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/ PROLOGUE • 127
Only our frozen sighs played between us
As we watch our heartbeats fade slowly into stillness
Soon, all of the dear and treasured memories
Will become mere regrets, weak and soon to fade.
Even the memory of rain:
Of an endless gray veil seen after school
Even the memory of sunset:
Of a cla.s.sroom ablaze in orange light
Even the memory of snow:
Of the white night of first contact, and the black umbrella
Beside me you would smile, and that would be enough
To bid my soul rest, turbulent though it was
Beside me you would walk, and that would be enough
To bid the rift between us close, distant though it was
Once, a moment in time
We stopped for shade, warm unmoving sunlight peeking through leaves
And there, as you laughed, you said that one day we’d stand in the same place
They were words that I’ve yearned to hear for so long
But now it is but the fleeting remains of the day
128 • KINOKO NASU
1999, February 1.
It’s the beginning of the last year of a millennium, and the tip of a new
millennium’s inception. And as with most arbitrary shifts and divisions of
temporal measurements, people start to cling to the words of prophets
and doomsayers, whether out of personal profit or the osmotic and infectious
effect of a panic in slow-boil. Wrapped as the city currently is in this
nearly tangible layer of artificial menace, as well as a more easily perceived
winter whose temperatures have reached levels atypical from the past few
years, I, Mikiya Kokutō, have decided to spend this night walking together
Winter is at its height, and these days, the sun is already well set after
five in the afternoon, granting an early evening veil to the entire city. My
breath is visible in white puffs before my mouth, and beside me Shiki is in
the same state. The both of us are, I suppose, ever reliable (some would
even say predictable) in how we dress. A dark-colored coat worn above a
black turtleneck sweater paired with black slacks for me. While Shiki wears
a blue kimono coupled with a red waist-length leather jacket, all the while
having a pair of high combat boots donned. I’ve long since given up asking
her if she’s ever cold in that attire. I’ve seen her in it ever since three
years ago. The heat or the cold never seem to affect her as much as it does
Shiki offered to meet me on my way home after finishing work, which
is not something she often does, and is an act I often a.s.sociate with some
ulterior motive on her part.
“Alright, out with it. There’s something really important up if you can’t
muster enough patience to wait for me back at your place. Taking the trouble
to meet up with me so near the office is a pretty rare event.”
“It’s nothing, really. It’s just been a little…dangerous lately, so I thought
I’d see you home.” Her face is sullen as she casts her eyes about the surrounding
area, never really looking at me. The wind blows a lonely breeze
our way, and Shiki’s kimono flutters slightly.
Shiki Ryōgi has always donned that style, ever since the day I first met
her in high school. It always makes her look kind of strange, but I have to
admit that it goes well with her height (around 160cm). Her hair frames her
face, and always looks to be haphazardly cut to terminate at collar height.
Like her hair, her eyes are a threateningly deep black. As if to contrast all of
this, though, she always speaks in a tone as rough as she likes, and almost
/ PROLOGUE • 129
without a thought for the next word. It always throws people for a loop
the first time around. Now, she retains a posture more dignified and n.o.ble
than beautiful, even as she walks and surveys the streets still partly awash
in quickly retreating sunlight, as if she were a carnivore on some kind of
I call her attention. “Shiki, you’ve been acting kind of funny lately.”
“How funny can I be if you aren’t even laughing?”
She says this lazily, lacking her usual spirit. Normally, she’d glance over
at me just to enjoy my usual frown after her wit, but she keeps her eyes
occupied elsewhere. Well, if she’s not in the mood to talk, then so be it. I
keep pace alongside her, and proceed without another word. Shiki leads
the both of us toward the direction of the train station near her house,
which at this hour must still be packed. The way there, however, is as dead
as midnight, with only me and Shiki walking along the narrow back streets.
Without the lights on in the shops, and the street lamps, you’d think there
was some kind of calamity. There’s a reason for it, though. I would guess
it’s the same reason Shiki thinks she needs to walk me back home.
Lone people who walk at night are being reported missing or turning up
dead. Now, given the usually low crime rate in the area, this would have
been shelved as something of a statistical anomaly. If it wasn’t so similar to
the winter three years ago.
In my first year in high school, there was a serial killer that put the city
in a bit of a panic. He’d only appear in the night, and conduct violent ritual
killings on people for no discernible reason. All in all, he killed seven people.
Despite the numerous inquiries and cooperation with the media, the
police’s desperate attempt to catch him failed, and a solid suspect never
materialized. With no other murders fitting the pattern, it was a.s.sumed the
serial killer had stopped, and the case was buried cold.
The first murder started around summer four years ago, and the killer
went to ground at around winter three years ago. I remember it being a
cold February, with me and Shiki about to enter our second year. It was
only afterwards that Shiki got into a car accident, and lapsed into a coma.
As for me, I eventually graduated from high school, and moved on to college,
but it only took a month for me to drop out, and soon after, I found
employment with Miss Tōko. Shiki herself recovered from her coma only
last year in summer. For me, the entire affair with the serial killer is a thing
of the past.
I imagine, however, that it isn’t the same for Shiki. To her, it would have
only seemed to be half a year ago. The recent strings of killings fit the same
gruesome pattern as four years ago, and the TV news has been playing it up
130 • KINOKO NASU
as a return of the old culprit, with all the graphics and reenactments that
come along with such a high profile story, almost as if the news networks
were just lying in wait to spring the story fresh on their viewers again. Still,
I can’t help but notice Shiki looking grimmer by the day the more she hears
of it. I’ve only ever seen her like that once, three years ago, before the accident.
When Ryōgi, still containing her other, masculine, Shiki personality,
told me that she was a murderer.
The train station is a taste of normalcy when we get there, as it is filled
with all the usual number of people. Unlike the residential district we had
just pa.s.sed through, the station is brightly lit and packed with people going
to and fro in a hurry, and the activity spills into the surrounding commercial
district. Only one of few places in the neighborhood that you could count
on the serial killer not making an appearance. Yet even here, the influence
is felt. The way people draw closer together, as if to close ranks, and the
touch, however slight, of fear on all their faces, guarded though they may
be. The night’s just begun, and rush hour ensures a nearly endless stream
Pa.s.sing the busy station and making our way through the commercial
district, we pa.s.s an appliance store, the television on display showing the
evening news. At a glance I already see what I expect: another feature story
on the killer. While I quickly pay it no heed, Shiki is led to halt in front of
it, her eyes affixed on the screen, so I reluctantly stop alongside her.
