He’d managed to get his alone time, but in the end, all he’d done was look back over his memories of Koutarou.
He still didn’t have any clear answers, all that had happened was that time had passed.
When he checked the bedside clock, it was almost noon.
Shuuji strained his ears, and could hear some noise coming from the first floor.
He finally extracted himself from the bed, and headed downstairs.
He still hadn’t sorted things out in his head, but the clone had the same face as Koutarou, Shuuji couldn’t leave him alone.
The door to the lab was open, so he was able to get a peek as soon as he set foot on the first floor.
He could see the clone moving around with his sleeves rolled up, but he couldn’t really tell what he was actually working on.
“What are you doing?” Shuuji asked.
“Tidying up,” the clone said, but when Shuuji looked around, he felt like the state of the room hadn’t changed since yesterday.
Of course, he’d been in too much shock to really look around, so Shuuji wasn’t a hundred percent sure what had been where.
“I have to dispose of this equipment.”
“Why? You’re not going to use it anymore?”
Koutarou had been so obsessed with his research he’d built his own private lab.
Assuming he had all the same memories, wouldn’t the clone want to take over that research himself? Shuuji expressed his suspicions in a few short words.
“This lab was built to create a clone, so now that it’s completed, I don’t need it anymore.”
“So, you won’t be doing any more research from this point on?”
If he did just dispose of the equipment, he wouldn’t be able to do any research of any kind.
Koutarou had died, so there was no place for the clone at his original workplace.
Shuuji couldn’t say it so bluntly, but it got through to the clone nonetheless.
“Yeah, I guess not,” the clone readily agreed, as if his attachment to his past research had all been a lie.
“The culmination of all the research I’ve ever done is in fact me.
Maybe my research has reached its zenith.
Besides, I think it’s fine, if anyone saw this place, and figured out it was a device for creating a clone, things would get awkward, right?”
That last, he confirmed with Shuuji.
Even the real Koutarou had been self-aware enough to know he lacked common social skills, and he would often ask Shuuji to double check things he wasn’t totally confident about.
“Yeah, probably that would be bad.
Once people know about clones, they might use them for experiments.”
“That does seem likely, doesn’t it.”
As a fellow researcher, the clone seemed to understand the mentality, and he nodded.
The clone knew far better than Shuuji how far he’d advanced cloning techniques, not just for Japan, but for the world.
Shuuji’d never heard of any successful human cloning in the news, and there had to be ethical problems with creating one in the first place.
“I didn’t create a clone so I could perform experiments on it, and I’d hate to have my freedom stolen because of something like that.”
It seemed he’d understood the problem from the beginning, but now that he actually was the clone, it was really hitting home.
He had a strange look on his face, and he seemed to be thinking about something.
“In that case, I have no choice but to dispose of it, huh.”
“This house, does anyone besides us know about it?”
“I never told anyone, I never found it necessary.”
Not a fragment of Koutarou’s parents seemed to be left behind in the clone’s head.
The clone, just like Koutarou, didn’t have any interests outside of Shuuji, which meant that it was the same even with his parents.
“I figured you must have told your parents, but…”
“I didn’t have to.
All the sales documents are here, and if we stay quiet, I can just live here like usual, right?”
“That’s not really for me to decide…”
Shuuji wasn’t especially attached to Koutarou’s parents either.
Quite the opposite actually, he found them repulsive and resented them.
He didn’t want two people like them breaking into a place that held memories of him and Koutarou.
But just in case, I’ll tidy this up here,” the clone said, and started to get back to work again.
Shuuji quickly called him to a halt.
“How about a little break upstairs? You’re been tidying up since this morning, you must be tired.”
“Is that okay?”
Faithfully obeying Shuuji’s request to leave him by himself, the clone worried that he didn’t yet have permission.
“It’s fine, I’m the one who suggested it.”
He hadn’t sorted out his feelings yet, but more than that, he didn’t want to put such a lonely expression on Koutarou’s face.
