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streaks of red on our skin

Chapter Text

It’s said that the first mark you get-the primary mark that you’re usually born with-belongs to your soulmate. All the secondary marks after that are simply from friends and family, treasured people who’ve left an impact on your soul so greatly that their marks shine through on your skin.

Satoru’s mark sprawls across his upper back and crawls over his shoulder blades, its claw like tendrils stopping about halfway down his back. The spider web is a series of twists and curves, an ugly mess of red, and it’s the only mark he’s ever had.

His soulmark is larger than most people’s and uglier, too.

“The lady on TV said that red means heartbreak, that you’re going to be left behind,” Satoru relays to his mother one day in the bath, tiny brow furrowed as he hunches over. The droplets of water hitting his back make him wince, the skin there tingling.

“Red can mean passion,” his mother assures him as she washes his back with smooth, gentle motions. It hurts more often than not most days, and Satoru knows his mother has scheduled an appointment to see a doctor about the mark and the emotions that filter through it.

“Everyone’s marks are different,” she bops him on the nose affectionately, and her smile is nothing but warmth as Satoru’s mark burns and burns and burns.


When his friends compare marks in their empty classroom, Satoru stands at the edge of the conversation. He listens and provides the appropriate reactions, gaping and complementing the marks once they’re revealed.

There’s a silver scrawling of a lamb on Hiromi’s forearm, a pale yellow flower on Kazu’s kneecap, and the green words ‘Is this seat taken?’ under Osamu’s armpit. Even Kenya chimes in, blushing a little as he rolls up his pant leg to show them some fancy foreign phrase scrawled around his ankle in navy.

Kenya turns to Satoru then, a hint of eagerness creeping its way into his voice. “What about you, Satoru?”

Satoru only laughs. “It’s a secret,” he says, ignoring the way his repulsive mark hums in triumph.

You’re mine, mine. No one else can see, it seems to croon.

Parents encouraged their children to show marks in the hope that they’d find their soulmates, but Satoru and his friends had never talked about marks before. They were too busy playing to pay attention to something that was usually for grown-ups to worry about.

Satoru had almost allowed himself to forget the hideous thing on his back, but then Kazu decided that he wanted to “be a man” and find the person he was supposed to love and take care of. His newfound interest in soulmates had led to the conversation they were having now, where all of them except Satoru showed their marks.

Hiromi wilts a little at Satoru’s refusal. “But we showed you ours!” he argues.

Satoru shivers and straightens his shoulders. “Anyways,” he tries to change the subject, “I heard it’s going to snow tomorrow!”

Kazu won’t have it. He throws an arm around Satoru, whose spiderweb hisses its protests, the skin underneath wriggling and rasping. Kazu shakes him lightly from side to side. “C’mon, Satoru! Why you gotta hide it? Is it that embarrassing? Oh, I know! Maybe it’s something dirty!”

Kazu throws his head back to laugh as Satoru gently pries his arm off, clearly uncomfortable.

Kenya narrows his eyes, and a look of understanding crosses his face. “Satoru, do you have a mark?” he asks gently.

“Of course he does, Kenya! Everybody has a soulmark!” Kazu laughs.

Kenya fixes him with a look. “That may be so,” he allows, “but not everyone’s mark comes in when they’re born. Some people are eighteen or even eighty before their primary mark appears.”

It’s very rare, almost as rare as people who are covered in marks, and the thought of such a sad thing happening to Satoru sends his friends scurrying to apologize.

“I’m so sorry, Satoru! We didn’t mean to be so insensitive!”

“Don’t worry. I’m sure you’ll get your mark soon!"

“You’re so strong, Satoru! Enduring all this time,” Kazu says dramatically, eyes shining.

“Thanks,” Satoru smiles, awkwardly rubbing the back of his neck.

He’d rather let his friends think him markless than show them the angry web on his back that sputters with rage.

You’re mine, mine. No one else can know. Satoru rolls his shoulders and rejects the foreign thoughts.


Kayo Hinazuki dies. Hiromi follows. There’s another little girl from some other school dead, too.

For weeks, Satoru has had to stay home.

His mark has turned into a fiery inferno overnight, the spiderweb steaming and melting the skin off of his back. Satoru’s throat is so dry and hoarse that he can’t even scream. He lays in bed on his stomach for hours, writhing in pain as his mother applies cool washcloths whenever the need arises. She calls the doctor and feeds him pills to numb the pain, then gets a call from the police.

Satoru’s soulmark has always been abnormal-stronger, some would say. Rather than the good feelings commonly associated with a bond, the only thing Satoru’s soulmate gives him is pain. It’s not unusual for his mark to bother him, but there’s a difference between the slight heat he always feels and whatever this is.

Sachiko Fujinuma is no fool, and she can connect the dots. Satoru’s mark started to hurt whenever Kayo first went missing and such a negative reaction through a soulbond usually occurs whenever something wrong has happened.

Satoru is just a child, though, and he hardly understands what’s going on.

The malice and glee he feels from his soulmate is so great that he chokes on it, and the only thing he feels that is his own is the pain. Satoru tries to block it out, to shut off the connection between him and his soulmate, but he can’t.

“Mom! Please, please make it stop!” he cries. “I don’t wanna feel it anymore!”

“Shhh, Satoru,” his mother murmurs. She rubs ice cubes on his back that melt almost instantly, but give Satoru a brief respite from the fiery sensation that flays his back. “It’s okay. Everything’s going to be okay.”

Satoru ends up falling asleep to his mother’s voice, exhausted from fighting the dark thoughts that threaten to take over his mind.

When he wakes, the pain has disappeared. Satoru hesitantly sits up, but all that remains is a dull ache on his back and an emptiness in his head that echoes at him when he thinks about it.

“What?” he slurs, fists rubbing at his sleepy eyes. His mother’s blurry figure appears beside his bed.

She hands him a glass of water and rests her hand on his head. “I gave you a shot,” she explains. “It...dulled the connection. You should be alright from here on out.”

It comes back to Satoru then, the guilt of what he’s done-or in this case, failed to do. Perhaps it is because the soulbond has been dulled by whatever medication his mother gave him and now that he can’t feel his soulmate’s emotions anymore, his own regret suffocates him.

“I saw Hinazuki all alone,” Satoru admits, tears gathering at his eyes. “And I felt thrilled I was about to do something really exciting. Then all there was...was that pain. I should’ve spoken to her, or at least told you about my mark!”

“Satoru,” Sachiko shakes her head. “There’s no way you could’ve known-”

“It’s my fault she’s gone! If I had done something, then-”

“None of this is your fault!” Sachiko insists, taking Satoru by the shoulders. Her hands are warm and her grip is firm. The action grounds Satoru somewhat. “It’s the person who took her that’s at fault. None of this is on you!”

Satoru lets out a small sob and leans forward, burying his face into his mother’s stomach. She shushes him and runs her hands through his hair as his tears and snot cover her shirt. When the cries die down, she speaks again.

“The police called while you were...sick. They want to ask you a few questions. If it would help, then once you’re well enough…,” she trails off.

Satoru withdraws from his mother’s warm embrace. The thought of talking to police officers is a little intimidating, and it gives Satoru a funny feeling in his stomach. Then he thinks of Hinazuki, Hiromi, and that other girl, of the darkness through his soulbond which had threatened to swallow him whole.

If I could still help…

He angrily wipes the tears away with his shirt sleeve.

“I’ll talk to them,” Satoru promises, eyes narrowing.

“You don’t have to do anything you’re uncomfortable with, Satoru,” Sachiko reminds.

“It’s fine. I want to help!” he gives her a fake smile, and when his mother’s arms tighten around him once more, he knows she’s seen through it.

Satoru’s testimony seems to do the opposite. The police won’t listen and all they want to do is see his mark. They speak in hushed tones amongst themselves and look at Satoru with sympathetic eyes.

“-same mark-”

“-get a look-”


“-idea who it might b-”

“-someone he’s familiar with-”

Satoru catches bits and pieces of what they say, and it only makes him more distressed. He refuses to show his mark at first, afraid the connection will flare to life again, angrier and stronger than before once others catch a glance of it. He’s ashamed of it, the hideous thing on his back, and maybe a part of him is scared of it.

But then they bring up Yuuki.

The detectives question Satoru about his friend, but only hear what they want to hear. A predator, they call Yuuki. That’s not right, though, and Satoru wants them to see that.

“I’ll show you my mark, then!” Satoru cries, standing up from his seat. His shaky hands travel to his shirt, ready to lift it up as he turns around. “I’ll show it to you, and then you’ll know it wasn’t Yuuki because-”

Because Yuuki doesn’t have this mark, or any mark like it. The person that has this mark did it. The person that’s my soulmate did it.

Satoru freezes.

Warm hands take his own, pulling them away from his shirt.

“Satoru. There’s no need,” Sachiko murmurs.

He looks up at his mother’s face and realizes she is the same as the police; she doesn’t believe him, and that hurts worse than his mark ever could.

The night after Jun Shiratori is arrested, his mother quietly shuffles into Satoru’s room. Satoru hasn’t been able to sleep. The empty ache that echoes in his head and the guilt in his heart keep him awake, but he feigns sleep. He doesn’t want to talk to his mother.

He feels her sweep his hair out of the way and kiss his forehead. He waits with bated breath, struggling not to move an inch. Finally, Satoru hears the door close. He lets out a sigh of relief and cracks open an eye, only to see his mother staring down at him, a fond smile on her face as she crosses her arms.

“Knew it,” she crows.


“I was sleeping!” Satoru lies. “Then you came in and woke me up!”

His mother gives him a look. “I’m sure you were,” she says dryly.

Satoru huffs and turns away from her, burrowing himself in his blankets as silence resumes.

“It’s okay to forget, Satoru,” his mother places her hand on the bundle of blankets he’s hidden under. “I don’t want you to hurt anymore.”

“I’m not hurting,” Satoru’s response is muffled. “I can’t feel anything anymore. My mark is...empty.”

“Soulmates aren’t the end-all, be-all,” his mother tells him. “You can meet someone and fall in love, whether they’re your soulmate or not.”

“That’s not what I’m worried about!” Satoru protests. “I don’t care about that!”

“Then what is it?”

Satoru’s silent for a moment, but then he finally manages to put his feelings, his worries, into words. “Why did I have such a bad person as my soulmate?”

For the first time in her life, Sachiko has no answer for her son.

Chapter Text

Nothing good comes out of getting involved.

This is something Satoru learns as the years fly by, what he tells himself and what becomes his motto of sorts. He builds up walls of indifference around himself. There’s no room for friends in Satoru’s small world, no family or lover to come home to. It’s better not to involve yourself with people, because they will get hurt or leave or disappoint.

Satoru is twenty-nine years old now and still has the one mark on his back. The bond he’d had so long ago is crippled now, broken by the medication he’d taken religiously and his own rejection of his soulmate. Sometimes he thinks he can feel a sliver of loneliness filter through, but Satoru is sure that feeling is his, moving around with nowhere to go because he’s severed the link.

The spiderweb has faded over the years, going from crimson to coral, and it no longer pains him. Satoru knows he should consider himself lucky; his mark is easily hidden. Some people have marks splayed across their faces, large and colorful designs that they’re unable to hide from the world.

He only thinks on it in passing nowadays, both his mark and the twisted person it belongs to. It’s merely a fact, a hurtful truth he doesn’t like to dwell on, because what good would it do now when all is said and done. There’s no going back and changing the past.

The thought is rather ironic, Satoru realizes, because he can go back to a certain degree. Revival is something that simply appeared one day, a phenomenon which allows Satoru to prevent horrible circumstances from happening.

Satoru reminds himself not to get involved, but just as he’s going about his daily routine, whether it’s delivering pizzas for his part-time job or simply walking home, Revival happens. A blue butterfly appears in the corner of his vision, and time resets several minutes.

This is how Satoru ends up in the hospital, saving a young boy from a truck at the expense of his own health. When he wakes in a hospital bed, the first thing he sees is an orange and yellow sun.

Airi Katagiri smiles wide, and the edge of the gleaming sun on her cheek crinkles.

“Morning, Fujinuma!” she greets.

Satoru takes in his surroundings, realizing he’s in the hospital, and it all comes flooding back. Revival. The boy, the truck, the unconscious driver, the crash.

“Do you know who you are and why you’re here?” Katagiri asks.

“Satoru Fujinuma. 29 years old. I was chasing a truck and got into an accident,” Satoru recites.

“Good! The doctor said there weren’t any life-threatening injuries!” Katagiri says. “Talk about lucky! Do you need me to call someone? Any friends or maybe a girlfriend?”

Satoru swallows and looks away from her. “There’s no one.” 

“Huh? Are you sure? Not even a soulmate?”

“Soul...mate…?” Satoru frowns. “What do you mean?”

“It’s just something the doctor mentioned,” Katagiri waves her hand. “Something about a Class 5 mark? Anyways I told the manager about what you did! I was there and saw you save that kid’s life. The manager doesn’t want you to worry about the bike or the car you hit, but you should come back to work!”

“Thanks,” Satoru says, his lips twitching upwards into a smile.

Katagiri leans forward, elbows on her knees as she places her chin onto her hands. “You smiled for a bit just then!” she notes. The sun that’s emblazoned on her cheek seems to flare, catching Satoru’s attention.

“Have you met your soulmate, Katagiri?” the question spills out of his mouth before he can stop it.

Katagiri doesn’t seem offended. She merely tilts her head to the side. “Hmm, not yet. Or at least I don’t think so? But it doesn’t really matter if I do or not, because I have a dream.”

A dream, Satoru thinks. He remembers drawing line after line, panel and panel, only to have his work refused, torn up and thrown in the trash. He swallows. “Haven’t you ever thought ‘But what if it doesn’t happen for me?’. Especially when you tell other people your dream?”

Katagiri folds her hands in her lap, leaning back. “I’m not embarrassed to talk about it. If I just keep saying the words over and over, it should actually happen somewhere along the line.”

If I just keep saying the words over and over…

The back of Satoru’s right hand twinges in pain. Katagiri’s words echo in his head, and a sort of familiar warmth fills his chest.

“But I’m not telling you my dream,” Katagiri says, standing. The pain on Satoru’s hand and the warmth both start to fade. “You and I aren’t close enough for that.”

She grabs her bag and waves goodbye. When Katagiri closes the hospital room door shut, the pain and warmth are gone, and Satoru is cold.

Weird girl .

The curtain to his window is drawn open when he returns to his apartment, and Satoru opens the door, catching sight of his mother. 

“Mom?” he asks. “What are you doing here?”

Sachiko Fujinuma stands in the kitchen, watching over the stove as pots and pans of food that sizzle. She turns towards Satoru and gives him a look. “Welcome home,” she says, scooping some rice out onto a plate. “You were sleeping when I went to the hospital, so I came here to make you some food.”

A blue edge of some design peeks its way out from under her shirt collar, resting near her collarbone. It’s the mark that Satoru has left on her: a blue butterfly, its wings fluttering half-open in flight.

The only person Satoru has ever made an impact on in all his twenty-nine years is his mother. He knows it happens all the time, parents and children sharing secondary marks, but the awful thing is that Sachiko Fujinuma has his mark, but Satoru doesn’t have hers.

It’s always made him feel guilty.

“What about work?” Satoru questions.

“You were in the hospital, Satoru. Of course I would come to see you,” Sachiko states, setting the plates down. “I’ll be staying here for a few days.”

Satoru clicks his tongue. “There’s no need for that! Why can’t you just get a hotel room?”

“It’d be a waste of money,” his mother insists.

“I only have one futon,” Satoru reasons.

“Then I’ll use the sleeping bag in your closet.”

Satoru rolls his eyes. His mother is too tough of an opponent to fight, and he knows when he’s been beaten. “Fine,” he agrees.

Later, his mother plops herself down in front of the TV, stretched out on the futon. “Sorry,” she says, unapologetic as she takes a sip of beer from a can.

“Whatever,” Satoru sighs. He moves to get out the sleeping bag, only half listening to the sound of the TV.

“-girl who went missing yesterday was found safe and sound at-” the news reporter on TV says.

“Hey, Satoru?” his mother calls. She rubs at her collarbone, fingertips tracing the butterfly there. “Do you remember?”

Satoru pauses, swallowing as a sense of dread fills him. Surely, she can’t mean…

“Remember what?”

“What happened in our neighborhood when you were in fifth grade,” Sachiko digs her fingernails into the mark, leaving small crescent-shaped imprints there. “Two of your classmates went missing.”

Whatever dam or wall was holding Satoru’s memories back breaks, and they spill forth like rushing water. Yuuki’s paper airplane. Falling snow. A girl in a red coat. Bruises and marks and blood and a pale hand reaching out towards a large, looming shadow that smiles with razor-sharp teeth.

Satoru grabs a hold of the door frame to hold himself up as his knees grow weak. “Barely,” his voice is strained. “But how could I really forget, in the end?”

“It was important that you forgot, if even a little bit. You could’ve been killed,” Sachiko stares up at the ceiling. She doesn’t meet Satoru’s eyes.

“Satoru,” his mother starts, but Satoru waves her away.

“It’s fine,” he stresses. “I’m over it now. I take some bond inhibitors every month, and the mark hasn’t bothered me since.”

“If you need to talk about it-”

“I’m going to bed,” Satoru interrupts. “I’ve just been in an accident, and I’m tired. So please, not tonight.”

His mother looks at him-really looks at him-and gives a sort of nod. “Alright.”

When Satoru lays down for the night, his back aches in protest. Satoru doesn’t spare it another thought, though. It’s just the accident and the unfamiliar sleeping bag talking.


They both go to the grocery store together. Satou is complaining about the amount of groceries his mother bought when he feels it. Something familiar ripples through his head, and Satoru stops to glance around frantically.


A little boy cries at the ice cream that’s fallen to the ground. Near the entrance to the store, the employee handing out balloons loses her hold on them, and dozens fly off into the sky. Everything is the same as before. Satoru can’t spot what’s wrong.

“Mom, look around,” Satoru commands quickly, eyes glancing this way and that. “Is there anything out of place?”

“What are you talking about?” his mother pauses, and then recognition shows on her face. “Actually, you’ve said something like that before. That time it was about a small fire.”

Sachiko puts her chin in her hand and peers at her surroundings, looking for anything that might be cause for concern. A figure to the left catches her eye. It’s a man, at least middle-aged, who holds the hand of a small girl. The girl brings last night’s newscast to mind, and Sachiko zeroes in on the man.

Their eyes meet. Just as quickly as they do, the man turns away, averting his eyes and bringing the girl behind a blue vehicle.

Goosebumps pop up on Sachiko’s arms, and she flips her phone out, readying the camera. The man leaves the girl with an ice cream cone in her hand, driving off, but Sachiko manages to snap a photo of the license plate when he does. As soon as he’s gone, the warmth returns to her body.

“Nothing happened?” Satoru mutters.

A high-pitched, cheerful voice breaks through the tense atmosphere. “Hey, Fujinuma!”

Satoru turns, flexing his hand as he greets the familiar voice. “Katagiri.”

“This is the first time I’ve seen you out and about when we’re not at work!” Katagiri notes.

“And who is this?” Sachiko chimes in.

Satoru gestures to Katagiri. “This is Airi Katagiri. She’s one of my coworkers.”

His mother gives the high schooler a once over, gaze pausing on the girl’s face a second longer than needed. Satoru knows she must be a little surprised at Katagiri’s mark. It’s not everyday you see one on somebody’s face, especially one that’s as pretty as Katagiri’s shining sun. Satoru feels a stab of envy hit him, but he pushes it away.

“Katagiri, this is my mother.”

Katagiri’s eyes bug out of her head. “Um, hello!” she waves, giving a slight bow to Sachiko.

His mother smiles and stretches out her hand. Katagiri’s gaze catches on his mother’s wrist, where a ring of white and yellow camellias etched themselves years and years ago.

“Thank you for taking care of my son,” Sachiko says. She lets go of Katagiri’s hand. “Are you busy right now?”

Katagiri scrunches her nose. “Uh, no?”

“Good. You can join us for dinner, if you’d like.”

Satoru shoots his mother an incredulous look. He’s on the verge of asking her whose house she thinks it is, but Katagiri is quick to reply.

“Sure! I’d love to!”

“Katagiri is a high schooler,” Satoru reminds his mother, narrowing his eyes.

As per usual, Sachiko ignores him. Satoru was a fool to think anything would deter her when her mind was made up, and he realizes he should know better by now.

“Your mark,” his mother starts, after they’ve sat down for dinner. “How long have you had it, Katagiri?”

Satoru sputters and almost chokes on his curry at his mother’s abrasiveness. He hesitantly glances over, fearful of Katagiri’s reaction, but Katagiri doesn’t look the least bit concerned. She swallows her last bite of food and wipes at her mouth with a napkin, giving a little hum.

“I’m surprised you knew,” she laughs.

“Knew what?” Satoru furrows his brows, thoroughly confused.

Katagiri points to the mark on her cheek. “That this is a secondary mark. Most people think it’s what I was born with, but that’s not the case. I got this from my dad when I was younger. But seriously, how did you know?”

Sachiko’s lips twitch. “Mother’s intuition, I guess?”

Huh. I just thought it was really pretty , Satoru thinks.

His mother raises her eyebrows, fixing him with a look, and Katagiri’s cheeks are dusted with red now, and shit, Satoru just said that outloud, didn’t he?

“Haha, thanks!” Katagiri says, rubbing the back of her head. She stands and stretches, grabbing her bag. “Well, I’d better head home! Thanks for the meal!”

“I can give you a ride,” Satoru offers.

“You’re welcome to stay a little longer,” Sachiko doesn’t miss a beat in saying.

