He had told Kido that he would be back by dinner as he closed the door. She had simply giving him a disapproving look and told him to keep his phone with him. As he left, he could've sworn he saw the others looking his way, with equally disappointed faces.
As he began his walk along the streets, passing buildings and unimportant people, the sun began to dip below the horizon. Time passed by without him noticing, and, before he knew it, Ene had appeared on his screen, yelling at him and pointing to the numerous worried text messages he had filling his phone. Quickly, he apologized, and the virus huffed, telling him to come home quickly.
First, in an attempt to get her off his tail, he told her that he was just going to turn off his phone to save some battery as he went. Unfortunately, that only resulted in her scolding him and reminding him about the time he had used that very same excuse and didn't return to the base for two days. He sighed and told her that he really wished he didn't have to do this, and, after a small struggle with the virus, shut off the troublesome device.
Finally, that was mostly all problems out of the way, he thought. If the others came looking for him, he could easily change his appearance and dissolve into the faceless crowd. That is, if he didn't trip and scrape his knee or something stupid like that. But he knew that, at least for tonight, he could travel without distractions. So, letting his mind wander, he absently strolled to wherever his feet took him.
Long after the sun had disappeared, he found himself leaning on the rails of the rooftop of the highschool, gazing at the sky. Ah, this really brought back memories. He vividly remembered when he took her place in classes. He remembered when he flawlessly mimicked her face, her smile, her voice.
Eh, who was her again?
Oh right, Ayano Tateyama.
The girl who owned the brown hair and brown eyes that were now on his face.
Looking down at himself, he realized it was rather unfitting to see her wearing his clothes, but then again, he wouldn't dare to fake her school clothes or her red scarf again. It just didn't settle right in his mind.
Not when.... And besides, he grew to dislike the color red, anyway. She probably would've scolded him lightly for saying that, but s̶h̶e̶ ̶c̶o̶u̶l̶d̶n̶'̶t̶ ̶r̶e̶a̶l̶l̶y̶ ̶d̶o̶ ̶t̶h̶a̶t̶ ̶r̶i̶g̶h̶t̶ ̶n̶o̶w̶,̶ ̶c̶o̶u̶l̶d̶ ̶s̶h̶e̶?̶ that was beside the point.
Now he was strolling down an alleyway in a body that wasn't his. It was probably rather disrespectful to t̶h̶e̶ ̶d̶e̶a̶d̶ her, especially since he wasn't even donning her uniform or her trademark red scarf. But y̶o̶u̶ ̶c̶a̶n̶ ̶m̶a̶k̶e̶ ̶a̶n̶ ̶e̶x̶c̶e̶p̶t̶i̶o̶n̶ ̶j̶u̶s̶t̶ ̶t̶h̶i̶s̶ ̶o̶n̶c̶e̶,̶ ̶r̶i̶g̶h̶t̶?̶ she probably wouldn't mind, at least not this once. She didn't mind when he went to school as her all the time, anyway.
It was far past the time that his feet had started to ache, but he strode on regardless. When he gazed out at the sky, he was surprised to find out that the sun was already over the horizon. Still holding onto his sister's
memory appearance, he advanced back towards the base. Really, he was tempted to check his phone and see how many notifications had piled up from the other's, but then he thought better of it, realizing Ene might just come back to berate him again.
He slipped through the crowd as he made his way, ready to let go of Ayano's image, but-
"Are you sure we're even going to find him?" a familiar voice asked, worried. "He could be anyone here and we would just walk right past him!"
"Well, he's not responding to texts or calls, and I doubt anyone else as seen him either, so this is our best bet," another one, much more collected, responded.
Quickly, before the owners of the voices could see him, he bent his image into that of a random person he had passed the previous night. A questionably large group of individuals eventually came into view, their eyes searching the faces of everyone in the crowd. A few pairs even locked with his, yet they hurried right by him, without even knowing. Heh, guess Mary wasn't wrong. They completely missed him.
