Night 4: I Can't Hear the Bells
It was over quickly.
Even those arms weren't enough, as Mina easily defeated Long-Armed Demon.
Her legs were broken, her shoulders were crushed, and her heart was filled with fear, thanks to that monstrous woman. She wasn't even able to put up anything resembling resistance! No, she wasn't allowed to.
Since Rinne couldn't understand everything, she began thinking about what had just happened.
Long-Armed Demon likely noticed danger, and struck first against Mina who was preparing to speak to the Meat Doll; she probably planned to use those strong, invisible fists to beat Mina down.
But, her moves were easily foiled.
Mina's expressions was graceful as she turned slightly and dodged the fist, and she pressed the spray can in her hand -- "Shhhh" A silver mist was released.
At that instant, Long-Armed Ghost's expression changed.
She showed shock, and as if putting all her her effort into that single action, screamed.
But there was still no movement.
Mina leisurely walked in front of her, and fiercely stomped on her. Only this much, probably... Only this much.
Her stomach hit with a strong blow, Long-Armed Demon flipped over and fell on the bumpy road where she rolled a few times. Possibly unconscious, she remained like that, not moving.
Long-Armed Demon most definitely was not too weak. She was the Long-Armed Demon who killed ten people, with superhuman abilities; she was practically a monster.
But like wiping dust away, Mina easily silenced her.
"Seeing invisible things is something that I'm good at." Only Saibara Mina's eyes were smiling as she spoke coldly, "Ah, what a bad match, Long-Armed Demon. But that isn't important, you didn't pose a threat to me anyways. Actually, I wanted to leave you be for a while while I investigate a few things, but it seems I can't keep doing that."
After she finished saying some incomprehensible things, Mina once again turned toward the Meat Doll.
That cluster of flesh whose gender could not be identified, which was torn apart and destroyed thanks to meeting with Long-Armed Demon, had already completely recovered. Despite facing that hideous visage, Mina's expression did not change, and disregarding Rinne who sat paralyzed and shivering by her feet, she spoke to the Meat Doll, "Alright, Meat Doll, can I hear what you have to say? Why did you disregard my orders and protect Usagawa Rinne? Based on your response, I will--no, haha, you should know even if don't say it, right?"
Who knows how much dread her words must have brought to the Meat Doll; frightened, it spoke in unexpectedly a human voice.
"What happened was, since Long-Armed Demon's target also seemed to be Usagawa Rinne's fragment, I believed that if I did not first eliminate Long-Armed Deman, the fragment may have been taken away."
"Oh?" Mina showed surprise. "She was after the fragment? Those kinds of things, there are people besides me who want them? It seems that Long-Armed Demon should have a fragment... But even if she gets more than two fragments, she'd just destroy her sensory organs and die. Then again--maybe she mistook the fragments' function?"
Mina seemed to accept the Meat Doll's words. Perhaps from habit, she once again started talking to herself.
"I thought the Meat Doll malfunctioned, but it seems I was too suspicious. Besides, that thing's just a pile of flesh, how could it possibly have thoughts like protecting others?"
The Meat Doll was silent. Was she being overly suspicious? She always seemed to see some humanity in its features. There wasn't any energy for thinking, pain had wrecked Rinne's train of thought. She wanted to puke, thanks to the situation she could not understand and the pain that engulfed her body.
And the fear.
The extreme fear held toward the woman in front of her made her nauseous.
"Then." Mina ended her pondering, and looked at Rinne and sneered. "Hello. Thanks for lending me your cell phone. Finding you was really fortunate, but I couldn't see any phones nearby. So.
"Fshuu--" The noise was released every time Mina took a breath.
It's like she's part of another species, Rinne thought. Her body, her thought process, they're all completely different. Even compared to the Meat Doll, she would definitely be the stranger one.
Why didn't she notice this abnormality upon sight?
More dangerous than Snake, more dangerous than Long-Armed Demon, more dangerous than just about anybody.
Saibara Mina smiled and asked Rinne, "I'll ask you. If you answer honestly, you'll live a bit longer."
She definitely wasn't lying, she should able to kill without batting an eye. Even with immortality granted from eating an Apple, Rinne would be easily disposed of.
Mina was without doubt that type of being.
"What is it?"
"Tell me... A month ago," Mina sneered, and asked calmly, "What happened?"
In Rinne's mind flashed the faces of these important people.
Ah. She would never see them again, she couldn't return.
Even though I found her.
Aizawa Ume was a girl whose hands weren't skilled.
When she cooked the she would scorch the bottom the pan and cut her finger; when she tried arts and crafts she could never finish properly, making flawed products that would fall apart with a light blow.
What are these fingers doing?!
She was always miserable.
