Panorama - II
Panorama - II
I see a dragonfly, beating its wings .
A butterfly follows it, but its pace doesn’t slacken . The butterfly tries to
keep up with the dragonfly, but it is a futile effort . As it flies further, I see
a glimpse of the butterfly as its strength failed and gravity took hold . It
makes an arc as it falls, and then trails its way to the ground like a snake, or
a broken lily . A sad and cruel scene .
Perhaps, even if they could not travel together, they could have kept
each other company for a while longer . But I knew that was impossible . To
something like the dragonfly, whose feet don’t touch the earth, even such
freedom was denied .
I hear the distinct buzz of conversation, and I wake up .
My eyelids were screaming for two more hours of sleep, even as my
mind warred between sleeping and waking . In the end, the battle was won
by the latter, and I set to work on the laborious task of opening my eyelids .
Sometimes, I wonder if I worry about these things too much . I was up
all night working on the blueprints and diagrams, and I must have fallen
asleep in Miss Tōko’s room . I raise myself up from the sofa with a hint of
enthusiasm, pushing up my glasses so I could see better, and I realize that
this was indeed the office .
The office was a cluttered place full of occult oddities and research that
Miss Tōko had accumulated throughout the years . The midday sunlight illuminated
this mess, as well as the two people conversing; Shiki, wearing a
smooth kimono as always, was leaning with back to the wall, and Miss Tōko
was sitting cross-legged on a chair .
Miss Tōko always dressed smart, with thin black pants and a collared
white blouse that seemed to look new every time you meet her . Combined
with her short hair and the way it made her neck show, it gave her the
image of a company secretary, though I thought that with her scary, piercing
look, especially if she didn’t have her glasses on, it would probably be
impossible that she would ever get such a job .
“’Morning, Kokutō . ” Miss Tōko gave a glance in my direction, like she
always does, to acknowledge my presence . No glasses were worn over her
hawk eyed glare today, a sign that she and Shiki were probably talking business .
“I’m sorry, ma’am . I guess I fell asleep . ”
14 • KINOKO NASU
“Don’t start with excuses . I can see well enough . If you’re fully with us
on planet Earth now, then go make something to drink . A cup of coffee
would be good . It should warm your bones a bit after that long rest . ”
Long rest? Well, I did feel exceptionally tired, so it wasn’t a completely
strange thing to say . I don’t know why Miss Tōko would say it, but she’s
always talking cryptically at the best of times anyway, so not asking her has
become the standard operating procedure .
“How about you, Shiki? Need a drink?” I managed to ask in my groggy
state, only half aware of my surroundings .
“Nah, I’m good . I’m about to hit the sack soon, anyway . ”
Lazy eyes and sagging shoulders tell the story of Shiki’s sleeplessness
well enough . Probably went and did another one of those nightly strolls
again last night .
Next to Miss Tōko’s office room was another one that served the purposes
of a kitchen, at least to her . To me, it looked more like a laboratory,
or at the very least it used to look like one . The sink had three faucets in
a row, just like you’d see in a lab . Two of those had wires strapped around
them, either disabled or possessing some unearthly, forbidden function ,
the operation of which I suspect only passed between God and Miss Tōko .
God sure wasn’t revealing anything, and Miss Tōko is of the same mindset,
and I was in no particular rush to find out . Either way, it gave the entire
room a disturbing air .
I turn on the coffee maker, and it emits a low hum as it processes the
drink . The first thing I do upon arriving here every day is make coffee for
Miss Tōko, so it’s come to the point where I could do it with my eyes closed .
It’s been almost half a year since I’ve started working for her . “Work” in
this case being a very loose term . This place could hardly be called your
typical office environment . Despite that, I stay on, probably because I saw
something in what she worked on .
Just after Shiki lapsed into a coma, I graduated high school and entered
college with no motivation or any particular purpose . At some point back
in our high school days, me and Shiki made a deal to go to college together .
Even if Shiki had no hope of waking up, I still wanted to keep that promise .
But my life after Shiki’s coma was one of aimless drifting, just watching the
calendar as the days swept past .
One day I was invited by an acquaintance to a doll and puppet exhibit,
and it was there that I found it: A doll in the shape and size of a human, so
finely made that it must have taken its craftsman years of hard work; some
/ PANORAMA - II • 15
measure of his soul went into that doll . Though I knew it was just a doll like
anything else there, it looked more like a human being, frozen in place, and
one I was sure would move any second now, if someone breathed into it . A
thing on the brink of existence, but didn’t live, preserved on the boundary
that no one else walked .
I was attracted to that contradiction, maybe because it reminded me so
much of the person that Shiki was before . Apparently, the maker of the doll
was unknown . Even the pamphlet of the exhibit didn’t mention any names .
I dove into investigation, desperately seeking the person who could craft
such a beautiful doll . It turned out to be someone not entirely connected
to the business of doll making, and did it with no real intent for fame . A
mysterious recluse named Tōko Aozaki .
Apparently she makes dolls as her main occupation, but was also an
architect on the side . She seemed to be involved in just generally “making”
things, whatever those thing may be, but she never accepts requests . Mysteriously,
she just knows who needs things made, goes to them, announces
her intent, and proceeds to make whatever it is they want after receiving a
generous advance payment .
She must be the world’s greatest freelance craftsman, or the world’s
biggest weirdo .
I got even more interested in finding her after that, even though I got
a sense that I really should have quit at that point . Something seemed to
pull at my effort, almost as if she didn’t want to be found out . Eventually,
through much time and record searching, I found out she lived in some
place away from the city, not in the suburbs, or the industrial district .
It wasn’t even a house .
It’s an abandoned building .
