Story V – Part 11

Translator: Kell

“It’s your fault,” Shizuka said, grabbing the bottom of her skirt.

She was right. This happened because I never made our relationship clear. Everything was my fault.

I didn’t think about how she felt.

“Don’t cry, Shizuka. I don’t hate you.”

I reached out my hand to her. Still, Shizuka would not stop crying. Her shoulders were shaking as if she was terribly cold. I bent down and hugged her tight. Warm tears wet my neck.

“It’s okay now. You can stop crying.”

“…Will you help me?” she asked in a faint voice.

She grabbed my shirt, pleading. Tears streamed down my neck. I stroked her back again and again.

“Will you save me?”

“I will. So don’t cry anymore.”

The tears stopped.

For a second, I didn’t understand what that meant.

Shizuka had stopped crying all of a sudden. Too sudden.

“Thank you, Tsutomu-san,” she said in a dry voice.

She let go of my shirt and moved her hand to my neck. Her soft hand stuck to my skin.

“That’s all I wanted to hear.”

Something sharp pierced my skin.

The whole world turned inside out. Everything in my field of vision was dyed crimson. The ceiling pulsated. I collapsed, unable to speak. Saliva dripped from my mouth, and my tongue twitched.

The rain sounded distant.

So far away.

Everything was fading into the distance.

In the midst of it all, Shizuka was wearing a twisted smile on her face.

Her slender arm held a long needle with an ornament I’d never seen before.

What is that?

What did she do?

“Amazing, isn’t it, Tsutomu-san? Asato-san gave it to me. He said that if you were willing to help me, I should use it. If you gave your word, exercising your free will, then I could do anything I wanted. Now we’ll always be together.”


Asato. Weird. What in the world was he? He was just a student. No, no. He was odd from the beginning. It wasn’t that surprising. Asato and the fox mask. Asato the trickster. Asato.

“If you’re scared, then run away. And if you decide to look the other way, then don’t ever come close.”

The fox smiled. The beast sneered.

My vision was fading. Laughter rang out. Shizuka was laughing out loud. Her deranged laughter becoming distant was my sole comfort as darkness closed in.

Finally, just before my vision completely darkened I looked at Shizuka.

She looked to be on the verge of tears.

Stabbed by Shizuka, my past self collapsed. As I stared at the screen, my whole body tensed up. Shizuka carried my puppet-like body to the bed, opened her traveling bag and began putting all the household items she had brought into shelves and drawers. She looked happy, as if starting a new, married life, but she did a poor job of organizing things. The room, mirroring Shizuka’s broken heart, was like a junkyard.

In the footage, I was a puppet that neither spoke nor moved.

I was nothing but a doll, an unresponsive creature that you could only show one-sided affection to.

What’s so fun about this?

A small chuckle escaped my lips.

Shizuka seemed happy playing house all by herself. But she would soon experience her first disappointment. As a puppet, not only couldn’t I talk, I was also impotent. I hit the floor and started laughing. Crazed laughter rose from within me. Every time I cackled, I felt a pain deep in my stomach. The thing inside me was going so ballistic that it even affected me in my dream. But even that didn’t matter anymore. Tears welled up and fell.

It started here. Everything started here. Like a stone rolling down a hill, things were going to get worse. There was only one ending. The proof was the pain in my belly. It was comical. I rolled on the floor, laughing. Eventually, I had trouble breathing, so I stopped.

Tears trickled down, hitting the ground and shattering.

On the screen, Shizuka huddled against me and continued to cry. I didn’t care about the darkness eating me up anymore. Not wanting to see anything else, I turned around.

A person with a red parasol stood there.

Crimson stood out in stark contrast against the gray world.

Who’s that?

A girl wearing a black gothic lolita was standing there. Around fourteen years old, she resembled the girl I saw in my dream. But I couldn’t see her face well. Like a blurry photograph, I couldn’t tell who she was exactly.

But the red parasol felt familiar.

Very, very comforting.

“Hey, there. You sure took your time, Odagiri-kun,” the girl said in an easygoing tone. “You look like a mess.” Her voice sounded indistinct, like it passed through some kind of membrane. She cocked her head in disappointment. “I still can’t get through, huh? Yup, that’s Asato, all right. He had already taken the appropriate measures.”

She turned on her heel and started walking. The red parasol was moving away. I reached out my hand.

Wait. Don’t leave me.

The girl did not answer. But she turned around with a dumbfounded look. I couldn’t even see her eyes or nose, but somehow I knew what expression she wore. At times like this, she always had a mocking look.

“What are you doing?” she said. “Do you want me to go out there alone?”

I rose to my feet and fell in beside her.

The girl nodded in satisfaction. “Shall we go for a stroll?”

She started walking. I stood still, recalling the sensation of my legs being devoured. But when the girl turned her parasol, the gray darkness that had filled the space vanished.

Spinning and spinning.

Swirling round and round, the darkness melted and crumbled, and a new scene played.

A boy was sitting in the tatami room, his face stiff under the intense summer sun. Then a smile appeared on his face. A woman with dark hair approached him and offered him ice cream. The boy smiled happily.

The image gently melted away, replaced by a different scene. The boy was playing with a little girl. From a distance, he could hear a woman crying and shouting in anger. The boy ignored the cries and continued playing with the little girl. The woman screamed once more. Biting his lip so hard that it bled, he broke into a run. Screaming, he opened the sliding door, and punched the old man. It switched to a different scene. Two bodies were gently swaying in the wind. Two gray corpses hung from the branch of a pine tree like impossible fruits.

It was snowing.

The boy was staring at them, eyes wide open. Snow piled up on his shoulders. But he didn’t make a sound.

He did not cry.

He could not cry.

And so he broke.

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