V9 Story IV – Part 02

Round and round, the pinwheel spun.

Before long, it began to fall apart. The wings, overexerted by their endless rotation, were torn to shreds.

Round and round, the pinwheel moved.

Little by little, it began to crumble. The weathered wings would never regain their original form.

The worn-out core snapped, and the wings fell apart. The pinwheel, being a toy, was bound to break eventually.

No matter how elegant an object might be, it can’t escape its destiny.

With the sole solace for her heart gone, the woman was left with nothing. What awaited her was an eternal life of solitude, with no one to offer her comfort.

Do you understand, Odagiri-kun?

She whispered tenderly. At her feet lay the scattered remnants of the pinwheel.

The torn pieces resembled butterfly wings, but in reality, it wasn’t a pinwheel.

It was something else that had been torn asunder, something different that had once spun round and round.

I studied one of them. It was a fragment of a tattered and weathered parasol.

She picked out a particular favorite piece and murmured, “This is despair.”

It’s a concept that people shouldn’t grasp.

The despair of humans and that of it were different. This was something that should never be understood.

So, I closed my eyes. The words I’d once spoken to someone, words I shouldn’t have uttered back then, now escaped from the depths of my heart.

I don’t give a shit.

“Mr. Odagiri, are you asleep?”

I woke up. When I opened my eyes, I saw beautiful, white hair swaying nearby, shimmering like a veil in the morning light. Half-lidded eyes peered at me.

Before me stood Maihime. Morning had arrived without my knowing.

The sea of ink was aglow, and countless glass shards glistened in golden hues. Next to me, Shirayuki sat, just as she had the previous night, with a smile on her face. She was still holding my hand. It appeared she was awake the entire time. I must have dozed off while we were supposed to be praying. It was embarrassing.

When did I drift off? As I tried to recall it, my head ached dully.

Images of a parasol flickered in my mind. It was as if I’d been forcibly pulled into a dream. But that couldn’t be true. Shaking my head, I turned my gaze back to Maihime and was left dumbstruck.

She had changed into a white dress. Fine fabric hugged her slender form. Bathed in the morning sun, her figure exuded pure elegance. She reminded me of a bride.

“Will you come with me?” she said, holding her head high. “There’s something I want to show you.”

She waved her arm, placed a hand on her chest, and gracefully curtsied.

“Let’s go see Saga Yusuke’s new legs.”


Yusuke lay on the operating table, his body mostly concealed by sheets. His tranquil appearance bore a resemblance to a lifeless corpse. Overwhelmed by eerie thoughts, I stopped briefly.

My heart creaked, and my stomach churned. I took a deep breath before moving on.

The bed drew nearer with every step. When my gaze reached the foot, I was left speechless.

Two legs protruded from beneath the sheets. I rushed to the bed to touch them.

My fingers traced their path from the thighs to the soles of the feet. I nudged them left and right, and even ran my nails over the surface, confirming their solidness. Gripping the ankles firmly, I could feel the pulse of blood coursing through the flesh.

I whirled around. Shirayuki was just as dumbfounded as me. Maihime smiled behind her.

With a sense of incredulity, I asked, “Are these… Are these really artificial legs?”

“Every part of the legs is. Their reactions, growth, and aging are nearly identical to real ones. The connection between the base and the puppet is melded through the soul, so flesh will gradually form. Unless they’re intentionally severed, they won’t come off,” she asserted proudly.

I scrutinized the point where Yusuke’s legs had been severed, finding no visible seams. After repeatedly touching and examining the legs, I finally accepted the truth.

What I believed I’d lost was being reconstructed right before my eyes. My body slackened, and I fell to my knees.

“Mr. Odagiri? Your reaction is rather surprising, I must say,” Maihime remarked, her head tilted slightly.

I couldn’t respond. I never thought this would happen. Tears spilled from my eyes. I pressed my forehead on the floor and let out a muffled howl.

I couldn’t contain the overwhelming emotions. But they weren’t negative in nature.

The baby did not threaten to come out. She only squirmed hesitantly.

Papa?

