- "Abnormal I"
- "Abnormal II"
- "Abnormal III"
- "Special Hunter"
- Translator’s Notes
Author: Mariko Shimizu
Volume 2: Abnormal
It was 65 days after the incident involving Suzume.
It had been raining for 61 days straight.
The rain was probably unusual for this season, but no one remembers what normal weather is like anymore.
When I returned to my office in the relentless downpour, I found a strange girl sitting in my chair.
“What are you doing in here!”
The girl was startled and froze, but didn’t try to run away. I grabbed her arm with my left hand, while my right checked the state of the computer she had been tampering with.
“That hurts. Let go. I didn’t break anything.”
“If you had broken anything, I’d be hurting you more.”
All of my programs and files appeared to be intact.
The girl was peeling my hand off her arm, one finger at a time.
“See, I didn’t do anything wrong.”
“You’re in no place to say that – it’s a crime to enter an office without permission. What exactly were you trying to accomplish here?”
“...hunting for treasure.”
“It’s useless trying to imitate a Baroque. I’m very accustomed to them, seeing as they’re my business.”
“I know. You’re Kitsune Kanazawa of the Baroque Shop. I’m Ruby Watanabe, I’ve been a freeloader my whole life.
She seemed so stupid that I couldn’t even get angry.
Ruby was a strangely unbalanced girl. Short in stature, with the delicate hands and feet of a child. Despite this, her figure was unexpectedly feminine and her voice oddly calming to listen to. She could easily pass for any age between 12 and 22.
“I really am looking for treasure. My treasure, well, it’s pictures of monsters.”
The large whites of Ruby’s eyes stared at me, as if waiting for a reaction.
“Have you heard the rumors? That the perpetrators of the recent Grotesque Murders are not human, but actually monsters?”
As soon as she mentioned monsters, I knew that she must be joking so I replied by pretending not to know.
“I think you’re just pretending not to know about the rumors.”
“Fine, but the rumors don’t even explain what’s going on. Some people say the monsters look like squid, some look like gigantic tires, others are covered in spines – the claims are all over the place. There are even those who say there are a whole bunch of them.”
“It’s pointless anyway, there’s no proof considering everyone who has seen one is dead.”
“But they say that people who run Baroque Shops have images of monsters.”
“Where are you even getting rumors like that?”
“Dunno, it just suddenly sprung up out of nowhere.”
Who could have said that? Even Suzume shouldn’t know that I copied his data while he was unconscious.
“Kitsune, don’t you remember a Baroque child named Meg Hasegawa? Some time ago, Kitsune wrote a cute Baroque for that child entitled “Princess”. That child was my friend. So when I heard people talking about Baroque Shops, I immediately remembered you.”
“Oh, I see.”
So, amongst the many Baroque Shops, it was simply a coincidence that Ruby came to mine – maybe.
“Is Meg still doing well as a princess?”
“No. She was a victim of one of the Grotesque Murders.”
“... Oh… I see…”
What Ruby was referring to, the Grotesque Murders, are bizarre murders that have been on the rise lately. One victim had been sliced in two from shoulder to torso, and appeared to have had chunks of their flesh bitten off and eaten. All of the victims had been discovered in similarly horrendous states. These cases were distinguished from the so-called Baroque murders because the forces applied to the bodies of the victims far exceeded anything a human would be capable of.
“Meg was killed by a monster.”
“Really. That’s too bad for Meg, but I only deal in Baroques, and certainly not in old comic book stories.”
And anyway, I didn’t have any sense of decency that would obligate me to help Ruby.
“It’s true though! Look, look at this!”
Ruby suddenly began unbuttoning her shirt. Pulling it off her shoulders, she turned her back to me as her hands covered her round chest, revealing a slender back tinged a bluish white. On her back were freshly gouged wounds. From just below her left and right shoulder blades extended long patches where the flesh had been carved away.
If angels really existed and you tore the wings off one, I imagine it would leave similar wounds behind.
“I was right there when Meg was killed by the monster. Suddenly something hit me in the back and I fainted…”
I was lost for words.
“Kitsune, there really are monsters, okay!? Don’t you have any images of them? Please tell me Kitsune!”
I could see Ruby’s back trembling.
