Kamisu Reina:Volume 1 Atsushi Kogure
Chapter 2: Atsushi Kogure
My heart explodes and comes bursting out of my mouth.
In the eyes of everyone else in this shopping district by the station, nothing special happened. However, I have made a horrifying discovery.
Within the crowd of strangers that walk the streets, I have found her whom I will never forget.
Burst by an unbearable shock, my pieces stick to all my surroundings. The hundreds of shreds that I have spit out scowl at her from all sides. Noticing my gazes, she finds my main body and looks at it.
Her smile leaves me so thunderstruck that I can't even break down—I just freeze. It's like her smile made away with the very concept of time, let alone my feelings that completely vanished at the sight of her.
The girl before my eyes stands aloof from the world. At the very least, I know that she has no proper moral values.
I am being devoured by her existence.
Only after she goes away am I able to breathe again. I confirm that my emotional perception is still intact, and finally feel alive again.
I detest that girl.
She has stolen everything from me.
No matter how special and transcendental she is, that doesn't make her sins any lighter.
I won't forgive her. I will absolutely not forgive her. I won't ever forgive her, the cold-blooded killer of my family.
I won't forgive Reina Kamisu!
"You met Reina Kamisu?" my doctor asks in wonderment when I tell him about my encounter with that monster.
"Yes. I ran across her. That killer."
I may have called him doctor, but Doctor Mihara doesn't fit the common image of one. He is a sociable, young psychiatrist and actually still in his twenties.
"Are you sure it was not a dream?"
"It was real! She walked past me before my very eyes! She even noticed me and laughed at me!"
"Hm..." Doctor Mihara folds his arms as he notices that I'm dead serious.
My family was murdered by Reina Kamisu.
To this day it is unknown why she broke into our house and stabbed everyone except me; she didn't steal anything, nor was there a grudge I know of. She hadn't made any threats in advance, either, nor did she seem to enjoy it. In contrary, she seemed to be very intelligent and to have no relation with drugs and the like. In fact, I failed to find a stain in her personality.
But it is for a fact that she killed my family.
Their lives vanished so easily.
I used to think that human lives are special—nothing like the fishes we once dissected at school. The idea of human life and its supposed value used to be huge and boundless in my young mind. In fact, on the assumption that only humans have minds, I still think that our lives are of great value.
However—it's possible to take someone's life with the same knife that you slice open a fish with.
Confronted with that absurd fact as a mere 10-year old boy, I was shattered.
I do have a wound in my chest—due to Reina Kamisu, of course—that is quite grotesque. One of the kind that makes people grimace.
However, the problem with that wound isn't that it scares everyone. The problem is that it is still a wound and not a scar. It's still a gaping wound, and it's going to stay that way. But instead of blood, it's my very own self that is being bled out. "Something" that is needed to live. I'm dwindling. Ever-dwindling.
I'm still breaking bit by bit.
"Atsushi-kun," my doctor addresses me with a serious look.
"We're out of time for today, but can I ask you to tell me more about this in our next meeting?"
"Yes, of course."
I was planning to do so anyway.
Besides, the only way to fix me is to go against Reina Kamisu; to learn the truth about her; to—understand her.
Can I win against that monster? The odds are against me, I'm afraid. I'm going to lose. I'm going to keep dwindling.
Just like a black hole, there are times when uncalled-for feelings absorb the obvious and make you blind. Therefore, if I want to oppose her, I must seal my emotions—which consist mostly of hatred—away. Thinking back at the outburst of emotions that I experienced when I ran across her the other day, I can imagine how hard that is.
However, no matter how hard the fight against that monster turns out to be, there is no risk for me. I've sunken to the lowest point already. While it is hard to fight my way up, I can't fall any lower.
Therefore, I won't waver to fight.
"I won't lose!"
"Against whom...?" Doctor Mihara asks, still serious.
"Against me, of course, and against Reina Kamisu."
He maintains a pensive look and seems to be groping for words. In the end, he just mutters, "I see..."
The following day, I headed to school like always despite my decision to fight against Reina Kamisu. Truth be told, I would rather look around for her than attend my classes, but added to the fact that I have no clues except for spotting her in town, I don't want to bother my aunt.
Unlike my uncle, she is treating me really well. I suppose the fact that they don't have any own children adds to this, but she is looking after me like I were her real son... maybe even more so because I'm not her real son. There's no discontent. There's no discontent... but there is pressure. I feel that I absolutely mustn't and can't sadden my aunt, since she is obliged to look after me as well.
I arrive at school and notice that our classroom is remarkably noisy.
Puzzled, I catch Yuuji Kato, who happened to stand nearby and is on comparatively good terms with me. I ask, "What's the matter?"
"Suicide's the matter, dude! Suicide!"
"What? But that was, like, last week, no? Did we learn something new about Saito's suicide?" I ask as I toss my bag onto my desk.
Since she was a person who we would see every day at school, Saito's death came quite as a shock for us. While she didn't have any friends—she was even suspected to have stolen from a classmate—there were still students who mourned for her. Surprisingly though, it wasn't until she died that a few guys came our of their shells and confessed with teary eyes that they had actually been fond of her because she had a "modest" personality unlike most girls nowadays. Saito must have quite mixed feelings up there in heaven, since that personality of hers is what drove her to suicide.
"Are you still making a fuss about that story? Why don't you leave her alone already? I'm sure that she... wouldn't like being the center of attention," I mention to him.
"You're completely off the mark, man."
"What do you mean?"
"This is not about Saito, you know?"
"Then who committed suicide?"
Yuuji looks at a certain desk and says, "Kimura."
Before classes started, all students of our school were summoned to the gym for an emergency speech, where the school director bored us with a lengthy speech on "the value of life."
While listening with half an ear to what he has to say, I start making my own thoughts about the incident.
It seems like Saito, Mizuhara, and the other people concerned didn't know, but anyone who was either somewhat familiar with Kimura or has enough brains, like me, was aware that Kimura was really the culprit of the stolen wallet incident.
It was a well-known fact among us guys that Kimura had a crush on Mizuhara, and that he was turned down when he confessed to her. She told him that she had no plans of dating anyone in the near future. A few days later, however, she and Ashizawa became a couple.
