V3 Story I – Part 05


Translator: Kell


“Is this their ability?” I asked, containing my astonishment.

Mayuzumi smirked. “You’ve grown quite a lot, Odagiri-kun. I don’t know if getting used to these kinds of things is good or bad, though. Oh, but correction. This is her ability.”

Six beasts gathered on the wall. They looked like six children playing around, extending their hands. Suddenly, they all raised their heads in unison. Silently, they glided and stretched.

“The Kariya clan keeps shadows—shadow beasts, that do their master’s bidding.”

The beasts glided through the wall, straight to the monster, which was still banging its head against the wall. The beasts slowly surrounded it, approaching its shadow. Despite being made with fingers, they moved as cautiously as predators hunting prey. Slowly, they closed the distance.

Mouths opened.

“And they’ll devour as ordered.”

The beasts attacked the shadow of the monster.

Mouths made of fingers flanked the shadow. The monster’s flesh was torn open. Soft flesh stretched and ripped, bitten off from all sides. Blood vessels ruptured, and bright crimson burst out. The monster opened its mouth in agony, and foam spilled out its quivering translucent lips. Tiny teeth lined its mucus-covered mouth.

Molars. Canines. All in the right places.

A scream rose from within.

A high-pitched female voice.

A cry of pain poured out of its mouth. My eyes widened. I finally realized what we were missing.

The monster’s teeth. It was human.

“Huh?” Akari took a step back.

But ignoring her astonishment, the beasts continued squirming, greedily tearing at the shadow of the monster, swallowing it. The monster’s back was ripped wide open, and its soft lungs peeked out. Intestines spilled from its belly. Flesh peeled away. The monster had turned into a mass of internal organs. Higasa grabbed Akari’s shoulders. She screamed, holding her little head so she couldn’t see the monster.

“Akari! Akari, it’s over! It’s done. That’s enough, Akari-sama!”

Akari shivered violently. The beasts were focused with the meat before them. The surrealism only served to amplify the brutality of their predation. Suddenly the beasts gradually stopped moving and returned to Akari. The shadows melted and crumbled, returning to their human form.

Akari collapsed like a puppet that had its strings cut. Her slim arms and legs were submerged in water, her face pale. Her eyes, still wide open, were filled with tears. Controlling the beasts apparently consumed a lot of energy. Higasa helped Akari up with one arm and shot Mayuzumi a glare, to which she smiled.

“What is this?” he asked.

“What are you talking about?” Mayuzumi inclined her head. She was fully aware of what he was asking about.

Meanwhile, the shrill cries continued.

“That’s a human being!”

What an utterly miserable creature.

Mayuzumi’s voice reverberated in my ear. The child in my belly went wild. Stimulated by the screams, it clapped its hands in delight. Internal contents gushed out from the monster’s entangled intestines. Even though its internal organs were exposed, it was still alive. Its body still had a mouth, eyes, nose, ears.

I almost threw up. That’s the mouth, the eyes, the nose, and the ears. I looked at the parts that Mayuzumi indicated. A closer look revealed that the organs visible through the white flesh were all human.

The translucent quivering lips, the eyeballs wriggling under the membrane, the nose with its bones half-exposed, the ears stretching out like melted cheese.

They all seemed like failed imitations of human body parts.

The monster screamed nonstop as it thrashed about. The sea began to move in response. Like a stormy night, rough waves surged and began to swirl. The monster glided on the surface and jumped into the middle of it. The water was sucked into the vortex and disappeared.

After the last drop vanished, there was no trace left of the sea. The floor was dry. All that remained was the scent of the ocean, mixed with the strong smell of iron.

There was copious amounts of blood on the floor. It looked like someone had just been murdered.

Seeing the sea retreating, Mayuzumi jumped off the table. The hem of her gothic lolita outfit arched softly.

“That was indeed a human being,” she muttered with a smile.

I swallowed. I was aware of it, but her affirmation carried a different weight. Though it looked like a monster, that hunk of flesh was human. A chill ran down my spine.

What did Mayuzumi say?

“Mayuko,” Higasa said. “I have a question. If you’re forgetful, then fine. But you remember what you said earlier, right?”

Yes. Mayuzumi said to knock themselves out. Let the beasts eat to their heart’s content.

“Oh, is there a problem, Higasa? It looked disfigured, but it’s a thing that used to be human. Can we really call it a human being?”

A human. A thing.

It was human, but could you really call it human?

I couldn’t quite understand it. But as I regarded Mayuzumi’s smile, I gradually realized what she meant.

I hated myself for it. I wanted to punch myself so bad.

Suppose there was a creature that everyone recognized solely as a monster, but in reality it was a human being. If a hundred people that saw it called it a monster, then it was a monster.

It doesn’t matter if it was actually human if no one recognized it as such.

“I don’t know how it ended up like that,” Mayuzumi continued. “But if all you want to do is solve the case, there’s no need to think about that. Just let the shadows devour it and call it a day. All’s well that ends well. Now, it’s up to you what you want to do. I’m just here to point out if what you’re doing is incorrect. It’s not my place to meddle.”

Just cut the cable on the guillotine and that’s it.

She was right.

I suppressed the nausea. The child stirred in my stomach. I could feel pain mixed with dread jolting through my insides.

“I hate you, Mayu-san,” I spat out.

Her words were inhuman.

Mayuzumi waved her hand. “Why, thank you, Odagiri-kun.” She didn’t seem the least bit offended. “I know exactly what’s on your mind. You don’t have to say it out loud all the time, okay?”

Yes. She understood my repugnance. But she didn’t care. I clenched my fists in frustration.

Higasa’s face contorted in irritation, and he clicked his tongue. “I’m with the lad. This is too far, Mayuko,” he said. “I almost forgot. You’re good for an occasional chat, and you share some useful stuff. But you can be quite morbid when it comes to this stuff, damn it. I don’t think it’s right.” He gritted his teeth hard.

Mayuzumi shrugged. “Did you hit your head in the accident? You seem to be forgetting something very important. This is the kind of person Mayuzumi Azaka is. It’s fine if you and Odagiri despise me. But I have no intention of changing this way of life.”

I shot her a glare. Mayuzumi Azaka would never change. I couldn’t stand it. Despite being fully aware of my displeasure, she just smiled.

“Rest assured. That thing used to be human. Killing it won’t count as murder.”

Mayuzumi pointed to the pool of blood. Higasa clicked his tongue and stood up. Supporting the unconscious Akari with one arm, he deftly placed her on his shoulder. I shifted my gaze to the bloodstains. The screams I had just heard replayed in my ear.

“What on earth was that?” I mumbled.

I remembered Makihara’s screams. She kept saying that something or someone was coming.

But what or who was he referring to?

Suddenly, Mayuzumi leapt off floor with her toes and spun around gorgeously like a ballerina. Her black dress billowed softly. She looked around the room and smiled. I followed her.

Then I noticed the plates and cups lying in front of the cupboard. The slippers under the chair.

There were two each.

As though two people lived in this house.

Mayuzumi stopped. Arms open wide, she whispered, “Misaki.”

“What?”

She pointed straight ahead. In a glass cupboard sat a teddy bear. It was holding a bouquet of lilies decorated with beads. It seemed like a memento of some sort. Buried in the bouquet was a card with lovely writing on it.

For MISAKI

Misaki.

A woman’s name.



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