Sitting down at the table, I eat my tanuki udon.
The cafeteria's TV is showing the news.
The TV was set up so students can watch the recorded morning news during lunchtime.
The news is having a special feature on the serial killings.
It's been a whole month since the killings started, but no one yet has any idea who this killer is.
He is an unidentified killer, leaving no trace and acting with no motive.
His identity still remains a mystery, even though there has already been eight killings in our little town alone.
It's certainly very frightening, says the newscaster.
Not the blue crow from last night, but just an ordinary black one.
With its black eyes, the crow stares inside the classroom through the glass window.
It's true that it's unusual for a bird to perch there, but it's not like it's some major event.
Suddenly, it comes at me.
My vision gradually goes white as my sense of balance goes crazy.
My field of vision sways.
It feels like something is building up in the back of my head, and my brain feels heavy.
I know this feeling. It's the precursor to an anemia attack.
The blood that's been building up inside the blood vessels in my brain forms black clots and slushes around inside my head, causing my vision to go black.
If I had to describe it, I would say it feels like darkness is pushing from my brain outwards towards my eyes.
Fumbling in a world of darkness, I blindly use my desk for support.
Even that becomes useless...
I can't put any strength into my fingers.
All I can do now is fall towards the floor---
Music: play track 3
"No, I think I'll be fi---"
"Man, he's totally out of it. Wouldn't it be better for him to leave early?"
...... Arihiko makes this outrageous proclamation loudly.
"I see. If you say so, Inui, then there's no mistake about it. I've already heard about Tohno's health from Kunifuji-sensei. Tohno, if you're not well, you may go rest in the infirmary or leave early."
...... Sheesh. I don't know what's with him.
It seems the classics teacher has complete trust in what Arihiko says.
"C'mon, you can go now. Your face is pale and all, but no one's going to know you're feeling bad until you tell them, you know."
Arihiko hits me in the back grumpily.
"...... I'll be leaving early then, Sensei."
The classics teacher nods solemnly.
"...... Phew. I think I'm feeling a little better."
I breathe in the outside air and feel a little rejuvenated.
...... Sheesh. I'm surprised at my own body.
Eight years ago.
The price of recovering from that near-fatal injury was becoming prone to sudden anemia.
When I first left the hospital, it would happen at least once a day. Collapsing from dizziness became a daily routine for me.
After some time, probably because my body had grown, the spontaneous dizziness and anemia became rarer.
But from time to time, things still trigger dizzy fits, and I still lose consciousness.
Today I was lucky that Arihiko caught me. Usually, I wind up passed out on the floor.
Taking a slow and deep breath, I draw fresh air into my lungs.
I can feel the blood pooled around the center of my head begin to swirl around again, so I head away from the school.
I'm not going to do myself any good by pushing myself here until I collapse along the side of the road.
"---I guess there's no helping it."
Disgusted with myself, I lean on the guardrail.
I'll rest for a bit until I manage to calm down.
...... I don't have much to do, so I just stare idly around the street.
It's just past noon on a weekday, but the street is filled with passers-by.
Crowds of walking people.
Nameless people without personalities walk straight ahead, without even casting a glance at the people walking beside them.
Even though there are so many people here together in this crowd, in this same space, they see only one thing.
Everyone is their own main character, so they only live the day from that perspective.
And so, without really interacting with anyone else, they each end the day by themselves.
---In a way, you could say it's a very lonely thing.
I begin to think melancholy thoughts, perhaps a result of my fever.
"---Guess I'll go home now."
I feel calmer, and all I'm doing here is wasting my time with pointless thoughts.
Getting up from the guardrail, I resume heading home to the mansion so I can rest.
---That is, until I see her.
Golden hair and red eyes.
Her clothes are white, as if they are a symbol of herself.
My pulse races.
My veins and arteries spring into action.
My nerves split, one after the other. My spinal cord goes berserk, as if it is about to leap out of my back.
The girl walking in the crowd is just... beautiful.
The distant dizziness comes back to me.
My consciousness swims, falling.
I-I can't breathe.
My fingertips tremble. The blood isn't reaching them.
My whole body feels cold, like I'm freezing to death.
-----I can't think.
My brain tells me only one word.
Just one word repeating in my brain.
I'm going to----
*wheeze* *wheeze* *wheeze*
I feel sick.
I can't breathe.
It hurts to breathe.
For some reason, I can't remember how to breathe properly.
*wheeze* *wheeze* *wheeze*
My throat is burning.
My eyes are about to burst.
My palms are soaked.
I feel so cold--but I'm drenched in sweat.
---Ask her name?
Who am I kidding?
I know very well that that's not what I want to do.
...... I know, but I don't know.
It looks like I want to do something else.
But I can't precisely put "what I want to do" in words.
The inside of my head is misted over, like a rain cloud.
I walk with my hands in my pocket.
My fingers feel steel.
The tools are all here.
...... She walks.
I leave plenty of room between us.
So she won't notice. So the other people around us won't suspect.
She and I are complete strangers.
That's why I have to do my best to make following her look natural.
I enter the elevator and press six.
I get off the elevator.
The sixth floor corridor is empty.
This is good.
Quickly----quickly! I want to do it.
I am about to press the doorbell when I stop.
These glasses are in my way.
I can't do what I've come to do with them on.
---It's a promise, Shiki.
You should never cut those lines thoughtlessly---
Long ago, a woman once told me such a thing.
But right now, neither her name nor her face comes to mind.
Slowly, I remove my glasses.
I don't know.
Still not knowing, I push the doorbell.
The girl says.
No, she tries to say.
She will never get to finish what she tried to say.
Because I cut her apart before she could.
The black lines that divide her into seventeen pieces.
Through the neck, back of the head, from the right eye to the lips, upper right arm, lower right arm, right ring finger, left elbow, left thumb, left middle finger, left breast, from the rib to the heart, from the stomach to the abdomen in two places, left groin, left thigh, left leg, left toe, all of them.
As I pass by her,
not even taking a second.
Truly, in an instant, entirely.
I "dismantle" her into seventeen pieces of meat.
Music: play track 4
There is the choking scent of blood.
The cuts are very clean, so her insides don't spill out.
Only the color of red goes across the ground.
There is nothing in the room. Nothing but the girl's scattered limbs and me, standing there dumbfounded.
A sea of red blood is spreading over the floor.
In my hands, I grip my knife, the murder weapon.
Of course she is.
She wouldn't be human if she was alive.
There's nothing to ask.
I just did it with my own hands.
With my own hands, cleanly and instantly, I cut apart this girl I don't even know.
Yes, there's no mistaking it.
Or am I mistaken?
There's no reason for me to do such a thing.
That's why it's a mistake. It has to be a mistake.
But I had no reason from the start.
That's why it's a mistake. It has to be a mistake.
Surprised, I lift my shoe, but I'm too late.
Like coal tar, her blood makes a thread connecting the pool on the floor and my foot.
It's... red... blood...
The color I hate, still flowing even now. All because I cut her apart.