Densha Days


asi_icon.gif luther_icon.gif monica_icon.gif

Scene Title Densha Days
Synopsis Asi drags Luther and Monica on a trip to tourists sites near her home.
Date June 21, 2019

Keihan Rail Line, Osaka, Japan


Asi's hand rolls off the back of the escalator railing as the steps crest the upper level and deposit her on the landing platform. All around them is the sound of trains coming and going, arrivals and departures pleasantly heralded by tones and announcements all in Japanese.

It's been a while since she's made this transfer — exchanging the so-called bullet train for local lines — but the old, familiar acts are hard to shake. After waiting for Monica and Luther to join her, she nods them both over to the empty queue lane for the ninth car, one hand in the pocket of her jacket while she drags a smallish bag along with her. Glancing up at one of the schedule boards only after she’s settled in line, she lets out a sigh at what she sees.

"We have a few minutes before the ours rolls through," Asi admits, leaning down on the grip for her hard-shelled travel case to collapse the bar back down into the top of it. No benches are nearby, prompting her to look like she's considering sitting on her luggage. It's only for a moment, ended with a click of her tongue as she scans up and down the platform. Behind them, at least, are an assortment of vending machines to make up for the lack of seating. (Though, no trash or recycling next to them. #japanthings)

"Should be enough time to grab a drink, if you want it," she suggests to Luther. Eating, drinking. There's snacking options.

The past couple of weeks have been a ride for Luther. Like the train they're waiting for with its starts and stops, yet stuck in a loop, the man has alternated between fits of restless activity and crashing out, and a few episodes of returning late or drunk back to the AirBnB. Some might muse he's homesick already, or the culture shock of the country has rocked his boat and knocked off the internal gyroscope somewhere. Especially notable was when the arrangements for Raquelle's mother, Azami Cambria, to travel to the United States had been started.

He still hasn't really apologized for the other day on the rooftop with Monica either. But he did clean up the glass of the shattered whisky bottle at some point later that day, and avoided the topic of her handicap as much as he avoided talking about Miles around Chess. And today, an invisible cloud continues to hang darkly over pinched, angled brows as Luther stares away over the course of a thousand yards.

When he's addressed, Luther turns to Asi and levels that storm-grey stare at her long enough to look at her, then to the vending machines with the visible effort it takes not to sigh at the mere sight of Japanese splashed over the boxy line of offered food and drinks. His rumble is short, gruff at the edges, resigned at its core. "I'm not thirsty."

"Oo, snacks," Monica says as she comes up to the platform behind the others. She makes a quick trip to the vending machines for a drink and some chips in a flavor she can't read. Not that it seems to bother her. This is supposed to be an adventure, after all. When she rejoins Asi and Luther, she settles in to wait, popping open her chips to try them out. She has to pour a couple into her mouth, but that's just adaptive living.

If Luther was looking for it, he might notice that there's no hint of the upset she was going through on the roof the other night. In fact, she looks like she hasn't a care in the world as she watches the trains go by.

"So where are we going, Asi?" It isn't that she doesn't like surprises, it's just that her experience with them has not been pleasant very often. And now she likes to know things— or, at least, she's trying out knowing things instead of letting herself be dragged along or directed.

"I have a day and a half planned for this," Asi remarks with a lift of her head. She's only a little proud. "A bit of Kyoto, a bit of Kobe, then we hop a train back. Or, if the crowd shouts for an encore before the weekend is over, we ride the line further. Hiroshima?" She seems to think that's a good enough bonus round. "Have to get in some of that sightseeing you're officially here for, right?" It's half a joke, but she's also just glad to spend the time catching up and getting to know them both a bit better. It's a good excuse for it.

Asi knows little enough what to do with Luther, though; the Raytech Security chief was little more to her than his record and the brief interactions they'd had previously, followed by the news he'd been hospitalized. For possibly months, by the sound of it.

So she doesn't press the topic, like she presses little with him at all. She had hoped the trip would reveal something he finally likes so he enjoys himself some, but that also might be too tall an order to fill. Finding a person's heart through their stomach, for example, required a little willingness to share what they might be willing to try. Maybe at some point it will hit her to try that buffet option, if all else fails.

Her gaze lifts as another announcement rings out, and she grabs ahold of the handle on her bag. "This is us," she gestures with a nod, and when the doors part, the moderately-packed train spits out only a handful of people from their chosen car before it's their turn to board.

