Halo Twelve: Yuzuru:
She doesn’t talk much about herself. Her coworkers can’t figure her out. Marusa Yuzuru sat in the back of the lab, watching the other interns. Her face almost always never gave away any emotion. They never know what she is thinking. Yui has tried several times to start conversations with her when they are locating the Gates to the Apocalypse.
“So, what do you like to do for fun?” she asked her just before they went into Ikebukuro Station.
“Reading,” Yuzuru said.
“Ooo, what kind of books?” Yui asked.
“Just books,” the other intern said. She walked ahead of her colleague. The other intern stared blankly at her back.
“Okay then…” she said. Yui followed behind with her arms behind her head. Yuzuru only seemed to exist for work. She had the same mindset back when she was working at Chou Mori as an orderly.
Anna turned and looked over at Yuzuru as the Heartseed glowed bright indigo.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” she asked.
“Yeah,” Yuzuru murmured. Anna nudged her in the side.
“Come on!” she said. “Be proud of your work!”
“I am,” the other intern said. Yuzuru pushed up her red-framed glasses and walked out of the room. Anna and the other interns watched as the door closed behind her.
“What’s with her?” she asked.
“She’s always been like that,” Roc said in the back corner. Anna turned her head.
“Huh?” she asked. The tall dark-haired intern eyed her.
“Oh, that’s right,” he said. “You didn’t work with us at Chou Mori back in the day.”
“She barely spoke to anyone then and she still doesn’t talk much now,” Yayoi added.
“You’re just in the Self-Dense force,” Roc added. “You have not seen the combat! Shiga, Marusa, Ogawa, Iseki, and myself were in the actually army! We were in Iwo Jima!”
“We actually saw all the dead bodies and the blood,” Akihito said.
“Did you just compare working in Chou Mori to the military?” Yuka asked.
“It fits,” Roc said.
“Excuse me!” Kitano said over his microphone. “If you have this much time to stand around talking, get back to work!”
“Yes, sir!” the interns said. They all hurried back to their assigned labs for the day. Meanwhile, Yuzuru got started on her own work.
Emily awoke with a pounding headache. She groaned as she held her head.
“What’s happening to me?” the tadpole cried. Emily winced as she huddled into a ball in her bed.
“Are you okay, Emily-sama?” Taiyou asked across the room.
“No!” she cried. The girl took in heavier breaths. Suddenly, she lowered her hands. She turned to her spirit guardian familiar.
“Taiyou-san,” Emily said. “My head… It feels so much lighter.” Her small body began to tremble under the sheets.
“They did something to me again, didn’t they?” the tadpole girl asked. “You can feel it too, right?”
“Yes,” Taiyou said.
"So it’s not just me?"
Emily looked around the room. ”Midori-san?"
"Do forgive me. I still am getting used to this telepathic thing."
"Is this another experiment by them?"
"Yes. It’s so strange too. I was heading for my morning cram school classes when I saw three boys trying to solve a rubix cube. One of them offered me to try. So, I do. I ended up solving it in ten seconds."
"Had you ever solved before?"
"No. And I knew all the answers to all of the questions in my morning classes today too."
"My head feels so clear too. I can feel all of the cells changing in my body. This has never happened before."
"Do you think the others felt it too?"
"I don’t know yet. We’ll have to tell them right away."
“Emily-chan, are you up yet?” Emily heard from downstairs.
“Uh… yes, mom!” she said. “Hang on!” Emily jumped out of bed.
"We’ll talk later," Midori said.
"Okay," the younger tadpole said. Emily walked over to her closet to pick out something to wear. She paused and looked down at her hands.
“Taiyou-san,” the tadpole girl said. “Could you please go into the hallway while I change clothes?” The spirit guardian familiar rose to his feet.
“Yes, Emily-sama,” he said. She didn’t move until he left the room. Emily breathed in and picked out her favorite dress.
When she was younger, she grew up isolated. Yuzuru lived with her grandmother from the time she was a baby. Her mother worked aboard while her father wasn’t in the picture. She didn’t interact with either parent through the early years of her childhood. The little girl didn’t mind it. Her grandmother had plenty of books in her house. During the summer, they would spend the whole day reading. Sometimes, grandma would read aloud to the child. She enjoyed Yuzuru getting lost in the many fictional worlds they travel together one page at a time. One room was just filled with nothing but books. Every morning, the old lady would go out buy more along with the groceries, things for the home, and child needs. Yuzuru couldn’t wait to see what book her grandmother would bring home.
Now, grandma’s house was in the middle of nowhere in the countryside. Not many kids came out to Nagiso. Why would they? There wasn’t much to do anyway. Yuzuru didn’t mind it. She was happy with her books and grandmother.
By age ten, her mother came back from overseas and decided to change the dynamic. It started with trying to make her daughter more sociable.
“Mom, this is not healthy for a child her age to live like this,” Yuzuru’s mother tried to reason with the grandmother.
“She talks to the other children in school,” the old lady said. “Yuzuru-chan has the other villagers and me to keep her company.”
“That isn’t enough. She needs to interact with more children her age.”
“And you think uprooting her to the city will do her any better?”
“You can come with us. Bring your books too.”
The grandmother folded her arms across her chest. “I am not leaving my home and you will not take Yuzuru away from the only place that she’s grown up in!”
“Mom, don’t do this! I do not want to have to sue custody of my own daughter.”
“You will do no such thing! Yuzuru-chan is staying here!”
The whole time, the little girl hid in the hallway, listening. She held her hands to her chest. Am I going to be taken away from grandma? Yuzuru had been so used to how things were. She didn’t even want to hug her mother when she first came to the house.
“Do you know who I am?” her mom asked.
“Yes,” the little girl said in a quiet tone. She would even look her in the eyes.
“Do I scare you?”
