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Kara no Kyoukai - Volume 1 - Chapter 3

Published at 16th of February 2016 08:59:55 PM


Chapter 3

Panorama - III


The sun has already fallen as we leave the abandoned building Miss Tōko
calls home . Shiki’s apartment is quite close by, but my apartment is about
twenty minutes away by train . Shiki’s groggy pace and an unsteady walk
remind me of the lack of sleep mentioned earlier, and I stay close beside
just in case it’s needed . Out of the blue, Shiki asks me a strange question .
“Hey, Mikiya . Do you think suicide is right?”
“Hmm, let me think on that…,” I say, trying to drum up a good answer .
“Well, let’s put it this way . Say I had a terribly deadly retrovirus, such that
me just staying alive threatens all of Tokyo . If dying meant everyone would
be saved, then maybe I’d kill myself . ”
“What in the hell? That’s such a far-fetched scenario it hurts my brain . ”
Shiki makes a disappointed face .
“Let me finish, alright? Think about it for a moment . I don’t know about
you, but I wouldn’t have the will to live while the whole of Tokyo sees me
as the carrier of a virulent plague . Choosing suicide would be the easier
path . An instant of determination, or a lifetime; I think you can tell which
is the hard choice . And that’s what it boils down to, isn’t it? Death is the
easy choice . And when push comes to shove, I don’t truly think I have what
it takes to make the hard decision . ”
After that, we continue to walk in silence, leaving me to think more about
what I said . In my scenario, sacrificing yourself might certainly be the right
thing . It might even be called heroic, another one for the books . But choosing
death for yourself, no matter the practicality of such an action, seems
the foolish thing to do . Struggling through the slings and arrows allows us
to put ourselves to right, and emerge as better people . That’s true bravery,
which I don’t think I could muster . I don’t say it though, since I feel like Shiki
is getting annoyed at me again, looking at me doubtfully after my answer .
“Anyway,” I try to conclude awkwardly, “Each person has his own
answers, I guess . ”
“You’re different, though,” says Shiki, as if reading my mind . Shiki said
it in the usual cold front, granted, but it feels as if there’s a compliment in
there somewhere . Slightly taken aback, I couldn’t bring myself to answer it,
and we continue to walk through the city silently . Pretty soon I can hear the
the bustle of people and the noise of engines . It sounds like we’re nearing
the city’s main street, with its ostentatious display of lights and sounds,
accompanied by the wave of people commuting home after a day’s work .
I can just make out the department stores in the distance, and not too far 
36 • KINOKO NASU
after that is the train station .
Shiki stops suddenly .
“Mikiya, stay over at my place tonight . ”
“What in th—“
Shiki takes me by the shoulder in a gesture firmly in the “just fucking do
it, c’mon” variety . Shiki’s apartment is closer, and it would be easier that
way, but I don’t think I really should on moral grounds .
“It’s all right, really,” I try to say . “It’d be boring even if I do go there . Or
are you saying there’s something you need me to do?” I know there really
wasn’t anything, so this should have been the end of the discussion, and
yet Shiki looks at me accusatorily, like I was at fault .
“Strawberry . ”
“Er…”
“Those goddamn ice cream cups you bought a while back . They’re still
there . Eat the damn things . ”
“Well, I suppose I did buy them . ” Got me there . I bought that on a hot
day on my way to Shiki’s home . Was it really that hot? It’s almost September
after all . Well, whatever . Not like it matters in the grand scheme of
things . Shiki’s pulling any excuse to get me to stay, and I suppose I have no
choice but to follow . But I can at least make a feeble attempt to strike back .
There is a topic—serving almost like a trigger—which, when brought to
discussion, makes Shiki mad but unable to retort back properly . It’s about
something I really want Shiki to do, but in this matter, the universe seems
to have seen it proper to bestow upon Shiki the stubbornness of mules .
“I can see there’s no persuading you . All right, I’ll stay over . But Shiki…”
Harsh eyes look at me, and I respond with as serious a face I can muster .
“’Eat the damn thing?’ Such unseemly words . I’d really like it if you did
something about that . I mean, you are a girl after all . ”
Right on target . After I say “girl,” she points a finger at her lips and says
“Hey, my mouth, my choice of words . Got it?”
/ EPILOGUE • 37
Epilogue
That was the day when, led on by nothing except an impulse of curiosity,
I took the main avenue on the way home . It wasn’t a shortcut, and I
didn’t plan on passing by any particular place there . It was just something
I decided to do on a whim .
This part of the avenue was full of skyscrapers and tall condos, some old,
more of them new, while others were abandoned husks, all commingled
into one crowded skyline . I’d wager everybody in the city, including me,
was tired of looking at them day in and day out . While walking beside the
buildings, I suddenly saw something fall from a roof to the concrete sidewalk
a ways ahead of me .
It was a person .
In the moment that that person fell, I heard a sickening sound . The wet,
raw sound you associate with the kind of things you don’t want happening
anywhere near you . The kind of sound you never really get to hear often .
Judging from the height that the person fell from, it was clear that whoever
he or she was died the instant it hit pavement .
As I drew closer to the point of impact, I was able to scrutinize what happened
more clearly . All that was left, all that my mind could take in, was the
scarlet trail seeping across the asphalt; the frail, bone-like limbs, and the
long, black hair, which still retained some of its living beauty .
And that dead face .
The scene struck my mind with the image of a flower pressed between
the pages of an old, musty tome . It all seemed vaguely familiar . I knew
what happened here . In the end, I suppose she chose the true slumber,
instead of the lie .
A throng of people had already begun to gather around, and Azaka and
I soon had to work our way through them, avoiding the crowd .
“Miss Tōko, that was a jumper, wasn’t it?”
“I suppose,” I answer almost absent-mindedly . My part in this case had
long since played out . Society had better things to do than psychoanalyze
a jumper that just decided to take a tumble out of a building . In the end,
they’d say one suicide is no different from the next . Kirie’s last wish, right
up to the end, was not flight, or even floating, but to fall . A pity, but it’s best
not to dwell on it for long .
“I’ve heard there were quite a lot of cases last year, but I guess it’s still
a trend, huh? I don’t really understand what goes through these people’s
minds, though . Would you, Miss Tōko?”
38 • KINOKO NASU
I nod my head; another vague answer . I look up at the sky, training my
vision on an illusion of the light .
“She had no reason to kill herself,” I say finally . “She just wasn’t able to
fly . ”

40 • KINOKO NASU
Part II:
The First
Homicide Inquiry
April 1995 .
I met her .
42 • KINOKO NASU
/ 1
A cool breeze blows through the mansion, unexpected when it was just
the end of summer . The wind carries tidings of autumn, and it makes me
want to take an evening stroll again . I’m putting on my shoes, when a voice
from behind me spoke .
“Lady , please do come home early this evening . ”
It is Akitaka, my servant . I ignore the impositions on his ever-monotonous
voice, as always, and make my way out of the entrance hall . Past the
courtyard, past the garden, and past the large gate barring entry into the
house, and I’m finally out . Darkness lay beyond this point, there being no
light outside the main grounds itself . There is neither sight nor sound of
any person except for me .
It was midnight, and it would soon be the first day of September . The
bamboo thickets surrounding the periphery of the mansion rustled in the
light breeze, bringing to mind images of wicked monsters beyond them .
Walks through uneasy silences such as these are the only thing I derive
pleasure from .
As the night grows deeper, the darkness draws closer . I think I walk
through this lifeless town because I want to be alone . Or perhaps because
I want to think I’m alone . Either way, in this world, it’d be hard to be completely
left alone anyway . But the city has its ways . I veer off from the main
avenue, taking a detour through a narrow alleyway .
I turn sixteen this year . I’m a first year student at a private high school .
It’s kind of pointless, really . No matter what I do, the mansion and the
dynasty is my future . I chose the school just because it was close to my
house and it would cut down on my commute time, but looking back on it,
that might have been a mistake .
The alley is dark, save for one streetlight flickering nervously like a beacon .
It reminds me of someone .
I’ve been quite restless lately, even during these evening strolls . It’s all
because of that guy, who keeps popping up in my head whenever I least
expect it, and whenever I least like it .
Being in high school didn’t change anything . I couldn’t grow close to
anyone, and they couldn’t grow close to me . I didn’t know why exactly,
but maybe it’s because I easily express what I think in my behavior . That is
to say, I’m a misanthrope . I couldn’t come to like people ever since I was
a child . Being a person, I never liked myself either . I didn’t hate people,
not really . It didn’t stop them from thinking that way, though . It wasn’t 
/ 1 • 43
long before my schoolmates got the picture, and within a month, people
stopped trying to ingratiate themselves with me .
Not that I didn’t like a quiet environment either, so that state of affairs
suited me perfectly . But I should have known better than to think it would
last . There is the one classmate who treated me like a friend, a person with
a surname that sounded like a French poet . The one outstanding quality I
can attribute to him: annoying . So very, very annoying .
I see the shadow of a person in the distant streetlight .

Something about that man seemed strange .
 .

I follow him into an alley .

Inside the alley, it’s like an entirely different world . The alley is a culde-sac,
with the buildings forming walls all around it . Because of this, no
sunlight shone upon it even on bright afternoons . Honestly, it looked more
like a room than an alley . There was once one homeless person who lived
in this dead space, but not today . The walls of this alley just got a brand
new paint job . There is a wet, sticky quality to the ground, and the usual
smell of rotten food is commingled with an even stronger scent .
All around me is a sea of blood . Bodily fluids seep and flow through the
alley, and the sweet, sticky smell pierces my nostrils . In the center of it all
is the corpse . Whatever face he donned in death can’t be seen anymore .
His arms were severed, and the legs became stumps around the knee area,
pressurized blood pouring out of them .
