AUTHOR'S NOTE: I was working on this last year and feel this chapter is finally good enough to publish. It centres mainly on Shuusei's relationship with Hotsuma and how it's affected by a new threat. The story is written as if you are watching an episode from the series. For Isuzu fans out there, sorry if you don't like the way he's represented. I just wanted to give him a bit of an edge that the series unfortunately doesn't.
Any thoughts, please let me know. I suffer often from Writer's Block so will try my best to update.
This is dedicated to Stargate27 / thelastunicorn.
+ The One Who Loved Ashley +
Indicating where Shuusei should stand, Isuzu observes the Zweilt's movements with clinical interest and focuses on the clipboard held firmly in front of him. The Eyes of God can see everything, even into the minds of people like doctors, so Isuzu keeps his disapproval a secret – including that hectic urge to tease every patient – and merely points to a chair not far from his desk. Reluctantly, the boy sits and waits for Isuzu to finish writing his notes. Without looking, the doctor can sense that his patient is anxious, unwilling to discuss what was read on the scales. He smiles and asks, 'No change, then?' ignoring, for the moment, any physical symptoms.
He refers solely to the Zweilt's psychological health, concerned with identifying the cause of his persistent thinness. To be a Zweilt, you have to meet certain requirements, like having a natural talent and also possessing the strongest of wills. While Isuzu may not be involved in selecting these future candidates, it is plain to him that this one must be flawed, since none should ever place self-destruction over duty.
He studies the angles of Shuusei's whittled frame and wonders how to broach such an awkward diagnosis. In previous lives, the Eyes of God had always struggled with eating disorders, vomiting from the stress of uncensored visions or denying food as a desperate form of control. Isuzu rubs at his jaw, scratching at the stubble, and twirls a ballpoint pen fluidly through his fingers. This is all in the archives at the main Giou residence, and the evidence is before him in plain flesh and bone, so why is it hard for Isuzu to say something?
As if to save Isuzu the hassle, Shuusei removes from his blazer a teal-coloured cell-phone and flips it open with a business-like air. A message from Takashiro, Isuzu assumes; there is always some query from the local police.
'Understood,' Shuusei eventually nods, ending the conversation. He replaces the cell-phone in the breast of his blazer and smiles a little in the doctor's direction. 'I have to be going now. Shall we talk about this later?'
Isuzu stands; there might not be a "later" and the both of them know this. 'Usui-kun, we're worried. Can't you see what you're doing here?'
Shuusei still smiles, though it flickers for a moment as he thinks of an answer. 'I'm fine, Dr. Isuzu,' he decides. 'Thank you, again, for seeing me.'
'Explain,' demands Hotsuma, as soon as Shuusei exits the office. He is leaning against the wall with two satchels at his feet, posture suggesting a bitter kind of patience. 'Well?' he continues, holding out the satchel belonging to Shuusei and trying to discern his partner's expression. 'You're always with that doctor when there's nothing even wrong with you. Damn it, are you sick? Or is it something that I've done?'
Dismissing the palm resting lightly on his forehead, Shuusei replies, 'You never pay attention,' and strides down the hallway to the mahogany staircase, which he gracefully descends two steps at a time. Only when Shuusei is clear of Twilight Mansion does he glance at the Voice of God trailing behind him. 'Don't be such a mother-hen,' he chides. 'Isuzu just wanted to talk.'
'Is it anything serious?'
'Then why won't you tell me?' Hotsuma glares.
They walk to school in silence, neither willing to argue, and join the stream of students along the main path.
For the second year running, the sakura blossoms are out early: a sign that the city will have a sweltering summer. As they near the school grounds, petals whirl across the streets, littering the roads with endless shores of pink and frosting the hair of rushing commuters.
Shuusei used to like this time of the year. He used to view the brevity of life as a beautiful thing, seeing the petals in the form of human lives as they danced through the air to their final place of rest. But the sight of all these petals now makes him unbearably sad. They force him think of the times that he nearly lost Hotsuma.
