V3 Story IV – Part 08

“Do you understand, Odagiri?”

Higasa’s voice suddenly changed. He spoke softly. Flames rose from the door behind him. His face, illuminated by the bright light, had a faint smile on it.

It sounded like he was repeating someone else’s words.

The words of the fox.

“Mayuzumi Azaka is dead because of you.”

I lunged forward.

I couldn’t think of anything. I aimed my fist at Higasa’s face. Memory stirred. Back at the rooftop, I tried to punch the fox in front of me, but my fist couldn’t reach him. The current situation was the same as back then. He pointed the gun’s muzzle at me. I knew what would happen, but I couldn’t stop myself. Furiously, I thrust out my arm towards the face in front of me.

Suddenly I felt a tug on my pants.

I fell forward. A gunshot rang overhead. Hearing Higasa’s startled gasp, I stood up, and lunged at him again.

There was another tug. It felt like the child was grabbing my clothes, but when I looked behind me, there was no one there. Yet for some reason, it felt like it was calling me.

Telling me to run.

I turned and started running. A hole appeared where I was standing. Higasa chased after me as I sprinted down the corridor. I dashed into a different room, closed the door, opened the door that led to a different corridor and jumped out. The fire was more intense here, and filled with hot smoke. Covering my mouth, I ran.

“I want to protect Akari,” Higasa said. “I will gladly lay down my life for Akari-sama. What about you, Odagiri? I will protect Akari, even if it means killing you.”

A gunshot rang out, the bullet hitting the ceiling. He seemed to be losing his cool. Every step I took, my stomach blazed from the pain. Uka, her head halfway out, shook. Blood spilled, soaking my legs. Something trickled down my cheek.

I pressed onward, choking back the sobs that threatened to leave my mouth.

“You say you want to help others, but you really just want to help yourself. You want to help others so bad so you could justify your own existence. Am I wrong? You can only say that because deep inside, you really don’t want to help anyone. Fucking hypocrite!”

A bullet grazed the nearby wall. I breathed out. In my mind a summer sea glittered, and blood spilled from a cabinet. A smiling face fell from the rooftop, and everything vanished.

He was right. I couldn’t do anything.

I claimed to help, but killed many as a result.

But still…

“I’m not… a hypocrite…”

I wanted to help. I really wanted to save others. It just ended in the worst possible outcome. Because of excessive sympathy, I couldn’t save anyone, instead driving them to a corner.

But I really meant it.

“I really wanted… to…”

Yet I also knew.

I just wanted to live. I was, at my core, someone who didn’t give a shit about other people. I couldn’t lay down my life for anyone. In fact, if I survived, Akari and Higasa would disappear. Yet fully knowing that, I kept running. I had dragged a lot of people into my mess. Despite feeling regret, I was never willing to throw away my own life.

My legs would never stop.

“But I…”

I didn’t want to die. I would never die for anyone.

But I truly wanted to save others.

Tears streamed down my cheeks. Crying like a child, I pressed onward. I turned a corner and completely lost sight of the path ahead. Tears and smoke clouded my vision. My throat burned, and I coughed violently. Blisters formed on my roasted skin. I tripped over my own foot and tumbled.

I couldn’t see anything anymore. I couldn’t move my legs.

I wanted to cry out loud. Lying on the floor, I curled up. The words I wanted to say to Higasa rang in my head.

No. You’re wrong. That’s not it. Maybe. But that’s not all.

No, you’re wrong.

No matter what I said, I couldn’t deny anything.

I should just close my eyes. Then I’d feel better.

This would be the end. For real, this time.

“Wake up,” someone whispered.

A small silhouette was looking down at me. I couldn’t tell who it was.

My lips parted. “Mayu-san…?”

Was it really her?

Would she take my hand like she did that day when the cherry blossoms drifted in the air?

Suddenly I was kicked in the leg. It hurt a little.

“No, you idiot,” they said.

A small hand gripped mine. In my hazy mental state, someone pulled me to my feet. Long hair fluttered in front of me. She started walking without hesitation. Walking down the long hallway, she grabbed the doorknob and pulled the door open.

A cold breeze brushed my cheeks. Outside was a pale blue sky.

Tears spilled from my blurry eyes. Bathed in the light, she turned around.

Honey-colored eyes were looking at me. Her long hair flowed in the breeze.

She was smiling serenely.

My breath seized. “Akari-san…”

Something yanked my feet, and I was dragged outside. My body collided with the stairs in the backyard. But whatever it was didn’t stop pulling me mercilessly. It was the same thing that had pulled on my pants.

Akari’s shadow was pulling me wildly.

It tossed me aside, but I managed to grab onto the railing of the stairs. The wound on my palm spewed blood as my body lifted in the air. Right by the door, Akari was smiling. I tried to shout something at her.

I had to stop her. I couldn’t let her go.

Her smile said everything. I had to stop her, no matter what. But no words came out of my burnt throat. Her bandage-wrapped feet bounced.

And she ran with a spring in her steps.


She gave a small wave of her hand. The cherry-colored dress vanished. She dashed into the hallway with an easy gait, into the red, burning walls.

Higasa appeared from the corridor, and she put her arms around his neck in a tight embrace.

Higasa’s eyes widened momentarily. He tried to say something, then his face slowly scrunched up. The gun fell from his trembling fingers. His deformed left hand moved hesitantly, and with both arms, he held Akari tight.

“Are you sure about this?” he asked with tearful eyes.

Akari stared into his face, and nodded with a big smile.

The next instant, their bodies melted, losing their human shape and reduced to a pile of white flesh on the floor. It was too cruel a change. In an instant, what had been human beings reverted to dead flesh.

The pair was nowhere to be found.

A scream tore through my lungs. My throat hurt, sounds fading without forming words. My vision turned red. My fingers loosened, untangling themselves from the railing. Akari’s shadow was gone, and I plummeted straight down. I reached for the distant sky as I watched fire erupt from the staircase.

I felt a blow, and I lost consciousness.

Rain was falling.

Thinking back, it always rained in my memories.

It felt like the water falling from the skies had me trapped, suffocating me to death. I tried desperately to reach for something, but there was no escape.

She wouldn’t take my hand.

Drowning forever was my fate.

All alone.

When I opened my eyes, I heard the sound of rain. Cold water poured down on my feet. It was so cold that I would rather just die. Rain was falling heavily from the skies. Yet somehow, my face remained dry. Blearily I opened my eyes and looked above.

Someone was holding an umbrella over my head.

“Mayu-san?” I called with relief.

Then I saw the color of the parasol.

It wasn’t red.

A glamorous navy blue.

“Long time, no see, Odagiri.”

A fox was looking down at me.

He crouched down on the grass. Rain was falling behind him. He was regarding me with a smile that could almost be described as gentle.

On his head, as always, hung a fox mask.

A scream rose from my throat. Fear overruled loathing. I forced myself up and backed away. But my legs wouldn’t move. I couldn’t muster any strength in my body. My vision blurred, probably from the loss of blood. Uka was stirring in my belly. I ordered my body to move over and over, but to no avail.

I couldn’t move. Could not escape.

Asato was watching me closely. A moment later, he spoke.

“How was the sideshow? I’m really glad you liked it.”

I froze. His words just now pounded in my head. I looked at him, and he smiled. My mind went blank. The things I’d seen flashed before my eyes—the sea, the blood, the white flesh on the floor.

A sideshow.


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