Volume 2: Abnormal
“Why do you want to go to the scene of the murder, Kitsune?”
It was dark and quiet outside the center of the city.
Despite the rain pouring down on us, Ruby skipped along as if she was avoiding puddles.
“It seems the police have already marked this area as off limits.”
“Aren’t you scared? There might be ghosts here, it is District Zero after all.”
“I don’t believe in ghosts, and I’ve been to District Zero several times.”
“But even so…”
Ruby’s doubtful eyes looked up at me from underneath her spinning umbrella.
“I don’t have any photographs, but I’ve seen data that mentions something called an “Abnormal”. Ruby, if you don’t mind taking me to the place where the incident occurred, I can gather valuable information for future investigation.”
I hadn’t believed Ruby up until recently, so it would only be natural for her to be skeptical of me suddenly going along with her story.
In fact, half of what I’d told her was a lie. I did have an image file of something abnormal. It was one of the secret files Suzume had hacked into – when I first saw it, I only registered it as an “object”, neither human nor animal. If I followed the three keywords Fumi left me: Sense Sphere, Angel, Abnormal – well, all that remained was “Abnormal”.
And then there was Ruby. Although she hadn’t seen it herself, she had said that she encountered something abnormal.
“I get it. You thought my back was sexy and fell in love, so then you just had to help me.”
I pushed Ruby into a puddle.
“You’re hooorrible. My shoes are soaked. You’re going to reimburse me for these.”
On the back of the petite girl, who was currently raging under my shoulder, were what certainly must be wounds left by an Abnormal. Those wounds, like the torn-out wings of an angel, held the same aura of truth as Fumi’s words.
“Really, I don’t think anything is going on.”
However, there might be something I could – having seen an image of an Abnormal – make sense of that the police couldn’t. Despite this, the reason I wished to confirm the existence of Abnormals was a mystery even to me.
As we turned the corner, the red of a traffic light flashed.
When a person passes by a sensor, a recorded message is automatically played.
“Warning, enforcement of public order is exceedingly poor past this point. Women and minors walking alone are at elevated risk. Please refrain from entering this area at night.”
Beyond this point lies the abandoned structures of District Zero. The public has been left to defend themselves when inside due to the high crime rates of the area, and so the district was given a safety level rating of zero by the local government.
Ruby and I descended further into the darkness.
After passing through several similar looking alleyways, Ruby eventually darted into a small building.
The first thing we came across was a staircase leading down to the basement. The stairs, so narrow that they barely allowed clearance for even one person, terminated with a rusty iron door. Ruby put the full force of her body weight into turning the handle of the heavy door.
“We used to play down here. It used to be a store of some kind, but now I don’t think it belongs to anyone.”
In keeping with her recollection, there appeared to be a sort of black countertop to the left of the entrance, complete with a table and worn out chair that had been flipped over some time ago. There were no signs of any inhabitants, save for broken bottles in the corners of the room and the multitude of pictures someone had drawn on the walls.
A fluorescent lamp popped and flickered to life. The place looked like it would have been a perfectly ordinary hangout for ill-natured brats, except that every surface – from the countertop to the floor to the walls – had been coated in sticky, dark red blood.
“This is the place where Meg and three others died.”
Ruby stated this expressionlessly while staring blankly at the wall.
“I preferred to hang out with the Baroques here over ordinary kids like myself. The Baroques never cared what other people thought of them. Meg came here often, as did many other Baroques. The pictures drawn on the walls were done by a Baroque child. I think they’re good.”
Over half of the drawings were obscured by blood, and the other half resembled some kind of boring abstract painting.
“You call these good drawings?”
“The artist insisted that these weren’t merely drawings, more like a real psychic photograph of the universe.”
I sighed and looked down.
It was then that I noticed a small light-brown lump where the wall met the floor. It resembled a mantis egg I once saw, with fine bubbles coating its surface.
What would a mantis egg be doing in a place like this?
Ruby had continued to talk, undeterred.
“Don’t you find talking with Baroques interesting? If you so much as react the wrong way, there’s a very real chance you could be killed, but that makes it all the more exciting.”
Looking closer, I could see the same lumps scattered all around the counter and floors.
“... On that day, everyone was just muttering about the Grotesque Murders when suddenly we heard a horrid scream, but something slammed into my back when I tried to see what was happening.”
