Chapter 12:

Chapter 12: There Is Nothing More Stressful Than Being Invited to a Girl's House to Meet Her Parents!

Love Bites

It was late in the afternoon when Daisuke and Mochida-san finally parted ways. Standing outside the door of Mochida-san’s family shop, seeing the way that she smiled at him, feeling her hand hot in his, Daisuke wished so badly that she wouldn’t go in. He didn’t mind that he had miserably failed in his goal to drive Mochida-san away. Right now, he just wanted this moment to last forever.

But unfortunately it couldn’t.

“I had a lot of fun today Oishi-san,” Mochida-san smiled, her brown eyes twinkling. She reached into her bag and took out his sweater, handing it back to him. She still hadn’t let go of his hand.

“I… I really had fun, too,” Daisuke admitted with a smile.

“Can we… do this again sometime?” Mochida-san asked hopefully. Daisuke knew he should say no. But he also knew he couldn’t. It had nothing to do with Ueda-san. He liked Mochida-san. He liked spending time with her. Today had been one of the happiest moments of his week.

He wanted more times like this, more days spent with Mochida-san, seeing the warm smile that lightened his heart and getting to know the secret sides of her that lay beneath it.

If only Ueda-san didn’t exist to ruin everything.

“I would like that,” Daisuke found his lips saying, even though he feared what lay ahead for the two of them. But the way Mochida-san’s face brightened convinced him. Her smile was like the first cracks of sunlight appearing on the horizon at dawn, piercing through his dark and empty world and bathing it in color.

He would do anything to keep that smile shining his way.

To Daisuke’s regret, Mochida-san’s fingers slowly slipped from his, and like a faerie fluttering in the wind, she disappeared from his sight, with only the wonderful memories of their time together filling the emptiness she had left in her wake.

“Well, now wasn’t that cute?”

Daisuke screamed and jumped ten feet in the air. He whirled around to see Ueda-san standing behind him, her arms crossed in front of her chest and her face twisted into a dark scowl.

“U-Ueda-san!” Daisuke gasped, backing up and pumping into a street lamp.

“Look at you, Karaage-san, wearing that satisfied grin on your face,” Ueda-san purred, absentmindedly twirling a lock of curly hair in her finger. “Did you have fun? On your nice little date?” Her smile never came close to touching her eyes, and her voice had the gentle tenderness of roaring tiger.

“Um, y-yes…?” Daisuke murmured. Wasn’t he supposed to have fun? Wasn’t that the whole point? So why was Ueda-san so upset?

“That was so cute, that chaste kiss on the cheek. And then, you walk her home? A sweet parting at the door, a warm farewell with tender gazes? For all the effort I put in?” Ueda-san scowled, stepping closer to him. She stared up at him, her eyes turning red. “You couldn’t even get a kiss on the lips. Maybe if you had actually fought back against those thugs to protect her, she would have been a little more amenable.”

“Are you crazy?!” Daisuke cried. “I could never do that! Those guys would have torn me to pieces, we had to run, to keep Mochida-san safe!”

Ueda-san rubbed her temples and sighed. “Oh, PLEASE. It’s not like you would have actually gotten hurt.”

“WOULDN’T HAVE ACTUALLY GOTTEN HURT?!” Daisuke exclaimed. “DID YOU SEE THE MUSCLES ON THOSE… wait. No. NO!” Daisuke’s jaw dropped in shock and he shook his head. No, she didn’t. She couldn’t have.

“Thanks to your wussing out, you cost me 10,000 yen,” Ueda-san griped. “You were supposed to stand up to those guys, throw a few punches, and knock them out! Then Mochi-chan would have thrown herself into your arms, and high on the rush of you protecting her, you guys would have gone to a love hotel and gotten busy!”

“You PAID for thugs to intimidate us just so I would scare them off?! Are you mental?!” Daisuke screamed. “Do you have any idea how terrifying that was?!”

“And you stood up to them, and protected Mochi-chan! You proved to her that you’re a hero! Congratulations!” Ueda-san dryly replied, clapping her hands in applause.

“I’m not a hero! I’m just a fraud!” Daisuke wailed. “I didn’t protect her for real, the whole thing was staged!”

“Yeah, but you didn’t know that,” Ueda-san said, rolling her eyes. “You saw she was in danger and stepped in to save her. You just did it in the beta way. So now she thinks you’re a hero! Congratulations, you two will get even closer now!”

