V8 Story I – Part 10
I stopped hitting him. My burning arm hung limply by my side.
The fox remained silent, his swollen eyes fixed on me. He spat out blood.
“Are you satisfied, Odagiri?”
Why did hurting the fox feel so meaningless?
Overwhelmed by a sense of helplessness, I distanced myself from him. I sank to the floor, crossed my legs, and lit a cigarette. I took a drag, exhaling smoke towards the ceiling. Warm tears welled up once more.
“There’s no point in killing you,” I said.
“Is that really the case, though?”
“You have to repent yourself.” My tone turned imploring.
The fox was unafraid of pain. He yearned to be killed. I was doing this all for myself.
The fox gazed at the ceiling. “Don’t worry, Odagiri. Even if you don’t kill me, I will die soon,” he murmured softly.
I glanced at him, not expecting such words from his mouth. What sort of joke was he making?
“I left the Mayuzumi household so Yusuke could kill me,” he admitted calmly.
His statement struck me like a blow to the head. I nearly dropped my cigarette, hastily catching it in my hand.
My synthetic glove was singed. I stubbed out the cigarette in my hand, adding to the burns.
“You hate me, but you can’t seem to kill me. But I’ve had enough. I could never become Mayuzumi Azaka. I was merely an imitation, worthless from the start. I have no desires of my own. It doesn’t matter anymore. How can I go on living in a world devoid of entertainment?”
His words bore an air of arrogance. He wanted to die because he found no purpose in this world. He was acting even more spoiled than a child. I couldn’t stand his stupid rambling.
“Stop whining for someone to kill you. You can’t even kill yourself, so quit your bellyaching.”
“Yeah, I’m not going to kill myself. I want to be killed by a human.”
I gaped at him. Asato closed his eyes softly.
“I’ve lived a good part of my life fulfilling the wishes of others,” he said tiredly. “Why can’t I wish for someone to grant me one final wish?”
His words sent me spiraling into confusion. Wasn’t his obsession with Mayuzumi Azaka his own desire? Hadn’t he been destroying people, oblivious to his own wishes? What I saw in the spirit world flashed in my mind. The narrator claimed that the fox had no desires.
Could we really consider a wish that the person themselves were unaware of as a genuine wish?
The fox opened his eyes, a faint smile playing upon his lips. “Just kidding. I just want to make someone suffer right at the very end.”
Once again, he concealed his true feelings behind a veil of smoke. The fox made no attempt to say the truth.
Just then, a white fragment beside him quivered and vanished. An odd sound resounded in the apartment.
Someone was relentlessly pounding on the door, as though striking it with a baseball bat.
I couldn’t hear it until that very moment. I glanced at the spot where the fragment had disappeared. Could it have been a part of the girls’ bodies? Once they vanished completely, the outside and the inside were reconnected.
“I sent a letter to Yusuke as well,” Asato said. “I simply left a clue to the location so it would take him some time. I wanted to meet you first.”
Yusuke left his apartment ahead of me. He must have found the letter then. Once again I was racked with regret for letting him go. The fox languidly raised himself. I contemplated dragging him along to escape.
Pushing him off the balcony would kill him. Moving to the adjacent apartment unit would be difficult if he resisted. I wondered if Uka could stop Yusuke. Precise control was not possible; he would probably lose both his hands. I myself would teeter on the edge of death.
“So, I’ll ask you once more, Odagiri,” the fox said. “I summoned you here for that reason. If Yusuke kills me, you will never be able to exact your vengeance. Are you fine with that?”
“What kind of a stupid question is that?! Your actions don’t make any sense, and you’re only bothering people, you fuck!” I spat, drawing the words from the depths of my being.
The pounding grew louder. I moved in front of the fox.
“Don’t go around wishing to be killed like it’s nothing.”
The door slammed open. A set of steady footsteps clacked on the floor. Something shattered in the kitchen.
Several seconds later, the door creaked open. Eyes dark as the abyss regarded us.
Yusuke was holding a baseball bat in both arms. He looked like a monster with long arms dragging along the ground.
He gave me a puzzled look. It took seconds for him to recognize me.
“Oh, you’re here,” he said. “Out of my way.”
I felt a blow at the back of my head. I toppled forward. My vision spun, and the ground rippled beneath me. Asato stepped forward and tossed the machete aside. He must have hit me with its handle. Yusuke tilted his head, his gaze hollow.
Asato raised a hand. “Hey, Yusuke.”
“Right. You’ve always been like that. Nothing’s changed.”
“I guess I’ve known you since before you killed your father. Quite a long time ago, surprisingly.”
Yusuke offered no response to the fox’s words. He lightly tapped his shoulder with the bat.
