“She adored me, glorified me, and worshiped me as a god. She waited for me for what seemed like a hundred years. She revered me. But the thing is, she didn’t need to love me.”
You don’t have to love a person to love a god.
It was possible to just devote herself blindly to the name Mayuzumi Azaka.
“She didn’t have to love the individual itself,” Mayuzumi added.
Was it blind love for the status she lost?
She would have wished to regain it, and that tied in with her cannibalism, a diet that she found to maintain her identity as something not human.
“And by eating me, she was trying to become a god.”
If you eat a demon, you become a demon.
So if you eat a god, you would become a god.
“The only ones who think about becoming a god, Odagiri-kun, are those who fancy themselves to be more than human. Dogs that prowl the earth don’t know about the existence of gods.”
A dog, even if it eats humans, is still a dog.
Therefore, dogs know nothing of gods.
“Mayu-san, how much did you know?” I uttered.
“You looked like you were in a lot of pain, so I took a peek at your dreams. I didn’t know what he or you were going to do, though, so I left you to your own devices. I’ve told you before. The world of dreams is close to the afterlife. It is within my expertise. As such, I have free rein over them. If you don’t mind dying, I can use the dream as a window to physically move you.”
Mayuzumi grinned, averting her gaze from Kugutsu. The man himself was just staring at us, unmoving. He was trembling, as if he was holding back something.
“Unless they have a different object of worship,” Mayuzumi said, her back turned to Kugutsu, “those born into the Mayuzumi family can’t kill Mayuzumi Azaka out of innate fear. That’s probably why Chihana decided to use you, whom she nurtured with her own hands. She taught you how to kill and cook so you can kill and cook me. She raised you so badly that you saw yourself as not human. She probably made this move because she was afraid that Asato would kill me. Or perhaps Asato prodded her. It’s his kind of entertainment. Asato sent Chihana to me for one thing only: to annoy me. Chihana, after all, can’t kill me.”
Mayuzumi turned around, her black dress flaring. Ribbons made dark circles. She must be smiling, because Kugutsu swallowed.
“In short, you can’t kill me.”
I didn’t know the reasoning behind her claim. But on her face was a bold smile. Kugutsu’s arms trembled. An instinctive fear had gripped him. Suddenly, anger rushed through my brain. Kugutsu called me a kind man, even though I didn’t do anything in particular.
In other words, no one had paid attention to him before.
Why did she create this person? How could she treat someone like this?
Humans are not dogs.
“That’s enough, Kugutsu. Put the knife down!” I said. “I can tell you’re a victim too. You don’t have to listen to her!”
The tip of the knife quievered ominously.
Kugutsu bared his teeth. “Easy for you to say!” he shouted. “But I can’t defy Chihana-sama! Have you ever been dragged around with a collar on? Have you ever had spoiled meat stuffed into your mouth? Have you ever been beaten with a stick until you forgot how to speak, and then taught all over again?”
His was a heartbreaking scream. Like a dog barking, he cried out.
“Do you know what it feels like to live your life in chains?!”
The image of Chihana came back to my mind. She would not hesitate to put chains on people. To her, gods keeping humans as pets was natural; treating people like dogs was normal.
And she never batted an eye.
“A dog has to listen to its owner. That’s all I can do. You normal people will never understand, but that’s all I can do!”
The tip of the knife shook like his quivering teeth.
Mayuzumi scoffed audibly. “How foolish,” she said. “You’re just running away, Kugutsu-kun. You simply stopped trying to think. You fail to realize the most crucial thing. A dog doesn’t even recognize itself as a dog. You claim that you’re a dog, because you wouldn’t be able to take it otherwise. You want to run away, but you can’t. Can you please count me out of this?”
The red parasol twirled round and round.
“You made the choice yourself to live as a pet until you die.”
Kugutsu stopped moving, his eyes widening.
His large mouth opened, and he screamed out loud. It sounded like a beast howling. Letting out a throat-ripping roar, Kugutsu charged forward. The knife closed in on Mayuzumi’s belly.
The moment it was about to cut through her soft skin, she reached out and grabbed me by the scruff of my neck and pulled me in front of her.
“You can’t kill me.”
I see. So that’s what you mean.
I didn’t even have time to get mad. With tacit consent, the knife plunged into my abdomen. Then, the tip of the blade stopped. A small, wet hand grasped the blade. Gray fingers used the blade as support to pull themselves out of my belly. A small arm stretched out, and a monster appeared. Kugutsu’s eyes widened. The monster opened its small mouth.