Needless to say, she only used that phrase to turn Kimura down because she wanted to avoid being too direct, and he must have been aware of that. Nonetheless, Kimura's feelings were hurt. Thoroughly. He must have thought that he was inferior to Ashizawa—a complete drop-out—in Mizuhara's eyes. Starting from then, everything he said and everything he did was underlined with a subtle tone of self-deprecation.
I can see why he would want to damage the present Ashizawa gave to Mizuhara. In fact, I think a little payback like that is very much tolerable. However, he knew that he would be the obvious culprit if he executed that resentful plan of his.
Therefore, he was in need of a suspect other than himself. And he found one in Saito, who just happened to be made a fool of by Mizuhara.
At a glance, Kimura did his job well; at the very least, he managed to trick his main targets—Mizuhara and her group—into believing his lie.
However, in effect he failed horribly.
He didn't take into consideration how much his actions would hurt Saito's feelings because he was too focused on how to force the blame onto her. But his greatest mistake was not to take into consideration how much his own feelings would be hurt by hurting Saito's.
His revenge inflicted a lethal wound on Saito. Maybe that's not entirely accurate. Maybe he only touched a sore point of Saito's that was already lethal anyway. Nevertheless, Kimura considered himself responsible for her death.
Kimura hurt Saito, and that fact hurt himself. Both of those wounds were lethal, and both of those wounds ended in death. Like... like my own wound.
At last, the school director ends his speech after more than a full hour. I do understand his concern, but that doesn't make it any more worthwhile.
Seriously... he doesn't get that a sermon is not going to achieve anything. We all know perfectly well that one must not commit suicide. And yet there are times when the world we live in becomes so tough on us that we play with the thought. Therefore, it's useless to appeal to ethics; he ought to go with a more practical and concrete approach. If I were to stop suicide, I would do it like this: "Dying means falling into an eternal state of nothingness, a perfect void that can't be conceived by anything that is alive. Just think about it: your brain goes away. You do not have any thought anymore. Surely, you've heard of the phrase 'I think, thus I am,' no? Give it some careful thought. Nothing exists. Do you get this? Nothing exists. How many seconds could you endure being in a world without sound, without light, and without any kind of sensation? A world where you don't even get hungry. Where you have no desires at all. Can you follow me? But death is a perfect void, so it exceeds even such a sensation-less world. There is no future. Heaven is just a construct people who fear death made up. You should know why there will always be people who believe in a world after death despite the advent of science; it's because they are scared. Scared of what waits beyond death. So, don't think ending your own life will save you! It simply ends. It E-N-D-S. Suicide is the act of killing yourself, and dying without comprehending the meaning of death is but escaping from reality. Although the result is the same in both cases. All right, come on. Try to kill yourself if you can; try to kill yourself now that you've learned the truth."
At the very least, I couldn't kill myself.
After all, the only reason why I'm here now is because I'm more afraid of death than most.
Ah, right, there was a nice little twist to this story:
"Actually, I heard Kimura left behind a suicide note," Yuuji tells me.
"A suicide note? Did he apologize to Saito or something?"
"Well, that should cheer her up a little, I guess?"
"No, I think it'll have quite the opposite effect."
"Hm...? Well, sure, I wouldn't want anyone to commit suicide because of me either."
"That's not the problem," he objects.
"What do you mean?"
"Kimura got her name wrong."
After school ended (classes did take place, but everyone was somewhat absent in mind) I headed to the shopping district where I had come across Reina Kamisu.
There's no guarantee that I will find her again just because I saw her once, but that's the only clue I have. I originally thought I would be able to get my hands on some data since I'm the victim of the incident, but it's not that simple. Especially for juvenile crimes.
Should Reina Kamisu walk past me, I won't miss her. That's not only because I've carved her appearance into my memory over and over: She is special in anyone's eyes. She is absurdly beautiful.
However, an event-less hour passed. Having stood all the while because there was no place to sit, my legs got a bit tired. I decided to tolerate moving away from this place a bit and went to the next McDonalds, grabbed myself two burgers (everything else is too expensive for the purse of a middle school student) and sat down by the window.
While munching at my burger, I start thinking about Reina Kamisu.
Reina Kamisu. Back when the incident happened, she was 16 years old (meaning that she was only one year older than I am now), so her present age should be 21. Did she get a job? Maybe she's enrolled in a university. She probably couldn't graduate from high school because of everything she did, but she should be smart enough to make it through the entrance exams of an university. Even though she killed my entire family, she was hardly punished at all because her completely incomprehensible motive got her diagnosed "mentally unstable". I bet now she's worshiped like an idol at her workplace or at university. The murderous idol. Haha, what a catchphrase!
The wound in my chest starts to pain. According to Dr. Mihara, this pain is just a product of my mind since the wound has already healed.
Dammit! You think this is only mental? An illusion? Don't mess with me, Doc! This pain isn't fake; no way it is!
The wound is bleeding. I may be the only one who can see the blood, but it's definitely blood—and I'm the liquid (or something similar to a liquid).
Ah, damn, I know! I'm not making sense. I'm just digging a hole for myself.
But as a matter of fact—the wound hasn't healed.
And it still hurts.
The perceptive faculties of a human have a certain capacity; our brains are like computers and can only process up to a certain amount of data. When there is an overflow of information, they stop working correctly and start churning out error messages.
The sight before my eyes deprives me of any emotional impulse.
There is a corpse; my mom's corpse. There is a corpse; my dad's corpse. There is a corpse; my sister's corpse. The floor is covered by a pool of blood. Whoa, how am I supposed to walk on a floor that's so drenched? No, that's not the problem here, is it? Whoa-whoa, they're dead, no? You gotta be kidding me. This isn't some TV drama. Such brutal deaths do not happen around me. That being said, this looks pretty real. Haha, hey, this is getting out of hand. I can't believe it. And what's with that girl there? Who the fuck is that incredibly pretty girl? What's with that knife—that blood-drenched knife—she's carrying? Whoa-whoa-whoa-whoa! It was YOU? Despite that pretty face of yours? Hold on a sec! Don't mess with me! Who allowed you to kill my family? Who are you, anyway? Who are you?! Who the fuck are you?!
