Halo Nineteen: Origin:
The whole game began at Chou Mori Institution. Today, the place stands outside of Ikebukuro empty. The crumbling walls remind those who visit it of the horrors that went on inside. Rumors float around that it is haunted. Curious ghost hunters have reported strange activity when they snoop around Chou Mori.
But, what’s the real story behind this form mental institution of horrors? We need to go back to 1965 to get the whole story.
It’s true that Genji Kozue founded Chou Mori in the summer of 1965. But then, it started out as a place of good intentions. Genji wanted to create a safe harbor for the mentally ill. Japan appeared to pretend that mental illness wasn’t real. Society would just write them off and forget that they existed. Most of the sick ended up on the streets or dead with nowhere else to go. This wasn’t sitting well with Genji-san and he sought to change this. He used most of his wealth to buy 633.913 acres out near Aokigahara forest in the winter of 1962. From the ground up, Chou Mori Institution was born. On July 29th, 1965, the Institution opened its doors.
In the beginning, Chou Mori had well intentions. Genji-san dreamed for this place to help cure the mentally ill and reintroduce them into society. Not only would the patients had the proper treatment that they needed, they could get and education and learn a few skills to help them find a job once they got out. He employed the best of the best with psychiatrists, doctors, nurses, and teachers. For five years, it became nationally renowned leader in mental health care. Many families placed their trust and their loved ones in the care of Genji-san and his well-trained staff. In those short five years, he saw his dream come to life.
But then, Genji-san mysteriously died on July 10th, 1970. The official cause of death was listed as heart disease. Those who knew him well didn’t believe it for one second. Some even suspected that he was poisoned. But, what was the motive? Almost all of Genji-san’s money went into Chou Mori. His son and his daughter only stood to gain one percent of the fortune. For the most part, everyone only accepted the cause of the death. Genji-san was cremated after his funeral and his son, Ken, took over Chou Mori. Sadly, he found himself in over his head. His father left him with two major problems to sort out. To his horror, Ken learned that Chou Mori was close to bankruptcy.
“How did this happen?!” he asked. The employees couldn’t come up with an answer. For they had another problem on their hands. Chou Mori became a dumping ground for Japan’s “undesirables”. Before the beginning of June, the institution became overrun with many patients. Most of them weren’t there because they were truly mentally ill. Some were there because they were labelled as criminally insane. Physically disabled ended up here as well. Even a handful of them were homeless. Pretty much if society labelled them as an outcast, they ended up here. Ken couldn’t turn them away. He made a promise to his father that he would keep his vision alive. But where was he going to get the money?
One year later, Ken had no choice but to sell Chou Mori to cut his losses. This wouldn’t be the last time the institution would change hands. Before it was closed, ownership of Chou Mori would change hands at least eight times. The most common reason was money. Ever since Genji-san’s death, his baby had been rumored to be a giant money pit. Most of the owners struggled to keep the institution up and running, but ended up losing money in the end. With financial troubles, patient care suffered too. Chou Mori ended up with the highest staff change in all of Japan. The new boss couldn’t afford proper care and supplies like Genji-san back in the late sixties. As a result, they started to cut corners on everything.
This is where the heart of darkness truly began for Tandeki and two of their projects.
The blueprints for Project Tadpole began in later 1987. The actual project itself began in 1989. Before then, Kitano Katsuhiro joined Chou Mori Institution in the spring of 1985. He was thirty-eight at the time and had quit his job at Tokyo Medical University three years earlier. Since that time, he Kitano was building up his career as a psychiatrist. His colleagues couldn’t understand what he was doing here in a sinking ship of a mental hospital.
“Why did you quit such a secure and cushy job?” one of his new colleagues asked.
“I lost interest,” Kitano said, looking out the window.
“Huh?” the colleague asked.
“Medicine will grow and change, just without me to be there,” the former doctor said. He turned around when he heard the other therapist chuckle.
“May I ask what is so funny?” Kitano asked.
“I don’t know why you would come here of all places,” the colleague said. “Chou Mori has changed management again three years ago. This boss is really a tight-ass. The pay sucks here. Most psychiatrists quit within six months. And don’t get me started on the patients here.”
