It's like having a tiger by the tail.
Farfarello's mind, pressed so closely with mine, almost as if they're entangled, erupts in fury and the
animalistic instinct to escape imprisonment.
It hurts on much more than a physical level, and for what seems like hours all I can do is scream.
His mind is no clearer up close than it was on the other side of the room. Less so, now that I cannot draw
back from it.
Darkness, pain, viciousness, and hatred... every dark thought and emotion he harbors rushes in on me,
fighting with me. It feels as though my very mind is being torn apart, and everything that is me is in danger of
It is hard to think coherently-- to think anything at all. Everything just seems wild confusion, fear, and
pain. But in my frantic struggle to escape it, to back away, I seek for a way to protect myself.
I have no idea how Schuldich brought up that opaque veil around his thoughts, but if I don't do something
soon, my mind is going to be destroyed by the madman harnessed to it.
The pain, the confusion, and the terror are too much for me at first. I know I have to protect myself, but
I don't know how. It's like catching your finger in a mousetrap. Rationally, you know you should use your free
hand to pry the trap apart. Often this solution does not occur to you until later. When cornered, the first
instincts to rush up are our base instincts. You yank back; you whip your arm about in a frantic effort to dislodge
the trap and get rid of the pain.
So all I can do at first is try to get away from the darkness of Farfarello's mind, twisting, dodging,
pulling back... Nothing works. He is insane with rage, determined to escape me even if it means tearing my mind
apart. It probably hasn't occured to him that if I die with his mind trapped with mine, he could die, too. I am
not the only one following my first instincts to fight back.
But as my attempts at escape prove useless, I struggle in the mass of muddled, scattered thoughts to figure
out a way to keep him away, press him back. I can't throw him out; I tried. It seems he's here until I regain
consciousness. And with the drug Schuldich administered me, who knows how long that will be.
I have to do what Schuldich did-- I need to put up a barrier between our minds. But how? And will it even
It isn't simple blocking; trying to shove Farfarello's mind away is like pressing against a squirming mass
of poisonous snakes. He rebels against it, often painfully. I am suddenly terrified that even if I get out of this
alive, his ripping at my mind could destroy parts of me. Memories. Personality.
Think think think, I order myself desperately. Repelling doesn't work. It's more like... I
remember Schuldich's veil. A barrier. Some sort of barrier between two minds.
Like a wall.
As soon as I have the thought, I jump on it. My mother always used to say I had an overactive imagination.
Schuldich thinks this same imagination was what was strong enough to envision the expressions and emotions I was
getting from others.
I use this imagination now, envisioning a concrete wall surrounding me, surrounding my mind, shielding it.
It is harder than I thought; my own panic and the constant barrage of hatred and darkness from Farfarello makes it
difficult to concentrate.
But it's this or die. So I try again and again, going into detail, picturing it as if I was standing there
gazing up at it: A wall that reaches up into the heavens in the dark space of my mind, several feet thick and
It's like something clicks. As soon as I have envisioned this perfect circle of concrete around myself,
Farfarello's mind falls away. He is still there, lurking outside; I can sense him like a rumble in the ground. And
if I concentrate on him even a little, the wall starts to fade a bit.
To keep from thinking of him, I dig frantically for memories, good memories. Memories that have nothing to
do with Farfarello or his friends.
My brother's smile, a pair of gold earrings, my mother's laughter, my father's strong arms. The scent of
the cologne Ran's friend wore when he visited me that one time, and the rich tone of his voice. The puppy I had
when I was little, his wet tongue on my face, his wriggling body in my lap. My friends from school. The gentle
smell of the flowers my brother brings me. My nurse's sympathetic voice. Ran, speaking to me, telling me he will
fix this, that he will be here when I wake up.
I am calming down, relaxing, and it seems Farfarello is, as well. Pushed away by my wall, he seems less
frenzied, merely prowling outside its perimeter, seeking a way out-- or perhaps a way in, to kill the one who
brought him here.
With an inward shudder, I comfort myself with visions of my brother's laughing face and the hope that one
day I will see it again with my own eyes.
I have no idea how much time passes. Minutes, hours, days... there is no way to tell. I am afraid to let
my mind drift into dreams because if I do, the wall could fail.
I am so busy distracting myself with happy thoughts and memories that it takes me awhile to realize that
Farfarello's mind is quieter.
Hesitantly, I concentrate on him just a little bit. The best way to describe it is like trying to see a
person through fog. Elusive and faint.