“Katagiri is a high schooler,” Satoru repeats, standing and heading towards the door, where he slips on his shoes.

This time, his mother seems to listen, leaning back a little and waving Satoru away as if concede defeat. She tells them to take care and lets them both leave in peace, to which Satoru is grateful. He doesn’t know how much more of his mother’s meddling he can take tonight.

Nothing seems to faze Katagiri, though. “Your mom is the best,” she informs Satoru. “At first, I thought she was your big sister.”

“Do you believe in yokai?” Satoru asks, rolling to a stop at the red sign that’s come up. He takes his hand off the handlebar of his bike momentarily to flex it. It’s been cramping up all night.  

“I do now,” Katagiri admits solemnly.

Amusement bubbles up in Satoru’s chest, and he can’t help but smile. Katagiri’s presence behind him as they ride is calming and warm.

Too warm , a voice whispers. Dangerous.

“Fujinuma, have you met your soulmate?” Katagiri asks.

Satoru flinches. “No. Hopefully I never will,” he mutters. “My mark is pretty ugly, and it’s caused me a lot of trouble.”

“Do you ever feel stuff through it, like when the other person is happy or sad?”

“I used to,” Satoru admits, voice catching. “I started taking a lot of medication a long time ago, though, and it...gets rid of all that stuff.”

Katagiri hums, a sound low in her throat. “Are you happy now, then?”

Satoru stops pedaling, bike skidding to an abrupt stop. Katagiri leans forward at the lack of movement, hands thudding against Satoru’s back with an “oomph” as she catches herself. She retracts herself with haste.

“Sorry!” she apologizes.

“It’s fine,” Satoru is quick to say. He looks up at the night sky, then out at the quiet city streets, as if they would hold the answer to Katagiri’s question. Is he happy? And is it bad that the answer to that question doesn’t come to mind at all when he thinks about it?

“I don’t really know,” he sighs. “If I’m happy or not, that is.”

Katagiri inclines her head. “If you were happy, Fujinuma, I think you would know it.”

“You know, Katagiri,” Satoru rolls his eyes, cracking a smile, “you remind me of my mom.”

She places a hand-there are rashes of some sort on the back of it that Satoru is just now noticing-on her chest. “I’m honored.”

Satoru gives a small chuckle and resumes pedalling.


On his way to work, he stops at a bookstore. Satoru has plenty of time till his shift starts, and something has been bugging him. His mother’s words ring in his ears.

“Do you remember?” she had asked.


He remembers seeing that girl in the park, lonely and cold, before she disappeared forever, and then one of his friends didn’t show up at school, only to be reported missing as well. Is there more to it, though? Are there things that Satoru had blocked out and forced himself into forgetting?

“Have you met your soulmate?” Katagiri questioned.


Satoru would’ve remembered if he met his soulmate back then, because surely his skin would’ve thrummed and sang with joy. The frightening mark on his back would’ve started whispering dark, horrible things, and Satoru would’ve had to sleep on his stomach for a week because of the awful pain on his back.

But hadn’t something like that happened?

He shakes the thoughts away and rubs his shoulder. He’s here to find answers to any questions he has, not keep worrying like this. Satoru pulls down a book titled something along the lines of “Showa” and “Shocking Crime” from one of the shelves in the section related to crime. It doesn’t take him long to find what he’s looking for; it seems the case had gotten a lot of coverage.

The faces of Kayo Hinazuki and Hiromi Sugita are familiar enough to tug at his heart, and even though Aya Nakanishi’s face is new, the same sort of sadness washes over him as he looks at her picture. He scans the writing for any other details he doesn’t know of, curiosity seeping through him.

The killer, Jun Shiratori, is mentioned, even though Satoru knows, just knows , he isn’t the one who did it. Satoru ignores most of the paragraph on Yuuki, but a few lines catch his eye.

“As usual with homicides, the killer’s soulmark-a series of interconnecting red lines, referred to as a plausible spiderweb by officials-was branded on the victims at the time of their death,” the book reads.

Satoru’s breath catches in his throat, and his hands shake as he slowly shuts the book, shuffling over to the register. What he’s just read is a confirmation of what he already knows, but it still sends shivers up his back and makes his head pound.

Satoru almost forgets to grab his change from the cashier. His thoughts are a mess, and all he can think about are the faces of three children branded with lines of blood.

It makes sense, in a way, he thinks. If soulmarks are transferred by leaving an impact on someone, then what better impact than taking their life?

Satoru shoves the jumbled mess of emotions and thoughts away. He’ll deal with it later, whatever all of this means, and collect himself for work. It’s not hard to do. Over the years, Satoru has grown remarkably skilled at ignoring his own feelings. Perhaps it’s something he owes to his dull, broken bond, or maybe he’s just learned how to do it by himself.

He gets through work, but the images never stray far from his mind. Satoru is halfway out the door when Katagiri’s voice breaks through his trance.

“Let me guess,” she starts, “you had curry for breakfast this morning, didn’t you?”

Satoru stops and glances back at her. “Yeah…,” he trails off, raising an eyebrow. Of course he would’ve had curry, what with the huge portion side his mom had made the night before.

“Awesome! Got it in one!” Katagiri cheers. “Your mom’s food was great! I wouldn’t mind eating it again!”

Satoru offers her a nod. “I’m sure she’d say you were welcome back anytime,” he says, only half-resigned.

He raises a hand in response to her wave, and the doors slide shut behind him. Satoru notes that he has to ask his mom when she plans on leaving so he can invite Katagiri over before she does. It’s his mother’s cooking that Katagiri’s after, not his gloomy presence.

“She said she respects you,” his mother had reminded him last night, “and Katagiri doesn’t seem like the kind of girl to kiss up to people. You have a chance with her.”

Satoru feels his cheeks redden at the memory. He hasn’t been in a relationship with anybody since...ever, really. It’s not like people have been knocking on the door of a 29-year-old, part-time pizza boy, and most people always focus on the whole soulmate thing when trying to choose a partner.

His mind goes to his own mark. Satoru doesn’t know if he could let anybody close enough to see the twisted thing. His mother and a few doctors have been the only ones who’ve ever seen it, and the fewer people he reveals it to, the better. Lost in his own thoughts, Satoru arrives home quicker than he’d expected. He catches sight of a dark figure at the top of the stairs to his apartment, a man dressed in a suit and tie. His clothing is odd. Satoru hasn’t ever known any salarymen to live beside him.

He almost hesitates to go up the stairs, but his stubbornness wins out. He glances at the stranger as he passes him, and their eyes meet. The man has eerie maroon eyes and a smile on his face as he inclines his head towards Satoru, tilting his hat to cover his features.

Satoru gets to the top of the stairs, and a sound like clinking glass startles him. He spins his head around, but there’s no sign of the man. Satoru furrows his brows and rubs at one of his shoulders, wincing. The flesh there is still tender from the accident.

His apartment door is open when he gets there, and he clicks his tongue. His mother must’ve forgotten to close the door. Her shoes are where they should be near the entrance, and Satoru sees a folded slip of paper lying on the floor close by.

“C’mon, Mom!” he chides, annoyed. “You could at least pick up after your-”

The annoyance disappears in a flash. Horror washes over Satoru, the air leaving his lungs, and all he can see is red as something hot and tight claws its way up his stomach to his chest.

“Hey,” Satoru mutters. “Mom, this isn’t funny.”  

He crouches down, reaching for her, and his mother’s body turns over with ease, giving Satoru a good look at the knife that’s protruding from her belly. Satoru recoils in shock, hand slipping into the puddle of blood near Sachiko’s limp form.

He can’t breathe. He can’t think. Something like this can’t be happening. His eyes zero in on his mother’s pale face and see that there is a faint, pinkish engraving there. The killer’s mark has made its way on his mother’s skin. Recognition flashes across his mind like a blaring siren, and Satoru lets out a choked sob.

“Of course,” he murmurs miserably. “Who else but you?”

Satoru’s chest is tight, and he feels as if something cold and heavy is pressing down on him on all sides, his breathing short and rapid.

“Fujinuma! I wanted to thank you for the curry your mom shared with me this morning, so I-” his neighbor is cut off by her own screech.

Satoru lifts up a shaky arm, taking in the blood that sticks to his hand. “No,” he says, “I didn’t…”

But the damage is done, and in minutes, the ringing in his head is replaced by the blaring of the police sirens. The police officers are crowding in around him in their bulky uniforms, eyes narrowed and mouths set in thin lines as they ask Satoru to come with them.

“I didn’t kill her. I would never!” Satoru rasps, but one officer moves towards him, reaching out a hand.

He remembers years ago, sitting at the station and pleading his case to detectives who would not listen, would never listen, because they’d already made their minds up. This time, law enforcement’s sight isn’t trained on Jun Shiratori, but Satoru.

He does the only thing he knows how to do. He runs.

But there’s nowhere to run to except a railing and the cold, hard ground. Satoru is falling, falling, falling, and it’s only now that he registers the pain on his back, the pain on his chest.

In that split second before he hits the ground, Satoru thinks he can hear butterfly wings beating in time with heart.

Chapter Text

When he wakes, the world is white.  

“C’mon, Satoru! If you don’t hurry up you’ll be late!” a nostalgic voice cackles as something hits him in the side.

Satoru finds his body responding immediately on its own, perhaps reacting on instinct or maybe driven by the young voice in his head that urges him on, and he runs after the boy ahead of him. It’s odd, he thinks, that the two of them are eye level.

Snow falls and a cool breeze ruffles Satoru’s hair as he runs. He blinks, eyes glancing this way and that as he takes in his familiar surroundings, but it is the building that really does it for him. When Satoru gets to the elementary school he knows so well and sees the sign on it, he feels something grip his heart.

“There’s no way,” he mutters to himself.

Satoru must be dreaming because the sign says that the year is 1988.

“Oi, Satoru! Are you just gonna stand there?” the boy from before calls. Satoru recognizes him now as Kazu, the loud-mouthed friend from his memories.

“Coming!” he answers back nervously, following.

Revival? Is that what this is? But Revival has never acted up like this before. The most Satoru ever went back was a few minutes. Not 18 years.

When Satoru gets to the classroom, he pauses in the doorway. All of the kids are grouped together and talking in excited, raised voices. The chalkboard has February 15th written on it. A man in a suit enters the room and greets the class, to which they hush and take their seats, answering him back with a chorus of ‘Good morning!’ Satoru still stands in the doorway, but he jolts when the man addresses him.

“What’s the matter, Satoru?” Yashiro-sensei asks. “Hurry and take your seat.”

Satoru nods, startled.  But where is my seat? He wonders. His eyes zero in on the first empty desk he sees. When he attempts to sit there, muffled resounds throughout the class.

“That’s Hinazuki’s seat,” the boy next to him points out. Satoru grabs his bag and shuffles backwards till he spies another empty seat nearby. He moves towards that one, taking note of  the girl who sits in the seat beside him, her hair in pigtails and a frown etched on her face.

“Are you in love with Hinazuki or something?” the girl asks. Her frown wrinkles into a smug smile. “Guess you weirdos deserve each other.”

Satoru barely registers her words. The students, the teacher, the class-everything else blurs into the background as he focuses on his own thoughts. He rests his arms on his desk where they remain for the next few hours as he sits completely still, the cogs in his mind whirring at an ungodly speed. There is something wrong here. Has Revival malfunctioned? Or is this something else at work? Is this his  second chance?

If he catches the killer in the past, then he can save his mother in the future.

Satoru stands abruptly, his mind made up.

“Where are you going?” the only kid left in the classroom asks.

Satoru tenses, having not realized so much time had passed. Most of the kids are gone now, off to recess. Satoru glances at the other boy and searches his memories for a name to go with the face. The blond boy has a solemn look on his face, and his hands hold a book. Kenya, his mind supplies. Kenya Kobayashi.

“Ah,” Satoru rubs the back of his head. “Nurse’s office?”

“With your backpack?” Kenya raises an eyebrow. There’s a pause before he sighs. “Fine. I’ll let the teacher know.”

Satoru gives the other boy a nod and leaves, footsteps slow and even until he is out of sight, in which they pick up the pace until he’s full on sprinting. The way home comes easily to Satoru.

All he can think of is the last time he saw his mother, broken and bleeding on the floor of his apartment with a killer’s mark staining her features.

The door to their apartment is locked, but Satoru’s body is already moving, reaching for the key in the hiding place it could always be found.

He hadn’t been thinking when he rushed home so quickly. Of course his mother would still be working at this time of day.  Yet when Satoru opens the door, he can’t help but let out a sigh of relief at the empty apartment. He doesn’t know what he would’ve done if his mother’s corpse had been there to welcome him home a second time.

Satoru throws himself inside the nostalgic apartment. He falls to his knees and crumples, taking deep breaths as he curls into a ball on the hard floor. It’s cold without his mother here. Satoru resolves to count the the seconds, the minutes, the hours down until she is home. He can hardly count to ten before he loses consciousness.

The light wakes him. His eyes flutter open, and his mother is there, standing in the doorway with a puzzled look on her face. Her dark hair is longer than it was the last time he saw her, pulled back in a ponytail and and framing her face with loose strands. Sachiko’s face is youthful and wrinkle-free. Just the sight of her breaks his heart.

“Satoru?” his mother asks.

His body moves on its own, pushing himself up off of the ground and flinging himself towards his mother to give her a hug. Sachiko shushes him with low tones, her hand smoothing down his mussed hair.

“Mom!” Satoru cries. “Mom!”

Tears wet his eyes, and a warm feeling gathers in his chest, strange and hot and tight. He’s so focused on welcoming his mother back to the land of the living that it is Sachiko who notices it first. The glowing, that is. His mother stills in his arms, and she pushes Satoru away gently, holding him at arm’s-length.

“Your chest,” Sachiko begins, voice soft. “It’s glowing.”

Satoru pauses and glances down at his own chest. Sure enough, a bright light emanates from his upper chest, somewhere between his right shoulder and his heart.

He pushes his shirt out of the way to get a better look and what he sees there takes his breath away. Thick, black lines sear themselves along his collarbone. They swirl right and left, then shoot up for a moment before they start to curl again, spreading themselves this way and that in the design of a rooted tree. A horizontal line that stands for the ground runs between the bottom swirls and the trunk. It is the most beautiful mark that Satoru has ever seen. As the secondary mark finishes scripting itself on Satoru’s skin, its glow dims and disappears completely.

“What brought this on, Satoru?” his mother asks, her voice tight.

In all his twenty-nine years, Satoru has never seen his mother cry. She always seemed to be too strong, too untouchable for something like that. But she cries now, her eyes filling with tears as she clears her throat.

Satoru would’ve traded his primary mark for just the chance of sharing marks with his mother, especially now that he knows how happy it would’ve made her. There is only one event that Satoru can think of that would’ve been responsible for Sachiko’s mark. It’s a cruel joke that his mother had to die for her soulmark to make its way onto Satoru’s skin.

“Nothing,” Satoru insists, hastily wiping at his eyes. “I’m just happy to see you.”

Sachiko’s fingers trail over his tattooed skin. “I guess they always say that soulmarks can appear when you least expect it,” she allows, her face still frozen in disbelief.

His mother starts to reluctantly retract her hand, but Satoru grabs it and places it back on his collarbone. “It’s fine,” he says. “After all, it’s your mark, Mom!”

Sachiko stares at the black tree for a moment, then pokes it with a finger. “Can you feel anything through it?” she asks.

Satoru frowns. “Um, no?”

“Not even….this?” Her finger darts up to flick him on the forehead, and Satoru reels back with a yelp.

He clutches at his head, scowling. “You-,” he starts, but his indignation turns to laughter as Sachiko’s hands make their way to his sides, running up and down as they tickle him.

“Mom! Stop! It!” he commands in between giggles, pushing her arms away. Sachiko only wraps her arms around him in a tight hug and spins him around before she plants a kiss on his forehead.

“Thank you, Satoru,” she says.

No , he thinks. Thank you. Thank you for being alive. For taking care of me. For loving me.

For a moment, he’s worried the two of them will both start to cry again, but a quiet, rumbling sound interrupts the solemn moment. Satoru crosses his arms over his stomach and looks away.

“Wasn’t me,” he mutters.

His mother lets out a chuckle and pats him on the head. “Go and get cleaned up,” Sachiko tells Satoru. “I’ll get started on dinner.”
They do just that. The food they eat is delicious-no surprise-and Satoru can recall all the times that he had taken moments like these for granted. His mother had always been there for him, a solid pillar that Satoru could lean on when needed. She deserves more than what she got.

But it’ll be okay because Satoru’s here now. He can fix everything, and he can save his mother. No matter what happens, no matter what he has to do, Satoru will stop the killer.

It is at that thought that his back burns.

Satoru’s spoon slips from his hand, falling to the table with a clink as he curls in on himself, muscles aching and straining as he adjusts to the weight on his back. The creeping presence warms as soon he acknowledges it.

It’s you , the bond breathes. Finally, it’s you.

“Satoru, what’s wrong?” Sachiko asks, brow furrowed as she places a hand on Satoru’s forehead. “You don’t have a fever...”

Satoru lifts his head and grins, lips stretched tight to hide his discomfort. “It’s fine, Mom. I’m just a little tired is all.”

It’s curious that his mother’s mark has transferred through time, yet the broken bond between Satoru and his soulmate has been restored, perhaps even stronger than ever. After all, it is the first time that he has heard his soulmate acknowledge him directly. They sound so surprised, too, almost as if they are just now taking note of Satoru’s existence.

Just the thought of that infuriates him, and Satoru has to steel himself, taking a deep breath before he reaches out.

Don’t you dare reach out to me again , Satoru warns, sending the message out through his bond.

The bond bristles and goes almost cold before it answers back in a dangerous tone, You have no right to hide from me. Especially not after I’ve finally found you.

Satoru puts up a wall, a thick barrier between the bond that mutes any interaction. It is something easy for him now, even though he’s still in his ten-year-old body. One of his bond therapists had recommended blocking exercises when he’d started on medication, just in case the pills and shots didn’t do their job. He’d thought it ridiculous at the time. Now he couldn’t be more thankful.

After a minute, he slowly lowers the barrier and is instantly met with his soulmate’s ire.

Pull that again , the killer warns, and I’ll have to come find you.

But how will you find me if I just block you out again? Satoru sends back innocently. He finds himself smirking as the bond goes still with rage, his soulmark starting to sizzle.

“You look like you’re up to something,” Sachiko comments.

“Just excited,” Satoru explains. “I can’t wait for school tomorrow.”

Bother me again, and I’ll block you out completely. Forever, Satoru promises.

The bond shakes, trembling with a mix of malice and-oddly enough-mirth, before it quiets and dulls. The person at the other side has chosen to keep a cautious distance for now, but Satoru knows from experience they will be back.

His soulmate is nothing if not persistent.

Chapter Text

Gaku Yashiro is born with every inch of his skin blank and his heart hollow.

There are whispers that follow him growing up, pointed fingers and sympathetic looks. The neighbors all know the circumstances of the Yashiro family.

His mother’s soulmate died when she was young, and his father’s soulmate was of a much lower class, too low for him to marry. Theirs is an arranged marriage, and the household they built has little love to give their sons. His parents don’t share soulmarks, and it is because of this that Yashiro has no mark to call his own. All matches that aren’t blessed by Fate can only end in misfortune, after all, and the misfortune in this case just so happens to be the defective skin of Yashiro and his elder brother.

Yashiro’s brother takes this in the worst possible way. He has an emptiness that he channels into rage. Rage for his parents, who cursed him with a life with no love, rage for society, who shunned him, and rage for Yashiro, who received what little affection their parents had to give. His brother lashes out at school and even home, picking fights with other kids or even Yashiro.

It starts off as little things at first, like hiding Yashiro’s things or shoving him, but soon escalates near the end of Yashiro’s fourth year. His brother takes to breaking Yashiro’s things and punching him instead. The bruises and cuts are small at first. They fade within days, and any sign of abuse on Yashiro’s body is quickly written off by their mother as simple roughhousing.

After all, boys will be boys.

It doesn’t matter when the bruises last longer or the cuts are deeper. Their mother doesn’t have time to deal with brotherly disputes, and she will look at Yashiro, but never see. The bruises are hidden by clothes, and it is seen as just another trouble of the Yashiro family. Their eldest son is a delinquent who’s out of control, but there’s no helping it because he is a Blank.

But his brother really, truly gets out of control when he starts to take those girls.

He ropes Yashiro into helping with it, instructing him to lure the girls to the storehouse. Yashiro complies easily enough, though at first it’s mainly because of his brother’s threats. His brother gives him a script to follow, certain lines to say to the girls to get them to come along or keep their mouths shut, but Yashiro quickly scraps those after the first attempt using them fails. His brother’s words are too stiff and rehearsed, and Yashiro is quickly figuring out that he doesn’t need any lines to follow to get people to do what he wants. After a while, it becomes a little fun.

Though standing guard is anything but. His brother’s groans always make his skin crawl, and Yashiro will read books in an effort to escape the awful noises. It’s only when one of the girls comes out with a mark on her face that Yashiro begins to understand his brother.

The girl’s long, tangled black hair is like a curtain as it hides her face, and she stumbles out of the storehouse on shaky legs before falling to her knees with a cry. It is then that Yashiro catches sight of a bright red, coiled mark on her face, and he shoots to his feet, moving towards her until he’s close enough to bring a hand to her cheek. The girl hisses at him and slaps his hand away.

“Don’t touch me!” she screeches. “Don’t you dare... I’ve had enough already!”

“A snake,” Yashiro murmurs. “He marked you.”

