The Cavernous Life of Safety Ninja, Part One
上品な女性が事務所に入り、安全忍者の日記はほとんど盗まれた – Jōhin’na josei ga jimusho ni hairi, anzen ninja no nikki wa hotondo nusuma reta

5th of May, morning
Five days until Tannoy Clong returns

The cave was smokey from the fires of the factories, like a hard-working and admirable bear mascot. I’m Safety Ninja. I’ve got a hat that I found, and a revolver I found also. The hat is for wearing, and the revolver is for wearing on my hand when I shoot people. (After giving them clear warning and indicating the safety is being switched off first.) I’m a private eye.

I tipped my hat upwards so I could see better. I had my feet up on my desk, which was very low so I didn’t have to lean back in my chair and risk potentially falling out of it. My office was painted in dark greys and whites, and through my door’s smokey-glassed window, I could see the imprint of my name: ‘Safety Ninja’.

I picked up my bottle of Bourbon, which I had bought from Aleya for eighty dollars and a short prancing dance, which she laughed at. She is not laughing now I have her Bourbon, though!

I poured it into a shotglass, and grimly took a swig from it. It tasted foul, but it was better than the heady heights of Che Guerana.

There was a knock at my door, and the silhouette of a lady was probably responsible. She was shaped like one of those ancient Greek wine jugs, and had long, flowing hair, unlike a Greek wine jug. Her slender hands knocked twice again.

“Ajnin Ytefas?” she asked, from behind the door.

I snapped my fingers in frustration.

Curses! I should’ve written my name on the outside of my door. Well, I could always leave my door open, but that was just the kind of invitation a goon would love to get in the mail. The door handle would also present an elbow hazard to passers by.

I quickly scribbled a poem and flicked it under my door, so the woman could pick it up.

Enter my office
And we’ll talk about what seems
To be your problem

She read the poem aloud, and pushed the door open.

It was Mars. She was wearing her long, figure hugging dress, which was highly ill-suited for cave and desert exploration, as it reduced mobility and exposed her shoulders to potential sun damage. She moved across the room and half-sat on my desk, her legs dangling. I tried my best to keep my cool, however this was highly shocking to my sensibilities; her heels were even less suitable for caves and deserts than her dress, and from that position it would have been very easy for her to slip and fall from the corner of the desk.

“Hello, Safety Ninja,” she said.

I quickly wrote:

Mars! Sitting on desks contravenes standard office safety regulations. Also, how are you?

“I’m fine,” she said. “So, you’re playing detective now?”

I nodded, making sure my hat looked neat.

“You want a real scoop?” she said, leaning forwards and down a little.

I averted my eyes and gulped, because now her position was not even ergonomical!

“There’s a man you need to find,” she said. “He’s the Writer.”

I frowned. That didn’t make any sense, there were two writers.

Robert and I, of course.

Why come to me with this information? I wrote.

“You’re in the right position for this,” she said. “You’re the most sensible looking out of all of your friends.”

I adjusted my tie, which I had made out of a narrow strip of safety tape, with pride.

“Find the Writer,” she said, “and you’ll get to the bottom of the whole thing.”

She pushed herself up off of the desk, much to my relief, although many of the papers I’d put there now slid to the floor. They were a clear slipping hazard, but I ignored them for the time being, as other issues were more pressing. It would, however, to be remiss of my to make this entry without stressing that as soon as Mars had departed, I did of course pick them up and return them to the desk, placing a sweet potato from Venus on top of them to prevent any such future occurrences.

But that is, of course, mostly unimportant, comparatively. Where was I? Ah, yes, Mars. (In that I was dealing with Mars the god; not that I was on the planet itself, though technically that was and is also true.)

I asked Mars for more information to go on, since she clearly knew more than she was telling me.

“That would be intervening,” she said.

I wondered if ‘intervening’ meant something else on Mars. Or to Mars.

