Kamisu Reina:Volume 1 Shizuka Wakui

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Chapter 3: Shizuka Wakui[edit]

1[edit]

While letting the broken English of our over 50-year-old English teacher in at one ear and out at the other after about 3 seconds, I look up terms on my electronic Kojien dictionary.


principle of mass conservation [n]
A principle in classical physics stating that the total mass of an isolated system is unchanged by interaction of its parts. Discovered in 1774 by Antoine Lavoisier.

principle [n]

  1. A basic truth, law, or assumption.
  2. A basic or essential quality or element determining intrinsic nature or characteristic behavior.


The mechanics of the world are surprisingly simple.

There must be lots of those basic and essential qualities, scattered all around the world, but if you divide them even further into their most essential parts, the absolute number of distinct qualities shrinks to a number that's everything but high.

Did you know that many laws and principles are just augmented rehashes of a set of already known core principles?

More often than not, you end up at the same place no matter from which side you approach the nature of things. That's also why the teachings of people who have mastered a way often coincide even though their ways have nothing in common.

In other words, if you understand some of those core principles, you start to see how the mechanics of the world work.

Core principles are the essence of things. Understand them and you can apply them wherever you want and form new, unshakable laws. Cores attract everything around them just like magnets.

But no one else really knows; they all grow up to be shallow people, only ever looking at the surfaces instead of the underlying cores. They let others influence themselves because their understanding only scratches the surface. They can't consider the true nature of things on their own. Poor people. All it would take to acquire those cores is picking up a good book. Oh, or is there a set of requirements that need to be fulfilled, which I happened to do? I pity them even more, then. It's as though they were characters of a manga fighting each other, unaware of what they are. Even though they fight for no purpose other than their writer's household. Even though their conflict is just a figment, and their very existence is for the sake of fighting.

Anyway, one of those few truths goes by the name of "mass conversion."

Contrary to its name, it's not limited to mass; the amount of everything is bound to a certain number that neither grows nor shrinks. Everything's unchanging, be it mass, energy, sex drive, the number of souls—you name it.

The lesson ended while I was absorbed in thought, gazing at my electronic dictionary. Classes are finally over. I have better things to do than this. But I can't just deviate from my usual behavior and skip school. I mustn't let anyone get wind of what I'm doing; if I appear suspicious, it becomes more likely that someone will notice it. Before anyone else, especially—

"Phew, done for the day! Shizuka, wanna tag along somewhere today?"

Before anyone else, that easy-going boy, Kazuaki, might notice. Which is because we have spent too much time together from an early age on.

"I'll pass," I reply toward the adjacent seat.

"Oh come on... you're so cold," my childhood friend says as he purses his lips. Geez... he just won't change.

"I've got something to take care of, you see."

"You've been saying that all the time lately... you're not trying to avoid me, are you?" Kazuaki asks as he wrinkles his brow. Oh dear, he really doesn't change.

"Of course not!"

"Uh-huh...," he mutters downheartedly.

"Why don't you go home with the C2 duo if you're feeling lonely?"

"T-There's nothing between me and—" he counters in denial with a slightly flushed face.

"Senpai~!"

"H-Hozumi-chan... don't be so loud, it's embarrassing..."

His objection is cut off from afar by two girl voices. With the appearance of those two innocent-looking girls, I wave my hand to Kazuaki.

"See you."

"Ah..."

Don't look at me like that; I'm not leaving you behind because I want to. As soon as I've sorted this out, I'll tag along whenever you want.

But that has to wait, okay?

The world is at stake, after all.


Unconcerned by the waves of students heading homeward, I look around in thought.

The world is in danger.

Maybe that's an exaggeration. But in the very least, danger is looming ahead in this vicinity. I hoped I was wrong (which was out of question, of course, but I wanted to be wrong) but with the news that 3 students at the Shikura middle school committed suicide, my fear proved true.

We're in imminent danger.

And here we return to the thing about core principles and conservation of mass.

I used to be a completely normal girl; I may have hit puberty earlier than others, and have received dozens of confessions already, and I primarily hanged around with Kazuaki instead of other girls, but apart from that, I was a completely normal girl.

I'm using the past tense here because I feel that this no longer holds true.

There is a number of truths (cores). By getting to know these, I learned how I'm supposed to look at things.

It didn't take long for me to hit upon a certain question. We all have feelings. Joy, anger, sadness, fun.

Now, let's apply the law of conservation of mass to this case. Emotions are energy, which, especially in the case of love and hatred, store extreme heat. We consume emotional energy by converting it into energy that keeps us moving. However, not all of our feelings are always converted and consumed. But then where does the energy go when we are unable to suppress our feelings? Most of all, where does the energy go when we die—which must be a tremendous amount when faced with a violent death—when it can't possibly be consumed? Where does that energy fade away to?

With that question in mind, I started to pay attention.

Before long, I found the answer: the energy doesn't disappear at all. The answer was right under my nose, on the other side. Strong feelings, to raise an example, which often happen to be grudges, surface slightly on our side from time to time. It's dead easy to observe when you clear yourself for a moment and float up. Look, there's one. There's an accumulation of converted emotional energy. In most cases, those accumulations are shaped like a human.

Anyway, back to the danger the world is facing.

After becoming aware of those humanoid energies, I observed a peculiar change as of late.

Originally, those humanoid energies were unable to move by themselves, and completely harmless for people who didn't notice them; they would just stay put at one place and spread their network in order to influence whatever got caught in there.

Lately, however, they changed their behavior and started to shimmer like mirages. As if afraid of something or in ecstasy? I can't tell. What I can tell, however, is that it's not normal and that it's a sign for something to happen.

I don't know what the humanoid energies will do, how that will affect us, and what will happen, but there is one fact:

Three students died at the Shikura middle school.

But that's of no import. Well, of course it's very deplorable that their lives were lost, but in the face of the great menace that might be ahead of us, even a loss like that turns insignificant.

Three people died. What if... what if that was just a sign?

If, hypothetically speaking, this phenomenon was due to a natural circumstance, I would probably have to give up and let things take their way. Besides, we would just have to take cover and wait for the menace to pass by.

However—what if someone is pulling the wires behind the scenes?

It's not that I take issue with that ethically, no. What if we are not dealing with a random phenomenon, but with one that is deliberately called forth by someone? What if there is someone who can use that power whenever he wants? What if there is someone who can control all the humanoid energies that are likely to be spread all over the world?

That's what I fear.

After all, if my concerns prove true and that really was a man-made incident, he could endanger the life of everyone in the world.

The world is in danger.

Someone is scheming to ruin us all; someone evil like that is among us. And I have to track that person down.

That's why I've been closely observing the humanoid energies around me for a while.

