After calling the main family to clean up, Mayuzumi tossed her cell phone aside and collapsed on the sofa. As always, the perfectly air-conditioned room lacked a sense of realism. But it was better than the building with countless bird cages hanging from the ceiling. I thought back to the goldfish circling inside the glass balls.
Where will those fish go now?
They must be unaware that their owner was dead.
I told Mayuzumi about the goldfish I saw that night. Mayuzumi listened wearily, nodding along.
“Your vision of the woman was probably a coincidence,” she said, swinging her legs that were clad in knee-high socks. “Your demon captured the emotions embedded in that place, causing the image of the woman to overlap with the goldfish. And said goldfish turned to blood when the demon bit it. You see, that goldfish is a creature drawn in blood, probably by the gravely-wounded Minase defector. That’s why the goldfish was always by our side—to keep an eye on us. Moreover, the goldfish was collecting blood to grow, by draining blood from corpses.”
Mayuzumi glanced at Shirayuki. The Minase clan head did not respond.
The corner of Mayuzumi’s mouth quirked up. “The Minase clan’s ability to bring words to life is, in other words, the process of using brush and ink as conduits to materialize what is within oneself. The more powerful the practitioner, the more impossible creatures they can draw into existence. Theoretically, anyone who has the ability should be able to materialize any object at will. But those with weaker abilities cannot. Only two people in the Minase clan can materialize imaginary creatures. While the rest can only draw creatures that already exist.”
“The reason why it is difficult to materialize creatures that don’t exist is because the practitioner’s notion that such things do not exist hinder them. I told you before, didn’t I? What you think is impossible cannot be. The Minase clan’s greatest enemy is itself. They can only materialize what they believe they can materialize. The only way to transcend that barrier is by possessing utmost confidence. It sounds simple, but it’s extremely difficult to overturn one’s beliefs. To do so, you need a supporting instrument to help you believe that it’s possible. Like how a tool created by a master can alter a person’s consciousness.”
It’s simple addition. They could do this much without help. With additional assistance, they would be capable of something more.
Any person would reach that conclusion.
“In other words, by using blood instead of ink, they can create an even more powerful monster. Using human blood is a clear taboo. The awareness of having violated a taboo and the emotion contained in the blood will aid the practitioner. That’s why the goldfish is created from blood and continues to collect blood to further increase its power. After your demon ate the goldfish, there have been many similar incidents. Bloodless corpses. Having more of them will only be trouble. One thing’s bothering me, though.”
Mayuzumi suddenly got up and turned toward Shirayuki, who was sitting on the couch across, unmoving.
“I want to learn about the incident within the Minase clan,” Mayuzumi said, looking straight at Shirayuki. “What exactly happened to you guys and how did it come to this?”
Shirayuki did not answer. Clutching her fan, she responded to Mayuzumi’s question with absolute silence. They held each other’s gazes, refusing to say anything. Unable to bear the endless silence, I rose to my feet.
They remained silent. There was no point in me staying here. I left the two of them. I peered into the room that was only partially cleaned up. Shirayuki was probably still staying in the apartment. It would be better to tidy while we still could. As I rolled up my arms, I realized someone was there.
“Haru no urara no sumida ga-awa!”
Yuusuke was singing a song in a chaotic rhythm. He was sprawled on the floor, his arms and legs extended out. Dictionaries and LPs were crushed under his hands and piles of clothes under his feet. The way he was humming randomly made him seem drunk.
“What are you doing?”
“Oh, Odagiri-san. Hello. Good work out there. I’m exhausted myself. I wish I could just laugh like an idiot all the time, but I just had to go back to being serious, and it brought back memories, and now I’m beat. Ah, I hate life.”
Yuusuke laughed out loud. He was in high spirits. I was worried that he might really be drunk. I left the room, wondering why he was acting weird. Unfortunately, I was also tired from my belly opening. I didn’t feel like talking to him when he was too hyper.
“What? You’re ignoring me? You meanie! I’m so glad those girls found a home. The Minase clan, was it? I feel like that place is awful, but it’s better than being sold to someone. Ugh, I’m getting a headache again. Time to change the subject. Did you watch the show last night?”
“Sorry, can we talk later? I’m too tired to keep up with you.”
“There were bones buried in the backyard.”
For a moment, I couldn’t understand what he just said.
Slowly I turned around. Yuusuke’s face turned serious. He shut his mouth and stared at me upside down.
He cackled. His sinister, high-pitched laugh reminded me of singing skulls.
“It’s the curse of the goldfish. That happened to the old man because he treated the goldfish poorly. Poor guy. He had his head smashed in, and then his blood got drained by a goldfish that just happened to be attracted to Shirayuki-san’s blood, making him all shriveled up. Served him right. A nice ending, I would say. I hope all those geezers who stomp on people’s heads without batting an eye die.”
His voice was horrifyingly low. It was different from when he was laughing heartily.
Yuusuke bared his teeth in a ferocious smile. “Those girls resented him because their mother was killed. It’s not that they didn’t have feelings, they just didn’t know how to express them. They knew where their mother was killed and where they were buried. He was killed because he killed women and hurt children.” He flashed a grin. “It was the curse of the goldfish,” he repeated.
After that, he stopped talking. Humming a tune, he kicked down a pile of magazines and started playing with them. I couldn’t say anything. Sweat cascaded down my neck. Inexplicable fear crawled up my spine. Feeling a headache coming, I left the room and headed outside.
I opened the door and closed it behind me. Gazing up at the clear sky, I lit a cigarette. I took a huge drag and blew softly, savoring the nicotine. I thought back to the earlier conversation. Then, I sensed something off. There was a nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach. Confused, my mind frantically tried to figure out what was wrong.
The old man fell down the stairs and hit his head hard. But what did Yuusuke say?
He was killed by the curse of the goldfish.
A shiver ran down my spine. Come to think of it, would that obese man ever climb the stairs? That house was the old man’s paradise. There should at least be an elevator installed. Yuusuke went outside with the girls that night. When I woke up, Yuusuke was not in his room. In other words, no one knew where he was and what he was doing late that night.
The old man’s head was cracked open as if he had been hit with a baseball bat.
I threw away my unfinished cigarette and snuffed it out with my foot. I pulled open the door and rushed back to the room, where I found Yuusuke bobbing his head while casually listening to rock music. Sensing my presence, he turned around.
“Hmm? What’s up?” he asked nonchalantly.
I didn’t know what to say. I stared at his face, speechless. Yuusuke, looking confused, resumed listening to music.
There was nothing sinister about him.
The familiar voice of skulls rang in my mind.