Chapter 1: What Kitsune Left Behind
It was pitch black.
It’s black, and I can’t feel anything. It doesn’t feel like my eyes are closed, and I’ll bet what I’m seeing isn’t the back of my eyelids. I think I’m probably dead. I do think that I don’t want to go, but in the end, with that state and those wounds, I guess dying is only natural.
I broke my promise. I kinda wanted to go to the amusement park. Now that I think about it, isn’t that totally a date? What’s more, a date with a bishojo. My life always does this to me whenever things are looking good.
— I made her cry…
What’s left of my memory, is the scene of Shiori’s teary face. The feeling of her warm tears dripping onto my face one by one. That feeling is still firmly implanted in my memory.
“Kitsune-san… why… don’t leave me behind…?”
I hear a voice. It’s Shiori’s. But it’s still pitch black, and it doesn’t even feel like I have a body, so I can’t move a finger.
If I were to open my eyes, then perhaps I could see Shiori-chan again, but I don’t have the sensation of eyelids I can open.
If I were to reach out my hand, then perhaps I could touch Shiori-chan, but I have no hand to extend.
If I were to open my mouth, then perhaps I could make small-talk with her as always, but I have no mouth to mince words.
Irritating, yeah, it’s irritating. For me not to be able to make a single woman smile… how powerless am I?
Her voice is getting farther and farther away. Ah, it seems I really am dying here. It feels like I’m sinking into a deep, cold sea. So this is death… it’s my first time, please be gentle. Oh wait, it’s not as if I have a mouth to say it.
Well, my life really wasn’t a nice thing… but I guess that in the end of the end, I protected my friend so that’s something. But since I made that friend cry, I guess there’s no meaning in it. It was self-satisfaction and self-sacrifice.
But that’s just about enough.
My conscious completely dissolves into the deep darkness and vanishes.
◇ ◇ ◇
From the moment he was born, Naginata Kitsune wasn’t one well-liked by others.
From the day he was born, he never once experienced his mother’s warm embrace. And all of this was because he wasn’t a child she wished to birth.
When his mother gave birth to him, she was a 17-year-old high school student, and it’s unknown who the other man was. Why did such a woman give birth to him? The reason was that she lived an everyday life of schoolgirl prostitution. Her desire for money led her to wear highly revealing clothing to seduce middle-aged men, and she received a considerable 『Allowance』 in exchange for her body.
Of course, she didn’t want children in the slightest, so she did take the necessary contraceptive measures, but the other man forcefully approached her, and in the end, she wound up pregnant. The reason she didn’t know who the father was because she was blindfolded and tied up when it happened. A so-called rape.
She did try for an abortion. She thought raising a child was a pain, and she didn’t like children in and of themselves. But her parents wouldn’t allow it. They said the child bore no fault, and they wouldn’t allow him to be discarded. Because he was protected by his mother’s parents, Kitsune was born safely.
And the mother that birthed him, despite him being born of her own womb, neglected in raising him. The ones who raised him were that girl’s parents—Kitsune’s grandparents.
He was only raised surrounded with love until he entered kindergarten.
After he entered, his atmosphere took a sudden change. He was always a child who would smile a lot, but he suddenly stopped smiling at all. His grandmother found it strange, and asked, but he merely gave a powerless laugh, and didn’t say anything.
He had been faced with bullying. For some reason, the other kids hated him, and even the teachers kept a distance from him. He was always alone, left out, and he even faced violence from the kids who didn’t know to hold back. There wasn’t even a teacher to protect him from them. Every day, the bruises on his body increased, and his words and smiles decreased.
Those days continued, and by the time he had become one of the older kids, he had lost both of his grandparents.
The cause was an accident. While they were on the way to work, and he was playing in kindergarten, a train derailed, and they were run over as they waited for it at the platform. For them, death came instantly.
Kitsune was taken in by the mother who pushed him away. At that point, she was 22, and having learned her lesson with prostitution, she earned her living now through part-time work.
He had lost his grandparents, and the money from their insurance went to his mother, so Kitsune was able to attend elementary school. The reason his mother had allowed him to go was to keep up her image to the public.
While he attended school, his expression and spirit just continued to get more and more enervated. The death of the grandparents who showered him with love, and the start of his life with the mother who abandoned him, were the main causes of his mental stress.
