Halo Fifteen: Kitano:
-January 18, 1957-
Kitano Minako dusted off the snow from her coat before she marched into the hospital. The nurses greeted her at the door.
“Good morning, Kitano-san,” they said, bowing. Minako didn’t even make eye contact as she walked past them to the stairs. Concerned, they followed after the stern woman. She made it to the second floor and walked down to her son’s room. She had a mission today. For weeks, she tried to get her son out of bed. The doctors told her that movement at least once a day would help the boy’s heart grow stronger. So far, her attempts to get her youngest son out of bed had backfired.
“Come on, Katsuhiro-kun,” Minako would plead. “Don’t you want to get better and go home? I want you to.” The child just turned over in his bed. Her pleading couldn’t reach him.
Today, Minako had a different plan.
The nurses caught up to her in time as she opened the door to her son’s room. Young Kitano sat up in his bed when he heard footsteps. Minako had a little smile on her face.
“Hello, my son,” she said. “Today is your birthday.” He turned to face his mother. Her thick black coat ate up the upper half of her body. She still had on her work clothes and boots underneath. Her brown scarf and disheveled long black hair gave her a tied look.
“My… birthday?” her son asked.
“Yes. Happy birthday.”
But, Young Kitano noticed something off about his mother. “Where is my present?”
“Look out the window,” Minako said, pointing to the window bed to his bed. The boy turned his head. From where he sat, a package wrapped in brown paper sat on a bench covered in snow. Young Kitano turned back to his mother.
“Why is it out there?” he asked.
“The only way you are going to get your present is if you get and go get it,” Minako said. She didn’t turn around when she heard gasping.
“What are you doing?!” one of the nurses cried. Kitano’s mother waved her off.
“But… won’t somebody steal my present?” her son asked.
“Well then you better get up and get it,” she said as she ripped the sheets off of him. Young Kitano stared at her wide-eyed. His mother folded her arms across her chest. The look in her eyes said, “Get moving, boy!” The child lowered his head as he slid out of bed.
“You don’t have to do this!” one of the nurses shouted as Young Kitano put on his slippers.
“Hush!” his mother hissed. “He needs this!”
“But…” another nurse said. Minako turned to her with a cold look in her eyes. The three nurses closed their mouths as Young Kitano slid off of the bed. Already, he started panting as the pain started up in his chest.
“Do not give up on me!” his mother hissed. “Stand and walk out there like a mouth!” Her son nodded as he struggled to catch his breath. He couldn’t feel his slippers as he took the first step. His movements were heavy and dragging. The boy walked in between swallows breaths. He didn’t think the distance from his bed and the door would be so long.
“Do not stop until you reach that bench!” Minako shouted. Young Kitano’s breathing became heavier when he reached the door framed. He walked past the nurses. If his room was bad, the hall looked even worse. The elevator was at the other end too. He could feel the eyes of the nurses and his mother on his back.
“Keep going,” Minako said. Katsuhiro took in a heavy breath and stopped walking again. His steps became unbearable as his head began to spill.
“That’s enough, Kitano-san!” one of the nurses yelled. “You are going to overwork his heart!”
“Shut up!” Minako barked. “You all have been spoiling him too much!”
“I said, shut up!”
Young Kitano was already halfway down the hall by the time that exchange took place. He breathed heavily, but wouldn’t stop walking. He didn’t want to see the disappointed look on Minako’s face if he gave up. Katsuhiro collapsed when he reached the elevator. The elevator man stared at him with big eyes.
“Are you okay, son?” he asked. The boy nodded as he pointed to the elevator. It took him about ten minutes to get back onto his feet. He sat on the elevator floor leaned against the wall.
“Up or down?” the operator asked.
“Down,” the child said, panting. The elevator man cranked the door closed and operated the cab downwards. The short ride gave Young Kitano enough time to catch his breath. He closed his eyes and gulped. Once the doors opened, the boy resumed his journey.
The cold air on his skin was nothing compared to the pain in his body. He felt his head swimming as the bench looked so far away. Despite that, the child could still feel his mother’s eyes on his back. Katsuhiro took in deeper breathes and pushed himself to keep walking. He finally pushed himself into a bench. The boy sat, panting. That was too much work. To his surprise, the birthday present was still on the bench.
Young Kitano reached over and pulled the gift into his lap. He tore away at the brown paper. A little smile came onto his face when he sees a book of Japanese mythology. Amaterasu stood on a cloud on the cover. The title was in white characters on the right. The boy ran his fingers over the cover. Minako walked over to the bench with the boy’s coat in her hand. Her son looked up when she stood inches away.
