Missing Pages, Missing Pieces (Xiaomu)

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Missing Pages, Missing Pieces (Xiaomu)
Date of Cutscene: 04 November 2016
Location: "Tokyo-52605 <NXC>" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.[[Tokyo-52605 <NXC>]]
Synopsis: "Tokyo-52605 <NXC>" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.Documents thought lost are returned, and with them, Xiaomu finally has the clues she needs for Shinra to get a head start on finding the last piece of the Killing Stone.
Cast of Characters: "Tokyo-52605 <NXC>" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.Xiaomu
Tinyplot: Restoration of the Killing Stone

Xiaomu looks around the park one more time, continuing to stroll through it with a deliberate air of casual nonchalance. It takes more of an effort than usual; even with a good stress-burning fight against that Omnic the other day, she's still wound up from the combination of Ouma's latest shenanigans and the Ravnica situation which she's been drawn into the edges of. But the message which was relayed to her from Shinra's informant line ...

"That which was taken and believed lost will be returned to you. Come to Ueno Park, ere the hour of the Dragon."

It's earlier than she wanted to be out and about, but anything in the "taken and believed lost" category warrants investigation - and the informant, whoever he might have been, did address the message to Xiaomu by name. Reiji isn't even close by, so far as Xiaomu knows; he's still out with one of the divination teams, hunting for leads.

"Excuse me -"

Xiaomu whirls to face the ... man? ... who addressed her while she was lost in thought. "That depends on whom I'm excusing and for what," she replies with a thin smile. The smile is fairly short-lived, though. "Wait ... I know you. Where was it ... Tokyo National Museum, you were a security guard at -"

"At the Hokusai exhibition," the man nods. He seems nondescript enough for a human in his late 40s or early 50s, but there's something about his face. Most humans would probably think it's a hint of aging gently despite the wrinkles, but to Xiaomu, it's as obvious as editing ancient calligraphy with a Magic Marker.

Xiaomu promptly all but drags him to a more secluded corner of the park, where the trees and bushes can hide them from casual onlookers. "Who are you really? You never reported back to work after that night, I've asked around. That makes you suspect number one ..." She trails off as the pieces start falling into place.

"Yes, it does. Just call me Inoue," the 'man' replies - although Xiaomu knows for sure now that he's not as human as he currently looks. Her first thought is tanuki, since he doesn't have the air of a kitsune about him - kitsune would almost never be that up-front about something. "And I must beseech you and Shinra for protective custody; Sutoku will not look kindly on my treachery," Inoue continues. "We should not linger long."

"No," Xiaomu replies, "we shouldn't. So what is it that needs to be returned?"

Inoue answers by withdrawing a thick envelope from inside his jacket and offering it to her. "Something of great importance to one of Hokusai's oldest fans, I'm certain." He smiles wryly. "I did go back to the museum ... just once. Please give my apologies to Professor Hanayama."

Xiaomu unties a few strands of twine which held the envelope closed, and lifts the flap just long enough to take note of the contents. She notices the smell first - old paper, carefully protected over the centuries by people who knew it was critically valuable. A little more effort gives her an actual glimpse of a page, and she closes the envelope, re-securing the flap with the twine before hugging the envelope tenderly against her chest. "We'll arrange for your protection. We'd better go right now."

An hour later, they're in Roppongi at Shinra's relatively well-hidden headquarters. They're no longer together - Inoue is being debriefed for whatever he can tell them about Ouma's current plot, while Xiaomu is reviewing the once-stolen, now-returned pages of Hokusai's Otogizoshi. "How did he know this much was true ... ?" Xiaomu muses reverently, handling the ancient pages like the irreplaceable treasures that they are. There's been some damage - whoever was reading them for Ouma knew they couldn't be reconstructed, but they didn't care a lot beyond that. Still, the images are clear and the ancient writing is still crisply legible.

What really astonishes her is how many pieces Hokusai had been able to put together over the course of his work on the Otogizoshi. The fragmenting of the Sessho-Seki in the Nanboku-Cho period, the upswing in ghosts and suicides in Aokigahara, the great Hoei earthquake and tsunami ... Xiaomu had always known of Hokusai's rare gift to see the truth of the world around him, and his willingness to accept the extraordinary and the mystical, rather than fearing them like so many other mortals before and since his time. She can feel herself growing a little misty-eyed as she gets lost in studying his calligraphy and his artwork; centuries since the Edo period, and yet she can picture him laboring in his studio, hear him instructing laborers in his workshop.

Finally, Xiaomu sorts the pages back into order and slides them into the envelope, and gets up from her chair to examine the incident map.

Nasu in Tochigi: Tamamo-no-Mae's "resting" place, and the place where the Killing Stone stood for long centuries - plus one piece which never left the mountains, even if it was relocated somewhat.

Aokigahara: The "black forest of death," where another fragment landed.

Wakayama: The closest region on Japanese soil to the undersea earthquake of the Hoei period, the most destructive in Japan's history.

Xiaomu touches the locations on the map, her attention drawn to the Five Elements by a random thought. "Wood, water, earth ... no, wait. Wood ... earth ... start over: metal, wood, earth, wat--" The blood abruptly drains from her face.

"Awwwww, crap."

She needs to find Reiji. Then they need to find their bosses.