{Volcano goes up to the 2nd floor of a black minus to eat warmed-up food and falls.}

{I want to eat the lucky meat that died ten times but resurrected a hundred times.}

{I throw a telephone receiver into a 4-dimensional pocket because the trash bin is full.}

{The unrivaled adventures of Hutch the Honeybee are living tourmalines.}

As they shimmer, the energies give off signals on a different wavelength that, while barely converted into my language, make no sense whatsoever.

However, I can make out a difference in volume.

Slowly but surely, their voices (?) grow louder and their flickering stronger.

Maybe I'm getting closer to the bad guy.

Last time, their abnormal behavior stopped while I was investigating, but I don't feel any signs of that happening again. I might be able to find him this time around.


—The uncanny conjurer who could easily extinguish three lives.


———

That's right... I'm about to run into a horrible foe...

Only now noticing this fact, my feet sink into cement and my steps become slower.

Besides... How do I know that his victims add up to just three? The only reason why I associated their deaths with the anomaly that occurred to the humanoid energies is because they were all suicides that happened in succession at the same school. I don't know if they're even related to the anomaly I observed.

On the other hand, you can also say that there might be numerous undiscovered victims that I could not tie to this menace.

Come to think of it... the suicide rate has been growing lately. Hey, what if that's partly due to the criminal I'm about to meet? That's by no means unlikely; not only would killing someone with humanoid energies leave behind no evidence, it wouldn't even be noticed.

What am I going to do, meeting a person like that?

Sure, I can perceive humanoid energies. But that's about it. Apart from that, I'm just a normal girl who may have hit puberty earlier than others, and has received dozens of confessions already, and primarily hangs around with Kazuaki instead of other girls. Probably.

What is a girl like me going to do against a heinous criminal like that? Persuade him? Would my words really get through? Would he leave someone who knows his secret alive?

My legs stop completely.

But—

But if he were to extend his deadly hands toward Kazuaki...

My buried legs come free from the cement and I start moving forward again.

I'm afraid... I really am, but...

I have no other choice.

{Corn rings with gleaming rainbows in the background.}

{After bathing in Nattou, Watanabe-san's car travels through through time as it flies through the air.}

{A club-wielding maid brings Nagatacho's meat shreds into motion.}

The voices (?) become louder.

The sentences are as devoid of meaning as before, but the weight of their words has changed. With crackling tension they reverberate through my body, prickling my brains like with a mechanical pencil.

A grudge? I think to myself as I notice a core of a humanoid energy. A type of energy that would normally only get transported to people who were caught up in their nets flows to me.

I feel nauseated. Like on the day of my worst menstruation.

I want to curl up immediately, but I mustn't. There's someone I have to meet. I must meet her.

...Huh? Her?

Why do I know her gender?

I pull myself up and stagger into the park before me. Except for a few children with their parents near the sandpit, there's nobody besides me.

Nobody.

I stand before an old, weathered wooden bench. I don't know what to say. I don't know if it possesses the ability of language, anyway. However, I can't just stand here, so I try speaking to it.

"Hey, what are you doing here?"

She raises her head.

"Ah—" I groan in surprise.

Her features were absurdly beautiful.

But what surprised me more than anything was the fact that I—


"Reina... Kamisu."


—knew the name of that phenomenon.

2[edit]

"Doctor, I think I want to end the therapy."

Doctor Mihara looks at me, slightly bewildered, and asks, "Why is that?"

"The reason I started seeing you to begin with was because I needed support back then, right?"

He gives me a small nod. "Do you feel that you are not in need of support anymore?"

"Yes, exactly. The fits of depression I used to have are gone, and so is my aversion against talking to others," I explain and decide to add something I experienced the other day when I was waiting here, "and I don't just run away from you screaming."

A few wrinkles appear in the doctor's brow.

"...Who are you talking about?"

"The boy who used to be here before me. I think I saw him wearing the uniform of the Shikura middle school. He bumped into me the other day, didn't he? What was his name again?"

"...I am afraid that I cannot talk to you about my other clients."

"Not even his name? Whatever. Come to think of it, I haven't seen him lately."

His mien darkens clearly.

"He is not going to... come again."

"Is that so...?"

"Yes," he nods.

I doubt they would just discontinue his mental treatment in that condition; did something happen? Seeing how he ran away screaming, there must be a reason why he didn't want to come anymore.

But I have a strange gut feeling about this.

After all, that boy is a student of the Shikura middle school. Given that he was under mental treatment, it's more than possible that he had a reason for suicide, so he might be among the three suicide victims.

Judging from Doctor Mihara's bitter mien, he must know the truth. I refrain from asking more, however, because his personality would not allow him to answer me.

"At any rate, you said you want to cancel our meetings?" he says, getting back on topic, "in my view, it is a bit early for that."

"I know, Doctor. You're right in that my wounds have not yet healed up; I'm not my former self yet, either."

"That's not the problem," he argues. "These wounds will accompany you through your entire life, and you will not be able to return to your uninjured former self anymore."

"Where lies the problem, then?" I ask.

"I am hesitant to believe that you have really recovered from the shock."

"But in that case, wouldn't I be coming here for the rest of my life?"

The doctor pauses for a moment. "Still... it is still too early."

I get worked up a little; is he claiming that I'm weird?

Therefore, I object:

"Doctor. Let me be frank. We're not a wealthy household. The bill for this psychological therapy cuts pretty deep into our budget!"

"......" He lapses into silence as I bring up my monetary circumstances.

"Maybe you're right and I haven't fully recovered from the shock yet, but I'm confident that with the support of my parents and the few friends I have—like Kazuaki—I will be able to get better."

"I do not disagree with that. However, I feel that you are still in need of a specialist like me."

"Why?" I ask, somewhat irritated.

"...Very well, let me explain my concerns: I feel that you have delusional tendencies."

"...Delusional tendencies?" I ask in response to his unexpected claim. I have trouble seeing what he is referring to.

"Yes. I do not know how developed that inclination was when you first came here because you would not open yourself up to anyone... but I think that those delusional tendencies have become stronger as you regained your vitality."

"Huh? Do you mean I threw away my common sense in order to come to terms?" I ask.

"I cannot say for sure. I do surmise, however, that in order to protect yourself from the deep wound you sustained, you were forced to alter various things that would otherwise have caused more damage, including a certain sense of values."

"...In other words, you want to say that I'm still closing myself off?"

"I do not fully agree with the nuance of that... but that might be close. As I said earlier, it is by no means a bad thing to change. The problem is the direction of your change. Of course, I think that it is better than staying wounded, but I do not consider it a solution."

After carefully digesting his words, I object:

"Stop kidding me."

"Wakui-san..."

"I'm still weird, eh? That's not true! I've become normal again!" I scream, evoking more anger that comes welling up. "Enough! I'm sick and tired! You've seen me for the last time!"

With these words, I stand up and turn away from him.

