Part 120: Sakutaro II
BGM: Mystic Forest
Maria was told to go to her room, but on her way back from the bathroom, she hid by the entrance to the living room and listened in on the exchange. The person who had come to visit... was the female district welfare officer who had asked Maria various questions on that other day.
"But in that case, Miss, if the child is so delicate, why leave her home all alone? Shouldn't a mother be together with her child?"
"I am together with her as much as I should be!! I don't need to take instructions from you for something like that...!!"
"Oh, really? She's very well known in this area. They say your daughter frequently goes out at night to buy things and eat. Everyone was worried and looking out for her."
"How do you know that was my child?!! There's got to be plenty of children around this town, right?!! Don't just suddenly decide that it's my Maria!! Kids sometimes walk around outside at night, right?! How can you prove that they were all my child?!"
"It's well-known around the shopping center... that a girl holding a lion stuffed animal often stops by to eat dinner and buy things. Everyone treated Maria-chan with care out of concern for her. Sometimes, people even escorted her home, thinking the night roads might be dangerous, you see?"
"Y-You can find lion stuffed animals anywhere!! It was none of their business, escorting her home!! Are they thinking of kidnapping Maria?! Don't bother her!! Maria is my child. I am raising her! I have no intention of putting her in some strange institution!! Stop your needless meddling!!"
"...It's okay. I'm the one in trouble... It has nothing to do with you, Sakutaro..."
Maria hugged Sakutaro, continuing to watch her mother fearfully...
"But I'm a single mother, so I have to work! I may not look it, but I'm a president of a company, and I bear responsibility for my employees' well-being!! I'm busy with my work all year round, so there's no time for me to rest!!"
"Reeally? But you've been on vacation these last three days, haven't you?"
"I-I have not been on vacation! I've stayed at my company all night, working!! There's a mountain of matters to be taken care of that the other unreliable employees can't handle!!"
"Why are you lying like that? Someone from your company said that you were taking a three-day vacation, you see? You went to Hokkaido with your boyfriend, right? Leaving your daughter by herself for three whole days...!"
"I-I don't know anything about this boyfriend I don't know anything about Hokkaido!!! Where are you getting this nonsense?! Why, why?! Do you have any proof?! What the hell, don't just start butting in on someone else's family matters!! I love Maria I have my own way of loving her so just keep your mouth shut!! I didn't go on a vacation I was just working the whole time!! I was trying to finish things up at work with all my strength, all my strength because I wanted to see Maria as soon as I could!! I stayed at the company the whole whole whole whole, whole whole whole whole time!!"
Rosa raged, her hair flying wildly. A teacup was knocked over from the force of her standing up, but far louder than that was the sound of her beating the table with both hands. When faced with this rage that could accurately be described as wide-eyed derangement, the district welfare officer couldn't help but be taken aback.
...And the same went for Maria, who was secretly watching this from the hallway. She had already seen her mother in a rage several times before this. But she had never seen her this crazed with anger.
Video: The Abyss
It was some other evil being that was possessing her mother's body...
And then, she herself was discovered by the evil being. Maria knew that she was being reflected in the evil being's eyes. Her mind went blank, and she felt as though her field of vision was racing off into the distance...
After fiercely closing in on Maria, Rosa mercilessly slapped her on her small shoulders... and dropped her gaze towards the stuffed animal Maria was holding, Sakutaro.
'...U-Uryu... I-It isn't Maria's fault... I told her to take me...'
"Th-That's not true...! I brought Sakutaro on my own because I was lonely...! So Mama, it isn't Sakutaro's fault...!!"
"It's not Sakutaro's fault!! It's not Sakutaro's fault!!"
Instead of Maria, the brunt of Rosa's anger was aimed at the lion stuffed animal Maria was holding. A girl went shopping in the middle of the night, always clutching a lion stuffed animal. Because of that, she had become well known in the shopping center...
"Why?! Why, why?! Why can't you follow Mama's ruuuuuuules?!!"
With every single word, she stamped her heel and banged furiously on the wall. Of course, she didn't make direct contact with Maria. However, the violence of the harsh sound certainly beat against her.
"M-Miss, stop that...!!"
"Let go!! I said let go, damn iiiiiiiiiiiit!!"
The district welfare officer had come back to her senses and was pinning Rosa's arms behind her back. But the instant Rosa was touched, she went wild, furiously throwing the welfare officer off. She hit the table and fell to the ground. A teacup on the table smashed on the floor, making a violent sound...
'...M-Maria didn't do anything wrong...! It's my fault! So don't scold Maria...!!'
