Part 25: Purgatory, Part 1Video: Purgatory
The lights on the ceiling were spinning...moving in and out of one another, alternating between hazy and distinct and forming spiral patterns in my eyelids. But I couldn't do anything to stop it. I could no longer move of my own accord. I just kept getting dragged, inch by inch, across that filthy floor...then eventually, he stopped and threw me down, and I rolled hard onto my face. I was helpless before him.
That piece of chocolate had fallen out of my pocket. I was pretty sure it did, anyway. And I wasn't about to let anyone else have it. Give it back, you bastard!
I was facing him from the middle of the hallway as he readied his enormous hammer and looked right into my eyes. Was this it? Was I going to be killed now? Please, God, no...
I was terrified. But not entirely. After all...
Sayaka: (Naho's...coming. I know...she is... She'll always...come... She's...my...friend...)
Sound Effect: Smash
Naho & Sayaka: Woooo! Eeeeeee!
I'm just a normal girl, but my job conflicts with my studies, so I don't go to school all that often. And this was the first day I'd had free in a while, so I called out my friend Naho and we spent the whole day together having a blast.
The last event on our schedule...was a Twinkle Girls concert! They play every so often at a local venue called Club Beta. And they're all so incredibly cute! I try to catch them whenever I can. Recently, Twinkle had been performing on evening request shows, and they'd been getting more and more attention. As well they should, you know?! I'd joined them on the program a few times myself, and the group and I liked to keep in touch through texts and tweets.
Video: Purgatory ends here
Naho & Sayaka: Sooooo cuuuuuute!
Right? Aren't they awesome?! I mean, their moves in that last song...
Oh, I remember. Check it! Check this out!
Whoa, you've got it down, girl! Though I think your hip movements are a teensy bit off.
I wanted to ride that wave myself, but didn't like the idea of blocking the road in the process. So Naho and I just pranced our way back to the station.
Hey, check it out. I bought a towel!
Naho began waving around a towel she'd bought at the merchandise booths after the show. She looked like a matador taunting a pop idol.
Hahaha. The new #1 fan! That's excellent. I'll have to buy one next time myself.
*giggle* Oh, it's still only 9. Hey Sayaka, what say we drop by Gust's on the way back? Come on! Let's get ourselves some sweeeeets to eeeeat!
Sounds pretty 'sweet' to me. Lead on!
Music: Girl Date
Whatever it was Naho had ordered, it sounded completely alien to me.
The heck is that?! Sounds super-sugary!
Something that'll put me in seventh heaven, that's what! It's covered in milk and ridiculously delicious.
Our backgrounds are sorta similar and...well, we talk all the time and eat together and stuff. But most of all, just look how cute she is! When we're together, she even makes a gal like me all wobbly. I love this little lady!
Point is, it's good, and you're welcome to try some if you'd like.
Why, thank you! ...As for me, I believe I'll go with the 'butterful pancakes.'
Waitress: Coming right up!
They do say girls shouldn't ingest a lot of calories after 9 at night, but hell, we hadn't eaten anything all day, so I figured, why not indulge a little?
Naho was gazing longingly at her towel while singing the melody to one of Twinkle's songs. She's usually a really cool and collected person, so I bet our classmates would flip out if they saw her like this. It was only when the two of us were alone together that she let loose with this feline-like personality of hers...and it always made me feel really special.
You sure seem like you had a great time. I'm glad you could join me.
Naho slowly raised her head up and looked into my eyes. And wow, what a gaze that girl had! I felt like I could lose myself in those perfect peepers.
Huh? Something wrong?
I'd completely hidden my fatigue, but Naho somehow saw right through me. I could never keep anything from her!
Eheheh. ...Yeah. I haven't really had weekends these last two months.
Voice acting, soap operas, online radio... Yeah, I can definitely see the problem.
I'll bet you're one to talk, though! Radio, ghost hunts and...oh yeah, aren't you supposed to be in a movie, too? Totally jelly, by the way!
Haha. I'm just an extra. I'll be sitting behind Takumu Saito, eating French food. Hooray for me!
...I didn't announce that yet, though. Where'd you hear about it?
