There's no reason for Yumizuka to be there. But if she is, she might need my help.
...... I'll never forgive myself if I just ignore this.
Putting my hand in my pocket, there is the cold touch of iron.
Even though I don't intend to use it, it's comforting to know that I'm not unarmed.
...... And if it comes to it, I have my "eyes" too.
Am I the only one that gets a mental image of Shiki plucking out his eyes and swinging them around by the optic nerves?
Sensei said not to use them recklessly, but she'll find it acceptable if I use it against a killer.
"...... The sound... it came from here..."
Preparing myself, I step into the alley.
My heart pounds.
The back alley is quiet.
...... The noise came from the open area at the far end.
The back of my head, hurts.
As if convulsing under the utmost strain, my wracked spine hurts as if it's about to rip itself out of my body.
Why is it?
I can't think, yet my instincts shout at me.
Don't go any further.
If you do, you won't be able to come back.
But it's already too late.
I step out of the back alley, and into the the open space.
Music: play track 4
The ground and the walls are painted with red blood.
A heavy scent fills my nostrils.
Like a red fog permeating my body, the choking smell of blood.
A face. A face. A face.
A face on a severed head, rolling around with an expression of agony.
A face shriveled up like a mummy, split in halves.
A face with both eyes gouged out, so distorted I can't even tell if it used to be a man or a woman.
Unable to make a sound, I merely gaze speechless at the corpses.
No, they can't even be called human bodies any more.
Even a badly made sculpture looks better than this.
There are four bodies.
They roll around like scraps of leftover food.
But I merely stand.
No screaming, no fear.
Like the scene of an accident in a movie, I only stare at the back alley.
this is how my mind is protecting myself. Otherwise I would have gone mad.
I see something out of place.
In this ghoulish spectacle, the response to seeing someone alive is more of astonishment than happiness.
But, if he's alive.
If he's alive, I have to help him.
With my mind still paralyzed, I step towards the living figure.
Pulling itself up from the sea, it raises its face toward me.
A face like a dried out skull.
A hideous voice, right next to me.
Looking down---there is a large hole in the skull's throat, preventing him from speaking correctly.
The dried up face, the dried up arm reaching for me.
In the throat of this bag of bones, vocal chords vibrate in accord with the ghastly voice.
Desperately, I try to tear him off me.
But he merely raises that ghastly voice, and will not get off.
"Hiiiii! Hyuu! Hyuu! Uwaaahhh!" Alley horror, or children playing 'Power Rangers'? You decide.
My body arcs from pain.
The fingers were like a sharp needle.
It shreds my skin mercilessly, scooping out nerves and flesh as it goes---
The pain is so great that I can say nothing else.
Though I try to tear him off me screaming, he is too strong. Whatever I do, he does not move.
With a creak, the skull's jaw opens.
The mouth opens wide enough to rip off my shoulder with a single bite, and he approaches my face as if saying, "I don't want to die, somebody save me".
I can't even say "stop".
The guy made only of skin and bones, tries to bite my head----and suddenly, he collapses.
"...... What the hell is this?"
Pain runs through my shoulder.
My own blood flows down my back.
The pain is real. So this must be real.
A terrible nightmare.
But---it can't be a nightmare, because it's not a dream.
Music: play track 1
"Tohno-kun. It'll be dangerous if you stay there."
I turn towards the voice behind me.
At the mouth of the alley where I came from, I see Yumizuka Satsuki.
"Uh... hey. So, yeah, these midnight bloody alley parties are, like, totally my favorite. You come to these often?"
"Yumizuka, you... What are you doing, out at a time like this?"
"Oh, just going for a walk. But what's Tohno-kun doing? Killing so many people like this is bad, right?"
Yumizuka says, with a light smile.
"Killing so many people... eh?"
I look around me.
...... And I remember the tragic scene I'm surrounded by.
In a sea of blood.
Tohno Shiki stands aghast like a murderer.
"N... no! This wasn't me!"
"Oh, of course it was. Everyone's dead, and Tohno-kun's alive, so obviously Tohno-kun must have killed them."
"No way! It just attacked me......!"
I point at the monster that attacked me moments ago.
But, nothing's there.
Even the ashes of the bones have been blown away by the wind.
...... I understand.
I can think clearly, but I can't put my thoughts into words.
For example, why is Yumizuka at a place like this after running away from home?
For example, why is Yumizuka laughing in the face of this tragic scene?
"Yeah, I know. You just interrupted someone's meal. I'm sorry for sounding mean. I always act against my feelings, so I'm always acting like this to you."