A world so different, even the darkness of night was being overwhelmed
by the bold crimson of blood . It made me so happy . Gracefully, elegantly, I
touch the blood running on the ground, the sleeves of my light blue kimono
turning a deep red . I streak the liquid on my lips, and a drop slips down
lazily across my face . My body shakes in utter ecstasy, as if in a trance . The
first lipstick I ever had .
44 • KINOKO NASU
/ 2
As summer vacation draws to a close, a new semester of high school
begins . Nothing really changes in life, least of all high school . The clothes of
the students change to reflect the approaching cold of autumn, but apart
from that small trifling thing, there is nothing else . The same old routine,
day in and day out .
As for me, I’ve never worn anything other than a kimono my entire life .
Akitaka tried to get me clothes “befitting a woman of my sixteen years”,
but I never even thought of putting them on . Lucky for me, then, that the
school I go to allows you to wear anything you want, so I actually went to
school in my traditional dress . Actually, I wanted to wear the formal style
of kimono, but if I did that, I’d have to spend the entirety of P . E . just to
change clothes (which may not be so bad), so I made a compromise with a
one-layer yukata .
I did worry a bit about what to wear in the cold winter months, but a
solution presented itself yesterday . During break time he approached me
in his usual crude manner, asking if I felt cold .
“Not right now, no,” I replied . “But perhaps in a few more weeks . ”
He frowned, as if reading my mind . “You’re wearing that in the winter
too?”
Wanting the conversation to end as quickly as possible, I answered
directly . “Without fail . There’s no need to worry yourself, however . I can
wear something over it, after all . ”
“Wow, I didn’t figure there was anything you could possibly wear over
a kimono . ” With that, he walked away, puzzled at my answer . It was something
I thought up at the moment, but not wanting to lie, I decided to buy
a warm leather jacket . I’ll wear it when winter comes, but for now, it stays
in my closet .
And just like that, we ended up eating lunch together every day . He
invited me, and I couldn’t refuse out of politeness . We had our meals at
the roof of the school building, where there were pairs of boys and girls
just like us idling their lunch time .
Today’s lunch break is just like any other, and I’m eyeing the other couples
when he suddenly talks to me . I had already planned to ignore him,
but he says something that I couldn’t ignore .
“Murder . It happened on the last day of summer vacation . It was on the 
/ 2 • 45
western wing of the commercial district . There’s an embargo on the media,
though, so it hasn’t been reported yet . ”
“…That isn’t very nice, is it?” I say nervously .
“Yeah . It’s a weird case, too . Apparently the suspect cut off the victim’s
hands and feet and left him there to die . The crime scene was a mess, and
they had to cordon off the entire location . What’s worse is that the suspect
is still at large . ”
“You say the suspect cut off the arms and legs? Can people die from just
that?”
“Blood loss would cause a lack of oxygen in the body, but in this case
I’d say circulatory shock came first,” he says while chewing his food . Outwardly,
he looks like a calm, innocent young man, but in the end I suppose
these are the sorts of things he really wants to talk about . I suppose one of
his relatives is in the police force, or at least has connections there . Surely
not too high a standing, however, else he wouldn’t be leaking information
out like this . “Oh, I’m sorry . I guess this has nothing to do with you,  . ”
“It’s quite alright…but Kokutō, this isn’t really a meal time topic, don’t
you think?” I complain .
He offers only a simple nod in reply, barely even registering his faux pas .
Good grief . Now, thanks to him, I can’t stomach eating the tomato sandwich
I just bought .
And so I capped of the end of summer and welcome the coming of
autumn by hearing such a morbid rumor . The life that I thought would
never change would soon receive a rude awakening .
46 • KINOKO NASU
/ 3
It’s been raining hard since morning . The clacking of my footsteps on the
school corridor mixed with the pitter-patter sound of the raindrops . School
has concluded for the day, and not a single soul could be found inside the
grounds at this hour . Normally, there would still be students doing club
activities, but the murder incident that Kokutō told me about had finally
gone public, and club activities have since been temporarily suspended .
Akitaka told me in the drive to school earlier this morning that it had
already reached four murders this month alone . That’s what blew this wide
open . The suspect remained as yet free from the law, and whatever personality,
character, or motive he might have for doing this isn’t yet known .
In fact, marking the suspect as male might even be too hasty right now .
There are no common points connecting the victims, except for the fact
that they were all taking a walk quite late in the evening . It really is quite
a different story when it’s happening to your own city instead of some
remote and far away town . Students stop hanging out after school and
go home immediately, and everyone goes home in groups . The vise grip
the murderer has on the city is so tangible I can almost touch it . Even I’m
affected, since the police go on patrols at 9 o’ clock in the evening . I can’t
even go out to do my nightly strolls .
“Four murders…” I whisper under my breath . Four times, I’ve…
“Ryōgi?” someone calls out suddenly . I turn towards the direction of the
voice and see a man I don’t recognize . He’s wearing blue jeans and a white
shirt, both of them quite plain and unsatisfactory . He must be someone in
a higher grade level than me .
“Yes, that would be me . What is it?”
“Oh, please don’t glare at me with those cold eyes of yours . Are you
looking for Kokutō?”
What a foolish man . I could see right through his fake smile .
“I was about to go home . I have no idea how Kokutō factors into that . ”
“Is that so?” The drawl in his voice was practically audible at this point .
“That’s where you’re wrong, and you know it . That’s why you’re irritated . It
isn’t good to take it out on someone else . It can be easier to blame anyone
other than yourself . It’s become a habit for you, hasn’t it?” He chuckles at
a joke funny only to himself, but continues . “Ryōgi… don’t you think four


times is a bit too much?”
“What?!” Inadvertently, I take a step back . The man smiles yet again, a
satisfied smile I now realize looks similar to my own .
/ 3 • 47
“I’ve wanted to talk to you for so long now . Now that I have, it’s time
to bid you farewell . ” After that, he walks away, the sound of his footsteps
echoing in the dim, empty hall . It produced a vaguely disgusted feeling
inside me . I don’t even want look at him, so I head towards the school
entrance .
After changing out of my school shoes, I head outside only to have the
rain greet me . Akitaka, who was supposed to pick me up, evidently isn’t
here yet . On rainy days such as this one, he would always come by to give
me a ride, but he is obviously late . I’m too lazy to bother changing shoes
again, so I decide to take shelter from the rain in the shade of the entryway .
The rain looks faintly like a veil, and it makes the campus grounds look
as if they were encased by fog . The winter chill makes the pale whiteness
of my breath visible .
I don’t know how much time passed by, but before I could notice, Kokutō
had appeared at my side .
“I have an umbrella,” he says awkwardly .
“It’s alright . I have someone picking me up . You should hurry up and
head home,” I urge .
“In a moment . I thought I’d stay here until your driver got here . If that
isn’t too much trouble?”
Without waiting for me to answer, he leans against the concrete wall of
the entrance . I wasn’t thinking on what Kokutō was going to say or about
to say . In fact, I planned on systematically ignoring him until such time that
I could leave .
A miracle . He’s actually quiet for once . I can only hear the sound of the
falling raindrops . Kokutō wasn’t talking at all . I turned to him only to see
that, with a satisfied look on his face, he had already closed his eyes . I
thought that he was sleeping, as unlikely as that may be, but I hear him
singing under his breath . I know it was a famous song, but I couldn’t
remember the title .
Truly a miracle . Much later when I got home, I asked Akitaka what the
song was, and it turned out to be “Singing in the Rain . ”
Kokutō didn’t speak . We weren’t even a meter apart . For us to be this
close and not talking made me a bit unsettled . It was an awkward situation,
but the silence wasn’t at all painful . Strange . Why was this silence calming?
But then the silence frightened me, as suddenly as I warmed to it . Instinct
raced in my mind, telling me that if it stayed like this, he would come out .
“KOKUTŌ!”
“Yes?!”
With a jump, he opens his eyes and stands straight .
48 • KINOKO NASU
“What happened? Is something wrong?” he says while looking at me
oddly . I see myself reflected in his eyes . Looking at each other like that, it
was probably the first time I really saw Mikiya Kokutō, still just a boy, with
a boy’s face, and a gentle disposition . He had black hair which he didn’t
style in any particular way, and similarly black eyes, where he wore stupid
glasses that even little children would find atrocious . He wore no accessories,
and his only concession to fashion was his insistence on wearing an
all-black ensemble all the time . It has always puzzled me why he always
gave a mind to anything I did .
“Where…” I look down, trying my damndest to think that the ground is
the most interesting in the world . “Where were you before you came out
here?”
“In the student council room . One of our upperclassmen is dropping out
of school, and we held something like a farewell party for him . His name’s
Lio Shirazumi . He said he’s dropping out because he found something he
wanted to do . It surprised me, seeing as he was one of those quiet, unsocial
types . ” Lio Shirazumi . I can’t say I’ve heard of the person . But Kokutō
knows a lot of people I don’t . The class sees him as a friend to everyone,
and he has some small popularity with the female upperclassman population .
“I invited you too, didn’t I? I told you when we said goodbye to each
other yesterday, but you never showed up in the student council room . I
looked for you in the classroom, but there was no one there . ”
He did indeed invite me, but I would’ve just spoiled the mood by going
there . That, and I thought Kokutō inviting me was just him being his usual
polite self . He didn’t really expect me to go…did he?
“Oh, so you were serious?”
“Of course I was! What did you think, ?” Kokutō, understandably,
gets mad, not because of what I said but what I thought he said . I’ve never
really experienced someone being angry at me, and it confuses me . From
that moment on I sink into silence and wait with my mouth shut . I don’t
think there’s ever been a day that I wanted Akitaka to come quickly as
badly as this one . Not long thereafter, the car entered the front gate, and I
say an awkward goodbye to Kokutō .