“The head came to me personally,” the new therapist answered. His colleague whistled.
“Wow,” he said. “They really are desperate.”
“I guess so,” Kitano said.
Just like at Tokyo Medical University, Kitano kept to himself. He focused on his patients. But, the director of the institution sensed that something was missing from his new hire. The therapist took care of the patients, but it felt more robotic. He didn’t really engage the patients. There was just no heart in his work.
On New Year’s Day, the director called Kitano into his office.
“You wanted to see me?” the therapist asked. The director laced his fingers together.
“I have a new patient for you to take care of,” he said. “Her husband will bring her in tomorrow. She’s suffering from depression after the death of their infant son.” Kitano didn’t even blink.
“Yes sir,” he said.
“You will be working with her pro bono,” the director added. The therapist narrowed his eyes.
“Pro bono, sir?” he asked.
“Yes,” his boss said. “Consider this a little protect to boost your motivation. You appear to have no heart in your work.”
“No heart, sir?”
“Do you even remember your patients names?”
“This is part of your problem. You don’t connect with your patients. I talked with your old boss back at Tokyo Medical over Christmas and he said the same thing.” The director clicked his pen closed.
“I will have the other therapists here tend to your patients for the time being,” he added. “You just focus on this one patient until she gets better.” Despite his own objections to this, Kitano nodded.
“I understand, sir,” he said.
The next day, Makoto dropped off his wife at Chou Mori. She wound up in the care of Kitano-sensei. The patient stared off into a daze for the first three days. She sat on her bed, motionless. Her therapist didn’t try to approach her for the first five days. After a while, he decided to just go ahead to and start his therapy with her.
The first session didn’t go so well. The patient only rambled on about God. Kitano let it go in one ear and out the other. God and religion meant nothing to him. His new patient looked like she would be another religious fruit cake who was suffering from depression over the loss of her son. But, he still had a job to do. Kitano half-listened, thinking that he would let the patient get it out of her system.
He realized that wasn’t going to happen when she didn’t stop talking about God, her husband, and her son.
“Tell me, why would God take your son?” he asked out of the blue on the sixth of February. The patient turned to him, wide-eyed. Kitano didn’t know why he asked her that. Maybe it was to try and get her to stop talking about her god so much.
“What?” she asked.
“Why would God take your son?” Kitano asked again. “If he is so great and wonderful why would he do such a terrible thing?” This patient lowered her head and shook it. He eyed her, expecting her to crumble at day one. But then, he noticed her mumbling something to herself.
“Excuse me?” Kitano asked. He leaned in closer as this patient kept mumbling. The therapist could only catch a few words before he could contact that she was praying. To be exact, she was muttering something about the story Job from the Bible. Kitano sat back, furrowing his brow.
“I feel that God is testing me,” the patient said.
“And why is that?” Kitano asked.
“I don’t know,” this patient said. She rested her head on the table. “I feel tired.” Hearing her say that struck something inside of him. Looking at that patient with her head on the table told Kitano what he had to do.
I decided to try and kill her God.
Boy, did Kitano try. Day after day, he would bring this patient stories of human tragedy. He would ask her if God was loving and merciful then why would he let terrible things happen to people. The patient’s answer was always the same.
“That’s how he is,” she would say. “We just have to believe in him.” The more Kitano tried, the more the patient wouldn’t give up her faith. In the end, he couldn’t kill her God. The night before she left, Kitano sat in my office, brooding. No matter how hard he thought, he still couldn’t figure her out. Something about her seemed off and not just her depression. This patient probably saw herself as a saint trying to atone for the death of her son. Nothing that the doctors said to her could reach her otherwise. The medications helped, but it didn’t really fix the problem. Sure, she came out of her depression, but she still hung onto her God.
Kitano sat back and rubbed his forehead.
“Are you frustrated yet?” a voice asked in the dark.
Kitano lifted his head. The Woman in Red stood before him with more human-like face. Her bright red hair and kimono couldn’t hide the wood-like skin on her body.