'You're having an affair with Isuzu, aren't you?'
Shuusei gives the Zweilt a quick thump. 'Don't be ridiculous,' he says.
They pause at the gate, staring towards the building where they spend their days apart. Crowning the school is a marble clock, gleaming in the sky like a vigilant moon: its face reads quarter-past seven.
'Shit, that's early!' cries Hotsuma, in reference to the time reflected on his watch. He jumps as Shuusei's hand glides up and settles on his hair, gentle as a feather. Hotsuma reddens, eyes darting, checking to see if someone has noticed. 'Shuusei, what are you–'
'Hopeless,' murmurs Shuusei, a petal between his fingertips; it flutters to the ground and joins the others scattered around them.
'H-hey! Where are you going?'
'To meet a new student. I'm giving him a tour.'
'Then what about me, you bastard! What am I supposed to do? It's not even eight!'
'You're the one who followed me. You figure it out.'
Shuusei strolls away to the sound of Hotsuma swearing. Hopeless, he thinks, with a melancholy smirk. Truly hopeless.
He enters the locker hall to change his shoes then heads for the principal's office. The school is calm, old in its stillness, and nothing like the atmosphere of Twilight Mansion. Within its walls is the only place where Shuusei feels distant from just about anyone who has yet to pass a lifetime. It has always been this way, since Takashiro cast the spell.
'Usui-kun, good morning! I was hoping to find you.'
Faintly, Shuusei smiles at the middle-aged man approaching him on the corridor and provides a shallow bow in response to the greeting. 'Sir, how are you? Is the new student here yet?'
'Yes,' the principal beams, swelling with a pride that Shuusei finds unusual. 'What a shame he had to transfer, but another school's loss is another one's gain.'
They proceed to an office where the door is already open. The principal enters first, followed by Shuusei, whose gaze disregards the opulent settings in favour of the boy standing next to the window.
'Yamada-kun,' says the principal, gesturing to Shuusei, 'your new classmate is here to show you around.'
The boy slowly turns from his view of the courtyard. His face is delicate, like a girl's, and framed by ebony hair too masculine for his features. Instead of smiling, he considers Shuusei with strangely guarded eyes.
'Yamada Toru,' he bows, 'pleased to make your acquaintance.'
Takashiro stares at the inspector sitting nervously opposite. 'What leads you to conclude this case is paranormal? Apart from suicide and the absence of notes, these victims seem to me like the type to end their lives.'
'So it may seem,' responds the inspector, reaching timidly across the paper-strewn table to point out the entries in each victim's journal. 'But their writing starts to sound more and more positive. These people… they were actually getting better, so why would they want to kill themselves? Why would they even go that far?'
Takashiro drops his stare and lingers on the photo of a leather-bound memoir, a jotter plastered with stickers, a diary concealed as a textbook. 'Inspector,' he says, 'did the victims keep a journal online?'
'No, the journals were written by hand. None of the victims had a journal on the internet.'
'In this day and age, would that strike you as eccentric?'
The inspector shrugs. 'People write things down; not everyone needs a computer.'
'I suppose not.'
'Do you think you could you help us? We don't know what else to do. Our investigation would have finished by now if they weren't all dying at seven…'
'How do you know that?'
'That they died at seven precisely.'
The inspector spreads another set of photos. Oily rail tracks, numbered body parts – none of them grab the interest of Takashiro until the toneless images captured by security: as the victims are struck, every clock on the platform displays an identical time.
'Seven,' Takashiro mutters.
'Exactly,' agrees the inspector. 'There are stations in Tokyo district known as suicide hotspots. Providing there's nothing suspicious, we close the case, issue the bill, and it's done. But this… we really don't know what to make of this. People jumping in front of trains the same time as somebody else, no problem, it happens, but when there's so many all over the city, like some kind of trend, then it's… I don't know.'
Takashiro returns the photos, fingers weaving, interlocking, as he rests them on the table. He can tell how much this means to the man. 'Show us the journals and our specialist will see them. We'll do everything we can to assist.'