To eliminate that misery, wicked God had given her--
With the singing voice came a robber with abnormal expressions. Just a robber. Even if it made it into the newspaper, it would be forgotten within a week; it was a normal case the likes of which occured all the time. The robber killed Ume's parents, and, possibly addicted to killing, he decided to slowly torture the surviving Ume to death. He pushed her down, and lifted his bloody kitchen knife. He cut, starting from the fingertips, and Ume started losing consciousness.
No matter how she cried, she would not be released. No one came to save her.
In quick succession, her fingers, then hands, then arms were cut off and dropped by her parents' corpses on the ground.
Her arms were cut off from the shoulder.
She couldn't remember what happened afterward.
When she came to, she had gained those all-powerful arms.
She selflessly tore the robber into pieces, and then fell unconcious.
Upon awakening, an unfamiliar man spoke to her, "Welcome to our world!"
At that moment, she understood beyond doubt.
She could not go back.
When she was fully awake, the sun shone from her side, and crimson sunset dyed the world in bright color. Long-Armed Demon felt pain in her legs and stomach, wondering if she was defeated yet again. As she started to get up--
She couldn't do it.
How strange, she'll use her arms to pull herself back up.
She felt nothing.
Completely confused, she tried again.
"Hey, hey, I need to stand up, I can't keep lying down like this. Ooh, if I don't get up I can't go back."
She felt nothing.
She felt nothing.
She felt nothing.
"Hey, hmm, I need to get up and go back."
"Back to Zeki-kun."
Her arms were gone.
Long-Armed Demon fell silent, and then began whimpering.
Tears flooded from her eyes and dripped from her cheeks.
"My arms, my arms, my arms....."
No, I really don't want this. Arms, I don't have arms, if I don't have those long and powerful arms... I won't be Long-Armed Demon, I'll return to being the weak and clumsy Aizawa Ume.
And then she would be abandoned by Zekiguchi.
"No! I don't want this!"
With desperation filling her, Long-Armed Demon started sobbing.
Zekiguchi, around whom she who had become a monster based her life, who accepted and praised her, who said said "Let's keep living on together", that Zekiguchi Nashinori.
I wanna go back to him.
Go back and be praised by him.
Until now it had always been like this; it was Long-Armed Demon's sole and greatest joy.
These arms that lost feeling, yet still quietly rejected her.
"My arms are gone."
Long-Armed Demon mumbled vacantly, while the shoddy road streched on above her head.
"Thump", a footstep.
Long-Armed Demon's heart almost stopped from fear as she shut her eyes tight.
If she were to be abandoned by Zekiguchi now... She would rather just die. Her greatest fear was for him to say, "I don't need you."
Long-Armed Demon trembled and cried, apologizing like it was the end of the world.
"I'm sorry, I"m sorry, don't abandon me, please don't abandon me."
Because the voice was not she had heard before, Long-Armed Demon opened her eyes.
Looking at the person, it seemed to be someone she had seen somewhere before. The man's face seemed like a monster's. He took out a cell phone and began dialing.
"Really has too many melancholic things."
Even though she called out to him, without even giving his name he lazily asked her, "Long-Armed Demon, can you really not use your arms?"
Struck at her weak point, Long-Armed Demon grit her teeth and pushed back tears. But she couldn't hold them back, and she started sobbing.
Seeing her like this, the man nodded his head as if in understanding, and spoke formally into his phone, "Ah-- Hello, sorry to trouble you. I'm Nageki, Nageki Kurukiyo. Ah, right, right, I'll tell you the place now, so please come quickly. What? For this, we need an ambulance, though it's probably already too late."
Long-Armed Demon understood.
He seemed to be a policeman. She had never felt the slightest fear toward any policemen, and never paid any attention to them. But under the current circumstances, she would definitely be arrested.
So it ends like this, Long-Armed Demon thought.
Zekiguchi would never save her now that she had lost her ability.
Just as she began to lose spirit, Nageki said as if it were natural, "Eh?" Dead? She wasn't dead yet, so who died?
"Ah, right, dead, one little girl."
"Right, her appearance-- her arms were snapped off, and her shoulders were crushed."
"She was murdered by by having her heart torn out."
The night was filled with nightmares, and falling asleep was impossible.
Ever since she started living separately from Rinne, she had been plagued with nightmares. Sometimes it was the faces of those she had killed, sometimes it was the scene of countless eyeballs wriggling about, and though it wasn't certain, it was still so painful.
It was during a night like this, a night when sleep was impossible.
In the home where she lived together with the Itsuwara couple, Gankyuu Eguriko woke up in her dark room. Her bed was soft, and she used a sky-patterend quilt. She glanced at the clock with spoons as hands, which pointed at 2:00.
Covered in cold sweat and feeling nauseous, Guriko decided to bathe. Thinking that she shouldn't wake Hino and Kio, she quietly walked toward the door.
Those two are seriously naive, they're so innocent I lower my guard. I don't know if I can keep considering them my parents. Now that I think about it, even now I don't really understand what parents are.
