These are color illustrations that were included in volume 1
 Night 1: Usarin-kakka's Daily Edict
From ★ Usarin To ★ Sensei Subject ★ Edict Body ★ Hello, Usarin here. I know that you should be the busiest during after class hours, but, since you said that I could text you whenever I pleased, that’s what I’m doing now! If I’ve done anything wrong, just lecture me, okay? I’m currently at home. Are you still in school? If you think it’s too much of a hassle, you could just ignore this message, but, if you’re free, do reply! I’ll be waiting!
From ★ Sensei To ★ Usarin-kakka Subject ★ In the middle of a teacher’s conference Body ★ I’m bored. I have no idea why the job as a teacher is so long-winded. I’m so bored that I’m drinking cup after cup of coffee… But, that wouldn’t be good for my stomach. Why did you text me, anyway? Is anything up? 'Cause, if there is, I, Sakaki Guryuu, will hightail out of here right away. It’s not like I’ll be missing much from this kind of meeting, anyway, don’t worry.
From ★ Usarin To ★ Sensei Subject ★ Edict 2 Body ★ Ehh~ You’re in a meeting, Sensei? I’m sorry, I must have distracted you. I’ll get straight to the point, then: After your meeting dismisses later, please, come over to my house, Sensei. Do you remember what day it is? November 11th… It’s your birthday! It’s impossible to hold anything grand at my house, so, I’ve only prepared a cake for you. If you’re free – and I mean really free – please, come over to my place. Happy birthday, Sensei! I’ll be waiting!
If words were used to describe Kannonsakazaki Private High School teacher Sakaki Guryuu, they would probably be something along the lines of “talented,” “elegant,” “genius,” “stunning” – you could probably list out every positive adjective you knew and compare them to Sakaki, and none of them would seem out of place, because he was perhaps the most perfect human being in the world, a being bearing the closest resemblance to God. Even “godlike,” “flawless,” and “one-of-a-kind” seemed to match him – the pinnacle of human evolution, Sakaki Guryuu.
Obtaining a doctorate at twelve, skilled in all fields, being hailed as the incarnation of Leonardo Da Vinci – not only was he intellectually gifted, he was physically talented, too. Aikido was meant as a method of passing time, but soon he found his way into the Olympics. His touch of the piano melted hearts, his paintings of the brush shook worlds. The titles “The Best," "The Finest," and "The Greatest,” seemed to perfectly suit him, and, backed by the extremely wealthy Sakaki Organization (he was already picked as the Organization’s heir), it seemed that he had already succeeded in life. Failure was clearly not on the menu.
However, Sakaki had a weakness, no, more of a problem actually. This “problem” was the reason why, when he was nineteen, he went down to the countryside and started teaching in the private high school he used to attend. This was also why he never fully concentrated in literature, arts, or sports. It was a “problem” the large organization was powerless to deal with.
Yes, it was a “problem”, and the cause was known as Usagawa Rinne.
She was a normal high school girl that Sakaki loved, was enamored with, even. In fact, you could even say that Sakaki worshiped her.
It was because of her that Sakaki Guryuu strayed from the path of the elite.
Hoping to spend more time with her, Sakaki decided to become a teacher in her school. All other literary, artistic, and sports matters, which were meant as time-passers in the first place, were put on indefinite hold. All of her living expenses, including her apartment's rent, water and electricity bills, tuition fees and pocket money, were fully sponsored out of Sakaki’s pocket. In short, he was her Daddy-Long-Legs.
Since there was nothing wrong with that nickname, Sakaki silently acknowledged it.
“What a waste of talent, what the hell is he doing? Resign from being a teacher! Go do something proper instead!” These were words uttered by people who didn’t know Sakaki’s feelings: in other words, pointless words of advice. To Sakaki, there was something more important than producing a thesis which overturned the most fundamental laws of science, securing a gold medal by beating a world champion in the Olympics, or even making a name for himself as one of the most prominent artists in history – and that was spending the day with Usagawa Rinne, doing ordinary stuff, living an ordinary life. That was true happiness to him.
Priorities did, after all, differ from person to person.
And so did happiness.
The head teacher stood up and began making a speech about teenage delinquency and the current state of social safety: about how they were a threat to society, and how, if they were all rounded up and expelled, what a better world we would be living in. From a third person’s point of view, this would seem like anything but a peaceful discussion.
What was he angry about? Was he genuinely angry about the degeneration of society? That was highly unlikely – the Head Teacher was probably just pissed, that’s all! Pissed at the fact that nobody wished him “Good morning” today, pissed at the students who secretly called him “anteater” behind his back! In order to vent his anger, he was directing his hatred towards all teenagers in general.
“Boring,” Sakaki said softly.
It was indeed boring – everything was. Due to the low birth rate and a new policy to prioritize senior citizens introduced by politicians, the school was becoming poorer by the day. In order to save electricity, lights were not turned on, resulting in the meeting room being extremely dim. Married couples refused to have children, as raising them took too much money, snobbish politicians who prioritized elderly citizens, hoping for a higher voter turnout – even if the school’s fortunes were rapidly declining. Still, it was still no reason to pin it on them. Plus, there was nothing wrong with being poor, Sakaki reasoned. Looking at Usagawa Rinne made him think that way.
Human beings, after all, were only able to gain happiness by fulfilling their own goals. Even if someone owned a lot of property, if he felt that he hadn’t achieved his own goal and was unhappy, then he would, of course, be unhappy! Similarly, even if someone was poor, as long as she felt she was happy, then, of course, she would be happy! “He,” in this case, referring to Sakaki before he met Usagawa Rinne. “She,” in this case, referring to Rinne.
Rinne was extremely poor. Her only hobby was cooking, and even though she had to work hard to make ends meet, she still bravely lived on. She must be happy, and the one who got to meet her – Sakaki, must also be equally happy.
Sakaki, who was previously listening to the meeting in a corner, shifted his attention towards his cell phone upon receiving Rinne’s message.
The Head Teacher was still going on loudly about something. “It must be hard on him, screaming out loud like that in the winter will evidently give him a sore throat,” Sakaki thought, as he withdrew the vibrating cell phone from his pocket, preparing to read his new message. Even though the Head Teacher visibly frowned at this, Sakaki pretended not to notice, as he indifferently began replying to the message while on the long table.
The Head Teacher immediately reprimanded him.
“Sakaki-sensei, please refrain from using your cell phone in a meeting…”
Sakaki said softly, while still maintaining a conceited attitude.
“I was previously evaluating which was more important, listening to you ranting or reading my message. I acted according to the order of importance. If I offended you, I hereby apologize.”
Sakaki haughtily – or should we say arrogantly, silenced the Head Teacher. The Head Teacher coughed, as if wanting to display an air of strictness and continued talking.
Not too long after, Sakaki’s phone made a “Rat-Tat-Tat” sound as it vibrated on the table. It seemed as though he had a new message. Sakaki naturally reached for his phone.
The Head Teacher, who was in the middle of another meaningless rant, warned, with spit flying everywhere, “Sakaki-sensei…”
“…I’m sorry, I suddenly have urgent matters to attend to, and need to be going now. Oh yeah, you, the Head Teacher, make sure to send me the minutes by tonight. Only list down the points; there shouldn’t be much anyway seeing how things are going now.”
Seeing the Head Teacher’s face darken, Sakaki immediately retorted, “No buts! I have urgent business to settle now. Don’t forget, this school is under the jurisdiction of my Sakaki Organization, and the teacher’s guild is also funded by it, so I think that those who sit down and quietly listen are the bright ones.”
Sakaki stood up after finishing. Full of rage at being humiliated, the Head Teacher’s face was as red as a tomato. Sakaki ignored him and continued to avoid his gaze. Nodding at the other teachers, who were rendered speechless, Sakaki turned and left the meeting room. “Usagawa Rinne is calling me. Why should I waste my time in such a pointless meeting. She should be my main priority,” Sakaki reasoned as his long strides echoed in the empty hallways.
Sakaki’s elegant strides would often make people stop in their tracks. Some girls would even point at him, as if trying to say “unbelievable!”
Be it a guy or girl, all who saw his elegant demeanor would be robbed of the ability to think for a few seconds, stopping in their tracks to marvel at him. Of course, “him” in this context refers to Sakaki Guryuu, who was making his way to Usagawa Rinne’s apartment. Like a wave rippling outwards, Sakaki ignored the stares of the crowd and walked ahead.
His blonde hair, inherited from his American mother, shimmered transparently under the sunlight. This was in addition to a series of proper facial features and a perfectly proportioned body. Disliking outlandish outfits, Sakaki frequently wore a suit, save for occasions where he went to Rinne’s place. Every time he tried to wear something fancy, he would be mistaken as a celebrity though, sometimes accompanied by fans screaming “Give me an autograph! Give me an autograph!!” while dashing towards him. Sakaki often wondered, “What use is it getting a high school teacher’s signature?” Even though he had a celebrity-like name (and signature), it didn’t mean he was a celebrity!
Since this was a countryside town after all, as soon as Sakaki left the main street, the crowd would begin to thin. He began jogging on the long, dark, uneven path, as he made his way to Rinne’s apartment. He could have reached her place faster with a bike or car, but since Sakaki wanted to avoid his perfect hair (which took him great effort to dry and comb every day) getting messed up by the wind, he opted to go on foot. Besides, Rinne’s apartment wasn’t that far anyway. Looking at his new, handpicked clothes, Sakaki wondered, “Do these clothes suit me?” Although he never really felt comfortable wearing clothes marketed to youngsters, Sakaki felt that wearing a suit to a party was simply too ridiculous, and ended up putting up with it. Plus, wearing a suit often gave him a “teacher-ish” aura. Whenever he was alone with Rinne, Sakaki hoped to shed his teacher “shell”, and be himself with her.
It was quite a distance from the nearest station before there were any houses. Large fields were left abandoned without any apparent reason, some with wooden houses erected on them. These wooden houses, some even having tile roofs, gave one a sense of antiquity, as if time had suddenly stopped.
Just as Sakaki was making a couple of pointless observations…
“Hey there, Onii-chan…”
A voice drifted out from somewhere. It sounded like a guy or a low-pitched girl’s voice.
Sakaki turned towards the source of the voice and saw an odd, little stall in the middle of the field.
Could that even pass as a stall? A purple mat was placed on the floor, hammered to the ground with nails. On top of the mat a person, who was clad in a long, robe-like garment, quietly sat there, cross-legged. The person’s face was blocked by a long hood, making it impossible to tell if it was a man or woman under it. There was also a large, crystal ball on the mat, which the person was gently polishing. There was also a small sign placed on the mat, which simply read “Fortune telling, 100 yen”.
Why would a fortune teller be in such a place? Shouldn’t they be in a shopping district or something – no wait, what was a fortune teller doing in the countryside anyway? And could one really make a living by a measly 100 yen per fortune telling? Lots of questions surfaced in Sakaki’s mind; this was a suspicious trader indeed.
The mysterious trader lifted both hands. Maybe it was due to the long sleeves on the robe, but this made the trader seem positively inhuman. The trader then said to Sakaki, “Yes, Onii-chan, fortune telling. Would you like to give it a go? I’m very accurate, you know. Your fortune in wealth, in love, or in life… Or perhaps you would like to hit it big? Win a big prize? Look for something long lost? Get rid of something bothering you? I can tell all sorts of fortunes!”
“Sorry, but I’m not interested.”
Sakaki replied shortly, as he quickly turned his back to the fortune teller.
“Wait, wait!!” the fortune teller said and hastily got up. The fortune teller then proceeded to say something that made Sakaki freeze in his steps.
“You won’t lose anything by just getting a reading, Onii-chan! I sense a malicious aura around you, and if you don’t get rid of it soon, it is certain to bring you misfortune! You seem to be a powerful person, who doesn’t really care about what happens to himself. However, this malicious aura may cause misfortune to befall those around you! I know you don’t want that to happen, do you? Sakaki Guryuu…”
Sakaki furiously turned his head. There was a crystal ball in the fortune teller’s outstretched hands as the fortune teller mystically continued, “… The one you like, ah, Usagawa Rinne? She will be the first victim, and die a very horrible death. You don’t wish such fate to befall your lover, do you, Onii-chan? A corpse, with a gouged out eyeball…”
Sakaki roared as he charged into the empty field, towards the stall. This shady character not only knew his name, but Rinne’s as well! He forcefully grabbed the fortune teller by the collar.
“Ouch! Don’t do that! It hurts!” The fortune teller yelled, somewhat unemotionally. Sakaki ripped open the fortune teller’s hood, revealing the face of a surprisingly young man. His expressionless face, however, gave Sakaki the chills. It was like a bug's, totally void of expression.
The guy’s hair was messy, and his eyes shimmered in a frightening crimson.
Sakaki hollered in a loud voice, “Who the hell are you? How do you know my and Rinne’s names? And what’s this about a corpse? Are you saying Rinne is going to die? What on earth do you mean? Answer me, brat!”
The fortune teller wasn’t the least bit shaken. He was also not the slightest bit attracted towards Sakaki, as he looked at him without blinking, his eyes like clear accessories.
“… I told you to come for a fortune reading, didn’t I? That’s what I could tell anyway, I’m a fortune teller after all. You will encounter a series of misfortunes after this, misfortunes which will destroy your normal days, shatter your everyday life, and bring forth pain and suffering! And the overture to this catastrophe, the first victim, will be the one you adore, the girl named Usagawa Rinne…”
The fortune teller said in one-breath. Not pausing to draw a breath, he continued, “… She will be killed by a devil, in a brutal, inhuman way – her eye sockets will be pierced by a spoon, and her eyeballs will be gouged out! She will slowly die, with pain being the last thing registered in her brain! Because it’s such a painful way to die, I bet she’ll even hate you! Compared to being murdered like this, I bet she would wish to have died back then, in that big, blue sea. ‘Ah, it would have been so much easier if I had died in the sea back then~ Why did you have to save me, sensei? I hate you, I’m going to curse you for all eternity…’”
Sakaki whacked his fist into the fortune teller’s face, as if trying to stop that prediction from coming true.
Even after being walloped in the face, the fortune teller’s expression did not change. Since he was being grabbed by the collar, he did not fall, as he said, in that feminine-yet-masculine tone, “That’s what’s going to happen in the future. Punching me isn’t going to change it.”
“What the… You son of a…!”
Sakaki yelled, clearly shocked by the fortune teller’s inhuman response. “Who the hell are you? What is your motive? What are you planning to achieve? Why are you saying such things? You’re saying misfortune is about to befall me? What misfortune? Why must Rinne die?”
Sakaki had no doubt that this fortune teller was a real one now, most likely due to his inhuman reaction and aura. Also, Sakaki was clearly disturbed by his shimmering red eyes. Normal human eyes don’t glitter. This guy was clearly not human.
“We are called ‘Mushi’.”
The shady fortune teller said in the same tone.
“…… Yes we. We do not have form, we do not have sentience. We only obey orders from our superiors, a collection of individuals who have forsaken individuality. We are known as ‘Mushi’. Not ‘Bugs’, but rather, ‘Mushi’.
The ‘Mushi’ said, with ironically bug-like eyes.
The purple mat Sakaki was standing on seemed to shimmer, as if it lacked substance, as if it were ethereal. What’s going on here? Is this really true? Those were the thoughts racing through Sakaki’s head.
“As a ‘Mushi’, my orders are to pass you these warnings from the future. You are to ponder upon my words, think of an appropriate strategy and try to delay the inevitable. Who knows? You might be able to avoid the worst case scenario.”
“Worse case scenario?”
“The coming of the devil.”
The “Mushi” spelled out.
“It could happen anytime – today, tomorrow, 10 years later, maybe even 10 seconds later. However, in the end, that day will still come. The devil will appear before you, murder Usagawa Rinne and cause the worst case scenario.”
“Worst case scenario?”
“I can’t tell you.”
The “Mushi” answered, rejecting Sakaki’s second question just like a faulty calculator failing at the last moment. Does he mean to say that that is not part of his fate?
“Even though I can’t tell you, what I can say is, it’s the worst case scenario.”
“Then to me, the worst case scenario would be Rinne dying. Even if you were to weight the Earth exploding or the Universe imploding on one side of the scale and Rinne dying on the other, the scale would clearly tip towards her favour.”
“That might be it, I guess!”
People, after all, had different priorities. The “Mushi” ambiguously replied, before saying, “In a situation like this, it doesn’t matter what you hold as the worst case scenario. After all, if Usagawa Rinne isn’t murdered by the devil, then the worst case scenario will never occur. So try to keep it that way.”
The “Mushi” brushed Sakaki’s hand away, as he rummaged through a small cardboard box on the mat. A while later, he produced a giant egg and cupped it in both hands.
What kind of egg was that? It was slightly smaller than a human’s skull – around the size of an ostrich’s egg. It had a white base and, as if wanting to look less dull, had red and green patterns on it. However, these patterns seemed genuine, and it certainly didn’t look like something someone had painted on it.
Of course, this was no egg a bird, reptile, amphibian or bug could ever lay.
What was this egg? And why was the fortune teller holding it?
The “Mushi” carefully raised the egg, and handed it to Sakaki.
“This is the egg of a Dream-world beast. It’s not a creature of this world, so don’t bother searching any encyclopedias for it. Don’t forget to hand it to Usagawa Rinne. You don’t have to keep it warm, it will hatch after some time. If you’re lucky, it’ll hatch into a Dream-world beast before the devil arrives. Dream-world beasts are primitive beings, and just like animals, they have filial imprints, and will recognize the first thing they see as their mother. So it should theoretically recognize Usagawa Rinne as its mother, even though they are physically different. Since Dream-world beasts are very powerful, they should most likely be able to ward off the devil.”
“Because of its parents?”
“Because its parents are in danger. Dream-world beasts value family ties, and they are the best counter to the devil. Hmm… Before the Dream-world beast hatches, though, you should carry firearms on you, in order to protect Usagawa Rinne, even though they are forbidden!”
The “Mushi” gently prodded Sakaki’s chest, and true enough, a handgun was hidden inside. How could he possibly tell? Sakaki was shocked. He felt as if he was breathing another planet’s air, and the air was composed of different components, causing him to feel very strange and dizzy. It was as if the world had suddenly gone mad.
“Who… What on Earth are you?”
Sakaki yelled, having asked this question for the third time.
For the first time throughout their encounter, the “Mushi” smiled.
“I wonder, what should I answer for you to believe me?”
For some reason, the old apartment looked even more run down than the tile-roofed houses today – the old apartment Usagawa Rinne stayed in, of course. It was a three storey building, with a total of 6 rooms, 3 of which were vacant. The 2nd floor was where the office was situated, and room 1A, on the 1st floor, belonged to Rinne. Room 1B, which happened to be situated next door, by the way, was occupied by a self-claimed musician. According to Rinne, she was either bad at socializing, or she just plain hated humans, since she rarely mixed with anyone at all.
There was also the question as to why an apartment was even built in a place like this. Despite being an apartment, however, the rooms were uncomfortably small and narrow, which in turn caused the rent to be very cheap – so cheap, in fact, that even Rinne could afford it with the money she earned from her part-time job. Also, despite Sakaki’s frequent “Don’t worry about the money, just go get a better house”, Rinne stubbornly refused to listen, replying with a simple “As long as the room is long enough for me to lie down, its all the same to me!” Not only did Rinne turn down Sakaki’s offers, she was also very against receiving any form of cash from him, insisting that she could take care of herself just fine.
Of course, Sakaki had, behind Rinne’s back, given her all forms of help. Like threatening her boss with the prospect of not being able to establish himself in society should he ever fire Rinne, or installing a water purifier in her apartment’s water supply in fear of her getting sick after drinking contaminated water.
Back to the story, by the time Sakaki reached Rinne’s apartment, it was already six. Treading on the old cement floor, he made his way to room 1A and stopped. He took a deep breath; appearances were indeed deceiving, Sakaki was in fact, quite vulnerable to girls, especially when the girl in question was Rinne. He tended to get nervous quite easily, so stopping by the door and taking a deep breath every time he visited this apartment was already a routine of his.
Again for some unknown reason, this run-down apartment had an intercom. Sakaki pressed the door bell, and waited.
Rinne’s clear, chine-like voice quickly came out from the intercom.
“Who is it?”
“Usarin-kakka, its me”
Even though he never said who he was, Rinne already knew who it was on the other side of the door. The only person who would address Rinne as “-kakka” would be Sakaki. Rinne immediately let out a squeal, and cut her reply short.
Since the room was small, Rinne literally reached the door in less than two seconds.
Appearing behind the open door was the silhouette of a cute, little girl. Because her clothes were quite dated, she looked somewhat old-fashioned, but ignoring this fact, she was indeed really cute. Clean, straight hair, snow-white skin, a gentle smile on her face, those alone were enough to make her very attractive, but what attracted Sakaki the most was her clear, chime-like voice.
Rinne, who was up to Sakaki’s chest in height, looked up to him and smiled, like a blossoming flower.
“Sensei, you really came!” Rinne said in a transparent, bell-like chime. “I’m so glad you did! Come in, it’s freezing outside!”
Rinne pulled Sakaki’s arm and dragged him into her room. There was only enough space for one to take off his or her shoes (and also store them at the same spot – there wasn’t room for a shoe rack). Sakaki took off his shoes, and let her drag him into her room.
Rinne’s apartment was about 4 tatamis wide, and consisted of her room, a toilet and the kitchen, so the four-and-a-half tatami standard measurement for rooms (including a toilet) actually took up the entirety of Rinne’s apartment unit. There was no bathroom in her unit, so Rinne had to use the bathroom located outside everyday.
Sakaki took off his coat and placed it in a corner, along with the egg.
Most likely due to Rinne’s cooking, there was a strong aroma in the room that wouldn’t disperse. There was a small window in the room that was tightly shut, because of the cold outside. Even if she turned on the kitchen fan, it wouldn’t have helped much. After telling Rinne about his empty stomach, Sakaki snuggled both his legs into the futon beneath the table.
Rinne opened the fridge and withdrew a box and some malt tea. She poured the tea into a cup she withdrew from a sink, and placed it onto a saucer. She then took the box, along with the tea, and went to Sakaki’s side.
“Thanks a lot… But why are you sitting next to me? Isn’t it squishy? The table is square anyhow, you don’t have to squeeze beside me, right?”
“You don’t understand?”
Rinne smiled as she leaned on Sakaki.
“It’s because I want to be by your side! Even if its 1 centimeter closer, I still want to be closer to you”
“Happy birthday, Sensei…” Rinne concluded as she looked up at Sakaki.
Sakaki looked as if he was trying very hard to withhold something.
“… Usarin-kakka, if you utter such cute words, I’m afraid I won’t be able to hold myself back. Please don’t be that way, I’ve already promised Usarin-kakka that before you graduate, I won’t hold your hand or anything so please, don’t make me break that promise.”
“Those kind of promises, I won’t mind if you break them. You shouldn’t have to restrain yourself in the first place.”
Rinne said matter-of-factly as she continued to lean on Sakaki.
“This is bad,” Sakaki thought. Rinne was too cute, to the point that Sakaki wanted to hug her on the spot. But he couldn’t. If a teacher did that to a student, it was considered an offense.
Sakaki resisted the notion with an iron-clad will, and steered the topic to a safe direction.
“Speaking of which, Usarin-kakka, it seems that the things in your room have increased yet again?”
“Yeah, like that television for example. I didn’t notice it the last I was here? Did you buy it recently?”
“I wouldn’t be able to afford such a thing! It’s too expensive! You know how the shopping district has these lucky draws once in a while? Like on their 10-year-anniversary or grand sales and such, this was the prize for the runner-up!”
“So you drew the 2nd place lot?”
“Nope, its just that nobody did, and the television became an extra. The uncle who was in charge of the lucky draw said ‘It’s no use keeping it, I guess we’ll just give it to Rinne!’, so that’s how I got it~”
“He’s abusing his authority that way, it’s fairly easy to see what he was after.”
“Yeah! But since he said he would give it to me, there wasn’t any reason for me to refuse him, was there? Actually, I kinda wanted a television myself too, that’s why I accepted it. Oh, and I also took lots of instant noodles back with me.”
In a corner of the room, there was indeed a cardboard box labeled “Kannonsakazaki Shopping District”, and if it was filled with instant noodles, then it would certainly have been a lot of instant noodles. Sakaki warned Rinne, “Don’t make it a habit to accept things from strangers. There have been lots of reports from school about students accepting such things and then being charged with high installments.”
Rinne smiled bitterly, as she opened the box on the table. There were two slices of cake inside, she was too poor to purchase an entire cake.
Rinne placed the cakes on the saucers, and announced, “I don’t have any forks!” She then stood up, hesitated a while, and stood rooted to the spot, as if thinking of something. After a while, she went to another corner of the room, and took a paper bag.
Her face was flushing red. It was as if she was embarrassed and frustrated at the same time.
Sakaki more or less guessed what the paper bag meant, and why she was hesitating.
The bag must have contained Sakaki’s birthday present, and Rinne was obviously hesitating whether or not to give it to him. She was probably thinking something along the lines of “Would this be appropriate? Would Sensei like it, and what if he rejected it?”, and thus was hesitant to present Sakaki his present.
Sakaki understood, as he said to Rinne with a benevolent expression never seen by anyone else, “Don’t worry! As long as its something from Usarin-kakka, then I’ll definitely treasure it, no matter what!”
“R-Really? But Sensei, you’re so rich, I bet your previous birthdays were much grander, and the presents must have been extraordinary right? I’m sorry, or maybe I’m ashamed of myself.”
“That’s not true.”
Sakaki answered truthfully: “A present’s value is not measured by how much it cost; a birthday’s worth is not based on how big the modal was. To me, Usarin-kakka, being able to spend the day like today sitting by a warm table and enjoying cake, toasting with malt tea, this is more enjoyable than anything I’ve experienced thus far. This is definitely my best birthday by far, so please, don’t put on such a face.”
“Stop but-buting anymore, I’ve sworn to you that I’m with you not because I pity you but because I really love you, from the depths of my heart. Trust me, you aren’t worthless, I’m not a superior being, and Usarin-kakka, you are more than a match for me, please believe me when I say that you are a special girl to me. I’ve given you my word, am I right?”
I’ve given you my word.
Usagawa Rinne shouldn’t have been ashamed in the first place. Who cares if she was poor, as long as she was herself for Sakaki, she would be the one he loved the most. Sakaki had told her this before, when the two of them had first met. Back then, Rinne hadn’t been able to smile naturally, and wasn’t too capable of having long conversations. Compared to then, she had become so cheerful now.
“T-then, at least for today…”
Rinne said as she lowered her head, “Don’t call me ‘Usarin-kakka’.”
She said in a voice that sounded as if she was pouting, yet teasing him at the same time.
This was Rinne’s true desire, expressed half-jokingly.
Sakaki obliged and said, “Usagawa.”
“Call me by my given name.”
Most likely satisfied, Rinne nodded, as she withdrew his present from the bag.
It was a wool scarf. Rinne’s handwork was good, and the weaving was absolutely fantastic.
“I was going to give you this for Christmas, but since I managed to finish it early, I’m going to give it to you now. I’ll prepare something else for Christmas.”
“Thanks. Wow, this really is some handwork. Did you learn it from anyone?”
“I learned it from one of my friends. I stayed at her place for about three nights, and begged her to teach me her secrets. All I needed to do was master the basics, and it was continuous repetition from then on, which is why it was surprisingly easy once I got the hang of it! Although the wool is of cheap material, its 100% hand-sewn with lots of love!”
“I see, it’s very warm!”
Sakaki smiled in joy. Love – it definitely provided the most warmth!
Rinne held the scarf with both hands, and sat down facing Sakaki.
“I’m going to help you wear it, lower your head a bit.”
Sakaki obliged and lowered his head. The scarf gently went around his neck.
It was then that Rinne kissed Sakaki.
Time seemed to freeze at that moment, as Sakaki’s face was plastered with shock. Rinne put her hands by his ears, and gently kissed his lips. The scarf, which was gently wrapped around his neck, softly fell to the ground. This sudden act caused Sakaki to blank out, as he felt the warmth emanating from Rinne’s hands, lips and heart.
Suddenly, her lips parted.
Rinne slowly furrowed her eyebrows, and mumbled, “……I’m sorry Sensei, I broke our promise.”
Sakaki said at a loss of words. Rinne looked down, and her thick fringe veiled her expression from Sakaki.
