A delicious aroma wafted into my nose as I stirred back into consciousness. I groaned softly and sat upright on a very comfortable lilac-hued bed. I saw a woman tossing restlessly in her sleep, and suddenly felt a jolt ran down my back. Wait what the hell was I doing here? A second later my heart restarted as yesterday's events came flooding back. I exhaled in deep relief as I leaned over and gave my tormented mother a soft kiss on her cheek.
She groaned but her anxiety seemed to ease a bit. I looked at the stranger that had given birth to him feeling a mixture of both warmth and exasperation in my heart. She seemed so kind, and yet she was a single mother to an ungrateful playboy bastard. I whispered, "I'm sorry you had to put up with his crap for so long, mother."
I stood up and yawned as I wandered down the hallway to the kitchen in my yukata and then stopped short to see Jumon standing at the stove with a look of utmost concentration. Yukina sat curled up under the table and watched us with a look of fascination. Kyoko was dressed in one of my oversized light blue shirts with the sleeves rolled up and a pair of my black shorts. She wore a yellow apron over it which made her look rather adorable in my book. She flipped an omelet and then plated it with an air of domestic satisfaction.
I hummed in satisfaction, "You'll make a great wife someday, Kyoko."
She went rigid and nearly dropped her plate in surprise. She whirled around and elation lit up in her eyes. She gently set the eggs down and dashed over to give me an affectionate hug. She sighed deeply and shivered against me as she admitted, "Katsu-kun. You really are alive. It wasn't a dream."
I awkwardly hugged her back and tried not to let the close contact overstimulate my body. I had no idea what he had done to her, but I could only guess she was just a plaything for my sadistic double. My grip tightened slightly.
"Katsu-kun, that hurts a little."
"Ah! Sorry!" I released her and took a step back as I bumped into the table.
Her blue-grey eyes took on a look of deep worry. She reached out and soothed as she caressed my cheek with her delicate and pale hand, "I wish I could ease your suffering."
I took her hand in mine as I averted my gaze and muttered, "I have done unforgivable things to you. I know I deserve only your contempt. My amnesia does not excuse what that demon with an angel's face did to torture you."
She blushed faintly and shook her head slowly. "I allowed it. You…he made me feel like I existed for the first time."
What horrible lewd things had he done to this vulnerable, defenseless girl? I couldn't bear to know…yet I had to ask. My vision became blurry as tears burned in my eyes. I seethed, "H-he violated you, didn't he?"
She gasped as she flushed all over her face, and then slowly nodded once.
I slumped on the couch with a feeling of utter defeat. I wiped at my eyes as raged over his sins that were now my burden to carry.
I felt her sit by my side; then she leaned into me and enveloped my shoulders in a tender hug as she wept with me. After a few minutes she looked up at me with a pleading expression.
I wiped my tears away and squeezed her arm. I vowed, "I will not treat you as a toy ever again."
"I know. You look at me with such kindness now." She started to blush again, "Katsu-kun…I wish y-you would…"
"What?" Oh God, surely she wasn't going to suggest that.
After all that buildup, I couldn't help but to burst out laughing. "Kyoko, you're too much! I did horrible things to you, I treated you like crap, I dumped you, I died and lost my memory, and you still like me?" Maybe I was insane to find this situation amusing.
With pink cheeks she shyly nodded, "I c-can't help it. From the opening ceremony last year to now, I pined for you from afar. Even when we were a c-couple, you kept your heart locked up tight. Maybe losing your memories means you can start with a clean slate." She made a sweet smile as she looked at me with deep affection. Then she closed her eyes and waited for the touch of my lips.
I grimaced as I started to lean forward, but the gentle tickle of her breath made me too self conscious to act. After an uncomfortably long pause, I frowned and fessed up. "I…um…forgot how to kiss. Can you show me?"
