Kara no Kyoukai - Volume 1 - Chapter 1

Published at 16th of February 2016 08:58:42 PM

Chapter 1

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
some distance 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 the 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 slowly 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 .
Perhaps because the corpse, with its neck twisted, looked like a broken
lily to me .
/ 1
It is a night somewhere in the beginning of August, and Mikiya comes
by to visit without any prior notice, as per his MO . Popping open the door,
I see him standing idly in the hallway, facing the entrance like some sort of
servant-in-waiting .
“Evening, Shiki . You look as lazy as ever,” he says, with a smile on his
face . A strange greeting is just the kind of thing I expected him to do .
“Have you heard?” he continues . “There was another jumper today,
actually . This time I was actually at the scene . There’ve been a lot of these
incidents lately, but I never thought I would actually come across one . ”
He hands me a plastic convenience store bag . “Here, in the fridge . ” He
holds the bag, arm outstretched, while untying his shoes and talking to
me . Mikiya is nothing if not a multi-tasker . Inside the bag were two cups of
Haagen-Dazs strawberry ice cream . I guess he wants me to put them inside
my fridge before they melt . While checking out the contents of the bag,
Mikiya had already undone his laces and stepped inside .
My home is just a small apartment in a low-rise . The first thing you see
on opening the front door is the small entryway, not even one meter long,
where you take off your shoes . After going through that mess, you arrive at
my one-stop bedroom-slash-living room, where Mikiya had already started
making himself comfortable . I follow him in, glaring at his back while doing
so .
“Shiki, you’ve been skipping class again, haven’t you? Your grades don’t
really matter, but come on; you should at least attend your classes . Don’t
tell me you already forgot our promise to go to college together . ”
“Wiser words were never before spoken,” I reply, feeling particularly
caustic, “especially coming from someone who dropped college way before
I did . And sadly, this promise we supposedly made ain’t ringing any bells . ”
“Don’t start being difficult again, Shiki . ”
Mikiya tends to be a bit more blunt when you’ve got him cornered in
a conversation; a helpful tidbit that has only recently come back to me . I
climb on top of the bed and lie flat, Mikiya choosing to sit on the floor while
leaning on the bed, his back facing me .
This young man named Mikiya Kokutō has been a friend to me since
high school . At least that’s what my head tells me . My recollections have
been a bit fuzzy lately .
We live in an age where fashion trends and the accompanying models
that people want to look like are as apt to change as often as you blink in a 
/ 1 • 5
day . A rarity, then, to still find someone like Mikiya, who steadfastly refuses

