Halo Zero: Gate:
Kitano sat at his desk with hands under his chin. He leaned forward with his brow furrowed.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we are about to enter a new stage of the game,” he said. “We can expand our projects to the next level. Our pets will inherit the earth after the Woman in Red is freed. We can move onto braver challenges and push the game further than it has gone before. But first a question.” Kitano leaned forward.
“Are you staying or are you leaving?” he asked. “Before you answer, think about what you are going to say. Once you make your decision, you can’t turn back. If you stay, you can’t leave. If you leave, you can’t come back in. So think hard on what you want to do.” His inner circle, Junko, Aya, Etsuko, Daichi, and Osamu, stood in front of his desk. Kitano’s eyes focused on each one of them.
“Well, I’m staying,” Junko said. “I mean, I might as well. We’ve gone this far. Why not keep going? I want to see have this crazy ride ends up.”
“She’s got a point,” Daichi said. “I want to stay too.”
“I will stay because you and I still have work on the Tadpole Project,” Etsuko said.
“I too want to see where this game will end up,” Aya said.
“Copycat,” Junko hissed.
“Shut up!” her colleague snapped.
“Otomo, Nakahara, please!” Kitano snapped. Both women went quiet. All eyes turned to Osamu. The man with toned, muscled body shrugged with his hands in his pockets.
“Might as well,” he said. “I’ve got nothing better to do anyway.”
“Heh,” Kitano said as he lowered his hands. “That settles it. The fifth gate will be opened tonight. Once it is opened, we can take our game further.”
“Understood,” the rest of the inner circle said. Their leader smirked as he started to picture how this would all play out.
-Hotel Star Plaza-
Yui looked at her cell phone. “Right on time.” She looked up to see Hecate and Lucy standing inches away from her at the front desk of the lobby.
“Good evening,” Hecate said, bowing. Lucy looked around and whistled.
“Wow,” she said. “Quite the upgrade here.” The people walking around didn’t seem to notice them at all. Lucy smiled as she looked around at the well-lit lobby and clean atmosphere. She nudged her sister on the arm.
“Hey, can we stay here for the night after we get finished here?” she asked.
“No,” Hecate said. “We have to return to England once we finish up.” Lucy puffed up her cheeks as she pouted.
“Damn it,” she said. Hecate turned her attention to Yuzuru.
“Where is the exact location to open it?” she asked. The silent intern held up her glowing pendant over the front desk. The receptionist couldn’t see them at all as she typed away on her computer.
“Excellent,” Hecate said. She walked up to the front desk and held out her hand.
“Stop right there!” they heard a young girl shout. Lucy laughed as she shook her head.
“You never give up, do you?” she asked, turning her head. “Hiroi Michiko.” Michiko and Tiresias stood inches away the nightcomers and interns. The young girl stood frowning.
“I will not let you open this gate!” she snapped. Lucy pushed her white bangs from her eyes.
“You know you’re too late, right?” she asked. “Just give up already.”
“Never!” Michiko snapped. She reached under the top of her black and white dress and pulled out a small gold key. Lucy narrowed her eyes.
“Don’t tell me…” she said. Michiko pressed the button on the top. Lucy covered her ears and started screaming. Hecate sank to her knees screaming as well.
“What?! What’s going on?!” Yui asked, looking around. Michiko smirked at her work.
“You like it?” she asked. “It’s a little tool I call Nightcomer neutralizer.” Lucy looked up with gritted teeth.
“You!” she snapped. “Gah!” She sank down to her knees. Yui ran over to tackle Michiko, but Tiresias whacked her with her silver and red cane.
“I apologize,” she said. “But I’m afraid I can’t let you do that.” The intern breathed in as she tried to tackle Michiko again. To her shock, the blind woman could keep up with her every move, blocking her.
“What the hell?” she asked. The more she moved, the more Tiresias would block her. The whole time, Michiko held the key above her head and started chanting. I will not let you open this gate! I will not let you!
It was then she noticed Hecate mouthing something that only Yuzuru could hear. But, Michiko caught it with her ears.
“Knock me over.”
“Tiresias get the other one!” Michiko shouted.
“What?” the blind woman asked. Yui ran past her and tackled the young girl to the ground. Michiko fell to the hard floor, dropping the key. She tried to push Yui off as she crawled to get the key inches away.
“Let me go!” she screamed. The whole time, not a single person looked up to see what the commotion was about. Yuzuru gave Hecate one push towards the front desk. The nightcomer’s hand touched the surface. By the time Michiko broke away from Yui and grabbed her key, the ground began to shake. This time, the people started looking around and taking cover.
“Oh no!” she cried. Hecate smiled like the devil himself as she raised her arms.
“Welcome to the new world!” she shouted. Michiko jumped to her feet. Hecate and Lucy had already vanished. Ten minutes later, the shaking stopped.
“Good night,” Yui said, waving. She and Yuzuru walked away. Michiko watched them with big eyes as she realized how much more trouble Ikebukuro was in now.
Shion sat on a stone bench under her giant cherry tree. She took a sip of her green tea. She glanced up from her cup.
“Oh, nice to see you again,” she said. “I know why you are here. No, I didn’t forget. I will protect you until you are conceived. It is about that time too. He will try to resist, but he will give in soon. That’s how the timeline has been going up to this point.”
Shion looked up at the wind blowing through the tree. “Looks like the fifth gate has been opened. It won’t be long before we are dragged into the End of Days. He doesn’t want that to happen. Michi-san is trying her best to fight it like she always does. Makoto still doesn’t have the will to fight. I don’t know about his wife or will be the fourth one.”
