Halo Twenty-Five: Riku:
Risa bitterly took a drink of her dark green tea. “What do you people want from us? Did they send you here to terrorize me because of the lawsuit?”
Shinra blinked as he sat across the table from her. “Lawsuit?”
“Yes!” The woman clunked her cup as tightly as she could. “They must pay for what they did to my sister and all of those patients in Chou Mori!”
“How much do you know?” Shinra asked. Risa put down her cup and sighed.
“I have been doing research on Chou Mori Institution for years,” she said. “Everything I have found is a horror show. Injuries to many patients, two suicides of their staff, mistreatment of both patients and staff, and don’t get me started on the poor conditions of that place itself!” She got up and walked out of the kitchen. Risa came back with armfuls of files. She dropped them all on the table, some of the papers spilled to the floor. Shingen picked up one of them and ran over it.
“I’m impressed you’ve been doing this much research, ma’am,” he said. “I can guarantee you that we’re not here because of your lawsuit. We just want to talk to your sister.”
“Well, you can’t,” Risa grumbled.
“May we ask why not?” Shingen asked. The woman sank down back in her seat as she sighed. She put her hands over her face and groaned.
“Our mother married a man that I didn’t trust,” Risa admitted.
“What?” Shinra asked. The woman lowered her hands.
“Years ago, it was just the four of us: mom, Riku, our little brother, Yodo, and myself,” the woman began. “Mom worked for a high-powered law firm. She was one of the top prosecution lawyers in Ikebukuro. I admired her and wanted to just like her. Mom was happy to know that I wanted to follow in her footsteps.”
Risa looked down at her cooling cup of tea. “But, she was lonely. Our father died shortly after Yodo was born. Mom buried herself into work, but that can only take you so far. When I turned eighteen, I helped find a matchmaker. I did everything by the book and did background checks, read the reviews, and researched the prices before I acted. The matchmaker hooked my mom up with a man named Kobi Torajira. He may have won her over with his charms, but I didn’t trust him at all.”
“What was it about him that put you off of him?” Shinra asked.
“It was just my instinct,” Risa said. “I ran a background check on him before I made my own judgements. I even had a private investigator who worked for my mom’s firm to help me. Torajira came up clean. Still, I didn’t trust him. I convinced mom to be careful with her money and possessions. Luckily, she took my advice and set up a separate bank account in secret and we worked on her will. Aside from that, everything was going fine. Torajira got along with my brother and sister. He always brought them presents whenever he came to visit. I didn’t object to him marrying my mom, but I kept up my guard. I just wanted my mom to be happy.”
“So… what happened?” the younger doctor asked. The woman frowned as she flipped back her long black hair.
“Three years later, my mom had bone cancer,” she said. “Torajira was acted so supportive and tried to help her. I took care of the family’s finances and help keep her firm afloat. Her coworkers helped me learn the ropes so that I could take over. The problem was the doctors never picked up on mom’s cancer in time. She died a year later.” The lawyer woman picked up her cup and took a drink. She winced at the bitter taste.
“We had the funeral and everything,” she added. “After it was said and done, in my mom’s will, this apartment, the firm, and all of her money was to go this my siblings and me.”
“He didn’t get anything, did he?” Shingen asked.
“No,” Risa said. “That man was furious. He tried to kill us all. I wasn’t home at the time, it was just Riku and Yodo. He tried to shoot them with a gun he purchased on the streets. From what I heard, Riku tried to protect Yodo. That man failed to kill her first, so he went after Yodo. I assume that my sister fought him and got the gun. Somehow in the middle, our little brother was killed. That man tried to kill me at mom’s firm, but the security guard and her coworkers wouldn’t let him in. When he got arrested, he lied and said that Riku went crazy and killed my brother.”
“And she was committed to Chou Mori because of it?” Shingen asked.
“Yes,” the lawyer said. “I fought to get her out and bring that man to justice for tearing our family apart.”
“But the Chou Mori’s been shut down for two years now,” Shinra said. “What’s the point anymore?”
“It may be shut down, but the people are still out there,” Risa said. “I am trying to find the victims and their families to bring together a joint lawsuit and bring their tormentors to justice!”
“Well, we have something in mind for some of the patients,” Shingen was quick to say. “We are trying to find them and see what happened to them under Kitano-sensei and Asato-sensei’s care. Which is why we have to talk to your sister.” The lawyer woman hesitated lowered before she lowered her head.
“You can’t…” she murmured.
