This chapter is published without the check of the editor, Xilphidae because he was busy. So I apologize for any possible typo or grammar faults.
The car drove into the night street under the pelting rain, and the conversation between us didn’t advance since we exchanged self-introductions in the start.
I was astonished by knowing that this little girl named Jinga Erisa was the only manager of the flower stall and even more, she already acquired her driving license.
I assume she’s from the same generation as me. Or giving the composed manner she talks with, she could be even older.
[what an unpleasant rain. the rainy season has already begun it seems]
Jinka Erisa didn’t open her mouth until we left the town’s main road entering the industrial area. Her voice was as thin as a needle. Without being erased by the sound of the falling rain on the car frame, it readily reached my ears.
[um, could you please tell me where are we going?]
[you are the same age as Misaki aren’t you?]
[yes, that’s correct]
[in that case, you can just talk to me in a more familiar way. It sounds unusual to use honorifics towards a girl with a young appearance anyway, so no need to be humble]
[and so Miss Jinka, where are w-]
[just call me Erisa, no need to stick the “Miss”. I just told, no need to be humble]
I scratched my head and resumed talking, this time, making sure not to use honorifics.
[so, do you know Misaki’s whereabouts?]
[why do you think so?]
[you didn’t say that you don’t know earlier]
[well done! You see, I’m running a small florist in the suburb, and she’s over there now]
My chest was strongly stricken by Erisa’s abrupt declaration.
I finally found out Misaki’s location. Not to mention, I’m already heading there. While trying my best to control my excitement, I asked Erisa.
[Misaki, is she safe?]
[the way you asked me sounds like you’re inquiring the welfare of a kidnapped hostage]
[I’m sorry if I offended you. It’s been a long time since I’ve last seen her, I was bit worried]
[don’t worry, I’m taking care of her in the shop. though it depends on you whether she will go back home or not]
[depends on me? what you mean by that?]
Erisa’s final words carried an unpleasant premonition along. When I asked her about their meaning, she slipped a puzzling smile and remained silent.
I started thinking about the inner intent of what she said.
I understood the fact that Misaki is in Erisa’s shop. However, it is pretty dangerous to trust her proclamation blindly. She might be using this information as a bait to drag me to some sort of plot.
Taking captives, commercialized abduction, accusing me as her crime partner, or maybe even murdering me for her own pleasure. All of those negative ideas were swirling inside of my head. And to top it off, I was irritated by myself who carelessly accepted her invitation riding the car.
The conversation ended since then and thirty minutes have passed. We arrived at an elegant, refined western style building embracing a broadleaf tree forest.
[this is my shop]
The front door opened along with a light doorbell sound right after we got off the car, and a young woman wearing white, and light blue maid uniform came up to greet us.
[welcome back miss. I’m glad to see you safe under this violent rain]
[I was called this way from a long time, that’s all]
I received a towel from the maid who somehow gave me the impression of the spring’s gentle sunlight, and wiped off my hair and clothes.
[her name is Kanade. She used to serve my father and now she’s working for my shop. Since I’m not very good at treating customers, you can say that she’s the real manager of this place]
[oh, please don’t say that, all what I do is sit on the counter the whole time]
[no need for modesty, you’re doing a splendid job]
[was it you who build this shop?]
interrupting their conversation, I inquired Erisa.
[this place is originally made by a particular country’s diplomat as a shed. My father purchased it, and currently, I’m using it as a florist]
And where’s your father right now?
I barely avoided asking her such a risky question. Things will probably get awkward if I started touching delicate matters.
[Kanade, this person is Mamesaki Kuuya. He’s the classmate of Iruse Misaki, the girl I brought the earlier day. Try not be too loose around him]
Forgetting to greet back Kanade who was bowing her head toward me, I went directly to ask Erisa.
[Is Misaki really over here?]
[yes, I can assure it to you]
Entering the room I was lead to by Erisa, its interior design had strong remains of it being used as a residence matching with here earlier speech.