When the sun began to set, and it grew darker and darker, the rain
finally stopped . Putting on my red leather blouson, I head outside to clear
my head . The night sky overhead is in turmoil . The clouds that blanketed
the sky only occasionally gave way to the moon and the stars . In the city, 
/ 3 • 49
policemen in uniform and plainclothes alike patrolled the streets, and I
made my way to the riverbank in hopes of avoiding them .
Wet asphalt reflects the dim glow of the streetlights . From afar, I hear
the menacing metallic rumbling of a train . That means the train viaduct is
near . Almost arbitrarily, I decide to head towards that direction, but I stop
short upon reaching it when I see someone there .
Slowly and purposefully, I approach .
Another train passes overhead, probably tonight’s last ride . The noise
is louder this time, since I’m closer, and it sounds like rolling thunder . The
rumble reverberates as loudly as if I was in a sealed room, and I have to
cover my ears if I don’t want to go deaf . After the train passes, however, a
solemn sort of silence descends under the viaduct .
Without streetlight or moonlight, this place is in complete darkness .
That might be for the best . Red liquid is spread all around the riverbank,
yet even this is almost black because of the lack of light . This would be the
fifth . The weeds around here are overgrown, but the corpse it surrounds
looks like a single solitary flower, red and artificial . The face is at the center,
with dismembered arms and legs surrounding it, twisted to look like flower
petals, or a manji cross .
I’m starting to get used to this . I gulp, and I realize my throat is dry . Is
it tension, or arousal, I wonder? My thirst burns my throat, but it doesn’t
matter . This place is pregnant with death, and I smile wordlessly in spite of
myself . The thirst turns into screaming ecstasy inside of me, the pleasure
almost too overwhelming, but I manage to hold it back . I gaze upon the
beautiful corpse once more, and feel for once that I am truly alive .
50 • KINOKO NASU
/ 4
At the beginning of each month, it is customary in the Ryōgi dynasty for
the head of the family and the heir to have a sword duel with live steel .
In the past, different swordmasters would be invited to participate in the
duel, and to teach their craft . But then, tiring of such acts, one of my ancestors
stopped this practice long ago, and created within the manor his own
school of swordsmanship . Into such a tradition was I born, and even a girl
of the Ryōgi dynasty must bear a certain standard with the sword .
My father was a strong man, and skillful with his weapon . In our duel,
he made the sword dance like no other, and easily overpowered me . It
is this disparity in skill and strength that has just made me lose the duel .
After this, I waste no time in returning to the main building of the manor,
which lies a fair bit of distance away from the dōjo . The wooden floor of
the compound is immaculately treated, and makes no sound as my feet
tread upon it .
On the way, I see Akitaka standing in a corridor waiting for me . Ten years
my senior, Akitaka is the servant assigned to me by the household since
my childhood days . He is a dutiful and patient man, especially with me .
He’s probably waiting on me so he can change me out of my sweat-soaked
clothes .
“You fought a close duel today . How is your father?”
“Goddamit, Akitaka, stop shadowing me all the time . I can at least change
by myself . It’s not like we’re joined at the hip . You’d be better served sucking
up to my brother, you know that? Males succeed the dynasty, after all . ”
Despite my rudeness, Akitaka smiles . “You are quite wrong, my lady .
There is no successor to the dynasty but you, for you are the only one that
inherited the gift . ”
The statement elicits a small chuckle from me . “A gift, is it? What I have,
Akitaka, is a curse . ”
Leaving Akitaka in the corridor, I continue to head toward the main building .
Once I reach my room, I instinctively lock the door shut and immediately
undress my training garments . I steal a glance of myself in the mirror,
at the body of a sixteen year old girl . Actually, I only need to put in a little
effort to make my face look like a guy, but I can’t cheat that way with the
rest of my body . The body that continues to grow, month after month, year
after year…the body that Shiki detests more and more with each passing
day .
“It might have been better for me to be a guy,” I say to no one in particu-
/ 4 • 51
lar . No one is listening, except for me . Except for him . The one inside me
called Shiki .
All descendants of our clan are given two different names, two different
logograms, though with the same pronunciation . There is the masculine
name, which belongs to yang, the positive . And then the feminine name,
which belongs to yin, the negative . As I was born a girl, I am  . Had I
been a boy, I would have been named Shiki . The reason we undertake
such a peculiar practice is simple to understand . The descendants of the
Ryōgi dynasty have a high chance of inheriting dissociative identity disorder,
what most people would know as a split personality…in other words,
someone like me .
My father once said that ours was a dynasty blessed, a state of grace
that only few know . He also said it was a curse . He got the “curse” part
right, at least . This isn’t a state of grace by any stretch of the imagination .
It is, quite simply, an abnormality . Fortunately, I’m the first in a long time
to successfully inherit the curse . Unfortunately, that only means that a lot
of my relatives ended up in asylums before they were even old enough to
understand what that meant . Having two personalities breaks most people
eventually . The difference between dream and consciousness, the boundary
between your memory and the other’s becomes blurred, and one so
afflicted soon turns to suicide . But I was different . I didn’t become insane
like the others…and so I was trained by the family .
I like to think it’s because me and Shiki ignore each other . To me, Shiki
is just another personality, one I switch to when I need it, and we exist
simultaneously, aware of each other . In the duel between me and my
father, I needed his aggressiveness, so I used him . But I am in control . Altogether,
it’s a bit different from what people usually call a split personality . I
am , but at the same time, I am also Shiki .
Father was proud, proud to have actually spawned a proper heir to the
dynasty in his generation . My older brother was cast aside in the line of
succession, and I took his place . And really, I’m fine with that . I don’t bite
the hand that feeds me . And I don’t mind living this poor excuse for a normal
life . Not like I have any choice in the matter . Even if, say, Shiki turns
into a cold-blooded killer, I can’t make him go away . There will always be
something called “Shiki” inside of me, and in the end, both of us are the
same . No more and no less .
52 • KINOKO NASU
The First Homicide Inquiry - I
“So it’s true then? You and the Ryōgi girl have hooked up?”
I almost turn the coffee milk in my mouth into a projectile at what Gakuto
just said . I go into a coughing fit after almost choking on the damn thing,
but it does give me a scant few seconds to scan the classroom for anyone
who heard that . Everyone seems to be busy minding their own lunchtime
business .
“What do you mean?” I finally manage to say after gulping down my
drink .
“Don’t be playin’ dumb with me . ” Gakuto’s face looks like he wants to
shift the blame away from himself . “It ain’t no secret that you’ve been eyeing
Ryōgi . Matter of fact, judging from the reaction you just made, seems
the only ones who ain’t wise to it are the both of you . ”
I can’t see myself so I can’t really say, but I think I might inadvertently be
making the most disappointed frown I’ve ever made in my life .
The increasingly frigid winds and rapidly decreasing temperature signal
November and the advent of winter, meaning that it’s been seven months
since I first met  . The time and our tendency to hang out together
must have given people the wrong impression .
“I’m sorry to say that you have been misinformed,” I finally say . “We’re
just friends, if you could even call it that . ”
“That a fact?” His continued disbelief exasperates me . That Gakuto’s
parents stuck him with a name meaning “man of learning” is the textbook
definition of irony . It goes against his thick-headedness and his entire tendency
to gravitate towards sports and less towards academically inclined
pursuits . His status as the pride of the jūdō team attested to that more
than anything . Despite our seeming incompatibility, we’ve struck a friendship
that started way back in grade school that somehow sticks to this day .
“You’re on a first name basis, though,” he continues . “She don’t seem like
the kind of broad to just let that go without a warning . ”
“ really hates being called by her last name, though . I called her
‘Ryōgi’ one time just to see what happened, and she gave me a look as if I
just killed her pet dog or something . She insisted that I not be formal with
her, so I ended up just calling her by her first name . Pretty boring, huh?”
“Yeah, I guess so,” he finally concedes after a sigh and a five second
delay . He looks really disappointed, leaving me to wonder what kind of
crazy story he was expecting . “Then your rendezvous last week at the
school entrance wasn’t a thing, either? This is a waste of time man, talking 
/ THE FIRST HOMICIDE INQUIRY - I • 53
to you expecting details . Shoulda just shut up and ate my lunch back in the
classroom . ”
“Wait, back it up . How the hell do you know about last week?”
“I told you, boy, you and Ryōgi are famous . Mostly because of Ryōgi,
but whatever . Your rainy day get-together was this morning’s hallway talk .
Since it’s about Ryōgi, every mouth in this damn school been talking . ”
I let out a frustrated sigh and cast a gloomy look at the sky, silently praying
that this mess doesn’t reach ’ ears . She’d kill me .
“They say this school has a lot of college entrants that turn out well,
don’t they? I’m starting to wonder if people here really are that smart,” I
blurt out half-jokingly .
“Well, if it’s any consolation, at least some of the upperclassmen got
work out of this here school,” he replies matter-of-factly . I’m about to make
another joke at the expense of the school’s administration and curriculum
when Gakuto chimes in again . “Seriously, though, there’s one thing that
don’t sit right with me: of all the fine girls in this school, why Ryōgi? Whichever
way you wanna spin it, it just don’t seem at all like you . ”
I recall being told something similar by one of my friends in the higher
year level . I was told a more down-to-earth girl would suit me more, with
the not-so-subtle hint that  was altogether too strange . The words are
different but I recognize the same sort of subtle insinuation in what Gakuto
just said, and it makes me a little angry .
“Oh, come off it .  isn’t as scary as you make her out to be,” I say
inadvertently . Gakuto suddenly makes a huge, stupid grin, as if finally
claiming some elusive prize .
“’Just a friend,’ huh? Easy, man, no need to raise your voice at me . Just
curious, is all . Scary chicks like that don’t come a dime a dozen, you feel
me? You not seeing how cold she is just means you already crazy for her . ”
He must mean “hard-headed and obstinate” when he says “cold”,
because that’s the only way I’d describe  . I know Gakuto’s right, so
only with reluctance do I finally concede .
