Chapter Twenty-Eight: Kato’s Second-in-Command:

December 25th, 1999.

“Merry Christmas,” Kato said.

“Merry Christmas,” Kyoko said back. Their words sounded so hollow. This year made it worse.

“You think Anna-chan will be okay?” Kyoko asked.

“Yeah,” Kato said. He handed the old woman her present.

“For me?” she asked. “Aw, thanks.” Kyoko tore away the wrapping paper.

“Oh!” she said. “You got me a back massager! Thank you so much!” Kyoko held up the box.

“Yes,” Kato said. “Your back was always hurting. So I figured why not.”

“I got you a gift too,” she said.

“You serious?”

“Wait here.” She got up and walked down the hall. Kato peeked after her. She came back with a box of fancy box.

“Don’t have time to wrap it,” she said. “But here.”

“Nagoya beef?” Kato asked.

“You are hard to shop for. So I settled on pricey meat.”

“Thanks,” he said.

“There’s even directions on how to cook it.”

“I guess I’ll have it for dinner then.” He noticed her staring at him.

“What?” Kato asked.

“How are you doing?” Kyoko asked.

“Fine,” he said. “Why?”

“Are you really okay?”

“Why are you asking me this?”

Kyoko shrugged. “Just… She’s gone.”

“I know.”

“He’s gone too.”


“I’m worried about her.”

“So am I.”

“I’m worried about you too.”

“Hm? Why me?”

“You won’t let us in after so long. I can’t tell what you are thinking.”

“Well, I am fine. It’s Anna who I’m worried about.”

Kyoko gave him an odd look. “What do you mean?”

Kato looked at the ceiling. “Haruka won’t stop until she can outlive her ancestors. How long before she goes after Malchik too?”

His neighbor frowned. “Is it really that bad?”

“Yes. And it’ll get worse.”

“Will there be a war?”

“Probably.” He already had a plan. The former priest promised to help Anna live a normal life. He would keep it or die trying. Kato turned to Kyoko.

“Hey Kyoko,” he said.

“Yeah?” she asked.

“I need you to help me with something.”

“What is it?”

“I can’t go into full details yet, but I need you to be there when I need you. Can you do that?” His tone asked for no jokes. Judging by his eyes, there was only one acceptable answer. Kyoko pressed her lips together and nodded.

“Yes,” she said.

“Thank you,” Kato said. Kyoko’s Christmas tree played music in the background.

-Present Day-

Kyoko looked out the window. “I can see it now.” The old lady rubbed her right arm.

“Iwao, you better be right about this,” she muttered. “I won’t forgive you if we all die from this!” Her nails dug into the sleeve of her sweater.