Halo Twenty-Five: Masaomi:
Kitano looked at the figures on his many desk. He ran his finger over the tops.
“Makoto-san, Hiroi Michiko-chan, Ishikawa Noriko-chan,” the therapist said to himself. He stopped on the top of the third piece, pressing his finger into the top.
“We still need one more player,” Kitano said to himself. His eyes trailed over to pictures of Masaomi and Anri on his desk.
“Now which one of you is going to render your services to us?” he asked. Kitano ran his fingers along the two pictures.
“What would you do if I were to die tomorrow?” Saki asked.
“No more!” I shouted. I turned to see Saki looking at me worried. I took a breath.
“Just please, stop,” I said. “I can’t take it anymore. No more talking about death. Just stop it!” Saki stared at him. I sighed.
“I’m sorry,” I said. Saki crawled over and pulled me into her arms.
“No, I’m sorry,” she said. Has this what it has come down to? I’m being worn thin. I am staying by Mikado’s side. I have been by Saki’s side. But I feel that it wasn’t enough. I don’t know what to do.
“Alright,” Saki said. “I won’t talk about death anymore.” I breathed out.
“Thank you,” I said. I put my arm around her. I vowed to myself that I would never let her go.
“Masaomi?” Saki asked.
“Hm?” I asked. She looked me deep into the eyes.
“Are you feeling okay?” Saki asked.
“Of course,” I lied. “Why wouldn’t I be?” She frowned at me.
“What?” I asked.
“You have to take better care of yourself,” she told me. “Sleep if you need to. Get yourself something to eat. Just don’t wear yourself down. I can’t have you too weak if you are going to keep me from dying.” I nodded after some thought.
“Oh, yeah, yeah,” I said. “Of course.” Saki rested her head against my chest.
“I love you, Masaomi-kun,” she said. I held her tightly to my body.
“I love you too,” I said. Why did I sound so sad saying that? I feared that was going to be the last time I would ever say that to her.
-Taishi and Honoka-
October 29th, 1989.
“There’s the ghost of a child that haunts this place. They say that this kid was murdered in the Candyland section. The staff hid the body in the furnace. Now she haunts Candyland looking for her killer.”
Taishi didn’t know how he ended up in Candyland. His mind was in and out of haze during his days at Chou Mori. The staff involved in the Tadpole Project weren’t too observant at times. They might not even give a shit.
The boy wandered through the empty halls at night. There were no lights on either. He couldn’t see his hand in front of his face. His ears were ringing from the electric shock therapy hours earlier. But something inside of him compelled him to keep walking. Not like anyone was going to notice if he was gone or not. Taishi closed his eyes for a moment and shook his head. He couldn’t remember why he was doing this. Was it to see the ghost? That didn’t seem right though. So why was here?
Still, he didn’t turn around.
Taishi reached out his hand. There was a door there. He could feel paper and wood at his fingertips. He started to push on it. Was this it? He didn’t have much strength in his arms but was able to get the door open. The smell of bleach hit his nose. Taishi straggled backwards as his head started to spin. But he still couldn’t turn and leave. He took one step inside.
Candyland looked much creepier in the dark. He could barely make out the paintings on the walls. Toys were scattered all over the floor. Taishi had to try and step over all them in the dark. Some of them were so small. He was here in Candyland. Now what?
It was then he noticed that he wasn’t alone.
“Hello?” Taishi whispered. He turned his head when heard small footsteps walking around in the dark. His heart started pounding against his chest. The footsteps were getting closer.
“Who’s there?” he whispered. “Hello? Hello?” Small hands grabbed onto his shirt. Taishi turned around, screaming. He went quiet when he saw a little girl staring up at him. At first, the teenaged boy looked so confused.
“Huh?” he asked. The little girl stared up at him with big eyes. She didn’t say anything as she blinked. Taishi didn’t think before he spoke up.
“Are you a ghost?” he asked. The girl didn’t speak. Taishi became even more confused. He reached down and poked the little girl in the cheek. She didn’t respond but he became shocked.
