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Thread: [OneShot] An Assassin's Promise

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    [OneShot] An Assassin's Promise

    Aha! I tricked you! You thought this was another Fate fic, but it was me, Dio! a Tsukihime fic in disguise!

    In what must have been the weirdest writing session I have ever done, stretching from 3:30 to 9:30 AM yesterday, I have ended up with this. It's a bit of a look into a character that kind of exists, but kind of doesn't. So fair warning, you might want to relax your expectations of the main character a bit.

    I considered saving this and submitting it for Milbunk's contest, but decided that would just give me an excuse to not write over the next three months, and that was unacceptable. So I guess I'll need to find another idea for that.

    As always, I am eternally grateful for any and all constructive criticism.

    7163 words, estimated reading time of about 28 minutes.

    Please enjoy!


    -----------------------------

    An Assassin's Promise



    A sweltering summer heat lay over the field, a season that hadn't loosened its grip on this place in years.

    Ankle-high grass stretched out as far as the eye could see, though that didn't mean much. Though the full moon overhead did its best to illuminate the area, there was only so much it could do. Not even the stars had come out to help, leaving the world cloaked in a darkness barely alleviated by the moonlight.

    This place had been filled with a brilliant sunlight, once. The world brimmed with a joyful exuberance, foretelling a bright future despite a dark past. But then it had turned to night.

    There had been stars here, once. Long ago, they had filled the eternal night sky with a dazzling glow, a sight he could watch for days on end and never get bored. But they had disappeared.

    The moonlight had been stronger, once. Strong enough that he could clearly make out the scenery for miles all around, a vast open world just for him. But it had dimmed.

    Though he hated to admit it, this world was dying. Little by little, the things that made up this eternal summer night were vanishing. As a part of that night, he could only wonder how long it would be until he vanished too.

    But worrying about that was meaningless. There was nothing he could do stop it now. Why worry about what can't be helped?

    Sometimes, he considered leaving this place. He knew how. It was honestly the easiest thing in the world, as simple as opening your eyes. And every once in a while he had done just that, peaking out for a few moments at a time, just to sate the urge.

    But even the simplest actions could have dire consequences. Yes, he could leave this eternal summer night, but at what cost? No, it was better for 'him' if he stayed here. 'He' needed him to stay here.

    It's not fair.

    Why do you have to be trapped in this cage?

    Why did you let your life be taken away from you?

    Why are you letting that imposter live in your place?

    How many times had the ghosts here asked him those questions? A sad smile came to his face as he looked up at the darkened moon above. He had no answer to those questions. After all, they were right. It wasn't fair to be trapped here. It wasn't fair that he had to live caged like this, if you could even call it living.

    But it was easy to tell someone to just leave their cage. Could you say the same thing, though, if the only way out of the cage was to trap someone else inside?

    'He' didn't ask for this either.

    'He' didn't deserve this either.

    ...and 'he' was much happier than he was.

    They both had their scars, of course. He wasn't so blind that he couldn't see 'his' traumas, see the difficulties 'he' faced. But 'he' had a family. 'He' had friends. 'He' had a future, however short it might have been.

    What did he have?

    Maybe he could find happiness outside the cage. Maybe he could live a fulfilling life, surrounded by friends and family, maybe he would find something to make up for all the pain and suffering he had experienced before being trapped in this cage. Maybe he could even find away to live longer, to save this dying world from itself.

    Maybe.

    But was it fair to take away 'his' happiness, the happiness 'he' had already reached, just for a maybe?

    He had come to terms with his lot long ago. It was not fair that he was trapped here, but there was no way to correct that injustice.

    A distant rumble echoed from the darkness, pulling him from his reverie.

    "Again?" he muttered with a sigh, standing up from his place on the ground. It was almost impossible to keep track of the passing of time here, since everything stayed pretty much the same. There were two ways he knew to mark the passage of time. The first way was to watch how the world slowly faded and died. Lately, something had been attacking this world quite frequently. I felt like it was not long ago that the moon had gone dark, the last thing that had changed.

    "'Something,'" he laughed dryly as he focused hard on his surroundings. He knew exactly what was attacking this place, what was killing this world at an alarming rate.

    Those eyes.