“Mikiya, take a look at this,” Shiki says, with a chortle, “they’re calling
him a murderous monster.” She’s right. In fairly large letters, bulleted by an
X mark in the bottom of the TV, it says How the Murderous Monster Began.
“I guess they thought just ‘killer’ wouldn’t make people nervous enough.
A murder count exceeding ten is nothing to laugh at, I know, but don’t you
think they’re being a bit sensationalist, though?”
With an eyebrow raised, Shiki finally looks at me. “Well, yeah, that’s
obvious. But I think they’re kind of right, though. If anyone right now deserved
to be called a monster, it would be this guy. He wants the attention,
the spectacle. He’s glad for it. Monsters rarely need a reason. The victims
certainly never got one before they died. That’s why you can’t really call
this a murder.” She returns her attention to the television, seeing the faint
image of herself reflected on the gla.s.s surface of the screen.
“What do you mean?” I ask.
“Ma.s.sacre and murder can be different. Maybe you’ve forgotten,
Kokutō? That a lifetime only has room for one real murder.” She looks into
my eyes then, as straight as she can manage. Normally, she looks quite
/ PROLOGUE • 131
detached, almost sleepy, as if she’s looking at something far away. But now
there is an intensity in her black eyes, a pleading to some ancient memory.
“One real murder…” I allow my voice to trail away. I definitely recall
hearing something like that from her before, but when? And where? It was
only long after this particular moment, when I can look back, and regret.
Maybe if I remembered it, at that moment, all of what followed could have
“Never mind,” Shiki finally says after a few seconds. “It’s not important.
Anyway, let’s get ourselves home. I just woke up, and if I don’t eat something
I’m never gonna calm down.”
“Wait, you just woke up? What happened to school? Did you forget that
it’s a Monday today, or did you just decide to sleep over?”
Her face breaks into a sly smile. “Calm, deep breaths,” she pleads mockingly.
“I was at school this morning, c’mon. I meant my afternoon nap.
Actually, I never told you, but my grades have been getting better since
November, you know? C’mon, tell me you’re surprised.” I nod, genuinely
taken aback. Her grades had been slipping as badly as her attendance rate,
and I was worried she wouldn’t make it by year’s end. When I nod, she
makes a self-satisfied sound, and puts her hands inside her coat pocket.
“Right, then a reward’s in order, then!” declares Shiki out of the blue.
“Azaka kept bragging to me about this fancy joint you took her to down in
Akasaka. And whaddya know? I’ve actually always wanted to go and try it
out. Oh, how I so wanted to kill her then.”
The disturbing thing about Shiki saying that is knowing full well that she
has a knife and has used it before. Before I can have a say in the matter,
she grabs me by the arm and leads me away. I’m not entirely sure where
she’s leading me just yet, but if her previous remark is any indication, it’s to
Akazaka, where half of my paycheck will be no more than shattered hopes
and dreams in the face of one night’s meal, and it doesn’t look like there’s
any stopping her. Silently, I curse Azaka for telling Shiki about where I took
her on New Year’s.
Oh well, might as well enjoy this. After all, it feels like it’s been such a
long time since we had a real date. In fact, the last time may well have been
four years ago, back in high school, when she still had the boy Shiki inside
her. She reminds me of him tonight actually, and I don’t think to question
where this could have come from. Beyond the aloofness that she had earlier
this afternoon, I didn’t see anything out of place.
So we started February with an expensive dinner, and a night walking
around town, just being together and enjoying ourselves like it was the last
night we were allowed to do so.
132 • KINOKO NASU
The Second Homicide Inquiry - I
- April 1995. I met her. -
It has been a week since the night that me and Shiki chanced upon that
news report on TV. The label the news gave to the killer, a “murderous
monster,” ended up sticking, and lately, everybody’s been using it, even
Daisuke Akimi, my uncle, who at 5am in the morning, now sits in my modest
apartment, helping himself to a slice of French toast that I made for him as
he skims the morning paper. The date on the broadsheet reads February 8.
Unfortunately, in the six intervening days since he’s received the moniker,
the ‘murderous monster’ has claimed six more victims, one for each day.
“G.o.d, they’re really sticking with this name, aren’t they?” remarks
Daisuke. “I thought the department made a deal not to get the names of
the vics out so quick too. Makes the job harder, you know?” To hear him
talk would make you think he was discussing some other person’s case,
which is far from the truth. In fact, he has a relationship with it as close
as kin. He was the primary detective on the case three years ago, and the
bra.s.s have seen fit to saddle it with him again, being the most informed
officer they have. It only makes sense.
“Are you sure it’s alright for you to be lazing about here, Daisuke? I
mean, I’m looking at the front page of that paper, and it’s the story of the
last night’s fatality right there.” I say as I eat my breakfast at the table,
facing Daisuke. His face is hidden behind the newspaper, but I know that
he heard me.
“I’ve been running around checking leads for a week now, and every day
there’s a fresh murder. Let the SDF handle it, why don’t they? I need a little
break ‘round this time sometimes, anyway. Thanks again for the breakfast,
little buddy.” I watch as he takes his coffee mug from the table, and see it
/ THE SECOND HOMICIDE INQUIRY - I • 133
disappear behind the newspaper before he gulps and places it back. All of
this is pretty much standard procedure any time he comes here. He takes
a break for thirty minutes for breakfast, he reads the paper, he chats, and
he goes out. He used to do this at my folks’ place back when I was in high
school too, and he saw fit to bring the tradition here, not that I mind.
“I’m sure the SDF would just completely botch it all up anyway. You’re
the best detective the Metro Police has.”
“Eh, I’m not so sure about that. But whatever the case, a man has limits,
and I’m pretty sure hauling a three year old case out of the graveyard to
haunt the motherf.u.c.ker who tried to solve it is d.a.m.n near toeing the line.”
