Music: Play Track 7
----Why is there this much sadness?
I don't understand the reason.
Whatever happens to anyone, it is their fate.
It's not something that I can receive as a stranger.
Neither pain, nor happiness, nor feelings, nor flesh.
It's not that I'm sad.
Sadness is easy to see and happiness is hard to understand.
To find miserable situations, you have to look way down.
If being miserable is living a life so painful and full of suffering that makes you wish you were dead, then it would mean that it was better if you were never born.
---As for me,
I thought the saddest thing was to never have been born.
After I said that, the killer laughed.
After laughing so hard, he said something along the lines that I was really a nice guy.
---What is misery?
Not even realizing your misery and mistaking it for happiness, I think.
I remember nodding to that.
That really can't be helped.
Not being able to think that you're miserable.
The only thing that is granted to them will be that sympathy is meaningless.
Believing the illusion that she's happy, she will live a laughable life.
As a stranger that can't feel her pain,
I agreed that kind of misery was the worst.
Music: Play Track 2
It's not the kind of weather to spend all day in bed.
I lift my upper body.
"Aww----still no good."
My arms are still sluggish.
It's not like I can't stand up, but I probably won't be able to walk.
"Oh, it's fine. I get borderline paralyzed all the time. Really."
"...... Shiki-sama. May I ask you a question?"
"Hm? What is it?"
"Shiki-sama, while you were living with the Arima family, did you ever collapse like this before?"
Hisui's voice is weak.
...... She's seems to be worrying that my declining condition is due to me coming back here.
"You don't need to feel responsible, Hisui. This happened to me while I lived with the Arimas. ...... Well, maybe once a year during middle school, but that stopped once I entered high school.
But, I was ready thinking that if it was going to come, it should be pretty soon."
"And did you recover quickly at those times?"
"In a day or two, so it's not a big deal. You act like I have some serious illness or something."
".................. Shiki-sama, I think it is a serious illness.
I have heard that you have anemia, but nothing like this.
Have you never thought that your body was strange?"
"Ahaha. My doctor always says my body is just totally weird. Come to think of it, collapsing like this and recovering so quickly, I could say my strength is much more amazing than most people's."
...... Ah. I tried to laugh it off and made her angry.
That face is not exactly expressing anger.
"...... Huh? Come to think of it, these are different pajamas then I wore last night. Hisui...... did Kohaku-san change my clothes?"
"No, Akiha-sama did it herself. Last night, Akiha-sama and I took turns caring for you.
After you calmed down this morning, Akiha-sama returned to her room."
As I blurt this out, I flash back to what I saw yesterday.
"She did not want to let Nee-san near your Burrito Supreme, and was rather interested in it herself."
---Akiha, who was sucking Kohaku-san's blood.
Akiha, who was yelling at Hisui.
"...... Thanks, Hisui. Please tell Akiha thanks, too."
"Yes. Well then, Shiki-sama, I will bring you breakfast, so please wait a moment."
Hisui leaves the room and I lift myself up.
Leaning my back against the wall, I take a deep breath.
...... My body has gotten a little better and the weather outside is excellent.
To add to that, I am truly happy that Hisui and Akiha took care of me last night.
Still, I feel down.
"...... I haven't seen Kohaku-san since yesterday."
I know that if I see her face, I won't be able to talk to her normally.
But still, I just want to see her face.
"That fake, plastic smile... the lies she speaks with every word... the drugged water she carries on the tray in her hands..."
Music: Play Track 3
A solid knock at the door.
"Nii-san. It is me, can I come in?"
I don't really have any reason to avoid her.
...... Obviously I'm concerned about yesterday.
But, it didn't look like she hated Kohaku-san, and it might be something she has to do.
Those of the Tohno blood need Synchronizers.
...... Akiha isn't hurting her like my old man did, so I should keep quiet about it for now.
"You don't need to ask me. Come on in."
"Yes, excuse me, Nii-san."
Akiha enters my room.
