1 day earlier, the morning after Nori’s death
Yuki was awakened by the loud beeping of her alarm clock. She gasped and her eyes flew open. It was a dream. It was just a dream. Her dad was gone. She was not in the Bad House. She was in the house of the good people, her “other parents” as she called them. She was safe. She got out from under the covers and took off her pajamas. They were drenched with sweat, as were her sheets. After she’d showered and changed into her school uniform with a long-sleeve shirt underneath, she went down to the kitchen to eat breakfast. The smells coming from the kitchen were heavenly. The Other Mommy was making bacon today. Her actual name was Aoi-san, but Other Mother just fit her better. After all, that’s what she was to Yuki, had been for the past three years. She continued to relish the smell of cooking bacon as she entered the kitchen. She’d never smelled anything like this at her old house. Her old house had always smelled like stale cigarette smoke and beer and unwashed bodies. She pushed the memory away. That was then. She’d escaped that. No need to keep reminding herself of it. Still… there were some memories you can never forget, some experiences you will never get over.
“Good morning dear” said the other mother, the affection in her voice making a happy bubble grow inside Yuki’s chest.
“Good morning” she said, unable to contain the smile spreading across her face. “It smells amazing. What is it?” Of course, Yuki already knew what it was (Omurice with bacon on the side), but she wanted to hear her other mother say it.
“It’s your favorite: Omurice with crispy bacon on the side. Eat up. You need to leave in 15 minutes.” Yuki’s smile became even wider. “Itadakimasu!”
As Yuki left for school, the depression started to come back. She was mad at herself for being so happy about Aoi-san cooking for her. She knew that she was a burden, just another thing in the house that needed to be dealt with. The only reason she said otherwise was to avoid hurting Yuki’s feelings. But she couldn’t trick Yuki. No matter what she said, what reasons she gave, she’d never fool Yuki into thinking she really wanted her. Yuki bent her head and stared at the ground, thinking of all the times she’d been a burden, an inconvenience, a problem. Yes, Aoi-san would be better off without her. Were Yuki to die, more than grief Aoi would probably just feel a sense of relief. Maybe she should just…
“Yuki!” She looked up. She knew that voice. It was the voice of a boy who brought both happiness and indescribable pain. Rin was standing at the corner, waiting for her the way he did almost every day. He was smiling and waving to her. Yuki could feel her heart beat a little faster, could feel her spirits rise a little higher. She loved him. She was sure of that at this point. After four years of knowing him, she was now certain of her feelings. She’d do anything for him. It was because of him she’d dyed her hair purple. She’d overheard him telling Sakura how he wanted her to dye her hair. Rin was like the sun, bringing light into her otherwise dark world.
“Good morning Rin.” She smiled at him, although the smile was tired and looked a little forced.
“Good morning Yuki.”
They walked to school together, just like every day. To outsiders, they probably looked like two close friends. That was how Rin saw them too. Yuki could never admit her feelings to him. After all, he was already dating Sakura. And besides, a boy named Nori wanted to meet her after school to talk about something. Even Yuki knew what that meant. So they continued walking, nothing more than two close friends enjoying their walk to school together. Nothing more, and nothing less.
Rin stopped so suddenly, Yuki walked right past him. She turned to face him.
“What’s wrong”, she asked.
“Your arm.” Yuki glanced down. Her smile, which had become an expression of legitimate happiness at this point, died. Despair began to close in, crushing the small amount of said happiness she’d managed this morning. The sleeve of her long-sleeved shirt had gotten pushed up a little bit revealing several long cuts.
“You did it again?” he asked. Now his smile was gone too. She hesitated and then looked away and pulled her sleeve up all the way. A lattice of scars covered her entire lower arm, crisscrossing again and again, creating a crude, diamond-like pattern all along the length of her arm before leveling off at her wrist. It was almost beautiful, like a work of art carved into the flesh of the artist. There were half-healed wounds on her wrist where she’d cut them last night, as well as four more, slightly deeper cuts just above her elbow. These too looked recent. Ashamed, Yuki averted her eyes. Looking at Rin right now required more courage than she possessed.
Rin had found out about her cutting a few days ago. She was sure he would get mad at her or tease her like everybody else. But he didn’t. He didn’t judge her like other people did, which was one of the many reasons she loved him so. However, that didn’t change the shame she felt when other people saw what she did to herself.