Yumizuka is still laughing.
...... It's so inappropriate for this scene, I feel a chill.
Yumizuka doesn't move from the entrance of the alley.
Her arms are positioned strangely, as if she's hiding something behind her back.
---And, looking closer,
there are spots of something red on her sleeve.
"Yumizuka... why are you hiding your hands like that?"
"Ah, have I been found out? I guess you're too observant to miss that, huh. I've always liked that about you, Shiki-kun."
After emphasizing the "Shiki-kun",
she brings her hands out.
Music: play track 6
"Yumizuka, your hands---"
"Yeah. I killed those people."
"Oh, but, it's okay. I didn't kill them because I hated them. I just needed their blood to live, so I had to kill them."
...... What... is this?
I... don't really understand what Yumizuka is saying.
"You... really killed them, Yumizuka?"
"You wouldn't believe me even if I told you it's a lie, right? Or do you think it's impossible for a girl like me to do such a thing?"
Her voice laughs softly.
---I don't believe her.
I don't believe her, but she is definitely not telling a lie.
This tragic scene.
It's all Yumizuka's doing.
"Why... such a terrible thing...?"
"It's not terrible. Like I said, I didn't kill them because I hated them. There's nothing wrong with killing others in order to live, is there, Shiki-kun?"
"What...! That's absurd! Killing is wrong!"
"No, it's not. But, I did do one bad thing. Since today was my first time drinking blood, I let a little of my blood get back into them. Because of that, you got attacked, Shiki-kun.
"I'm sorry for getting you involved. But we're lucky; it died without being able to finish changing."
"What... what are you talking about, Yumizuka?"
"It's okay if you don't understand right now. I don't really understand myself yet, so I can't explain it very well."
Rasps of agony echo from her throat.
Yumizuka chokes up blood.
"It----hurts. I guess, even if I'm hungry, I shouldn't just drink blood at random. If it's not good quality, beautiful blood, it won't agree with me..."
She breaks out in a fit of coughing.
She chokes out blood with every cough.
Yumizuka's body convulses.
...... I don't really understand.
All I know is, Yumizuka's in terrible pain. That's all I can clearly understand.
"Hey... are you okay, Yumizuka...!?"
I run towards her to take her hand.
"----No! Don't come any closer, Shiki-kun!"
But, Yumizuka's voice stops me.
"...... You mustn't. I'm not... entirely okay, Shiki-kun."
She speaks painfully, still vomiting red blood.
"Yumi... zuka, you..."
I don't understand.
Why Yumizuka's in pain, or why she's like this.
"What the hell is going on? You said you killed those people, but it's a lie, right, Yumizuka...? If you're in that much pain, shouldn't you be in a hospital?"
...... I'm fooling myself.
Even though I understand Yumizuka brought about this tragic scene, I still lie to myself.
"Why!?---If you're in pain, we have to get you to a hospital right away...!"
"Shiki-kun, you're not getting it. You really never understand anything..."
"Idiot! I told you before, I don't understand...!"
"Ah... yeah, you did, didn't you. But you're still here..."
Yumizuka begins to pull away.
"...... It hurts, Shiki-kun."
She breathes raggedly, coughing up red blood.
"It hurts, it's cold, and I'm scared.
I really want your help right now, Shiki-kun."
---But it's too early.
Yumizuka straightens up again.
My injured shoulder throbs.
When I look back, the open space where all the limbs were scattered only left red blood.
The faces, the organs, the hands and feet.
They all turned to ashes, like the skull did before.
Angrily, I strike the wall.
"What the hell is going on!!!"
I bellow pointlessly, and the alley echoes my voice.
...... The lobby is empty.
So, what should I do?
Even though my wound needs treating, Kohaku-san is probably asleep--
I look up in the direction of the voice.
...... Akiha is standing on the stairs.
Music: play track 1
Nonono... we don't want to have sex, go to bed... another bed. Not Shiki's bed. GO.
"Nii-san... where did you hurt your shoulder?"
Damn it. I had wanted to hide the wound, but it's too late now.
"Ah, no, this is..."
"Never mind. Hold still. Is it only your shoulder...?"
"Ah--yes, but, how do you know..."
"I can tell with all that blood on your clothes. I'll hear about it later, but right now, we'll treat it.
Please, forgive me, Nii-san."
Saying so, Akiha touches my shoulder.
My body jumps at only the slight touch of Akiha's finger.
...... It appears that the wound is deeper than I thought.
"Ah... I'm sorry, did it hurt, Nii-san?"