Shuuji invited the clone up to the second floor.
– – –
“Let me make some coffee.”
When they got up to the second floor, it wasn’t the living room that Shuuji headed for, but the kitchen.
He’d been the one to invite the clone upstairs, but he still didn’t have any idea what he was supposed to say, or what kind of attitude he should adopt.
The coffee was just an excuse to buy time.
The clone meekly accepted it, and took a seat on the sofa in the living room.
The only thing Shuuji could see from the kitchen was his shoulders and the back of his head, and the fact that the clone didn’t seem to have noticed Shuuji’s stare made him feel a bit better.
Standing in front of the coffee maker he’d used so often, his hands moved on their own.
After setting up the coffee grounds, he prepared two cups, and then got the sugar and the milk from the fridge.
Koutarou preferred to add a little sugar and milk, rather than take it black.
His hands moved of their own accord, adding them to the finished coffee.
If it’s done, I can carry it over.”
Completely unaware of Shuuji’s internal turmoil, the clone turned from his place on the sofa and offered his help in an easy tone.
“No, I’ve got it,” Shuuji responded hastily, forcing a smile onto his face, and then carried the coffee over to the clone, a mug in each hand.
If he approached the clone, rather than the other way around, he’d have a little more time to prepare himself.
“Thanks, as always.”
Koutarou never failed to say thank you to Shuuji, even over the most trivial things.
And the clone said it too, just as naturally, as he accepted the cup.
Beside the clone was empty space for Shuuji to sit.
Usually they’d sit right next to each other, so close that they would touch, but now for some reason, he couldn’t do it.
Still though, leaning too far towards the end of the sofa might be interpreted as him disliking the clone entirely, so he took a seat with just a little distance between them.
He brought the steaming cup to his mouth and poured a mouthful of coffee down his throat in an effort to calm himself down.
Shuuji was the one who’d said he’d call once he’d calmed down.
Now he’d invited the clone up to the second floor, and there was no reason for them not to reopen their interrupted conversation.
“Can I ask something?”
“Of course, anything.” The clone smiled, apparently happy that Shuuji had been the one to start the conversation.
“What originally made you think you wanted to create a clone? And why one of yourself?”
Shuuji couldn’t understand it.
The clone had said he’d wanted proof of his hypothesis, but it seemed like a big risk to take on just for one researcher’s theory.
“Look at how thin you’ve gotten…”
The clone stared fixedly at Shuuji’s face, and muttered something that didn’t have anything to do with the question.
He sounded like he was in pain.
“Nevermind that, listen to what I said…”
I was worried that if I ever died unexpectedly, like I just did, that you wouldn’t be able to recover.”
“So you’re saying it was all for my sake?”
“I have to be by your side, don’t I?”
The clone flashed a gentle smile, putting voice to words that didn’t merely suspect, they sought agreement.
And he knew the answer so well, he continued on without waiting for Shuuji’s response.
“So, I thought about how I could stay with you even after I died.”
“And so, a clone?”
“It happened to be exactly what I was researching.
I thought it would be of value to try it.”
Normally when someone thought something like that, they didn’t have the power to make it reality.
But Koutarou had the funds and the talent to move the idea into the practical world.
“So then you’ve just been sleeping here this whole time?”
“Well I didn’t need two of me.”
After Koutarou had completed the clone, he’d put it to sleep in the capsule-shaped incubator.
And then, he said, he set up the device for that one in a million chance, so that if no one touched it for a week, the clone would automatically be sent out into the world.
That’s how far Koutarou’s affection for Shuuji had brought him.
He was happy, but sad too.
A man with the same face, and the same feelings as Koutarou was here now, but it wasn’t the same Koutarou who had given Shuuji so much love.
He had to think of it that way too, or he’d end up forgetting the real Koutarou.
“So you understand why I created a clone, then?”
The clone seemed to be saying that he didn’t think there should be any other issues.
