V3 Story IV – Part 07

Translator: Kell

I stared at the thing in front of me. It was familiar, but this one was the kind I had never seen before. The ones I’d seen were much more horrific, much grislier. Compared to those, this one just had a few holes on its chest.

A human being shot to death.

I gawked at the corpse in front of me.

Do humans die this easily?

Could a weapon meant for killing end an esper’s life just like that?

“What were you guys even doing here? Eh, whatever. Thanks to you, I killed some time.”

Higasa’s low voice sounded like a different person’s.

Flames licked the walls, slowly crawling across the ceiling. My head, numb from the shock, gradually began to grasp the situation. I looked at the man standing beside me. I stepped back instinctively. The child laughed. Listening to her giggles, I moved away from him.

Higasa pointed the gun in his hand at me.

His left arm, stripped of the bandages, was white and deformed.

It wasn’t human.


An image from earlier flashed in my mind. He was barely holding on to the collapsed stairs, struggling to climb back up.

He couldn’t possibly do that with just one arm.

Higasa was silent. He took a step forward. I stared at the gun’s muzzle as I backed away.

His face, lit by the flames, was terribly cold.

“Once upon a time, there was a fox,” he said melodiously.

Higasa moved toward me, away from the blazing fire. The gun’s muzzle was still pointed at me. Facing him, I retreated, moving away from the outer corridor to the hallway, and entered the mansion, trying to avoid the heat and light coming from behind. Smoke slowly began drifting in, but Higasa continued on calmly.

“One day a new pit was added to the graveyard. The coffin was filled with the smell of rain. The fox asked the despondent pair.”

If you grieve over the death of a loved one, let’s undo it.

I stared at Higasa’s bloated left hand. Why was it covered in bandages? I swallowed.

He was in a car accident while it was raining.

“They accepted the difficult conditions. Can a monster become human?” With a calm look in his eyes, he asked, “What do you think, dear reader?”

Higasa moved the fingers of his left hand. The jointless flesh wriggled. He held one finger, thick as a candle, in the air.

“Makihara, Aya, you, and Mayuzumi.”

Higasa had four fingers up. Slowly, he smiled.

“Do you get it now?”

Who was the monster?

The answer was right in front of me. His hand clearly belonged to a monster. White and swollen, it looked like something made by a child playing with clay.

There was no human being in this world with a hand like that.

But it wasn’t enough to convince me.

“Why… Why?”

My voice was shaking so much I wanted to laugh. We walked further back, away from the flames, and down the hallway through the open door.

I was retreating, while Higasa proceeded onward.

The mansion was being devoured by the flames. But the progress was slow for some reason. The flames slowly licked the walls, slowly ate away at the mansion. Higasa walked with easy steps. Deeper and deeper we fled, facing each other.

The gun’s muzzle never wavered.

“We died in a car accident at the end of May. Akari’s beast bit my arm, and I mishandled the steering wheel. The car window ripped my neck open, killing me. But Akari-sama was still alive then. That’s when a man approached her.”

A fox.

It was the behavior I’d expect from the fox. He took advantage of people’s despair. He whispered to Akari, who blamed herself for the accident.

“If you grieve the death of a loved one, let’s undo it.”

“But there’s a price. And special rules had to be followed, or the dead would return to dust and ashes. If she didn’t want that to happen, she had to facilitate the game. Akari agreed. I was then brought back to life, and Akari-sama passed away.” There was sorrow in his voice.

Higasa came back to life, and Akari died shortly afterwards.

All alone, what did he do then?

“I wanted to see her again. No, not the real Higasa. The artificial Higasa—me.”

He scratched his head. He couldn’t get rid of his habit. Hair tangled in the white flesh and fell out. Frowning from the pain, he continued onward. I retreated back, one hand on the wall. Smoke spread as the house burned, walls crumbling in the distance. My vision blurred. But Higasa’s voice retained its indifferent tone.

He was watching me calmly.

“I heard you and Mayuko talking from outside the apartment. My blood froze. There are no gods. People don’t come back to life. Then what am I? Who am I?” His voice sounded like a scream.

My legs got tangled and I fell backwards. But he didn’t pull the trigger. Watching my sorry state, he waved the gun, urging me to get back up.

“But thinking back now, he did say that we were good.” Higasa continued his monologue. He didn’t wait for any response from me. “That we were almost perfect because barely any time had passed since we died, and because of our distinct perception of the other. Except for this arm.”

I rose to my feet and resumed retreating backward. The whole house was heating up. A room in the distance caught fire. The heat from the smoke burned my skin. Maybe it was the materials used in the house that prevented the fire from spreading quickly. I was thankful for that, but I wasn’t sure if it was a good thing or not. If there was chaos, I could use it to slip away.

The flesh on Higasa’s arm suddenly melted, soft mass touching the floor. But the next moment, as though snapping back to its senses, it regained its shape. Higasa waved his arm irritably. The wall where his fingers grazed cracked.

“This arm was mangled by Akari’s beasts. I guess that’s why she couldn’t picture it properly. This is the only part of my body that’s still a lump of white flesh. The same goes for my manner of speaking. My old formal tone would sometimes slip in, but the reason it’s gotten so bad is because Akari confused both the old me and the recent me. That’s right, I’m not me. Both I and Akari are no different from this lump of flesh.”

Profound sadness flickered in Higasa’s eyes. He regripped the gun, pointing its muzzle straight at me. We stopped, facing each other.

“But I still want to protect Akari,” he said gravely.

That feeling probably never changed.

But the scene before me was all sorts of fucked up. My stomach ached. Flesh ripped, and blood spilled. But I couldn’t bring myself to stop it.

Seeing the blood soaking my shirt, Higasa smiled thinly. He was probably going to shoot me before the child emerged.

“Are you going to shoot me?” I asked.

Higasa nodded. But then he shook his head.

Keeping the muzzle pointed at me, he said, “Yeah, I’ll shoot you, all right. But there’s something I gotta tell you first.” His voice sounded like the old Higasa.

A voice that showed concern for me.

I didn’t know if the emotion that swirled in my chest was hatred or what. I wanted to scream, but I couldn’t find the words to say. I felt like my heart would jump out of my throat. My eyes were burning, and my whole body was shaking.

That’s when I finally realized what was going on.

I was betrayed.

“We were given different conditions from the others. To get you and Mayuko involved in the cases. To not save the first two. To sweet-talk you into getting involved of your own will. And lastly, when all cases are closed, to separate Tsutomu Odagiri from Mayuzumi Azaka. That’s why I brought you to this mansion. To spend a few hours in the fox’s residence.”

His tone was indifferent, and he was speaking a little faster. Blood trickled down to my feet. I didn’t hold the child’s head back. There was no need to push her back inside my gut. The pain didn’t bother me. I just glared at the man before my eyes.

Uka had grown again, it seemed. Her hair rubbed against my torn belly. She couldn’t quite push her head out.

“Akari hated killing people. I myself didn’t want Akari-sama to commit such acts. But we only had each other. There are only two of us in this world. Once I dragged you here, Akari would do the rest. Mayuzumi’s body is that of a normal human being’s. Alone, she’s weak.”

Anyone can tear her belly open easily.

What did he say just now?

My eyes widened. Picking up my astonishment, Uka shivered and froze for a moment. My mind went blank. A red parasol appeared in my mind. Was she eating chocolate in the apartment like she always did?

All alone?

Leave a Reply