Ch. 3

What was unexpected? I demand, glad my mental voice does not quaver as easily as my physical would in this bizarre situation. What's going on? Is this Schuldich's doing?
I hear a faint, nearly inaudible wet sound. It takes me a moment to figure out where I've heard it before. Parting lips. He's smiling. Thinking of that picture Schuldich showed me, I imagine a big grin on that face is somewhat satanic looking.
What are you doing here? I ask meekly.
More weight on the bed, fingers playing over my face light as butterfly legs. "The Mastermind will not come. The Oracle says stay away. So I come."
You don't follow orders very well, I take it, I point out flippantly. The heart monitor speeds up just a little. I feel like my heart should be racing, but my entire body seems to be several steps behind my mind ever since the accident.
"Hn." The fingers disappear. "If you could see," he informs me calmly, "you would not act so bold."
My brother always used to say I don't think before speaking, I shoot back. Which of course doesn't improve my situation and only proves his point, but it's not like I have much else to do than banter with a madman.
...I'm going to die.
He chuckles quietly, and the weight leaves the bed. "Red hair, red blood, red hands... Not the man you knew."
Ran? I hesitate, unsure if I should even let this conversation continue. I don't want to put any ideas in this lunatic's head and endanger my brother. I.. I know he's changed. But he doesn't like it. I can change him. I can help him.
There is a moment of silence, then suddenly Farfarello bursts into insane, hair-raising laughter. "Save," he sneers when he's finished. "You think you can 'save' Abysinnian, little mouse?"
"What's going on in-" my nurse has appeared in the door. She must have taken a good look at my unwanted visitor, because she gasps loudly. A split second later she gives a muffled cry.
"Shut up," someone hisses, stumbling into the room and slamming the door. Schuldich. I can hear my nurse whimpering. He must be covering her mouth.
Let her go!!
He ignores me. "Quit looking at her like she's a rack of lamb, Farfie." The whimpering stops, Schuldich grunts, then I hear a body hit the floor.
No!! I scream at him in horror.
"Oh shut UP," he growls impatiently. "I just knocked the fat bitch out." He sounds harried and very annoyed. "One of you want to tell me what the HELL is going on here? If Crawford finds out you're here, Farfarello--"
"She's a Mousemind," Farfarello informs him in an amused voice.
"...What are you babbling about? And Christ, nothing in your head makes sense. Move." Shuffling, then his hair is tickling my throat as he leans over me. I can hear the scowl in his voice. "Don't talk to me," he snaps before I can even think a question. There is that brush to my mind, then a more firm pressure.
What are you doing? I gasp.
I said shut up. I'm trying to figure out what the hell is going on....
I fall silent, letting him root through my thoughts and memories, seething with resentment. He should know what's going on. It's his fault, after all. It has to be.
Finally he draws back with a gusty sigh. "Well," he says slowly. "This is interesting."
What's going on? I demand impatiently. You did this, didn't you? Why?
"I did not do shit, princess," he informs me haughtily. "This was your doing. Like I said-- girly's got nothing to do for all this time except listen to peoples' voices and play with her own imagination... Plus there is the fact that Crawdad seems interested in you... Hmm."
What are you trying to say? I ask quietly, half afraid I already know the answer.
"Mastermind and Mousemind," Farfarello is singing quietly in the background. I ignore him, and his voice cuts off abruptly. Belatedly I realize the voice was too quiet for my ears to pick up. Something in my stomach lurches with sudden fear.
No, I wail. No way.
"Quick one, ain't she? And here you were blaming me," Schuldich snorts. "Think about it, girly. No one can hear every real emotion in someone's tone of voice. Or tell what facial expression they might be making, or even know every time dead on that it's a different person entering the room. No one hears Farf come in unless he wants them to. And I dunno about you, but I myself have never heard Fujimiya cry a river and go on in a pitiful warble like that." That last is said dryly. "You didn't hear him talk, twit, you heard what he was thinking. It was running through his head and you wanted to hear him. So you did. Deal."
But.. but...
"Lucky you got your brains knocked out," he notes. "You probably never would have developed it like this if you hadn't had all this time to sit here rotting away."
I can't respond; I feel numb with surprise and a little fear. And lots of disbelief.
"Be happy, small-fry," he says carelessly. "Mess with it enough, and you might even be able to see."
That gets my attention. See? I repeat sharply.
But he's done with me, turning his attention on his silent partner. "All right, freakazoid, show's over. We're leaving. I catch you here again and I'm siccing Nagi on you. No, just leave the nurse. All of the nurse."
I barely even hear them leave or my nurse come to a few minutes later. By her confusion, I can tell she remembers nothing.
But I have bigger things on my mind right now. My mind itself, for example.
Schuldich's parting words might have been a cruel joke, but I cling to them as a last desperate hope. If I can get this to work, figure it out...
I can't wait until my brother visits again.


It has been days, and still my brother has not come. I am torn between impatience and fear for him. The only up side to this is it gives me time to work on this new, unexpected talent.
Schuldich was right, now that I think about it. Some of the things I've assumed or sensed shouldn't be possible. My struggle to speak and my colorful imagination might be a key factor to this, but that can't be all. Have I always had this... gift? I've always been very good at reading people's emotions, but.. not like this.
I don't try speaking to anyone, because I don't want to frighten them. I practice instead seeing just how much I can sense. My mind is eager for exercise, I suppose, because it comes a lot quicker to me than I expect it to. At first it is exhilarating.
But there is a bad side to this, as well.
At least if I could see, I would be able to tell if someone is speaking out loud by watching their mouth move. Sometimes I forget if I am listening in on someone's thoughts or simply hearing what they say. It is very disorienting. And if I do it too long, it gets hard to pull back. I hear more than I want to hear. Sometimes it feels like I will get sucked in. And now I can hear several of the nurses at once-- even if they are across the hall at the nurses' station.
It starts giving me headaches, so I sleep more often and more deeply.
So deeply, that sometimes I don't even hear when people enter my room...