“How am I supposed to get closer to her while keeping this enormous lie?!” Daisuke demanded. “You never should have told me that, what am I supposed to tell her now?!”

“Nothing! It doesn’t matter! Weren’t you listening to Mochi-chan? What she liked about you was how you stepped in as a hero and acted when she was too scared to. It doesn’t matter that the result is fixed, you’ve proven to her that you can be the hero she wants you to be.”

“No, no!” Daisuke said, shaking his head. “This whole thing is messed up!”

Ueda-san let out a long sigh, rubbing her temples.

“And here I was actually planning on rewarding you for your first date, even if you didn’t get very far,” she sighed.

“I don’t want a reward from a monster like you!” Daisuke shouted. “You famineans, playing games with people and their feelings, you all are a bunch of monsters!”

Ueda-san scowled. “You know, your anti-faminean bias is really getting tiresome, Karaage-san,” she growled. “Fine. Then if it will shut your mouth and get you to stop being such a bigot, then you can have your reward after all.”

She pulled out her phone, and called someone, to Daisuke’s stunned surprise. That… was not the reaction he’d been expecting.

“Mom?” Ueda-san said, her face bright and cheery. “He agreed! We’ll be coming right over, okay? See you in a little bit, bye!”

Daisuke took a moment to process that. “Wait, when you say ‘mom’ do you mean-“

“I told my parents that I was bringing home a friend from school for dinner,” Ueda-san said. “I WAS going to reward you with some of my mom’s cooking, but it’s more important that I prove to you that we famineans are just the same as you humans. Maybe if you can see that, then you’ll stop being such a human supremacist.”

“I’M NOT GOING TO EAT HUMAN MEAT!” Daisuke exclaimed.

“Oh please that’s just a stereotype! Like we’d waste human meat on a Karaage-san. My mom can cook animal meat just as good as she can humans, it just doesn’t taste like anything to me,” Ueda-san grumbled, storming down the street. Daisuke was about to make a break for it and run back into his house, but Ueda-san turned and grabbed him by the collar, dragging him after her.

Daisuke was surprised at Ueda-san’s house. Because it was so… normal. Just another house in an average neighborhood, with two stories and an outdoor patio on the second floor. Not the sort of place he’d expect a monster to live in with her monster parents.

What am I doing here? Why did Ueda-san have to bring me here? Daisuke’s heart was pounding in his chest and his thoughts were racing a mile a minute. Maybe… Maybe she decided that this whole breeding project was more trouble than it was worth… maybe because I didn’t sleep with Mochida-san, she thinks I’m useless and now she’s brought me home to eat me… Her and her parents… they’re all going to eat me?! Ueda-san is a monster and her family are monsters, oh god, I don’t want to die, I want to live, spend time with my parents, my sister, go to school and speak with Mochida-san more, even seeing Rika again, please don’t-

The door swung open and Daisuke turned on his heel to make a break for it. But he didn’t get far, Ueda-san’s grip on his wrist was like a vice.

“Hey mom! Hey dad!” Ueda-san greeted her parents, waving with one hand while keeping the other firmly locked around Daisuke’s wrist. Daisuke glanced back, scared of what he might see, but Ueda-san’s family…

They looked normal.

Mr. Ueda was tall and broad-shouldered with short black hair and a big beaming smile that reminded Daisuke of Ueda-san’s false smiles. Mrs. Ueda had the same curly brown hair as her daughter, but hers was long and tied over her shoulder. The smile she was wearing was gentle and sweet.

“So, this is the boy, huh?” Mr. Ueda laughed, walking out and landing a strong slap on Daisuke’s back. “The one who found out about us?”

“Yes sir…” Daisuke whimpered. He was too shaken up to even give the Ueda’s a proper greeting. What was he supposed to say in a situation like this?!

“Ah, don’t look like that,” Mr. Ueda said, shaking his head with a chuckle. He guided Daisuke into the house. “We’ve been dying to meet you! Kuua just can’t stop talking about you! Kuua, you didn’t tell me he was so energetic!”

“He’s so healthy!” Mrs. Ueda agreed, nodding. She followed her husband and Daisuke inside, as Ueda-san trailed behind them, her mouth shut. Healthy? Daisuke didn’t like that sound of that. He felt like a lost lamb getting escorted into a den of lions. When the door closed behind him, he was certain he’d never see the outside again.

