Hariyama-san, Center Of The World / Hariyama-san, Center of the World Vol 1 Chapter 1.1

Urban legend “The Axe Man Under the Bed”
This is something that happened on the night a certain man brought his girlfriend back to his room.
Like always, they were idly wasting time, lying sprawled out on the bed and the floor – when all of a sudden his girlfriend said something strange.
“Hey, I wanna eat ice cream.”
When the man went to get ice cream from the refrigerator, his girlfriend said she wanted to eat more expensive ice cream.
“How about we go to the convenience store and buy some?  Okay?”
The man thought it was a pain, but he reluctantly went along with what she suggested and went to the convenience store.
However, once they left his home, his girlfriend’s expression suddenly stiffened and she headed in the opposite direction from the convenience store – she started running towards the police box.
When, completely puzzled, the man asked her, his girlfriend answered with tears streaming down her face:
“I saw it.  There was a man holding a blood-covered axe hiding in the space under your bed…!”
–A famous urban legend from long ago
A Side: “Axe Man Tragedy”
“This is a follow-up report on the serial murder case in Saitama the other day.  We have received information about the murder weapons from the autopsy results.  The weapons seem to be two large tools, an axe and a hatchet.  Authorities say…”
As she watched the news scrolling on the televisions lined up in the electronics store, Lulu Akagami – Lulu called out cheerfully.
“Hey, hey!”
The man she was speaking to answered unenthusiastically, shifting his attention from the MD corner he had been facing to look at his companion.
“Didn’t this thing happen around here?  You should be careful too, Muu.”
In response to Lulu, who spoke her worries in a carefree tone, Muu Hifumi – Muu answered with a mild smile.
“You too, Lulu.”
Just from their conversation, it sounded like they were two sweethearts calling each other by fancy nicknames, but those were very much their real names.
The two of them had been in the same class in school.  They both had strange names, so they became aware of each other.  Their classmates teased them, saying things like, “You two should go out already,” but without really growing closer or farther apart, they started hanging out as classmates who got along well.
And this year, they were in the same second-year class – if a bystander were to see them, they had grown so close, they looked just like boyfriend and girlfriend.  Lulu thought of them as m

ore than friends but less than lovers, but she had never asked what Muu thought.
No matter what he thought, they were able to be together like they were now without harming their relationship.  Though she also had those kinds of calculating thoughts, she didn’t really wish for any progress with Muu.  The way they were now was enough for her.
She didn’t know anything about what Muu thought, but Lulu didn’t really care.  Today the two of them were spending their summer vacation together again, with their relationship the same as always, not too close and not too distant.
After leaving the town’s small appliance shop, the two of them took a walk and headed towards Muu’s place.
It was a small, slightly old apartment, located in a building that would not look out of place in a simple residential area, but it was one of two buildings lined up on the same street.
The two-story apartment buildings looked almost exactly alike, set apart only by the roofs, which were painted red and blue.
At present, Muu lived alone in the apartment building with the blue roof.
“There isn’t anyone else here yet.”
“Mm, that’s because it’s far from both the train station and bus stop.  The building with the red roof next to it doesn’t even have one room filled.”
Muu said in a tone that said it wasn’t particularly problematic and briskly walked to the entrance of his apartment.  It was the first door on the first floor and the windows on the other side faced the highway.
It was already the fifth time Lulu had come here, and she had stayed over several times.
However, nothing had happened between them when she did, and they still had not even kissed.
A number of her friends were surprised, saying, “Ehhh, no way!  You can’t stay at a boy’s house and have nothing happen!”, but those types of people probably didn’t have any male friends, much less boyfriends.
Most likely, they were envious and jealous of male-female relationships.  That was what Lulu had decided.
‘I don’t really care what happens.  It’s not like we’re really boyfriend and girlfriend and it’s not like I want it to be that way.’
Lulu thought their current standpoint was good, outside the boundaries of being friends or lovers.
That was why nothing would happen again today.
She had told her family she would be staying over at a classmate’s house today, so she hadn’t really lied.
