It doesn’t happen immediately. At first, she’s just as unaware as everyone else, but eventually memories come back in bits and pieces. It starts with mundane things, like what she had for lunch that day, but eventually more notable things come to light. The memories feel foggy, and at first she thinks they’re just strange dreams, but soon enough, she finds that they aren’t.
And just like that, Ichi Mezato remembers.
God, what was I even thinking? Calling Mob an outsider. I saw his power with my own eyes, of course he was supposed to lead the cult! But she also recalls the “leader” who had just waltzed in, calling himself the Lord Psycho Helmet they had been looking for, and she just totally accepted it? What was she thinking? There was a reason she had mistaken her memories as dreams at first -- it all felt so unreal and supernatural, but if she couldn’t trust her own head, what could she trust?
Deep in her gut, Mezato felt like something was very, very wrong, and as Salt Middle School’s top journalist and general bastion of truth and reliable reporting, she felt it her duty to get to the bottom of it. She wrote down these strange, half-remembered thoughts in her journal as she got ready in the morning, and set out to interview her peers and learn what they thought about the whole situation when she got to school.
Waiting for class to start, she browsed the internet on her phone and found all of the articles about the situation severely lacking -- all they mentioned was the tree’s departure, accompanied with some blurry images of the tree being lifted into the air, seemingly of it’s own accord. None of them mentioned anything about the Psycho Helmet Cult or of the supposed supernatural broccoli creatures surfacing to lead said cult. Is this really what passed for journalism nowadays? Vague clickbait articles, completely lacking any real research into the situation? Absolutely pathetic. Mezato drummed her fingers on her desk, lost in thought. Of course, she had more connections than most to the Psycho Helmet Cult, but it was an important element of the story, regardless. Lord Psycho Helmet was all that anyone was talking about on November 16th.
She hadn’t heard anyone talking about it since, though. Cult membership had been mostly unchanged, and now that she thought about it, had any of the new recruits from November 16th showed up to any subsequent meetings? Mezato knew full-well the fickle nature of popularity, but how was it that the Psycho Helmet Cult became a fad that lasted a single day? Shaking herself out of her thoughts, she turned to her classmate, journal in position.
“Hey, Emi!” Emi turned to look at her, a bit startled, but smiled.
“Good morning to you too, Mezato. Is something the matter?” Emi’s eyes flicked from Mezato’s expectant face to the pen she had readied, hovering in front of the small notebook laid out on her desk.
“Nope! I was just wondering if it was alright to ask you a couple questions?”
Emi smiled “For an article?”
Mezato’s voice shifted subtly as she moved into full journalist mode.
“On November 16th, you joined me in attending a meeting with an organization known as the Psycho Helmet Cult. Tell me --”
Mezato pointed her pen at Emi, nailing her with the best Journalist Look ™ she could manage, “How did you feel about it?”
Emi’s face, previously looking a little bit shocked, quickly turned to confusion. She tilted her head slightly.
“Is this a joke?”
“What? No.” Mezato dropped her hand back onto her notebook.
“I never went to a cult meeting with you, Mezato.”
Now it was Mezato’s turn to look confused. Of course Emi had gone to the meeting with her! She had asked her to go that day in class, and after that she remembered--
Oh. Of course. She remembered it happening on November 16th. Already she was growing to hate that date and everything it represented. Mezato shook her head to lose that train of thought. She was not going to be discouraged!
“Well, what did you do that day, then?”
“Well, first I…”
Emi paused, lost in thought.
“Now that you mention it, I don’t really remember what I did that day.”
She drifted into silence as Mezato watched slack-jawed. It was last week! How had Emi managed to have forgotten an entire day? Subtly, Mezato wrote ‘memory wipe?’ In her notebook before orienting herself forward in her desk once more. She nodded to Emi, who replied with a considerate smile.
“Thanks anyways, Emi.”
“Not a problem. I hope your article goes well, Mezato.”
A small amount of prodding as the school day went on revealed that no one, in fact, could remember what they did on November 16th before the Divine Tree was slam-dunked into the ocean. This collective amnesia even extended to the night before in some cases, bewildering Mezato even more.
Mezato scribbled down explanations in her notebook throughout class, neglecting her actual schoolwork that day because, by god, she was onto something, and possibly uncovering a massive conspiracy was worth a few missed assignments.
