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Beyond the briar’s thorns there once was a deep forest, wrapped in fog.
From it wafted the smell of green and the tiny whispers of insects.
And deep into it, I pa.s.sed.
And further still did I walk.
Until I chanced upon a knoll untouched by our sun, where I found myself in
the company of children.
And finally I did come to my senses, and realizing the lateness of the hour,
resolved to press home.
“But you needn’t go home. For here, your eternity awaits.”
The forest children began to sing.
And I wondered what eternity was.
“It is when you linger.”
“It is when you are unchanging.”
The chorus of cradles recited in melancholy unison.
Starlight shone quietly on the gra.s.s of the mound.
The fog flowed together like purest milk behind me.
And over my shoulder, the path home had been lost.
I know little of this eternity.
I try to hurry home.
To a home far from this place.
A home far from the children and the forest.
And wrapped in the smell of green and the tiny whispers of insects,
Inside the deep forest, wrapped in fog beyond the briar’s thorns,
They denied me home for an eternity.
4 • KINOKO NASU
Records in Oblivion - I
December this year was less cold than I had antic.i.p.ated, but was still
enough to bring a white cloud of breath with every whisper. Nevertheless,
yesterday was its final day, and with it, the final day of the year. Today is
a new year, my sixteenth one. Surely, for many people around the world
today, they are greeting each other in a warm “Happy New Year,” treasuring
the one chance in a year they can share the warmth and sense of new
opportunity with other people.
Not for me, though. In fact, New Year to me has become the time of the
year where I want to chide myself for my stupidity, a time when the pillows
in my room are in danger of my desire to hurl them against the wall and
stomp on them to vent; a time where I just want to will the rest of the day
away. Sadly, human hearts and memory are not such convenient things.
And so it is with a certain glumness of spirit that I hurry and make my
preparations to go to Miss Tōko’s office.
Though I belong to a thoroughly pedestrian household, my family still
Insists that I dress in a kimono for the first shrine visit of the New Year.
Indeed, they’ve already lain it out for me in my bed. Still, I’ve never been
one for the traditional clothing, so I ignore it and head out of my room to
“Oh, Azaka dear, are you going out?” my mother asks as I climb down
“Yes. Just going to meet someone who I owe a favor to. I’ll be home
before dark,” I say with my best smile as I depart from the Kokutō residence—my
The sky of the early afternoon day is filled with clouds, and not too
friendly ones, it seems. Still, I think for a while that it reflects my mood
perfectly, and just that little bit of acknowledgement (by the world no less!)
eases my steps just a bit.
I didn’t always hate this particular time of the year. There was a time
when, just like any other person, I actually looked forward to it. But it was
in 1996, exactly three years ago from this day, when that changed; my thirteenth
New Year when I went back to my real home for the holidays.
The story truly starts with me, Azaka Kokutō, and the weak const.i.tution
that my body was cursed with. I’ve never had any high grades in PE, and
everyone could tell the Tōkyō air was bad for my continued health. And so
/ RECORDS IN OBLIVION - I • 5
with that reason, the family packed me away to live with my uncle in the
countryside when I was only ten years old. Since then, I only came home
during summer and winter breaks, but even then I couldn’t stand to go
back. My uncle treated me like his own adopted daughter, and raised me
away from my family. I preferred to keep it that way—even past the point
where my const.i.tution eventually improved to become normal and render
the entire arrangement moot—for my own reasons.
For you see, I have a brother, Mikiya Kokutō. And I love him.
To clarify, this is not, as you might be suspecting, the familial love between
close siblings, but the romantic sort of love between a boy and a
girl. Of course, one might suspect that a ten year old elementary school
girl might be mistaken, and it would not be wrong to a.s.sume such a conclusion.
But I was no idiot, even back then, and I knew better than most
exactly what sort of affection I was entertaining. And though I can accept
my a.s.sumption of my possession of higher than average intelligence as a
comfortable lie I can tell myself, I cannot accept that my feelings for Mikiya
are anything other than real. Once I even harbored childish thoughts of
somehow spiriting him away from other people, never to let another see
him. Though my feelings have since taken on a more sensible form, my
fondness for Mikiya never wavered. I’ve known from the start that this was
a feeling never to be voiced, so as I grew older, I only waited, biding my
time for a chance.
Even my retreat to the countryside was all part of my elaborate plan to
separate myself from Mikiya, all for the sake of building in him a propensity
to see in me something else, something other than being his little sister. I
don’t care what it says in the family registry. I left that behind long ago, and
I’ll only truly come back after Mikiya’s forgotten me as a sister completely.
Until then, though, I’d spend my days like a lady of manners. After all, I
know exactly what Mikiya likes, so this was a fairly simple process. It was a
plan so perfect even I have to marvel at its genius.
But then of course, a meddler had to make her G.o.dd.a.m.ned appearance.
Pardon my words. It was three years ago, back in my junior high school
days when I first explored the notions of love. It was the winter holidays,
and I went back to the house when, of all the stupidest things to do, Mikiya
brought home a cla.s.smate of his. It was clear for anyone to see that he
and this woman named Shiki Ryōgi were dating. And when I saw this, I had
the curious and not altogether pleasant feeling of having baked yourself
a lovely cake, only for it to be beset by the desperate and hungry the moment
you look away. The thought that my brother, who always seemed so
aloof before, would now be dating a girl, had never entered my wildest
6 • KINOKO NASU
imaginings. I mean, think about it. He’d never even so much as looked that
way at any woman before, let alone had a relationship with one!
I think I spent the next few days after that in a complete daze, sleepwalking
maybe, until I finally came back to the countryside. It was not long
after that when, still in distress over what to do about the girl, I got wind
of the traffic accident and coma that befell Shiki Ryōgi. And so Mikiya was
alone once again. I must confess that when Mikiya told me the news by
letter as I sipped my tea on the terrace of my uncle’s house, that I sympathized
with the poor girl. Even though I only met her once, I remember her
laughing heartily at what Mikiya had to say, her att.i.tude full of energy. But
I would be lying if I didn’t say that I felt some measure of relief. No girl of
idle interest like Shiki would ever catch Mikiya’s eye again. All I need do was
graduate high school with recognition, and get myself into a sufficiently
reputable university. Only a few more steps; a few more years—perhaps
eight—until the notion of my sibling relationship with Mikiya was severed.