If I ask them, they'll just laugh and say it's easy.
--These "parents", that's us."
They were truly idiots without common sense. Since it was too ridiculous, Guriko decided to stop thinking about it and just learn, bit by bit. Living with them wouldn't be unpleasant.
As she thought so, she prepared to accept that night.
She noticed them speaking softly in the living room.
The voice was filled with sorrow; completely unlike the frenzied excitement from before, it seemed to be pained.
--I.. can't do it, I can't stand it anymore.
That was Hino's voice. Was taking care of her, whose status as monster or human was uncertain, a burden for her after all? Guriko thought it over, and an empty feeling even she could not understand assaulted her heart.
--I can't kill her.
Hino murmured this, and Kio replied.
--Hino, that won't do. If we refuse to kill her, we will be killed by that person.
--Being killed is fine; either way, Kio, you definitely can't kill Guriko-chan either. You obviously care about her more than I do.
Hino's voice sounded almost like she was crying.
--Besides, you say we'll be killed, but for a long time we've already--
Then, she woke up.
It seemed like a scene concocted in a dream, she prayed that it was only a bad dream. But those thoughts that would cause nausea kept floating in her mind, and she felt terrible. Like in her dream, Guriko woke in the darkness.
Her mind was heavy.
That conversation--that night, what did that couple's conversation mean? Saying things like killing me, or being killed--I don't understand it. In short, feeling an indescribable nausea, Guriko unhappily stared at the ceiling.
She didn't go to school, and even refused to pick up when Rinne called.
She merely shut herself in her room like a recluse.
Ignoring Hino or Kio's concern, she did not leave even when called for meals.
"Ah, what's the problem; really, I'm so weak it's disgusting."
There was a choice before her.
That choice was between the options that the man with wolf-like eyes called Zekiguchi Nashinori outlined.
Keep on living as a human like this?
Or live as a monster?
Rinne, Hino, Sakaki, Kio, if she wanted to protect those important to her.
"My being near them will create danger?"
I know how cruel I am. I'm no different from Long-Armed Demon who killed ten people; in fact, when I triumphed over her, I had a twisted though about destroying her body. My true identity is that of an eyeball-gouging monster.
There's no way I talk this through with people like Rinne; if they knew these things, they would hate me and fear me. The number of eyeballs that I've gouged out is probably even greater than what they thought.
"I am a monster."
Guriko crawled out of her bed and leaned her head against the wall, and as if groaning, murmured in a low voice, "Three hundred years ago, because I grew tired of living, I abandoned human restraint and went on a wild massacre. Rinne, in me there's a child your age, plus an infant who couldn't speak, as well as a loving couple. I gouged out that much happiness. Haha, an eyeball-gouging monster..."
From Guriko's eye flowed a single tear.
"How could I deserve any sort of happiness..."
One month ago, someone had decided to be "the person most important to me"; but, I don't deserve to be with them. On my way here I've taken so much, killed so many, and I don't when I'll go berserk again and target Rinne'es eyeballs.
I'll go on a trip.
"I like you."
Somewhere far away, being here is too painful. This happy world is suffocating me. School, home, all this happiness of a normal life--For a monster like me, it's too painful.
I can't depend on them.
Somewhere far away.
Sakaki will definitely protect Rinne, he doesn't need me. If I rely on them I will only bring them misfortune.
"If only I depart, it'll be fine..." Humans and monsters cannot live together.
She was a monster.
The same as Long-Armed Demon.
Upon that resolution, she calmed down.
At this moment, Guriko decided in her heart.
From then on, Gankyuu Eguriko would choose that option.
Her only necessities would be spoons, she would once again walk that path. Wandering from place to place, looking for those with Apples, keeping that person far away from "Mushi"--
Drunk with self-satisfaction, she would gradually cease to think.
That would be good, only that would be acceptable, I'm already tired, I wanna become a monster again.
Opening the door, she found no one in the darkness. Perfect. Though she felt sorry toward Hino and Kio, she took this opportunity to leave. An ending like this would be a bit cold, or perhaps it would hurt them, and she felt apologetic. However, from the start the whole thing was impossible.
Guriko apologized in her heart. Thinking, "To prevent them from worrying, I'll at least leave a note", she reached out to the notepad next to the telephone.
It was then that she finally noticed Hino collapsed on the floor.
No response. Guriko approached and shook the woman in an apron. She was still alive, but what happened? Last time Guriko saw her she was still healthy; speechless, she gazed toward the ceiling.
What do I do? What do I do? Aahh, I can't think straight.
"Right, call an ambulance."
When someone's injured or sick and it's and emergency, just call an ambulance, and they'll take them to the hospital for free. This was something Hino taught me.
Guriko nodded and headed for the phone.
She desperately dialed, telling herself that this was the last time, that she would say goodbye after this.
