could say, “Okuyasu must be knocking.”
The green tentacles slipped underneath the oversized jacket. Kakyoin looked down at the floor. “Oh.”
Bang! Bang! Bang!
“I’m coming! Geeze dude, you’re gonna fucking break my door in.” Josuke opened up the front door. He was about to begin with the usual pleasantries, he calling Okuyasu ‘asswipe’ and getting called ‘dick juice” in return. Then he noticed the expression on Okuyasu’s face. It was a thousand yard stare, his mouth quivering, not sure how to piece sounds together...
He was holding a perfectly severed arm.
This is one of my favorite chapters L has written so far tbh --D
Chapter 8: The Normal Response to Holding a Severed Arm (D)
Josuke blinked. It was really all he could do in the moment, as the gears in his brain turned and clicked, piecing together what he was seeing.
“Okuyasu,” he said softly, “Is that a fucking arm?”
Okuyasu nodded, gulping. He held out the arm as if expecting someone to take it. Josuke looked around furtively.
“Dude,” he whisper-hissed, mouth cupped in his hands, “My mom’s home. We can’t deal with this here, she’s already about to murder me. I’m grounded for a month.”
“Grounde--dude, we ain’t kids anymore.”
“She’s worried. Super worried. And a severed arm isn’t going to help.”
Okuyasu stared at the arm, brow drawn in worry. He silently summoned The Hand, which took it from him and held it in one of its third pair of arms. Its other two pairs were folded across its chest and waist as if it was cross.
A slow drop of blood wormed its way down the cleanly-severed edge of the arm. It dripped onto the porch. Drrp. drrp.
And then there was that now all-too-familiar weight in the back of his skull. That splitting headache of his Stand demanding...something.
“Josuke?” Kakyoin said from behind him. “Is--” And then he stopped. Josuke turned. Kakyoin was taking in the situation with as much a delayed reaction as Josuke--he stood stock-still, his face gradually going white as a sheet. His expression was unreadable. Josuke shot Okuyasu a glance; thankfully he understood, and The Hand carefully erased the arm. Out of sight, but not out of mind. Kakyoin said nothing, just went back into the living room and turned on the console again.
Josuke turned back to Okuyasu.
“What happened, Okuyasu? What is... this? ”
“I found where all the stuff goes. That The Hand erases.”
Josuke blinked again. He exhaled loudly and steepled his hands in front of his face.
“Okuyasu,” he hissed, “Did you erase someone’s arm?”
Okuyasu shook his head quickly, hands held out in front of him in a gesture of surrender.
“Wh--you think I’d erase someone’s arm ? No dude, I….I don’t think I did. I ain’t Kira or anythin’. I found it . Floating around with a bunch of chunks of rocks and stuff.”
“Wait wait….” Josuke paused, taking in the implications. “....So you’ve been there? Where The Hand takes stuff?”
Okuyasu nodded. Josuke put a hand to his forehead, pinched the bridge of his nose.
“Great,” he said. “Listen….I’ll try to--” and he made his whisper softer lest his mother hear, “--see if I can sneak out later and we can see what’s up.”
Some of the tension went out of Okuyasu. He gave a thumbs up.
“A’ight. My old man won’t care either way.”
Okuyasu held out his closed hand for a fist bump. Josuke returned the gesture. Josuke shot a glance back into the house.
“Hey, uh….come on in if you want,” he said to Okuyasu. “Just...don’t go in the living room.”
“Nah,” Okuyasu waved his hand. “I...I’m just gonna go see if Koichi’s home.”
Koichi’s breath fogged in front of him. He shivered. It’d been at least a half hour, he’d been trying to get a hold of the number he’d been given, but it’d kept ringing and ringing until he’d given up and tried again.
Brrrrng. Brrrrng. Brrr-
“Hello?” A voice on the other end of the phone. But not the voice Koichi was looking for--no, despite the impeccable italian this voice was distinctly French, which was, well, definitely not who Koichi was seeking.
“Um….hello, is Giorno Giovanna around and could he come to the phone?”
Please be the right number. Please be the right number. If it was the wrong number, if someone else had the phone now or if he’d been given a wrong number in the first place, he was screwed. This was his only line.
He wasn’t sure if it was a good or bad thing, the amount of time he spent just listening to the shuffling of people moving and others speaking so far in the background they were unintelligible. So when he heard a second voice, this time sounding much more like he remembered Giorno Giovanna sounding, he heaved a sigh of relief.
“Ah, Koichi! You remembered my number!”
“Ha--yeah, I did,” Koichi said. “Is um, Italy going well?”
“Oh you have no idea, Koichi. A lot has happened since I stole your luggage.”
“I imagine,” Koichi nodded.
“Yes, yes. But I assume you didn’t call just to see how I was doing?”
“I--ok, no, I wasn’t. I had a question.”
“And you came to me for answers.”
“Yeah, because you’d know them, probably.” Koichi sniffled in the frigid air. “Do you remember the arrow?”
Josuke peered into the living room. Kakyoin was sitting cross-legged on the couch, controller held in his hand. The game’s music droned--but it was still on its pause menu. Kakyoin held the controller in clenched white-knuckled fists; the plastic shell looked like it was about to crack.
“Hey, uh…” Josuke didn’t know how to approach this. At all. “...You alright, man?”
Kakyoin did not respond. But Hierophant Green raised its head to look Josuke dead in the eye. It was hunched over its user, its hands gripping the back of the couch. It almost seemed protective.
“A’ight. You wanna play another round?”
Kakyoin set down the controller.
“No.” He shook his head. “Your friend...why was he holding a severed arm?”
“That’s….a long story,” Josuke said. He sat on the edge of the couch, far away from Kakyoin as he could, not wanting to infringe on the guy’s space. “Hell, I don’t even know why, he just...found it, he said. Sorry you had to see it.”
“....” Kakyoin thought for a long time, squinting at the screen. “I’ve seen a lot, Josuke.” Kakyoin looked at him. He looked...tired. “And it seems strange, yes, but I thought for a second I knew, maybe, whose arm that was. But that’s impossible.”
Okuyasu sat on a dusty couch cushion, picking at frayed threads. Stray Cat purred softly, asleep in its small terra cotta pot on the crooked side table that had one leg propped up by an old textbook. Okuyasu scratched the top of the cat-stand’s head; it blinked, and snuggled further into the soil. Its purring grew louder. Okuyasu drummed his leg, tapping his heel against the floorboards.
Knock. Knock. Knock.
He nearly leapt out of his seat to get the door. Stray Cat woke fully with a disgruntled mrrrrp . It blinked, and gazed after Okuyasu intently.
Josuke was at the door, coat wrapped tightly around him. His nose and ears were bright red. He’d finally gotten to fix his hair at some point. “Fuck, it’s freezing,” he said.
“Where’s the new guy?” Okuyasu asked.
“Takin’ a nap.” Josuke shrugged. “Good for him, I guess. Man, how do you live with this cold?”
“Blanket forts, dude. Keeps the heat in. I got one upstairs, if we wanna go up there.”
The stairs creaked. Okuyasu carefully stepped in the most stable places, holding Stray Cat tightly against him so as not to drop the thing. As if that would hurt it; honestly, with all it’d been through, it was probably indestructible. It bumped its forehead against his chin.
Okuyasu held up one corner of the carefully-constructed fortress, made from his bed, his nightstand, all of his blankets, and a lamp. Josuke took off his bulky coat and crawled inside. Okuyasu followed. There was barely any room in there for the two of them, but Josuke sat cross-legged in the corner and they made it work. Josuke’s hair was pushed into his face by the blanket above; he pushed it back into place with a sigh.
