“I raised that man,” Chihana replied. “I don’t recall any abnormal behavior from him, and he has no interest in human flesh. But if your demon says so, then that may be the case. It shouldn’t be true, but if Mayuzumi-sama were to be in danger, I… I…” Her voice started trembling, growing tighter. She must have imagined something. She fell silent. Then her voice regained its composure. “I understand. If your demon says so, then those memories must belong to Kugutsu. However, the meat that he served to you was not human flesh. I have not received any news of a murder in the vicinity.”
I felt extremely relieved. But that didn’t change the fact that he was a cannibal. If Kugutsu craved for Mayuzumi, then she was in clear danger.
Before I could speak, Chihana interrupted, “I will deal with Kugutsu. Please evacuate the premises. I will make preparations today and be there by tomorrow morning. It would be best if you did not take Mayuzumi-sama with you. If Kugutsu craves her, he might get suspicious and do something. I will take your place. Please take shelter somewhere else.”
I gulped. That would mean temporarily leaving Mayuzumi alone with Kugutsu.
“But I can’t leave Mayu-san.”
“It will be fine. Kugutsu is not foolish enough to lay a hand on Mayuzumi-sama when he knows you can return at any moment. What is more frightening is your demon running amok.”
I couldn’t understand what she said. How could my demon be more terrifying than a cannibal?
“When we seize Kugutsu, he might go berserk,” she continued in a serious tone. “If that happens, what are the chances that your demon will devour both Azaka-sama and Kugutsu?”
I tried to tell her that that wouldn’t happen, but I couldn’t.
The creature in my belly eats anything that’s edible.
If Kugutsu was by Mayuzumi’s side, it was definitely possible.
“I will protect Azaka-sama. I swear.”
Hearing her voice, a different motive suddenly came to mind. Maybe she didn’t want me to protect Mayuzumi. She was trying to separate me and Mayuzumi and then seize Kugutsu. I didn’t think repeating myself would get us anywhere. And it would be better if several people seized Kugutsu than me doing it alone.
Better than the demon in me eating someone.
Swallowing my words, I said, “Okay. I’ll let you handle things tomorrow.”
We talked about the plan and what time she would come.
After politely expressing her gratitude and apology, Chihana added, “Please make sure Kugutsu doesn’t sense anything suspicious. Try to make him feel at ease. Please don’t let either Azaka-sama or Kugutsu realize what is going on.”
After saying goodbye, she hung up. Only the empty sound of disconnection remained. In the dusty room, I let out a deep breath. Leaning against a pile of Mayuzumi clothes, I looked up at the dirty ceiling.
The demon in me eating Mayuzumi. I felt nauseous at the possibility that I had not even considered. I recalled tomorrow’s plans, and as I pushed the anxiety away, I suddenly muttered to myself.
If a human eats another human, he becomes a demon.
If a human eats a god, he becomes a god.
If a demon eats a god, what will they become?
I returned to the living room to find Kugutsu cooking. He was focused on simmering the stew. The butter and flour on the table suggested he made the roux himself. The sight of the meat still sent a shiver down my spine. A worried Kugutsu urged me to the table, so I took a seat. Mayuzumi, who had been sleeping to get better, was eating opera cake, looking bored. Kugutsu shot me a glance that asked if I didn’t want to eat.
Try to make him feel at ease.
Remembering those words, I took some meatless stew and bread, and shoved them into my mouth. The potato crumbled and the onions melted.
The well-cooked stew was delicious.
They say that if you eat a human, you cease to be human, and if you eat a demon, you become a demon.
Then I want to be a god. I want to devour a god and become a god.
I want to be a god, and elevate this inhuman body of mine into divinity.
I stuck the fork into the meat before me. Tender and stewed, it had a different flavor from raw flesh. The spiced sauce, made from juices of boiled bones and marrow, was superb. As the meat melted on my tongue, I thought, I will become a god. I will devour a god and become a god. Ah, how wonderful would that be?
To savor the finest gourmet… How sacred!
My head felt heavy after having only a short, shallow sleep. Today was the appointed day. I couldn’t sleep at all last night, and eventually morning came. But as soon as I dozed off a little, the dream came to me again. A sweet taste flooded my mouth. For some reason, the dream became more vivid; it even made me feel irresistible pleasure. Did I really love food this much?
What if I end up eagerly longing for the dream to come in my sleep? Ridiculous, I thought. But I couldn’t help but feel terrified.
Of course, I had no appetite. After drinking several cups of coffee, I rose to my feet. My vision shook from lack of sleep. When I turned around, I saw Mayuzumi in her insect form again. She seemed to have taken recovering seriously. A good thing, really, but the fact that she wasn’t in perfect condition still made me uneasy.
Trying to sound as calm as possible, I said, “Mayu-san, I’m going out for a bit.”
“Hmm? Are you going out, Odagiri-kun? If so, you’d better stay warm. The wind’s still cold.”
A hand reached out from under the blanket. She didn’t bother turning around, but she at least saw me off. Kugutsu was in the kitchen preparing food. The thought of leaving him and Mayuzumi alone together made fear rise in my throat. But Chihana and her companions would be here soon. No need to worry.
Swallowing the impatience and fear, I told Kugutsu, “I’m going out for a bit, but I’ll be back soon. You’ve been at it since morning. Take it easy, okay?”
“I appreciate your kind words, sir. Please take care. I’ll prepare a delicious dinner and wait for your return.”
Bowing deeply, Kugutsu saw me off. I took a step outside, then hurried to the elevator. I pressed the button, and the door opened. As soon as I got in and closed the door, the thing in my stomach started laughing.
Frothy words poured from the monster’s mouth.
The insides of my organs writhed, and the excruciating pain brought me down to my knees. My fingertips trembled. The thing in my belly was laughing as it drank my blood. It shouted, saying that it was having fun. Enduring the pain, I instinctively extended my arm. I felt the elevator buttons, not understanding why I was even doing it. Fifth floor, nothing. Fourth floor, and third floor, none. However, as soon as I touched the second floor button, the laughter exploded even louder.
I pushed the button, and the elevator descended. It stopped with a jolt. The door opened.
The laughter turned to chuckling. Listening to its voice, I forced my trembling feet onward. There were no other tenants in the apartment building owned by the Mayuzumi family. I knew I had to get to the first floor as quickly as possible, but my feet continued on. As I walked down the empty corridor, a scene from the past flashed through my mind. I was walking down a deserted hallway that night too.
Pressing my stomach, I bore the pain and nausea. Upon reaching a particular unit, the thing inside me kicked. I stopped. A chill ran down my spine. There was clearly something off with the doorknob. There were scratches on it, as if it had been forcibly pried open.
The door was unlocked.
Who would do this, and why?
I put my hand on the doorknob. The sound of the monster’s laughter mingled with the creaking of metal. I opened the door and peered into the darkness.
A wooden floor. The layout was similar to Mayuzumi’s unit, except unfurnished. But there, in the middle of the floor where sunlight shone through, was an ice box. Deodorizers were neatly arranged around it. It was a bizarre sight, but it didn’t take long for me to realize what they were for.
To prevent the smell of whatever was inside from leaking out.
I heard water dripping in the bathroom. The smell of rust and a slight odor of decay pierced my nose. I didn’t want to go near it. I didn’t even want to know what was inside. Still, I forced my legs to move. When I touched the ice box, the surface was wet, as if someone had touched it with a wet hand recently. I removed the clasp and slowly lifted the lid.
A wet thump.