"As I thought..."
What's as you thought?! You're strange! You're nuts!
"People die when you stab them."
Of course they do. Every child knows that. Everyone knows that, although no one actually verifies it.
Right. My family died.
Yeah, they died...right?
They died. Yeah, they died. D-I-E-D.
"A...ah..." I finally start to moan.
They're lying on the floor. My mom, my dad, my sister, they're all lying on the floor, inanimate. I was watching TV until a few moments ago. I went upstairs because they got angry with me because I'd kicked my sister. Has that become a scene of the past? Has that girl stolen it from me? Is that even possible? Can she even do that?
"Do you want to die, too?"
She can. That girl can do it.
Help me help me help me! HELP ME, mom! Ah, she's dead! Anyone! Anyone help me!
I fall on my rear and crawl backward, literally wetting my pants. Of course I can't escape like this, but I can't stand up either.
She draws closer.
However, my words fall on deaf ears. Aiming the knife at me, she draws closer.
And then she wields it.
"Stop it! STOOOOOOOP!"
And then I wake up like always.
I let out a sigh as I sip my miso soup.
"My, Atsuhi, why are you sighing when the day has only started?" my aunt reproaches me lightly with a smile and puts a plate with a fried egg before me.
"I had that dream again..." I answer as I put some soy sauce on the egg.
"I see. They've become frequent lately."
"Oh dear...why does that girl have a grudge against you?"
A grudge. Had her motive been so simple and reasonable, I wouldn't be as broken as I am now.
"Maybe you're a little antsy because your admission exams are just around the corner?" she says in an unusual worried tone. She's worried; in other words, I'm worrying her.
This is bad. I mustn't worry her even more when she's already worried about my being under mental treatment.
"Ahaha, but I haven't even started studying?" I laugh as I hold my chest.
"You haven't? I think that's pretty problematic, too!"
When my aunt said so, I could read the words "thank god my fears were groundless" from her face.
Groundless fears. Right, her fears should have been groundless.
However, it is a fact that the dream has unsettled me more than it would usually do.
I started having that nightmare after that incident happened. During the first month, I was tormented by it every night, and every time I was, I was so unsettled that I could not eat anything.
But you get used to any nightmare with time: lately, I would only think of it as a "bad dream."
However, today it's different. Not only did she wound me in my dream, she also wounded me in reality again.
I hold my chest.
My nightmare has leaked into reality and is attacking me from there. That's all because I've run across Reina Kamisu the other day. That nightmare isn't just a nightmare; it's my past that keeps tormenting me.
By coming across Reina Kamisu, my nightmare has acquired reality. She is using it as a portal to attack me.
Again and again, she will attack me.
Now, how long will my heart be able to endure it?
I enter the classroom, just to get surprised almost as much as yesterday.
Ashizawa had his head shaved, abandoning his long, brown hair.
I doubt that one of the teachers in charge of common decency forced him to do that; they wouldn't go that far. It must have been his own will.
Ashizawa has been in low spirits lately, which is, needless to say, because he is blaming himself for Saito's death. Back when the wallet he gave to Mizuhara was damaged, he got so angry with Saito that he pushed her into a corner and intimidated her.
I was there when it happened and observed them, planning to step in if he were to get rough...no, I don't know if I really intended to intervene. Perhaps, I only pretended to be worried about her. Anyway, I observed them without doing anything.
Only after looking at Ashizawa's shaved head, my conscience starts to prickle me.
I don't know how much that incident took part in Saito's death, but I'm sure that it did have an effect. It's another aspect that drove her into suicide.
But what if there'd been someone who tried to help Saito when she was surrounded by Ashizawa and his pals? What if she'd had a comrade who didn't care about the pressure Ashizawa applied? Wouldn't the outcome have been different? Aren't we, who hesitated to stand up for Saito, the real sinners?
That "comrade" could have been me.
Ashizawa has inflicted an evident punishment upon himself like a real delinquent. As thoughtless and pointless as that punishment may be, he did produce proof of his remorse.
And what about us? We're denying any responsibility and try to discount the matter with some pity. It's not Ashizawa or Kimura or Mizuhara who cornered Saito, but us who tried to stay away from her to the bitter end.
Suddenly, a question crosses my mind.
Come to think of it—
Didn't Saito call someone's name for help?
Even the lunch break was occupied with the subject of Saito and Kimura because Ashizawa's shaved head was so eye-catching. Because of the great sympathy for Saito that fills the air (they all seem to feel guilty), Takatsuki and her colleagues are in an awkward position, being the ones who blamed Saito.
I have eaten up my boxed lunch and am observing my class, my elbow rested on my desk.
Ashizawa looks like a monk, and Takatsuki's group are looking like cats in an unfamiliar house. Wondering how Mizuhara herself is doing, I look at her.
Her fairly pretty face looks even more exhausted than before. She must be aware of the central part she has played in both Saito's and Kimura's suicide.
As I make this observation, she turns to me and our eyes meet.
I quickly avert my gaze to feign ignorance, but her gaze remains fixed on me. "Never mind me!" I shout in my mind as I confirm that I'm still being watched.
However, my silent shout remained unheard; she stands up and walks toward my seat.
Now she called my name. Looks like it wasn't a coincidence or because she noticed my gaze that she looked at me.
"So...What's the matter, Mizuhara?" I ask as I raise my head, visibly annoyed.
"You're smart, aren't you? I mean, you're always the number one in this class and you are among the best in our school year, right?"
"You're talking about my grades, but there's a difference between being smart and having good grades."
Mizuhara is dumbstruck for a moment, but eventually picks up again, "...But you're the only one I can think of to talk about this. Can you spare me a moment, please?"
"I think there are enough other people who could give you better advice."
"Mmm...I'm not exactly looking for advice. Let's not talk about it here—come this way."
Mizuhara pulls me by my sleeve. Looks like she insists on talking with me.
"Whoa, hold your horses, now. Ashizawa's going to get angry when he sees us together."
"Oh, really? He must be quite forgiving then."
"No, we've...split up."
Surprised, I freeze for an instant.
"Ah...I see," I say in a deliberately disinterested voice, but my expression just now has given me away.