Soon after the ambulance arrived, and she went in with Hino.
In the nearby hospital, Guriko heard the worst possible news.
Upon learning of this news, Sakaki had emptied his gun. He destroyed the phone that delivered the news, and then rushed out of the school at a speed above human limits. After using his extraordinary skill to beat up the educational director who tried to stop him from leaving before his work was done, he waved over a car that was passing by. Since his gun was empty, he used the gun itself to knock down the drive and hijack the car before speeding to the hospital that contacted him.
Everything that happened afterward was gone from his memory.
His mind was blank, and the whole world turned white, as and unsuppressable anger emanated from his entire body. If he didn't control himself, he would have indiscriminately knocked down anyone he saw. Ignoring all traffic laws, he arrived at the hospital and pushed his way to the hospital room he was directed to.
It was a completely black room.
Sakaki didn't need to think, he could understand just by looking at the scene in front of him. In the wide room, by the soft-looking hospital bed, there was no life-preserving equipment. That was to be expected--Sakaki's beloved lying on the bed, the young woman Usagawa Rinne, already had the pale of the deceased. This was a true death.
A small voice came from behind him.
As if frozen in place, Sakaki expressionlessly turned around.
There stood a person. In the background, the full moon shone brightly through a window, concealing the person's appearance. But he knew, that was not God, and since it was not God, that person could not save Usagawa Rinne.
The shadow spoke curtly.
Sakaki stayed standing by the prone Rinne's feet, not moving, and unable to respond.
The shadow was Guriko, with her face by Sakaki's chest. Sakaki's head was turned, and her head was lowered so that her expression could not be seen.
She spoke with a coarse voice.
With trembling shoulders and also a shaking voice, she--
"I'm sorry, Sakaki, I'm sorry."
--Apologized. For some reason, tears flowed down Guriko's expressionless face.
And then said for the third time.
With movement heavy like stone, Sakaki let her pass. In the frosty atmosphere that seemed to belong in a fantasy world, there was no sound.
"I just checked, the Apple that Rinne had has disappeared. It was definitely taken away. I'm afraid that someone might have tortured her to get her to give up the Apple."
After Guriko walked over to Rinne's side, she held out her hand and shut her eyes.
Light, a dull light shone from Rinne's body.
"A month ago."
Guriko spoke in a coarse voice, so quiet that she was almost not heard. As her back was turned to Sakaki, he couldn't tell what kind of expression she had.
"I took two Apples from Snake. One was Snake's own Apple, and the other was the Apple he stole from Rinne. Just now, I put one of those into Rinne's body."
Guriko's shoulders trembled as she touched Rinne's body, her fingertips glowing with dull light.
"Why? Why isn't she reviving?"
The light disappeared in an instant, but Rinne did not wake up.
Even the miraculous Apple could not save Usagawa Rinne.
Guriko stood idly in place, clenching her fists with seemingly enough force to draw blood.
"Why didn't I notice it... Haha, hahaha, I was too busy anguishing over my issues to even notice the danger Rinne was in--"
She laughed out loud, staring for a while at Rinne who did not move at all. Then, she turned to Sakaki showing no emotion on her face. Those deep black eyes like gun barrels, mixed with red, burned with the desire to bring ruin to everything in the world.
"Sakaki, kill me; slash off my limbs, snap my neck, dig out my eyeballs, mush my brain... If I'm still alive then grind my entire body to bits and burn it until there's nothing left; let nothing of this useless body remain in this world!"
Guriko was close to insanity, pointing her tightly gripped spoons at herself. The utensils with cruel luster were directed straight at her eyes.
"Useless things! These eyes that can't see anything, these eyes that couldn't see the danger Rinne was in, I don't want them!"
Facing the girl who seriously wanted to gouge out her own eyeballs, Sakaki said in a low voice, "Stop..."
Then he twisted her arms, and snatched the spoons away. Her mind blank, her heart desperate, and unable to collect her thoughts, she slowly lost her will to commit suicide.
Probably annoyed at the interruption, Guriko angrily started at Sakaki.
Seeing Sakaki say that with such an expression, Guriko hung her head in defeat.
Silence surrounded them, covering both their spirits and their bodies, so much that the silence itself seemed deafening. Sakaki wordlessly screamed, and pounded on the wall.
This wouldn't bring redemption, nor would it allow Rinne to return from the dead.
It was even less possible for their mood to improve as a result.
But despite that--
"Let's go look."
Sakaki declared softly.
Even though I decided to protect her. A year ago at the sea, I decided to protect the girl named Usagawa Rinne. This is just returning to the beginning. I don't need anything, I just wholeheartedly want Rinne to return to the life she had been living.
With a sharp force in his eyes, Sakaki placed his hand of Guriko's shoulder.
