V3 Story I – Part 03


Translator: Kell


What’s in the sea is not a mermaid.

Then what is it?

The secondhand car—they bought a replacement after the accident—was uncomfortable. Despite having only one available arm, Higasa took the wheel and drove through the speed limit on the open road. We’d be in trouble if the cops spotted us, but neither Higasa nor Mayuzumi seemed to care. Eventually, the car came to a stop along the river. Rubbing my aching back, I looked up at the building in front of me.

An old family house towered high, its faded walls still bearing the marks of the rain. The red tiles covering the roof were chipped in places. On the side of the house was a neglected garden.

“The victim is Makihara Kazuma, twenty-four years old. He originally lived with his family, but started living alone in this house when his parents moved to the countryside. If he had been living with someone else when the anomaly happened, I might have learned from him sooner. Truly a shame.”

Higasa got out of the car and shook his head regretfully. His flippant tone had returned. He pulled out a cigarette with a high nicotine content, lit it, and looked up at the building.

“If he had a family, why don’t you contact them?” I asked. “That should be better than us dealing with this on our own.”

I hate to think about it, but it’s a possibility. Oddities sometimes dragged people to hell. A family member could help pull them back.

Higasa shook his head. “Not an option, unfortunately. I’ve thought about that too. But Makihara himself stopped me. When I tried to call them, he smashed the phone. He said he’d kill me if I attempted to contact them. His eyes were dead serious. I’m a coward, and I don’t wanna die.”

The smoke from his cigarette formed rings as it drifted upward. Higasa took a long drag.

“Why didn’t he want you to contact his family? Did he have some kind of a reason?”

Higasa suddenly turned serious, and his voice dropped low.

“Do not call them. No matter what.” His tone was monotonous, as though repeating someone else’s words. “If you do, they’ll all be swallowed by the sea.”

There was a thud, and Higasa dropped his cigarette. Akari’s shoe had dug itself into his back.

Akari gave him a sharp glare. “Shut up. And that’s not allowed.”

“Oops. My bad, Akari. I forgot. Smoking is bad for your health. Ow, ow, ow. That really hurt.”

Higasa bent down and picked up the fallen cigarette. He then put it out with his foot and tossed it in a portable ashtray. Akari watched him the whole time, then turned her gaze away silently. Higasa waved his right hand with a smile.

The color red entered my vision. Mayuzumi appeared, holding a parasol. She was waiting in the car while me and Higasa were talking.

“Are you done talking? Let’s go, then.”

She closed the parasol and pointed it at the entrance.

There was a sea beyond that, apparently.

The dry door stood in silence.


Creak.

We plodded down the dark corridor. The floor was covered with dust. The empty house was quiet, and a dry air caressed my cheeks. At first glance, there was nothing unusual on the first floor, but there was something off somehow.

Wet.

Everything felt wet.

Contrary to the sensation, everything in sight was dry. But I couldn’t shake the feeling of there being water. After a while, I noticed a strange smell.

A fishy smell filled the house, and the air was somewhat salty. It felt like standing near the ocean and being splashed by water. A blue sea flashed in my mind for a brief moment. But when I opened my eyes, I saw a dry corridor. My head spun.

Suddenly a sweet aroma brushed my nose. When I turned around, I saw Mayuzumi smiling with a snapped piece of chocolate.

“I see,” she said. “There is definitely something here.”

Her voice, pregnant with anticipation, made my skin crawl. Pulling my gaze away from her, I walked down the corridor. Higasa and Akari followed silently behind. I climbed the creaking stairs and opened the door. The living room and bedroom were on the second floor. As soon as I stepped inside, there was a loud clang.

Someone pressed their back against the windowpane, struggling to get away. A man, his slim body bent over, desperately hid his face and flailed his legs. He floundered about, despite not being able to move further back. He reminded me of a cornered beast.

It was not normal.

I stepped forward, bewildered. The bedding was stained with beverage, and rotting foodstuffs lay scattered everywhere. A powerful stench mingled with the smell of the sea. The man suddenly stopped thrashing. He froze. A moment later, strange sounds echoed from somewhere.

It was like tomatoes being crushed.

The man was biting his nails. His mouth was stained red. I took a closer look and realized that there were no nails on his fingers. Every time his teeth moved, blood spurted out from the reddish-black flesh.