To be specific, they would watch videos and play games until they got tired and went to sleep.
It was the same everyday life as always, with nothing out of the ordinary.
Naturally, Lulu thought that would be the case today.
However – in truth, that everyday life was already disappearing.
From the moment when they had entered his home, or from the time Lulu had walked around the electronics store with Muu, already–
A single abnormality had invaded into their everyday lives.
Or to be more specific–
–into the space under Muu’s bed.

“So then, there’s a girl in the class next to ours named Hariyama-san, and I’m pretty good friends with her, right?  It’s amazing!  Her father is a famous designer.  He does everything, like billboards for a lot of stores and even the title logos of games.  I wonder if he’s rich.”
“Speaking of which, Maruhira, in our class – his cousin is a manga author.  Did you know that?”
“Really!?  That’s amazing!  He must be a billionaire!  So what’s it in?  Jump?  Magazine?”
[Weekly Shounen Jump and Magazine are periodical manga publications.]
Smiling faintly, Muu shook his head at Lulu, who was leaning forward in excitement as she questioned him.
“Nah, he draws ‘Impact Jammer’ in a magazine called Raigeki Ousha.”
“Huuuh.  Is it selling well?”
“I can’t say how much he makes.  But it looks like they’re making an anime out of it.”
“That’s great.  I guess if you’re a manga author, you really do have to get an anime series and have snow sculptures made at snow festivals!”
As their pointless conversation continued, Lulu threw herself heavily on her back on the cushions on the floor.
The white-painted ceiling evenly reflected the light from the suspended cheap fluorescent bulbs.
Old apartments were by no means cramped.  The main living area was a wide Western-style room with an area of about ten tatami mats, and the apartment came complete with bath and kitchen.
Frankly, it could be said that it was too extravagant for a high school student to live here alone.  However, because it was far from the train station, the rent was only about 50,000 yen, so there was nothing to worry about.
Lulu and Muu were in the Western room reading magazines, Muu sitting on the bed and Lulu rolling around on the carpet like a cat.
“It’s already eight?  I guess I am starting to get sleepy.”
Muu stood calmly and took a quick glance outside through the window.
As Lulu rolled on the floor, she saw the stars just beginning to come out in the sky through the window.  She realized she was starting to get hungry.
“Hey, what are we doing for dinner?”
She asked casually, but Muu continued looking outside silently as if he hadn’t heard.
“Hey, heeeey.”
“Hm?  Ah, sorry, sorry.  What is it?”
Snapping out of it, Muu looked back at her and sat down on the bed again.
“Geez.  Okay, so for dinner…”
Rolling over heavily, at the moment when she faced Muu, she felt a strange sense of unease.
Muu was sitting on the bed.  Below that bed, naturally, she could see Muu’s two legs.
However, Lulu’s eyes noticed something unnatural in the space between the light jeans he was wearing.
‘What is that?’
In an instant, it felt like she alone had been left behind as time continued to pass in the world.
Absolutely no sound from around her entered her ears.  Only the sound of her heart strongly thudding penetrated the fog surrounding her mind.
“You should be worried.”
Every nerve in her brain warned her, ruled by fear.
“You shouldn’t check immediately.”
Her survival instincts warned her.
As the two instincts warred with each other, Lulu slowly, slowly lowered her gaze.
She could see Muu’s face.  As usual, he wore a faint smile and she could not tell what he was thinking.
She could see Muu’s chest.  A black T-shirt with the fancy design of a bear with blood flowing from its mouth.
She could see Muu’s stomach and the wall behind the bed.  It was a dreary room without even one poster on the wall.
She could see Muu’s belt.  The pointless metal objects there clinked together.  There was nothing else that stood out as much on the frugal boy.
She could see Muu’s knees.  It may have been the fashion for his worn-out jeans to already be dirty.
Up to now, nothing was different from usual.
Up to now, it was definitely normal.
She could still turn back.  Even as she thought so, Lulu could not stop her gaze.
Her field of view slowly dropped lower and lower, toward the underside of the bed.
