All who attended Tanaka Yoshikazu's funeral, to a man, had said "This is a strange funeral," or were at least wearing expresses that meant they didn't need to say it aloud. Sachiko seated in the chief mourner's seat couldn't bear those gazes. The children were still treating her with the same attitude as before, and that again was unbearable.
As Hayami had said, the nail was driven into the coffin which was then lowered, and then it was carried out through another door. If such a theatric display was unpleasant, walking down the road after the sun had set, going in the darkness to a rarely visited grave site was all the moreso.
Free from the questioning gazes of the funeral attendants once at home, Sachiko let out a sigh. That was terrible, she realized. But this was only the beginning of it, it was not over. Now Sachiko would have to go on living with the two children---two rebellious children. Sachiko's blood relatives had been in the village but they weren't any longer. Her aging mother had been called on by her brother and his wife frequently for money. They couldn't depend on distant relatives for money, and when she thought of how quickly her brother and his wife left them afterwards saying something about work, it was clear that she couldn't depend on them either. Only her mother seemed to be worried for Sachiko, but she had been taken off by her brother. So likely her mother would not be able to save her either. She was living on a pension out of which she was giving an allowance to her older brother and his wife, so there was no money to speak of for help. Her isolation sunk into her chest. Sachiko couldn't avoid thinking that she'd been betrayed by her husband.
Kaori watched as her mother went to bed with a stormy disposition.
(Dad had always been saying that he didn't feel good.)
She felt it pathetic that her father had never received any compassion to the end. While she couldn't help thinking that her father had been treated unreasonably, to tell the truth that might have been because of a single suspicion she had regarding her father's death.
Without a doubt, it had been Megumi's voice. Megumi pronounced her father's death. When she went to check on that, her father really was----.
Kaori sat in the living room, her body shivering. She was afraid to return to her room. Last night she had stayed with her family at the funeral parlor so she had been able to forget her fear. But tonight she was alone.
(I'll stay in Akira's room.)
Thinking that, when she went to his room, Akira was spaced out atop his futon.
"Nee, Akira, can I sleep with you tonight?"
When asked he nodded. And so Kaori laid out her own bedding beside Akira's guton. It was after she prepared for bed and climbed in that Akira at last opened his mouth.
"Naa, Kaori. What'll we do?"
"Do? About what?"
Kaori shivered. "There's nothing to do is there? There's nothing that we can do about it. We don't have Yuuki-san anymore, and......"
"But Megumi killed Dad!"
"Stop it!" Kaori sat up from her futon. "Don't put it like that!"
"Its the truth. Megumi did it. I'm sure it's 'cause we've noticed too much. Nii-chan got attacked the same way that Dad did. You wanna just leave this alone?"
"There's no other choice is there? We shouldn't have gotten involved. It's because we butted in that Yuuki-san and Dad......" Kaori's words stopped up. The words "are dead" or "were killed," or the like were ones she didn't even want to say aloud.
"We're still just kids. We can't do anything, so we can't!"
Akira glared at Kaori. "But none of the adults even know, do they? If we don't do something, nothing's going to happen."
"Nii-chan was killed, dad was killed, and you're saying we should just let it keep going on?" What had come over Akira was anger. Nobody understood how weighty the matter was. The adults wouldn't grasp the severity of things. "If we don't do something, people are just going to keep being attacked."
"Then you can go to Yuuki-san's grave by yourself! You be the one to drive a stake into him!" Kaori shouted, burying herself in her futon.
Akira stiffened. "There's..." No way I could to that, Akira swallowed down those words. Right, even Natsuno might have risen up. And then he would go on attacking victims.
(There's no way.)
Akira thought that reflexively, but saying that Natsuno couldn't rise, or saying that Natsuno couldn't attack people would be clearly meaningless. If it was Natsuno, Akira had the feeling he would say that he'd told him to do what had to be done. It wasn't as if Akira knew Natsuno that well but he had the feeling Natsuno knew what was important. He knew what mattered most of all, would take action without being seized by fear. He wasn't like Akira who drew back at the last minute in fear.
---Yeah, Natsuno had driven the stake into Motohashi Tsuruko. He said they had to put a stop to this. If Natsuno were here, he'd probably say he had to be staked too. No, or was it too late for that? Natsuno was buried on Sunday. Two days had already passed.
(Nii-chan was thinking he wanted me to do that for him......)
If it was Natsuno, he wouldn't have wanted to rise up. He wouldn't want to become a monster like Megumi, to attack victims.
In order to save him from that, there was no choice but to dig up Natsuno's grave. Dig it up, pull out the coffin, drive in the stake.
In Akira's mind, the memories of when they dug up Megumi--and Motohashi Tsuruko's graves were revived in his mind. Could he do that much manual labor alone? It'd probably be all he could do to run out to the grave and back. Natsuno wasn't there to do it with him anymore.
(And what if while I'm doing it another weird guy shows up......?)
When they dug up Motohashi Tsuruko's grave, Akira hadn't been able to move. Even when he thought Kaori was in danger.
And even if nobody did show up. Even if he did somehow muster the courage to dig up the grave, even if he could open the coffin, no matter how he thought about it he didn't think he'd be able to drive a stake into Natsuno--into someone he knew.
Akira saw Natsuno as many times over braver than Akira himself was. He could drive a stake into others, likely even into people he knew. Doing that would hurt the other person. He couldn't do that to Natsuno. ---Much less to his own father.
Yes, just as it was possible for Natsuno to rise up, of course it was possible for his father to rise up too. The same father who that very night was buried in the darkness. If he went now he'd make it on time. Even if Natsuno had already risen up, his father hadn't.
Akira drew his body into itself.
He couldn't do something like that.
(But if I can't do that, then what are we supposed to do?)