Kara no Kyoukai - Volume 3 - Chapter 7

Published at 16th of February 2016 09:05:05 PM

Chapter 7

Part VII: The Second Homicide Inquiry

/ PROLOGUE • 127
Only our frozen sighs played between us
As we watch our heartbeats fade slowly into stillness
Soon, all of the dear and treasured memories
Will become mere regrets, weak and soon to fade .
Even the memory of rain:
Of an endless gray veil seen after school
Even the memory of sunset:
Of a classroom ablaze in orange light
Even the memory of snow:
Of the white night of first contact, and the black umbrella
Beside me you would smile, and that would be enough
To bid my soul rest, turbulent though it was
Beside me you would walk, and that would be enough
To bid the rift between us close, distant though it was
Once, a moment in time
We stopped for shade, warm unmoving sunlight peeking through leaves
And there, as you laughed, you said that one day we’d stand in the same place
They were words that I’ve yearned to hear for so long
But now it is but the fleeting remains of the day
/Empty Boundaries
1999, February 1 .
It’s the beginning of the last year of a millennium, and the tip of a new
millennium’s inception . And as with most arbitrary shifts and divisions of
temporal measurements, people start to cling to the words of prophets
and doomsayers, whether out of personal profit or the osmotic and infectious
effect of a panic in slow-boil . Wrapped as the city currently is in this
nearly tangible layer of artificial menace, as well as a more easily perceived
winter whose temperatures have reached levels atypical from the past few
years, I, Mikiya Kokutō, have decided to spend this night walking together
with Shiki .
Winter is at its height, and these days, the sun is already well set after
five in the afternoon, granting an early evening veil to the entire city . My
breath is visible in white puffs before my mouth, and beside me Shiki is in
the same state . The both of us are, I suppose, ever reliable (some would
even say predictable) in how we dress . A dark-colored coat worn above a
black turtleneck sweater paired with black slacks for me . While Shiki wears
a blue kimono coupled with a red waist-length leather jacket, all the while
having a pair of high combat boots donned . I’ve long since given up asking
her if she’s ever cold in that attire . I’ve seen her in it ever since three
years ago . The heat or the cold never seem to affect her as much as it does
anyone else .
Shiki offered to meet me on my way home after finishing work, which
is not something she often does, and is an act I often associate with some
ulterior motive on her part .
“Alright, out with it . There’s something really important up if you can’t
muster enough patience to wait for me back at your place . Taking the trouble
to meet up with me so near the office is a pretty rare event . ”
“It’s nothing, really . It’s just been a little…dangerous lately, so I thought
I’d see you home . ” Her face is sullen as she casts her eyes about the surrounding
area, never really looking at me . The wind blows a lonely breeze
our way, and Shiki’s kimono flutters slightly .
Shiki Ryōgi has always donned that style, ever since the day I first met
her in high school . It always makes her look kind of strange, but I have to
admit that it goes well with her height (around 160cm) . Her hair frames her
face, and always looks to be haphazardly cut to terminate at collar height .
Like her hair, her eyes are a threateningly deep black . As if to contrast all of
this, though, she always speaks in a tone as rough as she likes, and almost 
/ PROLOGUE • 129
without a thought for the next word . It always throws people for a loop
the first time around . Now, she retains a posture more dignified and noble
than beautiful, even as she walks and surveys the streets still partly awash
in quickly retreating sunlight, as if she were a carnivore on some kind of
hunt .
I call her attention . “Shiki, you’ve been acting kind of funny lately . ”
“How funny can I be if you aren’t even laughing?”
She says this lazily, lacking her usual spirit . Normally, she’d glance over
at me just to enjoy my usual frown after her wit, but she keeps her eyes
occupied elsewhere . Well, if she’s not in the mood to talk, then so be it . I
keep pace alongside her, and proceed without another word . Shiki leads
the both of us toward the direction of the train station near her house,
which at this hour must still be packed . The way there, however, is as dead
as midnight, with only me and Shiki walking along the narrow back streets .
Without the lights on in the shops, and the street lamps, you’d think there
was some kind of calamity . There’s a reason for it, though . I would guess
it’s the same reason Shiki thinks she needs to walk me back home .
Lone people who walk at night are being reported missing or turning up
dead . Now, given the usually low crime rate in the area, this would have
been shelved as something of a statistical anomaly . If it wasn’t so similar to
the winter three years ago .
In my first year in high school, there was a serial killer that put the city
in a bit of a panic . He’d only appear in the night, and conduct violent ritual
killings on people for no discernible reason . All in all, he killed seven people .
Despite the numerous inquiries and cooperation with the media, the
police’s desperate attempt to catch him failed, and a solid suspect never
materialized . With no other murders fitting the pattern, it was assumed the
serial killer had stopped, and the case was buried cold .
The first murder started around summer four years ago, and the killer
went to ground at around winter three years ago . I remember it being a
cold February, with me and Shiki about to enter our second year . It was
only afterwards that Shiki got into a car accident, and lapsed into a coma .
As for me, I eventually graduated from high school, and moved on to college,
but it only took a month for me to drop out, and soon after, I found
employment with Miss Tōko . Shiki herself recovered from her coma only
last year in summer . For me, the entire affair with the serial killer is a thing
of the past .
I imagine, however, that it isn’t the same for Shiki . To her, it would have
only seemed to be half a year ago . The recent strings of killings fit the same
gruesome pattern as four years ago, and the TV news has been playing it up 
as a return of the old culprit, with all the graphics and reenactments that
come along with such a high profile story, almost as if the news networks
were just lying in wait to spring the story fresh on their viewers again . Still,
I can’t help but notice Shiki looking grimmer by the day the more she hears
of it . I’ve only ever seen her like that once, three years ago, before the accident .
When  Ryōgi, still containing her other, masculine, Shiki personality,
told me that she was a murderer .
The train station is a taste of normalcy when we get there, as it is filled
with all the usual number of people . Unlike the residential district we had
just passed through, the station is brightly lit and packed with people going
to and fro in a hurry, and the activity spills into the surrounding commercial
district . Only one of few places in the neighborhood that you could count
on the serial killer not making an appearance . Yet even here, the influence
is felt . The way people draw closer together, as if to close ranks, and the
touch, however slight, of fear on all their faces, guarded though they may
be . The night’s just begun, and rush hour ensures a nearly endless stream
of people .
Passing the busy station and making our way through the commercial
district, we pass an appliance store, the television on display showing the
evening news . At a glance I already see what I expect: another feature story
on the killer . While I quickly pay it no heed, Shiki is led to halt in front of
it, her eyes affixed on the screen, so I reluctantly stop alongside her .
“Mikiya, take a look at this,” Shiki says, with a chortle, “they’re calling
him a murderous monster . ” She’s right . In fairly large letters, bulleted by an
X mark in the bottom of the TV, it says How the Murderous Monster Began .
“I guess they thought just ‘killer’ wouldn’t make people nervous enough .
A murder count exceeding ten is nothing to laugh at, I know, but don’t you
think they’re being a bit sensationalist, though?”
With an eyebrow raised, Shiki finally looks at me . “Well, yeah, that’s
obvious . But I think they’re kind of right, though . If anyone right now deserved
to be called a monster, it would be this guy . He wants the attention,
the spectacle . He’s glad for it . Monsters rarely need a reason . The victims
certainly never got one before they died . That’s why you can’t really call
this a murder . ” She returns her attention to the television, seeing the faint
image of herself reflected on the glass surface of the screen .
“What do you mean?” I ask .
“Massacre and murder can be different . Maybe you’ve forgotten,
Kokutō? That a lifetime only has room for one real murder . ” She looks into
my eyes then, as straight as she can manage . Normally, she looks quite 
/ PROLOGUE • 131
detached, almost sleepy, as if she’s looking at something far away . But now
there is an intensity in her black eyes, a pleading to some ancient memory .
“One real murder…” I allow my voice to trail away . I definitely recall
hearing something like that from her before, but when? And where? It was
only long after this particular moment, when I can look back, and regret .
Maybe if I remembered it, at that moment, all of what followed could have
been avoided .
“Never mind,” Shiki finally says after a few seconds . “It’s not important .
Anyway, let’s get ourselves home . I just woke up, and if I don’t eat something
I’m never gonna calm down . ”
“Wait, you just woke up? What happened to school? Did you forget that
it’s a Monday today, or did you just decide to sleep over?”
Her face breaks into a sly smile . “Calm, deep breaths,” she pleads mockingly .
“I was at school this morning, c’mon . I meant my afternoon nap .
Actually, I never told you, but my grades have been getting better since
November, you know? C’mon, tell me you’re surprised . ” I nod, genuinely
taken aback . Her grades had been slipping as badly as her attendance rate,
and I was worried she wouldn’t make it by year’s end . When I nod, she
makes a self-satisfied sound, and puts her hands inside her coat pocket .
“Right, then a reward’s in order, then!” declares Shiki out of the blue .
“Azaka kept bragging to me about this fancy joint you took her to down in
Akasaka . And whaddya know? I’ve actually always wanted to go and try it
out . Oh, how I so wanted to kill her then . ”
The disturbing thing about Shiki saying that is knowing full well that she
has a knife and has used it before . Before I can have a say in the matter,
she grabs me by the arm and leads me away . I’m not entirely sure where
she’s leading me just yet, but if her previous remark is any indication, it’s to
Akazaka, where half of my paycheck will be no more than shattered hopes
and dreams in the face of one night’s meal, and it doesn’t look like there’s
any stopping her . Silently, I curse Azaka for telling Shiki about where I took
her on New Year’s .
Oh well, might as well enjoy this . After all, it feels like it’s been such a
long time since we had a real date . In fact, the last time may well have been
four years ago, back in high school, when she still had the boy Shiki inside
her . She reminds me of him tonight actually, and I don’t think to question
where this could have come from . Beyond the aloofness that she had earlier
this afternoon, I didn’t see anything out of place .
So we started February with an expensive dinner, and a night walking
around town, just being together and enjoying ourselves like it was the last
night we were allowed to do so .
The Second Homicide Inquiry - I
- April 1995 . I met her . -
It has been a week since the night that me and Shiki chanced upon that
news report on TV . The label the news gave to the killer, a “murderous
monster,” ended up sticking, and lately, everybody’s been using it, even
Daisuke Akimi, my uncle, who at 5am in the morning, now sits in my modest
apartment, helping himself to a slice of French toast that I made for him as
he skims the morning paper . The date on the broadsheet reads February 8 .
Unfortunately, in the six intervening days since he’s received the moniker,
the ‘murderous monster’ has claimed six more victims, one for each day .
“God, they’re really sticking with this name, aren’t they?” remarks
Daisuke . “I thought the department made a deal not to get the names of
the vics out so quick too . Makes the job harder, you know?” To hear him
talk would make you think he was discussing some other person’s case,
which is far from the truth . In fact, he has a relationship with it as close
as kin . He was the primary detective on the case three years ago, and the
brass have seen fit to saddle it with him again, being the most informed
officer they have . It only makes sense .
“Are you sure it’s alright for you to be lazing about here, Daisuke? I
mean, I’m looking at the front page of that paper, and it’s the story of the
last night’s fatality right there . ” I say as I eat my breakfast at the table,
facing Daisuke . His face is hidden behind the newspaper, but I know that
he heard me .
“I’ve been running around checking leads for a week now, and every day
there’s a fresh murder . Let the SDF handle it, why don’t they? I need a little
break ‘round this time sometimes, anyway . Thanks again for the breakfast,
little buddy . ” I watch as he takes his coffee mug from the table, and see it 
disappear behind the newspaper before he gulps and places it back . All of
this is pretty much standard procedure any time he comes here . He takes
a break for thirty minutes for breakfast, he reads the paper, he chats, and
he goes out . He used to do this at my folks’ place back when I was in high
school too, and he saw fit to bring the tradition here, not that I mind .
“I’m sure the SDF would just completely botch it all up anyway . You’re
the best detective the Metro Police has . ”
“Eh, I’m not so sure about that . But whatever the case, a man has limits,
and I’m pretty sure hauling a three year old case out of the graveyard to
haunt the motherfucker who tried to solve it is damn near toeing the line . ”
He quickly closes the newspaper and folds it as he continues . “God, I just
need to talk about this to someone that ain’t police . Listen, Mikiya, what
I’m about to tell you is really classified stuff, but I trust you . Don’t even
think about telling it to your friends or family, you got it?”
I nod . Though I wouldn’t think of letting anything of what he’s about to
say leak out, he’s obviously never heard of the story about King Midas and
his donkey ears .
He begins . “Right, so like last time, this one’s a complete stone whodunit .
No suspects, which means no motive . No connections . Only one weakass
witness, even in the killing spree in the past seven days . Last time, the
only leads we got were your school emblem and the perp’s skin, which
didn’t bingo a match in the offender database . But…well, I’m not sure just
yet, but he might be changing up his game . ”
“Why do you say that?”
“Well, you know how he’s been nabbing citizens since last fall, right? We
weren’t sure yet that it was him back then, so the media didn’t latch on to
the story until the killings started this year, when he started getting sloppy .
Especially in the past week . ”
“Leaving evidence, you mean,” I suggest .
“Which is weird, right? We can’t put a face to the fucker for four years
going now, but now he decides to change his pattern? Doesn’t sound right .
It might just be a copycat . ”
“But that can’t be right,” I muse, thinking back on how Daisuke described
it to me four years ago . “The exact manner of how the victims died hasn’t
been leaked to the public . I only know because you told me . If this guy was
a copycat, he couldn’t have known exactly how to conduct the murders . ”
“Yeah, I know, I know,” Daisuke says with a resigned sigh . “I wonder,
though . The murders four years ago struck me as less ritualistic and more…
like someone who was just getting used to what he could do, and he decided
to play around, you know? He was at least leaving a body to be found 
back then . Now…” he clears his throat, and shakes his head, as if to rid his
mind of a self-made image, before he continues . “…now he’s just leaving
severed arms or legs . If he’s trying to clean up his act, then why take all that
time to hide a body but leave the limbs intentionally?”
“Calling card, maybe? A signature for the police to know him by? He’s
gloating,” I think out loud .
“Yeah, that’s where my mind automatically goes, too . But it didn’t look
like the limbs were cut, that’s for sure . There’s no clean cut, or even the
signs of multiple attempts to hack them off . They look like they were…
torn off, or twisted right out . ” Daisuke smiles then, and makes a chuckle,
the heaviness in his features leaving him for a moment . “Heh, heard any
escaped alligator urban legends out there lately, Mikiya?”
“Nah,” I say, chuckling now too . “If I do, though, you can get lost . I’m
keeping it as a pet just to spite you . ” I drink from my coffee now too, the
temperature finally becoming agreeable . I use the moment to hide my
expression when my mind wanders to four years ago…and Shiki .
It was four years ago when Shiki told me she was a murderer . But that
couldn’t have been true . I can’t believe she would kill anyone . Not truly .
She was never ready to swing that knife down on anybody . I’ve always put
my faith in her . But, if that’s true, then why does my mind now go back to
thoughts of her?
“Your witness,” I say quickly, as if doing so would banish the thought
from my mind . “You said you had a weak one . What’s that about?”
“Yeah, from last week’s incident downtown over at commercial . Place
is packed full of people at most hours so it must have been pretty hard for
the killer to hide what he was doing . Sure enough, even though the crime
scene was an alley, someone passed by . Witness managed to see the perp
booking it after the murder took place, said he wore a kimono . Actually
though, the witness can’t say for certain whether the suspect was actually
a guy or a girl . Like I said, no legs on that info just yet . ” Daisuke shrugs as
he says this, and rests his head on a hand propped up on the table . “It’d
be nice if we can at least bring in some viable targets for questioning . The
brass is pretty hung up on getting the ‘monster’ and tying this up quick . Far
as I know, the pressure’s coming all the way from city hall . ”
“A red ball . Media coverage is getting kinda crazy hysterical too . ”
“Best road to stress, I tell ya . Gotta thank you for this, Mikiya . ”
 “It’s why I’m here . ” Yet even as Daisuke shares the new information
about what the witness saw, he returns it unknowingly to Shiki . Who else
do I know that walks around at night in a kimono? My fingers clutching
the coffee cup seem to go numb for a moment, but I manage to retain my 
composure .
“One more thing I gotta ask you,” says Daisuke, adopting a more hushed
tone now . “Now Mikiya, I know you know your fair share about the drug
trade here in Tokyo . Whoever’s slinging the best shit, who the players are,
that sort of thing . ”
“I guess so,” I venture hesitantly . “I mean, more than the average person,
sure . But I’m sure you’ve got a pool of guys over at your narcotics bureau
better acquainted with that than me . ”
He waves a hand in the air dismissively . “A bunch of conservative old
hacks playing at understanding what games the kids play now, and deluding
themselves that buy-busts are the ultimate answer . That includes me . ”
He gives a mocking chuckle before pulling out a polaroid photograph from
his coat pocket, setting it down on the table for me to see .
In the photograph are two evidence bags, one containing something
that looks like a bunch of stamps, and another with some kind of grass
inside . The labels on the bags have the words “mescaline” and “THC” written
prominently on them, alongside how many grams of it is stored, and
below that is the chain of custody for the evidence . I recognize them easily
enough .
“The stamps are LSD, right? The other is weed I’m pretty sure . ”
“Well, kinda like weed . The forensics guys told me that the THC and CHC
content in the hemp are very low . ”
“So it’s not marijuana . ” It can’t have been . You would have to have
enough THC, the psychoactive substance found in weed, for it to qualify .
“It’s probably something more like tochigishiro . ”
“Which is what?”
“A specially bred strain of hemp developed here in Japan . Because hemp
growing is regulated heavily by the prefectural governments, they’ve got a
pretty strict ceiling on how much THC should be in usable hemp, which is
at 1% . The hemp that used to be grown natively here in Japan usually sat
at around 1 . 2 to 1 . 8% . So, to comply with the new prefectural policies, they
developed a low-THC strain in Hiroshima, called tochigishiro . Obviously it
didn’t stop illegal plantations or smuggling of marijuana inside the country . ”
Daisuke nods, his eyes showing their characteristic concentration . He’s
following along with a genuine curiosity now . “So what does the picture
have to do with anything?” I ask .
“Most of the murder victims this past week had some in their possession
on time of death,” Daisuke explains . “But hey, what do I know? They’re
kids fooling around at night so maybe it’s no surprise, eh?”
“Unfair generalizations aren’t going to get you anywhere, Daisuke . ”
“Which is why I’m turning to you for opinions . You know these street
hoppers better than I do . ”
“To be honest, I don’t really know about that . I haven’t been in contact
with any of the street level dealer guys for at least half a year . They might
have changed up their boys, especially the guys who sell acid . They do rotations
so they don’t get caught so easily . The cocktail slingers too . ”
“Cocktails are two drugs mixed together in one dose, right?”
“Yeah . I hear the popular thing right now is speedballs: when they mix
cocaine with heroine or morphine in one needle . Powerful stuff . Very
dangerous too, if you aren’t careful . ”
Daisuke narrows his eyes . “You’re suspiciously knowledgeable about all
this . You aren’t taking any, are you?” he asks . Though I’m pretty sure he
isn’t serious, I decide to answer him truthfully anyway .
“Do I look like I do? If I was a dope fiend, you’d know it with one look at
me . I’m a pretty easy guy to read, or so people tell me . I’m not one to try
drugs . I’ve just got a…well, an old high school friend who knows a lot about
it . ”
“Fine, fine, I believe you,” he says dismissively as he stands up, though
it doesn’t escape my notice that he noted my hesitation in saying Gakuto’s
name . “Anyway, gotta get back to work soon or they’ll light my ass up . Last
question, though . Is weed an upper or a downer?”
I sigh, thinking regretfully on how little this supposed detective uncle
of mine knows about the whole thing, despite being on the job for years
now . “That’s a question I’m sure even your narcotics people can answer,
but whatever . It actually isn’t clear what weed is . Different people have
different reactions . For some it’s a stimulant, and to others it’s a downer,
and also a hallucinogen . For a few people, it doesn’t even leave any strong
effect . Other drugs have been extensively studied and their effects documented,
but the THC in weed is the only thing that remains a mystery . ”
“Heh, thanks for that . I’m a homicide guy, not in narcotics, so I don’t
know everything about it,” he says as he grabs and puts on his coat . “I’ll be
sure to bone up on it, though . Looks like I’m gonna need it soon enough if
the stuff keeps getting found on victims . Might be enough to form an angle
on the case . ” He gives me a short wave as he walks toward the entrance
of the house, and I wave him back . He opens the door, admitting the noise
of raindrops assaulting the rooftops of the buildings outside . “God, fucking
rain again?” Daisuke complains as he heads out and closes the door behind
him .
“Just has to spill the beans to me, doesn’t he?” I whisper to myself . The
conversation with him left a gloomy undercurrent to the room, though, and 
as the dreary dawn light peeks in through the window, I finish my breakfast
and get a sudden urge to take the day off . I quickly call Miss Tōko up and
inform her . Her reply is curt .
“Whatever you plan on doing, take it easy . ” She says it like an order, not
a mere suggestion . Before I get a chance to assure her, there is a click on
the line; she’s put the phone down . She knows what I’m up to for sure .
She’s always had strangely accurate intuition .
There’s only one good reason I need the day off today .
I haven’t seen any sign of Shiki for a week now .
The past week had seen a new murder turn up every day, and since it all
started, she hasn’t come back to her room, or her old Ryōgi family estate .
I can’t get in touch with her, and nobody I know seems to have seen her . It
doesn’t take a genius to see what reason she could have for doing it .
If the murderous monster really is the same serial killer from four years
ago, then Shiki is out there, searching for answers . But I don’t even know
who this monster prowling the streets is . And I know that the memories
related to her old Shiki personality have all vanished along with him, which
means we’ll never be able to prove if she was related to those crimes or
not .
Maybe I’m not the one that can break this case wide open . But there
are far too many memories that will be betrayed if I wait any longer . Shiki’s
disappearance heralds something far worse . I can feel it . And before that
happens, I need to find the truth . Me . Because this isn’t someone else’s
problem . From four years ago until today, this has always been mine and
Shiki’s problem . We just kept prolonging it, afraid to face it . So to understand
it, I need to start investigating, not for someone else, but for my own
sake .
I step outside the house, seeing the rain cover everything in an unceasing
grey veil . I pop open my black umbrella and travel to the crime scenes
of the past week . I reach last night’s spot, an alley in one of the busier
portions of downtown . People are walking the sidewalk as if nothing had
happened last night, trying not to notice the alley which still has policemen
standing guard and yellow police lines stretched over the mouth of
the entrance, and a similarly yellow tarp covering the top of the entire
alleyway . Preserving the crime scene for at least a day, they can do no more
than that . I leave, and head to the other crime scenes, hoping to find them
less guarded . Luckily, the police have abandoned them, and I’m able to pry
through them without notice .
By the time I reach my third crime scene, I barely notice that much of
the day has passed, and it is already early afternoon . If I wanted to pay all 
the places a visit and give them a thorough search, it’d probably take me
until late tonight . This is all useless . The crime scenes are open and they’re
more than likely already tampered, if not through daily traffic, then surely
through the continuous day of rain . But without a single clue, what can I
really do? This investigation is kid’s stuff for now, but before I take it up a
notch, I have to make sure not to leave a stone unturned . And so with just
my umbrella for company, I wander alleyways tainted by murder .
The late winter rain is icy cold, and hasn’t let up the entire day . The rain
in this month has always had a special melancholy attached to it for me .
It’s had that for me for three years . After all, it was this month, three years
ago, when I lost her .
“I…I want to kill you . ”
It was a very gentle smile .
The girl in the red kimono had a knife pointed at me, hovering above my
neck . In one terrifyingly brief moment,  Ryōgi raised the blade . I, lying
on the ground while she straddled me, could do nothing but to look into
the eyes of my coming death . Like a guillotine, the knife blade shone in the
rain, and she brought it down in a strike swift and true .
But the knife did not pierce my neck, did not strike home in my flesh, but
instead stopped unsteadily an inch or two before making its mark .
“Why?”  whispered in a voice incredulous and unbelieving . The
totality of the question was left unvoiced . Why can’t I kill you?
In that moment, I felt the fear ebbing away slowly, replaced with a growing
pity at this girl, whose existence was at once given meaning by a desire
for murder and her disgust of it . For a moment, I forgot to breathe . But it
was only for one, lucky moment .
I saw her look at her own arm, and in those eyes there was nothing but
anger and contempt at her own actions . She took her other hand, letting
it clutch her blade arm, as if to force it to action . This time, I thought, this
time it will be the end .
But something interrupted us . A man approached beside us, seeming to
come from nowhere at all, wearing a great black coat like a monk . With a
single small gesture of his hand, she sent flying from me, using some
unseen force . He spoke .
“Fool . This weakening does not become you,” he said in a low, tormented 
voice . The man helped me up, his strong grip on my arm lifting me effortlessly .
That seemed to awaken some predatory instinct in  who pulled
herself up from the rain-soaked ground, and launched herself toward the
man with redoubled vigor . In an instant,  was beside the tall man,
jumping up and aiming her knife at his forehead, and slashed in one quick
motion .