“Ruby, do you know what these mantis egg things are?”
“I don’t know… At first I thought someone had just knocked into me from behind. But soon there was this terrible pain that came in waves and before I knew it, I had fainted. I wonder if I fell in a weird position like this.”
Ruby lay down, face first, on the floor.
“My face felt all sticky… and there was this super weird smell… and like a deep red work of art that looked like a tower… and the tower had hair and fingers in it. I could tell they were Meg’s fingers from the color of her nail polish… Something ripped Meg apart and piled the bits into a little tower…”
Strange. There seemed to be one of the foamy brown lumps, where previously there had been nothing… as if they were multiplying.
“But don’t you think it’s weird? I was facing the door just before I was attacked from behind. Nobody came into the room. There were only us five girls in here, and nobody was strong enough to have turned Meg into artwork. The three others beside me had their throats cut…”
I started to regret coming here.
“Yes. That doesn’t seem like something a human could do.”
A human being couldn’t have done that. Unless there was another entrance to this room that we weren’t aware of, there could be something lurking invisibly just out of sight. And then –
“Come on. We have to go, Ruby!”
Ruby seemed confused for a moment, but upon seeing my face, she nodded in agreement.
I shuddered as I reached my hand out for the door. The handle had become coated in the mantis eggs.
The light brown surface had a texture not unlike the wrinkled skin of an old man, through which an innumerable number of holes had begun to open – holes that looked as if semi-translucent larvae were about to come erupting out of them.
Even the gap between the door and wall had become filled in.
Ruby’s hand grasped the back of my raincoat.
“I just remembered. About the monster rumor I heard that day… They told me the monster looked like a ghost covered in foam. It really was true.”
A large lump of foam fell at my feet.
I drove my shoulder into the door.
At that moment, something enormous fell from the ceiling above me-
I escaped it by a hair’s breadth and retreated further inside the room to where Ruby was standing. The thing blocked the door. It was an inverted triangle of flesh, with light brown foam sticking to its surface like dust. Where one would expect shoulders to be located on a human, there was only a deeply embedded face. Two arms hung languidly from its sides, the claws of which were pointed like the talons of a bird. The deathly ominous, insane thing just stood there silently.
From within their cavities, I was sure I could feel its two eyes staring straight into my heart.
Volume 2: Abnormal
I had a gun inside my raincoat, but I had only ever held it – and certainly never shot it.
The Abnormal stood before me.
Its head, which reached slightly higher than my own, was embedded between its shoulders, giving it the appearance of someone clutching their freshly severed head to their chest.
We stared into each other’s eyes – although you could say the Abnormal’s eyes more closely resembled the black sockets of a skull – for what felt like an eternity. But as is often said, it lasted only a moment in reality.
In the midst of the unbearable tension, Ruby lightly cleared her throat. Taking that as a signal, the Abnormal raked a claw forward. Each razor talon must have been the length of a human hand. They looked as if the merest contact would result in them digging deep into tender flesh, instantly liberating eyes or internal organs, depending on where they were aimed.
Diving out the way and falling onto my back, I drew the gun from inside my coat. The creature was left vulnerable by the centrifugal force of its attack and I fired a shot into the base of its arm. The impact of the recoil on my shoulder was less than I had expected, but my back was numb from where I had fallen.
By chance, I had landed on Ruby’s foot. Considering she hadn’t screamed in reaction to the Abnormal’s claws, I was rather annoyed by her protesting over something as minor as this.
Through no skill of my own, the shot had somehow managed to land. The Abnormal began to shriek. I didn’t think I had been using a particularly powerful gun, but its arm dropped away from its shoulder.
Had I done it?
I hoped that we were at least halfway through this ordeal.
The surface of the Abnormal’s body began to swell and produce a burbling sound that reminded me of something boiling, before the entire body collapsed into the frothy mantis eggs I had seen earlier. The foam enveloped the fallen arm before the mass reshaped itself into a complete Abnormal.
Was it completely amorphous? Only the claws appeared to be solid, with the rest of the body being soft like minced meat.
The Abnormal had drawn closer to us, little by little, but now appeared to be wary of the gun and so kept its distance from us. The Abnormal’s lower body was comparatively underdeveloped and its weak insect-like legs dragged across the floor.