He quickly closes the newspaper and folds it as he continues. “G.o.d, I just
need to talk about this to someone that ain’t police. Listen, Mikiya, what
I’m about to tell you is really cla.s.sified stuff, but I trust you. Don’t even
think about telling it to your friends or family, you got it?”
I nod. Though I wouldn’t think of letting anything of what he’s about to
say leak out, he’s obviously never heard of the story about King Midas and
his donkey ears.
He begins. “Right, so like last time, this one’s a complete stone whodunit.
No suspects, which means no motive. No connections. Only one weaka.s.s
witness, even in the killing spree in the past seven days. Last time, the
only leads we got were your school emblem and the perp’s skin, which
didn’t bingo a match in the offender database. But…well, I’m not sure just
yet, but he might be changing up his game.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Well, you know how he’s been nabbing citizens since last fall, right? We
weren’t sure yet that it was him back then, so the media didn’t latch on to
the story until the killings started this year, when he started getting sloppy.
Especially in the past week.”
“Leaving evidence, you mean,” I suggest.
“Which is weird, right? We can’t put a face to the f.u.c.ker for four years
going now, but now he decides to change his pattern? Doesn’t sound right.
It might just be a copycat.”
“But that can’t be right,” I muse, thinking back on how Daisuke described
it to me four years ago. “The exact manner of how the victims died hasn’t
been leaked to the public. I only know because you told me. If this guy was
a copycat, he couldn’t have known exactly how to conduct the murders.”
“Yeah, I know, I know,” Daisuke says with a resigned sigh. “I wonder,
though. The murders four years ago struck me as less ritualistic and more…
like someone who was just getting used to what he could do, and he decided
to play around, you know? He was at least leaving a body to be found
134 • KINOKO NASU
back then. Now…” he clears his throat, and shakes his head, as if to rid his
mind of a self-made image, before he continues. “…now he’s just leaving
severed arms or legs. If he’s trying to clean up his act, then why take all that
time to hide a body but leave the limbs intentionally?”
“Calling card, maybe? A signature for the police to know him by? He’s
gloating,” I think out loud.
“Yeah, that’s where my mind automatically goes, too. But it didn’t look
like the limbs were cut, that’s for sure. There’s no clean cut, or even the
signs of multiple attempts to hack them off. They look like they were…
torn off, or twisted right out.” Daisuke smiles then, and makes a chuckle,
the heaviness in his features leaving him for a moment. “Heh, heard any
escaped alligator urban legends out there lately, Mikiya?”
“Nah,” I say, chuckling now too. “If I do, though, you can get lost. I’m
keeping it as a pet just to spite you.” I drink from my coffee now too, the
temperature finally becoming agreeable. I use the moment to hide my
expression when my mind wanders to four years ago…and Shiki.
It was four years ago when Shiki told me she was a murderer. But that
couldn’t have been true. I can’t believe she would kill anyone. Not truly.
She was never ready to swing that knife down on anybody. I’ve always put
my faith in her. But, if that’s true, then why does my mind now go back to
thoughts of her?
“Your witness,” I say quickly, as if doing so would banish the thought
from my mind. “You said you had a weak one. What’s that about?”
“Yeah, from last week’s incident downtown over at commercial. Place
is packed full of people at most hours so it must have been pretty hard for
the killer to hide what he was doing. Sure enough, even though the crime
scene was an alley, someone pa.s.sed by. Witness managed to see the perp
booking it after the murder took place, said he wore a kimono. Actually
though, the witness can’t say for certain whether the suspect was actually
a guy or a girl. Like I said, no legs on that info just yet.” Daisuke shrugs as
he says this, and rests his head on a hand propped up on the table. “It’d
be nice if we can at least bring in some viable targets for questioning. The
bra.s.s is pretty hung up on getting the ‘monster’ and tying this up quick. Far
as I know, the pressure’s coming all the way from city hall.”
“A red ball. Media coverage is getting kinda crazy hysterical too.”
“Best road to stress, I tell ya. Gotta thank you for this, Mikiya.”
“It’s why I’m here.” Yet even as Daisuke shares the new information
about what the witness saw, he returns it unknowingly to Shiki. Who else
do I know that walks around at night in a kimono? My fingers clutching
the coffee cup seem to go numb for a moment, but I manage to retain my
/ THE SECOND HOMICIDE INQUIRY - I • 135
“One more thing I gotta ask you,” says Daisuke, adopting a more hushed
tone now. “Now Mikiya, I know you know your fair share about the drug
trade here in Tokyo. Whoever’s slinging the best s.h.i.t, who the players are,
that sort of thing.”
“I guess so,” I venture hesitantly. “I mean, more than the average person,
sure. But I’m sure you’ve got a pool of guys over at your narcotics bureau
better acquainted with that than me.”
He waves a hand in the air dismissively. “A bunch of conservative old
hacks playing at understanding what games the kids play now, and deluding
themselves that buy-busts are the ultimate answer. That includes me.”
He gives a mocking chuckle before pulling out a polaroid photograph from
his coat pocket, setting it down on the table for me to see.
In the photograph are two evidence bags, one containing something
that looks like a bunch of stamps, and another with some kind of gra.s.s
inside. The labels on the bags have the words “mescaline” and “THC” written
prominently on them, alongside how many grams of it is stored, and
below that is the chain of custody for the evidence. I recognize them easily
“The stamps are LSD, right? The other is weed I’m pretty sure.”
“Well, kinda like weed. The forensics guys told me that the THC and CHC
content in the hemp are very low.”
“So it’s not marijuana.” It can’t have been. You would have to have
enough THC, the psychoactive substance found in weed, for it to qualify.
“It’s probably something more like tochigishiro.”
“Which is what?”
“A specially bred strain of hemp developed here in j.a.pan. Because hemp
growing is regulated heavily by the prefectural governments, they’ve got a
pretty strict ceiling on how much THC should be in usable hemp, which is
at 1%. The hemp that used to be grown natively here in j.a.pan usually sat
at around 1.2 to 1.8%. So, to comply with the new prefectural policies, they
developed a low-THC strain in Hiroshima, called tochigishiro. Obviously it
didn’t stop illegal plantations or smuggling of marijuana inside the country.”