But my enemy proved herself to be no common ken indeed, because
only last spring, Shiki regained her consciousness. Mikiya was beside himself
with joy at the news as he told me over the phone, but it only served
to harden my resolve. I would say nothing to him about my feelings, but
only until I graduate from high school. I would need to be frank with myself,
more so than before. And from there, I picked up the pace. My choice
of high school was perfect: a boarding school called Reien Girl’s Academy,
where tax bracket mattered more than grades when entering. This suited
me perfectly, as did my uncle, who, being a painter and artist, was only too
eager to ingratiate himself with potential patrons by my presence in the
inst.i.tution. And so I lodged there, to become a lady in their fashion.
It’s been half a year since my entry there, and now I’m living another
accursed New Year, again reminding me of Shiki’s continued existence. I’d
actually planned to go to the shrine with Mikiya today, but that got soured
easily enough when Shiki came by earlier and left with him. Strange how
fickle such things tend to be in my life, and how she always seems to be at
the center of it all.
I make my way toward the bay area, the sight of the once great factories
serving as my guide. The old industrial area by the bay is still home to some
active steelworks, but by and large it is a place of rusted smokestacks and
crumbling brick walls, of old and abandoned warehouses, some of which
still have asbestos flocked within ceilings. In the midst of it all stands the
sh.e.l.l of an office building, remaining eternally unfinished in its construc-
/ RECORDS IN OBLIVION - I • 7
tion; no doubt the last hope to revitalize the district, only to falter and fail.
My tutor in the Art of magic, Tōko Aozaki, somehow got her hands on it
(through means I am not entirely confident are legal), and made an office
of sorts there, for her “business.”
When I reach the building, I go in and climb the staircase, each click of
my heels on the steps an echo. The first floor is a garage, and only Miss
Tōko herself knows what lurks in the second and third, and the fourth is
the office where me and my brother Mikiya often end up in; Mikiya as an
employee, and I as an apprentice. I open the door on the fourth floor office
and announce my arrival with a lazy greeting.
“Happy New Year.”
“Mmhmm. Happy New Year,” says Miss Tōko with an equally languid
expression on her face.
Somehow, the usual severity that Miss Tōko commands doesn’t seem
to diminish her good looks at all. In fact, in tandem with her white blouse
and black trousers, it makes her seem more in control, if anything. With her
gla.s.ses off, as they are now, you might even doubt for a moment if she was
actually a woman.
“Weren’t you planning to go out with brother dearest today?” she asks
with a characteristic lack of restraint from behind her work desk.
“I was, but Shiki came along and spirited him away. Still, aren’t you glad
I’m even in today instead of gallivanting about with Mikiya?”
“That I am. I have some business to talk about with you, actually.”
That’s strange. It’s very rare for Miss Tōko to involve me in her business.
I make her a cup of coffee, and whip up some tea for myself, before finally
taking a seat for myself.
“So, what is it you wanted to speak to me about?”
She puts her hands behind her head and leans back on her chair. “Just
wondering whether you’ve confessed to Kokutō yet.”
Oh, for heaven’s sake. I can tell from her tone that she’s not at all serious
“No, I haven’t. And it’ll be that way until after high school, at the very
least. Now is there actually anything significant in my answer that made
you so anxious to ask me?”
“Nah. Just speculating on how calm your answer would still be if I asked
the same question with Kokutō present. I suppose I still wonder how totally
different you both are yet you still find an attraction for him. Maybe you’re
adopted. Ever considered that?” The tips of her lips rise into that familiar
sly bend of a smile.
“Now I really don’t know if you’re joking or not,” I reply, but holding in
8 • KINOKO NASU
the frown I was supposed to make at her. As if she somehow still read this,
Miss Tōko chuckles lightly.
“Ah, Azaka, you carry yourself with such scholarly grace, but sometimes
the purity in your answers is so refreshing. Forgive me and my stupid questions.
I need to get it out of my system at least once a year, shouldn’t I?”
“Well, I’d say you’re off to a roaring great start to the year then. Anyway,
what was it you really wanted to talk about?”
“Something about your school. You’re in your first year in Reien Girl’s
Academy, right? The way I hear it, something interesting happened to cla.s.s
D of the freshman year. You wouldn’t know anything about it, would you?”
Cla.s.s D? I think I have a hunch what she’s talking about. “The cla.s.s with
Kaori Tachibana in it, right? Unfortunately, I’m in cla.s.s A, so I know very
little about the goings-on in cla.s.s D.”
“Kaori Tachibana, you say? Can’t say I recognize the name. Not on the list
I have, at least.” Miss Tōko frowns, like she’s wracking her brain for something
she missed. I tilt my head slightly to the side, wondering if there’s
some miscommunication between me and her.
“Er…what’s all of this about?” I mutter.
“So you don’t know,” she sighs. “Guess I should’ve expected it, seeing
as Reien Academy tries to isolate each cla.s.s from another. Only the girls in
cla.s.s D would know more, I suppose,” she concludes. “Anyway, let me tell
you what I know about it.”
Miss Tōko begins to tell the story of a strange incident that happened
only two weeks ago. Just before winter vacation, two students of Reien
Girl’s Academy’s senior high school cla.s.s 4-D had some kind of argument,
and in the end, tried to stab each other with box cutters. For such a thing
to happen at Reien, which is, at the best of times, eerily still and silent that
it seems almost like a place hermetically sealed-off from the rest of the
world, strikes me as supremely odd. Worse, I never knew about it, a fact
which I can probably blame on the school’s practice of separating each
cla.s.s from each other, and their tendency to cover up anything that might
paint a bad picture of the inst.i.tution.
“That’s horrible,” I say, after Miss Tōko is done with the story. “Are their
“Nothing too serious. I’m actually more interested in the fact that they
attacked each other at all.”
“Yes, I see what you mean. Reien is generally not the place you’d find
the type of people who’d try a knife fight in the halls. Whatever its cause,
it must have been something serious, or something far back in their past.
