Part 16: UPDATE 16
Kajiro Residence / Inner Room
Tales of Cross Marriage
When one speaks of such tales, they often refer to a human marrying an animal, a fairy, a deity, or similar type of non-human being.
These marriages are in many ways similar to human sacrifices, where a human is offered to the gods to please them. As such, the "bride" is equivalent to the "human sacrifice", and the terms are technically interchangeable.
According to the many tales relating to this type of marriage, if the female is the paranormal counterpart and successfully enters a marriage, sometimes she is rewarded with the gift of children. However, if the male is the paranormal counterpart, the marriages often end in tragedy.
The rain has been falling incessantly, and the entire village is enveloped in thick fog.
In the depths of darkness stands a tall shadow, a symbol of respect and fear: the home of the Kajiro Family. The Kajiros are one of the oldest families in Hanuda. Their home has endured many centuries and various expansion efforts, giving it an unusual appearance. The peculiar architecture gives off an eerie feeling, and those who lay eyes upon it feel a disquiet.
Inside the home, there is an endlessly winding corridor, leading to a single room isolated by sliding doors and hidden eternally in the dark. Perhaps due to the age of the house, strange sounds can be heard everywhere inside, like voices muttering.
At the end of the corridor connecting to the main building, there is a segregated and secluded room, the home of Miyako Kajiro. Since Miyako's birth, she has never eaten dinner with her parents at the same table, brought up alone in this isolated world. Though she is dressed in beautiful clothes, she never comes into contact with anyone, imprisoned in this dimly lit room.
Until today, when she meets the conditions and becomes the bride.
In the realms of darkness lies a petite figure, with shiny black hair and a complexion as white as snow. She is dressed in a beautiful black-based kimono decorated with vibrant patterns, the lengths of her sleeves reaching her ankles. Flickers of candlelight shine on her dispirited face. She is exhausted and feels nothing but bitterness towards the fourteen years of her isolated existence. For as long as she can remember she has lived apart in this secluded room, under protection due to her fragile nature.
But in fact, the true reason for her lonely life has been the need to protect such a valuable offering as herself from harm.
Tonight is the wedding night of the Kajiro sisters.
Up until this point, how many brides were born and vanished into thin air?
Miyako does not know of any details relating to tonight's ceremony. She knows only that the Kajiro sisters, both older and younger, will welcome the ceremony, but afterward only one will remain on the Mana Stone.
Only the chosen bride will disappear.
The sacrifical bride has already been decided. The older sister will continue her life as before, while the younger will continue hers in the Other World.
Having done this, the Kajiros and the village will be safe for a limited period of time, with one more sin atoned for.
Why is it her fate to atone for a sin she knows nothing about? Was she born only to disappear?
These thoughts torment her.
Her family regards her as though she is something that simply does not belong in this world. Sometimes, Miyako wonders about her existence. Could it be that she already does not exist in the physical world and only her spirit has survived?
"I am like a ghost."
Since childhood, there has been only one soul in whom she could confide: her nanny, Sumiko. Like a mother, like a sister, only Sumiko understands Miyako and reaffirms her existence. She is the one person who truly appreciates the hallucinatory daydreams that plague Miyako so frequently.
This second sight is a special ability that is born to every Kajiro generation.
Phantom visions and sounds force their way into the consciousness of the bearer. This special ability is well respected, and also feared. The non-stop visions and voices eat away at Miyako's mind every single day.
The Mana Stone.
Another strange vision.
At the huge rock known as the Mana Stone preparations are underway for the sacred wedding ceremony. Not even the villagers are allowed to enter its presence freely.
Preparation of the ceremonial materials...
It must be the vision through the eyes of the priest or priestess.
Someone's voice comes from nearby.
"The fruit... One or two."
... ki.... ki...
The sounds from the hall bring Miyako back to her senses. She can hear Sumiko calling to her through the partition to the hall.
"Miss Miyako. It's time to go."
Miyako finds she feels nothing at the prospect of her life ending. Having spent her entire existence in the dark she is merely preparing to enter another one surrounded by darkness. She soothes herself and puts on a stern face as Sumiko leads her out of her cell.
