After settling into the guest room, Yuusuke began looking around. He was searching for something. I thought the guest room would be different, but it was just like the others, white on all sides, and did not even have a window. Staring at a single point would drive people crazy.
Yuusuke lifted his head, frowning. “Where’s the outlet?”
“Does it look like this place would have one?” I said.
“It’s pretty amazing that you can get that impression from looking at this room,” Mayuzumi remarked. “You’re quite something.”
Yuusuke gave an embarrassed chuckle. It wasn’t a compliment. Still not ready to give up, he walked around the room. In his hand was a portable music player.
“Were you even listening earlier?” I asked.
“I was. At first. Then it got boring with the whole clan thing, so I’ve been using this ever since. And now I’m running out of battery.” Yuusuke waved the player around.
You followed us here. At least pay attention.
Before I could rebuke him, Yuusuke continued in a casual tone, “Clans, family, pretense, true motives, betrayal, public opinion. Who cares about any of those things?”
There was a hint of disgust in his voice. I kept my mouth shut. He must feel uncomfortable in this house.
The clan wanted to deal with their own problem themselves.
It was similar to keeping the double-suicide of a wife and her daughter under wraps.
“If you want to see those kinds of things, just watch daytime television,” he said.
Or maybe I was just overthinking things.
I opened my mouth to yell at him, when the sliding door opened silently, and someone appeared. I turned around to see a familiar face standing there. It was the boy from earlier. His hair had been dyed an unnatural black, and he was wearing a kimono of the same color. There was no bandana covering his face. His large eyes were twitching, and the teacups and snacks on the tray he was carrying was shaking.
“I-I-I brought t-tea… for you…” He trailed off.
He had trouble talking to people, it seemed. Mayuzumi took a cup. Its contents had spilled a little.
“Thanks,” she said. “So you’re our caretaker. I see. This must be your punishment for the time being.” She turned to me with a smirk. “He hates me, after all.”
“I can somehow guess,” I said, “but did something happen between you and the Minase family in the past?”
“You will get your answer soon. It’s too much trouble to talk about it all at once, so I’ll tell you all about it later. For now, have a cup of tea. I’m sure it tastes good, since they’re using expensive leaves.”
I did as she told and took a cup. The boy occasionally cast glances at Yuusuke. He was probably traumatized by the smile. Yuusuke, oblivious to the boy’s gaze, was staring at a corner of the room, his head cocked to the side.
“Odagiri-san,” he called. “What’s that?”
I turned to him.
At first, I had no idea what it was.
There was what looked like a black stain on the white wall.
Moments later, I realized that it was the same thing that was crawling on the hallway walls earlier. Suddenly, it started moving, zipping around the room at an incredible speed, then stopped.
It suddenly changed shape. The corners melted, forming eyelids. I remembered that kanji characters were originally based on images. A huge human eye emerged on the sliding door. Slowly, it regarded us, and blinked.
The slimy eyeball made me nauseous.
“I knew it,” Mayuzumi said amusingly. “We’re being watched.” Like a dog quietly standing by, the eye blinked repeatedly.
I shrank back. “What is that thing, Mayu-san?”
“What do you mean? It’s an alternative to surveillance cameras. These ‘eyes’ are installed in the walls throughout the mansion to watch guests. They don’t have a recording function, but if they see anything suspicious, they immediately report it to the residents. There’s a delay, so I wouldn’t really call it a handy system. In short, it’s just for aesthetics. Just deal with it.”
“Aesthetics? Are you sure about that?”
How was I supposed to deal with it when it looked so creepy? No one should ever find human organs on the walls normal. Not me, especially.
Suddenly, Yuusuke crouched down. “If you don’t like seeing it, just do this.” He poked the eyeball with his finger.
Then he gouged it out. The eye quivered, crumbled, and turned to being just a black stain.
“Wh-Why are you mad?! You said it was creepy!”
“Who told you to gouge it out?!”
“Now, now. Just calm down. I’m sure they won’t find out about it.”
Yuusuke’s eyes met the gaze of the speechless boy behind him. The boy’s shoulders stiffened. Yuusuke gave a toothy grin. The boy tried to run away, but Yuusuke, for some reason, picked up his baseball bat and chased after him. Black letters crawled all over the walls. Numerous letters came through the cracks, and painted the whole ceiling black in no time at all. The overlapping letters wriggled and stopped all at once. I stared dumbly at them.
A slow transformation began. Numerous eyelids took shape, and eyeballs were formed.
Countless eyes blinked on the ceiling.
“You probably shouldn’t have done that,” Mayuzumi muttered with a chuckle.
I sipped my tea while under the ceiling’s gaze. Mayuzumi was still eating her chocolate, not sparing a glance at the snacks. I tore off a piece of nerikiri and tossed it into my mouth. I swallowed the urge to smoke a cigarette along with the sweets. Yuusuke was swinging his bat toward the ceiling. He was just barely out of reach, but he seemed to find it amusing when the eyelids closed.
I sighed. “So what’s the plan, Mayu-san?”
She would probably just stay put and wait for something to happen. In her words, we were in the premium seats, so there was no need to panic. But to my surprise, Mayuzumi shook her head.
“It’s obvious, isn’t it?” she said. “I’ll be spectating… is what I want to say, but I don’t want to get my gut ripped open in a mediocre show, no matter how much fun it may seem. So, Odagiri-kun. I have a job for you. I need you to get me something.”
Mayuzumi rolled over. Stretching her body like a cat, she continued. “First, we’ll ask the clan head if we could borrow a car. We’ll go to the nearest town, or probably end up driving all over the place, really. You have a driver’s license, right?”
“I got one with my own money when you asked me to. So what are we supposed to do? I’m not even sure if they’ll let us borrow a car.”
“There’s something I want to buy. If we can’t borrow a car, that’s okay. I will not be restrained. We’ll rent one if we have to.”
Mayuzumi grinned. Yuusuke swung his bat hard in response. I let out a sigh. I had no idea what’s going to happen, but I don’t want any bloodshed before things even start. I could only hope that things would go peacefully.
“But, Mayu-san,” I said. “I thought your life was in danger. Should you really be out in the open?” It hadn’t really sunk in, so I ended up asking rather bluntly.
Mayuzumi shrugged. “You don’t have to worry about that. It’s a defector from this clan who’s after me. The very same clan that covers their entire walls with white paper, where the head waves around a fan. We’re talking about people who stay away from modern society, and instead use these things for surveillance.”
As if to express their displeasure, the eyes blinked in unison.
Mayuzumi’s smile grew wider. “Everything they do is so theatrical, it’s ridiculous. A member of their clan, although now a defector, would not kill me in broad daylight. If the stage is set, he’ll come. He doesn’t know it himself, but he can’t stop himself from dancing. So we’re getting ready ahead of time.”
Mayuzumi stood up and picked up her red parasol. Ignoring the eyes watching her, she started walking. I followed behind.
Flinging the sliding door open, Mayuzumi whispered, “Take it easy, Odagiri-kun.” There was only anticipation and a hint of boredom in her voice. She tilted her head and smiled. “It’s just a show for now. So let’s have some fun, yeah?”
Her smile filled me with anxiety.