The girl deflates at Yashiro’s words as he states the reality of the situation, beginning to cry, and he hurries to comfort her with gentle words and bribes her with the treats and trinkets he pulls from his pockets.

Secondary marks appear when you change someone’s life, and his brother’s assault on the girls is change enough.  The thought of forcing a mark on a person manifests as an itch that Yashiro can’t scratch, and from then on, it haunts him.

If his stupid older brother could put a mark on someone, then Yashiro certainly could. But the question is, how will he do it? Yashiro has no taste for sexual exploits, and so he’s constantly thinking of some other way to put his mark on anyone at all.

He spends time researching marks and bonds, though the books he reads only say sappy things like, “encourage someone to do their best”, “inspire people”, and “save someone’s life”. Yashiro nearly rips the pages from the last suggestion he encounters, wherein it states that the strongest secondary mark will appear after an act of faith is performed. Yashiro doesn’t have time for building bonds or any of that nonsense. He wants to create a bond, right here and now. He wants to see his mark on someone, whatever it may look like, and he wants to be marked in return.

The answer comes in Yashiro’s brother.

Yashiro stands guard like usual the day that it happens, but he becomes preoccupied with the hamster he has brought with him, his beloved pet Spice. He’s so busy playing with it that his attention isn’t caught until his mother’s voice can be heard loud and clear as day, close enough to the storehouse. This means that she can hear any screams or grunts, that she will know what her eldest son has been up to in a matter of seconds. Yashiro scurries to intercept her and comes up with some excuse to drive her off. He does not know that the damage has been done.

When Yashiro enters the storehouse, all is quiet.

“She won’t wake up,” his brother murmurs, confused. “She’s not waking up.”

Yashiro looks at the girl with long, mussed hair and ruffled clothes, her face soaked in tears and snot and her neck wrapped with a string of bruises. Yashiro tiptoes closer and watches as his brother shakes her limp body gently at first, then furiously.  

“She won’t wake up! Shit! Fuck! This is bad!” his brother roars, letting go of her body to look at his own hands.

Yashiro gets a closer look at the girl’s neck and realizes it is not just bruises. A red snake lies  hidden among the mottles, curving around her neck, poised and ready to strike, and Yashiro’s blood comes alive at the sight, hot and rolling.

There’s another way, then, he thinks, to mark someone as mine.

Plans start to form in his mind, and Yashiro thinks of other pale bodies, all marked with his own mark, whatever it might be, and of how he can make that happen.

His plans are interrupted by the impact of his brother’s fist hitting Yashiro’s cheek, and he stumbles back, whimpering as his brother begins to hit him again and again and again.

“This is all your fault!” his brother hollers. “If only you had been watching! You had one job, and you ruined it! You ruined everything!”

His fist comes back, redder and redder each time, and Yashiro wonders if it will ever stop, the pain and the red.

“If you had been watching, I wouldn’t have had to shut her up!” his brother screams one final time, ready to throw his fist again.

Yashiro barely flinches, squeezing his swollen eyelids shut, but the punch never comes. His  brother deflates like a balloon, fisting Yashiro’s shirt in his hands once before relaxing them and letting the younger boy fall to the ground. His brother falls to his knees and begins to cry.

“They’ll put me in jail,” he sobs. “I’ll be ruined!”

Aren’t we already ruined? Yashiro says inside his head, thinking of the blank skin that he and his brother share.

After a while, his brother’s cries die off, and he fixes Yashiro with a determined, almost crazed look. “We have to hide the body,” he states.

And so they do, though Yashiro cannot forget the way that his bruised face burns from his brother’s hits or the way that his brother looks at him as they dispose of the corpse, like a large animal trying to be crafty and clever.s

Yashiro sees the spider’s thread then, hanging high above his brother’s head, and he realizes he has no other choice than to cut it, lest he go tumbling down as well.

It’s a suicide, they say. At first, most people believe that it is because Yashiro’s brother was a Blank that he killed himself, but eventually the truth comes out about the girls he assaulted and the one that he strangled. Neighbors’ sympathy turns to disgust, and no one bothers to mourn the dead boy other than his mother.

“He was a Blank,” one granny mutters at the funeral when she thinks none of the family can hear, moving her cane to gesture. “They’re all rotten I say. All wrong deep inside.”

Yashiro only smiles, strained and heavy, because he doesn’t feel rotten. At least not anymore.

Because when the coroner surveyed his brother’s body, he made note of a red mark spread out across his brother’s left foot. It was a series of intersecting lines which some would say was woven in the design of a spider’s web.

Yashiro realizes he does not have to inspire, does not have to nurture or care. He only has to kill, and the hole in his heart will be filled.

And so life goes on. Yashiro grows up and goes to college, all the while wearing the persona that he’s so carefully crafted for himself. Pretending to be something he is not is a precaution for the future. He cannot have anyone think him abnormal or suspicious or rotten . He has to come off as a respectable citizen, even if that means he needs to say so many lies that he feels he will choke on them.

That includes marrying. Though Yashiro knows how loathsome his prospects are-blank, blank, blank, a voice whispers-he resolves to try. The list he compiles is short and quickly narrowed down to one, a child psychologist who has given several lectures at his university. She’s pleasant enough to look at, and she’s not as dimwitted as most of the girls in his seminar.

Yashiro thinks of picking at her brain for hours and hours, of how he can gain knowledge to use for any of his...future excursions. He catches her one afternoon and under the pretense of looking over his research paper, invites her out for coffee.

When the woman shows up with her hair curled and pinned back, her dress shirt and skirt both neatly pressed, and her face set with makeup, Yashiro knows that he has her. Not everyone is obsessed with marks and soulmates, and the woman he’s chosen seems to have no care for either.

So soon he has a fiancée to brag about, another little footnote to add to his perfect reputation, and everything is normal, until it isn’t.

Yashiro starts to dream.

Yashiro had long left his dreams with his childhood, buried deep within the past, but the visions he starts to see now are different than anything he’s ever dreamed before. There are flashes of places he’s never seen and blurred faces he feels he should know.

In one dream he is reaching up towards a woman, though his face barely comes up to her knees, and Yashiro cannot even remember a time where he was ever that short. He would write it off as nothing but nonsense, as dreams usually are, but the same ones keep coming back. They seem to have a storyline to them as well, as if they’re documenting someone’s life.

You thought you were alone, but I’m here, something croons on repeat. Just wait. Wait. Wait.  

His chest feels warm and whole, and he reaches for the voice, for the warmth he feels as the events flash before his eyes, but a wall of sorts blocks him out.  The more he reaches, the farther it gets, and the angrier that Yashiro becomes.

You’re mine, aren’t you? So why are you running away? Yashiro rages, but the wall is there to bounce his words back at him. He throws a fist at it, trying to scratch the surface, if not break it, but the wall stands resolute and strong.

Yashiro wakes up with tears in his eyes and a hand clutching his heart, nails leaving red scratches from where he has tried to claw his way in.

He’s never cried before. Not that he can remember at least. His mother had always told him he was a quiet baby, and his brother had always called him a freak for never tearing up, even when he was beaten so badly he could barely speak.

Yashiro can only think of one reason for why the dreams have this much of an impact on him, but he knows it would be wise to consult another on the matter. He decides to bring it up with his fiancée.

She gives a laugh at his question. “That’s easy, really. It sounds like you’re finally establishing a bond with your soulmate! Congrats!”

Her words sent a thrill racing up Yashiro’s spine, and he has take a deep breath to stop the elated laughter he feels rising up his throat. It is a confirmation of what he feels, of what he’s known to be true ever since he woke up from one of those dreams in tears. Yashiro is not defected or cursed. Though he has no mark, Yashiro does have a soulmate.

“But I’m a Blank,” Yashiro states. “I don’t have a mark.”

She goes still at that, face paling as her mouth opens and shuts wordlessly. She looks like she’s just put her foot in her mouth, and Yashiro feels his stomach clench. Her eyes turn sympathetic at his words, a look that he has always hated, and she answers in a voice too gentle for Yashiro’s tastes.

“Um, well then...more often than not, cases like that are...illusions of the mind, if you will. It’s a Blank’s way of dealing with no soulmate to call their own. Their soul reaches out and mimics what it craves in an effort to cope,” she reaches out to take Yashiro’s hand, giving it a squeeze as she smiles gently.

“Oh,” is all he says.

But his mind is whirling, and his skin is on fire as he imagines gripping her hand so hard that it breaks, bones shattering out her skin like glass, and grabbing one of the couch’s throw pillows to smother her until she can never utter another filthy lie like that again. Yashiro is no charity case, and he knows what he feels. He doesn’t need this disgusting woman to tell him that he’s a lost cause, an empty man to be pitied, when he’s not.

A week later, when his smart fiancée asks him about the murders on the news, and where he’d been on the nights they occurred, Yashiro feels no hesitance as he pushes her from the window. In fact, he takes pleasure in the sounds of her bones breaking, of her skull splitting open against the concrete.

It’s a suicide, they say. She was stressed, unable to take the mounting pressure of her work, and so she had leapt from the window. What a shame, they say. So young and beautiful, with so much to offer.

It is only after Yashiro kills his fiancée that he spots his own thread in the mirror, hanging high over his head. His lips quiver at the sight.

The dreams come rarely after that, though they appear at least once a year. Yashiro graduates and gets a job, kills when he pleases and refines his skills. But the dreams nag at the back of his mind, and he decides to consult with a bond specialist, someone who should know more about soulmates than that damn woman thought she did.

The old doctor nods his head sagely at Yashiro’s story. “Soulmarks have always been tricky business. In the end, they never seem to work the way they’re supposed to. Hardly anybody has a perfect, fairytale ending these days.”

“Then you know what’s going on with me?” Yashiro says through gritted teeth, eyes like slits as he smiles wide.

The doctor strokes his beard. “I have a few theories. The worst outcome is that your soulmate has already died. It could’ve happened when you were in the womb, perhaps, and so that’s why your mark never appeared and why you can’t reach whoever’s at the end of that bond. But you said the dreams started a few years ago, correct?”

“That’s right,” Yashiro agrees.

“Then it’s less likely they’re dead. If that was the case, you would’ve had dreams since you were a child,” the doctor muses.

“They could be much older than you and blocking you out on purpose, though it could also be the other way around,” he continues. “There’s been a few cases of age differences in which the older party doesn’t get their mark until their soulmate comes of age. It’s supposed to protect the younger soulmate in cases like that.”

“Comes of age,” Yashiro muses. “And just what age are we talking about here?”

The doctor shrugs his shoulders. “Anywhere from 15 to 20,” he offers. “There’s no definite answer since situations like this are so rare.” 

Yashiro tries to remember the last dream he had, of a child who could barely reach his mother’s knees, and he clenches the armrests of the chair he sits in, fuming. He could have to wait more than a decade then.

“But then again, perhaps it’s all a manifestation of your desires. It’s not uncommon for a Blank to imagine a bond that isn’t there.”

“I know what I felt, Doctor,” Yashiro responds firmly, pleasantly. “I’m not making it up.”

“Would you like to run a few tests? We could tell you what your primary mark would look like or get a feel for your own mark, if that helps any.”

Yashiro freezes. “You’d want to register me?”

Everyone has their primary soulmark written on their birth certificate when they’re born, and after several blood tests, there’s a separate document that gets sent to the government detailing what the child’s own mark would look like. It’s an easy way for the government to make money. Anybody willing to pay a big enough sum could have their soulmate’s name and mark in their hand within weeks of sending in a request to the government. It also helps with solving crimes. If a dozen women end up dead with a freshly engraved black rabbit on their body, the police can search through archives to see who that mark belongs to and link them to the crimes.

Being a Blank has allowed Yashiro to definitely slip under the radar. He's had no mark on record, and so when his victims appeared with red spiderwebs carved into their skin, the police couldn’t suspect Yashiro of any of it, no matter what. He was a Blank who had no mark of his own to give to others, and so law enforcement’s eyes would skip over him if they ever so much as looked his way.

Yashiro’s registration as a Blank had always been his Plan B of sorts. If anything went wrong, he could always fall back on the fact that he had no mark to give, so he couldn’t have possibly done any of the things they claimed he did.

Could he give up his safety net to chase the dreams he craved? On the off-chance that he could find his soulmate, find the one who’d managed to evade him so well for all these years?

“Oh, Doctor,” Yashiro laughs, standing and waving his hand. “There’s no need for that. I was merely curious.”

The old man sends him a troubled look. “You seemed awfully eager, though. What’s got you changing your mind so quickly?”

Yashiro pauses at the door, slipping on his shoes and grabbing his coat. He pulls it on and fixes his collar. “I guess for the time being, it’s just not worth it,” Yashiro lies.

Something within him crumples as soon as he says that, but he ignores it. Nothing can get in his way, not even this.

When Yashiro falls asleep that night, he no longer dreams.

You’ve chosen, the silence seems to say, and you’ve chosen wrong.

On the night of February 15, 1988, Yashiro bleeds.

He’d woken that morning to a splitting head, groggy and out of sorts. Flashes of bright blue and red corrupt his consciousness, and an overwhelming feeling of helplessness assaults his senses. Before Yashiro knows it, he is dry heaving over his toilet.

The unpleasantness lasts but a moment, and he returns to normal soon enough, heartbeat slowing and stomach settling. It’s as if the event never happened, and so Yashiro prepares his morning coffee, thinking it odd, but nothing to worry over. If it gets any worse, then he’ll just schedule a doctor’s appointment for later that week.

As Yashiro expects, the day passes without any other occurrences. Kayo Hinazuki appears late, her shirt collar and shoulder-length hair barely hiding the bruises on the back of her neck. Yashiro believes it to be a good sign. His fingers twitch, tapping along the edge of his desk when he greets Hinazuki.

Soon, he promises wordlessly. But soon cannot come soon enough.

Once all the children have been sent home and the school is quiet, Yashiro sits at his desk to grade the pile of papers he’s accumulated over the last few weeks. It’s easy to lose track of time when he grades papers. Before Yashiro knows it, the sun has disappeared completely and the sky outside is black. He glances at his watch as he stretches his arms above his head, taking note of the time. He resolves to take the rest of the assignments home to grade them there. Yashiro loosens his tie a bit and leans back.

It’s the wrong thing to do. As soon as Yashiro’s back comes in contact with the chair, he feels something wet and sticky there, and the skin burns. It feels as though someone has taken a butcher’s knife to hack at flesh and bone alike.

He has to bite his hand to muffle his own screams, and he keels over, curling in on himself. The pain goes on forever. Yashiro brings a hesitant hand behind him, daring to touch his aching back.

Then does the blistering pain recede at his touch, imaginary claws raking him one final time and leaving behind a shredded mess of skin and flesh. The hand that Yashiro glances at is covered in his own blood, and he shivers at the sight of it, of his own mortality, and grins.

“It’s you,” he murmurs, awed. “Finally, it’s you.”

The bond that clicks into place is worth a thousand knives in his back, and Yashiro realizes that he has never lived until this moment, when he recognizes the presence of his soulmate and said soulmate recognizes him.

But his soulmate is not as joyful as he himself is. Yashiro is taken aback by the dread, the anger and disgust he feels through the bond.

Don’t you dare reach out to me again, his soulmate demands.

Yashiro quakes with rage, grinding his teeth. Here is his soulmate, who he’s never met before, who he hadn’t even been entirely sure existed before now, commanding Yashiro to stay as far away as possible.

You have no right to hide from me. Especially not after I’ve finally found you-

The connection is gone before he can finish sending out his message and it’s like that damned wall is back again, cutting Yashiro off from what’s rightly his. He lashes out, but his anger only comes bouncing back. After what seems like hours, but is more like a minute, the wall lowers.

It’s been purposeful, then. His soulmate has chosen to hide from him all these years, instead of their situation being an accident. Yashiro lets his rage seep through the bond as he comes to the conclusion.

Pull that again, he warns, and I’ll have to come find you.

And he will. Yashiro will tear the whole fucking world apart, burn it to the ground if he has to, because he has a soulmate and now that he’s gotten a taste, he’ll be damned if he goes the rest of his life without them.

But how will you find me if I just block you out? his soulmate asks coyly. Bother me again, and I’ll block you out completely. Forever.

The laughter spills out before he knows it, and Yashiro trembles with a mix of rage and joy. Ah, he thinks, so this is a soulmate. An equal.

He decides to draw back, letting the connection turn to static as he retreats. Yashiro knows when he’s lost. He has no prior experience with soulmates, and the other party clearly has the upper hand here. He’s done all that he can for now.

Yashiro manages to stand on shaky legs and head to the men’s restroom, leaning against the walls of the hallways for support. He’s lucky that most of the teachers have gone home. If one of them caught sight of his bloody back, he’d have had questions to answer.

He checks the stalls for any other inhabits. Once he’s sure that no one else is inside the bathroom, he locks the door and peels off his shirt slowly, hissing. The material has begun to stick to his raw skin and struggles to come off. Yashiro manages to take it off eventually, and he wets several paper towels to use on his back. He wipes most of the blood off-what he can reach at least-and once he does, he’s able to see it clear as day in the mirror. Bright blue and beautiful, it’s all that Yashiro dreamed of and more.

He hums, pleased at the sight.

A spider’s web and a butterfly. How fitting we are for each other.

Yashiro dreams that night, of blue wings that flutter high above in the sky. He reaches up to grab hold of them, and Yashiro plucks those wings, so that no one else can see and so that it can never leave.

It’s a lovely dream.

Chapter Text

The reason that the killer had been able to get away with killing the kids that he did was because he chose his prey carefully. Kayo Hinazuki, Satoru discovers, is the perfect target. She doesn’t have any friends at school, and she lives alone with her mother, a cruel woman who leaves mottled, black and blue patches on her daughter’s skin, but only in places most can’t see.

Kayo, though quiet, is not meek. She has a sharp tongue and even sharper eyes, recognizing Satoru for what he is. Fake.

“You always smile,” Kayo states. Her own face is painted with its signature indifference, and the corners of her mouth tilt downwards into a frown. “Even when you shouldn’t.”

Satoru rubs the back of his neck and the laugh that tickles at the back of his throat dies off at Kayo’s words. The snow that falls around them is mildly chilling, and Satoru shivers.

“I wanna be liked,” Satoru admits. “So I smile and I laugh, thinking that if I say lies over and over again, then somehow they’ll come true. They’ll be real.”

He stretches a hand out to Kayo, stepping closer, and splays his palm up. Kayo stares at it for a few moments. She buries her nose into the folds of her scarf, cheeks rosey-red and mouth hidden.
“Are you an idiot?” she mumbles, but Satoru thinks that he can see the corners of her mouth playing at a smile.

Winning Kayo’s trust is not easy, as Satoru learns. Many of his classmates-especially his friends-have come to the conclusion that Satoru is in love with Kayo. Some have even gone so far as to say that they must be soulmates since Satoru has become enamored so deeply with her seemingly overnight.

Satoru wonders if the implication has had any impact on Kayo, yet the girl treats him normally, putting Satoru at a cautious distance. Offhandedly, she mentions one day, “Soulmates don’t really matter. My parents were soulmates, but they’re not together anymore.” 

“Yeah, I know. My parents weren’t soulmates, but they had me anyway,” Satoru imparts. It is something that he’s never really outright told anyone. Most people have just assumed whatever they wanted since Sachiko is a single mother. Some believe that Satoru’s father has died or run off, but only Sachiko can say who her real soulmate is. Not even Satoru has ever been privy to that knowledge.

Kayo looks surprised at Satoru’s revelation. She bites her lip for a moment, as if debating something, before she finally asks, “Then are you a Blank?”

“No,” Satoru grimaces, thinking of red tendrils dragging him down, down, down. “But sometimes I wish that I was.”

There is something like understanding in Kayo’s eyes, and after that brief conversation, Satoru feels as though the bridge between them has been fully built. All that’s left is for Kayo to meet him halfway.

Satoru walks her home as often as he can, wary of anything that might happen to her. He is all too aware of the danger of leaving Kayo alone. Yet the real danger doesn’t seem to be in the world around them. It is in the house that Kayo should be able to call home.

Bruises decorate the back of his classmate’s neck and thighs, hidden for the most part except when her clothes move a centimeter or two too far to the left or right. Satoru’s breath catches when he sees them, and his heart will stutter before resuming its normal beat.

In the original timeline, he had suspected that Kayo faced abuse. There was nothing to be done, though. Satoru was only a child, and it was not his business to interfere in something that may not even be happening. The adults would surely take note and act, he had thought. They would save her.  But now Satoru is older and wiser, aware of the truth, that no one else will interfere in time and so Kayo will die.

No one else but Satoru can save her now.

After school one night when it is dark and Kayo shows her reluctance to return home, Satoru grabs her too-cold hand, hoping to warm it with his own, and asks her if she wants to see a Christmas tree.

Kayo raises an eyebrow, unimpressed, but she follows reluctantly, their shoes crunching against the thin layer of snow that covers the ground. Just looking at the snow sends a funny feeling down Satoru’s spine. A vision of Kayo’s body, stuffed in a junk refrigerator and forgotten under drifts of snow, comes to mind and Satoru finds himself tightening his grip on his classmate’s hand.

“Are you serious about this Christmas tree?” Kayo asks, blowing a stray strand of hair out of her face.

“Of course!” Satoru huffs. “You just have to be patient! We’re almost there.”

From the corner of his eye, Satoru sees a flash of dark orange. His paranoia has him on edge and tensing at a simple glance of the foxes, clutching onto Kayo for dear life. Satoru quickly discards them as a threat, though. He finds himself relaxing as the foxes prance about, weaving around each other as they circle Kayo and him before running off. He remembers the pair from the previous timeline now that he has seen them again. It had been a rare occurrence, and even when Satoru told his friends how close he had gotten to them, they hadn’t believed him.