He sighed. “Yuki, you said you’d stop.”
“I know…” She said. She wanted to curl up and die right there on the sidewalk. “I’m trying to but it’s just…”
“I know. I’m trying, I really am.” Curling up was seeming more and more attractive.
“I’m fucking trying!” she shouted. She felt a burning sensation in her eyes. She shouldn’t have shouted at Rin. He’d done nothing wrong. Now he would hate her for sure…
Rin stepped forward and wrapped his arms around her, drawing her into a tight embrace.
“I know.” He said. She heard his voice shake ever so slightly. “I know. I wish I could say I knew how hard it was, but I don’t. I can’t tell you I understand, because I don’t. And I can’t do anything to make you stop. All I can do is support you and encourage you and offer comfort when you need it, but it’s up to you to help yourself. I can’t do this for you; this is your decision to make, and yours alone. So please. Don’t give up.” He was really crying now.
He went on.
“Sometimes, there are things you just can’t carry on your own, emotions that refuse to be buried. Pain and sadness, guilt and shame, all of these are examples of what I’m talking about. Hiding your pain only makes it hurt more when you need to finally face it. And I think you know that. And I think that’s the reason you’re cutting yourself like this. You think it makes the pain hurt less, and in a way that’s true. It’s how you have learned to deal with all the hurt you’ve experienced; it makes you feel better. But it isn’t a good way to deal with things. All you’re doing is making yourself suffer more. It’s at times like these that you need to rely on other people.” He stopped and took a deep breath and continued.
“When my mother died, I seriously considered killing myself. I had said some terrible things to her before she died. I told her I hated her, that I wished she wasn’t my mother. I told her I would be happy if she died.” Yuki’s eyes widened. This was the first time she’d heard this story.
“I never was never able to apologize to her. She was murdered before I got the chance to. The hurt look in her eyes was the last thing I saw of her. The hurtful words I flung at her were the last things she heard from me.
“Sometimes I wonder if there’s such a thing as a second life, a life after death. If there’s a place where people’s souls go once the body is dead, and if my mom made her way there. And if, by the grace of God, I manage to get there, will she be waiting for me? Will I be blessed have another chance?”
“Rin…” It was beyond a whisper, almost nothing more than an exhalation of air. He continued.
“After her death, I became deeply depressed. I managed to convince myself that people would be happy if I died. And so I decided to kill myself. It wasn’t until Nori found out that I realized I’d be missed. He told me that he wouldn’t know what to do if I died, that I was the only friend he really, truly cared about. I’d been so completely obsessed with myself that I hadn’t thought at all about how my actions could affect the other people around me. Nori was the one who helped me out of my depression. He gave me a reason to live.
“The point of this story is to tell you that you need to find someone you can talk to. Find a person you trust enough to tell them about what it is that’s hurting so much. I’m not asking you to tell me. If you’re not comfortable telling me, then don’t. But find someone. Talking about it almost always makes you feel better. But whatever you do, please don’t hurt yourself. It doesn’t just hurt you. By hurting yourself, you’re hurting everyone who loves you. Cutting yourself might make you feel better, but it hurts everyone else. Do you understand what I’m trying to say?” Yuki nodded and said, “Yes, I do. Thank you, Rin.”
He let her go and smiled. She relaxed. His smile always made her feel better.
“We better get going.” He said, “or else we’ll be late”. Yuki nodded gave him one last hug before they started walking again.
They barely managed to make it in time for homeroom. Rin sat down in his usual seat: second to the back next to the window. Yuki slid into the desk behind him. Rin looked at the empty seat next to his. That’s where Nori used to sit.
Midway through class, the announcement came calling Takashi Yamada down to the office. Other than that, class proceeded as usual. No mention of the dead kids. No questions about why we were five students short. It was as if people didn’t notice the empty desks where their classmates used to sit. The bell rang and classes changed. Everything was the same as usual. Except it wasn’t. There was an atmosphere in the room that Rin couldn’t quite describe. People were quieter, more serious. They still socialized with friends, but it was more subdued than usual. Maybe it was just Rin’s imagination. Maybe he was just perceiving it this way, and everyone really was just acting normally.
When the lunch bell rang, Sakura came and sat next to him. She opened her lunch and handed him one of her onigiri.
