I ended up wasting a lot of time.
I had visited various places related to child abuse control, but not a single one paid attention to me.
After all, I was just a young fourteen-year old child and all I knew was Yuuka’s name.
Humans can’t save other humans–––And I couldn’t save other humans.
All I could do was destroy them.
Even if I were to threaten her parents, or even kill them, that wouldn’t solve anything. I would just be making a mess of everything.
Before I noticed, night had already fallen and artificial lights lit up throughout the city, as if trying to overpower the light of the moon and stars. It was almost like they were signaling that this was human territory.
People exposed themselves under their light, swarming noisily between them without a concern.
Drunk businessmen, all sorts of students, high schoolers loudly chattering and middle schoolers returning from cram school.
Waves of people flowed into the train station, and others came out, and in the midst of all that, I recognized a familiar face.
The perfect student who used to be–––in past tense–––good friends with Budworm. His right arm was still covered in a cast, and I figured that he was probably coming back from cram school as he was carrying a tote bag on his shoulder.
His face looked extremely pale and he had lost so much weight, his cheeks were slightly sunken.
He was clearly traumatized by something.
I got in a teasing mood, so I walked around and sneaked up behind him.
“Good evening,” I said, tapping his shoulder.
He screamed with an unnatural pitch and tripped, falling down.
“There was something I really wanted to ask you.”
Smiling a bit, I pictured the one-eyed girl in my mind.
At the same time as I spoke, I started picking up the notebooks that had fallen out of his bag, while he just stared at me from the ground, dumbfounded and making no move to do anything even though they were his books.
Did he perhaps dislocate his hip?
Once I had picked up all the notebooks, I stacked them up and held them before him, but his eyes just wavered in fear, looking at me.
I forcefully pushed them onto him and he finally showed a reaction, clumsily taking them and standing up, moving awkwardly like a broken robot all the while.
“W-what do you…need?”
His face was filled with terror, like a little animal that happened to run into a lion, not even attempting to hide his shivering. For some reason, he reminded me of my step-father.
“Just what I said earlier, to ask you something.”
“Okay. I’ll answer, I promise I’ll answer, so please spare me.”
Just what kind of carnivorous fiend is he taking me for?
“You know, I’m not going to eat you or anything.”
I sighed and pushed my hair back. Trying to even start a conversation with him was a pain.
“When did she,”—he immediately caught on that I was talking about Budworm—”or rather, who did she run into, that caused her to go as mad as she did?”
As soon as he noticed that I wasn’t directly targeting him, he became visibly relieved.
“I’m not aware of the details.” However, his mind was still filled with fear and his voice was low.
“W-when Natsume-san disappeared…s-she became really silent, didn’t say much for…some time. Then o-one day, she said she met a s-sorcerer…i-it was probably…since that time…”
I patiently waited for his broken sentences to end, after which I nodded once.
“Do you know anything about that sorcerer?”
Still trembling, he shook his head.
“That’s alright…” I placed my hand on my chin, and continued after a bit of thought. “Then tell her that I said to meet tomorrow at school.”
That was all I had to say, so I turned around without waiting for a response and swiftly took one step to the side.
Immediately after, the glint of cheap steel struck through where I had been standing, it was a razor knife.
Turning around, I hit his face with my palm and sent him sitting back, only for him to pick up the knife once again with his left hand–––the only one he could use––– and stand up, shaking in fear.
His well shaped face was contorted with impatience and looked almost like a different person.
“I’ll get killed, no matter what I’ll get killed! So I might as well…SO I MIGHT AS WELL–––!!”
He had been engulfed by despair, his loud shout drawing attention to us.
I crossed my arms and knitted my brows.
Mixed into the crowd chatter that frequented train stations, some peculiar sentences stood out.
“What’s going on there? A fight?”
“Should we call the police?”
“Woah there, are you taking pics of this?”
“How scary, he has a knife.”
“Just look at that guy’s face, do you think that’s a delinquent?”
“Hey, let’s get away from here, it’d be scary if we got involved.”
The perfect student paid no attention to the random comments of the crowd and kept swinging his knife.
His movements were slow and his aim was atrocious. It was easy to dodge his attacks even with my arms crossed.
But it got old too quickly.
So I grabbed the incoming blade, not even caring in the slightest that my hand was unprotected.
A small cut appeared on my palm, but if I held the blade firmly enough, it wouldn’t become any worse.
He screamed hysterically and yanked it with his arm, but the knife wouldn’t budge a single millimeter.
“I only asked you to relay a message, what are you thinking by reacting like this?”
I twisted my hand and broke the blade off from the knife handle with a metallic clank and kicked his foot.
He fell for the third time, but this time he didn’t get back up.
I lifted a heel to his left shoulder and stepped on it, crushing it.
I ignored his screams and the shrieks of the crowd that moved away like a wave, and pushed my way through the gaps in the throng, leaving that place.
Shiro had done nothing to help me.
He had been absorbed in himself the entire time.
It was obvious that no matter what anyone said, it wouldn’t reach his ears.