“But I’m constantly in pain, wondering what I am to Sensei. I like Sensei, I like Guryuu-san, but since we’re in a teacher-student relationship, and Sensei refuses to hold hands, call me by my name and all, sometimes I feel really scared…”
Rinne said as she shook her head.
“…… I’m very stubborn aren’t I? Sensei treats me so well, yet here I am, asking for more. I wonder, what am I to Sensei? Does Sensei really like me? I believe you when you say you do, but even then… I’m scared, really scared, that’s why I wanted some affirmation…”
Rinne said, as if on the verge of tears. She wasn’t crying; even though her voice was trembling, she wasn’t crying. Sakaki understood – it was because these were her true feelings, that’s why she wasn’t crying. He understood that these weren’t just words uttered at the spur of the moment; these were matters that were troubling her deep in her heart.
Sakaki suddenly felt the urge to curse himself. Rinne mentioned that she was in pain, in fear; fear of being hated, being dumped by Sakaki. She loved him that much!
And just like how Usagawa Rinne loved him, Sakaki Guryuu loved her just as much.
Because the two of them treated each other as important, they were afraid of losing that “importantness”, of losing each other. Just like the two sides of a coin – even though they were totally different, both of them were just as real; even though both of them were technically unrelated, both of them were as tightly bound.
Sakaki caressed Rinne’s silky hair, before bending down and kissing her lightly. Rinne’s hair gently trembled, as she closed her eyes and cried, this time with tears flowing down her cheeks.
Because humans are a fragile species.
That was why we sometimes seek affirmation.
Affirmation of love, feelings, and a few other emotions.
That’s definitely not something bad.
So Rinne, you can stop crying now.
Sakaki Guryuu’s 20th birthday ended, with fond memories etched deep in his skull. By 10 o'clock, he decided to go back home. Even though he wanted to be with Rinne, it was, after all, already 10. Who knows what might happen if he stayed even later! It was best to retreat for now.
Rinne was so cute, Sakaki found it almost impossible to reject her. Since he was a healthy, 20 year old man after all, it was dangerous to continue staying by her side - dangerous in “that” sense, of course. No matter what, Sakaki wanted to avoid crossing the last line of defense, the point of no return.
Sakaki bade farewell to Rinne, with the scarf he received as a present around his neck, and a slice of cake in his hands. In the end, he failed to think of a way to pass the Mushi’s strange egg to Rinne, because the atmosphere certainly didn’t permit it. Plus, upon further thought, the “Mushi” fellow did seem a bit too suspicious.
It was impossible, after all, for a human to predict the future. As for how he knew Sakaki and Rinne’s names, it was possible if one really wanted to investigate. And the glow in his eyes, it was most likely a cheap trick. All that nonsense about Rinne being killed and a worst case scenario, what rubbish! When Sakaki had entered Rinne’s room then, for a while he had actually taken the Mushi’s premonition seriously! After seeing Rinne’s cheerfulness, however, he dismissed the thought entirely. To think that Rinne would be killed, what a joke! Even if one went to hell and back, one wouldn’t be able to find a reason Usagawa Rinne should be killed. What a load of codswallop!
For some reason, Sakaki still felt a tingle of anxiety. Was what that young man, that “Mushi”, said all a just a big lie? If it was a lie, why did he have to weave such a lie? And if it wasn’t, how in the world did he know in the first place?
Even as Sakaki stopped to think about it using his genius intellect, the conclusion seemed to steer towards a not-so-pleasant direction, which caused Sakaki to dismiss the thoughts straight away. These anxious thoughts, however, seemed to pile up in his brain, casually sinking in like in mud.
Sakaki stood under a lamp post, in the middle of a pitch black street.
He was on the uneven, country-side path. In a few minutes, he would reach the shopping district. He could see the faint neon lights in the distance. The skies were a cloudy gray – there were no stars tonight, and the moon was nowhere to be seen. Sakaki stood still, clutching the odd egg in his hand.
Was what the “Mushi” said really a lie?
What if it wasn’t? What if he had committed an irreversible mistake? That was a scary thought indeed, the though of “what if” terrified Sakaki tremendously.
Go back! Sakaki decided. Even though there was a chance he might be cheated, and maybe even laughed at, he would at least deliver the egg to Rinne, and notify the security guard to secretly protect Rinne. Or maybe he could bring her to his residence before the egg hatched. That would put her far away from harm's reach.
I’ll protect Rinne.
That was what Sakaki thought.
Putting the matter of whether or not she would be killed aside, if there was any threat of impeding danger, the threat had to be neutralized, no matter how subtle the threat may be. Even though there was a possibility of it being no more than a lie. Or a cruel prank. Or something of the sort.
Just as Sakaki made up his mind, and turned around…
A girl, holding a spoon in her right hand, passed by his side.
At the same time…
Sakaki yelped in surprise, his heart throbbing furiously.
He looked at the silhouette of the young girl, whose footsteps seemed to be dancing in the shadow. The girl was dressed in old, tattered clothes, like a vagrant. She didn’t have any pants on, and was barefooted. She had long, untamed hair, like a wolf, and perhaps it was due to her not conditioning it, her hair appeared to be in a mess. The spoon in her right hand, however, appeared unusually shiny.
… A spoon.
The Mushi’s words once again flashed through his mind.
“She will be killed by a devil, in a brutal, inhuman way – her eye sockets will be pierced by a spoon, and her eyeballs will be gouged out! She will slowly die, with pain being the last thing registered in her brain...”
That wasn’t a good sign! It wasn’t a good sign at all!!
A strange, young girl appearing in a place like this, at a time like this, with a spoon that was rendered unusually shiny by reflecting the light from the lamp post above – this all coincided with the mysterious fortune teller’s prophecy - the person who Sakaki treasured the most would have her eyes dug out with a spoon, and subsequently killed. This was all Sakaki needed to act.
“Hey you, wait!”
Sakaki hollered, as he ran towards the girl, intending to stop her.
He stretched out his hand to block her path.
“Do you intend to get in my way?”
With a pure, monotonous voice that seemed to carry none of the noise we know as ‘emotion’, this voice came from behind Sakaki’s stiff back. Before Sakaki’s outstretched hands was… No one.
Sakaki immediately turned around.
“Anyone who wishes to stop Guriko, I’ll dig their eyes out. Are you a ‘Mushi’? Even though your eyes don’t glow red, are you a ‘Mushi’? Or are you some unrelated person?”
The girl rasped. From her appearance, she was no more than a high school student. Her voice sounded normal – if it wasn’t for the strange sense of defiance it contained. It was as if even the Sun would freeze after hearing it.
The girl had thick, dark eye shadows, which seemed like black holes sucking in all the spiraling darkness around them. She had a childish face, and slender appendages – yet there was this strange, sinister air about her. She stared at Sakaki with deep, dark eyes. Sakaki felt as if he was peering into a gunbarrel, cold and emotionless, while reeking of death.
He had no idea when she had sneaked behind him, but Sakaki was ready to put up a fight.
The girl’s face contorted.
“If you’re not a Mushi, why do you seek to stop me? Or do you not have any intentions of getting in my way after all? If you have nothing to say, then get out of my way!”
Gankyuu Eguriko… Eyeball Gouger?
It was as if she dug people’s eyeballs out!
“I don’t care what you’re called. What do you plan on doing?”
Sakaki had already noticed that this girl wasn’t human. A normal girl wouldn’t be able to move with speed exceeding his jurisdiction.
And… She knew about “Mushi”.
“If you’re not going to do anything, then buzz off.”
“What do you plan on doing? I don’t think I should let you pass.”
Sakaki calmly said, as he glared at the girl.
“Then so be it.”
Sakaki felt that the girl made no sense.
“If you don’t move…”
The voice came once again from Sakaki’s back…
“Then I’ll make you move.”
Sakaki felt a heavy blow at his neck. His mind wasn’t even aware of what was happening, let alone his body reacting. However, his sharp reflexes allowed him to steady his footing. It would need something more than that to topple Sakaki Guryuu.
From his rapidly distorting vision, Sakaki caught sight of the girl, as she mumbled, “What a stubborn fellow. But you won’t be able to stop me for long.”
Sakaki felt a strong blow being delivered to his stomach. This merciless attacker didn’t give any chance for Sakaki to counter-attack, as she slammed her open palm against Sakaki’s lower jaw.
Sakaki fell down, unable to do anything else.
And the huge egg, which was previously resting in his hands, fell to the ground.
Rinne, Usagawa Rinne – these words flowed continuously within Sakaki’s mind. He was struggling, trying hard not to be swept away by the torrent of thoughts concerning Usagawa Rinne. After being mercilessly beaten back by the waves of Usagawa Rinne thoughts, Sakaki finally came to his senses, as he furiously opened his eyes. He was still under the lamp post, on the uneven path. And the first thing he saw, from the corner of his eye, was a young man cradling a crystal ball.
“Oh, you’ve finally awoken!”
The “Mushi”, whom Sakaki had thought to be a part of his dream, appeared right beside him. Sakaki climbed to his feet, ignoring the aching in his body, and grabbed the “Mushi” by the front of his robes.
“Calm down. Shouting isn’t going to do your lower jaw any good, especially since it’s just been palmed, literally.”
“I don’t care what happens to me. Where’s Rinne? And that brat…”
Seeing Sakaki’s anxious face, the Mushi couldn’t help but let out a smile. “Who knows? I just happened to be passing by, and met you here by chance, that’s all!”
“How would some random passerby know I was palmed? You were hiding somewhere here right from the start, weren’t you!”
The Mushi opened his eyes in awe.
“What great deduction! I’m sorry, it’s just that back then, I didn’t think that I would be of much help, that’s why I didn’t step out to save you! Are you sure you’re not hurt?”
“I just said that I don’t care what happens to me! Where’s Rinne? And that brat?”
“And I just said I didn’t know, didn’t I? Instead of asking me, why don’t you just go affirm for yourself, where the devil is headed – Usagawa Rinne’s residence.”
“You said, Rinne’s… Residence.”
Seeing Sakaki’s face grow paler, the Mushi said coldly, “That’s to be expected. Hmm… If you hurry over now, you might be able to stop her! Instead of wasting time talking to me here, why don’t you hurry over there instead?”
Sakaki immediately pushed the Mushi aside, and sprinted towards Rinne’s house.
“Oh and don’t forget this.”
The Mushi said indifferently, as he placed the egg back in Sakaki’s hands. Sakaki accepted it without much thought.
On the uneven, gravel floor, Sakaki’s involuntary feet carried him forward, as the Mushi’s figure slowly melted into the background, like a shadow disappearing behind his back.
Sakaki ignored him and continued running. Run. Keep running. That was what his brain was commanding his feet. Run like the wind! Along this long, empty road, reminiscent of hell. Sakaki tried to suppress the urge to puke, as he continued clinging on the tiny, almost non-existent sliver of hope, and dashed ahead.
Usagawa Rinne, Usagawa Rinne, Usagawa Rinne.
Her name swirled through his mind, sealing his other thought processes.
What’s happening now? Is this some form of punishment? Since when did the world go wrong? Since when did it go crazy? It was too strange, too bizarre. Sakaki felt like crying – this was totally illogical.
But then – this was reality.
He initially wanted to wait till Rinne had graduated before they got married. Since he was a teacher and Rinne was a student, he had continuously told himself to just cross his fingers and wait. It was nothing but three years – such a short amount of time, it would go by in the blink of an eye. He had firmly believed that his future lay three years ahead of him, even though God was most likely blind in one eye, even though fate was unnecessarily cruel.
He was at the old apartment. Sakaki hammered the old, wooden door, as if trying to break it down by force. All the while, he was yelling her name at the top of his voice. Rinne! Rinne! Rinne!! There was no reply, no reply at all. That was strange, did she go for a shower perhaps? But how was that possible? He was just being overtly hopeful.
Sakaki withdrew his handgun from his coat, and shot the doorknob without a second thought. He then kicked the door open, as if he didn’t care if he broke it in the first place. True, someone might have heard the gunshot, but Sakaki couldn’t be bothered any more. Shoot first, questions later. Even if this became a criminal case, Sakaki didn’t care.
Rinne was in danger. Usagawa Rinne was in danger,
That left him no choice.
The door to hell swung open before his eyes.
The worst case scenario unraveled before him.
A girl, whose body was covered in blood.
It was Rinne’s corpse.
Sakaki’s emotions exploded that instant.
“…… So that’s how it is. I know, you hate me don’t you, God?”
There was no need for explanation. Rinne had died, in a locked room. A blood-stained girl was standing next to her. It didn’t take a genius to guess that this was the criminal, Rinne’s murderer.
If that was the case – she should die too.
Go to hell!!
Sakaki relentlessly fired at her on the spot. The girl was taken by surprise, as she took a bullet to the chest, followed by one to the head, and to one of her legs - A total of three bullets. In the dimly lit room, fresh blood splattered everywhere with a sickening “swish”, as crimson red fluid trickled down from the walls. Before the girl had the chance to scream, he head was already against the wall. She was dead. He had killed her – a human.
No, that wasn’t a human. That was Rinne’s murderer – a devil.
That’s why, she deserved to die.
Sakaki mumbled something, as he approached the poor, mutilated corpse of Rinne. She was sitting, with her back against the table, her feet facing outwards. He head lay slumped on the table, and she had an absolutely blank look on her face. One of her usually sparkling eyes was now replaced with a spoon, while the other was laying dully open. Usagawa Rinne had died – just like what the Mushi predicted.
Sakaki pointed the gun barrel at his temple, as he fell to his knees, tears pouring down his cheeks. Looking at Rinne’s dead body, he had only one choice left – taking his own life. Living in a world without Usagawa Rinne, Sakaki didn’t have that strength. There was no happiness in a world without her, just a boring, mundane life, that was why Sakaki decided to follow her, by committing suicide. He cursed God and fate for being so cruel towards him, as he edged towards Rinne and apologized. “I’m sorry Rinne, it hurts doesn’t it? Compared to being murdered like this, wasn’t it better if you had perished in the vast sea then? I’m sorry, I’m really sorry…”
Sakaki mumbled, as his fingers reached for the trigger.
“I love you, Rinne!!”
This was when Usagawa Rinne sat up.
As if waking up from a dream, Rinne slowly stretched her body, and observed her following. Her sight finally fell on Sakaki. The spoon was still stuck in her right eye, her tears were still flowing down her cheeks. Usagawa Rinne looked at Sakaki, and asked, as if nothing was wrong, “Eh? What’s up, Sensei?”
There was an unfathomable expression on Rinne’s face.
“Ah, I can’t see in my right eye!”
That’s strange, Rinne thought as she rubbed her right eye. It was as if something was lodged in her right eye. She stared at Sakaki, as if asking him “Huh? What’s this?” Grabbing the spoon, Rinne pulled it out of her eye socket, as a thick, gooey liquid oozed out from it. Sakaki was speechless. What was this? This was absurd, had the Earth gone crazy after all? Or was he dreaming? Was this a dream! He certainly hoped it was!
Right then, something strange happened again.
Rinne’s expression suddenly contorted, as she pressed against her right eye, her face twisting in pain.
“It’s hot! My eye, it feels so hot! It’s burning!”
Sakaki was unable to move, even though his most treasured person was suffering right in front of him.
“Sensei, my eye feels so hot all of a sudden. What’s happening? It’s burning, it hurts, Sensei…”
She is calling, Usagawa Rinne is calling for me.
I should go and save her then.
Sakaki stood up, and immediately rushed to Rinne’s side. She was still pressing her hand against her eye.
Sakaki shook her shoulders and asked, “Rinne, are you alright? Rinne!”
Rinne mumbled in a soft tone, as she removed her hand from her eye.
Sakaki stared at her face, and immediately sensed a shiver travel down his spine.
“It’s too late!”
Usagawa Rinne’s right eye had completely regenerated. It was previously pierced by a spoon, but now there wasn’t a single scar visible. The only thing that remained was a trail of eye-fluid on her cheeks. But Sakaki was sure she had been hurt! He felt his mind go numb – it was unable to catch up with the rapidly crumbling reality.
He placed an arm around Rinne’s shoulders, as his gaze traveled to a corner of the room.
“Even digging her eyeballs out failed to kill her. Its too late, so stop grieving…”
Even though her clothes were stained with blood, the girl continued to look at him with her expressionless, gun-barrel like eyes. There was no trace of emotion on her face, but her voice was surprisingly pure.
This girl, who had previously tried to murder Rinne, was poking her finger into the gunshot wound on her head, as she withdrew the bullet in a casual manner that would certainly freak most people out. She then proceeded to do the same with her wounds on her chest and legs. Wasn’t it painful? No, before that, shouldn’t she be dead? A bullet was planted in her head, a real bullet! Sakaki stared as three blood-stained bullets fell to the floor, as her wounds instantly regenerated, just like Rinne’s eye. What in the world is going on?! I’ve had enough of this! I can’t explain this in the least! Please stop, please give me back my normal life; my normal, ordinary life.
The girl ignored Sakaki and continued staring at Rinne. With a sad – nay, more like a pitiful - expression, as if trying to say that they were in the same boat now, she explained to Rinne the situation she was currently in.
“You have obtained the Apple. It’s now deeply rooted within your heart, so it’s impossible to give up on it now. The Apple won’t even let you die – it’s that deep…”
The girl said, as she headed towards the door.
“You can never live on as a normal human being again.”
The girl suddenly turned back and said, “In order to not be consumed by the Mushi, you better do your best to protect that Apple.”
The girls shadow silently vanished beyond the door. What was she planning to do? What in the world had just happened? In the midst of confusion, the girl had disappeared, leaving behind two very confused individuals.
A blood-stained world. A messed up room. Mushi. An immortal girl.
Sakaki was totally lost here. He abruptly had this urge to grab on to something, so he chose the nearest target – Rinne. He tightly hugged Rinne, much to her surprise, but she merely closed her eyes, and quietly embraced Sakaki.
Rinne felt at peace. The expression on her face suggested that even though she had no idea what was happening, as long as Sakaki was around, everything was fine. It was a face of pure bliss, as if she had entrusted everything to Sakaki. Usagawa Rinne, my most important person.
Sakaki gently answered Rinne’s call.
“I suddenly recalled that long lost memory, my final memories before I almost died in the sea. That time, as death was fast approaching… I dreamed of an apple. The moment I ate the apple, I came back to life. I think it’s because I ate that apple… That I was able to survive till today. I have this sort of feeling.”
Rinne pressed her palm against her right eye.
“That girl, she could have been here to take back the apple!”
Even if the world was thrust into frenzy, even if the basic laws of nature were broken, life still goes on. The end of today marked the arrival of tomorrow. The first thing that came the next day was the morning dawn. And the morning dawn was synonymous with homeroom. Being the homeroom teacher of Class 1-B, Sakaki Guryuu was required to take attendance, as well as brief the students about their duties and responsibilities.
Yesterday, which was also the day Usagawa Rinne’s eyeball was gouged out by a spoon-wielding girl, Sakaki had brought her to a hospital, just to be on the safe side. The doctors, however, were unable to find anything wrong with her. That’s why she attended school today, being her usual, cheerful self. As Sakaki Guryuu went though the attendance list, though, he noticed, amongst a list of over 40 students, a name which he had never seen before. It wasn’t as though he had never heard the name before. In fact, he had heard it only just recently.
He had a bad feeling about this.
Sakaki chalked it up to an optical illusion, as he took out a bottle of eye drops, applied it, and looked at the list again.
He would never mistake such a wild name. Seat number 11. That seat was still occupied by someone else yesterday! For some reason, however, the person in question was assigned to Seat 12. Sakaki had a very bad feeling about this. What was happening? He thought. Just as he was wondering, the classroom door was suddenly ripped open.
The girl sported a unique, wolf-like haircut, a sailor uniform, white indoor shoes and the same, gunbarrel-like eyes. She looked exactly the same as she had yesterday, and standing in the midst of normal high school students, she surprisingly didn’t seem too out of place. She stepped in the classroom matter-of-factly, and proceeded towards the podium.
Sakaki Guryuu stood stiffly at the podium.
The students shot curious glances at the girl. “What’s happening? Who is she?”
Sakaki thought of what to say to the girl, but his current state of mind was blank. Even as he was thinking of what to say to her, the girl had taken up a piece of chalk, and scribbled on the blackboard.
Transfer Student, Gankyuu Eguriko.
It was the first time the students had heard of a transfer student transferring into their class. They started discussing among themselves, and Gankyuu Eguriko didn’t seem to mind.
With a sharp tone that clearly didn’t sound like what a transfer student should have sounded like, she faced the students and said, “I’m a new transfer student, Gankyuu Eguriko. You can call me Guriko if you want, but if you don’t want to, then you might as well not approach me at all. As long as you mind your own business, I won’t harm you, so try not to mind me too much, or even bother to talk to me. If you anger me, I’ll dig your eyes out, no matter who you are, so if you treasure your own eyeballs, then don’t provoke me. That goes for you busy-bodies, who can’t seem to keep your mouths shut. I don’t think anyone will miss you guys if you died anyway. That is all.”
Guriko said in one breath, as she lifted her head and looked at Sakaki, satisfied.
Because she was called Eguriko, that’s why she requested to be called Guriko? Her sense of naming was actually quite laughable!
Sakaki put up a straight face, and asked her, “What do you plan to do?”
Guriko said to Sakaki in a volume that only he could hear her, “Don’t worry, I won’t kill her.” Her voice was pure, void of any emotion, as usual. There wasn’t a single smile on her face.
“Maybe I should say I can’t kill her. The Apple has already rooted within her, all physical attacks will be useless towards her. Since she has an infinite lifespan, I guess you could call her an immortal. And since she’s immortal, I can’t take away the Apple. And that basically means I have no reason to kill her whatsoever. However…”
“The Mushi… They have many.”
Gankyuu Eguriko looked at the ceiling.
“I have a bad feeling about this, so I’m going to stay here for a while. Don’t worry, I won’t give you any trouble.”
With that said, she moved to her empty seat, which was right next to Usagawa Rinne.
She had used some form of magic, to create a space for herself within this school.
Ignoring Sakaki’s furious stares, Guriko turned and glanced at Usagawa Rinne, who was right next to her. Rinne slightly flinched – it was natural, after all, as according to Sakaki, she was previously murdered by this girl before her, by having her eyeballs gouged out with a spoon, a most brutal method indeed.
Guriko said to Rinne, who was rendered speechless, in a pure, innocent voice, “I’m sorry.”
“Even though there was no other way, I did indeed try to kill you.”
That was all she said, as Guriko suddenly slumped on the table and began sleeping. The whole class was shocked at the new transfer student’s eccentric behavior – more like, they were shocked by her bravery. She had put on an attitude that clearly stated she had no respect for the teacher whatsoever. The usually quiet classroom suddenly buzzed with activity.
It was, however, too early to get excited.
But of course, the students had no way of knowing that.
 Night 2: The 15th November Incident
PLEASE read Translator's Notes in this chapter. There are layers of hidden meanings that we have been unable to present accurately into English - Brynhilde
There was nothing that was important to her.
Maybe there had been, but that was in the past; she didn’t remember anything like that.
A millennium – far too long a time to live, yet too short a time to go insane. Happy memories - joy, hopes, dreams; all of these warm and gentle feelings had been gradually stolen by the passage of time, till the only thing left was a cold and empty void. Empty – all she could do was store the Apples of her friends in the void that was her flesh. There was no reason for her to go on. She didn't even know why she was alive. Someone like her, who only lived for the sake of living, beginning to lose her grasp on her humanity - had she become a monster?
She couldn’t smile.
She couldn’t find a single happy or treasured memory.
Something that did not smile and didn’t have anything important in life – could that really be called a ‘human’?
“Who are you? What are you planning to do?”
- As usual, whenever that question was asked, she choked on her own words.
Her shoelaces were messily bundled together. That was to be expected – after all, it had been a long time since she engaged in such a delicate activity. Thus it was that Gankyuu Eguriko was sitting on the wooden floor in front of the dimly lit shoe closet at Kannonsakazaki Private High School, trying in vain to tie a butterfly knot. But after trying for ten full minutes, she still couldn’t get it right. She could vaguely remember being good at it once, but that memory was long gone now.
The only memories she had of her past were those filled with terrible pain and a feeling of helplessness so powerful it was crushing. That was the reason she never tried very hard to remember.
There was still quite some time before school began, and even the stairways were vacant, for Guriko made it a point to get to school early in order to practice tying her shoelaces. Despite that, she hadn’t been able to produce anything that didn’t look like a bunch of wet noodles, dragging her deeper into despair.
She didn’t even realize that “he” was standing before her.
Focused on tying her shoelaces with her head bowed, it wasn’t until she was engulfed by his shadow that she realized someone was standing in front of her, and so slowly raised her head.
It was a tall man, with a handsome face. Guriko had never seen such a good looking human, though she felt nothing as he stared right at her. Being an immortal, things like attraction and love meant nothing to her - those feelings had withered away to the point of no return.
Despite that, she felt herself shiver involuntarily.
She had no idea why.
“… Are you waiting for me?” Guriko asked quietly.
It was such an un-cute reaction.
She had left all her cute, innocent, Usagawa Rinne-like reactions behind a long, long time ago.
“I never thought I’d see you here this early. Having trouble with your shoelaces?”
The man, Sakaki Guryuu, shifted his gaze down to Guriko’s messed up shoelaces. Approaching her nonchalantly, he knelt down and swiftly untangled the mess of strings, gracefully fashioning a perfect butterfly knot out of them.
With that, he looked up at Guriko, who was now sitting up straight, and bluntly said, “Don’t you even know something as simple as that?”
“S-shut up! What are you doing here?”
Dammit!, Guriko thought. She never would have imagined this guy helping her out. There was even a tinge of happiness inside her from it. Still, she knew that being nice to him wouldn’t do her any good.
She knew she couldn’t be friends with him. That would be impossible.
Feelings like that just weren’t going to happen, no matter how hard she wished for it.
This was something Guriko knew very well.
Guriko shifted her gaze from Sakaki’s face, which was inches from her own, and bowed her head. Sakaki immediately stood up and took an arrogant pose. He glared down upon her from above.
“Like I said earlier, I want to know who you really are, your motives, and just what you’re after here.”
It was a calm, clear, and loud voice. It was a voice of authority.
Guriko didn’t feel intimidated in the slightest, however.
“You don’t need to know.”
“That doesn’t matter. Now talk. I don’t want to use force, but I will if I have to.”
“You think you stand a chance against me?”
Oh boy, what a bother.
Why did I say something like that?
In her sailor uniform, Guriko rose up slowly to her full height, looking up at the taller man. Sakaki returned her glare with an intense and fiery stare from his emerald eyes.
People with beautiful eyes were always beautiful in the end...
Guriko again averted her gaze and picked up her bag from the floor.
“…Why do you want to know? Are you curious? Or just intrigued?”
“Neither. I’m doing this out of love.”
“…You’re worried about Usagawa Rinne?”
What resolve! How could he answer without hesitation?
...did he really love her that much?
Guriko gave him a small smile.
“…How admirable. For both you and Usagawa.”
“Nothing. Just talking to myself.”
With that, Guriko looked at him and said honestly, “Instead of suspecting me, why don’t you look out for ‘Mushi’ instead? I didn’t manage to kill Usagawa, and won’t ever try it again. Those ‘Mushi’, on the other hand… they won’t give up on that Apple so easily.”
Mushi – the name of the enemy.
Guriko put on a stern face and stared at Sakaki, as if trying to burn a hole through him with her gaze.
“Those guys were ‘Mushi’ – And not only are they everywhere, but they will stop at nothing to achieve their goal.”
Don’t let your guard down, she thought silently.
Out of all the teachers in Kannonsakazaki High School, the one in charge of Class 1-B, Sakaki Guryuu, stood out above the others. His mannerisms were dignified and elegant, a total Prince Charming even in looks. To top it off, he was quite the unique teacher, maybe even the best in the world. However, there was something weird about his teaching. Despite technically being a History teacher, he actually taught his class all subjects.
“Are we back in elementary school or something?” Sakaki’s students didn't approve of this matter at all.
The answer to this riddle was Usagawa Rinne. Sakaki wanted to spend as much time as he possibly could with her. Thus, no matter if it was Biology, P.E., or Music, he indiscriminately taught everything. Not only that, but he did so flawlessly. There were no imperfections in his teaching style. Class 1-B’s steady rise in grades was easy to see. In addition to his handsome features and artistic talent (which were mostly wasted in his teaching profession), he had earned the students' approval as he was generally kind despite his somewhat cold personality. Therefore, he was truly unique. Gossiping co-workers called him Neptune King, lord of the perfect ones, out of jealousy; although, the students who grew up in a later generation usually had no idea what they were talking about.
