Story IV – Part 08

Translator: Kell

The box was filled with ice packs. The cold air numbed my fingers. After taking out several bags, I saw a plastic bag underneath, packed with processed meat. Chunks of readily-edible meat was carefully preserved inside. I peered into the bag colored light-red.

Where did the other hard-to-eat parts go? The fingers, the ears, the nose.

Probably inside the stomach. That’s why it didn’t look so graphic.

However, the meat in the plastic bag was clearly not from an animal.

“Ha… Haha…”

The meat, with the ribs still attached, must have been cut from a human breast. The chunks, evenly divided, were the same shape as the ones on the bread that morning. Shoulders. Thighs. The thinness suggested they belonged to a woman. Come to think of it, he mentioned that high school girls were soft. I was now convinced that the dream was something the demon picked up from someone’s memory.

When did he do this? It hadn’t decomposed yet, and only a few sections were spoiled, so it must be recent. It was yesterday morning when Kugutsu brought the meat. Could this makeshift fridge really preserve it that long? My mind was strangely calm, until I remembered the well-cooked stew.

It was delicious, and one of its ingredients was…


There was no point in throwing up now. But the gastric juices refluxed back up. I only had coffee this morning. After spewing out the bitter fluid, I got up. The monster was laughing merrily. It must’ve loved the soup. Maybe it was laughing because it wanted me to eat more. My belly was threatening to open up again. But I didn’t have time to worry about it.

If human flesh is this good, the flesh of a god must taste better.

I pulled myself up. Chihana’s image came to my mind. She said she was going to take my place. But if Kugutsu had already killed someone, then he had already lost all sense of reason. A sense of urgency drove me back to the elevator. I returned to the fifth floor and headed straight for Mayuzumi’s unit. I slipped into the doorway, making sure I wasn’t noticed, and peered into the kitchen.

A large amount of non-meat ingredients were lined up on the table.

Kugutsu was focused on cooking. A large plate sat on the table, but I couldn’t see any ingredients that could be used for the main course. As I watched him prepare vegetables for garnish, my eyes widened. There was a huge kitchen knife. Its gleaming blade looked like it could cut the head off a tuna with a single strike.

The meat in the icebox was already dressed.

What was he going to cut, then? The answer was obvious.

I bent down quietly and made my way to the living room. Mayuzumi was still sleeping. I pulled her red parasol and wallet close—the bare minimum we needed if we were to escape.

I shook her. “Mayu-san, Mayu-san. Wake up.”

“Hmm? What is it, Odagiri-kun? Hngh…”

I covered her mouth and picked her up. We would make less noise like this than if we walked together. I couldn’t make her run when she was still weak.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I’ll explain later. For now, we’re getting away from here.”

Mayuzumi’s brow furrowed, but she said nothing. The cap fell from her head. Without a word, Mayuzumi took the parasol from me. Silently, I took a step. Then another. A third one. Slowly I headed toward the doorway. My heart pounded in my chest. Thank goodness Mayuzumi didn’t weigh much. She should keep her slender build. Forget putting on weight.

I grabbed the doorknob with sweaty hands.

“Oh. Good sir. You’re back already?”

A dazed voice came from behind. Cold sweat trickled down my back, and my heart almost leapt out of my throat. There was a note of affection in Kugutsu’s voice. Hoping for the best, I turned around slowly.

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

“And where are you going?”

Smiling, Kugutsu was holding two knives.

I stumbled out of the apartment. Mayuzumi was quiet in my arms, her hands clasped together. Racing toward the elevator, I realized that he was not too far behind. Kugutsu’s footsteps sounded strange, the rhythmic tapping more like a beast sprinting than a human running. Shadows swayed around my feet. His bizarre movement was terrifying.

How could I outrun something not human?

I could go for the stairs, but then what?

I tried the stairs back then, too, and ended up in hell anyway. Everything I did was pointless. There was nothing I could do.

My head was about to boil. The moment I was about to scream out in panic, a small hand slapped me on the cheek. Mayuzumi was looking at me with her usual calm face.

“Excuse me, Odagiri-kun, but could you take the stairs?” was all she said before closing her eyes.

