Kara no Kyoukai - Volume 3 - Chapter 6

Published at 16th of February 2016 09:04:44 PM

Chapter 6

Part VI: Records in Oblivion

Beyond the briar’s thorns there once was a deep forest, wrapped in fog .
From it wafted the smell of green and the tiny whispers of insects .
And deep into it, I passed .
And further still did I walk .
Until I chanced upon a knoll untouched by our sun, where I found myself in
the company of children .
And finally I did come to my senses, and realizing the lateness of the hour,
resolved to press home .
“But you needn’t go home . For here, your eternity awaits . ”
The forest children began to sing .
And I wondered what eternity was .
“It is when you linger . ”
“It is when you are unchanging . ”
The chorus of cradles recited in melancholy unison .
Starlight shone quietly on the grass of the mound .
The fog flowed together like purest milk behind me .
And over my shoulder, the path home had been lost .
I know little of this eternity .
I try to hurry home .
To a home far from this place .
A home far from the children and the forest .
And wrapped in the smell of green and the tiny whispers of insects,
Inside the deep forest, wrapped in fog beyond the briar’s thorns,
They denied me home for an eternity .
Records in Oblivion - I
December this year was less cold than I had anticipated, but was still
enough to bring a white cloud of breath with every whisper . Nevertheless,
yesterday was its final day, and with it, the final day of the year . Today is
a new year, my sixteenth one . Surely, for many people around the world
today, they are greeting each other in a warm “Happy New Year,” treasuring
the one chance in a year they can share the warmth and sense of new
opportunity with other people .
Not for me, though . In fact, New Year to me has become the time of the
year where I want to chide myself for my stupidity, a time when the pillows
in my room are in danger of my desire to hurl them against the wall and
stomp on them to vent; a time where I just want to will the rest of the day
away . Sadly, human hearts and memory are not such convenient things .
And so it is with a certain glumness of spirit that I hurry and make my
preparations to go to Miss Tōko’s office .
Though I belong to a thoroughly pedestrian household, my family still
Insists that I dress in a kimono for the first shrine visit of the New Year .
Indeed, they’ve already lain it out for me in my bed . Still, I’ve never been
one for the traditional clothing, so I ignore it and head out of my room to
go downstairs .
“Oh, Azaka dear, are you going out?” my mother asks as I climb down
the stairs
“Yes . Just going to meet someone who I owe a favor to . I’ll be home
before dark,” I say with my best smile as I depart from the Kokutō residence—my
household .
The sky of the early afternoon day is filled with clouds, and not too
friendly ones, it seems . Still, I think for a while that it reflects my mood
perfectly, and just that little bit of acknowledgement (by the world no less!)
eases my steps just a bit .
I didn’t always hate this particular time of the year . There was a time
when, just like any other person, I actually looked forward to it . But it was
in 1996, exactly three years ago from this day, when that changed; my thirteenth
New Year when I went back to my real home for the holidays .
The story truly starts with me, Azaka Kokutō, and the weak constitution
that my body was cursed with . I’ve never had any high grades in PE, and
everyone could tell the Tōkyō air was bad for my continued health . And so 
with that reason, the family packed me away to live with my uncle in the
countryside when I was only ten years old . Since then, I only came home
during summer and winter breaks, but even then I couldn’t stand to go
back . My uncle treated me like his own adopted daughter, and raised me
away from my family . I preferred to keep it that way—even past the point
where my constitution eventually improved to become normal and render
the entire arrangement moot—for my own reasons .
For you see, I have a brother, Mikiya Kokutō . And I love him .
To clarify, this is not, as you might be suspecting, the familial love between
close siblings, but the romantic sort of love between a boy and a
girl . Of course, one might suspect that a ten year old elementary school
girl might be mistaken, and it would not be wrong to assume such a conclusion .
But I was no idiot, even back then, and I knew better than most
exactly what sort of affection I was entertaining . And though I can accept
my assumption of my possession of higher than average intelligence as a
comfortable lie I can tell myself, I cannot accept that my feelings for Mikiya
are anything other than real . Once I even harbored childish thoughts of
somehow spiriting him away from other people, never to let another see
him . Though my feelings have since taken on a more sensible form, my
fondness for Mikiya never wavered . I’ve known from the start that this was
a feeling never to be voiced, so as I grew older, I only waited, biding my
time for a chance .
Even my retreat to the countryside was all part of my elaborate plan to
separate myself from Mikiya, all for the sake of building in him a propensity
to see in me something else, something other than being his little sister . I
don’t care what it says in the family registry . I left that behind long ago, and
I’ll only truly come back after Mikiya’s forgotten me as a sister completely .
Until then, though, I’d spend my days like a lady of manners . After all, I
know exactly what Mikiya likes, so this was a fairly simple process . It was a
plan so perfect even I have to marvel at its genius .
But then of course, a meddler had to make her goddamned appearance .
Pardon my words . It was three years ago, back in my junior high school
days when I first explored the notions of love . It was the winter holidays,
and I went back to the house when, of all the stupidest things to do, Mikiya
brought home a classmate of his . It was clear for anyone to see that he
and this woman named Shiki Ryōgi were dating . And when I saw this, I had
the curious and not altogether pleasant feeling of having baked yourself
a lovely cake, only for it to be beset by the desperate and hungry the moment
you look away . The thought that my brother, who always seemed so
aloof before, would now be dating a girl, had never entered my wildest 
imaginings . I mean, think about it . He’d never even so much as looked that
way at any woman before, let alone had a relationship with one!
I think I spent the next few days after that in a complete daze, sleepwalking
maybe, until I finally came back to the countryside . It was not long
after that when, still in distress over what to do about the girl, I got wind
of the traffic accident and coma that befell Shiki Ryōgi . And so Mikiya was
alone once again . I must confess that when Mikiya told me the news by
letter as I sipped my tea on the terrace of my uncle’s house, that I sympathized
with the poor girl . Even though I only met her once, I remember her
laughing heartily at what Mikiya had to say, her attitude full of energy . But
I would be lying if I didn’t say that I felt some measure of relief . No girl of
idle interest like Shiki would ever catch Mikiya’s eye again . All I need do was
graduate high school with recognition, and get myself into a sufficiently
reputable university . Only a few more steps; a few more years—perhaps
eight—until the notion of my sibling relationship with Mikiya was severed .
But my enemy proved herself to be no common ken indeed, because
only last spring, Shiki regained her consciousness . Mikiya was beside himself
with joy at the news as he told me over the phone, but it only served
to harden my resolve . I would say nothing to him about my feelings, but
only until I graduate from high school . I would need to be frank with myself,
more so than before . And from there, I picked up the pace . My choice
of high school was perfect: a boarding school called Reien Girl’s Academy,
where tax bracket mattered more than grades when entering . This suited
me perfectly, as did my uncle, who, being a painter and artist, was only too
eager to ingratiate himself with potential patrons by my presence in the
institution . And so I lodged there, to become a lady in their fashion .
It’s been half a year since my entry there, and now I’m living another
accursed New Year, again reminding me of Shiki’s continued existence . I’d
actually planned to go to the shrine with Mikiya today, but that got soured
easily enough when Shiki came by earlier and left with him . Strange how
fickle such things tend to be in my life, and how she always seems to be at
the center of it all .
I make my way toward the bay area, the sight of the once great factories
serving as my guide . The old industrial area by the bay is still home to some
active steelworks, but by and large it is a place of rusted smokestacks and
crumbling brick walls, of old and abandoned warehouses, some of which
still have asbestos flocked within ceilings . In the midst of it all stands the
shell of an office building, remaining eternally unfinished in its construc-
tion; no doubt the last hope to revitalize the district, only to falter and fail .
My tutor in the Art of magic, Tōko Aozaki, somehow got her hands on it
(through means I am not entirely confident are legal), and made an office
of sorts there, for her “business . ”
When I reach the building, I go in and climb the staircase, each click of
my heels on the steps an echo . The first floor is a garage, and only Miss
Tōko herself knows what lurks in the second and third, and the fourth is
the office where me and my brother Mikiya often end up in; Mikiya as an
employee, and I as an apprentice . I open the door on the fourth floor office
and announce my arrival with a lazy greeting .
“Happy New Year . ”
“Mmhmm . Happy New Year,” says Miss Tōko with an equally languid
expression on her face .
Somehow, the usual severity that Miss Tōko commands doesn’t seem
to diminish her good looks at all . In fact, in tandem with her white blouse
and black trousers, it makes her seem more in control, if anything . With her
glasses off, as they are now, you might even doubt for a moment if she was
actually a woman .
“Weren’t you planning to go out with brother dearest today?” she asks
with a characteristic lack of restraint from behind her work desk .
“I was, but Shiki came along and spirited him away . Still, aren’t you glad
I’m even in today instead of gallivanting about with Mikiya?”
“That I am . I have some business to talk about with you, actually . ”
That’s strange . It’s very rare for Miss Tōko to involve me in her business .
I make her a cup of coffee, and whip up some tea for myself, before finally
taking a seat for myself .
“So, what is it you wanted to speak to me about?”
She puts her hands behind her head and leans back on her chair . “Just
wondering whether you’ve confessed to Kokutō yet . ”
Oh, for heaven’s sake . I can tell from her tone that she’s not at all serious
about this .
“No, I haven’t . And it’ll be that way until after high school, at the very
least . Now is there actually anything significant in my answer that made
you so anxious to ask me?”
“Nah . Just speculating on how calm your answer would still be if I asked
the same question with Kokutō present . I suppose I still wonder how totally
different you both are yet you still find an attraction for him . Maybe you’re
adopted . Ever considered that?” The tips of her lips rise into that familiar
sly bend of a smile .
“Now I really don’t know if you’re joking or not,” I reply, but holding in 
the frown I was supposed to make at her . As if she somehow still read this,
Miss Tōko chuckles lightly .
“Ah, Azaka, you carry yourself with such scholarly grace, but sometimes
the purity in your answers is so refreshing . Forgive me and my stupid questions .
I need to get it out of my system at least once a year, shouldn’t I?”
“Well, I’d say you’re off to a roaring great start to the year then . Anyway,
what was it you really wanted to talk about?”
“Something about your school . You’re in your first year in Reien Girl’s
Academy, right? The way I hear it, something interesting happened to class
D of the freshman year . You wouldn’t know anything about it, would you?”
Class D? I think I have a hunch what she’s talking about . “The class with
Kaori Tachibana in it, right? Unfortunately, I’m in class A, so I know very
little about the goings-on in class D . ”
“Kaori Tachibana, you say? Can’t say I recognize the name . Not on the list
I have, at least . ” Miss Tōko frowns, like she’s wracking her brain for something
she missed . I tilt my head slightly to the side, wondering if there’s
some miscommunication between me and her .
“Er…what’s all of this about?” I mutter .
“So you don’t know,” she sighs . “Guess I should’ve expected it, seeing
as Reien Academy tries to isolate each class from another . Only the girls in
class D would know more, I suppose,” she concludes . “Anyway, let me tell
you what I know about it . ”
Miss Tōko begins to tell the story of a strange incident that happened
only two weeks ago . Just before winter vacation, two students of Reien
Girl’s Academy’s senior high school class 4-D had some kind of argument,
and in the end, tried to stab each other with box cutters . For such a thing
to happen at Reien, which is, at the best of times, eerily still and silent that
it seems almost like a place hermetically sealed-off from the rest of the
world, strikes me as supremely odd . Worse, I never knew about it, a fact
which I can probably blame on the school’s practice of separating each
class from each other, and their tendency to cover up anything that might
paint a bad picture of the institution .
“That’s horrible,” I say, after Miss Tōko is done with the story . “Are their
injuries serious?”
“Nothing too serious . I’m actually more interested in the fact that they
attacked each other at all . ”
“Yes, I see what you mean . Reien is generally not the place you’d find
the type of people who’d try a knife fight in the halls . Whatever its cause,
it must have been something serious, or something far back in their past .
Or both . ”
“Right . The subject of their quarrel comes later . There’s an even stranger
tidbit here . No doubt you’re wondering why you didn’t know about this
earlier . Reien’s policy on these things can be blamed up to a point, but it
largely isn’t their fault this time . It’s just that it wasn’t immediately reported .
It was only when the school’s Mother Superior looked through the infirmary’s
records did she find the names of the two girls, and the cause of
their wounds . She suspected class D’s homeroom instructor of deliberately
hiding the incident . ”
That would be Hideo Hayama, once Reien’s only male instructor, and
one of the only two in its history . But he’d already left, having taken responsibility
for the breakout of a fire last November . He was promptly sacked
and replaced, not by a nun as per usual, but by…
“Mr . Kurogiri? No way . It can’t be him,” I suddenly find myself saying .
Miss Tōko offers a nod .
“The Mother Superior said as much . Apparently, this Satsuki Kurogiri
fellow took to the job well, and became trusted by everyone almost immediately .
When the Mother Superior interviewed him about the incident,
he supposedly couldn’t recall anything about the incident happening
under his watch . She had to go and recite the particulars of the incident
to even make the guy remember . She couldn’t pry a thing out of Satsuki,
and he genuinely seemed to have forgotten about the entire thing . Never
struck the Mother Superior as a man to tell stories . Since he’d proven his
trustworthiness before to both the faculty and the students, the Mother
Superior had to let him go . ”
But how can a man forget something so important in only two weeks?
It just doesn’t seem possible . At the same time, I myself can’t see a reason
why Mr . Kurogiri would have any reason to break the school’s trust in him .
“As for the reason the students took a stab at each other in the first
place,” Miss Tōko continues, “all the other students heard about it, since
the two girls started arguing in the classroom just after class when people
were filing out in the halls . Apparently they each somehow knew of some
old secrets they were keeping from each other . And here’s the kicker . When
they were interviewed, they were both secrets that both of them had already
forgotten . ”
“What? That sounds—”
“Ridiculous, I know . These girls were childhood friends . The Mother
Superior described them as always being together . Somehow, this secret
got out and ruined all that . I think they both said when they were questioned
that it was close to a month ago when they got a letter in the mail,
and at first they couldn’t figure out anything about what the letter was 
referring to . Then, of course, they later understood what it was about . It
told of old secrets taht they both didn’t want the other to know . They confronted
each other, and found out that both had been sent a letter of the
same nature before they busted out the box cutters and started attacking
each other . ”
I don’t know what to say . Forgotten memories and secrets being mentioned
in a letter sent by someone who they didn’t know, somewhere in
the country?
“You’re thinking this is a new case, aren’t you, Miss Tōko?”
“Maybe . The letters didn’t have anything else written on them . No
threats, no demands . Not even a stalker could watch both girls 24/7 enough
to even figure out the past that even they forgot about . If there’s a mage’s
hand in all of this, I wouldn’t be surprised . I only wonder what the ultimate
objective is . ”
The ominous tone of the story starts to sink in . Discounting the damaging
contents of the letter, it might be interesting, even funny, for you to
receive letters about your life at first and not know where they’re coming
from . But give it a month and see if you still feel the same way . Letters
about you containing facets of your life that even you didn’t know about,
written by somebody you don’t know, some unknown figure who watches
you day in and day out . The paranoia that gripped the two girls must have
eaten away at them . It’s little wonder they were driven to such desperate
suspicion .
“Have they found out who sent the letters?” I ask .
“Yep . Fairies, they say,” Miss Tōko states succinctly .
“Pardon me . Could you repeat that?” I don’t know if my astonishment at
what she just said registered in my voice or not .
“Fairies, like I said . What, you don’t know about them? Even when so
many students in Reien say they see them? I suppose you really aren’t gifted
with Arcane Eyes, but it’s sort of a famous rumor among the students .
Fairies, they say, will play beside your pillow at night, and when you wake
up, you’d find some of the memories of the past few days will have gone
as cleanly as though they never happened . If it’s true, and not just some
crazy rumor, the fairies are stealing the memories for some purpose . My
gut tells me there’s a connection to this and the incident in class D,” she
explains patiently .
Though I still study the Art under her guidance, and I’ve seen wonders of
thaumaturgy performed that are a true sight to behold, I still find the fairy
story hard to believe .
“Do you think it’s true, then, Miss Tōko? This fanciful story about fair-
“I can’t say anything about something I haven’t seen yet, but if there’s
any place for fairies to be, it’s got to be Reien . Think about it . It’s perfect for
them: Isolated in the sticks, where you can’t even hear the faintest whine
of a car engine, maintained by some of the sternest rules and quiet nuns,
that don’t permit the latest in youth culture to seep into the institution
they’ve built . The forest that takes up the larger portion of the grounds
is deep and large enough to get yourself lost for half a day if you’re not
careful . The air is tinged with fragrance sweet enough to make you stay
and pass the time staring at a clock’s minute hand and its lazy progression .
Sounds pretty much like a fairy freehold to me . ”
“Wow, I am surprised you know the campus so…intimately, Miss Tōko . ”
“Obviously . I’m an alumnus there, after all . ”
This time, I make sure to have my voice sound truly astonished .
“Stop giving me that look,” Miss Tōko says with an eyebrow raised .
“What, you thought Mother Riesbyfe would just mouth off the latest
school gossip to an outsider? She’s the one that contacted me last night
to see if I could do anything to get to the bottom of what’s happening in
there . I don’t exactly run a detective agency here, but I couldn’t turn down
the Mother Superior either . Now, I can’t go in there again, since I’d stand
out too much . I wouldn’t get a word out of anyone . So I thought long and
hard—” she draws the two words out with a smile on her face “—on who
could do it for me… Azaka?”
No . I turn away from her . I don’t want to hear what I think she’s about
to say . She looks at me with sharply narrowing eyes before she continues .
“Oh come now, Azaka . It can be fun! I mean, come on, what do you think
of when I say the word ‘fairy?’”
“Tinkerbell?” I quickly blurt out, as if this would somehow dispel the
topic, at which point Miss Tōko chuckles .
“A comforting image, and one that is popular among mages who try to
make familiars in the image of fairies . But unlike familiars, the true fae are
not creatures brought forth through the mage’s will, but actual living things
of varying species . Such things may be goblins, redcaps, or the oni of our
own country . Shifty creatures, the lot of them . In Scotland, there are still
stories of fairies causing mischief among people…even some stories where
they cause bouts of forgetfulness among people, and drawing children into
forests to spirit them away for a week, replacing them with identical fetches .
Though their pranks vary, all fae share one unique quality: their lack of
empathy for the victims of their tricks . They are simply incapable of it . They 
do it because they deem it fun, not out of malevolence .
“The incident in Reien could be their handiwork, but the act of writing
a letter seems to be out of their style . It indicates some kind of malice and
manipulation, doesn’t it? I fear, Azaka, that our culprit may be the first kind
of fairy that you mentioned . ”
As ever, Miss Tōko never misses an opportunity to teach me more about
the invisible world she seems to walk through with so much ease . And like
a good student, I’m only curious for more .
“So you’re saying they’re familiars, being controlled by some mage?” I
ask . She nods in satisfaction .
“Yes, and the kind borne from a captured creature, to be sure . The mage
is probably using them to work his or her Art from afar, to do something
with the memories of the students in Reien . To have this hedge wizard
be so obvious in his work is almost uncharacteristically amateurish for a
mage . Or perhaps he doesn’t have such a complete command over his fairy
familiars yet . They’ve always been fickle sorts, and mages generally favor
other things over them . But this rank amateur has showed his hand, and
I’m thinking it will be a perfect test for you, Azaka . And so I order you as
your mentor to investigate the truth behind these incidents before winter
vacation ends . Find the source, and do what you can to eliminate it . ”
There we go . Miss Tōko finally says the words I suspected she’d been
meaning to say all this time . In truth, the task scares me a bit, since I can
sense her hidden implication: that I’d be going in there alone, against an
individual similar to me and Miss Tōko, able to manipulate the very threads
of reality with the Art . And she expects me to root him out . I try my best to
hide my trepidation with a confident nod .
“Well, if it’s for the sake of more arcane knowledge, then I guess I have
no choice,” I sigh as I answer . Miss Tōko rises from her chair to give me
some documents on the details of the situation, but before she can hand
me a folder, I have to voice the once concern that’s been niggling at me
since the moment I suspected what she would have me do . “But Miss Tōko,
I can’t even see the fairies . I don’t have the mystic sight or Arcane Eyes like
you do . ”
Unexpectedly, she makes the grin that has only heralded her own brand
of mischief .
“Oh, don’t you worry your pretty little head about that detail . I think
I can cook you up something far better than a pair of eyes . ” Though she
struggles to hold her laughter in, she doesn’t tell me exactly what she
meant .
Records in Oblivion - II
I leave the faculty room of Reien Girl’s Academy’s senior high school
department…unfortunately, with her tagging along .
“You know, I’ve been thinking . Maybe Tōko is actually an idiot and we
just didn’t notice . ”
January 4, Monday . Past noon . Skies partly cloudy .
Walking astride me is Miss Tōko’s funny idea for something “better than
a pair of eyes . ” The enemy .
“Having you of all people to sneak into the school with me? For once,
you have my agreement . ”
“This sucks . I definitely got the short end of the stick this time, having to
put up this act that I just transferred here on the third term . ”
We try to avoid looking at each other as we walk through a corridor
of the senior high school building . The girl’s name is Shiki Ryōgi . Like all
students here, right now she’s wearing the Reien uniform, a dress patterned
after a black nun habit that almost always looks weird on any Japanese
person . And yet Shiki wears it like an old glove . When I see her dark hair
still distinctly visible even against the black fabric of the dress, and how it
can’t hide her slender shoulders and the pale whiteness of her nape, even
I have to admit that she looks good on it; as good as any quiet Catholic girl,
which of course, she is anything but . The entire thing gives me a faint feeling
of disgust .
“Azaka, those two girls were just staring at us . ” And of course, like an
idiot, Shiki is staring right back at the upperclassmen we just passed as
well . It hasn’t been the first time it happened today, and after a few looks, I
think I have an educated guess as to what could be so interesting to them .
In an exclusive all-girls institution like Reien, the androgynous nature of
Shiki’s appearance must be some kind of anomaly . There are few people
like Shiki in here, and her presence is bound to attract some kind of attention .
The same two girls that we just passed must have only wanted to talk
to her in some kind of childish attraction .
“Don’t pay them any mind . You’re a new face . Transfer students at this
level are just rare, that’s all,” I caution to her . “It doesn’t have anything to
do with what we’re investigating . ”
“There’s a surprising number of students for the winter vacation, don’t
you think?”
“Ugh . It’s a boarding school, obviously . A lot of these people live far
away, and would rather just stay here over the break . Only the library on 
the first and fourth floor are actually open, but since the dormitories are
well-stocked anyway, barely anyone heads to the main building . Unless you
need to report to the nuns for violating some rule . ”
Rules which are very, very strict, and the violation of which enough times
is enough reason to expel you . “Don’t go outside” being the most tightly
held one, and they won’t make an exception even if your parents themselves
showed up . Still, money has proven to change that easily enough,
which I found true with my erstwhile friend, Fujino . As a man of capable
capital who donated significant money to the school, Fujino’s father found
a way to get her out whenever she wanted . As for me…well, certainly my
high grades helped, which led to my uncle being employed by Reien as a
painter (which completely suited his mercenary motives for letting me go
here) . They were more lenient of my excursions after that .
Remove the religious veneer and Reien itself is little different from other
high schools . Students still study their backs off just to pass a test to get into
college, and with all the high expectations for the student body here, that
fact is only doubly true . In truth, I suspect the school took me in because
of my high marks, seeing me as someone they can proudly send off to
Tōkyō University (which had been my plan anyway) . While the management
in this place might be a bit too focused on what numbers they can
boast about, it doesn’t really bother me . I mean, at least they can give me
the freedom to go out .
I snap out of my reverie in time to notice that we’ve exited the main
building, and that beside me, Shiki had been staring at it with listless eyes
for quite some time . Then, as if tiring of it, she looks back at me while idly
fondling the cross hanging from her neck .
“Weird place . Can’t rightly tell if the teachers are primarily teachers, or
dedicated to being nuns, or whatever . Oh yeah, and didn’t we pass by a
chapel earlier? Is that where they do the whole ‘mass’ thing? Our Father,
with art in heaven and all that?”
Oh, Shiki you ignorant fool . What would God do with art?
“There’s a morning and evening service,” I reply, “and a mass on Sundays .
Students aren’t obligated to participate, though . People like me who transferred
to Reien from elementary or junior high largely aren’t Christian,
so we don’t go . The nuns would rather we do, but…well, you know the
law . The sudden influx of rich-but-not-necessarily-Christian families sending
their well-to-do daughters here increased dramatically over the past
decade, which, coupled with the number of parents not wanting to put
their children in schools that force a Catholic education, forced them to
tone down the mission school vibe . ”
“What a pain in the ass,” Shiki sighs . “I’m willing to bet God doesn’t care
either way . ”
To see her dressed in the uniform she’s wearing while wielding such a
vulgar tongue makes me feel a little uneasy . I quickly dispense with the
subject .
“Well, never mind God for now, but what about the fairies? See anything?
Any weaving of the Art?” I ask as we continue to walk the campus grounds .
Shiki shakes her head .
“Not a glance . Guess we’ve got no choice except to wait until tonight,”
she says, casting her sleepy eyes across the buildings, the abundant foliage,
and the stone walkways that adorn the school .
Shiki, like many mages, can see what is hidden from most normal
people . The mystic sight of her Arcane Eyes allows her to see ghosts and
spirits…and even things with more frightening implications . Her breed of
sight grants her dominion over death and entropy, and it manifests for her
as patterns of lines on an object, and supposedly, by tracing them she can
weave entropy into it and destroy it . Apart from that, her family claims a
strong martial tradition, and whatever else may be said about her, she has
still lived up to it exceptionally . Because of that, her reflexes are as fast as
she is efficient and brutal .
In other words: a woman quite the opposite of my brother Mikiya .
Totally unsuited for him . Above all other people, it is perhaps Shiki who
annoys me the most . As a matter of fact, the entire reason for me taking up
Miss Tōko’s tutelage in the Art is Shiki herself . Because if Mikiya’s girlfriend
was any normal girl, she would never measure up to someone like me . But
obviously, Shiki is a far more troublesome sort . So I put aside my common
sense and took Miss Tōko up on her offer .
Now, I’m still learning, but I don’t feel I’ve measured up to her just
yet, so I spend my days here in the school, balancing my time between
mundane study and the practice of the Art . But even though I consider
Shiki the enemy, there is one truth about her that I have so far refused to
give voice to .
“I’ll have to spend the night in your dormitory, I imagine . Normally, I
don’t like sleeping on a bed I haven’t checked and prepared myself, but in
this case I’ll have to lower my standards . ” Shiki bookends the sentence with
a sigh of surrender .
See, the truth is that Shiki doesn’t really hate me . And I don’t really hate
her either . I’ve always thought that if only Mikiya wasn’t between the both
of us, I would probably be the best of friends with her .
“So where to next, Azaka?” Shiki asks as she looks at me . “To the dormi-
“It might be better for us to use what little time we have actually investigating
and not idly resting in my room, I should think . We’ll talk to class D’s
homeroom instructor, so just follow my lead . You’re my seeing-eye dog for
the duration of this case, and you’d do well to use those Eyes to scrutinize
everyone you come across . ”
“Wasn’t the homeroom instructor some guy called Hayama or somesuch?”
“Old news . Mr . Hayama left the institution in November . The homeroom
instructor now is Mr . Satsuki Kurogiri, the only male instructor in the
school . ” I start to walk back inside, heading toward the English language
teacher’s quarters, while Shiki tags along dutifully beside me .
“A guy teacher in an all-female school . I guess that must stir up some
latent feelings in some of the girls, huh?”
I don’t answer her right away, but in her own crude way, she’s right . The
students of Reien are brought up to be to the school’s vision of ideal young
women, and men are seen as a hindrance to that growth . One of the main
reasons the school strongly discourages venturing outside the grounds is
because they think that a boy and a girl interacting at their age is a slippery
slope to an illicit sexual relationship . But I’ve always thought that having
male teachers undermined that philosophy anyway .
“Well, yes,” I finally answer after a moment’s pause . “But that topic’s
practically a minefield in this place, so keep your voice down . Hideo Hayama
wasn’t a popular teacher here not only because of his suspected lack of an
actual teaching license, but also because there were rumors that he’d sexually
harassed a student once . ”
“What? Why the hell wasn’t he out of here sooner, then?” Shiki asks
with cocked eyebrow .
“The sisters and the Mother Superior were forced to turn a blind eye to
it because…well, let me put it this way: The surname of the school board’s
chairman is Ōji, but before he married into his wife’s family, he shared a
surname with Mr . Hayama . ”
“Oh ho,” Shiki whispers conspiratorially . “The chairman’s estranged
brother or something, I suppose . If that’s the case, then I guess the question
becomes: why did he resign like he did . ”
I scan my head around quickly just to check if no one’s around . Satisfied,
I turn back to Shiki and say, “Remember last November when we were in
Miss Tōko’s office? I said it then too, but the short of it is that a fire broke out
in the high school . Only the dormitories of class C and below were affected,
but the fire itself supposedly started in class D’s section, and they said Mr .  
Hideo Hayama was behind it . Obviously, the chairman himself sacked him,
but Mr . Hayama was already long gone by then . Perhaps he ran . ”
News of the arson never really slipped outside the walls of the school .
All the firemen were purportedly bribed, as were an ample number of the
student’s parents and guardians . Wouldn’t want to tarnish the good name
of the school where their precious daughters went to after all . It took one
other toll .
There was…someone that died in that fire .
“So this Kurogiri guy—what’s he like?” Shiki asks .
“Very little to say about him, really, save for his being quite the polar
opposite of Hayama . I don’t think there’s anyone in the school that hates
him . He started only last summer, and unlike Mr . Hayama, he didn’t have
a crutch to get him in here, though I hear the Mother Superior was quite
enthusiastic to have him . From what I hear, she actually wanted to have a
teaching staff that was native English—like our long gone sister school—
but were able to speak Japanese . Of course, such people are rare . But Mr .
Kurogiri was just such a man . ”
“So he’s one of those English teachers, I take it?” Strangely enough, Shiki
scowls as she asks this . Perhaps her preference for all things Japanese has
given her some kind of nervous allergy towards anything English related .
“Yes, but with a license to teach French and German too . He’s even
studying Mandarin now, and some South American language . It’s no secret
why we call him the linguistics geek . I confess, it sometimes makes him a
hard person to deal with . ”
I stop myself from saying anything further, seeing as we now find
ourselves in front of the door to the English language teacher’s quarters .
In Reien, teachers do most of the paperwork in the faculty office, but all
of them are quartered in their own accommodations . This room is for the
English language teacher, and is the same room that Hideo Hayama once
used .