"Wakui-san!"

Ignoring the words he throws after me, I leave his office.

There was no going back anymore.


I went to school as usual the next day.

My chin rested on the desk, I'm eagerly waiting for the chime to ring. Because of the slow pace the clock is moving at, I think back at the therapy session yesterday.

I think I got a bit too hysteric. I'm sorry for Doctor Mihara. He only stated his honest opinion, nothing more.

That said, I say to myself as I recall his words from yesterday.

Delusional? Me?

I admit, my fixed opinion on the existence of humanoid energies might seem delusional from a certain common-sense-influenced perspective. However, I have carefully elaborated the underlying logic for this theory; I'm in the right. If anything, I'm one step ahead of the average Joe.

Anyway, that doesn't really matter in this case: I haven't told the doctor about the humanoid energies.

I'm a patient; a mentally ill person. Because I'm aware of the implications this bears, I have deliberately kept from informing him so that he wouldn't get the wrong idea.

That means that... he views me as delusional even without the story about humanoid energies?

...That's nonsense. I'm normal. No matter which of my limbs you take a look into, I look completely normal and off-the-rack.

And yet, and yet! You treat me like a mentally ill person!

Getting upset again, I kick Kazuaki who is sitting next to me.

"Ouch!"

Idiot! Why do you cry out...?

As a natural consequence, the eyes of the class—the teacher's included—gather on Kazuaki. Feigning ignorance, I look at my notebook and start writing random characters.

"What was that for...?!" he complains quietly, scowling at me reproachfully, after everyone's attention returned to the lesson.

"Just because."

"So you were that kind of person who doesn't need a reason to beat someone, huh? Shizu-chan... sob, sob."

"'Sob, sob', eh? Who's the girl between us?"

Suddenly, the chime rings and ends our whispered exchange. Going through the routine, we stand up, bow to the teacher, and sit down.

A few moments later, our class teacher enters the classroom and finishes homeroom with some idle talk. My business at school is over for today.

Immediately after I stand up and say, "Bye," Kazuaki approaches me:

"Shizuka, wanna go home together?"

"Sorry, but I have something to do again."

That park is located in the opposite direction from the train station we would use when going home.

In visibly low spirits, Kazuaki mutters, "...Uh-huh."

"...Again, Kazuaki, I'm really not avoiding you," I assure.

"I know!"

"Then don't pull such a visage."

"But that appointment takes priority over me, doesn't it?"

Taken by surprise, I search for words.

"Well... that's true, but..."

"Aah, urm, it's okay, it's okay. Sorry for being grumpy."

Indeed, he's being a little grumpy. Still, I say what I'm supposed to say:

"...Sorry that I can't tag along with you."

That was enough to bring a smile to his face. Geez, he's such a simple person.

"See you, Kazuaki," I say as I wave him goodbye. He returns a wave, smiling.

Walking down the corridor, I head toward my shoe locker.

My pace is gradually increasing.

I want to go there, quickly, and see her.

Am I looking forward to seeing her? Hmm? At the very least, it feels different from going to a long-awaited bargain sale. If I were to phrase my current feelings... maybe like going for the first time to your boyfriend's place? Even though you feel only negative things like nervousness, fear and embarrassment, you don't feel bad at all. Like that.

"Um—" a voice suddenly disturbs me, however.

I look up to confirm whose voice that was, and recognize one of the C2 duo, Hozumi Shiiki, coming down the stairs.

"If that's not Hozumi-chan from the C2s," I remark in response.

"...What's 'C2'?"

"The name of your girl group. Ah, um, forget it."

C2 stands for "the two chibis."

"Anyway," I continue, "what do you want from me? I'm in a hurry."

"I, um... would like to discuss something with you, concerning Toyoshina-senpai."

Kazuaki Toyoshina.

As is pretty obvious from her usual attitude, Hozumi-chan—that short but busty (D cup, I bet my shirt!) girl—has a crush on Kazuki. Like, she's all over him. You wouldn't believe that a calm-looking girl like her would be so offensive when it comes to Kazuaki. Although only when backed up by the other part of the C2 duo, Yoshino Mitsui.

Hm, this matter is interesting enough to spare a few minutes. I haven't set a time for my appointment with her after all. I'm not even sure if the concept of time exists for her.

"Fine, let's talk."

"Thank you," she replies. "Let's find us a better place to talk."

"Sure. How about the canteen?"

Hozumi-chan nods and follows me.



Waiting for her to start talking, I take a gulp from a paper cup and savor the taste of the orange juice. Hozumi-chan hasn't spoken a word since she sat down even though she was the one who asked me here.


Hm... should I expect a somewhat serious discussion here?

I think she knows that I've noticed her feelings for Kazuaki, and I think she also knows that I can't give her a hand in that matter.

I could've sworn that she planned to talk about that through, but maybe I was wrong?

As I start looking closely at her, Hozumi-chan lowers her gaze bashfully. She's by far not as offensive as she usually is... Because Yoshino-chan's not with her? Or does she only get offensive when it comes to getting Kazuaki's attention?

"...Urm..." she finally squeezes out.

"Hm?"

"Are you, Wakui-san, and Toyoshina-senpai only childhood friends?"

Having anticipated a question along those lines, I don't move a muscle.

"Oh my, you could've just asked Kazuaki."

"I did."

"Hm? Ah, yeah, he's easier to approach than me, isn't he? What did he say? Ah, no, it's OK. I can tell. But I see... so you realized that we are likely to give you a different answer to that question."

"..." She remains silent.

"Out of interest, do we look like mere childhood friends?"

Hozumi-chan ponders for a few moments. "No, you don't..."

I nod at her response.

"You're right. A mere childhood friend wouldn't choose the same high school just to stay together, nor would that person beg his teacher to put their seats next to each other, nor would that person toy happily with the other part's hair."

"...Who's who?"

"Do you really want to know?"

Hozumi-chan casts her eyes downward and lapses into silence again.

I take another gulp from my orange juice, deliberately drinking from it slowly because I don't know how long she is going to stay silent.

It isn't before I put the emptied paper cup onto the table that she continues.

"...How should I deal with that?" Hozumi-chan whispers low-spiritedly.

"What do you mean by that? Are you restraining yourself for him...? No, you were aware of that all along. You're restraining yourself for me, right?"

After a few moments of wavering, she finally nods.

"Don't mind me," I say.

Surprised, Hozumi-chan looks up at me.

"What's up with that face? Didn't expect me to say that?"

"B-But... you both love each other no matter how you look at it..."

"No matter how you look at it? Also when you look at us?" I ask.

"Probably..."

"You're unsure? Even though we're talking about the boy that's always on your mind?"

"...Yes," she replies honestly.

"I see. That means that you, Hozumi-chan, have a better idea of us than those unspecified people that view us as a couple."

