I doubt there could be anyone in our modern society who had never considered how wonderful it would be if the human brain were capable of being managed like a computer’s hard disc.
In other words, being able to make memories (records) disappear, make them non-existent, when we did not want to remember them, or being able to overwrite our reality if we did not wish to face it, removing all sorts of trauma, horror, and unbidden, unpleasant memories — how wonderful a brain like that would be.
And — by some twist of fate, it would seem that I possessed such a wonderful thing.
I cut away my memories, and cut away my heart.
It would be very easy to understand if you were to consider the most recent example, which would be my talk with Episode-kun this morning on the way to school — remembering the happenings of spring break, I had, in my own way, been afraid of him even as I stood and talked, but it must have looked abnormal from the viewpoint of another.
I was having a pleasant chat with someone who had tried to kill me.
Could something be so unnatural?
My finding him surprisingly easy to converse with was not supposed to be the point. Perhaps if I were a character in a comic book or television drama — but, as a real human being, why would I do something some terribly abnormal?
Was it not clearly unnatural?
I myself was the only one who had not noticed it.
Because — I had forgotten.
Of course, I had no memories of the moment when my insides had been blown away (I had thought that this was due to the shock but apparently it was not so) — but I forgot the sense of fear I had for him then, the feeling of being afraid.
The flesh might remember.
But the heart had forgotten.
No, surely even the flesh had forgotten as well.
That was why, even after something of that level had happened to me, I could still live wholesomely every day — Araragi-kun might live inflamed by his regrets every day, but that was not at all the case for me.
I did not know when it began.
I did not know when I became able to imitate a computer like this.
However, based on my present condition, it must have been before I became Hanekawa Tsubasa — I must have become able to do it, unconsciously, before I became old enough to actually understand, as otherwise the story would become incoherent.
I did not know why I became able to do something so convenient or perhaps even skilful, why I learned this abnormality-like ability.
It was most likely that — the trigger to all of this was the very first memory I cut away from myself.
It was simple enough to imagine — even before I met the abnormality called the Hindering Cat, I was already something like an abnormality myself. I finally felt the weight of Oshino-san’s words, about how I was more spectral than anybody else, and that the abnormality had been nothing more than a trigger for me.
No, perhaps even the Hindering Cat did not truly exist.
Instead, Black Hanekawa — might have always existed within me.
the Inflaming Tiger had, as well.
Regardless of how much we wanted to forget — the past would always linger around the lives of human beings.
It would always haunt us.
And perhaps, that would never end.
Oshino-san might have given me the age of twenty as a reference, but I did not believe even that number could be relied upon — at the very least, as long as I continued to wish for this,
as long as I remained as the way I was,
then for all eternity —
shall I continue this way.
Just as how Sherlock Holmes had not been allowed even to die, and forced to continue his efforts even after his retirement — always continuing on.
I would perhaps continue on.
I would likely continue on.
…But this was the end.
Let us end this.
There was no choice but to end it — this was the limit.
It would be ridiculous to be this way after fifteen, or even eighteen years.
It was time to stop fooling myself.
In the end, it was more ridiculous that such an absurdity had been accepted at all — even though it could only ever end in failure.
Deception would no longer work at this point.
This was not my limit — but my last stop.
Afterwards, I continued my endeavor with the Araragi sisters in building our towers (in the end, Tsukihi-chan was the only one who won. I went as far as I could, but I just could not build up my tower. So even you have things you can’t do, said Tsukihi-chan) ate dinner together with Araragi-kun’s parents after they returned from work, and then shut myself in Araragi-kun’s room on the second floor.
Even though it was only my second day, I felt myself growing strangely accustomed to this room, though I suppose this was Araragi-kun’s room, after all.
The first thing I did was abruptly throw myself onto the bed, still wearing my uniform, and bury my face in the pillow.
I voiced my exhaustion.
But — I was not languishing.
If anything, I was feeling tense.
“I might not see you again — Araragi-kun.”