"Let's go look for a way to save Rinne. There should be some way; if we give up here, it will truly be over... God, 'Mushi', Apples of Eden -- this world is filled with incomprehensible things. There must be something that can save Her Majesty..."
Even though it was a faint wish less reliable than a spider's web.
Sakaki could only rely on it. Guriko also nodded, and drew close to him, staring straight into his eyes.
Already, the atmosphere of despair from before had disappeared, replaced with one brimming with hope.
"Also..." With eyes still shining with brilliance, she said something that would never have escaped her lips in the past. "Sensei, thank you--I see a little bit of hope now."
"Don't only call me Sensei during times like this, idiot."
"I apologize. I don't know why, but I suddenly felt like calling you Sensei."
A beautiful smile appeared on Guriko's face.
She suddenly turned her head.
"But Sakaki, don't come."
Don't come? Sakaki seemed about to burst. Who did she think she was talking to? No matter who or what stood in his way, if it was for Rinne, he would brave any danger; that was Sakaki Guryuu.
There was no way Guriko didn't understand this, but even so, she firmly stared at him.
"Sakaki, please don't make me repeat myself."
She turned around and opened the hospital room's door.
"Don't look. Because from now on I will return to being a monster."
This kind of treatment was excessive.
A leash was place around her neck.
This small room reeking of tobacco was really bad for the environment; with maps and pictures of mountains all over the place, did he have a hobby of mountain climbing? It didn't fit together at all. As Long-Armed Demon thought this, she curled up like an abandoned puppy, staying cautious of her surroundings.
After removing her blindfolds, she could clearly see her current situation.
She was captured and placed here. As expected of that hair-demon detective's room. 4-tatami sized. Only a bathroom was attached to it, and the kitchen inside the room was stacked full of cleaned dishes. The room was extremely clean, and contrary to appearance, it seemed that detective was actually quite meticulous.
The room's light was on.
The room's occupant was nowhere to be found.
Though she tried to break the collar on her, she couldn't feel her arms. Long-Armed Demon sighed; tears appeared in her eyes out of restlessness. Her sole, her entire pride--her arms--were gone. In her sadness, the loss of that which she depended on created a sense of hollowness.
Since she had become like this, Zekiguchi would definitely not need Long-Armed Demon anymore.
She would be discarded.
When she thought that, she felt even more lonely and even more miserable as tears flooded down her cheeks.
After losing to that scary woman who was like both an angel and a demon, her arms were somehow removed and that detective picked up the crying her and brought her here. That detective was obviously a law enforcement agent, but he didn't throw her in jail; instead, after saying some some rather freaky things, he brought Long-Armed Demon to his room--that is, this place, and he bound her with a leash.
The leash was randomly attached to a pillar that was showing, and though it was a restraint only on this poor level, the armless Long-Armed Demon had no way to escape. But this, it seemed even weirder than normal restraints; rather, it seemed as if she were being treated like a dog. In a horrible tempre, Long-Armed Demon cried, moaned, and cursed the detective.
What would happen from now on?
Even if she wasn't in prison, her situation was pretty similar, and possibly even worse. That policemen exuded a melancholic air that even Long-Armed Demon found strange, and she had no idea what he would do to her. Out of fear, Long-Armed Demon faintly called for help.
That sound could not have been heard by anyone. After hitting the walls it dissipiated into the air.
Long-Armed Demon fel the tatami's coldness, shuddering constantly while waiting for something to change.
She didn't know how much time had passed.
She finally stopped crying, though her cheeks ached from the tears poured onto them. "Ah man, sorry for coming home so late."
The door suddenly opened, and the odd detective appeared. In his hand was a bag filled with food, clothes, and underwear. Furthermore, the clothes and underwear seemed like they were for Long-Armed Demon to wear; clearly, the detective planned to keep her in captivity for a long time.
Long-Armed Demon paled.
"Aaah, when I, looking like this, go to shop for childrens' clothing, people think I'm a criminal. But when everyone was whispering to each other 'Maybe we should call the police', I managed to buy your underwear and the like."
This person was a pervert.
That's right, this guy was the worst type of pervert, who would definitely do perverted things to her that she couldn't even imagine.
Due to fear, Long-Armed Demon's back stiffened and she groaned like a little dog.
The perverted detective completely ignored her and laughed vulgarly, "Gigigi. Ah, don't be so wary, no matter how cautious you are I'm stronger than you right now. Since that's the case, rather than risk angering me with a defiant attitude, I suggest you act cute to keep me in a good mood."
Yes, the Long-Armed Demon who killed ten people while spreading death and fear throughout Kannonsakazaki Town no longer existed. The one crouching her and trembling was weaker than even an average person. A small child without arms.
Long-Armed Demon understood that, but she refused to surrender, and she bluffed with all her might to her adversary.