Yet, this superhuman called Sakaki Guryuu had a problem one wouldn’t expect from someone like him. That problem was his ‘religion’ of “worship-Usagawa-Rinne-above-all-else.” In other words, his obsession with Usarin-kakka and the notion that the world revolved around her. That love for the girl in Class 1-B was unrivaled and in fact was the very reason he had gotten a teaching license in the first place. This love was already common knowledge at Kannonsakazaki High School, and since he was the type to do whatever it took to achieve his goals, he got that license through force, influence, and authority.
And naturally, he would appear in 1-B’s classroom during lunch break because he wanted to eat lunch with Usagawa Rinne. Honestly, he was shameless. What was it about Usagawa Rinne that engrossed such a perfect man to this level of obsession? Does she have some sort of relation to Helen of Troy in ancient Greece!? It was a common topic for gossip among the students.
One ordinary day, at lunchtime in this classroom—
Something unique happened. It was known as “The November 15th Incident” from then on.
What’s taking Sensei so long? Usagawa Rinne thought to herself.
The date was Monday, November 15th. Luckily, the classroom that day was quite warm. Rinne calmly smiled and put two lunchboxes on her desk as she waited for Sakaki Guryuu.
During lunch, Sakaki always ignored the normal school lunch and came to eat and chat with Rinne. She loved to cook, so it was never a problem to cook for two. Still, she couldn’t help but feel a bit odd at times because of their rather unnatural relationship. Sakaki grew up sheltered in an incredibly wealthy household, and sometimes the resulting lack of common sense would cause clashes with others.
Secretly, though, she found this cute. It might not have been lady-like, but seeing that even the perfect Sakaki can sometimes act strange relieved her a bit. Sakaki Guryuu was still a human, just like her. Because it gave her that reassurance, she couldn’t deny that she liked that part of him to a degree.
‘Like’ — Rinne liked Sakaki. Sakaki was a teacher, and she was his student. Despite this difference in status, this wall between them, the two loved each other. That was their trust, and their mutual understanding. Because of that, they would be able to find happiness.
Usagawa Rinne was happy.
Sure, she’d get worried from time to time.
But she was undoubtedly happy.
It was noisy. Even though Kannonsakazaki High School was prestigious enough to house only the most obedient of students, lunchtime was still rowdy. The school was old, so the floors and walls were worn and there were random scribbles here and there from past students. Although it probably bothered the neat freaks, Rinne actually liked it. She felt it paid homage to the history of the room, and gave some hints of those who occupied it before.
A cold breeze blew in, causing the curtains to flutter inward. Despite some remaining warmth, Rinne knew the transition to winter had already begun.
At this point, Sakaki Guryuu finally arrived.
Sakaki’s hair was a bit messy, probably since he’d rushed here.
As soon as he opened the door, Sakaki shouted, “Sorry I’m late…” even before walking into the room.
“It’s not a problem. I don’t mind.”
Rinne smiled as she gave her gentle response. Despite how much it actually had bothered her, she let none of it show. Still wearing that apologetic face, Sakaki passed through the students who had hushed at the appearance of their teacher and walked over to Rinne’s desk. He pulled up a chair and sat down.
“I’m truly sorry, Your Majestry. Someone popped in at the worst time. It was some old man that looked like he could croak at any moment from the Education Committee or something. He kept going on and on without getting anywhere. I think the Director of Education probably dumped him on me.”
Sakaki thought nothing of saying the harsh words he used and sighed.
“Ugh! Why on Earth did they have to send him to me? And during my precious lunch break, too! The office is trying to punish me, I tell you.”
Rinne held back a laugh, and covered her mouth with her hands.
Sakaki’s confused expression was just too cute.
“Sensei, maybe it’s best if you don’t look at it like someone is wanting to punish you or that’ll make you paranoid to the point that just thinking about it will bother you!”
“That is true… What you say does make sense. Haha, I can’t tell who’s the teacher and who’s the student here, Usarin-kakka.”
She honestly didn’t know why he insisted on calling her “Usarin-kakka.” “Usarin” was an abbreviation of her name “Usagawa Rinne,” but why Japanese people love to shorten all proper nouns was a mystery to her. Like pocket bells, personal computers, sexual harassment, or convenience stores. “Guriko” was another example of this.
Rinne thought of the mysterious transfer student called Guriko who had killed her, although Rinne barely remembered what happened that night. She had been watching TV when her door was suddenly busted open. When she turned around, something pierced her eye, and she passed out. When she had woken up, Sakaki was by her side and her room was filled with blood. Beyond that, she remembered nothing.
What had she gotten herself into? Just who exactly was that Guriko girl? Rinne did not understand what had happened at all, not that she particularly wanted to delve deeper into the matter. Only when something threatened her future with Sakaki did she get upset. If Guriko had actually wanted to kill her, then that would really be scary. Rinne understood far too well the pain of death.
Yet, it would be silly to feel terrified just because of a possibility, and Guriko hadn’t shown any signs of acting again. Therefore, Rinne wasn’t particularly on guard despite the fact that it had only been a few days since the girl transferred here.
Besides, no matter what happened, Sakaki would protect her. That was the way it was.
With a cheerful expression, Rinne opened a lunchbox and idly chatted with Sakaki. She was poor, so her lunches weren’t anything luxurious, but Sakaki still seemed satisfied. He looked like a young child with clasped hands when he exclaimed, “Itadakimasu!” Seeing that, she couldn’t help but smile.
This calm scene was the way they passed their time.
While stuffing his face with green beans, Sakaki happily asked, “By the way, how’s that wall that got blood splattered all over it? Did you find a way to get it cleaned up yet?”
Rinne poured some barley tea and downed it in one gulp. She then answered, “Well, there were bits of flesh with it too, so washing it with only water wouldn’t work. Even scrubbing it with a rag probably wouldn’t have worked, so I put new wallpaper over it.”
“Wasn’t that expensive?”
“Yup, I used up all my savings. Since the tatami was also soaked, I had to swap that out too. That was expensive too. For a poor student, that kind of spending is deadly.”
“I’ll never forgive that Guriko. But back to the main point, why don’t you get her to pay you back?”
In front of Sakaki, who seemed honestly angry, Rinne merely shrugged.
“It was you who shot that gun! Besides — Guriko probably has it worse than me. I think she’s homeless, and besides, she told me that she can’t even afford stationery.”
“…Do you two talk often?”
“We sit next to each other. She doesn’t seem to have anything to do after class, so I talk to her.”
Rinne’s naivety nearly caused Sakaki to faint.
“Your lack of concern for your personal safety never ceases to baffle me, Your Majesty! Didn’t I tell you not to talk to her? That talking to her will get your eyes gouged out?”
“I’ll gouge your eyes out!”
That was actually a death threat.
But still, Rinne was not afraid.
“Something like that's obviously a joke. I know for sure she’s just scared of being alone. She avoids other people since she doesn’t want to hurt them. I can see that since that’s how I used to be. I think Guriko actually wants to interact with people more.”
Rinne told him how she honestly felt, but he seemed less than impressed.
He sighed while looking up at the ceiling.
“Look… I know you’re naïve… But you should realize the reason why I don’t think she’s kidding is because she’s already gouged your eyes out once!”
“I suppose that’s true.”
Rinne, defeated, smiled and set her cup down with a “clank.” Sakaki seemed to have a grudge against Guriko, but Rinne didn’t think she was all that bad. She decided Guriko must have had good reason for removing her eyes.
“Aren’t you going to eat, Your Majesty? You’ve only been drinking tea so far.”
Sakaki was confused. Not only was Rinne’s food untouched, her lunchbox hadn’t even been opened. His question was a valid one.
Rinne stayed silent for a while.
“…I-I don’t know why, but I haven’t felt hungry or thirsty ever since Guriko almost killed me. To be honest, I haven’t eaten anything in about four days.”
Sakaki felt his voice crack as he spoke.
“Even so, I’m still not hungry. Hmm… is that weird?”
As she looked to him, she saw his face had gone white as a sheet.
Sakaki had already told Rinne about her immediate resurrection after her eyes had been gouged out. But with this loss of appetite, this — wasn’t this extraordinary!? It was proof she wasn’t human anymore.
After noticing she no longer had a need to eat, she had constantly run into the bathroom to look at herself. She had been making sure she hadn’t turned into some sort of monster.
If that happened, she’d lose Sakaki, and that was a fate worse than death for her. So Rinne had kept her lack of appetite hidden until then.
Rinne looked at Sakaki, who had yet to respond.
Rinne understood that there were some things even Sakaki had trouble understanding, but even so, she longed for him to tell her, “That’s okay,” or “Don’t worry,” or anything like that. If only she could get that reassurance, she could go on.
The door slid open.
Guriko stood there. Her wolf-like hair looked like it had been styled by a typhoon. She had on a bored and impatient expression, but her eyes were the type that made you feel like you were staring down the barrel of a gun. This was the transfer student — Gankyuu Eguriko.
Her gaze fell upon the couple that sat across from each other in the center of the classroom — Sakaki Guryuu and Usagawa Rinne. Right then, her face turned to one of surprise. For Guriko, whose face usually revealed no expression whatsoever, showing a genuine emotion like shock was quite a rare occurrence.
Upon noticing the school’s well known lovers, this transfer student who had recently dominated the school’s discussions strode over and glared at Sakaki. She gave him a glare as if she were interrogating him and bluntly asked, “Have you eaten?”
“I asked you a question. Did you eat this bento?”
Guriko’s expression was extremely focused. And thanks to her loud voice, the entire class had turned to look. All of them thought, ‘Ho boy, what’s that transfer student doing now?’ Very quickly, the classroom became silent. Despite how odd it was, Sakaki decided to indulge Guriko in her question.
“Yes, I ate it.”
She muttered mostly to herself.
Guriko suddenly lowered her head and pressed her lips against those of Sakaki Guryuu.
Sakaki’s eyes opened wide. Rinne’s face was shocked. The class fell into uproar.
Guriko held Sakaki’s head, and locked lips with him. Put plainly, she kissed him forcefully. In the middle of lunch. In front of the entire class. What the heck was she thinking?? This mysterious transfer known as Gankyuu Eguriko had stolen a kiss from the teacher just after having been there for only two days. Not only that, she even did in front of that teacher’s lover. Her motives didn’t matter. To the student body, this was clearly a declaration of war against Rinne. There was no other way for them to see it, but Guriko’s next action provided only added fuel to the fire.
Of all the things that could happen!
Guriko flipped the lunchbox Sakaki had been eating from and dumped out all the food that Rinne had lovingly prepared. Then, she took Rinne’s lunchbox and dumped it out as well before driving her foot into the spilled food. After she had destroyed the lunches she declared, “Don’t eat this woman’s food!”
And because of this—
What was there to be done? There was nothing that could explain this. Without another word, Guriko walked off with pride, leaving the stunned Sakaki and pale Rinne behind. Within moments, any student that had a cell phone began to text and call their friends. Messages like: “Usagawa Rinne’s rival in love appears!” “On just her second day after transferring, Gankyu Eguriko kissed Sakaki Guryuu, threw down the lunch Rinne made for him, and declared, “Don’t eat that woman’s food!”” and “This will definitely be very interesting!” began to flood forth.
That was the “November 15th Incident.” It has lived in infamy ever since.
For those living an ordinary high-school life, this had been quite the event.
“What splendid entertainment!”
The voice sounded both male and female. It was something that lacked distinction.
“What are you planning —‘Mushi’?”
That pure and innocent voice seemed to cut through the previous one.
They were in front of classroom 1-B in Kannonsakazaki High School. Despite being outside the chaos of the classroom, there were always the echoing sounds of students in the hallway. The two of them faced off there, and despite them both having human appearance, neither of them were human at all. One was a “Mushi” taking on the form of a human, and the other had once been human, but had since become some creature that was only human-like — Gankyuu Eguriko. The “Mushi” wore a sailor uniform, had short hair, and wore a friendly expression. She looked completely normal, save for her red eyes.
The “Mushi,” still emotionless, made an intriguing noise.
“This was just a confirmation! After all, there’s no way for ‘us’ to lose. We simply believed it important to check whether or not Usagawa Rinne’s Apple has taken root in her soul. You should already know there’s nothing we won’t do in order to achieve our objectives.”
“…After death, the soul separates itself from the physical body. Apples reside in the soul, so — death is the only requirement for taking the soul, correct? Unfortunately for you, Usagawa Rinne’s Apple has already taken root in her soul. I confirmed this myself.”
“But ‘we’ have not! We do not trust anyone besides ourselves, especially not you!”
The “Mushi” replied in a dull and terrible voice. They had no individuality, and thus did not have emotions.
They were an exterminating machine that moved in hordes — that was “Mushi”.
“Even if you’re willing to do anything, you should have some discretion — did you plan on killing Sakaki Guryuu?”
“Since we did not know which lunchbox Usagawa Rinne would eat from, we poisoned both of them. Mmm, that was a necessary sacrifice! We ‘Mushi’ aren’t hampered with your romantic ideals. As long as we obtain the Apple, it doesn’t matter what happens to others.”
Guriko grit her teeth and said, “That’s why I despise you.”
“That may be, but we don’t particularly want you to hold feelings of affection toward us anyway.”
The aura emitted between the two non-humans grew unbearably intense. Its strength caused the windows in the hallway to begin to rattle.
Guriko crossed her arms and glared at the “Mushi”.
“But you have already lost. Usagawa Rinne's appetite is already gone, so the poison wouldn’t have worked on her anyway. Only Sakaki would have died. But I’m not going to let even that happen. You won’t have your way if I have anything to say about it.”
“Haha!” the “Mushi” laughed.
For the emotionless “Mushi”, laughter had only one purpose — to provoke.
“That was certainly an interesting way of removing the poison from that man’s mouth. You seem to be turning into quite the rebel. Where did you learn something like that?”
“You talk too much! Because of you, I had to create a big disturbance in class. There was no choice… Why does my reputation always have to suffer?!”
“Because your attitude is normally terrible, anyway. Something like this just adds to it.”
Guriko closed her eyes and then murmured as if in a trance, “-because God hates me.”
She then pulled a spoon from her skirt pocket and threw it at the “Mushi” with speed too great for the naked eye to detect. The spoon cleanly pierced the eye of the fake schoolgirl “Mushi”. However, that wasn’t enough to stop its inertia. The spoon shot traveled through the eye socket, through the brain, and out the back of the skull. Obviously, this wasn’t something a human could pull off. The “Mushi” gave a small final smile before its ruined body collapsed. Right before it hit the floor, it broke down and disappeared.
The blood-stained spoon fell to the ground with a gentle metallic sound.
“It doesn’t matter anyway. I’m used to being hated.”
And so, Guriko skipped class and went up to the roof for an afternoon nap.
After school ended that day, Usagawa Rinne staggered home with an air of frustration and defeat. Her thoughts were plagued with what had happened at lunch. Guriko had kissed Sakaki Guryuu and told him to stop eating Rinne’s food. It made her heart pound. What was this uneasy feeling? Why did she feel so nauseous?
Why did Guriko kiss Sakaki? What kind of reason could she have to do this? Rinne smiled bitterly. Why was she so upset? Sakaki had kissed someone else, but why did seeing that annoy her so much?
Rinne noticed her jealousy of Guriko, and felt a bit disgusted by it. Was this what it felt like to have that which you value most threatened? This was the first time Rinne felt something like this, so it was hard to describe. “Jealousy” was the most accurate word, she figured. Rinne loved Sakaki, and seeing him kiss another girl was incredibly painful. So painful that for the time being she didn’t even want to talk to Sakaki.
Even though Sakaki’s feelings hadn’t changed and he didn’t hate Rinne, she still felt dejected. Noticing her own unreasonably poor mood, Rinne worried herself into a deeper depression. Rinne decided it was a bit like saving a cookie to enjoy later, only for someone else to eat it. She and Sakaki had only kissed once, on Sakaki’s birthday. Rinne thought of that as a bond between them, something that only she had.
However, that was no longer true. Right in front of Rinne, Guriko had kissed Sakaki.
“I’m so useless…”
She wanted to cry. She was already almost crying. It felt weak to be so bothered by this. She was still a weak human who trembled over such a trivial fact. Even if her body lost the ability to die, her heart was still so weak. So fragile. So powerless. So pathetic!
Realizing that obsessing over this was only going to make her feel worse, she decided not to dwell on it any longer. That’s it! Even if she avoided Sakaki today, she would greet him with a smile tomorrow! After that resolution, she felt a bit better.
Passing the bustling market, she then walked upon a rough path. It was always deserted here. Only the weeds were present, and not even a parking lot or the like could be seen. Rinne blankly gazed at the unchanging scenery where she used to frequently get lost as she walked, her thoughts jumbled.
“Hey, young lady over there.”
A voice. Rinne turned to look. In the space that had just been empty, a small, mysterious stand had appeared. Or maybe it was a shop? At least, it was covered with a plastic tarp like a tent. Inside the violet tent was a crystal ball, and sitting behind that was a robe-wearing man who gave off a strange vibe. There was a sign out front that read, “Fortune telling, 100 yen”.
“Hey, the young lady over there.”
Rinne couldn’t help but stop and turn to look at the perplexing little shop.
She was sure it hadn’t been there that morning.
The mysterious fortune teller spread out his hands and said in an ambiguous voice, “That’s right, this is fortune telling. Good luck, ill fortune, fated events, and romantic matches are all revealed. A young lady of your age should at least know about horoscopes or blood type fortunes! Besides those, there is fortune telling with Tarot cards, normal cards, flowers, or even with water flow. Your face, hands, clothes, and even the layout of your home are also taken into consideration. Just tell me your name, and I can read your fortune for you!”
Should she give it a go? — He just kept rambling on. Did he really have nothing else to do?
The price wasn’t that bad, and it’d be kind of pathetic if the Fortune Teller got ignored despite all his promoting, so Rinne carelessly walked into the tent. The inside was flooded with an odd, hazy light. The fortune teller gazed intently at Rinne and then his crystal ball before announcing, “Oh, ah… this is bad!”
I haven’t even said anything yet… she thought. The fortune teller lifted up his crystal ball and gleefully repeated, “Bad! Bad!”
“This is ominous! Usagawa Rinne-san, your fortune is doomed. It’s hellishly evil luck. The movements of the stars are terrible!”
Did I tell him my name? No, I didn’t.
The fortune teller didn’t seem to notice her confusion as he blathered on, “Life is like a star. Sometimes it grows dim, while other times it shines brightly. Unfortunately, though, smaller stars are attracted to larger ones, and when they collide the smaller stars are smashed to pieces.”
He looked at Rinne with his eyes that he had been hiding behind a hood. They were red.
“Some great existences cannot be approached. A star too small will only end up crushed if it reaches for something greater. It needs to know its limits if it is to remain safe. The gravity of a giant star is great, and draws in many small stars that only end up destroyed. Only by living carefully will they live long enough to achieve a death with blinding radiance.”
Rinne stood up, staring at the cross-legged fortune teller. “That’s—”
“Make no mistake, it is you I speak of!”
The fortune teller wearing a violet robe gloomily addressed her in an androgynous voice, “Should you not reach out and stay your distance, you shall have an even more brilliant death.”
She realized this Fortune Teller was dangerous, but there were questions she had to get answered first.
“You’re saying the large star is Sensei? And the small star is me? I… can’t be with sensei?”
After hearing Rinne’s soft, almost-crying voice, the fortune teller lips curled up in a smile.
“You seem to misunderstand.”
The so-called large star—
“Is, of course, the Apple of Eden.”
The voice came from behind.
Rinne slowly turned her head, and saw about ten people behind her, all with those same red eyes.
It was a bizarre scene. When she wasn’t paying attention, these emotionless and insect-like people had gathered behind her. Their appearances ranged all over the place. There were children, adults, an old lady with a crooked back, a lady who seemed to have been on her way home after shopping, and a uniformed high school student. They seemed to lack a sense of self, as if they were all one. Judging by their looks alone, though, it was hard to see any correlation.
Rinne cried out softly, taking a step back. She was terrified. Just what did these people want? She had not heard from Sakaki about his encounter with a fortune teller called “Mushi”, and this was her first experience with something like this. It had become quickly apparent she had been thrust into some sort of bizarre world normal humans never saw. What could she do in such a world?
Rinne shuddered as the fortune teller behind her said in a bored tone, “I don’t think resistance is going to get you anywhere. Though we 'Mushi’ do not have superhuman strength, we are not weaker than humans either. You are no match for us!”
“What are you planning to do to me?”
“We would like you to die.”
The “Mushi” in front of her that looked like an office worker responded in an identical voice. That cruel response shocked Rinne. I’m going to be killed! I’m going to be killed! Terror filled her body.
“In other words, we will use every method we can think of to kill you, Usagawa Rinne. Strangulation, beating, poisoning, assassination, shooting you to make you bleed out, or perhaps even drowning or burning you. If you still will not die… we’ll just think of something else! We’ll start with these.”
Her first thought was to ask Sakaki for help. She had his number stored in her phone, she just needed about 30 seconds to get ahold of him.
However, it didn’t seem like these things were interested in giving her those 30 seconds.
The fortune teller “Mushi” seemed to read her mind, and harshly told her, “I won’t let you call for help. Besides, the bodyguards Sakaki Guryuu secretly sent to protect you should have already been taken care of by other “Mushi.” No matter how you look at it, nothing will save you. How sad—“
A mountain of terror fell upon her and she let out a hoarse scream.
The office worker “Mushi” wrapped his hand around Rinne’s slim neck. She had frozen in fear. Dry, flat fingers began to squeeze painfully into her throat.
“First we’ll strangle you. Ah, it seems like you can still feel pain. How unfortunate...”
A “Mushi” continued, “This will hurt!”
The incredible strength of the choking gave new definition to the word “pain.” She felt like her neck was going to break in two.
She didn’t have the strength to resist and the pain had robbed her of the ability to think straight. All she could do was cry out with ear-piercing shrieks.
“…We’re just getting started. Carry the guilt of your crime to your death!”
I committed… a crime?
That’s why I must suffer like this and die such a brutal death?
If that was the case — what crime did I commit?
Her vision became blurry and she got dizzy. At this point, she wasn’t even sure if she was still conscious. Her neck made a creaking sound. It hurt. It hurt so much.
Usagawa Rinne naturally thought of Sakaki Guryuu. All she could do was think of her feelings for him and pray he could hear them — then, she could die.
A dazzling flash shot into the back of the head of the “Mushi” strangling her. With violent force, the impact covered the inside of the tent with blood. In an instant, the “Mushi” disappeared as if it had blown up. Rinne was suddenly released, and fell to the ground in a coughing fit. She had a hard time believing the retching sounds were coming from her own throat. Wiping off the saliva from her mouth she desperately tried to get a grasp on her surroundings. The thing in front of her—
A blood-stained spoon fell to the ground.
The flash that had killed the “Mushi” and saved Rinne was—
“…How many times do I have to say it before you blockheads get it? Killing Usagawa Rinne is pointless.”
The “Mushi” all turned to look at the source of the voice, and so did Rinne. The voice came from the entrance to the lot where they were.
Standing there was Gankyuu Eguriko.
Her steeled face clearly showed unhappiness. Her wolf-like hair was even more of a mess and her uniform was dirty. It seemed pretty obvious she’d just woken up from a nap. With piercing eyes and armed with several spoons, Gankyuu Eguriko of class 1-B seat eleven shouted with her pure voice, “I can’t be too careful. Even an afternoon nap is a no go, now. And I was sleeping so comfortably, too. Well, have you said your prayers yet?”
At that moment—
Just when Rinne thought she saw Guriko’s hand move, three spoons were already streaking for the eyes of three of the “Mushi”. The “Mushi” died just like the one before, instantly bursting before disappearing. Rinne absent-mindedly thought that they kind of resembled popping balloons.
As she was thinking that, the bruises on her neck and the pain she felt disappeared as if they had never happened at all. The Fortune Teller “Mushi” clicked his tongue and confirmed it.
“Really — you won’t die. How troublesome!”
“I’m out of spoons.”
Guriko ignored the “Mushi’s” words, and with a grim expression said in a low voice, “…So from now on it’s going to be hand-to-hand combat. Fists aren’t like spoons, they can’t kill with a single hit. It’s gonna hurt. A lot. If you ‘Mushi’ don’t want to be pummeled, then you’d better duck your tail between your legs and scram!”
The words were thick with malice. It was a voice filled with total confidence backed by powerful murderous intent that caused Rinne to stiffen in fear.
But the “Mushi” were not intimidated at all.
“—Pain and suffering are not obstacles to our goals!”
“I know. Then — I’ll just wipe you all out.”
And so Guriko charged forward.
Rinne shut her eyes in fear.
Leaving the public baths, Usagawa Rinne returned home feeling warm and refreshed. She tossed her towel and old clothes in the washing machine in front of her apartment. It had been left there by the previous tenant, and though it didn’t work right too often, it was still rather durable. Rinne picked up the key hidden under it and opened the door to her apartment. Inside it was pitch black and obviously empty. She turned on the light and let out a sigh of relief. The fear of an ambush waiting for her gradually fled from her mind. She unconsciously touched her neck that had long since stopped hurting.
She stood there for a while feeling slight helplessness before she shook it off. She pulled out a comforter from the closet as well as a pillow, and then looked at her cell phone to check the time. 10:02 PM. Sakaki had bought her the phone, and he paid the bill, as well. She always felt guilty about using it. After today, though, she really wanted to call him. Rinne stared at the phone, hesitating... Should she call, or not? It was embarrassing to call this late at night.
As she stood there, the doorbell rang. At first, she just stared at it, a bit stunned. The only reason this apartment had a doorbell at all was because the previous tenant had installed one. With a small apartment like that, it served no real purpose. Knocking would have worked just as well.
Who could it be?
The events of that day started to haunt her again and she shuddered. The horrifying fortune teller, the man who strangled her, the transfer student who killed them without a second thought, and those people called “Mushi” who exploded before they died. She couldn’t begin to understand any of it and she didn’t want to, either. The fortune teller’s words cryptically repeated in her head: Some things couldn’t be touched or even approached.
Now there was knocking on the door. Rinne slowly got up while thinking, ‘Who is it?’ She wondered if it might be the self-proclaimed musician who lived next door to her, coming again to borrow some rice.
The door opened. That’s right, it wasn’t even locked.
The one silently standing at the open door was—
“You didn't need to add a 'chan'.”
Gankyuu Eguriko spoke in a sharp tone, and had an extremely dissatisfied expression plastered on her face.
Even though she was bewildered by the unexpected visitor, Rinne still remembered that Guriko had saved her earlier that day. For that, she relaxed and loosened herself up a bit.
“What are you doing here at this hour…?”
“It’s cold outside.”
“Let me live here.”
The outlandish and selfish request took her by complete surprise. Guriko didn’t seem interested in waiting for an answer as she walked in, tossed off her dirty shoes, and sat down on the floor.
“…Um… Then, Guriko, what’s going on here?”
For a while, it looked like she was thinking about what to say. Guriko then sighed and expressionlessly pulled her cheek, saying in her clear voice, “Agh, I’m horrible at lying, so I’ll just tell the truth. I came here to protect you, Usagawa Rinne. The ‘Mushi’ seem to have made your Apple their goal. There’re possibly other goals, but I don’t know anything about that. There are too many of them, and since things are so dangerous I can’t help but worry. In order to observe the situation and protect you, I think living here is the best idea. If you think I’m in the way, just pretend I don’t exist. And so, I’ll be making this place my home.”
Rinne was shocked by Guriko, who sat there staring at her, and then shyly smiled. None of it made any sense, but one thing was clear. Saying anything more would be pointless.
“What did you mean when you said ‘It’s cold outside’ at the beginning?”
“I planned to use that as an excuse to live here, but I can’t just lie my way through life. It’s actually not cold to me at all. I haven’t felt temperature for a long time. Even if I slept at the South Pole, I wouldn’t die, and I wouldn’t feel the cold, either. But… telling the truth… is a bit embarrassing, too.”
‘For the sake of protecting you’ sure wasn’t Guriko’s style. Though, the more Rinne thought about it, the more she smiled.
Guriko blankly looked at Rinne who tried to hide her smile.
“What are you smiling for… Ah, whatever, I’m sure you’re confused, but please be patient. Once I figure out what the ‘Mushi’ want and exterminate them, I’ll leave… eh?”
