A few beginning note:
Yes the title is correct, there is nothing after the 'Of'. Now that's out of the way, this is a project I have been working on the side with a friend, TH-Z, who serves as a co-writer. Many thanks to him and I hope you will enjoy this story as much as we have while making it.
Chapter 1: A rotten beginning
Sometimes, the wind would carry quite an unpleasant taste. Something mire, something burnt like decaying flesh. It is so vivid you can practically feel yourself rotting away. It's truly horrible and any sane person would immediately eject his stomach content in a spectacular stream the moment the wind touches his tongue. In fact, that what happened to me on the first day in this school. Vomiting profusely in the middle of a hallway doesn't make a good introduction.
So much for a high school debut.
To make matter worse, it seems like I'm the only one who could sense it, that absolutely revolting taste. A few months have passed since that explosive entrance of mine and a lot has happened since then.
I am now president of the Paranormal Activity club (unofficial), which remains in the shadow to hide from the general populace. That is a polite way to say no one knows or cares about what we do here basically. Now we are in a time of crisis.
"Oi, have you thought about what to do yet, President?" Asked Akihiko, a member of my club.
Tall, dark, handsome with short black hair he is the direct opposite of the wimpy me. A model student on all subjects with a polite attitude. Despite his academic prowess, Akihiko is very well-built and with great reaction, a natural athlete. Truly a person well-loved by almost everyone, students and teachers alike.
Sometimes I do wonder why a person his calibre would hang out with someone like me.
Back to his question, I should answer it but there is a slight problem. I actually have no idea what he is talking about, seeing that I was deep in thought for a moment there. Multi-tasking is truly the bane of my existent.
"Um, what are you talking about? We are in the middle of a class her…"
Before I could finish, a piece of chalk pierce through the air and strike me square in the forehead.
"So first you are too good to listen to your teacher now you dare to talk in my lesson" Kumiko-sensei looks at me with a gaze filled with cold rage. Crap, she realises I was day-dreaming earlier "Out in the hall, now!"
First lesson in the morning and I am already out in the hall, standing. Other teachers walk by with a sorry gaze. 'This kid is probably having Kumiko' they must have thought. Shortly after, however, I am joined by a compatriot.
"Yo, how are you doing President!"
"Akihiko, what are you doing out here?"
"Well, that was kinda my fault so I might as well keep you company"
On his forehead is a small red mark no doubt due to flying chalk. He is always such a nice guy. Of course, that isn't Akihiko only motive, he wants to continue our talk from before which I still have no idea. I tries to talk abstract while trying to figure out what he is on about to no avail.
"It's about Aoi-san, don't you remember" He is too sharp for my feint or maybe I'm just garbage at it. At least I now know what he is talking about.
To bring you up to speed, our club consists of three members including me. Remember when I said that I am the only one who can sense that decaying taste. Well, that isn't entirely the truth. The other members can also feel it through different means, touch and smell. Basically, this unknown rotten existent is what binds us together.
But as I have mentioned before, we are facing a crisis which incidentally is also what Akihiko was talking about. A girl called Aoi.
What is special about her? Nothing really and that is a problem. The club was formed to investigate our revolting experience with what we called 'the rot' which Aoi has no idea about. Investigating while keeping it under wrap isn't much of an issue but investigating while keeping it under wrap from one of our own will be quite challenging.
On the outside, Aoi is a perfectly normal high school girl. In fact, she is rather popular in class due to her energetic nature and 'cute' appearance. She did her nails and put on make-up… - things a normal girl would do, well maybe except the whole rolling skirt up thing. Her hair is short but very fluffy and soft with a brown hue to it, apparently, she used to dye her hair. What is most intriguing is her petite figure but more on that later.
Come to think of it, I have been watching over her quite a lot lately to determine her motive. Doesn't that make me a stalker!
…Nevertheless, I still need to deal with her.
"Don't worry, Akihiko, I will handle this"
As the Paranormal Activity (unofficial) club president, it is my job to turn her down properly. I will need to be firm and direct. Marching through the hallway I make my way for Aoi's classroom, the first break is about to start soon.
"O, isn't that the President!"
A familiar high-pitch voice calls me out from behind. Wait, isn't that Aoi! What is she doing in the hallway in the middle of class. She is coming for me with that sparkling eyes of her, no I'm not ready for this yet.
"What are you doing out here?" Must makes up a subject, direct the flow of the conversation! That's what mother told me as a facet of a real men!
