Music: play track 3
For all the Arihiko hate going on in Shiki's mind, there sure is a bit of going on.
"Yes, hello... Well, we've already met once today, so I guess it's not proper to say 'Hello'."
A small smile floats onto Senpai's face, as if she found something amusing.
"Eh... ah... Yeah, now that you mention it, I guess you're right."
I avert my eyes and give a lukewarm reply, becoming increasingly embarrassed.
Wile E. Coyote - Super Genius.
"...... Tohno-kun? Do you have some urgent business? You seem a bit unsettled."
"Eh... No, nothing like that..."
...... I don't, but for some reason her every move feels unfamiliar. I can't calm down.
"...... It's nothing. More importantly, Senpai, you said you were looking for me. Do you need me for something?"
I sigh. "Well, people usually eat lunch at lunchtime."
Except that Shiki often doesn't.
"Great! Then we can eat together. I'll treat you as thanks for this morning. Let's go to the cafeteria."
Senpai smiles. Grabbing my wrist, she starts to walk.
It's strange enough for a third-year like Senpai to walk down the second-year hall, but this attracts even more attention.
The gazes of the students in the hall fall upon Senpai and me and a murmur of conversation starts.
"Wa... wait just a second! It's all right, you don't have to...!"
I quickly shake her off my arm.
"I only did what I did this morning on a whim. There's no need for you to thank me."
I draw back from Senpai, well aware of how flushed my face is.
Any further questions would bring more stares from the people around us in the hall.
I don't know what Senpai is planning, but I peacefully accompany her to the cafeteria.
"I'll stand in line, Tohno-kun, so please go get some seats. Is there any food you don't like? If there is, now's the time to let me know."
"Uh, nope, there isn't. I'm not picky with food."
Except for that whole vegetarian-but-not-really thing.
"Very well. I won't take long."
Senpai lines up with everyone else.
It seems my only choice is to obediently accept that she'll be treating me.
"...... But there aren't any seats left."
I look around the bustling cafeteria.
You can't find even two seats at this hour, let alone two seats togeth---there.
There, plain as day, is a table with not only two, not three, but four unoccupied seats.
There's only one student sitting at the table, and it seems he noticed me while I was looking around for a seat.
The student vigorously waving his hand is my dear classmate with the dyed orange hair.
My head hurts.
But there isn't anywhere else to sit; I have no choice but to return the wave and walk towards the table where my friend is sitting.
"*grumble* *grumble* I GUESS I can sit next to my friend... if I HAVE to."
"Someone she wanted to thank?"
Those words catch my attention.
"Arihiko... that special guest wouldn't happen to be a third-year student, would she?"
Arihiko's body jumps in shock.
"A rather energetic girl wearing glasses?"
Arihiko begins quivering.
...... The students at the tables around us stand up as if to make a fast escape.
"...... A... Are you psychic...?"
Arihiko points at me fearfully.
Arihiko's eyes are wide open in surprise.
"Huh? Inui-kun? What a coincidence!"
Still smiling, Senpai takes her seat.
Arihiko gives a choked response.
"Here you go, Tohno-kun. Please, eat until you're full!"
Even after all this time, I still can't shake off her smile.
I get the mental picture of him grabbing her by the shoulders and violently shaking her until she stops smiling. I don't think it'd take too long.
"Ah... all right. In that case, thanks for the food."
...... Taking Arihiko's dumbfounded stare in stride, I sit down.
Senpai sits in front of me while Arihiko sits beside me.
Putting my hands together with a clap, I look down at the tray Senpai brought.
And on the menu is: Curry Rice, Curry Rice, and Curry Udon.
I don't get it.
I don't even want to think about how nasty school cafeteria curry would be. Have you ever had bad curry? It's not fun.
"Yes? What is it, Tohno-kun?"
"Uh... about this... what's going on?"
"What do you mean? It's lunch, isn't it? What else does it look like?"
"'What else', you say... but all I see is curry."
"Yes, it's curry."
Senpai laughs happily.
...... The problem is, they all look like curry.
"...... There's three dishes."
"Of course. You're a boy, so you eat a lot. I'll have just one, so please take whatever you like."