Guriko said all that in a single breath, but suddenly turned to look toward the corner of the room. There was a giant egg wrapped with a soft cloth. It was covered with a geometric design, and seemed man-made.
Rinne glanced at the suddenly-silent Guriko with fear in her eyes and asked, “Um, what is it, Guriko-chan?”
Guriko scratched her head.
“The egg of a Dream World Beast. That’s weird. Well, it shouldn’t be dangerous since it’s not an evil beast.”
After saying those cryptic words, she got up and walked back and forth across the room.
“In short, those ‘Mushi’ are going to be hard to deal with, and solving that problem is gonna take a while. Until I’m done, I’ll just stay in this closet here.”
Guriko opened the closet and laid down. She wasn't Doraemon! That place wasn’t for a girl to sleep.
Rinne dreamt up ways to convince Guriko out of the closet so they could both sleep on the futon. There was only one futon in the room, so Rinne would give the pillow to Guriko and use a cushion instead. Guriko resisted at first, but soon gave up in the face of Rinne’s stubbornness. She curled up and quickly fell asleep.
Rinne still wasn’t sure what was going on. Guriko had killed her once, and that morning had forcefully kissed the person most important to her. Despite this, for some reason Rinne never felt she was a bad person. Gently patting the sweetly sleeping Guriko on the head, Rinne felt strangely at ease.
Then Rinne thought of something, and picked up the cell phone by the pillow to text Sakaki. Then, she closed her eyes, basked in Guriko’s warmth, and fell asleep.
From: Usarin To: Sensei Subject: Edict Body: Sorry for bothering you so late. This is Usarin. Sensei, something extremely scary happened today. I was attacked by a group of “Mushi” with red eyes, although I didn’t know what they were at the time. I was strangled and almost killed, making that the third time I almost died. Is that good luck? Or bad? I’m still alive after coming close to death so many times. Since I lived, it’s only right for me to keep living on. Sensei, I’ll do my best to stay alive. About that incident at lunch, I think Guriko must have had some reason for doing that. I don’t know what the class thinks, but I think Guriko isn’t the type of person who would commit horrible crimes, so tomorrow I’ll ask her about the details. I know you told me to avoid talking to Guriko, but I want to keep talking to her. Sensei, I don’t know what’s going on around us. It feels like there’s always some sort of terrible conspiracy, but I won’t despair because I have you. As long as Sensei is here, I’ll keep on hoping for the best. That was our promise. I love you, Sensei. P.S. I got a new family member. A person, not a cat. Who do you think it is, Sensei? I’ll tell you tomorrow. I think you’ll be shocked though!
And that’s it.
 Night 3: The Girl Who Died a Thousand Years ago
The Original Sin. The first transgression humans made against God. That sin that Adam and Eve committed still has not been forgiven. As their children, we still bear the burden of that act. Pain is the way for humans to redeem themselves. It was all the fault of those long dead ancestors. It doesn’t matter who someone is: men, women, the elderly, children, the sick, the healthy, the wealthy, or the poor, pain is a part of everyone. “Believe in religion and you shall be saved!” Do this so that religion can flourish! Preying upon people’s fear and hardship to force them into believing in something is underhanded. That’s called a bad deal. Believing in the religion only helps out after you’re dead, anyway. There’s no reason to believe in it while you’re still alive.
“Sensei, what exactly was the Original Sin?”
“Hmm, when you don’t understand, you ask a question, Your Majesty. How splendid! Everyone should learn from her! As for the answer, God, an almighty being that created all the creatures in the world, also created humans to rule over them. God saved humans for last, using soil and a rib from His own body to construct two of them, a man and a woman. He charged these two humans, Adam and Eve, with tending to a paradise called the Garden of Eden. He also gave them one warning. They could eat any of the fruit growing in the Garden save for that of the apple tree in the middle. Eating the fruit from that tree would result in death.”
“Was the fruit poisonous, then?”
“No, it wasn’t poison. Do you know ‘Nutgall’? It was a story about a monk who showed the younger monks a bottle and told them it contained that poisonous plant. Naturally, that meant it must not be eaten. However, it wasn’t nutgall in the bottle at all, but the monk’s stash of candy. The young monks figured it out fairly quickly and ate all of his candy. After he found out, the monk swore his head off.”
“Is that a joke?”
“Everything like that is a joke. The original story probably went a lot differently, but the basic gist is the same. The fruit of the apple tree in the Garden of Eden wasn’t poisonous; it was supposed to be only for God Himself. There are several different theories as to what exactly the fruit was. Some say it enables humans to distinguish between right and wrong. Others say that it granted wisdom, or even immortality. No matter what it was, the fact of the matter is Adam and Eve ate the fruit that was meant for God. That is the original sin, a sin of theft. You could probably even argue that it was false testimony as well. In any case, Adam and Eve committed the ultimate sin of betraying God, and that sin has still not been forgiven to this day. Just what was this “Apple” that God treasured so much? Despite how interesting that question is, I’ll lose myself to my thoughts if I dwell on it, so we’ll leave it at that for today.
Ethics was the fourth class of the day for Year One, Class B. Sakaki Guryuu, who had taken over teaching all subjects for this class, briefly went over the establishment of Judaism. Sakaki had taken this all upon himself solely so that he could spend as much time as possible with Usagawa Rinne. He got away with bullying his way through because of his family. In modern Japan, which embraced equality but also commercialism, one wouldn’t be discriminated against because of what family they were from. However, money still talked so nobody was going to challenge the Sakaki Organization just for the sake of being equal. The Sakaki Organization had the financial weight to outclass the Japanese budget. As Sakaki Guryuu was that organization’s heir, it was his right to use that power as he saw fit. And besides that, this high school – Kannonsakazaki Private High School – was funded by the Sakaki Organization. Comparing the school to a business, Sakaki would be the CEO’s son. With that kind of leverage, there wasn’t anyone stupid enough to challenge his whims.
It was the same with students as teachers.
“Hey you, girl with the sinister-sounding name. Don’t fall asleep!”
“Bam!” Sakaki slammed his book down upon the desk of the girl that was not only sleeping, but also snoring as if she were taunting him. She was dead asleep with her head resting on her arms. Not only that, but she’d been like that since the first class. No student had ever slept in his class. Sakaki’s pride had been significantly wounded. Not one that had a lot of patience to begin with, this pushed him way over the line.
The class grew quiet. Ever since the ‘Incident on November 15th,’ the students had been very interested in the relationship between Sakaki Guryuu and the person sleeping right now – Gankyuu Eguriko. The mundane school life, that peaceful time where nothing happened, had suffered a wrench being thrown in the mix in the form of that girl. Just what move would the ultimate perfect teacher make next?
Sitting next to Gankyuu Eguriko, or “Guriko,” Usagawa Rinne pecked on the girl’s head with her finger. It was an uneven and messy head with a mass of hair cut like a wolf’s. With her lying on the table she looked like a pile of hair. In contrast, Rinne was very clean and neat, with short hair that didn’t even go down to her shoulders. These two seemed to be on good terms lately. If Rinne were to say something, Guriko would at least listen to her.
“Guriko-chan, Guriko-chan, get up.”
A clear and carrying voice with a melodic tone like a bell. That was Usagawa Rinne’s beautiful voice.
“Sensei looks like he’s a bit angry. It’d be best if you got up now!”
Guriko stayed how she was and declared without moving, “I sleep when I want to sleep. It doesn’t matter to me whether the Sensei is angry or the world gets destroyed, sleep is the greatest happiness I get. Don’t worry about it. I learned a long time ago to sleep with one eye open. Just like the last time you got jumped by the Mushi. Despite being asleep, I still knew about it.”
“…Therefore, there is absolutely no problem with me sleeping in the classroom. You can blame the teacher with the fancy name that looks down upon my own. I don’t even want to see his face, which is why I am sleeping through class. You got a problem with that?”
“I do have a problem with that. It is extremely impolite to not listen to the teacher and sleep all day.”
Sakaki had been there the entire time. Making a slight thud, his hand banged into Gurikos head mercilessly. Even she had to get up, rubbing her head. She stared at Sakaki.
“What?! Why did you hit me? Even if I can’t feel the pain, my head still responds to the impact. That made me wide awake. How are you gonna repay me, Sensei?!”
“It’s ‘Sakaki-Sensei.’ Anyways, you’re not allowed to sleep during my class.”
Sakaki’s words came out haughtily. An angry look fell upon Guriko’s face.
“You didn’t even say you were sorry! I’m pissed. You remember that, Sakaki.”
“One day I’m going to gouge out your eyeballs,” Guriko muttered quietly to herself.
During lunch break on Friday, November the 26th, Sakaki was eating the lunch Rinne made for him. He noticed Rinne, who sat in front of him, looked rather fidgety. So he asked her, “Are you well, Your Majesty? Does your stomach hurt?”
When asked this, Rinne lifted her head to look at Sakaki. She wasn’t eating her lunch because of her loss of appetite again. She hadn’t eaten for about ten days. She had been to the doctor, but they chased her out when they couldn’t find anything wrong with her. She hadn’t lost a single pound and continued her energetic lifestyle, completely oblivious of his worries. This was a completely incomprehensible phenomenon. A mystery that modern science couldn’t explain, Sakaki didn’t understand it any better. All he could do was accept that it was supernatural and give up on finding a rational explanation.
Rinne suddenly looked away and displayed a rare expression of finding it hard to say something.
Sakaki was a bit disturbed.
With that pretty voice that Sakaki adored, Rinne asked fearfully, “Sensei, do you dislike Guriko-chan?”
What did she mean by asking that? There were a hundred ways of answering the question. However, he always answered her truthfully, so Sakaki told the truth without hesitation.
“I don’t like her and I don’t dislike her… honestly, I just feel on guard around her. I still don’t know what she is. In many ways, she’s very inhuman. More than that, though, I don’t know her intentions. Just for harming Your Majesty, she’s already beyond forgiveness. Also, her personality is so self-centered it always feels like she’s looking down on me, which really gets on my nerves. There’s no way I’d be able to get along with her.”
“Is that so…”
Rinne’s expression was slightly at a loss.
“Then Sensei, didn’t you once say that Guriko-chan arrived at this school in order to trick me? You said she was getting in close so she could pull something–”
“I didn’t say it like that–”
“Sensei you did, too!”
In a rare show of anger, Rinne said, “It’s just that Guriko-chan isn’t good with people. I think she actually wants to get along with Sensei. Despite the fact she killed me and that mess with the lunches, she must have some reason that we don’t know about. Guriko-chan would never want us to be unhappy! After living together with her, I know she isn’t a bad girl!”
“Your Majesty is taking her side!!”
“Sensei is being paranoid!”
Rinne said loudly. This was quite an incredible reaction for her. She was apparently angry. And angry enough to yell at Sakaki at that. Sakaki felt his heart churn as he couldn’t figure out how he had upset her so. He just wanted Rinne to be safe; couldn’t she see that? No, it definitely got through. Rinne wasn’t stupid. His intentions were reaching her, but it was still ticking her off.
Rinne kept her head bowed and continued, “I know Sensei cares about me. I’m glad, and I feel like I owe Sensei the benefit of the doubt, but still–”
All of a sudden, her tone became gentle and she pressed her hand on her forehead, like something had immediately calmed her down.
“– Aaa, no, I didn’t mean that… but Sensei, I beg you. Please stop suspecting Guriko-chan. She definitely isn’t going to harm me again.”
“But how can you be so sure?”
Just how could she come to that conlusion? Why would she believe that so easily? ̍̍That person has already killed you once, Usarinne. Killed you by gouging out your eyeball. How can you still believe such a horrifying demon?̍̍
Rinne had her head lowered for a long time, and said quietly, “Sensei, Guriko-chan –”
It was a very sad sound.
“She cries all night! Tossing and turning while having a nightmare, she cries out, ‘I don’t want to be alive anymore! Kill me! Kill me! I want to die! I can’t take this any mooore! Kill me, kill me, kill me!’ She’s in anguish until dawn. It doesn’t look like she remembers it, though. I think the reason Guriko-chan sleeps all day must be because she can’t sleep peacefully at night… Sensei, do you think such poor girl is a devil that wants to kill me?”
Rinne’s shoulders were shaking. Although she didn’t cry, her heart seemed to.
Sakaki looked pained, but he still couldn’t trust Guriko.
“That is also – acting.”
“Something like that isn’t acting!”
“Something like that isn’t acting.” Rinne repeated, muttering as if she were talking to the air.
“… Don’t fight, it’ll attract the Mushi.”
A clear and pure voice that drowned out any other noise called across the room.
Rinne turned her head towards the voice, and Sakaki followed her gaze. Guriko, who disappeared a while ago, was pulling open the classroom door with a squeak. She walked towards them.
As she did, she rambled on.
“The Mushi are everywhere. Even here in this classroom. Those things will do anything to obtain their goal, so they’ll make their move at the first sign of weakness. Don’t fight. Your advantage is that your love is so strong, so don’t lose that advantage.”
“You’re the reason we’re fighting!”
Surprise fell upon Guriko’s face. She then brushed away her bangs and stared at Sakaki with her incredibly colored eyes. It might be irrelevant, but this girl really wasn’t suited for a sailor uniform.
“You’re fighting because of me? Ah, you’re still hung up on that lunch thing? Sorry, but I had to do that to keep you two alive. On second thought, though, maybe I should have just let this guy die. Why did I save him? He’s clearly a loser.”
‘This guy’ and ‘loser’ were all unmistakably referring to Sakaki, because Guriko’s finger was pointing at him at the same time. Why did she say things to make him angry? It was the first time in Sakaki’s life that he’d been called a ‘loser’.
Rinne noticed that Sakaki was displeased, and a helpless expression showed up on her face.
“Guriko-chan, why did you say that? It’s better to be honest with yourself – I know you want to get along with Sensei, so you shouldn’t say things like that!”
Guriko probably wanted to rebuke her with ‘don’t speak nonsense’, but Rinne was quicker and shut down the girl’s words with her own angelic smile.
“I like Guriko-chan a lot!”
Rinne said naturally, “I want to become good friends with you, so don’t worry, I won’t hurt you! Sensei thinks the same way. I know it.”
Sakaki complained with a furrowed brow: “Your Majesty, I still want to veto this speech of yours.”
“Sensei is so stubborn. Guriko-chan and Sensei are really similar! Both of you are obviously good people, but became distant from each other since you can’t be honest to each other. That’s a pity! You two should really get along, but can’t because you’re both stubborn. How sad…”
Rinne’s face was still helpless, but she laughed as she spoke with a confident tone.
Her proclamation made the other two gape at her. Both of them had expressions like they were trying to think of how to deny the optimistic girl’s words.
The peerless Rinne noticed the two had on the same expression and thought, ̍They are definitely similar!̍ She then smiled gently.
They were memories, sad memories.
“… You’re expendable” – I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard those words. Yes, Mother, I’m expendable to you. Let the gods of plague and fall upon me alone, and leave my family alone. Eat me if you must eat someone. I’m an adopted child anyways. If the family could no longer support the children, I’d have been sacrificed without a second thought.
If I’m going to die, let me die protecting my family!
It was a year of rampant sickness. Everyone was frail and weak. Their eyes were sunken in, and their skin was pale. For the rural countryside, which barely sustained life as it was, this disease was like a wave of death. Once a person got sick, the land died with them. For a poor village this was a matter of life and death. My family, however, were robust people. As if it didn’t concern them, they turned a blind eye to the pestilence. However I, who was much more susceptible, was locked up in a small stone-walled room. “Don’t come out! You’ll get sick!” Of course, it wasn’t out of concern for my safety they said that. Mother was afraid that after I caught the disease, I would pass it on to other people in the family. “You’re expendable.” Mother did say that. “It’s enough if you suffer, don’t bring us down with you.”
I know, Mother, I understand. Although my family treated me like dirt, they still gave me food to eat and a bed to sleep on. I knew if I asked for any more, God would punish me for being selfish. I liked the people in this family. If misfortune fell on them because of me, I’d have been very sad. It sounds pathetic, but that’s what I thought.
The stone room was wet, and the air was stuffy. I sat on the ice cold rock and fought against the chills. It’s so dark in here; I can’t even see my own hands. As if to chase away the cold, I hugged my knees and cried constantly.
It wasn’t that I feared the dark. It was that I was so very lonely.
Just how long had it been? I sensed something was wrong. I could hear a lot of commotion coming from outside of the room. What’s going on? Out of fear, I knocked on the wood panels blocking the entrance. Father, Momer, my elder brothers, what had happened to them?
A deep and gloomy voice I’d never heard before responded,
“Oh my, oh my, I was wondering where you might be. All along you’ve been locked up in that stone room!”
It wasn’t a man’s voice, but it wasn’t a woman’s voice either. It was a voice that unnerved the listener.
“Boom!” – the wood panels were easily broken. I could see the shadow of a person standing between me and the daylight. My body was shaking, and I took a few steps backwards. I then tripped on something and lost my balance, so that guy grabbed me and held me up with both hands, laughing.
“Alright, time to give it back!”
That’s what he said to me. A red glow was shimmering in that guy’s eyes, and he didn’t look human. My gaze shifted above his shoulder and I saw a terrible sight. Father with his neck broken, Mother with her belly split open, and my elder brothers piled upon each other on the floor. Everyone was dead. I screamed.
Uncaring to my screams, the red eyed guy remained gloomily silent.
He seemed to be looking for me. In order to find me, he’d killed my family just because they were in the way of his search. He’s such a… bad guy, he’s… horrible. And at that moment, that horrible bad guy was looking at me expressionlessly.
“Let’s confirm it first!”
A deep voice said right into my ears.
Then he grabbed my screaming throat.
My vision dimmed.
… It should have just been me. Father, Mother, my elder brothers, I’m sorry.
Opening her eyes, she saw only the endless sky. Narrowing her eyes due to the blinding light, her hand went to her neck unconsciously. The throat that should have been crushed didn’t even have a scratch on it. Such things had disappeared long ago.
“… So it was a dream.”
Gankyū Eguriko muttered as she laid face-up on the roof of Kannonsakazaki Private High School, watching birds and planes passing above.
It seemed she had dreamt of the past while she was dozing. It was maddening – a distant memory of when she was still human. Back when she had a mother and father and brothers. That had been a millennia ago. A vague memory that she’d almost forgotten –
Three birds flew past with a whoosh. They flew in front of the sun, so all she saw of them were their shadows.
As she reminisced on the past, she murmured to herself, “Birds don’t change, they’ve kept their shape the entire time. Humans, on the other hand, have changed a lot. What about me – is there anything that’s different from back then? Of course there should be some changes. Back then I could easily laugh, I had things that were important to me, and I was happy. When did I begin to leave it behind, and when did I lose it?”
“How long am I supposed to live?” she muttered as she continued to watch the birds.
Three birds, creatures that lived by eating worms. They never stopped being birds, they were the same as all those years ago. I, however, had stopped being human long ago.
“Even three birds were reduced to two, and now I’m the only one left. It doesn’t matter if I’m alone. I don’t want Rinne to be a part of this, but the Apple had already rooted in her. It’s just like what happened to me – it’s too late, whatever happens now is just going to lead to misfortune. Change into a bird, or die with humans…”
Teetering, Guriko stood up, her eyes still fixed upon the birds flying away into the distance.
“… It should have been fine with just me!”
Guriko repeated those words she so often said.
“Seeing that person’s crying face… it hurts too much.”
Guriko put her hand on her chest.
“But I must tell her the truth.”
She was used to being despised, and knew there wouldn’t be any reward for her actions.
The hours flew by as she sorted through letters and cleaned up her work area. Her shift over, Usagawa Rinne left the post office after saying goodbye to her co-workers. She enjoyed this job quite a bit. Despite it being a bit repetitive, it got pretty fun after getting used to it. Also, everyone there was really nice. Checking her cell phone, she saw it was already after 8PM and the sun had already set. Rinne got on her bike parked behind the post office and took off down the uneven streets, leaving little clouds of her breath behind her. It wasn’t too late yet, although there were very few people on the street and most of the shops had closed down. Occasionally there would be the stray pedestrian, waddling home from work with a weary expression on their face.
It used to be that Rinn would also be extremely tired after finishing work, but now she wasn’t even weary. With no appetite, automatically healing any wound, and even losing fatigue; do I still count as a human? Thoughts like that were saddening to her.
Although she didn’t know what Sakaki thought of this, Rinne was rather puzzled herself. What kind of conspiracy did she get into? What was happening to her? Just who is Guriko-chan? She really wanted to know those things. This wasn’t something she took lightly; she seriously wanted to know the truth.
However, thinking about it wasn’t getting her anywhere. Despite studying what Gurkio-chan and the Mushi had said, she couldn’t figure it out. Whether it was a lack of imagination or just plain being dumb, the answer was out of her reach. Rinne was almost out of options.
The ten minute long commute wasn’t long enough to think things through. Before she managed to organize her uneasy questions, Rinne was already home. Was Guriko-chan there already? It felt nice to have someone waiting for her in the house.
Rinne spoke as she opened the door and took off her shoes by the entrance. As she expected, she heard familiar chiptune music. Guriko-chan was sitting in front of the very large television that was really stuck out from the rest of the room and was playing a video game. She was playing an old console that stores now sold really cheap. The system was only around 300 Yen and the games were just about 100 Yen. 400 Yen covered everything. The game she was playing was ‘Obake no Q-tarō'.
The wobbling and adorable little Q-tarō wandered across the screen, but soon he hit the dog it was Game Over. It looked like Guriko-chan didn’t really know how to play video games. Considering she’d never seen any before, that was fairly understandable.
Without turning around Guriko immediately started the game again, and asked Rinne, “Did you have to work today, too?”
“Mmm, I was at work.”
Rinne put her coat on a hanger and then sat next to Guriko, watching Q-tarō lose to the dog again. She really hadn’t gotten a grasp on the game yet.
Guriko’s face wasn’t happy.
“… This is pretty boring. I can’t win against the dog. The problem is I don’t have any attacks. How am I supposed to get past him, Rinne? Do you know?”
”…The instructions said that pressing A twice will make you fly, and pressing B will make you disappear. So, just use those two abilities… Aah, right there! Use the flying to dodge, ah – too bad!”
With a serious face, Guriko-chan played for a good while after that. Unfortunately, though, there didn’t seem to be much improvement. She finally gave up after a while and unplugged the system before turning to Rinne and looking at her.
“Rinne, I’ve given it some thought.”
“…Given what some thought?”
“I’ve been withholding the truth, but I’ve reached my limit.”
Guriko asked innocently, “Do you have the courage to hear the truth?”
Rinne didn’t speak a word.
“Once you know the truth you’ll probably curse your fate. But if you think you can take it, I’ll tell you. I’m afraid I’ll ruin your happiness. I don’t want to make you lose what you have with Sakaki by telling you this. But that’s a bit naïve. You’ve already received the Apple and as for knowing the truth, you have not only the right, but also the – duty.”
Rinne knew Guriko-chan’s expression was serious. She couldn’t be lying to her. ̍As long as I say that I want to know the truth, she’ll definitely tell me. But – I’m so scared, there’s an irrational fear, as if Guriko-chan’s words would shatter the peace of this world.̍̍ That was what her heart told her
However, Rinne answered without hesitation.
”No mater how cruel the truth is, I hate to be in the dark like this. Tell me the truth, Guriko-chan. Rather than to be afraid of what I don’t know, I’d rather face the truth.”
“You’re really tough!”
Guriko smiled softly. It was a very natural smile.
“Will you believe me? No matter how cruel the truth I tell you is, you won’t yell at me and say that I’m lying to you but believe me?”
“I will believe you!”
“Thank you –”
Guriko-chan’s face turned serious again.
“– Then I’ll also believe in you, believe that you will overcome fate.”
It is said that once a human dies, they shall start on a journey. Some people go to gardens, some people go on a boat and cross rivers, and there are also those who keep walking on a long straight road. That scene is an illusion created by the brain, just like a dream. And in that illusion there is always a great tree.
Back when Gankyu Eguriko was still known as Yono Which was a thousand years ago. When Guriko left the village behind, she discarded the surname Yono as well), she tripped on a moss-covered rock and fell into the river while fishing. She swallowed a lot of water and hit her head hard. It almost killed her. She dreamt, then, of walking upon an uneven road and eventually coming to a giant tree filled with fruit.
“Wow, this fruit looks really good.”
She said that as she gazed upon the fruit of the tree. Compared to the unsettling scene around her, they appeared quite appealing.
“I don’t know who’s these are, but it shouldn’t hurt if I just take one, right? Father’s been beat down by the weather. He could use some of these fruit to get his strength back.”
It’d be pretty unique to use fruit instead of fish, anyways! Yono made up her mind and then climbed like a monkey up the large tree and plucked an apple that was low to the ground. She didn’t realize that she was dreaming, despite the fact that in reality she was floating in a pool of water at the foot of a waterfall, covered in blood and hovering on the edge of death.
“Hmm – I’ve never seen this kind of fruit. Is it good to eat? Well, I’ll try it. Just one can’t hurt, right? My tummy’s growling anyways.”
"Ka”, Yono bit right into the red, ripe forbidden fruit. It was so yummy! Before she knew it, she had already scarfed it down. It had been the tastiest, most refreshing, and juiciest fruit she’d ever eaten. Yono was overjoyed. This was such a big discovery, she should bring some back to the family! So she stretched out her hand to pluck four more apples – and then she woke from her dream, returned to life.
As soon as she opened her eyes, the pouring waterfall was spraying right onto her face. She was floating in the pool at the bottom of the waterfall like a bobber, wobbling constantly.
“It was… a dream!”
Yono muttered. The sharp pain on her head made her eyes roll backwards a bit. Fortunately, the water wasn’t very deep, and she could stand in it. It wasn’t difficult to get back to the shore.
“So – I slipped while catching fish.”
Yono was frightened of the large amount of blood as she wringed her drenched clothes dry, on the verge of tears the entire time.
“I did – have a strange dream. What was that about?”
Yono thought about it for a while, then returned home and her mundane daily life. Soon she had forgotten all about that incredible dream. It was five years later when she finally thought of that dream again.
That forbidden fruit is called ‘Eden’s Apple” or simply “the Apple”. Actually, it isn’t an apple at all, but is called that due to its appearance. Those who eat that Apple will be given the power of immortality, and they shall not die even if their head is crushed, their heart torn out, or even if they don’t eat or breathe. They won’t age and will live forever, be it hundreds or thousands of years. It is impossible for them to escape the curse of immortality. The fact that Guirko herself hadn’t grown up after living for over a thousand years was proof of this.
Guriko – Yono, ate the Apple while she was a child. However, the Apple doesn’t give a human immortality instantly. Should they die before the Apple takes root, they will still die. Actually, it was that gambit that led Guirko to try and kill Usagawa Rinne. Eternal life was a fate worse than death. Rather than letting the girl suffer, it was better to kill her quickly! That was her cruel gentleness. She truly acted out of pity. However, her plan failed. Rinne’s Apple had already taken hold, and even Guriko could not kill her.
The place the Apple takes root is in the soul and not the flesh, so the Apple can not be taken away no matter what happens to the body. They can also affect causality and bestow special powers like Guirko’s combat ability. That was the reason she could slip into the school so easily. It seems the more Apples a person has, the more powerful the effect. The reason Guriko has such extraordinary powers is due to the fact that she has three Apples.
Three. That means Guriko had once taken the Apples of two other people. However, it wasn’t stealing so much as receiving. Guriko had travelled with these two people, a man and a woman, for a very long time. Those two each had an Apple, and seemed to have wandered the world since a long, long time ago. They decided to travel with her after she saved them from the Mushi. Their families had also been slaughtered by the Mushi and they were left wanting answers.
But after seven hundred years, the mind of the woman deteriorated and she chose to end her life. She disappeared into nothingness after entrusting the Apple to Guriko. The man who loved her also lost the hope to live on, and he too passed the Apple to Guriko, ending his journey. After that, Guriko lived for about three hundred years by herself.
Guriko didn’t have anyone she could entrust the Apples to, so she travelled around the world and fought the Mushi to avenge her family. The common enemy of all humans with Apples, the Mushi. In order to kill the other Apple holders in time, she sought them out while hunting the Mushi. It should have been fine with just her. The so-called immortality was absolute misery. She shouldn’t have eaten that damned Apple to begin with, Guriko thought. The girl who died a thousand years ago lived till now like this. Having lost what was important to her, she wandered through time waging her war against the Mushi.
