So much for that choice.
I gasp for air.
My breathing goes wild.
In that case, there's nothing to be afraid of now.
----Not a problem.
Fortunately, this is my third time fighting in a life-or-death situation.
By now, I know more than enough about how exactly I should be moving---.
"I don't understand----"
...... The enemy in front of me breathes out in annoyance.
"Why---why can't I kill just an ordinary human being? Why is your killing ability so high, Shiki!?"
There is anger in his eyes.
He's probably irritated from all this unexpected resistance by something that should be easy prey.
My heavy breathing fills the air.
My chest hurts.
Even though I have seen his killings already in my dreams, our abilities are naturally different.
It's already hard enough to block his attacks, and it's almost impossible to attack his "lines".
If I didn't care to avoid mutual death, I could easily kill him.
"---Alright. Enough playing around. I tried to finish you off with the same weapon you had, but I shouldn't have used something I'm not used to using."
The enemy throws down his knife.
The sharp, animal-like nails shine in the night.
The presence of death increases.
The sense of impending death is upon me.
But, I have no fear.
The cracking inside my body grows proportionally with the sense of crisis.
Just like a bow pulled to the limit.
A homicidal impulse that I cannot control.
Most likely---it will be released in a moment and kill SHIKI for sure.
Let me get this straight. Shiki has a burning impulse deep inside him that is, at this very moment, building towards release. Got it. Carry on.
"So long, Shiki. Akiha is mine. This time, you go to hell---!"
The enemy's body disappears.
The strained bow is released.
---But before that,
someone comes in between me and SHIKI.
Music: play track 9
"...... Akiha, what are you doing?"
Akiha does not answer.
Oh for fuck's sake... now is NOT the time... ...not that there ever will be an 'appropriate' time
"...... Akiha, don't make me sad. You are the only important person for me."
"...... No. I won't move."
Akiha shakes her head and clearly rejects SHIKI.
"Move back. If you say you are going to kill Nii-san, I will kill you first.
The role of the head of the Tohno family is to eliminate people like you."
"What---what are you saying, Akiha!
You were waiting for me for so long. I was always, always watching. I came back because you were waiting for your brother.
I killed that old man and became free just for you.
But why are you protecting that impostor!?"
"...... Indeed, I was waiting for Nii-san. But that is not you. You lost against the Tohno blood and became just a killer. You should have died on that day eight years ago."
"A---Akiha, you're telling your own brother to die? No, that's not right. I am your only brother. Listen to me, that guy is just a---"
"Stop---He's just an impostor. Don't betray me for such a guy, Akiha."
Akiha doesn't answer.
She just confronts SHIKI with fierce aggression.
"Akiha---are you going to betray me too, Akiha---"
SHIKI takes a step.
SHIKI looks at me---and Akiha with bloodshot eyes.
But, I was expecting that already.
I raise my knife and face my enemy.
But, SHIKI's nails are faster.
The result will still be mutual death.
If that's the case, I can surely cut his "line" and slice him into pieces---
---SHIKI's nails never reach.
SHIKI's soulless voice gasps.
SHIKI's nails slashed across Akiha's back.
It's not that SHIKI aimed for her.
It's just that Akiha crashed into me.
But, I felt nothing.
My mind has frozen.
Without feeling anything, my homicidal impulse drives me.
Akiha's body falls to the ground.
In that instant.
The instant SHIKI stops moving, I slash through his "line".
There is Akiha covered with blood in front of me, and SHIKI's dead body is there right beside her.
I feel nothing, and simply stand here.
The knife is still in my hands.
I'm sure that wasn't a dream.
As proof, the floor is covered with blood.
"Akiha---you protected me."
I remember, and at the same same time, I feel sick.
I didn't want her to do that.
All I wanted to do was protect Akiha. Why did it turn out this way---
Someone calls from behind.
Music: play track 1
"I have turned on the emergency power. Akiha-sama's wounds are pretty shallow, so please do not worry."
"Hisui---where were you?"
"I previously stated this. When Nee-san and I arrived to help, you and Akiha-sama were on the ground.
...... We tried to talk to you several times, but you were in no condition to talk."
...... So, I just stood here while Akiha was lying injured on the ground?
So, wait... when Hisui and Kohaku arrived, Shiki was standing over his sister's wounded body while holding a blood-drenched knife. Got it. Carry on.
"Nee-san, Shiki is still standing in the lobby holding his knife." "Just let him be."
"Hisui, is Akiha alright?"
"Yes, it is not that deep of a wound ...... But since it is not a wound that will heal any time soon, we have her resting in her room now."
"---Shiki-sama, what happened? When we regained consciousness, all the lights in the mansion were turned off and I had apparently been unconscious in Nee-san's room.
It seems Nee-san and I were drugged. When we came out to the lobby, you and Akiha-sama were there.
Nee-san said that cut on Akiha-sama is from a big animal, but that is--"
"No, no, no, not me! SHIKI! The guy in my head that kills people when I sleep!"