    They were truly a miracle, a tool his family would have all but worshipped. But they were not something intended for humans. Maybe if 'he' had been a demon, like his family's prey, he could have survived them, but as it was, it was only a matter of time before they destroyed him.

    Like a wave passing through, the vibrant night-dyed grass suddenly withered. The cool greens, shaded blue in the moonlight, faded to a sickly grey before turning to a dead brown, and within seconds, all of the grass in the field had shrivelled and died. As the wave of death passed by and disappeared into the darkness, the distant rumbling stopped, and the sound of a gentle night breeze was all that remained.

    He looked out over the dead grass with a sad look.

    It had been day, once.

    There had been stars, once.

    The moonlight had been strong, once.

    There had been grass, once.

    Helpless to do anything to stop it, he gave a silent prayer for yet another fragment of this world, now gone forever. This world, crafted from a memory, a turning point that changed 'his' life forever, what was supposed to be a permanent monument to the day he met her, was slowly dying.

    What was there left to lose? The sweltering summer heat, a tiny fragment he had brought with him, his last memory before being locked in this cage.

    And he, himself.

    And as long as 'he' continued to use those eyes, this world would continue to die. It was only a matter of time before he would disappear, and it would probably not be long after that until the world vanished altogether.

    Along with 'him.'

    The faint sound of dead grass crunching, footsteps drawing near, reached his ears.

    "I suppose it's about that time, isn't it?" he muttered to himself, turning to face the new arrival. The ghosts always came out to play when the world was damaged. Unlike him, they struggled endlessly to get out of this cage, trying to free themselves.

    Sometimes, it was for their own benefit.

    Sometimes, they honestly felt it was for 'his' sake.

    One footstep became two, became ten, became uncountable. They felt the world had taken a huge blow today. It was no wonder so many had come.

    With the flick of his wrist, he extended the blade of his knife.

    Out of the darkness stepped a dozen ghosts. Faceless, with barely enough form to walk, they lurched forward like zombies. They did not know what they were looking for, or where they were going, but they pursued the deep longing they felt coming from within.

    With a steady, unhurried hand, he cut them down.

    They did not recognize his presence, nor did they respond to his attack. One by one, the ghosts whose names he should have known fell to the ground. They didn't even bleed as his knife took them apart, the broken remnants of their bodies fading into the night air before they even hit the ground. He didn't even need to strike their vitals. Severing an arm here, stabbing a leg there, any serious injury would cause them to collapse and vanish.

    How many times had he slain these faceless ghosts before he realized who they were? Though their names and faces were lost to the faded memories of his childhood, he learned who they were eventually. His friends, his family, his people. Now, their memory had faded so much that they didn't even have faces, they didn't even have identities. In a way, he was grateful for that. It made it a lot easier to cut them down when he didn't remember who they were.

    "Shiki."

    As the last of the nameless apparitions disappeared, he heard his name called. Though they shared a name, he knew they were always calling him. After all, he was all they knew. They had never met 'him' before. He had made sure of that.

    Turning to face the source of the voice, he saw a man approaching from the darkness. Unlike the previous ghosts, this man had a very clear face, and he knew who he was immediately upon seeing him. It was hardly the first time he had appeared here, and if the world lasted long enough, he knew it wouldn't be the last either.

    "Yo, Father. It's been a long time."

    Though he eyed the weapon in Shiki's hand, his face was emotionless. "Shiki, I just want to talk."

    "That's a relief," Shiki replied with a grin as he began walking towards his father. "I don't like killing family."

    "Shiki..." the man paused, as if at a loss for words. Though his face was as expressive as a stone, Shiki had learned to read his voice over the years. Now, though he was trying to hide it, there were unmistakable traces of sadness there. "Shiki, I'm sorry."

    The two stopped, only a couple feet away from each other. Shiki held his knife lazily at his side, as if it was just a coincidence he happened to have a knife while they talked. "Sorry? About what?"

    A long moment passed before his father could respond. "I'm sorry I failed."

    Shiki remained silent, letting the night breeze fill the gap in their conversation. It sounded much more hollow, now that there was no grass for it to blow through.

