Halo Eighteen: Mikado:
-October 14th, Two Years Ago-
Mikado lay in bed, limp and motionless.
Three days earlier, Etsuko injected him with a syringe of bright red liquid. The moaning around him didn’t help have a better opinion of the situation he was in. The last thing he could remember before blacking out with the pain was Etsuko standing over with a stoic look on her face as she took his arm.
Mikado’s heart stopped for a short second as his pupils dilated. The sound of his blood rushing in his body filled his ears. On the first day, the bright liquid restricted his airway. His vision became blurred. After that split second, Mikado’s heart began pounding at an accelerated rate. He lost count of how many times he lost consciousness. Each time he came to, a little bright light flashed in his eyes. Only, it looked a light under a blackened ocean. Etsuko was talking to him, but it didn’t sound coherent to him. Through the first three hours, Mikado thought he was going to die with his heart racing out of control and his hindered ability to breathe. It felt like he was being held underwater, only to be let up for a few seconds before going under again. By the second morning, he wished for death to take him.
No! I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die!
By day three, the symptoms of the bright red liquid leveled off. Mikado’s heartbeat returned to normal and he could breathe easier. He couldn’t move, but his senses were just as clear as before. Today, the door opened. Kitano walked into the room and sat the foot of Mikado’s bed.
-Forty-Eight Hours and Thirty-One Minutes into the Experiment-
Mikado stared at his phone.
“What should I do?” he asked. He ended up having to delete Aoba’s number from his phone. The younger boy got angry when the founder of the Dollars called.
“How did you get this number?!” Aoba shouted. “Who the hell are you?! What do you want from me? Why do you keep following me around?”
“Aoba, wait!” Mikado cried.
“Stop trying to talk to me!” the younger boy said. “It’s creepy!” Aoba hung up before his senpai could say another word. And that was it. The Blue Squares were finished, leaving Aoba a lone shark swimming in Ikebukuro’s ocean. Mikado ended up throwing away his shark mask. What was the point anymore? Nothing he did could reach the boy anymore. Mikado looked at the ceiling of his apartment.
He already lost Aoba and the Blue Squares. He still hadn’t told Masaomi about his powers.
“You’re just going to lose him if you do,” someone said. Mikado sat up with a chill running down his spine.
“Sato…shi?” he asked. The founder of the Dollars whipped around. Satoshi stood in the doorway, shaking his head, smirking. Mikado stumbled back, panting.
“But you’re dead!” he said.
“I know,” the boy with the bleeding chest said. “I am in your head.” The living boy crowded away as Satoshi walked closer.
“What’s the matter?” the younger boy asked. “I’m in your head. I can’t hurt you.”
“B-But what do you want from me?”
“Nothing really.” Satoshi stood over him. “You’re becoming like me. They’ve already taken away that boy from you. I wonder who they will take next.”
Mikado shook his head. “No! It’s not like that.”
“My, my, my. You don’t get it, do you? You’re not a mere human anymore. You are a monster like me. Your precious friends will see that in time and run away from you.” The boy knelt down in front of him, smirking.
“I wonder what will happen when you tell… oh what’s his name?”
“Ah yes, him. I wonder what will happen when you tell Masaomi your little secret.” Satoshi chuckled. “I can see it now. The look of terror when he hears that his best friend can see people’s inner demons.” He tried to hold back more laughter. “He might hate you and try to kill you.”
“You’re wrong!” Mikado shouted, shaking his head. “Masaomi-kun’s not like that! We are best friends! He would never abandon me!”
“Then why haven’t you told him about your powers?”
Satoshi poked him on the forehead. “You know, I almost feel sorry for you, Chirin. The love surrounding you all taken away from you. They will leave you, you know? One by one. After they abandon you, they will brand you as a monster and despise you. How long before they decide that your existence is a threat and erase you?”
Mikado clenched his fists by his sides. “That’s not true! I am not a monster! They won’t abandon me and my name is not Chirin!”
“Who are you talking to, Mikado?” a new voice asked. The tadpole boy looked up and saw Masaomi standing in the doorway where Satoshi stood seconds earlier. Mikado sat on the floor, blinking. He lowered his hands.
“Satoshi…” he said.
“What are you talking about?” Masaomi asked. “Satoshi’s dead. I killed him, remember?” The blonde-haired boy moved his hand in a thrusting motion like he was stabbing an invisible opponent.