And then–
The first thing she saw was stained the color of flesh.
‘He’s there.’
Just from that, Lulu was convinced.
‘He’s there…’
‘He’s there.’
‘He’s there!’
‘There’s something… under the bed!’
Lulu’s eyes widened, and the entirety of the darkness filling the space under the bed entered her vision.
What lay there was clearly a human’s entire body.
She knew from a glance that it was a man from his rugged physique.  He was lying on his stomach, facing her, in the space under the bed.
Luckily, the upper half of the man’s face was hidden by Muu’s leg.  If their eyes had met, she would have been screaming right now.
And… She saw it clearly.
At the man’s side lay a dull-colored axe, dyed red with rust.
‘Under… Under the bed, with an axe… There’s someone carrying an axe!’
A shock ran through Lulu’s whole body, and she twitched just once, as if she had been struck by lightning.
It seemed Muu hadn’t noticed her state of shock.  His head was turned to look outside through the window behind him.
From what she could see, Muu was engrossed in his normal, everyday life.
However, right now she was completely removed from that normality.
From the moment she had noticed the “thing” underneath the bed–
And after that, everything Lulu had seen with her own eyes had become an object of fear.
Someone was in the gap underneath the bed.  With that truth as a foundation, everything about the world around the girl had been remade.
The apartment Muu lived in, with the large Western-style room.
She felt like that room, where they were supposed to have spent an enjoyable time together, was now like a prison from another dimension.
The window was far away.
The window and door were so far away.
The world outside felt far away.
The breeze from the air conditioner caressed her back cruelly.  The coldness of that breeze finally snapped Lulu back to her senses.
‘Who is that!?’
It was an extremely simple but extremely necessary question.
It may have been her imagination or it may have been her eyes playing tricks on her.  She tried to convince herself of that many times, but no matter how many times she strained her eyes, there really was a man underneath the bed.
Lulu slowly raised her gaze from the man, who was not so much as twitching.
And then, Muu, who was living his everyday life as usual, faced Lulu and smiled casually.
That smile relieved Lulu of some of her fear.  However, she hadn’t completely overcome it.  At most, it was a momentary reprieve.
The strange thing was that Lulu was not that afraid of the axe the man was holding.
What she was most afraid of was the “truth” of the man’s existence underneath the bed.  With that, Lulu already felt that her life was threatened.
It was strange that she still had not screamed, but Lulu was thankful that she could still continue to think calmly.
As she focused her gaze on the ceiling, she took several seconds to try and grasp the situation in which they found themselves.
Lulu could guess immediately who the man under the bed was.
‘The one on the news before–’
The unidentified, brutal serial killer who had shown up nearby.
The televisions lined up in the electronics store had said his weapon was something similar to an axe.
Because she was thinking calmly, a different kind of fear than that of a little while ago began to swirl within Lulu.
It went from the instinctive fear of the “unknown” to the rational fear of a “clear crisis”.
‘What do I do?  Is this for real?  Is it seriously happening?  Why?  Why does it have to happen to us…!’
Even then, Lulu kept herself calm.  It may have been because she still held the faint hope that this was a dream, but on the contrary, that very calmness convinced her all the more that this was real.
Should she scream or immediately stand up and try to run away?
The murderer was under the bed, and it would take time for him to crawl out.  If they took that chance to run–
‘Can we really do it?’
She could scream now, stand up from where she lay, and escape through the door.
She had to be able to stand up.  If she screamed, she could not panic.
‘The most important thing is what to do with Muu.  If he hears me scream, or if he hears me yell “Run!”, I wonder if he’ll move right away.’
Before the murderer crawled out from under the bed.
To begin with, even if they escaped through the apartment door, how far should they run?
There was no police box in this neighborhood, and even if they ran to the nearest convenience store, it was far enough that it would take more than five minutes to reach.
To add to the fact that few people passed by this neighborhood to begin with, it was already growing dark.
On top of that, this apartment building had no occupant other than Muu.
If, just if, the murderer was faster.