    "I tried," his father continued, seeing he wasn't going to respond. "I did everything I could for you. I tried to leave that world behind, I tried to protect you as best as I could. Maybe that world was my fate, but I didn't want you to be forced to become a killer like me. But...I couldn't protect you. I couldn't save you from..." His voiced trailed off, his stoic expression trembling ever so slightly as he lowered his eyes.

    "You know, it's been rough," Shiki finally spoke, prompting his father to look back at him. "After that, I was taken away to live with the Tohno family. I hated it, at first. I missed you...I missed everyone a lot. But little by little...little by little, I learned to be happy again. But then it happened again, and the Tohno family was taken away from me, too."

    He shrugged, with an expression full of honest regret. "The happiness I had found there was taken away, and I was sent to live with another family." Though his story ended there, he kept talking. Though after that point it was 'his' story, he kept talking. "I was sent to live with a family called the Arimas. They were normal people. Not killers, not demons. Ordinary people with ordinary lives."

    Trying his best to keep his smile from seeming hollow, he continued. "I had a mother, a father, I even had a little sister. I grew up as an ordinary boy, going to an ordinary school, living an ordinary life. Heck, in the end I even got to meet up with my little sister from the Tohno family as well."

    Shiki paused. It would be no good to show sadness here, not now. "It's been rough, but...I'm okay. I'm happy now. I wish I could have known you better but, what you gave me was enough."

    Though he said nothing, the look on his father's face spoke volumes. Though his expression might have seemed emotionless to someone else, to Shiki, it was as if there were tears streaming openly down his face.

    "You did everything you could, and I know that." Shiki spoke quietly, this time with an honest smile. "Thank you, Father."

    As if hearing those words had cut the chains that were holding him back, his father sighed. A tired sigh, but a sigh of relief. "I'm glad..." he spoke quietly, as if afraid to ruin the moment. "...I'm so glad..." It was a sight enough to move him to tears, seeing someone so tormented by their past being set free right in front of him.

    His father stepped forward, hesitantly reaching out to him. Reaching out to his son, the one thing he had ever learned to love, though he hadn't realized it. The one thing he had ever wanted to live for, though it took him until the last possible moment to notice it. Reaching out, as if to ask for forgiveness for the simple crime of not being able to be there for him.

    Answering his reach, Shiki stepped forward, embracing the father he barely knew.

    Slowly, his father returned the embrace. Though they didn't say anything else, couldn't say anything else, their feelings were communicated clearly.

    Thank you, for giving everything for me.

    Thank you, for forgiving me.

    After a few moments they separated, and this time there were actual tears on his father's face. And for once, his stoic expression had finally cracked, the faintest of smiles peaking through. Without another word, his father stepped past him, heading for the door of the cage.

    I love you, Father...

    As soon as he had passed, Shiki turned after him, sinking his knife into the back, cleanly piercing his heart. With mechanical precision, he pulled the knife out and delivered a swift cut to the back of his neck, cleanly severing the spine.

    ...but 'he' doesn't need you anymore. All you can do now is hurt him.

    Having taken him by surprise, he had managed to minimize the amount of blood spilled, and what little blood had splashed out onto him faded quickly as his father's body fell to the ground, dissipating into the darkness. Within moments even the blood dripping from his knife was gone.

    Shiki turned back to face the way his father had come from. How many times had he had this interaction? He had long since lost count. But it was enough that he had grown skilled at killing quickly, and as painlessly as possible.

    It wasn't always the same, but the theme didn't change much. The first few times it had destroyed him. He had cried for what seemed like days. And it still hurt, even now, but now he could swallow the tears. After all, he still had work to do.

    In short order, the next group of ghosts pattered out from the darkness.

    "Shiki, there you are!" A young boy, no more than ten years old, gave a beaming smile as he ran up to him. "We're going to play hide and seek! You'll join too!" His confident, self-assured attitude made it clear that he wasn't asking whether he wanted to or not, he was declaring that he would.

    A few steps behind him were two young girls, each even younger than the boy. One, with long black hair, stayed close to the boy he knew was her older brother. Though she knew full well who he was, she still clung to her brother timidly, as if afraid that they would all run and leave her alone if she didn't. The last of the children, a girl with short, vibrant red hair and emerald green eyes, was much more energetic, doing everything to hold herself in before the game started. It seemed like she was ready to burst at any moment.