What to do with Luther, when he gets this way, is a mystery many have tried to figure out. But the main method for now seems to be to let him be, allowing him to resolve what comes to mind - if anything is in rolling around in it. That space is soon occupied with attention turning to the sound of Monica’s snacks. Luther’s gaze shifts to the colorful packaging, and after a beat of watching his friend consume the chips, suddenly makes his own announcement. “Be right back.” He shuffles out of the line, leaving the ladies to amble to the vending machines.

Plenty of time for the women to discuss any variety of topics passes. And by the time the train they’re meant to get on arrives and people have exited the train, by the time they have to move to get on board, Luther still hasn’t returned.

Maybe he’d had some trouble with the machines? Maybe he got lost in his own thoughts? Whatever the cause is, it’s down to the wire as the singsong tone and announcement in Japanese that the doors are closing sounds…

Luther blunders his way into the train at the last moments, sidestepping roughly. He pushes into a salaryman who looks annoyed, but at the sight of the large bear-like man who’s shoved into him, declines to do anything more than swallow his pride. Rude, dude.

The reason for Luther’s delay lies in the man’s hands and slightly bulging pockets. He plops himself into position back by the ladies, burdened with a heaping number of chips bags, a couple bottles of some kind of sports drink, a can of black tea, and… small plastic balls and oblongs from the gachapon machines. There’s at least five of them.

Monica heads for the train when Asi points it out, but she lingers near the door when she realizes that Luther isn't with them. She watches, ready to step back out if he doesn't make it but clearly annoyed the longer he takes.

"He's been in such a mood since we got here," she says, as if he were a misbehaving child or a pet who got off the leash.

And then he comes barreling onto the train and Monica looks upward and shakes her head as if asking why me. "You're making Americans look bad, you know that, right?" She looks over at him and her expression gives way to confusion as she really takes in what he's burdened himself with. "Made sure you got all the toys?" she asks, more teasing this time.

Asi figured Luther would come sooner, so she's watching the door with anxiety when he finally barrels through. At first all she can do is let out a long breath, relieved he's aboard. Then she notices everything else about him and just … stops moving. She blinks slowly.

What even.

How he had enough time to grab as much as he did and still make it back is a mystery as much as how he didn't drop any of it. "What…"

She's working through it.

"There's better souvenirs, you know," Asi says with some mirth, expression still deadpan.

Having to adjust in his seat around his new bounty of items, Luther does little more than grunt a vague apology that hardly sounds sincere. Once they have the chance to count, there's more like ten of the tiny plastic balls in varying colors and sizes.

Monica's teasing gets her a look (don't even start!) before Luther lightly tosses one of the randomly colored prizes at her. "Help me open it," he requests of her. And then, to Asi, he holds out one of the others to her to partake. If she wants. "They won't take up as much space in the luggage," he notes as if this were infallible logic.

Either way, he busies himself with the task of unveiling the mysterious prize kept within one of the spheres, carefully peeling off the tape and cracking open the ball to reveal an odd but cute figurine wrapped in clear plastic and accompanied by a folded paper pamphlet of the toy series inside. "Look," he points out to the pair as he holds it up. "It's a banana, but it's also a pigeon. Weird." Weird… but his, now.

The train ride might be a long one.

Monica catches the ball, but blinks at Luther. "You want the lady with one arm to open these? Rude."

She's teasing him, although it is true that the task will be more challenging for her than it is for him. She finds a spot to sit in, thanks to people feeling bad about her missing arm probably, and holds the sphere between her knees while she works on opening it. It takes a bit, but she manages it in the end. And she holds up a polar bear on a surfboard. It gets an odd look, but she looks past it to Luther. "Trade you for the Banageon. I think this one is a comment on climate change." Too heavy a topic for a toy less than two inches tall.

Asi simply holds up a hand when she's offered the chance to participate, still standing in the center space. She's good, for now. Besides, what if she helped and they opened and repackaged all of them before the 30 minute train ride was over.

Then what would Luther do with himself?

The catch so far is pretty good, as far as these things tend to go, and she almost smiles. Monica's pull in particular, and her wise commentary on it, is priceless. "I don't know," Asi muses in regards to a trade. "I think he's enamored with it."

Somewhere in the space Asi is speaking, a gasp erupts from the other side of the train, a quarter of the way down the car. "Mama," a voice erupts over the very quiet din created by train and passengers.