Well, to be more specific, it’s a building where construction was stopped
when it was halfway done, probably because whoever funded it ran out of
money . It has the shape of a building, seen from afar, but inside the floor
and walls are bare . It was left as it was, neglected and surrendered to time
and the weather . Had it been completed, it would have had six floors, but
there’s nothing above the fourth floor . Nowadays it would be more efficient
to start the bulk of the construction from the top, but I guess they
were still using the old methods back then . Now the fifth floor has been
dragooned into the service of a roof . Though surrounded by a high concrete
wall, anyone who wanted to go in would have an easy time of it, since
the gate was always open . It’s a miracle the local kids don’t mess around
in it . They probably just see it as some suspicious, dangerous building they
should stay out of . Pretty convenient .
16 • KINOKO NASU
I don’t know if Miss Tōko really bought the building, but it seems that
way, so for now, she stays here . The laboratory-slash-coffee room I’m in
right now is situated on the fourth floor, and the second and third are Miss
Tōko’s various offices, storage rooms, and workshops, so we usually talk
shop on the fourth floor .
After finding Miss Tōko, I got to know her and asked for employment
of some sort, just to sate my interest in this master craftswoman . I quit
college, and started working for her . And amazingly enough, I actually get
paid . She once said to me that humans can be divided into two types with
two attributes: those who craft and search, and those who use and destroy .
She made it clear to me that I wasn’t someone who “crafted” but one who
“searched” or some such, and that’s why she hired me .
“Running a little late there, Kokutō,” said an accusatory voice from the
other room . It was Miss Tōko, her patience obviously running thin . Well,
the coffee maker’s just about done, and the black liquid sits there, waiting
to be drunk .
“Yesterday makes the eighth,” Miss Tōko says abruptly, while stubbing
out her cigarette . “Soon people are going to take notice of their connection . ”
She is, of course, talking about the recent case of high school girls falling
to their deaths . There’s nothing else to talk about anyway, so I guess this
was as good a topic as any . But wait…eight?
“Huh? Weren’t there only six people?”
“A few more popped up while you still had sand in your eyes . All this
started in June, and it’s been going at about three per month . Maybe
another one’ll happen before the next three days are out, eh?” Miss Tōko
is in the habit of saying really ominous things, so I’m kind of used to it . I
take a quick glance at the calendar, noticing that there’s only three days left
in August . For a moment, a flash of worry enters my mind for some reason,
but I quickly dismiss it .
“They’re saying the suicides have no relation, though,” I remark . “Different
schools, no friends of the third degree or anything like that . It could
still turn out that the police are withholding information from the media
to better their chances when they interview the perp…if this case even has
one . ”
“What, Kokutō, you don’t trust the police on this one? That sleep must
have really done a number on you to suddenly be skeptical of people like
that . ” She grins . As usual, her spite knows no bounds when her glasses are
/ PANORAMA - II • 17
“Because they didn’t leave behind a suicide note, right?” I explain . “Suicidals
usually leave behind a note or some sort of last message to the living .
I mean, what is it six…erm, eight people now? At least one of them
should have done it . That only means one of two things: that the police
aren’t publicizing the note so that it serves as leverage against a suspect,
or it could mean a statistical improbability . ”
“Which by itself becomes the only thing connecting these incidents,”
says Miss Tōko . “The girls weren’t taking drugs, nor were they members of
some weird cult . By all accounts their lives were perfectly mundane . Neither
their family nor their friends know any reason why they would throw
themselves off a building . So it follows that they probably killed themselves
over some emotional or psychological distress, or perhaps to prove something .
That’s why they don’t leave behind any last words . ”
“So you’re saying that it’s not that the police are hiding anything, it’s
that they truly didn’t have any suicide note?” I ask .
“Well, statistically speaking, most people don’t leave behind any note
when they commit suicide…but yeah . ” Miss Tōko leans back on her chair,
sipping her coffee while looking at me funny . I put a mug to my own lip and
tip it, tasting the bitter coffee inside . I think back on what she said, something
nagging me in the reasoning .
How could there be no suicide note? It didn’t fit . The girls were, as far
as we knew, all happy and content, very much attached to the world of the
living . In a situation where one is forced to die, final words are what you
leave behind to cement that connection . Not doing so means you have
nothing to leave to this world, and you can decide to bravely face that great
unknown of death . A suicide without a note, or parting words, or even
the remote chance of discovery of the incident: that would be the perfect
Jumping off a building, then, is far from the perfect suicide .
Such an exhibitionist act makes the suicide clear and attention-grabbing .
In a way, the suicide and the resulting publicity itself results in having the
air of a “suicide note”, so to speak . If the suicidals picked as obvious and
public a method as jumping off a building, then they did so knowing they
would be seen by many . Publicity formed at least a part of their choice of
death . In that case, why the lack of parting words at all?
I can think of only one reason . Perhaps, like Shiki said once, they were
just accidents, or at the very least, they did not intend to die . Then they
wouldn’t have any reason to write a suicide note, just like running into a
traffic accident while going home from school . Unfortunately, I can’t fath-
18 • KINOKO NASU
om why you’d jump off from a building while taking your daily commute
from school, though .
“There won’t be any more girls hitting the pavement for a while after
the eighth, ‘least not ones related to these incidents . ” Shiki, now standing
beside the window, joins the conversation .
“How could you possibly know that?” I say .
“How else? I checked . There were eight of them floating around that
building . I took care of ‘em, but they’ll be there for a little while longer,
even if it does make me sick . ” Shiki faces away from the window, posing
with arms crossed . “Say, Tōko, do all people end up flying that way when
they bite the bullet?”