“...I’m gonna be honest. It’s barely warmer in here,” Josuke said as Okuyasu turned on the lamp, bathing the fort in warm light.
“Eh, we ain’t been in here for long,” Okuyasu assured him.
“Great.” Josuke wiped his hand across his nose. “Bro, we gotta talk about that arm.”
“....” It took him a second to remember all the details.
He had spent what felt like hours trying his best to organize his stuff. Shoving piles of dirt off in one direction, making a pile out of anything he thought could be useful in another, hoping it would all stay in place so he could find it again. It was weird, looking through all his trash scraps and old soda cans and chunks of dirt and et cetera et cetera that he hadn’t ever planned on seeing again. Like a timeline, an archeological dig with layers and layers that led back to the first thing he’d erased with The Hand.
And then further. He didn’t think that his stuff went any further. So he’d swum toward the shapes and shadows. He’d been hit by what felt like a wall of sand; it’d got in his eyes and mouth and he swore he still had some in the folds of his clothes.
Then he’d found the arm. It was severed completely cleanly, like… well, like it had been erased. Duh. It was here.
But by whom?
“...so yeah,” he said, having recounted it to Josuke. “That’s ‘bout it. Now I guess it’s closer, since I erased it again recently, but y’know.”
“That’s…” Josuke shook his head. “Okuyasu, I know this is a really, really obvious question. But did you erase yourself? ”
“Well yes, but also no? He used the spinning arms.”
Josuke seemed relieved. Almost.
“Hey at least you found your way back. But that arm….I think Kakyoin knew the guy.” Josuke pressed a hand to his temples. “He mentioned he’d been on the Egypt trip, and said that was impossible, but who knows?” Another pause, long and deliberate. “I believe him. Crazy D definitely believes him.”
Okuyasu cringed. “That’s rough.”
Josuke nodded. Perhaps it was just the lamplight casting such harsh shadows across his face, but he looked….tired.
“Can you, uh, bring out the arm again?” Josuke asked. Crazy Diamond’s face appeared momentarily behind him, eyes shining sharply like tiny shards of glass in the shadows of its helmet. “I feel like Crazy Diamond wants to see it more than I do.”
Okuyasu grimaced. “Yeah, but not in my fort.”
When they went outside, Koichi was there waiting for them.
“Uh, hey, Koichi!” Josuke shouted with a wave. “Cold out, isn’t it!”
“Uh huh!” Koichi shivered as he walked toward them. “I was just on my way to your house, Josuke. Wanted to talk about the arrow and everything.” He wrapped his scarf tighter around his face.
“Right. The arrow.” Josuke shuddered. “It’s uh….Jotaro has it, it’s safe, right?”
“Yeah. I h--”
“Oy! Josuke!” Okuyasu interrupted. Koichi saw him and his eyes went wide. Okuyasu held the arm in his hands. Another trickle of blood had started, and splashed on the dead winter grass. Okuyasu was looking at the arm like it was some kind of alien, or like it wanted to murder him, or, well, like it was just kind of gross and he didn’t particularly want to be holding it at the moment. Which was, probably, the normal response to holding a severed arm that you found in your Stand’s pocket dimension.
“Okuyasu, why do you have an arm--” Koichi began. Josuke put his head in his hand.
“I actually have an explanation for this one,” Josuke said, “I mean. Half an explanation. It’s gotta do with our Stands again, which is just great .” His head hurt again. It had stopped when Okuyasu had erased the arm again, but now that it was back on the physical plane Crazy Diamond desperately wanted out .
So Josuke let him out, and the Stand stood behind him. Tilted his head to the side, drifted forward and prodded the arm with one of his armored fingers. Crazy Diamond turned to Josuke.
I cannot heal what is not here, he said.
“Oh, we’re doing this again?” Josuke asked aloud. Crazy Diamond nodded.
If by ‘this’, you mean using my abilities, then yes. Yes we are. Tell your friend to find as much as he can of this man. It may be an assumption to think there is more to find, but make the attempt. Only then can I, perhaps, do anything.
“Or what?” Josuke asked, trying not to sound angry at his own Stand but failing utterly. “I mean, if you don’t get to heal this guy what are you gonna do?”
I am simply going to continue asking.
The headaches. Fuck, Crazy Diamond knew exactly what he was doing-- my stand is an asshole, Josuke thought. A grade-A asshole, and I can’t do anyth--
I can hear you, Josuke.
Please. Please, shut up.
Josuke sighed. “Hey, Okuyasu...Crazy D asked you to go try and find the guy. Please. He can’t really do much without the rest of him.”
Koichi seemed on the verge of panic. He gestured at the entire situation.
“What? Heal what? Heal whom? What is going on? Do you even know who this is? What did you mean, doing this again? ”
Josuke shrugged. “Crazy Diamond is usually just content to chill, right? Sometimes he isn’t, then I just kind of do whatever he wants. And Kakyoin said this guy’s not like...an enemy Stand user, so I think we’re safe?”
Right. Koichi didn’t know about that.
“The guy Josuke brought back from the dead!” Okuyasu explained. “He’s been staying at his house.”
“ THE GUY YOU WHAT?” Koichi shouted, muffled in his scarf. “I thought Crazy Diamond couldn’t affect the dead!”
“Yeah, well, that was before, quoting Okuyasu, ‘his balls dropped’. Anyway, Okuy--”
The Hand was spinning. Rainbow lights flashed like a demented carnival ride, arrows spinning and hands whirling as the entire Stand lit up like the world’s most intense disco. There was the sound of a camera flash--
--and suddenly Okuyasu was standing next to a body. The man was clad in flowing robes, a set of gold disks hanging around his neck. He seemed completely unharmed, except for the clean cuts that had removed both of his arms. Rather unsettlingly, his eyes were wide open; yet they didn’t move, didn’t focus, just….stared, glassy and dead.
One of their companions on the Egypt trip.
Another stranger long-since dead for the Joestars’ sake. Another stranger that Crazy Diamond seemed to have a vested interest in bringing back to life. Which didn’t sound bad on paper, certainly: the ultimate
to all the collateral damage his family had caused over the decades. But….
Death was complicated. It was supposed to be the
It wasn’t supposed to just be a pause button, you weren’t
to be able to just...press play again. That was how life worked, but....
“You better thank me,” Okuyasu said. “Felt like hours just lookin’ through bits of rock and stuff. Couldn’t find his other arm, though. Sorry ‘bout that.”
“Okuyasu,” Koichi inhaled and exhaled in even, exercised rhythms. “That….Okuyasu, did you erase yourself to go find this?”
“Different set of arms.”
That did nothing to make Koichi less worried about the situation. But after a moment he seemed to calm down, though; he leaned forward slightly, squinting.
“Josuke….I think the guy’s still breathing. Look.”
Sure enough: faint, shallow, but the rise and fall of his chest. Josuke couldn’t help his relief that he wouldn’t have to watch his Stand perform another resurrection. This was just a quick fix, right?
No, Crazy Diamond said, drifting toward the man. When he was erased, it was done by a force far more malevolent than your friend’s The Hand. His soul remained here, separated, by all accounts dead. He may be breathing, but he is a shell for now.
The pipes on Crazy Diamond’s back unclicked. He began to hum softly. And the air began to shimmer. Clouds pulling down, less visible in the daylight but still weaving through the air like shimmering threads of gold, casting sharp amber light on dead grass and paving stones and finally centering on the man’s chest.
