Two weeks after I took charge of the Shishikuibana….Misaki, I was called by Erisa on a late-morning. This is the third time I’m meeting her.
Standing below the sunshine, her beauty did not change in the least. Her clear white skin was bouncing back the sunlight increasing her brilliance. Standing in this hot weather, she was the only person that felt like she doesn’t belong to this world.
[I want you to meet someone]
I was brought to an old residential area.
After making it through a series of hedges and block walls full of moss here and there, we finally arrived at an old fashioned isolated house. The garden was full of withered grass and bushes, but what gave me the strongest impression as if I stepped in the wrong place, was the brilliant hydrangea in the summit of their blooming. The name carved in the doorplate burned by the sun heat was Arisu.
The moment Erisa ringed the bell, a middle-aged woman came to receive us.
[Oh my, Miss Jinka, what could be the matter?]
[I thought I’d visit and check the situation]
[And, who may this person be?]
Arisu released a suspicious glance towards me.
[My new assistant. I brought him with me for practical training]
[Is that so. Well then, please come in]
Completely believing the imprudent lie Erisa had bluffed, Arisu started lining up slippers inside.
While the house was pretty neat, there was not a single sign of decoration or refinement. A house made for the sole purpose of residing in. Cardboard and clothing cases were piled up in the narrow corridor. Although some hints of living in could be noticed everywhere, personal dispositions and valuable things couldn’t be seen at all.
[I will be bringing my husband now]
We were guided to a living room with a solid wood carved low table and cheap looking dressers occupying most of the space. The woman went to the inner room.
[Leaving aside the random speech earlier, what did you want to show me?]
I whispered to Erisa next to me.
[I thought it is the suitable time. I mean, you will start pondering about your future actions soon enough, in any case]
[And what do you mean by the suitable time?]
My question remained hanging due to the door’s sliding sound.
Arisu walked in while carrying her husband from both his arms.
[Even if it’s just a fingertip, I couldn’t bring myself to wound it, so I gave him the blood of a stray cat I caught instead]
Arisu placed the pot on the table.
A forty centimeter stalk was puffed out taking the form of a slender man featuring a fastidious facial expression. His approximate age was the same as his wife, Arisu. Thin white lines were running all over his body.
[It looks like he was raised in a favorable condition]
Erisa changed her sight from the Shishikuibana towards Arisu.
[Did you make your decision yet?]
[No, I’m satisfied with this for the time being]
[If you’re content with the current situation, then your choice is correct. That way, you wouldn’t have to be burdened with any more unnecessary stuff]
I was hearing out Erisa and Arisu’s riddle-like exchange while keeping silent the entire time. Sometimes, I caught the word of a forty-one-day old body mixed in the conversation. It seems that not too much time has passed since the death of her husband. After staying inside for twenty minutes, we took our leave from the Arisu house.
Erisa and I went back our way below the dazzling sun rays. She didn’t use her car today saying, “My legs would dull if I don’t walk every once in awhile.”. The small rattle basket she was holding in her hand was shaking in synchronization with her steps.
[Despite her looks, she is in her early forties]
Walking on the street, Erisa said as such.
[Her husband fell into a massive debt due to his business failure and was overworking himself until the end to make it up. One day he had a heart attack and did not rise anymore. Trying to sustain the household economy, it seems he made her go through a lot as well, which kind of explains her fast aging]
[Even so, she was deeply in love with him to the point where she resuscitated him as a Shishikuibana in order to stay together]
[Did it seem that way for you?]
[Am I wrong?]
Erisa floated a wicked smile.
[On the contrary, she deeply detested her husband. He fell into depression because of his downfall and cleared it away by blaming everything on her. For her, it was probably something unbearable. Far from being thankful for her devotion, he even used her as a vent for stress relief. She was constantly in fear from his tyrannical rage]
[Why did she turn him into a Shishikuibana then?]
[For the sake of the revenge she couldn’t fulfill in his lifetime. For her to secretly put his headless body in the coffin and to choose an immediate burial, she should have harbored quite the grudge towards him]
[By revenge, what does it specifically mean?]
[By looking at her husband, didn’t you notice something?]
Erisa referred to the small wounds in his body.