    Making no attempt to hide the knife in his hand, Shiki knelt down. "Sorry, SHIKI. Now is not a good time. How about you three go play by yourselves?"

    The young boy's expression snapped at his refusal. "No! You are coming with us! You think I want to just play with a bunch of girls by myself?!" Paying no mind to the fact that Shiki was twice his size, SHIKI puffed himself up threateningly. Though he gave excuses, it was clear from his posture and his expression that he would not tolerate a refusal.

    "Where are we going to hide here, anyways?" Shiki laughed, patting the boy's head. "There aren't even any hills to hide behind. We'll all be found right away."

    Slapping away Shiki's hand, the boy tried to shove him away aggressively. A combination of his small stature and Shiki's kneeling stance made his efforts futile, failing even to knock Shiki backwards. Seeing his attack was useless, he returned to trying to shout him down. "I'm the oldest! I'm the boss! What I say goes! We're playing hide and seek!"

    "Come on, Shiki!" the red-haired girl spoke up, her demeanour much more cheerful and friendly. "There's nothing else to do here anyways, right? Please play with us!"

    "I'd love to, but really I can't," Shiki replied with a placating smile. "I've got tons of work to do tonight."

    "Come on! Akiha really wants you to!" The girl pressed, and though the black-haired girl seemed surprised to hear her name suddenly called, she made no effort to contradict what her friend was saying.

    He knew he shouldn't play along. It broke his heart to see them like this, and he knew he would be better off being cold and distant, but...

    "Alright, alright," Shiki replied, earning beaming looks from the two girls and a triumphant smile from SHIKI, despite the tortured look on his own face. "Hide and seek, I'm it. You have three seconds. One."

    "Three seconds?!" SHIKI sputtered. "Don't be stupid, Shiki, we need more time than that!" Without waiting for the dispute to be resolved, the red-haired girl took off, while Akiha hesitated. Looking around at the empty field, she fidgeted nervously at the prospect of having to find a spot in three seconds, wasting what little time she had.

    "Two."

    Seeing he was being ignored, SHIKI once again grew angry. "I told you already, I'm the oldest! I make the rules!"

    "Three." With one swift movement, Shiki smashed the hilt of his knife into the side of SHIKI's head, knocking him unconscious instantly. As he crumpled to the ground, Shiki slipped the blade between his ribs, piercing the boy's heart in one clean motion. As Akiha stared in shock, unable to register what was happening before her, Shiki hurled his knife at the third girl. Without knowing what was happening behind her, she made no effort to avoid it, and the knife sank deep into the back of her neck, severing her spine and causing her to collapse in a heap.

    Fortunately, being so small, she hadn't been able to run very far. As Akiha collapsed to the ground screaming, Shiki walked over to where the other girl had fallen, picking up the knife from where it lay in the grass. Once again, even the blood on the knife had dissolved and disappeared, but out of instinct he still found himself wiping the knife on the dead grass before turning back to the last child.

    Though she was crying with hysterical panic, the little Akiha had just fallen to the ground, not even considering running away. With the bodies of her friend and her brother already gone, she stared wide-eyed into space as she screamed, confronted by a horror she couldn't understand.

    "I'm sorry, Akiha," Shiki said as he knelt down in front of her. Though she was still lost to panic, he could see the faintest glimmer of hope in her eyes as she looked at him. As her mind tore from the stress of recognizing this person as both 'her precious friend' and 'someone who killed her friends,' she sat frozen as he took her in a hug. "Maybe you don't believe me, but I love you. I really do."

    As soon as he finished speaking, he gently slipped his knife into her back, holding her tightly until she too faded away.

    As he thought, it was a lot easier when he couldn't see her.

    Once again, they were ghosts he had cut down many times before. And like the apparition of his father, it hurt just as much every time he did.

    At least the memory of his father was distant, a far away thing. But such an innocent childhood memory of playing with his friends...having to cut it down broke his heart. What did it say about him, that he had grown used to that feeling?

    Even though he knew they were just ghosts.

    Even though he knew they would be back again.

    "AKIHA!!" A mournful scream cut through Shiki's thoughts, and for a moment he was surprised it wasn't his own voice he heard.

