【Episode 2 Part B: Real and Fake, Part 8】
I took three pocketknives from the pocket of my trousers and prepared to throw them towards the ceiling, where Shiki’s threads should have been planted.
Seeing my maneuver, Shiki lets out a small, still emotionless voice that might have been either a praise or a mockery of my current maneuver. And considering what came immediately after, it must have been the latter.
Without any excessive movements she raised her index finger and bent it.
Suddenly I’ve lost my footing and was dragged towards her feet first after my head slammed against the floor so hard that everything went dark for a second.
Deafening ringing filled my ears along with a wave of shock and stunning pain.
Although I felt something warm slowly dripping down the back of my head I had to force myself to stand up no matter the cost. Using my mands to support myself, I sprung back up on my feet while fighting the nauseating spinning in my head.
While I was still in the air I spun my body around and threw the knives again…
… and simultaneously performed an overhead kick!
Two of the knives pierced the ceiling as intended while the third one flew towards Shiki.
「I have to say that I’m impressed, Monjiro. Seems like you’ve really did your research in order to create a successful method of fighting me.」
The knife which was flying towards Shiki have been thrown exceptionally fast. Even when I was training with my mother as a kid, she always praised me for the way I handled knives and knife throwing. But even that was not enough, because Shiki used her enhanced senses to deflect the knife in midair with her threads. They wrapped themselves around it, completely stopping it, as if it was a fly caught in the spider’s web.
But that was also a faint on my side.
Shiki’s wires tightened their grip on the knife’s blade, but that was all within my expectations. With one precise jump I found myself right next to it, grabbed it and pressed the button at the side of the handle.
As an assassin, I was well educated about trick weapons, that is to say, armaments that look like one type of weapon while also hiding another form or function. The most popular form of a trick weapon in my profession was undoubtedly a gunblade, a knife with a small pistol, but the thing which I had in my hand right now was my personal favorite. When I pushed the button that was in the knife’s handle, a simple pressure-based mechanism made the blade fall apart, enabling me to retrieve the grip so I could use this knife’s second form…. A portable needle launcher!
From such a point-blank range, she was not able to defend herself in time, and the launched needle got stuck in her arm. Yes! Now I won’t be forced to kill her. She might be my enemy now, but since I can’t tell is it’s the real her or not I can’t allow myself to take unnecessary risks.
Using that brief instant of a respite, I tore off the threads that my legs were still entangled with. Meanwhile…
「Oh? Now that’s interesting. That needle was…」
But she was unable to finish her sentence because her entire body was shook by violent spasms and convulsions.
「I didn’t want to use it, but you forced me to, so you have no one to blame but yourself. It’s something that my mother liked to brew in her spare time, a paralysis poison made from purified shellfish venom, effective against pretty much everyone who was not exposed and immunized to it since early childhood.」
Mother used to call it 「A paralysis poison similar to those you often see in video games」, but at the same time, it was different from your typical paralyzing poison. Normally such poisons have a negative impact on the entire body, and even if the antidote is used on time the recovery takes a considerable amount of time. In some cases, a poor physical condition combined with the anaphylactic shock could result in unwanted death. Mother would always call them 「a half-assed child’s play」, so partially out of spite she created her own version of the paralysis poison, the one that did just what it was intended to do: numb the nervous system and make the victim unable to move for a set amount of time. I remember that when she succeeded for the first time, she was boasting that it could be used 「for a variety of purposes」.
And by the way, if you didn’t figure it out by yourselves, I was the test subject of each and every one of her failed attempts. As far as I know Shiki did not go through something similar in the past, so now she was laying on the ground all limp, as if she was a balloon that got all the air sucked out of it. Looks like the poison if working nicely and she has become totally paralyzed. Now that things calmed down, I sat on the ground next to her.
「I don’t know if you’re Shiki, 「Legendary Knight」 or whatever else, but I want you to know one thing. Shiki is one of my precious friends, so I used a paralyzing poison because I was worried about hurting her body in case she was being possessed by you. If I had absolute certainty that you are just an impostor taking on her appearance, I would have used something else entirely. Now let that thought sink in, you’ll have quite a lot of time to do so.」
Fujisato and Kuhoh told me that one of his abilities is transferring his wound onto whoever the 「Legendary Knight」 happens to impersonate, so hurting or killing him here could be potentially dangerous to Shiki. With that in mind, my aim was to paralyze her from the start. However, even if it wasn’t Shiki, I don’t think I would have aimed for the kill, not until I could confirm what the actual aim of the other party was. Even though I have been raised as a killer, I haven’t killed anyone yet, and I don’t intend to kill anyone in the future. That is why I thought about this poison-coated needle as my main tool for fighting potential enemies. If she knew about this my mother would no doubt get angry at me and call me an idiot, but nevertheless that is the choice that I have made and I intend to stick with it, whether she likes it or not.
