Halo Twenty-Six: Widow:
Within six days, the fifth Gate to the Apocalypse would be found.
-Kitano and Osamu-
“You wanted to see me?” Osamu asked in Kitano’s office. The therapist had eyes of ice.
“What were you thinking out right accusing Orihara of leaking information like that?” he asked. Osamu snorted.
“I don’t understand why we keep that asshole around,” he said. “He doesn’t do anything usual! We can gather intel ourselves. We have the money and resources. We don’t need him.”
“This is true.”
“So… why? I don’t get it!”
Kitano leaned forward over his desk. “It is better to keep Orihara-san nearby than to have him running around, unraveling our game. I do not trust him either, but this is the best ways to do things.”
“You could’ve fooled me.”
“Look, we will dispose of Orihara-san when the time is right. We’ve got too many things going on to stop and deal with his for the time being. Asato-san and I are evolving the tadpoles with our project. Otomo-san is bracing herself to push our game into the next round. Nakahara-san is on the cusp of reclaiming F. And you and Hajime have eliminated a threat to your Heaven Project.” Kitano lowered his hand from his chin.
“The point is, it would not be wise to take an unnecessary actions that could cause us to start again. This time, I feel that we have a good game. Let’s not try to ruin it.” He held up his hand just when Osamu was about to speak.
“Granted, we do have spies keeping watch over Orihara-san,” Kitano added. “Do you really think I’m going to let that bored little child ruin everything that easily?” Osamu frowned.
“You do have a point,” he mumbled.
“So, it would be in your best interest not to do anything stupid like going after Orihara-san without any proof of his actions to sabotage us,” the therapist summed up. The younger man frowned and folded his arms across his chest.
“Fine, I’ll let it go there,” Osamu said. “But I can’t promise anything if he doesn’t anything to hurt Mari-chan!” Kitano smiled and shook his head.
“Well now, Otomo-chan is a grown woman. She can make her own decision about her love life whether we like them or not,” he pointed out. Osamu was about to speak when the older man’s phone buzzed.
“Excuse me,” he said. Kitano read the text and smiled.
“Ah, the girls found the fifth gate,” he said.
“Is that right?” Osamu asked. His older colleague showed him his phone.
“Heh,” the younger man said. Kitano drew back his phone.
“Excellent,” he said.
Mari sat in her room decoding the second part of Yoemon’s code. She had to keep working to prevent suspicion drawn to her. If the first part allowed a countdown onto the internet, what was the rest of the program going to do? But stopping would draw phone calls from her mother.
“We should not be doing,” she mumbled to herself. She shivered as she realized something. Have they ever gotten this far before? Usually, they would have to start over after the third gate was opened. She didn’t want to think about who could be possibly helping them this time. No, she had other things to worry about.
Her cell phone rang.
“Hello?” Mari asked.
“Mari-tan!” a familiar male’s voice said in a sing-songy voice. The programmer rolled her eyes.
“You can’t keep calling me when you’re bored,” she complained.
“Can’t I call because I’m thinking about you?” Izaya asked on the other line. Mari pushed up her dark red bangs.
“What do you want?” she asked.
“I just miss you,” the information broker said.
“Stop saying that,” Mari said. “I’m not stupid. I can see what you are doing.”
“And what would that be?” he asked. She sighed and rolled her eyes.
“Forget it,” the programmer mumbled. Mari happened to look on her screen and her jaw dropped. “What the…?” she asked. She moved her mouse back and forth.
“What’s going on?” Izaya asked. “What happened?” Little red dots began to pop up on the screen. They blinked on the placed where she just decoded.
“What’s happening?!” Mari asked as she tried to type in any code to make it stop. “My laptop’s acting strange!”
“What are you talking about?” Izaya asked. Suddenly, the programmer’s laptop shut down. Mari sat there blinking with big eyes.
“I… I don’t know what happened,” she said. “I was decoding the Dis Program and then little red dots appear on the screen. And then it just shut everything down.”
“Little red dots?” the information broker asked.
“Yeah,” Mari said.
“Let me guess, the code did it, right?” he asked. The programmer was about to speak when her laptop turned back on.
“Ah, it’s back on,” she said. Her laptop acted like it was booting up like it normally did. But when it got to the Apple screen, it froze.