Right before lunch, she found herself circling and underlining the most promising possibility.
She chewed her pen unconsciously, considering. It seemed a bit far-fetched, but how else could you explain everyone suddenly losing their memories of an entire day and then acting as if nothing happened? And, of course, if that was the case, she knew exactly who to ask.
Lunch came, and with it Mezato found herself approaching a familiar bowlcut, who was currently occupying himself with digging through his bag, looking for his lunch.
“Hey Mob!” She called, dropping her hand on his desk, directly in front of his downturned face, forcing him to look up.
“Oh, hello Mezato. How are you?”
“You’re eating lunch with me today.”
“Yeah. Just the two of us.”
Mezato turned her back and indicated for Mob to follow, but not before she caught a glimpse of Mob’s face turning red as he grabbed his stuff.
Mezato quickly found them both a nice, empty classroom and, after determining there were no suspicious onlookers, (Who knew what dangerous forces she could be riling up with this investigation?) pushed the door closed, leaving her and Mob alone.
The poor boy was still embarrassed and confused, and as soon as she started paying attention to him, he raised his hands in a placating gesture.
“L-listen, Mezato, you’re a great friend and all, but I’m kind of interested in someone already, so I really don’t want to--”
“Oh, I didn’t bring you here to confess, Mob.” She said, pulling up a desk for herself and indicating for Mob to sit down.
“I have bigger things on my mind.”
“Huh?” Mob sat down.
Mezato paused, pulling out her trusty pen and notebook.
“What’s wrong, Mezato?” Mob asked hesitantly, eyes shifting nervously around the room.
Mezato didn’t speak until she finished writing a stray thought down. She treated it with the diligence she paid to all her notes, even if it was just ‘teach Mob how to talk to girls later’.
“Your powers make you immune to hypnotism, right?”
Mezato looked up, realizing she probably shouldn’t have sprung that on him so fast.
“Sorry. Yes or no?”
“Yeah. I think so, anyways.”
“Good. Now, do you remember anything that happened in the morning or afternoon of November 16th?”
“No. I don’t.”
Mezato dropped her pen.
Mob was looking down at his feet, deeply apologetic for not being able to help.
“And I, uh, asked my parents and my brother and my master, and they don’t know what happened either. Nobody I know seems to.”
“Yeah,” Mezato said, her mouth dry. “Me too.”
Mob looked up. “So you don’t remember anything either, Mezato?”
He sounded so disappointed. For a moment, Mezato contemplated telling him everything she knew, about Lord Psycho Helmet and the cult spreading throughout the city. But doing that also meant telling him about how she left him waiting in the park all night for her, for a meeting she arranged, and in the morning brushing him off like he was nothing, even when Mob had been nothing but kind to her (or anyone, for that matter), and even when Mob had saved her life, back when the LOL Cult tried to brainwash them. Just thinking about it made her stomach turn. No, she couldn’t risk having Mob hate her.
“Yeah,” She lied, smiling sadly in a way she hoped didn’t come across as too fake. “I’ve been trying to get to the bottom of it.”
Mob smiled at that, his shoulders relaxing and his eyes being filled with genuine admiration. (dammit, now I feel even worse about lying to him.)
“If anyone can figure it out, it’d be you, Mezato!”
Mob began to stand up, grabbing his bag.
“Wait!” Mezato put out her hand to stop him. “I have a couple more questions to ask you.”
Thinking about the LOL Cult incident had opened another thread in her thoughts. Her nonsensical actions and foggy memory of November 16th reminded her of the time she had been hypnotized then. Maybe there was a connection there? Mob sat back down obediently.
“You remember the LOL Cult?”
“Do you happen to know what happened to their leader? What was his name… Dimple?”
Mob stiffened, his normally blank expression somehow becoming even more blank in shock.
“Mob? Are you okay?”
Mob shook his head, his expression returning to normal (But not before the objects on the teacher’s desk began floating behind him, Mezato noted.)
“I’m fine. I just… Dimple kind of ended up staying with me for a while.”
Mezato paused, before speaking her thoughts.
Mob’s hands shifted. “He was an evil spirit. And he started following me around after that whole incident, and we became friends, I guess? He was never very nice, but he saved my life a couple times…”
Mezato blinked, unsure of what to do with all this new information, before hurriedly scribbling it all into her notebook.
