By Brendan Rizzo
Yomi entered the classroom and stood in front of the students. He had just transferred schools, and thus had to stand there for a few minutes while the teacher introduced him to the class. He resisted the urge to just stare off into space. The room was boring, the teacher's voice just droned on and on, and none of the students he could see in front of him had any features to distinguish them from one another, not counting gender. It was as if they were all bit characters in an anime, who served no purpose except to fill out the room in the background. So he let his mind wander, while still taking care to make it look like he was paying attention. That crack on the back wall looked interesting; it would be a good way to keep his focus on one place while at the same time ignoring what was being said. How much more time could the teacher possibly spend on introducing him?
"…and anyway, it looks like you can have a seat over there, right in front of Miss Ruu!"
That could not possibly be the correct pronunciation, right? He thought better than to dispute it, though.
The sole empty desk in the classroom was on the far right, directly next to the window, in such a position as to ensure that the work area would be bathed in an orange glow whenever the school day neared its end. Yet it was not in the corner, as there were occupied desks both in front of and behind it. Yomi thought it was odd that the seating arrangement at the start of the year had skipped over this desk, as though the teacher knew ahead of time that a student would transfer into the classroom and be perfectly suited to it according to the tropes of anime.
The student sitting in front was not notable, but the one at the desk behind was straightaway more than just a background figure. Her first notable attribute was that, unlike all of her peers, who had given the teacher and Yomi their undivided attention and eye contact, she was staring out the window and resting her head on her right hand, paying no attention whatsoever to what was going on around her. This was the "Miss Ruu" of whom the teacher had spoken.
When Yomi arrived at his new desk, he got a good look at her in detail. Her appearance was striking: as she was staring out of the window, it was clear that she did not care one whit about the class surrounding her, nor about the school dress code. After all, her hair had bright red highlights on the bottom that looked like fire, creating an incongruous effect with her otherwise high-class Japanese haircut. Yet that was the least unusual thing about her appearance. Her left eye was closed, though it faced the window directly. Her other eye, however, was staring right at him. Not only was the iris a deep shade of brown, almost like milk chocolate, and not only was the pupil dilated, but the eye that was closed had no eyebrow, despite the presence of its counterpart. As soon as she had noticed Yomi's presence, he tensed up, as if some indescribable thing were horribly wrong. Every fiber of his being was telling him to get out of there, but of course he was unable to do so, and so he tried to ignore his every instinct screaming at him to run far away for his own good. Despite his inability to get the girl's gaze out of his mind, he still sat down and turned slightly toward her, but still glanced elsewhere at the room, though he did not quite know why.
"So, we're classmates now, huh?" he said. "I only got one of your names. It's Ruu, right? And is that the given name or the family name? I don't want to be overly familiar if you don't want—"
"It's 'Lugh'," she said, pronouncing the first consonant distinctly as what an English-speaker would recognize as an L, and not as the strange intermediate between it and R that actually exists in the Japanese language.
Her right eye continued to stare at him, as if it were burning a hole right through his forehead.
"And it's my last name."
She turned fully toward the window.
"That's an unusual name," said Yomi, taking care to avoid coming off as rude.
She turned back at him.
"I'm half-Irish," she said. "Do you have a problem with that?"
"Of course not!" said Yomi, who was embarrassed to even be having this conversation.
"Good," said Lugh. "Then don't talk to me."
And with that, she turned back to the window and acted as though Yomi were not present.
He thought that conversation was strange, but noticed the teacher was staring at him. He had forgotten that there was a class going on around them. He looked down and sheepishly went back to the notes they were supposed to be taking. Why was he so nervous?
He was unable to interact with any of his other classmates until lunch, when the lectures ended and the members of the student body gained license to speak amongst themselves. As for him, he just had a brown bag with a sandwich and an apple in it, so he was more interested in spending his lunch period talking to those at other adjacent desks. He did not need to take much initiative, as the boy to his right started up a conversation with him as soon as the teacher left.
"Hey man! You seem all right. What was your name again? Didn't quite catch it," said the boy.