"Huh...?"

"I don't know Kazuaki's thoughts on this, but I for one have no idea how you could describe our relationship."

"You don't...?"

"Mm."

Hozumi-chan takes a few moments to think about the reason why I phrased it that way. At last, she comes to an answer.

"Does that mean that I don't have to restrain myself for you?" she asks.

After a short pause, I reply, "Sure."

"Good...," she says with a blatant smile, which she is trying to hide, "I always felt bad about you."

"I know that you did," I confess as I hold the empty cup against my lips, "but don't resent me for that. I couldn't just tell you to ignore me and hit on him to your heart's content, could I?"

"...Yes," Hozumi-chan says, her face gloomy-looking again.

"Ah, I'm not being sarcastic here, okay? ...In fact, I'd rather Kazuaki found someone else other than me."

She is visibly surprised by that fact. Geez...will her face ever stay put for a while?

"I don't know if a day will come when I can answer his feelings for me. Maybe not, and I'd keep him waiting. Therefore, I think it's for his sake if I left him to a girl like you, Hozumi-chan," I explain and she listens. While putting down and picking up the cup for no particular reason, I continue, "He ought to learn that I'm not the only girl there is. Because he... only ever paid attention to me."

Hozumi-chan remains silent, her face cast down. After a while, she looks up and looks me deep in the eyes.

"I won't... hold back anymore!" she says with a calm but resolute voice.

Slightly unsettled by her straight gaze, I avert my eyes a little bit.

"And I just told you that's okay, didn't I?" I answer—with a voice slightly quieter than before.

Still fixed on my face, she nods, "...I see." She let's out a short sigh I almost overlooked. "Thank you for your time. See you..."

"Yeah, see you."

Hozumi-chan picks up her bag and, after giving me a brief bow, leaves without looking back.

As I gaze at my empty paper cup, I ask myself:

...Hey Shizuka. Are you serious?

I wonder? I think I am. I think so... but somehow I'm not fully comfortable with what I said. I feel a bit like I were trying to make myself believe a drawn apple was a real one.

I gaze at the chair in front of me that's still pulled away from the table.

Hozumi-chan.

She's a good girl. No doubt about that. Even I have to admit that she's pretty. Every normal boy would fall for her almost instantly if she wanted them to.

But what of it?

She's a good girl, so what? She's pretty, so what? Does that make her suitable for Kazuaki?

I try to imagine not me but her standing besides Kazuaki.

...No, I can't. I can't imagine that.

However... there is something I'm grateful of her.

Only thanks to her could I remain level-headed like this—because she didn't probe into my actual feelings for Kazuaki.

A tingling sensation runs through my head like a swarm of ants. I feel nauseated even though my stomach is perfectly fine.

I—

—crushed the paper cup in my hand.



The talk with Hozumi-chan has affected me, no doubt, but that's no reason to change my plans; I head to her.

I don't know when and where she is waiting, but I know that she's there.

The humanoid energies are flickering again, frantically trying to break into someone's body.

{Unforgivable. Unforgivable. Your new website is unforgivable.}

{I love you. Iloveyou. I love you, giant vs. Yakult.}

{I know your secret! You take off your trousers when you go to the toilet!}

It's getting dangerous—their words are starting to make sense to me. I'm slowly starting to see the underlying feelings of their cryptic messages.

A tingling pain runs through my body.

I instinctively realize that it's dangerous to understand their language. Understanding them is equivalent to being able to communicate with them, and communicating with them requires opening myself to them for the duration of the conversation. They are not going to let that chance slip.

I try to disregard them like I would ignore those people distributing free tissues.

I just have to avoid contact with them, that's all. I just have to ignore the fact that they're not just roughly shaped like humans anymore, but possess human silhouettes by now.

Ignoring them with all my might, I find myself at the same park as the other day again. She is sitting on the same bench as previously.

The first thing I ask her, who is absurdly beautiful, is:

"Hey, is it because of you that I can now see the outlines of humanoid energies?"

"'You'," she says instead of answering my question. Apparently, she is not addressing me, but repeating the word I used to refer to her. "Call me Reina. In return, I'll also call you Shizuka. Okay?"

"I don't mind..." I answer warily.

"Shizuka it is, then. Did you consider my offer?"

Heh, my question got ignored.

"Your offer, huh... don't you think that a little too one-sided? You said what you wanted to say and suddenly 'disappeared.' Besides, I have no idea what you mean by, 'Do you want to come with me?'"

"Seriously...?"

"Seriously," I reply with a sigh.

"Even though you possess such skills?" she asks with blunt astonishment.

"Yes. I suppose we acquired these skills in different ways. When you climb a mountain from different directions, you still arrive at the same place, no?"

Reina pauses for a while and nods at last.

"I see, that's why you call them 'humanoid energies.'"

"Understood?"

"Yes. Because there is a much easier and straightforward name for them, isn't there? 'Spirits.'"

"I have to admit that I also thought of that name when I first got to recognize their outlines. However, there is a certain discrepancy between my definition of the word 'spirit' and how I define 'humanoid energy,' although that's probably just my common sense restraining me. I couldn't give this phenomenon a hackneyed name such as 'spirit.' Even now, to be honest, they will stay humanoid energies to me. Do you understand?"

"I certainly do. But you ought to keep in mind that they're not humanoid energies for anyone else. Of course, spirit is only the answer for a limited number of people as well," she explains.

"...Sorry, I'm afraid you've lost me."

"In other words, the term 'humanoid energy' may be your own way of calling them, but by naming them that way, they have assumed the role of humanoid energies."

"...like an orange becomes an orange with our awareness of that name...?"

"Hmm, that's slightly off, I'm afraid. You should take a less explainable thing as an example. Like... God. Do you believe in God, Shizuka?"

"I, I guess not."

"Okay, that means that you might thank your own luck when you've been lucky, right? But as soon as we coin the term 'God', you'll be thanking not your luck, but God for watching over you—and that's an entirely different message, isn't it?"

"...Yeah, I think I see where you're coming from, but that's not a good example. To raise a better one, 'air' can only exist as 'air' if you know its name. That's your point, right?"

After all, we cannot perceive air unless we have heard of it, since it's neither visible nor palpable.

"Color me impressed, Shizuka. You're quick!"

"Hold back the flattery, please. Anyway, may I ask a few questions?"

"Sure, if I can answer them," she says, accepting my request.

"Great, then to start—" I pose the question I've been dying to ask, "—Who are you?"

Seemingly unable to grasp the significance of my question, Reina inclines her head.

"Why do you ask?"

"You're not human, but neither are you a humanoid energy."

"But you already know my name, don't you?"

"...Reina Kamisu." As I say her name, I understand what she's getting at.

"Right, I'm Reina Kamisu. That and nothing else."