Still down on the floor, I took Maihime’s hand. It frustrated me that my left hand wouldn’t cooperate properly. I shook her hand vigorously up and down.

“Thank you, thank you… Thank you so much,” I said through tears.

Maihime remained silent. When I looked up, there was a reluctant smile on her face. I wiped away my tears and stood up. I looked at Yusuke’s legs again.

“I’m so, so glad. I thought his legs were gone forever.”

“That level of joy is rather astonishing. But being praised for the results is quite satisfying. I’m surprisingly easy to please. Replacing someone’s legs is not that difficult. I should be the one offering gratitude.”

Startled, I raised my head. Her gaze was fixed on Yusuke’s legs.

She inclined her head gently. “A puppeteer cannot create a puppet without materials. You can’t make something out of nothing. The same applies to the fox’s supernatural abilities. The sudden disappearance of his legs is linked to mine, isn’t it?”

I nodded. She was right on the mark. Yusuke’s legs were taken as compensation for her legs.

Maihime gently stroked Yusuke’s legs. “I see, just as I suspected. I’m deeply thankful. As I mentioned earlier, attaching the legs is a relatively simple procedure. However, it becomes quite challenging when it’s your own legs.”

She touched her own legs through her dress. Maihime looked at Yusuke once more, smiling in gratitude.

“I want to convey my thanks. He saved me. This is just a token of that appreciation.”

She bowed deeply. I hadn’t done anything; it was Yusuke who had sacrificed his legs.

I found myself wondering. From the moment I saw Yusuke’s injuries, Maihime had acted swiftly. She didn’t appear to harbor any resentment, even after having her legs crushed. Can people truly erase such intense pain they’ve endured, the loss of their legs, and forget about them?

“You lost your legs because of Yusuke… But you don’t hold a grudge against him.”

“Of course not. I came to him willingly, prepared to be killed. I chose to face his wrath. Why should I bear a grudge? That is quite intriguing.”

She bore no resentment, not even for the excruciating pain of having her legs crushed. Maihime’s determination remained steadfast, her resolve unshaken.

But there was another who bore a grudge on her behalf, and their wounded pride demanded retribution.

I shifted my gaze to Yusuke, who still appeared to be unconscious.

I turned my attention back to Maihime. “Maihime-san, could you please share more about what has transpired thus far?”

This was a conversation we should’ve had back at the parking lot last night.

When someone you care about is hurt, it’s natural to feel resentment. I had to stop Kugutsu.

“Though you went to Yusuke of your own volition, Kugutsu bears a grudge against Yusuke. I talked to him for a bit. In the end, Yusuke gained nothing from his revenge. He hated you, and I want to tell you about the outcome of his quest for vengeance.”

Maihime closed her eyes for a moment, then slowly opened them, nodding gravely.

“It appears I have the obligation to tell you. But please wait for a moment.”

Maihime snapped her fingers. After a while, broken puppets crawled up from the first floor.

All of the puppets should have been destroyed. It likely came from the warehouse. The puppet struggled to bring three chairs. Maihime, Shirayuki, and I took our seats.

Maihime nodded, urging me to continue.

I began sharing the entire chain of events leading to this point.

The dog that couldn’t protect its master desired death after exacting revenge. He was human, but he hadn’t fully come to terms with that fact. Returning to a normal human life would not be easy for him. But if he heard his master’s words, he might recognize his true desire.

The boy who got his revenge had come to realize his own folly.

After he was thwarted from taking his own life, he continued to grapple with the notion of living. He had lost people dear to him, and he considered returning to a normal life a transgression. Revenge begets nothing.

The long and short of the story that brought us to this juncture came to a close. Maihime opened her eyes.

She took her time to think, then nodded slightly.

“I understand. I will talk to Kugutsu. My decision led to his madness. So, I must put an end to it. To turn away would be a betrayal to my pride and my sentiments,” she said flatly.

I bowed deeply, but Maihime seemed to be pondering something more.

Her gaze shifted to Yusuke. After several moments, she whispered in a hushed tone.

“And… it appears there’s something I need to show Mr. Yusuke.”

She didn’t disclose what that “something” was.

In her eyes was a trace of regret.

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