I have always been too curious for my own good, so I form a small spy-hole in my wall and check to see what
he is doing.
Farfarello has made his own wall.
I don't think he has ever done it before, because he would have done it sooner, and it is not as strong as
mine. If I wanted to, I could break it down. But I'm not suicidal. If he wants to back off and stew, let him.
This drug has to wear off eventually.
In contrast to my solid concrete wall, his is a barrier of thorns. Vines, covered thickly in long, deadly
thorns, are wrapped around his mind. I can catch glimpses of his thoughts just beyond, like a tiger stalking behind
bars, glowering out. I start to draw back, to cover my spy hole, but his voice crashes against the wall like a
Let me out.
The wall is strong enough to withhold the words he hurls at me, but only if I divide my concentration. My
heart thunders in my ears.
I can't, I call back hopelessly. I didn't mean to pull you in like this. I wasn't
I will kill you.
That, I believe. But I am also too worn out and frightened to listen to this. My temper stirs. I place my
hands against the wall and press my face to the spy-hole, glaring back at the enormous dark form swirling behind the
I SAID I didn't mean to! I'm sorry, all right? I'm sure Schuldich is trying to pull you out right now.
He can, can't he? And even if he can't, as soon as this drug wears off, I'll let you go.
His response is a rumbling growl that makes my hair stand on end.
Heart, hands, eyes, hair...? This is my mind. There is nothing physical here. Then why..?
I start to focus-- then change tactics and imagine looking down at myself.
And here I stand, dressed exactly as I was when I went with my brother to the fair, braids and kimono and
all. In envisioning such a physical thing as the wall, I imagined myself, as well. Because there had to be
a ground for the bottom of the wall, and something had to be there. Me.
This is what Schuldich meant by seeing.
Quickly I press my eye to the hole again, but Farfarello's shape is still inhuman. A roiling dark cloud of
cruel hatred. He does not want me to see him, and I have not seen enough of his body. I can only form a body to
view if I know what he looks like. A face is not enough to go on.
And because in my imagination I am no longer a brain, but a walking, breathing girl, I open my mouth to
shout out to the darkness behind the thorns. "You can thank Schuldich for this, you know. He's the one that
decided to drug me."
The darkness solidifies just enough to give way for a single burning gold eye. I feel a chill, but am
unable to tear my eyes from the monster. I will kill you, he promises.
I close the spy hole hastily and dive back into happy memories.
Eventually my mind slips, and I drift from simple memories to dreams. It starts out a happy one, but turns
swiftly into a nightmare. As the horror mounts, I jerk myself away.
The wall is crumbling, and Farfarello is outside beating it down.
"No!!" I pool all of my concentration into strengthening it, building it back up. The wall becomes whole
once more, and I can sense Farfarello backing away in seething fury.
I stride up to the wall and shout through it, "You stay on your side and I'll stay on mine. Just wait until
the drug wears off! If you kill me, you could die, too."
He doesn't care. He doesn't say so, but I can feel it. And that frightens me even more. A man who has
nothing to lose by dying is extremely dangerous.
I am too afraid to risk losing myself in dreams again, so I curl up against the wall and begin to sing
quietly to myself. It's a song I remember my mother singing to me when I was little, and while I was hoping it
would cheer me up, it only makes me want to cry. Where is my mother now? And my father? Ran never mentions them,
and they never visit me. Are they really gone? I saw the house explode, but I always clung to the hope that maybe
they weren't home when it happened. Maybe they escaped. Maybe they are in the same hospital I am. A part of me
tells me this is unlikely, but I can't help but hope.
Farfarello's quiet, unpleasant laughter echoes against the wall. Stupid mouse.
"Shut up!!" I scream.
Stupid, weak, white little mouse, who knows nothing. No one will help you or talk to you anymore. You
will fall asleep, and when you do, I will break your stupid rock wall and tear you apart.
Infuriated, I scramble to my feet and put my eye to a new spy hole.
And there he stands, visible through his thorns, clutching in his fists two vicious-looking knives. He
wants me to see him now, because this is the image all his victims see before they die. It is not much better than
the dark shapeless monster his mind was before.
I remember his face, scarred and pale and cruel. But it was relaxed when Schuldich showed it to me, and now
it is twisted with hatred and bloodlust. His single amber eye glares right at me, making me want to bolt.