"Ah... Okay. In that case, I'll take the curry rice and curry udon."
The other choice is hell.
You mean the only choice is hell.
"Make sure to finish it, Tohno-kun. After all, you aren't picky with food, are you?"
There isn't a shred of antagonism in Senpai's smile, nor is this some kind of a joke.
She truly had good intentions.
"Eh...? Inui-kun, do you know Tohno-kun?"
"Do I know him? We've been best friends since middle school!"
My best friend hits the table with a bang for emphasis.
"Really? The person who helped me this morning was Tohno-kun."
"Oh yeah? If you had told me his name, I would have brought him here... So, did this guy do something for you?"
"Yes, he helped me fix my splints."
"Huh? He helped you fix your shin splints?"
Arihiko frowns suspiciously.
...... Well, I guess you would consider helping someone fix their shin splints a bit odd.
"No, fixing splints. Please don't make me angry when I am eating."
Ciel-senpai gets angry.
She seems to be someone you can never tire of watching.
Yeah, I get it, you've got one hell of a bone for a girl you just met this morning.
"Fixing splints...? Ah, the splints in the courtyard! You were at it again? You sure enjoy that kind of thing, Senpai, but you'd be better off if you gave up. If you keep doing things like that, the teachers will start expecting you to do them."
"That's all right, I do it because I enjoy it. You shouldn't talk about the teachers like that though, you know. They really care about the school."
...... I'm finding it difficult to follow their conversation.
"Senpai, don't tell me that you normally do that sort of thing?"
"Yeah. Didn't you know, Tohno? Ciel-senpai is so handy they call her the 'Shadow President' of the student council."
"No, I was asking Senpai. Wait, never mind... what on earth is the 'Shadow President'?"
"Is she strong?" I ask with my eyes.
"Yeah," responds Arihiko with an exaggerated nod.
"She's quite something, totally unlike the Student Council, which is the student council in name only.
She's a third-year who'll solve anything for you if you ask her. Even got a fan club among the first years! And if something happens, the teachers all rely on her. There isn't a single teacher who complains about what Senpai does."
Arihiko speaks with pride as if he was actually talking about himself.
"Wow... Ciel-senpai sure is amazing. Even the teachers rely on you."
I look at Senpai, impressed.
He's going to be like this the whole path, isn't he?
After Nrvnsqr becomes his enemy, I'm sure curry will be a welcome foe.
Having decided to try to finish one dish quickly, I direct all my concentration to the rice.
Meanwhile, Senpai and Arihiko began talking about their own homes for some reason.
I already know that Arihiko doesn't live with his parents, but it seems Senpai is also living by herself.
Apparently, Senpai's apartment is quite close to school. It's roughly between the main street and the park.
"Hmmm... So, Tohno-kun, where do you live?"
I silently eat my food when Senpai, peering at me, asks a completely unrelated question.
"Where...? Why do you ask, Senpai?"
"It's not strange. If I don't know where you live, I can't visit you if something happens, right?"
I stop eating the curry rice.
I have the feeling that something has been said that I should be jubilant about.
"Eh... Visit? You mean you'd come and visit me if I catch a cold or something?"
"No, I wouldn't. I don't have any plans to visit at the moment."
Smiling, Senpai replies instantly, as if stating the obvious.
It seems like the euphoria is premature. Senpai doesn't seem to have any unusual intentions.
At the rate you're going, that isn't the only thing that'll be premature.
I see now... that's just the way she is.
"...... I guess I have to tell you.
Yeah, my house is nearby too, only a forty minute walk. There's a residential district on top of the hill, right? Just go a little further and you're there."
"Oh yeah. You're moving today, right?"
Arihiko strikes his hand on the desk.
Senpai tilts her head slightly.
"Moving? Tohno-kun, were you a transfer student?"
Senpai asks a strange question.
Arihiko meets my gaze.
"Uh, listen... I've been here since the first year. We've known each other since then, right? Why are you asking if I'm a transfer student now?"
"But Tohno-kun, you moved yesterday, so--"
"Moving doesn't automatically make you a transfer student. I'm just changing my address, not my school. Until now, I've been living with some relatives in the neighboring town. I'm just going back to my real home, that's all."
