Chapter Twenty-Three: Black and Blood Valentine:

Valentine's Day, 2010.

Ju-Oh-Cho received a nasty little valentine that year.

-The Timeline-

8:56 a.m.

A strange box arrived in the mail. Black wrapping paper. Cute Japanese stickers all over. Topped with a big pink bow. No return address. There wasn't even a gift tag on the box. The people in the mail center must have checked over that box a good number of times. They couldn't even find a single address in the packing.

9:28 a.m.

Watari got to work on the box. He scanned the outside contents first. No poison, needles, or explosives on the wrapping paper. Still best to use rubber gloves though. Watari unwrapped the gift and scanned the box.

"Huh?" he asked as he raised an eyebrow at the scan. "What� is� that�?" He reran the scan just to be certain. Yes, that was a teddy bear inside the box. Okay, Watari thought. He picked up his phone.

"Uh� Tatsumi," the scientist said. "Could you come here and look at this?"

10:00 a.m.

Both men stared at the scan. Tatsumi blinked confused.

"It's a bear," he said.

"Yeah," Watari said.

His pal blinked. "So?"

"That's just the thing."

The secretary shrugged. "It's probably just a simple Valentine's gift."

"I want to believe that too."

Tatsumi turned to his pal. "You believe it's not?"

Watari looked over at him. "I really want to be wrong right now." Tatsumi used a knife to open the box. Both looked inside to see the teddy bear itself. Watari carefully picked up the tan little fellow. Every inch looked harmless at first glance, but then he spotted the bear's back.

"Hey Tatsumi," he said. "Take a look at this." The secretary looked closely at the bear's back.

"It's been re-stitched here," he said. "Hang on." He used the tip of the knife to cut each one of the blood berry stitching hidden within in the fur. Tatsumi pushed open the slit when his fingers.

"There's something here," he said.

"The voice box?" Watari asked.

"I'm not sure," Tatsumi replied. He reached inside and retrieved a skinny white box. A perplexed look came on his face.

"This� isn't a voice box�" he said. He handed Watari the box. The scientist examined the object in question. His ears caught a clicking sound.

"Hm?" he asked as his eyes followed the sound. Tatsumi paused.

"What did you just do?" he asked. Watari shook his head.

"Hello gentlemen. I see you got my little present. Oh come on! I wouldn't kill you guys so easily if I could. That's not fun. I just want to talk. Anyway, I know the mother is trying to kill us. Where is she? You tell me. I have a guess, but I won't say. No, no. I'm going to let you lead me to the truth. And when you do, I will kill Anna again. You Shinigami have meddled with us long enough. I say we end this sooner than later. So until then, take care of my granddaughter until I come for her. Happy Valentine's and have a good day." Tatsumi and Watari stood puzzled. Haruka's words lingered on in the air. Watari unconsciously played the message again. The same shock remained.

"The mother is killing them?" Tatsumi asked.

"It would appear that way," Watari replied.

"So what do we do?"


Tatsumi looked at him. "Wait. Does Tsuzuki even know how bad it is?"

Watari bit his lower lip. "Well�" he mumbled. Tatsumi looked really stern now.

"Why not?" he asked.

"She keeps asking me not to tell anyone!" the scientist blurted out. "Besides, I still don't have all of the information yet."

"You don't?" Tatsumi asked.

"The best way would be to unlock the kitsune," Watari replied.

"Are you mad?!" Tatsumi yelled. "That will give us all hell!"

"What else do we have?" he asked. "The shield is breaking down. Her kitsune will take over if we don't do something fast! We can't relock her."

"And why not?!" Tatsumi demanded.

"Because every other spell breaks in simulation!" Watari shot back. "Everything I tried either failed or is too dangerous for her. The only key to the original shield has been dead for years. I have been digging for an alternative for months and so far I have nothing!"

"Are you sure?" Tatsumi asked.

"Yes!" Watari barked. "For months! Months!" The secretary calmed down.

"I'm sorry," he said. "I don't mean to yell." Watari set down the recorder.

"So what are we going to do?" Tatsumi asked.

"What else?" he asked. "Go back to the beginning."

"But how?" the scientist asked. The secretary gave him a calm smile.

"Just show me your notes," he replied.