He is dressed in a black tanktop and loose-fitting pants. Every part of his body not covered by cloth is
riddled in scars. Half of them are self-inflicted, I sense. Every other scar counts for a victim that got a hit
in-- but they all died.
He knows how to use those knives in life; I'm sure he will be able to figure out that they are only an
extension of his imagination, and will be able to tear into my mind with them if I let my guard down.
I wipe away the spy hole with a thought and cower against the wall, crying in helpless terror.
There is no way to tell how much time passes as we crouch behind our respective walls, doing our level best
to ignore each other.
It could be hours or even days. It could be years, for all I care. We are both getting edgy. And the
longer I go unharmed, the more my fear slackens and my curiosity peaks.
I take more and more quick peeks out at him. When he gets angry and frustrated he is impossible to see,
other than a dark shadow. Other times I see him squatting in his physical form, staring off into space or glowering
at my wall in resentment.
Finally it is he who drifts into dreams as an escape from the monotony.
Within a short time, I can tell he is having a nightmare by the tangled frenzy of his thoughts. I put my
eye to the spy hole and gaze out in surprise. I would think such a man would have nothing to fear, not even in
The dark form of his mind swirls around behind his thorns, which alternately fade in and out with his broken
concentration. Abruptly there is a spike of fear from him so strong that it breaks through his wall and slams
I yelp, leaping back, but the weakened blow is not enough to dent the 'concrete'.
Farfarello is an insane murderer, but sensing his pain is too much even for me.
"Farfarello!" I shout, trying to drive the call through his dulled senses. "Farfarello, wake up!"
The dark form writhes in on itself, then abruptly dissolves.
I squint, trying to make out the form behind the newly-strengthened thorn barrier. It is small, so perhaps
he is curled up on the ground.
Then the figure shifts and rises, and it is way too short to be the one-eyed man.
It's a child; a skinny little child with sunfire hair and wild amber eyes. Two eyes. He stands in the
middle of his barrier, shoulders hunched, and looks over at me warily.
I stare back in stunned silence.
This is Farfarello as a kid. Way before he met Schuldich and Nagi. Before he lost his eye, before he
earned his scars. There is only one familiar scar I can see, right on his bottom lip. Except it isn't a scar yet,
it's an open cut, a deep one. He catches me staring and glances away with a rebellious but nervous look, reaching
up hastily to wipe the blood from his chin with the back of his hand.
I reach out hesitantly, touching the surface of his thoughts. Strangely, I cannot find a self-association
with the name "Farfarello". Instead, it is something like Jade. No-- Jei. I try to probe a little deeper...
"Farfarello" is deep inside. I can barely sense the mad, rushing thoughts of the man I know, and draw back quickly.
I don't want to bring him back just yet. For now, he is too shaken and confused by his dream. Perhaps it was of
his childhood; maybe a memory of how he got that cut, since it looks so fresh.
Letting my curiosity win over my caution, I widen the spyhole so that it is the size of a window. Resting
my elbows on the ledge, I offer the skinny child a small smile.
"Daijabou ka?" I ask quietly.
The kid-- Jei --shoots me a wary look, but refuses to speak. He sets his jaw stubbornly and gives me a
watered-down version of his full-grown glare.
It occurs to me that if I can talk some sense into this version of Farfarello, he might be a little
calmer when he comes back to himself. I have no idea how long he and I will be stuck here, and it's obvious I won't
be able to withstand his enraged attacks for much longer. Still, the thought of getting anywhere close to him makes
my limbs lock up and my heart thump hard.
Taking a deep breath, I force my voice to come out light and keep a smile pasted to my face. Might as well
start with the basics. If I'm right, and this isn't really Farfarello... "My name's Aya. Fujimiya Aya. What's
The kid glares at me suspiciously for a long moment, then finally mutters, "Jei."
The syllable rolls off his tongue in a liquid way, and I blink in surprise at the obvious accent.
"Hello, Jei," I continue cheerfully. "Did you fall and hurt yourself?"
The boy looks away quickly, reaching up once more to run the back of his hand against the bloody gash on his
lip. He refuses to answer.
I know that deep down, this little boy is really Farfarello. But seeing such a small figure looking so
defensive and-- shy? --pulls at something in me. The rigidness of fear seeps away, and I allow the opening to widen
like a door. Before I can talk sense into myself, I'm out of my barrier and standing-- floating? --in the empty
space between our two walls.
