(( This'll be gradually expanded as I go, eventually forming a full story. Yay! ))
Just getting to Japan was a difficult task, even for someone like Kyle who could cross continents in minutes using Agartha's maddeningly large network of branched portals. If both legend and the almost nonsensical wisdom of the Buzzing were to be believed, the locations of many capital cities across the world were no coincidence. Ley lines wormed their way around the globe like a magical circulatory system and when early mankind had deigned to settle, they had been inexorably drawn to the largest founts of such power. The fact that two of the three largest Societies were based in a capital city only served to support the theory.
The detonation of a Filth bomb in a corner of Tokyo near the Orochi Tower, while thankfully not spreading beyond the borders of Kaidan, had adversely affected just about every single Agarthan portal with an exit point on the Japanese landmasses. Despite efforts to reinforce and ward the portals against the "interference", the portals had had a reputation for being temperamental at the best of times. Nevertheless, even with Agartha, it was impossible for Kyle to jump to Bibai directly. Like a railway, the portal network simply didn't serve everywhere and, in order to reach his destination, he had to travel to Sapporo before taking the Hokkaido Expressway for the last sixty-three kilometres.
But, in somewhere like Japan, technology could only get Kyle so far. Without any real knowledge of Japanese beyond a couple of words and phrases that, combined, still didn't amount to enough to be considered a conversational grasp of the language, assistance might as well have been a galaxy away. It wasn't long after he started making his way along the streets of Bibai on foot that, as he'd expected, he started getting odd looks from passers-by. It was inevitable, really. After all, when was the last time anyone here had seen a six-foot-two English guy with electric blue hair strolling around?
He'd managed to find himself a hotel he could use as a base of operations - the Hotel Suemono on Chuo Street - which, luckily, was within sight of a supermarket and a handful of restaurants. Checking in and getting himself a room had been nothing short of a nightmare. An AR app on his phone could take care of the written signs with ease but, when it came to verbal communication, it was laborious and slow; mostly his own fault. "Hello!!"
The voice - greeting him in accented English out of nowhere - took Kyle by surprise. It took him a moment before he spotted the voice's owner: a likely senior-year high school student who, along with a couple of her friends, had passed him a few seconds earlier. He'd tuned them out for the most part, chalked up their conversation as just idle words among a trio of friends. But when he heard rapid-fire utterances of "aoikami!"; something his time in Kaidan had taught him meant blue hair, along with a tone of voice that sounded like someone was being goaded, he found that he'd inwardly braced himself for something like this.
"Hey!" It seemed that, no matter where in Japan he showed up, Kyle got some sort of attention because of his hair. Maybe, he surmised, it was because he looked like an anime protagonist. He didn't need to be cosplaying in order to look as though he was one who'd sprung to life. This time, the attention was working in his favour. It was the first time - not counting the receptionist at the hotel - that someone had tried speaking to him in English and, as a local student, there was every chance that she'd know something about where he was headed. "Your... hair looks awesome!"
"Thanks," Kyle replied with a brief bow of his head. "Are you able to help me?" As well as doing his best to shed most of his accent in order to make himself sound more comprehensible, he resisted the urge to launch into a full-length explanation of his reasons for being in Japan in the first place. "I need to learn more about the school ruins out in the forest."
"Oh..! The, ano... marui gakko! Round school!" The look on the faces of the student's friends turned to one of mild concern as they realised the intent of the random guy they'd passed on the street. He was here to go out to take a look at the haunted ruins of a schoolhouse that had been closed down years before any of them - even Kyle - had been born. "A lot of stories say... the school... is?" From how she'd been thrust forth to speak to him over either of the others, Kyle guessed that she had the best grasp of English out of the three of them. Of course, English was probably a hellish language for anyone to learn; especially for the Japanese where, to them, the sentence structure and even the way one recited their name was 'the wrong way around', let alone dealing with other linguistic tricks such as homophones, silent letters and the like. If the concept of trolling was able to speak, it'd probably do so in English.
Nevertheless, Kyle stayed quiet. "No-no... was!" The student got a brief eureka moment as she solved the problem of which tense to use on the fly. For her, this was great practice. "The school was closed, uh.. long time ago. No-one knows why. Tables and... chairs; all stay. People say that only shiryo - spirits of the dead - go there. Some say even worse things."
"That's why I'm here," he announced, with more than a hint of pride in his voice. He doubted anyone this far away from London knew who Knightsbridge were. It likely didn't help that they were named after a part of that very same city. So he kept things simple. "I want to find out what's causing it. It's been haunted for nearly fifty years. There has to be a reason."
"It's my job." Kyle said, responding to the incredulous question with a smirk. "I work for people who take a closer look at... weird stuff. Scary stuff." Now the high schooler was looking at him like he was slightly insane. Then again, he was affiliated to a society that the vast majority of people on the planet either weren't aware existed or refused to believe existed. He fought against both people from other such organisations and the supernatural on a near-weekly basis. Not that long ago, he'd been in the forests of Washington, gunning down wendigo that had been cybernetically enhanced to achieve the power of invisibility. A haunted ruin was, if anything, almost mundane by comparison. "Do you know where I can read about that school? The history? The more I can learn, the better."