Following her words, I ran down the stairs. The sound of footsteps bounding down the stairs followed close behind. I slammed into a door and rolled into the parking lot. I remembered a folk tale about a man running away from a demon that was out to eat him. A temple might save us, but this place was like a tomb surrounded by stones. I dashed to a large, open area and stopped. Mayuzumi opened her eyes, then jumped out of my arms.

Her feet made a soft thump as she landed.

Before her was Kugutsu, a knife at the ready.

She set the parasol on her shoulder, and a crimson flower blossomed.

With a soft smile, she said, “As you can see, it’s a dead end, Kugutsu-kun. Why don’t you calm down a bit so we can have a chat? I’m not going anywhere.”

Kugutsu remained silent. He looked like a monster as he stood there wordlessly with his hunched back. The knives in his arms were like an extension to his body. I gulped. Mayuzumi didn’t seem scared, but I had no idea what to do.

The current Kugutsu didn’t look human.

Words from my dream replayed in my mind. I’m not human, so I can eat humans. Because he hadn’t eaten good food in his life, he found human flesh delicious.

He got addicted to the taste, and ultimately, he longed to eat a god.

Mayuzumi, who was worshipped as a god, was smiling despite being prey. Kugutsu took a step forward.

“I have a question for you,” Mayuzumi said, spinning the red parasol around on her shoulder. “Why did Chihana decide to eat me?”

Kugutsu lifted his head. He looked like he was about to cry.

His was the expression of a helpless human being.

“…Chihana?” I muttered, stunned.

The one holding knives in front of us was Kugutsu. It was also Kugutsu who was trying to cook Mayuzumi. So why did her name come up? Besides, Mayuzumi might not know it, but I just saw dressed human meat. But she claimed that it was Chihana who was trying to eat her.

That woman who loved Mayuzumi very much.

It didn’t make sense to me. I couldn’t wrap my head around it. What the hell was going on?

Kugutsu opened his mouth all of a sudden. “I’m not human, good sir. But I still have my pride. I’m a cook. I may not be a gourmet, but I’m still a cook. I’m particular about meat. I can’t taste anything. Everything I eat tastes awful. My tongue has gone haywire due to eating too much spoiled food when I was young. Nevertheless, I can recognize good meat. Because Chihana-sama taught me how to cook good meat. If I cook good meat—human meat—people will be happy. They compliment me.”

I remembered. Kugutsu didn’t eat a single bite of the meat he cooked. He ate food that were to be disposed of, but he never willingly ate anything. He had abandoned the pleasures of food.

He was the complete opposite of the person in my dreams, who felt delighted every time they ate meat.

Whose memories were those? Was the dream I’d been having Chihana’s memory?

“I wanted to please you,” he said. “So I lied to get good quality meat. Chihana-sama said that that was the most delicious of them all. She sometimes preferred to have it fresh, even if it meant getting her own hands dirty. I know it’s disgusting to people. But I wanted to serve it to you. Chihana-sama doesn’t know about it. I did it on my own.”

For a moment, he looked like he was about to cry.

“I was going to betray you in the end,” he added, “but you were so kind to me.”

He said he prepared the human meat out of pure goodwill.

I stared at his face blankly.

Mayuzumi shook her head. “You were going to kill me when the drug wore off, weren’t you? Then you were going to cook me and feed me to Chihana. That was her order. Am I right? Chihana was obsessed with me. Do you know what her name means, Odagiri-kun?” she asked out of nowhere.

How should I know?

Mayuzumi grinned like a cat. “Chihana can be read as Senka, which can then be rewritten as Azaka.”

She was a child born with the expectation of becoming an Azaka.

But it was not to be.

A few years after she was born, a child who was an Azaka by nature came to the world.

“You were raised to be something not human, while she returned to being one. Though she probably couldn’t accept it.”

Mayuzumi smiled. The memory that the monster devoured flashed through my mind.

The memory of someone scorned and tormented by kids. Raised by her parents as a god, she was discriminated by others, and people had expectations for her, but she suddenly lost that status.

A woman who couldn’t become an Azaka doesn’t deserve to live.

In that moment, she became less than human, and her haughty attitude and status as a member of the branch family caused her to be discriminated against. But she couldn’t accept it.

“I am not human.”

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