Story II – Part 02


Translator: Kell


“Let us go, then.”

She stood up, and I followed after her. I thought she was going to greet the family, but that wasn’t the case. Mayuzumi returned to the front door and headed for the garden. Puzzled, I treaded on her heels, feeling the pleasant crunching of the snow under my feet. The coldness seeped into my skin. The garden was dyed gray and white. It was a beautiful sight, but my lungs were numb and sore from the cold air.

“Excuse me, Mayu-san. Why are we out in the garden?”

“Like I said, we’re saying hello. There’s someone we should greet first.”

As usual, Mayuzumi was holding her red parasol. Underneath the drifting white, the bright color burned my eyes, the contrasting hue reminding me of blood.

A knot formed in my stomach.

Mayuzumi stopped as she neared a huge pine tree. The highlight of the vast garden, it stood in the most conspicuous spot. Mayuzumi looked up at the branches of the tree with enraptured, dreamy eyes.

Snap.

Crack.

The parasol closed and the branch creaked almost simultaneously. But the actual branch was still. Four pale legs dangled silently in front of me. I turned my gaze upwards. Feces and urine trickled down to the ground. Stretched and inflamed neck swayed in the air, head tilted heavily to the side. Perhaps it was the cold, but the flesh didn’t seem human.

As I regarded the hard, cold flesh, the only thought that crossed my mind was how heavy it looked, and I hated myself for it.

My hand moved for a cigarette, but I stopped myself. “What’s this?” I asked.

“It should be obvious, no? It’s not every day you see something like this.”

The eyeballs protruding from the corpse were frozen in agony. The blue, swollen tongue sticking out of its mouth looked like some kind of creature trying to crawl out of its throat. Snow was falling on its bulging face, and its limbs were swaying. I avoided looking at the smaller figure hanging beside it.

I didn’t want to see the corpse of a hanged child, or the look of anguish on their face.

“…Was it suicide?”

“A forced double suicide, to be more precise. See that child? Poor little girl. She looks like she doesn’t even understand that she’s dead. This is old man Saga Yuujirou’s second wife, Asako-san, and Aki-chan. I heard his first wife died of an illness. He married his current wife, the third one, right after the second died.”

Mayuzumi raised her parasol back up, and smiled.

“She must have resented him,” she added. Her voice, barely above a whisper, sounded sweet to my ears. “She’s haunting the man, as a matter of fact.”

Creak.

The corpses shook silently. But as soon as Mayuzumi twirled her parasol, they disappeared completely, leaving no trace behind. The snow kept on falling, and the pine tree stood in silence, as if nothing had happened.

“Let’s go. I said we were greeting someone, but it was more like paying respects. I just wanted to show them to you, that’s all. I spotted this scene from the room. But what we saw here was an image from the past. It’s like a stain. It doesn’t mean much, actually.”

Her red parasol spun round and round. It seemed to be the only thing left of the graphic scene.

“Where’s the laughter coming from, I wonder?” she continued in a singsong tone.

From your mouth, probably.

I swallowed the words I was about to say.

Mayuzumi walked ahead, not looking back. Suddenly she stopped as though she noticed something.

“Oh?”

I peered past her parasol. There was someone wearing a raincoat over their head to keep out the snow. A thin, bony face was peeking through a gap in the black plastic resembling a garbage bag. Their messy, long bangs hid their face, but a closer look revealed handsome features reminiscent of a doll.

Not that any of that mattered.

“Hello.” The boy—he looked to be around sixteen—smiled and bowed.

In his hands was the corpse of a crow.


“It’s a hobby of mine.”

We were served warm tea, a welcome drink for my freezing body. The dead crow flashed in my mind, and I hesitated to reach for the cup.

Unlike the main house, the annex in the corner of the garden was of western design. The room had heating and wooden flooring, furnished with a folding bed and a desk in the corner.

Skeletal specimen lined the shelves.

Moles and fish. Slightly discolored bones. Overhead, a raven spreading its wings, and a dog’s skull giving off a dull glow.

“Wonderful. Did you make these yourself?” Mayuzumi asked.

