T/N: The Jyūhasshiryaku, officially translated as ‘Epitome of Eighteen Histories’ in this case and also known as ‘Eighteen Histories in Brief/Eighteen Short Histories’ is an old work that chronicles China history. Compared to China, it is actually more influential in Japan, where the translation is a standard reading for Japanese people learning Chinese history.
Content warning: Brief mention of domestic violence.
Epitome of Eighteen Histories 1
Kishitani Shinra Episode
This is a story about the past.
A story of twisted history.
About 15 years ago. Kawagoe Highway. Shinra’s apartment.
One day, when Shinra Kishitani was still in elementary school.
When he reached home, Celty Sturluson, who lived with him, was standing at the door.
‘Welcome back, Shinra.’
“I’m home! Celty!”
The boy replied with a childlike enthusiasm to the woman, who had shown him her words on a notebook.
On first sight, it was simply a conversation between a boy and a woman who for some reason could not speak, but there was one thing that would leave any onlooker deeply disturbed.
There was nothing above the woman’s neck but black, wisping shadows; she was missing not only a voice, but her entire head.
But the boy, without a modicum of fear, ran to her bosom.
“Thank goodness! You’re still here today!”
‘Of course I am.’
“I was so worried you might’ve suddenly decided to go back to Ireland…”
‘What are you saying now. All right, don’t dally, get your contact book* out and go wash your hands.’
(*Renraku-chō: a notebook passed between teachers and parents for correspondence such as announcements.)
Celty redirected the boy in her arms towards the washroom.
‘Don’t forget to rinse your mouth.’
“Ehehe, I won’t! I’ll even rinse out my nose! So praise me moreuwabu.”
Shinra said gleefully; Celty interrupted him with another push with her shadows and shut the door firmly behind him.
—Dammit, he’s definitely attached to me.
—How did this happen… Does this mean he’s as twisted as his father?
If his classmates see him interacting with a headless monster so casually, he might end up bullied.
Bullying would be the least of their worries should she, a headless woman, be seen; it only showed that Celty’s understanding of human society was yet imperfect.
—Even so, it’s been a some years since he’s said things like that…
—Did something happen?
Thinking this, Celty put down his schoolbag and brought out his contact book. As she did so, a form fluttered out from between the pages.
She caught it instinctively and took a look, seeing the following:
Dear Parents & Guardians, Notice for Lesson Observation Session
—Ah, I see, elementary schools have this.
—I see… So that’s why Shinra said it again, after so long.
Shinra’s father, Kishitani Shingen, was not the most normal person, and even if he were, he was the kind of man that disappeared from their home half the time for work. Apparently he and Shinra’s mother Kaname were divorced; Celty had never even seen the woman before.
Celty did the household chores like a domestic helper, but there was no way she could go see Shinra’s lessons like she was his mother.
Even if Shingen were around right now, if such an oddball were to visit Shinra’s school, Shinra would probably end up bullied.
Celty slumped at this train of thought.
—I’m sorry, Shinra. I can’t replace your mother.
—But you can’t hate her. With your father like that, a divorce is no surprise.
—Wait, why did she marry such a weird guy in the first place?
—…Would humans call this a moment of madness?
‘Being human is tough too,’ Celty mused, sympathising with Shinra’s mother, who she had never met, when suddenly the thought struck her. ‘It never bothered me before, but why hasn’t Shinra’s mother come to visit him at all?’
Divorced or not, she was his parent. The fact that she had never visited implied that she had parted with Shingen on hostile terms, or had other limitations; perhaps she was sick, or living far away.
— Sigh. For all Shinra is her son, maybe she can’t stand that he’s Shingen’s son as well… They’re family, so it would be nice if it weren’t something so sad.
From Shingen’s one-sided account, apparently Shinra’s mother was still alive.
—It feels bad to probe about their family issues, but surely Shinra wants his parents to attend his lesson observation.
Celty, having learnt about human society from drama serials and books, had a strong impression of the parent-child bond she saw on television.
