Anna's aunt, Allison, and her best friend, Daisy, join the former photo club in their quest to find out what happened to her.
February 18th, 1982.
Kato lived in the village outside of Kobe for five years now. The people didn’t ask any questions when he first came there; they just welcomed him with open arms. Kato found their welcoming attitude quite strange.
These people are nice/, he thought, /Too nice. Still, the village was quiet; that’s all he needed.
Kato had just gotten up for the morning when there was a knock on the door. The man looked up confused.
Huh?/, Kato thought, /Who the hell is that? He walked over to the door and slid it open. An old priest stood on the porch with his robes on and everything. Kato recognized him right away.
“Harada-sama,” he said, “What are you doing here?”
“I came to see you,” his former boss said calmly. Kato raised an eyebrow at him.
“Why?” he asked Harada didn’t answer at first.
“May I come in?” he asked. Something told Kato that that question had only one answer to it.
“Fine,” he said with a sigh, “Come in!”
“Thank you, Iwao,” Harada said with a kind smile. The old priest bowed and went inside. Kato looked uncomfortable as he slid the door shut behind them. Harada sat at the dining table. Kato sat in front of him and sighed.
“What do you want, Harada-sama?” he questioned. The old priest didn’t flinch.
“Come back home, Iwao,” he pleaded.
“No!” Kato said, “I can’t go back!” Harada looked on with sympathy.
“Iwao,” he said, “You can’t keep blaming yourself for their deaths. It wasn’t your fault!” Kato shook his head.
“I could have saved them!” he said, “I had the power to do it.” Harada looked at him oddly.
“What do you mean?” he asked. Kato became nervous as he looked down at his hands. Should he confess his talent to his former mentor?
Kato lowered his head closer to Harada. “Have you ever wondered why all of our sick and dying got better so quickly?” he whispered. The old priest looked at him confused.
“The spirits healed them,” he reasoned. Kato shook his head.
“No,” he insisted, “I healed them.” Harada didn’t believe him at first.
“What are you talking about?” he asked. Kato battled to keep himself together in front of his former mentor.
“You remember when you got that burn on your hand five years ago?” he asked in a low voice.
“Yes,” his former mentor answered.
“Show me your hand,” Kato whispered. Harada did so slowly. Kato took in a deep breath, held out his own hand, and shut his eyes. The man chanted his breath lightly. Instantly, the burn scar healed away. Harada stared at his former student. Kato nodded.
“Yes,” he replied, “I am a healer. Midori-chan and Michiko-chan’s illnesses rejected my powers. As a result, they died and I couldn’t save them. My hope for redemption is to save another… someday…” Harada watched him as he felt touched by his former student’s words.
May 22nd, 2009.
Haruka had enough; she saw Kato as a threat to her mission of killing her granddaughter. The old woman took the Shinkansen out to Kobe early in the morning. She knew a good friend all the way out in her children’s birthplace. Haruka knew her old school friend well.
The old woman made it to the port city. Ah, it felt just like the old days. Haruka ran away here back in the early fifties after Juriko’s death. She met a local boy there and he fell in love with her while she decided to use him for her own agenda. Two years later, they were married and then the kids were born. Haruka shook herself back to reality. She had a little work to do. If she was correct, her friend would be outside of the city still. Haruka grinned to herself.
, she thought. The old woman teleported out of the city. She came to the quieter part of Kobe. The old woman continued on her path to the little local grade school.
Narusawa Hitomi lived a quiet life. She taught kindergarten to make ends meet. She lived in the room above the schoolhouse where she worked. At first glance, Hitomi looked like a normal woman, but she had a dark secret to her. In reality, Hitomi was really a kitsune with five tails in a human form. Not only that, she used to be an assassin as well. However, Hitomi was ashamed of her past. She tried to atone for her crimes by teaching the children in the rural part of Kobe. Sadly, the past couldn’t let her go.