Daisuke wasn’t sure why he expected the inside of the house to be any different from the outside, but it wasn’t. It was a normal house, with a dining room table and a kitchen, couches and a TV, nothing about the place suggested that a family of monsters lived there.

“I’ll be getting dinner started,” Mrs. Ueda said, heading into the kitchen. “I’m so excited that Kuua finally brought a friend over for dinner!”

Brought a friend over for dinner… Daisuke swallowed, his heart leaping into his throat. Mr. Ueda had sat him down on the couch and was trying to talk with him about something or other, but Daisuke was too petrified with fear to pay attention.

“Dad, you’re scaring him,” Ueda-san said, sitting down in a chair next to the couch, shooting her father a stern look. “Look, he’s shaking like a leaf because he thinks you’re gonna eat him.”

“Ah, come on now, I don’t bite!” Mr. Ueda said, throwing back his head and letting out a big laugh deep from within his belly. It was not the sort of laugh that reassured Daisuke, who continued to tremble on the couch in fear for his life.

“Dad,” Ueda-san snapped. “Jokes like that aren’t okay. He already thinks we’re monsters, don’t play into stereotypes.”

“Sorry, sorry,” Mr. Ueda said, sobering up. “But I so rarely get a chance to joke around with humans about stuff like this. There isn’t a lot of faminean-human socialization, I’m sure you know.”

“Well, Karaage-san is really sensitive about stuff like that,” Ueda-san said, scowling. “And when he gets upset he whines a lot.”

“Karaage-san? I thought you said his name was Oishi-san,” Mr. Ueda said, raising an eyebrow curiously. “You’re always going ‘Oishi-san this’ and ‘Oishi-san that’.”

That managed to get Daisuke’s attention, shocking him enough to glance up and look towards Ueda-san in confusion. She was scowling, and he face was actually turning a little pink.

“Shut up! Karaage-san is just a Karaage-san!” She growled.

“Well anyway, it’s nice to meet you, Oishi-san! I’m Takenori Ueda, nice to meet you!” Mr. Ueda said, getting up off the couch and bowing his head to Daisuke.

“N-Nice to meet you, sir,” Daisuke gulped.

“I apologize if my daughter’s given you a bad perception of us famineans,” Mr. Ueda apologized. “She’s really not that bad of a girl. She was a regular angel when she was little, but since she’s grown up, she’s become a little… twisted.”

“Shut up, dad, I just see the world the way it is,” Ueda-san snapped.

“In fact, let me go get some of her old photo albums so I can show-“

“THAT’S IT! WE’RE LEAVING!” Ueda-san interrupted her father. She jumped up from her seat and grabbed Daisuke by the collar, hoisting him up into the air and throwing him over her shoulder.

“Ueda-san!? Ueda-san, put me down!” Daisuke shouted, struggling helplessly against her while her father just laughed and watched them leave.

“We’ll be out on the deck,” Ueda-san shouted behind her. “Come get us when dinner’s ready, and you’re done with this little walk down memory lane!”

Ueda-san hauled Daisuke up the stairs and carried him out onto the patio, tossing him into one of the chairs. He was breathing heavily and his head was spinning, the feelings of terror still surging through him.

“I-I gotta go,” Daisuke said, shaking his head. He turned to the ledge of the patio and looked down. There were bushes below, maybe if he threw himself down-

“Nope,” Ueda-san said, grabbing him by the collar and pulling him back. “I know my family can be a bit much, but-“

“THEY WANT TO EAT ME!” Daisuke cried, still shivering at the memory of the looks of hunger in her parents’ eyes. “Your mother was practically drooling when she saw me at the door! And your dad, what was that about ‘I don’t bite’ is that supposed to be funny?!”

“Look, just give them a chance,” Ueda-san said, crossing her arms in front of her chest and holding her head up indignantly. “I know they’re a little embarrassing, but they’re a perfectly normal family! You don’t have to be so scared of them, they aren’t going to eat you!”

“Why do you care so much about this?!” Daisuke demanded. “You’re threatening to eat my family if I don’t go along with your crazy plan, and now you’re trying to act like you guys aren’t monsters?! That’s ridiculous!”

“Well, would you have gone along with my plan if I didn’t threaten to eat your family?” Ueda-san asked, raising her eyebrow.

“Of course not!” Daisuke exclaimed.

“Well, there you go! I didn’t have a choice!” Ueda-san scowled. “You think I want to eat them? No!”