“Oh, it’s you,” the therapist said. “What do you mean am I frustrated?”
“Are you frustrated by that patient because of her faith? Frustrated because you couldn’t kill her God? Frustrated because you can’t understand her?” Her face came within inches of his. The psychiatrist gritted his teeth as he clenched his fists on his desk.
“Yes,” Kitano said. “She agitates me so much. How can she hang onto her God after being depressed and losing her son? I don’t get it. I just don’t get it!”
The Woman in Red grinned at him like a wild kitsune.
“Then you are ready to free me,” she said.
Kitano began working on his plan to free the Woman in Red. In between tending to his patients, he began his planning. As he worked and took notes, another thought came into his head. What would happen after the world ended? He wasn’t going to be around to see it. So he resolved to create the perfect “witness” to the world’s destruction. The Woman in Red wasn’t too sure about this, but she let him go ahead and do it anyway.
“You’re a strange man,” she said.
The blueprints for Project Tadpole began in 1987. In the beginning, Kitano couldn’t get his alpha drug off of the ground. The problem lay in his drug, Amaterasu. The psychiatrist dabbled in chemistry in his college years. He figured that he could still pull it off to set his plans in motion. But somehow, the formula for the alpha drug would go horribly wrong. The solution would start out good. But, it would just turn into weak liquid or coagulate into a chucky solid. This would not do. Kitano wanted a strong red fluid to be injected into the body. On his time away from work, he studied the formula over and over. Everything looked like it was correct, down to the tee.
Still, something was missing. Kitano couldn’t figure it out.
“Do you give up?” the Woman in Red asked. The psychiatrist shook his head as he looked at the formula on his desk.
“No?” she asked.
“Whenever the human race runs into a brick wall in their path to their goals,” Kitano said. “It’s time to call in a new pair of eyes to help them see the problem they missed.”
In 1989, Kitano put out an ad for a new research partner. He looked someone skilled in chemistry, hard-working, trustworthy, and committed to their work. Out of all of the applicants, only four of them stood out to him. Three men and one women. Kitano interviewed them all individually. He asked the questions and let them talk. The therapist studied them as they spoke. Two of the men were eliminated after two interview. It came down to the last man and the woman. Something about the woman held Kitano’s attention.
“Please state your name again,” he said on the third interview.
“Asato Etsuko,” she said.
“I read your thesis on the Mnemosyne drug. What motived you to create this drug?”
“I had an interest in memory throughout high school. So, I decided that I would study the subject closely. Particularly what caused memory loss.”
“I have read your thesis quite a number of times. The formula itself could use some polishing up, but I’m quite impressed with it.”
“Thank you so much.”
“May I ask you one more thing.”
Kitano pulled out the notes for the Amaterasu drug. “What would you say was missing?”
Etsuko looked at the notes herself. Whether she can crack it or not would depend on her getting the job. Kitano watched as she studied the first page. Etsuko looked up at him.
“May I take this home with me to further study it?” she asked.
“Sure,” Kitano said. “Do you have any questions?”
“Do you have a deadline for this?”
“No. Take your time if you need to. Call me when you have a solution.”
“Give me ten days,” Etsuko said. Kitano nodded, impressed.
“Alright,” he said. “Thank you for your time.” They bowed and parted ways.
Ten days later, Kitano’s phone rang at home.
“Hello?” he asked.
“I’ve solved it!” Etsuko said on the other line. “I found out what was wrong with your formula.” Kitano raised his eyebrow.
“Did you?” he asked.
“Where can we meet?” she asked. The therapist took a minute to think.
“How far away are you from the library?” he asked.
“About thirty minute,” the doctor said.
“I will meet you there,” Kitano said before hanging up. At the library, she showed him her improved version of the Amaterasu drug on the table. She pointed to a spot on the pattern.
“You had spot number four so weak,” the doctor said. “Further down here, you used too iron here. And over here, you have two elements that aren’t compatible with other. I took apart the formula and examined each piece. When I found out the damaged parts, I worked on each one to correct the errors.” Kitano could only clap at her explanation.