    Instinctively, Shiki rolled backwards, vaguely aware of the dry sound of blades cutting through dead grass as he rolled back to his feet. Before he could even see the next ghost that had appeared it crashed into him, sending him sprawling backwards. Barely managing to maintain his footing, he held his knife in a ready stance as he looked to his new opponent.

    Standing before him was SHIKI. Not the young boy who he had just slain, but a much older version. His hair had turned from black to white, and he wore the loose clothes of a sick person rather than a rich clothes of his younger self. His whole body seethed with a hysterical frenzy, his face drenched in tears and his hands slick with his own blood, flowing freely from self-inflicted wounds.

    "How could you...Akiha...AAAAAGHHH!!" Though he tried to speak, his words quickly devolved into an incoherent rage, the blood running down his hand turning to knives as he rushed at Shiki again.

    Though SHIKI was lost to madness at seeing his sister killed before his eyes, seeing him had had the opposite effect on Shiki. The heavy despair of the past few moments turned quiet, his mind turning to steel, his heart turning to ice. Without flair or flourish, he stepped backwards, dodging each slash from SHIKI's blood knives by a hair's breadth.

    Though he knew those feelings would return momentarily, for now they were gone. An enemy was before him.

    A demon was before him.

    A monster.

    Nevermind that that monster was his friend. Nevermind that his fury was beyond justified. In a way, Shiki felt like he should let SHIKI kill him, that dying here might give him some well deserved rest. How long had he been killing ghosts in this cage? In a way, he was glad he didn't know.

    But even as he entertained those thoughts, his body moved. His hands acted, not waiting for commands from him. An opening here, and SHIKI was relieved of one of his knives and most of his fingers. An opening there, and his knife sank deep into SHIKI's leg, hobbling him. Deflecting SHIKI's remaining knife with his own, he delivered a solid kick to his opponent's chest, knocking him backwards.

    Without even waiting for his opponent to strike the ground, Shiki leapt forward in pursuit. It wasn't often that this version of SHIKI appeared here. What had happened, out in the real world, to stir up all these old memories? He supposed this SHIKI wasn't really a memory, though. He had been confused the first time he had shown up, but gradually he came to realize what it was - the recognition that SHIKI had not died with him, that he was still alive somewhere. Another memory he had to keep from surfacing.

    As his mind continued to mull over these thoughts in a state of cold emotionlessness, his body continued to act. Easily avoiding a pair of knives thrown by the falling SHIKI, he closed in to deliver a final, fatal strike. A split second before he could deliver it though, he twisted sideways, narrowly avoiding a spear of blood extending out of SHIKI's leg wound. Ducking low, he cut off the still forming spear, and then immediately leapt over SHIKI's head, dodging yet another knife he had thrown.

    It was a feat of acrobatic precision that was at the limit of human possibility. He supposed he had his father to thank for that. Without his teaching, he never would have been a match for monsters like this. As he soared over SHIKI's head, planting his free hand on his opponent's head, Shiki's blade whirled downwards, cleanly slicing open the half-demon's throat.

    Landing on his feet behind his prey, Shiki felt the combat instincts leave his body. With a wet gurgle, SHIKI fell onto his back. Though he would certainly die in the next few moments, for now at least, his eyes locked on Shiki's.

    Sometimes, when SHIKI appeared like this, he was a complete monster. There was no trace of humanity left in him, and fighting him was like fighting an animal.

    This time, however, though he had been filled with blind rage, he had not lost his mind. Over the course of their short altercation, the tears had never stopped pouring from his eyes, and even now as the last light faded, it was not anger the stared out from them, but sorrow. As if he had not only lost his beloved little sister...

    ...but also his best friend.

    In his last moments, the ghost struggled to speak, but with his throat cut he couldn't make any sensible noise. Even so, Shiki could tell clearly what he was trying to say. With the name of his beloved sister on his lips, he finally vanished, leaving Shiki alone once more.

    After looking around the field again, seeing nothing but dead grass all around him, he sank to the ground.

    It was not normal for so much to happen all at once. Something intense must have happened to 'him,' something powerful enough to dredge up all these memories that had been sealed away for so long. For a moment, he felt fear tighten his chest - if it was enough to drag these memories out, then what about...?

    Long minutes passed of him staring into the darkness, straining his ears to detect the sound of approaching footsteps. But there were none.