Daisuke nods, his eyes showing their characteristic concentration. He’s
following along with a genuine curiosity now. “So what does the picture
have to do with anything?” I ask.
“Most of the murder victims this past week had some in their possession
on time of death,” Daisuke explains. “But hey, what do I know? They’re
kids fooling around at night so maybe it’s no surprise, eh?”
“Unfair generalizations aren’t going to get you anywhere, Daisuke.”
136 • KINOKO NASU
“Which is why I’m turning to you for opinions. You know these street
hoppers better than I do.”
“To be honest, I don’t really know about that. I haven’t been in contact
with any of the street level dealer guys for at least half a year. They might
have changed up their boys, especially the guys who sell acid. They do rotations
so they don’t get caught so easily. The c.o.c.ktail slingers too.”
“c.o.c.ktails are two drugs mixed together in one dose, right?”
“Yeah. I hear the popular thing right now is speedb.a.l.l.s: when they mix
cocaine with heroine or morphine in one needle. Powerful stuff. Very
dangerous too, if you aren’t careful.”
Daisuke narrows his eyes. “You’re suspiciously knowledgeable about all
this. You aren’t taking any, are you?” he asks. Though I’m pretty sure he
isn’t serious, I decide to answer him truthfully anyway.
“Do I look like I do? If I was a dope fiend, you’d know it with one look at
me. I’m a pretty easy guy to read, or so people tell me. I’m not one to try
drugs. I’ve just got a…well, an old high school friend who knows a lot about
“Fine, fine, I believe you,” he says dismissively as he stands up, though
it doesn’t escape my notice that he noted my hesitation in saying Gakuto’s
name. “Anyway, gotta get back to work soon or they’ll light my a.s.s up. Last
question, though. Is weed an upper or a downer?”
I sigh, thinking regretfully on how little this supposed detective uncle
of mine knows about the whole thing, despite being on the job for years
now. “That’s a question I’m sure even your narcotics people can answer,
but whatever. It actually isn’t clear what weed is. Different people have
different reactions. For some it’s a stimulant, and to others it’s a downer,
and also a hallucinogen. For a few people, it doesn’t even leave any strong
effect. Other drugs have been extensively studied and their effects doc.u.mented,
but the THC in weed is the only thing that remains a mystery.”
“Heh, thanks for that. I’m a homicide guy, not in narcotics, so I don’t
know everything about it,” he says as he grabs and puts on his coat. “I’ll be
sure to bone up on it, though. Looks like I’m gonna need it soon enough if
the stuff keeps getting found on victims. Might be enough to form an angle
on the case.” He gives me a short wave as he walks toward the entrance
of the house, and I wave him back. He opens the door, admitting the noise
of raindrops a.s.saulting the rooftops of the buildings outside. “G.o.d, f.u.c.king
rain again?” Daisuke complains as he heads out and closes the door behind
“Just has to spill the beans to me, doesn’t he?” I whisper to myself. The
conversation with him left a gloomy undercurrent to the room, though, and
/ THE SECOND HOMICIDE INQUIRY - I • 137
as the dreary dawn light peeks in through the window, I finish my breakfast
and get a sudden urge to take the day off. I quickly call Miss Tōko up and
inform her. Her reply is curt.
“Whatever you plan on doing, take it easy.” She says it like an order, not
a mere suggestion. Before I get a chance to a.s.sure her, there is a click on
the line; she’s put the phone down. She knows what I’m up to for sure.
She’s always had strangely accurate intuition.
There’s only one good reason I need the day off today.
I haven’t seen any sign of Shiki for a week now.
The past week had seen a new murder turn up every day, and since it all
started, she hasn’t come back to her room, or her old Ryōgi family estate.
I can’t get in touch with her, and n.o.body I know seems to have seen her. It
doesn’t take a genius to see what reason she could have for doing it.
If the murderous monster really is the same serial killer from four years
ago, then Shiki is out there, searching for answers. But I don’t even know
who this monster prowling the streets is. And I know that the memories
related to her old Shiki personality have all vanished along with him, which
means we’ll never be able to prove if she was related to those crimes or
Maybe I’m not the one that can break this case wide open. But there
are far too many memories that will be betrayed if I wait any longer. Shiki’s
disappearance heralds something far worse. I can feel it. And before that
happens, I need to find the truth. Me. Because this isn’t someone else’s
problem. From four years ago until today, this has always been mine and
Shiki’s problem. We just kept prolonging it, afraid to face it. So to understand
it, I need to start investigating, not for someone else, but for my own
I step outside the house, seeing the rain cover everything in an unceasing
grey veil. I pop open my black umbrella and travel to the crime scenes
of the past week. I reach last night’s spot, an alley in one of the busier
portions of downtown. People are walking the sidewalk as if nothing had
happened last night, trying not to notice the alley which still has policemen
standing guard and yellow police lines stretched over the mouth of
the entrance, and a similarly yellow tarp covering the top of the entire
alleyway. Preserving the crime scene for at least a day, they can do no more
than that. I leave, and head to the other crime scenes, hoping to find them
less guarded. Luckily, the police have abandoned them, and I’m able to pry
through them without notice.
By the time I reach my third crime scene, I barely notice that much of
the day has pa.s.sed, and it is already early afternoon. If I wanted to pay all
138 • KINOKO NASU
the places a visit and give them a thorough search, it’d probably take me
until late tonight. This is all useless. The crime scenes are open and they’re
more than likely already tampered, if not through daily traffic, then surely
through the continuous day of rain. But without a single clue, what can I
really do? This investigation is kid’s stuff for now, but before I take it up a
notch, I have to make sure not to leave a stone unturned. And so with just
my umbrella for company, I wander alleyways tainted by murder.
The late winter rain is icy cold, and hasn’t let up the entire day. The rain
in this month has always had a special melancholy attached to it for me.
It’s had that for me for three years. After all, it was this month, three years
ago, when I lost her.
“I…I want to kill you.”
It was a very gentle smile.
The girl in the red kimono had a knife pointed at me, hovering above my
neck. In one terrifyingly brief moment, Ryōgi raised the blade. I, lying
on the ground while she straddled me, could do nothing but to look into
the eyes of my coming death. Like a guillotine, the knife blade shone in the
rain, and she brought it down in a strike swift and true.
