NEOGENESIS

Illustration by Max Currie

“Who are you?” Kent stood before a young woman in an elaborate costume with the help of an improvised cane, one of Oji-san’s cosplay accessories.

“I’m ‘Yoko,’ from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.” The young woman held up an imposing gun, assembled from fiberboard and PVC pipes spray-painted blue. “She’s a villain.” The gun stood taller than the young woman, up to Kent’s chin.

“Amazing costume.” “Yoko” seemed flattered, honored even by Kent’s curiosity and praise. In shiny black bikini top, belted hot pants, and long, fingerless gauntlet-style gloves, white go-go boots over thigh-high stockings and a bronze-colored wig, the young woman stood out, even among her cosplay friends. Oji-san’s friends had come in from neighboring towns to dress up like anime and manga characters, drink and talk costumes and characters. There were eighteen members in the group, which they called Masquerade. Of the eighteen, eleven had turned up for the party in the temple’s community center.

“Most of it—the bikini top and pants—are made of PVC vinyl. The gloves and boots—I had to buy and modify them—are leather. The gun is made of various elements.” She glanced at Kent’s cane, the eyepatch and Band-Aid, and his gold smoking jacket. “Anata dare?”

Kent didn’t know how to answer—who was he? Former celebrity, John Lennon look-a-like, homeless and out-of-work manga character, clown, hunted prey? “Yoko” didn’t seem to know who Kent Richman was at all.

“You look like a lord or a pirate, some sort of mercenary wizard, I’m not sure. Or maybe like Sherlock Holmes, but I don’t know this character. What’s he from?” She ran a finger along his jacket lapel. “Silk, nice.”

Kent considered lowering his glasses and offering A-re?, but moved on to the next player, not in the mood to play RI-CHU-MAN-SAN! or anybody else.

Bullet

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