Halo Thirteen: Thursday:
Within twenty-four hours, Ikebukuro would be pushed further into the Apocalypse.
Yuzuru and Yui waited outside of Yagiri Pharmaceuticals. Yuzuru’s small crystal floated in midair on the black string. Yui whistled.
“Here?” she asked.
“Yes,” her partner said.
“Wow, this is the enemy territory,” Yui said. “This is going to take balls.”
“Is Hecate-san on her way?” the intern asked. Her partner pulled out her phone and looked at the screen.
“She should be here… right about… now,” she said. An uncharacteristically cool air blew past the interns. They looked up to see Hecate standing before them. Her silver scarf swallowed up her neck. Yui smiled as she held out her arms.
“Welcome, welcome!” she said. “We’re so glad you could make it.” Hecate looked at the building behind the gate.
“This is the place?” she asked.
“Yes,” the human interns said. Hecate looked at the building again and pursed her lips together.
“Ooo,” she said. “This gate looks like it’s more than I can handle myself.” Yui’s face dropped.
“But...” she said. Hecate put up her hand.
“Which is why I called in some back-up for this one,” she continued. “Meet my little sister, Lucy.” A slender girl with long white hair stood next to the dark-haired nightcomer. Her short black dress made her skin look much paler.
“Sup?” she asked.
“Do you know us to stay with you or anything?” Yui asked. “I mean, we can call our bosses and explain everything...”
“That won’t be necessary,” Hecate cut in. “Lucy and I will take it from here.”
“We’ll leave everything in your hands,” Yuzuru said, bowing her head.
“Thank you,” Hecate said. The interns headed back to Rampo Biotech as Hecate and Lucy turned invisible.
Ikebukuro began waking up for the morning. The children left for school with their orange paper lanterns. Their parents silently prayed that their children wouldn’t get spirited away or end up dead. More and more of them started to take their words seriously.
Meanwhile, Kitano sat in a lab, brooding. He stared at a 3-D image of a beating heart.
“Most unfortunate,” he muttered. The therapist turned when he heard the door open.
“Oh, good morning,” he said. Etsuko took one look at the beating heart on the monitor.
“Staring at that image again?” she asked. Kitano frowned at the graphic pumping imaginary blood through an invisible body.
“We are looking at our pets’ Achilles heel,” he said. “If the heart gets destroyed in any way, they will die. He turned to his partner.
“In a way, I am glad that our interns are the ones handling the augmentations this go around,” the psychiatrist admitted.
“Why is that?” the doctor asked.
“It frees us up to work on problems like this,” Kitano said. “Take for example the reasoning why Celty could neutralize our pets’ powers. We were able to form a countermeasure to subdue our pets if we ever need to capture them again. We couldn’t do that before with just you and I working on the augmentations.”
“What do you purpose we do?” Etsuko asked.
“We will study a sample of the heart tissue we have from Azusa to get some of an answer,” Kitano said. “In the meantime, we must be ready because the fourth gate will be opened today.”
“Understood,” Etsuko said. Kitano tilted his head as he stared at the pounding heart graphic on the screen.
By now, the work day began. Salarymen and office ladies hurry into the trains for work. Somebody is always watching them. Maybe it’s Henshuubyou flying around in the sky. Maybe it’s the other demons that feed off of negativity. Possibly the bakeneko. Or maybe something more sinister...
Saki had this feeling for quite some time now. She had dreaming of seeing herself being covered by a sheet before being loaded into the silent ambulance parked outside. She seemed to be floating away in these dreams. Sometimes, Saki could see the blood. Part of her hoped it was a nightmare, but she wasn’t so sure anymore.
Masaomi called her every day just to see if she was still alive. He wouldn’t tell her what was wrong. This morning, the boy called her again.
“Hello?” Saki asked.
“Saki?” Masaomi asked on the other line. “Oh, thank goodness. You’re still alive.”
“Of course I am,” she said. “Why wouldn’t I be?”
“Uh... No reason,” he said. Saki frowned as she looked out the window.
“There is something you aren’t telling me,” she said. “What is the matter?” She listened as he struggled to answer. Saki pressed her hand to her forehead.
“I have something to tell you,” she said.
“What?” Masaomi asked. Saki dropped her hand.
“I think I am going to die soon,” she said. Her boyfriend went quiet on the other end of the line.
“Don’t say that...” Masaomi said in a low voice. Saki smiled and shook her head.
“It probably won’t happen,” she said. “It might be even nothing.”
“No!” Masaomi cried. “I won’t let you die!” She had to hold the phone away from her ear.
“Masaomi-kun,” she said. “Why are you being like this? Did something happen?”
“I’m sorry,” her boyfriend said. “I’ve been having a hard time lately.” Saki smiled to herself.
“It’s okay,” she said. “I will stay safe.”
“Do you promise?”
Saki sighed. “I promise.”
“Okay. I’ll call you tonight. I love you.”
“I love you too.” When she hung up, his panic told Saki that those weren’t just dreams anymore. She looked out the window again as that feeling of dread spread throughout her body. The girl tightly shut her eyes.
I’m so sorry, Masaomi-kun. I just can’t tell you the whole truth. Not yet. Saki held her hand to her chest. She only hoped that she could at least survive today just like she had been so far. The worst part was not knowing exactly when or how she would die.
Hecate and Lucy stand outside Yagiri Pharmaceuticals, waiting. It is not time to open the gate. For now, they stand guard. Lucy can’t help but laugh.
“What’s so funny?” Hecate asked, glaring. Her sister smiled and shook her head.
“Nothing,” Lucy said. “We’re just outside enemy territory. She looked up at the iron gates, smiling.
The interns already started on the new drugs for the next augmentations. Anna basked in the success of Cutie Aphrodite. She felt like dancing when the tadpoles became the object of everyone’s affection. It was then the intern realized something else.
“I have to start on the next drug,” Anna said to herself. She told herself it didn’t have to be the Tadpole Project. She just had to keep making drugs. Meanwhile, Yayoi walked in with a huge grin on her face.
“Good morning, everyone,” she said. Yuka rolled her eyes.
“Do you have your drug today?” she asked.
“I sure do,” she said. “Is the Heartseed ready?” Her giant boobs bounced as she hopped up and down for a bit. Her fellow intern forced herself to stay civil.
“Let me check with the boss,” Yuka said. She pulled up her cell phone. Yayoi looked at crimson nails as she waited. She frowned when she saw her right index finger.
“Aw, when did that get chipped?” she asked. The intern stared at the imperfection. Yuka hung up her phone.
“He said we can come up now,” she said. Yayoi and Anna looked like little balloons ready to fly away.
“Nice!” Yayoi said. The interns all headed up to Room 518.
Yuka stood by her place next to the Heartseed plant while Kitano and Etsuko sat in a room behind a two-way mirror.
“You may begin the experiment,” Kitano said over his microphone.
“Good morning, everyone,” Yuka said. “My name is Ogawa Yuka and I will be conducting the third addition of the augmentations to the test subjects.” She waited for a brief moment before resuming.
“Last time Marusa-san gave us her drug,” she said. “Who’s next?” Yayoi stepped forward.
“I am,” Yayoi said in a reserved tone of voice.
“What do you have for us today?” Yuka asked. The busty intern stepped forward with her glass container in her hand. Her colleague looked inside.
“What is this?” she asked as she looked at the light purple oval-shaped pills inside.
“I call them Fudo Myo-o,” Yayoi explained. “It goes with Yuzuru’s Athena drug.” Even Yuzuru herself looked intrigued.
“Will still cause an interference?” Yuka asked.
“No,” Yayoi said.
“Okay,” her fellow intern said. “Our third drug that will be administered into the augmentation experiment has been given to us by Shiga Yayoi whom has named her drug Fudo Myo-o.” Yuka twisted the plastic container open. Everyone watched as each little flower was fed a purple pill. Yuka stepped back when the last flower closes.
“And now, we wait,” she said. The Heartseed glowed a bright purple.
Nanami has to pretend that everything is still okay while she teaches her students in the class. Despite more memories of being at Red Rabbit surfacing in her head, she knows that she still has her life to live.
Mikado was in the library at his school looking for another book where he had hidden some key information in during a previous time loop. Ever since the Athena drug merged successfully with his cells, his memories started coming back.
“I think I left more notes around the city about how to beat Tandeki,” Mikado told Masaomi. The blonde-haired boy nodded as he looked so pale.