    "I guess that's one thing Makihisa did right," he laughed weakly to himself. If SHIKI was a monster, then that man was a true demon. Even at his best there was no way that Shiki would have been a match for him, so he had little he could do but pray that Makihisa's fiddling with 'his' memory held strong.

    Though it had failed almost everywhere else, if it could keep that beast chained, then he could deal with the rest.

    "...who...?"

    A quiet voice behind him almost made him jump. Turning around in surprise, he locked eyes with the newcomer.

    And a newcomer it was. For the first time he could remember, he was greeted with a face he hadn't seen before.

    ...well, perhaps it was a lie to see he had never seen him before. But he had certainly never seen him here.

    Pushing down the fatigue and lingering emotions from his altercations earlier, he rose to his feet, brushing the dead grass from his pants. Then, with a wry smile, he called out to 'him.'

    "Hey, me. Long time no see."

    Even more confused by the answer, the boy tilted his head to the side as he spoke. "'Me'?"

    "Yes, me," Shiki replied, not explaining any further.

    Standing not ten feet away from him was 'him.' Shiki Tohno, the boy who he had become. The boy who had taken his place, who had put him in this cage of a world.

    The boy who was slowly dying, slowly killing himself with those eyes. Slowly killing both of them.

    The boy he was fighting so hard here to protect.

    The boy clearly recognized that they both looked almost identical. Almost. The first thing he noticed about the boy was that he was wearing glasses, an interesting choice considering that there was nothing wrong with his vision. Otherwise, the only real difference lay in the way they carried themselves. 'His' demeanour was fearless, having absolute trust in his own security. He had to wonder what he himself must have looked like, after untold years killing the ghosts of his friends and family.

    "You're...me?" Still unable to get his head around the situation, the boy's expression was becoming more and more incredulous.

    With a flick of his wrist, he snapped his knife shut, holding the closed weapon to show the name marked on it.

    "Yep. I'm you. You're me. I understand your doubts, but that's how it is."

    As if he hadn't noticed the knife before, the boy's expression turned dark. "If you have that, then...that means..."

    Shiki interrupted the boy with a laugh. "Don't think too hard about it. I'm just a ghost that's too immature to let himself die." As he spoke, he slipped the knife into his pocket. "This is the first time I've seen you here. Did something happen?"

    Successfully distracted from that line of thought for the moment, the boy scratched his head with a troubled expression. "I'm...not really sure. We were fighting, and then...I had a terrible headache...and then everything went dark?"

    With a low hum, Shiki took on a thoughtful expression. "Pushed yourself too hard, huh? Looks like you passed out. Even so, it's pretty strange to end up here just from passing out. Did something else happen?"

    The boy frowned again. "...not that I can remember. I guess I strained my eyes pretty hard, but..."

    Shiki shrugged. "Well, don't worry about it too much. If you just passed out, then you'll wake up any minute now. No need to fret, you'll be out of here in no time."

    "Well, alright then," the boy replied with an awkward laugh. As he began to look around, though, his expression turned dark once again. "This place...that knife...we're inside my head, aren't we?" His gaze turned hard as he locked eyes with Shiki with an intensity even he wasn't used to seeing. "I think I know who you are."

    "Oh?" Shiki replied with a condescending smile, desperately trying to mask his mounting panic. If he figured out who he was, then the memories would come back. Not just memories of him, but all of them...all the memories he was struggling so hard to keep suppressed here. Sticking his hand into his pocket, he gripped his knife hard. He didn't know what the knife could do to help him now, but it was all he had. No matter what, he had to-

    "You...you're the killer, right?"

    "...what?" Shiki blinked in surprise.

    "The killer. The one in my head who wants me to murder. This dead world, and that weapon...if I give in to that impulse, I'll become you, won't I?"

    Shiki maintained a veiled expression, not trusting himself to speak. He couldn't even describe the relief he felt. It was an oddly specific misconception to have, but even if it made the boy hate him, it was better than him knowing the truth.

    "I guess I can't hold it against you," the boy continued, his tone matching his serious expression. "It's not like it's your fault. You were born from my mind, after all." Shiki raised an eyebrow, but otherwise remained silent, allowing the boy to continue. "But I won't give in. I'm not going to let you take over, no matter what. You might as well give up now. You've already hurt enough people, I'm not going to let you hurt anyone else."