"What the hell are you? What are you trying to do to the Long-Armed Demon? D-don't come closer, Long-Armed Demon will definitely not obey you. If you do anything weird, I'll bite you and kick you!"
Facing the Long-Armed Demon who angrily tried to hide her fear, the detective looked back through a gap in his hair with a seemingly joyful expression.
"Gigigi, don't worry, though it's really easy to misunderstand me based on my appearance, I'm actually a normal, honest person. I don't have any particular talents, and when it's time for me to die, I'd die quickly."
He suddenly seemed to remember something, and finally said, "Speaking of which, I still haven't told you my name. I am Nageki Kurukiyo, and I'm a detective, though since I've often hid murderers that I caught in my home instead of turning them in, I'm not really qualified to call myself that."
Long-Armed Demon didn't respond, but she understood. This person truly did not intend to take her to the police station; then, what was he after? She suspiciously glared at the horrifying detective who called himself Nageki.
"What are you planning to do? Kurukiyo."
"Plans? Ahh, I wasn't thinking of doing anything bad. It's just that--this world has too many melancholic things, and I want to reduce that melancholy by a little bit. Aizawa Ume-chan."
Suddenly hearing her real name, Long-Armed Demon's face distorted.
"Aizawa Ume was involved in a robbing incident three years ago, though it was unclear whether she survived or not, and her whereabouts were unknow. If she's still alive, she would turn eleven this year. Her parents died during the incident, and so did the robbers. But since the sole daughter Ume-chan was nowhere to be found, despite an exhaustive search by the police, no one knows what happened to her even to this day."
After that detailed statement, Nageki smiled mysteriously, "By researching that tombstone you slept by, I learned of this melancholic event. I have no proof, but from your reaction it seems that I'm not wrong, Aizawa Ume-chan."
"Don't call me by that name!"
Trembling all the while, Long-Armed Demon forced out those words.
Nageki cheerfully chuckled, "Hehe".
"What? You want me to call you Long-Armed Demon? Using that name for you who has no arms is rather laughable, you know."
"But." Long-Armed Demon lowered her head, tears flowing from her closed eyes. "But I'm Long-Armed Demon, I can't not be Long-Armed Demon..."
Perhaps that face reminded Nageki of something, as he sighed and shook his head, and then began putting the storing the food he bought into the refrigerator. It seemed he cooked for himself; he only bought fresh vegetables and raw meat, without any bentos or prepared dishes. For some reason, he also bought three cardboard packages of café au lait.
"You might need to calm down a bit."
After that, Nageki continued and said, "Go take a bath, you don't bath much with the way you've been living right? Clean yourself up, wipe away your tears and the smell of blood, eat something, and go to sleep early today."
Though it was an unexpected request, Long-Armed Demon sort of agreed with it. Up until then, she could only use tap water in the cemetery to clean off blood and sweat that made her body sticky. Occasionally she would want to soak in hot water, allowing her body to warm up.
Long-Armed Demon felt quite hungry; she had not yet lost her sense of hunger or her ability to feel. According to Zekiguchi, suffering a single fatal injury would make one quickly lose such senses. Since Long-Armed Demon almost died when Gankyuu Eguriko dug out her eyeballs, she should have pretty much been rid of those senses by now.
Let's not worry about that right now, I wanna take a bath.
"You'll let Long-Armed Demon take a bath?"
"Yeah, but this room doesn't have a bathtub, so we have to go to a bathhouse. Is that okay?"
Bathhouse- that is, a public bath. That would rather annoying, since in that sort of place, she who had no arms would receive even more strange looks than usual.
Maybe Long-Armed Demon's timid face made him think of something, as Nageki smiled tenderly, "Don't worry, the owner of the nearby public bath is an old friend of mine. On my way back I stopped by and reserved the place for an hour."
"Ah, even though it's like that." As if pushing newly enspirited Long-Armed demon into an abyss, Nageki smiled. "Yeah, there's no way you can bathe by yourself, right? I'll wash you thoroughly from head to toe. Mmhmm, even if a suspicious detective brings a girl with him to the mens' bath, even if that girl's wearing a leash, no one will care -- gigigi --"
Long-Armed Demon's body instantly stiffened, and she suddenly leaned back making the bells on her leash tinkle, trying to get away from Nageki. The perverted detective joyfully approached Long-Armed Demon, and took hold of her leash.
"Then let's go, Ume-chan. Hopefully no one will see us on our way to the bath. Don't look at me like this, even I adhere to what they call the values of society."
"P-per..." Long-Armed Demon shouted at Nageki who untied her leash and dragged her toward the door. Almost crying, in a voice filled with despair, "Pervert -- You're a pervert!"
"Hey, stop shouting, what's going to happen if a neighbor misundestands?"
"It doesn't matter if there's a misunderstanding, someone please notice us and help me!"
Despite Long-Armed Demon's cries, during the five-minute walk to the bathhouse, no one came to be her hero.