I inhale a gulp of air, careful not to let Shiki notice it . Then I rap gently on
the door two times before opening it .
Once me and Shiki enter the room, we find Satsuki Kurogiri with his back
to us in the far end of the room, concentrated on the work at his desk .
His workspace faces the window, from which ashen gray rays of sunlight
enter from the overcast sky outside . Like any good professor, thick stacks of
paper lie in heaps in seemingly random places all over the room: on top of
a chair, or a cabinet, or peeking out from inside a drawer, all in some kind 
of order known only to him .
“Mr . Kurogiri . I’m Azaka Kokutō of class 1-A . Did the Mother Superior tell
you about my business?”
“Yes,” he replies, accompanied only by a curt nod as he looks over
his shoulder . He only swivels his seat around to face us . When his face
meets ours, I do not fail to detect Shiki’s sharp intake of breath . It doesn’t
surprise me . In fact, I expected it . I too, reacted in much the same manner
of momentary confusion when I first saw him .
“Ah, Kokutō . Yes, I have been informed . Please, both of you, take a seat .
I trust there will be some explaining to do . ” His voice is as gentle as the
smile he now wears . His age seems to be around his mid-20’s which, if true,
would make him the youngest instructor in Reien . His unassuming features,
coupled with his black-rimmed glasses, easily make him look among one
of the least imposing ones as well . “You are here for my account on class
D, I imagine . ”
“Yes, sir . Specifically, your account on the students that tried to hurt
each other with box cutters . ” My reply makes his eyes squint, his gaze
placed far beyond me, and containing, for a moment, a heavy sadness and
disconsolation .
“It is regrettable that I cannot help further in that regard . I myself remember
little about what actually took place . My memory is vague, but I know
that I could not stop the two girls in time before they hurt themselves . I
know I was there in the scene, but everything after that is unreliable, I’m
afraid . ” He closes his eyes .
Why is this man and he so alike? So ready to throw himself at another
person’s problems when it isn’t his turn to bother himself with it? Both of
them don’t seem to be the kind of person that would harm anyone else,
much less not move to stop a dangerous situation as with the two students .
“Sir, did you know the reason for their quarrel?” I ask, if only to make
sure, but Satsuki Kurogiri only shakes his head silently in reply .
“According to the other students, I was the one that stopped them, but
I certainly don’t recall such a thing happening . I’ve been called a forgetful
person many times, but this, I think, is the first time I’ve forgotten something
so important . As for the reason of their argument, I honestly don’t
know . It’s possible it could even have been me . I was, after all, in the same
room as them when it started . Even I would think that is enough reason to
investigate me . ” His brooding expression darkens as he says this .
I cannot say that I wouldn’t doubt myself either if I was in his place .
It would seem suspicious to anyone that he was there when the actual
event happened, and yet he couldn’t do anything, and doubly so when 
he can’t remember even a fleeting moment . Having self-doubts would be
the sensible progression from there . He doesn’t know what he did, if he
were in some kind of triggered fugue state, what kind of time and memories
he lost . But while suspecting yourself might be reasonable, especially
with a lack of any compelling evidence to prove otherwise, worrying more
and more about what happened would eat away at you, until you couldn’t
escape .
“But sir, couldn’t it be possible that some students of class 1-D were still
in the classroom as the entire event unfolded? Have you asked all of your
“Yes, but they remain silent about it, as if they all just want to forget
about it . Memory is a fickle thing, and I cannot rely on theirs just now to be
entirely truthful . The question of how involved I was is still very much up
in the air . Regardless, I think you will gain little more from me by asking me
about it . I know I myself might seem unreliable at present, but if you have
more questions left, I will be happy to answer them . ” He smiles again, more
weakly now, and I nod at him and answer .
“Yes, let’s continue . You said that they don’t want to talk to you about
what happened . What do you think might be the reason they hesitate to
“I can’t say for sure . The class has always been particularly…strained,
even on the day I took charge of them . Maybe it is not my place to say,
seeing as I haven’t been their homeroom instructor for too long, but they
are unusually quiet . ”
“Do you think they might be scared?” As I ask that, I wonder why no
other student could have stopped the two girls from cutting each other .
Could the letter have found all of the students of the class instead of just
two? It could be an explanation . It makes everyone a suspect for the sender,
and instantly makes them suspicious of the two girls . Perhaps they would
have seen the fight as the two girls outing each other as the real sender .
But Mr . Kurogiri’s answer doesn’t support my theory .
“No,” he replies slowly, letting it churn in his mind . “Not scared I think . ”
“Then what?”
“It would probably be more right to say that they are…reserved, maybe
guarded . Against what, I cannot really say . ” I don’t fail to take note of the
nuance .
In other words, he might be saying that the problem has always remained
internal to the classroom, never coming from, or reaching any other third
party .
“Sir, can your students be contacted at present?” I feel like I have no 
other recourse except to be direct and ask the students . The whole affair
about memories being lost makes Miss Tōko’s fanciful fairy theory more
likely by the second, and I’ll have to ask the people spreading the rumors
about that as well .
“There is no need to contact them . They are all here in campus, so you
can talk to them immediately if you want to . ”
That genuinely catches me off guard . All of them, here in school? Is that
coincidence or something else at work?
“Perhaps later . For now, though, I have another engagement . I may have
more questions at a later date, though, if that will be alright . Shiki, let’s go . ”
The girl has been uncharacteristically silent for the last few minutes . I catch
her attention and motion for her to follow when I stand up . It is then that I
notice Mr . Kurogiri staring blankly at me and Shiki, his gaze eventually falling
to Shiki in particular .
“Um, sir, is there something—” before I can finish and Mr . Kurogiri can
answer, Shiki finally speaks for the first time .
“Miss Azaka refers to me by name, sir . My name is Shiki . A pleasure to
make your acquaintance . ” A miracle . She must be channeling some effort
of supreme will to even talk as gently as she does now, and I can’t tell if it’s
dripping with sarcasm or not . With her, you can never really tell .
“Yes, your silence made you a bit conspicuous . I am sorry,” the instructor
says . “I don’t believe I’ve seen you before . A freshman, I presume?”
“Perhaps . Only time will tell . I am touring the school’s facilities, you see .
If I find it satisfactory, I might transfer . ”
“Clearly you’ve already found the uniform satisfactory . Do consider hastily . ”
says Mr . Kurogiri with another curt nod . He looks at Shiki with a look
of positive delight beaming on his face, noticing every detail on her like an
artist would on a model .
A gentle knock on the door interrupts their conversation . Then a voice
from outside, muffled by the wall .
“Excuse me . ”
The door opens with a slight creaking, and in steps an upperclassman,
her almond eyes looking over the room with a cold detachment, and the
slight breeze drifting in through Mr . Kurogiri’s window making her back
length black hair ripple slightly . Reien is already home to many fair looking
women, but even here, this girl stands out . Her face is known to me .
I wouldn’t forget the face of our student council president since last year .
When she looks at you, she almost seems to be viewing you from above,
and the long, thin eyebrows give her a countenance of stately command .
“Ah, Ōji . Is it time already?” Mr . Kurogiri says to the student, Misaya Ōji .
“Yes, it is, sir . Well past the appointed time,” she replies confidently .
“You were expected in the student council room at one o’ clock . Time is
not eternal, so we have to make use of it as best we can, do we not?
 Without even batting an eyelash, Ōji berates the erring instructor . She
carries her majesty with a grace only she can muster, and it is an asset she
uses to rule the student council as tightly as she can . By the time I had
transferred, she was already in place at her position, but according to what
Fujino told me in the past, not even the sisters could touch her . And if the
rumors are to be believed, nor can the school board chairman, with whom
she shares a surname .
It’s only natural, considering the family they hail from . The chairman,
who married into the family of his wife, will obviously have a large discrepancy
of influence from the Misaya Ōji, the family’s second daughter . The
Ōji are plutocrats; old money families with their name on a building or
street or two . They have a strange practice of adopting female babies for
daughters, and their marriages are arranged, taking only the best grooms
into their family . Any marriage with the Ōji daughters of the family force
the grooms to take the Ōji surname, while the daughters are brought up
to be individuals of strong force of will to become scions to their financial
empire . Such an upbringing has made Misaya Ōji a woman with a heart of
iron . Still, she is not a complete tyrant . She does, in fact, possess a strong
sense of justice . She shows no mercy to those who violate school regulations,
but to those that uphold it, she is a sister and a role model . She is
even devoutly Christian, and goes to the noon mass every Sunday without
fail .
“As strict as ever, Miss Ōji . Perhaps a more flexible view of time and
eternity would be wise . ” Grinning, the instructor stands up and leaves his
seat, Misaya Ōji watching his every move with visible impatience . Surely to
a woman who values discipline like her, the leisurely pace of Mr . Kurogiri
must be extremely vexating .
Ōji glances for a moment in my direction, and then to Shiki, raising a
doubtful eyebrow as to our identity and presence . Realizing that we’re
surely bothering her just by being here, I pull on Shiki’s arm to signal to her
that we shouldn’t press our luck, and had best get out now .
“Let’s move on, Shiki,” I whisper as we move to the room’s exit . Mr .
Kurogiri opens the door for us in a manner not unlike a butler sending off
some visitors, and I’m compelled to mutter a quick sorry and a bow before
I step out .
“No, no,” the teacher quickly says . “It is I who am sorry for not being of
more help . A pleasant winter break to the both of you . ” He gives us a last 
smile goodbye .
“Do you always smile so sadly, sir?” I whip my head around just in time
to see Shiki say that to Mr . Kurogiri . He only widens his eyes, not in surprise,
but more of expectation, and nods .
“Hmm? But I have not once given you a smile, my dear,” he says, though
the fleeting expression on his face seems to say otherwise .
After leaving the English instructor’s room, me and Shiki make our way
quickly toward the dormitory . We pass through the large quadrangle on the
way there . Reien Girl’s Academy has a campus almost as big as a university,
and the layout of the buildings reflect this . The junior high school, senior
high school, the gymnasium, and the dormitories are all located in separate
buildings, in what seems an effort to keep the student body walking
as much as possible . The distance between the school buildings and the
dormitories is especially notorious, requiring you to pass through a small
forest located on the grounds . Fortunately, a walkway with a roof exists so
you don’t get lost and can travel through it in just your indoor shoes .
After going through the quad, we find ourselves in this path toward the
dormitory, each step taken by me and Shiki creating a subtle echo . I glance
over at her, and recognize that she seems a bit strange…more so than
usual, at any rate . Something seems to be bothering her . I think I know
what it must be .
“Surprised to see Mr . Kurogiri look so alike to Mikiya?” I ask her out of
the blue .
“Yeah,” Shiki says, nodding meekly .
“Yet a bit handsomer than Mikiya, I’d say . ”
“Maybe . Can’t seem to see anything wrong with him . ”
Ah, so we agree . When I first saw Satsuki Kurogiri, I was taken aback—
much like Shiki was—at how similar he was to my brother, in both appearance,
and the atmosphere that they tended to exude . His trait of accepting
everything as it is seemed only stronger than Mikiya’s by dint of age .
To people like me and Shiki, who can’t seem to help being disjointed to
the people around us, meeting a person like that is always somewhat of a
shock .
To look at Satsuki Kurogiri is to remind myself of the truth that I can’t
bear to face: that I’ll never be normal like Mikiya . I can no longer remember
when it was exactly that I realized this to be fact, but I know that I cried .
Somewhere, buried in the forgotten memories of my earlier years, lies the
scene of the moment when I understood him; understood that as I lived 
under the same roof as him, I grew to love him more and more . The paradox
of my existence . Brothers and sisters aren’t supposed to entertain such
thoughts, I know, but I regret nothing about it . If there’s one thing I regret,
it’s my inability to remember that pivotal moment .
“Still, no matter how much he looks like him, that man is not Mikiya
Kokutō, but still a man named Satsuki Kurogiri . Don’t mistake one for the
other,” I caution to Shiki . I can tell, even as she walks beside me, that she
holds the same view . But instead of nodding, she frowns and murmurs .
“It’s not that they look like each other . It’s more like—” Her words fade
away by themselves as she stops in her tracks, looking deep into the forest
that surrounds us . “Azaka, there’s something inside the forest . Some kind
of wooden building, maybe? What is it?”
“Oh, that . That’s the old junior high school building . It hasn’t been used
for a long time, and it’s actually going to be torn down this winter break .
Why ask?”
“Gonna take a look at it . Thought I saw something . Go on ahead without
me . ” With a rustle of the uniform robe she wears, she starts to run double
time to venture into the wood .
“Shiki! Wait! You promised you wouldn’t go wandering around by yourself!”
I shout after her, but I realize it is futile . The brat is so willful, it’d take
a miracle for me to pull her back with meager shouts .
“Azaka Kokutō?” Before I can start after her, I am stopped by someone
calling my name from behind me .
/ 1
Got a new job for you, Shiki .
In the evening of January 2, Tōko said over the telephone the words
that set me up for a job that has so far been completely different from
anything she’s sent me before . A strange enough incident occurred in
Azaka’s school, Reien Girl’s Academy, but the task of rooting out its source
was barely enough to get me motivated at all .
I, Shiki Ryōgi, joined Tōko Aozaki’s outfit some months ago purely on the
promise of the possibility of murder . But this job? This is about as far as
you can get from that objective without being a doctor and doing the polar
opposite . It’s not nearly sufficient to fill me up, let alone satisfy me . Yet
even as I think that, I recognize that despite the promises of opportunities
that Tōko said she would have in spades, I know that I’ve yet to truly kill a
single person .
Oh sure, there was that one time with the girl who could bend things
just by looking at them, but that didn’t pan out as well as I’d hoped . At the
last moment, even though the bloodlust filled me more than it ever had, I
couldn’t take her down . Not as she was at that particular moment . But we
had a good fight . One of my best . I suppose it’s a compromise I’ll have to
live with .
The past few weeks held little opportunity for any similar excursions,
however, so a hungry dissatisfaction had its grip on me . Surely it must
have been the cause for me accepting such a dreary job as the one I’m in
now . Besides, I had nothing better to do anyway . As I see it, there’s little
difference in sleeping in my room out of boredom, or going to Reien Girl’s
Academy and sleeping in Azaka’s dormitory out of boredom . At least in the
latter, there are more opportunities to get out and move . And so I’m here,
in this stuffy girl’s boarding school, posing as a touring prospective transfer
student intending to go in on the third term, and trying to find fairies that
Azaka can’t see .
As I pass the tree line, I slow my pace down to a brisk step, and when
I realize Azaka doesn’t seem to be tagging along, I walk . Deeper into the
foliage lies the wooden school building I’m heading for, just visible within
the shroud of green and brown that obscures my vision in all directions .
Whether because of the cloudy skies or some other, unseen influence, the
sunlight peeking through the treetops is a shade of gray more akin to mist .
/ 1 • 25
The distance between the buildings of Reien Girl’s Academy is so unnecessarily
vast that time and neglect has allowed the foliage to grow largely
unchecked except among the most travelled paths . The majority of the
campus is filled with a vast, sprawling forest . Forget having a forest inside
the school, try saying that there’s a school somewhere in the forest .
The soil is damp with leaf mold that clings to my boots, and it fills the
area with a familiar fragrance, the color and air of bittersweet ripened
fruit . And as it unites with the noise of the insects on the leaves, I am
almost intoxicated by it . Time seems to take its leisurely pace here, and
there is a comforting familiarity to it all, creating the deceptive illusion of
being apart from the world . I remember then the mage who made a building
a reality all his own, and the old memory of the Ryōgi estate, walled off
from greater society . Both of them, I realize, are places isolated from the
normalcy of the world . So it is with this school .
Soon, I reach the building, which I now see is in the center of a clearing of
long cut-down trees . The design of the building itself is old-fashioned, even
without recognizing its wooden make, and it sits breathless at the center of
the trees like a creature asleep, or a man on his deathbed waiting for the
end to come . The ground in the clearing is overrun with grass weeds, and
my steps are muffled and silent when I set foot on them . Treading across
them as fast as I comfortably can without breaking the silence of the place,
I enter the building .
Inside, I discover it isn’t as run down as its façade would have me
believe . I get the feeling that the structure is smaller than it looked somehow,
possibly because Azaka said this was the former junior high school
building . Every footfall on the wooden floor gives an audible creak . The
noise echoes across the desolate hallway, growing more indistinguishable
the farther it travels, and blending with the noise of the insects outside,
still audible even in such a dead space .
As I walk further inside, my thoughts turn to the teacher Azaka introduced
me to earlier . Satsuki Kurogiri . Azaka said he looked very much like
Mikiya, and she’s right . But that isn’t truly special . A lot of people look alike,
after all . But when the atmosphere he gives off is similar as well, it becomes
truly unsettling . But there I feel some fundamental difference between
them, some clear distinction that’s on the tip of my tongue, though I can’t
rightly place it just yet . It’s a particular feeling I’ve been having lately . Of
not knowing, but feeling . It’s a very human thing .
When I first stole back into consciousness half a year ago, I was still
gripped by that inexplicable feeling of simultaneously knowing and not
knowing, of experiencing something and getting an emotion of newness 
and familiarity at the same time . But the past months have borne new
experiences, experiences that not even the old  could have ever
known about . Now, more than ever, I can feel how truly distinct the 
before the accident and myself after the recovery really are, though it is
still a faint boundary . Slowly, the hollow in my soul that Tōko once told me
of is being filled with new memories, trivial realities, and little emotions .
There still lingers that old lack of a sensation of life, but the emptiness I had
when I first woke up is well and truly gone . Someday maybe, when the day
comes that this hollow soul is really filled, I can even begin to grasp that
faint dream of being normal .
“Our little dream, isn’t it, Shiki?” I whisper to myself . Inside, I know
there will be no answer .
“A fool’s dream, I would think . ” Yet from somewhere unseen, someone
answers .
The voice is little else but a low murmur, but it echoes down the hallway
until it becomes a sound that blends with the cacophony of insects .
And then for a moment, behind my neck, something pricks me .
“Goddamit . ” The light touch brings me back from my distant thoughts .
Quickly, I move my hand to the nape of my neck, and I’m certain I’m holding…something .
It almost feels like the shape of a model figure of a man,
only slightly larger than my hand . Without a second thought, I hold tightly
and crush it . It makes a conspicuous high keening sound . I draw my hand

back and look at the palm of my hand .
Only a strange white liquid is left . With my palm spread, the thick,
sticky liquid drips down to the floor . Is this the only thing left of the thing
I crushed? Then I remember what Tōko and Azaka said about the fairies . I
never saw anything of the sort in my entire time here, and I can’t tell if this
crap in my hand is something related or not .
“Ew,” I remark as I whisk my hand to clear the substance away . Strangely
enough, despite its almost adhesive quality before, it slips off of my skin
quite easily now . It takes me a moment to notice that while I was studying
the liquid, the entire place had become deathly quiet . Even the keening
sound of the insects had disappeared . If they were even insects . If what I
destroyed was truly a fairy or something like it, there couldn’t have been
just one of them . Something so easily destroyed would serve little use for
a mage . There must be a swarm . And the buzzing noise might have been
them, their master deciding a hasty retreat after having observed my overenthusiastic
destruction of their comrade .
In any case, I don’t think there’s anything left for me to find in this building .
Going back through the trees the way I came, I make my way back to 
/ 1 • 27
the walkway in the middle of the forest, where I had left Azaka, and soon
enough I catch sight of her again .
Azaka stands only a little shorter than me, with hair that reaches the
middle of her back . If the girl Ōji, who we had met earlier, carried herself
with the air of a castle’s queen, Azaka carries herself much like a princess .
Well, a princess of stubborness if nothing else . I exit the tree line and
approach beside her, whereupon she finally notices me .
“Huh? Decided against it, Shiki?” she asks, perplexed somehow .
“Decided against what?”
“Going there, idiot . ” She motions her head to where I just came from,
toward the old building in the woods . We share an expression of bewilderment
with each other for a while until I finally realize what happened .
“Azaka,” I ask, “do you know what time it is?”
“It should be around 2pm, righ—” her words cut off . I know why . It’s
already around 3 o’ clock .
“I didn’t expect you to stand around waiting for me for an hour . If you
remember what happened in that hour, we’ve got no problems, but…” I
trail off . Silently, Azaka begins to tremble, putting a finger on her lips as if
just now figuring it out . She doesn’t even attempt to hide her surprise as
she stares into space .
But I can already tell that as far as she knows, she can’t remember a
thing from the time she called out to me to the time I got back .
“Shiki, it couldn’t be that I—” her words come out in fits and starts as
she trembles from head to toe, not out of fear, I start to recognize, but
more out of pure anger . She can’t seem to stand the thought of someone
having done something to her without her even knowing .
“I don’t know if I even need to say it,” I start, giving voice to what she’s
so far refused to say, “but the fairies got you . Took the memory away too,
probably . ”
As soon as I say it, her face turns beet red . Her realization of her own
carelessness at being snuck up on like a novice mage and her embarrassment
is probably making her hard to decide between being ashamed or
being angry . Most of the time, Azaka is very calm and collected, but she
doesn’t like people to know that she can pop a fuse just like anybody else,
very unlike the image she’s worked so hard to cultivate .
Azaka clears her throat before she speaks . “We’ll go back to the dormitory .
It seems we need to plan strategies of our own . ” Her voice has gained
an irritated streak, and her walk is brisk and determined . As I look on her,
back turned to me, I wonder what she’d say if I said I actually admired her
in times like these? “Shiki, are you coming or what?” she says, almost to 
the point of shouting .
Well, guess I’ve got no time to think about it . I follow her quickly, going
along with her antics like I promised to .
/ 2 • 29
/ 2
After returning to the dormitory and subsequently talking to some of
the students in class D, it had already grown dark outside . Though the
school is on winter break, it apparently doesn’t stop the rules from being
in effect, so we had to go back to Azaka’s room .
After 6 in the evening, students are forbidden to go anywhere except
the portions of the dormitory reserved for their class, except to go the
bathroom, or to go to or from the study hall located on the first floor . The
students who transferred here in high school who don’t know better sometimes
sneak out to go to their friends’ room in other parts of the dormitory,
and for that purpose some of the sisters keep a corridor watch in the night .
The students who’ve been here since junior high are already used to it, and
so either they don’t go out, or if they do, they already know the route that
the nuns keep so well, and so are never seen .
Or at least, that’s what Azaka has just politely told me . Since the entire
thing is really of little concern to me, all I can do is sit in her room and
grumble . Azaka is sitting in her own chair . The room we’re in is narrow but
long, and first years get to share the room with another girl . Luckily for me,
Azaka’s roommate went home for the winter . There are two study desks in
the room, attached to the wall, and a bunk bed for the both of us . Personal
effects go in the bookshelves and cabinets beside the wall . The room itself
is obviously as old as the building it’s in, but it’s the kind of antiquity where
you can feel the comforting weight of a placid history on it .
Azaka is already in her pajamas, having changed immediately out of her
uniform robes the minute we got back to her room . I wanted to change out
of this stuffy nun uniform as well, but I didn’t bring any change of clothes,
so it looks like I’m stuck with all the robes Azaka’s got . Having little else to
do, I sit down on the bed and listen to Azaka’s explanation .
“Seeing as we can’t go out of our rooms tonight,” she continues, “we’ll
have to call it a day . Normally, we’d wake up at five o’ clock for morning
service, but since it’s winter break, we can sleep in until six . Remember,
Shiki, that none of the other students or sisters know we’re investigating
the incident in class D, so please try to refrain from being too weird and
bring attention on ourselves . Unlike you, I’m actually staying here for a
second year, so please try not to make a big fuss that will mess up my
reputation . ”
All of which I heard almost word for word the night before as well . I
honestly have no idea why she even needs to worry . In some kind of inverse 
relationship, I’m so bored here that it makes me not want to do anything .
“Relax . I’m just here to be your eyes, so I didn’t bring my favorite knife
with me . I don’t have a grudge against whoever this fairy mage is, so I don’t
have any special urge to take care of him . I’m more worried about your
temper running wild and chasing after this guy . ”
“A misplaced fear, as well . I know our objective is only to identify the
source of the phenomenon, not eliminate it . Investigate, and then pass the
matter on to Miss Tōko, and have her take care of it . ”
So she says with her signature voice of calm, but the familiar fire in her
eyes hasn’t died down since this afternoon . She’s taking that fairy incident
really personal . And when that happens, I know she sees little option
except to strike back .
“Well, see if you can keep your attitude that way, Azaka,” I say offhandedly,
which prompts Azaka to direct her stare at me .
“Could it be that you’re making a fool out of me, Shiki?”
“Like you said: a misplaced fear . ” Her accusatory glance is so alike to
how Mikiya looks at me in mock suspicion (which is more than uncommon)
that it makes me inadvertently laugh . This only has the effect of worsening
Azaka’s mood .
“Ugh, fine . I swear that I won’t get mad, so you don’t have any right to
judge me . Now to get back to more important matters,” she says as she
changes the tone of her voice . “Among the people we met today, was there
anyone you thought was strange in any way?”
“Strange? Well, all of them, to be honest . All of the people from class D
that we met had some of the stuff somewhere in their neck . ”
“By ‘stuff,’ I assume you mean the same blood that came from the fairy
you supposedly killed . ” Her brows come together in a frown, as she must
think that I’m the worst person alive for crushing a perfectly good (and
more importantly for her, studyable) familiar . Still, it’s the truth, so I can’t
argue with her on that .
“It’s not blood, I think . More like the scales on butterfly wings . I doubt
they wouldn’t notice it if it was just some kind of liquid . It was in that
teacher we met earlier, too . Kurogiri, right? I didn’t know what it was when
we met him, but now that I think about it, it’s the same thing . ”
“I see . Say, Shiki, whoever’s responsible for this, why do you think he’s
taking away the memories?”
“Wouldn’t know . I don’t have any reason to do it . ”
“I don’t even know why I even bothered asking you,” Azaka says with
a huff . Then, ignoring me, she starts to enumerate the facts we have at
hand in as low a voice as she can muster . “In December, members of class 
/ 2 • 31
D got a letter, containing secrets that even the person who knew them
forgot about . At around the same time, rumors of fairies in the campus
started to spread, sneaking up on you while you were asleep and stealing
your memories . Just before winter break started, two students from class
D argued and then attempted to harm each other with box cutters, the
cause of their quarrel being the letters they received . The other students
didn’t even try to stop the fight . Even up to January, the students refuse
to talk about the incident, and the atmosphere remains very strained and
unhelpful . ”
She grants me a sideways glance with dagger eyes for a moment, and
then goes back to her reverie . “Well, she actually encountered at least one
of the fairies, and I lost an entire hour to the creatures . What was I doing?
I could have been doing all sorts of things in that lost hour . ”
So even the calm and composed Azaka Kokutō is bothered about memories
forgotten .
So what of me?
My memories of what happened three years ago, during my freshman
year of high school, still contain many blanks . The ambiguity of their nature
still creates a great unease in me, filling my imagination with all kinds of
doubts, all kinds of explanations, none of them painting me in the best
light . That same year, the city seemed to have been frozen in place from
the violent murders committed by an unknown serial killer . The gap in my
memories almost makes me feel like…I’m connected to those incidents in
some way . But if anyone would know, it would be Shiki, my other self . But
now he’s gone, and whatever elucidating information he may have had is
gone along with him .
Wait—wait a minute . Why haven’t I thought of it before? If the holes
in my memory is due to Shiki dying…then why are my memories relating
to the moments directly before my accident also gone? Surely it wasn’t
Shiki in control then, but  . Maybe—maybe if this fae mage has a
way of stealing memory, then could he have a way to give lost memory
back? In any case, it would be difficult to get the idea past Azaka . And even
discounting whether or not Azaka believes in them, the existence of fairies
here isn’t something I particularly approve of .
Whatever the situation evolves into, we still need to find the man
responsible . And whatever fact me and Azaka are missing to tie everything
together is so close that I can almost feel it through the walls, bleeding
through the serenity in this enclosed space of madness .
“Azaka, have you given a thought as to how we’re even going to begin to
investigate lost memories?”
“I know, I know . It’s not like we can hypnotize people and dig into their
subconscious or something . Do you know anything about the four processes
of memory, Shiki?”
“Encoding, storage, retrieval, and recognition, right? Same as any VCR .
Recorded video sticks to the tape and encoded and stored . When you
watch it again, you put it in the box and it retrieves the video . You verify if
it’s still the same video as before with recognition . If one of the processes
fail, there’s some kind of a memory disorder . ”
“Indeed . Even if someone forgets something, the memory itself is still
stored in the brain . Anything the brain encodes stays there . This isn’t some
kind of weird mass hysteria . These so-called fairies are extracting these
memories, but to what purpose, it isn’t clear . ”
Before I left, Tōko confided in me that she suspected that there was
some cold intent behind all of this, but I can’t say I entirely agree . Seeing
as the memories being stolen are memories the persons themselves have
already forgotten, the person wouldn’t even notice if they were taken
away . In fact, the whole thing with the letters seems almost a benevolent
act, as if whoever was sending them was informing the person that he or
she had forgotten this particular memory, and that they shouldn’t forget it
ever again .
“It’s possible the culprit is looking for something in all the memories .
Some information, some kind of proof that he needs,” I suggest . Azaka
acknowledges me with a slight nod and leans back on her seat .
“Or just someone that really likes to tell people about the skeletons in
their closet and point them out for everyone to see . ”
“If anything, it’s not something so benign . Harassment, at the very least .
Like a kid, this one,” I add . Well, fairies are already like children in their fickleness
anyway, so why do I even wonder? I try to stop myself from thinking
any more on this . After all, I’m just Azaka’s eyes right now, and it’s her job
to take the arcane knowledge and derive some kind of an answer to all of
it, not mine . And with that thought, I move from sitting down on the bed
to lying down on it spread eagled .
“Tell me something, Shiki,” Azaka suddenly blurts out, seemingly embarrassed
as she sits lazily in her chair . “How is it that you see the fairies?”
Man, she’s still beating herself up over that? “Don’t really know how I
do it . Even I don’t know how the mystic sight works . All I know is that you
don’t have it . But if you want to try and sense them, what you could do is
improvise on the spells you can do, and the kind of Art you can control: find
the moving currents in the air that you feel are warmer . If your senses are
right, then you can catch them . ”
/ 2 • 33
“Warm pockets of air, huh?” She nods and puts a hand on her chin as
she thinks . It might sound like a load of bullshit, but I didn’t lie to her . If
the fairies are alive, then they must give off heat, and that’s where Azaka
excels . All she needs to do is find the small nooks warmer than others as
soon as she knows that fairies are about . That would be the fairies trying
to maneuver in the space around her .
