Mikado lay on his bed looking up at the ceiling. He was to check out today. He had until midnight to retrieve the object he needed to reserve effects of this twisted game Tandeki started years ago. After that, the pandemic would seize all of Germany just like the rest of Europe. Mikado closed his eyes. He probably should say goodbye to Lisette. The tadpole shook his head.
No. No attachments. They shouldn’t have happened. Their relationship was a mistake. But his loneliness got the better of him.
Hours after she left, Mikado felt a little bit guilty. They weren’t supposed to be together. But here they were. She wouldn’t let him go that easily. Just like all of the others. That void in his heart never seemed to shrink either. Mikado sat up on his bed and closed his eyes. A light buzzing filled his ears. He quickly opened his eyes. She didn’t have to go too far, did she? The tadpole got dressed and left his room.
Lisette stood on the curb looking for a cab.
“Hey!” Mikado shouted. “Hey, Lisette! Hey! Hey!” The woman turned around. The tadpole caught up to her.
“What do you want?” she asked. Little flakes of snow fell in her hair. Mikado bowed low.
“I’m so sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean to push you away like that.” Lisette turned with a cold look on her face.
“Is that right?” she asked.
“Yes,” Mikado said. “Is there any way that I can make it up to you?” The younger woman smirked at him.
“Spend Christmas with me,” she said. Mikado looked at her for a moment. She stared at him with a little smile on her face. He dropped his shoulders and sighed.
“Fine,” Mikado said. Lisette embraced him.
“Thank you,” she said. She kissed him on the lips.
“You have to meet my friends,” Lisette said. Mikado had a confused look on his face.
“Huh?” he asked. She turned back to the street and flagged down a taxi. The whole time, Mikado had an uneasy feeling. But he couldn’t go back on his word now.
His phone rang. Mikado rolled his eyes as he reached for it.
“Yeah?” he asked.
“Old friend!” Zoryn said on the other line. Mikado rubbed his forehead.
“We are not friends,” he said.
“Aw, don’t be like that comrade,” the old Russian man said.
“What do you want?” Mikado asked.
“Meet me downstairs,” Zoryn said. “I’m in the lobby.” Mikado sighed.
“Fine,” he said. “Give me a minute.” The tadpole sat up on the bed. Here it was. Time to get this over with. Mikado snubbed out his cigarette and walked out of the room.
He found Zoryn in the lobby near the computers. The Russian man smiled with his missing teeth.
“Yo,” he said. Mikado frowned.
“What do you want me to do?” he asked. Zoryn rose to his feet.
“I’m coming with you on this one,” he said.
“Huh?” the Japanese man asked. “Why?” Zoryn put his arm around his shoulders. Mikado reeled at the scent of cigarettes, cheap vodka, and BO.
“This one will need some persuasion,” the old Russian man said.
“Persuasion?” the Japanese man asked.
“He’s not a fan of foreigners,” Zoryn said. “Having me there would put him at ease. Just let me do all of the talking.” Mikado narrowed his eyes.
“Right…” he mumbled. He needed this to get what he needed. Zoryn grinned and smacked him on the back.
“Come,” he said. “We have to get going. If we go now, we can catch him in a good mood.” He pulled the tadpole along before he had a chance to speak up. Mikado forced himself to smile as they disappeared out the door.
Lisette took Mikado back to a rundown apartment. She smiled the whole time in the cab. The tadpole stared out the window. He was doing it again, wasn’t he? He would be lying if he said that he didn’t have some feelings for Lisette. But he also vowed to not get close to anyone. Mikado already made that mistake with Jessie. He couldn’t risk it with Lisette.
He turned when felt a hand on his knee. Lisette gave him a calm smile. Something about her seemed to wake up old traces of himself deep inside.
The taxi pulled up to a virtually empty parking lot. Lisette paid the driver and hopped out. Mikado followed behind. He looked up to see a large rundown house. Two stories with dark crumbling bricks. Lisette walked up to the front door and knocked.
“Who is it?” a raspy voice asked. Lisette took a step back.
“It’s me,” she said. “I’m home now.” The door opened as far as the chain would allow. A blue eye peeked out. It spotted Mikado standing behind Lisette.
“Who is that with you?” a woman’s voice asked. Lisette turned her head and grabbed Mikado’s arm. His cheeks turned bright red.
“Hi…” he mumbled.
“My love!” Lisette said aloud. Mikado nervously laughed. A single sweat drop ran down the back of his head. There was a pause. The chain came off the door.