“Okay,” he said in a trembling voice.
“Did you reach Mikajima-san this morning?” the tadpole boy asked.
“Yes,” Masaomi said in a whisper.
“What did she say?” Mikado asked.
Masaomi lowered his eyes as he trembled. Saki’s words ran through his head again and again. “I think I am going to die soon.” Masaomi grabbed onto his right arm. I won’t let that happen! Mikado grabbed him by the arms.
“We won’t let her die,” he said. Masaomi looked him in the eye. He opened his mouth, the tadpole boy was quick to cut him off.
“I promise,” Mikado said in a stern voice.
Right now, Mikado dug in brain of where one of the books were hiding in the shelves. He tried to pretend not to see the little first-year girl eyeing him and blushing. The tadpole decided to find the book and get out here as fist as he could. But when his fingers touched a spine of a random book, a hard pulse shot through his body. His vision turned black as he collapsed to the floor.
When the first-year girl looked up, she saw Mikado having like a seizure on the floor. Panicked, she raced over and placed her jacket and school bag under his head. She unbuttoned his jacket and stuffed it under his head. As the student called 119 on her phone, Mikado saw Ikebukuro in ruins. Four dragons blocked out the sun over the crumbling buildings. Thunder and lightning filled the sky. He tried to scream out for anyone, but he only heard his own echo. There wasn’t a single soul in the streets. When the tadpole boy looked around, black shadows walked by with their heads lowered. He reached out to one of them, but his hand went through the shoulder. Mikado drew back his hand when he felt a tingling sensation on the back of his hand.
Suddenly, a high-pitched whistle rang through his ears. When the tadpole boy turned around. A woman in a long red dress floated in the cloud-filled sky. Her long black hair floated in the cold breeze. The blood on her arms matched the color of her eyes. Mikado didn’t get time to figure out what was going on.
She laughed over the dying city. Her reaction alone told him everything he needed to know. The devilish Woman in Red was free to roam the earth again. Mikado couldn’t see anything else. There was only fire. And then…
"He’s regaining consciousness!"
When he came to, Mikado found himself in the back of an ambulance on the way to the hospital. One EMT shined a light in his eyes. Masaomi was saying something him, but he could barely hear him. The tadpole boy had blood coming out of his nose and mouth.
Michiko stared at her phone. Finally, it buzzed in her hand. Her heart jumped as she opened the message.
“Fourth Gate of Light found,” the text read. Michiko began typing.
“Where? Give me the directions!” It didn’t take long for her to get a reply. The girl rose to her feet.
“Right,” Michiko said to herself. The young girl walked out of the apartment as fast as she could.
Three more tadpoles enter the frame.
I have to wear my glasses. No, my eye sight is good. Too good.
I too was a mental patient at Chou Mori Institution. No thanks to them, my eyesight is too powerful. I can see everything. When my powers first “awoke”, they were so strong that it knocked me out. When I came to, my cell phone rang.
“Hello?” I asked.
“Good afternoon, Shoujo Ma,” that horrible voice said. That alone was enough to trigger my memories of being in that hell in Chou Mori. Kitano-sensei told me about my awakening and what I was now. My eyes widened as I shook my head.
“No…” I murmured.
“Yes, my dear Shoujo Ma,” he said. “It amazes that your generation took this long to finally awaken. I guess we did improve with Chirin’s generation.”
“Chirin?” I asked.
“You will meet your little brother and his generation really soon,” Kitano-sensei said.
“But I’m an only child,” I said.
“We’ll talk later,” he said. Kitano-sensei hung up before I could say a word.
Ever since then, I have been wearing my old glasses to limit my powers. My male coworkers think they are cute as they hit on me tirelessly. There are prettier girls around the office, what do they see in me? Then again, it’s not their fault. I am “evolving” as the “Death Professor” keeps reminding me. (If I have to hear his voice again, I will go crazy.) But then, I ran into another problem.
My eyes are starting to hurt more behind my glasses. I’m worried that I might end up going blind. The pain only goes away when I take off my glasses. But, I don’t want to have to see every single thing all of the time. This man named Orihara Izaya taunted me through texts about it. Hold on, let me get out my phone.
“Glasses don’t look good on you.”
“You’re only making it worse for yourself, you know?”
“If you don’t take the glasses off, you’ll go blind. That won’t be good for you, now would it?”
As hard as I tried to ignore him, I finally broke down and took my glasses off today. It felt like a breath of fresh air, but already I began to see every little detail around me. As I predicted, my phone buzzed. Against my better judgement, I pulled it out and opened Izaya’s latest text.
“See? That wasn’t so hard, was it?”
My hand shook around my phone as I squeezed the life out of it. How was he doing that? I began looking around the busy streets as I headed down for an early lunch. Come on, you bastard! You know that I can see where you’re hiding. Why don’t you just come out? I just want to talk to you. Okay, make smack you down, but come out anyway.
A sharp whistle shot through my ears. I winced as my head began to ache. The whistle lingered around me, but I also saw flashes of the city burning around me.
Make it stop! Make it stop!
Suddenly, I froze with a chill running down my spine. Huh? Who’s watching me now? I turned to see a woman with a dark brown braid on the right side of her head, staring at me from across the street. She stared at me intently as her voice filled my head.
Can you hear me?
I nearly tripped and fell backwards. Who are you?!
Don’t be afraid. My name is Amano Midori. I’ll come over there to you and you can come with me. I want to help you.
Because, you’re like me.
My jaw dropped as I stepped backwards.
I’ve been on edge all morning.
I kept getting vision of this city on fire. It flashes in my brain, causing me pain. And just when I had just figured everything out. I can feel my blood bubbling in my body, waiting to be used again. I grabbed my wrist. It’s been quiet all morning, too quiet.
“Oshima-san?” someone asked. I turned to see my kouhai running up to me.
“Oh,” I said. “Hello, Maiko.” The petite girl looked at me with her big brown eyes. She’s not cut out to be a fighter, but that’s why she’s in this class.
Maiko tilted her head. “Is something wrong, senpai?” I smiled and shook my head.
“Nothing,” I said. “Yet.”
“Huh?” Maiko asked. I shook my head.
“Nothing,” I lied again. She doesn’t need to know all of my secrets. I don’t even know how my kouhai would take knowing what all I can do with my blood. She’s already trying her hardest to be brave. A tadpole person who can hear thoughts and increases someone’s desires would drive her away. Maiko-chan looks up to me so much too.
I was about to bit up my bamboo sword when I paused.
“Who’s there?” I asked. I looked around the locker room. I do not trust things when I am not alone if you haven’t picked up on that by now. I gritted my teeth.
“Enough with the games!” I hissed. “Come out and say something. Are you watching me?!”
"I am," a voice said in my head. I jumped and looked around.
“Who was that?!” I shouted. “Where are you?!”
"I’m sorry," the voice said in my head. ”I just want to help you."
“But who are you?” I asked.
"My name is Kimio Kohaku," the voice said. ”Are you Oshima Anzu?" I drew my mouth closed.
"Yes. Why do you ask?"
"Are you starting to having visions?"
I lowered my eyes. ”Yeah."
"What did you see?"
I looked down at my hands. I began to remember the city being engulfed in fire. ”Where are you, Kohaku-chan?"
"I’m in my class right now."
I pressed my lips together. ”Uh... Can we meet up somewhere?"
My eyes shifted back and forth. ”Alright. Let’s meet in West Ikebukuro Park."
"I’ll text you the location," I said.
"Thank you," Kohaku said. I leaned against the wall, panting. I put my hand to my forehead. Will I have enough strength to participate in this kendo class today?
I hate when it is quiet.
I awoke in the nurse’s office and looked around. There’s nobody in here. My eyes shifted back and forth from under the sheets. The school nurse looked down at me with a concerned look on her face.
“Are you okay?” she asked. Her tone almost shocked me. Usually, she would get mad at me for trying to cut class to hang out with her. (If you saw this woman with her nice tits and curves, you would do the same thing.)
“Yeah…” I said, rubbing the back of my head and chuckling nervously. “I’m sorry if I upset you, sensei.” That hot nurse snorted.
“Well, that’s a first!” she said. And there she is, the sneering, overbearing woman that seems to hate my guts. However, my mind wandered back to how I ended up here in the first place.
