Hole 3: Grave Robber
Suddenly Muoru felt a shift in the atmosphere. He strained his eyes and scanned the dark graveyard, but he couldn’t see any change. Then he looked towards the sea of gravestones, then the trees in the dark forest, but again he didn’t see the bizarre giant-faced monster, nor did he see the sack of flesh monster with many legs, or anything that could be called their kin.
Am I jumping to conclusions or am I just too high-strung?
Muoru looked down at the hole he’d dug at his feet. It was so comically large that the average person probably would never think it was a grave. The grave looked more like a ruin excavation site or a large-scale underground trench. And Muoru felt that if a monster truly large enough to fill the hole approached, anyone would be able to recognize it no matter how far away it was.
But did that kind of thing really exist in this world?
At that moment, Muoru couldn’t think of a single joke.
“Mr. Prisoner,” a husky voice said.
The old man’s nose-less face was pale as if he’d lost all his blood. He was gripping a black pistol in his shaking right hand, with a finger that looked like a withering branch resting on the trigger.
“Answer me! Where did you hide the grave keeper?”
Though the muzzle was pointed at him, Muoru barely glanced in the old man’s direction.
“You didn’t find her? That’s too bad.” The boy flashed a small, challenging smile. “I mean, how many places could there possibly be to hide here?”
“This is not the time to screw around. That thing is already coming here! It’ll-”
“Is that so? That’s….good,” Muoru interrupted, turning to face Daribedor directly. ”Well in that case, why don’t you hide yourself? I don’t think the monster distinguishes between grave keepers, prisoners, or pigheaded old men.”
“You…your collar!” Daribedor scolded, noticing Muoru’s collar was off.
Though Muoru’s legs were extremely heavy, he took a long stride towards the old man. And a dry gunshot followed.
Daribedor fired two bullets, the first burrowing to the right of Muoru’s navel and the second drilling directly into the center of his stomach.
From that point, Muoru felt a cramping sensation, as if bizarrely powerful pliers were twisting inside him. Grunting through the pain, he grasped Daribedor’s neck, and like he’d managed to do with Crow several days ago, he chucked the short-statured man into the deep hole.
Daribedor screamed. Maybe it was because of his hatred for the man, but to Muoru it sounded hideous. Perhaps the fall broke one of his legs or something.
Muoru dropped to his knees, clutching his open stomach with a smile on his face.
“I’m sorry…you’re not injured, are you?”
A bloody froth came up Muoru’s throat and bubbled out his mouth. The pain seemed to be coming from the ruptures within his body. Probably on the inside of the small opening in his torso, his stomach was ripped open causing his digestive acids to spill out and burn his organs.
Muoru could hear the man shouting out some profanities from the bottom of the deep hole and he wished he had something to shut him up. But since he’d made the hole with a water well in mind, no matter what the old man did, he wouldn’t be able to get out of the hole without some tools to assist him.
“Ugh.” Muoru lay down on the ground, groaning in pain.
This was probably the first time he’d ever experienced pain like this in his life.
Under normal conditions, something like a bullet would have been enough to kill him. But before long he became able to stand, and as soon as his legs were strong enough to support him, he left the hole.
Once again the wind seemed to have gotten stronger. And Muoru felt a chill as it blew on his blood-soaked clothing. The clouds were moving awfully fast. The wind blew through the trees, stirring up the branches and making the leaves cry out in a chorus.
Though Muoru’s time was limited, he couldn’t do anything but wait.
I haven’t forgotten to do anything right? Muoru thought spontaneously.
Somewhere far away, Muoru heard Dephen howl. Crow had taken that damn dog somewhere during the day. He didn’t know what Crow used on the dog, but when Crow’s childlike hands caressed the animal, it became docile as if it had been castrated. Somehow those black pupils had even seemed brighter than usual.
Surprised, Muoru had asked Crow how they had tamed the dog, but Crow just laughed and jumped atop the dog’s back. If Muoru had done that, Dephen would have probably bit off his crotch.
I wonder what Crow is doing now…
In the end, he felt Crow had completely evaded revealing their true identity. If he thought about it rationally, something as absurd as “The victims’ association” was most likely just another makeshift attempt at deception.
But in order to steal the power from Meria – and so that she wouldn’t be able to resist – it was necessary to keep Dephen from interfering.
All so that he could do…to Meria.
The wind was gradually getting stronger.
Muoru twisted his head and looked around his surroundings. Suddenly, the world shook as if an earthquake struck.
Though at first he thought it was just in his imagination, all of a sudden the feeling swelled in size like steam about to erupt. It was an overwhelming sensation, just like the night when his skin had gotten goosebumps after seeing the monster with countless legs for the first time. But regardless of when and from where whatever kind of wind came to attack him, he stood ready.
Then a metallic screech quickly touched his ears. It was definitely unclear and seemed to repeat over and over again like the creak of a warped gear or wheel. But it was clearly a terribly unpleasant sound.
The fierce wind tormented Muoru. And as his feet stumbled, for an instant his shadow seemed to blur. Then Muoru looked up and saw a darkness shroud the moon like an eclipse.
…Far above in the starry sky, a thin rift in the clouds, like smoke, wove its way downward. Inside that break in the clouds, something contorted its horrifically long body from side to side as it flew, wingless, through the air.