“You DO have a choice, and that choice is not eating them!” Daisuke replied.

“Then how do I get you to go along with the plan?” Ueda-san demanded. “It’s not exactly a popular thing, you know! I haven’t even told my parents about it, because they’re going to be upset that I’m threatening you! So tell me, how do I get you to play ball?”

“YOU DON’T! THAT’S MY POINT!” What was the matter with her?! She was acting like it was HIS fault that he didn’t want to be turned into a breeding stud to mass produce babies for consumption!

“Not an option!” Ueda-san hissed. “Here’s how it works. You go along with the breeding project, and you stop treating us famineans like we’re monsters, understood?”

“NO! No to both!” Daisuke shouted in indignation. Right now, his own safety wasn’t as much a priority as telling off this annoying bitch in front of him. “No to the breeding project, and no, you ARE monsters!”

“Aaaaargh!” Ueda-san screamed, tearing at her hair in frustration as she paced around the patio. “This is what I can’t stand about you humans! It’s always ‘you famineans are monsters!’ You’re the reason we keep getting rejected by society, because of people like you!”

Ueda-san was seriously blaming HUMANS for not wanting to live harmoniously with their natural predators?! Was she serious right now?

“No, it’s because you eat people!” Daisuke exclaimed. “THAT’S why humans don’t accept you, because you eat them!”

“DON’T YOU THINK I DON’T KNOW THAT?!” Ueda-san exploded, her deafening shout nearly knocking Daisuke over. The birds in the trees let out screeches and the sunset was filled with the flutter of wings. Ueda-san stared at Daisuke, panting. She had an expression on her face he had never seen before. She looked white as a sheet, her eyes narrowed into pinpricks. Daisuke just stared at her in terror, barely able to process what she’d just screamed.

When she finally spoke, it was a cold growl that made Daisuke nearly shit himself in fear.

“You… stay right here… until dinner…” Ueda-san rasped, her eyes carrying malevolence in them that Daisuke had never seen from her before. “DO. NOT. LEAVE.”

With that, Ueda-san fled back into the house, leaving Daisuke sitting on the balcony, totally shocked by what had just transpired.

Needless to say, dinner was a tense affair. Ueda-san was colder than Daisuke had ever seen her, and of course her parents had made him sit right next to her. The big smiles they wore did not hide the fact that the thick steaks on their plates were most assuredly human meat.

Daisuke looked down at his own plate. The meat gave off a tantalizing aroma that filled his mouth with drool, and the bits of red peaking out through the thick sauce was calling to him. But his hands wouldn’t move. Not just because of his inexperience with a knife and fork.

“Don’t worry, Oishi-san, I made sure to pick up a fresh cut of beef from the market,” Mrs. Ueda assured him with a smile. “It’s not human, don’t worry.”

Daisuke felt… a little relieved at that? Maybe a sliver? It wasn’t exactly the BEST thing he could have heard at a dinner table filled with man-eating monsters feasting on people-steaks, but it wasn’t the worst.

“…At least, I think that’s the right one, anyway…”

Daisuke felt a wave of nausea roll over him.

“Now Rumi, Oishi-san doesn’t like those kinds of jokes,” Mr. Ueda smiled. “Eat up, it’s good for you! Trust me, my wife is a great cook!”

Daisuke felt a sharp glance coming from his left, and knew Ueda-san was staring at him. He swallowed. “Th-Thank you for the food,” he mumbled, picking up the utensils, and with trembling hands managed to cut a chunk of meat free. He brought it up to its lips, the wonderful scent drawing it closer and closer as his mouth watered in anticipation.

But for some reason his hand refused to travel the rest of the way, and his jaw remained tightly locked. He just couldn’t shake the fear that it was really human.

“…See? I told you we should have had hot-pot, he clearly doesn’t like steak,” Ueda-san said.

“ARE YOU TRYING TO MAKE ME EAT HUMAN OR SOMETHING?!” Daisuke snapped out of his paralysis and turned to Ueda-san in disbelief. She raised her eyebrow and he gasped, realizing how rude that outburst had been. “P-Please excuse me,” Daisuke stuttered, swallowing in fear.

“You’re right, Kuua, he really does shout a lot!” Mr. Ueda laughed.

“My husband is always carrying on loudly, don’t worry about it,” Mrs. Ueda said, patting her husband on the shoulder.

