Halo Twenty: Hokori:
“I don’t want you to go,” Shinra said. Celty started typing on her PDA.
[But I have to go,] she wrote. The couple ignored the reapers hissing behind them. Shinra sighed.
“Fine, then at least take this,” he said. He shoved a small object into her hands. Celty looked down and opened her palms. A small silver beetle pin sat looking at her.
What is this?
“Please just take it!” the doctor pleaded.
[Fine, I’ll take it.] Celty typed. Shinra walked over and hugged her.
“Thank you,” he whispered. Celty gently put her arms around him. What was she going to do with him? Again, she tried to ignore the little reapers glaring at them.
“Great job, gentlemen,” Kitano said as he looked at the ring in the bag.
“You’re welcome,” Osamu said.
“Now what?” Daichi asked. The therapist looked up at the men.
“Gentlemen, you are going to want to shield your eyes,” he said. Kitano walked over to the altar. He opened the bag and dropped the ring into the final spot. Daichi and Osamu shielded their eyes. The alter began to shake violently. In fact, the whole office felt like it was in an earthquake. Kitano took a step back.
“So it begins!” he shouted. The altar shook harder as it started to glow. Light filled the office. All three men nearly closed their eyes. High-pitched singing circled their ears. Seven streaks of red light shot through the ceiling.
Suddenly, the room went still.
Despite this, the office was still so bright. Kitano resisted the urge to reach out and touch the altar. The men didn’t speak. They couldn’t move. They began to breathe heavily. One by one, the seven lights disappeared. The room returned to normal after last light vanished. Kitano lowered his hand. He walked up the altar. All seven charms broke down into ash.
“Now what?” Osamu asked.
“Sit back and watch,” Kitano said. “Meanwhile, keep working with your flowers.”
“Understood,” Daichi and Osamu said. They bowed and walked out of Kitano’s office. The therapist took one more look at his altar as it cooled down. This round was coming to a close already.
In the early morning hours, Celty’s phone buzzed. The dullahan picked it up and looked at the screen. She received a new text from an unknown number. Celty already knew who this was.
“Hello, I am to be partnered up with you,” the message read. Below it was a link. Celty looked over at Shinra. He was sound asleep in his futon. There were no figures hoovering over him tonight. Her boyfriend wasn’t going to intervene with her fight tomorrow.
Celty tapped the link on the screen. A small video window popped up. A boy about thirteen appeared when the picture turned on.
“Yo,” he said. It didn’t take long for Celty to figure out who this was.
[Shingo?] she typed. The boy leaned forward as if reading something on his screen.
“That’s me,” he said.
[Okay… Are you a tadpole?]
“Yes,” the boy replied. He turned his head and looked behind him. Shingo pushed his mic to his mouth.
“Listen, I can only help you from my place,” he whispered. “If I get near you, I won’t be of any use to you. But I will always be nearby. I can’t stay on too long. You should be getting a text of coordinates where you’re supposed to meet up with her in a few minutes.”
[Okay…] Suddenly, her phone buzzed. Celty opened the new text message. Sure enough, there were the coordinates to her destination.
“Did you get the text?” Shingo asked.
“Good, you will hear from me in a few hours,” he said. “My mother is coming up here to check on me. Bye-bye.” The video box disappeared on her phone. Celty stared at the screen. She looked over at Shinra again. He was still asleep. Seeing him like this put him at ease.
Why did she have the feeling that this would be one of the last times that she would see him like this?
Aya stood outside of the psychology building. She looked at her phone. Almost everyone would haven’t gone home by now. The therapist puffed up her cheeks.
“They better not have held her up,” she said to herself. Aya looked into her building. That’s when she saw Sadako. She pushed open the doors and ran outside.
“I’m sorry I was last, senpai!” Sadako said. Aya shook her head.
“Please don’t call me that,” she said. “That just doesn’t sound right coming out from.” Sadako bowed.
“Sorry,” she said. Aya waved her off.
“Whatever,” she said. “Let’s get going.”
“Understood,” Sadako said. The women walked down the street. Sadako followed the woman down a narrow alleyway. Aya pulled out her cell phone and used the light to lead the way. They arrived at a brick wall.
“Here?” Sadako whispered. Aya didn’t answer. She pulled out a piece of pink chalk and drew a door. She rested her hand against the wall. The make-shift door opened wide. A cold breeze hit the women in the face. Aya went inside first. Sadako followed behind. They walked down the stone steps. The younger therapist smiled to herself as they kept walking. They came down to the bottom. Aya stood in front of the red curtain and turned around.
