V2 Story IV – Part 07


Translator: Kell


She stopped screaming. Tears streamed down her cheeks. Amid the strange silence, Shirayuki suddenly lifted her head. I saw something akin to relief in her eyes, and terrible fury. I pulled my eyes away from her and stared ahead. The dragon was rearing its head, completely still. On the other side stood a man, one of medium height and medium build, wrapped in a monk’s working clothes. A familiar sight. A blood-soaked bandage was peeking out from his neck. He suffered grave injuries, but he showed no sign of pain or fatigue. On his face was a newly-carved wooden mask. There was no anger or sadness on it, only a blank expression, as though half-finished.

Silence descended. Siblings stood face to face.

Shirayuki was quiet. The man said nothing. Tears streaming down her face, Shirayuki held up a finger and snapped it. The dragon dove into the wall. It separated itself into a mass of black and red, crawled up Shirayuki’s clothes, and dyed her two sleeves.

“…What?”

The dragon disappeared. The creature conjured using Mayuzumi’s blood, an overwhelmingly powerful ink, vanished.

Before I could ask why she did that, Mayuzumi raised her hand. “Stay out of this, Odagiri-kun. Not a step closer, Yusuke-kun. You too, Yukihito-kun. I understand how you feel, but no.” I swallowed. Her voice was ice cold. “If you butt in, you’re dead,” she said, staring straight ahead.

There was no signal or anything, but they both raised their hands at the same time, as though some bell audible only to them rang. Milky hands moved. Slim arms gripped brush. They touched the floor, and painted letters with the exact same motion.

Tiger.

The beasts made of ink simultaneously leapt from out of the floor, spreading their jaws wide open. The two tigers, bearing similar forms as though they were siblings, bared their fangs in an attempt to devour the other. Shirayuki and the man watched the scene in silence. The beasts’ howling echoed loudly. But to my eyes, it seemed a bizarrely quiet battle. Ink spattered on the floor and the railing. The skyway shook every time the beasts rolled across the narrow passageway, biting each other’s throats. Yet the scene never lost its tranquility.

A fight to the death between black-and-white beasts.

Two people standing still.

The scene seemed like a painting.

But even a battle that feels never-ending will come to an end.

One tiger pushed the other down, pinning its shoulder with its foot, and gnawed its windpipe. There was no howl of agony. Gurgling blood, the tiger slowly reverted back to ink. The surviving tiger charged forward. It leapt toward the creator of its foe—Shirayuki. She was standing still. She must have seen it. She raised her head and saw death coming straight at her.

But she only gave a soft smile.

As though resigning herself to her fate.

Damn it! I knew it!

I moved. I grabbed Shirayuki by the shoulders and pulled her back down. The tiger’s fiery eyes fell on me. I messed up. I should have dropped on the floor with her. I had no time to think. As I leapt backward, the tiger’s claws grazed me from chest to stomach, accompanied by a jolt of pain. Blood spurted, and I stifled down a scream. As soon as the tiger landed on the floor, it bent down, ready to pounce once more like a spring.

But a bat came from the side and hit its head. Yuusuke.

The tiger moved back. I couldn’t seem to move. Blood dripped onto the ground, but it felt like it didn’t belong to me. I didn’t care about the pain of the wound. My throat was trembling with rage.

“What are you doing, Odagiri-san?! Are you stupid?!”

Yeah. What was I doing? Why was I doing this?

But I had no regrets. Then, Shirayuki grabbed my sleeve, frantically moving her mouth. She had even forgotten to paint words on her fan. I couldn’t hear her, but I could roughly guess what she was saying.

Why are you protecting me? I wanted to die. Why did you save me? The defeated deserve death. I told you before that I would rather die than lose my pride.

Probably something like that. Some load of crap. Pure bullshit.

“I don’t… give a damn.”

I grabbed her hand with bloody fingers. Her eyes widened. I dug my fingernails into her thin arm. It probably hurt, but I couldn’t help myself. I wanted her to stop. Stop with all the nonsense.

I thought the tiger would lunge at us, but all it did was growl for some reason, which was good for me.

Because I really needed to tell her something.

“You were… forced to become the head, weren’t you? Because your brother betrayed… the clan.”

