Kamisu Reina:Volume 2 Ryoji Kamisu
Chapter 2: Ryoji Kamisu
"I will die in a few days from now," says my little sister, Reina Kamisu, while she is enjoying a cup of Darjeeling tea on the terrace.
"Hm?" I groan not because I didn't understand her, but because I couldn't catch the meaning. After all, she wouldn't speak about her death like about the weather tomorrow.
"As I said, I will die in a few days."
I attempt to read a metaphorical meaning into her words, but at least for now there is just no plausible explanation why she would suddenly come up with such a statement.
"Die?" I ask.
"That joke is—" Lame. And Reina does not tell lame jokes. "...Are you serious?"
"I am serious," she confirms without hesitation.
What's the deal? Does she want to bother me with nonsense? Reina...? No, she wouldn't do that. What she said must be a simple truth.
Reina will die; if that's the truth, I ought to become disconcerted. However, I don't know about others, but at least I can't just believe and embrace the thought of her death just because she predicted it. No, maybe I can't do that because it's me.
"You...you don't have some incurable disease, right? Haha...this isn't some schmaltzy book, after all."
"No, I do not have a disease."
"All right, let's set aside for a moment whether or not you'll die. Why did you tell me that, anyway?"
"Because it is the truth and you belong to my family, Ryoji-san."
"Ha!" I sneer. Family?
Reina dryly calls me "Ryoji-san" instead of using some sort of nickname as is usual for siblings. I'm sure it's not actually with intent, but I can't shake off the nasty feeling that she is trying to deny our blood relation.
Well, I'm probably the only one who thinks like that.
Family, eh? I don't know about her, but at least I never considered her family. To me—to our family—she is not a member, but a piece of art.
"Excuse me, but did I say something bizarre?"
"No," I utter in response.
Despite talking about her own death, Reina gives me a smile. Yes, she is smiling indeed—and that's our punishment for treating her like a piece of art.
I don't remember an exact date, but when Reina was around ten years old, she lost all her emotions. At the very least, I could no longer observe any stirrings of emotion in her. The only thing she would show—regardless of the situation—was a smile. In fact, I can't even picture her to myself without one.
There is one thing I always think when looking at her:
—We must not disturb her smile.
Reina is a person. But we somehow forgot about that while associating with her and eventually treated her with utmost care as though she were a fragile work of art. Reina became obliged to smile and we became obliged not to disturb her smile.
She was sensible enough to recognize that role we had force upon her and played along.
However, she also had the skill to fulfill that role. Since she was intelligent to begin with, Reina quickly became what one could call perfect. She became perfect in every thinkable aspect—be it her appearance, manners, wits, personality, or her skills—so much that it bordered on being plain creepy.
We were all equally shaken, I presume, but nobody said anything; after all, this is what we had wanted Reina to be. Besides... what problem is there with being perfect?
Therefore, all we could eventually do was watching in amazement as she elegantly drunk tea on the terrace as if she was a piece of art.
...But I digress.
"If you know that you will die within a few days, that means that you plan on ending your life, right? In that case, it would indeed be plausible to say that you will die in a few days."
"So you think that I will commit suicide?"
"No, I don't."
"If you thought about committing suicide, then you wouldn't tell me, would you?"
Reina smiles in response to my statement.
"I would stop you, Reina, if you told me about suicide, although there would be no need to tell me in the first place if you were serious about it. Moreover, you might give me a guilty conscience by evading my attempts to stop you, and you are too smart a person for such a misconduct that nobody profits. You aren't so weak as to say this because you want me to stop you, either. But most of all... you don't trust me enough to confess your plans of suicide to me."
"That is not true."
"I wonder," I say with a wry smile and sip at my lukewarm cup of black tea. "Anyway, the answer is that you are going to be killed in a few days."
"But did you not say that I will end my own life a few moments ago?" Reina asks.
"You said that you will die in a few days. In other words, you are aware that you are going to be killed. No one is holding you captive, Reina. Even if someone was threatening you, you could escape with with some effort. However, you don't, which means that you have decided to end your life. Besides, if you really planned to commit suicide, there would be no need to use a vague expression like in a few days."
"I understand," says Reina with a nod. I doubt that something I can think of would not occur to her, so she might just be trying to be polite.
"Compared to a normal person, there are more reasons to target someone like you. For one thing, our family is fairly wealthy, and your looks would justify an attempt to murder you as well. There are more than enough reasons for murder to occur."
