According to a news report I saw earlier, there are some people in the world who call the police, or for an ambulance to rush them to the hospital, at the smallest of things.
What these people wish for is ‘to be helped’ — in other words, ‘to be someone that others would help’, said the commentator.
“To be someone who others would care about, who others would worry about, who others would help”.
Being saved equals being loved, as well as being needed — this state of mind would be a method to confirm that, by imposing on others and then being forgiven for the act, one is loved and needed.
Apparently, all of this happens unconsciously.
It definitely wasn’t a calculated act.
But, regardless of whether it is calculated or not, people like Nadeko would be able to understand these human beings well — because, to a human being who cannot see her own reason for existence, who cannot see her own worth, having someone ‘care’ for you is very important.
Like now, in this situation, with Nadeko looking for Koyomi Onii-chan’s help.
Nadeko would be lying if I said I am not excited.
Nadeko would be lying if I said I am not thrilled, if I said I can’t feel my heart pounding.
it was just like that time.
Maybe I really am just deluding myself — though I’m not a boy, so I don’t think I can be a bastard.
I guess that’s too trivial to count as a comeback.
Nadeko could not wait until nighttime.
The correct thing Nadeko should have done was go home from school, stay there, and wait for Koyomi Onii-chan’s call.
I knew that.
Some imaginary voice might have been speaking to me, but that did not change the situation in any way — it was the truth that, at this moment, Nadeko still had not been ‘hurt’ by it.
An imaginary snake is just that, nothing more.
An imaginary voice is just that, nothing more.
But — that voice said something I couldn’t miss.
One who suffers.
…I wasn’t trying to think of myself in that way — it’s true that I can easily delude myself into believing that I am somehow being targeted, but I never really outright thought of myself as a victim.
After all, the fact of being hurt does not necessarily make you a victim — not always.
…That’s why, when Nadeko heard that imaginary voice, that violent and rough voice without a single trace of sympathy — I had no choice but to move.
I had no choice but to be moved.
I had no choice but to move.
As soon as I got home from school, I changed out of my uniform.
Putting on overalls and a jacket.
The overalls are from my mom, and the jacket is borrowed from my dad, so they are loose and poofy on Nadeko’s small body, but this is a disguise, so maybe this is just as well.
Nadeko had to avoid the eyes of others.
Finally, when I left, I didn’t put on the brimmed hat I usually wear outside, but a beanie I bought during a skiing trip, pulling it onto my head.
Pulled it low over my eyes.
I wrapped my best pouch around my waist, put various things inside, and after changing from my usual shoes to a pair of casual loafers, Nadeko left the house.
Nadeko headed for the mountain.
To that mountain, the top of which sat Kitashirahebi Shrine — where I had met Koyomi Onii-chan again.
I did not own a bicycle, so I had to slowly walk my way there, one foot in front of the other — it took almost thirty minutes to get to the mountain. After that, I had to get to the peak, which took another thirty minutes.
It was a very difficult trip for the weak Nadeko.
I would never be able to make hiking a hobby.
But, while it made no difference to the fact that I was going up a mountain, it was just a one-way track with proper stairs (old though they were) so you only have to keep moving forward — as long as you had the time, you can get to the top eventually, even if you had to stop to rest every few steps.
You will reach the top. Reach that place.
…Yes They say that a person, as long as he lives, and only when he lives, will arrive at the truth someday.
He will reach it.
That was how it felt to Nadeko — when I finally managed to reach the shrine at the top, I felt like I reached the truth.
When I went up this mountain however many times back in June, there was a ‘snake’ strongly wrapped around me — compared to then, this was a much easier road to walk.
But when I finally reached the top,
Nadeko was — exhausted.
It hadn’t been that long since I was last here, and I still couldn’t feel nostalgia for this place at all.
No, maybe this wasn’t just exhaustion.
Maybe I was just at a loss for words.
I couldn’t speak — at the sight before me.
When I passed under the tattered gate — maybe that should be ‘rotted’ instead — what Nadeko saw were the mass of snakes sewn into the grounds of the shrine.
Maybe you could say they were crushed into the ground instead.
They were not white snakes — just normally colored, normal snakes. And these snakes were chopped into pieces — skewered to the ground, the tree, the shrine, with carving knives.
The snakes — were alive.
Even though they were cut apart and scattered, they were still squirming with life — and not just their heads. Even their bodies convulsed, like raw fish being served in a meal.
Even in this horrific state, they still did not die.
They say that snakes cannot be killed as long as they have a head — but these snakes had a force of life so powerful that even those words could not begin to explain it.
But, of course, they can’t possibly survive being crucified like this for long — eventually, these snakes will die.
It was a terrifying scene.
They really can’t make this into an anime.