“I know, alright? Okay, you got me, Christ . ”
“Then what part of her do you like? Her looks? What?” I have no idea
what’s motivating him and his drive to ask every single detailed question .
Well, it’s clear that  is good looking, no doubt about it . But that’s not
what really draws me to her . always looks like she’s hiding some invisible
wound, some fragile part of her that’s on the verge of breaking and
eating her from the inside out, killing her slowly . You see the emptiness in
her face, her thousand-yard stare, and you realize it isn’t just some convenient
metaphor; it’s real, somehow, and she needs help . I don’t want to see 
54 • KINOKO NASU
her get hurt .
“Well, she does have her cute sides,” I venture hesitantly . “If I were to
compare her to an animal, she’d be a rabbit I guess . ” As soon as I say that, I
regret it immediately . It’s a big hit with Gakuto, however, who laughs heartily
upon hearing it almost reflexively .
“A rabbit? Man, that ain’t even half right and you know it . If she were an
animal, she’d be a hawk that can claw the shit outta your eyes, or some shit
like that . A rabbit is just…” he tries to find his words amid bouts of laughter .
“…just too far off the scale . Or wait, wait . Maybe she’s the kind of bird that
dies from loneliness?” Another huge laugh .
“That’s it . I’m not talking to you about girls anymore . ”
All of a sudden, Gakuto’s laughter stops . “Know what? A rabbit might’ve
been a good comparison after all . ”
Now it is my turn to laugh, though I manage to suppress the urge .
“Gakuto, an about-face that quick is pretty suspicious, don’t you think?”
“Nah, nah, it ain’t about that . I just remembered that there’re rabbits
that can bite your head off if you’re not careful, man . ”
After thinking on it perhaps a moment longer than I should have, I
respond . “Bullshit . ”
“Boy, of course it’s bullshit,” Gakuto says, stretching his arms and leaning
back on his seat . “I’m talking ‘bout video games, man . ”
/ THE FIRST HOMICIDE INQUIRY - II • 55
The First Homicide Inquiry - II

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On the day the finals for the second quarter ended, I saw a very unusual
thing .
Inside my desk was a letter, which automatically makes it a bit weird,
but it didn’t end there . It was the content of the letter and its sender that
surprised me . It was  brazenly asking me out on a date . The letter said
something simple like “take me out on a date, will ya?”, but something
about it was vaguely threatening, almost like an ultimatum .
I came home that day, not knowing what to make of what I just read . I
waited for the next day to come, with all the dread of a samurai who had
just been ordered to commit seppuku the first thing in the morning .
I’ve been waiting for what must have been an hour in the place 
designated: the statue of the dog Hachikō in front of the train station, when
I finally see her walking towards me from quite a bit away . The first thing I
notice is that she’s wearing a different colored kimono today, the color of
autumn leaves . It actually goes well with her bright red jacket . Though I see
 almost every day, I’ve never really noticed how small she is, looking
at her from this distance . The walk that animates her makes her features
look distant and cold, and yet she carries herself with dignity and grace;
a contradiction not unlike the one you would find on a puppet, a puppet
almost alive in its appearance, and yet ultimately dead .
“Yo, Kokutō . Been waiting long? My bad, man . Losing Akitaka was a pain
in the ass . ”
The second thing I notice is that she pronounces my name weird, and I
get the feeling she’s referencing some long-dead French poet with it . And
that’s not even going into the way she’s talking now . It leaves me stunned
for a second, and I look at her a bit too long, as if to confirm whether it
really is  or some sort of elaborate but dumb prank by Gakuto .
“What, being an hour late is a cardinal sin now?”  says . She must
have noticed my mouth now hanging half-open . “Unclenching your ass
some would do you wonders, my friend . ” ’ black eyes stare at me
weirdly . The same eyes that always looked like they were staring at something
far off, even during the first time we met on that snowy day .
“Um, I—I just wanna check,” I stutter, laughing in my head as I do so .
“You’re , right?”
She raises an eyebrow at me . “You were expecting maybe the school 
56 • KINOKO NASU
principal?”  laughs, leaving a suspended grin on her face afterwards .
“Well, time’s a-wastin’ . I’m not good at this, so I’m gonna have to leave it
to you where we go . ”
She then grabs my arm in a solid grip and starts to walk . Making a mockery
of her final statement, she strings me along by the arm across a variety
of specialty stores, never really buying anything, but moving on to a new
shop after she gets bored . I try reasoning with her, see if she wanted to
go to a movie or a coffee shop to take a breather, but she parries with an
immediate and resounding “No . ” She’s probably right, anyway . Going to
such boring places wouldn’t fit ’ character now .
She talked . A lot . Quite a contrast to the usually quiet  I knew . It’s
like she’s high or something . Most of the stores we visit are clothing stores .
Given the state she’s in right now, it made me breathe a sigh of relief that
she’s still going to women’s clothing stores . Finally, after four hours of keeping
up with , she says she wants to eat, and so after much wandering,
she decides on a fast food store .
The second we go inside the restaurant  attracts attention with her
ridiculously out of place kimono, but she doesn’t seem to mind . As she
places her jacket on her seat and sits down, I decide to ask her the obvious .
“So, is this the way you normally talk out of school, ?”
“Only in my case,” she says in between furious chewing of hamburger
chunks . It looks like she doesn’t like it . “But really, how you talk means
absolutely nothing . I mean, you could change how you talk right now and
you’d still be the same guy, right?”  finishes the hamburger in seconds .
“I’m sure I’ve got you absolutely confused right about now . ”
She has no idea .
“I guess I have some explaining to do . This is the first time you’ve seen
me after all . I’ve been quiet until now because me and  were on the
same wavelength on this one . ”
The words are going in, but I don’t understand what she’s saying at all .
“It’s what you would call a split personality . I’m Shiki, and the one you
usually see is  . But don’t get me wrong, we’re not like different people
or anything .  Ryōgi has always been one person . The only difference
between us is our priorities . ”
While she says this, she puts a wet finger to a paper napkin, writing her
two names, with two differing characters but the same pronunciation . One
Shiki that means “weave” . Another  that means “ritual” .
“I just wanted to give you a friendly neighborhood chat, is all . 
wasn’t keen on the idea, so I took over in her place . You get me?”
“I…suppose so,” I answer uneasily . The truth is that I really do sort of 
/ THE FIRST HOMICIDE INQUIRY - II • 57
get it, when I think about the time we met at the school orientation . We’d
met before that, but when we talked at the orientation, she said she didn’t
know anything about it . I thought it was because she hated me or some
other similar reason, but I guess now I can kind of understand .
Being with her for half the day, I come to understand there really isn’t
so big a difference between today’s Shiki and the  I supposedly know .
Like she says, she talks differently, but the way she moves is the same . So
much the same, in fact, that doubting the veracity of what she says seems
now a foolish notion .
“But why tell me?” I say .
“Figured it’s only a matter of time before you knew . ” She takes a sip from
her juice but immediately puts it down . She doesn’t really like cold things .
“I’m what you would call ’ destructive impulse . I represent the
things she wants to do the most . But until now there’s no one I could direct
this impulse at .  had no real interest in anyone . ” She mentions this
with disinterest and just a tinge of regret, as if dreading the fact that she
had to say it at all . She keeps looking at me seriously, and I’m afraid of what
she’ll do should I move .
“You can relax, man . I’m still myself, and I’m just being a mouthpiece for
what  thinks right now . I’m not gonna go Charles Whitman on you . ”
There is a pause for a moment, as her face grows more stern, as if to presage
the saying of something important . “Though…we are beginning to be
out of sync, so I’d take myself with just a little grain of salt, if I were you . ”
“’Out of sync?’ Does that mean you and  got in a fight?”
“I like how you think someone can have a fight with himself . But no, not
like that . See, whatever I do, it has to be something we both want . ’
at the helm here, so meeting you was a mutual decision . She probably
would have gone about it entirely different, though . It’s not really in her to
just go out and take you on a date . You can thank me for that one . ” I nod
without really thinking, focusing more on what she’s saying, partly because
it’s interesting, and partly because I can’t take in half of what she’s saying .
Shiki laughs . “See, I like that about you .  thinks otherwise . That’s
what I mean when I say out of sync . ”
The way she worded it, I don’t know if  doesn’t like that I don’t
give it much thought, or if  doesn’t like that Shiki likes me . I’d like to
believe it’s the latter though, for the sake of my pride at the very least .
Quite abruptly, Shiki stands up, and puts the money for the food she ate
on the table .
“Well, guess that’s about it . Let’s call it a day . ”
Putting her jacket on, she makes her way to the door with a happy skip 
58 • KINOKO NASU
in her walk, leaving with only one thing to say:
“You’re all right, man . I like you, so we’ll see each other real soon . ”
After parting with Shiki, I start to make my way home . Once I reach the
street, I’m surprised to see the city being bathed with the warm glow of
sunset . Though it’s still a relatively early time, there’s a lot less people in
the main road than usual thanks to the recent murders .
I must be tired after talking (not to mention window shopping) with
Shiki for that long, so I make my way inside my house with only a cursory
greeting to my parents . I was planning to inhabit the kotatsu for a good
warm nap, only to find my cousin Daisuke, a frequent visitor and a good
friend, had already usurped the table . Wordlessly, we initiate a battle for
the warm table, struggling with our legs to gain the most ground . In the
end, however, I am no match for him, and while he lies down, half his body
being warmed by the kotatsu, I end up having to stand up .
“You must be busy these days, Daisuke,” I say while eating some of the
oranges on top of the table, resignation clear in my voice .