But now that I think about it, there's nothing to be so surprised about. While the love experienced in middle school might be blind and grand, it's also transitory. Their bonds weren't strong enough to withstand the obstacles brought upon them—that's all.
And those bonds ruined Kimura.
Mizuhara led me to the stairway landing before the door to the roof. These stairs are hardly used, so there probably won't be any uninvited visitors. She must have used this place to secretly meet up with Ashizawa.
"We came here from time to time. Toshiki and I."
There you have it.
"You...you know about the fake love letter I teased Saito-san with, right?" she asks.
"Did you ever wonder why I did that?"
"Nope, not at all? I assumed that you simply couldn't stand Saito, and I don't think there's a deeper reason to find there."
"Perhaps...that's true...but I, I also wanted to help—"
"I don't care. Spare me that story."
That's just an excuse she made up.
"No, hear me out! To tell the truth...we once saw her when we met up here."
"Really...? What kind of business did Saito have here?"
"That's the problem...she was mumbling things to herself."
"Yes, to herself, but as if talking with someone. I tried following her glance a few times, but there was no one there."
That's not that noteworthy; Saito had no one to talk with, so it makes sense that she would vent her desire to talk when she was alone.
"And you found that to be creepy, so you teased her?" I conclude.
"I did think it was creepy, that's true..."
I see. I can understand that Mizuhara would want to intervene after coming across such a scene.
"So? That's not why you brought me here, is it?"
"No..." She hesitates for a moment. "Kogure-kun...do you believe in ghosts?"
The conversation takes a sudden turn.
"Ghosts? No idea. Well, I do think they might exist, since so many people claim that they do..."
"How about evil spirits?"
Wait, wait, why does Mizuhara ask things like that? What's the meaning behind those absurd questions?
—Whoa-whoa, is she implying that Saito was talking with a ghost? Time to come down to earth, no?
I barely manage to hold my thoughts in.
...No, don't jump to conclusions. Mizuhara said she was put off by the sight of Saito talking to herself. She wouldn't have felt disgust if that ghost-story was her first impression, but something like fear or maybe even envy, right?
Does that mean that there is something that made her come to the conclusion that Saito was talking with a ghost?
"You're implying that Saito was talking to a ghost?"
"How did you arrive at that thought?"
Mizuhara lapses into silence. It seems like she fears that by putting her thoughts into words, she will make them definite.
However, she opens her mouth at last.
"Because...," she mutters something, "...died..."
"Because Saito died? How does that explain anything?"
"No!" Mizuhara objects.
"What? She talked with a ghost and that's why she died? That makes no—"
"That's not it! Not because Saito-san died!"
I think. No, there's no need to think. There's only one other person that comes into question.
"Not Saito-san, but because Kimura-kun died."
I have to admit that I'm a little confused.
This doesn't make sense. Not only does she suggest the existence of something unscientific like ghosts, she is also talking back and forth incoherently.
I carefully sort everything in my head, thinking every point through logically, and arrive at the conclusion surprisingly fast.
"So...you saw him, right?"
She nods slowly.
"You saw Saito talking with that something, which by itself would have simply made her an oddball. But you also saw Kimura do the same thing."
I pause and take a look around. Should ghosts really exist, then I wouldn’t be surprised to find one here. That thought sends a cold shiver down my spine, but of course that’s just my imagination playing tricks on me.
However, as a matter of fact, someone died on the other side of this door.
"Do you...do you think such a coincidence is possible?" Mizuhara asks reluctantly.
"What do you refer to when you say 'coincidence'...?"
"Like I said... Saito-san and Kimura-kun, they both talked to a ghost, they both saw a ghost, and they both committed suicide. Do you think that such a coincidence is possible?"
She's right; this would be a strange coincidence. However, not only did they have a proper reason for suicide, there's also no doubt that they ended their lives of their own free will.
To begin with, there is causal relation between their deaths: Kimura wouldn't have died if not for Saito's death. Their deaths aren't caused by a coincidence.
There is no place for a coincidence there. In other words, it's the absence of a coincidence that makes that whatever suspicious.
"You have doubts, too, don’t you, Kogure-kun?" Mizuhara points out. I quickly hide my expression. "Know what I think?" she asks, "I think that neither of them actually committed suicide."
Her face is as pale as clay. At last, I realize that it's not feelings of guilt that have exhausted her so much.
Mizuhara is scared.
The fear of whatever drove the other two into death is wearing her down.
"They were killed," she says with fearful conviction, "A ghost cursed them to death."
Like yesterday, I began looking out for Reina Kamisu while drinking a discounted milkshake at a McDonalds.
However, while my eyes were directed at the window, nearly all of my internal wires were used up for thought.
I had since been recalling that discussion with Mizuhara several times, trying to draw my own conclusions.
I have no means of knowing what that whatever she was calling a "ghost" is, but granted that that "phenomenon" is capable of communication, it can get into contact with others and thus affect their lives to a certain degree.
That effect killed those two?
Cursed to death.
Well, perhaps you can call that a "curse" of sorts.
But is it so easy to lead someone to death? No way. No matter how light you make of life and death, everyone knows that death is final and unrecoverable. People's words do not kill you; it's your own voice within that leads you there. Or an abrupt impulse. At any rate, people don't die that easily.
Or does it, whatever it is, have the power to manipulate these mechanisms with ease?
On the other hand...they both had a valid reason for suicide. While words are useless against your average Joe, it might well be possible to give someone with suicidal tendencies the final push.
However, I shake my head.
I'm losing touch with reality; I should think it through more rationally.
Rational thinking. R-a-t-i-o-n-a-l. Got that down? ...Yeah.
Right... first of all, I should consider the possibility that everything Mizuhara told me was just a product of her imagination. In my personal view, she is an opinionated girl.
She knows that she shares the guilt for Saito and Kimura's death. Perhaps, she was unable to take the blame and therefore tried to escape by reading a reason into Kimura's talking with air, which in turn she made up either from scratch or by misinterpreting a normal conversation to her own convenience.
In other words, that being does not exist to begin with.
How's that? Doesn't that make much more sense?
...Tch. What a pathetic attempt to push reason into this affair.
