Halo Seven: Yoemon:
-Four Years Ago-
Professor Yoemon adjusted his video camera before hitting record. He turned and walked back to the black background.
“Um… good morning, everyone,” Yoemon-sensei said. “My name is Yoemon-sensei. I’m sorry if I appear nervous. This is my first time doing a video lecture. I’m more used to doing lectures in front of crowds of people. Anyway, today I am going to give a brief introduction of this lecture series. What is this series about? Well, I am a philosophy professor at Tokyo University. I will cover what philosophy is, philosophy throughout the history of man, philosophy and science, religion and philosophy, and philosophy in the modern age.”
The professor pushed up his glasses.
“Now, what is philosophy?” he asked. “It’s been defined as the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, especially when considered as an academic discipline. But to me, that doesn’t even scratch the surface. There is so much more about philosophy than a fundamental study…”
A young woman with her long blonde hair in a braid sat on her bed, watching Yoemon-sensei’s lecture on her laptop. She munched on a stick of chocolate pocky.
“You watching lecture videos again?” someone asked. The woman looked up to see another woman with long dark brown hair standing in the bathroom doorway. The blonde hit pause on her laptop and took out her earbuds.
“Hm?” she asked.
“Are you watching lecture videos again?” the other woman asked. She walked over and looked at paused laptop screen.
“Is that that professor who died in Russia five days ago?” she asked.
“Yes,” the blonde woman said. The brunette tilted her head.
“Didn’t Todai let him go because he went crazy?” she asked.
“His earlier videos are pretty good,” the blonde countered with. “Besides, Satsu-chan, I could question your obsession with that DeathVine web site.” Satsu put her hands on her hips.
“It’s for research, I’ll have you know,” she said. “I’m studying human behavior, remember?”
“Yeah, yeah,” the blonde said. “You just want to see morbid things.” Satsu gave her a little pout as walked over to the bed and cuddled up to the other woman.
“Aw, Aoi-chan,” she said. “You know I love creepy things.”
“More than me?” Aoi asked. Satsu kissed her on the cheek.
“Never,” she said. The blonde smiled as she put her earbuds in.
“No,” Satsu said. Aoi turned her head.
“No?” she asked. Satsu pulled her into her arms.
“You’ve got me curious about this professor now,” she said. “I want to find out why he went insane and what drove him to take his own live.” Aoi blinked at first.
“Okay…” she said. The blonde unplugged her earbuds from her laptop and hit play.
Aoba flopped down on his bed. He couldn’t take how much everything had changed. Last month alone drained him.
Apparently, he and Kururi were now dating. Aoba couldn’t wrap his mind around when or how that happened. She always tried to hold his hand in public. The former leader of the Blue Squares drew back his hand.
“What’s the matter, Babe?” Kururi asked as they walked to school on the first morning without Mairu.
“Why do we have to hold hands in public?” Aoba whispered.
“Aw, you’re not ashamed of me, are you?” she asked as she tried to take his hand again. The boy drew it back.
“No,” he said.
“Then the what’s the problem, Babe?”
“It’s weird. And please stop calling me ‘babe’. It doesn’t sound right when you say it.”
Kururi giggled as she groped him on the ass. “Only if you hold my hand. I can either call you ‘babe’ or we can hold hands.” Aoba sighed with a red face.
“Fine,” he grumbled. Kururi grabbed hold of his hand and smiled. It’s not just the public display of affection that she was so happy to engage in either. Aoba couldn’t help but notice that she wasn’t wearing gym clothes to school anymore. Instead, Kururi could be equivalent to a fashionista. Aoba managed to get a good look into her through her room when she was on the phone outside. He had to blink and rub his eyes at what he was seeing.
Skirts long enough to cover her bottom. Tight tank tops on hangers. Most of her dresses were low-cut to show off her big breasts. When did Kururi start wearing corsets? Fish nets too? He had a hard time picturing his “girlfriend” in leather. She even had high heels and high-heeled boots in her closet. Why would Izaya let her dress like this? Kururi’s lingerie took the cake. Aoba couldn’t understand why girls would want to wear thongs. How could they stand have something to up their crack? He hadn’t even seen so much make-up before in his life.