“But why not?” Shinra asked.
-Mari and Mikage-
Mikage stared Mari down. Mari pushed up her glasses onto her face.
“Have you been seeing any strange visions lately?” she asked. Mikage froze. She remembered seeing those creepy shadows floating in the sky above the gym. She remembered the dead bodies inside.
“Why?” Mikage asked.
“It’s not an illusion,” Mari said a quiet voice. She set up her laptop on the floor and booted it up. The gym instructor looked at the screen. The clock counting down appeared in full view.
“You’ve seen this before, right?” Mari asked.
“Yes,” Mikage said. “Why is it doing that?”
“It’s counting down.”
“I can see that, but to what?”
“To the End of Days.” Mari turned to Mikage. “Izaya is in serious danger.”
“He can probably handle it,” Mikage said. The programmer shook her head.
“No,” she said. “This is different. I can’t explain it to you. There’s isn’t much time left.”
“What are you talking about?” the gym instructor asked.
“I don’t know how much he remembers,” Mari said. “But if he sticks around here with us any longer, they will kill him.”
“And you want my help to get him out of the city?” Mikage asked. The programmer lowered her eyes.
“Yes,” she said. Mikage folded her arms across her chest.
“I’ve seen you with him,” she said. Mari lifted her head with big eyes.
“It’s not the way that you think!” she blurted out. “We are not in love at all!” The programmer closed her mouth as Mikage held up her hand.
“Look, I don’t know the full story on what’s going on between you two, and I’m not usually one to pry or petty enough to interfere with his personal life and choice,” she said. “However, if you hurt that man in anyway, I won’t hesitate to kill you.” Mari nodded once.
“I understand,” she said. The gym instructor lowered her hand.
“So what do you plan to do to save him?” she asked.
“The best way to go about this is to get him as away from the city as possible,” Mari said. She reached into her bag and pulled out one of Izaya’s phones.
“I nixed this from him while he was in the shower last night,” the programmer admitted. “I’ve kept it turned off all day.”
“You are aware that isn’t the only phone he has, right?” Mikage asked. That was the same question she asked the last time they had this conversation.
“Yes,” Mari said.
“Let me guess, your idea is to ship away somewhere with no possible chance of getting back Ikebukuro so easily,” the gym instructor said. Mari bowed as quickly as she could.
“Please help me!” the programmer begged.
“What do you suggest we do?” Mikage asked. Mari stood up with a look of relief on her face.
“I have to thank you again,” she said.
“Yeah, yeah,” the other woman said. “What’s the plan?”
“Well, I did make a start by taking this phone,” Mari said. Mikage nodded once.
“So, what’s the next move?” she asked.
Anna watched as the Heartseed plant glowed a hazy blue color. The interns have been keeping track of this plant for weeks. Kitano assured them it was because the tadpoles were evolving. He had the blood tests to prove it. Meanwhile, Anna had just finished her second round of drugs for the experiment. Come to think of it, Mei was the only one who hadn’t contributed a drug yet. She refused to tell anyone what it was yet.
“Come on, can’t you give us a little hint?” Anna pleaded with Mei this morning. Her colleague shook her head.
“Sorry,” she said. “I can’t show it to you until it’s my day.” Anna pouted as she puffed up her cheeks.
“You are not fun!” she said.
“Sorry,” Mei said. “That’s just how it is.” Meanwhile, Anna had Cutie Aphrodite to work on. She would glance up occasionally to check on the Heartseed. Right now, the little flowers were closed. Anna always wondered how it knew that new drugs were coming towards it. She stood up and walked over to the plant trapped in the glass. As if in a trance, the intern walked closer with her fingertips out.
“I know it’s pretty, but it’s prettier when it’s not touched,” a voice said behind her. Anna froze and whipped around. Kitano stood in the doorway. The intern sheepishly rubbed the back of her head and chuckled.
“I’m so sorry,” she said. Kitano gave her a little smile.
“I can understand the fascination,” he said. He walked over to the Heartseed again.
“This beauty is connected to our pets,” the therapist said. “They grow beautiful each day. But alas, there is still a problem.” Anna tilted her head.
“What do you mean?” she asked. Kitano sighed and shook his head.
“You and Yuka will have been the first interns to see this,” he said. “Come with me.” Anna had curious look on her face as she followed behind.
Kitano led her into another lab room down the hall. He turned on the screen on the wall. A giant animation of a heart started beating. Anna stared at the technology before her eyes.