It's a tiny gasp. A tiny voice. Belonging to a small girl rapidly tugging on her mother's sleeve while they sit side by side.

"あの女を見て! あたしのようよ!"

Her other arm peeks from her sleeve, skin until elbow where it's overtaken by a sky blue plastic. The rest of her arm is prosthetic. The girl's mother hasn't seen Monica yet, only occupied with trying to quiet her daughter, who excitedly exclaims, pointing until her mother grabs her flesh and bone hand, "あたしのよう!!"

Asi turns at the sound, brow slanted in concern for just why Monica is being pointed out … but then she sees. Her look relaxes, and she lets out a soft chuckle under her breath before looking forward again.

Carefully, Luther twists the Banageon around in his fingers as if the item were made of far more expensive and delicate material than the colorful plastic it is in reality. Enamored, an accurate description. But he cuts a glance to Monica, to the offered Climate Change Warning Surfer Bear, and after some deliberation he holds out the Banageon to trade. There are plenty other vending machine prizes to consider, and by no means are the deals sealed with Luther, it would seem.

And in the middle of his unveiling of another mystery good, the little girl's voice pops in and he looks up as well, locating the source of the voice. It doesn't take long for him to figure out who - what - the girl is pointing at. "Looks like you got an admirer," he rumbles to the one-armed woman.

Monica takes the trade with a grin and she holds onto the odd little toy for a moment to look at it more closely. And what could be more adorable than the unholy merging of a bird and a banana?

She looks up at Luther's words, catching sight of the girl and meeting her enthusiasm with a gentle smile. She glances to Asi and Luther, then gets up from her seat to cross over toward the girl and her mother. First, she gives the mother an easy smile, but her focus turns to the girl soon enough. Crouching down, her smile broadens and she holds the toy out toward her. A gift. "Hey girl," she says, even though she's not at all certain she'll understand her. "I'm Monica. This is for you."

Asi watches the exchange from afar, wondering if she’ll need to put in a word or two of translation. Ultimately, she figures Monica’s a big girl. She can handle it. The mother of the wide-eyed girl lets out a note of surprise and murmurs something to her daughter, who just sits there stunned for a moment when her new real life hero actually comes over and talks to her.

Never mind the language difference!

She understands, to some extent, though. Not to mention, her mother’s encouraging her to say thank you. The young girl grins wide, a tooth missing from her exuberant smile, and accepts the gift graciously. She mumbles something that sounds like an approximation of an English thank you, looking down at the little bananageon. She sets it down in her lap, then excitedly looks back up, talking in Definitely Not English now.

Her mother smiles apologetically, intervening. “She asks about your arm. She says it is like hers.” And in the interim, the little girl seeks to prove it, tugging on the prosthetic merely strapped to her arm, the plastic embedded with sensors rather than her herself. Before her mother can stop her, it’s pried free. “Asuko-chan.” she chides the girl, appropriately mortified at how she tosses the mechanical arm aside on the seat next to her with all the grace a six-year old can muster. It lays over and almost nudges the leg of an older gentleman sitting nearby.

Asuko doesn’t mind. She offers out her arm for viewing, letting her elbow bend so she can better, more proudly show off the nub beneath the joint. “みてみて,” she enthuses, because Monica can definitely understand her, she’s sure. “同じだよ。”

After all, they’re the same.

Asi looks back at Luther, the hint of a wry smile visible at the corner of her mouth. “Hopefully she likes it as much as you did.”

When Asi looks back at Luther looking on, she’ll see the man watching with far less ease in his posture. His mouth pressed into a flat line, shoulders stiff as they wobble in time with the train’s overall sway. Shortly then it’s clear that while he’s gazing in the direction of the interaction between Asuko and Monica, it’s like his focus is elsewhere. Elsewhen.

Then all of a sudden, one of the small cans of a drink in Luther’s grip slips and clatters loudly to the floor of the train, startling him out of his reverie. He fumbles further in confusion, looking a bit wildly around as if he’d just heard a negation gas can tossed down, sucking in a deep breath to hold… and release when he realizes that this isn’t a danger zone. Luther blinks several times, and resumes the search for the drink can that’s rolled under the seat.

Also, to hide his embarrassment in the moment for interrupting the peace of the train car further.