A thin red line ran through his forehead then, and blood poured out slowly
like sand . After she slashed him,  quickly ran past him, and retreated
to a distance he could not reach . They glared at each other, the tall man in
the black coat barely even registering he was wounded . Amused, he even
gave an observant chuckle .
“Would you stay your hand even for me? Then you are still useless to
me . ” The man then took me by the arm and ran . Behind us,  gave
chase . But the man’s speed is too fast, almost as if we were flying . But we
couldn’t have been, because my feet were still on the ground, struggling to
keep up with him . Eventually, we were out of the Ryōgi estate’s grounds,
and only then did he let go of me . Then he looked at me, as if to say that if
I went home now, all would be safer for me .
“Far too early to break her,” he murmured, but even his murmurs were
a low audible rumble . “The duality of the spiral of conflict has always been
her destined end . ” Leaving me with those words, the man walks away and
disappears with only a few steps, as if letting the shadows of the surrounding
bamboo grove swallow him .
The asphalt road home stretched out welcomingly before me, but
behind me, I could hear  fast approaching . I could’ve gone home . I
could’ve left her . But I chose to be with her . I still don’t know if that was
the right thing to do . But in the end, she couldn’t swing the knife down .
I turned without reluctance to the sound of her approaching footfalls .
And when she caught up to me, there was surprise in her face, but more
than that, there was confusion . Then a burning clarity . There were words
exchanged then, words that couldn’t be forgotten . But her last sentence to
me was this .
“If I can’t make you go away,” she said, under the unceasing rain . In the
distance, closing fast, she spots the headlights of an approaching car . She
laughed . A weak, bitter laugh . “I have to make myself go away . ” She runs
toward the middle of the street .
The car approached fast, and she presented herself in front of it, lit
brightly on one side by the headlights . The rain fell hard, but even it could
not overcome the keening sound of the brakes . It was too late . It was over
in a second . The girl who fell in the wet asphalt looked less like , and 
more like some lifeless, warmthless doll, broken and ruined . Right there,
at that moment, I knew no more painful and regretful moment . Her eyes
before the impact had tears in them—or was it just the rain? And yet, even
having seen that, I could not find it in myself to cry .
The evening only brings more rain and less clues than I had hoped for,
but is only in line with what I expected . It is cold tonight, more so than the
past ones have been . A good thing I brought my umbrella .
The black umbrella…the same one I was using when I first met Shiki . She
had been looking up at the sky that night, but seemed to see neither the
stars nor the moon, as if she had frozen in place, and all was right with the
world .
/ 1 • 141
/ 1
- May . -
- I’ve become acquainted with Mikiya Kokutō . I knew I’d like him ever
since I first saw him . He talked to me without reservation or hesitation, with
a smile uncalculating or plotting . He’s perfect . -
“More rain again?” I grumble as I seek cover from the growing intensity
of the shower . The volume of the raindrops as they impact the roofs of
the buildings starts to build towards a crescendo . Luckily, a nearby convenience
store provides some temporary shelter, and of course, the umbrella
bin outside proves to be a welcome convenience indeed . I help myself to
one umbrella, a cheap plastic one the owner is unlikely to miss fondly . My
objective is lost, though . Hard to track the smell of blood mixed with the
rain . Still, there’s nothing to be gained from standing here the entire day,
so I continue to walk .
It’s February 8, and dawn is just breaking . The streets still lack their
usual foot or vehicle traffic, and the silhouettes of people I share the street
with are few and far between . Even my own shadow, projected by the dim
lights of the passing neon and fluorescent, feels like a hazy illusion, almost
incomprehensible in the rain . After putting some distance between myself
and the generous convenience store, I stop for a while to take stock of
myself .
I’ve got a cheap plastic umbrella, borrowed; a wet and dirtied leather
jacket, and a pretty good kimono soiled by thick dirt and mud at the hem
and waist . Well, I can’t really expect to be clean after spending a week
sleeping exclusively on alleys . My appearance is one thing, but my odor is
entirely another . And man, I smell exactly like three-day old sweat .
“Sleeping outside has got to stop today,” I whisper to myself, a sugges-
tion that, the way I say it, almost makes it sound like some kind of fun
game . For the first time in a week, I laugh .
My name is Shiki Ryōgi . Like the Taoist term “ryōgi” used to describe the
duality of yin and yang . Yeah, my family is weird, and I’m sort of a chip off
the old block . Once, I nursed another personality within me, a male one
called Shiki . Same pronunciation, different ideogram . I’d been saddled
with him since birth, a murderous personality cultivated by my strange
lineage . And so since birth, I’ve always known of the pleasure he derived
from the thought of murder . It was his passion . And in a sort of twisted
way, it became mine too, as I pressed down on the dark impulse inside me,
killing it over and over again to control it . I killed the self inside of me, sensing
both the pleasure it gave me, and the pain . All so I could live a parody
of a normal life . Murder defined me then, if not literally then figuratively .
But there was always the threat of it, lurking in the rafters, tempting me
with its allure .
When I was a child, perhaps the only thing that held me in check were
the words of my grandfather . While my father was without a doubt a Ryōgi,
he did not inherit the “blessing,” as he liked to call it . So of course, when
I was born, there was no prouder father, and my otherwise normal older
brother was passed over for the right of succession . So I’ve been special
ever since birth . Always left alone, but never lonely, always having the
other Shiki for company . We were one, he and I; a girl and her shadow .
So it was when I was sixteen, still fearing that I was just a mere tool for
murder, that my grandfather passed away . Like me, he had the “blessing . ”
But he had never been able to control his other self completely, and in
his long years, he had hurt himself, sometimes grievously, cursed those
around him, while denying what he was . It had been told to me that he and
his other self switched constantly, so much so that people forgot which was
truly in control, and for twenty years, he had been confined to an asylum .
But in his dying hours, he called for me . In those last moments with me,
he returned to some semblance of sanity, and shared with me his only
words for me, and his last as well . And I’ll never forget them . He taught me
that murder was important, a great and terrible thing of monstrous weight .
Since that day, I think I was able to better think on my position because of
him . And perhaps my masquerading of life, while forever alone, might be
accomplished after all .
Until I met Mikiya Kokutō .
When I met him in high school, it coincided with me starting to act very
strangely . There was something about him, something that told me that life
wasn’t a thing to hide in, but to live through . I remember thinking that all 
/ 1 • 143
would have been better, if I hadn’t known . If he wasn’t a promise of something
far better, something I wanted that could also destroy me . I couldn’t
fool myself anymore after him, and neither could I fool Shiki . He broke me
apart, and me and Shiki started to become more out of sync . When once,
I knew exactly what I was doing when Shiki was in control, he eventually
hid it from me, and I could recall nothing of what happened when he was in
control . I would oftentimes come to my senses in the middle of the night, a
bloody soaked body lying in front of me, and I, smiling . I didn’t know if the
serial killer that haunted the city then was me, or I just wandered into his
work afterwards . Doubt started to creep in .
Eventually, Mikiya found me in the middle of such a scene, but he still
believed in me, and trusted that I wasn’t the killer . And it was then that I
decided that his joy was just an impossible dream to tempt me . There was
a confrontation between us . And then the accident, which resulted in my
two-year coma .
When I awakened, I found myself unlike my previous self in small yet
important ways . I had lost Shiki, my steadfast companion, taking his share
of the memories along with him . As for the memories of my old self, they
felt empty and vague, like someone else’s experiences . I was hollow, like a
doll . And since then, I’ve been trying to fill up that hollow in my soul that
Shiki left inside me with new things . It’s probably the greatest irony that
the guy responsible for that going pretty well in the past half-year has to
be Mikiya Kokutō, the same guy almost drove me to ruin . I’m not an empty
doll anymore .
But now, something’s happening that’s bringing back the sins of the
past . When I awakened, Shiki’s memories were lost to me, when he
“died . ” Though I don’t really know if he has the kind of autonomy in my
brain that would make it work, it comforts me to think that he took it with
him because he thought it would be a blessing to me to forget about them,
to live a life unburdened by guilt . And for the most part, he was right .
Something happened last New Year’s though .
I encountered, fought, and lost to a mage who, against my will, returned
my lost memories to me . And so…now I remember everything four years
ago . How my final moments before the accident really went down . How I
fell to the most extreme solution of trying to murder Mikiya Kokutō, a knife
pointed high above him . How I wandered the streets at night, spoiling for a
good kill . It relieves me somewhat to find that it was not me who conducted
the serial killings . But then, that leaves an obviously bigger problem of
who the serial killer actually was . Or is, if the news tells it true and this new
one is the same guy . I still don’t know who he is . Mikiya must already be 
suspecting me after I ran away . Hell, if you ask me, he’d have every right to .
I have the shady past to back it up anyway .
So like four years ago, I wander the streets again, chasing a murderous
monster that’s burdening the streets with a new body every day . And if
I must admit to myself why I do it, then the reason is very simple . Envy,
at his willingness to snuff out a life . Jealousy, at the artfulness of his skill .
Answers, if that were possible . And an end to all of this…hopefully when
we decide to pounce on each other . We’re all the same, us murderers . We
attract each other, then we spill our blood on the floor .
It’s sort of funny in a sick sense, really . Four years ago, I knew it was
Shiki who took pleasure from the thought of murder .
But he’s not inside me now, is he?
And yet, attracted to a murderous monster’s acts, I’m searching him out
to murder him .
Why didn’t I notice it before? Why did it take so long?
Shiki’s only thought was murder, but he never acted on it . Now it’s me
who’s doing it . It’s me who really likes it .
I make my stop at a love hotel, where the front desk, such as it is, is nonexistent;
rooms are selected and bills paid through a machine . The better
for the anonymity of their very specific clientele . I remember Mikiya once
saying to me that if you wanted to hide from someone, this was a better
entry-level option than most, since they don’t card you . Also, because of
that, transactions go by really fast, which is better overall for me .
When I get to my room, I quickly slip off my clothing and get into the
shower, taking my time in the bath . After I’m done, I lie down on the bed .
And though I wasn’t planning on sleeping, my fatigue and frustration loosens
my grip on my ability to remain awake, and the bed is too comfortable…
I wake up to a much more darkened room, the clock in the table beside
the bed reading two in the morning . It was just getting dark when I got
here, so I must have slept for six hours . The room, lit only by the lamp, and
the dry digital readout of the clock, is populated only by strange shadows .
“Fuck,” I whisper low under my breath, but in the noiseless room, even
that can be heard . Chiding myself for oversleeping, I change back into my
clothes angrily . It’s not just oversleeping that’s bothering me so much
though . I’ve only been by myself for seven days, but why am I so irritated?
It’s hasn’t been that long, has it?
“It hasn’t,” I tell myself, as if saying it aloud would persuade me some-
/ 1 • 145
how . I leave the hotel as quickly as I entered it six hours earlier, my business
there done .
Just past 2am . Even the stone and concrete are asleep this time of night,
but of course, the police, on the lookout for the murderous monster, are
not . They’ll be on the lookout for anyone suspicious, with likely orders to
pat anyone down . They’d find some pretty illegal stuff in my coat, so I’m
not dealing with that hassle . With that in mind, I duck inside the nearest
alleyway I can find . Every avenue in this area is indicted now, and the police
would have the main roads covered, so I can’t use them . Of course, the
murderous monster knows this too, and so like him, we travel the thieves’
highway, flitting through the narrow spaces between buildings . Hopefully,
we meet each other . That’s the plan, anyway . Unfortunately, you tend to
meet all sorts of people in alleys, and not usually the ones you’d like .
“Not a dealer, man . You got somewhere else to be,” I say as I come to
an intersection between alleys . Someone’s been tailing me since a few
seconds ago . And now, in this intersection, I find more corner boys, one at
my front, and two more to either flank . They’ve got me right in between .
I look at the one in front of me . Slow, unsteady steps . Lazy arms . Slightly
cocked head . His eyes are wandering a bit . This guy is totally fucking high .
I cast a quick glance at the remaining three, and find that the same is true
for all of them .
“Well, can’t say I didn’t warn you . ” They close in simultaneously, the
entire thing obviously planned beforehand . I reach inside the pocket of my
jacket, pulling out my blade, seven inches in all . I sigh before it all begins .
“Well, I guess this is as good a solution for boredom as any . You all wanna
get high, right? Fine . We’re all gonna have a different high tonight . ”
Maybe they want a quick fuck . Maybe they want some extra cash for
dope . Maybe all they want to do is bash some skulls in . Far be it from me
to decline that offer . At least, for a little while, I can relax, be the me that
Shiki always wanted me to be, and lose myself in a moment of high .
They close in on me, faster and with a purpose .
The Second Homicide Inquiry - II
- May . -
- I need to write about her again . -
- I lose myself when I see her, drinking her presence in . My fingers become
numb and I forget to breathe at the sight of her . Can I die from doing so? I
need only look at her, and she buries herself again in my mind like a virus .
She’s invaded my life . Got deep inside, this miraculously perfect girl from
my high school . I think I’ve fallen in love . I’ve never even talked to her, never
even heard her voice . And that emptiness weighs more on me every day, so
much that I’m scared . -
February 9 .
The rain stopped sometime last night, and the city once again welcomes
daylight, albeit filtered through a cloudy grey canopy that the rain managed
to leave as a parting gift . I was up until late last night canvassing the crime
scenes for clues, and I was so tired I decided not to go home and just crash
at my old high school friend Gakuto’s place, which was nearer . Good thing
he was very accommodating . Now, despite my lack of sleep, I can’t seem
to shake off my custom of waking up early, but stuck with nothing to do,
I spend the time looking out the window and looking at the dawn slowly
creeping over the rest of the city .
“You up early, ain’t ya? Maybe you’re looking to fix me some morning
chow?” It’s Gakuto, awake now and rubbing his eyes . Of course, I decline
his polite request .
“In your weirdest dreams . Besides, there’s nothing but beer in your
fridge . I can’t work miracles, you know . ”
“Hah, sharp as ever, Mikiya . Time to bang on my neighbour’s door and
see if they have some grub to eat,” he concludes with a yawn . I watch him 
get up, scratch his head, and look at me for a moment, to which I muster
my best look of disappointment . Then, still groggy, he struggles to reach
the door, before doing a very slow double take on me, his eyes now as
surprised as if he had seen a ghost .
“Ever take note of how pale you are at the moment?” he says to me .
“You sure you feeling okay?” Frowning, I take a look at myself at his mirror .
He’s right . I’m as deathly pale as a doll .
“Don’t worry . It wears off after a while . Acid only takes about four to six
hours . Might be having some hallucinations and random synaesthesia until
then, though . Should be interesting . ”
“Someday, you’re curiosity’s gonna make you end up face down in a
gutter somewhere . ”
“But it hasn’t . ”
“Give it time,” he smiles . “So, you curious enough to try out what’s being
passed around on the corners these days,” he observes, looking over at the
remnants of my fix last night . Some blotters the size of stamps, and some
rolls of weed still remain unused, scattered above his table . I nod .
“The weed you can throw away . The acid…well, I’m done with that,
but you can have them if you want . It’s not addictive, if that’s what you
wanna ask, and it’s definitely got to be more fun than the poor excuses for
amusement parks we have here . ” I grab the coat which I hastily hurled on
top of the bed last night, and quickly put it on . It’s still 7am, and the city

should just be beginning to breathe again . I don’t have time to be leisurely
anymore .
“Heading out already? Stay for a while, man . You can’t even stand up
correct, let alone walk,” Gakuto says .
“Can’t . Got things to find out,” I answer, surprised at how weak and
throaty my voice comes out .
“Oh yeah? Like what?”
I point to Gakuto’s TV . “Watched the 6am news a bit earlier . Seems last
night, behind this love hotel called Pavillion—”
“The one with high prices for them suit-and-tie motherfuckers?” Gakuto
asks, interrupting .
“Yeah, that one . Apparently the murderous monster killed some more
people in the alley behind it . This time’s different, though . News said four
people all at the same scene . ”
Gakuto hums, a sound of curiosity, before turning on the television .
Predictably, it’s all morning news programs, and will be for a little while
longer . The content is unsurprising . The murderous monster again, and the
subject is just as I told Gakuto . There is one new point of interest in this 
report he’s watching, and that’s—
“The suspect is dressed in a kimono? How about that, huh?” Gakuto
asks, keeping his eyes glued to the TV . I shake my head, leaving the remark
hanging in the air as I continue walking towards the exit to his apartment .
Though I’m better off than I was just an hour ago, I’m still a little shaky as I
put on my shoes . As I do this, Gakuto walks up behind me, seeing me out .
With his hand holding the two drugs I left behind on his table, he starts to
ask a question before I leave .
“So what’s it like taking both of these at the same time?”
“Can’t say it’s a glowing review . You only get what Hansel and Gretel
felt . ” With that, I stand up and open the door, waving my hand behind me
before leaving his apartment . I don’t bother to turn around to see if he
waves back .
It’s only when I’ve stepped outside into the sun and closed the door
behind me that I begin to feel the pang of hunger . I haven’t eaten for a day .
And the munchies from the weed is no doubt only making it worse .
It takes me an hour to walk from Gakuto’s place to the crime scene that
I saw on the news this morning . Nothing is out of place when I get there .
Blue uniformed policemen are keeping a tight perimeter around the entire
place, and aren’t allowing anyone to get near . And of course, rubberneckers
are there as well, trying to get their fair share of an unusual sight . Between
them and the police blocking the entrance to the alley crossroads, I can’t
catch sight of anything useful inside .
I think about going to the Pavilion love hotel nearby, but then I consider
that it would probably be a waste of time . There wouldn’t be a receptionist
to talk to, and whatever personnel certainly wouldn’t even consider talking
to me . And like hell they’d show me their security camera footage . And
anyway, even if Shiki did make a stop at that hotel, she wouldn’t be there
now . So I decide to come at this from a different angle .
I came into contact with a particular drug slinger right around this neighbourhood
when I was trying to find a friend of Gakuto’s back in July, and
I was tracing his whereabouts back to his usual slingers . I only ever got
a cellphone number, so the phone is the only extent of our interaction,
but I talked to the person before and that was enough for me . I find a pay
phone nearby and call up the person up, asking for a meet to get some
new information . There is a silence on the other end of the line for a few
seconds before the person gives his consent . Then I make my way over to
the address .
It leads me to a place far from the noise of the city’s main avenues,
outside of the commercial district . Here, old buildings crowd around each
other, poorly zoned and a testament to what the economy had left behind .
The apartment building I arrive at is an old, run-down place, the dirt of
years that cling stubbornly to it making the color of the place darker than
it was originally intended to be . It was obviously long abandoned, the front
entrance having been boarded up . The address I have says to go to the
second floor, however, so I look around for a fire escape . Soon enough, I
find one, though it is missing a few steps and the rust has long overtaken
it . I climb it, each footfall sounding on steel, and careful to watch each
for a sign of dangerous collapse . When I get to the second floor landing, I
find the door leading to the apartment’s common hallway unlocked . I step
inside, quickly finding the room I’m looking for, and knock .
Beyond the door I hear the sounds of footsteps, and the movement of
shadows under the little stab of light emanating from under the door . This
lasts for a few seconds before the wooden door finally opens slightly, and
a person sticks her head out . It is the face of a woman, her long brunette
hair sweeping down from behind her head . At first glance, she looks to be
only a few years older than me . She looks me up and down, slipping me a
visible smile before opening the door the entire way . She is dressed unremarkably,
with only her red winter coat as a characteristic feature .
“Hey . I’m the one who called you this morning—”
“Yeah, yeah, I know . Hope nobody followed you . Wouldn’t want anybody
to know someone’s living in here . Get in here, quick . ” Suddenly, she reaches
out and takes my arm, pulling me into her room forcibly . I spend a moment
trying not to stumble, and find myself inside a very messy room . Clothes
and magazines and other assorted things have claimed possession of the
floor, and in the middle of all of it is a kotatsu . The woman walks past me,
quickly sitting down and slipping her legs inside the kotatsu . She gives me
an impatient glare, motioning her head for me to come near her . And so, a
bit more timidly then I’m used to, I sit down on the floor across from her .
The kotatsu isn’t warm at all, however, and I notice that it isn’t connected
to an outlet . Probably because there isn’t even any electricity in here .
“So this is what you look like, huh?” she says in a high voice . She rests
her hands on the table, and her head on her hands, tilted sideways so that
she has to look up at me awkwardly . “Didn’t really expect you to look the
way you are . ”
I want to answer that it’s entirely the same with me, but I hold off on it .
She’s acting a lot different than the two curt conversations we’ve had on
the phone have led me to believe . I don’t know how she slings her product, 
“Oh, it’s easy . Nobody really gives a hoot if you’re a guy or a girl, as long
as you got the product . ”
“Err, yeah, I suppose,” I manage to stutter out . “How did you—”
She chuckles . “You’re an easy book to read, and it’s written all over your
face, you know? Still, though, I could swear from your voice on the phone
that I had you pegged as some kind of reptilian look-type guy . Complete
with widdle spectacles, ‘information is power’-type college boy . Well,
guess it doesn’t matter in the end . So, what was it you wanted to ask?”
She blinks, then narrows her eyes . In that instant, though she did not
move at all, I could feel something change in how she carried herself,
almost like a switch has been turned on in her mind . Trying to ignore the
feeling, I press on with my first question . I clear my throat .
“I guess I’ll start with what happened last night . Heard anything to the
effect of witnesses to what went down with the murderous monster last
“You mean the wild girl in the kimono with a leather jacket?” she says .
The sentence catches me so off guard that I’m forced to avert my eyes from
her . If she’s as sharp as she claims, she’d have probably noticed that too .
She continues, “Don’t need to ask anyone else about that . I mean, I saw it
after all . Let’s see now…I think it was around 3am last night? The rain didn’t
seem to want to stop . This place is scary in rainy nights, and business has
kinda sucked lately, you know? But that love hotel is a constant customer .
They buy from me all the time . I was going out to make my delivery, and I
passed by the entrance to the alley, and then I saw them . Four youngins,
trying to mug a broad in a kimono . Shameless, I tell ya . ”
There is a playful thoughtfulness to her eyes now as she recounts last
night’s events, and before long I find my eyes meeting hers again . “The
news says the suspect’s gender is unconfirmed . How do you even know
she’s a girl?”
“Trust me, I’d know . Ain’t no better judge for a girl’s body than another
girl, is there? That said, it was pretty dark,” she furrows her brow, as if
trying hard to remember, then, “Wait, do you know this girl?” She raises
her head now, and looks at me straight . I bite my lip . No answer . “Fine .
Nothing to do with me, I guess . I was hoping this would be an info trade
and not just me giving and you taking, you know? My advice, though? You
should probably drop her like a bad disease . She’s not normal . I’ve been
friends with dangerous people my entire career, and I know how crazy it
can get . I’m friends with more than a few junkies, but they’re pretty safe as
long as you’re not a dick . What I’m really afraid of is people like her .
“She was something else . Four youngins got her surrounded, but she
was at them easy-like . She had a knife, right? And then she was just dancing
around them like a ballerina, swinging at them, but never enough to
seriously hurt them . But it wasn’t to avoid killing them, that’s for sure . It
felt more like she wanted to stab them over and over again . Like she was…
enjoying herself . The dope fiends eventually got tired, or maybe the pain
was getting harder to ignore, so they started to run . It didn’t matter . The
girl was faster . She jumped on them, killing three with a stab on the back .
Why she waited until then to finish them off, I wouldn’t know .
It went especially bad for the fourth guy she cornered . Guy had his face
to the ground, crying and pleading for his life, but the woman didn’t waste
any time, and planted the knife straight to his neck . Then she just stood
there for a long time, doing nothing except standing in the middle of all the
carnage . I saw her eyes then, glowing for some reason in the middle of all
that dark . A deep blue light . Like nothing else I’ve seen, I swear . I wanted
to scream, but it wouldn’t come out . A good thing, looking back on it . She
would’ve chased me down and stuck me like she did those four guys if
she’d heard me . ”
She says all of this with no gesture or gesticulation, just her eyes looking
up at mine, affixed there as she tells her story . It tells me that she isn’t
lying at all .
“Something bothers me about that, though,” I finally say after a full fivesecond
delay . “You say you were hiding at the corner of the alley and the
sidewalk, where you could only see silhouettes . How could you even know
that the cuts weren’t that deep? Or the state of the bodies?”
She grins . “You’re right . I don’t have solid proof I can show, and I can’t
tell you I was near close enough to tell you about how bad the cuts on the
guys were . It’s just the gut feeling I got, and some healthy assumption .
Which is why I didn’t take this to the cops . But if you want to find some
other witness, then you’re welcome to try . ”
“So it’s safe to say that you probably couldn’t truly tell what gender the
suspect was . ”
She concedes me a tired shrug . “Whatever you say, chief . Again, I just
know from looking . I could tell what she was wearing well enough though .
It’s a kimono, like the news says, but it had a jacket worn over it . Couldn’t
see the sleeves, see? In fact, without the sleeves, the kimono looks more
like a skirt that way . Funny how that is, huh?”