He wasn't expecting that; that much is obvious. His eyes widen and he scrambles backwards. Immediately the
thorns around him bristle and grow so that it is nearly impossible to see through them. "Jei," I call quickly.
"Wait. I'm not going to hurt you."
There it is again, that thick accent. I realize belatedly that I'm having to strain to understand him.
"Leave me alone," he shouts hoarsely.
Again I have to wait for the words to make sense. Is it the accent? It's familiar, this grasping. I've
done it before... But when? I shake it off and persist. "Your mouth is bleeding. You should take care of it."
"..." He reaches up to wipe at his mouth, eyeing me distrustfully. His mouth quivers for a moment as if
he's going to cry. Whether it's from the pain of the cut or the cause of it, I'm not sure. He tightens his mouth a
moment later, banishing the fleeting moment of weakness and replacing it with an angry glare.
I gaze back, fascinated despite myself. Is he still caught up in his nightmare? A nightmare of childhood?
What's made him revert to this child form? I stop myself just in time from inquiring about his eyes. Obviously
whatever happened to cause the loss of one has not yet occured. I offer an encouraging smile. "I won't come any
closer," I promise, taking a step back and holding my arms open wide in the universal sign of peace. "So can you
please let down your barrier just a little? It's kind of hard to talk to someone you can hardly see."
"I don't want to talk to you," he retorts petulantly.
I look around, lifting my brows. "Well, there's no one else to talk to here. It's kind of lonely, isn't
"Maybe you'll be lonely, since you're a girl," he jeers, trying hard to look older and wiser than he
is. "I don't need anyone."
"Boring, then," I correct patiently.
"Shut up. Leave me alone," he says shortly, turning his back on me.
I sigh, tugging thoughtfully on a lock of hair. It would probably be best to respect his wishes and leave
him be, but I also know he could "wake up" at any time and become the fearsome madman he is as an adult. I glance
over my shoulder at my own barrier, worrying despite myself. If he wakes up while I'm outside of my safety net,
I'll be at his mercy. He wants me dead, that much is painfully clear. It would only take a swift thought on his
part to get him outside of his thorns with his hands around my throat. And while the throat and hands won't
technically be "real", with a telepath as a partner, he's got to have some idea of how to destroy someone from the
I prudently take a few steps closer to my wall. "Jei," I call softly, trying to look as harmless and
pleasant as possible. "Is it OK if I just talk? You don't have to talk back. You don't even have to listen. But
I'd really like someone to talk to." I swallow hard against the lump in my throat. "You aren't exactly my first
choice of a conversationalist, either," I admit. "But it's been so long since I've talked to anyone. No
matter how much I shout and scream and cry, no one ever hears me..." I close my eyes and take in a deep breath in an
attempt to push back the wave of pain that admittance brings on. "My brother can't hear me when I try to comfort
him. The nurses can't hear me when I have a request. I might as well be screaming down a well for all the good it
does me." I open my eyes and jump.
Jei's amber eyes are gazing through the thorns at me. He hasn't moved from his hunched-up position, but
he's turned his head just enough to see me. His expression is still wary, but his curiosity seems to have gotten
the better of him.
I force another smile. "Have you ever felt like that? Like no one can hear anything you say, no matter how
loudly you shout at them?"
Jei blinks slowly, his mouth pressed tightly together as if he is holding back some emotion. "...All the
time," he says at last, grudgingly.
He does not talk to me after that; no amount of cajoling gets him to open up to me. So I retreat behind my
wall once more and lose myself in vague dreamscapes.
When I stir and chance a peek through the slot in my wall, Farfarello is himself again.
The thorns still bristle menacingly, but at least he isn't an explosive ball of rage and hate anymore. He
simply squats in the middle of his shelter and gazes back at me with a dread kind of calm. Any scrap of innocence
his child face had held is wiped completely out. There is nothing in that one remaining eye but a cold calculation,
and a total lack of anything even resembling human compassion. Caught in his gaze, I feel like a mouse trapped by
the cold stare of a serpant.
Despite this apparent new-found calm of his, I am not foolish enough to let my guard down even a little. I
keep the walls around myself solid and the peephole small enough to be closed quickly. But I can't help but stare
back at him.
I can only take so much of his silence and his unblinking stare. I sigh, resting my chin on the slot and
wrinkling my nose at him. "Do you have to stare at me like that? You look like you want to eat me or
He arches a brow as if the idea had, in fact, crossed his mind. I swallow hard. "Look, I told you, I'm
sorry. I never meant to drag you in here. If you want to be angry at someone, be angry at Schuldich. He's
the asshole who decided to drug me in the first place."
