A\N: Happy Singles Awareness day. This is a multi-chaptered fic which is a sequel to Years Spent Round the Foyer, in some ways. Q AQ don't hurt me I'll update the other fic, I swear. (videogame bias is obvious) + I don't know if Yuki Shiomi is still alive at the end of Shiki? Can we just pretend she is? Plz? + more bonus points if you get the song lyric chapter titles.

He couldn't see the rest of the hallway, so he chose the first door. He vaguely recalled choosing the same door once before; but he couldn't quite remember when. Or where.

It seemed to fade into the desert beyond. A barren wasteland entangled with charred limbs and severed appendages. Lovely.

He walked, and walked, and walked, until the bottoms of his feet were entirely scorched, and the robe covering his body was torn at the hem.

It had been days. But he was back where he had started from.

Back to the tree made with bloodied hands.

The other man was grinning, lips around a drinking bowl filled with sake. He had no plans of going to the city beyond the desert. Did he not want to ride the railroads looped around the infinite towers?

Or perhaps, he had already been there. Did he not like what he saw?

The silver hair, the olive-green eyes. They belonged to someone he knew.

But who was that someone?

The sake-mouth was on his own lips. It wasn't entirely unwelcome; though he did not know why. Before he knew it, the other man was somewhere else. Somewhere he shouldn't have been.

But the doctor had indulged him.

He squeezed his eyes shut.

When he'd opened them again, the man was nowhere to be found. Just a skeleton, in temple robes. It was grinning, giddy with the sake it had imbibed. A hand was entangled in his own.

Ring.

It was trying to whisper something, though he didn't know what. It had no voice.

Ring.

The emptiness will haunt you.

Ring.

He awoke in cold sweat; though he didn't know why. He had had these nights before. He was on the verge of remembering something—though he didn't quite know what that something was. He knew that it probably stemmed from the dissatisfaction he felt.

Shiomi was trying to pressure him into something again. Something regarding rings and children. Wasn't what they had enough?

In the intervening years, he had found himself turning to stone. He never quite loved Kyouko, of that, he was sure. Yuki Shiomi had showed up in her absence. And, because of who he was, he would not deny her.

The two of them had a shared history. He was truly sorry for the distress he had caused her, when they were in Sotoba. But that was all he'd felt for her. Pity.

Perhaps he had taken her up on the chance, that maybe, someday, there could be something more. He was far enough into the relationship to know that he simply wasn't capable of feeling anything for her.

It was a fault of his own. Sotoba had made him cold.

Ring. "To-chan, are you gonna get that?"

"Hm? Oh. Yeah. Sorry. Just go back to bed, Shiomi."

She giggled. "We're living together, and you're still so formal, To-chan." She had moved closer to him, and given him a kiss on the cheek. "That's what I love about you, though."

He sighed. "Yeah…"

"Kyouko would have wanted you to be happy, you know."

He honestly didn't care.

Ring.

He slid the phone off the sleek receiver. She had wanted the house to match. To feel modern. To move forward. So his insurance settlement was eaten up buying trivial things, to embellish a hollow apartment that faced an equally destitute area.

"…Ozaki speaking."

"Heeey. Toshiooooo. Sorry to interrupt you…"

He sighed into the phone. "I was sleeping. Don't have the energy for that stuff anymore."

"Shiomi must be mad at you, huh?"

"I guess." He had come to the realization long ago that there was something entirely unsatisfactory about the women he was with.

The voice on the other end was probably expecting something more. "Anyways, we've got something. It's really weird. This guy… Mutou, looks like he committed suicide, there's a note and everything, but…"

Mutou. He hadn't thought about the manager in a while. Was it an uncommon surname? He didn't care enough to know. Hadn't taken him for someone with a weak constitution either. But, he had killed his son, after all. That couldn't have been entirely pleasant.

"Is it an overdose?"

"That's the strange part. His family claims that he hung himself… But… It looks like he died from anemia." The phone crashed against the floor.

"To-chan… is everything okay?"

Anemia.

"…Yeah. Just gotta go to the hospital for a bit. Verify some autopsy reports." He pulled on a pair of pants. Autopsy? Yeah. Right. He wasn't even sure if they'd done that yet.

"Oh… Is that it? I thought maybe… Something bad happened."

"No… Just… The manager. He's dead."

"… Oh… To-chan, that's terrible!" He yielded to the urge to grab the cigarette pack on his nightstand; Shiomi hated it when he smoked.

He hated when she gave him ridiculous nicknames.

But he hadn't verbalized the dissent.

"… Yeah. I'll just go and…"

"Are you sure you're okay? Do you want me to drive?"

"I'm fine." He scooped up the cigarettes and shoved them into his pants' pocket. "I'll call you if anything happens."

"I knew that Kurosaki-san was old, but…"

"Yeah… It happens." He didn't bother to correct her. He foresaw himself explaining much more than he intended to.

She sat up on the side of the bed and gave him a quick hug. "Be sure to call me, okay?"

He nodded, though he did not intend to.

Anemia. He was trembling.

Anemia inevitably meant that a Shiki was nearby. That Shiki had hypnotized Mutou and forced him to commit suicide.

But what was a Shiki doing here?

There was a small flutter in his heart; some hope that it was Seishin. What was the other man doing, now? He hadn't seen a book come out in a while; though he wouldn't have known where to look for his books anyways.

Perhaps it was safe to assume that the priest was done with that.

He mused with the possibilities. Seishin committed gristly murders now. Yeah. Mutou was just one in a long line of Sotoba-related deaths. Each one was carefully accounted for in a journal that he kept. (It was secured around his hip, for relatively easy access.) And when he'd finished everybody off, he planned to write a novel about it.

And nobody would suspect anything.

He slammed his forehead against the steering wheel. It accidentally hit the horn, causing him to jerk back into his seat. What was he doing here?

He was sure he did not love Yuki Shiomi.

She listened to him. But that was all.

She demanded too much.

And he wasn't willing to give in.

So why did he wrap his arms around her body night after night?

He didn't know.

He sighed. The hospital was still bustling. That was the difference between the city, and Sotoba. The city was eternal. Sotoba was impermanent.

The receptionist waved him over. "Oh, Doctor Ozaki! They're in morgue"

"Thanks, Kashiwagi."

She smiled. "Hey, how is Yuki doing?"

"Fine. She keeps hinting at certain things, though."

"You'd better not upset her, doctor."

"I know. I'm just not ready… It's too soon."

She offered him a smile; eerily reminiscent of one he had seen before. Though he could not remember where. It looked uncharacteristically sad.

"Seishin?"

"Hm?"

"No. It's nothing."

She frowned. Apparently that had upset her. "You'd better go. They've been waiting for a little while."

He had dreaded going into the morgue.

The rows of cadavers stared back at him with empty eyes.

Were they from the desert too? What desert?

The men in coats had waved him over to the corpse.

It was pale.

The note was placed in his hand.

It was far too late for him to claim to want to be with his son. He had killed him. And they had all moved on.

"Did you know him, doc?"

"… A little. I didn't think that he would…"

The labcoat shook his head. "Yeah. I know. It's rough."

"You said something about anemia, though."

"Oh yeah. There were insect bites in several places on the body. That probably accounts for some of it… But…"

He froze. Insect bites. "But what?"

The other man frowned. "Insect bites usually don't lead to kidney failure."