"Cool. It's Ookiguchi."
Yet another strange name, but Ookiguchi swiftly moved the topic of conversation, bringing his voice down to a whisper.
"Anyway, I know you just moved here, but you might want to be careful. There's a reason that seat was unoccupied."
Yomi said, "Because there are only so many students in class but a fixed number of desks?"
"No," Ookiguchi continued, "it's because the teacher couldn't make anyone sit there! Not when they're just gonna be stared at all day."
"Don't know what you mean."
The other boy tried to be discreet about this, and communicate to Yomi in a nonverbal way, by subtly waving his arm toward the direction of the girl behind them.
"You know…" he said. "Can't you feel it? I'm not even directly in front of her and I'm affected. Just gives me the creeps."
Now that his classmate mentioned it, Yomi did find it a little hard to pay attention to the teacher over the past few hours. He could not help but think that Lugh was staring right at him with that eye of hers, and even without eye contact, he felt tremendously uncomfortable, like how a person feels when an ice cube slides down their back.
"You know she's right here, right?" he whispered back. "I'm sure she can hear us."
If she could, she made no indication of it. The girl was still staring out the window and not caring about the rest of the class.
Ookiguchi replied, "Well it's not like she's saying anything! Kokutō, back me up on this!"
He spoke to the boy in the seat directly in front of Yomi. He was one of those teenagers who looked as though he ought to be in middle school, not high school, as he was so much shorter than most other boys of his age. He had yet to speak up because he was engrossed in his homework, but he turned around to face the new student.
"Ookiguchi is right, you know," he said softly. "I never could concentrate in class before you got that seat. I do feel sorry that you'll have to sit through this now, though."
Yomi said, "Don't you think you're overreacting just a little bit?!"
That was not Kokutō or Ookiguchi, and those two tensed up when hearing the voice which butted into their conversation, and quickly directed their gazes towards the floor tiles, or the windows, or the ceiling, or anywhere but in the direction of the speaker.
"Uhh… Ruu!" Ookiguchi exclaimed, with audible worry. "We weren't talking about you just now! We were just explaining the school to Satō! Isn't that right, Kokutō?"
The other boy agreed, his line of sight at the side of the taller one's desk. Lugh was staring directly at the both of them with her right eye, in a piercing gaze that suggested they would soon be hit by a jet from a wind tunnel. Her left eye was still as shut as it had been before, but Yomi still got the impression that it was good that her anger was not directed at him.
"How's your lunch?" he asked.
On Lugh's desk was one of those fancy bentō boxes so common in Japan, arrayed resplendently with sushi and soy sauce. She had only begun to eat, but her chopsticks were placed neatly down inside the box, getting nothing on the desk.
She said, "That is none of your business. Leave me alone."
Yomi turned back to face the whiteboard again, and muttered, "All right, all right."
In all honesty, he was actually a little bit relieved, and let out a brief sigh.
When class resumed, he found himself unable to concentrate. He already had a disadvantage due to transferring schools in the middle of the year, but there was no way that he would get caught up when he suffered such continual distractions, which were made even worse by having no obvious cause. The ending bell came as a relief, and when he walked through the hallway, it felt as if he had just gotten the chance to rest after carrying heavy weights for hours. He closed his eyes only to smack into a barrier and fall to the ground, while he heard a girl moan in pain.
He got up at once and exclaimed, "I'm so sorry! I should have been looking where I was going!"
The girl on the floor was more petite than Lugh had been, and sported hair in a short bob cut, such that it covered the circle of her scalp but did not extend down her neck, let alone her shoulders or any farther. She had been rubbing the back of her head, but her eyes opened when she heard his voice.
"It's fine," she said, in a softer voice than Yomi expected.
She quickly took the hand that he had extended in aid and allowed herself to be pulled up back on her feet. Was she not upset that he had walked into her?
"No, it isn't," said Yomi. "You aren't hurt, are you?"
"I don't think so," said the girl, though she sounded unsure of herself. "I wasn't paying attention, either."