Usagawa Rinne’s face paled at this truth that was beyond reason. She brought up a question heavy on her mind.
“The Mushi – what are they?”
“I don’t know.”
Guriko replied with sincerity. It was definitely a surprising answer.
Faced with Rinne, who was flabbergasted, Guriko’s face was apologetic.
“I really don’t know anything about those things. Even the two travelers who guided me seemed to not know much, only that those things are everywhere and they only move in order to take humans’ Apples. You seem to have been under surveillance for a long time, too. I started investigating here because this town has a lot of Mushi. Then I discovered you. That’s when all this started –”
Guriko ran her hand through her wolf-like hair and then said seriously, “But those guys are definite enemy of those of us with Apples, and they’ll do everything they can to get them! I’ve come across two others that had Apples in the past. One was killed by the Mushi, the other had somehow had his soul extracted, leaving a corpse behind. After all, the Apple takes root in the soul. Once the soul is gone, everything is over.”
“Is the soul – something that can be taken away?”
“I don’t know, but I think there must be a way. The Mushi have definitely used some method to steal many people’s Apples.”
Guirko said that in an uncaring voice, although she had no idea what that method was.
Usagawa Rinne thought about the girl sitting in front of her. A lone soldier who had wandered the Earth for a millennia, Gankyuu Eguriko. She’s so pitiful, and it must have been so hard, so painful!
Rinne hugged Guriko tightly.
Although Guriko complained, she stopped refusing it when she found that Rinne was crying.
“You must be very lonely, in such pain!”
Guriko placed her head on Rinne’s chest, exasperated. The girl who died a thousand years ago had all her family killed, was unable to connect to anyone, and was parted from the companions she cared for. Even so she never gave up and lived on. Rinne thought this was an amazing feat. Definitely one that deserved respect.
And also – one that was very sad.
Why did Guriko-chan have to endure this pain?
Rinne sobbed. This kind girl of sixteen years gave all her tears to the lonely girl who fought continuously for ten centuries. She pitied the girl and wanted to show her all the kindness she could. In order to even slightly heal Guriko’s scar-ravaged heart, she hugged her tightly.
Just like what Sakaki did for me last year, I want to give her the hope to keep living, Rinne thought.
Guriko must have understood that. Silently, she let Rinne hug her.
A short while latter, Guriko murmured to her softly. Her words became a coarse whisper as if she were suppressing her emotions. As if speaking those words wounded her deeply.
“You, too, can no longer die, now.”
Rinne murmured. Although she still couldn’t accept such heavy news, she could understand that she could no longer live as calmly as she had previously.
The world was no longer the same to her.
Guriko remained in Rinne’s arms, and said with a quavering voice, “So you have two choices. One is to live with me forever, and the other is to disappear after you give up your soul to the Mushi. There is no salvation either way, and I can’t tell if either will bring you any joy. You decide for yourself…”
Guriko moved away from Rinne a bit, and looked at her with innocent eyes.
“No matter what you choose, you will eventually lose Sakaki. Your life is endless, but his is not. One day, when Sakaki’s time is up, he’ll leave you behind and die.”
Rinne nodded. Her eyes were once again brimming with tears, which slid down her cheek and dripped to the ground from her chin.
Then, a solemn expression appeared on Guriko’s face.
“If you wish, I’ll protect you two until Sakaki dies! No matter which choice you make, I’ll still do that for you. You can create happy memories with Sakaki and you can even stay beside him until he dies of old age. Then either travel with me or give your soul to the Mushi, it’d be up to you. I’ll help you the best that I can.”
“Let me think about it – a bit more.”
Rinne replied. She still couldn’t get her thoughts straight.
“You can think about it for as long as you like… time is no longer an issue.”
 Night 4: Loneliness ← Kodoku → Insect Poison
As the season had long changed into winter, the air that remained in the corridors in the school seemed to be particularly cold deep at night, and even the hazy scene that seemed to float in the darkness gave off a feeling of a piercing chill. People meant this exact place when they talk about an ordinary school that’s rarely praised and rarely criticized – Kannonsakazaki Private High School. However, this ordinary scene was currently showing something incongruously strange. The moonlight that shone in through the window made the corridor glisten with light as if it were a mirror, and a few human figures were wobbling along the bright corridor.
There were about ten teenagers. Since they were all wearing the uniforms of Kannonsakazaki High School, they should be the school’s students! There were boys and girls with similar unfocused expressions on their faces, stumbling along as if they were the risen dead. Their faces were full of gloom, apparently having lost their human conscience.
Their leader was the only person who was dressed oddly among these students in uniform. With a long purple robe, holding a large crystal ball in his hands, those eyes that still sparkled with residue light in the darkness were red.
He was indeed the mysterious fortune teller who gave the Dream World Beast to Sakaki Guryuu, tried to kill Usagawa Rinne, and survived after Guriko’s attack. He did not wear his hood. The expressionless youth’s face was exposed in the school at the dead of night.
This macabre team, led by the fortune teller, marched forward. Soon they arrived at the third floor and stopped in front of the sealed classroom that no one usually approached. Although so many people were gathered together, there was not a single word of conversation. The surroundings were enveloped in a frightening stillness. The fortune teller broke the silence and said: “… I see, it was indeed something very vicious!”
No one answered his words. The fortune teller gave a look, urging a boy amongst these students with a particularly thick build to step forward. A rough and large axe was held in the boy’s hands. In order to forbid people from entering, the door of the sealed classroom had wooden panels nailed on it. The boy lifted the axe and chopped downwards chaotically, destroying the door. The sound of him hacking away, as if intending to break the others’ eardrums, echoed in the silent school for a long time.
‘Clack’, the wooden panel made a mighty noise, and the door was completely smashed. Age-old thick dust filled up the air, but the fortune teller did not mind it at all. He spoke to the students behind him: “hurry, the door’s open, get inside –”
Without a word the students, with their faces filled with dead blank expressions, obeyed the fortune teller’s words and walked into the empty abandoned classroom.
There was a strange rumor concerning this sealed classroom. Reputedly, all the students who broke into this abandoned classroom for fun had strangely disappeared – it seemed to be true according to the fortune teller; ‘something evil’ was indeed within this classroom. That is an existence that should never be in this world, something called a monster. Here, there is an existence that is the same as the fortune teller.
“… Come, I’m here to bring offerings. This is prepared particularly for you. Please enjoy yourself. As for having their souls already sucked away – please forgive me, as the best way to successfully control humans is to suck away the soul and make them into zombies! You’re not the kind to eat souls anyway, Legion Bandanna, demonic beast of blood and flesh –”
The fortune teller spoke to the darkness that formed whirlpools in the classroom. Upon closer inspection, the students standing dazedly in the classroom were devored by the darkness one by one, and their figures thus disappeared. Looks like it was truly very hungry. Human actions were truly cruel, locking it up here and not even giving it food. In the pitch dark classroom, the Legion Bandanna’s hunger and hatred were raised to the ultimate level.
With a satisfied expression on his face, the fortune teller looked almost as if he was appreciating the demonic beast that was savoring the students as he devored them.
Ever since when, someone was standing behind him.
“… What are you doing?”
The fortune teller turned his head. A red-haired woman, about twenty years old, was standing there.
It’s a Mushi. It probably discovered that something odd was happening in the school and came to ascertain the situation.
The fortune teller waved a hand and spoke to the Mushi, which had the appearance of a woman: “What’s wrong? Do you need to come to this school for something?”
“Don’t play dumb, I’m asking what you are doing.”
The Mushi was unmoved, and nor did the expression on its face change.
“What’s your intention in feeding the carnivorous beast? You should know the danger in this, right? If it’s just a pointless game, then you must be disciplined as a ‘Mushi’ –”
Just then, the expression on the Mushi’s face froze.
Discovered it yet?
“Who? Who are you? You're not a ‘Mushi’ – not one of us.”
‘Shuuu’ – the fortune teller moved with a lightning speed that human eyes wouldn’t be able to see; it was a speed that Mushi, whose physical abilities are not any higher than humans, can never have. The crystal ball immediately dropped on the ground, making a large sound.
The Mushi opened its red eyes wide in shock.
“I can’t be hindered here!”
The sound came from behind the Mushi.
“– For ‘my’ purpose.”
Then, with his vicious teeth, the fortune teller bit deeply into the slender neck of the Mushi. The Mushi gave out dying shrieks, waved its hands chaotically, but it was useless no matter how it struggled –
The Mushi soon disintegrated into the air.
“… Ah, don’t worry about it!”
The fortune teller spoke into the pitch dark classroom with a gloomy voice.
“Keep on enjoying your food till you’re full.”
Then, ‘psst’, he laughed. It was a very evil, purely evil laugh.
The scene was changing. She’s always felt that before – before she met Sakaki Guryuu, the town had always felt so old and without charisma just like now. Was it going back to the way it was before? Usagawa Rinne sighed, then wiped away the tears that trickled down without her noticing.
The time was seven fifty, almost eight o’clock. Having just finished with her work at the fastfood outlet, Rinne was currently riding her bicycle that was creaking with weird sounds since she hasn’t used it for many years. Every method of keeping herself warm was useless in the winter city after sunset. Rinne curved up her body, enduring the chilling air that seemed to almost erode her body. Apparently she still had residue feelings of ‘pain’ concerning temperature. According to Guriko, it looks like it’ll take a long time for those feelings to disappear.
However, it was said the heartache won’t disappear.
“What… should I do?”
She muttered as if she were speaking about someone else. What should I do? She had always regarded herself as some special existence before she met Guryuu. This speciality wasn’t meant in a good way, but in a bad way, as a blemished work, a failure, a malfunctioning thing, a piece of crap – however, only after meeting Guryuu did she realize she was definitely not some special existence. There is no such thing as a special existence in a good or bad way. Everyone breathes, eats, sleeps, and lives as such. It is humanity itself that used poverty, personality, social states, and thoughts to classify itself. When she was fifteen, she followed the distinctions that humans made on a whim, thinking that she was a special existence, thinking that she was not worthy, useless even she's alive, and thus wanted death. Only when she met Guryuu did she understand how to enjoy an ordinary life, and feel that she isn’t special, just an ordinary human.
However – she was no longer an ordinary human. How can someone who has eternal life be ordinary? She hasn’t eaten anything, but can still move and speak; does such a creature count as human? How can it, how can it be!
She is thinking of Sakaki, thinking of the existence of her beloved.
Humans will definitely one day part once they meet. Even if they do nothing, one day separation will arrive in the form of ‘death’. Although Rinne could understand such things, she’s never thought about it before. They won’t be in a teacher-and-student relationship once she graduates from high school; they’d become a ordinary couple, and will one day marry… and be together forever, just having such uncertain sweet dreams, not thinking about the separation that will arrive one day at last, just living as such. However… now she has to think of this; she has to think how she, who won’t even be granted death, part with Sakaki. One day Sakaki will die, but she cannot die. Therefore, she must decide the time to part herself. Rinne’s tears fell splattering to the ground.
No, no, no, Rinne murmured. The bicycle crossed the shopping street, galloping on the uneven ground. The moonlight shone down silently, the grass waved with a rustle, but Rinne was not in the mood to enjoy them.
“How can this be, how can this be…”
It was rare for Rinne to speak such pessimistic words.
She suddenly wanted to see Sakaki very much.
I used to want a teddy bear very much, Rinne said. What’s a teddy bear? Guriko asked without looking at Rinne. Her sight was focused on the television in front of her, where soft little Kirby was jumping cutely. After yesterday’s ‘Obake no Q-Tarō’, Guriko was challenging action games again today. She was probably getting used to it, and the way her hand used the controller were far more dexterous.
Rinne still couldn’t decide her future after listening to Guriko talking about the truth yesterday. There were many choices. Staying beside Sakaki until he dies and travel with Guriko after he dies; she can also chose not go with Guriko and pass her soul to Mushi; or, as their relation isn’t yet very intimate and the separation won’t hurt too deeply, she many even leave Sakaki’s side tomorrow. However, although she can easily think up these choices, in reality she couldn’t choose as Rinne loves Sakaki very much.
He’s Rinne’s lifesaver, an object of admiration, her most important person in the world.
“This thing, the Teddy Bear…”
Rinne spoke of the past. She felt she wanted to talk about it. Although Guriko didn’t reply, it seemed she was listening attentively and would ask as soon as she has questions.
“It’s a toy, a bear toy! Because it’s made in a very abstract way, maybe it doesn’t look like a bear anymore – I used to want it very much. As to why I wanted it, I can’t remember the reason anymore.”
“That’s how everyone was like when they were young!”
Guriko, clad in pajamas, controlled Kirby as she said words that made others feel the weight of years.
“A child’s world is actually very small. Even if it’s something that is boring and infinitesimal for adults, children would feel that it’s such a large existence that can’t be ignored, right?”
Rinne smiled and lay across the prepared bed. The warm table had long ago been pushed to the corner of the room, and the preparations before sleep were already complete.
“It’s probably just like that. But my dad – I didn’t have a mum. He didn’t understand my thoughts, and told me off, very harshly: ‘don’t ask for such things’. Since I couldn’t understand it, I kept throwing fits. That was probably… the beginning.”
The time was half past eight at night. Guriko had been playing video games from when she came back from school till now. If she was told: “you’re gonna hurt your eyes!’, she’d reply: ‘It’ll be fine on its own.” That is indeed true!
“After that, it just went all downhill. As I grew up, my personality also became very distorted. I became a person without interests, always feeling that the entire world doesn’t acknowledge me, and no one’s listening to me. I became entangled in this paranoia and began to be afraid, and began to distance myself from others…”
Based to what Rinne was currently like, it’s very hard to imagine this. However, Rinne really did have such a time. Back then she hated others, hated herself, and hated the world.
Even hating life.
“There was no place for me in school, and I couldn’t get any solace at home, Plus, there was nothing I liked or was interested in; I just kept accumulating stress. Stress is very scary, Guriko; it’s definitely a monster. The monster named stress continued to erode my heart, gnaw away at that beautiful heart, and then I became someone hateful.
Since I didn’t have the courage to be rebellious, I could only lock myself in my room and resist passively. Although it’s boring to stay in the room, it wasn’t painful either, so I kept staying locked in the room. Dad couldn’t understand me. Whenever he was angry he swore ‘you piece of crap’ while beating me, or said ‘get to school!’ while kicking me.”
Like so, Rinne completely snapped.
She knew there’s nothing good left even if she keeps living.
Then finish it, she thought.
“Had I not met Sakaki-sensei, I should probably be dead already. It was at the seaside, the seaside durng winter, when there was absolutely no one around. I was walking on the empty wave cutters, thinking of where I would kill myself. I wanted to die, I wanted to commit suicide. Now that I think about it, it’s really scary, but back then I really did snap!”
Or it could be said that she was mad. Rinne gave a small smile. On the television screen, Kirby fell into a hole and died. Play again! But there are no such chances in life.
“… I jumped in, trying to drown myself. I walked to the cliff and jumped, aiming for the deep waters. I didn’t hope to be saved, and didn’t think that anyone would save me. The sea water was so cold, it’s enough to kill someone. I remember it very vividly. But all I felt then was that it was so cold.”
“Death is not a warm thing!” Rinne said.
“That’s obvious!” Guriko said coldly.
“But some people feel that it’s a warm and happy thing. Those crazy ones who think death is even happier than living.”
Guriko said evenly. Confusion emerged on Rinne’s face.
“I tried to die a few times too; I still want to die now. There’s nothing important for me, and I don’t know what I’m living for; I long for the concept of death very much.”
The reborn Kirby was walking forward in high spirits.
Guriko smiled unconsciously.
“So I’m a bit jealous of you. You have something important, using that important existence – Sakaki Guryuu, as your stable pillar, and living on with happiness. I’m jealous, and I miss it. It is the beautiful feeling that I left behind a long long time ago. That’s reasonable, because for the person that I am right now –”
Guriko suddenly had a lost expression.
“– there isn’t anything important.”
Even so, why did Guriko stay alive? Rinne tried to think. The reason Guriko was alive was probably due to the fact that she ‘can’t die’, not that she ‘wanted to live’, right? This thought is just too pessimistic. This girl, in order to protect those who received the Apple from the threats of Mushi, and also to avenge her family on Mushi, lived on based on the feelings of duty, destiny, and hatred. But I feel that she is very tough, and very gentle. Guriko didn’t escape death, and she had fought alone to prevent her own misfortunes from occurring again.
“Guriko, I –”
Rinne spoke from the depths of her heart: “– can’t I be the ‘most important’ person in Guriko’s heart?”
Guriko gave Rinne a look. It was the look of a kitten picked up from the street, wanting to be coquettish but weary at the same time. It was an expression that wanted to rely on someone but fearful at the same time, mixed in with some clumsiness.
“I don’t know…”
Guriko’s gaze returned to the television.
“I like you. I haven’t met anyone I like for a long time, but I have been separated from these kinds of feelings for a long while, therefore… I don’t know if I’m able to feel that you’re ‘important’. I can no longer distinguish whether this is the normal feeling that I had a thousand years ago.”
The girl who had died a long, looong time ago stared into nothingness and said: “I’ll tell you when I’ve come to a conclusion, Rinne. Thanks for your kind words.”
Tilting her head, Guriko still smiled clumsily.
For just a little bit, an expression showed on Rinne’s face as if she wanted to cry, but she quickly got back to the original topic.
“Back to our previous topic, hmm… where were we?”
“Where you jumped into the sea.”
Guriko replied as she fought the boss at the same time.
“Yes, I jumped into the sea to seek death. As to why I chose the sea, it’s because it was close… also, it would trouble a lot of people if I commit suicide on the railway.”
“You thought of others even back then! That’s really like you right now… hoho.”
Rarely, Guriko smiled. Rinne’s eyes were looking at somewhere far away.
“Sensei saved me there.”
“Why would Sakaki be there?”
Rinne’s eyes widened.
Then Rinne tilted her head as if thinking about something.
“– Hmm, huh, speaking off, why indeed? No one swims in the sea during winter, so why would Sensei be there? Although I don’t know, I think Sensei must be beside the sea due to some sort of business. Then he saw me jumping, and saved me.”
“Sakaki was probably there to kill himself too.”
Rinne burst out laughing due to Guriko’s words. It’d be impossible even if it’s a joke.
“Anyways, Sensei saved me at the risk of his life, and then resuscitated me, who was hovering near death – Ahh, Guriko, why are you allowing me to say this!”
”Pa’, Rinne suddenly knocked on Guriko’s head.
Shocked, Guriko looked at Rinne.
Rinne looked very embarrassed.
“… And then, Sensei told me off, saying I shouldn’t kill myself, then – Ahaha, what do you think Sensei, drenched from head to toe, said to me? He said: ‘I fell in love with you at first sight. Please marry me.’ My brain froze, because I suddenly felt like Cinderella, with someone as handsome as Sensei suddenly… to me…”
Rinne became red to the ears all of a sudden, while Guriko opened her eyes wide in shock. She probably didn’t know why Rinne was blushing; perhaps, even Rinne herself didn’t know the reason!
“It was – the same time last year, or a bit later. At the end, I found the hope to keep living because I met Sakaki-sensei, and so I gave up trying to kill myself and decide to study at Kannonsakazaki High School. I didn’t know that Sensei would chase after me as a teacher…”
“That guy’s activity is pretty messy itself.”
“But I was really happy! I liked Sensei even back then. Even now, I still feel that meeting Sensei in the sea was like a dream…”
With a dreamy, euphoric expression, Rinne said softly with a hand on her chest.
It was truly – miraculous. Perhaps it could be called destiny!
Meeting Sakaki Guryuu, who changed Usagawa Rinne’s life.
At the same time it was also the beginning of the worst situation that Usagawa Rinne was now facing.
As she easily went past level by level, Guriko said to Rinne with an innocent voice: “… Rinne, could it be that you ate it at that time?”
“Mm, I ate the Apple.”
Rinne answered quietly. Of course, this isn’t the apple that you’d buy from the shops.
That is the forbidden fruit that would give a human immortality, the Apple that is growing on the tree at entrance of the next world, where only some chosen people can arrive there. No one knows what conditions were used to choose those humans who can arrive at the tree. The only thing that's certain was that those who ate the Apple would never be able to die, and would forever be targeted by the Mushi as long as they’re alive.
“I think Usagawa Rinne once died in that stretch of sea. Resurrecting due to having eaten the Apple, and then receiving hope from Sakaki-sensei; all of these things gave me a true rebirth, and I am still alive today.”
Guriko listened to Rinne with a gentle expression.
Guriko had lived with her for almost a month already, Rinne thought. In this short time, this girl had become more human-like. She didn’t appear to notice it herself, but she smiled more often, and her expressions were much more softened.
Would I be able to more or less heal Guriko’s heart like Sakaki did to mine? Rinne smiled inwardly. The reason that Rinne wanted to save Guriko without a particular reason was perhaps that Rinne projected the self that didn’t have anything important in the world and wanted to die onto Guriko! However, it could be said that it had nothing to do with it, and Rinne simply liked Guriko’s personality. She knew that although Guriko was rude and found it hard to understand others’ emotions, she wasn’t a bad person. If that’s the case, then it’d be too pitiful for such a person to endure pain. Therefore, Rinne sincerely wanted to help her.
“... Sakaki… Guryuu…?”
Guriko’s hands didn’t stop, and she said while she kept playing the video game: “Is that guy really so charismatic?”
Rinne replied immediately. Guriko still said with a serious face: “I’d think so, since he’s the person whom you like.”
Such delightful words.
“I’m beginning to want to think about getting along well with that guy too, and it seems you don’t like me to argue with that guy, so I’ll back down. But that guy still seems to be guarded towards me even now – probably we can’t be good friends!”
“Mm, that’s good, Guriko.”
Rinne was honestly glad. It would be great if Guriko and Sakaki can get along peacefully. That’d just be amazing! Therefore, Rinne suggested with a smiling face: “Should the three of us go somewhere together sometime next week? It’d make us know each other better. I don’t know if Sensei would have the time, but the end-of-semester exams finish next week, and I won’t be working either.”
“I don’t mind… but it’d only make things boring if you bring me along!”
“No it won’t!”
Rinne laughed, and Guriko also smiled as she turned her face around –
Suddenly, Guriko’s face became full of loathing.
All of Guriko’s movements have ceased. She only stared at the ceiling of the room.
”What’s wrong, Guriko?” Rinne asked, surprised. On the screen, Kirby was already dead.
”… What is this, what is this scent. Not – a beast, what is this?”
”Could it be ‘Mushi’? No – it’s such a strong power; Rinne!”
The sharp yell startled Rinne.
With a serious face, Guriko said:” I’ll go and check out the situation outside. You stay in this room, and don’t open the door no matter who comes. Turn off the lights and try not to make a sound until I come back.”
”Wait until I’m back. I’ve got a bad feeling –”
Guriko kicked open the door and sprang into the night town.
No matter what a well-to-do family he was born into, how favored he was by the goddess of fortune, and how beautiful his features were, Sakaki’s heart was still unable to be satisfied. Even though he showed his talent in all sorts of fields and was praised by society, his body was still eroded by feelings of emptiness. Sakaki thought that he would never be happy, since he can’t obtain satisfaction no matter how much glory he obtained.
Happiness is a Mobius' Ring that one can find no end no matter how close one looks at it. It is truly foolish to become encumbered by that and wastes one’s life on it. If one doesn’t have the standard of ‘such and such is happiness, to achieve such would be happiness’, then displeasure would undoubtedly follow no matter how accomplished he becomes. If so, then what is the point of setting a noble and lofty goal? Happiness can be found everywhere if only you’d stop and think about it. Sakaki’s days of youth were wasted under a misconception.
It was a complete coincidence to meet Usagawa Rinne. He just wanted to see the ocean very much. Back then, Sakaki’s work was very busy. He was demanded to provide more excellent academic research, and create more novel art pieces. He was already beginning to loathe such a life where he’s squeezed dry. Therefore, had he not found Rinne that day, he may well have jumped into the sea himself. Sakaki believes he was already pushed into such a mental state back then.
One year ago, in the seaside at winter, Rinne jumped into the icy-cold sea without hesitation right in front of Sakaki’s eyes. Apart from Sakaki, no one was around. Even if Sakaki didn’t exist, someone would publish that research one day anyways, right? Even if Sakaki didn’t exist, someone else would participate in the Olympics anyways, right? Even without Sakaki, art would still progress, right? However, apart from Sakaki, there was absolutely no one else who would be able to save Rinne. For the first time since Sakaki was born, he found something meaningful that only he could accomplish. That was the thing he found.
Without hesitation, Sakaki jumped into the sea after Rinne. If the rescuer wasn’t Sakaki, then he would have sunk into the sea too, frozen with the coldness. However, with a perfect pose, Sakaki energetically saved Rinne and immediately dragged her back to the shore, and woke her up from unconsciousness.
He was simply, purely moved. At that time, Sakaki understood the meaning of happiness.
The answer is Usagawa Rinne.
What happened afterwards was as everyone knew.
Sakaki decided to live for Usagawa Rinne, because for him that is the only happiness. No matter what others said, that is the happiness he found by himself.
It was a year ago when Sakaki Guryuu obtained the hope of life from Rinne.
In the night shift room of the Kannonsakazaki Private High School, Sakaki Guryuu slowly woke up from the dream that vividly reanimated his past memories. With a low moan, he lifted up his head and took in his surroundings. Under the bright – but rather fake feeling – light, Sakaki was sitting in front of a table that was empty apart from a coffee pot. Looks like he accidentally fell asleep. He’d been worrying over Rinne recently and was feeling rather down due to lack of sleep at night; it was little wonder that he fell asleep.
Sakaki rubbed his sleepy eyes with his fingers, smoothed his messy fringe, and got up wanting to wash his face. Although the night shift room was small, equipments such as beds and washing stands were all present. Having washed his face and scattered away the fatigue, Sakaki wiped his face with a towel and stretched luxuriously.
Just how long did he sleep for? He couldn’t even figure out clearly when he fell asleep. It was Sakaki’s turn to take the night shift tonight – that is, a day when a teacher stays behind at the school, patrol the buildings, turn off the lights, and lock all doors – that was why he was still at the school at such a late hour. Although he felt that the students of Kannonsakazaki were all very obedient and unlikely to sneak into the school at night, those who sneak into the school aren’t students only. That’s why Sakaki took this duty, and considered this as a part of the job.
Looking at his watch, it was already nine o’clock. He was very hungry since he didn’t have dinner. He’ll probably buy some food from some convenient store and then patrol the school – after having decided that, Sakaki grabbed the change lying casually around and walked out of the night shift room. The soft moonlight outside the window was scattered on the quiet corridor.
Suddenly, Sakaki pricked his ears and listened carefully.
Sakaki felt a nervous presence, and a solemn expression surfaced on his face. There were sounds of breathing; a rapid breathing like a beast’s that he didn’t know where it came from. Was I thinking too much? But –
Closing the door of the night shift room, Sakaki walked towards the direction of the suspicious sound. It may be that a madman had slipped in, or a stray dog – this town is, after all, a rural place, and such things happen once in a while. If that’s the case then he’d have to chase it away. That’s his job as the person taking the shift.
Sakaki, with his strong sense of duty, made up his mind and casually turned around a curve in the corridor.
He heard that sound.
That ominous scream and moan was truly unlike anything made by creatures of this world. The angry roar smacked its way here as if it was an impact wave that shook the air, and robbed away Sakaki’s ability to think in the blink of an eye. He froze immediately, standing dead still, and ‘that’ obviously thought Sakaki, standing still, is a wonderful target to attack.
“Um – uh?”
Sakaki suddenly reacted, lowering his body to dodge that blow. Instead of Sakaki, the air was cleaved apart. Claws; those were claws of animals. The claws swept past the top of Sakaki’s head, and knocked into the wall unhindered and vigorously. The terrifying destructive power crushed the concrete wall into smithereens.
“Wha – “
Sakaki couldn’t even ascertain the appearance of the perpetrator, and could only rely on his instincts to dodge swiftly from the danger and move away. With all the strength in his legs, Sakaki jumped backwards and landed safely on the ground. However, cold sweat seeped out from his skin and his heartbeat increased rapidly. The air around him seethed with a thick smell of blood.
That scent should have been there beforehand, but he didn’t notice it. Now that he paid attention to it, he could tell it was a very heavy odor; it was blood, and a large amount of it too. Why would such a smell – be in the school during such a quiet night? Sakaki kept on thinking, trying to comprehend the situation.
The words emerging from his brain were ‘Guriko’, and ‘Mushi’.