"Maybe, uh... city hall? Or the library!" Both had the potential to offer more insight, at least into the history of the building itself. Right now, anything would have helped; records detailing the school's closure, newspaper articles. He just hoped the same app he was using to decipher the road signs could manage something so complex. "You find them; go back to Chuo Dori, away from, uhh... the train. Follow street all the way. Both buildings next to... swim pool!"
At least now, Kyle had something to go on. The language barrier was a bridge he'd cross when he inevitably got to it again. The city hall and a library, both situated right next to a swimming pool at the end of Chuo Street; luckily enough, the same street on which his hotel was situated. "That's gonna be a big help. Arigato gozaimasu." With a smirk, he bowed his head again, reciting one of the few Japanese phrases he actually knew. The student grinned. "That's good! Are you... learning?"
"Trying to. I really don't know very much Japanese." Kyle chuckled, holding up his customised phone. He knew how to greet people, ask restaurant staff what they recommended and... that was about it. "I've been using my phone just to read all the signs." That got a laugh out of the trio, especially when the student supplemented their curious inquiries with a brief translated response.
"If you are... going to stay; look at the school ruin, I could help?" Kyle's eyes narrowed slightly. "No, not with shiryo! Um... help... you... change words..?"
"Oh, to translate? The things at the library?" That definitely made way more sense than his original thought. "Uh... sure. But... don't you have schoolwork to do?"
"I hate to study. To help you sounds more fun!" Fishing her own phone out of her pocket, she rushed over to Kyle. "My name... Araki Mitsuko! Uh... no. Mitsuko Araki. I, uh... forget. Family name is last in English, heh." After a few keypresses, Mitsuko held up the phone's screen. Displayed on it were a series of kanji Kyle couldn't make heads or tails of but, nestled in the middle, were a series of numbers. "You can call me; ask for help. I know where the library is. So... what is your name? Number, too!"
"My name's Ky-..." Quickly, he realised yet another linguistic hurdle. In Japanese, the letter L pretty much didn't exist. Deciding to alleviate the confusion and expedite at least half of the process, his attention dropped to his phone. "Hold on." Some quick button presses of his own followed. After quickly entering Mitsuko's number into his contact list, he delved into the internet and, after some quiet thought, he finally turned his own phone around. Sitting above his own phone number were a series of katakana symbols; the purpose-built alphabet the Japanese used to phonetically spell foreign words.
"It's, uh... my way around but... there you go," he announced triumphantly. Mitsuko's smile widened as she realised what he'd done. "Ky... le Mardian!" With the exchange complete - and Kyle inwardly wondering what someone like Maya would think about him scoring the number of a girl fourteen or so years his junior - Mitsuko pocketed her phone. "Nice to meet you, Kyle!"
"Nice to meet you too, Mitsuko." With each repetition of his name, he could hear Mitsuko doing her best to condense the three syllables - "Ka-i-ru" - to match how he would say it; nudging the second one up against the first and trying to shift her tongue to produce a different sound for the last one. "I'd better be going. Thanks for the help!"
Parting ways, Kyle and Mitsuko set off in opposite directions; Kyle continuing on down the street while Mitsuko rejoined her companions, presumably to do something school-related. While he could have made a beeline straight for the ruins, he'd quickly realised it was folly to do so without adequately preparing himself. His time on the wendigo case; both alone in Pennsylvania and with Annie, John and Maya in Washington, had led him to draw certain parallels between working a Knightsbridge case and hacking into... well, anything, but primarily computer systems. The more supplementary research was done beforehand, the better equipped he would be to pull the job off when the time came.
He spent the better part of the next couple of hours strolling around town, making mental notes of various landmarks and other places that might be useful during his strange stay in Bibai; grocery stores for miscellaneous supplies, restaurants, the police station, anything that resembled a clinic or medical centre. But what Kyle was really looking for was proving to be much harder to track down. While bees such as himself could instinctively sense Agartha portals and anima wells, no doubt a capability bestowed upon them in much the same way as their superhuman physical capabilities, finding an anima well in Bibai had quickly grown infuriating.
Whenever he felt that the flow of anima was pulling him in one direction, the sensation would roll around to sit behind him after travelling a few hundred metres like a broken compass. He was wandering aimlessly within minutes and, after turning to head down yet another street, he realised it was getting him nowhere. The plan of simply following compulsion clearly needed a rethink. Kyle had expected things like this purely based on the fact that he was in Japan, but to experience such phenomena eight hundred miles away from Tokyo? To him, it didn't seem plausible. The Filth in Kaidan hadn't ventured out from that tiny slice of Tokyo and, for the time being, it seemed to have no intent to.
So if the Filth wasn't to blame - because he'd seen no evidence thus far that it could have been - Kyle's next target for the blame settled on the schoolhouse ruins. As well as being the only remotely supernatural thing he'd either heard of or read about within a hundred miles, they were only five and a half miles away; on the town's doorstep in comparison to Japan's capital. Which led him to another question: if they were responsible for these disruptions, why was it the case? Anima could be suppressed or diverted by any number of means; spiritual, technological, magical... there was simply no way for him to know which until he actually got out there.