"Aw, hell, if my sister sees me with this knife sticking out of my chest she's really gonna be mad. Can't we go somewhere ELSE?"
...... Damn it, I can't speak.
I want to tell her to cut it out, but I can only gasp for air.
"Please be quiet Tohno-kun. ...... It is okay, I am sure your sister can help."
...... Help? That's impossible, Senpai.
I'm stabbed in the chest and I can't even move.
...... There isn't anyone who can help a person about to die like this.
"No, it's possible. Otherwise it would not make any sense......! Look, if your sister couldn't help you, you would have died eight years ago.
That's why----I know we can still make it......!"
...... Her words, they have so many "you's" in them, I can hardly understand.
...... Senpai, what do you----
"Geez, just please be quiet already! If you speak anymore, we may not even be able to help you!"
She gives an unbelievably serious, angry face.
...... I feel terrible, so I close my eyes.
Please tell me I'm not the only one that misread that the first time.
Music: play track 9
I never even wondered why.
Before I realized it, I was alone. There were people around me acting like my parents so I tried hard to act like their child.
I think the house with the old tatami room was my first house.
From there, after some incident, I was taken to a large western-style mansion.
...... There was a brother and a sister around my same age, and we became good friends, I think.
But there was always a wall between their father and me.
...... But still, we tried hard to be like a real family.
Even if we weren't related by blood, we tried to believe we were a family.
But, that ended abruptly.
After a large accident, I was taken to a hospital.
No one came to see me and my eyes became abnormal.
Until then I was alone, and in the end I was alone.
I thought maybe I should just disappear like that.
Until I met that sorceress who was as beautiful as the clear blue sky overhead.
Music: play track 8
I speak aimlessly.
I don't seem to be able to lift a finger, but at least I can speak clearly.
My mind is clear enough to grasp that this is my own room.
"...... My...... this wound, is..."
I can't say he---SHIKI did it.
In the first place, how did she react when I arrived with this wound?
I would think usually, you'd send someone with a knife in their chest to the hospital......
"...... It's okay. I heard most of the circumstances from that person."
"...... That person...... you mean Senpai?"
Still looking down, Akiha nods.
...... I'm more confused.
What exactly did Senpai tell Akiha by "most of the circumstances"......?
This isn't good. Not knowing what Senpai told her, I can't ask her something wrong.
"Um...... Akiha, where's Senpai?"
"If you mean that person, she is resting in the sitting room. ...... Normally I would not let such a person stay in the house, but she has helped you. So I can't treat her poorly."
I guess Akiha's not fond of Catholics.
---As she speaks,
her expression turns more severe.
"A, Akiha, you---"
"Didn't I say so earlier? I heard most of the circumstances from that person. ...... Although, I would have understood the situation if I looked at you."
My words... stick in my throat.
Akiha---sounds as if she knew about SHIKI from the beginning.
"Akiha, you...... about SHIKI---"
"...... Yes, I know. From the very beginning, I was aware of everything and called you back to the mansion."
I suddenly get assailed by dizziness like I just got hit in the head with a hammer.
If I got hit in the head with a fucking hammer, being a little dizzy would be the least of my worries.
"...... W, wait a minute. What do you mean you were aware of everything? I don't...... honestly know what's going on.
Certainly, there was another kid with me and you back then, but when I asked you----"
You said there wasn't a third child.
...... Yeah, I really can't remember.
The third kid...... I remember always playing with another boy my age.
Akiha sometimes would sneak away when her father wasn't looking and come play with us.
But, how come I don't remember?
Things like why he disappeared.
Or like how his name SHIKI was the same as mine.
Yeah, everything---I have clearly forgotten.
"...... I don't know. The only thing I remember is that----"
The scene I saw in the courtyard.
Since I came back, it's only that hot summer day which floats in the back of my mind like a daydream.
Akiha's there, I'm there.
And before me is the bloody corpse of another boy.
Yes, SHIKI did say so.
"I paid you back for killing me," he said.
So, that means----
"That dream----I, really--"
Is that why he suddenly disappeared and I conveniently forgot all those bad memories?
"...... Akiha. You said you were aware of everything when you called me back.
What do you mean? You----you know about eight years ago, about SHIKI, about everything?"