"Have you thought about my application yet, Pre-si-dent~"
"Um, what are yo…" Must… direct… the… conversation…
"Ah, sorry I am just so excited about this! I really looked forward to working with you guys~"
Aoi said enthusiastically as she steps up to face me directly. Ah, her face is too close, I can see into her sparkling brown eyes Ah, concentrate damn you! I need to turn her down fast! Decisiveness is a facet of a real man (like mother always says)
Come to think of it, she also smells real nice I noticed! Girl conditionings nowadays all smell criminally good. And her lips with a slight hint of gloss, they look so soft, so… Decisiveness gosh darn it!
"Um, I am considering it… Heh heh…"
"Yay! That's mean I'm still in the race! See you around, President~" Aoi rejoices and prances away.
Mother, it seems like I still have a long way to go to become a real man…
"Heh, so you still haven't turned her down yet" Akihiko said jokingly while sipping his tea.
"Well, I… I don't have anything to say"
"At this rate, vice pres is going to chew you up"
I'm also worry about that. Despite having only three members, we still have a vice-president anyway, Yuuko, who's also the librarian. She was the person who took me to the infirmary after my first time vomiting explosively.
Long flowing hair, check. Eyes as black as a night sky, check. Skin white and soft, check. Yuuko is what one might call a traditional beauty. Well, maybe except for her height which is higher than average.
She reigns over the library which resides in the clock tower, the oldest building in school. Not many students fancy the place, however, seeing that the atmosphere can be rather creepy plus the lack of modern literature. To make matter worse, that place was built by Westerners back in the day so a huge chunk of the books is written in language foreign to most people here.
So, the old library is mostly left desolated, except for the librarian of course. The lack of visibility to us is a blessing, however and so the upper storage floor is recommissioned for the Paranormal Activity club (unofficial).
Now there are only Akihiko and me here though seeing that Yuuko has to complete her compulsory librarian task of sitting there doing nothing. But when she hears that I haven't declined Aoi yet then there will be hell to pay. While they clash head a lot, this is something both her and Akihiko agree strongly upon.
I better prepare for an apology then.
"President, why are you kneeling on the floor like that" Yuuko entered to see me apologising.
"Well, he wants to say something right, isn't that right President?"
"Sorry, vice pres but I… still couldn't turn Aoi-san down"
Ah, I can feel Yuuko's gaze drilling into my soul, or not? Actually, she looks strangely calm, just a bit stern. Akihiko also seems to wonder why is that the case.
"Huh, I should have guess. Anyway, President I believe there is need for you to prostrate in front of me like this. It's rather unsightly"
"Eh, sorry about that… Aren't you angry?"
"Well, it's true you can be quite indecisive and weak-willed" So she IS mad after all "But if you still can't say no then I am sure you have your own reason, President"
Yuuko looks at me, her expression softens. I will be off the hook after all.
"And here I thought the vice pres here said something along the line of 'I won't let that girl in no matter what', why the change of heart?"
"So do you if memory serves. Why don't you do something about it Akihiko-san seeing that you have much more free time than I do. Maybe you should actually start doing something for the club"
Ouch, that certainly hits close to home. Akihiko can't think of anything to say.
"Just leave everything to the President then seeing that you should have club activity now right. Well better run right now then, chop chop"
That's cold of her as usual. She is rather infamous for her scornful and uncaring attitude among the few that know of her.
Oh, I forgot to mention but Yuuko and Akihiko for some reason really dislikes one another. There was a brief argument on who would be getting the vice president seat for the Paranormal Activity club (unofficial). In the end, Yuuko only won out because as the librarian, she allowed them to use this venue.
The two have been butting heads ever since and this time, Akihiko accepted defeat and left begrudgingly. Unlike us two, he is in the baseball club (official). Because of that, Akihiko would accompany me during the day to investigate during the breaks. After school, it will be Yuuko's turn since there's (official) club activities.
We would go around the school and try to record where and when we have a reaction as well as its intensity. I can taste it, Akihiko can smell it while Yuuko can feel the rot through her skin.
The results can be random as first but after putting it all in charts and diagrams, patterns can be seen. There are areas that are definitely more concentrated than others.
Nowadays we mostly focus on narrowing down the actual sources of the corruption though.
Walking down the empty hallway of the old school building next to the clock tower, I can feel chill running down my spine. There it is, that decaying taste! Clutching my throat, I try not to vomit. This level of intensity is way worse than normal. It is enough to bring me to my knees.
The food is building up in my throat, wanting out. I shouldn't have eaten so much during lunch time... I must hold it down, hold it downnnnn!
The sensation finally passes by, I win this time.
Looking up, I can see Yuuko already reaching the end of the corridor.
"Wait up, didn't you feel anything at all?"
Yuuko turns around distractingly and gives a half-hearted reply.