[Every time she gives her husband blood, she wounds his skin with a knife. Since he’s grown to this level, his body fluid composition is not much different from real blood, and so she’s making him taste pain as a human. The reason I visited her today was to check whether she went too far with it or not. She will continue carving him until she either clears away her resentment entirely, or he stops regenerating one day. I wonder which one would come first]
That man….no, that Shishikuibana is kept alive for the sole intent of damaging it.
In my case, I’m raising Misaki just because I want her to be with me.
Leaving aside the common point which is the Shishikuibana, I thought that I would never cross the same path Arisu did.
[Humans possess both love and hate. Their allocations may differ from person to person, but both of them equally exist]
Erisa said that as if she read my thoughts.
[Kuuya, what would be the reason for pursuing Iruse Misaki in your case?]
[Well, that is…]
Erisa struck me with a teasing glance while I was faltering to give her an answer.
[It’s fine if you don’t answer. As long as you don’t lose sight of the emotions you’re holding for her]
During our conversation, we ran into a public park near a kindergarten.
Young children were raising shrill voices and playing while their mothers were having fun talks sitting on the distant benches.
A gift from the break of the rainy season, a peaceful late-morning scene that makes you yawn.
[Let’s take a little rest]
Erisa sat on a blue bench near the entrance. I sat next to her as well. Glittering sunlight made its way through the gap of the poplar branches and leaves, and the occasional crossing breeze gently stroked my moistened shirt making me feel even more comfortable.
[Kanade handed it to me when I was about to leave. Is it fine?]
Erisa took half a sandwich from the basket and bit into it without waiting for my affirmation. The sound of biting into a fresh lettuce leisurely reached my ears.
[It’s a Panini made from the meat of that dismembered girl you saw before. This time, I’m using her splénius, the part that connects her head and back together]
Without giving much concern to her unappetizing recipe explanation, I went straight to inquire Erisa.
[I want to bring back Misaki as a human]
Instead of returning those words to me, Erisa fixed her gaze on my face.
[I want to restore her to her former shape, just like that boy you showed me in your shop. Tell me the way to do it]
[As expected. I was right about the time]
I was finally able to understand the meaning of, “the suitable time”, which Erisa declared a while ago.
Misaki’s growth was going favorably.
The next day after planting it, the seed had quickly sprouted. Three days later, it had grown by twenty centimeters and start taking a human shape. Since the plant’s growth was extremely fast, I found myself watching over her development all day long, forgetting about leaving for the library. There is the saying that, “a watched pot never boils”. However, this proverb does not apply to her. I didn’t release my sight from Misaki.
In the evening of the fifth day, Misaki’s familiar face started taking its shape. Her face didn’t reach ten centimeters with her eyelashes and eyebrows weakly growing up, but her facial features were clearly distinguished. I wounded my fingertip with a knife and pressed it against her lips like I was teasing her for a kiss, then she started sucking the blood similar to a baby sucking on his mother’s breast.
Misaki is drinking blood.
My own blood.
Her body is absorbing the blood and incorporating it with its’ own.
For Misaki, my blood is an indispensable beverage for her to come back to the present word.
I was entranced by this feeling that gave me a sensation similar to having sexual relations with her.
By the seventh day, the stalk extended and puffed out more and more until her upper half came into sight.
The lower part starting from her hips was still connected with the stalk, but the upper body grew to look exactly like that of a young woman. Long and thin tissues were gathering on her head instead of hair and an almond shaped flower bud rose on its top. I kept making the forty centimeters long Misaki drink my blood while shaking from the sensation of her biting my finger every time.
However, these blessed days did not last too long.
Misaki stopped growing any further while continuing to drink my blood, looking no different from a doll.
The taste of cooked white rice is exceptional when being hungry, but gradually, white rice started to become unsatisfying for me. I want side dishes, my tongue wants something with a strong flavor, I want a sweet and delicious dessert after my meals. Every time I fulfill a desire of mine, a new one wells up.
To sum it up, I gradually became hard to satisfy.
I recalled the Shishikuibana boy in Erisa’s shop.
I doubted whether if blood is the only thing necessary for him to grow up to that extent, but now that Misaki has stopped developing, the answer became apparent.