When she thought that, Lulu felt relieved that she had not inadvertently screamed.
‘How about writing a note to tell him?’
She thought of that, but it would be bad if he asked something like “What are you writing?” while she wrote.
Somehow, they needed a way to get outside without making the killer under the bed suspicious–
“Huh? What is it, Lulu?”
Lulu had been silent for a while, and, puzzled, Muu called out to her.
“Eh?  Oh, yeah.  It’s nothing.  I was just spacing out a bit!”
Muu nodded with his usual smile at Lulu, who was doing her best to force a smile.
As Lulu adjusted her breathing, she thought of what she had to do now.
‘Anyway, I can’t let the murderer figure it out.  That I’ve realized he’s here.’
He was hiding under the bed probably because he was waiting for his prey to fall asleep so he could then kill them at his leisure.
In that case, she had to get Muu out of the apartment so the murderer wouldn’t suspect anything.
If she could just get outside with him, she could explain the situation as much as he wanted later.  If they did that, they would be able to take their time and contact the police.
Lulu quietly took in a breath and told herself something.
‘Calmly, calmly, speak like you always do.  You can’t sound scared or panicked.  Your normal voice, like when you’re calm.’
“Hey, Muu.”
‘Smile, smile, smile.  You can’t show fear.’
“Hey, I wanna eat ice cream.”
She would act selfish and make him go to the convenience store with her to buy ice cream.  That was the easiest way to get him outside.  That was what she thought, but–
“Ah, there’s some ice cream in the refrigerator.”
She had half-expected Muu’s answer.  But Lulu would not give up.
“No, I want to eat super-expensive Häagen-Dazs ice cream!”
She was acting like a brat, but this was no time to say so.  Looking away, she lifted herself up from where she lay and sat cross-legged.
Her gaze rested softly on the underside of the bed, but from this height, she could not see the murderer’s body.  As she took comfort in this, Lulu appealed to Muu to make him come outside.
“Hey, it’s fine, right, Muu?  I’ll pay for it, so let’s go buy some at the convenience store!”
‘Okay, good job, me!  You sounded just like you always do!  Now I just need to take Muu outside and–’
“I’ve got some.”
Muu stood up straight and headed in the direction of the refrigerator in the dining room.
When Muu suddenly stood up, Lulu felt cold sweat running down her spine and turned her senses to the underside of the bed, but luckily, there did not seem to be any reaction.
In that time, Muu took out a cup of high-end ice cream from the freezing compartment on the top shelf of the refrigerator.
‘Seriously, what!?  I thought he was part of the bourgeoisie but he keeps this kind of high-end ice cream…!’
Feeling unreasonably indignant, Lulu took the ice cream and the spoon.
The chilly sensation spread through her palm, but it was nothing compared to the chill down Lulu’s back.
It wasn’t like she really wanted to eat ice cream, but if she didn’t eat it, the person under the bed would get suspicious.
Since he hadn’t come out yet, he probably had no intention of coming out until the two of them fell asleep.  However, that was only if he thought they didn’t notice him.
Acting like she hadn’t noticed anything at all under the bed, she brought the ice cream to her mouth.
The sweetness spread within her mouth as it melted.  The deliciousness made her feel all the more frustrated.  If not for the situation, it would have really cheered her up, but–
As she thought that, Lulu’s breath caught suddenly.
‘This is bad.  I-I can’t let it be silent.’
If the room fell quiet, Muu might also notice that he could hear the breathing of three people within the room.
However, at the same time, she realized the axe man might also think, “They’ll notice I’m here.”
Both Muu and herself were currently eating ice cream in silence.  It seemed the murderer was holding his breath, but what if he started breathing loudly?
Then what if Muu started to worry and peered under the bed?
She had to avoid that at all costs.  As Lulu began to speak again, she continued trying to think of some way to get the two of them outside.
“Hey… Do you want to go out to eat for dinner?”
Lulu realized her mistake as soon as she said it.
If they left for dinner, they wouldn’t be back for a while.  Knowing that, the murderer might decide to kill them now while he had the chance.