I had planned to come by the nurse’s office today anyway. Just, not like this. I was in the middle of another boring math class flashed in my eyes. My whole body as I fell back from my desk. I broke down in a seizure-like trance as I started to see strange visions.
I floated above as I saw Ikebukuro burning. I couldn’t hear anything. No screaming. No cries for help. I couldn’t even hear the fire burning. But, I felt something or someone breathing on the back of my neck. Against my better judgement, I turned around. Black, soulless eyes stared back at me. I struggled to get away, but I couldn’t move. Those eyes looked like they wanted to murder me.
Those eyes opened their blood-filled mouth. I tightly shut my eyes.
That’s when I woke up in the nurse’s office. I rubbed my forehead. What just happened back there? Am I going crazy?
"No, you’re not," some guy’s voice said in my head. I quickly looked around.
“Uh… is there someone else in here besides us?” I asked the nurse.
“No,” she said.
“Uh-huh…” I said.
"Stay calm," the guy said in my head. ”Stay calm. Please stay calm." Oh right, like I’m going to listen some guy who’s just randomly talking in my head for no reason.
"Talk to me with your head," the voice said. ”If you aren’t alone, you will look crazy talking to nobody there." I pressed my lips together.
"Okay, I’m talking to you in my head right now," I said at last. ”Who are you and what do you want from me?"
"Good, where are you now?"
"You will need to get out of there so we can talk. I get the feeling what I’m going to say to you will come as too much of a shock for you to handle if you stay."
I looked at the nurse looking at me with her eyebrow raised.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” she asked. I didn’t trust this guy talking to me in my head, but anything to get him to stop…
“Uh… yeah,” I said. “I’m going to go back to class now.” The nurse her hands on her hips.
“Are you sure?” she asked. Aw, why does she have to choose today to be all concerned about me now? I rubbed the back of my head.
“I’ll be fine, really,” I said. “I will see you again tomorrow, though.” I leapt out of bed and hurried down the hall before she could say a word. Once I got further down the hall, I stopped.
"Okay, who the hell are you? How are you talking to me in my head right now? What’s going on here?" I asked.
"Oh," that guy said. ”My name is Aso Tetsu and I just want to help you here."
"You’ve been seeing visions of this city on fire, haven’t you?"
I froze as me pounded against my chest. ”H-H-How did do you know?"
"We’re starting to see them too."
"Wait… We? You mean there are others like us?"
I sank to my knees as I started breathing heavily.
"I will come by and meet you at your school, okay?" Tetsu asked in my mind. His words sounded so far away.
By noon, the Ikebukuro heads out to lunch. The school kids to go the cafeteria or have their bento. Salarymen and office ladies do the same with the restaurants. Meanwhile, Hecate and Lucy were still waiting. The younger nightcomer put up her hand.
“Not yet,” her sister was quick to say. Lucy lowered her hand, but gritted her teeth.
While Satoru walked the streets looking for his sister, Niko, Mikado lay in the hospital, sound asleep.
But, he wasn’t alone.
"Hello?" a woman’s voice asked. ”Can you hear me? Mikado-kun? Mikado-kun?" The tadpole opened his eyes. Crowds of shadows stood over his bed. He couldn’t see their faces. But he could hear their voices.
“He’s awake now.”
“Do you think he can see us?” A shadowy hand waved itself in front of the boy’s face. Mikado tried to swat away the hand. His eyes shifted left and right.
“Who are you people?!” the tadpole asked. “What do you want from me?!” Glowing eyes looked down at him. One face leaned down towards him.
“Relax, it’s only us,” a woman’s voice said. Fingertips caressed his right cheek. Mikado tried to push away the hand.
“Stop!” he cried. “Please don’t kill me!”
“Kill you?” a man’s voice asked. “We aren’t here to kill you. We just want to talk to you.” The tadpole boy blinked.
“Talk to… me?” he asked.
“Yes,” the woman’s voice said. Her white teeth glowed in her shadow guise. Mikado could see the shape of foxlike eyes and a bushy tail. The shadow-like figure looked behind her at the other shadows.
“Can I show myself to him now?” she asked.
“I don’t see why not,” another man’s voice said.
“Okay,” she said. The shadow-like figured closed her glowing eyes. The black wispy clouds disappeared from her body. Mikado sat up and saw a cute wolf girl sitting on the bed next to him. Bits and pieces of her came back from his lost memories. Her brown eyes portraying gentle warmth that could calm down a man in panic. Her long grey hair matching her bushy tail. He remembered her short black dress, tan blazer, and a black choker collar. Mikado blinked.
“Uzuki… -san?” he asked. The wolf girl felt like squealing and dancing about.
“You remember me!” she said. Mikado had a confused look on his face.
“Wait,” he said. “Why are you here? Am I out of my body again?” Uzuki gently put her finger to his lips.
“No,” she said in a whisper. “You’re just asleep right now. We’re inside your dreams for the time being.”
“We don’t have much time,” another woman’s voice said. “You’re going to wake up soon. So, we’re going to make this quick. You and the others are in danger. The fourth gate will be opened tonight.”
“What do you mean?” Mikado asked. “What fourth gate?” The shadows looked like they were fading away.
“No, come back! What fourth gate are you talking about?” the tadpole boy asked.
“Mikado! Mikado!” someone yelled in real life. The tadpole boy awoke to Masaomi sitting by his bed.
“You okay, man?” he asked.
“Yeah,” Mikado said in a low voice. He wasn’t sure if he should tell his best friend about the visitors he saw in his dreams or not yet. The tadpole boy clutched the sheets underneath him.
“Listen,” Mikado said. “I think the city is in danger.”
“What do you mean?” the blonde boy asked. His friend was about to explain when he paused. Mikado looked towards the doorway.
“What are you doing here?” he asked. The little first-year girl who called the ambulance poked her head inside.
“I’m so sorry!” she shouted, bowing. “I was watching you in the library. I panicked when you had a seizure. But, my parents are doctors, so I knew to rest your head on something stable while I called 119. I only came by just to check on you.”
“What are you doing out of class?” Mikado asked.
“Oh,” the girl said. “My parents work in this hospital. I convinced them to let me come here just so I could see how you were doing.” The boys looked at each other. Cutie Aphrodite was at work.
Damn it, Mikado thought. But, maybe I could use this to my advantage.
“Thank you for that, you’re sweet, uh…” he spoke up. “I’m sorry, I didn’t quite check your name.” The first-year girl blushed as she bowed.
“Oh, my name’s Mami!” she said.
“I see,” Mikado said. “Listen, Mami-chan. I really need to get out of here and track down so of my friends. Could you help me get checked out?”
“O-O-Of course!” the freshman girl yelped. “I’ll go talk to dad right away.” Mami turned and raced down the hall.
“That really worked,” Mikado said to himself. He still couldn’t rest until he warned Masaomi and the other tadpoles. The boy turned back to his friend.
“Kida-kun, listen to me,” Mikado began again. “Ikebukuro is in danger.”
Back at school, the tadpoles weren’t the only ones having strange visions.
Chiharu was in the middle of a quiz at her desk when a sharp pain struck her head. She kept hearing a high-pitched whistle in her ears as her vision began to blur. Too many images flashed in her head to keep up.
What… is this?
Meanwhile, Junko stood in the hallway watching her. She counted down to the moment she would get to be more active on the Angel Project. To really kick things off on her end she would need F again. She could almost reach out and touch her now.
Junko looked down when she felt her phone buzzing in her pocket.
“Hello?” she asked.
“Nakahara-sensei, I’m going to need you to do a little favor for me,” Kitano said on the other line.
“Okay, what is it?” the nurse asked.
“I will need you to separate Kida-kun from Chirin when school is over,” the therapist said. “I have a feeling that Chirin could be getting close to our plan to open the fourth gate. Today is a big day and we can’t have any hitches to unravel us. Can you do that for me?” Junko’s lips curved into a big smile.
“Gladly,” she said. “I’m on it.”
“Good, I knew I could depend on you,” Kitano said. Junko hung up, smirking. She tapped the screen on her phone and headed straight for her favorite app.
“We will always know where you are, boys,” Junko muttered. She stared at the little yellow dots on her screen.
Keiichi was on his break in between classes. He did some quick match in his head. Let’s see. His last class of the day would be around five. The on-campus storage building would close at six. He clinched the key in his pocket.
Keiichi nodded to himself.