“No one really knows for sure . Everyone’s different . All I can offer you is
an observation . ” Miss Tōko puts down her cup, her smile morphing into a
more scholarly demeanor, as if she was about to teach the most important
thing in the world . “The words ‘flying’ and ‘falling’ are inextricably tied to
each other, because we humans can’t fly by ourselves . And yet, as expected
of men, the more we reach for the sky, the more we forget this . Even those
who live after death can try and reach for this goal, to fall towards the sky,
forgetting that it is the hubris of Icarus that led to his doom . ”
Shiki seemed perturbed by Miss Tōko’s cryptic response, more so than
usual . I can only guess as to what offensive statement Miss Tōko said that
has Shiki in such a defensive attitude . I decide to break the mood .
“Er, I’m sorry ma’am, but I can’t seem to understand the topic . ”
“Apologies, Kokutō . We’re talking about the ghost at the Fujō Tower . I
don’t really know if it’s the real thing or just some mage’s illusion . I wanted
to check, but if Shiki really killed it, then there’s no way to know for sure
now . ”
So it was about that . The conversations between Shiki and glasses-offMiss
Tōko are always about the occult and the magical, so it wasn’t that
hard to guess anyway .
“You know that Shiki saw those girls floating around in the Fujō Tower,
correct? Turns out there was another human figure flying around among
those floating girls . Since they couldn’t be removed, we figured perhaps
that place was something akin to a net to them, or something along those
lines . ”
In my mind, I am frowning at this story’s sudden turn for the complex,
and then, as if sensing my confusion, she offers her layman’s summary of it .
“Well, to put it a bit more simply, there is one girl floating around that
building, and tagging along with her are what looks like our famous suicide
girls . I suspect that they’re something like ghosts or some other supernatu-
/ PANORAMA - II • 19
ral occurrence . The end . ”
I nod my understanding, but the way Shiki put it, I gather that the deed
was already done and taken care of . Once again, the story seems far past
me . It’s only been three months since I let these two get to know each
other, but already I’m the one lagging behind on their peculiar conversations .
Not that I had any particular interest in being involved in them either
way . However, since being ignored was also an unacceptable outcome, I
listen anyway . The way I’m stuck between their stranger world and my own
willing or unwilling ignorance of it sort of fits me, in a way . It’s one of those
small blessings I can be thankful for .
“That sounds like a story out of a dime novel,” I blurt out . Miss Tōko
nods her agreement, smiling . Shiki, on the other hand, is somehow growing
more wound up, casting accusatory sidelong glances at me . Because
provoking a reaction out of Shiki works about as often as Mercury in retrograde,
I have to wonder if I did something colossally idiotic without my
knowing again .
“But then, Shiki saw the ghosts only at the beginning of July, right?” I
sound dumb for asking the obvious, but I do it just to confirm . “So there
were only four ghosts back then, Shiki?”
A negative shaking of the head from Shiki . “No, no, there were eight,
right from the start . I told you right? There wouldn’t be any more suicides
after the eighth . In their case, the order is reversed . ”
“Uh huh . You gotta clarify with me whether or not you’ve gained any
future predicting powers like that one girl we talked to some time ago . ”
“It’s not like that, Mikiya . It’s more like that place…the air there isn’t
normal . How do I put this?” Shiki’s voice uncharacteristically wavers a bit as
a proper description fails to materialize . “It’s sort of like a strange sensation
of being in the middle of boiling water and freezing water . ”
As Shiki struggles with vocabulary, Miss Tōko steps in to help .
“It means that time there flows differently . Understand that there is more
than one way for time to progress . The speed upon which entropy acts on
something differs for each object . The same holds true for our memories .
When a person dies, the record of him existing doesn’t disappear instantly .
There are people who remember, people who have observed and watched
over his life and death . As long as these exist, the memories…, or rather,
their record of existence, doesn’t suddenly disappear, but only fades into
nothingness . If the observer of death was not a person, but instead a place
that resonates to people such as those girls, then they will remain even
20 • KINOKO NASU
after death as a sort of image, of wandering ‘ghosts’, or what have you .
The only ones receptive to this image are the ones that share and keep the
memory of these ghosts, such as close friends and family . And people like
Shiki and me, of course . ”
Miss Tōko lights another cigarette before continuing . “Entropy acts on
memory too . People forget, and eventually the memories disappear . But
on the roof of the Fujō Tower, the entropy of those memories are slower, as
if the building itself doesn’t want to forsake them . The record of their time
alive hasn’t caught up to their current state, and as a result, the memories,
and the images of those girls remain, in that place where time is crooked
and broken . ”
Miss Tōko seems to finish her explanation, which I suspect managed to
be even more puzzling than what Shiki would have eventually gotten to . So
what she’s saying is that, when something dies or is lost, that thing doesn’t
truly disappear, as long as someone remembers it . And that remembering
it is to acknowledge its existence, and because of that, it can sometimes be
seen again . That just sounds like deluding yourself .
Well, Miss Tōko probably kept using the word “image” because it is
something of a delusion, a thing that can’t be real .
In a surprisingly frank display of annoyance, Shiki is led to that timeless
impulse of headscratching . “Enough of these explanations, already . What
I’m really worried about is her . My knife did a pretty good job of proving my
point, but if there’s actually some mage using projection, then this’ll never
end . ” Another soild glance comes my way . “I’m tired of being Mikiya’s
guardian, thank you very much . ”
“I agree completely, Shiki . I’ll settle things with Kirie Fujō, so just go on
and take Kokutō home…wait, he still has five hours to clock in, so you might
want to sleep . You can use that place . ”
Miss Tōko pointed to a spot on the floor that looks like it hasn’t been
cleaned for at least half a year, littered with paper like a dirty furnace . Shiki,
naturally, ignores her .