“What’s the difference, if you aren’t going to eat anyway?” Ueda-san laughed, giving him a gleeful smile. Daisuke scowled at her. He’d show her! He wasn’t about to let her get the best of him! With a look of triumph, he popped the piece of meat into his mouth.

It was maybe the best steak he had ever tasted. As his teeth bit down, the juices flooded into his mouth like he was guzzling from a fountain, bursting with tantalizing flavor. It was so tender it seemed to slide right down his throat, kissing his tongue and leaving a lasting reminder of its deliciousness, daring him to take a second bite.

“Is it good?” Mrs. Ueda asked hopefully. “I have a lot of experience preparing human meat, but as I can’t taste it myself I’m not able to judge.”

“It’s delicious!” Daisuke said. “Thank you for the food!” He said again, beginning to dig into his steak.

“Told you,” Ueda-san chuckled.

“Hah! He’s certainly got an appetite like one of us!” Mr. Ueda laughed.

“Shut up, dad.” Ueda-san’s smile disappeared and she rolled her eyes.

“So, Oishi-san, you’re the first human friend that Kuua has brought over! Considering how she acts at home, as her mother, I really am worried sometimes,” Mrs. Ueda sighed. “How is she doing? Does she get along okay with her classmates?”

“Mom, don’t talk about stuff like that here!” Ueda-san groaned.

“Actually, Ueda-san is the star of the class,” Daisuke admitted. “Everyone looks up at her and she treats all of her classmates fairly and with kindness.”

“Ha! He’s funny, too!” Mr. Ueda laughed. “Kuua, you didn’t say he was funny!”

“Yeah, he’s a riot,” Ueda-san dryly replied, turning and glaring at Daisuke. Daisuke gulped, and his swelling appetite suddenly disappeared.

“Well, that’s a relief,” Mrs. Ueda said, smiling. “As a faminean, she didn’t really have a great environment for interacting with humans when she was growing up. We thought transferring her to a human school would be for the best, and I’m relieved it sounds like she’s doing well there.”

“School’s fine, mom, we don’t have to talk about it,” Ueda-san said. “I brought Karaage-san here so that he could learn more about us, not so you could interrogate him.”

“Sorry, but we’re so curious, Kuua!” Mrs. Ueda sighed. “You never tell us anything about school, all you do is talk about Oishi-san! I know you care about your boyfriend, but-“

“He is NOT! MY! BOYFRIEND!” Ueda-san shouted, leaping from her chair. “You always do this! You tell me you want me to date nice boys?! Well, sorry mom! The only boys I know are Hunters or humans! It’s not gonna happen, so stay out of my life, and don’t drag him into it!”

Daisuke himself found that little outburst a tad hypocritical considering SHE had been dragging him into her life, but he wisely kept her mouth shut.

Ueda-san sat back down, and an awkward cloud hung over the table.

“S-So, Oishi-san, Kuua tells us that your parents own a restaurant! Tell us, what’s that like?” Mr. Ueda asked, turning the conversation towards Daisuke.

“It’s okay, I guess,” Daisuke said.

“What about you, are you planning on working there when you graduate?” Mr. Ueda pressed. “Or is there something else you’d like to do with your life?”

“Well, actually, that’s-!” Daisuke’s voice choked in his throat as he felt Ueda-san’s hand gouge into his thigh. He quickly got the message and gathered himself back up to try again. “…Sorry, steak went down the wrong pipe. As I was saying, I’m not sure what I want to do just yet.”

Mr. Ueda laughed, and nodded. “I think that’s just fine, honestly. A high schooler should worry about his future, but only to an extent.”

“Kuua on the other hand, she’s already planning to become Prime Minister! She’s so driven!” Mrs. Ueda added, smiling at her daughter. Ueda-san glowered at her, not accepting the olive branch.

“My older daughter wasn’t quite sure what she wanted to do with her life, either,” Mr. Ueda admitted. “But right now, she’s following in my footsteps as a doctor!”

“You’re a doctor, Mr. Ueda?” Daisuke asked, amazed.

“Yep, I’m a surgeon,” he explained. “And Rumi here works as an assistant at the mortuary!”

Daisuke blinked. A surgeon and a mortician…

“It’s wonderful, the mortuary director is a faminean like us, so we can prepare an excellent sampling of cadavers,” Mrs. Ueda explained, a wide smile on her face. “And since I work there, I get the first picks of the lot!”