"Well in any case, I should still help you," said Yomi. "Oh, I'm Satō, by the way. I just transferred into this school. And you are?"
"Matsubara," she replied. "But my given name is Kirara. You can call me that, if you want."
Yomi could not help but notice that Kirara had turned slightly away from him.
He said, "Well then, Matsubara—er, Kirara—it's nice to meet you. In fact, you're the first girl I've ever walked smack into who has been willing to talk to me."
Kirara was subconsciously placing her index finger on her bottom lip, with her thumb resting on the underside of her chin. After a second, she extended her hand for him to shake.
"Well then, pleased to meet you. I hope you have a nice day!" she exclaimed.
Because he had just transferred to the school, Yomi did not attend any of the clubs that were available, and he did not get the opportunity to speak with anybody who would have been willing to interest him in any of them. Therefore, he headed toward the exit in order to go home, and much to his surprise, Kirara came with him.
"I'm part of the 'go home club' too," she said, looking at the sidewalk slabs, turning up only to ask, "Where do you live?"
Yomi told her, only for her to reveal that her apartment was only a block away. Having accompanied him, she spent that time telling him about the school, and informing him of the teachers, and of the other students.
"You said you were in 1-B?" she questioned.
She seemed a little worried about that.
"It's nothing, really."
Yomi did not believe her, though he said nothing.
He arrived home, and they parted ways.
Several days went by, and Yomi gradually became more involved in student life, as though he had attended this school from the very beginning. Ookiguchi and Kokutō were quite personable, and Kirara, though she was in a different homeroom, made the walk to and from school better than it would have been alone. And he occasionally interacted with the rest of his classmates, too. The one person who ignored him altogether was the girl who sat behind him. Not that he was complaining, but he only wished that her silence translated into him not feeling her gaze whenever she was in the room. Regardless, he had gotten into the swing of things and did not expect for her to speak suddenly one morning.
"I can't believe it," she said, not caring who heard, "The hall monitor wrote me up for having dyed my hair! Yeah, it's dyed! It's dyed black! Isn't that the color they want?!"
"Then how do you explain the ends?" Yomi asked.
He did not know why he had said anything.
"I'm a natural redhead," Lugh said.
Though he was still careful not to look directly at her, Yomi could not help but turn his head in Lugh's direction so that he could better hear her speech. Her left eye was still closed. He did not think that he ever saw it open. His classmate was ranting on about how her hair follicles would be damaged if she had to dye her hair for extended periods of time, and that there are natural hair colors in the world other than black, but something made Yomi ask a question, though he knew he would regret it later.
"Say, Miss Lugh, why is your eye closed?"
Her tirade suddenly stopped. For a split second, she looked surprised, as if nobody before had ever asked her that. The expression on her face quickly changed to one of annoyance and indignation, and she stared directly at him with her open eye, while at the same time she stood up in her desk, with her arms unbent and hands gripping the edge.
"That is none of your business!" she exclaimed.
Yomi had never been so terrified in all his life. He felt as if the whole class were staring at him. But that could not possibly be right, because his classmates went out of their way to avoid looking in Lugh's direction. Surely more than one eye had to be looking at him at this moment, right?
Ookiguchi snuck him a furtive glance, feeling sorry for his friend's pain. Truthfully, Yomi wanted to wipe that look off his face.
They were all surprised to hear the teacher say, "Miss Ruu, sit down and be quiet!"
She slowly returned to her chair, while muttering something indecipherable under her breath. In truth, Yomi had forgotten that they were in class.
As it turned out, this was the day on which they received the results of a quiz, and Yomi had had the unfortunate luck to have transferred just before it was held. Thus, he had been required to take it like the others, and did not do very well, as he had yet to adjust to his new school's different place along the yearly curriculum. While the teacher was handing the quizzes back, (and even he was going out of his way not to look her in the eye) Yomi could not help but catch a glance of Lugh's results. She received 96 out of 100, which is not what interested him. No, what did that was how she wrote her name. Her family name was of foreign origin, so it was written in katakana as he expected: ルー. Her given name, on the other hand, had such a strange reading that he was convinced that either Lugh had bad penmanship, or he had interpreted it incorrectly, because nobody would ever have 目神 as a name. Right?