Her eyes fluttered open as she bit her lip nervously. She hesitated as she looked uncertain at taking the assertive step. I was certain that whatever he asked of her, she always passively followed his lead.
I smiled shakily, "Take the initiative please."
"O-okay." She leaned in and softly planted her lips against mine. After an all too brief connection, she pulled back and giggled softly, "I have…been waiting a long time to do that again."
I was left breathless and I was astonished how much passion was bundled in Jumon's tiny frame. My lips still felt a little numb with the taste of her peppermint chapstick in my mouth. I kissed her forehead as thanks and smiled slightly, "I'm sorry that I can't be your boyfriend again. I have a long road of atonement ahead of me first."
She sighed in disappointment but did not look unduly surprised, "I understand, Ka-katsu-kun." Her resolve returned, "I will walk it with you."
I smiled as I cupped her cheeks with my tan hands and touched our foreheads together. She was too damn kind for her own good.
We both flinched as my mother's teasing voice came from the hallway, "Such a pity. Here I thought that Kyoko-chan would be a great girlfriend, Katsu."
I stood up as my face burned with humiliation, "Mom, how long were you eavesdropping?"
She was standing in her cream colored robe and beamed, "It's a mother's prerogative." My mom walked in and sat at the table with an air of smug satisfaction.
I realized that despite her son playing around with two girls she was a proud member of 'Team Kyoko'. Well that made sense as the other girl had stabbed me to death. It was a pity now that I thought about it. If I wasn't burdened with getting to the bottom of this insane mess, I would have been rather grateful to have a sweet cutie like Kyoko as my girlfriend.
Jumon carefully finished setting the table as her face burned with shame.
We all gave a brief prayer and we enjoyed the delicious food…and each other's company.
"You have got to kidding me!"
We were seated in a large conference room in the administrative wing of the Shiromori central hospital. I had tried to send Kyoko home after breakfast, but she was determined to stick to me like glue. My mother calmly stared at the grey-haired chief of police who had just stood up and barked at me. I now knew my mom was a corporate attorney, but today she was acting as my legal representative and counsel. Other participants included the head of the hospital, the coroner, my high school principal, and the deputy mayor. My mother spoke firmly, "I realize this is a difficult situation, but we must make the best of it."
The balding police chief pointed a finger at me, and raged, "You played a trick on us? Do you even comprehend how much damage this will cause? You ought to be locked up for all the chaos you caused!"
The dark-haired, elegantly dressed principal sighed and she turned to the chief, "Chief Nakamura, getting angry and making threats won't help!"
"You idiotic brat. Faking your death and causing a media frenzy like this is intolerable, Shikyo-san. You should be locked up for years for that stunt."
My hands trembled uncontrollably as I strived not to sink deeper into my seat. I was screwed, but I knew I had to face the music sooner or later.
My principal wiped her glasses clean, "I had all sorts of trauma at Mapleleaf High School over this incident. Kids were crying, and I had to cancel classes for the rest of the week." She looked over to me sharply. "Shikyo-san, what really happened with you and Shukujo-san?"
I swallowed hard and nearly yelped out in shock as I felt Jumon take my hand under the table. Bolstered by Kyoko's kindness, I finally found my voice again. I opted for the truth, no matter the cost. "Ma'am, I'm sorry for all the trouble I unwittingly started. I don't remember anything. My memories before Monday night are entirely wiped clean."
The chief roared, "Lies! You're going to jail, you little punk."
The coroner, who I had last seen passed out on the morgue floor, looked up. Dr. Sakomoto glumly chimed in, "Sir, we lost the evidence, remember?"
My mother's eyes lit up in barely suppressed ire, "You lost what?"
Chief Nakamura barked at his subordinate, "Be quiet, Sakomoto!"
A new, silken voice chimed in, "Enough." Everyone in the room complied instantly. The deputy mayor of Shiromori city was a distinguished man in his late 40s in an Alfani suit. "This event is obviously unprecedented. The mayor wants this matter settled discretely and efficiently." He glared around the room, "Let's all be completely candid." He eyed the chief coldly, "You're up first, Chief Nakamura."
