Halo Four: Paranoia:
It was a little after one in the morning when a nurse awoke from her slumber. She was immediately drawn to the sound of someone speaking in hushed tones from her bedroom. Initially, she thought that she was still dreaming.
“Who is that in my house?” she thought to herself. Ignoring her peaked curiosity, the nurse turned over and tried to go back to sleep. Minutes passed. She lifted her head when the talking still hadn’t stopped. “Who is that?” she wondered.
The nurse slowly dragged herself out of her warm bed and wandered down to her living room where the air was nippy. What met her was, her six-year-old son. He stood at the front door with it cracked slightly open. Therefore, it was no surprise that the downstairs living area was colder than normal.
“Honey, who are you talking to?” she asked her son. The little boy turned his head.
“The man outside,” he answered.
“Huh?” his mother asked. The nurse pushed the child aside and opened the door.
“I don’t see anybody out here,” she said.
“But he’s right in front of you,” her son exclaimed.
“Come on, quit playing around and go back to bed,” his mother told him sternly, not in the mood for playing games.
“I’m not lying,” the little boy retorted. “There is a man outside and he’s wearing a thick black coat with glowing yellow eyes.” His serious, hushed tone made the nurse freeze. Her son looked past her at the man in question.
“Can I have my phone back, Masaomi-kun?” Mikado asked.
“Nope,” Masaomi said as he looked through the ramen in the 7-11. “You heard what that guy said. I can’t have you starting another gang war because your felt like it.”
“I won’t do that, I promise.”
“I know you won’t, because I’m not giving you back your phone.” Masaomi turned to see his best friend, frowning.
“Look, I’m only doing this to keep you out of trouble,” he said. “Think of it like being grounded for three days.”
“Really?” Mikado asked with a flat tone. It didn’t help that Masaomi had disconnected his keyboard and mouse back at his apartment.
“Oh come on!” Mikado complained this morning. Masaomi was already awake in the futon.
“I’m doing this for you,” he said. Mikado flopped back on his floor, making this loud whining noise. Back in present day, Masaomi picked out several more packs of ramen and put them into basket. Every few seconds, he’d glance over his shoulder to check if the tadpole boy was still beside him. Mikado dropped his shoulders, panting heavily.
“I’m eighteen years old! I don’t need a fucking baby-sitter, damn it!” he complained aloud. All eyes fell on him in the coinvent store. Masaomi stood up, looking at him.
“Apparently, you do,” he said as a red-faced Mikado hung his head. The blonde boy put his arm around his shoulders.
“And buddy, I’m not a baby-sitter. I’m your body guard,” he said. His best friend rolled his eyes. Same difference.
He may hate me for this, Masaomi thought. But I’m doing this to keep him safe.
“I know you’re trying to help me,” Mikado said once he recomposed himself. “But it feels like you’re smothering me.”
“It can’t be helped,” his friend said. At this point, the founder of the Dollars realized it would be pointless to keep up this argument with his overprotective best friend.
“Fine,” Mikado grumbled. Masaomi patted him on the back and let go.
“If you behave yourself for the rest of this shopping trip, I might buy you ice cream,” he said.
“Shut up, Masaomi-kun,” Mikado said under his breath.
The boys made it out of the 7-11 without further incident. They were just about to head home when Mikado froze and turned around.
“Mikado?” Masaomi asked. The other boy started walking towards an empty space.
“Where are you going?!” his friend asked. Mikado could barely hear his friend’s voice. One more step and he vanished into thin air.
Mikado opened his eyes as his body felt cold. He quickly looked around, but could only see a haze of faded green.
“Hello?” he asked. “Masaomi-kun? Where did you go?” His mouth moved to speak, but no sound came out. Mikado tried not to panic as he searched for a way out. The only thing he remembered was hearing a high-pitched dog whistle and walking towards the sound. Cold air trickled along his back. Mikado neared his eyes. This looked like the same spot he was standing in, but something felt off.
“Sumiko-chan!” a man’s voice called. Mikado looked up ahead. The alleyway up ahead was in black and white. A girl of sixteen ran up against a wooden fence. Her vivid red dress stood out against the dull color scheme. She tried to look at which direction to run in.
“Sumiko-chan!” the same man’s voice called, making her freeze. The predator in question walked closer to the panting girl. He looked like he was part of the Yakuza with his black hair slicked back and 80′s style Western suit. He held out a knife as he walked closer to the trembling girl. The man grabbed her by the cheeks and caressed the tip of blade by her face. His prey broke down into tears.
“Please let me go,” she begged. The gangster smirked as he shook his head.
“Sumiko-chan, you owe me, remember?” he asked. He moved his knife down to her chest.