Blood is probably not enough for a Shishikuibana to mature.
At the time I thought about contacting Erisa to ascertain my doubts, she called for me instead. Of course, I accepted her perfectly clocked invitation.
[Since it’s already been two weeks now, a flower bud should have grown on her head, am I correct?]
[It’s neither blooming nor showing a signs of withering away]
[Even if you leave it like that, it won’t bloom. There’s a necessary condition for it to do so]
[You need to change the feed you’re giving it. I have already told you before that the Shishikuibana doesn’t create its own nutrients. It requires an organic matter externally. Although blood could be sufficient for it to keep on living, it still needs a different feed in order to take a complete form]
As I thought. However, I can feel something triggering in her words.
[That’s a weird term. Isn’t it usually called as fertilizer rather than a feed for plants?]
[That is if the Shishikuibana was a common plant. And you’re quite aware that it’s not, aren’t you?]
She’s not wrong. A normal plant wouldn’t take the form of a human and doesn’t drink blood. It doesn’t use a person’s brain as a seed-plot either.
[And so, what could this feed be?]
Erisa held up the Panini she was biting in.
Not only Erisa, but even the Shishikuibana eats human flesh.
[Originally, it was my father who started the cultivation of the Shishikuibana. He was quite a dilettante person and spent an enormous amount of money for the sake of his occultic hobbies along with his work. For such a father, discovering the rumors of Shishikuibana was inevitable]
Erisa stopped talking and bit into the Panini.
[He skimmed over every ancient document and archive until he learned of the existence of the plant and found a way to manufacture the seed. However, regarding the basic cultivation method, the only thing that was mentioned was drinking blood. Even so, the Shishikuibana was able to develop into a human form, which was enough to satisfy my father’s ambitions, in the beginning…..]
Erisa lifted her right hand and pointed to the sky with her index finger.
[But it gradually started to become unsatisfying for him. The same as you right now. My father thought that increasing the amount of the given blood would result in a further growth, then gravely wounded his finger to advance the bleeding. And as you would expect, his finger’s recovery couldn’t keep up with this daily activity. My father’s finger became torn off with blood constantly dripping down. To the point where he didn’t need an ink pad for a thumb print anymore]
He bent his finger.
[One day, my father bit off his finger. At that time, the flesh was all bare allowing the Shishikuibana to sense its smell. I guess it should be obvious now, that the Shishikuibana’s name originated from its’ eating habits.]
By hearing Erisa’s story, a cold chill ran down my spine. Maybe if she didn’t tell me all of this, I’d be walking down the same path her father did.
[For my father, this accident was like the first rain after a drought. The flower started blooming, and the Shishikuibana had a sudden growth. My father was very delighted by seeing this drastic transfiguration]
[Delighted? Even though he bit off his finger? This might be rude out of me but, your father is a strange person]
[This suggests how serious and eager he was with the Shishikuibana’s cultivation. Since the day he knew that the plant requires meat to grow, he commenced his long series of trial and error. Starting with pig, with cows and chickens next, then continuing with a deer, bear, horse, duck, whale, rabbit, dog, cat, raccoon, crocodile, snake, lizard, frog, turtle and every other animal you could think of. Despite trying all of them, the Shishikuibana didn’t react at all. And when he finally arrived at the correct answer, which is human flesh, his fingers had already decreased to seven. My father had literally sacrificed his body to leave behind a journal featuring the cultivation method, to which I am using currently. You can say that the fact you are keeping Iruse Misaki’s plant right now is thanks to my father’s fingers]
[Isn’t there a different way for the Shishikuibana to mature without having to eat human flesh?]
[Unfortunately, there isn’t. The conduct of the people entranced by the Shishikuibana are generally the same. They get unsatisfied with the flower, and they’re then entangled in the dilemma of whether they should cross the prohibited path or remain clinging onto their humanity. Although, based on my own experience, most of them make the former choice]
I stared at my hand and began ruminating on the story of Erisa’s father.
Misaki wants me to give her both my blood and flesh. I wonder how far I should cut myself just to bring her back to a human shape. Merely by imagining the knife blade cutting deep into my finger, my whole hand started itching.
