Happy Wonderland

Etsuko

Halo Twenty-One: Etsuko:

-Christmas Night-

Mikado lifted his head when he heard a knock on his door.

"Who is it?" he asked in a trembling voice.

"It's only me," Masaomi said outside. His friend calmed himself down and opened the door wide enough to peek out of.

"Hey, man," Masaomi said in a low voice.

"Are you alone?" Mikado whispered.

"Yeah."

"Did you bring it with you?"

"Yes."

Mikado opened the door wider. "Alright." Masaomi followed him into the apartment. The founder of the Dollars' phone sat on his bed with thirteen missed calls.

-Five Days Ago-

Junko cut a frosty glare at Etsuko. She didn't enjoy working with her, but if she had to choose between Etsuko and Aya, the former would be more bearable. Junko tilted her head.

"Why exactly did the boss call you to execute round two?" she asked. Etsuko pushed up her black-framed glasses.

"Because compared to the two of you," she said. "I actually look more competent."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Aya asked with her hands on her hips.

"You get obsessed with making Noriko into Ophelia from Hamlet," Junko said with a smirk as she shrugged.

"Hey, it's fitting for the little bride," her colleague said. "And far more productive than your stupid little head games you play with them!"

"Excuse me?"

"You heard me! You know maybe instead of screwing around; you would actually have done the tasks that your branch was assigned!"

"Well, excuse me for wanting to have a little fun with our toys."

"Your games go on too long!"

"Well you get too obsessive with having the bride and groom kill each other!"

"Okay, stop it! Both of you!" Etsuko snapped. Junko and Aya went quiet as Etsuko rubbed her forehead. She glared at their two male coworkers, Daichi and Osamu, laughing in the background.

"What's so funny?" she asked. The men were quick to stop. Etsuko cleared her throat.

"Tell me why you have failed to obtain F," she said. Junko sneered at the condescending tone in her voice.

"I'm working on it," the school nurse said. "I know where all of them are at all times."

"I take it that the spyware you installed on their phones is still working?"

"Of course, I updated this morning." Junko stuck out her tongue at Aya. Their colleague rolled her eyes and gave her the finger.

"What about Chirin?" Daichi asked from the other end of the room.

"I was given orders not to touch him," Junko said, glancing out of the corner of her eye. "The boss wants his little protégée to delight in breaking the news to him in person as a Christmas present for her exams, remember?"

"Ah, that's right," Daichi said.

"And that's fine," Etsuko cut in. "We need to focus on the task at hand."

"And what do you propose?" Aya asked. Etsuko broke into a little smile.

"I think it's time we made them remember what happened to them," she said.

"How?" Junko asked.

"With our old friend, Mnemosyne, of course," Etsuko said. She held up a small closed glass container with little purple cones inside.

"Yeah, but how will you get it to the little dears? They are starting to lose trust in those around them as it is. How do you plan to break through their little bubble we built up?"

"Simple. We give it to them through somebody they all trust."

"And how do we do that?"

"Leave it to me."

7:00 p.m.

Mikado and his friends sat at a table in the back room of Russia Sushi. Nobody dared to speak. They had been down this road before, but they didn't realize it. Mikado noticed Noriko's tray.

"You have touched your sushi," he said.

"How?" she asked as she looked down at her tray. "Oh, I guess I'm not really hungry right now." She happened to notice the concerned look in Mikado's eyes.

"Please don't look at me like that," she said back with her eyes.

"Anyway, what's everyone doing on Christmas?" Masaomi asked.

"Sleeping in." Chiharu said.

"Not much," Anri said.

"Same here," Noriko said.

"Aw, that's shame," Masaomi said. "I was thinking about calling Saki down here and hang out with us."

"How is she by the way?" Mikado asked.

"Good," his best friend said. "She's doing good." Simon walked into the room and set down a tray small glass tray filled with little purple cones. He opened the container, lit the incense, and left the room. Chiharu happened to catch it at the last minute. Before she could say a word, Mnemosyne began her wicked work. They couldn't smell the incense, but the children went quiet as memories violently filled their heads.

-Masaomi-

Saki's body lay in their morgue, cold and abandoned. Many in the apartment complex said that her death was accident. In his heart of hearts, Masaomi suspected that she had been murdered. He couldn't remember who. Izaya didn't help matters either. That bastard information broker pretended not to know anything. Masaomi had the feeling that Izaya was involved, but he had no proof.

