Halo Fourteen: Kaori:
I first met Kaori back in 1991.
A deadly typhoon hit us that year. I was called to Nagasaki to help aid the victims with medical attention. The doctors in the city were swamped at the time. My team ended up on Tsushima Island on the first day. I remember being out in the woods when I met her.
Three other doctors and myself were tasked with looking for people that might have been injured or killed in the storm. We each separated to cover more ground. I took the path south. So far, there wasn’t a soul in sight. I couldn’t even hear any animals around me.
“This is creepy,” I said to myself. I spent about three hours walking around in the woods. At one point, I decided to stop for a break. I sat down on a large stone and took a sip of my cold tea. Suddenly, I heard a small moaning noise in the distance.
“Hm?” I asked. I set down my thermos and walked over for a better look. In a small clearing of thick moss, I found a little girl lying on her back next to the body of a man. She looked about five years old with long black hair. Her nightgown was soaked from last night’s rain. The poor thing kicked about and struggled as if trying to up. The body next to her looked like to be about middle-aged.
I stared at this little girl rather curious. The poor thing really couldn’t get up.
“You okay?” I asked. That little girl started at me with big eyes. Judging by the look on her face, I don’t think she understood me.
“Are you hurt?” I asked. No response from the child as she lay there staring up at me. Something inside of me wouldn’t let me leave her there. I am a doctor, after all. We are sworn to protect the sick and needy. So, I convinced the child to leave behind the dead weight she was lying beside and come with me. She didn’t seem to want to leave him for some reason. I had to scoop her up and carry her along with me. One of my colleagues found us as I was walking away.
“Find anyone?” he asked.
“Uh… yeah, her,” I said, holding up the child. “And there’s a dead body back there.”
“Right, get her to the boat,” my colleague said. “The generator in the hospital is broken and the others are flooded so bad.”
“Alright,” I said. That little girl wouldn’t leave my side even on the boat. She even fell asleep in my arms at one point. I couldn’t take my eyes off of this child. She looked so innocent in my arms. I wondered why she couldn’t get up or talk. How long has she been out there in the woods? Who was that dead man with her? What were they during in the woods in the first place? Maybe she had some relatives in Tokyo that could take her.
“You’re going to be okay,” I whispered. I didn’t expect to be the one to take care of her.
That little girl wouldn’t let anyone touch her when we reached the hospital in Ikebukuro. When the doctors tried to exam her, she would kick, scream and bite. My boss had to call me in to do a proper examine her.
“But I’m a general doctor,” I said. “You need a pediatrician for her.”
“She won’t let anyone near her,” my boss explained. “You’re the only one she seems to trust.” I sighed and rolled my eyes.
“Fine, I’ll give her a look,” I said. I followed my boss down the hall. We found that child lying on her back on the examination table. She seemed to perk up when she saw me.
“Hey there,” I said in a soft voice as I approached her. “Why are you giving these new doctors trouble, huh?” I sat that strange child up and flashed my light in her eyes. Her eyes were so red that I thought I was staring into little pools of blood. Aside from her lack of developmental skills and the color of her eyes, she appeared to be in good health.
That child stayed in the hospital for six weeks and nobody came to claim her. There wasn’t much information about her either. She didn’t seem to have any known relatives living or dead in Japan. She couldn’t tell us what her name was because she couldn’t talk. That little girl was like a baby in a five-year-old’s body. Before long, I ended up taking her home with me.
Things took turn for us when I bathed her on the first night she came to live with me. As I started washing her back, I noticed a strange black mark just below her neck. At first, I tried to make out what I was looking at. It donned on me that I was staring at the kanji for “death” tattooed on this little girl’s back. Nobody at my hospital caught this? I didn’t notice this when I was examining her weeks earlier? Did it just appear?
Instead of contacting my hospital, I dashed across the hall to my office and returned with my polaroid camera. I snapped six pictures of the child’s mark before dressing her and taking her with me to Kitano’s apartment. My partner looked at the polaroid photos and then the little girl.
“Well, what are we looking at?” I asked. Kitano looked up at me grinning like a fox.
“You have a lucky find here,” he said.
“What do you mean?” I asked. Kitano shoved the photos into a red file.
“You will see, all in due time,” he replied. “Right now, take good care of her. Raise her right and you will come to understand her true nature.” He handed me a book about apocalypse mythology.
“This will give you all of the answer that you need,” Kitano told me.
For five days, I read that thick, brown book about apocalypse from cover to cover. I didn’t understand why my partner was so fascinated with this stuff. I myself didn’t think about that sort of thing. By day three, however, I found myself sucked in and reading each part over and over. I still didn’t understand why Kitano loved this mythology so much, but I had a bit of an understanding. When I reread the section on the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse, something inside of me began to click. Their names, war, famine, pestilence, and death, drew me to one conclusion as I looked at that little girl laying on the floor of her room.
So this is what he meant. I realized what I had to do next.
First, I decided to give that little girl a name. For some reason, I thought back to my earlier years when I looked at her face while bathing that little child. If I had a daughter, I wanted to name her Kaori. The longer I looked into her deep red eyes, the more I thought about “Kaori” for her.
“Kaori,” I said. Those little eyes began to perk up with curiosity.
“You like that, huh?” I asked. She bounced in my lap, squealing.