As she made to leave, I felt it my duty to ask about something that had been concerning me. And for once, it was not the fact that things were unsafe.

Mars, I wrote. I am Safety Ninja, not Relationship Advice Ninja, but I am worried about you and Haizea.

“Yes?” she said.

I wrote:

What were once blossoms
Of genuine affection
Have crumbled to dust.

“…yes,” said Mars.

I took this brief admonition as a sign that neither of the women were used to speaking about their relationship, to each other or unrelated parties. I stood, making sure both our knees were clear of the edges of the desk, and held my arms out for a hug.

Mars stared at me.

I quickly pretended that my arms were out because I needed to stretch, and I gave a silent yawn to make this more convincing, though of course I later realised she could not see my mouth beneath my cowl.

She walked to the doorway, and looked back at me over her shoulder.

“Find the Writer,” she repeated, with a smile.

And then she was gone.

I stood up, and got my coat, which I had painted bright yellow to go with the rest of my clothes. Sliding it on, I checked if my revolver was loaded (it was) and stuck it in my pocket.

Then, on reflection, I decided that I didn’t really need it, so I stuck it on my mantlepiece.

Locking up the office, I stepped down into the street, and instantly felt the tension of a million unsafe things. There was no point in meditating to discern them, because my ninja magic senses were useless here: there were no safety laws in the oni undercity, so technically none of them were being broken.

I realised I would have to use the other methods at my disposal, and so I set off, asking some of the less immediately threatening oni I met for help and directions – though most ignored my notes, or squinted at them and continued walking. Writing this now, it reminds me of the journey I took from the Hidden Mountain in Osaka to the Kangalordship of Woolongatta in Australia. It was long, and arduous, mostly because the plane had a small screw missing, which bothered me so much I couldn’t enjoy the in-flight entertainment (the movie version of Pub!, a popular musical). After touching down in Moorabbin Airport, a small nation-state run by the Bilby Khaganate, I was astonished and disappointed to learn that my ninja luggage had been lost in transit! Buying the necessities from a trading caravan and stowing them in my far more reliable ninja pockets, I rode a camel to the southern end of the continent, briefly stopping to rescue Martin and Robert from the Faeries. I then followed them to Island Island, paddling on a coracle. If I was questioned, my cover story was that I was a professional kuroko puppeteer. If people asked why Huntingtonforth Island would want a puppeteer, I would inform them that he was exploring Oriental techniques for doing up the laces of a revised version of the collapsible hiking boot. Thankfully, the only people to query me were some wombats in a tinny; though they had consumed a quantity of beer, and their concerns came off as frankly more jeering than genuine.

It wasn’t until I spoke to an oni wearing a trenchcoat that the situation became any clearer. He attempted to sell me a watch; though I noticed it had ‘Property of Hibiya’ written upon it!

Why is that watch covered in English writing? I wrote to him.

“Eh?” said the oni. “Sorry, pal, I can’t read.”

I pointed furiously to the writing on the watch, made a shrugging gesture, then pointed to the oni for explanation.

“The writing?” said the oni. “I, uh…I took these new and legitimately owned by me watches to the Writer, so he could personally customise them for…uh…me.”

He pointed to the watch stating ‘Property of Hibiya’.

“That there says ‘Property of’…my name,” he said. “And these other watches are also different ways of spelling my name.”

He glanced at the note I had written, which I was still holding in my hand.

“Which, I mean, uh… I don’t know the details of, o’course,” he added. “You’d have t’ask the Writer about that. He’s up North.”

I bowed politely, then left the trenchcoat oni to his own devices (though I strongly suspect that many of the devices I was shown were not, in fact, his).

And so the mystery of this Writer deepened!

I must now break off writing, as several oni are attempting to steal my diary in order to goad me into fighting them. They seem to believe that it has mystical powers, which is ridiculous, although given the usual state of my life, I wouldn’t be surprised if it turns out to be somehow true.