It is only because the tone of the man's thoughts-- his inner voice --is so familiar that I slowly rouse myself from sleep.
He isn't speaking (for once), and it turns out he can move quiet as a cat if he has a mind to. But I can hear the murmur of his thoughts. He must think I am still asleep, so I try to keep my mind a blank.
What is Schuldich doing here?
"This is her?" The voice is low and even-tempered. The voice of the one who spoke to Farfarello that one time in the hall, inadvertedly giving me his name.
Be quiet, pipsqueak. You'll wake her up.
I'm assuming the thought was meant for Schuldich's partner, but I pick it up nonetheless. I grow more curious-- and nervous.
I don't see why we had to bring Farfarello, the calmer sounding one says quietly. He's young. His voice sounds somewhat mature, but I can sense how young he is. And.. how dark. I pull back quickly from the shadow in his mind and try to pay attention to what they're talking about.
Wait. Farfarello.
Immediately I do a mental sweep of the room. The murmurs of Schuldich's mind and his partner's are easy to pick up, but I get no indication that there is another man in the room.
Then it occurs to me that listening for coherent thoughts from a madman will probably be useless.
I open my mind further, ignoring the warning throb behind my eyes that speaks of a coming headache.
And there he is-- right at the foot of my bed.
For a moment, I am too caught up in wonder to feel any fear.
Is this what Schuldich meant by 'see'?
It isn't anything that can be seen by the eyes. No shadowy forms, no clear picture, no hazy blobs that might be people. No shimmering lights or hints of movements.
It's like.. because I have opened myself up to their minds, reached out to find them, I can sense where each of them are in relation to me. How far away, how close... And because I can sense them inside, I don't have to open my eyes to really see them.
Nagi.. that's this new man's name. Not man. Boy. A young boy, soft-spoken, highly intelligent, and secretly burning for vengeance. A boy with a personal vendetta against the world. He stands at the door.
Farfarello, whose thoughts run in such wild directions I can make no sense of them yet. Occasionally I get distinct impressions from him, mostly concerning blood, knives, hatred, crucifixes... dark things. And mixed in with those, bizarre things that seem not to belong: self-loathing, comfort, satisfaction, impatience, amusement. None of it fits together.
And Schuldich, beside my bed, his thoughts murky and painful because by brushing his mind too closely I risk touching twice over the voices I hear already-- the voices he hears as well from everyone around him. Only it is so much louder in there. So many other voices. He seems irritated about this whole thing, and nervous. Skeptical, a little amused, curious. And...
And he's messing with my IV.
I lash out with an explosive shout that strikes all three minds I'm touching. What the hell are you doing?!
A crash, a curse, a scuffle, a thud-- the blow hits them harder than I expected, taking me off guard. I reach out tentatively again, trying to ignore Schuldich's florid, whispered curses.
Nagi fell back against the wall in a reflexive jerk, and Farfarello's arm shot out and knocked something over. Apparently Schuldich-- it seems to have hurt him most of all --stumbled back and crashed into the nightstand.
Serves you right, I snap at him viciously. Get away from my IV. What do you think you're doing? Even as I ask the question, it occurs to me to snatch the answer from his mind before he thinks to lie to me. I'm not sure how I do it, exactly. I just know what I want, and instantly I find it. Or part of it, anyway, before darkness surrounds his mind in the blink of an eye, pushing me out.
A neat trick. I'll have to learn it.
You were going to drug me?? I ask incredulously, fear finally elbowing aside my anger and wonder.
"Fujimiya-san," Nagi interrupts quietly, "kindly carry on your yelling match with Schuldich and leave us out of it."
I can tell suddenly that he can't block his mind as Schuldich can.. or not well enough, anyhow. I was probing into him before I shouted, and now I'm too deep for him to shrug off. With an internal wince, I try to focus my attention on just Schuldich. Farfarello and Nagi become faint flickers in the back of my mind.
Why are you drugging me?
"Because, chickadee, you know too much," Schuldich drawls, picking himself off the floor. "Did you really think we'd overlook something this big? So that next time dear brother comes in you can pull your new stunt on him?" I don't have to see him to know he's offering me a shit-eating grin-- and that he wants me to know he's doing it. "Don't think so, sweetcakes."
I jump inside as Farfarello's hard hands come down suddenly on the bed, either side of my head. Focusing so much on just Schuldich made me forget to listen for the others.
"Little mouse in a white prison," he murmurs just over my face. "Now you will be in your own prison. Deep inside."
Get him away from me, I say tightly.
"Chill, bird, he won't hurt you. Yet." My body is beginning to feel tingly, and I struggle against it frantically. "Just relax. You're just going to take a really long nap."
Schuldich, stop it! I cry. Don't do this!
I told you before, didn't I? We're the bad guys.
I reach out desperately, not knowing what I'm doing, only knowing that if I have nothing to cling to, I will be lost for God knows how long. Trapped in an endless cycle of dreams once more. But the darkness swirls up to cover Schuldich's thoughts once more, and Nagi has already slipped out the door and is heading away. The numbing effect the drugs have make it too hard to reach out for him. Everything is fading, becoming black inside.
I'm terrified and desperate and act instinctively, without thinking of the consequences.
I seize the only mind open to me-- the closest one.
And drag Farfarello into the darkness with me.

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