At the end of the hall is a fork. The right fork leads to the main building of the house, and beyond that to the place where she will cease to exist. But Sumiko takes the left fork.
Miyako doesn't comprehend Sumiko's actions. At the end of the left fork lies a forbidden place that even the Kajiros themselves are prohibited from entering.
There are two taboos in the Kajiro household: one is Miyako, the other is the outbuilding at the end of the left fork.
Miyako has been taught from birth that the source of the sin that she must atone for is locked in this place.
Sumiko moves swiftly and stealthily, looking over her shoulder.
"Miss Miyako, I want you to run away."
"There is a way to escape from this house without anyone knowing."
She can see the determination etched in Sumiko's face by the light of the lantern she holds.
"A friend of mine is waiting outside the house. Please, leave this village and live a wonderful life. I beg you."
Leave this house... leave this village...
This is something that Miyako has never even dreamed of. She is caught offguard.
At the same time, Miyako is overjoyed knowing that she has been freed.
Without hesitation, she follows Sumiko's light until she sees the locked gate rising from the darkness ahead. Sumiko remains quiet and takes out her keys, opening the heavy gate. Together, the two of them step through the forbidden doorway.
The darkness inside is so thick they cannot see their own arms outstretched in front of them. An odor of decay shut inside for many years assaults their noses, clinging to them like phantom hands. Though it is midsummer, there is a certain chill in the air here. The white paint on the walls has begun to peel with age.
After shutting the big door, Miyako can only see the light Sumiko is carrying. Up ahead is a flight of stairs that descends downward. Filled with anxiety, they move toward the bottomless darkness.
Miyako, who has committed two prohibitions, is uncontrollably frightened. Descending the stairs, they reach a stone tunnel similar to a mine shaft.
From somewhere comes the sound of dripping water.
Perhaps due to the endless rains over the past few days, the water that has seeped through the tunnel walls now reaches up to their ankles.
Sumiko hurries Miyako onwards.
"Watch your step. This underground passage runs under and beyond the house."
Sumiko's voice echoes in the dark corridor.
"If you leave from here, no one will notice."
Because this is forbidden ground.
Sumiko grips Miyako's hand tightly and silently continues on.
Miyako uses her free hand to feel her way forward. In the stone she feels strange deep scratches, as though they were made by some unnatural creature creeping along the wall.
She instinctively pulls her hand back from the surface.
How much longer must they walk in the dark?
From somewhere Miyako hears a faint sound like the wind she always heard blowing through the house. But something is different.
Is this her ability? Is she hearing what someone else hears now?
The sound is like a low, tenored tune, playing repeatedly. The tune seems to exert joy and happiness, but it sends a cold chill down Miyako's spine.
It is the whispers of the dead, echoing from below.
Miyako is seized by a powerful sensation, as though space and time are tearing themselves apart.
Her legs refuse to move and darkness swims before her eyes.
When she regains consciousness she sees Sumiko's face floating above, watching her with a concerned expression. Even in a place like this, Miyako feels safe again seeing her. Sumiko will save her from being swallowed up by the darkness. No matter what happens, Sumiko will protect her.
Sumiko hands the light to Miyako.
"Miss Miyako, the way out is just up ahead. I must go back now."
"I must return before anyone notices the key is missing."
Miyako feels as if she is being torn away from her own mother.
"No! We have to leave together! I can't do it alone..."
Sumiko smiles her usual warm smile and shakes her head.
"Please. Please come with me, Sumiko. Besides, if you go back... I'm scared."
She has broken a taboo.
The knowledge causes Miyako to feel more tense than ever.
The sin... the thing that was locked up in here...
Abruptly Miyako feels a nudge at her back.
"Miss Miyako! Please go! For my sake."
Sumiko gestures the light towards the exit.
Miyako's face bears a new look of determination. At the end of this tunnel lies a world free from the taboos and prohibitions she has always known.
There is nothing behind her but a life of darkness and a future of extinction. If she does not leave now there will not be another chance.
Miyako nods her head as tears fall down her cheeks.
"I will see you again, Miss Miyako. Please believe me."