“Plus, as a surgeon, whenever one of my patients passes on, I can flag them for proper disposal with our faminean contacts,” Mr. Ueda added. “You see, Oishi-san? I don’t know what horror stories Kuua’s been telling you, but famineans on the whole don’t just go around eating whoever we want. There are rules and restrictions. For live prey, only criminals. Everywhere else, we get from services like ours, taking care of the dead. We’re just hardworking citizens like your parents.”

Mr. and Mrs. Ueda wore beaming smiles as they explained how famineans were no different from humans.

Daisuke felt like he was going to throw up. How could they act so nice and kind, like a normal Japanese family, while describing such horrible actions?! Daisuke remembered his grandmother passing away last year. Were those even her ashes in urn?! Or had a faminean somewhere eaten her whole?!

It was too much to take.

“I-I need some fresh air!” Daisuke stuttered. He fled the dining room and ran upstairs, taking shelter on the patio.

Once he’d calmed down from his initial wave of discomfort and pushed down his need to throw up, Daisuke had to admit that, what he’d heard, was not the WORST thing in the world. Compared to eating people alive, what the Ueda’s described sounded rather humane, if based on the premise that they HAD to eat people to survive.

But Daisuke just couldn’t accept it. He couldn’t accept these man-eating monsters, he couldn’t accept that this was the twisted dark side of the world he lived in, and he certainly couldn’t accept the Daisuke Oishi Breeding Project!

He stared out at the night sky, and it looked so much darker than he remembered. He was so lost in his thoughts that he almost missed the sound of the patio door opening.

“Ueda-san,” he sighed, not turning around, “I know I-“

“Sorry, sorry, different Ueda-san,” Mr. Ueda’s deep voice came from behind Daisuke, and he clapped the boy on the shoulder, leaning against the railing with him.

“O-Oh, Mr. Ueda,” Daisuke mumbled. “I-I’m so sorry for running out like that, please, forgive me!”

“Think nothing of it,” Mr. Ueda said, shaking his head. “This is new for us, too, you know.”

Daisuke looked at him, confused. “What do you mean?”

“Well, as far as I know, you’re the first human who’s ever sat at a faminean’s table while knowing what they are,” Mr. Ueda said. “I have a lot of human friends at the hospital, but not one of them has any clue that I’m actually a faminean.”

He let out a sigh. “I guess Rumi and I are still trying to figure out how to act around you. It’s hard, anticipating how you humans think.” He turned to Daisuke, a tired look on his face. “I thought that if we reassured you that we weren’t killing anybody, that would be enough. But I guess just eating humans sn general is wrong.”

Daisuke did think it was wrong. He thought it was very, very wrong. But the more he thought about it, the more he couldn’t help but feel bad for thinking that way. Ueda-san was right, it wasn’t like they ate humans by choice. They needed to do it to survive.

Is it really okay for me to call them monsters for just trying to live? Daisuke still wasn’t sure what the answer to that question was.

“Can I confirm something with you?” Mr. Ueda asked, guiding Daisuke over to the table on the patio, the two sitting down.

“What is it?” Daisuke asked worriedly.

“You aren’t really friends with my daughter, are you?” He asked.

Daisuke gulped, flinching under Mr. Ueda’s inquisitive gaze. “Th-That’s…”

Mr Ueda sighed. “Yes, that’s what I thought,” he said, shaking his head. “Kuua has never been very good at making friends, with famineans or humans.”

Daisuke was surprised by that. Humans, certainly, because she thought of them as food, but with how she acted in class he expected her to be just as popular with famineans. But now that he thought about it, he’d never heard her once mention any friends. Even Daisuke had Rika.

“Ueda-san… she doesn’t think of me as a friend,” Daisuke admitted. “Since, you know, humans are just food.”

Mr. Ueda reached up and rubbed his temples.

“That’s just the way she is,” he finally said. “But that way of thinking isn’t standard among famineans. At least not among the non-Hunters. Most famineans do have human friends, Rumi and I have several. Because there are so few faminean communities, we value human companionship quite a lot.”

Daisuke was stunned to hear that, between Ueda-san and Tora, he thought famineans were just looking for the next bite to sink their teeth into. “She never told me anything like that.”

Mr. Ueda sighed. “That’s because that girl… is difficult. She wasn’t always this way, as a child, she was the sweetest thing you’d ever seen.”

Mr. Ueda reached into his wallet and pulled out a small picture. In the flicker of the patio lights, Daisuke could make out a little five year old with a big smile on her face, holding hands with a curly-haired girl who looked like Ueda-san with long hair.

