There’s three special stories in the Data File that talks about everyone’s pasts: Makabe and Kurusu are paired, then Suou and Sena, and then Arlen alone. I translated Arlen’s story here because it is so well written and critical to his character (gets me like no tomorrow too). Please enjoy!
Note1: Arlen and Gilles both speak in English (and Arlen actually speaks Latin at one point), so I’ll be denoting that with 『』 brackets.
I could hear a song. A nostalgic singing voice.
I desperately chased after him as he happily sang those cruel lyrics.
I finally caught up to him when he stopped singing. He turned around and our eyes met.
It was like looking into a mirror—
『My mother has killed me, my father is eating me—』
“Mother Goose, isn’t it?”
I suddenly came back to myself at that voice. It seemed I was unconsciously humming the song in that dream.
“Killed by his stepmother, eaten by his father, and his bones picked up under the table by his sister and buried… was it? Despite the grotesque lyrics, it seems to be a song heard by children. Were your parents that scary?”
I cast my eyes over as I sat on the sofa by the window and saw that Gilles had just come to deliver the previous day’s report as usual.
“Not at all. My mother is British, and so I am deeply familiar with Mother Goose and Shakespeare since I was young, that’s all. I heard many songs instead of picture books. I just remembered it and hummed it.”
To be exact, it wasn’t me but him though. I added this in my heart while Gilles gave a surprised laugh.
“You had an innocent period like that too, huh.”
“Ah, I apologize if I offended you.”
“No… I think it’s a fitting expression.”
My eyes slightly narrowed. Yes, it was impossible to describe the person called Arlen Clive more precisely than the word innocence.
Arlen, who was born to this world as my younger twin, completely lacked what one would call evil intentions. His principle was just to pursue his own pleasure single-mindedly, and he had no general concept of good and evil. If his desires weren’t satisfied then, going with his impulses, he would get angry, be violent, and destroy things. To him, pleasure itself was right and displeasure was evil.
His cruelty because of his innocence was similar to how a child would tear off the wings of a butterfly out of curiosity. However, that nature was seen as being wicked in the eyes of adults, beginning with our parents, and his fate was decisively separated from that of a child who should have been loved.
Stealing candy and donuts, making the girl next door cry because she didn’t do what he wanted, and kicking a car that blocked his way were all actions demanded by his instincts and he wasn’t able to understand what was wrong with that.
Every time Arlen was scolded by adults without understanding the meaning, he would hum that Mother Goose song by himself. Perhaps that was an expression of sadness in his own way, but the adults would insist on furrowing their brows at that time. They would wonder how he could be so different from his older twin and how he couldn’t even reflect on his actions.
There were also people among them who tried to separate Arlen and me, but I refused to leave his side.
For the adults, my actions seemed to be another matter they suffered to understand.
“Gilles, let’s say there is a mirror. One large enough to reflect your entire body. However, when you stand in front of it, there is one point that won’t be reflected no matter what. Why do you think that is?”
Gilles, who was arranging the documents on the table, showed a somewhat confused look. It was a natural response, since this question was suddenly thrown at him.
“Let’s see… because it’s dirty?”
“It’s broken then?”
“It’s not broken either.”
“I can only think that the mirror was already broken to begin with. If it was me, I would buy a new one to replace it.”
My mouth twisted at the answer that I expected for the most part. Gilles gave a wry smile.
“It seems like that isn’t the answer you’re searching for.”
“That’s right. It can’t be answered by anyone in this world.”
Gilles’ fixed gaze turned to something suspicious. It seemed better to release him soon.
“You may leave now. Prepare the car. We’re leaving in forty-five minutes.”
It was unnecessary to inquire any further. Maybe he guessed that, because Gilles gave a bow and left the room.
“… Yes, no one can find the answer. Other than him and I.”
My monologue fell down in the large living room. Like I did to Gilles, when was it that I was asked this by Arlen—?
“There’s a mirror the same height as me. But, no matter what, it won’t reflect one point. D’you know why?”
They were in a dim garage. Arlen stood in front of a broken old mirror.
“Because it’s fogged up?”
“That’s also wrong.”
“Then… because that mirror is ‘me’?”
Arlen slowly looked over at me.
“Righto. Of course my brother would get it.”
It was an unusually lively voice. His entire face split into a grin as if he was unbearably happy.
“Hey, how’d you know?”
“Because you also look like that to me.”
A smile naturally spilled out when I traced my words as a child. Strangely, at that time we shared the same feelings. Even though our appearance were like mirrors, there was just one part of each other that was blurred and couldn’t be seen, as if it was fogged over. There was no way of knowing why at that time, but it was because of this that Arlen and I were always together. It was a secret that only we had in this world. It brought about an inexplicable bond that was stronger than a blood connection.
It was a long time after that where I somehow understood the body of that feeling. The thing Arlen and I couldn’t see. It was our complete contrasting characters.