"I'm the one who brought Sakutaro...!! It's not Sakutaro's fault!! It's not Sakutaro's fault!! So don't look at Sakutaro with those scary eyes!! Don't look at hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiim!!"
'Don't scold Maria...! Don't scold Maria...!! Uryuu--!!!'
"...Y-You... What were you doing just now, and a minute ago too?"
"Do you also play with dolls like that...outside? Did you do it in front of the people in the store...?
"Answer me honestly. When you went out, you always walked around with that stuffed animal without telling Mama, right?"
"Stop using that weird stuffed animal talk!!! Speak with your own words, not a stuffed animal's!!!"
"S-Sakutaro isn't a stuffed animal!! He's my friend!! Don't call him a stuffed animal... Doooooooooooooooooooon't!!"
"Yeah, yeah, I get it, it was called Sakutarou, was it?! You took him with you all the time when you went shopping, without telling Mama, right?"
Maria admitted it honestly. If she hadn't admitted it, then Sakutaro would have said something to take the blame, so by admitting it right away, she was protecting her small friend.
"Only Sakutarou? Any others? You haven't been bringing weird things to school too, have you...?"
"...M-Miss!! Surely your daughter has done nothing wrong! Stop this interrogation at once!"
"You, stay quiet!!! I'm talking with my daughter, aren't I?!!!"
"...Come on, Maria, look at Mama when you talk. What's the answer to Mama's question?"
"...U-Uu-... It wasn't just Sakutaro. All the rabbits were with me too..."
"...Do you have them with you now...?"
Maria fished around in her pockets, pulling out four ceramic rabbits with her tiny hand... The rabbits were her close friends, who could be together with her at school in Sakutaro's place. But when Rosa saw that, she shook her head slightly as though dizzy...
But Rosa had rejected that, blaming the teacher and phoning in a protest of her own to the school. Saying that there was no way her child would bring toys to school. For nearly an hour, she had shouted at the vice principal to stop making false accusations about her daughter.
...To a certain degree, those at the school had grasped that Maria was a pitiful girl. They knew that the small toys she brought in were her only friends. So they had done their best to overlook it. But when the other students caught sight of them, some of the boys had started complaining that only she could bring toys, and the school had racked their brains on how to cope with this... They had tried to gently send a warning by way of the mother, but after Rosa's overreaction, even Maria's teacher decided to overlook it.
...But now Rosa knew. She had been the one who was wrong, and her daughter really had been bringing toys to school. ...And those at the school... had known that she was a disgrace who brought toys to school and played with them as though they were her only friends. To Rosa, who thought her daughter was just a little different from normal children, having this peculiar side of her daughter exposed and found fault with was, more than anything else, something she couldn't bear.
The district welfare officer tried to cut between Rosa and Maria again, but she only met with Rosa's wrath once more. Rosa once again threw the woman off with a face like a demon, and when even that failed to curb her anger, she stomped on the ground over and over again so forcefully that it seemed she might break through the floor. Then, after seeming to come back to her senses for a second, she immediately froze her harsh breathing... and asked Maria.
"I see. Isn't it great that you have a full four friends?"
As she said that, Rosa grabbed one of the rabbits from Maria's hand. Then, she shoved it in front of Maria's eyes so she could see it very well. The cute rabbit holding a trumpet was a small doll like a chess piece.
She slowly lifted it into the air. Of course, Maria's and Sakutaro's eyes also followed it...
She had half imagined that this worst possible thing might happen. So she instantly realized what had been done. So, Maria let out a short, despairing scream...
It was in pieces. It had been small and sturdy, but that hadn't been enough to withstand her mother's fierce rage.
"Miss, you think to call yourself a mother after doing something like that?!! You think you can do something like that and not hurt your daughter?!"
"Hurt Maria?! I'm also hurting, right?! Who's gonna take responsibility for my wounds?!"
"Weeeell?! Who iiiiiiiiiis?!!! Didn't I tell you to shut uuuuup!!!"
"S-Stop it, Mama...! It's my fault...! Don't get mad at this lady...!"
'It isn't Maria's fault, it's mine...! Don't get mad at Maria...! Uryu, uryuuryuuryu, uryuu--!'
"...D-Didn't I tell you to stop playing with stuffed animals like thaaaaaaaaaatt?!! In the first place, it's disgusting, you say a stuffed animal is your friend just how old are you?! How old?! Weeeeeelll?!"
"Why can you never make any friends?!! That's why your class always treats you like a weirdo and makes fun of you!! Give it a rest and get ahold of yourself already!! Grow up from this stuffed animal play!!"