Miyako takes the light and heads toward the exit. Her soaked kimono becomes heavier with each step and her movement is slow, but the knowledge of the freedom that awaits keeps her moving forward.
Miyako follows the slope uphill until eventually she sees flickers of light, and spies an iron grill. A shadow outside the bars calls out to her in a frightened voice.
"Is someone there?"
Miyako crawls through the open lattice and out of the tunnel opening, then rises to her feet. She finds herself in the inner chambers of a church, in part carved directly into the stone. A Mana cross sits atop the altar, and holy images decorate the walls.
The stone wall behind the altar has partly crumbled and broken the grating covering the tunnel from which she has just emerged.
It seems that passage connects the Kajiro house to the Mana Church.
Miyako finally notices the young man who has been watching her as she gets her bearings.
The person that Sumiko said she sent... it must be him.
The youth is staring at her as though he has never seen anything like Miyako before.
Miyako feels uneasy. Quietly she speaks:
"Sumiko said to leave with you."
"Sumiko? How did you even get here?"
He looks at her in awe.
She thinks he hasn't understood her. Since she has never spoken to another soul but Sumiko, Miyako wonders if anyone else can understand her speech.
Though she has left the house, she has no way to communicate with the outside world.
Feeling embarrassed and uncomfortable, she says no more.
The two of them stand for a time in silence.
The young man shatters the silence first.
"Wait... You escaped from the Kajiros didn't you?"
Miyako nods her head slightly.
The young man lifts a strangely decorated box that was at his feet.
"I stole this from those people. They don't realize I switched it."
Miyako has no idea what he is talking about. She continues to watch him, silently.
But the box in the young man's hands is emitting an ominous aura.
Her second sight suddenly grabs hold of her, and Miyako feels her consciousness fading, as though she is being swallowed by something.
As the young man opens the box, an agonizing shriek comes from the cavernous hole behind her.
He stares dumbly at the hole.
Suddenly, Miyako is overcome by an inexpressable terror. Powerful winds and rains batter the roof of the church. Through her fear she cannot make out the words the young man is shouting toward the cave entrance.
In her mind appears a vision of unusual clarity. She sees through countless eyes peering out of the dark water. They are staring, looking at... Sumiko.
Miyako hears the heavy ragged breathing from the owner of these eyes as if it was her own.
A terrible wail issues from Sumiko's throat. Something under the water is approaching her. Her screaming continues incessantly. In her eyes... the eyes that have gazed upon whatever unseen horror is approaching... Miyako can see the glint of madness.
Her vision suddenly shifts, and now she is staring down at the dark water.
In the murky depths she sees countless shadows...
The meaning of those sounds she had thought were the wind blowing through the old house...
The truth of the dark history that the Kajiros carry with them...
The endless numbers emerging from the ground...
The shadows move closer in the dark.
The forbidden taboo hidden beneath the house, striving to be unleashed.
Thousands of arms and legs intertwined, out of the chaos carrying the desperate callings of the dead. Moving together, taking no definite shape.
Miyako sees the abomination that took place here long ago.
And then, an intense discomfort strikes her.
Kajiro blood-relatives are intermixed amongst the suffering.
The sin carried by the Kajiros...
To contain these sins. That is why she is needed.
She wonders what kind of god would unleash such horrible consequences on its worshippers.
"No! No! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.........!"
The moving figures and their death songs grow stronger and stronger, but Miyako can no longer hear them.
Her own screams of despair are too loud.
Suddenly, a bizarre sound almost like a siren fills the air and the church begins to wobble as though it were on the surface of the sea.
The inexplicable wail grows louder.
The siren appears to answer the death calls. Miyako is overwhelmed by pain. Her hand seems to be reaching for something in the emptiness, moving towards it.
The noise is all around them. As Miyako struggles to maintain her sanity, she does not notice the heavy Mana cross above her begin to fall.
Just before it strikes her the young man grabs Miyako's hand and runs with her out of the church.
The youth continues to run with the dumbfounded Miyako, passing through the terraced fields outside. Heavy rains and wind pummel the pair as they slosh through the deep mud puddles, but nothing stops the young man.
Until they are swallowed up by the ever growing darkness.