"What about us?! You never want to hold my hand in public anymore!"
Music: play track 1
...... Anyway, I get her to come to the rear of the school building so forcefully that it can't be helped if she gets mad at me.
Fifth period has already started.
"Geez, pulling me to a place like this... what is it, Tohno-kun?"
...... Senpai is more amazed than angry.
"I'm sorry, Senpai. But, I wanted to hear more about what you were saying before."
"What I was saying before... you mean the serial killer?"
"Yes, that. About the person who doesn't feel a crime is a crime. Are you saying they kill people unconsciously?"
...... For example.
Like if you intend to sleep, but instead go outside to commit murder.
"Hey, that hurts, Tohno-kun. I'll answer you, so please let go of me."
I let her go.
...... It seems I was really worked up.
"Yes, it's just a joke. Since you seemed so serious, Tohno-kun, I thought I'd be a little playful for a moment."
"...... Senpai, give me a break. I'm really serious here."
"Yeah, it looks like it. But, why? The serial killer is none of your concern, is he, Tohno-kun?"
"Yes? What is it?"
"If---if I told you I was the killer, what would you do?"
I finally say it.
Senpai's face lights up as if I said the funniest joke, and she bursts into laughter.
"Senpai, this is no joke, I'm---"
Music: play track 8
"Yes, I know you're serious. But that's why it's funny. Because the murderer doesn't usually come and ask for help because they're the murderer."
"Then I will ask. Why do you think so, Tohno-kun?"
"It's because---recently, I've been... strange. I know why. I was probably bitten by a vampire."
...... I say it frankly, as if it was a euphemism.
"---Please, go on."
"...... Since then, it's been strange. Suddenly I don't feel like myself, and I have dreams about killing people.
Last night, although I only intended to sleep, it seems that I went out. And I had a dream in which I killed someone, and sucked blood."
Senpai says nothing, just watching me.
"Um, if you were truly the killer, you would not be unconscious of yourself. The point you're seeing it in your dreams makes it not unconscious.
But more importantly, it's just a dream. I don't know what you're worried about, but Tohno-kun is Tohno-kun."
...... I'm glad to hear that, but...
There's no reason for me to believe in any of Senpai's words.
"You must be feeling really uneasy, Tohno-kun."
Senpai pats my head.
The classic condescending gesture from a normal person to a retard.
"---It's okay. You have nothing to worry about, Tohno-kun. I myself guarantee it, so it's definitely okay."
...... Automatically, I nod in complete agreement.
Even if I know it's only while she's doing so, I feel at ease.
Like wrapping up my uneasiness, Senpai's hands are gentle.
Music: play track 1
What the hell ARE you doing?
We reach the long hill.
Once we go up it, our mansion will be right there.
"Nii-san. I would like to ask you one thing before we get home."
Akiha's feet stop and she looks straight at me.
The kind of silence that was there before is gone.
Akiha looks at me seriously.
"Akiha... you noticed?"
"Of course. We are brother and sister. I can tell when you are depressed, Nii-san.
So, why didn't you just come and talk to me? Do you trust that woman more than you trust me?"
"Y---you were watching me talk to Senpai...!?"
"Yes. I could hardly believe my eyes and ears. You, being so honest in front of that person!"
This is where Akiha's inner bitch shines brighter than the sun. Ciel hypnotizes people into trusting her completely and Akiha knows about it, yet still she stops just to give Shiki shit for being hypnotized.
With a "hmph", Akiha turns away.
"...... It's not like that. I didn't talk to you or Kohaku-san, because---"
I didn't want to tell them about my body and have them hate me.
...but they already know about your small penis.
"Because of what? If there's something you want to say, please, say it."
"Are you stupid? I wouldn't worry this much if I could say it! I asked Senpai since you guys are important to me. It's not because I don't trust you or anything."
"I don't want to hear such excuses!"
"Fine, I'll come out and say it.
That person doesn't suit you. So please, do not get any closer to her. It is for your sake."
It's so sudden I'm at a loss for words.
Shine on you crazy bitch...
"---I see. Well, you are the head of the Tohno household. You're saying that family and lineage is important like that old man, right?"
"...... Nii-san, that's..."
"It's fine. I'm not really complaining. I'm the one who left you alone in that house. I should have been the one raised that way originally. So, I'm not speaking badly of you."
"But, I can't let what you said right now go. Even though you don't know anything about Senpai, don't just say she's unsuitable."
"---Anyway, you mustn't get close to that person. She's not like us. If you get any closer to her, you're the one who would suffer."
"If you fall in with that glasses-wearing hussy, I'll make damn sure you suffer!"
Akiha runs up the hill.
"---What does that mean?"
All I can do is gaze up after her, aghast.
Yeah, how dare you have a conversation with a classmate that you wouldn't have with your sister. You unfeeling cad, you.
I don't think it matters who was wrong.
I'm sure that in time Akiha will calm down and explain why she doesn't like Ciel-senpai.
"...... I could hang around the garden for a bit."
If I go into the mansion, I might face Akiha, so I'll take a walk in the garden for a while.
Oh. This part. Nothing like a raging chest wound to put an argument at rest!
---No, "can see" is not quite right.
If you walked by normally, you probably would never notice it.
If Kohaku-san didn't walk there, hidden enough by the surrounding trees as it is, I would never have noticed even if I lived here all my life.
"...... There's a clearing there? ...... If so, we probably did play there as kids."
To say the least, I don't remember ever playing with Akiha in the clearing.
----I feel like I've never, been there, before.
After thinking for a bit, I decide to go into the clearing.
The voice of the cicadas.
