Zombie Kiss Vol.3 [Ch.2 Verdict] 4

4

 

Lilith did not even know how she got home.

She came back to her senses when her grandmother shook her shoulders frantically, since her granddaughter had been doing nothing but spacing out. Lilith was pale and her hands were trembling, and it appeared as if she could faint any moment. To top it off, she was covered in blood.

But because her grandmother knew Lilith well, she did not press for answers. She understood and waited for Lilith to open up. That night, Lilith asked to sleep in the same room as her grandmother, but was too afraid to sleep from fear of that darkness…

A darkness like a bottomless pit…

The darkness inside A—

“Lilith…”

Jorn’s voice called her back to reality. The young woman turned to face her upperclassman and gave him a sheepish smile.

“E-Excuse me…what did you say…?”

“Lilith, you’re acting strange today. Are you alright?”

“Eh…Uh….N…No, I’m fine, like always.”

Jorn shook his head to Lilith who laughed dryly.

“If so…then why’re you sitting at the head of the table…?”

“Ah…”

His words made Lilith look around the committee room. Students were waiting for members to arrive for a meeting about the Petition Box, and Lilith’s eyes stopped at a spot.

The empty chair that was hers… a man was sitting next to it.

Ariya…

“Um…Jorn.”

Lilith said, still looking down. Her voice trailed off hesitantly, but she decided to come out with it.

“Do you think people who are very different can become friends?”

Her question made Jorn furrow his brows, so she elaborated.

“F…For example…Ariya and Vakin.”

“Gee, you’re still thinking about what Vich said yesterday? Don’t dwell on it too much. It’s just one of Vich’s wild talk. I agree with you that someone like Ariya cannot be friends with Vakin.” Jorn’s large hand stroked Lilith’s head. “Only a maniac can befriend a maniac like Vakin.”

But his words made Lilith even more pained.

Just yesterday, she believed in the same thing as Jorn without the slightest doubt.

Believed…that Ariya was a ‘good person’.

And now she knew everything was a lie.

What should she do now?

Beep…

Jorn’s ringtone cut Lilith’s train of thoughts. She raised her head and saw his face change color as he took the call. When she opened her mouth to ask what it was about, all mobile phones present in the committee room rang in unison, like a coordinated attack.

“There’s a fire…at the Faculty of Engineering’s parking lot.”

The room burst into whispers, many dashed to the windows and pointed at the plumes of smoke far away.

Was it the Shadow Vigilante again…?

But…it could be an accident.

Lilith thought and felt guilty. If possible, she wanted to have solid proof, but she shouldn’t stay quiet and do nothing.

“Jorn…”

“Jorn, what about the petitions for this week?”

A familiar voice from behind froze Lilith to the spot.

“Oh, sorry, Ariya. Could you handle them like usual?”

After he finished the sentence, he turned to face Lilith.

“By the way…were you saying something to me?”

Lilith and Ariya’s eyes met for a moment. Cold sweat ran down her back, and she swallowed her words.

“N-nothing…It’s nothing…Jorn.”

…………

The fire in the parking lot resulted from small bombs hidden under some cars. Luckily, no one was injured. Four or five cars were damaged from the bombs underneath. It was said that the culprit used his or her phone as the trigger, since a prepaid phone was left nearby. The police would use it to find the culprit.

The students were sure that it was the Shadow Vigilante, while the police and professors had their doubts, because this Shadow Vigilante had never been so aggressive.

However, this event caused Lilith great anxiety and she could not sleep. It is accurate to say that since that day, she never slept peacefully. In the end she got up, got dressed, and head to university bright and early.

There was one person she must talk to no matter what.

Lilith passed faculty buildings on a white pathway connecting them, heading towards the west side in a rush.

Then, she met who she was looking for.

A tall man who always wore a lab coat although it was not class time until it became his signature.

“What are you doing so early in the morning, Vakin?”

Lilith called out. Yesterday in the fire, she saw Vakin among the crowd. His eyes were set on the ruckus and gleamed with amusement from other’s troubles.

Lilith had a feeling he knew something.

“If I’m at a university, I’m here to study, duh.”

He answered without slowing his pace or turning around.

“If you’re truly here to study, you should stop what you are going to do.” Lilith talked to his back. “Those experiments are not right.”

“Why are you telling me that?”

“…Huh?”

“If it’s not right, tell the professors. Why are you telling me? Just run to them and spit out the whole story. They’ll expel me straight away.”

“But…but even if I said so, who’d believe Ariya is in it too?”

“You sure…?”

Vakin stopped and turned around to face Lilith.

“The ones who will not believe that are the professors? Or…you?”

Lilith moved her mouth but wasn’t able to say a word.

It was a simple question, but she could not answer it.

Before, she would answer without hesitation, but now she couldn’t even meet Ariya’s eyes.

“People are strange. The truth is right in front of them yet they chose to only look at the shell of lies.”