“Now, here are the rules,” she said. “One, you have to stay behind your screen. Two, press the button to speak. And three, you have to stay quiet until someone finishes talking. Do you have any questions?” Sadako shook her head.
“Good,” Aya said. “You are in chair seven. I am at the booth.” She let Sadako go in first. The younger therapist walked to the numbered chair. Sadako found herself in a small booth with a table in front of her. She saw the big red button on the top.
“Heh, it’s like a game show panel,” she said to herself. Sadako took a seat in her booth. Meanwhile, Aya walked up to her podium. She got a good look at her audience. All twelve knights were here. Perfect. The therapist tapped the microphone.
“Good evening,” she greeted the knights. “We are all here and we can get started.” Aya looked all of the knights behind their shaded boxes. Number Twelve shifted in place. It took a lot of convincing for her to come here. But Kitano wore her down. At least for her to come to the first meeting.
“The seven sins have arrived in our city,” Aya said. “The time for you to act is now. Dante Killer has laid down the groundwork for you. Ikebukuro is rip for our games.” Number Six’s light lit up.
“Yes, Number Six,” she said.
“How will we know when to act?” they asked. “DK acted on their own even before the sins got here.” Their voice sounded distorted. Aya gave the silhouette a little smirk.
“What is your instinct telling you?” she asked.
“My instinct?” they asked.
“Yes,” the therapist replied. “Listen to your instinct and act.” Number Four’s light lit up.
“Yes, Number Four?” Aya asked.
“What if you lost your motive to kill?” they asked. “What if you need to find another?” The knights chattered among each other, confused.
“At ease!” Aya shouted. The room grew quiet.
“Thank you,” she said. “As for your motives, you will find it when it calls out to you. You channeled your anger for this mission and that is good.”
“But I’ve that since I killed that two people that always pissed me off,” Number Four said. “I want to keep going but I lost my drive.” Number Seven pressed her button. Aya turned her head.
“Yes?” the therapist asked.
“I could probably help you,” she said. The room went silent.
“I mean, I won’t interfere with your work, mind you,” Number Seven said. “I could give you some pointers.” Number Eight pressed the button.
“Is such a thing allowed?” they asked. Aya took a moment to ponder this.
“If it’s indirectly, fine,” she said at last. “If that is okay with the rest of you.” They talked among each other. Number One pressed their button.
“We will allow it,” they said.
“Very well,” Aya said. “Anything else?” The room went silent again. The therapist took a breath.
“Good,” she said. “You are all dismissed. Please get home safely.”
“Understood,” the knights said. They stood up and walked out of their booth. Each knight would end up in a different part of Ikebukuro. They would never meet face to face until the time was right. Meanwhile, Aya headed back home herself.
Mikado sat in the nurse’s office with a cold look on his face. How the hell did she convince the teachers to come back here? How does she still have a job here? Junko turned to him with a big smile on her face.
“So tell me, how are you today, Chirin-kun?” she asked. Mikado sneered her.
“That is not my name,” he said under his breath. The nurse ignored his comment.
“Same as ever, I see,” Junko said.
“Why am I here?” Mikado asked. The nurse smiled at him like a drunk cat.
“How is your wrist?” she asked. The tadpole turned his head away.
“Why?” he asked. Junko leaned in close to his face.
“How are you keeping control of the venom?” she asked. Mikado froze. He could tell that she was smirking at him.
“You’ve seen them, right?” she asked. The tadpole boy didn’t speak.
“So you have,” Junko said. “Interesting.” Mikado still wouldn’t look at her. Junko picked up his wrist and took a look. The tadpole peeked down for himself.
“Oh my!” the nurse said. Mikado got a better look at his wrist. The skin around the bite mark looked so pale. Almost white even. The bite mark looked a deep black.
“That doesn’t look good,” Junko said. Mikado snatched back his wrist. The nurse gave him a little pout.
“Come on, Chirin,” she said. “We want the best for you. Let us help you.” Mikado grabbed onto his wrist as if to protect it from her.
“Why would I do that?” he asked.
“Your development is important to us,” Junko said. “We can’t have anything make it go off track.” Mikado had a cold look in his eyes.
“I don’t trust you,” he said in a low voice.
“Come on, please,” the nurse said. Mikado started to get up but she pushed him back.
“I have to go home,” he said. Junko shook her head.
“Not until I help you,” she said.
“I don’t want your help,” the tadpole said. Junko wouldn’t let up. The nurse managed to grab her prey down and wrestle him to the ground. Her knees sank down into his lower back. She grabbed a needle and stuck it into his arm. Mikado turned his head as he felt the needle go in.