In any case, we conclude our planning after that . In a stroke of unexpected
generosity, Azaka lends me one of her pajamas, just a bit larger
than what I’m used to, and I take the top bunk and go to sleep .
Records in Oblivion - III
January 5, Tuesday .
Shiki refused to wake up despite me spending the better part of thirty
minutes trying my best efforts to do so . Either she’s an amazingly sound
sleeper, or is actually awake and just lazy . Either way, I gave up on her, and
at just past seven o’ clock, I decided to just head to the study hall on the
first floor by myself .
Normally, the study hall is populated by the same students (of which I
am one of their number, of course) occupying the same spaces, dutifully
studying for exams, but the break has cleared the room of most of its usual
semi-residents . What the hall was built for and what most students actually
use it for can be wildly different at times: at the same time that studious
individuals are perusing books, others are conversing behind shelves, keeping
a constant lookout for the patrolling sister Einbach, lest she unleash the
customary disciplinary lectures when she discovers students misbehaving .
The ease of using the shelves as concealment isn’t lost on me, and so I
know that over the break it becomes one of the best places for any sort of
clandestine meeting, especially so in mornings like these, when it sees little
activity, and even less so on breaks .
Seeking to exploit that fact, I arranged a meeting with class D’s president
here . Yesterday, when me and Shiki asked a few questions to a few of the
students from the class, they were fairly uncooperative, and all of them
spouted the same suspiciously similar lines . We couldn’t get anything of
value out of them . Well, it’s not as if I expected them to open up to people
they perceive to be outsiders like us . So I saw little choice except to be a bit
more direct, and I saw the best option for that was to make our position
clear and talk to the class president, one Fumio Konno .
All seems as expected when I finally arrive at the study hall, with no one
in sight . No stove for heating can be found here, because the hall is too
large, and so entering the hall, I am caught off guard by the winter chill
running through the spacious room, colder than it is anywhere else in the
building .
“Kokutō, over here,” says a cool voice from deeper inside the hall . It is
only a whisper, but the loneliness of the hall seems almost to amplify it . I
can see rows upon rows of shelves inside, and between two of them, I can
see Fumio Konno leaning out her head, waiting for me . Quickly, I close the
door and head further inside .
I share only one thing in common with Fumio Konno: the fact that we 
transferred into Reien Girl’s Academy’s high school in the same year . Other
than that, we couldn’t be further apart . Her height easily surpasses five and
a half feet, marking her as one of the tallest in the school, while my height
is quite average . Where she is forceful and exuberant, I am composed .
Where her hair is cut quite short, mine is grown out long . She looks almost
an adult, and could probably pass herself off as a college student at least,
and she herself acknowledges that she doesn’t truly act like the kind of girl
that Reien tries to engender .
“I’m quite sorry for having to meet you so early in the morning,” I say to
Konno as I near the shelves she’s hiding between . I bow to her to acknowledge
that this is the first time we’ve met, but she is evidently surprised
by this courtesy enough to cross her arms as she draws a nervous breath,
averting her eyes from me in the short moments it takes me to bow .
“Er, forget about it . I can’t sleep easy with the girls in my class anyway .
Keeping myself occupied through other things seems like the right thing
to do at this point . So, what was it that was so important for you to talk
about? Is it about Hayama?”
Well, that was certainly straightforward, and it catches me off guard .
“Excuse me?”
“Oh, yeah,” she says with a snicker . “I sort of heard you were asking
around with the people in my class yesterday, and some looker no one
recognized was tagging along with you . Besides, what else would be so
important to the president of class A to ask me about personally?” She
ends with a slightly suspicious glance at my direction .
As I’d feared, word of our activities is spreading faster than anticipated . I
glance back at Konno, trying to dispel her little fear . “I never really thought
much of Mr . Hayama at first, but I suppose that was a mistake on my part .
I’ll be frank with you Ms . Konno . I’ve been tasked by the Mother Superior
to investigate the incident that happened in class D . I need you to tell me if
you know anything . ” Unexpectedly, the tall girl’s face darkens at my inquiry .
“Straight from the Mother Superior, huh? I guess honors students are
different . And they just told me to keep forgetting about the incident and
focus on studying . Wow . ”
“Keep forgetting . So that means—”
“Pretty much . I’m in the same boat as Mr . Kurogiri . I was at the scene,
unable to do anything . Then, nothing, Beyond knowing that the thing
happened, I can’t remember anything . Then, I remember Kashima and
Ruridō being transported to the infirmary somehow . I tried to visit them
in the infirmary, but the Mother Superior forbade it when she was interviewing
them . ” Sweat starts to glisten from her forehead, and she seems 
almost embarrassed to even be speaking at all . That only goads me to press
further and ask .
“I have a wild theory here but—did you get a letter too?”
“Oh, that . It wasn’t as creepy as the kind the other two got . It was pretty
benign, comparatively . A lot of us got it every day, including Kashima and
Ruridō . That’s got to drive you up the wall, doesn’t it? Mine just had stuff
about walking home together with an old junior high crush, or my pet cat
that died a long time ago . At first, I thought it was pretty useless . But then I
almost started to like the letters . They made me remember things I almost
forgot about . That whoever was sending them still knew about it was kind
of scary and all, but to be honest, it didn’t seem to register all that much
with me . ”
“Did you ever feel guilty about what he was sending you?”
“I dunno . Maybe I did, and I just didn’t know what to call it . ”
“This might be a long shot but, do you know who sent the letters, or
know anyone who would?”
“No one I know . But this is hardly a normal situation anymore is it? If
we’re assuming that things like ghosts or fairies exist, then surely there
must be some…thing that knows . ”
She fails to specify what she thinks, however, so I try to change tack . “So
personally, what do you think about what happened, Miss Konno?”
“I don’t know what to think anymore . It’s weird, that’s for sure, but my
class has always been weird from the start . Maybe it’s some kind of karmic
thing, y’know? Maybe you don’t know about class D, Kokutō, but they’re
all actually high school transferees . A lot of the parents think they’re problem
children, so they dump them here . Me included . ”
Even I know about Fumio Konno’s reason for being here . She was a star
basketball player in her high school once, but her dad wanted her only
daughter to follow in the family enterprise . When she rebelled, her father
put her into Reien by force to discipline her, and that was the end of that . I
didn’t realize it’s a fate she shares with the rest of her class .
“What can you tell me about Mr . Hayama setting fire to the dormitory?”
I ask . This is the most important card I can play . The sisters forbade us from
talking about it on pain of expulsion, and it shut the girls up quite effectively .
Hopefully, the trust Fumio Konno shows in me can lead to something
fresh .
Her face turns bitter and she looks away as I ask the question . “I have
no idea what he was thinking, burning the dormitory down . Hideo Hayama
was unhinged . Behind the closed doors of our class he was fond of going on
and on, complaining about why his brother didn’t let him just—” a pause, 
and a gulp “—fuck the Mother Superior . I dunno . Maybe you don’t believe
me . But as far as I’m concerned, he had no business being an instructor . ”
Her voice starts to break, becoming halting . “And Kaori even died because
of him! All because his brother took pity on him and gave the jobless fool a
responsibility! Our class…we didn’t have anything to do with it . We weren’t
She spits out the words louder than she probably should have, and they
echo across the empty study hall, giving me a moment of alarm before I
remember that the hall is empty . I peek my head out of the shelves just to
make sure, and quickly return to Fumio Konno, only a few moments ago
looking cheerful and confident, now reduced to hiding her face from me,
obviously holding back her sobs . I’d try to press further about what she
means with her eerie last statement, but I realize I can’t get anything more
out of her at this state, not now at least .
“I’m sorry, Ms . Konno,” I stammer awkwardly . “I really am . If it’s any
consolation, you’ve been very helpful . Let’s leave it at that for now . Do you
need help getting back?”
“No,” she quickly says, her voice muffled by a hand over her mouth .
“Just leave me here for a while . ”
I turn my back on her hesitantly and start to walk out of the shelves
worriedly . Just before I turn the corner however, I try to ask her one last
question .
“Do you believe in the fairies?” I almost regret the throwaway manner
with which I state it, but Konno looks up at me with a measure of surprise
in her eyes .
“I don’t, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist, right? I mean, how else
can you explain the memories being like they are in our class?”
I sigh in agreement, and leaving her, I make a beeline straight out of the
study hall .
After parting with Fumio Konno, I try to socialize with the few members
of class D I happen to run into in the halls, but the responses are expectedly
the same as before . In fact, there are much less of them wandering the
halls now, as if they’ve started to hide themselves in their rooms to reduce
their contact with the outside world as much as possible, like they were
waiting for something . The few class D students I encounter all shared the
same desire of wanting to go home, whispered in tones of cold disappointment .
When I asked them why they don’t, in fact, go home, they only give
me a very confused look .
I already knew I couldn’t get a proper conversation out of anyone except
Fumio Konno, being the class president weighted with responsibilities
that she needed to get off her chest . The only thing I can gather is that
all of them certainly believe in the rumors of fairies sweeping away the
memories . Everyone did indeed receive the mysterious letters, and like Mr .
Kurogiri, everyone had gaps in their memories .
The conclusion I can derive is that all of the girls of class D are hiding
something . What that may be, I can’t say, but it’s almost certain that Hideo
Hayama was embroiled in the very center of it .
With few other options, I make my way to the faculty room . Hideo
Hayama might have left the school in November after the fire, but I’m
hoping there might still be something in his files I can uncover .
“Excuse me,” I whisper to no one in particular as I open the door to the
empty faculty room . I know it’s empty at this time since the instructors
rarely use it except for the morning meeting they have, and the office’s
custodian is out on vacation as well . “Thank you, Lord,” I whisper with a
smile on my face, half in my luck, and half in actual benediction .
It doesn’t take me long to find the file on November last year, and I take
my time poring over its contents . I hardly realize that an hour has passed
while I’m flipping over files and opening folders in the unlit room, my sight
only helped by the sunlight peeking through the windows . Despite my best
hopes though, I can’t find anything of great importance to my investigation .
“Darn . Looks like I’ll really have to use Shiki and search every nook and
cranny of this school for a clue . ” I don’t really want to have her follow me
around like some kind of obedient Doberman, but it seems I have little
choice . With nothing else to do, I close the file, now a bit messier than
when I opened it . But one of the papers catches my eye .
“Hideo Hayama, employed since 1989, employment termination at
December 1998 . ” At first glance, it seems typical enough . But a cursory
inspection reveals some very strange details . December 1998? That seems
impossible when the fire happened in the beginning of November, and
they haven’t heard a word or seen nary a peek from Hideo Hayama since .
But according to this he was employed until December . And below that,
the reason for termination is listed as “no known permanent address . ”
Does that mean he’s missing?
The thoughts roil in my mind as I return the file where I found it and
quickly slip out of the faculty room and back into the corridor…
…only to meet the person I least expected—nor least desired—to meet .
“Oh, Miss Kokutō . What business do you have in the faculty room so
early, pray tell?”
“G—good morning, Mr . Kurogiri . ” I give a quick bow . “It’s already noon,
though . ” I try to dodge the question at the same time as I try to dodge past
him without seeming in too much of a hurry . Yesterday, with Shiki beside
me, I allowed myself to feel at least a bit less disquieted by him as I do regularly,
but alone, the unease returns . My chest tightens, and my heart races .
I can’t tell anymore whether the unease comes from the fact that he looks
so like Mikiya, or it’s simply the nervously calm air with which he carries
himself . “Were you retrieving something from the faculty room?”
Despite my careless question, he answers . “Ah, yes . Something the
Mother Superior asked me to do . A list of the students’ names, rendered in
French . She needs to send it to the sister institution in France . ”
“I see . Our names, is it?” I stammer clumsily . I try to slip past him to end
the conversation there .
“Indeed . You are not entirely unrelated to the matter either . The short
list for exchange student candidates for our French sister school includes
you and Ōji . ”
That stops me in my tracks before I manage to make my way past him .
This is the first time I’ve heard of this . I take a moment to relish that fact
before continuing my steps . But I stop again when I pass him to ask him the
question I’ve asked the students, but haven’t yet asked him .
“Mr . Kurogiri, are you aware of the rumor circling amongst the students
these days?”
“The fae, correct? Yes, I’ve heard of them . ”
“Do you believe it, sir? Oh, but of course I don’t believe in them myself,”
I quickly add . Unexpectedly, he smiles a lazy smile .
“I think I understand your confusion . Stories of the fae aren’t as numerous
here in Japan as they are in my country, are they? I think I find I have
an affinity for the old Scottish tales of the cait sith, the cu sith, and other
fantastical creatures . ”
I’m surprised for a few moments at his response, and it takes me some
precious few moments more to remember that Mr . Kurogiri was, in fact, a
foreigner . The university he studied in might have had something as esoteric
as folkloristics, so my question might not have seemed so childish as I
had originally assumed .
“If I remember correctly, the cait sith is the cat that wears long boots . ”
“Oho, so you know . Still, talking cats find some commonality in some
Japanese folk tales as well, so it’s not something so original . ”
Hah, well at least he knows where to sniff out actual intelligence when
it’s present . “So do the myths seem more real in your country, sir? Or are
they still another misunderstanding of folk practices or natural phenomena?”
“I haven’t heard much in the way of such things recently, but there is
always the odd story of children being spirited away and replaced . More
and more I find the breed of stories of farmers being helped out by the
Good Folk diminishing dramatically . ” He clears his throat before continuing .
“Those old legends of the seelie faries—of brownies and knockers, for
example—are really just one way of exaggerating the acts of men who, for
one reason or another, find themselves cast out of every village they visit .
Left with little recourse except to live a hermit’s life, they briefly appear
to lend a welcome hand in menial tasks such as the harvesting of crops,
through which they hope to build a friendly relationship . ”’
“That sounds like a very noble way to live a life,” I remark .
“Yes, but on the other hand, you have the tales of kidnapped children,
where the stories of changelings come from . Some legends are about
gentry kidnapping certain children they believe to be of some random
stock blessed by God . Their desire for these children leads them to swap
the child . ”
“What happens to the kidnapped child?” As soon as I say the question,
Mr . Kurogiri reacts with a wide grin .
“Ah, do not fret so much on it . They usually turned out the way they
were before . You see, since it was gentry that took them, it was usually
easy to find the child in the baptismal records of a church . Any man, nobilis
or no, had their child baptized lest the child suffer in society through persecution .
So a trip to the church usually satisfied the altercation quite legally . ”
I sigh, and almost smile, until he continues .
“But then there are the cases where this is not true, where no other
sensible explanation is true . There are the children actually whisked away
by the fae, the ones they called changelings . ”
“So you do believe in them, sir?”
“Yes,” he says without hesitation, “I think they exist . But it doesn’t mean
I have to like them . The pranks they pull sometimes go much, much too far .
The changelings are one example . They would kidnap a child, sometimes
keeping it for many years, and then return it inexplicably on its parent’s
doorstep . Then its parents would find their joy quickly curtailed when the
child rapidly grows ill, its very essence misaligned, only to die a slow, lonely
death, hated by its parents and lost to the world . ”
I almost bring a hand to my mouth . This was certainly not the kinds of 
fairy tales I had grown up hearing .
“Oh, I am sorry,” the instructor quickly says . “It seems I have spoken
overmuch yet again . ”
“N—no,” I utter meekly . “I enjoyed it quite well, sir . If you’ll excuse me,
however…” I let the sentence hang unfinished, give a curt bow, and hurry
away with uneasy but quickened steps, as far away from Mr . Kurogiri as my
feet will reasonably carry me .
Noon passes, and more out of a combined desire to get away from Mr .
Kurogiri and simultaneously avoid Shiki more than anything else, I decide
to head to the burned down dormitory in the eastern end of the campus .
I’m not particularly certain I’ll glean anything of actual importance there,
but I feel like I should visit the place that Hideo Hayama tried to burn down
at least once, seeing as my investigation seems to be heading closer and
closer to that direction .
When I stand before the dormitory, I see its perimeter surrounded
by ropes, a “No Entry” sign in place to discourage any casual would-be
intruders . Obviously, it’s not enough to deter me . I walk over the ropes
and toward the imposing structure . Most of it is a burned down hulk, the
rooms formerly lined up on its east wing completely gutted, as though a
giant monster clawed it down from roof to foundation . What little partitions
remain that were once the walls and floors of its rooms are crumbling
and blackened wood and concrete . In contrast, immediately westward of
that sight is the building’s west wing, the corridor leading out of the rooms
and everything west of it surviving largely intact .
Walking through the corridor, you’d never notice that immediately to
the east, beyond doors that remain closed, a fire had taken the other half .
Open the doors, however, and you see only the campus and the verdant
trees beyond, like a bad piece of installation art . Maybe it’s better to have
the doors remain closed, as respect to the last bitter taste of normalcy this
building still has .
Though his name bounces around in my mind more and more these
days, I’ve only really seen Hideo Hayama the one time . He was teaching
in classes C through E, so he never had any reason to come to class A . The
one time I saw him was during a morning service, looking bored and flipping
absentmindedly through the pages of a Bible . I took him to be at least
thirty years old, and his face plain and unassuming .
“How am I supposed to look into him when I don’t even know the first
thing about the man?” Now I’m talking to myself, which is probably a sign 
that there’s little left for me here and that I should leave . I descend from the
second floor back to the first using the lonely, barely lit stairwell, making
my way to the still-intact exit .
Only to find a familiar figure blocking the exit, shadowed by the afternoon
sun . Though her features are obscured, it’s easy enough to figure out .
There is little else in Reien with black hair as fine, and features as delicate
as Misaya Ōji, the secret power behind the academy . She walks towards
me wordlessly, and something makes me feel I should hold my tongue until
she has her chance to speak . She stops when she is only two meters in
front of me . She looks me straight in the face, and grants me a gentle smile .
“So tell me, Miss Kokutō . Has there been progress in your efforts?”
Misaya Ōji says to me . As soon as she says that, the temperature seems
almost to drop a few precious degrees, though I can’t say for certain why,
or even if it’s real . But it’s enough to put me on guard . Her voice is familiar,
more so than the level that I associate with the many snippets of conversation
that I have heard through her in the past months, but on a more recent
level . Somehow, a memory of a noise, of an echoing chorus like the buzzing
of flies, comes to mind . Memory turns to reality, and I am certain the noise
swelling to some kind of low crescendo that I hear right now is similar .
The fact falls into place, and I realize belatedly that this will be a repeat
of what happened to me yesterday . My memories will be stolen again, and
I will stand here dazed and confused for god knows how long this time . I
don’t have my glove handy right now for a quick spell, but there is little
choice . The flame calls, and perhaps it is not yet too late . I focus on Misaya
Ōji in front of me, and then weave my Art, feeling the pattern around me
and sensing hot currents in the air like Shiki told me to .
I can feel the spell working, and I close my eyes almost reflexively, trusting
the Art to tell me of any unnatural pockets of heat in the air . And then—
“—Gotcha!” Something warm tried to draw near my chest, but I catch it
with my bare hands before it can hit me . I’ve definitely caught something
with my hand, and it’s making a frantic, keening noise . I ignore it for now
and open my eyes, keeping my gaze locked and level with Misaya Ōji .
“Well, well,” she says, as if she had expected the entire thing . “You told
me that you’ve never seen the fae in your life, but here you are swatting
one away?”
Her tone is enough to assure me, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that
she is the enemy I’ve been looking for .
“I see . So my one hour blank yesterday was me talking to you . ”
“Yes, and you have made things so much easier for me . My children
have made it simple for me to know what sort of person you truly are, Miss 
Kokutō . ” She raises a hand to brush something unseen on her shoulder,
and I hear the same familiar keening sound in response . Another fairy?
No . If I wove my spell right, then there is a minutely abnormal amount of
heat all around her, a rough estimate numbering in fifty such sources . And
though I don’t truly see the fairies, I am almost overwhelmed by the truly
impressive amount of potential she can bring to bear .
“Your composure is admirable, Miss Kokutō . It almost seems as if you’re
not even surprised, though I know it is a simple lie . However, I was surprised
at what I learned about you . To think that there would be someone in the
academy that studied the Art besides myself . ”
“You don’t surprise me, Miss Ōji . I’ve known from the beginning that
there was a mage here with fairy familiars . But you; you waited for me to be
alone didn’t you? To be vulnerable, and then eliminate me? Commendable
strategy, but it seems a mistake to me to reveal yourself . ”
I try to stall for time, scanning the area around me for alternative exits . I
remind myself that my part here is only reconnaissance, not a fight . While
I’d gladly take a fistfight any day of the week, even I don’t desire a duel to
the death between mages such as us .
“Perish the thought . I never thought to remove you, Miss Kokutō . Why
would I, when you are one of the few of my breed of person? Understanding
each other would be better than to put a blade at each other’s throats in
this situation, yes?”
“Says the person who tried to set her fairy familiars on me . ”
“Oh I only tried to learn more about you, my dear . Very useful, if we
are to have any sort of meaningful conversation and avoid meaningless
deaths,” she says with a deathly calm voice . Is she actually serious? I glance
for a moment at the corridor that stretches behind me—my only means
of escape—and try to stall her to until she reveals some point where I can
retreat in relative safety .
“Talk? With me?”
“Why of course! You visited this desolate place, Miss Kokutō, and that is
enough to endear you to me . For this place is—”
“—the place where Kaori Tachibana lost her life, isn’t it?” Ōji nods, satisfied .
Her eyes, however, still betray a merciless and spiteful mien, cold as
winter . “The one student in November’s unfortunate fire that somehow
couldn’t get away . You knew her, Miss Ōji?” Another graceful nod at my
question .
“I valued Kaori very dearly, like I would a little sister . She took in hardship
her entire life, but her faith in the Almighty God was beyond question .
And yet, she died here, her life free of great sin and still full of beauty . She 
had chosen a difficult path for herself . ” Ōji’s voice descends into a tinge of
melancholy, but I cannot find any mercy in her words . “And though this
horrible tragedy has taken place, the girls have not yet learned their lesson .
They have not renounced their sins, even as they live knowing that Kaori
lost her life as a sacrifice . That is not the manner of a human . The students
of class D are all sinners, and sinners cannot be permitted to sully my institution .
Garbage such as them must always be burnt away . ”
“Wait, so you’re saying that the students of class D killed Kaori
“No . That would give them too much credit . Miss Kokutō, Kaori took her
own life . But I cannot expect you to understand what that truly implies . ”
Her gaze full of disdain doesn’t stray away from me for a second even as
I wonder what she’s truly trying to say . At the very least, I can gather that
class D was somehow involved in Kaori Tachibana’s death in the fire . But
what did she mean that I wouldn’t understand?
“Then all of this is payback for Kaori Tachibana’s sake?”
“Correct . I swear that as long as I stand, those girls will see hellfire, and
they will find no rest in their days here in Reien . ”
“So you would kill them, then?” I ask desperately, though I think the
answer is obvious enough already . Misaya Ōji recognizes no humanity in
her prey . Murder is not enough for her . She will see them purged thoroughly .
But even as I think this, she surprises me by shaking her head .
“Why should I? Killing them is no guarantee that they will be sent to
the pits of hell where they rightfully belong . This is why I say you do not
understand, though I do not blame you . Stay your hand and stand down,
Miss Kokutō . I do not desire to fight you today . ” She brushes the invisible
fairy perched on her shoulder as she says this; a subtle, yet unnerving
movement . “Though you cannot truly see them, these little folk are pregnant
with memories, yours included . Striking, isn’t it? Your memories are
the beauty of cold, smooth marble, yet they burn with an inner fire . And
though they are as unseen to me as the fae are to you, I can feel the purity
of your recollections . You are truly splendid, Miss Kokutō . ” Her gentle smile
only serves to make her tender speech more unnerving .
And when I look at her, I welcome the arrival of another emotion, one
I haven’t felt in this intensity in almost three years . An emotion that I felt
when I first saw Mikiya with Shiki . The urge to kick the ass of the woman in
front of me as hard as I can .
We stand there for a few more moments as she waits for my reply, and
I don’t give an inch to her thinly veiled threat . As far as I’m concerned,
she’s violated me as surely as if she’d stolen all of my belongings, and 
that demands a display of response as potent as I can muster . I banish the
thought of escaping from my mind, and stay until finally, I elicit a small sigh
from Misaya .
“You have made your choice, then . And I was so looking forward to
getting to know you better . Is there truly no room in your heart for a truce,
“None whatsoever,” I quickly cut in . Misaya only chuckles .
“Is that so? A shame . I had taken you for kindred, and we share so much
alike . Our intense passions for our brothers, for example . ”
“Wh—wha,” I struggle to finish but the word doesn’t come out completely .
My throat dries instantly, and I know my face is turning beet red by the
second . Misaya Ōji, on the other hand, only closes her eyes, truly enjoying
herself .
“Yes, it came straight from your lips yesterday, but I suppose you do not
remember . I know about your brother, and about you becoming a mage .
You see? We travel in the same direction . Though you have practiced the
Art for half a year now, I have claimed it only recently . ”
The Art . That most potent of words strikes me deep, and reinforces my
understanding of the situation’s gravity: that I am fighting another weaver
of magic, and that the unconventional nature of such duels makes them
quick and deadly .
Misaya continues . “When Kaori died, I learned how to craft the fae familiars,
and the Art of robbing memories . Not for the typical mage’s lofty goals
of enlightenment, but as tools for my own purpose . I collect the memories
relating to Kaori only for her sake, to remove all vestiges of her shame . I
care little about anything else . I am not destroying anything, nor committing
murder . And you still think this a selfish goal, Miss Kokutō?”
“I don’t think it’s for me to judge, but you have terrorized the students
of class D, as well as troubled a teacher . Why you had to affect Mr . Kurogiri
though, I can’t seem to grasp . ” At the mention of his name, I notice Misaya’s
eyebrow twitch . She must know as well that Mr . Kurogiri only became
class D’s homeroom instructor well after Kaori Tachibana died and Hideo
Hayama disappeared . He has little relation to the incident . Why, then, has
he too had his memory plundered by the fairies? “It seems to me to be a
bit overzealous for you to take his,” I say outright .
I thought she would betray some flaw in her plan, but contrary to what
I expected, she lowers her worried eyebrow and scoffs with a noise half in
annoyance as well as amusement .
“Not overzealous, I should think . All this is of little consequence to him,
but the truth must still be hidden from him . ”
“But why?”
Misaya Ōji turns sideward, her hair swaying gently swaying as she
answers . “Because my blood is his blood . Because he is my true brother . ”
“Your true brother? Him?” I stutter out, unbelieving . Maybe it’s nothing
but a great coincidence, but I realize that it isn’t out of the realm of possibility .
The Ōji all adopt their daughters, so Misaya’s former name might
really have been Misaya Kurogiri, for all I know .
Misaya elaborates, unmindful of my surprise . “At first, I didn’t know .
After Kaori’s death, I was full of suspicion at the entirety of class D, and
turned to their new instructor in my desperation . I talked to him, asking
for some way to help me deal with all this, when alone I could do nothing .
And Mr . Kurogiri was truly kind . For the sake of knowing this gentle soul
better, I snatched his memories . But that too was a blessing, for there in his
dreaming was the proof that he was my true brother . Somehow, he knew
something about the true nature of Kaori’s death, and so regrettably I had
to silence him . ”
She casts her eyes downwards before continuing . “Once when I was
little and knew nothing, my brother said to me that I should honor the
living more than the dead . But how can I do that now, when the ones still
alive, living peacefully, are the ones that pushed Kaori to her suicide? I
remembered what my brother said to me long ago, and so I couldn’t stand
to see him burdened by that knowledge . So I took away his memory of the
incident, and of me being his sister . All of it . Satsuki will live without worry,
and love me without regret . And having done this, there is no turning back
for me . ”
I am at a loss for words at the gravity of her act . She says we are alike, a
statement that may be true . But I look at her, and listen to her, and realize
that we are alike only in so many superficial ways . What we desire may be
similar, but our means cannot be more different .
“But that had a use to you as well, didn’t it?” I reply . “You took his memories
only to preserve the secret of class D . But what will you do about me,
I wonder?”
“That will be decided by you soon enough, surely? I have taught you
about our common ground, Miss Kokutō, and I understand the discord
within you . And with time, I can grant you the thing which you’ve longed
for so much . ”
Misaya holds out her hand to me, conciliatory and genuine . I look at her
outstretched arm, the arm of an enemy that throws her crimes in my face .
“I’m willing to overlook this, on a condition…” I lie to her .
At the same time, I think about what she is truly capable of doing, and 
a thought crosses my mind, unbidden . If she could truly do as she says she
can do—
“…if you can bring back to me a long forgotten memory . ”
—then perhaps her Art can be mine .
“A forgotten memory?” she says, amused .
“Like you, I have a brother that I love dearly . But the memory of the
moment I fell in love with him has been lost . If you can bring back that
memory from my mind—”
“It cannot be done, I’m afraid . If you yourself have forgotten it, it is no
longer a memory . Merely a record of one . And the fae only extract the
former . ”
I sigh, disappointed, but also somewhat relieved .
“Then it seems a deal can’t be brokered between us . ” I tense my muscles
for what I know will come next . There is little distance between us . Only
two bounding steps, and I can be close enough to kick her in the face if I
wanted to . Misaya too, leans forward, shifting her center .
“Miss Kokutō, you know that a familiar must be crafted from something,
I know at least that much . Does she think I’m new to the Art?
“Then you must know that what you hold in your hand was borne from
some material . ” There is a keenness to her smile .
I find that my gaze falls to the thing I have been keeping secured in my
hand the entire time . But though before I couldn’t see it, now I find that I
can . The fairy’s appearance differs from what I expected . Here, in my hand,
is the form of a person I had seen only once, a little Hideo Hayama . I inadvertently
let it go with a startled cry .
In that instant of weakness, Misaya Ōji rushes forward . I black out with
the kind of intensity that overtakes victims of blood loss, but before it I see
only the image of Misaya Ōji reaching out with a hand and touching my
forehead .
/ 3
“If memories are painted in our minds as clearly as any image, why are
we able to forget?” he asks .
“Forgetting is natural,” I answer .
“Those are only things you can’t bring to mind . Even you remember such
things . Memories slough off me like rotten skin, but my mind is not the
mind of man . The mind of man loses nothing,” he says .
“But to be unable to bring something to mind is to forget it,” I protest .
“Forgetting is a degeneration, not a loss . Only excess from which color
retreats . Isn’t it wasteful? All of it is the stuff of eternity, withering and
rusting . But such eternity can only be disposed by one’s own will,” he says .
I offer no answer . “Eternity is relentless, and this lingering grief must be
retrieved and returned to you . Though you think it lost to oblivion, the
memory repeats like a record . ”
“Who decides what is eternal and what is not?” I ask .