Come to think of it, “I’ll kill them after they fall asleep” was an arbitrary rule that Lulu had come up with herself.  It was irrational to hope that the murderer would stick to that.
Without thinking, she glanced under the bed, but in the end, nothing was crawling out.
“Mm, but there aren’t really any restaurants around here and it’s a pain to go all the way to the station.”
“T-that’s true.”
As she murmured in a voice full of mingled relief and disappointment, Lulu thought up her next plan.
‘What should I do?  Something he doesn’t have in his home that we can buy right now…’
She put her thoughts in order and hit upon her next method.
“That’s right, there are a lot of this week’s manga magazines I still haven’t read.  Do you wanna go buy them at the convenience store?”
“All the magazines are on hiatus this week.”
“Then… Hey, do you wanna go drinking?”
“? Why all of a sudden?  We’re still not of age, you know?”
“I just feel like it!  Hey, how about it?”
“Hmm, I guess.”
‘Yes!  Now if we just go to the nearest liquor store–’
In the next moment, what Lulu saw was–
Muu taking what looked like bottles of foreign liquor from the closet.
As he lined up several bottles on the table, Muu smiled at her with a truly blissful expression.
“Which do you want, vodka or whiskey or tequila?”
“Why do you have booze!?  Weren’t you the one saying we’re not of age!?”
“No, when my dad comes over, he brings some over and drinks it alone, and he leaves the leftovers here when he goes back.”
In front of Lulu, who was uncharacteristically lost for words, Muu gazed at the bottles of liquor and muttered as if to himself.
“…No, I’m really glad I have booze.”
Lulu was a bit worried by Muu’s turn of phrase just now. What exactly did he mean by “I’m really glad”?
But there was no time to worry about that.
Right now, they needed to act natural and get outside.
“H-hey, you know, I want to drink something weaker.”
 “It’s fine if you split it up.  You can add water or ice.”
“That’s not it!  You know, like wine!”
‘Ah, geez!  Why did it turn out like this?’
“Hey, let’s go buy delicious cocktails or something from the liquor store!”
“The liquor store is already closed.”
“It might still be open!  Come on, let’s go take a look!”
She was probably being too pushy, but it couldn’t be helped.  Lulu grabbed Muu’s hand and tried to stand up.
He may have suspected something, but it shouldn’t have been too suspicious.  Actually, there was still no sign of movement under the bed.
Muu clutched Lulu’s hand instead and pulled tightly, as if to keep her from going outside.
As a result of his completely unexpected actions, Lulu reseated herself without thinking.
“Geez… it’s closed.”
That was when Lulu realized.
When Muu spoke, he had already regained his usual smile, but the moment he had strongly squeezed her hand, his eyes had not been laughing at all.
Muu, who until then had been living his everyday life, had been next to Lulu in the present for just a moment – it was as if he had set foot into the unordinary.
‘…What? What was that… just now?’
She had a strong feeling of unease.
Was the person in front of her the real Muu?
Normally the question would make her snort with laughter, but Lulu was currently living in the unordinary.
Various theories about the “more than friend” smiling right in front of her spun through her mind.
Why did my “less than lover” – suddenly stop me just now?
She finally arrived at one possibility, and she opened her mouth to confirm it.
“Hey, is it okay if I go out and get some fresh air?”
And without waiting for his reply, she tried to stand up.
“You really shouldn’t.”
Muu got up only a little faster than Lulu and stood in the doorway leading to the dining room as if to block her way.
And what he added then sounded like an excuse.
“Um… You know, because there are a lot of mosquitos outside.”
Already his words did not reach Lulu’s ears.
It had only been a faint suspicion, but it changed into belief at Muu’s current behavior.
‘Muu’s doing this so I don’t go outside – no, so I don’t escape…!?’

Why, why does Muu have to keep me in this room?  Now when there’s a murderer hiding in here!
Lulu wanted to scream and press the issue, but there was no way she could do that.
