Chapter 15: Arrival
The ride on the subway train was much smoother than the normal train they had just been on. Or perhaps that was just Nani’s current sense of calmness – they had had to rush several flights of stairs, cross across a busy intersection, and climb down several more to reach the subway station (which was, oddly enough, in a different building and even then they had only enough time to rush through the ticket office, along long steel barriers leading to faregates, and enter the train before the doors swiftly clamped shut. There was a moment where Nani had thought she lost Lilo, during which a terrible feeling in her gut had welled up, but it turned out she had decided to chat to someone with a newspaper (who was looking at her with a rather bemused look on her face, but otherwise saying nothing.)
But now everything was fine, and they were barely a minute or two from their destination. After all that rush and panic, it was almost welcome to be just sitting down and calmly reading her novel. It was a rather interesting one too, or so she thought – it had been recommended by a friend, and so far it was proving to be its money’s worth.
It’d probably be still on the shelf collecting dust if not for this trip.
Gradually, the train started to slow. “Roppongi Eki”, as the overly-polite female voice announced, was the name of the station ahead (419 had told them that “eki” was the Japanese postfix for “station”, so the word directly preceding it was most likely the name; Pleakey agreed after consulting his guidebook, although this wasn’t the most ringing endorsement Nani could think of).
Nani stared through the window as the station approached. Roppongi Station’s white tiled walls belayed a somewhat clinical feel. Despite being traversed by, perhaps, hundreds of people, the place was relativity clean.
Nani shivered. She didn’t know why, but all of a sudden she had a very odd sensation. A feeling of sinking… wrongness. She supposed that it might just be her gut’s reaction to the contrast between the station’s state and it’s function. No station should be that clean.
Nani counted off the stations they had passed in her head. By her count, this was the second since Ebisu, so the next one, the third, would be the stop they get off at.
As the train reached a state of haltedness, Nani looked around the cabin. Stitch was talking with Jumba in hushed tones in whatever alien language they both spoke. As she watched, Stitch proceeded to quickly glare over his shoulder at a curious child in the seat in front in the eye (who quickly slid his head below the seat top) and then returned to his dealings.
Though no-one was looking at her, she raised an eyebrow. She didn’t like it when her alien guests were plotting something secretly – and there was no doubt they were, since they really had no need to speak quietly since no-one could understand them anyway. The main reason she did not like alien plans - and, worse of all, Jumba’s plans - was because the majority of those ended in explosions of varying sizes.
She decided to let this one slide - best not to draw attention to them. Hopefully the resulting explosion wouldn’t be too large.
Lilo was staring outside at the people littering the station. Nani remembered that she had forgotten to pack her camera, so she guessed she was taking ‘mental photographs’ or something.
426 had started chatting to a twenty-something year-old lady with a large box of some kind. Nani felt as if she had seen the lady before but couldn’t place where.
Probably someone she had seen in Ebisu Station.
Finally, 419 was talking with Pleakley about… well, it had something to do with train stations.
“Isn’t the next station Aoyama-Itchoume?”
“No, that’s the Ouedo Line, the magenta one. You know, like me?” The experiment tugged at her fur to emphasise. “You want the Hibiya Line.’ She pointed to one of the many lines on a map that would not look out of place in a pile of diagrams depicting the piping systems of various buildings.
‘I thought Hibiya was magenta,” said Pleakly, his one eyebrow raising slightly.
“No, it’s grey,” replied 419, matter-of-factly.
Pleakley examined the map closely for a few seconds. “Ah, that does makes more sense. So our stop is Kamiyachou, and from there…”
He quickly flipped from the train route map to the road map.
“Hmm… if I’m reading this right, that’s in walking distance of the tower!”
419 looked over the map, and nodded.
“Okay, then.” He looked around, then, spotting Nani, ran up to her. “Hey, Nani, I want you to be clear on where we’re going.”
Nani sighed. That was a change.
“We’re getting off at Kamiyachou, and then- woah!”