The counter that was supposed to be the former entrance hall was overflowing with different flowers of various colors and shapes, and their fragrance was floating around the whole place. Each flower vase was holding a significant and deep artistic design.
Raising my eyes, I saw a large antique chandelier hanging in the ornate ceiling. The building’s inside was clearly far more luxurious than its outside appearance.
While I was observing the shop left and right, Erisa walked into the back of the counter and pointed to a small door buried inside.
[over here. It’s pretty dark so be careful where you’re stepping]
The door was connected to a descending stairs. With Erisa in the front, Kanade in the rear and me entangled between them, we advanced towards the basement relying on the incandescent light of the ceiling lamps.
[this cellar seems to have existed here even before my father bought the house]
Erisa’s voice overlapped with our unlined footsteps.
[the top floor is neat and all, but this place looks like a plain concrete. The floor and walls were left full of black stains. Fufu, I wonder what was this diplomat using such a gloomy basement for]
A cold chill ran down my spine after hearing Erisa’s unconcerned words. Is she perhaps trying to scare me? Or maybe there’s some kind of implication included along with her sentence? Looking at her walking slender back, I wasn’t able to seize her intention.
After descending the stairs, an iron double door stood before us. Erisa pushed the door open, and an awfully chilly white light drove the darkness in the stairs away.
The basement walls and floor were all affixed by pure white coating leaving not even a crack, and a huge refrigerator majestically stood in the interior of the room.
On the left side was a system kitchen, and close to it was a tatami sized stainless table.
Looking at the right side, I noticed a solid fireproof vault enclosed by a wide glass wall. With the fluorescent light barely reaching it, it released an impression as if something special was stored inside.
At the center of the room and as if I was the owner of the place, a pure white round table and curved, well-furnished chairs were automatically arranged. Above the top seat, Erisa silently lowered her back and sat.
[where’s Misaki? is she over here?]
I inspected the whole room, but Misaki was nowhere to be found.
[everything has its own order. Let’s have a little talk]
Since she was insisting, I couldn’t help but take a seat.
Placing the back of her crossed hand on her chin, Erisa started to talk.
[Answer me Kuuya, What if God appeared in front of you and proposed to bring one of your passing good friends back to life, would you accept?]
I was at a loss for words after hearing Erisa’s unexpected question.
The figure of my late mother popped in my head.
My mom who took care of me after divorcing my father.
I wasn’t able to remember her looks neither the facial expressions she used to show me.
[I just thought I’d ask you about it]
The one who interrupted the floating silence was Erisa.
[it’s only natural to regret not doing this or that, or not talking that much with one’s beloved passing persons after all. It’s normal to wish for them to come back from the realm of the dead]
[is that so? I’d personally prefer to leave them resting]
I was finally able to squeeze out an answer.
[bringing back someone to life means that you ruined his last moments. Because life is limited, people gives it value, and so they pray their respect toward those who already left for a journey to the other side. Don’t you think so?]
[it sounds like an unreasonable talk a priest would say]
[nobody could countdown the time left for someone before stepping in the coffin. Life is something that is illogically lost throughout time. The end abruptly knocks the doors, without any previous notice nor restraint. I wonder how many people living a peaceful life were touched by the unforeseen death of their beloved person]
Once again, I remember my mother.
I don’t know the cause of my mom’s death. I don’t even remember what was I thinking on the day of her funeral.
The only thing I still remember is the fact that the small coffin window didn’t open until the end of the cremation.
In other words, I didn’t even have the chance to see her resting face.
[Kuuya, do you know about the Monkey’s Paw story]
I nodded to her question. It’s a famous British story about an old couple who accepted the paw of the monkey that will grant them three wishes and resulted into a calamity befalling upon them.
[you see, the fact their son came back to life wasn’t mentioned anywhere. From the couple’s conversation, it was hinted that he was involved in machinery and was resuscitated with a torn off body. Was it really their son who was striking the door late at that night?]