/ RECORDS IN OBLIVION - I • 9
“Right. The subject of their quarrel comes later. There’s an even stranger
tidbit here. No doubt you’re wondering why you didn’t know about this
earlier. Reien’s policy on these things can be blamed up to a point, but it
largely isn’t their fault this time. It’s just that it wasn’t immediately reported.
It was only when the school’s Mother Superior looked through the infirmary’s
records did she find the names of the two girls, and the cause of
their wounds. She suspected cla.s.s D’s homeroom instructor of deliberately
hiding the incident.”
That would be Hideo Hayama, once Reien’s only male instructor, and
one of the only two in its history. But he’d already left, having taken responsibility
for the breakout of a fire last November. He was promptly sacked
and replaced, not by a nun as per usual, but by…
“Mr. Kurogiri? No way. It can’t be him,” I suddenly find myself saying.
Miss Tōko offers a nod.
“The Mother Superior said as much. Apparently, this Satsuki Kurogiri
fellow took to the job well, and became trusted by everyone almost immediately.
When the Mother Superior interviewed him about the incident,
he supposedly couldn’t recall anything about the incident happening
under his watch. She had to go and recite the particulars of the incident
to even make the guy remember. She couldn’t pry a thing out of Satsuki,
and he genuinely seemed to have forgotten about the entire thing. Never
struck the Mother Superior as a man to tell stories. Since he’d proven his
trustworthiness before to both the faculty and the students, the Mother
Superior had to let him go.”
But how can a man forget something so important in only two weeks?
It just doesn’t seem possible. At the same time, I myself can’t see a reason
why Mr. Kurogiri would have any reason to break the school’s trust in him.
“As for the reason the students took a stab at each other in the first
place,” Miss Tōko continues, “all the other students heard about it, since
the two girls started arguing in the cla.s.sroom just after cla.s.s when people
were filing out in the halls. Apparently they each somehow knew of some
old secrets they were keeping from each other. And here’s the kicker. When
they were interviewed, they were both secrets that both of them had already
“What? That sounds—”
“Ridiculous, I know. These girls were childhood friends. The Mother
Superior described them as always being together. Somehow, this secret
got out and ruined all that. I think they both said when they were questioned
that it was close to a month ago when they got a letter in the mail,
and at first they couldn’t figure out anything about what the letter was
10 • KINOKO NASU
referring to. Then, of course, they later understood what it was about. It
told of old secrets taht they both didn’t want the other to know. They confronted
each other, and found out that both had been sent a letter of the
same nature before they busted out the box cutters and started attacking
I don’t know what to say. Forgotten memories and secrets being mentioned
in a letter sent by someone who they didn’t know, somewhere in
“You’re thinking this is a new case, aren’t you, Miss Tōko?”
“Maybe. The letters didn’t have anything else written on them. No
threats, no demands. Not even a stalker could watch both girls 24/7 enough
to even figure out the past that even they forgot about. If there’s a mage’s
hand in all of this, I wouldn’t be surprised. I only wonder what the ultimate
The ominous tone of the story starts to sink in. Discounting the damaging
contents of the letter, it might be interesting, even funny, for you to
receive letters about your life at first and not know where they’re coming
from. But give it a month and see if you still feel the same way. Letters
about you containing facets of your life that even you didn’t know about,
written by somebody you don’t know, some unknown figure who watches
you day in and day out. The paranoia that gripped the two girls must have
eaten away at them. It’s little wonder they were driven to such desperate
“Have they found out who sent the letters?” I ask.
“Yep. Fairies, they say,” Miss Tōko states succinctly.
“Pardon me. Could you repeat that?” I don’t know if my astonishment at
what she just said registered in my voice or not.
“Fairies, like I said. What, you don’t know about them? Even when so
many students in Reien say they see them? I suppose you really aren’t gifted
with Arcane Eyes, but it’s sort of a famous rumor among the students.
Fairies, they say, will play beside your pillow at night, and when you wake
up, you’d find some of the memories of the past few days will have gone
as cleanly as though they never happened. If it’s true, and not just some
crazy rumor, the fairies are stealing the memories for some purpose. My
gut tells me there’s a connection to this and the incident in cla.s.s D,” she
Though I still study the Art under her guidance, and I’ve seen wonders of
thaumaturgy performed that are a true sight to behold, I still find the fairy
story hard to believe.
“Do you think it’s true, then, Miss Tōko? This fanciful story about fair-
/ RECORDS IN OBLIVION - I • 11
“I can’t say anything about something I haven’t seen yet, but if there’s
any place for fairies to be, it’s got to be Reien. Think about it. It’s perfect for
them: Isolated in the sticks, where you can’t even hear the faintest whine
of a car engine, maintained by some of the sternest rules and quiet nuns,
that don’t permit the latest in youth culture to seep into the inst.i.tution
they’ve built. The forest that takes up the larger portion of the grounds
is deep and large enough to get yourself lost for half a day if you’re not
careful. The air is tinged with fragrance sweet enough to make you stay
and pa.s.s the time staring at a clock’s minute hand and its lazy progression.
Sounds pretty much like a fairy freehold to me.”
“Wow, I am surprised you know the campus so…intimately, Miss Tōko.”
“Obviously. I’m an alumnus there, after all.”
This time, I make sure to have my voice sound truly astonished.
“Stop giving me that look,” Miss Tōko says with an eyebrow raised.
“What, you thought Mother Riesbyfe would just mouth off the latest
school gossip to an outsider? She’s the one that contacted me last night
to see if I could do anything to get to the bottom of what’s happening in
there. I don’t exactly run a detective agency here, but I couldn’t turn down
the Mother Superior either. Now, I can’t go in there again, since I’d stand
out too much. I wouldn’t get a word out of anyone. So I thought long and
hard—” she draws the two words out with a smile on her face “—on who
could do it for me… Azaka?”
No. I turn away from her. I don’t want to hear what I think she’s about
to say. She looks at me with sharply narrowing eyes before she continues.
“Oh come now, Azaka. It can be fun! I mean, come on, what do you think
of when I say the word ‘fairy?’”
“Tinkerbell?” I quickly blurt out, as if this would somehow dispel the
topic, at which point Miss Tōko chuckles.
