V9 Story II – Part 06

“Deep down, you want to keep on living, don’t you? Unable to accept Hirugao’s death, you destroyed others. You ruined yourself, but deep inside, you don’t really want to, do you?”

Yusuke remained silent. My words had transformed from poison to bullets.

He grimaced. He reached out to squeeze my throat. Pain shot through my throat, and bones creaked. It was like a reproduction of what happened at the Karakuri mansion. I recalled the events that had taken place there.

I felt laughter bubbling up within me. How many times were we going to repeat the same things?

I sincerely hoped Yujirou wouldn’t catch up. The fluttering of wings drowned out the animal’s sound.

Tears rained from the sky. Arms tightened around my throat. Would my neck snap this time?

“What’s wrong with that, anyway?”


Yusuke frowned again, but I kept speaking. Unfortunately, we were more alike than I had thought. I didn’t see clawing at life as a bad thing. If that’s all we could do, then so be it.

“What’s so wrong with desperately wanting to survive? And you’ve got one thing wrong. You say you made the first mistake. You didn’t kill your father. That’s why you’re wracked with guilt. But you’re wrong. It wasn’t you who made the first mistake. It wasn’t you!”

Yusuke’s expression faded, and he opened his trembling mouth.

After taking a few breaths, he hoarsely asked, “What do you mean?”

Yusuke looked away from me. I sensed that he was still hiding something.

As if answering my question, he shouted, “Who other than me could have made a mistake?! You know nothing! I’ve been trying not to think about it all this time!” he spat. Then, he finally revealed the truth he had long concealed in his heart. “I couldn’t even get revenge on my father!”

Tears streamed from his eyes. He paused for a moment.

Amidst the sounds of the pine tree being eroded and the caws of the crows, amidst the falling snow and wood chips, Yusuke screamed.

“I didn’t kill my father while Asako-san and Aki were still alive! I didn’t even do it after they died… I just happened to come across his ear, so I used it to torment him. But until then, I didn’t do anything. Not a single thing!”

I cast my mind back to the past. There was indeed a period of time before Yujirou’s death where Yusuke did nothing. Over the year since the deaths of Asako and Aki, he had lived under his father’s guardianship.

“I hated the bastard for a long time, and only killed him after I had the means for revenge. My hatred wasn’t strong enough! Killing my old man for their sake was just a bunch of nonsense. I had to make that excuse, or I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself. I did it for my own sake, that’s all. Why am I like this?!”

I was afraid of killing myself, so I just vented my anger on others.

In the end, I lived only for myself. I couldn’t show kindness to anyone.

The hand that had been choking my throat released its grip entirely. He continued letting out all the things he kept hidden within him. His was the painful cry of someone repeatedly stabbing himself with a knife.

“I’ve lived only with regrets, unable to do anything. Not a single thing… I said I was doing it for Hirugao, that there was nothing else I could do, but really, I only did that because I couldn’t bear the pain,” he confessed.

I understood now why he so desperately wanted revenge. After receiving the same wound, he became excessively fixated on doing what he couldn’t do back then.

“I’m gonna kill them. There’s nothing else for me to do.”

I remembered his tearful words. It was unquestionably a selfish act.

But he was wrong about something. He had misunderstood something crucial.

“That’s not it, Yusuke. You’ve got it all wrong from the start.”

Anger flashed across Yusuke’s face. Once again, he grabbed my throat and squeezed it.

“What the fuck do you mean by that, huh?! What exactly did I get wrong?!”

“It’s not about whether you exacted vengeance or not. Or if you killed your father for Asako-san and Aki or not. No. It wasn’t you who committed the first mistake.”

I extended my arm and gripped Yuki’s head firmly, stroking it as one would a child. My unresponsive left hand moved clumsily, ruffling his hair and lightly bumping his forehead. Yusuke’s eyes widened in response.


“What’s wrong is that no one helped you, Asako-san, or Aki.”

Yusuke had no family or friends. Asako suffered because of Yujirou and took her own life.

It was a common tragedy, which meant it could’ve been prevented. But the circumstances had been twisted horribly all this time.

Why should a kid like Yusuke be faulted for all that had happened?

People can ask for help. They can support each other. That’s how it’s supposed to work. But until now he’d deemed himself the root cause of their deaths.

He thought he was to blame for their suicide.

“You should’ve asked for help. You should’ve begged others to help you, Asako-san, and Aki. That was all you had to do. There was no need to kill anyone for them.”

Shirayuki crouched beside him and gently stroked his hair. Yusuke stayed still as a statue. In the background, the pine tree tilted heavily.

“Some things can’t be undone; some things too late to do anything about. Live with the pain you caused, the lives you took. Live your whole life with regret.”

I tousled his hair, then poured my heart out. Looking up at the gray sky, I said, “But we don’t want you to die.”