[if it wasn’t their son, then what would it be?]
[from the tale’s view, it is indeed the son who was knocking the door. It’s a question of interpretation, you see, It is more appropriate to explain the story such as making a wish that interferes with fate comes along with an enormous price. Even if it was an unforeseen incident for the concerned person, it is still the fate God have determined beforehand and should not be overturned no matter what. The cost that comes along opposing fate is inestimable. A cost that not even parental love could handle]
[God is pretty unfair, isn’t he? Why not bring him back to life in his normal shape? ]
[I think that God did give humans a bit of talent to overturn the reasons. What if the monkey’s Paw ability was flawless, and their son was resuscitated back to his standard form? Then they will probably throw away the cross and start devoting themselves to worshiping the Monkey’s Paw instead. Although I’m not sure whether that would be a happy ending or not]
I was irritated by seeing the cold Erisa exchanging an unreasonable discussion with me. What is her real intention for talking about this?
I didn’t come here to speak about death and life.
I only want to check if Misaki is really safe.
I tried guiding the conversation back to where it began, but I couldn’t grasp the initiatives and was just writhing in agony instead.
I couldn’t just explode in anger in this kind of situations. I felt that the truth was lurking somewhere inside her words.
She was looking at me from the start with an expression as if she’s testing me. If it weren’t for a difficult conversation like this, I’d probably be already captivated by her shiny black eyes. She looks like she’s waiting for me to touch in the core of the matter. Am I supposed to open this Pandora box placed in front of my eyes, i wonder?
[let me change my question a bit. If one day, your beloved person suddenly died, would you think about bringing it back to life]
The ominous words of Erisa gave me a cold chill.
[beloved person? who may that be?]
[anybody you want]
[look! I don’t understand what are you trying to imply here, and I don’t want to know either]
I destroyed the seal of the Pandora box.
[is this perhaps about Misaki?]
I was patiently waiting for the next words coming out from Erisa. Those ten seconds that have passed since then felt dozens of times, no, hundreds of times longer in my perspective.
[maybe I rushed up things?]
Despite the way she said that, it didn’t seem she was reflecting on it at all.
Erisa turned her face towards Kanade who was standing near us
[Kanade, bring her here]
I was frozen after seeing the object that Kanade brought from the refrigerator and placed it on the table.
Over there was something that exceeded my worst expectations.
What was placed above that stainless table was Misaki’s head which turned paler than wax.
I involuntarily screamed and picked up that head.
I started thinking of the possibility of it being artificial.
However, the sensation transmitted to the palm of my hand was that of a cold human skin and hair.
Both of her eyes were firmly closed, and her lips were slightly open as if she was trying to whisper something.
Misaki’s head didn’t answer my constant call.
While calling out her name for a short while, I became aware of her condition.
Misaki is dead.
[What the fuck is this!? What the heck is going on here?! How did she even end up in this shape? Why only her head? It was you! Wasn’t it?! You did this]
[her death was an accident]
Erisa interrupted me with a calm voice.
[Iruse Misaki was a regular customer of mine, she was the only visitor who visits very often. Even when I don’t talk about when or where I’m planning to set my stall, she still finds me every single time. As if she was looking for me. Sometimes I chose desolated places where people rarely walk by, and she still found me out. Did she like flowers that much, or maybe meeting me was her goal, I couldn’t tell]
I heard the sounds of meat being grilled and then realized that Kanade was preparing dinner without giving any concern to the matter.
[do you know, at the night when you discovered my stall, just a little bit before, she told me this “I want to meet you in a different place”. And the appointed place she chose was the new construction site near the suburb. Four days later, I went there while wondering what does she need from me]
I started calculating. Isazaki sent me the information about Misaki one week after I met Erisa, saying that he lost contact with her for three days. The puzzle pieces are fitting together.