"Now that you say it, I did feel something just now"
Another thing to clarify, while the others two can also feel the rot, they feel it much weakly. Also, since we have the most reactions within the old-school buildings, Yuuko, who used to stow herself on top of the library tower has had way more exposure and thus became rather resistant to the effect.
But still, for her to be completely straight-face about a hit as intense as that.
"Are you still bothered about that, about Aoi I mean"
Yuuko darts her eyes quickly to the windows "Not really" she said.
"You are lying"
"I'm not" She looks straight at me, trying to maintain eyes contact. Her gaze trails off a bit, however, which is a tell-tale sign. Yuuko also realises that and tries to think of a way to cover the trail to no avail. Her face starts to redden "President, you are a meanie!"
"Ha ha ha…."
Yuuko, cool and proper. Yuuko, sometimes scornful and cold but always elegant always traditional.
"Wh… What are you laughing about!"
The Yuuko in front of me, the one that I know who is currently pouting slightly, however, can be rather childish. But one thing is always certain, Yuuko is always beautiful. She truly is gorgeousness and gorgeosity made flesh.
Too busy laughing, I let my guard down and with a swoop she snatches my glasses. I try to get it back but she only needs to hold it up out of my reach, our height difference is clear.
"This is payback for teasing me!" Yuuko proudly declared.
"Ok then, you can keep them for now"
"Eh, don't you need your glasses!"
"Only for reading, my eyes aren't that bad. Although per Mamoru-sensei we may have surprise quiz tomorrow so I might need them before 9"
Pouting even more now, Yuuko tries to find a way to get back at me. In the end, she relents and decides to give back my glasses. I am never good with dealing with others, especially girls. But I can handle my lovely vice president all right.
As I reaches for my glasses, Yuuko suddenly pulls me over and I can feel her soft lips on my cheek.
"Wait… What was that about"
Ah, she got me there. Come to think of it, I should have mentioned earlier but we are currently a couple. Not for long though in fact I just asked her out last week. My heart nearly jumped out when she said yes but I managed to hold it in.
Wait, is that why!
"Now that I think about it. About Aoi-san, are you perhaps jealous?"
Yuuko turns back her ears bright red. She contemplates her answer for a few moments and decides that hiding this isn't going to do any good.
"What if I am, we already have Akihiko around! There is no need for more people! Besides, she also isn't in any club. A pushy girl like her will definitely tag along during our afternoon investigation. Then… then we won't get to be by ourselves"
An outburst, now this is the first. She still not stopping though.
"Remember the time when there were just the two of us snooping around. Only us two could feel the rot, it was like a personal connection a shared secret between us two. It was something special. Then you had to go and to dig up Akihiko"
Wait, what she is saying right now. Does it means that Yuuko had feeling for me way back then.
"I was fine with it, since he was your old friend and he could also sense the rot. But this girl, she couldn't even manage that and there is no way you can keep our abilities a secret if she joins. I don't want someone like that to be one of us. I know this is selfish of me, that was why I didn't want to complain in front of you but… but you just had to push it…"
Yuuko is now overheating, now not only her ears aren't the only parts that are red. To see her be jealous like this, to have an outburst over me like this. It feels… great, flattering even. I should calm her down though as much as I relish this scene.
Ah, mother am I a pervert? I hope not.
It's time for a hug. Yuuko seems to calm down as she rests her head on my chest.
"T… Thanks, you sure you want to keep this up though, President?"
"Eh, I thought you always like me hugging you like this?"
"True but at those time, I am usually sitting down"
She is right, this is a rather embarrassing scene. Me having to stand on a table like this! Curse our difference in height!
Some minutes have come to pass.
"President, your hug seems to be quite strenuous today" Yuuko said worryingly.
"Well, this table is more unstable than I thought" I admitted.
Aaaand there goes our romantic moment. But in all seriousness, the last thing I need is falling on my head. After some difficulty, I finally manage to make my way down. Yuuko meanwhile looks dejected, 'my moment' I can hear her murmurs.
"Anyway I need to go and see Aoi! I have to turn her down"
I declared, after hearing my girlfriend pouring her heart out like that, there is no way a real man can just sit still! I can already see mother among the cloud giving me a thumb up.
"Why? Won't she just going to push you around again, besides I thought you have your reason?"
True, it's hard for me to do this seeing that Aoi must have her reason of wanting to join. But then I have made up my mind.
"Well, I am rather weak against type like her but for you I sure I can do it!"
"Geez, so you have to push that on to me… Still, I am glad"
Yuuko turns away but I can catch a glimpse of it, her smile.
I ran back to the main school building. Still, it isn't that bad. Guess that walking around every day does help to increase my cardio if for just a slight bit. Aoi should be in the Drawing room. Stopping in front the door, I run all the facts about her through my head.
