Halo Fourteen: Akabayashi:
It started out as a request from the Project Heaven Department. Daichi came to Aya in her office in Rampo Biotech. He knocked on the door.
“Enter,” she said. Daichi opened the door. Aya looked up from her desk.
“Did you want something?” she asked. Daichi closed the door behind him.
“We’ve got a problem,” he said.
“What is it?” the therapist asked.
“The Awakusu is starting to catch onto Red Rabbit,” Daichi said in a low voice. Aya raised her eyebrow.
“And… what do you want me to do about it?” she asked.
“Can’t you kill that Red Demon or something?” Daichi asked. “I know Heaven’s Slave aren’t the best to work with, but we had to keep them under our thumb or we’d run into bigger problems down the road.” Aya clicked her pen closed.
“Hajime-san, you know we can’t kill a member of the yakuza,” she said. “If you kill one, the others will come after you seeking revenge.”
“Not directly,” Daichi said. “Can’t you like curse him to death or something?” Aya all but laughed at him.
“Curse him to death?” she asked. “What am I, a witch?”
“I’m willing to take anything at this point,” he said.
“Does Myojin-san know you’re here?”
Daichi shuffled his feet. “I just told him I would take care of the problem.”
“I see…” Aya put down her pen. “Lucky for you, there is a curse that I always wanted to try out that Keating-san mentioned in passing one time.” The young man stared at her, wide-eyed.
“So you will help us after all?” he asked. Aya gave him a little smile.
“I’ll see what I can do,” she said.
She had to get permission first. Kitano is a stickler for running a tight ship. One little slip-up and the game could come unraveled. He already approved her proposal for the spell, but told her to hold off.
Tonight, that all changed.
Aya stopped by Kitano’s office.
“You wanted to see me?” Aya asked.
“Yes,” Kitano said. “You remember your proposal to me about Akabayashi-san?”
“Yes,” Aya said. The older therapist handed her a small black tablet.
“Now that the fourth gate’s open,” he said. “You are free to work on your curse.” The younger therapist quickly bowed.
“Thank you, sir,” she said. Aya couldn’t do this alone.
Enter Hecate and Lucy.
As Aya walked out of Kitano’s office, she pulled out her cell phone.
“We’ve been expecting your car, Otomo-san,” Hecate said on the other line.
“You nightcomers really perceptive,” Aya said.
“Kitano-sensei will allow me to go ahead with the spell.”
“You and your sister can find Rampo Biotech with no problems, right?”
“Yes we can.”
“Good. How far are you from here?”
“We can be there in about… thirty to forty minutes.”
“Good, good. Meet me outside at the front in the building in thirty minutes.”
“Alright,” Hecate said.
“Thank you,” Aya said. She hung up with a cat-like smile on her face.
The women needed supplies for the spell. Aya already knew the spell that she wanted to use on Akabayashi.
“I think we should create a monster that feeds off of hate and rage,” Lucy said. Aya shook her head.
“No, love is a stronger motive than hate,” she said.
“Oh?” Lucy asked. Aya shoved forward a photograph of a woman with red eyes.
“Her name was Sonohara Sayaka,” she said. “I took the liberty of doing research on the target. Sonohara-san was possessed by the demon sword, Saika. On one night while the target was trying to collect money from the Sonohara Hall, Sonohara-san attacked him with Saika and he fell hard for her.”
“How sweet,” the nightcomer said.
“But,” the therapist said. “She was married at the time. One night, her husband tried to murder their daughter and Sonohara-san killed him and committed suicide.” Hecate smiled in the darkness.
“So, we are in a way going to bring Sonohara-san back from the dead?” she asked.
“You can say that,” Aya said.
“Wait,” Lucy said. “You said Sonohara, yeah?”
“That’s right,” the therapist said.
“Isn’t she Anri’s mother?” the younger nightcomer asked.
“Yes,” Aya and Hecate said.
“Oh!” Lucy said, intrigued. “That just made things much more interesting.”
The nightcomers gathered up the supplies they needed. Aya already had eight of the ingredients needed for the spell. Lipstick, photograph of Sayaka, cinnamon, clipped fingernails, dried peppers, pomegranate seeds, a snake’s skin, and dried peony flowers. The only things see needed were fish eyes, crow feathers, and two strands of Akabayashi’s hair. Aya looked at her cell phone. No new calls. Surprising that her ex-in-laws weren’t hounding her for dragging out the divorce case. Did they finally give up? Ha! Like that would ever happen…
Aya looked up when she heard a door on the laboratory door.
