The Caligula Effect: EPISODE Marie Mizuguchi ~The World Through Her Eyes~ — Scene 4

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01: Mobius (Marie Mizuguchi)


I found myself in the darkness.
(What is this…?)
I couldn’t move my body.
(You can’t be serious…!?)
I remembered my time trapped here when I could do nothing but spit curses at everything, and felt a shudder.
(No! I haven’t even done anything yet!)
I was told that I’d be free in this world.
(I can’t bite the dust in a place like this…)
I’d asked for only one thing, and that was for my body to let me do what I wanted.
(It’s always like this…)
I’d never have what other people could take for granted.
A proper family, and three proper meals a day.
Even after being adopted, I’d still only been given the bare minimum, I’d still been beaten up, I’d never been able to blend in with the others at school, and I’d gotten kicked out from the class cliques.
(It’s supposed to be my turn to beat and trample!)
How else was I supposed to even the score?
(Dammit!)
I’d finally gotten to be in a place that suited me, and it’d been taken away from me just as quickly. Yet again.
(What’s so wrong about enjoying yourself!? Why am I the only one who never gets to!? Never, ever, ever, ever!)

“Why — “
I woke up to my own voice.
“Ah…”
My voice had gotten caught in my own throat. After some time had passed, I opened my eyes.
“…I…”
As soon as I’d said that, I noticed someone right in front of me.
“…!”
The “President” of the Go-Home Club.
(Why the hell is he here?)
I immediately tried to pull my body away from him, but I couldn’t.
He was holding my left hand.
I raised my head in shock, and he muttered, “ah — ” and immediately let go.
(The hell was that?)
He hastily clutched his hand near his chest and shrank back a little.
But he said absolutely nothing.
(What’s going on? I was with Naruko in the classroom…and then we started talking in the hallway…)
I desperately racked my brains, but I couldn’t remember any details beyond that. Suddenly, I sensed him standing up next to me.
“Um…”
I’d finally managed to raise my upper body and say something.
(Fuck.)
I’d started talking to myself, even though I hadn’t fully figured out what was going on here.
But it was too late. He looked back over his shoulder and turned a little towards me.
“Um…have I imposed trouble on you?”
He quickly shook his head to say no. But he remained silent, and the conversation remained at a standstill.
(Wow, he’s pathetic at socializing.)
I kept grasping at ways to continue the conversation, but nothing came out. Feeling that I needed to hurry up and say something, I forced some words out.
“That’s a relief, then. But…um…”
A huge warning bell started ringing in the back of my head, telling me that I needed to shut up right now, but I was lost in the surrounding atmosphere and couldn’t stop.
“Did I…say anything strange while I was sleeping?”
After looking at me with a confused expression for a while, he shook his head.
(—He’s lying.)
The thought immediately popped up in my head.
(Seriously, what the hell was that pause?)
There was no doubt about it. He’d been holding back on saying something.
(It’s so damn obvious you’re lying…so what the hell was that!?)
But why would he lie about that? I couldn’t figure that out.
He remained silent as he turned his back on me again.
“Ah…”
He left the room, and it was only then I realized I was on a bed in the nurse’s office.
(Oh, that’s it. So I blacked out in the hallway…and now I’m here.)
I remembered him reaching towards me right when I was about to completely black out.
(So he was watching me because I was about to fall over.)
I found no injuries on my body, and there wasn’t any pain.
(So that means he…)
He’d probably noticed that I was about to fall over and caught me at that moment.
(And then he carried me here…)
I started feeling dizzy.
(Does that mean…this entire time…he’s been holding my hand…)
I quickly yanked my smartphone out of my pocket and opened WIRE. I’d gotten a message from Kensuke, but I ignored it.

“Morita-san, I apologize for what happened earlier.”

The moment I’d sent it to her, I immediately got a “you okay?” back in response.

“You just fell over out of nowhere, I was really shocked!!”

So I really had collapsed in the middle of the hallway.
(That means he…)
I was horrified to think I’d been so easily defenseless and exposed in front of him.

“Are you feeling better?”
“I had a little bit of rest. I apologize for making you worry about me.”

I’d only written that much when the door to the nurse’s office suddenly burst open.
“Oh, you really look better now!”
“Morita-san…”
“I got a message on WIRE saying that you were up and that I should come visit you here.”
“A message…was it from him?”
“Yeah. He said he didn’t know what to say to you, so he asked me to do it.”
Naruko giggled.
“You know, it’s funny, he looks all cold and stoic, but he’s actually just really shy.”
(What a filthy lie.)
According to Naruko and the other members of the Go-Home Club, he was supposed to be some kind of sociable boy, one who was a reassuring presence just by being there, despite the fact he didn’t talk much. Even the school festival executive committee considered him “a good person with a sense of responsibility, with his only fault being his low meeting attendance rate,” and despite the fact he never took on much work, for some bizarre reason, nobody ever disliked him.
And yet this supposedly capable person had left the nurse’s office with an awkward attitude, without saying a single thing.
(I definitely must have said something.)
I clearly remembered whispering “why?” while I was waking up in a daze.
(Perhaps he’s already figured out I’m a Musician!?)
If that were the case, Naruko was likely to be conspiring with him, and had come to say something to bait me.
But I had no way of confirming this with him directly. I didn’t know his WIRE ID, and I didn’t know where he lived. On the other hand, if I suddenly went up and approached him, I’d make him suspicious of me.
(If I’d only gotten in contact with him a bit earlier…)
After lingering on that thought, I shook my head.
(Thinking about it isn’t gonna get me anywhere.)
Even thinking about him set me on edge. I had no particular logical reason for it, but he was everything I hated.
“Huh? What’s wrong? You look kinda scary.”
“Huh?…Ah, it’s nothing.”
“You’re really not doing well, huh? Should I call in a teacher?”
“I really am fine.”
I could feel an unpleasant sweat forming on my back.
(I can’t believe even the four-eyed brat is suspicious of me now.)
The thought of digging myself into a grave by saying too much, like I’d done earlier, was overwhelming. I took a moment to think, said “Actually…”, and looked back at Naruko. “I was worried I might have said something strange to him while I was waking up, since I was half-asleep…”
“Something strange?”
“It seemed like he was acting awkwardly…”
“Really? He didn’t say anything about that.”
“I hope so, then.”
“Marie-chan, you’re worrying too much. If you’re that worried, you should talk to me more about it.”
“No, no…I shouldn’t.”
“Seriously, you should!”
There she was, so painfully straightforward, taking on things I never asked her to do.
(But I can make use of this.)
There was no need for me to take immediate action.
The first thing I had to do was observe how Naruko responded. If I took proper preventative measures, it wouldn’t be too late to salvage this situation.
“Then…can I ask you whenever I need something?”
“Of course!”
Naruko responded cheerfully, puffing out her chest.
As long as there was nothing going on in particular, that was enough, and if Naruko truly did suspect me, her attitude should have taken an abrupt swerve. Naruko wasn’t the kind of person who could pretend she didn’t know things she did, and she was terrible at keeping important secrets.
(Besides, if he knew that I’m a Musician, he wouldn’t have sent Naruko here by herself.)
I breathed a sigh in relief and nodded.
“Ah, oops. I’ve gotta go,” said Naruko, checking her smartphone.
“Ah…is it the Go-Home Club?”
“Yeah. Sorry! We were supposed to be meeting up.”
Naruko made exaggerated hand gestures and bowed her head.
“I should be the one to apologize for keeping you waiting. Please go ahead as soon as you can.”
“Got it, thanks!”
I watched her from behind as she ran out and took another deep breath. At the same time, I could feel chills within my body.
(What the fuck is up with him?)
He was unpleasant. It was as simple as that.

I left the nurse’s office, picked up my bags from the classroom, and went straight home.
“Welcome back, Marie-cha—”
Before she could finish, I slammed my bag into her and started beating her up. Her hand, which she’d apparently been using to prepare dinner, dropped the kitchen knife.
The knife fell into the ground at my feet.
As if to cater to me further and say “please stab me with this knife,” her head angled itself towards me.
“Don’t give me instructions like you know better…”
“Gh…M-Marie…”
“Shut up, you fucking hag!”
I flung the corner of my student bag at her, again and again. Every single time, she let out another shriek. Hearing her voice pierce into the air, I felt like I wanted to beat her up even harder. As she tried to escape on all fours, I grabbed her hair, trampled on her back, and kicked her up.
“You’re so goddamn obnoxious, I’m gonna fucking kill you!”
I knew this wasn’t enough to actually kill her, but the words rolled out of my mouth all too naturally. And then, I realized.
(I’m saying the same thing.)
I was saying the exact same thing my father, the same father I’d long forgotten the face of, had said.
“Fucking damn it…damn it, damn it, damn it, damn it, damn it, damn it, damn it!”
The frustration was boiling within my body, with nowhere to go.
(Why the fuck is this happening to me…)
My music, my plans, all of it was going well. Everyone around me was an idiot, and I had everything practically dancing in the palm of my hand.
So why was I so pissed off?
(It’s all his fault…)
Having gotten bored of seeing the woman’s waterfall of tears and snot, I threw my bag away and went back to my room, taking my uniform off in the hallway. I turned on my computer, wearing only my bra and underwear, and sat cross-legged on my chair, staring at the monitor.
(They should all die.)
I banged my hands on the keyboard, causing the melody on the screen to jump around irregularly.
(Each and every one of them should die.)
A cluster of random sounds, like garbage. Garbage was nothing but garbage, and wouldn’t make for a proper song. And yet I couldn’t stop.
(Die.)
I couldn’t exhale, I couldn’t even breathe. My entire ability to breathe had stopped.
(Die!)
I suddenly felt horribly dizzy.
I slumped downward on the chair and closed my eyes, losing consciousness as if I were falling.


