After chasing him for such a long time, Nina Fortner had finally cornered her twin brother, the sociopathic killer Johan. Petr Capek finally did something right, taking Nina to the abandoned building in the countryside. The building had once been two stories, but the roof had been destroyed completely, probably in a fire. The flooring separating the first and second stories was almost nonexistent as well. That's why Nina found Johan right away. From the first floor, she saw him standing on the second level, visible through a huge hole.
Johan didn't seem armed, but it was difficult to tell since the sun was behind him, making his figure a black silhouette. Nina pulled out her handgun at once. This would be the perfect time to kill Johan—she wouldn't have to see his face when she shot. Nina expected Johan to try to pull some kind of escape, but he stood still. The only thing he moved was his arm. Slowly, he brought his arm up, extended his index finger, and pointed to the center of his own forehead. It was the same gesture he had used all those years ago, when he told Nina to shoot him.
"Are you going to shoot me like you did back then?" Johan asked in his incongruently kind, gentle voice.
"Yes," Nina said with a fierce look on her face. "I'll end everything."
Johan thought about everything he had seen—the tragedies he had caused in order to recreate the terror of the Red Rose Mansion. He thought of the dozens of bodies that covered every inch of the floor that day of the mansion, and he remembered the dismal landscape he and his sister had traveled through as they ran out of the Czech Republic.
"You will end everything?" he asked calmly. "I've already seen the end of the world many times. What, then, is 'the end'?"
"This time it will end for good," Nina stated emphatically. "I'll kill you and then kill myself. You think you've seen the end of the world. What do you mean? What did you see? You don't know anything. I will tell you the actual, horrible story."
"This actual, horrible story," repeated Johan. "Is it like the one I told you? I spent days telling you at the Three Frogs. Let me remind you. This time, the story will be short. I was taken from the room at The Three Frogs inn, and placed in a pitch black room with no walls. Everything I touched felt unnatural, as there was no longer any up or down, left or right. Somehow, I knew someone was observing me. In this room otherwise completely silent, I sometimes heard terrible screams."
The few people who knew Johan well were aware of his fascination with human terror. He loved stories where people were overtaken by pure fear. He loved to inspire such fear in others. All of this had started because of the terror Johan himself had felt when ripped away from his mother and sister and placed in the sensory deprivation chamber. Even as a small child, Johan hated the feeling of being trapped more than anything. What they did to him at the Red Rose Mansion was the equivalent of torture, and it had shaped Johan's life. Perhaps that was when his mind became divided, and most of him stopped being able to feel. Without the ability to feel, he could not value the feelings—or the lives—of others.
"Meals were provided from an unknown place," Johan went on. "I tried to count them. I lost count around twenty-three. When I could no longer keep track of the number of meals, a door opened. That man—Franz Bonaparta—was standing there."
In Johan's mind, he could still see the grim, gray-haired figure of Bonaparta standing in the bright doorway. He remembered the man reaching out as if to grab him. "Listen," Bonaparta had said, "people can become anything."
Next Johan described walking down the bright halls of the Red Rose Mansion. Some kind of party for the adults was going on. Johan had no idea why he was present, and one older man paused to ask him about it. A second partygoer stated that Johan was "the special child," and the first man backed off. Then they walked into the main party area, where forty people were chatting, eating snacks, and preparing to open the wine. It seemed that a major speech might have just ended.
"When I walked around the room," said Johan, "Everyone admired me, but not as a person. They looked down at me and saw me as an exciting experiment. They spoke of me and not to me. 'It looks cute,' a woman said. 'So this is the special child,' said a thin man. 'How wonderful,' said a fat man. Then they all started referring to me as their achievement, as if each of them believed they had crafted me.
