Part 20: Encounter, Part 3Background Sound: Rain
It was October, the day before my entrance exams. The weather outside had been miserable since morning, and visibility was all but nonexistant. It would be a bad omen if I were to slip and fall on the day before the exam, so I decided I'd wear boots to school, just to be safe.
See ya' later!
Video: Rainy Day
When I opened the door, I was shocked to see a white-haired old woman lying on the ground, soaked to the bone.
I frantically rushed over to her side.
Are you okay?!
Stay with me! Come on! Tell me, what happened?
Old Woman: *wheeze* *gasp*
Was it...a hit-and run?
The road running by my house was narrow and mostly used only by our neighbors. But it's not like it was closed off to outside traffic or anything, so a hit-and-run wasn't out of the question. I looked over the old woman's body as best as I could. Fortunately, there were no signs of any serious injury.
Old Woman: *gasp* Young...lady...
Old Woman: You absolutely must not go!
The old woman raised herself up slightly and spoke hoarsely. From the tone in her voice, she seemed terribly desperate.
Old Woman: No! Just stay home! Don't go!
I...I have to go. The interview is the part of the exam I'm worst at.
Old Woman: *gasp*
Please, tell me what's wrong. Where is your family?
Old Woman: Will you...
Old Woman: In that case...please...
Not knowing what to say, I nodded apprehensively as the old woman began digging through her pockets. She produced what looked to be a crumpled scrap of paper. As she was digging around, I noticed that her breathing had become dangerously ragged, and began considering my options to assist her.
Really, I should have gone back into the house and called my mom. But there was something about her that kept me glued to the spot. I sensed desperation in that unbroken gaze.
What is it?
Old Woman: A charm.
Tilting my head, I unfolded the scrap and looked carefully at it. At first, I thought I'd just been handed a piece of trash.
And there was a name written on its torso:
Yes, my name. Written plain as day in easily-legible brush strokes.
Old Woman: So it can protect you.
Old Woman: If you don't write the name of the person you wish to protect, the charm won't work.
Crazy. This was all crazy. I didn't understand any of it, save for one simple fact. This old woman was here specifically to give me this strange paper charm. As far as I was aware, we were total strangers to one another. But she clearly knew both my name and my address.
Music: Signs of Possession (A)
Old Woman: ...?
Um... I'm sorry. I know you came a long was to give this to me, but...I don't want it.
Old Woman: You don't...want it?
As I extended my arm to return the paper doll, I could sense her entire demeanor had changed. She raised her body up unsteadily from the wet asphalt.
I've nearly killed myself bringing this to you! WHY WILL NO ONE LISTEN TO ME?!
H-Heavenly Host Elementary?!
Yes! You must not go! DON'T GO!!
As the old woman cried out, the paper doll fluttered lightly to the ground. Almost instantaneously, it became soaked through with rainwater. My name began to run and quickly turned into an illegible black smudge. Seeing this, the old woman grabbed and tore at her hair.
Uh, Ma'am? Please, calm down...
Listen! You must not go to Heavenly Host Elementary!
I think there's been some mistake. My school is Kisaragi Academy High. I've never even heard of Heavenly Host Elementary!
*retch* *gasp* *cough*
Mom! Mom, come quick!
Yui's Mother: What's wrong?
An old woman collapsed in front of our house. Call an ambulance!
Yui's Mother: *gasp* Okay!
The old woman seemed to be unconscious by that point, however, so the EMTs brought out a stretcher.
EMT: Do either of you know this woman?
No. She just collapsed in front of our house. We've never seen her before.
EMT: All right. Would you be willing to ride with her in the ambulance?
Sure, she was a stranger...but we'd had a lengthy conversation mere minutes before, so I couldn't very well say we had nothing to do with one another.
Yui's Mother: Yui, you need to get to school.
Yui's Mother: Don't worry, I'll go with her to the hospital. You have to practice for the interview today, right?
