Chapter 2:

Dramatis Personae, aka - "Who Can It Be Now?"


A wide variety of people live in the strange city of Shikishima. Here’s an introduction to each of them that you may return to as the story progresses to keep track of them all. An index can be found at the bottom of the chapter.


SEVEN MONTHS LATER. We now go to the perspective of KANO KYOKO who understands her role in the story as the THE JOKER, along with her friend KATO RYOKO who’s reputation as THE THIEF precedes her with only TWO DAYS UNTIL THE CULTURE FESTIVAL.

“There must be some kind of way out of here,” I say to Ryoko over the roar of the crowd. I stand on my tip-toes, trying to find our way through the station lobby to the train platform. “There’s too much confusion…I can’t get no relief.”

Ryoko crosses her arms, unhappy that I woke her up this early on a school morning just so we could start the day on the other side of the island. “Why are we here again?”

“I want to make a grand film of this year’s culture festival!” I remind my friend, giving her an even grander thumbs up. “As a member of the School Newspaper, I live off my hunches. And I got a hunch about who’s gonna be important at this year’s festival. People we’ll want to remember, people who are gonna make a big splash.”

Ryoko raises an eyebrow. “How can you tell?”

I grin and shrug. I have my sources. “A woman’s intuition, if you will.” I rap my temple with my knuckles. “You might not know it, but there’s a mighty fine brain working up in here.”

“You’re right, I don’t know it.”

I stick my tongue out at her, then slide to the right to avoid a pack of salarymen rumbling my way. 

Shikishima is shaped like a three-tier wedding cake. We’re in the Southeast Station on the third and lowest layer of the city - aka SAN-MACHI -  where the city keeps all the factories and power generators. I’m from the second layer of the city - aka NI-MACHI - and let me tell you: on the lowest level, it’s a bit dirtier down here, the air a bit more noxious, the sea breeze a little less serene and a little more oily.

Life in San-Machi can’t be the easiest - but hard times produce strong (wo)men, who’ll no doubt have an important part in the days to come. When we finally make it onto the train and it gets rolling, I find the first batch.

The train rumbles along an elevated rail. I whip my camera out and film the scene in a dark, smoky alley outside of a factory below. Tall and robust with jet black hair done up in a pompadour, the delinquent HAIR-TRIGGER HARUKI threatens an old man with his switchblade. Standing behind him, his fellow delinquent - the long-skirted, crimson-haired GUMBALL TOSHIKO - pops a bubble and sighs. Before any further harm can come, an even taller man with black stubble on his face and equally-black greatcoat adorning his shoulders puts them both in a headlock and walks them out of the alleyway. This is REN, Bandit King of the organized crime syndicate Hiroi-kai.

Sitting next to me on the train, Ryoko steals a juice box from a distracted elementary-schooler and sighs. “I could’ve been asleep right now,” she says after taking a melancholic sip. “It’d take some sort of miracle to identify everyone who’s gonna be important.”

The train pulls into the next station in San-Machi. I elbow my way to the doors, clearing a wide berth as I crouch down and pull out my camera again. “Do you believe in miracles?”

When the doors open, the broad-shouldered gentle giant MIZUTAMI KOUJI gasps in shock at my sudden appearance, his hand going to the Hantei standard-issue wooden katana on his hip. He frowns at the surprise; he regains his composure and steps around me. Next in line to board the train is his twin sister - MIZUTAMI SUMIKO, standing proud with her red bomber jacket and messy dyed blonde hair, whistling the first few bars of Die Wacht am Rhein. She gazes down at me, smirks, then kicks my camera into the air. The commotion gives her ample time to flee the station for another day of playing hooky.

By the time we get to school, I’m still struggling to get the camera working again. Kyoko and I walk alongside Kouji, since I know he loves our presence, though he seems to sigh an awful lot whenever we’re around him. You know who’s not sighing? The other members of Hantei Squadron 8 - aka, “The Lads” - who bound across the courtyard to greet us.

The gallant, flamboyant YOSHINO YOSUKE offers to fix my camera for me in exchange for a date, while bespectacled SHIRAKAWA KABUN actually fixes it. The other member of The Lads, the lanky student we all know as GOKIBURI, slips on a banana peel and cracks his head open on the pavement. After a moment, he shakes it off like usual and grins.

Later that day, I find the next opportune filming moment in a quiet hallway. SAITO “FUUMI” FUMI, Buchou of the Historical Research Club, watches Mizutami Kouji walk away with dreamy eyes red from crying, her uniform covered in spaghetti sauce. When she sees me filming, she squeaks and lunges for the nearest bathroom.

This inspires a visit to the clubroom of the HRC. Her dark hair done up in a ponytail and looking almost a dull purple color in the light, MIZUSHIMA MIZUKO adjusts her glasses and assumes emergency powers while Fuumi is away. Fuumi’s younger sister, the tall, black-haired SAITO “IMOUTO-SAN” MICHI, claps in support, not knowing what “emergency”, “powers”, or “emergency powers” really mean.