It was dawn. The night had been silent—so silent, my ears were almost hurting. I wasn’t in the mood to read L’Etranger again, having finished it once already, so I just spent a long time doing nothing but petting Shiro’s neck.
The little light there was seemed distant, unable to illuminate a single object. Nothing would change if I only stayed home like this, so I decided to head off to school, even though I didn’t know if my message had been delivered or not.
I changed into my uniform and picked up my bag.
Shiro sluggishly stood up, attempting to go with me.
“Shiro.” My voice sounded incredibly harsh for some reason. Even I didn’t understand it myself.
“Please don’t follow me just for the sake of it, it’s a bother.”
I left the room without waiting for a reply.
He simply stood there, shrouded in silence, and didn’t follow me.
As I was walking down the corridor outside the apartment, a sharp wind blew once, and as I started holding my hair back, another gust of wind came.
I felt like it wouldn’t be long until my uniform wasn’t enough, and a coat, sweater or scarf wouldn’t be a bad addition.
It was about time winter seriously manifested itself.
Maybe due to the accidents and commotions with dogs lately, there was a large number of policemen patrolling the streets early in the morning. Not only were there ones with regular uniforms, there were also some here and there who wore suits and appeared to be higher rank officials.
If my eyes happened to meet with any of them, I would softly greet them and continue walking.
When I arrived at the school, I found it deserted. Even the students in the sport clubs weren’t there doing morning practice. Only the dust and sand picked up by the wind glittered under the sunlight in the sports field.
At the end of the field, there were cherry trees lined up along the wall. There was a total of ten trees, and whenever there was a graduation or entrance ceremony, they would be blooming in full splendor, but apart from that they stood there forgotten.
There was one more tree in the courtyard and it too, would bloom, but not many approached it even when there was some ceremony. It truly felt like it was located in a forgotten place.
And I was standing there.
The first time I met Budworm, it had been here, on the day of the entrance ceremony.
We didn’t really say anything to each other, we just looked at each other.
And that had been enough.
I didn’t like her, and she probably hated me.
I placed my hand on the trunk of the tree and looked up, just like I had done that day.
There were no flowers, no leaves, just branches.
Then I felt the presence of a person, a voice and the touch of a blade on my back.
“I’ve been waiting for you,” I said, my lips even spreading into a smile.
She acted completely unapproachable. The tip of the blade lightly pierced my uniform, touching my skin.
“If you want to attack someone from behind, it’s better to aim for the sides. Bones will get in your way otherwise.”
“But if I targeted your sides, you wouldn’t be acting this calm, would you?”
“I wonder. There’s always the chance I might have calmly let you kill me.”
I tilted my head.
That was quite a strange thing to say. In the end, just what part of me was insane?
“Is it alright if I turn around? It’ll be easier to talk that way.”
“Do whatever you want.”
I carelessly turned around and she pulled the knife back.
She looked the same as before with her disheveled short hair, her single hate-filled eye, the loose ends of her bandage fluttering in the wind, her neck exposed with her scarf gone and her shirt so loose, I could almost see her underwear.
“Good morning, you look quite lively today.”
She didn’t answer, only extending her left hand to caress my cheek.
“Your face is the only good thing on you, huh.”
Her fingers moved from my cheek to my long hair and followed it like a comb.
“The same goes for you. It feels like you’d be popular around other girls.”
I attempted to joke lightly, and she smiled a bit. Though I doubt it had been funny in the first place.
It was a grim, uneven yet beautiful smile.
“But you know, I never got what I really wanted in the end.”
“You mean Natsume Aya?”
Her smile grew bigger, turning more distorted, more beautiful.
“She had been my friend since we were small—we were always together, always… I thought of her as a little sister, even though we were the same age…”
Then she lifted her right hand with the knife, and just like her left hand had done, she caressed my cheek with it.
A fine slit opened up, and together with the knife shining under the soft morning sun, red blood appeared.
She moved her head closer, stuck her tongue out and licked it, then laughed in self-mockery.
Just for that instant, all the insanity and hatred in her eye vanished, and only sorrow remained.
And her lips trembled, almost as if begging for forgiveness.
“I can’t meet her, I can’t contact her, I looked for her at her home and even hospitals but she’s nowhere, she disappeared. It’s as if she never existed in the first place.”
I thought she was about to cry, but she didn’t.
She was masking the sorrow in her eye with hatred, and supporting her soul with insanity.
I grasped the blade with my fingertips and she pulled her face away.
She was standing just one step ahead of me and Crescent Moon’s Shadow was itching on my skin.
“I don’t know what to do if you put it like that.”
“That might be true,” she said, looking away before shaking her head.
“Now tell me the reason why you called me.”
“I wanted to ask you out on a date of sorts, tomorrow night at… let’s see…I guess the roof of the school would be a good place.”
After a moment of silence, she tapped the ground with the tip of her shoe a couple times.
“Did you actually fall for me or something?”
“I won’t say.”
“Then it’s alright.”
–––See you tomorrow.–––
With that line, as if we were friends, we split paths.
We headed into opposite directions, her heading towards the main gate while I went inside the school building.
In the end, were we alone? Or were we not?