"Akiha, what about school? It's not even one o'clock, right?"
"I took off today. If you are suffering, I should not leave, right?"
With a smile, Akiha comes over to my bed.
"I will take your temperature, so please put this in your mouth. After that, we need to change your sheets, so can you get up for a just a moment?"
She sticks the thermometer in my mouth.
...... It looks like she came in place of Hisui.
"All finished. Nii-san, please lay down."
Still standing, I steal a glance out the window.
Kohaku-san is gathering the fallen leaves with her broom in the garden.
I could probably say hi from here so---
"Nii-san, I have finished putting new sheets on your bed."
"Eh......? Ah, sorry. I spaced out a little."
"lousy kimono-wearing hussy."
I sluggishly lie back down on my bed.
Sitting down on a chair, she starts to peel an apple rather clumsily.
With an intense look on her face, she intently works the knife, but sometimes, she uses too much strength and the knife almost flies toward my bed.
...... Is she practicing to be a good housewife?
I wish she would do such dangerous things in the kitchen.
Despite the result, I'm happy for Akiha's care.
But it's funny, so I start to laugh.
"...... Hey. What is so funny, Nii-san? I did not do anything to make you laugh."
"I was just thinking that this is just like back then. When I was sick as a child, you used to clumsily take care of me back then, too."
Wow, I think Shiki just got away with calling out her clumsy, hamfisted attempts at caring for him
...... Yeah, I remember.
When I was still living as an adopted child.
When I was playing with Akiha, I caught a fever and collapsed.
I was resting in that detached house after that, but Akiha escaped the mansion to come care for me.
"............ It sure brings back memories. At first you just held my hand, but you started to try and take care of me.
At the end, you even took some empty syringes and were going to inject me, right?"
"Uu...... I regret it now, but it's the truth I cannot take back."
"No kidding. If Jinan-san hadn't realized it and stopped you, I probably would have died."
Incidentally, Jinan-san was the assistant of the family doctor. After that time, he became my personal physician.
"Ah, speaking of doctors, when did Kohaku-san get her pharmacist license? She seems to be very close to our age, but doesn't that sort of thing have an age limit?"
"...... That is true, but it is Father's doing.
We don't know the exact date of Kohaku and Hisui's birth, so Father did a little manipulation of the documents and made her older."
As expected of a rich man, his methods are a bit illegal.
"But, I think that Hisui is about your age. Kohaku and Hisui are twins, so that would naturally make her around your age, right?"
...... Kohaku-san and I, the same age......?
Well, it's not like I really gave it much thought, but I always felt she was older.
...... Well, she certainly doesn't act older, but I never thought of her as the same age.
Because, if that's true...... Then from when Kohaku-san was eight or nine, Tohno Makihisa did---
"Nii-san......? What is wrong, are you feeling alright......?"
"---Nah, it's nothing. No need to worry."
After all, this is just a brief pain.
"There is a need to worry. Sweating like that, you seem like you will collapse any moment now......!"
"----But-----compared to Kohaku-san-----"
There is a knife on the floor. If Shiki knows what's good for him, he will not finish that sentence.
Compared to that, this pain is nothing.
I really want to see Kohaku-san after all.
I don't know what I will say after I meet her, but I have to see her and do something.
I still haven't fulfilled my promise from eight years ago.
This isn't the time for me to be lazing around here---
---And just like that.
Suddenly, my dizziness comes to a complete stop.
Music: Play Track 8
"---Nii-san. How are you feeling?"
Didn't I already tell her?
Her eyes are dead serious. ...... Her gaze seems to be asking something different.
"...... Fine, I will just have to investigate myself."
After saying this, she lowers her hand from my forehead.
Her palm smoothly glides down to the top of my shirt.
WHAT THE FUCK!? WHYYYYY??
"...... It doesn't seem like there is anything wrong in particular. But your fluctuating temperature might be due to me simply not being used to it."
Murmuring to herself, she draws back her hand.