But he immediately noticed how muddied Shuuji’s expression was.
Koutarou had always been disinterested in other people’s feelings, but Shuuji was a special case.
“Is there some part you still don’t understand?” he asked, but Shuuji shook his head weakly.
“I understand it in my head.
“I can’t think of you as Koutarou.”
Hearing it stated so plainly like that, the clone seemed to finally realize how serious Shuuji was.
The clone narrowed his eyes and his lip trembled in a wounded sort of expression Shuuji had never seen before.
Koutarou always seemed to be having fun when Shuuji was there, Shuuji hadn’t known he could even make that face.
It was a face he’d preferred not to have seen his entire life if he could’ve managed it.
“I’m sorry.” There was no point in apologizing.
But it was all Shuuji could do right now.
“Why not? After all, it is me.”
This time, the clone was asking because he couldn’t understand Shuuji’s thoughts.
From his perspective, he’d created a clone who was exactly the same, inside and out, with all the same memories, no doubt he didn’t understand what there was to find fault with.
“If that’s true, then who was it that died?” Finally unable to hold back his tears, Shuuji lashed out with all the frustration he couldn’t convey.
“Who was it I spent this whole week crying over so hard that you commented on how thin I’ve gotten?”
The fact that Shuuji wasn’t speaking just from an emotional position seemed to have finally gotten through to the clone.
He stared at Shuuji’s face wordlessly.
“The Koutarou I liked… is already dead.”
Shuuji didn’t remember how he’d responded when he’d been told of Koutarou’s death over the phone.
He’d hung up without realizing, and flopped down right where he was.
“But, I mean, you understand that I’m Koutarou, right?” the clone asked, insecure, and Shuuji quietly shook his head, looking the clone in the eyes.
“I understand that you’re Koutarou’s clone.
You aren’t Koutarou,” Shuuji spat out, speaking with a daring chill in his voice.
He felt like if he didn’t do it this way, he’d be pulled in by Koutarou’s familiar face, right in front of him.
“I can’t treat you the same as Koutarou.
Everyone else could do it, but I absolutely cannot.”
“You don’t get it? There is only one of my beloved Koutarou in this world.
You have the same face, and use the same words with the same voice, but I can’t love a different Koutarou.”
All the feelings he hadn’t been able to express from the moment he first met the clone, feelings he himself hadn’t clearly recognized, welled up inside him and transformed into words.
He hadn’t even realized how tense he was, but he felt all his strength leave him.
Even if the clone was perfectly the same in every respect, the fact that there were now two physical bodies meant that there were two Koutarous.
But there was only one Koutarou whom Shuuji had loved, so the other one had to be someone else.
Tears ran down his cheeks and fell onto his lap.
Shuuji went to wipe them, and was offered a tissue before he could bring his shirt sleeve close.
When he turned towards the hand that held the tissue, the clone was smiling with an expression that seemed a little sad.
“I still had a ways to go before I understood you, huh Shuuji.”
“What?” Shuuji asked, his voice still tearful.
“You loved me more than I thought.
I really was very fortunate.”
The clone said it all in the past tense.
He’d inherited all Koutarou’s memories, so in that sense he was the same Koutarou, that was what the clone had said.
But if Shuuji’s love for him was now something of the past, that only confirmed that he was a different Koutarou.
“You don’t have to think of me as the earlier Koutarou.”
“That’s awful sudden…” he shot back, not because he was suspicious, but just because he couldn’t believe it.
The clone had been created for Shuuji’s sake, Shuuji hadn’t thought he’d accept not being acknowledged by him so easily.
Shuuji had no confidence he could be so detached, if he’d been in the clone’s position.
“It’s the truth,” the clone answered, flashing a confused smile.
“I know I can’t hope for something from you that you absolutely can’t do.”
Koutarou’d grown up with almost no emotions, ever since he was little, and so he’d become an adult who couldn’t understand expressions of joy, or anger, sadness, happiness, and he’d tried to understand his own feelings by trying on other people’s feeling for himself.
