Pairing: Akiha Tohno/Kohaku
Word Count: 6200
Spoilers: The Far Side of the Moon routes (Akiha, Hisui, Kohaku)
Notes: Thank you to thirdmagic @ tumblr for looking this over for me!
Warnings: There are embedded images that contain blood, and one linked NSFW image containing nudity. There is also discussion of suicide, rape, and severe sexual, physical, psychological, and emotional abuse, so please read with discretion.
Blue Blue Glass Moon, Under The Crimson Air.
When he was a child, Shiki Tohno was involved in a life-threatening accident, and, against all odds, survived. When he woke up in the hospital, everything in his vision had lines running through them. The accident had awakened his “Mystic Eyes of Death Perception”, which allowed him to see the deaths of objects, inanimate or not. Anything would break as long as they were cut along these lines. No one believed Shiki about his eyes until a mysterious woman who learned of his plight, and gave him a special pair of eyeglasses that restored his vision to normal. However, Shiki’s life was still forever changed when he was disinherited and sent away from the Tohno household by his father, Makihisa, to be raised by relatives.
Fast forward eight years, Makihisa has died, and Shiki has been summoned back to the Tohno household by the new head. Serial killings have been occurring in his town, with no common thread other than the fact that each of the victim’s bodies had been drained of their blood. This is the beginning of the story that unravels the threads connecting Shiki with the truth of his eyes, his past, the secrets of the Tohno, and the town’s serial murders.
Tsukihime is a visual novel by Type-Moon with a route format. There are five routes in the game, each focused on one of five heroines and split into the “Near Side” and “Far Side” routes. The two Near Side routes are focused on the supernatural incidents occurring in the town, while the three Far Side routes focus on the mystery of Shiki and the Tohno house.
While Tsukihime is, at heart, the tale of Shiki Tohno, this manifesto is about the relationship between his younger sister and head of the Tohno household, Akiha, and her personal servant, Kohaku. Since Akiha and Kohaku only play a supporting role in the two Near Side routes, most of the canon discussed will be taken from the Far Side routes consisting of Akiha, Hisui (Kohaku’s twin sister), and Kohaku’s routes. As a note, the order of the Hisui and Kohaku routes is forced by the game so that Hisui’s must be played first.
As a child, Akiha was shy and obedient, always following her older brother around. However, people change, and after eight years, Akiha has become a picture-perfect head of the Tohno family. She had always been raised to be a high-class lady worthy of her prestigious family name, but after Shiki’s disinheritance, her upbringing was made much stricter so that she could properly lead the Tohno.
Akiha has great influence and power, and knows it. She is ruthlessly assertive and will do what she wants, not bending for or caring for others’ opinions. She is not misguided, though, and her actions will often be the appropriate one to take. Akiha tends to be aloof and distant, with her method of choice in expressing displeasure through cutting and passive-aggressive remarks. Most of this behavior is directed towards Shiki - however, despite her tendency to act harshly towards him, she cares deeply for her brother. Past her chilly exterior, especially for those few close to her, Akiha is kind, caring, protective, and a constant worrier.
The Tohno clan has demonic blood running through their veins. This nonhuman blood can cause members to give into violent demonic impulses if it cannot be controlled. Most of the Tohno can live normally with occasional fits; Akiha herself suffers from occasional attacks of pain. Akiha can bring about an “Inversion Impulse” and go “Crimson Red Vermillion”, where her demon blood overpowers her human blood and Akiha is freely able to use her demonic powers.
KohakuKohaku and her twin sister, Hisui, were adopted at a young age by Makihisa. She and Hisui serve as the two maids of the Tohno mansion. Kohaku does the cooking and assists Akiha as her personal servant, although she is quite the klutz and is exempt from all cleaning duties except when sweeping outdoors (since there’s nothing to break there). The true reason that Kohaku and Hisui were adopted is because they are Synchronizers, possessing the ability to transfer energy through bodily fluids. This means that they can alleviate the symptoms of the Tohno’s demonic blood.
Kohaku always has a smile on her face and kind words to say, unless she is in a teasing mood. Even then, she always has good intentions. Kohaku is perceptive and knowledgeable, especially in regards to medicine and botany, as she used to be Makihisa’s personal doctor when he was still alive. She is rather nonchalant and detached on the topic of the town's serial killings.
When the reader is introduced to Akiha and Kohaku, they have already known each other for most of their lives. While they are master and servant, they act more as good friends would. They tease each other, bathe together, drink tea together, and generally enjoy keeping the other company. Kohaku shows an understanding of Akiha’s feelings and can easily sense her mood changes. Since the story is from Shiki’s point of view, we do not actually see much of Akiha and Kohaku’s interaction. However, as Kohaku is Akiha’s personal servant, they must spend much of their time together, and even Shiki can see how close they are.
