Halo Four: Tadpoles:
Before the body in that fancy apartment, there was a trail of bodies leading to Ikebukuro. Not caused by demons, ghosts, or the groups involved in the Apocalypse Game. No, these deaths were caused by something or someone much worse. Angry, even.
This started back in March.
Kate Erina worked at a strip club in Kabukicho. Not as a dancer, she served the drink. On the surface, she smiled and acted all cheerful. Her patrons all adored her. Who could blame then? Her light brown hair came down to her waist. Her uniform looked good on with her curves. She looked so young in her face.
“You have a boyfriend?” her patrons would. Erina smiled and shook her head.
“I had one,” she said. “But it didn’t work out.” The waitress would start to get sad thinking about it.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” one of the men told her. Everything was staying calm. Erina did her best to keep up the façade.
The cracks grew deep that March.
The tenth started out as a normal night. There weren’t many people that night. Erina had started her shift at the strip club. As usual, she tried not to touch anybody. She stood in front of the bathroom mirror and straightened up her uniform. Erina took a breath.
“I can do this,” she said to herself. “Keep it together and don’t touch anyone.” She took one more breath.
“Right,” Erina said. Then she walked out into the club. Everything was going fine. Erina did her best not to touch anybody to prevent… that from happening again. It looked like it was going to be a long night.
Around ten p.m., two men in their late twenties to early thirties walked in. They looked out of place in their causal clothes. Judging by the way they were looking around the club, the men were new to this place. Erina happened to look and spotted these men taking a seat near the stage.
She froze with the tray in her hands. A wave of memories of that place came back. The white halls under the blinking lights. The overwhelming smell of bleach. A pair of feminine hands strapped her down to a chair. She couldn’t speak or scream. She couldn’t move. Her eyes darted around frantically in the dark. Suddenly, the door closed in the darkness. The footsteps told her what was coming next.
“Miss? Miss? Hey. Hey!”
Someone grabbed her on the shoulder from behind. Erina turned around to see a man in his forties clutching her shoulder as his eyes went blank.
“I hate my boss but his daughter is really sexy,” he admitted. “You look just like her in fact! Come here!” Erina freaked out as the man tried to kiss her. She pushed him away as fast as she could. The man just stood there, blinking.
“Uh… What just happened?” he asked. Erina started trembling before she turned and ran out of the club. All eyes were on her back.
Erina stood in the alleyway, panting. She started shaking. It took six years to complete therapy. Everything had been doing fine. Erina got a job, not a good one but it paid, and started living on her own. She grabbed her head.
“I can’t go back that way! I can’t go back that way!” the woman said over and over in herself. “I can’t go back that way! I can’t go back that way!”
Suddenly, a sharp chill ran up her spine.
Erina slowly turned around. A woman her age, maybe a bit older, stood at the other end of the alley with long black hair in a ponytail. She tilted her head.
“Erina?” the woman asked. The bar maid gave her an odd look.
“I’m sorry, do I know you?” she asked. The woman walked up closer to her. Erina felt herself shrinking inside with each step. The two women stared each other down when they got close enough. Flashes of memory raced through Erina’s head. Only one name came to her lips.
“Hifumi?” she asked. The other woman clapped her hands together.
“You do remember!” she said.
“Not completely,” Erina said, rubbing the back of her head.
“You weren’t losing your mind, you know?” Hifumi asked. The other woman lifted her head.
“Hm?” she asked.
“I have been tracking those two men who walked into this club,” Hifumi said.
“Tracking them? Why?” Erina asked. The other woman grinned.
“Revenge,” she said. At first, the bar maid didn’t know how to react.
“Revenge?” Erina asked at last.
“Uh-huh,” Hifumi said. “And you are going to help me.” The other woman stumbled backwards.
“M-Me?” she asked. Suddenly, her mood started to change. “How can I help?” Hifumi smiled.
“I like your style,” she said.
Hifumi got a job as a waitress at the strip club. Sure enough, those two men kept coming every night. Erina and Hifumi couldn’t forget them if they wanted to.
“Suzuki Soma and Ito Junji,” Erina whispered to her fellow tadpole.
“Yes,” Hifumi said back.
-December 10th, 1997-
Those damned lights started flickering again. Erina sat at a table in a daze. The last amount of drugs still hadn’t worn off yet. A hand brushed against her left cheek. Soft snickering filled her ear.
“Heh,” a man’s voice said. “Almost like a brainless doll.” Footsteps circled behind her.