I will of course try to decline her offer outright but in the case of the conversation going awry, which I highly doubt, this information will be useful. Or maybe I hope I can use all these, at least it can justify somewhat my stalker-ish behaviour. Ah, mother don't look at me with that judging eyes.
I went a bit off-track there. Ok, breath in, breath out, buckle up, it time to face the overwhelming creature known as Aoi.
I took a long breath and opened the door
What await me was not what I had expected.
Well, in front of me is Aoi, which was what I had foreseen. But I did NOT expect to see her lying against the wall unmoving. Her lifeless face titled to the side revealing hand mark burnt on her neck. I could feel her dead eyes looking straight at me, staring deep within my soul.
I fell to my knees again clutching my mouth but not because of the gruesome scene. I could feel it all over, 'the rot'. Not through taste only like normal, however. I can smell it clearly, that revolting stench of a million dead rats. Even my skin feels like crawling against its corrupting touch.
But worst of all is the sight. Aoi with a horrified expression imprinted upon her face. The hand mark on her neck is of rotten flesh, looking at it I realise, so this is it. I can feel it with all of my senses.
The rot in all its festering glory.
But what does this mean! Aoi could also feel it like we do all this time? That's impossible, I have been watching her closely and she hasn't made any suspicious reaction. No one can keep a straight expression feeling the rot. There is Yuuko but as a senior she has a year worth of experience compared to us.
Did she know about this, was that why she come to us? But that girl hasn't shown any worry at all, or did she manage to fool me? Was something observing her?
Questions swirls around in my head, none of which I can answer. For a moment, nothing seems real except for one fact only.
Aoi is dead and that is my fault.
I know of the rot and she came to me. Maybe I could have helped or maybe she got targeted because of me. Whatever way I choose, it is still my fault.
I can feel tears streaming from my eyes. I haven't known her much at all but after all this time I spent watching. I have come to an understanding of who Aoi is, what kind of girl is she. That in a sense is a bond and it is now tearing me apart with sadness and guilt.
"Stand up and face me boy"
A voice calls to me and as I look up a man is standing in front of me. A young foreigner with dark yellow hair and striking blue eyes. Wearing an aristocratic looking garb, he is impossibly handsome. Enough for me to forget about everything, about Aoi just for a moment as I gaze as his radiant presence.
Of course, reality soon came crashing down on me again.
"Who… who are you!"
I screamed at him with the top of my lungs. He looks at me with gentle eyes.
"I am Dorian, Dorian Grey. I see that you can perceive me just like this poor girl here. No it seems to be even more than that"
"Wait, what does that mean! Is the 'girl' Aoi? What happened with her? What is going on?"
I panicked, I just want to run away. To hide this dirty self from the world, from his gaze, from her long dead gaze. I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry.
"Telling you to calm down would be futile, but I should try nevertheless"
The man said softly, his words feel somewhat soothing.
"This girl has been keeping me company this past few months. Now she is dead and I have no idea why. All I can do is to bring her back to life just this once"
Wait, is he serious, can he bring her back. I want to ask but he just gaze at me and deep inside, I feel like I can trust this person. No, I shouldn't be easily swayed like this, especially by an unknown entity like this. All my resistant is washed away, however, by the desire to bring back Aoi.
"When everything returns to normal. Please do not tell her of this incident. To remember yourself dying is a feeling I do not wish her to feel. And lastly, please accept this request of mine, please save this girl, Aoi!"
I whispered to myself and before I know it here I am standing in front of an open door. Behind it she is turning back to face me with a smile on her face.
The normal, very much alive, Aoi.
"Oh, isn't it the President, what are you doing here, looking for me perhaps?"
She said cheerfully which stands in stark contrast of the lifeless being lying there just a few moments ago. I hold back my raging emotion, however, no need to worry her now.
I am quite a jaded person if one might say and after all the training to hold back myself when tasting the rot, I have developed quite a strong front. Because of that, acting calm here isn't much of a problem at all.
"President, why are you crying, are you alright?"
Eh, am I. Oh she is right, tears are streaming down my cheeks. They aren't from before since my face was also washed clean. Aoi runs toward me worryingly. Asking a bunch of questions to no avail, she realises I am not listening at all.
The girl tries to click in front of my face instead but I also can't see it probably as my eyes are all watery. Feeling overwhelmed, I lunge toward to hug her and cry uncontrollably in her embrace.
A lot has happened, from the sight of the girl's lifeless form to the rot assaulting all my senses. Then came an incandescent figure of whom I can't comprehend. Now, facing the normal Aoi I can let all of it out basking in her warmth.
I can finally break down.