Unconvinced by my own reasoning, I try to focus on the other side of the window and end up scaring a few pedestrians with a piercing glare.
"What are you looking at so hard?" someone asks from behind me.
I am about to kindly explain that I am looking for someone—
—But my words get stuck in my throat and are pushed back down until they evaporate entirely.
My skin crawls.
Something drips down from my finger tips as my mouth turns into a desert and my eyeballs are exposed to the air.
I know that voice.
Even though I have only heard it a few times, it has burnt itself deep into my brain and won't leave me ever since.
"What's wrong? Won't you tell me what you're looking at?"
The wound in my chest pains.
Fully opened again, it overflows with a liquid resembling blood —as if to react to its creator.
I mustn't, lose.
I hold my chest and turn around to the visitor with an iron will.
Something pierces through my eyes as I recognize her face, making me fight against the urge to close my eyes, to avert my eyes.
However, I have been waiting for this very moment.
I must stand my ground now.
"I was looking for you, Reina Kamisu, for you!"
I scowl at Reina Kamisu. The more I sharpen my gaze, the weaker the pain in my chest gets.
"Oh really?" she smiles at me with a smile so beautiful that it looks fake. "And what are you going to do now? Take revenge?"
Revenge, says Reina Kamisu with indifference.
"I do want to do that, yeah," I reply as calmly as I can, while suppressing the boiling rage.
"So there's another goal if you phrase it like that?"
"Maybe you think that incident is just water under the bridge. But not for me. I'm still suffering the consequences everyday. You're still messing with my life!"
"Well, I suppose nobody who fell victim to such an incident could come to terms with it so easily," Reina Kamisu says in an indifferent voice, giving me the urge to charge at her and strangle her to death. However, I must keep from doing so; without her I will never get the answer I seek.
"And? What do you want from me?"
Reina Kamisu shows no signs of guilt. Is she really that blunt or is she acting like that on purpose? I can't quite decide between the two possibilities.
Before it's too late, I erase my anger, which is on the verge of bursting; yes, I don't suppress it, I erase it. I wouldn't last for much longer otherwise. I try to shut out every impression I have of Reina Kamisu.
"—I want to learn the truth," I squeeze out.
"Yes. The reason why you killed my family."
Finding that reason is the number one priority for me.
I want to move on from my current state of mind. But in order to fight off those ever-lasting feelings of sorrow, fear, despair, and anger, I have to break through a wall.
The wall of questions.
Once ignited, hatred doesn't just go away; there is a need to go out of one's way and erase it. In the process of doing so, however, questions left unanswered constitute a great obstacle. I might be able to stomach this matter somehow given a reason or something to satisfy myself, but as a matter of fact, I don't even have enough data to make up one myself. My questions have so far been left unanswered.
Because of that, I have no means of digesting these various dark feelings within.
However, unable to understand my circumstances, Reina Kamisu inclines her head:
"Is there a point in learning about that?"
"There is. That's why I'm asking."
"You think so...? I can't seem to see one."
"I don't give a fuck about your opinion! I'm asking you a question here! Do you even have the faintest idea how much of 'myself' you already extracted from me?! You owe me some goddamn cooperation!" I yell unwittingly. Crap, I failed to stifle my anger. Even the smallest opening in my guard won't go unnoticed by my anger.
Hold it back, hold it back, hold it back.
"You changed your attitude," she notes with unchanged indifference. "Listen, I'm not trying to tease you. I would love to give you an answer, I really do. But as much as I would like to do so, I can't."
"Because there is no answer that could satisfy you."
"Well...that might be true. My family won't come back, and I won't be happy no matter what you say. But...that's not why I'm asking. I'm perfectly aware of that!"
"No, that's not what I meant."
"Then what is it that you mean...?!"
"You want me to tell you the reason why I did what I did, correct?"
"Believe it or not, I do understand that you have an entirely different way of thinking than me. It can't be helped if your reason doesn't make sense to me. I don't care. Anything's better than knowing nothing."
For the first time, Reina Kamisu listened closely to my words.
She gazes at me, trying to understand my circumstances, trying to understand the meaning behind my words.
I breathe out in relief. Reina Kamisu isn't stupid, nor does she hold a grudge against me. Therefore, it doesn't come as a surprise that I expect her to give me the answer I was waiting for.
"And still..." she sighs for some reason.
"I still don't have the answer you're looking for."
My eyes widen.
"C-Cut it out already! Don't give me that you had no reason to kill! There must have been some kind of motive, no matter how mad!"
"A reason? Yes, maybe there was one upon closer examination."
"...Upon closer examination?"
"But I never really got it."
She... didn't get it?
"You're not going to find a nice explanation for everything in the world, and the same goes for the murder I committed; or was that already enough to satisfy you?"
"O-Of course not!"
"I should have known."
"You don't know the reason yourself? Don't give me that! Or do you mean that you killed people just like... like drinking water?!"
"Of course not. And just so you know: It's not like I don't remember how I felt back then. I felt... an impulse. I had to kill someone. I had to confirm if people could really die through my hands. I had no other choice but to do so.
I don't know, however, where that impulse came from. I do think there would be a reason upon further examination, but I didn't find one in the end. Why do we drink water? Because we become thirsty; because we would die otherwise. But...why were we designed to die unless we drink water in the first place? I don't know. Why did I get the urge to kill? I don't know."
In other words... my attempt to understand Reina Kamisu and her reasons for killing my family can't possibly succeed—because she doesn't understand herself, either.
I'm not going to find the answer I'm looking for anywhere in the world.
"It breaks my heart to say this, but as I said earlier..."
"There is no point in learning the truth."
My wound opens.
No, a wound that hasn't healed in the first place doesn't "open."
"One more thing," she says.
"You mentioned that you don't consider that incident a matter of the past, right?"
Damn, it hurts.
"I think I know why that is."
It hurts, damn, it hurts!
"You seem to think that I only killed your family, but that's wrong."
Ah, I see.
That's why my wound isn't healing; because she has destroyed my ability to regenerate.
"I must have also killed you!"
Right—I am already dead.
I mustn't worry my aunt. And yet...I have been skipping school for the past few days, unable to move a muscle.