“Wait… you’re real,” he said. The little girl tilted her head. Taishi blinked. What was wrong with this little girl? Did she understand what he was saying? Could she speak? Taishi waved his hand in front of her face.
“Are you lost?” he asked. Taishi managed to get a better look at through the thin lines of light from the high windows. Her long dark hair came down to her lower back. She only had on the same type of clothes that he had on. No slippers on her feet. This little girl looked so skinny.
“You can’t sleep either?” Taishi asked. The girl didn’t answer. The older boy gave her a strange look.
“Can you… understand what I am saying?” he asked. The little girl stared up at him with big eyes.
He doesn’t remember what happened after that.
August 25th, 2015.
Taishi was flying around in the sky. That old chill raced down his spine. The tadpole looked down. A woman sat in a swing near an old apartment complex. Something inside of him lured him down towards to the ground. Inch by inch, he came towards the ground.
The salaryman found himself landed in front of a woman on a swing set. She was staring at him. Her eyes lit up.
“Nii-san!” she said. At first, Taishi had a confused look on his face.
“Do I know you?” he asked. The older tadpole narrowed his eyes. When he got a better look at her face, memories started to pop up in his head. A little girl staring up at him in the dark. Her eyes were big and blank. She had no emotion on her face. Taishi gasped as his eyes grew big.
“Honoka-chan?” he asked.
“You remember me!” she said.
“Uh… I found you, I guess,” Taishi said. He couldn’t figure out what to say next, but he felt that he couldn’t leave yet. Honoka stared at him with a doe-eyed look on her face. Then an idea came into his head.
“Hey, do you like music?” he asked.
“Music?” Honoka asked.
“Uh-huh,” Taishi said. He reached into his bag and pulled out a CD player. He put the headphones on Honoka’s ears. She looked at him on the swing, watching him. Taishi looked in her eyes before he pressed play. He could hear the first notes of “Sore dewa, Mata Ashita” from Asian Kung-Fu Generation from the headphones. At first, Honoka winced.
“Too loud?” Taishi asked. “Here.” He turned down the music on the CD player. Honoka stopped wincing.
“Pretty good, huh?” he asked. She looked up with bright eyes.
“Yes!” she said aloud. Taishi sat back, smiling. Maybe something could come of this little encounter.
From inside one of the old apartments, Haru looked down at Taishi and Honoka sneering from the kitchen window.
I keep trying to push it out of my head. I can’t let Saki die and I can’t let Mikado go mad. I don’t know what to do. But Saki was right. I do need to take care of myself. I probably need to get some sleep. Mikado was getting more tests done at Shinra’s place. A nap should be fine. He’ll let me know if he was done. I lay down on the bed and went to sleep.
[Sometime in the late afternoon, someone breaks into the apartment.
They used long fingernails to pick the lock. The door quietly opens. The intruder walked into the small apartment. They made their way to the bedroom. They stopped and stared down at Masaomi as he lay asleep on the bed. The intruder stood over him, breathing heavily. They kept their hands in their pockets. The blonde shogun turned over as he slept. A long fingernail traced over his left cheek. The intruder closed their eyes and nodded. Then they turned and walked out the apartment. They closed and locked the door.]
When I woke up, the sun was going down. What time was is? I looked at my phone. 18:45, already? Have I really been asleep all this time? Was I really that tired? Wow, I must be really losing it. I shook my head. Saki wasn’t back yet either. Maybe I should call her. But would that make me look needy? My finger hoovered over the keys.
“I’m home,” I heard from the doorway. I looked up to see Saki watching me.
“You’re alive,” I said.
“Of course I am,” she said. “Why would I be?” Saki walked over to me and sat down. I put my arm around her. Once again, I feel much better. But how long will that last?
Mikado stared at his phone. Who would be calling him from jail? Walker? Mikado shook his head. Nah, that didn’t make sense. So who was it? The tadpole pressed the call button.