It’s got to do with those guys, right? But Sakaki didn’t have the extra energy to keep thinking, because he knew he was in the middle of a dangerous, changing whirlpool.
That 'thing' screamed. It was a scream of a beast that had lost reason a long time ago. Sakaki took out the pistol that he carried with him from his pocket. He had thought that both Guriko and ‘Mushi’ were very quiet recently and there would be no need to use this, but he never would have thought that such a terrifying monster existed in the school.
It was a terrifying monster that Sakaki had never seen before.
Its tall figure almost touched the ceiling. The reason that such a vast body didn’t appear to be slow was the strange shape of this monster. Its midsection is a part that looked to be the torso. Like a spider, numerous long and thin legs stretched out from the body, and one long protruding part was on top of the body. A giant, ferocious eyeball grew on that promontory. The monster’s shape really isn’t pretty at all! It was hairless, had a wet and slimy body, and it stank a lot. This creature is evidently not a normal being of this earth. However, for no apparent reason, it didn’t feel incongruous in the school at night.
The monster’s angry, large eyeball was facing Sakaki. It had many legs, with a sharp claw on the end of each one. The monster seemed to want to use those claws to tear apart and devour Sakaki.
“… Damn, it hurts, what this is thing?”
Sakaki muttered: “Just how much do you want to destroy our daily life? Mushi, Guriko…”
So Sakaki decided to strike first. He fired with his pistol, ‘bam bam bam’ shooting three times in succession. Gunshots rang through the silence; a monster had appeared in the school; all had collapsed.
The empty cartridges fell on the corridor floor with a small sound.
“ --- Roaaaaaaar!”
The monster’s figure suddenly disappeared.
Sakaki widened his eyes and stopped firing. With the disappearance of the target, the bullets went embedded into the wall and the floor.
Then, the monster that had originally disappeared as if it had melted immediately reformed as if it had solidified.
As if nothing had happened, it roared loudly and galloped towards Sakaki.
Looking at the monster that loomed towards him, Sakaki even forgot to aim with his gun and just stood there dazedly.
Claws, two claws lashed out. Sakaki skidded on the floor and dodged the ferocious attack that intended to kill him. The monster seemed to be unskilled with delicate movements. Furious, it smashed face-forward into the wall, and only stopped when it broke all the window panes. With a pale face, Sakaki brushed off the scattering fragments of glass around him.
“… Please, can you please not do actions that defy the laws of physics…”
It disappeared, the monster had indeed disappeared. It dodged bullets, and raided straight towards Sakaki with a destructive power that was more than enough to flatten a human body. It was almost like a ridiculous existence that lived to fight. At the end, Sakaki couldn’t even understand why he was attacked; a small voice in his head whispered that there may be no reasons to start with.
He can’t give up, he can’t be killed.
As long as Usagawa Rinne is alive.
Sakaki – won’t allow himself to die.
“That’s trust and a promise. Seriously – I fell in love with a problematic girl. ‘Mushi’, Guriko, monsters; they appear one after the other and try to deter the path of our love. However, no matter what the obstacles may be, nothing can stop me. Oi, monster, who do you think I am –”
Sakaki said to the slow-moving monster that was looking towards him: “– I am the most powerful daddy-long-legs in the world!”
Sakaki hurried to open fire, not even giving the monster the time to disappear, and sprinted off at the same time that he fired. In the split second that the monster was shot by the bullet and screamed with shock, Sakaki had already escaped from the corridor like a rabbit. How can he fight such a monster? This is a question of priorities. It’s not like a video game; defeating that monster won’t increase experience nor will it give him anything. If so, then there’s no reason to fight. It’d be better to run away and get the police or the army to fight!
The pragmatist Sakaki Guryuu is twenty years old this year. It is no longer an age to dream of fighting monsters to maintain world peace. Although there is the possibility that others may be attacked while he runs away, but the result would be the same since he won’t win even if he faced a battle. Therefore, he has to get those who can defeat the monster more quickly. It should work with just one infantry division, right? No matter how strong he is, Sakaki is still human at the end; he’s not superman, he has no duty to fight the monster.
But the monster was not kind enough to let Sakaki go.
The monster arrived behind Sakaki, and only one of its feet disappeared. And in the next moment –
The monster’s feet pierced through space and ‘grew’ out of the darkness. Sakaki hurried to twist his body. Although he dodged the monster’s frontal attack, he couldn’t completely dodge it. His clothing and skin were both sliced up by the claw. It hurts; this feeling probably means the wound went all the way to the bone. Sakaki moaned with pain and fell on the ground.
“Clank”, the pistol dropped on the corridor floor.
The monster roared with a strange sound. A closer look showed that one of the monster’s feet was sucked into the darkness in thin air. Although he didn’t know its mechanism, it appeared that the feet passed through space and grew out again in front of Sakaki. Though the feet immediately retreated, the monster’s body loomed closer to Sakaki.
“Tch… that’s cheating!”
As Sakaki complained, he endured the pain and reached out a hand to pick up the gun. However, the monster’s foot appeared out of thin air, and kicked away the gun. That foot also gave Sakaki’s jaw a heavy blow. Sakaki’s body flew and smacked into the wall. His spare cartridge dropped from his pocket, making a crisp sound.
– It was all over!
But he has to hold on until the end. Ever since the day that Rinne was killed by Guriko, Sakaki had decided that he can only die after he’s ensured Rinne’s safety. That is the reason of Sakaki’s life. How can he be killed here – under such unreasonable conditions too?
Sakaki stood up purely due to his will, and stared at the monster without moving.
“… Stop trying to push yourself. You’ll die!”
In the middle of his field of sight.
A silvery, shining object pierced deeply into the monster. The monster, which didn’t even move back when shot by the gun, staggered with this blow and gave out roaring wails with purple body fluid bursting out. The cruel weapon that stabbed into the monster’s tough body and inflicted pain was a spoon. A girl dressed in black stood there as if protecting Sakaki.
Whoosh. The wind blew in from the broken window and blew at the very unique wolf-like haircut. Dry leaves fell on the corridor, and the girl’s white fingertips held a brand new spoon.
“Rinne would be very sad if you die. That’s not what I want to see.”
This girl, who has a name as cruel and savage as Gankyuu Eguriko, turned her head and looked at Sakaki over her shoulder.
“So I’m going to save you. After all –”
The spoon reflected moonlight, letting out an alluring shine.
“– I bought a lot of spoons with Rinne’s money too.”
“Buy them with your own money! Usarin-kakka is very poor.”
Sakaki couldn’t help but start to scold. Guriko, surprised, narrowed her eyes.
“So noisy. You're almost dead; just be good and stay there. A useless guy needs to behave like a useless guy and stay at a corner with some self-preservation. That thing’s opponent is me.”
Frankly, he didn’t think that this person’s appearance would make him so reassured. Sakaki didn’t trust Guriko. He felt restless whenever he thought she may show her true colours one day and attack Rinne. That’s because for Sakaki, just like that monster twisting and roaring in pain, Guriko isn’t human.
But she didn’t kill Rinne, and recently she’s smiling more too. Although she didn’t open her heart completely to Sakaki, she was already appearing to be like a human. Moreover, she came to save him.
Sakaki muttered. He couldn’t hold on any longer with the pain of the wound, and immediately knelt down on the ground.
“I told you to stop trying to be tough. Listen to what others say! Students are supposed to not listen to the teacher, but when the teacher doesn’t listen to the students it’s a social problem. Your job is to stay alive, and just leave the business of battle to me!”
Then, Guriko fired out spoons with the speed of bullets being fired. Spoons pierced the monster’s entire body one after the other, and purple body fluid sprayed out copiously.
Guriko rapidly pulled out new spoons.
“… Mmm. Since it’s so big, long-range attacks would take too long.”
”Guriko… that thing... What is that thing?”
Sakaki felt that Guriko should know the truth of that monster.
“It’s a monster.”
“I can tell that it is.”
“Then why did you ask?!”
Looks like Guriko didn’t want to explain one single bit.
Sakaki felt anger rising up in him. Guriko noticed that he’s angry, and reluctantly explained.
“It’s a dark monster that people wouldn’t sense in their lives; that’s the kind of creature it is. There are actually many dangers that humans don’t know about. Although I haven’t seen a monster like this – it was probably originally sealed in this school, and awoke due to some sort of opportunity!”
After thinking for a while, Guriko answered matter-of-factly: “It’s probably ‘Mushi’, but it’s just too unfortunate if it happens to be a coincidence. Abnormal existences like me and ‘Mushi’ can easily find such monsters. Although I don’t know the goal of ‘Mushi’, but awakening such a monster – after all, it’s too dangerous to let it roam free. It should have the battle strength to easily kill off a human.”
“I felt that first-hand.”
“Hmm. Your life is rather tough – Sakaki.”
He felt that Guriko smiled. But since she wasn’t facing Sakaki, Sakaki didn’t know what her real expression was. The monster was already staring at her angrily with an eye that has changed its color.
“Guriko. That thing does strange tricks, be careful!”
Before he knew it, Sakaki was already giving Guriko advice.
“Don’t worry, you just stay low now.”
Guriko wasn’t listening at all.
Why won't she be cute!? But she is reliable.
Sakaki realized that he’s released his caution towards her. I’ll also believe in this girl that Rinne believes in, Sakaki Guryuu thought at this instant. Guriko had undoubtedly saved Sakaki, and Usagawa Rinne also trusts both of them very much. The three of them, who started off as perpetrator and victims, had somehow already developed some kind of a bond.
… Little did they know that this went according to the plot-like development the ‘enemy’ had written.
In pajamas, Guriko rapidly dodged the attacks speeding towards her, and approached the monster by running in the corridor with spoons in one hand. The situation had been completely reversed. The monster was no longer the perpetrator but the victim. The giant and grotesque monster had been overwhelmed by the delicate girl.
With all her strength, Guriko lunged towards the protrusion on the monster, which was continuously resisting.
“You mad monster that's screaming nonsense, just watch me gorge out your eyeballs!”
Following strange sounds, the spoon sank into the monster’s eye socket and eye liquid spurted out. The enormous lament the monster made at the moment of its death echoed in the nightly school. The expression on Guriko’s face didn’t change. The monster ended its duty as the pitiful sacrifice and returned to the darkness. Like the ‘Mushi’, the monster dissipated into air without leaving a bone behind as soon as it died.
All that was left in the corridor was purple body liquid. The monster was completely destroyed.
Pulling his hood low, the young fortune teller looked at this scene at a distance with a smile on his face. His red eyes sparkled with an ominous light. In his hand, he held the gun that Sakaki dropped on the ground and his spare cartridge; he ordered the monster to transport those by crossing the space. As long as he obtained this weapon, his plan would have reached its final stage. He only needed to endure this a little longer before he can stop pretending to be those disgusting ‘Mushi’.
“… Thank you, my dear Legion Bandanna. You really did act as I thought… had I been lucky, I was hoping that Sakaki Guryuu would be almost dead by now. What a surprise. As a human, he counts as a very strong master athlete. What a pity that he got away.”
Smiling, ‘he’ muttered to himself with ‘his’ original tone: “’Pleasures should be savored till the last moment’, that should count as God’s command. God, hehehe, what a convenient existence. He even created a fate that suits me so well.”
Outside of Guriko and Sakaki’s sight, ‘he’ looked at the sky nonchalantly.
“Or was it that – such a person doesn’t even exist?”
That isn’t an impossible thought.
Because if God truly exists, then an existence such as himself would definitely have long ago been punished!
“If He doesn’t exist – ‘Mushi’, my condolences.”
With a brisk swish of his robes, ‘he’ leisurely left the nightly school.
“The Dream World Beast should have hatched by now…”
Then, all that’s left would be the finale.
“The day that my wish is fulfilled won’t be far away, either…”
At the end – ‘he’ lifted his head to look at the pair.
“Before that, you just do your best in having happy and sweet dreams –”
In the distant past, there was an existence that goaded the primeval humans into stealing the forbidden fruit.
The name of that creature, the most cunning and ugly among all creatures, is –
 Final Night : Don’t Look
The curtain opens. Before the story goes on, let us cast our eyes toward the apartment where Usagawa Rinne was living in, a place that no real estate agency was interested in whatsoever. The scene here was as quiet as a nurturing place for a dimension of phantoms as we move past the corridor with the faded walls, a corridor that hasn’t been burnt by fire but showed a smoky black sheen.
The door with a plate indicating ‘1A’ had an unnecessary door well. Coming through the wooden door that required some skills to open, we move our sight to the two girls who were deeply asleep in the middle of the narrow small room. One was the owner of this room, Usagawa Rinne. She had a head of neat short-cut hair and skin white as snow. As for the one who tightly clutched Usagawa Rinne and battled intensely with nightmares… she was Guriko. The girl named Gankyuu Eguriko was moaning softly, drenched in cold sweat.
However, nightmares didn’t trouble her as often since she started living with Rinne. Could it be possible that Guriko’s heart, sick from a millennium of wandering, was healing little by little after being touched upon by Usagawa Rinne’s gentleness? Her wolf-like messy hair, which wouldn’t stay down no matter how much she brushed it, was scattered over the bedcovers.
This seemed very interesting, and they look as if they were the very materialization of happiness. However, the two girls who slept next to each other were yet to know that the existence given to destroy this happiness was placed right next to their pillows.
“Pzzt, pzzt pzzt.”
The Dream World Beast’s egg quietly cracked.
It was an egg as large as a human skull, with bright and colourful geometrical patterns scattered all over the shell. It was different from the egg of any creature on Earth. This egg was of a creature similar to Legion Bandanna, whom Guriko defeated at the school two nights ago. It was a forbidden creature that should not exist in the peaceful human world. It obtained nutrients from eating Usagawa Rinne and Guriko’s ‘dreams’, and slowly build up its strength as supplies to hatch out of the shell.
Although Guriko had told Rinne: “things that Mushi gave you can be dangerous. Throw it away or break it!”, Rinne was too kind to ever do such a thing. At the end, Guriko also agreed optimistically that this shouldn’t be the egg of any particularly dangerous creature.
But Guriko, you were too naive. A Dream World Beast was indeed not a dangerous creature, but you’re the one providing the Dream World Beast with the nutrients – you yourself should count as a dangerous creature!
It was almost time. It was too late even for regrets. All were progressing towards the worst outcome possible for them. However, they did not know this, and only peacefully hungered after happy dreams.
– Dream while you can, dream happy dreams.
Once they wake from the dream, the end will be before them.
Can you hear it, the sound of the shell cracking, the sound of the Dream World Beast wanting to come out?
“Knock knock, knock knock.”
She always remembered that the sky was especially clear on that day. The unpredictable dark clouds that had gathered in the past few days were all blown away. The sun hung high in a windless sky. It was the ideal weather for going out. As the temperature wasn’t very low, there was no need for gloves. As she walked, she soon took off her coat too. The weather was warm, and the plants also grew sparkling and green as if they were happy as well. People’s expressions were spirited and full of happiness.
Usagawa Rinne hung her coat, which she took off, on her arm, and repetitively enquired Guriko if her clothing was appropriate. This was the outfit that she contemplated on for two hours before buying. Rinne was confident that it was fine, but that didn’t mean it was not her own stubbornness speaking. However, even if she were to ask Guriko, who knew nothing about clothing or fashion, all she would get would be some utterly incredible words such as “any clothing’s appropriate as long as it covers your body!’ To note, Guriko said this with wide and incredulous eyes.
By the way, since she only had one set of outdoor clothes, Guriko was still wearing the school’s sailor uniform. Guriko usually wore Rinne’s casual clothes inside the house, but that would become quite problematic if she went outdoors like that. Guriko had previously run into town with just her black pajamas on. That really scared Rinne. It looked like Guriko may lack common sense regarding some specific issues, which was truly terrible!
“No matter what you wear –”
Incredulous, Guriko told Rinne, who was being very attentive to her outfit: “Sakaki wouldn’t mind!”
“That’s true, but…”
Watching Rinne, who was at a loss of what to do, Guriko sighed with exhaustion.
“Is this the heart of a maiden? I can’t understand it… anyways, no matter how worried you are you don’t have time to change anymore. Therefore, it’s a waste of time to worry at all.”
Guriko’s cold words made Rinne’s expression a little troubled. Guriko was speaking in her ordinary tone. She wasn’t angry, but Rinne still felt it could’ve been said in a slightly different way. Guriko was certainly someone clumsy and with a rude attitude.
The end-of-term exams have finished. Under Sakaki’s passionate teaching, the students in class 1-B had all achieved high marks (except for one certain student). They were all showing off their good grades to their parents while preparing to enjoy the winter break. Rinne, who could not boast her good grades to her parents, and that certain student (Guriko), who has no parents to reprimand her for her bad grades, also have two weeks of winter break starting today. Although she was still rather restless, she couldn’t help but feel settled for now.
Today was the day that I had carelessly told you as the day that the three of them were going out together. Rinne had planned a happy day tour in order for Guriko and Sakaki to get along better and deepen their friendship. Rinne planned for the three of them to have fun 'till sunset to get rid of the guard Sakaki still had towards and Guriko, and also to change Guriko’s stubborn and deep-grained perceptions of Sakaki.
Rinne’s philosophy was that everyone should get along well together, that everyone should be happy.
But let’s leave that aside for now.
Rinne greeted Sakaki, who had the attention of all the customers, when she walked into the cafe in front of the station and sat down opposite Sakaki together with a stiff-faced Guriko. The heater was on in the cafe, and it felt very hot. Sakaki had also dressed up for today, and his glamour was worthy of a movie star. It was evident that he put a lot of thoughts in it. However, the more stylish Sakaki appeared, the more it emphasized Rinne’s poverty. This had made Rinne more troubled.
But no matter what, Sakaki dressed up for her – this fact made Rinne feel rather awkward, and at the same time very happy. Trust and promises; Rinne stopped wondering if she was fit for Sakaki. Since Sakaki definitely loved her, then she shouldn’t be holding back as well, and would need to repay him with all of her love.
Rinne thought thus.
“Hmm, your Majesty is very punctual!”
“Have you been waiting long?”
“No, I just got here.”
But then the amount of people swarming around the cafe had swelled up far too quickly!
In such times, an ordinary person would surely had shrank back, giving too much thought to the fact that everyone else was staring. However, Rinne and Sakaki were already used to it, and faced it with a nonchalant composure. Sakaki has a very noteworthy outer appearance. It’ll be too stressful to pay much attention to such things.
Rinne’s efforts in picking her clothes paid off. Sakaki said: “Your Majesty, your outfit today is even cuter than normal! I thought you were a pixie.”
That compliment was over the top.
Rinne blushed red with embarrassment.
“Sensei is very handsome too!”
“Thank you… you, on the other hand, are exactly the same as always.”
Sakaki moved his eyes towards Guriko. Guriko jumped.
“Rubbish! Why should I dress up for you!”
“Gu, Guriko-chan, don’t be so harsh as soon as you start to speak… Sensei, you too. Today’s a happy day, isn’t it? Don’t say things that are too provocative…”
Poor Usagawa Rinne. The other two had sparks flying between them, while she only looked on with an helpless expression.
Being unable to sway her the other way, they could only compromise reluctantly for her sake.
“…This is Rinne’s bequest. I want to get on well with you the best possible, but my personality is just how it is, and you’re not too malleable either. so for now –”
Guriko continued with an pure voice: “– let’s maintain the current situation for now. I’ll do my best to control my temper.”
“Then I’ll do the same. I’ll do my best to try trusting you.”
Listening to their incredible conversation, Rinne couldn’t help but feel funny and laughed out loud.
“You two are so similar! I really think that you’d become good friends…”
It’d be great if they can become good friends; Rinne thought this calmly and quietly in her heart.
Rinne’s wish immediately came true. They got together unexpectedly cordially once they removed their pride and guard. Even though it was awkward at first, they gradually understood each other. Guriko could understand Sakaki’s gentleness hidden behind his arrogance, and Sakaki also discovered Guriko’s goodness that was distorted with her clumsiness. It went without saying that it was Rinne who had painstakingly resolved the misunderstandings and misgivings between them.
Sakaki appeared to really sympathize with Guriko’s past that she spoke of. He could also understand that like Guriko’s incomprehensible odd behaviors were due to compelling reasons, just as Rinne had said. Sakaki apologized for his previous rudeness, and Guriko also forgave him. The wall looming between the two suddenly collapsed as if their earlier arguments were fake.
This miracle continued for five hours.
‘Bam bam’, brisk and light intermittent sounds could be heard. The location was a more boisterous town a bit further from Kannonsakazaki. This was the gaming zone next to the cinema, and Sakaki and Guriko were challenging a two-player shooting game. They each controlled a toy gun connected to the machine, and fired nonstop while aiming at the violent dragon going berserk in the screen.
This kind of shooting games, in which one can experience an authentic gun battles, wasn’t very rare in the current age. Sakaki and Guriko – who held a gun each – and Rinne who was sitting in the middle screaming, all sat in the seats modelled after car seats in the space separated from the outside through a curtain, and were engrossed in the sound and light of the game.
An incredible unity had already arisen between the three, and they were treating each other in an honest and unreserved attitude. Although the conversation between Guriko and Sakaki were still sharp and Rinne couldn’t tell whether they were joking or fighting, that seemed to be their way of communication and even Rinne no longer prevented their arguments now.
The way people deal with each other differs. Compared to sweet words that don’t always seem to be true, she felt that the straightforward and brutally honest way they talked to each other was actually a correct relationship. People can become good friends even without deliberately trying to flatter each other.
Usagawa Rinne became a little less worried when she thought of such things.
Even if there was absolutely no hope in the future, we probably won’t lose either.
We won’t lose to fate, or to Mushi.
“Guriko! Your bullets haven’t been hitting the enemy at all! Aim properly then shoot! That’s me! Don’t hit your fellow comrade, you traitor! Why are you only accurate when shooting at me? Just more or less aim properly!”
“Shut up! I’ve never played such a furious game. All those eyeballs flying towards me is a mess on the screen; I’m gonna throw up soon.”
“Guriko-chan’s only played consoles in TV…”
Rinne stopped their scolding in a roundabout way, and smiled gently.
By the way, this game they were playing had some strange settings. Moments after dinosaurs appeared, UFOs started attacking from outer space. While they annihilated aliens, they got involved in a bank robbery too. There was no sense of continuation in the plot. Because there was no way to know what happens next, just watching was very fun. The scene suddenly entered in the microbial world, and the two were now fighting white blood cells.
Sakaki was very good with a gun (which was totally expected, since he normally practiced shooting with real bullets). As long as he didn’t get shot by Guriko, he wouldn’t die easily. Guriko, on the other hand, kept wasting coins and dying pathetically. Sakaki prepared a mountain of 100 yen coins, and there wasn’t much left. Still, thanks to that, the two seemed to have reached the end battle. The final boss controlling the robots began some senseless explanations. What a stupid game. Or should she say it was a game that would make player stupid? The maker probably wanted to make a stupid game to start with. The plot of the game was very far removed from ‘a masterpiece that is both sensible and moving”.
The robot controlled by the final boss let out scallops from rocket launchers. Sakaki accurately shot through the scallops, while Guriko took the chance and attacked the main body of the robot. However, for some reason, Guriko’s bullets disappeared without even grazing the giant robot.
“Guriko, did you aim before you shoot?”
“The more I aim the more it goes off… is this machine working properly?”
“Don’t blame the machine. Wow, you got me again! Why don’t you aim at the giant robot? You’re aiming at me, who’s as small as a speck of rice – and how come you can actually get me?”
“How would I know. Ask my finger…”
Rinne looked at the two who were conversing well together with a face full of satisfaction, and thought that it was great that Guriko and Sakaki can get on well with each other. ‘‘I hate to have two people that I like fighting with each other. At least such a situation won’t happen now – although there were still a mountain of questions and there was no sign of a bright future, just being like this can give me a sense of being saved.
At this time, Usagawa Rinne had yet to despair about the future.
No matter how painful and how condemned the future that awaited her may prove to be, Rinne should still be able to get through the difficulties using her optimistic personality and live on happily ever after! It was because she had the strength to keep on living, and Guriko had also said that she will protect her.
And stay with Sakaki Guryuu forever, till his life ends.
Maybe Usagawa Rinne can stay beside him all the way till the end, and smile with him.
“Crack, splish, crack crack crack.”
The robot that continuously released scallops disappeared. No, it was more like the screen suddenly darkened, and all the pictures disappeared. Even the stereo that was going loud as a storm became silent. The lighting disappeared in the shop. When they drew aside the curtain and looked out, the entire shop was in a blackout.
Guriko was incredulous, and still held the toy gun in her hands.
“How rare. Is the power plant down?”
Rinne’s words were very practical. That should be the reason based on daily and ordinary logic. Otherwise, perhaps a wire snapped, or that someone took off the shop’s fuse as a prank.
A sound like the spluttering of flames or the chirping of insects.
“Sakaki… Rinne, oi.”
Guriko called out them using a paniking voice. The two of them, who were looking towards the outside, turned to Guriko.
“Something’s going on with the screen.”
Guriko said in an even voice. Following Guriko’s words, Sakaki and Rinne looked at the completely black screen.
“Buzz… zzzzz… zzz…”
An alien scene was getting bigger and bigger on the screen that had lost its power and shouldn’t be able to display any images. “Shhhhha”, the entire screen showed grey things that were writhing as if they were crawling. Worms?
This was –
Guriko said succinctly.
Yes, they were countless eyeballs, and they were very lifelike. White eyeballs that didn’t seem to belong to anyone were dripping with slick eye liquid. The veins undulated on them, and they twirled like crawling worms.
Rinne moved her eyes away out of disgust, and Sakaki’s face was also pale as a sheet. Guriko stared straight toward the odd picture. Soon after, the eyeballs focused into one image.
“Buzz… zzzz… zzz…”
It was a girl.
No, it wa something that resembled a girl.
Her body was made of insect parts. She had giant red composite eyes, antennae unique to insects, and a sharp jaw and claws came out of the her shiny black shell. It’s an insect, an insect.
The insect was dressed in a cute, flowing dress, and wore peach colored shoes. The antennae even had a large bow tied to it when they looked at it her closely. That was a very strange and completely incongruous outfit.
That existence which resembled both a girl and an insect was hugging a bear toy in front of its chest – a teddy bear. It had a simply appearance, and the round black eyes were sawed-on buttons.
With a low voice, Rinne couldn’t help but speak out.
“This teddy bear –”
An incredulous expression surfaced on Rinne’s face.
‘‘It’s the teddy bear that I used to want a lot.
Guriko quickly turned to Rinne.
“You’re saying that’s – the one you told me before, the one that your dad won’t buy for you no matter how much you begged?”
“Yes. Ahhh, why, what’s going on, what’s going on –”
Rinne was confused. Guriko couldn’t understand this situation either.
Countless eyeballs were squashed in next to the insect, and they were so real it was like they truly existed there. Be it color or shape, they were unlike images that would have been shown as part of a gaming scene. The girl-like and insect-like existence, surrounded by eyeballs, said in a low voice as it moved its antennae:
“… Mushi, eyeballs, teddy bear…”
It was as if the surrounding air was suddenly frozen over in the blink of an eye.
Everyone was speechless. They couldn’t even move their fingertips, and were completely drawn in by the alien scene before them.
The disgusting monster continued with a cute and girly voice: “… that’s right, they are the things that you fear and desire. Things that exist in the core of your lives. I was born from ‘there’, born from consuming ‘that’.”
This downright chilling, uncomfortably spooky thing kept talking: “… Glad to meet you, mother, I’m the Dream World Beast. Thank you for providing me with nutrition and give birth to me in this world. You let me obtain such a strong power.”
“Dream World… Beast.”
Sakaki said softly: “You’re that egg’s…”
The Dream World Beast ignored Sakaki’s presence, and kept staring at Rinne and Guriko.
“… A Dream World Beast grows by consuming the ‘dreams’ of humans. The living essence of humans are mixed in ‘dreams’, so it’s very nutritious. For monsters like us, who can’t be counted as living creatures, eating the ‘dreams’ of you, who have Apples, provides us with a very great power.”
“She” continued talking with that chilling voice: “… I’m your ‘desire’, I’m your ‘fear’, and I’m the most primeval thing in your lives. You are the ones who made me into this shape. Mushi, eyeballs, teddy bear –”
This thing’s appearance was actually something like that.
“…This is your essence. Although this shape is a combination of the ‘dreams’ of both of you, I am very happy. I have obtained such a strong body!”
