Halo Six: Walker:
Erika sat across from Walker in the maid cafe with a look of unease on her face.
“Have you calmed down now?” she asked. Walker chowed down on his rice omelet.
“Yeah,” he said. She didn’t look so convinced.
-Three Hours Earlier-
Erika and Walker went down to the bookstore to buy the latest horror manga out.
“What’s with the creepy shit lately?” Saburo asked. The otaku pair didn’t have an answer. In fact, they had just now noticed it. So much blood, gore, monsters, violence, and corpses. Light and happy stuff didn’t seem to interest the otaku pair lately. Kadota didn’t pay it any mind.
Lately, Walker and Erika hungered for something more disturbing.
“You sure it’s out today?” Erika asked.
“Yes,” Walker insisted. He was the one to find this manga first. The young man was looking for something strong in the horror circles. One day, he got a DM to try out this manga. Well, it was the first three pages. The art looked so elegant with the colors so lush. Walker was so engrossed in the story that he grew disappointed when he finished the first page.
“Where is the rest of it?” he asked. At first, the message didn’t go through. Walker tried to find the information on his own but came up with nothing.
Finally, he got a reply.
“This was just a sample of the first volume. It will go on sell tomorrow.”
Walker just had to have more. So here they were at the bookstore in south Ikebukuro. Erika wasn’t looking so convinced.
“What’s this manga called again?” she asked.
“I don’t remember off the top of my head,” Walker said as they walked down the manga aisle.
“Are you sure it even exists?” Erika asked.
“Yeah,” he insisted. “I will know it when I see the cover.” He took out his phone and opened the picture file he had saved.
“This one,” Walker said. Erika leaned in for a look. The cover was of a woman looking like a succubus surrounded by black ink. The woman had her forked tongue sticking out. A snake looked coiled around her pale curved body. Were those wings coming out of her back? Erika found herself drawn in and crept out.
“Where did you find this?” she asked.
“It wasn’t sent to me in DM’s,” he said. Walker kept looked the whole time as he talked. “The manga looked really good from those first three pages that I saw.” Erika wanted to believe him. Walker wouldn’t stop talking about it all morning.
“I would like to see this manga too,” she said.
“Sweet!” Walker said. So, here they were at the bookstore. Erika would be lying if she said she wasn’t interested.
“There!” Walker shouted. Erika lifted her head. He stood by the manga that he wanted so dearly with a grin.
“It’s the last one too,” Walker said.
-Therapy Session: “Mimiko”-
Aya hit record on her tape player.
A woman about thirty-five sat on the couch with a focused smile on her face. She feels like she’s ready to scream—again.
Aya took her seat in front of the woman.
“Good morning, [name redacted],” Aya said. The woman nodded at her.
“How are you this morning?”
“Good! I got promote last week.”
The woman rubbed the back of her head. “Is it, though?”
“What do you mean?”
“I have more responsibilities to a job that I never wanted. My male coworkers still won’t take me seriously. I’m still single. And I just…” She gritted her teeth.
“Grrr! I just… I just…”
“Please keep your voice down.”
The woman took a breath. “I’m sorry.”
“Take you time if you need to.”
“Mimiko” sighed and rubbed her forehead. “I want to quit so badly but my parents won’t let me hear the end of it.”
“Tell me something.”
The woman looked. “Hm?”
“Have you felt the itch again?”
“A little bit.”
“What do you think triggers it?”
The woman took a moment to think about it. “I still can’t figure it out.”
“I see…” Aya reached over and turned off the tape recorder.
-Erika and Walker-
How could he be so calm after what happened? Did he even remember what he did?
“Yumacchi,” Erika spoke up. Walker shoved more food into his mouth.
“Hm?” he asked.
“What happened to you back there?” she asked. Walker just shrugged. He chewed on the rice. Erika frowned. She didn’t know if she should keep bringing up this topic or not.
But then something else caught her attention.
“Eww! What is that on your hand?” Erika asked. Walker paused.
“Hm?” he asked.
“Here,” she said. Erika picked up a napkin and wiped off the purplish-looking sludge off of his hand. Walker looked down.
“What?” he asked as if coming out of trance. “Oh.” Erika finished wiping down his hand.
“There,” she said.
“What was that stuff?” Walker asked. Erika looked at the napkin.
“I have no idea,” she said. “You didn’t notice that on your hand?”
“No,” he said. Erika made a face.
“I must have got that from…” Walker said. But then he trailed off. His mind went back to what happened three hours earlier.
-Three Hours Earlier-
Walker reached out for the manga but then another hand grabbed onto the manga. The otaku man turned his head. Another otaku stood in front of the manga. He grabbed onto the other side. The bigger man was breathing heavier.
“Excuse me,” Walker said. “But I saw this first.”
“No,” the fat otaku said. “Mine.” The two men wouldn’t let go.
“You must be mistaken,” Walker said. “I saw this first. This is mine.”
“It doesn’t have your name on it!” the other otaku said. Walker started smiling.
“Oh, you’ve made a big mistake,” he said. Erika had been watching the whole time. She had a gut feeling about what was about to go down.
“Listen Yumacchi,” Erika said, grabbing onto his arm. “You could find this manga online.” Walker pushed her off.