“Yeah, real busy, what with five murders in three months . Sorry for
crashing in your house like this . Figured your dad’s house was closer to the
police station, and I only get one hour of R&R before I need to get back, so
going home would have been a waste of time . ”
My cousin Daisuke is a homicide detective in the city police, an irony
since he’s “kind of a lazy guy . ” His words, not mine . Why the department
would put a man so unfit for the position of solving crime is a mystery not
even he can solve . He’s my go-to source for all of the crime related stuff
that happens, a convenience that seems to be proving its worth with every
passing day .
“How’s the search going?” I ask .
“Baby steps . We were pretty hard up for leads, but in this fifth vic, the
suspect finally threw us a bone, even if it does seem intentional . ” Daisuke
sits up and faces me, a grim look on his worn out and sleep-deprived face .
“What I’m about to tell you is confidential, Mikiya . You’re not entirely unrelated
to this, so listen up . I told you about the first vic, right?”
Daisuke then proceeds to describe the situation with the second and
third victims . While hoping that not all policemen in the country are this
loose-tongued, I listen to his story . The second victim was vertically sliced
in half from the crotch to the head . Murder weapon unknown . One of the
halves was stuck to the wall .
The third victim had his limbs cut off, and the arms sewn to the legs . The 
/ THE FIRST HOMICIDE INQUIRY - II • 59
fourth was cut into pieces, with what looked like a symbol or some other
marking left on the body . The fifth was arranged such that the arms and
legs formed a manji symbol .
“Obviously someone with some sort of mental disorder,” I say, trying to
hold back the growing sickness in my stomach .
“Too obvious, though . This guy has some sort of point to make here .
What do you think?”
“Hmm . I don’t think there’s any meaning in them all being killed by a
cutting weapon . Other than that, I don’t know . But…”
“But?”
“He’s getting used to it . All the victims until now have been outside . The
next one might be a break and enter job . ”
Daisuke puts a hand on his temple . I really do pity the stress this job,
and heck, this case is giving him . I know he’s barely had any time to himself .
“There’s no motive, no pattern,” he observes . “And he might try going
inside houses next if he doesn’t find anyone outside to kill . I hope the brass
gets the same read on this guy and have some sort of plan for it . Probably
not, though . ”
He closes his eyes, right hand still resting on his head, nursing an invisible
wound . “As for why I told you all of this…we found this in the fifth
crime scene . Suspect probably dropped it . ” He produces a small plastic
bag from his pocket; the kind used to preserve evidence, and inside is our
school emblem . We have to stick it somewhere in our clothes when we go
to school .
“The area had a lot of vegetation, so the suspect might not have noticed
that he dropped this . Or it could have been intentional, some sort of message .
I don’t know . But it’s the only lead I got . I might be paying your school
a visit in a few days,” Daisuke says, almost like a premonition for an ill omen .
60 • KINOKO NASU
The First Homicide Inquiry - III
Before anyone could grow comfortable or complacent with it, winter
vacation ends . The only special thing that happened during that time was
that I made the customary visit to the shrine on New Year’s with Shiki, but
other than that, there was nothing else of note .
As the third term starts,  starts to isolate herself even more . Even
I could tell she was trying to stay away from other people as much as possible .
After school, she likes to look out the window when everyone else
has left, but it would always be Shiki that waits, just like today . I keep her
company, even though she hasn’t said that she wants me to . She needs it,
I think .
The winter evenings come earlier, and the sunset that heralds it bathes
the classroom in a deep red light . The bright light makes the shadows that
play across the classroom’s walls even darker, and Shiki’s shadow is no
exception . She leans against the window before she begins to talk .
“Say, Kokutō . Did I ever tell you that I hate people?”
“Not really . ” I reply with the tone that implies skepticism at where this
topic is going .
“Well, congratulations, now you know . ’ a misanthrope, been one
since she was a kid . See, when you’re a kid, you don’t know nothing yet,
right? You think every random Joe you meet on the street loves ya, just like
that . I mean, you love yourself, so it’s common sense that they must like
you too, right?”
“I suppose . When you’re a kid, you still trust everyone . When you’re a
kid, you’re scared of ghosts . When you grow up, you get scared of other
people . ”
“Right . But that ignorance is what’s really important, Kokutō . It never
occurs to you that your best friend could be a murderer, or that your neighbor
could be killing puppies in his spare time . You don’t suspect . And since
you don’t know anything, other people will accept you . And no matter how
fake that is, it’s important, since you’ll be able to love other people too .
People can only express the emotions they know, after all . ”
The sunset paints her face red, and her eyes acquire that peculiar gaze
of hers, reminiscent of the kind of casual, perhaps feigned disdain of a
predator hiding its intentions from its prey . Right now, I can’t tell which
Shiki she currently is . Maybe it doesn’t even matter .
“But it was different for me . Since the day I was born,  had me
inside of her, so she already knew of other people . I didn’t love her, and 
/ THE FIRST HOMICIDE INQUIRY - III • 61
so she learned that it was possible for people not to love . Ever since she
was a kid, she learned how ugly people can be on the inside, and so she
couldn’t love other people . In time, that tempered to rejection, and then
disinterest . ”
And that’s how I grew to dislike people, her eyes seemed to conclude .
“But weren’t you lonely like that?” I muse .
“Why would I be?  has me, doesn’t she? She was isolated from society,
sure, but alone? Never . ” She tries her best to look like she really means
it . “But lately,” she continues, “ has been acting kinda weird . She’s
been trying harder and harder to deny her abnormality . Denial is what I do .
She’s only supposed to affirm . ” Shiki laughs bitterly at their private joke,
her sinister smile betraying the brutality beneath .
 “Kokutō, have you ever wanted to kill someone?”
At that moment, the sun shone in a peculiar way, making her face take
on a deep, crimson, almost blood-stained look, and it made my heart jump .
“Not really, no . Probably the furthest I’ve ever thought in that vein is
wanting to punch someone . ”
“I see . But for me, that desire is all I have,” she declares, as her voice
echoes across the empty classroom, now lit by a burning red sun .
“What do you mean?”
“All the things that  really wants to do, all the things she holds
back, I welcome with open arms . It’s my sole meaning and purpose, and
it doesn’t make me unhappy at all to know that . And that’s why  has
always tried to suppress me . She always tries to kill the black stain in her
that’s called Shiki . I’ve killed myself, over and over and over again . I told
you, right? ‘People can only express the emotions they know?’ Well, the
only emotion I’ve ever experienced…is murder . ”
She finally stands up from the windowsill, and without making so much
as a sound, draws closer to me, and in that moment, I feel fear, genuine
fear, in my heart .
“And that’s why, Kokutō, ’ definition of murder,” she pauses and
leans close to my ear, her murmur as audible as a shout, “is killing me . She
kills anything that makes me want to come out . ”
And with her prankster smile grimly signaling the end of the conversation,
Shiki leaves the classroom .
62 • KINOKO NASU
The day after, I try to pretend as if nothing happened . I go about the
motions as usual, and of course this includes inviting  to eat lunch
together .
“Wanna grab a bite with me?”
“What…in the…” Her face betrays surprise, a face I’ve yet to see her
put on until now, and yet with her voice wavering, she reluctantly accepts,
perhaps to preserve routine more than anything .
 always liked going to the roof, and so we head there . We climb the
stairs, with  choosing to remain silent, but I knew her pointed stare of
surprise and anger is boring a hole in my back . I know the reason why she’s
mad . Even I could read between the lines of what Shiki said yesterday . But
it’s not like she hasn’t unconsciously been sending signals for me to back
off, and I just take it as business as usual .
When I open the door to the roof, we find that we’re all alone . It seems
that we’re the only ones that want to eat lunch under the cold late-January
sky .
“Man, it’s cold,” I say . “Wanna go somewhere else?”
“I’m alright . If you want to eat somewhere else, however, then you are
welcome to do so . ”
As always, her sarcasm-drenched politeness doesn’t really bother me .
We sit beside the wall to avoid the chill of the wind, with me already having
finished two sandwiches .  hasn’t even touched hers .
“Why are you even talking to me?”  murmured something almost
inaudible even in this deserted rooftop, and it was so sudden I wasn’t able
to hear it clearly .
“You said something, ?”
“I said, why are you so thoughtless?” she says while fixing me with the
same angry glare she had on earlier .

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“Oh, come on . I’ve been called ‘honest to a fault’ many times before, but
never ‘thoughtless . ’”
“Then everyone’s been going easy on you,” she says, sounding convinced .
 finally breaks open the wrapping on her egg sandwich; the
sound of the crunching plastic seal echoed in the empty rooftop . The noise
was fitting somehow .  sits silently now while eating her sandwich in
small, deliberate chunks, and as I’m already done, I’m just sort of idling . I
can practically feel the wave of angered expectation she’s generating, so I
try to break it by starting the conversation that had been in the air since I
asked her to eat lunch with me .
“, I’m sure you’re a little mad at me…”
“A little?!”
/ THE FIRST HOMICIDE INQUIRY - III • 63
Her eyes stare needle point daggers at me . It’s what I get for just saying
what comes to mind, but this subject needed to be broached sooner or
later anyway .
“God, you’re annoying,” sighs . “I have no idea why you still choose
to associate yourself with me after all that I’ve shown you and all that Shiki
said to you yesterday . ”
“I don’t know why either,” I shrug lightly . “Being with you is kinda fun,
but if you asked me why, I wouldn’t know what to say . ”
“Kokutō, you do understand that I’m abnormal, right?”
There’s nothing I can do but nod . Her split personality (or whatever it is)
obviously makes her some variety of odd . “Of course I do . ”
“Then why aren’t you getting it? I’m not someone you can just walk up
to everyday and expect to hang out normally with . ”
“Does it really matter if you’re normal or not?”
That statement made for ’ second surprised face of the day . She
looks at me straight and unmoving, so much that I thought that she might
have even stopped breathing .