“That sounds good. Why are you so upset, then?” She asked, still writing.
Mob looked down, seemingly more interested in his hands then their conversation.
“It’s just -- when you said that, I remembered that I haven’t seen him in a while.”
Mezato paused her writing.
“When was the last time you saw him?”
Mob’s muttered response was too quiet to hear, but it didn’t matter. They both knew what the date was.
Mezato wrote the spirit’s name down in her journal.
Then she wrote it down again. Then she circled it. Then she underlined it. Then she underlined it again. She was this close to pulling out her highlighters when she gave up, slamming her notebook closed and flopping backwards onto her bed. She hadn’t felt comfortable asking Mob any more questions about Dimple, because, believe it or not, she did have some standards, and prying into someone’s relationship with a deceased loved one was not a line she was willing to easily cross.
Do they count as deceased if they were already dead, and do they count as a loved one if they’re evil and tried to kill you? Those were musings for another day.
So once again, Ichi Mezato found herself at an impasse. She had a hunch that somehow the ghost with a history of brainwashing might just be the cause of the whole mass hypnosis thing, and him disappearing on the day it went down? There was almost certainly a connection there. But why? Maybe, if Mob and Dimple were so close, one of Mob’s friends might know more? Grabbing her notebook, she lay down on her bed and began clicking her pen as she brainstormed all of Mob’s close friends. There weren’t that many (shocker).
She knew about his brother, obviously, and there were the Telepathy and Body Improvement Clubs, as well. But would any of them have any knowledge of Mob’s ghost friend? Maybe the brother, though she was pretty sure he wasn’t an esper. She put him down as a maybe, fully aware of how well their last meeting went.
She did, however, come up with one potential lead: Mob’s so called “master”. She didn’t know much about him, but she had learned of his existence previously when she first started stalk-- investigating Mob. He was a fraud (and also a jerk), according to Tome, but still…
She knew where to find him at least, reaching into her bag and pulling out his business card. It read “Spirits and Such Consultation” in Arial font, and was adorned with an image of a somewhat handsome man in a business suit. He might’ve been more handsome if the picture wasn’t badly resized and also pixelated, but you get what you pay for, she supposed. The card also featured a phone number and address. They accepted walk-ins. She twirled the card in her fingers, contemplating. Was this considered a breach in privacy? Just how far was she willing to go to find out what and why happened on the sixteenth of November? Really, did she need to know in the first place?
Who was she kidding? She went to the office immediately after school.
As Mezato double-checked that she had the right address, she discovered that Spirits and Such Consultation was much more about the “such” and “consultation” part of its name than the “spirit” part. The office was impressively mundane, with nothing differentiating it from any other office apart from some posters of Reigen’s face on the wall and some books about ghosts on the bookshelf. She couldn’t let herself be dispirited, however, and opened the door confidently just to be greeted by a man who was most certainly not Reigen. In fact, with the deer-in-the-headlights look he gave her, she was half-convinced he was a spirit himself, and she was not supposed to see him in this mortal realm at all. This thought vanished when he turned away from her and called into another room.
“Reigen! We have a client!”
The room called back: “Alright! I’ll be out in a minute. You know what to do, Serizawa!”
The man, Serizawa, presumably, turned back to her and smiled in a way that almost hid his apparent anxiety.
“I apologize. Welcome to Spirits and Such Consultation. Would you like coffee or tea while you wait?”
“Tea, please. And thank you.” Mezato settled gingerly into one of the office’s couches and began to fiddle with her pen as Serizawa left the room. She had brought her lucky pen with her today, because when following such a tentative lead, she felt like she needed it. The pen was nothing particularly special, but it had been a gift from an old friend, and was also pink with a cat on it (it matched her camera), so she had a fondness for it. Normally, she preferred the reliability and consistency of her old friend, the black ball-point, but sometimes she just needed a pick-me-up, you know?
Serizawa came back in with tea and placed it gently on the table in front of her. He smiled awkwardly, his nervousness still showing through.
“I-I like your pen.”
Mezato smiled back. “Thanks.”
