Killing him might not result in any punishment, but I mustn’t do it.
“You’re right,” Mayuzumi said. “But you’ve got one thing wrong. He didn’t choose me as his caretaker. I came to pay off a debt and give his body to her.” There was ice in her voice.
The man’s mood shifted. His jovial aura dissipated. Mayuzumi’s lips lifted into a scarlet smile.
It was evident, even to my unclear eyes, that she was regarding the man with an animalistic gaze.
“Hand over his body,” she said. “I just need to feed it to her. I don’t care what you do after that. Nor will I interfere.”
Feed it to her?
I gawked at Mayuzumi. Her face remained veiled in the darkness. The man was silent.
Moments later, he spoke, gravely. “My father’s body will be disposed of by my clan. It’s our way of paying respect.”
“Ah, envy. You can’t even let him have the best death possible. We had an agreement, so I will offer flowers. The dead don’t recognize flowers, yet you can’t even tolerate their presence. It’s the same thing. Pathetic. So you’re just going to let the dead take hold of you? Stop being afraid of your father.”
Something shattered. The man bolted to his feet, and his long face emerged from the shadows. I could feel his eerie gaze. Spreading my arms wide, I stood in front of Mayuzumi.
The man stared at me. A moment later, he said in a shaky voice, “Please leave. My father is dead. We’ll take care of everything. Please stop meddling in our family’s affairs.”
The man who initially made the request was now dead, and there was no reason for Mayuzumi to stay any longer.
“No, thanks,” Mayuzumi said with a chuckle. “I was asked to do a job. Who knows what Mukai told those things? I will complete the job and repay my debt. Letting the dead have power over me makes me uncomfortable. I like to take care of problems quick, you see.”
The man clenched his fists. White balls trembled before me. Suddenly, he started walking. He picked up the white bundle and carried Mukai’s body away.
“Knock yourself out!” he shouted, storming off in a rage.
“I can’t wait to see what happens next,” Mayuzumi said.
I didn’t quite grasp the meaning of her words, but her sweet voice made my hackles rose.
The man left the corpse somewhere and returned, seemingly searching for something inside the house. I could hear his harsh voice even from the room that Mukai gave us.
“Come out! Your master’s dead. You will serve me next. Where are you? You know you’ll only starve if you stay here. I’ll give you good food! Show yourself!”
The man was calling out to the woman. Every time he moved around, metal rattled. He seemed to be carrying a cage made of metal. I felt my blood boil as I wondered what he intended to do with her.
I stood up to try to stop him, but Mayuzumi held me back.
“What are you going to do? You can’t even see,” she said. “Relax. There’s nothing to worry about. The end is near. We can just sit here and wait.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“Nothing you can say will stop him. And I’m not stopping him either. Curses, like chickens, come home to roost. He will reap what he sowed. Truly pathetic. The rest is up to him. Count me out of it.”
Her red lips lifted up, etched on her white face like a wound.
The cage rattled in the distance. I couldn’t hear any crawling on the floor.
“Night is coming. Odagiri-kun,” Mayuzumi said in a singsong tone. “The outcome will reveal itself if you just wait.”
Her red lips curled into a smile once more.
Her tone made my skin crawl.
“You should stop!” I warned. “Give up and go home. I have a bad feeling about this!”
“Shut the fuck up, or I’ll beat you up!” he shouted back.
The man punched a nearby wall and walked to the inner room. His footsteps faded away and vanished.
He continued searching for the woman. The sound of his angry voice and the clanging of metal persisted endlessly.
Time passed. Even as night deepened, the man showed no signs of leaving.
Creak. Creak. Creak.
The floor squeaked, pulling my consciousness from the depths of slumber.
Creak. Creak. Creak.
I realized that the woman was still inside the house, crawling somewhere.
Creak. Creak. Creak.
The squeaking multiplied, like several naked bodies dancing in unison.
Then it dawned on me.
The creaking was coming from every corner of the house.
The man’s scream tore through the night. I heard the sound of feet stomping the floor, followed by what sounded like an animal’s wail. The man ran around the house, crying, stumbling over and over.
“Stay away! Stay away! Stay awaaay!”
The man’s screams gradually faded, leaving me wondering what was happening.
As I tried to open my eyes, a pair of soft hands gently covered them. Tender warmth touched my eyelids. The sweet smell of candy filled the air.
“Don’t move,” Mayuzumi warned, covering my eyes. “Or you’ll be eaten.”
She removed her hand, and the warmth receded. Keeping my eyes closed, I tried to figure out what was happening. I sensed a multitude of presence filling the room. Every time the walls creaked, the child in my belly whimpered. She reached out her hand, showing interest in the things surrounding us.
Unable to hold myself back, I opened my eyes. Then, I stifled a scream.
Countless naked girls were crawling on the floor.
Thin bodies clung to the walls, floor, ceiling, pallid skin visible in the darkness. Bony chest and veiny arms and legs pressed against the walls. Girls with identical facial features were looking at us. Their mouths, disproportionally large, opened, crimson lips moving slowly.
The man’s scream suddenly intensified, then faded away into silence.
The girls seemed to laugh, but their eyes were devoid of emotion or reason. They shook their heads. Their black hair swayed as they crawled around aimlessly, only to come at an abrupt halt.
A heavy silence fell. Countless unblinking eyes watched us. The girls’ nude figures were fixed to the wall, their hands, feet, and buttocks like tumors.
They all blinked once.
The floor squeaked. My instincts warned me that they recognized us as prey. All the hair on my body stood on end.
The moment I was about to scream, I heard a squelch.
A sharp pain shot through my abdomen. It tore through flesh, but stopped short of my organs.
I looked down and saw my white shirt turning red. Through my hazy vision, crimson diffused slowly, like a drop of blood falling into water. A glint of silver shone amidst the beautiful transformation.
The baby wailed. Uka responded to the wound and tried to reach out from between the flesh.
“You know what would happen if I pressed the blade deeper, don’t you?” Mayuzumi said, her blade in my belly.
The child stroked the tip of the blade, moving it from left to right. Each movement sent a jolt of pain through me.
The girls remained still. I swallowed back a scream. Beads of sweat trickled down my body. The blade trembled in tune with my heartbeat.
“You don’t want to eat something with a monster inside, do you?” Mayuzumi said, ignoring my agony. “And you should know why I’m here. Why would I help kill Mukai? What’s in it for me? I’ll let this mistake slide. Now be a good girl and leave us.” It sounded like she was talking to someone.
The girls remained motionless. Fixed on all fours, they seemed like still objects.
Their eyes alone moved, all flitting to one direction.
Suddenly, the blade was pulled out of my stomach, and I yelped in pain. Red spilled onto the floor. Unable to bear the pain, I lifted my body up. The girls were looking at a familiar figure.
A beautiful naked woman was staring at us.
She was crawling on the floor, as though trying to say something.