But the knife did not pierce my neck, did not strike home in my flesh, but
instead stopped unsteadily an inch or two before making its mark.
“Why?” whispered in a voice incredulous and unbelieving. The
totality of the question was left unvoiced. Why can’t I kill you?
In that moment, I felt the fear ebbing away slowly, replaced with a growing
pity at this girl, whose existence was at once given meaning by a desire
for murder and her disgust of it. For a moment, I forgot to breathe. But it
was only for one, lucky moment.
I saw her look at her own arm, and in those eyes there was nothing but
anger and contempt at her own actions. She took her other hand, letting
it clutch her blade arm, as if to force it to action. This time, I thought, this
time it will be the end.
But something interrupted us. A man approached beside us, seeming to
come from nowhere at all, wearing a great black coat like a monk. With a
single small gesture of his hand, she sent flying from me, using some
unseen force. He spoke.
“Fool. This weakening does not become you,” he said in a low, tormented
/ THE SECOND HOMICIDE INQUIRY - I • 139
voice. The man helped me up, his strong grip on my arm lifting me effortlessly.
That seemed to awaken some predatory instinct in who pulled
herself up from the rain-soaked ground, and launched herself toward the
man with redoubled vigor. In an instant, was beside the tall man,
jumping up and aiming her knife at his forehead, and slashed in one quick
A thin red line ran through his forehead then, and blood poured out slowly
like sand. After she slashed him, quickly ran past him, and retreated
to a distance he could not reach. They glared at each other, the tall man in
the black coat barely even registering he was wounded. Amused, he even
gave an observant chuckle.
“Would you stay your hand even for me? Then you are still useless to
me.” The man then took me by the arm and ran. Behind us, gave
chase. But the man’s speed is too fast, almost as if we were flying. But we
couldn’t have been, because my feet were still on the ground, struggling to
keep up with him. Eventually, we were out of the Ryōgi estate’s grounds,
and only then did he let go of me. Then he looked at me, as if to say that if
I went home now, all would be safer for me.
“Far too early to break her,” he murmured, but even his murmurs were
a low audible rumble. “The duality of the spiral of conflict has always been
her destined end.” Leaving me with those words, the man walks away and
disappears with only a few steps, as if letting the shadows of the surrounding
bamboo grove swallow him.
The asphalt road home stretched out welcomingly before me, but
behind me, I could hear fast approaching. I could’ve gone home. I
could’ve left her. But I chose to be with her. I still don’t know if that was
the right thing to do. But in the end, she couldn’t swing the knife down.
I turned without reluctance to the sound of her approaching footfalls.
And when she caught up to me, there was surprise in her face, but more
than that, there was confusion. Then a burning clarity. There were words
exchanged then, words that couldn’t be forgotten. But her last sentence to
me was this.
“If I can’t make you go away,” she said, under the unceasing rain. In the
distance, closing fast, she spots the headlights of an approaching car. She
laughed. A weak, bitter laugh. “I have to make myself go away.” She runs
toward the middle of the street.
The car approached fast, and she presented herself in front of it, lit
brightly on one side by the headlights. The rain fell hard, but even it could
not overcome the keening sound of the brakes. It was too late. It was over
in a second. The girl who fell in the wet asphalt looked less like , and
140 • KINOKO NASU
more like some lifeless, warmthless doll, broken and ruined. Right there,
at that moment, I knew no more painful and regretful moment. Her eyes
before the impact had tears in them—or was it just the rain? And yet, even
having seen that, I could not find it in myself to cry.
The evening only brings more rain and less clues than I had hoped for,
but is only in line with what I expected. It is cold tonight, more so than the
past ones have been. A good thing I brought my umbrella.
The black umbrella…the same one I was using when I first met Shiki. She
had been looking up at the sky that night, but seemed to see neither the
stars nor the moon, as if she had frozen in place, and all was right with the
/ 1 • 141
- May. -
- I’ve become acquainted with Mikiya Kokutō. I knew I’d like him ever
since I first saw him. He talked to me without reservation or hesitation, with
a smile uncalculating or plotting. He’s perfect. -
“More rain again?” I grumble as I seek cover from the growing intensity
of the shower. The volume of the raindrops as they impact the roofs of
the buildings starts to build towards a crescendo. Luckily, a nearby convenience
store provides some temporary shelter, and of course, the umbrella
bin outside proves to be a welcome convenience indeed. I help myself to
one umbrella, a cheap plastic one the owner is unlikely to miss fondly. My
objective is lost, though. Hard to track the smell of blood mixed with the
rain. Still, there’s nothing to be gained from standing here the entire day,
so I continue to walk.
It’s February 8, and dawn is just breaking. The streets still lack their
usual foot or vehicle traffic, and the silhouettes of people I share the street
with are few and far between. Even my own shadow, projected by the dim
lights of the pa.s.sing neon and fluorescent, feels like a hazy illusion, almost
incomprehensible in the rain. After putting some distance between myself
and the generous convenience store, I stop for a while to take stock of
I’ve got a cheap plastic umbrella, borrowed; a wet and dirtied leather
jacket, and a pretty good kimono soiled by thick dirt and mud at the hem
and waist. Well, I can’t really expect to be clean after spending a week
sleeping exclusively on alleys. My appearance is one thing, but my odor is
entirely another. And man, I smell exactly like three-day old sweat.
“Sleeping outside has got to stop today,” I whisper to myself, a sugges-
142 • KINOKO NASU
tion that, the way I say it, almost makes it sound like some kind of fun
game. For the first time in a week, I laugh.
My name is Shiki Ryōgi. Like the Taoist term “ryōgi” used to describe the
duality of yin and yang. Yeah, my family is weird, and I’m sort of a chip off
the old block. Once, I nursed another personality within me, a male one
called Shiki. Same p.r.o.nunciation, different ideogram. I’d been saddled
with him since birth, a murderous personality cultivated by my strange
lineage. And so since birth, I’ve always known of the pleasure he derived
from the thought of murder. It was his pa.s.sion. And in a sort of twisted
way, it became mine too, as I pressed down on the dark impulse inside me,
killing it over and over again to control it. I killed the self inside of me, sensing
both the pleasure it gave me, and the pain. All so I could live a parody
of a normal life. Murder defined me then, if not literally then figuratively.
