V7 Story IV – Part 03

The dead was walking in front of me. Staring at their pale, faded skin, a thought came to mind.

A puppet modeled after the dead was walking. Wasn’t that a huge contradiction?

“A house adorned with a dead girl,” I murmured. “I wonder what happened.”

“Forget about it,” Mayuzumi said. “He says it’s fine. He’s not afflicted by an oddity, nor is he cursed. It’s just your morbid curiosity.”

I fell silent. She was right. This was not something I should be concerned about. No matter what painful memories he carried, I shouldn’t pry into them out of mere curiosity.

We walked along the same path we took earlier, passing by the statues of dead girls. Just before we stepped out onto the yard, we stopped. Maihime was standing there, huddled against a brass sculpture, a phone pressed to her ear. Kugutsu was standing next to her.

“Yes… Yes, that’s right. In that case, just do as I said. I know you can do it. Don’t worry about them. There is nothing to worry about. Bye.”

She ended the call and turned to us. A serene smile appeared on her face.

“How was it? What did he say?” she asked, her eyes as droopy as always.

“He changed his mind,” Mayuzumi replied. “This was not really my area of expertise to begin with.”

“Is it because he doesn’t know if he’s being haunted?”

“So you knew. The fact that you still suggested my help means you were being malicious.”

Mayuzumi shot Maihime an animalistic glare, but Maihime only flashed an innocent smile. Kugutsu stepped forward to protect her.

Maihime took his arm and said, “I don’t harbor any ill will towards you.” Her tone was soft and delicate. “I’ve been simply a bit unhappy with how Hishigami treats his puppets. I hope you forgive a little stirring. I’m a joyful person. No, wait. Correction: I’m a joyful troublemaker.”

“Don’t drag me in your shenanigans. It’s annoying,” Mayuzumi said, and walked ahead.

I followed after her. The words “joyful troublemaker” gave me a vague feeling of unease.

Her manner of speaking was reminiscent of the cat and the fox. Repugnance made my throat tighten.

The puppet guiding us said nothing. We followed her out onto the front yard.

Bright green filled my vision, the artificial summer light stinging my eyes. A dead puppet was sitting on a chair, eyes closed as if in prayer.

And next to her was a dead person.

A person lay collapsed, their headless body added like the last piece in a puzzle amidst the surreal, artistic hues of white, green, and various colors.

Its severed neck was filled with iron cogs and tiny parts. Golden liquid dripped slowly, oil spreading like blood.

For the body, it was undoubtedly blood. Different things replaced swollen flesh, splintered bones, and fetid fat. On closer inspection, the head was lying right beside it, half-buried in the grass, as if it had been chopped off with a guillotine.

Its eyes were closed. And then it dawned on me. We were confronted with contradictory facts.

It was the corpse of a dead girl’s puppet.

A puppet modeled after the dead had been killed.

Who killed her? Why?

Why kill a puppet?

Numerous questions filled my mind. I couldn’t move due to the confusion.

A third puppet lay sprawled with its head cut off. Bearing a close resemblance to the other two—one sitting in a chair, the other with braided hair—it had turned into a grisly corpse.

A corpse—that was the only fitting word for the horrific, decapitated body.

Maihime was the first to move. She darted towards the puppet and examined the severed neck before lifting up the head. One by one she gathered the parts that fell onto the grass. She lifted up one of the larger gears; fresh oil slicked her fingertips.

“She’s dead,” she declared. “Repairs are impossible.”

The death of a puppet. The murder of a puppet modeled after the departed. I pondered the implications.

She didn’t say it was broken.

While I was still searching for an answer, Mayuzumi said, “Her feet are gone too. Did someone cut them off and take them away?”

My eyes darted to her legs. Her feet had been taken away too. From the ankle down, components spilled from pale flesh. It was as if she was being devoured by a hideous iron monster from the inside out.

“This is cruel,” I said. “Who could have done such a thing?”

“Cruel? You call this cruel? Really?”

I didn’t know what to say. Was a puppet’s death really cruel? I shook my head to rid myself of stupid thoughts. A human-shaped object was cruelly destroyed. What was wrong with bemoaning it?