02: From Memories in Apparent Dreams to Mobius (Marie Mizuguchi)


Once I’d transferred to this school, I’d also started to get serious about composing music.
Half a year had gone by, and my video’s view counts were going up and up. Every time I put out a new song, I’d make it to high positions in the rankings, and the positions I was reaching would get higher and higher.
The comments on my videos were cleanly split into those who were showering my work with praise and those who were heavily turned off by them. But even when people sent me insults and hate comments, my ranking only went even further up.
(Please, continue to curse at me all you want.)
The numbers didn’t lie. Those rankings were my strength and my overwhelming right to be here.
Those kinds of people may be aggressive, but they also couldn’t bear to leave me alone, and it only meant they had to validate their own superiority by trashing on others.

—See, I’m a good person.
—At least I’m better than this trash.
The only way they could have any kind of self-awareness was by comparing themselves with others. The only way they could get any kind of fulfillment was to make sure that they had someone else under them. In the end, even if they had to go out of their way to trample on others, they wanted to claim that they were the ones on top.
On the other hand, there were also those who were more viscerally turned off by my music. But if they hated it, that only meant they’d properly understood the true essence of the song.
Envy and jealousy — and the pleasure of betrayal.
“…Ah?”
My smartphone vibrated. I’d gotten a message on WIRE.

“you awake?”

It was Takahiro Suou.
Ever since we’d swapped WIRE IDs, I’d been getting a ton of messages from him.
(Annoying.)
But it wasn’t a bad feeling.
(This would be the easiest way to backstab that bitch.)
How would she react when she lost both her best friend and her boyfriend at once?

(She’d fall completely into despair and start really wanting to die.)
The sheer thought of it made me excited.
But in order to make good use of him, I’d need to have him fall completely into my hands. It was important to cultivate conversation even if it didn’t lead to anything in particular — the effect of repeated exposure, with regular contact increasing intimacy and improving his impression of me.
I opened the app and sent a response.

“I’m awake”
“what are you doing right now?”

The reply came back immediately.

“I’m just hanging out on the Internet and listening to music”

It was best to try keeping it simple and telling as much truth as I could spare. If I lied, I ran the risk of my alibi contradicting itself later.

“what kind of music?”
“Just whatever seems to be popular right now”

I was checking up on what had made the rankings, so it wasn’t actually a lie.

“huh, thought you’d be more into classical stuff”
“Really? Why?”
“just seemed like that kind of person”

“Aha!”
It was such a relief to know that I’d completely fooled him.
“That’s what he thinks, right? I’m the quiet type who loves studying and reading and listening to classical music?”
Like some kind of old-timey cartoonish love interest girl.
“What kind of fantasy world do you live in?”
But whenever you have that kind of character in a story, she usually would lose to the cheerful and bright love interest option, the ordinary airhead girl.
“…Bleh.”
I wanted to curse at him, but I held back and sent my response.

“I like pop and rock”

I needed to make a note of what I’d said to him, so I listed off some reasonably popular, trashy songs. Every so often, he’d reply “I like that one too.”
(It’s all just cheap mass-produced stuff with lyrics stuck on stale, repetitive melodies.)
Or maybe he was just trying to flatter me?
Whenever girls talked with each other, it was normal to answer everything a girl said with empathy and agreement, and to hold your tongue even if you didn’t like the other person. It was effectively a signal saying “I’m not here to fight with you.”
But when a boy did this with a girl…?
(Is he actually answering honestly, or…is he trying to flatter me?)
Either way, he didn’t seem to be hostile.
(…Hostile?)
I burst out laughing. He had no reason to be hostile towards me. And yet this was my first time exchanging messages with someone for no particular reason or purpose, nor benefit nor gain, so I couldn’t help but be wary.
(Is this how he always kills time? He sure must have too much of it.)
If he had so much time he could afford to throw it all down the drain, I might as well use it to my advantage as much as possible.

“but I can’t listen to music at night though because my parents get mad at the noise”

A response had suddenly popped up on the screen.
“How thin are his walls, then?”
I was halfway through writing “do you not wear earphones?” when another message balloon saying “I don’t wear earphones because they’re uncomfortable” appeared.

“what about you?”
“I can’t say anything about what goes on at home, but I use headphones”

My grandparents wouldn’t complain about the noise no matter how loud it got, but the old geezer cared so much about what the world thought of him that “disturbing the neighbors” would be enough to get to him.
(I’m serious. I’m not done making use of them yet.)
I’d considered renting out an apartment and living by myself before. But even if I managed to avoid living together with them, I’d still have the “underage” status tacked on me for several more years1, so until I became a legal adult, it was more advantageous for me to make use of the dunces.

“you said you didn’t have a mom or a dad, right”

The topic suddenly shifted there.
(…What the fuck, why’s he bringing this up all of a sudden?)
I hadn’t remembered telling him about my family circumstances in detail before. I was thinking about how to respond when he sent me another message right after that.

“Sakura told me about it earlier”

Come to think of it, I vaguely remembered them talking to each other in the classroom right after I’d transferred into the school.
(So it was that conversation.)
“We’re a couple, so we should be able to talk about anything!” — That was exactly the kind of drivel I could imagine that bitch saying.
(This is why I try not to talk about things until I have to.)
I had no idea how far this had spread by now.
(Well, even if it’s common knowledge now, it’s not like it hurts all that much if people know what my family background is like.)
If people knew I didn’t have any parents, they’d even be likely to be more sympathetic towards me, and I could use that to my advantage.

“sorry”
“No, it’s fine”
“just thought you seemed kinda lonely sometimes”

“Huh…?”
The sound left my mouth before I’d even realized it.

“felt like you might be having a hard time at home”

“The fuck is this guy on?”
He’d responded so quickly that I had a hard time responding.

“sorry that sounded weird huh”
“It’s fine”

I couldn’t give a clear response because I had no idea what he was trying to do.
(Why today of all days? What are you trying to do?)
In fact, it was more of a bother to have time to think it through. It’d have been better if we were meeting in person, so I could laugh it off and manipulate the situation.

“no I’m really sorry”

But this was a good opportunity to make this intimate. It’d be a waste to cut it all off for the night here.

“Thanks for worrying about me”

I needed to be as cute as possible for him.
I needed to sound bright and energetic.
I needed to make him think “you’re the only one I’m like this with.”

“I don’t have a mom and dad, but I have my grandparents”
“oh I see. do you get along with them?”
“My grandfather is a bit strict sometimes”
“does he get mad at you?”
“Mainly with things like behavior and studies. I was pretty scared of him when I was little. I didn’t get to buy the cute things everyone else had”
“how little were you?”
“Something like the lower grades of elementary school. He hit me a lot”

The replies suddenly stopped for a while.
(…Did I overdo it?)
I’d tried to nudge things carefully so that I wouldn’t have to lie too much, but maybe I’d messed it up?
Come to think of it, even though I’d visited classmates’ houses several times, I’d yet to encounter one where I’d seen anyone getting beaten up.
(If I were to be
really honest about it, I’d talk about the fact he knocked me out, you know? Or that my face was swollen after being beaten up, or that he’d kick me enough that I’d completely black out.)
I knew I was considered the lowest of the low. Thanks to that, I still didn’t understand what was supposed to be the norm.

“that’s really scary…”

A very short reply.

“my parents get really mad at me sometimes but they’ve never hit me”

So that really was the case for the average person.

“He still tells me to study harder, but he hasn’t hit me recently”
“that’s good”

I could sense the relief coming out of the brevity of the message, and I let out a laugh.

“actually I don’t think I’ve seen my grandpa much in a while”
“Does he live far away?”
“way out in the boonies”

We started talking about his family. Once a year, his entire family would make trips to the countryside. They’d bring along souvenirs. All of the relatives would get together to eat at the same table, and it would be considered a special occasion where they’d all be allowed to stay up late.
Even from his short messages, I could sense the brightness of his family.
How carefully he’d been raised and protected.
(What a difference.)
We were born in the same year and raised in around the same area, and yet it was hard to believe we were even from the same world.

“sorry I made this all about myself huh”
“I’m having fun. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten to hear this kind of stuff very often from friends”
“really?”
“Things kept going on at home, so I had to transfer schools a lot. I’d usually end up losing contact with people before we’d be close enough friends to talk about this kind of thing”
“oh I see”

As I was making my excuses, I briefly went over our chat log.
It was strange how I wasn’t all that frustrated about this.
(The dolls and the cake and the ring pissed me off so much, and yet…)
Maybe it was because I didn’t sense him being arrogant about any of it.
The letters on the screen were just a bunch of symbols, so how was I able to figure out what impression I should get from it?
(…I don’t think I had to think very hard during this conversation.)
I don’t think anyone had taught me how to do that kind of thing.
I’d been able to get through right to him with words, without needing to plan much of it out.

“why don’t you come over to my place sometime?”

The subject had changed again.
I was about to write something, but quickly withdrew my hand.
(What’s this supposed to mean…?)
If it were another girl inviting me over to her house, there would be no doubt that she was just doing it to brag.
(But what the hell is this?)
How was I supposed to respond?

“Is it okay if I do?”

After fumbling around for a bit, I wrote that much. And then I got the response.

“you should come”

The reply came quickly, as if he’d been waiting for me to say something, and then three more message balloons appeared in rapid succession.

“thanks for staying up and talking to me”
“it was fun”
“goodnight”

I watched the screen for a while, and realized I was holding my breath. I choked a little and took a deep breath.
“…The hell was that?”
This wasn’t a bad way for things to go. Probably. Maybe.
After scrolling through the chat log and reading the whole thing from top to bottom twice, the corners of my mouth went up.
“Holy shit, he’s a dunce.”
He’d gotten in contact with me under the pretense of asking me about his girlfriend, but now he wasn’t even pretending anymore.
“I just want to talk.” But it was hard to believe that was the only reason he’d sent those messages.
“You could at least try to keep up the pretense…”
I choked a laugh back into my throat and looked at the sticker2 with “goodnight” written on it —

“…!”
The noise from my vibrating phone jolted me up with a start.
I blinked a few times and realized I’d been sleeping the whole time.
“…Another dream?”
It looked like I’d fallen asleep while leaning on the chair.
It hurt to even move, and my back had gotten stiff. Everything felt frozen, and I was sweating a bit.
I shook my hair out of my face and picked up my phone.
According to the clock, it was already deep into the night, and I’d gotten a notification on WIRE.
“Naruko?”
What did she want from me this late at night?
I opened the app and was immediately greeted with “Are you okay to talk right now?” She’d only just sent it.