Senpai, who wears a look of surprise, seems to understand.
"I see, you've only changed your residence. So, now you live in the outskirts of town."
"Yeah. It's that colorful place on top of the hill... I'm moving there today."
"Haah... could that possibly be the Tohno-san mansion?" Senpai asks with some hesitation.
No, of course not. Why would Tohno Shiki be going to live at the Tohno mansion?
The western-style house at the top of the hill is probably seen as something special by residents of this town.
I haven't been there for eight years, but even in my memories, the Tohno mansion was ridiculously large.
"Yeah, right. My house is no refuge of yours. When you come over during the holidays, my sister treats you better than me!"
That's probably only because Arihiko has terrible behavior, but I refrain from telling him that in the interests of preventing the conversation from getting any worse.
---To be honest, it's not pleasant to have my home raised as a topic of conversation.
"Wow... You two certainly get along well." Senpai peers at Arihiko and me.
"No way! Me and Tohno would never help each other, no matter how much trouble we were in. In other words, we're enemies, mademoiselle."
Arihiko says in a fed-up tone.
I'm getting pretty fed-up myself with his pseudo-foreigner-isms, too.
Interesting choice of words there. I never actually noticed that before. Minor Ciel path spoiler: Ciel is French.
"But your relationship is so good that Tohno-kun has stayed over at your house before, right? Doesn't that mean you get along really well?"
"You're wrong, Senpai. That damn Tohno is too reserved toward his parents, and he'd come over to my place every vacation. He's reserved toward them 'cause they're taking care of him.
That's why he comes over to my place, where we conveniently have an empty room. Since he looks pretty decent, my sister took a liking to him, and he shamelessly comes to stay with us without paying a cent!"
Arihiko's fist trembles, as if to say "unforgivable!"
"...... Taking care, Tohno-kun?"
"Really? Yeah, you're right. If you complained about that, you'll be in for some punishment."
Arihiko nods to himself in agreement.
His overwhelming optimism is something I am truly envious of.
"I'm sorry, Tohno-kun. Um... did you not get along with your previous family?"
"No, that's not it. He has no problem with the Arimas. Oh, the Arimas were the family who took care of him. They're really nice people, and from what I could tell, they're a happy family.
Even so, he refused to be their adopted kid, and he escaped to my place every vacation. Sheesh... just what were you not satisfied with, anyway?"
"There's nothing I wasn't satisfied about. It's just that I've received so much from them already, I didn't want to be a further burden on them."
I finish my rice as I reply.
Now, only the curry udon is left...
"It's okay, Senpai. Sorry for making you listen to something so boring."
See, this is all technically 'new', even if it's a vaguely annoying mix of new and old.
"Eh, not at all. I'm sorry for asking you something so strange."
Senpai forces herself to look cheerful.
The topic might be fine for a long-time friend like Arihiko, but a complex matter like this would only have been troublesome for Senpai.
And to prove my point, Senpai sits there uneasily.
"No, I understand. Well then, I'll be leaving."
Senpai lowers her head in a quick bow and leaves.
Only Arihiko and I remain at the table.
"Well, it looks like Senpai was having a hard time too, so it was for the best, but you were really pushing it there, Arihiko."
"Hmm... Well, it's not like I had a choice. Anyways, I guess I'll take the role of the guy she ends up disliking."
*slurp* *slurp* *slurp*
Arihiko slurps away at his chikara-udon.
It seems it has gone cold while we were talking to Senpai.
"...... Sorry. You were trying to hit on Senpai, weren't you?"
If he's just splitting his chopsticks now, then what was he eating the rice with?
"It's not that, damn it. What I want to know is this; what's really going on with you, Tohno?"
"What do you mean?"
"You've been at the Arimas' since primary school, right? I don't know why, but it's been eight years already. Your dad has basically disinherited you. Why is he calling you back all of a sudden?"
...... I see.
In his own strange way, Arihiko is worried about me.
"He didn't 'disinherit' me. He just kicked me out of the house somehow."
"Tohno-kun, if there ever was a family that kicked their kid out of their house 'somehow', that's not a tragedy, it's a comedy. 'Oh, it's party joke!' But it's so boring, it's not funny."