Crazy Diamond nodded at Josuke.
Now, it is a quick fix.
Josuke nodded back. Crazy Diamond placed a hand gently over the man’s chest again, and for a moment, in this use of his old ability Josuke could see a bit of familiarity in Crazy D’s face, just a bit of the Stand he’d known all his life. Then it was gone, and Crazy D was back to its incomprehensible coldness. The arm was summoned from Okuyasu’s hand to its place on the newly-revived man, and the remains of his other arm were healed. Josuke summoned Crazy Diamond back into his mind.
Koichi watched the entire process in dumbfounded silence. Act 3 stood behind him, fists clenched in an attack position.
Koichi opened his mouth as if to speak but he couldn’t find anything to say on the matter, at least out loud. His Stand did a pretty good job at speaking for him though; Act 3 shouted “Bullshit” in his clipped, robotic tone.
Yeah. It was pretty much bullshit.
Ah, yes. The Hand Cream Dimension.
No amount of coffee was gonna cure this migraine. He doubted even Tonio could whip something up to ease the tension strangling his body from the inside out.
They were just kids, but not for long.
Jotaro didn't bother donning a coat before stepping out of the car. The heat seething from his body like smoke coming out of a train engine did plenty to keep him warm. The early morning sunrise gave Morioh a heavenly glow. Even the cemetery looked like a place of serene meditation. Why wouldn’t it be? With Josuke around, soon there would be no ghosts to haunt unsuspecting visitors.
Tonio’s wasn’t a place typically visited during breakfast time. The meeting spot would be nice and relatively private. Free of wandering eyes, which was the last thing they needed right now.
Josuke froze as his nephew stepped into the place. He held his breath as he watched him take the scene in. Koichi, Okuyasu, Kakyoin, Josuke, and the new fifth guy stared back.
Jotaro raised the brim of his hat. He blinked twice.
Josuke bit his bottom lip. Fuck, my ass is about to be painted across the concrete.
Avdol rose from his seat, “Jot-,” but the man of the hour already stepped back outside.
“That went better than expected,” Kakyoin said, taking small sips of his morning tea.
Fifteen seconds passed before Jotaro stepped back inside. He took a seat between the crusaders, the shadow of his eyes fixed on Josuke. His arms were crossed, and he stayed absolutely still as Tonio sheepishly placed a cappuccino in front of him.
“Nice to see you again,” Avdol bowed his head. He waited for a response. When none came, he cleared his throat, “Did you get taller?”
“Just more tired,” Kakyoin corrected him. Jotaro glared at his friend, not finding any humor in the situation.
“Hirose caught us up to date on what’s happened,” The fortune teller explained, Koichi taking a moment to realize they were talking about him. He was never referred to by his last name. “It seems as though this must be more difficult for the rest of you. For me, it feels as if I had fallen unconscious for a few minutes, not twelve years.”
“Ah shoot. Does that mean there’s no afterlife?” Okuyasu sunk his head. Jotaro stopped sipping his drink to glare down at the teen, knowing this wasn’t the time to be asking pointless questions. Okuyasu didn’t get the memo. “Is Reimi just a special thing ur’ something?”
Those in their mortal forms are not privy to most memories they might have in a celestial plane, Crazy Diamond informed Josuke.
Bastard, Josuke thought. He was really trying to focus, and the voice in his head was making that super difficult. Still, he answered Okuyasu. “Crazy D. says most people forget what they witnessed when they’re dead after they’ve been resuscitated.”
“So… I didn’t see big bro.”
There was a hush as everyone stopped drinking. Despite not fully aware of the context, and hardly sure of himself, Kakyoin stepped in, “He said most, Okuyasu. We live bizzarre lives. Anything you’ve seen could’ve been possible.”
Like flipping a light switch, Okuyasu was back to his goofy grinning self. It wasn’t like he just dropped a depressive bomb at the table seconds ago. Totally not.
“So, how did they get you back?” Jotaro ignoring the rest of the conversation, focusing his attention on Avdol. “Polnareff said you were incinerated in seconds.”
“Incinerated must not be the right words.” He folded his hands on the table. “We know now Vanilla Ice doesn’t destroy matter. It’s one of the few laws of physics. The universe would implode if that were possible. Simply put, his stand sends matter to another plane of sorts, a plane that just so happens to be where this young man’s stand also sends matter.” Avdol patted Okuyasu on the back. “Thank you. I owe you my life.”
“Oi, that’s a lotta responsibility,” Okuyasu scratched the back of his head. Lord knows he didn’t need more of that on his plate.
“How did they find you?” Jotaro asked.
Avdol shrugged. It was obvious, wasn’t it? “Mr. Nijimura summoned me back.”
“The Hand can’t...“ He was suddenly straighter like a video game glitch. They hadn’t seen the split seconds of time stop, Jotaro releasing Star Platinum from the bubbling magma of his fury, Ora-ing a flurry of wild punches into the air and disappearing before time resumed. His head turned to the guy next to Avdol.
Fuck, Josuke winced. Okuyasu won’t be able to keep up with his house if both his femurs are broken. Good thing I can still repair things with Crazy D… hopefully.
Jotaro muttered. “Let. Him. Out.”
The Hand appeared and waved at each member of the table vigorously.
“He’s been really helpful!” Okuyasu said proudly. “He’s a lot more of a help when cleaning up around the house. Leftovers are nice. Oh, and now that he’s kinda taller he can reach for stuff better!” Avdol and Kakyoin gave the stand’s two middle arms a hearty handshake.
Somehow Jotaro’s expression fell on blind eyes. At least, Okuyasu was completely oblivious. Koichi was not, and when Jotaro’s stare turned toward him he flinched.
“When were you going to mention this?” Jotaro asked.
Koichi stuttered. He crinkled the napkin in his lap. “I-I uh, thought yuh-you knew.”
“Does it look like I knew?”
“Wuh-well now, no. Definitely no.”
“EGGS SUNNY SIDE UP!” Tonio re-emerged from the kitchen, plates on his hands and shoulders. Forget literally everything else anyone at the table had done, Josuke was sure Tonio was sent from some higher power to save him. He wondered if The Church of Tonio would catch on. There would be at least one devout follower, that’s for sure.
The table scarfed down the food, keeping their mouths full so they wouldn’t have to talk. The two revived individuals took to the food like pigs starved from their trough for days.
“Would anyone like a shortcake to finish off their meal?” Tonio’s eyes wandered toward Jotaro. Perhaps he filled the cake with Pearl Jam to pull whatever funk was going on outside of the big guy.
Jotaro didn’t answer, but of course Okuyasu raised his free hand high in the air, spilling pancakes and eggs out of his mouth as he chanted, “Cake! Cake! Cake!”
“I think we all deserve a piece of cake,” Avdol nodded. Okuyasu squealed with delight, bouncing up and down in his seat as Tonio took any excuse to avoid the tension at the table.
The Hand was still out, cocking its head as it touched the silverware.
Jotaro hadn’t touched a single bite on his plate.
“What do you think would be our best course of action?” Kakyoin asked Avdol.
The fortune teller scratched his chin. “First, we should notify the Speedwagon foundation, if Jotaro hasn’t already.”
“They’ve already been called to retrieve the arrow.” Jotaro kept his eyes on the glint of his buttons.
“Why did you have the arrow?” Okuyasu asked.
Jotaro, refusing to look up, muttered, “Why did you break into my office?”