“Yeah,” I mutter absentmindedly, “really funny . ” Something is off about
all this . All of it seems like the facts are too controlled . The manner of death
coming to light first, making the city remember the entire affair that ended 
three years ago . Then the frequency of the murderous monster’s actions
increasing exactly after this was exposed, paralyzing the city . Then showing
his general appearance . All orderly, engineered . Almost like—
“Almost like a game, yeah?” The woman says with a tired wave of her
head . I look at her, eyebrow raised, and she shoots me back a catty smile as
she rests her head back on the kotatsu . “We done here? Cause there’s not
a lot more I can tell you about last night, you know . ”
I can’t muster a reply . I feel like there’s more to ask . I keep repeating
in my head how she was in the dark, unable to see very well in the heavy
rain . I keep thinking that she’s wrong that she saw a kimono . Inside, I keep
saying to myself that it isn’t Shiki . But laying out the facts before me makes
me expect the worst . It’s just like three years ago, then . I need to keep
believing . I haven’t even seen anything with my own eyes yet .
“Yeah, I guess that’s enough about what happened last night . ” I say, as
much to her as to myself . “I still have some questions, though . This might
be a weird question but, this was the first time there was a witness for the
crime, wasn’t it? I mean, especially since there’s been a new body every
day for the past week, and they weren’t exactly happening in deserted
places . Unlike three years ago, the murders today all took place downtown,
and it’s kind of weird that there hasn’t been anyone that’s stumbled on the
crime as it was happening before now, or seen anyone strange wandering
around . ”
“Mmm, I guess so, now that you mention it . But if you’re asking if
anyone I know has seen it just like me, then I’d have to guess no . Most of
the bodies were dropped at places that we don’t really cover . Besides, as
a rule, it’s not like slingers and junkies like to talk to cops anyway . And if
you’re going to talk about strange personalities walking around, well, have
you taken a good look at us? We walk around town and we’re considered
strange . And people who wear kimonos tend not to go near us, if you catch
my drift . I mean, who even wears kimonos these days? Wealthy old maids
or something, am I right? Kind of strange to catch someone like that buying
drugs from us, yeah?” She repeats the word “strange” in a whisper, as if
muttering some kind of code to the table .
“Still, that makes you the first one to see the whole thing being done .
The murder I mean . Don’t you find that the least bit odd?”
She scratches her head, getting visibly annoyed . “What about it? No
witnesses means no witnesses, and that’s that . ”
“But with no one to see it, it’s like a sealed room mystery, and that
removes all meaning from it . ”
“Wait, whoa, what? Sorry, I’m kinda slow, mister college boy, so you’re 
gonna have to cut me some slack . If it’s a sealed room murder, then isn’t
that a good thing? Police never find the body and you never get caught . ”
“Then it’s not the kind of murder our suspect wants . As far as the people
outside the room know, no crime has been committed inside the room .
And in fact, a sealed room killer wants this, so as to bother people as little
as possible . It’s the entire point of it . When there’s no way to get inside
the room, the murder begins to look like suicide . When people think of
murder, the suspect’s going about the whole sealed room thing the wrong
way . The thought of a suspect should be the last thing on your mind . But
this murderous monster wanted to be found . Hence the locations he chose .
Open, well-trod, in the busy portions of the city; far from being a sealed
room . And yet, no convenient witnesses to him . ”
The woman hums an affirmative and nods her side-lain head . “But you
do have a witness . Me . ”
“I know . But if this murderous monster wanted to show off, then a
witness would have long ago surfaced . ” My theory, however rough, is all I
have to go on . If I follow where it goes, then the next matter is simple . The
fact that a witness was present last night means it was different . Maybe it
was unplanned, not truly a part of the great architecture of his work .
“I think I’m getting it,” says the girl probingly . “So you’re thinking that the
lack of witnesses on the other murderers had a reason . And that because
I’m a witness now means he could have screwed up somewhere . ” She
crosses her arms lazily and furrows her brow, as if she’s just now parsing
what I said . “You’re pretty smart, college boy, though you could stand to
get better glasses . So where are your thoughts stringing you along now?”
“I…don’t know just yet,” I mutter hesitantly . Annoyed, I look up to
think . What else is there to think about? My hypothesis and…that’s that .
Suddenly, the girl, who still kept staring at me with narrowed eyes, broke
out into laughter .
“Ah, silent type now, yeah? You guys do have your reasons, I suppose .
So what’s yours, I wonder? Out to prove the innocence of this girl, hmm?”
“There’s a lot of stuff to be proven first before that . Like this new cocktail
package getting popular . Anything you can tell me about that?”
“Ah, it all comes back to this, eventually . ” She gives me a sidelong glance,
her eyes somehow bolder now more than sly, and it seems to me that even
the air of the room changes with it . “I’m assuming it’s the acid and weed
combo you’re talking about . Normally, that combo is called a ‘mudra,’ but
that’s not the same as the cocktail going around now . Not even close . That
shit is fierce, buddy . One dip and you’re gone, same as the rest of them .
Start taking it every day, and it’ll kill you in no time flat . I don’t know what 
kind of kick people get out of that . ”
“Is that so? I’ve tried LSD and marijuana before, but all I got was nausea
and the munchies, then it just went down to the kind of level you’d expect . ”
“Going around town and don’t know the first thing about drugs, do
you?” She does a little tut tut before continuing . “Totally not a good idea .
All right, let’s school you college kid . Thing about drugs is your body can
have a resistance to it . If it’s weak stuff, you might end up taking more and
more of it every time, and emptying your wallet in the process . Not the
way to go, right? Then there’s dependency . There’s physical and mental
sides to it, but to be simple, it’s how hard it is for you to deal with when you
don’t get your regular juice . The stronger it is, the more frequent you start
to take it . Ah well, it all starts with the person anyway . Easier for someone
hopped up on acid to stop than it is for a smoker, oftentimes . Ask me,
alcohol, smokes, and coffee are larger problems . Why drugs are illegal and
those aren’t is what I wanna ask . ”
I have to say, her little rant at the end makes me chuckle a little bit . Luckily,
enough, she doesn’t notice . Not that I think she’s wrong or anything . She’s
probably right . But I like how she just suddenly flew into it out of nowhere .
It takes her a moment to calm down before she continues .
“Well, fine, I guess it’s true there can be drugs that are designed to make
you so physically dependent, it can do some real damage to your body . On
principle, I don’t sell that stuff . That’s why I’m not so good with the guys
selling the Bloodchip . Don’t know any, and I don’t wanna meet any . ”
“Bloodchip?” I say . She nods .
“Street name of the new cocktail . It’s a special one, that . Two blotters,
mixed in with ten grams of weed will cost you only this much!” she says
in an exaggeratedly excited tone . Then she raises a finger, a single finger .
A thousand yen . Now, other countries have always priced their narcotics
higher than we do in Japan, but this is ridiculous . Even a middle school kid
would have very little trouble coming up with the money to buy regularly .
“Damn . That’s like fast food prices now . ”
“Yeah, and getting lower, too . They get people addicted, and then they
lower the price . What the hell is up with that? I mean, that’s just bad business
sense, isn’t it? That’s some dirty undercutting that even the yakuza
don’t do . And it’s even worse than the stuff out there on the street . It
might be some really pure LSD , I don’t know . All I know is, it’s getting
more popular every day . What’s weird is that you take it orally, right? But
then it’s more effective than shooting yourself up with dope . Never tried
it, though . ”
“Is this a well-known fact?”
“Of course . It’s how the trade goes . Surprised to hear you don’t know it,
actually, seeing as you’re apparently in the market . Though the connect for
the Bloodchip only uses children to sling his stuff, so I guess that limits how
the knowledge gets passed around . Street level guys know about it, but
the lieutenants don’t give a damn . All of them think it’s just some stupid
children’s game, probably . Guessing that’s also why the cops don’t have an
angle on it just yet . They keep targeting the big name yakuza groups, but
never the independent merchants like me . We’re just too high class for
them . ” She laughs again, a cheerfully mocking noise .
I on the other hand, only have what she told me to darken the mind .
The dealer I got my drugs from never told me about this new one . I tried
the wrong thing then . Judging from what she said, that might have been a
good thing .
“Thanks, miss . You’ve been a big help, really . ” I thank her and move to
get up . Time for me to get back on the move again .
“Don’t get in over your head now, yeah? The connect for the Bloodchip
is a really magnetic guy, or so I hear . At least the junkies seem to think so .
I told you before that business has sucked lately, right? It’s ‘cause I’m the
only one left in this neighborhood that’s still not slinging the Bloodchip .
It’s not my thing, you know? But to the new converts to the cause, the
entire thing almost looks like some New Age cult by now,” she says with ill
humour . She elects to stay inside the kotatsu, and in this cold, even without
the electric heater, I can’t blame her .
I navigate around the scattered trash and magazines in her room, and
grasp the knob on the front door . I ask my last, almost forgotten question,
without bothering to turn around .
“Oh yeah . Do you happen to know the name of the connect for the
“Oh, you don’t know?”
She says the name . The answer was completely not what I was hoping
for . For a moment, it makes me dizzy . Could this be what ties everything
together? I struggle to regain my composure, hoping she didn’t spot my
momentary surprise . Those sinister eyes I looked into before must know by
now, though she keeps her silence . I say my thanks again as calmly as I can,
and head out the door and out of the abandoned apartment, back into the
gray-black world of the cloud covered city .
/ 2
- June . -
- My life now has never been closer to perfect . -
- To find out that having a conversation with somebody, without fear or
restraint, has been very liberating . -
- Perhaps it would be at recess, or lunch, or even after school . -
- I would wait for him with a clinging anticipation . -
- And the times when we talk are times when my heart beats so fast, it
begins to hurt . -
- But it is pain that can be ignored, so long as we can talk, and let it never
end . Though it always must . -
- Ah, I see it now . -
- My world has been cloven in two . -
- And the boundary between these two worlds relies on that singular
truth, the man named Mikiya Kokutō . -
When I finally wake up, the sun had long since set in the west .
I pull myself up, and make my way to the edge of the roof I had just slept
on, and jump nimbly to the neighboring roof of a long abandoned low-rise .
The roof that had so kindly served as a bed to me was only authorized
personnel allowed, you see . That pretty much made it the closest thing I
had to a perfect place to sleep in without being bothered . So I got to the
roof of the abandoned low-rise next to it, and it was an easy jump from
there to the next roof and freedom of sleep . More than a week now since
I started this ridiculous life .
Unlike the other building, which had decidedly less external vertical
access, this building had a ladder from roof to sidewalk level . Looking down
before I use it to make sure the coast is clear, I quickly descend the ladder 
/ 2 • 157
and find myself back in a familiar alley . A silence engulfs the city at this
hour, as it begins to get truly dark . Something dangerous is out . I can feel it
in my bones . I keep myself at the ready .
Only scattered trash and paper decorate the lonely alley I stand in .
Conveniently, one of these is a discarded newspaper, dated February
9, today . As for the front page headline, it comes as little surprise . The
murderous monster again .
“Murderous monster kills four people . A kimono-clad figure…spotted
in crime scenes?” I read out to myself . Huh . That’s an eyebrow raiser . Four
people? Do they mean the four guys from last night? And this paper’s
saying they’re dead . Kimono…do they mean me? It really did get hairy last
night, and the whole affair was over really fast . But I couldn’t have killed
them . I couldn’t .
God, I don’t even know anymore . All I know now is I need to find him .
This murderous monster whose identity I don’t even have a fucking clue
on . Like three years ago, I find myself drawn to the places where this killer
has done his work, to think on them and see if I can find something in
myself . I throw the newspaper away, maybe a bit more strongly than I’d
intended .
“I don’t know anymore,” I repeat, whispering it to myself . The wind
howls, and for a moment, it scatters the trash about . With people out for
me, now, more than ever, I need to move so that no one sees me . Now,
more than ever, the backalleys will be my passage . Now, more than ever, I
need to hide myself in the dark, dirty places . Now, more than ever, I need
to cast aside humanity, at least for a while . And even then it may be painful,
painstaking, yet ultimately fruitless work . That I still don’t stop what I’m
doing even though I know this, might be the clearest proof of my idiocy .
Every day there are no easy or fulfilling meals, no rest for my muscles,
and no satisfaction to my sleep . I don’t have anywhere else left to go, but
it still feels like I’m running from something, deep in the vast darkness of
the city .
I think to myself, what the hell have you started here, Shiki? Holding
my breath, hunting someone? After I’ve found the murderer, what then?
Kill him? Is that what I’m really after? Mikiya…he wouldn’t like that . Just
remembering him makes me feel more like I’m falling into a trap that I can’t
pull myself out of .
I shake my head, trying to dispel all the troubling thoughts . It doesn’t
work, but at least I remember to walk now . Once more into the breach
tonight, I suppose . I need to end this fast . End it, and maybe I can go home…
At two in the morning, the entire city sleeps the sleep of the dead . Not
a single human shadow in the roads, and the noise of cars are infrequent
and always at some place far away, a few streets over . And always, the
police siren clung to them, like the neighing of distant horses . Businesses
are closed, and houses have their lights off, and dark clouds cover the
moonlight and the accompanying twinkling of the stars, preventing any
respite from the gloom . You’d think that with nobody out, that nothing
would happen, that all would be well . Ah, but there’s the rub . For there are
people out, only hidden in the forgotten places of the city, in the thieves’
highways and in the gutters and in the shadow of looming overpasses and
buildings . With any luck, they huddle together for warmth and comfort .
But the ones who ply the night alone aren’t so lucky .
 I walk the main street, which looks so strange and alien tonight having
been deserted .
A fair distance away, I see a person, the streetlight behind him
granting me only a silhouette to work with .
I stop . Something seems off about him . There is a droop in his stance
that hides something about him . Something about all this feels so…nostalgic .
The shadow sees me, and slips inside a nearby alley .
My feet spring to life without my will, following the shadow .
A chill rises in my throat, but I ignore it, and enter the alleyway .
Inside the alley, it’s like an entirely different world . The alley is a culde-sac,
with the buildings forming walls all around it . Because of this, no
sunlight shone upon it even on bright afternoons . Honestly, it looked more
like a room than an alley, another place forgotten by the city . In this dead
space, there was once one homeless person who dreamed his dreams of
happiness and delusion, but not today . The walls of this alley just got a
brand new paint job . There is a wet, sticky quality to the ground, and the
usual smell of rotten food is commingled with an even stronger scent .
All around me is a sea of blood . Bodily fluids seep and flow through the
alley, and the sweet, sticky smell pierces my nostrils . In the center of it all
is the corpse . Whatever face he donned in death can’t be seen anymore .
His arms were severed, and the legs became stumps around the knee area,
pressurized blood pouring out of them . Where the other ends of his arms
and legs are, I cannot locate . The stumps themselves don’t even look like
they’ve been cut . It isn’t the work of some fine blade, but more like the
violent feeding of an animal . From someplace, I hear—or do I imagine it?—
the sound of a hungry stomach being satisfied, and the noise of chewing,
barely even an echo . It is the sound of tough meat being chewed on .
/ 2 • 159
A world so different, even the bold crimson of blood was being overwhelmed
by the raw smell of beastly warmth .
And behind the body, the shadows seem to part to admit another man .
A man whose contours and curves snake around him with . He wears a similarly
blood red jacket, and held loosely in his lazily hanging right hand is a
knife, around seven inches long . The hair that almost reaches his shoulders
is cut without a care, but long enough that you would wonder at the man’s
gender . At a distance, he would have probably passed as a girl . Only one
thing differentiates me and him: his hair, a golden and noble blonde . The
putrid air that washes over and sways that distinctive feature of hair lends
him a carnivorous aura . A leonine character that presses deep down into
the soul .
This was all much too familiar to Shiki .
All of this was much too close to a long, dearly departed memory, now
come again to repeat itself like a curse .
It was a memory of summer’s end, four years ago . A dead night much
like tonight closed upon the town, and on that night, Shiki saw a shadow,
followed it…and the next thing she knew, she stood, still as anything,
before a blood-soaked corpse . What happened in between was not her
own recollection, but of the other, Shiki .
“Who the hell are you?” said Shiki, talking to the individual before her
that seemed like it stepped out of some image in her own mind . Shiki saw
this “other” her, this blonde Shiki, move its shoulders . A quiver, a tremble .
Not out of fear, she imagined, but out of a perverse pleasure .
“Shiki…Ryōgi,” the shadow said . Shiki wondered if that was a reply, or
a beckoning to her . The voice that said it was so plain that it could not be
read . With a flutter of golden hair, the shadow turned to her . And she saw
now that even the face bore the twisted resemblance, like looking intensely
into a queerly discolored mirror . The blonde Shiki had red eyes, no less
penetrating than Shiki’s own, and the ears glinted with silver earrings .
Though not a kimono, Shiki saw that the shadow wore a black skirt, reaching
down to just above the ankle; a match for the deep, blood-red leather
jacket .
But the shadow was no woman . Just a man, given the title of a murderous
monster .
“It’s you . You’re—” whispered Shiki, but before she could finish, the
murderer had already started to make a beeline right for her . Knife in hand,
he moved low like a sprinter, with no other choice in this narrow alley but
to try and break past Shiki .
Shiki quickly drew her own blade with a practiced dexterity, but the
scowl on her face then still told of her surprise . The shadow drew close, but
with no human quality to its movement . He brought himself like a coiled
snake, striking . And for a snake, even this narrow alleyway was more than
enough to serve as a hunting ground . And even to Shiki’s trained eyes, the
man moved much too fast for Shiki to reliably track .
And as soon as the distance between them was nearing a close, his
pattern of movement changed . With a potent force, his legs folded and
he jumped, all of it happening so fast that it seemed like an explosion of
strength . And suddenly he was in the air, knife held pointed, then thrust
with frightening accuracy at Shiki’s head .
A tiny glint in the darkness, and a moment later, the keening sound of
steel upon steel . Another instant with a grating noise, as the murderer’s
blade makes contact with Shiki’s own cross-guard . And in that instant, as
both knives embraced each other like brothers, both combatant’s glances
fell to each other’s eyes . Shiki, with narrowed eyes of hostility, and the
murderer’s, with widened eyes replete with joy, and then the moment was
quickly over .
With a visible grin, the murderer disengaged himself, turning Shiki’s
blade aside, and leapt to the side, behind Shiki and toward the other side
of the alley, successfully going around her . Like a spider, he landed, having
leapt six meters with one jump . And then he stopped, stood there, breathing
with a beastly noise .
And already, with his hunched form, and impossible movement, Shiki
could clearly see that he had long been far removed from any common
notion of humanity .
“Why?” he spoke . “Why won’t you take it seriously?” Fresh blood from
the corpse graced his fingertips and the hem of his skirt, still dripping as
he spoke . Shiki felt little need to answer him, but still looks at this man
that looks so much like her . “You’re not the same . Not the same woman
four years ago . If you were the same, you would’ve killed me, but you keep
toeing that boundary . I’ve wanted you for so long . You, so much like me .
But why?”
He spoke with a voice so guttural that it almost seemed like his very
heart would come bursting forth from his mouth, and his breathing was
loud and rasping . As if the very act of conversing was enough of a strain 
/ 2 • 161
on his reasoning, and that his breathing would prove the death of him . Is it
pleasure, Shiki thought, some kind of arousal, or was he truly in pain? Shiki
decided that it didn’t truly matter .
“I’d have never expected it to be you,” Shiki said, a hard, cold edge to
her voice . “A woman’s name, and a body that could really be mistaken for
a woman . We only talked once back at school, didn’t we?”
The murderous monster shook his head in an unsteady rhythm . “Yes .
So long ago . I’ve forgotten so much . ” He snickered, barely suppressing his
laugh . He was enjoying this, somehow .
Shiki could find no joy to draw from here . She had sought this murderer
out to finish all of this, and that was all . “How many have you killed?” she
asks, her voice slight and almost hesitant .
The murderer giggled now . “Would you believe me if I said I’ve already
lost count? I try not to think on them . Just numbers . Just numbers, all of
them . And no one can point them back at me, can they? I’m free of the
cycle of crime and punishment . And so I kill, sometimes for days at a time,
as you’ve obviously known . ” He coughs violently, and seems to heave
forward, but finds himself again before continuing .
“I’ve left so many things, so many traces all for you . All the murders . How
I left the corpses . I knew you’d think they were familiar . What happened
four years ago . Yes,” he draws the word out in a long, low breath . “I thought
that would jump start your memory . But you ignored me . Ignored all of it!
It didn’t make the right…impression . ” He flashes a smile, displaying a row
of bloodied teeth that shine in the night . “They call me a monster . What I
lacked in a name, people readily gave me . It’s spot on, no? This week was
very good for me, too . I did exactly what they expected me to after giving
me such a title . After all, people need me to commit murder, so that they
can demonize him like any other monster they know . Right? But you know
all this, don’t you, Ryōgi? You admired my work . You came looking for me .
It’s the seed in you wanting to be free, to find a predator just like you . Just
like me . Yeah, I understand . I understand . Because I know you best . ”
His labored breathing became higher and louder, echoing in the silence
of night embracing the alleyway . Shiki saw him lick off the stray spots of
blood still clinging to the corners of his mouth, his tongue savouring each
drip . It did nothing about the blood still scattered on his face . What was
he doing to that corpse that would cover him in blood from head to toe?
His eyes were bloodshot like a madman’s . And in front of such a grisly
sight, Shiki could muster no reply . The hate that welled up in her forbade
any words, as though gracing the man’s presence with even a single word
would dirty it irredeemably .
Even if—or perhaps especially because—his words were hard to deny .
Her desires, and her murderous impulse, coming together .
Shiki turned away from him then, hiding her face and her furrowed brow .
But the murderer didn’t miss a beat, as if he could himself sense the pump
of blood, the telltale sign of minute perspiration that became the formula
of trepidation . The man smiles, his mouth twisting into a crooked shape .
“Oh, that won’t do . You keep holding back . You know what you’re doing .
There’s something inside you, shouting out what you really are, but you
deny it every day . But there was never any need to . Just submit . Do what it
wants . It’s what you want, too . ”
Shiki keeps silent, still looking at the man as one would look at poison .
The murderer voices his last proposition .
“You’re a persistent bitch, I know . So I know that if you can’t return to
what you once were, then I guess I just have to kill the cause of all this . Kill
the one making you hold back . After which, everything would be solved . Go
on . Tell me I can’t do it . You were so close to solving the problem yourself
three years ago . So close . Now I just have to finish it myself . ” The murderer
threw his head back, eyes shut and laughing deeply .
 “Tell me—,” Shiki said menacingly . Her Eyes glow unlike before, blue
and rich with the power of magic . She rushed toward the man, her movement
so fast, and the man so distracted by his own revelry, that he never
saw her . “—who’s going to kill who, now?”
Shiki slashed effortlessly; her blade, empowered by entropy itself, passing
through the man’s arm and laying waste . His knife bounced lazily on the
ground, forgotten, and his distinctive laugh turned into a scream of mad
keening on the edge of hearing . He leapt away from Shiki, trying to find
safety in distance . But Shiki was fast, and gave pursuit . He needed to find
someplace that Shiki couldn’t reach .
So he jumped high, higher than what seemed possible, letting his
remaining hand cling to a stray windowsill in one of the surrounding buildings .
Unbelievably, he pushed himself up, leaping higher and higher, clinging
to pipe fixtures and parts of the wall chipped away where his hands and
feet could find purchase, moving with the ease of a flying squirrel . And at
last when he had climbed about twenty meters up, clung to the side of the
building with the sureness of a spider, he finally dares to look back down
on the alley where he had just so narrowly escaped from .
And down below, shining clear in the field of darkness, are the Arcane
Eyes, an intense azure glow, unflinching and affixed as if they were the eyes
of Death itself .
/ 2 • 163
The murderer had made his way away from that fateful alley, even
though his blood thirst hounded him terribly inside . It did not matter .
Another sensation hounded him more now . A virgin taste of genuine fear .
And after it, strangely, jubilation that he could scarcely control .
“I knew it . You’re still real,” he whispers under his breath as he skirts
from rooftop to neighboring rooftop with a practiced effortlessness . “She
was real . ”
Tonight, he knew, he had found the incontrovertible proof . That girl still
prowled among the side of the world where the damned lived, the secret
world of monsters and murderers that lay under everything . He would
expose that side of her, bring it out like no one else truly could . He knew
how . He needed only mention the notion of killing a certain someone to
bring Shiki perilously close to that boundary . And if she had the sense to
cross it, the man knew she would be a better monster than he had ever
been .
“It’s so simple . I just have to kill the one holding her leash . ” He leapt
down in a gap too wide to jump, but grabbed hold of a low-hanging wire
fixture, and used it to maintain his momentum and swing himself across
to the next wall, climbing it easily . Losing only seconds to climbing, he was
easily back on the roof . Down below, Shiki tried to give chase, he knew .
He could feel her, feel the drive of the hunt . But it was a hunt she had lost
minutes ago . Swiftness was key, and running across these buildings was
what made him swiftest of all . Though the low skyline of the neighborhood
had no trees to swing from, it might as well have been a dense forest for
the likes of him . He could hide himself, track his prey, all in convenience . It
was an art .
He felt alive more than ever now, even as the stump of his arm bled and
left an obvious trail . Already, the blood had begun to clot, and the wounds
began to close . Soon it would just be a mere stump . Near useless, but it
didn’t matter . He offered a single, rejoicing, and defiant howl at the moonless
night . A cry of love unfulfilled for four years, now finally reaching its
fruition .