“Enter!” she said. Hecate and Lucy walked into the lab. Aya shoved her phone into her pocket.
“Did you get everything?” she asked.
“Yes,” the nightcomers said. The psychiatrist rose to her feet.
“Good, let’s get started,” she said. The three women walked over to a smooth black table in the middle of the room. Aya turned on a heater underneath a small silver bowl. She let the water boil before throwing in the peony and cinnamon. Hecate stepped forward and put in the fish eyes. Aya ignored them staring up at her as she put in the snake skin. The fingernails, peppers, pomegranate seeds, and feathers went in next. Aya put on the dark red lipstick and kissed Sayaka’s picture. She then threw it and Akabayashi’s hair into potion. The liquid turned a greenish-black color. The smell didn’t bother the women. They each joined hands and started to chant.
“Ai to cho han,” Aya and the nightcomers said. “Ai to cho han. Ai to cho han. Ai to cho han!” The liquid below started bubbling faster and changing to a light pink. Tiny sparks shot up with the smoke. With one loud boom, the liquid was gone. All that remained in the bowl was a little white faceless doll with a heart deep red heart in the chest are. The little heart was beating in a steady rhythm. Aya resisted the urge to touch it. Lucy walked over to the side tables and got a glass case covered in holes. She set it over the bowl.
“And now we wait,” Aya said.
It was raining that night.
Akabayashi walked home, rubbing the back of his head. He had the strange feeling that someone snuck up behind him and yanked out some of hair. The notion rather puzzled him. Why would anyone want to do that? His thoughts were pushed aside when he heard a clacking noise approaching his direction. The mobster turned his head.
A woman was walking across the Mutsumata-rikkyo Overpass under a giant red umbrella. The heavy rain added a spooky, but elegant ambience surrounding her. Her pale skin and long black hair gave the appearance of glowing in the darkness. Akabayashi shivered when he caught her eye. The red glow gave him memories of that time he met Sayaka. Everything about her looked just like his lost love. This woman even wore the pink blouse and long white skirt Sayaka wore when they first met. Did she come back to him?
Akabayashi shook his head. That wasn’t possible. She’s been dead for years. But this woman’s glowing red eyes seemed to tell him otherwise. The mobster walked over to the woman with the red umbrella.
“I do apologize for saying this,” he said. “But you really do look like someone I knew a long time ago.” The woman looked him deep into his good eye. Her lips begged for a kiss as they trembled. She looked so small under him. The look in her eyes pleaded with him to protect her. Akabayashi hesitated with his urge to pull her into his arms. Who was this woman making him relive the first meeting with his beloved Sayaka?
He took her home with him.
She sat on his bed as he stood in front of her. Akabayashi had been thoughts about how this could play out. At heart, he was gentleman to women. She didn’t object to coming home with him. Would be okay if they…?
Akabayashi walked up to the woman knelt down in front of her.
“Sayaka,” he said in a low voice. The mobster lifted her chin and gently kissed her on the lips. A spark of warmth raced through his body. He pulled her into his arms. She dropped back onto his bed. “Sayaka” smiled as he huddled on top of her. For many nights, Akabayashi dreamt of how this would’ve been. What if she had left her husband and brought Anri to live with him?
He grabbed her blouse and slid it off. His blazer and shades followed behind. “Sayaka” reached up and touched his right eye. Akabayashi lowered her hand. She said something almost inaudible.
“Hm?” he asked. She looked up at him with helpless eyes.
“I like you,” she whispered again. Akabayashi leaned down and kissed her again. They both undressed and “Sayaka” opened her legs underneath him. Tangled up. Tangled up in her. She smelt of jasmines and gardenias. Her soft whimpering teased his ears. She reached up and stroked his cheek.
“I like you,” she said. “I like you!” When he bit her on the lower lip, she whispered, “More.”
He stole one more kiss before reaching his climax. Akabayashi lay beside her, panting. “Sayaka” looked so beautiful spent. He went to sleep with his arm over her slender body.
She barely speaks. Only says, “I like you” and “more”. Akabayashi over sees her around night. They meet up at the Mutsumata-rikkyo Overpass. Sometimes, he would bring her flowers. Though “Sayaka” barely smiled, he could see how happy she was by looking into her glowing red eyes. The mobster greeted her with a kiss and take her home with him.