The wind was so strong now Muoru felt like he was about to be blown away, but in defiance he grabbed onto his knees and stared at the existence he would have to confront.
The creature in the sky was a giant serpent made of thousands of swords.
Maybe it was because of the far distance between him and his opponent, but from Muoru’s perspective, watching the creature swim through the air seemed more elegant than unpleasant. Its bizarre body as it meandered its way down from the heavens was so large it initially seemed to cover the entire moon. But then its descent changed and it approached with the speed of a falling arrow. And as the distance between them shrank, the creature’s shadow it cast on the ground seemed to grow without limits.
Its body was like a magnet dropped into countless, sharp sewing needles – no that wasn’t quite right – it was more like it was made out of glossy, black hiltless double-edged swords. Though at a glance they certainly looked like needles from a distance, as they moved closer he saw that in actuality each of the blades was so large that Muoru couldn’t possibly wield them, even if he used both of his hands.
Also the blades were vibrating with the same high speed as a chainsaw, giving the impression that they were like dense human hair covering a giant, long and narrow body. As the monster’s body slithered back and forth through the air, here and there the swords rubbed against one another and emitted a high-pitched shrill. At the same time, violent blue sparks, like electricity, leaked out and followed behind the giant serpent as it soared through the air and cut through the night.
The sight of it descending headlong towards the ground was like a thunderous judgment raining down from heaven.
And Muoru was standing directly beneath it.
He was like a mole caught in a tornado or something. And the moment it made contact, his entire body felt disorganized like he’d been thrown into a giant mixer, scattering his consciousness. But before he lost all sense of where he was, he could still sense that he was smiling.
—-It was a maddening pain.
But since it was the same pain Meria had experienced earlier, Muoru couldn’t help but smile.
He loved Meria.
And if the two of them lived in different worlds, then he would go over to her world, even if that meant leaving the world of light, the world he’d lived in his entire life. None of that mattered to him… only her.
Despite all of the deception he had used, he and the girl were tied together now and there was no escaping that. But he was sure of one thing: after this there would be no more tricks and deception.
He really was smiling, even though it seemed like all of his methods, his objectives, basically his entire list of priorities had remarkably flipped. The only reason he had gotten close to her in the first place was to escape from this place. And now he’d chosen to remain so that he could stay close to her.
His body parts that were flung and scattered about were slowly reattaching themselves. Without even being able to look away from the attack, Muoru watched the faceless giant serpent use its body of countless blades to turn his body into tiny pieces.
The vibrating double-edged swords were terribly sharp and easily able to sever not only his muscles but also his bones like thread. And in just ten seconds Muoru was cut into a thousand pieces of meat. Then as his body slowly returned to normal, immediately it was ripped back apart. And it happened again. And again.
Muoru saw his insides dumped onto the ground. He saw the color of his organs and the color of blood in the distance. He saw the cross section of his bones and the grey matter in his brain and the jelly-like white matter that had been protecting it. (1) He was grateful he’d put down his helmet before the ordeal.
When his brain was split open, for a moment he felt trapped within a deep, pure red darkness as time seemed to move slowly. But soon after, the horrific pain forced him back into reality. It was like all of his wisdom teeth were leaving his skull in an act of rebellion.
However there was value in having the experience.
Muoru smiled as he screamed. Most people who tasted that kind of pain never returned from it, but Meria had certainly gone through the same experience too. And so maybe that was one way he could get close to her. Muoru smiled as those bizarre thoughts swam in his mind.
Then he screamed from the shock of having his body torn to shreds and flung all over the place. If he had the lungs or mouth to scream then he screamed, and if he had the limbs to writhe, then he clawed at the ground like a madman. And if he retained his consciousness then he thought of Meria. He thought of the color of her hair, her honest blue eyes, the taste of when he kissed the helmet on her head, the warmth of when she pressed her cheek against him, and the sound of her heart on his back. Those thoughts helped him maintain his sanity throughout the endless fatal wounds and suffering.
The instant his face was bisected like an apple, he saw that some of the blades of the snake’s body had stopped moving, like they were dead. It was a sign that maybe the hell wouldn’t go on forever. As his consciousness returned Muoru held that hope in his heart. He extended his fully attached right arm and tried to stop one of the swords from attacking him. When he grabbed the vibrating blade his fingertips burst open like popcorn, and a pain slipped diagonally down from his right shoulder to his torso.
This has to hurry up a little… Muoru thought as he vomited up frothy blood and tumbled to the ground. Countless of the giant serpent’s swords still remained.
This needs to be settled by dawn. The blood loss was causing his consciousness to fade. It was like he was falling asleep. I guess that’s okay for now, Muoru thought. Until the lower half of his body returned he couldn’t move anyway.
Muoru opened his eyes and looked up. The clouds had dispersed without him even noticing.
And the starry sky was beautiful.
(1)The human brain consists of about 60% white matter and 40% gray matter. You might think that the brain is mostly gray matter, as it certainly looks that way, but in actuality there is more white matter in the brain. White matter is the infrastructure of the brain and includes the long nerve axons and their protective layer of fat, called myelin. Gray matter, on the other hand, is composed of the neurons themselves.