“No one knows . That is why we search,” he answers .
He is one for whom thoughts are foreign and cannot be derived, one
whose answers are merely emanations of the past, and of snatched ideas
and the disparate thoughts of strangers .
A knock on the door rouses me to wake . Immediately, I see the window,
and the ashen sunlight streaking through it that makes me unable to
determine whether it’s morning or noon . A quick glance at the desk clock
confirms my suspicion that it is already past noon .
“Miss Kokutō, are you there?” I hear a voice call from outside the room .
It’s only then that the splitting headache I always get from oversleeping
starts to become apparent, and reflexively, I hold a hand to the side of my
head because of the pain . I try to ignore it as I descend from the top bunk
and open the door to the room .
Standing outside the door is one of the nuns, who gives me a once over
before a look of confusion settles on her face .
“Hi . Yeah . Shiki Ryōgi,” I say lazily before I notice that I have to keep up
appearances . “I am a transferee for the upcoming term . ”
“Er, yes, of course,” says the sister, her look of suspicion slackening but
not really disappearing . “Miss Kokutō has a phone call from her family . ”
It figures that the one time he family calls, she’s not around to take it . Oh
well, nothing to be done about it .
/ 3 • 49
“Perhaps I could take the call in her place, seeing as she is out,” I say . “I
am close to the Kokutō family, after all . ” At least if you count their estranged
son, I suppose .
“I see . Then there is no problem . I shall have the call transferred to the
lobby phone, so please hurry . ” The nun gives one curt bow before leaving
quickly . I move to exit the room, but realize that I still have Azaka’s
oversized pajamas on . I get them out of the way and change into one of
Azaka’s uniform robes, walking as fast as I can to the lobby in the dormitory
entrance .
I saw the phone in the lobby yesterday, lacking any dials or buttons, but
it was sitting next to a really neat sofa, so maybe they’re hoping that makes
up for it . According to Azaka, they filter the calls, which first go to a room
managed by one of the sisters . If it’s not the family of one of the students,
they have to reject it . If the call has their approval, they have it transferred
to the lobby phone, where the student can take the call privately .
Even when I’m going to the lobby, I already have a good idea who’s calling,
and when I arrive and pick up the receiver, it only confirms my suspicions .
“Hello, Azaka?” It’s a voice I know very well . Mikiya’s voice . I give the
lobby a once-over to see if no one’s around before talking .
“Nope, not this time . Azaka’s out . It’s only the fifth day of the new year
and already you’re pining after your sister?” I say in an unusually cold way,
even for me .
“Shiki, where’s Azaka?”
“Dunno . Out, like I told you, doing something or another . She’s been in
a hell of a hurry since this morning when she tried her best to wake me up .
I think she really wants to take care of things as fast as possible and hurry
back home . ”
“Really? She doesn’t seem to enjoy herself much when she’s at home,
though . I told her it’d be easier if she stayed over there . ”
“I don’t think here being better for her is any real deterrent for her to
go home, if you know what I mean . ” Of course he doesn’t . “So, what’s your
business, Mikiya?”
“Nothing in particular . I was planning on surprising Azaka, but that’s not
too important . Just wanted to check up on how the two of you are doing . ”
“Well, I can’t say for sure . Maybe if you call up again tomorrow, you can
ask Azaka yourself . See ya . ”
“No, wait a minute, Shiki!” I hear his voice coming from the receiver
right after I move it away from my ear . I look at myself at the mirror at the 
far end of the room, seeing myself holding the receiver and frowning . I
can’t rightly place why .
“You called to talk to Azaka . You don’t have anything to say to me, right?”
“Yes, I do! I’ve been worried about you . Talk to me for a while . Besides, if
I’d wanted to talk to you, I’d have said Azaka’s name to the nuns over there
anyway, since they don’t allow any phone calls except for family . Anyway,
any progress on the search?”
“Some . Not a lot . Anyway, I really hate talking on the phone, so maybe
we can do this later when I’m not interrupting you . ”
“Alright . Fine . I mean, it’s not like I’m allowed to call you again today
anyway, so maybe I’ll call you tomorrow . ” There’s just that little bit of
sarcasm in how Mikiya says it…on second thought, maybe talking to him
for a little while isn’t so bad .
“Well, if you’re free anyway, maybe you can do me a favor . I can’t find
out anything from here, so maybe you’ll have more luck outside . There’s
a former instructor here in Reien by the name of Hideo Hayama, and also
a guy named Satsuki Kurogiri . Any chance you can get their work history
before they got here?”
Mikiya sighs . “Well, won’t know ‘til I try . ”
“It’s not totally important, so it’s alright if you can’t,” I reassure him “I
don’t want you getting reckless . Don’t go doing anything illegal or something
just to get it . Anyway, I probably need to go and look for Azaka
wandering around the campus . ”
“Wait, wait . If you’re asking me for a favor, then I’ll ask you one too .
There’s a student there named Kaori Tachibana, and I’d like you to search
on her records . Attendance records in PE, disciplinary actions, stuff like
that . Reien keeps a tight lid on their paperwork, so I can’t access it from
where I am . ”
I vaguely wonder for a moment what he’s up to, but it’s sure to be something
that has to be useful if it’s investigating a Reien student .
“Alright . If I can, I’ll do it . Bye for now, Mikiya . ” After saying that, I put
the receiver back on .
Records in Oblivion - IV
Sleep, Miss Kokutō . Within your hollow dreamscapes lies the grief that
I will repeat .
The last words I hear from Misaya Ōji before I descend into oblivion .
When my eyes close, darkness overtakes me, and for a moment, there is a
nothingness of neither dream nor sleep . And then, within the stirrings of
the dreaming, I gaze on eternity .
But I hate that . I want to be special .
I said that once . But when did I say it? I don’t even remember the face
of who I was talking to, or what I looked like at the time . It was a very, very
long time ago . When I came of age, I’ve only yearned for the shadow of
that one word . Like a curse, it hung over me, and I couldn’t love any life
that led me closer to it . I don’t truly know why . But I know that I don’t

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want to be like everyone else around me . Awakening mundanely, living
mundanely, and sleeping mundanely; I scorned their nature .
I am me and me alone . I have to be different . The child that embraced
that vague concept soon came to think of “different” as outclassing everyone
else . But when I grew up, I freed myself from the innocent but confining
vestiges of those youthful thoughts . Every year, my body forced itself
into adulthood, and every year I kept the secret, deceiving everyone that I
was normal; though inside, my difference with the other children my age
only widened .
Performing well in academics was never my road to becoming special . I
wanted to be more than this, a thing apart altogether . It didn’t mean to the
best in everything . It didn’t mean to be weak, either . Only something else .
And it was an impulse that led me to abandon so many connections . With
this impulse, I hurt people, estranged myself, sometimes even made them
fear me . And it made me happier to slough away the excess . My friends, my
teachers, and even my parents gave me the strange sort of distant praise
that always follows those that clearly overreach . And through all this, some
fashion of peace over my perturbed soul seemed almost at reach .
It was a time when it almost felt as if something else held dominion over
me, something that longed to return to some primal origin, predetermined 
before I was even born . As a child who followed this urge, I could never
judge if it was right or wrong . I only knew that if I indulged it, my wish of
being a different thing would become true .
A thing apart . A thing that can’t live with others . A thing that can only
hurt . And I tried to fool myself into thinking that this benefited me . But in
the end, it wasn’t some princely figure that shook me from this stupor . It
happened naturally, almost entirely without my notice .
Now what are you doing all by yourself, Azaka? It’s boring to play alone .
Come on home . It’s getting late .
It was only one boy .
I was ever alone, and because I allowed myself to believe that this was
better, I hated him cruelly . But he always sought me out, always drew me
in to play his games . When even my parents were distant, he was always
close at hand to offer a laugh . He talked to me unconditionally . At first I
thought he was only dim-witted, yet he would often grab my hand without
a care, and always led me back home . Only he could have done that . After
all, he was my brother .
And it was then that I dared to hope that the distance I created for the
sake of being different allowed him to entertain the thought, even if in jest
and in passing, that I was not a child of our house, that I was of different
blood . He should always be away from me, to nurture that thought . And
though the idea pricked my heart like the thorn of a hedge, I came to realize
that I had wasted my days in my obsession .
I followed my brother with my eyes every which way he went . He never
drove away a frightening dog, or defended me when my parents were
scolding me, or saved me from drowning in a river . But all the same, I had
to admit to myself one day that the affection I held for him had turned to
love . And it made me hate him even more . Because how could I hold this
irrational love for him, of all people? But no matter how much I denied it,
there was nothing to be done about it . And I found myself looking forward
to the little episodes where he would call for me as I played alone . To the
child that I was, maybe the scorn was nothing more than an echo of my
loneliness .
How many times did I try to summon the will to apologize to my brother?
I had looked down on him for so long, but I couldn’t let an apology form
whole . He let me experience something better, but the child who threw
away what she thought was merely dross found that she couldn’t muster
the simple words of thanks .
Sometimes, I wonder what my brother has done to me . He hasn’t
attempted his foolish sermonizing, and if he had tried, he would have found 
me well prepared . It seemed almost a change of heart lacking a reason, a
love without a true beginning . But no . There must be a reason . I’ve only
lost it, forgotten the most important thing . And I have to remember it, so I
can start believing in myself again, and believe that this love is certain and
true . And when that happens, maybe I can finally say that I am sorry for
the first time in my life, even if it may well and truly be a clumsy apology .
“Wake up, Azaka . You’ll catch a cold out here . ”
I know that voice . It is a voice more a man’s than a woman’s, and when
I hear it, I slowly open my eyes . Someone has a hand on my back, helping
me up while staring into my face . The hand holding me up is solid and
almost cold . My vision is still hazy, but I can more or less see that I fell
asleep on some corridor, and someone is trying to wake me up .
“Miki—” I find myself whispering a name, but I quickly stop myself when
I see the clear black hair of the one I’m facing . Me and Shiki Ryōgi both
notice the name I was about to say, and stare at each other more than
either of us found comfortable .
Until Shiki suddenly slips her hand away from my back . Then with a loud
thud, my upper body slams hard on the on the wooden floor, leading to a
sudden white flash of pain .
“What the hell was that for, you ass?!” I protest before proceeding to
stand up in as intimidating a matter as I can muster .
Shiki only glances at me with lazy eyes . “Well that should wake you up . ”
“Yes, awake enough to forget whatever important thing it was I was
dreaming, you clumsy barbarian!” I shout . It takes all my force of will just
to stop myself from hitting her .
“So you got hit by them again, I guess . ” When she says this, I try to
remember .
I was talking to Misaya Ōji, and I was sure I captured one of the fairies
while it was happening . She cast some kind of illusion on it . I was surprised .
She rushed at me, made me sleep . And the next thing I knew, here’s Shiki .
“Huh, that’s strange . They attacked me for sure, but they took nothing
from my mind . I remember everything that happened . ”
“So you know who our fairy mage is? You’ve got a name and a face?”
Shiki asks . I nod . Unfortunately, it wasn’t someone we had ever expected,
nor someone I cared to accuse carelessly . I glance at my wristwatch, and 
I realize that it hasn’t been more than a few minutes since I fell asleep .
Maybe she was planning on doing something to me, but she noticed Shiki
was coming and made a break for it before she could pull anything off . I
suppose this time, Shiki really did save me .
“Thanks, Shiki,” I murmur under my breath, making positively sure she
couldn’t have the pleasure of hearing it . “Yes, I know who our culprit is . It’s
Misaya Ōji . ”
“That tall girl we saw for a while yesterday?”
“That’s the one . Little time has passed between our conversation and
now, so I’m thinking she escaped to hide from you . ”
Shiki nods in acknowledgement, putting a hand on her chin as she
thinks . From her her furrowed brow, I can see she’s thinking that something
doesn’t quite fit .
“What’s wrong, Shiki? Having a spot of indigestion?”
“Wasn’t she one of those that had a bout of forgetfulness too?” She’s
right, but whatever turn of events that might imply is a secondary concern
for now . Shiki seems to arrive at a conclusion close to mine . “Whatever, we
can ask her what’s up when we see her . Anyway, you got a call from Mikiya .
He asked if we could look into some student’s records, one Kaori Tachibana
or somesuch . ”
“What?” I say in genuine surprise . That was a name I didn’t expect to
hear out of her or Mikiya . I never wanted him involved in this business .
Back in summer, he got caught up in this stupid ghost incident that left him
asleep for three weeks . Fortunately, since Mikiya lives alone, our parents
never knew, and Miss Tōko took care of him while he was in his short coma .
Thank God for her, because if she wasn’t there, he would’ve died in three
days or less . Ever since then, I’ve never wanted him involved in what Shiki
and Miss Tōko are doing for a living . But how does he know about the
whole mess about the fire, and what name to look up? I’m fairly certain
I said all of one sentence about the fire to him last November, but surely
that wasn’t enough to spark his interest . Miss Tōko promised she’d keep it
a secret, too . Then how did he call with such good timing, and with information
to work on? Who did he talk wi—
“Oh, why didn’t I think of it before? It’s always you, isn’t it Shiki? You
told him where we were going before we left, and that made him curious!
And now he’s probably pried the entire thing out of Miss Tōko . ” I say, anger
boiling under my voice .
“What?” she raises her voice in protest . “He was worried I wasn’t telling
him where I was going, and he wanted to know! You’re fault for not being
there to take the call this afternoon and make him back down . ”
I sigh . I hate to admit it, but she’s right about the call . I could have scolded
him then and there and that would have been the end of it . Shiki shifts
gears, ignoring my complaint .
“Anyway, that’s done and we can’t do anything about it . Mikiya said
something about looking at the girl’s PE attendance record and such . What
do you think? Is it gonna turn up anything?”
“PE attendance record?”
What could that possibly tell us? Some kind of code, or some—
Then in a flash of recollection, I remember what Misaya Ōji said . Kaori
Tachibana didn’t die because she couldn’t escape from the fire . She killed
herself . But there was one important factor that I neglected to ask Misaya
Ōji, and that would be Kaori Tachibana’s
“—reason for killing herself . ” I mutter, leaving Shiki to raise an eyebrow .
She and her questions can wait . I break into a run . Shiki, mystified, doesn’t
seem inclined to follow me, which is all the same to me just now . I need to
make this quick . I run out of the ruined dormitory, hurrying back into the
path that goes straight through the forest and leads into the main school
building .
I know exactly where I’m going . The infirmary wing will likely have
records on the students, and my position as class president and my dispensation
from the Mother Superior might just be enough to get one of those
records out .
It only takes a little buttering up for the school nurse and administrator
to cough up the documents I need, and within a few minutes, they
allow me to peruse Kaori Tachibana’s health and PE records, as well as her
related infirmary logs .
Second term started from September up to winter break, and the PE for
class D at that time consisted entirely of field trips or other out-of-school
activities, with the homeroom instructor supervising . Kaori Tachibana’s
October attendance record is replete with spots of absences, and a week
before the fire in the old dormitory started, she didn’t attend PE class at all .
Just to make sure, I ask the school nurse, and as I expected, she did indeed
have a check-up in that period . The cards are starting to turn face up, but
the looming presence of our enemy can’t be avoided as long as we’re here .
/ 4
Afternoon passed and the sun soon fell, far too early for what I’m usually
used to . Students are already starting to return to their dormitories and
rooms, as the daily Reien curfew of 6:00pm draws near . Having just eaten
dinner in the dining hall, we make like some of the students and go back
to Azaka’s room .
Outside the window of her room, the sky is a blanket of star-filled night,
and darkness envelops the entirety of the campus, pockets of light from
windows and pathway lamps lighting up certain portions of it here and
there . Nothing breaks the desolate silence except for the blow of the wind,
and the rustle of trees swaying from its brush . If it weren’t for the whole
boarding school system thing, this might have actually been a pretty nice
place to go to school in . The high school I (sort of) go to in the middle of
Tōkyō is infernally noisy at most times of the day .
I enter the room ahead of Azaka, and sit myself down immediately on
the inviting top bunk . Azaka makes sure to lock the door, and with a sway
of her hair, she turns to face me with a troubled look on her face .
“Shiki, you’re hiding something . ” Now she has an index finger pointed
squarely at me .
“I don’t know what you’re talking about . And let’s be honest here, aren’t
you not telling me something too?”
“I’m talking about a physical object, you dunce . Just stop fussing about it
and hand over the knife you stole back in the dining hall,” Azaka says with
a frustrated but not entirely non-belligerent voice .
Well, that’s a genuine surprise . I actually am carrying a bread knife,
stolen straight from the dining hall and hidden right in my sleeve . Either
that knife is too big or I’ve been slipping in my weapon hiding skills if even
someone like Azaka noticed it . Well, I have been practicing too much with
the sword I got last November, so maybe that’s why .
“Oh c’mon, it hardly carries an edge,” I protest . It doesn’t seem to matter
to Azaka, though, who closes to the foot of the bed .
“No . I don’t care . That’s final . Anything you hold turns into a precision
death weapon anyway . I won’t have any accidental deaths in Reien on my
watch . ”
“You’re doing a pretty piss poor job of it considering there’s already
been a murder in here . ”
“There is a difference between an accident and a murder, you know .
Enough . Just hand over the knife . I don’t know how many times I have to 
/ 4 • 57
repeat our objective here before it gets through your thick head . ”
“You’re a bigger idiot than I thought if you still think we’re getting away
from here without a fight . ” I show Azaka no intention to give up the knife,
and she takes it as her cue to start making her way up to my bunk .
I was serious about what I said to her . I didn’t steal the knife just for
kicks . I told Azaka about me taking out one of the fairies, but I didn’t tell
her that I got pricked by it too . I don’t know if that was enough for Misaya
Ōji to have access to some of my memories, but I have no intention of
letting it happen twice…and besides, the design on the knife is pretty good
and elaborate, even for the school . If I could take it out of here, it would sit
pretty beside the other knives .
Azaka stops at the top of the ladder to my bunk . “You’re really not going
to hand it over, Shiki?”
“Have I ever told you how much of a persistent bull you are? Not your
most attractive trait . It’s why Mikiya keeps breaking his promises to meet
up with you and stuff . Like this New Year’s . ”
Azaka’s face scrunches up in a bundle of annoyance . Somehow, I think I
might have hit a nerve .
“Fine . I’ve been waiting to do this for a long time anyway . ” Then she
jumps on me with as much force as she can . The tackle forces me from my
sitting position, and makes me fall down on the bed, Azaka on top of me .
She wrestles and pushes me down with surprising force and starts reaching
for the knife in my sleeve .
The girl is a regular temper case . Almost like a wounded, cornered bear
if you threaten her enough to get mad . Words aren’t nearly enough to
make her back down from what she wants, so reluctantly, I take the knife
out of my sleeve and hand it to her only to finish our ridiculous episode on
top of the bed . As soon she gets the knife, she scrambles down from the
top bunk and walks toward her desk, and I remain lying on top of the bed .
“Fucking retard strength . You put a bruise in my arm, you know that?
What the hell do they feed you here, steroids?”
“Just a regular diet of bread and vegetables, thank you,” she says, her
tone mocking . As she hides the knife inside her desk and checks again to
make sure the door is locked, I pull myself up, returning to my previous
sitting position and looking at Azaka’s back . It probably would have been
fine if I’d ended it then and there, but I had to blurt out again .
“I didn’t expect you to be that strong . Should be enough to push Mikiya
down on the bed when you finally do it . ” In an instant, Azaka’s face turns
red . Well, I don’t actually know since she has her back turned to me, but
her red ears aren’t painting a flattering picture .
“Wh, wh, wha—” she stammers, swallowing her words . She turns around
to look at me . I knew her face was red . “What the heck did you just say?”
“Nothing . Nothing important to me at least . ” She doesn’t rise to the
bait . We stare at each other for a time, me and Azaka’s blushing red face .
When it seems like we’ve heard the clock’s second hand tick for what must
be the hundredth time, Azaka exhales a disappointed sigh and asks .
“So you know?” She seems to hold her breath for the answer .
“It wasn’t me that noticed it first, I can tell you that . No need to worry
though . Mikiya doesn’t know a thing . ”
With great relief, Azaka lets go of her breath . It’s true what I said . I didn’t
notice it first . It was Shiki that saw through Azaka the first time they met .
And through him, came to know it as well . If he hadn’t been there,
I don’t think even I would have known about it . She’s so guarded around
Mikiya, and if he’s not around he hardly even talks about him or even so
much as steers the conversation in a direction remotely close to her brother,
except to talk about how bad an influence I am, and so forth .
Refreshing herself and regaining her usual composure, she looks back
at me .
“Aren’t you mad at me, Shiki?” I don’t really get why I should be, but
I’m not, and so shake my head . It only succeeds in making her look more
confused .
Wait, are we still talking about Mikiya? But he’s not my—
—he’s not my what?
I try to put the thing out of my mind, by just asking Azaka the first question
that comes to mind . “You’re siblings, right? Why’re you into that sort
of thing?” Unfortunately, it turns out to be the most landmine filled question
I could spontaneously come up with .
She doesn’t lose her cool, but she does allow her eyes to wander around
the room as she thinks . “It’s because…I like being special . Or more accurately,
I like things that are denied me, things that flirt with the taboo .
Hence, Mikiya . He just doesn’t…he just can’t return what I feel, and maybe
I’m happy being that way . I’m lucky, aren’t I? I’ll always be near the person
I like . ”
Inside myself, I’m laughing . Not at her, but my unexpected but seemingly
accurate observation that all the weirdos always seem to have a thing
for Mikiya .
“You’re sick . ”
“You’re one to talk!”
The abruptness of both our replies does not escape the notice of either
of us, and for a few seconds, we are silent . But then she smiles, and I smile 
/ 4 • 59
as well . And in a wordless agreement, we decide to leave it at that and go
to sleep .
Azaka clearly has something to do to tomorrow relating to the investigation,
since she seems to fall asleep only a minute after hitting the sack . My
nocturnal habits are completely at odds with this school’s curfew though,
so it’s much harder for me to just fall asleep when I feel like it . I stay awake
for a long time, hearing the second hand on Azaka’s wall clock tick two
hours away as I do nothing save for staring at the scenery outside the
window opposite the bed . Now even the few precious lights that glowed
faintly in the campus have all been snuffed out . Beyond the quad, there is
only the deep darkness of Reien’s forest, where the light of the moon can’t
seem to pierce through the canopy of foliage, whose earlier stirrings have
now given way to the eerily thick and unbreakable silence .
As quietly as I can make it, I reach inside my left sleeve . What Azaka
doesn’t know is that I stole two knives from the dining hall . I draw it from
my sleeve and take it out, holding it up above my head such that what little
light from outside can strike off it . I was planning on using this one here,
and the one Azaka got as a display item when I got home . I wish I wouldn’t
have to sully this blade here, but I realize now that it’s a fool’s hope .
“Everyone’s so busy tonight,” I whisper to myself when I return to looking
at the forest outside, only to see numerous faint but wandering lights
flitting around in the darkness of Reien like fireflies . There must be ten
or twenty of them at least . Yesterday night I saw something similar, but
only one or two, and I doubted they were anything except a figment of my
imagination . Now there can be no doubt that they’re the fairies, and their
activity tonight implies something suspicious . Must be because of what
happened to Azaka this afternoon . Now, the mage who’s controlling all
these fairies is forced to speed up her plans .
“You’re gonna get a test drive soon enough,” I murmur as the blade
glints in my hand, letting it catch the dull moonlight from the window . This
will be the last night I spend in Reien, I’m sure . Whatever has to happen,
it’s clear that it has to happen tomorrow .
Records in Oblivion - V
“I don’t know what is so good about this arrangement,” I say .
“There is still a way . There is always a way to mend that which is broken,”
the man answers .
“But can I still be restored?” I ask .
“I can remake things . Make them whole again . The sin is not yours, and
such pure things need not touch that which is unclean . Remain as you are,
and all will be well,” he answers .
“But am I pure? Once, perhaps . But now, I am not so sure . ”
“Though you push back the growing darkness in you with your own
hands, those hands are still clear, still contain no taint . ” He nods, and laughs
a sweet laugh . “And they must remain as such . Filth like that are a cancer
on this world, and must remove themselves or be excised . It is a mercy to
do so, for such impurities travel with the soul, to one’s line, passed on in a
dynasty of endlessly repeated curses . And so as not to sully you, another
must be used . ”
But what will come of it? I cannot answer, and I do not voice the impudent
question to the man .
“Eternity is relentless, and this lingering grief must be retrieved and
returned to you . Though you think it lost to oblivion, the memory repeats
like a record,” he says .
“I have forgotten nothing, least of all that,” I reply .
“The oblivion are thoughts missing in your consciousness, wandering in
the vast wastes of the oneiros . Not forgotten, not lost,” he says flatly .
What, then, explains the gaps in my memory? “I do not understand .
What of the part of me that has been lost?”
“The stirrings and thoughts that orient around your brother,” answers
the man . “Should you wish it, I shall play back that echo of nothingness . ”
It was an easy thing to say yes .
January 6, Wednesday .
In the past few days, the weather has taken on a predictable pattern,
with gray cloudy mornings and clear nights . This morning proves to be no
different, and it seems resolute to pursue this pattern for a while .
The first thing I see when I wake up is the clock . “Seven…thirty,” I whisper
groggily . I can’t believe I overslept for an hour . I immediately climb out
of bed and whip myself up into a whirlwind of multi-tasking, taking off my
pajamas, slipping into my uniform, fixing my hair, and finally attempting to
wake up Shiki, still asleep on the top bunk .
I try and try to call her name but it is fruitless; she doesn’t budge an inch .
It’s her fault for sleeping so late after me; and yet despite the fact that she
slept at such an ungodly hour she somehow never found the time to slip
out of the uniform robes and into some sleeping attire . Still, I don’t think
it matters to her really, since she never seems to complain about whether
it’s warm or cool . She grinds her teeth for a few seconds under the blanket
that covers her entirely . How annoying . Otherwise, she sleeps as still as a
statue, and so I write waking Shiki up as a lost cause and give up .
Our objective to observe hasn’t changed . The incident with Misaya Ōji
was an unnecessary encounter, and though we now know who the culprit
is, there’s no need for me and Shiki to go around trying to eliminate or
capture her . Besides, I don’t think Misaya Ōji is still at a dormitory at this
point . When I tried to check up on where she was yesterday, just before
night fell, the answer I got was that she had filed a formal report to leave
the school for winter break that morning . In other words, as far as the
school was concerned, she wasn’t on Reien grounds anymore (though
obviously, at least until our encounter, that was false) . If she’s smart, she’ll
follow through on that report and leave, and she won’t try to come into
contact with me or Shiki ever again .
Still, she was driven to accomplish something here, and something tells
me that despite my conciliatory attitude toward her, and the last chance to
withdraw that she gave me, she’ll try again . It’s hard to imagine her showing
up herself and attacking us sometime today, but they do say that third
time’s the charm . Just in case, I grab my magical tool of choice: a glove
made out of salamander skin, used to channel my Art . I tuck it in my pocket
securely and head out of the room .
Outside in the corridor, the temperature is practically freezing, and I find
that I have to keep moving if I want my body to stay warm . I pay a visit to
some of the rooms of the class D students, but most of them are already
out of their rooms . The few individuals I do meet aren’t of any help . Most
of them seem out of it, never meeting your eyes, and like in some kind
of lethargy . I would have believed that they were all taking some kind of
strong narcotic if not for their sudden and ready refusal to talk to me . Their
eyes suddenly take on a glint of mixed fear and disdain . Had Shiki been
with me and been able to keep their boiling hostility in check, it might not 
have been so bad . But I don’t think I would have been able to talk to them
like that alone, so that seems like a lost cause as well . I give up trying to talk
to them for now .
I relocate from the dormitories to the main school building, asking some
of the instructors questions, but while they were kind enough to entertain
me, they were all similarly unhelpful . Feeling like I’ve wasted my time,
I head back to the dormitory to my room to regroup and rethink all the
information I already have .
I go in to find Shiki still sleeping persistently . Her eyes twitch for a moment,
and I hope for a second that she’s already waking up . But after a few more
moments of waiting, I realize she’s just in REM sleep . Disappointed, I sit
down on the chair in front of my desk and think .
The information I got from perusing Kaori Tachibana’s infirmary documents
yesterday was enlightening . The fact that class D’s PE consisted
mostly of field trips wasn’t so important . It’s a common enough event in
Reien, and even the school nurse said as much . The useful portion came
when I compared the dates of her physical examinations and the class field
trips .
I don’t know how it goes in other schools, but seeing as its important
medical knowledge in all of Reien’s students, the school keeps a record of
each student’s menstrual cycles . What I found out was that she was able to
go on the class field trip on the time when she’s usually excused from doing
so because of her period, and when I asked the school nurse, she said that
she was certain that Kaori Tachibana had reported a late period . She also
assured me that it was merely stress that was responsible, but that’s only
because she doesn’t know the circumstances surrounding the girl .
Her period being late might only be one part of the story, a conclusion
all too easily reached when she never had the opportunity to have another
one seeing as she died the next month . She might never have had a period
at all in the month of October . The most obvious reason might also be the
answer: pregnancy .
At first, the period doesn’t come, but then the quickening in her stomach
would have felt more real each passing day . From September to November,
she must have driven herself into a corner, mentally speaking . After all, in
Reien Girl’s Academy, getting pregnant seems to be considered a sin quite
above murder . It means that at one point, you willingly exited the school
without permission, went out into town, and for one reason or another,
had sex with someone; a situation that would surely make the Mother
Superior or any of the sisters faint were it told to them . And of course, with
their very strict and conservative Catholic upbringing, I’m fairly sure Kaori 
Tachibana’s parents would have never forgiven her .
There was truly no way out for her . An abortion would require her to go
to a hospital, but the doctors would definitely report it to both the school
and her parents . I’m willing to bet she didn’t know any unlicensed or quack
doctors, and would be very hesitant to submit herself to their treatment .
And so she spent those few weeks living like a criminal on death row, scared
everyday of her stomach growing large enough to be noticeable .
If I believe what Misaya Ōji had to say about Tachibana, though, I find
it hard to believe that such a girl who so intensely follows the traditional
Catholic way would be in that kind of relationship .
“Rape then? Hayama Hideo, for a certainty,” I whisper to myself . Who
else could it be? And it fits the circumstances . Did he rape Kaori Tachibana,
and upon learning she was pregnant, kill her by setting fire to the dormitory
building, seeking to simultaneously destroying the evidence and make
it look like an accident? It’s a sketchy thought, but it seems to fit the man .
There’s still another thing to consider . The nurse said that Kaori Tachibana
was very stressed out, and I don’t think it’s an assessment entirely without
meaning . I’ve observed before that class D seemed to be hiding something,
and my talk with Fumio Konno confirmed as much .
