Ikusaba can’t remember what it was that her sister said to Mitarai. She had whispered something in his ear signified her sheer jubilance over meeting him. If she hadn’t met him, then her entire plan for the future may have come crumbling down or maybe it would have happened in some other way.
She can’t help but feel that same way staring at Maizono in the hallway. She’s holding something shiny that glitters under the light, and Maizono shifts it behind her back, her smile forced and uneven. Ikusaba already knows it’s a knife, muscle memory forcing her to remember the worn hilts of many blades she had used during her time in Fenrir.
“Enoshima-san, what are you doing awake?” she asks, her voice filled with overindulgent delight.
Ikusaba twirls a strand of strawberry blonde hair. “Oh, I’m taking a walk. This place is giving me the heebie-jeebies pretty bad, and staying in my room was making me feel all anxious and crap. What about you?”
“Oh, I was just coming back from the kitchen after I got some water.” She giggles and tilts her head.
The lie slips out of her mouth with such ease that it makes Ikusaba want to snicker. Her porcelain mask is already starting to crack. Ikusaba can make out the faintly wet shine in her eyes.
Her sister had been right. Maizono was the first one to snap after all. Ikusaba thought it would be Ishimaru breaking from the pressure of the awful school environment. Enoshima laughed right in her face for thinking the rigid public morals committee member would ever dishonor his code until much later after facing too much despair.
“Are you heading back to your dorm?” Ikusaba asks, combing through her wig.
Maizono rubs her jaw and refuses to meet her gaze. “Yes. I’m really tired.”
Her tone is so honeyed that Ikusaba thinks the idol will choke on her own saccharine liquid. It dribbles out of her mouth and will soon attract flies. She wonders which fly will be misfortunate enough to become ensnared in Maizono’s trap.
The militaristic side of her mind immediately believes it will be herself. She balls her other hand into a fist, smoothing down her knuckles in case she needs to lash out. If Maizono thinks of attacking her in the hallway, it will be too obvious. Others will hear them and come out of their room to prevent her crime or they will be witnesses to Ikusaba’s death. She forces herself to hide her smirk. Dying to a desperate idol is a despairing way to go out, and she’s certain her sister will be rolling on the floor laughing at such a pathetic death.
“Enoshima-san,” Maizono begins, and she softens her gaze, “are you really out to just take a walk?”
Her expression tightens as the question circles around her. Ikusaba’s molars grind together. She rolls her shoulders back and hisses out her worry in an irritated Enoshima-like sigh.
“Whaaat? Are you accusing me or something?” She furrows her brow and shoots out her finger with needlessly melodramatic flare. “That’s so extra! Don’t think stuff like that!”
“O-oh, no, no, I was just…” Maizono trails off, and Ikusaba brings her fists in front of her stomach. She sighs, shaking her head. “It’s nothing. I’m sorry.”
Ikusaba expects for her to walk past her and wish her a good night. She knows she won’t be seeing Maizono after tomorrow, so maybe it’ll be good to send her off with a toothy smile. She thinks that’s a proper way to end the conversation, but before she can start grinning, Maizono shuffles forward, her hidden hand passively swaying behind her back.
Instinct takes over when she raises her hand to grab Maizono’s shoulder. She wobbles, her bright blue eyes too wide and frightened like a mouse before a snarling cat. Maizono almost reveals her hidden hand, but she steels herself with a thin, pensive line creasing into her lips.
“Hey, uh, you okay? You’re stumbling,” Ikusaba says, her other hand hitching towards her skirt.
“Sorry, I’m more tired than I thought.” She pinches the bridge of her nose. Taking a breath, she brushes her hair back, which Ikusaba notes is a bit greasy, the bright lights of the hallway doing her no favors. Her pale skin meshing with her school uniform gives her an ethereal visage like she’s a ghost ready to depart from this world.
“Want me to walk you back to your room?” Ikusaba thinks that’s the proper way of handling the situation. Her sharp, commanding tone contrasts the gentleness of her offer.
Maizono examines her for a moment. Ikusaba swallows, wondering what could possibly be going on in her addled mind before she wordlessly nods. Pivoting on her heels, she clutches Maizono’s tense shoulder and follows her gaze to the floor. She watches their feet move, the only sound resonating between them being their breathing and the clicking of their shoes on the tiled floor.
The silence grows too thick between them too quickly. Ikusaba waits for the evident attack, for the feeling of a knife cutting through the air. She keeps her free hand close to her skirt, ready to flip it up and clutch her own knife held in place in her hidden thigh holster. She feels the cameras follow their every step and ponders what her sister must be thinking of her. Maybe she’s laughing or getting ready to scold her the moment she steps into the control room for keeping her up late for their meeting. Heat boils in her chest, rising anxiety into her throat, and it chokes her, her soldier side roaring at her for being an escort for someone walking right into her own death.
Still, something propels her forward. It might be the meekness coating Maizono’s features. The way her delicate fingers play with the hilt of the knife that she glances at behind her back. She’s making herself too open and vulnerable as if waiting for Ikusaba to catch her ploy. The knife is too purposeful for too many plots that will all end in blood.
She wonders what Maizono expects of her. Everything about her is open and closed at the same time. The knife is present in the corner of her eye, but Maizono’s tense body contrasts her desires. It’s like she wants to be discovered and stopped before she can commit the murder of one of their classmates.
Yet, she refuses to spill out the truth. She must kill someone to escape for the sake of her dear friends, and Ikusaba realizes that this hopeless feeling of understanding the future’s path for Maizono must be what Enoshima called a despairfully fateful encounter.
She’s ripe with despair and hope all bubbling within her, and Ikusaba wants to see if all drip out of her pretty mouth. She’s as pretty as a angel, but her halo is replaced with devil horns. Ikusaba has never seen such twisted caricature of hope and despair, and awe wells up from inside her as she realizes how beautiful Maizono is on her journey to her own demise.
Ikusaba sucks down a breath when they reach her door. Maizono turns to her with a somber grin and unlocks her door with her e-Handbook. She shuffles inside, tossing and her knife into the room. They clatter against nothing important spread out on Maizono’s floor.
“Thank you, Enoshima-san. I’ll see you in the morning,” she says, beginning to close the door.
“Oh, yeah, totally. See you later.” Ikusaba flashes the same toothy grin she wanted to give earlier.
Maizono’s breath hitches as she closes the door, a look of resignation crossing her features. Ikusaba takes it all in. She feels like she’s taken the last paparazzi photo of the esteemed idol catching her in her darkest moment. She presses down hard on her skirt, and the cold metal of her knife digs into her palm as she stomps back to her room.
She won’t see her sister tonight. The moment she shared with Maizono is too much for her to handle listening to Enoshima’s criticism and snarling jabs. Ambling to her door, she unlocks it and enters her room, the sound of another door opening alerting her to the start of Maizono’s crime.
Sighing, Ikusaba settles inside and rips off her wig. Playing with a few split ends of ebony hair, Ikusaba whispers her goodbyes to Maizono, completely ignorant to her own fate.