But there was always the threat of it, lurking in the rafters, tempting me
with its allure.
When I was a child, perhaps the only thing that held me in check were
the words of my grandfather. While my father was without a doubt a Ryōgi,
he did not inherit the “blessing,” as he liked to call it. So of course, when
I was born, there was no prouder father, and my otherwise normal older
brother was pa.s.sed over for the right of succession. So I’ve been special
ever since birth. Always left alone, but never lonely, always having the
other Shiki for company. We were one, he and I; a girl and her shadow.
So it was when I was sixteen, still fearing that I was just a mere tool for
murder, that my grandfather pa.s.sed away. Like me, he had the “blessing.”
But he had never been able to control his other self completely, and in
his long years, he had hurt himself, sometimes grievously, cursed those
around him, while denying what he was. It had been told to me that he and
his other self switched constantly, so much so that people forgot which was
truly in control, and for twenty years, he had been confined to an asylum.
But in his dying hours, he called for me. In those last moments with me,
he returned to some semblance of sanity, and shared with me his only
words for me, and his last as well. And I’ll never forget them. He taught me
that murder was important, a great and terrible thing of monstrous weight.
Since that day, I think I was able to better think on my position because of
him. And perhaps my masquerading of life, while forever alone, might be
accomplished after all.
Until I met Mikiya Kokutō.
When I met him in high school, it coincided with me starting to act very
strangely. There was something about him, something that told me that life
wasn’t a thing to hide in, but to live through. I remember thinking that all
/ 1 • 143
would have been better, if I hadn’t known. If he wasn’t a promise of something
far better, something I wanted that could also destroy me. I couldn’t
fool myself anymore after him, and neither could I fool Shiki. He broke me
apart, and me and Shiki started to become more out of sync. When once,
I knew exactly what I was doing when Shiki was in control, he eventually
hid it from me, and I could recall nothing of what happened when he was in
control. I would oftentimes come to my senses in the middle of the night, a
b.l.o.o.d.y soaked body lying in front of me, and I, smiling. I didn’t know if the
serial killer that haunted the city then was me, or I just wandered into his
work afterwards. Doubt started to creep in.
Eventually, Mikiya found me in the middle of such a scene, but he still
believed in me, and trusted that I wasn’t the killer. And it was then that I
decided that his joy was just an impossible dream to tempt me. There was
a confrontation between us. And then the accident, which resulted in my
When I awakened, I found myself unlike my previous self in small yet
important ways. I had lost Shiki, my steadfast companion, taking his share
of the memories along with him. As for the memories of my old self, they
felt empty and vague, like someone else’s experiences. I was hollow, like a
doll. And since then, I’ve been trying to fill up that hollow in my soul that
Shiki left inside me with new things. It’s probably the greatest irony that
the guy responsible for that going pretty well in the past half-year has to
be Mikiya Kokutō, the same guy almost drove me to ruin. I’m not an empty
But now, something’s happening that’s bringing back the sins of the
past. When I awakened, Shiki’s memories were lost to me, when he
“died.” Though I don’t really know if he has the kind of autonomy in my
brain that would make it work, it comforts me to think that he took it with
him because he thought it would be a blessing to me to forget about them,
to live a life unburdened by guilt. And for the most part, he was right.
Something happened last New Year’s though.
I encountered, fought, and lost to a mage who, against my will, returned
my lost memories to me. And so…now I remember everything four years
ago. How my final moments before the accident really went down. How I
fell to the most extreme solution of trying to murder Mikiya Kokutō, a knife
pointed high above him. How I wandered the streets at night, spoiling for a
good kill. It relieves me somewhat to find that it was not me who conducted
the serial killings. But then, that leaves an obviously bigger problem of
who the serial killer actually was. Or is, if the news tells it true and this new
one is the same guy. I still don’t know who he is. Mikiya must already be
144 • KINOKO NASU
suspecting me after I ran away. h.e.l.l, if you ask me, he’d have every right to.
I have the shady past to back it up anyway.
So like four years ago, I wander the streets again, chasing a murderous
monster that’s burdening the streets with a new body every day. And if
I must admit to myself why I do it, then the reason is very simple. Envy,
at his willingness to snuff out a life. Jealousy, at the artfulness of his skill.
Answers, if that were possible. And an end to all of this…hopefully when
we decide to pounce on each other. We’re all the same, us murderers. We
attract each other, then we spill our blood on the floor.
It’s sort of funny in a sick sense, really. Four years ago, I knew it was
Shiki who took pleasure from the thought of murder.
But he’s not inside me now, is he?
And yet, attracted to a murderous monster’s acts, I’m searching him out
to murder him.
Why didn’t I notice it before? Why did it take so long?
Shiki’s only thought was murder, but he never acted on it. Now it’s me
who’s doing it. It’s me who really likes it.
I make my stop at a love hotel, where the front desk, such as it is, is nonexistent;
rooms are selected and bills paid through a machine. The better
for the anonymity of their very specific clientele. I remember Mikiya once
saying to me that if you wanted to hide from someone, this was a better
entry-level option than most, since they don’t card you. Also, because of
that, transactions go by really fast, which is better overall for me.
When I get to my room, I quickly slip off my clothing and get into the
shower, taking my time in the bath. After I’m done, I lie down on the bed.
And though I wasn’t planning on sleeping, my fatigue and frustration loosens
my grip on my ability to remain awake, and the bed is too comfortable…
I wake up to a much more darkened room, the clock in the table beside
the bed reading two in the morning. It was just getting dark when I got
here, so I must have slept for six hours. The room, lit only by the lamp, and
the dry digital readout of the clock, is populated only by strange shadows.
“f.u.c.k,” I whisper low under my breath, but in the noiseless room, even
that can be heard. Chiding myself for oversleeping, I change back into my
clothes angrily. It’s not just oversleeping that’s bothering me so much
though. I’ve only been by myself for seven days, but why am I so irritated?
It’s hasn’t been that long, has it?
