Welcome to Snake Hands
Late April, Sunshine 60 Street, Ikebukuro
“‘Snake Hands’? What’s that, like a knock-off of Tokyu Hands?”
Golden Week was soon coming to Ikebukuro.
In the crowded evening restaurant, a high school student brought up this rumor.
It was in the middle of such silly talk (not unlike any other rumor that high school students gossiped about, and would likely forget about altogether in a matter of hours) that the phrase popped up.
“Oh, you mean the Headless Rider’s rumored boyfriend?”
“That’s right, the totally black one! Wasn’t he there the other day when the fake mass kidnappings happened? Looks like he had a part in that, too.”
“A part…? What sort of part?”
“Who knows? They said he single-handedly beat up a whole bunch of bousouzoku or yakuza, or something…”
“Bousouzoku in the fake kidnappings? What are you talking about? Weren’t those a publicity stunt by some fan of the Headless Rider’s?”
As the boys and girls rambled on, one person among them suddenly tilted his head.
“That’s not what I heard, though – ”
“Well, what did you hear?”
“From what I heard, Snake Hands is this freelancer in Ikebukuro.”
“Freelancer? What’s that?”
The boys laughed at how little the word fit in with their image of the Headless Rider.
“Well, what they said was, you go to this information site, click this ad, and you can ask them to do basically anything around Ikebukuro.”
“Like cleaning my room?”
“Not really, they’re not like handymen…how should I put it? Arbitrating fights, being your bodyguard when you’re in trouble, that kind of thing.”
“What ‘kind of thing’ is that?”
“Doesn’t that sound scary to you? Seems to me that hiring them would be like inviting yakuza to come for you.”
A girl said as she mimicked cutting her own face with her hand. The boy who was the first to speak answered:
“Anyway, it’s just a rumor. I doubt anyone’d actually go online to ask them to do anything, the whole thing’s just too sketchy.”
“Only fools who’d do that in the first place will be taken in.”
“You crack me up.”
“Speaking of which, have you guys bought Hijiribe Ruri’s new single yet?”
“Oh yeah, that one is good.” “ –––– “ “ –– ”
The gossip dissipated without a trace as other conversation topics took over.
As if nothing had happened, the students proceeded to finish their meal and leave their seats.
But Mizuchi Yahiro, who was sitting at the table across from them, found the phrase “Snake Hands” resurfacing in his head, over and over.
“Is something wrong, Yahiro-kun?”
Tatsugami Himeka, a girl in his year, was sitting opposite him. Her voice startled him from his reverie.
Kotonami Kuon, the green-haired boy sitting next to him, saw this and spoke in a teasing voice:
“Oops, what do we have here? Do you get so uncharacteristically nervous when you’re sitting opposite girls?”
“Maybe…? Maybe I am feeling nervous.”
Kuon sighed as Yahiro tilted his head, wondering.
“And you just straight out admit it like that? Look, Himeka-chan might be used to your wooden manners, but what about Akane-chan? How is she supposed to react?”
As he said these words, Kuon’s eyes fell on Awakusu Akane, the girl in the uniform of a nearby middle school.
“Uh, I’m okay, really. Sorry.”
Akane bowed her head. Yahiro also bowed his head in return.
“I’m the one who should be saying sorry. According to Kuon-kun, I can be a bit odd.”
“No, you’re not odd at all. I’m sorry.”
“No, I’m sorry.”
Unable to stand any more of Yahiro and Akane nodding at each other, Kuon interrupted them.
“Just how long are you two going to keep doing this?!”
“S-Sorry about that…”
“STOP! This topic ENDS here! No more ‘sorry’-s!”
Himeka, who was watching the scene, seemed to have sensed that it could have gone on endlessly, for she opened her mouth in time to change the topic.
“It’s good that your sempai returned to school safe and sound, Akane-chan.”
Akane nodded emphatically.
About two weeks ago, her sempai was kidnapped by a “Headless Rider” and went missing. It was now clear that it was a fake kidnapping, and the girl returned safely.
The incident created a sensation both on TV and on the Internet for one or two days. Since no one died, however, it came to be seen as a pre-arranged runaway. It was reported as a mere curious incident, and attention was soon drawn away from it by the assaults on passers-by in Tokyo.
