Caged Wonderland


Halo Five: Angel:

-July 10th, 1991-

Even back then, Kitano and Etsuko needed assistants on the Tadpole Project. Three orderlies worked with them at the time. It wasn’t by choice, however. Those unlucky enough to come across Guillotine Hill when getting lost in the building ended up being recruited to help with the tadpoles. Sure administration was lax around that time, but Kitano and Etsuko didn’t want to take their chances. They’ve been going two years strong with their project and they weren’t going to have one minor screw-up torpedo the whole thing.

But even with careful planning, something unexpected may pop up and flip the script.

Kitano and Etsuko were going over the notes of all the living test subjects when that unexpected element fell in their lap. Etsuko marked through ages thirty and older.

“It looks like Amaterasu is more effective on subjects aged three to their late twenties,” she said. “It would appear that their bodies haven’t fully matured yet and they can take the drug more easily.”

“It would appear that way,” Kitano said. He already began making on how to improve the beginning for the next round of in the experiments. Suddenly, the doors to the tiny office burst open. Kitano and Etsuko turned to see an orderly holding the edges of the door, panting.

“Boss!” he shouted. “Come quickly! We have a problem!” Kitano raised his eyebrow.

“What?” he asked.

The orderly led the project leaders down to the basement. It was so dark that Kitano had to turn on a flashlight.

“What are we looking?” he asked.

“There!” the orderly said, pointing ahead in the dim light. Kitano stopped when he spotted a figure lying on the cold concreate floor. He could see the matted black hair with a pale white arm clawing out to his party. Its raspy gasping noises filled the darkness. It almost shouted like it was choking.

“I was deposing of the bodies like you instructed,” the orderly said. “I was about to push her into the fire when she gasped. The noise was so loud that I ran for you.” Kitano walked forward with the flashlight with the woman on the ground. He could tell by bindings on her wrists and ankles and the ripped gown that she was failed test subject of his.

“Heh,” Kitano said. He looked around on the floor with his flashlight. The therapist spotted a metal pipe.

“You should’ve finished her off right away,” he said. Kitano grabbed the pipe and smashed the woman in the head. She made louder gasping noises. He whacked her in the head three more times. The blood splattered on the floor, his shoe, and his coat. Kitano hit her as hard as he could too. He stood up and wiped the sweat from his brow.

“That should do it,” he said. Kitano turned to walk about to Etsuko and the orderly. But then, he paused when he heard the gasping noises getting louder. The therapist turned to see the bloodied woman squirming around and breathing heavily.

“What the hell?” Kitano asked. He picked up the pipe and beat the woman in the head five more times. She still wouldn’t die. After about an hour, Kitano gave up on trying to kill her. Etsuko came over to his side.

“Why won’t she die?” she whispered.

“I have no idea,” he whispered. He looked down at the woman with the bloody head making gurgling noises she as squirmed around on the floor. Something inside of him told him to keep this woman around a little bit longer.

-Present Day-

Chiharu sat slumped over on her desk. Her eyes looked so vacant. Everything sounded like it was underwater.

“Chi-ha-ru!” someone called. “Chiharu! Chiharu!” The girl rolled her eyes upwards. Masaomi had a curious look on his face.

“You still alive?” he asked. Masaomi pushed on her forehead, trying to get her to sit up.

“Kida?” Chiharu asked. He sat down in front of her.

“You feeling okay?” Masaomi asked. She slowly shook her head.

“I’m just tired,” she said. Her words sounded muffled and slurred together. Masaomi neared his eyes.

“You were hyped up this morning,” he said. “Is something wrong?” She shook her head again. Day three on her new medication and she didn’t know why she was getting worse. Masaomi tilted his head.

“Is it your meds?” he asked. She nodded once. On the first day, her friends wondered why she seemed so hyper.

“Are you okay?” Anri asked.

“Yeah!” Chiharu shouted. She pumped her fist in the air as she broke into laughter. Her eyes turned to her friends looking at her funny.

“I’m fine,” she insisted. “Let’s just get to school!” Chiharu marched ahead of her friends with worried looks on their faces. By three o’clock, she crashed and boy did she crash hard. The girl didn’t even make it to her room when she got home.

Only the ringing of her cell phone stirred her from slumber.

“Hello?” Chiharu asked in a groggy tone.

“Oh good, I’m so glad that you picked up,” Shizumu-sensei said on the other line. Chiharu wrinkled her nose.

“Doc?” she asked. “What did you give me?”

