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V3 Story II – Part 03



Translator: Kell

She tried to stand up, but her knees buckled. Her bandaged legs were still quivering. She desperately moved her feet, clad in mule shoes, in an attempt to rise, but she couldn’t muster up the strength. While Yukihito was pacing back and forth, Yusuke returned with four plastic bottles in his arms. He stopped, wearing a look of dismay.

“Why… Why can’t I get up?” Akari said.

“Why can’t she stand up?” Yusuke asked.

“I believe you’re completely exhausted,” I replied. “Please take it easy.”

I extended my hand, but she slapped it away.

Pigeons took off, their feathers scattering and falling into the fountain. My palm hurt a little.

Akari lifted her head. Her face was scrunched up, on the verge of tears.

“Leave me alone,” she snapped. “Go away. Go away. Go away. We’re not friends. Stay away from me!”

She thrust her hand into the fountain and stood up. My suit was partly submerged in the water. I quickly retrieved it and stood beside her. Akari walked a couple of steps before plopping down. Her long hair, light brown but shining golden, touched the ground.

Her small hands cradled her head, and tears fell on the ground.

“I want to go home.”

Tears spilled from her big eyes.

“I want to go back to Higasa,” she pleaded.

Like a lost child, Akari bawled her eyes out. Her shadow wobbled. Yusuke shrugged, while Yukihito continued pacing back and forth. We were drawing attention from people nearby, but she didn’t care. I gently placed a hand on her small shoulder. Akari hung her head in protest.

“We don’t have to be friends,” I said. “But if it’s okay with you, I’ll take you to Higasa. Can you show me the way?”

“Are you for real, Odagiri-san? Man, you’re such a goody-two-shoes,” Yusuke scoffed. “You’re practically a masochist at this point.”

I turned to him with a shrug. “Shut up. You take Yukihito back to the office. She can’t even walk on her own. I can’t just leave her.”

I tossed my wet jacket to him and jerked my chin at Yukihito, who jumped upon hearing his name. I turned my back to Akari and got down. She knew what I was trying to do. She remained silent, but her arms reached out to me fearfully. I carried Akari on my back and stood up. Her body was much lighter than I expected.

She was like a doll.

“Argh, fine. I’m coming with you,” Yusuke said. “You might just completely run out of energy. And I’m actually quite interested in the young lady.”

Yusuke tapped Akari’s shadow with his toe. It was slowly twisting. I was a little bit worried about going alone. But then who would take Yukihito to the office?

Yukihito swiftly opened his fan. “I’ll go with you. Don’t worry about me.”

Maybe he didn’t want to be alone with Yusuke.

And so the plan was set. Drop Akari off at Higasa’s place and head for the office. Following Akari’s directions, we headed to a private railway and bought a ticket. We then boarded a train to the next city. The bright train was empty. I lay Akari down on the fluffy seat and fanned her with Yukihito’s fan. Exhausted, she closed her eyes.

After a while, the train started running. It passed the first and second stations, but no passengers came in. Suddenly, I remembered that I hadn’t asked which station we were supposed to disembark.

“Akari-san,” I said. “Sorry, but I forgot to ask you where we get off.”

As soon as I touched her shoulder, Akari’s head plopped.

She was unconscious.

Her shadow twisted violently, creaking.

Like a person that had jumped to its death.

“I think we better get off,” Yusuke said as he leapt off the floor.

Akari’s shadow was morphing into something terribly monstrous. Bones protruded from its entire body.

“We might need to do something quick.”

Taking Yusuke’s suggestion, we got off at a random station. Avoiding the eyes of the station staff, we sprinted from the train to the park that Yukihito found. A quick check earlier said the park was empty. But when we made it inside, we found a girl playing.

Her pure-white dress shone in the golden light.

She was about five years old, dressed in luxurious clothes. She was sitting alone in the sandbox. Noticing our presence, she turned her head to us. An innocent smile appeared on her face.

I swallowed.

The girl was wearing a white, gothic lolita dress.

Her hair was as white as her headdress. Innocent laughter echoed throughout the park. She grabbed a handful of sand and scattered it around, then turned to us.