“So what was she, anyway?” Shiki asks Miss Tōko . The mage walks over
to the window and stares outside, her footsteps inaudible, and with a cigarette
still in her mouth . We don’t really have any light in this room, not
electric light anyway . All the light comes from outside, and in certain areas
of the building where the sun doesn’t reach, it can be surprisingly difficult
to tell the time . In contrast, the view outside is clearly morning, perhaps
somewhere closer to noon . For a few moments, Miss Tōko stares silently at
the sun-bathed panorama .
“Before, you could have said that she flew . ” She puffs out a cloud of
/ PANORAMA - II • 21
smoke, indistinguishable now from the white sunlight . From my position,
framed by the sunlight and smoke, she looked like some sort of mirage .
“Kokutō, what would you associate with a high place? What imagery comes
to mind?” The sudden question snaps me back into focus . The only thing I
could think about was the time I went atop Tokyo Tower . I remember trying
real hard to spot my house, but in the end I couldn’t make it out among the
many tall buildings I saw .
“Trying a bit too hard there, Kokutō . ”
Well, fine, I didn’t think that answer through too much anyway . I try to
think of something else .
“Well, I can’t really think of anything in particular, but I do think that a
panoramic view is beautiful . Just the sight of the scenery is overwhelming . ”
This was a more spontaneous response, which she somehow seems
to note, acknowledging it with a little nod while still staring at the window .
And like that, she continued to talk .
“Scenery seen from select vantage points is always wonderful . Even an
otherwise mundane landscape becomes something special . Looking down
at the world you live in, though, stimulates a different urge . In such a commanding
view, there is but one impulse . ”
As the word “impulse” leaves her mouth, she cuts off her sentence .
An impulse isn’t something that comes from reason or intelligence, not
something that comes from within, but something that is triggered by an
external force, even if one rejects it . Like a murderous, destructive urge .
Then what is the destructive impulse that a view from on high brings?
“It’s how far everything is . A view too wide makes clear the boundary
between you and the world . People can only rest easy with things they are
familiar with . Even with an accurate map telling you your exact location,
you know that’s only information . To us, the world only amounts to something
we understand and feel from experience . The boundaries and connections
of the world, and of countries, and of cities, are only constructs
of the mind, not something we feel ourselves . But with a view too wide,
there appear gaps in our understanding . You have a ten meter radius that
you feel, and the ten kilometer space that you’re looking down on . They’re
both one and the same, the same world that you’ve been living in, and yet
the first one feels more real .
You see, now we have come upon a paradox . Rather than recognize the
small world you can feel as the world you live in, you ascribe it to the wide
world you can only see . But within this wide world, you cannot feel that
you truly exist . Because the closer objects are to your person, the more
22 • KINOKO NASU
sure you can be of their existence, of their reality . In this way, reason, represented
by your knowledge, and experience, represented by instinct, will
start to conflict . Eventually, one will lose, and confusion sets in .
‘Viewing the city from up here sure puts it into perspective . I can’t believe
my house was down there . Did the park always look that way? I didn’t even
know that street or that alley or that building ever existed! This is a city
I’ve never seen before, like I’ve gone far, far away . ’ Those are the sort of
thoughts that run through your head in a panoramic view . ”
In a lull in her speech, I manage to sneak in a question which has been
nagging me since the start .
“So, what, looking out from a vantage point is somehow bad now?”
“Only if you gaze for too long . Remember that in the old myths, traveling
the sky was akin to traveling another world . To fly was to ascend to a
higher world, or perhaps to meet one’s final reward in the afterlife . Mortals
who ascended the skies became mad, unless they armed themselves with
charms or the power of reason . And always, lunacy was cured by returning
to solid ground . ”
Now that she mentions it, I did have this indescribable urge to jump
from the school roof once, just to see what would happen if I did . It must
run through everybody’s minds at some point, when looking at that view .
Of course, I didn’t really want to do it, but why did I think that way when it
clearly leads to my own death? Why do other people think that way?
“Does that mean that, if only for a moment, you go mad?’ After I mention
the question, Miss Tōko bursts into laughter .
“Kokutō, you have to understand that thinking that is normal . Dig into
people’s dreams and you find them dreaming the taboo, eventually . We
possess the extraordinary ability of indulging our own fantasies with our
own imagination . Though you are right in a way . What’s important is that
we know that the fantasy has its place . Well, I guess that’s obvious . But in
your example, it’s less ‘crazy’ and more like a ‘numbing of thought . ’”
“Tōko, this has gone on long enough . ” Shiki interrupts, sick of the onesided
conversation . Well, we have drifted quite far from the main topic so
it wouldn’t be uncalled for in this case .
“There’s nothing long about it . In fact, were this an actual thought
experiment, we’d only be ankle deep into it . ”
“Well, cut it down to a phrase, will you? When you and Mikiya talk, it’s
like a goddamn thesis committee . ”
Strong words, but words which I can accept have an all too valid point .
“Shiki…” Miss Tōko starts, rubbing her temple in frustration, but Shiki
continues to complain, ignoring the both of us .
/ PANORAMA - II • 23
“And then there’s this business of views from high places . I hope you
remember that just by walking around, we’re already ‘viewing from a high
place’ already . ” Air quotations by Shiki . “There’s no ‘normal view’ by your
logic . ”
Well, someone’s wound up . As expected, Shiki’s already trying to punch
holes in Miss Tōko’s argument . Certainly, a person’s eyes are higher than
the ground, which would qualify them for a “high place”, I guess . Miss Tōko
nods in approval at Shiki, and continues her speech, probably condensed
now for the sake of Shiki’s temper .