The current issue was that there was a murderer sharing the same space as them, and even now he might have been listening in on their conversation.
In other words, if she was too obvious about taking him outside, the murderer would catch on right there and then.
However, a bigger problem had now reared its head.
For some reason, Muu did not want her to go outside.
If she tried to force him to go outside, or if she tried to escape outside alone – the murderer under the bed would probably begin his “slaughter”.
‘But why!?’
Why wouldn’t Muu let her go out?  Was he excited that he was under the same roof as her?  There was no way.  She’d stayed at his place countless times before now, and when she did, he let her leave as she pleased.
‘Why is he stopping me today!?  Is there something, anything, different?  Is there anything different between us only today?’
Lulu racked her brains immediately.
And then she hit upon a single, simple answer.
‘Yeah.  There is.  Something about us that’s different from normal!’
She confirmed that “point of difference”, but it only threw her into a whirlwind of doubt once again.
‘The only thing that’s different from normal–
‘It’s got to be the murderer under the bed.’
But then why?
If Muu had realized there was someone under the bed, wouldn’t he want to get outside somehow, the same as Lulu?  There was no way he would be more worried about his room being ransacked after they left.
There was only one possibility…
‘Muu knew from the beginning?
‘That the murderer was under the bed?’
The idea that she herself had come up with only confused Lulu more and more.
“Ah… I’ll make dinner.”
Saying that, Muu began to walk to the kitchen.  It was as if he was doing it to distract from his unnatural behavior.
During that time, Lulu focused her gaze on the space under the bed a second time.  She really couldn’t see the murderer if she was sitting up, but she definitely didn’t have the courage to lower her head and look.  Everything would be over the moment their eyes met.
‘But, if – what if Muu knew from the start that there’s a man under the bed?  And what if the murderer under the bed knows he knows?’
Muu and the murderer were accomplices.  That terrible thought whirled through her mind.
However, she didn’t know the reason for it.  If they were accomplices, what in the world were they planning to do?  Maybe what was under the bed was
There, the girl had another unpleasant thought.
A while ago, she had noticed the existence of a man under the bed.
However, that was all.
She hadn’t checked if the man was awake or asleep or even whether he was alive to begin with.
Her imagination began to run away with her and then led her to one conclusion.
‘Maybe what’s under the bed is really a corpse?’
Muu was hiding a corpse – and he knew that she knew the corpse was there.
‘So he’s trying to silence me!?’
But the reasoning behind that was strange.
Why would the corpse of the murderer be under Muu’s bed?  Normally it would be the other way around.
Numerous questions appeared and then disappeared within Lulu’s mind.  Each time a new question arose, it completely erased the question before it.
Why why why why why why why why why why why why why why–
Her goal had been to safely escape from this room with Muu.
However, it was different now.  Now Lulu’s mission was to accurately understand the situation, and she thought that everything would be resolved once she had accomplished that.
Then she finally reached a conclusion.
‘I see.’
Lulu, who had fallen into an extreme situation upon seeing the man under the bed, thought that she herself was calm.
However, it was true that she was in a state of confusion.  That was why she reached it.  This impossible conclusion.
‘So that’s how it was.  In that case, everything makes sense!’
It was an answer that would please no one.
‘The “corpse” under that bed isn’t an assailant or a murderer.  He’s the victim!  My mind was distorted by fear and panic and jumped to a distorted conclusion.  That probably wasn’t the truth.
‘The axe doesn’t belong to that man, it was the murder weapon hidden along with the corpse!’
‘The axe-wielding serial killer was Muu!’

More than friends, less than lovers.
For Lulu, Muu Hifumi – that was the sort of person Muu was.
However, in the end that was Lulu’s own opinion.
What if he thought of her in a completely different way?
As a girlfriend?
As a friend?
Or – as prey?
Lulu wanted to know for sure.
Was the reason Muu wouldn’t let her outside because he planned to use her as a sacrificial lamb to start the “slaughter”?
Had the normal days she had spent with Muu up until now been a lie?
If they hadn’t been a lie…
‘Or maybe.’