“Here, eat this. You can’t stop eating just because some kids died.” Rin smiled at her and gratefully took the food from her. She was trying to cheer him up in her own way despite her rather blunt choice of words. “Come one, let’s go to the roof.” She smiled at him.
She sat next to him while he ate, her head resting against his shoulder. Rin felt a little better. Sakura had that effect on him. Whenever he was sad or unhappy, just her presence next to him was enough to cheer him up. Her eyes were closed her face peaceful, as though sleeping.
“You know where Nori is, don’t you?” Rin was silent for a moment before answering.
“Yes, I do.”
“Oh.” She didn’t act surprised.
“He was supposed to confess to Yuki after school today. He was looking forward to it so much. But now he’s dead.” Rin didn’t cry. He’d run out of tears. All that was left was hollowness.
“Mmmm.” Sakura moved to put her arms around him. “I’m sorry. I’m not… I don’t know what to say.” She hugged him, snuggling her face into the side of his neck.
“There’s nothing to say. No words can bring him back. No matter what you say, no matter what anyone says, he will never again be anything more than a bittersweet memory, preserved in the minds of those who loved him.”
“Shouldn’t you tell Yuki?” She asks.
“I can’t bring myself to do it. She’s so fragile. I don’t want to hurt her.”
“Don’t you think it would hurt her even more when she goes to wait for Nori and he never shows up? She’ll find out eventually. Better to hear it from you.”
“She really likes you. It’d be better for her to hear it from you.”
“But she’ll still be hurt by it.”
“That’s okay. It’s okay to be sad when your friend dies. It shows how much you cared about them. I think that if having them die doesn’t make you sad, then you never really liked them in the first place. If someone dies and you don’t shed a tear, what do you think that says about your relationship?”’
“I don’t know.”
“Yes you do. You’re just trying to avoid the question.”
Rin smiled. “You can always see right through me. I suppose you’re right. I do know. It says you didn’t care about that person.”
“Exactly. Yuki will be hurt no matter what because she cared about Nori. As her friend, it’s your job to help her through the grief and to try to lessen that hurt. That’s why you need to be the one to tell her. Okay?”
“I love you.”
Takashi Yamada was a model student. He got good grades; he paid attention in class, and always turned in his homework on time. If a test were coming up, he’d study until he knew everything by heart. He’d never gotten below a 95% throughout all of high school. All the teachers loved him and praised him as being one of the best students they’d ever had the pleasure of teaching in all their years at Chikako High. He’d never gotten a detention or broken a rule. Which was why he wasn’t at all worried when his name had been called over the intercom. He thought that one of the teachers probably had a request for him. Maybe he’d forgotten something at home and his father had come to drop it off (although this hadn’t happened in a long time, Yamada was never one to rule out any possibilities). This was also why he was surprised to see a police officer waiting for him in the office with a grim look on his face.
“Are you Yamada-san?” He asked. His voice was low and gruff, like the voice of the hardened detectives from movies and anime.
“Yes.” Rikka Ikari, who had so kindly escorted him down here, answered for him.
“Ikari. Rikka Ikari.”
“Okay then. Ikari-san, you may return to class. Yamada-san, come with me. I need to talk to you alone.” Yamada felt a faint flicker of fear inside his stomach. Surely he wasn’t in trouble. He couldn’t be in trouble. He was perfect. The police officer led him into an unused room, closed the door, and locked it.
“Good morning Yamada-san. I am Inspector Hiroshitsu from the police. We’d like to ask you a few questions…”
Yuki was out the door as soon as the bell rang. She must be really excited thought Rin. He felt awful for not telling her about Nori yet, but he just hadn’t had the time. He managed to catch up with her at her shoe locker. “Yuki!” He had to shout in order to be heard over the indistinct rumbling of 600 high school students all talking at once. She looked up.
“Oh, Rin. Hey, I wanted to ask you. Have you seen Nori? I didn’t see him at all today during school.”
“Nori’s dead,” He said bluntly. He’d been thinking all day and decided that it was best to just tell her outright. He could explain later.
“What?” Disbelief and confusion were written all over her face. “Rin what are you…”
“Come with me. I’ll explain it, but I don’t think right here is the best spot. He grabbed a hold of her hand so he wouldn’t lose her in the crowd of people all trying to get home, or go to clubs, or whatever else they were doing after school.