“That’s Kuua and my other daughter, Satoko,” Mr. Ueda explained. “This picture was taken back when we were living in a faminean community just outside of another town up in Hokkaido. Back then, Kuua smiled all the time.”

Wow. Daisuke really couldn’t associate the smiling little girl he saw in that photo with the Kuua Ueda he knew today. Seeing that smiling face, she reminded him of when Sakura was a kid.

“What… what happened?” Daisuke asked.

Mr. Ueda let out a long sigh. He turned and looked back at the house for some time, before finally turning back to Daisuke. “It happened when she was five, and we were still living back on the commune. We would go into town every once in a while for supplies, usually clothes, since we didn’t need to shop for groceries. And to pick up human meat that was mailed to us from distributors. Back then, I was working in a small clinic for the commune, and doing the occasional checkup with human patients as well.”

“So it was like… all the famineans were living together? A faminean town?”

He shook his head. “Nothing so grand. There were less than fifty of us, gathered together in tents outside. Luckily, we were in the part where it doesn’t snow!” He laughed. “You see, there’s a rule that we famineans follow. Until a child reaches ten years old, we only keep them around their own kind. We don’t let them live around other people, because it can be difficult for them to control their urges.”

Daisuke could imagine that.

“So Kuua had had her recent growth spurt, and we were taking her to buy some new clothes,” he explained. “She didn’t want her sister’s hand-me-downs, and Rumi figured there wouldn’t be any harm. But while in town, she saw some other kids playing in the park. She begged and pleaded with us to let her play with them. You see, she was the only person her own age in the commune at the time, everyone else was either a few years older or younger. Eventually, we relented and let her play, keeping a close eye on her.”

Daisuke swallowed. He had a bad feeling where this was going. “Did… did she eat someone?”

Mr. Ueda shook his head. “No, she was a perfect angel. She didn’t even know that she was a faminean that young, or what humans were, or that they were anything besides other children she could play with. It was a shock to me. Because she didn’t know they were food, she could be their friend. A faminean that young and innocent, seeing humans not as food, but as playmates, it really made me believe that, possibly, the Savers were right. That some form of society where famineans and humans could live in harmony together was possible.” He sighed. “Of course, that was a mistake in the end.”

“Why?” Daisuke asked. He was having trouble imagining Ueda-san getting along with humans so well.

“She wanted to go back to the park the next day, that’s why,” Mr. Ueda said solemnly. “It was the first time she had friends besides her sister. If I had known… I would have put my foot down. But I was lost in the dream of famineans and humans together, so I let her.”

The face Mr. Ueda made as he said this was the face of a man haunted by demons. Daisuke had felt a lot of fear tonight, but the shiver down his spine right now was nothing like that.

“She had a girl she was really close to, Miku, I think her name was, something like that. They were so close, and she would always be asking if she could go over to Miku’s house to play. But then one day, she asked if Miku could come over to play here. I'm sure you can guess why that was out of the question. But Kuua didn’t accept that, of course. She wanted to introduce Miku to everyone on the commune, so one afternoon, when Rumi wasn’t looking, the girls snuck away and… I was… I was working at the time, so I didn’t… I couldn’t…”

Mr. Ueda’s hands were trembling, and the giant beast of a man looked like he was going to cry.

“When she came into the clinic that night, splattered in blood, her eyes were so dead and empty it broke my heart!” Mr. Ueda choked out. He coughed, and continued. “When Rumi got back, Kuua told us what happened. She had… she had brought Miku, to the commune, to play. And then… then the older kids, they saw her, and… Kuua, she… she begged them to stop, but…” His voice broke.

“…They ripped the poor girl apart right before her eyes.” He collapsed into tears, curling up over the table.

“My little angel… something in her broke that night. Since then… she’s never smiled, not like she used to. Humans… humans were just ‘food’ to her after that… If I had tried to stop her, if I had explained before, what we were, what that girl was, why it was so dangerous… maybe my daughter wouldn’t have become so twisted and damaged.”

Daisuke was at a loss for words. He stared at the man-eating faminean blubbering in front of him in shock. Shock at the horror he had described, shock at how Ueda-san had been so tragically warped, but most of all, shock at the notion that in front of him was just a father, trying his hardest for the daughter he loved.

It was really difficult for Daisuke to see a monster in his crying figure.