Most of the time, she would leave by morning. Akabayashi felt along the empty side of his bed. Part of him wished that she would stay with him until he left for work. He hadn’t noticed how lonely the apartment felt without her until after the first night they slept together. Akabayashi didn’t know about “Sayaka” either. He didn’t know her real name. He didn’t know where she lived. Or where she went or did during to the day. Somehow that didn’t matter. He just had to be with her. “Sayaka” made his nights less lonely.
There were those rare moments that she would be still be in his bed by morning. It was as if she could hear what he longed for after their lusty nights together. She didn’t have to say anything. Having her by his side was enough.
“I’m heading out for another job today,” Akabayashi said as he got dressed in the mirror. “What you like to have for dinner tonight?” “Sayaka” lay in his bed with the sheets covering her breasts. He couldn’t see her full face in the mirror from where he stood.
“Shabu-shabu,” she said.
“Alright,” Akabayashi said. He finished buttoning up his shirt. The mobster didn’t notice the deep purple mark on his chest. He walked over kissed “Sayaka” on the lips.
“I’ll see you tonight,” Akabayashi said. He turned and walked out the door.
Within the coming weeks, Shiki began to notice something wrong with Akabayashi. The Red Demon executive looked pale and seemed to have lost a great amount of weight. He used his cane more and more for support. Akabayashi was even coughing.
“You feeling okay?” Shiki asked in his office.
“Of course,” the Red Demon executive said in a raspy voice. “Why wouldn’t I be?” He coughed hard enough to make his chest hurt. Shiki frowned and shook his head.
“Take the rest of the day off and see a doctor,” he said.
“Are you sure?” Akabayashi asked.
“Yes,” his boss instantly. The Red Demon executive didn’t argue back. He left and headed to the doctor’s office. They couldn’t find anything wrong with him for some reason. Akabayashi was told that he was just coming down with the flu. They gave him meds and sent him on his way.
He met up with “Sayaka” at the Mutsumata-rikkyo Overpass at the usual.
Around the same time of this meeting, Anri was heading home when she saw Akabayashi passing by her with a woman that looked like her late mother. The girl stopped in her tracks and turned around.
“Mom?” she asked. Akabayashi put his arm around the woman’s shoulder.
“No,” Anri said.
"That’s not your mom," Saika said inside of her. ”Imposter! Imposter! That’s not your mother!" Her words were motive enough to follow the couple in secret.
She trailed them back to Akabayashi’s apartment. Part of Anri knew that she shouldn’t be doing this. If he had a new love in his life, then she should be happy for her guardian. But something didn’t feel right. And that nagging suspicion wouldn’t leave her until she had her answers.
Anri remembered that she had a spare key to Akabayashi’s apartment. He gave it to her in case of emergency. But, Anri had never been over to his place until tonight. She waited until she was sure that he and his woman were completely inside the apartment. The girl took out her key and unlocked the door as quietly as she could.
“Excuse me, I’m coming in,” she whispered to herself. Anri crept inside and took off her shoes. She did her best to stay quiet as she looked around in the darkness. Her ears caught a loud groaning noise. Anri had a guess about what was going on.
I shouldn’t be doing this.
Maybe, she could just turn around and let Akabayashi be happy with his new girlfriend who looked like her mother. It should be fine, right? Right? Anri crept down the hall, using the noises as a way guide her. She found the bedroom door. Her heart raced as she peeked through the crack. Anri became horrified at what she saw.
Akabayashi was in the middle of the throes of passion with a rotting corpse that looked like her mother.
The poor girl hoped that this was a bad dream she had stumbled into. Anri rubbed her eyes, but the picture did not change. Most of the woman’s lower jaw had rotted off. Her eyes looked so hollowed and empty. Anri backed away with the color drained from her face. She turned and run out of the apartment as fast as she could.
Anri couldn’t keep this to herself. But, who would believe her? They would all assume that she had gone crazy. She still couldn’t shake the feeling that Akabayashi could be in danger with that woman wearing her mother’s face.
In that moment, Anri knew who to turn to.
On another rainy evening, she knocked on Celty and Shinra’s door. The doctor greeted her.
“Anri!” Shinra said. “How have you been?” He noticed her trembling as she grabbed her arm.
“What’s the matter?” Shinra asked. Anri’s lips trembled.
“I really need to talk to you,” she said. “This is really important.”
“Okay, come in,” Shinra said. The doctor helped her into the apartment.