[at the time when I arrived, she was already crushed between the building materials. Did she collapse and fall off, or maybe the material piled up crumbled upon her, I’m not very sure. She lost a tremendous amount of blood and was faintly breathing]
[faintly breathing? Why didn’t you save her? Didn’t you at least try to call an ambulance?]
When I suddenly stood up, Erisa shrugged her shoulders and began explaining.
[it was useless. Her head was fine, but her body was all demolished from getting squashed inside the iron materials. It was certain that her left time was about to end up. I gave up saving her and cut off her head to bring it back with me]
[I can’t understand your behavior. Why did you rip off her head then?]
[The main talk stars right now]
Hearing her quiet yet wicked and sharp voice, I ceased speaking.
[regardless of the details, Iruse Misaki is now dead. And it is impossible for you to bring her back to this world unless if a miracle happens. It is the same thing as trying to fix a broken egg by getting both the inside and the shell back together]
Erisa was peeking into my eyes with her black glassy pupils.
[however, what if you get a chance to go against God’s divine providence? What will you do in that case?]
[you’re pretty dense aren’t you? I’m saying that there exist a way to resuscitate Misaki]
I lost my words.
Bringing back the dead to life? Is that even possible? We’re not talking about the Monkey’s Paw I mean.
This is even worse than an immature girl who can’t accept the death of someone and blindly believe of a way to get them back to life. If she’s speaking to me seriously, I think she already crossed the level of craziness.
[You’re probably not believing me. Let me show you then, the way to revive the dead]
Erisa stood up, approached the vault enclosed by glass and invited me.
By switching on the light, the inside became apparent.
Two potted plants were lined up on the floor. The one on the right was a thirty centimeters long stalk with a considerable puff on its center taking the form of the upper half of a women. Although it looked coarse as shaved chisel, the eyes, the lined nose and lips were definitely those of a human. I could even see her bone collar, shoulders, small breasts and her two slender arms. The Belly was absorbed into the stalk.
I knew about the natural objects that take the form of humans and such, the pareidolia effect if I’m correct. But the plant in front me right now held too many details to the point where it could be confused with the real thing.
The one in the left took the shape of a grade school boy sitting while holding his knees and gazing at the space absent-mindedly. His not wearing any clothes. From his closed thighs, his testes which looked like a peach were peeking out. At the top of his head, a brilliant flower petal was blooming like a spread scarf.
[Shishikuibana, that’s the name of the plant]
[plant? this child over here is a plant too?]
Erisa started talking to me who was dumbfoundedly observing the place.
[It’s a species called as heterotrophic plants. Rather than photosynthesis, it feeds on outside organic matters to grow up. You can say they’re the same as saprophytic plants if you want. The Shishikuibana changes to complex appearance when they mature up. ]
[isn’t that the same as the mandragora?]
Mandragora is a poisonous plant. Its toxic root that takes the shape of a human was formerly used against anaesthesia or as sleeping pills. It has even made an appearance on old testaments.
From its nature and outward appearance, it is said that it was used to suck up sinners blood as an execution method, or that it screams until death when extracted from the ground and much more other stories that were used as materials for fantasy novels.
Erisa silently shook her head.
[these plants here don’t scream nor do they are poisonous. They do look like humans from their appearance and feels, but that is all. They can’t stand and walk, and they can’t talk. All that they do is wander their vacant sight while sitting in these pots all the time]
[they only look like humans for me though]
[you can try and touch them if you want]
Following her suggestion, I touched the boy in the left.
I felt soft thin hair growing on his tender skin. A weak temperature and pulse were transmitted to my hand as well. A sense of touching a real human body without a doubt.
[I wouldn’t understand anything by just touching them. Rather, it only increases my doubt whether they’re really humans or not]
[the flower blooming at top of his head is proof enough that he’s not a human. If you lightly stretch it, you will realize that the calyx is unified with the cranium. I planted this boy’s seed four weeks ago. Since its hair and nails are already growing, it would usually seem like a naked child sitting on a pot for any outsider]
[by bringing back Misaki to life you meant as a Shishikuibana?]