Nobody in Yomi's vicinity spoke to each other at lunchtime, but when physical education rolled around, and the boys and the girls were separated in order to change into their gym clothes, the barrier to doing so was removed.
"Geez, man, what did you do?" asked Ookiguchi. "I've never seen Ruu get that pissed off before."
"You know, it's not that hard to pronounce her name correctly," said Yomi. "And all I did was ask why she always has one eye closed. I didn't expect her to fly off the handle at me for it."
Kokutō added, "Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever seen her left eye open. Have you?"
"Nope," said Ookiguchi. "Now that you bring it up, it's really weird, huh."
"You don't think she lost it, do you?" asked Kokutō.
Ookiguchi thought for a moment.
"Yeah, but then wouldn't she be wearing a patch over it? And don't they make glass eyes for that sort of thing?"
"Well I heard that you need both eyes for depth perception, so I guess it depends on how well she does in P.E."
Yomi had already begun to tune them out at that point. If Lugh had only one eye, why did he care? It is not as if he would treat her any differently because of it.
They had made it from the locker room to the gymnasium, and the other students filed in as well, including Lugh, who just walked over to the lineup as if nobody else was there, and Kirara, who skipped over to Yomi's position as soon as she saw him.
"Yomi! Nice to see you!"
She punctuated her arrival by extending her arm out at an obtuse angle, bending her elbow such that her left eye was just behind her fingers, which were making the sign for the number seven in American Sign Language. This caught the attention of Yomi's two friends.
"Wow, you've been here a week and have already gotten a girlfriend," mused Ookiguchi, who was nodding his head back and forth and crossed his arms before his chest. "I'm envious."
"Wha? She's not my girlfriend," said a visibly flustered transfer student. "She's just a friend, who happens to be a girl, and who walks home with me at the end of the school day."
"Definitely a girlfriend, then," said Kokutō. "She even calls you by your given name."
Yomi turned to face him. He noticed Ookiguchi's incredulous facial expression.
"That proves nothing!" he exclaimed.
Meanwhile, Kirara inspected her shirt.
"Gee, we haven't even started yet and I'm already sweating," she mused.
Their conversations were interrupted by the teacher blowing the whistle.
"Ah, sorry, gotta go!" said Kirara. "See you later!"
The class teacher had them begin with the aerobic exercises that one is supposed to do at the start of a workout session to warm up, though Yomi did not understand the utility of this, since they would be exhausted anyway even before beginning the actual practices. After five minutes, the real workout began, in which the students were required to run a lap around the room and go through the basic obstacle course seen in any anime, involving such gymnastic technique as running through a military grid maze and jumping over a pylon. But since they were given a few minutes to catch their breath before starting, Ookiguchi resumed to one of their prior topics of conversation.
"Okay! I didn't see Ruu struggle that much with the exercises!" he exclaimed.
Yomi replied, "What, were you spying on her? Not cool, man."
"Come on, this is a mystery we gotta solve! And it's a perfect job for the Oak, if ya know what I mean."
"No, I don't," he said. "And how could you afford to be looking at her during the warmup anyway? They're really tiring."
"It's a matter of personal fitness, man."
Kokutō spoke up, with, "But wouldn't that not prove much since jumping jacks and pushups don't require depth perception?"
Embarrassment swept over Ookiguchi's face.
"Crap, I forgot about that! Oh well, let's just watch her now!"
"I don't think that's such a good idea!" said Yomi, but his friend had already commenced his lap around the course.
Lugh had no difficulty with running, but once she made it to the obstacle course, she stopped. A few students passed her, and made it through the elevated grid without tripping, and jumped over the pylon without too much problem. But she was stuck. She stepped inside the first grid square slowly, only for the teacher to blow the whistle and exhort her to go faster. As soon as she made this attempt, she fell face first. Her hand was covering her left eye, and she did not right herself until she was certain that it was closed. At that point, she just walked away, but Ookiguchi saw the whole episode.