Needless to say, that's a figure of speech; from a biological perspective, I'm perfectly alive and capable of thought.
However—there is a wound in my chest that is linked to the past. As long as I have this wound, I will keep being taken back to that day and being harmed by Reina Kamisu.
Reina Kamisu will keep carving up everything I have—my happiness, sadness, qualms, dreams—tread on it, nullify it.
The only thing that remains to me are the feelings of that incident. Feelings that will give me no rest wherever I go and however long I wait.
Therefore, I'm chained to one place, forbidden to move toward the future.
Therefore, my life has come to a halt.
Therefore, you can say that I am "dead."
I completely lost to Reina Kamisu.
How am I supposed to live on now? What am I supposed to do? Do I have to continue to live for year after year together with that pain in my chest?
How could I answer that?
How could I decide over that?
I'm in the midst of a vortex of worthless thought that, even though it's worthless, tries to suck me in. Suddenly, however:
"Atsushi? I'm coming in!" a voice says and drags me back into reality.
After hearing my reply, my aunt enters the room carrying a tray with a bowl of rice porridge on it.
My guilt pangs get stronger. I'm pretending to be ill and hiding the real reason for my absence; I don't want to worry my aunt by telling her that it's really a mental problem.
"Does your head still hurt?" she asks after she puts the tray on my desk.
My conscience pricks me; I'm lying to her.
...I have no other choice. I'm sorry, but I have no other choice.
"Do you really think you're okay? It's already been 3 days and counting. Do you want me to take you to the hospital?"
She gazes silently at my face for a few moments, and finally nods with a gentle smile.
Her smile sparks a faint assumption within me: Maybe she has long since seen through my lie, and is just turning a blind eye on me because she's powerless?
"Atsushi? It's Wednesday today, do you remember?"
"Do you want to cancel this week's appointment with your doctor? I can contact him if you want."
Normally, it's these times when one should look for mental counseling, but since I'm pretending to be ill, I mustn't get caught.
"Yes, please. Can I ask you to contact him, mom?"
Just before I finish speaking, her eyes widen. Surprised by her reaction, I recall my own words.
Ah... I just called my aunt "mom."
Unsure how to deal with this awkward situation, I wordlessly gaze at her. Her surprised face slowly turns back into the familiar gentle smile.
"You finally said it," she smiles with a hint of joy.
"That was...that was just a mistake."
"I don't mind, Atsushi. In that case, I will just take it that you like me so much that you mistook me for your mother for an instant."
Is that so...?
Sure, I'm grateful of her—I really am—but isn't that itself proof that we're not a real family? If I were her real son, I wouldn't probably be that grateful. I would consider the love she'd give me a perfectly natural thing. I would just take her love and do nothing in return.
However, if I told my aunt that now, I would only sadden her.
Keeping my opinion to myself, I ask her something else instead.
"Can I call you mom from now on, then?"
"Of course you can! You're our son, Atsushi! My husband may seem cold to you, but he feels really attached to you, too."
"Yeah, I know."
I'm a child. As such, I cost a lot of money. On top of that, I will cost even more once I've completed my compulsory education and enter a high school. Despite all that, my uncle has not made a single complaint.
"There's nothing to worry about. We're even acknowledged as your parents by the law."
"Can you...can you call me again?"
Fighting off the awkwardness, I say, "Mom."
My aunt nods happily.
Yes, I feel averse to calling her that way.
Because I'm used to calling her aunt? Sure, but there is more to the reluctance I'm feeling.
Why is that? Why?
Besides, I've long known that she wanted me to call her mom, that she didn't like the word aunt because it put some distance between us.
I've always been grateful of her, and wanted to make her happy if possible. If I can make her happy with something as simple as changing the way I address her, I would do that anytime without a second thought.
Then why is it that I have kept calling her aunt to this day?
"I have a question, mom."
"Have you—" I break off in mid-sentence. There's no return once I have said the continuation of these words.
No...I have noticed already, so I can't return anyway.
"—Have you ever heard of Reina Kamisu?"
I'm sitting on the sofa inside Dr. Mihara's office.
As high as hiding my true reason for staying home was in my list of priorities, I don't care much anymore. I need the counseling. More precisely, I need to talk with Dr. Mihara.
"Hello Atsushi-kun," he says to me as he enters the room.
"Hello," I reply.
He sits down in the seat opposite of me.
"So," he cites the usual phrase, "how have you been?"
I have already prepared an answer to that question.
"A lot happened."
"Oh? Would you mind telling me?"
"Sure, that's why I'm here."
"True," he nods. Because he is a psychotherapist, it is very hard to read his true thoughts from his expression, but I can tell that he has noticed that something in me changed.
"Firstly, I had a dream."
"Oh? What kind of dream?"
He often asks me to tell him about my dreams. I guess he's trying to analyze them and search the depths of my consciousness.
"A dream where I get killed by Reina Kamisu."
Dr. Mihara closely observes my face as I speak, while I observe his, trying to take note of every change.
"Which means that it's that dream in which a girl kills you, right? With a kitchen knife?"
"Yes. Also, doctor, her name is Reina Kamisu."
Gazing closely at me, he replies, "I see."
"I have had that dream for a while now, right?"
After giving it some thought, he nods, "That's right."
"It's not hard to see why I would have such a dream: because I haven't come to terms with that incident yet. Correct?"
It seems that I have knocked him somewhat out of his stride.
During all the years of coming here, I have noticed that he never gives me answers. He only listens to me. He tries to help me find an answer myself by listening. That's all he really does. There have been times when I was annoyed by that, but I guess that's just how psychotherapy works.
It must be troublesome from his perspective to be urged to state his own thoughts.
"...I think so," he says, however, after coming to the conclusion that there will be no harm in doing so.
"Is that all?" I ask.
"Is that all of your view on that dream?"
He grumbles deeply and averts his eyes from me. After remaining silent like that for a few seconds, he looks at me again and opens his mouth.
"Atsushi-kun. It is true that I have reflected on your dream and formed my own opinion. That is, however, my personal view and in no way perfect. Do you understand?"
"The problem is, Atsushi-kun, that by disclosing my opinion, I might affect your own opinion. You might accidentally confuse my answer as yours. Do you understand the problem that I'm pointing out?"