“I don’t know you.”
“Well, I want to know you.” The light died from her face when her daughter stepped backwards. Her mother wanted to be in the child’s life now. The grandmother didn’t think this would work. In the end, Yuzuru lived with her for most of the year and went to stay with her mother during the summer. This arrangement worked, for a while.
Around noon, the tadpoles gathered at Shinra and Celty’s apartment. Shingen held out his tablet.
“As you all know,” he said. “You all are evolving again. We have been keeping track of all of your progress so far.” Tetsu gave him a strange look.
“You’re kidding…” he said.
“We have to keep tabs on your growth,” Emilia said.
“Why?” the fire tadpole asked.
“Is that a problem?” Shingen asked, glaring behind his gas mask. Taichi touched his boyfriend on the shoulder. Tetsu was quick to close his mouth.
“Right,” the older doctor said. “We will begin the test.” Tetsu glared at Shingen like he wanted to kill him. And so the tests began. First came the IQ test. Nothing too difficult, mostly college level. Shingen gave the tadpoles about two hours to complete it. Ten minutes later, the test subjects sat around looking bored.
“You’re finished already?” Shingen asked.
“Yes,” the tadpoles said. Emilia had already collected the tests and started grading them.
“Okay,” her husband said. “Onto the next test.” Next came the rubix cube test. All of them solved it in under ten seconds. Shingen and Emilia read the tadpoles through two more intelligence tests. The couple looked over their results together.
“It’s just as I thought,” Shingen said. “Can you all feel your bodies changing?”
“Yes,” Nami said.
“What does Tandeki plan to do with us with all of these experiments?” Mikado asked. “Turn us into gods?”
“He pretty much is,” Emilia said.
“It’s like I said before,” Shingen added. “You are far from perfect in his eyes. He’s trying to make you strong enough to survive the apocalypse.” Once again, the tadpoles looked upset to hear this. A collective groan filled the living room.
“When will it end?” Emily asked.
“Not until Kitano is happy, I’m afraid,” the older doctor said. “I don’t really know what to tell you. We will all monitor how your evolution is going and run tests on you when we see changes.” More groans filled the room.
“Why should we trust you guys again?” Tetsu asked. “How can we be sure you won’t turn around and use us for your own purposes? We don’t even know your true motives!”
“The way I see it,” Shingen countered. “You have no choice but to trust us at the moment. You have nowhere else to turn to. Do you think you can explain to everyone you know about what you are turning into? And how long did it take you to tell your partner there about your powers or what happened to you in Chou Mori?” Tetsu puffed up his cheeks and turned away. Shingen lowered his hands.
“My thoughts exactly,” he said. “We will keep track of your growth and no more keeping anything from us. We will find out any changes to your bodies sooner or later.” The tadpoles grimaced. Masaomi pulled Mikado into his arms. Taichi put his arm around Tetsu’s shoulders.
They may hate us for this, Shingen thought. But they have no choice but to trust us for the moment. Tetsu glared at the older doctor with such contempt.
Like Kitano with Yuka, Etsuko was grooming Yuzuru to be her protégée. The doctor first saw the potential back at Cho Mori. Yuzuru tended to the patients like a machine. She didn’t flinch at the screaming, attacks, and occasional blood. The orderly was also good with handing out medication.
If Kitano was going to recruit orderlies to help them with their secret project, there was no reason that Etsuko couldn’t herself.
Yuzuru was finishing up her shift on an early November night. The orderly thought she was going to go home for the night. She was at the book about to sign out when she heard someone call her name.
“Marusa-san,” someone said. Yuzuru looked up to see Etsuko peeking around the corner at her. The volunteer doctor motioned her over. The orderly pointed to the bridge of her nose with a dull expression on her face. Etsuko nodded once. Yuzuru walked over to the doctor.
“You wanted to see me?” she asked.
“Yes,” Etsuko said. “There is something that I wanted to show. Do you have the time?”
“I can take a quick, ma’am,” the orderly answered.
“Excellent,” the doctor said. “Please follow me.” Yuzuru followed the doctor down the hall. Etsuko walked up to Room 27.
“You see,” she began. “Kitano-sensei and I are involved in a very special project to treat a handful of patients here. Not all of us doing this, though. Just Kitano-sensei, a small number of orderlies, and myself.”
“What exactly do you do?” Yuzuru asked.
“Let me show you,” the doctor said. She pushed open the door. Akiko sat on her bed, twitching. Her hair was a mess and she was drooling. Etsuko walked over and patted the patient on the head.
“Shoujo A here has just had a nasty experience with one of the drugs we tested on her,” the doctor explained. Akiko’s eyes moved upward, glaring. She lunged forward, but her body moved like wet noodles. Etsuko held her down with one hand.
“Shoujo A will need her medicine to fix her right up,” she said. “How good are you with injecting needles?” The doctor’s eyes trailed over to the syringe on a silver tray on the tray next to the bed. Yuzuru didn’t say a word. She picked up the needle and picked up Akiko by the arm. It didn’t take her long to find a vein. The mental patient’s body tense up at the sharp point went into her skinny arm and then she went limp. Yuzuru pulled the needle out. Etsuko watched closely as the whole process took place.
“How did I do?” Yuzuru asked. Etsuko let down of the limp girl.
“You did great,” she said. “We will see you tomorrow for the next project.”
“Thank you, Asato-sensei,” the orderly said, bowing. “Good night.” She may have left for home that night, but she would keep coming back to the same project up to today.
Five days later, Kitano’s phone buzzed. He smirked when he read the message.
“Etsuko, come look at this,” he said. He handed the phone over to the doctor. She read the text for herself.
“Ah, the next gate’s been found,” Etsuko said.
“Yes,” Kitano said. “And now, it’s time we raise the stakes in the game.”