The Second Homicide Inquiry - III
- July . -
- “I don’t like weak people . ” That’s what she said to me, very calmly . -
- “I don’t like weak people . ” Just like that, Shiki Ryōgi threw me out like
trash . -
- “I don’t like weak people . ” I don’t truly know what she meant by that . -
- But that night, for the first time in my life, I hit someone . -
- That night, for the first time in my life, I murdered someone . -
February 10 .
It’s definitely a cloudy day, but some of you are gonna have some
welcome sunshine today .
I hear the weather report drone on in the car radio . It only takes one
look out the car window for it to be clear that wherever that welcome
sunshine is, it’s surely not shining anywhere near here . Not a lick of change
from yesterday .
With a hand on the steering wheel, I look at my wristwatch, seeing that
the time is barely past noon . If this were any normal day, I’d be at Miss
Tōko’s office, calling some random person for an art exhibition, or taking
care of expenses . But this was no normal day . I called her up this morning,
saying I’d be taking a sick leave for the day, as I did yesterday . And now
I find myself in my car, trundling slowly down the bay side harbour and
industrial areas .
“Take it easy, Kokutō,” was all the warning Miss Tōko said to me . I
wonder if she somehow knew what I was doing . In any case, the warning
isn’t enough to stop me . Especially after last night, when another victim of
the murderous monster had been uncovered . And of all places, too… the
crime scene last night was the alleyway where the first murder was found 
over four years ago . Only a fool would think that was a mere coincidence .
With every day comes a new murder, and every day, the connections grow
stronger, building towards something that the killer wants said to somebody .
That means there’s little time left .
After my little stint at the home of that dealer girl yesterday, I spent the
rest of the day trying to find out where the Bloodchip package was coming
from . As it turns out, the trail to the drug connect led here, to the harbor
district, where the connect apparently lives . It’s where I’m headed to now,
address in hand, to finally confront this man who might hold at least some
of the answers .
The deeper into the harbour district I get, the more the traffic starts to
become dominated by 18-wheeler semis carrying various shipping containers
and sea cans in different colors, all going out to destinations somewhere
in the city, until finally, they are virtually the only traffic on the road,
a trend broken only twice by a port authority car rolling up . Finally, I reach
the main road that opens into the harbor itself, and from here, I can see
the bay quite clearly . Ashen waters reflect an equally ashen gray sky as
waves crash determinedly at the high waterfront . Only a few ships are in
today: clearly not a busy day for the port, which typically handles 90,000
container tonnage a year, but today many of the gantry cranes stand inactive .
Little islands dot the interior of the bay, some of them no larger than
two football fields . A dull arc in the distance crosses the great expanse of
the bay, the only bridge across it . Another bridge called the Broad Bridge
was slated to be built, and was close to completion at summer last year .
But it was…destroyed by a typhoon, and when inquiries were made into
construction safety, all work was halted . There haven’t been any rumblings
about it being rebuilt, so now its gutted and twisted ruin stands there as a
monument to failed industry .
As it happens, the address I’m looking for is quite near the Broad Bridge,
and offers a clear view of the level of destruction it sustained . This part of
the harbor is a quiet one, away from the usual bustle of the stevedores and
the typical traffic . I choose a parking space on the roadside and get out,
immediately noting the smell of saltwater in the air as I do so . The neighborhood
is unremarkable, filled with small businesses catering to low-cost
housing in the area . The proximity of the place to the noisy harbor marks it
as a low land value area, yet today none of that noise can be heard . If not
for the crashing of the waves and the returning undertow, the place would
have been soundless . The address itself is little more than a wooden prefab
two-floor apartment-for-rent that looks so run-down it feels like it was run
through just as bad as the nearby Broad Bridge . And yet, according to the 
rumors, the connect to all of the Bloodchip packages in the city apparently
owns it . Running it through city records seems to turn up a name of “Alaya”
for the owner, but I highly doubt that’s even true .
The building only has six studio-size rooms on its first floor, and I knock
and try every lock on the doors, making sure no one else is in the building .
With a little nervousness creeping up on me, I try as quietly as I can
to climb the wooden stairs leading to the second floor, though the rickety
thirty year old stairs clearly show their age . I find the room I’m looking for,
only to discover the door is locked . No real problem . I produce a screwdriver
from my jacket pocket and set to work trying to pry the doorknob
out by force .
This is definitely something crazy I’m doing, especially for me . But it isn’t
really the time to be bothered by decency . With the dealer out, this is my
only shot at this . At last, after a few minutes of frantic pulling, the doorknob
bends and comes lose . “Bingo,” I whisper with satisfaction, and pass
through the door to steal into the room .
Immediately after the entrance, I find myself in the kitchen . I expected
to find some cooking utensils here, but none are present as far as I can see .
For the most part, it even seems unused . The layout of the studio apartment
itself is quite narrow, and would probably never accommodate any
more than two or three people, and that would be pushing it . Another
doorway leading out of the kitchen goes into another small room, though
a bit more spacious than this one . From what I can see from the kitchen, I
find it not so dissimilar to the room of the slinger I visited yesterday, though
things seem far more cluttered and littered about, if that could be believed .
Whatever force passed through the room, a typhoon or whatever, it seems
content to leave everything where they were discarded carelessly . In the

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far wall of the next room, a curtainless window is placed, offering a clear
panorama of the leaden sea . The distinct sound of crashing waves that I
heard from outside is eerily muffled now, small and far away from hearing .
The window seems like the only concession to decoration within it that I
can see . Without anywhere else to go but inside the cluttered room, I make
my way in .
As soon as I step into the room, and take a cursory glance around, I
feel the blood rushing to the back of my head in shock, and a sensation of
collapsing . Resisting my body’s inclination to just fall down, I collect myself
and pass a lingering survey of the room .
I came here to find something . I expected there to be drugs, some kind
of process on how they’re designed maybe, if I was lucky . Just some clue
that would lead me to the next step . I never expected this .
“Shiki,” I breathe out, though no one is here to listen . What I had seen
from the kitchen as trash scattered all over the walls and floor are, in fact,
photographs . I take one in my hands . This one is a photo of Shiki in her
high school days . In some corners of the room are canvasses, filled with
amateur portraits and sketches of Shiki . Hanging by wires in the ceiling are
more photos, and there are a bunch of albums in a small shelf . Too many
pictures, too many to count . All of the same person . Shiki Ryōgi .
The pictures are all of various times, but none seem to go back farther
than four years ago, to 1995 . But many of them are extremely, frighteningly
recent . There is a photo of Shiki in the uniform of Reien Girl’s Academy,
when she had to infiltrate the school for a case this January . No daily necessities,
no food, or entertainment, or personal touches decorate this small
room beside the sea . And yet, nothing could be more personal as this
room . This is him, the man and his world entire, sprung forth from emptiness
to fill void .
A cold sweat races down my back . This room’s owner could be back at
any moment . Should I leave? Or stay and talk to the man? Could there still
be any reasoning with him? I shake my head, dispelling the thought . Any
man can be reasoned, I tell myself . And this man and I have much talk and
explaining to do . We haven’t seen each other since school .
It is then, when taking stock of myself, when I spot the single book lying
atop the desk beside the window . It is notable, because it sits on that desk
as a solitary object, when all other things in the room are scattered haphazardly
and without clear regard to order . This book holds an importance .
The green spine, the binding, and the cover are immaculately clean, as
if it were meant to be presentable to people other than its owner, as if it
begged to be read . It rests there, shone on by the single beam of light pouring
into the room from the window, the soul of this personal world .
I take it in my hand . And, perhaps playing into the desires of its owner, I
open it to the first page .
I don’t know how many hours have passed . But I have spent them standing
in this room, reading this book, a diary of the room’s occupant, until
the very last page . It is a chronicle of murder, a history of violence and its
genesis . It goes back a long way, well into four years ago, with the ritual
murders . Where it all began .
I let out a long breath, as if I had just run for miles, and look up at the
ceiling . The diary began at spring, four years ago . The very first line, from
the very first page, was where it could all be traced back to . It clings to my
mind, and will for a long time, as the point when a person’s mind comes to
change . His story is no different from any story, beginning simply with two
“April 1995 . I met her,” says a voice coming from the entrance to the
apartment, sudden and clear . Slow and uneven footsteps make their way
across the hardwood floor, and when he reaches the entrance to the room,
I finally see him, with the same intimate smile on his face .
“Hey . Long time no see,” he says . “It’s been, what, three years, Kokutō?”
There is not even the slightest hint of astonishment in his voice . The man
wears a black woman’s skirt, and a red leather jacket . From the messily cut
hair that barely reaches her shoulders, to his ambiguous features, he has
clearly strived to look as much like Shiki as he can . His hair is, however, a
vivid blonde to Shiki’s rich black, and his eyes bear contacts that color them
a deep red . “This is a bit earlier than I expected you to find me . Thought
it’d be a bit later, actually . ” He avoids looking at me, and instead looks at
the floor as he speaks .
“I thought so too,” I agreed, holding down the lump in my throat .
“Right? Maybe I screwed up somewhere? I thought I’d removed all trace
of myself after we last talked back in that old restaurant . ”
“No mistake on your part, I think . But there was one clue . Remember the
apartment complex in Kayamihama that got torn down back in November?
I had the opportunity to follow the paper trail for that building before that
happened . Your name was on the list of tenants . After the business with
that apartment complex, it worried me, since that was no normal building .
Somehow, I felt then that you had to have some kind of connection to Shiki .
Am I right, Leo Shirazumi?”
Shirazumi runs a hand through his blonde hair, combing it upward,
before nodding . “The list of tenants, huh? You always were good at searching
for people, Kokutō . It was another one of Alaya’s little tricks of the Art .
It didn’t hold my interest for very long . And yet, thanks to it, I met the one
person I never wanted to meet again here, earlier than I’d planned . ” He
smiles awkwardly, and steps further into the room .
When he steps into the light, it’s only then that I notice his left hand
cut clean from just above the elbow, with nothing left below except a dull,
dried stump . “But it sounds like there’s nothing to hide from you . Yeah,
it was three years ago, wasn’t it? When you first saw Shiki with a body . It
was no coincidence that you found me on your way to the Ryōgi estate .  
I delayed you, because I wanted you to see exactly when she murdered
someone . Alaya had already considered me a failure then, just a thing to be
cast off . But I still think I made the right choice . It seemed like a disservice
to a friend not to show you Shiki’s true nature . What she’s really like . ”
He sits atop the desk beside the window, speaking in a tender tone of
nostalgia . As he is right now, he seems little different from the Shirazumi
I knew back then in high school . So what is this then? I’ve read his diary,
known he was the connect to the Bloodchip, and thought he had changed
so utterly and completely . But now, he seems…normal . Composed, even .
Just like the Shirazumi of three years ago, still smiling and good . But written
in the diary in my hands is his claim of responsibility to the murders . All it
took for him was one bad day, an one individual called Alaya—already gone
by now—to change him into what he is . So his sins must, like any other
person’s, be answered for .
“The ritual murders from four years ago have started again . And now I
find out that you’re the one doing them,” I find the words come hard to my
mouth, though I keep my gaze at him straight . Shirazumi himself cannot
bring himself to do the same, it seems .
“Yes,” he nods . “But I wasn’t the serial killer back then . Lay the blame on
Shiki Ryōgi . I only wanted to protect you from her . ”
“You’re not a good liar, Shirazumi . ” I say it more confidently now . From
my coat pocket, I retrieve a single blotter of the Bloodchip, letting it fall to
the ground . They flutter in the air before falling, joining the many pictures
already scattered on the floor . A pained glance is all Leo Shirazumi can
spare for them . “When you quit school to do something you wanted to do,
was all of this what you meant?”
Shirazumi shakes his head . “Maybe I’ve strayed . Too much, you could
say . Maybe I was a fool to think that I could even survive in this trade . I’ve
made a drug that frees people from this prison . But as to how it all could
have come to this, I honestly don’t know . ” His smile is tinged with melancholy,
and he shivers as he speaks . He grasps his cut arm with his good one,
letting it wrap around his body, as if to gather what warmth he can . As if
sensing where I was looking, he talks of his arm .
“This? Shiki Ryōgi again, if you haven’t already guessed . I expected it
to start healing in short order, but so far that hasn’t happened . I suppose
it’s the nature of her spell of death . A wound will heal, but this arm is now
truly ‘dead . ’ Alaya did say to me that life in its true and pure form was the
domain of sorcery beyond him . ”
Sorcery . I never expected to hear the word from him . But I suppose I
should have, having read the diary . He was rescued by Sōren Alaya, much 
like I was myself . All of this smelled of the stink of a far reaching, calculated
plot . Could it be so, even though the man himself was already dead?
“Shirazumi, why all these murders? What’s the point?” At hearing my
question, Leo Shirazumi closes his eyes in recollection .
“I don’t kill on a whim, you know,” he whispers with a pained tone . He
puts an open hand in his chest, clutching it as firmly as though he were in
pain . “I haven’t killed because I wanted it . ”
“Then why?”
“Kokutō, do you know a thing about what they call the ‘origin?’ Your
master is a mage herself, isn’t she? Tōko Aozaki? You must have heard of
it at some point . It’s a soul’s true nature, the grand beginning . What one
should be . The origin of my soul was awakened by Sōren Alaya, that demon
that masqueraded as a plain human .
I don’t think Miss Tōko ever told me about this origin, or the awakening
of the soul . It’s all gibberish to me . “I don’t really get it, but you’re saying
that’s what’s making you kill?”
“Don’t think I know a lot about the origin of the soul . I only know what
Alaya told me; that because I was awakened, there was no going back . That
it was like instinct in you, that we all had in some form . Sometimes, you get
special ones, like mine . And unfortunately, Alaya happened to find a use in
it . ” He breathes a deep sigh . Beads of sweat begin to collect in his forehead
despite the cold .
Something is changing here . There is a dangerous tinge to Shirazumi
now . I spy a quick glance toward the door, noting how far I am, and how
near he is to it .
“Are you alright, Shirazumi? There’s something wrong—”
“Don’t worry about it, alright? This always happens . ” He exhales another
long thread of air before continuing . “Listen, Kokutō . This instinct that I
have…it destroys sense . It’s stronger than my will . It’s my enemy . Twenty
years…of being me…isn’t enough to hold it back . It’s just like Alaya said .
Anyone with his origin awakened is tied to it . I know…you don’t understand,
Kokutō . But my soul’s origin is ‘consumption . ’” His halting voice
stops to admit a violent cough, and his breathing has become rough and
throaty without my noticing it, as if he were holding back vomit . The hand
that presses tightly upon his chest clutches it desperately . He shivers now,
more violently than even a minute before, and his teeth begin to chatter
in anticipation .
“Shirazumi, what’s happe—”
“Let me talk . This could be the last sensible conversation I can hold .
Now…the origin . It changes the body in…subtle ways . Inside . The power 
of the Art is inside you, making you capable of things that the body can’t
usually do . It’s more than ancestral memory . It’s returning to…some primal
state . And it’s so subtle, the affected person…doesn’t usually notice the
change . ” He brings his hand to his face, covering it and turning away from
me, trying to stifle laughter . His shoulders shake, whether from laughter, or
from his sickness, I can’t truly be sure . “So that’s what this is . Before I knew
it, I became…what I am now . The origin is an overriding impulse . When
it’s awakened…I…stop being…I . Because of my origin…I have to consume . ”
He pauses, his voice still trying to halt some inner change . “Fuck! Don’t
you understand, Mikiya?! Why the fuck does it have to be me, huh?! Why
the fuck does my origin need to be this way? I’m going to die because of
something I barely even understand . It can’t end like this! I want to die, still
being me . ”
Like in the throes of some great illness, his teeth chatter incessantly . He
gets up from the desk . I manage to glimpse his face, and his eyes, tears
welled up in them . His shoulder’s don’t stop shaking as he desperately
fights himself .
“Shirazumi, listen . I have a friend . Tōko Aozaki . Let’s take you to her .
Maybe she can do something to help you . ”
Shirazumi’s knees fall to the tatami covered floor, his face looking downward .
“No . I’m special . Different . ” He raises his head and looks at me . His
convulsions are getting worse by the second . But his face holds a kind of
surrendering tranquility that I didn’t expect to see . “You were always good .
That’s right . You were always on my side . Maybe it’s because of you that I
can hold myself back right now . I don’t…I don’t want to have to kill you . ” He
crawls the distance toward me, clinging to my legs with his one arm . The
strength in that arm is unbelievably strong, and my legs almost give way
from the pressure . But strangely enough, I don’t feel so afraid . The greater
the strength in his hands, the better I know how desperate he is, how much
he wants to get away . And I can’t find it in myself to refuse that .
“Shirazumi,” I can do nothing except stand here, and utter his name, in
hopes that he can remember . His hand climbs to my coat as he continues
to kneel, and now I can feel his shivering, so violent that it feels like he’s
getting torn apart at the seams . And suddenly, he whispers in a low, far
voice .
“I’m a murderer,” he says, in narrow penitence .
“Yeah,” I reply, gazing out at sea through the window .
“I’m not like you,” he says, in retched contrition .
“Don’t say that,” I reply, gazing out at sea through the window .
“I can’t be saved,” he says, in choked confession .
“You’re still alive, which means that’s another lie,” I reply . There is little
I can do but to gaze out at sea through the window .
Words uttered on the verge of tears, and vague answers . What salvation
is there in that? But at last, Shirazumi manages to force out the words that
perhaps he hated to say himself . In a thin, threaded voice, he pleads .
“Then save me, Kokutō . ”
I can muster no reply . I curse my own powerlessness, how I can do so
little to help him . There is a beat of silence between us .
Then he groans, a low rumble, long held, like a monstrous noise that
comes from deep inside him . The hand he clasps my coat with gathers
strength in it for one surprising moment, and he uses it to pull himself up .
In one swift motion, he strikes my chest, and then a moment of disorientation,
and a sharp pain in my back . When I pick myself back up, I find that he
had flung me toward the wall . I look back at him . He looks back at me with
maddened, bloodshot eyes .
“Don’t follow . Don’t look for me . Next time, I will kill you,” he says, his
voice calmer than it had been since he came into the room . He climbs on
the desk in one swift motion, then smashes the glass window with one
strike of his hand .
“Shirazumi! We can still go to Tōko Aozaki . I’m sure she can—”
“Sure she can what, Kokutō?” he spits out, malice clear in his tone .
“Make me better? You can’t even guarantee that . And if I get better, what’s
waiting for me? Nothing but a death sentence . And Shiki Ryōgi herself
hunts me . I walk a path, and I know how it ends either way . But I still have
to run . ”
He snickers for a brief moment before quickly jumping out the window .
The last thing I see of him is his blonde hair, floating in the seaborne breeze .
I hurry toward the window, casting my eyes downwards . But no trace can
be found of him in the harbor .
“Idiot,” I whisper, not knowing whether I directed it at Shirazumi or
myself . This isn’t over then . Not by a long shot . He thinks there’s no way
out, and I can’t really promise him there is . I bite my lip as I leave the
room, this temple to Shiki, thinking about how helplessly caught up I am in
this whole thing . No easy solution seems to be forthcoming, but there are
things left to do still . I need to find Shiki, and I can’t let Shirazumi go, even
if saving him seems impossible . I can’t allow him to murder more people .
For his sake .
The Second Homicide Inquiry - IV
- August . -
- I haven’t had a wink of sleep since that night . -
- I can’t even go outside . I’m so scared someone will see me . -
- I look at myself in the mirror . Spoiled . Comfortable . And I hate myself
for it . -
- I’m the worst kind of person . -
- Nothing seems to be worth it . I’m not even eating . -
- Though no one has shot me, or stabbed me, or pushed me off a height,
I am still a crumbling existence, living through the everyday like a man
already dead . -
- And after the seventh day, I realized myself that the man I murdered
didn’t die alone that night . -
- Because the reality is a very simple truth . -
- That to murder someone means you murder yourself too . -
By the time I’d left the harbor and went back to my apartment, it was
already well past sunset, and dark had settled on the city . When I go inside
the room I had not been in for a straight two days, I turn on the light, seeing
no one inside . On the table is a map of the city, spread out in full . Beside it
is a mug filled with barely drunk coffee . Both of them untouched in these
past days . Only solitary air rules this place, and Shiki isn’t here tonight to
dispel it .
I sigh; involuntarily, I notice . I had dared to hope . After all, since January,
Shiki had often come here without telling me, doing nothing else except
talking and then sleeping, then leaving at morning the next day . An eccentricity
she had repeated quite often . And I had tried to put a slim hope on
such a thing happening when I got home, for her to be lying on my bed, as 
if the past few days had never happened .
I remember going to Shiki’s old household servant, Akitaka, a few days
ago . I was looking for any advice I could get . When I told him about how
Shiki could often be so unpredictable, he silently placed a hand on my
shoulder and said “I must leave the lady to you now . ” It stymies me until
now, and I couldn’t help but think at the time that it must have been some
kind of circuitous and poorly worded compliment . Hard to believe that
just a week or so ago, the days just came and went with me barely noticing .
I’d always thought they’d be that way forever after what happened in
November . Now every hour of every day passes slowly and trudgingly .
I snap out of my reverie when the phone rings . Probably Miss Tōko,
come to add more burdens to the soul . I can’t really blame her . I mean,
I have been absent for three days . So, with growing apprehension at the
kind of chewing out I might get, I pick the phone up .
“Hello? Kokutō speaking . ” In the other end of the line, I hear only a
sudden gasp . And for some reason, it is a familiar sound, a sound of a girl I
know . I take a wild guess .
There are two seconds of silence, and then . . .
“You idiot,” she finally says with a tense voice, pouring all of her sneer
in that last word . “Where the fuck have you been walking around? Maybe
you haven’t heard, but there’s a serial killer loose . Haven’t you been watching
the news la—” then she suddenly cuts herself off . Of course I’ve been
watching the news . And of course, she knows what the news has been
saying . A girl wearing a kimono . It’s exactly why I couldn’t have just sat on
my ass and do nothing .
“Fine, whatever,” she continues with a sigh . “You’re okay . That’s all that
matters . Just stay at Tōko’s place until this whole mess clears over . S’all I
wanted to say . ”
I am glad, at least, that she still knows how to worry . Because at least,
from what I gather from her, we’ve been worrying together for the past
few days . And yet it still causes some disquiet . If she knows she’s not the
killer, why hasn’t she come home?
“Shiki, where are you now?”
“None of your fucking business . ”
“It is my business . You’re trying to find the serial killer, aren’t you?”
There is a long silence, when I can hear only her light spun breathing .
And then, a single word .
“Yeah . ” She says it with cold, murderous finality, so much that I think I
must have shivered . And so what I’d feared is true .
“Don’t do it . Shiki, just come back home . You can’t kill him . ”
“You’ve met with Shirazumi then, Mikiya . Then I gotta ask, are you out
of your mind? What do you expect me to do? He’s given me every reason
to kill him . ” Coldness turns to a low, short laugh on the other end of the
phone .
“Shiki! Just list—”
“No, you listen . I’ve got my prey . And he’s not going to get a chance to
get away . He’s the perfect brand of crazy that I haven’t had the pleasure of
hunting for a while now . ”
Perfect brand of crazy, she said . I remember Fujino Asagami, the killer
this summer that committed murder out of pleasure . Now it is Leo
Shirazumi, a murderer that kills against his own will . And she thinks them
the same, because it’s the same murderous impulse that drives both of
them; that drives her . The impulse of murderous monsters .
“And who the hell are you to judge who deserves to die? How many sins
does it take?” I find myself saying it louder than I’d intended .
“Ah, finally the dulcet tones of your generalizations . And what kind of
judge are you for people who deserve to live, huh? Does Leo Shirazumi, a
serial killer who’s killed far too many people, deserve to live? He’s as fine a
candidate as any for death, I’d say . ”
“Don’t be a fool here, Shiki,” I say urgently . She has to remember her
words . “No one deserves to be murdered, and you know it . You don’t hold
the scales here . ”
“What I know is that he’s beyond help . No longer human . ” She declares
plainly .
Say she’s right . Maybe Leo Shirazumi can’t truly be called human
anymore . But at his last sane moment, he said he wanted to be saved .
“There may still be something we can do for him if we hurry . Just come
back for now and we can talk, Shiki . Kill Shirazumi, and there’s no going
back . ”
Silence, save for our frozen breaths . And long enough after the sentence
hangs in the air, she utters her words . “I’m sorry . I need to . ”
“But why?”
After a moment’s hesitation, she answers, her voice dry and tired .
“Because we’re the same . Both murderous monsters . ”
An admission so frank, so direct . I put a hand on my temple and close my
eyes . “No, you aren’t! I mean, you can’t even pin a single murder to your
name . ”
“Luck . That’s all that is . It doesn’t change a thing . I’ve come to realize
something, Mikiya . That four years ago, I was this close to murder . Because 
Shiki was someone who knew nothing but murder . But that’s it . Shiki
knew murder, but that wasn’t to say that he liked it . And it only takes a
moment to realize what comes next . That ever since I woke up from my
coma, ever since Shiki died, something’s still digging inside me, shouting
murder, even without him . It’s simple, really . Now I know that the one that
truly wanted murder wasn’t Shiki, who died, but , who survived . ” The
voice on the other side lowers, cursing herself . Though it is little changed
from her usual tone, it’s the slight difference that becomes painfully noticeable .
