Chapter 3 – Eyes of Death

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The eyes are as eloquent as the tongue.

The proverb is used when the eyes reveal everything even when it’s not put into words.

That said, it’s naturally not so easy to read someone’s mind just by looking into their eyes.

In by far the most cases, words are necessary to convey things, and we can’t really read someone’s thoughts off their eyes.

In the first place, not all people show their feelings in their eyes. Some of them don’t even show them on their face.

My workmate is like that. She only alters her mien so slightly that it’s impossible to tell whether she’s happy or angry, and when someone gets to see her deadpan for the first time, he almost certainly shrinks back. But even though she’s unable to even just put on a friendly smile, she feels a vocation to attend to customers. I have not the slightest idea what’s going on in her head.

Although I feel that I’m slowly starting to get the knack of understanding her.

Or is that just me?

Not only your brain remembers things.

Your ears remember sounds,

your nose remembers smells,

your hands remember touches,

and your eyes remember scenes.

Have you ever felt familiar with something on hearing, smelling, touching or seeing it even before your mind reacted?

One theory says that that’s because your subconscious mind has memorized it, but I feel otherwise.

I believe that our ears, our noses, our hands and our eyes can also remember things.

Among those, I’m especially intrigued by the memories of the eyes.

If you see what a person has seen in his life, you know his life.

Others’ lives are very interesting; but once you hear about them, they quickly become boring.

That is because of subjectivism—bragging, exaggeration and lies.

But it’s the life itself that’s interesting, without any bragging, exaggeration or lies.

Therefore, I watch for myself.

I watch others’ lives through their eyes.

As I did on any other day, I took a look at the empty seats in the first wagon.

There tended to be comparatively many empty seats in the first wagon of this train.

I wasn’t exhausted; I was going to be sitting for hours later at work anyway. That notwithstanding, it was a daily exercise for me to sit in this wagon.

But before taking a seat somewhere, I looked around at the people on the other side.

There was a sleeping person, a reading person, a person applying make-up, a person playing a game, and many others. But among them, there was a girl who was looking out of the window. She was probably still in high school.

I sat down opposite of that absent-minded high school girl and started observing her.

She was wearing the uniform of a private school that was three stations from here. If my memory doesn’t fail me, it was a quite famous all-girls school. The school badge on her collar was colored green, so she was a third-year student. Judging from the scratch she had in her kneecap, she either belonged to a club that did sports, or she had made that injury during PE.

After finishing that evaluation, I corrected the position of my glasses and looked at her—or more precisely, at her eyes. She noticed me and returned my gaze. I sharpened my eyes, projecting my consciousness.

Her eyes lost their focus for a moment.

Connected, I smirked in mind.

Looking at others means connecting to others to me. Once connected, I would go deeper. I would get the feeling of being drawn into their eyes when gazing at them. But in fact, it’s the opposite: I throw myself into there of my own accord. Into those eyes, and into whatever lies beyond them.

I could see; I could see something—the memory of her eyes.

The things she had seen showed in my eyes, as though as her eyes had become mine.

The first picture her eyes had memorized appeared.

It was an alarm clock. Its clock hand was indicating 09:00 am. The field of vision extended for a moment, and then zoomed in on the clock. It was set to ring at 07:00 am.

I see. She’s indeed a bit late for a high school student. Looks like she overslept.

Most likely, she had taken a second look at the alarm clock in surprise. Unable to accept the reality, she did so for nearly a whole thirty seconds, even though she would have been better off hurrying up already.

Oh, that wouldn’t be of any use anyway, I guess?

When she went to the kitchen and ignored the breakfast prepared for her, her mother wasn’t at home anymore. After that, I only saw how she prepared for school in a hurry. At first, anyway. To my mild amusement, she grew slower and slower as time went by, apparently feeling that it was of no avail.

I wanted to peek a bit deeper, but the girl stood up because the train had arrived at her station. Our connection broke off immediately. If the connection was as weak as that, I couldn’t see any more than that.

Well, it was a good pastime before work, I comforted myself.

That’s not what I really wanted to see. I was convinced that there must be more interesting things hidden behind others’ eyes.

I let my disappointment out as a sigh and got off the train.

Would I come across an interesting sight today?

Suddenly, I heard the emergency break of a train.

I quickly turned to the origin of the noise. I was positive that I had heard something get squashed. A few seconds later, a scream echoed through the station.

There was a wave of people that assembled at a certain point of the opposite platform, and one that went away from there.

I rushed to that point.

“Somebody’s fallen on the rails!”

“Somebody got run over! Hey, call the station staff!”

Confusion and horror could be heard from everywhere. Upon arriving, the station employees started to disperse the crowd with aggressive-sounding roars.

I dived into the crowd.

It was an express train that was never scheduled to stop at this station, thus only the last wagon was still more or less by the platform as the train had come to a halt. Something sticky could be found on the rails the train had passed.

“Don’t push! Step back!”

The moment I heard an employee yell so, I felt my body leaning forward.

“Huh?”

Pushed by a wave of onlookers, a few people and I fell together from the platform. The pain of the impact ran through my body. Because I had fell on another person, however, there was no serious injury.

The clamor welled up again, and the station employees pushed the onlookers away from the rails. “Are you all right?” someone yelled from above, upon which some people stood up and others stayed on the ground.

I shook my head slightly. Not to the level of a cerebral concussion, but my head was aching a little.

I pressed my hand lightly against my forehead, but the moment I did so, I noticed a sticky touch on my face.

I automatically looked at my hands.

They were blood-red. Did I injure my forehead? I calmly tried to explain it to myself, but I immediately realized the truth.

There was not only blood around me, but also all kinds of repulsive things somewhere between liquids and solids that I had never seen before in my life.

Exactly. The victim had been run over about where I was sitting.

I shrunk back in terror and put my hand behind me.

However, that hand touched something.

“!”

My brain instinctively tried to picture what it was.

I was already familiar with that sticky touch. I imagined the thing twining around my fingers as black and longish. There were a few possibilities I could think of to explain the substance that was entering the gaps between my fingernails, but I was unable to determine it exactly.

I turned my head around and cautiously looked at my hand.

Its form was far from what I was used to see. It looked so grotesque that I would classify it as ugly anytime if asked to decide between nice and ugly.

My hand was touching something that would usually be called a “head.”

That head was lacking an important part that made it look most awkward to me. It was not the parts below the neck.

There were no eyes.

“Are you all right?” a station employee yelled from above. I removed my gaze from the head and nodded. “We’re bringing a ladder right now, please hold on for a second!”

The employee ordered his colleagues to bring a ladder and started to get in contact with every person that had fallen onto the rails. Fortunately, nobody seemed to be seriously injured.

I could see a bunch of men rushing toward us with a ladder from afar.

I looked again at my hand.

Not because curiosity had gotten the better of fear; I just wanted to take a proper look to make sure what had happened to the eyes.

A thread of sorts was sticking out from the eye sockets. The nerves? Or a thread of sticky blood, perhaps?

But there was nothing ahead of them. What should have been there was…

—in sight.

The eyeballs were lying right behind the head.

“Are you all right? Can you stand up?” asked a station employee as he climbed the ladder down. He was almost here!

I became nervous.

Why would I become nervous?

I only had to wait for help and climb back onto the platform. There was nothing to worry about. Despite that, I didn’t want the employee to come yet.

I hadn’t come to decision yet.

I was in need of more time.

But he was almost here. Now that he wasn’t looking was my only chance.

Once he was here, there would be no chance anymore.

But common sense and my conscience slowed made me waver.

Only a few steps until he would get off the ladder and come to me.

I’m not going to get a chance like this a second time; I will regret it for the rest of my life if I let this opportunity slip now.

Nobody had noticed my intent.

Nobody was taking heed of me.

And certainly nobody would care if that went missing.

I reached out my hand and picked it up.

And then I stuffed the eyeball into my pocket—

“Mm…,” I muttered as I, Tokiya Kurusu, looked around while referring to the piece of paper in my hands.

I had originally been tending the Tsukumodo Antique Shop, but then I received a call from the owner Towako-san and Saki, a co-worker of mine, and was asked to bring them something.