“A comforting image, and one that is popular among mages who try to
make familiars in the image of fairies. But unlike familiars, the true fae are
not creatures brought forth through the mage’s will, but actual living things
of varying species. Such things may be goblins, redcaps, or the oni of our
own country. Shifty creatures, the lot of them. In Scotland, there are still
stories of fairies causing mischief among people…even some stories where
they cause bouts of forgetfulness among people, and drawing children into
forests to spirit them away for a week, replacing them with identical fetches.
Though their pranks vary, all fae share one unique quality: their lack of
empathy for the victims of their tricks. They are simply incapable of it. They
12 • KINOKO NASU
do it because they deem it fun, not out of malevolence.
“The incident in Reien could be their handiwork, but the act of writing
a letter seems to be out of their style. It indicates some kind of malice and
manipulation, doesn’t it? I fear, Azaka, that our culprit may be the first kind
of fairy that you mentioned.”
As ever, Miss Tōko never misses an opportunity to teach me more about
the invisible world she seems to walk through with so much ease. And like
a good student, I’m only curious for more.
“So you’re saying they’re familiars, being controlled by some mage?” I
ask. She nods in satisfaction.
“Yes, and the kind borne from a captured creature, to be sure. The mage
is probably using them to work his or her Art from afar, to do something
with the memories of the students in Reien. To have this hedge wizard
be so obvious in his work is almost uncharacteristically amateurish for a
mage. Or perhaps he doesn’t have such a complete command over his fairy
familiars yet. They’ve always been fickle sorts, and mages generally favor
other things over them. But this rank amateur has showed his hand, and
I’m thinking it will be a perfect test for you, Azaka. And so I order you as
your mentor to investigate the truth behind these incidents before winter
vacation ends. Find the source, and do what you can to eliminate it.”
There we go. Miss Tōko finally says the words I suspected she’d been
meaning to say all this time. In truth, the task scares me a bit, since I can
sense her hidden implication: that I’d be going in there alone, against an
individual similar to me and Miss Tōko, able to manipulate the very threads
of reality with the Art. And she expects me to root him out. I try my best to
hide my trepidation with a confident nod.
“Well, if it’s for the sake of more arcane knowledge, then I guess I have
no choice,” I sigh as I answer. Miss Tōko rises from her chair to give me
some doc.u.ments on the details of the situation, but before she can hand
me a folder, I have to voice the once concern that’s been niggling at me
since the moment I suspected what she would have me do. “But Miss Tōko,
I can’t even see the fairies. I don’t have the mystic sight or Arcane Eyes like
Unexpectedly, she makes the grin that has only heralded her own brand
“Oh, don’t you worry your pretty little head about that detail. I think
I can cook you up something far better than a pair of eyes.” Though she
struggles to hold her laughter in, she doesn’t tell me exactly what she
/ RECORDS IN OBLIVION - II • 13
Records in Oblivion - II
I leave the faculty room of Reien Girl’s Academy’s senior high school
department…unfortunately, with her tagging along.
“You know, I’ve been thinking. Maybe Tōko is actually an idiot and we
just didn’t notice.”
January 4, Monday. Past noon. Skies partly cloudy.
Walking astride me is Miss Tōko’s funny idea for something “better than
a pair of eyes.” The enemy.
“Having you of all people to sneak into the school with me? For once,
you have my agreement.”
“This sucks. I definitely got the short end of the stick this time, having to
put up this act that I just transferred here on the third term.”
We try to avoid looking at each other as we walk through a corridor
of the senior high school building. The girl’s name is Shiki Ryōgi. Like all
students here, right now she’s wearing the Reien uniform, a dress patterned
after a black nun habit that almost always looks weird on any j.a.panese
person. And yet Shiki wears it like an old glove. When I see her dark hair
still distinctly visible even against the black fabric of the dress, and how it
can’t hide her slender shoulders and the pale whiteness of her nape, even
I have to admit that she looks good on it; as good as any quiet Catholic girl,
which of course, she is anything but. The entire thing gives me a faint feeling
“Azaka, those two girls were just staring at us.” And of course, like an
idiot, Shiki is staring right back at the uppercla.s.smen we just pa.s.sed as
well. It hasn’t been the first time it happened today, and after a few looks, I
think I have an educated guess as to what could be so interesting to them.
In an exclusive all-girls inst.i.tution like Reien, the androgynous nature of
Shiki’s appearance must be some kind of anomaly. There are few people
like Shiki in here, and her presence is bound to attract some kind of attention.
The same two girls that we just pa.s.sed must have only wanted to talk
to her in some kind of childish attraction.
“Don’t pay them any mind. You’re a new face. Transfer students at this
level are just rare, that’s all,” I caution to her. “It doesn’t have anything to
do with what we’re investigating.”
“There’s a surprising number of students for the winter vacation, don’t
“Ugh. It’s a boarding school, obviously. A lot of these people live far
away, and would rather just stay here over the break. Only the library on
14 • KINOKO NASU
the first and fourth floor are actually open, but since the dormitories are
well-stocked anyway, barely anyone heads to the main building. Unless you
need to report to the nuns for violating some rule.”
Rules which are very, very strict, and the violation of which enough times
is enough reason to expel you. “Don’t go outside” being the most tightly
held one, and they won’t make an exception even if your parents themselves
showed up. Still, money has proven to change that easily enough,
which I found true with my erstwhile friend, Fujino. As a man of capable
capital who donated significant money to the school, Fujino’s father found
a way to get her out whenever she wanted. As for me…well, certainly my
high grades helped, which led to my uncle being employed by Reien as a
painter (which completely suited his mercenary motives for letting me go
here). They were more lenient of my excursions after that.
Remove the religious veneer and Reien itself is little different from other
high schools. Students still study their backs off just to pa.s.s a test to get into
college, and with all the high expectations for the student body here, that
fact is only doubly true. In truth, I suspect the school took me in because
of my high marks, seeing me as someone they can proudly send off to
Tōkyō University (which had been my plan anyway). While the management
in this place might be a bit too focused on what numbers they can
boast about, it doesn’t really bother me. I mean, at least they can give me
the freedom to go out.