Sharing the moment again with Kayo makes it all the more special.

“Do you think they’re...” Satoru trails off.

Kayo’s face reddens as she takes in their close proximity and shuffles away. “What are you, stupid?”

Satoru can only laugh, blushing a little.

It takes maybe a few more minutes, but eventually they make it up the hill where the Christmas tree awaits. The light of the night sky hits the tree just right, amplifying the glare of its shiny icicles.

“See!” Satoru puffs out his chest, proud. “I told you!”

When Satoru sees Kayo smile at the Christmas tree, when he hears the light, barely-there laugh that escapes her lips, he knows that he will do anything to protect such precious things.

It is not just about saving his mother or alleviating guilt now. He wants to save Kayo because he doesn’t want to lose her smile, to no longer see her again. It would be worse if he failed this time around, he thinks, because now he knows Kayo and he wouldn’t be able to forgive himself for failing a second time.

Once they have their fill of the Christmas tree, Satoru walks Kayo home. It’s too soon for Kayo to disappear, but Satoru doesn’t take any chances. They say their goodbyes in front of Kayo’s home, which is completely dark and foreboding, and Satoru makes to leave.

“Wait a second,” Kayo says it so quietly, that if she had not pulled on Satoru’s coat sleeve to stop him, he probably wouldn’t have caught her words.

Satoru pauses and turns around. “What is it?” he asks.

She lets go, retracting her arm and resting her hand on her other wrist as she fiddles with the jacket sleeve there. “I feel like I’ve been unfair. You should see,” she swallows. “You should know if it’s what you’re looking for or not.”

Satoru doesn’t catch on to what she’s getting at, and so he’s not quick enough to stop her as she lifts her sleeve, pushing it up to her elbow, and turns over her forearm.

Printed on Kayo’s forearm in a creamy brown color is an image of a small, fluffy wolf. Rather than threatening, the wolf looks simple and cute, like the kind of drawing one would see in a picture book.

Satoru reaches a hand out to trace the image, knowing-just knowing-that he’s seen the match to this mark before. A few more seconds pass before Satoru realizes Kayo is gazing at him expectantly, waiting for a verdict.

“I wasn’t…,” Satoru starts, fumbling with his words. “That’s not why I reached out to you. I...I already have an idea who my soulmate is.”

Her eyes are so wide and bright that Satoru has to look away from them as they dim. “It’s not mine,” Satoru says softly, pausing to swallow the lump in his throat, “but it’s beautiful.”

Satoru relaxes his grip and lets Kayo’s arm fall to her side.

“I figured as much,” Kayo admits, her own voice soft. “It never works out like the stories, you know?”

“Yeah,” Satoru can’t help but give a weak, almost strangled laugh. “Sometimes it’s more like a nightmare.”

Kayo tilts her head to the side. “Is your soulmate really that bad?” she asks.

Yes! Satoru wants to scream. They killed you! And Hiromi and that other little girl! They probably killed more and more kids, too.  But they were kids like you, who no one missed!

Tears sting Satoru’s eyes and he has to blink them away. “Yeah,” he settles on saying.

For a moment, he expects her to protest, like so many others before her. ‘They’re your soulmate! They can’t be that bad!’ Maybe even, ‘You’re just exaggerating!’

But Satoru was forgetting that Kayo and him are so alike, that they understand each other, because Kayo simply nods her head.

She doesn’t ask to see it. She doesn’t chide him for being ungrateful. She merely accepts Satoru’s words at face value because they have promised not to lie to each other.

“It’s getting cold,” Kayo comments, jamming a thumb in the direction of the door to her house. “I’d better head in, I guess.”

“Okay,” Satoru starts backing up, waving his hands at her eagerly. “I’ll see you later!”

Kayo smiles and gives a wave of her own before disappearing into her dark, cold house.

Satoru knows three things. Despite what many had first assumed and despite the awful way that Kayo’s mother treats her, she isn’t the killer. It’s easy enough to make the jump from abusive to murderous, and just the sight of a bruise on Kayo’s skin has Satoru’s teeth grinding.

But she’s not the killer. Satoru’s soulmate is. But what if Akemi Hinazuki is Satoru’s soulmate? some might ask. It’s impossible. Satoru does not get the same sort of vibe from Akemi as he does his soulmark. Besides, Kayo had mentioned that Akemi had already found a soulmate in her ex-husband.

Another thing he knows that his soulmate hadn’t been aware of his existence until the first night that Satoru had returned back to 1988. His soulmate had been shocked, as if a two-way connection was forming between them for the first time. This certainty only poses more questions. Does it mean that Satoru and the killer are strangers to each other? Or is it something else? Does the sudden requited bond have anything to do with Revival?

The third and last thing that Satoru knows is that his soulmate is looking for him. The killer had expressed a desire to meet Satoru the first and last time they’d interacted, but Satoru had shut that possibility down with a few choice words and a threat. Though Satoru wants to stop the killer, he also wants to avoid them. There’s no way of knowing what his soulmate will do if they know who he is. It’s better to ignore the pinpricks at the back of his mind, the looming presence that prods for his identity and location. Satoru can defeat the killer without knowing who they are.

All he has to do is make sure Kayo is not alone, a perfect target. 

(In reality, Satoru cannot trust himself, does not know what will happen if he meets the killer, because they are soulmates. There are stories of murderers who have bent their soulmate’s will to their own, sending their own emotions across a bond to influence the other into compliance or even committing the same crimes. And Satoru...Satoru is afraid. The fear chokes him sometimes, especially at night, when he will wake up and expect to see blood on his hands, to taste it in his mouth, and feel nothing but alive.)

His birthday soon approaches, and Satoru wants Kayo to be there at his party. Any reason to get her out of that awful house and surround her with friends.

“It’s March 2nd,” Satoru informs her, rocking on the heels of his feet. “Kenya and the others will be there, too.”

“March 2nd,” Kayo repeats. She turns away from him, fingers holding the invitation in her hands daintily, like it is something made of glass. Satoru notices she’s still not wearing any gloves.

“When’s your birthday?” Satoru asks.

Kayo had still been ten when she died, which meant she hadn’t had her birthday yet, and she went missing sometime in March. Satoru knows that if he can find out when her birthday is, then he can pinpoint just what date it was when she was killed.

But Kayo is not as cooperative as Satoru would like. She ignores his questions about her own birthday. This forces Satoru to snoop around a bit. None of their other classmates will have any idea when Kayo’s birthday is, and there is absolutely no way in hell Satoru would ever ask Akemi Hinazuki for anything. However, there’s a convenient book in the staff room that has not only every student in Satoru’s class written down, but their birthdates as well.

Satoru sees this as his chance. He decides to sneak in during recess, when most teachers have duty. Satoru glances around several times, paranoid and worried that a teacher will spawn out nowhere and catch him in the act. The room remains empty though, and Satoru move quickly, knowing that the sooner he finds what he needs, the sooner he can leave.

Yashiro-sensei’s desk is easy to find. There’s no personality to it at all, no pictures or trinkets or anything. Everything looks to be arranged a little too perfectly. From the shiny nameplate to the tiniest eraser shaving, it’s all in order. The sight of it puts Satoru on edge, but Yashiro’s neatness helps him locate what he’s searching for. The rollbook is right next to a stack of papers ready to be graded. Satoru’s fingers graze the front cover, barely moving an inch as they make to open the book up, when something clamps down on Satoru’s shoulder

Satoru sucks in a deep breath and finds that he can’t move. A hand, he thinks faintly. Someone’s hand is touching me, so very, very close to-

“Ah, ah, ah, Satoru,” a pleasant voice chides patiently. “What do you think you’re doing with that rollbook of mine?”

At the realization that the voice belongs to Yashiro, Satoru relaxes and lets out the breath he’d been holding for. He turns around to meet Yashiro’s inquisitive stare, and his teacher’s hand falls from where it’d been clenched loosely around Satoru’s shoulder.

“Kayo’s birthday!” Satoru blurts out. “I just-well, I wanted to know when it was, but she wouldn’t tell me! I thought if I looked at your book, I’d find out. Sorry!”

Yashiro looks shocked for but a moment, and then his face melts back into its usual picture, caring and relaxed.

“I figured this was about Kayo,” he says.  Yashiro raises an eyebrow and picks up the book, flipping through it until he comes to a certain page. His eyes scan it for a few moments before he makes a sort of “a-ha” sound.

Yashiro’s smile is warm and he taps his finger against his lips. “Well,” he starts, “I can see why she wouldn’t want to tell you.”

The teacher holds the book out for Satoru to see, pointing to the line with Kayo Hinazuki’s name on it. “March 2nd?” Satoru splutters incredulously.

“Kayo was probably too shy to tell you that the both of you shared a birthday,” Yashiro-sensei says fondly. He closes the book and sets it back on his desk.

“My advice to you, Satoru, is to not make a big deal of it. Just celebrate normally. Kayo most likely didn’t want to make things awkward.”

“Right,” Satoru nods his head, mind going round and round in circles. If Kayo’s birthday is March 2nd, then that significantly moves up ‘X’-Day, the day Kayo went missing, to...March 1st. W e’re almost there , he thinks. I just need to watch over her a little longer.

“Thank you, Sensei,” Satoru bows. Yashiro is the same age as Satoru and sharper than he looks. Satoru smiles and concludes, I can use this guy.

Nuisance, Yashiro thinks, the open expression on his face closing off as he stares at his student’s retreating back.

Satoru Fujinuma’s interference with Kayo is annoying, and if he’d been a little older and wiser, Yashiro would have to consider him a threat. Satoru’s concern for Kayo is unprecedented, but not too worrisome. Yashiro can easily derail a child like Satoru, and though it may come in the way of a few things, Yashiro’s plans remain the same.

The only setback comes with Yashiro himself. No longer does Yashiro fantasize about the several dozens of ways he can force his mark on others, no longer do his kills take primary concern in his life.

Yashiro is no romantic, and yet his mind wanders to his soulmate more often than it should. Yashiro can’t help but wonder if his soulmate has eyes the same shade of blue as the mark or maybe they’re just brown or even green? It’s less about what color he likes the best and more about knowing what sort of eyes his soulmate wears.

Male or female makes no difference either. What’s between their legs won’t be a problem. Yashiro wants his soulmate because they’re his soulmate. It’s as simple as that.

Yashiro has to stop his eyes from straying to random strangers in the street, seeking any small sign of his mark on their bodies. Will the mark be on their back as well? Or on a cheek for all to see or even-Yashiro feels a flash of hot arousal curling in his stomach-displayed around their neck like a sort of collar?

The image of someone out there, scarlet lines stretched across skin thrumming with life, haunts Yashiro. Before it had been lifeless eyes that stared back at him, connected to Yashiro by a mockery of a bond, the mark empty and second-rate. Yashiro had known no connection greater than the one between a killer and his victims.

The interaction between Yashiro and his soulmate, however brief it may have been, is enlightening. Never before has Yashiro felt like this, driven by something better, something greater.

It’s euphoric, to say the least.

So Yashiro puts away thoughts of shattering bones and slicing arteries in favor of researching the not-so legal ways one gain access to the government’s soulmate records.


On the day Kayo is supposed to disappear, Satoru does everything right. He somehow gets her mother to allow Kayo to come to the Children’s Center with him, and he doesn’t take his eyes off of her the entire day.

A wave of déjà vu washes over Satoru when the lighting hits Kayo’s form a certain way, and she tilts her head to the side, smile playing on her lips.
“You like this place, too?” she asks Satoru.

“You like this place, too?” she asked, a lifetime away. Her eyes were darker, her face more drawn and shadowed, and it had been a coincidence that she was there with Satoru that day, the two of them meeting by chance.

For a moment, Satoru is speechless.

What does this mean, that the past is still on the same track as it was? No. Satoru won’t believe that. He’s tried so hard in getting close to Kayo these last few weeks, in protecting her from the isolating abuse of her mother. It can’t all be for naught.

“Yeah, I love it!” Satoru laughs, pushing away his feelings of unease.  “Here, let me carry your coat for you.”

Kayo’s cheeks redden, but she hands over the coat anyway, pleased by the gesture.

Later, when the rest of Satoru’s friends show up, waving their hands and eager to join them, he finally feels at ease.

See, he thinks. This didn’t happen last time. I’m changing things. I am.

There’s no reason for Kayo to be alone ever again, but the darker it grows outside, the more eager she is to return home, back on the same lonely path that claimed her life.

“C’mon! Just one more game!” Satoru begs, rolling several black and white pieces in his hands.

Kayo furrows her brow. “My mom might worry,” she says, voice faint.

“She knows where you are, though, so she shouldn’t worry too much!” Satoru claims. Akemi Hinazuki probably could care less where her daughter is right now, but Satoru won’t say that one out loud. He stares at Kayo, eyes wide and begging.

“One more game,” Kayo relents. “But then I need to get home!”

It is during this game that Satoru can feel a presence, dark and cold, prodding at his mind. He jolts, the realization of just who it is there inside his head dawning.

I’m sorry , the killer starts, adopting a submissive tone, for whatever I did to upset you.

Satoru clenches his hands into fists and has to force himself not to respond. There are so many things he wants to say, so many hateful curses he could spit out at his soulmate, but Satoru doesn’t want anything to taint this moment here with Kayo. He merely makes good on what he had promised. Satoru erects a wall, loud and proud between them, and effectively ends things.

(Except Satoru doesn’t really ends things; he makes them worse. This is the one thing he does wrong, but there’s no way he can know that his rejection is the final nail in the coffin.)

So when March 1st passes, Satoru believes Kayo to be safe for good.

He is wrong.


Yashiro can feel it when the bond disappears. In the many, many years that follow, he will remember this moment, the exact second he realizes he has lost. It’s a few weeks after Kayo has so conveniently and easily disappeared, and Yashiro is on his way back to his apartment. He’s just opening the door when the sensation hits him. It is different from the silence he’s been enduring for the last weeks. There is no longer even a wall to cling to now. No, this is something else, something that renders him motionless and cold, unable to even breathe as the air is taken from his lungs in one fell swoop.

He wonders if this is what dying feels like.

Before he knows it, Yashiro is shedding his jacket and unbuttoning his shirt, pushing it off until he can turn his head and get a glance at his back, right where the colorful outline of one wing should be stretching towards his shoulder.

Should be.

Yashiro’s heart skips a beat as a sense of hopelessness washes over him.

What is this, what is this , what’s happened , why is it gone , why am i alone, why, why, why.

His first conclusion is that they must be dead. Taken from him. Gone. If Yashiro had been one for hysterics, he would have surely started to wail at the thought. But he’s not, so his mind continues to race.

They may have severed the bond completely somehow, found a way to break away from their bond for good. His soulmate certainly had seemed well-versed in many types of shielding. Or perhaps it’s just a trick, a silly prank to teach Yashiro a lesson. Maybe the mark and bond will be back by tomorrow or next week or next month. Yashiro has no way of knowing, though. All he has are theories, and his hopelessness soon gives way to anger.

We’re destined to be together. It’s fate! So why are they gone?

If they had only accepted him, if they had only reached out, if only, if only.

(His next two murders after Kayo are messier than usual, and therefore riskier, but it’s worth it to get the bloodlust out of his system. This is what happens when you feel, when you try to let someone in, if even just a little bit. As Yashiro washes the blood from his hands, wipes it from his eyes and cheeks, he banishes all thoughts of soulmates from his mind for good.)

(And just like that, the story stays the same.)



Chapter Text

The future that greets Satoru is no different from what he remembers. His mother’s blood stays fresh on his hands, and wailing sirens break through the quiet of the night.

I failed, Satoru realizes dully, ears ringing. Kayo died. My mother died. Now I’m back where I started.

There is a sort of numbness to him now, physical and emotional. He can’t feel the aching of the shoulder that he landed on, and he doesn’t feel the breaking of his own heart, but Satoru knows that they are real like he knows the killer is out there, free to take as many more lives as he pleases.  

Satoru forces himself to stand, stumbling over his own feet as he moves. He drags his body from one dark alley to the next, careful to avoid the bright street lights which will reveal him. Satoru has to lean on the grimy building walls at times when his breathing becomes too ragged.  

He washes his hands off in a public restroom, but the feeling of blood still sticks to hands. Satoru is no stranger to failure but this one is more personal than the rest. He’d thought he had the advantage back in 1988. The situation right now proves that he couldn’t have been more wrong. Though Satoru knew what future awaited him, he couldn’t prevent it from happening. Does that mean that this is the way things are supposed to be? With his mother dead, with Kayo dead? No, he tells himself. Revival happens because something has to be changed. In this case, I have to stop the killer.

The mirror in the restroom isn’t in the best condition, cracked in several places and marred by black spots, but it’s well off enough to show Satoru the mark that gleams through his sweat-soaked white shirt.  

Though his mother’s body must’ve gone cold by now, her mark lies bright and warm on Satoru’s collarbone, and it is the soulmark on his back-the pale pink, scabbed spiderweb-that remains void of light and life.

The decision to visit Takanashi is perhaps a bad one. Satoru relies solely on the hope that his manager hasn’t seen the news or heard about his mother’s untimely demise. The two of them have a working relationship, and while Takanashi is a nice guy, him and Satoru have never been ones to meet up outside of work.

It’d been that way with Katagiri, too, Satoru thinks. Before Katagiri had reached out, before his mother had reached out.  If Satoru had Katagiri’s phone number in his cell, she would’ve been the first person he contacted. Instead he resorted to visiting the manager he hardly knew just for the possibly of getting one good night’s rest. He’d been desperate.

Takanashi is also a very good actor. Throughout their exchange, he doesn’t once let up that he thinks Satoru is a murderer.

“A fight with your mom, huh?” Takanashi states, voice sympathetic. He offers Satoru a beer which gets politely turned down. “I hope you guys make up soon, but you can stay here as long as you need.” “Of course we will,” Satoru says, perhaps with a little too much conviction. “Thank you, Manager.”

Takanashi leaves and Satoru’s hand creeps over to the remote control that rest on the table in front of him. With a click, he turns on the TV. A news channel is already on, and Satoru feels his chest tighten as he takes in the scene of his apartment, swarmed by police and reporters alike.

“-police have begun to pursue the victim’s son as a very likely suspect in this murder case. The suspect was discovered-”

Satoru fumbles with the remote in his panic, cutting the reporter off when he succeeds in turning off the television. A suspect. They’ve already labeled him as a suspect.

What do you expect? You were seen with her blood on your hands, hunched over her corpse. The real killer most definitely used gloves, so the only fingerprints on that knife are yours and your mother’s, a voice in the back of his head sneers.

From the corner of his eye, Satoru sees flashing red and blue lights. He stands, a sense of paranoia creeping over him, and goes to the window. One shove of the blinds shows him a squad of police cars stationed outside Takanashi’s residence and Takanashi himself, smiling at one of the officers and rubbing the back of his neck sheepishly.  

“Shit,” Satoru swears.

He should’ve known better. Takanashi is the sort of guy who believes in justice; he wouldn’t willingly hoard a possible criminal like Satoru. Because of Takanashi’s straightforward nature, there is only one thing left for Satoru to do now.

He has to run. Again.

The police seem to be of the opinion that Satoru is ignorant of their presence, as they aren’t stationed around the residence yet and seem to be taking their time. Satoru crawls out a window before they can launch a recon mission for him. Satoru stumbles as his feet hit the ground, falling to his knees in the dark alley that he’s climbed to, and his phone skids a yard or two away from him, right at the feet of someone else. A hand reaches out to pick his phone up, and Satoru holds his breath.  

In the next moment, all he sees is a blazing sun.  

“What the heck are you doing, Satoru? You should’ve turned this thing off at least!” Airi Katagiri scolds.

She looks like she just got back from a delivery, helmet strapped to her head and her bike’s headlights flaring light into the alley before it. In one hand she holds Satoru’s cellular and with the other she reaches out to help Satoru up.

“Airi!” Satoru gasps out. A thousand emotions hit him at once. Joy, relief, surprise are just a few. His hand burns but he reaches it out anyway, taking Airi’s own to stand.

“My name,” Airi laughs, “you finally said it!”

"Well, come on! Let’s get out of here!” she jabs a thumb at her scooter.

Satoru, mindful of the sirens that are beginning to sound, obliges rather quickly.

Pink covers Airi’s bedroom, along with lace and hearts and stuffed plushies littered everywhere. Katagiri is a high schooler, Satoru reminds himself, seeing the proof of it right in front of his eyes. The revelation only makes him feel that much scummier for being here.

Satoru sits cross-legged on a futon covered with pink covers and laced pillows. Airi sits across from him on her bed, and she digs a phone out of her pocket.

“They can find you when you have your phone turned on, so I went ahead and shut it off,” she explains, handing Satoru back his phone. “Haven’t you watched any crime dramas lately?”

“Katagiri,” he begins.

“Call me Airi!” Airi insists.

“Why are you helping me? You must’ve seen the news, what they were saying about my mom and-”

“That’s simple really!” she cuts in with a huff. Airi places her hands on her hips and smiles.

“I believe that you wouldn’t kill your mother.”

Satoru relaxes at her words, all of the tension leaving his body in an instant. The burning on his hand is there again, and Satoru has some vague suspicions about what it might be, but he ignores it, too overcome. He’s not used to people believing in him. “I see,” he says shakily. “Thank you.”

“It’s no problem. You could probably use some rest, what with being chased around like this and all,” she pauses. “You seem to have a history with this sort of stuff, though.”

Satoru frowns. “What do you mean?”