The place they sent me to was located in a certain theme park.

With the entrance fee being a whole 5,000 yen, I had naturally never been in that park before, but I managed to get in this time as a staff member.

Inside, there were several attractions as they could be found in an amusement park, and families as well as groups of students who were enjoying their Friday evening to the fullest.

Leaving that noise behind me, I headed to the place written on my memo.

Before long, a building with a somewhat creepy air about it came in sight. I went to the door, whose mysteriously designed inscription read “The Mansion of Divination,” and entered.

The illumination inside was deliberately kept dimmed, causing me to lose my orientation for a moment. Once my eyes got accustomed to the dark, I noticed that there were different rooms in here.

In front of each door, there was a sign that outlined the type of divination that was conducted in the respective room. Apart from orthodox divinations like the “Crystal Ball” or “Cartomancy,” there were also curious ones like “Cobra & Mongoose” and “Cell Phone Divination.” Among those, there was also a strange sign that said “Relic Divination.”

“Welcome!”

I entered the room and was welcomed by a Saki who wore a black robe with a black hood. She was holding a broom. Unable to recognize me under that hood, she continued treating me like a customer.

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“This is the Relic Mansion. We will read your fortune and…”

“Hoohohoho! Fear not, lost soul! Yours truly, a mighty witch of old, shall resolve all your… Oh, it’s just you, Tokiya?”

Towako-san abruptly stopped her entrance performance upon noticing it was me. She was dressed quite revealingly and a bit like a bondage mistress. Had she been holding a whip on top of that, she would have certainly passed as one. Uncommonly for her, her hair was tied up.

Saki, too, finally noticed that it was me and took off her hood. She was wearing a cat-ears hair band on her head, and the robe was adorned with a tail where her bottom was.

“What’s with that outfit?”

“I’m a black cat!”

“…and you’re really okay with that?”

“Yes.”

“Surprising.”

“Why? It’s black.”

“…I see. Yeah, that’s great.”

Saki had the incomprehensible character trait of being very particular about the color black and not caring about anything else as long as it was black. Most likely, there was nothing to comprehend there in the first place.

“I guess you two are supposed to depict a witch and her familiar, a black cat in the form of a human?” I asked.

“What are you talking about?” Saki said, pulling off the awkward—and in her case absolutely normal—feat of showing surprise with a perfect deadpan look.

“Huh? You’re not?”

“Why would you think of anything else than a Beckoning Cat[1] when talking about cats and commerce? This perfect plan not only improves customer service generally, it even serves to attract customers! …How careless of me. If I always dressed like this, Tsukumodo might flourish as well.”

“Hardly!”

To begin with, you don’t seem to have any customers here, either!

“So? I can have a mighty witch resolve all my troubles here?”

“Hey, it’s all about building some atmosphere, some atmosphere! But more importantly, did you bring them?” Towako-san asked.

“Yes.”

I had brought a great number of Relics with me. Needless to say, fakes that were in our shelves.

“Right, fantastic! There wasn’t enough atmosphere here yet, you know.”

As she had said, there were a few small Relics like a pocket watch and a silver plate on the desk, but apart from that, there was only some indirect lighting, which left a somewhat blank impression.

“And how’s business going here?” I asked, causing Towako-san to contort her face. Well, I could have guessed as much, since she had asked me to bring something to improve the atmosphere.

Okay then. The reason those two had ditched the Tsukumodo Antique Shop and were working at a place like this has nothing to do with them trying to set against the red figures by means of a part-time employment—though that’s not entirely wrong, either. A staff member of this theme park was in search of a substitute for a bedridden fortuneteller happened to come across the Tsukumodo Antique Shop, took a liking to the mood of the shop and asked us to have a go at it.

Attracted by the pay, the two agreed to work there for a week. That pay was, however, not based on hours or a fixed sum, but on pieces. Therefore, when she learned that part of her earnings here would go straight into her pocket, Towako-san immediately recharged her batteries. Money talks.

She was even sly enough to put “Tsukumodo Antique Shop” on the visiting cards she distributed here.

“By the way, how’s the shop doing? Do you somehow get along alone?”

“That’s a good one.”

If it was such a flourishing shop, one wouldn’t find all three employees leisurely talking here.

“I’ll reduce your wages if you sell less than 10,000 yen a day, got me?”

“We haven’t ever sold that much!”

“Shut up. I don’t want the extra gain to be higher than the main gain.”

“You don’t sell much here, anyway, do you?”

“Hmph! Just you wait for a week. And you don’t get anything from the extra cash!”

“Right, right. I’m not expecting any! Anyway, I’m returning to the busy shop.”

The moment I left the room, someone else entered.

“This is the Relic Mansion. We will read your fortune and…”

“Hoohohoho! Fear not, lost soul! Yours truly, a mighty witch of old, shall resolve all your…”

I left the Divination Mansion as I heard from the room behind me a performance and footsteps quickly leaving again.

I informed my employer about the events and took the day off, and hurried straight home, ignoring the suggestion of a station staff member to go to the hospital for a brief check. After arriving there, I carefully took a handkerchief out of my bag.

The weird bulge in the cloth made it clear that there was something inside.

That said, there was most likely no one who was able to guess what that was.

I gently opened the handkerchief as if I was dealing with some fragile freight.

A eyeball appeared.

I took off my glasses and put them on again into the right position.

The eyeball was staring straight at me from below.

It was a very peculiar sensation to meet someone’s eye directly.

A normal person would certainly not have thought of it as “peculiar,” but as “repulsive.”

But while I did feel fondness, I did not feel the tiniest bit of disgust or fear.

I gulped down and fixed on the eyeball. The eyeball silently returned a look.

It remains unclear if a severed eye possesses something like a “gaze,” but our gazes intertwined.

I felt how my consciousness was sucked into the eyeball. Connection established. Success.

I could apparently also peek into a bare eyeball.

What will I see? What will it show to me?

I saw something. I saw something that I hadn’t seen for myself. It was the eye’s memory.

I saw tracks—as they were usually seen when standing on the platform. He was apparently waiting for the train. The field of vision moved and revealed an approaching train. The gaze focused on the word express for a moment and was dropped again.

Suddenly, the picture moved.

The field of vision made a sudden turn and showed a woman who was standing behind. That woman started to tilt over bit by bit. No, the eyes were tilting over—or more exact, the eyes’ owner.

The field of vision made another sudden turn.

A giant metal monster was approaching at overwhelming speed.

Everything turned black at once.

“…!”

I came around.

I noticed that I was breathing wildly. I noticed that my back and my hands were drenched in sweat.

However, there was nothing disagreeable about it at all.

It was not cold sweat my back and my hands were drenched in.

It was not fear that made my breath go wild.

I touched my cheek with the back of my hand. It was hot. I didn’t need to look into a mirror to realize that my face was flushed. And there was one more thing that I realized by touching my cheek.

My cheeks were pushed up.

I looked at the eyeball.

I saw a reflection of my own face on it.

The face was smiling.

I was laughing.

I was excited.

The sight of the immediate death had enraptured me.

And then I finally noticed:

Aah, I’ve finally found what I’ve been yearning to see for all this time.

I didn’t sleep a wink that night.

Still excited, every attempt to sleep failed with me sitting in front of the eyeball before I knew it. As I repeated this procedure, the sky dawned.

Although the eyeball always showed me the same scene, I didn’t get enough of it regardless of how many times I viewed it.

Nonetheless, I had to go to work once the morning had come. Of course, I made sure to put the eyeball into the freezer before leaving. I had no idea what would happen in case of decay, but that was pretty much the only conservation measure I could take for the time being. Maybe I should buy some formalin.

I reluctantly left the house, the eyeball.

As usual, I sat down on a seat in the first wagon.

As usual, I thought about peeking into the eyes of the person on the opposite.

However, I already found myself unable to see a point in that daily routine of mine.

I was not interested anymore in seeing a rushed latecomer, or an early-morning marital argument, or a drinking get-together that had taken place the other day.

I wanted to see it. I wanted to go straight back home and see that last scene that had burnt itself into the eyeball.

A woman sat down opposite me. That woman was absent-mindedly gazing into the distance. Normally, she would have been just what I was waiting for, but I wasn’t interested anymore.