[Obtaining human meat is not an easy task. However, even if that’s the case, thinking about giving her your own flesh is a foolish choice. The Shishikuibana is surprisingly gluttonous. If you keep on giving it what it desires, not even cutting your four limbs would be enough]
Erisa interrupted my thoughts as if she saw through them.
[There is no need for you to offer it yourself. In the first place, if you tore off your entire body, you wouldn’t be able to appreciate the Shishikuibana later]
I understood what Erisa was trying to imply.
If I want to resuscitate Misaki perfectly, I’m going to need to acquire another person’s corpse. A corpse I could offer it for her.
For me right now, the only way to obtain human flesh is by relying on one person.
[Could you share some of the meat you have at your store with me?]
[I don’t have the resolution to continue fulfilling your sprouting desires anymore. In other words, I can’t do that]
Erisa coldly refused after stuffing the last bite of the panini in her cheeks.
[I am not so soft to the point where I would help you get an easy result. Human flesh is a valuable thing for me. I wouldn’t just go and offer it to you for free. If you want her to stay with you, then it is necessary to taint your own hands for her sake. The ridiculous wish to raise a Shishikuibana without carrying any risks until the end is the same as a cat who wishes to catch a fish without soaking his leg in water]
[Could you at least give me a hint about a way to acquire it? Leaving me to step inside an unknown world alone is too much you know]
[It’s your choice whether you will be stepping in or not. But still, if you’re inquiring for some advice, I can give you some. Although their execution is up to you]
Erisa moved her face closer and lowered her voice.
Exactly like a demon trying to tempt a human.
[The measures don’t matter. You can just kill someone, search for the corpse of a person who committed suicide, or collect the scattered remains of a traffic accident victim. There is even the choice of sneaking into a morgue or a funeral hall, however, I wouldn’t recommend this one for you]
[Leaving aside the recommendations, all of them are impossible for me]
[If you think like that, then it will indeed become impossible. As long as you have the resolution, there’s no need for physical strength nor special skills. All that’s left is luck and timing. If you successfully obtain a corpse contact me. Although it would cost you a decent price, at least I can take care of the body recovery and dismantling]
I shook my head.
[If it’s about money, I can’t pay it. I’m just a freeloading Ronin after all]
[I am not talking about money. It’s about half of the corpse]
[Half of it?! Your extravagant prices don’t only apply to flowers, do they?]
Erisa somehow made a disappointed expression.
[In that case, you can make it on your own. If you can]
I couldn’t even find an excuse against her heavy argument.
No matter how I struggle on my own, it was quite clear that I will find myself relying on her at the very end.
It’s regrettable but, that’s reality.
[It’s up to your own convenience whether you ask me or not. All that I did was show you the way. No matter what kind of result is waiting for you, it’s your own responsibility. If you do not like any of these choices, then just throw away the Shishikuibana, along with your resolve. I wouldn’t blame you if you did so. It is much more of a relief than getting crushed by your distress]
Leaving those merciless words behind, Erisa left the park. Bluntly, as if she had finished a hard task.
The “risk” that I heard of when I took in Misaki for the first time, along with what Erisa mentioned just earlier was overburdening me. An excessively large weight I could not carry on with a half-hearted resolution.
Sitting still on the bench, I remained gazing at the peaceful scenery in front of me until I gathered enough energy to stand up.
The sight of the active children playing and their mothers watching over them.
Perhaps if one of those kids’ lives were to be abruptly lost, their mothers would wish for them to come back to life even if it means stepping out of humanity’s path.
After I spent an hour sitting on the bench lost in thoughts, I eventually went back home with a low spirit.
I entered my room, wounded my unrecovered finger again, and gave it to Misaki to suck on.
I wonder if I can remain satisfied by just giving her my blood.
Or maybe, she will end up eating my finger after it gets ripped by the frequent wounding one day.
While pondering over different worries, I sustained my gaze towards Misaki.
Shishikuibana: in the original novel, it’s writing in katakana, which doesn’t really give a clear idea about the meaning. But if it was to be written in kanji, it should be like this: “肉食花” meaning the meat-eating flower.