"Like I said, stop playing with that stuffed animaaaaaaaaaall!!"
"Aaah!! Mama, Mama!! Give him back! Give Sakutaro baaaaaaaaaaack!!"
Mama grabbed hold of Sakutaro's head... and took him from me... Then, she smashed him against the wall, over and over.
"I said stop, damn it!! I told you to stop that stuffed animal aaaaaaaaaaact!! It's because of this stuffed animal!! That's why you can never make any friends! That's why you alone are pushed off to the side in your class and treated like a freak!! I should never have given you a stuffed animal like this!! I should never have given you such a disgusting stuffed animal!!"
"Stop iiiiiiiiiiiiit!! Give Sakutaro back, give Sakutaro back!! Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhh!! Sakutaro is my friend!! My best friend!! As long as Sakutaro's there, I don't need anything else! So give him back!! Give him baaaaaaaack!!"
...For some reason, my frantic request just added oil to the fire of Mama's anger...
Mama pushed my arm aside as I tried to grab Sakutaro and snatch him back, and in a bizarre way, she stuck her fingernails on both hands deep into Sakutaro, twisting him... The red muffler, which I had carefully wrapped for him every day, came off and fell to the floor...
...Sakutarou, who had been so, so precious to me... Was twisted, smashed, torn at with fingernails so much... He was twisted painfully, his face curving... in sadness...
Then Mama's fingernails... found a stitch on the neck... and tore it...
In that instant, Sakutaro's yellow cloth... and the cotton inside... burst apart... It looked almost like moist cotton candy...
'... .. .・ "
...The crumpled yellow cloth and the cotton candy flowing out were thrust right in front of my eyes.
Then, through Mama's face, the evil being... stated it clearly.
"Beatrice, Beatrice...!! Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhh!! Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhh!!"
"Sakutaro was a good friend... As long as you do not forget that, he will always be with you... So do not cry..."
"Bring him back to life!! You can use a lot of magic, Beato!! You can even bring Sakutaro back to life, right?!"
"...A-About that... Of course, if Sakutaro had been my furniture, it would be easy. However, Sakutaro is your furniture. That makes it difficult for me."
"If you say it's difficult, that means it isn't impossible, right?! Bring him back to life!! Bring him back to life with the Endless Magiiiiiic!"
Beatrice's words were feeble. Because she knew that, no matter what the excuse, it wouldn't be enough to calm Maria and make her accept it. But she had to communicate the painful truth to her disciple and close friend. She had to tell her the fact... that even with all of her own power, even she could not revive Sakutarou.
"As long as you continue to strongly believe in Sakutarou's existence, that soul will not disappear... So, MARIA, please, do not be sad..."
"Even now, look, believe that Sakutarou is smiling right over there..."
"No!!! No no no!! You have to bring Sakutaro back to life!! No no no! Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhh!!"
"Give it up...!! There is no magic to revive Sakutarou...! Despite that, you must strongly believe that Sakutarou will continue to exist as your close friend...!! That power will become magic...!"
"That's not magic, that's not magic!! You have to bring Sakutaro back to life...!! You can't do it because Mama made him herself? Why did Mama make Sakutaro? It was to give him to me as a present, right? It was to make him my friend, right?"
"So why... did Mama make it herself...and break it herself? Why did Mama give birth to it by herself, and try to break it herself? I don't understand, I don't understand!!"
"Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhh!! I can't stand it, I can't stand it, Beatriiice!! Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhh, Sakutaroooooooo!!!!"
From the darkness behind Maria's back, two massive jet-black arms crept out, twisting around Maria as she sobbed in anger. Then, massive fingernails stuck into Maria's chest and stomach...
Maria could not see that. But Beato could. Anger and sadness without any place to go will tear you apart. Beato knew that. She could see that. Yes... In the end, those massive arms were Maria's own.
Those fingernails slowly started to eat into her chest and stomach... With their immense size and strength, those arms could probably tear Maria into bits easily... But Maria herself couldn't notice. Drowning in a sea of her own tears, she couldn't notice that her own arms were trying to tear apart her own chest...
"Beatrice!! Teach me magic for that!! Teach me magic to beat Mama...!!"
"...Is that truly how you feel?"
"Kill Mama!! I'll kill her!! No, that isn't Mama! It's the bad witch possessing Mama! I'll kill the witch Mama!! Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu!!"
"...Very well. I shall give you that power. For tearing you and your beautiful heart apart, for giving you that pain, it is fitting that your heartless mother be torn apart considerably."