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Volume 4 - CH 5.5

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“I know that already,” I said. “I know myself. I just want to live. You’ve told me the same thing before. You don’t have to repeat yourself. It’s grating to the ears.”

Bearing through the pain, I twisted my bloody lips. Asato watched me with a blank face.

I couldn’t stomach that mask-like expression of his.

“You’re right, Asato,” I growled. “But surely there’s meaning and value in saving even one person.”

Sure, it might just be a self-serving delusion.

I had killed far more people than I’d saved. Still, that didn’t make it meaningless.

So what if it really was all just about me? So what if I was an absolute hypocrite?

What’s wrong with trying to struggle to survive?

If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to keep on living.

“Bark all you want. You don’t have the right to criticize me.”

Your words mean nothing to me.

Never again.

Asato showed an expression similar to the fox-masked child. His face shifted slowly, and he let out a bored sigh.

“Man, this is boring,” he breathed, turning his dry eyes to me. His was the face of a grumpy child. “You’re boring, Odagiri. Can you just break already?”

The white child burst out laughing in response. She darted around with the speed of a beast. The way she moved on all fours was hardly human. Uka was bleeding profusely. She wouldn’t last much longer.

The moment my daughter died, that would be the end of me too.

The white child would devour me.

“I’m not gonna get killed playing your games!”

I put my hand behind my back, pulled out a gun from a holster attached to my belt, and pointed it at Asato. It was the same gun I found in Higasa’ house.

The fox’s eyes grew wide. But they immediately narrowed.

“I see.”

There was a note of admiration in his voice. This was what was hidden inside the clock. There was not even a single letter inside the box where the gun and holster were kept. I didn’t know what went on Higasa’s mind when he left me this gun. But I did know that he left me this box in case they failed.

A weapon that could kill even an esper.

And now the fox was standing before me.

With trembling hands, I took aim. I released the safety and cocked the gun. I’d already fired a shot at Higasa’s place as a test. Having the minimum amount of knowledge was never a bad thing. Pulling the trigger now should end all of this.

Contrary to expectations, the fox did not resist. He stared at his looming death and smiled for some reason.

“How about one last lie, then, Odagiri?”

He flashed a smile so serene it sent a shiver down my spine.

My finger on the trigger was trembling. Talking was pointless. I should deal with him immediately, like cutting the cord on a guillotine. But I couldn’t stop him from talking.

“Every one of them had told me about their wishes,” he went on casually. “But you… you alone didn’t want anything from me.” His tone was awfully indifferent. “Which is why… I wanted you to die because of me, for no reason at all.”

I couldn’t wrap my head around what he just said.

Whether he was telling the truth or not didn’t matter now.

So I gave him my answer.

“Never!” I denied, vehemently.

I ignored the insatiable weariness behind his words.

A gunshot rang out. Loud and high.

The discharge numbed my eardrums.

Blood splattered, pooling at my feet.

Fresh blood slid across the red ground and was slowly swallowed.

I exhaled sharply. The gun slipped off my right hand. My fingers were numb. The finger that pulled the trigger was trembling wildly.

“You made the right choice,” he said softly.

His voice was quavering from pain. I’d never heard this kind of voice from him before. The fox looked up at me as he lay on the ground. His neck was drenched in blood.

“But you made a mistake. You forgot you’re soft.”

There was a hole in the fox’s shoulder. Blood was flowing from where the bullet had penetrated.

But that was it. The wound was far from lethal.

“You can’t even kill me,” the fox muttered in disbelief.

My gun was lying in front of me. All I had to do was pick it up and pull the trigger once more. But I couldn’t move.

The anger still lingered in my chest, but I doubt I could pick up a weapon ever again.

I couldn’t kill him. That was an absolute fact.

My body wouldn’t stop shaking. Unable to bear the vertigo, I fell to my knees. Beads of sweat poured down my face. All I had to do was aim and pull the trigger, yet I couldn’t do it. I realized that there was a part of me that was relieved he didn’t die.

Killing people deliberately was terrifying.

“Now what, Odagiri? It looks like the children’s fight will be over soon. Ah, I’m so bored. What an abrupt and disappointing ending.”

Asato was back to his usual attitude. Covering his injured shoulder, he stood up. He picked up his blue parasol and rested it against his neck. Just as the fox said, the white child had pinned Uka down on the ground. Uka desperately tried to fight back, but the white child only laughed out loud.

I watched them hopelessly. Even if I killed Asato, I had no way to leave this space. Uka would die, and then me. That fact would never change.

I said I didn’t want Asato claiming any more lives, yet I couldn’t even kill him.

I couldn’t even avenge her.

“I’m sorry, Mayu-san,” I mumbled, pressing my aching hand.

Tears slid down my cheeks. Anger subsided, and sadness filled my chest. Forgotten tears started flowing again.

I remembered the way she bit her chocolate. She never would have wanted me to take revenge. In fact, she would get mad at me for using her death as motivation. I continued apologizing anyway.

Her body was in the fridge.

Mayuzumi Azaka was dead.

That fact would never change, no matter what. I couldn’t do anything for her.

I just wanted to do something for her.

Asato laughed. “I see you’re cursed too, Odagiri. You have nothing to apologize for, do you?”

The fox laughed mockingly. I lifted my teary eyes and shot him a glare. I had nothing to apologize for, sure. Mayuzumi herself would find it annoying.

But the fox had no right to say that.

“Asato, you…”

“My sister abandoned you, didn’t she? That’s why you came to me alone. Do you want to be bound by her forever? You’re a discarded toy. You’re practically cursed.” There was pity in his voice.

Something felt wrong at that moment.

My eyes grew wide. The fox was smiling before me.

There was something off with what he said.

Dispelled of rage, my mind started working rapidly. My vision looked unbelievably clear.

The apartment was littered with dismembered limbs, decorated with a corpse as spectacular as a Mother Goose story. Paper was left on the table, and mocking words were painted on the curtains.

“Welcome back.”

The sickening décor should have been the fox’s doing.

But why did he suddenly decide to kill Mayuzumi Azaka?

He was particular about me killing Mayuzumi Azaka myself.

I thought back to the one possibility.

But if that was the case, whose body was that?

Then it dawned on me. My eyes widened and I held my mouth. Asato looked askance at me, but I had something more important to think about. I ruminated about the conclusion I’d arrived at over and over.

There was a corpse.

One that was perfect as a substitute.

Laughter escaped my lips. I slapped my knees and guffawed. My sides hurt, and my vision turned red, but I kept laughing through the pain anyway. The fox said something, his words falling on deaf ears. I just laughed and laughed. And finally, I wiped away the tears.

So that’s what happened.

She got me, all right.

I turned to the void. “You’re there, aren’t you, Mayu-san?”

The fox furrowed his brow. A heavy silence fell. The only sounds that could be heard were the occasional grunts of the children. Moments later, the fox gave me a pitying look. But I continued to wait, patiently.

I stared into the void with absolute certainty.

Then suddenly, my nose caught a sweet aroma. There was a familiar sound.


“Why of course, Odagiri-kun.”

A familiar voice.

A red goldfish sprang before my eyes.

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