Right, I have already named the essence of that phenomenon 'Reina Kamisu.'

"...Fine, I will no longer ask that question. But... why did you get in touch with me?"

"It seems like there is a misunderstanding on your part. You were the initiator of our contact, weren't you?"

"...True. Then why did you make that offer to me?"

"Because you have power, Shizuka."

"What power?"

"You have the ability to sense 'humanoid energies,' to borrow your naming."

"I know that. What I don't know is what kind of power this ability translates into."

Reina stays silent for a few moments, thinking, until she answers me with a smile:

"It's the power to save the world."

Surprised, my eyes widen. After all, my fundamental suspicion was that Reina's existence poses a threat to peace, and that's why I got in touch with her.

If I were to believe her words...

"—So what you're doing—setting the humanoid energies into motion—is part of saving the world?"

"Yes."

"Spare me your lies! I know that your deeds have yielded several victims!"

"'Several'," she smiles. "Is saving several people equivalent to saving the world?"

"...Do you mean that...?"

"You're probably spot on."

In other words, Reina has sacrificed a few people in order to save everyone else? Like the masses in a war that was started just to seize a single dictator? Like an elephant among a hungry group of animals that was killed for the others to survive?

As I fight with increasing confusion, Reina smiles at me and continues:

"I know it all, Shizuka."

Her following words unsettle me even more.

"You only acquired that ability after that incident, didn't you?"

3[edit]

I am wearing my favorite, white dress.

The frilled ends of my skirt float in the air as I whirl around.

Am I not pretty?

Who am I wearing it for?

For you, of course, and for me, for my feelings for you.

I want to be pretty for you, always the prettiest.

But someday I will have to take off the white dress.

And you will undress me.

—Or so I hoped.


But now—

I'm still wearing that dress, and I won't let you touch it.

Because my favorite, white dress is full of stains.

But yet I keep wearing the dress.

I keep wearing a non-white dress.

I keep wearing a non-white dress for you to undress.


Until it's too late to turn back.

4[edit]

Dang... it doesn't function.

The 'lettuce' I sowed yesterday doesn't function. It's as Reina said... If I don't change, my power will stay limited.

In order to acquire real power, I have to leap over this world and transcend all existence and pass through several deltas.

Break, class room. Chairs, chairs, desks, a fluttering humanoid energy, Kazuaki.

"Kazuaki, spare me a moment, please." I say to Kazuaki who's talking with Kiichi-kun, a friend of his.

"Hm? What's the matter, Shizuka?"

Kiichi-kun politely leaves us alone. Mm, sorry but thanks.

"Okay, listen closely. The world is about to burst."

"Shizuka...?"

"As I said, the world is overfull. There's a critical level in every system, no? You understand that, right?"

"...I think I do... hey, um, I already said this in the previous break, but you don't look good today, Shizuka."

"That doesn't matter. Forget about me for now. Just listen," I urge him.

"I think it does matter, but fine..."

"Humanoid energies... no, I hate to do this, but let's call them 'spirit' because it's simpler. As you may know, Kazuaki, there are countless things that can't be perceived by the eye. Hell, way too many for my taste. And in order to become aware of them, we have to give them appropriate names... hold on, that doesn't matter now either, does it? At any rate, those spirits do exist, okay?"

"...Okay."

"Those spirits keep increasing in number. The number keeps growing and they have started to overflow wherever you look, even around us. In fact, there's one right there in the corner. Of course, some spirits just pass away as they should do, but most don't. Therefore, we can define that spirits are in a constant growth. Right, this lifecycle is thus comparable to the production of oxygen. With each breath, plants also exhale carbon dioxide but the amount of oxygen that is produced thanks to photosynthesis is greater, so they are effectively producing oxygen by definition. Like that."

"Okay..."

"You know what happens if they keep on populating? The world turns upside down. The front and the back get inversed. Do you understand? You do, right? It's a revolt! By the spirits! It makes perfect sense that the world would lean toward the side that holds more energy. Can you imagine the consequences? The world would have tilted away, after all: We would fall from the surface of the world, losing our shape, turning into ambiguous beings, scattering in all directions. Perhaps. I don't know the details, of course, but neither do we know the exact consequences of blasting and burning our globe with explosives, right? In other words, the only thing that I can tell for sure is that the resulting world is in no way desirable. What do you think should I do? Do you, do you think that I'm supposed to prevent that whatever it takes?"

"...Shizuka," Kazuaki says as he gazes closely at me.

Thanks goodness; he has taken me seriously.

Kazuaki gives Kiichi-kun a glance, "I'm sorry, Kiichi, but Shizuka and I are leaving early today."

Surprised, Kiichi-kun replies, "Huh...? Ah, i-it's okay, Kazuaki, nothing urgent, really."

"Tell them that I'm taking Shizuka home because she's not feeling well."

Ignoring my question, he pulls me by my arm.

Kazuaki is touching my arm.

The cells of my arm start to decompose and rot away one by one. It hurts. Unsustainable, boundless ressentiment prickles me.

"Kazuaki... Have you forgotten?"

He reflexively lets go of my hand, watching me with wide-open eyes. After a while, he apologizes in a voice I can barely hear.



Kazuaki won't turn around, so I'm just wordlessly following him.

As we trace our way home, we enter the train line we use every day. There are almost no people because of the off-peak time it is. Huh? There's someone standing despite the many unoccupied seats. Ah, it's a humanoid energy. How confusing. Come to think of it, how do I distinguish between humans and humanoid energies, again? Huh? How did I use to do that? I can't seem to remember.

We get off the train, but when I try to go through the ticket gate, I bump into the barrier because the machine won't react to my season ticket. What's up with this? Is this also the wicked deed of humanoid energies? That's by no means impossible. I put my season ticket on the sensor again, and this time the barrier opens. Phew, that's really confusing.

I keep going after Kazuaki.

Right, left, right, right, left—we turn and turn and turn.

At last, we arrive at a park, but not the one I've been meeting Reina at. It's a very small, commonplace park with a bunch of rusty structures.

"...Do you remember this place?" Kazuaki suddenly asks, turning around to me.

Even though he has been dead-silent on the way here, he is smiling eerily gently. Because I don't give him any reaction, he continues himself:

"It's the park where we first met, back when we were 2 years old. Well, I don't expect you to remember all the way back, but you remember that we used to play here, don't you?"

"..."

Of course I do.

However, I hesitate to say anything because I can't quite grasp the meaning of bringing me here and telling me that.

"When we were little, you were taller than me and you would always tease me. To be honest, there were days when I was so frightened of you that I didn't want to see you, Shizuka!" he laughs.

I look around. Indeed, this is the park where we used to play together. I often played with Kazuaki in that sand box over there, or on those swings, or with that horizontal bar. The jungle gym has been removed by now, but apart from that, this park remains a place of young memories that we thought was our own little empire.