"Many bottles of red wine were rolled out on a cart," Johan continued, unaware of Nina's growing shock. "I heard the sounds of the wine being poured into the glasses. Soon, everyone had a glass. A man gave a toast, but I can only remember bits and pieces of his speech. When he raised his glass, what he said was, 'For the future of our country.' Everyone cried 'Kampai' and drank… everyone but Bonaparta, who stood leaning against the back wall."
Nina had only just recently heard the story of her parents and learned that she and Johan had been "bred" as part of a massive eugenics project. Johan, however, had learned this from Capek almost as soon as the two reunited. In addition, the minds behind the project had held Johan's mother captive for years before taking away one of the twins to use for personality experiments. The sensory deprivation chamber must have been the first experiment. Even though he had more time to process the revolting truth of all this, Johan still found the memories disgusting. Living as little more than a captive, and being treated like a project instead of a person—these things chipped away at Johan's fundamental humanity.
"A glass of wine fell." Johan kept talking calmly, hands clasped behind his back, while Nina kept the gun pointed up at him. "The first person collapsed. Then the people that ran toward him also collapsed. Everyone fell, one after the other. Groans…shouts… fear filled the room. The forty-two people there died… all except for Franz Bonaparta."
The wine had been poisoned, and Johan could only guess that Franz Bonaparta was the mastermind behind this massacre of forty human beings. Why Bonaparta killed all his colleagues was a mystery not yet revealed to Johan. Very few people knew the truth: that the powerful man had betrayed his project out of love. He had fallen in love with the twins' mother. He had saved the child from the sensory deprivation room. Finally, he killed everyone who knew about his projects with the twins, so they could be free along with their mother.
"I ran," stated Johan, "trying to escape that horrible place."
Johan's mind could only vaguely picture the door he must have run out of to escape. What he remembered with clarity, though, were the roses by the mansion's front gate. As he ran, one of the large thorns on the overgrown bushes had caught his right arm. It punctured him and then tore a scratch through his clothes and across his skin, just deep enough to draw some blood. Back in the present, the grown Johan held his upper right arm, as if he could still feel the sting.
Aloud, he said, "I barely noticed that my arm was cut in the rose garden. I just ran. When I arrived back at The Three Frogs, you welcomed me home, saying 'Okaeri.' Then, I kept talking day after day, telling you everything that I had experienced."
Johan's tone of voice had not changed, and his posture remained perfect, but he let his eyes fall, looking at his feet, while his brow showed the slightest tightening of sorrow. It was rare for Johan to show any genuine emotion. Nina could tell this wasn't a ploy because the sorrow was not exaggerated; it was almost unnoticeable. The girl only recognized it because she was his twin.
Not that it mattered. Nina only noted Johan's expression briefly before she lost control of her own. Her eyes widened and the corners of her mouth trembled in silence. She went pale. It looked as if she needed to say something terrible but important. The gun shook in her hands. For months, she had been working to recover her lost memories. Finally, with Dr. Gillen, she had recovered most of the missing pieces. She would go to hell before disbelieving the memories she had striven to recover.
"You're mistaken," she began shakily. "You're wrong!" Her eyes began to fill with tears. "It wasn't me!" she shouted, while her eyes grew wider still. "I wasn't the one who said, 'Okaeri.' What I said was, 'Tadaima'! I came back from the Red Rose Mansion! Johan, you were the one who listened to me talking! The one who was taken to the Red Rose mansion was me! I was dragged down the stairs in the Three Frogs… I stood in the midst of all those dead bodies… the thorn ripped my dress… it was all me!"
Johan, however, felt equally sure of his memories. "How do you know?" he asked his sister. "You can't know, because we were both dressed as you. Do you remember that much? I wore a wig of perfect golden hair, and I had little shoes, stockings, and a pink dress just like yours. Of course you think it was you who went to the mansion, but you have nothing to verify that. It could have been either of us."
"Yes, you were dressed as me," Nina admitted. "Although… I have no idea why."
