Halo Eight: Aoba:
Deathvine’s popularity has been growing in the past six months. Funny thing, that site’s been up for close to six years and nobody’s noticed it until now. Last night’s latest video definitely caught everyone’s attention once again.
[The boy who founded the Dollars carried his fallen tadpole brother on his shoulders. Sometimes, he would see Satoshi peering around the corner, staring at him with judgmental eyes.
“Why didn’t you die instead me?” his gaze always asked. It felt that no Satoshi’s final words didn’t make it any easier.
“You have no idea how high up this goes… More of us… It’s getting worse… Tandeki… not done… with us… the end is coming…“]
“Sempai! Sempai! Sempai!”
Mikado jerked his head upwards. Aoba stared at him with concerned eyes.
“Were you even listening to me?” he asked. His sempai stared at him, blinking for about a second. It took a little while for the words to finally sink in. Mikado was about to walk into his classroom when his kouhai tracked him down with something about the Blue Squares and Deathvine. Seeing Aoba’s face reminded him of Satoshi and his misery.
“Oh,” Mikado said. “I’m sorry. What were we talking about again?” Aoba narrowed his eyes.
“Is something bothering you?” he asked. Mikado stared at him, wide-eyed. I can see people’s inner demons, I am an ex-patient from Chou Mori, and I just saw some like me die after Masaomi-kun stabbed him by accident.
“I’m just a bit distracted,” he said at last. “What did you want to talk to me about?”
[Chirin couldn’t tell his second-in-command what was going on with him. How would Aoba take it? Only Masaomi had the tip of the iceberg about Project Tadpole. Chirin couldn’t even bring himself to look at his friends’ inner demons, much less figure out what to do with this power.]
“This,” Aoba said. He showed him his phone and pulled up the e-mail message. Mikado read the message title.
“Science Experiment?” he asked. The older boy opened scrolled down and found the link. Aoba waited as he knew the next part that was coming. In fact, he had to force himself to join Mikado in watching the grotesque video for the second time.
This time, Yatsufusa was the victim in the video. He was writing something on the bathroom wall with what looked like lipstick. Thanks to the clear quality of the video, Mikado and Aoba could make out the message saying, “I do not deserve to live.” Several other degrading things were written all over the bathroom wall.
Scum of the earth.
I am shit.
When he was done, Yatsufusa turned and climbed into a bathtub filled to the top with water. Just like Gin and Yoshikri, the boy also had a dazed look in his eyes. He held a hair dryer plugged into the wall in his right hand.
“No, don’t do it, Yatsufasa,” Mikado said. “Don’t do it. Don’t do it!” Sadly, Yatsufusa threw the blow dryer into the water. The leader of the Blue Squares and Dollars had to cut off the video when he heard the screams. He had already seen enough death this week. He turned to Aoba, looking pale.
“Is he really…?” Mikado began to ask. Aoba nodded with a stern look on his face.
“I think they were murdered.” The deadpan tone in his voice did little ease to him. Mikado did his best to regain his composure.
“Did you try going to the police?” he asked.
“Why would I? They all think that it’s suicide.”
“I guess you’re right. I’ll look into it and see what I can do.”
“Good morning, boys!” Mikado and Aoba heard as if on cue. They looked up and saw Junko walking towards them. The older of the two could hear “run away” chanting in his head on a loop.
“Good morning, Chiba-sensei,” Aoba said. The nurse tried to hold back her screaming when she saw the blue-haired boy’s face. Kuronuma Aoba. The bane of her existence on her end of the game. She wanted to replace that cocky attitude with one of fear and misery so badly. He would be reduced down to an empty shell when she got through with him.
But Junko couldn’t kill him yet. Oh no. Against boss’ orders. For now, she would have to deal with him.
“Excuse me, I need to borrow Ryugamine-kun for a little bit,” the nurse said. She grabbed onto Mikado’s shoulder and dragged him along with her before either boy could speak up. The older boy looked back at his kouhai before Junko pushed his head back forward.