“I apologize for missing your message. Do you need something?”

I was waiting for her to send back a reply, but Naruko suddenly called me. I’d been certain she’d have wanted to talk through chat message instead. Somewhat annoyed, I hit the “answer call” button.
“…Hello?”
“Sorry for calling you this late.”
Her voice was downcast.
“Is something the matter?”
“Yeah…kinda,” she said, followed by a long pause.
(Did something happen today?)
After coming to visit me earlier, Naruko had left the nurse’s office to go join the Go-Home Club meeting, and said she’d tell me if he had anything in particular to say.
(I need to tread carefully here.)
I had no idea what they’d talked about, but it’d be a total loss if, after all the time and effort I’d spent manipulating Naruko, she ended up suspecting me after all.
“Um…did he perhaps say anything about something that happened at the nurse’s office?”
“Huh? No, no…nothing like that,” she said, in surprise. “Right, I promised I’d ask for you…Sorry about that, I forgot. Ahaha. Really, I’m sorry.”
“No…that’s actually a relief for me.” Based on her tone, she didn’t seem to be lying, but I stayed on guard just in case. “I was just hoping I hadn’t said something rude that would make you start hating me…”
“N-No, of course not!” said Naruko, flustered. “I don’t think there’s a single thing you could say that would make me hate you!”
It really didn’t seem like she was lying after all.
(I should probably push a little harder.)
She was being a bit hesitant about it, but there was clearly something she wanted to talk about. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have gone out of her way to call me this late at night. If it weren’t that important, she could just bring it up to me in the classroom tomorrow.
“Is something wrong?”
“…”
She fell silent again.
“Is it something to do with the Go-Home Club?”
No response. Seems like I’d hit it right on the mark.
(She’d probably been with them this whole time ever since she’d left me at the nurse’s office.)
You’d think she’d bring her problems to the Go-Home Club first anytime she had something sensitive she needed.
“Is it something you can’t tell the others in the Go-Home Club?”
“…Ah, you’re really sharp. Oh, but we’re not fighting or anything, you know. It’s just, uh…well, I can’t tell them about this.”
“I won’t tell anyone.” I desperately held back what I actually wanted to say, and continued. “I don’t know how much I’ll be able to help, but I can hear you out.”
“Yeah. Okay. Thanks.”
Every word she said was heavy.
Normally, she’d be in high spirits and saying all sorts of playful things, and going by how she’d acted earlier that day, she should have been even a little embarrassed.
(Something definitely happened.)
Something so big of a deal that she wasn’t acting as usual.
“If I don’t have anyone to talk about this, I just get more and more scared thinking about it by myself…”
“Thinking about what?”
“…”
Even more silence.
(Get the hell on with it already.)
I started thinking about how to pry it out of her, until she finally added “I just wish we could just keep doing what we’re doing.”
(She said something like this earlier today, didn’t she?)

—I have a lot of fun spending every day with the Go-Home Club, and in the classroom…
—I keep thinking, I wish I could do this forever…

“Sorry, I said something weird. You probably don’t have any idea what I just said,” she said, awkwardly laughing as if trying to shrug it off.
(So that means she doesn’t actually want to leave Mobius, right?)
But the other members of the Go-Home Club were constantly going on about returning to reality.
(And that’s why she can’t tell them about this…?)
It made sense.
(What on earth happened today?)
The fact she couldn’t be clear about it meant it probably had to do with the Go-Home Club. Perhaps they’d gotten in a fight with a Musician.
But this would be far from the first time they’d gotten in one, and yet this was the first time Naruko was clearly so nervous about all of this.
“Did you try consulting with the President?”
“Huh…?”
“He seems to be a very reliable person, and I doubt he would tell anyone about it, but I’m sure he could give you advice.”
“Ah…well, about that…” said Naruko, in an increasingly softer tone. “I actually got in touch with him trying to do exactly that, but…I couldn’t get myself to say anything in the end.”
“…I see.”
“You’re really sharp, Marie-chan.”
“No, no, it was just a guess,” I said, trying to feign humility while I felt a bit of sweat crawling up my back.
(She’ll get suspicious if I poke too hard into this.)
I looked quickly at my computer screen, but I hadn’t been contacted by Thorn through email or the videoconferencing software.
But in all honesty, I’d have a hard time pressing for more details if I wanted to keep pretending I didn’t know anything.
(Well, then.)
Naruko trusted me enough to contact me about her own personal troubles.
This meant it was finally time to get my plans going.
(…Yeah.)
The other Musicians were all too unreliable, and I didn’t get the feeling Thorn was going to go out of her way to get in touch with me anytime soon.
(Naruko is anxious and her judgment is clouded, so this is my best chance to crush the Go-Home Club.)
I was done with trying to work with the other Musicians, and there was no need for me to hold back anymore.
“Um…well, Morita-san…I also have something I’d like to talk with you about. I haven’t been able to say this for quite a long time…but I’m very afraid.”
“Huh? You’re scared of something? What’s going on?”
“But…if I say what it is, I worry that you might hate me.”
“I told you, there’s no way I would!” said Naruko, raising her voice. “There’s nothing you could say that would make me hate you!”
“But…”
“I’m serious!”
“…What if…”
I deliberately paused, and then continued.
“What if I told you I’m an Ostinato Musician?”
I could hear her suddenly clamming up and choking on her breath on the other side of the receiver.
(I just broke Naruko.)
She couldn’t tell the Go-Home Club how she felt, and she could only rely on me. Now was the chance. I couldn’t give her room to make more sensible judgment.
“Um…y’know, I’m guessing this is just hypothetically speaking, but that’s really kind of a huge thing to say…”
“I’m an Ostinato Musician.”
I said it one more time to be as clear as possible, and I could hear her breathing “no way…” on the other end.
“Y-You’ve gotta be kidding me…”
“It’s the truth.”
“B-But…That doesn’t make sense! Kensuke-kun used to be a Musician, but he didn’t tell us anything about this…”
“Hibiki-kun doesn’t know anything about me.”
“Even though he’s also a Musician?”
“Hibiki-kun isn’t the only one who doesn’t know. I haven’t revealed my identity to anyone.”
“You haven’t…”
“The only ones who know are μ, who was the first to invite me to be one of her Musicians in Mobius, and…you’re the only one I’ve ever told this to.”
I said it slowly, as if fumbling over my words.
Slowly, so that even a complete idiot like her could understand.
“M-Me?”
“Yes. I can’t tell anyone about it…and you’re the one in my class I know best.”
“Uh…b-but, you’re always the one who has yourself together all the time, and the most reliable person in class…”
“But I don’t have any friends who would call me at night like this, nor friends I could count on for important advice.”
“B-But…why is it okay for you to tell a classmate about this, but not any of the other Musicians? Shouldn’t they be on your side?”
“I can’t trust any of them,” I said, clearly.
(All right, now we’re pulling out all the stops.)
I continued in a steady voice.
“I’ve always thought that we, as the Musicians, shouldn’t be doing any of this. Why must we turn so many students into Digiheads and drain power from them?…We haven’t been told why, not even once.”
“Really?”
“Yes. Only that it’s ‘necessary to maintain Mobius’. And either way, why do we have to keep forcing students to become Digiheads?…But I can’t do anything to stop this, because a very strong Musician won’t allow me to.”
“You mean…Thorn?”
I was a little taken aback. I didn’t expect her to bring out that name.
“Morita-san, how do you know about Thorn?”
“She and μ appeared in front of us, and…” Naruto’s voice was shaky. “Shadow Knife…is dead.”
“Dead? What happened?”
“We fought him, and then he fell off a building…”
Her tension caught up with her, and she couldn’t put anything into words after that.
(You idiot. That’s all it was?)
Personally, all I cared about was that Mobius was safe, and if we lost a Musician or two in the process, so be it.
(But what the hell is Thorn thinking?)
I figured she was just a useless person who relied on others to do the dirty work for her, flattering μ all the time, and treating the other Musicians as chess pieces. But we had one person turned traitor, two people dropped out, and now even Shadow Knife was dead, and yet she hadn’t contacted me at all about this.
(She’s definitely up to something.)
Not that I’d had much faith in her to begin with, but I didn’t like her sneaking around in the background like that.
“We really can’t do anything to stop them after all…” said Naruko, her voice clearly full of tears.
She probably hadn’t expected the Go-Home Club to cause anyone’s death.
(Dumbass.)
She shouldn’t have assumed that everyone could make it out alive so easily in the first place. She’d never had any reason to.
“My goodness…Please calm down for a moment. It’s not your fault, nor that of anyone else in the club. Please don’t blame yourself.”
“But…”
“If you were to put it that way, I should also hold responsibility for doing nothing as a Musician. I allowed Thorn to take charge over me because she was so beyond my reach…”
Even μ, who should have the most influence on Mobius, was completely subservient to Thorn.
“Hey, Marie-chan…what should I do…what if…everyone dies like Shadow Knife did…” said Naruko, her voice still trembling.
(Ah, I see. So she’s upset because she’s realized her friends could die just as easily.)
In that case, there was only one thing to say.
“Well, I understand there’s a possibility that could happen…Thorn has now taken control of everything, and has obtained a great amount of power. If she knew about what I was doing now, then even I…”
“N-No, we can’t let that happen! I don’t want you to die, Marie-chan!”
(There it is.)
I took another breath, and continued.
“Morita-san, can we stop using the phone and speak about this in person next time?”
“Huh?…N-Next time?” said Naruko, confused.
“I believe it would be dangerous for us to continue speaking on the phone. Thorn may be listening in on our call. After all, she has μ on her side.”
“R-Right…Now that you bring it up, you’re probably right.”
She had no reason to believe it, and yet she’d completely fallen for it.
“So that means we shouldn’t use WIRE or Gossiper, right…?”
“Yes. And if she’s been listening in on the conversation we’re having right now…I don’t think she would let me off so easily. She may end up moving to purge me.”
“No…”
“But I would at least like to tell you what I know.”
“But then, why are you telling me this now? You know this is dangerous.”
“I was happy that you got in touch with me, and told me things you couldn’t tell anyone else…so I don’t want to hide anything from you anymore.”
“Marie-chan…”
“I don’t want to cause you any more trouble, so please, at least hear me out.”
“Y-Yeah. Got it!”
“Thank you.”
We arranged a meetup at school, and I hung up. I stood up from the chair and went to check the full-length mirror.
I was standing there in my underwear with a huge grin on my face, and suddenly burst out laughing involuntarily.
(That dumbass fell hook, line, and sinker.)
It was a perfectly-timed confession. Naruko had completely believed every bit of it.
(I should put on my uniform. I have to be a proper model student, after all.)
I was about to meet up with Naruko and hear her spill everything about the Go-Home Club.
Truly, Naruko was painfully careless. All I had to say was “I have no safe place to hide” and she’d recklessly bring me right to them.
(Once I know where the club room is, I can snag all of them at once.)
Once they’d all gotten together, I’d be able to do anything I wanted to them. I’d probably have a lot of fun getting them to all be suspicious of each other.
(I’ll crush them all today.)
I’d intended to savor toying with them for a bit longer, but I had to do what I had to do. Timing was the most important part of pulling these kinds of things off.
Plus, if I took them all out as quickly as possible, whatever I’d said in the nurse’s office wouldn’t matter anymore.
I didn’t even want to think about what I might have said then.
(I’m gonna make him into a Digihead, no matter what.)