“So pretty,” she heard him hiss. He licked her on the cheek. Not a little lick. But like a wild dog. He could’ve stabbed her in the back and she wouldn’t be aware of it.
“Ito-san!” another man yelled. Footsteps backed away from her. Erina didn’t look up. More footsteps walked up to her.
“You’re shaking,” Hifumi whispered in her ear. Erina looked down at her hands.
“Oh,” she muttered. Hifumi put her hand on her shoulder.
“Don’t worry,” she said. “We can do this.” Erina pressed her lips together and nodded.
It would take them three days to act. By then, Erina was ready to act. The two tadpoles planned everything down to the detail.
“I’ll go in,” she said. Hifumi patted her on the back.
“Good luck,” she whispered. Erina took a breath and walked over to the table near the stage. Except for the age on their faces, Soma and Junji looked the same as they did in the late 90′s. Erina sneered as she took the tray over to their table. She could still smell tobacco and BO on Junji’s body. His tongue on her cheek made her skin crawl. The men looked up and saw her, a curvy and buxom bar maid with beer on her tray. Junji looked her up and down and whistled.
“Whoa!” he shouted over the pounding music. “Aren’t you a hot one?” His voice made her want to rip her own ears off.
“Here are your beers, sir,” Erina said with a forced smile on her face. She knelt down and handed each man their dark green bottles. The tadpole could feel their eyes on her. The anger boiling inside gave her the push that she needed.
“Say,” Junji spoke up. Erina glanced up at him. He and his friend gave him goofy smiles.
“This club is kind of lame,” Junji said. He grabbed her by the blouse and pulled her in closer. “My friend and I here want something a little more…”
“Entertaining?” Erina asked. Soma started blushing.
“Yeah,” his buddy said, nodding. The bar maid pulled away with a little smile on her face. She looked around for a moment before leaning in. The targets leaned in as welcome.
“Well then,” Erina whispered. “I think I have just the thing.” Junji’s face lit up like a Christmas tree while Soma’s face turned redder. The tadpole slowly backed away.
“Follow me,” she said. Erina turned and walked towards the back end of the exit of the club. The targets got up and followed her without question.
The back end of the club was the perfect blind spot. No working cameras back here. Junji and Soma couldn’t wait for the prize they thought that they would be getting. Erina led them to the middle of the alleyway and stopped. Soma and Junji looked up.
“Hm? What’s up?” Junji asked. Erina clinched her fists at her sides.
“Do you know who I am?” she asked. The annoying man gave her back a strange look.
“What are you talking about?” he asked. The tadpole looked over her shoulder with a cold look in her eye. Junji blinked at first.
“Are we supposed to?” he asked.
“Heh,” Erina said. She turned as strings of chains rained down upon them.
“Hey! What the fuck?!” Junji asked. Erina turned her head to see Hifumi walking out of the shadows. She had her hand up with chains coming out of the palm. Her fellow tadpole’s jaw dropped.
“You can do that?” she asked.
“Uh-huh,” Hifumi said. She turned to their targets. “No thanks to your boss!”
“What are you talking about?” Soma asked. Hifumi frowned as she closed her hand into tight fist. The light blue chains tightened around the targets’ bodies. Soma gasped in pain while Junji started screaming. She gritted her teeth.
“Tell me something, gentlemen,” the tadpole hissed. “Does the name Kitano-sensei ring any bells?” The trapped men gave her a confused look.
“Who?!” Junji asked. The chains slowly grew tighter.
“Kitano-sensei!” Hifumi repeated. “You know who he is.”
“We don’t know who that this!” Soma cried. The chains started to grow tighter. The tadpole gritted her teeth.
“Okay then, see if this will job your memory,” Hifumi said. “Does Chou Mori ring any bells?” The two men froze. Judging by the looks on their faces, Erina felt the need to act. She stepped forward and touched Junji on the top of his head.
“What are you doing?” Hifumi asked. Junji’s eyes went dull.
“Soma and I worked in Chou Mori back in the 90′s,” he admitted as if in a drunken stupor. Hifumi had a perplexed look on her face.
“You remember us, right?” she asked the dazed man. He lifted his head.
“N… Yes!” the man shouted. “What the hell is this? What are you doing to me?” Erina smirked at her victim.
“I touched you and now you can’t lie,” she said. “Your old boss also did this to me.” Hifumi tightened up her chains.
“Now start talking,” she said. “Do you remember us?”
“Yes,” Junji admitted. “You were Kitano-sensei’s test subjects.” Hearing those words made the women cringe. Erina’s right eye started to twitch. Junji looked his captor in the eye.