Mikado sat at Junko’s desk in the infirmary. Already, he began crafting an excuse to get him back to class. The nurse tightened up her black ponytail.
“Chirin-kun,” she said. “You really shouldn’t be hanging around that boy.”
“Why is that?” Mikado asked with a strange look on his face.
“Oh… just that’s beneath you. You are a higher breed now; you shouldn’t be hanging around trash. Besides, he might not have long to live.”
“What do you mean by that?”
Junko sat back, smirking. “How are you coming with your powers?”
“What do you mean Aoba-kun might not have long to live?”
The nurse’s face came within inches of his. “Answer my question first, Chirin-kun. Every time he heard the name, “Chirin”, it made him cringe. That is not my name.
“They creep me out.”
“But you have to see them or you will die.”
Her words set something inside of him. Mikado lifted his hand and covered up his right eye. Junko raised an eyebrow at him.
“Oh?” she asked.
“What happened to your mother?” the tadpole boy asked. “Why did she run away to Scotland?” The nurse snatched his hand away from his eye.
“And we’re done here,” she said. “You can go back to class now.” Junko pushed Mikado out the door before he had a chance to ask. After the door slid closed, he did some thinking. Maybe the next time that Junko harasses him and his friends he could ask her more about her mother. I could use that to our advantage…
The rumors about the Blue Squares began to spread to the streets of Ikebukuro. The most popular one was of a suicide pact among the gang. They didn’t bother to look at the reasoning behind this theory. The police found it an open and shut case. Besides, suicides in Japanese were pretty common.
Aoba sat in class with his mind elsewhere. Four of his fledglings were dead. It pissed him off to hear about the suicide pact rumors. Watching the Yatsufusa video confirmed his suspicions. The first time he saw the video, the victim had bruises all over his face. Yatsufusa wouldn’t willingly kill himself. He and the others had to be forced to kill themselves.
Everywhere he went in school today were talking about Deathvine. Even Mairu and Kururi had seen a few of the videos on the YouTube-imitator site. They too had seen the Yatsufusa’s snuff film.
“So creepy,” Mairu said on the roof at lunch time. Aoba was half-listening at first.
“Right,” he said.
“Who would make a site for videos like that?” she asked.
“Yeah,” Kururi said. The gang leader looked up at the twins. Mairu and Kururi stared at their phones intently.
“What are you guys watching?” Aoba asked.
“This video that was in the Dollars chatroom this morning,” Mairu said. It took seconds for it to sink into Aoba’s brain. He raced over to the twins and yanked their cell phones out of their hands.
“What are you doing?!” Mairu asked.
“You shouldn’t be watching that trash!” Aoba shouted.
“What are you talking about?” the mouthy twin asked. Kururi tried to take back her phone. The founder of the Blue Squares sighed.
“Who posted that link?” he asked. Aoba scrolled through the chat log. Most of the responses were filled with shock and disgust.
Is this for real?
That’s just sick.
Who would post such a thing?
This can’t be real.
So it is true.
Aoba finally found the handle that posted the link. A puzzled look came over his face.
“Who is Lady Death?” he asked.
“Don’t know,” Mairu said. “She just appeared last month. Nobody knows who she is and she won’t talk to anyone.” Aoba stared at the handle. This mess had leaked to the last place that he had hoped. Why was he getting so worked up about it? Those boys weren’t really his friends. They weren’t that close. With the exception of Yatsufusa, Aoba found his fledglings to be idiots. Still, this wasn’t right. Their deaths shouldn’t be made into a circus for some disturbing web site. They didn’t deserve to be dragged through the mud in some suicide pact rumors.
“Listen,” Aoba said. “Don’t look at any videos from Deathvine or any links from Lady Death.”
“Why?” Mairu asked.
“Just don’t,” he said. “Please?”
“Alright,” Kururi said. The boy pressed his hand to his forehead. Let me get to the bottom of this before it gets out of hand.
Around 11:55 p.m., Aoba came by Mikado’s apartment.
“Are you alone?” the older boy whispered.
“Yes,” Aoba said. That question rather put him off. Mikado pulled him in before he could ask any questions.
