"Young master!" a guard burst into Ketsueki's room, where the young neurologist-in-training was examining a brain scan for a test.
"Yes?" Ketsueki stood, worried. He had heard a commotion, but he had dismissed it as the clumsy maid making a mistake again.
"It's your sister... Bara..."
Ketsueki felt dread in his stomach. "I'm coming."
Ketsueki ran, following the guard up to the roof of the mansion.
And there she was.
Bara was standing on the edge of the roof. Her long hair in shocking disarray, and her right hand gripping a bloodstained knife.
The left sleeve of her shirt had been ripped off, and blood ran down her arm in such a copious amount that Ketsueki could barely make out the kanjis his younger sister had carved into her arm, so deeply that scarring was guaranteed.
But that didn't matter at the moment.
"Bara!" Ketsueki started forward, planning to get his sister away from the edge.
However, the moment he moved, Bara's legs bent and she launched herself into the air, over the edge of the building, into the river below that had swollen due to the rainy season.
"BARA!" Ketsueki yelled, looking over the edge.
But there was no trace. Bara was gone.
Kasai let out a gasp of pain as she was slammed into the wall, not bothering to try to support herself as she slid down. The sickening sound of her cracking bones echoed through the empty room.
Well, almost empty. Other than a few twisted metal bars and Kasai herself, there was a tall man with a katana, who advanced on her.
The man grabbed her by her neck, lifted her up and shoved her against the wall. His red eyes never left her face.
"If you beg for your life," he said, voice soft. "I might change my mind about killing you."
First Kasai was silent. But after a few moments quiet, mirthless laughter drifted from her. It hurt her chest, due to her broken ribs, but she stopped only to speak.
"Why would I beg for what I don't want?" she whispered weakly.
"What do you mean by that?" the man asked, voice still soft, but still obviously agitated by her lack of fear or arrogance.
"Exactly what it sounds like. If you kill me, I won't be able to thank you enough. Or at all."
The man didn't make any sound, just tightened his grip around her throat to show his frustration. Kasai didn't struggle.
And, finally, the man dropped her, leaving her to sink back down to the floor, gasping for breath.
"You are quite intriguing," he said, looking down at her form, crumpled on the floor. "Instead of begging for your life, or adamantly refusing to, you pretty much ask me to end it? You are very different from most of the people I have met in my life."
"Is that so?" Kasai whispered hoarsely. "If you're going to kill me, can you please do it soon? I think I'm going to die soon anyway from these wounds you gave me... but I'd prefer it to be quicker and less painful."
A short silence from the man, and then laughter.
"Yes, you are very interesting!" he said when he quieted his sudden outburst. "I don't think I'm going to kill you, though. Not yet, anyway. You really are very... amusing. Too amusing to end quite yet. In fact..." he knelt next to her, using a finger to lift her chin, causing her face to look up at him. "I think I'm going to do something about your wounds. It would be a shame if you died before I could get some more amusement out of you, wouldn't it?"
"Do whatever it is you want to quickly," Kasai slid her eyes away from the man. "I'm pretty sure I don't like you very much."
The man laughed again. "Speaking to the one who almost killed you like that? I can't tell whether you're brave, or just extremely stupid."
Kasai didn't make another comment, just kept staring off into a corner.
Or, at least, she did until the man started unbuttoning her shirt.
"Hey!" she jerked into a sitting position, gasping in pain but not letting herself go back down, smacking his hands away as her own free hand held her shirt closed.
"Relax, I just need to take care of the wounds on your waist and chest."
"I don't trust you."
"Good. You shouldn't."
Kasai glowered at him for a short moment before coughing up blood.
"Are you going to let me treat your wounds now?"
Kasai sighed and dropped her hands. "Whatever. Like I could stop you if you really wanted to."
"Smart girl." The man unbuttoned the rest of her shirt, completely revealing the blood and wounds that were hidden by the black fabric.
"Hm," the man carefully traced his fingers along the wounds, causing electric shots of pain. "These are worse than they should have been. I can guess why, though. You have such soft skin. In any other situation, this would actually be pretty exciting."
"You pervert. Get this done quickly. Your fingers are cold."
"Quite imperial for an injured girl." The man took out a roll of bandages and dressed her wounds. "This is about the extent of my medical knowledge." He stood. "If you want any other treatment, you'll have to do it on your own. And I suggest you get out of here soon. A lot of gangsters like to take walks here looking for weaklings."
"Tch," Kasai bared her teeth. "I don't care. Who are you, anyway? If a man sees me with my shirt unbuttoned like that, I prefer to know his name."
"Understandable," the man shrugged. "Most call me Shiki. You can call me that, too."
"I don't care if they call you Goldy Princess, what's you're real name?"
The man, Shiki, just chuckled and disappeared before Kasai could say anything more.
Kasai shook her head in exasperation, immediately regretting it at pain shot through her skull. She slowly forced herself to stand, leaning on the wall.
"I'm going to rip that jerk's throat out some day," she muttered to herself. She spat out blood and then limped her way to where she could trade some tags.
As usual, when she entered the building, everything went silent.
Eyes followed her as she went to the trading counter and slapped down a few tags.
"I need three rolls of bandages, two common antidotes, two packs of alcohol swabs, four water bottles, five packs of solids and one sharpening stone, pronto!" she said, swinging around so she was leaning on the counter.
"Y-yes ma'am!" the man at the counter fumbled around, gathering what she asked for.
"Thanks," she muttered, shoving the items into her bag before marching out.
"What happened to Nyumetsu?" she heard one of the Igra participants mutter.
"I don't know. I've never seen her injured before..." another whispered.
"It was probably Shiki! If anyone could injure her, he could, and if anyone could survive one of his attacks, it's her."
She silenced them with a glare.
Kasai approached the building where she currently lived in Igra, slamming the door open and going down to the basement, which apparently used to be a bar.
She plopped down on the couch that she used for a bed. Then one hand trailed up to push the left shoulder of her shirt down and trace the kanjis she had carved there... how many years ago? She didn't count. Why did she do it, anyway? Oh, right... temporary insanity...
Kasai's eyes flew open, sharp ember gazing into the almost pitch black. She gripped her knife, pulling her shirt to cover her shoulder again.
She sat up, eyes flicking back and forth, looking for what woke her up.
She didn't hear or see anything.
I'm just being skittish, she thought. It's pathetic. Why do I have to be such an idiot?
She lay back down, closing her eyes.
If I could just change, even a little...