"Yes. That means that there is no problem if I state my own opinion, right?"
"...I suppose so."
"Fine. I think that my dream is the result of my wish to 'escape'."
"..." He remains silent.
"Let me change the topic a little. I would like to tell you something entirely else that happened this week."
"I came across Reina Kamisu again."
"...I see. Just to be sure: we are not talking about that dream here anymore, is that correct?"
"Yes, of course not. This time we didn't only pass by each other, we also talked."
"Don't you want to know what we talked about?"
"I felt the need to know the reason she killed my family. And that's what I asked her."
"What...what did she reply?"
"She told me that she had no idea."
"I'm quite sure that she didn't lie to me. Reina Kamisu had a murderous impulse and killed my family. However, there was no deeper reason beside that impulse. At the very least, that's what she seems to think."
Dr. Mihara maintains his silence, unsure how to react.
"I wanted to put an end to that incident by learning about her reasons. I wanted to get a hold of something that could help me come to terms. Yet, my hopes were betrayed. Instead, I will now be forever held captive by my past.
—However, there is something I noticed earlier. Even if, just hypothetically, she had had a proper reason for the murder she committed, I wouldn't have accepted that reason no matter what. I didn't stand a chance against Reina Kamisu from the very start. Because it's plain impossible to pacify the feelings of someone whose family was murdered."
He is still gazing at me. At last, he reluctantly begins to speak. "Say, Atsushi-kun, where did you meet her?"
"At the McDonalds near the station. In real life, of course."
With folded arms, he lapses into silence again. Having said everything I wanted to say, I also keep quiet.
Silence. For a while, only meaningless noises reach my ears, like the noise of traffic and the clicking of a clock.
I shall wait for his next words—whatever they may be.
At last, he unfolds his arms and looks deep into my eyes.
"Atsushi-kun... may I ask you a question?" Dr. Mihara asks.
"Earlier, you mentioned that you see your wish to escape in that dream, right?"
"Furthermore, you continually emphasized that you met her in real life, right?"
"You already know the real answer, don't you, Atsushi-kun? Despite that, you asked me that, is that right?"
"Okay, Atsushi-kun. Let me confirm this once again."
"It was a coldblooded murderer who killed your family. What's her name again? Rehna Kamizu?"
"Right. Reina Kamisu. Reina Kamisu slaughtered my family!" I utter agitatedly, confusing the doctor a little.
He remains calm, however, and responds to me, "However—"
"That person does not exist."
While I did expect that answer, it still comes as a shock. My hypothesis proved correct. And as I already knew beforehand, as such it will aggravate my pain.
"That's not true!" I deny. I must.
"Why do you still say that?! You are escaping! That's wrong and you know it!"
"No... that's not true! I know that, I know for a fact that she does exist!"
That's no lie. At least, I don't think it's one.
"Reina Kamisu exists! She's here with us!" I shout.
I have to make sure of it.
Leaving a perplexed Dr. Mihara behind, I turn around and dash out of his office. As I leave the room, I bump into a girl who was waiting for her turn, and tumble over. I jump to my feet, however, and without a word of apology, I head to the place where I can make sure of Reina Kamisu's existence.
While I've never actually been there, I know the address. As I keep running toward that address, I try to regain a cool head. I will need it to confirm the fact I'm seeking, and I should be able to, since I already proved myself by suppressing my anger while talking to Reina Kamisu.
Calm down. First of all, slow down a little. Running your heart out isn't going to change anything; your fate stays all the same.
At last, I manage to regain my composure—just when I arrived at my destination, as chance would have it.
I ring the chime.
"Yes?" someone says after a few moments.
"Urm... my name is Atsushi Kogure. Ah, yes... I'm a classmate of Kyouhei-kun's." As I explain who I am, I look at the nameplate besides the chime.
The plate reads Kimura.
With the meekest expression I can play, I pray at Kimura's altar, since that's what I told his mother I am here for. I must make her believe that we were good buddies. She won't be able to tell unless he previously told her in detail about me.
"It was a... real shock...," I explain to her with a sad face.
I then ramble on about how much I'm supposedly grieved about Kimura's death. It's not that hard: I just have to exaggerate my own feelings, since it's for a fact that I was, as a classmate, shocked by his sudden passing away. His mother nods at my words, a few tears in her eyes. The queasy conscience I get is immediately wiped out in the face of my goal.
"In fact, Mrs. Kimura, I'm here today with a request," I say, finally coming down to business.
"I want to know what Kimura-kun thought about in his last hours, what were his worries, and I would like to hear his own, true words. Therefore, may I—"
The odds are for me. For one thing, there have been others who have seen it, otherwise there wouldn't be any rumors, and she doesn't seem to have noticed that I'm deceiving her. I don't see why she would refuse.
"—may I read his suicide note?"
I started to wander around aimlessly after I had left Kimura's home.
Everything was a lie, the truth, and cruel reality.
The past, the here and now, and the future exist all here simultaneously, and all of them turned out to be tormenting me.
My wound aggravates even more.
But there's no blood to spill anymore—there's not a single drop left.
I've dwindled. Entirely.
I'm dried up like dust, and what little is left of me could easily be wiped away.
As I look up at the colorful, dazzling sky, I recall Kimura's suicide note.
"Mother, father, and all who have known me: please forgive me for leaving so soon.
Now that I hold my pen, I don't know what to write anymore. Even though I pondered quite a while about it before.
For starters, let me write why I killed myself.
It was not until I troubled a certain girl and drove her into suicide that I decided in the real sense to commit suicide myself.
I will not write the details of what I did to her. Every time I call back the memories, my heart feels like a rag being squeezed out.
While that event was the last straw, however, I had been thinking of suicide before.
There is no meaning in my life.
No one needs me and no one ever will, although I'm sure you will all deny it.
But in the end, I still think that it all boils down to the fact that I'm worthless. It may be a bad simile, but I think I'm somewhat like your favorite pencil: it hurts a bit if it goes lost, but you can easily buy a new one in the supermarket around the corner.
That's why I think that the only way I can atone for driving someone into suicide is to end my own worthless life as well.