For a moment, Monica considers telling something close to the truth. After all, she lost her arm to an exploding time machine, and she's pretty sure the girl would appreciate that. And maybe if the girl spoke English, she would go there. But since what she says has to be filtered through an attentive mother, she opts for something more generic. "I lost mine in an accident," she explains, "and my prosthetic is getting some work done." But for Asuko, she rolls her sleeve up over her shoulder to show her own stump— albeit decorated with cybernetic hookups for the second arm she lost. Instead of dwelling on that, she smiles at the girl and gives her a nudge— shoulder to shoulder.

She looks back over to Luther and Asi at the sudden noise and her expression is momentarily troubled when she sees the state Luther is in. But, she turns to Asuko's mother. "She's a great kid. Strong. You're doing good," she says, "I should get back to my friends. But it was amazing to meet your daughter." She reaches over to fistbump the girl before she goes, noting, "Stay rad, Asuko."

But once she says goodbye, in her way, she hurries over to Luther's side. "You're okay, big guy," she says, her hand squeezing his shoulder. "You with us?"

There’s a lot there to translate even without the mention of time machines, and it’s likely watered down anyway. Monica’s reveal of her super cool super-arm implement receives awed appreciation anyway from the young girl. There is so much she would like to say and chatter about, and she seems like she’s ready to just go on and do it anyway after she looks at their limb difference side by side with a measure of pride, but then the can drops and goes rolling, instinctively drawing looks from almost every other person on the train car. The young girl might have stared furtively, wondering about the odd reaction the man had, but she’s too enchanted with Monica’s presence.

“Thank you,” Asuko’s mother says to the compliment, her head dipping politely, gratefully. “For talking to her. She has never met anyone like you before.”

Maybe it’s why she looks a little confused at the fistbump at first, but the girl catches on. “Bye bye!” Asuko chimes, sensing the goodbye. Only then does she start listening to her mother, grudgingly putting her limbs back together much more quietly than she’d thrown them apart.

Asi continues to stand next to Luther, a vaguely concerned expression on her face though she’s not certain how to reach out or bring him back to the moment. A lifetime ago, she worked on prosthetics meant mostly for war veterans, but it’s not an experience she’s lived herself. The reverie isn’t something she’s equipped to approach or handle, and she’s not even aware of that until Monica returns and offers her words of comfort.

All she can do is look to the side, looking over the LED map above the door that shows the next stop. Out the window, she judges how close they might be based on the scenery that streaks by… for all the good it might do. “About 20 minutes out,” is all she can provide to be helpful. “Though we can get off at Kyobashi here in a minute, if you think you need it. There’s a mall. Places to walk. Distractions.”

She might not understand, but she tries anyway.

Luther presses the cool metal can onto his head. There'd normally be the urge to gulp down its contents, but they've been in the country long enough to know the rules posted in every car. The line of tensions eases slightly under faint squeeze of Monica's hand. "I'm fine," rumbles out of the man with a clearing shake of his head and several forced blinks. "I'm fine."


His apology finally comes and it sounds rough, originating from a deeper, darker place in his thoughts. A place and time in the past, triggered from something in watching the little girl. Climate Change Surfer Bear disappears into pocket as he shoves his fist into it. A heavier, settling sigh escapes the man.

Asi's offer for an early exit doesn't get an answer right away. Instead, Luther defers to Monica with a look. But while they're still on the move, he doesn't have a decisive opinion.

"The little girl," Luther notes, glancing between Monica and Asi. Speaking of distractions. "What happened to her?" The submeaning lying beneath seems to ask more specifically, what happened to her arm?

"Let's go hit up that mall," Monica says to Asi, giving her a quick nod, "we'll hop back on the train after. I've still got to find something for Cesar's mom." As if this side trip were a favor to her.

She looks back to Luther at his question, shaking her head a little. "'s not really our business," she says, as far as what happened to the girl. "What's important is that she's not letting it get her down." And really, it's a good reminder for Monica that she is also more than her missing limb. It's all too possible that Asuko will have a longer lasting impact on Monica than vice versa.

When their course is decided, Asi lets out a quiet note of acknowledgement and leans forward to start helping gather the rest of the collectibles together so Luther has less to worry about in making his way to the door. One is shoved into a pocket, two held in her offhand and she nods over to the exit. "This is us, then," she advises, the train already coming to a slow as it enters the larger station.

When they disembark, Asuko calls out "Bye bye!" after them far louder than her mother would like her to.

She doesn't care. She's met someone like her for the first time in her life.

And there's a special power in knowing you're not alone.

When they step off the train, a pleasant voice rings out overhead advertising the next arrival.


Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License