“You’re saying that this is the essence of – Rinne and I?”
This terrifying monster.
“… Yes. My shape is your ‘desire’, and also your ‘fear’.”
The Dream World Beast stretched her hand, and pointed towards Guriko.
“… You’re scared of Mushi, scared of that absolutely incompatible enemy. No matter how much you fight them, how many you manage to kill, Mushi would never die out and would always spawn out more. That existence that killed your family –”
“Chirp”, the Dream World Beast made a sound like the cry of birds.
“… At the same time you desire Mushi. Killing Mushi is the meaning of your existence. If all the Mushi were to disappear, then you’d lose the meaning in your life. Therefore you’re afraid, and at the same time long for, those Mushi.”
Guriko didn’t answer. She only pursed her lips tightly and stared at the Dream World Beast.
The Dream World Beast then looked at Rinne.
”… You’re the same.”
Rinne was startled.
“… You’re also afraid of the decisive teddy bear that changed your life. A teddy bear is just an allusion here; it is ‘something that you wish for’. You lived for 15 years without getting what you wanted. You always longed for the existence of the subject of your desire, but at the same time you’re afraid that such an existence won’t appear.”
The Dream World Beast looked at Sakaki.
“… Then, even if that existence had already appeared, you still often feel afraid, afraid that the subject that can give you your desire – be it love or a place in society – would one day disappear. You fear from the bottom of your heart to be separated from Sakaki Guryuu. The contradiction that was created from your heartfelt longing for Sakaki Guryuu is this teddy bear…”
Rinne fall onto a chair and shivered continuously. Rinne would of course have such a reaction with suddenly having her essence pointed out. The Dream World Beast continued without a pause.
The Dream World Beast looked straight toward Gankyuu Eguriko.
“… You like and hate eyeballs at the same time.”
Guriko didn’t make a sound.
“Your own eyeballs, which live in endless time, have long become murky and lost their shine. Therefore you want to gorge out the pretty eyeballs. You long for beautiful eyes, want to possess them, and are afraid to be looked at by those beautiful eyes. A fearful contradiction created from jealousy –you became less and less like a human due to this hobby. Gankyuu Eguriko, Eyeball Gouger, what an allusion to choose as your name –”
“You’ve been –”
Guriko’s barrel-like eyes stared straight toward the space before her, and said to the Dream World Beast with a pure voice.
“– chatting away annoyingly for quite some time. Thanks for this tiresome mental test. So, what do you want to use that thing – the monster we gave birth to, for? Mushi?”
“… My my…”
The voice –
“You discovered it. What a sharp sixth sense!”
Like the falsetto of a man, or the contralto of a female, a chilly and enthralling sound.
Guriko glared at the screen.
“A newborn baby can’t possibly know this much about us. No matter humans, animals, or monsters, a baby is still a baby. Even if it grew by eating our ‘dreams’, can a newborn baby explain ‘dreams’? Those emotions – are only known by you, who’ve been observing us!”
“… How perceptive!”
The sound said delightfully: “This Dream World Beast is indeed still a baby that can’t tell right from wrong, and only has an immature intelligence than I can easily manipulate. However! I need to correct one thing. It’s not ‘us’ who want to use this monster for evil deeds…”
“Puft,” a noise appeared in the image.
“… But me as an ‘individual’. Do you know what that means?”
“Crack, smack, craaaaack, crunch crack.”
The sound of something crumbling was emitted. It was a noise as if the earth was cracking apart, an ear-splitting sound.
It could be heard in the entire gaming zone complex.
As if this entire building was almost crushed by some weight –
Guriko gave a short yell then sprinted through the crowd after grabbing Sakaki and Rinne’s wrists. Guriko rushed out of the crowd and ran with an unbelievable speed while dragging the other two. At the same moment that they escaped the gaming zone – the entire building crumbled down in the blink of an eye as if it was perfectly timed.
Guriko deflected the debris with her two hands, and saw the giant monster with its back to the sun.
A giant body that can smash buildings with only one foot, dark crimson complex eyes, a sharp jaw. It was just like what they saw on the screen in the gaming console. It wasn’t wearing a flowing dress though, nor were there eyeballs wriggling beside it; but that was definitely the Dream World Beast that had appeared in the picture.
Watching that enormous giant monster, Guriko couldn’t help but swear out loud: “You monster!”
That was the true form of the Dream World Beast that was hatched due to having eaten the two’s dreams.
I was really too careless. As Gankyuu Eguriko thought as she lifted up her head to look at the Dream World Beast that was destroying the town. How could she not have sensed such a – gigantic and powerful monster? Could it be that she was too engrossed in the video game? No, that was not it – she couldn’t feel the dangerous aura that needed her vigilance even as she was looking at the Dream World Beast with her two eyes. How can she have no feelings of alarm toward a monster with such a terrifying fighting ability and could flatten shops with ease and dig up a building with just one hand?!
But she understood it later. That guy said this monster was born from eating the ‘dreams’ Rinne and I had, then the Dream World Beast should only have the scents of Rinne and myself! For Guriko, Rinne and herself were obviously not targets to be alarmed with, therefore she couldn’t feel its scent.
But these kind of things weren’t important at all.
As Guriko ran further away from the Dream World Beast together with Sakai and Rinne, she said.
Sakaki, who was walking at the front, turned his head to answer Guriko.
“You take care of Rinne for me.”
Guriko had made the decision in her heart a long time ago. She had desired to have a place to die since a thousand years ago. However, since there was nothing important to her anywhere, it didn’t matter whether she lived or died. However, she had already taken back her humanity, and could make the decision of for whom – for whom would she fight for.
Rinne noticed Guriko’s thoughts, and her face paled.
“Guriko…chan, could it be that you…”
Guriko smiled gently.
“Rinne, you must live on. You’re worth it.”
Rinne looked as if she was about to cry.
“Don’t worry, I won’t die! That’s how I’m constructed!”
Guriko turned around in the blink of an eye, moved her sight away from the two of them, pulled out three spoons that she hid in the pockets of her uniform and threw them. The spoons sparkled beautifully with a silvery sheen under the sunlight. Guriko swiftly dodged from the people fleeing the scene and ran up to the rooftop of a shop and stood like an invincible warrior. She cast one look at the other two, who were walking away, just as Rinne was looking at her. Guriko murmured in a small voice: “Sorry…”
Looking up at the Dream World Beast, Guriko realized her body was shaking.
“… even with an immortal body, it would have to take a few years for me to resuscitate once the body is completely destroyed – I won’t be able to see you for a while; how lonely.”
Guriko suddenly clamped her mouth shut with her hand.
“Would I feel… lonely?”
The Dream World Beast found Guriko, and emitted insect-like cries. “Chirp – chirp –” ‘It’ stared straight at Guriko without blinking. ‘‘The Dream World Beast was probably instructed by ‘Mushi’ to attack the three of us. If I don’t stop it, those he’d target next will be those two.
“How human am I! Thank you… Rinne, Sakaki.”
Her words ended here. The following did not need words.
Guriko approached the giant Dream World Beast without fear, and looked at it from the front. ‘‘Dream World Beasts should be harmless creatures with no power of destruction, right? Could it be that Rinne and I changed it? The two of us, who have twisted cause and effect, triggered miracles, and ate the Apple of Eden, actually managed to change the anatomical makeup of the Dream World Beast so much. I have to take responsibility, and finish this in that gentle one’s stead.
The Dream World Beast’s answering cries sounded like it was calling for its mother. Although it may be a delusion… no, it shouldn’t be! Controlled by ‘Mushi’ and having to fight its mother, this pitiful baby only had its voice left to express its true nature. Therefore, its mouth kept crying: “Mom… mom. Mom… mom.”
Guriko clutched her fists and said: “Mom – has to kill you.”
Then the slaughter began. As the crowd had quickly left, there were no humans left around them. The scattered brick and dust fell like rain. Guriko stood there majestically, and faced the giant Dream World Beast that blocked the sun. Guriko must have been the only one who could keep the Dream World Beast here.
“Wham”, the Dream World Beast unhesitatingly put down its enormous front feet. If she were stepped on directly, even Guriko would be flattened. Guriko jumped to the shop rooftops and dodged this attack impressively. Moreover, she jumped directly on the Dream World Beast’s dangling arm, and ran up to its shoulder in one dash. As if frightened, the Dream World Beast eagerly wanted to use its other front limb to swat her off. However, Guriko dodged that strike as well, and landed on the face of the Dream World Beast, which is about as big as a small shop. She dangled beneath the antennae, and wondered where she should strike. Panicking, the Dream World Beasts emitted chirping cries and twitched anxiously.
– Take this!
Guriko mercilessly threw the spoons in her hand, but those spoons bounced off the Dream World Beast’s tough shell and fell on the ground. Guriko clicked her tongue in amazement, and swung towards the Dream World Beast’s complex eyes while still clutching to the spoons in her hand. That was her only weapon. Therefore, if her next attack still had no effect, she would have no advantage whatsoever. As she accelerated, Guriko forcibly stabbed the spoon into the complex eye.
A violent stab. The stab didn’t feel to be as deep as she’d imagined. The eyes of insects are made of tougher material and are different from those of mammals. Although Guriko has a lot of raw force, she only managed to pierce it after a lot of effort.
The Dream World Beast was immediately enraged when its body was wounded by the stab.
The Dream World Beast ignored its own injuries and swung at Guriko violently. Although Guriko shifted away in the blink of an eye, she was still too close and received a direct hit. Her body flew out as she felt the impact. Guriko coughed up blood as soon as she hit the ground.
Her entire body felt like it was destroyed. This destructive power was simply incomparable. However, Guriko still managed to wipe off the blood on her body, and feebly stood up while leaning against the wall. Even when covered in blood, Guriko still did not give up on this battle.
“Don’t you dare that think that such things… are enough to kill me!”
An unyielding spirit burned in Guriko’s eyes as she yelled towards the Dream World Beast: “Come on! I’m still alive!”
But – Guriko did not know.
She did not know that the worst possible development was going on whether she managed to defeat the Dream World Beast or not. Guriko did not realize that, and that lack of realization was her mistake and her misfortune.
The final countdown had begun. Everything was simply a preparation for this progress toward a helpless end. Rinne meeting Guriko, Guriko kissing Sakaki, the rampage of Legion Bandanna, the hatching of the Dream World Beast; it was all a script prepared by the very worst existence for some unknown purpose. Only the one who created the script can obtain happiness in that script. Only that ugly creature who controlled the Mushi, controlled the Dream World Beast, and wanted to obtain the Apples.
“Do you – believe in God?”
That young man appeared casually and abruptly. For some reason, the crowds which were huddled in fear around them have all disappeared, and an unbelievable silence surrounded them. The young man’s terrifying voice, like a male falsetto and a female contralto, seemed extraordinarily loud. Dressed in a purple robe, holding a large crystal orb in his hand, the young man who has removed his cape had eyes which were sparkling with a faint reddish light.
Sakaki Guryuu and Usagawa Rinne suddenly froze. Sakaki had long determined this young man to be an enemy, and his vigilance was understandable as Rinne had once been strangled by this youth and his companions and she was almost killed. However, the young man knew very well that Sakaki’s vigilance was useless, and therefore continued to speak calmly: “Whether you believe it or not, it doesn’t really matter in the current situation. There was indeed an existence called God! Although I don’t know about the current times, the absolute existence called God did indeed exist in the past. But even if it is God, a creature is still a creature. it can be wounded, can become sick, and of course has a lifespan. The inability to evade death is the destiny of all things alive, even for God. God was terrified of the death that would one day arrive, and attempted to escape death.”
The Mushi walked towards the two quietly. Sakaki got Rinne to hide behind his back.
“Therefore, God created the forbidden fruit with all of His knowledge and omnipotence. God made the Apple Tree grow in the Garden of Eden using almost half of His own soul. The Tree soon budded and grew, and formed those red fruits. The soul of God, which swelled due to having absorbed Earth’s nutrition, was contained in that fruit. It multiplied from one species to a hundred and from the hundreds to the tens of thousands. God wanted to increase the size His soul this way. Suppose that God’s life span is a thousand years, then the soul used to create the Apple Tree would has five hundred years of life. But the Apples multiply. After a hundred years, the Apples would probably multiply a thousand times to its original amount. Therefore, if He ate the fruit harvested from there, then God’s life span would multiply by the thousands too. If this went on, then God would undoubtedly obtain endless life.”
“However – ” The fortune teller stopped in his tracks, and laughed at Sakaki.
“That was the situation when the Apple Tree first started to bear fruit. Something happened later. The two humans sent to protect the Apple Tree – Adam and Eve – ate the first Apple, and with it five hundred years of God’s life. Of course, I was only giving an example when I said God’s lifespan is a thousand years. No one knows what it truly is. It may be ten thousand or a hundred thousand years. Although no one knows how many years it is, Adam and Eve nonetheless ate half of it. In rage, God wanted to chop them to pieces. However, thanks to some other existence, the two actually managed to escape from God.”
“Pfft”, he questioned with a laugh: “What do you think that existence was?”
This – wasn’t a Mushi. Mushi don’t have such an expression. Mushi don’t have such a cunning, such a hideous smile. Sakaki stared right at him and screamed.
“You bastard –”
“That existence is called ‘Snake’.”
A smile emerged on the young fortune teller’s face like a snake devouring its prey as he quietly pronounced its name.
“Snake longed for immortality. No, no, all creatures possess the wish to be immortal! But Snake’s desire exceeded that of all others. It didn’t want to die; it wanted to live on. It didn’t wanted to age, it wanted to be immortal. For Snake, who longed thus, the Apples of Eden was something it wanted very much. Therefore, Snake manipulated the two who guarded the Apples of Eden and told them: ‘go steal the Apple!’ in a serious tone.”
The fortune-teller laughed.
“Adam and Eve were completely fooled and decided to steal the Apple. Of course, that was to be handed to Snake. Snake couldn’t bear to have any other immortals apart from itself, and thus burnt the Apple Tree. Snake thought that the Apple should have about 500 or 5000 years of life in it. Then, after eating this Apple, it should be able to do what God did – plant new Apples, and make itself immortal!”
Something outside of Snake’s plan happened. While Snake was burning the Apple Tree, Adam and Eve ate half an Apple each. With nothing else it could do, Snake decided to let Adam and Eve escape from the Garden of Eden for now and think of a way to rob their Apple away later. It also left the Garden of Eden afterwards,. However, Snake didn’t give up on immortality! Nonetheless, Snake’s life was very short compared to the two humans who almost lived to forever,. After leaving the last words of ‘What a regret!’ to its children, it died. Of course, its children inherited his last will… even now, the descendents of Snake are still seeking the Apples of Eden.”
As if he was talking about himself, the fortune-teller went on placidly.
Could it be – Sakaki thought.
Could this guy be –
“Let’s leave the business of Snake alone for a while. Adam and Eve, who ate the Apple, wanted to leave the Apple to their descendents too. Therefore, the two of them created the Garden of Eden in the crossroad between life and death, a realm where only humans can arrive at. They buried the Apple there, nursed an Apple Tree, and even till today that place still contains an Apple Tree. Usagawa Rinne –”
The fortune-teller stared at Rinne and Rinne jumped.
“– It was that Apple Tree which you saw when you came near death.”
Rinne wailed and instantly broke down. She couldn’t imagine it was a tree with such a profound background. It was too scary, and this incredible and ancient burden almost snapped Rinne in half. The forbidden fruit that was pursued with a crazed fervor by God, Snake, and Adam and Eve – was eaten by Rinne.
So that was why. It was truly too great a crime.
“The possibility of discovering the Apple Tree is very low, and it seems that humans who are able to eat that Apple are even fewer. The Apples of Eden grow very slowly and don’t fruit very often. Also, Apples tend to hang at rather high places; not many people are willing to climb up the tree to pick the Apple.”
“It’s because I was thirsty.”
Staring into empty space, Rinne murmured to herself in a rather hoarse voice: “So I wanted that apple very much.”
“In other words, you ‘wanted very much to keep living’. The life in which nothing happy ever happened made you depressed and you therefore hoped to live on more happily. That wish was then expressed in the form of ‘thirst’! Since the Garden of Eden is located in the world of the soul… the workings of the mind will change into the workings of the body and be expressed physically. That’s how it is. This always makes me excited.”
But the fortune-teller continued as if he was impatient: “Even though we know so much, we can’t even approach the Garden of Eden. Only humans can enter the spiritual realm of humans, and that applies even to God. The one remaining half of God’s soul that was carefully multiplied and preserved survived, and vowed to take back the Apples taken by men.”
“And the things that were created for this purpose are Mushi.” – The fortune-teller said with a smile. “Back then, crowds of Mushi appeared to humanity in all sorts of forms. Some were called angels, and some demons. Demons helped men to fulfil wishes with the condition of taking the human’s soul – that was a common idea, wasn’t it? The demon that appeared in such stories were Mushi. Since the Apple takes root in the soul, you must take the soul if you’re going to take the Apple. And as long as the holder of the soul does not surrender it, then the soul cannot be separated from the flesh. However, if there was even a little bit of thought along the lines of ‘I don’t want this thing’, then the soul could depart from the human. That was the reason that demons helped men to fulfil wishes. The soul cannot disobey the conditions set out in the contract, therefore demons – Mushi – helped certain men to fulfil wishes with the soul as the price. And within that would be the Apple.”
The fortune-teller shifted on his feet and put down the crystal orb, and continued with a smile: “That was the Mushi’s original job – Mushi are creatures created for that purpose, I’ll have you know. They have only one purpose, and that is to take back the Apples of Eden and offer it up to the mighty Creature for Him to enjoy. What a laudable virtue! And how pitiful! They actually let go of the Apples – the Apples that can grant immortality.”
A distinct expression of despise emerged on the fortune-teller’s face.
“How stupid, how foolish! ‘I’ would never do such a thing. If I were to offer the wondrous Apple to a God that no one knows if He exists or not and may even have already died – ‘I’ would rather eat the Apple myself.”
“You bastard –”
Had already eaten an Apple.
“You bastard –”
Sakaki called the same words out again.
“Of course, ‘I’ am Snake!”
As he spoke, Snake moved his hand out of his long robes. His hand held the pistol that he took from Sakaki the night before yesterday while at the school. ‘‘Damn’’, Sakaki thought. If the opponent was a monster, then he can just run, but it won’t be the same now he has a gun. That was the reason Snake took Sakaki’s gun.
“Your Majesty, run –”
“Bam, bam, bam.”
Sakaki was hit by three bullets. A large amount of blood spilled everywhere. Sakaki’s body tangled up with Rinne’s and the two of them fell backwards together. Sakaki’s blood splashed onto Rinne’s face, and she screamed.
Blood, blood, he kept bleeding, it won’t stop, it’s still flowing, flowing away with his life.
“Don’t worry. He won’t die, but it’ll be very painful!”
Snake said softly. Rinne called meaninglessly out to Sakaki, who had lost consciousness.
Far away, Guriko continued fighting vigorously with the Dream World Beast. There was no salvation, there was no hope.
Rinne sobbed and cried on and on.
Sakaki did not respond to her cries.
“… I pretended to be Mushi because it’s very easy. I accidentally discovered a human with an Apple about 50 years ago, and I robbed away his Apple. Apples have the power to twist cause and effect and create miracles. Most Mushi don’t have abilities to think; just using a little of the Apple’s power can easily trick them. For example –”
The red in Snake’s eyes disappeared, and golden eyes with reptilian slits showed up.
“Changing the colour of my eyes, changing my voice; just these things made those guys sincerely believe I am their comrade. Once they began to trust me, the rest were easy. I can tell those guys some nonsense to manipulate them, and I can obtain information concerning Apple holders at the same time. After all, my aim is to eat many Apples as possible and live forever…While I posed as Mushi, it was very convenient in terms of trying to achieve this. I’m just a little bit not used to their way of speech.”
Snake smiled. It was a very evil smile. He looked at Rinne, who was glaring at him while hugging Sakaki, covered with blood. Rinne knelt on the tarmac road with overwhelming sadness and anger and stared silently at Snake. Snake became very irritated.
“What are you glaring at? Are you sad because that man was shot? Ahaha, wake up, it was obviously your fault that this man is shot.”
“My fault –”
Rinne said with a shaking voice. Tears welled out continuously from her eyes.
“Yes, your fault. If you didn’t fall in love with Sakaki Guryuu – then he’ll never be shot here by me today, and will definitely be living a happy life.”
“Me – it’s me?”
Rinne’s heart wavered. Snake didn’t let this opportunity pass and went on: “Yes, you’re the one who brought misfortune to Sakaki Guryuu. He died because of you. If he didn’t meet you, didn’t save someone like you, and didn’t fall in love with someone like you, then Sakaki Guryuu wouldn’t die. You’re the one who brought misfortune upon Sakaki Guryuu.”
Snake repeated the same words and slowly approached Rinne, who was shaking all over. Rinne was confused due to the shooting of her lover, and she should be feeling that everything was really her fault. Aha, it’s time.
Snake smiled cunningly.
“Would you consider giving me your soul?”
Rinne couldn’t understand his words – and simply stayed dumb. Snake moved up to her face and smiled. It was an angelic and at the same time devilish smile.
“That’s the only way to save Sakaki Guryuu!”
Rinne’s eyes widened. She loved Sakaki a lot, and felt that Sakaki was more important than her life or her soul. If so, all Snake needed to do would have been to threaten her with her most important person as a hostage; why must he kill him?
Snake said gently: “To put it simply, your soul contains the miraculous Apple, and eating it would resurrect a man who’s near death. You should know this, since you’ve experienced it yourself –”
A year ago –
Rinne almost died, but regained her life due to eating the Apple.
“It’d be ok if you just give your soul to me. How do you do that? Easy. You just need to say: ‘I’ll give my soul to you’, and acknowledge that fact from the bottom of your heart. Then, the right of possession of the soul would transfer from your body to me. I swear I’ll save Sakaki Guryuu with that soul.”
Having perhaps regained consciousness, Sakaki slightly opened his eyes and said painfully.
Rinne screamed and cried. Sakaki continued, doing his best to voice out words: “… No, don’t listen to him. This bastard once said Guriko is the devil. I think he is the devil. This bastard only wants to get your Majesty’s soul... don’t be fooled! Leave someone like me alone. Your Majesty, you should be able to escape by yourself, run away – and live on, then… I’d be –”
Bam, bam, bam.
Blood spluttered everywhere.
Rinne screamed. The bullets made Sakaki’s body twitch again. The bullets avoided vital organs, and hit places where it would bring him infinite pain. Sakaki moaned painfully. Wet blood splattered onto Rinne’s clothes. She hit the Snake, hit him forcefully.
“Stop it! Stop it! Why are you – bastard!”
Snake grabbed Rinne’s wrist, and slapped Rinne with his other hand.
Rinne handed on the tarmac road, hard. She grazed her temple and blood seeped out. It hurt. But Sakaki hurt more. And his pain –
Are all caused by me.’’
“… Manipulating Mushi to place poison in the bento and commanding Legion Bandanna to attack him were all to force him into a near-death situation!”
Snake said happily: “I picked Sakaki Guryuu as my target and not you. The amount of poison wasn’t enough to kill him. On the off chance that Legion Bandanna really manages to almost kill Sakaki, I also planned to help him. However, both attempts were foiled by Gankyuu Eguriko and didn’t succeed… but I would only have counted it lucky if they actually did manage to work. By the way, I only wanted confirmation when I attacked you at the clearing. If your Apple didn’t grow and you could still die – then I’d just kill you. Then it wouldn’t be as problematic as today; I could have ended everything with just killing you and taking away your soul. Although that plan failed at the end as well – it doesn’t matter since I’m about to achieve my goal today anyways.”
Lowering his head to look at Sakaki, covered the blood, an evil smile emerged on Snake’s face.
“Alright, if you don’t want Sakaki to die, then give your soul to me. Of course, if you don’t trust me, you can also choose not to give it to me. The worst that can happen is that Sakaki would die. He’s a stranger who’s not your family, nothing too bad. If you consider him as a stranger –”
He was no stranger.
Rinne stared at Sakaki. Sakaki’s face was pallid with blood loss. Rinne felt the urge to scream. She felt dizzy, and her head felt heavy. No, I don’t want this.’’
I don’t want Sakaki to die, it shouldn’t be like this.’’
Rinne loved Sakaki.
Snake wanted to use Rinne’s innocent love to take away her soul. That was the plan he came up with, and it was the most effective plan to take Usagawa Rinne’s soul.
Rinne only hesitated a little.
How could this gentle girl choose otherwise when faced with Sakaki, who was approaching death?
Rinne quietly said: “… I, give you my soul.”
“Hehe.” Snake laughed.
“Hehe, hehehe.” He laughed.
It was a very evil laugh. The most devious and heinous laugh in the world.
A few tears fell from Rinne’s face. She gazed at Sakaki, and said her final words: “… Sensei, I’ve always wanted to repay you, repay the debt that I own you. It was the life that you gave me and your love. Did I – repay it? Sensei… Guryuu –”
Rinne touched Sakaki’s lips with her own.
“– I love you. Thank you.”
And she fell down immediately – Usagawa Rinne no longer moved.
– Obviously, Snake would never pity Usagawa Rinne, and those words he spoke to her were evidently lies. Snake never intended to save Sakaki. How can he possibly use such a hard-earned Apple on such a fool? Usagawa Rinne was a hopelessly kind human, and at the same time a hopeless idiot. She really did offer up her soul for Sakaki’s sake! Snake roared with maniac laughter. It was ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous, unbearably ridiculous. What a tragedy! What a beautiful love! Isn’t it outstanding?! Isn’t it touching?!
And he had obtained a second Apple only because of that.
Now he was one step closer to eternity.
The Snake ate the soul – Apple – that he robbed from Rinne after he had laughed for a while. He then walked towards Sakaki Guryuu, and point the gun at him without hesitation. ‘’How can I possibly fulfil my promise?’’ Usagawa Rinne had surely died a meaningless death. Honestly – did she really think that there would even be a remote chance for the Snake to save Sakaki?
“Unfortunately, I – am not that romantic.”
The gun barrel was indeed aiming at Sakaki’s forehead, aiming at a man who had already stopped breathing. The Snake laughed as if he felt genuine joy from the bottom of his heart.
With a bam, the gun in the Snake’s hands was shot away and was dismembered.
Snake, who had yet to forget the sensation of pain, allowed a shade of agony to invade his expression. That flying missile did more than destroying the gun; it even sank into the back of his hand, piercing deeply into it to cause agonizing bouts of pain.
The Snake hurriedly looked toward the direction of the attack. In fact, he knew who it was without even lifting his head. The weapon that pierced the back of his hand and drew blood was a spoon. There is only one person whom Snake knew uses such a thing as her weapon.
“… I heard the most of it, because I’ve got a pretty fine hearing!”
Gankyuu Eguriko said with a sharp voice. She walked toward the battle from the other side of the road. Her face was covered with blood, and even her sailor uniform was dyed crimson. Those eyes, like gun barrels, were full of anger, and she still sported that unique wolf-like hair cut.
Guriko said with a raging voice: “You piece of shit… you’re not even worthy to have me gorge out your eyeballs.”
“Where’s the… the Dream World Beast?”
Rather than due to the pain of the wound, Snake tottered more out of surprise. He did not expect Guriko to appear so quickly. Guriko guessed that – Snake originally planned to first take away Rinne’s Apple then attack Guriko, who would be fighting a bitter war with the Dream World Beast. He would attack her till she could not keep up with her regeneration, and would then slowly contemplate the method to take away her soul – that should cover it!
What a boring plan!
Snake looked towards the sky. The Dream World Beast, which was destroying the city uncontrollably just moments ago, was already gone. Snake’s eyes widened, and screamed as if wondering ‘how can this be’: “Could it be… could it have been destroyed?”
Guriko sighed quietly.
“You didn’t discover that? So you were so immersed in your bad taste of an obsessed game and went slack on your surveillance of the surroundings! The Dream World Beat was already destroyed, burnt into ashes by bombs!”
“Sakaki probably called them! It was probably the US Army stationed in Japan or the Japanese Self-Defence Force. The Air Force appeared and dropped a few bombs, so the Dream World Beast died. Maybe they reduced its power, so there weren’t much of a sound and it didn’t explode – it could even be something called petrol bombs. Although I don’t know much about current military developments – when this country erupted into war back then, similar bombs were also thrown on it.”