"I knew it!" he yelled to his friends, once everybody had completed the course.
Yomi was not wholly convinced.
"There could be other explanations," he said. "Maybe she's just clumsy."
Kokutō said, "I've never seen her trip over anyone in the halls or anything, though."
At that exact moment, both Yomi and Kirara sneezed, which is strange because the floors of the gymnasium were waxed.
In the center of the room, Lugh and the teacher were arguing. A crowd of students were slowly beginning to surround them, including Yomi's friends, as much as he did not want to get involved.
"…I don't care about your opinions, Miss Ruu. You could have seriously hurt yourself, and after that performance, you definitely need your eyes checked out for your own safety."
Lugh said, "No I don't! Didn't you read about my exemption from the yearly eye exam?"
"Yes, I did see that," said the teacher, "and though I honored it then, that was before you suffered a fall that badly. I don't know how your parents pushed that through anyway. But you might do much better in this class if you actually have both eyes open."
Ookiguchi whispered to Yomi, "This is getting good!"
Yomi shrugged and moved away from him, being tired of listening to his big mouth, such that he could now see the instructor instead of Lugh's face. Even from that distance, he felt spooked.
Hearing this scandalized Lugh almost as much as if she had been asked to strip naked in front of the class, and she looked at the teacher with her right eye. He recoiled, but only slightly, as she glanced toward the floor once she spoke.
She murmured, "No. I can never do that."
The teacher's face had a look of confusion.
"Pardon? I couldn't hear what you said."
"I said that I won't do it!"
Her expression was unyielding, and a few of the students who were in front of her averted their eyes.
But the teacher was unmoved. He began to lift his hand in the direction of her face. She saw what he was about to do immediately, and grabbed his wrist, but his right hand was almost touching her left eyelid regardless.
She exclaimed, "Ah! You can't touch me!"
"Now now," said the teacher, "I don't know why you won't just let me look at your eye and get this over with. This ought to only take a couple of minutes, and then you can go back to your friends."
At those words, Lugh's visage hardened a bit. Then she moved her head slightly and snorted.
Before she could react, the teacher touched her eyelids and separated them slightly with his fingers, ignoring her desperate and panicked attempts to keep them closed, while at the same time saying, "Seriously, this will be over in just a sec—"
Only that the moment he opened her left eyelid, his body seized up and he collapsed, lost the ability to stand upright, and fell right on her shoulders. Within a second, those students who had been directly behind him, and had not averted their gazes, followed suit.
Somebody screamed. It was chaos. Lugh covered her left eye as soon as she could and looked utterly inconsolable. The teacher fell to the floor, hitting his head hard, but it did not matter as he was dead as soon as he had collapsed anyway. By this time, the other students had rushed to the aid of those who had fallen, but of course it was futile. Everything happened so quickly that Yomi did not know what was going on, but he heard Kokutō shouting for him.
"This is super bad, dude! Ookiguchi isn't breathing!"
Yomi felt his heart skip a beat. And not only was Ookiguchi down, but Kirara was lying insensate in a prone position only about a meter away.
For obvious reasons, the rest of the classes of the day were cancelled, while an emergency class assembly was called to explain what had happened to the very distressed student body. None of them had ever seen paramedics haul half a dozen people out of the building in body bags, and some of the onlookers had the misfortune of recognizing their friends. Lugh was nowhere to be found, though it did not matter as the medical staff from the ambulance ruled the teacher's death to be the result of a sudden heart attack.
Yomi had to walk to and from school alone. It was so depressing. How could this have happened? Kirara and Ookiguchi were dead. How was this possible? Sure, even if the teacher had had a heart attack at that exact moment, what killed the students? There was nothing he could think of that could cause this.
He did not go to class the next day, as the school had excused the students for 24 hours. His parents still had to go to work, so he had the place to himself. While he was home, the doorbell rang unexpectedly.