“Huh?” she asked. Her screen started to pixelated and then an image started to load on the screen. Mari’s jaw dropped as the features slowly appeared.
“Yoemon-sensei?” she asked. When his full face loaded, a message flashed across where his eyes were supposed to be.
“Welcome?” Mari read.
“What’s on going, Mari-tan?” Izaya asked. “Mari-tan? Mari-tan?”
“What kind of program is this?!” the programmer asked.
“Hello?” the information broker asked. “Hello? Hello?” Mari’s laptop returned to normal and set up the Dis Program just as it was before it shut down.
The nurses at the hospital started to have strange flashbacks. Arisa had just started her morning shift for the day when it started with chills running down her spine. She glanced over her shoulder. Why couldn’t she shake the feeling that she was being watched? Did it have to do with those shadowy figures floating over the hospital?
“They are the souls of those how died here, you know?” a voice asked. Arisa turned around. A girl stood further down the hall down from her. She had to used her hand to support herself against the wall. Her skin looked so pale compared to her hospital gown and dark blue hair.
“They want to crossover, but they can’t,” she said. “They are trapped here by bond to other spirits around the city.” Arisa tilted her head as she looked into her green and pink eyes.
“Um… I’m sorry, but are you supposed to be back here?” she asked.
“Have you been sensing strange things lately?” the girl asked. “Ghosts? Someone watching you? Creatures talking to any of your children?” Arisa about jumped.
“How do you know about the man in the black coat?” she asked.
“Darkness will swallow Ikebukuro whole,” the girl said. “This city is going to die.”
“What are you talking about?” the nurse asked, backing away. “Who the hell are you? What are you doing here? I don’t even think I’ve seen you around here before.”
“I’ve always been here.”
“Then how can I’ve seen you around this hospital before?”
“I don’t get out of my room much.” Something about the way she said that gave Arisa chills. This girl’s eyes seemed to stare through her soul. The nurse’s own eyes shifted back and forth.
“I don’t know what kind of prank you’re trying to pull, but I will call security if you don’t cut it out,” she said.
“Do you right think that will change anything?” the girl asked. Arisa backed up further.
“Uh, well…” she murmured.
“Kawamata-san?” the nurse heard further down the hall. Arisa looked up to see Joe on the other side. The English nurse had a look of concern on her face. The Japanese nurse blinked.
“Joe?” she asked.
“Who were you talking to?” Joe asked. Arisa looked in front of her and the color drained from her face.
“There was a girl standing here a second ago,” she said. Joe took a step forward with her hand to her chest.
“You can see them too, right?” she asked.
“What?” Arisa asked. Joe lowered her eyes.
“I see them around this hospital, all the time,” she said in a low voice. “It’s gotten worse lately.”
“Who that girl I was talking to?” Arisa asked.
“I don’t know,” Joe said. “But I have seen others and I’m starting to have strange memories about this place too.” The Japanese nurse blinked.
“What kind of memories?” she asked. Joe rubbed her forehead.
“I don’t know how to explain it,” she said. “But I feel like I have had this conversation with your before.” Arisa pressed her lips together as she started trembling.
Outside, Tiresias’ pin started to glow as it gathered more energy.
She paced around as she looked at her phone. She tried to ignored the people walking around her in Sunshine City, staring at her. Tiresias texted her last night that she marked the fifth Gate of Light. Michiko had managed to make contact with two of the scribes. She and Tiresias still needed to find the other ten. There were still many dolls around Ikebukuro that hid the last three Gates of the Apocalypse. Makoto still wouldn’t rejoin the fight and the third player in the game still hadn’t been found. She and Tiresias were still able to keep up. So, why was Michiko feeling so uneasy?
“Michi-chan?” she heard someone ask. The girl lifted her head to see Masaomi stand inches away from her. Michiko raised her eyebrow.
“Masaomi-kun?” she asked. “How did you find me here?”
“I remembered you and I talking in Sunshine City,” Masaomi answered. “I don’t know what exactly you said that day, but I know it was right in this spot.” Her eyes widened as the color drained from her.
“What else do you remember?” she asked.