Arihiko spreads his arms and shrugs.
"...... Yeah, I guess you're right. If you get kicked out of the house, all you can really do is laugh."
"And then he said some cliche line like, 'Never step foot in this house again!' or something, right? That's what people would call 'disinheritance.'
Come to think of it, I've never heard why you were disinherited."
...... Who knows?
That's something I'd like to know too.
"Well, if you don't want to talk about it, you don't have to."
Grabbing his bowl with both hands, Arihiko drains what is left of his chikara-udon.
Lunchtime is short.
Following Arihiko, I decide to quickly finish my curry-udon.
The last class of the day ends... Shiki stares out the window at the sunset and the reddened clouds, noting to himself how he doesn't like blood or things that resemble it. He believes it probably has something to do with the horrible accident he had as a child and the resulting scar on his chest. Ever since then he's suffered from anemia that causes him to get dizzy and collapse. He can't stay in school forever, though so he...
Stays in school.
Music: play track 3
Fancy meeting you here.
"Hmm... Someone to talk to? But there's no one left in the classroom. It's the same with all the other classes, too. You don't usually come to the second year classrooms anyway, do you? You're on the lower floor, right?"
And if she wanted someone to talk to, aren't there plenty of third year classmates she could talk to? She really didn't need to come all the way up here.
"Shouldn't you think about asking your third year classmates? Conversation would probably be better."
My smile disappears when I see your face, too. I think it's the lack of eyes. (Seriously, damn near all pictures of Shiki in this game lack eyes.)
"Are you free right now, Tohno-kun?"
"Well---If having nothing to do means I'm free, then I'm definitely free."
Senpai grabs hold of my sleeve.
"Well then, you are now caught. Let's go have some tea."
Senpai invites me with a smile.
There's no reason for me to decline the offer, and besides, it should be fun talking with Senpai.
"Wow. Our school has a room like this? Could it be for the Tea Ceremony Club?"
"Yes, it's the Tea Ceremony Club's room for now. It seems like it hasn't been used up until I came though."
Senpai steps onto the tatami mat and starts preparations with a rattling noise.
"A club room, huh? If that's the case, won't the other club members be coming? It'd be bad for an outsider like me to be here, right, Senpai?"
"It's okay. It may be the Tea Ceremony Club, but there aren't any other members except for me. Thanks to that, I can use it freely during break time and after school...... here we go."
Smiling, Senpai begins spreading the cushions.
Tea is tea, but it looks like this is really going to be a serious tea ceremony.
To be honest, I'm a bit overwhelmed.
"Uh, Senpai...... I don't have the slightest clue what to do."
"What are you talking about? I only know up to the pouring bit myself."
With that blunt reply, Senpai put the teapot, some cups, and some tea cakes onto a plate.
"We are just going to have a casual conversation, so there's no need to be so formal. It isn't any fun that way, is it?"
Smiling softly, Senpai pours tea into her own cup.
Dude, make up your mind. Either you don't have a clue, or you're used to tea ceremonies.
"What's wrong, Senpai? You look a bit unhappy."
"Eh? Ah, um, I was just a little surprised at how calm you were about all of this, Tohno-kun."
"Really? Well, my family is a strict one, so I'm used to these kinds of things. More importantly, Senpai, didn't you have something you wanted to talk to me about?"
"I do. The continuation of what we were talking about during lunch."
"...... What we were talking about during lunch... you mean about my family?"
Senpai nods to indicate a yes.
"If you don't mind, I would like to hear more about it. I was curious about it since we stopped halfway."
"...... It's not that I mind, but hearing about my family isn't very interesting. It'd be a waste of time."
"I don't mind if it's not interesting, I just want to hear about it."
"...... Hmm, you sure are eccentric, Senpai."
"Maybe I am," Senpai laughs.
Now why would Ciel be so damn curious about Shiki's family? Surely she doesn't think it will lead her to an ancient, reincarnating vampire that she's been hunting for. That would just be ludicrous.
Music: play track 2
"---Let's see. Basically, I'm a guy who's been disinherited.
I was seriously injured after getting caught up in a traffic accident when I was nine years old.
The injuries themselves somehow healed, but after that, I easily collapsed from anemia and threw up my food. That's why I was entrusted to my relatives, the Arimas, while I recuperated."