To be correct, that wasn’t called a petrol bomb. However, Guriko didn’t know about such things. All she knew was that the Dream World Beast was finished in just a few blows. The Dream World Beast had died calling for its mother. When Guriko thought of this, she couldn’t help but feel pity for that monster.
“How much more misfortune do you want to create?! You’re Snake, right? Are you the one hiding behind all those things? I was just thinking that there were too many Mushi – so it was you who gathered them all here. All the puzzles are now solved – although it’s too late.”
Guriko narrowed her eyes with sorrow, and looked at Sakaki and Rinne who were lying on the ground.
“… Sorry, I couldn’t protect you.”
Guriko completely ignored whatever Snake was roaring about. She walked slowly toward them and knelt down quietly. Guriko was covered with blood. Her left wrist was twisted in an odd angle, and fresh blood kept coming out. The blood mixed together with the tears that welled out of Guriko’s eyes, and flew past her cheeks like sanguineous tears.
After having cried for a while, Guriko smiled bitterly. This wasn’t like her at all. She gave one wave of her hand.
“Boom”. It was a wondrous sound. At least, that was what it sounded like for Guriko. Rinne, who had lost her soul and no longer moved, quickly opened her eyes. Sakaki’s bullet-riddled wounds also slowly disappeared. With faces full of confusion, they looked at Guriko who was next to them.
Using her slight metallic voice that sounded like the swaying of bells, Rinne said: “Huh – why, didn't, I die…?”
Sakaki was also full of puzzlement.
“My wounds – healed. How? This is –”
Someone was laughing.
“Ahahaha, ahahahahahahahah! Hahahahahaha! Ahahahaha!”
Snake was laughing.
“Gahahaha! Aha – ahaaaa! Hahahaha! Haha! Hahahaha!”
It was a sound of ridicule.
“How stupid, foolish, ridiculous! You idiot! Such a thing – Ahahaha, I didn’t think that you’d do such a thing! I didn’t think you’d be so idiotic – becoming so stupid!”
“Since even you called be stupid, then it must be the truth!”
Guriko said quietly: “But you don’t have the right to mock me.
“Of course I’d laugh. I’d laugh regardless! This is really too funny! You did something ridiculous! It’s like you rushed into a fire but accidentally poured oil instead of water inside; a foolish business that’s stupid beyond everything else! How can I not laugh?!”
“Ahahahahahaha.” Snake laughed even louder.
Guriko ignored Snake.
She looked at the two with a genuine expression that hid her resolve within.
“I have now given you Apples. They are Apples of my friends’ that I have always protected. Because the heart lives within the physical body, Rinne maintained Rinne’s looks and so had Sakaki –”
“Gak.” Guriko spat out a large puddle of blood. Her regenerative abilities had decreased due to the decrease in her Apple’s power.
Rinne and Sakaki cried out in surprise. Guriko continued with a smile: “An Apple would only use its original power when its host suffered a serious wound – a fatal wound. It would heal the host’s wounds and reduce pain. That is the power of God. You have eaten half of God’s soul. The miracles and distortion of cause-and-effect should also be the power of God! That is, if what Snake said was true.”
Though Guriko was fighting the Dream World Beast, she had definitely heard the conversations here. That was an effect of body function enhancement, achieved with the power of the Apple.
“… As long as you have God’s power, Sakaki, you won’t be able to die. The bullets won’t disappear, so you’d have to pull them out yourself. Although it’d hurt, you’ll have to bear it. Rinne lost her appetite because her regenerative abilities were strengthened. It was all because I gorged out your eyeballs. Your Apple began to grow since that time.”
Although it had only been two months since then, it felt like a long time. For Guriko, it was almost a lifetime ago. Perhaps that was because she had matured since then! Meeting Usagawa Rinne – made Guriko, who had been stagnant for so long, become more mature. This Apple was a gift of gratitude. Without wiping off the blood that continued to well out of her, Guriko kept speaking:
“Can I treat you as the people most important to me?”
That was truly what Guriko thought. It was also the answer to the question that Rinne had once asked her.
“I like you, and think that you’re important. That’s the important emotion that I forgot a thousand years ago. I have always lived like a zombie, without any purpose, living like a monster that only knew how to kill Mushi and gorge out eyeballs. After meeting you and was able to spend some brief times together, I felt from the bottom of my heart that it’s good to be alive… I’ve sought for you for a thousand years. I received salvation because I met you.”
Her blood dripped on the ground.
“… It’s good, to be alive.”
“Clack.” The spoon fell to the ground.
Rinne paused, and called out to her. She felt like Guriko was about to depart for somewhere far away. Rinne, who was at a lower position, hugged Guriko. Sakaki also hugged Rinne and Guriko.
Though they did not speak, Guriko understood that to be the answer.
“… Thank you both. I’m so glad, so happy –”
She slowly shook them off, and faced Snake.
“ – I found the thing important to me, met the people important to me. My thousand-year-long life already became purposeful with just that. Thank you… Rinne, Sakaki.”
Guriko told them that with a pure and completely pristine voice, an innocent voice.
She quietly spoke this word without even turning around.
Rinne didn’t understand what she meant.
Snake laughed heinously, showing his teeth, giving out an impression of utter spite.
“You made a very foolish decision, Gankyuu Egoriko. Even if you have an Apple, there are countless ways to take the soul. Right, I’ll start with cutting you into a thousand pieces, leaving only your head intact. Then I’ll chop Sakaki Guryuu and Usagawa Rinne into mince! They still have the sensation of pain, so I’ll torment them until they beg me to kill them, to finish it off! As long as they give their souls to me, you, driven to desperation, would also –”
Snake stopped talking due to Guriko’s words, and his expression twisted.
“What – did you say?”
“I said you’re pitiful! Snake, the idiotic, stupid one is you! You have no right to laugh at others. You’re the most ridiculous one here, and how can the most ridiculous person ridicule others? You’ve got to have a limit even when joking –”
Guriko said with a calm voice: “You’re the same as those Mushi that you despise. You seek the Apple to fulfil your ancestor’s pitiful dying wish, right? I have no idea just how many hundreds of generations ago that was. You’re looking for Apples for such a person, looking for one Apple after another. How foolish – no one would ever congratulate you no matter how many Apples you find!”
Snake lifted up his eyebrows as if he was offended.
Guriko called out with a majestic voice: “How is it your desire? How is it your goal? You only acting on the reason that ‘my ancestor sought the Apple’, and you sought Apples what whatever method it takes because of that, right? Acting according to the goal of another, being happy with achieving the goal of another – how idiotic, foolish, and pitiful! O Snake, though I’m not the most virtuous creature on earth, at least I won’t blame my own actions on other people. On that point, I’m a little bit better than you.”
It was an enchanting sound that permeated the world.
“You blabbed out a lot before you took Rinne’s soul, right? What was that for? Did you think it’d work as an Indulgence? No matter what a noble and heavy history you may carry, what you have done are nonetheless the actions of the Devil. You cheated humans, and took their souls after killing them. You’re only a monster no matter how hard you try to pretend otherwise. Moreover, you’re just a pawn controlled by someone else. You have no will of your own – though it is your choice to decide whether to attack the king of the rook, you can never remove yourself from that chessboard at the end. You’re only an idiotic tool.
Snake stiffened his expression. Without a sliver of fear, Guriko called out decisively: “How idiotic! Seeking the Apples generation after generation and having carried this battle through the entire history of our clan – you’re actually sounding pretty cool. Then what? Going on and on about ‘my’ goals this and ‘my’ goals that, so what is ‘your’ goal? Is it to obtain Apples? That’s ‘your ancestor’s’ goal! What’s ‘your’ goal? Who are ‘you’? Try to answer that. You don’t have an answer, do you, idiotic tool?!”
Guriko roared. Snake’s spine shivered with fear.
Gankyuu Egoriko didn’t give him the chance to finish his sentence, but continued on: “What a pathetic and nameless snake. At the end, you’re the same as Mushi; you only passed the Apple to your ancestor, embodied in idea of ‘the tradition of your family’! Even if you discover, seek and obtain Apples, you still feel empty inside, right? Of course, because that’s not your goal. The pawn itself does not feel joy in checkmate. Instead, it is chess player controlling it. The player is your ‘ancestor’, while ‘you’ only serve as a pawn. O pitiful pawn, controlled with the vengeance of the past and having piled even more sins onto this history, repent!”
Guriko yelled with anger.
“How can you dare to take away so many lives, create so much misfortune, and destroy towns and disturb peace all for such a meaningless reason! You even wanted to sever the bond between Rinne and Sakaki, destroy Rinne’s pure feeling, manipulate Sakaki’s love – you really are a Snake. You’re just too meaningless!”
Even though his body suddenly shook, Snake still tired his best to rebuke in the loudest voice he could: “You said – meaningless? You dare to call my goal – my dream, my dream of immortality…”
“That’s the dream of your ‘ancestor’! Haven’t you realized that you’re been controlled!”
With an affirmative tone, Guriko yelled at Snake, who was wobbling: “’You’ don’t even have a goal, let alone a ‘dream’! You simply lived carelessly, thinking that you’d be happy as long as you achieve the dying wish of your ancestor! That’s not what happiness is! No one will ever praise you! You have nothing important to you, so you robbed away the things important to other people. How can I ever allow that to happen!?”
“Be quiet – quiet, quiet quiet quiet, shut up! I, I’ve always – sought Apples. That’s how I lived my entire life. My father, grandfather, and all those family members who passed away before me – they were all the same!”
The Snake tottered as he stood. It was truly a pathetic state. He had dedicated his life to the empty goals of ‘a family’s dying wishes’. Had he lost the meaning of true happiness without even realizing it? That was why he was so lonely, so empty.
Though the Snake’s mind was riddled with confusion, he still roared with pretended strength: “It’s, it’s not that easy to subdue me with just a few words! I believe that I am correct, and I won’t give up on your Apples! That’s right; it’s those three Apples. If I can get your Apples, then I’ll be even closer to eternity! Then – then – then –”
Guriko continued with a quiet voice. Overwhelmed with anger, the Snake screamed: “Ahhhhhhh! Who cares! Who cares! I’ll think about that later! All I want now are your Apples! Give them to me!!”
“Woah” – like a beast, the Snake rushed furiously towards Guriko. His right hook landed squarely on Guriko’s body, and she skidded backwards. After having lost two Apples, Guriko probably became weaker!
“Hah, hah,” the Snake stared at Guriko with an expression that seemed on the verge of crying.
Guriko wiped off the blood coming out of her nose with her hand, and muttered to Sakaki and Rinne, who were standing still in a stupor: “Sakaki, Rinne, I’ll take care of this. Run! I’ll take care of this pathetic creature. Your abnormal situation is about to end; you can – peacefully – go home!”
Sakaki had no words to rebuke with. Rinne called out with a serious face: “Guriko-chan, what are you talking about –”
Seeing the stubborn expression on Rinne’s face, which indicated she didn’t want to leave no matter what, Guriko called out to Sakaki.
“Run away as far as possible from me with Rinne. You love her, right? Remember to protect her forever! If you can’t bear to live any more, then give the Apple to Mushi.”
She muttered these heartfelt words:
“Because eternal life – is really boring!”
It sounded more like a warning to the Snake rather than to Sakaki.
“… Wha, what are you blabbering on about since the beginning?! I won’t let you escape. I’ll now chop you all to pieces! I have two Apples. You, who only have one, cannot stop me. Cease your meaningless struggles –”
“You really are a rookie.”
Guriko replied briskly. The expression on Snake’s expression changed.
“The strength of Apples isn’t only determined by its number, you know. What could two unripe green Apples do? Not that I’m boasting, but my Apple has taken a thousand years to ripen. How can a fifty-year-old Apple compare with a thousand-year-old Apple – would its power increase at all, no matter how many you gather?”
The Snake was screaming: “My battle abilities were about the same as yours when I had one Apple. Now that I also have Usagawa Rinne’s Apple, I’ll definitely be better than –”
Guriko once again ignored the Snake’s presence, and spoke gently to the unmoving duo: “Please get away from here. Please… hurry!”
Split, splat, split splat.
It was the sound of something being broken off or cracking apart. They couldn’t help but feel that the sound came out of Guriko’s body. Upon close inspection, Guriko’s back had turned red.
A scarlet flower was blossoming before their eyes.
The skin on Guriko’s back was broken through by scarlet wings that grew out of her flesh. They looked like extraordinarily strong fighter jet wings. Though they were so thin it seemed like they could be broken with just a single touch, the amount grown was innumerable. Those wings, growing out one after the other, wove together into two large feathery wings, and expanded with a whooshing sound.
”… Let me tell you why I only use spoons when I fight!”
Facing Snake, who had been stunned speechless, Guriko spoke with a calm voice: “There are many other more efficient weapons that I could have fought with. Guns, swords… do you know why I only use spoons? Did you ever even think about it?”
Who was she talking to?
“… Because I am afraid. I always felt that once I have weapons to kill, then the savage part inside me that deserves no salvation would be completely released. For me, a spoon is a weapon that’s within the limits of forgiveness. What those small and fragile spoons symbolized is – self-restraint.”
While she spoke, Guriko’s body gradually became more and more monstrous. The unique wolf-like hair turned into a shade of blood-drenched scarlet. Her sailor uniform cracked with cackling noises, and the exposed skin was covered with insect-like shells. Her legs extended, her arms extended, and her height also suddenly became twice as tall as what it used to be. Guriko’s entire body was dyed unreservedly red. She had become an ominous and yet beautiful figure.
Is this – what God looks like?
Guriko make a low, mocking laugh.
“… You’re saying that you have the same fighting abilities as me? Hah, stop kidding. Do you dare to say that you have this kind of horrible power that even you yourself can’t control once released?”
Guriko’s wings swelled up, and in the next instant she had already made one full swoop with them.
The Snake couldn’t oppose the mighty wind, and was blown away and smashed against the opposite wall of the arcade hall.
“And now, let me put what you planned to do them into action! I’ll torment you unless you beg me and say: ‘please kill me, please finish it’.”
They heard a heart wrenching wail. That terrible cry, that extremely pitiful sound – belonged to the Snake.
With a small voice, Guriko said this at the end.
It was a very pitiful, very lonely sound.
“… You’re still here? I thought I said run away with Rinne.”
Sakaki gazed at Guriko, and Rinne just kept calling out Guriko’s name.
Though it didn’t make sense, they knew they were about to farewell Guriko.
“Hurry up and – go! I can’t suppress myself anymore.”
Her voice was also no longer the sound of an innocent girl.
“… This is my true nature. Not a human, but a monster. However, living with you guys has given me, this monster, some small happiness! Thank you – good bye. Go back to your daily life. As for all the abnormalities – I, Gankyuu Eguriko, would be responsible them for and take them back with me.”
Guriko, who had completed turned into a monster, only said this.
At the final moment, she looked at Sakaki and Rinne over her shoulder.
Tears fell from Guriko’s eyes.
“… Don’t look.”
 Guriko’s Offering
Winter break had ended, and the new school term had begun as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. However, the girl known as Gankyuu Eguriko had already disappeared. Her desk was removed over the winter break, and it was noticed that her name was no longer on the eleventh spot in the class register. Though he already knew this, Sakaki Guryuu still felt sadness the moment he confirmed it.
Gankyuu Eguriko had vanished before their eyes.
The reason was unclear.
She disappeared from Sakaki’s ordinary life as if her existence was but a long dream. What happened to Guriko? Snake? The Mushi? They were things Sakaki cannot know. The town devastated by the Dream World Beast had also been restored over the winter break. The only thing that she left behind were their memories – and two Apples.
Those two Apples must have taken roots in Sakaki’s and Rinne’s souls! Sakaki’s appetite did fall, and occasionally Mushi-like people would look at him with reddish eyes. He apparently needed to stay cautious for the time being. However, as the Mushi had so far remained docile, Sakaki had been rather calm. As he thought, as long as he and Rinne could stay together, living forever wouldn’t be so bad!
Rinne would graduate high school in two years, and Sakaki resolved until then to push thoughts of the future out of his mind and optimistically live his life. He would enjoy it as much as possible while treasuring his memories with Guriko, until life itself became a bore. Guriko must have thought the same somewhere else in the world!
These thoughts gave him courage.
He was not alone. He had friends such as Guriko—and also Usagawa Rinne.
Rinne returned to her solitary life since Guriko’s disappearance. She should have felt lonely, but she avoided pessimism and gave an impression of strength. What about himself then? Had he, perhaps, grown a little tougher too?
Whether she has matured, or not.
Sakaki was glad to have met her.
One morning, facing his class of students suffering from winter-break-induced brain malfunction, Kannonsakazaki High School’s teacher Sakaki Guryuu of class 1-B announced the day’s schedule as well as the schedule for the semester.
This morning was just like any other morning in the past. He had expected such a typical scene to never return, yet Guriko’s efforts made it possible. Where was she at this moment? Had she saved someone else in some place unknown to Sakaki?
Sakaki thought about this while absent-mindedly stood at his podium.
“SLAM!” The classroom door was suddenly forced open.
Sakaki was dumbstruck. Rinne was dumbstruck. Obviously, the rest of the class was dumbstruck. Why couldn’t this person appear in a more normal way? Like so, the door was opened, and without even closing the door behind them, the person pompously walked in and silently wrote on the board with her unkempt handwriting:
Transfer Student: True • Gankyuu Eguriko
Since this was simply too odd, even Sakaki was speechless.
Could this sailor uniform donned wolf-haired girl still not manage to tie her shoelaces properly? They were messily bundled together.
Her face was stone stiff, as if challenging the world; and a mighty aura seemed to rise from her. However, for some reason, her eyes flickered with a strangely satisfied gleam. This was something the old Guriko lacked, this light that emanated out of eyes that now obtained their humanity.
In a sharp, confident tone, she announced her introduction.
“I am transferring into this class. My name is True • Gankyuu Eguriko.”
“Wait a minute.”
It’s not surprising that Sakaki decided to interrupt her. Guriko, surprised, looked at him.
“What do you mean, ‘What’?... Guriko, what was that ‘True’ about?”
The two hid behind the podium and started to talk.
Though the students found this suspicious, this type of thing wasn’t necessarily important.
“I also considered using ‘New’, but that feels a bit modest.”
“Are you a Getter Robo or something? This is definitely weird, what kind of world has high school girls with names like that? Why can’t you just call yourself Gankyuu Eguriko like normal? That being said, why would you transfer again? You still have your school documents here, so just come to school like a normal person!”
“They aren’t here!”
Guriko bluntly responded.
“How so?” Sakaki replied.
“I used up the Apple’s power in the fight against the Snake. It was inevitable after releasing God’s power. Because of that, my original foothold in the school, which was made using the Apple’s power, all disappeared together with my fake identification and residential documents. Plus, since I left the other two Apples with you, I could only use a new Apple’s power to transfer over in this situation.”
“…a new Apple?”
“Taken from that Snake.”
“I see.” Sakaki understands now. “In the end you kidnapped that guy away, how pitiable.”
“Pitiable in what way? He reaped what he sowed. Plus, I’m not a cruel person. I never took Snake’s essence, that of his soul. I let him off easy! I didn’t expect him to actually be a physical snake, and he seemed to be using an Apple’s power to turn into human form… Ugh, as long as he doesn’t accidentally get another Apple again, it would be physically impossible for him to do evil anymore! Oh, and there’s no need to worry. I already let him experience first-handedly what true terror is. He won’t show up before you again.”
“What did you do…..?”
“It’s better if you don’t know. But two weeks passed before I noticed while I was fixing him, and I didn’t manage to get back to Rinne’s place until today … Sorry for making you guys worry.”
Guriko said this with only trace amounts of regret.
Two weeks?! What kind of humiliation did she put him through? Though Sakaki was curious, his fear was stronger, and he decided that ignorance was better.
Guriko shyly said, “…Actually, I didn’t want to show myself to you guys again. But I couldn’t resist. It’s pathetic; only two weeks and I already want to see you so much. It feels like I never wanted to leave you guys, so let’s continue to live with each other until we get tired of life, Sakaki.”
Sakaki couldn’t help but agree, but he still had a few concerns, so he asked, “hey Guriko, since this is how it turned out, isn’t ‘Gankyuu Eguriko’ fine for a name for you to keep? Though I’m making a new class register, your previous record is already gone anyways—”
“Even so, it’s impossible to erase memories. Though it’s only been a short while, there should still be some people in the class who remember me, right? It would be way too weird to get two transfer students with exactly the same name, but if I just use the name ‘True • Gankyuu Eguriko’, then I can completely dispel their suspicion. They’ll just think I have a similar name, and they’ll move on to thinking about something else—”
“Who’d accept that? You give way too strong of an impression; the whole class remembers you!”
“Oh? This kind of mistake can happen?”
“You should seriously put more effort into being less conspicuous!”
Despite his astonishment, Sakaki was still happy just to be able to see Guriko again, so he continued with a smile, “Then again, we can think about this kind of stuff afterwards. Welcome back, Guriko! Even though I have a lot to say to you, introduce yourself as a transfer student first!”
At this point, Sakaki got up from his hiding spot behind the podium.
Guriko followed him up, and stiffly said to the dumbstruck students, “I’ll introduce myself again, I’m True • Gankyuu Eguriko, but call me Guriko. That being said, it doesn’t matter if you call me True • Gankyuu Eguriko. Don’t talk to me if you don’t want to; you might as well not talk to me at all. Just don’t disturb me, and I won’t injure you, so keep that in mind. Mind your own business, and generally avoid talking to me. If you dare to bother me, I’ll gouge out your eyeballs no matter who you are. If you value your eyeballs, then don’t get on my bad side. If you talk too much or you love meddling in other peoples’ business, go die. If you’re nosy about others’ business, you can go die too. That’s it.”
Being an apparent repetition of the previous introduction, the introduction was finished in one breath. Guriko looked forward and made eye contact with Rinne, who showed a gentle expression that seemed to say, “you’re really hopeless, aren’t you, Guriko?”
“…It’s not like this, is it? You can’t drift away from everyone else like this. I believe everyone would like very much to talk to you, and don’t you want to talk to everyone else too, Guriko?” Rinne had already said this to Guriko before.
Guriko remembered these words. For a while, it was hard to recognize her facial expression, but she soon decided.
“…I originally wanted to say something like that….”
Guriko suddenly lowered her head. All her powerful aura seemed to have disappeared.
“But, that would ruin the mood wouldn’t it? I don’t really like the changed atmosphere either, so—Ah, what should I say—”
She seemed unable to find the right words to say. The class’s anticipation did not cease. Rinne’s face showed an encouraging expression to Guriko, and Sakaki also gently protected Guriko who was about to take a bold new step.
Soon, Guriko bowed, and softly said, “—basically, pleased to meet you…”
—At that moment, thunderous applause echoed throughout the classroom.
Guriko’s face filled with surprise.
——You see, if only she opened her heart, everyone else would also stay kind to her. That is the beauty of humanity. Humans live their lives helping each other, loving each other.
The girl who died a millennium ago had wandered for a millennium, and finally found people important to her and a wonderful place in the world. She shouldn’t say that ‘it’d be fine as long as she’s the only unfortunate one’, right? Guriko was not unfortunate, because of this happiness that she had finally found.
Hello everyone. I’m Akira. This novel called Mushi, Eyeball, and a Teddy Bear is the first volume of five, I consider it a transition for myself. But. For now let’s disregard the author’s perspective. I hope readers can treat as an independent piece.
I don’t know what kind of viewpoints the readers reading this will have, but let’s assume you’ve already read the entire volume. What do you think? From the start one should realize that the synopsis of the book and what’s actually in the book have totally different moods, though that’s entirely my fault, not the fault of the synopsis.
Originally, this was supposed to be a comedy. At the time, I was obsessed with comedies. While concentrating on the ludicrous challenge of “How ludicrous can I make this story”, I wrote Mushi, Eyeball, and a Teddy Bear. And actually, the title used to be The Daily Life of Class 1-B’s Gankyuu Eguriko.
So, the first characters had crazy names like “Gankyuu Eguriko” or “Usarin-kakka”. Originally, the story would have started with a meteorite falling, and ended with a giant teddy bear wreaking havoc. But once I put my pen to the paper, the story that should’ve been a comedy began to become serious… *gasp*.
Obviously, this was a result of my lack of strength, but maybe this wasn’t so bad. Though the stage was set for a comedy, I ended up writing a serious story. Not only is this kind of experience rare, it fortunately brought me a “Best Newcomer” award.
I don’t know how this work will turn out, but if it can even slightly reach the readers’ hearts, I’ll be very happy.
Finally, I give my heartfelt thanks to everyone involved in this novel.
First of all, the first person in my life to call me to a publishing company and making me incredibly nervous, and whose first words were "...very interesting!" and thus saved me, Mr. Kindaichi. [TN: Name translation is unreliable, as I simply took the Chinese text and ran it through an online translator.] Many thanks for the flowers at the commencement ceremony, and for all your concern.
Next is Mr. Mitsuki Mausu. Thank you for the gorgeous and unique illustrations that distinguished this novel, which had many ordinary characters compared to other series. Honestly, before I saw his rendition of Guriko, I hated her, but now I feel the exact opposite. I originally thought of her as looking like a fearsome demon, and didn’t think she could be so cute. It was really surprising!
Finally, I thank all of you readers.
Novels only contain words, but it takes valuable time for you to read them. As an author, in order to prevent that time from becoming a waste, I want to write novel with humor and thought.
 Chapter One
Literally means "Your Highness" or "Your Excellency". The kanji is "閣下"
Her given name is written with characters roughly meaning "sound of bells".
 Daddy Long Legs
An anonymous benefactor. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daddy-Long-Legs_(novel)
 Mushi and Bugs
Mushi means Bugs in Japanese. However, the kanji used here (and in the series title) is 蟲, as opposed to the one for bug, 虫.
The ability to feel and perceive subjectively. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sentience
... And for some reason, translating this particular portion of text reminded me of the Zerg :\
 Filial Imprints
A phenomena where animals learn or imitate certain characteristics of a stimulus. Its used in this case to descibe animals which treat the first thing they see as its parents. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imprinting_(psychology)
 Gankyuu Eguriko
Literally means Eyeball Gouger - a person that digs out eyeballs. The kanji is "眼球抉子"
 Chapter Two
 Pan An
The original compared Sakaki's features to that of Pan An, a legendarily handsome man in ancient China (original reads 貌似潘安). His elegance and beauty had been compared to that of 'a willow of jade swaying in the wind', and is considered to be one of the five most handsome men in Chinese history.
Since this cannot be translated appropriately into English, we've taken the liberty of placing this into the context of popular fantasy, which hopefully relates more to English readers. Surely we all know about Prince Charming xp.
 Neptune King
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neptuneman. I don’t know anything about this.
 Yang Guifei
Once again, I have taken the liberty to change the original referrence, which was made to the extraordinarily beautiful Royal Consort Yang of the Tang Dynasty in ancient China, to another equally legendarily beautiful queen that English speakers would know more about.
Despite Mushi to Medama being written by a Japanese, Royal Consort Yang is known in the history of many far-eastern countries and would certainly have been known to the ancient Japanese. Her beauty had caused incest and civil war. At the end, she was condemned to the death since the king finally decided her beauty is a power of evil. The Chinese proverb 'woman is the the source of a flood of evil' stems from her.
Used in this context, it can be considered as an innuendo that Rinne is the key to Sakaki's downfall into sin and purgatory.
 Like pocket bells, personal computers, sexual harassment, or convenience stores
The Japanese abbreviate pocket bell into 'pokeberu', personal computer into 'pasokon', sexual harassment into 'sekuhara', and convenience stores into 'konbini'.
Robot cat from an old manga/anime. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doraemon
 Chapter Three
Tumour-like growth of plant tissue caused by infectious agents such as bacteria and fungi. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nutgall
The nutgall mentioned here is a specific type grown on certain poplar trees, extremely poisonous, and used in traditional Chinese medicine. It is also the name of the traditional Japanese story mentioned here.
 Obake no Q-tarō
This is an old manga/animation involving a little mischievious ghost who's horrified of dogs. It was serialized between 1964-1966 and 1971-1974 as a manga, and was adopted into animation 3 times during the 60s, 70s and 80s.
 Chapter Five
A form of penance certificate given out by the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages and thought to be able to discount any sins the person had already confessed and been forgiven. Detailed information from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indulgence.
 Guriko's Offering
 Getter Robo
An old manga/animation that had 'New' Getter Robos, which involved improved designs of normal Getter Robos. It is referred here as joke about Guriko's attempt at changing her own name. More information is in the wiki page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Getter_Robo