“That’s why there’s nothing left for me on your side of the world . And
that’s why you shouldn’t wait for me to come back . ”
Her voice cracks with a little chuckle, more a scoff . Is she crying?
“You’re making another mistake, Shiki . ” She doesn’t answer . I continue,
unfazed . “You said to me some time ago that a lifetime only has room for
one real murder . Those were your words . You believed in that . And you,
more than anyone, know the price of murder . ” After all, she had been
suppressing—murdering, in her words—the Shiki personality ever since
she had been a child . She knew the pain of Shiki, the victim, and of ,
the murderer . It’s why I believed in her, in the girl who always seemed to
hide some invisible wound . “I know you won’t kill . You’re saying that you
haven’t murdered anyone because you keep getting lucky? Don’t make me
laugh! You’re the one that told me we make our own luck . You’ve always
kept that impulse tucked away . Every person leans some way or the other .
It’s just that you lean on the act of murder . But you’ve been able to hold it
in, and that means you can keep doing it . I’m sure of it . ”
“What are you so sure of? How can you even begin to understand something
even I don’t understand?!” she shouts, something so rare for her . But
the answer is something I’ve long known .
“I know…there’s good in you . ” I know, because she couldn’t kill me three
years ago . Shiki offers no answer, and it causes me to wonder where she is,
what she looks like now, after seven days . What expression she wears as I
uttered my words toward her, in that other world beyond the phone line .
But all of it ends with words of parting .
“You never change, Kokutō . I told you, right?  always hated that
part about you . ” And after that, the phone cuts off . All I can hear now, is
a repetitive digital noise, indicating that she had hung up . Her last words
were the same ones that she said as she stood under the rain last year, at
the end of summer .
The clock in my room shows February 12, 7pm . With my dislike of leaving
a job I started unfinished feeling like the only thing driving me forward,
I soon enough forget that I had not slept for two days, and leave my apartment .
/ 3
- August . -
- Every day, my brain continues to give ground to insanity . -
I know…there’s good in you .
I remember, and it lends my feet to stop . When I find that the only sentiment
the words dredge up from me is a strong irritation, it only makes me
more annoyed .
“Optimism must be in his blood,” I conclude, grinding my teeth as I
imagine what kind of stupid face he must have had as he was saying that . I
try to make the image vanish .
He really hasn’t changed in four years, that guy . Still clinging to a
misplaced belief in a murderer, still trying to smile at me as if all of it were
nothing . Giving me a taste of normalcy, a promise of some attainable
dream, all of it a foolish fantasy . A fantasy of someone abnormal like me
living and having her place under the sun .  always used to hate that,
and now I understand why .
The past always comes back to square with you . I tried to kill him once
before, and I don’t know if I can stop myself from doing that again . So that’s
why I need to be far from him now, so I don’t question myself, and so I can
be far from whatever pain his presence just engenders . But all it results in
is me being the old me again, someone who thinks of Mikiya as an unwelcome
hindrance . I can’t say for certain if that’s what I truly believe in .
Two hours after my chat with Mikiya, I finally get to where Leo Shirazumi
likely made his final retreat . I’d tracked the place down well before I called
Mikiya up . It was fairly simple to follow Shirazumi’s trail . Blood, the smell
of weed, and some questions to a few street level dealers who I left only a
little intimidated and worse for wear all soon pointed me in the right direc-
/ 3 • 179
tion . Now, I’m back here again, eager to settle the score once and for all .
The harbor is dead at night, the steel cargo containers stacked together
forming impromptu structures that make the entire place feel like it’s a
town that was raised overnight . Somewhere in here is the last redoubt of
that murderous monster . Eventually I reach the part of the harbor that’s
quartered for storage and warehousing, and at that point, it is already
well past 9pm . Few people live here in this part of town, and even fewer
have any reason or desire to go here . The only lonely company here is the
blackened sea, and high lamps shining little pools of light on the streets
and walkways below . Perfect, then . This means there’s very little chance of
anything or anyone getting in the way .
At last, I reach my objective: a fairly sizable warehouse near the Broad
Bridge . I grip my knife in my left hand, and my right is hidden inside my
jacket pocket, fingers holding a smaller throwing knife . Checking myself, I
walk toward the building . It looks big enough to rival a school gymnasium .
The walls go up to about eight meters, and has windows going round it at
regular intervals around the seven meter mark, and I suspect some larger
windows in the roof as well . Much like a greenhouse, it must be terribly
bright in there during daytime .
From afar, I thought that I’d have to try for the windows somehow to
gain entry, but as I neared the place, I realized I don’t have to . The steel
door of the front entrance itself is slightly ajar, the handle long overtaken
by rust . Yeah, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a trap . I briefly consider
trying to go around, but I remember Mikiya . Kill Shirazumi, and there’s no
going back . I wonder what he meant by that .
Fuck it . The faster I can kill Shirazumi, the faster I can get these doubts
out of my head . If going in the front means it draws Shirazumi out faster,
then so be it . I open the door wider, and take a step inside, exiting the
dreariness of the port, to enter something far stranger .
Skylights are indeed placed on the roof, which along with the side
windows, prove to be the only place where moonlight manages to seep
through . The light reveals exactly what this warehouse’s purpose is . A
few meters from the entrance, thick foliage is planted in the open soil .
The plant’s reach close to knee height, all of them the exact same breed .
Cutting straight through the middle of it all is a concrete path . This is it . This
is the garden he uses .
A rustling in the brush catches my attention, over where no patch of
light shines to reveal his position . I’m not alone here . He’s watching me,
determining what his next move will be . I suddenly realize how vulnerable
I am in here . Why the hell did I even step into such an obvious ambush 
where he has the advantage? Mikiya, and his stupid words . Is he throwing
me off my game that much?
At that moment, the thick foliage rustles loudly, and I see some shape
in the darkness parting the plants as it runs, close enough to me now that
it startles me . He closes the last few meters with vigorous steps, emerging
from the shadows leaping with knife held high to make a vicious overhead
slice . Smart move, but he revealed himself a moment too soon . My left
hand moves, meeting his blade with a parry from my own . The blow is
warded, but it was so strong that my arm falters for just a moment .
Any experienced in-fighter would spot that and press his advantage to
hammer home, but Shirazumi is clearly not so experienced . He uses that
momentary lapse of my guard to make good his escape, jumping high and
away from me . Just like last night, he makes an inhumanly high and long
leap toward the wall .
Of course, not being a bird or a spider, I clearly can’t follow him like
that . But I’ve come prepared for that move . As soon as he jumps, I quickly
take an educated prediction at where he’ll land . And before he even
lands, the throwing knife hidden inside my pocket is sent flying by my right
hand to intercept its target . A second and a half later, and I see it scored a
hit, enough to elicit a painful grunt from him as he falls to the floor . I was
already sprinting as fast as I can toward him as soon as I threw the knife,
and when he fell, I banked on the fall and the knife hurting him enough to
be disoriented and confused . The gamble worked, and it gives me the extra
few seconds I need to rush up to him and pin him down to the ground by
straddling him .
Now he looks up at me, his face a mixture of confusion, anger, and
surprise . Surprise at how quickly I adapted from last night’s little indecisive
dance, maybe? Whatever the case, I savor the look on his face, and how
he’s lost for words . This boy who looks so much like me is silent as my left
hand raises the knife . A boy . That’s just what he is . A little boy, so powerless,
so scared .
“W…wait a minute,” he pleads . But prey do not get the privilege of
begging for a reprieve . I stab my knife downwards…much as I had wielded
a similar one, but against a different boy, in some other rain-soaked night .
“What?” says a voice, choking on its own surprise . It is the prey’s voice,
as well as my own, both startled at what just happened . The knife closed
to his throat, and I stopped it right before it pierced flesh and gave him the
red smile . I put my strength in my left hand . No escape will avail both of us
now . The boy cannot escape my blade…and I cannot escape wearing the
boy’s skin, becoming the murderer . And in so doing, I will be alone again, 
/ 3 • 181
with nothing to call a home, nothing to hurt or pain me, living freely; a
daughter of chaos .
Yet, why does my left hand not move? Why can’t I kill Leo Shirazumi?
There’s no going back . The words echo in my mind .
The prey has more than enough time to exploit that moment . He pushes
me away, trying to slip away from my grasp . He rises, trying to escape, but
in so doing, he reveals his back to me, defenseless . He wouldn’t know . My
Eyes and their Art weave the lines of death into sight, and I see them tracing
out and around his body . All that is left is to swing the knife .
There’s no going back . And just like that, my last chance slipped from my
grasp . And it was me who let it slip, willingly . What a farce . A great farce . I
had the chance for the sweet taste of murder I had craved after for so long,
but I couldn’t cross that last empty boundary . All because of such simple
words .
“Fuck!” I shout reflexively . I never asked for a way back into his world . I
never asked for this world’s forgiveness . But why? “This is all…because of
him,” I whisper under my breath, each sound a pained and angered breath .
Now the prey I had let slip begins to laugh . The prey who had only
seconds ago feared the predator in front of him has seen his enemy for
what she really is . Broken . And now he returns to the skin he donned last
night, the mask of the murderous monster . And I cannot kill him, cannot
stop him, cannot even bring myself to run .
/ 4
- August . -
- Alaya was right . -
- I am perfect . -
- None can blame me for murder . It is as inevitable as the rising of the
sun . The gift of delirium . -
The rain is pouring .
I open my eyes to the pitter-patter of the rain on the roof; a low, muffled
rumble .
“Huh . Still alive,” I observe, my voice dulled . The next thing I feel is the
concrete underneath my back, before I realize that I’m lying down, which
makes it feel awkward for a moment . I raise my head a bit, my vision still
swimming, to look at what’s in front of me . Green . The weed, all over the
warehouse . And suddenly I remember where I am .
I look up at the windows on the roof . Sunlight streams through them,
but dulled and colorless from the heavy rain . Still, the light that does get
through is surprisingly intense, so much so that much of the place seems to
be lighted quite well, albeit with a tint of dismal purgatory that helps little
with the gloom of the garden . And so here I lie .
My last memory takes a while to resurface, but I suppose Leo Shirazumi
knocked me out . My hands are bound by steel handcuffs, an my entire
body feels slackened and weak . Due to some drug, I’d imagine . Even my
consciousness doesn’t seem to be a sure thing right now . My mind is empty .
All I know is that I’m here, cuffed and lying on a concrete floor, fighting
between dreaming and waking, and barely able to see or focus on anything
except the silhouettes of the lazy trailing of fallen winter raindrops on the
roof skylight . I only notice then how cold it is in here .
/ 4 • 183
It’s the damn drug he shot in my body . I close my eyes for a moment,
and my mind almost immediately reels back to a memory that has been
weighing so heavily on me recently . A memory from three years ago, from
what feels like a distant and completely separate life .
The rain was pouring .
The night was so cold that it felt like it could shatter bones as easily as
frozen ice . Unsheltered from the rain,  gave chase to Mikiya Kokutō .
She ran, relying on the faint shimmer of streetlight piercing through the
veil of pouring rain to guide her way . The wet asphalt reflected the ethereal
light, even as shadows danced upon its surface .  ran desperately . That
man in the black coat had spirited Mikiya away earlier, but now he saw him
just ahead, standing alone, no help forthcoming .
When she had caught up to him, she brandished her knife again . The
boy could not find his words, nor could he run, for  had earlier slashed
at his leg . The blood from that slash still flowed, leaking down onto the
asphalt and mixing with the rain . Yet now, as she had Mikiya in her grasp,
when one slash could spell his death, she hesitated .
“Why?”  whispered to herself . “Why?!” she repeated, shouting it
in a rage . She could feel the bile rising in her throat . They faced each other
then, both wearing a strained expression . “When I’m with you, it’s always
so hard . You show me what I can never have, but my madness grows each
day . So…I have to kill you . So that this illusion you’ve given me can just fade!
So that I can stop believing in lies! So I can go back to what I was again!”
She cried out, her voice clear even in the din of the rainfall . It was a child’s
voice that shouted then, confused and close to tears at what had been
thrust upon her, angry and full of self-loathing . And even in the endless
gray veil of the rain, Mikiya could see the tears trailing from ’ eyes . He
struggles to find the words for a reply .
Inside , a presence—her friend and tormentor, Shiki—whispered
silent thoughts into her mind . All people dream,  . How heartless
can you be to stop yourself from doing it? How much more pain can
you endure? And after those words, she could feel the familiar sensation
of letting herself slip, of the other consciousness sliding into the part of her
mind that governed .
And in the end, ’ murderous impulse was halted neither by herself 
nor Mikiya . Because it was Shiki, always asleep, always the dreamer, that
didn’t want to destroy the dream of an existence with Mikiya . Because no
matter how impossibly distant it may be, or how painful its idea, it was as
important a reason to live as anything . So, it would stay, because its extinguishing
would only hurt  more . But  was confused, unable to
taken any more . It would be up to Shiki, then .
The girl, controlled now by something else, took a slight step back, still
facing Mikiya . Another small step, closer out into the main road behind
her . Headlights rushed headlong from a distance, the beam of light dulled
somewhat by the rain . That is when she decided, when the car was close
enough to hear the roar of its engine . Mikiya never realized the simplicity
of the answer .
“If I can’t make you go away…I have to make myself go away,” she said
like a prayer . She offered a smile in those last moments: a gentle, earnest,
and happy smile, but fleeting and soon to fade . And in the next moments,
the headlights grew blinding and bathed her in light . She welcomed it . The
sound of brakes shrieked through the midnight air, but it was far too late .
She flew .
I had forgotten the memory for so long, but as that mage Kurogiri said,
it always lurks inside of you . It doesn’t fade away or wither .
I was supposed to die that night, and the one who would wake from
the coma would have been Shiki . But in those last moments, he took my
consciousness, and he became the sacrifice . It was the only way he knew
to protect his dream . He knew what would happen . He knew that if he was
left in this body, that he would have nothing holding him back from the
murder that was the focal point of his existence . And he entrusted me to
make that dream real . After all, he could do nothing but sleep in his brief
existence . I was the one who ruled my body, and as long as I kept that
control, he would always be asleep . He was dangerous as a beast, cornered
and lashing out if let loose, and always bound by his nature as a murderous
monster . Without it, he couldn’t be .
And yet we harbored a mutual dream; a dream of normal existence .
And it wasn’t so strange if I think about it . After all, weren’t we the same,
with the same upbringing, the same experiences? It’s not so big a stretch
to see why we’d yearn for the same thing . But I was able to maintain the 
/ 4 • 185
masquerade of normality; Shiki couldn’t . He was the paradox of my existence:
to scorn other people, but to hold the desire to be one of them as
well . He’ll never get to see his dream of me living content and whole now .
His only dream, contradicting his existence, thrust onto me . The dream we
had met that March day, the classmate that Shiki had grown to like . The
one who, I had fervently hoped, would lead me to that seemingly impossible
path . Shiki knew how it would all end if he had remained inside me,
how Mikiya’s existence would always threaten how I’d always lived, and
how the contradiction would drive me insane, how it would lead to me
killing him . Our dream, crushed by my own hands . Shiki saw that end, and
chose the only way out . Above all things, it was him that had to disappear
to protect our dream . So for Shiki, the dream goes on .
That’s why I want Mikiya to always remember Shiki . Because now, this
life is the dream Shiki had always fixed his eyes upon . It’s why I speak like
him, to remind everyone of the man that was just as close a part to me as
my own heart .
The rain doesn’t stop, and doesn’t look like it will any time soon . My
mind is still a dim blur, still snatching at half-remembered memories of dual
personalities, and of emotions long kept . Yet it is a helpful fever dream .
When Shiki died, no one lit a candle for him . No one prepared a vigil . Not
even me . I think I never truly accepted his death . But now I realize, in this
final memory that he left me, it is time to finally let him pass . This is my vigil
to my first friend .
I remember his last thoughts, before that car made me tumble and
break .
Thank you . But I’d never think of killing you .
It wasn’t said to me, but to Mikiya, who watched helplessly that night
with arms held outstretched toward me . Murder was his only way of understanding,
his last method of connecting with another . But Shiki couldn’t
even say his last words to the man who had deserved them .
The Second Homicide Inquiry - V
- But killing by itself does not quiet the voices . -
- Being all alone only makes them louder and louder . -
- I need someone just like me . Someone as broken . -
February 11, Thursday .
I’d been thinking long and hard on what Shirazumi said to me, and in
light of what he revealed about his condition, I’ve decided to finally talk
to Miss Tōko about this . So far I’d tried to keep her out of what was essentially
a personal matter, but if what Shirazumi told me was true, then
he’s somehow being influenced by a spell woven from the Art . As soon as I
heard him speak that word, I knew that it would be prudent to consult the
only (decent) mage I know . So under a torrential rain that has poured since
the early awn hours, I drive over to Miss Tōko’s office, ultimately just a stop
before I go back to the harbor to see if I can find something more .
It takes longer than I can believe to tell it all to Miss Tōko, about all that
I’d found about the drugs, and especially about Leo Shirazumi, and when I
finish, she only hums to herself as she lights up yet another cigarette . After
waiting long enough for a reply that I thought was forthcoming, I speak .
“Something wrong, Miss Tōko?”
She looks at me with a disaffected, morose stare, and then takes off her
glasses . “No, nothing wrong at all . Just thinking how best to tell you that
there’s really no way to treat your friend . Oh hey, there you go . If it’s been
four years since his origin was awakened, then he’s…well, he’s not your
friend anymore . ” Smoke trails up from the cigarette she set down on the
ashtray . She leans her cheek on one hand propped up on her table, and
lets her gaze drift upwards, as if she were deep in reverie . “Still, one of the
awakened, huh? A dull parting gift, even for Alaya . Weak willed as your 
friend seems to be, he wouldn’t have stood a chance against the power of
that Art . His degeneration was inevitable . ”
“Can you explain to me what this ‘origin,’ actually is? Shirazumi said it
was like some kind of instinct that overrides your own will, or something
like that . ”
“Partly right, but not the whole picture,” she says, transferring her cigarette
to her left hand so she can gesticulate with her customary right . “If
you think living for twenty years is enough for you to assert that you are
yourself, and that you are in control of your body, think again . Your will is as
malleable as any aspect of reality the Art can manipulate . Character rules
your mind, and it is the flesh that expresses that outwardly . New Age solipsism
turned out to be truer than anyone thought, I suppose . ”
She puts her free hand on her chin, before asking me a strange question .
“Do you believe in past lives, Kokutō?”
“I don’t have a say either way, really . I’m not affirming it, but I’m not
categorically denying it either . ”
“Spoken like a true politician, I swear . Cyclicality and repetition . You see
it everywhere, from occult lore to scientific theories . Spirits, souls, and life .
Outside of all these concepts, there is the origin, reincarnated into something
else, eternally . And from that chaos is born a certain order . Certainly,
it is said that mages also make use of this manifestation of age-old power,
making all of us lean towards some aspect of personality . A purifying cycle
of birth, death, and rebirth . Follow the origin to hundreds of spiraling lives
lived, until you reach the primordial origin of the soul .
“The Collegium teaches us that there is a place and time where existence
first came to be . But in eternal paradox, there is no life there . Only
the impetus for creation . An overriding direction, an entropic tendency
to chaos that drives all of reality . Such shards of creation obtain a purpose,
a task, placing themselves into things part of the Pattern of reality
that matches its symbology . An animal perhaps . Or a plant . Sometimes, or
eventually, it may be a man, finding his soul . Sometimes, these purposes
can feel like an imperative .
“This chaotic impulse is what mages call the origin . Is it instinct? The
Greek ‘daemon?’ Ancestral recall? Moments of genius? The voice of God or
the devil? Ask five mages, you will get ten different answers . But whatever
it is, it is burned into your soul, and it would be folly to turn away from it . ”
She smiles then, as if what she had just been saying had not been in any
way peculiar . Yet I understood her well enough, surprisingly . “For the vast

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majority of people, though, they are never aware of it . It is just there, close
but never near enough to be important . It differs for each person . Shiki, 
whose origin is emptiness, is compelled quite strongly . But Azaka, whose
origin is the taboo, is still quite normal . But to those awakened to it, well—
it’s a whole different ball game . ”
She looks at me with narrowed, razor eyes . Even I know what she means .
“So by being awakened to it, you give in to that impulse completely?” I
venture .
“Yes . Little by little . Leo Shirazumi has fought it every step of the way .
But in the end he has little choice except to give in to it . ‘Consumption’ is a
pretty unique one as far as origins go, though . I can see why Alaya kept his
eyes on him . Look, Kokutō . If Leo has an origin of consumption, then predatory
lineages must have been his origin’s legacy . When you’re awakened to
your origin, the weight of all your previous lives becomes too hard to bear .
Leo Shirazumi is more beast than man now . While his humanity as Leo Shirazumi
still remains, the beast scratches away at that, until it is finally gone .
Fairly interesting development, I’d say,” she says coldly, appending a laugh
to her final comment .
While she always wields a grim humor, I can’t ignore her last sentence .
“Is all this business with the Art just a game to you people? It’s all that
mage’s fault, isn’t it? The one he met . Shirazumi couldn’t have brought this
on himself . ”
“Really, now?” she remarks, her voice acquiring its signature menace .
“The spell to awaken the origin cannot be woven with the mage alone . It
is the one to be awakened who first feels the stirrings of his soul begin to
call out to him . Then there is the bargain in the form of a spell, predicated
on the consent of the one to be awakened . Which means Leo Shirazumi
always had a choice . His transformation into a beast is of his own volition,
as are his murders . He wanted this . The life he cast away can never return
to him, no matter how much he wants . It’s too late for him . This is the
true face of the man you knew, and more fool you if you think I lie . His last
words to you were the death throes of a damned man trying to eke out
that last bit of sympathy from you . ”
They say that any good instructor has a stern and firm voice . That is the
sound of Miss Tōko’s voice now, a tone I have not heard her adopt ever
since that incident in November, and she has never spoken or looked more
serious . And because of that, I know for a fact that she isn’t kidding . She
looks at me with a frown, perhaps expecting me to press the point and being
disappointed that I haven’t yet provided her with the verbal ammunition
to chew me out . All that’s left is an empty helplessness .
“Is there nothing you can do for him, then?”
“The spell that binds him is the final, great attainment of the mage who 
used the medium of souls to chase after ascension . It would be a mercy to
grant him peace, but there’s little you can do to stop him . It’s a miracle for
Leo Shirazumi to even hold out as long as he’s had . Tomorrow, he’ll be different,
a beast that abdicated his humanity . ”
I want to cry out at the futility of it all . He asked me to save him . Why
would he do that if he knew that he couldn’t be saved? Was it the truth, or
was it, like Miss Tōko says, just a ploy for something more sinister?
“Oh, man . You’re an easy book to read, Kokutō . Well, I can’t very well
stop you on your little quest, but you’re up against a monster . Leaving him
to Shiki would be the wise option . She’s hunting him to finally close the
book on what happened four years ago, right?”
Settling matters, huh? That’s part of it, for sure, but it’s definitely not
the whole story . I couldn’t help thinking in our conversation last night that
I heard the same strained voice from her in that night when I almost lost
her . When she almost made the choice of murder . What could prompt her
to be so inclined towards killing?
“Miss Tōko, why does someone ever kill someone else?” I ask, hoping
for a reply that is not so reproachful . Miss Tōko leans back comfortably in
her office chair, and says her answer without an ounce of reflection .
“It’s emotional release . When you kill, that’s an outward expression of
how you feel . People can only hold in so much . Whether it’s love or hate,
when you’re filled with emotion, it has to get out somehow . It’s how we
deal . Those who hate try to forget it, or try to separate themselves from
what they dislike . The extremes of hate go towards murder . And because
they see it as self-preservation, what moral code they cling to temporarily
disappears, becoming unimportant . ”
“But there are people that commit murder even without that reason,”
I put in .
“That’s massacre, not murder . When one looks both on his past and his
human dignity, weighs them, and throws one away; that is murder . That
way a man pays the price, and carries the weight of the sin of murder . But
a massacre is different . The victim might have been human, but the killer
lacks the common dignity of man, and is thus no longer human . The sin
does not weigh heavily on such killers . ”
I remember the diary, and what was written in it . To murder someone
means you murder yourself too . “The news always talks about this murderous
monster . What do they actually mean when they say that?”
“Exactly what it says on the tin . A monster that no longer cares, carving
their place in the world until they fade like a natural disaster . People
dragged into its influence are the poor, unlucky souls . ”
Miss Tōko’s answer startles me . I can swear I’ve heard Shiki say the same
thing once . Yes, right before she disappeared, ten nights before this . We
saw the news, and she said to me that you couldn’t really call what the
suspect did a murder . How she said that a lifetime only has room for one
real murder .