Internally, she found herself being reminded of Mob, and a bit shamefully wondered how and why Spirits and Such had hired not one, but two social inadapties. Was this man an esper too? Or maybe he has some kind of connection to Reigen? Or maybe--
Her train of thought was interrupted when the man of the hour arrived from the other room, adjusting his tie. He turned to her, and a flicker of recognition passed across his face as he saw the uniform beneath her coat.
“Oh! You must be one of Mob’s classmates. He has the day off today, so you won’t be able to see him. Sorry about that.” Reigen shrugged apologetically, and Mezato was immediately struck both by how unlike Mob this man was, but also by how unlike any normal human being this man was. He moved erratically and constantly, even within that short sentence, and even though he was no more attractive than the business cards had indicated, he certainly acted like he was.
“Actually, no, I wasn’t here to see Mob,” She put out her hand as she found herself shifting into journalist mode. “My name is Ichi Mezato, and I work for my school’s newspaper. I’m currently writing an article on spirits, and I was hoping to get a seasoned professional’s take on the topic.”
The combination ego stroking and pun worked wonders, it seemed, as Reigen immediately brightened as he took her hand and shook it vigorously (his palms were also too sweaty to be a normal human being’s).
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Miss Mezato! I’m Arataka Reigen, this century’s greatest psychic, and the also the greatest source of “spiritual” wisdom you could hope for!” He grinned at her, and Mezato offhandedly wondered how popular Mob could get if he absorbed even a fraction of charisma from his master.
The thought passed as Reigen turned around and began to walk over to a set of chairs and a table, waving his hand faster than necessary to indicate for her to follow. Mezato did so, hoping desperately that Reigen’s boasts turned out to be true.
Ichi Mezato is far from a ghost expert, but she’s pretty damn sure Reigen’s talking out of his ass the entire time. He makes it entertaining, though, and soon enough, Mezato finds herself sucked in by his charm, even if it’s obfuscated with outrageous, constant hand gestures. She begins taking notes not just to maintain her cover, but because what Reigen has to say is genuinely interesting, and she might even be able to spin an actual article out of it later.
Of course, if she did make an actual article out of it, she’d have to take all of Reigen’s words with a veritable mountain of salt, as periodically Serizawa would walk past as Reigen was telling her about this time he “melted” a ghost with his powers, and point out that no, he did that, and Shigeo did that one, and (quote) “You were busy taking a leak when that happened and we filled you in on it later.”
Luckily for her, Reigen was also very receptive to questions, and it was easy enough to steer the conversation to where she wanted it to go.
“Mr. Reigen,” She started, causing him to pause mid-hand gesture. “Have you ever gotten to know a ghost? Like, as a friend?”
Reigen paused at that, dropping his hands and tilting his head back, considering the question. Serizawa happened to be standing in the middle, glancing between the two.
“You’re going to be a great journalist, huh? Asking all these tough questions. I can’t think of any off the top of my head--”
Serizawa spoke up. “What about Dimple?”
Bingo! Mezato thought, internally thanking Serizawa for his lack of social filters, as, if Reigen’s expression was any indication, he did not want to talk about Dimple. He shrugged it off quickly enough, though, leaning forward in his chair once more.
“Well, Dimple is more Mob’s ‘friend’ than mine. Besides--” He paused, picking up his cup and taking a long sip of tea, before continuing:
“He’s an ass.”
Serizawa snorted, but also seemed to realize that he had spoke out of turn, and ran off to do something more productive. Mezato leaned forward.
“Could you tell me more about Dimple, Mr. Reigen?”
Reigen nodded, putting down his cup of tea.
“Eh, sure? Not much to talk about really. He’s just this little ghost who likes to follow Mob around all the time. I think he wanted to try and possess him or something, but that never worked out, so now he just likes to hang out with Mob or stay in the office to insult me. He’s kind of a jerk, but he’s harmless.”
Mezato finds herself writing so fast it has to be suspicious, but she doesn’t care at this point. A thought occurred to her. Maybe Dimple was that broccoli monster that called itself Lord Psycho Helmet?
“What did Dimple look like?”
Reigen once again paused, and Mezato could tell that he was really, seriously considering the question.
Reigen stopped himself, and leaned forward, hands folded in front of him, contemplating the cup of tea and middle schooler set before him.
“He looks like how you would imagine a piece of snot would look like, had that snot gotten into a nuclear accident, became sentient, and started following you around telling ‘your mom’ jokes all day.”