It didn’t stop there.
Where did this girl posse of hers come from? Kururi seemed to bond with all of the mean girls in their school. Some of them even feared her. These were the girls who wrote nasty things all over Kururi and Mairu’s desks on the first day of school. Now they were all friends? What did she have over them? Aoba sighed.
“Nothing makes sense anymore!” he complained. Nobody seemed to remember Mairu anymore. He didn’t dare ask Izaya if he remembered or not. His pride was still intact from all of the abuse that took from Kaori. Kururi and her posse treated it like a joke.
“Your boyfriend acts weird, Orihara-san,” one of the girls said.
“I know,” Kururi said. “Aoba-kun came by my place last night with his face all bruised up. He keeps going on about how Izaya-nii and I have a sister named Mairu.”
“What?” another girl asked.
“Yeah,” their leader said. “He says that we were twins and we used to make out all of the time.”
“Ewww!” another girl said. “That’s nasty!” Kururi thought about it for a minute.
“Actually, that might sound hot,” she said. “If this Mairu-girl was as hot as me with nice tits, I might consider it.” The other girls broke into laughter. Aoba sat at the edge of the table, isolated. Kururi seemed to ignore him when she was that annoying posse. Part of him hoped that this was a bad dream he would wake up from. Secretly, Aoba would pinch himself. By the end of week one, he knew this wasn’t a nightmare.
Now what? Nobody knew who Mairu was anyone and Kururi had changed from a quiet, mischievous girl to a queen bee he didn’t recognize. Why didn’t Kaori have to do this to him?
Aoba lifted his head when his cell phone rang. Again?
“Hello?” he asked.
“Babe!” Kururi said on the other line. Aoba resisted to urge to groan. He could predict what was coming next.
“Yeah?” he asked.
“Babe, I’m horny,” she said. Aoba buried his face back into his pillow. That was another thing about this new Kururi. When did she become so obsessed with sex? The amount of sex toys in her closet made him feel uneasy. Sure, Mairu and Kururi had many sex toys together in the first timeline. But it just didn’t fit with Kururi. It didn’t help that she seemed to want sex every night. Aoba rubbed his forehead.
“I’m too tired,” he complained.
“But I’m already outside your door,” she said. Aoba sat up and looked out the window. He could see down Kururi’s top as she looked up at him with the phone in his hand.
“I’m coming up right now,” she said. “You better get ready, big boy! I’m about to give you another amazing night!” Aoba forced himself to smile.
“Alright,” he said. “I’m coming.” Aoba sighed and walked out of his room.
-Three Years Ago-
“Good evening, everyone,” Yoemon-sensei said on video. “Welcome back to another philosophy lecture. My name in Yoemon-sensei and I will be your professor.” At the time, he still had that shine in his eyes. The professor clapped his hands together.
“Last week, I met a rather interesting man,” he said. “His name is Kitano Katsuhiro. He’s a rather interesting man. He is what I would call agnostic in the philosophy world. But he seems to believe in a powerful being known as the Woman in Red. He claims that he saw her during a near death experience when he was a child.”
As he spoke, his pace would quicken and return to normal at some points.
“I met him at a conference up in Sapporo,” he said. “Kitano-sensei didn’t interact with most of the people there. He just sat in the back of the room, writing in his notebook. This man did ask questions during different lectures, but he didn’t stay too long to the meet-ups and drinking parties afterwards. The professors and therapists stayed away, whispering about him, but I found myself curious.”
Whenever he brought up Kitano, Yoemon wanted to fly up to the sky. Still, he wasn’t that loyal to him at the time. He still wanted to figure out Kitano for himself.
“So in the middle of the week,” the professor said. “I walked over to him in the cafeteria. He looked up when I got close. We stared at each other for about ten minutes. He narrowed his eyes at me.
“‘Yes?’ he asked. I didn’t know what I wanted to say. I walked up to man without a plan. But still, I was there and I had something to say. I think I said something about another lecture that was coming up in ten minutes. I probably sounded dumb, but I wasn’t thinking. Kitano didn’t even blink.
“‘Is that all?’ he asked. I slowly nodded.