"Those were good times, weren't they?" Kazuaki continues, still smiling gently.

His smile causes in me—resentment.

I keep silent, however, because it's not his fault. He is not to blame. It's just that I feel like throwing up because of a prickling in my stomach.

Therefore, I decide to tell Kazuaki what he must know.

"Kazuaki, listen..."

"Okay!" he answers quick like a shot—with a subtle touch of resignation.

"You are very important to me, Kazuaki," I begin, apparently betraying his fears. His eyes widen. "I think that everyone has a certain role in life. For example, the president of a certain republic has to protect the world on his high throne, while the prime minister of a certain island nation has to obey that president. Mother Teresa had to serve in Calcutta, Columbus had to set foot on America, and Madame Curie had to discover polonium and radium. And I... I have to save the world."

"How are you going to do that...?"

"I'll make sure that the world doesn't turn over to their side by releasing the power inside those humanoid energies and reducing their number. There may be victims while they are flickering for a while after their power is released, but that's a necessary evil. Don't get me wrong—my conscience is pricking me for this, but I can't help it. I have to take action; it's my role because I know what has to be done."

"...Assuming that were the right thing to do—"

"Kazuaki. I understand that the idea seems absurd at first, but it is the right thing to do."

He averts his gaze toward the ground. After a moment of thought, he corrects himself:

"While I suppose that it must be the right thing to do—why is there a need that you're in charge of that task, Shizuka? Just hand over the responsibility to someone else. You said that you know how to save the world, but Shizuka... We all know of the countries suffering from poverty, where children are born to die early on, girls have to resort to prostitution just to contract AIDS, and weak people die of illnesses caused by a bad environment and a lack of medication. We all know that, yet we do nothing to fix this issue, except maybe for some coin that we donate. This is the world we live in. There will always be people seeking a savior. If we were to answer each and every call for help, we would get trapped at some point, living only for the sake of saving others. Think that's praiseworthy? Well, it is. But what of it? Do you think a lifestyle where you sacrifice yourself for others is right? Perhaps it is, but I wouldn't want such a lifestyle. I'll rather ignore their calls for help—just like all the postal advertisement we get."

"...Didn't I tell you the reason right at the beginning, Kazuaki?"

"..."

"You are very important to me."

Right, Kazuaki lives in this world.

He looks down again.

"...It's cool that you think like that, it really is, but..."

"...It's okay, Kazuaki. Just get off your chest what you really want to say."

I heard enough to tell that Kazuaki does not see the danger the world is facing. He only sees the issues he thinks I am facing.

He slowly raises his head to look at me, almost scowling.

Nonetheless—

"Come down to earth, Shizuka! You lost touch with reality."

Nonetheless, I have faith in myself.

After all, there is someone who confirms my view.

"Reality."

"...Yeah, reality! You went through a lot of hardships, that's true, but look... take this park for example—this place is reality, too, okay? Not everything's so bad."

Ah, now I see... that's why he brought me here. But Kazuaki...

Your point backfired.

Besides, your reality doesn't matter to me. Reality to me is that the world is at stake, and the only one able to save it are she and I.

"Among the things you said to me, Kazuaki, there is one thing that I particularly like."

"Hm...?"

"'Do what you think is the right thing to do.'"

"Yeah..." he nods and keeps his mouth shut.

We've known each other since were little. He knows that I'm beyond persuasion. I'm sure, however—Kazuaki won't give up.

"Okay, then I'm going to do the right thing as well!"

With these words, he approaches me.

I know what he's going to do. I can easily imagine the implications of his strained face; we haven't been together for so long for nothing.

His neck is right before my eyes. I completely forgot that he's gotten larger than me.

I slightly raise my head to look at his face.

He slightly lowers his head to look at my face.

Finally, he—embraces me.

"I love you!" he whispers into my ear, as if to stress that I'm the only one who has to know. "I love you more than anyone else, Shizuka!"

I'm happy.

I'm really happy.

He isn't trying to stop me with false words of love. He isn't good enough with words for that.

He simply couldn't help saying it, having me in his embrace. It's the only thing he could think of.

Kazuaki's just so staggeringly honest, simple, faithful... giving me no other choice than to watch over him, making me want to be with him—


Even though my white dress has been stained.


Even though he can't have forgotten those stains.


He's daring a leap. The gamble of his life.

Of course, I'm on his side. I want him to win the wager.

And yet—


"...Don't touch me."


—I couldn't.


The arms around me come loose instantly. Instead, I embrace myself tightly, burying my fingernails in my arms.

I'm glad that I'm smaller than Kazuaki now; I only have to slightly drop my gaze to avoid seeing his face.

My body hurts like it was pierced by a thousand needles. I'm fighting with the urge to hole out the contents of my aching head. The pictures from back then keep appearing in my head, shredding me, crushing me, pulping me, scattering me.

"I'm sorry..." not I but Kazuaki says.

Why are you apologizing? Stop it! I'm the one to blame. I'm the one who's weak. I'm the one who can't recover. I. It's my fault. My fault. Fault. Fault. Fault.

"Sorry for making you cry..."

Confused, I touch my eyelids and finally realize that I'm really crying.

"Isn't it strange? I wanted to achieve the opposite effect. Embracing you was supposed to stop your tears. I failed at that, didn't I... I'm not able to do it..."

I desperately try to hold my tears back. I mustn't make him say such things. But... it doesn't go well.

"I'm such a moron. I thought things would work out somehow if I came here... I thought everything would change for the better... as if it was so simple."

"...Listen, Kazuaki..." I say, trying (and probably failing) not to sob.

"Hm?"

"There is something... that I didn't tell you."

I raise my head, feeling that I have to.

"I never gave you the details of that incident, did I...? I didn't want to hurt you... To be honest... this park... this place of memories—"


"—is where I was raped."


Stop.

Kazuaki stopped entirely.

He stopped so perfectly that I start to suspect that I was left alone in the world, removed from the flow of time.

—Left alone in the world? Hah, that's an accurate description. I'm sure that impression's not an illusion but a truth.

"...Horrible," Kazuaki mutters.

He didn't say that word to me, nor did he address it at the people who had abused me. It wasn't addressed at God either, since he doesn't believe in one.

I'm sure his horrible wasn't addressed at anything in specific.

"That's just... horrible!"

Kazuaki didn't know that reality strikes whenever you expect it the least, no matter if it's a place of memories.

It treats saints and sinners all alike, attacking them mechanically, randomly, without any consideration and selection.

Kazuaki didn't know that.

No, he may have known it, but he didn't believe that this rule would also apply to us.

The world can turn against anyone meaninglessly.

However, not in my case.

"I have to go," I say.

"...Go where?" he squeezes out.

"To another park that I am supposed to visit."

