Halo Seventeen: Mari:
Mari sat at her computer, typing. Izaya’s apartment wasn’t the ideal place to work, but it sure beat working in the basement of Rampo Biotech. He wasn’t home right now. The information broker gave her a copy of his key around Christmas time. They started to trust each other enough to let down their guards. But, she knew that she would have to get him out of Ikebukuro even more than ever.
Mari turned her head when she heard one of the doors down the hall opening. Aoba slumped over the door frame, panting. The programmer gave him a sympathetic look. He over here practically every night.
“Are you okay?” Mari asked. Aoba looked at her and groaned. He dragged himself over to the table and took a seat.
“That bad?” she asked.
“Spare me, will ya?” Aoba asked. Mari could understand his pain. Kururi acted downright bitchy towards her when Izaya wasn’t around. Right now, his younger sister was still sleeping in bed. Mari closed her laptop lid and joined the boy at the table.
“Look,” she said. “I know that she can be a bit of a nightmare, but I heard she used to be a sweet kid. I guess it’s because Izaya was all that she had while they were growing up.” Aoba looked up at her, sneering. Did she even know what she was talking about?
“Good morning!” they heard from the hallway. Mari and Aoba turned to see Kururi standing in the entry in nothing but a black lace gown. She walked over and put her arms around her “boyfriend’s” shoulders.
“Babe, you should’ve woken me up if you were going to leave,” she said. She kissed him on the cheek. Aoba forced himself to smile.
“Yeah, sorry about that,” he lied. Kururi looked up at Mari and her cheerful demeaner changed into an icy one.
“Oh, you’re still here?” she asked. “Don’t you have work to do or something?”
“Uh, yeah…” Mari said. “I do, actually.”
“So why are you still here?” Kururi asked. “Shouldn’t you be at work, oh I don’t know, working?”
“Stop,” Aoba mouthed at her. Since when did she get this catty? Mari didn’t even blink.
“This place is much better because it’s warmer and quieter,” she said. “Besides, your brother doesn’t mind if I work in his apartment if I need to.” Kururi’s nails dug into Aoba’s back as she gritted her teeth. Mari picked up her laptop and carried it over to the living room. She could hold her own against her highness Kururi just fine. She has if she’s going to try and save Izaya from dying again.
Mikage rubbed her forehead. What was with all of these weird visions that she had been having lately? Blood all over the dojo floor. She wasn’t sure whose it was or how it happened. The dojo master could’ve she was seeing dead bodies all over the place. She remembered seeing one leaned up against the wall with no head or hands and stripped naked. This was had to be a man, but Mikage couldn’t identify who it was. Another one hung from the ceiling. This one looked like a woman. But, none of those made any sense.
That wasn’t the only thing on her mind too.
“Why do I get the feeling there was something that I had to do?” Mikage asked herself. She began to see the lower part of a woman’s face. She couldn’t hear her voice, but she was pleading with her to help her. Did it have something to do with what she was supposed to do?
“Mikage!” Eijirou called from the back.
“Yeah?” she asked. Mikage slowly backed out the dojo part. Meanwhile, Tiresias’ pin gathered the energy coming from the dojo.
Aoba had to swallow his pride twice today.
“Why do you want to know about before my sister was born?” Izaya asked.
“No reason,” Aoba lied. He wasn’t sure if should go ahead and tell him the edited version of the story. Everyone the boy asked didn’t know who Mairu was anymore. Kururi’s little posse treated like a joke. Despite all of that, Aoba still had a faint shimmer of hope that a least one person could remember who the lost twin was. Izaya could remember Mairu and just be pretending not to. But what sense would that make? Izaya narrowed his eyes at him.
“Why should I help you at all?” he asked. Aoba puffed up his cheeks.
“Don’t you find it suspicious that Kururi-chan has been acting like this?” he asked.
“Not really,” Izaya said. “She’s always been like that.”
“No she hasn’t,” Aoba said. “The Kururi-chan I knew wore gym clothes to school. She was quiet and shy, but mischievous at the same time. Those annoying girls she hangs with bullied her. I do not like what she has turned into. This is not the Kururi-chan I know. She was never a total bitch.”
“I’d appreciate if you didn’t call my sister a bitch,” Izaya said with an edge to his voice. Aoba took in a deep breath.
“Just tell me what happened to Mairu before she was born.” he said.
“What if I don’t feel like it?” Izaya held up a hand, shrugging. “You were rather rude.” The former founder of the Blue Squares gritted his teeth. He mumbled something under his breath.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t quite catch that,” the information broker said. Aoba repeated his words again.
“What was that?” Izaya asked again. “You’re talking too soft. Could you kindly speak up?”
“I said that I was sorry!” the former founder of the Blue Squares shouted with a red face. “I’m sorry, god damn it! I didn’t mean to call your sister a bitch! Could you please tell me what happened to Mairu?!” The boy fell to his knees. Izaya couldn’t help but to smirk.
“Well, since you asked nicely, I’ll help you out,” he said. “But you will have to do something for me in return.” The boy’s eyes widened. He should’ve expected as much. But, it still felt like getting kicked in the nuts.
That wasn’t the only time Aoba would have to swallow his pride. His still had another little problem on his hands.
