V2 Story IV – Part 11
I dropped my heel on Yusuke’s stomach as he lay on the sofa. I seemed to have hit the right spot, as he reeled in agony. I thought I went too far, but then again I already warned him more than twenty times, and I even served him breakfast for some reason. I didn’t want to be stuck with him until lunch. I grabbed him by the neck and dragged him across the floor and out of the room.
“Mayuzumi-saaan!” he cried. “Can you please help me?”
“Come visit us another time, Yusuke-kun. A souvenir is an effective way to win Odagiri-kun’s heart.”
“If you’re going to bring me something, bring coffee or cigarettes. You can stay for an hour then.”
I kicked Yusuke out of the apartment. After locking the door, I turned back around.
Mayuzumi Psychic Detective Agency. The May sun provided plenty of natural light.
Sitting cross-legged, Mayuzumi set down a cup of hot chocolate. A sweet aroma wafted through the air. A week had passed since the case was completely closed. The Minase clan was busy with rebuilding, but we were already back to our usual routine. Back to spending the days with Mayuzumi within sight. An apartment that smelled of chocolate twenty-four-seven. Nightmarish days, to be sure, but once I just accepted it, it wasn’t so bad—I think.
Getting used to this is dangerous. I nodded to myself and headed for the couch to spend a boring afternoon with no cases to tackle.
The doorbell rang. Is Yuusuke back? I rolled up my sleeves. But when I opened the front door, it was a delivery service. Since Mayuzumi rarely received packages, I couldn’t help but be curious. Puzzled, I accepted the small box and placed it on the desk in front of Mayuzumi.
“Got a package for you, Mayu-san.”
“I see, I see. Thank you. Quite unusual. Who’s it from?”
“Let’s see… Minase Shirayu—Whaaat?”
I tore off the wrapper. Inside was a completely ordinary white box. I opened it to find a glass tube and two letters. One was addressed to Mayuzumi and the other to me. Inside the tube was a red goldfish, swimming gracefully. A goldfish created with Mayuzumi’s blood.
Mayuzumi gave an amused smile as she opened the letter. “Haha. What a thoughtful girl. She says it’s a personal gift, and she kept it secret from the clan. She made a goldfish out of the blood that she collected on her sleeve. Very nice. It might come in handy. We’ll take good care of it.”
I could tell what she was going to say next. I lifted the glass tube.
“You look after it, okay, Odagiri-kun?”
Does this goldfish need food? Where should we keep it?
I watched the goldfish swimming up and down. I put it to the side for now and picked up my letter. There was a piece of paper inside. It looked like a letter, but there was almost nothing on it.
Just a few lines of text in the center of a white sheet of paper.
That, ’tis as it is,
How can I make known to her?
So, she may n’er know
That the love I feel for her
Like Ibuki’s moxa burns.
The words vanished the next instant, leaving only a blank sheet of paper. Just before they disappeared, Mayuzumi managed to take a peek at the paper and gave me an astonished look, a rare expression from her. Then, she started laughing hysterically, clutching her stomach.
“The clan head sure has terrible taste. And you, Odagiri-kun. Don’t you know what that meant?” She laughed some more. “I’m sure she chose this famous poem so that you could understand it, but alas. You’re such a hopeless man!” She guffawed as she pointed at me.
I had no idea what her message meant. With the words gone, I couldn’t find out the answer either. I turned to Mayuzumi and bowed deeply. I had already learned that holding on to pride for too long does no good.
“How can I tell her how fierce my love for her is? Will she understand that the love I feel for her burns like Ibuki’s mugwort?”
“Uh, what?” I frowned. “What does that even mean?”
It was so out of context that I failed to understand what she just said. Mayuzumi gave me a pitying look. Then it hit me: was that what the message meant?
“It’s one of the Hyakunin Isshu. A famous love poem written by Fujiwara no Sanekata.”
“A love poem? For me? Why?”
“Don’t look at me. I have no idea what she sees in you. But it seems that she likes you. Good for you, Odagiri-kun. She’s your type, isn’t she?” she teased.
I was about to yell at her, but I couldn’t.
She likes me?
It came so out of the blue that I couldn’t wrap my head around it. I was confused. At the same time, I knew my face was turning red. I touched my forehead, telling myself to calm down.
“If you married her, the Minase clan would probably be ruined.” Mayuzumi cackled.
I had to get her off my back and hide my flushed face, so I got up and looked outside the window. The intense light was blinding. I thought I saw something red in the air, and I swallowed. I closed my eyes tightly and opened them. There was nothing there.
I recalled the man looking up at the sky right before he died, smiling.
What did he see back then?
Gravely wounded and swallowed by a sea of flesh, he was probably gone. He had no regrets. But he never stopped wishing for forgiveness. Did he die peacefully?
“Is he with the real Yukino-san now?” I muttered.
I might be too naive. But there should at least be salvation after death. There would be no answer, most likely.
“Who knows?” Mayuzumi said suddenly.
I turned around.
Crossing her legs, she added, “God only knows, is what they say.”
A man crawling on the ground knows nothing of heaven.
Only gods do.
“I think they’re reunited with each other,” I said.
Man can hope and pray.
Mayuzumi grinned. “Is that so? If that’s what you think, so be it,” she said cheerfully. I had no idea what had gotten into her. “I told you before. I think—”
“I think, therefore I am, so don’t stop thinking. I decide my own peace, Mayu-san. They reunited, and the case is closed. And that’s fine.”
That might be too good to be true. Still, I looked up at the sky and hoped for the best.
“And that’s fine.”
The May sky was a clear blue.
There was no sign of goldfish anywhere.
A world painted red, resembling a woman’s womb, completely removed from the realm of reality. In a space wholly disconnected from the physical world spread a sea of flesh, cold and hard as ice, undecaying. Buried within were countless corpses of animals, fish, people. Everything that once writhed and stirred perished as soon as the mother died. It seemed like a graveyard for a myriad of creatures. But there was one thing in there that was alive.
A man lay among the carcasses.
His eyes were closed in a peaceful, eternal slumber.
His heart was no longer beating.
In his arms was something in the form of a woman, frantically licking off the blood spilling from the man.
Even after it was expelled from the heap of flesh, it moved its tongue in a desperate attempt to cling to life.
And when it was convinced that it was safe to leave the mother’s body, it began walking slowly. It knew that if it stayed there, it would die. And it feared death more than anything. Once born, it didn’t wish to die. This kind of fear was instinctive, rooted in the basal desire for self-preservation, something that all living creatures possessed from the day they were born.
It walked. But its body was slowly crumbling. Skin peeled off, and flesh scattered. So it decided to make itself smaller. Keeping its form, it discarded the excess flesh. It looked like a piece of clay work that expanded and shrank at its own will. Eventually it took the form of a child. But it didn’t make preservation easier. It cried over its helplessness. It wailed, for its life would soon come to an end.
It tumbled. But it never stopped crying. There was nothing left in the red-tinted world, so its voice reached no one. It was supposed to reach no one.
Footsteps echoed in the silent world.
A dark blue shadow fell on the red ground. Someone’s shadow was cast over its white skin. Noticing the shade, it looked up.
And then it found him.
A human in a fox mask carrying a dark blue parasol, standing naturally in the bizarre realm.
“All creatures born of human emotions are demons, huh?” he muttered low. “If you want, you can come with me.”
It possessed only base intelligence. It was made from flesh and therefore not clever. Nevertheless, its instincts said that being with him would ensure its survival.
B.A.D. 2: Mayuzumi Does Not Pray to Any God.
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