On Mr. Taguchi's blog, of course. He wrote a ton about it, all in boldface. And he told everybody to cheer you on as loud as they could!
Her expression twisted into an exaggerated 'blah' pose, and she sprawled out across the table.
You can't say anything around that guy!
For a while I gazed at Naho, who had placed her chin on the table and puffed out her cheeks. Not sure how to break the silence, I tried switching subjects.
The deflated Naho suddenly reinflated. Guess I'd piqued her interest!
You've got a great voice, and I'd love to have you as a guest speaker. You can be my expert, commenting on ghost stories submitted by listeners.
Her head still glued to the table, Naho fell deep into thought. She seemed oddly concerned. I couldn't miss the momentary twinkle in her eye, though. Success! I just needed to re-bait the line, and she was as good as caught!
Come on...please? For meeeeee? My listeners know we're friends, and I get a lot of messages asking me why you haven't been on the show yet. You'd be a big hit for sure!
But more than anything, I really just want to see what it's like to co-host a show with my bestest buddy Naho!
Oh, she mewed! She was showing interest. It wouldn't take much to get her to pounce on this old yarn now!
Music: Great Friends
Come on... Come on!
There's some fancy cat food in it for you if you say yes!
...What's that supposed to mean, exactly?
Erm... I'll treat you at Cafe Quil Fait Non. Sound good?
Naho's face lit up.
Yeeeaaahh! Thank you, thank you! I love you, Naho!
...Why are you hissing at me?!
I did it! I'd gotten the green light! My smile couldn't have been bigger at that moment. Naho's popularity had exploded recently, so she'd been having a hard time managing all the requests she'd been getting to appear on other radio shows. I'd been hoping to get a chance to tie our work together at some point, but I never imagined it'd be this easy!
And before we knew it, it was past 10:00. Naho and I stood up and started down the road home, giggling and chatting the whole way.
Planned on it tomorrow. I've been ditching class a lot for work, but they said I should at least show up to hand in my report.
You're going to have to turn it in too, you know. They'll be asking for it next time you're there.
Ehhh, really...? Well, whatever. It's just a report. It'll work itself out if I stay up all night.
Ooh, yes, please!
Right this way, Madame!
Naho's house was literally on the way home for me -- or rather, Mr. Kibiki's house, since that's where she'd been staying for the last little while.
Supposedly she'd moved in to study under Mr. Kibiki, like his padawan. She was always willing to go that extra mile, and I always admired that about her.
Music: Kibiki Residence
Ah, hello. You must be...
Good evening. It's a pleasure to meet you. My name is Sayaka Ooue.
I bowed quickly and Mr. Kibiki flashed a gentle smile.
I'm Kibiki. Thanks for always looking after Naho. She talks about you quite a lot.
I'm so glad. I've also heard a lot about you, Mr. Kibiki.
Heh. A laundry list of failed publications, no doubt.
Oh, no, that's not true at all!
I kind of felt like I was being put on the spot. I mean, it was already late, and I doubted Mr. Kibiki was too keen on playing host.
You don't mind, do you, Kibiki?
Of course not! Though you'd best give your family a call and let them know where you are. You wouldn't want to worry them, after all.
Thank you very much! I hope it isn't too much trouble.
Please, make yourself at home.
Dude's got a killer smile. It was easy to see why Naho got so into him.
All right, then. Come on in!
This place is incredible!
Go ahead and leave your bag over there. And please, get comfortable! I'll put on the Darjeeling.
Oh...thank you very much!
It's no problem at all. I was looking to drink some myself, in fact.
Naho gestured for me to sit, so I cautiously plopped myself down on an expensive-looking sofa.
Whooa! I'm sinking!
Sayaka, just relax, okay? I'm going to go hit the little girls' room.
Okay. I'll be napping here when you get back.
Go for it!
Naho began walking out of the room, chuckling at my swiftly-sinking form. Mere moments later, though...
That sure caught me by surprise! I turned in the direction of the scream, concerned.
I heard the door slam shut with incredible force. So that was the infamous Mr. Taguchi, huh? No love lost between those two, it seemed.
The nerve of that guy!