"You really can't recall?" Johan's voice expressed mild surprise. "I don't suppose you remember our mother hardly at all, then. I took to dressing up as you because you were mother's favorite… and because the whole world is yours. I have said it before. I was born to bury you in flowers."
These statements would make little sense to Nina, the young man knew; but he wished to state them nonetheless. The twins' mother had indeed shown great favoritism, preferring Nina and shunning Johan. She was not permitted by her captors to name the children, but when she was alone, the mother called her daughter by the name "Anna." Johan was not given a name. The only thing he could do was copy his sister. When the Czechoslovakian Secret Police came to take one of the twins away, their mother tried to surrender Johan. However, at the time, both children were dressed as little girls, so she couldn't tell them apart. Now, even Johan was no longer sure which one of them ended up being sent to the Red Rose Mansion.
"What do you mean the world is mine?" demanded Nina. "You've said something like that before. When we were with the Liebert couple, we played that game with the acorns. Like with all those kinds of games, you made sure I won no matter what. You said the acorn was mine because everything was mine. What were you talking about?"
First Johan smiled, because he had successfully gotten Nina off topic. Then the smile lessened and almost disappeared, as he realized his sister would never believe the truth he wanted to state.
"I've never cared about anyone," he said simply, "besides myself and you. You are the perfect one, and I am the lesser copy. As the greater half of myself, you deserve nothing but perfection. That's why I killed all those scum who tried to be our parents. None of them were good enough for you."
"You can't fool me with those lies," Nina practically snarled. "You mentioned before that you 'came to pick me up' in Heidelberg, on our twentieth birthday. As I have said, you didn't come to get me. You came to kill me!"
"It's impossible for me to kill you," replied Johan, "because you are the masterpiece of humanity. I have never intended to harm you, though I have no qualms relieving you of unnecessary fixings like your attachment to the Fortner family. If you are dissatisfied with what I have done, you may kill me at any time. I told you to shoot me the night I got rid of the Lieberts. Ever since then, have I made any attempt to escape you? No; I have been waiting for you. For some reason, you failed to shoot me during the fire at Schuwold's library. I hope you will not hesitate this time."
Nina realized she had lowered the gun several inches. Her anxious body had relaxed as she argued with her charismatic brother. He had distracted her. Angry at herself for falling prey to the diversion, she aimed the gun once more. Ironically, while the killer Johan looked ever gentle, the as-yet-innocent Nina could scare the bravest of men with her ferocious expressions.
"Before you die," she said, "I want you to know you're wrong about what happened to you. You said either of us might have been taken to the mansion, but you're mistaken. I know I came home to you. I remember seeing you take off the wig when I got back to the Three Frogs. You were reading 'The Monster Without a Name.' When you saw how upset I was, you put the book down, took the wig off, and sat down by my side. You asked me to tell you everything."
"I'm inclined to believe you, Anna, but to be honest, it hardly matters. Let's assume you are correct. I was not dragged away to the torment at the mansion—not in actuality. Vicariously, however, I lived your experience. I lived it because you spent days telling me everything that happened. You are the only human in the world I can feel empathy for, because you're the other half of me. Because of that empathy, whether I went to the mansion or not, I have lived believing that I did. Those horrible experiences shaped the course I chose for my life."
"You're claiming you were traumatized?" Nina demanded, now very familiar with the topic from her therapy. "Ha! Don't try to make excuses for yourself. You're a psychopath and that's all there is to it!"
"Traumatized?" repeated Johan with a smile. "Excuses for myself? No, this time you are mistaken. I was not traumatized, but set on fire with purpose—I found my life's inspiration. After we ran away from the Three Frogs, I decided to kill everyone who might be in any way connected to the eugenics project and Franz Bonaparta. I practiced killing and inducing chaos at Kinderheim 511, and before I knew it, I found that it was life's greatest diversion. I have become the master of the sport since then. Killing is the only act that makes me feel alive."
"You won't be alive much longer." Nina decided to waste no more time.