Mezato blinked. She wasn’t expecting that, but somehow she got the impression that Reigen had been holding this in for a long--
“He looks like how someone would draw a beautiful woman if their only standard of beauty they had to compare it to was a literal fart cloud. Like, lovely red cheeks and full lips and big eyes, but everything’s just wrong. Like-” He turned around to his coworker, who was lurking in a corner reading manga.
“Hey Serizawa, you got a good one to add?”
Serizawa looked up and blinked, clearly not prepared to be included in the conversation.
“He- he looks like how you would image a ‘your mom’ joke to look like? But greener? And he calls you “basement dweller” when he thinks you can’t hear him?”
“Yeah! Like that!”
Reigen turned back around and grinned at Mezato.
“Sorry. Got carried away there.”
Reigen leaned back in his chair.
“Now that I’m thinking about it, I haven’t seen Dimple in a while. He usually comes and goes as he pleases, but never for this long…”
Mezato placed the final period on her notes with the conviction of someone who knows that everything she had just learned about her subject was 100% genuine, and stands up.
“Thank you very much for your time, Mr. Reigen, and I hope to see you again in the future.” She outstretches her hand, and Reigen takes it, grinning, seemingly unperturbed by her abrupt exit.
“Likewise. If you ever have a spirit problem, you know where to find me.”
Mezato smiles and walks towards the door, giving an extra wave to Serizawa before she zips up her coat and heads out so she can go back home and stew on all of her new info.
As she steps out into the cold November air and leaves the comfort of the consultation office, however, she finds herself struck with a lingering, cogent question: If Dimple hated humans so much, why would he go through all that trouble trying to rule them?
Mezato considered her options as she headed to school the next day. Everything synced up well enough, indicating that Dimple was the culprit behind the whole Psycho Helmet and memory wipe thing, but she still lacked a motive. Why would he go through all this effort to brainwash the people of Seasoning City, only to just wipe their memories when it was all over? She needed to know more about Dimple and what his intentions were. To do that, she needed to talk to someone directly, as Dimple wasn’t exactly around to tell her himself. She opened up her notebook and stared at her woefully short list of leads. She sighed.
“Well,” she muttered quietly to herself, “If he murders me, hopefully I’ll become a ghost and then I’ll learn what happened to Dimple.”
And with that, she pocketed her notebook, adjusted the straps on her schoolbag, and strode through the school gates.
It was time to talk to Mob’s brother.
For all the confidence she had walking into school, she still had to wait until the end of the day to actually talk to him. When the day did end, she found herself leaning by the gate, arms folded as she tried to give off a cool, mysterious vibe (though that was diminished somewhat by tapping her foot against the concrete the whole time). She had begun to feel much more like a detective than a journalist with this mission, and was considering playing up that angle. Maybe she could get a trenchcoat or something?
Her target exited the building, alone despite being one of the most popular kids in Salt Middle School. She shook off her thoughts about the legitimacy of moving into the detective industry as he began to walk past her, seemingly unaware of her existence.
“Ritsu Kageyama.” She said. Ritsu stiffened, his casual facade slipping briefly as he found himself confronted with someone he disliked more than most.
“Oh,” He said, not turning around to face her. “It’s you.”
There is absolutely no way you didn’t notice me before, Kageyama. She thought, internally annoyed at his rudeness. She brushed it off, though.
“Yes, it’s me. And I need to talk to you.”
Ritsu turned to face Mezato, now, shooting her a glare. Despite having been on the receiving end of a Ritsu Death Glare ™ before, she still started a little. Mezato idly wonders if he’s gotten scarier since they last talked.
“If I remember correctly,” he finally said “the last time you wanted to talk to me, you tried to turn my brother’s powers into some kind of sideshow act.”
Mezato smiled despite the chill that ran down her spine, clasping her hands behind her back.
“I tried to write an article on him, yes, but I didn’t. Besides, that’s in the past now! It is really important that I speak to you, Kageyama.”
Ritsu didn’t respond. Mezato held up her wallet.
“I’ll buy you MobDonald’s.”
Ah, that did it. Ritsu paused to consider the offer before answering:
“Buy a Happy Meal and give the toy to Shige and we have a deal.”