“My girlfriend dying many times,” Masaomi said. “You have to tell me the truth, Michi. What’s going on? Does it involve Mikado?” Michiko bit her lower lip.
“Answer me!” he said. She dropped her shoulders.
“Yes,” Michiko admitted.
“What is it?” Masaomi asked. “What is going on in the city?”
“Do you promise not to think I crazy if I tell you?” she asked.
“Why would I think that?” he asked. The dialog started to go down the same route it did last time. Michiko lowered her eyes.
“They are trying to end the world,” she said in a small voice. Masaomi gave her a confused look.
“What?” he asked. Michiko rubbed her forehead.
“It’s going to be very hard to explain,” she said.
“Try me,” Masaomi said. The girl rolled back her shoulders and sighed.
“You have to promise me one thing if I tell you,” she said. “Please don’t get involved. Once I tell you everything, you have to turn the other way and forget everything I told you. Get as far away from as you can.”
“What are you talking about?” the blonde Shogun asked. “You are not making any sense.” Michiko closed her eyes and started groaning.
“I’m trying to stop this before we all are killed in this stupid game!” she wailed.
“What game?!” Masaomi asked. “What are you talking about?!” Michiko opened her eyes when her dark blue phone buzzed in her hand.
“Hang on!” she said. Michiko looked down at her phone. Her heart sank as she fell to her knees.
“No… No…” she murmured.
“What’s the matter?” Masaomi asked. He spotted Michiko’s phone and slipped it out of her hand. The text further baffled him.
“They found the fifth gate?” he asked. “What does that mean?” Michiko lifted her head with despair written all over her face.
“That means Tandeki is closer to freeing her,” she said. “I think I’m going to be sick.”
“What are you talking about?” Masaomi asked. “Freeing who?” Michiko sat back, drawing her knees to her chest. She mumbled something in an inaudible whisper.
“What?” Masaomi asked. “What was that?” The young girl stared at him with her big red eyes.
“The Woman in Red,” she answered louder. Those words sent a chill down the blonde shogun’s spine. That name triggered something deep in his brain.
All after school activities had ended for the day. Mikado headed home alone. Masaomi seemed uneasy around him since he came to his apartment last night. The tadpole boy heard his friend trying to hide his thoughts from him.
“Please don’t ask me about it,” was all Masaomi said. “I don’t want to talk about it.” The boys just went to bed without a word. The next morning felt so tense between them. Masaomi kept a close eye on his friend.
“I think I’m going to be staying late today,” Mikado said.
“How late?” Masaomi asked. “I will not let you get kidnapped again.”
“I will be careful this time,” his friend said. “Go ahead without me. I know you are worrying about Mikajima again.” Masaomi looked away. Mikado gently took him by the wrists.
“Look,” he said. “I will be fine. I think I can defend myself now. I can feel myself changing each day. You can go and check on Mikajima if you need to.” The blonde shogun blushed at his touch.
“Are you sure?” he asked. Mikado let go of him as quickly as possible.
“I’ll call you when I’m coming home,” he promised. His friend looked away with bright red cheeks. Mikado sighed and shook his head.
“Fine, come here,” he said. Mikado leaned and kissed his friend on the cheek. “Better?” His best friend perked up.
“Do you promise to call me as soon as you get home?” Masaomi asked.
“Yes,” Mikado said. The boys parted ways after more chat and another kiss on the cheek. Above in the skies, a pair of golden eyes focused on the tadpole boy.
“Found him,” they said.
After sundown, Mikado started to leave the school. He didn’t see Anri anywhere like usual. Probably for the best. If his touch could make Masaomi crush on him like a horny little schoolgirl, what affects could he have on Anri if she accidentally touched him? Azusa’s powers made him shiver.
As soon as he walked out of the gates, Mikado froze.
“Who’s there?” he asked. The boy slowly turned around. An office lady stood inches away with a large cleaver in her hand. Her breathing sounded like a wild, injured animal’s. She locked her deep red eyes on her prey.
“Uh… Can I help you with something?” Mikado asked. The office lady let out a loud cry before charging forward with her cleaver above her head. Her prey’s eyes widened as he took off running. The tadpole boy found himself amazing to be running faster than he even had before in his life. But sadly, that didn’t stop the crazed office lady from racing to keep up with him. She seemed to be flying through the air while swinging her cleaver around. Mikado did his best to dodge and keep running.