“It hasn’t,” I tell myself, as if saying it aloud would persuade me some-
/ 1 • 145
how. I leave the hotel as quickly as I entered it six hours earlier, my business
Just past 2am. Even the stone and concrete are asleep this time of night,
but of course, the police, on the lookout for the murderous monster, are
not. They’ll be on the lookout for anyone suspicious, with likely orders to
pat anyone down. They’d find some pretty illegal stuff in my coat, so I’m
not dealing with that ha.s.sle. With that in mind, I duck inside the nearest
alleyway I can find. Every avenue in this area is indicted now, and the police
would have the main roads covered, so I can’t use them. Of course, the
murderous monster knows this too, and so like him, we travel the thieves’
highway, flitting through the narrow s.p.a.ces between buildings. Hopefully,
we meet each other. That’s the plan, anyway. Unfortunately, you tend to
meet all sorts of people in alleys, and not usually the ones you’d like.
“Not a dealer, man. You got somewhere else to be,” I say as I come to
an intersection between alleys. Someone’s been tailing me since a few
seconds ago. And now, in this intersection, I find more corner boys, one at
my front, and two more to either flank. They’ve got me right in between.
I look at the one in front of me. Slow, unsteady steps. Lazy arms. Slightly
c.o.c.ked head. His eyes are wandering a bit. This guy is totally f.u.c.king high.
I cast a quick glance at the remaining three, and find that the same is true
for all of them.
“Well, can’t say I didn’t warn you.” They close in simultaneously, the
entire thing obviously planned beforehand. I reach inside the pocket of my
jacket, pulling out my blade, seven inches in all. I sigh before it all begins.
“Well, I guess this is as good a solution for boredom as any. You all wanna
get high, right? Fine. We’re all gonna have a different high tonight.”
Maybe they want a quick f.u.c.k. Maybe they want some extra cash for
dope. Maybe all they want to do is bash some skulls in. Far be it from me
to decline that offer. At least, for a little while, I can relax, be the me that
Shiki always wanted me to be, and lose myself in a moment of high.
They close in on me, faster and with a purpose.
146 • KINOKO NASU
The Second Homicide Inquiry - II
- May. -
- I need to write about her again. -
- I lose myself when I see her, drinking her presence in. My fingers become
numb and I forget to breathe at the sight of her. Can I die from doing so? I
need only look at her, and she buries herself again in my mind like a virus.
She’s invaded my life. Got deep inside, this miraculously perfect girl from
my high school. I think I’ve fallen in love. I’ve never even talked to her, never
even heard her voice. And that emptiness weighs more on me every day, so
much that I’m scared. -
The rain stopped sometime last night, and the city once again welcomes
daylight, albeit filtered through a cloudy grey canopy that the rain managed
to leave as a parting gift. I was up until late last night canva.s.sing the crime
scenes for clues, and I was so tired I decided not to go home and just crash
at my old high school friend Gakuto’s place, which was nearer. Good thing
he was very accommodating. Now, despite my lack of sleep, I can’t seem
to shake off my custom of waking up early, but stuck with nothing to do,
I spend the time looking out the window and looking at the dawn slowly
creeping over the rest of the city.
“You up early, ain’t ya? Maybe you’re looking to fix me some morning
chow?” It’s Gakuto, awake now and rubbing his eyes. Of course, I decline
his polite request.
“In your weirdest dreams. Besides, there’s nothing but beer in your
fridge. I can’t work miracles, you know.”
“Hah, sharp as ever, Mikiya. Time to bang on my neighbour’s door and
see if they have some grub to eat,” he concludes with a yawn. I watch him
/ THE SECOND HOMICIDE INQUIRY - II • 147
get up, scratch his head, and look at me for a moment, to which I muster
my best look of disappointment. Then, still groggy, he struggles to reach
the door, before doing a very slow double take on me, his eyes now as
surprised as if he had seen a ghost.
“Ever take note of how pale you are at the moment?” he says to me.
“You sure you feeling okay?” Frowning, I take a look at myself at his mirror.
He’s right. I’m as deathly pale as a doll.
“Don’t worry. It wears off after a while. Acid only takes about four to six
hours. Might be having some hallucinations and random synaesthesia until
then, though. Should be interesting.”
“Someday, you’re curiosity’s gonna make you end up face down in a
“But it hasn’t.”
“Give it time,” he smiles. “So, you curious enough to try out what’s being
pa.s.sed around on the corners these days,” he observes, looking over at the
remnants of my fix last night. Some blotters the size of stamps, and some
rolls of weed still remain unused, scattered above his table. I nod.
“The weed you can throw away. The acid…well, I’m done with that,
but you can have them if you want. It’s not addictive, if that’s what you
wanna ask, and it’s definitely got to be more fun than the poor excuses for
amus.e.m.e.nt parks we have here.” I grab the coat which I hastily hurled on
top of the bed last night, and quickly put it on. It’s still 7am, and the city
should just be beginning to breathe again. I don’t have time to be leisurely
“Heading out already? Stay for a while, man. You can’t even stand up
correct, let alone walk,” Gakuto says.
“Can’t. Got things to find out,” I answer, surprised at how weak and
throaty my voice comes out.
“Oh yeah? Like what?”
I point to Gakuto’s TV. “Watched the 6am news a bit earlier. Seems last
night, behind this love hotel called Pavillion—”
“The one with high prices for them suit-and-tie motherf.u.c.kers?” Gakuto
“Yeah, that one. Apparently the murderous monster killed some more
people in the alley behind it. This time’s different, though. News said four
people all at the same scene.”
Gakuto hums, a sound of curiosity, before turning on the television.
Predictably, it’s all morning news programs, and will be for a little while
longer. The content is unsurprising. The murderous monster again, and the
subject is just as I told Gakuto. There is one new point of interest in this
148 • KINOKO NASU
report he’s watching, and that’s—
“The suspect is dressed in a kimono? How about that, huh?” Gakuto
asks, keeping his eyes glued to the TV. I shake my head, leaving the remark
hanging in the air as I continue walking towards the exit to his apartment.
Though I’m better off than I was just an hour ago, I’m still a little shaky as I
put on my shoes. As I do this, Gakuto walks up behind me, seeing me out.