“I think it’s cruel,” I insisted. “I don’t know if you agree. I’ll go get Hishigami-san. We don’t know who did it, but we have to tell him.”

“Stop,” Mayuzumi said. “It’s better we leave before he arrives. No, wait.”

Narrowing her eyes, Mayuzumi walked towards the exit located on the dark-gray wall. It was just like her to be heartless. Before I could call to her, she stopped. There was no knob or keyhole on the electrically-powered door, only a numerical keypad on the side.

“I see. It’s not opening,” she said, shrugging lightly.

The door wouldn’t open. It took me a few seconds to process what it meant. Entering and leaving was impossible. My throat tightened, and saliva gathered on my tongue.

Mayuzumi turned to the puppet sitting in the garden. “You there. Did you see the culprit?” she asked sharply.

“Please define the word culprit,” the puppet responded with a rigid soprano voice.

I was taken aback. I didn’t know she could talk. Her eyelids opened partly, and she looked at Mayuzumi with half-lidded eyes.

“Define culprit, you say. Let’s keep it simple, then. I’m referring to whoever cut her head off,” Mayuzumi said.

“No, I didn’t see them,” the puppet replied indifferently without even looking at the corpse.

Mayuzumi licked her lips. “If you didn’t see anyone, do you know anything? Or did you hear anything?”

“No, I don’t know anything. I didn’t hear anything,” the puppet denied with the same monotone voice.

Mayuzumi narrowed her eyes. “Did anyone else arrive after us?” She was testing her reaction.


“How can you be so sure? Were you sitting in front of this door the whole time?”

“Yes, I was.”

My eyes widened. Her statements were inconsistent. If she was sitting in front of the door, she should have witnessed the puppet’s death. I checked the corpse quickly. There was a deep incision in the soil near the neck. A cut made by a curved blade.

The puppet was decapitated here.

“I have a question for you, Maihime,” Mayuzumi said. “I’m guessing that you’re the one who created this puppet by following Hishigami’s design. Do they lie?”

“As far as I know, they don’t have that function. They were designed to be ‘moving corpses’ and ‘a likeness of the dead,’ so they weren’t equipped with emotions. But if you ask me if they can lie without having emotions, then I can think of a few possibilities.”

Beside her was Kugutsu, motionless, as if ordered to be on standby.

Maihime raised a finger. “First: if ordered to do so by their master. Second: if they’re not aware that what they’re saying is a lie. Third: they judge that it’s necessary to protect the interests of a third party. The last one is only if you believe in miracles. Though I find that one to be intriguing myself. I, however, detest the myth of Pygmalion. This girl was created to be nothing more than a puppet. She’s just a big toy.” Maihime let out a sigh.

The puppet fell silent once again, her colorless lips tightly closed. The sight of a headless body did not seem to stir up any emotions in her.

But was that really the case?

Before I could speak up, there was a scream.


A bloodcurdling wail. I spun, thinking someone else had been killed, and saw a man standing stock still.

He didn’t have a single scratch on him, but he looked like he was on the brink of death. His eyes were devoid of light. He must have thought it strange that the puppet was taking so long to return.

A headless puppet was lying before Hishigami. Emotions slowly returned to his blank face. Anger.

Intense hatred that bordered on loathing filled his face. “Who did it?! Who killed my Hikari?!” he screeched, crying out the name of a deceased girl. Clenching his fist, he stomped towards the seated puppet. “Did you see them? Did you see who cut off her head?”

“No,” the puppet replied with the same answer.

I could easily imagine what would happen next. Hishigami glared at the door with eyes full of hatred, as if looking at the gates of hell.

“In that case, did anyone else pass through the door after their arrival?” he asked.

“No, nobody,” the puppet replied.

Silence as heavy as stone descended. For a while, the words of the puppet permeated the air in the garden. Though she said the exact same words as earlier, they now held a completely different implication.

Before the silence could break, I understood what went on in his mind.

“In other words, the culprit is among us,” he hissed with a mad smile.

The animosity in his eyes was clearly directed at us.


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