They wove through the crowd, finally managing to get outside. Rin took her behind the school so nobody would hear them.
“Sorry,” he said. “I just didn’t want to talk about it in front of the whole school” She nodded
“I understand. So tell me, what on earth were you talking about back there?”
“Nori is dead. He was murdered yesterday after school along with four other students.” He was surprised by how easily the words were coming now that he was finally talking to her.
“But… I… oh my god…” She was at a loss for words. Wow, this is turning out exactly the opposite of how I imagined it.
“Rin, that’s terrible. I’m not sure what to say.” She had wrapped her arms around herself as though she was cold and leaned against the wall, shaking.
“That’s okay.” Rin realized as he was saying it that he and Sakura had had almost the exact same conversation on the room just a few hours earlier.
“I’m so sorry Rin.”
“Don't’ apologize. It isn’t your fault.”
“I know, but still…”
“I want to tell you something in his place. The reason he called you out here today.
“Wasn’t it to confess to me?”
“Yes, but there are things he told me that I think you should know.”
“What are they?”
“He told me that you were the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. He said that the moment he saw you he knew that you were the one he wanted to spend his life with. He said that the time he spent with you were the best moments of his life. When you agreed to meet with him today, he immediately came to me to tell me how happy he was. You were his whole world. He loved you so much. Anyways, I thought I should tell you.” Yuki’s eyes were shining. At that moment, Rin could see it: he saw the beauty that Nori had described. The wide, a deep blue with flecks of lighter color, shining with tears. The short, purple hair blowing in the slight breeze. It perfectly complemented her eyes. Long, thin fingers extended from beautifully shaped hands. Her breasts were big enough to be noticeable, but small enough to fit her tiny body. Her skin looked smooth and babyish. It was as though he was suddenly seeing her through the eyes of his best friend, seeing her the way he saw her, and it made him feel even more sad. How had he not noticed before the natural beauty this girl possessed? And why was it that she, of all people, had to be so broken.
“God…” She whispered. Rin held his arms and she immediately fell into them, burying her face into his shirt and weeping.
“I had no idea that there was someone out there who loved me that much.” She said. Rin looked down at her and stroked her hair.
“What do you mean?” he asked. “Your parents love you don’t they.” Yuki shook her head.
“My parents were killed when I was little. I’ve never had someone love me before. I didn’t know anyone could love me. Even the people I live with now only keep me out of pity. They only took me in because I they knew I had nowhere else to go.” She squeezed him tighter, taking a deep, shaky breath and continued. “I’ve never been a very likeable person. Back at my old school the other kids were constantly picking on me. Everybody hated me. I made a few friends, but they didn’t really like me, and left me before the school year even ended. I did have one friend but… but I killed her. I was all alone after that. The people who had claimed to be my friends left me. But then I met you. You’re the first real friend I’d had in years.” Rin was shocked. This was the most Yuki had ever told him about her past.
“Rin please, promise me you’ll never leave me. Please. Don’t ever, ever go.”
“Don’t worry,” he said. “I promise I will never, ever leave you.” She pulled away from him and smiled.
Yamada looked around the dimly lit makeshift investigation room. Blinds covered the windows and only one of the ceiling lights were turned on. Two folding tables made up the investigation table, with one recorder centered in the middle. The air conditioning in the room was intense, making Yamada shiver. He wished he’d brought his jacket with him. The look on the officer’s face unwelcoming. Sitting at the table was a woman wearing a white button-up shirt with a grey blazer and a grey skirt. Her long, white hair fell almost all the way to her hips and was brushed back behind her ears. She looked young, although her face was already getting lines on it. His father was also sitting at the table. The look on his face made Yamada want to curl up and die. He’d never seen his father look at him that way before.
It was a look of disgust and disappointment.
“Yamada-san?” the white haired lady asked.
“Please, have a seat.”
Hesitantly, Yamada walked to one of the metal folding chairs across from the white haired lady and sat down. He sat straight up, nervously twiddling his fingers under the table. Two cops stood behind the white haired lady, staring at him menacingly, as if they thought he’d done something bad. The white haired lady leaned forward and turned on the recorder.
“May 9, 2012. I am detective Koharu Sasaki. I’m just gonna go straight to the point as not to waste your father’s time. Surely you must have heard about the killings that happened yesterday?”