“That’s it…now I remember…” I mutter in a low voice . Yes . Miss Tōko
and Shiki are saying the same thing . Shiki told me the words once, and how
they were the last words her grandfather left her . Family words that have
guided her entire life . But now, she’s about to stray . Me and the murderous
monster have been led to the same realization by Shiki, unwitting or no . I
don’t presume to know what Shiki feels about me, but something about it
pains her, and leads her to lash out and kill . Something inside her is giving
way to feelings that I’d thought she’d long parted with, and now she thinks
that killing someone can save her . Her impulse of murder is winning again .
Shirazumi thinks the same way . But he thinks he’ll benefit from Shiki’s
loss of control . Perhaps he thinks, deep inside him, that he would have
finally found a friend, the same as him . Someone just as broken, the diary
had said .
“Sorry to have bothered you like this, ma’am,” I say abruptly as I rise from
my chair . Miss Tōko frowns, but it’s the kind of frown where she seems to
already know what exactly I was going to do .
“Oh, we’re done are we? It’s raining cats and dogs outside, Kokutō .
Think it’d be a good idea for you to stay in for a while?”
“I’m sorry, ma’am . I realized I have to go . ” I make sure to bow before I
walk out the door . Before the door to the office closes behind me, I hear
Miss Tōko say, “Be good on yourself out there, Kokutō . And I’ll see you tomorrow . ”
/ 5 • 191
/ 5
I dream an old, bittersweet memory .
“There will come a time in any man’s life where he will kill . ”
“For true?”
“Yes . And there will also come a time when any man can permit himself
to die . ”
“Permit himself?”
“A life is a life . And death is respected and feared, esteemed as the true
end . All life is equal . And yet you cannot claim the one you hold as yours . ”
“Then what about you, grandfather?”
“I can’t as well . There’s too much blood on these hands . I became death
for so many, so I have surrendered the right to my own . Without anyone to
pay the price for my death, all that awaits me is the final emptiness, and a
solitary oblivion . ”
“So there is only enough for one?”
“Yes . A lifetime only has room for one murder . After this, all of it becomes
less intoned . The first is always the most important decision . The men
who have committed massacres can never turn inward to kill themselves .
Because their death would no longer be a human death . ”
“Is the sickness hurting you, grandfather?”
“Yes, and I fear this is our parting . Goodbye,  . May your own death
be filled with peace . ”
“Grandfather? What is happening? Why do you die so lonely?
The sound of something sticky intrudes on my dream, and I wake up .
It is a sound different from the ceaseless pattering of the rain on the roof,
which has faded into the spectrum of ignorable background noise . I open
my eyes, banishing the dream from my vision . Here, in the single concrete
pathway cutting right down the middle of the brush, I lie with hands bound,
abandoned .
Little has changed since the last time I drifted back into waking, though
the weakness in my body has noticeably dimmed . I notice that, with a bit
of effort, I can already move my legs, though my arms are still numb and
useless . It is a familiar feeling . I woke up from the coma like this .
This time, however, my imitator and biggest fan stands above me . Leo
Shirazumi . With my sight slowly coming back, I see him staring down at me 
with half a smirk plastered on his face . A mean smile meant for me .
“You’ve awoken faster than I’d expected, my lady death,” he says as he
moves to take a knee beside me . In one hand, he holds a filled syringe at
the ready . “The drugs have had worse efficacy on you, looks like . I knew I
should have used this first . ”
He grabs one of my bound arms and forcefully sticks the needle in a
vein . The numbness makes me feel no pain . My entire body is slack and
unresponsive, like a broken machine . All I can do now is to glower at the
man .
“That look in your eyes is perfect,” he says with audible delight . “You
should always keep it that way . Relax, all I’ve given you is a muscle relaxant .
You need it to stay calm and still for what comes next . I want you to stay
quiet . ” He sits on the concrete path now, and his eyes run up and down my
body, taking all of it in . Our eyes meet, and, disgusted, I turn away from
him, choosing to look instead at the rain outside the windows .
“Oh, how long have these three years been? How long since I was this
close to you? I wish you could feel how good I feel now, with all my waiting
finally paying off . ” In his voice is an affection that I don’t feel the need to
deign with a response, though I let him play out his soliloquy as he wills .
“Alaya made it clear to me what a failure I was . Said I was too ‘unlike’ you,
whatever that meant . Can you believe that? How can we be unlike each
other? Huh, Ryōgi? When we killers are birds of a feather . You know both
you and I don’t belong to their world . Broken people like us should get
together, become closer . ”
I don’t answer him . My mind is preoccupied with thoughts of someone
else, someone surely far away from here . Yet the man persists with his
worthless spiel .
“Ever since your accident, I’ve been watching over you . Seeing who has
come into your life . The other two who Alaya manipulated to shape you
into what you are worried me a bit, but I could not get in the way . Alaya
ensured I wouldn’t . He used people, like tools . Isn’t that sick? Isn’t that
fucked up? But how could I fight him? I stayed away from you, as he’d
commanded . So please, don’t be so mad at me . It wasn’t my fault . But I
never forgot you . Your memory was always sweet . And when Alaya was
finally destroyed, I knew that like you, I was free from his influence . I knew
I was the only one that could do anything for you . Ah, yes, how I’ve waited
for the day I could to talk to you as I am now . ”
He leans in toward me, so close I can smell his breath stinking of smoke
and weed, so close that he has to get on his hands and knees and linger
above me, his face leering above mine . Then suddenly, he draws back, 
/ 5 • 193
takes one of my legs, and puts his lips on the shin in a tender kiss . He makes
a disgustingly viscous sound, accompanied by a wet sensation . His tongue
races roughly from the shin, going slowly upward, trembling as it makes
contact with skin .
I keep my silence, letting the only thing that echoes in the dull warehouse
be his own furious breathing, going faster with each beat . My body
doesn’t do what I tell it to, yet my sensation is as keen as before . I can feel
the sweat pouring from my brow, and gathering at my back, and over my
chest, as if at the height of summer .
He takes the hem of my kimono in his mouth and tears it away with one
swift motion, as a dog would . Leo Shirazumi’s breathes his warm breath to
my skin, consumed by his act . His tongue, at the knee now, flows over with
saliva as it continues to trace itself upwards . Now he clings to the inner
thigh, the glutinous noise still not abating . The spit coils about my skin . And
still, as much as I want to speak, to say anything, to shout, I kill my voice .
Finally, he reaches the waist . He seems not to notice or care about the
kimono covering me, and his mouth continues to go up, licking the cloth .
There is no end to his salivating, and even clothed, I can feel its wetness
seeping through .
The handcuffs feel tight and painful now .
The beast’s tongue climbs, traces the outline of my breasts, taking each
nipple in his mouth for only a moment before continuing to my neck, then
to my cheek, and finally to my eye, forming one dull line . Now his face is
above me again, his steaming breath hitting my face full on . The stink of
him, and the stench that he shared on my body, is almost enough to make
me throw up .
“Bastard,” I finally say, the only word I spare him . The smile it puts on
his face is one of self-satisfaction . Now he descends his head again, this
time opening his mouth and biting deeply into my jugular . The teeth dig in,
the pain furious and keen, more so than any regular bite . I let slip a sharp
intake of breath because of the pain; like a blade slipping slowly into my
brain . The sound is the only satisfaction I give him . And as suddenly as he
began, it ends with him withdrawing himself from me, leaving the mark
of the beast on my neck . I can feel the blood slowly seeping out from my
neck, tracing a lazy trail as it dribbles slowly from the open wound .
“No . I can’t…eat just yet . You haven’t come back yet . You haven’t returned
to what you were . ” He whispers this as he stands back up . “I love you so
much, that you’ll get extra special treatment from me . Consumption is my
origin, and when it is unleashed, I need to eat indiscriminately . Preferably
people, eh? But the one that stands before you is the Leo Shirazumi that 
the impulse supposedly conquered . I can’t lose to such a simple thing . As
long as you’re here, I can slip through, yes . ” As if to prove his point, he
stands up and distances himself from me .
“Again, you refused to kill me last night! You haven’t committed one
proper human murder yet . Alaya was no human, more a conviction given
form . But you’re more of a monster than I am, yet why is there no murder
in your past?!” His breathing has become even more rasping than just a
minute before . Angrily, he turns back toward me . “It’s a problem that we
need to fix . If I don’t have someone just like me, I can’t have peace . I’ll
always be like this! It’s you…it’s you that I need . I thought you’d be like me,
but you betray me! If I can’t have you, the impulse will take over me!”
He begins to shout toward the end, and it is hard to distinguish the
rage from the desperation . With an unsteady gait, the beast known as
Leo Shirazumi walks away from me, retreating a bit deeper into the brush .
“Wait for me, alright? I can take care of the one holding your leash back . ”
Then he slinks back further and further into darkness, until finally, I can no
longer see him .
Though I know well enough what he means, and though I know what
he plans to do, I cannot focus my mind . Is it the drugs? All I can think of is
vague recollections, and incoherent scraps of memory that drift in and out
of dream . The number of raindrops falling on the window, and what tomorrow
might bring . Meaningless things . I need to focus . Why did I seek out
the murderer in the first place? There were many reasons, but the most
important one eludes me .
I was…it was me that wanted to settle it once and for all . The return of
the murders, and the shattered memories of what happened four years
ago, recently returned to me…and my fear of reclaiming the urge to kill
him, just like on that rain-soaked night . All of it is connected .
And in plunging through my addled mind, I remember . If there really
were monsters in this world, I want to believe—I have to believe—that I’m
not one of them . I can feel it, the wetness welling up in my eyes . I want
to go back . Back to the fragile life I lived with him this past half year since
I awoke . I want to prove to someone that I can be normal . That’s why I
sought out the murderer . To finish it all .
But I lost sight of it . I took my sleep in the forgotten corners of the city,
hunting down the murderer, and through it all, validated the murderer
that still lurked inside of me . My persistence in pursuing him made me
sloppy, and led me here to be ambushed and trapped . If it had been the
old me— the  three years ago—then this would never have happened .
I’ve become weak, even allowed Leo Shirazumi, a disgusting mad dog, to 
/ 5 • 195
violate me .
If there was ever a bigger proof for foolishness, none exist better than
myself . Inexcusable and unforgivable . I want to go back to Mikiya, face his
stupid smile, and say my complaints in front of him . It isn’t my fault . All of
this is because of him . I turned into this because of him . All my weakness
stems from him alone . I wouldn’t have been like this if it wasn’t for him .
And now, even living without him seems impossible .
“This is all so stupid . ” The drugs still take their toll on my consciousness,
but less so now . I still feel hot, chokingly so, and I can feel my perspiration
getting worse, as if my body is about to melt . No one can see me like this .
Which is why I have to go . I can’t stay chained here forever . This isn’t where
I want to be . I have to go back . Back home . To the only place where I ever
felt at home .
Strangely enough, the image my mind conjures is not that of the old
Ryōgi estate, but the mundane yet familiar apartment where Mikiya Kokutō
would always be waiting .
The Second Homicide Inquiry - VI
At last, two hours after I left Miss Tōko’s office, I finally reach the warehouse
in the docks, not so far from Shirazumi’s room that I had paid a visit
to before . It only makes sense that this is where he’s growing the weed . It
can’t be too far from his home, so it was only a matter of narrowing it down
to a place big enough to hide them, but where no one usually treaded . The
long abandoned warehouse once served as storage for the pier, but the
company that owned it closed long ago, which made it the perfect candidate
to hide, store, and grow the weed around this area .
I approach the structure, not truly minding the late winter rain as it
pours above me with the same gusto as it did in the past few nights . The
warehouse is an especially large one, a large enough space cleared in its
perimeter as if to give it breathing room . The large steel door that serves as
its front entrance stands at a height many times my own, and now it seems
to be locked tight . Unfortunately, the screwdriver trick I used before would
be a laughable effort if I even attempted it here . So I resolve to travel the
warehouse’s perimeter to see if I can find any alternate ingress .
I make my way to the structure’s right flank, but I can find no breach or
opening . Windows line the wall, but placed at the height of around five or
six meters high; I’m not getting in there without a ladder . The other side,
maybe . After all, with the warehouse standing directly at dockside, surely
its sea-facing side would have some kind of entrance leading directly from
its port to the basement so that arriving ships can load and unload faster .
After a circuit around the perimeter that felt like it went on forever, I
finally reach dockside, and sure enough, there it is . A stair leading directly
to the lower seawall adjacent to the warehouse, and with it, a single
door leading inside . I try to silence myself as much as possible as I turn the
knob ever so slightly . It seems to be unlocked . I open the door slowly, wide
enough only to admit me, then I steal inside . The room within seems to be
some kind of temporary storage room before pallets are stored topside .
It’s large, but a bit narrower than I expected . It doesn’t take long for me to
spot the stairs going up, and the door to the main body of the warehouse .
I try to get closer, until I hear a sharp metallic clang behind me . I hear a
grunt of pain, realizing only too late that it is my own . I never get time to
feel the pain, or press down a hand behind my head; only time to collapse
as darkness overtakes everything .
I wake up to the sensation of a gulp, my mouth grasping for air as I swallow
something I don’t agree with . Then, pain . A dull pain in my elbow, and
then a sharp, sudden one on both my legs . Then, whatever caused the pain
withdraws from the back of my knees, and the sensation is reduced to a
pulsating agony . I look around, too confused to cry out .
My sight is still recovering, and my head is still aching, but I can see that
I am still in the same place as before, probably only a few minutes having
passed . It’s only now that I notice how cold it is, and how much my body
is shivering . I try to stand, but then the pain returns in my left arm . I look
at it, and strangely with little surprise, I find my elbow twisted the wrong
way . I try to look at my legs, seeing that both of them have been stabbed
in the back of the knee by some blade . Blood is seeping out . I can feel it . I
cannot run .
I lie back down . I need to collect myself . Strangely enough, after I swallowed
the thing that felt like it was shoved in my throat, the pain seems
to retreat until it can barely be felt . A drug, for sure, morphine maybe . But
there’s nothing that fast acting, is there? Unless it was some kind of medicine
enhanced by the Art . I take stock of the situation and turn my head
around the room, and on the opposite wall from me, I find the shadow of
someone lingering . He looks at me, bending with one knee on the rubble
and dirt-filled floor of the warehouse, observing me with a curiosity .
“Sorry, pal . I don’t really tie men up . I prefer them like this instead,” he
says, standing up and making his way to my side of the room . What I see
is dulled from darkness and the pain, and the sensation of being warm
and cold at the same time might disorient me, but I can distinguish clearly
enough who the approaching figure is .
“Shirazumi . ”
“You just don’t listen, do you? I told you not to find me . It’s why you
keep ending up in these situations . But still, I’m happy, truly . You came
looking for me, after all . I know that you’re on my side, yes . ” He draws the
word out in a long breath . “Letting Ryōgi have you would be such a waste,
I realize that now . If only you’d been a real friend to me . ”
The voice that utters the words is not his own . They are proud, boastful
words, but not the words of Leo Shirazumi . It seems all an act, and I can’t
hear it as anything else .
“You can’t just make people like you . ” The moment a word comes out of
my mouth, the low pain from my head returns, and every word only worsens
it, making it boil from inside . Still, I persist . “Your drugs didn’t work like
you wanted to . ”
The room seems to darken as Shirazumi frowns, clicking his tongue as 
he looks at me . “You’re talking too much again, Kokutō . But you’re right .
I gave the fools and the phonies the drugs that they needed to play out
their miserable lives . They took to it like flies to a corpse . And I, who sold
them their happiness, was their new unseen champion . But that was never
anything other than a secondary concern . ” He shrugs, his every word an
evasion . If he can’t say it himself, then it’ll have to be me .
“What you sold wasn’t just drugs . It was more than that, wasn’t it?”
He sighs, and stares daggers directly toward me . “Yes . I wanted someone
just like me . But only Ryōgi can be like that . So I thought that maybe I
should just make them, right? The weed in this warehouse was courtesy of
Alaya . It’s a bit different than what’s out there, eh? You can thank his Art
for that . It dissolves slowly inside your body, the effect lasting for a long-ass
time . Your body can’t hope to resist it . You get high from it, it’ll eat away at
your mind after only a few dozen uses . ”
“And to those who pass, you make them take the Bloodchip?”
“That’s something a little extra for those who have the potential .
They’re a unique kind, dipped straight into my blood . Alaya said that the
awakened are bound to their origin . I thought that my blood, with Alaya’s
magic coursing through it, would be different . I got a result I was more than
happy with . For many, the Bloodchip is just like any drug . Some die because
they couldn’t handle it . But if anyone could truly handle it, they would have
been just like me . But then, the corpses of those who died had to be taken
care of . So I ate the bodies of people that I was disgusted to even think
about eating . ”
“And you said you didn’t kill because you wanted to? Is that how you
justify it?” My throat is burning, but still I berate him . Shirazumi’s face is
clouded over with a disappointment .
“It’s not my fault they died because of it . They wanted it, they had it . It’s
out of my hands if they couldn’t take it . Pitiful things . If only they were like
me, they could have lived and tasted the glory of being free . ”
My dizziness worsens, and the walls and floor seem to shift and move
subtly, throbbing with the pain in my head . Could the drug I swallowed
earlier be doing this?
“I’ve never had someone take the Bloodchip and survive in the three
years I’ve been doing it,” Shirazumi explains . “I was about to give up . But
then, Ryōgi woke up . I rejoiced just as much as you did, you’d best believe .
We’re connected that way, aren’t we, pal?” He smiles, and I can do nothing
but to keep my eyes on him . “Because it was I, Leo Shirazumi, and you,
Mikiya Kokutō, that destroyed Shiki Ryōgi those three years ago . You ruined
what she had inside of her, while I did the same to her outside world . ”
I close my eyes . Is he right? Would Shiki have been better off four years
ago if she hadn’t met me? Did we, together, ruin Shiki more than she could
have done to herself?
“It was all so simple, Kokutō . Shiki’s habit of walking alone at night
proved to be quite convenient for me . I tailed her, learning her favorite
paths and patterns through the city . Then, I planned . I would kill someone
that happened to wander along the path she would take, always just a little
ways ahead of her, making sure it was fresh . The first ones still saw me
before I took the life from them, but the next few ones were skilled work .
They never saw me . Like the one you saw after we said goodbye to each
other on that day you went to the Ryōgi estate . It took some work, but the
timing was just right for you to encounter it just the same time Shiki was
heading back . ”
My head seems to be splitting apart at the seams, and it overcomes me
so much I can barely hear what Shirazumi is saying . My heart beats desperately,
the blood like a fire through my body, and I did not know that it could
be so difficult to force yourself to breathe .
“Last Monday, those four victims…it was you,” I struggle to say .
He nods with satisfaction . “Yeah, they weren’t any good at all . I convinced
them to attack her, but all Ryōgi did was immobilize them, leaving them
there to brood on their misfortune . Ryōgi never crossed the boundary . I
had to clean her mess up after her, and kill them to make sure they didn’t
talk . But if it made Ryōgi doubt herself for just one moment, then maybe
it was worth it . ” He walks back to the other side of the room, where he
seems to have left some things . “It’s almost time . I’m sorry to have had to
hurt you Mikiya . It’s all right . It’ll all be better in a while . ”
Lying atop the floor is a knife, and a small, cylindrical object, both of
which he takes in his one remaining hand . Something is suspicious about
the knife . Something familiar about its slender figure, and the craftsmanship…like
“No . What have you done to her?”
“Nothing that would permanently hurt her . It’s you who I need now
though . ” There is a notable shift in his voice, a softer, familiar tone of the
person I once knew, though his words remain the same . “Forget about Shiki
for a second . All she is doing is resting in the floor above, and tomorrow, I
will even send her home . ” He comes near me again, holding both objects
in his hand . “Let’s start this . No need to worry . I’ve suffered failures up until
now because I’ve only given them the medicine . But now I remember what
Alaya said . That spell requires the consent of both involved to awaken the
origin . This time, I’ll be right . If you only wish it, all will be yours . You won’t 
be a failure, will you, Mikiya? You can be special . ”
There it is again, that touch of anxiety in his voice . I shake my head,
refusing . “Becoming special, but you lose yourself…” I cough, finding it
difficult to breathe and speak at the same time . “Didn’t you say that you
hated that, Shirazumi?”
“Words spoken in the heat of the moment . Words can be changed . Look
at what happened to me when I was awakened! I can do things now that
no normal human can do . I’m not a loser anymore, and no one can say I
am weak . I do what I want, and live how I want to live . This is the kind of
happiness the Leo Shirazumi from four years ago could never have hoped
to achieve . ”
Wishes of becoming special, of outstripping one’s peers . It’s the common
dream of anyone . Shirazumi has his sins, but this is not one of them .
“Who you are won’t be washed away, Mikiya . I am still here, still Leo
Shirazumi . I mastered this impulse, and so can you . Don’t fear it . I’ve
consumed things, consumed people, not under the influence of my origin,
but my own will . ”
This is the true face of the man you knew, and more fool you if you think
I lie . His last words to you were the death throes of a damned man trying
to eke out that last bit of sympathy from you . Miss Tōko always made sure
to warn me .
“Aren’t you amazed at me? I want to see that face of yours lighting up, a
surprised smile maybe . Why aren’t you surprised, Mikiya?!”
“Because I know . ”
“What?” His face shifts into a blank amazement .
I did not lie . After all, I read his diary . I know that his slide into madness
was his forfeiting of humanity . When the man I knew as Leo Shirazumi
ceased to truly exist . He wanted me to save him, the last proof of his former
dignity, or an echo of the past . And I want to do that, but how?
“You committed many murders,” I begin, “And so that you could run
from your sins, you cast off yourself . You justified it with your love for Shiki
Ryōgi, sought her out so that your killing would have meaning . But what
sick love do you return to her?”
“Quiet!” He says with a raised voice . He goes near me, still lying and
unwilling to move, and kicks me square in the back . The pain flares, and
recedes just as quickly, melting in with the other aches in my body . “We’re
not talking about me, are we? We’re talking about you . ” The annoyance is
clear in his voice .
He stabs the knife into the ground, using it to cut the cylindrical object
he holds into two . “It’s bad for you to take so much medicine in so little a 
span of time, but in this case, you’re leaving me no choice . You can thank
your own stubborn attitude for it . ” He takes hold of my hair, using it to pull
me up and prop me against the wall . He puts the drug inside his mouth
and chews it . Then, holding me down, he leans in to take my mouth in his .
His tongue slides inside, bringing the drug along with it . I cannot resist . The
drug goes down my throat . At last, he parts, and looks upon me with a face
of calm expectation .
“That’ll solve everything . That’s a dosage ten times larger than normal .
Your body can’t handle it for sure . But before it gets serious, you’ll take
this and shove it down your throat,” he says as he produces a red blotter
from his coat, letting it fall to the floor beside me . “And you’ll do it yourself,
because you want to, you need to . And you’ll throw yourself away just like
me, Mikiya . ” My vision begins to get clouded, and everything seems to
shift in and out of focus . “What are you waiting for? You want to be special,
right? You want to be freed from the prison of your life, right? Then why
won’t you listen? Eat it, Mikiya! I need you!”
I see the Bloodchip blotter on the floor, still within reach . I ignore it,
but Shirazumi picks it up and puts it into my one good hand . When I don’t
move, he begins to become visibly irritated .
“Just take it, Mikiya! The drugs will tear your body apart if you don’t .
You’ll just fall over dead if you don’t eat it . Choose! Die as a human or live
as something more . This one isn’t even a choice . Anyone will answer the
He’s right . It isn’t even a choice for most . And yet, I shake my head at
him .
“Why?” he asks, his voice sounding like it was wrung out of his throat .
And though it would have perhaps been a better choice if I didn’t answer,
I still speak .
“Maybe it’s just not that interesting . ”
Shirazumi’s face looks as though it has frozen over, and the cracks in his
hastily thought up plan begin to finally sound out across the silence . The
fire in my blood feels like it could shoot out of any vein now, getting hotter
until, I suspect, it finally boils .
“When I look at you, Shirazumi, I see a broken thing . If becoming special
means becoming like you, then maybe being special isn’t all it’s cracked up
to be . Being special isn’t for me . ”
There is no amity left in Shirazumi’s eyes, none remaining of the little
warmth he still had . My words have cemented me as his enemy .
“What are you saying? You have no other choice! I know you’re just
like everyone else, always wanting to be better . I know you are!” Indignant 
and disbelieving, he shouts, and laughs like a madman as he looms over
me . Whether it is a laugh borne of panic or irritation, I can’t say . “How can
you even say things like that Kokutō? Dammit, you’re serious, aren’t you?
You’re going to let yourself die, aren’t you? Why the fuck are you acting like
this is all normal . It’s you who’s broken, yes . Always something off about
you, I know it . ”
“You’re the one that’s off, Shirazumi . Take a look at yourself and tell
me I’m wrong,” I spit out at him, as if my body forced me to . It’s not doing
any favors for how long I get to live, but if it makes him rethink himself,
than maybe that’s alright too . “That’s what your daily life is like . When
you first murdered someone, you couldn’t bear to see your crime and
what you’d done . You ran away . And you deluded yourself into thinking
that your murders were justifiable and inevitable, abnormal murders for an
abnormal mind . A cold comfort and a weak excuse . And you gave in to your
madness . You thought it would always be a convenient out, something you
can tell yourself . But the truth is, even now, you’re still running . ”
That was it, I think . Ever since he first killed a man, and fell into the plans
of the man named Sōren Alaya, Leo Shirazumi the man was irredeemably
lost . He thought himself a broken existence, and became such in time, and
then he looked for Shiki, who he thought was a monster just like him . It
reassured him of his monstrous existence if he knew other monsters were
there, lurking in the night, just as broken as him .