"That might be true," she says with a smile, agreeing with the absolutely disagreeable fact that I pointed out. It's perfect. The mask she is wearing is perfect.
Is she scheming something else beneath that beautiful mask of hers? Perhaps. But if nobody is able to perceive what that is, those thoughts are technically non-existent.
"All right," I say, finally cutting to the chase. "What do you want me to do, Reina?"
Reina answers with a smile. "I just wanted you to know."
"Hold on! So you want me to sit on my hands and do nothing even though I now know that my sister is going to be killed?"
I may have said this, but as a matter of fact I can't imagine Reina getting killed; although I don't know if that is because she's so blunt about it or because I've subconsciously sorted out the possibility.
Or perhaps because I care about other people as little as Reina does.
"...I see where you are coming from. Asking this of you might be cruel indeed."
And because of that, our empty conversation felt very artificial and superficial, with neither of us putting their cards on the table.
"In that case, go to my room when the time comes."
"...To your room?"
Come to think of it, I can't remember when I last was in her room even though we live under the same roof.
"When the time comes...?"
"You will be able to tell!"
If anyone else other than Reina had told me so, I would have laughed it off. However, Reina is saying so and she is smiling.
"Do not worry about me, Ryoji-san," Reina says to me while I'm struggling to find the right reaction. "I will die—"
"—but only metaphorically."
However, Reina died.
A few days after our conversation—three days, to be exact—Reina killed herself by jumping off the roof of a school building.
She didn't leave behind a last will, but there were more than enough witnesses to confirm her death, since it happened shortly after school was over. Reina jumped head-first off the building and died. Unless all the witnesses were lying, that's a truth.
However, because more than half her pretty face was missing after the fall, I have not seen her body.
Every person dies eventually. Every person.
This always gets me wondering; would Reina really die? Would a being so perfectly balanced really die like the bunch of us?
Even though the answer is as clear as day, my head keeps telling me "no". But that's absurd.
But Reina has indeed said it. She's many times smarter than me, and she has smilingly said it.
I know it's foolish to believe it, and yet I know that I'm right. I suffer of two conflicting thoughts.
Somewhere, maybe in the course of our conversations, Reina has infected me with a Trojan horse that keeps asking me—
—is Reina Kamisu really dead?
"Whose shoes are those...?" I mutter as I spot unfamiliar leather shoes on entering my home.
"Ah, welcome home Ryoji-san," a woman says as she hurries to me. She, Sakairi-san, is not my mother but an employee who has kept the house for our family for twenty years.
"Hello, Sakairi-san," I reply and take off my shoes.
Twenty years; that's the same amount of time as I have lived so far. In other words, her first job here was to look after me when I was still a baby—which effectively makes her my second mother, since my true mother shuffled off all the hard labor as a housewife to Sakairi-san.
Likewise, she was also Reina's second mother.
In fact, when I saw her crying at Reina's funeral ceremony, it occurred to me that she might actually be the person who mourned for Reina the most and accepted her death before anyone else.
Our family members treated Reina as someone special, but what about Sakairi-san? No one else had seen more of Reina's mundane sides than Sakairi-san, who changed Reina's diapers and emptied her trash bin. Perhaps, she actually thought of Reina as a normal person.
As such, she was bound to be saddened by Reina's passing.
Suddenly, Sakairi-san cuts off my train of thought: "Ah right, I should tell you that a former friend of Reina-san is here."
I drop my gaze to my feet and look at the unfamiliar shoes again.
Sakairi-san was by no means the only person who cried at Reina's funeral ceremony; mother teared up as well—although I can't say the same for father—and so did many of the students from her school, sobbing and weeping. So many tears were shed that day, in fact, that it could have rained.
I must have been the only one who was not concerned with her death.
"Come to see Reina's altar, I take it?"
Leaving behind an indifferent uh-huh, I start to walk to my room upstairs. However...
"Would you mind saying hello to her, Ryoji-san?" Sakairi-san suddenly suggests.
"I already bid her welcome, of course, but I'm afraid that it might be considered impolite if no one from the family welcomed her."
"But why me...? What about mother?"
I quickly regret my remark. It has only been five days since Reina's death and mother has sunk into depression. I don't know if it's because she lost her daughter or because she lost a piece of splendid art, though.
At any rate, that's what happens when pampered little princesses grow up under a shield of protection. It's really bothersome.