Masaomi pressed his hand to his forehead. Saki isn't dead. She called me last night. Still, he had no idea how long Saki would stay alive. He didn't want to have to resort to calling her every minute. Would she even believe him if he told her that she would be killed? He couldn't even remember the events that led up to her murder. The farthest he could go was getting that dreaded phone call from the police on the day after Valentine's Day.

Still another memory of Saki was of her being dead with her face being bashed in to the point that no one could recognize her. It was as if someone thought that she was too pretty even in death. Remembering both deaths made Masaomi feel violently ill. Afterwards for some reason, the sorrow for his girlfriend stopped. He couldn't remember why this happened. That part was beyond his grasp for the time being. Maybe it had something to do with the image of Saki acting odd on his phone…

-Mikado-

Mikado could see from Chirin's point of view again. That doctor and his protégée stood over him. They weren't alone this time, however. The orderly that tried to molest him days earlier listened as the boss gave them new instructions for the morning. The women asked him questions as they stared intent. Their voices sounded so faint in his ears, but he didn't enjoy seeing that giant needle in the doctor's hand. Which was he going to stick it today? His eye? His tongue? Maybe his arms again?

Mikado already the different places the needles went into Chirin's body. He had gotten used to smelling the bleach, but something else came with the injection torture. While Chirin lay in bed, he could hear whispering. The images skipped around at the different patients in the hospital where he was being held hostage. He couldn't see their faces, but he remembered tiny features about them. One had wild-colored pigtails. Mikado couldn't see her face, but he saw the gold, blue, and purple in her messy hair.

Then there was another lady. He couldn't really see anything about her, but she was quiet and had this optimistic glow about her. Somehow, she gave Chirin a pleasing sense of comfort while he was trapped in Chou Mori…

-Anri-

Mikado would turn to her when he sank into his depths of despair. She became his light when he was drowning. Anri didn't know any other way to help him except with her body. For some reason, Saika held back with Mikado. Maybe it could sense his pain?

Mika had told her before that she and the others needed to run. The reasoning was lost in a haze of jump-cuts in her memories. Others that tried to help her circle of friends either died or wound up missing. Anri couldn't help but notice that her friends were falling apart. Mikado and Noriko were hit the worst. Masaomi sank further into a hole after Saki's death. Chiharu fell into her own world of suffering with broken angel wings on her back.

It would be up to Anri to keep everyone together if they were to live through this…

-Chiharu-

Chiharu saw F sitting in a cage in a darkened basement. This creature was different from the other test subjects in the basement. F hand developed a consciousness. She could feel pain and understand what the doctor of Chou Mori was saying.

Overtime, F grew to hate her existence and her surroundings. She grew tight of being treated like an animal and being fed the bodies of the failed experiments. She wanted to go outside. The sounds and voice sounded so inviting to her. Their warmth felt so much better compared to life in the cage. The more F listened, the more she her desire grew to escape. One night, F closed her eyes and knew what she needed to do.

Her soul escaped from her body and flew away into the sky…

-Noriko-

Noriko's memories out the most tangled up. Some had her looking so thin that her clothes were hanging off of her body. Others had her arms, legs, and torso covered in scars from cuts. Even more memories had her trying to end her own life. Oh, she tried with different methods. Hanging, swallowing pills and poison, slitting her wrists, and drowning herself. However, her friends would pull her back. Noriko sometimes silently wished that they wouldn't.

Still, there was another memory that filled her head. There was a man. Noriko couldn't see his face, but she remembered that he smelled like oranges. Whenever he entered her mind, she saw fireflies. His strong hand led her into a swallow river, showing the lovely light display of the tiny fire bugs floating around in the deep lazy summer night.

Something about that man brought her memories of joy and pain.

-Everyone-

These memories all felt too real to be false again. By the time the last of Mnemosyne burned away round two of the game was set into mention.

-Hours Earlier-

Etsuko walked up to Russia Sushi's door with a small bag in her hand.

"Welcome!" Simon greeted her. "What would you like today?"

"Hello," Etsuko said. "I'm with a relaxation study group. Would you like to try out one of our products today?"

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