"Huh?"

"I have to go to Reina Kamisu."

There was a meaning to the world's turning against me.

Right, Reina?


5[edit]

I told Reina Kamisu that I would follow her.

She welcomed me with open arms, seeming very happy about my decision. Of course, one reason for her delight is the raise in effectiveness, but I think she's also happy about finally having a companion in her sheer endless fight.

I don't know how long she's been fighting so far, but purging one humanoid energy after another (which keep increasing in the meanwhile) is like collecting the sand of a desert grain by grain.

I see. Maybe she's been waiting for a person like me who could help her save the world. No, she's still waiting. If the number of people helping her keeps increasing, then saving the world will stop being a pipe dream.

I look around in my room.

This will be the last time I'm here; deep emotion fills my heart. While it's not a cool room—with furniture like a dresser from my mom and things like a weird doll—but here I laughed and cried and laughed and cried.

Should I leave a letter to my parents and Kazuaki? ...No, they would confuse it for my last words or something. Although that might be true in their eyes.

I open the lock of the topmost drawer of my desk and take out a cross choker.

Reina Kamisu told me that I would need to put on something very dear to me. When I asked for the reason, she explained that I needed a token of regret. I could see that I might accidentally get trapped on the other side of the world unless there was something chaining me to this side. In order to become like Reina, I'll probably need something like that.

I put on the choker.

I won't waver anymore.

I walk down the stairs and put on my shoes at the entrance.

"Shizuka, where are you going?" my mom asks from the kitchen without showing up.

"Just a bit far away."

With these words, I open the door.


By now, humanoid energies and humans look almost the same to me but I can still discern them somehow. Those energies have no aim or destination, so they practically stay put at one place; they mumble things even though they're alone, and while they're talking to themselves, their facial expressions do not change a bit.

Coming across several humanoid energy-like beings, I head to the place she's waiting.

{Why did you throw me away, Takeshi! You told me you loved me!}

{I don't have any friends. I don't need to live.}

{Had I not gazed after that hot school girl, neither I nor the family driving the other car would have had to die. What an idiotic accident!}

Among them was one of a middle-aged man:

{Why did you fire me! What did I do wrong!}

Apparently, he had killed himself after losing his job.

"Hello," I said, for the first time addressing a humanoid energy. Suicide after failing in one's job life is not that uncommon, but his face somewhat resembled that of my dad.

{You can... see me?}

"I can. I can also hear you."

{I see... You shouldn't talk with me. Or perhaps... there's no harm to a young lady like you?}

"I'm sure there's none. Our values are way too different."

{Values, you say... In other words, you think the reason why I committed suicide seems cheap and cliched to you?}

"Kind of. I mean, you'll just get less income if you're fired, and that's it, right?"

The middle-aged humanoid energy looked at me sorrowfully. No, he (?) had a sorrowful look glued to his face all the time.

{It's not that simple, young lady.}

"What's not so simple then?"

{I'm bad at explaining things, so I won't be able to convince you, but work was everything to me. Despite that, I was told to be of no use for the company. Do you see what I mean?}

"I do, but I'm not convinced after all."

{I guess so. But there's one thing that I want you to understand: there's no place for old men like me. Not even in the family I was supposed to feed. Nevertheless, I firmly believed that I was needed, that I was a gear in the family that was the company I worked at.}

"But you didn't stay one of its gears."

{Exactly. And I wasn't able to become part of anything else.}

"I think I understood more or less. Still... I think ending one's life because of that is stupid."

He lowered his gaze somewhat and answered,

{Yes... maybe you're right.}

I think I then spotted a faint smile in his face.

And he swirled left and right.


"As I thought. You died, didn't you?"

{What do you mean...?}

I found him.

"Don't you remember me?"

{I don't...}

I should have known; humanoid energies are the core of our energy, and as such only possess the most crucial of memories.

"When you were alive, you once bumped into me when you came rushing out of our psychiatrist's room."

{I see... sorry.}

"Oh, I don't mind. By the way, what's your name?"

{Atsushi Kogure...}

"I see, Atsushi-kun it is."

{What's your name...?}

"My name? I'm Shizuka Wakui."

{What business do you have with me, Shizuka-san?}

"None, actually... if anything, I felt a bit nostalgic."

{I see... Would you please leave me alone, then?}

"How cold. Hm... Okay, then may I ask you one thing?"

{You may... but I won't be able to answer you because I can't remember anything.}

"Really? I'll ask anyway. You bumped into me—I told you that, right?"

{Yes...}

"What again were you shouting when you rushed out of the room?"

His eyes widen at once. I'm taken by surprise—humanoid energies do not change their expressions.

{I don't know.}

That's a lie. After all, he's putting way more emphasis into his words than before.

{I don't know!} he shouts, apparently sensing my doubt.

Atushi-kun said no more after that.


After changing trains a few times, I finally get off the train at the nearest station from a certain lake I've looked up beforehand.

During the travel, I was once again reminded of the omnipresence of humanoid energies. I fear the world could turn over any moment.

Spotting a group of carefree school girls, I feel a bit jealous of them. They don't have to see any of this and don't have to know how thin the ice is that we're on. The balance is as fragile as doing a triple Axel in an ice rink with ultra-thin ice.

After confirming the position of the lake on a map hung up at the station, I head to my destination.

As I walk, I recall Reina's words.

"Water works perfectly because it's connected all over the world."

In order to find a lake that fit the bill, I had to bring myself to google for 'places to commit suicide'.

I mean, 'suicide'...? Heck, it's not like I'm going to die.

After a 40-minute walk, I arrive at the lake. I could have used a taxi (I won't have to care about money from now on, after all) but I didn't want to cause any bothersome misunderstandings.

"You're late."

Reina was there first, waiting for me with an absurdly beautiful smile.

"I'm sorry."

But I could come here whenever I wanted, no? You didn't tell me where I had to go, after all.

I gaze at the lake before me.

Ah, I see. No wonder it's become infamous as a place for suicide. What a huge number of humanoid energies. In fact, there's so many of them, that they have mingled into beings with an entirely different shape. It's like on of those old paintings of Youkais. Several heads are extending toward me, observing me closely. They look a bit like grapes to me, with the heads being the grapes.

I see. With there being so many of them, there is a wavelength for any person who comes here, drawing them into death. Of course, the people who come here do so with the intent of committing suicide; but actually ending one's life isn't so easy. The fear and attachment to life that surfaces when facing death helps prevent suicide.

However, in the case of this lake, it's already too late once they've come here.

The humanoid energies exploit the hollow hearts of the suicidal visitors, shorting their reasonable thinking and drawing them into death.

"Shizuka, there are several places like this in the world."

"And we have to get rid of those places one by one, right?"

"Mmm," she shakes her head, "that's impossible."

"Why...?"