“What am I looking up?” she asked.
“The weakness of the tadpoles,” Kitano said. “One stab and they will die. Plus, I have made an observation with Chirin.”
“Observation?” Anna asked.
“Apparently, Chirin suffered from a little bit of sensory overload,” he said. “I want to run more tests to confirm my hunch.”
“How do we do that?” she asked. They looked up when they heard the door open. Yuka stood in the doorway, blinking.
“Did I miss anything?” she asked.
“Oh, no,” Kitano said. “I was just getting Konoe-san up to speed here on the current situation.” Yuka joined her mentor and the other intern.
“Good,” the therapist said. “I have the unit all together.”
“Unit, sir?” Yuka asked.
“The three of us are going to fix this heart flaw of theirs,” Kitano said. “The brain and heart are two of the most vital organs that keep a body alive. If one is destroyed, the body will die.”
“And none of the drugs are protecting the heart like you want it,” Anna said.
“Correct,” Kitano said. “Right now, we will do the research and find the cause. Any unnecessary action can cause the project to go sideways. Konoe, you can work on your drug while you do your research.”
“Yes sir,” Anna said.
“Sensei,” Yuka spoke up. The therapist raised his eyebrow at her.
“Yes?” he asked. The intern shuffled her feet as she tried to form her words.
“What do with the wave of people that will be curious about the tadpoles?” she asked. “Your video was good, but there will still be others that will probably hunt down the tadpoles to find out the truth for themselves.”
“You leave that to me,” Kitano said. “We’ve already got that part covered.”
The effects of the fourth gate continued to spread. Saki started to see visions of her own death. Tonight, she was rinsing some vegetables for dinner when the latest flash hit her.
Saki and Masaomi had a lovely dinner together of spicy curry. He complimented her on good cooking.
“That was great!” the boy said.
“Oh good,” Saki said. “It was a new recipe I was trying out.” But then, she froze. “Oh!”
“What’s the matter?” Masaomi asked.
“I forgot to get the cake!” she said.
“Cake?” her boyfriend asked.
“Yes, I ordered it this morning,” Saki said. She got up and walked over to the front door.
“No, it’s fine,” Masaomi said. “We don’t really need it.”
“It won’t be too long,” his girlfriend insisted. “I’ll be back in thirty minutes.” Saki put on her coat and walked out the door.
The trip to the bakery started out fine. Except for the feeling that she was being followed. Saki turned around at one point. Despite no one in sight, she held her bag close to her side. The girl made it to the bakery and got the cake. Saki walked down the street with her eyes looking on either side of her. She was just about home when a person on a motorcycle rushed up beside her and stole her bag. The girl put up a fight, but the stranger in black had the upper hand.
“Hey!” Saki shouted, running after the bag. “Come back here with my bag! Thief! Somebody stole my bag! Give it back! Give it back!”
“Saki-chan!” she heard behind her. “Saki-chan!” Saki turned around and found herself in shock at what she saw. Masaomi huddled over her as lay out cold on the sidewalk. He shook her as hard as he could as he screamed. Saki couldn’t figure out what was going on.
“Masaomi-kun, I’m right her-!” she started to say. A sharp pain shot through her side. When the girl looked down, blood stained through her lacy pink top. Masaomi tried to shake her awake before groaning and putting his hands on his hand. He pulled out his cell phone.
“My girlfriend’s been stabbed!” he said. “She’s barely breathing! I don’t know! I came out here to greet her and found her lying on the ground. Oh god! Okay, thank you!” Saki was about to reach out to her boyfriend when she felt a warm light against her back. She turned as she heard soft singing. The girl started walking towards the light. But then, Saki stopped.
“No,” she said. The light from the sky started to disappear.
Back in reality, Saki shivered. She couldn’t bring herself to chalk it up to a hallucination. It felt too real. Did this happen in the past or was she seeing the future? The girl shook her head and turned off the faucet. She looked up when her cell phone rang.
That’s probably Masaomi-kun calling me again to check to see if I’m still alive, the girl thought. Saki walked over to her phone pulled into the wall.
Sota sat in his classroom, staring out the window. Another boring test finished. He looked around at his other classmates still taking their test. The tadpole boy wondered why he bothered coming to school anymore. He practically knew everything now thanks to the augmentations. School became like child’s play to him. It annoyed his teachers that he could slack and still get the answers right. In the beginning, it gave Sota that much more power to be cockier and smarter than his teachers. But sadly, that feeling began to wear off. Sota even found it boring to make the school nurse and female teachers blush when they saw him.