But I'm sure this won't last for long; everything will be back to normal within a month or so. Even while mourning, she won't just stop eating and defecating, and she probably won't miss out on the next lesson at the ballroom dancing school that she has taken to visiting. Before long she will have forgotten to be sad, since such feelings have to be locked away when dealing with our everyday chores. We are conditioned to by our society.
Therefore, feelings serve no purpose to begin with.
I wonder, though, if our parents would be just as sad if I were the one who died ... which is a stupid question. The answer is obvious.
As if they would care.
"...Fine, fine. She's by the alter, right?"
"I'll go greet her. I'm sure you already served her some tea?"
"I expected no less."
With these words, I get on my way to our Japanese-style room and walk through the unnecessarily long corridor of the house.
When I pushed aside the sliding door, I found a girl gazing at the photograph at Reina's altar.
In her eyes I recognize something that's neither sadness nor despair. Uh-huh, she's one of those. Well, in Reina's case that's perfectly possible even if she went to an all-girls school.
The girl was simply enraptured by the photograph of Reina.
That's a common reaction. The same happened to some of the business associates of my father who had to attend her funeral: the instant they saw the picture, they were so charmed that they forgot to act mournfully for a moment.
"Ah..." the girl gasps nervously as she notices that someone witnessed her enchanted gaze. I play dumb in response and greet her instead.
"Hello," she returns. "Are you Reina-san's ... brother?"
That fact alone was enough to gain her respect. Well, well, if my sister's influence isn't amazing. She's pretty—maybe I should look out for a chance to sleep with her?
"What's your name?"
"My name...? I'm Sakura Kawai," she answers with her eyes fixed upon me. "Excuse me, but you don't happen to ... have picked up my name somewhere?"
"I've taken over the position of president of the student council from Reina-san. So I thought that she might have ... mentioned me at some point ... perhaps."
"Hm ... I'm afraid not."
"I see..." Kawai-san mutters with blatant disappointment. She must have concluded that she wasn't important enough to Reina to be worth a mention.
"See, Reina never talked about others."
My excuse was enough to make her smile again. What a simpleton.
It's true that Reina hardly ever talked about others, though. In fact, I don't remember ever hearing anything about her reputation at school.
...Hm, why don't I grasp the opportunity and ask the girl before me? Well, her reputation was obviously mostly positive looking at this girl.
"What kind of person was Reina at school?"
"A wonderful person," Kawai-san replies without missing a beat.
"...Wonderful in what way?"
"I can't explain it. Everything she did was wonderful ... at any rate, she was my ... no, our guide, our goal, our ideal."
I was prepared for a favorable opinion, but Kawai-san's turned out far more intensive than expected. Her eyes were glittering with adoration—and even struck me as void—as she spoke about Reina. You could almost think she was a—"worshipper" of sorts.
On the other hand, I can somewhere understand her. If Reina doesn't appear human even to her family, then she could definitely make a godlike impression on unrelated people. Even more so in the case of the Junseiwa school: all-girls, for wealthy people, and on top of that, a high percentage of the students seem to be staying at the dorm. I can't fathom what effect Reina must have had on a school with such a highly unified value system.
Suddenly, I recall my conversation with Reina and feel a shudder run down my spine.
"You weren't there when Reina jumped off the roof, right?"
I quickly regret my question. Kawai-san is Reina's "worshipper" and I figured that confronting her with the death of her idol is rather cruel.
However, my fears prove ungrounded. In a perfectly composed manner, the girl replies, "No, I haven't been there." Relieved that she is apparently not as fanatic as expected, I ask another question:
"Then ... do you think that Reina committed suicide?"
During my conversation with Reina, I concluded that she would die of murder, but that assessment might have been wrong after all. If she was aware of my indifference to others–and thus indifference to her suicide–that would have enabled her to deliberately mislead me into thinking of murder.
But why would she do that in the first place?
What if my initial assessment wasn't wrong? What if she was killed and didn't commit suicide?
As a matter of fact, these fears seem to be grounded when looking at the Junseiwa school. Perhaps, her idolized image developed a life of its own?
Oh, what an absurd thought. I'm such an idiot. If that were really true—
"Reina-san did not commit suicide."
Kawai-san replied to my question and interrupted my train of thought.
"As I said, Reina-san did not commit suicide!"
"D-Don't be silly! That would mean that dozens of people are lying about witnessing the scene of her suicide!"
Exactly. That fact clashes with my assessment of murder.
Kawai-san, however, asks bluntly:
"Do you think that's impossible?"