“You are really hot!” he said, breathlessly. The man started chuckling to himself. “I didn’t get to fuck you but the taste of your skin. I wished that I had fucked you when you are vegetable!” Erina recoiled in disgust as she drew back her hand. Hifumi tightened her chains even tighter. The men winced in pain.
“What just happened?” Junji asked.
“Tell me where the others are,” Hifumi demanded.
“Who?!” Soma asked, panicking.
“The rest of the Chou Mori staff who worked under Kitano-sensei!” she shouted. “Tell me where they are! Tell me!”
“We don’t know!” Junji shouted. Erina frowned as she raised her hand. Soma’s eyes widened.
“No, no!” he shouted. “We don’t know! We swear! We haven’t had any contact with them in years. I quit back in 2000!”
“I was fired in 1999,” Junji said. Erina put her hands on the men’s heads. They admitted the same thing they had just said. The tadpole drew back her hands, panting.
“That’s it then,” she said. Erina turned back to Hifumi.
“Now what?” she asked. The other tadpole shrugged and shook her head. Erina frowned.
“You didn’t think this through, did you?” she asked. Hifumi was about to speak when she and the other tadpole felt sharp chills up their spines.
“Wait…” Erina said, turning her head.
Two arrows struck the captives in the throat. Hifumi loosened her chains in shock. Erina looked around for the source. She turned her head when she heard chuckling heading towards them in the dark. A young man with a cross bow in his hand walked forward.
“That was easier than I thought,” he said. He set down the crossbow by his side. The boy with the light brown hair looked at the women back and forth.
“What did you do?” Erina asked.
“Killed them, of course,” the boy said.
“But why?” she asked. He pointed the tip of his bow at the dying men.
“They were part of that scummy system that pretty much killed us,” the boy reasoned. “So why not kill them back? Besides, they were no use to us anymore. We can’t let these assholes live and warn all of those other bastards, now can we?” The women didn’t speak.
“Look,” he said. “We are doing a greater good for our brothers and sisters. They did this to us.” The boy pointed between the two employees.
“Those two had a hand in our misery,” he said. “Why not make them pay?” His words had some sense to them…
“What are you suggesting?” Hifumi asked.
“Isn’t it obvious?” the boy asked.
“Who are you, anyway?” Erina asked. Their new tadpole siblings bowed his head.
“Kato Yamato,” he said. “At your service.”
“Erina,” the bar maid said.
“Hifumi,” Hifumi said, removing the chains from the dead men. “Help us get rid of these bodies and then we will talk.”
“With pleasure,” Yamato said.
-Sota and Anzu-
Sota waited outside the dojo. He sensed her here. For quite some time since the tadpoles would meet up in the library in secret, Sota had noticed her. He never had the chance to talk to her face to face. Telepathy could only go so far.
He paced around the front door. Kendo class would be over in about… Sota pulled out his phone. 15:50. Ten more minutes. To be honest, he started to feel a bit…
Lonely. Sure, there was Shizue. But she was a boring old normie. She didn’t know his deepest secret. He was only staying by her to keep her from committing suicide. Shizue seemed to have grown attached to him. How would she even handle him being a tadpole?
Sota shook his head. He couldn’t focus on that right now. That door would be opening in the next couple of seconds. Sota steeled himself for that face to face meeting. It would be easy for them to find each other.
Right on the dot, the door opened. All of the girls from the kendo class came flooding out. Their chatter consisted of what they were going to eat for dinner, all of their crushes, the latest episodes of anime and dramas they saw, and the latest music they were into. Anzu never seemed interested in any of those things. To be fair, she just like the rest of the tadpoles were too wrapped up in the problems Kitano oh so kindly “blessed” them with. But still, something about that drew his attention towards her.
Then came that old shock down his spine. Sota turned his head. There was Anzu staring at him at the door. She wasn’t alone, however. A girl about a year and grade younger than her was trying to get her attention. Sota waved at the older girl.
“Yo,” he said. Anzu turned to her friend.
“I’ll see you later, okay?” she asked. Maiko gave her a concerned look.
“Are you sure?” she asked. Anzu just shooed her away. The other girl just shrugged and walked off in the other direction. The tadpole turned back to Sota, glaring.
“What are you doing here?!” she hissed.
“I came to see you, of course,” he said.
“Why?” Anzu asked. Sota smiled and bowed his head.
“Because I wanted to get to know you alone,” he said. Sora leaned in on his moped and smirked. “You really are cute.” The tadpole girl turned her head, blushing.