“Right,” he said. Last time he checked, Shirley was still in class. He warned her to be careful today.
“Do not answer your phone unless it’s me calling you,” Keiichi told her this morning.
“Even if it’s Papa?” Shirley asked.
“Yes,” he said. “Only answer if it’s me. Don’t talk to anybody. Don’t even look at anyone. When school gets out, just go straight home to my apartment, okay?”
“Yes,” Shirley said nodding. He gave her a quick kiss.
“Please be careful today,” Keiichi said.
“I will,” she said. “You be careful too.”
“Aw, thanks,” he said. With that in mind, Keiichi kept his eyes open around him for the whole day. Around two, he had to double down on the caution. The journalist student walked up to the front desk of the storage center.
“Welcome, can I help you with anything?” the clerk behind the desk asked. Keiichi shoved forward the key across the desk.
“I would like access to storage locker 228,” he said. The clerk got on her computer and started typing the information.
“That locker is rented out to a Honda Arisu,” she said.
“Is there another name on the account?” Keiichi asked.
“Let me see,” the clerk said. She scrolled down on the screen. “Ah, yes. Is your name Minami Keiichi?”
“Yes,” the journalist student said.
“Follow the numbers down the hall under you get to the 200′s,” the lady said. “The evens are on the right side.”
“Okay, thank you,” Keiichi said. He bowed and headed down the hall.
His eyes shifted left and right as he walked with his hands in his pockets. He would have to move quickly in case he was being watched. Right, just in get, see what’s inside, and get out. Keiichi picked up his pace when he reached the 200′s section. It took minutes for him to locate locker 228. Keiichi took the key and unlocked the small metal box. He reached inside to file a dark purple folder stuffed with papers inside. One quick look inside told him that Arisu had left him the smoking gun. Keiichi stuffed the folder into his bag. He walked up back to the front desk.
“Do I owe you anything?” the journalist student asked the lady behind the desk.
“No, it’s been paid for the rest of the semester,” she said. “The next payment will be due by fall.”
“Thanks again,” Keiichi said. He bowed and headed out the door. The journalist student would have to keep his bag close by at all times if he was going to get it home.
By now, the children all head home or cram school. They keep their paper lanterns by their sides as they walk. None of them talk in fear of the demons hearing them. They that the demons are always watching them. Waiting to eat, possess, kill, or spirit them away.
Meanwhile, Hecate and Lucy still waited outside of Yagiri Pharmaceuticals. Lucy puffed up her cheeks and pouted. She reached out her hand towards the gate.
“Not yet,” Hecate was quick to repeat. Her younger sister did back her hand, sneering.
The owl statue in the center of the city, Rakuei Gym, and Mitake Shrine. Michiko paced around the entrance of Sunshine60. She pulled out her cell phone and looked at message again.
“Yes,” the girl said. “This is the right place, I hope.” Michiko looked up when she heard footsteps approaching her. Tiresias stood inches away, leaning on her cane.
“You’re late,” Michiko said.
“No, I have been here since nine in the morning,” the blind woman explained. “It is you who is late.” The younger girl shook her head.
“Never mind,” she said. “Are you sure this is the right gate?”
“Yes,” Tiresias said as she faced the building. Michiko put up her hands.
“Okay, I’ll leave you to it,” she said.
“Thank you,” the blind woman said, bowing. Tiresias reached into her white-blonde hair and pulled out another silvery-blue pin. Her lips murmured a soft cantation and stuck it into the ground. The little pin started to glow. Michiko put her hand to her chest.
“Good,” she said. “Do you think those lanterns the children are carrying around the city will keep them safe for long?”
“No,” Tiresias said, shaking her head. “There will be stronger demons coming our way. It won’t be long before it’s not just the children infected.”
“What do you think we should do?” Michiko asked.
“If we can locate the twelve scribes, we might have an advantage in ending this game,” the blind woman said. Michiko dug in her memories as she tried to think.
“I think I already know where one is,” she said.
“Oh?” Tiresias asked. The younger girl nodded.
“Yeah,” she said. “I know where to find her too.” Michiko turned and walked away from the Sunshine60 building. Tiresias followed close behind.
One more hour to go before the work day is over.
Masaomi’s phone rang in his apartment back in Mikado’s apartment.
“Excuse me,” he said. The blonde shogun pulled out his phone. Mikado’s stomach dropped as he watched him.
“Hello?” Masaomi asked.
“Masaomi-kun, help me!” a girl’s voice cried on the other line. The blonde-haired boy jumped.
“Saki-chan?!” he asked. “Saki-chan, is that you? What’s the matter?”
“I’m so scared!” this girl’s voice said. “Please help me! I don’t want to die!”
“Where are you?!” Masaomi asked. “Saki! Saki!” There was a scream on the other line. And then, the line went dead. The blonde shogun trembled as he stared at his phone. Mikado covered his right eye and saw Masaomi’s demon jumping up and down on his shoulder.
“Saki-chan! Saki-chan! Saki-chan!” it screamed. Mikado lowered his hand as his best friend turned to him.
“Saki’s in trouble,” Masaomi said at last. “What should I do?”
“Go to her,” Mikado said. His friend’s eyes widened.
“But…” he said.
“I’ll be fine,” the tadpole said, looking him in the eye. “Mikajima-san needs you more.” Masaomi hesitated at first. Instinct told him to stay by Mikado’s side, but he had been so worried about Saki being murdered without him trying to save her.
“Are you sure you don’t want to come with me?” Masaomi asked. “I would feel bad if something happened to you.” Mikado calmly shook his head.
“No,” he said. “I don’t want to be a burden to you both. I don’t think she would be able to handle what I am. And besides, what would happen if she touched me by accident?” Masaomi takes a minute to think about this.
“I guess you’re right,” he said. “I’ll call you once I get there. Don’t let anyone in unless it is me.”
“Okay,” Mikado said. “Be very careful.”
“I will,” Masaomi said. He turned and headed out the door.
Masaomi made it back to his apartment as fast as he could.
“Saki-chan!” he cried as he pounded on the door. “Saki-chan! Saki-chan! Saki-chan!” The leader of the Yellow Scarves backed up when it opened. To his surprise, Saki stood on the other side, staring at him.
“Masaomi-kun, what are you doing here?” she asked. Her boyfriend stared at her, panting.
“Saki-chan! You’re alive!” he said. His girlfriend gave him a blank stare.
“What are you talking about?” she asked. Masaomi grabbed her by the shoulders.
“Are you okay?!” he asked. “Tell me, are you okay?!”
“Of course I am,” Saki said. “Why wouldn’t I be?” The leader of the Yellow Scarves gave her a blank stare.
“I just got a call from you a few minutes ago crying for help,” he said. “You said that you were scared. Then you screamed and the line went dead.”
“I haven’t spoken to you on the phone except for this morning,” she said, shaking her head. Masaomi pulled out his phone and showed her the call log. Saki pointed at the screen.
“That’s not my number,” she said. Masaomi took a look at the screen himself. It donned on him that the number on the call log was off by one.
“Oh…” he said in a quietly voice. His first thought was this was probably the guilt of not being able to stay by Saki’s side as well as Mikado’s as a bodyguard. But then, another realization came over him.
“Is something wrong?” Saki asked.
“Listen, I have to go back to Mikado’s place” Masaomi said. “I’ll call you when I get there. Don’t open the door for anybody!”
“Masaomi-kun!” his girlfriend yelled as he took off running.
By the time he made it back to Mikado’s apartment, Masaomi’s heart sank when he found the door wide open.
“Oh shit!” the blonde boy said. Masaomi raced inside and looked around. The whole apartment looked like it had been ransacked. No sight of Mikado anywhere. Masaomi sank to his knees as he came to a horrifying conclusion between that phone call from the fake Saki and the situation right now.
“So warm…” Mikado mumbled. He slowly drew his eyes. Pitch darkness surrounded him. This place didn’t look like any other location that he had been in before. It didn’t take Mikado long to remember what happened to him.
He sat at his computer, waiting for Masaomi to come back. The tadpole boy figured that he would kill some time by checking out how things were going in the Dollars chatroom. Masaomi wouldn’t take too long with Saki, right? Something seemed dodgy about that phone call. Mikado’s ears picked up a slight clicking noise in the audio before the call was disconnected. The boy didn’t think about it until now.
I don’t like this.