But something bothered me; I had a feeling that I’d seen her before somewhere. Due to the nature of my job, I had a whole lot of onetime encounters. I suspected that she was one of them as well, but my gut feeling told me otherwise.

I had a feeling that I’d seen her many times.

But I couldn’t remember where.

Was it just my imagination playing tricks on me?

No, that feeling was too strong to be dismissed so easily.

I adjusted my glasses and peered into her eyes. I was hoping to find out who she was by connecting to her through her eyes.

She didn’t notice my gaze, and we connected in a matter of seconds. My field of vision overlapped hers.

Through her eyes, I saw someone’s back. A man’s. From how near it was, they must have been pressed against each other. The scene took place outside. The place was crammed, but the people were waiting for something in a queue. Where is this…? Ah, that’s a platform. At a station.

…Huh?

All of a sudden, the back in front of her eyes tilted forward. Because of a push.

The man turned around.

His eyes met mine—no, hers—widely opened in blank astonishment.

“———!”

I started up on the spot, attracting the curious gazes of my surroundings.

“Ah…”

While withstanding their looks, I seated myself again as though nothing had happened. They probably thought that I’d nodded off or that I’d just noticed that I’d missed my destination.

Only the woman in front of me still seemed to be miles away.

I also started to gaze at her in an absent-minded manner. I had realized why I had the impression that I’d met her many times before. I hadn’t actually met her. But I had seen her. Countless times.

That moment, the train arrived at a station and stopped.

The woman stood up and got off the train. I followed suit, as this was my arrival station.

There was a sign at the platform, seeking witness reports of the accident that had occurred the day before. There had been speculations in the news that it wasn’t an accident, but an incident.

The woman from before walked up to the sign, stood still for a moment, and then headed to the other side of the platform.

To the place where the man had fallen from the day before.

She was looking down at the tracks.

“Excuse me…,” I tried addressing her. She whipped around. In contrast to the expressionless face she had shown during the train ride, she had grown horribly pale.

“W-What is it?” she asked in a forcedly calm manner.

I had only spoken to her on impulse, so I was pretty much at a loss for words.

“Ah, um, yes…”

Suspicion started to show on her face.

“This is my name,” I said as I spontaneously took a business card out of my bag and handed it to her. She took a look at the card and grew even more suspicious. “Because I thought there might be something on your mind.”

“What’s up with you? Out of the blue.”

Apparently, suspicion had changed into anger. That was no skin off my nose, though. And most of all, I had a joker on hand.

“You lost something important yesterday, didn’t you?”

“!”

She was visibly baffled.

“You lost an important person or an important thing in your heart at once, didn’t you?”

She was trembling hard.

“Rest assured: I do not plan on doing you any harm, nor do I know anything. I only sense a tremendous aura of loss from you.”

“……”

“I do not know what you have lost or what your are worried about, but I would love to assist you in searching for a path to move on,” I said as I gently took her hand and pressed my card into it. “You can find me there anytime you’d like.”

With these words I left her.

She was still standing there, taken aback and unsure what to do with the card I had given her.

If possible, I wanted to sneak a peek into her eyes. I was curious what she had done after the incident, where she had gone and—most of all—what she had seen.

Needless to say, there was no assurance that she would come and meet me.

But for some reason I was convinced.

She will see me.

“Good morning.” Upon arriving at my job location, I was greeted by a staff member. “I heard you got into some trouble yesterday?”

“Yes. I’m sorry for suddenly taking a whole day off.”

“No problem at all. But that aside, are you all right already?”

“Yes. I’m eager to resume work today.”

After that brief report, I changed clothes in the changing room and went to my workplace.

“Excuse me…,” someone said toward my back.

I turned around. Behind me was the woman I had just met at the station.

“Please, follow me.”

I opened the door and beckoned her in.

“Welcome to Reika Kagami’s Crystal Ball Divination!”

That was my business and my name.

After seeing the woman off, I went for a short break.

It had been child’s play to learn about her. When I was here, I could look into the other party’s eyes without any restraint. Therefore, I’d only had to read from them.

After pushing the man down onto the tracks and taking to her heels, she idled away her time by walking around aimlessly, entering a restaurant, just to continue her aimless walk shortly after.

She also went to the police office once, but she quickly turned on her heel and returned to her apartment, in which she lived alone.

Once she arrived there, the woman opened an album and looked through it. The man she had pushed down was in a good deal of the photos. Most likely, they had been in a relationship.

After gazing at them for a while, she started getting rid of them by setting them on fire. There weren’t that many. Maybe she had originally planned on filling the entire album with pictures of him and her, but in reality, there were barely a few pages.

After she had burned the pictures, she went about deleting e-mails. The messages started a year ago with sweet nothings, but ended with parting words.

That must have been the motive.

I didn’t know whether it had been planned murder or on impulse. Perhaps, I would have been able to find out if I dug a bit deeper, but I refrained from doing so.

The blurring of her vision that had occurred from time to time made me realize how sad she was.

She was the murderer. But she was also the one who mourned. Both facts were equally true.

I hadn’t talked much with here. I couldn’t let her get wind of the fact that I knew what she had done.

Because of that, I only pointed out that she had lost something important. Whether that was “he” or “the life from now” was up to her to decide.

As a pointer, I subtly suggested to turn herself in, saying, “what you are hiding will eventually come to light. Now is the time for action. You will find rescue if you take the right decision.”

Again, it was up to her to decide. I wasn’t going to notify the police. But seeing that she had gone to the police office the day before, chances were that she would do so in due time. I merely gave her a push.

The matter was closed. I was sure not to see her ever again.

“Excuse me!”

Suddenly, the door was yanked open and a high school-aged boy rushed in.

“What is it?”

He wasn’t a customer, I figured. His blatant discomposure made it clear that something was wrong.

“Um, you were reading the crystal ball for a woman until just now, is that correct?”

“…Well, yes.”

“You don’t happen to know where she’s gone?”

I began to wonder about the sudden visitor. What was he going to do with that info? Had he gotten wind of it, perhaps by witnessing the scene by chance? Indeed, that was possible seeing that he was here now.

He looked steadily at me, waiting for a response.

In that case…

I looked into his eyes as well and peeked further into them.

What will I see? That woman?

I was seized by the feeling of being sucked in. Connection established. Success…

“…Huh?”

The thing I saw took even me by surprise.

It was a corpse.

The neck was twisted in an abnormal manner, and the ground covered in blood streaming from the head. It evidently was a fatal injury. No, let’s be clear: it was nothing else but a corpse.

It was then that—

“AAAH!”

A shrill scream resounded from the outside. Our connection came off. “Tch,” he flicked his tongue and rushed outside.

Curious about what had happened, I followed after him. Outside the Mansion of Divination was a large crowd. I ran to them and pushed my way through the people toward the center.

“!”

What I found was a woman collapsed on the ground.

She was lying prone, but I recognized her by her clothes. It was the woman who had been at my place until a few moments ago.

To most people it must have looked like an accident. But to someone like me, who knew the circumstances, things looked a bit different. The action she had taken was not to turn herself in, but to commit suicide.

But that wasn’t what bothered me.

Her neck was twisted in an abnormal manner, and blood streaming from her head was covering the ground.

It was the exact same scene I had seen in the boy’s eyes.

I am able to catch a glimpse of what others have seen. Needless to say, that means that they must have seen it already, meaning it is the past.

Despite that, I had seen her corpse through his eyes before she even died.

What was going on…?

I didn’t make it in time.

I hadn’t expected to foresee the death of someone I’d only passed by, which is why I was confused at first about what I’d seen.

By the time I realized it was a Vision, the woman was already out of sight.

I entered the divination room she’d come from to ask about her whereabouts, but I was too late.

She had already jumped off.

A rescue party rushed to her, covered her in something similar to a vinyl sheet and carried her away on a stretcher. Some people amongst the crowding onlookers suspected she was already dead. I had to agree.

I slipped out of the commotion and headed back to the Mansion of Divination.

“Did something happen?”

Saki was waiting inside. She had apparently noticed the stir.

“…Someone plunged to her death.”