The following half hour was endless torture for Long-Armed Demon. Resistance was useless, and so she was brought to the bathhouse. Its owner was apparently blind, as he did not react at all to the odd pair in front of him, and after a trivial conversation was forcefully dragged into the mens' bath.
She was stripped, wiped, and placed in the hot water.
Long-Armed Demon's entire body shook out of humiliation.
Wh-when I get my arms back, I'll make sure to kill Nageki first. I'll peel off his skin, tear off his limbs, dig out his heart, I'll mercilessly toss him around until he dies.
She was seen, everything was seen clearly, and she was even scrubbed. Even Zekiguchi had never seen this much, wouldn't it be impossible for her to get married now... She started getting dizzy, and couldn't form complete thoughts. She only felt humiliation, frustration, and she wanted to disappear; with a red face, Long-Armed Demon was submerged up to her neck in the steaming water.
"Flavor of Soup" - this place that chose a name sounding like a condiment was an interesting bath house. In this era of super-bath houses that were more like parks, this kind of normal bath was uncommon. Or, perhaps, it would be more accurate to say that the facility was insufficient.
The place wasn't anything special; there only the bath itself which was not particularly large, as well as a sauna to help with aches.
Only the unbelievably high ceiling was different from usual, as one could see steam spiraling upward and upward. The sight was exquisite, and as a result Long-Armed Demon silently watched as if trying to forget her shame.
Nageki, looking as if he did not care, washed himself while shamelessly humming a Beatles song. Though he was obviously a perverted and melancholic detective, singing the theme song of Onitarō made it alright.
As she thought, Long-Armed Demon watched Nageki.
-- He's good looking.
Physically, his tall, sturdy form was excellent, without excess muscle. He was truly handsome; as Long-Armed Demon thought this, she suddenly realized where her thoughts ended up and turned red while hiding under the water.
So warm, the hot water permeated her entire body, and it felt like she was being reborn.
She thought about Zekiguchi, and then about her abduction. That woman who seemed both like an angel and like a demon.
Just thinking about that woman's honey-sweet voice and seemingly kind eyes hiding absolute coldness made the hairs on her back stand up. Such a scary person; as if that person had attacked the public bath, Long-Armed Demon raised her head and gritted her teeth while sighing.
She seemed similar to Zekiguchi.
The Zekiguchi who had saved her.
The woman who had thrown her into despair.
They were obviously completely different, so why did she feel they were the same type of being? "Ume-chan, if even your neck's underwater it's bad for you!"
"Swoosh--" Nageki nonchalantly creeped next to Long-Armed Demon. "Shhh", Long-Armed Demon rapidly moved away, and shouted, "W-Waah, Kurikiyo! It's way too much if you get any closer to Long-Armed Demon!"
"It's only us here, I can hear you just fine even if you don't scream! Gigi, do you hate me? It always seems like my intimate behavior rubs some people the wrong way, there must be something wrong with their mental structure. This world has far too many melancholic things."
On Nageki Kurukiyo's face appeared an infuriating smile.
Long-Armed Demon saw that face, and couldn't hold back her fear.
"Mm? I'm Nageki Kurikiyo. What is it?"
Responding like this, his face--
The hair that always hid his expression was now tied in the back, and the face that was now visible was beautiful enough that Long-Armed Demon was momentarily enchanted.
"No, who are you?" Long-Armed Demon couldn't resist asking.
Nageki, with bewilderment on his face, suddenly thought of something. Sweeping aside the water, he moved closer. "Are you nearsighted? Can you see me?"
"Waah, didn't I tell you to not come closer?!"
Long-Armed Demon beat back the perverted detective with her arm stumps, though she also took enough pain to moan. She didn't think Nageki who tied back his hair was this good-looking. Since it was her who liked that appearance, she felt a sense of defeat.
After staying underwater for a bit, Nageki lazily sat back up and complained.
"Man, that hurt... I hate violence. I've always that humans are animals that can solve issues by talking them over, isn't that right?"
"If you want to talk, then try thinking about how I feel a little, idiot! I'll be embarrassed!"
Long-Armed Demon screamed, feeling dizzy and having difficulty breathing, and took a deep breath.
"Aah, really. How did it get like this?"
She truly wanted to go back to Zekiguchi. Even though Zekiguchi had never gotten this close to her, and he rarely chatted with her.
Then, has it been years since she last talked openly with someone else? Not as the Long-Armed Demon, but as a human. She thought to herself--and then shook her head, reminding herself that she still could not trust this man. In this world, she could trust herself and Zekiguchi and no one else.
Everyone else was scary, eventually they could bare their fangs at her like the robber who cut off her arms.
Just as Long-Armed Demon thought this, Nageki unbelievably voiced her thoughts.
"Ah--It's been so long since I could relax and chat with someone. But, you still seem to be on guard against me."
