Once upon a time, there was a ■.
The ■ chose a human graveyard for its dwelling place.
The place, wet with tears, was constantly filled with grief.
Grief—people’s despair and desire.
Listening to the melodious cries, a thought came to the ■.
If death begets grief, let’s undo it.
The ■ dug up a grave and smashed the coffin.
Inside were maggots and rotting bones.
The human body is made of bread and wine.
But people are not made of bread and wine alone.
The ■ severely lacked the necessary materials.
Mixing together what was in hand, ■ decided to create a person.
It is gods that create men.
But there is no god.
Therefore, creating a man is impossible.
So, the ■ made a monster.
But most blessed are the chosen ones.
For even their fleeting dreams are extraordinarily beautiful.
A shell-shaped piece of hard chocolate rolled through the sunlight. I got down on the floor and watched it. Suddenly, a pale hand reached out from above me. Just before the fingertips touched the chocolate, I picked it up.
And threw it away.
The chocolate traced an arc in the air and disappeared into the trash. I wiped the floor frantically and got up. Mayuzumi, sitting on the sofa, gave me a frown. Her slim figure adorned with a knitted dress, she looked as pretty as a luxurious doll. But the image was ruined by the slovenly manner in which she lay down.
Mayuzumi Azaka seemed to have too much time on her hands again today.
“How could you do that, Odagiri-kun? There’s no more chocolate on the table.”
And she didn’t even have the energy to walk to the fridge.
I knew she was going to pick it off the floor and eat it.
I let out a sigh and regarded the table. It was littered with a number of empty boxes. Buried in the pile of ribbons and wrapping paper was a large fish tank. A red tailfin twirled inside.
A red goldfish was gliding inside the glass.
The tank held not a drop of water.
A black fingernail gently touched the smooth glass. I quickly grabbed her wrist.
Mayuzumi blinked languidly. “What is it? This is a gift for me. Surely I can at least take a closer look at it.”
“Yeah, right. You just tried to slip over the tank, didn’t you?”
You’re not fooling me. I scowled at her.
Mayuzumi sighed. She shook her head and shrugged.
“Who cares if I did? As you can see, I’m bored. Watching you run around the apartment should alleviate my boredom a little.”
“I’m never chasing a goldfish ever again, Mayu-san. Do you have any idea how many hours it took me to catch it and put it back in the tank?”
A few days ago, the goldfish pushed open the lid of the tank and escaped. I had to run around the apartment to catch it. Hours of scrambling with an insect net in my hand left me with sore muscles the next day.
It was a flying goldfish. If it escaped, it would be a huge pain.
“Oh, come on. All you do is clean the apartment. I’m sure you don’t have anything better to do. Why not entertain me, then?”
“How can I not have anything better to do when I’m cleaning the apartment? Besides, what’s wrong with cleaning?”
I moved over to the bucket on the floor, dunked a rag in the water, and wrung it. My recent daily routine was cleaning the place thoroughly, followed by ventilating the apartment. Mayuzumi was not happy about it, but I ignored her and carried on. The thick scent of chocolate remained, but the stifling feeling of being locked up lessened.
Perhaps if I kept it up I could get rid of the smell of chocolate once and for all.
A long journey begins with a single step. It was my grand and steady plan.
Mayuzumi ruffled through the desk. She found leftovers and popped them into her mouth.
“Sho you shay, Odagiri-kun,” she mumbled, her cheeks stuffed like a hamster.
“I can’t hear you, Mayu-san. I understand you’re bored, but please at least speak in human language.”
Mayuzumi shrugged and dove into the cushions. I studied her. When I saw that she wasn’t moving, I nodded. Mayuzumi being bored was a good thing. After wiping chocolate powder off the table, I dipped the rag in the water again. Mayuzumi was whining about dying from boredom, but I didn’t bother with her.
Boredom doesn’t kill people, so she’ll just have to put up with it.
Mayuzumi should realize that peace and quiet is good.
May. After the incident with the Minase clan, the days were as peaceful as the calm sea. The Minase clan was currently rebuilding themselves. Yusuke was obediently attending class since a teacher had their eyes on him. I was worried about Shirayuki, who was single-handedly leading her clan, but other than that, there weren’t any particular problems.
While I was in a great mood, Mayuzumi’s mental state was rapidly deteriorating. When I turned around, she had her hands clasped together on her chest. She looked as if she was in a hundred-year sleep. I wondered if she was still breathing.
I was about to suggest that she went for a walk, when the phone rang.