Then he reminded himself how he was probably causing trouble for them at this very moment. After all, they usually tried to stay rather low profile, and yet they were out here, attempting to find him of all people. It would've been flattering if it weren't for how guilty it made him feel. Maybe he should just go back....
"Alright, fine, I'll ask!" Shintaro's annoyed voice sounded out suddenly.
He turned to a predictable sight, a nervous and antisocial Shintaro (somewhat) gazing at him.
"Er, sir, could I ask you something?" he began, stealing a glance and scowling down at his phone.
Maybe a little too quickly, he responded with a quick "Sure, what's up?"
"I was just wondering if, um," the teen stuttered. "I was wondering if you've seen this short blond kid walking around. He usually wears a black jacket, and, uh, boots."
Truthfully, he was almost tempted to insult Shintaro back for calling him short, but seeing the face of the guy he hated most in the Dan just made him want to stay out for the day a little longer. Just a little more time couldn't be that bad, right? As expected, he just answered with no, I haven't seen him, and even threw in a small joke about wearing boots in the summer. The NEET just nodded before hurrying away to join the rest of the group waiting patiently behind him. The illusion gave a small chuckle before he strode away, wanting to get as far from him as possible.
- - -
Perhaps it was a bit wrong to be pretending to be his sister for so long,
after she was gone, no less, but he couldn't really help it. After all, he always ended up liking himself better when he was sitting at school in her place, in her clothes, with her eyes. Eyes that weren't monster eyes, anyway. It always made him feel better, knowing that he was contributing to something important, and wasn't just lounging around taking up space and money. Oh, right, but, she told him not to think that way. It was rather unfortunate how she couldn't see the truth the way he saw it, but it made him feel somewhat better nonetheless.
B̶u̶t̶ ̶s̶h̶e̶'̶s̶ ̶g̶o̶n̶e̶ ̶n̶o̶w̶,̶ ̶r̶i̶g̶h̶t̶?̶
Of course, she didn't only tell him not to think that way. She'd also go over her oddly long mental list of reasons why he wasn't a monster, or why he was worth something more. Almost vividly, he remembered her giving him encouraging smiles and confident words to cheer him up. Ah, he really missed h̶e̶r̶ those, but she probably wouldn't want him to be sad about it. In fact, she never really wanted anyone to be sad, because she was just so nice like that. If only he could be that nice to others. Well... in a way he was, when he was deceiving as her in classes.
H̶a̶v̶e̶ ̶y̶o̶u̶ ̶a̶l̶r̶e̶a̶d̶y̶ ̶f̶o̶r̶g̶o̶t̶t̶e̶n̶,̶ ̶o̶r̶ ̶s̶o̶m̶e̶t̶h̶i̶n̶g̶?̶
Still, she probably wasn't nice enough to approve of this, he thought scornfully as he looked down at slender fingers that didn't belong to him. After all, she had a tendency to get a little mad when he used his powers i̶n̶ ̶a̶n̶ ̶"̶u̶n̶h̶e̶a̶l̶t̶h̶y̶"̶ ̶w̶a̶y̶ in a certain way she disliked. Ah, yes, she got pretty scary when she was angry. He of all people, knew that. Probably for a good reason.
O̶r̶ ̶a̶r̶e̶ ̶y̶o̶u̶ ̶j̶u̶s̶t̶ ̶t̶r̶y̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶f̶o̶r̶g̶e̶t̶ ̶h̶o̶w̶ ̶i̶t̶ ̶w̶a̶s̶ ̶y̶o̶u̶r̶ ̶f̶a̶u̶l̶t̶?̶
He didn't know what brought him back here, to the school. After all, he didn't have a reason to go here anymore.
Not after Well, there was technically one reason, but he didn't really like to think about it, or what it meant for the rest of the Mekakushi Dan. Curiously, he gazed over the roof onto the concrete below. Brown hair that wasn't his swept over his face as he peered over the edge where she had fallen.