Shirazumi simply says, “Shut up,” as he narrows his eyes . But if I don’t
say what I have to say to him until the last, then coming here would have
been meaningless .
“Shiki was brought up as a tool, and she’d never known anything else
but the art of murder for a long time . But you took murder up as a crutch
for your problems . It stinks of a lie . It’s wrong for the news to call you a
murderous monster . Shiki’s got a far heavier weight on her shoulders than
you . You don’t know how hard it is for her to hold in an impulse she had no
choice in . You always had a choice, and you’ve made it . ”
“Shut up, Kokutō . I’m warning you…”
“You’re stupid for thinking you’re the same as her . You’re a broken mirror,
seeing what you can’t ever become . You’ve committed murder, but you
deny the nature of your own sins . You’re just running like a coward . You’re
no killer or murderous monster . Just a mad dog named Leo Shirazumi . ”
He wanted to be saved . But Miss Tōko was right . She’s always right, in
the end . He can’t be saved, no matter how much I wanted to .
“I said shut the fuck up, goddamit!” His shout is replete with his anger,
said like a potent curse . He retrieves Shiki’s knife from the floor, takes a 
moment to make sure that I cannot, or will not, move, and raises it above
his head .
His breathing stops . Mine stops with it . He leaves the rest to his fury . The
knife swings down .
There is a moment of blinding pain, as my head feels ready to split open
when the blade bites deep into the brow, going downward fast, across my
eye . And then the world disappears .
/ 6
The body slides from the wall, and settles into the floor in a slow, restive,
pace . There, fallen on his face, unmoving, lies Mikiya Kokutō . The face
seeps through with slick and rich blood, flowing down from the left side of
his face and wetting the dirty concrete floor .
My hand holds a knife, soaked with blood, though it is not my knife . I
stare at it dumbly, frozen in place, afraid to approach Mikiya’s corpse, or
disturb it even slightly . He’s dead .
“I’m sorry . I…this wasn’t in the plan . ” My small whispers echo in the
room, but only the sound of rain rises in answer .
Tears form in my eyes . The only ally that the old Leo Shirazumi has ever
had is now gone . Old memories come to fore . Memories of Leo Shirazumi
stopping school, of jokes, and doubts, and threats, and lectures, all from
disapproving faces and voices . But it was only Mikiya Kokutō who wished
me luck . There can be no forgetting that memory . Leo Shirazumi’s happiness
then still lights a dim and fading beacon inside . But now that beacon
that called back old emotions is fading, and it was I who killed it .
I know how easily men can die . The old Leo Shirazumi once tried to
avoid the truth of it, but to his despair, he came face-to-face with it the first
time he killed a man . But now, it is surely not my fault .
“Why did you side against me, Kokutō? When you were my one friend .
You knew what I was . I thought you were the only one that wouldn’t be
my enemy . ” Even if the world did not accept me, then at the very least, he
could accept me . If only he were alive!
He was right . There is no love left for Shiki Ryōgi . The only one that
needs her is me, the murderous monster . If she would be the same as me,
what then? A special existence is significant only because of its singularity .
The monster had already decided to kill her, even if she had regained
her former purpose . Seeing what exactly I’ve lost lie before me, I realize . I,
the murderer, needed the comfort of a companion; and I, Leo Shirazumi,
needed Mikiya . Perhaps the only reason the old Leo persisted in living is
because of him . When he stood in front of me, the cracks seemed to ease,
a pressure released . Now, he lies still before me, and I feel nothing .
And so, the part of me that still holds the old Leo Shirazumi quiets and
fades . I’m sorry, Kokutō . It looks like the part of me you believed in has now
finally disappeared .
“As for the rest of it…” I utter with a lick of my lips .
All is well . I am alive . And so is Shiki Ryōgi . And once she returns to 
/ 6 • 205
the way she was before, it will all be alright . Ah, yes . I don’t need Mikiya
anymore . Isn’t this what I’d always wanted anyway? I’ll beat the impulse
inside of me, knowing someone like me exists out there . I will see her soon .
I leave the room, climbing back up to the main warehouse, my garden of
sin, where Shiki, the girl I’d loved for so long, awaits .
The blood roils and beckons inside of me, and I let slip a delighted smile .
In my mind, I see her form from minutes ago, drenched in sweat and spit,
and I gulp in anticipation . I want to do it to her now . With Kokutō dead,
there’s nothing left for her to sustain her stupid masquerading . The real
murderer will come in her most enchanting form .
The drugs must still be affecting her . Even if she would lash out in rage,
she’d still be unable to stand . No one can craft a better stage than this,
surely . My tongue quivers, relishing the thought . I want to eat her inside
and out; starting from the tips of her toes, then on to her body, drinking in
her delicious sweat, delighting in the smell of her, the taste of her insides .
I stop in the middle of the foliage .
Yes, she was sweating when I shot the drug in her . But how could she,
and why in such great amounts? All I shot her up with was a muscle relaxant .
She shouldn’t be sweating so much . It’s almost like her body used the
sweat to expel the toxin—
“No . It can’t be . ”
I break into a sprint as soon as the thought enters my mind, hurrying
back to the place I left Shiki alone . I push my way recklessly through the
thick brush . I get there in a few seconds, hoping to see the scene that I
wished for .
But no words spring forth now . In the little concrete path in the warehouse,
the one place where the marijuana plants had not taken root, she
is there, standing . With the narrowed, hellbent eyes contrasting with her
overwhelming aura of composure, Shiki Ryōgi stands before me .
/ 7
There is a different sort of beauty even to Shiki’s disheveled form . And
it is precisely that which makes Leo Shirazumi forget to even breathe for
a moment . The handcuffs that once bound her now hangs uselessly from
her right arm like an overlarge accessory . There is no damage to the handcuffs
themselves, nor a chink in the chain, or some breakage in its ring . The
same cannot be said, however, of Shiki’s left hand, from which fresh blood
emerges red and whole . For it appears that in order to free her hands from
the cuffs, she has had to gnaw through the base of her left thumb .
Leo Shirazumi gives a vaguely amused laugh .
“You truly are the best,” he says, though even his chuckling cannot hide
the measure of temper in his voice . “A perfect monster . ” His neck even
trembles as he says it . How pathetic . He’s in a play and the acting’s not up
to snuff . I’m already tired of hearing this bastard’s voice, and I’ve got no
time to hear him prattle on about his world views .
“Now, Ryōgi, let’s get this started . You are tied to me now,” he says as he
approaches me with surefooted steps, like a moth to a flame . But I do not
even deign to look at him as I speak to him .
“Get someone else to go with you, because I sure as hell won’t . ” It takes
a while for him to register what I just said as he just stops there in his
tracks, the most astonished look decorating his face .
“What? But…”
“I neither have the time nor the inclination to run around with a psycho
like you . ”
I mean, after all, what could I even do if I were a monster like him? And
if that’s all he can offer, than he’s really going to have to step it up . I’ve
known what I wanted long ago . I wanted the hollow in my soul to be filled .
And perhaps my homicidal impulse may never be completely silenced, but
I think, just maybe, I can keep it in check .
Shiki’s reason for murder and ’ reason for murder were different
things . The events of the past summer taught me that . I used to struggle
so much, searching for that one, distinct sensation of living . But now, even
that has become little more than a dim memory, and who knows if I ever 
/ 7 • 207
found it . But I do know that the little hollow in my soul that Tōko once
spoke of, isn’t really so hollow any more . And because of that, I am not the
 of the past . I go back home, struggle to find what it means to be me,
and if I can’t discover it, then so be it . But I won’t give in to the convenient
excuse of being born with a murderous streak as an escape from my problems .
I have to do that, for the sake of the one that fills the hollow in my
soul, and for the sake of Shiki, who sacrificed himself for my happiness .
“You’re kidding, right, Ryōgi?”
“Toodles, mister murdererous monster . ” And with that, I start to walk .
My body is still queasy from the drugs, my left hand hurts like a motherfucker,
but even in that state, I pass through and beside Leo Shirazumi
like he was just some stranger on the street . He doesn’t even have a clue
where to begin, though his exhalation begins to get louder as he stares at
my back .
“So even you would betray me?” he asks, though his words become
little but whispers in the din of the rain . Yes, I’m listening to nothing save
for the sound of the rain . “I can’t let that pass . I’ve done so much for you .
Killed so many . And now you throw me away like trash? It’s me you should
be thanking! You should be mine!”
I stagger a little, but I right myself soon enough, and continue walking .
Must be the drugs . So much of it in this place . I have to get out, no looking
back . Get out of here, and back into the familiar rain . But, he speaks again,
this time clear over the noise despite its smallness .
“Oh, I see . Going back to Mikiya, aren’t we, Ryōgi?” A vague humor in
his tone . “Then why not stay? Since he’s already here, after all . ”
What? Did…did I hear him right? No, it can’t be . He couldn’t have
followed me, chased after me .
“Y—you…” I can’t say it . And though I was determined not to look back,
I do so now . Why now? When I was so close? I promised myself that there
would be no murder, that I would just need to live .
“It’s your fault for being so slow to turn, Ryōgi . I tried to find someone
a little more…cooperative . Of course, that failed . ” What is he saying? His
voice seems so low and faded, like my hearing was dampened from an
abrupt noise . “This is your knife, right? Thanks for letting me borrow it . Pity
I sullied it . ”
A metallic clicking as he tosses the knife at the floor before my feet .
The silver sheen of the blade is tainted by red stains . Someone’s blood . His
blood . No . The smell of it is so familiar . The smell of his blood on that night
beneath the heavy rain . There was no forgetting it .
“So…you’re gone now,” I say under my breath as I walk forward . I have 
to get the knife .
“I took care of him . So that you can finally do what you were supposed
to do . Kokutō was sermonizing to me until the end, you know . One thing
you can count on for him . He spouted some crap about us being opposites .
Which is funny, isn’t it? We’re so alike, you and I!”
The rain beats down annoyingly hard on the roof of the warehouse . I
kneel down to pick up my blade . The blood on it is fresh, newly supped
from the body . I lost him, so near and so close a time .
You idiot . I told you to stay with Tōko, didn’t I? Dying so worthlessly like
this…is just like you .
Kill Shirazumi, and there’s no going back, Shiki . He said that to hold me
back, I know now . Yet the beast he tried to protect slaughtered him without

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a thought . I saw that beast as someone who needed to be put down .
Maybe I was right after all . Maybe .
I grasp the knife with my hands, one palm closed around the naked
blade . I stand, holding it close to my chest . And with my head still turned
to the ground, I speak .
“Fine . Let’s dance . ” I can’t turn my eyes to look at him . Like before, even
giving him the dignity of an equal glance would be giving him too much .
“You said that you couldn’t forgive me . And on that one and only score, we
agree, Shirazumi . ”
And with that, the beast pushes himself to a run toward me . I ignore
him . He will die . Or I will . But all that can be dealt with just a little later . The
lingering warmth of the blood on the blade calls to me, to feel it before it
disappears .
Leo Shirazumi leaps, an assault without finesse . But I don’t move . And
the next moment, the beast strikes me, claws digging into my leg, tearing
away flesh and drinking deeply of my blood before it spatters the floor red
in a violent slash . He runs past me . But I do not move .
I hold the knife as tightly as I can, like an irreplaceable treasure . Memento
mori . The warmth of the blood is immediate yet fading, the air or my body
stealing its heat . A dying heart, pressed close to my chest . My body, too,
feels colder now, so much that I feel the stirrings of a shiver . But the pain of
the wound on my side is little and far away, like faint echoes of wind . For I
still remember the pain of that rain-soaked night, when I chased him down
and hurt him .
Only our frozen sighs played between us
As we watch our breaths fade slowly into stillness .
The enemy strikes me again, the claw-like nails ripping into the flesh of
my other leg . He takes his time to kill me . He enjoys himself, playing with 
/ 7 • 209
his prey . He does, after all, have all the time in the world .
The rain does not abate . It is a little thing, insignificant to most people,
but to me, it is the most pleasing thing in the world .
Even the memory of rain:
Of an endless gray veil seen after school, where I heard you whistling .
He runs past yet again, gouging out flesh in my flank . There is a tearing
noise, and the sound of something speckling the concrete . Nails dig as
deep as bone, and little rivulets of blood drip down freely from my waist
and legs, soaking the floor in a deep, vivid red . Even standing up is hard to
bear .
It’s Shiki who I remember now . Him, and the happy times he spent with
you in those lazy sunset afternoons .
Even the memory of sunset:
Of a classroom ablaze in orange light, as you and I talked .
The beast’s shows off his power now, his dominance . He goes faster
than I’ve seen him, and still his attacks find their mark as if all the world
was slow to it . I’d never be able to keep up . I’m lost, and my body follows .
But my arm can still move . I have to stop the beast when he makes his
fourth try .
Beside me you would smile, and that would be enough
To bid my soul rest
For a fourth time, it comes . He moves to hit my right arm . And though I
see it coming, I cannot make myself move . How could I kill it?
Beside me you would walk, and that would be enough
To bid the rift between us close
I’m losing too much blood, and the world starts to look darker, more
pronounced . At any moment, I could collapse . And still, I keep his words in
my mind . I can’t kill Leo Shirazumi . It’s the last thing he asked of me . And I
only have that thought to give value to me now .
Once, a moment in time
We stopped for shade, warm unmoving sunlight peeking through leaves
But I am glad . You were there for me, ready to pull me back when I
strayed, always ready to accept me . And those times, though I never said
it, were the happiest times of my life .
And there, as you laughed, you said that one day, we’d stand in the same place
The beast draws close again, for the fifth, and final time . He aims for
the neck now . We both know what will happen . A vital artery cut, and my
lifeblood gushing out as it all ends .
They were words that I’ve yearned to hear for so long .
Death approaches, and if I look back now, I would see it smiling, proudly
and broadly boasting . Every scratch it scores against me is another tearing
of that happy lie, that illusion of peaceful existence . Of a past that never
came to pass, of boring student life, of the remains of days with no conflict, 
and no monsters, and no madness .
Now only fleeting memories of days never fulfilled .
I thank you . But I am truly sorry .
I finally raise my head, seeing with the inner Eye, the Arcane Eyes, and
before me, I see my enemy’s death, tracing themselves all over his body .
I know I’ll lose it all of what I am that you’ve put your faith on . But I’ve
lost you now, even though I loved you . And I know no one will be beside
me now, there to pull me back to your world . But still…but still…this wild
animal killed you . And that is one thing I cannot forgive .
My enemy is coming, reckless and complacent in victory . It will be an
easy thing to kill him . I shift my feet slightly . The floor is water . And I need
to be light as a swan upon it . Then the end will be mercifully quick .
There it is . Shirazumi’s one arm is extended, and upon it dances one of
the lines of death . I let him come close, close enough to smell him . And
when his arm is almost upon my neck, I swing the knife that lies just below
it upward, sweeping the arm and casting it aside effortlessly as it loses
strength and dies . No time to spare . I shift just to his left, bringing my knife
arm around and down in a wide swing at the line on his left leg, killing it . He
begins to stumble as he loses the balance on his dead leg . Then his right leg
in one swift motion . Then, in the moment that he is still in the air, I plunge
the blade deep into his chest in one clean and solid stroke, finally pushing
him to the ground .
The knife stands upright like a cairn marker, piercing right through to the
heart . Shirazumi coughs only once, and it is over . The face he donned in
death is one of astonishment, as if he was more concerned at how quickly
he had died than the fact that he had died at all .
Leo Shirazumi lies truly dead in the warehouse floor as Shiki still grasps
the knife sticking out of his chest with both hands, having to lean down on
one knee as she does so . Angled light comes through from the windows,
dull and ashen, bathing the girl and the corpse in pale illumination that
makes her look like some kind of psychopomp, solemn and colorless .
No blood spills from Leo Shirazumi’s corpse . The wounds in fact, seem
very trifling, save for the one in the chest . Yet he is dead, blood and all . Such
was the power of the Arcane Eyes . There is nothing left to spill out . The
only blood that lies scattered on the warehouse floor comes from Shiki’s 
/ 7 • 211
own body . Blood from the arm, the leg, and the body, from wounds that
she still struggles to withstand . It doesn’t worry her too much, however .
She has worked through worse before .
Even so, the hands that a moment ago grasped the knife tightly now
seem to lose whatever animating force they had, and fall away to Shiki’s
side as she herself collapses with back to the floor . A large sigh escapes her
lips . Her breaths are large gulps of air, struggling through the pain . She lets
her body rest now, so that she can call for some kind of help later .
“There’s no use to it,” she whispers to herself as she looks up at the light
of the sky . The scene outside the windows, however, is still the same rain
as before . It’s always in winter, she thinks, under these skies, that I dirty my
hands with blood .
I can’t go home anymore . You would only be angry if I showed up at your
doorstep, dirtied .
“But I know you’d still wait for me . ” You walked with me . You grasped my
bloodied hands and showed me the way home . They were times covered in
hazy dream, now fleeting and soon to vanish .
She gulps, and her consciousness sways and flickers as unsteadily as the
light of a vigil candle, and there is something fair, she thinks, in the passing
of a life . She steadies her breath, not to live, but perhaps, finally, to sleep
the sleep of the just . The eyes that drink in the sunlight show rare tears .
She remembered her old promise to herself when she awoke, to only cry
when it was of worth for the tears . Nothing seemed more appropriate than
his death .
She closes her eyes, and then she grows quiet . Her thoughts have no
regrets . But it is only a matter of time before I become as mad as Shirazumi;
a monster that tasted warmth, and can never go back, crossing the boundary
to be empty of anything .
The Second Homicide Inquiry - VII
The world disappeared . That’s what I first thought .
I cough, spitting out something liquid from what feels like it had come
from inside my chest . Somewhere inside my body, something still isn’t
allowing me to die . The first things I discover I can move are my arms, and
then my upper body follows suit . My legs move, but only a little . They feel
asleep, and no matter how much I try, I can’t move them as strongly as I’d
like . I creep along to the nearest wall beside me, clasp a hand firmly on a
windowsill, and pull myself up, the wall largely doing much of the work of
supporting me .
Eyesight is returning, but everything is mists and shadow, the outlines of
things shocked with white and red . My sense of pain still struggles to keep
up . It hurts somewhere in my body . I can’t rightly place where exactly, but
somewhere there is a dull, throbbing pain . And then I remember .
I place a hand on my left eye, and it comes away wet and red . No
small amount of blood . Yet strangely the pain is less pronounced than I’d
expected . The bleeding surprisingly isn’t as bad as anticipated either . The
drugs that Shirazumi gave me had some influence on that, maybe? Still,
the wound itself is hideous to feel . The last memory I have before falling
unconscious was the knife, carving its way from my forehead to left cheek,
slicing up my left eye along its path . It’s probably too late to save it . It’s a
miracle that I’m even still alive, and that my right eye didn’t die along with
the left .
With a hand on the wall to steady myself, I carefully make my way inch
by inch to the stairs leading up to the main warehouse floor, and climb up,
having to mostly drag my legs as I hold the bannister and pull myself step
by step . Upstairs, I find the floor overrun with grass . I can’t readily identify
what they are, and at this point I really don’t care . Even in the pain and the
blood and the anesthetic effect of the drugs, there is only one thought on
my mind .
“Shiki,” the word is on my lips, like a prayer . Without a wall to cling to,
it becomes much more difficult to walk . The warehouse is cavernous, and
the plants only compound my lack of keen eyesight . I take my first step, and
immediately fall to the ground . A flash of pain shoots through my entire
body, and the world is black again for a moment before all returns like
before, and I find myself on the ground .
What am I doing? Stuck in some bloodied, battered, wounded, and
bruised body, in some kind of limbo between life and death . I can only 
hope that the fall didn’t open some already closed wounds . The ground
beneath me is soil . With my knees having buckled and offering no more
strength, I have no choice but to crawl upon it . It’s only then that I realize
the enormity of the structure I’m in, and how little I am, and how much the
grass can hinder vision at this height . My left eye feels like it’s being burned
with hot pincers, my right eye shows me images of wraith-like outlines, and
I can do nothing to remedy it .
Out of breath, I stop for a moment . Shiki being here was only a hunch on
my part anyway . I have to pace my progress unless I want to kill myself . So
I advance slowly, trying to calm my thoughts .
Should I find Shiki already crossing blades with Leo Shirazumi, what am I
supposed to do then? Kill Shirazumi, and there’s no going back . That’s what
I said to her .
No going back . I never wanted her to commit murder . Because I love
her . And I want to keep on loving her . I only wanted to give her joy . I didn’t
want her to cause pain to anyone anymore . Call it selfishness . Yet even she
detests murderers .
Once, I said I believed in her . I wonder if that’s still true, or if they were
always just convenient words I used to hide something . Whatever the case,
I have to believe in her now, and in the possibility that maybe, she can
come back, despite my words .
At a snail’s pace, I cut through the grass, heading towards what I think
is the center of the entire place . Eventually, my arms chance upon a plot
of ground that isn’t soil, but concrete . I find myself at a wide path where
none of the grass grows, and it is here, in the center of it all, that I find
Shiki . Beside her is the body of Leo Shirazumi, intact but still as a grave . At
a distance and at first glance, there is no sign of life from either .
So what I thought was true . Shirazumi is dead by your hands, Shiki .
For the moment, I set aside the thought . For now, I have to know what
happened to her . With great difficulty, I manage to pull myself that last
stretch to where she lies . Her eyes are closed, her face seems finally at
peace . Her body is wounded greviously on her legs, her waist, and an arm,
and her clothes and skin is dirtied with blood, sweat, and dirt . Her face is
pale, and there is little warmth in her frail body…and yet, her chest rises
and falls with a measured pace .
Alive . Relieved, I turn my attention now toward Leo Shirazumi . In the
state he is in, there is no doubt he is dead .
I am sorry old friend . No matter what situation you had found yourself
in, you did not deserve to die . But you are the only one who died today,
and the only victim among us three that has a right to be mourned . But 
still, that does not stop me from being happy at Shiki being alive . I do not
pity you . On the contrary, I curse you . It is only because of you that Shiki
had to perform her terrible act .
A pale, slender finger touches my cheek, caressing it, lightly tracing over
skin and blood . It was her finger .
“Are you crying, Kokutō?” Shiki says as she regards me with faint, sleepy
eyes . There is a welcome surprise on her face as her hand reaches out
softly to feel the wound on my cheek, and the ruined eye . The white fingers
turn red . Shiki tries to rise, but grunts, and gives up the effort . And I’m in no
state to carry her out of here . So we lie there for a while, facing each other,
taking in the face of the other .
In the rain, only our frozen sighs play between us,
As we watch our breaths fade slowly into silence .
“I killed Shirazumi,” Shiki whispers .
“Yeah,” I nod .
She turns to face the remains of Leo Shirazumi one last time, looking
at the terrible thing she can be capable of, then turns back toward the sky
outside the window .
“There’s so much I’ve lost, and so much I’ve left to lose,” she says in a
sad, empty voice .
She thinks she’s lost what’s important, and lost herself in the process .
Maybe she even thinks she’s lost me . It’s as her grandfather told her once .
And following those words, she thinks she will meet death alone, in a desolate
place .
“It doesn’t matter now . I told you once before, didn’t I? I’ll carry it in
your place . ” A drop of blood from my ruined eye falls to Shiki’s face, a red
tear for a sinner . It was last summer when I swore that to you as you smiled
for the first time under the rain . I said that I’ll carry your sins in your place .
So I’ll keep it inside of me . And until the day you die, you’ll never be
alone again .
“But I’m a murderer . ” This voice is faint, barely a whisper above the air,
blaming only herself, and close to tears like a child’s . She knows that the sin
will never truly disappear, and no matter how much she asks for forgiveness,
her sorrow is ultimately up to her . Even I wonder if forgiveness can
come to me, and it will be a harder question for other people .
“I told you that murder is the last line you cross . And still you went ahead
and crossed it . Just can’t learn, can you? Maybe I’m just a little cross . And
don’t think crying will get you out of this one . ”
“Huh . You’re a heartless piece of work . ”
“Yeah . Your little tricks aren’t going to work . ”
And that’s it . With those words, that distinctive manner of how she says
her words, I know that she’s back . She knows it too . There is a tranquility to
her now . She smiles the littlest smile, and closes her eyes in relief, so calmly
that you’d think she’s asleep . Another red tear falls to her cheek .
I take the dirtied and bloodied girl under my nearly numb arm, cradling
her shoulders as I help her get up . And I move to embrace her, to hold her
tight against me so strongly, as if death itself was coming for us both and it
would be the last thing I could leave to her . And in that embrace, I promise
her something .
“Shiki…I’ll never let go of you again . ” The words fade away into the
endless rain . Perhaps the words didn’t matter . Perhaps they never did .
