According to Mayuzumi, the house was called the Goldfish Manor.
It was said that the owner, obsessed with goldfish, lived surrounded by them.
A crazed paradise, where the rich end up after a life of debauchery.
Since Shirayuki insisted on coming with us, we decided to take a car. I borrowed one belonging to Mayuzumi from the underground parking lot of the condominium. I drove cautiously. We got on the highway and headed east along the coast. After taking a break at a rest stop, we continued to our destination. We exited the highway, followed the road straight ahead then turned right at the traffic light. Following Mayuzumi’s directions, we arrived at a strange lone building near the harbor. The area was deserted, perhaps because of its proximity to an industrial zone. The building looked like a museum or something. Odd, nevertheless.
It was cylindrical-shaped, with a domed roof, where a strange ornament sat. Resembling a weathercock, it was a rust-colored goldfish with its tail fins outstretched.
The blue walls gave it a gloomy atmosphere. The entire building looked somewhat like a prison. Decor resembling bars lined the wall, surrounding the whole building. While studying it, I came to a realization.
The building was shaped like a birdcage.
I pressed the doorbell, and it produced an antiquated sound. The thick door gradually opened. A fishy breeze drifted from within the opening, and a young girl in a red kimono appeared from inside. Her large, black eyes looked up at me. A shiver ran down my spine.
The girl’s eyes looked odd. There was no emotion in them at all. Nothing but wet, glistening orbs. She turned around, and the bottom of her red kimono flared. She started walking, but I was still frozen on the spot.
Her eyes were much like those of a fish.
“Stop dawdling around, Odagiri-kun,” Mayuzumi said. “We have to follow her, or we won’t make it in time. ” She pushed me from behind, bringing me back to my senses.
We started walking. Countless birdcages hung in the dim corridor, probably Chinese antiques. They were made of dull-colored wood with hexagonal boxes attached to the bottom, each face bearing elaborate carvings of Qilins. All the birdcages, from small to big, housed no birds. Instead they contained spherical aquarium tanks inside, and they filled the entire ceiling.
Goldfish were swimming inside.
Red, black, white. Goldfish of various colors were swimming in the air, some of them so clearly deformed. Several were suspended in midair, dancing gracefully in the water. As I shifted my gaze forward, I caught sight of the fluttering kimono. Crimson blended in with the darkness. It seemed to drift in the water.
It looked like the fin of a goldfish.
We passed through the corridor and reached the hall. The girl rushed to the middle of the room and crouched down on the edge of a couch. The hall’s ceiling was filled with even more birdcages than the hallway. Hundreds of chains were suspended from above, all with cages at the end of them. The goldfish swimming inside looked as if they had been displayed that way for a hundred years. Aquarium tanks were embedded on the wall in place of windows. A staircase spiraled upward. The walls had doors as well, not just tanks. Apparently this room was the center of the building, and to access the other rooms, you had to climb the stairs. An odd construction, for sure. There was so much wasted space.
Bright-colored goldfish danced inside the glass.
I felt like I was going crazy.
This mansion was built in accordance with a completely warped sense of beauty.
I remembered Mayuzumi’s words. She said this place was a twisted paradise built by an elderly.
I shifted my eyes to the front. An old man was sitting on a couch placed randomly at the center of the hall. His body, wrapped in luxurious clothes, was obese. Beside him were two young girls. The bottom of their red and black kimonos rested softly on the floor. They had unusually white skin. Looking into their gleaming eyes filled me with extreme discomfort.
It was like looking into the eyes of a fish.
I stared into them, but I couldn’t feel their gaze on me.
“What adorable little girls. Hello!”
Yuusuke, feeling nothing, smiled and waved. He came with us again, just like last time, and I didn’t realize it until we were on the highway, so I couldn’t ditch him. The girls did not respond, but I thought I saw them lift their heads a little. Before I could confirm it, Mayuzumi stepped forward, staring ahead with a dignified gaze. She opened her red parasol and set it on her shoulder. Her figure, dressed in a gothic lolita fashion, looked inhuman, but distinctly different from the girls.
If I had to put it into words, she was a monster in human form.
Silence descended. A muffled laughter broke it. The old man who had been glaring at Mayuzumi slapped his knee and burst out laughing.
“It’s been a long time, Mayuzumi-sama,” he said. “Thank you for answering this old man’s plea. You haven’t changed a bit. You look at me as if I were a toad.”
“I’m glad you’re aware of that. Correction, though: this is not how I look at toads. I quite like the little creatures.”
The old man laughed even harder. It sounded like the coughing of a dying person.
“You’re the same as ever,” Mayuzumi went on. “Indeed. It’s been a few years since we last saw each other. You shamelessly asked me if you could have a Mayuzumi girl, and I refused. Those two have grown up to be beautiful, haven’t they? I see you still love treating people like goldfish. Quite a shameless hobby you have there, playing children’s games at that age.”
“Thank you for the compliment. But the person I most wanted to add to my collection was you, Mayuzumi-sama. You would have made a beautiful goldfish, but unfortunately, your eyes and mouth have grown too ugly. A huge shame, really. Every time I see your white skin, I think: I should have raised you.”
A chill ran down my spine. My gaze went to the two girls. Lifeless, emotionless eyes were staring back at me. Their only movement was the occasional opening of their mouths to catch their breath. It reminded me of goldfish.
Emotionless eyes. Silent mouths.
“I should have raised you.”
What did he mean by that?
“Wasn’t there another one?” Mayuzumi asked. “You know, the woman you kept by your side at all times. Their mother, I believe? What happened to her? She was too young to just die.”
The girls raised their heads, and with fluid motion looked up at the old man. Their eyes held no emotion still.
“She could no longer bear any children, so I sent her somewhere else,” the old man replied without looking at the girls. “She was long past the age of viewing.”
Questions rose in my mind: Sent her where? Where was the woman taken to? And the way he said it… made me sick.
People are not meant to be viewed like some exhibit.
I felt a strange presence coming from my left hand, and every strand of hair on my body stood on end. It felt like there was a wild beast nearby. A similar sensation to when I saw the tiger up close at the Minase household.
My eyes quickly went to the left, and I saw Yuusuke smiling ferociously. He was staring at the old man with his teeth bared like a skull. His enraged eyes reminded me of a beast.
Then it came to me.
This old man was a lot like his father.
Yuusuke Saga killed without batting an eye. But there was probably only one person he actually wanted to kill. I could understand his reaction.
People will hate others. That’s just inevitable.
I can’t criticize them for that, nor can they me.
I looked away from Yuusuke’s ferocious smile. Then I caught sight of Yukihito, who was hanging his head low behind Yuusuke. He looked to be on the verge of tears, as though remembering something heartbreaking.
What’s wrong with him?
Before I could call to him, white paper crossed my vision. Shirayuki opened her fan, making sure the old man couldn’t see what was written on it.
“He is a fool. Women are not goldfish.”
“…Yes. I fully agree,” I replied, puzzled.
Shirayuki nodded slightly and closed the fan. I looked over my shoulder and saw Yukihito rubbing his eyes and raising his head. He shook his head several times and stared straight ahead.
“So, you want me to catch a flying goldfish, correct?” Mayuzumi said. “Sorry for turning you down at first. Odagiri-kun here says he saw a flying goldfish. As you know, goldfish don’t fly. If something that violates common sense appears, it’s either the work of an oddity or an esper.”
Mayuzumi’s words played in my mind.
An esper is someone that transcends common sense.
Sometimes they entered dreams, at times they summoned dragons on the ceiling.
A flying goldfish was nothing to be surprised about.