Hitomi was dismissing the children for the day when Haruka came up to the school. When the kitsune saw her, her face a pale grey.
Oh no!/, she thought, /Haruka’s back! The old woman made it to the teacher when the last child had gone home for the day.
“Hello Hitomi,” Haruka greeted her old friend with a smile, “It’s been a long time.” Hitomi lowered her head.
“Yes, it has…” she mumbled.
“Aw, what’s wrong?” the kitsune handler asked, “You’re ashamed of me, aren’t you?” Hitomi didn’t answer.
“What are you doing here?” she asked softly.
“Can we take this inside?” she asked as she put her arm around her shoulders. Hitomi looked away some.
“Sure…” she mumbled. Her old friend wouldn’t listen otherwise. Both women want inside and Hitomi led Haruka upstairs to her room. They sat on the bed.
“Okay, what do you want now after so long?” Hitomi asked. Haruka grinned at her.
“I have a job for you,” she said. Hitomi shook her head.
“No!” she said, “I stopped killing a long time ago! I won’t go back to that life! I won’t!” Haruka looked at her kindly as she gently took her by the hand.
“Oh come on Hitomi,” she pleaded, “We’ve known each other since our school days. You would do me a world of service with this one last deed. Please? I’ll leave you alone for good afterwards. Please, it’s all I ask.” Hitomi looked away nervously. That was the thing about Haruka.
“Okay,” the kitsune sighed. Haruka smiled at her wickedly. She pulled out Kato’s picture. The teacher looked with her.
“This is the target?” she asked.
“Yes,” the old lady said. Hitomi looked confused.
“Why?” she asked.
“Let’s just say, he’s an old pest that needs to be dealt with soon,” her friend answered.
“How soon?” the kitsune replied.
“Tonight, tops,” her friend answered. Hitomi sighed. She was indebted to Haruka after all.
“Fine,” the kitsune said, “It will be done!” The old lady grinned at her dear friend.
“Very good,” she said, “Your pay will be delivered in a nice huge sum, okay?” Hitomi nodded grimly.
Meanwhile, Anna got another e-mail. This time from someone called firstname.lastname@example.org. She turned to the boys.
“Hey,” the woman spoke up to Tsuzuki and Hisoka, “I got another message.” The Shinigami hurried over to the computer. They looked along with her as she opened the message.
Your grandmother sees you as a threat. Be on your guard; she will do anything to have you killed. You have the power to match and overthrow her. The only way to defeat her is to survive.
“What do they mean, I’m stronger than my grandmother?” Anna asked, “I thought my powers were locked up.”
“Ask them,” Hisoka suggested. Anna shook her head.
“No good,” she replied, “Tried it with the first message, it bounced right back with an error message.”
“Ah,” the younger Shinigami answered. The boys had a guess as to who had been sending her the e-mails, but did they have the proof?
In a remote internet café downtown, Kato logged out of Yahoo mail and deleted the new dummy account. He sat back from the computer. Japan made technology easier for old-timers like him and the little tech juniors were so helpful too. They just helped the “newbies” without any questions.
This whole thing was his great scheme. He made a promise to himself. Wrecked with guilt over Midori and Michiko’s deaths, Kato promised himself to help the next soul he got emotionally attached to in need. At first, it looked like a pipe dream. Then in March of 1983, Daisuke and Anna came along. Baby Anna reminded him of Midori. From then on, Kato gave it his all to keep Anna and her father safe from Haruka.
Even when Daisuke and his daughter left, Kato’s mission still went on. He set father and daughter out in Kimoto Manor with a good sum of money. Daisuke refused at first, yet like old Haruka, Kato could be quite persuasive. The young man took the house and the money in the end. After Daisuke’s death, Kato planned to push Anna to get revenge against her grandmother. He waited for ten years for Anna to be physically refined to awaken the mother kitsune. Last month, the old man flew out to San Diego to pay Anna a visit. He healed all of the scars in her heart and told her some of the truth.