Being a clone hadn’t changed that, and even now, he seemed to be under the impression that if Shuuji said he didn’t like it, that surely that was the right feeling to have about the situation, no matter what his own opinion might be.
But those eyes, which didn’t normally look lost, now wavered slightly, and Shuuji had a hunch it was an expression of the clone’s hesitation as to whether this decision was really correct, whether it was really his own feelings that were mistaken.
“So then… What are you going to do now?”
Shuuji dared to ask a practical question.
Looking at the clone’s face brought back all his previous feelings, no matter how he tried to stop them, and he couldn’t keep calm.
Koutarou’s entire life had been research and Shuuji.
With both of those gone, and given the fact that he couldn’t show himself in public, what could he even do?
“I’ll have to figure that out.
I’ve got plenty of time on my hands at least.”
The clone answered in a disinterested tone.
He didn’t seem troubled in the least.
The line made it clear that Koutarou had created the clone without thinking about what would happen afterwards.
“Are you going to live here?”
“I guess I’ll have to, for a while.
At least here, I won’t meet anyone, and even if I did by some chance, there’s no one in the area who knows me.”
“But what are you going to do for a living? You can’t withdraw anything from the bank anymore.”
Shuuji gave voice to his remaining concerns.
He didn’t know how much Koutarou had saved up, but he’d been able to pay for this place in cash a few years ago.
Other than that though, he’d never been particularly extravagant, so he must have had some kind of savings.
But now that the real Koutarou had passed away, the clone had no means of withdrawing any of it.
His accounts would have been frozen.
If he stayed here, he’d at least have some place to sleep, but he’d eventually run out of food.
He was a clone, but assuming he was basically a human being, he’d have to eat to live.
“Well, I’ll manage somehow,” the clone answered, as if it was someone else’s problem.
Koutarou had never really had much interest in the basics of life, like food, or clothing, or shelter, so maybe he wasn’t worried about it, but Shuuji certainly was, and he wasn’t able to consider the situation so lightheartedly.
Regardless of the fact that they didn’t have any affection for one another, they were definitely listed as parent and child in their family register, so Shuuji thought perhaps the clone could get some financial support from them.
But the clone refused the suggestion on the spot.
“Why would I do that? I created this clone for you alone, Shuuji.
There’s no reason to meet with anyone else, I don’t need to talk to them.”
What Shuuji wanted to discuss was what would happen next, but the clone only talked about his hopes, never considering reality.
But the words the clone spoke had been Koutarou’s thoughts once.
No matter how absurd or outside of common sense, the fact that he’d acted solely on his feelings for Shuuji came through keenly.
Shuuji’s chest shook anew with those feelings, and he was struck again with a sense of loss at the fact that Koutarou had passed away.
He’d cried so much in the past week, he’d run out of tears, but now that he noticed it, he’d been crying for a little while.
Beside him, the clone came closer, and softly put his arms around Shuuji’s shoulders.
If it had been Koutarou, he’d have meekly given himself over to it, but instead his shoulders jumped in surprise.
The gestures, the physical feel of him, were all the same, but Shuuji’s resistance to having another man’s arms around his shoulders made him act differently.
Still though, he couldn’t shake off the clone’s arms.
Not wanting to hurt a man with the same face as the person he loved any more than he already had, he couldn’t make a clear refusal.
But the clone did notice the fact that Shuuji wasn’t moving.
The clone lowered his arms, and started rubbing Shuuji’s back instead, trying to comfort him.
Koutarou’s tenderness towards Shuuji hadn’t changed, even now that he’d become the clone.
How was he supposed to abandon someone like that? Shuuji’s lips moved on their own.
“I’ll come by every day while you’re here.”
“Really?” The clone’s face lit up.
Seeing such a joyous expression, even Shuuji felt happy, and his tears stopped.