“Stay of this Erika!” he barked. She fell back against the manga stall.
“Yumacchi!” the fujoshi shouted. He ignored her and tried to pull out the manga from the fat otaku’s hand.
“Let go!” he yelled.
“No!” Walker snapped. He lunged forward headbutted him in the chest. The fat otaku let out a mouthful of air as he fell backwards. Walker wouldn’t let up. It didn’t take long for him to start wailing on the guy. The fat otaku tried to shield himself for the blows. He started crying as Walker kicked him.
“Stop it! Stop it! Please!” the fat otaku pleaded. Tears and snort ran down his face. Walker’s kicking and punching grew worse. The otaku looked like he was… smiling. Walker even started to laugh. This man was out for blood.
It took Erika and a security guard to pull the young man off.
“Yumacchi!” she screamed. “Stop it!” Her voice alone was enough to calm him down. Walker let go of the beaten man. The poor bloodied otaku scrambled to his feet and raced out of the store.
“Keep it, man!” he shouted. “It’s not worth my life! You’re insane!” Walker stood silent as Erika and the security guard held him back. The rest of the shopping trip disappeared into a blur.
Walker looked down at his half-eaten rice omurice.
“You think he’ll be okay?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” Erika admitted. Her fellow otaku stared at his plate. Suddenly, his food didn’t look so appetizing.
“It was really bad, was it?” he asked.
“Yeah,” Erika said. “What came over you there, Yumacchi?” He shrugged and shook his head.
“I don’t know what came over me,” Walker admitted. The spine of his beloved manga stuck out from his bag.
“Is everything okay?” a maid asked. The pair looked up.
“Yes,” Erika lied.
“Do you need anything?” the waitress asked.
“No,” the otaku said.
“Okay,” the maid said. She bowed and walked away. Walker turned back to Erika.
“What happens now?” he asked in a whisper.
“I don’t know,” his female otaku said. The pair sat at their table silent.
He still wouldn’t give up. Anzu walked away from him without turning around. She frowned and rolled her eyes. The other tadpole pouted at her on his scooter.
“Come on!” Sota pleaded. She glanced out of the corner of her eye. Anzu clicked her tongue.
“What do you want from me?” she asked. Sota shrugged.
“I don’t know,” he said. Anzu groaned and rolled her eyes.
“Don’t you have anything better to do?” she asked.
“Nope,” Sota said. “I just thought you looked lonely. I mean, I don’t have many people friends who are like me. From the looks of it, neither do you.” Anzu didn’t turn around.
“You’re wrong,” she said. “I am not lonely.”
“You mean that girl who’s with you?” Sota asked. “She’s not like us. Does she even know our secret?” The other tadpole stopped in her tracks and turned around. A puzzled look came over lovely face.
“What?” Sota asked.
“Where’s your girlfriend?” Anzu asked. He made a face at her.
“What girlfriend?” he asked.
“You know,” she said. “That girl who’s always with you. Long black hair, black glasses, and mousy girl.” It took him a moment to get what she was saying.
“Shizue?” he asked.
“Yeah,” Anzu said. Sota frowned.
“She’s not my girlfriend,” he said.
“But…” she said. He shook his head.
“No,” Sota said. “She’s my project.” He could already predict what was going to come out of her mouth. The male tadpole sighed.
“She was planning to kill herself,” Sota admitted in a low voice. “I heard her thoughts. So I followed her and I have been keeping her from dying ever since.” He noticed the disapproving look on her face.
“What?” he asked.
“You shouldn’t have been eavesdropping,” Anzu said.
“It’ not my fault that I heard her thoughts,” Sota complained. “You know that.” He leaned forward on the handlebars.
“Besides, I’m trying to do a good thing here,” he said. “I thought you believed that life is precious and all that.”
“Yeah, but-” Anzu said. She froze as a jolt ran up her spine. Sota sat up straight too.
“You felt it to?” he asked.
“Yeah,” she said. They turned around to see someone who looked like a girl in a school uniform staring back at them. They had their long brown hair up into a ponytail. They looked just as alert as they were.
“Are you guys…?” they began to ask. Sota had a confused look on his face.
“Wait, you’re a dude?” he asked. The girlish-looking boy cocked his head.
“Yeah,” he said. Anzu took a step forward.
“Were you in Chou Mori with us?” she asked. The boy tadpole had a serious look on his face.
“Yes,” he said in a low voice.
“What is your name?” Sota asked.
“Yukari,” the other boy said. “Chiba Yukari.”
“I’m Anzu,” Anzu said. “This is Sota.”
“Yo!” Sota said with a wave.
“Nice to meet you,” Yukari said, bowing. “I wish it could be under better circumstances.” Sota gave him an odd look.
“What are you doing out here?” he asked. “Were you looking for others like us?”
“Not really, to be honest,” Yukari said. He paused for a moment as if digging in his brain to come up with the right way to explain this. He folded his arms across his chest.
“I am looking for a monster,” he said in a matter of fact tone.
Drag. Drag. Drag. Drag.
He looked up at Rampo Biotech. This place was going to set him free. His stomach grumbled. He placed his hand and frowned. He had to push himself to keep going.
Drag. Drag. Drag. Drag.