"Did you sleep well last night? I was worried that you might be inconvenienced, staying in an unfamiliar mansion and all."
"Ah, no, there were no problems. I used to live here, after all, and now I've got you to watch over me, Kohaku-san."
"Oh, you're quite good at this, Shiki-san."
"Eh? No, I'm just saying what I think... what is it I'm good at?"
Kohaku-san just looks at me, smiling.
I'm guessing Kohaku's path is recommended as last so you can wait as long as possible before utterly shattering her cute, happy image.
...... Somehow, I feel embarrassed when she looks directly at me, so I shift my gaze to the side.
I realize another stare, one which has been on me silently for a while now.
"Ah... hey there."
I give a light wave to greet her.
Akiha continues to stare at me... or perhaps, glare would be a better word.
Yes, yes I would prefer to enjoy the morning with Kohaku.
It's hard to see with all the text, but Akiha barely ever halts her hateful glare for the entire conversation, it's great.
"Um... Kohaku-san. Is my breakfast ready?"
"Yes, I've laid it out in the dining hall. Please, eat up at your leisure."
"That won't do, Kohaku. Nii-san has no time to eat breakfast at this time."
"Hey, listen, Akiha. It's only seven, so I've got at least that much. It's an easy thirty minute walk from here to school, so I can take it easy for at least ten minutes, can't I?"
"Are you saying you're going to finish breakfast in just ten minutes? You're not some starving dog, so if you're going to eat breakfast, I'd like you to take your time."
Akiha's words really do have thorns in them.
"I'm not a dog, Akiha--"
Then I remember.
Speaking of dogs, there is what happened last night.
"I'm talking about what happened last night. That noisy 'woof woof woof woof' racket. Even you wouldn't have been able to sleep with that going on, right?"
"---Nii-san? What are you talking about?"
"What? I'm talking about last night, of course. Around eleven at night. Some stray dogs were barking their heads off."
Akiha and Kohaku-san exchange looks, and then together, they both look back at me.
...... It's like they think I'm some kind of nutcase. I can't just let this slip by.
You can almost hear Shiki thinking, "Fuck it."
"What? What happened, Kohaku?"
"Oh, nothing in particular. Shiki-san just has bad sleeping posture, that's all."
Kohaku-san dodges Akiha's question with a smile.
...... Come to think of it, Kohaku-san is calling me "Shiki-san" now.
It seems like Hisui passed on my message from last night.
She just dropped the -sama after she saw your penis.
"...... Are you sure neither of you noticed? Those dogs were barking for about thirty minutes straight last night. 'Woof woof woof woof'. If that isn't noisy, I don't know what is."
"Haha... It really was a woof-woof panic, wasn't it?"
...... Somehow, I get the feeling Kohaku-san has missed the point.
She's only saying that because she's your personal servant.
"---You must have had a nightmare because you aren't used to the mansion yet, Nii-san.
Oh, I know what. If that stray dog barks again tonight, perhaps we shall start keeping an extra-vicious guard dog here."
A malicious giggle comes out from Akiha.
"I am now out of time, so please excuse me, Nii-san. Please do take care not to get attacked by any dogs on your way to school."
Akiha leaves the sitting room.
Kohaku-san leaves to to escort her to the doorway.
Now seems like a good time to come to a conclusion.
Given what's happened from last night up until now, it's a no-brainer to work out that for some reason, Akiha really, really hates me.
It took you this long to figure that out?
"Very well, I will escort you out."
"Eh---Ah, yeah, thanks."
...... It's a terribly embarrassing thing to have a personal servant.
"Ah, Shiki-san! Please wait!"
With pattering footsteps, Kohaku-san runs down from the second floor.
Hisui steps back and falls silent as Kohaku-san appears.
"Eh? But, I have all my luggage already. The things I used while I was at the Arimas' house all belonged to them, so all I've got are my own clothes..."
"Really? But this was sent here, nonetheless..."
Kohaku-san hands me a thin wooden box, perhaps twenty centimeters long.
It's not heavy at all.
"...... Kohaku-san, I've never seen this before."
"Well... apparently it was left to you by your departed father. It was to be given to you in the will."