"...... Hisui, there was only me and Akiha in the lobby......?"
He's still alive.
I did cut him from his shoulders along his "line", but it didn't kill him?
Or are vampires harder to kill than humans?
Either way, he's alive right now and has run away.
"Please go back to your room, Shiki-sama. When we finish treating her and Akiha-sama asks for you, I will come and get you."
With that, Hisui starts to walk up the stairs.
She probably went up to Akiha's bedroom to help Kohaku-san.
Being a guy, I can't help them.
All I can do for now is wait for Hisui in my room.
...... SHIKI told me that I was adopted and treated as Tohno Shiki in his place.
I have no intention of denying it. Rather, it's very convincing.
Why I didn't recognize this mansion that well, why my room didn't feel like a room I knew...
...... The fact that I was living in with the Arimas, and why no one came to see me while I was in the hospital eight years ago.
...... When I was adopted ten years ago, and the two years until I got into that accident.
Me, Akiha, and SHIKI were raised as brothers and sister.
SHIKI sounded as if he knew I was adopted all along.
But what about Akiha?
"You are not my Nii-san-----"
Akiha said that to SHIKI and injured herself while protecting me.
...... Akiha might not know that I was adopted.
That's why she protected me.
You can't do that unless it's your real brother.
So-----Akiha must believe I am her true brother.
"So THAT'S why she obviously wants to fuck me! I'd better not correct her mistake so I can get some of that sweet sister action."
"Shiki-san, Hisui-chan told me you wanted to talk to Akiha-sama?"
"...... Yeah, I'd prefer not to if Akiha's not feeling well, but I would really like to talk to her if I can."
"If that's the case, please go ahead. But please do not have a complicated conversation. Akiha-sama is pushing herself and I do not want her to be mentally tired."
"...... I know. I just want to see Akiha and thank her."
"Alright. That should be fine. Then, I'll rest for a bit. Can you take care of Akiha-sama for a while?"
Kohaku-san walks out of the room, wobbling. She must be tired from taking care of Akiha.
Yeah, tired. That must be it.
...... Alright. I have to go check on Akiha.
Music: play track 9
Seeing her like this causes my mind to empty.
There's already tension enough coming into Akiha's bedroom, and she's acting so weak that I regret it.
We end up just staring at each other in silence.
.................................... All of a sudden,
"Aren't you going to sit down, Nii-san?"
"Oh------yeah. I should sit down, huh?"
I take a seat in a chair.
Now I'm at the same height as Akiha, and my head goes even more blank.
"I'm sorry. I'm hiding a lot of things from you, but I don't want you to hide anything from me.
...... I'm really selfish, aren't I?"
Understatement of the year.
"...... Don't worry. I like that part of you, too. I'll let it go. So, what do you want to ask about, Akiha?"
Akiha is probably making me match her pace.
Surprising even myself, I speak kindly to her.
"...... Then I'll ask.
Nii-san, you used the word 'vampire'. Is that something Ciel taught you, or is that something you concluded yourself?"
"...... I think it's both. I don't know why, but I've been having this dream where I killed people and sucked their blood."
So I thought I was the killer. However, Ciel-senpai proved me wrong."
"...... I see. You were in tune with SHIKI's mind. That's why-----you asked me that at school."
"What-----Akiha, you can tell that I am in tune with his mind......?"
"No, I'm just saying the possibility existed. Nii-san, you might not remember, but that SHIKI is our......"
"Yeah, you wanna say he's our brother, right? I forgot about it until just now. But I remember faintly. Whenever we played in the garden, you always followed us. "Us" means that there's more than one, right?"
A little bit of helps, too.
Akiha does not say anything.
...... It really seems like she doesn't know I'm adopted.
In that case, I do not want to say it right now and mentally attack her.
If I can lie to her right now, I should.
Lying leads to sex!
"...... Nii-san, you were almost killed by SHIKI eight years ago. SHIKI did not have that much Tohno blood in him, but it suddenly awakened.
The blood of Tohno is a blood from ancient times, and it makes you give priority to your instincts rather than your reason. SHIKI had that blood throughout him and attacked you, as you happened to be there."
...... I heard that from SHIKI.
That this scar on my chest is not from an accident, but from SHIKI.
"Everyone in the Tohno family has different abilities. There's some people who eat other people like SHIKI and there's people whose abnormality is only in their brain like Father.
...... SHIKI attacked you and took away your blood and life. SHIKI was punished by Father but he survived by taking your life."
"Stop it, with that guy------with a guy that hurts you? Don't make me friends with him."
Akiha looks at me with a painful expression.
...... Her thin body.
Her white skin.
Her flowing black hair is tinged slightly red and looks very weak-------
"Oh yeah. Akiha, what happened to your hair? It was red back then, and now it's back to black. What's going on?"
"...... I told you. This is due to the Tohno blood. My body does not change like SHIKI, but when my blood gets excited, my hair turns back into its original color.
Now that I am calm, it returned to being black."
"...... That's good. I think you look better with black hair. I think it'll be bad if your hair stayed red."
