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Yuuya walks down the hallway to the lab storage rooms, idly fanning his tailfeathers and wondering what the doctor is up to.

His instructions for the afternoon's infirmary duties were quite unusual today: "Mr. Kawara is resting behind the curtain. If anybirdie else comes to seek medical attention, send them away. Except for Miss Tousaka, who will doubtless come here looking for her... friend." The partridge had spoken that last word as if describing some useless primitive artifact. "Once she arrives, engage the one-way lock on your way out, fasten a piece of adhesive tape here against the doorsill, and come to the lab storage area to help me with some special equipment."

Surely the doctor can't be planning to trap those two en plein ébat, Yuuya thinks. Because of fire regulations, the one-way lock only opens out, not in, so Ryouta and Hiyoko can leave whenever they want. And besides, that uncomfortable infirmary cot has springs that squeak like a Dantean limbo of baby chicks.

Eh bien. Perhaps the doctor is promoting this assignation for his own private amusement, or some obscure reason relating to his past acquaintance with the late Dr. Kawara. But an exchange of secrets has been promised-- Yuuya will never tell anyone else that the doctor was once Isa Souma, and Iwamine will never tell anyone else that Sakuya has never been a Le Bel. Whatever it is, it has nothing to do with Yuuya.

Or so Yuuya thinks until he reaches the storage rooms. "We're taking these things to the infirmary right now? Won't that inconvenience them? I know Kawara is young and inexperienced, but surely he'll need more than a few minutes to reach la petite mort."

The doctor shrugs, with a single bag of medical instruments over his shoulder. "That is not my concern," he says, and leads the way back.

Yuuya follows, balancing a large roll of tape on a stack of flat-folded cardboard boxes. They're not heavy, but bulky enough to require both wings to carry, which would inconvenience the doctor. They also create an excuse to lag behind, out of fellow-feeling for Ryouta and automatic gallantry for Hiyoko. But by the time Yuuya reaches the infirmary door, the doctor is unlocking it.

The doorsill tape is already broken, so perhaps one or both of the two juniors already left. It's possible that they simply opened the door to check the hallway before beginning the festivities, but there are no telltale bedspring noises. Yuuya sets down the cardboard flats, peeks behind the curtain, and sees the cot lying empty and unstained. He is about to release the curtain when he hears two simultaneous soft sounds: Dr. Iwamine engaging the two-way door lock, and a rasping wheeze from the floor.

Tousaka is lying on the floor, with white terrified eyes and a dark, congested face. She is desperately gasping for breath, and failing to get it. "Hyuu-- Yuuya...?"

Part of Yuuya's mind coolly supplies the phrase "hypoxic cyanosis". Another part considers and swiftly discards the plausibiity of beak-to-mouth resuscitation. But he finds that he is already crouched beside her, letting her hand clutch at his wingfeathers as when they walked through the summer festival beneath the fireworks, all those colored lights bursting brightly overhead and fading into darkness. Just as Hiyoko's life is fading now.

"Hiyoko," he whispers, but it is too late for her to hear him. Her grip slides away from his plumage, and her chest stops moving.

Behind them, Yuuya can hear metallic clanking as the doctor sorts through the medical instruments in his bag. "Lift her onto the examination table." Iwamine's voice is as cool and composed as ever.

"It's too late for that." Yuuya is unable to keep a hint of bitterness from his. "Where the hell is Kawara? How could he walk away and leave her like this?"

"Lift her onto the table, I said." Iwamine sounds colder now. As cold as the serrated edge of the bone saw which he has just placed against Yuuya's throat. "And remove her clothing. Perhaps your experience in disrobing others can finally have some practical application."


Yuuya thinks to himself that he has never truly vomited before. Flirtatious courtship-feeding from his crop has been common enough, and even pleasant. But the sting of true, nauseated bile and acid all the way from his stomach-- that is something else entirely.

It could have been worse, he supposes. Dr. Iwamine has dissected Tousaka with consummate skill, never perforating any of her internal organs or spilling their contents as he removes them. And then Yuuya considers how much practice the doctor must have had to reach this level of skill, and he turns his beak toward one of the last few empty autopsy pans and retches into it again. It is no good. There is nothing left to bring up. Yuuya is completely empty inside.

"If you have quite finished regurgitating," Iwamine says, "then make yourself useful and go wash out those pans. Bring back another box of scalpels from my bag, too-- this one is now hopelessly dull."


Mechanically, Yuuya cleans blood off the tiles. In some areas, Tousaka's blood has congealed so thickly that he cannot simply mop it up; instead, he must scrape it away like sticky mud. His wings have gone from white to red to dark brownish-black. He wipes the scraper into the orange hazmat bag. At least if the blood is already congealed, it will not leak out. There are some small mercies.

On the examination table overhead, Dr. Iwamine has switched to a powered cutting tool for some especially delicate work. A few strands of Tousaka's hair drift down onto the floor and stick to her blood. Yuuya looks at them, scrapes them up, and keeps going.

It is difficult to tell over the grating whine of the power tool, but the partridge seems to be idly singing to himself. Yuuya does not recognize the tune, but based on the lyrics, it must be an old human song, of all things in this context. "I hold your hand in mine, dear, I press it to my lips...."


It is all over now, except for moving everything left of Tousaka out of the infirmary. Dr. Iwamine preens a blood speck off his own otherwise immaculate wing and regards Yuuya with distaste. "Take those bags to the incinerator and burn them. I'll take my samples back to the lab storage rooms and return in a few minutes. Wash your feathers clean before we start moving the boxes to the staffroom." The doctor leaves, cradlng a single box of filled autopsy containers.

Slowly and meaninglessly, Yuuya neatly folds Tousaka's uniform before adding it to the bloody mess inside one of the hazmat bags. Her student ID falls out of her pocket into the bag. He picks it up, looks at the photo for a long time, and throws it underneath the doctor's desk.

He shoulders the orange plastic bags and prepares to trudge out. At the last moment, he reaches out and touches the box on top of the tidy stack, leaving a small bloody smear on the corner. It doesn't matter. He can get back here and move that box before the doctor can notice the stain. And it doesn't matter anyway.

"I'm sorry, mon amie," Yuuya says quietly. "Goodbye. Or perhaps I should say, au revoir." He leaves, and the infirmary door closes behind him.