The phone starts to ring. It stops ringing after five times and switches to the answering machine. After a beep noise, I hear a familiar voice come from the answering machine.
“Good morning Shiki. Can you do me a favor? I’m supposed to meet Azaka at a cafe called Ahnenerbe near the station at noon but I don’t think I can make it. You have nothing to do, right? Can you go there and tell her I can’t come?”
The caller hangs up. … I move my tired body and look at the clock by the bed… July 22, 7:23AM. It’s only been about four hours since I came home. My body is still wanting sleep, maybe because I’ve been walking around town until three in the morning after accepting Tohko’s job. I pull up my sheets. The summer hotness does not really matter for me. I was able to tolerate hot and cold weather rather well as a kid and it still seems that way. As I lay there for a while, the phone rings again. It switches to the answering machine and this time, I hear a voice I’d rather not hear.
“It’s me. Did you see the news? You didn’t see it, right? You don’t have to see it. I didn’t see it either.”
… I always thought so, but now I’m confident. The way she thinks is far from the way I think. One should not understand the real meaning behind Tohko’s words.
“There were three deaths last night. Another one of those suicides jumping off a bulding and two, a crime from passion. None of these are in the news so I’m guessing they were all treated as accidents. But there’s one strange case. If you want to know more, come to my place. Actually, you don’t have to. Come to think of it, this will do. All right… to put it simply so even you would understand with that sleepy head of yours, there was just another victim.”
The caller hangs up. I get pissed off. It has nothing to do with me even if there’s another victim. Even the things around me are uncertain, so such a thing is useless information for me. Death of someone I don’t even know about is less impressive than the sunlight hitting me right now.
I get up when the tiredness in me goes away. I make breakfast just like the previous Shiki has learned so in her 16 years of life. I eat it and get ready to go outside. I put on a orange simple kimono today. Since I’ll be walking around town, this is what I prefer. …… Even my choice of cloth is only a habit from the past. I bite my tongue at the feeling I get like I’m looking at someone else from outside. Two years ago, when Ryohgi Shiki was still 17, I wasn’t like this. It’s not that the two years of coma changed me. … The empty two years brought me something else. It feels like I am not moving out of my will. I always get this feeling that the strings called “16 years as Ryohgi Shiki” is moving me like a puppet. But it has to be just my feelings. No matter how much I curse at myself for being empty and fictitious, in the end, I am moving out of my own will. It is impossible for anything other than me to interfere with that.
When I finish changing, the time is almost eleven. I repeat the first message on the answering machine. The voice I have heard many times in the past repeats itself. The voice that was lost in the air is recorded like this.
… Kokutoh Mikiya
The last person I saw two years ago…
The classmate that I let my guards down two years ago…
I know my past with him, but only the vision of our last moment is not there. No, the memory of the year since I got to know him is full of holes. Many important parts are missing. Why Shiki got in that accident…. Why she was looking at Mikiya’s face at that moment… It would be really handy if the forgotten memories were recorded somewhere. I am concerned about the missing memories and it is causing me not to be able to talk to Mikiya naturally.
… The answring machine stops. It’s strange why my worries go away a bit when I hear his voice. It makes me feel like I have a firm foundation, but there’s no way something like a voice could be a foundation. That should be an illusion too. It probably is an illusion. The only reality I can feel now is the burning excitement I get when I kill people.
Ahnenerbe turns out to be an antique cafe. I check the name written in German and go inside. It’s past noon but there aren’t many customers inside. I don’t know how they built it but it is dark inside. Only the tables near the door is light and the back of the cafe, the counters, is rather dark. The only light is coming through the four square windows on the wall. Only the tables by those windows are light as if cut out of the darkness. Maybe it’s because of the strong sunlight but the contrast feels rather majestic. Kokutoh Azaka is sitting at the table in the very back. Two girls in a western-style uniform is waiting for Mikiya side by side.
That’s not what I heard. According to Mikiya, only Azaka should be waiting. I didn’t hear about this other girl. I look at them as I walk towards them. They both have long straight black hair. They have similar features and they are beautiful, fit for students at a Lady Academy. Even though the impressions are totally the opposite. Azaka has firm eyes and has the strength to face anything. You can’t hide her strength even with her lady-like attitude. Mikiya was liked because of his personal charm, but Azaka would be the one that would be admired because of her strictness. The girl next to Azaka looks rather weak. Her posture looks firm and graceful but she has this feeling that she might break down any second.
I come close to their table and call out. Azaka looks at me and frowns.
The voice is filled with enemity. She doesn’t even try to hide it. Her Lady-like feeling is just like her disguise.
“I am waiting for Nii-san. I have nothing to do with you.”
Azaka says so, staying calm.
“I have a message from that Nii-san of yours. He said he can’t make it. He ditched you.”
Azaka gasps. Maybe because the fact that he could not come is a big shock, or maybe because I was the one to come tell her that.
“Shiki, it must be your doing…!”
Azaka trembles her fist. I guess she’s shocked that I came.
“Don’t be stupid. I’m a victim too. He just selfishly told me to tell you that he can’t make it.”
Azaka looks at me with flame in her eyes. The girl next to her tries to calm Azaka as she might start throwing things if she wasn’t calmed down.
“Kokutoh-san, everyone’s surprized.”
A thin voice. I step back.
“…… You’re right, today was supposed to be for you. Sorry Fujino, it was wrong for me to get angry.”
Azaka apologizes to the girl called Fujino. I look at the calm-looking girl. She is looking at me too.
“Does it…… not hurt?”
I say so unconsciously. The girl does not answer but just stares at me. Showing no interest like watching a scenary, and inorganic like a bug. I get two convictions in me. An intuition that she is my enemy and the actual feeling that she cannot be.
“… No, it can’t be you.”
In the end, I trust my feeling. There is no way this girl called Fujino would be able to enjoy murder. Because there is no reason for her to. No, first of all, it’s impossible for her thin arms to tear off things like human limbs. It would be a different story if she has abnormal eyes like me… I lose interest in the girl and talk to Azaka.
“That’s all. Do you have any message for him?”
“”Nii-san, please quickly break ties with such a woman.””
Azaka really leaves such a message.