Yamada glanced hesitantly at his father for maybe some hope, or an affirmation that he didn't do anything wrong, but his father looked at him with that same soul-shattering stare. Maybe they just want to ask a few questions. They were my classmates. I'm safe, I did nothing wrong. Stay positive!
He took a deep breath and replied “Yes, I did.” Koharu looked back at one of the officers and said, "I want you to write this down too." The officer took out a notepad from his chest pocket and clicked a pen. Koharu looked back at Yamada and continued her questioning. "You knew these victims, yes?"
"Yes I did," he thought about it for a moment, then changed his mind. "Well, not really," he said, "I mean, they were in my class, but I didn’t speak with them. There wasn’t really any need to. All I knew was a name to a face, that's all." He began to feel the nervousness leave him. They just wanted to know about the students, he thought. I'm not in trouble.
"Oh?" Koharu said with faked surprise in her voice, "is that so? It just so happens that I have already spoken to your principal and a classmate of yours, Aika Ito."
"Aika? What does she know about me? I’ve never said more than two words to her.”
His father rubbed his forehead, frustrated. "Yamada-san," he said in forced patience, "don't lie to these people. They know everything.”
Takashi was confused. "I'm sorry, but what is it exactly that you know?"
Koharu looked at him, again, in mocked surprise. She's making fun of me, he thought. She leaned back in the chair and said "I know you and Hiroko have a ‘not so good’ history in the past. I know she and several other classmates have been bullying you for the past year. That would create a fair amount of bad feeling between you two, would it not?”
"Okay, yes, she's bullied me," Yamada admitted, the nervousness returning to his voice, "but it wasn't just me. She's bullied Aika and Kaiyo. Hell, she bullied everyone. She’s famous. Why does it matter that I was included in the list of victims?" Yamada's father covered his face in frustration.
Koharu turned to look at an officer. "Bring them in," she said. The officer nodded and left the room. She then reached in her bag and pulled out a folder, opened it and handed Yamada a piece of paper from it. "This is a witness statement written by Aika saying that you have made threats against Hiroko, how you've wanted to kill her, even if it meant at school. Your principal, Mr. Miyagi has also told us that he has heard you say a great deal of… unpleasant things to her.”
"Wait, are you saying I’m a suspect?"
"We are simply considering the possibility.” She smiled. That’s the same as a yes.
His father was losing patience. "Son, just tell her what she wants to know." He wants me to confess. My own father is asking me to confess to a crime I didn’t commit.
"Okay, look. I didn’t do anything. I have good grades, I turn my homework on time, and my teachers speak nothing but praise for me. I didn't do this, I swear."
Just then, the door opened and Aika and Mr. Miyagi entered, led by another officer. Aika, what are you doing?
Koharu turned to look at them. "Oh, good, I'm glad you're here. Aika, can you tell me again what you told me earlier?" Her voice, hard and cold as stone when she was talking to him, suddenly became much more gentle.
Aika looked at the ground, her hands behind her back, shifting nervously from foot to foot. "Well," she said nervously, not looking at Yamada, "I was leaving to go home after exams when I heard screaming from one of the classrooms. I walked over and..." She took a deep breath, "... And I saw Yamada torturing Hiroko. It was awful. Nori and Ichirou were there too, as well as Hiroko's friends, but when I got there, the others were already butchered to pieces by this... this... Psychopath! Why, Yamada? Why would you do something so awful!" Aika screamed at him burst into tears and Mr. Miyagi wrapped his arms around her. “Calm down Aika, everything is going to be okay.
“mmm” she nodded, her face buried in his chest.
Mr. Miyagi looked up. “The security cameras seemed to have been tampered with during the time that these students were murdered. We have no footage of what happened there, unfortunately.” He looked at Yamada. “I do happen to know someone who is very good with electronics and would have no trouble at all disabling the security systems, should they feel it was necessary.”
Yamada looked at him in disbelief. “Me?”
“But…” Yamada couldn’t believe his ears. He was being accused of not only murder, but of tampering with the school security system.
"Thank you both," Koharu said. "Aika, would you be willing to testify against Yamada-san?"
"Yes," she said amidst all the tears.