If Muu fell in love with her, really fell in love with her, that may have been why he chose her as his prey.
It may have been the degenerate love of a murderer.
She didn’t want to die yet or be killed.  If Muu tried to kill her, Lulu would try with all her strength to escape and resist.
However, she wanted to know why she would be killed.
Besides, she still had hope.
If her reasoning up until now had been completely off the mark and what was under the bed really was the murderer, everything up until now would just have been a misunderstanding on Lulu’s part.
‘Which one do I wish for?’
What did she really want Muu to be to her?  In this situation, the excuse that “The way we’ve been until now is best” wouldn’t cut it.
‘Friends or lovers, either is fine.  I just wanted to be together with Muu.’
She hated it.  She really hated the conclusion that Muu was a murderer.  That alone was something she really, really hated.
‘That’s right.  If he runs away with me – then I can prove Muu isn’t a murderer.’
Delusion and reason had gone full circle and gone back to the beginning.  Without realizing that, Lulu slowly strengthened her beliefs.
To confirm those thoughts – to confirm her own existence, there was one thing she had to do.
However, Lulu, who continued to be terrified, felt so cornered – that it was enough to drive her to commit a crime.
Lulu turned to look back at Muu, who was in the kitchen cutting vegetables, and quietly stood up.
As if noticing her presence, Muu stopped his knife hand and looked at Lulu.
“…What is it?  Lulu.”
Muu asked as if confused, and Lulu spoke expressionlessly.
“Hey, Muu.  Do you love me?”
At the sudden question, Muu dropped the knife onto the chopping board without thinking.
“W-why’re you asking all of a sudden?”
“Answer me.”
Lulu’s gaze was serious, and Muu answered her, his head tilted to the side.
“Haven’t you been acting weird today?”
“You’re the one acting weird, Muu!”
As she yelled that, Lulu realized that she was saying something unreasonable.
However, even if it was unreasonable, it wasn’t a lie.
It was true that Muu had been weird today, and he had definitely been acting suspiciously.
“Hey, please.  Go back to the way you usually are, Muu.”
“The way I usually am… I’m the same as always.”
There really was something unnatural about those words.
“I want to make sure of it – please, there’s somewhere I want to go together.”
Before she finished speaking, Lulu had begun walking quickly toward the entryway.
However, Muu, who had been in the kitchen, quickly got in her way.
“Dinner will be done soon.  Let’s go tomorrow, okay?”
His face showed a smile, but she could see sweat standing out on his forehead.
“Hey, Muu.”
Seeing him like that, Lulu stated one truth with an expressionless face.
“Why won’t you let me go outside?”
It was a spur-of-the-moment question.  If the person under the bed was a murderer, these words would be enough to make him suspicious.
However, Lulu could not stop talking.
“Please, go outside with me.”
“You’re being weird too, Lulu!  Why would you… you’ve been trying to go out for a while now!”
Muu raised his voice, and Lulu smiled emotionlessly at him and spoke.  As she became aware that her heart, which she had thought was calm, was already breaking–
“We’re on completely different wavelengths, Muu.”
Even so, she continued to speak.
It was as if she were trying to completely bury her own existence with words alone.
“But, Muu.  I’m gonna go outside.  With you.  I can do that, you know?”
She quietly moved forward, facing Muu and taking one step closer to him.
“Hey, Muu.  I know everything about what’s in your room.  Because I’ve been here so many times…”
Saying that, she placed a hand on one of the shelves near the entrance to the room.
There were numerous matches and lighters there, and Lulu silently took one of the matches in her hand.
“Oi, Lulu, what are–”
Muu stopped in mid-sentence as he realized something unusual about his room.
It was oddly full of the scent of booze.
Alcohol permeated the air more than usual, saturating it so heavily that it was as if one could get drunk from the smell alone.
When he looked – there were traces of the bed and the floor being soaked.
On top of the table in front of that, one of the bottles of alcohol he had put out a while ago – the vodka bottle was now empty.
At the same time as he shouted–
Lulu tossed the lit match atop the bed.