He recognized one of his classmates in front of him, though they had not spoken much before the incident. Before him was a boy a little shorter than he, with messy hair and thick-framed glasses that obscured his eyes. His clothes were wrinkled and tattered, and he was obviously jittery.
"It's Ishiguro, right? What are you doing here?" asked Yomi. "For that matter, how do you know where I live?"
Ishiguro interrupted, "I have reason to believe that I know what caused the deaths of our classmates, Satō. Also, I looked up your contact info on the school website."
Yomi did his best to hide his look of displeasure upon hearing how his classmate found his address, but the other topic had piqued his interest, even though the kid must have been talking nonsense. After all, there was no reasonable explanation. He would humor him, though.
He said, "Then why are you telling me these things? Shouldn't you be going to the authorities?"
"You'd think they'd believe me?!"
Ishiguro stepped closer to the doorway, and pushed his nose into Yomi's face, ignoring that the other boy stepped back in discomfort.
He continued, "I think you need to know because you lost a couple of your friends to this monster. And moreover, I think you're in danger, because you sit right in front of her and don't seem to have a care in the world about it! Didn't you notice that this all happened after Miss Lugh opened her left eye? That can't be a coincidence!"
At this point, Yomi dropped the pretense of taking Ishiguro seriously.
"Look, I don't know what you're talking about, pal, but it's not funny. What, do you also think our homeroom teacher is an agent for some secret organization, dedicated to observing Lugh and preventing her from destroying and remaking the world? Is the Loch Ness monster involved in this, perchance? Or velvety aliens that hijack human brains?"
He was in the process of slamming the door, but Ishiguro stuck his foot through the threshold and prevented Yomi from closing it altogether.
"You think I'm crazy, but I'm serious! I've read as many books on this as I could find. The Fomorians are coming to kill us all! You have to protect yourself!" he yelled.
Yomi pushed Ishiguro out the door and locked it tightly. Why were so many people going on about Lugh, anyway? She was just the girl who sat behind him in class. Sure, she was a little creepy, but come on, people!
The grace period for skipping school was not extended more than a day, and Yomi had to return to class the following morning as though nothing had happened. He half expected Kirara to accompany him there, before abruptly remembering that she was no longer of this world. It was upsetting, now that he really had time to process it. He saw Kokutō as he approached the school building. The other boy was not looking too happy, either.
Yomi thought for a moment, then said, "Did Ishiguro visit your house yesterday, by any chance?"
"Ugh, don't remind me," muttered Kokutō.
Well, this could only end so well, now could it?
They entered classroom 1-B, only to notice that the pallor had extended to the entire class. Not that this was surprising, in any case, but what was noticeable was that only one student was sitting by the window. It was unusually quiet, though if he were paying very close attention, he could hear the hushed whispers, which stopped utterly once he crossed an invisible line and found his seat.
Immediately, he noticed that, instead of staring out the window ignoring people, Lugh was shrinking down as close to the surface of her desk as possible, with her face buried in her arms and totally hidden by them, as if she were trying to hide. This was nothing like anything he or Kokutō had seen from her before.
"Uh, you okay?"
Lugh did not even look up at him, but said, "Leave me alone."
"Look, if you need to talk to someone, I'm available—"
"I said, leave me alone."
She lifted her head up, and Yomi and Kokutō involuntarily recoiled once again upon seeing her right eye. Was she… crying? Tears were streaming down the right side of her face, but her left cheek was totally dry, and her eye shut.
"Don't look at me like that! I told you to go away!" she yelled.
Yomi mumbled something under his breath but acquiesced all the same. He could not help but glance at the desk to his right, which was now empty. There were a couple of others, but it was a good thing that Kirara had not been in his homeroom class, or he would not have been able to take it.
The teacher entered the room, trying not to make a scene.
He said, "I know we are all upset about what happened, and that it is difficult to deal with loss. The guidance counselor is available all day today, but we have to continue classes as if this tragedy had not occurred."
He commenced the lecture, and Yomi found it easier to concentrate on what was being said than at any prior time since transferring schools. It was quiet.