“She was being harassed,” I venture . That’s entirely possible . After all,
she was constantly the highest scorer in the class, and is the only member
of the class that got promoted from Reien’s junior high instead of transferring
in . That’s the kind of natural environment that bullying is born from .
But what about the class president? Fumio Konno didn’t seem like the sort
of girl to permit that sort of business to occur and turn a blind eye to it .
If even she had to ignore Tachibana’s plight, there must have been some
truly compelling reason to do so .
“Like the class knowing about the pregnancy . ” That would have been
enough of a reason . Enough for me to envision Fumio Konno deciding to
just have nothing to do with it . And Tachibana, the poor girl, couldn’t even
talk to the nuns who were supposed to support her . Enough of a reason
for Tachibana Kaori to commit suicide in that fire . And class D, feeling that
they have some dark secret to protect, keep their reticent behavior for the
entire school .
“Something’s missing,” I whisper, but I can’t seem to think what exactly .
It’s easy to sit here and couple fragmented, limited information with
personal insight, but turning that into a viable and supported conclusion
is quite another task entirely . That’s the kind of thing Mikiya thrives in . At
least he knows how to gather information, and how to get people to talk,
like a police detective . Compared to him, I’m just the crazy wannabe PI that 
keeps throwing out ideas with only a modicum of factual basis .
I always really hated those characters in detective fiction that always had
the right guess, with their only excuse being that “it’s possible,” as if they
were somehow above the normal person, above even the police detectives
that the books always portrayed as weak and ineffectual, when in reality,
the converse is true . I know how police detectives work . My cousin Daisuke
is one, and I’ve had more than an earful from him . The police detective’s
job is to strain an entire desert for the single grain of a gem, to give form
and shape to a past that he wasn’t privy to, and in real life, this sometimes
takes months, even years of grueling work . The detectives of fiction,
at least to my understanding, abandon the process, miss the desert and
the clues it gives, in favor of a short-sighted conclusion . Between the real
detectives, the average men and women in police departments all over the
world, who take all the clues they can get and try to speak for those who
died, and the fictional detectives who take the flash of inspiration they get
and bandy it as truth; the latter is more trapped by his own folly, and if he
were real, he would be always alone in his suppositions beyond normal
ken .
It’s quite ironic then, that I find myself in that very same position now .
I have neither the time of months to work a case like cousin Daisuke, nor
the same resources available to him . So it is with a great regret that I realize
that I’ve donned the role of that which I hate . I sigh, realizing I’m at
my wits’ end, and lean back on my chair heavily before looking at the wall
clock . It’s already near noontime, and the sky outside the window still
persists in being cloudy . If anything, they’ve only darkened, and will almost
certainly mean rain later . As I think this, a knock comes from the door, and
then a voice .
“Miss Kokutō, are you there?” It’s one of the sisters .
“Yes, I am present . Is there something the matter?” I say as I open the
door .
“There is a phone call for you . Your brother . ” As soon as I hear this, I
excuse myself and walk with as much haste as I dare toward the lobby . The
lobby is deserted when I arrive, which I am thankful for when I pick up the
receiver .
“Hello?” I say, maybe a bit too eagerly .
“Hello, Shiki?”
It’s a good thing I can’t see the frown on my face . “Unfortunately, Shiki
is still asleep . Mmm, so you’d call all the way to Reien just to talk to your
girlfriend, Mikiya?” I say with a cold voice . On the other end of the line,
Mikiya clears his throat .
“I didn’t say that . I called to ask about how things are going over there . ”
“You shouldn’t worry . After all, I did say some time ago how you shouldn’t
be involved in these things . ” I raise my voice only slightly, as if it were an
interrogative .
“Ah, here we go,” he says, clearly expecting the subject . “It’s not as if I
wanted to be involved . But you expect me to ignore the entire thing when
you and Shiki are neck deep in it?”
I wanted to give him a definite yes straight out, but that would have
been too blunt, and so I hold off on it .
“Fine, fine . So, what is the purpose of this call? Are you planning to talk
to Shiki or me?”
“Well, Shiki was the one that asked me, but I think it’d be better if I told
you . I’ve found some stuff on Hideo Hayama and Satsuki Kurogiri . Wanna
hear it?”
Huh . Shiki never told me about that . I’d chide her for not consulting me
first if it wasn’t a pretty good move . Still…
“Oh, Shiki told you to do it, did she? Even though she promised that she
wouldn’t make you do anything dangerous? I knew she hasn’t learned . It’s
clear that she doesn’t care about your well-being if she told you to perform
such a dangerous task . Perhaps you should finally consider breaking up
with her . ” Even I’m surprised by what I end up saying, but predictably, it
doesn’t faze Mikiya one bit . In fact, he even laughs .
“Nah, Azaka, she just has a very…unique way of showing how worried
she is . ” His voice on the other end sounds so pleased, and I wonder what it
is that has him so happy . “Anyway, I’m going to bring up the file on the two
Shiki asked about . ”
I can hear the faint noise of pages being flipped on the other end . A thick
file, from the sound of it, and if I know Mikiya, very well arranged to boot .
While he’s searching through it, I ask him a question .
“Where are you right now, Mikiya?”
“Miss Tōko’s office . She’s out right now though . Meeting with cousin
Daisuke . I’m stuck on watch duty over here,” he says morosely .
“Wait a minute, you mean our cousin Daisuke?!”
“Keep your voice down on the phone, will you? And yes, yes, it’s him . ”
Daisuke Akimi is my father’s little brother, technically our uncle . Since
he’s the youngest of his siblings, he’s very near our age, and we call him
cousin as a joke . He’s very close to Mikiya, enough so that someone watching
them that doesn’t know better would almost call them brothers .
“Apparently he’s an acquaintance of Miss Tōko’s,” Mikiya explains .
“When we met in New Year and I told him about where I work, he shouted 
‘but that’s Tōko Aozaki, ain’t it!’ and that was that . I think he’s out on a date
with Miss Tōko right now . She was like ‘how could I refuse an offer from
Kokutō’s cousin,’ and then left me in charge of the place . ”
This must be wrong on some level . Even Mikiya sounds displeased by
it . So he was Miss Tōko’s contact inside the Tokyo Metropolitan Police
Department the entire time . If I think about it, it isn’t really surprising for
him . He’s a member of the Criminal Investigation Section’s first squad,
plainclothesmen that have had a lot of experience on foot, on patrol and
in investigation, and so have some of the best street-level contacts in the
entire CIS . And even within this group, cousin Daisuke is known as quite
talented and driven, but also arrogant and having a disdain for authority .
Exactly the kind of person that Miss Tōko would run into, in other words .
“Anyway, he’s not the reason I called,” Mikiya continues . “Before I get
back to Hideo Hayama, I gotta ask, have you ever talked to the guy?”
I hear the worry in his voice, and I realize immediately what he’s really
asking . “No . No, I haven’t . I know what kind of person Hideo Hayama is, for
the most part . ”
He sighs, relieved . With slight hesitation, he begins . “Alright, here goes .
I’ve been working the commercial district and asking some of the people
in the vice squad through cousin Daisuke, and what I’ve heard isn’t pretty .
The truth is that Hideo Hayama was pimping out his students, with clients
paying for their company . He’d take the students out, probably on the
pretense of a trip, and make them do it . ”
I catch myself inhaling sharply . I was prepared for the worst, but I
honestly didn’t think it would be anywhere near that . Either Mikiya didn’t
hear me, or he ignored me . Either way, he carries on with the report .
“I’m not clear on the details, but you know how much students go in
the prostitution arena . And they’re Reien students too, which makes them
rare, and the guy knew that too . He was good . Charged high, but not high
enough to make people stingy . He’d take them out every two times a week,
and judging from the numbers, only a few in the class didn’t go regularly .
I don’t know if he was bold or reckless, but he ran a pretty tight ship .
Downtown, he was a popular name once, on account of his being flashy
and acting like a big spender . He took it further and further every day,
and ended up owing something big to a bar, which in turn was owned by
some yakuza group . Of course, they wanted to collect . With little options,
he turned to Reien, where his estranged brother was the chairman of the
board, and I assume he pleaded with him to give him a teaching job there .
I’m sure he made his excuses, forged his licenses, and eventually got in .
Whether he was planning on starting a student prostitution ring right from 
the start, or he got the idea later, I don’t truly know, but the fact is that he
turned it into his thing pretty fast . And since Reien’s students are largely
daughters of rich or influential families, they fetch a pretty price on the
street . I heard at first that it was only one student, but the yakuza put the
pressure on him, and soon enough he was bringing all of them out . That’s
most of the important things, I guess . ”
Then Mikiya tells me the names of the students involved, the dates when
they went out, and even the rough estimates of the time they went back .
He even got some details on the yakuza organization the entire operation
was connected to, and I know how hard that can be to ferret out .
“It’s a shame that most of this is unreliable testimony and can’t be
used as proof . Take from that what you will,” he says disappointedly . He’s
correct in his assessment . The police certainly can’t move on something as
little as this, and the vice squad people he contacted are probably building
their own case to take the entire thing down all at once . Though Kaori
Tachibana’s pregnancy made the entire thing big enough such that even
Reien couldn’t possibly have the power to make it disappear, the connection
was weak, and the parents of the students were certainly powerful
enough (some of them probably financially involved and invested enough
in the yakuza) that they would see the investigation flounder and die a slow
death if they ever got wind of it .
“I’m sorry about all this, Azaka,” he says gloomily .
Though the truth is still leaving me in quite a shock, I still find the
awareness to give him a nervous “No problem . ” But the truth only left
us a truckload of problems . The secret that class D was protecting wasn’t
Kaori Tachibana’s suicide, but this prostitution ring . Hideo Hayama couldn’t
have kept it a secret alone . Even though he may have forced some of the
students to go, the ones that went purely for pleasure and weren’t big
fans of Reien’s abstinence policy must surely have used their influence to
silence the entire class and keep the secret . For them, the temptation to
seek something outside the regulation of the school was too much, and
Hideo Hayama was their only key to that .
But the confluence of factors that contribute to the entire problem
doesn’t end with the people . To an extent, the severity of the institution
can be partly to blame as well . It has its tall, ornate walls, the better to
divorce it from anything that doesn’t belong in it already . The wind rarely
sings inside, and not a sound from beyond the walls can be heard . Time
proceeds at a languid, leisurely pace . All of it manufactured to provide
some kind of proof against the perceived threat of defilement from what
lies outside . But like any airtight room, eventually the air gets stale, becom-
ing gross and fetid . The people here all think it’s some kind of secret world,
warded against the other, harsher world . But it’s nothing more than a prison
from the real .
“So what led you to ask about Kaori Tachibana, Mikiya? You asked for
her grades and everything . ” I ask the last mystery I still have left for him .
“The girl in the November fire, right? Remember back then we were in
Miss Tōko’s office, and you told me about the fire in your dormitory for a
while? Well, after work got a little lighter in December, I looked it up whenever
I had free time . Started asking some authorities around . Eventually,
cousin Daisuke hooked me up with the autopsy report for the deceased
girl, our Kaori Tachibana . Apparently the cause of death is rather more
ambiguous than what we may expect . The medical examiner apparently
found some evidence that she may have died from heroin overdose, and
she may have already been dead before the fire . But the final word on it
is that it they couldn’t determine either way . The final weird note on her
death is that there’s a good chance she might have been pregnant, though
the state of the body left it officially unconfirmed .
“They’re pretty sure, though, that no one led her to the fire to kill her .
She was deep enough inside the building that anyone that might have
taken her there wouldn’t have been able to get out . It’s a sad case for her .
First the rape, then the pregnancy . Not the kind of thing you thrust on a
sixteen year old girl, obviously; she probably couldn’t handle it all . Now
this next one is just a guess but…I’m thinking when the fire started and
everyone was rushing to get out of the dormitory, she’s the only one that
stayed in her room . She might have actually wanted to die . ”
“Right,” I answer more evocatively than I should have . I can’t help
myself . Kaori Tachibana’s case was all finally starting to take shape . “She
has a motive for suicide established, I suppose . I wonder why she didn’t
just have the baby aborted? If she had said it to Hayama, he might have
considered it . ”
“Wouldn’t really know,” he answers with a curious voice . “Too young,
maybe? Complications?”
“Maybe,” I say lazily, thinking of something else . Her pregnancy was the
reason Kaori Tachibana was harassed by class D, but not entirely out of
the reason that it embarrassed the class . No . As long as she didn’t have an
abortion, she threatened to spill the little secret that Hideo Hayama and
the class had kept in the darkness . Worse, she didn’t even have to open
her mouth for it to happen . The class probably didn’t even wait on the
word from Hideo before they started ostracizing Kaori . No physical harm,
though . That would have garnered the attention of the sisters sooner 
or later, which was the last thing they wanted . So for three months, she
carried her perceived disgrace and endured the scorn of her class, a mental
brand of torture . And then suicide, after the burden proved too great .
“What an incompetent thing to do . If she was so ready to die, then
she would have found the pregnancy a much easier ordeal . That hopeless
little girl…,” I find myself losing my pace for a moment with an unwanted
hiccup before recovering . “Throwing out everything she’s worked for to
just die . She’s been here since she was a child, and she lost to someone
like Hayama . How—” I choke on my last words, as I finally realize what I’m
blurting out . I close my eyes, willing the tears not to come out . I put a hand
on my forehead, thankful that there is no one else in the lobby to see me .
 “Losing? Azaka, what are you talking about? This wasn’t some game,
not some kind of competition with winners or losers . I swear…” he sighs,
and my hand moves to my hair before I lean back on the wall . “And she
may have committed suicide, but it’s probably not for the kind of reason
you’re thinking of, not for her kind of upbringing . ” Mikiya’s voice is tinged
with some regret, though I don’t know truly if it’s directed at me or at the
deceased Kaori .
I gulp and think of my words carefully before asking . “Why do you say
that? Don’t you think she committed suicide because her classmates were
being so hard on her? She probably only saw the escape of death as the
only recourse left to desperate individuals such as her . That’s the only
meaning in her actions, isn’t it?”
“Well, I wouldn’t expect you to understand,” he says . Something resonates
in that statement . It’s almost the same thing that Misaya Ōji said to
me only yesterday .
“Why wouldn’t I?”
“See, Kaori Tachibana’s been in Reien since she was a kid, right? She’s
a very traditional, very conservative Catholic . In the Catholic faith, suicide
is taken very seriously . It’s an old crime to them that not only insults the
life you’ve been given, but also devalues the life you were supposed to live
to earn salvation . It’s on the same footing as murder to them . For someone
that identifies so much with the Catholic faith, Kaori Tachibana had a
reason for suicide that, for her, probably goes beyond the rational . ”
What Mikiya says surprises me, eliciting a small gasp . I’d almost forgotten
about Kaori’s religion . Unlike the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth in
Buddhism, Christianity promised salvation in the afterlife . I knew that, of
course, but for someone like me who only attended the masses and morning
services as a student and not a believer, the fact held little more weight
to it than any other English word . But to someone like Kaori, who’s zeal and 
ardor for the Catholic faith had defined her since childhood, they were all
she had in this school . The prospect of suicide to her must have been more
fearful than the fact of death could ever have been .
“And that reason being?” I ask . The answer to questions such as these
does not come easily to me at all . Mikiya is fond of saying that my drive for
competitiveness has burned out at least some of my empathy . Sometimes,
he smiles, saying it’s a joke . At times, like in my outburst earlier, I think I
often prove him true .
“Atonement, maybe . She took in her sins, and the sins of her classmates,
and sacrificed herself to erase the sins of class D, so that she alone falls into
the Christian hell . She tried to redeem everyone . ”
I say nothing, letting silence settle in for a moment .
I cannot expect you to understand what that truly implies . That was what
Misaya Ōji said . Her anger was real . She had understood Kaori better than
anyone else, and because of that, she cannot find it in herself to forgive
class D, little changed from the incident .
Killing them is no guarantee that they will be sent to the pits of hell
where they rightfully belong . She was right . In Misaya Ōji’s mind at least,
killing them wouldn’t mean that they get sent to hell . It wouldn’t be the
proper punishment for the people that had made Kaori Tachibana fall .
That’s why she hounds them, unseen, all this time . There is no forgiveness
left for them . Only the proposition of a death so horrid that all would have
to see it .
/ 5 • 71
/ 5
The rain is heavy, and the drops that slip through the thick cover of
bamboo leaves land on my skin . A thousand frigid daggers burying into me .
The first time I have ever really felt the cold . Some of the drops fall onto
something metallic, and I notice that it is the blade of a knife that I hold
in my hand . Cold rain to match equally cold steel . My cold, expressionless
eyes are fixed on someone below me, though I do not know who—
I wake up from a dream, a sensation of familiarity echoing inside my
mind, but it is already retreating into a forgotten memory . Before I can
process it further though, I open my eyes just a little bit only to catch sight
of something small flying nearby . There is no mistaking it: it’s one of the
fairies . The moment I open my eyes fully, I draw the knife from inside my
pocket and throw it as hard as I can toward the fairy in flight . It takes only
another instant to hear the dull sound of the knife impacting and clinging
to the wall .
Skewered through the knife is one of the fairies, an insect-winged creature
just like Azaka’s vivid imagination of the things, making a small but
high pitched keening sound . I think it’s trying to pull the knife out of itself
with small hands, but it’s no use . With a last small noise, it disappears into
the air in a trickle of momentarily bright material, only for that too to wink
out of existence .
“Fuck . I shouldn’t have killed it . Maybe it could’ve—”
Maybe it could’ve what? Made the dream continue? Finally learn the
truth about what happened three years ago? Remember the traffic accident
that forced me to a coma? What of it then?
“Stop thinking about that right now,” I tell myself as I quickly climb out
of bed, readying myself to receive any more unwanted visitors . Just as I
jump from the top bunk to the floor, I hear the distinct sound of the creak
of the wood outside the door, and the sound of footsteps hurrying away .
Someone’s been standing outside the door all this time!
I put the knife back in my pocket and rush to open the door . The corridor
stretches both east and west, and when I look east, I see only the shadow
of a person running away, the height the only thing distinct about the
figure . Misaya Ōji, maybe? Maybe she mistook me for Azaka? Hmph, fat
chance of that . I know Azaka still insists on doing exactly as Tōko told her to,
but if Misaya Ōji is conducting attacks on us in our room as we sleep, then 
there’s really no other choice for me .
I pounce on after her, our steps making the hardwood floor groan, the
sounds echoing in the corridor’s expanse . She’s faster than I expected, and
I can’t close the distance between us . She knows where she’s going, too .
She ducks out of the corridor, out the exit from the dormitories, and heads
toward the direction of the main school building, using the covered path
me and Azaka used the other day . The forest surrounds us for a minute or
so of the chase, and the distance between us still remains far enough only
for me to barely see her . Finally we emerge back into the school grounds .
She doesn’t head to the school building like I expected though, but to the
chapel .
A trap . Nothing else to it . But it would be stupid to turn back now after
I’ve run so far . She’s cornered here, and we both know it . I catch my breath
for a few seconds, wipe the sweat off my brow, and throw open the door
to the chapel .
Despite its size, the door doesn’t produce the barest hint of a sound . In
the gloomy interior of the deserted chapel, there is only a single individual
standing within it all, the shadows of the silhouette long in the afternoon
sun . I close the door with as fast as possible, never facing away from the
silhouette . The distance between us is a mere ten meters, but the person
keeps the silence that wraps over and above the sacred place . The person
brings a hand to where the face would be, as if adjusting glasses, and finally
I catch a glimpse of the man, staring at me as if I was some kind of statue .
“Oho . What business brings you to the chapel at this hour, Miss Ryōgi?”
A fleeting smile plays across his face, a lazy, carefree expression reserved
for children . It is the same smile he had worn two days before, but this
place seems to give it an air of falsity somehow, and the smile rings hollow .
There, in the dim, clouded light of the chapel, Satsuki Kurogiri stands alone .
Records in Oblivion - VI
“Let me bring up the file on Satsuki Kurogiri . ”
On his end of the line, I can clearly hear Mikiya tossing a thick stack of
paper to a desk, and then getting a new one . Regrettable that he looked
up so much, but I don’t think I’ll have any further use for any information
he might have gleamed about Satsuki Kurogiri . With Hideo Hayama’s acts
and the secret of class D now brought to light, I have nothing further to do .
Whether Misaya Ōji would do anything or not, the case is Miss Tōko’s now .
“No, it’s fine, Mikiya . In all probability, me and Shiki will be departing the
premises in short order . Just wait for me there in the office . ”
“That so? Still, I don’t think it might be completely useless not to hear
this stuff . After all, it might not be completely unrelated . ”
Something about the tenor of his voice presses the weight of what he’s
about to say . “What, is Satsuki Kurogiri involved in the prostitution ring as
“Nah, this one’s a totally different thing . He’s got nothing to do with
the class D incident . Azaka, do you know where the guy was born, by any
The name would probably automatically make you think he was
Japanese, but I did hear he studied abroad for a long time . Maybe his
parents were Japanese, but he wasn’t really born in Japan .
“I couldn’t say for sure,” I state . “But I have heard tell that he was in
Britain for quite some time . Are you saying that that’s where his family
“Yeah, it seems that he was born in some small town in Wales . He was
put up for adoption when he was ten years old, and he was given the name
Satsuki Kurogiri by his new parents in place of his old name . Pretty weird
that they’d change the name of a kid that old, too . ”
Not too strange, I should think, if his adoptive parents felt that it would
bring them closer to their child . Though this is the first time I’ve ever heard
of something like that, and of a child being placed for adoption at so late
an age .
“Anyway, I did a little checking on him,” he continues . “Apparently he
was considered some kind of wunderkind way back when . Bright, full of
talent . But he did something to make his parents hate him and put him
up for adoption . It was a while before anyone actually adopted him, but
apparently some Japanese national from a far-off city picked him up . Since
he studied in schools there, what happened later is easy to find out with the 
paper trail, but before he became a kid for adoption, his history is fuzzy . ”
This is certainly a very strange story, and one that, on the surface at
least, doesn’t seem to fit Mr . Kurogiri . And more than that, the fact that
Mikiya could actually find someone who knew about this portion of Mr .
Kurogiri’s past is quite a feat in itself . One has to wonder what sort of information
network he tapped this time .
“I wonder why his parents would put their child up for adoption, even
though he’s some kind of genius,” I muse . “Could it have been money problems?”
“There’s the rub, isn’t it? To be precise, he was only a genius until he was
ten years old . After that, he somehow lost it . I couldn’t find out if it was
because of some mental damage or something, but what happened was
that when he was ten years old, he became unable to remember things .
Anything he saw, he couldn’t remember, and for a while he was almost
considered mentally retarded . And when that happened, his parents
couldn’t put him up for adoption fast enough . ”
“He couldn’t…remember?” Something in there rings similar to the rash
of memory problems that Reien has been experiencing of late . “But I didn’t
get that from him . He seems to remember what he experiences now, and
he’s a fairly well-read man . ”
“Well, I’d imagine . He wouldn’t have even gotten a teacher’s license
otherwise . It was probably some kind of miracle, though . He got his genius
back at some point after he was adopted . When he was fourteen, he got
into a university program, and eventually earned a doctorate in linguistics
by the time he was in his early twenties . It was looking good for him .
He chose a career in academia, and was employed in a lot of universities
and colleges . There’s something strange about that, though . There would
always be a suicide—”
“—in the school, from one of the students, right?” I say, suddenly getting
it .
“I know it isn’t such a special thing for kids to commit suicide in schools
these days . But there’s the pattern . Every time Satsuki Kurogiri is employed
by a school, and then leaves, there’s always some kind of student suicide .
Now, far be it from me to establish a causal link, but I’m just telling you
what I see . A coincidence like that in ten or twelve different institutions?
Can’t be, right?”
His words send my thoughts racing . A professor leaving a trail of grisly
suicides in his wake . Could he actually be related to the events unfolding
now? But Misaya Ōji said that he was being manipulated like a tool . He
lost memories as well, and was led to believe that nothing was truly out of 
place in class D . I thought the mastermind of all this was Misaya Ōji . What
did this man do? How deep in this was he?
“Anyway, that’s all the stuff I got,” Mikiya concludes . “The rest of the
legwork is on you . Don’t overwork yourself now . And try not to get separated
from Shiki . ” I open my mouth to respond, but he interrupts me before
I can begin . “Oh wait, one last thing . I heard something about Satsuki’s
name . Apparently the name ‘Satsuki’ is supposed to be some kind of weird
translation of the word Mayday . I don’t really know what that is, though . ”
But I do . May Day is the first day of May, and also the day of the Beltane
festival that celebrates the coming of the summer sun . And Satsuki is the
name of the fifth month in the Japanese lunar calendar . In that context, the

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name Satsuki does make sense . May Day or Beltane aren’t exactly widely
celebrated holidays in Japan, but I know something of their significance .
And if I’m right—
“Mikiya, do you know what happened to Mr . Kurogiri that temporarily
removed his mental proficiency?”
“If rumors count, then yeah, but take from them what you will . The
rumors about him was that he was taken, or replaced, or something like
that . Apparently he disappeared from home for three whole days . When
he came back, he’d already changed . ”
“Replaced, and then changed . His name is fairly suspicious for this kind
of thing . Like Halloween and the summer solstice, May Day is supposed
to be a time when the fairies come out to hunt, and when seeing them is
common, and that’s exactly when it happened to him . Thank you, Mikiya .
I’ll talk to you soon . ”
I put the receiver back on the phone quickly, not sparing any more
second than I have to for my goodbye . Mikiya was right . This information
was relevant .
Miss Tōko’s last words before I left echo back to me now . Commanding
fairies as familiars is a fool’s game . It’s only a matter of time before they are
no longer fulfilling your wishes, but turn you into fulfilling theirs . Be wary
of these familiars foreign to the mage’s soul, Azaka . They can just as easily
turn you into their own chattel .
Foolishly, in my rush to find the culprit, and find out what class D was
truly hiding, I’d missed the basic questions that I still lacked . The reason
Kaori Tachibana was driven to suicide in the first place, for example, which
Mikiya had handily supplied .
Misaya Ōji had said that the fairies only make away with memories still
alive in one’s mind, but never the forgotten records and emanations of
such memories . But who drew these records from oblivion and gave them 
form through the letters that circulated with the students? And given the
new knowledge that Mikiya generously shared, that question now begs
another fundamental mystery which I had forgotten .
Who had taught Misaya Ōji how to manipulate her Art?
“Thank you, Mikiya . I’ll talk to you soon . ” Having left Mikiya with just
that little bit of pensiveness, the phone immediately cuts off .
“Azaka?” Mikiya tries to ask, but he knows an answer isn’t forthcoming .
He shakes his head in disappointment as he puts the phone receiver back
in its place . He gets the feeling that this is terribly more complicated than
he’s been led to believe, and he just doesn’t know about it . He returns to
take a seat behind his desk .
It’s January 6, just after midday, and no one else is present in Tōko
Aozaki’s office save for himself . Tōko herself is out on her own excursion,
but Mikiya was supposed to be on leave today anyway, so his being here
is not entirely proper . But of course, since his sister, Azaka Kokutō, and his
friend, Shiki Ryōgi, are tangled up in some new case, he has to be here and
keep watch on the phone . Not for the first time today, he worries at why
those two should have tackled a case so early in the year .
He hasn’t the vaguest idea what the case is even really about, or any
word if it’s safe for the both of them . He didn’t really ask anyone outright
if the two were going on another investigation, but a terribly annoyed Shiki
only mouthed it off the day after New Year, seemingly without any regard
to any kind of secrecy Azaka had made her swear to . Then that was that .
According to her, she was supposed to pose as some kind of prospective
new student in Reien, which would be their cover story to investigate the
place . It was only a few days after that when Shiki called from Reien and
asked him to look up Hideo Hayama and Satsuki Kurogiri .
Mikiya first heard about the dormitory fire in Reien in October last year,
and it was from that point that he started developing the curiosity to look
into it, but he’d only assembled any coherent set of documents from the
thing today, which, combined with his fretting over his sister’s safety of
course meant that he hadn’t really had a wink of sleep .
“Well, I guess as long as she’s near Shiki, she’s relatively safe,” he says
to himself as he stretches his arms out above him . So what should he do
now, then? Sleep is starting to sound like a really good idea . And just as he 
thinks it might not be the right time for him to sleep when Azaka might call
back at any moment, he finds his eyelids heavier than he had anticipated
and quickly falls into deep slumber .
A dream takes Mikiya back to a moment only a few days ago, after New
Year . Shiki had shown him the uniform Azaka had expected her to wear
going into Reien . Outraged at how ridiculous she thought it looked on
herself, she dragged him along with her to complain to Tōko, who, upon
seeing it, only said one thing .
“Splendid . ”
Whatever was so splendid about it seemed to escape Mikiya, and obviously
Shiki as well . She had made it a point never to show herself to him
wearing that again until she left .
“You’ll catch a cold sleeping on that desk, Kokutō . ”
“I’m awake!” Mikiya responds reflexively, instantly waking himself and
looking around the room at who had just said that . He spots the wall clock
first, though, which shows the time at three in the afternoon . As soon as
the fact that he had just spent two hours sleeping on his own desk dawns
on him, Mikiya suddenly feels much colder . It was his own fault to start
sleeping here lacking any sort of heating at the height of winter .
“Miss Tōko?” he says, finally laying his sleepy eyes on the woman walking
across the room . “When did you get back?”
Tōko Aozaki, still in her trench coat and with a cigarette pressed between
her lips, stops beside Mikiya . “Just now,” she answers . Her long face looks
like she’s starved for any kind of entertainment . It looks as if today’s date
with cousin Daisuke ended on some note of failure .
“You seem bored, ma’am . ” Mikiya smiles, thinking he can get away
with a few snide observations with Tōko looking the way she does . But her
answer is contrary to what Mikiya is expecting .
“No, not bored really . He was kind of dull, but I wasn’t bored by him or
anything . ” And that is the only assessment she gives of how the day went
before reaching into her coat pocket and bringing out a can of coffee and
placing it on top of Mikiya’s desk with a comment . “Little present I got you
for watching the office . ”
An…economical present, Mikiya thinks, but one that he is nevertheless
grateful for thanks to the coldness that took over his body while he slept .
He manages a small thank you before he quickly breaks open the can’s tab .
Tōko suddenly spots the thick stack of documents placed on top of Mikiya’s
desk and grabs one of them while wearing an even more bored look on her
face .
“Oh, those are just some stuff Shiki asked me to look up about some of
the faculty in Reien . I don’t think you’ll find it riveting literature . ”
“Probably not,” responds Tōko with a nod, but still she starts to flip
through the pages . For a few seconds, she retains the uninterested look
on her face, but stops right at the page with Satsuki Kurogiri’s photograph
stapled to it .