He began to walk forward before Mezato could even reply, forcing her to give her affirmative as she scrambled to follow the taller boy.
Ritsu actually did end up paying for his own meal (what a gentleman), but Mezato still upheld her end of the bargain and ordered a Happy Meal, with Ritsu quietly informing her that Mob would like a Hello Kitty toy.
The restaurant was fairly empty, which did nothing to ease Mezato’s fears of being eavesdropped on. She brought her tray over to the corner, where Ritsu was currently surveying the area with an expression that was simultaneously distaste and boredom, all wrapped into one. They started eating first; Mezato noted that Ritsu eats in the same way he does everything: methodically and planned, a clear front used to hide something deeply unpleasant lurking beneath the surface. She gets the impression that he eats pizza with a knife and fork, and shudders at the thought.
Finally, Ritsu spoke.
“Why did you want to talk to me? Is this about my brother?”
“Oh, no. Well, indirectly, I suppose…” She paused, sipping on her iced tea. “Mostly, though, I wanted to ask about someone you both knew.”
Ritsu looked...concerned at that, but Mezato continued on anyways.
“I'm investigating the events of November 16th, and I suspect that the culprit behind it is someone you know.”
Ritsu’s eyes glittered dangerously, though his expression remained unchanged. Mezato hoped that was a good sign. Taking a deep breath, she went right in:
“Could you tell me more about Dimple?”
Ritsu's face curled in disgust at the mention of the ghost. It seemed the mere mention of Dimple's name brought that reaction out in most people.
“God, Mezato, how do you even know about the little snot-goblin?”
“It's a long story, trust me.”
Ritsu sighed, drinking his Mountain Dew before replying.
“What do you want to know?”
Mezato leaned forward unconsciously “What were his goals? What did a ghost want with your brother?”
Ritsu grimaced, but considered his answer as he dunked a stray chicken nugget in his ketchup (gross).
“Dimple wants-- wanted to be a god.”
That was considerably more straightforward than Mezato had anticipated.
“How do you know this?”
Ritsu rolled his eyes as he bit into his chicken nugget.
“He never shut up about it. All he wanted was power for power’s sake, and he thought he could use Shige to get it.”
“He tried to use me, too.”
Mezato tilted her head.
“I thought you didn't have powers?”
Ritsu glanced up as he moved onto his ice cream.
“I do now.”
Mezato barely heard him, however, as her mind had started racing as the pieces started coming together. It felt like a dull roaring in her ears, as all the elements began to fit together, much easier than she had suspected; if Dimple wanted to be a god, and he wanted to use Mob to get to it, of course he would take over Mob’s cult! But, if that was the case, then why did he--?
Ritsu's voice abruptly brought her back into reality. She looked up and saw him watching her. She couldn't tell if his expression was concern or anger. She must’ve been lost for a little while, as the plastic spoon Ritsu held in his hand had snapped at one point, presumably with his newfound psychic powers.
“Are you okay?” He asked.
“Yeah, I just, uh--”
“You realized something, didn’t you?”
Ritsu nodded, looking down at his now inedible ice cream sundae.
“What do you plan on doing with this realization?”
The question gave Mezato pause. In her excitement at uncovering such a compelling mystery, she had quickly forgotten why she had wanted to uncover that mystery in the first place.
“Well, at first I thought about writing an article on it, but as this point I think I’m lacking enough concrete evidence for that. Maybe I could still salvage it, though…” She drifted off, once again thinking about all the possibilities.
“If you’re not going to write anything, why do you want to know?”
Mezato was confused. What a stupid question! Of course she wanted to know, it was her job to know everything! She opened her mouth to say just that, but Ritsu plowed on.
“I think you need to ask yourself what you actually want, Mezato. It seems to me that you’re doing this in some vain attempt to prove that you’re smarter than everyone else affected, and I want no part in that.”
Mezato stared at the younger boy across from her. Ritsu sighed.
“I don’t know what you found that caused you to think that Dimple’s behind this, but have you maybe considered that he wiped our memories for a good reason?”
Mezato flinched, and almost spilled her secret right then and there, just to throw it in Ritsu’s face as his tone became increasingly confrontational.
“Really, ” Ritsu looked at her with an expression that was equal parts disappointed parent and default angry Ritsu.