And the strong, summer sunshine that feels like it could dissolve------
Am I the only one that's sick of the goddamn cicadas and summer sunshine already?
The wound on my chest starts to hurt.
Like / Stabbing.
This pain/ that feels like/ a kitchen knife stabbing my chest.
Chiiirp. Chirp Chirp.
Chiiirp. Chirp Chirp.
Chiiirp. Chirp Chirp-----
----From somewhere, I can hear the voice of cicadas.
But, it's autumn now.
----The summer sunshine that bathes everything in white.
Akiha's inner bitch is coming! Run!
The columns of summer clouds in the far off sky.
I can practically see the voices.
At my feet, there are the discarded shells of cicadas.
Discarded shell. Someone's--discarded shell.
The third child's discarded shell.
The third child I no longer remember.
Yay! They gave my color back!
I was just, in a trance.
Akiha would have been killed.
That was really all I knew.
I just, ran.
That was all I understood.
As for the danger to myself,
I never even thought about it.
I wanted to protect Akiha,
and I just took her place.
In the distance.
The voices of the cicadas.
My body that died from having its chest pierced.
And a figure that looks down at my dead body in shock.
A third child's figure-----
Well... I certainly didn't see that coming. What next, is Akiha going to blame Hisui for this?
----I feel dizzy.
the impulse of death.
My wound aches.
I hear a thump as my body falls to the ground.
Music: play track 1
...... I can hear voices talking.
"Akiha-sama, are you not going to call for a doctor?"
"Don't be stupid, Hisui. There's no way I could do that, since Nii-san's wound isn't normal...!"
...... Akiha and Hisui are talking.
Thisis SHIKI's room.
It looks like I am sleeping on the bed.
I planned to say "Yo!" and get out of bed, but I can't move at all.
My chest doesn't hurt anymore, but my body is as heavy as lead.
All I can move are my eyes and mouth.
Well color me surprised.
Completely different from her usual manner, Akiha gives full vent to her anger.
In comparison, Hisui is accepting the scolding silently, looking down.
...... I'm not sure how this all came about.
But I can at least tell Hisui is being yelled at because of me.
"Answer me, Hisui. Why did Nii-san go there?"
Hisui does not answer Akiha's question.
The air between them is becoming heavy.
Biting her lip, Akiha takes a step closer to Hisui.
...... Even I can tell that she's about to raise a hand against her.
I'm sure Hisui knows too, but she's just looking down, accepting it.
"You know, you shouldn't let it out on Hisui. I don't know the circumstances, but this has to do with me collapsing, right? It's not her fault, I just collapsed on my own."
"I collapse all the time! At least this time I didn't hit my head... I usually hit my head."
I strain hard and somehow manage to lift the upper half of my body off the bed.
But that's all I can manage, and I don't think I can even move an inch more.
But since Hisui is depressed, I have to force myself to act as fine as possible.
Music: play track 8
"Idiot, don't say things like that. This is just anemia... Eh? It's ten o'clock already?"
"...... Yes. Nii-san, you have been out all evening."
Akiha speaks reluctantly.
The strength flees from my body.
"...... Geez. I haven't fainted for that long since elementary school. Yeah, I used to faint all the time back then. I wasn't used to the Arimas and my mind was always under stress."
It seems like I'm still dreaming, maybe an after-effect of the anemia attack.
"...... I remember. The Arimas were all good people; they treated me like their own child."
---Keiko-san was strict but thoughtful and always treated me like I was her own son.
"...... So, I thought I had to become their real child, too."
"...... Please, don't push yourself, Nii-san. You've only been back here for a week. So you must be tired."
"--Really. Well, I'm tired, but..."
"Right? So, please, just rest today. Since your body's weaker than most people's, if you don't take a day to rest from time to time, you'll collapse like you did today."
Akiha looks at me seriously.
Yes, he's tired from pushing himself... he's not at all stressed because you wanted to give him shit for being hypnotized... nor did he stroll in the garden because he was avoiding you.
...... Certainly, it's just as she says.
Forgetting about everything.
Unless I rest without thinking about vampires or about myself, I'll really be out of it.
"...... You're right. As you say, I'll just lie quietly today."
Saying so, I lie down again.
"Really...? No more sneaking out of your room later, too?"
"What is that? Am I that untrustworthy?"
...... Yeah, I guess so.
I've left Akiha alone for all this time.
I love how he promises not to go out even though he's been worried that he keeps going out in his sleep.
"Hisui, tell Kohaku that Nii-san is up. Nii-san, what will you do about dinner?"
"...... I see. Well, my apologies to Kohaku-san, but I don't feel like eating."
"...... I understand. Well, Hisui, please inform Kohaku."
Still looking down, Hisui nods in assent and leaves the room.
"Alright. I'll sleep quietly."
"...... Yes. Thank you."
"Silly. Why are you thanking me? I should be the one thanking you."
...... Thanking me?
Even though I neglected you for eight years, you're the one who called me back to this mansion.
"---Akiha. I'm... sorry for everything. I'm selfish, and never thought about you. But, from now on..."
"It's fine. Please stay as you are, Nii-san.
And, I should be the one who's apologizing. Please, don't apologize to me. If you do, I'll feel like a really horrible person."
You are a horrible person.
Akiha grasps my hand, tears welling in her eyes.
...... I don't understand.
Why Akiha is saying such things.
Or why she keeps repeating "I'm sorry".
"...... I'm, getting tired. I'll, sleep for a bit."
"---Yes. Good night, Nii-san."
Music: play track 7
But, it's so quiet.
I feel at ease.
Akiha's heartbeat is very close.