......... I don't want her to be stained with something like the Tohno blood.
Her breathing is difficult, as if her heart was gone.
She clenches her teeth in pain.
She sweats as if trying to expel the pain from her body.
"Akiha......! What's wrong? Do your wounds hurt!?"
Akiha grips the bed sheets.
"Sh......! Hold on, I'll go get Kohaku-san......!"
"N,no------no one can help... me anyways......!"
Akiha grabs onto my arm, still breathing hard.
Her slender fingers.
Her soft hands grip my hands strongly.
"Alright----I'll stay right here, Akiha."
I can't hear her; her voice is too choppy.
Akiha rages around on the bed,
and I realize her hair is red again.
"Akiha, your hair------"
"It's-----all, right-----This won't-------last-------long---"
Akiha is in serious pain.
Time passes by, and all I can do is hold onto her hands.
...... After an interminable amount of time, it finally ends.
I'm sure it was only a few minutes, but it felt like a few hours.
She breathes normally now.
Her hair is still red, but it looks fainter than before.
"No, I'm alright. My back has nothing to do with this. This spasm is like an everyday thing."
---Her back has nothing to do with this?
"...... What do you mean, everyday thing? This is normal for you?"
She doesn't answer.
That means yes.
...... I can't believe it. She suffers through this kind of pain all the time----?
"...... Why? That's not right. That, that's not----nor... mal..."
Akiha still doesn't answer.
She just nods silently.
"...... Like you say, I'm not normal. This spasm is not like your anemia. This is a pain all people of the Tohno blood go through. When you cannot stand this pain, you become like SHIKI."
"I told you, people of the Tohno line are abnormal. The Tohno blood in me is strong. As I grew up, it became worse and worse each day.
...... Now it's getting to a point where I can't help it. I am like this every night."
Akiha just talks without holding any grudge against her blood.
"...... What do you mean? I don't get what you're saying."
"...... Geez. Nii-san, you really are stupid."
He suuuure is.
She smiles, looking a bit troubled.
"My body uses more heat than the average person.
So I cannot get enough energy using normal methods and I end up having to get heat directly from someone.
...... Like you say, I act like a vampire trying to contain myself. But the more I rely on it, the more abnormal I am. I'm acting more like a Tohno. But without it, I have no way to control myself."
"Do you understand? I have to take away heat from something alive. I am an incomplete creature. That's Tohno Akiha for you, Nii-san."
------I cannot say anything.
But, I still manage to find something to say.
To not say anything right now only hurts Akiha even more.
"That's a last resort. It doesn't have to be blood I take in. It can be body heat, it can be mental heat... anything with heat gives me power. Blood just happens to be the most efficient method."
I do not like where this is going.
"...... So you're different from SHIKI; you're not a real vampire like him."
"...... Yes, I'm not like SHIKI as I can't make people like me. I can only take from other people."
Akiha looks away from me.
But, that's good for me.
Because---it's just a matter of the difference in the kind of food you take in.
"...... I feel relieved. You kept on telling me you're abnormal, but you're normal. Unlike SHIKI, you're a normal human being.
That spasm you had, it won't happen if you get some blood, right? Then------"
"...... It is true that it would not occur if I take in some blood.
But, I can't stand getting blood just because I want to. If I get used to that, I will just be like SHIKI."
"...... No matter how painful it is, if it is just physical pain, I can stand it.
The Tohno blood awakens more at night, but it dies down in the morning.
So this is normal for me. You don't have to look at me that way."
"...... You're stupid. If you were in that much pain, I'll be glad to give you as much blood as you want."
I'm being honest.
If I knew Akiha was in this much pain every night, I would have given her blood every time.
"Why......? If your spasms go away, then it should be fine."
"That...... is true but,"
Akiha grows quiet and continues with an embarrassed tone.
"But I do not want to be called a vampire by you. I want to stay as a human being, just like you."
I really hate how stupid I am.
I think it's kind of funny.
...... I never thought about how Akiha felt.
About how ominous she feels about the Tohno blood. About how much she thinks about me.
"...... Is there anything I can do for you, Akiha?"
"Let's see, please go rest in your room. You must be tired too."
...... That's all I can say in response.
"Don't worry. Just lay down. I'll stay here until you go to sleep."
"...... Alright. If you say so, I will, Nii-san."
"Shiki-san, are you awake?"
...... I can hear Kohaku-san's voice.
I look at the clock to find out it's three o'clock already.
"I'm awake. Are you here to look after Akiha, Kohaku-san?"
"Yes, I wanted to take her temperature. I'm sorry Shiki-san, but......"
"Oh, sorry, I'll leave right away."
Er, what? Is it a rectal thermometer or something?
I get up from the chair.
As I leave the room, I look at Akiha one more time.
"...... Thank you... and sorry, Akiha."
I whisper this softly as I leave her room.
...... I let Kohaku-san take care of Akiha and I walk down the hallway.
Things should be fine for now, but I still feel uncomfortable.