“No!” the poor girl yelped. The thug gritted his teeth and smacked her in the face.
“You little bitch!” he snapped. “You whores are all the same! I’m going to give you what I did to your cunt friend!” The yakuza man grabbed her by the shoulders.
“No! Get off of me! No!” Sumiko cried as she tried to fight him off. She managed to hit him in the face. The yakuza man’s nostrils flared.
“Bitch!” he snapped. The cruel man ripped at her bright red dress. Sumiko screamed.
“Get off of her!” Mikado yelled as he ran towards the pair.
“Mikado!” Masaomi shouted behind. The tadpole boy turned to see his best friend standing behind him. The scenery around him returned to normal. Masaomi gave him a concerned look.
“Where did you go man?” he asked. Mikado shock his head as he pointed behind him.
“There was a guy about to rape a girl over there,” he said at last.
“Huh?” Masaomi asked as he looked behind his friend. “There’s no one there.” Mikado whipped around.
“They were right there!” he shouted. “The guy had a knife and to that girl’s cheek. She had on a bright red dress.” Masaomi took hold of him by the shoulder.
“You vanished before my eyes,” he said. “Where did you go? What happened to you?”
“I… I don’t know,” the tadpole boy said. “I heard like a whistling noise behind us. When I walked over to see what it was, I disappeared into this strange place where I saw that man about to hurt that girl in the red dress.” Mikado froze as his stomach turned.
“Am I am going crazy again?” he asked. Masaomi pulled him into his arms.
“It’s going to be okay,” he whispered. “I won’t let that happen to you.” Mikado let himself collapse in his friend’s arms.
He sat in his darkened apartment, trembling. Nobody could’ve known all of this time. He was sure that no one was there that night. Why now? Who else saw him? It didn’t help that the statute of limitations on murder was done away with three years ago. What if that witness went to the police and told them everything? What if the police decided to re-open that case? What if they found his DNA?
He tightly shut his eyes and trembled. Why did he have to go to that 7-11 three days ago?
“Did you time travel or something?” Masaomi asked back at Mikado’s apartment.
“Huh?” he asked.
“That’s the only thing I can think of,” the Shogun boy said. “You must have disappeared into some black hole, went back in time, saw those people you were talking, and came back. That’s all I have. Did you hear any names?” Mikado took a moment to think.
“Sumiko, I think,” he said. “She had on a bright red dress.”
“Right,” Masaomi said. He pulled up Google on his phone. Mikado looked up as the blonde-haired boy typed in the information.
“What are you doing?” he asked. Masaomi turned his phone to him.
“Is this her?” he asked. Mikado saw a picture of a girl with a round baby face. Her smile made her look much cuter. Her short black hair and bangs made her face look smaller. Mikado about jumped backwards.
“Yes!” he said. “That’s her! That’s Sumiko.” Masaomi had to shush him a little bit.
“Okay,” he said. He tapped the link on the screen that led to a page from a notorious cold case site.
“Idane Sumiko, age sixteen,” Masaomi read. “Her body was found in an alley just down from an old gas station. The victim had been stabbed over thirty times after her throat was slit. Ripped stockings and her panties around her ankle indicated sexual assault. Idane didn’t die without a struggle. There was skin under her fingernails, but no matches have been made. Despite public pleas from her parents, the murderer has never been caught.”
“When did this happen?” his friend asked. The blonde shogun scrolled up on his phone.
“It says she was killed in summer of 1985,” he said. “Idane was last seen with her friends at a disco.”
“I saw who killed her,” Mikado said in a low voice.
“And what do you plan on doing about it?” his friend asked.
“I don’t know,” the tadpole boy said.
“Do you even know his name?”
“Mikado, don’t do anything stupid.”
“I won’t, I promise.” The tadpole boy saw the concerned look on his best friend’s face. “Please don’t look at me like that. I promise I won’t do anything.” Masaomi put his arm around his shoulders.
“Be very careful,” he said.
“I will,” Mikado said. He didn’t need to hear Masaomi’s thoughts to know that he didn’t believe him for a second.
Day one of the experiment was complete.
“Why are we out here again?” Masaomi asked as he and Mikado were walking the crowded streets of Ikebukuro.
“We’re just on a walk,” Mikado said. His best friend lied.
“With that eye patch over your right eye?” he asked.
“Yep,” the tadpole boy said.
“This wouldn’t have anything to do with finding out Sumiko’s killer, would it?”
“You won’t believe me if I say otherwise, would you?”
Masaomi narrowed his eyes. “Are you having another episode?”