“Shut up!” she yelled. Sota threw back his head and laughed.
“What’s do funny?!” Anzu snapped. He smiled and shook his head.
“You really are that cute,” Sota said. “Come ride with me.”
“Uh, no,” she said. Sota still grinned at her. He made his intentions clear. I could do this all day. Anzu frowned and rolled her eyes.
“Aw hell, whatever,” she muttered.
“Lucky!” Sota said with that stupid grin on his face. Boy, she wanted to punch him so badly right now.
Yamato introduced Erina and Hifumi to two more tadpoles to their group.
“I figured we were going to need recruits on our revenge mission,” he explained. “They are just like us.” The women didn’t argue. Somehow, that sounded like a plan to their growing cause. Besides, two guys were dead because of them. Too late to turn back now.
They made it to a small abandoned garage. Erina kept her hands in her pockets. Yamato walked up to the graffiti-covered metal door. He turned with his hand on the latch.
“They are good people,” the tadpole boy said. Yamato pulled open the door. The shocked chills came as predicted. Two young men were already inside the garage. One with short black hair sat over a pile of wooden dolls. The other had short dyed blonde hair sitting at what looked like a typewriter. They looked up as they heard the footsteps coming towards them.
“Yo,” Yamato said.
“You bring dinner for us?” the blonde guy asked.
“No,” the younger boy said. “But I did bring us something better.” Yamato held out his arms. “Gentlemen, these are Kate Erina and Ushimaru Hifumi. They share the same goal that we have: revenge.”
“Hi,” Erina mumbled. Hifumi waved. Yamato turned his attention to the women.
“Ladies, the boy with the dark hair is Ono Norio,” he said. “And over there is Azuma Shuichi.”
“Hello,” Shuichi said. Norio waved but didn’t speak before turning back to his dolls. Yamato clapped his hands together.
“Right,” he said. “We are forming a small army against our enemy. We are now up by five and taken out two of them.” He walked over to Shuichi.
“Found anything today?” he asked.
“There is a small group of tadpoles in Ikebukuro,” Shuichi said. Yamato leaned over his shoulder for a better look on the screen.
“Excellent,” he said. “Anything else?”
“Two in Shinjuku,” Shuichi added.
“Perfect,” Yamato said. He turned to the women. “Well, it looks like the army will be getting bigger once we head out. Erina and Hifumi didn’t know how to respond. Too late to turn back now. But first, more killing would have to take place.
She grew tired of knowing when people were lying.
January started out tough for her this year. She wished that she didn’t have her powers. Then she could go on living a peaceful life in bliss of fake politeness. Even her own mother didn’t like to be around her anymore.
“I wish you were never born,” she told her on the morning of May twenty-fifth. That wasn’t a lie either. Her daughter forced herself to smile as tears filled her eyes.
“You can’t mean that,” she said, shaking her head. Her mother said nothing. She just gathered up her plate and utensils and walked into the kitchen. Memories of Chou Mori could only rival the feelings that the girl felt from that stinging blow from her mother.
Walks to school became so lonely. No one wanted to be called out on their lies around her. She had gotten used to being alone. But now even her best friend didn’t want anything to do with her.
“I’m sorry, Reo-chan,” she told her. “But being around you makes me uncomfortable.” Reo said that she understood but it still hurt. Would she be doomed to be stuck in a lonely existence while knowing who was lying or not?
Suddenly, Reo froze when that old spinal shock hit her. The tadpole slowly turned her head. Erina stood across the street from the cram school where Reo was exiting. Time seemed to stop around them as the older woman crossed the street. The younger tadpole could feel her heart pounding in her throat. Who are you? What do you want from me?
I understand how you feel.
Reo nearly jumped. How can I hear you in my head?
I don’t understand it myself. We are all still trying to figure out how these powers work.
We? What do you mean we?
It’s a long story. Anyway, I want to help you.
Reo looked confused. And how can you do that?
I know what you want. Revenge for him and those who made you this way.
The younger tadpole shook her head. No…
I just… I just want my life back!
I’m afraid that is not possible.
What?! Reo’s bright green eyes widened.
We won’t get our old lives back but we can get revenge. This is the only way to get peace. By now, Erina was standing right in front of Reo. She took the younger girl by the hand.
“My name is Erina,” she said. The younger tadpole dug in her brain for a response at first.
“Reo,” she said at last. “My name is Reo.”