...Yeah, I guess I do. Thanks, Mom. I'll leave her with you, then.
Yui's Mother: Good luck.
So I left the strange woman in my mom's care and, heading toward school, walked right by her stretcher.
Suddenly, a hand rose from the limp form of the old woman and grabbed my skirt. Startled, I tried to jump away but found myself ensnared by her terrible, bloodshot eyes.
Video: Rainy Day ends here.
Background Sound: None
...Can you believe that?
Masako: That's really scary!
Tomoe: The hell was wrong with her?!
When I'd described the events of that morning, everyone's eyebrows rose. They were hanging on my every world and yelping in unison at key moments.
Well, but I had that practice interview. I couldn't miss that, you know?
Masako: I just hope nothing bad happens...
Oh, come on! What could happen?!
Kanna: Oh... You know what?
Tomoe: Seven Wonders? You mean those urban legends about Kisaragi?
Kanna: Yeah, those.
Does Heavenly Host Elementary have some connection to them?
Masako: I've never heard of it either. What's it about?
Kanna: Well, it takes place at Heavenly Host Elementary, which once occupied this same plot of land where Kisaragi Academy now stands.
Tomoe: Ooh. Okay.
Kanna: The accident took place on a rainy October day just like this one, and occurred just after 7 at night. And supposedly, Yoshie still appears on days like this. Ever unaware that she died at Heavenly Host these many years ago, she now walks the halls of Kisaragi Academy, believing them to be her own.
Masako: O-Ooh, come on, no! Is it true?
Kanna: Heh. Well, it wouldn't be one of the Seven Wonders if someone hadn't actually seen it happen, right?
Tomoe: That's really creepy.
Kanna: Yeah. It's always best to heed the warnings of the elderly.
Mm. You might be right. I am still feeling kind of on edge. Probably best I go home and check in with Mom. I'll see you guys later, then. Byeee!
Masako: See ya'!
Kanna: Take care!
Tomoe: Give it everything you've got tomorrow!
Music: Unrest (A)
It was already about 5. It was getting dark out, but if Kanna's story was to be believed, I had until 7 before anything bad might happen. As I continued working my way down the corridor, I just kept telling myself, there's nothing to be afraid of... Even so, it felt like it took me an extra long time to reach the shoe lockers.
Background Sound: Rain
What's with the big grin?
Heh. It's nothing. Hey, why don't we walk together, at least part of the way?
Hmm? Sure, I don't mind.
I felt that as long as he was by my side, nothing bad could happen. ...Didn't hurt that I had a crush on him, of course.
Tsukasa was talking and laughing excitedly the whole time, whereas I probably came off as preoccupied. I'm sure it was awkward. A vague sense of fear flickered inside me, and it was making me extraordinarily self-conscious. I'm certain it must have been reflected in my behavior.
You look kind of pale. Did something happen?
Yeah... Something scary happened.
I was a little relieved that he'd asked, though, and it felt good to tell him about what happened. I filled him in on all the details, and explained how they related to Kanna's ghost story. I did my absolute best to convey the dread I was feeling.
But Tsukasa was...well...
Haha. So you actually believe in that stuff? Sometimes I wish I could see the world through your eyes.
You...don't think it's scary?
Wouldn't it be better not to dwell on it, either way?
I mean, yeah, your encounter with her sounds like it was kind of unsettling. But she was probably just a little off, you know?
...That's not the issue here.
Look, I just wanted to vent, okay? I just wanted you to listen.
What do you mean? That's what I've been doing!
No, not...like that...
I don't get it. Are you angry about something?
It varies from person to person, of course, but guys invariably jump right into looking for solutions to your problem or giving you advice on what to do. As a result, girls often can't be totally honest with them -- or don't want to be, at any rate -- and are forced just to bottle up their feelings. I only wanted Tsukasa to share in some of my fears. If he were scared with me, that would have been enough. I didn't realize then that Tsukasa telling me not to worry was his way of showing concern. I just thought he was brushing me off. And frankly, that annoyed me.
