Chapter 16:

"Shake, Rattle and Roll"


We now turn to the perspective of “HAIR-TRIGGER” HARUKI who wants to prove he’s the TOUGHEST DELINQUENT AROUND with only THREE DAYS UNTIL THE CULTURE FESTIVAL.

I tap my finger on the jukebox. “This thing still work, Pops?”

Pops - the man behind the counter of the malt shop, who doesn’t really like that name but I don’t really care - wipes down a glass and frowns. “Pal, there’d be a sign on there saying 'out of service' if it didn’t.”

I frown and step away from the machine. I toss a yen coin over my shoulder; I don’t need to look back to know that it slid right in the slot. Jazz music drifts over the malt shop, located in the maze of shops and run-down establishments growing like vines around and on-top of the San-Machi Mall. I sit at the counter and wrap my knuckles; Pops slides me a milkshake.

Next to me, Toshiko sticks a used wad of gum beneath the counter. Pops frowns and shakes his head as he goes to deal with another customer.

“Tomorrow’s the big day,” I say.

Toshiko nods. “Mizutami Sumiko should’ve seen my challenge letter by now. She’ll show up, no doubt.”

“You sure?”

“She wouldn’t be Mizutami Sumiko if she didn’t.”

The other customer in the dingy shop leaves, leaving just Gumball, me, and Pops. He’s gray in the years, hair, and eyes, but carries the cunning of a fox. He’s the one who employs me, after all.

“Got any more carpentry jobs?” I ask, a mischievous glint in my eyes.

Pops leans towards me on the other side of the counter and speaks real low. “Not for a while. That last job in Ni-Machi is still a little hot.”

Pops doesn’t always mind the counter - oftentimes, he’s leading the Senko on carpentry jobs for the rich folk of Shikishima. We perform legitimate carpentry services, then use the innate knowledge of the mansions and houses to loot them long afterwards. Pops sells the goods out of the back of the malt shop. Not a bad gig for an old man and a bunch of high schoolers.

The song on the jukebox reaches the chorus; Pops licks his lips. “Got some juicy info, though.”


“Streets say somebody’s hitting the reactor tonight.”

Toshiko pops a bubble with an incredulous look on her face. “Nonsense. The cold fusion reactor’s locked up tighter than a nun’s chuff.”

Pops lets out a low whistle. “They say someone high up in the conglomerate is behind it.”

“The conglomerate going against itself?” I question.

Pops nods. “As united and stone-faced they may appear to the world, even the conglomerate has factions. And this faction has a Belgian dial up computer virus and someone of immense physical, perhaps even esoteric, power.”

I frown. Pops loves to tell a good story with no regard for the reality behind it. “Who on the streets is saying this?”

The song on the jukebox ends, plunging the malt shop back into silence. The old man just shrugs and gestures at the door. “Who knows? Now scram. I’m closing down shop.”

We leave Pops to his business and step outside. Toshiko spits the wad out onto the glass window of the malt shop and walks off with her hands behind her head. Then we both stop and frown - someone’s arguing in the parking lot, out of sight by the side of the store. We hurry over and find the three other delinquents in the Senko arguing with three oddly-dressed men.

“Trying to sabotage our rides, man?” Sharktooth Shigemoto roars. His bears the fangs which give him his name; the tips of his black hair are dyed a dark blue. He flicks open his switchblade and takes threatening steps towards the men, who appear to lack weapons of their own.

“Good sir, please,” the lead man, wearing a feathered cap, says. “There’s no need for hostilities-”

“Eh?” Ichiki the Itch laughs, one hand on his scrawny stomach, the other holding a tire iron. “You sound like you’re from a jidaigeki, gramps.”

“Gentlemen and lady, please!” another man, this one pudgy and wearing a blue necklace, pleads. “We’ve just arrived in your fair city after long days of travel. We merely desire the location of your nearest inn where we may rest our weary heads.”

Sharktooth Shigemoto and Ichiki the Itch get ready to pounce, but Toshiki and I each grab one of them and hold ‘em back. The other delinquent, the blonde-haired Sake Sakemoto, is slightly (slightly) more level-headed and explains the situation to us.

“We came back from tagging that wall down the block,” she says with a can of spray paint in her hands, “And saw a flash of lightning outside the shop. When we get here, these three Mongolians were here, poking and prodding at our bikes.”

I raise an eyebrow. “Mongolians?”

I study the men. They’re certainly not from Shikishima - they’re dressed in rustic garments, like the ones you’d see peasants wear in the movies, brown-colored smocks and old leather boots. The man who seems like their leader wears a nut-colored brown tricorne with a white feather sticking out of it.

I guffaw. “Mongolians? They certainly dress like sheep-herders. But look at their skin! Pale like a bummy otaku. They must be the European equivalent of Mongolians.”

I don’t know who that would be. I turn to our smartest person.

Gumball Toshiko just shrugs. “I don't know, Norwegians?”


“Someone from Norway.”

“What way?”

She sighs. “Danes?

“That’s a dog.”

She lets out a longer sigh. “Germans.”

“Germans!” I say with a laugh. I know that country at least. I mimic drinking from a mug. “Where’s your ale, mountain men? Mountain men out here looking at high schoolers’ bikes, like go back to your mines bro! Don’t you got a rock you call a wife to screw?

Ichiki points and jeers. “Oh, I bet your rock wife loves eating your schnitzel!”