“Thank you,” Lisette said. She pulled Mikado along inside.
Cigarette smoke, cheap booze, and pot smoke made his stomach turn. Everything looked smokey around him. The light was so dim through the windows.
“Why is it so dark in here?” Mikado asked. He tried to feel around for a light switch. The overhead lights did little to light up the room. Mikado finally got a better look through the wispy smoke. Two figures sat on a stuffy red couch against a pale yellow wall. The man on the right had his blonde hair frosted up and spiked. Tattoos covered up his arms. He wore all black with his t-shirt covered with a grey-print skull print and worn jeans. The woman on the left looked no better. Mikado could smell the pot from her short dark hair. Her fishnet stockings clung to her skinny legs. He wondered how she could move in those leather black shorts. Clearly, she wasn’t wearing a bra with her Rolling Stones lips-style blue shirt. Her big onyx ring looked heavy on her right ring finger. She too had tattoos on her right arm. Her black lipstick and spikey necklace completed her look.
Lisette stepped forward.
“Guys, this is my love, Mikado Ryugamine,” she said. “Mikado, these are my friends, Evert and Jolante.”
“Konnichiwa,” Mikado said, bowing. The couple on the couch didn’t look impressed. It then the tadpole got a better look at his surroundings. Behind the couch was a giant yellow, red, and black flag with a snake wrapped around hedgehog on fire. He had seen this place before.
“Wait… is this a safe house?” Mikado asked. Lisette giggled as she threw arms around his neck.
“Why yes,” she said. Mikado lightly pushed her away.
“Oh no, I am not getting involved with the rebellion,” he said. “I do not have time.” Lisette raised her eyebrow.
“Why would you think that?” she asked. Mikado looked her in the eye. He couldn’t tell her the real reason that he was in Berlin. Not like she would believe him anyway.
“I have heard the stories,” he lied. (Okay, that wasn’t really a lie. He had heard the stories.)
“What kind of stories?” Lisette asked. Mikado put up his hands.
“I am not here to rat anyone out,” he said. “She wanted me to meet you. I have no interest in either side.” The room sat heavy and quiet. Another knock came on the door. Everyone looked when another knock came.
“Delivery!” a man shouted from outside.
“I’ll get it!” Lisette said. She turned and hurried to the door. Mikado turned back to Evert and Jolante sitting on the couch with cold looks in their eyes. He probably should say something. He probably should.
“I got us some breakfast,” Lisette said. She held up the bag over her head.
Sometime later, Evert and Jolante observed Mikado as he looked around the safe house. Evert sneered as he watched the Japanese man look through the big bookcase on the other side of the room.
“What was Lis thinking bringing him here?” he muttered in German. Jolante glanced at him out of the corner of her eye.
“He’s so… bland,” she said.
“Lis usually brings back hot guys,” Evert said. Jolante gave him a strange look. He shrugged.
“What?” he asked. “I notice these things.” Jolante rolled her eyes.
“Whatever,” she muttered.
“You know I am right.”
She pressed her lips together and nodded. “Yeah.” Mikado ran his finger down a spine of one of the books.
“Where did she even find this guy?” Evert asked. “He seems so lame.”
“He didn’t even eat anything.”
“You noticed it too?”
“He’s kind of creepy.”
“I know, right? Where did he even come from?”
“He looks really Asian.”
“You don’t think that he’s one of those Japanese from that country?”
Evert narrowed his eyes. “He did say konnichiwa when he saw us.”
Jolante narrowed her eyes like an Asian person. He tried not to laugh as she tried to make her face look more Asian.
“‘I’m thirty-five years old and I like little schoolgirls and furries!’” the German woman said in a mocking tome.
“I am not thirty-five years old,” Mikado spoke up in perfect German. The couple looked up to see Mikado with a deadpan look on his face.
“And I can understand everything you’re saying,” he said. Evert and Jolante had sheepish looks on their faces as Mikado turned back to the books on the bookcase. The Japanese man smirked to himself.
Mikado stared out the car window. The snow came down heavier. Not many people were outside.
“The storm is hitting faster than expected,” Zoryn said. Mikado didn’t answer.
“Do you think you’ll be able to get out of Germany in time?” the Russian man asked.
“Maybe,” Mikado said.
“Not much on conversation, are you?” Zoryn asked. The tadpole glared at him. The Russian man shrugged. The windshield wipers moved to keep up with the flakes of snow hitting the glass.