“Really? You look terrible,” she noted and felt my forehead. The touch of her small hand was comfortably cool and slightly eased a kind of remorse that had seized me because I failed at saving the woman.

“Ah, the surprise, you know.”

“…Take a rest in our room. I’ll buy you something to drink.”

Saki gave me a meaningful anxious look, but went outside without any questions.

The moment I stepped toward their room, the door to a different room opened. The fortune-teller I had talked came out through it. The signboard said “Mikagami Reika.”

“Sorry about earlier,” she said when she noticed me. On a second glance, she was prettier than I thought at first in her blue dress and with the accessory she was wearing. Intelligent eyes were looking at me from behind the lenses of her glasses, and she made a mature and neat impression on me, added to the mysteriousness that is particular to diviners. “What a horrible accident…”

Apparently, she had also noticed the commotion. I wondered what it felt like to see a customer commit suicide only moments after attending to her. Wasn’t she able to foresee her death? I also thought ironically.

“I have no words. Even though I’ve scried for her, I didn’t see this coming,” she said with a bitter smile, but then added “can I have a minute?” while beckoning me in.

While a bit uncertain, I didn’t turn her down and entered the room.

Inside, there was no illumination save for a few candles on chest-high candlestands, making it rather dim. On the table, I noticed a large crystal ball put on a pedestal.

“May I read your future?”

“Huh?”

“I couldn’t foresee her death. Even though it was an imminent event.”

Apparently, the woman’s death had shocked Mikagami-san and left her with lost self-confidence.

Divination is a many-sided art. Some types employ tools like crystal balls and tarot cards to see something, while others aim to read someone’s fate based on his birthday, sex, face or hands.

She employed a crystal ball, so she most likely used that to see something. Honestly speaking, I don’t believe in this kind of divination that tries to appear magical. That said, I don’t intend to deny them altogether. It’s a fact that fortuneteller can help people to resolve their issues.

“I want to regain my confidence… so would you help me out?”

“But for free. Deal?”

She answered with a giggle, “Sure!”

She sat down on the other side of the table and switched into her divination mode, putting her hands on the crystal ball.

“May I ask your name?” she asked, her eyes behind glasses fixed on me and not the ball.

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“Tokiya Kurusu.”

“Kurusu… An interesting name. Do you go to high school?”

“Yes.”

“Oh, your right eye is…”

“Ah, yes, it’s artificial,” I explained. It’s unnoticable at a glance, but it becomes apparent when taking a closer look as it looked. That said, there was no need to hide it, and I had never had a complex about my eye. “I lost my right eye in an accident.”

“I see. I’m sorry for you. By the way, what brings you here today?” She promptly changed the subject, probably because she had judged she would better not touch on my artificial eye.

“An acquaintance of mine asked me for a delivery.”

“An acquaintance?”

“Err, she is helping out here. A part-time work of sorts.”

I deliberately didn’t mention that they were playing fortune-teller because I didn’t want to risk offending a professional.

“I see. Quite kind of you to sacrifice your free day, isn’t it?”

“She’s my boss, you see.”

“Yes. What kind of shop do you work at, if I may ask?”

“Umm…”

I considered giving her a reply among the lines of a general store or a second-hand shop because I couldn’t just tell her everything about Relics.

However, I suddenly noticed something.

Why had she asked what kind of shop I worked at?

Not with a word had I mentioned that it was a shop.

But that question sorted itself out. The typical part-time jobs for high school students would be at fast-food chains or restaurants. Gas stations could be called shops as well. Saying things that are either natural or very probable, or can be interpreted in two ways, is a speaking technique that aims to astound the other party. When constantly confronted with these tricks, credulous people will readily believe in some kind of supernatural power that the fortune-teller supposedly has.

But this crude observation of mine was easily smashed to smithers.

“You seem to be surrounded by a lot of things. Miscellaneous things. A super market, or a… no, it feels a bit more dated than that. A second-hand shop, perhaps? A general store?” she listed one fact after the other while holding her hands aloft the crystal ball and staring into my eyes. Those weren’t things she could have possibly gathered from that chat with me. There was no speaking technique involved here. She was clearly seeing something.

I instinctively averted my eyes.

Her face relaxed visibly.

“I’m sorry. Have I scared you?”

“Ah, um… just a bit,” I replied stagnantly as I wiped off the beads of sweat that had appeared on my forehead. “How did you know that?”

“I can see it. Not everything, of course, though.” Mikagami-san grabbed my head with her hands and turned it toward her. “Look at me. Try to concentrate.”

This time there was no conversation, and she just started looking deep into my eyes.

I was seized by a feeling of getting sucked into her eyes. I couldn’t express it, but it was somehow as though she was not looking into my eyes, but into my very inside.

Perhaps, that feeling was not so far off. Maybe she read her clients’ issues and troubles like this and helped them along.

From what I had heard, divination was not about supernatural powers, but acquirable teachings, and diviners were supposed to use that knowledge to solve others’ problems and help them find the right direction for them, much like counseling.

However, this woman seemed to really have some sort of special ability. Or perhaps a special object? Maybe her crystal ball was a Relic? From my perspective, a Relic seemed much more believable than magic or superpowers.

“…As I thought,” she suddenly muttered after some time during which I had completely been elsewhere in mind.

She averted her gaze from my eyes just to look at me once again.

“What is?”

“I’m talking about the woman who just died!”

“Yes?”

“Why have you been confronted with her death twice?”

“!”

I held my breath.

I didn’t know how she had done it, but she had read that woman’s death twice from my eyes.

In other words, when I foresaw her death and when I actually saw it.

“Your fate comes across her death twice. No, you have seen her dying twice, right? What does that mean?”

“That’s… um… what do you mean?” I played dumb, unable however to hide my disturbance.

“You entered this room earlier because you were looking for her, right? Why did you search for her before she died?”

“No, I was looking for her because she dropped something, and…”

“Nonsense. I was able to read her death from you back then already, but I thought I was seeing things. But I’ve just confirmed it. You knew about her death.”

As it looked, she had already read a few things from me when I’d first come to this room. What was that with your self-confidence? You were after something entirely different from the start!

“Care to explain?”

“I have no idea what you are talking about!”

I shammed anger, stood up and left the room straight away. So as to not let her notice my disturbance, I looked at the clock.

More time had passed than I’d imagined.

Oh, what have I done?

That was a blunder. I didn’t mean to surprise or anger him.

At home again, I reflected bitterly on my actions.

Judging from his surprise, my guess was probably right.

I had looked into his eyes. Only superficially at first, while gaining his belief by talking about his employment. After that step, I looked much deeper into him and read information of all sorts off his eyes.

Until came across an astonishing find.

He had seen her death twice.

But I hadn’t been able to get behind the reason for that.

I removed my glasses and gazed at them.

They had changed my life.

I had obtained them a few years ago. Because I had been drunk, I couldn’t recall where or what that shop was, or who had worked there. But after buying these glasses, I became able catch a glimpse of the others’ lives.

In the beginning, I just found it fun to sneak some peeks at their lives. I began with my friends and acquaintances and then went on with total strangers when there was nothing to look at anymore. But the only real occasions to look into the eyes of a stranger were on trains or a buses, or during the one-on-one conversations of the English course I visited. To make matters worse, I would only attract suspicion by staring for too long at someone and thus failed frequently.

And that’s where I decided to become a fortuneteller. I was interested in divination anyhow, so that idea had occurred rather quickly to me.

I could sit myself down and look to my heart’s content into someone’s eyes, one-on-one, and by quoting the things I read off his eyes, he would even believe in my skills as a fortuneteller. I truly killed two birds with one stone.

A few years later, I had told the fortunes of countless people, and made a name for myself. I always had enough customers as well.

But amongst all the people I had seen during that time, there was not a single case that resembled his.

There was no one who had seen a non-recurring event like someone’s death twice. Of course not.

That wasn’t normal at all.

But since I wasn’t normal, either, I was very well able to accept the abnormal.

Perhaps, he could see something special just like I could experience others’ visual memories through my glasses.

Yes. In his case, he might be able to see the future through his artificial eye?

My gaze was drawn to my freezer on its own.