The melancholic detective smiled and looked at Long-Armed Demon.
Those eyes that were always covered by overly long hair, tranquil yet brightly forceful, always seemed a bit frightful.
"Okay, then let's chat like humans. Me, I don't just do this kind of thing out of curiosity; if someone found out that I'm hiding the Long-Armed Demon who killed ten people, don't even talk about getting fired, it wouldn't be odd if I were tossed into a dungeon."
That was true; Long-Armed Demon lowered her face, as now was the not the time to be embarrassed about being naked. Why did that man approach her? If this wasn't cleared up she wouldn't be able to be at east.
Long-Armed looked at Nageki, who lightly nodded.
"This world -- has too many melancholic things."
Perhaps it was his catchphrase? He uttered this profound for the who-knows-how-many-th time.
"It's just, should I say it's reminiscing, or is it more like opening up old wounds? Ume-chan, my girlfriend was also restrained by her body."
Nageki looked at her. Unhappy at being seen naked, Long-Armed Demon lowered herself up to her neck into the murky hot water. Due the Apple's power, skin was forecibly regenerated right over the rough wounds where her arms were cut off. Supposedly, with an Apple it would normally be possible to regenerate her cut off arms, but Long-Armed Demon's Apple for some reason refused to restore those two arms.
Instead, she received a pair of invisible arms stronger than just about anyone's.
She finally realized now, after losing that ability, that only with arms could she live life like a normal person. Lacking a body part was incredibly restricting. If one was to measure the utility of hands, it would be about a hundred for skillful people, and even the most clumsy person would score about fifty. But for someone without arms at all, of course it could not be anything but zero. Overcoming such an obstacle would be incredibly difficult.
Looking at her, Nageki showed pain on his face.
"Do you know about that incident a month ago when a gigantic monster wreaked havoc near the town?"
A gigantic monster.
That must have the "Dream World Beast" that Zekiguchi had been talking about. Having taken interest in the event, Zekiguchi investigated and learned Usagawa Rinne's name. Under the pretense of amassing Apples, he ordered Long-Armed Demon to take away her Apple.
In the end, she was defeated.
"My girlfriend was stepped on and killed by that monster."
Immediately, because she didn't understand Long-Armed Demon looked at Nageki.
Nageki, with hollow, vacant eyes, gazed at the steam spiraling up toward the ceiling. "No one could have foreseen something like that, right? Obviously, I couldn't do anything. My girlfriend was flattened by that oversized monster. By the time I noticed and went over, only her crushed, bloody upper body, her paralyzed feet, and her wheelchair were left."
Nageki softly spoke.
Long-Armed Demon couldn't respond; up until now she had repeatedly commited acts no different from those of the Dream World Beast. Like it, she had without reason taken away those who were important to people, people who like him definitely held regret in their hearts, and hated Long-Armed Demon.
With a face full of grief, Nageki ever-so-slightly smiled. "So, to not make others hold the same kinds of regret I do, I want to eliminate unreasonable melancholy -- monsters. That's all, even though I'm just a weak human, when forced into a corner even a mouse killing a cat is possible. I want to show the strength of us weak humans to the monsters out there."
How scary, the melancholic detective's fiercely looked straight at her.
"I'll get to the point. What are you?"
That's something even I don't know.
Long-Armed Demon looked downward and said softly, "If you go too deeply into this, you'll die! Kurukiyo."
"Gigigi, I know, but I can't stop now. Aside from that thing with my girlfriend, my subordinate was killed by you. He told me, his most important person was also killed by a monster. I must do his part for him in opposing monsters."
It was that?
"You're talking about -- a policeman?"
"Yeah, he didn't work directly under me, but in terms of rank he was below me. He was my friend, who helped me look for Long-Armed Demon during the night. Though his entire body was annihilated with only his wrists remaining... I believe that you did this, right?
What does that mean? Long-Armed Demon didn't have an ability like that, and she didn't remember fighting with a policeman. Then, from what she knew, the policeman was killed by a monster that wasn't Long-Armed Demon.
A face appeared in her mind.
Long-Armed Demon quietly voiced a warning. "Long-Armed Demon didn't do that, it was someone even stranger. It was probably -- that terrifying woman who made Long-Armed Demon's ability disappear..."
Though she didn't remember what her name was, she could remember her overwhelming aura that was like both an angel and a demon.
"That strangeness, she probably wasn't human nor monster. She was something even more abnormal, standing in an even stranger place than the Earth where we stay..."
She definitely wasn't worried for Kurukiyo.
She was just accurately saying what she believed.
"So, Kurukiyo, you can't go near that one. That thing's not a normal being, it's something more alien, something higher. No matter if it's a monster, or a human, as long she wishes it they'll be immediately killed. It's like being mechanically eliminated as flaws -- like, being sterilized and disinfected..."
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