Perhaps all that matters is that I can hold her close to me now, and that her
arms wrap themselves tightly around my back, returning my embrace with
the brief strength that I can feel in her fingertips .
/ 8
February has come and gone, but winter still leaves its charms on the
city . The temperature is still low, and the news even says it’s going to be
packed with snow tomorrow . Even now, in the beginnings of March, the last
whispers of winter can be felt seeping through the skin . Spring, it seems, is
still a distant dream away .
The murderous monster that had threatened the peace of the streets
is dead now, found by the police to have died under mysterious causes .
The public statement said that the heart just stopped, definitely before the
stab wound in the chest ever mattered, and that anyway, it had just barely
missed the heart . The medical examiners, perplexed, would doubtlessly
have declared it some kind of overdose, and the stab wounds and slash
marks on his body are destined to haunt the weeks of some poor homicide
detective somewhere until the case was compiled in a folder and shunted
to a file cabinet, cold and all forgotten .
It was me who managed to get Mikiya to a hospital that night . He
was too injured to really carry on . I on the other hand went to Tōko for a
replacement hand . The thumb I had bitten off was the false prosthetic that
Tōko had long ago provided for me, so it was an easy thing to replace . The
household doctor of the Ryōgi knew how fast I recovered from these sorts
of things, and recommended nothing special . Sure enough, I was largely
recovered before February had even ended, while Mikiya is still in bed rest
at the hospital, where he needed to stay for two weeks .
Well, until today that is . Today is the day he finally gets out from the
hospital that he has repeatedly made clear that he hates . And that’s why
now, standing sheltered in the shadow of a fairly large tree outside the
very same hospital, I brave the cold weather and wait . From here, I can see
the national hospital’s large lobby, and I watch the cars going around the
hospital’s elliptical driveway, pulling up and driving away as people come
and go around the entrance .
I do this for two hours until finally, I spot a man clad all in black make
his way out of the large entrance . From trousers to jacket, he wears the
color of his choice, his only concession to fashion . I see a white spot upon
his arm, which surprises me for a moment until I discover that it’s just a
bandage . When he exits the hospital, he turns back the last time to bow at
some nurses and a doctor before briskly heading to where I stand . I do not
call out, or wave; only wait .
“So not even one visit to the hospital from you,” Mikiya Kokutō says with 
/ 8 • 217
a playful frown on his face .
“Your fool sister Azaka insisted on it . She said she’d kill me if I showed
myself in the hospital, and I think she really means it . ” I return his frown
with an expression of disappointment .
“Reliable sort, isn’t she?” He nods . “So, should we go? Take a cab,
“It’s not like there’s three football fields from here to the station . C’mon,
it’s a short walk, and it’ll do your legs some good . ”
“Whatever works for you . I’m blaming you for any broken bones,
though,” he adds before walking ahead . I bring myself up alongside his
right and keep pace with him .
Afterwards, everything settles into some semblance of routine . We
talk, like we used to do, as we walk in the journey from one place to the
next; in this case, down this gently sloping hill road as we head toward the
train station . I chance a glimpse at Mikiya’s face . He’s grown his hair out, I
observe . Well, the left side at the very least . His bangs are just long enough
to cover his left eye and much of his cheek .
“Your left eye…” My voice trails off .
“Yeah, it’s gone for good . Shizune was right . Remember her?”
“That girl with the future sight we met once, right? Yeah, I remember
her . ”
“She told me something interesting once . That if I stayed with you, I
would meet a cruel end . She was right, you know . My ‘eye’ certainly did . ”
He laughs, seemingly impressed at his own joke . I’m not quite sure what
the proper response is to such a stupid joke . “My right eye’s all fine, though,
so it’s not such a big thing . Depth perception’s going to be hard to adjust
to, is all . Speaking of which, can you move over to my left? I’m still not used
to the feeling, so having you on that side would make me feel a lot safer . ”
He doesn’t bother to wait for me to respond and promptly shifts himself
so that I’m on his left side, after which he leans heavily on my shoulder .
“Woah, wait, what the heck are you doing?” I say with just a hint of
surprise . A frown returns to his face as he glares at me .
“What? Makeshift crutch . Guess you gotta take care of me while I get
used to this,” he explains, as if it were all natural . I return his glare with a
sullen one of my own .
“Oh, come on . Why do I have to be saddled with this?”
“Because I want you to . But if you don’t want to, just say so . ”
Something happened to him in that hospital, I muse, if he’s saying all
this so matter-of-factly . We stare at each other, and for the first time, it’s
me who breaks first . I turn away from him, attempting to hide my wildly 
blushing cheeks .
“Ah, it ain’t that bad,” I reply in a grumbling voice . Mikiya looks at me
with a wry smile on his face . Optimism must be in his blood . And it’s getting
to be so bad it’s genuinely infectious . “But I do need to go to school starting
tomorrow . ”
“Skip classes for a day . Spring break’s coming up anyway . I’m sure your
teachers will understand . ”
“What?” Sir I-don’t-care-you-should-be-at-school Mikiya Kokutō telling
me to play truant? Now I know something really happened in that hospital .
Maybe I’ll even ask him later . Right now, the only reaction I have to his
statement is to laugh .
“Hey, I was being kinda serious, though . ”
“I know, man, I know,” I laugh as I explain . “I was just thinking it’s still
pretty selfish for you . ” At that, he produces an awkward smile .
“You’re right . Years ago, I fell in love with you without telling you . And
in that spirit, I’m hoping you’ll let me slide butting into your life once or
twice,” he says, without a hint of reluctance in his face . There’s a succinct
and witty rejoinder to that somewhere in my head, but for now, I decide to
leave it there . Because at the very least, the  of the past—
“Hmm? What’s wrong, Shiki? Ah, did that make you feel uncomfortable?
You always told me that you didn’t like lines like that . ” He sounds
a bit disappointed . I’d planned to keep quiet, but what the hell . Just this
once, maybe I can just say it outright to him .
“That’s not necessarily true . ” I turn away from him completely now,
trying to find the courage to say it without making a complete idiot of
myself . “ might have hated them once . Now…well, maybe they’re
alright . ”
Ah, fuck . I knew it’d be embarrassing . I’m never letting something like
that pass my lips a second time . I look back at him tentatively now, though
it seems he’s more surprised than anything, as if he’d just seen a whale
flying in the sky . I grab him firmly by the hand to break the spell . I pull him
along, quickening our pace as we descend the slope of the hill . The station’s
just up ahead, and through it, home . The hand that I hold responds with a
surer strength of grip than my own, and for some reason, even that small,
trivial thing makes me happy . I resist the urge to grin as broadly as my face
would allow .
When we reach the station, we take the train back to that familiar, wellworn,
well-trodden city of gray towers and glass sentinels, of darkened
streets and uncertain existences, where a hundred new stories are born
and concluded each day . The way home is long, and winding; distant, and 
/ 8 • 219
easy to lose one’s way if you don’t know your way around . But luckily, I
have someone to share the road with .
For once, my hand didn’t reach out for a knife . It reached out to the
hand I wanted . And whatever the future brings, I don’t think I’ll ever let
it go . And so, my story concludes here . I’ve made my peace with my past
and my present, and now it’s time to live the future . All that’s left is for this
season to end . I’ve never once truly looked forward to the ending of winter
and the coming of spring, not once observed the importance of their passing .
But now, I find myself watching, and waiting, with a great anticipation .
Empty Boundaries

At the moment, the city is knee deep into the worst snow it’s had in four
years, and to make matters worse, it’s falling in March . The volume of the
snow is so thick, and the temperature so low, that no one at all would be
surprised to see the entire city frozen in place . Even at nights, the white
spots drift down onto the roofs and streets in a languid pattern, showing
no signs of abating, like the sky is determined to drown it in a new ice age .
Tonight, at midnight, is one such frigid night .
Not even the shadow of a person can be sighted on the streets tonight,
and the unceasing white veil of the snow is permeated only by the illumination
of street lights . It should be dark, but even the darkness can’t resist
being tainted by the gathering white . In that scene of contrasts can be seen
one boy, strolling through the late hours . He has no particular purpose in
mind . Something called him out here, a premonition that promised something
in a place so familiar .
He walks casually, as if time didn’t truly matter, holding aloft his black
umbrella as he presses his way through the thick snowfall . And at last, he
finally chances upon the girl, standing there, just as she did four years ago .
Dressed in her kimono in the midst of the desolate white night, the girl
stares blankly at the void . And like four years ago, the boy calls out to her
in a voice at ease .
“Hey . ”
The girl in the kimono turns slowly to glance over her shoulder, and
smiles sweetly .
“Good evening, Kokutō . It has been quite a while now, hasn’t it?” asks
the strange girl, Shiki Ryōgi, as the gentle smile on her lips speaks of a past
where he had known the boy so long ago . The voice, however, is cordial,
not intimate .
The boy looks at her, seeing the appearance of the Shiki he knows, but
it is not her . Not the long-gone Shiki either . This one is someone else completely .
“I knew it’d be you . I had a feeling we’d meet each other again here .
Shiki’s asleep now, isn’t she?”
“You may call it such . The words now must be for you and me . ” The lazy
smile lingers on the corners of her lips .
“So who are you, really?” the boy inquires .
“I am me . Two individuals named Shiki reside within, but I am not either
one . I am the one that resides in the hollow between two hearts,
two minds, two souls . Or perhaps it can be said that I am that hollow . ”
Her hand brushes lightly upon her breast as she closes her eyes, almost in
prayer . “That which is discordant . That which is hated . That which is intol-
erable . Accept these things and all others, and never know pain . But there
is another, in turn . That which is harmonious . That which is desired . That
which is permitted . Reject these things and all others, and know nothing
but pain . ”
The boy realizes that she is talking of what Shiki was, once before, when
both  and Shiki existed at the same time inside of her .
“One affirms, one denies,” the strange girl continues . “She is complete,
but isolated . Alone . Don’t you agree? A single color, perfect and unsullied,
is only so because it was not joined with others . It cannot change, forever
remaining the same color . That was what they were . Two opposites, sprung
from the singular primal origin . The gulf between them is empty . As such,
it is where I dwell . ”
“So why call me out then, here of all places, Shiki? Oh, mind if I call you
‘Shiki?’” The boy’s head is titled, showing confusion, but the girl seems to
think nothing of it .
“Not at all,” she replies . “Shiki Ryōgi is my name, after all . I would be
pleased if you called me by my name . Perhaps it may give me meaning after
so long . ” There is something about her voice, thinks the boy, that strikes
him as both childlike and adult .
They talked like that for some time, whiling away the minutes with meandering
and fleeting talk: The boy talking to her with a sort of familiarity,
and the girl listening closely with an air of vague bemusement, as though
nothing had truly changed . In a sense, nothing had . Though the girl knew
that she was so hopelessly different from the boy .
“So let me get this straight . Shiki doesn’t remember what happened on
this road four years ago?” the boy asks abruptly . That was the time, he remembers,
when they were both still high school students . He remembered
that he had asked  when they had met again in the school, that they
had met before .  had only answered that she couldn’t remember .
“I am afraid not . I am different from her .  and Shiki were two sides
of the same coin, and their memories were twinned together . But I am a
separate existence from either of them, so Shiki will not remember what
words pass between us tonight . ”
“I see,” he mutters with a hint of disappointment . It was on March 1995
when he met her . They chanced upon each other on this road, on a day of
cold snowfall just like today, when both were on the cusp of entering high
school . He had been on his way home that night when he spotted a lone
girl on the sidewalk, standing still and staring up at the twinkling stars . His
plans to go home and sleep were temporarily forgotten, when he greeted
her with a simple “Good evening,” as if he were greeting a good and old 
friend . The snow was just as beautiful then as they are now, enough for
two complete stranger’s paths to cross .
“In truth, there is something else I must ask you, Kokutō . Sadly, it will be
the most important, the most final of questions I can ever ask you . It is to
that purpose that I have revealed myself tonight . ” The girl stares into the
boy with eyes that belie the age that her appearance would imply .
“What is it you desire?” she asks gently . The question comes as a surprise
to the boy, and he struggles at first for words of reply . The girl keeps
her mechanical, almost amused expression on her face . “Make your wish,
Kokutō . The wishes of people are a trivial thing, and it seems Shiki has
taken quite the peculiar liking to you, so I grant you this one privilege . What
is it you desire?” she repeats .
The girl extends a hand toward the boy, her eyes a transparent well,
drinking deeply of the void-like sky, as if it looked out over a vast abyss that
knows no end, and it is reflected back in those delicate eyes, separated
from the common thinking of humanity . It was like looking into the eyes of
some god .
“I don’t know…” he answers, his voice trailing off and becoming little as
he takes a moment to ponder . He looks into her eyes, not in disinterest, but
in something approaching faith . “I suppose…I don’t really need one,” he
finally answers with a certainty .
“Yes,” she whispers disappointedly, almost like a sigh . But there is a
shadow of relief in it as well . “Yes, I suppose I knew you would say that . ”
Her eyes part themselves from the boy and returns to the white darkness
where she seems more comfortable .
“How could you know, if you aren’t really Shiki?” he asks, amused . The
girl only replies with an appreciative sidelong glance and an acknowledging
nod .
“Indulge me, then . Tell me where in a man his character lies,” she suddenly
asks, as casually as asking about something no more trivial than tomorrow’s
weather, as if she knew any answer the boy could give would not
surprise her in the least . And yet, the boy puts a hand on his chin, and tries
to look the scholar .
“Well, if I had to give an answer, I suppose…well no doubt it’s connected
to sentience and sapience, so it’s a matter of the mind, I guess . ” The doubt
in his voice is clear as day . Not surprisingly, the girl shakes her head slowly .
“No . The soul dwells in our memory, and it in turn animates us . But
it does not mean that it need only be fed with electricity to continue its
dream of fragile reality, deprived of a body that houses it . The mage that
Shiki once met spoke as you did, that a man’s character is in the mind . A 
mistake . You, your character, and your very soul is shaped by travails, given
form in your body . A personality does not arise whole-formed from just a
mind and the sentience that accompanies it . It is through our bodies, allowing
us access to all these visceral experiences, that we take our steps
into precious self-awareness, and where we form our characters as extroverts,
or introverts, or any number of other archetypes . A ‘personality’
shaped by sentience alone cannot hope to even reflect on what it is . Such
a thing is more akin to a calculator, I should think . If there is no personality,
then it becomes necessary to create one, starting from the very beginning .
“Yet rather than the body arising from the existence of sentience, the
body is crafted well before the emergence of any kind of sentience . But the
body alone carries no sense of sapience . The body is simply there . But even
within such a simple thing, something drives it, something that connects
it to a primal origin . I grew from such origins, born from sentience, raised
alongside the other two . ”
The boy nods . He’s heard of this before; that there are three things any
human must have to live: the psyche, the soul, and the body . This girl then,
was Shiki’s true nature, what mages had called the origin of a person . A
thing of nothingness, of void, the primal nature of someone .
The girl casts her eyes downwards, looking as though she had read the
boy’s thoughts exactly . “Such is what I am, a character produced not from
the mind but the body, wholly different from  or Shiki, who arose
from her fractured psyche . I am the power behind them, but I am powerless
before them . She is the embodiment of the ryōgi, of two extremes, the
symbol of yin and yang given form, a great continuum of dynamism and
entropy . I am of the empty boundary in between, the channel that allowed
both to have united thoughts . I am their beginning, and I am their end,
connecting them to the spiral of origin . Without me, they would have been
nothing but fractured and sundered existences . ” The girl smiles a deadly
smile, tinged with something approaching a cold taste for blood .
“Don’t be surprised if I say I can barely follow,” the boy mentions, “but I
guess the way I’m getting it is that you’re the one that made the existence
of two Shikis possible . ”
“The essence of it, I suppose . The origin that never reveals itself . In truth,
I should have withered away long ago, an unneeded and alien part of the
body . My origin is emptiness, and I would never have claimed intelligence
or any grander meaning . But it was the Ryōgi dynasty had other plans . They
wove their meager Arts and gave me sentience .  and Shiki arose just
as much from the need to protect myself as from their experiences . ”
 and Shiki; yin and yang; virtue and vice . The boy remembers the 
mage Tōko Aozaki saying to him once before: that they were separated
not by conflict but by utility; the desire for the Ryōgi dynasty to pursue its
mysterious ambition .
“What a perilously unwise game they play, these dynasties,” the girl
continues . “I should have died before I was ever free of the womb, but
instead, they gave me a sense of self . You see, any animal comes into the
world with a body and sapience worthy of each other, but I, born of the
origin of nothingness, must needs die . I should have never existed for long .
Tōko told you of this, did she not? Of reality’s uncanny ability to fight what
is irrational, and unnatural, solely through consensus . Produced from such
an unnatural origin as nothingness, I would have petered out unceremoniously
before  ever achieved an iota of consciousness . But the Ryōgi
dynasty had spells that bid me awake, and so I did, and the origin awoke
in  as well . Through it, I could see the material reality . I found it too
boring, however, and passed that responsibility to  . Can you not see?
How everything in this reality is so predictable, and how the rules that bind
it are so weak and mutable?”
Her eyes are simple and innocent, and yet they seem to almost laugh
cruelly and mockingly at everything .
“But even you have your own will,” states the boy, looking at the girl
almost pitiably now .
The girl nods and says, “Indeed . Not so large a surprise . All have an origin
that carries some small spark of intelligence, but it never comes to fore
at the beginning of life . It is the mind of a person that must carry that
first burden, and transmute that along with the body to a personality . Thus
does the little intelligence of the origin lose meaning and fade . Yet a man’s
personality, knowing nothing of the body that made it whole, will assume
in his ignorance that his personality formed from sentience alone . The order
seemed to be wholly different in my case, however . Still, at least I can
thank Shiki for our little chat tonight . Without memories to tap into, I might
not have understood words let alone hold a conversation . I would just be a
little spark, worth next to nothing . ”
“I see . So without Shiki, you wouldn’t be able to perceive the outside
world because—”
“Because I am but a simple mechanism operating on the instructions of
something inside me, yes . Just a vessel with sight turned inward, a body
connected to death and entropy, and what mages call The Akashic Record,
or the spiral of origin . A worthless connection, as far as I’m concerned . ”
She takes a single, small step forward, extends her hand and lightly touches
upon the boy’s left cheek as light as a feather . Her pale fingers brush back 
the bangs, revealing the vicious scar beneath . “At this moment, however, it
may prove of use . I can make this wound disappear . I would be able to help
someone, and make some kind of difference in the world . But you said you
needed no wish . ”
“That’s right . I know Shiki better for destroying things, and it feels sort of
weird and just a bit suspicious for you to be asking . ” The boy gives a plain
smile, not truly knowing himself how serious that statement is . The girl
turns away from him then, as one would turn away from glaring sunlight,
and retreats her hand, holding it close to her chest .
“An understandable observation . Shiki is very much a creature of destruction .
I suppose you still cannot see me as anything else but her, in the
end . My origin is emptiness, and because of this, Shiki can see the death of
everything . When Shiki slept for two years, her senses shattered and dead,
she gazed into the emptiness inside her for so long that she came to know
the welcoming embrace of death . Shiki floated on the vast abyss of the spiral
of origin, alone inside the void, where she awoke . And no matter how
much she denied it, her soul called out to that base drive, that voice inside
her that told her that she could kill . Her power stemmed from that . Much
like Fujino Asagami, her Arcane Eyes made her play an entirely different
game than common men . Her Eyes expressed their connection to the spiral
of origin through death, calling forth the destined entropy of all things and
manifesting it . But my connection to it is far more profound . And it allows
me to see everything so…differently . ”
The way she says this last word was a mixture of delight and sadness,
and the boy got the distinct sense that even though she explains, she
knows her words would never truly reach anyone . “The spiral of origin is
the primordial beginning of all things in this pattern of reality . All things
pass through the great wheel, their natures and their histories—past, present,
and future—are connected to it . It is thus a vast and empty place . It
reflects what I am, in a way . I am connected to it, and I am a part of it as
well . I am it . Which is why the greatest feats that mages can only dream of
are allowed me . I can change the very structure of elementary particles . I
can transmute evolution itself, changing everything into something wholly
different . All creation dances to the tune of magic and the melody of the
arcane Art . I can bend the rules of this lie of a reality, this prison that keeps
so many minds in sleep . I can break it as easily as a twig . I can remake this
world . I can unmake it . I can make a new one whole cloth . ”
And, as if seeking the most inappropriate punctuation to her statement,
she giggles slightly, a snicker of contempt as sinister as her smile . “But
there is no meaning in such feats . The destruction of lies is tiring work, and 
I find it no different from dreaming . And so I choose to see nothing, to think
nothing, to live in dreamless slumber and in self-imposed quiescence . A
decidedly different dream than Shiki had, clearly . The girl is so transparent
sometimes, don’t you think so? I see right through her, just as I do with
everything . Her, reality…even myself . ”
Her voice becomes a whisper in the infinite night, her eyes affixed to it
with such an intensity, it feels as if she would never have the chance to see
its like again . Perhaps she never will . “But what can I do?” she asks herself .
“I am but a body, bound to her dream . Hers is the material, and mine the
soul, sharing a body connected to the great Akasha . I know everything that
has passed and will pass, and it is a bitter, meaningless tedium, enough to
close your eyes to the entire affair . And so it will be as before . I shall sleep,
undreaming, unthinking, in eternity . I pray only that when entropy claims
this body, that the dream live on, and I with it . ” Snow falls tranquilly upon
her words with the weight of a burial .
The boy says nothing, looking only at the side of the girl’s face as she
looks up and over the night . Noticing this, the girl speaks in a restrained
voice, but almost scolding . “Silly isn’t it? It is nothing to fret over, I assure
you . But having you hear this makes me happy enough to tell you one more
thing . Shiki misunderstands herself . She has never truly loved murder . Her
impulse stems from me, her origin . So fear her not, Kokutō . She is no murderous
monster . Only me . Always me . ”
The grin, never far from her face, seems to say to the boy in slight and
sly motions that it is a secret kept between them only . The boy is left to
puzzle out how anyone would believe him anyway . How can he tell anyone
a secret kept between himself and a soul, born from primal intelligence?
Who would even believe him?
“I must leave soon, I fear,” the girl says . “I ask again, Kokutō, do you wish
for nothing? Even in when you crossed paths with Leo Shirazumi, you chose
the path of temperance, and didn’t waver from it until the end, when the
choice to be made was clear . It is a wholly strange choice, I must declare .
Do you not want something better than this?”
“Nah . Here, right here, like this…it’s fine, I think . ”
“Maybe it is,” the girl whispers . She looks at him then with almost envious
eyes, and she thinks . Humans tear and scrabble for answers, creating
a never-ending spiral of conflict . Shiki Ryōgi personifies this . And yet here
is this boy, of a character that puzzles the girl . Hurting no one, even himself,
taking nothing, and asking for nothing . He stands amidst the battering
winds and waves, melting into the flow of time as his own until he breathes
his last . A common life .
Could it be possible to live such a life? Surely not from the start . Perhaps
that too is some different kind of “special . ” So in the end, everyone is still
distinct, leading lives whose meaning comes entirely from their own self .
The seed is always the same, but it is they who chart different courses,
becoming margraves of their own empty boundaries, guarding their own
normality . Sometimes, across borders, people reach out, sometimes they
don’t . And yet they live .
There is a long stillness from both the boy and girl . The great white expanse
seems to call toward her as she ponders .
No one will ever try to understand him, no one to ever give him the
time of day . Always normal, no one to see into him deeply . Unhated, with
no one to draw close to . And yet, to Shiki, a symbol of happy times . Who
among them is truly alone? No one might ever truly say .
The snowflakes drift about in the air, the girl as entranced as she has
been the entire time . Yet in her eyes is a quiet regret . And then, she murmurs
something under her breath, so silently that it almost seems as if it
was meant only for her, and that it was never meant to escape her lips .
“He will live ordinary, and die ordinary . What solitude,” says Shiki Ryōgi,
as she stares out at the darkness that holds no beginning and no end,
words of parting barely heard .
The boy saw the girl off, knowing that they will never meet again .
The snow did not abate, burying the darkness in little white shards, fluttering
gently like the wings of tired butterflies, falling to the ground .
“Farewell, Kokutō,” the girl had said before she left . The boy could say
nothing .
“Silly me . I know we’ll meet again tomorrow,” the girl had said before
she left . The boy could say nothing .
And after that, for a long while, longer than he could say, he stood out
there in the lonely street, looking out into the winter night sky . It was only
when dawn broke that he concluded his vigil in place of the girl .
Yet here, even with blue-yellow light peeking out of the horizon, the
snow does not weaken or cease . And when it seemed like the whole world
would be buried in white, he finally started to make his way home, each
step a crunch of snow crust underfoot . The black umbrella sways in the
long path, the boy holding it aloft the sole shadow that plies the way .
In the midst of white winter, the black-clad figure is the only thing that
contrasts the day . And it sways slowly, shuffling from side to side with each 
step, until alone, it becomes difficult to spot . There is no loneliness that
darkens his step, and the boy does not stop on the path .
All is as it was before, as it was four years ago, when he met her for the
first time in this path . Two lone figures, sharing a solitary road, their souls
cold and sweet and tinged with the songs of winter .