“Even if we count the fact that the ground isn’t actually flat but at an
angle, we also don’t usually call our normal vision to be a ‘commanding’
or ‘overlooking’ view . There’s a reason for that . Your vision isn’t exactly as
your eyes see it, but something more of a signal the mind interprets and
comprehends . Protected as we are by our ‘common sense’, we don’t perceive
such sight as ‘high’, and we don’t call it such . It’s ‘normal’…whatever
nebulous value anyone might ascribe to that word .
Our mental perceptions, on the other hand, also stand perched on its
own vantage point . Different minds perceive different things, but all are
imprisoned, asleep in a paradigm of material reality . Awakened minds
bearing a more malleable paradigm, such as those of mages, can bend its
rules, but never truly break them . To cross that boundary is to become
something more and less human . A god, but absent the restraint . And so
Hypnos becomes Thanatos . ”
As she says this, Miss Tōko continues to look out at the window, in a
commanding view of the street, the town—perhaps the world . She’s looking
at the world with her feet firmly in the ground, which I thought was
important for some reason . I suddenly remember my dream .
Before it ended, I remember the butterfly fell towards the ground . Were
the butterfly not so intent to follow me, she could have flown more gracefully .
If she had just floated and not flapped her wings so hard, she could
have flown longer . But perhaps, seeing the dragonfly and how it flew, it
could no longer bear to just float . That’s why it flew .
Miss Tōko threw her expended cigarette out the window . “The fluctuation
at the Fujō Tower might have been her perception of the world . The
uneasiness in the air that Shiki felt were the bars of the prison . A place
steeped in numina . ”
A few seconds pass without Miss Tōko saying a word, which Shiki and
I take as a sign that she’s finally finished talking . The long sigh and wandering
eyes tell me that Shiki’s melancholic demeanor calms down at last .
“Bars of the prison, huh? I wonder if that girl was inside or outside . ” Saying
24 • KINOKO NASU
this dismissively, Shiki’s head is tilted to one side, tired of talking .
“Well, I’d say wherever you are, she’s on the opposite side,” counters
Miss Tōko .
-> / 4 • 25
--> / 4
It’s 2:00 in the morning, and the bone in my nape creaks from the cold .
I shiver in spite of myself, and I wonder if it’s the chill that’s doing it, or
my own mind . For the moment, I cast aside my reservations and enter the
Fujō Tower, no sight or sound of life indicating any sort of welcome for me .
Only the electric light illuminating the cream-colored walls of the entrance
hallway, a light that looked too artificial and lacking in human warmth that
it ended up being more eerie than the darkness it was supposed to sweep
away . At the entrance lies a card checker for the former tennants, now
unused and broken . Without stopping, I pass by it, going through the hallway
and into an elevator . The situation is the same as it looked outside: no
people except for me . The elevator has one of those mirrors that people
can use to ogle themselves while they wait . It reflects a person wearing a
light blue kimono with a black leather jacket, with the lazy eyes of someone
tired of doing this job .
I press the button that leads to the rooftop while looking at my reflection
in the mirror . With nothing but the low hum of the elevator accompanying
me, I wait as the world begins to rise .
For now until this mechanical box reaches the rooftop, this elevator is
a prison . The events of the outside are from an entirely different world,
an entirely different existence . For now, this is all that is real . I allow this
thought to slip into my mind unbidden, though I should be focusing on the
task at hand .
The sliding door opens with only the slightest hint of a sound, leading
into a small storage room whose only feature is the door leading outside
to the rooftop . The room has this oppressive lack of light that makes me
think that the door to the roof opens to that different world I fleetingly felt,
the world that I saw in the reflective circus of the buildings’ windows . It’s a
boundary of emptiness . Crossing the room with my footsteps resounding
against the narrow space, I open the door .
The room is black as pitch, but it melds into the now visible void of the
endless night sky . My eyes take in the view of the city from on high . There
was nothing special about the Fujō Tower . It had a perfectly constructed
and level floor made of concrete, and a chain-link fence surrounding the
roof . Aside from the water tank that stood atop the room I just exited out
of, there isn’t anything else here . Except for the view .
The height is at least ten stories higher than any building in the vicinity,
giving it a lonely feeling . It’s like being on top of a tall ladder, staring
26 • KINOKO NASU
down into the depths of the world below you . If the world below were the
ocean, then the scattered lights of buildings would be the anglerfish, the
only lights in an otherwise black world where neither sunlight nor moonlight
reach . A beautiful sight .
The world is sleeping, perhaps for eternity, but unfortunately only for
the moment . The stillness grips my heart tighter than any cold wind, and
it feels painful . Stars glitter in the sky like jewels, and the moon is out,
brighter than anything . In my education at the family manor, I was taught
that the moon was not the sun’s mirror, but a window to a different reality .
A polar opposite to stand as a gate to twilight .
The moon has long been associated with the arcane, femininity, and
death . And as that moon shines brightly over our world, the figure of a
woman floats eerily in the sky above, silhouetted harshly against the moonlight,
accompanied by eight girls flying around her .
The floating woman specter is wearing a white cloth that looked like it
could pass for a dress, and she has black hair that reaches down all the way
to her waist . What little you can see of her arms and legs through the cloth
reveal how slender she is . Her eyebrows, too, follow this mold, and her
eyes hold inside them piercing cold, making her countenance one of the
most beautiful I’ve seen . From her looks, I’d say she’s in her early twenties,
though it’s probably foolish to attach anything like “age” to something like
a ghost . And yet she doesn’t possess the distorted air of a ghost that marks
them so well . She looks as if she could pass muster for being alive . The girls
swimming in the air around her, who fade in and out of sight, look more
the part . Above me, this lonely procession continued; the womanly figure,
and the girls floating in a protective formation . I found it unsettling, not so
much repulsive, but more like…
“I see . This is all a spell of yours, isn’t it?” I sneer .