“Godword . ” Her voice is a surprised whisper, and after she speaks that
word, her mouth remains ajar enough to let the cigarette previously affixed
to her mouth to fall to the floor . Her eyes suddenly open like she’s seen a
ghost . “I can’t believe it,” she finally mutters . “The spell weaver that the
Ordo Magi have run themselves ragged trying to hunt down is posing as a
high school instructor, here? This must be some kind of joke for the Master
of Babel . ”
She takes on the ragged smile of any person who knows that she stands
to lose as much as she can gain, a smile lacking in scorn but with plenty of
the potent mixture of dry caution and calculated risk of the next precipitous
choice .
“Satsuki Kurogiri? A mage?” Mikiya asks, incredulous . Tōko gives him
a quick glance before going back to reading the document intently . Still
wearing her madly unleashed grin, she takes her seat behind her own desk .
“The Mother Superior didn’t bring along a photo with her request .
Leaving this one to Azaka might have been a mistake . I could have…no . If
I’d went, my memories would only have been stolen . ”
Not understanding what Tōko’s halting words mean, Mikiya can only
shrug, concluding only that she referred to stolen memories as probably
one of her more colorful and obscure metaphors . Still, from what he can
gather, this man seems to have been more dangerous than Tōko had originally
anticipated, and it inspires more questions from him .
“If this guy is really a mage, then Shiki and Azaka have their necks on the
line being so close to him . Miss Tōko, I need to know if he poses any danger
to either of them . ”
“Not likely . If the rumors are true, Godword doesn’t plan on harming
anyone, at least not intentionally . He is no mage, for one . He hails from no
dynasty of magic, nor does his soul bear the lucky spark that animates the 
Arts of a few lucky individuals, such as Azaka . But just as Azaka can do no
more than control the flames, his one particular gimmick is the command
over language . It seems to be an ability outside of what is documented in
the Arts of the magi dynasties, but he claimed it when he was but ten years
of age .
“My mastery of the arcana of the Runes at twenty years of age is often
considered early, but there have been those who reached it earlier . One
of those individuals, a man who studied in the Collegium of the African
Atlas Mountains, I have not personally met, though all Collegium know his
names and titles . The Master of Babel, Godword Mayday . The only weaver
of an Art so potent and ancient, it borders on mythic sorcery . ”
She snickers, as though she was suddenly privy to some cosmic secret .
Mikiya knows that she is spinning the words as much for herself as for him,
and somehow, that makes it all the more unsettling .
“No one truly knows what Godword’s real name is, and even those who
knew him in his Collegium are limited . Few ever see him in person . But his
face and magic are known to all who claim allegiance to the traditions of
the London Ordo Magi . You see, Godword’s Art is fairly obvious to derive
from his title: he speaks the high speech, the mythic Adamic language . The
words still hold power over reality, and they tap a consciousness embedded
in every human being, rendering it comprehensible by anyone . There
is no word he does not know, no dialect he is not privy to . Though he hears
himself as only speaking one single language, anyone who hears him hear
it how their paradigm manipulates them to . Even you must know the story
of the Tower of Babel, Kokutō . ”
“Yeah, the same thing that Pieter Brueghel painted, right? A tall, spiral
tower almost reaching heaven, where they planned to build a temple on
top so that God could talk to them easier . But God saw that as hubris and
struck down the tower, and so men could never repeat the same thing,
he created the confusion of tongues which scattered people all over the
Earth . ”
“Indeed . The old Babel story from the Bible . Other extant sources
point to similar stories, and there is always what they call the ‘confusion
of tongues . ’ God made to scatter humanity, but not through the complex
physicality of skin or race, but through simple language . After all, the largest
difference you notice between Japanese and foreigners isn’t the color
of the hair or the eyes, but simply the constructions of our grammar and
words, correct? It forms a continual barrier of understanding . The reasoning
of God goes that because of this barrier, mankind will never again build
such a towering edifice . But over time, mankind grew, and prospered, and 
globalized, and eventually, the barrier of language became somewhat lax .
“What now for the confusion of tongues? Such a judgment was made in
the time when humanity still felt their gods, in the mythic ages . This was
a time when our mysteries were not yet mysteries, and the Art was the
consensus, and therefore common, and when mighty sorcerers wielded
great powers from the occult phases of the moon, and the jealous tides
of stars, which made the world overflow with mana . So it was taught to
us, at any rate . Godword is a constant reminder of this . Before the confusion
of tongues, there was but one, formless, high speech, through which
everyone understood all, and when men spoke to the anima mundi and its
creatures as surely as they did each other . Then God gave us the debased
tongues, stealing from us the promise of wisdom he had once so readily
granted . Godword is the only known one able to reproduce this universal
language, and work his Art through the high speech . He communicates to
all men, a channel through which that demiurgic force, that ultimate origin
passes through . That his lack of talent for magehood prevents him from
truly using it dangerously is a blessing for us . ”
In contrast to Tōko’s sinister smile, Mikiya sports a troubled and confused
look . He doesn’t know if he truly understands what Tōko is trying to say,
seeing as she has forgotten, yet again, that he isn’t privy to the mystical
aspects of her trade . Still, he knows enough to parse it in something that
his mind can understand .
“So in other words, Satsuki Kurogiri can speak to anything?” he asks .
“Mostly . The universal language is not as universal as it once was, and
though he can speak to a beast, and it will understand him, the beast
cannot convey his thoughts in the same way . People will also return to him
the language that they speak . ”
“So what’s so special about that? If they can’t talk back to him, isn’t he
just kind of talking to himself?”
“If the medium of words is used, yes . But the man is different . He speaks
not truly to men and beast, but to the soul in them that still contains that
last connection to something higher . There is always a part of us that is
culled from that primeval spiral of origin, and when the high speech speaks
to the soul, our fallen selves are compelled to obey . To deny it is to ontologically
deny the very structure of reality, and thus impossible . An absolute
language, that starts from statement and then proceeds to become
truth . It is the ultimate form of hypnotism . He accesses the Akashic Record
unconsciously, and through the high speech, taps into it to channel his
will . It’s how he draws forth the memory, not from your mind, but from
the Record of things past that reality still contains . Truly a spell worth the 
Academia Seal that’s been granted to him . ”
Tōko leans back heavily on her seat with a heavy sigh, and Mikiya
wonders if she is finally satisfied .
The Academia Seal . A mark of recognition and uniqueness that the Ordo
gives to mages or spellworkers that have a talent so rare it hasn’t been
seen before, or indeed, is not expected to be seen again . For the preservation
of these abilities, they seek to contain these individuals . Though the
Ordo considers it a high honor, the affected party hardly ever thinks so,
since his use is now eternally as a subject of study . Mages trapped in this
way have no more opportunity for study, no more time for the quest for
ascension that defines every mage . Thus, most mages marked with the
Academia Seal make haste to separate themselves from the Ordo, and
Godword is one of a number of such apostates . If the Ordo knew about
Godword being here, it would only be a short while before he is eventually
caught . But Tōko Aozaki cannot resort to this measure . Will not . She had
risked her independence and owed the Ordo after that incident with the
Ōgawa Apartments in November, and she was not so keen to do the same
thing again .
She stares up at the ceiling blankly and thinks . As long as Godword is in
Reien, Shiki and Azaka are always in some measure of danger . Still, Azaka
was the one looking for a showdown, and she would never forgive Tōko for
denying her this opportunity .
“It’s the benches for us for now, Kokutō . I don’t think it’ll be anything
serious anyway . ” She declares with finality as she finally slips a new cigarette
into her mouth and lights it . Mikiya looks at her with an eyebrow
raised .
“Are you sure? If I understand what you’re saying, which might not be in
the realm of impossibility, Satsuki Kurogiri sounds fairly dangerous . You’re
really not going there to help, ma’am?”
“I already told you he’s not the one to harm anybody . His Art isn’t even
polished enough for him to use it as any kind of attack . His isn’t the kind of
Art that Shiki and Azaka cultivate . He can only make other people’s desires
come to fruition . And he’s only here for that vaguely defined goal that he
always seems to chase after . ”
“Which is?” The simplicity of Kokutō’s question makes Tōko think back
on when she assigned this case to Azaka . The incident of forgotten memories,
lost to oblivion, does indeed sound like the handiwork of Godword in
retrospect . But what’s done is done . Who was to suspect that one of the
Ordo’s best sport would be hiding himself in an academy in a backwater
“It’s a goal that’s fairly simple, inconsequential even . It’s…well…I
suppose you could call it eternity . As long as he has that power, he’ll always
chase after shadows incomprehensible to us, but valuable to him . It’s like
a bittersweet mirage to him, and the chase will last a lifetime and more . ”
She takes a long drag from her cigarette, and then breathes out the thick
gray smoke . “He’ll never get it, though . Even though he can find eternity
everywhere he looks . ”
The smoke from the cigarette wafts toward the ceiling, catching the light
in a hazy pattern that tells of some obfuscated mirage .
/ 6 • 83
/ 6
The ashen tint of sunlight, filtered through the myriad colors of the
stained glass windows, grant the chapel interior a sort of delirious quality
that touches over everything; over me, and over Satsuki Kurogiri, standing
there at the center of it all with that silly smile on his face, looking straight
at me without any truly lingering good or ill-will .
“Oho . What business brings you to the chapel at this hour, Miss Ryōgi?”
His tone is not to fault me towards my brazen entry of the place, but a plain
question, which makes it all the more suspicious . For a moment when I
entered, I thought it was Mikiya standing there beside the altar, and it was
enough to bring an awkward stop to my feet . But I regained my senses in
time to pull the knife from the back pocket of the uniform, and have it at
the ready at my side by the time we had faced each other . Now he looks
darkly at the fine, scalpel-like blade, perhaps not knowing what to make of
it .
“Best put that away,” he says . “You could hurt somebody with that . ”
Said with all the grace of an instructor gently guiding his pupil . I ignore
him, still scanning the chapel for signs of any other presence, but though
the place is darkened, I can’t place any suspicious shadow or glint . The
female student that I had chased here doesn’t seem to be present, and no
one else is visible save for Satsuki Kurogiri himself .
“Would you happen to know where Misaya Ōji is, sir?” I say, stopping my
survey of the place and looking back on the man standing before the altar .
Satsuki Kurogiri’s eyes softly cast themselves downwards .
“Miss Ōji is not here . But it is me you are looking for, is it not? Because
it is me collecting the pieces of scattered oblivion in this school, not her . ”
He smiles again as he says it . Somehow, I easily believe it is no lie . He’s
the culprit, the real one, and it is a truth that is so easy to accept without
mystery or reservation . Somehow . It almost feels like a given truth, long
known and strangely compelling .
“What the hell does that mean?” Well, so much for the gentle student
façade . Though I think at this point, its usefulness has long past . I stare at
Satsuki Kurogiri sharply, and he welcomes it with a fittingly guilty chuckle .
“It means what it means . I am the one you’ve been seeking, though I
admit the fae you killed is not mine . You are still a blank slate to Misaya
Ōji, and she has some interest in you . Her false fae can do little of value to
you, yet she insists on facing you with it . Though it is nothing more than
something willed into being with her Art, it is still regrettable that one had 
to die . ”
Again, the grief in his voice seems genuine, even as he closes his eyes
in seeming prayer for that departed thing . Still, I shouldn’t allow myself to
be swayed by such a stupid display of compassion . Azaka has gone on and
on about our observational role here, but with the enemy clear before me,
there seems but one thing left to do . I’ll—
“I think not, Miss Ryōgi,” he suddenly says, as if my mind was open to
him . “The mage of the fae familiars is not me, but Miss Ōji . In the first
place, it would be patently impossible for my skill in the Art to command
such an impressive number of familiars . The only one here capable of such
a feat is Miss Ōji . My talent lies only in the recording of words and thoughts
spoken, and thus, my role in this has little connection to the fae . And you
will not think me an enemy in that regard . ”
“Wha—” Again, his words have a strange ring to them .
“That having been said, it does not mean I have no connection to the
whole drama in general . Perhaps it would be appropriate for me to raise
Misaya Ōji up from her little failure this time, wouldn’t you agree?” His
eyes finally open again, and when I look into them, they have within them
some unchanging peace . “I did not intend to be as involved as I am in this
affair, but I didn’t count on you entering the stage so early either . Miss Ōji
was only to probe Miss Kokutō’s capabilities, but I suppose when I revealed
my hand, it was only a matter of time before your master sent you along
as well . Seeing as I drew you out, it would probably be best that I be your
opponent this time . ”
“Any reason you want to throw your life away so easily? Don’t see any
reason for you to step into my blade at such a ready attitude . ”
“Perhaps . I wonder what it is you feel about the memories you have
locked away deep inside you . Do you refuse them as you refuse me, or do
you want them back? The plundering of the memories was Miss Ōji’s role,
and mine was the drawing out of memories lost to oblivion . Both of you
chase Miss Ōji, thinking to end this confusion, and yet here you find me,
with a hand ready to grant what it is you might wish most fervently for . ”
I don’t move . I don’t even blink . There is some truth to what he says .
I don’t think that having my hands back on the lost memories would be
anywhere close to my liking . So far, my somewhat overzealous reaction to
the fairies has probably been due to this, and why I’ve been so hard up for
finally getting rid of Misaya Ōji one way or the other . Though the target’s
changed to Satsuki Kurogiri, little about what I feel has changed .
But there is none of that familiar feeling, none of that impulse telling
me to take a step forward . No sense of danger emanating from this person 
/ 6 • 85
before me . Odd . I know he’s the enemy, but I remain unimpressed . And
as soon as I notice that strangely foreign feeling, I feel a cold chill down
my spine . But it is still not that crisp clarity of purpose that tells me to kill .
Maybe…maybe I don’t really need it .
I ignore the chill in the small of my back, and I use the Eyes to take a
clear look at Satsuki Kurogiri and his weird-ass smile . And with the weaving
of the spell, the black lines of death come into view, tracing themselves
all over his body like the calculated positioning of a spider web pattern,
twining into itself with the complexity of a fractal . The sheer number of
them only tells me that his is a body already prone to death, more so than
anyone else I’ve ever witnessed . As the crazed ash tints of the sunlight
and the darkened, electrified crackle of the lines of death intermix, Satsuki
Kurogiri still manages to make a faint, almost mocking chuckle .
“You’ve woven a spell . The Arcane Eyes of Death Perception, I presume .
I claim the finite streams already travelled, but you see the infinite paths
yet to be trodden . I record nothing but the past, and you see nothing but
the future . Ironic that Alaya called me out here to deal with your past, eh,
Miss ?”
His eyes close halfway, seeming to glare at me suspiciously . But more
important than the odd little ways in which he carries himself, only one
word he said catches my complete and undivided attention, and even the
mention of it goes some way to partially explain the mysterious brand of
hostility that I have been feeling in my mind since I came in here .
Alaya . There is no doubt he said that name .
“Fuck . You’re a mage, too, aren’t you, Satsuki Kurogiri? You are my
enemy, then . ” I grasp my knife tightly . Then the strange thoughts intruding
into my head ever since he started speaking were no coincidence . It’s his
spell, no doubt .
Then there is little else to think about .
No more debate .
Killing him will make it all right again .
Killing him will end all of this .
And at the end of reason, though I do not see myself, I feel in myself the
urge to laugh .
For a heartbeat, he looks much like Mikiya would . Another heartbeat,
and I remember that he is a mage, on the same side of the boundary as
I am, separated from the teeming masses, but together with me in the 
world of secrets and lies . I keep myself from leaping with reckless abandon,
from attacking to tear his throat and taste the still warm blood . There are
methods for this, a bit of planning to not underestimate my opponent . As
soon as there is an opening, I’ll pounce, close with him and stab him vertically
through the base of his throat, drag the knife downwards to his belly
in one bated breath and finish it all in an easy three seconds .
But in my mind’s eye, though I see the limbs scattered and bloodied, I
hear another heartbeat . And then there is tension . My breathing quickly
becomes ragged, and my hesitation is clear .
“That is not what you will do, Miss ,” the mage says with an air of
authority as if to emphasize a point . I should be at him by now, making
him regret those words . But instead, they somehow hold me in place,
preventing me from performing an action that something inside me tells
me is purely wrong, even as my mind says everything about it is right . The
murderous urge I usually ride isn’t coming for me, and I can’t bring myself
to attack him, this man who looks so much like Mikiya .
My throat dries, my tongue begins to numb, and it is all I can do to try
and fight it, preventing the fear from manifesting, and push myself into
final action . My body is unmoving, cadaverous in its paralysis . If only I could
blank my mind, I know I can dispose of these useless thoughts and move .
But I’m not .
“No, I can’t . ” The only thing which, with some difficulty, I manage to say .
The mage looks me over like a towering watchman .
“Good . You’ve stopped . You would have killed me if you had continued
on like you did . Once, you killed the murderous impulse inside you named
Shiki over and over again to grant yourself the illusion of a normal life .
Now you find yourself trying to silence , and wanting to lean on the
shadow of that same voided part of yourself . But silence , and you will
return to the outer darkness from which you awakened from . Hmph . Alaya
said to me that you were brash, impulsive . But all I see before me now is a
cowardly child without resolve . ” His eyes wander away from mine . “Alaya
told me all about you, relied on me to draw you out . It is the worst kind of
comedy of errors that puts me here even as the man himself has already
been defeated . A shame . I had wanted to see what he could do with his
experiment . ”
Some seconds pass with him saying nothing, and he stands in front of
me, unblinking and unmoving like me, with no motion to run or attack .
The lines of death dance in anticipation, and my knife is still firmly in my
hand, its heat asking me how long I plan to stand and face him like this .
I can give it no answer . In the silence that falls over the chapel, only my 
/ 6 • 87
own wild heartbeats echo in my ear like a tolling bell, and it is not slowing
down . Unable to bring myself to attack, or indeed, even to quell my rapid
heartbeat, I decide to ask .
“Why are you just standing there, Satsuki Kurogiri?”
“The things that must be said have been said, and anything I say further
will be answers to your questions . That is how it goes, doesn’t it? If you
leave all this now, ignoring the strange paths that fate has brought together
for us, then I will leave you, unrelated as before . Decide to fight, and I will
defend myself . I owed Miss Ōji my help once, and that is finished now . I will
do nothing now except to abide by your desire . ”
My eyebrows twitch at his peculiar reply . What does he mean when he
puts the choice to me? Is his heart not in this fight? Then why did he even
trap me like this?
“So you’ll do what I want then? Fine . I never wanted those lost memories
returned anyway . ” My heartbeat races even faster as I say this, and I
manage to put a hand over my chest to try and stop the pain . The mage
looks at it curiously before shaking his head in a negative .
“That is not what you heart is saying . You’ve sought those long forgotten
memories for so long, and your heart here speaks the truth . It is to that
answer that I will abide . ”
Goddamit . He’s…not lying . But I only ever wanted Shiki’s memories .
The warm but painful memories of that old classmate . But never that one
last memory . Not that last memory in the freezing night, with raindrops as
cold as ice daggers on my skin—
“No . Don’t do it, Kurogiri,” I say, an unexpected desperation creeping
into my own voice . “I don’t want them back . I never…I just want to forget
all about it, alright? That’s what I want!” I mean, isn’t that why I forgot
about that night? Isn’t that why Shiki died and left only the worthless
fringe vestiges of that memory as a mark of his passing? I’d always thought
the memories would never return . He killed himself so I could be here,
now . “I don’t need your help . ” Inadvertently, I find that I say it with a crack
in my voice .
There is a small silence before a grin rises to his face and he answers .
“My mistake, perhaps . If that is your wish, then it will be granted . That is
the role I play . ” In his words I can find no malice or anger, no virtue and
wellness .
Tōko told me about the fae once before I left, about how their tricks were
not bound by our notions of morality . Only the impersonality of action,
as if compelled by some spiritual tell or obscure ban . This mage, with his
deliberate fickleness of mind and the arbitrary nature of his gathering of 
memories, strike me almost as fae . Why then does the man smile? Would
it be more right for him not to?
“You’re fucking weird, you know that? Even though you say you can only
follow what I want, I don’t know why the hell you’re smiling like you’re so
satisfied . I never wanted a smile . If you’re so intent on being a mirror for
what I want, then you can wipe that smug grin off your face . ”
“You are correct . However, I don’t believe I am smiling right now . As
I’ve told you before, I have never smiled . ” Though he says this, the smile
never leaves his face . “Everyone seems to see it that way, though . I seek
to carry myself normally, but Satsuki Kurogiri is ever the smiler . I’ve never
felt myself smile, Miss Shiki . Never even thought of it . I don’t understand
its merit, or why people do it . Joy never comes easily to a man like me,
and in that regard, I was similar to you, who once never felt truly alive . But
time seems to have settled that matter for you, hasn’t it? Shiki Ryōgi has
a future, a purpose . As for me, I have nothing else save the past, and it is
all I see within others . Just as other people need to consume something to
live, I am compelled to gather the past and reveal it . What happens after is
of little concern . It is all up to the person himself to judge what to do with
such memories, because I certainly cannot judge . It is not in my nature to . ”
The smile he wears seems to weaken somewhat, but it seems no less
real than before .
“Nothing else save the past? What does that mean?”
“To have no past is to be nothing but a blank . Regrettably, my nature is
weak, bound to old, eldritch fae . I cannot think for myself, and thus have no
dreams or aspirations . I am like a book, written with meaning by a writer,
but imprinted with the desires and meanings of the multitudes who read
it . The same weakness makes me recoil from suicide, and I have no choice
except to live . Only one thing ties me to some semblance of identity . The
granting of people’s wishes . I don’t do it to find good in myself, yet I am
compelled to . Like fate, I respond to the desires of men . I bring back forgotten
time . Isn’t this clearly a desirable outcome, Miss Shiki? I only return
what is rightfully yours . ”
“For you, maybe . But you just said it wasn’t for you to judge . ” I narrow
my eyes at him . I make my show of defiance, but inside me there is a
strange ring to his words . It’s almost as if they’re not stopping in my mind,
but continue to course throughout my body . Like the force that he says
compels him also compels me to give weight to his words above anyone
else’s . “Thanks for the offer, but the answer is still no . You don’t need to
send me a letter telling me what I already know . Lost memories don’t come
back . All that proselytizing isn’t going to change me . ”
/ 6 • 89
My heart throbs inside my chest and the hand held against it . For the
first time, our eyes meet, but his own looks at something farther, a hollow
black that speaks of some long held farewell .
“So even you are among those who would renounce their past . I simply
cannot understand how you, all of you, come to this decision . Why would
you renounce eternity so easily?”
“Eternity? Making people remember old sins and recording them is eternity
to you? Hilarious, is what it is . Where do you get off spouting things like
that? I mean, if people really wanted to preserve memories, let them do it
with a camera . Unlike mages, they never lie . ” The rhetoric seems to finally
pull down the smile from Satsuki Kurogiri’s face for the first time, and when
he speaks again, his voice has the seed of some conviction, however small .
“’What is material cannot in eternity lie . ’ An old truth, but still just as
correct . The stuff of this material world is not everlasting . Your Eyes tell
you that better than most . Anything must have an observer to give it
meaning, and the impression itself must not deviate, else it is not eternity .
Even you cannot tell exactly if what you saw in one day matches
exactly as you remember it . The observer’s mind is simple, and heuristic .
The new becomes old, and the color of wonder fades . In our minds, the
value of anything is variable and ever-changing . Entropy is more relentless
than eternity, and we are always tied to it . Eternity comes in no shape, no
form, an intent controlled by its beholder that can never deviate . Only the
record of things transpired—an accurate, omniscient record—can be such
a thing . ”
“Records can be changed,” I reply sternly . “This whole incident proves
that . I don’t think you can find your oh-so-precious ‘eternity’ anywhere you
care to look . ”
“Those are not records . Merely fleeting memories . Such things form only
the base personalities of men, and like memories, they too change to fit an
occasion, becoming little more than a dress one wears . You should know
this . The flesh and the mind can be molded just as easily as you change your
manner of speaking . ” The mage takes a step toward me, and it causes my
heart to jump . “The observer observes himself, and in turn is changed by
it, identity preserved only by the cognizance of the weight of time . There is
no such thing as a definitive personality . The records are the only seed of a
soul that has ever existed, and its watch over eternity is stern . It is the scar
that remains inside you even after yourself and the universe has crumbled
under the passage of strange aeons, ever unchanging . ”
“I have literally no idea what you’re getting at . ”
“Nor did I expect you to . You and all else like you cannot understand . You 
never get it . There is no memory that deserves to be abandoned . Whether
unconsciously or not, you all wish for the records from oblivion . I merely
reflect this truth back . ”
Another step forward from him, bringing him farther from the altar .
His awkward smile returns as he draws near . The heat of my grip on the
knife has my palm in a sweat, but it is a familiar and comforting warmth .
His meaningless tirade held only one important conclusion . This man was
never like Mikiya . He never had a pace so careless and indifferent . That
difference is all I can hold on to, trying to banish the unusual effect his
words have on me, even for a moment . A moment is all I need . It takes a
great exertion of mental effort, but I feel my heartbeat relaxing, the numbness
in my fingers starting to disappear . The effort strains me, and I know it
is only temporary, but it’s all I’ve got .
“You say you’re not trying to find good in yourself,” I say casually, trying
to will away the strain this is causing me, to maintain the illusion just a little
while longer, letting him come closer . “Well, I can’t rightly say you’re evil or
anything, just like you can’t call a mirror evil . ”
That was a patented lie . He makes himself out to have no choice, but
clearly Satsuki Kurogiri has the intelligence to weigh his actions . And even
then he has the gall to call himself harmless .
“And that’s what you think of yourself, am I right?” I continue . “A mirror .
So you can pretend that you’re not doing anything wrong . You’re just doing
what you do . But you know what you resemble more? The way you push
the responsibility to other people reminds me of some spoiled kid . ”
At this, his eyes gain a mad, almost fossoristic gleam . “You want to fight
me, don’t you Miss Shiki?” A cruelly twisted smile . “Then let us do so . It will
honor Alaya’s role for me . It would have been so much better if you actually
chose to just ignore me, though . ”
The mage adjusts his glasses slightly and dares himself another curious
step, the one step that puts him just in reach of one burst of speed, one
strike of the blade . Adjusting his glasses in front of me was the biggest and
last mistake he’ll make .
The mental block still makes moving difficult, but I manage to pump
strength into my legs to close the distance, raise my hand—
“Your sight is lost . ”
I hear his voice for a split second, and in that vital moment, it echoes in
my mind like an undeniable truth . The next thing I know, I see neither hide
nor hair of Satsuki Kurogiri, and my knife swings only at empty air .
“What the—” I swing my head around, left then right then behind me .
The chapel is empty save for me, and my senses, mundane or otherwise, 
/ 6 • 91
fail to find my target .
He was right in front of me . But now he’s gone . But unbidden there
comes a voice .
“Close . Very close . I do so hate people who interrupt other people
before they’re done talking . That attack claimed an arm from me . Ah, it is
no wonder now how Alaya was defeated . You are truly an excellent killer . ”
The voice comes from dead in front of me . The mental block he induced
in my mind still presses down on me, and makes it difficult to focus the
spell of my Eyes . I try to bring it to bear . If I can’t see him, then maybe I can
see his lines of death .
“But you cannot win against me . ” The voice enters my mind unbidden .
But it’s useless . I’ve seen the lines of death, right in front of me .
“Found you, bastard,” I spit out . I close as fast as I can, before the
advantage is lost, not planning on letting him get away . But before I can do
anything of value, he is gone from my sight again .
“Your Eyes will not avail you here . ”
The statement echoes confidently above and below the chapel, and
darkness rapidly begins to curtain everything . Through his words, I am
deprived of even the faintest light in moments, and become surrounded
by a world of darkness .
“Hmph . The first tongue has less effect on you than I expected,” he grumbles .
“The connection of both of our spells to the spiral of origin grants you
some measure of resistance perhaps . But in the end, the death you cling
so close to remains unseen . As does everything else . ”
His words burrow inside my ear, as if he were right beside me . I swing
my knife in a wide arc around me, left and right, but hit nothing except air
and a random wooden surface, maybe a pew .
“A pointless exercise . I have already told you that you can’t win . You kill
anything so easily, but you are brought low by simple words . Unfortunately,
you are spared a fate of death today . That is not my role . And besides, in
truth, I do not kill anyone . Not with words . But I can grant you what it is
you truly desire . ”
His last sentence makes me shudder faintly . My wish . The truth about
me that I never wanted to know .
“No! Stop it! That’s never what I wanted!” I scream as loudly as I can,
but the sounds are dead and fade into the darkness .
“Now, this lingering grief must be retrieved and returned to you . Do not
worry . Though you think it lost to oblivion, the memory repeats itself like
a record . ”
The mage’s voice is the sound of a rhythm, as excellently plain as a musi-
cian’s metronome, and mathematically perfect . I feel the rhythm of that
woven spell pierce deep inside me, and if I had a soul, it finds its terminus
there . Unable to stop it, he reaches to my core, to , and all I can do is
stare helplessly as his voice finds its passage, and I observe its work .
Records in Oblivion - VII
I head immediately to the high school building after I get off the phone
with Mikiya . The hour has just passed 1pm, but already the cloud-thick sky
overhead is filled to bursting, the sun barely peeking out behind the leaden
blanket .
“Rain is coming early today . ” I whisper . The cold winter air mixes with
the scent of the black pines in the forest and the coolness settles into my
lungs when I breathe it in . I suspect, under normal circumstances, the odor
would be enchanting, but now I can’t help but judge it as vaguely unsettling .
A few minutes later, I am glad to be out of the forest path and into
the high school building .
I walk the corridors, meeting no one else, the building’s desertion granting
it a desolate loneliness . Nothing moves as I traverse the building, making
my way to the English instructor’s classroom . When I arrive, I do not
bother to knock, simply opening the door to find Mr . Kurogiri sitting in his
chair facing the door and me, as if he was waiting, as if he knew everything .
He is smiling as though everything were normal, unsurprised by my unannounced
appearance .
My eyes wander to his left arm, hanging lazily like dead weight still tethered
to his body .
In an instant, I know exactly who is responsible for it .
“Shiki did that to you, didn’t she, sir?”
“Yes . ” Satsuki Kurogiri nods . “In appreciation of her skill in destroying my
arm, I let her go freely . Miss Shiki is unharmed . She should be awake within
the hour . I cannot say the same for this arm, though . ”
With the ashen sunlight spilling through from the window behind him,
Satsuki Kurogiri has some illusory, dreamlike mien, and the manner with
which he is at peace is in itself disturbing . I hold my breath for only a second,
and then exhale, deciding to ask the questions I have been tempted
to ask .