“Wow,” he said.
“What do you call this drug?” Etsuko asked.
“Amaterasu,” Kitano answered.
“Hm, named after the goddess who gave us the sun over this land. I like it.” Etsuko ended working with Kitano on the budding Tadpole Project. She arranged her work schedule to come and home at Chou Mori due to their constant shortage of doctors on staff.
Once Amaterasu was finally created, the experiments could begin.
On August tenth, the first round of the Tadpole experiments began. They ran for about three years. Kitano and Etsuko didn’t use animals. That was just boring to them. For better results, they needed humans. And what better test subject than the mental patients at Chou Mori Institution. Kitano was careful to select patients with no families or guardians to come around asking questions. Wards of the state never raised any questions. The first victims? A four-year-old pair of twins, one boy and one girl. The rest of the test subjects ranged from children to old people. Yes, Kitano and Etsuko were not afraid to use children in their experiments.
They wound up with fifty-six undesirables total.
Kitano and Etsuko all had them in the Guillotine Hill ward. Chou Mori wasn’t using it anyway. There had been endless talks about closing it down. For now, this place would be perfect. Once the half-conscious patients were in their beds, the experiment began.
Kitano filled up fifty-six syringes with the thick deep red Amaterasu. He and Etsuko decided up the room and got to work. The therapist injected the twin boy while the doctor took care of the twin girl.
“How long do we give them?” Etsuko asked as groans started filling the room. Kitano didn’t even blink.
“Three days tops,” he said.
They kept the doors to the Guillotine Hill ward locked all those three days. It wasn’t like most of the staff was going to care anyway. They already had to deal with money hemorrhaging out of Chou Mori and the other patients in the institution. Who’s going to miss fifty-six patients groaning in pain? Speaking of which, the patients began have convulsions and vomiting on themselves. It didn’t take like for Room B to smell of urine, feces, vomit, and blood. But being as Kitano and Etsuko had experience in the medical field, the smell didn’t faze them at all.
“Don’t worry,” Kitano told them. “It’s just the toxins leaving your body. You will feel better in a couple of days.”
By day three, Etsuko unlocked the door. Thirty-two bodies lay in the beds. They looked all shriveled up and bone-skinny. Their skins looked a tanned hide. The teeth easily fell out while the eyes looked big and empty. Kitano looked into the eyes of one the dead test subjects.
“Most unfortunate mess we have here,” he said. “How many do we have left alive?” Etsuko went around and did a count.
“Twenty-four,” she said at last.
“And the twins?”
“Both of them are still alive.”
“Both of them?”
Kitano began to smile like Lucifer. “Excellent. We shall examine the living and test the dead.”
“And then what’s next?” the doctor asked.
“You can work on the next drug while I come up with a way to get rid of the bodies once we finish the testing.”
“What did you say?” she asked, tilting her head.
“You are going to work on the beta drug in this project,” Kitano repeated. “You did such a good job fixing Amaterasu. I can trust you with the second drug.”
“I understand,” Etsuko said.
Amaterasu turned out to be quite the tricky drug. The trick to the host surviving it was the genetics. But, Kitano couldn’t exactly pin down which times. The survival rate of his alpha drug turned out to be fifty percent. The patient would either live after three days or be just as good as dead. Those who died ended up looking mummified with their internal organs turning liquified.
“Ew,” Kitano mumbled as he looked into the twenty-eighth body. Once he made the notes, he had to get rid of the bodies. Looking, the first generation left so many bodies in its wake. Burning worked. But soon, that would have people asking questions.
For now, Etsuko worked on the beta drug. She worked on the formula for twelve days before she completed it. Kitano inspected the formula himself.
“Impressive,” he said. “What do you call this?”
“What do I call it?” Etsuko asked.
“I haven’t really thought of a name yet.”
“Well, when we see the end product we’ll decide on a name, okay?”
The partners worked on different formulas in the Tadpole project. Most of them were successful. Others turned out to be duds. They took notes of every formula they worked on. The drugs themselves were named after Japanese gods and goddesses. Kitano’s idea, really. That aside, the drugs themselves could be quite unpredictable.