I didn’t notice it before now, but I note the woman’s face again, seeing
some inhuman quality to its beauty . Were the wind blowing strongly
tonight, her smooth black hair, each strand finely combed, would strike an
otherworldly chord in anyone’s heart . Otherworldly, and inhuman .
“Then I’m gonna have to kill you . ”
As if noticing me for the first time, the woman’s eyes finally cast downward,
and I return the favor, our eyes taking in each other’s measure . No
more words are spoken . None are needed .
From inside my jacket, I draw a blade, a fine weapon seven inches in
-> / 4 • 27
The woman’s gaze from above fills me with the urge to kill . The beautiful
white dress sways in the air . The slender arm moves like water, and points
an accusatory finger at me . Those slender limbs no longer seem beautiful,
and look more fragile now .
“Like a bone, or a lily . ”
Tonight, there was no wind, and my voice reverberated in the night sky .
You can fly . When the woman points her finger at me, I hear a voice
intruding in my consciousness; perhaps hers, were she able to speak . It
buries itself inside, digging in, and telling me I can fly . The mental assault
makes me lose balance for a moment, but with only one step I regain composure .
Overhead, the woman hesitates . Now I see .
You must fly . She tries again, this time stronger, more assertive . It is met
with similar resistance . And then, finally, finally, my Eyes look at her .
And there they are . One on each leg, one on her back, a little one in her
left chest . I can see the lines, separating her body into little sections . The
one in her chest is likely the best target . Hitting that’d mean instant death .
This woman could be some sort of image, some delusion, or a ghost . But in
the end it doesn’t matter . Because with my Eyes, even gods can die .
Holding my knife in a reverse grip, edge-out, I raise my right hand, narrowing
my gaze at my enemy while doing so . But she attacks me again .
I can fly . I can fly . I loved the sky since I was a child . I flew yesterday too .
I can fly higher today . Freely . Peacefully . Smiling . I have to go quickly . To
where? To the sky? To freedom? Let’s escape from reality! Yearn for the sky!
Fight gravity . Be restless enough not to stay in one place . Fly unconsciously .
Let’s go . Let’s go . Let’s go . Let’s go . Let’s go . Let’s go . Let’s go . Let’s go .
Let’s go . Let’s go .
“You gotta be fucking kidding, right?”
I raise my free left hand . The mental suggestion doesn’t work . I don’t
even lose my balance anymore .
“Can’t seem to take a liking to flying . Don’t know how to feel alive—
been that way for a while—so I don’t know the pain of living . To be honest,
I don’t really give a damn about you,” I murmur, almost singing it . It’s true
though . Joy and sorrow, freedom and restraint; I can’t feel any of them .
That’s why I can’t see this fuss about being liberated from pain .
“But taking him was a big mistake . Finders keepers, and I found him first .
You’re going to give him back . ”
My left hand grabs the air like a rope, and I pull back . The woman and
28 • KINOKO NASU
the other girls are pulled towards me, like a fisherman plucking a good
The woman’s expression changes . She tries her last, vain hope of controlling
me, trying her best to put as much power into her suggestion .
And again, I disregard it completely . With all the firmness in my voice I
can muster, I answer her back .
“You fall . ”
As she comes toward me, I plunge the knife deep into her chest, as naturally
as I do stabbing a fruit, and so exquisitely performed that it gives even
the victim pause for admiration . The knife runs from front to back, clean
through her .
She doesn’t bleed . Unable to move from the shock of being stabbed
straight through, she convulses just once . With only a nudge and a slight
movement of my right arm, I fling away the useless “corpse”, and the incorporeal
body slips through the fence without a sound into the shining city
below . Her hair still lies motionless, and her dress embraces the darkness,
a white flower sinking to the bottom of the ocean .
And with that, I depart from the roof, the ghosts still floating in the air
behind me .
/ 5 • 29
With the impact of steel lightning on my chest, I awaken .
It was a staggering attack, one that proved how strong my opponent
was, if one can drive through a person’s chest that easily . But it wasn’t a
strike born out of anger, or desperation . A singular thrust delivered with
no wasted energy, one that would slide easily in between bone and sinew .
It wasn’t the pain that hurt me . Rather, it was the feeling of me being
ripped apart, and the sound of the knife plunging deep, deep into my heart .
That incomparably bittersweet fear . My body shook and trembled at the
thought of it . My silent weeping contained my uneasiness, my loneliness,
my will to live . My tears aren’t from the pain either, or from the fear of the
encounter . It was for the brush of death that I had never before experienced,
but had now fallen in love with, even though I pray every night for
the strength to live .
I hear the distinct sound of the door opening, a sound that I have grown
very familiar with . Even though I know it’s nighttime, the far off glow of
the buildings in the city induces the same sensation as sunlight . It’s not yet
time for my regular examination, so the person who came must be a visitor .
I have a private room, so I’m almost always alone . My sole company here
is the bed, the cream colored curtain which never flutters in the wind, and
the lights from the outside world, ghostly yet radiant .
“Excuse me . You would be Kirie Fujō, correct?” Even her deep voice
can’t mask that the visitor is a woman . After greeting me, she goes to
my bedside, ignoring the chair and choosing instead to stare down at me
coldly . A frightening person, one who I feel can destroy me with a snap
of her fingers if she so wished . Yet, in my heart, I still feel happy . It’s been
many years since I had any sort of visitor . I couldn’t turn her away, even if
she is Death herself come to take me .
“And you are the enemy, correct?” I reply . The woman nods . Perhaps it
may just be the light from the faint shining beacons of the city, but when
I try to focus my vision on the visitor, I can barely see her . Her clothes are
without blemish, reminding me of the neatness of a school teacher . It
makes me rest more easily, somehow . The gaudy orange necktie she wears
contrasts sharply with her white blouse, however, making her look vaguely
“Do you know that child who stabbed me?” I say apprehensively, “or
perhaps it is you?”