“Pshh. We didn’t break in. Your door was open.”
Okuyasu, please shut up, Josuke winced.
“And you thought the best idea was to steal it from my office?”
“My improv’ isn’t that good man. Besides, it-zah good thing that happened. We got your friends back.”
Avdol was about to nod before deciding it better to not further speed up the short fuse of Jotaro’s temper. Leave it up to Okuyasu to miss all the cues and light everyone’s asses on fire.
“You shot Josuke.”
“Actually, I hit Crazy Diamond.”
“What if you hit him in the chest? You could’ve killed him.”
“I-it was an accident.”
“It didn’t have to be.”
“But he-he wouldn’t be hurt. He’s a stand user.” Okuyasu looked over his shoulder toward the kitchen. “What’s taken’ Tonio so long…”
“You’ve created stands that defy everything that a stand is. They have powers that play god.”
“Well, you weren’t stabbed with the arrow, and you can already stop time.” It seemed as though the color from Jotaro’s face drained for a moment. Koichi squeaked. Okuyasu crossed his arms. Kakyoin was prepared to die a second time. Avdol sipped his tea. Josuke’s bottom lip began to bleed from biting it so hard. His mouth tasted like metal.
A single slice of cake slid onto the table.
“Oh boy!” Okuyasu jumped in his seat with glee. “Thanks Tonio! I’m gonna-“
Jotaro slammed both fists on the table. It made an echoing ‘ BWAang’ that sent the nerves in the group to a stand still. Except Okuyasu, who put his arms up in defense of his face.
“Your voice is giving me a fucking migraine! Don’t ignore the fact you’re the reason all this shit is going on, or is your skull thicker than I thought it was?”
Josuke saw how red Okuyasu became between his arms. He was shaking, just enough for Josuke to get a glimpse of his eyes tearing up now and again. Okuyasu whimpered, “ I’m sorry-”
“I don’t want to fucking hear it!” Jotaro rose from the table, pointing toward the door with a snarl. “If you can’t take this seriously, get your ass back home. You’re not wanted.”
Okuyasu shuffled out of his seat and scurried toward the door.
“And put that fucking thing away.”
The Hand disappeared as the door slammed shut.
Not a word was spoken. Jotaro collapsed back down into his seat, pulling his hat over his eyes. Josuke’s fingers twitched. He couldn't decide what to do. A part of him wanted to knock his nephew square in the jaw. Okuyasu hadn’t been completely focused, but you don’t yell at him. You just don’t. He wasn’t like Josuke or Jotaro. He would take what was said to heart. It’ll add on to all the other things people have called him over the years.
He didn’t even take his cake.
Tonio slid the rest of the deserts onto the table, sure as to not make a sound. He left again, this time with a glare.
Avdol opened his mouth, “Jotaro…”
“We will finish this discussion without the kids.” Jotaro didn’t even turn his head. Josuke already knew who his next word was for. “Go.”
Koichi and Josuke stood up, the latter more aggressive in sliding his chair in place. Better to take out his anger on inanimate wood then his relative’s face. He hadn’t been able to do anything by himself lately. It was whatever Jotaro or Crazy D. wanted. It was starting to really piss him off.
“That includes you, Kakyoin.”
“Huh?” Kakyoin leaned back in puzzlement.
“Did I stutter?”
Kakyoin looked at Avdol for guidance, but the fortune teller had no answers for him. Confused, and a little slower than perhaps Jotaro would’ve liked, he grabbed his jacket and followed the other two teens outside.
The sun did nothing to warm the cold sidewalk. They sludged their way toward town, Josuke’s teeth grinding as Crazy Diamond squirmed against his skull, begging to touch every dead plant along the way. Dead or not, nothing was listening, or cared.
They would wait for the stardust men to determine their future.
“Twice removed,” Josuke said. The addition didn’t seem to sway Hazamada’s raised brow. “Their house caught on fire. The gerbil and cat both died. It’s some real sad stuff.” Kakyoin might’ve given him a weird glance, but who was he to judge? Josuke believed the more random facts he gave, the more convincing it sounded. “So he’s gonna be staying with me till’ they rebuild his house.”
“How long is that going to take?”
Josuke elbowed Kakyoin in the side. The redhead jumped at the contact, then said, “Construction is under an undetermined amount of business days.”
Maybe it was the circumstances, or perhaps it was the way Kakyoin talked that made Hazamada mutter, “Is he uh…?”
“Show em’ ole’ ‘Charmy Green’ dude,” Josuke said.
“Please don’t call him that.” His face blushed red before Hierophant coiled itself around Kakyoin’s waist.
“What does it do?” Hazamada asked.
“Shoots rocks,” Josuke replied.
“That’s not all it can do,” Kakyoin mumbled to himself. He shrunk into his uniform as the four stand users in front of him stared him down. Or rather, they were staring up at him. Some of them hardly stood at his chest. He flinched as Josuke’s hand patted him on the shoulder.
“So let’s show him some of that good Morioh hospitality while he’s here.” Josuke held in a snort, noticing Mikitaka nodding enthusiastically.
Yukako glared down beside her, “Koichi-”
“Just go with it,” Koichi sighed.
Josuke asked for Kakyoin’s schedule, who obliged with little hesitation to pull out a folded document from his pocket. It crinkled under the grip between his fingers as he muttered, “Advanced Chemistry. English IV. Home Economics. Art III-“
“Who do you have for Home Ec.?” Koichi asked.
Kakyoin squinted. “Ozaki.”
“At least he’ll have Okuyasu in that class,” Josuke said.”
Koichi looked around. “By the way, where is Okuyasu? Doesn’t he always stop at your house for breakfast?”
“Dunno. I think he overslept this morning.”
In reality, Josuke hadn’t seen Okuyasu since they left Tonio’s. He hadn’t come over to play Donkey Kong. Okuyasu loved Donkey Kong. Josuke himself would’ve been late himself if Kakyoin hadn’t been watching the clock. The sound of the doorbell ringing was a second alarm. With that gone, the morning had felt icky. It had been a foggy daze.
If he had a house all to himself, he wouldn’t force himself to wake up for school everyday. That’s for damn sure. He had to give the guy props, even if he arrived with only a minute to spare before the warning bell rang.
“There you are, Bro.” Josuke gave a hearty slap to the slouched back of his best friend, who flinched in surprise. “Thought you up and ditched this morning.”
“Nope’m.” Okuyasu murmured.
“Great. Nori got Ozaki with you for third period. You guys can knit potholders together.”
Koichi noticed the missing sack he usually carried. “Did you forget to pack lunch?”
He felt the empty space between his fingers where a lunch box handle should’ve been. “Dammit.”
“Yukako really filled up my bento box this time. You can have some of mine.” The feeling did not seem mutual with the cook, and after the weekend they had, no one was ready to face any amount of wrath Yukako could contain.
The rumble of a dozen school girl’s feet stole the group from their conversation. The girls worked in a pack dynamic, isolating parts of the herd away from each other. Josuke and Kakyoin we’re slowly backed into a blue royal blue line of lockers, bombarded with questions like, ‘Hey Josuke! Who’s that?’ and , ‘You two should sit with us!’. Students grumbled at the traffic jam the swarm of teens had created in the hall.
“Should we help?” Koichi thought aloud.
“They’ll be fine.” Yukako said.
“Holy shit,” Hazamada cackled, giving Okuyasu a good slap on the back. “Looks like you’ve been replaced, dude.”
Nothing. Not even a pouty lip.