That lunch period, which would ordinarily have involved Ookiguchi saying something stupid, and Kokutō and Yomi shrugging it off or disputing it, was far too silent. Neither he nor Kokutō had much to say. He took out his lunch, and out of the corner of his eye saw that all the students in the column next to his had moved next to their friends from other seats. Ishiguro gave him a worried look. Yomi ignored him.
What followed was something he had never expected to see occur before he graduated: the girl behind him actually initiated a conversation.
"Do you think I'm a monster, too?" she asked.
It was an icy, accusatory tone. Regardless, he turned around to respond to her, but not so much as to be uncomfortable in the desk. At least she was sitting up straight again.
He said, "What? Of course not."
She glanced toward the window with her one open eye.
"Pfft," she sighed. "As if it matters. They all have the right idea to avoid me. I didn't want to go to school today, but my parents made me."
"Well we still have to get an education," said Yomi.
"What's the point of it all?" asked Lugh, who slumped forward, hugging the desk surface again, and averting Yomi's gaze. "That guy, Ishiguro? He's right, you know."
Yomi was utterly nonplussed.
"He's a lunatic," he said. "He was insinuating that you somehow killed them with a look and that I should stay away. But really, he watches too much anime. At least, I hope that's his problem."
What she said next shocked him.
"My mother died as soon as I was born. So did the obstetrician."
"Well that has to just be a coincidence, right?!"
But the expression on her face suggested that she was not buying it.
"Tell me, have you ever heard of the Fomorians?" she asked, after a pause.
Okay, now things were getting freaky. Yomi had thought that was just some chuunibyou word that Ishiguro had made up.
"I've heard about them," said Kokutō, which made Yomi sit up in attention. "They were creatures from Irish mythology, right?"
"So it's obvious, right?" she asked.
Yomi said, "Not really, no."
She rolled her eye.
She said, "You just don't get it, do you?" and then, after a few minutes, "I never told you my given name, huh? It's Mikami. Feel free to call me that if you want."
Yomi did not have any time to respond to that, or think about the sudden change of subject, before the teacher returned to the classroom and the lunch period was over.
He walked home, trying to think about what he had been told. He really wanted to believe that there was a natural explanation, but unless Mikami was delusional, why was she corroborating what Ishiguro said? It was all very confusing. If she really had been the cause of it, which made no sense to him, then that means that she was the ultimate reason for his friends' deaths. But she clearly was not happy about that. How would one handle this situation, anyway? It was not like people usually had to deal with such things. What was he supposed to do? He did not make up his mind until just before going to bed that night.
The next day, he spoke to her.
"I'm not going to ask just what is going on or what is up with you," he said, "but I've decided that I don't care even if you do have some power to kill with a look or something. I'm still willing to be your friend."
She looked up. It was clear from the look on her face that nobody had ever said that to her. So she said nothing. Kokutō just looked at Yomi and shrugged.
Nothing further happened until Yomi arrived at his shoe locker. Under ordinary circumstances, the cubby would contain nothing but his outdoor shoes, but when he went to take them, he found a note on the top.
"Meet me outside at the tree on the quad after school," it read.
At the bottom, there was no signature. Yomi thought he had seen that handwriting before, but he could not quite recall where. He was not really sure if he wanted to do so, after all that happened, but he just felt as though he should.
So when the bell rang, he hung back, and made his way toward the oak tree that grew in the middle of the quadrangle, where students often hung out at recess, either climbing the tree (though this was against the school rules) or trying to imitate romantic manga by confessing to the objects of their affection. He hoped that the latter was not about to happen.
There was nobody there when he arrived, so he just watched students file out of the building for a few minutes. The thought occurred to him that this might just be a prank. He whistled to pass the time and alleviate boredom.
He glanced at his phone. Five minutes had already passed since dismissal. Believing that somebody just thought it would be funny to have him wait outside for a rendezvous which never came, he stood up and prepared to walk out, only to see a girl walk up to him.