Mikado paused. One… Two… Three… Four pairs of footsteps down the road. They paused and then become one pair. The tadpole held his breath as the footsteps approached his door. As he predicted, there came a knock.
“Who is it?” Mikado asked.
“There’s been an accident down the road!” a girl’s voice shouted. “My cell phone is dead and my boyfriend didn’t have his! Please let me borrow yours!” Mikado looked down at his own phone.
“Uh… my phone’s battery is about dead,” he lied.
“Please!” the girl screamed. “It’s a matter of life and death!” I’m not here to hurt you. I just want to save my boyfriend! Please help me! Mikado hesitated as he looked at his phone beside of him. The boy took a deep breath.
“Alright,” he said. “But I will not let you in. I will hand you the phone through the door, okay?”
“Thank you so much!” the girl said outside his door. Despite his uneasy feeling, Mikado figured that he could do this quickly. Let the girl dial 119 and let her be on her way. Mikado picked up his phone and walked over to the door.
“Here you go,” he said as he opened the door a crack. But as soon as Mikado stuck his hand outside, the girl grabbed him by the wrist.
“Let go!” he yelled.
“I’ve got him!” the girl yelled. “Hurry up and do it!” Mikado managed to push her off, but couldn’t close the door in time for two guys to break in and grab him too. There was a struggle in the apartment and then it all went black.
Right now, Mikado found that he was sitting in a chair made of leather-type material, but he couldn’t move. But, nothing seemed to be holding him in place. It took his eyes a little bit to adjust to the darkness. He found himself sitting in an abandoned bar. Already, a nagging feeling formed in the pit of his stomach.
“Oh, good you’re up,” that familiar voice spoke up. Mikado froze.
The tadpole turned his head. Kitano sat in the chair opposite of him, inches away. He leaned forward, smirking.
“Good evening, Chirin,” he said. Mikado gritted his teeth.
“What did you do to me?” he asked. “Where are we? And why am I here?”
“We have kidnapped you and now you and I are in an abandoned bar in a basement of a building about to be torn down in three months. You are here because I needed you out of the way for the next part of our game,” the therapist answered.
“Game?” Mikado asked. “What game?”
“You’ll see soon. Oh and don’t bother trying to contact the Dollars.” Kitano reached into his coat pocket and pulled out Mikado’s phone. “We turned it off at your apartment so they can’t trace where you are. But, don’t worry. I’ll turn mine off to make it fair.” The therapist reached into his coat again and pulled out his phone. He hit the button on the side, turning it off.
“There,” Kitano said. “Also, don’t try to call your brothers and sisters. Asato-sensei and I extracted DNA from some of Celty-san’s hair and make a special barrier around you. Granted, this just a porotype. I have no idea how long it will hold. Let’s just hope that it will be long enough.”
“What are you going to do to me?” Mikado asked.
“Nothing tonight,” the therapist answered.
“No, no. We’re just going to talk tonight.”
“That’s right. But, I cannot let you leave in the next…” Kitano looked at the clock ticking along the back wall.
Mikado’s eyes widened. “Ten hours?!”
“Think of it like a layover.”
“To which one- The layover or the why I’m you can’t leave until then?”
“Why are you keeping me here for ten hours?”
“It’s like I said, I need you out of the way until then.”
“I will tell you a little bit about my motives for this game, again.”
Meanwhile, the day shift came to a close in Ikebukuro. All of the salarymen and office ladies started to head home from their shifts. The day shift stepped aside to welcome the night shift. Satoru still looked for his sister while Masaomi headed for the other tadpoles to ask for help in finding Mikado.
Kanna sat in her living room, trembling. Aya pushed her worse than ever in their last session. Why was she so obsessed with the disturbing visions that she kept having? Kanna found herself unable to sleep anymore. The bottle looked more appealing after each session. And why did that boy with the eyepatch reach out to her last month?
“Honey! Honey! Honey!” a voice shouted back in real life. “Honey!” Kanna jerked her head upwards. A man about thirty-two years old waved his had in front of her face.
“Are you feeling okay, dear?” he asked. Kanna blinked at the man staring at her.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” she said in a low voice. The man gave her a puzzled look.
“Did something happen at therapy today?” he asked. Kanna lowered her eyes and shook her head.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” she said.
“Are you sure?” he asked.
“Hideki, please!” Kanna shouted. The man, her husband, put up his hands.
“Okay, okay,” he said.
“Thank you,” she said.
“Mama, papa,” a tiny voice said. The parents looked up to see a little boy standing in the living room doorway.
“What is it, Juichi-kun?” Kanna asked.
“Are you and Papa fighting again?” the little boy asked.
“No, mama’s just upset at her brain doctor today,” Hideki said.
“Oh…” Juichi said in a quiet voice.
“Did you want something, baby?” Kanna asked.
“I need help with my homework,” their son said.
“I’ll help you,” Hideki said. The man got off of the couch and walked over to his son. Kanna smiled as he boys disappeared down the hall. Despite of all the vision and Otomo-sensei pushing her to talk about them, she had her husband and son to look forward to at the end of the day. She was slowly closing her eyes when she heard a knock on her door.
“Hm?” the woman asked. “Who could that be at this hour?” Kanna rose to her feet and walked over to the door.
“Who is it?” she asked.
“My name is Michiko,” a girl’s voice said. “We need to talk to you. This is important.” Kanna jumped in her chest. She slowly opened the door. Michiko and Tiresias stood outside of the apartment. The woman inside the apartment didn’t feel afraid or suspicious like a normal person would.
“Hello,” she said in a low voice.
“Are you seeing visions?” Tiresias asked in a low voice. Kanna lowered her eyes.
“Yes,” she said in a quiet voice.
“May we come in and talk?” Michiko asked. Kanna looked inside of her apartment for a few seconds. She lowered her eyes.
“Sure, come inside,” the woman said.
“Thank you,” Michiko said. She and Tiresias walked into the apartment. Kanna looked behind them before closing the door behind the ladies.
“I won’t tell you how I’m doing this,” Kitano said. “But, I will tell you why.” He paused for a moment. “But yet, I will have you take a guess. Go on, guess.”
Mikado narrowed his eyes at him. “I don’t know.”
“Go on. Humor me here.”
“You want to take over Ikebukuro? You hate this world and mankind? You are just bored? Daddy didn’t pay attention to you as a kid? Mommy spoiled you? You were picked on and want to make everyone else feel as helpless as you did? You think the world is going to hell in a handbasket and the apocalypse will kickstart some mythic return to good no-nonsense community values that have been lost?”
Kitano pretended to think about it for a minute. “None of those, actually.”
Mikado gave him a strange look. “Then… why?”
The therapist leaned back in his chair. “It amazes that I always have to tell you my stories again and again, Chirin.”
“That is not my name.”
“But, I don’t mind telling you again. After all, we still have about nine more hours before the layover is over.”
“My name is not Chirin. It’s Mikado.”
“Alright, I will tell you again, Chirin.”
“My name is not Chirin!”
Mari looked over at Izaya as they lay in her bed.
“Don’t you want to go somewhere for a while?” she asked. The information broker glanced over at her.
“Why?” he asked. Mari shrugged her shoulders.
“I don’t know,” she lied. “I just figured that it would be maybe nice to get away from Ikebukuro for a while.”
“So, you’re saying that you want me to take you somewhere?”
“Oh, no! I’m not going! I was asking if you want to go, by yourself.”
Izaya lifted his head from the pillow. “Are you insinuating something to me here?”
“No… Okay, maybe.”
“You’re not ashamed of me, are you?”
The information broker turned over onto his stomach. “Then why are you desperation to chase me out of Ikebukuro? You are starting to sound like Shizuo-chan.”
Mari sighed. “Are you scared for your life?”
“I wouldn’t be in this line of work if I was,” Izaya said. “But you already knew that, didn’t you?”
“I don’t think you know how much danger you are in this time,” Mari said under her breath.
“I’m sorry?” he asked. The programmer shook her head and rolled over.
“Just forget it,” she said. Mari pulled the sheets over her bare shoulder.
“Okay then…” Izaya said. Mari could already predict what was coming next. Once the fourth gate was opened, the three beggars would arrive and Izaya would be dead. It looked like she would have to turn to her again. But would she remember the promise that she made in the last loop?