“It’s amazing how everything just went back to normal like that.”
“The teacher was really mad at her, and it seemed like people were saying all sorts of things about her…but now everyone just seems to think that she got a week off for no reason.”
“Ah, of course. Fake kidnappings or whatnot, what matters for middle school kids is that she didn’t have to go to school…but for something that involved so many people and created such a sensation, it sure was obliterated fast from memory by all those assaults on passers-by.”
After Kuon said these words, Yahiro replied:
“It’s good that it was. I’m glad that it didn’t get out of control.”
“Ah…I’m not saying that I wanted it to get out of control, okay?”
The green-haired boy hastened to clear the air, presumably because Himeka, who was right in front of him, was family of one of the perpetrators of the fake kidnappings.
The “sempai” that Akane talked about was Himeka’s younger sister. What was more, Himeka’s older sister was also involved in the fake kidnappings as one of the parties responsible.
“It’s great that your older sister looks like she can be out of the hospital soon, Himeka-chan.”
“Yeah…seems that she can even be allowed back to work.”
“Ah, I see.”
Yahiro sounded relieved, while Kuon sounded surprised. Himeka explained further:
“The magazine Sis works for is trying to put together a special report on the kidnappings. They thought nothing would top a candid revelation from an insider’s perspective.”
“Wouldn’t people suspect that it was the magazine that staged the whole thing in the first place?”
“The magazine Sis works for doesn’t seem like they’d care…”
Kuon said, astounded, as he poked with a straw at the ice cream in the cream soda. Next to him, Yahiro smiled with some delight and said:
“No matter in what way, it’s really great that you sisters can live together again.”
“Well, I guess you can say that.”
The names of Himeka’s sisters weren’t mentioned in any of the reports, so they were not mocked at school.
Finding further relief in that fact, Yahiro went on and said:
“Yeah. You look much better now, Himeka-chan.”
“…I guess I do.”
Confronted with a conversation between the duo with similarly wooden manners, Kuon made a gesture that said “over” and spoke.
“Come on, what is with you two!? I’ll say it again! What is with you two?”
“Is something wrong, Kotonami-kun?”
“Eh? Did I do something wrong?”
Himeka didn’t move an eyebrow, and Yahiro simply tilted his head in wonder. Kuon scratched his head.
“For God’s sake, are you guys robots or what? Don’t you know how to flirt like a proper pair of adolescents?”
“What do you think you’re saying in front of a middle-school girl, Kotonami-kun?”
Himeka said calmly as she glanced at Akane.
Akane didn’t act like she minded hearing that from Kuon. In fact, she looked back and forth between Himeka and Yahiro, seemingly interested in where the conversation was headed.
Feeling left out, Kuon started mixing his cream soda, grinding and turning it with a spoon as he complained to Yahiro:
“Dammit, now that I think of it, since when did you start calling her 'Himeka-chan' rather than 'Tatsugami-san'? Are you after her? You are after her, ain't ya? I know you like Himeka-chan, you thickhead."
While complaining like an elementary school kid, Kuon sucked the slurry of ice cream and soda up through the straw. Without hesitating, Yahiro responded to his words:
"If it's a choice between whether I like her or hate her, then of course I like her. Himeka-chan is pretty, and she's nice."
Kuon looked at Yahiro with a pained expression, while Akane turned slightly pink and glanced nervously at Himeka's face.
Himeka herself, however, spoke nonchalantly with an unchanged expression:
"I don't dislike you, either. But I think it's still too early for us to talk about a romantic relationship, not to mention many more things should factor into a decision of that sort."
Yahiro nodded immediately at Himeka's words.
"You're absolutely right. Sorry, I shouldn't have said that."
"I don't think there's anything to apologize for."
Akane, still blushing, looked puzzled at the turn in the conversation. Kuon, with a scowling face, repeated what he said before:
"What the heck, what is with you two!? I'll say it again and again! Just what is with you two?”
After the conversation ended up going around in circles, Kuon, who had finished his cream soda, began to gradually change the topic.
"What an uneasy world we live in. Like I said, everyone's talking about those assaults on passers-by, and nothing else. Since the attacks became serial, they've started talking about a second coming of the Slasher, too."