"Do you really think it's impossible that dozens of Junseiwa students would lie about Reina-san's death?"
The present condition at Junseiwa is an unknown to me, and yet I was able to easily envision her as a special individual to the students at the school. That's why I started to suspect murder.
But what if reality exceeded my imagination?
"Dear brother of Reina-san, listen. She is absolute to us. Can you follow me? Absolute. Things like common sense, good sense and the law don't matter when Reina-san is involved."
The Junseiwa school is a detached domain. On top of that, females are highly adaptive and skilled at building up their own little community.
What are the implications of throwing Reina Kamisu into that mix?
"At our school, Reina-san made the rules."
Yeah, right. That's what happens.
"I'm sure you understand now, right?" she asks. "Our students will happily make false statements as long as Reina-san wills it."
"...Wait! If Reina wills it? Do you mean that Reina made you kill her? No, in this case it means she made you help her with her suici–"
"What are you talking about...?"
"Who said that Reina-san was killed?"
Kawai-san pulls her lips to a smirk, and makes me realize that her level of "worship" is indeed fanatic.
The girl opens her mouth again.
"Reina-san isn't dead."
How terribly deluded she is. Kawai-san has come to a silly conclusion just because she doesn't want to accept Reina's death.
—Is she the only one who came to this conclusion?
"——is Reina Kamisu really dead?"
Is this just a coincidence? Was Reina so unearthly that she could give us both the same impression?
Or is it simply the truth?
At any rate, I decide to ask for Kawai-san's opinion.
"Kawai-san ... you're being absurd. Then who on earth is that person that was cremated and buried six feet under?"
"I don't know. But dear brother ... have you seen the body?"
"...No, you can't gloss it over like that. The students at Junseiwa may lie for Reina, but the police staff that examined her body do not," I argue.
"I wouldn't be too sure of that."
"We have quite a few students with politically active parents or with parents who work at the police. They could apply pressure."
"...I doubt those parents would listen to their daughters just like that."
"We also have money. And ... well, we are young and pretty. It shouldn't be impossible to bribe one or the other examiner with those means, don't you think?"
"...What about her corpse? You can't tell me that you'd kill someone who looks similar just to replace her. You wouldn't go that far even if she—"
"But we would. I told you that she is the absolute rule to us and exceeds good sense and the law, didn't I?" the girl says with iron determination.
...I mustn't let her deceive me. It might be true that Reina would not be incapable of feigning her own death.
But that's only hypothetical.
The likelihood isn't zero, but the number is so small that it can be considered mathematically irrelevant and can be reduced to zero.
On the other hand, I can't deny the fact that I also wondered why Reina would go out of her way to commit suicide at the Junseiwa school.
"Your reasoning is all over the place, Kawai-san, but I do get your point. But let's be honest here: you arrived at this explanation because you can't believe Reina is dead, right?"
"Yes, I suppose."
"Why did you think Reina isn't dead? Did she tell you that she wouldn't die, or something?"
"..." Kawai-san seems to be at a loss for words at first. At last, she continues: "No. I simply noticed."
As I expected. Kawai-san has merely built a logic around her delusions.
However, the next thing she says rattles me.
"A former enemy of mine, who is also a subordinate of Reina-san's, was also aware of the fact that Reina-san isn't dead. Ironically, she is the one who pointed it out to me. After giving it some thought, I also realized that Reina-san can't be dead."
Kawai-san and I are not the only ones who came to that conclusion?
"Fine, fine! That's enough!" I shout, unable to suppress my irritation.
"...Excuse me. It might have been inappropriate to say these things to a relative of hers," Kawai-san says while hanging her head.
"Yeah, I've heard enough. In fact, you didn't even need to tell me. I was already certain of it."
At last, I admit it.
"Reina Kamisu is alive."
The likelihood is zero. And even when taking Reina's exceptionalness into account, the likelihood stays infinitely close to zero.
However, the very fact that Reina was born into this world is an even greater miracle. A miracle atop of a miracle is nothing to be surprised about. Both things have a 0 chance of occurring. They're absurd. If one impossible thing happens, then everything that occurs afterwards can be considered just as impossible and therefore there is no need to be surprised. No matter how many miracles occur, in the end it's just one miracle.
Reina told me figuratively that she would die. She did that, because it was the only way to express what was going to happen and what did happen.
In the end, she still has us all in her palm of her hand.
Reina is trying to achieve something by dying socially, by vanishing off the face of the earth. However, the question of her goal is far above me.