“But…I can’t be anything like you,”  says . She brushes a hand on
her hair, making the sleeve of her kimono slide down to reveal a bandage
wrapped around her slender right arm, just around the elbow . It looks like
it’s only been recently applied .
“, that wound-“
Abruptly,  stands up before I can finish my sentence . She avoids
looking at me, deliberately staring at some far off place .
“If Shiki’s words aren’t getting through to you, then allow me to elucidate
on them,” she says . “If this goes on, I will kill you . ”
Now it was my turn to be surprised . I could muster no reply . Without
even throwing away the plastic wrapping of her egg sandwich,  leaves
the roof and returns to the classroom . Left alone, I clean up the trash we
both left behind .
“Now I’ve really done it . It’s just like Gakuto said . ” It was all I could end
up saying to myself . Because just like Gakuto said, I might really be an idiot .
I couldn’t bring myself to hate , even after what she said . In fact, I
think my mind just cleared up on the matter . At this point, there’s only one
reason why I like being with  .
“I’ve become crazy a long time ago . ” If only I had realized it sooner .
If only I had realized that I like  Ryōgi so much, that I can laugh at
being told about my eventual murder .
64 • KINOKO NASU
The First Homicide Inquiry - IV
I wake up to a perfectly good Sunday morning, the first Sunday of February
in fact . After washing my face and brushing my teeth, I head to the
dining room, and am surprised to find Daisuke there, waiting for me .
“Why are you here?” I ask, in the manner of my usual morning crankiness .
“Well, good morning to you, too . I missed the last train, so I came over
for a while . I gotta go to work in a while, though . Savor school life while
you’ve got it, Mikiya . When you grow up, working harder just translates
to less vacations . ” A yawn punctuates the last word in his sentence . His
drooping shoulders and tired voice tell me just how much sleep he’s been
getting . That only means two things: the investigation on the serial killer
has either ground to a solid halt or they’ve gotten a new lead .
“Oh yeah, you were talking about coming to my school last time we
talked . Did anything come of that?”
“Nothing, really . Lots of people lose school emblems, after all, and testing
it turned up nothing on the offender database . But it might be back
to your school for me . ” He sighs, rubbing his eyes . “Truth is, a sixth body
turned up three days ago . Signs of a struggle this time, which was different .
The victim had long nails, and she probably clawed at her killer . Found
about three centimeters of skin beneath the vic’s nails . ”
Now this was surprising . I haven’t even heard about this on the TV or
the papers . Yet, even in the face of such grim news, my mind couldn’t help
but drift off to  and the conversation we had recently . She’d been talking
about murder as well . A picture forms in my mind, of  standing
atop a bloody corpse, holding a knife…
“So that means the killer was wounded?” I blurt out .
“Um, yeah? Unless the victim was scratching her own damn self . Lab
team thinks the skin is from the elbow, so I’d expect the killer’s nursing
some pretty deep wounds thereabouts . The blood is being analyzed, and if
it gets a match on the database, it’s checkmate . ”
Daisuke stands up after that, says a quick goodbye, and leaves . I suddenly
find myself without the power to stand up, and I collapse on one of
the chairs . It was only three days ago when I talked with Shiki in the sunsetlit
classroom, and the day after that, I could’ve sworn there was a fresh
bandage on her elbow .
/ THE FIRST HOMICIDE INQUIRY - IV • 65
Past noon, I make up my mind . Just thinking and worrying about it isn’t
going to do any good, so I figure if I ask  herself, and she tells me she
has nothing to do with the killings, then that’ll be enough . At the very least,
it’ll do something to calm my nerves .
I rifle through my school’s student registry book, and find ’ name
and home address a few moments later . Her house is on the outskirts of
town, and when I finally find it, the better part of the night had caught up
with me . The Ryōgi estate’s periphery is populated by bamboo trees in
every direction, a veritable forest, and the estate itself is built like an old
18th century mansion . The walls surrounding the grounds went on for so
long, I don’t think I could have guessed the size of the place just by walking .
I would’ve needed an airplane to get a better picture .
A path leads me through the bamboo forest to a large gate . The entire
thing looks like a relic left over from the Edo era, but despite this, I find
an intercom beside the gate, a little anachronistic quality that gives me
some small relief . I push the button and state my business, and in under
a minute, a black-suited man opens the gates and comes out to greet me .
He looks like he’s in his early thirties, and seems about as high-spirited as
a ghost would be .
“Welcome, young man . ” he says with impeccably practiced politeness .
“My name is Akitaka, a servant of the Ryōgi household and of the lady
 . Unfortunately, the lady is absent now and cannot meet you . If you
would like, you may enter the mansion and await her return . ”
“Er…no, thanks . I think I’ll just come back another time . ”
Truth is, I don’t think I have the courage to go inside the mansion alone .
“As you wish . Goodbye, then . ”
He goes inside the gates again, and it closes behind him with a sound
of finality . Because it’s already dark, I decide to go home for today . I keep
thinking about , and what she could be doing at such a late hour . I
decide not to assume the worst . It’s the easiest way to a slippery slope of
crippling anxiety .
The walk to the station takes me an hour, but right at the station entrance
I meet my former upperclassman . He invites me to dinner in a restaurant,
and, not being one to refuse, I go with him . We end up talking until the
hour hand of my watch is pointed at ten o’ clock . Unlike my friend, I’m still
a student, so I needed to get going soon . After saying goodbye to him, I
buy a ticket for the train inside the station . The hour hand of my watch is
creeping closer and closer to 11, but before I put the ticket on the turnstile,
I allow myself to wonder, for a moment, if  was home already .
66 • KINOKO NASU
“God, what the hell am I doing here?” I say to myself, while walking
through the unfamiliar residential neighborhood . The streets are empty
with no signs of life, unsurprising given the hour and the circumstances,
but I tried to pay it no heed; ’ house was nearby . I know I won’t be
able to meet her now even if I went there . But still, I just want to see the
lights on in her house, in her room, just to know that she’s there, so I’m
taking this short side trip back to the Ryōgi estate .
The freezing winter air puts a strain on my shoulder muscles, and my
ragged breath is keenly audible in the still night . Soon, the residential district
is behind me and I face the tree line of the bamboo forest surrounding
the Ryōgi estate for the second time tonight . The trees part for the little
path that goes towards the front gate . No wind sings through the trees at
this hour, and no light but the moon’s illuminates the path; far from making
the forest less menacing, the silence only serves to accentuate my anxiety .
I wonder what would happen if I got attacked here . As soon as the
thought enters my mind, I regret it immediately . Though I was only halfjoking
with myself, my brain is now working overtime to exaggerate the
fleeting image, even as I try to put it out of my mind . When I was little, I was
afraid of monsters . I mistook the silhouettes flitting to and fro in the midst
of the bamboo trees for ghosts and other horrors . But now, I’m scared of
other people, people who you imagine will just jump out from behind the
brush and attack you . What age was I when I started to replace the ghosts
with people?
Every step I take worsens the thought in my head, and I keep remembering
the terrible image I saw when Daisuke told me about the recent
murder . And while I try to exorcise that disturbing thought, I come across
something in the path that makes my feet stop of their own volition .
A few meters ahead, a white shadow of a person was standing . Her kimono
is so white it seemed as if to shine in the moonlight, but it is speckled
and sullied with something, and it continues to spread over the kimono’s
surface . Something in front of her is spraying red liquid in all directions .
Venturing forward a few steps, it becomes clear that the woman is  .
As for the object which I first took for some sort of fountain?
A corpse, its form too mangled and bloody to identify at first sight .
Somehow, I’m neither shocked nor surprised . Perhaps it’s because the
same terrible premonition lingered in my thoughts just moments before,
and in an instant, it turned into reality . Now my mind is blank .
The body is fresh, otherwise it wouldn’t bleed profusely like that . The
fatal wound starts at the neck, and continues down at an angle towards the
body in a single, clean cut, like some macabre stole .
/ THE FIRST HOMICIDE INQUIRY - IV • 67
 stares at the body, standing still like a statue .
The rich, red color of the spraying blood is enough to make me faint, but
the organs seeping forth from the gaping wound makes the body look less
like a human and more like a twisted facsimile of one made by someone
mad . It repels and disgusts me so much that it’s hard to look at .
Yet  only continues to stare, unperturbed and placid .
Red butterflies take flight from the wound, and descend lightly on ’
face, and on her ghostly kimono . Her blood-soaked lips twist into a shape . . .
is it of fear, or of pleasure? Is she  or Shiki? I try to say something, but
my voice stops, and I fall to the ground just because of the effort of trying
to talk .
I vomit, my stomach retching out all its contents, all the bile . I wish it
retched out this memory as well, but no such luck . I vomit so hard I start to
cry . But that doesn’t make me feel any more relieved . The overwhelming
smell of the blood is so rich it drowns my brain . And finally,  notices
me . She turns her head to look at me, and I see now that the twist on her
lips earlier was a smile, a kind of warm, motherly smile that is so at odds
with the scene that it makes me shiver .
I can feel my consciousness start to leave me as she walks closer to me .
Before I faint, she utters something at me .
“Do be careful, Kokutō . A terrible premonition echoes a terrible reality . ”
I guess I was too optimistic . I refused to even think about this outcome
until I was face to face with it .
68 • KINOKO NASU
The First Homicide Inquiry - V
I heard they found me lying on the ground near a puddle of my own
vomit, awake but lying there dumbfounded . A patrolman spotted me and
took me to a nearby station, where I was taken into questioning . Unfortunately,
I was in a state of shock for about four hours, and they couldn’t
get anything out of me . I guess my brain isn’t really prepared for that sort
of thing . I don’t know if anybody is . The time it took from the interview to
them releasing me made it so that I couldn’t make it to school anymore, so
I decided to take a break today .