“It was you who troubled Kaori Tachibana, wasn’t it, sir?”
“Yes . ” Satsuki Kurogiri nods .
“And the one who made Hideo Hayama disappear…”
“Yes . ” The instructor nods .
“And the one who granted Miss Ōji her Art…”
“Yes . ” The mage nods .
“And the one collecting all our forgotten memories…”
“Yes . ” The man nods .
“So the story about you being taken by the fairies is true then . ”
“Yes,” he nods with a smile .
“But why?” It is the only question I can put to words . “Why you?” The
second question comes more clumsily than the first .
The eyes behind the glasses do not twitch one bit, or darken as he leans
slightly forward . “It wasn’t for me to put a purpose behind it . Whether it
be Miss Tachibana, or Miss Ōji, or Mr . Hayama, the only thing I did is grant
their true desires . As for why they wished such things, you had best ask
them yourself . I can’t answer . ”
Somehow, I know he speaks truth . The answers aren’t for him to give .
When Kaori Tachibana, in desperation, turned to Satsuki Kurogiri for
advice, he showed her a way out of it all that could only have come from
someone like her . The choice of salvation by suicide was hers alone .
When Misaya Ōji, in anger, shared her desire to recompense Kaori’s
death, he showed her the means to punish class D by terrorizing them into
terrified inaction, a means that could only have come from her . The choice
to learn magic from him was hers alone .
All seemed pure . None of it contained the ulterior motive one would
suspect of a mage .
“But gathering memories seems out of place for all this . All the things
you made people remember, none of them truly wanted . ”
“Is that so? And why do you think that, Miss Kokutō?” The lilt in his
voice contains little suspicion, as though the question was sprung out of
pure curiosity . All of this is the epitome of strange . I’d come to this room
expecting to finally confront the man behind the black curtain of madness
enveloping the school, but here stands Satsuki Kurogiri asking me a question
as though we had never left a classroom, him still the instructor, and I
still an eager student .
“Because I certainly never wished for mine to be taken away . ” I decide
to answer him squarely .
“Maybe . But you do not even remember the memory, so how could you
have even thought of it? It sounds suspiciously similar to my situation, Miss
Kokutō . ”
“What do you mean, sir?”
“It’s very simple, really . I am compelled to seek out memories so that I
can better understand people better . There really is no other way for me
to comprehend people other than reading the record . It is why I collect the
memories lost to oblivion . ”
He speaks as if talking of some long past event, and the way he leans his
head on his hands puts a pensive silhouette against the gray sunlight . His 
eyes that lack any sort of emotion stare at me with a curious judgment, and
I try my best to return the favor .
“I am seeking a less vague reason, sir . For example, the reason why you
begun to collect the memories in the first place . Don’t you only seek out
your own past?”
Immediately, Mikiya’s detailed report comes back to mind . I remember
the little detail about how Satsuki Kurogiri, at ten years of age, was supposedly
kidnapped by fairies . Upon hearing the question, the man lets slip a
low hum which I take for an impression of admiration .
“You surprise me, Miss Kokutō . You have done your research well, it
looks like . Yes, it as you imply . I had a run-in with the fae in my youth . After
that incident, memories have become difficult to place . The best medical
science had to offer couldn’t help, but the glamour that the fae influence
granted me eventually expressed itself in the Art, and I thought that it
could help me where the world couldn’t . So I tried to learn the Art in a bid
to reclaim my forgotten memories . If it weren’t for that incident, I wouldn’t
have needed to do all of this . ”
Far from anger, his speech is one of repentance and regret .
“Then why?”
“I have told you . Whatever eldritch magic the fae forced on my mind
compels me to do so . I’ve learned so much about the Art, but I am still a
riddle to myself . The mind never truly forgets, but only in intact minds . But
my memories are not simply lost to some temporary oblivion, but damaged
and fragmented . There is only one last way to reclaim them, and that
is to read the records of the pattern of reality; all the memories, one person
at a time . Fortunately, the fae glamour granted me an ability that could
allowed me the freedom to pursue that . But it is fast becoming fruitless .
No one can tell me anything about myself . And it separates me from the
rest of humanity . So I have no choice except to feed on the memories of
myself that people make, their own personal interpretations of me . That
this requires me to tap into the spiral of origin, the final goal of all mages, is
fortunate, and through it, I can see inside you for what you are, and hopefully
find something to put inside of me . ”
“And you do it by tapping into the Akashic Record?” I shake my head in
disdain as I say it . When Miss Tōko first told me about the Akashic Record,
the origin of everything, it seemed such a nebulous concept that I couldn’t
bring myself to believe it . The fact that she had tried but failed to reach it
had only served to help my stance . A collective record of all that has happened,
and will happen, given metaphysical being by the combined consensus
of all humanity, pursued by mages in a quest for ascension seem-
ingly designed to make them solitary creatures .
“But sir, if you can do that, can you not find your own past there?” My
voice weakens, as if it carries not only my words but this man’s own end .
However, he shifts his smile only ever so slightly, in a manner of observing
some kind of cosmic amusement .
“It is a certainty that I could . But I don’t . I’d much rather construct myself
from something new, such as the memories of other people . Tell me,
Miss Kokutō . Why do people forget?”
The sudden question forces a gulp in my throat . I hesitate to answer at
first, and then, “Because there’s a limit to how much our brain can recall at
haste . There are memories that need to be recovered faster than others,
and with the passage of time, the memories we don’t need only grow larger .
We need it, to bring a semblance of order to our perception of reality . ”
“Certainly the correct technical answer . But you misunderstand me . The
question was not how time chips away at our memories, but why we can
even choose to forget our past . Look at you, Miss Kokutō . You know what
you must say, but you do not relish the words . ” Mr . Kurogiri shifts comfortably
in his seat, the rays of gray sunlight behind him shifting with a wild
accordance to his movement .
Reflexively, I am forced to take another empty swallow of air . “We…
choose to forget to protect ourselves . Is that the right of it, sir?” At this
point, all the force in my voice has been lost . He’s right . Yes, of course I
know . He reads me so easily, and even just being here in front of him feels
as if I’ve encountered someone ten times my intellectual superior . I’m a
child again . I know, more so than most, that sometimes, remembering is
more dangerous than forgetting . The sins of the past are faintly recalled,
so all of us can claim the illusion of purity, so that we can judge ourselves
better than the next person .
“Quite correct . You all choose to forget the crimes, the taboo, and your
contrition, resigning them as a deeper part of yourselves that you can lock
away and never look upon again . They’re dirty and stained records, and
to look for them only brings pain . It is the same reason I am torn between
finding the truth of my past, and choosing to discard it . But it is that emotion
that I am cursed to feed upon, and so I return the records of those lost
memories to their owners . Everyone chooses to forget some past stain .
It’s not a sin . It is the only way we know how to live . It’s also part of what
makes us better than monsters . We are aware of our sins . But I find I cannot
separate myself from my past, but I know that if I return to it, I will
return to a world of uncertainty and constant conflict . Such a world is undesirable,
lacking the eternity I need . I grant the wishes of people to stave 
back that force of conflict, leaving them to exercise their freedom in the
memories that they’ve carelessly forgotten . If they commit evil because of
it, then the blame can be laid at their feet, not mine . ”
His words ring strangely . He says he searches for a past he desires in
the dormant memories of people, and through it he, inadvertently or not,
makes the person himself remember . He claims human agency as the reason
he does not sin when he does this, but all that only has the hollow tone
of a child’s excuse .
“And you still think that there is no evil in what you do, even if it clearly
results in more conflict and death . Don’t you think you’re deluding yourself
too much in your pursuit?”
“Yes . I truly believe in that fact . I do not desire anything, save for a means
to see a definitive conclusion to my predicament . ” While his declaration
does not strike me as confident, he grants it an air of unnerving naturality,
as though it was such an obvious fact that he is stymied by my ignorance .
But he has some measure of that ignorance as well . He thinks all memories
are forgotten because of some old sin, when that is far from the truth .
Some memories are forgotten only because they are not needed . Childish
illusions and images of things, like clouds as animals, or the horizon as a
reachable destination, are discarded as one grows older to make way for
the truth . These memories serve no more use in a world of adult perspectives,
except as humor based on a time of mere ignorance and shame .
“I pity you, then,” I say, surprising even myself with what comes out of
my mouth . “It is only right to claim back your own past before toying with
the memories of others . ”
Again, no reaction from him . “But how so, when it was the fae themselves
that robbed me of my memories? My memories about my time with
them must be confused, complicated, and I cannot truly hope to understand
them . ”
“Wouldn’t understand…?” I parrot back at him stupidly, frowning . What
does he mean by that? Since we have talked he has tended to refer to his
circumstances as distant, like it was another person’s troubles and not his
own . I don’t know from where that mannerism stems from, but…
“The fairies destroyed your memories?”
He nods . “Yes . To a limited extent . I didn’t lose myself . But they tied
me always to the oblivion of strangers, ensuring that even when I escaped
them, I’d never be able to go back home again . ”
And now, for the first time, comes a change in the face he wears . It is
not a truly big change, but for him, any change must be marked, as though
his face exhibited this sort of transformation in the passing of strange ae-
ons . The smile he wears is now warped, a parody of its previous self, reflecting
some dark image in his mind that he would rather forget, but still
finds some sick pleasure in returning to . He continues, the tone of his voice
changing slightly, though I can’t seem to detect what quality has entered
them .
“The fae took me as a child, yes . For what purpose, I can’t say . Maybe
they wanted to toy with me . Maybe they wanted a friend . I didn’t understand
them . All they said was they wanted ‘eternity . ’ I only wanted to go
home . I knew the stories about children abducted by fairies . Replaced by
changelings, never to go home again . I tried as hard as I could to cast aside
their words and run . I ran and ran, stumbling on the overlarge roots of the
trees, until finally, I slipped out of the forest sighting the open field that
led to my home . Only when I saw the house did I dare to look back inside .
And all I could see were countless corpses of little fae things, covered all
in bright blood . And when I looked on my hands, I saw it was covered the
same . And I knew then that the legends were true . That you could never
go back . They made me theirs forever . You can imagine what happened at
home after that . ”
The cruel smile never leaves his face . So he was gone—for three days,
according to Mikiya’s report—and comes back home covered in eerie
blood . The reaction he’d receive is clear enough . And that event would
inform everything that comes afterward . All its warm familiarity replaced
by a cold fear .
“So the fairies didn’t kidnap you—”
“No . It seems I killed all of them in some mad dream . And in return, I
was cursed with something I will never see the end of . My memories are
never truly lost . But I fear that when I have them, they will be alien and
unrecognizable as my own . And now, after that unfortunate event, I can no
longer recall anything I experience . Everything after that is no longer memory,
but mere information, and the world no longer images, but data . The
world stopped when I was ten, and though the how and why of it eludes
me, it is a curse no should ever be forced to endure . ”
He struggles to hold back a chuckle from escaping his careful lips . Satsuki
Kurogiri’s mind was altered by the fairies, making it so that he never
grew up from being ten years old . He says such strange things . Does he
mean something metaphorical or literal when he said that he couldn’t recall
anything he experiences? But that can’t be right . People can’t live like
that . No new history being created, learning nothing new . A blank book
where yesterday is written . If he is not lying, then everything repeated back
to him always seems to be fresh and new .
“But that can’t possibly be true, sir . I mean, after all, you know my name
don’t you? You know I’m Azaka Kokutō . If you cannot retrieve your memories,
then surely this wouldn’t be known to you . ”
He takes the repudiation in stride . “Is that so? You are nothing but mere
words to me, Miss Kokutō . You are recorded that way . When I look at you,
I see someone who closely corresponds to the recorded words, and so I
name you Azaka Kokutō . If someone were to come along that fit your description
as well, then she would also be Azaka Kokutō . There is nothing
wrong with this . I do not recognize you for who you are, but only a collection
of information: height, weight, structure, skin color, hair, speech, age,
and such . You are only Azaka Kokutō to me because you are the closest to
fulfilling the criteria I have set for you . Encoding, storage, and recognition
all work . Only the retrieval portion of the process is damaged . Of course,
this method will have its inevitable mismatches . A major change in your
appearance is enough to ensure that I recognize you as someone different .
The school has called me easy to forget because of this, and I am only
happy to let them think this . ”
Now the smile disappears from his face entirely, replaced by a blank,
straight faced expression . Somehow, it calms me . In his explanation, I think
I can see the reason why I’d thought he bore an uncanny resemblance to
Mikiya . Both of them put in nothing of themselves when judging another
person, willing to listen to anyone and give them a chance . It is only that
one single peculiarity that binds them, but also the same property that
separates them clearly . Satsuki Kurogiri only does it to find himself in the
memories and desires of others, and he is driven to hear and grant them .

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He is childish in his beliefs, and his inability to recognize his mocking smile
is a greater proof of that . He has no thoughts, no original ideas, unable to
understand complex concepts . That is why he can only know people by
collecting their lost memories . Like a machine, he reflects it back at those
who speak to him, and in a world where an independent will is necessary
for function, he is uniquely crippled .
“I pity you,” I repeat . “You’re never certain about your reality . ”
There is a pause, and then a silent, patient nod, and then, “But that is
enough for me . I do not feel that I smile . I see my five fingers, I know I move
them, but I cannot feel my arm as my own . My body too is just information
in the end . But we are creatures of the mind, aren’t we? Our mind is all
we need . The world we see is only stimulus in our brains . Reality is always
vague, and we can never be certain if it is all a lie . All of it is subjective . Our
Art that changes reality itself should be proof enough of that . All that we
can be certain of is what is inside our very heads, the mind and its soul that 
are outside of this material prison . But even the true reality of our minds
is corrupted by the curse of this fallen world . It is why the gathering of
memories so interests me . Through it, I can perhaps study the human consensus
that gives this world its power . But I always remember: dubito ergo
cogito ergo sum . We have no need for stable bodies and objective realities .
The soul itself does not dwell here, and nor does eternity, and there is little
meaning left in this fallen world, this simulacrum . ”
His face remains level, even uninterested at what he himself is saying .
He doesn’t really seem to be appealing to me emotionally, though at first
I tried to understand his plight . But his words tell me there is no person
in there, no man shaping them . Only some empty book moulded by the
memories he stole and the ambition of regaining his own through the Art .
But in the end, those memories betrayed even him . And when he switched
to looking into the minds of other people, he saw their “corruption . ” His
mind, not having left that forest since he was ten, turned to fear . He cannot
permit the corruption he sees, nor the corruption of the “fallen world . ” His
fear won’t permit him to . He is literally cursed not to think of anything else .
“That’s why you searched for your memories even after you knew it was
impossible,” I observe . “The fairies bound you to . ”
The man of the demiurge nods .
“A mage once shared to me his plan of ascension by recording the deaths
of all humanity . But I desire a world of eternity, because I love humanity
too much . But it is too much for me . I do not know what to think anymore .
There is too much noise . Everyone must be at peace, but they do so much
to throw it away . I cannot guide them to that quiescence . I only try to find
all the answers in memory, in the hopes that the shared history of humanity
can give me something . It is quite possible it will be fruitless . But since
the future holds nothing for me, there is no other way . ”
It saddens me to look at him now, a creature that cannot even begin to
realize that people forget the common answers so quickly . He believes—or
is cursed to believe—that’s what makes us imperfect creatures . And within
the contradictions of the people whose memories he has robbed, and
within the contradictions of his own shattered recollections, he has the
singular hope of finding the answer to that problem .
“I have only two questions left to ask,” I declare . His unflinchingly smiling
face seems to eat in the sentence .
“And what would those be?” he asks .
“You didn’t need to collect the lost memories, nor did you need to grant
wishes . Why did you do so?”
He nods in unspoken comprehension . “Simple enough . It is what I need 
to feel, at the very least, human . Though the fae have their curse, the granting
of wishes is an act I can own, an act beyond the fae magic . Do it enough
times, I figure, and I can start to believe I’m doing out of my own will . And
that’s what we all need to feel human . Without it, I would not have purpose .
It is the natural inclination of a mage, isn’t it, Azaka Kokutō? These
were the words you wanted to hear . ”
I sigh deeply, as the man who would grant people’s wishes and dreams
nods contentedly to himself . Before I move to leave the room, I inquire one
last thing, not as the girl assigned to investigate this whole incident, but as
Azaka Kokutō, the person .
“One last thing before I leave . What is Misaya Ōji to you?” My interest
and concern in this person has long left, but the answer to this question
will tell me everything I need to know about him . And perhaps I can find
the last bit of a person inside him . But the answer is just as I had thought .
“Miss Ōji is what she is . Does that concern you?”
“Misaya Ōji loves you, you know . ”
“A fleeting illusion, I am sure . ”
“So you harbor no love for her?”
“That is for her to decide . ”
Simple answers that nevertheless ring hollow . No humanity is in that
voice, but only a calm acceptance .
“And that is the will you value so dearly?”
“Yes, I suppose . In the end, she was not so different from the other students,
really . Nor was she exempt from my acts . No one was . But it was
Misaya Ōji that immediately suited my needs . ”
He says all this with the collectedness of someone relaying simple data,
but I am more concerned about his curious statement than he is . I take one
step forward at him .
“No . Don’t tell me—”
“Yes . Class D was not the only group I affected . All the people on this
campus bears my touch in some way . After all, it is not only class D that
contained a stain on their conscience that needed to come to light . You all
just haven’t noticed it yet . ”
But that’s absurd . If he’s echoed the sins of close to eight hundred people,
then he’s also reflected the wishes of just as many . Within that number,
there must be at least someone who hates Satsuki Kurogiri enough to
wish for his death . She might be on the move even now—
“Let me stop you right there, Miss Kokutō . There is no need to worry . If
someone were to move to intend me harm, then let it be so . Whatever her
wish, or whatever its outcome, the sin falls to her alone . Again, it is not for 
me to judge . ”
He talks as if to ignore his own death . It is not the words of someone
prepared to die, but someone who devalues his own existence .
“I…am mistaken, then,” I say nervously . Before, I thought this man could
do no real harm . But now I find that is untrue . The damage he does is far
deeper and more sinister than I’d ever tried to imagine . “You were never
like Mikiya . ”
Satsuki Kurogiri nods in seeming satisfaction . I turn my back on him,
moving toward the door . This place has already tired me, and my business
with him is done .
“That was a long interrogation,” he calls behind me . “Longer than any
conversation I’ve had, maybe . ”
“Not by my own choice, you’ll find . My mentor sent me here to run an
investigation into all this . And because Miss Ōji can’t be here to ask the
same questions, as I am sure she would . ” I continue walking toward the
door . I take one last look at Satsuki Kurogiri, and the expression plastered
on his face is an odd smile, seeming almost fake and stiff .
“Miss Ōji is in the old school building . He failed to enlist both you and
Miss Ryōgi to her cause, so she has been forced to hurry her plans . She
has gathered the students of class D in the building and plans to burn all of
them . Yes…you should hurry, if you want to stop her . ”
My eyes widen, and my feet instantly slam into action, breaking into a
run out of the room and the building . That final statement was, I feel, made
out of his own volition, and not through any fae curse, but I only notice this
when I am already well out of the main building .
Records in Oblivion - VIII
The rain begins to fall, first in a drizzle, and then in a more steady,
rhythmic pace that falls upon the stone and concrete, the wood and mud .
Nothing can be seen beyond the tree line of the forest that forms a perimeter
around this old ruin, but I stand here, little else save the trees in my
field of vision . The rain begins to get heavier, and starts to ruin my view of
the building, half a charred derelict that looks fresh and almost recently
burned, and the other half miraculously saved from further immolation .
The girls are all gathered in the fourth floor, asleep . But it will not be
by my hand that the hammer finally falls . I wait only for one of them to
start the cleansing fire herself . And I await only the cleansing rain to wash
over me completely . Standing at the mouth of an open wall on the second
floor, I see Azaka Kokutō emerge from the forest, her steps splashing water
around her .
I sigh, disappointed, and set out to the stairwell to meet her .
The rain drops cling to the black uniform robes, and the winter weather
makes them almost as cold as snow . Her breath is white upon the air, and
her shivers are barely suppressed . Azaka Kokutō tries to ignore all of this,
which she finds harder and harder to do now that she has finally arrived at
the old junior high school building . As with yesterday, she enters through
what used to be the building’s front entrance . The building still carries its
burnt half like a festering wound, still hurting, but the rest of it only gives
the impression that it has been abandoned a decade more than it really
has . The vibrant voices of the students, once this structure’s very breath,
are now only half-imagined echoes reverberating in the charred halls and
destroyed doors .
Now there is only the barely perceptible keening of something located a
bit farther from the entrance, and an offensive smell in the air . The moment
Azaka smells it, she recognizes it for what it is . Gasoline . That, along with
gunpowder, has proven to be the materials she has found a constant use
for in her practice of the Art, and she finds she has a nose for it .
“What a bother,” she sighs, both shoulders drooping as she does . “I’m
going all this way for a woman I’ve only ever met once . ”
As she walks, she retrieves a glove from her pocket and slips it on her
right hand . The glove is a dull brown, made from leather, given to her by
her mentor Tōko . Made from salamander skin, she uses it to channel her
Art, giving her an ease of control she otherwise wouldn’t have had without
it . When she finishes putting it on and flexes the fingers of her right hand,
she reaches the stairwell leading to the second floor . She stops immediately
upon looking up, for there, waiting in the landing, is Misaya Ōji .
“Is obstinacy your defining quality, Miss Kokutō?” she asks, her tone of
voice the gentle suggestion of the helpful classmate teaching a favorite
friend . Her posture in the darkened landing, however, speaks otherwise .
Her stance is wide and steady, prepared and looking down on Azaka . The
air around her buzzes, filled with the keening sound Azaka had heard earlier,
and though she doesn’t truly see them, she knows it is the fairy familiars
that surround her, awaiting the signal from their queen to begin the attack .
The aura of imminent danger that Misaya Ōji clothes herself with has
not changed since their first encounter in this same building . Azaka recognizes
the position of disadvantage she would start with if combat were
to begin now . Misaya Ōji has the high ground, and the distance between
them too wide to close for the kind of combat that Azaka would prefer to
occur . As usual, however, she puts this in the back of her mind and tries to
talk to the girl looming above her .
“It’s a trait that’s served me pretty well . So I take it your plan here
involved some mental suggestion, forcing the students of class D to commit
suicide . ”
“Naturally . I have shepherded them here, but the task of the fire they
must perform themselves . Only then will they pay contrition for their sin . I
have had to accelerate my plans because of you and that other girl . Only a
few in the class are actually on the verge of suicide because of the predations
of memory and sorrow that have plagued the school, but you need
only one to push everyone else over the edge . ”
“Hmph . No one I talked with seemed too far gone to be marked as
suicidal, though, but that’s just my opinion . Still, you’ve prepared quite the
stage here . Conditions are perfect, and the atmosphere is fairly correct for
dying . A regular shepherd of unwilling souls, aren’t we, Miss Ōji?”
I shrug, but Misaya Ōji seems to misunderstand the gesture and frowns .
“But you came here for a reason other than the students, Miss Kokutō?”
“Oh, of course . After all, an unbeliever like me has no use for stupid
evaluations of crime and punishment like you have been doing . If it is true
that some of those girls desire to kill themselves, as you claim, then who
am I to stop them, right?” Azaka smiles, and Misaya Ōji can’t tell for certain 
whether it speaks of a simple ignorance, feigned or real, at the blasphemy
she just uttered .
Misaya Ōji narrows her eyes dourly . “Then what could you have possibly
come here for? Revenge against me, is it?”
“Fairly close, but still not dead center . I came here out of pity for you,
Misaya Ōji . ” As she says that, Azaka inspects the staircase that separates
her and her target . Because the building was made for junior high school
students, the steps are not that tall nor numerous . She figures that she can
clear the entire thing in two well-timed leaps if she needed to .
“Pity? For me?” Animosity starts to boil in Misaya Ōji’s dark almond
eyes . Azaka shifts slightly at that, careful not to provoke her enough to
dispatch her familiars just yet .
“Miss Ōji, why did you even talk with Mr . Kurogiri?”
“Because he is my brother,” she swiftly replies .
“Right, right . And who did you receive your power from?”
“That too was my brother’s gift . ”
“I see . When was it, then, that you recognized Mr . Kurogiri as your
“From the very beginning . ”
But no sooner have the words left Misaya Ōji’s mouth when she realizes
the contradiction, and her eyebrows twitch at the small revelation .
Her mouth opens slightly, hanging dumbly and letting go of a cracked and
hesitant breath when she realizes that she cannot reconcile the sequence
of events in her mind . Azaka sees this, allowing the faintest hint of a smile
to play across her face .
“Well, that’s how it is, Miss Ōji . You didn’t go to talk to Mr . Kurogiri
because he was your brother . You went to him first and foremost because he
was the homeroom instructor of class D . And it wasn’t strictly to consult on
the matter of Kaori Tachibana either . You’re the most powerful student on
campus . You could have reached Hideo Hayama and talked to him directly
even without Mr . Kurogiri’s help . And afterwards, Hideo Hayama just turns
up gone, likely dead . In your wisdom, you probably tried to pass it off as an
unfortunate accident, like most confused killers do . But it doesn’t change
the fact that you killed him . And because it troubled you like nothing else
before, you went to talk to Mr . Kurogiri . And he was only too happy to help,
wasn’t he, Miss Ōji?”
Misaya Ōji keeps her silence, her eyes fixed on the empty air before
her as if some horrific and unseen shadow only she beheld stands before
her, forgetting the troublesome student standing at the foot of the stairs
and retreating into her thoughts . She goes back to the thoughts of her 
supposed brother, and she wonders when it was that she started to dress
the role for that persuasive man . It could not have been when they first
met . And besides, how could she remember? She does not even know her
brother’s face . Only one possibility is left . She had used the fairies to plunder
him of a memory . And something in that mind touched by fae changed
her and what she saw in the man . It awoke latent memories, assigned him
a role to play in her life .
“I—I was…” Misaya Ōji cannot finish .
“You never knew . It was never by your own memories that you saw Mr .
Kurogiri as a brother . It was through his own memories that you came to
that realization . A stranger’s memories, where no truth of your own can
be drawn . He made you see what you wanted to see, and it was no favor .
To him, you were the same as the fairies that surround you . As you exploit
them, so does he exploit you . ”
Azaka remembers what Shiki said to her yesterday as she found her
asleep in this building . Even then, she had already observed that Misaya Ōji
had been one of those afflicted with forgetfulness . Maybe she had grasped
upon the solution early and unwittingly .
“This…isn’t—” Ōji stammers, breathing hard as if she was drowning, a
glistening of sweat visible on her long neck . But with a single gulp of air, she
manages to find herself and her voice . “That is a lie!”
At that moment, Azaka weaves her Art as with their first encounter, picking
out the countless pockets of heat in the air . A flash of a moment afterward,
the heat of the fairies rush forward blindly, like they were responding
to Misaya Ōji’s outburst of rage . They consolidate themselves into a
thin line and speed like bullets toward Azaka . To her senses, the storm of
heat is as fine and dangerous as a naked blade, slicing downward through
the stairwell and toward Azaka below . But Azaka’s spell allows her to feel
exactly when they move, giving her just enough time to put her back flat
against the wall . She can feel the dangerous warmth of their flight on the
skin of her face, rushing past her with great momentum .
She wastes no time . As soon as the flight of fairies have gone past, she
puts strength into her feet and leaps up the steps of the staircase . She
only has a few seconds . Having deftly avoided the fairies that Misaya Ōji
had tried to use as a makeshift weapon, Azaka has the benefit of seeing
Ōji’s face of utter astonishment . She is up in three big steps, just slightly in
excess of what she’d predicted . She doesn’t stop, maintaining her momentum
and checking Misaya Ōji with a body blow to the abdomen so she can
sweep past her to the center of the landing .
She hears Ōji grunt when she is hit, but already she works the fair-
ies to redouble the attack . Azaka stops as soon as she is past Ōji, caught
between the tall girl and the fairies behind her that have not yet entered
the battle . Azaka senses the pockets of heat that she had dodged swinging
back around toward her, and the fairies only a few feet beside her start to
beat their wings and move . Exactly as she wants . Though the fairies are like
bullets, she will not be a foolish deer caught so easily .
Azaka takes a wide stance, then throws out her hands on either side of
her, toward the direction of both swarms of fairies, careful to avoid pointing
a hand to Misaya Ōji . “AZOLT!” Azaka calls out . The lorica echoes, and
she feels her weaving of the Art course through her, a magical ritual boiled
down to a single moment . The tingle of the temperature rising seeps
through the skin of both mages .
The next thing they see is the eruption of a conflagration as startling
as it is sudden, burning numerous invisible things in the air in a spontaneous
combustion on either side of Azaka . Countless shrieks of anguish, high
and tremulous, are heard until they all fall down silent on the floor . A few
seconds later, when Azaka is satisfied, she clenches her gloved fist, and the
fire extinguishes itself, the only proof of its passing being the smoke rising
from embers on the ground . Settling her hands back to her sides, the firestarter
sighs .
“This is the true face of the magic which you think you’ve learned,” Azaka
says . “But the Art is not learned . It carves your soul with truth forever, and
I do not see that mark in you . The Art doesn’t open to you in a month or
two, as you thought it did with you . But the contract you forged with Mr .
Kurogiri offers you a suitable substitute, doesn’t it?”
Lingering smoke still emanates from Azaka’s right hand, but soon that
too vanishes . Misaya Ōji looks upon her with an expression somewhere in
between amazement and confusion . Her legs finally give way, and both her
knees fall to the ground .
“So…so this is it…” she says blankly . Somehow, she finds in herself the
will to make a silent smile, wishing she had realized everything so much
sooner .
I talked to Hideo Hayama about Kaori Tachibana’s death, but it quickly
turned into an argument . I kept saying he was responsible . I blamed him for
everything . And he kept denying it . But I was right . I’m always right . I was
getting irrational, thinking that any measure might be acceptable . I recall
pushing him, but after that, everything is a haze, but it fades to me, facing
his still-warm corpse . And for the first time in my life, I didn’t know what to 
do . I sought the help of Satsuki Kurogiri . After all, talking to my father or the
university president would be suicide . But he…he had a presence to him,
like he could solve everything and grant my every wish . To a person like
me who valued only merit, this man of little attachment to anything was a
mystery to be solved . He could save me . And as I had desired, he gave me
all I needed to settle everything .
Satsuki took the role of the beloved brother I’d lost so long ago .
Satsuki made real the power I needed to pay back Kaori’s death .
He always said that clean hands need not touch that which was tainted .