Now that I think about it, I haven’t looked at it yet today.

Partly for a change of mood, I took the eyeball out of the freeze where I was carefully keeping it. The eyeball was as hard as that of a frozen tuna.

That peculiar texture had disappeared.

I picked my glasses up from the table and put them on. Holding the cold eyeball before me, I then looked into it.

“?”

This was strange.

I adjusted my glasses and looked at the eyeball again.

I was, however, not able to see anything.

Because it was frozen?

I went into the bathroom to fill a washbowl with warm water and returned to the living room. After inserting the frozen eyeball into the water, the frost melted away and it regained that peculiar consistence.

I took the eyeball out and looked into it again, but I could no longer see anything.

Gone dead, I thought right away.

Eyeballs can’t be preserved for a long time after being separated from the body. I had been aware of that. But I’d been convinced that that was of no consequence to me because the eye’s memories should remain whether it was dead or rotten.

But apparently, as soon as an eyeball itself dies, the memories die as well.

I didn’t know that.

What a fool I was, everything aside!

My eyes were filled with tears.

Not once in my life had I felt such a strong feeling of loss.

That’s how attached I’d become to that eyeball.

I should have forgotten about work and spent the day gazing at it! When would I get my hands on a human eyeball next? In my entire life, I had not come across such an opportunity save for this time.

Even worse, that accident had actually been the first time I was confronted with someone’s death.

…Someone’s death?

He crossed my mind once more.

His artificial eye might be able to foresee the future. If that was true, there was still a chance for me to obtain an eyeball.

I wanted his right eye.

And if that was too much to ask for, I at least wanted to look into an eye that had seen death once more.

“Hmnaa,” I yawned out of utter boredom.

Even though it was Sunday afternoon, there was not a single customer. And even worse, there were no shop assistants, either, save for me. That said, that wasn’t because Towako-san or Saki were working in their divination chamber, but because the police were interviewing the entire theme park staff about the suicide incident the day before. But besides the fact that they didn’t have anything to do with that incident, the likelihood of suicide was so high that the whole fuss was apparently considered a mere formality.

The theme park in question also seemed to close for a while, bringing Towako-san’s part-time job to a termination.

In the end, that job hardly yielded any profit.

Similarly, the Tsukumodo Antique Shop made almost no profit during that time, either.

Let’s hope that they could at least do some successful advertisement over there.

Just when I was about to yawn again, the bell at the door rang.

I stifled my yawn and opened my mouth to welcome the customer, but no words came out.

The customer was fortuneteller Mikagami-san.

I gave her a wary look.

“What business do you have here?”

“Business with you, of course!” she replied frankly and approached me at the counter. “I have a request.”

“What would that be?”

“May I have your artificial eye?”

She was so bold that it was clear that she knew that my artificial eye had special powers.

So does she have a Relic, too, after all? I quickly searched her with my eye, but she hadn’t brought her crystal ball. I was relieved a bit that she wouldn’t be able to get a glimpse of my secrets.

“I won’t say for free, of course,” she assured as she held out an envelope to me.

She urged me with her free hand to take a look, but just from its thickness I figured that it would amount to a six-digit number, provided that she had used 100,000 yen notes.

“What’s so special about this eye?” I asked.

“Who knows?”

“It’s just a common artificial eye!”

“In that case, there should be no problem with selling it to me, right?”

“……One way or another, it’s not for sale.”

I covered my right eye.

My right eye was the token of my debt to Towako-san. In addition, Towako-san was strictly against distributing Relics—she would never sell any of them no matter the price. Therefore, I couldn’t possibly sell any, either.

The fortuneteller woman wrinkled her brow in blatant discontent at my response.

Why did she want my “Vision” so badly? To what conclusion on basis of what assumptions had she come after finding out that I’d seen the suicide incident twice?

“I have no idea how much you know, but let me assure you: it’s not all that good.”

“You think so?”

“What do you think it is?”

“It lets you see the future, doesn’t it?”

Should I praise her for figuring out that much or should I feel relieved that she only figured out that much?

But as a fortuneteller, eyes with those abilities must make her mouth water.

“I’m afraid to say that it’s really not that good. You can only see a limited range of uncertain future events. You can’t use it to tip right in a lottery or a horse race. Nor can you forecast the weather. It wouldn’t be of any help to your fortune-telling!”

“…What can you see then?”

“Only the imminent death of people who you have had to do with. But even that’s just…”

…Huh?

A cold shiver ran down my spine. She looked still the exact same. There was nothing different about her. And yet I had a feeling that something had changed.

Have I just made a grave mistake? I thought.

Eager to find out what had happened, I stared at her—this is bad I thought the very moment our eyes met.

I instantaneously interrupted the eye contact by covering my right eye with my hand, when she leaned over the counter and grabbed my arm. With unfeminine strength she pressed both my arms down and drew near to my face.

She established eye contact with me whether I wanted or not. The instance that happened, I gulped down.

Since when did she have eyes like these?

She was eager to look into my eyes, with somewhat abnormal and sparkling eyes herself.

Even though she hadn’t brought her crystal ball, she was clearly trying to look at me. To see my secrets.

Did the crystal ball have no deeper meaning? Did she not have a Relic at all? Did she actually have a real special power? If that was the case, I had no means of resistance.

“What the…” she muttered.

“Mm!”

I braced myself and shook her off, and retreated into the private area as I overturned my chair. I had no other choice.

“Wait! I want to see more! Deeper!” she yelled as she tried to climb over the counter, and fell over miserably. Not letting that stop her, she chased after me crawling.

Overcome by fear, I left the building through the back door.

I want those eyes. I want them.

I want to—I admit it—I want to see death.

I want to see death in all the forms it exists.

But neither do I want to see acted death as it’s shown in movies and drama shows, nor am I interested in death that was manipulated by the producers of a documentary.

I only want to see raw death.

For that, I need them.

For that, I need those eyes.

I will get them no matter what I have to do.

I will get them whatever it takes.

I will get them even if I have to smirch my hands.

The girl I had discovered in the depths of his eyes crossed my mind.

After a while, I arrived at the conclusion that I could not leave the shop unattended and thus returned. From the looks of it, there was no one inside anymore.

Nevertheless, I erred on the side of caution and entered the building from behind.

I approached the shop area on tiptoe and sneaked a peek while hiding in the shadow. No one was there. Be it that she’d left chasing after me or that she’d gone home, I let out a sigh of relief.

Suddenly, a strong blow knocked me over.

Damn, did she go around me? I thought as I turned around, after which I was grabbed by the collar.

“Where did you go ditching your shift?”

“Towako-san… thank goodness…”

“Thank goodness my ass! Thank goodness that I wasn’t a shoplifter?! Mm?! You didn’t even lock the door for fuck’s sake. I’ll cut your wages if you go on like that, are we clear?”

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry!”

“You know, first I lose important time because the police insist on having useless interviews, then they want to harass me by dressing me up in my divination outfit, and to top things off, I get almost arrested for bodily harm when I smacked that officer when it got to my head…”

Venting her frustration on me, Towako-san’s grip tightened with each complaint she made.

Oh, dang. I can’t breathe.

My head started to spin a moment after…

“I thought I was done for…”

As it seemed, that crazy-eyed woman who was after my artificial eye was no comparison to Towako-san. I found myself looking at that woman in a new light.

“That’s what you get from goofing off.”

She didn’t show a sign of regret for almost choking me to death.

“Didn’t I just explain it to you?”

I told Towako-san about the fortune-teller who wanted my eye. After telling her about that woman’s special abilities, Towako-san suggested, “We may be dealing with a Relic here.”

I had also thought of that, but…

“But she didn’t have anything like that! She seems to be using a crystal ball at her chamber, but she didn’t bring it when she came her…”

“No, it’s not a ball. The Relic I’m thinking of looks like a pair of glasses, if I remember correctly.”

“!”

“If you look into someone’s eyes through the lenses, you can see what the target’s eyes have come to see. You can learn almost everything about someone’s life that way.”

Indeed, she had worn glasses. Both back then and earlier. It wasn’t the crystal ball—that was only for show. She had looked into me through her glasses.