While the corpse was spreading blood profusely all over the place, I was
lucky enough to be far away and so didn’t have any blood spatter on me, so
that (and the fact that I’m Daisuke’s cousin) sped up the processing quite a
bit . Right now, Daisuke is giving me a ride back home .
“So, you really didn’t see anyone, Mikiya?”
“I said I didn’t . What’s it gonna take for you to believe me, huh?” I find
myself surprised at the annoyed tone I take, but Daisuke just seems to take
it in stride .
“Alright, alright, I believe you . Fuck . I guess I should just be happy you’re
alive; the killer wouldn’t have let you live if you’d seen anything . But goddamit .
This case is still a stone-fucking-whodunit . ”
“It’s a career case if you solve it, though . ”
How sick am I, joking around with Daisuke like this? A voice in my head
keeps whispering, liar, liar, and yet here I am lying with a straight face to a
police detective who’d probably waste no second throwing me behind bars
if he found out I was withholding information . Yet still, I didn’t say anything
about  being in the scene of the crime .
“So, Mikiya, how was your first body?”
“Well, spilled my guts out, didn’t I? I never want to see another one
again if I can help it . ”
Daisuke gives a small chuckle and says “Yeah, I had that feeling too,
first time around . Not every body that gets dumped in this city is like that,
though, so you can rest easy . ”
Oh . Well, sure, Daisuke, I’ll rest easy on the fact that at least not all dead
bodies you get are horribly mutilated .
“But I didn’t know you were a friend of the Ryōgi girl, Mikiya . Small
world . ”
The knowledge of me befriending Shiki makes him smile for some unknown
reason, which makes me just a little bit more nervous . On record, 
/ THE FIRST HOMICIDE INQUIRY - V • 69
they chalked this recent incident up to the same killer as all the others, and
they took my statement that I was there on the night of February 3rd only
after the murder had happened and the suspect had taken off . Both the
Ryōgi family and myself have said nothing about , even though they
must know that I know by now .
“So did you investigate the family or something?” I ask Daisuke .
“Hey, I wanted to, seeing as the daughter, , goes to your school, but
they didn’t want to for some reason, and I can’t go knocking down their
door when I don’t have a charge against them . Not that that makes them
automatically suspicious or anything, but the only thing they said to me
was ‘what happens outside of our grounds is none of our business . ’ Bunch
of stuck up fools if you ask me . ”
Strange . This combined with the fact that they stopped the investigation
just outside the grounds of the Ryōgi family and didn’t even try to ask going
in makes me think the Ryōgis have some sort of suction on the force .
“You ask me, though, I don’t really think they had anything to do with
it,” Daisuke says suddenly .
“Huh? Why?”
Even though I make light of him most of the time, the truth is, I have
faith in Daisuke’s detective skills . He’s cracked some tough nuts in the past,
and it’s undoubtedly made him a valuable asset to the homicide division,
despite his lack of reluctance in sharing police information with his all too
curious cousin . I thought for sure he’d be at least a little suspicious about
 .
“I just can’t see why any one of them would want to suddenly kill people .
There’s no motive, at least not one I can see . ” Then his eyes lose their
look of contemplation, and he smiles at me . “Besides, you don’t see a girl
like their daughter killing anybody, right? Too much of a looker for that to
happen . ”
I sigh, and think fruitlessly at why such a carefree man is in such a grim
occupation . “And that’s why you’ll be single for the rest of your life,” I reply .
“Say any more and I’ll exercise my ability to lock you up for 24 hours
without probable cause . ”
We don’t talk for the rest of the ride, but I do agree with Daisuke, even
without his “amazing” powers of intuition . I mean, strictly speaking, I didn’t
really see  do anything, and I’m sticking to that one fact, even if she
herself tells me otherwise .
Now I have something I need to do .
70 • KINOKO NASU
In retrospect, that was the last time for a long time that a murder like
that happened . The elusive form and shape of the serial killer would not
begin to become much clearer until three years later, and yet it all seems
like a world apart to me now . But that was the first and last time that 
would ever face me with a look as frightening as she had that night .
/ 5 • 71
/ 5
Just outside the grounds of our manor, in the stone path that led to the
house, a murder took place .
My stroll on that night was a scattered recollection of waking moments
and seemingly blank unconsciousness, a trend that has started only recently,
but connecting the moments I do remember seems to lead me to
the obvious conclusion as to what I did .
The disfigured corpse sprayed blood in every direction, and the very
sight of the crimson liquid made my head spin and my knees weak . Shiki
felt the same way, but I imagine for entirely different reasons . Worse, this
person’s blood was especially beautiful . The way the blood seeped and

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flowed through the little spaces in between the stones of the path seemed
to me to be the most elegant thing I’d ever seen in my life .
Before long, I noticed that there was someone some distance behind
me, retching at the spectacle before him, and when I turned my head to
face him, it turned out to be Mikiya . I didn’t know the reason why he would
be there at that late hour, and I didn’t even think about it at the time . After
that, there was another spate of unconsciousness, but I think I remember
returning to the mansion . I found out that the body was discovered much
later, and strangely enough, there was no talk of me being there . Was the
Mikiya I saw just a hallucination, some phantom dream designed by my
mind? That man is too honest; there’s no way he would lie to the police to
cover up the real killer .
And why did it have to be done in front of my house?
“Was it you, Shiki?” I ask out loud, but no answer came from within or
without . The rift of disconnection between me and Shiki grew stronger
with each passing day . Even if I hand him control of myself, we both have
to want something to do it . But why is it that recently, when Shiki is in
control, my memory becomes misty and indistinct?
Maybe, just maybe, without me noticing, I’ve become just as insane as
the other members of the Ryōgi dynasty .
Jesus Christ, will you stop worrying? Here’s the thing: if you even so much
as think you’re insane, it means you’re not .
His voice comes to fore and berates me, but he’s right . Well, at least I’d
like to think he’s right . Someone insane doesn’t question his own sanity .
That at least gives me some comfort .
A knock comes from the door of my room, and the voice of Akitaka
comes right after, interrupting my thoughts . “My lady, may I intrude for a 
72 • KINOKO NASU
moment?” I invite him inside my room, but he refuses due to the late hour .
“Is there something the matter?” I ask .
“There seems to be someone keeping watch over the house . ”
“But I heard that Father managed to drive all the policemen away . ”
Akitaka nods . “The police withdrew from further investigation of the
premises since last night . This one is an entirely different matter, however . ”
“You may do as you please . I don’t care who it is, he or she has nothing
to do with me . ”
“But my lady, the one who is keeping watch seems to be your friend
from school . ”
Upon hearing that, I stand up from the bed and immediately make my
way to the window in my room, with its clear overlooking view of the mansion
gate . I pull back the curtain and look outside, keeping my eyes trained
beyond the walls . Sure enough, there he was, a solitary figure silhouetted
in between the trees . I don’t know whether to laugh or be disappointed at
his laughable attempt at concealing himself .
“Only say the word and I will ask him to leave,” says Akitaka .
“No, not tonight, I think . Leave him and do him no harm . He isn’t causing
any trouble . ”
I skip lightly across the floor back to my bed and lie down . Akitaka says a
final formal “goodnight”, turns off the lights, and closes the door .
The next few minutes consist of me attempting and failing to fall asleep,
as my mind keeps drifting back to the window and outside . With nothing to
do, I give up and approach the window again, making sure he’s still there .
And sure enough, he is .
Despite his brown duffle coat, Mikiya is visibly shivering from the cold
air . White puffs of air emanate from his mouth with every breath as he
keeps watch on the gate with only a thermos of coffee by his feet to keep
him company .
Now there’s really no way that the Mikiya I saw in my fragmented memory
was a dream . I can guess what he’s here for: to see if I’m really the
killer . This could even be just a foolish attempt by him to keep the killer
from ever doing it again; some sense of responsibility on his part as a witness .
Watching him from this window while thinking, I bite a fingernail, as
I am wont to do when angry . I guess there’s nothing else to do but force
myself to sleep .
/ 6 • 73
/ 6
I had already expected a less than customary greeting from Mikiya at
school today, if any at all, so him saying…
“, wanna eat lunch together?”
…like nothing had happened is more than a little suspect . And as always,
I go along with him . I feel like a pet being bribed to go the roof with food .
I had already decided beforehand that I would try not to associate myself
with him anymore, but I would be lying if I said that I didn’t want to know
what he himself thought about that night . I took his offer for lunch thinking
he would be the one asking me the obvious question, but he’s just thoroughly
ignoring the elephant in the room with this one .
“Does your house really need to be that big? Last time I went there, you
even had a butler of some sort . ”
“Akitaka is more like my father’s private secretary . And I like to call him a
caretaker rather than a servant, Kokutō . ”
“So I guess there really are people like that, huh?” he says, bookending
his sentence with a nervous laugh . His voice exhibits a noticeable quiver .
I can’t judge by his attitude whether or not he knows that we’ve realized
he’s spying on the house, but still, even given the circumstances he’s
acting too strange . There’s no way he couldn’t have seen me covered in
blood given how close he was standing to the entire thing, but why is he
still laughing and talking to me as if it was some big joke? Well, if he’s not
talking about it, then it’s going to have to come from me .
“Kokutō, on the night of February 3rd, you were—“
“Can we not talk about it?” And just like that, he sweeps the question
away .
“What exactly is it that we can’t talk about, Kokutō?”
Unbelievable . The slight shift in tone, the vocal mannerism, the slightly
off-beat way I just pronounced his surname . For a second there, Shiki
owned my voice . Even Mikiya noticed; it’s all right there on his face . Strange .
That’s never happened before, and it stuns me momentarily . I take a halfsecond
of time to compose myself, clear my throat, and continue . “Be frank
with me . Why did you not tell anything to the authorities?”
“Because,” Mikiya answers, “I didn’t see anything . ”
You liar . That can’t be true .