I took a deep breath, remembering the past. Maybe I should’ve said this a long time ago. When we first came to this mansion. When we shared a vision through the child in me.

Do you understand this pain? The hatred that begins here.

I don’t give a shit.

“I’m sorry for not understanding.”

Crows took off like a storm of blackness. The sky filled with them, turning as dark as night for a moment. The pine tree groaned and toppled. The earth rumbled. Snow and wood chips swirled violently. We would likely never see the bodies that had hung from it ever again.

As the flapping of wings faded, a sorrowful howl rose.

A dog barked beside me. I patted Yusuke’s head one last time.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t help you.”

Shirayuki rubbed Yusuke’s back. Exchanging a look with her, I got up, leaving Yusuke in her care. Shirayuki wrapped her arms around him in a comforting embrace. Yusuke remained frozen in place.

“…Ah… ah…”

Yusuke shuddered. I couldn’t grasp what was going on in his mind. His eyes were wide open; a look that said he had lost something or finally came to a realization.

I faced Yujirou, who sat with his hands and legs aligned. He gazed at me as if trying to tell me something. His bulging eyeballs had vanished, leaving black holes in their place.

As the rope disappeared from the pine tree, he grew fainter.

“You shouldn’t stay here either. Begone.”

Yujirou cocked his head in response. After grappling with something, he bounded. Face devoid of emotion, his plump body sprang up in the air, and he lunged straight at Yusuke.


Shirayuki couldn’t see Yujirou. Yusuke was hanging his head, muttering something. I was too slow to react. I reached out, but I couldn’t touch Yujirou.

As I tried to call Uka’s name, a familiar laughter pierced my ears. Yujirou shuddered violently and fell.

He hunched over in fear. The rope had completely disappeared, and his body was fading away. His thick limbs melted, and his pale body disintegrated, vanishing among the snow.

“What was that?”

I looked around, bewildered. The voice was familiar, one that should not be heard ever again.

Yusuke raised his head. “It can’t be,” he mumbled.

He bolted to his feet and staggered across the garden.

I clenched my right hand as I watched him go. That high-pitched voice I just heard belonged to a woman.

It came from the annex.

The door to the far-off room was ajar. Yusuke stood motionless in the darkness.

We quietly entered inside. Yusuke was fixated on something lying on the floor.

The bag had been left open, and from it, something white had tumbled out.

It was the skulls of two people, a child’s and an adult’s, lying side by side.

Those were Asako and Aki’s skulls. He must have taken them from the house, either when he decided to end his life or while he sought revenge.

No one should have opened that bag. They must have come out on their own. Perhaps their jaws moved, causing them to fall.

This shouldn’t have been possible.

“Why… Why did this happen?” Yusuke mumbled in disbelief.

After Yujirou’s death, the two skulls never again laughed. A skull whose grudge had been dispelled does not sing, for they sing only to settle their grudge.

They should’ve never spoken again, but they just did.

I stared at the dry skulls, thinking of the Butterfly Mansion Hirugao had escaped from.

Countless vengeful butterflies had swarmed around a man’s skull, responding to his voice. Maybe it was because they reacted to Yujirou’s spirit. Like a dormant beast suddenly awakening, they might have started laughing.

But if we chose to believe in good intentions and miracles…

“Maybe it was to protect you.”


“Maybe they helped you because your life was in danger?”

That was all I said. Even if it was a stretch, it was okay. I wanted to believe that possibility.

I recalled a memory from a long time ago. In the middle of summer, Asako’s smile had been radiant.

She used to support him. Was it wrong to believe that that was still the case, even when she had turned into bones?

Yusuke stared blankly at the skulls. His whole body started trembling.

“…Stop,” he mumbled.

He sank to his knees. Desperately, he reached out, his trembling fingers touching the skulls. He lifted the dry bones as you would a loved one. Tears fell onto the cracked surfaces.

“Stop it, stop doing that, please, stop… I said I couldn’t do anything… I’m so, so stupid… Why?”

It was as if he were talking to his parents. He held the two skulls clumsily.

“Asako-san… Aki…” he muttered with sobs.

The skulls no longer laughed. They wouldn’t respond to his words.

But helping him meant he could no longer die.

“I killed them… I shouldn’t be allowed to live…”

They told him not to come, so how could he?

“I… I…!” Yusuke screamed. Howled. Expelling everything.

The ropes binding him were gone, and something inside him had broken. Rejecting the joint suicide was a denial of everything about him.

How many were killed and hurt with the bat he swung so recklessly?

After all he did, could he still honestly say he wanted to live? If he chose to continue living, would he return to a normal life?

Even with Hirugao gone, did he still want to find happiness?

Yusuke continued to cry. Like an animal, he howled to the sky.

His anguished cries blended into the snow.

The voices of the skulls and the dog were no longer there.

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