When she got killed, Kato was there too. He had good friends at the police station for this. The old fox convince them that Anna was his niece and they should give him her backpack. Now, how to get the body and bring her back from the dead? Kato used the police to obtain Anna’s body. Next, he used his former priest status to gain access to the legendary Hell Stone. Once Anna was in the funeral home, everything was almost set. He couldn’t just bring her back from the dead all alone; he needed to have little evidence of direct involvement. Tsuzuki Asato fit into the plot perfectly. From there, Kato acted in the shadows by sending Anna anonymous e-mails and giving her money in Niwa Midori’s account.
Kato got out of his seat, packed up his bag, and headed out for the night. The former priest was careful to cover his tracks. He went to different internet café every night and deleted his dummy accounts afterwards.
“Good night, sir!” the boy at the desk told him. Kato nodded and waved as he left. He made sure he spoke to no one at all either. Discretion was the key here.
Kato decided to take a taxi to the graveyard tonight. He never did like the subways at all. The old man just loved seeing the city at night. Suddenly, his thoughts were interrupted when he sensed someone next to him. The man quickly became defensive. The old woman turned her head and saw him.
“Hello Iwao,” she greeted him with a wicked smile. When Kato didn’t speak, Haruka pressed onwards.
“Not in a talking mood, huh?” she asked, “Alright, I’ll talk then. I know what you’re doing. I don’t like it.”
“Why Haruka!” Kato said at last, “I have no idea what you’re getting at.” The old woman gritted her teeth.
“Don’t pull that with me!” she yelled, “You’re ruining my plans!” Kato laughed to himself. Haruka became angrier.
“And what the hell is so damn funny?!?” she barked. Kato stopped laughing and turned to her.
“I know you killed Juriko,” he said, “I have no proof. So, this is the next best thing for a little payback.”
“What?!?” Haruka snapped. Kato grinned still.
“Sorry Haruka, you and Muraki-sensei just won’t get your way!” he topped, “I will take the whole clan down. Even death won’t stop me from carrying out my promise to my wife and daughter.” Haruka really wanted to scream. Right then, the taxi pulled up. Kato rose to his feet and turned to the old woman.
“Good night!” he said in a mocking tone. Then he got into the cab. As it drove away, Haruka grinned to herself.
Death, huh?/, she thought, /I’ll have that arranged real soon! She walked away into the night. Kato rode all the way to the cemetery. He thought ahead to if he was caught and killed as well. This morning, he sent a letter and instructions to a dear old friend back in the second old village. She had to pull through on through on this plot.
Don’t fail me!/, Kato thought, /I want to rub it in Haruka’s face through death!
Kato made it to the graveyard. He got out and paid the driver. Once the cab drove off, the former priest began his heartbreaking voyage to his wife and daughter’s graves. He brought food and candles with him. Painful memories of being helpless flooded his mind. He had saved many people from death before. Why couldn’t he save his own family? Was it divine punishment for playing god? Nah, it can’t be. Why couldn’t he use his powers when he needed them the most?
Kato made it to the graves. He lit the candles and left the food. The old man sat back some. Thirty-two years, so long already? Kato looked at the headstone. He drew in a deep breath.
“Midori-chan, Michiko-chan!” he said, “I love you and I will atone for not saving you before!”
“That is so sweet to hear!” a familiar woman’s voice cooed. Kato pulled out his knife from his jacket and leapt around ready to attack. To his surprise, Hitomi stood before him in the form of Michiko with a gun pointed at him. The old hadn’t expected this at all. “Michiko” smirked at him.
“Honey, it’s been so long!” she said in sweet and mocking tone. Then the sweet-faced assassin pulled the trigger.
Kato slowly sank backwards to the ground as his eyes slowly drew shut. Hitomi wiped down the gun and disposed of it before she left. She did her job, now she could go back to her quiet life. Kato Iwao laid dead at seventy-five near his family’s graves.