With her movements now sealed she tried to say something, but it didn’t make much sense, as you’d expect from someone who just got paralyzed. I looked at her body from where I was sitting.
It’s Shiki no matter how you look at it. I wonder if there really is no way to tell if she’s the real deal or just an illusion of her appearance?
「A word of friendly advice here: don’t try to talk when the paralysis is in effect, you’ll only end up hurting yourself.」
I told that to her as I looked towards the classroom windows.
…Ah, so that’s what she meant by saying that the exit is here in this classroom.
Upon closer inspection, only one of the windows was totally dark, while the rest was covered by the snow from the raging blizzard outside. The dark one was the one by my own seat, the furthest one in the back next to said window. How very typical. If I go through it, then I should probably be able to leave at least this looping second floor.
Not having to worry about Shiki for the time being I approached the window and examined it. Putting my hand on the glass I could feel the steady flow of hot air. Oh, so maybe this is the exit from this sealed space as a whole?
Now that I know how to escape from here, I can finally go to where senpai should be. I won’t forgive anyone who tries to make her current personality disappear! Besides, something was telling me that if she were to return to her former self now, it wouldn’t be good for any of us. Isn’t there any way for her to both regain her former memories and retain who she is now? Even if I couldn’t do anything like that for her myself, I still want to believe that there is a way, no matter how small or improbable.
「…. Ji…. o….」
I heard a quiet, pained whisper behind me, so I turned back.
Looking at Shiki in such a conditioned pained me greatly, but the effect of the paralysis should wear off in about three hours. That means I will have more than enough time to help senpai and return here to get her once I’m done.
「I’m really sorry it had to come to this, Shiki. I’ll be going on ahead.」
And I placed my hand on the windowsill.
「You’ve let your guard down, Monjiro.」
Seemingly out of nowhere, countless threads wrapped themselves around my whole body, forcefully pulling me back into the classroom.
I can’t… move… hard to… breathe…
I don’t know how was she able to resist the poison, but at this rate I’m going to get dismembered for sure!
Why was she able to get up and continue her attack when she was injected with a poison that has no antidote that would work on it? Even if by some miracle she was able to resist it, her limbs shouldn’t be able to retain their full functionality as if nothing had happened!
And yet there she is, standing and moving around as if it was nothing!
「Silly Monjiro, there is no such thing as a perfect poison.」
Her cold words sounded muffled and distant, probably due to her thread biting into my neck, restricting the amount of oxygen getting to my brain. As I was writhing on the ground struggling to remain conscious, she walked up to me and looked down on me with her deep-blue and golden eyes.
「Im… po… sible… why…? How…?!」
「I’m afraid I don’t have the time to explain that to you, Monjiro.」
Shiki then raise her hand, and my head was lifted along with that movement.
「There is no need for you to remember anything that transpired here today, so I will erase your memories now. Farewell now, Monjiro… and thank you for everything you’ve done up until now.」
I don’t know why, but for some reason… Shiki was crying, and the tears that dripped down her face were making my cheeks wet as well.
And they were dripping from her golden eye. The sheer sight of it shocked me so much that for a moment I forgot to resist the threads which were still biting into my limbs.
Could this be… the real Shiki…?
When you are staring death right in the face, you can remember a surprising amount of things. Right now I am remembering that even before this whole mess started Aika was saying that she finds Shiki to be a suspicious girl who attracts nothing but trouble, so she was wary of her even before we learned about the 「Legendary Knight」.
As always, her intuition turned out to be correct, but I refused to believe it. Refused to believe that Shiki, the girl whom I chose to trust might have been our enemy this whole time.
Because if she really is our enemy, then I won’t be able to walk this path alongside her.
The thread around my neck finally digs into the deeper layer of the skin, making a fountain of blood gush out of my throat. At this rate, the blood loss I going to kill me.
「Even if…. you… enemy… I will… you…!」
With the last bits of my strength, I somehow reached my hand towards her. At least allow me… to wipe those tears… away!
I wanted to reassure her. To tell her that everything is going to be all right as long as we’ll have each other. I didn’t want her to give up! But she was now beyond my reach. My hand grasped nothing but dead, cold air.
Even more tears fell on my face.
「Farewell, Monjiro. Please, I beg you… don’t hate me for it!」
And then she raised her hand high and squeezed it into a fist, shattering my remaining senses into a million pieces like a broken mirror.
That is how my life came to an end once again.