"...... Yes. I didn't want you to remember about SHIKI, Nii-san. If possible, I wanted you to forget about it forever.
...... But it's all over.
From the beginning----it was impossible to hide it."
Saying that, she gives a self-derisive smile.
She looks at me in the eye and starts speaking again.
"...... Nii-san. That person told you about the Tohno blood being special, right? You may not believe it, but there is non-human blood in the Tohno ancestry. ...... At least that is what Father has told me since I was young.
Of course, I did not believe it at first. But, something happened to make me believe it.
...... That incident was when you were killed by SHIKI eight years ago."
"...... Killed? ...... me, by SHIKI......?"
"...wait, you mean I was the one that was stabbed right before I woke up in the hospital with a giant scar on my chest?!"
Akiha nods wordlessly.
...... But, that's strange.
That's the exact opposite.
SHIKI was the one lying bloody on the ground...... and didn't he say "I paid you back for killing me"......!?
If you call the human part reason, the instincts of the non-human blood overpower reason."
"............... Akiha, that's......"
"...... I know. I know you can't believe it because it's so sudden, so please be quiet for now."
I know someone exactly like that.
Even now, if I could move freely and avoid SHIKI, I'd fly out of here and look for her.
"However, the end comes for members of the Tohno family as they grow older.
...... There has not been an instance of 'inversion' as a child like SHIKI did.
The blood in the Tohno family varies from individual to individual.
There are those whose appearance will not change and those whose appearance will.
----SHIKI was a typical case of the latter."
"The latter...... his appearance changed......?"
"...... Yes. I do not understand why he went crazy at such a young age.
But he inverted without any warning. When that happened, he attacked you, Nii-san."
"SHIKI...... attacked me......?"
The old wound on my chest aches.
"It happened in that courtyard. You were stabbed in the chest and were on the verge of death when Father came and stopped SHIKI.
...... To stop SHIKI who has lost his mind, you can only kill him.
It is the duty of the head of the Tohno household to deal with members of the family who have inverted.
So----the bloody SHIKI you saw was probably the result of Father dealing with him."
I can't remember.
There was something else. I feel like there was something more important that I can't remember.
"...... For that reason, I was then raised to be successor of the Tohno family even though I was the second child.
Once "inverted", SHIKI could no longer be the successor, so the only other remaining blood relative had to be chosen."
...... I see.
That's why Akiha had to take such a heavy burden of becoming the successor...... huh?
"Akiha. That's... weird. You said it was SHIKI that inverted, right?
Then I'm----not normal?"
"...... I'm surprised. Nii-san, you believe all of this......?"
"----Hey now. It's not like you'd lie like this...... Well, I'm used to this kind of talk.
M, more importantly! I'm asking you if this is a bit strange, Akiha."
"Oh, yeah, I'm used to all this strange, abnormal crap by now. ...but enough about that, isn't this strange?"
"I suppose you are right. ...... But Nii-san, there's nothing wrong with the story, so can we not discuss it any further......?"
Sorry, but finding out about SHIKI is important to me. He is both mine and her mutual enemies, I can't just ignore him.
So----I have to know the truth. I can't have any traces of doubt left.
Why he is alive if the old man killed him, why----I forgot something so important.
Please. Tell me, Akiha."
"............ Nii-san, you are not part of the Tohno family. Because of a whim of Father's, he adopted you just because you had the same name of his son, SHIKI."
"...... You and I, and SHIKI. We were raised as true siblings.
You were really good friends with SHIKI, almost enough to make my childish heart feel jealous.
But, after what happened to SHIKI, everything went wrong.
SHIKI was taken care of secretly, but the eldest son of the Tohno household could not be killed.
The Tohno family has important standing in society, doesn't it? So...... they could not tell society that the heir to the family suddenly just disappeared."
"Then Father had an idea.
To treat Nii-san, who was almost killed by SHIKI, as Tohno Shiki and to let SHIKI be the adopted son who died in an accident.
----In other words, you traded places with SHIKI.
The one killed remained alive, and the one who killed, died. That is your relationship with SHIKI."
"...... Then what is this? I'm not your brother, I'm not even a member of the Tohno family----"
Of course, not a member of the Arima family either.
Then, where----am I from?
