Happy Wonderland

Noriko

Halo Ten: Noriko:

Mikado lay on his bed while listening to an explanation on the floor.

"Uh-huh," he said, half-listening. This could be another attempt to throw him off the scent. Mikado frowned as he looked at his hand.

"I see," he said. Mikado didn't buy any of it, of course. However, the caller asked him something that made him jump.

"What did you say?" Mikado asked. He dropped his phone on the floor.

Saturday morning.

Mikado awoke to his cell phone ringing. He groaned as he reached for it from underneath his sheets.

"Hello?" he asked.

"Mikado?" a small voice asked on the other line. The boy's eyes widened.

"Anri?" he asked.

"Yes, are you okay?"

"Uh, yeah, yeah. I'm just happy to hear someone else's voice on the phone for a change."

"I'm sorry?"

Mikado pressed his hand to his forehead. "Nothing, what's up?"

"I have a question."

"Okay…"

"Has Noriko ever attempted suicide?"

That question made him freeze. "Excuse me?"

"I was asleep when a pounding on my door woke me up last. Nobody was outside, but I found a Box addressed to me on my doorstep."

That made Mikado sit up straight in his bed. "Who sent it to you?"

"There was no return address."

"Well, what was in it?"

"Cassette tapes and memory cards. They weren't labelled either. I tried to play one of the memory cards in my phone, but it couldn't handle it. I plugged the card into my computer and played it."

"What did you see?"

"It had different files on it, but I did watch one of the video files on it. Noriko had scars on her wrists and arms."

Mikado pressed his lips together as more memories sparked in his head. "When was it filmed?"

"Hang on." Mikado heard clicking on the other line. "It says July the tenth of this year."

"That can't be right," he said.

"I don't get it either," Anri said. Mikado leaned back against the wall. He began remembering nights of Noriko crying and cutting herself. At one point, the founder of the Dollars had to try and pry the razor blade out of her hand. When did all that happen?

"Was there anything else on the memory card?" Mikado asked.

"No," his crush said. "Just video of her scars and her looking really skinny."

"What?"

"In one video while Noriko was cutting herself, she looked so thin that I could see her bones through her skin."

"That would explain why I keep asking if she had eaten," Mikado muttered under his breath.

"What did you say?" Anri asked.

"Listen, I got a box last night too. I haven't opened it up yet."

"Do you know who sent it?"

"No." Mikado sat up and looked at the box under his computer desk. "I'm going over to your place to look at these memory cards with you."

"Not yet, but I'll bring it with me, okay?"

"Sure."

"Meet you in thirty minutes?"

"Alright."

"See you then, bye."

"Goodbye." After Anri hung up, Mikado climbed off of his bed, grabbed his box, and headed out the door.

The inner circle of the Tandeki group met in the high office. Junko stretched out her arms.

"They are starting to catch on," she said. A woman in a white lab coat snorted.

"This will not do," she complained. "If they figure it all out, they will try to stop us again."

"True," the nurse said. "But if we try to separate the little darlings, they will migrate back together. If they stay together, they will wise up and stop us. Isolating them from everyone else is slowing them down at the moment, but how long will that hold?" The other woman glared at her.

"You never take this seriously, Junko!" she complained. The nurse shrugged with a little smirk.

"What?" she asked. "What's wrong with toying with the little dears?"

"Your games will get us busted!"

"You are no fun, Aya!"

"Quiet, both of you!" a man snapped. The ladies drew their mouths closed. Their boss rubbed his forehead.

"As I was saying, we have completed phase one of our plan," he said. "It is now time to begin phase two." His staff of five looked up with intent eyes.

"Can I start it off?" Junko asked. Aya glared at her colleague.

"Oh hell no!" she snapped. "You will drag this on for months! We don't have time for that shit!" The nurse cut her a dirty look.

"You will make the game too short and boring," she said. "I want to get as much fun out of it as I can."

"Stringing it out?"

"Entertaining myself."

"Enough!" their boss said. Junko and Aya quieted down. The boss rose to his feet.

"I will choose who starts phase two," he said. "You all will go back to your stations for the time being." Another woman with brown hair raised her hand.

"Yes?" the boss asked. The woman lowered her hand.

"What do we do about Orihara-san?" she asked in a small voice. The boss sat back down in his chair.

"Yes, well," he said. "You let me deal with him. That is all for now. You are dismissed." The inner circle departed for the rest of the day.

Saturday Evening

Mikado received a text from Noriko when he returned home.

Can we talk?

Mikado typed his own reply.

Sure. Come over. Where are you now?

She sent back another reply.

I'm just about at your place. Please wait for me?

Mikado looked out the window and saw Noriko walking towards his apartment. He unlocked his door as she walked up the stairs. She stood outside, looking so pale.

"Ishikawa-chan, are you alright?" he asked. Noriko shook her head.

"I didn't know where else to turn," she said as she sat on his futon minutes later. Mikado handed her a cup of tea.

"Here," he said.

"Thanks," she whispered. Mikado sat down beside her as she took a drink.

"What's the matter?" he asked. Noriko pressed her lips together.

"I found a box on my doorstep last night," she began.

"You too?"

"What?"

"Oh, Anri and I got the same box last night too."

"With the tapes and memory cards?"

"Yes."

Noriko drew her knees to her chest. "Then you probably know what I'm going to ask."

"Yeah."

She took in a deep breath. "Was I ever suicidal?"

"I have no idea," Mikado admitted. "I have no idea." Noriko rested her head on his shoulder.

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