Wonder who’s on Tadpole Radio right now? Sota closed his eyes.
Hello? Is anyone there? Talk to me, I’m really bored here.
Sota smiled to himself. Mikado, old buddy! Friend!
What is it now, Sota?
I’m bored. I finished another test early.
You can’t keep doing this.
What else can I do? They won’t let me leave school early and there’s nothing to do during testing time.
No, no, no, no! Please? I am so bored! Please humor me. He could hear Mikado sighing in his head.
What do you want?
I was just thinking. What’s going to happen to us now that everyone knows of us.
I… I don’t know…
Think we’ll be hunted down like wild animals.
I don’t know.
They keep calling us gods or monsters online.
Haven’t you been reading up?
No, Masaomi has me on break from the internet.
I think’s better this way.
Sota tried not to laugh as he rolled his eyes.
Nothing. I didn’t say anything at all. You just seem to do everything your boyfriend tells you to do.
He’s not my boyfriend!
Anyway, what’s the point of all of this?
Sota leaned back in her desk. I’m just saying we might have to fight back when the time is right. We might even have to kill people that might kill us.
I don’t want to have to do that!
We might not have a choice. It’s either kill or be killed. Personally, I want to live. You got me?
There is no guessing for this anymore. It’s either you get me or not. Do you understand?
Good. Let’s all meet up in library again this evening. I wonder if anyone else has noticed anything different about themselves.
I think they were already know.
Ah, but how many of the others have they found? Midori and Madoka found Naomi the other day. We still need to find the others before this turn out like Azusa did.
The bell rang and class was over. Sota smiled as he handed in his test. That’s going to be another hundred on his record this week.
Her fingers ran along the wore red cover. She made contact with him. Now, she would have to persuade him to join their cause.
Hecate looked up when her cell phone rang.
“Hello?” she asked. “Yes, mother. I have talked to him. I don’t know what he wants to do next.”
“That is not good enough,” her mother said on the other line. “We need to have the new god for the new world. It’s bad enough that everyone is talking about those tadpoles online. We can’t have any more leaks before we are ready!” Hecate smiled to herself.
“You say that like it’s a bad thing,” she said.
“What was that?!” her mother shouted on the other line.
“Nothing,” her older daughter lied. “But we are about to find the fifth gate really soon.”
“Good. I might have to come to Ikebukuro sometime.”
Hecate forced herself to smile as she ran her fingers along the cover of Mikado’s journal. “Sure. We will look forward to seeing you again. How are things in England?”
“Well, my darling. We have everything set up back here. The dragons will awaken from the countryside as soon as I find the right pieces to the old poem.”
“Great. Good to heard.”
“I will be coming by to see you and Lucy in Ikebukuro after you open the fifth gate.”
“Alright,” Hecate said as her cheeks started to hurt from all of the fake smiling. “Love you, mother.”
“I love you too,” her mother said. The nightcomer’s hand trembled as she clutched the phone as tightly as she could. It always hurt to smile when she had to lie to her mother.
“You want to know why you can’t take to her?” Risa asked, setting down her cup. “I will show you.” The woman rose to her feet and headed down the hall. Shinra and Shingen followed behind. They came down to a closed down at the end. Risa held her breath as she opened it. The three of them looked into the dimly lit room. A woman in her mid-twenties sat on a bed in a daze. She looked so thin with her pale skin, messy white hair, and empty, sullen red eyes. Shinra covered his mouth.
“What happened to her?” he asked. The woman on the bed opened her mouth, but loud screeching noises came out of it. Risa ran over to her side and held her in her arms. She gently shushed the screeching woman as she cradled her.
“What’s wrong with her?” Shinra asked, adjusting his glasses.
“They did this to her!” Risa shouted. “She was a normal and healthy girl when she went into Chou Mori. When I got her out, Riku-chan ended up severely brain damaged! She can’t speak, take care of herself, or live a normal life. This is why you can’t talk to her. They killed who my sister used to be!” Riku finally stopped screeching and calmed down.
“Oh,” Shingen said.
“We are so sorry to have bothered you,” Shinra said. Risa wiped away her tears.
“Please,” she pleaded. “Could you please leave?”
“Yes,” Shinra said. “Good night.” He and his father bowed and left. Risa sat beside Riku and started to cry.
Meanwhile, Azazeal stood outside, smirking.