I later pop through the doors of their arch-rivals, the History Club, who weave plots and make themselves nuisances to ensure the HRC’s destruction. Long-legged President MIYATA MIYUKI holds a stick of prank gum that she plans to zap Fuumi with; dark-eyed YASUDA “THE WRATH” JUNKO rereads Will and Ariel Durant’s The Story of Civilization for the fifteenth time, already knowing the words; fish-eyed HAYASHI HANZO tries to hit on her, only to fall for Miyuki’s gum trick; SHIRAI “NARUTO” JURO goes into a fetal position around his manga to protect them when Hanzo falls back in shock.

While wandering the halls, I come across a royal procession of sorts. Student Council President NAKASHIMA SAKURA, the Princess of Shikishima, walks gracefully, a book in one hand, wooden katana in the other. Under-Secretary of Student Council Intelligence, RINA NOBUKO, walks in a carefree manner, her hands behind her head, thinking of Mizutami Sumiko. Hantei Squadron 1 Captain HASHIGUCHI GION, with his nose upturned and head held high, pushes my camera away with a smirk.

It’s late in the day when I find my next targets. Under the orange glow of an autumn sunset, I lean against the railing in a park connected to an elevated rail station and take distant shots of the preparations underway at the high school for the culture festival. A crane and a group of workers struggle to perfectly align a gigantic portrait of the city’s founder, the white-bearded ELDER NAKASHIMA, below the school clocktower so that he may overlook the whole festival. On the ground, Chief Financial Officer GOTO, Nakashima’s right-hand-man, watches their progress, secretly fuming that his own portrait will be a lot smaller (and can only be found in his own office). A waifish day-dreamer and government fixer named YAMASHIRO YUKI stands next to him, gazing at images only she can see.

I sneak up on somebody also staring down at the school from the balcony. A transfer student from America simply known as TURNER kneels on the balcony beside me, watching the events in the courtyard with military-grade binoculars. When he perceives my presence, he sighs and walks off with his hands in his pockets, mumbling song lyrics in a sad fashion unique to himself-

“It’s not the future that I can see…it’s just my fantasy.”

I eat ramen alone that night because Ryoko’s up to no good at the moment. A girl my age sits next to me, and I know her secret - she’s NAKAYOSHI, Mahou Shoujo of Tosa. While she devours her ramen, she glares at a picture in her hand - it’s of TSUZUKI, Mahou Shoujo of Shikishima. Nakayoshi’s crossed out her eyes with red X’s and eats her noodles like she’s preparing for war.

As I walk home that night, news of a convenience store robbery and a warehouse fire down in San-Machi reaches me mere moments after they occur. I know everything and everyone in Shikishima, because that’s my role in this whole thing. Big things are coming, and nothing will be the same.

Will Saito Fumi save the Historical Research Club? Will Mizutami Kouji defeat the city’s enemies before the culture festival goes up in flames? Will Mizutami Sumiko save herself from her own emptiness? Will Hair-Trigger Haruki become the toughest delinquent there ever was? Will Hayashi Hanzo find his dream girl? Will Turner the American find his way home? Will Saito Michi figure out how to whistle? What about the machinations and mysteries of Elder Nakashima, his lieutenant Goto, the dueling magic girls, and the dark secret of Shikishima itself, the floating city that seems to defy conventional logic and wisdom?

And the chief mystery of them all - what about the Jade Magatama, the jewel said to bring power and despair in equal measure to those who hold it?

And an even more chief mystery of them all - where will little ol’ Kano Kyoko herself end up when this is all said and done?

If everything goes right - at the top of every headline in all the world’s newspapers.

If everything goes wrong - at the bottom of the sea, with the rest of Shikishima.

Stay tuned.





SAITO “IMOUTO-SAN” MICHI - The eternal optimist


MIYATA MIYUKI - President of the History Club

YASUDA “THE WRATH” JUNKO - Living academic weapon


HAYASHI HANZO - Degenerate prodigy, malignant narcissist


NAKASHIMA SAKURA - President of the Shikishima High School Student Council

RINA NOBUKO - Shikishima High School Student Council Under-Secretary of Intelligence

HASHIGUCHI GION - Shikishima High School Disciplinary Committee Squadron 1

MIZUTAMI KOUJI - Shikishima High School Disciplinary Committee Squadron 8, the Leader

YOSHINO YOSUKE - Shikishima High School Disciplinary Committee Squadron 8, the Muscle

SHIRAKAWA KABUN - Shikishima High School Disciplinary Committee Squadron 8, the Brains

GOKIBURI - Shikishima High School Disciplinary Committee Squadron 8, the Survivor


“HAIR-TRIGGER” HARUKI - Boss of the Senko

“GUMBALL” TOSHIKO - Member of the Senko

REN - Bandit King of the Hiroi-kai


KANO KYOKO - Journalist and Joker

KATO RYOKO - Hacker and Thief

TURNER “THE AMERICAN” - The man with sad eyes


MIZUTAMI SUMIKO - Self-proclaimed main character


ELDER NAKASHIMA - Governor of Shikishima

GOTO - Chief Financial Officer of the Nakashima Conglomerate

YAMASHIRO YUKI - The government’s problem-solver


TSUZUKI - Mahou Shoujo, Sword Shield of Shikishima

NAKAYOSHI - Mahou Shoujo, Sworn Shield of Tosa

Steward McOy