I snap out of my reverie in time to notice that we’ve exited the main
building, and that beside me, Shiki had been staring at it with listless eyes
for quite some time. Then, as if tiring of it, she looks back at me while idly
fondling the cross hanging from her neck.
“Weird place. Can’t rightly tell if the teachers are primarily teachers, or
dedicated to being nuns, or whatever. Oh yeah, and didn’t we pa.s.s by a
chapel earlier? Is that where they do the whole ‘ma.s.s’ thing? Our Father,
with art in heaven and all that?”
Oh, Shiki you ignorant fool. What would G.o.d do with art?
“There’s a morning and evening service,” I reply, “and a ma.s.s on Sundays.
Students aren’t obligated to partic.i.p.ate, though. People like me who transferred
to Reien from elementary or junior high largely aren’t Christian,
so we don’t go. The nuns would rather we do, but…well, you know the
law. The sudden influx of rich-but-not-necessarily-Christian families sending
their well-to-do daughters here increased dramatically over the past
decade, which, coupled with the number of parents not wanting to put
their children in schools that force a Catholic education, forced them to
tone down the mission school vibe.”
/ RECORDS IN OBLIVION - II • 15
“What a pain in the a.s.s,” Shiki sighs. “I’m willing to bet G.o.d doesn’t care
To see her dressed in the uniform she’s wearing while wielding such a
vulgar tongue makes me feel a little uneasy. I quickly dispense with the
“Well, never mind G.o.d for now, but what about the fairies? See anything?
Any weaving of the Art?” I ask as we continue to walk the campus grounds.
Shiki shakes her head.
“Not a glance. Guess we’ve got no choice except to wait until tonight,”
she says, casting her sleepy eyes across the buildings, the abundant foliage,
and the stone walkways that adorn the school.
Shiki, like many mages, can see what is hidden from most normal
people. The mystic sight of her Arcane Eyes allows her to see ghosts and
spirits…and even things with more frightening implications. Her breed of
sight grants her dominion over death and entropy, and it manifests for her
as patterns of lines on an object, and supposedly, by tracing them she can
weave entropy into it and destroy it. Apart from that, her family claims a
strong martial tradition, and whatever else may be said about her, she has
still lived up to it exceptionally. Because of that, her reflexes are as fast as
she is efficient and brutal.
In other words: a woman quite the opposite of my brother Mikiya.
Totally unsuited for him. Above all other people, it is perhaps Shiki who
annoys me the most. As a matter of fact, the entire reason for me taking up
Miss Tōko’s tutelage in the Art is Shiki herself. Because if Mikiya’s girlfriend
was any normal girl, she would never measure up to someone like me. But
obviously, Shiki is a far more troublesome sort. So I put aside my common
sense and took Miss Tōko up on her offer.
Now, I’m still learning, but I don’t feel I’ve measured up to her just
yet, so I spend my days here in the school, balancing my time between
mundane study and the practice of the Art. But even though I consider
Shiki the enemy, there is one truth about her that I have so far refused to
give voice to.
“I’ll have to spend the night in your dormitory, I imagine. Normally, I
don’t like sleeping on a bed I haven’t checked and prepared myself, but in
this case I’ll have to lower my standards.” Shiki bookends the sentence with
a sigh of surrender.
See, the truth is that Shiki doesn’t really hate me. And I don’t really hate
her either. I’ve always thought that if only Mikiya wasn’t between the both
of us, I would probably be the best of friends with her.
“So where to next, Azaka?” Shiki asks as she looks at me. “To the dormi-
16 • KINOKO NASU
“It might be better for us to use what little time we have actually investigating
and not idly resting in my room, I should think. We’ll talk to cla.s.s D’s
homeroom instructor, so just follow my lead. You’re my seeing-eye dog for
the duration of this case, and you’d do well to use those Eyes to scrutinize
everyone you come across.”
“Wasn’t the homeroom instructor some guy called Hayama or somesuch?”
“Old news. Mr. Hayama left the inst.i.tution in November. The homeroom
instructor now is Mr. Satsuki Kurogiri, the only male instructor in the
school.” I start to walk back inside, heading toward the English language
teacher’s quarters, while Shiki tags along dutifully beside me.
“A guy teacher in an all-female school. I guess that must stir up some
latent feelings in some of the girls, huh?”
I don’t answer her right away, but in her own crude way, she’s right. The
students of Reien are brought up to be to the school’s vision of ideal young
women, and men are seen as a hindrance to that growth. One of the main
reasons the school strongly discourages venturing outside the grounds is
because they think that a boy and a girl interacting at their age is a slippery
slope to an illicit s.e.xual relationship. But I’ve always thought that having
male teachers undermined that philosophy anyway.
“Well, yes,” I finally answer after a moment’s pause. “But that topic’s
practically a minefield in this place, so keep your voice down. Hideo Hayama
wasn’t a popular teacher here not only because of his suspected lack of an
actual teaching license, but also because there were rumors that he’d s.e.xually
hara.s.sed a student once.”
“What? Why the h.e.l.l wasn’t he out of here sooner, then?” Shiki asks
with c.o.c.ked eyebrow.
“The sisters and the Mother Superior were forced to turn a blind eye to
it because…well, let me put it this way: The surname of the school board’s
chairman is Ōji, but before he married into his wife’s family, he shared a
surname with Mr. Hayama.”
“Oh ho,” Shiki whispers conspiratorially. “The chairman’s estranged
brother or something, I suppose. If that’s the case, then I guess the question
becomes: why did he resign like he did.”
I scan my head around quickly just to check if no one’s around. Satisfied,
I turn back to Shiki and say, “Remember last November when we were in
Miss Tōko’s office? I said it then too, but the short of it is that a fire broke out
in the high school. Only the dormitories of cla.s.s C and below were affected,
but the fire itself supposedly started in cla.s.s D’s section, and they said Mr.
/ RECORDS IN OBLIVION - II • 17
Hideo Hayama was behind it. Obviously, the chairman himself sacked him,
but Mr. Hayama was already long gone by then. Perhaps he ran.”
News of the arson never really slipped outside the walls of the school.