Flesh crumbled. The man’s lips were colored crimson.

He was biting his fingers off.

“S-Stop, Makihara-san. You can’t do that.” Higasa scuttled to the man and took his hand. “Where’d the bandage go? Okay, that’s enough of that.”

Red drool trickled down the man’s face. Higasa frowned and looked at the first aid kit lying some distance away. But Makihara swatted his arm away and started muttering something.

A crazed rambling, like some prayer.

“It’s coming. It’s coming. It’s coming. It’s coming. It’s coming. It’s coming. It’s coming. It’s coming.”

Who’s coming?

I picked up the first aid kit and kneeled down in front of Makihara.

“It’s nice to meet you, Makihara-san. My name is Odagiri Tsutomu of the Mayuzumi Psychic Detective Agency.”

Higasa deftly held Makihara’s arm with one hand and started treatment. Makihara turned his gaze to me, but quickly looked away. He reached his left hand to his head and scratched it. His hair was dyed brown to the middle. Strands of hair that had been pulled out had skin and flesh on them. I grabbed his arm to stop him. But his fingers still wriggled even as they were pulled away from his head.

“It’s coming. It’s coming. It’s coming. It’s coming. It’s coming. It’s coming. It’s coming. It’s coming.”

“Makihara-san, we’re here to help you. Who’s coming?”

“Your effort is commendable, lad, but unfortunately futile. He doesn’t hear you. He’s been like this for a while now. I’ve tried talking to him too, but sometimes you just have to give up.”

Higasa shook his head. Trembling, Makihara buried his face between his knees.

“If he received help earlier, this wouldn’t have happened,” Higasa said. “A friend passed the case to us. Said they couldn’t handle it. And the one who commissioned them was Makihara’s friend. They waited so long before getting help, and don’t even show their face. Personally, I wouldn’t call someone like that a friend.”

Higasa gave Makihara a reassuring pat on the shoulder. The man did not look up. His clothes were dirty, having not changed them in days. I swallowed the words rising up my throat. I stood up and looked over my shoulder to see Mayuzumi looking around the room. She didn’t seem to be interested in Makihara’s condition. She smiled broadly and turned to Higasa.

“I see. When does the oddity show up? I sense the sea. But there is no sea here. When the time comes, the sea will come like the rising tide. Am I right?” Her tone was melodious.

Higasa nodded. “That’s right. And the mermaid appears with the sea. Which is the problem. You will understand when you see the oddity, but I would like your advice. As the ones who took the case, we will be the one to solve it,” he declared in a hard voice.

Wearing a grave look on his face, he looked like a different person altogether.

Mayuzumi’s lips curved into a smile. “A mermaid, huh? A beautiful name, I must say.” She sounded mocking. “But it’s not really a mermaid, is it? You suggested it was nothing but a monster.”

A mermaid attacking people. Yet it wasn’t exactly a mermaid, but a monster.

I ruminated over Higasa’s words. I couldn’t quite wrap my head around them.

A mermaid, but not a mermaid. A monster.

“It was the psychic who brought the case to us that likened it to a mermaid. Perhaps they meant it as a beautiful metaphor for a creature that swims in the sea. But all we saw was a monster. Not just me, but Akari-sama as well.”

“Hmm, I see. Quite revolting. By the way, Higasa. You’re back to normal. Are you sure that’s okay?”

Higasa’s expression changed. He shook his head a few times and touched his lips. He closed and opened his mouth a couple of times as if doing vocal exercises, then pressed his face.

“Ah, uh, I did it again, huh? My bad. I’m still getting used to it. It’s been years, damn it. Habit sure is a scary thing.”

“Oh, it’s fine. Your manner of speech only affects yourself anyway.”

Higasa shook his head grimly. Listening to their conversation, I wondered. I shifted my gaze and saw Akari sitting on the living room floor, holding her knees. Her face was as expressionless as ever. There was an awkward atmosphere in the air. I spoke to get rid of the suffocating feeling.

“What time does the phenomenon start?” I asked.

Higasa’s eyes widened slightly. Sensing my intention, he bowed in gratitude and turned his gaze to the window. Through the gap in the curtains, I could see the darkening horizon.

The sky was as blood.

“Past twelve midnight.”



Leave a Reply