"Ah, you've never heard of it, Yahiro? The Slasher incidents were quite the sensation about two years ago."
"Well, I've heard the rumors."
Back when he was researching Ikebukuro, he had seen people talk about "Ripper Night".
Some had theorized that the color gangs called Dollars and Yellow Scarves might have had to do with it, but the culprit was never found, and the case died a natural death.
"Didn't the news say that the perp uses a hammer, though? If that's true, it can't really be the same person, can it?"
"Who knows. Maybe the perp just had a change of heart. Maybe he's tired of seeing blood, and got really into knocking things."
As Himeka said these ominous words in a nonchalant manner, Yahiro nodded as if to say "That makes sense."
Himeka, having finished her salted mackerel set, spoke as she looked into Yahiro's face while the latter was munching on a pancake.
"Well, it's true that the attacker on passers-by is scary. But aren't we already involved with someone even more dangerous?"
"Eh? Who? The Headless Rider?"
Yahiro tilted his head with a fork in his hand.
After a moment of silence, Akane gasped as if she had just realized something.
"D-Did you mean me? I'm sorry..."
Being involved with the granddaughter of the head of Awakusu-kai meant that terrible things could happen to these people.
Akane, who was only too aware of this unsavory fact, thought that Himeka was doubtlessly referring to her. She had started to apologize when –
"I wasn't talking about you, Akane-chan. I'm sorry to have said something to make you worry."
Himeka, having apologized in return, named the "dangerous person" outright.
"...I was talking about you, Kotonami-kun."
As Kuon put on an exaggerated display of bewilderment, she stated her question plainly:
"...What is 'Snake Hands'?"
Yahiro reacted to these words.
His hand stopped in the act of eating pancakes, and he sneaked a glance at Kuon, who was sitting next to him.
Kuon, on the other hand, whistled in a forced manner as he looked up at the restaurant's ceiling.
"What indeed? Didn't those guys next to our table talk about that? I think it's some nickname for the Headless Rider's rumored boyfriend or something, you know, the one who was there the other day when that thing happened."
"Don't try to play innocent."
Expressionlessly, Himeka pulled out her smartphone and held it to Kuon's face.
Yahiro, too, craned his neck from Kuon's side to look at the screen.
As he did so, he saw the following words written there:
[We'll solve your disputes in Ikebukuro.
Looking for a missing person? Trying to get back at your bullies? Needing a bodyguard? There are no requests we won't take!
Snake Hands, Ikebukuro's Mutual-Aid Association]
That was all that was written on the webpage. There were no details about the types of work or pay rates, or even how they were to be reached.
If that was all there was to it, it seemed unlikely that anyone in their right mind would take it seriously.
"What's this? Some kind of wacko website?"
Kuon tried to laugh it off, but Himeka pressed on.
"It's only accessible via a hidden ad on what seems to be the website that Nozomi-san is running."
"So? Sis is probably having fun with it."
"Too much fun, I'm afraid, if after the right combination of tricks it gets you to this page saying 'We Got Information on the Headless Rider'."
After a moment of silence, Kuon exhaled in resignation.
"Your win, miss. I made it so that there was no way you could get that far just by clicking on it, but..."
"Puzzle solving and treasure hunts are sort of my forte."
"Dammit, I just didn't want to get a lecture from Sis..."
After complaining about his older sister, Kuon changed his facial expression readily and said:
"Well, that's alright. Himeka-chan, Yahiro, I was thinking that I ought to talk to you guys about it sometime anyway."
Himeka became alarmed, but Yahiro simply asked with a blank look on his face.
Facing his classmate, Kuon put on an evil smile and whispered:
"Yeah, talk. It's money talk, too."
Yahiro, who seemed to have finally begun to find it suspicious, looked alarmed as he lent Kuon his ear.
As Yahiro did so, Kuon maintained the evil look on his face as the corners of his mouth curled further upwards.
"Yeah, I made this delicious club to earn us money by solving Ikebukuro's troubles."
"The name of the organization is 'Snake Hands'...your unofficial nickname, Yahiro."
Kawagoe Highway, Shinra’s apartment
“Snake Hands, Snake Hands…Snake…Hands…”
Inside the spacious apartment, these words were being chanted like a curse.