The now slightly emptier carriage shuddered somewhat the train began to move. Nani peered out the window – outside, Roppongi Eki rapidly slipped from her view.
“Er, where was I?” asked Pleakley, somewhat sheepishly.
“Getting off at Carmy-Yachoo,’ replied Nani, turning back to Pleakley.
“Ah, right. Although, it’s pronounced ‘kah-me-yah-choh-oh’.” He paused between the syllables to emphasise each one.
Nani furled her forehead. “Can we get on with what’s happening next? I don’t need a Japanese lecture.”
“Right.” He flipped his guidebook to a road map, presumably of the area.
“This is Kamiyachou Station,” said the alien, pointing to a blue square with a white icon representing a train inside, placed along a long yellow line, surely a main road of some description. “We’ll be following this road to this intersection, then we turn left. Tokyo Tower should be straight ahead.”
A white line ran alongside a purple symbol surrounded on three of four sides by some kind of street. Besides the purple dot lay strange and cryptic writing, which Nani supposed said “Tokyo Tower” in whatever language the guide was written in.
“What happens if we get lost?” asked Nani.
“As long as we get to the intersection, we should be able to see the tower from there,” replied Pleakley. “Even then, we could simply ask for directions.”
Somehow, Nani doubted Pleakley was the one to ask for directions.
She also doubted that the tower would be able to be seen from too far away. Pleakley was, of course, used to Kokaua Town, where the tallest building was the Mo’ikeha Hall and Community Centre, where Lilo had her hula lessons, and which could be seen at least half a kilometre away. He wasn’t used to tall skyscrapers, which could very easily obscure the tower unless one was very close to it.
Perhaps she was just overthinking things. Maybe Pleakley had already considered that. Perhaps he had some hologram of Tokyo City tucked away and had consulted that before they left.
And perhaps Pleakley would learn to eat cereal with a spoon.
Still, Experiment 419 appeared to be very fluent in Japanese, so if – no, when they got lost, Nani guessed they could rely on her.
She had gotten about fifteen pages through her book before the train started to slow again, and as expected, the overly polite woman announced “Kamiyachou Eki”. She sighed, placed the book in her knapsack, and stood up, grasping a pole to steady herself as the train came to a complete stop and the doors opened.
“Alright, this is us!” exclaimed Pleakley, closing his book and standing up himself. Nani silently wished he wouldn’t draw attention to himself or the rest of her “family”.
Jumba finished talking, lumbered to his feet and walked towards the door, with Stitch following behind on all fours. 419 and Lilo raced to the door, with Lilo almost accidentally knocking Pleakley over as she did.
426 was still talking to the woman with the box.
“Hey, 426, we’re leaving!”
He looked at Nani, slightly puzzled for a moment, and then realisation dawned.
He shook the woman’s hand.
“Well, thanks for the chat. I’d say ‘see ya’, but I’m on vacation so I probably won’t.”
She smiled, stood up, and walked to the door.
“Oh, I don’t know about that – fate has a way of tying people together. Take care!”
And with that, she briskly walked out into the station platform.
“Who was that?” Nani asked 426 as they both got off the train.
“I dunno, some substitute teacher or something. She said she was riding the train to ‘go where she was needed.’ Guess they have an emergency at some school.”
Nani sighed again.
“What?” asked 426.
“It’s just… you’re meant to be keeping a low profile,” replied Nani. “Disguises like the ones you’re wearing only work at a glance, and while most people seem to only see what they want to see, not everyone will be fooled at close quarters.”
She stared towards the ticket barristers, as if remembering something.
“There will be people who aren’t what they seem.”
A few moments of silence passed.
“Er, Nani?” squeaked a high pitched voice.
“As absolutely fascinating as it is, we should probably do our reflective thinking after we pass through the barriers.”
Nani turned to look at Pleakley, who was on the other side of the barrier – he was pointing back at a small group of about five people who had amassed behind them and were now staring at them impatiently.
“Er, right,” she said, and so she swiped her ticket, and then followed Pleakley towards a flight of stairs, with the rest following their lead.