...Ah, no, she's standing right right here, right?
He quickly reminded himself of that as he stared down at his hands. Well, anyway, he had no reason to stay here
moping, he might as well get back to moving.
Groaning, he slid down the wall as he clutched his stomach. He was so hungry to the point where it hurt, but something stopped him from returning to the base. And besides, it probably wouldn't be a pleasant sight for a select few members to see Ayano waltzing through the door in his clothes.
After all, she was
What time is it, anyway?
He gazed up at the sky, shielding his
her? face from the sun with a hand. In fact, he didn't even know what day it was. For all he knew, he could've slept for two whole days and not even known about it, especially considering how the others weren't around to wake him up for breakfast. Actually, maybe he shouldn't think about breakfast, because, god, he was so damn hungry. Maybe if he just ignores it it'll hurt less. Still, as he passed by what seemed like countless restaurants, the pain only worsened. Maybe immersing himself in the reminder that food was around wasn't the best idea if he was starving on the streets. Ah, perhaps he should've brought some money with him after all.
If Kido were here, she'd scold him about that, call him an idiot, and probably cook him something... No, he really needs to stop thinking about it. It probably isn't healthy.
...Maybe he should just try checking the time instead. Stopping to sit on a bench, he pulled out his phone from his pocket. He was relieved to find it still had battery as he turned it on. The screen eventually lit up to reveal large digital numbers and countless concerned notifications. 12:04. It had only been two days since he'd left. The others are probably pretty worried. He almost laughed as he skimmed over a few of the messages and the sheer amount of missed calls.
There was Kido asking if he was alive, Seto telling him to come home, Momo telling him that everyone's worried, Mary (with a lot of spelling errors) asking if he's okay, Shintaro-
"Hey, where've you been?" a loud voice sounded from the screens. "Do you know how- uh... Ay-a...?"
With a small sound of acknowledgement, he moved his gaze over to the edge of his screen to lock eyes with Ene. The cyber girl had wide eyes and her hands (well, more like her sleeves) covering her mouth. At first, he was puzzled, then, he looked over at his hand and realized his grave mistake. Quickly, he dropped he dropped the illusion his eyes cast as he gave an apologetic smile.
"Ah, sorry, sorry!" he said, rubbing the back of his neck. "You see, I was just-"
"Oh God, you look awful," Ene replied. "Come on, just go home already. We were so worried that something happened to you-"
"Awful?" he asked, perplexed.
"Well, it's a bit hard to tell, since you're, um," she looked off to the side, obviously nervous. "But even then, you look really tired and you're all messy. Are you sure-"
"Since I'm what?" he tried again, panic starting to take over his voice.
"I mean, wouldn't you know?" she said with a worried voice. "You're... Ayano."
To prove her point, the virus accessed his phone's camera so he could see for himself. The image before him was that of a confused brunette girl donning two red hair clips and a black jacket. He reached a hand up to his cheek as he tried again to clear his eyes.
"Are you sure that-" Ene began again, concern etched on her features.
"Wait, let me try something," he responded. "Eheh, I'm gonna look kinda stupid, but bear with me here."
Slowly, he raised his hand up to his mouth. Setting his thumb at the back of his mouth, he braced himself, then bit down hard, to the point where it drew blood. As pain started to emanate from the injury, he gazed back at the screen.
Still, he was looking at Ayano's face. Her features morphed into something horrified as the realization struck him.
"Ene..." he started. "It's not working."
"What?" she pressed. "What's not working?"
"I can't deactivate my eyes," he gazed back into the brown eyes on the screen which no longer held warmth, and now held cold panic.
He quickly switched screens as Ene moved closer (well, as close as a program could get) to him.
She looked him dead in the eye as she spoke. "If you just come home already, I bet the others could fix this! Who knows, maybe Kido can punch it out of you, or Seto could talk it out of you or something like that."
"No, you don't understand!" he exclaimed. "I can't come back looking like this! I-I'll just figure it out."