His words pierced deep, felt like pouring salt on an open wound.

“People’s core are dirty with sins. Some people only have smudges that can be wiped off, but for some, it runs deep, like an endless black hole. No matter how hard you look, you will find nothing.”

Lilith felt cornered. She looked down and did not answer.

What he said was right, but…

 

“What are you two doing?”

Jorn’s strict voice pulled Lilith back to reality. When she looked up, she saw Jorn standing between her and Vakin.

“Any business with a committee member, Vakin?”

Vakin went quiet, his cold eyes stared at Jorn for a while. She saw a smirk tugged his lips, before Vakin turned around with an apathetic face like always.

Lilith watched his back with uneasiness.

“Are you okay, Lilith? Did that guy do something?”

“N…No, Jorn. He didn’t do anything…really.”

The upperclassman stared at Lilith before sighing.

“Good that he didn’t do something to you. Don’t make me worry. You’re acting kind of strange lately, Lilith.”

Lilith nodded. He was right. She felt it too.

“I may seem strict in your eyes, but to me, everyone in the committee are like my siblings and cousins. If there’s something you want to talk about, I can at least be there to listen to you.”

To her, Jorn was like a big brother. She heard that his parents divorced when he was young, and he had to stay at his cousin’s house. Her parents also divorced.

Because of their similar childhood, he was especially kind and understanding of her.

A warm hand placed on her shoulders made Lilith feel guilty.

“Jorn, can I ask you a question? If one day, I did something very wrong, like… murder someone, or got addicted to drugs, what will you do?”

Jorn was confused and thought about it.

“Um, according to the law, wrong is wrong.”

That’s right…it had to be like that.

“But because it’s Lilith…I might forgive you once.”

Jorn’s answer called for another question.

“Forgive me once?”

“If you can change, you can start over.”

His words brought back memories.

Just as Vakin said, Lilith was a normal person who only liked to see the bright side of the world, so there was no way she could understand the darkness inside Ariya. But…

What was this self-hatred?

The question lingered in her mind until Jorn mentioned something, and she found an answer.

It was the same feeling when her parents divorced. Lilith could only watch without being able to do anything, because she was a small child.

I hated myself for being a child who could do nothing.

And now, will I just stand by and watch, just like that time?

 

“Thank you, Jorn.”

She knew what she had to do.

Lilith said goodbye, and head to the west side.

Nobody was in the abandoned building, although she didn’t check inside she was quite certain. It was dark even if it’s daytime. There was no morning lecture today, and seeing Vakin a while ago was a stroke of luck. Still, she couldn’t guess when she will meet Ariya.

Thinking back, she realized she knew almost nothing about Ariya, be it hobbies, favorite books, music, or place. She knew nothing about him other than what was needed to know.

Lilith thought about it as she waited for Ariya until it was almost time for her afternoon lecture, but there was no trace of him. She tried the committee room, hoping he might stop by.

But when she opened the door, emptiness greeted her.

On a white table, where Ariya liked to sit, was a box with selected petitions. A petition from the other day was still there.

‘There are not enough space to park bikes, because cars took up all of them.’

“Eh…?”

The fire yesterday, only the cars were affected.

Lilith thought back to the beginning of this ‘Shadow Vigilante’ case. There were coincidences, but often times it seemed almost intentional.

Many petitions awaited solutions: the pigeon problem where people are still waiting on whether putting up nets will work, the out-of-date computers that still needed funding, the lab equipments that went missing because the students or professors often misplaced them…

All of those were fixed by the Shadow Vigilante.

Although his methods were extreme, they worked, because the university bought the latest computers and the Faculty of Science imposed strict rules on using lab equipments.

The culprit was someone from the committee? She remembered many people who talked about poisoning the pigeons as a solution.

No…we didn’t have a meeting about parking space yesterday. The only people who knew about that petition were her, Jorn, Vich, and Ariya who was in charge.

The phone used to trigger the bombs were in the scene, but everyone was in this room. How could they possibly trigger the bombs?

Wait…what about Vakin? Ariya might be working with him. Let others think there is one culprit while in truth there are two, and let those two vouch for one another. They could easily get off from the suspect list.

She felt lost. The more she tried to think that he wasn’t the culprit, the more evidence that indicated he was the culprit popped up.

So Ariya is the real Shadow Vigilante…?

 

“Any business with my desk?”

A call from behind jerked Lilith, while the owner of that voice did not seem to care. He reached past her and picked up documents on the desk.

“Wha…what does this mean, Ariya?”

Lilith handed him the petition, her eyes casted down. She thought of confronting him directly, but when the time came, she felt weak.

“The petitions matched with the Shadow Vigilante’s doings. Why? Coincidences? Explain.”

“No matter what I say, Lilith, you will not believe me anyway.”

“Y…Yes I will. We are friends.”

“It is alright. Do not force yourself to say it when you do not mean it.”