“I was just kidding.”
“Then why are you acting so serious?”
Hazamada leaned over to Koichi. “What’s busting his balls?”
“Just give him some space.” Koichi said.
Hazamada rolled his eyes and readjusted the strap of his bag around his shoulder. “Whatever. Bell’s about to ring. You got your earplugs?”
Mikitaka pulled out two green foam cylinders and placed them into his ears. He nodded, now blind to the world’s noise.
“Good. Let’s blow this joint.”
“What?” Mikitaka shouted. He was pulled forward toward his home room class. Hazamada became his lead through the volatile tide collecting in the hallway. Students squeezed between each other like play-doh molds to their lockers. Herds trampled over the smaller students, Koichi holding onto Yukako’s hand for dear life.
Okuyasu grumbled, opening up his bag to double check he had packed everything. Homework, duck tape, candy cigarettes, and the mittens he had finished knitting for class. Shit, he forgot to pack his pencil. Hopefully Stray Cat wasn’t chewing it to bits back home, and hopefully Josuke could let him borrow one, again.
There was a sudden pressure to his chest as someone tried shoving him aside. A mitten fell out onto the floor and disappeared under the dozens of feet scurrying.
Josuke whipped his head around from answering questions. The crowd collectively made a sharp breath. A flash of light. Some kid became airborne, screaming before hitting a row of lockers head first on the opposite side. His nose smeared a long red streak all they down to the floor. The hall became quieter. A small group of students went to help the guy back up onto his feet. One ran to the nurse’s office for a hankie.
Josuke watched Okuyasu pick up a mitten from the ground, and then slinked away as the bell rang.
Yukako muttered, “Koichi, The Hand. Didn’t it… I swore it looked-“
“Normal.” He pulled her toward the staircase. “It’s fine. We are all fine.”
A perk of being brought back to life the same age you died was you didn’t have to focus hard when repeating the same lab.
The normalcy around him felt bizarre.
There were so many stand users. They used to be as rare as what jewelers make diamonds out to be. His whole life he had separated himself from others, knowing they could never relate to the spirit in tune with his body. Maybe one day he would find someone like him. That was the dream. Now, however, with that day right in his face, he wasn’t sure whether to take a blind step or continue hiding in the background.
He continued pulling out the beakers and filling up the test tubes as his lab partner measured the density of each reaction tablet. Kakyoin wasn’t doing all the work. Mikitaka also seemed to quickly catch on to the lesson.
“Your confident muscle movements suggest you’ve performed this task before,”
Mikitaka observed. “Is this a usual ritual your family performs?”
“Huh?” Kakyoin chuckles. “I did this experiment at my other school.”
“Before your house burnt down?”
“Yes… before that.”
“It’s quite upsetting the material used to insulate dwellings is so flammable.” He took a syringe and filled it with 2 milliliters of sulfuric acid. “Wool would be a better retardant and more sustainable.”
“Do you find this kind of stuff interesting?”
“On the contrary. I prefer observing life and the psychology surrounding the paths it chooses to make.”
It was the vocabulary, or maybe the clothes, or maybe both that finally prompted Kakyoin to ask, “So, what’s your stand?”
“S-stand?” Mikitaka blinked. “Oh! Yes, Josuke explained them to me.”
“Wait, you’re not-“
“Fascinating, aren’t they?” He chopped the tablet up into four pieces. “I only wish I could see them to further study them.”
Well this was new for Kakyoin. A school full of stand users, an opportunity to actually make acquaintances, and he gets put next to a normal guy. Then again, there must’ve been a reason why Josuke told Mikitaka about their abilities.
“How long have you known Josuke?” Kakyoin inquired. He put two pieces of the tablet into a beaker, setting it down to his right as he began to add the reactant to the concoction.
“About two Earths years now. I would say waking someone up in the middle of a cornfield from a morning nap would be an unorthodox way to meet, but I believe it was for the best.”
Okay. Kakyoin did not know what to do with that information. He nodded unconsciously and went back to letting his brain slowly catch up on the last twelve years. It didn’t feel like the situation had fully hit him yet, at least not as hard as it hit Jotaro. You would think after living with his son in a town full of stand users he would get used to crazy nonsense like this. Even Avdol was taking it better than him. To see Jotaro aging, his stoic nature fraying at the ends, Kakyoin would be lying to himself if he thought it didn’t put him on edge.
Shouldn’t Jotaro be glad? Were they not as close as Kakyoin remembered?
Was Kakyoin glad that he was alive again?
The nerves in his chest erupted like a sudden forest fire. There were bright neon lights. They were chasing him. Chasing him. Until cold metal slammed into his back. The billboards caught up to him. Hierophant, his friend, his protector. He watched it dissipate into a million strings. Yesterday it was whole. He saw the blurry silhouette of an old man a top a roof. Where was Jotaro? Where was Polnareff? Were they safe? Where was Avdol, Iggy-
Dead. They were dead.
It was an Egyptian summer, but his body was turning cold.
“Nori! The Bunsen Burner!”
Kakyoin snapped awake. He looked down at his beaker that had been too close to the hot burner. He summoned Hierophant unconsciously as he realized the surface of the liquid had taken flame.
He thought he had a stroke when he could've sworn his lab partner’s right arm became a baseball bat. Mikitaka swung on instinct, flinging the beaker over to the class window. It shattered, and the curtains took to the fire like gasoline.
Mikitaka whispered. “Oops.”
BEEP. BEEP. BEEP.
The girls at the back table screamed at the sound of the fire alarm. The professor darted for the fire extinguisher, but his students were knocking him around the classroom, trying to make it for the door.
Kakyoin stood from his seat, then noticed his lab partner had collapsed onto the floor in a fetal position. He clawed at his own ears as his face began turning a bright red.
Green tentacles enveloped Mikitaka, turning into a large cocoon Kakyoin dragged on his way out the door.
The sprinklers were going off. Dozens of students dispersed to the outside gates.
What a time to be alive.
With fire trucks on the way and teachers acting like chickens with their heads cut off, Okuyasu decided to take the rest of the day off. A personal vacation day, if you will. Besides, who would care if that one weird kid in the back of the class was missing from the roster? Certainly Jotaro wouldn't care.
“Asshole.” Okuyasu kicked pebbles down the sidewalk, then stubbed his toe as he kicked The Angelo Stone. “FUCK!” More blood rushed to his face. He stomped all the way back to his house, definitely not thinking about how he was a total disgrace, and certainty not that it was his fault his best bro was undergoing stand-puberty pains.
And that one guy totally deserved it. You weren’t supposed to use your powers on non-stand users, but would anyone judge him? Okuyasu bet that guy stole flea medicine from small puppies too. Yes. It was completely justified.
He opened the door. He was about to shout ‘Hey Pops!’ until a sweet fragrance hit his nose. Sniffing the air once more, he confirmed the odd phenomenon.
Weird. Really weird. It was a perfume. Maybe rose petals? That’s what perfumes smell like, right? Okuyasu was pretty sure he didn’t wear perfume. His Dad sure as hell didn’t. Maybe Stray Cat was blooming.
Oh no. What if it was depositing seeds? What if it was multiplying?
“Shit!” Terrified of being a young single father to a plethora of baby plant kittens, Okuyasu raced up toward the stairs to his room-
He paused. There was a voice around the corner.
He took a peek. There, standing atop the staircase, was a girl.
A girl. An actual girl was in his house !