Yamato knew how easy this recruit was going to be. They had been talking back and forth to each other through texts. Now, this tadpole didn’t have a fixed address but the shelter she frequented gave their residents cell phones just to keep track of them and to make sure that they were safe out on the streets. Thanks to Shuichi’s detective work on his laptop, Yamato had her number in one day.
Yamato pulled out his phone once he reached the underpass.
“I am here now,” he typed. “Where are you?” The tadpole boy pressed send. Seconds later, he got a reply.
Yamato felt that shocking chill as he lifted his head. A girl about his age sat on the ground wearing ratty jeans and a dirty white t-shirt. Her long black hair looked like it hadn’t been washed in days. She stared as him as she lifted her hand in a wave. Yamato raised his eyebrow.
“Sur?” he asked.
“Yeah,” she said, holding up her phone. The other tadpole walked up to her. She stared him down.
“You still in?” he asked. Sur finally smiled.
“Fuck yeah!” she shouted with her cell phone and fist in the air. Yamato held out his hand. He wasn’t surprised on how easy this one was.
Now this one wasn’t going to be so easy. Yamato walked into a net café in Shinjuku. He looked around with his phone in his hand. Not many people were in here around two in the morning. Yamato smirked to himself.
This will be made so much easier.
Yamato shoved his hands into his pockets and walked through the café, shifting his eyes left and right. All he needed was that good old shock to the spine to track down another sibling of theirs. The recruitment and kills have been going so well since March. Yamato couldn’t wait to snatch up the tadpoles in Ikebukuro next. The tadpole smirked to himself.
He already knew who he would be saving for last.
And sure enough, there came that shock to his spine. Yamato lifted his head towards the snack bar. A man with light brown hair glared at him. The younger tadpole held up his phone. He only had one question to ask to start this goal off.
“Tomoya… -san?” Yamato asked. The other man snorted.
“Who’s asking?” he asked. The younger tadpole took a seat next to him.
“We need to talk,” he said. Tomoya snorted.
“Why?” he asked. Yamato’s lips curved into a smirk.
“Revenge,” he said. Tomoya turned his head.
“I’m listening,” he said.
Yukio made it back to his apartment and went inside.
“I’m home,” he said.
“Welcome home,” Itori said from the living room. His mood lightened up as he walked over to her. She sat on the couch with her knees in the cushion.
“Why didn’t you open the curtains?” Yukio asked. Itori shrugged and shook her head. The other tadpole frowned.
“Anything happen here?” he asked.
“No,” she said.
“Ah,” he said. Yukio sat down next to her. “Did you eat yet?”
“No,” Itori said.
“I will order us something,” Yukio said. She doesn’t even look up at him.
“Look, it’s better if we all stay together like this under these conditions,” Yukio said. Itori glanced over at him.
“We have to find the others,” he said.
“Why?” she asked. Yukio’s face turned grim.
“Mikado was nearly murdered last night,” he said.
“Oh no,” she said. “Is he okay?”
“Yes. But, these demons might be getting bolder now. We need to find the others and stick together as soon as possible.” Yukio noticed the disapproving look on her face.
“What?” he asked. Itori shook her head. He put his arm around her shoulders.
“You can talk to me,” Yukio whispered.
“You sound just like Saori,” Itori said.
“Well, she does have a point,” Yukio said. Suddenly, our phones buzzed.
“Hm?” he asked. Itori and Yukio took out our phones and looked at the screens.
“It’s Saori,” he said. “She said that she found another group of tadpoles.” Itori tilted her head.
“More like us?” she asked.
“Yeah,” the other tadpole said. Yukio tapped the screen to reply.
“How many more?” he typed. Itori watched his finger move around on the keyboard before he hint send. It didn’t take long for Saori to reply.
“Eight of them,” she wrote back. Itori and Yukio looked at each other.
Kitano was about to close up from his last therapy for the day. He had to keep up the appearance of being “normal” even in this stretch of the game. The last patient was showing signs of improvement. In fact, she talked about plans of her future when she was finished with her therapy.
“I really want to get married,” she admitted. Kitano did a little chuckle.
“One thing at a time, remember?” he said. His patient smiled and nodded. She was such a sweet lady.
Suddenly, he looked up when he heard screaming from the hall.
“Doi-san?” Kitano asked. “Doi-san?” The old therapist got up and raced out of his office. Kitano froze in his tracks at what he saw. Doi-san lay dead at the feet of a man all dressed in black. He looked up dead eyes. Kitano steeled himself for what was coming next.
“Hello, sensei,” the man said in intimidating tone. “Your first born has returned.”