"It's as simple as the problem of many against few. We have too little power. Once a place has turned into this, it's beyond purification."

I look at 'them' again.

I see. Having mixed together, complementing each other, they have turned into a monster. Should I try to step in and erase them, they will take me in as well and still try to regain their former shape. A mechanism that's much alike a black hole formed in this place.

This place can't be purged anymore.

"Ah—"

I see now. I understand everything.

This is it. This is what happens when our side of the world turns over.

Our proportional relation in power is negated on this side, and thus we get taken in by them. Our souls get devoured, our bodies become hollow and decay. That's the outcome we're steering towards.

"...We must stop these places from increasing, right?"

"Yes", Reina nods in response to my realization. "That's our mission."

I scowl at the monster in front of us. All of those grape-like beings are void of expression yet hostile.

They are—my enemy.

I press my cross choker tightly.

"Reina, one last thing."

"...One last thing?" she smiles.

"...You're right. It's only just starting."

"It is! So, what do you want to know?"

"You said that everyone has a certain role, right?"

"I did, yes."

"That it's my role to save the world," I add.

"Right. Only the chosen ones can do that."

"So, I was chosen because I obtained my power."

And—

"—I obtained this power because of that incident."

Reina nods with a smile.

Yeah, I see. I see now.

It never made sense to me: Why did I have to suffer so much? I was by no means a saint, of course, but I think I lived humbly enough to earn myself a ticket to heaven. So why did that incident happen to me of all people? It never made sense.

Of course, reality bares its teeth against anyone—without any consideration but with deadly poison in its teeth.

Yet, I helplessly failed to understand why it happened to me.

But now I can say with conviction:

Yes, there was a reason why I had to suffer so much.

It's simple—

—It was necessary in order to save the world.

"You're right, Shizuka," she says with a warm smile. "Those were obstacles imposed on you so that you could fulfill your mission!"

Right! I found the truth!

I mean, it wouldn't be fair otherwise. It would be unfair if I were the only one so unlucky.

After all, if there wasn't a proper meaning in that incident, my suffering would have been all for naught.

"Yeah, then let's go, Reina! Let the game begin!"

"Yeah!"

Right, there's no reason to waver anymore.

I only have to muster up some courage and jump into the lake—

It's time to go to my new stage—

As I hold my cross choker, I jum—

"——Ah—"

As—I—hold—my—choker—


Someone's, Voice.


—TSCHHHHHHHHHHHHHH—


Scars.

Flesh.

White dress.


"—None."


Cryingshizuka.


"—There is none!"


—TSCHHHHHHHHHHHHHH—


"Here... a Christmas present."

"Oh! Thanks, Kazuaki! May I open it?"

"Sure."

"Wow! That's beautiful! But wasn't it expensive?"

"N-Not that much."

"Isn't that a diamond in the center of this crucifix?"

"Yeah, it is..."

"Hey, then it was expensive after all, you bragger!"

"S-Shut up... let me show off a bit!"


—TSCHHHHHHHHHHHHHH—


"Why did it happen to me of all people? Why?"

"Is there a meaning in this?"


—TSCHHHHHHHHHHHHHH—


I wouldn't stop crying.

Kazuaki wouldn't stop looking sad.

"Why did it happen to me of all people? Why?"

"Is there a meaning in this?"

I lamented like this, bothering him, until he finally opened his mouth, and squeezed out:


"—None."

"—There is none!"

"There is no reason, Shizuka! If anything, it's because your attackers couldn't handle their sexual drive. You happened to come across them, and you happened to look good enough to them. But that's not the reason you want, is it?"

"Reality treats saints and sinners all alike, attacking them mechanically, randomly, without any consideration and selection. You have to accept that, Shizuka."

Reality treats saints and sinners all alike, attacking them mechanically, randomly, without any consideration and selection.

Right, now I remember—

That wasn't originally my own belief—

It was just Kazuaki's honest and true opinion.


—TSCHHHHHHHHHHHHHH—


"What's wrong, Shizuka?" the absurdly beautiful girl asks me.

My choker is all wet with my sweat.

"Reina Kamisu—"

"Yes...?"


"Who are you?"


Reina Kamisu holds her breath.

"...What's it all of a sudden?" she asks.

"Those were obstacles imposed on me so that I could fulfill my mission."

"...What about it?"

"What about it, you ask? Don't play dumb! As if that could be true!"


"As if a reason would just pop up so conveniently!"


Losing her tongue, Reina Kamisu just gazes at me in a baffled manner.

"I understood everything. I sought a reason. A reason for my suffering. That's why I came up with the logic of those humanoid energies and tried to find refuge there."

She listens silently to me.

"Everyone else knew that I was trying to escape from reality. Be it Mihara-sensei or Kazuaki, or all of them. They knew I was escaping. After all, my logic only makes sense to myself. Yet, yet why is it—"


"—Why is it that you can understand me!"


"That's strange! Why does someone like you, Reina Kamisu, just show up so overly conveniently to confirm my theory? I didn't fully believe in it until you showed up, right? Why... why did you appear so—"

"Well," she begins. "Because that's what you wanted, Shizuka," she says, slightly skewing her lips. "You sought an existence like me. A third person who would turn your delusions into reality. Given the name of Reina Kamisu."

Reina Kamisu smiles. With a smile so beautiful it can't really exist.

Finally, I recall—what Atsushi Kogure has shouted when he rushed out of our psychiatrist's room.

And Atsushi-kun—

—is no more.

"Ah...ah..."

I hold my cross choker tightly.

Help me. Help me, Kazuaki.

"D-Do you intend to kill me?"

She looks at me with surprise when I ask so.

"Why would I?" she counters.

"I-I mean, it's true that you drove the students of the Shikura middle school into suicide, isn't it?"

She lifts her hand to her chin and replies after a short pause, "Perhaps."

"...Perhaps?"

"I didn't actually do anything."

"That's just not—"

"Not true? How about you, then?" she suddenly asks.

"Huh?"

"Would you be able to live on if I disappeared now?"

Ah—

I see what she means.

Reina is a phenomenon.

Just a phenomenon.

Sooner or later, we notice that she's not true, and then we lose her.

Once we lose the support that Reina is to us, we collapse all by ourselves.

"...Then stay by my side!"

"I'm always by your side. As long as you don't close your eyes from me, I'll always be with you. But... can you accept me when I'm only a phenomenon?"

With these words, Reina Kamisu vanished.

No, she didn't vanish. I simply dismissed her as something that could not exist.


Reina Kamisu is always here.


I stand alone by the lake.

I stand alone, without a reason for my suffering.

I stand alone, still suffering.


Suddenly, I recall an earlier thought of mine.

it's already too late once you've come here.

I raise my head to look at the lake.

Alright—

A monster with tens and hundreds of faces is waiting for me.



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