“‘Heh,’ was all he said. We didn’t talk to each other during the rest of the conference. But he left quite an impression on me with his lecture. Kitano-sensei talked about the mind during the End Times. Quite a few of the audience found it off-putting. But, I found myself drawn in. I had to find out more.”
The professor held up a book in front of the camera.
“He recommended this book,” Yoemon said. ”Apocalypse 2012: An Investigation into Civilization’s End by Lawrence E. Joseph. This is a good start to understanding how he thinks. With this, I might get close and figure Kitano-sensei out…”
-Mikado and Masaomi-
“This is turning into a bad habit,” Masaomi said at Ikebukuro station. Mikado stood next to him with his eyepatch, looking around. He hadn’t any episodes until now today. Masaomi wasn’t fast enough to stop him like he was yesterday.
“At least take the eyepatch off,” he said.
“No,” Mikado said.
“Take the eyepatch off.”
Masaomi gritted his teeth. “Don’t fight with me, man. Take the eyepatch off or I will rip it off of you.”
“I would love to see you try it.” Mikado in his mind asked why he would say something like that. Masaomi clinched his fists at his sides.
“I am not going to do this with you here,” he said. “I don’t care if you are having an episode or not, take the eyepatch now!” Mikado was about to speak when he froze with a chill down his spine. Another one? But where? The tadpole boy looked around at the crowd of people with their inner demons.
“Mikado?” Masaomi asked. His friend looked around until he spotted a girl in a school uniform standing at the edge of the platform. She too froze as if she could sense it too. She quickly looked around before looks at the tracks. It didn’t take Mikado long to notice that she didn’t have a demon on her shoulder just like everyone else around them. The tadpole about jumped as he connected the dots in his head.
“Ah! She’s like me!” he said.
“What?” Masaomi asked. Mikado pushed him aside and run through the crowd of people.
“Mikado!” his friend yelled as he ran after him. The tadpole pushed his through the crowd to the girl on the platform. She turned her head when he came within a few feet of her. Tears streamed down her face.
“Don’t do it,” Mikado said. “You’re like me. You don’t have to end it like this. I know people who can help you.” The girl shook her head.
“I am beyond help,” she said.
“That’s not true.”
“No, listen!” More tears formed in her eyes. “I’m too much a danger to everyone around me. I’ve already killed my boyfriend, my mom, and my best friends! I’ve even killed many strangers these past two days alone! I can’t do this anymore!”
“And you think suicide will stop it? Come with us. I take you to someone who can help you. We can help you.”
By now, people were starting to crowd around them. Some of them had their cell phones out, recording. Mikado cringed at their demons shouting at the poor tadpole girl to jump already.
Do it already!
Jump! Jump! Jump! Jump!
Mikado gritted his teeth. Shut up! The demons broke into laughter and chanted louder. The founder of the Dollars held out his hand.
“Come on,” he said. “Let me help you.” The girl shook her head.
“I’m sorry,” she said as the train was pulling into the station. “But I don’t want to hurt any more people.” The girl turned and jumped just as the train pulled up. Her blood splashed all over Mikado and the people nearby. The tadpole boy could only hear silence as everyone rushed around him in a panic. The last thing he could remember was someone grabbing him by the shoulder and dragging him away.
Kitano was observing the Heartseed plant as the red glow started to fade when a second bud fell in its pot.
“Hm?” he asked. “Who’s dead now?” The therapist looked for the name tag tied to the stem.
“Kibuishi Azusa,” Kitano said. “Most unfortunate.” He crossed through her name. How long before her stem merged in with the other flowers?
Junko sat in her office at Raira Academy as she finished up her paperwork for the day. She smirked as she watched as the second of the little lights on her tablet screen die out.
“And then there were fifty-one,” the nurse muttered to herself.
-Two Years Ago-
Yoemon had bags until his eyes as he was covered in sweat. He couldn’t stop fidgeted as he kept adjusting the camera.
“There is something that I have noticed for quite some time now,” he said in a hoarse voice. “Modern technology is ruining us all. Japan is too busy staring at their cell phones to look up. They rely on them for everything. Cell phones are how we end up with sites like DeathVine on the deep web. If someone was going to jump to their death from a tall building, today’s youth would be too busy filming it with their phones to help or call 119. Cell phones have allowed their vanity and desperate need for attention to get out of hand.”