The plump policeman looked ready to have a stroke on the spot. He opted instead to pound his fist on the table and he fumed. "Fine. But this meeting must be completely confidential." Everyone at the table nodded in agreement and signed a paper that made the rounds. After the paper was back in the Deputy Mayor's hands, the chief's anger ebbed a bit. He read off a packet of papers, "This past Monday, at 0723, we received an emergency call from a student named Jumon Kyoko." He shifted his gaze to my only friend and snapped at her, "Do you admit you called the police after your ex-boyfriend was assaulted, Jumon-san?"
Kyoko squeaked softly and nodded furiously.
The chief continued. "It was followed by calls from at least two teachers that there had been a stabbing on campus at the entrance to the school gymnasium. A squad was on the scene within ten minutes, and the reporting officers discovered a gravely wounded boy by the name of Shikyo Katsu." He flashed a glare in my direction. "State your name for the record, boy."
I stood up and bowed. "I-I'm Shikyo Katsu, Chief."
He arrogantly pointed at my chair indicating that I should plant my butt back into my seat. "Shikyo had been stabbed at least twelve times in the belly, chest and neck. The attacker, a girl named Shukujo Sumiko was apprehended with her skirt, shirt, and blouse saturated with blood. She had already been disarmed and restrained by several teachers, and was ranting incoherently. Shikyo was transported by ambulance to Shiromori central hospital, where he was pronounced DOA. Shukujo was taken into custody and charged with second degree murder. She is currently in the psychiatric wing of this hospital undergoing competence tests."
My mother looked at the choleric chief with annoyance, "I thought you claimed to have lost the evidence."
The chief glared at her resentfully, "We did. This transcript is a reconstruction from oral testimonies."
"So your evidence would be inadmissible in court due to the incompetence of the authorities."
The deputy mayor nodded. "All of the evidence is a moot point if you son is alive and unhurt, Shikyo-san."
My mother sat down again and crossed her arms.
The chief eyed the hapless coroner, "Sakamoto?"
The coroner sighed, "The body of Shikyo Katsu was transferred to the Shiromori central hospital morgue, where it was determined that he had died from exsanguination caused by multiple stab wounds of varied size and depth. The fatal blow severed the trunk of the pulmonary vein."
I shivered uncontrollably from the image of my lifeless corpse lying on a metal slab. It was even worse picturing myself perforated like a pincushion.
The hospital administrator shook his head. "I can't make sense of it. My ER and ambulance staff all remember the incident vividly. However, all the paper documentation and computer records are unaccounted for. Even the video footage was erased. I no longer have any physical proof besides eyewitnesses that I ever had a dead schoolboy in this hospital."
The deputy mayor eyed us all with a commanding gaze. "The death certificate filed with the city is no longer in our database. Someone with a cruel sense of humor has been playing us all for fools."
My mother took all the comments, and then spoke quietly, "How about this? Why don't we say this was an emergency preparedness drill? Use it to raise public awareness about violent crime? There have been a number of strange crimes in Shiromori city this year anyway."
The chief spat out in disgust, "Hell no!"
The deputy mayor puffed on his cigarette and gestured in my mother's direction, "I agree with Counselor Shikyo."
Chief Nakamura's eyes widened as he glared at his boss, "B-but it's a stupid idea!"
The principal sighed and rubbed the bridge of her nose, "It sounds fair to me. Do you have a better idea, Chief?"
The police chief glared daggers at my mom, but he sat down with arms crossed, "I agree only because it will be your responsibility if it fails, Mr. Deputy Mayor!"
"Of course," he replied smoothly. "This way, everyone saves face."
I finally spoke up with a weak voice, "Th-thank you everyone. But what will happen to Shukujo-san?"
