---Something is howling. It's too sharp and high-pitched to be a stray dog.
---It echoes in my eardrums. Is it howling at the moon?
---This doesn't feel right. The beastly howling is beginning to give me a headache.
---It doesn't stop.
"...... Argh, just shut up already!"
I wake up.
I can hear the sound of a dog barking outside the window.
The clock indicates it is just past eleven.
This is more than just a neighborhood nuisance.
"Damn, I can't sleep like this!"
The dog's howling comes from somewhere near the mansion's fence.
...... It doesn't seem like I can go back to sleep at this rate.
Even Akiha and the others wouldn't be able to sleep with a racket like this.
Since I'm the only man in the house, I guess I've got no choice but to go investigate.
"...... I think it's coming from the right side of the mansion."
I open the curtains and check what's happening outside.
outside my room is a large tree.
On one of the branches is perched a blue crow.
After a yawn-like cry, it noiselessly flies off.
"...... What was that?"
...... I can feel a faint chill on my back.
The howling of the dogs grows louder.
It's really starting to get on my nerves.
Not only is it noisy, but hearing it causes my heart to start pounding. I have an almost instinctual distaste for it.
I change out of my pajamas into my uniform, and leave the room.
Music: play track 6
For some reason, my throat feels dry.
The high walls stretch their way around the mansion.
Clearing my throat, I head towards where the dogs must be gathered.
The man in the coat is pretty tall.
He has a strongly built body, and his back is facing me.
My throat... so dry.
Awoooooooo. The voice of the dog resounds in my ears.
The night air coils itself around my skin.
For no apparent reason, I have difficulty breathing and moving, as if I'm at the bottom of the sea---
A cry overhead.
With a loud flapping of its wings, the blue crow lands onto the man's shoulder.
suddenly, the crow vanishes.
A black lump.
In the middle of that lump, only the weapon-like eyes shine out, burning with a fiery intelligence.
I can't breathe.
But fortunately, those eyes seem like they're not even looking at me.
"Not here after all."
When I can no longer see him, I am finally able to breathe properly again.
I manage to take a few breaths.
It's lines like those that cause me to play the non-ero version.
I realize the dogs' howling has ceased.
My head still hurts.
"Huh... ? Why am I trembling?"
Looking down, my fingers are trembling.
My entire body is shaking, and my back feels very cold.
It's almost like... yes.
It's like someone ripped out my spine and replaced it with ice.
I feel dizzy.
...... Is it just the usual anemia?
I get the feeling of falling towards the floor.
On the way, I see something unpleasant.
"...... What's, going on?"
I don't understand.
Only that as long as my eyes are open, scribbles fly everywhere across my vision.
---It's a bad... dream.
Somehow, I manage to collapse into bed.
...... Yes. I should sleep. That's the easiest way to deny what I'm seeing.
My body doesn't move as I want it to.
All I should do is lie here and fall fast asleep, like a corpse---
Lines which, if cut, could break something apart without any effort.
With those lines, even things as hard as steel could easily be cut.
"In other words, everything in existence has its destiny of 'breaking' internalized within it. This is something inescapable for anything with a physical form, Shiki."
That's what Sensei had said.
I was still a child back then.
I remember finally understanding what she meant and getting scared.
In other words, the world is full of cracks, and it could collapse at any instant.
If there are scribbles all over the ground, then there's a possibility that the earth would start breaking apart if I walk over it.
---When I realized what she meant, I thanked Sensei from the bottom of my heart for the glasses she gave me.
I couldn't have gone on living if I had continued to see the lines all the time.
The points where things could easily be broken.
There isn't a single advantage to being able to see them---
It's not really THAT unfamiliar, is it?
"It is morning. It is time for you to awaken, Shiki-sama."
...... Stop calling me Shiki-sama already.
I told you yesterday, it sends chills down my back----
Music: play track 2"
"Ah... yeah, I came home, right..."
I push myself up, looking around the room.
---I feel sharp pain in my temples.
Maybe it's because I slept in an unfamiliar room, but my mind is hazy.
Hisui calls out to me.
Shaking my head, I shake away my sleepiness.
"Good morning, Hisui. Thanks for coming to wake me."
"There is no need to thank me. It is my duty to come and wake you, Shiki-sama."
Hisui gives a plain and completely expressionless response.
...... Even in an unfavorable light, I think Hisui's features are beautiful.
It should be wonderful for such a girl to wake me every morning, but as Hisui never smiles, I don't feel that happy about it.
...... What a shame.
If Hisui only had half of Kohaku's brightness, she would be really cute.
---Eh, I'm sure that yesterday, I...
"Huh? I thought I slept in my uniform last night."
"Yes. Since it is bad for your health to do so, Nee-san changed your clothes and put you to bed afterwards."
Hisui explains it as if it is something perfectly natural.
I see. She changed my clothes. It's true that I could have caught a cold if I had just slept like that.
Just the kind of attentive service you'd expect from a maid---Hey, wait a minute...!
Just the kind of attentive service you'd expect from a maid.
I quickly check my pants and underwear.
My pants are brand new pajama pants. Even my underwear is new.
"Yes, what is it?"
"You don't have to do anything uncalled for like this from now on. If you have to, please wake me up. I can change myself, so I'd like to do so."
My face is a deep red as I say all of this. Hisui obediently nods in affirmation.
"Your uniform is folded and awaits you over there. Please come to the sitting room after you have changed."
Damn it. How careless could I be.
It was careless of me to begin with when I fell asleep on the bed like that, but to not have woken up while I was being changed is over the top.
"Usually I would have sensed it, but... maybe I was just really tired."
Complaining to myself isn't going to change anything. I can't just keep standing here talking to myself like an idiot. I'd better hurry up and change, then go have breakfast.
My school uniform had been neatly folded, and my shirt has even been ironed.
Passing my wrists through the sleeves feels good. It's that fresh, brand-new feeling.
"...... No, there's nothing wrong with being naked, is there? Yep."
There was nothing wrong with it, but I couldn't help being embarrassed at the fact that I was being changed by the warmly smiling Kohaku-san.
To top things off, the face in the mirror keeps smiling from time to time despite being bright red.
...... Are you really okay, Tohno Shiki?
I thought you were supposed to be uneasy about staying here, you amateur.
...and *I* thought you were supposed to be a normal high school student. It's about damn time.
Since this was the first deadlock and I had time to mess around with a lot of text this morning, I decided to do both paths. In the future I'll probably go with whichever choice was voted for first in the case of a deadlock.
For those keeping track, we officially went down the Akiha path, gaining one point of regard from her. Watching TV gains you regard with nobody (even though Kohaku seems happy about it). Either way, it shouldn't really affect anything on our current path.
After this choice there's only one more before we start getting to the really interesting parts. I, for one, can't wait to see the reaction from people who aren't familiar with this game. Anybody reading who hasn't played the game but has watched the anime should know what's coming, but the greater detail will be appreciated, I'm sure (well... some of the detail ).