"Before I die, I want you to know that you're wrong." Johan imitated Nina's words. "You're wrong to think you must kill yourself after you kill me. I would have you go on living, and accept the destiny of mankind's most perfect creation. I even ask it of you. Please… do not end your own life."
This surprised Nina, and despite herself, she looked searchingly at her brother's face. To her everlasting astonishment, the expression of sorrow had returned to him. Only someone who knew him as well as his twin could tell, but nevertheless, the beginnings of tears had welled up in Johan's perfect blue eyes. But then he smiled faintly, with his brow showing a crease of pain; he did not wish to cry. Such a thing would not fit him. Just now, he was using every skill he had to hide this emotion—this emotion he felt only for his twin, and for nobody else in the entire world.
"Please don't ask me to die in the knowledge that you will follow me," he said.
Empathy took its toll on Nina, who could feel emotion readily. Seeing her brother like this, and knowing she had set out to kill him, she teared up as well. Anger and sorrow, reluctance and desire fought within her. In truth, however, Nina was too soft-hearted and empathetic to ever kill anyone, let alone her own brother. She already knew, while the gun shook in her hands, that she would let Johan go again. Her weakness would let the killer run free once more.
"You bastard!" she screamed in fury.
Nina fired three shots in rapid succession. One above Johan's head, one just to his left, and one just to his right. It was all she could manage. Then she fell onto her knees, sobbing. Johan watched for a few minutes, his thoughts unreadable. Finally, as if hearing someone, the sociopath withdrew.
"That must be our friend Dr. Tenma that I heard," Johan thought as he left the charred building. "I'm sure he will bring Anna back to her senses. But that's the first time I've ever seen her cry since the Red Rose Mansion…"
Johan thought this over, as it troubled him greatly. Nina had cried in frustration and pain because she couldn't bring herself to kill her brother. She had talked about killing herself after she killed him. For the first time, Johan realized that although Nina strongly desired his death, she was incapable of ending his life. He could no longer count on her catching up to him and killing him. Tenma didn't seem like he had the guts to do it either.
"The responsibility falls to me, then," thought Johan. "I will ease Anna's pain and create the perfect suicide for myself. I'll create another massacre—the grandest one yet—with the climax of my own death. I will use a hostage to force someone to kill me. But if I go, I will take that man with me. I will utterly destroy the home and the life of Franz Bonaparta. He was the mastermind behind the experiment at the Red Rose Mansion. Since Anna suffered at his hands, there is no place for him in the world. I will destroy him."
While Johan thought about this, Nina continued sobbing on the floor of the old burned building. She no longer cried out of frustration. She cried because she realized that, regardless of what he said, Johan had indeed been traumatized by his vicarious experience. It had altered his mind and made him into a monster. Whose fault was that? Nina realized miserably that it was her fault for telling Johan about the mansion in such great detail. She had spent days talking about the terror of the sensory deprivation experiment and the trauma of seeing forty people around her suddenly die from poison.
"If only I had never said anything," Nina murmured, while tears coursed down her pale face. "If I hadn't tried to make him understand my experience, he might not have become a full blown murderer. I relied on him because he was my brother. I didn't think of what it would do to him. I've… I've done enough. I've had enough."
Nina pointed the gun at her own head, eyes wide, body trembling. Luckily, before she could go through with her impulsive decision, Tenma arrived. He was able to talk her into calming down and putting away the gun. He would stay and talk to her, and listen while she cried. Thanks to him, Nina would live.
Neither twin knew that the other was so close to suicide. Neither of them believed that each still cared for the other. Neither of them would have thought that empathy was possible between them. That was the irony of their dilemma. They could never stop feeling for each other. Even Johan, who could feel nothing towards other people, could feel great empathy for his sister. That was why he decided to create another end of the world, one in which he would die too, relieving his sister at last.
"I've never seen him look like that before," Nina told Tenma later. "He looked like he was crying."