Halo Three: Satoru:
Kanazawa ran down an alley to a chain-linked fence. He tried to climb up, but the fence wouldn’t hold him his weight. The human trafficker fell to the ground just as he heard footsteps coming towards him. Against his better judgement, Kanazawa turned around. The woman in her oni mask and black clothing stood with her cleaver by her side. Her prey held up his hands and shook his head.
“No, no, no, no!” he cried. “Please don’t kill me! Uh… Is it money you want? Here!” Kanazawa reached into his pockets and threw yen bills at her feet. The masked woman didn’t look down. She raised her cleaver above her head. Kanazawa’s eyes widened.
“No! No!” he cried.
Her blade came down thirteen times. The masked woman didn’t respond as blood splashed on her black t-shirt and jeans. After the final blow, she wiped the blade on her jeans and discarded her cleaver in the dumpster. The woman picked up the body and dragged it with her.
-Three Days Earlier-
A man with short black hair and glasses walked into the police station. He shoved his hands into his pockets after he made his way through the glass doors.
“Can I help you?” the cop behind the desk asked. The young man’s eyes shifted back and forth.
“I would like to file a missing person’s report,” he said.
“Hang on,” the cop said. He pulled out a notepad and a pencil.
“What is her name?” the cop asked.
“Joshuyo Niko,” the young man said.
“What does she look like?”
“Hang on.” The young man pulled out his cell phone. After a few scrolls, he showed the police officer a picture on the screen. The cop took down more notes.
“When was the last time you heard from your sister?” he asked. The young man did a quick count on his fingers.
“About three weeks ago,” he said. “She hasn’t been picking up her phone. I tried calling and texting her, but nothing.” The cop raised an eyebrow at him.
“You sure she just doesn’t want to be left alone?” he asked. The young man gave him a blank stare.
“No, that’s not like her!” he said. “She always answers when I call her and sometimes talks to Dad too.”
“Excuse me, but where are you from?” the cope asked.
“Yokohama,” the young man said.
“Did you try contacting the police there? Why came all the way down her to Ikebukuro?”
“Because my sister goes to college here. I know she went missing around here. Can’t you help me?”
The cop finished writing down his notes. “I’ll see what I can do.” To the young man, his tone didn’t sound so reassuring. Instead of calling him out on it, he bowed.
“Thank you, officer,” the young man said. Outside the police station, he dropped his shoulders and sighed. Something told him that this was a waste of time. The young man rubbed his forehead.
“Looks like I’m on my own here,” he said to himself.
Shinra typed away on his computer.
“[What are you doing again?]” Celty typed on her PDA.
“Looking for the other tadpoles in Japan,” he said. The doctor preferred that his girlfriend didn’t get mixed up in this. Michiko had to go and ruin that plan. Shinra sighed and brought up the list of tadpole subjects.
“Fifty-two, total,” he said. “We’ve already found a small group of them. We still need to locate the others.”
“[What do Shingen and Emilia plan to do with them once you find them?]” Celty typed.
“I have no idea,” her boyfriend said.
“[Don’t tell me they’re going to…]” she began to type. Shinra gently pushed back her hands.
“I don’t know,” he said. “Dad won’t tell me much. He just uses me to look up information about the Chou Mori Institution and the Tadpole Project and drags me around everywhere to track them down.” He could see her worried expression through the shadows coming out of her headless neck.
“[Please be careful,]” Celty typed. “[And don’t let your father turn them into guinea pigs. They are just kids.]”
“I will try my best,” the Shinra assured her. He didn’t sound too sure about that himself.
The young man with dark hair and glasses took a rest on a bench in Ikebukuro West Park. How could it be possible for everyone in the city not to see such a girl with bright blue eyes? He wasn’t even sure they were looking at the picture. The young man doubted that the police officer took him seriously. Worse part was his father started asking questions.
“She’s doing fine,” the young man lied moments earlier.
“Can I speak to her?” the dad asked on the other line.
“Uh… We’re in the library right now. She’s working on a project and I’m helping her out. I just came outside to talk to you.”
“For which class?”
The son rubbed the back of his head. “For one of her psychology classes. I don’t know which one off of the top of my head.”
“Do a good job with helping her.”
“Thank you.” The son’s heart sank as he hung up. He didn’t need his father to worry about Niko as well. The young man hoped to deal with this matter as quietly as he could and bring her home with dad none the wiser. But that didn’t look it was going to be happening anytime soon.