"...... I'm sorry...... No one can answer that now.
More of that mind-reading
Nii-san----the child named Shiki is gone.
The child named Shiki died eight years ago.
Not in terms of living, but in terms of existence. Name, a past, family, even memories; none of these remain anywhere.
You traded places with Tohno SHIKI eight years ago...... Father disposed of everything."
Except that the son who got in the accident but lived suddenly started spelling his name like the adopted son who died.
"That is why...... you were adopted by the Arima family.
To maintain appearances, the eldest son of the Tohno family must still be alive.
However, since you are not related by blood you cannot be the heir.
Reasoning that your body was weakened by the accident, you were given to the care of the Arima family. ...... He commanded me not to let you near the mansion again."
...... Akiha's voice is trembling.
She looks down, acting like she's resisting something.
...... I know she must feel terribly guilty.
----But I don't intend to blame her.
It might make me feel better that she feels that way, but----there's something I still have to ask right now.
I understand I'm not a member of the Tohno family. But that raises another question.
...... You said the members of the Tohno family are special. But the truth is, I also have a something strange.
Senpai said it was because I was a member of the Tohno family so I was convinced. But, I'm not a member of the Tohno family, right?
Then, what does it all mean?"
"...... I do not know. Certainly Father did not seem the type to just adopt someone on whim----there may be some reason to why he adopted you, Nii-san."
"I see...... well, it doesn't really matter to me what family I'm from. So there's no need to worry about it, Akiha.
And, um. I always thought I was just lucky to be alive. It was a really fatal wound, wasn't it? Then I'm blessed enough just being alive."
Yeah, speaking of fatal wounds, you did have a knife sticking out of your chest - AGAIN - just a short while ago. Why don't you ask a few questions about that, hmm?
Yeah. And more than that, the problem is----
"There's really only one possibility. Just like I recovered, he must've recovered.
...... Well, maybe my old man didn't kill him.
After all, no matter how insane he was, it was still his son. So maybe he didn't kill him and hid him from the eyes of everyone else. Just like how I was sent to the hospital."
Yeah, nobody goes to hospitals.
Akiha doesn't answer.
...... It seems I wasn't off the mark.
"...... I see. The old man probably intended to call him back to the mansion when SHIKI regained his sanity."
"That...... that isn't----"
True? But she can't say it.
She only silently looks downwards.
"...... It's okay. It isn't your fault, or the old man's. Of course, not SHIKI's either.
It really all just sort of happened. It was just bad luck that some insane guy from overseas entered SHIKI.
You said everything went crazy, but that's all that happened."
"Don't blame yourself! Blame the insane guy from overseas! ...you believe me, right?"
Akiha doesn't respond.
----I'm a little tired.
To be honest, I didn't want to know anything about myself.
More than that, I have to find Arcueid right now.
"I'm tired, get the fuck out. ...Wait, come back."
"What is it, Nii-san?"
"Yeah. ...... Why did you call me back here? I'm not even your real brother."
"...... Please don't say such foolish things.
You are my only Nii-san.
Now and back then, even if you forgot, from when we were little----To Tohno Akiha, you are my only Nii-san, Shiki."
The door clicks shut as Akiha exits my room.
After she's gone, I finally realize my situation.
It's just past ten.
It's been three hours since SHIKI----no, Roa attacked me at school.
As if vampires and rape weren't enough, they had to go and make a nod to robots too. Now all we need is tentacles and it'll really be complete.
I take a deep breath to calm down.
I can't move because I'm trying to move large things like my arms or legs.
First I'll start small.
Like the little finger on my right hand. I concentrate on trying to move it.
I focus all the power in my body to my little finger.
My whole body starts to break out in a sweat.
After few minutes, I finally move my little finger.
It's just my little finger, but it gets the momentum going.
As if forcing my nerves to remember the sense of movement, I go from my ring finger, to my palm, to my elbow, to my arm, and to my shoulder until I increase the parts of my body able to move.
I start to pant.
The more I can move, the more pain fills me.
I see----I didn't feel pain because my whole body was numb.
Restoring my nerves like this means pain returns at the same time.
Resisting the urge to puke, I lift my upper body.
...... It would take all my effort just to walk in this condition, but I don't care.