Okuyasu slowly followed behind her. She pulled her coat tighter around her and pressed the phone back up to her ear. She was saying words that Okuyasu didn’t recognize. His first thought was that she was an alien like Mikitaka and speaking their native tongue. It wouldn’t had been the strangest thing that week. Okuyasu thanked whoever was responsible for sending him his own alien girlfriend.
He needed to make dinner for her. That would seal the deal. There was a box of spaghetti noodles in the back of the pantry. They were a bit old, but with some boiling water, marinara, and a garnish, badda-bing badda-boom, Venice would be right inside the Nijimura household. That was the city of love after all. Or was it Paris? Okuyasu didn’t pay much attention in geography class.
Chains upstairs began rattling. The wooden floor moaned in response. The girl’s hot breath became quick, startled puffs in the air.
“Aspetti.” She turned her hand holding the flip phone into a fist. The hair on her body stood straight, save for the pink mop atop her head, a swirling cloud reflecting light at dusk. Sprinkles of ceiling dust settled against her shoulders like snow. She was frozen against the window lights coming in from the outside, the staircase railings drawing cell bars across her face.
A hefty mass of green matter stumbled into frame. It took in its surroundings slowly, gurgling as it made sense of the picture.
Okuyasu made sporadic motions with his hands to tell his Dad to move, but the girl already saw the monster.
She let her weight fall into her back leg. An aura of roses flashed around her body. She shouted from deep within her throat, “Spice Girl!”
A stand user! Shit! This was not Okuyasu’s day. But he was damned if something happened to his old man. He had to do at least one thing right this week.
The Hand spun into action, swiping the girl back down the staircase. Her legs swung upwards as her stand racked itself from her own body. It’s back arched outward from her stomach. Mathematical symbols bubbled across its skin. It reeled back its right arm for a punch.
Okuyasu watched as the girl rolled down the stairs passed him. She screamed bloody murder, clutching what was left of her left leg.
“That might’ve been a mistake,” Okuyasu thought allowed. “Dude bring the leg back. Bring it back.” A leg fell into his arms. “You’re all smart and stuffs now, whatta we do?”
The Hand waved all six of its arms in sporadic motions.
“You’re no help!” He shrieked.
The door was being knocked on. The girl’s cries were curdling with spit. There was a leg in his arms. What could possibly be next?
“Uh… one moment!” He dropped the leg and tried to calm her down. “Shh. D-don’t worry. I can fix that. I gotta guy, honest. Scout’s honor. Just-“
“Okuyasu! What is happening in there?”
“Nuh-Nothing! Don’t come in!”
He came in.
Rohan was massaging his temples. “Okuyasu, why is there an Italian man wandering the streets looking for your house-“
He looked at the girl. He looked at the leg. He looked up at Okuyasu.
Okuyasu made a poor attempt at a smile. He sheepishly smiled. “Monday’s, am I right?”
A guy swinging a pet carrier came in behind Rohan. He joined the girl in screaming.
And only half the day was over.
The conversation at Tonio’s had gone nowhere, so both he and Avdol had agreed they would take time to rest before returning to the matter at hand. He had given his old friend enough money for a suite and food, and they had parted ways at the lobby.
Now Jotaro retreated to the hotel rooms which had become almost like a second home to him. Even with all his unexpected stays, the hotel staff had taken to giving him the same room each time, for which he admitted he was grateful. It at least held some familiarity, even with its inherent transience. The white and gold of the living space gleamed in the afternoon sun, and the noisy heating kept out the winter cold.
But Jotaro stood on the balcony, his gaze drifting along the marshy half-forest between the hotel and Morioh’s downtown, a far enough distance that the buildings blurred into a single silhouette. He had one hand on the porch railing. Nothing but his coat stood between him and the frigid air, and his foggy breath mingled with the smoke of his cigarette. He took a puff and exhaled; his hand shook slightly as he briefly took the cigarette from his mouth.
His brain itched. Every fibre of it was poised, his muscles tensed to fight or flee or, if it came to it, both. But it never would come to it, for there was no threat. He knew that. He knew that, and yet the ghost of that fear remained.
It wasn't the only ghost he had encountered.
Avdol, at least, he had last seen alive, the details of his death left largely, blessedly unexplained. Jotaro had long since chosen not to try and imagine how the man had died, rather to remember his face as he'd lived. The drawback was that it was all too easy to fall back on the feeling that Avdol had simply stepped out of their story and back in without missing a beat, though rationally Jotaro was keenly aware that death was supposed to be much more permanent.
But the face that had peered through the kitchen doorway in his mother's home, crusted in graveyard dirt but very much alive, was a face that he had last seen pale and bloodied and lifeless for a brief, brief moment before they'd draped a tarp over it. He had turned away as quickly as he could, but the sight had nonetheless seared itself into his vision, threatening to overtake the fading afterimage of Kakyoin as a person with that of Kakyoin as a corpse.
He had pulled the brim of his hat down and gritted his teeth and stepped into his own ambulance and tried to forget. Stared at Dio's shredded remains and the body of his grandfather and tried to occupy his mind with whatever miracles he could perform. Whatever his Stand and Dio's blood could do to bring at least one person back to him.
He exhaled another puff of smoke, and summoned Star Platinum above him. His Stand gazed back at him, a mirror of himself forged in gold and violet waiting for his orders. As quickly as he'd bade it appear, he ordered it to vanish.
His Stand and The World were the same.
Jotaro held his hand in front of him, Star Platinum's hand appearing over it, shimmering and translucent. He clenched his fist, and Star Platinum echoed the motion.
His Stand and The World had the same abilities.
The same potential. They were mirrors of each other. Jotaro had long since accepted this. Accepted that he and Dio were alike in their rage and their strength. He'd buried that association in his memory and choked it down every time the words Star Platinum: The World escaped him and he plunged the world into a monochrome stillness, all those around him unaware. It was a lonely world, a stolen world. A world he did not have to wield as Dio had. He had told himself this day in and day out until he didn't have to think about it, until the assurance had come as easily as breathing.
But now the reality of that world, of his own reflection once seen in crimson eyes and bared fangs and taunting laughter, was fresh and bitter and raw. It is said that our innate fear of heights comes not only from the fear that we will fall, but the fear of our potential to jump. That choice we know we would never take, but which is within our power to all the same. Fear of ourselves.
Fear of what we would hold the potential to be if the fabric of destiny had been woven in a different, darker pattern.
Jotaro unclenched his fist and lowered his hand to his side. Star Platinum vanished. Jotaro took the cigarette from his mouth and leaned against the railing, forearms pressed painfully against the thin metal. Quite a ways away, lazy white clouds drifted over buildings seen in miniature. Another wisp of pungent cigarette smoke joined them.
He didn't know how much time had passed before the pensive quiet he had woven around himself was interrupted by a knock-knock on the door. Jotaro put out his cigarette with his fingertips, and tossed the butt into an ashtray as he made his way back inside, letting Star Platinum close the balcony door behind him. He peered through the peephole and saw Avdol, standing with a grocery bag tucked under his arm. The neck of a champagne bottle peeked out from the brown paper.
"Jotaro? May I come in?" The way Avdol asked, Jotaro figured he'd find his way in no matter what his answer was, so he straightened his shoulders and and muttered a Why not that was likely too quiet to hear. He opened the door with a loud creak.
"I see you've spent my money wisely. What's the occasion?" Jotaro asked, gesturing to the bottle. Avdol laughed and strode past him into the suite.