"Thank you," Koharu said, "you are free to go." As Aika and Mr. Miyagi left, she turned to Yamada. "So let me go over the full story. You hated Hiroko and her friends for bullying you and you wanted to exact your revenge. In doing so, you killed her and her friends. You can't deny this, we found your bag at the crime scene, and we have two people willing to testify against you." She stood up and began pacing. "And then there was poor Nori. You were jealous of Rin. Everyone in the SCHOOL knows that. You’re always trying to best him, but you never can. So what better way to get him back then to kill his best friend. You even left the body intact, unlike the others. I’m going to take a wild guess and say that you did this so that there would be no doubt in his mind that it was indeed his friend Nori. Ichirou saw the whole thing, so you killed him so there was no witness. It's lucky Aika got out of there alive." She turned back to Yamada. "I'll ask you again, and I want the truth. Did you kill those kids?"
"No!" I did nothing wrong!"
His father lost his patience. He stood up and slammed his fist on the table. "GODDAMN IT, YAMADA," he bellowed, "TELL HER WHAT SHE WANTS TO KNOW!"
No, no, no, no, I made father angry!! Tears were streaming down his face. He stood up and backed away. "Please father, I'm sorry! I didn't mean to make you angry! Please, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to do anything bad! I'm sorry, father! Forgive me!"
Koharu leaned in and whispered to the officer who had brought in Aika and Miyagi and whispered “We’re not going to get anything else out of him today.” The officer nodded. They got the other officers and left, leaving Yamada’s father to deal with his son.
Aika’s sister was waiting for her outside the school to pick her up. After Yamada’s questioning, she had been given permission to leave school early due to the amount of emotional stress she must have been experiencing. Aika had, in fact, been experiencing no such stress, but felt that the opportunity to go home early was worth pretending. The teachers suspected nothing; her acting skills were better than almost everybody else in the school. Only one person was better than her. Aika opened the car door and slid in beside her sister.
“So, how’d it go?” she asked.
“Okay.” replied Aika. “It was hard, but I got through. I just hope they send that monster to jail before he can hurt anybody else.” Aika’s sister nodded.
“Yup. I totally agree. To think a psycho like that actually exists…” They drive the rest of the way back home in silence, Aika looking out the window at the houses passing one by one, her sister staring absentmindedly at the road, only half paying attention, not really interested in anything at all, lost inside her head. At times like this she sometimes liked to make up stories. She and her sister were on a long car ride, a car ride that was going to take them far, far away from this place, so some magical land where nothing bad ever happened. One where she was free from her mother.
Her sister pulled into the driveway and turned off the car. Aika was pulled out of her fantasy, back to real life. Opening her door, she got out of the car and followed her sister into the house. As she began to climb the stairs up to her room, she heard her sister’s voice call up to her.
“Aika. I’m going to start on dinner. Do you want me to call you down when it’s ready?”
“Yes.” replied Aika and continued her journey up the stairs to her bedroom, lost in thought. Of course, from the beginning she’d been sure that Yamada hadn’t been the one who had killed those people. There was no way that stuck up prick could bring himself to kill anyone. The police probably knew that too and just wanted it to look like they were taking action. They had no leads at all yet other than the testimony of a distressed Rin. The odds of her being suspected were low, but she knew that, given time, it would eventually happen. After all, she hadn’t been home at the time the murders were committed, and she didn’t doubt that they police would rule out anybody, even the students. It wasn’t exactly a secret she despised Hiroko. Better to pass the blame onto somebody else. Aika flopped down on her bed to wait for her sister to have dinner ready, her mind still on the murders. She was curious, despite herself. It wasn’t natural wasn’t it? To be curious about the murder of 5 students in your own school? She doubted she was the only one speculating. Probably the entire class was wondering the exact same things she was, so some extent or another. Her sister’s voice shouting up the stairs broke Aika out of her thoughtful stupor.
“Comiiiiiing!” she called back, heaving herself up off her bed and walking out of her room. The delicious smell of fried rice wafted up from the kitchen, reminding Aika of how hungry she really was. As she headed down the stairs, she heard her sister talking to somebody. The voices stopped as Aika neared the bottom of the stairs. They must have heard her coming. Footsteps came from the kitchen and then the person who her sister had been talking to appeared at the bottom of the stairs to greet Aika.
“Ah, Aika hello.” It was Yuki. Among all the stuff with Yamada and the murders, she’d completely forgotten that she’d invited Yuki to have dinner with them earlier that week.