Lilith could not see his face, but she felt that he had a gentle expression, like he was consoling her.

“Humans judge from the shell. Lilith is not the only one, but all people are, so… do not force yourself to be my friend.”

Yes, I am just a normal person, but…

 

Confusion stirred in her heart.

Like a swished glass of water with soot inside.

Silence hung around, before the man moved to walk away, but in that moment…

Lilith’s small hand yanked Ariya’s collar with all her strength.

“Who’s the one who only judges people from their shell!?!”

Anger boiled in her chest and burst into hurtful words.

“If I’m really someone who judges others only from their shell, then someone like you who hides in that shell all the time, has no rights to say that!!! If you showed your real self and I don’t accept you, it’s one thing. I’m just surprised by your sudden change, but it’s not that I won’t accept you for who you are!!! Don’t judge people at your leisure!!!”

Lilith stared into those eyes. For a second, she saw mild surprise, like a crack on a mask.

“Don’t just assume that I can’t be your friend, Ariya!”

Lilith finally understood the root of her confusion.

She didn’t fear confronting Ariya.

But he…was similar to Kanya.

Similar…to all those other people who called her ‘Saint Lilith.’

It was a feeling of loneliness.

I thought they were friends, but they never really trusted me.

In the end, I was the only one who believed in our friendship.

 

“I understand…” Ariya sighed and took the slender hands that grabbed his collar, then placed something in them.

“You might be the perfect person who will make a decision on this.”

On her hands was a simple, neatly-folded petition.

As soon as she read it, she went pale.

She dashed out of the room and saw Vakin, leaning on a wall. Their eyes met.

But, Lilith chose to continue running.

Vakin entered the room, his apathetic eyes were slightly tinted with surprise in the other party’s action.

“Why did you show her the petition?”

“Well? Do you not think that if something unexpected happens, this story will be even more fun?”

Ariya’s lips drew into a smile, but he did not appear to be having fun at all.

“And…I am just a bit startled…”

His smile dissipate into a cold expression.

“Before, she could not even meet my eyes, but today, why did she stare at me with those unwavering gaze?”

Vakin cocked an eyebrow, and turned his face to the direction where Lilith went.

As Ariya read the petition Lilith dropped…

‘That committee member with a pin is a bastard, using his position to impose on other people…’

 

………………….

Lilith contacted the two upperclassmen, but nobody answered.

The latest petition would be ‘fixed’ soon.

There are only two member with the student committee pins.

The president and the vice president.

Jorn and Vich…

But who was the target?

In the petition, the message was ‘that member’, which is singular, but who was ‘that member’?

Lilith headed to warn them, but because they were in different faculties, she needed to choose who to warn first.

Was this the decision Ariya asked her to make?

If she chose one person, the other would…

Fear turned to disgust, and in that second Lilith found one of the people she was looking for.

“Vich!”

Vich stood beside his motorcycle, with a helmet fastened to his head.

“Can it be later, Lilith? I’m in a rush.”

“Well…”

“Sorry, I need to do something for Jorn. Actually, it’s Ariya’s job, but he has an afternoon class so Jorn asked me to do it instead.”

Lilith felt shocked as soon as she heard the name.

Maybe…the target was Vich?

“Vich, don’t go! You’re in danger!”

“Huh?! What are you saying? I’m just going to buy some materials to make signboards. How can it be dangerous? If I don’t go, Jorn will kill me. That’s the real danger.”

“But…”

Vich got on his motorcycle and started the engine. If she told the whole story, she wouldn’t make it in time.

“Then…I’m going too.”

Lilith saddled herself behind him without asking for permission.

“What are you saying? Why do you want to go?”

“Well…it’s faster with two people.”

Lilith smiled and made up excuses, while Vich was confused but went with it anyway.

As the motorcycle glided along, wind slapped into Lilith’s face. Her hair covered her vision. Students were attending lectures, so the road was clear, and Vich drove at top speed. Lilith asked him to slow down.

Suddenly, Vich cried out in panic.

“Hey!!! Why is the brake not working?!?”

The motorcycle wobbled out of control.

It went off the left with horrifying speed. Lilith screamed and clutched Vich for dear life, and tried to calm her mind.

Think, Lilith. What should we do in this situation!?!

“The gear, Vich! Change the gear, quickly!!!”

“Gear…? Oh, yes, right, the gear…”

He mumbled like a goner, and decreased the gear to gain balance, but it was not so easy.

An electric pole stood where they’re heading.

Fifty meters, and they would crash…

But Vich was frozen solid. His panic was too strong he could not do a thing.

The electric pole got nearer…

“Vich!!! Vich, hold yourself together!!!”

The motorcycle accelerated towards the cement pole.

“Hmph! Here goes nothing!”

Lilith held her breath, arms fastened around Vich, and bumped sideways along with a loud crash, as if the ground was crumbling.

That was the last thing Lilith heard before she fainted.

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