"Nii-san, you have a normally healthy body, but you have anemia like this very often. Do you ever think that is strange?"
"...... Yeah, well, the doctor told me that many times, but what about it?"
"Of course. Doctors cannot know the reason for your anemia.
...... Hey, Nii-san, do you want to know the reason for it?"
"It...... doesn't seem like you're joking."
"Right. If you want to know, then I will tell you. It is due to the sins of my family, so you have a right to know."
For some reason---her words seem very dangerous.
But I can't shake my head in denial after all this.
"...... I want to know. Please tell me, Akiha."
"I understand. Then, I will tell you.
I say that, but you already know most of it. After that accident eight years ago, you became this way, right? So that has to be the root of all this."
"Eight years ago---you mean, when I was almost killed by SHIKI?"
"Exactly. At that time, SHIKI stole the majority of your life.
After Father carried out sentence on SHIKI, he was kept alive in the basement, right? So SHIKI is using your life in place of the life he lost to stay alive.
That's why, Nii-san. That's why you cannot move around freely with your own life. And as a result, you are always teetering on the brink of death.
So as long as SHIKI is alive, you will always be like this. You can never go back to the way you were before."
Is that like those love tunnel rides, only instead of being shaped like a heart it's shaped like a skull?
"...... Why? But I made it this far. If I lived like this for eight years, then I can surely---"
"No. Until now, SHIKI was locked away so you were able to live barely.
But now SHIKI is going outside and is using your life to do as he pleases.
The burden for whatever he does is on you, so you will not be able to live like before."
My pulse surges.
Her words hold nothing back.
Since they are the truth, they pierce my heart like a sword even more.
"Nii-san. If you want to hate someone, hate SHIKI or the one who set him free.
Because even if he is alive, if SHIKI was quiet, this would have never happened to you."
She bites her lip as she says this.
...... Is she that angry at SHIKI for stealing my life? She bites so hard that blood flows from her lips.
I don't think it's covered in here, but in the anime they make it seem like Akiha is the one that released him. It was definitely either her or Kohaku, though.
"But rest assured. I will do anything to protect you, Nii-san...... So you can always smile, I---"
---will kill SHIKI, you want to say?
...... I remember my old man's journal.
The responsibility of the head of the Tohno household is to exterminate all those who stray from a human existence.
That one night.
Akiha was hugging me, desperately fighting back her tears.
That time, I know she said those words.
She said she didn't want to kill her brother with her own hands.
...... She was crying, not being able to tell me that---
"Nii-san, you are just repeating yourself. I cannot bear you to be like this, not even knowing if you may die any minute......!
"I told you not to worry.
SHIKI is---my responsibility. You don't have to do anything."
".................. Nii, san."
"I want to kill my brother." "Nah, that's okay, I can do it." "He's my brother! Let me kill him!" "No way, that fucker stabbed me through the chest, I get to kill him!" "Not if I kill him first, gimpy!" "That hurts."
Akiha doesn't have to kill her brother.
This is just between me and him.
If the Tohno blood is cursed and I've been forced into this ridiculous dance for eight years,
then I---with my own hands, will end all of this that started eight years ago.
Neither Kohaku-san nor Akiha, can be---should suffer any longer from that blood.
Has she relaxed? She finally eases her shoulders.
"...... Thank goodness. You are definitely my Nii-san. Just like eight years ago, you only protect me."
Her brimming eyes look directly at me.
............ How do you say this?
The atmosphere has become incredibly intimate.
FOR THE LOVE OF CHRIST, STOP THAT!
Music: Play Track 3
"Akiha, I'm fine right now, so please rest. You took care of me all night, right?"
"Ah----yes. It was really nothing at all. I could not help you, and I only did the best that I could."
"That's enough. I heard it all from Hisui. I really am happy to have such a great little sister."
"...... Yes. Then I suppose I will rest a little bit. I will come here again after dinner, so please rest and relax."
Getting up from the chair, Akiha leaves the room.
Music: Play Track 1
She tilts her head.