I don’t know if animal rights groups actually include reptiles under their protection, but they probably wouldn’t keep quiet at a sight like this.
But — Nadeko kept quiet.
Sengoku Nadeko became silent.
When I am troubled — I become quiet.
” — You’re really not shocked, are you? Like you already knew this. Like you know everything there is to know. You just won’t scream — ”
Suddenly, unexpectedly, I heard the voice — this time, it did not pass through any modern machines like telephone receivers, but seemed to whisper directly into my ears.
Something was there.
Something wrapping tightly around Nadeko — twisting around me. It made me feel sick.
No, that’s not right.
The most sickening thing here — is Nadeko.
“Yes, because — this Hell, this nightmare, was all of it created by your own hands, Nadeko-chan — ”
Nadeko could not deny it.
But, unconsciously, I shook my head.
And I spoke.
It would be so embarrassing if anyone saw — but I spoke to the imaginary voice.
“Nadeko… didn’t go, this far…”
“Yes. This is just a hallucination — ”
When I realized the voice could hear me, the scene before Nadeko changed — the mass of snakes, there might have even been a thousand of them, their bodies and the knives that skewered them, disappeared like a mirage — no, they did not all disappear.
There were still a few left.
They were cut into pieces so I did not know exactly how many they were — but, just counting the heads I could see, it looked like there were just less than twenty.
“Hmmm, so is this about right, then? Could have sworn that you slaughtered this many, at least, Nadeko-chan — ”
The snakes — that I crucified and put on display.
The voice — pressed Nadeko.
“But — you went this far, didn’t you?”
I bit my lip.
My hand jumped to my hat, pulling it down — not just over my eyes, but hiding them completely.
I did not want to see any more.
But it was no use.
It had burnt into my eyes.
The scene I just saw — and the scene from June.
What Nadeko created, back in June —
“Looking down like that, shutting up and not saying a word might just really have let you keep going as a victim — but I wonder if that’ll go so well this time.”
Whose words were those?
Oh, right — it was Ougi-san…
Oshino Ougi — speaking of which, didn’t she have more to say…?
Wasn’t there something else she said…?
Looking down, shutting up and not saying a word —
“Like… like a snake.”
“You actually do have a choice, Nadeko-chan.”
Nadeko may not be able to see, but I can still hear the voice.
That rough, violent voice — the voice that did not seem capable of considering for Nadeko at all.
But strangely, it feels as though that lack of reserve is the only source of relief I have in this situation.
“Your first option is to just go on home — you can just forget everything. I can still make you see things, and talk to you like this — but that’s all. Like your ‘Koyomi Onii-chan’ says, I’m not actually hurting you. You can’t be a victim if you’re not hurting. So there’s no problem with just going home now — ”
“You could just pick this first option, you know? Not like I’m trying to force you, Nadeko-chan — I won’t pressure you into doing anything, and besides, I can’t. Not in my current position. In fact, I would probably advise you to pick this one — ”
“Don’t just shut up like that.”
The voice said, sounding irritated at Nadeko’s silence.
Still, Nadeko does not say anything.
I think I heard its tongue click.
Can the tongue of snakes even capable of making a noise like that — physically?
“Your second option — is the path of atonement.”
“If Nadeko-chan picks the first option, then sneak back out the gate and down the stairs you go — and you don’t have to step into this shrine ever again, nor should you. You can just turn your back on these comrades of mine who you’ve slaughtered — but,”
Somehow, that imaginary voice,
sounded like it was smirking.
“If you wish for redemption for this sin you have committed, then I shall give you that chance — take off that which blinds you, and look.”
To be perfectly honest,
Nadeko did not take off her hat out of any feeling as honorable as wishing for ‘redemption’ — but simply reacted, instinctively, no, mechanically, to those words.
Nadeko is not a good girl.
I only think about myself.
But — because I can only think about myself, I have no choice but to look here.
Look forward. Look at what’s in front of me.
Look — at where the voice came from.
“Hyaaaaaaaah — !”
That was the loudest sound I have ever made.
The loudest scream in my life.
I didn’t just fall down. I thought I was going to do a back-flip.
Even though I’ve never managed it once in gym class.
However, compared to that gigantic white snake coiling around and filling the entire temple — Nadeko’s scream might as well be a faint echo.
The weight of its existence did not feel like a hallucination at all.
I didn’t feel afraid, or anything.
It was just, too big.
It was just — yes, it was just, ‘wow’.
Does that mean — that Nadeko is too childish in her thoughts? That Nadeko is just a child?
“So, you looked. You saw Kuchinawa.”
The snake that was so big it exceeded the definition of ‘big’ — Kuchinawa-san, said.
“That makes you a comrade — partners, you and me. You better be ready to pay, Nadeko-chan.”