She was screaming as the adults gouged out her tongue. She cried for help.

For someone who lived freely, she must not have wanted to become the head.

Shirayuki’s whole body tensed up. She frantically shook her head, denying what I said as best as she could. It was probably what she truly felt.

I’d heard all about the honey-coated words and the pride of the clan. And I understand.

But to hell with all that.

“Your pride… your love for the clan… might be real. It might not have been what you felt at first, but somewhere down the line, your feelings changed. But you’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time, haven’t you? Isn’t that why you came to Mayuzumi alone?”

The girl in the past did not want to be the head of the clan. If her brother became the head, she wouldn’t need to bear the pain and burden of being one. And she could not forgive her brother for that. But even she knew that she didn’t stand a chance against him.

Nevertheless, she wanted to fight him.

“How is that different from suicide?! I’m sick of seeing someone die in front of me! Enough of this bullshit!”

How many had died?

Human life is not cheap.

Has everyone lost their fucking mind?!

Blood spurted from my belly. Red dripped onto the ground. There was a small voice. Fingers that had just formed reached from within. Ear pressed against my belly, my child whispered…

Papa?

A small finger appeared from the wound. It sliced its way through my stomach, and my child—Uka—crawled out. The tiger’s growl grew louder. It was wary of the presence all along. Its animal instincts must have told it that there was something dangerous lurking, something incomprehensible.

That the prey in front of it was carrying a monster.

The newborn baby fell to the floor. Uka seemed to have grown a little. Her hair, which used to be just a thin layer, had grown a lot longer. She wriggled her blood-soaked body. As Uka struggled to get up, the tiger, seeing this as its only opportunity, charged forward, its fur bristling.

The tiger opened its mouth. Uka, laughing innocently, touched its upper and lower jaw.

Then tore the tiger in half.

There was a sickening sound of flesh tearing. The tiger’s body crumbled, reduced to a puddle of ink. Uka laughed. I felt an odd pressure. The child in front of me was much more powerful than the tiger. Uka was more vicious than any other creatures I had seen in the Minase household and in this twisted world.

She had permanent flesh. She had a body and organs.

Her existence was much more stable than the others. She maintained her being as a baby through Shizuka’s womb and my belly. She raised her hands, wet with ink. She had grown enough to be able to stand up and grab things on her own. A chill ran down my spine. As I observed her, it hit me.

No summoned creature was a match for her.

My child was that much of a monster.

The man must have realized this as well. His gaze darted between Mayuzumi and Uka. To kill Mayuzumi and take her blood, he would have to kill Uka. But he could not kill the demon. Despair seemed to flicker across the face hidden under the man’s mask. But then suddenly, he pulled a knife from his pocket and sprinted. He approached Uka rashly. Maybe he thought he could kill her. Uka opened her mouth, laughing.

The man thrust his arm inside. Uka’s teeth severed the man’s arm, as though eating a piece of soft bread. Without even screaming from the pain, the man ripped open Uka’s shoulder with the knife. He then tossed the weapon aside and dipped the tip of his brush into her blood. Before Uka could devour the rest of his arm, he spun around and ran off. Uka’s mouth widened again. Shirayuki shrieked as she reached for the man’s back.

“Stop it, Uka!” I bellowed.

Uka stopped for a moment, and then tried to chase after the man again. But she fell and started crying.

“I see,” Mayuzumi muttered. “Her blood instead of mine.”

The man scurried down the stairs without even bothering to stop the bleeding on his arm. I forced myself to my feet. Shirayuki tried to go after the man, but she quickly scuttled back to help me up. Mayuzumi also started walking slowly. I dragged my body forward, using Shirayuki and the railing as support.

When we reached the middle of the pedestrian bridge, where we could see the man, Mayuzumi uttered softly, “I wonder what’s gonna happen?”

The man was hugging the wall of a department store, just off the pedestrian bridge. He stroked the white wall again and again. After several touches, the man lifted his brush with a trembling hand. He paused for a moment, and the tip of his brush stopped quivering.

The silence sounded like a prayer.

Then, the man moved his brush.

Red letters appeared on the wall.

“God.”

A divine summoning was taking place.



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