03: The Interval Space of Darkness (Go-Home Club President and μ)


“Gyah!”
I could hear μ’s high-pitched voice, and I was suddenly pulled back into the space full of pitch-black darkness
“T-That scared me…I got kicked out like something hit me with a brick…”
She’d completely fallen on her back. She sighed deeply and looked back at me.
“Are you okay?”
I was probably about as okay as a vaguely floating consciousness could be, but I couldn’t exactly confirm how I was doing.
“I don’t mean that, I mean…”

—I’m gonna make him into a Digihead.

Those final words she’d said with absolute determination — her determination with full murderous intent — had been real.
“You’re pretty calm about this, all things considered…”
She was undoubtedly horrified by the intensity of cruelty pointed at me. But there was no point in panicking so much now. It was something that couldn’t be changed, and it was something from the past, not now.
After Marie had collapsed, I’d told Naruko, Kensuke, and Aria to join Shogo and the others in the club room, and carried her to the nurse’s office myself. I’d intended to lay her down on the bed there as quickly as possible and head back to the club room.
But the moment I’d tried to turn my back on her, she started clutching my shirt tightly. Her grip was so tense and her hand in so much obvious pain that I put my hand on hers.
She didn’t breathe a single word in her sleep.
When she’d asked me about it, I couldn’t give her an immediate response, but it wasn’t because I was lying. I was just embarrassed at having held her hand like that.
But to be honest, even if I’d told her that, I don’t think she would have believed me.
Because she was the kind of person who lied through her smiles, she doubted every other smile anyone gave her. She approached others with the intention of deceiving them, so she couldn’t escape the fear that she was being deceived.
She had no concept of exposing anything truthful. She had no choice but to lie like she breathed.
What if I’d managed to have a proper conversation with her, she wouldn’t have been able to fool all of us so easily.
What if I’d kept holding her hand?
What if I’d spent time with her like I had everyone else in the Go-Home What, and gotten a bit closer to her?
What if I’d gotten to know her that much better?
What if —
It was too late for all of these “what if”s, and yet a flood of them was going through my head. But I shook my head on the spot.
There was no way I could have done something to counter her entire past just with a single hour of time with her.
So then when, at what moment, would have been the right time to meet her and put her mind at ease? What was it that she needed?
“Hey, can I ask you something?” said μ, breaking the silence. “Um…what did Wicked say to you in the nurse’s office?”
μ was leaning forward, not even bothering to hide how curious she was.
“You didn’t answer Wicked when she asked, but there was definitely a bit of a weird atmosphere there, wasn’t there? So…”
I looked back at μ in shock.
Up until this point, everything I’d been thinking had been exposed to μ without restraint, but something had changed for some reason.
“Huh? So that means you said something and I didn’t hear? Why?”
Realizing what I’d been getting at, μ tilted her head.
“Huh, I don’t get why…that’s weird.”
μ had probably worn herself out a bit by bringing us so far back in time and following Marie’s train of thought so much.
“Huh…I wonder…”
The events of what had happened in Mobius were about to come to a close.
After that, Marie — the Musician, Wicked — had called Naruko up to the school and captured her, then trapped the Go-Home Club in our room and tried to turn us on each other.
“I see…Huh? But then, wait, something’s weird about this.”
μ tilted her head again. “You couldn’t get back to reality because you were worried about Wicked, right? And now you do understand the reason for the most part, right? So why are you still here on this journey to her past?”
Come to think of it, she was right. I had a fairly clear answer as to how she’d managed to fool the Go-Home Club.
Marie had been Wicked from the very beginning, and she’d constantly been approaching the Go-Home Club with malice. She was hostile towards me because of the misunderstandings between us. She’d taken Shadow Knife’s death as an opportunity to exploit Naruko and destroy the Go-Home Club earlier than she’d initially planned.
I should have achieved my purpose for still being here.
And yet I was still trapped in this world of darkness. In fact, it didn’t seem like anything had changed about my condition at all.
“I’d thought you’d have no problem going back to reality if you had a convincing answer…wait, so that means we really are trapped here!?” said μ, flustered. “What are we gonna do?! Did I use up too much power bringing us here…?”
I looked around again.
In the middle of the darkness, there was still a red path — the past leading us to the future. It seemed like there was still more for us to follow.
There was only one thing left for us to do.
We had to continue moving forward, and see where her path lead. Our answer should lie beyond there.
“…Yeah. We won’t get anywhere if we panic about it now. And we still haven’t figured out why Wicked wanted to stay in Mobius so badly.”
That red path would eventually disappear, and we in the Go-Home Club would be responsible for bringing Mobius to its end. There would be no more of of a future for that past to lead into.
“Yeah. Let’s go as far as we can and see everything we can together.”
We nodded at each other and kept going.


04: Memories in Apparent Dreams (Marie Mizuguchi)


“…Another absence?”
Our homeroom teacher sighed deeply.
“Would anyone here happen to know what’s going on?”
No response. There was an uncomfortable silence hanging in the air.
“Well, whatever…”
She’d remained stoic through all of the ostracization and mockery, but she’d suddenly stopped coming to school for a few days.
(Has her heart completely broken?)
She wouldn’t even respond to me on WIRE.
I wanted to see her isolated or driven into a corner or falling into despair, so this was turning out to be very boring.
“Excuse me, can I ask a question?”
Once homeroom had ended, I caught my homeroom teacher on the way to the staff room.
“Would you happen to know why Sakura’s been absent for so long?”
“I’ve called her family, but there’s no answer.”
A concerned sigh. It seemed like both of her parents were often busy with work and would sometimes leave home for a few days on a business trip abroad.
“But whenever they go somewhere, they’d usually inform the school about this, and her relatives would usually come down to watch over her. I can’t imagine she’d be alone right now…”
“That’s very worrying.”
“Would you have any idea, Mizuguchi?”
“No, not at all…”
Yet another sigh and a shaken head.
(How incompetent.)
My teacher hadn’t even noticed in the slightest how different the classroom atmosphere had gotten.
(Even the boys in the class have already noticed.)

It’d been almost a week since she’d suddenly vanished without notice. How could they have not done a single thing in response? It’d be a horribly dull outcome if she’d ended up getting involved in something just because there weren’t any adults watching her.
(I can’t let that happen.)
I needed to make sure she was safe. I’d done everything right so far, and yet it was all about to go down the drain.
“Um, is there something I can do?”
Hearing me say this, the teacher broke out into an awfully cheerful smile.
“Why don’t you get in touch with her and ask about how she’s doing? She may have an easier time telling a friend about it than if I asked her as her teacher.”
“All right.”

I returned to the classroom, pulled out my phone, and opened WIRE. I still hadn’t gotten any message from her.
I needed to lure her out somehow.
I needed to give her a good of an impression of me as possible. The more she trusted me, the greater her despair would be when I backstabbed her.

“Hey, are you okay? I haven’t seen you at school lately, I’m really worried.”

After sending the message, I flipped to the web browser and started checking video sites.
(I’m doing good.)
The new song I’d uploaded the day prior was already making its way up the rankings.
“Hey, Mizuguchi-san, what are you looking at?”
A classmate was trying to look over at what I had in my palm.
“…Just checking my messages.”
I casually closed the app and put my phone back in my uniform pocket.
“My grandmother asked me to pick something up on my way home.”
“Oh, she knows how to text you?”
“Yeah, she’s usually alone during the day. I was worried about her, so I taught her how to text.”
“Oh, there you are. Marie-chan!” Another classmate started heading my way. “Did you do the math homework?”
“Yeah, I did.”
“You did? Thank goodness!”
I hadn’t even said I’d show it to them yet, but anyone who’d been listening in started crowding around my desk.
“Let me see it too!”
“I did a bit of it, but I couldn’t get half of it.”
“I know, right? It’s way too hard.”
“I’m so glad Marie-chan is here to do it for us.”
I laughed a little lightly, going “okay, okay,” and took out my notebook.

—If you do that, that won’t actually help them.

The memory suddenly ran back through my head.
(So what?)
It wasn’t my fault they were all idiots who refused to think for themselves.
(If she really fell apart from only that much, that’d be such a disappointment.)
There was no point in trying to crush people who were small fry anyway. I’d targeted her specifically because I’d thought she’d at least have some teeth to bite back with.
(If I don’t get to actually toy with her, it wouldn’t be worth all the time and effort I put into this.)
We were halfway into lunch break when my phone suddenly vibrated. I went to the bathroom and locked myself in a stall for privacy, just in case anyone caught sight of the screen, and opened the app.