“Hello?” he asked. At first, there came a soft whispering voice through the other line. But Mikado could still make out what they were saying.
“I don’t know who you are,” he said. “Why did you even call me?”
“You do know me!” the person pleaded. “You told me to come and find you if my needle turned black.”
“What are you talking about?” Mikado asked.
“How much do you remember?” the person asked.
“Why does everyone keep asking me that?”
“You told me to come here,” they went on. “I left you something in your apartment.” Mikado sat up in his futon.
“What do you mean?” he asked. “Where is it?”
“I left it in your closet,” they said. Mikado got up and hurried over to his closet. He drew open his door.
“What am I looking for?” Mikado asked.
“Look for a box on the ground,” the person said on the phone. “Oh. My time is about up. Just look for marwolaeth.”
“Wait! What are-?” the tadpole asked. The prisoner had already hung up. Mikado stared at his phone. Okay, not the weirdest thing he had encountered. But why did this sound so urgent? Mikado looked down at the floor of the closet. He spotted a small white box near the back corner. The tadpole reached forward and picked it up. Mikado noticed all of the cravings on the surface. He ran his fingers across the top. He caught some writing on the upper corner. Mikado narrowed his eyes to read it.
“For back-up,” he read. Huh? Mikado tried to open the lid. At first, it wouldn’t open. He still tried to pry it open. The tadpole heard a small click. The lid flipped open. Mikado looked inside. Black felt covered inside. Scraps of paper, a small bag, and a little key sat at the bottom. The tadpole had the feeling that he had seen all of this before. His fingertips went for the first piece of paper in the pile. It looked like it would fall to pieces in his hand. The paper sat folded in half in his hand. Mikado picked it up and opened up the little note. Only one word was written on the top.
The tadpole had a confused look on his face. What was this? His phone pinged again. This time, it was a text. Ah, it was from Anri. Mikado relaxed as he opened the message. He shoved the paper into his box and shoved the box away from the closet. Mikado would have to look at everything later.
Saki was sound asleep beside me. I should be relieved. But that sinking feeling won’t leave. I keep fearing that I will wake and find her dead beside me.
I touched on the cheek. Saki settled back into place in her sleep. She looked so peaceful. I envied her. Suddenly, my phone buzzed. I looked at the screen. It was from Michiko. I sat up in bed. As if on instinct, I opened the text.
“Meet me on the roof.”
I stared at the screen. I remembered the conversation I had with Izaya about Michiko a couple of weeks ago.
“She is not what she seems,” he told me. I really should just ignore him. But it also fueled my curiosity about her. Izaya said that he would send me more information. I tried to turn him down but insisted. He doesn’t want to let me go, does he?
“Right now?” I wrote. It didn’t take long for her to reply.
“Yes!” she wrote back. I swung my legs out of bed and stood up. I took one more look at Saki. She was still sound asleep. My girlfriend turned her back to me in her sleep. I was going to have to make this quick. Not like anything was going to happen in the short time I was away from Saki. But I still couldn’t be too careful.
I told a breath and walked out the door.
-Masaomi and Michiko-
I found Michiko on the roof, waiting for me.
“Good, you’re here,” she said. I held up my phone.
“What did you want to talk about?” he asked. Michi-chan lifted her chin.
“I don’t want you to get dragged into this game,” she said. “You can’t handle being in our world” I gave her a confused look.
“What do you mean?” I asked. A look of worry covered her face.
“You’ve already been forced into the game before,” Michi said. “It didn’t end well.”
“What are you talking about? Tell me what is going on,” I said. She still had a serious look on her face.
“Promise me that you will not enter this game,” Michi-chan pleaded. “No matter what you will not play along. Even if I am killed in front me, don’t do it. Promise me that!” She sounded so desperate. Her eyes were filled with tears. I bowed my head.
“Okay,” I said. “I won’t do it.” Michi-chan dropped her shoulders and threw back her head as she sighed.
“Thank goodness!” she said. Michi-chan looked me in the eye.
“Okay. I will tell you everything that you need to know,” she said.