But there is one thing that I do know.
If things are going according to Reina's plan—then it's only a matter of time until everything falls into place.
I split up with my girlfriend after dating her for three months and ignored her when she asked why with tears in her eyes. I had learned from experience that it was no use trying to explain my reasons when splitting up with a girlfriend.
Why I ended our relationship?
Because I wasn't satisfied.
Because she didn't become mine.
She didn't truly look at me.
Most of my ex-girlfriends would then either deny it or flip out, saying that "it was my fault." That's why I decided to split up without making any excuses this time around. However, I've recently come to think that my ex-girlfriends may have been not so off the mark. After all, I'm indifferent to others, and they were no exception. In that case, the problem was clearly on my side.
I'm sure I realized that because I'm getting older.
Oh boy ... what a shame. She was my type in both looks and personality. She even loved a guy like me and never did things I didn't care for. Why did it have to end like this?
...Well, at least I got to bang her.
After I cut off my train of thought like this, I leave through the gate of my university, walk for a bit and catch myself a taxi. "To the Junseiwa school," I tell the driver, take out my cell phone and navigate to the newest entry in my address book.
She answered the phone after three rings.
"Hello, is that Reina-san's brother?"
I turn to the driver to inquire about the time until arrival and forward the answer to Kawai-san. She will be waiting at the gate for me.
After making the appointment, I hang up.
"Meeting up with your sweetheart?" the driver jests.
"No, I just split up with my girlfriend."
As I reply in a leisure manner, I notice that I have lost all interest in my ex-girlfriend.
Neither am I hurt, nor do I feel any guilt.
Looks like I didn't care about her after all.
Kawai-san was waiting at the gate as promised.
"Sorry for bothering you," I say, assuming that she had to come all the way here from home since it's almost 6 pm.
"It's okay. I live just around the corner."
"Ah, in the dorm?"
I look up at the school gate while talking with her. Mmm, quite impressive. As expected from a school for rich girls. Oh, look at that! They even installed surveillance cameras!
"...Is it safe for me to enter this campus?"
"I told our advisor that a relative of Reina Kamisu is coming. Besides, you should be fine if you stay together with me, even if word hasn't reached all teachers yet. I'll explain it to them if they ask."
I recall that she is the head of the student council and nod.
"Excellent. So, can you show me where Reina died?"
"Ah, let me correct myself. Show me where Reina 'scattered.'"
With these words, we enter the grounds of the Junseiwa school.
I'm now inside an all-girls school that only lets in girls and women. A secret flower garden of sorts—which is a very cheesy yet strangely suitable simile. Reina has indeed secretly sown flowers here, and they are budding soon.
I must find out what they are.
Because that is probably the reason why Reina had that conversation with me three days before she scattered.
The dark red school building did indeed look magnificent from the outside, but once I entered, it was no much different from the high school I attended, though a great deal more luxurious. Well, granted, while the high school I went to was not as high-class as the Junseiwa school, it was by no means a cheap one. It was the kind of school that would take its students abroad for the school excursion, so my opinion may be a little biased.
There is something distinctly different, though: it's not the architecture, but the students. Their (visual) quality is far higher than what I'm used to for starters, but there is also something different in the way they greet each other whenever Kawai-san walks into a fellow student. The students that pass us may give me curious looks, but they don't ask any questions. I don't know whether that is because of their composed nature or because I'm with Kawai-san.
The rooftop almost looks like a sidewalk café with the fashionable tables and chairs that have been installed there. Because of what happened to Reina, I assume, nobody is using it at the moment. The fence around the area has been built rather high due to the many visitors this place has; it's impossible to fall from the rooftop by accident, unless the fence happens to be damaged.
I look down through the fence and find the white outlines of a person.
"...This is where Reina fell?"
"Where she is said to have fallen," Kawai-san corrects.
There are four floors below us. When adding the 2 meters of the fence, this makes about 20 meters.
"But not high enough to commit certain suicide. Also, it's possible to get caught up in the tree over there."
Unable to get my point, Kawai-san cocks her head.
Suicide. If Reina genuinely planned to commit suicide, then she would not choose a place like this per se. She would choose a place that offers certain death and does not bother anyone. Jumping to death requires courage—it makes no sense to increase the difficulty by choosing this building.
Or did she perhaps want somebody to notice her and step in? Did she feel special about this school? ... No, I doubt Reina is a person who thinks like that.
There is thus every indication that there is a meaning in her decision to scatter here.