“It all started out with a promise I made to her years ago when I was a child. I will spare you the boring details of my life,” Kitano began again. “Although, I think we have plenty of time given the current circumstances.” Mikado, his forced audience of one, sneered at him. The therapist pretended not to notice and resumed his story.
“You see, I was born with a serious heart condition that kept me in the hospital from ages two to fifteen. I will cut to the point of this story. When I was eleven, a nurse accidentally gave me the wrong medicine. It is possible that she got my charts mixed up with another patient’s in the hospital at the time. I don’t really know to be honest with you.
“As the doctors tried to lower my fever and keep me from dying, I awoke in a place called the Land of the Dead. What is the Land of the Dead you ask? Take the aftermath of the bombings Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Kobe and mix them together. The ground was made of mud that was so thick that my little bare feet kept getting in it. The winds carried the howling of tormented wails. There was nothing but empty landscape and dark green fog. The people walking around looked shadowy stick figures acting like moving through the routines of a normal day in rural Japan.
“I walked through this Land of the Dead for hours. I didn’t have a destination in mind. I didn’t think about escaping or where I wanted to go. I just walked around the place. As I walked, I heard a low moaning noise. I followed a muddy trail down to an open pit covered with wires. Naturally, I had to take a look. A woman with the face of a bull frog dressed in a dark red kimono with claws for nails. She was chained down and breathing profanities. Any normal child would’ve turned and ran away, but not me. I stood there standing, staring at such a creature with morbid curiosity. She looked up with blood red eyes.
“‘What are you looking at?!’ this creature yelled. Her voice shook the land around us. I looked at the prison that she was being held in. For some reason, I head this great urge to free her.”
“Why?” Mikado asked.
“Just felt like,” Kitano said. The tadpole boy gave him a blank stare. The therapist took a minute to dig through his own brain.
“Now, where was I again?” he asked. “Oh yes, I head this great urge to free her. ‘You don’t look so happy down there,’ I said. ‘Would you like me to let you out?’ The creature’s laughter made the land shake up and down.
“‘You? Free me? Don’t be a foolish child.’ I didn’t listen as I looked around for the gate.
“‘I don’t see the door,’ I said.
“‘There is no door, you foolish child! I cannot be freed the normal way!’ she told me.
“‘Then how do I free you?’ I asked.
“‘Why do you want to free me?’
“‘Just cause what?’
“‘I just want to.’
“‘And what do you get out of this?’ the creature asked me. I only shrugged at her. Before I knew it, I woke up back in my hospital bed.” Kitano rested his chin on his hand.
“Was it a dying fantasy? A drug-induced hallucination? Maybe both. Either way, I felt compelled to fulfill that promise I made in the Land of the Dead all those years ago,” he concluded. Mikado stared at him coldly as he remembered hearing this story again.
“You mean to tell me you want to end the world all because you made a promise to some creature while you were dying in a hospital?” he asked.
“Yes,” his captor said.
“What is wrong with you?!” Mikado asked.
“What is wrong with us all?” Kitano asked back.
Inouye Shoichi doesn’t know how he ended up pulling dragged into the Wasteland as well. He stood in the middle of the street, looking around.
What just happened?
Shoichi tried to dig back in his brain to what happened to him just hours earlier. He was having dinner with his fiancée, Tomoe, at the time. Today had been normal for the most part. Shoichi got up, went to his IT job, talked with is coworkers, came home, and had dinner with Tomoe. She was in the middle of a funny story about what happened at her job today when he froze as if in a trance.
“Babe?” Tomoe asked. Shoichi rose to his feet in a daze and walked out the door. He could barely hear his fiancée calling out to him. When he came back to reality, the man found himself standing in the middle of the road.
This wasn’t the first time this had happened.
“You there!” a woman’s voice shouted. Shoichi looked up to see Kuzuhara Shinju staring at him with a flashlight on him. She could see that he had no shoes on his feet. Shoichi shrugged and shook his head.
“I have no idea,” he said.
“What?” she asked.
“One minute, I was having dinner with my fiancée and the next I am standing out here with no shoes or a jacket.”
“Are you high or something?”
“Are you okay in the head?”
“Yes… At least, I think I am.” Shoichi put up his hands. “It’s okay, I’m not armed. I don’t have anything on me.” Shinju opened her mouth to speak, but was cut off when they heard someone yell, “Uncle!” She and the confused man looked up to see Michiko running across the street to them. She came within inches of Shoichi.
“Uncle, so this is where you got to,” the young girl said. “Why did you take off on me like that?” Shinju turned to the confused man. Shoichi could only shrug and shake his head.
“Don’t make me do all of the talking here,” Kitano said. “Feel free to ask me any questions. We have plenty of time tonight.” Mikado breathed heavily to stay calm.
“Why did you do this to us?” he asked.
“I’m going to need a witness to the whole show,” the therapist said without batting an eye.
“You see, the one that frees the Woman in Red, pays the ultimate price with their life.”
Mikado’s jaw dropped. “What?! Why would you do this if you you’re going to day?!”
“I made a promise and I will keep it.” He said it so nonchalantly. The tadpole blinked with big eyes. Who the hell was this guy?
Satsu playfully leapt onto the bed.
“Are you ready to watch more videos?” she asked. Aoi gave her a concerned look.
“I think you need to lay off of the videos for a while,” she said. Satsu gave her an innocent, pouty look.
“Aw, why, Baby?” she asked. Aoi grabbed her arm, trembling.
“DeathVine is creeping me out,” she said. “How can you stay up watching such morbid things every night?” She remembered her girlfriend watching a video of a drunken woman beating her son to death around two in the morning. Satsu leaned forward and nuzzled Aoi on the neck.
“You know it’s part of my study in the dark side of human behavior,” she said. “I have to see humanity at its ugliest.”
“But doesn’t that wear you down over time?” Aoi asked. “If I watched videos like that every night, I would just be depressed all time and end up hating myself.” Her girlfriend pulled her into her arms.
“No,” she simply said. Aoi looked her lover in the eye.
“Why is that?” she asked.
“Because, I have you to remind me there are still good things in this world,” Satsu said. She kissed Aoi on the lips quickly. Her girlfriend slowly reached up to take hold of her. Now that she thought about it, Satsu never acted out her darker impulses out on their relationship. In fact, she had been quite gentle. She never hid anything about herself when they first met.
“I like creepy things,” Satsu said when they met on the first day of abnormal psychology. “Sometimes, I like to go on the deep web out of curiosity.” Most people would’ve been a little put off by that. Aoi, on the other hand, found herself intrigued.
“How creepy?” she asked. “Like dead bodies? Ghost stories? People being murdered?”
“All of it,” Satsu said. To be fair, her mother was a coroner in a morgue.
Back in present day, Satsu let go.
“Now can we watch more of our professor friend?” she asked. “I’m finding him far more fascinating than those videos on DeathVine as of late.” Aoi dropped her shoulders.
“If you insist,” she said.
“I do,” her girlfriend said.
“Alright,” Aoi said. She turned to her laptop and brought up Yoemon-sensei’s videos. Satsu rested her head on Aoi’s shoulder.
“I love you,” she murmured.
“Yeah,” Aoi said.
Kitano studied Mikado closely. The barrier around his body seemed to be holding up for five hours. He wondered how much longer it would hold. What would happen if the barrier broke? Would Mikado run over and attack him? Would he steal his phone back? Would he try and call his brothers and sisters for help? Kitano’s toes curled as he played out each scenario in his head.
“Could you please stop smiling like that?” Mikado asked. “It’s creepy.” The therapist cleared his throat.
“Do forgive me,” he said. “But I can’t help but entertain the idea of what will happen if the barrier decides to fail at any given time.” Mikado raised his eyebrow.
“Why?” he asked.
“I am wondering what you would do if that happens,” Kitano said. “You won’t be able to escape easily, though. The cell phone reaction here is next to dead. Plus, your head was coved up by a sack. You don’t even know where you are.”
“Perhaps,” Mikado said. “But I could figure it out.” Kitano put up his hands.
“Well then, I’ll just have to hope that the barrier holds for the next five to six hours,” he said. Mikado glared at him. It took his all not to snap in the face of his captor.
He had to keep a clear head in order to get out of here.
This was Mika’s idea.
She and Seji walked up to Celty and Shinra’s apartment.
“Why are we here again?” Seji asked.
“I need to talk to Celty and Shinra about something,” Mika said. She pounded on the front door.