To be blunt, Akiha and Kohaku-san's conversation is outright boring.
It's as if they were just discussing how the sun rises in the East and sets in the West.
Despite that, it all seems rather charming seeing them laughing at those kinds of conversations.
- Day 4, Kohaku route
Akiha and Kohaku actually have established a bond of synchronization, where Akiha sucks Kohaku’s blood to alleviate the pain from her demonic symptoms.
On the final day of Hisui’s route, Akiha leaves with Kohaku to kill SHIKI*, her real older brother who has gone mad due to his lineage. Shiki also goes to kill SHIKI after his realization that SHIKI is the one responsible for the killings in town.
*In Japanese, the two Tohno Shikis are distinguished by the usage of different kanji. In the English translation, this distinction is maintained through the usage of different capitalization.
Shiki encounters SHIKI and Akiha while they are in the middle of fighting, with the battle easily in Akiha’s favor.
Kohaku says this as she realizes our presence.
Akiha turns toward us in surprise……In that brief moment, for just a split second, a complete letting down of her guard. There’s no way he would let that chance slip away.
SHIKI lunges with a cry. His black shape explodes forward like a firework.
Akiha and Kohaku-san both turn. But, it's hopeless. They'll never make it. The black shape isn't going for Akiha. SHIKI lunges not at Akiha, but at Kohaku-san who stands next to her.
---He knows. Just like how I am able to move right now because of Hisui's power,
he knows that Akiha's overwhelming power is possible through Kohaku-san's help.
Akiha's voice cannot stop it.
SHIKI raises his voice, and with his arm thrusting like a spear, aims for Kohaku's face. The sound of pierced flesh.
My voice dies in my throat.
Splat! The sound of blood spurting forth. Kohaku-san's face is splattered, with the redness, of, Akiha's blood.
After Akiha’s sacrifice, she speaks her final words to Shiki and passes away. Kohaku remains in a daze until Akiha’s death, where she then “regained the power to move”, and inquires as to SHIKI’s whereabouts. Shiki finds SHIKI for a final fight, and easily cuts his line to kill him.
However, the route is not yet over. SHIKI’s motivations and his actions don’t match up. In the epilogue, Shiki questions the one person that could have the answers, leading to the biggest plot twist in Tsukihime and one of the saddest scenes of the game.
When I get there, she is already there, waiting for me.
“Lovely weather, isn’t it, Shiki-san?”
I nod. She smiles cheerfully at me.
"You realized it, didn't you, Shiki-san?"
I nod. Her smile does not fade.
Always...... her smile does not go away no matter what happens. Come to think of it, the expressionless Hisui actually showed a lot of different feelings. From the outside, she appeared to be a heartless doll, but her heart was not a doll's.
However - what about this girl? The always, ever smiling Kohaku. No matter what happens, always a smile, like a person with the heart of a doll. Even when Akiha died, that smile did not fade - her smile that is just like a mask.
- That smile.
“......Kohaku-san. You’re the one who made SHIKI go crazy, right?”
"And the reason you were sharing your blood with Akiha, was to make her not human?"
"And you lied to SHIKI, and made him attack innocent people."
"When we were small, the one watching us from a distance wasn't Hisui, it was you, Kohaku."
"Back then, you intentionally distracted Akiha!"
"And then you suggested that I kill SHIKI!"
"...... All of it, all of it is how you planned it out, Kohaku......?"
Still smiling, she nods.
"That's right. All of it was something I wished would happen, Shiki-san."
Kohaku’s motivation for being the puppet master behind the events of this route is revenge against the Tohno family. She reveals that she had been sexually abused on a daily basis by Tohno Makihisa since she was eight. Makihisa’s demonic blood regularly caused him to give into his violent impulses, and a Synchronizer’s abilities were the only way he could alleviate the symptoms. Kohaku refused to let him use Hisui in the way he used her, so she had to stay in his room when he inevitably inverted.
“During that time, I was able to think about things a little bit, I think. I always thought about how to get away, how to run away with Hisui-chan. But I didn't know where to go, and the more I submitted my body to Makihisa-sama, the more I broke down. Eventually, I got tired of thinking and I realized that if I didn't think, it wouldn't hurt. I am just a doll. A doll that doesn’t know pain. A doll doesn’t think. I endured Makihisa-sama thinking like that. Then, it mysteriously did not hurt as much as before. Makihisa-sama’s breath didn’t make me sick, his arms were just like warm meat, and even if he strangled my neck or kicked me in the stomach, it seemed like he was doing it to someone else. And every day got a little easier. Shiki-san, I wanted Hisui-chan to stay clean. For her sake, I could endure any kind of abuse."
Kohaku reveals that all she could do in the room was watch Shiki playing with Akiha, SHIKI, and Hisui.