And it might be found in—
—the way she made everyone believe that she is dead.
I look around and then again at the white outlines.
"...But I'm fairly sure that there was an actual corpse," I claim as I keep my gaze fixed on the chalk outline.
"I wasn't there, so I can't say anything."
"Even if the people who said that Reina jumped off the rooftop are liars, it should be safe to assume that there was a body."
"Just one more thing: Am I right my assumption that the pathway the chalk outline is drawn on is not unused?"
"I suppose so. Not that frequently, but people do use it."
"See? If everything were a lie and there were no body, then the people using the passage would become suspicious. The liars can't do anything about that."
"Reina-san might have jumped when no one was down there ... I mean ... they could say that."
"That's a good point, but keep in mind that this rooftop is visible from many places. See the windows in the other school building? That means that somebody might show up who can testify that nobody has jumped down from here at that time."
"Maybe there is somebody like that, but she is just keeping it to herself?"
"Even though it's about the death of Reina Kamisu, the 'absolute rule' here?"
I was sure that Kawai-san would be at a loss for words, but her response was swift:
"You are right. It might be safe to think that there was a corpse or something to the same effect."
She admitted it just so.
This is a strange feeling. I feel like I am trying to beat clouds with a bat, like this discussion has no substance whatsoever. Kawai-san is only passively listening to my opinion.
That's odd. She is supposed to be just as interested in Reina's death as I am, but then why does she not reason together with me? There's no way she doesn't care—
—No, perhaps she really doesn't care.
Kawai-san does not assume that Reina is alive. Kawai-san is certain that Reina is alive.
Reina's death is nothing but a silly lie to her.
My opinion is therefore of no interest to her. I can say what I want, she has made up her mind.
My opinion doesn't matter.
"...Kawai-san. You are convinced that Reina is alive, right?"
"Yes," she nods without hesitation.
"I'm here to find proof for that, but your conviction will not change either way. Is that correct?"
"Then why did you lead me here today? Why did you put yourself to this bother?
Kawai-san replies as if it's nothing: "How could I say no when you're Reina's brother?"
So that's what it boils down to.
That's all there is.
I'm just an extra.
All that is ever asked of me is to be Reina's extra.
She is not looking at me.
She is not looking at me, either.
"...Let me ask you a question: If Reina killed someone or had someone killed in order to feign her death, would you still admire her?"
Even though it's a question that should leave her speechless, Kawai-san doesn't require a second of thought:
"Of course!" she instantly replies. "Did I forget to mention it? Reina-san was absolute to us. Things like—"
Sensing that I'm irritated, she falls silent and gives me a suspicious look.
No, that look isn't for me. It's for Reina Kamisu's brother. She is looking right through me, at Reina Kamisu.
This makes me sick.
This. Makes. Me. Sick.
"We're done here," I say and walk toward the exit without looking at her.
"...Is something wrong...?"
While hearing these slightly worried words behind me, I enter the school building. Kawai-san follows me, though a bit nervously, as I walk down the stairs, get back into my shoes and leave the school building. I then walk to the chalk outline-
Why do I let it get to my head so easily? Haven't I gotten used to it by now? With Reina beside me, everyone looks only at her and ignores me. It's always been like this. Father, mother, Sakairi-san, the other house keepers, my teachers, my friends, my lovers ... they do not see me. They only see the Reina Kamisu behind me. They only see Reina Kamisu, the impersonation of absolute beauty. The faint light that I am disappears amidst the dazzling, huge light that she is. Oh, haven't I gotten used it? What is there to be sour about? Nothing has changed. The only thing that changed is that—
"...What's wrong?" Kawai-san asks. "Did I offend you?"
"—Reina's not here anymore."
"No more ... Reina is no more, and yet, nobody sees me...?"
We arrive at the chalk outline.
Welcome to the magic show! Hop inside the line and you will disappear! One, two, three, and Reina is gone! And even though she is gone, even though she has disappeared socially and physically, we are still occupied with her.
I've finally found the answer.
Why do I believe that Reina's alive?
Of course, part of the reason has to do with that conversation we had. But that's not all. Another significant reason—the real one—is that nothing has changed around me. Everyone is still exclusively looking at Reina. Nobody is looking at me still. Because of that, I'm unable to feel losing Reina.
Everyone is looking at a void, claiming it's Reina, and ignoring me. Even though I'm the one who's still alive.
Everyone leaves me alone.
I see ... We are much alike, Reina and I.