“No, fortunately . I’m an acquaintance of your attacker and your victim .
30 • KINOKO NASU
One of them anyway . We meet the strangest people, you and I . ”
She takes out something from her breast pocket, but puts it away just
as quickly . “Apologies . Smoking isn’t allowed here I suppose? For someone
with lung damage like you, it would be like poison . ” I guess what she took
out was a cigarette carton . The image of her smoking fits her look, I think,
like a mannequin with lizard pumps and a bag .
“But it isn’t just the lung, is it?” Her voice is one of curiosity as she looks
me over . “Certainly, that’s where it all started, but there are tumors all
over your body . Sarcoma is only the beginning, but it’s worse inside . Your
hair is the only thing that’s left . You have much strength . A normal person
would have died long before as this sickness ate them alive . ” She pauses a
moment to look at me straight, then offers a smile .
“How long has this gone on, Kirie Fujō?”
I can’t answer . “I have no idea . I stopped keeping count . ” Because there’s
no meaning to it . Because dying was the only way out of here .
She murmurs a soft-breathed “I see . ”
I hated her voice that lacked any compassion or hate . The only thing I
can receive from people is their sympathy, and she denies me even that .
“Shiki told me the cut was around the area of the left ventricle and
the aorta, so it might have been the mitral valve . Is it all right?” She says
such an absurd thing so normally . The peculiarity of her manner of speech
catches me off guard, and I smile despite myself .
“You’re a strange one, aren’t you? If my heart had really been cut, then
we wouldn’t be able to talk like this, would we?”
“Quite right . I was only confirming . ” I see . She was a friend of the person
who stabbed me after all, perhaps trying to tie up loose ends on the battle
that took place in the rooftop . “But it won’t be long until it affects you as
well . Shiki’s Eyes are potent, perhaps even beyond what that child knows .
The sympathetic connection between your double existences means that
the spell will reach you in time . There are a few inquiries I need to make,
which is why I’m here . ” She means the “other” me when she mentions the
double existence, I’d imagine .
“Because I haven’t personally gone to the Fujō Tower, I haven’t seen
your floating image there,” she continues . “What was it really?”
“I don’t know, to be honest . For the longest time now, the scenery outside
the window was the world to me . I looked down on the panorama,
watching the seasons fly past, and the coming and going of people in the
hospital . My voice is never heard, and my hands never reach anything . And
I grew to curse this view as I continued to suffer alone in this room . ”
The woman’s eyebrows crease as she contemplates on something . “I
/ 5 • 31
see now . So you really are a woman of the Fujō bloodline . Your dynasty is
an old one, and pure . It’s thought that you and your dynasty granted blessings
of providence, but now I see that your true abilities lie in cursing . The
clue was in your name, as Fujō can also mean “defile . ” A fitting name, don’t
My family .
But that too is a chapter of my life that’s forever gone . Not long after
I was hospitalized, both my parents and my brother met an accident and
lost their lives . My medical expenses have been paid by a man who calls
himself my father’s friend, a curiously named man that had the air of a
monk about him .
“But a curse is not so easily performed . What was it that you wished for
so hard?” I can’t help but smile a little bit . Finally, we have something that
even she doesn’t know about .
“Have you known what it is to look down on the outside world for so
long? To look at such a view for years and years, even as your consciousness
erodes? I have hated, cursed, and feared the outside world for so long
now, seeing it all from on high . And one day, something happened . It suddenly
seemed as if I was in the sky above the hospital courtyard, the one
outside my window . I could look down on everything . My body and mind
were still in the room, but I felt my vision fly in the sky . But I still couldn’t
move from here, and my vision didn’t go anywhere beyond this hospital . ”
“Your mind must have gained correspondence with the surroundings,
considering how long you’ve been here . Your spatial awareness must have
been quite strong . ” For the second time now, she pauses before she says,
“Is that the time when you started to lose your eyesight?”
It seems there is little about me this woman doesn’t know even before
she entered the room . It’s true, though . I will soon be fully blind . I nod my
“Yes . I could do nothing as the world slowly turned into nothingness . At
first, I thought that everything was just turning into a deep darkness . But it
was the void I was gazing into . But this didn’t bother me, because my real
eyes were floating high up in the sky . I can only see the view around the
hospital, but I was never going to get out of here anyway . Nothing really
changed, if you think about it . Nothing ever changed…”
I have a short coughing fit . It’s been such a long time since I talked to
anyone for this long, it hurts my throat and lungs, and focusing too much
makes my eyes burn .
“I see,” she replies after I compose myself . “You projected your con-
32 • KINOKO NASU
sciousness in the sky . But if that was your consciousness, then you should
truly be dead, since Shiki killed your ‘ghost’ consciousness . ”
In truth, I’ve actually been thinking that as well . This woman keeps saying
the name Shiki, who I assume to be my assailant . How was that person
able to stab me? The me floating in the Fujō Tower can’t touch anything,
but also cannot be affected in turn . Yet this Shiki slashed me as if that was
my real body .
“Answer me . Was that truly you in the Fujō Tower?” she asks with a tone
of curiosity laced with the forcefulness that has never left her voice since
she came inside the room .
“It…wasn’t . I only stare at the sky, while she exists in it . That other me
turned its back on me . Self abandons self . ” Wording it that way made it
seem like more than an affectation . I did truly turn my back on the world,
as it had abandoned me . And I abandoned myself, of any hope that my
sickness would get better . Being separated from the world outside the window
and unable to break through that boundary no matter how hard I
prayed every night, both me and the other me couldn’t put our feet firmly
on the ground, and were resigned to an ephemeral, fragile existence . We
share that similarity, despite parting with each other . I suppose it’s what
this woman called a “sympathetic connection” .