“Yuki. Welcome. I forgot you were coming.” Yuki smiled shyly and looked to the side.
“It’s okay. I know you had more important things distracting you today.” Ah. So her sister had told her about the interrogation. Not that it mattered all that much, but she kind of wished her sister had asked her before she’d gone and told Yuki all about Yamada. Yuki looked nervous as they walked together back to the kitchen.
“I’m sorry if I can’t stay too long. I have something I have to do tonight, so…” Aika laughed.
“Don’t worry about it. I have to go somewhere as well, so we shouldn’t be too long. I hope you can stay for all of it. I’ve been looking forward to having you over.”
“Looking forward to it so much that you forgot?” Aika blushed.
“Well… stuff happened. I really have been though.” Yuki giggled.
“I know. I’m just teasing.”
“I’m home”, the girl removed his shoes and walked into the house. The groceries were heavy and she was glad when she got to the kitchen and was able to put them down. She opened the fridge and emptied out the contents of the bags. Her beer supply had been running low, so she needed to restock. She hadn’t been decided on what tonight’s dinner was going to be, so she wandered around the store for a good half-hour looking for inspiration. After careful consideration, she decided that her best option was just to go with a frozen pizza. It was easy enough to prepare and besides, there were vegetables on it. That made it healthy, right? She gave out a small laugh. She was so stupid. She turned on the TV and settled on the couch with a can of beer in one hand, waiting for the oven to warm up. Her favorite idol group was performing tonight, and she didn’t want to miss a second of it. She wanted to be down there, screaming in the audience, cheering, enjoying life. Back when she was a child she’d dreamed of joining them. Even now, she still wanted to join the group, but there was no way they’d accept someone like her into the group. Ah, to be famous. That was all she wanted. The idols were simply a way of being famous. She wanted to have people look at her, to notice her, to say “Oh her, did you see that girl pass us on the street just now? Wasn’t she on TV yesterday?” She giggled at the absurdity of the thought and turned on the TV… and there they were. Dressed in outlandish, multicolored costumes with frills and streamers on every open area of cloth, dancing in sync to the most generic music imaginable. Everything about them was wonderful to this girl. They represented the life she wanted, the one she knew she could get if she just tried. Sadly, that childhood dream had been crushed by hopeless reality: she, like most other people in this world, would never be somebody interesting. She would never be somebody that people looked at or noticed. Nobody would ever say “Oh her, did you see that girl pass us on the street?”
Just as she finished her first can of beer and was starting on the second one, she heard a sound. She froze, the can on her lips, and listened. She didn’t hear anything other than the cheers of the crowd and the music on the TV. Slowly, she reached for the remote and turned off the TV. No sound other than her breathing disturbed the quiet of the house. There was no creak of a floorboard, no quiet steps. Still, she knew that there was somebody in the house with her, hiding just outside her vision, hiding in the shadows. Suddenly, she heard the creak of an old floorboard to her left. The girl whipped her head around, staring intently into the darkness, trying to make out any hint of who it was. For almost a minute she sat, unmoving, staring at the place where she’d heard the creak. Finally, just as she was about give up, she saw a shape moving forward slowly, trying not to make any more noise. And then, as it moved into the light being cast through the window, she could finally see the outline of the person. She recognized that outline. She recognized the short hair, the light demeanor.
“Sister…” she breathed. Relief flooded through her. It was only her sister. She’d probably decided to play a trick on her. It wasn’t like it was any kind of new occurrence; her younger sister was always pranking her or teasing her in some way. Her sister moved forward, no longer trying to be stealthy. She must have noticed that she’d been seen. The girl got up and walked around the couch to greet her sister. It wasn’t often she came home for dinner, usually choosing to spend the night at her boyfriend’s house. The girl was halfway to her sister, arms open to hug her, when she stopped. She’d noticed something, something shiny glinting in her sister’s hand. Her sister raised the knife and ran at her. The girl didn’t even have time to react. She felt a stabbing pain in her shoulder and cried out, flinging her arms up blindly to try and ward off the attacker. It didn’t work. She felt the knife enter her body again and again, felt her clothes being soaked through with blood. She fell to the ground, her vision darkening, her mind slipping further into black oblivion, and felt a sensation as though she were flying up, looking down at the room as a separate person from the one bleeding on the ground. The blade of the knife, though darkened with blood, still glinted as moonlight from the window fell upon it. And, as her sister leaned in closer and the moonlight fell across, the girl noticed something she had not earlier. Her sister was wearing a mask. It was a mask that she’d never seen before, white with a black smile painted across the front. The last thing she heard before she was consumed by blackness what a whispered apology coming from behind the mask.