We are truly brother and sister. Kindred spirits.
I was alone. Nobody saw me because of Reina. With someone far more valuable by my side, nobody saw my value.
But Reina was just as alone. We did not see Reina. We only saw her value.
As a result, Reina and I lost interest in our blind social environment and with it our sympathy.
That's why we only associated with others superficially.
We're truly alike.
However, I tried to resist. I dated girls, made friends and enrolled at a shitty university, in the hope that somebody would understand me. Even now.
But Reina took another path. She created a personality that was perfect enough to leave no room for others to approach her, and distanced herself from us.
Why did Reina disappear?
It's as simple as it gets.
Reina dissociated herself even more from us.
That's why—Reina scattered.
"Can you step inside that chalk line?"
"If ... you insist...?"
There's nothing special about this patch of earth. There's no land mine hidden underneath. The white line simply signifies that a human person died here. There aren't even any traces of blood left. If not for the outline, people would walk over it without a second thought.
However, right now you can't do it without any instinctive scruples.
Reina had drawn a line, too. A line she wanted us to respect and keep out from. It was nothing more than a mark that people could easily cross like this chalk outline here, but she did signalize that she didn't want us to.
Reina was admired by everyone, but she was not loved by anyone.
And I'm sure that's what she wanted.
This girl here, Sakura Kawai, however, is clearly crossing that line. She is clearly crossing the no entry line Reina has drawn. She, and the whole rest of her bunch. They defiled Reina's sanctuary and left behind countless footprints.
—I don't think Reina would forgive that.
"I don't know what Reina wanted to achieve by scattering, but I do know the cause."
This time, my words manage to make her eyes widen.
"What is it...?"
"The cause is—"
—Why did Reina have to commit suicide at this school of all places?
"—you and your friends."
Misfortunes never come singly.
Somebody might fail his entrance exam. That's the first misfortune, but the chain goes one.
After he fails his exam, he might find himself disillusioned with his skills. He loses hope in himself. He becomes depressive. That in turn makes him unappealing and causes his girlfriend to dump him. He starts to think that nobody likes him, and as a result, it becomes the truth. He loses hope in everyone. He despairs. He wants to vanish. He begins to think about dying. He decides to commit suicide. He jumps into a rolling train and dies. And that's it. Bad end. The story is over.
But the misfortune goes on. The chain has not been broken.
The station staff who had to tidy the place of the human shreds might not be able to bear up with the repulsion and quit his job. If he loses his income, he might get into conflict with his family and end up divorcing. A passenger might suffer trauma from witnessing the gruesome scene of blood and guts getting flung through the air. He might not be able to eat his loved meat anymore. The family of the victim might plunge into debts because they can't come up with the money for the damages. They might end up hanging themselves in fear of the violent debt-collectors. And the chain of misfortune continues in some way for them.
Like this, a misfortune spawns another one. Because unlike fiction, reality does not end. It's an endless misfortune.
Likewise, Reina's scattering is not the end.
The misfortune Reina created goes on.
"Go to my room when the time comes."
Quite frankly, I had no clue what "time" she was talking about. I actually went there when she died, thinking it might be the "time", and a few times after that.
However, whenever I went there, I found nothing of import and had to leave empty-handed.
But now I'm certain.
The "time" is now.
It's now that Sakura Kawai and her friends jumped to death.
I open the door to Reina's room. The setting sun is shining through the window, dyeing the simple and somewhat lifeless room in the colors of twilight.
Yeah, I was right. The time is now.
As I look at the most lifeless thing in this lifeless room, I open my mouth to speak up:
"It is a pleasure to see you again, Ryoji-san," she smile beautifully.
Reina is standing in front of the window and leaning against the frame. Illuminated by the setting sun, she does not only look stunningly beautiful, but also turns her onlookers contemplative like a magnificent painting. Aah ... I can't shake off these thoughts even though I know it is what drove her away.
"You're ... alive?"
I'm hardly surprised.
Even after I noticed why she didn't feel dead to me, I found myself unable to believe her death.
Yes, from a realistic viewpoint someone was burnt to ashes and these ashes can't belong to anyone else but Reina, but it is Reina we are talking about.
I did find out why she wanted to distance herself from us, but I didn't find out why she would commit suicide. As a result, I still considered it possible that she was alive.
"Yes, I am alive. Although perhaps only metaphorically," Reina answers with a smile.
I now understand the meaning behind her words.
I take a deep breath and inquire: "Reina ... was it you?"