Had I known about that before, I would have been able to take a countermeasure, but there’s no use crying over spilt milk.

“I just hope she’s given up…”

“You can’t expect sanity and reason from a person under the spell of a Relic, though,” Towako-san sighed with a bitterly contorted face.

“Mm?”

It had completely slipped my mind, but wasn’t there someone missing? Wasn’t she interviewed together with Towako-san?

“Where’s Saki?”

“Ah, she wanted do some shopping before coming home. But she’s quite late…”

I left the shop for a moment to look around, but there was no trace of Saki.

“Maybe she dropped by somewhere on the way?” Towako-san suggested.

“I don’t think she would do that.”

To be sure, I gave her a call on her cell phone, but I didn’t get through to her because her mobile was switched off or out of range. There shouldn’t be any connection problems at the supermarket she always went to. Had she forgotten to switch it on after going to the police station?

Maybe I had gotten a bit too nervous.

“Well, I’m sure she’ll be here soon,” I said aloud, partly to assure myself.

However, as though that had pulled the trigger, my optimistic view was mockingly smashed into pieces.

A painful noise ran through my head—

A girl was leaning against a prop.

It was Saki.

Before her stood Reika Mikagami—the fortune-teller.

After stroking Saki’s cheek once, she softly stroked Saki’s eyelids with her thumb, and turned around.

She sneered.

Eerily. With unfocused, glittering eyes.

But that sneer disappeared at once.

The ceiling collapsed and buried them in stones.

“———!”

I clenched my teeth the moment I came to.

That woman had taken Saki hostage.

She must have gotten wind of Saki through my eyes, though I didn’t know whether she had already known or only seen it earlier.

Either way, she had kidnapped Saki during her purchases.

I was careless. I hadn’t expected that she would resort to such means.

It was as Towako-san had said.

Don’t expect sanity and reason from a person who is under the spell of a Relic.

I knew where they were. I had already seen that place.

It was Reika Mikagami’s chamber in the now-closed Mansion of Divination.

It was truly calm that day.

Usually packed with more than a thousand noisy visitors, the theme park had turned devoid of people because of a single casualty. Oh the comedy!

There were two theme park visitors that day—no, both were employees, so there were none.

“What’s going on?” the girl before my eyes said, fixing her gaze silently on me. Her tone and expression seemed composed, but I was sure that at heart she was burning with anger at being deceived.

That said, she had naturally no means of escaping. She was chained to a fixed pipe by a handcuff on her right hand.

“Didn’t you say Tokiya was here?”

I had told her that Kurusu-kun wanted her to come help carrying the luggage because the theme park had closed down.

As soon as she had heard his name, she followed me obediently. Probably, the fact that I was employed at the Mansion of Divination had helped weakening her guard.

I softly stroked her cheeks.

She accepted my strokes without showing any displeasure. No, while she did endured it silently, her eyes were distinctly refusing me.

I see. The eyes sure are eloquent as the tongue.

“May I take a look at your eyes?”

“My eyes?”

“Yes, your eyes.”

I stopped stroking her cheeks and started stroking her eyelids instead.

She turned her face away, apparently appalled, but when she did so, something appeared from beneath her clothes. Due to the chain around her neck, the pendant didn’t fall to the floor and swayed back and forth.

“Nice, this was a present from him? Oh, and you gave him a wallet?”

She looked up at me with faint but visible surprise. Her expressionless mask had finally broken off. It seemed like that pendant was very dear to her.

“How did you…?”

“I saw it in your eyes. But let me take a closer look… oh, I can’t concentrate like this.”

I raised my hand to remove the swaying pendant, when suddenly, she swept away my hand and put it back into her clothes.

“Don’t touch it.”

“I’m not interested in that pendant, I only want to look into your eyes.”

Once I had said so, she showed clear denial of me.

She closed her eyes.

Wham!

A dull sound resounded through the room.

“Ah…,” she uttered as her head fell down.

“I can’t see your eyes if you close them, can I? And don’t hang your head.”

I pulled her head up by the hair. Her eyes had lost their focus because I had punched her head, but as long as they were open, I didn’t mind either way.

“Come now, show me your eyes…”

That instant, I heard the door being kicked open as well as the shout of a boy. It was Kurusu-kun.

“Saki, are you okay?!”

“To…kiya…” she uttered in response to his voice and looked at him. He also looked at her and contorted his face in anger.

“You hit her…? How dare you take her hostage! She has nothing to do with it! Let her go!”

“Hostage…? Ah, I see now what you mean. Yes… yes, that’s not bad either.” I took out the knife I had prepared for cutting out the eye I wanted. “One step and I’ll kill her.”

As he suggested, I made her a hostage, but I couldn’t suppress a laugh.

“No no, that would ruin the whole plan,” I said as I put the knife back, and approached him.

“Huh?” he uttered in blank surprise at my behavior.

Still approaching him, I lifted up the my crystal ball—”You’re in the way!”—and swung it down at his head. The vibration of the blow reached my hands together with a dull sound. My hands slipped off and the crystal ball fell down to the floor. I realized that spheres are no good for hitting someone. That said, his head started to bleed and he collapsed, so it was a success on the whole.

“Tokiya!”

I heard her cry and her handcuff rattle, but she was unable to move from where she was.

I walked back toward her, but I stopped after one step.

Kurusu-kun was grabbing my leg, even though he wasn’t conscious anymore.

“I don’t need you anymore!”

I kicked his hand away with my other leg and returned to her for good.

Much clearer anger than before was flaring in her eyes. I was very curious what kind of fierce emotions were hiding behind that deadpan face of hers, and what had made her like that.

Until a few days ago, I would have surely tried to find out.

But my interest in such trivial memories had completely gotten lost.

I wanted to see death. Only death.

“You’ve got something really nice here, haven’t you?” I said. Her anger subsided, and her eyes sparkled with wit again.

“Why do you know…”

“I can see what others’ have seen by looking into their eyes. At first, I wanted Kurusu-kun’s eye. I wanted to obtain the power to foresee death, and watch the deaths the eye had already seen. But you know, when I looked deep into his eyes, I found something much more splendid. Yes—your eyes.”

“……”

Her face lost its expressionlessness entirely and distorted.

“I can’t explain it myself! I’ve never felt like this before! But when I saw your eyes through his, I was drawn to them for some reason. More exactly, to the things you have seen.”

I paused for moment.

“—Say honey, why do your eyes remember so many deaths?”

There were a lot of deaths inside Kurusu-kun’s eyes.

There were also a lot of death inside her eyes.

The exact same deaths.

But for some reason, I was more interested in hers.

I was still unsure why, but I felt like I would find out if I looked deeper into her eyes, so I was anxious to take a look.

Don’t worry, I’ll cut them out once I’m done.

“But let me take a look first. To my heart’s content.”

I pressed her head back, holding her cheeks, and peeked into her eyes.

That moment, I received a blow on my back.

I thrust Mikagami away, banging into her at full tilt.

She knocked over the table as she fell to the floor, and apparently lost consciousness by hitting her head. I walked toward her and searched her pockets.

“…Found it,” I murmured when I found the key to Saki’s handcuff. “You okay?”

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah.”

While wiping away the blood that dripped into my eyes, I searched for the keyhole to unlock her handcuffs. My head was spinning, but now was not the time to whine about that.

Unfortunately, the handcuff around her wrist was facing downwards, so I couldn’t make out where exactly the hole was. I turned to the pipe to unlock the handcuff there instead, but my hazy vision prevented me from properly inserting the key. After missing the hole several times, irritation made my hand even less steady.

“Hang on a sec, I’m opening it…”

“Tokiya!”

I raised my head, and saw Mikagami winding up a candle stand like a metal rod.

“Didn’t I say you’re in my way?!” she yelled as she thrust down the candle stand in a cold fury. I jumped aside at the last second, but my shoulder got hit, sending a cutting pain through my nervous system.

Is that woman crazy, charging at me with a candle stand after hitting me with a crystal ball? It was a long bar-shaped metal candle stand. I could have died in the worst case. Wait, a candle stand…? Why is she holding a candle stand?