Am I going to have to tell him the truth?
The young man puffed up his cheeks as he looked at the sky. Maybe it was because he was not from Tokyo, something seemed off about Ikebukuro ever since he first arrived at the police station this morning. He shook his head.
I’m probably overthinking things because I’m upset.
He happened to look across the street to see a van with a maid cat girl on the door. The young man stared the design for a good ten second before finding himself getting up and walking over for a close. Who would have such a ridiculous-looking anime character on a van door when it didn’t match the rest of the vehicle?
“Need something?” he heard someone ask. The young man jumped back. A man with short brown hair stuck his head out of the driver’s side. The other man pointed to the van door.
“Why do you have a cat girl in a maid outfit on your door?” he asked. The driver groaned and dropped his head.
“Please don’t ask!” he said. The other young man tilted his head as he walked up to the driver. He found another man in a green jacket and a black hat looking at him with the driver. Oh, two people in the van. The young man pulled out his cell phone.
“Have either you seen this woman?” he asked. The driver took the phone and looked at it with his passenger. The young lady in the picture had long black hair and silvery-blue eyes. Her face looked so pale against the darkened background.
“I don’t think so,” the passenger said.
“No,” the driver said, handing him back the phone. “Why? Who is she?” The third man outside lowered his head.
“She’s my sister,” he said. His voice softened as he spoke.
Moments later, all three men sat on the bench in the park. The third man pushed his hair back from his forehead.
“What is your name?” the man with the green jacket asked. The man between him and the driver pulled his hands into his lap.
“Satoru,” he said.
“I am Kadota and he is Saburo,” the man in the green jacket said. Saburo waved on the other side.
“Did you go to the police?” Kadota asked.
“I did, but I don’t think they took me seriously,” Satoru said, sighing. “My sister and I are from Yokohama, but she came down to Ikebukuro for school.”
“How old is your sister?” Saburo asked.
“Twenty,” the third man said. “She’s a junior in college. But she’s had some problems over the years.”
“You think she just wanted some time alone?” Kadota asked. Satoru shook his head.
“No,” he said. “Besides, that’s another reason I have to find her.”
“What do you mean?” Kadota asked. Satoru pressed his lips together.
“Three weeks ago, I was in the post office in Yokohama,” he said. “I had to pick up a package for dad while he was visiting his hometown for the weekend. I was waiting in line when some guy walked up to me, shouting.
“‘You! Your grandfather ruined my wife’s life!’ he yelled. I asked him what he was talking about. He stood there yelling that his wife was part of my grandfather’s cult and that they had raped her when she was a child. The whole time I stood there was a blank stare on my face. The security guards had to ask him to leave after about three minutes of hearing him yelling.” Satoru looked at his audience.
“Are either of you two familiar with the Hyata sect?” he asked.
“Wasn’t that that cult that got arrested for child abuse?” Kadota asked. Satoru nodded.
“My mother’s family started the cult during the American occupation,” he said. “I didn’t any of this at the time. That guy yelling at me had startled and confused. When I got home, I called my dad and started asking questions.” A broken smile came onto his face.
“He said, ‘Aw shit.’ I asked him what was wrong. He tried to dance around the subject before saying that he would explain everything when he got home. When he got back that Sunday and told me everything, oh buddy!” Satoru buried his head in his hands.
“So… you think your sister might have been a victim?” Kadota asked. The third man lifted his head.
“That’s the only thing dad won’t tell me,” he said. “When I asked him, he just dodged it completely. After our parents divorced when we were kids, my sister went to go live with mom and I stayed with dad. By the time I was fourteen, Niko came to live with dad and me after dad got sole custody of both of us.” Satoru sighed.
“Looking back, I noticed that Niko wasn’t smiling like she used to,” he said. “It felt she was forcing herself to act normal. One hint I got that something wasn’t right with her was when we were staying along at our apartment one night while dad was visiting our grandparents. I was fifteen and Niko was thirteen at the time. I couldn’t sleep that night for some reason. I heard a small clicking noise from across the hall. I get out of bed and walk over to Niko’s room.
“She was sitting on her bed naked with a lit lighter in her hand. My sister was staring at the ceiling in a daze with her sheets on fire. I ran in there screaming and putting the fire out. I remember screaming at her and asking if she trying to burn the apartment down. Niko didn’t really respond.”
