The first thing she could remember was pain, a stinging, sharp pain just between her lungs. That horrible pressure was removed, yet at the same time, she felt hot…incredibly hot. She struggled against the unwanted touch, prying herself away from the bright lights. She withered in agony, screaming for someone, anyone, to come to her aid. Her nails gripped the dirt, ripping away the ash beside her, before, at last, trying to seek out anyone nearby, while groping her surroundings for an object to take out her frustrations on.

She felt something sharp. Was this the source? Without thinking, she tugged at the thing, forcing it out of her body with perfect ease. She screamed agonizingly, though her tears no longer flowed. Why? Her body was recovering, wasn't it? She could feel its veins connecting themselves, the organs filling the hole with her cold blood. In fact, it was such a relaxing sensation that she dared not move, for fear the pain would return.

Something consumed her, and disintegrated everything that was within her grasp. The young woman realized she had no strength left; all ambition left her. She couldn't move, couldn't even screech. And she lost conscious after that.

The next thing Megumi saw were ashes. She struggled to get up, her eyes trying to rearrange themselves. Her hands clutched her sockets, and it took some time before she could see again. She blinked, the bright, ghostly moon shining above her. She stared at it for a bit, disoriented by the ghoulish light, as she sat up, slowly looking around.

She took in her ruined, Gothic dress. A velvet, purple bodice wrapped itself tightly around her. Her corpse-like skin housed a marvelous array of burns, most of which were healing quite splendidly, and aside for the pieces of black thorns that fell from her hair, she appeared lovely, beautiful even. Her hands flew to her pigtails, ensuring they were still in their place, before getting up and brushing the ash from her dress.

Megumi slowly shifted through the scene, finding the remnants of those irritating memories. That's right, she slowly realized. The villagers, those idiots almost killed her.

She lifted both arms in front of her eyes, before breathing a relieved sigh. Her fingers caressed her face, reminded of the pressure she felt during that rampage. A tire was what crushed it. They trapped her by destroying her arm, and when she told them that cold, harsh truth, they silenced her by pressing her head.

"Stupid," she muttered. She cleaned herself off angrily, their faces ingrained in her mind. "Stupid, so stupid, so stupid." Faces that used to laugh at her. "So stupid!"

Faces that practically enjoyed her death. "Stupid!"

Faces she'll never see again. "SO STUPID!"

No one answered back, as she expected. But she immediately became aware of the silence, and straightened her bones. There was no creature around her, living or dead, and from the look of things, Megumi only had to turn around and walk away from the little abyss, to the direction of the bright, shinning city. She could imagine it all; the glamorous lights, the variety of shops, the different people…it was heavenly.

Happily, she turned and started walking, taking in the wondrous sight of decay. Most of the trees were blackened, with only the dried, pitiful leaves clinging to their unstable branches. The dirt had been overcome with grass, and in the distance, she no longer saw the idiotic village she once knew; how could she, when it was burnt to the ground?

Megumi never thought of anything else. She grew excited over her seemingly insignificant wish, and threw her arms in the air. "You're all dead!" she laughed maniacally. "See?! The only strange ones here are you!" She howled with delicious glee, and did so until her stomach hurt. "If only you were just a bit cooler, maybe then you would've been spared." And with that, she turned her heel and left for Tokyo.

A deep groan arose from a far off pit. A pair of dark, purple eyes kept glancing around in the darkness, examining the now cremated corpses. Inside the pit, a young man arose from the ashes, endeavoring to sit up as he tried determining where what'd happened, where he was.

He gazed at his hands. They were pale, and shined in the darkness, though it could've been just the light above. His fingers scratched his purple hair, the yellow jacket clinging to his body, which was soaked with the ground's moisture. All around him, skulls, bodies, flesh that had not yet decayed, were still there, burned by the supposed suicide bomb he set off. He could see the organs, most of which have spewed out of their bodies, as well as the limbs that seemed to have strayed from their own sources.

