It was a one-sided slaughter.
The creatures were just in a whole different league. The sight of the tigers devouring the beasts was oddly captivating.
My sense of fear had gone numb. The scene before me was so unreal. It felt like I was watching an elegant production. There was a clear difference between the man’s drawing and those of the Minase clan. The dancing tigers were significantly more beautiful than the other animals.
It was the difference between art and mere graffiti.
All the animals were nothing but graffiti before the man’s drawings.
Suddenly the tiger on the right jumped out of the wall. Upon landing on the floor, it pounced on the woman closest to it. Massive amounts of blood gushed out of her torn neck. The pure-white ceiling turned red, and blood rained on the floor. The tiger leapt right back into the wall. It sprinted up to the ceiling, attacked a man from above, crushed him, and slammed him against the wall. Humans were dying in cold blood. The child in my stomach laughed. But I couldn’t move.
I stared dumbfounded at the scene before me. Mayuzumi’s words rang in my ears.
“It’s just a show for now.”
You were right, Mayu-san.
This was just like a scene from a stage play.
The tigers vanished. Corpses littered the red-walled corridor.
Where did they go?
Then, a white arm abruptly reached out from the corner of my eye. It grabbed me by the collar and dragged me into the room, slamming the back of my head into the floor. Reeling in agony, I felt a stir on the back of my neck. Right before I collapsed, I heard the clattering of teeth and animals breathing nearby. I picked myself up. Mayuzumi was no longer looking at me. The tiger, having run out of targets, had gnawed at another member of the clan. A scream came from the hallway.
“Yuusuke-kun!” Mayuzumi shouted.
Yuusuke silently brandished his bat. He bashed the wall, scraping it. Yuusuke repeatedly swung his bat to the right and to the left, leaving only torn wallpaper and bare mud walls. Just then, a lone tiger bolted and tried to enter the room, but the wall it attempted to cross had a huge scratch.
The tiger could pop out of the wall, but for some reason, it seemed to insist on moving along the wall. It stopped with a low growl.
The other tiger also stopped in front of the damaged wall. But it leapt through the still intact wallpaper and onto the ceiling. It wanted to go above our heads and leap into the room from there. Yuusuke immediately jumped toward the ceiling.
Yuusuke swung the bat with a feral motion. The tip hit the ceiling and tore the paper. The tiger went around the torn paper, letting out a low roar of annoyance. The other tiger turned and went back out. The tiger on the ceiling, too, dashed back to the wall and returned to the corridor.
Screams echoed in the distance.
Finally, it dawned on me that we were safe. My whole body relaxed.
“I see,” Mayuzumi said. “The difference is outstanding. An all-out war is pretty much pointless.” She chuckled, and smiled at me. “Good for you, Odagiri-kun. In this white household, the beasts can move faster on the wallpaper. That’s why they only jump out when they devour people, and then return to the wall. Master’s orders, most likely. And to follow those orders, those tigers put off attacking us. They had no wallpaper to pass through. If it weren’t for his word, or if we were somewhere else, we might have already been chewed to death. Ah, heaven forbid.”
There was no hint of fear in her voice. She was smiling down the hallway.
I understood then. This situation was really just a show for her.
I stood up, holding back the urge to lash out at her.
“Mayu-san,” I called. “You look very calm. The enemy’s after you, isn’t he?”
“Is that a jab at me? Take a look at this mess. The tigers don’t see me as anyone special. They’re killing people indiscriminately. Do you know why?”
How should I know?
When I didn’t answer, she continued. “In short, they were outriders. To kill the queen bee deep in the hive, you have to kill the other bees. For me, this scene is nothing more than entertainment. I’ve told you before. This is a show.”
Her lips lifted into a hideous smile. I furrowed my brows.
“Mayuzumi-san,” Yuusuke called with a yawn. “What’s our next move?”
“What do you want to do?”
“Well, my player’s run out of battery, so I want to go home,” he replied easily.
Yuusuke seemed uninterested in the scene in front of him. When he noticed my gaze, he said, “If you want to see something like this, just go to the movies. CGI these days is pretty amazing.”
“That’s not the point. This isn’t a movie. Real people are dying here.”
“Asking me to feel sorry for them is ridiculous.” Shrugging, he walked to the door and peered down the bloody, ink-soaked hallway. “I won’t cry over anyone’s death anymore. Because honestly, I really don’t care. If someone dies in front of me, and I’m not involved in any way, then that’s that.”
People think differently. Whether or not you feel sad about someone’s death is up to the individual. As Yuusuke said, it would be up to me to mourn this scene. And I know it’s thoughtless to ask Yuusuke to do so.
But I can’t just allow that. I glowered at him.
As if to get rid of the tense atmosphere, Mayuzumi clapped her hands, drawing attention to her.
“You have every right to be angry, Odagiri-kun. I neither agree or disagree with your sentiment. But I do understand, and I do plan to do something about the situation. So let’s get a move on. Can you two carry the stuff we bought?”
Yuusuke and I looked at each other. I finally realized what she had in mind.
But could we really do that?
“I said I’d take care of it, didn’t I? Besides, it’s for their own good as well. If you’re tired of the play, helping out the actors every once in a while is not a bad idea, I would say. Let’s go, Odagiri-kun.”
Without waiting for my reply, Mayuzumi walked out into the hallway. Stepping on a pool of blood, she turned around.
“Let’s watch from the premium seats.”
I thought she was going to follow the screams, but Mayuzumi suddenly started searching for something. She grabbed the blood-soaked sliding doors and opened them one by one. There was no one inside. But when she opened the third sliding door, we noticed a figure trembling in the corner.
“There you are,” Mayuzumi muttered as she neared the boy.
He looked up, his face wet with tears. When he saw Mayuzumi, instead of being relieved, his eyes widened and he hung his head down.
“Hello there. You’re our guide, aren’t you?” Mayuzumi asked.
He cast his eyes down and cried in shame.
“Why are you shaking? The people guarding this place are all dead. It was you guys’ idea to keep me away from the head, but not too far that you can’t protect me either. And for that, you need a guide. In this situation, you should be taking us closer to the last line of defense. You’re free to wet yourself, but you have to do your duty. If you don’t, I might miss out on a great show.”
From what I understood, he was supposed to lead us to the head of the clan once he sensed something was wrong. But instead he ran away with his tail between his legs. Mayuzumi’s words did nothing; he still wouldn’t stand up. Fear had paralyzed his legs. How do we calm him down?
“Boooo!” Yuusuke roared out of nowhere, sticking his face in front of the boy.
I wondered what kind of face he made. The boy completely froze.
“Yuusukeeeee! Why don’t you read the room?!”
“I did that on purpose. It’s called shock therapy. Well? Feel better?”
The boy blinked several times.
“No matter how scared you are,” Yuusuke said, “when it’s your time to go, it’s your time to go. So get a move on.” He gave a toothy, skull-like grin.
The boy sprang to his feet. Maybe he thought he was going to get eaten.