"Look, I gotta go," suddenly he cut in, eager to end the exchange. "I'll be back soon. Please, don't tell the others about this."
Once again, he moved to turn off his phone.
"No, you nee-"
The screen turned black.
"Nee-Chaaaaaan, it's not that big a deal, he can wash it off his face after!"
"Now, that wasn't very nice of you Shuuya. Why don't you apologize to Kousuke while I go find something to help clean that off?"
"Ah, fine. I'm sorry for writing on your face Kousuke, but you don't have to cry about it!"
"At least he actually apologized this time."
"Hey, Nee-Chan's taking a bit...."
"I can go look for her!"
"Are you sure? We can go with you."
"Trust me, I got this."
"Well, you better come back soon, I'm bored."
"Hey, Nee-Chan! Tsubomi and Kousuke were wondering what was taking you so long!"
"Eh- I could've sworn the hallway didn't lead to a roof.... Wait, Nee-Chan, where are we?"
"W-We're at the school. You remember, right?"
"...School? Oh yeah! But... weren't we just at the house?"
"Shuuya, don't make this harder on yourself."
"What do you mean?"
"You obviously didn't forget...."
"Nee-Chan, what are you talking about?"
"I'm dead, Shuuya."
"What are you talking about?"
"You see it right? There's my gravestone, right in front of you. I died."
"N-No you didn't.... C'mon, the others are still waiting. Kousuke...."
"Let's just go home-"
"I can't. I'm not here anymore, Shuuya. I'm sorry."
"But y-you're right h-here...."
You can keep telling yourself that.
"Yeah, he's gotta be nearby," he awoke to the sound of a voice, distant yet all too familiar.
Rubbing the sleep out of his brown eyes, he emerged out from the passage where he'd slept to be met with the glaring, hot sun. Fully awake, he pushed long, knotted hair away from his face and shielded his face. He heard more voices now, and they seemed to be coming his way.
"I can't believe that guy, seriously," another voice spoke out. Shintaro. "He's making us go out and find him in this damn heat."
"That's only a problem for you because you never exercise," Momo muttered.
Briefly, his eyes flashed red, and he became another worthless face in the crowd.
"Ah, but can't that guy just use his eyes to hide or something?" Hibiya said as the Dan came into view, walking in his direction.
"I mean, I guess if we have to, I can use my power-" Seto began.
"Because this is ridiculous and he's been out way too long," Kido interjected bitterly. "He said he was going to be back by dinner and it's been literal days."
Appearing casual, he proceeded to walk, eager to pass by them without detection, just like last time.
"Hey, Ene, is something up?" Momo questioned suddenly, looking down at her phone.
"Eh, not really," he could hear the virus' voice projecting from the speaker. "Just a bit worried for when we find him, is all."
"Well, you did say he was looking pretty bad," softly replied Mary.
The others were coming closer, and he was ready to drop his disguise at the soonest possible moment.
He still hadn't sorted out the issue, and he wasn't even sure if his state was reversible. Before he knew it, he was brushing right past Mary, who, only subtly, shied away from his shoulder. Eventually, the interactions of the Dan members were out of earshot, and he was able to resume the image of his sister return to his previous state.
He finally made his way to a less crowded area where he sat himself down on a bench, folding his hands in his lap. Proper and elegant,
just like she's supposed to be as always. Ah, maybe it would've been wise to rejoin with the others. Especially considering how he couldn't even remember the last time he'd eaten. Not to mention the others were worried beyond reason, but they knew he was alive, at least. That was probably good enough, actually.
"Eh? What do we have here?" a chilling voice resonated to his right.
Jumping at the sound, he turned to the source and was met with piercing yellow eyes. They deeply analyzed him.
"Truly, I was afraid that something happened to my poor helper when he didn't receive the text," the dark haired teen taunted, waving a phone in his hand. "Although, it would appear you have your own ordeals to take care of. Tsk, what a mess."