Suddenly, it grew wide and bit Kugutsu’s hand.
Kugutsu’s fingers cracked as they were ripped off. Emotions flooded into my mind. The monster chewed the flesh, licking the bone as if it were candy. The raging emotions of the flesh’s owner were transmitted into my brain. The monster was also devouring his feelings. The fear of being eaten struck my whole being.
Oh, shit. Oh, shit. Oh, shit. What the hell is this? It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. I don’t wanna die. It’s gonna eat me. I’m dead. It’s gonna eat me. Oh, shit. I can’t do anything. What is this? Is this a demon? It’s way different from humans! No one told me about this. No, nooooo! Ah, wait.
I’m scared. Terrified. This thing is more terrifying than her.
Demons are more horrifying. What is not human is more horrifying.
Ah, it’s gonna eat me. It’s gonna kill me.
I finally get it.
My eyes widened in surprise. Kugutsu started running. With his ravaged hand, he sprinted somewhere. There was a sound of a door banging open, and the scene before me changed. The monster was transmitting Kugutsu’s vision. It continued to follow with amusement while it swallowed and digested Kugutsu’s flesh.
As if anticipating what’s going to happen ahead.
A luxurious car was parked in front of the apartment building, with a guard standing next to it. Behind the glass, I saw Chihana. Her plan was probably to keep me outside until Kugutsu was done cooking, or kill me. She was dialing her phone in frustration. She seemed to find it strange that I hadn’t showed up yet, and that she hadn’t heard from Kugutsu. The luxurious car came closer. As the door opened, the guard silently fell flat, his neck ripped open. Chihana’s face was now closer. She raised her head. Astonishment filled her face, but it was too late.
Kugutsu entered the car, stomped on the guard’s corpse with his knee, and grabbed Chihana’s face with his left hand.
Fingers digging into her flesh, he whispered, “No funny movements, driver. If you want to run, go. You’re just a grunt, right? Only fools die for moral obligation.”
Blood trickled down from his torn right hand. The area around his thumb and wrist was gone. But Kugutsu didn’t seem to feel any pain. The driver squealed and ran away. Kugutsu laughed out loud. The guard’s blood and flesh flew from his mouth.
“I get it. I finally get it,” he said. “I figured it out after being eaten by the demon. You’re not really a demon. Because demons are much more terrifying. The moment it bit me, I understood. The moment it ate my wrist, I knew I was nothing but food to it. I was meat. In front of that creature, I was nothing but meat. It’s different. It’s on a league on its own. Then it hit me. You’re not a demon. You’re not more than human, yet you claim that you are. What are you, then?”
Chihana’s cheeks were shaking. She desperately tried to say something, but Kugutsu didn’t listen, and instead put more strength into his fingers.
Kugutsu probably had an animalistic grin on his face.
Even this woman, who aspired to be a god, was terrified.
“You’re just an animal to a real demon, you’re probably not even meat. You’re like kitchen waste. Eating you will only cause a stomachache. Then you don’t mind if I eat you, do you? I’m not human. I’m a dog. I was raised as a dog. I ate only scraps, was fed scraps. Surely I can eat you. Kitchen waste has to be taken care of. I should eat you, then, right?”
Kugutsu opened his mouth wide. Chihana’s face contorted—the face of a person trembling with fear. She wanted to shout. Kugutsu brought his face closer to her throat.
The taste of blood filling my mouth was disgusting.
The feed cut off from my brain, and the confusion subsided. Mayuzumi was silently closing my abdomen. I remembered what she did, but I couldn’t bring myself to complain. I knew which was better, her dying or me getting stabbed. More than anything, I was more concerned about Kugutsu than my stomach.
What happened to him?
Mayuzumi didn’t say anything. I asked her to lend me her shoulder, and we walked out of the parking lot. The car was already gone. On the road was a pool of blood, with Chihana’s corpse lying abandoned in the middle of it. Her neck was ripped open as if torn off by a beast. Frozen still and wide-eyed, she looked like a discarded doll.
I had no idea where the dog went.
I didn’t even know what went in his mind as he drank the blood he sucked.
“A dog ate the scraps,” I repeated bitterly.
“You shouldn’t talk nonsense, Odagiri-kun,” Mayuzumi snapped.
Slowly, she strolled forward, her red parasol glistening like a flower under the blue sky.
Her pale fingers caressed the body.
“A human killed another human. That’s all there is to it,” she whispered.
There was no one under the blue sky but us.
One died, and another disappeared.