And then – blue-white flames flared to life, as if to envelop the bed.

“Sorry… Muu.  If you’re innocent, I’ll take full responsibility…”
Lulu’s eyes were filled with madness, and Muu worried about whether or not his words would reach her.
“If it’s like this… If it’s like this, we’re definitely going outside, right?”
From her behavior, she definitely had her priorities backwards.  Now, if the person under the bed was a murderer, it would be hard for him to chase them, but her goal had already switched from “Leave the room together without the murderer noticing” to “No matter what it takes, get out of Muu’s room that he’s trying to keep you in”.
Before she even finished speaking, she made as if to escape outside.
“You too, Muu, you should hurry and–”
The moment she tried to open the door leading outside – Lulu was embraced tightly from behind.
The one who embraced her was Muu.
He held her firmly in his arms, as if protecting her from the fire–
“You can’t… You can’t go outside!  I’ve got a fire extinguisher, so I’ll put out the fire!”
The fire was still burning up the alcohol and had not yet spread to the curtains and wall.  If they took the appropriate fire-fighting measures right now, it would be possible to extinguish it while it was still small.
“Why, why!?”
Emotion had returned to Lulu’s voice, and she screamed questions at Muu.  Muu also wore a serious expression, and as he grabbed the fire extinguisher in the entryway with one hand, he desperately struggled to extract the pin with the other.
“I – I want to protect you, Lulu!”
Lulu gazed at Muu’s face, not understanding his meaning, and at that moment–
The outrageous scream echoed through the room – the man with the axe leapt out from under the bed, his body covered in flames.
He had been caught between the vodka-soaked bed and floor, and the flames had caught across his body where it lay hidden.
“Aaaaah!?  What’s going on!?”
Lulu and Muu shouted at the same time – and then Lulu looked at Muu’s expression of surprise.
‘The murderer – he really is a murderer.  Then why does Muu want me to stay in this room…?’
As she thought that, the man with the axe approached them.
At the same time, the fire extinguisher Muu was holding vigorously sprayed out foam.
The vigorous spray of extinguishing foam hit the axe man directly in the face, and he strongly swung the axe down as he shielded his eyes with one hand.
A violent sound rang out, and the axe went right by Lulu and Muu and forcefully tore down the door leading outside.
The man, whose clothes were dotted with flames, gave up on Lulu and Muu as his prey and dashed off as fast as he could toward the highway.
Left behind were – Lulu, who had sunk to the floor and was silent, and Muu, who had calmed down and was trying with all his might to extinguish the fire.
“What happened…”
Lulu asked Muu, wearing an absentminded expression.
“What just happened?”
Muu just barely managed to put out the fire, and the moment he opened his mouth to say something–
The intense shriek pierced through the dark night and reverberated through the room around Lulu and Muu.
The two of them momentarily froze at the extremely ghastly scream.
Several minutes passed after that.  Muu took Lulu’s hand and made her stand, and they peered outside from the entryway.
And what they saw there was–
“What… is this…”
About ten meters away from the door, at the entrance to the apartment lot, illuminated by the outside lights–
Was a huge, huge pool of water that hadn’t been there when they entered the apartment.
There were no other living things around.  Only the cries of cicadas and frogs could be heard from somewhere far away.
Staying on the alert, the two of them timidly approached that pool – and realized.
That pool of water was a dark, cloudy red–
“Ahh, ahh, it’s true, it’s really true.”
The moment they confirmed that fact, Muu spoke as if to himself.
“What I saw was real… I-I-I didn’t think you’d believe me so I didn’t say anything – I didn’t say anything…!  I saw it, I saw it!”
Muu’s knees were shaking violently.  Wearing an expression he would normally never show Lulu, he quietly told her what only he had seen–
Hearing that, Lulu understood everything.
“I saw it… I saw it!”
“Outside the apartment – there was a man covered in blood holding a katana – he looked really angry…!  He was running around like he would kill someone!”
Continue to B Side: “Axe Man Comedy”

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