“What are you doing?!” he shouted.
“Shhh,” Junko whispered. “Just hold still. I just need a sample of your blood. We’re just going to run some tests.”
“They already took my blood!” Mikado snapped. Junko held him down with her other hand.
“We can do it better,” she said. Blood filled the syringe. The nurse yanked it back out.
“There,” she said. “That wasn’t so hard, was it?” Mikado looked up, clenching his teeth.
“You assaulted me,” he hissed. Junko smiled and shook her head.
“Sorry about that,” she said. “You weren’t being so cooperative. I had to use force. I doubt that you will go to the police. You will have to them all about you.” The nurse leaned down to his ear.
“You don’t want to do that, do you?” she asked in a hiss. Mikado’s heart pounded against his chest as his eyes widened. Junko smirked and climbed off of him.
“You are free to go,” she said. “See you tomorrow.” The nurse smiled as she walked out of her own office. Mikado just laid there in shock.
Anri lay awake in Mikado’s futon. She felt so numb lying there. This was the only way she could keep him sane. He invited her over. Anri arrived at him apartment without any question. At first, her boyfriend looked nervous.
“What’s the matter, Mikado-kun?” Anri asked. He kept his eyes to the ground. The poor boy looked like he was itching to say something but couldn’t bring himself to do it. She reached for his shoulder.
“Don’t!” Mikado said. Anri drew back her head. Her boyfriend couldn’t even make eye contact. Her heart sank with pity.
“I am here for you, Mikado-kun,” she said. “You can talk to me.” Mikado finally lifted his head. He held out right wrist. Anri winced at the bright and bloody-looking skin. She saw the deep scratch marks.
“Mikado-kun… what is this?” she asked. His lower lip trembled before he broke down about his fight with Yokubo. Anri listened in silence. When he was done, Mikado looked her in the eyes. He looked like he expected her to run away from him. But she just stood there, silent. Mikado steadied himself to ask the next question on his mind.
“Can you sleep with me tonight?” he asked. Anri’s cheeks flushed red.
“What?!” she shouted. Mikado waved his hands in front of her.
“I mean… That’s if you want to,” he said. Both of them stood in silence. Anri looked down at her feet.
“Yes,” she said quietly. She didn’t know why she agreed to do this. It just felt like something she had to do. If Mikado needed her body to keep himself together, it should be fine, right? But yet, Mikado always felt so guilty afterwards. He wouldn’t let her touch him afterwards. He already slipped out early this morning. Where he went, she did not know.
Anri turned over onto her side. She felt along the side that Mikado was hours before. The girl only wished that she could hold him and tell him that everything would be okay. But would her words reach him? It looked like Anri could use a little more help.
Celty followed the coordinates to her final destination. She had to keep a little bug device on her helmet. Shingo got to see where she was going the whole time. He could watch the fight too. He was the one who sent the little bug device earlier.
“Can you hear me?” he asked Celty and Shinra before the dullahan left the apartment.
“Yes,” Shinra said.
“Great!” the boy said. “I just made this myself last night.” Shinra leaned into the little camera and waved.
“Impressive,” he said. “You’re really good with tech stuff, aren’t you?”
“Uh-huh,” Shingo said. Shinra already knew that the kid’s powers were going to be tested out later.
The streets seemed uncharacteristically empty this evening. There weren’t even any cops out. Celty didn’t know whether to be relived or concerned. The bug on her helmet crackled to life.
“You’re just about there,” Shingo said over his microphone. He said this in a soft tone. Celty had her own questions about her new partner. The boy didn’t seem to want to meet her in person. To be fair, she did neutralize all of the tadpoles’ powers. Probably better that they kept their distance. If she had a mouth, she would take to him. Try and get to know him a little bit better.
“I can hear what you are thinking through the bug,” Shingo said.
“It’s a mix of my powers and the device I gave you,” the boy said. “I can hear thoughts. This device enhances it. I made it with you in mind.”
“You can ask me anything you want. You still have a good twenty kilometers to go.”
“I’m thirteen years and a victim of Chou Mori. I live with my mom and I love tech stuff. I don’t really socialize with anyone because I’m a bit shy and my powers. What about you?” Shingo said. A small smile spread across Celty’s non-existent face. She spent the whole ride getting to know the young tadpole. To her, the boy sounded so lonely. Celty decided to put him in touch with the other tadpoles when this was over.
The dullahan finally pulled up to her final destination. Turns out the final battleground was an abandoned church in the middle of nowhere.
“Yeah, this is the place,” Shingo said. “It’s oddly fitting in a way.”