“Well okay then,” I said, smiling. “You will be known as Kaori from now on.” After naming her, I taught Kaori how to walk, talk, use the toilet, eat solid food, wash, dress, and feed herself. To my relief, she was quick to learn. Once I got her caught up on her developmental skills, I taught her what she really needed to know to fulfill her role.
I only taught her about different weapons and methods of killing people. Kaori picked up her powers and the rest all by herself.
Today, Kaori looked at me, tilting her head as I stared at her longingly.
“Do I have something on my face?” she asked. I shook my head.
“No,” I said. “I was just remembering the past.”
“You’re weird sometimes, mama,” Kaori said. I pat her on the head. Maybe I am.
-Etsuko, Junko, and Aya-
“Pew! Pew! Pew! Pew! Pew! Pew! Pew! Pew!” Junko shouted as she flicked blue game pieces off of her board across the room. Aya gritted her teeth.
“Cut it out!” she snapped. The nurse smiled to herself as she pushed the last blue game piece away from the other blue piece trapped in the glass tube.
“Enough of the games,” Etsuko said. “We have to talk business now.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Junko said.
“You sure it’s a good idea to leave that kid alone?” Aya asked. “Kuronuma is not someone we can take lightly. I mean, sure you erased his memories of Ryugamine-kun, but how long will that hold and how can we be sure he won’t try to pull something to under mind us?” Etsuko glared at the psychiatrist woman.
“I made the Lethe drug really strong this time,” she said. “And used six spell strips to make it hold.”
“Okay…” Aya said.
“Besides, that brat is mine,” Junko growled. “He’s been a bane in my existence for many loops now.” She breathed heavily. “I just want one chance to torture the little shite and make him beg for a quicker death.”
“And you will get the chance, but we have more pressing matters at the moment,” the doctor cut in.
“The Yellow Scarves?” the nurse asked.
“And… do you have a plan for that? Why aren’t we taking out Kida’s little girlfriend too?”
“All in due time. All in due time. We have to focus on one thing at a time.”
“So what is your plan?” Aya asked.
“The horsemen are coming,” Etsuko replied. “Kaori’s little sister agreed to take care of Kida’s little gang.”
“Oh! Good choice.”
“She made it into the city this morning too.”
“Nice.” Junko turned to Aya. “Now Aya-san has to deal with her Izaya problem.” The psychiatrist woman glared at her.
“Shut your mouth,” she hissed. Etsuko tilted her head.
“What Orihara problem?” she asked. Aya sneered as Junko broke out into a cat-like grin.
“Oh, it’s just that Izaya has Aya’s daughter running to him with open arms and legs.”
“Shut your whore mouth!” the psychiatrist shouted. Etsuko cleared her throat and both women went quiet.
“Now,” the doctor said. “Let’s focus back on the Yellow Scarves.”
Ever since the first gate opened, the tadpoles started to regain more memories. Kohaku sat next to Mikado on the floor of his apartment. Like him, she couldn’t sense ours of their kind. She clung to the older tadpole’s arm.
“Is something wrong?” he asked.
“I’m starting to have nightmares,” Kohaku said in a low voice.
“About Chou Mori?” Mikado asked. She nodded once.
“Are your memories coming back?”
“Yeah.” She pulled her knees to her chest. Mikado understood what she felt.
“Try to think about something else.”
The younger girl glanced up at him. “Like what?”
“I don’t know, something.” The founder of the Dollars paused as something crossed his mind. “I can see people’s inner demons. What can you do?”
Kohaku bit on her thumb as she looked away. “I eat people’s sins.”
“Hm? What does that mean?”
“I can’t exactly show you right now and I can’t explain it myself.” She looked down at her small hands. “To be honest, it kind of creeps me out.”
“Yeah, my power scares me too.” Mikado tried to think of a way to explain to Masaomi what was happening to him without freaking out his best friend. The founder of the Dollars closed his eyes and rubbed his forehead.
“Are you okay?” the smaller girl asked.
“No,” Mikado replied. Suddenly, his phone buzzed.
-Aoba and the Orihara Twins-
Ever since he got out of the hospital, Aoba stay by the Orihara twins. They seemed to provide a sense of calm. Despite this, that feeling of unease wouldn’t leave him. What if Kaori decided to come after Mairu and Kururi? Aoba reached out and touched their hands.
“Is something wrong?” Kururi asked. The lone shark boy forced himself to smile as he shook his head.
“No,” he said.
“Oh, did Mikado come by and visit you?” Mairu asked. The boy gave her a puzzled look.
“Who is that?” Aoba asked. The twins stopped and stared at him.
“Ryugamine Mikado,” Mairu said. “Remember? He’s your senpai.”
“I don’t know who that is,” the boy replied so confused. The twins looked at each other. He didn’t seem to be kidding around either.
-Chirin and Kitano-
Mikado looked up at his phone. He didn’t recognize the number on the screen. Against his better judgement, he reached over and picked it up. He stared at the screen for a few seconds before he felt a pair of eyes on his back. The boy turned and noticed the worried look on Kohaku’s face.
“I have to take this,” he said. “Excuse me.” She grabbed onto his sleeve as he stood up.
“I will be back, I promise,” Mikado insisted. He had to pry her fingers off before stepping outside with his phone.
“Hello?” the boy asked.
“Hello Chirin-kun,” Kitano said on the other line.