“I stabbed him right in the chest,” he explained. “I did it to save you. He would’ve killed you if I hadn’t. Satoshi’s dead, okay?”
“Yes…” Mikado said. He drew his knees to his chest. “Masaomi-kun… I have something to tell you.”
-Kitano and Aya-
Kitano sat at his desk in the dim light. “How is your protégée doing?”
Aya twisted the pearl necklace around her next. “We are just starting.”
“So she gave you an answer that satisfied you?”
“I see.” Kitano pushed away his glass. “What else did you call me for? I said that you have something for me.”
“Why yes,” Aya said. “I have figured out why we are having a hard time finding the gates.”
“And why is that?” the boss asked. The younger psychiatrist pulled out her phone. One tap to the pictures app and she turned the phone to him. Kitano straightened up his glasses for a better look.
“A doll?” he asked.
“They are all over the city,” Aya said. “I have Mari look into what was so special about them. Turns out, they are warded.”
“Let me guess,” Kitano said. “Hiroi-san’s doing?”
“Yes. Unfortunately, that little brat has the edge over us this time.”
“She’s not a brat. Michiko is thirty-seven years old, remember?”
“She’s still a little brat to me.”
“And how are you going to fix this problem with the dolls around the city?”
Aya shoved her phone back into her purse. “I already dispatched the interns to take care of those little dolls. No sooner had she said that, her phone buzzed.
“Excuse me,” the younger therapist said. She pulled out her phone and looked through her text message.
“Ho!” Aya said. “This day just keeps getting better.” Kitano’s phone buzzed as well. He reached into the drawer and read the text message.
“Ah, yes,” he said. “This has been a positive turn of events.” The older psychiatrist stuffed his phone back into his desk.
“I suppose you have Yuzuru and Yui waiting to give the order,” he said.
“But of course,” Aya said. She put her phone back into her purse.
-Mikado and Masaomi-
Mikado drew his knees to his chest. “Masaomi-kun… I have something to tell you.”
“What?” his friend asked. The tadpole boy rose to his feet and covered up his right eye.
“What are you doing, man?” Masaomi asked. Mikado could still see that red jelly-like demon standing on his friend’s shoulder.
“You’re still worried about Saki, aren’t you?” he asked. “You think she might be dead, don’t you?” Masaomi took a step backwards.
“How do you know this?” he asked.
“I can see people’s inner demons,” Mikado said in a trembling voice. He lowered his hand. The tadpole rubbed his head as the room started to spin. Mikado’s eyes focused on Masaomi’s. His reaction could go in many directions. What if Satoshi was right? What if Masaomi now feared him and ran away?
I couldn’t handle it if he abandons me. I can’t lose him. I’ve already lost Aoba and the Blue Squares. If I lose Masaomi-kun now, it’s over for me.
“Inner demons?” Masaomi asked.
“Yes,” Mikado said.
“Well… for how long?”
“For about a month now.” Mikado didn’t want to relive the secret hell that he had been enduring. “Listen, Kida-kun. I haven’t told you everything that happened to me at Chou Mori.” He shuffled his feet as he looked at his hands.
“Listen, man, you don’t have to if you don’t want to,” Masaomi said.
“No!” the tadpole boy cried. “Listen! Please listen.” Mikado broke down and told his best friend everything that he could remember with the tests, his memories, the demons that he saw, Tandeki, the deaths of the Blue Squares being connected to him, Aoba’s memory loss of him, and the current experiment Kitano forcing him in. When he finished, the founder of the Dollars sank to his knees, limp and motionless. The load disappeared, but the true test began. He looked up at his best friend.
Please say something, Kida-kun.
Masaomi stood with his face drained of color.
“Do the girls know about this?” he asked. “Anri, Chiharu, and Noriko, I mean.”
“No!” Mikado wailed. He drew himself in fetal position on the floor. “I can understand if you want to run away from me now.” Instead, Masaomi walked over and pulled the other boy into his arms. The founder of the Dollars looked up, taken aback.
“Masaomi… kun?” he asked.
“I don’t know what’s going on,” the leader of the Yellow Scarves said. “But I will do everything I can to get you back to normal.”
“But what if you can’t?”
“Don’t say that. We won’t know until we try! I am not going to leave you; do you understand me?”
“Do you understand me?!”