Anri sat in the chair trembling as Shinra handed her a cup of tea.
“Thank you,” she said without looking up.
“[What’s on your mind?]” Celty asked. Anri clenched her tea cup.
“It’s Akabayashi-san,” she said in a low voice. The poor girl couldn’t get the creepy images out of her head. She almost dreaded saying what she saw out loud.
“What about him?” Shinra asked. Anri lifted her head.
“I… I …” she said.
“[Take your time if you have to,]” Celty typed. Anri closed her eyes.
“I saw Akabayashi-san sleeping with a corpse!” she blurted out. The poor girl thought that she would throw up.
“What?” Shinra asked with a confused look on his face. Anri forced herself to repeat the whole story she saw the night before. The whole time, she looked shaken up. When the girl had finished, she pulled her knees to her chest.
“And you’re sure you didn’t dream up the whole thing?” Shinra asked. Anri shook her head. Celty put her hand on the girl’s shoulder. Saika’s welder looked up to see the dullahan’s PDA inches from her face.
“[It’s okay, I believe you,]” it read.
“Thank you,” Anri said. “But what I don’t know what to do. He’s been really sick lately and it’s been getting worse.” Celty began to think back on the times she crossed paths with Akabayashi in the past few weeks. The mobster looked closer to death each day. She had to try and help him up when he near fell over one day. When the dullahan grabbed him by the arms, she could hear a faint screeching noise coming from his body.
“[Tell me something, Anri. Do you think that woman with Akabayashi-san might be the reason that he’s been really ill lately?]” Celty typed on her PDA. Anri read the screen closely.
“I don’t really know,” she said.
“[I see…]” Celty typed. Shinra looked as he tried to figure out what his girlfriend was thinking.
The next day, Celty voiced her concerns to Shiki.
“[Have you been noticing if Akabayashi-san’s been getting sick lately?]” she asked with her PDA.
“Why yes,” he said. “I had him go see a doctor a few weeks ago.”
“[What did they say?]” the dullahan typed.
“They told it was the flu,” Shiki said. “But I don’t buy it.”
“[I don’t think it’s the flu either,]” Celty typed. “[Has he been seeing anyone lately?]” The mob boss took a moment to think back over the past few weeks.
“I didn’t ask him, but I had suspected as much,” he said at last.
She hesitated at first, but then typed, “[I think his new relationship might be what’s making him sick.]” Shiki stared at the screen for a good minute.
“What do you mean by this?” he asked. Celty broke down Anri’s story as quick as she could.
“And this is what you believe is making him ill?” Shiki asked.
“[Yes,]” Celty typed.
“What do you suggest we do?” he asked.
Shiki and Celty went down to see a Buddhist priest about their predicament. The mob executive didn’t believe in this sort of thing, but he trusted Celty’s judgment. The dullahan explained the situation to the priest.
“Your colleague is being cursed to death,” the old priest said at last.
“By who?” Shiki asked.
“I do not know,” the priest said. “But this is powerful magic. If your colleague continues to see that woman, he will die. She’s already drained most of the life out of him.”
“[Is there a way to break the curse?]” Celty typed.
“Yes,” the old priest said. “Come with me.” She and Shiki followed him to the back of the temple.
Shiki’s men, Celty, and Anri put up protective charms around Akabayashi’s apartment. The Buddhist priest filled the mobster in on what was going on.
“The only way you will be able to survive is if you can resist this woman calling out to you for the whole night,” he told him. It hurt to hear that, but Akabayashi decided to give it a try if he wanted to live and get better. Once the barrier was set, the only thing left to do was wait.
“Is the fun over already?” Lucy asked, as she pouted and looked out the window of their laboratory. Aya sat at her desk, smirking.
“No,” she said. The nightcomer turned to her with a confused look on her face.
“But didn’t you hear what that priest said?” she asked.
“Yes,” the psychiatrist said. “But, he’ll have a change of heart really soon.” Lucy walked over to her desk.
“You sound so sure about that,” she said.
“Yes,” Aya said again. “Because love is not that easy to resist in the end.” Meanwhile on the table, the doll in the glass case had melted down to a clear waxy frame. Its little heart inside still beat away.
Nightfall came. It had already started to rain again. Akabayashi sat in his living room and waited. Both Shiki and the priest ordered him to stay in the barrier and resist “Sayaka” calling to him. He turned off the lights in his apartment and stayed by the door. Around this time, the mobster would be unlocking the door and letting his lover in. Despite knowing this could save his life, it still hurt inside.