“Have you considered anyone’s safety at all?”
Mezato was so caught off guard by the question she found herself unable to answer, even as Ritsu stood up.
“Where are you going?” She asked instead.
“Home. I have my brother’s safety to worry about. The Tree’s gone now, and the only thing that’ll come of your little investigation is misfortune. Supernatural occurrences are not made to be meddled with by people who can’t handle it. Sorry if I don’t want to put my family in danger for the sake of your ego.”
And then he walked away, and Mezato did nothing but stare at his receding back as he left the restaurant. Her meal sat before her, uneaten, but she wasn’t hungry anymore. Instead, all she felt was her stomach turning as she felt herself confronted with what felt an important question that, in all her middle school years of journalism, she had failed to take into account.
Have I ever really considered anyone but myself?
Mezato went home immediately after, throwing away her food and pocketing Mob’s toy (It was a frog keychain, and she knew he would absolutely love it).
She threw herself onto her bed as soon as she got home, still stewing on Ritsu’s words. A part of her acknowledged that he was right, and poking around at supernatural occurrences with no actual powers of her own was a recipe for disaster.
But still, she found herself thinking about it. The more and more she learned about this Dimple character, the more fascinated she became. This man-- ghost, whatever-- had everything he could have possibly wanted for a single day: an army of devoted followers, the entire city under his sway, and the possibility of his influence only spreading farther over time.
So what made him give it up?
Subconsciously, she found herself reaching for a strap around her neck, and pulled out her camera. Holding it above her head, she contemplated it. It was a small, practical thing, waterproof and easily portable. It was also pink because, well, she was fourteen. She had avoided going through her camera during this investigation because, if she was being honest with herself, she was scared of what she would find.
Mezato knew, intrinsically, that she was still missing memories from the sixteenth. Her awareness was a mistake, her memories slipping through the cracks of what was clearly a rush patch job. And, though it was stupid, she found herself shying away from her only potential piece of concrete evidence, because what if brainwashed Mezato had done worse than been rude to Mob? What if she had committed a crime in the name of Lord Psycho Helmet? It was unlikely, but her fear of just knowing about it only gave credence to Ritsu’s accusations of selfishness-- accusations that she found herself unable to outright deny. After all, if she wasn’t doing this for herself, who was she doing it for?
Hands shaking, she continued to hold the camera above her head and turned it on. It started up with a mundane and friendly beep, which did nothing to calm her nerves as she went through the memory card and flipped back to that fateful day in November.
Brainwashed Mezato couldn’t take good pictures for s***, it turned out. Most of the pictures were just blurry shots of the Divine Tree, or lovingly composed (read: she had hit the button on accident) shots of the sidewalk. His fears mostly subsided as she flipped through, becoming something more like boredom as she got farther and farther into the day. She hadn’t realized that she had taken this many photos. Eventually, though, she stumbled upon an image that carried actual significance.
There was a crowd there, gathered around the Divine Tree. It was hard to determine the size of the group from a single picture, but there was definitely a possibility of it being the entire city. The focus of the image, however, (if you could even call it that; brainwashed Mezato didn’t seem to know the meaning of the word) was on a familiar dark-haired figure who was entering at the base of the “tree” as the congregation applauded him.
Unbidden, another memory rose to the surface, freshly realized but still unclear, more like she’s watching the scene through a staticky TV rather than her own eyes. She can still hear her own words clear as day, though.
Are you going to the Divine Tree?
Everybody let him pass.
Don’t stop Mob.
The question she had previously contemplated was once again remembered. If Dimple had everything he had ever wanted, what could have made him give it up?
“We became friends, I guess?” Mob had said.
Mezato eyed the blurry figure on the screen. He looked so small and insignificant in that moment, regardless of all the praise the crowd was pouring on him. He was still just a kid.
Mezato sighed, but for once, it was in relief.
She think she knew what.
Mezato woke up bright and early the next morning, and though it was Saturday, she already had plans. She packed her bag with what she needed, ate a quick breakfast, and pulled on her most practical walking boots before heading out. She did actually remember to leave a note on the table telling her parents where she was this time. She didn’t want a repeat of the last incident.