What do I do...
“No! Don’t come any closer!”
It was already too late by the time I grabbed Ruby’s arm. She had thrown her only weapon – the knife I had given her – at the Abnormal. The knife lodged deep in its abdomen. Despite the knife handle sticking out of its stomach, the Abnormal continued to steadily close the distance between us. Did it not feel pain? I couldn’t read those hollow eyes. I couldn’t even tell if our opponent had any kind of evil intent. That scared me.
It would be a much more painful death to die at the hands of some insane, randomly flailing creature than it would be to die at the hands of an opponent with a directed grudge.
The Abnormal moaned while flexing its shoulder. It came closer. We fled into the back of the store and I covered our retreat by pulling the trigger twice more. One shot went wide, while the next blew off another portion of the Abnormal’s body. Once more, the figure collapsed and began to repair itself. Ruby and I took the opportunity to leap over the counter.
We were in a crevice within the old kitchen that was formed by stacked tables, chairs, and the sink.
“What are we doing in such a narrow space!?”
“Do you have a better escape route?”
Overhead, claws swept downwards, toward my head. The nails were the color of filth. I used one of the tables as a shield. There was a dull impact, and the Abnormal’s claws scraped along the tabletop. The resin coating of the table’s surface peeled away and rained down around us. On every second or third attack, the table would fall apart and I would need to grab a new one, but my arms quickly grew numb from absorbing the shock of the continuous blows. There was no escape. The next time the claws fell, both Ruby and I were done for.
Ruby suddenly stood up as she uttered a cry of anger.
“You want to kill me!? Then get on with it and just kill me!”
“Stop it Ruby, you’re really going to die!”
“Doesn’t matter. No matter what, I’m-”
I didn’t hear the rest of what she said, she was already vaulting over the counter. I was surprised by how agile the movement was. The Abnormal had no sense of mercy however, and its claws were already poised to fly at Ruby’s delicate neck.
I fired every bullet I had remaining. One of the shots glanced off one of the Abnormal’s claws. This appeared to cause its strike to barely miss, but despite the blow no longer being fatal, blood still oozed from Ruby’s torn clothing.
Ruby dropped and cowered on the spot. The Abnormal had received hardly any damage. There was nothing we could do. Miserable, I closed my eyes.
I heard a strange moaning, as if something were caught in the Abnormal’s throat. At the same time, I noticed the water that had begun to fall from the ceiling.
“What the hell!?”
It was coming down so heavily that I couldn’t look up with my eyes open, but I noticed the water smelled like rusted iron. Perhaps one of my bullets ricocheted and hit a ceiling sprinkler or broke an aging water pipe.
The Abnormal collapsed and melted where it stood. Small lumps of its body were still skittering around the floor, covered in bubbles. The claws of both hands were desperately trying to gather the individual parts back together again.
The formless Abnormal was water soluble.
I flew over the counter. I scooped up Ruby who was blue in the face and shivering before kicking open the door and escaping up the flight of stairs.
It was raining outside. Even if the Abnormal repaired itself, it won’t come after us when everything was this wet.
We walked side by side out of the ruined city, as Ruby insisted she could walk. We heard a strange sound in the distance.
“What’s that sound?”
“I don’t know. I’ve begun to hear that sound recently when I’ve been out walking District Zero at night.”
“Anyway, things went pretty well back there, huh? You know, the way I played decoy so you could attack it.”
“You were planning to act as a decoy that whole time?”
I could only remember it as an act of despair.
“Everything worked out okay, so it doesn’t matter. But Kitsune, you are a crap shot. What would you do if you accidentally hit me?”
“...Apologize, I guess.”
I didn’t mind the verbal abuse, since it looked like her wounds would be okay. We’d catch a cold if we kept walking around in this rain, however.
I suggested we go back to the office. I’d lend Ruby some proper clothes and let her go home. After that, I’d have some thinking to do over the Abnormal image file I had in my possession.
The Abnormal that appeared in the store looked completely different than the Abnormal in the photograph I had. It was as Ruby had suggested earlier, there was more than one type of Abnormal, perhaps many. If that was the case, then there should be other people who had witnessed an Abnormal and lived to tell the tale. If I remembered correctly, the information Suzume had gathered was only about 70 days old – so if the information was this widespread already, then this was a secret that wouldn’t remain hidden for long.