"...... By my old man?"
...... I can't feel anything about that.
What's the old man who expelled me from this mansion eight years ago doing leaving me things?
Compare this face to the last one. She looks so... torn.
"...... I get it. You want to know what's inside, right?"
"Oh, not at all. I merely wondered for a moment."
...... Like I said, you do wonder what's inside.
"Alright, let's open it. One, two... three!"
With a dry sound, the wooden box opens.
Inside, there is----a ten-centimeter bar of thin iron.
"...... It's... an iron bar."
Undecorated and worn, it has finger marks all over it.
...... The old man must have really hated me to leave me a piece of junk like this.
In the anime, his knife is a lot more flashy.
"No, Shiki-san. It's a fruit knife."
Kohaku-san takes the iron bar out of the box.
"See, isn't it one of those folding knifes? One, two... three!"
With a "pachink!", a ten centimeter blade pops out from the bar.
...... I see, it certainly is a knife.
Surely the man who can destroy anything by cutting along its line of death has no use for a pocket knife. Obviously this will never become important.
"It's old, but it seems pretty solid. The year and the era it was made in is written on the back."
Kohaku-san replaces the blade, and hands over the knife.
Certainly, there's a number written on the grip.
The character 'seven', and under it, the character 'night'.
"P-please excuse me. Uh---That knife is so beautiful that I could not help myself."
"Beautiful? You really think it's beautiful? It looks kind of beat up to me."
"---Not at all. The tempering of the blade is masterful. I think it is a knife with its own proper history."
"Really? It looks to me like a piece of junk..."
But since Hisui seems so convinced, I begin to feel the same thing.
...... Hmmm. In its own way, I guess it's not such a bad inheritance.
Is this an Hgame or an adventure game?
"Shiki-sama, have you enough time...?"
"Ah! I have to get going. Well, Kohaku-san, thanks for the delivery."
Kohaku-san smiles and waves.
"---Bloodstains...? You mean leftover blood?"
"Yes. There was blood on the mansion fence, too. The police came to inquire about what happened last night while you were sleeping, Shiki-sama."
"...... Does that mean someone died...?"
"No, all that has been found are the bloodstains."
The east side of the mansion---That's around where the man in the black coat was last night.
Bloodstains... traces of blood.
Bloodstains---traces of red.
Come to think of it...
I get the feeling I saw something red----.
"Eh...? N-no, it's nothing."
Shaking my head, I shake off the bad images.
"Well, I'll be going now. Thanks for seeing me off, Hisui."
"Goodbye. Please take care on the way."
Hisui bows deeply.
...... I'm not sure what to take care about, but she's probably just worried about my health.
"Yeah, thanks. You take care, too, Hisui."
It's only right to repay good intentions with good intentions. With an energetic wave of the hand at Hisui, I leave the gates of the mansion behind.
Music: play track 1
"---There doesn't seem to be a lot of students from my school around."
Apparently, there are not many who live around here.
Half past seven in the morning.
I can't see anyone running along the streets in a school uniform except me.
It's probably due to the serial killings. There are less people in the streets in the evenings now, too.
"---You'd better cut down on the hanging out at night, Arihiko."
The face of my bad friend drifts into mind. He'd be the sort to carry on hanging out at night regardless of the atmosphere in town.
Well, it's not like he's going to listen to a word I say, anyway.
Music: play track 3
"Senpai---why are you in our classroom?"
Dumbfounded, I point to Ciel-senpai like I'm looking at a ghost.
"Huh? Is it so unusual? I was just wondering if you were in class, so I decided to come over to see you, Tohno-kun."
"Unusual?---The seniors never come to the junior classrooms. There's all sorts of reasons, but the biggest one is that they're just too far apart."
"Oh, I see." Senpai nods with a serious face.
That is not a serious face. She'll show you when she's got a serious face.
"Quit whining, Tohno. What's wrong with it, anyway? Senpai's here because she wants to be."
Arihiko, being Arihiko, plonks himself down on my desk and starts up a merry conversation with Senpai.
"...... I don't mind, but you ought to get back to your class two minutes before homeroom starts, Senpai."