In the first place it's a miracle I'm alive after Roa stabbed me in the chest. If I wished for any more luck, karma would probably punish me.
Funny you should say that...
I look at the knife wound on my chest.
I don't see the point indicating death on my chest anywhere.
I calm down slightly.
Come to think of it----if he hit the point of death, I would have died instantly.
Not even Nrvnqsr's immortal, monstrous body could escape it.
So there's no way someone like me would walk away from it alive.
"----Maybe what he sees is different?"
As I ponder this,
a light knock sounds at my door and Senpai enters the room.
"----To, Tohno-kun!? You were told to rest, so why are you up......!?"
She forcefully walks toward my bed.
For now, I wordlessly watch her.
It's really kind of sweet for him to think that, but it also makes him seem like a complete idiot.
"...... Thanks. You saved me once again."
"Yes, that makes it three times. I won't keep lending you a hand so please be more careful."
"...... I see. Got it, I'll be prepared. Next time I'll be sure to get him before he gets me."
After I say this Senpai looks directly at me.
I don't respond.
I don't know if I'm set on finishing this like she says.
It's just----I can't just sit around and do nothing right now.
Actually, that's one of the very few things you CAN do.
"----Senpai, I have a question if that's alright."
"...... No. But even if I said that, you wouldn't stop anyway.
Alright. If that makes you calm down, it's a good price to pay. Then let's talk, shall we?"
Senpai sits in the chair Akiha was in earlier.
...... I thought she'd try to stop me right away, but I don't know what she's thinking.
"Yes, I am hated. She despises my job of hunting heretics, and it seems she does not like me either. Um, it seems to be a rather remarkable hatred."
...... She amazingly says this all with a smile.
----Oh. Well, that's another matter.
Back to Roa, his lair is at our school?"
"So, uh, does my sister hate you with every fiber of her being?" "Yes." "Sweet. Moving on..."
"...... I can't say exactly, but it seems like the school building is his lair. I think he has started to move on his own because Arcueid killed all of his Dead."
"Uh---nothing. But why would he set up at my school?
...... No, in the first place, he seems more like SHIKI than Roa. He didn't seem like a vampire at all. Just what does it all mean?"
"It doesn't mean anything other than the source of his character is SHIKI. Of course he doesn't act like a vampire."
Only coming out at night, draining the blood of hundreds and turning them into mindless pawns... nope, not a vampire in the slightest.
"......? Hold on, SHIKI is Roa's host, right? Then his personality is Roa's, so wouldn't he start acting less like a human......?"
"...... No, not at all.
Okay, Tohno-kun. The body Roa reincarnated into is raised as a different person with a different character. Unless he matures as a human until Roa awakens, he will not be able to use his intelligence as Roa.
But after Roa awoke within him, Roa's principles follow that of the host."
"Then that guy is unmistakably SHIKI, and there's none of Roa's personality at all?"
"...... Yes. In a way, Roa doesn't exactly exist anymore. What does exist is the conceptualization of Roa's desire for immortality.
What's troublesome is the steady accumulation of wills, of history, of magical knowledge, all parts of this malicious conceptualization.
For Roa, as long as he can continue his thesis on immortality, he doesn't care what else he does.
"...... What SHIKI... really wants to do......"
"Yes. Probably, his desire to kill you is far greater than any conciliation with Arcueid."
I don't get at all what she's trying to say.
"Why would he want to kill me?"
"...... Hmm, it's hard to say, but SHIKI thinks you killed him."
"What do you mean? I'm the one who was killed, he's got it all backwards."
"But you are alive, Tohno-kun, and SHIKI was killed. In the end, you became Tohno Shiki, did you not?
After SHIKI received judgment from the Tohno family, he had a miraculous recovery just like yours.
However, he didn't have his house to return to.
Because Tohno Shiki was very much alive, living with his sister Akiha-san."
"In a way----you killed Tohno SHIKI.
You took away his only place to return to.
Being hid away by Tohno Makihisa while you lived in his place... you can only imagine how SHIKI felt."
"...... To SHIKI, I'm just an impostor who is using the name Tohno SHIKI?"
"Yes, which is why SHIKI hates you more than anything, Tohno-kun."
"--But, I was still the one killed, Senpai."