With his hand holding the two drugs I left behind on his table, he starts to
ask a question before I leave.
“So what’s it like taking both of these at the same time?”
“Can’t say it’s a glowing review. You only get what Hansel and Gretel
felt.” With that, I stand up and open the door, waving my hand behind me
before leaving his apartment. I don’t bother to turn around to see if he
It’s only when I’ve stepped outside into the sun and closed the door
behind me that I begin to feel the pang of hunger. I haven’t eaten for a day.
And the munchies from the weed is no doubt only making it worse.
It takes me an hour to walk from Gakuto’s place to the crime scene that
I saw on the news this morning. Nothing is out of place when I get there.
Blue uniformed policemen are keeping a tight perimeter around the entire
place, and aren’t allowing anyone to get near. And of course, rubberneckers
are there as well, trying to get their fair share of an unusual sight. Between
them and the police blocking the entrance to the alley crossroads, I can’t
catch sight of anything useful inside.
I think about going to the Pavilion love hotel nearby, but then I consider
that it would probably be a waste of time. There wouldn’t be a receptionist
to talk to, and whatever personnel certainly wouldn’t even consider talking
to me. And like h.e.l.l they’d show me their security camera footage. And
anyway, even if Shiki did make a stop at that hotel, she wouldn’t be there
now. So I decide to come at this from a different angle.
I came into contact with a particular drug slinger right around this neighbourhood
when I was trying to find a friend of Gakuto’s back in July, and
I was tracing his whereabouts back to his usual slingers. I only ever got
a cellphone number, so the phone is the only extent of our interaction,
but I talked to the person before and that was enough for me. I find a pay
phone nearby and call up the person up, asking for a meet to get some
new information. There is a silence on the other end of the line for a few
seconds before the person gives his consent. Then I make my way over to
/ THE SECOND HOMICIDE INQUIRY - II • 149
It leads me to a place far from the noise of the city’s main avenues,
outside of the commercial district. Here, old buildings crowd around each
other, poorly zoned and a testament to what the economy had left behind.
The apartment building I arrive at is an old, run-down place, the dirt of
years that cling stubbornly to it making the color of the place darker than
it was originally intended to be. It was obviously long abandoned, the front
entrance having been boarded up. The address I have says to go to the
second floor, however, so I look around for a fire escape. Soon enough, I
find one, though it is missing a few steps and the rust has long overtaken
it. I climb it, each footfall sounding on steel, and careful to watch each
for a sign of dangerous collapse. When I get to the second floor landing, I
find the door leading to the apartment’s common hallway unlocked. I step
inside, quickly finding the room I’m looking for, and knock.
Beyond the door I hear the sounds of footsteps, and the movement of
shadows under the little stab of light emanating from under the door. This
lasts for a few seconds before the wooden door finally opens slightly, and
a person sticks her head out. It is the face of a woman, her long brunette
hair sweeping down from behind her head. At first glance, she looks to be
only a few years older than me. She looks me up and down, slipping me a
visible smile before opening the door the entire way. She is dressed unremarkably,
with only her red winter coat as a characteristic feature.
“Hey. I’m the one who called you this morning—”
“Yeah, yeah, I know. Hope n.o.body followed you. Wouldn’t want anybody
to know someone’s living in here. Get in here, quick.” Suddenly, she reaches
out and takes my arm, pulling me into her room forcibly. I spend a moment
trying not to stumble, and find myself inside a very messy room. Clothes
and magazines and other a.s.sorted things have claimed possession of the
floor, and in the middle of all of it is a kotatsu. The woman walks past me,
quickly sitting down and slipping her legs inside the kotatsu. She gives me
an impatient glare, motioning her head for me to come near her. And so, a
bit more timidly then I’m used to, I sit down on the floor across from her.
The kotatsu isn’t warm at all, however, and I notice that it isn’t connected
to an outlet. Probably because there isn’t even any electricity in here.
“So this is what you look like, huh?” she says in a high voice. She rests
her hands on the table, and her head on her hands, tilted sideways so that
she has to look up at me awkwardly. “Didn’t really expect you to look the
way you are.”
I want to answer that it’s entirely the same with me, but I hold off on it.
She’s acting a lot different than the two curt conversations we’ve had on
the phone have led me to believe. I don’t know how she slings her product,
150 • KINOKO NASU
“Oh, it’s easy. n.o.body really gives a hoot if you’re a guy or a girl, as long
as you got the product.”
“Err, yeah, I suppose,” I manage to stutter out. “How did you—”
She chuckles. “You’re an easy book to read, and it’s written all over your
face, you know? Still, though, I could swear from your voice on the phone
that I had you pegged as some kind of reptilian look-type guy. Complete
with widdle spectacles, ‘information is power’-type college boy. Well,
guess it doesn’t matter in the end. So, what was it you wanted to ask?”
She blinks, then narrows her eyes. In that instant, though she did not
move at all, I could feel something change in how she carried herself,
almost like a switch has been turned on in her mind. Trying to ignore the
feeling, I press on with my first question. I clear my throat.
“I guess I’ll start with what happened last night. Heard anything to the
effect of witnesses to what went down with the murderous monster last
“You mean the wild girl in the kimono with a leather jacket?” she says.
The sentence catches me so off guard that I’m forced to avert my eyes from
her. If she’s as sharp as she claims, she’d have probably noticed that too.
She continues, “Don’t need to ask anyone else about that. I mean, I saw it
after all. Let’s see now…I think it was around 3am last night? The rain didn’t
seem to want to stop. This place is scary in rainy nights, and business has
kinda sucked lately, you know? But that love hotel is a constant customer.
They buy from me all the time. I was going out to make my delivery, and I
pa.s.sed by the entrance to the alley, and then I saw them. Four youngins,
trying to mug a broad in a kimono. Shameless, I tell ya.”
There is a playful thoughtfulness to her eyes now as she recounts last
night’s events, and before long I find my eyes meeting hers again. “The
news says the suspect’s gender is unconfirmed. How do you even know
she’s a girl?”
“Trust me, I’d know. Ain’t no better judge for a girl’s body than another
girl, is there? That said, it was pr