All the firemen were purportedly bribed, as were an ample number of the
student’s parents and guardians. Wouldn’t want to tarnish the good name
of the school where their precious daughters went to after all. It took one
There was…someone that died in that fire.
“So this Kurogiri guy—what’s he like?” Shiki asks.
“Very little to say about him, really, save for his being quite the polar
opposite of Hayama. I don’t think there’s anyone in the school that hates
him. He started only last summer, and unlike Mr. Hayama, he didn’t have
a crutch to get him in here, though I hear the Mother Superior was quite
enthusiastic to have him. From what I hear, she actually wanted to have a
teaching staff that was native English—like our long gone sister school—
but were able to speak j.a.panese. Of course, such people are rare. But Mr.
Kurogiri was just such a man.”
“So he’s one of those English teachers, I take it?” Strangely enough, Shiki
scowls as she asks this. Perhaps her preference for all things j.a.panese has
given her some kind of nervous allergy towards anything English related.
“Yes, but with a license to teach French and German too. He’s even
studying Mandarin now, and some South American language. It’s no secret
why we call him the linguistics geek. I confess, it sometimes makes him a
hard person to deal with.”
I stop myself from saying anything further, seeing as we now find
ourselves in front of the door to the English language teacher’s quarters.
In Reien, teachers do most of the paperwork in the faculty office, but all
of them are quartered in their own accommodations. This room is for the
English language teacher, and is the same room that Hideo Hayama once
I inhale a gulp of air, careful not to let Shiki notice it. Then I rap gently on
the door two times before opening it.
Once me and Shiki enter the room, we find Satsuki Kurogiri with his back
to us in the far end of the room, concentrated on the work at his desk.
His works.p.a.ce faces the window, from which ashen gray rays of sunlight
enter from the overcast sky outside. Like any good professor, thick stacks of
paper lie in heaps in seemingly random places all over the room: on top of
a chair, or a cabinet, or peeking out from inside a drawer, all in some kind
18 • KINOKO NASU
of order known only to him.
“Mr. Kurogiri. I’m Azaka Kokutō of cla.s.s 1-A. Did the Mother Superior tell
you about my business?”
“Yes,” he replies, accompanied only by a curt nod as he looks over
his shoulder. He only swivels his seat around to face us. When his face
meets ours, I do not fail to detect Shiki’s sharp intake of breath. It doesn’t
surprise me. In fact, I expected it. I too, reacted in much the same manner
of momentary confusion when I first saw him.
“Ah, Kokutō. Yes, I have been informed. Please, both of you, take a seat.
I trust there will be some explaining to do.” His voice is as gentle as the
smile he now wears. His age seems to be around his mid-20’s which, if true,
would make him the youngest instructor in Reien. His una.s.suming features,
coupled with his black-rimmed gla.s.ses, easily make him look among one
of the least imposing ones as well. “You are here for my account on cla.s.s
D, I imagine.”
“Yes, sir. Specifically, your account on the students that tried to hurt
each other with box cutters.” My reply makes his eyes squint, his gaze
placed far beyond me, and containing, for a moment, a heavy sadness and
“It is regrettable that I cannot help further in that regard. I myself remember
little about what actually took place. My memory is vague, but I know
that I could not stop the two girls in time before they hurt themselves. I
know I was there in the scene, but everything after that is unreliable, I’m
afraid.” He closes his eyes.
Why is this man and he so alike? So ready to throw himself at another
person’s problems when it isn’t his turn to bother himself with it? Both of
them don’t seem to be the kind of person that would harm anyone else,
much less not move to stop a dangerous situation as with the two students.
“Sir, did you know the reason for their quarrel?” I ask, if only to make
sure, but Satsuki Kurogiri only shakes his head silently in reply.
“According to the other students, I was the one that stopped them, but
I certainly don’t recall such a thing happening. I’ve been called a forgetful
person many times, but this, I think, is the first time I’ve forgotten something
so important. As for the reason of their argument, I honestly don’t
know. It’s possible it could even have been me. I was, after all, in the same
room as them when it started. Even I would think that is enough reason to
investigate me.” His brooding expression darkens as he says this.
I cannot say that I wouldn’t doubt myself either if I was in his place.
It would seem suspicious to anyone that he was there when the actual
event happened, and yet he couldn’t do anything, and doubly so when
/ RECORDS IN OBLIVION - II • 19
he can’t remember even a fleeting moment. Having self-doubts would be
the sensible progression from there. He doesn’t know what he did, if he
were in some kind of triggered fugue state, what kind of time and memories
he lost. But while suspecting yourself might be reasonable, especially
with a lack of any compelling evidence to prove otherwise, worrying more
and more about what happened would eat away at you, until you couldn’t
“But sir, couldn’t it be possible that some students of cla.s.s 1-D were still
in the cla.s.sroom as the entire event unfolded? Have you asked all of your
“Yes, but they remain silent about it, as if they all just want to forget
about it. Memory is a fickle thing, and I cannot rely on theirs just now to be
entirely truthful. The question of how involved I was is still very much up
in the air. Regardless, I think you will gain little more from me by asking me
about it. I know I myself might seem unreliable at present, but if you have
more questions left, I will be happy to answer them.” He smiles again, more
weakly now, and I nod at him and answer.
“Yes, let’s continue. You said that they don’t want to talk to you about
what happened. What do you think might be the reason they hesitate to
“I can’t say for sure. The cla.s.s has always been particularly…strained,
even on the day I took charge of them. Maybe it is not my place to say,
seeing as I haven’t been their homeroom instructor for too long, but they
are unusually quiet.”
“Do you think they might be scared?” As I ask that, I wonder why no
other student could have stopped the two girls from cutting each other.
Could the letter have found all of the students of the cla.s.s instead of just
two? It could be an explanation. It makes everyone a suspect for the sender,
and instantly makes them suspicious of the two girls. Perhaps they would
have seen the fight as the two girls outing each other as the real sender.
But Mr. Kurogiri’s answer doesn’t support my theory.
“No,” he replies slowly, letting it churn in his mind. “Not scared I think.”