“You have to stay quiet,” the Dollars founder whispered. He looked over at Masaomi sound asleep in the futon.
“Since when has Kida been staying over?” Aoba asked.
“It’s a long story,” his sempai said, waving him off. “I tried to get into the database of Deathvine, but I kept getting booted off or blocked.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
“Don’t worry, I’m about to go onto the site myself.” Mikado walked over to the computer and moved the mouse. The boys were greeted with a “page not found” message.
“The site comes up at midnight, right?” Aoba asked.
“Yes,” Mikado said. He looked at the clock on the bottom right corner of the screen. “We’ve got four minutes to go.” The tadpole leaned back and sighed. Moments earlier while Masaomi slept, Mikado broke and looked to see his best friend’s inner demons. His curiosity got the better of him and the blonde-haired boy was already sound asleep.
He won’t see me when I do this. I’m sorry, Masaomi-kun.
Mikado covered up his right eye.
A red, jelly-like demon sat on Masaomi’s shoulder as he slept. A bright green chain pattern around its neck looked like it was choking the creature. The demon looked up at him with its green eyes. Mikado tried to not show any reaction as it stared at him.
What is this?
It didn’t help that the demon kept speaking like it had snorted lines of cocaine for days.
Saki! Saki! Saki! Saki! I hurt her! I don’t want her to die! I can’t lose her again!
Hearing those words made Mikado’s heart sink. Masaomi-kun, why didn’t you tell me you were so worried about Saki?
“Sempai. Sempai,” a voice back in reality said. Mikado turned to see Aoba poking him in the arm.
“Hm?” the older boy asked.
“It’s time,” Aoba said. Mikado looked at his clock on his screen.
“Fine,” he whispered. The founder of the Dollars hit refresh. They were greeted with the giant 3-D laughing skill. Mikado cringed as he clicked on it.
The site looked like YouTube’s darker, goth cousin. Most of the videos contained people cutting body parts, dead animals, and innards of humans and animals. However, Aoba noticed one of the videos in the recently added section.
“Sempai, look,” he whispered. Mikado’s eyes were directed to the section at the new add. At the same time, Aoba’s phone buzzed.
“Hanging Around/Burn Baby?” Mikado asked. The younger boy noticed that he had the same title in his e-mail. Both of them clicked on the link.
This time, the Nitari twins were in this video back to back. Both boys looked dazed like the other three boys. The older twin looked into the camera before walking over to a noose hanging behind him. He stepped up a small stool, put the noose around his neck, and kicked away the stool. The video fast forwarded until the boy hung dead.
The younger brother stood outside with a can of gasoline in his hand. He opened the cap and poured it all over himself. The boy took a match and set himself on fire. The videos looped back to the beginning before Aoba turned to Mikado.
“It says that it was posted by someone called Lady Death,” the older boy said. “The profile has been marked as private, though.” A light bulb flickered on in his head when he heard “Lady Death”.
“Isn’t that the same ‘Lady Death’ in the chatroom?” he asked.
“There was a new user in the chatroom?”
“Haven’t you been on there lately?”
The boys looked back at their screens. By morning, the bodies would join the other four in the morgue. Two more to go.
Elsewhere, Izaya looked out the window at the city. He only had sheets wrapped around his waist. His lips curved into that infamous smirk of his.
“Looks like everyone is buying the Blue Squares suicide pact rumor,” he said. The information broker turned and looked behind him. Mari lay in her bed with her sheets covering her sweat-covered body.
“You can’t stay here,” she said. “Go sleep on the couch.” Izaya turned to her, pouting.
“Aw, why must you be so mean, Mari-chan?” he asked. “We’ve been sleeping together every night. You won’t let me stay in bed with you afterwards. You are so cold.” Mari turned over in bed. Izaya dropped his shoulders and rolled his eyes.
“Fine, whatever,” he muttered. Mari kept her back turned as the information broker gathered up his clothes and closed the door behind him. She already knew what his fate. She was trapped by Tandeki, but he could still escape.
Mari would have to push him away before it was too late.