“Where exactly are we going?” Mikado asked.
“An old contact,” Zoryn said. The Japanese man glared at him. Anything to get the last part of that code to break the barrier. Just a little bit longer…
Zoryn stopped the car to let three drunk partyers to walk across the snow-covered street. Mikado looked up with a deadpan face. They were going to be dead along with everyone in the city too. He couldn’t help them too. They wouldn’t listen anyway. He was the outsider. They wouldn’t listen to the “diseased foreigner”. Mikado closed his fists on his lap.
He wasn’t going to allow that to happen.
Mikado looked up when he heard the radio crackling on. Zoryn grinned with his missed teeth.
“Turn that off,” Mikado said.
“Why?” the old Russian man asked. “I can’t stand the silence. You won’t talk to me either. So what can I do?” The Japanese man tuned off the radio.
“Alright, no music it is then,” Zoryn said. Mikado looked out the window again.
The rental car pulled up to a small house with black bricks. Mikado frowned as he looked out the window.
“Another safe house?” he asked.
“No,” Zoryn said. The old Russian man got out of the car. Mikado rolled his eyes and followed after him. The men walked up to the front door.
“Now remember, I do all of the talking,” he said. Mikado didn’t speak as he rolled his eyes. The old Russian man knocked on the door. An eye peeked out of the hole in the old wood.
“Who is it?” he asked.
“Old friend!” Zoryn said. “So good to see you. How have you been?” There was a pause for a moment.
“Why is he here?” the eye’s owner asked.
“Relax,” the old Russian man said. “He’s not with the rebels. He’s not with the police either.”
“What do you want?” the man behind the door asked.
“We just want to talk,” Zoryn said. “We need a small favor of you. Can’t you let us in?”
“No,” the man said.
“Just for ten minutes,” the Russian man said. “And then we’ll be out of your hair. Please let us in.” There was another pause. Finally the door opened.
“Thank you,” Zoryn said. Mikado followed behind.
The living room was dark. More cigarette smoke and cheap beer greeted the tadpole’s nose. At first, he could see only the lit end of a cigarette. There wasn’t much in this room. Old newspapers sat crumbled up on the stiff brown carpet. A stone ashtray sat in the middle of the oak coffee table. Garbage was piled up in a corner. The vintage TV had been disconnected. It was then Mikado noticed the old man in a dark green bathrobe with his cigarette in hand.
“May we sit down?” Zoryn asked. The old man in the brown leather armchair snorted. The Russian man took a seat in a wooden chair. Mikado sat down on the stuffy brown couch. He took out a cigarette and let up. Zoryn got to talking. The Japanese man could still understand both of them.
“Why did you bring this foreigner here?”
“He needs your help with something.”
“He’s trying to save the world.” Zoryn sounded like he was mocking the Japanese man. Mikado’s right eye started to twitch. The old man in his robe groaned.
“Another rebel, huh?”
“No, actually. This has nothing to do with the rebellion.”
“What are you going on about?”
“He’s is trying to stop the pandemic from starting.”
The robed man took a drag of his cigarette. “You mean that Japanese disease.” Mikado’s right eye started to twitch again.
“It’s not in Japan anymore. It’s spread all over Asia, Africa, and Eastern Europe.”
Mikado’s nostrils flared up. He took another drag while breathing in.
“Can’t you help him out?”
“But time is running out for us all.”
“Don’t you care if we die?”
“No. We’re all going to die anyway.”
“He won’t. He’s a tadpole.” Both men turned to Mikado. The Japanese man looked up. Now he’s done it. How was that jackass going to get out of this? The old man in the robe stood up and flicked out his cigarette.
“You,” he said in English. “Come here.” Mikado rose to his feet and walked over to the scowling old man.
“Hold up your right hand,” the old man said. The tadpole held it out with a closed fist. The robed man took out his cigarette and snubbed it out on Mikado’s hand. The tadpole didn’t even flinch.
You should not be here, Mikado heard in his head. He looked the old man in the eye.
The old man drew back his cigarette. “Now get out.” Mikado turned and walked out of the house without saying a word.
“Bye,” Zoryn said with a little wave.
“Get out!” the old man shouted. The Russian man turned and followed Mikado out of the house.
“I always wanted to be a dancer,” Lisette said in bed. Mikado turned his head.
“Hm?” he asked. Lisette kind of smiled at him.
“I always wanted to be a dancer when I was kid,” she said. “Mama took me to the Swan Lake ballet when I was a little girl. The lead dancer looked so beautiful.” The dim light laid over her curved body.