“It would probably be more right to say that they are…reserved, maybe
guarded. Against what, I cannot really say.” I don’t fail to take note of the
In other words, he might be saying that the problem has always remained
internal to the cla.s.sroom, never coming from, or reaching any other third
“Sir, can your students be contacted at present?” I feel like I have no
20 • KINOKO NASU
other recourse except to be direct and ask the students. The whole affair
about memories being lost makes Miss Tōko’s fanciful fairy theory more
likely by the second, and I’ll have to ask the people spreading the rumors
about that as well.
“There is no need to contact them. They are all here in campus, so you
can talk to them immediately if you want to.”
That genuinely catches me off guard. All of them, here in school? Is that
coincidence or something else at work?
“Perhaps later. For now, though, I have another engagement. I may have
more questions at a later date, though, if that will be alright. Shiki, let’s go.”
The girl has been uncharacteristically silent for the last few minutes. I catch
her attention and motion for her to follow when I stand up. It is then that I
notice Mr. Kurogiri staring blankly at me and Shiki, his gaze eventually falling
to Shiki in particular.
“Um, sir, is there something—” before I can finish and Mr. Kurogiri can
answer, Shiki finally speaks for the first time.
“Miss Azaka refers to me by name, sir. My name is Shiki. A pleasure to
make your acquaintance.” A miracle. She must be channeling some effort
of supreme will to even talk as gently as she does now, and I can’t tell if it’s
dripping with sarcasm or not. With her, you can never really tell.
“Yes, your silence made you a bit conspicuous. I am sorry,” the instructor
says. “I don’t believe I’ve seen you before. A freshman, I presume?”
“Perhaps. Only time will tell. I am touring the school’s facilities, you see.
If I find it satisfactory, I might transfer.”
“Clearly you’ve already found the uniform satisfactory. Do consider hastily.”
says Mr. Kurogiri with another curt nod. He looks at Shiki with a look
of positive delight beaming on his face, noticing every detail on her like an
artist would on a model.
A gentle knock on the door interrupts their conversation. Then a voice
from outside, m.u.f.fled by the wall.
The door opens with a slight creaking, and in steps an uppercla.s.sman,
her almond eyes looking over the room with a cold detachment, and the
slight breeze drifting in through Mr. Kurogiri’s window making her back
length black hair ripple slightly. Reien is already home to many fair looking
women, but even here, this girl stands out. Her face is known to me.
I wouldn’t forget the face of our student council president since last year.
When she looks at you, she almost seems to be viewing you from above,
and the long, thin eyebrows give her a countenance of stately command.
“Ah, Ōji. Is it time already?” Mr. Kurogiri says to the student, Misaya Ōji.
/ RECORDS IN OBLIVION - II • 21
“Yes, it is, sir. Well past the appointed time,” she replies confidently.
“You were expected in the student council room at one o’ clock. Time is
not eternal, so we have to make use of it as best we can, do we not?
Without even batting an eyelash, Ōji berates the erring instructor. She
carries her majesty with a grace only she can muster, and it is an a.s.set she
uses to rule the student council as tightly as she can. By the time I had
transferred, she was already in place at her position, but according to what
Fujino told me in the past, not even the sisters could touch her. And if the
rumors are to be believed, nor can the school board chairman, with whom
she shares a surname.
It’s only natural, considering the family they hail from. The chairman,
who married into the family of his wife, will obviously have a large discrepancy
of influence from the Misaya Ōji, the family’s second daughter. The
Ōji are plutocrats; old money families with their name on a building or
street or two. They have a strange practice of adopting female babies for
daughters, and their marriages are arranged, taking only the best grooms
into their family. Any marriage with the Ōji daughters of the family force
the grooms to take the Ōji surname, while the daughters are brought up
to be individuals of strong force of will to become scions to their financial
empire. Such an upbringing has made Misaya Ōji a woman with a heart of
iron. Still, she is not a complete tyrant. She does, in fact, possess a strong
sense of justice. She shows no mercy to those who violate school regulations,
but to those that uphold it, she is a sister and a role model. She is
even devoutly Christian, and goes to the noon ma.s.s every Sunday without
“As strict as ever, Miss Ōji. Perhaps a more flexible view of time and
eternity would be wise.” Grinning, the instructor stands up and leaves his
seat, Misaya Ōji watching his every move with visible impatience. Surely to
a woman who values discipline like her, the leisurely pace of Mr. Kurogiri
must be extremely vexating.
Ōji glances for a moment in my direction, and then to Shiki, raising a
doubtful eyebrow as to our ident.i.ty and presence. Realizing that we’re
surely bothering her just by being here, I pull on Shiki’s arm to signal to her
that we shouldn’t press our luck, and had best get out now.
“Let’s move on, Shiki,” I whisper as we move to the room’s exit. Mr.
Kurogiri opens the door for us in a manner not unlike a butler sending off
some visitors, and I’m compelled to mutter a quick sorry and a bow before
I step out.
“No, no,” the teacher quickly says. “It is I who am sorry for not being of
more help. A pleasant winter break to the both of you.” He gives us a last
22 • KINOKO NASU
“Do you always smile so sadly, sir?” I whip my head around just in time
to see Shiki say that to Mr. Kurogiri. He only widens his eyes, not in surprise,
but more of expectation, and nods.
“Hmm? But I have not once given you a smile, my dear,” he says, though
the fleeting expression on his face seems to say otherwise.
After leaving the English instructor’s room, me and Shiki make our way
quickly toward the dormitory. We pa.s.s through the large quadrangle on the
way there. Reien Girl’s Academy has a campus almost as big as a university,
and the layout of the buildings reflect this. The junior high school, senior
high school, the gymnasium, and the dormitories are all located in separate
buildings, in what seems an effort to keep the student body walking
as much as possible. The distance between the school buildings and the
dormitories is especially notorious, requiring you to pa.s.s through a small
forest located on the grounds. Fortunately, a walkway with a roof exists so
you don’t get lost and can travel through it in just your indoor shoes.
After going through the quad, we find ourselves in this path toward the
dormitory, each step taken by me and Shiki creating a subtle echo. I glance
over at her, and recognize that she seems a bit strange…more so than
usual, at any rate. Something seems to be bothering her. I think I know
what it must be.
“Surprised to see Mr. Kurogiri look so alike to Mikiya?” I ask her out of
“Yeah,” Shiki says, nodding meekly.