“Your book the other day? You left it at the shop so I went ahead and read it. The Hokkaido incident...Kayo Hinazuki was found dead on Girls Day. I cried reading that.”

Girls Day? Satoru sucks in a sharp breath. That wasn’t how it had been in the first timeline. Does this mean that I did manage to change the past? If even only a little?

The new information only strengthens Satoru’s conviction to go back to the past one more time. He can do it right if he just has the chance. Airi mentions something to him about returning the bike to the shop, and he is soon left alone to fall into a sleep deep into to dream.

It is not a pleasant dream. His unconscious mind conjures images of small, broken bodies which are strewn one on top of the other, building a bloody mountain of sorts. Standing on them all is the shadowy figure of a man. The man looms tall and large over Satoru’s childish form, and the carnage beneath him gives way, crumbling to nothing more than dust. Yet the man remains.

The man tilts his head to the side and smiles. All that Satoru can see are his gleaming teeth, sharp and deadly. He feels like he’ll be devoured right then and there, but the man only continues to grin at him, as if they are two old friends meeting up again after a long time.

“Who...who are you?” Satoru yells up at the man. His voice echoes dimly.


Satoru jolts at the sound and looks side to side wildly, but all there is is darkness and... snip-snip, snip-snip.  

His gaze travels back to the man, and Satoru suddenly takes note of the weapon in the man’s gloved hand that’s dripping with blood.

“You have to cut it,” the man finally says. His voice is rather faint and almost muted, like Satoru is underwater while he is not. “You have to.”

“Cut what?” Satoru cries, backing up from the figure.

The man runs his other hand against the scissors in an almost loving caress, staining his other hand with red. “The thread,” he replies, as if the answer is obvious.

The man fades to darkness, taking his shears with him, and Satoru dreams no more for the rest of the night.

When Satoru wakes up the next morning, it takes him a moment to remember where he is. There’s a note sitting on the bedside table in girlish handwriting, and one glance tells Satoru that it’s for him. Airi tells him that she’s gone to work as per usual for Saturday so that nothing seems amiss and recommends what times would be best for Satoru to leave the house if need be. She’s written down where the house and bike keys can be found and her own cell phone number in case Satoru needs to call her.

Satoru stares at the numbers scrawled on the piece of paper for a solid ten minutes, memorizing the digits so that he won’t have to put them into his phone or write them down. He doesn’t want to involve Airi anymore than he already has.

He heeds Airi’s advice and leaves only when the house is guaranteed empty. He uses her bike to get to the library, where he uses the a computer to search for any information on recent missing children or even the 1988 case. Nothing new or relevant shows up, but Satoru has a hunch that there’s something there he’s missing.

Satoru heads back to Airi’s place after little to no success, and as he’s creeping back inside, he feels a pair of eyes watching him.

It takes a few minutes before Airi finally shows up, fuming. 

“The nerve of the manager,” she spits as soon as she sees Satoru. “He was lurking outside and caught sight of you. I broke his phone before he could call the police, but…’ 

“Ah,” Satoru says, thinking Oh god, she broke his phone. If Takanashi didn’t have such a huge crush on Airi, Satoru would’ve been worrying about the possible legal repercussions. That and if he didn’t have his own very real impending legal matters to worry about.

“I thought I had felt somebody watching me. I wasn’t sure, though,” Satoru lets out a sigh. “Yeah, this place probably isn’t safe anymore.” 

“Sorry, Satoru,” Airi apologizes, eyes downcast.

“It’s fine,” Satoru waves her off. “You couldn’t have known that he was creeping on your house.”

“What makes it even worse,” she huffs, “is that earlier he acted like he was on your side. ‘Help Satoru if you can, Airi.’ He told me that, and then he was going to turn you into the police.”

Satoru shrugs. “He was probably just trying to protect you.”

Airi rolls her eyes at that. “From who? You? Ha.”  

Her lips quirk up into a grin and she proudly displays the reddened knuckles of her hand. “I can protect myself just fine.”

 An hour or so later, Airi is proven wrong. She hadn’t known what she was up against, and Satoru hadn’t expected the killer to make a move against her, but he does. The manager and Satoru just barely manage to rescue Airi from the burning inferno that is her aunt and uncle’s house, and Takanashi lets Satoru go to carry Airi out by himself. It is only later when Satoru is recovering under the bridge, coughing and spluttering out smoke from his lungs, that he finally turns his attention on the device that Airi had slipped into his pocket.

He digs it out to discover that it’s her phone, and upon flipping it open, a recent message from his mother’s phone is displayed.

This is Satoru Fujinuma. Stay where you are.

"Shit!” Satoru mutters, resisting the urge to throw the phone to the ground. His grip tightens and he lets out a deep breath as he rests his arms on his knees.

So the killer has his mother’s phone. Airi must’ve realized it and so she passed her own phone onto Satoru so that the police wouldn’t get a hold of any more damning evidence against him.

“What do you want?” Satoru ponders aloud. “What do you get from hurting Airi?”

He wonders if perhaps the killer had discovered Airi was helping Satoru and simply wanted to cut him off from any possible support. Surely there had to be something else behind it all, something that Satoru was missing.

He gives another cough and slides Airi’s phone back into his pocket but freezes when he hears a crinkling sound. Satoru pulls out a slip of paper from the bottom of his pocket. It’s crinkled but the numbers scrawled in his mother’s handwriting are readable, and Satoru recognizes them as a phone number.

Without any hesitation, he dials it and waits for a response.

An older man answers.

“Hello?” the stranger asks. The line goes quiet for a few seconds as Satoru struggles to find the words he wants to say. The voice on the other end beats him to it.

“Is this Sachiko Fujinuma’s killer?”

Satoru bristles at the question which only raises more questions for him.  “No,” he denies vehemently. “This is her son, Satoru. I was hoping we could talk about my mother.” 

“Oh, really? Well, I’m afraid I won’t be of much help unless we meet face to face. I want to confirm you are who you say you are. I’m sure you understand,” the voice replies.

Satoru grits his teeth, but agrees nonetheless. “Sure,” he forced out. “Whatever it takes.”

They set a time and place, and the conversation ends.

What have I gotten myself into? Could this be a trap?

Would his mother really have had the killer’s number or called him? Maybe that was why she died. She knew something she shouldn’t. Sachiko wasn’t an idiot, though. She would’ve wanted backup before confronting an issue, and if she had known how dangerous the killer was, there was no way she would play with fire.

Backup then. His mom would’ve wanted someone else to know about the circumstances that would be dangerous enough to get her killed.  

Satoru lets out a groan and buries his face in his hands. His head is starting to hurt from all the thinking he’s had to do in the last 48 hours or so. He rests the back of his head against the damp concrete of the bridge’s base and tries to get some peace and quiet until the time comes for him to meet the man on the phone.

Satoru is meeting the mystery man at the guy’s own office apparently. There are books and cabinets and files organized all over the room, and a nameplate sits on the desk which reads Makoto Sawada. Behind the desk is Mr. Sawada himself, and Satoru has to squint as his gaze lands on a familiar, middle-aged man with glasses. There are streaks of grey in his hair and perhaps his face is a little rounder, but an image from years ago of the man talking to Sachiko outside their apartment comes to mind.

The familiar man raises his hand in greeting, and finally Satoru notices his wrist. At first glance, it appears to be a watch-maybe a really thick watch with a fancy design-but then Satoru realizes it’s a soulmark. Spindly grooves and curves make up the roots and knobs while the branches curl in on themselves to form a bulbous attempt at leaves.

His mother’s mark.

“It seems you were telling the truth,” his mother’s soulmate comments. “You certainly are Sachiko’s son.”

“Makoto Sawada,” the man introduces himself, holding out the marked hand. “You must be Satoru.” 

Satoru takes the offered hand and they shake for a brief moment. Satoru notices that while Sawada’s grip is firm, the man himself seems relaxed, as if he doesn’t think Satoru is a threat, and the older man gestures for Satoru to take a seat across from him. Satoru obeys, movements lagging with disbelief.

“I remember you a little,” Satoru admits. “You talked to my mom a lot during the Hokkaido incident.”

Sawada grimaces. “Yes, that nasty business. I was a reporter back then. Your mom wanted me to help her in hiding the situation from you kids. Said you didn’t need to spend your childhood in fear and grief. So we only aired the news of the kidnappings at later times at night, when all the kids would be asleep and couldn’t see or hear it.”

A lump has built in Satoru’s throat. He has to force himself not to think about Kayo and Hiromi and that other little girl, about how easily he forgot them. It was for the best, he knows, and his mother only wanted to protect. That didn’t mean it didn’t hurt.

“What do you do now?” Satoru changes the topic. “If you’re not a reporter.”

“I’m an investigator, but some argue I’m a bad one.”

“And why is that?” Satoru raises an eyebrow.

Sawada lays back in his chair. “Because while I investigate cold cases, I look into ones that are already solved.”

Satoru’s interest is piqued, and he leans forward eagerly. “What do you mean?”

“There are several kidnapping and murder cases where the supposed killers will always claim their innocence, and the evidence around these cases seems to add up too perfectly, as if it was constructed carefully by someone,” Sawada starts with.

 “Now it may seem like a stretch, and I myself know that I sound like a crazy conspiracy theorist, but that’s not all there is to these cases,” he reaches over and digs in one of his desk drawers, pulling out a stack of files.

There’s something that must tie it all together for sure. It must be-

“A soulmark,” Satoru offers.

Sawada smiles. “Exactly. There’s been the same soulmark on all of the victims, but the police overlook it in regards to all the other concrete evidence. Why trust something so unreliable when you have fingerprints or pictures telling another story?” 

Satoru shifts in his seat. So long ago, when the police had ignored him about the real killer, Satoru had thought it was because he was a child that they refused to listen. Sawada’s words show a bigger picture, one where the police couldn’t have chosen to look at mythical soulmarks in favor of a trail of blood that led to one suspect in particular.

“I think that there’s one killer behind all of this. They’re not just responsible for killing all of these children, though. I have reason to believe they killed your mother as well. She called me the day before she died and said she wanted to meet up about the Hokkaido incident. Sachiko said that you had been right; Jun Shiratori wasn’t the killer, but she knew who was.”

“Then you know I didn’t kill my mom? Even when all the news stations and police are saying different?” Satoru says quickly, grabbing onto the arms of his chair for support.

Sawada considers his words for a moment, before simply saying. “Sachiko wouldn’t raise a son who would kill her.”

Satoru can just feel his body sag with relief. “Right,” he croaks, throat suddenly feeling very dry 

Sawada holds his hands out, raising an eyebrow. “And you don’t have any suspicions about me?” he muses. “You don’t think I killed her?”

Satoru ponders for a moment whether he should reveal all he knows to Sawada. Though he has realized the man isn’t his mother’s killer that doesn’t mean he’s not collaborating with the killer. Sawada’s words echo in his head, though, his trust in Sachiko’s ability as mother, and Satoru comes to the conclusion that his mother wouldn’t proudly wear the mark of a soulmate who would help to frame her son.

“I did doubt you, but not anymore,” Satoru admits. “My soulmate killed my mother, and if you’re not my soulmate then you’re not suspect.”

Sawada seems momentarily speechless, and he blinks rather quickly, adjusting his glasses. “Your soulmate? How do you know?”

Satoru shifts around in his seat. “The mark on my back,” he tapped a finger on one of his shoulders, “he left it on my mother when he killed her. If the mark matches the one left on all of your cases, then he must be your guy.”

Sawada looks pensive. “Then your soulmate...are you saying you know the identity of the man who killed your mother?”

“Not exactly,” Satoru winces. “I’ve never discovered who it was. I tried to forget about him entirely in fact.”

Because what was a child supposed to do when faced with demons of blood and death and hate, other than to hide? Satoru had only been eleven at the time. There was no way he could tame a beast, a murder who killed children like him-

Ah. Satoru gets it now. In the past, original timeline, Satoru had been a child, yes. But in the second timeline, after Revival took place? He’d had the time-traveling consciousness of an adult. 

It’s not that he was wrong in trying to save Kayo, the others, and his mother. It’s just that he went about it the wrong way. In order to prevent the string of murders, his best bet would’ve been to confront the issue head-on. 

Back then, I should’ve lured him in. I shouldn’t have shut him out so quickly, despite how angry I was.

Next time, then. Whenever he makes it back to 1988 again, Satoru will do things right.

Sawada’s hum tears Satoru form his thoughts. “Do you feel like the killer knows that you’re his soulmate, though?”

“Impossible,” Satoru denies. “Our bond is...nonexistent now. Has been for a while and-”

(It’s you. Finally, it’s you. Awe, relief, and wonder from his soulmate all wrapped into a few words. There’s so much happiness emanating through the bond. It’s the first time ever in both timelines that such pure emotions have made their way across to Satoru.)

“-and I have reason to believe he doesn’t know,” Satoru finishes. 

He fiddles with his hands for a moment. “Do you have any pictures of the marks left on the victims?” he asks. “I’m sure I could identify if it was his mark or not.”

“Of course,” Sawada slides over the file that he’d plucked form his desk drawer earlier. “There’s nothing too graphic. I try not to let my imagination run wild when I look at them, though.”

Satoru nods. He doesn’t know what he would do if he saw Hiromi’s-or even Kayo’s-recognizable form in the pictures. Satoru takes a deep breath and steels himself. You have to look, he tells himself. You have to see what he’s responsible for, what you’ve allowed him to do. You should know this darkness. 

Satoru opens the folder and sifts through the pages until he comes to the photographs. Without thinking, he reaches a hand out to trace the images before him. Dark red lines are drawn across canvases of skin. If one merely glances at them, they would believe the design to be blood splatters. But no, it’s the mark of Satoru’s soulmate, clear as day.

“That’s him,” Satoru murmurs. “It’s his mark, but…”

“But what?”

“They all look a different,” Satoru tilts his head to the side. He points to one of the photos, where a small knee is marred by a spider web. “The lines here are a little cleaner and spaced farther apart.” 

A marked forearm is then pointed at. “This one on the other hand is more jagged and compressed.” 

The more that Satoru looks at the marks, the more that a foreign feeling in his chest grows. These marks are poor imitations; there are differences in each and every one. From Satoru’s memory, even the mark across his mother’s face hadn’t been exactly like Satoru’s own.

Sawada adjusts his glasses and gives a noise of agreement. “Yes, I suppose you’re right. I barely noticed. I guess that’s what happens when someone who knows the original painting by heart is confronted with forgeries.”

Satoru feels something deep inside almost purr at Sawada’s words. The original, that part of him thinks proudly, the one and only.

“Yes, well if you had a monkey on your back for the entirety of your life, you’d probably be forced to learn its name eventually,” Satoru grits his teeth.

 He’s a killer. Proud? Why would I ever-?

“Forgive me,” Sawada apologizes. “I wasn’t thinking when I made that comparison.” 

Satoru relaxes. “It’s okay. You’re okay. I’m just...adjusting.”

He leans back in his chair. “It’s because he kills them,” Satoru says without thinking.

Sawada sends him a quizzical look. “Pardon?"

“The marks,” Satoru waves his hand. “They’re so different...I think it’s because he kills them. It’s such an underhanded way of forming a bond, don’t you think?”  

“I suppose,” Sawada agrees. “But are you saying that’s one of his motives? To form a bond?”

Satoru stills at that, muscles freezing in place. For a moment, he doesn’t dare move, doesn’t dare breathe. Where did that come from? What is he saying? 

“I don’t know,” Satoru finally says rather faintly. “It was just a hunch.” 

A ringtone interrupts before either one can say anything more, and Satoru clumsily searches through his pockets, nearly dropping the phone before he succeeds in answering it.

“Satoru? Satoru! Thank goodness you had it on!” Airi’s voice comes in from the other side of the line.

Satoru chokes. “Airi, what are you-”

“Listen, I’m fine. I managed to leave the hospital, but I need to see you,” she relays.

Something so important she couldn’t talk over the phone? Was it what she’d almost died for?

“All right,” Satoru agrees. “Can you meet me under the bridge?”

“Got it. I’ll be there in twenty minutes tops.”

Satoru ends the call and stands. “I’m sorry, but I have to go. My friend, she-”

“No, no, it’s quite alright. I’m glad we got to talk at all,” Sawada smiles.

“Thank you for everything. Really, this has been...very informative for me,” Satoru says. “I hope we can meet up soon or maybe I can call you with a name. The name my mom wanted to give you.”

“I’ll be waiting then. Good luck, Satoru,” his mother’s soulmate wishes, eyes twinkling.

Satoru can only smile, the mark near his collarbone singing.

 Satoru gets to the bridge before Airi, as he expected, and waits for what feels like an eternity. He checks the time to see that only fifteen of the twenty minutes have passed, and when he glances up, Airi is standing there.

“Hey!” she raises a hand to wave at him. “Don’t worry! I came alone.”

I never doubted you wouldn’t, Satoru thinks. 

Airi blushes for some reason and approaches, coming closer until she’s under the bridge as well. “I’m glad,” she says, eyes soft. 

Oh. Satoru must’ve said that out loud. Well. 

“What happened? How are you…,” Satoru gestures with his hands. “Here.” 

“My mom helped me out,” Airi beams. “She believed me when I told her that you weren’t a bad guy and that you didn’t try to kill me or use me as an accomplice. She believed me!”

Airi sounds as if she herself can hardly believe it, and Satoru finds himself smiling back. “That’s good. It’s...good that she’s on your side.’

‘But Airi, do you know why you were targeted? Why would the killer want to hurt you?”

Airi shrugs. “Maybe I know something I shouldn’t, like in those dramas, and he was trying to shut me up! I really don’t know, though.”

Satoru lets out a frustrated sigh. So Airi wasn’t aware of the reason the fire had been set. “Think,” Satoru instructed. “Is there anybody who would’ve had access to our work schedules? He’s most likely an older man. At least, middle-aged. Anybody who gave off a bad feeling or felt suspicious?”

Airi’s eyes get a faraway look to them. “Well,” she begins, “there might’ve been...Ah, I got it!”

She brings her fist down onto her palm. “There was a man at the shop, a city councilman who was talking to the manager. I glanced at him, but didn’t really get a good look. He had this total predator vibe to him, but I thought that’s just because he’s a politician and all that.  He’s been in and out of the place often enough that he could’ve seen our time cards and known when we worked.”

“Do you know his name?” Satoru asks, sucking in a breath.

Airi gives a firm nod. “Manabu Nishizono.”

The name doesn’t punch Satoru in the gut like he’d thought it would. There are no startling revelations or tears. He only feels hollow. Numb.

“Oh,” Satoru says softly, feeling very stupid. What did he expect?

It’s started to rain, Satoru notes. It’s a good thing they’re under the bridge, even if it is only a few sprinkles here and there for now.

“Do you know who he is?” Airi asks.  

“No. I idea actually. I only know what he is.”

Airi tilts her head to the side, giving him an inquiring glance as he stands. As Satoru grabs the ends of his shirt, she waves her hands frantically.

“What are you doing, Satoru?” she squeaks.

He turns anyways and lifts the shirt over his head. Airi lets out a sound that could be classified as a gasp.

“I think Nishizono is a killer,” he murmurs. “And my soulmate.”

“Satoru,” Airi’s voice is muffled and strange, as if she’s talking through her hands. The soulmark must’ve unsettled her deeply then. 

Satoru puts his shirts down and turns to face her, expecting a face full of horror. Instead, Airi is smiling and her eyes are suspiciously wet.

“Satoru,” she repeats breathlessly. “It’s beautiful.” 

Beautiful, Satoru thinks. No one ever called it beautiful before. Not even my mother .

“How can you say that?” Satoru bristles, though there’s no bite to his words, only resignation. “That mark belongs to a killer.”

“No, Satoru!” Airi protests, shaking her head furiously. “It’s beautiful because it’s on you! You wear that mark, not him! It shows how hard you’ve fought, all this time. It shows that you’ll keep fighting, no matter what!”

“Just because you have an awful soulmate,” she continues, voice gaining volume and passion, “that doesn’t mean you’re awful, too!”

Satoru stills and stares at her. “Airi,” he begins, reaching out a hand to her, a hand which burns hot for some reason in the chilly weather.

Airi lifts up her arm, surely trying to meet him half-way, when the sirens sound. They jolt at the sound and move in synch to see that there are officers approaching them, and police cars all around.

“How did this happen? Shit,” Satoru swears. He hadn’t even seen or heard their arrival. How could he have been so careless? He was supposed to be vigilant at a time like this and yet he’d let the cops sneak up on him.

“It’s my fault,” Airi whispers from beside him, her bottom lip trembling. “Satoru, this is-”

“Satoru Fujinuma?” one of the officers holds out his badge upon reaching the pair, then goes for a pair of handcuffs at his side. “You’re under arrest.”

“No!” Airi yells. “Satoru didn’t do it! He’s not a killer! You have the wrong guy!”

Satoru merely turns around, standing perfectly still as he lets the police arrest him. There’s no use in fighting now. He knows that.

The cops grab ahold of his arms and drag him over to the other cars and policemen. The rain that hits Satoru’s face is ice cold. He hears footsteps, and Airi is there until she isn’t, pulled away by some other officer.

“I’m sorry!” Airi cries, eyes filling with tears. “I’m sorry! This is all my fault!”

The handcuffs feel like heavy weights around Satoru’s wrists, and he squeezes his eyes shut, ignoring the itch on one of his hands. He knows what the burning is now. How could he not? This is the last time he will see Airi, he knows. Once Satoru is taken away in that police car, he will never meet her again.

Airi is sobbing in earnest now, apologizing again and again.