“Anyway, I’m about to kill you. But before that, I want you to give me something. Whether you die before or after you give it to me, it’s all the same. So, if you could.”
He sounded absurd, but his expression was grave.
“What is it?” the fox replied without a shred of hesitation.
“You returned Hirugao’s memories, didn’t you? Give them to me.”
My breath caught in my throat at the mention of Hirugao’s memories.
The fox frowned a little. “Ah, I see.” He nodded. “Her memories hold the location of Maihime’s residence. It appears she had etched the whereabouts of her childhood home into her mind. Memories are but a fragment of the information imprinted in the brain. It’s possible to transfer them to your own mind. But are you prepared to endure her pain as well?”
Hirugao couldn’t withstand the weight of those memories and took her own life. I doubt Yusuke could bear such pain.
But he smiled anyway. Baring his teeth like a skull, he said, “So what?”
I tried to rise to my feet, but the floor felt like sinking mud, offering no support. Nausea refused to abate, and drool dripped onto the floor. My screams begging for it all to stop lodged in my throat.
Studying Yusuke’s shattered look, the fox shook his head. “Very well. I will grant your wish.”
The fox took Yusuke’s outstretched hand and squeezed his palm. Within seconds, Yusuke convulsed. He crashed to his knees, holding his mouth as he coughed violently. Then, his eyes snapped wide open. He wore the face of a helpless child.
Yusuke surveyed his surroundings fearfully, when suddenly, he snapped back to his senses.
Using the bat as support, he rose to his feet and lumbered away. It was as if he had forgotten his grudge against the fox.
In that same moment, I managed to stand back up. I chased after him. As I reached for him, Asato grabbed my shoulder, causing me to nearly topple backward.
“What are you doing, Asato?!”
“You shouldn’t go, Odagiri. You’ll get killed, I guarantee.”
He stopped me, but I couldn’t just stand idly by.
As I rose back up, a piercing scream rent the air. I could hear a madman running down the stairs.
And once again, Yusuke disappeared.
Yusuke’s car sped off, engines roaring.
He probably stole it from an unsuspecting victim. With reckless abandon, the vehicle vanished from view.
Watching from the top of the stairs, I clicked my tongue in frustration. The situation had taken a turn for the worse. I needed to reach Maihime.
I tried calling Mayuzumi first, but she wasn’t answering. I recalled our previous conversation; she wanted me to come to the office. I had a feeling that she had something crucial to reveal about Maihime.
“Damn it. Why isn’t she picking up?! Why now?!”
“She’s probably busy. Or maybe she’s dead,” Asato said.
His face was swollen. Despite being responsible for the worsening situation, he showed no remorse. But there was no point in pointing fingers now.
“Mayu-san dying?” I scoffed. “That’s impossible. She has nothing to do with what’s happening right now.”
“You seem confident, Odagiri. Mayuzumi Azaka is destined to die,” he said casually.
I tried to brush it off, but I’d heard the same words before. It was none other than Mayuzumi herself who uttered them. I glared at Asato, and his lips twisted.
“Mayuzumi Azaka is destined to die. Those endowed with powerful supernatural abilities, especially, are slain at a young age. However, she managed to elude my plots and survived. It’s only a matter of time until someone else kills her.”
Images of a dead body flashed in my mind. Limbs strewn across the office space. The inconceivable string of words shook me to the core.
I recalled what Mayuzumi said earlier. She told me to come to the office.
“Should you really be leaving her alone?” The fox grinned malevolently.
Of course, I had no intention of leaving her alone. To contact Maihime, I needed to make my way to the office. I dashed out of the apartment, dragging the fox along with me. As we reached the main street, I kicked him in front of a taxi.
I couldn’t care less about proper behavior right now. My mind had stopped working. We got into the taxi, and I told the driver the destination in a menacing tone.
After arriving at the office, I settled the fare and leaped into the elevator. Exiting on the fifth floor, I flung open the door to the office.
“Mayu-san, are you here?! Mayu—”
My breath caught. I looked around the apartment.
The office had been ransacked, as though a storm had passed through. The leather couch had been smashed to pieces, the table upended. Curtains had been torn to shreds. Red, heart-shaped chocolate lay scattered across the floor.
A man in a coat stood in the midst of the wreckage.
The shadowy figure casually turned to face me. I recognized his face. His sunken cheeks twitched at the sight of me.
Hishigami Akira smiled a sickly smile.
“Hello,” he said.
Something moved. From the shadows emerged another figure.
There was no time to move out of the way. Fabric was pressed against my mouth. I tried to fight back, but the firm arm would not budge. The pallid limb belonged to a puppet. My consciousness began to fade, either from the lack of oxygen, or the effects of the drug.
What happened? Where did Mayuzumi go?
Unable to voice my questions, my consciousness drifted into the darkness.
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