An inanimate sound cut through the air.
I dropped the rag in my hand. The water in the bucket splashed. Mayuzumi opened her eyes and moved on her own two feet, which was rare. Slender fingers grabbed the receiver.
“Mayuzumi Psychic Detective Agency,” she mumbled boredly. “Oh, it’s you.”
Her voice suddenly took on a familiar tone. A grin appeared on her lips.
My eyes widened at her unusual reaction.
I didn’t know any of the people that Mayuzumi addressed in a friendly manner.
“It’s been a while, hasn’t it? It’s great to know that you haven’t changed… No, I suppose I can’t say that, huh? A self-report. Pathetic. So, anyway. You didn’t call me just to give a status update, did you? Let’s cut to the chase. I don’t care if you’re sick or feeling fine. I’m dying of boredom.”
Mayuzumi yawned like a cat. I could hear an angry voice from the other end of the phone. Mayuzumi pulled the receiver away from her face and pressed it to her ear again. She frowned at what the caller said.
“A case? From you guys?” she whispered suspiciously.
My hair bristled. The office received very few cases. And the ones that did come in were usually worthless.
Mayuzumi rested her chin in her hand. She seemed unwilling to take the case.
I prayed. Please say no.
“Hmm… That’s originally your case, no? And you need my help? We’re not exactly running a charity here. I will not get involved for a pittance. Most of your cases are not really my cup of tea anyway. I’ll surely find it interesting? Heh. Bold.”
Mayuzumi’s tone held a note of amusement. I wiped the spilled water and looked up at the ceiling. It looked like my days of peace were coming to an end. Slowly, Mayuzumi licked her small lips. Her next words made my breath seize in my throat.
“A tale about the sea and a mermaid, you say?”
The little mermaid turned to bubble and popped.
And they all lived happily ever after.
A sweet voice seemed to fill my ears.
A voice that announced a terribly cruel end.
I swallowed back the anxiety and tightened my grip on the steering wheel. Mayuzumi was sitting in the backseat, chomping on a piece of chocolate. She was ignoring my irritation. The shell-shaped chocolate, her latest favorite, crumbled between her teeth. Our gazes met through the rearview mirror.
“Odagiri-kun,” she said. “If you have something to say, spit it out.”
The marbled shell cracked.
I kept silent as I turned the steering wheel to the left. We’d been taking weird detours for a while now. Mayuzumi’s directions were complicated, seemingly pointless. The signs indicated we were already at the neighboring city, but I didn’t know exactly where we were. As I stepped on the accelerator, she continued.
“I will not be offended by questions. As a passenger, it’s quite horrifying when the driver is an unstable mental state.”
“Well, in that case. Can you give me details about the case?”
You’re not going to answer me anyway, are you? I made sure she got the message implied in my question.
Mayuzumi pushed the chocolate into her mouth. “Rest assured. This is different from the previous case. The Little Mermaid has turned into bubble and popped. No need for a prince or a witch this time.”
“You’re being too metaphorical. I didn’t get anything. If you want to piss me off, just say it,” I spat.
She will not get away with making fun of that case.
Mayuzumi clapped her hands. “I like that. You’ve gotten tougher. If you can talk back to me like that, then I suppose I don’t have to worry anymore. Relax. From what I’ve heard, this case is totally different from the last time.”
She grinned. Her smile looked like that of a witch’s in fairy tales.
I thought the same thing back then. But the words that spilled from her lips this time were different.
“Apparently, this mermaid eats humans.”
A human-eating mermaid.
I furrowed my brow at the incomprehensible words.
Mayuzumi’s lips quirked up in amusement. “And it’s not even a mermaid.”
A mermaid that eats people. Yet was not a mermaid.
I couldn’t wrap my head around it.
“What’s there in the sea is not a mermaid,” Mayuzumi recited.
I remembered reading the line in a poetry book I got from the library a long time ago.
A line from a poem by Nakahara Chuuya.
“What’s there in the sea are only waves.”
Mayuzumi chuckled and went silent. She didn’t intend to say anything more. She just looked out the window and smiled in amusement.
Asking her when she was unwilling to answer was pointless. I swallowed the words and stepped hard on the gas pedal. As I drove wildly down the road, I was suddenly struck by a sense of déjà vu. I don’t remember this trip. But I did remember the complex route.
Behind me, Mayuzumi bit down on a piece of chocolate.
“It looks like you remember, Odagiri-kun,” she murmured softly.
Yes, I knew this road.