In The Fox-Witch's Wake, Part 2

Interlude: Despair Begets Despair

Meanwhile, at Red Cross Kumamoto Hospital…

A girl leans upon a propped-up hospital bed, her shattered body almost entirely cocooned over in casts. Intramedullary steel rods pierce through plaster and flesh, jamming the worst of her pulverized bones back together. Itches and dull painful throbs echo across her body despite the 24/7 infusions of painkillers. Nevertheless, she had no choice but to grow used to these constant irritants.

Yamada Saeko's entire focus was upon the brand-new phone pressed to her ear by her remaining intact limb, her previous phone having flown into the forest and never being found ever since that fateful day… That car crash.

"-That's why I'm telling you! I just need this done, just this one final task-"

"Oh, shattu-de-fark-arp!" The bandaged, cast-wrapped hand holding the phone jerks in shock at the crude English expletive.

The surly voice within the phone resumes speaking, this time in fluent Japanese.

"You blonde-dyed bitch with more money than brains, who do you think you are? Our boss? We got other things to do than to keep on picking on the same girl!"

While the call is not on loudspeaker, the suited lady by the bedside nevertheless picks up on the angry intonations, all the while tapping away at business pings on her own phone. She sighs.

"This is what you get for mingling with such low-class subhumans, Saeko. I warned you." Saeko ignored her mother, yelling hoarsely into the phone.

"No! You will obey me! I am the Big Sister of the group-" The fallen bully queen is cut off by laughter from within the phone.

"Did you hear that, everyone? She really thinks she's the boss!" The voice grows louder, addressing Saeko once more. "That's what the others told you all along, isn't it? How's it feel to realize you just amounted to dog shit in the end?"

Saeko's eyes droop with mounting despair. "You…!"

"Without them, you're nobody! And we're through with following your bedside orders!" The recipient of the call hangs up. Saeko would have gnashed her teeth if it weren't for the metal wire threaded through her jaw. She manages a weak scream that came off as a whine, limply tossing her phone across the bed. It lands without aplomb by her lap.

"Oh! That kind of distasteful interaction reminds me," Said Mrs. Yamada, staring into her phone screen, "…I'm revoking your phone and networking privileges after today. I can't afford you dragging the Yamada establishment's name through the mud any further than you already have."

Saeko blankly stares ahead. She's going to be cut off from the rest of the world, and she could not find the energy within herself to protest.

The door opens, and a man in a business suit walks in.

"I am here."

"Hideo! Finally." Mrs. Yamada sighs. "Your own daughter, and it took you a full month to finally see her."

"I've been busy. Potentially joining the Diet is not to be taken lightly." Mr. Yamada adjusts his tie before the mirror by the doorway. That concluded, he turns to look impassively towards Saeko.

"I see." He turns and leaves for his next meeting. The door swings to a silent close behind him.

"What a failure your father is as a parent!" Mrs. Yamada laments. "I can't believe the nerve of him. Not even a minute!"

Her phone buzzes. "Oh! That's the timer. I have to go." She pats the plastic tray by Saeko's bedside. "Sashimi. Fatty cod belly, your favourite. I think. Get the nurse to blend it and feed it to you through a straw if you can't chew. Goodbye."

Mrs. Yamada herself barely stayed five minutes.

Saeko's heart fell down her chest. Left alone in the silence, all she had left for company was misery. And being the great tormentor that it is, misery proves itself exceptional at drudging up memories; memories that showed that life was good, once upon a time…

Wait a little longer, Saeko-chan. Mom and dad will be rich, and you'll get to eat all the Otoro you want!

No way! Otoro! Otoro!

And not only that, we'll be sharing it all in a house as big as possible!

Wooow! With cars? Lots of cars?

All the cars we want and need. Study hard and do well, and we'll even get you a shiny one of your own!

…Where did all that warmth go? But it mattered no longer! Saeko found a new family! One that followed her everywhere, did her bidding, listened to her, respected her… But it's all fallen apart now. Saeko delicately taps her teeth together, her jaw brace and the pain preventing her from gnashing them together in mounting rage.

All… All because of her… That bitch! Sarada… Sarada Honoka… She just had to shove her self-righteous face into my life, and ruin everything!

Saeko's eyes slowly lowered to the phone laying beside her right leg. Her mother's words ring in her ears.

Until tonight.

Saeko slowly inches her arm forwards, shoulder and elbow locked in stiff casts. Her right hand's fingers wiggle as they make their way closer and closer to the phone, pressing upon its edge and drawing it towards her palm. She unsteadily powers it back on, and makes one last call.

"Hello…? It's me. Are you available? Good. I have one last job for you: That Sarada girl… Teach her a final lesson not to screw with me. You are already? What do you need? Okay, I'll give you access to those. And for payment… You don't? Whatever. Knock yourself out." Saeko cuts the call. She shudders from the spine-chilling voice coming from the speaker, involuntarily dropping the phone by her side. Calming back down, she looks at the sushi tray and sighs.

"I hate Otoro…"

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