"The way you played innocently was like a different world to me. I looked out the window to see all of you play when Makihisa-sama wasn't looking. I didn't understand any of that. I didn't understand why you did those pointless things. It was strange for me to think so since it was just another world and I couldn't be involved in it. I wasn't jealous of you, and I didn't hate the Tohno children. All I did was stare at all of you, while having this unknown feeling. But, I was afraid that feeling would turn me back into a human. And two years later, you were killed by SHIKI-sama. You probably don't remember it, but SHIKI-sama was trying to kill Akiha-sama. But you suddenly came, and you shielded Akiha-sama. You weren't related to her, and you had everything stolen from you by the Tohno family, but you still died protecting her. At that time, I was watching Akiha-sama, who was holding onto your dead body painfully but happily. Oh, maybe I made up my mind back then. That it would suit Akiha-sama for her to die just like you did."
Kohaku then reveals that when she heard that Shiki was being sent away from the mansion, she ran to him and gave him her ribbon, making him promise to return it to her. Although SHIKI had inverted, Makihisa did not kill him, opting instead to have him locked him away and have Kohaku take care of him. SHIKI’s demonic impulses also led him to taking advantage of and brutally abusing Kohaku. Kohaku then swore revenge on the entire Tohno family and began to enact her plan.
“The whole Tohno family just had to disappear. If not only Makihisa-sama but SHIKI-sama did those painful things, then that's the only possible thing to do, right? And when I realized that, I laughed for the first time in years. I was surprised that it was so simple and I didn't even realize it before. From that time, I was able to start moving on my own. The hardest thing for me was to find a reason to move. A doll can't move by itself. Without a spring or strings, it can't act like a human. So, once I found a reason, everything became simple.”
“I secretly told Akiha-sama to look inside Makihisa-sama’s room around midnight, and she finally found out about our relationship. Since then, Akiha-sama felt guilty and it became easier to do a lot of things. Well, I didn't expect her to protest against him right away though. But because Akiha-sama pressed the issue, I was released from Makihisa-sama soon after. ...... I thought that I wouldn't be free until SHIKI-sama killed Makihisa-sama, but I was freed four years earlier, actually. From then on, I became a normal servant and traded places with Hisui, who became silent. Oh, but don't worry since I was the one who took care of SHIKI-sama and Makihisa-sama. Hisui-chan was always clean of everything."
After many, many years, Kohaku’s plan was finally completed with the death of SHIKI and Akiha, but she has not gained any satisfaction from it.
“But Shiki-san, I didn’t hate Akiha-sama or SHIKI-sama. I didn’t even want to do it. Those are my true feelings. But there wasn't anything else I could do. Without a purpose like that, I couldn't live. A doll cannot move on its own. Without anything to guide it, it can't move. There wasn't anything I ever wished from my heart.
I'm merely a doll that doesn't feel happiness or sadness."
I thought she'd say that. ......Before me is a human that is a doll. A girl whose emotions were exhausted so long ago. Nothing remains. Telling herself that she is a doll that doesn't feel any pain. More than half of her really believes it. That's why injuries don't hurt her. SHIKI and Akiha died, but she doesn't feel happy or sad. She is just, an empty shell manipulated by strings.
"But----But, there was just one strange thing."
Really just a little bit. She said that as her eyes trailed off into the distance.
"Akiha-sama protected me in the end. I knew there was a fifty-fifty chance she would do that. I stayed close to her for that reason. Revealing Makihisa-sama's abuse and devotedly helping Akiha-sama who was slowly turning nonhuman. ---Yes that's right. Really, I knew she would die protecting me."
That smile. Even though she is smiling, she looks really sad, as if she's--
"But----I was really surprised at the time. Why is she protecting me? Why is she protecting me, risking her life?"
---She looks like she might burst into tears.
"I still don't actually understand if I was actually happy or sad when Akiha-sama died.
But when I wake up in the morning, I take tea to her room even though I know she is gone.
Isn't this strange? Even though there's no one in that room anymore."
Kohaku then commits suicide by stabbing herself. Since she is a doll that has served its purpose of revenge, there is nothing left to live for. She also says that things did not have to turn out this way, because she had made a bet with herself. If Shiki had returned the ribbon, Kohaku would have called off her revenge against the Tohno.
As she lies dying, she talks about how she chose to become a doll because her pain was too much to bear. If she didn’t think of herself as a human, the pain would go away.
"No...! Kohaku, you are human. You can't be a doll...! Kohaku, you're alive, you're a living human being...! As proof, you are bleeding red blood right now!"
"Ah, that's right."
She laughs again.
"...... Right? You're a normal girl who liked Akiha, was always worried about Hisui, and laughed when we talked about stupid things.
Even if she wished it and caused the deaths of Akiha and SHIKI...
"--Kohaku, there was no reason for you to die."
"I see---I guess it was only an illusion after all. It hurts. That’s why - I wanted to be a doll."
continued in part II