Yeah, I had things stolen from me too.
Eight years ago I was nine years old.
Back then, the Shiki who lived up until that time disappeared without a trace.
I can't recall my past too well.
I don't have this urge to meet my true parents, but I can't even remember any treasured memories I may have had.
Whoever Shiki had been, he is nowhere to be found----
"Tohno-kun. You can't fight because of hatred."
...... As if sensing the danger in my words, Senpai warns me.
I tell her not to be ridiculous as I shake my head.
"That's not it. I have to deal with Roa for a different reason."
"You don't... hate him......?"
"I'd be lying if I said no, but it doesn't really matter. I just can't let him run loose by himself, because if I do that, the princess would try too hard.
That's why I have to help her. I promised her I'd help to the very end."
Which is why I can't be resting here by myself.
She's always----going through so much pain yet tries to act so cheerful in front of me.
"...... I just can't understand. Why do you support her so much? Arcueid is a vampire, isn't she different from you?"
"What does that vampire hussy have that I don't, huh?! "
"----I don't care about that. All I know is I love her. That's enough reason for me to help her."
Looking at Senpai's eyes, I speak directly.
Senpai brings her hand to her mouth as if moved and blushes for some reason.
"----It is hopeless. Even if you were able to move fully, she isn't able to match Roa in her present state."
"Not able to match him...... how do you know about that, Senpai?"
"A simple calculation.
She is already suppressing the urge to drink blood which she fell victim to before. This reduces her power so much she couldn't even stand up to a half-powered Roa.
Your power is less than half of Roa's, so you can't match him even if you worked together.
Bitch, please. Who killed Nrvnsqr? Yeah, that's right...
"...... In the first place, she is very close to death. Her power is weak, and she's using that to suppress the impulse within herself.
It would be like us moving around after having our lungs smashed."
What do you mean?
Close to death... why?
Certainly she was in pain, but she didn't look close to death at all......!
"Of course, that is all because she is resisting the urge to drink blood. It would be easier if she drank it.
But I don't think she would ever do that, so as long as she pursues Roa in her present state, she is racing towards death."
"That...... that's just, ridiculous......!"
I stand up from my bed.
Arcueid is in such a desperate situation, but I----I'm so weak I can't even walk.
"Please don't force yourself, Tohno-kun.
Even though you are not wounded, your energy is practically all gone.
It's probably Roa's host, SHIKI's ability.
Just being stabbed by a knife shaved some of your 'life' away."
"...... My...... life......?"
"Think of it as your energy which allows you to live. It is infinite, but exhaustible.
It is produced as long as one lives, but the amount able to be stored varies from individual to individual.
So the amount of life that can be taken away from a body is limited.
Before we use up all the energy we have accumulated, we draw more from this unlimited source.
So if there was a way to steal all the accumulated energy in a single instant, the person wouldn't even have the minimal energy needed to draw in more energy from this unlimited source, and all life activity would cease."
Life, which uses life.
"Living things need life to be alive?"
"...... Enough, I'm not going to lie down."
"What are you saying when you can't even stand by yourself? If you don't want to lie down, then please stay like that."
She pushes me down and I forcefully sit on the bed.
"...... Ha...... ah."
Just sitting up like this leaves me out of breath.
In this state, I can't make it to school.
Even if I was able to see Arcueid, I'll just be a burden on her like this......!
"You don't have to fight anymore, Tohno-kun. It will all be settled in a matter of a few days."
"----? Se...... ttled, what do you......"
"Because I have found the reincarnation of Roa, the Vatican...... um, our headquarters, has approved my request.
Within seven days the Burial Agency, under direct control of His Holiness the Pope, will arrive and put an end to Roa.
...... In the end, it will mean just another continuation of the cycle, but this instance of Roa will be dealt with."
By God, there's a vampire in Japan! Quick! To the popemobile!
...... Seven days.
"...... No, I can't wait that long. Even now Arcueid might be trying to settle things with Roa.
Then----it'll all be meaningless......!?"
I force strength back into my legs.
Deceiving myself into ignoring my ragged breathing, I stand up from my bed.
"I'll give it back, but you shouldn't just leave your things lying around. It was just sitting there, plunged into your chest, right where anybody could steal it!"