She shook her head. “That is none of my concern. I only follow the whim of the unborn. Right now, my main focus is you. You requested that I protect you until you are born. Relax, you are in good hands. Come on, when have I let you down? Okay, but that one wasn’t my fault. Trust me, I will help you be born.”
Shion quickly put up her hands. “Whoa, whoa, whoa! One thing at a time here! My main concern is getting you inside of your mother’s belly. Don’t worry about the other things until we get to that point. Understood? Understood?”
She sat back with a serene smile. “Good. I will take you down to the living world tomorrow morning.”
Shion moved her hands up and down. “Easy there. It’s the least I can do for you staying by me for so long. You’re almost a teenager now. I figured that I would let you see you mother—again. But for now…”
She finished her tea. “I need to finish my midnight snack and get some rest. Care to join me?” Shion held out a dish of mochi.
“You sure? Okay then. More for me.” Shion took a bite of a pink mochi cake. “Mmm, this is really good. You’ll get to try some when you are able to have a mouth. Yes, I promise you that with all of my heart.” She took another bite and smiled.
In a run-down gold and red lobby, a young woman in a black kimono decorated with small silver butterflies was looking through the guest book when she froze.
“Oh…” she said.
“What is going on out there?” a woman’s voice asked. The young woman in the black kimono put down her gold feather pen on her black book.
“I think we have a serious problem,” she said. She turned when she heard the door open. An older woman dressed in Victorian black attire stood in the doorway. Snow couldn’t compare to her pale skin. Her red lips and long black hair made her look like a ghost. The woman at the desk shivered at her appearance.
“They’ve opened another gate, Vanessa-sama,” the woman said, clearing her throat. Vanessa let go of the door frame.
“How many more do they have left?” she asked.
“Two, I believe,” the woman at the desk said. “What should we do now?”
“What choice do we have, my dear Miiko-san?” Vanessa asked. “We have to warn the tadpoles and get them to resist again.”
“But what about Michiko-san?” Miiko asked.
“I’m afraid she can’t do it alone this time,” the older woman said. “She’s going to need all of the help she can get.” The receptionist opened her mouth, but Vanessa held up her hand.
“We will get Makoto and the other two to help her,” she added. Miiko narrowed her eyes.
“Other two?” she asked. “Wasn’t there just one more player in the game?”
“Ah, but you see,” Vanessa said. “They need one more person to help to free her.” The receptionist’s eyes widened.
“No…” she murmured. “Do we even know who it is?” Vanessa shook her head.
“Oh no…” Miiko said. The black owl clock ticked in the background.
By six in morning, the effects of the fifth gate began to take root. Some of the adults started to feel chills down their spines as the feeling being watched began to surface. The tadpoles felt it worse.
“I keep seeing them everywhere,” Mikado complained with his knees to his chest. Masaomi rubbed him on the back.
“We’re right here with you,” he whispered. Mikado looked up at him with a tired look on his face. Anri stood inches away from the boys.
“How long has he been like this?” she asked.
“Since Christmas,” Masaomi answered. He was confused and relieved that Anri was now here to help him with his best friend. She was the one who walked Mikado home after the possessed office lady tried to kill him. Masaomi greeted them at the door with a blank stare.
“Anri…” he said.
“Celty and Mika told me everything,” she said.
“Some possessed woman tried to kill me,” Mikado said.
“What?” Kida asked. Anri slowly backed away Mikado told Masaomi everything that happened. Instinct told her to run, but she remembered what Celty and Mika told her.
“Please, stay by him,” Mika told him in the side car of Shooter. “He really needs you. Masaomi can’t protect him alone.”
“But…” Anri said.
[Please,] Celty wrote in smoke in the sky. [It’s only going to get worse for him.] Saika’s mother felt that she had no choice. Now, she stared at the two boys on the floor. Anri tried to think of something to say but came up with nothing. She sat down in front of the boys.
“More is coming,” Mikado said.
“What do you mean?” Masaomi asked. His friend shook his head.
“It’s okay,” Anri said. “You can tell us. Take your time if you need to.” Mikado kept his eyes lowered. More disturbing images began to play in his head. Not just his time in Chou Mori, but bits and pieces of the future.
“They’re all going to die,” he muttered. His friends stared at him with the color drained from their faces.
“What are you talking about?” Masaomi asked. “Who’s going to die?”
“All of them,” Mikado said. He could hear the blood-curdling screams of the people of Ikebukuro. Fire burned everywhere. The flames never touched him, but he could feel that vile woman’s breath on his nape. Her long claw-like nails reached ever so slowly for his back. Was she trying to stab him or drag him into her body? Mikado closed his eyes and pleaded one thing in his mind.
Please let me go.
She smiled behind him and pulled him into slender arms. Her hot breath landed on his right ear. That vile woman uttered something that made his blood run cold.
“Don’t be afraid. I just want to show you my world.”
Something about the honey-dipped tone that made Mikado break into the smile of a man slowly going insane. He could feel her icy heart beating against his back.
Back in present day, Mikado grabbed his head and buried his face against his knees. He let off a lower whimpering noise.
“Mikado-kun?” Anri asked. She reached out, but Masaomi shook his head.
“Let him get out,” he mouthed. Anri held her hand to her big chest. Mikado-kun…
Outside of Mikado’s apartment, Hecate watched the three friends with her eyes locked on Mikado.
“Keep evolving,” she said. “You have to in order to bring the new world. You will feel the worst of the darkness just like the others before you see the sunlight. You can stick it out until then.” The nightcomer vanished into thin air.
Mikado and the tadpoles weren’t the only ones feeling the changes in their bodies.