Red eyes twinkled. She smiled gleefully.

Gently, she grabbed the hem of her skirt and gave a curtsy.

My stomach churned violently, then instantly calmed down.

The girl reminded me somewhat of Mayuzumi.

Behind me, Akari groaned in pain. The spell broke. A child was playing in the park. That was all. Nothing to worry about. I calmed down my pounding heart and hurried to the shade of the trees. The girl followed behind, laughing. Akari’s shadow was completely hidden in the shade.

The groans grew louder, and I quickly moved to the bench. Apparently, hiding her shadows made the pain worse. I laid Akari on the bench and wiped the sweat off her face. The little girl inclined her head curiously. She reached her hand out, and I blocked it.

“Hands off,” I said. “Where’s your mom and dad?”

“Mama? Papa?”

The girl tilted her head. She sounded like a baby. A moment later, she shook her head.


Did she mean that they weren’t here at the moment?

The girl smiled and stared at Akari. Sweat trickled down her pale forehead, and she was groaning even more now. Soon her groans turned to screams that spilled out of her small throat.

Yukihito’s eyes widened, and he backed away. Akari’s shadow was completely distorted now. Its arms, which had been twisted to their limits, were bent even further, and her neck snapped sideways. Her real body had not changed. But the shadow never stopped writhing.

Watching her scream in pain, I realized something.

This must be a life-or-death situation.

“What do we do?” I muttered.

“I’m not really sure,” Yusuke said, “but don’t espers usually get into this kind of situation? I’m thinking maybe there’s a way to deal with it.”

Unfortunately, it didn’t look like we could ask her anything. Akari continued squirming and screaming. The strange girl regarded her with a smile on her face. She was enjoying watching someone scream. The look in her eyes sent a shiver down my spine.

Suddenly the girl raised her hand in the air. The fingers of her small right hand moved slowly.

And formed a fox.

The fox’s mouth snapped open. Then it hit me. I took Akari’s hand and forced her fingers to move, creating the shape of a fox, and projected its shadow on the ground. Akari’s shadow froze, then returned to its original human shape. Instead, the shadow puppet created by her hand began to move. The beast moved its face from side to side and began sniffing around.

Another beast appeared next to it. And then a third one fell in beside the second. One after another, beasts lined up side by side, like arms multiplying.

Six beasts had gathered. They opened their mouths at the same time.

Abruptly the beasts leapt and bit Yukihito’s shadow.

Yukihito shrieked.

“Wait, what’s going on?!” Yusuke blurted.

“…What the?”

Yukihito was running around, screaming. Yusuke burst out laughing, clutching his sides. Every time the beasts bit into Yukihito’s shadow, a hole would appear in his leather jacket. He immediately threw it away. The beasts swarmed the remaining cloth, ripping it to shreds, scattering it into the air.

The beasts swallowed their torn prey.

And the cloth disappeared into the void.

Yukihito shrieked. But the beasts showed no mercy. They opened their mouths again.

A lightbulb went off in my head. The beasts were hungry.

“Uh, Yusuke…”

“Hahahaha! I have a feeling this is not supposed to be funny.”

Yukihito continued running around, screaming his lungs out. The beasts, snapping their mouths open and shut, chased after him. Yukihito cut through the park at full speed and dove into the shadows of the trees. The beasts stopped; they couldn’t enter the shadows, it seemed.

“Ah, that’s cheating,” Yusuke groaned. “Damn that little bastard.”

“I have a really bad feeling about this.”

The beasts sniffed the air. Then they turned around and charged onward.

Toward me and Yusuke.

“I knew this would happen!” Yusuke cried. “Yukihito, you idiot! How dare you retreat to safety?!”

I moved.

“While you’re running without a single word! I didn’t know you could run that fast, Odagiri-san!”

I ran as fast as I could. I fled into the trees, and so did Yusuke. The beasts moved their mouths regretfully and returned to Akari. The park was devoid of people except for her lying there. I glanced to the side and saw the white-clad girl under the shade.




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