By this time, Mikado tuned him off and started looking around. All of the demons were sitting on their humans’ shoulders as usual. If his impulsive hunch was correct, Mikado was looking for a man in his fifties with a panicked demon on his shoulder. It didn’t help the other demons of the city were distracting him.
If I don’t make the deadline, I’ll lose my job!
I need another drink.
Will I ever be good enough for his family?
He’s just using me for sex, isn’t he?
She made me promise not to tell, but it doesn’t feel right.
Mikado gritted his teeth, but recomposed himself. Getting annoyed with the constant chatter of demons around them wasn’t going to get him anywhere. He already had Masaomi tagging along on this mission. His demon didn’t shut up about Saki or the tadpole boy himself.
Do you mind keeping it down? I’m trying to look for something here.
Masaomi’s demon stuck out its tongue at him, but closed its mouth. Mikado didn’t get take to relish in the amazement of making an inner demon obey him because his senses picked up something else.
What should I do? I don’t have that kind of money. If that witness goes to the police, I’m screwed. That girl deserved it, can’t they see that?
Mikado looked around in the crowded streets for the source. He hadn’t had much chances to strengthen his powers due to reaching out to the other tadpoles. But in this case, he would have to try and find that demon and its human.
“Come on, where you, old man?” Mikado asked.
“Mikado?” Masaomi asked. The tadpole froze as soon as he spotted his target. Up ahead, a man in his fifties kept his head down as he tried to disappear further into the crowd. Mikado gave chase.
“Mikado!” Masaomi yelled. The tadpole boy only focused on the demon of Sumiko’s killer. You won’t get away, old man! I don’t know what I’m going to do with you yet, but I want to see your face for myself!
“What are you going to do when you track this guy down?” the blonde shogun asked.
“Don’t know,” Mikado said. “I just want to see his face.” The founder of the Dollars marched further into the crowd.
“Mikado, wait!” Masaomi yelled. He had to run to keep up with his friend.
The boys ended up in one of the more run-down streets in Ikebukuro. By now, the frenzy of the impulse episode had worn off and Mikado had a look of uncertainty on his face.
“Want to go back now?” Masaomi asked.
“I don’t know,” Mikado said in a low voice. That old man’s demon wouldn’t let him turn around. Even from the street, he could hear it talking faster and shouting.
“Do you even know which apartment it is?” the leader of the Yellow Scarves asked.
“Yes!” Mikado was quick to say.
“Then you tell me where it is and I’ll lead the way this time,” Masaomi said. He put up his hand just as Mikado tried to argue back.
“You led us here without a plan,” the blonde boy said. “Now let me stop you before you end up making it worse. We don’t even know if this old man has any weapons or not.” Mikado tried to say something, but ended up closing his mouth.
“Fine,” he muttered.
“Good,” Masaomi said. “Now tell me which apartment it is.”
“407, it’s the last building on the right,” Mikado said.
“Alright,” the blonde shogun said. He turned and started walking down the empty street. Mikado followed close behind, regretting his nosy impulse getting the better of him this morning.
“Keep going up ahead,” he said.
“Thanks,” Masaomi said. Within ten minutes, they reached their destination. Masaomi knocked on the door.
“Go away!” an old man yelled.
“Listen, we just want to talk to you for a bit…” Masaomi said. He paused and looked at the sign next to the door.
“Eto-san!” the blond shogun said. “We’re not here to hurt you. We just want to talk.”
“Liar!” Eto-san shouted. “You’re just here for the money! I told you, I don’t have anything!” It didn’t take Mikado long to figure out what happened just by listening to the inner demon inside the apartment.
“Who tried to blackmail you?” he asked. Masaomi whipped his head around.
“I don’t know!” the old man shouted. “I just got this letter three days ago and the calls won’t stop!”
“Could you show us this letter?” the leader of the Yellow Scarves asked. “We just want to talk. We don’t want your money.” The boys waited for a few seconds before a piece of paper slid out from under the door. Masaomi picked it up and unfolded it. The characters looked like a cliché of newspaper and magazines cut out and glued to the front. Sumiko’s face was glued to the bottom of the page.
“I saw what you did that night,” Masaomi read. “It makes me sick. Pay up 8,272,047.71¥ or I will go to the police.”
“Who sent you this?” Mikado asked.
“I don’t know!” Sumiko’s killer yelled. “Go away! You just want money too! You’re not going to get anything from me! That little bitch got what she deserved! Her friend was a lying whore who pimped that slut out to me! Both of them are nothing but lying whores!” Masaomi gritted his teeth and kicked the door. His foot left an indent in the door.
“You!” he shouted. Mikado grabbed onto him before he kicked down the door.
“Let’s go, I got what I wanted,” he said. The blonde-haired boy gritted his teeth.