“Sorry for making you worry”

A single message had popped up on the screen, a single sentence from Sakura. I waited a bit to see if there was anything else, but that was it. I had to be the one to respond.

“Thanks for getting back to me. Did you catch a cold?”
“No, it’s not that”
“Are you having a hard time coming to school?”

I got straight to the point, and the replies suddenly stopped.
(She’s a total mental wreck.)
I didn’t want to force it too quickly at a time like this, so I had no choice but to keep staring at the screen.
Yep, her heart had completely shattered.
She wasn’t coming back to school. I’d been hoping to use more of her interpersonal relationships for this, but at this point I had to change plans.
I was biting my nails in irritation and was about to leave the bathroom stall when I finally got another message.

“Can we meet up after school?”

(Seriously, this is why we all think you’re such a pushy bitch.)
Being all stuck-up about this, pretending she was this and that, constantly trying to get sympathy from others.
(Sure, I’ll play along with you this time.)
I’d give her a bit of cushy comfort and quietly report back to my teacher, and both of them would see me in a good light. I had nothing to lose here.

“Sure. Where should we meet?”
“I’d like to pick you up at the station, but we’d probably run into someone else, so can you come to my place instead?”

Her home address came right after that. I checked the map and saw that it was a straight road from the station, not even a long distance.

“I think I can find it fine, but I’ll let you know if I get lost”
“Okay. Sorry for dumping this on you all of a sudden”
“Don’t worry about it”
“Thanks. See you then”

Right when we were finishing up our overly stilted conversation, the end-of-break bell rang at the perfect moment.
(…I don’t know if I could believe it, but is she actually worried about me?)
Sakura had warned me not to go against our classmates, and was convinced that I was on her side. She knew that lunch was about to end at around this time, and had deliberately scheduled this at a time I’d be alone so our other classmates wouldn’t be suspicious of me.
(Wow, she’s surprisingly clever.)

She wasn’t coming to school every day, yet she still kept acting like she cared about others. The only way to explain it was that she must have been drunk off the high of convincing herself “I’m a good and admirable person no matter what bad things happen to me.”
(Disgusting.)
Within this class, for better or worse, this bitch was the only one who made me taste bile this much.
(All right. What to do now?)
I returned to the classroom, suppressing my urge to bounce up and down on my way back.

After finishing my afternoon classes and my cleaning duties3, I headed out from school.
I sent a message on WIRE saying “I’m leaving school now.” I immediately got a response, but I ignored it and let it pass. She was the one who’d said she wanted to meet, not me, so I had the right to make her wait for a bit.
(Really, you should be the one thanking me for going out of my way.)
I got off the train a few stations before my usual one and headed up a steep slope until I reached a residential area with houses in large plots of land. There were many large and tidy houses in a row, all unique, and very much unlike ready-built homes that would be more uniform.
The address I’d been sent led me to the top of the slope.
(…Why is this house so damn big?)
There was no doubt about it. This was the one.
“Marie.”
As soon as I’d gotten to the gate, the entrance opened and Sakura emerged.
“Thanks for coming over. Here, come in.”
“…Okay. Thanks.”
I followed her invitation and entered the house.

“Sorry, I must have surprised you. I knew you were on your way here, so I was hovering over the window.”
She laughed a little while handing me indoor slippers.
(Huh, I was expecting her to be more of a complete wreck.)
I was used to her constantly looking down with her uniform tied neatly, so she somehow seemed unusually cheerful, laughing in her casual clothes.
(She’s so strong-willed, it pisses me off.)
She led me into a living room. It seemed to be a three-story house, with a receded ceiling. The high ceilings, white walls, and huge windows made the house feel open and bright. It already looked big enough from the outside, but it looked even bigger from here.
“Oh! Is your friend here?”
I heard a voice coming from someone walking in from the back.
“Oh, Mom. This is Marie.”
“Hello, welcome. Thank you for always treating my daughter so well.”
“…Thank you for having me.”
I bowed, but confusion was running through my head.
(I thought her parents were supposed to be busy and away from the house?)
But there was no doubt about it; she’d called her “Mom”.
“We’re gonna hang out and talk in my room.”

Her mother, a refined-looking middle-aged woman wearing an apron, replied with “please, take your time.”
“Marie, this way.”
The white wall of the living room had a staircase leading up the side.
“You have a really nice house.”
“Thanks. It gets really cold in winter, though. The ceiling’s so high that there’s never enough heat.”
We went up to the third floor and went through a U-shaped corridor, until we reached a white door.
“Go ahead.”
Sakura’s room was neat and tidy.

A spacious room with large windows. Curtains with earth-toned colors. White-toned furniture — a huge bed, drawer chests, bookshelves. Lighting fixtures with unique shapes and a colorful sofa for one person. Her computer was on an L-shaped desk, which had more than enough space for studying even if she completely opened all of her notebooks and textbooks.
It was completely different from the bleakness of my own room, which, other than my music-making equipment, only had the minimum necessary.
“Go ahead and have a seat on the sofa.”
I sat on the sofa as she indicated, and the fluffy seat sank a little under me.
“It’s not what it looks like. Everything in this room’s stuff my mom likes. Like the furniture and the curtains…”
“It’s a very cute room.”
“I don’t personally think it’s that cute…”
Sakura sat on the bed, with an awkward smile on her face.
“Y’know, Mom always gets mad at me whenever I put up idol posters. Have I not told you about that before?”
She shook her head and started talking about idols.
(The hell?)

I’d come all the way here so I could comfort a girl who was ditching school. I wasn’t interested in hearing her brag about her house or talk about idols.
Or maybe she was just trying to relieve her own sadness by calling a classmate into her territory, just because she had nobody to blame but herself?
(Don’t just use me into your dumping ground for your sadness because you’re turning into a shut-in.)
If she was going to be like this, I was never going to be satisfied until I dragged her back to school somehow.
“Well, anyway…um, I brought this.”
I took my notebook out of my bag and handed it to her.
“These are my notes I took while you were out. Use them if you need them.”
“…Thanks.”
She was slightly taken aback, before looking a little downcast, and took the notebook from me.
“I made you worry a lot, didn’t I?…I’m sorry.”
“No, don’t be. I should be sorry, I can’t help you at all with what’s going on in class.”
“That’s not your fault.”
Sakura looked at me directly.
“I’m just glad you weren’t dragged into all of it.”
“Yeah…Thanks.”
Lately, I’d gotten good at stifling my urge to break out into laughter during conversations like these.
“I wasn’t intending to skip school at first, but then it just kinda turned out this way…I kept thinking about so many things, and then I couldn’t stop…”
“It’s fine if you have to take a break once in a while.”
“But…”
“When you’re tired, you should rest, and you can come back to school when you feel better. I’ll be waiting.”
At a time like this, it was better to lightly pull her forward rather than desperately try to persuade her. And, sure enough, the idiot in front of me said “Marie…” with the voice of someone who’d just been deeply touched.
“I’ll try to get the others to lighten up in the meantime.”
“If you do that, they’ll start ostracizing you, too.”

The tip of her nose was getting redder and redder by the second, and her voice was getting more and more shaken up.
“It’s fine, don’t worry about it. I just really want you to come back to school as soon as possible.”
“Yeah. Thanks…Let me get something to drink, wait here.”
She sniffled a little and left the room quickly.
(Her face was all messed up!)
I listened for her footsteps to make sure she was far away enough, and choked back a giggle at the back of my throat.
(Oh, this is so funny! She has absolutely no idea she’s being fooled.)
How could she just trust someone so wholeheartedly without any basis?
I leaned back on the sofa and looked up at the ceiling.
Pure white wallpaper and a pure white ceiling. It was like a hospital. Someone like this, who’d been cultivated in this kind of sanitized space without a single stain, would become this kind of human being.
(Truly, completely incomprehensible to me.)
I was casually lost in thought when my smartphone suddenly vibrated. I’d gotten a message on WIRE.

“are you doing something right now?”

— It was Suou.
(Aha! You moron, guess who’s at your girlfriend’s house right now!)
I was thinking about to answer when another message suddenly popped up on the screen.

“I wanna talk about something, can we meet”

(This is hilarious!)
He had no idea. Of all times, he was leaving a perfect breadcrumb trail for me.
(Don’t make me laugh, this isn’t the place for anyone to hear me laughing.)
It was so funny that I was having a hard time enduring it any longer. I had to hurry up and reply before she got back, saw my face, and got suspicious.

“Sorry, I made plans to go out with my grandparents today”

I wrote a good enough excuse and sent it back, and the reply came almost immediately.