Aoba looked at his phone. How humiliating that he would resort to this. Still, Kaori persisted in her campaign to make his life miserable until he backed off of Chirin, whoever he was. At this rate, someone would probably find his body in a ditch somewhere.
Aoba puffed up his cheeks and made the call.
“Hello, Aniki,” he said. “It’s me, I need your help…”
“Why the hell would I do that?” Ran asked on the other line.
“The Blue Squares are dead,” his brother said.
“You could be next. I keep getting attacked by everyone from different gangs. I don’t want to be killed. We need to come together.”
“Are you saying you want me to your ass?”
It felt so painful for Aoba to actually come out and say it. “Yes. I am scared for my life right now. Please, I will do anything.”
“Anything?” Ran’s tone of voice raised when he asked that question. Aoba felt like throwing up.
“Yes,” he said reluctantly. Already, he began to regret this idea.
“I’ll think about it,” Ran said before he hung up. Aoba stared at his phone and cringed. Two pacts with the devil in the same day. He had sunken that low.
Mari plugged in the last code of the first part of the Dis Program. She lowered her head and started to laugh.
“I did it!” she said. “Part one is finally done!” Five weeks came to this small victory. But, she wouldn’t get time to celebrate. Mari lifted her head when she heard her laptop beeping.
“Huh?” she asked. Somehow after hitting enter, the newly decoded piece of the program opened a browser and started to upload itself to the internet.
“What the…?!” Mari said. She started mashing keys to get the upload task to abort, but it was too late. “Upload complete” her screen read. An image of a clock popped up on the screen. Right away, it began counting down.
“What the hell is this?” Mari asked. Through all of the loops that this city had been in, she had never seen this happen before. Watching the numbers counting down on the screen became a reminder of what was going to happen to Izaya if she didn’t get him out of the city in time. Suddenly, her cell phone rang.
“Hello?” Mari asked in a trembling voice.
“Mari!” Aya said on the other line. “Good job on decoding the first part of the Dis Program.”
“W-W-What did I just unleash online?” her daughter asked.
“I can see that, but what is it counting down to?”
“Don’t you know?”
“This clock will count down to the end of our game.”
Mari should’ve expected that answer. Of course it tied back to this stupid game her mother and the rest of Tandeki refused to give up. The programmer intern pushed her dark black bangs from her forehead. “And how do I stop this clock?”
“You don’t,” Aya said. Mari paused with her hand on the mouse.
“That can’t be right,” she said. “Every program has a stop code to it.” Her mother laughed on the other line.
“Oh, my naïve little daughter,” she said. “This is a special type of program.”
“What does that mean?” Mari asked as her eyes shifted back and forth.
“Why don’t you go ahead and decode the rest to see?” Aya asked. She hung up before her daughter could ask any more questions.
“Mom?” Mari asked. She looked at her phone and huffed. “Now what?” It was then, she became aware that she wasn’t alone in the kitchen. Mari turned her head to see Kururi standing in the doorway, frowning at her.
“Oh, Kururi,” she said. “When did you come back here?” The teenaged girl folded her arms across her chest.
“We have to talk,” she said in a stern. Mari blinked at her.
“Huh?” she asked. Kururi walked over to the table and took a seat.
“What do you really think you are trying to play here?” she asked.
“E-Excuse me?” the programmer asked.
“Oh, come off it! I see the way you look at nii-san. You think just because you are sleeping with him, you’ll change him? Don’t make me laugh.”
“It’s not even like that!” Mari was quick to say. Kururi raised her eyebrow.
“I don’t know what sort of game you’re playing with nii-chan, but I know what a scheming woman looks like,” she said.
“What are you talking about?!” the programmer asked as she made a strange face. The teenaged girl leaned forward, narrowing her eyes.
“You might think you can save him from whatever you think that he needs saving from,” she said. “You just keep this in mind: you will never be number one in his life. You just Nii-san’s booty call.” Mari’s face became bright red.
“What Izaya and I do is none of your business!” she shouted. Kururi smirked just like her brother.
“So you’re on a first name basis now?” she asked. Mari rolled her eyes and closed up her laptop.
“I do not have time for this,” she muttered. The programmer packed up her things and walked out of the apartment.
“Yeah, that’s right!” Kururi shouted after her. “Run away from the truth!” The front door slammed closed in response.
After wandering around the streets of Ikebukuro and wrestling with herself on what to do next, Mari found herself standing in front of Rakuei Gym. She drew in a deep breath as she realized that it came to that point. But would she even remember the promise they made each other? At that moment, Mikage had just come outside when she stopped the programmer. Both women laid eyes on each other.
“It’s you,” Mikage said. Mari bowed as fast as she could.
“I really need your help!” she blurted out. “Izaya’s in serious danger!” The programmer glanced up and did a quick study of the gym instructor’s face. The lack of expression sent her into a panic. Mikage tilted her head.
“You’ve said this before, haven’t you?” she asked. Mari stood up straight.
“Yes,” she said.
“Is he still alive?” Mikage asked.
“As of right now, yes,” the programmer said. The gym instructor turned towards and motioned her inside.
“Come inside,” she said.
“Thank you,” Mari said, bowing again. She followed Mikage into the gym. Meanwhile, Tiresias’ pin started to turn a light powder blue.