“Kitsune, there’s something on the hem of your coat.”
I looked and saw a light brown bit of foam, roughly the size of a little finger, clinging to my coat. A part of the Abnormal’s anatomy.
I pulled it off and threw it away without a word. The mantis egg foam dissolved in the water and immediately disappeared, but the chill running along my spine did not.
I abruptly quickened my pace. Ruby rushed to catch up with me, hugging her injured arm to her chest.
The strange sound was growing closer.
When we were only a few dozen meters away from exiting District Zero, something suddenly appeared in our path. It was dark, and the distant streetlights only just illuminated its awkward silhouette, but I knew what it must be.
I felt a much more intense ferocity from it than I had from the foaming, amorphous Abnormal earlier.
I reflexively reached inside my coat before remembering that I was out of ammunition.
Volume 2: Abnormal
You could best summarize it in a few words as a gigantic newborn baby. It had a large head and a round belly that bulged like a frog’s. Then there were its swollen, half-open eyes that appeared as if they’d been torn open, rather than having natural lids. A tear of blood trickled from its eye. It began blowing bloody bubbles from the corners of the small vertical mouth located under its nose.
Its hand, which appeared to be disproportionate to its head, held a knife as long as its gigantic face. No, was it that the tip of its hand had transformed into a knife?
The infant Abnormal approached us, head swaying as if drunk.
Ruby’s already small body appeared to shrink in on itself as she recoiled from the thing. We had no weapons left.
“Get out of here Ruby!”
We had no options remaining but to run back into the depths of District Zero. The infant pursued us at speeds one would not think possible of its short, bow legged stature.
“I can’t go on… My wounds hurt…”
Before we could go much further, Ruby fell to the ground.
“Are you okay!?”
Ruby neither responded nor moved. Fear had pushed us to our limit, but the pain won out in the end.
The Abnormal was very close now.
Somewhere, I heard the strange sound again. Was it another Abnormal? No matter how far we ran, it didn’t seem possible to escape from this city of the Abnormals.
“Owaa” uttered the Abnormal – in a voice not unlike that of a kitten – as it raised its heavy looking knife into the air. I was reminded of a grim reaper wielding a sickle. Whomever that sickle falls on will surely be taken straight to hell –
A gunshot echoed in the rain.
The Abnormal’s half-open eyes suddenly widened completely. With no iris, the eyes were pure white. The Abnormal crashed onto the asphalt, blowing blood bubbles all the while.
Ruby, who appeared to have only been preparing herself for the worst, slowly opened her eyes. It was such an absurd stroke of luck. I shook my head.
“Did we make it?! Are we gonna be okay?”
A man approached from the direction the Abnormal had appeared from, shining a white light.
Tall. Wide shoulders and long legs. As he came closer, I saw that his face and figure radiated a charm that I did not whatsoever. Without dropping his warm expression, he shot the Abnormal which was still on its back.
Once in the head, in the neck, in the chest, and the abdomen.
“Do you think that’s enough? Sure is lucky that they issue us such nice guns.”
The man smiled at us while adjusting his portable spotlight, which had become too intense at this short distance. He was the first Special Hunter I encountered, a member of the Abnormal Death Squad. His name was Task Takada.
“So, are you with the police?”
“I guess we’d be closer to the army than the police? Or maybe mercenaries. You know, like mercenaries from those old films, aren’t they cool?”
Task was an innocent young man. He kindly answered our questions while we waited for his comrades to arrive.
“If you are a mercenary, then is the government hiring you?”
“It seems like it, but for now it isn’t official. It’s supposed to be officially announced later when this sort of thing – at which Task kicked the Abnormal carcass – has been researched a bit further.”
“What exactly is this?” I asked cautiously. I wanted to maintain the appearance that we had only been attacked by chance.
“The higher ups are calling them Abnormals.”
Task had let “Abnormal” slip so easily.
“You can’t just leave them to their own devices, you have to kill them as soon as you find them, stop them from breathing completely. Some guys prefer not to work with guns, so they study their behavioral patterns and just burn them to death.”
“...it’s that simple?”
“Anything else you want to know?”