The trust that Airi placed in him, the words she gave him...Satoru certainly cannot leave her with nothing after something like that.

What would a hero say at a time like this?

“Airi,” Satoru begins, his voice loud enough to be heard over the pouring rain, yet still gentle. “You’ve got it all wrong.”

Airi stills at that, body freezing and eyes widening.

“It’s because you believed in me that I can still hang on,” Satoru continues, voice cracking at the end. “Thank you, Airi. I’m glad I trusted you.”

And like a marionette with her strings cut, Airi falls to her knees, hand still reaching out as she screams Satoru’s name one final time. As Satoru is led away by the officers arresting him, he turns his back on her lonesome, distraught figure, but not before his eyes catch sight of the light emanating from Airi’s hand. He feels it on his own as well, a painful heat that gives way to a soothing caress.

Satoru does not need to even look down to know that Airi’s own mark has burned itself on his hand. Satoru stumbles, arms yanked and pulled by the officers who hold them, when suddenly he sees him. 

A bystander watches from around two yards away, expensive suit shielded from the rain by an umbrella.

Time itself seems to stop, and the world around him turns into a collage of muted greys. The raindrops halt mid-air, and suddenly Satoru feels as though he is drowning, his heart seizing in his chest. Somewhere a clock ticks. Satoru stares at red eyes framed by glasses, so familiar and yet so far away.

Those eyes. 

(He remembers Atko, the girl who would play with him when he was so much younger and waiting for his mother to get done with her work. He caught sight of her one winter day as she headed to a storehouse alone. His mark had thrummed with joy at the sight, but Satoru himself had felt nothing but fear. He yelled Atko’s name until she finally came out, gift in hand that she proudly announced he had given to her. A tall silhouette was revealed behind her, surely belonging to an older male, but all Satoru clearly remembers are those eyes.)

The eyes of the killer.

So this is fate.

He stands across from Satoru on the sidewalk, umbrella in hand tilted downwards to cover his features, but Satoru can make out an expression on his face just from the hint of his mouth. He doesn’t look haughty or smug, not victorious or malicious. The look on the killer’s face is one that Satoru knows all too well. After all, it is a mirror of his own.

The killer’s lips are twisted with horror, and his eyes are void of any emotion whatsoever. The rest of him is blank, unreadable.

And Satoru-terrified, angry Satoru-can only reach out tentatively, soul traversing across an eighteen-year-old graveyard of neglect, the broken bones of whatever relationship they could’ve had buried there, until he meets the dark, unwavering shadow of the killer lurking at the end.  

Their identity remains masked by a veil of darkness, and above all else there is an ache, an emptiness that Satoru has felt for almost two decades now.

Why? Why have you done this to me? Satoru calls helplessly into the void.

He doesn’t expect a response, but it is a response he gets.

Satoru Fujinuma…to think, after all this time…

There is a sort of wonder to his soulmate’s thoughts, something small and childish there, and Satoru instinctively freezes at the sudden, unforeseen intrusion.


The killer’s eyes answer Satoru’s unspoken question as they flicker over to Airi’s harried figure, her stretched out hand marked unmistakably by blue butterfly wings for all to see.

For the killer to see. 

The tense moment stretches on for almost an eternity, the world quiet and grey. It’s as if the two of them are the only ones alive, the only ones with color, and Satoru can feel something warm touch his soul. It’s as if a hand is cupping his face, thumb stroking his cheek. Satoru shivers.

A pity, his soulmate relays.

And the world-it moves on. The weak, raw connection that had been forced open between Satoru and the killer snaps shut. Sound returns and sirens blare. Raindrops pitter-patter against concrete.  One of the police officers gives a huff.

“Move, won’t you?”

Staro only stares dead-eyed at the figure across from him. A plastic smile stretches its way across the killer’s face, smug and victorious. Satoru wants to slap it off of him.

He feels pressure building from deep inside of him, an anger hot enough to burn. The world remains grey around him, and Satoru looks up.  With the exception of one blue butterfly, the sky is still hues of white, grey, and black. Satoru can’t help it.

He screams and whatever revelation the killer had is lost to the mere beating of butterfly wings.

Chapter Text

Satoru comes back to himself in bits and pieces. There’s a pounding in his head that won’t go away, and Satoru blinks to adjust to the sudden light that invades his senses. He sees a board game in front of him and feels something smooth beneath him. A chair. One of his hands aches, as if a blister has bubbled its way onto the top of it. Satoru blinks again and sound returns. Someone is calling his name.

“Satoru, it’s your move now,” Kayo Hinazuki reminds, very much alive and very much disgruntled.

“Haha, whoops!” Satoru rubs the back of his head nervously and makes to move one of his pieces.

“What’s the matter?” Kayo asks.

I feel like I just woke up from a bad dream. One where you were missing.

It takes only half a second for Satoru to realize that he’s said that outloud. Kayo flicks a game piece at him, which he dodges, and mutters something about how Satoru is an embarrassing idiot. Satoru can only attempt to laugh off his own embarrassment, but his words had been true, no matter how cheesy they sounded.

The killer had won last time around. It’d been game over for Kayo, Hiromi, and Nakanishi. Satoru, too, at least in the future.

And then, as if summoned by Satoru’s thoughts or perhaps his own return to the past, the killer returns to him.

I’m sorry, his soulmate begins for the second time, reaching out hesitantly. For whatever I did to upset you.

Satoru does not freeze up this time. He doesn’t ignore the killer’s shaky attempt at connecting. He takes a deep breath, counts to ten in his head, and lashes out with calm words.

You’re not fooling me with that bullshit, he snarls. Well, so much for calm. I know what you are .

The killer is silent for a moment before they return, tone hard and even. You’re a difficult one, aren’t you.

It’s not a question.

I’m with a friend. I don’t have time to entertain a killer like you.

At Satoru’s final words, his soulmate sends out one last emotion-cold, biting disbelief-before the connection fizzles out.

“Satoru, is something the matter?” Kayo asks, jolting Satoru out of the mental conversation he’d been having.

Satoru blinks and jerks a little. “No,” he says, but relents upon seeing the disbelief paint across Kayo’s face. “Well, not yet anyways.”

He rubs at his shoulder, where the edge of his mark has become warmer than what a healthy body temperature should be. “It’s my jerk of a soulmate bothering me,” he explains. “He’s very needy.”

Kayo’s mouth opens. “You can actually talk to your soulmate? I thought that was just a myth.”

Satoru gives a weak laugh. “I guess our bond is stronger than most. Unfortunately.”

Kayo frowns. “If he’s bothering you that much, is there anything you can do to make him leave you alone?”

“I’ve tried,” Satoru decides on saying, “but he always finds a way back to me.”

“Does your mom know he’s giving you a hard time? She could probably do something about it.”

“Well...I kind of lied when I said I knew who my soulmate was. I only idea of who they are.”

“So you haven’t met in person then?”

Satoru pauses, memories catching on a tall, well-dressed figure whose face twisted in horror upon realizing who his newest scapegoat really was. “Not really,” Satoru admits. “We don’t even know each other’s names.”

Kayo gives a huff. She moves one of her game pieces. “It’s probably better that way. He can’t find you if he doesn’t know who you are. And if he’s as annoying as he sounds, you’re better off.”

Satoru smiles at Kayo’s blunt words. “Yeah, you’re right about that.”

He makes another move, and the fresh mark on his hand seems to glitter, catching both Kayo and Satoru off guard. Though the skin surrounding it was pinkish from the imprinting process, the mark itself was a white snowflake encrusted with a sparkling sheen. Airi’s mark, Satoru thinks, amazed. It traveled to the past with me...even though...Airi hasn’t been born yet.

“Satoru,” Kayo begins, eyes bugging out of her head. “Where did that come from?”

All Satoru can do is gulp.

Kayo isn’t an idiot, and so it takes all of Satoru’s acting skills-though the amount of talent he has in that department is laughable-just to get her to drop the subject. Even then, Kayo still doesn’t believe in Satoru’s ignorance, her mouth set in what seems to be a permanent frown when it comes to Satoru’s lies.

We promised not to lie to each other. Satoru can tell she’s fighting back those words, and it’s not like Satoru wants to lie. But there’s no explanation, nothing that would make sense at least, for Airi’s mark. More than anything he just wants to confide in someone, to tell them the truth and have them believe it.

Kayo is only the first obstacle, Satoru realizes. He doesn’t even want to think about what his mother will say about the mark on his hand, and no amount of lying or acting will escape his mother’s keen eye. The only option Satoru really has is to hide it, even though a part of him protests the very idea of covering such a pretty mark.

Satoru ignores that part of him and sneaks into his mother’s room while she’s in the shower that night. He’s managed to hide his hand from her so far, but he doesn’t trust himself not to slip up in the future. He remembers that his mother keeps all sorts of creams and powders on her vanity, and it’s those things that Satoru searches for.

He doesn’t know anything about makeup so he just lathers some sort of cream on top of Airi’s mark, blending it with small, circular movements. It helps that the mark is white. Satoru doesn’t think his plan would’ve worked as well if Airi’s mark had been black or used thick, bold lines in its design. In the future, there are of course many dozens of makeups and lotions to hide darker marks in particular, but all Satoru has now is his mother’s foundation. He holds his hand up and notices that if one was looking for it, they could still make out a sparkle here and there.

How do you know what I am?

The sensation is so sudden, shocking Satoru so much that he almost drops the glass bottle of makeup.

Shit, he curses across the bond, letting his displeasure known. He screws the lid back on the bottle and carefully sets it back where it belongs, turning it a centimeter to the right like it had been. Give me some warning next time.

Two attempts at conversation in one night? Talk about unlucky. Satoru had hoped that if the killer realized Satoru knew what he was, he would be too rattled to contact him for a while. This didn’t seem to be the case. Perhaps it had even done the opposite.

A faint hint of amusement passes over Satoru before suddenly his back is engulfed in fire. Memories from the original timeline come back to him-of how he had felt like the skin was melting off of his back, the bloodlust pooling in his chest and spilling over into his stomach as he lurches forward, hands catching himself before he can fall face first into the hardwood floor.

Would that suffice as enough of a warning for you? Hmm? The killer jeers once Satoru’s back has begun to cool.

Asshole, Satoru grumbles, picking himself up off of his knees.

You didn’t answer my question. How do you know what I am?

Satoru waits a few moments before answering. He can’t reveal too much to the killer. Satoru doesn’t want to give him any unnecessary hints as to Satoru’s own identity. I’ve seen your work firsthand, he settles on saying.

Did I kill someone precious to you? You sound so bitter-it must be so.

Satoru grits his teeth and refuses to respond, the bond going silent.

The killer seems almost gleeful the next time he pipes up. I’ll take that as a yes. Now I have another question for you. What’s your name?

Satoru balks at the straightforwardness. As if he would willingly hand over his name to a killer, to this killer, who had snuffed out the lives of people precious to him. The nerve of such a man-it’s astounding. Does the killer think that because they’re soulmates, Satoru will overlook his crimes? (The thought is not so strange. Soulmates throughout history and in the media have forgiven each other for even worse things. Perhaps there’s a reason it is such a common occurrence.)

But...Satoru can use it, this sudden discussion of names. If he can get the killer to hand over his own identity first…

Satoru changes his approach for a moment, tone turning gentle and sweet, sickeningly so. He almost feels as though he could vomit on the sugar that coats his words.   Isn’t it customary to give one’s name first before asking? You tell me yours and I’ll tell you mine.

It was a lie, of course, but his soulmate need not know that.

His soulmate laughs, sounding mildly amused but also unconvinced. I thought you already knew my name. You know so much about me already , the killer purrs.

Satoru only shivers because the room is cold. He’s never been good at restraining himself, at sticking to one role. He swallows and lets the truth slip across the bond.

I don’t need to know your name to know you’re a monster.

The words are meant to sting, to draw blood from the dark looming shadow of the beast. Satoru waits with bated breath for a response, wondering if perhaps he finally managed to shake off the terror of a man. The response doesn't come until later, much later, when Satoru has believed he has won and forgotten their conversation.

His soulmate does not let him forget. Satoru is woken up by the deep rumble of the killer, raking something sharp and hot across his back as he strikes back gleefully.

Then what does that make you, who Fate has chosen as the monster’s mate?

Satoru runs his fingers gently over his mark, swallowing. There were so many times that he had lamented his soulmate’s identity. He thought of it as a curse, as though some higher being was punishing him by chaining him to a child killer for the rest of his life. He remembers being eleven years old and crying in his mother’s arms, of choking on the fear that swallowed him as he felt the thrilling adrenaline that came with the kills.

What did he do to deserve such an awful soulmate? Was he a horrible person in a past life or was he destined to become a horrible person?

He knows the answer to that question now.

A hero, Satoru responds, tone soft. It makes me a hero.

With Revival, Satoru is the only one who can possibly understand, the only one who can stop his soulmate. To stand up against the looming shadow of a villain...isn’t that what being a hero is all about?

Satoru knows that he can’t keep Airi’s mark hidden forever. There’s only so many times he can get away with stealing his mother’s makeup before she notices, and even then, the foundation will be washed off every time Satoru has to wash his hands. Yet Satoru’s secret doesn’t last even twenty-four hours.

“When did you get the mark on your hand?” Sachiko asks the next morning.

Satoru’s jaw drop. He glances at the mark on his hand which had been revealed sometime in the middle of the night when he unknowingly rubbed it against his bedsheets.

“Well,” he starts, voice faint. “I don’t know.” 

Sachiko raises an eyebrow and hums. “Is that why you felt the need to hide it?”

Satoru flinches a little, shuffling his feet. “It’s hard to explain,” he admits. “I feel like you...wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”

Sachiko is silent for a moment. “Eat your breakfast, Satoru,” she settles on saying.

And for now, that’s the end of it. At least at home. At school, several of his classmates moon over the sudden mark on his hand when it’s loudly pointed out by none other than Kazu.

“I can’t believe you got a secondary mark! No one I know even has one!” he cries. “It’s so pretty, too! I bet it belongs to a cute girl!”

“Maybe it’s Hinazuki’s?” someone giggles.

To which Kayo waves her blank hands and responds: “What are you, stupid?”

“Then where did it come from?” another kid asks.

“Oh, did it hurt? I’ve heard that secondary marks hurt a lot!”

“Not as much as the first one,” Satoru says without thinking. This response kickstarts a whole other conversation about Satoru’s first secondary mark.

“What? You have more than one secondary mark?” Kazu screeches. “When did this happen?”

“It’s from my mom.” Satoru reaches up and pulls at the collar of his shirt, yanking it down at an angle to display the black, swirling tree from his mother.

“Wow!” someone exclaims. “That’s pretty cool for belonging to some girl!”

“Hey, are you saying girls don’t have cool marks?” one of the girls pipes up, hands on her hips.

The boy who made the remark rolls his eyes. “Uh? Duh.”

A few students venture off to debate the coolness of a girl’s mark vs. the coolness of a guy’s, while some still ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ over Satoru’s secondary marks.

“If you have such cool secondary marks, then what does your primary mark look like?”

Satoru freezes at the question, feeling overwhelmed and a little exhausted by all the attention that’s come his way. This question...this is the one questions that Satoru will never willingly answer.

“Class,” an older, deeper voice rings out throughout the classroom. “Settle down now!”

The few students that had been crowding around Satoru’s desk scurry back to their own sets while a hush falls upon the room as their teacher enters. Satoru catches Yashiro’s eye, sees the man glance at the mark near his collarbone. Satoru quickly shoves his shirt back in place, covering his mother’s mark.

“Marks are a private thing,” Yashiro chastises, eyes fixed on Satoru as he smiles. “If Satoru doesn’t want to answer your questions, he shouldn’t have to.”

A chorus of ‘sorry’s echoes softly, and Satoru bows his head, staring at the hands that rest on his lap, at Airi’s glittering snowflake. A private thing, Satoru thinks. If my primary mark wasn’t so private, would I be able to lure the killer in?

Kidnapping Kayo is not a split-second decision, but it feels like it. Satoru only has to take one look at her, face flushed from the cold and snowflakes scattered atop her hair, to know that he cannot let her go home tonight. He has to change things up by taking Kayo away from where the killer can grab her, and so he hides her in an abandoned bus.

There’s a curtain that divides the back seat from the rest of the bus. It’s used mostly for storage now, if the cardboard boxes are anything to go by. Kenya helps, the other boy having placed his faith in Satoru’s venture. He brings blankets for Kayo and a heater.

“No one comes here,” Kenya notes. “It’s as good of a hiding place as any.”

Kayo’s voice is strained and shaky. “Thank you.”

“Anything to keep you safe,” Satoru shrugs his shoulders, wrapping a fuzzy, grey blanket around Kayo’s own.

Kayo lets out a little laugh, misty puffs of warm breath escaping into the cold air. Satoru would almost say she was dewy-eyed.

Something scrapes across his mark in the night, and Satoru’s stomach turns over and over, tying itself into knots so tight he can’t pick it apart. Until this moment, Satoru had never felt hot and cold at the same time. He does not like the feeling.

Frustration, he places it. Irritation and annoyance, too.

The emotions are most definitely not his-he who went to bed that night pleased and at peace for once.

Satoru pokes at the bond hesitatingly. It is the first time he has ever reached out in the past. As soon as Satoru’s own walls give way by a mere centimeter, the thoughts come rushing at him full force.

Can’t believe. I planned it all out so perfectly. This hasn’t happened in years. I won’t be beaten. It must be luck. Of all the nights for her to go missing.

Satoru lets out a deep breath. He knows what has his soulmate frothing at the mouth. It’s Satoru’s fault, after all. He doesn’t feel fear, though, or apprehension. Satoru only feels hopeful, and there’s a lightness to his chest as he ignores the killer’s tantrum.

He sleeps peacefully the rest of the night.

His peace can’t last forever, though, and neither can his plan. He finds this out when visiting Kayo the next day. She mentions that someone had been inside the bus that night.

“I kept quiet and didn’t make a sound,” she explains. I’ve had to get good at that, goes unspoken.

“You said they kicked one of the boxes?” Kenya asks.

Kayo nods. “I’m pretty sure it was a guy. He sounded...angry.”

I know a man who was angry last night, a part of Satoru realizes. He ignores that.

The pair of boys inspect the boxes, pointing out the scuff mark on one of them. Satoru dares to open a box, and the mere sight of its contents have his heart stopping. Gloves, rope, seems like something straight out of a horror movie.

“I don’t think we should stay here any longer,” he says, voice higher than usual.

The others are quick to agree.

With the bus no longer an option, there is one last stronghold to take Kayo to. Satoru’s home. His mother only raises an eyebrow once she takes in the sight of them on her doorstep, before beckoning them inside.

“We can’t hide Kayo forever,” his mother admits to him softly, the two of them sitting at the table.

Satoru feels like tearing at his hair in frustration because he knows that, but it’s not like anybody else was going to help her. All of the adults were fine to just ignore it and let her get hurt, but he wasn’t. Not this time. If he hadn’t stepped in, Kayo would be dead.

“Satoru,” Sachiko’s voice is even gentler, if possible. That is when Satoru realizes he had spouted that rant out loud. The anger leaves him in one fell swoop, and he no longer feels like the twenty-nine-year-old he is, but the eleven-year-old whose body he inhabits.

His eyes feel wet all of a sudden, and his backs hurts. Suddenly, Satoru is leaning into his mother’s embrace, silent sobs wracking his body. His mother hushes him, as Kayo is asleep in the next room, and rubs his back gently. Her touch seems to chase the pain away, and it’s not long before Satoru’s cries have died off and been replaced by the occasional sniffle and hiccup.

“I just want Kayo to be safe. I just want...I want this place to be safe and happy. I don’t want anyone to die,” he admits.

His mother lightly pushes him away, blue eyes meeting blue. Her mouth is set in a grim line. “Believe me, Satoru. Kayo’s going to fine. I’ll make sure of it,” she promises, her voice steel.

Satoru believes it.

Serial killing could be considered an art, at least for those that get away with it.

Because Yashiro has spent years perfecting his craft, it goes without saying that he very rarely hits any snags nowadays. Children are the easiest to manipulate, always willing to trust in the words of a handsome, young teacher. Planting evidence sometimes proves more challenging, but it’s something that Yashiro always manages to succeed in doing in the end.

Still, that does not mean that Yashiro knows when a certain target has evolved into something untouchable by powers outside of his control. There is no sense in holding the gun to his own head and waiting for someone else to pull the trigger. Yashiro prioritizes survival above all else, including the hunt itself.

He knows that one of his student’s interference has caused Kayo Hinazuki to be an example of this. Satoru Fujinuma’s annoying out-of-character decision to save Kayo from her abusive household has spiralled into something beyond Yashiro’s control.

Perhaps I’m losing my touch, he muses. But no, that’s not it. It’s just that Yashiro has been preoccupied lately. When he isn’t planning out murder or grading papers, he researches soulmarks. Yashiro finds that progress has been made since he last ventured into the controversial field of study. (Though soulmarks can be seen by the human eye clear enough, many still regard the idea of soulmates with the same disbelief as the practices of astrology, tarot cards, and tea leaf readings.)

Soulmarks-both primary and secondary-have been found to reside on the same part of each partner’s body. Yashiro need not wonder where his mark will be on his soulmate. He knows that it will be splayed across their back, much like the butterfly he wears.

Another thing researched by professionals is the existence of a soulbond. Yashiro learns that what he has with his soulmate is a deep connection which allows for the transference of thoughts, emotions, and memories. There’s not much research on soulbonds, though, as it’s theorized that they only exist between truly powerful bonds and so examples of them are hard for researchers to find.