"Uh, so in other words, the Arimas have been your parents who raised you since you were nine, right?"
"That's right. I knew my old man hated me for some reason and that once I had been entrusted to the Arimas, I would never go back home...... Go back to the Tohno mansion, that is. That's why, well, I thought I'd just continue to live as a son of the Arimas forever.
That's what I thought, but my old man kicked the bucket recently. That's when they told me to return to the mansion, now that my old man is no longer there, and I finally agreed to them."
---And that, pretty much, is my domestic situation.
I end my story like that.
Ciel-senpai gives a little nod silently.
"...... May I just ask one thing?"
"Mm? Sure, if I can answer it. Go ahead."
"...... Alright, then I'll ask. Did you dislike your previous family?"
My previous family---The Arimas who had raised me as my parents?
My mother and father who weren't my real parents,
and the unfamiliar building which without a doubt was home to strangers.
But completely regardless of that---
---I was loved by these people.
"But I was an ungrateful snot, so I couldn't return their love and abandoned them the second the opportunity came along. Holidays, invitations to live back at the mansion, you name it."
That's why soon, even one day sooner,
I have to truly become family to them---
I had been telling myself those words since I was young.
...... Since a very, very long time ago.
Over and over, I swore, till I would practically pass out.
"...... Um, just like Arihiko said, I didn't have a single complaint about the Arima family.
They treated me well, and I think I responded to their affection, too.
Between us, even though I knew we were just playing at being family, even if it was all just an act, I didn't feel any pain."
No, I was happy instead.
In a way, I had considered the Arima parents and me to be the ideal nuclear family.
I have to give the game some credit. Shiki is just as emo as any h-game protagonist, but he somehow pulls it off in a way that's almost sympathetic.
...and surely would never suspect you might really be a vampire. Never.
"Hmm...... well, I basically am a pretty easy-going person. It's my personal philosophy to enjoy the present as much as possible. People are happier enjoying what is to come rather than being concerned about what happened before, right?"
Well actually, that was an opinion I had inherited from Arihiko.
"Enjoy what is to come? That sounds nice."
Senpai sips her tea with a very gentle smile.
I follow Senpai's example and place my lips on the cup.
With a slurp, the bitter tea washes down my throat with just a hint of sweetness.
Shiki walks along the streets towards the Tohno mansion, remembering fondly the times he spent with his sister. Now that his father is dead he's suddenly been called back to the mansion. He wouldn't have accepted, but the only person that remains in the mansion should be his sister. Ever since Shiki's accident, she would have been brought up strictly to become the head of the household, and to this day Shiki feels guilty over it.
Eventually, Shiki finally reaches the manor that is to once again become his home. A cheerful maid lets him in and he curiously notes her old-fashioned style of dress. The maid, named Kohaku, leads him to the sitting room where he is greeted by his sister, Akiha, but their reunion isn't exactly as he'd hoped it to be. She is cold and distant to him, immediately demanding that he adopt a lifestyle befitting of the eldest son of the Tohno family. He grudgingly acquiesces to her odd demands, and she introduces him to his new personal maid, Hisui.
Having a maid makes Shiki feel uncomfortable, but he allows her to lead him to his room anyhow. It only seems vaguely familiar to him, but Hisui seems to think it's the same room he had as a child. After ensuring that he has everything he needed brought over from his past home, Hisui leaves with a promise to call Shiki for dinner in an hour. He laments the lack of a television and, after some thought, Hisui informs him that her sister, Kokahu, has one in her room. Shiki brushes it off and simply waits for dinner.
Dinner is a painful affair, with Akiha clearly unhappy at Shiki's poor table manners. Unable to relax under Akiha's hateful glare, Shiki grows more and more depressed that he accepted the invitation back to the mansion. He's uncertain that he will be able to get used to life in the mansion. Pushing those thoughts aside for the moment, he thinks it's too early to go to sleep and asks his group of panelists what he should do after dinner.
This decision has been made, so I'll keep right on going. I'll be back soon with another update. In the meantime, have a picture of Ciel that I missed (this is how she looks when she gets embarrassed in the cafeteria):