"W-What are you doing here?" he stuttered in a voice that sounded nothing like his own.
"Tch, didn't I already tell you?" the other clicked his tongue as he narrowed his eyes. "How troublesome that I have to repeat myself! You have work to do, deceiver, but it seems that you're too caught up in your own head to focus."
"Huh-?!" before he knew it, he was being yanked over by his arm to God knows where.
"It seems I'll have to take action to make this go by faster," the other continued. "Really, I thought you'd be over it by now."
Confusion swarmed him, though he refused to let his guard down. The sun was beginning to peak in the sky now, and at the horizon arose a sight that he
refused to acknowledge dreaded to see. Rows upon rows of graves neared as the two made their way.
Finally, he started to struggle. Desperately, he attempted, though it was definitely useless, to free himself from the other's strong grasp. It was most likely the taller was pretending not to notice, as his strides stayed uninterrupted, despite how he tried to pull away.
Then, he was brought before it.
The other released his arm as they reached their awful destination. One of many gravestones faced him, and though it was an inanimate object, it felt as if it were staring into his soul, expectant.
He refused to read the words carved on it. He turned to the taller, who held a wide grin.
"Don't you get it?" he spoke innocently, as if coaxing him to answer. "That precious sister of yours is gone."
Then, the dark haired lunged forward, straight at him.
A warmth enveloped his throat, only it wasn't just warmth, it was the grip of two hands that were now almost crushing his neck, cutting off his breath. He was lifted off his feet to face those yellow eyes, and his own hands scrambled frantically at the wrists of the taller. Small noises of agony left him as his eyes grew wide and his vision darkened. Messy brown hair started to block his vision as he struggled to breathe, speak, do anything.
The pain that was crushing the life in his body didn't belong to her though.
It wasn't meant for her appearance, her personality, her smell, or her as a person.
It was for someone else.
But... who... is that... other person... again?
Despite his choked please, those yellow eyes showed no signs of remorse, no signal that they were going to let go. This was probably it, he decided, as everything started to fade. He stopped struggling. Limbs going limp, his darkening, fading gaze locked onto the bright yellow ones. They were still analyzing, yet they also appeared beyond amused. ...This was really it, huh? This person, whoever it was, was going to die, and there was nothing he could do about it.
Sure reminds you of something, huh?
Does it though?
I dunno, I can't think.
. . .
Then a new pain filled him, as his head was met with something solid and rough. Gasping, he found he was able to breathe again. Giving hurried pants as his vision cleared, he found that he was now on the ground, arms and legs sprawled out around him. ...Brown hair still framed his face.
"You're incredibly stubborn this time around, I'll give you that," the hissing voice returned.
Snapping his gaze upwards, he saw that face framed with dark hair staring down at him, disappointed.
"Consider yourself lucky this time, deceiver," he said, his piercing eyes growing red. "I could've killed you on my own preference and just force another reset. But since things are just going oh, so well, I'll spare your life."
Suddenly, it felt as though something was cutting off the summer heat of his red eyes.
Eh, who was that other person again?
Oh right, Shuuya Kano.
The boy who owned the blond hair and amber eyes that were now on his face.
He sat up, fully aware of the snake's taunting grin. "It would be wise of you to know that if this were to happen again, I won't even bother with my power. I could probably just force that snake out of you, with the cost of a few broken bones and some blood. Understood?"
Quickly, he nodded, and the other proceeded to walk away.
"I'll be expecting you tomorrow. Don't disappoint me."
When the snake was finally out of sight, he took out his phone and turned it on.
After a few moments, he was face to face with Ene, who had a mix of relief and suspicion laid on her face.
"Hey, Ene, tell the other's I'll be back by dinner, 'kay? I just gotta clear up some stuff first."
Hesitantly, she nodded, putting her trust in him, just this once. Giving a small sigh of relief, he pocketed the device and knelt before the grave in front of him.
"Hey, Nee-Chan. I just wanna tell you about how everyone's been doing lately."