One example was the eposlion drug known as Nio. On paper, Etsuko and Kitano’s design looked solid. In practice, that’s where it fell apart. Something in the chemicals caused some of the first generation’s bones to break so easily like little twigs. The older test subjects couldn’t breathe easily because of the pain. The slightest movement would cause the bones to break even further.
“I don’t know where we messed up,” Etsuko said as she looked over the notes. Kitano frowned as he took a look himself.
“I don’t know either,” he said. “But we’re running into a serious problem.” His partner looked up.
“What is that?” she asked.
“We’re starting to lack the materials we need to keep this project going,” Kitano whispered. He looked and saw two other doctors talking in the hallway.
“What do you mean?” Etsuko whispered.
“You see, Chou Mori is running broke again,” the psychiatrist said. “Most unfortunate, really. Granter, we have been trying some supplies from here, your hospital, and paying for it out of our pockets through catalogs. On top of that, our test subjects have dropped down in the past year and a half. But…”
“The materials are getting pricier on the black market?” Etsuko finished. Kitano nodded.
“So… what should we do?” she asked.
“Plan out the newer drugs,” her partner said. “Improve on the old ones. Keep tabs on the test subjects until we have to stop the project.”
“Understood,” Etsuko said. But by December of 1990, the pair soon had another pair to deal with.
“Kitano-sensei,” the director at the time said. “Can I see you in my office?”
“Okay,” the psychiatrist said. He followed his boss into his office.
“Is something wrong?” Kitano asked.
“I have noticed that some of the patients here have been disappearing,” the director said.
“Thing is these patients have no next kin. Nobody to ask questions about their well-being.”
“Maybe they got up and left on their own. We aren’t obligated to hold them. Most of them don’t have criminal records. They were just dropped off here.”
The director eyed him. “I hope there is no foul play going on.” Kitano all but laughed in his mind. Ever since 1989, the director and the staff had to be blind to what was going on in Chou Mori. Instead, the psychiatrist patiently smiled.
“I will keep an eye out for anything suspicious,” he said. Except for my project, of course. There were no more questions after that. But, that didn’t stop the suspicious from surrounding Chou Mori for the next few years to come.
But right now, the first generation of experiments came to a grinding halt when Chou Mori changed hands of management again. This time, the director at the time was riding his bike on a country over the weekend when he suffered from a heart attack. He ended up falling off the path and hitting his head against a sharp rock. The paramedics pounced him dead at the scene. His daughter ended up being the new director of Chou Mori.
The Tadpole Project with the first generation had to stop in January of 1992. By the end, there were only seven tadpoles left.
By 1997, Kitano and Etsuko decided to begin the Tadpole Project again. This time, they not only had a new batch of test subjects and improved their drugs used in their experiments, they had more money and new allies.
A man by the name of Yodogiri Jinnai donated a huge sum of money to Chou Mori in an attempt to get it back on its feet. Kitano himself couldn’t understand why the head of a talent agency would even care about a mental institution that had been in decline for years.
He soon got his answer in the fall of 1996.
“Why would you care about this place?” Kitano asked Yodogiri as he left Yoshida ward.
“Excuse me?” the old man asked. The psychiatrist frowned at him.
“What is your aim here?” he asked outright. “What are you plotting to do with this place?” He didn’t see how fast that talent agent moved.
“I know about your little project that you and that doctor woman have been doing back in the early 90′s,” he whispered in Kitano’s ear. The therapist turned to him with big eyes. Yodogiri held up his hand.
“I’m not going to turn you in,” he said. “I am rather interested in it. In fact, I want to help you expand it.” Kitano raised his eyebrow.
“Why would you do that?” he asked.
“It’s like I said,” the other old man said. “I am interested in your work. We’ll be in touch later.” Kitano glared at him as he walked away.
Surprisingly, Yodogiri made good on his word. Project Tadpole came into a bottomless amount of money and supplies before 1997 was over. Plus, Kitano and Etsuko found themselves with now test subjects. But, something didn’t sit right with him.