Celty looked up when she heard someone clapping. The same woman from yesterday walked down the stone steps. Today, she wasn’t dressed up like a biker chick. She looked more like a bartender in her black and white pant suit. Her red tie matched the small red horns on her head. Everything about her reminded Celty of Izaya in a strange way.
“Well done! Well done!” she said. “You and your little friend made it here just in time. Now the real fun can begin!” The woman broke into a huge grin. Celty tilted her helmet to the side. Her opponent giggled.
“Oh, where are my manners?” she asked. The woman cleared her throat and bowed her head.
“My name is Hokori, deity of pride,” she said. “A pleasure to meet you. Come inside and we shall begin.” The woman retreated into the building. Celty shrugged to herself as she followed behind. She didn’t really have a choice.
The inside of the church looked like it had seen better days. The stained glass windows were cracked and the pews were covered in dust. It looked like no one had been in here for centuries. Hokori stood at the altar.
“We have one hour for this fight,” she said. “You either have to defeat me or fight until time is up. Don’t worry about damaging anything around here. There is a barrier around us. See?” The deity picked up a rock and chucked it at one of the pews. It bounced off and landed in her hand.
“We can go as crazy as we want,” Hokori said. “But first, you and your little friend will get three questions. Go ahead, ask me anything.”
Celty began typing away on her PDA. [What will happen after this fight?] Hokori grinned.
“Their game will go into the next round,” she said. “One step closer to their desired apocalypse.” The very sound of that put Celty at unease.
“Ask her why,” Shingo said. The dullahan began typing again.
[Why are you doing all of this?]
Hokori smiled and shrugged. “He wants to keep a promise that he made when he was dying as a kid. He is determined to keep this promise even if people have to die.” Celty began typing again.
[What will happen to me if the apocalypse happens?]
“Who’s to say?” the deity asked. She pulled out a large gray scythe with a skull on top.
“Now, enough with the chit-chat,” Hokori said. “Now we fight!” Celty’s shadows also formed a scythe as the deity ran forward. Shingo felt like he was getting a ring-side seat.
Hokori broke into a huge grin. “This is going to be a fun fight!” She laughed and jumped back. Celty was already ready for the next attack. She already had her scythe up, ready to attack. The dullahan managed to knock down her opponent by the ankle. Hokori crashed and landed on the floor. Celty stood over her. The deity jumped to her feet.
Throughout this fight, the dullahan could see all of Hokori’s movements. It looked as if she was moving in slow motion for a brief second before speeding up when she made her attacks. Celty couldn’t help but wonder why. She could land her attacks on the pride deity while the other woman almost couldn’t land a single blow. The best that Hokori could manage was a scratch on Celty’s arm. The deity gritted her teeth.
“What the fuck?!” she yelled. “Why can’t I touch you?!”
I don’t know!
Hokori let out a loud shrink before running and flying over the dullahan. “Eat this, bitch!” She raised her scythe and gave it a huge swing. Celty managed to dodge but not before her helmet got knocked out. The yellow kitty-eared hear gear rolled around before landing near the door.
Shingo sat up straight on his bed as the action fell out of frame. All he could hear was the fighting in the distance.
“No!” he shouted. “Come on!”
“Shingo-kun?” a woman asked from the hallway.
“Oh shit,” the boy whispered. He closed up his laptop, ripped off his headset, and lay down in bed. His bedroom door opened.
“Shingo-kun, what are you doing still up?” she asked. The boy rolled over and looked up from the sheets.
“Oh, sorry, mom,” he said. “I was just watching a video on my phone again.”
“Do you remember what I said?” his mother asked. Shingo sighed and rolled his eyes.
“Turn off all electronics after seven,” he muttered.
“Am I going to have to take your phone again?” she asked.
“No!” Shingo said. “I’ll go to bed, I promise!” He prayed that she would close the door and leave.
“Good night, Shingo-kun,” his mother said. The door finally shut the door. Shingo waited until she disappeared down the hall. The tadpole boy quickly sat up and opened up his laptop. He bit his lower lip as the screen came back up. Come on. Please still be there. The screen came into focus in time to see Celty picking up her helmet and facing the bug towards her. Shingo quickly put his headset back on.
“What happened? Did you win?” he asked. Celty stuck up the V-sign. The boy felt back and breathed out.
“Thank goodness!” Shingo said. He lifted his head.
“So what happens now?” he asked. Celty shrugged before putting her helmet on. The boy shrugged as well.
“Okay then, Shingo signing out,” the boy said.
Celty walked out of the church and made her way back to Shooter. She rode off into the night.