He tilts his head almost thoughtfully. "Duck sauce," he repeats quite calmly. "You would go good with duck
I hide my horror by giving him the finger and closing the hole up. I don't want to look at him anymore.
And I don't want him to sense how much he frightens me.
It is impossible to tell how long this goes on. It feels like days- weeks. But for all I know, it could be
mere hours on the outside. I feel no real exhaustion. My mind is active, but technically my body is asleep. The
mind is awake 24/7. I remember hearing that somewhere. That's why people dream. It's the brain's way of keeping
itself active while the body rests. So in a way, perhaps this struggle between Farfarello and myself is another
alternative to dreaming. It certainly keeps my mind running.
I think Farfarello has finally accepted the fact that he is stuck here with me, and that any attempts on my
life could only backfire, because he no longer attacks my wall. Not even when I'm distracted and my defenses are
weakened. But I never let myself forget that feeling I got from him when he was first dragged in here: he does not
fear death. He would rather be dead than imprisoned like this. The moment he thinks there is no possible way to
ever escape, I have no doubt he will turn on me.
But for now he seems content to squat behind his thorns and stare unnervingly across at me.
For now I avoid his gaze. I block the spyhole, I refuse to look his way, I distract myself by rifling
through memories and wisps of dreams, and by building things with my mind. I create images of comfort for myself:
a picture of my family on the wall, a lavish couch I saw once in a magazine, my old dresser, complete with
knick-knacks, notebooks, combs, and earrings. I know they aren't real, but it is still comforting to see these
familiar things. I doodle sometimes, but the moment I look away and forget what my scribbles looked like, they
The contents of my dresser vary as I either forget things that used to be there, or remember a trinket or
two I once kept in a drawer back home. The love letter from Uzumi-kun I found in my shoe locker my first year of
high school; the sparkly hairband I found in a shop in Asakusa.
And the dangly gold earrings I begged my brother for at the fair just before the accident.
I lift them now, holding them up and watching them swing back and forth. I never even got to wear them.
They were in a little bag, tucked safely in my pocket, when the explosion happened. Where are they now? Did Ran
forget about them? Are they still in the pocket of that kimono? Or thrown out? No doubt the kimono was stained
with soot and blood, and probably torn up badly as well. I sigh, clasping the memory of the earrings tightly in my
fist. Yes. In the rush and horror after the accident, I'm certain the earrings were lost. Now all I have is this
imaginary version of them. I open my fist to stare at my empty palm, then reach up slowly to touch the earrings I
now imagine myself wearing. They are cool to the touch, and heavier than they probably would be in real life. I
need that weight to remind me of their presence; to keep the thought of them always in my mind so that they will
always be there. They were my brother's last loving present when things were normal, when we were happy. To me,
they are a symbol of Ran himself. And of hope. Hope that one day I'll see him again with my own eyes. I would
give anything to open my eyes and see him sitting beside my bed in that white hospital room, smiling down at me.
Red and gold.
I lower my hand, swallowing hard as Farfarello's taunting words come back to me.
Little mouse, all alone in her white palace, dreaming of red and gold...
I turn on my heel and glare through my spyhole at the man who is the bane of my existance, golden eye still
fixed steadily my way.
"How did you know?" I demand harshly. "How did you know about these earrings? They were a gift from
'niisan. No one's seen them but him and me!"
His lips curl up in a mocking, demonic smile. "Everyone knows about it," he jeers quietly. "Every man and
woman he's cut open, every soppy-eyed creamy-skinned bitch that's ever come into his shop of lies to fawn at him.
I lash out before I can think better of it, throwing a sharp point of myself through a gap in his thorns.
He, too, has been lax in security.
He jerks back, eye flaring wide at this bold move, but by the time he retaliates, I've already found what I
wanted and drawn back behind my own wall. He snarls in rage, face twisted and ugly as he throws his fury against my
wall with a force that shudders the foundations.
I close the spyhole and lean my hands and forehead against the wall, spilling my strength into it to keep it
standing. In a corner of my mind, I study the image I found in Farfarello's mind in confusion and surprise.
It's Ran-- older and harder than I remember him. His eyes are cold, his face a mask of uncaring stone. And
in one ear he wears half of that golden pair-- of the earrings he gave me before my body's strength was stolen from
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