“Can’t it wait until morning?” her boyfriend asked.
“No!” Mika said. She pounded harder and faster on the door. The girl backed up when it opened.
“Mika?” Shinra asked. “What are you doing here so later?”
“I need to talk to you and Celty,” she said. “This is really important.” The doctor looked around outside.
“Okay, come in,” he said.
“Thanks,” Mika said. She bowed and went into the apartment. Shinra closed the door after Seji went inside.
Mika managed to tear herself away from Seji long enough to talk to Shinra and Celty in their room. She managed to convince her boyfriend to wait for her in the living room.
“This won’t take too long,” Mika promised him. She kissed him on the cheek.
“Alright,” Seji said. Mika didn’t waste any time saying what she wanted.
“You can feel it too, right?” she asked.
“What do you mean?” Shinra asked.
“Tandeki’s on the move again,” Mika said in a hushed tone. “They’ve already opened three gates and now they’ve located the fourth one.”
“[Do you know where it is?]” Celty typed on her PDA. Mika shook her head.
“I can remember them getting this far before the loop started over,” she said. The girl turned to Celty.
“How much can you remember?” she asked. “What all have you been seeing around the city?”
“[I’ve seen that dragon covered in many eyes flying over the city,]” the dullahan typed. “[Also, I think something is targeting the children. Plus, there are the bakeneko and hitei-oni are still.]”
“Just as I thought,” Mika said. “They are going faster with their game than they have done in the past.” She paused as she remembered something else.
“I remember lying on the ground half-dead and everything was in ruins,” the girl said as she pieced together the image in her head again. “There was a man standing over me. I can’t remember what all he said. But, I remember a really thin needle being pushed into my right eye.” Mika put her hand under said eye.
“Anri and those are in serious trouble,” she said. “Tandeki is targeting them.”
“What should we do?” Shinra asked.
“Please, stay by them,” Mika pleaded. “There isn’t much time left.” Meanwhile, Seji was listening in on the whole conversation. He too had triggers in his memories, but he didn’t realize it at the time.
“Oh yes,” Kitano said. “I haven’t gone into the really good parts of your evolution yet.”
“Huh?” Mikado asked.
“Yes,” the therapist said. “According to my notes, you can only see people’s inner demons when you cover up your right eye. Correct?” The tadpole glared at his captor.
“Why?” he asked.
“Am I correct?” Kitano asked again.
“Well, did you know that you could train yourself to see them with both eyes? You can even make yourself see them whenever you want.”
“And why are you telling me this?”
“I want you and your brothers and sisters to reach your full potential. Our interns are putting their hands into your perfection. I’m sure you are aware of the first three gifts from them, yes?”
His captor’s gleeful tone made Mikado want to vomit. “How far are you going to take your sick experiments on us?”
“Oh, I have plenty of ideas. What I want, is to make you better. Correct all of your flaws that come with being human. Pretty soon, you won’t need to eat or sleep. You won’t feel pain and you’ll injuries will heal. You will always be healthy. You could even stay young for the rest of your life. You could even live forever.”
“Why would I want those things?”
“You’ve always wanted an extraordinary life, right?”
Mikado lowered his eyes. “Yes…”
“Well then, think of this as us granting us your wish.”
“But, you’ll take away everything that will make me.”
“Nonsense. You will still have your free will and your personality. You will still have your memories and the core thing that makes you you.”
“Robots are so dull. I feel that you having free will would make this much more entertaining.” Kitano paused when he heard Mikado mumble something under his breath.
“Excuse me?” he asked.
“Cronus!” Mikado repeated. “That’s all you are!”
Kitano smirked at this retort. “Then does that make Zeus in this case?”
Most of Ikebukuro is deserted for the night. All of the salarymen and office ladies on the night shift have headed home for the next day. Even some of the more notorious gangs are out here tonight either.
Noriko climbed into a dusty white Toyota just parked in the parking lot outside of her apartment.
“Thank you for meeting me out here like this. I didn’t know where else to turn.”
“That is okay. I am here to lend an ear. What’s on your mind tonight?”
Noriko looked down at her hands. “Well… I am starting to have the dreams again.”
“About the man and the baby?”
She nodded. “I see a lady sitting on a kitchen floor holding a dead baby. The room’s dead and she’s crying. The man walks into the room and asks what happened.”
“What happens next?”
Noriko shook her head. “I always wake up at that moment. Sometimes, I hear a baby crying in the early hours of the morning. There aren’t even any children in the apartment complex I live in.”
“What other dreams have you been having?”
Noriko took a moment to think. “It all comes out in bits and pieces. I still can’t make sense of anything. I’m so sorry.”
“It’s okay. Take your time if you need to.”
“Who do you think the baby is?”
Noriko’s eyes darkened as she lowered them. “It’s my baby.”
“What are you talking about? Noriko…”
She lifted her head, glaring. “I would prefer if you not call me that. That is not my name.”
“Okay… Then, what should I call you?”
“My real name would be nice.”
“And what would that be?”
Noriko spoke her true name, but her words came out barely audible.
“You’re not tired or anything, are you?” Kitano asked. “You can go to sleep if you want to.”
“I’m fine, thank you,” Mikado said.
“You sure?” the therapist asked. “You’ve got four more hours until I release you. It’s okay if you want a quick nap during that time.”
“I told you, I am fine,” the tadpole boy repeated. Kitano put up his hands.
“Okay,” he said. “It was just an offer.” Mikado sneered as he went back to figuring out to back out of the barrier and escaping.
It’s dead quiet in Ikebukuro now. There wasn’t a single soul in sight. The dead quiet makes for the perfect horror setting.
Hecate and Lucy still stood by the gate, waiting. The younger nightcomer bounced on her heels as she bit on her lower lip. She reached out to open the gate.
“Not yet,” Hecate said for the third time. Lucy threw her hands up in the air.
“When?!” she complained.
“I will tell you,” Hecate said. “The time has to be just right.” Lucy lowered her hand, frowning.
“Fine,” she grumbled. Lucy stood by her sister, frowning.
Masaomi, Taichi, and the tadpoles met up at the fountain at Ikebukuro West Park.
“Anything?” Masaomi asked.
“No,” they said.
“I couldn’t see anything,” Madoka said. “I’ve looked all over the city from the rooftop twice.” Masaomi cursed himself and gritted his teeth.
“How could you let this happen?!” Tetsu asked. Masaomi lowered his eyes.
“I said I was sorry,” he said. “I got a cry for help from someone I thought was my girlfriend.” Tetsu wrinkled his nose.
“So you abandoned him for some girl?!” he asked.
“I said I was sorry,” Masaomi said. “I didn’t know I was being tricked into leaving him.”
“You should’ve had him come with you!” the fire tadpole snapped.
“He sent me off to check on Saki-chan,” the blonde shogun said. “Mikado said that he would be okay without me.”
“Well clearly he wasn’t, now was he?” Tetsu asked.
“Enough!” Midori shouted. Both boys went quiet. The time tadpole drew in a deep breath.
“Standing around yelling at each other will not find him,” she said. “We know Mikado isn’t dead or else we would be seeing people’s inner demons as well.”
“So… Where is he?” Masaomi asked.
“I have no idea,” Midori admitted. “But we will keep looking for him. I promise you. We will find him. We will triple our efforts if we have to!”
“Thanks!” the blonde shogun said, bowing.
“Let’s get back to looking!” Nami said.
“I’ll go look from another building,” Madoka said. Masaomi, Taichi, and the tadpoles resumed their search.
Mikado sneezed, waking Kitano up from dozing off.
“Ah, someone’s talking about you,” he said. “It’s probably your brothers and sisters looking for you right now.”
“I don’t understand something,” Mikado said.
“What?” the therapist asked.
“Why me? You could’ve taken any of the other tadpoles and brought them here. Why did you take me?”
“I feel that I don’t have to explain it to you in words. Try to piece it altogether in your head. I’ll give you a hint: if has something to do with today’s augmentation.”
“Come on, you must have felt more changes in your body by now.”
That sentence was enough for Mikado to pieces together in his head. Once he figured it out, he glared at his captor.
“You just wanted them too busy looking for me to stop whatever you are planning,” he said.
“Pi-pon! Pi-pon!” the therapist said. Mikado gritted his teeth. Kitano looked down at black marking around his hostage’s chair on the floor. The characters moved in wavy lines. He looked up at the clock on the back wall. If the barrier could hold for the next three hours, he would in the clear. For now, Kitano would have to keep his “guest” preoccupied until the gate opened.