“I begged Mama to get me dancing lessons,” she added. “She finally gave in when I was my five.” Lisette looked up at the ceiling.
“I was happiest in my dancing classes,” she said.
“Why did you stop?” Mikado asked. A hint of disappoint washed over her eyes.
“Things got stricter in France,” she said. “They tightened security four years ago. I was on a class trip to New York at the time. By the time we got back to Europe, they wouldn’t let us back in. We didn’t understand it at the time. My class couldn’t go back to France.”
“But the plague hadn’t even hit Europe by then,” Mikado said.
“I know,” Lisette said. “It’s stupid racist fear. They panicked and didn’t think clearly. The refugees fled to Europe to survive. Overcrowding became a problem. We ended redirected to Germany. They broke us up and scattered my class all over the cities. I had to stay in quarantine for six months.”
“Yikes. How did you end up in the rebellion?”
Lisette chuckled to herself. “I fell in love.”
Mikado tilted his head. “With Evert?”
She laughed and shook her head. “No, not him. Good god, no!”
Lisette rolled onto her stomach. “His name was Adrian. He had the most beautiful eyes. I met him in a library. This was my first day out of quarantine. By that time, Asia was taken by the plague. More people started coming to Europe and Africa. I had given up on going back to France. I wouldn’t be able to catch up with my dance class anyway.”
“Where did you meet this Adrian?”
“Another underground nightclub. It was my eighteenth birthday then. I ran into an old classmate then. It felt good to talk to one of my classmates. She took me out for a night to celebrate my birthday. My classmate managed to get me into the club.” Lisette chuckled.
“The bouncer thought we were cute,” she said. “For once, I could dance and feel free again. I didn’t care who was staring at me. I just wanted to forget that I wasn’t home. Then, I got a break at the bar.”
“Did he buy you a drink?” Mikado asked.
“Oh yes,” Lisette said. “He had the most beautiful blue eyes that I had ever seen. Almost like yours. He had to shout over the music when we first met. I liked his suit too.” She sighed.
“But he ended getting arrested and it couldn’t last.”
“So he’s still in jail?”
“Yeah. It just some drug possession. But it was a lie. I know because I was with him that night.”
Mikado narrowed his eyes. “Politically motivated?”
“I know it was!” Lisette slammed her fists against the hotel sheets. The tadpole grabbed onto her and held her close. She trembled as she breathed heavily.
“I’m so sorry,” she said. “I don’t mean to yell.”
“It’s okay,” Mikado whispered. Lisette breathed heavily.
“He did nothing wrong. He’s just trying to free us from these new restrictions. Why haven’t worked to stop this plague?!”
Mikado’s eyes shifted away from her. “There is no way to stop it.”
“What did you say?”
The tadpole shook his head. Lisette rested her head on his shoulder.
“What’s your story?” she asked. “Did you have someone you loved?” Mikado gave her a sad smile.
“I had a fiancée,” he said.
“What happened to her?”
Mikado lowered his eyes. “She was killed before the plague.” Rage started to boil up in his throat. She was innocent too. They took her because they saw her as a tool for this plague. I couldn’t save her.”
Lisette gently caressed her cheek. She gave him a gentle smile.
“We’ve both lost someone dear to us,” the French woman said in a low voice. Mikado got a better look at her. Last night, he noticed a small butterfly tattoo on her right ankle.
“Where did you get that?” he asked, pointing down to her tattoo.
“Adrian’s sister gave it to me,” she said.
“Adrian wanted to give me a token of love. I picked the tattoo and his sister put it on me.”
“Is she really good?”
“She’s a tattoo artist.”
“Uh-huh.” Lisette climbed out of bed and walked over to her bag. She pulled out some paper and a small baggie of weed. Mikado lifted his head as she dumped the contents of the baggie on the paper.
“You shouldn’t be doing that here,” he said. Lisette looked up at him.
“What do you mean?” she asked. Mikado sat up in his bed.
“You can’t do that in here,” he said. “The maid already isn’t happy with me smoking in the room. She won’t like the smell of pot either.” Lisette frowned.
“I know you can’t really talk,” she said. “How much do you smoke a day?” His lover finished rolling up her joint.
“Please,” Mikado said. “Just don’t.” Lisette rolled her eyes.
“Fine,” she said. She put her joint away. Then, Lisette crawled onto the bed and kissed him on the lips.