The hospital administrator sighed deeply and shook his head, "Officially, all charges will be dropped against her. Her victim is walking, talking and breathing. However, she clearly suffered from some sort of psychotic break. She's going to be in the hospital for quite some time to come."
"Umm, can I visit her?"
Kyoko looked aghast, "W-what?"
I looked to her reassuringly, "I'll be fine. I have to try to undo at least some of the damage, if I can."
The administrator nodded wearily, "I have no objections."
The Deputy Mayor smugly asserted, "Then it's agreed. This boy's death officially never happened."
Everyone in the room nodded gravely in agreement.
The principal cast a withering glare at Kyoko and me, as she stood up to leave, "I'm calling school back in session tomorrow. I'll see you two in my office at 0700 sharp!"
Both Jumon and I stood up and bowed. I replied respectfully, "Of course, sensei."
Kyoko added, "Yes, sensei!"
The room emptied out leaving my mother, Kyoko and I alone.
I finally exhaled and felt a release from the unbearable tension, "Thanks for bailing my butt out, mom."
She smirked and ruffled my hair up, "It's only fair I thank you for finding your way back to me."
My smile faded out, "I'm sorry I don't remember the life we shared before." I shook my head ruefully, "Maybe I'm just a doppelganger of your dead son."
She gave me a tight hug, "Dummy! You are my real son. That's true, even if you never get your memory back."
I hugged her back, as tears coursed down my cheeks. I felt my mother pull Kyoko into the group hug as well.
The next step to repentance could not involve my mother or my classmate.
I tentatively walked into a sterile room followed by a burly orderly, and saw a pretty girl strapped down to a hospital bed. Her expression looked worn and haggard. Her long dark hair was in disarray, and sweat beaded on her forehead. I sadly shook my head in dismay as man gently pushed on her shoulder.
"Miss Shukujo, wake up. You have a visitor."
She stirred after a few more shakes, and opened her brick red eyes. She looked up at the orderly and smiled, "Good morning!" Her voice was surprisingly smooth and silken for a knife wielding maniac.
I glumly spoke up, "Hello Sumiko-san."
She looked over to me with a slackened jaw, as if she couldn't register who she was actually seeing. Finally she squeaked out, "Katsu?"
Her eyes were very wide, "Is it really you? Are you a ghost?"
I sat on the edge of the bed, and ran my hand over her restrained arm. "I'm real...and alive."
Her face broke into a crazed smile, "Oh, you didn't die then?"
I shook my head.
Sumiko suddenly roared at me, tugging with all her might at her straps, "I should have finished the job then! No one two-times me and lives!"
"I'm sorry. I never meant to hurt you."
"You're dead, I swear! Next time I won't leave any loose ends." Her eyes burned into me with hatred and malice.
The orderly squeezed her shoulder, "Miss Shukujo, please!"
I stood up and spoke softly, "Unstrap her."
The muscular man looked over to me in shock, "But Mister Shikyo-"
"I'll take responsibility." I handed over the Hospital administrator's directive.
He signed the form that absolved him of any responsibility of Shukujo's actions. His brown eyes displayed unease as hit the release lever on all the straps. He then stood by, ready to intervene as necessary.
Sumiko wobbled unsteadily as she rose to her feet in the hospital gown. She approached me slowly, and I could now see she was nearly my height.
I bowed humbly. "I'm sorry for everything I did to you."
Her face melted into pure rage as she slapped my cheek twice, shoved me against the wall and pounded on my shoulders. "You jerk! I hate you…I hate you…Die…Die…Die, won't you!" Her blows hurt at first, but quickly diminished in strength, as she broke into tears. "I hate you." She flung herself and wrapped her arms around my neck and pulled me into a crushing hug. She sobbed, "Die, you monster."
I was tearfully hugged her back. "It's alright to hate me. I deserve it."
She bawled and my shoulder was soon completely damp. We slid down onto the floor and clung to each other for many minutes.