I switched back to reality and looked around, but my nose validated my suspicions before my eyes could. A scorched smell had reached my nose. Next, I started to hear a crackle and see black smoke rising from the curtain. A candle had fallen from the stand and set the curtain on fire.

“Hey…!”

The moment I wanted to shout a warning, a new pain ran through my shoulder. Not until I was rolling on the floor did I notice that I had been hit again. Seizing the opportunity, Mikagami charged at my back.

“Wait… it’s burning… we must escape!”

“I’ll strike you to death first, and while I’m at it, I’ll also take your eyes before I go!”

She wound up the candle stand.

It was then that a painful noise ran through my head—

Mikagami swung down the candle stand with full force.

I dodged her attack, rolling to the side, but she answered with a side swing.

I leaped back and evaded the tip of the stand by a hair’s breadth.

However, I had jumped into a sea of flames.

But it was too late.

I went up in flames in a matter of seconds.

“———!”

My brain was screaming alarm.

Unless I paid attention to where to I evaded her attacks, I was going to turn into ashes.

Mikagami swung down the candle stand with full force.

I dodged her attack, rolling to the opposite side than I had seen in my Vision—away from the flames—and immediately braced myself for her followup attack.

“?”

Mikagami had brought down the stand for some reason.

Had the future changed and she aborted her successive attack?

“Interesting. So that’s how you use your eye?”

“Huh?”

“You were supposed to burn to death because of my charges. But you foresaw that, and took a different action.”

How does she know?! Ah, right… she can see through me by looking into my eyes.

Most likely, Mikagami had witnessed my death through my right eye. But I had changed my future by really reacting differently. She must have guessed my usage of Vision from that.

Quite calculating for a woman gone mad, aren’t we?

“So how do I go about killing you?”

Mikagami wound up the candle stand again.

It was then that a painful noise ran through my head—

Mikagami swung down the candle stand.

I dodged her attack rolling to the side, but as though she had read my reaction, she changed direction midair and swung it sidewards.

Unable to evade, I was knocked away—into a sea of flames.

I went up in flames in a matter of seconds.

“———!”

The exact same future? Bullshit! As if I’d accept such a future!

Again, I tried to jump into the opposite direction than shown in my Vision, away from the flames; so far in fact that a next attack wouldn’t reach me either.

However, Mikagami was already waiting for me there as though she had read my mind.

“Tch!”

My body reacted faster than my brain. I evaded her swing by stepping back diagonally. The wind pressure brushed the ends of my hair. One moment later and my head would have been crashed in halves.

“Close,” she said while broadening her smile.

The current fight was completely different from the exchange of blows I had foreseen.

In all likelihood, she had guessed that I would evade in the opposite direction after reading my Vision, and thus gotten ahead of me.

Taking advantage of my attempts to change the future, she had also changed her behavior.

This is bad. She’s one step ahead of me.

She had the weapon, so she also had the whip hand, whereas I had to wait for an opportunity to counter while avoiding my death. But if she was able to predict my dodges, I could no longer defend myself.

I had to behave contrary to her calculation while still avoiding my death, but there were not so many options. It’s normal to go right if you know that you’ll die if you go left. If anything, I could dodge forward and backward, but sooner or later she would guess right if she attacked me successively.

—In that case, there was only one right thing to do.

I assumed a stance against her.

“Looks like this place won’t hold much longer. Let’s put an end to this.”

She wound up the candle stand and swung it down.

“Tokiya!”

I heard Saki’s cry from somewhere.

It was then that a painful noise ran through my head—and I closed my eyes.

“!”

For a split second, I saw Mikagami’s shocked face beyond my half-closed eyes.

The metal stand was flying toward me to kill me.

I instinctively tried to dodge it to the right, but I suddenly lost balance.

I had stumbled upon the crystal ball.

Having lost balance, I fell over in a miserable manner and…

My brains were smashed to pulp.

I opened my eyes.

Mikagami stared into my eyes trying to read my Vision.

But she didn’t make it in time.

She simply swung it down as I had foreseen, but with its strength and speed largely reduced in fear that I would evade it.

I grabbed the candle stand with my left hand.

A dull pain ran through my hand, but I was firm not to let go of it.

If predict my reactions by seeing through me, I just had to prevent her from seeing through me. If she could guess right sooner or later, I just had to interrupt her successive attack.

It’s my turn now! I thought as I stood up quickly. In order to evade my attack, she let go of the candle stand and backed off.

Heh. I didn’t even need Vision to predict that.

I threw the crystal ball at her as hard as I could.

With a dull thump, the ball hit her head.

This was bound to have hurt. I speak from personal experience.

Mikagami fell down unconscious and stopped moving.

“Saki! Are you all right?!”

My relief didn’t last long. The fire had spread out and the room was filled with smoke.

I rushed back to Saki to remove her handcuffs. With every breath she took, she breathed in smoke and coughed painfully, making me miss the keyhole. I couldn’t get them off.

“Cough, cough.. Tokiya!”

“Did it!”

The handcuff around the pipe snapped open, but when I turned around to take Saki’s hand, she ran past me.

Mikagami had wound up the candle stand yet again.

Saki had noticed her right away and hurled herself into Mikagami, taking her by surprise. They fell to the floor together.

“Saki! Quick!”

I tried to take her hand while running past them—but my hand only grabbed air.

“Huh?”

Before I could even turn around, my back was pushed strongly, and because of an unsteady head and legs, I stumbled forward a few steps and eventually tripped over.

“What are you…” I muttered as I stood up quickly. Several meters ahead of me, Saki and Mikagami were standing besides each other. “Saki! What are you doing?! We have to get out of…”

While trying to warn her, I noticed something.

Saki’s handcuffs were connected to Mikagami’s hand, as if to keep the fortuneteller on the spot.

Mikagami must have tried to attack me when I ran past them, but Saki thrust me out of range and prevented her from charging at me by handcuffing Mikagami to herself.

Why do you do that? What’s the point if only I can escape?

A moment before I could step toward them, a piece of the ceiling broke off right before me. I quickly pulled in my leg and stepped back instead. Away from Saki.

“Ngh!” I groaned as I covered my face with my arm to protect it from the shower of sparks. Beyond my restrained field of vision, Saki moved her lips with a face as devoid of emotion as ever.

“Go.”

I didn’t hear her.

But I read it off her lips.

I wish I hadn’t.

I would have been able to rush to her side without any hesitation and wavering.

But I did hesitate.

Without waiting for me to overcome my momentary hesitation, the ceiling of the room collapsed.

In order to prevent his escape, I tried to beat him with the candle stand, but I was pulled back as if chained to a rock.

The girl had taken advantage of the moment of distraction and had handcuffed my left hand to her right.

“Wha… What have you done…!”

I could never make it to the exit while carrying her.

I tried to get them off with my finger nails, but there’s no way that was possible with bare hands. The key was in Kurusu-kun’s possession.

“Stand up!” I yelled, but she stayed put as though she had no intention of escaping. “What are you doing?! Stand the fuck up!”

I tried making her listen to me by slapping her, but she just opened her mouth without even batting an eye:

“Didn’t you say you want to see death?”

“Wha…?”

“You want to see death, right? Well, rejoice. You’re going to see two of them in a moment. You and me. Burning to death.”

“Don’t screw with me, kid!”

“I’m not screwing with you. That’s what it means to see death.”

“There’s no point if I die myself, is there?!”

“May I ask that you don’t screw with me,” she said in a calm but firm voice. “Who do you think you are? People do not die for your entertainment, nor do they die to satisfy your desires.”

“Do you even realize what situation you’re in?! You’re going to die as well!”

“Yes.”

“H-How can you be so calm? A-Aren’t you frightened?”

“I don’t get worked up about something like this anymore. Besides… maybe it’s better this way.”

I don’t get it. I don’t get her at all. What is she talking about? Why is she so calm? This girl is a riddle to me!

“Eek!”

Because the ceiling suddenly collapsed, I ducked my head and lost balance. Since we were connected by handcuffs, I pulled her down with me, and we ended up lying on each other. She on her back, I on my stomach.

Our eyes met, and our gazes connected unintentionally.

Countless deaths came flowing from her eyes to mine.

I was buried under an avalanche of metal pipes falling from an overturning truck. An overwhelming death.