“But you will have to make it up to me today,” she whispered. Mikado dropped his shoulders and sighed.
“Done,” he said. Lisette giggled and kissed him again.
Mikado looked out of the car window with a dull look on his face.
“Let me off here,” he said. Zoryn glanced over at him.
“Are you sure?” he asked.
“Yes!” Mikado shouted. “Let me out of the car.” The old Russian man stopped the car.
“Alright,” he said.
“Thank you,” Mikado said. He opened the door and climbed out. “I will take all of this from here.” Zoryn only nodded.
“Good luck with your mission,” he said. “And have a happy new year.” Mikado sneered as that old beat up rental car pulled away. He had to act to undo all of this. The tadpole looked around at all of the partiers getting ready to celebrate the last day of the year. They had no idea that their lives would be over in days. On the other hand, this many people could help him get work done much faster.
Right, time to get to work.
Mikado closed his eyes and turned invisible. By now, he didn’t care who saw him or not. He just had work to do. The tadpole pushed his way through the growing crowds. It was only ten in the morning. That did little to deter him. Mikado needed to get to that bookstore.
At last, he came to his destination. The tadpole opened his eyes. He could still feel that barrier from outside the glass door. This time, he was ready.
Mikado put his hand on the glass. The burning touched his hand. He still wouldn’t let up. The first barrier crumbled around him. He teleported into the store. The first code on his hand disappeared. Mikado pushed forward with his walk. The burning grew hotter. The tadpole gritted his teeth.
You will not defeat me!
Mikado made it to the middle of the store. The barrier broke and the code vanished from his head. Just one more to go. He kept walking further into the store. The tadpole clenched his teeth. Buzzing circled his ears. He still wouldn’t stop. Just get to the back door.
He made it to the back door. Mikado grabbed the door handle.
“Got it!” he shouted. The final code burned off as he opened the heavy wooden door. The smell of musk and old paper hit him violently in the face. Mikado didn’t have time to take in the atmosphere. His eyes looked around for one book. Just one book in particular.
What is it? What is it?
He closed his eyes and took a listen. A low humming filled his ears. The sound made it to his heart.
Mikado jerked open his eyes.
“There!” the tadpole shouted. He leapt up to the top shelf, grabbed the book in question, and floated back to the floor. To his surprise, there was no burn from touching the spine. Paradise Lost in red German letters dared him to stare upon him. There was no time for such. Mikado opened the book.
“There it is!” he shouted. He grabbed the object that he was seeking and moved the book back into place with his mind. His mission complete, the tadpole vanished into thin air.
But he still had a problem.
By noon, the snow came down in big flakes. All means of transportation out of the country was being closed due to the early storm. Mikado still had a way out but that would mean…
He grimaced at the thought of talking to that Russian bastard again.
Suddenly, Mikado’s phone rang.
“Hello?” he asked. A woman’s voice was choked up in the static. A puzzled look came over his face.
“Lisette?” he asked. “Lisette, is that you? I can’t hear. Hello? Hello?” The static drowned out her voice.
“Hello? Hello?” Mikado asked. The line went dead. A sense of fear and dread washed over his face.
“No, no, no!” he shouted, staring at his phone. It became clear that he didn’t have much time anymore. Mikado closed his eyes and vanished off the street.
Zoryn looked at his blinking cell phone. He chuckled to himself as he counted down in his head. Mikado appeared before him. The old Russian man broke into a huge grin.
“So good to see you again, comrade,” he said. “Did you find what you are looking for?” Mikado gritted his teeth.
“Yes,” he grumbled.
“Can I see it?” Zoryn asked. Mikado clenched the little white knight in his fist in his pocket.
“No,” he growled. The old Russian man raised his eyebrow.
“Where do you want me to send you?” he asked.
“New York,” Mikado hissed. “Now.” Zoryn’s smirk remained in place.
“Not going to say goodbye to your woman?” he asked.
“No,” the tadpole grumbled. He already knew her fate. It would be better this way. Zoryn rose to his feet.
“Give me your hand,” he said. Mikado stepped forward and handed him his left hand. The Russian man closed his eyes and began chanting. Little specks of light covered Mikado’s body. Zoryn opened his eyes.
“Happy New Year,” he said. “And good luck on your quest.” Mikado vanished into thin air. And that was it for his Berlin adventure.
Okay, there are some more details. But that might be coming later on. For now, we shall let Mikado get back to Itori to reserve the effects of the Apocalypse game.
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