Yoemon messed with his hair before he broke down screaming. After about ten minutes, he calmed down.
“But don’t worry, my students,” he said. “I found a way to cleanse Japan of this cancer known as cell phones. I have begun developing the program to kill it all. I can’t tell you what it is because I am being watched. Japan won’t be safe for me for long…”
-Izaya and Kitano-
“Tell me something, Izaya-san,” Kitano spoke up at his desk. “What circle of hell would you end up in?” Izaya turned around from the window.
“Excuse me?” he asked.
“Are you familiar with the Inferno section Dante’s Divine Comedy?” the therapist asked.
“I believe I am,” Izaya replied.
“So, which circle of hell would you end up in if died, if it was possible?”
The information broker took a minute to think about this. “I would probably say the eighth circle.”
“Ah, the fraud circle. You would fit in with the seducers and flatters.”
“And what about you?”
Kitano took a moment to think. “I don’t really know. I am leaning towards the ninth circle myself.”
“I would believe myself to be so.” Kitano looked down at his notepad. “I lost another one of my pets tonight.”
“Oh?” Izaya asked. “Which one this time?”
“Kibuishi Azusa,” the therapist said. “She eighteen when she died. Her mother brought her to Chou Mori when she tried to slit her wrists in the bathtub. Perfect fit for the Tadpole Project. You can read the rest in her patient file here.” Kitano handed Izaya the file. The information broker raised his eyebrow.
“Don’t get too excited,” the therapist said. “There’s nothing in there about the project itself. The only reason I gave you this file now was because I figured you would catch wind of her death and start digging around again. Might as well tell you and get it out of the way now.”
“Right…” Izaya muttered as he started looking at the file.
-Izaya and Mari-
“I want to die right now,” Mari complained as she stared at the computer screen in the basement.
“Hm?” Izaya asked as he walked over to her desk. He narrowed his eyes as he looked at the screen.
“What is that?” he asked.
“The Dis Program I got six night ago,” his friend-with-benefits said. “I’m still trying to decode and set the program into motion.”
“Wouldn’t that be an easy thing for you?” Izaya asked. Mari shook her head.
“I’ve never seen anything like it before it my life,” she mumbled. “It’s both complex and uses practically out of date codes.” The information broker leaned on her shoulders.
“Can’t you get someone to help you?” he asked.
“Unfortunately, the only one who knows how to decode this is dead,” she said. Izaya couldn’t help but smile at the challenge.
“I could track down his colleagues and see if they can be of any use,” he offered. Mari turned to him with dead-looking eyes before her red-framed glasses.
“Will I have to do anything for you in return?” she asked. Izaya smiled and shook his head.
“Oh, Mari-chan,” he said. “Don’t you know I’m not that cruel?”
“But you don’t do anything for free either.”
“You got me there.”
“So… What do I have to do as payment for you to get his colleagues to help me out?”
The information broker patted her on the head. “I’ll tell you when I can think of one.” Mari was too tired to even let out a nervous chuckle.
“How is your sister, by the way?” she asked. Izaya drew back his hand.
“Good,” he said. “She’s doing good.”
“I see,” Mari said as she went back to typing. “That’s good to hear.”
-Six Months Ago-
Yoemon-sensei leaned in close to the camera, panting.
“I have almost done it!” he said with his voice almost gone. “Japan will be free from all of it! I will cleanse my beloved homeland back to its purest roots! The Woman in Red will come and purify the world with her destruction! I just have to get the program back to Tandeki once it’s finished, but I have to be careful. I am being watched here in Russia just like I was back in Japan. If the Russians get a hold of this program, Tandeki will never keep hold of its lead. I will not fail Kitano-sensei! This is for him! All of it is for him!”
The professor reached forward and turned off his camera after about three hours of rambling about the Woman in Red and the End of Days.
His eyes looked so red and empty.
The next morning, Kitano and Etsuko gathered up their interns in an unused laboratory in Rampo Biotech. The therapist looked among the group eight.
“We’re going to try something a little bit different today,” he said. “How many of you have a background in chemistry?” Five hands went up.
“Good, good,” Kitano said. “Come with me.”