Toshiko chuckles. “You’re a bit late, Bavarians! October was last month. And where’s your lederhosen?”

The rest of the Senko pause and glance at her, puzzled by her insults. She pinches the bridge of her nose and lets out a good ten-second sigh. “...I mean, you ugly sons-of-bitches.”

“Ugly, exactly!” I step up to the leader. “I mean, is that an effing bowl cut?! Did you wake up feeling ugly or were you just born that way?”

The leader looks back at his men. They all nod with grim looks, so the leader clears his throat. “Good sir, we indeed hail from the race of mountain men known as the Germans. We have come a long way for the festival on this island that we’ve heard so much about. We appeal to your native hospitality, as you and your companions are surely fine gentlefolk, as is myself and mine. We meant no harm to your possessions. We were merely curious, as us Germans don’t possess such wonders.”

Huh, I didn’t know Germany was poor. Sucks to suck, I guess. I bet I could kick the ass of any German delinquent.

“You got that huge highway called the Autobahn,” Toshiko interjects, “Yet you don’t know what a motorcycle is-”

“Gumball, pipe down!” I order. She frowns and goes to kick some rocks.

I wipe my face. She makes it hard to think sometimes, but now I understand.

Some German tourists here for the festival got lost. Tourists means money. Money means I have a plan.

“Alright, fellas,” I tell the rest of the Senko. “This was just an honest mistake. No hard feelings, right?”

“Indeed, indeed,” the leader says hastily, the feather in his cap bouncing along.

“You did pay the toll though, right?” I ask, barely keeping down a snicker. The rest of the Senko share giddy glances with each other.

The men scratch their heads with uncomfortable expressions. The fat man in the necklace speaks up. “We’re not sure as to what your inquiry is referring to.”

“In Shikishima,” I explain, “When you come across people like us, you gotta pay a toll.”

The leader glances around. All he sees are empty streets and dark shops closed for the night. “Our deepest apologies, but if you would be so inclined as to give us an explanation of greater depth, that would surely help our cause. For you see, where we come from - the land of the Germans, I mean - only trolls collect tolls, and we do not see any trolls among you. Furthermore, most trolls are to be found at bridges, while there does not appear to be a bridge in sight.”

“Our trolls don’t collect tolls,” I explain, puzzled by their culture (not racist, just confused). “Our trolls mainly live in their mother’s basements and anime message boards. Around here, the Senko collects the toll. Anyone who passes us in a dark alley with nobody around has to pay.”

To emphasize the point, I snap my fingers. Toshiko pops her gum bubble and puts up her dukes; Sharktooth Shigemoto and Ichiki the Itch brandish switchblades; Sake Sakemoto swings a yo-yo.

The Germans take a trembling step backwards.

“Ladies and gentlemen, let’s not be hasty!” the leader cries out. “We shall pay the toll to the best of our ability. Having not been informed of the toll before arriving, and lacking any visible signs proclaiming this law, you must understand that we’re fulfilling the requirement as best we can, and therefore should not be subject to the implied penalty of underpayment if we cannot pay the toll in full.”

I don’t know what the fuck he’s saying. “Our toll costs all the money you got on you.”

He grimaces, then reluctantly tosses a bag that lands at my feet. When I scoop it up, my eyes widen.

“One gold crown, from the each of us,” the leader says diplomatically. “Three gold crowns should suffice, as these are the highest rank of currency in the land of the Germans, and even our own trolls wouldn’t posit a toll so high.”

This must be that inflation crap I hear about all the time. I toss the bag back to Gumball; dollar-signs appear in her eyes. Sharktooth bares his infamous smile, then glares at Ichiki the Itch who glares at Sake Sakemoto because there’s only three gold coins and it’s clear two of them are going to Gumball and me.

I take another step towards the leader and extend my hand to shake. “Pleasure doing business with you.”

Like I predicted - I’m a genius - they also shake hands in Germany. When the leader goes to shake my hand, our hands get close. Then mine closes into a fist and lands square in his stomach.

The leader coughs in surprise, then another two blows to his back knock him to the ground. His friends gasp, but then Gumball tackles the fat man to the asphalt and beats his head in, while the rest of the Senko kick and stomp on the third guy.

I kick the tricorn hat away. Screw this guy, screw his stupid hat, screw his stupid Germany, screw anyone who ignores me.

“I said everything on you!” I bark out, emphasizing each word with a kick to the ribs. “When Haruki tells you to do something, you do it! Everybody’s so angry nowadays, nobody shows nobody kindness no more! Nobody shows me the respect I deserve!”

The leader coughs and groans, too roughed up to talk, as are his other friends. Each of them empty their pockets, revealing more bags of coins - some of them contain silver and copper coins along with the gold.

Everybody’s happy now; I snap my fingers. The Senko frown and bring the coins to me. Of course they want to keep all their gains they picked off the ground, but everybody’s getting an equal share. After I take my additional piece, of course, because I’m the guy who has to get these fenced into real money. I give Gumball a sympathetic smile when she hands over the fat man's blue necklace - it looks quite nice on me. 

We load up our loot on our motorcycles; they remind me of saddlebags on horses in the westerns I use to watch with Mizutami Kouji.

While the rest of the gang gets on their bikes, I return to the sputtering men, who are still writhing around on the ground in pain. I kneel down and gaze the leader in the eyes. “And just so you don’t forget the Senko-”

Three atomic wedgies later, we hit open road, feeling like we lived in Ichi-Machi at the top of the city.

Steward McOy