“Where are we getting all of this supplies from?” Etsuko asked in 1999.
“That’s what I would like to know,” her partner said. Turns out, they didn’t like the answer to those questions. Around Christmastime, Yodogiri introduced Kitano and Etsuko to a man named Fyodor.
“This is the head of the Vozrozhdeniye,” the old man said. “He’s been supplying you with everything that you need.” Etsuko looked over at Kitano.
“I see,” the therapist said. “Nice to meet you.” (A lie, of course.)
“Look forward to aiding you,” the Russian man said. They bowed and shook hands. Even from that point, distrust and scheming leaked into the core of the game.
“You can’t really expect to trust those men!” Etsuko complained in Kitano’s office.
“I don’t,” he said. The doctor gave him a strange look.
“So, why?” she asked.
“We don’t have much of a choice at the moment,” Kitano reasoned. “Plus, I don’t know what that Yodogiri would do if we turned him down. He’s got his claws into Chou Mori already with him getting them money to keep this place running.”
“Could’ve fooled me,” Etsuko muttered under breath.
“That’s not all,” her partner said.
“Where exactly are we getting some of these patients? Have you noticed something off about some of these test subjects?”
“A little bit.”
“Quite a number of them have relatives back at home, but no one has come looking for them yet.”
“Exactly. Why is he so insistent that we use his strays for our project? I do not like this guy, but for the time being we shall humor him until we find out what his true motives are.”
Meanwhile, Chou Mori continued its downward spiral. In 2000, people began to take notice when two suicides from the staff took place. A cook hanged himself in the kitchen in July. He craved a final message in the wall near the gas stove.
“I do not want to work for the Devil anymore.”
The administrators tried to pass it off as a long battle with depression. His mother didn’t buy for one second. She blamed it on work-related stress. She pushed for Chou Mori to be investigated, but her words fell on deaf ears.
But then in October tenth, an orderly jumped in the path of an oncoming train at Ikebukuro station. More questions started to be raised when a second orderly soaked himself in gasoline on the Chou Mori grounds a month later. It took several doctors and therapists to restraint the young man before he could set himself on fire. This led to an internal investigation into the working conditions at Chou Mori. For a short time, things starts to get better for the staff and patients.
Before the 2000′s was over, Chou Mori was sold three more times. Around 2008, Kitano and Etsuko opted to take a break to try and secure a more stable place for their work.
By 2012, Kitano and Etsuko decided to give the Tadpole Project one more good. They knew the risk there was taking this time. A year earlier, Chou Mori started to be investigated for stories of mental patient abuse and poor working conditions for the staff. For two years, it became a cat-and-mouse game to keep the authorities from closing them down. Despite all of this, “Yodogiri” kept supplying Kitano and Etsuko with his “strays”. One particular stray would drive Kitano to up the ante with the Tadpole Project with all of the tadpoles, past and present.
His name was Ryugamine Mikado. Initially, Kitano didn’t really pay him any mind. This kid wasn’t even a top choice for the project.
It’s just another stray, Kitano thought. But then, the selection for the new generation of tadpoles came up and one of the mental patients that was supposed to be in the project died in her sleep from a blood clot in her brain. After much persuasion, the therapist reluctantly sighed Mikado into the project. To be honest, Kitano expected the boy to die. He was ready to come up with a hokey story of how he died in an accident to his parents.
He hadn’t expected Mikado to survive the Amaterasu injection in the alpha stage. Kitano had to see the boy for himself. With renewed amazement, he renamed the boy “Chirin”. The experiments got bolder with the newer drugs and the improved ones. Kitano had the most fun with the project over the course of six months. But it all came to an end when Mikado managed to escape from Chou Mori. However, Kitano didn’t get time to process the loss as the authorities finally cracked down on all of the abuse stories of the institution after one more accidental death and failed cover-up of a mental patient. Kitano and his crew saw the writing on the wall and left Chou Mori before the downfall came into full swing.
Chou Mori closed down for good April of 2013. The building stands abandoned near Aokigahara forest. The institution may be gone, but the Apocalypse game and Project Tadpole still live on.