"...... No, I'm... I'd like to say I'm okay, but I guess I'm not. Even a touch is really painful."
"I see... if it's this deep, I think it is too much for Kohaku. I'll treat it, so please go into the sitting room."
Akiha walks upstairs.
I turn on the sitting room lights, and sit on the sofa.
The wound on my shoulder hurts, and begins to become unbearable.
"Sorry for making you wait. I'll treat the wound, so please relax."
Akiha comes in holding a first aid kit.
...... I don't think that would really help on this wound, but I guess I should at least get it disinfected.
I... I guess getting treatment is ok... but no sex. DO YOU HEAR ME?! NO SEX! SISTERS ARE NOT FOR SEX!
I clench my fists as the pain flashes through my body.
...... But after that, the ache of the wound begins to fade.
Akiha must be skilled at medical care, or perhaps the wound wasn't so bad to begin with.
After a few minutes, the pain completely goes away.
"Alright, we're done. I expect a wound like that should be healed by the morning."
Akiha packs away the first aid kit.
...... Somehow, I'm surprised.
I would have expected Akiha to ask where I got injured, and to rebuke me for playing outside so late.
"...... You haven't asked, Akiha."
"I haven't asked... about what?"
"Well... you know. Why I'm back so late. Why I'm hurt."
I blurt it out like a complaint.
After what happened with Yumizuka, I'm exhausted.
And because I'm tired, I said such a thing.
'I still can't have sex with you.' Say it, Shiki. SAYYY IT
"You're going to say you can't explain the situation, right? I don't want to listen to your excuses, but today is special. If you do not wish to talk about it, I won't inquire either."
"Eh? Is that, okay? I came back so late at night..."
"...... Certainly, I am curious about what might have happened to you. But, I trust you and I have enough trust to believe you weren't doing something too dangerous. And... I can't force someone to talk when they look like that."
Akiha looks away shyly.
Look like that---is my expression that bad right now?
"I'll listen when you have recovered, Nii-san. If you rest overnight, your health should improve."
Feeling awkward, I look away from Akiha.
...... I'm glad she won't listen to me until I'm better, but I feel like I won't be able to talk about it even in the morning.
In the end, I can't tell Akiha anything.
I feel too guilty to even look at her face.
"...... Akiha, I---"
"Ohh, please don't keep making that face! I told you, I'll make an exception today, so go back to your room and rest, alright? I bet it's something you can't talk to me about anyway!"
Having read my expression perfectly, Akiha turns and goes out to the lobby.
"What is it, Nii-san?"
"...... Thank you for treating me. I'm sorry for making you worry."
Suddenly, Akiha stops walking.
---And then she turns away.
"I... I wasn't worried about you, Nii-san. If you've that much energy for flattery, you should concentrate on taking care of yourself!"
With a crash, she slams the door behind her.
"---I really don't understand her."
But, I do understand that she was worried about me.
"...... Seems like I wasn't doing something too dangerous, huh?"
Akiha seems to believe me since she said that.
But really, it was a frighteningly dangerous scene.
The bodies scattered in the back alley.
The figure of Yumizuka, her hands stained red with blood.
A chill runs through me just at the memory.
I stand up, taking care of my wound, and return to my room.
---I killed all those people.
Yumizuka said so, as if it was nothing.
---I needed their blood.
So, she killed them.
Just like a vampire. Like... a bad joke.
---Wait, okay? I'll go become a great vampire---
...... I don't remember.
What did Yumizuka say at the end.
Sleepiness fills my body.
With Yumizuka's face still etched in my mind, I close my eyes slowly.
---It hurts. It really hurts, Tohno-kun---
...... There's something wrong with me.
Yumizuka is really a murderer, but those words will not leave my mind---
Music: play track 9
Oh god, can we go five fucking minutes without seeing this thing?
Cicada shells are lying in the clearing.
As if the sun is right by my side,
the clearing is roasting.
A hot midsummer's day.
As if the entire world became a frying pan.
Ooooh, we get color on this path. Neato!
Akiha is crying.
A child lies collapsed at her feet.
His white shirt is painted red with blood and he doesn't move at all.
I'm, looking down at that.
My hands are red, just like that child on the ground.
No, that's not it.
These hands are red with the blood of that child.
The adults are coming.
"What in the----"
The adults take Akiha away.
The child lies there, dead.
Alone by myself, the adults press the hands which killed the child to the ground.
Hey, where did the color go?! Give that back!
They shout my name, the one who killed the child.
Those two syllables, shouting as if they went crazy.
Just those two syllables.
Those adults call me SHIKI, as my hands are stained in red.