Having peeked out to check on Naho, Mr. Kibiki again withdrew his wide-eyed face to the kitchen, laughing softly. I swear I could look at him all day...
Trying to savor each single droplet of the deep crimson liquid in my cup, I slowly and carefully imbibed the tea that was placed before me. Whatever blend Kibiki had brewed bore a flavor unlike anything else I'd ever tasted.
Ahhh... It's wonderful!
Excellent. I'm glad you like it.
It's got such a complex taste and aroma. I always thought all black tea was the same! But then, at my house, we only have the kind that comes in teabags.
There's nothing wrong with tea that comes in bags. It's gotten quite good these days, in fact! This is just...the way I'm used to drinking it.
Isn't it about time for you to go home, Taguchi?
...Oh, come on, Naho. Don't be like that! Hahaha...
Actually, you know, I do have a rental video to return by the end of the day, so I guess I should probably be leaving after all.
Wh-What?! No! And what do you mean by 'more'?! ...Anyway, if you'll excuse me...
Naho faced Mr. Taguchi and posed as if she were shooting a beam of light at him, like some kind of legally unnameable masked superhero.
Aggh, ya' got me! ...I'll see you tomorrow, Mr. Kibiki. You too, Naho!
Actually, I'm going to school tomorrow, so no... you won't!
Oh, really? That's a surprise!
Man, you're ruthless!
Taguchi staggered to the door and vanished into the outside world, utterly defeated. Watching from next to me, Mr. Kibiki simply waved his hand and smiled.
My pleasure. I'm sorry we couldn't offer you anything more.
Wow, you are ruthless!
You're welcome back anytime. Please, be careful on your way home.
Thank you so much for everything. Have a good night!
It had been a positively lovely day all around. Before parting ways, I lent Naho one of the Twinkle CDs I had in my bag. Then we hugged, and I began the short walk back to my own house.
This case you discovered, with Heavenly Host Elementary... It's absolutely remarkable.
The screen cuts to an outside view of the house, and slowly fades to black...
Just a dream... *gasp* *sigh*
...? *pant* *pant* *pant* I have to write this down.
Encountered fierce spiritual resistance while simply researching the Shinozaki estate. Right side of body paralyzed. Left eardrum ringing...Orbs visible in photographs. Influence confirmed. Severe dizziness, nausea, bloody BM experienced. Symptoms persist for weeks.
This really is way too dangerous for them. Kibiki and Taguchi don't know how to protect themselves from spirits. They shouldn't go at all. ... *sigh*
Video: Nightmare ends here.
Recently, strange and unpleasant things had begun happening to me. I'd been investigating a certain haunted ground for the last month, and encountered a malevolent will more powerful than anything I'd ever experienced. I attributed this to the paper doll I brought back with me, of the sort commonly used in curses. No doubt a bad idea, but invaluable for research.
This is the reason I hesitated when Sayaka asked me to be on her radio show at the restaurant earlier. Ghost stories can actually provoke the spirits involved in them. I was afraid that whatever entity had latched on to me might have some negative effect on Sayaka as well.
Fortunately, aside from wreaking havoc on my physiology, this spirit didn't seem to be affecting those around me in any way. If I could just keep it under control, I was certain my appearance on Sayaka's radio show would go off without a hitch.
I'd gone to the kitchen for a glass of water, and though I hadn't noticed on my way down, I saw Kibiki fast asleep on the living room sofa as I headed back.
Sound asleep. Oh, Kibiki... You're so cute! Hee hee...
Kibiki had pulled an all-nighter last night, so I was pretty sure he'd sleep well into the afternoon.
There we go. A nice, warm blanket for you. Sweet dreams!
If Kibiki could make progress on his occult novel through my research...if he could succeed in all his endeavors...then no price would be too high, I felt. For his respect and admiration, I'd happily sacrifice anything and anyone.
Yeah, it's definitely too dangerous to send Kibiki and Taguchi to Heavenly Host by themselves. I'll have to make sure I go with them.
I tucked Kibiki in and returned to my room. Realizing he'd still be asleep when I left for school, I decided to write him a note.
I was so flattered by his consideration that I just didn't have the heart to lecture him about how ludicrously bad an idea that was.