"Because this dagger is yours, I will return it. But you really intend on going back to the school, Tohno-kun?"
"----Yeah. Before Arcueid finds Roa, I have to----"
If SHIKI's objective is to get me, I can't escape a fight to the death anyway.
So----in order to protect Arcueid, I'll go kill Roa myself.
"In your condition?
...... I just don't understand. Please tell me why you're so into her.
If you tell me, I won't stop you."
...... Senpai asks me the same thing as before.
Her look is calm and sincere.
She really does want to know.
*ahem* "What does that vampire hussy have that I don't, huh?! "
Why I want to help her.
Because I like her?
Or because being with her was fun?
...... Yeah, those are really important too.
But, it's deeper than that.
There's something I can't let go.
So I just... want her to know.
That there's so many things to do in this world , and although most of it is useless and meaningless,
knowing those is part of the fun of being alive. Such things even a child knows, ----
"...... I just, wanted to tell her.
Even though she smiles like she's enjoying herself immensely, I wanted to show her anyone can have that.
I wanted to show her over and over this world has more----even more enjoyable things, enough to make any hardships seem like nothing.
To be able to feel all the normal things as something normal----I wanted to make her happy."
So she can truly smile all the time.
Because I like Arcueid's smile.
"Isn't that right?
As much as she hasn't been saved until now, I want to make her so many more, many more times happier.
I have to at least balance it out. In the first place, it's so simple to end her solitude."
...... Yeah, it's very simple.
Just speak with someone and do what you want to do.
Like having very rough... breakfast.
"----But I can't.
I can't let someone else do it, and I can't part with her like this.
...... For me, there's no one else besides her."
Arcueid is the only one in this world I want to make happy.
"...... I love Arcueid."
I love her as a man, I love everything about her.
"But more than that, I want to make her happy with my own hands.
For that, it doesn't matter what happens to my life. I don't want her to die like this.
----Right now, that's all there is, Senpai."
...... Yeah, that's all.
She's more precious to me than my own life right now----
"...... Please don't say such stupid things. No one else can do that.
It seems you're the only one in this world who can even say that."
Senpai shrugs her arms after a big sigh.
"...... It makes me a little angry. She is happy enough already."
As if she is giving up something,
Senpai speaks with gentle voice.
"Oh, you don't need to be surprised, she was just leaving. I felt something out of place before, so I guess it was that after all."
Senpai casts a glance out the window.
"It isn't like her to put a higher priority on you than Roa. ----Well, if she gave more priority to Roa after such a speech, she'd deserve some divine punishment."
Seriously, those two are forever in the eternal catfight from hell.
Then that means...
Arcueid was outside my window until just now?
"Why----would Arcueid come to my room, Senpai......!?"
"She came to check up on you because she was worried after Roa attacked you. She must have heard what we were talking about and left for Roa."
----In other words,
she went to settle things with Roa?
"Wha----she went, why......!?"
"Of course. After hearing something like that, even I would have done the same thing. ...... Yeah, I'm envious, but I pity her just as much."
"----But, how come----"
"You want to help her, but she doesn't want to get you involved.
So----there's only one answer, right?"
Senpai acts calm as if she knew this would happen.
"Roa's going to kill her now, so you don't have to worry about that hussy anymore... my work here is done."
"You asked me knowing this would happen, Senpai----!?"
"...... No, I didn't know you saw her that way. ...... Certainly this was a mistake on my part."
But her expression doesn't change.
She looks down at me gently as I clutch her collar.
...... Doing this accomplishes nothing.
Arcueid is already gone.
What I should be doing isn't blaming Senpai.
What... WHAT THE FUCK KIND OF A THREAT IS THAT?!
Senpai gives yet another sigh.
"Your proposition is intriguing, but I'll pass. It was my mistake, and I've gone this far already. I'll stay with you till the last stop."
Best response to a rape threat ever.
She pulls back from my hands and steps over next to me.
"I will take you there, so please be quiet."
I don't have time to be surprised.
Giving a slight heave, she picks me up.
"If Akiha-san sees us she would try to stop us, so shall we use the same method as she did?"
A light footstep,
and we fly out the window as Senpai holds me.
I had to cut this update in half since it broke the character limit. Two more updates to come...