But nothing could be done about it.
After all, if my deduction was correct — and it was — then the Inflaming Tiger had appeared in this city because Araragi-kun was absent.
I sprawled myself on top of the bed for another five minutes or so.
This was not meaningless. There was a meaning.
This was a sort of animal marking — I was leaving traces of myself on Araragi-kun’s bed.
The traces I had not wanted to leave at the Hanekawa house.
I was trying to leave them here — in Araragi-kun’s room.
Surely, Araragi-kun would notice.
Even if we were never again to meet, the next time he slept on this bed he would probably remember a little about me.
I ought to be fine with that.
I ought to be satisfied. Complacent.
Even assuming that my deduction was correct, and furthermore, that everything I would do from now on went well — I still would not be able to meet Araragi-kun again.
Even if Araragi-kun returned safely and I was there to welcome him back — by then, the ‘me’ whom Araragi-kun knew would have gone.
Just as how Episode-kun had said that the me from spring break and the me right now are like two different persons — but even moreso, I would surely meet Araragi-kun as yet another ‘me’.
That was what it meant — to square away the past.
To square off against the Tiger.
“Well. I’m done here.”
In the end, I could not tell whether the scent I smelled had belonged to me or to Araragi-kun, but when the clock reached seven-thirty, I finally began to act.
“Oh, no. I have to hurry.”
I laid about for too long.
Well, seeing as the Hanekawa house burnt up during the afternoon, there was actually little to support that the Tiger would be nocturnal like the Cat — however, it was likely a good enough guess to reference.
First, I took off my uniform and put it on a hanger.
After that, I rummaged through Araragi-kun’s hanging wardrobe, found something among his casual clothes that seemed easier to move about in, and put it on.
Although I had borrowed his pajamas before, I felt a bit uneasy taking out his street clothes without asking, but considering how much Araragi-kun had always wanted to see me wearing casual clothes, I suppose this might in fact be exactly what he wanted.
Growing to feel somewhat mischevious, I started thinking that maybe I should take a picture of myself now and send it to him — despite still not knowing what condition he was in.
However, as it might bother him, I did not try to contact him — though now that I actually thought about it, perhaps this was just a polite excuse. If I truly were worried, I would immediately make up my mind to contact him, just like Senjougahara-san had — would that not be the human thing to do?
So, I should be bold. I should send him a picture, as encouragement. The way I was now, I could still help him that much.
I took out the phone from my uniform on the hanger — and stretched my hand out, taking a picture of myself. Being a high school girl, I had been using a cell phone for quite some time now, but this was the first time I had taken a picture of myself.
Despite failing several times, I soon got used to it, and managed to take quite a good picture, if I might say so myself.
Having attached this picture, I sent the message to Araragi-kun without any text — and turned my phone off.
The next time I turned this phone,
I would no longer be in this world.
So perhaps this was not so much mischief as it was harassment.
It was like sending a funeral portrait.
It was a kind of bullying, coming from the one known for being an honor student.
Cruel, in my own way.
But now, there was no longer any regret left in my heart.
I no longer had a heart to leave behind.
I could open my heart — and prepare myself.
Taking pen and paper from my bag, I sat down on the chair and faced Araragi-kun’s desk. However, I was not revising today’s lessons or preparing for tomorrow’s.
Yes, I would write a message.
I would pen a letter.
I hesitated at the opening, but there was no point in standing on strange ceremonies at this point,
To Black Hanekawa-san,
and I simply began with this on line one.
…Perhaps this was not a neccessary step at all.
Perhaps I was doing something pointless.
I might not have any memories of myself being Black Hanekawa — but surely, Black Hanekawa had memories of being me.
Nevertheless, I wanted to express the feelings I had, as myself, to the ‘I’ who stood apart from me, to her.
I wanted to express to her — to the one who had always taken my place, to the dark, black part within me, to she who had always shouldered everything for me — my feelings of gratitude, and my last wish.