Due to that she had made the sweeping generalisation that Shinra, the central party, would want to meet his parents.
In other words, she had yet to realise.
That sweeping generalisations had many exceptions when it came to humans, and—
That the perspective of love the boy Kishitani Shinra had was somewhat different from most humans.
Shinra’s apartment. Traditional-style room.
With Shingen gone for the time being, Celty had the traditional-style room all to herself.
Shingen’s luggage and belongings were shoved in a corner.
Remembering that there was something like a diary in the pile, after checking that Shinra was asleep, Celty took a peek.
—I feel bad reading someone else’s journal, but…
—Eh, it’s to find out more about your wife. Forgive me, you weirdo.
Apologising to Shingen in her heart, Celty took the padlocked journal into her hands.
She fed her shadow into the keyhole and picked open the lock; only to discover the shocking news within the journal.
There, Shingen’s script documented several events.
—’My wife was not a good mother to our son.’
—’She would always have violent mood swings before our child. I don’t know if it was a mental illness or a born inclination. But she could be hugging our son with a smile on her face one moment, and a few seconds later she would shove him to the floor with angry eyes, and then the next moment she would be sobbing like a child.’
—’I was at my limit. Even as a young child, our son might have perfected the art of reading emotions, but I could not respond to my wife as skilfully. Nay; even if I could, our son was always covered in bruises. I could not bear it.’
—’Maybe that is why he is so taken with the Headless Rider.’
—’Because he need not read any facial expression. He can indulge himself without trembling before a stern gaze. A mother figure like that must be the utmost treasure to a child.’
Having read thus far Celty closed the journal, and returned it to the pile.
—So that’s how it is…
—So Shinra had such a hard time before I came…
Celty felt heat in her chest, her chest with no heart, no blood. Determined, she headed towards the bookshelf in the dining room.
To take another look at the notice for the lesson observation.
The next week. Lesson Observation Day.
It was fifth period for the elementary schoolers.
The parents and guardians were lined up at the back of the class, making the children restless.
Shinra, carefree as ever despite the atmosphere, asked his friend seated diagonally in front of him,
“Where are your parents, Shizuo-kun?”
The black-haired boy he had called to—Heiwajima Shizuo—answered boredly.
“They went to see Kasuka.”
“Ah, Kasuka’s smart unlike you, so they must’ve wanted to see their child getting praise.”
“Don’t make me mad.”
Shizuo glared at Shinra, but his anger was dispersed by the noise around them.
Shinra and Shizuo looked into the corridor, seeing a suspicious figure.
She was in full black as though garbed for a funeral, and wore a sunhat of the same pitch-black. On top of that she was wearing sunglasses and a mask, and long black hair concealed the rest of her face, completing the strange look.
It appeared that she had been about to enter the class before being caught by the staff passing by, and she was now surrounded by teachers.
Shizuo tilted his head at the unfamiliar name, but instead of replying, regardless that they were in the middle of a lesson, Shinra stood from his seat and went out into the corridor.
“Oi, Kishitani, what’s wrong?”
The teacher asked, and Shinra said.
But rather than a reply, his words were directed to the staff in the corridor,
“Ah, sorry! She’s from my family!”
The crowd of teachers looked at him with surprise, and he continued,
“She had a throat surgery a while ago… She can’t talk right now.”
Hearing that, the teachers hurriedly apologised to the suspicious figure.
“Oh, so sorry…! This way, please!”
And with the teachers’ one-sided assumption that Celty was probably his mother or sister—family, at any rate—a strange black silhouette took its place at the back of the classroom.
“…That’s your family member?”
In answer to Shizuo, Shinra’s face coloured, and, happily, happily, he replied.
Evening. Shinra’s apartment.
“Celty! Thank you!”
Once home, Shinra flew to Celty’s bosom and hugged her tight.
It was not in a perverse way; simply the way a child would cling to a parent.
‘No, I should be apologising… I just made trouble for you in the end…’
Just as Shinra made as to refute that—
Another man’s voice came from behind them.