“It’s just an experimental drug,” he assured her. “It’s fairly new. I just called to say that your blood work came back clear. There is nothing wrong with your blood.”

“Yay,” Chiharu muttered. “What about the medicine you gave me?” Shizumu-sensei seemed to hesitate on the other line.

“Let’s try this medication for a week and then if you don’t see improvement, I’ll take you off of it, alright?” Chiharu groaned over the phone.

“Look, I know it’s rough, but you can pull through,” Shizumu-sensei said. He himself didn’t sound too sure about his own words. Chiharu closed her eyes and rubbed the bridge of her nose.

“Fine,” she muttered.

“I already had your prescription filled and sent to the pharmacy,” the doctor said. “I will keep in touch with you by Friday.” Chiharu pushed herself to her feet and straggled back to her room. She thought that she was going to throw up.

Junko looked at an empty brown bottle and smiled. Meanwhile, Yuka stood in front one of the cages where the angels were kept and sneered.

“What exactly are these things?” she asked. Junko turned to her in her chair.

“They are angels,” she said. Yuka turned to her with a confused look on her face.

“Why do you call them that?” I asked. “They look more like monsters.” The human-like creature jumped at the cage, hissing. Yuka winced and backed away.

“Now, now,” Junko said, wagging her finger. “They used to be human too.”

“What?” the intern asked. Even Yayoi had to look up when she heard that. Yui and Naoki stood on the opposite side of the room.

“Is it story time again?” Naoki asked.

“Oh yes,” Yui said. Junko cleared her throat.

“They are failed tadpoles,” the nurse said. Yuka and Yayoi looked shocked. The nurse smiled and nodded.

“Oh yes,” she said.

“But don’t failed tadpoles die off?” Yayoi asked.

“Not if there is a genetic mutation in the mix,” the nurse said. “The first one was named F. Now, I came to Japan to work with Tandeki in 2004. I wasn’t there when F was first born. She kind of died before I moved to this country.”

“What do you mean ‘kind of’?” Yayoi asked.

“Angels can’t die,” Junko said. “Well, they can, but they come back to live pretty quickly.”

“But why are they called angels?” Yuka asked. “Aren’t angels supposed to be pretty?”

“No,” Junko said. “These little pets will grow wings.” All of the interns’ jaws dropped.

“What?!” they asked. The nurse had a devilish grin.

“I am learning more about them myself,” she said. “In order to do that, I have to revert F back what she was. But Junko, you say, I thought that F was dead. Oh ho, she is dead. Her body is.” Yuka and Yayoi looked just as confused.

“Just go with it,” Yui mouthed. Junko held up the little brown bottle.

“Behold!” she said. “I call her Biddy Early. It’s just a little toxic I mixed together myself. I got permission from Kitano-sensei and Asato-sensei to use some of their formulas from the Tadpole Project.” Junko showed off the little bottle with the name written in pencil on the label.

“Naoki over there helped me fine tune this little mix, of course,” she said. The young man with dyed blonde hair bowed.

“What exactly does it do?” Yuka asked.

“Ah, yes,” Junko said. “The mix itself will awaken the old cells of F and revert the human shell back to its angel self. Now, such a process will usually take years to complete. But, there is a little help in my corner.” She snatched away the bottle and grinned.

“When Ryugamine-kun…” Junko said. She paused when she noticed the confused looks on Yuka and Yayoi’s faces.

“You know, Mikado?” she tried again. The two interns still looked like the information was trying to connect in their brains and failing miserably. The nurse sighed and rolled her eyes. Would it kill you to learn his real name?

“I’m sorry, when Chirin talks to her it will speed up the process,” she said. The light blubs lit up in Yuka and Yayoi’s heads.

“Oh!” Yayoi said.

“But why?” Yuka asked with a curious look on her face. Junko tapped her cheek while smiling.

“Ah, there is a little bit of a chemical mix in a tadpole’s breath,” she said. “We normal humans can’t detect, but it will speed up the process when the saliva particles hit an angel.” All of the interns looked impressed. Junko smiled as she drew back the bottle.

“Is there anything else you wanted from me?” she asked.

“Oh,” Yuka said. “We were here to check on your progress.” The nurse smiled.

“Fine,” she said. “It’s unfolding just fine.”

-Celty and Shinra’s Apartment-

“Okay… begin,” Shingen said. He set down a mug on the table. “Move this mug.” Mikado reached for it with his right hand.

“Not with your hand,” the doctor said. “Move it with your mind.”

“With my mind?” the tadpole asked.