I was born lacking the “innocence” that Arlen had and Arlen was born lacking the “conscience” that I had. It was something we stole from each other when we split into two in our mother’s womb. I took from him “conscience”. He took from me “innocence”. Like that, the two differing humans called Van and Arlen were made.
Even though we looked the same, we did not repel each other like magnets. Rather, it was probably because we both saw the thing the other took that we were drawn to each other. It was because, from the start, we were one person.
Suddenly, something skimmed past the edge of my vision. Something white fluttered down on the other side of the window.
Even though I was used to seeing it in my own country, it was my first time seeing it in this country. The window glass I touched was completely chilled, and so it should be even colder outside. I heard the urban districts of Japan were sensitive to snow. At this rate, if it became a heavy snowfall, I could easily imagine traffic freezing.
I couldn’t afford to get caught in traffic and be late for business. I immediately grabbed my tablet.
“Is something the matter?”
Through the tablet Gilles, who had just been dismissed, could be heard.
“Change of plans. We’re leaving now.”
I stood up without waiting for a response and threw on a jacket. I left the room like that at a quick pace.
Before long, Kaasa’s snow became a heavy snowfall. It wasn’t piling up yet, but by the time I finished my business the scenery of this town would probably be painted again in white.
I sat in the back seat and stared at the passing scenery outside through the special bulletproof glass. The sudden snow seemed to be disagreeable to the majority of the people who came and went, but occasionally I could find exceptions. There were children running around, reaching to the sky, and playing with the snow.
For some reason, those figures called to mind an old memory that was similar yet not similar.
Arlen was to be committed to an institution. I heard this from our parents on a winter day where snow was falling much like how it was in Kaasa right now.
I could guess the reason for our parents’ decision. Half a month ago or so, Arlen thrust an axe into their bed. It was accompanied on the white sheets, which our meticulous mother had just replaced, by the message “I love you” in bright red paint as if to stand out like blood.
It was unclear as to whether or not Arlen really had an intent to kill, but it seemed like our parents who had managed to raise him up to now somehow had reached their limits.
The place he was being sent to was a boarding rehabilitation institution far from home. It was said that the place, which was isolated from the outside world due to its tall walls, was monitored at all hours and contact and meetings with people outside, including family members, was severely restricted. Was it not like a prison? I thought this, but our parents’ minds didn’t change.
The last dinner we had together with Arlen was on Christmas Eve, the night before our twelfth birthday. No one spoke a single word during dinner, and it was filled with silence from start to end.
I visited Arlen’s room after dinner, carrying a small wrapping I secretly prepared. He was greatly surprised when he opened the wrapping.
I gifted him a silver ring. It was the thing he said he wanted last year on Christmas, when we snuck out from church’s Mass and walked around playing in the night city. It was a bit of a stretch for the savings of a child, but I didn’t regret it.
Gripping the silver ring which was still too big for his own fingers, Arlen said “I’ll wear this when I’m an adult”. Even now, I clearly remember his smile. And then, the next day, he was sent to the institution.
Thereafter, I went to see Arlen on the several days of the year where meetings were allowed without missing one. In contrast, our parents didn’t go to see him even once but Arlen and I realized that they were trying to forget him. So, the two of us enjoyed our time alone together to our heart’s content. However, several years later, Arlen disappeared from the institution without waiting for his fifteenth birthday.
No one was able to find him but, a few years later, he unexpectedly appeared in front of me. I believe it was just before I was to graduate from university. On the middle finger of his right hand was the silver ring I gifted him on that day.
“Check it out, it fits perfectly now, right?”
He said that and showed a proud smile. His appearance was much older than when he escaped from the institution—
The playback of my memories was interrupted by Gilles calling from the driver’s seat. The car had already arrived at our destination.
“Are you feeling unwell?”
He had likely called out to me many times, but I hadn’t noticed. I added that there was no problem and, when I got off the car, the frozen air dyed my breath white.
When I returned to my own room at the base the date had changed. The snow was growing increasingly heavier, turning the nightscape of the Port and Harbour city to something unfamiliar. I was reflected in the window. I stared for a short while and then gave a wry smile.
“I’ve been thinking about you constantly today.”
Before I knew it I was trying to chase after traces of him again. It might have been this weather making me do that. The violent blizzard reminded me of the events of “that day” even if I didn’t want to.
I warned myself and turned my back to the window.
New York’s Christmas was struck with a record-setting heavy snow. Even Central Park, where dog lovers usually enjoy morning walks, was devoid of people this morning. I walked alone in all this.
“It’s worse than last night…”
Right after I murmured that the wind and snow snatched away my voice. My throat hurt because of the cold that entered through my breaths. My coat and muffler already weren’t accomplishing their duties as protection against the cold.