“I’m sorry. I wish I didn’t have to do this to you.” There was a pause and then…
“I’m going home now” said Sakura, waving goodbye to Rin. He’d invited her over to his house after school, an invitation that she had gladly accepted. Whenever she came over, Rin would cook for her. Unlike her and her sister, Rin actually knew how to cook, and what he made was amazing. She wasn’t sure about his dad though, since he always checked out early when she came over to visit, in a very obvious attempt to avoid her. Sakura got the impression Rin’s dad didn’t like her much for some reason. Not that it mattered much to her whether or not he liked her, but she was afraid Rin might worry. Despite his insistent claim that he didn’t mind, she couldn’t help but notice the sad expression on his face every time his dad left the room.
The air was warm and slightly humid as she stepped outside. She didn’t even need the light jacket she had brought with her. Closing her eyes, she turned her head upwards and inhaled, trying to smell everything around her. At this moment, she was so happy to be alive. She continued walking, keeping her eyes closed. It didn’t matter; the streets were empty this late at night. The entire town was sleeping. It was an eerie feeling, one of being the last human being alive in a town occupied only by ghosts and memories.
“Ouch!” she ran into something hard and heard a thud as it landed on the ground at her feet. Looking down, Sakura saw that it had been a person, though she couldn’t see their face; it was hidden by a hood. The person was wearing all black. Sakura would have walked into them even if she’d had her eyes open. The person quickly scrambled to their feet, and hurried away, leaving Sakura standing there feeling very confused. Well, whatever. Wherever that person was going or whatever they were doing was none of her business. She just had to get home now and make sure that her sister was having something for dinner besides alcohol. She felt a small, wet drop fall onto her head, then another. Pretty soon it was raining hard enough to soak right through her thin t-shirt. Silently cursing at herself for not bringing an umbrella with her, Sakura picked up her jacket that she’d dropped and started home again. She wasn’t in any real hurry; she was already wet enough that more would make no difference at all. She started home again humming to herself, listening to the pitter patter of raindrops against the asphalt of the street.
The walk from her house to Rin’s wasn’t very far. Even walking as slow as she was, it only took a little over five minutes. When she finally reached the door to her house, her hair had separated into two masses that hung on either side of her face and her clothes had been plastered to her body. Sakura felt like she might never be dry again. She opened the door, walked in, and stopped.
“Sis, can you bring me a towel please?” she called. No response. Sakura inhaled and smelled a strong smell of alcohol coming from the living room. She sighed, removed her shoes and wet clothes, and walked into the house carrying them over her shoulder. After dropping them in the dryer and grabbing a towel to dry off with, she walked into the living room. At least this way she wouldn’t drip as much water. Something in the living room however stopped her in her tracks. Her sister lay on the floor passed out as usual. But… why was there so much blood everywhere? And why was her sister’s breathing so irregular? Why… what were all those cuts all over her body? Sakura dropped the towel and stumbled backwards, catching her balance against the doorframe. Her sister was… but…
“Oh god…” she groaned. “Oh god, oh god.” She stumbled towards the table next to the couch where her sister’s phone lay. She needed to call for help. With trembling fingers, she dialed 119, pressing the receiver to her ear. Her breaths were coming in short, desperate gasps. After a few rings someone picked up.
“Hello, Tokyo police department. What is your emergency?”
“I need… an ambulance. Please.”
“What is your emergency?”
“My sister appears to have been stabbed to death. She’s still breathing...I think. Please, send somebody, I don’t how it’ll be till she… till she…”
“Yes, we understand. What’s your name?”
“Sakura. Sakura Miki.”
“Where are you?”
“At home. The address is 5-8-10 Minami Azabu Minato-ku.” Sakura didn’t hear anything else; a loud ringing drowned out any other sound. She fell hard onto the floor, feeling sick. The room was spinning, spinning so fast. She felt oddly light. She needed to stop the spinning. She needed to stop… to stop…
The room disappeared into darkness as Sakura joined her sister, unconscious on the floor.