Just as expected, there was a knock on his door. Akabayashi didn’t dare get up and answer it. He could her voice wailing for him outside.
“Mizuki-kun!” she cried. “Mizuki-kun!” The Red Demon Executive didn’t dare to move. I’m so sorry, Sayaka.
“No like me?” she asked outside. It wasn’t true. As much as wanted to rush out there and embrace her, doing so would cost him his life. Akabayashi lifted his head when he heard sobbing at his door. The mobster shut his good eye.
I am so sorry, Sayaka-chan.
But it didn’t take long for the crying and wailing to get to him. Akabayashi stood up and opened the door. “Sayaka” stood outside, soaking wet. Her glowing red eyes drowned in pity. But, she couldn’t go inside because of the barrier. Akabayashi threw his arms around her. He always made up his mind. Maybe one last goodbye wouldn’t hurt. After this night, he could end and they would go their separate ways. The dream was nice to live while it lasted.
He reached over and tore down one of the main charms holding the barrier together. “Sayaka” followed him into his apartment.
Five days went by and Akabayashi had gone missing since Shiki and the others tried to save him.
“I can’t get hold of that idiot,” Aozaki Shu said as he hung up his cell phone. Already, Shiki had a bad feeling about this.
“Get the car ready,” he said.
“Yes, boss,” Aozaki said.
All of the Awakusu executives drove out Akabayashi’s apartment. They persuaded the landlord to unlock the door. Inside smelt and felt like a tomb. Shiki noticed one of the protective charms ripped off of the door frame, he already pieced it together. He and the other men headed for the back bedroom. There was Akabayashi’s body lying cold and lifeless in an intimate embrace with a skeleton.
The reports would list the official cause of Akabayashi’s death as undetermined. But, he did die with a peaceful smile on his face. As for the skeleton. That only thing the coroner could determine from the examination was the gender.
By the size of the pelvis, the skeleton was female. That much was true. But they found themselves baffled when ran the dental records. Sonohara Sayaka was cremated years ago. Could it be possible that she had a twin sister that didn’t know about? Her daughter, Anri, didn’t think so.
“My mother was an only child as far as I know,” she told the police when they asked that. Both the skeleton and Akabayashi’s death remain open cases.
Meanwhile, Junko smiled in her office and flicked a black knight piece that was standing behind that trapped red game piece across the room. She snickered as it hit the wall and landed on the light brown rug on the floor. The nurse smirked as she ran her finger across the top of her plastic tube that contained the red piece, blue piece, yellow piece, mini bride cake topper, and the mini cherub in a circle in the center on chess board.
“They are all falling away from them, one by one,” Junko muttered to herself. “All according to plan. Well what do you, that slut can be pretty useful for something after all.” The nurse snickered to herself before she returned to her paperwork.
“You did a great job with further isolating Saika’s Mother and helping Hajime-san and Myojin-san keep Project Heaven from getting derailed,” Kitano said after he read the news on his phone at his desk.
“Thank you, Kitano-sensei,” Aya said, bowing.
“But there is one more thing,” he said.
“What is it?” the younger therapist asked.
“Don’t become too reliant on magic,” Kitano warned her. “It may be great use, but don’t get too close to those women in Nam. We may trade information with them, but we can’t trust them. Don’t forget that. And don’t forget that you have your own natural skills to rely on as well.”
“Yes, sir,” Aya said in a low voice.
“You are free to go,” he said.
“Yes, sir,” the younger therapist said. She bowed one time before she walked out of Kitano’s office.
Back on the day the EMT’s loaded both Akabayashi’s covered body and the skeleton into the silent ambulance, Hecate and Lucy watched from the crowd. The younger nightcomer turned to her sister.
“You know what this reminds me of?” she asked.
“What?” Hecate asked.
“The strange story of an old grieving samurai coming from the Obon festival who meets a beautiful woman with a peony lantern walking in the darkness. She is accompanied by a small girl. Anyway, the samurai meets up with the woman and they become lovers. But she turns out to be from the dead and drains his life away. A neighbor and Buddhist priest try to help, but the samurai is too drawn in by the woman and dies in the arms of her skeleton. It’s a really good story, actually.” Hecate listened and nodded.
“I see,” she said. “I will have to check it out.”
“You must,” Lucy said. Both nightcomers vanished into thin air.