[not exactly, but you did understand the idea]
The absurd nonsense Erisa was assuming only a few minutes ago have finally made sense for me now.
This is certainly a “rebirth”.
However, not a perfect rebirth.
After all, it didn’t reach to the hope I had after hearing that I could bring her back to the living world.
[in other words, it’s just a doll that takes human shape. In such case, making a silicon figure resembling the corpse is much better]
[it is indeed better if you’re aiming for a souvenir to keep around. You see, strictly speaking, the Shishikuibana is different from a doll. Whilst growing, its internal structure transformation closely resembles that of a human. Skin, blood, blood vessels, internal organs, bones, muscles. It possesses everything a human body could have. If you wound it, blood spouts out. A fully fledged life form. The only thing it lacks is will and intention]
[that last point makes it entirely different. No matter how close the appearance could get to a real one, it is still a doll. There’s no meaning in reviving a person who wouldn’t talk back to you when speaking to it]
[did you already forgot about the Monkey’s Paw lesson?]
Like a teacher who was lost by his disciple’s wrong behavior, Erisa raised her voice in shock.
[the fact that the son was resuscitated with an imperfect form was the compensation for making use of a miracle. If he turned back to his former shape, the world wouldn’t be lacking peace and harmony right now. If you can turn left, you can’t turn right. This world’s various phenomena are all based on Trade-back relations. If you want to resuscitate her as a Shishikuibana, you need to abandon your mutual communication with her]
I want to bring back Misaki to life.
However, Erisa’s suggested method grandly differs with the one I’m wishing for. I’m not interested at the least in making a doll reflecting her image.
But unfortunately, there’s is no other way to bring her back to her earlier form. I once heard of a doctor who made a grotesque out of his lover’s decomposed corpse, though, that wouldn’t even be possible in her case. In the end, her head is already separated from the body which turned into a bloody lump of meat.
If I give in, Misaki will revive into an incomplete form.
If I don’t give in, Misaki will be lost for eternity.
I wonder if either of these choices would satisfy me.
I wonder which choice would Misaki wish for me to take.
[how can I……….. revive her?]
My ego decided on the conflict inside my head.
I wasn’t ready to accept the abrupt death of Misaki.
[first thing you need to raise a Shishikuibana, is planting the seed]
Erisa indicated to the Shishikuibana’s head with her index finger.
[……in her brain. By making a hole in her skull]
[in her brain?!]
[don’t bring me those typical ethics like getting cursed by the dead. The brain is an indispensable seed-plot for the Shishikuibana. The seed sucks up the information accumulated in the brain in order to take a similar outward appearance of the corpse. Do you understand the reason I cut off Eruse Misaki’s head now?]
Erisa and I went back to those chairs and Misaki’s head was placed on the stainless table.
[let me confirm this, Mamesake kuuya. After hearing out my explanation, are you willing to revive Iruse Misaki?]
[yes I do!]
My hesitation had disappeared.
[does it mean that you will carry on any risk following this action?]
[what do you mean by risk?]
[will you take any measures to bring her back, and never give her up? You can replace it as resolution if that fits for you]
I wavered a little bit, but then strongly nodded. Erisa’s expression merely changed into a one of relief.
[That’s good, you finally made your resolve. I started thinking about what to do if you refused]
[why would you think so? I mean, you had the intention to revive her from the beginning, didn’t you? And in case I didn’t meet you I’d still be looking for Misaki right now you know?]
[I could’ve just revived her on my own, but the Shishikuibana’s seed are a precious. I can’t just go on wasting them. So I am indeed thankful for your arrival]
[then why did you cut off her-]
At that moment, my words were interrupted by the sound of someone knocking on the iron door.
Arrogantly, without the least consideration.
[we got an uninvited guest, the person who wastes these precious seeds]
Erisa disgorged those words with a troubled face.
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