Powerful, Yashiro thinks, pleased when he reads that. His mood soon sours when he reflects on his bond. Our bond is so powerful that we can communicate and find each other, but all my soulmate wants to do is hide.

He’s been too busy prodding at the bond, sifting through any of the thoughts or memories that might filter through in an attempt to collect some revealing information. No such luck. His soulmate seems to be on a whole other level when it comes to soulmarks, almost as if he’s decades ahead in knowledge of them even though he’s considerably younger than Yashiro. It’s puzzling to say the least.

Yes, it's Yashiro’s shift in focus that are the reason he was so easily outsmarted by an eleven-year-old, or at least that’s what he’ll go with to make himself feel better. His carelessness is his own fault, though, and Yashiro realizes it’s time to throw in the towel. The only thing he can do now is play the role of concerned teacher.

So Yashiro picks up the phone, puts a smile on his face, and the mask falls back into place.

The whole climax of the situation is very dramatic and emotional for everyone involved. Yashiro feels like yawning, but that wouldn’t be appropriate. As Kayo’s mother is discovered as an awful human being by the authorities and declared an unfit mother, as Kayo’s grandmother takes her away, he can only feel a twinge of annoyance. Things would’ve gone much easier if Yashiro had gotten his way.

Sachiko Fujinuma plays her part well and is rewarded with a minor cut for her efforts. Yashiro makes sure to play the role of the gentleman and offers her his handkerchief, but she refuses it.

“This is nothing to me,” Sachiko shakes her head. “I’ve had much worse before.”

There is no humor to her words, only blunt truth, and Yashiro’s eyes light up, though he retracts his hand and makes sure his eyebrows furrow in concern. Sachiko had admitted to him over the phone that her son had been the one to whisk Kayo away from her home. She swore that Satoru only brought the girl to her doorstep recently, but Kayo had been missing longer than one day. That raises the question: from the time she disappeared to the time Satoru brought her home, where had she been?

Satoru had chased after Kayo’s car for awhile, but when he trudged back to his mother and teacher, Yashiro noticed there was a new mark etched onto the other hand. A secondary mark. Another one.

Something curled in Yashiro’s gut, hot and fierce. It made no sense that a boy as young as Satoru should have so many marks, yet Yashiro had to wait decades for just the one. It’s because your soulmate is special, a part of him reasoned.

Special, Yashiro mentally snorted. Young and bold and stupid is more like it .

The new mark on Satoru’s hand confirmed Yashiro’s suspicions. It wasn’t that Kayo had run away and Satoru had found her, but that Satoru had stolen her right from under Yashiro’s nose. There was no one else Kayo would rely on for safety.

“I have to ask, Satoru. Where did you manage to hide Kayo all this time? She wasn’t at home and yet your own mother swore up and down that she hadn’t been aware of your little kidnapping attempt until recently.”

“Ah,” Satoru rubs the back of his neck. “Well, you see...there was a bus…”

Yashiro’s back tingles as Satoru relays his story, and it’s all he can do to smile and nod along. Yashiro wants so much to peel back the layers of his facade, layer by layer, until the only thing left is his true self, twisted into a grimace and spitting venom at the thought that he was so close to his prey but it got away.

There’s no way, Yashiro thinks. He glances once again at his student, a boy of eleven years. Yashiro takes in his decorated hands. One painted with a white snowflake, the other covered by a silver lamb. Satoru looks up at him with something akin to admiration in his eyes, his mouth open in wonder.

No, he assures himself, ignoring the thrill that runs up his spine and the warmth that covets his mark. Satoru doesn’t see me. He doesn’t know. There’s no way.

No way, no way, no way, Yashiro snarls inside his head. He drums his finger on the steering wheel of his car rapidly, eye twitching. That little shit.

He can write off Kayo. She had been one of Satoru’s classmates, and Satoru simply wanted to help her escape an abusive home, which unknowingly took her out of Yashiro’s line of fire.

Yashiro can write off Hiromi for reasons much the same. The younger boy had always been close to Satoru and his group of friends, so it made sense that Satoru would want to spend time with Hiromi and walk him home.

But Aya Nakanishi? A girl from a different school, who Satoru and even his friends have no relation to whatsoever?

It’s not just chance. There’s something else going on here. Yashiro hasn’t felt this incensed in years . He can already feel his blood pressure mounting. Him, a seasoned predator, taken down by a mere boy of eleven?

The thought passes briefly that Sachiko Fujinuma has discovered Yashiro’s true nature, that she has instructed her son to befriend all of his possible targets. That idea is quickly squashed once he catches sight of the woman herself approach her son, confusion on her face as she questions Satoru’s presence so far from home. Sachiko is holding several bags of groceries, though, and Yashiro sees the opportunity to strike. He lets out a deep breath to relax the muscles in his face.

Yashiro rolls down the window of his car and calls out to both mother and student. “Fujinuma?” he asks, forcing himself to sound surprised. “What are you doing here?”

The boy jolts and stammers out some excuse, most likely the lie he had been feeding to his mother. Sachiko hoists one bag of groceries up. “Shopping,” she explains.

Yashiro’s lips curl into a smile, and it’s all he can do to hide the sharpness of it. “Do the two of you need a lift?” he offers.

Sachiko, weighed down by a multitude of bags, is quick to accept. Satoru climbs in the front seat, while Sachiko sits in the back with her groceries. Yashiro finds his eyes drifting to Satoru for any hint of deceit, but the boy’s eyes are frighteningly earnest.

Of course. He’s only a boy, and yet...

How can he know? It’s almost like he can see the future.

Yashiro wants nothing more than to crack the boy’s skull open and pick apart his brain, to feel the weight of it in his hands and discover if oracles are fact or fiction. Yashiro swallows. He thinks of Satoru lying pale and still, skin purpled by contusions, of dull blue eyes and crusted lips.  Yashiro can see it now, the spider’s thread above the boy’s head. It turns a dark red, and Yashiro pictures himself tearing it apart with his fist.

He wets his lips with a swipe of his tongue.

If Satoru’s so willing to throw himself in the path of a killer, then Yashiro won’t be responsible for the repercussions that follow.

In the midst of Yashiro’s daydreaming, Satoru reaches forward to open the glove compartment, revealing a mountain of candy. Yashiro quickly covers the lollipops up with a half-lie that comes easily enough. Indeed, he had used sugar as a way to curb his unhealthy pastime of smoking, but the candy in his car was not intended for that purpose nowadays. Satoru is easily convinced, and Yashiro can’t help but think that this is the mastermind who’s managed to derail my plans?

“That candy...” Sachiko’s voice catches him off-guard, and Yashiro feels himself freeze. He had almost forgotten about her presence entirely. To him, it had just been he and Satoru in the car.

“Hand some over,” she finishes.

Yashiro dutifully obeys, and he turns to look at Sachiko, who is leaned forward with her hands on both front seats. The position causes her shirt collar to dip, parting from its place tucked against her skin. Yashiro isn’t a man eager to look for an opportunity to spot cleavage (he would never debase himself in such a way), so he’s ready to avert his eyes when something bright catches them.

He sucks in a breath. Sachiko Fujinuma’s v-neck hides it for the most part but there is something blue and beautiful etched on the skin of her chest, the shape and color so familiar it’s haunting.

Oh, Yashiro thinks just a second before his mind blanks.

Normally he would rage. Yashiro would lash out, gnashing his teeth and clawing so deep into the bond it was almost as if he was trying to claw his way across to his soulmate, but no. There’s no need. His soulmate is right here.

He’d thought of wrapping his hands around Satoru’s neck, of cracking open his skull and painting a pretty red spiderweb across his skin for all to see. There’s no need anymore. Satoru already has Yashiro’s mark splayed across his back, a natural claim surer than any forgery.

The lollipop in Yashiro’s mouth gives a crunch, crumbling into pieces as his teeth dig into it. Yashiro glances at the boy beside him, who’s so wide-eyed but doesn’t see, who builds up walls with threats yet looks up at Yashiro as if he hung the moon and stars.

Well. I’ll need to change my plans.


Chapter Text

Something has changed. It’s in the way his soulmate goes silent, connection muted and lost. It’s the shadow that clings to him in the dark of the night, talons gripping hard so hard into his pajama shirt that they tear skin in their effort to not let go.

Is it frustration? Resignation? Satoru, having years and years of future records on hand, has no name for the event that’s transpiring between them now. The thought is frightening. If Satoru cannot hope to understand the killer, then how can he hope to stop him?

Kayo is safe now and hopefully Hiromi, too, but that leaves Aya and any other child out there still at risk.  Satoru has no room to slip up. He has no idea how many Revivals are up his sleeve, so this one could be his last. If Satoru messes up this attempt, it could be game over for good.

What’s the matter? Satoru sends out one day, voice perhaps a little too snappish.

Radio silence greets him. Satoru grits his teeth and tells himself he doesn’t care, but it’s hard. He’s not used to being on the other end, ignored.

Whatever, he tells himself. It doesn’t matter. I’ll save Hiromi, Aya, and anybody else that I need to. I’ll stop him, no matter what.

The conversation replays like a broken record, Kazu’s obnoxious voice so much louder than the rest. Each and every pieces falls into place. Satoru shivers as the familiar scene plays out so perfectly, like his friends are sticking to some script they’ve been practicing for weeks.

“Soulmarks! We gotta show each other our soulmarks! We haven’t done that before!” Kazu declares.

Kenya raises an eyebrow, looking up from his book. “Why the sudden interest?” he asks. “Has something happened?”

Kazu puffs out his chest. “Well, not exactly! A man just needs to get the word out, ya know! It’ll make it easier to find that special person if other people know where or what the mark is, yeah?”

“I think it’s a great idea,” Hiromi offers bashfully.  

“Yeah, I mean, what could it hurt?” Osamu chimes in.

Kazu grins and rolls up his pant leg, proudly displaying the yellow flower etched on his kneecap. Satoru swallows, throat suddenly dry at the sight. He thinks of Aya with her cool indifference, her maturity and childish arrogance. Her stockings are white, covering her knees, yet Satoru had caught sight of them one day, stockings pushed down and out of the way for him to see.

That Aya’s flower, he thinks.

“That’s Aya’s flower,” he says, dumbstruck.

Kazu’s cheeks turn a rosy red. “For real?” he squawks.

The other boys coo and jeer, teasing Kazu over the owner of his soulmark for a few good minutes. Kazu shoves at them and hotly demands for them all to show their marks then, if they’re so eager to give him such a hard time over his.

Kenya and Osamu comply easily, as they did so long ago, but Hiromi is hesitant this time around. He glances at Satoru, biting his lip and fidgeting with his sleeve. Kazu thumps him on the back impatiently.

“Well, what is it?” he asks. “Aren’t you going to show us?”

Hiromi flushes. “It’s guys have already seen my mark before. It’s probably not that exciting, that’s all.”

The realization strikes Satoru in that moment, of what he’d glimpsed on Hiromi’s arm so long ago. After all, it was a match to one of the marks on Satoru’s hands. He understands Hiromi’s hesitance now, but urges the boy on.

“It’s alright, Hiromi,” Satoru promises. He pumps his fist in Hiromi’s direction, the fist with Kayo’s mark on it. “You should be proud of it, right? It belongs to your soulmate.”

The timid boy flushes even darker now, but slowly peels back the sleeve of his shirt, revealing the silver lamb that’s scrawled over his forearm.

“What?” Kazu squawks, sounding a lot like an annoying bird. “But that’s Kayo’s mark! The one she left on Satoru!”

“Yeah,” Satoru says, shrugging his shoulders.

Kenya just gives a wise nod at this revelation, as if it was something he’d figured out a long time ago. Osamu, on the other hand, is just as shocked as Kazu.

“Did you know? I mean, why’d you let Satoru go after Kayo if you did?” Osamu argues.

Hiromi just shakes his head, even more flustered now. “It’s not like that. I only found out after she’d already left. Besides, it should be natural. That’s what I think anyways. If it really means anything, it comes about naturally. Not from actively searching or going out of your way to make it happen.”

Natural? Was it natural when my soulmate decided to kill my classmates? When he butchered my mother in my apartment then framed me for it? He snaps out of thoughts like these as quick as they come. Satoru has moved passed this pathetic self-pity, onto a greater cause which includes actually saving people, not moping around.

“That’s really impressive, Hiromi,” Satoru comments.

Even Kazu is a little teary-eyed at Hiromi’s speech. “Oh, man! That was deep!” he wipes at his eyes furiously with the back of his hands, then fixes Satoru with a look.

“You!” he points dramatically. “The man of the hour, the man with four marks! We’ve seen all but one of them, Satoru. It’s time to show us your primary mark!”

Satoru stills, remembering how he’d managed to avoid unveiling his mark due to his rumored status as a Blank. This time around, that’s not an option.

"Oh, boy, is it something dirty?” Kazu chortles.

“No!” Satoru shakes his head and waves his hands. “That’s not it! It’s mark is on my back, and it’s really...ugly.”

“It can’t be ugly if it belongs to your soulmate,” Osamu says with all the wisdom of a child.

Osamu can’t possibly understand how much weight Satoru carries with the one mark on his back, how many lives he has to protect because of it. Satoru has to clench his hands into fists, counting to ten, before he can even think. He couldn’t get out of this one so easily. Besides, would it be so bad to show them his mark? Maybe one of his friends knows something. Could it be possible that if he showed his mark to them, that one of them might recognize it?

And if not, perhaps they’ll be a little more understanding of why Satoru hid his mark once they themselves had to look at it.

“Fine, fine,” Satoru huffs.

Because what can it hurt?

Satoru takes the edges of his shirt in his hand and rolls it up, exposing his mark for his friends to see. The cool air gives him goosebumps and he shivers. He feels so...naked. Wrong. He wants nothing more than to cover his back up again, to hide his soulmark from the rest of the world as he should, but he doesn’t. Satoru waits for his friends to finish commenting on it. Their words spill off of his back and leave a pleasant tingle there.

“Wow!” Kazu gapes. “And I thought your mom’s mark was cool! Geez!”

“It’s so detailed! You can tell they care a lot, I think!” Hiromi gushes.

“Satoru, are you blind? Your soulmark is awesome!” Osamu cries.

The praise is unexpected, and it makes Satoru feel hollowed out. Of course he didn’t want them to tear his mark apart with critiques or insults, but he didn’t expect such a positive reaction. It makes his stomach toss and turn, heart constrict in his chest. For so many years, he’s always thought of it as an ugly burden to bear. But now, here these children are, admiring it. Airi’s words hadn’t bothered him, because at least she could acknowledge the horror behind his mark, recognizing the pain and misery it’s brought him. These children couldn’t possibly see any of that in Satoru’s soulmark.

Only Kenya is disturbingly silent. Satoru glances over his shoulder to see the boy staring at his back, lips twisted into a frown. Kenya opens his mouth, ready to say something, when the door to the classroom opens.

“Shouldn’t you boys be -” Yashiro-sensei pauses almost immediately upon entering the classroom, and Satoru feels daggers drive into his tender back. The boy flinches, wondering if perhaps the sight of his soulmark has left his teacher speechless. Perhaps someone sane has finally recognized it as the hideous thing it is. Satoru moves quick, tugging his shirt back down to hide the mark, but a voice in his head has him pausing.

Ah, there it is, his soulmate speaks for the first time in weeks, so softly and wistfully. The presence of his soulmate is there and gone so quick that for a moment Satoru believes he has imagined it. But no, he couldn’t possibly imagine something like that. His breathing quickens, his heart pounding so hard he fears it will burst right out of his chest. He clenches his fists and summons his strength.

I have to look. I have to see. 

Satoru turns. Blue eyes meet red, and his entire world shatters.

At first, he thinks he is dreaming. It’s just a dream, a bad one, and he’ll wake up any minute. Except he doesn’t. He keeps dreaming. Satoru waits for Yashiro to say something else or to even do something that will prove him wrong.

Yashiro clears his throat and tries again. “Shouldn’t you boys be heading out?” he cocks an eyebrow, smiling.

Perhaps it is supposed to be a friendly smile, but Satoru can’t help but think his teeth are sharper now, his lips redder than usual. Satoru feels himself run on autopilot, laughing and nudging his friends as they agree and prepare to leave. He acts as if nothing is wrong, because that’s what Yashiro is doing. His teacher is acting as if the connection never happened. It makes Satoru start to question himself.

But he knows he can’t afford to do that now.

When Satoru gets home, he sets up mental blocks that are stronger than ever before, miles high and miles deep, chained and locked, buried by decoys of false memories. He can’t afford even one little slip up.

Once Satoru has hidden himself properly, he allows himself to collapse. He falls to his knees first, catching his tiny body before he faceplants into the carpet. His breathing is almost too shallow, as if his lungs will stop just like his heart has.

His head hurts, and so does his back. He remembers what he’d been trying to do when he lifted his shirt in that classroom, when he showed his mark to the world. It rises up in him, quick and almost manic, tumbling over his gut and spilling out his mouth. He laughs until his throat burns, until his eyes sting, and suddenly he’s no longer laughing, but he’s crying, fat, ugly sobs wracking his body.

I got my wish, he thinks bitterly. I wanted to know who the killer is. Now I do.

Though his soulmate seems to know of Satoru’s existence, of his role in stopping the murders, he doesn’t know that Satoru knows now, too. In a way, Satoru is one step ahead of the killer now. So why doesn’t it feel like a victory?

The presence of something familiar and yet strange hits him, and suddenly there's another voice inside his head. It doesn't belong to his soulmate, but to Satoru himself.

Because we’ve been betrayed, younger Satoru whispers in his head, answering back. We’ve been betrayed by someone we trusted, and it hurts.

Did his psyche split at the grand realization, breaking apart into younger Satoru and older Satoru? I’m going crazy, Satoru thinks faintly. I’ve really lost it. Maybe all of this is a dream.

We can’t be dreaming, the younger voice argues. Because now? Now we’re truly awake.

When Satoru comes to, piecing himself back together bit by bit, he realizes there is a knocking on his door. He just barely manages to pull himself up, moving on unsteady legs to answer it. If it’s Yashiro come to kill me, Satoru thinks dully. I’ll probably let him. Maybe then he’ll be satisfied.

He opens the door and it’s not Yashiro, but Kenya, flushed from the cold and a little irritated. “I’ve been knocking forever,” he mutters, stepping inside Satoru’s apartment and rubbing his gloved hands together.

“Sorry,” Satoru’s voice cracks, pathetic and hoarse. “I didn’t hear.”

Kenya’s face instantly softens. “Is this about earlier? I’m sorry. I should’ve told the guys to lay off. You shouldn’t have showed us that mark if you didn’t want to.”

Satoru sways on his feet, leaning on a chair. “It’s fine,” he waves his hand. “I wanted to. I thought it me out, if you guys saw it.”

Kenya frowns and glances around. “Your mom isn’t home yet, right?”

“No, she’s not. Why?”  Satoru furrows his brow, giving Kenya a look. The boy is acting weird, that’s for sure. 

Kenya takes his gloves off and twists them in his hands, fidgeting. “Satoru, I’ve seen your mark before,” the other boy swallows. “’s not good.”

 “You know then? Who it belongs to?” Satoru freezes, entire body going still.

“Not exactly. I only know that they’re...not the best person," Kenya shakes his head.

Satoru’s hand trembles and he wants so much to place it on his own shoulder, reaching for his upper back where his mark rests. But he does not. He forces himself to smile. “What are you talking about Kenya?”

Kenya swallows and waits a moment, as if thinking better of telling Satoru what he knows. Eventually he speaks, though, telling Satoru of several cases that his father has worked on, spinning a familiar story that Satoru has heard before, years later in the future. Kenya’s father is a prosecutor who works on putting criminals behind bars. One criminal in particular has managed to evade the justice system for years. His father had noticed the killer’s trends, ranting and raving about it late one night when he thought Kenya was in bed.

“There are a number of children killed in one city, and the murderer leaves a mark on them. Except the guy that the police bring in, the suspect my dad has to charge with the crime? They don’t have that mark on their record. It’s somebody else that does it, but all the other proof points to that one guy they bring in. The police can’t do anything because a mark isn’t ‘substantial evidence’,” Kenya explains, frowning.

Satoru can feel something heavy settle in his stomach. The true killer, the one that Kenya is referring to? Satoru already knows who it is, and he feels the nausea rise up. He thinks of the man he admired, a man he - God, a man he’d thought of as a father figure - replaced by the phantom in his dreams, the menacing figure with red eyes and leather gloves, a razor sharp smile that does uncomfortable things to Satoru’s gut. He pictures Yashiro, eyes gleaming as he forces a silver knife into his mother’s stomach.

Would you have done it? Satoru wonders. If you’d known who I was back then, if you’d known she was my mother?

He is glad their connection is closed in this moment, if only because he doesn’t think he’d like the answer he’d receive.

Satoru looks away from Kenya, eyes unfocusing. “And this mark?” he says, wishing his back would burn, if only to remind him that he was awake.

“It’s your mark, Satoru,” Kenya’s voice trembles, confirming what Satoru already knows. “A red spiderweb. They found it on all of the victims. I’m sorry.”

Satoru’s eyes are suddenly wet, even though he’d thought he’d left his tears behind, too cried out to summon any more. He chuckles weakly, the force of it hurting his already wounded chest. “What are you sorry for? None of this is your fault.”

Kenya takes Satoru’s hands in his own. “It’s ok to cry,” he says awkwardly. “You can go ahead. I won’t judge.”

I want it to stop. I just want all of this to go away. I’ve saved everybody already right? So why am I still here? Let me go back. Please.