Why did I never notice that it was not myself and the other students that he
spoke of? He said that in order to not be dirtied, one must use someone else
to do it for you . He understood then, as I understood, that all the students
of class D had to die to pay .
If only I had realized earlier that all will be the same in the end .
“If I had said nothing, all would have gone better,” Misaya Ōji whispers .
She is looking at the wall, but it seems altogether like she is looking at some
vast emptiness beyond it, paying no attention to me standing beside her .
However, I’m sure the words are for me to hear .
“I knew, but something kept me from remembering . I loved him, and it
made me not want to destroy the fantasy he crafted just for me . I didn’t
want him to love anyone else, and in turn I loved only him . But it would
always be a secret . Even if he thought nothing of me . ”
The story she recounts is an old one, for her and me both . And I have
to acknowledge its familiarity, sickening though it is . I could have said the
same words myself .
“I can’t live without at least acknowledging that,” Misaya Ōji says,
muttering it mournfully as if saying it out loud were the gravest sin she
could have done .
“Miss Ōji, you should know that it was Mr . Kurogiri that drove Kaori
Tachibana to suicide . He never loved you . Only made you believe you did .
The revenge you sought so much is meaningless to him,” I say without
bothering to think through .
“Don’t be foolish, Miss Kokutō . I told you, did I not? All of that was
known to me . All I need do was remember . ”
Hands and knees on the floor, she bends down and hides her face in a
position of prostration . I hear her making a noise, which I mistake at first
for laughter . Only when I look closer do I see the wet tears falling to the
floor from hidden eyes .
I leave her there, in the building where children once roamed, now only
as pathetic and lonely as she is . The rain that fell upon the forest earlier in
the hour has gone into a thick fog, obscuring the trees and hiding the path
back home in a dreamlike haze .
Records in Oblivion - IX
I dreamed of a memory when, as a child, I still lived in the family house .
I dreamed of the distant past .
We had a neighbor then . An old man, whose family had all left him,
alone in a little house all by himself . Dementia had long crept up on him,
and even remembering the events of yesterday was a rare feat for him . Yet
he was kindly, and warm towards us always .
I always maintained a distance from him, but my brother Mikiya became
very close to him . Perhaps the old man saw my brother as a way to forget
the loneliness, if only for a while, by talking to a boy next door . They spent
time talking about trivial things, but my brother would come home every
time to tell me all about what he had said as if they were the most important
things to him .
But the day came . It was suppertime, and no one ever truly saw it
coming . It was my brother that went over to the old man’s house that
discovered him collapsed on the floor, unwaking, and told our parents . It
was our parents that rushed to him, doing what they could, and it was them
who shook their heads when we asked the questions that must be asked .
We knew what it meant . The mood of the suppertime table strained and
vanished quickly . And inexplicably, I found myself crying for him . He had
endured ten long years without his family, only to pass away unthanked .
Even I, who I had thought had already hardened her heart, had to shed
tears for this man .
And if even I was brought to tears, I thought how hard it must be for my
brother . But he didn’t cry . His face betrayed only the faintest glimmers of
sorrow, but he didn’t cry . I thought at first that he was feigning a strength
that he didn’t truly have, even though it would be foolish of him to think
that a display of such strength would win him any favors .
Days passed, and not a single tear passed from Mikiya’s eyes . I found
him sitting by the veranda at night, looking up at a bright full moon . I took
a place beside him, and like him, looked up to see the countless stars . And
I asked him .
“Why aren’t you crying?”
“Who knows,” he said . He looked down at me from his height with an
awkward look . His eyes were pained but steady .
“Is it because boys don’t cry?” I asked, repeating the words my father
once said . But my brother only shook his head . “Why aren’t you crying?” I
repeated .
“I want to, but I shouldn’t . Because crying should be special . ” Thinking
the matter settled, he looked back up at the night sky . Even as I recall it
now, his face then was the closest he came to crying, but in the end, he
never did . He, more so than anyone, was close to that old man, and he,
more so than anyone, deserved to cry .
Because crying should be special . It casts a shadow over everyone who
sees, letting feelings of sadness slip in easily to all who witness it . It is a
contagion, an echo that worsens the grief . But it is still special, and private .
That is why he doesn’t cry . More than anyone I know, he would never
willingly hurt another, and he holds all the anger and grief he can carry
inside him for the benefit of others . If he were to cry, it would be for someone
truly special, someone truly personal . But for that understanding of
others, he trades himself ever being understood by anyone . Nobody understands
him for what he is . He must have been so lonely then .
And it was at that singular point that Mikiya Kokutō became someone
truly special to me . An important figure that I would struggle never to lose .
It was a night when the moonlight played wildly off the glass, and wheneven
the lights of the city could not hope to match it . And so, brother and
sister turned skyward to see that blanket of stars . And that is the image I
see every time . It is an old dream from a day that should be left long forgotten .
January 11, Monday .
Classes have begun again, and I’ve returned to the mundane student
life . With my classes done for the day, I hurry back to the dormitory to
prepare . Afterwards, I go the main office building to secure permission to
exit the premises for the day . The sisters greet me with stern faces of disapproval,
but they know I’ve never done anything to their disliking outside
Reien, and so, as always, permission is granted .
When I exit the main office, I manage to run into Fujino, spotting her by
her distinctly fine raven hair first and foremost .
“Going out again, Azaka?” she asks gently .
“For a while . I might not make it for curfew this time, though, so can you
tell Seo for me?”
She nods, promising to tell the message to my roommate . Satisfied, we
say goodbye to each other . Hurrying through the forest path with a quick
step, I eventually reach Reien’s front entrance . The guard leaves the larger
gate for cars to pass through unopened, instead opening the smaller side
gate for me to use .
As soon as I step outside the campus grounds, I see someone waiting
for me who I know all too well . His wardrobe choice never changes: an
all-black ensemble that makes him look like he just came from a funeral,
though I’m glad to see that at least the coat he’s wearing is a light shade of
brown . I allow myself a moment to calm my breathing and my voice before
walking up to him .
“Did I keep you waiting, Mikiya?”
He leans his head forward a bit, looking at me over the top of his glasses,
then points a finger at his reddened nose . “What do you think?” He smiles,
and I can’t rightly tell whether it’s genuine or sarcastic . “So, we going? It’s
only two hours before your curfew, so we’d best hurry . ”
He begins to walk, and I situate myself astride him, trying to lower my
heart rate by a few beats . We walk parallel to Reien’s tall fortifications as
we head to the nearby bus station .
This whole event started when yesterday, out of the blue, Mikiya called
me up . Apparently worried about leaving me high and dry during New
Year’s for Shiki, he arranged this to make up for the entire incident . A little
late to give you New Year’s money, I think . But hey, you’re a loaded girl
anyway, right? he had said . It was just too funny to keep being angry at
him, so for now, he’s forgiven . I told him that I didn’t need the money, and
that maybe we should just go shopping instead . When he asked me what
we would shop for, I couldn’t give him an answer . So I decided to sleep on
it, and now here I am, walking beside him, still lacking an answer .
“So, where are we heading today?” Mikiya asks . I cock my head to
one side and stare at him in puzzlement . “For dinner, I mean . You want
Japanese or a Western restaurant? I’ll treat you . ” Again, I cock my head like
a songbird .
Does he…does he mean he’s taking me out on a date?
“You couldn’t decide on anything yesterday, right? So I thought maybe
taking you out to dinner would be okay . ” I look up at him in astonishment .
Did he say anything about this over the phone yesterday? I don’t think he
did! “What, can’t even decide on a place to go? Fine, let me choose one for
you . Don’t worry, it’ll be a place appropriate for the fine, upstanding young
lady, and even the price isn’t gonna scare me off . ” He beams at me .
Does he really think that women are so easily swayed by meal offers? “I
shouldn’t be asking . I guess he does,” I whisper under my breath .
“What’s that?” asks Mikiya, but I choose to ignore him with a sigh . After
all, even if I complained, he’d still probably take me there . I fell in love with
him the same way, after all . I felt like it was the right thing—even the most
natural thing—to fall in love with him, abandoning what I’d tried so hard 
to avoid . Not too hasty, I repeat to myself like a mantra, in as low a voice
as I can .
“You sure do like to whisper conspiratorially, Azaka . There anything
wrong?” asks Mikiya . I shake my head in a negative . And for a moment,
all the world feels lighter, and all the questions in my head seem lessened .
“It’s nothing, really . Just swearing to myself not to screw up like some
other girl I know in Reien . ” I take his arm, wrap it around mine, and that
is the farthest I can go before anyone starts to ask questions that lead to
awkward explanations . With a slightly reddened face, Mikiya walks with a
steady pace . I follow his lead, travelling to the sparkling, shining city where
night is only beginning to fall .
And so, my New Year’s outing finally starts, even though it is a bit late .
And yes, I eventually do decide on some nice, extravagant Japanese food .
Records in Oblivion - X
After finishing his classes for the day, Satsuki Kurogiri heads back to his
room . The weather had maintained a fine cloudy firmament since morning,
and it cast the corridors of the school in the filter of a monochrome
portrait, and about as still and silent as one as well .
He opens the door to his room, taking in the sights of it well . It is filled
with little knick-knacks and assorted objects, books and tomes . But they
carry the air of having not been played with, or having not been used with
the intent of study at all . The books all look like they were as new as the day
they were bought, and maybe they have never been opened . Gray sunlight
streams in from the window, lending a façade of frozen time to the entire
place . As soon as Satsuki Kurogiri can confirm that all is in place just as he
had recorded in memory, he steps inside .
With a sharp thud, he closes the door behind him .
At the same time, he feels a sharp, piercing pain .
He lowers his glance, seeing only a Reien student standing only a head
below him . Somehow, he feels like he should know her . She holds in her
hands a knife, which she has buried deep into his stomach, the blade barely
seen .
“Who are you,” he asks weakly, though not in anger . The girl student
refuses to answer . Her hand trembles on the blade’s grip, and Satsuki
Kurogiri feels every vibration inside of him . The student cannot even look
up at the one she had attacked . He observes her .
Height, weight, hair, skin color, structure . As far as he has recorded, only
one student fits the bill closest .
“It’s you, isn’t it?” asks Satsuki . “You waited here to murder me . ” She
still refuses to answer . Satsuki offers her a shrug, and a gentle hand on her
shoulder in order that her tension would drop . “Then go . Your part in this
act is done . ”
The words, spoken without malice or hatred, even in the end, only
succeed in making her trembling worse . The disquiet in the girl is evident,
more at unease, it would seem, from the truth of his statement than from
act of assault she had just committed . A few more precious seconds pass
until the girl finally releases the knife, as though relinquishing it to the man
she had stabbed . She hurries away, out of the room .
Catching his last glimpse of her, he still cannot be sure who he is seeing
is as he assumed . Who was she? All the characteristics he had recorded
were correct except for her hair . It is shorter, he thinks, cut wildly and with 
little care . Still, something as broad a change as that means that for Satsuki
Kurogiri, the girl is as good as a stranger met for the first time .
Struggling, he closes his door, securing the lock with a satisfying click .
Every step he takes scatters a few droplets of blood to the floor, dripping
lazily from the wound where a knife still clings to . That last act finally saps
his last remaining strength, and he is forced to lean on the nearby wall,
his body sliding down slowly against it until he is sitting upon the floor . He
thinks that death will be of little concern, since he has long ago known it
would end with something like this .
He looks down on his weakened body . Ironic . He finds that it too is
different from the Satsuki Kurogiri recorded in his mind . Maybe that is why
death does not engender in him the kind of fear that grips most people . He
collects himself, even as the bleeding continues to worsen by the second .
He knows there will be no relief here, and that death will come in mere
minutes, perhaps ten . He sighs, deciding to use these minutes the best way
he knows how . But ten minutes is too short . What should he think, or feel,
or imagine? But time is a lesser problem . He is born now, and will die only
ten minutes later . A lifetime of minutes, perhaps more worthy than other
years walked on the good earth .
Think, he tells himself . Imagine . He consumes the larger portion of his
final minutes considering in this way, barely feeling the pain in his stomach .
And in this mysterious last lifetime of clarity, he is surprised he can find an
answer to his deliberation .
His breathing is rough .
The minutes are long .
The bleeding is dire .
The life is short .
He clears his mind from all other extant thoughts, and focuses on that
one answer so that he can tell it to himself .
“Maybe I will think of what I thought before I was born . ” It is the last
oblivion he can draw from, the time of memory that no human has . The
world before one was born, with no symbolic value, and no conflict . His
distress is a very simple thing . “If I had not been born, the world, and
myself, would maybe be a lot more peaceful . ”
Happy and content, Satsuki Kurogiri smiles . He fails to understand the
meaning of the gesture . But he understands the value of it now; realizing,
for the first time in his life, that he is actually smiling .
/ 7
The mage was right . You can’t die just with a word . But people do die
someday . Entropy demands that we die, disappear, and be forgotten .
Otherwise, the boundary between past and future will be empty and
meaningless . Reversing entropy takes a kind of energy we don’t have, and
so things gain value in their temporality .
But things can still lie eternal . Even if something is gone and forgotten,
the fact of its existence didn’t change . It dwells in the mind, always with
you, residing in its dark corners, awaiting only the right trigger to return .
Which is why the more I think about it, the mage trying to derive eternity
from the oblivion of memories seems to my perspective, like wasted effort .
Things left forgotten are never truly gone, and somewhere in you is the
truth…or what passes for the truth . That was already the kind of eternity
he was looking for, wasn’t it?
Now I know why Shiki made me forget the important memories from
three and four years ago . He knew they were just there inside of me,
perfectly asleep . And even if I can’t remember them, they are still there .
That mage knew that, but still couldn’t accept it, still couldn’t see how that
forgotten state could somehow be a good thing . The only thing he wanted
was to pursue his misguided philosophy . In the end, the eternity that was
as strong as his words came to be a reckless and worthless goal .
The morning of January 7 eventually comes, and I am glad that this
marks the official day where I take off the ridiculously restrictive uniforms
of Reien . Sadly, Azaka gets to stay in school for now while I go outside, living
the life of a free woman once again . I crumple the fake transfer request
form up and throw it in the waste bin like some kind of old cleansing ritual .
Azaka’s word to the Mother Superior should take care of everything else .
Happily wearing my leather jacket again on top of the blue kimono
Akitaka sent for me, I head to the front gate, ready to leave behind this
strange world of forest and stone . But as soon as I step outside the front
gates, I see someone waiting for me who I know all too well .
“So you’ve got nothing better to do than to wait for me to get out of
here?” I ask .
“A vacation day from Miss Tōko and her generosity . It’s not gonna be like
this all the time, you know . ” He shrugs . He does it exactly the same way . A
shrug that makes it look like what just happened was your fault . I remem-
/ 7 • 117
ber it with even more conviction now too, as I do the biting cold . And it
only reminds me that I hadn’t wanted to see Mikiya today .
I carry old memories now . Awkward ones . Maybe dangerous ones . And
being next to Mikiya while I haven’t had time to have even thought properly
on it only makes me more at unease . But maybe seeing his face might
be better than still being afraid of the entire thing . Maybe .
“Then how’s about we start our day with a good old waste of time?” I
suggest sarcastically . “I’ve got an amazingly worthless fairy tale to spin for
you, and I’ll let you hear it . ” I start to walk down the road parallel Reien’s
walls, and Mikiya easily keeps up, like we have been doing for the longest
time .
“Well, you’re in a good mood today,” he says as he looks at me straight
in the face . But my eyes dart downwards almost instinctively, and I try my
best not to let him notice it . I don’t know if it worked .
In the time it takes for us to ride back to the downtown area, I finish telling
Mikiya the whole deal about Satsuki Kurogiri and Misaya Ōji . We walk
for a while amongst the familiar streets and buildings, not going back to
our apartments, but instead somehow settling on an unspoken agreement
to head to Tōko’s office .
“So mostly everyone in the school had some kind of memory drawn out
from them by Satsuki Kurogiri, right?” Mikiya muses with an expression
of comprehension on his face . “But it was Misaya Ōji that wanted class D
to suffer the most, hence the letters . The other students had their secrets
revealed to themselves, but not to the other people that would stand to
be affected by them . ”
“Yeah, yeah, that I know . The real question here is how come it was only
Misaya Ōji’s stupid wish that resulted in the real chaos in the school?”
“Right . She had to have been special in some way for Satsuki Kurogiri
to go the extra mile for her . He only drew memories and revealed them to
other students . But for Misaya Ōji, he actually gave her the means to act
on her own . ”
His observation is correct, now that I think about it . Satsuki Kurogiri was
a mirror reflecting the desires of the students, but this wasn’t so true for
Misaya Ōji . “But why?” I whisper . Mikiya either didn’t hear me, or chooses
not to answer .
We walk in silence like that for a while, with me still refusing to meet
his gaze directly . The stroll is made just a little bit uncomfortable by the
cold air . It’s the kind of cold that really gets under your skin, no matter 
how much clothing you’re packing . After a few more wordless blocks have
been passed, Mikiya turns to me, brow furrowed and with half of a frown
formed in his mouth .
“Shiki, the truth is that Satsuki Kurogiri really did have a sister . ” He says
nothing more, and the reasons for him saying so he leaves only to speculation .
Whether Ōji was really his sister or not, only Satsuki Kurogiri knows .
And the irony is that, if what he told me about how his silly parody of
a “memory” works, the man himself wouldn’t even know . Whatever the
truth was, it’d be lost forever . Hah, again with this “forever” business .
“It’s definitely a weird story . I kind of feel bad for Satsuki Kurogiri, you
know?” I think I have to qualify that there was no lie in me saying that . His
situation with memory and feeling does, after all, resemble a certain girl’s
situation only a few months ago . Mikiya, however, fails to recognize this,
and only blinks his eyes in astonishment at what I just said .
“Huh . Even though he supposedly attacked you? Actual sympathy from
Shiki Ryōgi . Color me surprised . ”
“I’m not defending what he did specifically, you dunce . It’s just that
I…understand why he was so desperate, I guess . ” After all, how could
I begrudge him and his actions? I can’t fool myself . Those long walks at
night, travelling to dark alleys and narrow streets; I know what I was really
after then, and it was something altogether worse than just messing with
people’s memories .
“And besides,” I continue, “the guy’s kinda like you . ”
“Can’t say I see how that could be . ”
“Oh c’mon, if you read your name differently, it would be Kurogiri1
wouldn’t it?”
Mikiya chuckles . “Glad to see that your wits are still intact after being in
that place . ”
“Just a dead language joke,” I say, as Mikiya looks at me sideways,
perplexed at what I just said . When I catch a glimpse of his face, I can’t
prevent myself from laughing a little .
“What’s wrong now?” he demands .
“Nothing, man . Was just entertaining the thought of me killing you,
seeing as I didn’t get to kill anybody back there . ” I laugh again, and Mikiya
can only shake his head . I really can’t blame him . It is, after all, a very
strange pair of sentences I just said . “Don’t mind me,” I quickly add . “Just
thinking out loud, is all . And my thoughts tend to sound a bit less obvious
to me when I actually say them . ”
1 Mikiya’s surname of “Kokutō,” can be read alternatively as Kuro (黒) giri (桐), the
same way Satsuki’s surname is read, but with different characters (玄霧, Kurogiri) .
/ 7 • 119
On account of thoughts put into words, when meaning is lost and it
becomes a mere sound . When the mage Satsuki Kurogiri stayed a child,
and grew as one, he too lost the meaning of being an adult, thinking that
pure mimesis would be enough .
“If you say so,” Mikiya says with a shrug . “Besides, I’ve never hurt anyone,
let alone killed someone, so don’t expect me to relate . ”
Sometimes, this guy can be such an idiot . But at least he’s the bearable
sort of idiot . Having laughed off the last traces of my anxiety over the
returned memories, at least for the moment, I continue to walk beside
him, letting a smile rest on my face as I do . Before the both of us can notice,
night has fallen, and the moon, seemingly frozen in place, floats with the
stars overhead . In another unspoken agreement, we decide to forgo our
visit to Tōko’s office, passing through it only on our way to continue our
stroll, past unknown streets and winding alleys, through the dark circulatory
system of the city . In the idleness of our walk and in the midst of our
steady breaths, I find the willingness to finally meet his glance .
He might be an idiot, but I’m glad to be with him right now . The reason,
such as it is, is simple when I think about it . This is, after all, the first time
that I went out at night for a stroll with a companion .
boundary goetia
I need to beat someone up .
I don’t care who it is, but I’d prefer it if it was somebody I wouldn’t feel
any guilt over, and preferably done in a place where nobody can see me .
For a fella, I’m pretty shy, and I don’t want this ending up with me expelled
from school, at least not until I’m done .
After thinking on it for a week, I know exactly who to hit and where to
do it . It’s going to be a schoolmate of mine, a grade or two lower than me
probably . The blond-dyed kid looked at me funny this one time when we
passed the hallway . The place is going to be near an arcade he frequents .
Thinks he’s a big shot over there, winning in video games, and letting loose
with his fists at anyone who dares make him lose .
He doesn’t do it inside, though . Usually pulls the poor sap into the back
alley of the joint under the pretense of a friendly chat about the game
in order to force his recompense out with his fists, obviously thinking he
can wipe away his imagined disgrace by taking a swing or two at anyone .
That location pretty much takes care of the problem of not being seen by
anyone, and so no one is really able to call him out on his bullshit .
All is good . Conditions are perfect .
Weak people disgust me .
I’d mustered up enough courage to face her and tell her one day, only
for her to put me down with that one sentence as she left .
Maybe she was right . I’ve never been in a fight—a physical one—once
before in my entire life . I’ve just never had a fight escalate to that degree,
or haven’t been brave enough to escalate it myself . In truth, that is probably
why she had called me weak .
So it follows that I probably need to beat someone up to get rid of that
weakness . It is the swiftest proof of strength that I can think of, and since
then I’ve planned and planned for the moment . Hitting someone as hard
as I can is probably the last thing of importance I haven’t done in my seventeen
years of being alive .
And so, I began to draw the kid out .
It was already night when I went to the arcade, and he was already
there, like clockwork . I beat him in the same game, over and over again, for 
what must have been an hour . And when the time finally came for him to
pull me outside, I followed him out of the store, slowly, almost hesitatingly .
There is a show to this . A proper moment that appears only when he least
expects it . So he gives me a wordless eyefuck as I step out, his height lending
it an added effectiveness . This, in itself, is a development, since there’s
usually some amount of cajoling involved . There are no words tonight . He
leads me to the back alley as I follow with a feigned hesitation .
Alright . Calm down . It’s almost a given that he’s going to try and hurt me
tonight . Still, hurting him back gives me just a little bit of uncertainty . But
even that is soon willed away . After all, if he’s really going to hurt me, no
one can judge which is crime and which is punishment . He pulls me deep
into the alley, the light from the street barely reaching us .
“Hey,” I say dully, which causes him to look back over his shoulder . I take
the small wooden club from behind my back, hidden under my shirt, and
give his head as great a swing as I can give .
A crack, and then a dull thud as the kid falls to the ground flat on his
face like a ragdoll . A few moments later, blood starts to blossom from the
wound on his head, flowing down his scalp and into the concrete alley,
tainting the trash and discarded needles around his head . It only takes me
a few seconds to conclude that he isn’t moving again anytime soon .
“What?” I can’t believe it . I only whacked him once with the wooden
club, but that was pretty much instant death wasn’t it?
“What the fuck?” It is a genuine remark, provoked by the moment . I
mean, look at it . It’s an accident is what it is . I didn’t intend to kill him! It
isn’t murder, surely?
“I never knew . . . ” . . . what? That humans were so fragile, and that they
could die so simply and easily?
But this is the sort of thing that these kinds of people always turn to, but
why am I the one that ended up killing someone? They’ve always resorted
to violence, but this is my first time! How can this be even remotely fair?!
Am I just unlucky, or are these people just too lucky? Is there bad luck going
around for everyone?
I don’t know anymore .
I don’t know .
I don’t know!
I don’t know anything about this mistake, or this state of affairs, or the
question of whether this was a crime or not, or even the simple question
of how to proceed further . But I do know one thing . The police will treat
this as a murder, no matter how much I plead that this is an accident and
no real sin . Soon, they’ll catch me . And that will be that .
“No . I’ve never done anything wrong . It’d be wrong of them to just lock
me away . ” But still, the entire thing needs to be hidden . Thankfully, there
aren’t any witnesses to take care of . All I need do is hide this corpse, and
the normality of my everyday life can be restored .
But where to hide it, and how? There’s not a single place you can stuff
a body here without being seen . I could start a fire, but even that’s not
foolproof these days . Not to mention it would start a commotion here that
I most definitely do not want . Damn it all . If this were somewhere in the
forest or the mountains, I could count on the animals to just eat all of it
Just, you know . . . eat it, natural like .
“Maybe eating it would do the trick?” Man, the answer is so simple, I
can dance! I am such a genius tonight! Doing it that way means there’d be
little of a corpse to be found .
So then, the question is still “how?” There’s just too much meat . There’s
no way I can eat all of that meat alone before morning comes . Then, maybe
I should just start with the blood . Yeah, the blood .
I lean down on the body, letting my lips wrap around the kid’s open
wound, where blood continues to spill like water from a leaky plastic . I
begin to suck, and the thick blood is sticky upon my lips and throat . But
after a few seconds of it, I cough up all that I’d just drunk .
Goddamn it . I didn’t even drink too much . Sticks to my damn throat
and I can’t drink it easy like water . If I keep at it like this, I could block my
breathing and die here just like him . Oh god, what should I do? Can’t eat
the meat, can’t even drink the blood . . . My teeth are chattering as I think,
and I can’t do anything except shiver here like a pathetic loon .
I’ve killed someone .
I can’t even hide the act .
I’ve killed someone .
This is the way my life ends . In chaos and confusion with no easy exit in
sight .
“Why do you not take your fill until the very end?” says a voice that
comes upon me suddenly from behind . When I turn to see who owns it, I
sight a man wearing a black coat, cloaklike in its immensity . The long umbral
silhouette he casts inside the alley as he stands against the streetlight looks
of a cruelly made body that not even his massive coat can hide . His eyes
are gaunt and clouded, bearing the weight of an eternity .
“Do arbitrary rules blind you still, keeping you tethered from your true
nature?” he continues to ask, looking not at the bloodied corpse behind
me, but only at me .
“Rules?” I say in a whisper . Come to think of it, why didn’t I think
anything was wrong with just thinking to eat the corpse? I didn’t even feel
disgusted when I dared to drink the blood . What told me to put my lips on
the worsening wound, but feel nothing about it? I tried to eat someone,
which is probably a crime worse than murder by popular definitions . One
need only look at the number of killers who also decide to cannibalize on
their victims, and it’s obviously not a pretty high number . No, most people
wouldn’t even think of it . Obviously because cannibalism is such a strange,
alien act .
“But I thought it was the natural thing to do,” I find myself saying inadvertently .
“Indeed . This means you are special, for you to have chosen such a
course of action after a murder . Most would have already run, confused
and pathetic . But you faced your act in your own manner . Even if it is a
manner that decidedly breaks from the consensus, it is an act from which
you cannot be blamed for . ”
The man in the black coat takes a step inside the alley, a step toward
me . Why do his words sound so sweet, almost making me forget that he is
a witness to my crime?
“Me? Special?”
“Yes . Consensus has no hold over you . A reality of rules binds those who
deviate, their acts called a sin by men of ignorance . But to the deviant, his
is the most natural thing in the world . So where is evil in this equation?”
He nears me, placing a hand on my head, and I do nothing to stop him .
Deviants and lunatics and degenerates and fools . I am none of those
clueless men . But still, if I am truly mad, there was nothing I could do about
killing the kid, now was there?
“I’m not normal . . . different,” I mumble .
“You are . And if you are so broken as you claim, then you only
stand to profit by breaking completely . ”
His voice digs deep inside my brain, my heart, and the rest of my body,
ringing with the sound of some spellbinding sorcery . He is right . He had
always been right . And when I take his words into me, my trembling and
my fear for what comes after this are expunged, replaced with a joyous
sensation, like I’ve gained a new lease on life . My vision turns white before
me . My throat dries, and even breathing as hard as I can puts little air in my
lungs . I feel like my body is being is burned by a pain travelling through all
my veins and arteries, but it’s a glorious pain no drug can hope to match .
The inscrutable, cruel-featured man holds my head in place with a hand
that I know can crush me . And under those hands, I crumble to tears in a 
manner that has never happened in my life entire . The tears are warm,
joy-made . The scream that wanted to exit my lungs speaks of some primal
passion .
This . This is the time and place where I break .
The boy consumed the corpse in an hour . He used no tools save the
power of his own teeth and jaw, devouring something much larger than
himself wholly and completely . His tongue does not tell him the quality of
it, of its succulence or otherwise . He finds value only in the physical exertion,
the mastication of his subject .
“An hour? You are excellent . ” The black-coated man examines the boy’s
handiwork thoroughly, bearing witness to all of it before speaking . The boy
turns to him lazily, his mouth and face thick with red blood, both from his
subject and from his own, borne from the breaking of his own chin, and
the tearing of his own flesh, showing the fruit of the haste and difficulty of
his act . He, however, does not seem to know that this has even happened .
The boy tore into the corpse, never stopping for even a moment, leaving
nothing except a few drops of blood in the darkened alley .
“But that excellence will still define you,” the tall man continues .
“Becoming aware of your origin by yourself will only take you so far . One
must put the catalyst in the soul, awaken the vital spark . ” The boy hears
the man’s words, looking at him through now hollowed eyes . “You are still
on the brink, that empty, hollow boundary . Henceforth, you shall be the
man-eater, from now and until death . But you do not wish for it to end
there . You will be a man not bound to the senses of the rabble, someone
transcendent . A unique and new life must emerge . Do you not want to
claim it?”
The man’s words are spellbinding and lyrical . They engrave themselves
directly into the boy’s now numb thoughts, pressing inside like a subliminal
force of authority . Bathed in his and his victim’s blood, the boy nods sluggishly
in assent, an act that can be compared to a prayer to his own god of
salvation .
“It is done . You shall be the first . ” The man only needs to nod, and
raise his right hand from its place over the boy for the bloody ritual to be
concluded . The boy dares to ask him one question .
“Who . . . who the hell are you, man?”
The man in the black cloak remains motionless as he answers . His voice
seems then to be powered by some demiurgic force, and through him that
force speaks, resounding through the alleyway with the whispering of ages .
“A mage . My name is Sōren Alaya . ”
At last, the man asks the boy’s true name .
The boy tells him .
And within his stonehearted face, the man finds it in himself to smile .
“Leo . Regrettable . You lack one last step in being a lion . ” There is a genuine
melancholy in the words, even as he grins .