“I’m here, I exist.”
“Yes, I know, you’re here…but…but…but.”
I pressed his head slightly harder.
“Let’s go back, there’s nothing left for us here.”
He shook his head and I loosened my arm around him.
“Can you…leave me alone for a bit?”
I let go of him and stood up, then turned around and walked away without looking back even once.
I heard his small whisper in the wind.
We were past the point of no return.
It was too late to change anything.
There was nowhere we could go to now. We could only move on.
I crushed the sentimentality in my mind and swept away any tender thoughts.
This is what we had wished for since the beginning.
After silently opening the front door just like I had done earlier, I saw my step-father looking at me with bloodshot eyes from inside the dark room.
It was an uncomfortable stare.
Even from this distance, the smell of alcohol mixed with something eerily sweet wafted in my direction, and on top of that, there was strong smell of sweat. He was breathing irregularly and his middle aged body looked saggy with an unhealthy orange hue as both his pupils dilated like a cat’s.
He looked almost like a feverish and delirious beast.
“Were you drinking again, Father?”
After I monotonously asked him this, he timidly surveyed the room countless times with bloodshot eyes, then his face turned brighter as he slowly looked up to me.
He then slowly stood up, then clumsily started walking towards me like a zombie.
If I wanted, I could just kick him and knock him out cold, or if I wanted to run, I could outrun him easily. But I didn’t do anything flashy.
When he stood right before me, the stench of alcohol and that weird sweetness became even stronger.
With a twitch, one of his eyebrows sprung up.
“Saki-san, you look completely fine. Even though your mother died.”
“It’s because I haven’t talked with her for quite a few years.”
“You’re so cold. But you know, there’s something that has bothered me for a while now. The day that fire happened, why were you outside so quickly? And with all of your stuff packed on top of that? Don’t you think that’s a bit odd? No matter how I look at it, it’s weird. It’s almost as if you knew what was going to happen.”
He started laughing lifelessly.
“Did you…did you kill her?”
Objectively seen, it was clearly suicide. But then how was it seen subjectively?
“Beats me. I wonder what really happened.”
“Hahahahah, ahahahahahah!” his dry voice echoed around the room, before he abruptly stopped.
“Don’t look at me with those empty eyes! Don’t look down at me like that! I won’t let a-a-a a little girl like you ri-ri-ridicule me!”
His shouts became louder, and he grabbed my shoulder and pushed me away.
I didn’t resist his push and fell to the floor, looking up at him.
That seemed to have lit some spark within him.
He leaned over me, his increasingly erratic breath reeking in a way that made me want to puke, and he grabbed my arm.
“What happens now? Why don’t you try screaming? Cry like the child you are! Don’t ridicule me! Apologize! Apologize from the bottom of your heart!”
I smiled, then with slightly narrowed eyes, I parted my lips lightly and let my tongue poke out a bit.
I was enticing him.
“Oh, how indecent.”
His whole body stiffened up like a bronze statue.
“A pity you won’t be able to bring yourself to do anything in the end, though.”
As soon as I said that, he slapped my cheek hard, causing the inside of it to split against my teeth.
A metallic taste spread through my mouth and something leaked out the corner of my lips.
“I’m not indecent!”
He mindlessly grabbed my neck as his facial expression turned coarse.
“It’s your fault, it’s because of how you tempt me with that face. It wasn’t me, it’s not my fault. It’s your fault! It’s all your fault!”
Honestly, I hadn’t ridden myself entirely of my humanity, but he was just a boring man.
I erased all expression from my face.
“You know, you’re going to die.”
He stood dumbfounded for a moment.
Bewilderment mixed with the prior lust and excitement contained in his bloodshot eyes.
I twisted the arm he was holding, throwing him to the floor and propelling myself upright with the momentum.
Now our positions were switched, with me looking down at him and him looking up.
It appeared that his drunken mind was having trouble comprehending what had just happened. Only after a few seconds had passed, fear overwhelmed all his senses.
He had probably blurted out that word unconsciously.
His reaction was rather interesting.
“I like that name a bit.”
I brushed my hair back and a sly smile spread through my lips like ice over a freezing lake.
He trembled and scrambled backwards, looking for an escape route without even attempting to stand up.
“If you want to call me a witch, that’s fine. I might seem like one to you anyway. But it doesn’t have much meaning apart from that, and I’m not interested in looking for one.”
I pulled Crescent Moon’s Shadow from under my cuff and lightly swung it to the left, drawing an arc in the air.
I raised the whip up, its shadow drawn within the dark room by the little moonlight that passed through the window.
I took one step out of the darkness towards the light.
My hair waved behind me, the hem of my skirt swaying as I slowly walked.
Then, I poured killing intent into the whip.
My step-father had already reached the peak of fear and he screamed loudly.
Thinking of nothing else but survival, he screamed and recklessly ran forward.
He crushed cans of beer underfoot, kicked bottles away, leaving them to roll around, and constantly tumbled in an unsightly manner as he tried to continue running.
Even his eyes shut as he did that.
I twisted my upper body round to evade him.
He stumbled against the door and loudly slammed the knob, making clattering noises, then finally made it outside while literally on his knees.
His footsteps disappeared into the distance together with his screams, and the door returned to its closed state.
“Do your best to live on with the image of a witch plastered in your mind,” I murmured with a gelid voice and stored Crescent Moon’s Shadow away. Then I went to my room and brought out L’Etranger that was soon due to be returned, and sat with it by the window.
Then, illuminated by the faint light of the moon, I continued reading from where I left off; the rest of the tale that told of a man no one understood.
After finishing the last line, I closed the book.
Dawn was going to arrive soon.
I wasn’t feeling sleepy, but I still closed my eyes.
I had lost one more thing—I didn’t have a family anymore.
I didn’t have any ties with them apart from being relatives, but they still counted as my family.
One after another, they floated into my mind.
My little sister, whose name was all I remembered, Misato.
My biological father that I couldn’t even remember the name of.
My step-father whose name and face I didn’t want to remember.
And my mother, who hadn’t been able to bear with her losses.
For some reason, a very old image of my mother laughing heartily while breastfeeding the newly born Misato surfaced in my mind.
“What a pitiful person.”
Perhaps I should have cried back then.
I wouldn’t cry, no matter what.
That was what defined me.
I heard Shiro calling me from outside the window. Extending my hand up and back, I opened it.
Without saying a word, he came over and sat beside me.
I laid out on the floor and rested my head on his stomach.
“I buried my father in that clearing. In the end, I didn’t eat his heart.”
“Is that so?”
“It’s over now. The forest that I so despised has disappeared.”
“Yes, your wish was granted.” And you came to know loneliness.
“Who am I?”
I wasn’t able to reply. All that came to mind was the shape of a certain girl.
A beautiful goddess with long, golden and wavy hair, paired with deep blue eyes.
“Shall we ask the gods?”
He probably took it as a joke and laughed, forcing himself to laugh.
A sudden urge to drink alcohol hit me, so I grabbed one of the cans lying next to me.
It was empty.
I crushed the steel can in my hand, then threw it away, causing it to make a clunking noise as it hit the floor.
At the same time, the sun emerged and the room suddenly shone brightly.
There were empty bottles and cans everywhere, and the entire room looked abandoned and in ruins.
It was hard to believe that someone had been living here.
But that suited the two of us.
And so I thought…
…it was time to put an end to this all.