“You’re right,” he muttered. Both boys turned and left.
Meanwhile, he walked his way up to Eto-san’s apartment. It felt good to be the one in power of that cruel old man. For years, Eto-san was known as the big bully around the block. He mistreated every girlfriend that he ever had since his twenties. He constantly ripped off those that depended on him for money. His children described the old man as monster. The neighbors on the block wished they could put that evil old man in his place.
This young man finally got the chance.
It all began with a trip to the 7-11 across town. It started out as a slow spring night. His rent was due and he needed a scheme to get money. The thug’s uncle and friends refused to give him money this time. (“Pay back what you owe first!” they all told him.) While browsing the magazines, the young man wondered how he was going to get more money before he was thrown out on the streets. Right now, he didn’t see anything he wanted to buy. His luck turned when he stepped out those glass doors. For he too had stepped into that same portal that Eto-san and Mikado would end up. He too saw his vile neighbor’s crime back in 1985. Poor Sumiko couldn’t escape from that yakuza predator with his knife. Meanwhile, the young man instantly recognized who it was.
Wait… Is that…?
There was his neighbor. Eto Genjo. Here he was terrorizing a sixteen-year-old girl before raping and murdering her. The young man watched as he remembered that Sumiko’s case had never been solved. Genjo was a person of interest, but there was no evidence at the time to tie him to the crime. Witnesses were too scared of this man to speak.
But now, the young man saw the answer.
When he came back to reality in the present, he formed a scheme to get money and exact revenge in one go.
However, it is not wise to taunt a cornered animal.
Mikado and Masaomi started heading back home. The leader of the Yellow Scarves turned to his friend.
“Aren’t you going to take that eyepatch off now?” he asked. “You got what you came for.”
“Oh, right,” Mikado said. “I almost forgot I had it on.” He reached up to take his eyepatch off. But then, he froze.
“What is it now?” Masaomi asked.
“I just saw who’s been blackmailing Eto-san,” his friend said in a low tone.
“Huh? Where?” the blonde shogun asked. Mikado pointed up ahead at him. Masaomi turned around. A man about nineteen-years-old with dyed blonde hair walked up the street towards the direction they were leaving from. He had his hands stuffed in his pockets while he grinned like a monkey. The boys counted about twelve piercings on his face. His black t-shirt and matching baggy jeans completed his look.
“You can see his demons?” Masaomi whispered. Mikado nodded once. The muscled green demon on his shoulder chanted money like it had been snorting coke for days. Its human stopped when he noticed the boys staring at him.
“What’cha looking at?!” he shouted. Masaomi tried to think of something to say. But Mikado began breathing heavily again. His friend’s eyes shifted towards him.
“Stop blackmailing that old man,” the tadpole boy said. The thug raised his eyebrow.
“Why should I?” he asked.
“He’s like a loose cannon,” Mikado said. Masaomi put his hand on his shoulder, but the tadpole boy pushed him off. The older boy snorted.
“So what?” he asked. “That old bastard deserved it! He’s been a total asshole to us all! When I saw what he did, I figured I would make some money and get a little payback!” Masaomi smacked himself in the forehead.
“Oh great,” he muttered. The old man they had talked to and that portal were a huge tank of gasoline and here came this asshole with the matches.
“You!” someone yelled at all three boys. They turned to see Genjo with a gun in his hand. The thug held out his arms.
“Well, well, well,” he said. “If it isn’t the Tiger of the Block himself? Not so brave now, are you? Have you found who your blackmailer is yet? You better hurry or you’ll be going off to jail!” Masaomi rolled his eyes.
“Is he really that dumb?” he asked. Genjo gritted his teeth.
“You!” he snapped. “You can all go to hell!” The old man lifted his gun and pulled the trigger.
“No!” Mikado yelled. He jumped in the way of Masaomi.
“Mikado!” his friend shouted.
But then, everything froze. Mikado looked around. Everything except for him was frozen like it was on pause.
“Huh?” he asked. “What just happened?” The boy froze as a chill ran down his spine. No way… Mikado turned to see a woman about twenty-four-year-old with long brown hair standing with the same shocked expression on her face as him. She held up her index and middle fingers on her right hand.
“Are you doing this?” Mikado asked.
“Yes,” she said. “How come you’re not frozen like everyone else? Wait… are you…?”
“Yes,” he said. The woman looked at the crowd of men in the scene.
“Which one of you is Mikado?” she asked.
“Me,” Mikado said. “But who are you?” The woman smiled with her fingers still in the air.
“Amano Midori,” she answered. “And right now, I am keeping you and your little frozen friend over there from getting killed.”