“Yes, I did. It’s just amateur work, though. It’s pretty easy once you try it. The trick is to remove as much of the internal organs and skin as possible, then cut up and bury the bones. A simple method, but if you have enough time, you can get clean bones. If you retrieve them too soon, the contents will come out and you’ll get an awful product. For fish, you can put them in formalin. If you preserve them while they’re still alive, they make beautiful specimens.”

The boy was smiling broadly. He seemed to have completely neglected personal hygiene, but he knew how to get along with others. I stared at the cup, ignoring them.

“Oh, Odagiri-san. Please, have a drink,” the boy said. “It’s okay. I washed my hands.”

“Please, don’t worry about me. I’m just not thirsty.”

The boy laughed. “You don’t have to hide it. I understand. You don’t want to drink tea served by someone who was holding a dead animal. But I have the responsibility to show hospitality regardless.”

He was grinning. Unlike with Mayuzumi, his tone was casual when talking to me. Maybe he didn’t respect me that much. Wearily, I picked up the cup. The hot liquid burned my frozen throat. After gulping it all down, the boy’s eyes widened.

“I see you’re quite aggressive. Ah, you don’t have to speak to me politely. Polite language doesn’t seem to fit you at all. Correct me if I’m wrong, but are you forcing yourself?”

I gulped. I could just give a vague answer, but the words wouldn’t come out.

Mayuzumi once said the exact same words to me before.

“I don’t think that manner of speaking suits you at all,” she said, twirling her parasol.

What did I say to her then? When I stayed silent, Mayuzumi smiled. Sensing how I felt for once, she turned to the boy.

“Anyway, we’ve learned a lot. Thank you. You’re Saga Yuusuke, right? I’d like to ask you a few questions, if that’s all right.”

“Sure. Is it about my father’s ear?”

“Oh, you don’t seem surprised. From an outsider’s perspective, I’d say we’re quite suspicious, don’t you think? Did you hear anything from your father?”

You’re the only one suspicious around here.

Yuusuke nodded. “I did. They’ve been talking about the daughter of the Mayuzumi family coming all morning. I heard you have some kind of mysterious abilities? You can see the dead, hear their voices… Apparently you can also cast and lift curses. Are you a shaman or something? Pops was scared, wasn’t he? He probably thinks he’s cursed. Did you know? He used to tell me all kinds of mean things about you guys.”

“I know. Apparently, I’m possessed by a fox.”

My eyes narrowed. She said that the Mayuzumi household was not paranormal, but Yuusuke’s words seemed to suggest otherwise. Ignoring me, Mayuzumi chuckled.

“I learned about your grandmother too,” Yuusuke continued. “If I recall correctly, it was after my father’s uncle’s daughter suddenly committed suicide. Relatives started dying left and right from some sort of illness. Your grandmother was asked to come and solve the problem. As a result, the deaths stopped, but my dad’s uncle set himself on fire and died. And then your grandmother said…” Yuusuke’s mouth twisted into a grin, as though amused. “This is what happens when you keep burning your own daughter’s arms.”

Her words came to mind. Curses, like chickens, come home to roost.

“That’s what happens when you kill someone while they’re asleep.”

The tea somehow tasted more bitter now.

Yuusuke laughed. “Can you please burn my pops to death too?” he said jokingly. But his eyes were dead serious. Smiling, he was studying Mayuzumi. Appraising her.

“While I would love to grant your request, it’s first-come, first-served. I will have to decline.”

“Ah, how unfortunate. Just my luck.”

“Opportunity is also a matter of luck. I am disappointed as well.”

Mayuzumi brought a piece of chocolate to her red lips and crushed it in her mouth. It sounded like bone crunching.

“Do you think someone despises your father?” she asked.

Images flashing. A hanged corpse dangling in the air. A horrific scene, filled with grudge and bitterness.

“I do.” His response was instantaneous. “That man should be cursed to death. He’s probably scared witless right now. He deserves it, after all the things he’s done.” There was venom in his words. “Asako-san wasn’t a bad person. She was young and insecure, but she tried her best to get along with me. Aki was adorable too. There was no reason for her to die. It’s all that bastard’s fault. Pops deserves to die.”



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