I looked down from a high place. Suddenly, I moved and approached the ground at unbelievable speed. Thump. A sudden death.

I gazed at the ceiling, but slowly my view became blurry and I closed my eyes. A silent death.

There were a lot more deaths.

Run over by a train. Stabbed by a phantom killer. Hung to death in suicide.

All kinds of deaths came flowing into me, heartlessly, mercilessly.

Why had her eyes seen so many deaths?

A girl so young.

A girl so normal.

She had some sort of secret.

…Interesting.

I had already forgotten this sentiment of being curious about someone else’s life. Until I was fascinated by death, I had been genuinely curious about others. Which is why I enjoyed peeking.

But I got bored with others’ lives and obsessed with death.

But she was different.

Surely, her life wasn’t normal.

Surely, her life was something I had never seen before.

Surely, her life exceeded all my imaginations.

What kind of life had this girl spent?

What had she come to feel?

What had she come to see?

I wanted to see. I wanted to see more.

I wasn’t interested in today, nor in yesterday, nor in her current life.

Farther into her past. I wanted to see the past that had shaped her.

I completely forgot about the situation and stared into her eyes. Deep into them. As deep as I could.

I ran into another death.

What I saw was—

A red curtain and black fog, and countless sparkling lights inside.

But neither was this sight beautiful, nor was it ethereal.

All of a sudden, a mysterious shadow erased the curtain, the fog and the lights.

Overwhelmed by that, I drew back, and lost the connection with her eyes. I was thrown back into reality, and her visual memories disappeared.

I didn’t know why, but…

Even though I had just seen a death…

A death just as I had sought for…

I didn’t feel the slightest pleasure and excitement.

I was drenched in sweat. Not because of the heat around me; it was cold sweat. Even though it was so unbearably hot, I was cold. I was trembling. My heart was in my boots.

I didn’t know why, but I unconsciously refused to see that death.

What was the meaning of that?

Suddenly.

I heard something cracking above me.

I reflexively looked up.

What I saw was—

A red curtain and black fog, and countless sparkling lights inside.

But neither was this sight beautiful, nor was it ethereal.

The ceiling came down at me, slowly erasing the red fire, the black smoke and the sparks from my field of vision.

Huh? Why does this look so familiar to me…?

Before I could jump into the room that was now completely enveloped in flames, I was held back from behind.

I turned around and saw it was a guard.

I noticed that the fire alarm was ringing, which explained why he was here.

“Kid! Have you lost your senses?!”

“Saki’s still in there!”

I tried to shake him off, but he was too well-trained.

“The fire department will be here in a moment! Wait for them!”

“They won’t make it time! Don’t talk shit!”

“No, you wait!”

“…Who do you think you are? A savior? My white knight? Just let the fuck go of me! There’s someone dying right over there!”

Was I going to fail yet again?

Was I unable to save a single life despite my ability to foresee death?

On the back of my eyelids—

I saw a dead woman lying before a door with countless scratches.

I saw a woman lying in a lake of blood with her head twisted in an abnormal direction.

Beyond the flames—

I saw her, surrounded by fire and smoke.

“You’ll lose everything if you die!”

“I’ll lose everything if she dies as well!”

Struggling once more, I headbutted him, and apparently hit him straight into the nose. The pain caused him to let go of me. Seizing the opportunity, I plunged into the sea of flames.

I was assaulted by wave of heat and suffocating smoke, but I didn’t flinch and went on in a lowered posture.

I could barely make out a collapsed person within the black smoke that was restraining my vision.

“Saki!”

I don’t know if my shout was even audible, but I desperately called Saki’s name in a hoarse voice.

There was no answer.

But that didn’t change what I had to do

I jumped through the fire and finally reached Saki.

I had no idea if she was still breathing, nor did I know whether the heat I felt when touching her was due to her bodily heat or the surrounding flames.

“Saki! Saki!”

Tsukumodo_V2_233

The fire was still spreading and the walls around and above us about to collapse. Certainly, I was supposed to escape as quickly as possible, but I could absolutely not endure one more second not knowing if she was all right.

I slapped her cheeks, I shook her shoulders, and I continued to call her name.

After a few moments that felt like an eternity,

“…Toki…ya?”

She faintly opened her eyes.

“Saki…”

“…I’m not dead…?” she muttered in dumb surprise upon seeing my face.

She was only half conscious and still unable to grasp the situation. Her voice was weak and her words not directed at me.

But she was still alive.

“As if I’d let you die.”

“…I’m sorry.”

“Why are you apologizing?”

“…I’m sorry.”

She continued to apologize as though she was hallucinating. She was not fully conscious, either because of the heat or because she had breathed in too much smoke. While I had confirmed that she was alive, I still had to get us out of here alive.

I braced myself and took her up in my arms in order to carry her outside.

The handcuff around her right hand fell down, but it was not connected to anything. All there was was chunk of coal that was shaped like a hand in the distance.

The collapsed ceiling right beside that chunk suddenly caught my eye.

By a hair’s breadth, Saki would have been buried there.

The moment that thought crossed my mind, the mountain of rubble moved and something appeared from beneath. It was a grimace that glared just as much as the fire enveloping us.

Our eyes mustn’t meet…!

But those two eerie lights died out right away as if that had been their last glow.

As soon as my gaze came off, I turned away from Mikagami and somehow made it out of the room with Saki.

“We’re save, Saki.”

“…Are we…?”

“Yeah.”

“…I’m sorry.”

She apologized once more and passed out; but not without squeezing my sleeve.

Like a little child unwilling to leave.

I saw it.

Now I understand…

At the very last moment, I was able to look into both their eyes.

I had thought their eyes were the same, containing so many deaths.

But there was an essential difference that I had realized now.

No wonder I was drawn to her…

A week had passed since.

We were questioned by the police, but partly because someone’s eyeball was found in her apartment, they believed us.

Mikagami got the abnormal label of a body parts collector. As someone who merely wanted to peek into others’ lives, she would surely have been unhappy with that title, but she couldn’t object any longer.

For a while, the press reported on the incident as the “diviner fury,” claiming that she had been obsessed with black magic and stuff, but this story was already dying down.

“How long do you have to wear those bandages?” Towako-san asked while pointing at the bandages I was wearing all over my body.

The burns, the blows and the lacerations I had suffered were surprisingly minor, so I had been told that it would take two weeks until full recovery.

“I guess you can be glad that you got away with a black eye, eh?”

“I’m glad that I got away without losing one,” I jested miserably, causing Towako-san to grimace.

“Did you turn into a clown when you hit your head or what?”

“Why, thank you,” I said as I turned away.

Saki just came back from the living area carrying a tray with a tea. She had also suffered minor burns and a few scratches from the handcuffs, and had returned to her daily life at the shop. She behaved just like always.

However, something was still bothering me about that incident, but I couldn’t bring myself to ask Saki about it.

When I rescued her from Mikagami’s divination chamber, she repeatedly apologized for something.

But for what?

“What is it?” Saki asked when she noticed my gaze.

“Mm? Ah, um, do you remember what happened in that burning room?”

“Not clearly.”

No wonder. She was quite absent in mind back then, so it didn’t come as a surprise that she didn’t remember.

“Is something bothering you?”

“Oh, I was just wondering why she was interested in your eyes when she was really after my Vision.”

It made sense to me that she had taken Saki hostage in order to lure me out, but after beating me with the crystal ball, she didn’t steal my eye and looked into Saki’s instead. What had gotten her so interested in Saki’s eyes?

“Probably…”

“Probably?” I asked, causing Saki’s gaze to wander off for a moment.

“I just happened to catch her eye… if you know what I mean.”

“……Huh?”

“N-Never mind…”

Saki quickly went back into the living room, completely forgetting to leave the tea here.

“Do Relics make people wanna say bad jokes or something?” Towako-san remarked flabbergastedly.

Before answering me, Saki had nervously averted her eyes from me.

I was sure that she… had no idea what Mikagami had wanted, and thus tried to cheer me up with a joke, but couldn’t think of a good one.

The eyes are as eloquent as the tongue.

It seemed like I was slowly starting to get the knack of understanding her. Yeah.

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