I thought about having breakfast at my usual cafe before I went to work, but that feeling had disappeared now. Right now, I just wanted to rest my body which had stayed up all night in my warm bed. I quickened my steps and hurried home.
I climbed the stairs of my apartment building while brushing away the snow on my coat and then noticed something placed in front of my place. It was a small box tied with a red ribbon. The moment I picked it up I felt the muscles in my cheek soften slightly.
It was because I saw this name on the Christmas card that was attached.
“So he came?”
Because of my work I often paid attention to what was delivered to my home, but given the sender’s name and today’s date, there wasn’t any particular need to be concerned.
Even after I entered the FBI, Arlen was the only family member I kept in touch with. On Christmas morning, which was also our birthday, Arlen would leave a present like this on a whim, and it’s happened many times up to now.
“I’ll need to give him something back later.”
Because I was pursuing a major case these several months, Christmas day came without me having had the time to prepare a present for Arlen. What would be good this year? I unlocked my door while thinking this and entered my room. I took off my coat, which was damp from the snow, turned on the light in the dim living room, and sat down on the sofa. Removing the ribbon, I opened the box.
But what leapt into my eyes was—
I was woken by the sound of the blizzard which was like a scream. On top of the bed, which I had sprung up from, I took many ragged breaths.
My right wrist hurt terribly. It was already gripped in my left hand and hot like it was going to burn me. My pulse was abnormally fast. I felt like the pain increased with each beat.
Grinding my teeth, I threw on a robe and got out of bed. I impulsively grabbed a glass on the table and poured bourbon to the point of spilling before draining it in one breath without tasting it.
The strong drink burned my throat and I nearly choked, but I was able to suppress it by taking shallow breaths. I gradually regained my calm as I breathed. However, the pain in my right hand only grew worse. The glass slipped from my trembling fingers and it struck the floor, shattering with a loud noise. The blue eyes reflected in those fragments stared at me.
“I know… This is your pain.”
Phantom pain. It was said that people who had amputated limbs could feel the pain of their lost limbs.
On “that day” the one whose right hand had been cut off was not me but Arlen. This pain of mine was originally something that should not have existed. However, ever since “that day”, each time I dreamed of him a sharp pain that should not have existed came to me.
In this moment, my brain began to roll the film of a memory on its own. Like it was just single-mindedly repeating the worst part.
I punched the wall and shook my head. With that, the rolling film finally switched over to another scene.
Being in a place called the FBI made it possible to connect with many diverse people. Thus, if I requested something of someone in a certain circle, I could secretly get a human body part appraised. And it was also possible to bury it without anyone knowing.
“I never thought there’d come a day where I thought that was fortunate.”
Today, a brand new tombstone was lined up in a snowy cemetery. The name of the dead was “Arlen Clive”. The sight was like a vicious joke.
On that Christmas morning, the right hand that was sent to me belonged to Arlen without a mistake on a DNA level. The forensic results further showed that his right hand was cut off after his death.
My younger twin was killed. The ten pages that I read over and over again thrust that reality before me.
“I’m sorry I can only prepare this sort of place.”
I spoke to a silent and cold tombstone. In this cemetery, there were many unidentifiable bodies of people who fell in battle and were victims of World War II. It was difficult to bury just Arlen’s right hand in our hometown and so I chose this place after being troubled over it, but the old cemetery caretaker accepted Arlen without saying anything. I was grateful to him.
“I’m going to borrow this.”
In my hand was the silver ring I gifted to Arlen when we were children.
The moment I opened that “present” the existence of this ring connected the right hand to Arlen’s form. Otherwise, even now, I might have taken this as a terrible joke that reeked of his name.
But how much did I wish for that to be the case—?
“… I’m sorry.”
Something hot slid down my cheeks. If my memory was correct, it was something I had never shown to him. For a while, I looked up at the sky. A winter-like cold and clear blue spread out.
『Tu fui, ego eris.』
I read out loud the letters that were carved together with Arlen’s name.
“As I am, you were; as you are, so I shall also be… It’s a bit much to carve onto a tombstone, but don’t you think it’s perfect for ‘us’?”
In his stead the bouquet offering gave a dry rustle.
“Let’s go together, Arlen. I am you, and you are me. Don’t worry, in the darkness there is no one who can distinguish between us.”
I quietly put on the ring. On the middle finger of my right hand, the same as Arlen had in the past—
Suddenly, I noticed that the room had faintly grown brighter. At some point the blizzard had stopped and white light was coming in from the gaps between the thick snowy clouds.
I touched the ring on my right hand. Since the moment I put this on I stopped being Van Clive and turned my back to a world where the light landed. In order to take revenge against those who killed him— no, “me”.
“This pain is also proof that you are me… huh.”
I quietly stood up.
“Then I will accept everything.”
One man was projected on the window which reflected the morning sun. I met the man’s eyes.
“Let’s go together, Arlen. I am you, and you are me.”
It was like looking into a mirror.