“Dammit! This is ridiculous! Limbs on a snake? Not all things are good in excess! Have they never heard of the saying ‘Too much medicine is poison’? This is what people mean when they say ‘Less is more’! This! Is what they mean!”
Seeing Shinra acting all offended like a child, Celty shrugged in amazement.
[What’s up with you all of a sudden? Is it about Yahiro-kun again?]
“Exactly, Celty! Thanks for understanding! As expected of you! I knew our hearts had a telepathic connection! What’s yours is yours, and whatever’s mine is also yours! Except for your heart, because that is mine!”
His anger was gone in a matter of seconds, and he grabbed Celty’s hand with a sweet expression.
Responding to the gesture as she saw fit, Celty turned towards the laptop that Shinra was looking at.
What she saw was a discussion board where people exchanged rumors about “Snake Hands”.
[The guy with the Headless Rider that everyone’s talking about, seems like they’re calling him Snake Hands.]
[Where did you get that?]
[From the bousouzoku, you know, those “Dragon Zombie” guys.]
[They probably just made that up themselves.]
[So what? It’s not like anyone’s got a better name for him. “Headless Rider’s Sweetheart” is too much of a mouthful.]
[Speaking of which, is the Headless rider a ‘he’ or a ‘she’?]
[Rumor has it that it’s a ‘she’…so that would make Snake Hands her boyfriend.]
“Such horrible damage to my reputation! Celty’s boyfriend is me! The rumors are just multiplying instead of dying down! If this were to keep up, I’d be left with no choice but to thoroughly rewrite the Online Encyclopedia’s entry on the ‘Headless Rider’ to state ‘Celty is currently living with her boyfriend Kishitani Shinra. Every day of their lives is filled with love and making out’…!”
“Ouch, that hurts!?”
Shinra received a good knocking from a toy hammer made of shadow.
As her roommate rolled on the floor holding his head, Celty hurried to his side.
[Gosh, looks like I made it harder than I intended to…sorry about that, are you okay?]
“I’m fine, Celty. If the pain is from you, I’ll love it all the same!”
Having bounced back to his normal self, Shinra took the toy hammer made of shadow in his hand.
“I am jealous of Yahiro-kun, though. Getting hand-sewn clothes from Celty!”
[I’m not sure I’d call that hand-sewn…]
[I’m not giving you any.]
Without waiting for him to say anything, Celty stated.
[Since it’s you, if I set a precedent you’d probably just start making endless requests for other stuff.]
“Well…I can’t deny that.”
Shinra looked down with a disappointed expression. Celty sighed and said:
[So, well, you just…you just have to wait till your next birthday.]
As Celty typed these words with some embarrassment, Shinra froze for a second with his mouth open –
the next moment, his voice was filled with joy.
“Woo-hoo! Thanks, Celty! Thank you! I knew this day would come…this will be reason enough for me to keep living my way!”
[You exaggerate too much.]
“My birthday is the second of April, so only 11 months to go! I can hardly wait!”
As she saw Shinra cheerfully typing into his calendar a year from now, Celty felt relieved that he was at last back in a good mood.
At that moment, Celty’s cell phone – not the smartphone that she usually used for personal conversations, but the traditional Japanese-style cell phone she carried around as a work phone – began to ring.
“Oops, looks like you got mail, Celty…eh?”
As Shinra saw the sender’s name on the cell phone display, he went tense once more.
At the sight of these words, Shinra cried out.
“Dammit! This is what they call ‘Speak of the devil, and he will appear’! And you, Celty, why did you have to save it under that nickname? If you’re so fond of limbs on a snake, I’ll have no choice but to meld my genes with a centipede’s %&*^#@…”
[It’s not what you think it is.]
Having gagged Shinra’s mouth with her shadow, Celty took the phone in one hand and typed dexterously on the smartphone with the other.
[This ‘Snake Hands’ is not Yahiro-kun.]
As she clicked the “send mail” button on the traditional Japanese-style cell phone, Celty continued the conversation with Shinra.
[Didn’t I tell you that I took a new part-time job?]
[This ‘Snake Hands’ is the name of the place I work at, Shinra.]
- DURARARA!! SHx3 Chapter 1, Part I