Satoru can’t live through this life again, a twenty-nine-year old in an eleven-year old’s body, can’t go on with the Devil’s mark on his back. Satoru can put a name and a face to all the demented thoughts he’s received from that mark; he doesn’t know if he can live on with that knowledge weighing him down.

Are you giving up? The younger Satoru’s voice returns to him. You haven’t put away the bad guy yet, that’s why you’re still here.

Satoru shivers, thinking of a confrontation between him and Yashiro the killer. He’s caught up to the events of the past that went horribly wrong, managing to avoid the three murders that happened back then. Everything is a blank slate now, and Satoru doesn’t know how he’ll fare against the enemy without clairvoyance on his side.

What can Satoru do, in his tiny eleven-year old body, when up against a killer like Yashiro?

The younger Satoru is silent, having disappeared like a fever dream or perhaps pieced back into his own subconscious. So it is the older Satoru who answers, firm and resigned.

Let him underestimate us, let him think we don’t know. Beat him at his own game.

After Satoru collects himself, he forces Kenya to remain silent on the matter. Kenya looks like he's about to protest, probably ready to suggest telling Satoru's mother or even a trusted adult-someone like Yashiro-sensei perhaps? And just the thought of that has Satoru reeling, ready to spit fire.

“If the police can’t even put him in jail, the adults won’t be able to help us,” he argues, effectively shutting down Kenya’s argument. His friend closes his mouth, twisting it into a frown, but agrees. Kenya fusses over him and asks him if he needs anything. Satoru shakes his head.

"I'm fine, Kenya," he says gently. 'I'd just really like to rest now. Today has been...eventful." 

His friend gets the hint, moving towards the door. Kenya gives Satoru one last look before he leaves, sad and solemn. “You shouldn’t have to wear that mark, Satoru.”

Satoru only smiles. “Then who else would?

 They resolve to continue their game of detective, though now it’s most definitely not just a game. Kenya’s input brings Satoru back to the heart of the situation. Yashiro is a child-killer. He’ll continue killing no matter what, and he’s probably planning his next move now that he knows the soulmate he so desperately wants to meet is Satoru Fujinuma. Satoru will have to wait, knowing that it’s best to see what Yashiro is planning before he himself takes another step forward.

To his frustration, Yashiro does not so much as budge over the next few weeks. Satoru briefly considers exposing himself to Yashiro, walking into the lair of the devil empty handed, perhaps just to see what would happen. Yashiro had been so eager to meet his soulmate after all and Satoru suspected it was motivation behind his killings, so wouldn’t he be pleased enough with Satoru’s presence to stop killing completely?

Satoru thinks of the string of cut spiderwebs that Yashiro will leave in his wake, the cold bodies of slaughtered children offered to Satoru like a courting gift, a puzzle to be solved. Satoru is done with puzzles. Yashiro won’t stop. So I just have to end things, here and now.

It is a tense affair, seeing the one who hurt so many of his loved ones in the previous timeline, but not being able to do anything about it. Satoru wants nothing more than to scream at Yashiro, to rip him apart with hateful words, but he cannot. He goes through his lessons like normal, and if Yashiro’s hands linger on his shoulders or head when he ruffles his hair or pats him on the back, Satoru smiles like it’s nothing.

Because it is nothing.

He certainly doesn’t shudder at the touch, nor feel his mark warm simultaneously. Yashiro is clumsy when it comes to their bond, just like a newborn foal trying to stand, and so Satoru knows that if he did not have his shields up, he’d feel every single thought the man had when he touched him.

I wonder if he wants to kill me, Satoru wonders. Maybe he’ll want to see the original mark a final time before he does.

For a man of action like Satoru, the weeks in which nothing happens are abysmal and boring, almost enough to make him crack due to the pressure and anxiety. So it is a good thing, when after this period of time, Hiromi approaches him with his fears that Misao may be one of the next targets in their detective game.

Misao’s ostracization from her classmates is due to her own unlikable nature, but Satoru can recognize that it makes her an easy target. With no friends around to report her missing, how long will it take before she is reported? (It’s almost scary how easy that thought comes to him, as if Satoru himself were planning to kidnap the girl.)

Satoru is hesitant about this, though, as Misao wasn’t one of the original victims. He doesn’t quite know where to go from here. There’s a hockey game she’s going to tomorrow, one in which she’ll be all alone. Everybody would probably be too concerned with the game to even notice if she left, though it’s not like they’d bee paying her any attention as well. Everything about her situation seems too perfect, too carefully planned out that-

Ah, he thinks he gets it now.

That night, as he sits down to eat his mother’s dinner for what may be the last time, he asks her a question. “If the hero had to sacrifice himself to save the world from evil, would it be worth it?”

Sachiko pauses. She sets her fork and knife down gently, raising her eyebrows. “What’s this about?” 

“It’s just in a book we read in school,” Satoru says airily, without missing a beat. This lie is a practiced one, hopefully enough so that Sachiko’s crazy radar doesn’t pick up on it. “We’re supposed to write about if we think what the hero did was right or wrong.”

Sachiko thinks for a moment. “Well, I don’t know about if it’s right or wrong,” she starts, “but I do know that’s what some heroes do. Risk their lives, that is.”

Her answer is good enough for Satoru, who hugs her extra fierce the next morning before he leaves for school. He hopes that, if things do go wrong, she’ll be able to move on. Though he knows it will be near impossible. What kind of parent can move on from the death of a child? Parents aren’t supposed to see their children die; it’s always the other way around.

But this is all a what-if, which depends on Yashiro, who has gone eerily silent whereas before he’d been obnoxious and nosey. Satoru has come to understand something about Yashiro in the last few weeks, something that he’s known about the killer all along.

Obsessive. Impulsive when angered. He doesn’t like to lose. He liked the ideas of soulmates, liked the idea of me.  

Satoru will try to use this to his advantage. He decides to pay along, to pretend he doesn't know anything. What would I do if I didn't know Yashiro set this trap? he asks himself, then goes ahead and runs right into what his teacher has planned. He attends the hockey game the next night, pretending to watch Misao when really he's watching Yashiro. Yashiro approaches Misao, hands her a drink and smiles at her like the good, caring teacher he pretends to be. 

Satoru feels his stomach roll at the role Yashiro plays, at how easy it is for him to don a mask and be fake. 

We were the opposite, younger Satoru whispers. We wore our heart on our sleeve and blurted out everything we felt. 

We are the opposite, Satoru stresses. Because they are, aren't they? They're more honest than Yashiro could ever be. 

Not anymore, his younger psyche proclaims woefully. Look at how easy you pretend nothing's wrong, how well you play his games. We're already dyed in his colors.

Satoru looks away from the scene before him, pretends he can't see the red that seeps in the corner of his visions, the stains of Yashiro's bloody hands on his soul. He feels like he's on the precipice of something, teetering on the edge of his decision. He sees Misao go to the bathroom and reluctantly follows close behind. He wonders if Yashiro really does have something planned for her, then dismisses the thought. 

If Yashiro knows who his soulmate, the one he's waited for so long, is...surely he'd go after them next, instead of settling for some forgery. 

He waits for Misao to come out of the bathroom, hoping he can manipulate her into heading home. Though it's risky, basically suicidal, Satoru wants to get Yashiro alone. He's his soulmate, his one and only. Satoru carries several marks on his skin, but he's yet to truly meet the owner of his first one. He knows The Killer, who disposed of his classmates and stabbed his mother in the gut, always lurking in the corner, a shadow with red eyes. He knows Yashiro-sensei, who helped him save Hinazuki and inspired him to do more, one of the few happy memories from his elementary school days, a beacon of hope Satoru could only aspire to be. Satoru wants to see where The Killer and Yashiro-sensei meet in the middle, the person that they become. Satoru wishes to see the monster face to face with both of their masks crushed underfoot. Only then will all of this have been worth it. 

“Satoru?” a voice calls, pulling him out of his thoughts. “What are you doing here?”

Satoru feels goosebumps grow on his arms, looking up to see Yashiro staring down at him quizzically.

“Sensei,” he greets, ignoring the pleasant tingle in his belly as he addresses his teacher. "I was waiting for Misao. You haven't seen her, have you?" 

For show, he fidgets with his fingers. 

"Hmm," Yashiro taps his chin thoughtfully. Satoru notices that he's wearing gloves. Why would he be wearing gloves inside? "I just saw her leave actually." 

He points to the exit not far off behind him. Satoru decides to play along and rushes over, throwing the door open. The cold air hits his face, and he looks out below at the traffic, searching for any sign of Misao though he's sure there'll be none. Satoru has been standing outside the bathroom since she got there. There's only one exit, so he'd know if she left. 

While he's looking, he spots something else, something far too familiar. 

A truck. Shiratori’s truck.

That doesn’t make sense, though, the killer is here -

Satoru whips his head around, meeting his soulmate’s expectant gaze. So this is it. This is Yashiro’s move.

"Sensei," he says urgently, a little breathless. Why does he feel excited? "Can you give me a ride? I need to follow that truck."

Yashiro's eyes shine with something dark, feral and hungry. He smiles and does what Satoru asks, and they go in Yashiro's car after the delivery truck. 

Tap, tap. Yashiro's black gloves tap against the steering wheel. Satoru takes a moment to admire the length of the killer's fingers, the largeness of his hands. How easy is it for him to strangle someone with his hands, to snap their neck? If things go wrong, perhaps Satoru will find out. 

Yashiro asks what's going on, of course, why they're following this truck in the first place. "Is it part of that detective game you've been playing?" his teacher questions.

Satoru smiles tightly. "Yep," he chirps, though it sounds fake even to his own ears. 

He's not as used to playing a part as Yashiro is. 

"Though it's really not about that anymore. It's something else," he continues. Sincerity seeps through these words. The only way he can make it more real is by adding the truth. 

Yashiro's eyes never stray from the road. He follows the truck diligently and hums, urging Satoru to go on. 

"I want to fill the hole in the heart," Satoru says without really thinking. "Other people's and my own." 

And it's true, isn't it? It was never just about saving his mother, about saving Kayo and the others, too. It was about saving a piece of Satoru as well, about the wounded, tender thing inside of him that still cried out at night. He wanted to understand his soulmate, to figure out what kind of monster they were and how they matched him. He knows now, sits right beside both the monster and man he's been running from for so long. 

The car is slowing down a little, and Satoru glances over, meeting Yashiro's wide eyes. His jaw is slack, a look of such utter shock on his face that Satoru knows it must be genuine. But why would his words be that supris -

Oh. Shit. Those were Yashiro's words, the words he said on their last day of school. He'd repeated them back to Yashiro himself. He hadn't meant to. They'd come so easily to Satoru, being words that had had such an impression on him in his youth. Because little Satoru, who'd started to take medicine just to ward off the demon on his back, knew a lot about a hole in one's heart. Yashiro's words were a constant echo in his life, something he only realizes now. 

How funny. How sad. Perhaps he'd been dyed in Yashiro's colors - dark, bloody, vibrant, crimson, reds - right from the start. 

A hole in the heart, he thinks now, is that what you suffer from, Yashiro? What we both suffer from?

The car is silent, awkward. Yashiro has resumed his tapping, cleared his throat, and his eyes are back on the road. Suddenly Satoru is tired of pretending. 

“Yashiro,” Satoru says mildly, dropping the honorific. “You were never planning to target Misao, were you?”

The tapping stops. Yashiro's face drains of color, going blank. Everything about him is unreadable, unpredictable. Satoru wonders what he'll do next. He doesn't expect the man to start laughing. His teacher forces his lips into a grin, and the force of his laughter is so great it must hurt his chest. He wipes one measly tear from his eye. 

"What are you talking about, Satoru? Do you want me to play the role of villain in the little game you've been playing?" 

Satoru frowns and he stares at Yashiro, narrowing his eyes. So. He wants to play? Fine. Satoru leans back in his seat, closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. He lowers the wall slowly, allowing everything to seep out. It's a trickle at first, the childish wonder and admiration, the trust he'd felt. But betrayal follows close behind, licking at its heels. Soon it rushes in, a current of overflowing rage, of fear.

Hello, old friend. Have you missed me? Satoru greets. 

Yashiro sucks in a deep breath. The car comes to a stop, pulling off to the side of the street. The delivery truck drives on without them, leaving what's left of the ruse in its wake. Yashiro leans his forehead against the wheel, expression hidden from view. He seems to be gathering his thoughts, perhaps working over his master plan in his head. What will it change, if Satoru knows his identity?

He leans back finally, and his face is...raw. That's the only word for it. His sharp smile is the most genuine that Satoru has ever seen it, spread across his face so deep that it's frightening. Satoru realizes that this is his first glimpse of the monster inside of the man. 

Hello, darling, the monster drawls. I've missed you. 

"So this is it then, hmm?" the killer muses. "Game over. For you, and me." 

"No," Satoru clears his throat. He refuses to look away from Yashiro's all-consuming gaze. The first to look away will be the first to lose. "The game is just beginning." 

The look on Yashiro’s face is uncontrolled, twisted with glee. "When did you know it was me?" he asks, sounding a little breathless. 

"It was that day in the classroom, when you saw my soulmark," Satoru admits. "You reached out to me then, and I knew. Everything came together. For you?"

"When I picked you and your mother up, your mother wore the same mark as me. But the mark was on her collarbone, corresponding to the exact place you wore hers. I knew it had to be you," Yashiro recounts, looking rather pleased with himself. 

Satoru wants very much to wipe the grin off of his face. "How many people have you killed? How many corpses wear the same mark as me?" 

He succeeds. Yashiro scowls, narrowing his eyes. "Too many to count. You shouldn't be bothered by them, Satoru. None of that matters anymore." 

What. The. Fuck.

Satoru has to count to ten just so he doesn't scream. "None of that matters?" he fumes. "What are you on? That you would even say something like that...I can't believe you!" 

"I mean that it won't - shouldn't change anything between us. There's nothing for you to be scared of anymore, Satoru," Yashiro reaches over, runs his gloved fingers through Satoru's hair. 

Satoru jerks away, admitting subtle defeat as he looks away. "Stop! What are you talking about? That I shouldn't be scared? What does that even mean?" 

Yashiro frowns. "When you opened up the bond just now, I felt your memories, certain feelings. You saw my mark on others and it made you...jealous."

Me? Satoru think-screams. Jealous of dead children? Of my replacements -

And oh. There it is. 

A little laugh escapes Satoru at the ugly realization. For some reason he thinks of Yashiro's words so long ago. 

(Then what does that make you, who Fate has chosen as the monster’s mate?)

Yashiro only looks at him fondly now. Is he remembering what he said as well? Or can he feel it, echoing in his own head as well. The bond between them seems so strong now, and it beckons for them both to reach out, to connect for good. But they both stand on their separate sides, cautious as they scope out the enemy, poking and prodding here and there but never going so far as to embrace each other's thoughts. 

Satoru realizes that Yashiro has begun to drive again. He wonders where he's going. 

His soulmate opens his mouth and begins a story. Yashiro tells him about a little boy named Gaku who was born without a mark, a Blank who was scorned by everyone he knew. That little boy felt so very empty, knowing that he had no soulmate. But one day he discovered he could feel less empty, that he could somehow leave his mark on others so very easily, with a simple flick of his knife across their throats. 

"You want peace in this town, don't you? You've tried so hard to stop me," Yashiro muses. His eyes light up, the corners of his mouth lifting. It's the most pleasant, authentic smile that Satoru has ever seen on his teacher. 

"There's only one way for that to happen, Satoru. Only one way you'll get me to leave this town."

Satoru swallows, dread gnawing at his stomach. "What is it?" 

"You come with me. We're soulmates, after all, and I've been without you for long enough," Yashiro purrs. 

Satoru blinks, and the shock that goes through him cools his system. The thought itself is revolting, and agreeing would seal his fate. Satoru's back warms at the idea, though, and some part of him finds it pleasant, feels happy and perhaps a little powerful. His own existence, enough to stop an infamous killer's murder spree? 

Satoru closes his eyes, pushing away whatever positive feelings he holds towards the idea. Where would you go? he thinks. How would that even work?

But he already knows that Yashiro has plans, ways of making Satoru disappear from here and reappear in a city far, far away. He feels sick at the thought of leaving his mother behind, of never seeing his friends again. Would it be worth it, if it meant he could save them? 

Of course. He'd already found his resolve, hadn't he? Heroes sacrifice themselves; that's why they're heroes. He goes over Yashiro's promise in his head, wondering if he really would stop killing if it meant he had Satoru in his hands. Outright trusting Yashiro would be stupid and reckless. The man has built his kingdom on lies, tossing one mask aside for another. What would one more lie to Satoru be if it meant he got what he really wanted?

Satoru decides to take a peek for himself. He ventures inside Yashiro's mind slowly, cautiously. 

What he sees has him recoiling. 

Yashiro will make Satoru disappear, will clean up after himself effortlessly. He'll play the role of grief-stricken teacher, then move onto the next city. This year is his last anyways, and he already has a job for another school lined up. It may take a year or two for Satoru's face to disappear from newspapers and milk cartons, but once the general public grow bored and forget, then perhaps his nephew will be able to move in with him and make a reappearance. 

And if Sachiko Fujinuma comes poking her nose where it's not wanted? Well, Yashiro has ways of taking care of her. The woman loves her son far too much, and she's sharper than most. Targeting her son would be far too much fuss, which was why Satoru hadn't made his list of potential victims in the first place. Yashiro resolves to shut her up early on, because dead women tell no tales and he won't let anyone take Satoru away from him. 

How stupid of forget what kind of monster he was bound to. 

"There is one thing that I saw earlier," Yashiro murmurs. He glances over to Satoru. "Your almost seemed as if - "

Satoru tugs at his seatbelt suddenly, trying to unfasten it. He yanks on it with all of his might, but it doesn't budge even the slightest. 

- they were from another time, an older person, Yashiro completes the thought over the bond. 

Satoru chooses to ignore it. He's seen what Yashiro has planned for him, knows that he has to think of something fast. Yashiro notices him struggling, and his brows lift. "There's no point, Satoru," the killer says calmly, quietly. "You won't be getting out of this car unless I let you." 

Satoru grits his teeth. "You planned this from the start then? I was the target. You wanted to kidnap me." 

"I didn't think you knew who I was, so I planned on revealing myself. I thought you would try to run away once I did, and I couldn't have that," Yashiro shrugs his shoulders. "This is simply fate, Satoru. There's no use running from it." 

Satoru glances out the window, sees the cool blue of the river before them. It stretches out, glittering in the dark moonlight, and it almost seems mocking. Satoru has never liked the water. He reaches up to tug at his seatbelt, see how far it can extend. He thinks he can make his move if he's quick enough, if the seatbelt doesn't catch and pull him back. He drags it out slowly, bit by bit, until he's sure he could lean over into Yashiro's space. 

Satoru doesn't get to think much about what he's going to do. They're on the bridge at this point, no other car in sight. Satoru does the only thing he can think, the only route left open to him at this point. He shoves himself forward and to the side, small hands reaching for the steering wheel, and he tugs

Yashiro is too shocked to wrestle it away from him in that moment, letting a sort of gasp as the car swerves, crashing into the frame of the bridge with a crackling crunch. Satoru's head pounds and his chest hurts, seatbelt snapping back into place against his tiny ribs. The car turns upside down, leaning over, over, over. The motion of it all was too quick, and now it's starting to flip, getting ready to dangle over the edge. 

"What are you doing?" Yashiro hisses. There's a cut on his face, blood trickling from his forehead and down one eye in the mockery of a tear. 

What have I done, Satoru corrects. 

It's fate now, ending sealed and set in stone. 

The car creaks and suddenly there's a ringing in Satoru's ears, so high-pitched it disappears and leaves a moment of silence. Then the car is falling, falling, falling and when it hits the water, Satoru feels his brain rock against his skull, black spots appearing in his eyes. He wants to laugh for some reason. He's scared, but he wants to laugh. 

"This is game over, Yashiro. You, and me," Satoru yells, repeating his soulmate's words yet again. He feels almost victorious. The water rushes in more quickly than he'd thought it would, ice cold and angry. He feels his chest tighten, the fear swallowing him whole. He hadn't really thought about this part. 

The dying part, that is. 

He'd only thought about stopping Yashiro, of taking something away from him. He'd thought it would be fine to die by Yashiro's side, to take down the big bad villain with him at least. That's what heroes did. That's what Satoru was going to do. If anything else, he'd be stripping Yashiro of another kill. This death would be on Satoru's terms. Yashiro could not claim him in every way. Satoru's birth - the red spiderweb on his back - that will always belong to Yashiro. But this never will.

"Little shit!" Yashiro swears, grabbing at his seatbelt as the water comes in. "How'd you do all of it? Any of it?" 

He says this frantically, what may be his last words. It feels like a waste to Satoru, who squeezes his eyes shut. He doesn't have the time to explain all of it, but he doesn't want everything to end just yet, wants to answer his soulmate in this at least. So he takes a deep breath, and right before the water rushes over his mouth, shouts.

"Yashiro, I've always known your future!" 

 It is the last thing he says. 

The water pours into his mouth, chokes him and fills his lungs.The cold is everywhere now, along with the water.  Huh. Weird. Satoru's getting tired. He doesn't tug at his seatbelt anymore, doesn't really remember what's gotten him so worked up. The fear is still there. But why? What was he doing? Where is he? All he knows is that he's cold and tired. A voice in his head tells him it would be better if he just went to sleep. Another voice tells him he has to stay awake, that he has to keep fighting because I just found you, after all this time, please you can't leave like this, Satoru! Don't leave me, don't leave me, don't leave me! 

There's something pressing on his chest. 

He ignores it, content to just fade away, to sink into the dark blue. 

But he can't. 

The red hot pain across his back won't let him.