My mind flashed back over and over again to the face, the yes and the hoarse voice of that old woman... Amplified and distorted by the ghost story, these images gradually darkened my mood. Maybe I was traumatized by the events I'd experienced. Or maybe I was just frustrated and needed to lash out, I don't know. But for the first time ever, things were decidedly uncomfortable between the two of us.
He called out my name as I briskly walked away. I didn't really know why I was so angry or confused...but I did notice that his voice was tinged with concern.
If anything happens, feel free to contact me.
I considered turning back for a second, but changed my mind and pushed forward in a huff, leaving him behind.
Background Sound: None
Yui's Mother: Yui... Welcome back.
Greeting me at the door, my mother wore a somber expression. I could tell right away that something had happened. I stared at her with scrunched eyebrows for an awkwardly long time before she eventually, reluctantly oepened her mouth to speak.
Yui's Mother: About that old woman from this morning...
Yui's Mother: I'm so sorry. You need to start focused on tomorrow's exam right now, though.
Yui's Mother: We should put this unpleasantness behind us. I'm getting dinner started now, so how about you go get changed?
...Okay. I'll...be in my room.
Yui's Mother: I'll call you.
Tsukasa's attitude was bad enough, but for that old woman to have died... Returning to my room, I couldn't muster the energy to do anything but collapse into my chair and sprawl out on the desk.
The last thing the old woman had said to me echoed again and again in my mind. I began wishing I'd taken her more seriously. I should have accepted the paper doll and thanked her. I should have reassured her I wouldn't go to Heavenly Host Elementary. I mean, the place didn't even exist anymore, for goodness sakes!
I was exhausted. It was a hell of a day, and I no longer even had the energy to move. I need to change out of my school clothes, but... Still sprawled out over the desk, my eyelids drooped and closed. I was out.
The air in my room had gotten noticeably cooler, and I was shivering.
I must've fallen asleep...
Rubbing my eyes, I glanced at my clock. The needles indicated it was 6:45.
It was black outside my window, streaked with lines from the still-pouring rain.
Sure hope it's sunny tomorrow.
Sunny...for my exam. The weight of what the next day held for me came rushing into my mind. I'd practiced the interview process with my teachers quite thoroughly, but I was still really nervous.
There was still a little time before dinner. My mind swimming, I decided I'd take this opportunity to clean out all the notes and textbooks I wouldn't need tomorrow from my bag.
Let's see... Student ID needs to stay, obviously. Handkerchief and tissues... Gotta make sure I don't forget my exam ticket. Oh, and my pen case!
Oh, crap. Where's my pen case? Did I leave it at school?
My face suddenly went pale. Really, I shouldn't have been too concerned over writing implements. We had tons at home.
I have to go get it!
Yui's Mother: What? But dinner's almost ready...
That's okay. I'll come right home!
Yui's Mother: All right. It's still raining, though, so be careful.
Background Sound: Rain
I was sprinting as close to full speed as I could get without slipping in the downpour. All the while, the numbers on my bedroom clock ran through my mind. 6:45... And if Kanna's story was to be believed, Yoshie haunted the school building at 7.
As soon as I arrived at the gate, I glanced up at the large clock adorning the schoolhouse. It was now 6:55. Yoshie After School... I went over the whole scenario in my head again, as best as I could recall it. After classes, on a rainy day in October, 7 at night...
Ugh, get ahold of yourself, Yui! It's just some old campfire tale.
I was talking to myself -- reprimanding myself in an effort to quell the fear that was welling up in the pit of my stomach. There wasn't a soul to be seen on the grounds. By this time, the students had all gone home. I wondered if any teachers were even still around. Fortunately, the lights were all still on, and it was bright enough that I felt confident I could make it to the classroom without freaking out.