— that can’t be true because that night, Shiki approached you —
“You just happened to be there,” he continues . “That’s the only thing I
saw at the very least . So I decided to believe you . ”
74 • KINOKO NASU
You liar . If you believed me, why did you keep watch outside my house?
— Shiki drew closer, rain-speckled and blood-spattered —
“Honestly, it’s hard for me to talk about right now . Once I have more
confidence in myself and put it behind me, maybe I can hear what you have
to say . But for now, just…please, let’s not talk about it . ”
How I so wanted to look away from him, to run away from the honesty
in his face . To me, it looked like it was accusing me of murder .
— Shiki stood over him, and there was no mistaking it . He wanted
to kill Mikiya .
Even though I never wanted to kill him . He said he believed in me . If I
could only throw away that impulse, if only I believed in myself, then maybe
I could have been spared the taste of this strange new sadness .
I did my damndest to avoid Mikiya after that day . After two days, he gave
up on talking to me too, but he still sits outside the walls of the mansion
every night without fail, for close to two weeks now . I admire his persistence,
if nothing else . Under the chill of winter, Mikiya sits just a little inside
the bamboo tree line outside of the grounds, watching the gate, and he
does this until three o’ clock in the morning . Every night I spy a look at him,
and every night I bite a nail in annoyance . I guess he got his wish; because
of him, I haven’t been going out of the house at night lately .
At three o’ clock in the morning, he always leaves not with a tired or
worn out face, but with a smile . He isn’t doing this to find out who the killer
is . He said he trusted me, as if it was entirely natural to do so . He’s doing
this to prove, or otherwise convince himself, that I am innocent . That’s
why, when the dawn breaks, and he starts to leave, he smiles . Because
nothing happened .
“I guess optimism is in his blood,” I murmured quietly, one night while
watching him . And it makes me think . Being with Mikiya makes me calmer,
more at peace . Being with Mikiya fools me into thinking I’m one of his kind .
Being with Mikiya makes me think I can actually go to his side of the world,
a bright side of the world that I’ll never be allowed into, a world that has no
place for me . And with that dumb smile on his face, he tries to drag me in .
That’s the real reason why I’m irritated at him . I’ve nursed a murderer
inside me named Shiki for as long as I’ve lived, but Mikiya keeps showing
me a better life, without Shiki, without the impulse of killing . But instead
of making me happy, it just strengthens what I already know: that I am not
normal, I don’t belong .
/ 6 • 75
“’, but now you’re proving to be a
nuisance, Kokutō,” I murmur out loud .
’
I don’t want to break .
If he hadn’t given me the dream, that small spark of hope of a normal
life, everything would have turned out better for me .
76 • KINOKO NASU
/ 7
March has just begun, and already the cold seems to be receding . After
class, I stay in the classroom and look outside the window . It feels like forever
since I last did so . Here, in this window, the world that I view from on
high actually makes me feel secure . A view of a world that I can’t reach
doesn’t make me entertain any illusions of reaching it .
And like a vision from older, better times, Mikiya enters the sunset
bathed classroom in exactly the manner he used to do . Shiki always liked
to talk to him like this . I did as well .
“I never thought I’d get invited by you again to talk after class,” Mikiya
says . “Are you going to stop ignoring me now?”
“It’s because I realized I can’t go on doing that that I called you . ”
His eyes twitch a moment in surprise . Even though Shiki is trying his
best to overcome me and take over, I try to hold out long enough to say
what I have to say to Mikiya .
“You said before that I’m not a murderer . ” I can barely see Mikiya’s face
against the bright red glow of the sunset, but I can see he’s disappointed
that we had to talk about this . “Too bad . I am a murderer . You were at the
scene of the crime, but why didn’t you tell anything to the police?”
“Because there’s nothing for me to tell . You didn’t do anything, right?”
“Even if I’m saying it to your face right now?”
He nods . “Hey, you’re the one that said that I should take everything you
say with a grain of salt . There’s no way you were the one that did that . I’m
sure of it . ”
“What are you so sure of? What do you even know about me? What
part of me can you believe in?” Unintentionally, my anger at him grows . For
his part, he gives me a half-baked smile .
“I don’t have any basis, but I trust you . See, I like you, so I want to keep
on believing in you . ”
And that makes me stop like I’d just run into a wall . Those words which
are probably just nothing to him are the most that anyone has given me;
happiness, and my destruction, in one sentence . This carefree man has
given me the illusion of a time spent with someone, a better world that’s
not for me . Because I know that if I ever get close to someone, Shiki will
come out and kill him, because denial is the sole reason he exists . And
because he cannot live without affirmation, I exist . But because I’ve never
been close to anything in my entire life, I could live through the paradox .
Now that I know the world he can give me, the more I wish for it, the more 
/ 7 • 77
I realize that it’s a hopeless and impossible wish . It hurts me and I hate it,
and for the first time ever, I hate Mikiya from the bottom of my heart for
making me realize it .
And he laughs like it means nothing .
I can’t stand being here anymore . I can’t stand him . I see it now . This is
how Mikiya will destroy me .
“You are a fool,” I declare .
“Yeah, I get that a lot . ”
As the sunset slowly turns to dusk, I exit the classroom while I still can .
Before I cross the doorway however, I do one last thing . With my back still
turned, I ask Mikiya a question .
“Are you coming tonight?”
“What?” He sounds surprised . I guess he still doesn’t realize I watch his
little vigils . He tries to wave it off, but I insist .
“Answer me, damn you . ”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, but if I feel like going to your
house, I will . ”
And with that I leave him in the classroom, and exit the school grounds .
Gray clouds dot the red horizon, and the low rumble of thunder sounds off
in the distance . I guess it’ll be a rainy night tonight .
78 • KINOKO NASU
The First Homicide Inquiry - VI
Only when the sun had finally retreated and it became dark, just as I
was making my way to ’ house, did the rain finally start to pour . Nice
of it to wait like that . It isn’t a torrential downfall, but it isn’t a light drizzle
either . The small, pattering sounds of the raindrops on the stone path, and
on the leaves, and on my umbrella made this a night full of noise . The rain
water itself is still cold, a leftover of the winter that the coming of March
had not yet completely erased . Together with the bamboo leaves and trees
as my sole companions tonight, I keep my eyes trained on the mansion and
the gate . My umbrella hand is turning red, growing numb from the cold .
I sigh, a big long one . I can’t keep this thing up forever, obviously . First
thing, it feels like I’m a stalker . Second thing, it’s doing a number on my
ability to keep awake in class . I’m gonna give it another week, and then
I’ll probably call it quits . It’d be nice if the killer was caught in that time,
though .
I should have thought it would be the rain that would make me give in .
It kinda feels like the cold and the rain are double teaming me just to lay
off the creepy stake outs .
I sigh, another long one . It’s not the rain that has me depressed though,
but today’s verbal sparring with  . “What part of me can you believe
in?” she said . If she thinks I don’t believe her, than what have I actually
been trying to do all this time? Anyone could tell from her face this afternoon
that she was agonizing over something . She even looked like she was
ready to cry; that, or tell you off . You never can tell with her .
The rain doesn’t look like it’ll end soon . The raindrops make ripples
even on the little puddles of water . If you can learn to selectively ignore
the noise the raindrops are making, I’m sure it might even be a peaceful,
serene night . But to me it’s just noise . And yet, even in all that noise, a singular
splash, a single footfall behind me reverberates across the bamboo
brush . I turn around to see only a solitary figure in a red kimono . It was her .
She’d been out in the rain for a long time, that much was obvious . She
was drenched from top to bottom, her short, black hair sticking to her
cheeks and face, casting a dark shadow over her eyes .
“ . ” I make my way to her . She must have been out here since the
rain started . Her red kimono is so damp it’s sticking to her body, and her
skin is so cold to the touch . I hold out my umbrella to cover the both of us
while I rifle through my bag, searching for a towel .
“Here, wipe yourself with this . ” I extend my arm, towel draped over my 
/ THE FIRST HOMICIDE INQUIRY - VI • 79
hand . “What the hell are you doing out here in the rain when your house
is right there?”
She takes one glance at my outstretched arm, and laughs a bitter, queer
laugh . It is punctuated by a keening sound slicing through the empty night
air .
“Wh…” It happened faster than my eye could see . I feel something warm
in my arm, and instinctively take a step back . The red warmth in my arm is
flowing downwards like a snake, splitting in two and dripping .
My arm?
A cut?
Why?
The pain pierces me, courses through my arm, hurting like nothing I’ve
ever felt before . It makes me numb . No time to think . No time to even
panic .
She takes a step forward, I take a step back . Calmly . Have to run . Have
to get away .
No .
No time to get away . I move fast, but she is faster, like a monster . Another
keening sound, this time in my leg .
Red . Red mixes with the puddles in the path . My red blood, rippling
outwards from the impact of raindrops . I see it, see the cut on my leg, feel
the pain . I collapse, face-up, seeing the sky, the falling rain . My back hits
the stone path . I gasp at the sudden impact .
She climbs on top of me, and points her knife at my throat . Calm . No
time for panic . The noise of the rainfall retreats, ignored . Just calm .
I look up, and see the darkness of the sky, and her, set against that darkness .
Her eyes are black and implacable, like an abyss, and I see myself
reflected in that void .
I can feel the tip of the knife, just below my chin, steel cold to the touch
like her skin . Like the blood on my leg, little water drops snake down her
face, a face framed by her black hair; like a mask, it is blank, terrifying, and
pitiful all at the same time .
“Kokutō, ,”  says . My last words . She wants
to hear them . I look her straight in the eye, and speak with a wavering
voice, desperately trying to keep calm .
“I…don’t want…to die . ”
Somehow, I felt I wasn’t saying this to , but to the death that was
now coming for me .
She smiles .
80 • KINOKO NASU
“I…I want to kill you . ”
It was a very gentle smile .



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