It was Mikami. Nobody else was around, and though her gaze was terrifying, Yomi decided to look, really look, at her. Her hair was flowing in the breeze, sunlight reflecting off in such a way as to confirm that the red highlights were undyed, with them capturing the light more effectively that the black section, which just reflected light away like an ink drawing. Her gait was confident, and her face was full of determination, her right eye burning into his soul once again, making him feel as though he were going to melt, like butter placed in a microwave oven. Not even her left eye being closed marred her expression. Before Yomi knew it, Mikami was right up next to him, boring a hole with that eye of hers.
"Hey!" she called. "Earth to Satō!"
He suddenly stood at attention.
"I guess I should explain myself," she said.
She took a deep breath. Yomi could have sworn that she looked a little nervous. He involuntarily took a sigh of relief because she ceased to make direct eye contact.
After a long while, she began:
"Anything which makes eye contact with my left eye dies instantly. There isn't anything I can do about it; even when I try not to make it happen, it still does. I call it my evil eye. My earliest memory is of waking up with an eyepatch taped down over the socket and being told that I must never remove it in the presence of any other person. I didn't even know why, until…"
She abruptly cut off her speech and gazed off toward the horizon. Light seemed to glisten off of her right eye. Yomi could easily guess what had happened.
Mikami noticed his expression, and suddenly snapped back to looking at him.
"Don't look sorry for me like that!" she snapped. "Just let me finish!"
She continued, "So by the time I went to school, I was extra careful to never open my left eyelid. I didn't have any additional trouble navigating, because I'm blind in that eye anyway. …Not that it mattered."
Once again, she turned her head so that her right eye rolled into the center of Yomi's vision, and once again he shuddered from its piercing gaze.
"I know," she said. "You don't want to react that way in front of me, but you literally can't help yourself. No one can. I can hear what everyone says about me behind my back. All of my classmates were terrified of me even though I never opened my evil eye in front of any of them, and they must have thought I was a witch who was going to hex them at any moment. And that's how it's been until now."
"Gee, I'm sorry to hear about that—"
"What did I tell you about feeling sorry for me?!" Mikami yelled.
Her right eye seemed, albeit only in imagination, to flare up, and Yomi recoiled slightly.
"Sorry about that. I shouldn't have snapped at you," said Mikami, softly. "I really have to be careful. Do you have any idea what it's like, knowing that all you have to do is open your eye to kill everyone you see? Of course you don't. I just haven't been able to share this with anybody in such a long time."
Suddenly, a thought came to Yomi's head. He looked up toward the sky and rubbed his chin involuntarily.
"Hold on, something doesn't add up," he said. "I can't be the only person in ten years who has tried to be nice to you, right?"
Mikami turned away again.
"You're right," she said, "but it never lasts. A few girls in middle school felt sorry for me since I had no friends, and tried to hang out with me, but within a month even the strongest-willed one stormed off and said that my presence was driving her insane. There was also a boy who tried to date me but broke up in a huff for the same reason and spread the rumor that I'm a monster. I think he just wanted to take advantage of a girl with no self-esteem. So I don't think you should get close to me, for your own mental health."
She turned away and prepared to leave, only for some feeling which Yomi could not describe to come over him, and he grabbed her shoulders and turned her around to face him, trying really hard not to wince.
"You don't know that!" he exclaimed. "I don't know why I'm doing this, but I just can't stand to see one of my friends distressed like this! Even if I do succumb to that, we can just end it amicably!"
He twirled her around and let the both of them take in the view. If this had been an anime, cherry blossoms would have been falling to the ground all about them in a miniature tornado, but of course that did not happen because the campus had an oak tree, not a cherry tree, and cherry blossoms were out of season anyway.
"Can't you see the beauty of the world?" he asked. "Come on, let's get some milkshakes or something!"
"Yes, I'd like that," said Mikami.
She could not believe that those words came out of her mouth.
"I'd like that very much!"
Joy came over her, and she smiled from one ear to the other. Tears glistened in her right eye. Unfortunately for her, in her excited state her left eye was inadvertently opened, and Yomi dropped dead. She looked at what had just taken place.