『Why did I give birth to a child like you…』
His mother would often let out those words.
She was unable to do any housework properly, and Kitsune ended up taking care of everything in the house. Of course, at the start, he kept on failing and incurring his mother’s wrath. If he put out bad food, he was struck, and if he broke something, smacked. It was in that cycle, that his kindergarten trauma revived itself, as the area under his clothes began to be covered with bruises once more. He couldn’t even remember the amount of times he cried.
In elementary school, they didn’t use violence, but for some incomprehensible reason, he was always left out, and spoken ill of in the shadows. The mental stress took a toll on his body, and at school, he was always alone.
The one who supported him was a single male teacher. That teacher would call out to him every day and encourage him.
『Listen here, don’t always look at the painful things in life. You just have to look for the fun things.』
『What? People are talking behind your back? Don’t mind it, if you just let it slide, then all that’s left is some kids speaking trivial nonsense about something they know nothing about.』
『You… those wounds!? Who did it!?』
Whenever something happened to Kitsune, he would take the initiative and take action. He was sincere, hot-blooded, and a model teacher loved by all. So Kitsune followed his words, and paid no mind to the slander, looking over it and laughing at it. He even began to train his body to some extent. He learned to say some provocative things, but that was all part of growing up, he thought.
But at a certain time, a sentence from his mother dug into his heart.
『Your smile, it’s disgusting.』
He didn’t know why. However, those simple words dug deep into his heart. After that, Kitsune began to hesitate to smile. The word disgusting prevented him.
But if he wasn’t smiling, he would start worrying his teacher. With emotions like that, his mother’s words, and his desire not to make his teacher worry, the boy was put between a rock and a hard place, and after that, Kitsune began to smile while he wasn’t smiling. A vague, thin smile would often float on his face.
While he was like that, he gave off an unnecessarily unnerving feeling to others, and throughout elementary school, he was the target of bullying.
And he graduated and moved up to middle school. That was the turning point of his life.
He was distanced from the teacher that supported him, and baseless slander about him continued to spread and torment him. He simply wanted a space where he wasn’t a bother to anyone, and whenever school ended, he would hole himself up in a nearby library. He read numerous books, novels, essays, manga, theses, history books, western novels, magazines, and albums; he would read anything.
And by doing so, the boy called Kitsune began to think. Why was he bullied? And a single answer came up
『There is no reason. It is through excluding and looking down on someone who humans can build their twisted friendship.』
Meaning that he was merely a sacrifice for the twisted relations of others. That’s why Kitsune gave up. If you ask what he gave up on: To confront the bullying. There was no reason. There was no cause. There was no point.
They just kinda didn’t like him, so they picked on him.
He just looked kinda weak, so they picked on him.
Kinda, Kinda, Kinda, there really was no reason, and since Kitsune, with his faint smile, was mildly disgusting, they bullied him. There was nothing he could do about it.
He decided to accept everything. The fact that he was bullied just became something he accepted as part of his everyday life. And by doing that, he erased the very notion that the harassment was painful from his mind.
From that day, the creepiness of his faint smile increased… and Kitsune stopped going to the library all together.
From the next day, the atmosphere surrounding the bullying changed.
Kitsune started taking the harassment as something he had to accept himself. He continued to give an unsettling smile, he laughed at the meaningless slander as he confirmed his theory. There was nothing more disgusting.
And so, the bullying stopped. It’s not like Kitsune entered the circle of twisted friendship and camaraderie. The very reason that he was being excluded had changed.
What was born in its place was the feeling that 『I don’t want to get involved with that guy』.
Kitsune spent his middle school life with a faint smile constantly floating over his face.
And it was the same at home. In a similar way, his mother no longer wanted to be involved with him. She even stopped touching the food he made for her. There were no conversations between them, and on the contrary, his mother began to grow afraid of him. In exchange for not being liked by anyone—he was no longer hated by anyone.
Everyone just wanted to stay uninvolved and apathetic to his plight.
One, two years went by in the same way as middle school. The disgusting feeling from Kitsune’s faint smile affected his peers, upper-classmates, lower-classmates, and everyone, inflicting mental stress.