to budge from his student-like appearance . He doesn’t dye his hair or have
it grow into an unmanageable mess, he doesn’t tan his skin or wear accessories,
he doesn’t carry a cellphone, and he doesn’t even allow himself the
simple pleasures of flirting around with women . His demeanor struck me
as the kind of person you’d probably see more ordinarily at lazy English
train stations . His 170cm height, considerate disposition, and large, black
rimmed glasses certainly complete the image . Not exactly someone you
do a double-take on when you pass him by on the street, though it mostly
due to his own fault: if he actually took the time to dress nicely instead of
wearing somber black clothes every day, he might even be noticed .
“Shiki, are you listening? I met your mom today, too . She said you
haven’t really contacted your family since you got out of the hospital two
months ago . You should at least show your face at the Ryōgi estate, don’t
you think?”
“Mmm?” I reply, as listlessly as Kokutō said I was . “I don’t really have any
business being there, though . ”
“Oh, come on, isn’t it about time you patched things up with your folks?
It’s been two years after all, and you haven’t talked or met with them since . ”
“There’s no use in making a pointless house call or a pointless conversation
with them when it’ll only make us grow farther apart . It still isn’t real
to me . Not so soon after getting out of the hospital . I mean, talking to you
is still weird; what’ll happen if I talk to those strangers?” My patience with
the subject grew thinner every second . I wish he would just stop pushing it .
“Things aren’t going to get any better if it keeps up like this, you know . It
isn’t right for you and your parents to be living so close to each other and
not even talk . ”
The sudden criticism makes me frown . What exactly is wrong with it?
There’s nothing illegal going on between me and my parents . It’s just that
I lost some of my memories in a traffic accident . We’re recognized as a
family by the law and by our blood, so there really shouldn’t be anything
to talk about here .
Mikiya always has his head in a worry about any damn person and their
life issues, even though to me it seems like a wasteful exercise .
Panorama - I
Shiki Ryōgi is my friend from high school . We studied together in a private
school famous for putting a lot of its students on the fast track to a
college education . On the day that I was looking for my name on the lists of
people who had passed the entrance exam, I saw a name that caught my
eye: “Shiki Ryōgi . ” As names go, it was a pretty peculiar one, and our being
classmates ensured that it would get stuck in my head . Ever since then, I’ve
become possibly the only friend Shiki’s ever had .
Due to our school having no uniforms, and a casual clothing policy, a lot
of people dressed in a multitude of ways to express themselves . Even in
that sort of environment, Shiki stood out from the crowd .
Largely because of the kimono .
At first, that particular wardrobe choice made it seem as if the prime
minister himself walked in on the classroom, forcing everyone to silence .
But once it became clear that Shiki wasn’t sparing any words for anyone
except the queries of the teachers, which were uncommon, people started
to stop caring . Not that Shiki minded .
The cultivated air of inapproachability, intentional or not, certainly widened
the distance more than the clothes already did, but Shiki’s features
undoubtedly helped out in that regard as well .
Black hair framed Shiki’s face, as it does now; cut long enough to hide
the ears . However, it was clear that the maintenance of it seemed to Shiki
like it was time wasted, evidenced by how it looked like it was cut with
reckless abandon . Yet the cut was just at that height where people start to
second guess Shiki’s gender on first contact . More than anything though,
it would be Shiki’s eyes that lend your feet to stop . Those eyes carried a
piercing gaze, seeming to bear witness to something invisible, something
“other” . To me, those eyes were a definition, synecdochic to character .
But then, the accident happened…
/ 2 • 7
/ 2

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“The jumpers . ”
“Wha—oh, sorry, I wasn’t listening . ” Mikiya cocks his head towards me
a bit to listen .
“I said ‘the jumpers . ’ As in the people who took a header on the sidewalk
off a building . Would you say that what happened was accidental, Mikiya?”
He shuts up for a moment and actually tries to think on the casual question
seriously . He puts a hand on his chin, evoking the puzzled intensity of
stumped detectives the world over .
“Well, it’s on the person who jumps if he really wanted to do that or not .
As for how society will look at it, they do classify ‘falling from a high place’
as an accident so—”
“Not a murder, not exactly a suicide, and not exactly an accident either .
That’s vague,” I muse . “I don’t know if it occurred to them that killing themselves
would just inconvenience a lot more people than they thought it
would . Maybe they should have grabbed a handbook on the subject and
died a bit better . ” As soon as I say that, I see Mikiya shake his head in disapproval .
“I guess I have to add ‘speaks ill of the departed’ to your already illustrious
résumé of insensitivity . ” He replies in monotone disappointment,
almost without a note of chastisement . Typical .
“Ah, Kokutō . Ever the killjoy . ” Despite my objection, he doesn’t even
seem to care .
“Hah, that’s rare . It’s been a while since you called me by that name . ”
“That so?”
He nods like a squirrel . I tend to pronounce his surname a bit differently
than you would normally, with a sort of French flavor; a small joke that
originates way back in high school . I don’t really like the ring of the nickname
though, so I stick with “Mikiya” for the most part, but sometimes I
just blurt it out, like an involunatry emission of boredom or frustration . In
the silence of my reverie, he suddenly claps his hands as if remembering
something .
“Oh yeah, while we’re on the topic of rare things, I just remembered
that my sister Azaka said she saw it too . ”
“Saw what now?”
“The girl you said you saw floating around the Fujō Tower . ”
Ah, yes, the Fujō Tower, former high-rise condominium situated in the
commercial office district of town that used to serve as residence to the 
more privileged tax brackets, now abandoned and leaving people with
little else save its husk and its memory . And a haunting, if what Kokutō says
is true . Passing by it some days ago, I happened to see a spectral figure in
that looked quite human . If Azaka saw it too, then it must mean it’s real .
My second sight, the ability to see these types of events, has its roots
(as much as one can point out a definitive origin to this weirdness, at least)
in one event, a point in time that feels simutaneously distant and recent .
I was in a traffic accident two years ago, and because of that I spent those
last two years in a coma . After waking from that coma, I began to…see
things that weren’t there before . Tōko would say that what I’m doing isn’t
so much “sight” as it is “perception . ” In other words, it seems my senses
have “awakened” to a higher level of perception, but it’s all technical magical
gobbledygook that I couldn’t care less to understand .
“I did see it more than a few times, but I haven’t been there lately so I
wouldn’t know if it’s still there,” I say, as I stretch out my arms .
“I don’t know why,” says Kokutō, perplexed, “but I pass by there all the
time and I don’t see anything . ”
“I’d say it’s because you have one extra pair of eyes too many,” I throw
back at him .
“Erm, I don’t think glasses have anything to do with it . ” Mikiya is always
like this . He’s on a no-nonsense path and he’s going to stick to it come
hell or high water . Honestly, I think it’s his naiveté that makes him not see
these…”other” things . Nevertheless, these trifling incidents of people flying
and falling seem to be set to continue . I can’t puzzle out the meaning
behind it all, so I ask Mikiya a question .
“Mikiya, do you know the reason people fly?”
He gives a shrug . “Wouldn’t know . I mean, I’ve never tried flying before
anyway,” he says with a yawn .