Satoru sighed. “I’m sorry if I sound like I’m rambling on. I just have to learn the truth.”
“No,” Kadota said. “You’re just worried about your sister.”
“Dad’s had her in therapy for years,” Satoru said. “When I tried to call Niko three nights ago, she didn’t pick up. I just assumed she was sleeping at the time. I called the next morning and her roommate picked up. She told me she hadn’t seen Niko for days. I tried calling the college and she hadn’t been attending classes or therapy.” He rubbed her forehead.
“I’m hoping she didn’t do anything to hurt herself,” he said.
“You’ll probably find her,” Saburo said. “She probably decided to get away or something.” Satoru had heard those words before, but talking to these guys didn’t make it sound that bad. He looked up at the sky with his phone in his hand.
Tetsu sent a text to the tadpoles in his group the library.
“I’m heading out to meet some friends for a bit,” he said as he walked out the door.
“Call me before you get home,” Taichi said in the living room. “Take care.” His partner put on his sneakers and headed out the door. He took comfort in knowing that Taichi was happy that he was finally making friends again.
Tetsu counted down to when his impulses would spring again as he walked into the city. He hoped that he enough self-control to talk to his brother and sisters. They couldn’t stay Kitano’s little toys for his amusement any longer. There had to be a way to break this cycle. They would have to find the answer at all costs.
The fire tadpole sat hidden in the back of the library. He figured if he was going to have an episode, best it be far away from other people. Tetsu didn’t know when he started to grow a spine. Maybe it was when he learned about what happened to him at Chou Mori or maybe it was when he learned that he would be stuck with these fire powers forever. Either way, he decided to stop being scared and fight back.
Tetsu froze as a chill raced up his spine. He looked up to see Mikado, Masaomi, and the tadpole girls standing at his table. Right away, the fire tadpole’s eyes locked on the normal boy beside Mikado.
“I am not leaving his side,” Masaomi said as Tetsu glared at him. Mikado sighed and rubbed his forehead. The fire tadpole started to open his mouth, but rolled his eyes instead.
“Whatever,” he muttered.
“Why did you call us out here?” Nami asked. Tetsu put his gloved hands on the table.
“I’m going to come out and say it,” he said. “I don’t trust those Nebula guys.”
“Okay, so?” Akiko asked.
“Think about it,” the older tadpole said. “Why would this strange group want to help us? I doubt that they would do this from the kindness of their hearts. I wonder what their angle is.”
“You don’t think they could want to…” Kohaku said as her voice trembled. Nami squeezed her hand.
“It’s possible,” Tetsu said. “What I’m trying to say is that we can’t trust them. So far, we have our group to hang onto to get through this mess. Plus, that other doctor said there were fifty-two others like us out there.”
“What are you suggesting?” Mikado asked. Tetsu reached into his pocket and pulled out his cell phone.
“I took the liberty of stealing a copy of the Chou Mori Tadpole list yesterday,” he said.
“Tetsu-san, you didn’t!” Emily said, gasping. The older tadpole gritted his teeth.
“It was during an episode that day!” he shouted. “It’s not my fault!”
“Shhh!” a librarian said in the next row over. Tetsu breathed heavy as he could hear his voice in his head.
Yell “shut up!”
“What about the list?” Mikado was question ask. Tetsu snapped out his episode and cleared his throat.
“I am going to send you the list right now,” he said. He went into his message and composed a text with the file as an attachment. The fire tadpole hit send with his thumb. The tadpoles’ phones buzzed, causing them to pull them and look at them.
“Okay…” Akiko said. “What are we supposed to do with this list?” Tetsu shrugged his hands.
“Track them down, I guess,” he said. All eyes fell on him.
“How?” Emily asked.
“E-mail them,” Mikado said. Everyone turned their focus on him.
“It wouldn’t hurt to try,” he said.
“But what could we say?” Kohaku asked.
“We could just keep it simple,” Mikado suggested.
“That might work,” Tetsu said. A warm feeling developed in his chest. He shoved his phone back into his pocket.
Satoru walked up Niko’s apartment and pulled out his phone.
“Hey dad,” he said. “I think I’m going to stay in Ikebukuro for a little while. I just need to get away for a bit. Niko’s in the shower right now. I’ll have her call you back. Bye.” Satoru hung up before his dad could say another word. His hand trembled as he held his phone.