Gee, I wonder why SHIKI is in caps?
Music: play track 2
"Yes. Good morning, Shiki-sama."
Hisui bows deeply.
Autumn sunlight shines through the window; this is unmistakably my room.
"Shiki-sama, are you feeling unwell?"
"Ah... No, I'm fine."
...... I just had a terribly nostalgic dream.
But I can't remember the details that well.
"What was it... I can't remember..."
Hisui tilts her head slightly.
...... Well, there's no point in telling Hisui.
The dream---what kind of a dream was it?
A dazzling white bright enough to bring tears to my eyes, and furiously gushing spots of red.
Hahaha... the all caps is not my joke, but I wish it were.
"...... SHI... KI..."
"Yes? What is it, Shiki-sama?"
"...... It's nothing. I'm sorry--I'll go straight to the dining room."
With a nod, Hisui walks to the door.
Clack, clack, clack.
Hisui's footsteps are louder than usual.
Just as she is about to leave the room, she turns back.
Another commonality on every path. Every single time Shiki tells her that he'll be back, then just goes off and does other things.
"I'm sorry. Things happened, and I didn't make it back. I will be prompt from now on so it would be great if you could overlook it this time......"
"...... No, it is not necessary for you to say such a thing, Shiki-sama. It is the duty of us servants to work in accordance with the schedules of our masters.
However, I humbly request that you at least contact us. Whatever the circumstances, you should still be able to let us know."
"----You're right. Sorry. I'll keep my promise from now on."
"I understand. Then please excuse me."
"...... That was rare. Hisui seemed pretty angry."
She's always so expressionless, it seemed she gets extremely angry when she does get angry.
...... As if I did something really terrible.
"----Well then, time to get up."
Pulling away the sheets, I get up.
---At that moment.
My body aches terribly.
The pain--it's not from the gash in my shoulder.
It's from a much deeper place, aching with my heartbeat.
Usually, the scar begins throbbing after I see a traffic accident or something dead.
The image of blood or death must make me recall the accident eight years ago.
"...... Because of last night, I guess."
The red back alley.
And the normal, smiling face of Yumizuka.
The image of Yumizuka doesn't leave my mind.
But I don't know what I should do, what I can do.
I can only live my everyday life.
"...... Shi... t..."
Swearing at myself, I roll out of bed.
After changing out of my pajamas and into my school uniform, I head to the sitting room.
Akiha and Hisui are in the sitting room.
Kohaku-san is probably in the kitchen cooking my breakfast.
"Good morning, Nii-san."
Sitting on the sofa, Akiha greets me and looks at my expression.
"...... Ah, morning. I'm sorry about yesterday."
Returning her greeting, I head to the dining room.
There really isn't that much time for me to stay and chat with Akiha--and I don't really feel like talking to anyone at all.
"Nii-san, I would like to speak with you a little---is that alright?"
"...... Alright. But please make it short since I don't have much time."
I sit on the sofa across from her.
"Continuing last night's talk... Nii-san, what were you doing yesterday?"
Akiha asks me with a direct stare.
"Nothing. Just went for a walk in town. I'm sorry for getting back late, but it's no big deal."
Since I don't want to lie to Akiha, I answer as evasively as possible.
"It was just a simple, harmless walk, but when I got back I noticed my shoulder really hurt"
Good job! You figured it out! That's a GOOD little Shiki!
"...... I shouldn't have to say this, but you shouldn't strain your body. If you come back with an exhausted face like last night's again, I'll get worried.
If you're in trouble, please tell me. I may not be able to do much, but if you could..."
-----I don't want to think about it, but...
Yumizuka. Yumizuka could be the killer terrorizing the town.
"So. You can't talk about your situation, Nii-san?"
"Yeah. It has nothing to do with you, Akiha."
Right now, I can think only of Yumizuka.
I want to be alone--and so I said that.
"You're going to keep going your own way, is that what you're saying, Nii-san?"
"I understand. Well, please, feel free. If that's what you want, Nii-san, I'll do the same."
Akiha stands, and walks out to the lobby.
"Shiki-sama? Is this acceptable?"
"...... Acceptable? Is what acceptable?"
"I believe Akiha-sama is deeply concerned about you, Shiki-sama. But I think it is difficult for her since she does not often talk about her feelings----"
"I know. But right now, my head's full, and I can't... I do feel sorry."
Best excuse for stupidity ever. "Sorry, my head was full so I forgetted."
Hisui falls silent.
Kohaku-san's voice can be heard from the dining room.
I stand up and head towards it.
Music: play track 1