“What a horrid idea, Celty-kun; bluffing with a mannequin’s head? Just one slip and you could’ve been taken for a suspicious intruder, or entered the headlines as a global-scale discovery!”
‘Geh, Shingen! You’re back?!’
Celty wrote the words with obvious dislike, to which Shingen puffed out his chest.
“Fufufu, the ‘S’ in Shingen stands for Spectre; you shouldn’t be surprised, hm?”
‘The kanji is different. But wait, does that mean you went to the school too?’
“Hmph, I was stopped at the gate. How is it you managed to infiltrate the campus instead?!”
Ignoring the cries of Shingen, who had the unusual habit of wearing a pure-white gas mask, Celty softly pat the head of Shinra, who was clinging to her still.
‘I’m sorry I tried to take on a mother’s role. I even embarassed you.’
“No way. I don’t even remember much about my mom.”
‘Oh… I see. Bad things don’t need remembering, anyway.’
Shinra tilted his head. Hastily, Celty wrote on the notebook,
‘Ah… I mean… I’m sorry. It was nothing.’
“Celty-kun. Could this be about… Shinra’s mother having mood swings and pushing him to the floor?!”
‘Don’t talk about it! Who would say that in front of the victim?’
Celty panicked, but Shingen paid no heed as, trembling, he cried out,
“You… youyouyou read it! You! What have you done! Damn it… To read the story I wrote in a padlocked journal, have you no heart or soul! You monster!”
‘Ah, I’m sorry about that…’
Celty wrote on the notepad, before startling, and asking Shingen,
“A story indeed! It was a story I started in my journal with my life with Shinra and you as the models; I was planning to get a mountain of awards, too!”
‘So that was all fiction?!’
“I wouldn’t have gone anywhere near a woman that unstable in the first place!”
‘Th, then, why divorce?’
Upon being asked, Shingen averted his eyes behind the gas mask, and mumbling more muffledly than ever, replied.
“You can’t say spending all our living expenses on antiques* is letting down my son, it’s not that important, right. It’s all in the past…”
(*Reference to Saika.)
‘There’s no excuse!’
After Shingen had fled the apartment in embarassment, Celty wrote on the notebook, with an air of weariness,
‘I don’t know about your mother, but are you really fine with that sort of father?’
“Maybe? Children don’t choose their parents. I don’t really know.”
‘That’s a wise thing to say.’
“I’ve chosen my bride already, though.”
Unable to understand, Celty went back to their initial subject instead.
‘Anyway, parental observation is hard on the observer, too.’
“No, that wasn’t parental* observation.”
(*The term used is written as ‘father and older brother’.)
‘Oh, you mean mother’s observation?’
Celty wrote, but Shinra shook his head vehemently and said,
“I’m going to marry you, Celty! So today was fiancée observation day!”
‘O, oi! You’re too young to say things like that!’
Celty wrote hurriedly, before she punched him, softly, on the head.
“Can I take that as proof of our engagement?”
‘Yeah yeah. I’ll make your ‘kiss’ of marriage hurt much worse.’
Celty, interpreting it as a child’s joke, humoured him.
Not knowing that little joke would seal their vows more than 10 years later.
This is a story of the past.
A story of twisted past.
Just as the district of Ikebukuro has its past, so do people.
And the past never fails to connect to the future.
Even if it takes a winding path between.
A few days later—Shinra was on the way to school from the apartment.
Eyes watched him from the inside of a car parked on the curb.
“Ah, he looks well, that’s good. I hope he doesn’t grow up twisted like Shingen.”
“Who is that, Mama?”
Asking her mother in the front seat was a little girl, perhaps four or five, pressing her hands and forehead to the window.
“That’s Shinra. Kishitani Shinra.”
The youthfully-dressed woman pushed up her sunglasses, smiling at Shinra as he walked past—and turned that same smile to her daughter in the back seat.
“He’s your big brother, so you have to remember him, okay, Kazane?”
And so the past weaves into the future.
To the footsteps of Kinomiya Kazane; Kishitani Shinra’s sister of a different father.