I feel tired for some reason. Sighing, I sit down.
"...... Inui-kun, it seems Tohno-kun is feeling down."
"...... Yeah, he's probably feeling irritable because he's not used to his life after moving. Tohno doesn't mind most things, but he's got a bad habit of throwing a fit when faced with things he doesn't understand."
"...... Really? Tohno-kun doesn't look like the type to get angry."
"...... Nope, that's not true. Tohno, you see, is usually pretty mature, but when he encounters something he doesn't understand---Kaboom!"
"...... Haah... 'Kaboom', is it?"
"...... Yep. You'll change your opinion once you see him lose it, so you can't just trust him like that, Senpai."
...... The two of them whisper to each other.
"...... Hey, listen. If you're going to talk privately, do you mind doing it in the hallway? I can hear every word you say when you do it on my desk, so there's no real point to it."
...... (I was feeling left out)
Senpai puts her hands to her mouth, and I can't tell how serious she is.
...... If it's Senpai, she may have actually intended to talk privately.
"That's terrible, Tohno! Listening in on the lovey-dovey private conversation between Senpai and me! You've sure got some nasty hobbies!"
Arihiko points at me.
"---Are you trying to pick a fight with me, Arihiko?"
...... Actually, please do. Right now, I'm more than willing.
Arihiko shakes his head.
"Of course not. You're my dear friend, right? I'd exchange fists with even my parents, but I have a policy of not fighting with my friends. I'm the very model of chivalry."
...... That's amazing.
I guess chivalrous people could punch their parents in the world that's inside his head.
"...... Arihiko, were you worried about me just then?"
"Don't ask me trivial stuff like that, you dumbass! It's only good if I do it without you noticing!"
Arihiko hits my back some more.
...... We've been friends for a long time, but I still can't get a hold on this guy's personality.
"So, how's your new house? Pretty heavy and stressful by the looks of it."
"Mmn. Can't really say. I had a bad dream last night, and the people at my house gave me the cold shoulder."
"---Mmm, I see. Sounds rough."
Arihiko nods with a difficult expression.
Now THAT is her serious face.
"Tohno-kun, you really do get on well with Inui-kun."
"Are you serious, Senpai? You must need thicker glasses if that's what you think after seeing what just happened."
"Not at all, Tohno-kun. You look really relaxed when you're with Inui-kun. You're really open and trust him a lot."
Senpai smiles happily for some reason.
That face scares me. She looks like a Looney Toons villain.
Arihiko and I exchange looks and raise our eyebrows.
"That's right. It's just that you two don't realize it. Ah, but maybe it'll end if you do... Hmmm... In that case, it'd be best if you two just remained as you are. Yes, truly a miraculous balance."
"Well, I guess you could say our relationship is a miraculous tightrope."
Arihiko nods in agreement. I guess that's one point we perfectly agree on.
"Ah, it's almost time. I'll be going now. Did you watch the news this morning, Tohno-kun?"
"---No, the house I moved to doesn't have a television, so I can't watch the morning news."
"Is that so? Well, I'll just ask you straight out then. There was a big mansion on today's morning news. Is that where you live?"
"Yeah, that must be my house. I heard the police came this morning to ask us questions."
"---Is that so? You mustn't be out playing late at night, Tohno-kun."
Senpai leaves quickly.
I watch her silently.
"What? I'm not listening to any more of your trivial garbage."
Arihiko is such a cockblocker.
"Well, I don't know anything about it. I've only started talking to her recently. Maybe she just came here on a whim today? And come to think of it, aren't you pretty familiar with her too?"
"No way, man. It's taken me seven days to get her to remember my name."
"Oh? That's unusual. Wasn't it your policy not to deal with girls you can't pick up in a day because they're too much trouble?"
"That's for normal girls, but Senpai is different. I've kept it a secret all this time, but actually, I---"
"You like senior girls who look good with glasses on, don't you?"
"Erk!" Arihiko's face turns red.
"I guess it was a short friendship, Tohno."
"Yeah, exactly right."
I wave Arihiko off.
The teacher comes in at about the same time.