“I don’t really have a choice.
You can’t do any housework,” Shuuji pointed out with a smile, his face still stained with tears, and the clone didn’t deny it, but only laughed.
“I’ll go buy whatever you’re short on, and then bring them with me when I come tomorrow.”
“Oh, so you’re going home already,” the clone muttered sadly, but didn’t try to detain him.
He’d decided to respect Shuuji’s wishes, and he was sticking to it.
There was only one bedroom in this house.
And only the double bed in there.
Shuuji couldn’t think of the clone as Koutarou, there was no way he’d be able to sleep in the same bed as him.
But at the same time, if he slept on the sofa, the clone would be hurt.
So Shuuji decided to go home.
Besides, he was afraid that if he didn’t, his feelings would waver.
Although, maybe accepting that the clone was the same as before might be the best way to calm down, to put himself at ease.
After all, the clone had exactly the same form, the same everything.
If he hadn’t known Koutarou had died, he likely would have treated him just like always, without even realizing he was a clone.
The clone saw him off, all the way until he got in his car, and then Shuuji put the vacation home behind him.
When he talked with the clone, he inadvertently ended up layering it with memories of what had been.
When they were together, he couldn’t help remembering, no matter how much he didn’t want to, and he couldn’t just leave him alone.
How could he continue to meet the clone face to face, with that dilemma still unresolved?
He kept thinking about it as he drove, indeed he couldn’t think of anything else, but he got all the way home without having come up with the right answer.
Maybe no one knew what the right answer was.
When he got inside, he was greeted by a blinking light on his answering machine telling him he had a message.
Maybe something had happened to the clone, all alone in that house.
Shuuji rushed over to the phone and pushed the play button.
“This is Mori from Takara Publishing.”
Hearing the voice on the first message, all the strength went out of Shuuji’s shoulders.
It must have been left late the previous night.
“I sent you an email with just a proposal.
I’m just calling to make sure you got it.”
The business-like message pulled Shuuji back to reality.
A similar phone call from Mori had started this long day.
At the time, he’d become so reckless about work that he figured he didn’t care if he lost his job.
He’d been waiting for a call with a job request for a long time, but when it finally came, he hadn’t been able muster anything but the vaguest of attitudes towards it.
If the situation kept up like that, no doubt a random freelancer like him would be immediately forgotten.
But now, he suddenly felt a sense of impending crisis.
From now on, he had to earn enough money for the clone too.
There wasn’t any rent to pay for that house, but there was still utilities and food.
He didn’t think the clone was really suited to any occupation except research, but was there any place that would hire him any more? He didn’t exactly have a birth certificate.
Given that, there was no one to support him except Shuuji, and unlike Koutarou, Shuuji didn’t have much in the way of savings, so he didn’t have time to be sinking into despair.
Mori had said she would call again the day after next, but Shuuji wanted to talk while he still felt this urge to get to work, before his feelings changed.
He picked up the receiver before he even took off his jacket.
You'll Also Like
The Most Popular ComedianChapter 65 September 3, 2023
The Cat TransformationChapter 27 August 26, 2023
After Dressing as a Male Lead with Multiple PersonalitiesChapter 14 August 11, 2023
The Scum Gong Begs Me to Get Back Together, but I Just Want to Get RichChapter 39 August 7, 2023
Scum Gong Walks the Career Line in the CrematoriumChapter 163 August 6, 2023
The Guide Wants to Obey the ScriptChapter 14 August 6, 2023
After Being Reborn, I Was Matched To His MajestyChapter 9 August 5, 2023
No Ghosting AllowedChapter 99 August 18, 2023
The Vicious Male Supporting Character Married The Disabled VillainChapter 96 August 3, 2023
Since The Red Moon AppearedChapter 19 August 3, 2023
Who Says Omegas Can’t be as Explosive as AlphasChapter 40 August 21, 2023
Singlehood SyndromeChapter 19 August 25, 2023