    Shiki laughed. "My my, how scary. Sorry to say, but I'm just doing my job. Please don't hold it against me."

    The boy replied with a derisive snort. "Maybe you should get a new job."

    "I'm not so sure that's a good idea," Shiki gave a wry smile. "For either of us."

    Pulling a knife from his pocket, the boy kept his eyes locked on Shiki. "Why do you want to kill so badly, anyways?"

    Shiki's smile dropped from his face. "What?"

    "Why do you enjoy killing so much? What happened to you, to make you want to hurt people so badly? Did something happen to make you want revenge? Do you hate people so much? Or are you just sick in the head, a depraved murderer who can't find joy in anything but other people's suffering?"

    Though the question seemed honest enough, it was easy to hear the judgement laden in the words. Pulling his own knife out from his pocket, Shiki looked at it for a long moment before responding. How many people had he killed with that knife? How many friends? How much family? Sure, they were just ghosts, but so was he, in a way. Did that make any difference?

    "...I don't."

    This time it was the boy's turn to give a confused look. "...what?"

    "I don't enjoy killing. I don't want to kill anyone." Even as he felt it was dangerous, he couldn't help but confess his true feelings. Though he knew he should keep those words deep inside, he couldn't stop them from spilling out. "If I could have a happy, carefree life like yours, I'd take it in a heartbeat."

    "Then...why...?"

    Shiki finally managed to smile again, an expression he knew must have looked sinister from the boy's perspective. "Because one of us has to." Because if I don't, you'll be dragged back into my father's world. You'll become a killer just like he was. "If I wasn't a killer, then you would be. And you wouldn't be very happy with that, would you?"

    A conflicted look overtook the boy's face. It was like he believed what Shiki was saying, but didn't want to. "Is there no way we can just...live peacefully?" His voice was feeble, though not out of fear or despair.

    It was out of pity.

    He knew being a killer wouldn't make him happy, and he knew being a killer didn't make Shiki happy. Was there no way he could save Shiki from what the boy thought must have been hell?

    Oh sweet child, if only you knew.

    "I'm afraid not," Shiki shrugged. "But you can. So just be happy. Just be happy that you are on the outside, and I'm in here."

    The boy's expression became pained. Before he could speak again, a new sound interrupted them.

    The tinkling of a bell.

    Moments later, before either of them could react, an unfamiliar girl appeared between them. Though she stepped out onto the ground, she remained remarkably silent, even the grass crunching under her feet making no noise.

    The boy blinked in surprise. "Len? What are you doing here?"

    Without saying anything, the girl stepped over to him and took his hand in hers.

    "Looks like she's your ticket out," Shiki spoke with a mischievous smile. "I guess that's goodbye, then. Have a nice life, don't waste it."

    The boy threw him another sad look. As he did, the girl looked at him also, a moment's confusion soon replaced with a look of sudden realization. For a moment he was afraid this girl would spill his secret, but she then gave him a knowing nod.

    I understand.

    Shiki replied to her silent nod with a wink and a wry smile.

    I owe you one.

    It seemed he was quite lucky today. Both that 'he' understood so little, and she understood so much. Maybe that was some small reward for all his hard work.

    Unaware of their silent exchange, the boy spoke quietly. "Goodbye. I doubt we'll meet again."

    Shiki laughed again. "I'm sorry to hear that. But you know, no hard feelings here." Shooting him a one-eyed look, he kept a veiled smile. "If you ever need someone dead, just let me know."

    After a short pause, the boy nodded to the girl in black. Without another word, the image of the two rippled, like it was on the surface of a pond in which someone had just thrown a stone. Gradually, the image faded, and Shiki was once again alone.

    With a deep, tired sigh, Shiki dropped to the ground, lying on his back. Staring up at the dimly shining moon overhead, he inspected the knife in his hand in the weak light.

    Just be happy that you are on the outside, and I'm in here.

    He doubted those words were much consolation for 'him,' for someone who valued life so much. Even after labelling him a murderer, it took only a few minutes of conversaton before 'he' took pity on him, after all. But they were all he had to offer.

    And don't worry. I'm not going to try and take your place. I won't forget a promise so easily.