Kaori wandered through the empty streets. She twirled her umbrella above her head. She enjoyed nights like this. At the moment, there wasn’t much for her to do. Sure, torturing Aoba was entertaining, but sometimes that wore thin. When was the last time Kaori killed anybody besides Mairu? Getting out in the world was almost like going on vacation in way.
Kaori stretched her arms in the dark sky and laughed.
“This city will burn to the ground!” she bragged. But then, Kaori paused. “Oh, how long have you been there?” Hikari stepped out from the alley.
“Perceptive as usual,” Hisan said in her body.
“How long have you been wearing that vessel?”
Hisan did a quick count. “I would say about three months now. I really do look through all of her most embarrassing moments, especially about that boyfriend who dumped her for another girl.”
“Have you been killing any humans lately?”
“Quite a few, actually.”
Kaori smiled and twirled about. “I wiped out a whole gang and a little teenage girl just to torture this one boy.”
Hisan grinned. “Really? Tell me more!” She watched as her acquaintance jumped up onto a guard rail.
“The gang part was to separate Chirin from them to make the game much easier to play,” Kaori said. The hitei-oni tilted her head.
“Now which one is Chirin again?” she asked.
“He created the Dollars. And he his short black spikey hair and blue eyes.”
“Is that one who can see inner demons?”
“Ah yes. The information broker seems to be in love with him. Speaking of which, when are you going to kill him again?”
Kaori smiled and winked. “Secret!”
“Damn it! The others and I are running a betting pool.”
Hisan grinned. “We’re betting on how Izaya’s going to die this time.”
“Oooo! Can I place a bet?”
“What all do you have?”
“Car accident, stabbing, beatings, hit-and-run, shot, poisoned, and surprise.”
Kaori took a minute to think. “How many are betting on surprise?”
“Just me and a couple other demons.”
“I’ll go with surprise too.”
“Okay. Hang on.” Hisan pulled out a notepad and wrote down Kaori’s bet. “Got it.”
“Thanks,” Kaori said.
“Oh and when’s the next gate opening?” the possessed girl asked. Her acquaintance looked at her pocket watch.
“Two hours,” she said.
“Sweet,” Hisan said. “Can I watch?”
“Sure,” Kaori said. “Follow me.” She led the demon possessed girl down the street just before they turned invisible.
“You know what I can’t stand?” Kitano asked.
“What?” Mikado asked.
“I can’t stand when the villain tells the hero his plans when he has the hero in captivity,” the therapist said. “I mean, they have the hero there. Why give up the plan? Just kill them and down what they plan to do!” The tadpole boy stared at him blankly.
“That was rather random…” he said. Kitano shrugged him off.
“I do apologize,” he said. “I’m just passing what little time there is left. We’ve only got three hours left together, by the way.”
“Don’t remind me,” his hostage grumbled.
“I’m sorry?” Kitano asked. Mikado just shook his head.
Tsukamoto Shin, aged forty-three, turned on his TV. His old show only aired syndicated on the NHK channel. He worked as a psychiatrist with a prime time talk show. Shin was a big deal back then.
Now when he sees himself on the TV, he feels so empty inside. His house, once warm and happy, now surrounds him in hollow sorrow. All he has left are the memories of that once ideal life. It was all because his pride that he had to parade around for the public eye. That pride cost him dearly. But, he does not watch himself on TV out of pity.
It is to remind him of what he has to do to make it right. Because of this, Shin cut himself off from the public world. He still works as a therapist. He just not in the public eye anymore. But there is another reason that he hangs on.
Shin may have lost everything, but he still has his desire to avenge their deaths. He narrowed his eyes at the TV screen as the credits rolled by on the screen. The fallen psychiatrist already knew where to start.
Kitano looked at the clock on the back and began counting down. 2:59. Ten… Nine… Eight… Seven… Six… Five… Four… Three… Two…
“One,” Kitano said to himself. Mikado lifted his head.
“What?” he asked.
Lucy turned to her sister. Hecate cracked a cat-like smile.
“Open the gate!” she shouted. Lucy grinned back her. The nightcomers turned to Yagiri Pharmaceuticals and held up their hands. A faded light formed in front of them. They paid no attention to the sparks flying around them. The energy from their hands disappeared into the invisible wall, causing the ground to shake for thirty minutes. The nightcomers lowered their hands. Hecate turned to her sister.
“We’re done here,” she said.
“Nice!” Lucy said. The nightcomers vanished into thin air.
Across the street, Kaori and Hisan saw the whole thing. The demon possessed girl had to cover her mouth. Her companion turned to her with a smile on her face.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” she asked. “And now the real fun begins.” The shaking ripped through Ikebukuro in waves.
Mikado was about to doze off when the ground violently shook.
“What was that?” he asked, looking around. Kitano grinned like the devil himself.
“It’s done,” he said.
“What?” the tadpole asked. To his surprise, he found himself able to move again. The therapist looked around Mikado’s feet and noticed that barrier was gone.
“And now, you can go,” Kitano said. He pulled out Mikado’s phone from his coat and tossed it to his favorite pet. The tadpole caught it with his right hand.
“The way out is up the stairs and old the front doors,” the therapist said. “We’ll be in touch soon.” So many ugly things Mikado could’ve said to his creator/captor as he left. Instead, muttered something cold under his breath and walked up the metal stairs. Kitano waited until he was sure that Mikado was gone before turning on his phone and exiting the basement bar himself.
As soon as Mikado stepped outside, the glaring difference hit him like an invisible wave. He thought that he just got shot in the face with a sawed-off shot gun in the first few seconds of being free. The whispering sounded like echoing feedback over microphones. He could feel many eyes staring at him. No one was around, but that didn’t stop the demons coming and enjoying the living world for the first time in many years. Their footsteps sounded worse than gunfire. Some of the said demons were whispering about him as they stared at him. Mikado backed up as he shook his head.
“No. Please don’t look at me like that,” he said as the wavering sounds made his ears ring. “You’re creeping me out.” The overwhelming smell of burning sulfur made him want to vomit. He broke down sweating and trembling. The glowing faces of the demons looked like floating masks in the dim morning. Were they coming towards him or standing still? One demon started wailing like a high-pitched whistle as it flew overhead. Despite the sun not being out, the darkness made Mikado’s eyes tear up. He tried to vain to grab onto something, anything to steady himself. At one point, the boy thought there were pounding drums coming for him. Every direction of escape looked blocked off. The darkness raced towards him, looking to close in on him and tear him to shreds. Mikado’s eyes widened as his own pounding heart made the situation even worse.
Get me out of here…
It all became silent and he collapsed on the sidewalk.
Kitano walked from around the corner and stood over an unconscious Mikado. He shook his head.
“Oh boy,” the therapist muttered. Kitano picked the boy and dragged him over to his car.
Celty had just come back from an early morning job. The client wouldn’t tell them who they were or what they needed transported. In fact, it was a text from an anonymous number.
“Pick up job down near the dock. Payment will be really nice.”
At first, Celty didn’t trust the words on the screen. She showed her phone to Shinra.
“[What do you think?]” she typed on her PDA. The doctor looked at her phone for a little bit.
“It looks pretty suspicious to me,” he said. “And you’ve never seen this number before?”
“[No. Should I take it?]” the dullahan typed. Shinra looked up at her.
“That’s up to you,” he said. “If you do decide to take the job, please be very careful.”
That job turned out to be a long and confusing bust. Celty did pick up the bag at the dock, but didn’t know where to drop it off. The caller left money, but no destination. At long last, the frustrated dullahan finally came home. She rubbed the front of her kitty helmet. What was all of that about?
It then donned on her that she wasn’t alone.
Celty slowly looked up. A pale woman in a bright white kimono sat at the bottom of the stairs. Blood covered the abdomen and crotch part of her clothes as she held a baby in a thin blue blanket. The child, as far as Celty could see, was dead. She could see the umbilical cord hanging down from the bloody blanket. The woman’s bright red eyes drowned in sorrow. Normally, the dullahan would try and help this lady, but every part of her being warned her to stay away.
Who is she?
The woman never said a word. She stood up with her with lifeless child in her arms and quietly walked away. The umbilical cord dragged across the ground behind her.