It was cold out, as they were now on the cusp of December, but it was a nice kind of cold; crisp and bright. The streets were mostly empty, due to it being early morning on a Saturday, and the people who were out paid no mind to the middle schooler walking like a girl possessed, green knit scarf flapping in the air as she made her way to the center of the city.
Soon enough, Mezato found herself facing the barriers separating the hole where the Divine Tree had once stood from the rest of the city. She paid them no mind, however, ducking underneath and walking forward until she found herself a nice patch of land at the edge of the crater. She settled down and stared at it. She had thought long and hard about what to do after her realization last night. She knew, and somewhat accepted, that she would never know for sure what happened here on November 16th, as the only one who could possibly know was dead twice over. But she still felt like she should do something. Making sure no one was around, but still feeling silly, she spoke.
Silence. As if she expected anything more.
“I-I’m sure you can’t hear me, since you’re, y’know, dead. And this isn’t even your final resting place, just...the last place anyone saw you. But- well, first: my name’s Ichi Mezato. I don’t know you-- well, we met once, kind of, but I don’t exactly know the real you. And I...I remember what happened on that day, and I just wanted to say--”
A deep breath.
“Thank you. You really saved us all, huh? And you didn’t even have to. You could’ve been happy ruling the city, but you still helped us.”
Mezato paused, examining her feet.
“It was Mob, wasn’t it? Everyone thought you were using him, but… You really did care didn’t you? I can’t blame you. He’s a good kid, and he’s going to make a great leader one day…”
(Leader of what, she didn’t know, but he was going to lead something all the same.)
“I thought someone should say it, anyways. Not like anyone else can remember.”
Mezato reached over and pulled some items out of her bag. Standing up, she stumbled down into the hole, thankful it wasn’t nearly as deep as it could’ve been. Quickly, she found a nice spot in the dirt for her little ritual. The ground was stiff and partially frozen, but she had anticipated this and brought a spade. As she stuck it in the dirt and began digging, she had some time to contemplate her decision.
Mezato had never considered herself a religious person, ironically enough, despite having a hand in starting a cult even before the whole broccoli worship thing went down. A part of her thought that all of the trite, necessary rituals surrounding death were somewhat useless, and that instead of remembering those lost with temporary things like flowers, one should instead continue their loved one’s memory in a more concrete, productive way. All of this went into her thoughts on Dimple. After all, how does one productively mourn a ghost? She regardless felt a duty to do something, as there wasn’t exactly anyone else to mourn him. Most people didn’t even know he had existed in the first place, and those who did know him had yet to realize that he was gone for good. She didn’t want to tell anyone what she had discovered anymore, Ritsu’s warning still weighing on her mind. So instead, she went a bit against her beliefs and decided to do something more small and personal.
Mezato wished she had brought gloves, as her hands were stiff and cold by the time she was done digging. Shivering a little bit, she pulled out a plastic bag filled with her “offerings”. That was what people gave gods after all, right? She undid the seal, and one-by-one set her objects into the hole, giving each as much care and thought as she could manage.
First came her lucky pen. It was almost out of ink anyways, but it was regardless an important object that she would hesitate to part with. This represented herself, and what she had sacrificed for this case (even if the only thing she actually sacrificed was, in fact, the pen).
Next, the frog keychain from MobDonald’s (she would have to get another one to give Mob; a deal was a deal, after all). This was representative of the boy who, knowingly or not, had saved everyone’s lives once again. Even if that was like, Tuesday for Mob.
The final item was not something personal, but if what she had learned of Dimple was correct, he at least had a sense of humor. To Ichi Mezato, it seemed only natural to leave an item that would inherently remind those who knew him of Dimple.
She placed the pack of tissues down reverently, then stood up, brushing off her frozen hands and kicking the overturned dirt into the gap until it was nothing but a slightly unsettled patch of soil in the middle of a giant hole. As Mezato climbed out of said hole, she tried to tell if she felt anything supernatural here, but came up empty. Any magic that might’ve existed here was long sunk into the ocean and dissipated into the ether. All that was left was a very cold but weirdly happy middle school journalist. She hoped, if there was a life after death after death, that Dimple would be happy with her little show.
“You’re really lucky, Dimple.” she said to the air. “That the one person who remembers your little stunt is also the only person nosy enough to care about a dumb spirit like you.”
Smiling, she turned around and walked back home, a weight that was not entirely her’s finally off her chest.