She draws a short breath, perhaps in surprise . It’s the first time that this
person has shown any sort of uncalculated emotion, and it surprises me
a little . “So it’s not that your consciousness was separated, but that you
were acting on two vessels with one state of mind . Someone else gave you
this vessel . It’s unlike any work I’ve seen yet, I understand that much . ” A
small nod before she regards me with a frighteningly disappointed look .
“But why go through so much just to lure children to throw themselves off
buildings? Why were you not content with just looking at the world?”
Ah, those poor, enviable girls . What happened to them still saddens me .
But I had nothing to do with them . They fell because they wanted to .
“You used the image of you at the Fujō Tower as more of a channel for
your will, didn’t you? You reached out to them in sleep, in their dreams of
flight . And in those dreamscapes, at least one or two of them were probably
on the verge of awakening to magic, which is why you could notice
them in the mess of other minds in this city, and why you can snare them
so easily . But it was you who made them think about flying while they were
outside of sleep, even as they weren’t really ‘awake’ . They tried to fly, and
they got the natural result of trying to do the impossible . ”
Yes . In the fever dreams, they always fly around me, and I thought that
we could be friends . But they never noticed me, never talked to me, never
/ 5 • 33
touched me . All they did was float around like fishes without consciousness .
I thought that, when they were outside of sleep, in the times when
they were conscious, they could notice me . That was the only way I knew…
“You’re trembling, friend . Are you cold?” The woman’s voice returns to
its previous icy demeanor . I clutch myself as the unearthly wind fails to subside,
despite the window being closed . “I’d like to ask you one more thing .
Why yearn so much for the sky of a world you so detest?”
A difficult question . I answer to the best of my ability . “In the sky, you
can fly as far as you want, go as far as you can go, because it never ends .
I thought I could find a world that I didn’t hate, and a world that could
accept me in turn . ”
“Did you find that world?”
My shivering doesn’t subside, the chill acting like invisible hands shaking
my body . My eyes sear with pain from being focused for so long . I nod yes .
“Before I sleep every night, I fear that I will not wake up the next day . I
fear that one day, it will be morning, and my eyes will never open again .
But it’s also the reason why I feel alive . Strange, isn’t it? My hollow shell of
a body and poor excuse for a life is always shadowed by death, but it’s that
shadow which I rely on to keep myself alive . ” Yes, that’s the reason why I
yearn for death more than life . Death is release . To fly without end, to go
anywhere one wishes…that’s the world I can yearn for .
“So you took my acquaintance as a companion to your world?”
“No . At that time, I didn’t know . I was still longing for life, and while
doing so, I wanted to fly . I thought I could do so if I was with him . Those
times are long gone now . ”
“You and Shiki aren’t so different from each other . Both of you believe
you can find salvation in someone like Kokutō . It isn’t wrong to think you
can feel alive and be saved by someone else . ”
Kokutō . I see . So this Shiki confronted me to take him back . Even though
I know now that my savior is also the harbinger of Death, I feel no regrets .
“He’s still a child . Always looking at the sky . Always so honest . That’s why
I thought he could take me anywhere if he put his mind to it . I…I wanted
him to take me away from all of this . ” I start to cry, and it stings my eyes so
much they seem to scream in pain .
It’s not really because I’m sad . What happiness it could have been had
he been able to spirit me away! But it will never come true . It was always a
far dream . But it was such a beautiful dream, and because of that I couldn’t
stop the tears . In my eternity in this prison, it was the only dream I’ve had
in so many years, the only delusion I allowed myself .
“But Kokutō has no interest in the sky . Those who long for the sky are
34 • KINOKO NASU
the farthest from it . Ironic, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it is . People always seem to have the things we don’t need . I could
never truly fly . Floating was all I could do . ” The burning in my eyes subsides,
a feeling that will probably never happen again . The wind’s invisible hands
grip my spine and make me tremble even more strongly .
“I’ve been a burden long enough . This question will have to be my last .
What are you going to do after this? I can cure the creeping pain Shiki gave
you through your other vessel, if that is your wish . ” I don’t answer her,
save for shaking my head no . I can’t see for sure, but it seems like she’s
frowning . “I understand . There are two ways to escape: escape without a
purpose, and escape with a purpose . I call the former ‘floating’, and the
latter ‘flight’ . You are the only one that decides which of the two your view
of the world from on high was . But you don’t choose these paths because
of the weight on your soul . We don’t choose the path we take because of
the sins we carry . But we carry our sins on the path we choose . ”
After saying her parting words, the woman leaves . She never said her
name, but I know now that she didn’t need to . I don’t doubt for a moment
that she knows what I am going to do . Because for me there is no choice: I
can’t fly . I can only float . I can’t do what she says because I’m weak . That’s
why I can no longer resist this temptation: The flash of realization when I
was stabbed in the heart . The overwhelming torrent of death and the pulse
of life . I thought I no longer had anything left, but I was left with such a
simple, sweet thing .
It was not the nonexistent wind, but death, that little fear, that gripped
my spine in these last moments . I need to experience more of death to
feel the joy of life, the glory of everything I had ignored in my life until
now . But that death I experienced on that night, the pain that pierced me
like a needle, like a sword, like lightning, would be impossible to replicate .
I cannot hope for such a vivid end now . But I will try to come as close to it
as much as I can . I still have a few days to think on it, but the method need
not even be said .
I think my last moment should be spent on a high place, a place where
I can look down on a panorama of the world, and fall back to the embrace
of the reality that has rejected me so .