"I thought Akiha said she wouldn't let you near me."
Still off-kilter with surprise, I blurt out what I was thinking.
"Yes, I was ordered the same thing, but Akiha-sama and Hisui-chan do not know how to do an IV.
Shiki-san, after dinner, you'll have to get a shot, you know."
"She said something about my kimono and I'm sure she called me a hussy. I'm not sure why."
With her usual smile, she wheels in a cart and shuts the door.
...... On top of the cart there is food. On the lower shelf, there is a syringe and everything needed for an IV.
---Please act like before.
I remember Hisui's words.
Even I want her to keep smiling like this.
I want to see her smile happily, just like this.
I---I can't destroy that.
"...... Well, I'll dig in."
"Yes. Please chew everything well."
Lowering my eyes, I pick up my chopsticks.
...... Kohaku-san stands nearby with that smile.
It's all so sad, I just can't look at her.
Clink. Clank. The sound of my utensils echo through the room.
Seeing her so close to me and smiling makes me want to kill myself.
"The woman I love is taking care of me while I'm sick and still smiling. My life is a black pit of soulless corruption."
...... Why am I so sad?
Kohaku-san is right here.
The one I wanted to meet since yesterday is here, so there can't be any reason to be sad.
Clink. Clank. The sound of my utensils.
Bringing my hands together, I thank her for the meal.
As if she was so happy that I had seconds, she cheerfully takes the dishes.
...... If that was true happiness, maybe I would be happy as well.
"-----That's pretty simple, isn't it?"
I suddenly find the reason for my sadness.
There must be something wrong with me to not have seen it earlier.
I just like this person.
I love her to a point where I can't even imagine seeing her in pain.
It seems I've finally realized this simple fact----
Hopefully this puts a lid on the sister sex. Hopefully.
"Well then, a shot before your IV. Shiki-san, can you roll up your sleeve for me?"
I roll it up to the elbow.
"This won't be too painful, so just relax. Makihisa-sama would sometimes fall ill, too.
So, I've had a lot of practice, you know."
She rubs my arm with a swab of cotton drenched in alcohol.
...... I don't know what to do.
Kohaku-san says Tohno Makihisa's name as if it was nothing.
This perfect---act, is there a reason for it?
Not being able to stand it anymore, I wrap my arms around this girl speaking of her dream.
Music: Play Track 7
"Ah......... um, Shiki-san?"
Her questioning voice reaches me.
I just wordlessly hold her close to me and stroke her hair.
I can't let her see my face.
I probably have a horrible expression.
I can't meet her gaze, her sharp perception.
If I did that, she would know that I know everything.
I try to hold back and bite my lip.
"Shiki-san......? Does it hurt that much, Shiki-san?"
".............................. No. It isn't, that."
All I can do is grip with my fingers.
I can't hold her tightly, but I want to embrace her as much as I can.
"Shiki-san? Did you say something?"
No matter how much my mind screams at me to stop, the words just come out.
"---It's okay. You don't have to smile any longer."
"---It's okay, you don't have to force yourself to smile."
My voiced feelings spurt forth from my clenched lips.
Her hand stops moving.
Kohaku-san freezes. She doesn't even breathe.
Kohaku-san pulls away.
"Oh no, it looks like the IV spilled."
The usual smile.
"Unfortunately the next one will not arrive until tomorrow, so we'll stop for today.
Well then, Shiki-san, if anything happens, please call me."
Kohaku-san pushes the cart as if nothing just happened.
She leaves without opening the door.
What was I doing?
Acting like that and breaking my promise to Hisui.
It's no different than Makihisa.
I couldn't even control my feelings.
The open door flutters at me in ridicule.
---After dinner I will return, Nii-san.
...... That's what Akiha said.
"Akiha, saw it---------"
I ponder aloud.
That wasn't really a big deal.
So why---why do I have this whirlpool of uneasiness in my chest like I just did something I can never take back?
"THAT KIMONO-WEARING HUSSY! I KNEW IT!!"