“Yes,” Shingen said. Mikado looked down at the cup.

“Okay…” he mumbled. He looked at the white mug sitting in front of him. It started to move at first. The mug jiggled back and forth before it started floating up to Shingen. The doctor picked up and took the notes.

“Very good,” he said. Emilia stood in the corner, watching the boy with a fixed look. Her cheeks looked light pink as she stared at Mikado’s bare chest. Shingen pressed a stethoscope to the boy’s heart.

“Breathe,” he said. Mikado took in a slow, deep breath.

“Good,” the doctor said. He took down more notes. Mikado’s eyes shifted back and forth.

“Hey, sensei,” he said.

“Hm?” Shingen asked. Mikado shifted in place.

“Could you please look at my friend?” he asked. “I don’t think something is right with her.” The doctor peered up from his gas mask.

“Is she a tadpole?” he asked.

“No…” Mikado said. Shingen drew back the stethoscope.

“My son will look at her,” he said. “I will have to draw some blood now. Are you squeamish?”

“No,” the boy said.

“Excellent,” the doctor said. He picked up his kit and felt along Mikado’s arm for a major vein.

“Is this for checking for changes in our blood?” he asked.

“Yes,” Shingen said. “Look upwards for me.” Mikado’s eyes moved to the ceiling as he felt the needle pierce his skin. He could feel the small amount of blood being drained from his body. The sounds were unsettling, but he fought to keep calm.

“Any other changes you’ve noticed lately?” Shingen asked. “Be honest with me. I will find out either way.” Mikado tried not to look at the needle and the blood drawn.

“I have been able to run faster,” he said. “I don’t even get tired. My body feels so light when I move.” He could already see Tetsu’s disapproving face. But what choice did he have? The doctor was right. Nebula had the means of digging for the truth on their own. Might as well come out and say it now. Shingen slowly pulled out the needle.

“Interesting,” he said. Mikado couldn’t see his phone, but he could hear his thoughts of planning more tests. The boy put on a brave face when the doctor bandaged his arm.

“All done,” he said. They went for a couple more tests before they were done for the day. Shingen packed up his kit.

“Thank you for your hard work,” he said. Mikado slid on his shirt.

“Why do you do this?” he asked. Shingen turned his head.

“Hm?” he asked.

“Why do you do these tests with us?” the tadpole asked. “What does Nebula want with us?” The doctor gave him a sharp look through his gas mask.

“That is one of the questions we cannot answer as of yet,” he answered. Despite being able to hear thoughts, Mikado couldn’t figure him out. Did this man get better at hiding his thoughts? Emilia quickly shifted her eyes away from the boy as he got dressed.

“We will call you in two weeks,” Shingen said.

“Yes,” Mikado said. He bowed and walked out of the apartment. Masaomi waited outside for him.

Tatsuya looked at the small brown bottle as he sat at the kitchen table.

“What exactly is this?” he asked. Chiharu sat across from him with bags under her eyes.

“Some tonic the doctor gave me a couple of days ago,” she said. Her brother raised his eyebrow.

“Is it even helping?” he asked.

“It helps me sleep,” she said. “I feel great in the morning.”

“But?” Tatsuya asked. Chiharu frowned.

“The time between crashes are getting shorter,” she said. “The headaches get worse and I can barely eat.” She dropped her head down on the table.

“I don’t think you should be taking it anymore,” Tatsuya said.

“Huh?” she asked with her face to the table. The teenaged girl peeked out from her arms.

“I’m serious,” he said. “If this drug is making you sick, stop taking it. It’s clearly making the problem worse.”

“But what do I do?” Chiharu asked. “If I get off, I will get sick again. What am I supposed to do?” Tatsuya sighed.

“I think we’re going to have to go get a second opinion,” he said. “For now, stop taking this.”

“But…” she said.

“Stop taking it,” Tatsuya said in stern voice. Chiharu groaned with her face to the table.

“Fine,” she said.

“Good,” he said. “Pour them down the sink and throw them away. Do you understand me? Look up and say that you understand me.” Chiharu didn’t move at first.

“Look up and say that you understand me,” Tatsuya repeated. His sister slowly lifted her head.

“Understood,” she said. Chiharu sounded like she had too much to drink. Her brother nodded once.

“Good,” Tatsuya said. He picked up the small bottle. “I’m going to take this by my friend’s research lab to get this tested tomorrow to see what’s in this stuff. You should not be taking something that could end up killing you.” Chiharu rubbed her forehead. She didn’t care anymore. She just wanted to go to sleep—again.

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