“oh. sorry, I guess that was a bit too sudden”
“No, I’m sorry. Is it something urgent?”
“it’s ok we can talk about it later”

Short, casually written messages, and then silence.
(What was he planning to tell me?)
If it were just a normal conversation, he could easily use WIRE for that.
Something so important that he wanted to meet in person and tell me directly —
(Was he planning to finally confess his love to me?)
“Sorry for making you wait.”
The door suddenly opened.
“I was trying to get us a drink, but we didn’t have anything good.”
“…No, it’s fine,” I said, putting my phone back in my pocket. “I’m not all that thirsty anyway.”
“I want a drink…Hey, why don’t we go outside for a walk?”
“Sure, I don’t mind.”
“Okay! We’ll go to the convenience store and get drinks.”
Her voice was bright, but her eyes were slightly wet and red.
(You’re in so much pain that you’re crying, and yet your boyfriend wants to see me instead?)
Such a refreshing feeling in my chest.
This was why I was willing to hear out this dumbass for today, after all. So I got up —


05: Mobius (Marie Mizuguchi)


” — !”
I woke up with a start.
I was in the nurse’s office, all by myself. Light was coming in from outside the window. I’d stopped to take a light nap, and it’d been dark then.
(How long was I out?)
I quickly checked the clock on the wall. It was around six o’clock in the morning, around the same time I’d usually get up.
I had my reputation as a model student to maintain, and even when I went out of my way to sleep in, I’d wake up regardless of whether I wanted to or not. My head was heavy from all of the lack of sleep.
(I hate this.)
I shook my head, stood up, and washed my face at the sink in the nurse’s office.
I looked at the mirror in front of me and saw a woman with an awful expression on her face. Her braid had fallen apart in her sleep, the top two buttons of her blouse had gotten unbuttoned, and a bit of her chest was exposed. Her tie seemed to have completely fallen off her neck, and was nowhere to be seen.
(Looks pathetic.)
This was my true essence — that of Wicked.
(But it’s completely different from that of Marie Mizuguchi.)
I wiped my wet face with a towel, retied my hair, rebuttoning my blouse and putting my tie — which I found curled up on the bed — back on. I put on eye makeup and light-colored lip gloss, just enough to not look too gaudy, and appraised my work.
My inner essence hadn’t changed at all, and yet it took only this much to become “Marie Mizuguchi”.
(A cheap surface identity.)
I left the nurse’s office and walked down the empty corridor, heading towards the gymnasium that was only a short distance from the school building.
Standing in front of the warehouse, I drew my leg as far back as I could and kicked the locked door.
“Don’t tell me you still managed to sleep like a baby, you little four-eyed brat?”
I heard Naruko’s faint, thin voice yelling “Marie-chan!” from the inside. “Please…Let me out…”
“As if I’d let you out, you dumbass.”
“Why are you doing this…what happened!?”
I could hear the sound of banging on the door from the inside.
“Are the Ostinato Musicians making you do this…?”
“Ahahahahaha! Have you seriously convinced yourself of that?”
“Marie-chan…”
“Can you stop using my name like that? You’re grossing me out.”
Hearing me throw this back at her, Naruko swallowed what she was obviously about to say next, and fell silent.
“Guess I gotta explain it so that even an idiot like you would get it. I tricked you into telling me where the Go-Home Club’s meeting room was. I did this. Me, the Ostinato Musician, Wicked.”
I’d called Naruko to school in the middle of the night, given some words of comfort to Naruko as she sat there paralyzed by Shadow Knife’s death, and when I’d ask her “please tell me where the club meeting room is,” she hadn’t even hesitated to respond.
“Wait, what? You’re actually Wicked…!?”
“You’re surprised about this now of all times? I told you I was a Musician when we talked on the phone earlier, didn’t I?”
“B-But…I mean…”
“All of it was true. I don’t trust the other Musicians, and only μ knows my real identity. None of that was a lie. Of course I wouldn’t lie to you like that. We’re friends, right?”
“…!”
“Or did you seriously forget what I told you after only a single night? My condolences to you for being such a complete dumbass.”
I could tell she was frozen in shock on the other side of the door.
“…You’re horrible.”
“Oh, now you’ve figured that out? Hah, I seriously pity you. Ahahahahahaha!”
“Open the door…Let me out of here!”
Her screams, the sound of her banging on the door, and my own cackling — a triple ensemble of dissonant sounds.
“Please…let me out!”
“Dumbasses like you should take some more time to think it through. You sold out the Go-Home Club, so thanks to you, they get to be killed by a Musician, turned into Digiheads, and made into the greatest toys I’ve ever had to play with!”
“Stop!”
“Oh, don’t worry, I’ll absolutely be sure to let them know you betrayed them. I’m such a generous person, you know?”
“Stop it…stop!”
“Hmmm? I expected you to say ‘my friends would never doubt me!” or something like that…?”
“I…”
“No confidence at all, huh? Well, you’re a repeat offender, after all. Naruko-chan, the infamous bitch for gossip.”
“…”
I’d hit the nail on the head so hard that Naruko went completely silent.
“Well, then, what should I do now? I knew where to find the club meeting room thanks to you, and I started off by keeping everyone trapped in there…If they don’t get any food and water, I think they’d last maybe three days at most before their spirits get completely crushed, don’t you think? Oh, here’s an idea. If I tell them there’s another traitor besides just Naruko, they’ll all start pointing at each other and split into pieces.”
“Why are you doing all of this…?”
“Why? Because it’s fun, of course! You idiot.”
Naruko’s despair was filling me with so much anticipation.
This was the true “me”.
“Ah, man…this is too funny, it’s so funny it hurts. You’re probably thinking you want to kill me now, right?”
“I trusted you!”
A single sentence hanging in the air.
“Haaaah?”
“I thought you were my friend, Marie-chan…I trusted you!”

—Why?
—You’re one of my best friends. But

“Fuck off.”
The words had escaped my mouth.
“You’re the one who made the mistake, so why are you the one playing victim? Try reflecting on yourself for once instead of blaming everyone else. It’s your carelessness that dragged everyone else into this. Well, I’ll admit I was the one who set it all up, though.”
“D…Do you hate me!?”
“Well, let me put it this way: why would anyone like you?”
“I…”
“You’re reckless and impulsive, you eat gossip for dinner, you can’t even keep a single secret no matter how important it is to everyone else. Why should anyone like someone like that? Wouldn’t you agree?”
I paused for a bit, but Naruko gave no response.
“Hm? I wonder if you’re crying like a baby back there? I’d like to enjoy your crying face as I trample on you, but I can’t open the door right now. I’ll have to keep you here as my finishing touch on destroying the Go-Home Club.”
“Please, stop this…!” Naruko’s voice was caught in her throat. “They’re all my friends…I finally got to be real friends with them! So please…!”
“Oh, don’t worry, Naruko, I’ll be sure to let you see when I make your friends into your slaves, all thanks to you. That’s my little friend benefit for you.”
“Marie-chan…!”
“Thanks for being my friend. See ya.”
I turned my back on the door and left the gymnasium.
While I’d been busy, all signs of the night had completely vanished, and the day was full of fresh morning sunshine. This was the only day I could feel so amazingly refreshed by the light of the sun despite all of my lack of sleep.
“Man, that feels great!”
I’d been putting up with Naruko’s obnoxiousness for so long, all for this day. And now, that was finally at an end.
I couldn’t stop laughing at the thought of Naruko sobbing at me, begging me to stop. Truly, I could feel the warmth of the sunlight.
“Why would I stop and miss out on something like this?”
The only regret I had was that this had all been a slight bit earlier than I’d initially planned.

—Why?
—You’re one of my best friends. But
—I trusted you.
—I trusted you, and yet…!

(They always do this, every single time.)
Nobody ever took any real facts into account, even when they were obviously apparent in front of them. Idiots like them only ever saw things in ways that were most convenient for them. They weren’t actually interested in the truth.

Kotono came to my classroom after school.
“Oh, Kashiwaba-san.”
“Hello, Marie-san,” she said amiably, looking around the classroom. “Do you know where Naruko-chan is?”
“I haven’t seen her today. I don’t think she actually came to school.”
Kotono frowned and tilted her head.
“That’s strange. We all promised to meet up today.”
All of the Go-Home Club members would be in the same room.
(I’ve been waiting for this.)
It was the perfect time to snag them all in one net.
“I messaged her on WIRE, but she hasn’t responded. She hasn’t posted anything to Gossiper, either.”
Of course she wouldn’t be able to, because I’d confiscated her smartphone and was keeping it in my bag.
“Do you have any idea where she might be, Marie-san?”
“No, not in particular…Morita-san hasn’t actually come to the classroom for several days lately. Even when she did come, she’d usually be looking at her phone using Gossiper, so I didn’t have much of an opportunity to speak with her…Ah, come to think of it…”
Hearing me say this as if I’d just come upon an idea, Kotono looked directly at me.
“The other day, I heard her say something about ‘finishing touches’. She seemed to be quite happy about it, and was in contact with all sorts of people.”
“‘Finishing touches’? I wonder what that’s supposed to mean?”
“I didn’t ask any further because I’d thought it must be about the school festival…But I checked the executive committee documents, and Morita-san never submitted a proposal. That was quite a surprise for me…I’d been thinking that I should ask her about it during the next time I had an opportunity to.”
“‘Finishing touches’…Hmm…”
Kotono had a vague expression on her face, and seemed to be frowning.
(It was a bald-faced lie, and yet she doesn’t doubt it in the slightest.)
I’d been on my guard because I’d figured she wouldn’t be nearly as spineless, but she’d completely gone along with it.
(Is she seriously that worried about her? What, because they’re friends?)
She was supposed to be more of a discerning person, but her eyes were completely clouded by friendship and love and confusing words that encouraged her to trust others.
(Another idiot! Well, that’s convenient for me.)
In order to finish up this last part, I had to make sure she had the right role for this show.
“Perhaps she found something she was interested in and went off to arrange an interview. This is Morita-san we’re talking about, after all.”
I laughed lightly, as if to cheer Kotono up a bit. She nodded, obviously trying to force the worry off your face.
“…Yes, you may be right. That would be very much like her.”
“If I run into her, I’ll let her know that you and her other friends were worried about her.”
“Thank you, that would help us a lot…Ah, over here!” yelled Kotono, waving towards the corridor.
He was on his way here.
“Naruko-chan doesn’t seem to be in the classroom.”
Other than a single “oh, okay,” he remained silent.
“Are you all looking for her together?”
“We weren’t necessarily intending to, but…it did turn out a bit that way.” Kotono quickly looked at him and back. “He told us yesterday that Naruko-chan seemed to be acting a little strange.”
Come to think of it, she’d said that she’d gotten in touch with him the night before, but couldn’t bring herself to say anything in the end.
(And then she turned to me right after that, so she really is a complete idiot. She should have at least gone crying to someone in the Go-Home Club about it first.)
The excitement was gathering up at the base of my throat, and my spine was tingling.
“He’s got very good perception for these kinds of things, so it makes me worried, too.”
“…I see.”
“But please don’t tell her we came here to look for her. I know it doesn’t seem that way at first, but Naruko-chan can be quite a sensitive person sometimes. In any case, see you later, Marie-san.”
The two of them headed to the other side of the corridor and disappeared.
They were headed to the Go-Home Club room.
(No doubt about it.)
I had to hold myself back while I watched them go off.
(I’ll make you all into my toys.)
The Go-Home Club had nine members, and I’d have all of them to play with, the way I wanted to.
μ was an absolute figure in Mobius, and the Ostinato Musicians under her therefore had absolute power.
(Hey, μ. You were right. This is truly paradise.)
I hurried into the bathroom stall, took out my smartphone, launched the browser, and forced it to connect into the conference line through the pre-prepared server.
“Can you hear me, Thorn?”
As I led with that line right off the bat, I got my response in a quiet voice. “What are you planning on doing? I believe I told you to use our designated software to connect to this line.”
“I have no reason to follow every single one of your orders.”
“They’re not my orders, I simply wish to fulfill μ’s ideals to wherever they may lead — “
“I’ve got them all snagged in the Go-Home Club room. I’ll be taking care of them.”
“All right,” she responded, very casually. “Good. I will leave them in your hands. When you’re finished, bring them to me so I can re-brainwash them into Digiheads.”
“You’re always so condescending…I’m seriously about to throw up.”
After getting my insult in, I continued.
“Anyway, I didn’t call you to get your permission.”
“Wicked…we’re very grateful to you. That’s why we’re giving you as much freedom as you wish.”
“…Cut the patronizing crap. Okay, I’m hanging up.”
“Please just do only one thing for me…Hand me Shogo Satake. Or else…”
I hung up before Thorn could finish.
What did she mean by “or else”? It was unusual for Thorn to suddenly get so emotional. I probably should have heard what she was about to say.
(Once I’m done with the Go-Home Club members, you’re next.)
We’d see who’s the one with real power in Mobius. If I wanted to prove that, I had to completely crush the Go-Home Club to bits.
And while I was at it, I’d take Shogo Satake’s corpse and show it to Thorn, since she was so obsessed with him, just to see how she’d react.
(I’ll do it right this time, for sure.)