You were kind-hearted. We talked, even though you were already dead. Maybe I was just having an illusion, but you forgave me.
And that's exactly why I have to punish myself.
I have to atone for the sin of tormenting someone as kind and forgiving as you.
Let me apologize once more for what I did.
I am awfully sorry,— "
I reread these words over and over, but they didn't change no matter how many times and from what angle I read them.
"I am awfully sorry, Reina Kamisu-san. "
I recall what Mizuhara said to me.
"A ghost cursed them to death."
And then I finally recall whose name Saito called for help.
At last, I found myself at the place where I'd first seen her—the shopping district by the station. As I lean against the wall, I decide to wait for her.
There's no guarantee that she will appear, but I have a hunch that she will if I keep waiting.
I search my pockets and take out the envelope I have stuffed in there before I dashed out of my home.
Why didn't I call my aunt mom?
In fact, there is no problem with that in itself. The problem is that I would consequently have to call my uncle dad as well, since I can't just change one side and leave the other as is. Needless to say, the reason why I don't want to call him that way is not because I don't like him as much as I like my aunt.
I look at the envelope.
It's addressed at "Atsushi Kogure," while the sender is written to be "Takashi Kogure" on the backside. Right, that's the name of my dad.
And the postmark's date is the tenth of last month.
"Were you looking for me again?"
I raise my head and couldn't contain a smile. I am looking at a smile that is as absurdly beautiful as ever.
"Exactly!" I reply.
"What do you want?"
"I want to confirm something. And I have a request."
"Okay, ask away and make sure of whatever that is."
I stuff the envelope in my pocket again and ask, "It was you who killed my family, right?"
"It was also you who killed my father, right?"
"Which means that it can't have been my father who killed my family, right?"
Reina Kamisu's eyes widen in surprise. And with absolute certainty, she replies:
"Of course it wasn't him."
I look closely at her. Naturally, there's no sign of deception to be found in her face.
"Would you mind... listening to my silly musings for a moment?" I ask her.
"Let's pretend for a moment that not you but my father killed my family," I start.
"Now that's a bizarre thought."
"His motive for attacking us wouldn't be something as incomprehensible as yours, I'm sure, but something clear. Something clichéd like, for example, financial difficulties that made him attempt to commit family suicide."
"It's a shame that it wasn't him."
"I mean, you wanted a reason, didn't you? You'd have one in that case, no?"
Indeed, I wanted one. However—
"I don't care."
I don't care. I don't think I would want to know the reason if it were such a cheap one. I wouldn't want to learn that our family was destroyed by a foolish thing like that.
If that hypothesis were true, I'd certainly wish—
—that that reason didn't exist in the first place.
I would certainly try to ignore the truth right before my eyes, and seek refuge in my dreams. I would make one up where someone else murders my family. Someone who's a monster and doesn't have a proper reason to kill.
Someone like—the beautiful girl here.
However, no matter how fake the culprit is—
"—I don't care. The fact that my family was killed won't change, no matter who was the culprit. After all, it's impossible to pacify the feelings of someone whose family was murdered, and my wound will never heal up. Right?"
Reina Kamisu gazes closely at me.
"Perhaps," she finally answers.
"You said it. Then what is it that I would seek? Let me tell you: a resting place, where I wouldn't be wounded, where I wouldn't have to suffer anymore. I would definitely seek a place to rest like that," I say and look into her eyes.
"You're done confirming, aren't you? So what's the other thing you wanted; what's your request?" she asks and I reply with a natural smile.
Ah, she acts just like I wanted.
What I needed was a culprit with no reason to kill. But that's not all. That's not enough to give me peace of mind.
What I really need is—a coldblooded murderer.
A murderer like Reina Kamisu.
Therefore, I ask from her:
"—Please, kill me."
That moment, my wound turned into a scar.
The pain went away and the blood stopped. What remains is a plain scar that looks a bit repulsive until you've gotten used to it.
But that's just an illusion; I can't exist without that pain. I have to drag along my past and live with it and the pain. As soon as I stop fantasizing about being killed by Reina Kamisu, the scar will turn back into a fresh wound.
"Why do you ask me? Just die by yourself."
"That's out of question. I can't commit suicide. My fear of death is barely strong enough to keep me from doing that."
"Hmm...? Barely strong enough, hm?" she emphasizes part of what I said.
Right, I can't end my own life because I'm able to see how horrifying it is to die.
But what if—what if someone killed me?
If I were to be killed forcibly, I would not have the time to mull over about death. At most, I would realize the fact that I would disappear from this world. Or perhaps, the pain wouldn't grant me any thought at all. The prominent kind of feeling I would have at that moment would be—relief.
I've always been wishing from the bottom of my heart for someone to erase me.
"Just in case," I say to her.
"You have no qualms about taking my life, do you?"
With an absurdly beautiful smile, Reina Kamisu replies:
"—Of course not. Why should I have any qualms?"
"Tell me," she continues, surprising me, "why are you smiling so happily?"
Only now do I realize that a smile has been glued to my face. Without a thought, I cover my mouth, but as I do so, I peek into her eyes and return the favor.
"So are you," I point out, causing her to cover her mouth as well. Amused by the fact that we showed the exact same reaction, we both start to laugh.
The fact that nothing about this peaceful moment is real only adds to it.
"Okay—" she mutters as she extends her soft hands to me. Her long, slender fingers fold around my neck. I can't help but feel that this situation is perverted and even slightly sexual.
Her fingers strangulate me.
Her hands are as cold as those of a dead person. It feels like that coldness is absorbing everything from me.
Ah—I am vanishing for good.
Bit by bit, the sensation of being split is getting stronger. Slowly but surely, I am leaving my body. The mangled remains of myself are assembling into one piece again and leaving my body. Never before have I felt such an overwhelming feeling of anguish and pleasure.
And as I have predicted, I feel relieved.
In my last moments, I look at her while she is choking me.
Suddenly, I wonder: who is she, anyway?
I quickly dismiss that thought. Partially because my ability to think has dwindled, but mostly because it seemed like a meaningless thought once I saw her absurdly beautiful smile.
Instead, I say to her in my mind:
Atsushi Kogure died.
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