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/ 3 • 9
/ 3
It is a night approaching the end of August, and I decide to take a stroll .
Despite summer quickly coming to a close, the air usually remained warm,
which makes the chill running through the air tonight a rare and unusual
event . The last train has come and gone, and a deathly silence has blanketed
the city . This dead part of town is largely bereft of people, and looked like
something foreign . Even the few pedestrians present seem fake, unnatural,
like they were from some old daguerreotype . The whole thing reminds me
of he scent of corpses, of grave pallor that stretched its damning influence
across the city, as unstoppable and incurable as a terminal disease .
Everything—from the foreboding houses with no signs of life or light,
to the dimly lit convenience store that offers little respite from the darkness—everything
feels like all it takes is one bad moment to make them all
fall down in violent upheaval .
The moon seems like the last refuge of life, even as my Eyes take in the
richness of death in all things . This place is no exception, and my eyes hurt
because of it . It’s sickening .
I took a black leather jacket with me when I left the house, and now I
wear it atop my light blue kimono . The kimono’s sleeves get bunched up
inside the jacket, and the heat warms my body . Even then, it still isn’t hot .
Well, not exactly . For me, it’s more like it wasn’t cold to begin with .
Even in such a deep night like this one, you can still encounter a few
people making their way on the streets .
A man with the complete suit-tie-briefcase ensemble hurriedly making
his way down the lane, his face cast downwards, features hidden by the
shadows . A loiterer sitting by the light of the vending machine, his head
swimming in the potent cocktail of alcohol and narcotics . Vagrants hanging
around the vicinity of the 24-hour convenience store, maybe pondering
how exactly they’re going to bust it, or just trying to find safety in numbers .
Who knows what reason these people may find themselves out here in
the middle of the night, walking dangerous streets? I don’t even know my
own reasons . I’m just doing what I used to do before .
…Two years ago .
In a different time, I was on the cusp of going into my second year of
high school . But in that rain-soaked night, I was involved in an unfortunate 
traffic accident . I was brought to the hospital straightaway . Apparently, I
didn’t receive much in the way of bodily harm; few wounds, nothing serious,
but nothing much beyond that . If it was really an accident, it was a
pretty damn clean one, I’d say . On the other hand, peculiarly, I did receive
serious damage to my brain, through which I lapsed into a deep coma .
That’s what they told me at least . That night is the only time I have trouble
even recalling .
Because I had little serious physical injury, it wasn’t a big stretch for the
hospital to keep me alive, and my unconscious self grasped and groped for
that last sliver of life . Statistically speaking, after 6 months, the chances of a
coma patient coming back are pretty slim, but there are the aberrant cases,
like myself . The doctors were so surprised at my recovery two months ago;
it’s as if they saw a corpse rising from the grave . Guess they never expected
me to pull a Lazarus on them, which I guess clues me in to their close to
zilch hopes on my case . Though perhaps not equaling their exaggerated
reactions, I too had a surprise waiting for me .
My memories became…alien, foreign, like they were coming from the
head of a different person . Put simply, I’m dissociated from the memories,
unable to put stock in their validity . It was different than mere amnesia, or
a lapse in memory .
As Tōko would say, there are apparently four systems or steps the brain
uses with regards to handling memory: encoding, storage, retrieval, and
recognition .
“Encoding” is writing your impressions of an experience as information
in your brain .
“Storage” is actually keeping that impression or memory .
“Retrieval” is calling back that stored information, or in other words,
remembering .