“Why is she coming after me?!” he asked aloud. The boy desperately looked for a way to escape. Nobody seemed to try and stop the crazy lady from chasing him. Mikado didn’t get time to call for help along the way ether. He finally rounded the corner in a last-ditch effort to escape.
Adrenaline has a strange way of blocking out someone’s clear judgement. Mikado didn’t realize this until he found himself running into a dead end. The tadpole’s eyes darted back and forth as he could hear the crazy woman getting closer. He counted down how many seconds he would have to try and climb up the building and run away on the roof. Mikado closed his eyes.
It looks like I have no choice. I will have to try.
Mikado opened his eyes and whipped around. The office lady stood with her mouth wide open with a sword going through her back. When the blade was removed, the crazed woman fell to the ground revealing Anri with Saika in her hand.
“Sonohara… -chan?” Mikado asked. Anri lowered Saika by her side.
“I like you, Mikado-kun,” she said. “I like everything about you. You are so adorable. Which is why I have to protect you.” The tadpole boy stood there, wide-eyed. She just… saved me from that woman. She confessed to me too. Wait… is she does she really mean it or am I making say these things?
“Sonohara-chan… how do…?” he started to ask.
“Celty and Mika told me everything,” she said. Mikado was about to speak when he heard a low groaning noise. The two teenagers turned to see the office lady lifting her head. She looked around with a confused look on her face.
“What am I doing all the way out here?” she asked. Mikado slowly approached her.
“Excuse me, miss?” he asked. The office lady looked up and blushed when she saw Mikado’s face.
“Oh,” she said. “Who are you? And what am I doing out here?”
“Are you hurt anywhere?” the tadpole boy asked.
“Oh, no I’m fine,” the office lady said. “What happened to me?”
“What’s the last thing you remember?” Mikado asked. The woman sat up and rubbed the back of her head.
“Well, I was coming home from the work on the subway,” she began. “It had been a long day and I felt really tired. The only thing I thought about was having dinner and going to bed. When the train stopped, I got off. A huge crowd rushed past me and one man bumped into me and kept walking. The last thing I remember was waking up out here.” The woman froze with big eyes.
“I didn’t hurt you or anything, did I?” she asked.
“No,” Mikado said with a calm smile. “I’m fine, actually.” It didn’t take him long to figure what transpired.
On June sixth, the fifth gate will be opened.
The Awakusu-kai held Akabayashi’s funeral at the Awakusu house. Akane sat by Anri and her mother during the service. The tears didn’t seem to know how to stop falling from her little eyes. Shiki gave the speech.
“To Akabayashi,” Aozaki said, pouring sake on the casket. Akabayashi’s body was cremated by noon.
Across town, Michiko and Tiresias searched for where the fifth gate would be opened. The young girl bit on her thumb as she paced around.
“Anything yet?” she asked. The blind woman held her hand out over the street as they walked. Michiko looked around with her heart pounding against her chest.
“We do not have much time,” she said. “If they find their gates before we find ours we are done for!”
“I know,” Tiresias said. “Be patient.” Michiko whipped her head around.
“Be patient?” she asked. “Masaomi’s starting to remember things. I was trying to keep him away from this hell the best that I could. But if this keeps up, I won’t be able to save him again.”
“Does he really mean that much to you?” Tiresias asked. Michiko sighed and dropped her shoulders.
“It’s complied,” she admitted. The blind woman gave her a sympathetic smile.
“We will be able to save and the others,” she said. Michiko resisted voicing her doubts. Instead, she bit her lower lip and dropped her gaze to her feet. Tiresias stopped in her tracks as a chill raced up her spine.
“I found them!” she said. Michiko jerked her head upwards.
“Where?” she asked.
“The Hotel Star Plaza,” Tiresias said.
“Let’s go!” the young girl shouted. The pair took off running down the street towards the target destination.
Miles away in an undisclosed location, a little girl woke up on an abandoned playground. She didn’t seem to remember where she was or how she got there. The child sat up and looked around. She had long wavy red hair and wore a long white dress. The child wore no shoes on her feet. One more feature was a long scar over where her right eye should be.
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