    The words he could have said, he wanted to say. But he knew he couldn't say them, for fear of being found out. If 'he' knew who Shiki was, that he was just a ghost, just a repressed memory, then everything Shiki had worked for would be undone. He wouldn't be able to keep his promise.

    It was a promise he had to himself only. No one had been there to hear it, and likely no one else would have cared.

    But watching 'him' from the shadows, watching as the boy grew up, found friends and family...found happiness. Even as the world inside 'his' mind slowly collapsed...no, especially as it began to collapse, he wanted to help. He wanted to protect the happiness 'he' had found, the happiness he himself would never have been able to reach.

    And so he promised.

    I'll keep my memories sealed here as long as I can. So you have to live happily as long as you can.

    It was a promise that would be broken the moment he shared it, so he had no choice but to keep it to himself. But he would keep it.

    He didn't really have many other options, did he?

    Splaying his arms and legs out wide, he stared up at the darkened moon overhead.

    It was impossible to measure time here. The moon never moved, and the sun never rose. The only indication that time was passing at all was the gradual decay of the world as it was slowly killed by 'his' eyes, and the continued appearance of the ghosts.

    They would be back soon. Whether it was minutes or hours, days or weeks, they would be back. And if they were allowed to go free, they would return to the surface of 'his' memory. They would haunt 'him,' hurt 'him,' do everything in their power to steal 'his' happiness away. Whether it was the same ghosts he saw a few minutes earlier, or other ones entirely, they all threatened to do the same thing.

    And one day, Makihisa's seal would fail. It had already degraded to the point of near uselessness, holding back only a single memory, of a single night. If it failed, there was no way that Shiki would be able to hold the beast it bound back. Instinctually, he knew he had no chance against a monster like that. The only question was whether that seal would fail first...

    ...or if 'he' would die first.

    How much longer did 'he' have left with those eyes? Certainly no more than a handful of years, at best. It was hard to measure time here, but there was only so much of this world left that could be lost.

    If Shiki had any choice in the matter, then he would choose to die before having those memories come back. After his tumultuous childhood, it seemed almost like a crime to die so young, but...'he' was happy now. It may have just been his personal opinion, but he felt dying young and happy was better than living a long life tormented by your past.

    In the end, it wasn't his decision to make anyway. 'He' would die young, and if he lasted long enough, he would die with 'him.' Alternatively, Makihisa's seal would fail, and the monster it kept in check would annihilate him, and drag 'him' into darkness. There was nothing he could do but wait and see which happened.

    A warm night breeze blew over him again, its sound hollow and lonely without the sound of rustling grass that used to accompany it.

    How long had he been lying there, staring at the moon? Had it been seconds, minutes, hours? Days, weeks, months? It was impossible to know.

    In the distance, deep in the darkness, he could hear the faint sound of dead grass crunching beneath someone's feet.

    Flicking open the blade of his knife, he rose to his feet.

    Was he doing the right thing?

    In a way, he was keeping down memories that 'he' had every right to have. They were 'his' past, too. Maybe protecting 'him' from those memories was not the best choice. Sure, many of those memories would hurt 'him.' They would bring incredible pain, revive terrible traumas. They had a very real chance of stealing 'his' happiness away. But maybe...maybe 'he' would be better off with those memories, overcoming them, becoming stronger for them...

    With a laugh, Shiki Nanaya turned to the sound of approaching footsteps.

    Maybe protecting 'him' from that pain was the wrong choice. Maybe 'he' would be better off dealing with that pain, growing from it.

    "But that's too bad," he spoke to himself as yet another familiar ghost appeared from the darkness. "I already promised to keep these memories trapped here."

    And an assassin never breaks a promise.

  2. #2
    The Long-Forgotten Sight Rafflesiac's Avatar
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    I quite liked this. It had a real Tsuki vibe to it, with the humanity amongst death.
    Quote Originally Posted by Arashi_Leonhart View Post
    canon finish apo vol 3

  3. #3
    紅魔|吸血鬼 Frostyvale's Avatar
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    Shiki's interaction with his memories is generally not caring, not really wanting to know. In that frame, this makes perfect sense. Nanaya's a good guy.

    The whole dynamic is rather like Ryougi's, too.

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