—I trusted you.

I suddenly heard a familiar voice.
My legs suddenly froze up, but there was nobody else in the stall.
“…Shut up.”
I shook my head.
I had to do it right this time. For sure.
I hijacked the broadcasting room server, injected the song I’d prepared for this day so that it’d play throughout the school, and left the bathroom stall.
I’d already made preparations in the Go-Home Club room the night before. All I had to do was put the plan into action.
They’d all gather in there, the door would lock, and my new song would play throughout the school and induce everyone to become Digiheads.
Then, I’d send a WIRE message to the Go-Home Club members while they were trapped, pretending to be Naruko and falsely claiming she was a Musician who’d betrayed them.
And in all of the resulting confusion and suspicion, “Marie Mizuguchi” would rush there and hint that Naruko really had betrayed them.
(It’s perfect.)
Because Marie Mizuguchi had helped them before, they would trust her and accept her offer of help.
People see whatever they want to see, and believe whatever they want to believe.
(I’ll do it right this time, for sure.)
My new song began to play through the school speakers.
This was my masterpiece song.
The one I’d made out of respect for my greatest prey.
“Cosmo Dancer”.


06: From Mobius to Memories in Apparent Dreams (Marie Mizuguchi)


“I’m getting hungry…”
The wiretap I’d set up in the room was working well, and I could hear the exhaustion coming from the voices of the Go-Home Club members.
I was having the time of my life, sitting there in my room with my feet casually on the desk, leaning on the chair, and hearing them bicker and whine and curse.
It had been two days since I’d trapped the Go-Home Club there, and they’d already passed in no time flat.
“Dammit! Why do we always gotta go through this shit!”
As I’d expected, they were falling apart under hunger and exhaustion, to the point of throwing a fit.
(I just have to push them a little further.)
I took out Naruko’s phone, opened WIRE, and sent the Go-Home Club some messages.

“You guys are still alive? You all have the persistence of annoying little insects. Enjoying the life of confinement that much?”
“By the way, have you guys noticed? There’s one more traitor amongst you.”

The noises from the wiretap broke out into a ruckus.
“Who! Who’s on Turtle’s side!?”
“It’s probably her way of trying to turn us against one another.”
“Don’t accuse someone when you don’t have any proof.”
“I bet it’s you!”
“Please do not irritate me any further when I am in this state.”
“What’d you say!?”
It took almost no time for them to break out into a fight.
“Ahaha!”
I burst into laughter and started clapping.
“What’s wrong with you all? Weren’t you all supposed to be friends or something?”
They were drowning in Wicked’s songs, cultivating suspicion between each other, and dependent on Marie Mizuguchi to help them, without any idea of when she’d return.
“Like a whole pack of dumbasses!”
The plan had gone off without a hitch since the very first moment.
The number of Digiheads had drastically increased thanks to my song, and the Go-Home Club was permeated with suspicion.
I just had to let it sit until it all ended the way I liked. It was going so well that I was almost a little disappointed.
(I just have to wait. Just one more day.)
Knowing I had it all in the bag, I lay on my bed. Since I’d lost so much sleep preparing all of this, I realized I’d been sleeping all the time lately.
(All that’s left are the finishing touches.)
It didn’t take long for me to drift off, especially with the soothing sounds of the shrieks from the Go-Home Club, all pouring from the speakers.

We left the mansion and went down to the station with a different route than the one I’d used to get there.
“Sorry, we have to go all the way to the bottom to get to the convenience store,” said Sakura, in a bright tone of voice. She walked ahead of me, leading me down a road on the slope and cutting through a very nicely-kept park. It seemed like the kind of shortcut the local neighborhood residents would use.
“Was it too much of a hassle to get to my house? There’s so many slopes.”
“It’s fine. It was fun to see how many different kinds of houses there were.”
“Huh, really? But y’know, once I leave this house, I’ve decided not to live in a place with any slopes around it.”
“…You’re leaving the house?”
“Not right now, of course. I mean eventually.”
“Eventually…”
“Maybe when I get into a university, or when I get a job…or when I get married. Well, I have no idea right now,” she said, laughing again.
(Okay, but what about right now?)
Everyone at school had backstabbed her so badly that she couldn’t even show up anymore.
(The fuck do you mean by “eventually”?)
She didn’t even have any idea where she was now, so how the hell was she able to think about her future?
(University, employment…marriage?)
Overconfidence. She was oh-so-recklessly confident that people would still love her in the future.
She was confident in the idea that she’d eventually get to find happiness.
“What about you, Marie?”
“…Huh?”
“Do you know what you want to do once you’ve graduated from high school?”
“No…no idea.”
“Are you sure? You’re really smart, so I figured you’d be going to uni.”
Well, sure, that kind of educational background would definitely give me a lot of advantages.
(Okay, but who the hell cares?)
Why was she asking me about this?
“Actually, you said your grandpa was strict on you, right? My grandpa keeps saying that girls shouldn’t be studying. He says I should focus on getting married instead.”
(Okay, but who cares?)
“I bet you’d have a surprisingly easy time getting married right after graduating from uni.”
“…I don’t know about that. You can’t get married unless you have someone to get married to.”
“I’m sure you’d have no problem finding a nice person.”
I couldn’t figure out anything to say in response, and there was an awkward silence.
We both walked down the slope slowly together in silence, and eventually reached a huge road with lots of cars passing through. I could see a convenience store on the other side, but there was no crossing signal.
Sakura pointed to the side, and I saw a pedestrian bridge. “Over there. We have to go a bit out of the way for it.”
I had no choice but to keep following her. As we went up the stairs on the pedestrian bridge, I suddenly realized something was off.
(Aren’t we on the other side of the station…?)

From where we were on the pedestrian bridge, I could see a full view of the road around the station. If we’d walked across the road I’d used earlier, we could have easily reached the convenience store without having to use this bridge.
(So why did we have to make a whole detour for this?)
I stopped in my tracks.
“Marie.”
I heard a voice behind me. Sakura had been walking next to me, but she was behind me all of a sudden.
“…What’s wrong?”
“Marie, you’re a good person. I know you are.”
Instead of answering my question, Sakura continued on her own line of thought.
“I see you every single day, so I would know. But you’re such a smart person, so…you probably just happen to see and understand too many things. And I know people have done horrible things to you and that some horrible things happened when you were little, and that’s probably not something you can take back so easily.”
I had absolutely no idea where she was going with this.
“I was away from school because I went to go stay at a relative’s house. I wanted to be sure, so I went to your old school.”
“Huh…?”
A dumbfounded noise came out of my mouth.
But she seemed not to notice, and continued.
“Because I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I had to go see with my own eyes and ask about it myself. You were so kind and helped me so much, so…when I was told it might all be a lie, I couldn’t just believe that.”

Her voice was trembling, but her eyes were still looking straight at me, unwavering.
“I found someone who knew about you and talked to them. I talked to a lot of different kids. There was one who was concerned because you moved away all of a sudden, one who couldn’t get in touch with you…one who was upset and called you a liar. The more I heard, the less I understood. What was the truth and what was a lie? Or maybe it was all a misunderstanding? I didn’t understand at all. So I went back even further. Middle school, elementary school — then the library, the government offence, the child guidance center.”
I couldn’t believe my ears.
(The fuck?)
I couldn’t bring myself to make a single sound.
“No matter how hard you try to erase them, it’s hard to completely erase the traces of your life. So I heard all kinds of things. About school, or about what was going on in your household. Rumors about your father and mother. Maybe some of them were true. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t shocked to my very core. But in the end, none of them sounded right to me, because none of them were your own words.”
Sakura laughed lightly.
“I don’t care how other people see you, Marie. As far as I’m concerned, the words, events, and time I spent with you were real. I don’t want to believe that you’re the one who made me into the class target. So I want to have a proper conversation with you. If we do, I think you can overcome all of that, I really believe it. You’re my best friend, Marie. I still believe that, from the bottom of my heart.”
While I was still in a daze, she took my hand, and said her words clearly.
“So let’s stop with all of this.”
Up until now, it had all been a game. The rules were simple: if you want to win, kick your opponent away, trample on them even further, and succeed in killing them in the end.
“Let’s talk about everything, okay?”
But the only thing left in my heart at this moment was pure and clear murderous intent.
(I’m gonna kill this bitch.)