Music: Play Track 1
I take a deep breath and get out of bed.
"...... See? I told them I'd be better by evening."
I'm pretty much better. There isn't anything to stop me from running about.
...... I take my knife from the drawer.
"Alright." I place it in my pocket and psyche myself up.
...... The problems really have piled up.
But I won't mistake what I can do and what must be done.
The killer wandering the streets.
Tonight I will have to end SHIKI's wanderings once and for all.
"...... As her big brother, it's the least I can do."
I can't allow Akiha to be forced into fighting her real brother.
I have to stop SHIKI while I can still move my body.
Like two killers bumping into each other in a dark alleyway at night?
"...... It's probably better if I just wait somewhere instead of randomly walking about."
...... The alley would probably be a good idea.
I witnessed so many murders there in my dreams.
That's probably the best bet if I want to find SHIKI.
My heart is beating furiously.
...... This may be imprudent, but my mind isn't out of control.
Soon I will be battling SHIKI.
This will be extremely close to a fight to the death.
I don't intend to kill, but the possibility of ending that way is high.
Nanaya: May cause erratic heartbeat under stressful situations.
I let out a deep breath.
My insides are still overheating.
My feelings are completely calm, so why---why is my blood racing to meet this vampire?
Music: Play Track 6
Let's make music!
I think I was searching for someone like this.
I sense someone and instantly hide myself.
...... The sound of footsteps.
My pulse reaches new heights.
The one who is coming is the one "enemy" I know I came here to defeat.
----Right before impact, I manage to pull back.
The knife breezes through Akiha's hair.
We both take a deep breath and point at the other at the same time.
"Nii-san, what are you doing here!?"
"Akiha, what are you doing here!?"
.................. Well, I guess it's pretty obvious we're after the same thing.
Music: Play Track 3
Akiha looks at me with eyes almost brimming with complaint.
...... I think she's still mad at me for hugging Kohaku-san, but I can't worry about that right now.
Why does he never think about why that makes her angry?
"Akiha. Just what are you doing here at this time of night?"
"Is it not obvious? I am looking for SHIKI so I can fulfill my duty as head of the Tohno family."
Akiha answers me.
"...... Akiha. I won't ask what you're angry about, but isn't that a different matter?
This is between me and SHIKI. Akiha---I won't let you get involved in such a dangerous fight."
"I get to kill him!" "Nuh-uh, I get to kill him!" "No way, I deserve to kill him for revenge!" "He's MY brother, I should be the one to kill him!"
"Give it up. You are very naive if you keep saying that, Nii-san.
Look. Even now your body is getting weaker.
...... So I will do whatever it takes to make you better. I will not listen to you if you tell me to stop."
...... Akiha looks intently at me.
She's dead serious.
"...... What you say is right. I really am happy that you worry over me this much.
But, isn't it tough? SHIKI is your, um......"
"Nii-san. You are the only one I call Nii-san. ...... Certainly this is a difficult task, but someone has to do it, right? I was raised to fulfill my duty as head of the Tohno family, so all of this is under my own resolution."
"More importantly! Nii-san, at your current health, what are you doing? Aren't you the one who is in danger from SHIKI!?"
Akiha adopts an incredibly commanding pose as she walks toward me with her finger pointed right at my throat.
I unconsciously take a few steps back under this attack.
I lose once again.
...... Oh well.
My body still isn't fully well so I should just go back like she says----
Shiki is such a pansy.
Music: Play Track 1
"Yes? What is it, Nii-san?"
"...... I can trust it, right?"
I say that without really even knowing what I want to trust in.
Akiha looks surprised for a moment.
"Yes, you have not done anything you need to worry about, so please rest."
She says this with a completely unclouded smile.
Akiha walks away.
My room is on the second floor in the western part of the mansion. Akiha's is in the eastern part.
Does living under the same roof but being so far away make me that uneasy?
With this lingering uneasiness that I still can't define, I open the door to my room.