Reina gives no answer and keeps smiling.
"Did Kawai-san and the others become an annoyance to you?"
"Why, not at all."
Well, is she telling the truth? Or has Reina lost the ability to discern between what's true and what's for show after wearing a mask for so long?
However, it's apparent that Reina was involved in their suicide, be it directly or indirectly. It was her will.
I have no means of telling what is going on in Reina's head. More precisely, not once in my entire life have I ever understood her. Her goal is incomprehensible to a commoner like me.
There is only one fact I know:
Reina killed Kawai-san and her group.
But what about me? What happens to me? I'm also one of Reina's marionettes, just like Kawai-san, and it's clear at which occasion she programmed me.
"Tell me, Reina, why did you talk to me about your death?"
"...Are you sure that you want to know?"
Reina peers into my eyes.
"Your eyes have changed a little, Ryoji-san."
"...You think so?"
"Yes ... I think I can tell you now. I wanted you to become aware, Ryoji-san."
"Aware of what?"
"Of yourself. Of your own value."
"Of my own value...?"
I don't understand. Well, I do understand what she means, but I don't get why Reina would care.
"Hey, I know what I'm worth. I will have no success and I will not be of use to anyone, just like a wayside stone," I say with conviction, but Reina shakes her head.
"You were so unfortunate as to be rated in comparison to me. My value was of a far too apparent kind. The comparison between us must have deranged your sense of self-worth."
"That would happen to anyone in this position, Reina."
"Then why did you not simply stop comparing yourself with me?"
I falter for a moment but then counter, "I would've done that if possible. But as a matter of fact, you were there and the comparison was unavoidable. I was always in the position to be compared with you and you were always twice as good as me. In anyone's eyes. And so nobody cared about me. Nobody looked at me. And I stopped caring about others. All that was inevitable with you as my sister."
"Yes, even ... now—"
Even now that Reina is no longer here?
"...Wait, we're digressing! I didn't ask about myself, but about the reason why you approached me!"
"No, we are not digressing, Ryoji-san. What did you do after I told you about my death?"
"What I did? Well, I pondered about the meaning of your words and started to have doubts in your death."
"And then you discovered that our conversation was not the only reason to harbor doubts, therefore you started investigating?"
"And then you noticed that everyone is still occupied with me even though I have vanished, which in turn led you to the answer to why you were really doubting my death."
Reina's words are so spot-on that I'm left speechless.
"And you are starting to realize that you do not need to feel alone anymore, now that I am gone."
"No, that's not true ... everyone is still only looking at you!"
"But it is a void they are looking at."
"And the one who is peering into this void harder than anyone is no one else but you, Ryoji-san."
"...What?" I ask in response to her unexpected statement with my glance fixed upon her.
However, Reina does naturally not answer my glance.
Reina is smiling.
"If I had not approached you before my death, you would have never even thought about stopping to concern yourself with me."
I always thought that nobody was looking at me. That all the attention I was supposed to get waS sucked toward Reina like by a black hole. That nobody knew me. That I was just there.
But Reina is saying that the same applied to myself.
She is saying that my attention was sucked toward her as well.
She is saying that not even I saw myself.
Is Reina Kamisu really dead? I used to think, and I noticed that the reason for these doubts was to be found in that conversation and the lack of change in my environment.
But is that really all?
Probably not. I was probably scared.
Scared that my environment might not change even after Reina's disappearance—no, I was scared that my environment might still feel to me as though it had not changed after Reina's disappearance.
If Reina was still alive somewhere, then there was nothing strange about feeling that nothing had changed. Everything was the same. Of course, people would still not look at me.
Because of that, Reina had to be still alive.
And that's how I disregarded myself.
"—I am afraid that it is time to say goodbye," Reina says with a smile after waiting for me to arrive at the conclusion.
"Where are you going, Reina...?"
Reina just keeps smiling.
I will never see her again. Of that I'm sure.
My loneliness will be fading from now on.
Reina, however, will stay alone.
"...Reina," I say as I gaze at her. But still, she doesn't answer my look. She gazes elsewhere, somewhere far away yet nowhere.
—And here she scatters.
I blinked my eyes, and a moment later, Reina was gone.
How? I don't know. Reina disappeared. She scattered. She is not here anymore.
Reina is no longer in this twilit room.
At last, I discovered myself.
Finally, I obtained the ability to associate with others.
And so I let something out that I had held in for a long time.
I cried for Reina.
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