With only that thought in my head, I raised my arms.
(I can do it right now if I want.)
The stairs were behind us. The idiot girl was smiling at me, full of confidence, and completely unaware of any of this.
If she rolled down and hit her head, she would die for sure.
I slowly headed for the stairs.
Stop!”
Someone grabbed my arm from behind.

(Wait, I recognize this voice.)
I knew this voice very well.
(Takahiro Suou…)

“I wanna talk about something, can we meet”
“Sorry, I made plans to go out with my grandparents today”

(So then why is he here…)
Hadn’t we talked to each other just now?
“Wait, don’t hurt her!”
“I’m not going to hurt her. If I hadn’t stopped her like this, you’d have fallen down the stairs. How many times have I told you not to meet up with Mizuguchi alone?”
“But…”
“I get it, I know you want to trust Mizuguchi. I don’t want to hold anything from the past against her either, so I’ve gotten in contact with her multiple times.”
Saying this, Suou looked back at me.
With a calm expression, full of pity.
(No way.)
I could feel an unpleasant sweat crawling down my back.

—He was watching Mizuguchi-san, wasn’t he?
—He was! He was!

All of those glances he’d snuck at me.
(No way.)

I want to talk to you
—in particular

The gap between us getting smaller, the secret exchange between two people — sharing secrets.
“Who are you?”
My mouth was dry and my voice empty.
“…I’m sorry for keeping this quiet this whole time.”
“Answer the question.”
“I was in your class once, back in elementary school. I guess you don’t remember.”
Suou continued to stare calmly at me, as I remained standing there, speechless.
“My mother was part of the regional officer’s board, so I’d heard rumors about Mizuguchi even before she’d transferred into my school. That her father had gotten caught by the police, that her mother had completely vanished, and that she’d temporarily been kept at an orphanage. Her grandfather was a local celebrity and took her in, but she transferred schools several times because something always kept happening. It wasn’t just me, everyone else in the neighborhood knew. My parents would tell me ‘Mizuguchi is a problem child, so don’t go near her.’ They said she’d transfer to another school even if we didn’t do anything, so we should just endure it until then.”
He was saying such words oozing with pity with an incredibly plain tone, glancing only vaguely in my direction.
(I knew that much.)

I knew tons of kids had been insulting me. There were tons of adults who didn’t even bother hiding what they were thinking in front of me, thinking I wouldn’t understand what they were saying.
And, besides, children would usually repeat what their parents told them.
(I’ve heard people saying these things dozens of times.)
He didn’t need to tell me this. I knew I was considered trash. I was the one who knew that best.
“So when I saw Mizuguchi transfer into our school and in your class, I couldn’t believe it. A high school kid wouldn’t look the same way they would in grade school, so I thought maybe she just happened to look like her, but…then I heard her name, and was really shocked. So I went straight to Sakura and told her not to go near her.”
“Stop it! Don’t say any more.”
“But no matter what I said…Sakura didn’t believe me. Even after bad things started happening to Sakura in class, she kept saying she wanted to trust Mizuguchi. But I couldn’t just stand for that, I had to do something…so I approached Mizuguchi, pretending I just wanted to get along, and tried to make sure she was the same person after all…”
Suou had a bitter expression on his face as he choked back his words. He suddenly lifted his head and looked directly at me.
“Just now, I sent you a message on WIRE, pretending I didn’t know anything about what was going on. And then you responded with a lie, without even hesitating…so I thought, ah, you haven’t changed at all. I was shocked. And that’s when I realized, I felt the same way as Sakura. At some point, somewhere deep in my heart…I wanted to believe that Mizuguchi was actually a good person. I really wanted to believe it.”
I’d heard people say a lot of horrible things to me by that point, things that made me sick. My heart had long been prepared for any kind of insult people might fling at me.
But this was different.
(You
wanted to trust me?)
I impulsively pulled myself forward, even though he was still holding my arm.
“Whoa!”
We both lost our balance and started staggering.
“Watch out!”
A high-pitched scream rang out.
I didn’t even know how we managed to get in that position.
(Ah — )
Once I’d figured out what was going on, I was flying through the air, by myself.
(I’m falling.)
I was falling in slow motion.
And at the same time, I saw two people embracing each other, holding onto each other for support so they wouldn’t fall —

—Why.

That groaning feeling was like a curse, the first thing I could feel within the darkness.
On that day, I was the only one to fall from the bridge. Since then, I couldn’t even lift a finger, let alone raise my voice.
(Why did this have to happen to me?)
I fooled others, and I was fooled. It should have been a perfectly equal trade-off. And yet.
(What did I ever do wrong?)
She was a rich girl who flaunted her wealth to obnoxious degrees, said nice things with a condescending attitude, was a suck-up to the teacher, made eyes at her boyfriend and showed him off to everyone, and asserted dominance like she was the boss of everyone.
All I’d done was uncover the true darkness within that bitch.
(Everyone in the class started resenting her, but all I’d done was help them take out the trash.)
So how was she supposed to be a better person than me, just because she behaved innocently and trampled others beneath her by unconscious human nature?
All the people who spread rumors about the “daughter of a criminal”, telling their kids to stay away from me and isolating my family, to the point of forcing me to move away — am I supposed to believe they’re the righteous people here?
So after being born to those with the fundamental spirit of trampling others under them, when they yelled “I’ll kill you”, should I just have accepted that lying down and obeyed?
“Her spine has sustained a considerable amount of injury. Unfortunately, this will leave her severely disabled.”
I heard a stranger’s voice, saying those words plainly.
“And this’ll go on until when?”
The voice of a disappointed old man. I could easily recognize that as my grandfather.
“The average life expectancy of one who suffers a spinal cord injury is about 5% shorter than that of a healthy individual. Depending on how her rehabilitation goes, there’s still a minor chance that she will recover enough to — “
The voice was cut off by a wailing moan and tears.
“Why can’t you just die already…!”
“Mizuguchi-san…”
“How much longer do I have to put up with you? I’ve had enough! If you won’t die, maybe I should!”
“Sir, please. Settle down…”
“She doesn’t need rehab. No life-prolonging treatment, either. I just want this to be over. Please, doc. It’s all I ask…”
“Let’s…talk about this outside. Right this way, please.”
The footsteps faded away, and the door closed.

(Why don’t you just come and kill me yourself, then!?)
But I had no way of raising my voice now.
From the moment I was born, I’d been estranged from others just for the sin of being alive.
(Why.)
If he wanted to kill me so badly, why didn’t he just go ahead and something about it? And why were they just pretending to not see how much he wanted me dead, acting like they pitied me without doing anything?
(Why me…? Why me!?)
As if I were vomiting it all out.
Again. And again.
This was nothing but anger. It was sheer anger at how absurd and unfair this was.
(Why — )

I woke up still muttering that.
“Wh…y…”
I stared blankly at the ceiling, blinked several times, and rubbed my eyes. Everything looked blurry, until I realized there were tears in my eyes.
I was probably having another dream.
(That, or maybe something happened to my body back in reality.)
If there were an abnormality in my spine, my autonomous nervous system wouldn’t be able to regulate itself, so functions that would normally be done unconsciously, like sweating or getting goosebumps, wouldn’t function properly.
(Well, I don’t give a fuck about what’s going on in reality. I’m in Mobius right now.)
I used my finger to wipe off the lukewarm water from my eyes again.
(Tears?…Now, of all times?)
I’d never cried once in my life before, even though I’d knew it’d get me brownie points. I didn’t even have a single memory of having cried for as long as I was sentient.
If I could cry like a little girl, we were yet even farther from whatever stupidity was going on with my real body.
I got up slowly and rolled my head around to unstiffen my neck.
I looked up at the clock. It was almost noon.
“Whoa…been a while since I’ve slept this much.”
I gave myself a proper stretch. Suddenly, I heard Mifue Shinohara’s voice groaning “…I’m hungry” from the computer I’d left on.
“Oh, right, the wiretap.”
It seemed like the Go-Home Club’s wailing had been my lullaby for the night.
“No food, no drink, trapped in there for a whole three days…teehee.”
At this point, they should all be completely out of energy and physical strength. At this point, I could end it all in a single instant. But that didn’t sound like any fun.
(I want to play with them a bit more…hey, why don’t I bring something else in to spice it up?)
At this point, they’d be starving. If “Marie Mizuguchi” were to bring the key, open the door, and give them food, they’d stuff themselves with no hesitation, and they wouldn’t notice anything I’d mixed in there.
(Let’s put them all to sleep, separate them into individual rooms, and deal with them one by one.)
The terror of being isolated, the frustration of their bodies not doing as they wanted them to — I got chills just thinking about them being cornered like this.
I headed to the kitchen and saw a familiar lunchbox on the dining table.
“A lunchbox…no, it needs to be easier to eat from than that. We’ve got nine people.”
I threw the entire lunchbox into the trash can.
“Sandwiches? Yeah, that’ll work.”
If I was going to be the one making these, they should look and taste good. The more effort I put into it, the greater the feeling of accomplishment would be in the end.
“And now, we’re finished. Slop for the swine.”
I hummed my song to myself, brought out all of my ingredients, and started preparing. I was in a strangely bright mood, maybe because I’d gotten so much sleep.
“Just you wait, you little piglets.”

— It was only one more step towards the moment Mobius would be brought to its end, and the ideal world destroyed by evil.


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Translator's notes
  1. At the time this novel was published in 2016, the age of majority in Japan was 20 years old, so the high school-aged Marie would still be considered a minor for quite a few more years. []
  2. The Japanese messaging app “LINE”, which WIRE is based off of, is known for having “stickers” (similar to emoticons) that one can use to send cute messages. []
  3. Japanese schools usually mandate that students participate in school cleaning in order to cultivate discipline. []

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