Mikado clenched his fists. “Yes.”
The tadpole boy looked up at his friend. “How is Saki? Is she still alive?” Masaomi tightened his grip.
“I don’t know,” he said. “She hasn’t called back yet.” The trembling is his voice made it that much worse. Mikado drew his eyes closed. At least now, he wouldn’t end up alone like Satoshi. Masaomi pulled the other boy to his feet.
“I don’t think we should tell Anri, Chiharu, and Noriko about your problem just yet,” he said.
“But what about Emily, Nami, and Kohaku?” his friend asked.
“One problem at a time here, man,” the Yellow Scarves leader said. “Let’s just focus on you right now.”
“So… what will we do now?” Mikado asked.
“We’ll figure something out.”
“We’ll figure something out.” Not too reassuring, but it would have to do for now.
Why were the tadpoles created?
Kitano pulled out his tape recorder and hit record.
“Entry number one of cycle… 187, I believe. It always starts out the same anyway. This time however, Michiko seems to have one upped us. I don’t think she’s doing this alone, though. She’s managed to get help this time. It was a good thing Otomo-sensei caught it in time. Still, we need to find the source and crash it before our game comes unraveled.”
Kitano took a drink of his cold green tea.
“But that’s beside the point. The main focus of this recording is my beloved tadpoles. Their awakening went off successfully. Tomorrow will be the end of experiment one and a few have found each other and started developing their powers. However, there is Chirin-kin.
“Ah yes, him. He is starting to develop his powers, but he seems a bit resistant to his inheritance that I have gifted him. I’ll have to resort to breaking him in order for him to see things our way.”
He leaned back in his chair.
“Do you know the best way to break your enemy and bend them to your will? It is not to physically torture them and make them scream. My darling pets have been through enough of that through our experiments on them. Torture and physical pain will have no effect on them. No, the best way to break your enemy is to take away everything precious to them. Alienate them from their allies and friends. Murder their loved ones in from them. Break their spirit, leaving them an empty shell of their former themselves. Only then, they will be broken. The problem is that Chirin-kun is loved. All of his dearest friends are loved. They share a bond that my inner circle and I have tried to destroy in the past.”
He put his hand to his forehead.
“It took us a while to get. Now that we see it, it’s so clear to us. The way Chirin-kun operates is with numbers. He isn’t physically strong, yet. Instead, he uses his wits and numbers to survive in Ikebukuro. He has the Dollars at his well. They do as they please, but he created them. This will not do. Hence going back to my original point of breaking your enemy. Kaori and Asato-san have successfully crushed the Blue Squares.”
Kitano chuckled to himself.
“Kaori always has a taste for the flare when it comes to particular kills. I do admit that the snuff films were a nice touch. With Asato-san injecting Kuronuma-kun with Lethe, all of Chirin-kun’s ties to the Blue Squares are cut. Now, don’t get me wrong. Chirin-kun is not a puppet by all stretches of the imagination. Far from it, in fact. He wouldn’t be that fun to play with otherwise. No, Chirin-kun has his right will. Whatever action he takes is all him. That sad annoying little bored child and myself may influence him, but it’s all him in the end.”
Kitano sat up in his chair.
“That being said, Chirin-kun will be a little discipline if he’s going to be the main witness to this world’s destruction. While I experiment with my pets, I will work to tame Chirin-kun. The more I think about, the more delightful it will be break him. All in due time, of course. I for one like to sit back and enjoy things as they unfold. I will be back to update Chirin-kun’s progress in our game.”
Kitano hit stop on his recorder.
Mikado sneezed back in his apartment. Anri tilted her head.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
“Yes,” he said.
“Somebody’s talking about you,” Chiharu said. Mikado frowned.
“I don’t want to imagine who,” he said. The tadpole remembered what Masaomi said earlier.
“I don’t think we should tell Anri, Chiharu, and Noriko about your problem just yet,” he said. Masaomi was right. Mikado wasn’t ready to tell the normal girls about his powers or what happened to him at Chou Mori. For now, he would have to pretend that everything was fine just like it always had been. Mikado grabbed onto his arms and shivered. Instinct warned him that Tandeki would do anything in their power to rip that peace away from him.
He wasn’t even aware of the role that he was forced to play in Tandeki and the Woman in Red’s blood-soaked play as the curtain rose for the show to begin.