And in the last year of Kitsune’s high school life… they began slandering him again. The stress his surroundings had built up from putting up with him finally went out of control. Even if they wanted to remain apathetic, they would have gone into a panic if they didn’t find an outlet for their stress. Kitsune put up with that slander with the same faint smile as ever. He happily accepted it as part of himself. That merely added more onto their built-up stress.
The one who walked into the room was Shinozaki Shiori.
She was a little bit of a strange person, and she excelled at picking up the signs to see what other people were feeling.
In an environment that wanted to stay uninvolved with Kitsune, yet could do nothing but hate him, she was drawn to the boy. He didn’t try to stand against the bullying, and he did absolutely nothing to stop it, but for some reason he didn’t seem to be in a weak position. That contradictory existence made her step up to Kitsune.
By involving himself with her, the boy gradually began to change. At the very least, from the perspective of the people who found him creepy, he had changed completely.
Only when Kitsune was talking to Shiori… was when his smile truly seemed to contain any joy.
They got along so well that many suspected they were dating. That’s probably why the status quo crumbled, and the surroundings regressed. They tried to set up their twisted friendship once more.
Naginata Kitsune was someone who always must be hated.
Shinozaki Shiori was a nice girl who was always loved by others.
Those around them saw their most hated one getting along with the nice girl they all cherished, and the stress built up as the two spent their days in happiness… it was unforgivable. They couldn’t permit it, so their pent-up emotions exploded.
As a result, Kitsune was murdered.
The life of the boy known as Kitsune was literally removed, excluded from the world for the sake of their twisted friendship and lust. The only one to shed tears was Shiori. Everyone else rejoiced. They rejoiced at having the one who frightened them all disappear.
— But even after Kitsune died, they didn’t feel that they had been freed from him.
Naginata Kitsune’s entire life. After the first five years where he was lovingly raised, after the years in middle and high school where he was hated and excluded, after the two years of high school where he was feared, and even after the last three months where he was loathed which eventually killed him, in the end, he was lovingly sent off by a close friend. Without any regrets, he died having protected her. He couldn’t have hoped for a more heroic end.
And so, the people who surrounded him continued to be subconsciously bound to the boy.
They began to recognize their bullying for what it was. Using the excuse that he was at fault for not saying anything, they desperately justified their actions. They were the winners, and the better people, that’s why.
Kitsune smiled up to the end, dying satisfied with life. Their exclusion and isolation was definitely what killed him. But by their logic, it was simply that he had lost. The reason being that up ‘til the end, Kitsune never broke under the harassment. Since they were never able to isolate him in the truest sense, they had to admit defeat to him.
And that’s why, by killing him, the sense of guilt birthed of their own twisted logic was something they were forced to shoulder. From there on, they were bound by the entity known as Naginata Kitsune for the rest of their lives.
◇ ◇ ◇
When I open my eyes, light rains down on me, clouding my vision, and when I try to relax, pain races around my body. And the next thing I perceive is the sound of the wind brushing against my ear, and the feeling of grass along my back and the back of my head.
My senses begin returning one after the other. The scent of vegetation, the feeling of cold, clear air, the beating of my heart, the warmth of my own body, the feeling of… being alive.
“… Where might this be?”
When I try speaking, what I hear is the familiar voice I knew belonged to me. I thought I had died, but it seems I’m alive. My surroundings seem to be a forest of trees and plants. When I look up at the sky, I see that I had collapsed on the grass. This definitely isn’t normal.
I try raising my upper body, and in order to understand my state, I stretch my stiff body. A nice-sounding “crick” sounds out, and I am able to start processing my situation. I guess I should check a few things.
I’m wearing my school uniform, and on my belt is a knife I’m definitely familiar with. And, the kitsune mask that Shiori gave me is inside of my pocket.
“… Shiori-chan was crying, wasn’t she…”
What I can remember is her shaking voice calling to me as I fell into the darkness. Since I made her cry, I felt a bit guilty.
But like this, since I’m alive, all I have to do is go find her again. Well, first, I’d appreciate it if someone were to explain this situation to me.
I hang Shiori’s kitsune mask on the side of my head and fiddle with the knife as I get up. For now, I better move. I read quite a few books at the library, so I needlessly learned some survival information, and I guess it’ll work out one way or another.
Like that, in the forest I knew nothing about, I begin walking to who knows where.