“I knew you could do it,” she said. His mother draped the thick brown coat over Young Kitano’s shoulders.
One year later, a nurse would accidentally give the boy the wrong amount of medicine.
Mikado’s eyes widened.
“Kitano… -sensei?” he asked. “What do you want?”
“I am only calling to check in on you,” the doctor said on the other line.
“What did you do to Kuronuma-kun?”
“I didn’t do anything to him. Asato-sensei freed you from him.”
“Freed me from…? Wait, are you between the deaths of the Blue Squares?”
“You could say something like that.”
“But why would you do that?”
“Are you upset about them? Don’t be. They were just filthy animals anyway.”
“You are a higher species now. You should not associate yourself with garbage. There is no need to cry for them. I just had them sent to the slaughter. They will not be missed. You should be thanking me.”
“What are you going to do with Kuronuma-kun now?”
“His fate is of no concern to you. You are complete strangers now. You need to be more focused on yourself and your brothers and sisters.”
A confused look came over Mikado’s face. “What are you talking about? What brothers and sisters?”
“Your fellow tadpoles.”
“What are you planning to do with us?”
“I am not inclined to answer that right now. You just focus on developing your powers. You have one more day into this experiment after all.”
“Why are you doing this?”
“We’ll be in touch.” Kitano hung up before Mikado could open his mouth. The boy’s fist shook as he clutched his phone.
Memories keep coming back due to the first gate being opened. Masaomi felt them in flashes.
This one stuck out the worst.
Mikado sat on the ground with his hands cut up by broken glass. The boy pulled out the pieces and dropped them on the ground. Bruises and cuts covered his body as blood seeped through a dusty white shirt and pants. There was a dead body surrounded by the larger pieces. Its face was obstructed in this memory. Masaomi stood in the doorway, panicked.
“Mikado?” he asked. His friend turned to him with a crazed look in his eyes, chuckling.
“It doesn’t hurt,” he said. “I can’t feel it. But it’s so red.” The boy broke into trembling. “What’s happening to me?”
Masaomi didn’t know whether to run away or towards his friend.
The blonde shogun couldn’t place when disturbing scene took place or if he was seeing something from the future. Either way, it affirmed his belief of staying by Mikado to keep him snapping. Ever since Satoshi’s death, Masaomi swore to himself that he would stay by his best friend’s side no matter how freaked out him would become with each revelation.
That still left Saki and keeping her alive.
Masaomi about jumped when his phone rang in his pocket.
“Saki-chan?” he asked.
“No, it’s me,” another girl’s voice said on the other line.
A puzzled look came over the boy’s face. “Michi-chan?” Michiko sighed aloud.
“I told you not to call me that.”
“No, you haven’t.”
“Yes, I have.”
“Never mind that! Have you seen anything strange around the city since this morning?”
“What do you mean?”
“Have you seen rows and huddles of black cats staring at people or strange children running around?”
Masaomi looked around the crowded, snow-covered street. Only people walking by were in sight. He couldn’t see any cats or strange children running around or playing.
“No,” he said. “Why?”
“Masaomi-kun,” Michiko said. “Listen to me. I have to tell you something really important.”
The first gate being opened let some unwelcome “guests” slip into the living world.
Bakeneko began sitting around Ikebukuro, watching the humans carry on with their lives. They appear to be waiting for something. Or someone. The little buggers sit on vending machines, trash cans, roofs, and guard rails.
But, the humans can’t see them.
However, Mikado was about to go back inside when he noticed a single black bakeneko sitting across the street, staring at him. It’s blood red eyes gave him the creeps as he opened the door. What does it want with me? The more it stared at him, the more it told him to stay away.
Tetsu saw another bakeneko staring at him outside his kitchen window. Just like Mikado, he felt a sense of unease just by looking at that furry little monster.
“See something interesting?” Taichi asked at the table. Tetsu pointed out the window.
“Can’t you see that creepy little cat?” he asked.
“Huh?” the other boy asked. He peered out the window. “No.” Tetsu looked out the window again. The cat stared at him with its blood-eyes like it wanted his soul.
“Are you sure?” he asked.
“There’s nothing there, baby,” Taichi said. “Are you feeling okay?” Tetsu went pale as he shook his head. He got up and walked out of the kitchen in a daze.
“Baby?” Taichi asked his boyfriend disappeared down the hall.
The bakeneko keep multiplying and sitting around the city, waiting for something. They are only the first sign.
Meanwhile, Kitano sat as his desk. One gate was opened in the city.
“Six more to go,” he said to himself. The psychiatrist pulled up his phone and typed in a quick text.