“Yet a bit handsomer than Mikiya, I’d say.”
“Maybe. Can’t seem to see anything wrong with him.”
Ah, so we agree. When I first saw Satsuki Kurogiri, I was taken aback—
much like Shiki was—at how similar he was to my brother, in both appearance,
and the atmosphere that they tended to exude. His trait of accepting
everything as it is seemed only stronger than Mikiya’s by dint of age.
To people like me and Shiki, who can’t seem to help being disjointed to
the people around us, meeting a person like that is always somewhat of a
To look at Satsuki Kurogiri is to remind myself of the truth that I can’t
bear to face: that I’ll never be normal like Mikiya. I can no longer remember
when it was exactly that I realized this to be fact, but I know that I cried.
Somewhere, buried in the forgotten memories of my earlier years, lies the
scene of the moment when I understood him; understood that as I lived
/ RECORDS IN OBLIVION - II • 23
under the same roof as him, I grew to love him more and more. The paradox
of my existence. Brothers and sisters aren’t supposed to entertain such
thoughts, I know, but I regret nothing about it. If there’s one thing I regret,
it’s my inability to remember that pivotal moment.
“Still, no matter how much he looks like him, that man is not Mikiya
Kokutō, but still a man named Satsuki Kurogiri. Don’t mistake one for the
other,” I caution to Shiki. I can tell, even as she walks beside me, that she
holds the same view. But instead of nodding, she frowns and murmurs.
“It’s not that they look like each other. It’s more like—” Her words fade
away by themselves as she stops in her tracks, looking deep into the forest
that surrounds us. “Azaka, there’s something inside the forest. Some kind
of wooden building, maybe? What is it?”
“Oh, that. That’s the old junior high school building. It hasn’t been used
for a long time, and it’s actually going to be torn down this winter break.
“Gonna take a look at it. Thought I saw something. Go on ahead without
me.” With a rustle of the uniform robe she wears, she starts to run double
time to venture into the wood.
“Shiki! Wait! You promised you wouldn’t go wandering around by yourself!”
I shout after her, but I realize it is futile. The brat is so willful, it’d take
a miracle for me to pull her back with meager shouts.
“Azaka Kokutō?” Before I can start after her, I am stopped by someone
calling my name from behind me.
24 • KINOKO NASU
Got a new job for you, Shiki.
In the evening of January 2, Tōko said over the telephone the words
that set me up for a job that has so far been completely different from
anything she’s sent me before. A strange enough incident occurred in
Azaka’s school, Reien Girl’s Academy, but the task of rooting out its source
was barely enough to get me motivated at all.
I, Shiki Ryōgi, joined Tōko Aozaki’s outfit some months ago purely on the
promise of the possibility of murder. But this job? This is about as far as
you can get from that objective without being a doctor and doing the polar
opposite. It’s not nearly sufficient to fill me up, let alone satisfy me. Yet
even as I think that, I recognize that despite the promises of opportunities
that Tōko said she would have in spades, I know that I’ve yet to truly kill a
Oh sure, there was that one time with the girl who could bend things
just by looking at them, but that didn’t pan out as well as I’d hoped. At the
last moment, even though the bloodl.u.s.t filled me more than it ever had, I
couldn’t take her down. Not as she was at that particular moment. But we
had a good fight. One of my best. I suppose it’s a compromise I’ll have to
The past few weeks held little opportunity for any similar excursions,
however, so a hungry dissatisfaction had its grip on me. Surely it must
have been the cause for me accepting such a dreary job as the one I’m in
now. Besides, I had nothing better to do anyway. As I see it, there’s little
difference in sleeping in my room out of boredom, or going to Reien Girl’s
Academy and sleeping in Azaka’s dormitory out of boredom. At least in the
latter, there are more opportunities to get out and move. And so I’m here,
in this stuffy girl’s boarding school, posing as a touring prospective transfer
student intending to go in on the third term, and trying to find fairies that
Azaka can’t see.
As I pa.s.s the tree line, I slow my pace down to a brisk step, and when
I realize Azaka doesn’t seem to be tagging along, I walk. Deeper into the
foliage lies the wooden school building I’m heading for, just visible within
the shroud of green and brown that obscures my vision in all directions.
Whether because of the cloudy skies or some other, unseen influence, the
sunlight peeking through the treetops is a shade of gray more akin to mist.
/ 1 • 25
The distance between the buildings of Reien Girl’s Academy is so unnecessarily
vast that time and neglect has allowed the foliage to grow largely
unchecked except among the most travelled paths. The majority of the
campus is filled with a vast, sprawling forest. Forget having a forest inside
the school, try saying that there’s a school somewhere in the forest.
The soil is damp with leaf mold that clings to my boots, and it fills the
area with a familiar fragrance, the color and air of bittersweet ripened
fruit. And as it unites with the noise of the insects on the leaves, I am
almost intoxicated by it. Time seems to take its leisurely pace here, and
there is a comforting familiarity to it all, creating the deceptive illusion of
being apart from the world. I remember then the mage who made a building
a reality all his own, and the old memory of the Ryōgi estate, walled off
from greater society. Both of them, I realize, are places isolated from the
normalcy of the world. So it is with this school.
Soon, I reach the building, which I now see is in the center of a clearing of
long cut-down trees. The design of the building itself is old-fashioned, even
without recognizing its wooden make, and it sits breathless at the center of
the trees like a creature asleep, or a man on his deathbed waiting for the
end to come. The ground in the clearing is overrun with gra.s.s weeds, and
my steps are m.u.f.fled and silent when I set foot on them. Treading across
them as fast as I comfortably can without breaking the silence of the place,
I enter the building.
Inside, I discover it isn’t as run down as its façade would have me
believe. I get the feeling that the structure is smaller than it looked somehow,
possibly because Azaka said this was the former junior high school
building. Every footfall on the wooden floor gives an audible creak. The
noise echoes across the desolate hallway, growing more indistinguishable
the farther it travels, and blending with the noise of the insects outside,
still audible even in such a dead s.p.a.ce.
As I walk further inside, my thoughts turn to the teacher Azaka introduced
me to earlier. Satsuki Kur