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“Recognition” is confirming whether or not that information was the
same as what actually happened .
If, in any one of these steps, there is some sort of failure, then you get
memory disorder . Depending on which of these steps fail, you get very
different cases of memory disorder . In my case, however, there isn’t a problem
with any of these steps . Though I can’t place my memories as my own,
“recognition” is working because I can identify my memories as my previous
experiences .
Even then, I still couldn’t trust these memories . I had no real feeling that
I am the Shiki Ryōgi that was . Perhaps it was some other Shiki Ryōgi, some
other high school student, some other person who had an accident . But
I’ve seen the documents; I am Shiki Ryōgi . At least that’s what my brain 
/ 3 • 11
tells me
Two years of oblivion have reduced me, if not to emptiness, than to
something that sits closely beside it . It laid waste all that I was inside, and
severed what connection existed between my memory and personality
through two years of “living” like a shell, on the boundary of emptiness .
And though there was precious little drama here compared to actual societal
rejection, it drives me to worry all the same . All my memories are just
reflections on the water, and I don’t know whether I’m the reflection or
the real thing . With these memories, I know how to act like the Shiki Ryōgi
that my parents and friends knew, but I know it best; it’s all just an act, just
mimesis . It’s like being a newborn baby: not knowing anything and lacking
any sort of world experience . Or possibly it’s more like not living at all .
Still, the memories do help . I mean, they make me into a functional
human being, after all . I already have the emotions people have from experiencing
something . It’s not real, hands-on experience or anything, but at
least it’s there . It results in this weird feeling where if I do something, I feel
like it’s my first time doing it and also feel like I’ve done it a hundred times
before . There’s no amazement, like a magic trick where you can see the
strings in the sleeve .
And so I continue to play out this strange role . The reason is quite simple .
Because by doing so, maybe I can return to some semblance of the past .
Because by doing so, maybe I can figure out why I like walking so late at
night .
I guess, in a way, you could say I’ve fallen in love with my previous self .
I try to get my bearings in the neighborhood, and I realize I’ve walked
pretty far, enough to reach the office district of the city . Buildings that
stood at heights almost similar to each other lined the street, looking like
soldiers arranged in neat little firing ranks . The surface of these buildings
are riddled with little glass windows, themselves in their own arrangement .
The reflection of moonlight as well as of the other buildings borne
atop their shining surfaces creates a sort of shadow world, where monsters
and their kind lurked .
One shadow stands taller than the rest, however . Like a perverse monument,
it stands long and narrow, with a height that looked like it could
reach the moon .
The Fujō Tower .
No lights or signs of life are present in that building . Seeing as how it’s
two o’ clock in the morning, I really shouldn’t be surprised . The coldness 
of the still night is irregular at this time of summer . The bone in my nape
creaks from the cold, despite the lack of any tangible feeling of a breeze . I
decide that it’s just my imagination . As I looked up at the towering structure,
a black shape flits past my sight, almost unnoticeable because of the
lack of light . Looking closer, I realize it’s a shadow of a human figure, and
then I realize it’s not a shadow at all . The silhouette of a woman comes
floating into view atop the building . I didn’t mean that as a turn of phrase
though . She literally is floating .
“Hmph, so you’ve shown yourself today as well, I see . ” I say .
I don’t like her up there, silhouetted against the moonlight . But I can
hardly do anything about what I can see . And as quickly as I saw her, she
vanishes, flying as if the moon was her cradle .