Natsuno's eyes widened with disbelief. It wasn't possible…it just wasn't possible. The bomb definitely went off; he could feel the heat radiating from his face. His body tore at the seams, shattering into a million pieces as he confined himself to death. He knew he burnt under the flames, but why? Why had he survived? Even Tatsumi, whom he dragged with him, was nowhere to be found. He groped his body, checking for any fatal injuries he could utilize to finish the job. None.

His breathing became harder as he stood, staring at the destruction within him. It was so disgusting, so horrifying he had to steady himself on the dirt walls. Carefully, he blinked out the rays, astonished at how warm they were. He looked up, the blue skies ahead of him; it beckoned him without much effort. Natsuno casted a reluctance glance at the ashes below him, before straining to climb out of the pit. It was starting to smell down there anyways.

It took a while, but at last, he managed to come up. He was almost completely blind, possibly due to the darkness below, but he could still make out the shapes and forms of what used to be Sotoba.

The devastation was immense. Though he was greatly weakened, Natsuno could smell the fresh bodies, the forest from the aftermath of the bloodshed. There were many shiki decaying underground, and for those unfortunate enough to have been left on the surface, they were already cremated. He rubbed his eyes, and forced his pupils to focus. The area took form, and before he knew it, he started walking, gazing at the endless destruction he never meant to cause.

There was nothing left, albeit a piece of wood here and there. Kudzu vines have already overtaken a majority of the village, and weeds have infested the once plentiful herbal gardens. The small shops are now desolate, covered with corpses and broken glass. He wasn't sure what he walked under, as he simply kicked it away, calling it "junk" in the process. He couldn't block out the emotion, however; was his dad safe? What about Kaori and Akira? Did they get caught up in all of this? No, they couldn't have; he made sure of it.

Natsuno stopped when he was sure he was at the center of the village. He remembered that the rest of the villagers here, plotting their next move. As he recalled, the last thing they were discussing were the potential hiding places of the shiki, as well as their potential allies, and he couldn't help but laugh. To think that the kind Dr. Toshio would fall to such depravity, even after all the compassion he showed for his formerly dead patients. It appears that the war truly oozed with a bittersweet irony.

The sun kept beating down on him. His body was dry, and his tongue was parched. That's right; he needed to feed, else he would die. But it'd be nice, to merely starve himself to death, to not move a muscle and let Sotoba be his grave, as it originally was.

Something inside him did not sit well with the idea.

He'd always wanted to get out of the village. Everyone just sat there, labeling each other with stereotypes. What was more ridiculous was how they expected each other to go along with the idea, without so much as an argument. It irritated him to no end, and he desired nothing more than to leave. The sight of his insane father was what held him back; even after he became a jinrou, those feelings never faded.

He balled his fists. Everyone was dead; the people who would recognize him were gone, and the remaining survivors were probably scattered somewhere, lost in the tides of the world. He was in no danger…at least, not right away. He cursed at his own indecisiveness; would he be a hypocrite if he continued living, even after all the lives he'd taken? Was it fair to remain unscathed, while everything he'd known evaporated before his eyes? Should he even be living?

For some reason, despite these thoughts, he wasn't crying. Natsuno never cared much for that kind of thing. He looked back at Sotoba one more time; there was no doubt he hated it here, but there were good moments too. He was supposed to help Tooru out with a girl, take her out for a drive. His father had come here to spend more time with his family, and in truth, he did…somewhat. Their "family time" involved Natsuno studying either in his room or at Tooru's; he didn't like his parents fawning over him.

He never thought he'd regret his own neglect.

He took a deep breath and stared up, a determined look in his eyes. Tooru…though it may have been pointless, Natsuno wanted to get along with his friend; the creature that night behaved too much like his best friend after all. And besides, it was too painful to say just a simple goodbye. He started to walk again.

There had to be something he could do. Shiki and humans can't fight like this forever, else they drag each other to arms of hell. They could coexist with one another, without taking lives, without the blood. He knew it was idealistic, yet wasn't that the answer people were looking for? If they just did that, would it have been possible to avoid this tragedy altogether? His mind wrestled with these questions as he stepped over the ash and onto the grass. That's right; they were in the middle of summer when the slaughter began.

"Where now?" he asked himself. Well, he did move here from Tokyo…