"I thought my resurrection was cause enough for celebration." He set the bag on a table and surveyed the room. His eyes fell on the kitchenette; in seconds he was opening up each cabinet in search of suitable glassware. He found his quarry and Magician's Red lent a hand to carry a pair of champagne flutes back to the coffee table. "I knew Stands could come close to miracles, but this?" He pulled the bottle out of the bag and set it on the lacquered surface. "I'd say this qualifies as the real thing."
Jotaro didn't react to Avdol with more than a grunt. He shoved his hands further into his pockets. Avdol sat in one of the stiff armchairs; he beckoned for Jotaro to join him, but Jotaro elected to remain standing.
"Miracles are subjective," Jotaro countered. "To some, Stands' very existence would be a miracle."
"Well then, it certainly says something about us that we barely bat an eye until one raises the dead." Avdol didn't hesitate to pour the champagne, and he offered Jotaro his glass. Jotaro removed a hand from his pocket and accepted it. It was decent quality, from what Jotaro could see of the label. He'd been around his old man too much, if he was thinking of the quality of his drink--especially if he'd just been handed said drink by a man who, yesterday, had been dead. Avdol held up his glass for a silent toast; Jotaro held out his in kind, and they clinked together. Jotaro took a sip. His assessment of the champagne's quality held up.
Neither of them spoke, as they sipped their champagne. Jotaro simply tried to get used to the other man’s presence not as a buried memory but as a living being sitting in front of him. Finally, after a long moment, Avdol set down his glass and sighed.
“Some celebration this is,” he quipped with a hoarse chuckle. “Still just as hard to get a smile out of you as it was back then.”
“Hmm.” Jotaro didn’t see a reason to be smiling . If he thought about it in the abstract, he conceded that his friends’ resurrection was reason enough in theory, but….Death was permanent . Death was permanent, and memory was all that remained, and even that would fade in time as the universe drifted inexorably toward entropy. To be able to halt death in its tracks, to reverse it... not even Stands were meant to accomplish this. His friends should be resting still, their presence relegated to nightmares forgotten soon after waking. They shouldn't be living again in a time that no longer belonged to them.
It was selfish of him to think this way. Yet...
Jotaro knocked back the rest of his glass, to hell with manners. He put a hand to his temple, feeling a burgeoning headache beneath his fingertips. Star Platinum took the glass from his hand and set it on the table.
"Avdol…" he began. What would he say? 'Get out'? Fuck, he wanted to. "I…"
"You know," Avdol said, leaning forward. "I understand." He looked at the bubbles rising in his drink. He smiled, but Jotaro knew enough about those thin-lipped smiles to know it was not one of happiness. Pity, maybe. "You haven't changed, Jotaro. Egypt still clings to you."
Jotaro didn't see Star Platinum's fist manifest beside him. But he felt its presence. He called his Stand off and took deep, even breaths as he stood, turned, and began to make his way back to the balcony, fumbling in his pocket for a cigarette. He heard the creak of the stiff leather chair as Avdol stood. The man's even footsteps were slightly out of time with his own. He didn't stop Avdol from following him; on some level he didn't want to stop him. Jotaro lit his cigarette and leaned against the railing. Again the metal dug into his forearms.
"Still smoking?" Avdol asked, leaning against the railing beside him. Jotaro shrugged.
"Old habits die hard."
"That, they do." Avdol stared out on the marsh, at the distant downtown buildings. "That, they do." He paused for what felt like minutes to gather his thoughts. "I apologize," he said finally, "For my mention of Egypt. For me it still feels present, but..."
"I buried Egypt," Jotaro said, with an exhale of tarry smoke. "A long time ago."
"...And you feel like your son has dug it up again."
Jotaro blinked. His brow scrunched. He blinked again.
"What?" he asked. "M--"
"Josuke. His powers are extraordinary, and I'm very glad to have the opportunity to live my life because of them. Kakyoin as well…"
Avdol kept talking, but Jotaro's mind caught on the words your son . Did Avdol think... good grief.
"...How did you kill him?" were the next words that Jotaro paid attention to.
"Dio." Avdol grimaced at the mention of the name. "How did you kill Dio?"
"How do you know I was the one to kill him?" Jotaro raised his eyebrows.
"It was always going to be you." Avdol gestured to Jotaro as a whole. "The Star, a symbol of hope after disaster." He smiled. "So." His eyes held a subtle rage, eager to hear the details of how Dio met his bitter end. "How did you kill the bastard?"
Now Avdol was the one digging up Egypt. Purposefully jabbing a spade into Jotaro's memory, to what end he couldn't tell. What would Jotaro tell him, about that final encounter with the enemy of his legacy?
He chose to keep it simple. To keep the sordid details deep in the vault of his mind.
"I broke him into pieces." I stole his world and turned it back against its master. "He burned in the sun." His ashes followed the wind until they could no longer be told apart from the sand.
"Hah," Avdol said with a terse grin. "It's what he deserved."
It truly was: The world returned to the world, ash turned to earth. Dio's memory only dignified by the hatred of those who remained, as they picked up the shards of their lives that he had scattered in his wake.
"I...have one more question," Avdol added. He exhaled, and shut his eyes as if afraid of whatever answer Jotaro might give. "I know of your fate, and I know of Dio's. But...
Avdol clenched his fist. "Polnareff. Did Polnareff...did he make it?"
Four things happened in what felt like a single second.
First, the man gently set down the pet carrier and drew a gun. It made a clicking sound as he readied it. His outline began to buzz with the presence of a Stand, though he summoned no spectral figure that Okuyasu could see.
Second, Rohan turned toward him and shouted "HEAVEN'S DOOR", summoning his own Stand with practiced ease and drawing the outline of a book into the stranger's face.
Third, a gunshot rang out. An instant before he collapsed, pages fanning out from his head, the man fired; Okuyasu braced for impact, but none came. An unfamiliar Stand energy thrummed through the room like the plucking of a harp string, and Rohan staggered back with a muttered "fuck", putting a hand to the blood that now bloomed red across the side of his pale green vest.
Fourth, the pet carrier opened.
All eyes were on the tortoise that began to amble its way out of the carrier. Okuyasu shot a glance at Rohan, who had slid to the floor and was pale as a ghost but still met his gaze, gave a sharp nod and mouthed the words "I'm fine. Watch the turtle." The stranger lay spread-eagled on the floor, unmoving as Heaven's Door flipped through the pages of his life. Rohan's brow furrowed in concentration as he read further and further, skimming as fast as he could, seemingly ignoring his own wound as his eyes scanned back and forth in time with his Stand's.
As ordered, Okuyasu kept his eye on the tortoise. It didn't appear to be anything special from his viewpoint, just the guy's pet maybe? But Rohan had been adamant that he watch it like a hawk. The reptile slowly, slowly made its way to the prone stranger, finally nudging its way beneath his calloused hand.
Okuyasu jolted back when the back of the tortoise's shell flashed a bright light. The Hand! Okuyasu thought, and The Hand appeared at the ready behind him, its arms fanned out like a spider's, ready to use whichever reality ripping ability was needed. Okuyasu scrabbled back. He was still holding the girl's leg. He set it down gently next to her. She had stopped screaming, and now glared at him and at Rohan, breathing heavily. Her Stand guarded her. Its eyes--beady pupils glowing a harsh radioactive green--were locked on the tortoise, and its mouth was set in a thin-lipped frown.