Task didn’t seem to take any of this very seriously. A man who just liked dangerous games and chose to fight Abnormals over a part time job in fast food – but maybe that was enough for his organization. Mercenaries need skills, not motivations.
“Are you cold?”
Task was calling to Ruby, who answered only with a slight movement of her neck. I realized she’d been strangely quiet for a while now. Odd, considering Task had already treated her wounds and the fear of the Abnormal was long past.
Suddenly, the strange sound clearly moved toward us. As I stiffened, Task only smiled and said:
“It’s okay. That’s just a signal from HQ. Sometimes it’s used as an alarm to alert us to Abnormal activity, but that’s not always the case.”
Task signaled by flashing his light down the alley. It wasn’t long before two cars had pulled up, from which a couple of men ran over. Some of them were carrying tools I had never seen before, which resembled gigantic blender blades.
“Target eliminated at 0:44 AM” Task reported to one of the men.
“With just a gun?”
The other man appeared to be the squad leader.
“Unacceptable. Your orders were to stop its breathing entirely.”
The leader signals the other squad members with his fingertips. The men surrounded the Abnormal carcass.
With a whine and a high-pitched growl, the huge blender blades began to rotate. Some of the men removed knives from their waistbands.
A burst of blood coated the heads of the men.
The grim reaper infant was hacked into chunks of meat.
“By the way, you have basic ID, right?” the leader asked us.
“I believe that police and tax officers can’t request ID unless they first show their own.” I replied.
The man produced a card from his green belt. “Special Government Employee.” It was the first time I had seen the green emblem, which held more authority than even the police. The Special Hunters, although they were a cobbled together force, were very real. That is to say, the Abnormal threat was also very real.
Ruby and I silently showed our ID cards to the man – due to the nature of my business, I carried a fake ID for occasions such as these.
“Thank you very much.”
The man slid his ID card back into its magnetic holder.
“Excuse me, but to prevent civilians from panicking, I’d like you to keep quiet about what you’ve seen here. I appreciate your cooperation.”
Considering how unreasonable it was to expect us to keep quiet, I wondered if the ID check was because they were going to start monitoring us from now on. That seemed pretty likely.
“Of course, I guarantee your safety. Once our organization has been publicly announced and we’ve succeeded in eliminating the enemy then, the record we’ll be keeping on you will be deleted immediately.”
That was suspicious. I shrugged.
“The metallic parts cannot be dismantled.”
The leader looked back at the sound of the Hunter’s voice.
“Very well. We’ll run them through the electromagnetic crusher at headquarters.”
The Hunters were dyed red from head to foot in the blood of the Abnormal after having methodically reduced it to a mountain of flesh.
Task had picked up the Abnormal’s jawbone and was plucking the sharp teeth out of it one by one.
From behind me, Ruby began gasping and sobbing.
“Are you going to throw up?”
Ruby shook her head.
“I know it’s awful. But they’re monsters.”
Tears began to fall from Ruby’s eyes. The shock of having almost died while fighting the Abnormal just now must have caught up. Her shoulders quaking, she muffled the sound of her sobs by pressing her face against the back of my coat.
The term “Abnormal” used to refer to the enemy creatures in “Baroque” is originally written using kanji that can be read in two ways: either the more judgemental sounding “igyou” (grotesque, strange/suspicious looking) or the more clinical “ikei” (something with an atypical appearance). I went with “Abnormal” because it was as close to a middle ground as I could find in English. The official Atlus localization of “Baroque International” uses “Meta-Being” which outright misses the dual-interpretation by making up a brand new fantasy term. Likewise, I’ve been using the more accurate “Sense Sphere” to refer to what Atlus deemed “Consciousness Orbs” (a term which completely omits the sensory role implied by the original name, which translates literally to “sensory ball”).
- As this story was written and serialized before the original Sega Saturn release of Baroque, it includes many designs and concepts that were either cut or modified by the time of the game’s release date. The first Abnormal encountered, for instance, is an apparently cut design we don’t get to see in-game, but the Playstation visual novel adaptation “Baroque Syndrome” changes it into a Liar. Unexpectedly, the gigantic infant creature is retained in the visual novel, and can be partially seen in Eisaku Kito’s concept model for Baroque’s protagonist where its head forms the surface the protagonist stands upon.