" Dammit," Rohan hissed, and tried to scramble to his feet. He stumbled. Heaven's Door returned to its user. Okuyasu took his eyes off the girl's Stand, and cursed himself and his distraction when he saw that the stranger had completely vanished. Rohan stumbled toward the tortoise. Could Heaven's Door work on an animal? What would grace the pages of a turtle's Stand-written biography?
But Rohan didn't summon Heaven's Door a second time. Instead he reached out and picked the creature up, turning it over in his hand. It didn't protest beyond the wiggling of its little stubby legs. It was probably used to this. Rohan nodded tersely and tilted the tortoise so the back of its shell faced Okuyasu. Set into its back was a key, with a massive red gem inlaid in its gold surface.
"A Stand," Rohan stated. He set the tortoise on the floor again and gently tapped its head. One side of its face fanned out into pages. It tucked its legs into its shell.
"Uh, Rohan--" Okuyasu began, noticing the blood leaking from the mangaka's wound with each of his sharp breaths. Rohan didn't acknowledge him, engrossed as he was in squinting at the tiny text on the tiny pages. The journey his face took as he scanned the animal's experiences told Okuyasu that a tortoise's life had much more potential for interest than he thought. Rohan raised his eyebrows in astonishment, then made a soft huh. Probably taking mental notes for his manga. " Why does Koichi know…" he started, then shook his head. Having reached the end of the book, he winced as he reached around to take a fountain pen from his pocket and write something on the turtle's face.
" I shall not harm Rohan Kishibe, nor his allies, " he dictated to himself as he wrote. He winced again and put his hand to his side. "Should've done this to the first one…." he muttered, flipping the pen in his other hand.
"We gotta find Josuke," Okuyasu continued. "He'll fix you up, and the girl too." Well, Okuyasu was confident about him fixing up the girl, at least. Whether he fixed up Rohan, or left him to heal at a hospital like a regular person without god powers, probably depended on how charitable he was feeling at the moment, all things considered.
"Fine, fine," Rohan said, waving his hand at Okuyasu. "Go get him. I'm busy."
"You've just been shot," Okuyasu's voice rose. The more he thought about it the more he realized that finding Josuke meant going all the way back to the school, and that took time , and they had a bullet wound and a severed leg to deal with, and….
He could just put everyone in the Hand-verse. Time didn't appear to be an issue there. But before he could command his Stand to do anything, the girl spoke in a quiet, measured voice that belied her circumstance.
"Hai detto Josuke?" She asked. She had pulled herself to a sitting position, leaning against the wall. Her Stand was tying a strip of something tight around the base of her leg. "Josuke Higashikata?"
"Josuke?" Okuyasu repeated. Rohan looked up, and let the turtle's face fall back into place. It stretched out its legs, blinked a few times, and began to amble back into the pet carrier without a care in the world. Lucky bastard.
"Si. Josuke Higashikata," Rohan said in the same language the girl was speaking. They exchanged a few more words. The cadence of their speech struck Okuyasu as familiar somehow , and it took him until Rohan had slowly covered the few steps over to them, pet carrier in hand, to figure it out.
"Rohan," he whispered, cupping his hands to his mouth. "What are y'all sayin' about Josuke? I don't speak Italian."
Rohan sneered and rolled his eyes. "Of course you wouldn't." Heaven's Door flashed before Okuyasu, and he felt the familiar weight of a book appearing in his cheek, and Rohan leaned in with his fountain pen to write something before letting Okuyasu return to normal. "Well, now you do."
"Don't thank me," Rohan deadpanned. "Now," he turned and said to the girl, again in Italian, but Okuyasu found he could understand perfectly. Though the words were different, they skipped past that mental translation stage that he'd always struggled with in his english classes and directly to their meaning, like he'd been speaking the language his whole life. The miracles of Heaven's Door. "If my Stand is to be believed, you're not an enemy. For now. I would like to stay in your good graces if at all possible, so if you'll let me write one thing in your book, we can proceed to get you healed." Rohan was being ineffably polite, and tried to conceal his shaking hands.
"We can handle healing ourselves," the girl muttered. She was ashen, almost trembling, but her gaze and her words were strong. God, to have that response after losing an entire leg...what had she been through? "If you know so much about us, now tell us who you are."
"Friends of Koichi Hirose, who seems to be friends with you. End of story." Rohan reached out with Heaven's Door and offered a hesitant hand. The girl gestured at him to get on with it , so he did. He wrote the usual clause against harming him or those he knew, then shut her story without reading a word. Unusual, for Rohan, not to indulge in his curiosity.
Who was this girl, to spark such fear in a man whose Stand could rewrite lives?
“As I said.” The girl was now typing a number into her flip phone with shaky fingers. “We can handle the healing ourselves.”
“Are you sure about that?” Okuyasu asked. “I mean, we’ve got a guy, and you and Rohan both need….” As if on cue, Rohan coughed into his hand, grimacing at the blood left on his palm. Okuyasu didn’t know how much blood a man could lose before starting to fade, and he didn’t want to find out, even if that man was Rohan Kishibe.
“I don’t know where your guy is,” Rohan rasped, “Sitting in his private jet or whatever, but I’m sure as hell our guy’s closer, so no offense but I’d take us up on our offer.” Yet again, Okuyasu was left in the dark, as Rohan pulled from what Heaven’s Door had told him and integrated that information seamlessly into the conversation. Your guy? Private jet?
Okuyasu mentally repeated his question, which had become almost a mantra at this point: Who was this girl?
“If I let you take me to Josuke Higashikata, you will let me take you all to Giorno Giovanna. Is that a deal?” She held her hand to the top of the phone, preparing to flip it shut.
“Deal.” Rohan reached out his hand, and the girl shook it.
“Hey, uh…” Okuyasu cut in. “If we’re gonna getcha all the way to Josuke, I gotta do a trick with my stand, but I wanna give ya some warning first. A’ight? Tryin’ not to startle you again.” He stood, and held his hands out as if keeping the girl and Rohan at bay. The Hand rose behind him. Rohan blinked.
“Okuyasu, what the fuck happened to The Hand?” he hissed. “What the fuck did you--”
"Shiny, i'nt it?" Okuyasu beamed. He put his hands on his hips proudly. "The Hand, show 'em what you can do."
The Hand's middle set of arms unlocked. Okuyasu didn't know if he could use this pair to send others into the Hand-verse, but he sure as hell didn't want to use the first pair. What if he accidentally missed a limb? What if it was like the other guy Crazy D had mentioned and he left their souls here and….He figured the worst that would happen with the middle pair was that he would be the only one to vanish.
So with a zzzzpppp-zzzoppp, The Hand's arms whirled in their dazzling array of carnival colors. Rohan watched, mesmerized; the girl looked entirely non-plussed and rather like she was going to pass out. Okuyasu felt guilt tug at his stomach for a second. He'd get her to Josuke. He'd fix her. She'd be fine.
The whirlwind of air began to surround the three of them, sound and light growing more overwhelming by the second…. Then that familiar silence. Rohan floated beside him, eyes wide in astonishment. The girl just shut her eyes and sighed in relief that he hadn't killed her somehow. She held onto her leg as if it would float away if she let go. Okuyasu gave them an admittedly awkward thumbs up. He felt his stomach twist as the possibility that he could've just murdered them set in--but he hadn't, so it really didn't matter, right?
"Okuyasu, you'd better tell me what's happening when you bring us back," Rohan spat. "And it had better be a when. Not an if." His astonishment had turned to irritation. Okuyasu just shrugged.
"Gonna be honest? I'm lost as you are" he said. "So just...wait here." And with that, he snapped, and The Hand took him back to reality.
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