Prologue: Oyashiro-sama no Meirei (Oyashiro-sama's Orders)
How many times has it been? One hundred? Three hundred? Three thousand, perhaps? This ceaseless loop of mischance and woe leaves my heart and soul a little more depleted with each reawakening. I wake and start from scratch, with no idea of my situation at first. I live sometimes for ten years, sometimes for five, and sometimes for even fewer years before the inevitable happens. Someone always kills me in the end.
As I grow in each repetitive life, my perpetual Deja vu turns into the realization that this has all truly happened before. By the time I am eight to ten years old, I am aware that I am repeating history. I am aware of the presence of Oyashiro near me and in me. I am aware of my impending death. Yet I cannot change this ending. No matter what I do, I am killed, whether by someone in my friend group, or by villagers, or by outsiders, or by someone I cannot remember.
Every time I think I have hit rock-bottom, my despair deepens. Another lead fails. Another mishap ends in tragedy. Another small, unforseeable event triggers madness in those around me. I feel as though I've tried everything under the sun, but that's not quite true. There is one method I have not yet tried. It will be painful for me, and go against my last lingering concepts of morality. But it is something I haven't tried. I intend, therefore, to take this path, and bloody these hands that seem so helpless.
In the next world, Rika slowly became aware of herself as a seven year-old girl. As usual, she could not remember the previous worlds yet, nor could she recall who killed her most recently. A troubling sense of Deja vu followed her everywhere she went. Right before she turned eight, the mysterious deaths of Watagashi 1980 happened, with Satoko's parents falling to their death. Rika was close with Satoko and tried as best she could to help the unfortunate girl live with the unbearable pain of the loss.
It was then that Rika remembered. She knew the feelings of loss and pain already. This had all happened before. Everything came back to her mind like a flood of icy waters, and the damage nearly broke her. Only the company of the spirit Hanyuu (Oyashiro) kept Rika somewhat sane. At point she also recollected her plan to try something new in this world that she had never tried before. In order to get her plans in motion, she needed authority in the village and lots of help from adults. So she began to act right away.
With all of her memories of previous world lines returned to her, Rika made predictions about what would happen around her. She predicted things for her parents and for her classmates at school, and nine times out of ten, she was correct and the foretold event occurred. However, the people of Hinamizawa were quick to dismiss these prophecies as coincidence. They didn't take the little girl seriously. For a long year, Rika continued giving predictions even when she was scorned and punished and told to just grow up.
Finally, she predicted the deaths of her own father and mother. As expected, Head Priest Furude Michio died of an unknown illness after exhibiting symptoms of paranoia, violence, and mild to moderate psychosis. His wife Furude Noriko disappeared, leaving only a suicide note detailing how she drowned herself in the swamp. Her body was never found. Rika predicted all these things, and when they came to pass, the important people in Hinamizawa finally took notice of the little girl's strange gift.
The pain of losing her parents was not as great as it could have been, since Rika had already experienced it so many times. In fact, she almost celebrated their deaths because it finally led to her rise to power in the village. Rika was recognized as the prophet and voice of Oyashiro by the village leader, Kimiyoshi Kiichirou, and the Sonozaki family head, Sonozaki Oryou. After that, she attended village meetings, and had a say in anything and everything done by the three great families of Hinamizawa. Everyone respected her.
In a candlelit room in the Furude Shrine, Rika sat at one end of the long table used for town meetings. Around her were Sonozaki Oryou, the elderly lady with ferocious eyes and a harsh voice, Kimiyoshi Kiichirou, the usually even-tempered village leader who was balding on top, and Tastuyoshi Mamoru, a man a bit younger than the other two who commanded a group of yazuka under the supervision of the Sonozaki Group. Rika served everyone green tea and then took her seat with a grim expression. At first, she said nothing.
Kimiyoshi spoke first. "Well, it looks like you got your way again," he remarked with a smile at the little girl. "Not many people can demand a private audience with Oryou-sama, Tatsuyoshi-san, and myself. What is it you wanted to ask us, Rika-chan?"
Looking up at him, Rika's eyes caught the candlelight and looked fiery and fierce. "Please refrain from addressing me as 'Rika-chan,'" she said in the tone of voice she used when she acted as her true self, rather than the innocent little girl. "As the reincarnation of Oyashiro-sama, shrine maiden, and divine prophet, I ought to be addressed as Rika-sama. I would have thought by now you would have come to respect me at least that much."
For Kimiyoshi and the other grown-ups, it was jarring to hear a nine-year-old girl speak with adult mannerisms and use a relatively low-pitched voice. Kimiyoshi fidgeted awkwardly and said, "Ah, you're as baffling as ever Rika... uh, Rika-sama. Now, I certainly didn't mean to offend you. I only-"
"Stop jabbering," Oryou cut in with her sharp, cracked voice. "Let the girl speak."
"Thank you, Oryou-sama." Rika inclined her head to her elder. "As it happens, I did not summon you here to ask favors of you, but to give you my orders. I speak with the mouth of Oyashiro-sama. My divinations lately have been troubling. There is someone who could do great harm to Hinamizawa, and this person is planning to enter the village even as we speak. This cannot be allowed."
The listeners expected Rika to elaborate right away, but she became silent for a moment, sipping her tea with a strange calmness. Exchanging confused glances with Tatsuyoshi, old man Kimiyoshi decided to speak again. He cleared his voice.
"Don't keep us in the dark, Rika-chan-no, Rika-sama. Excuse me. What would you have us do?" For the next part, Kimiyoshi spoke carefully, trying his best not to be impertinent. "It's been ages since the people of Hinamizawa used violence to turn outsiders away. I trust you do not have anything that dark in mind, of course."
Rika looked at him square in the face and raised one eyebrow. It was ane expression that said even clearer than words that nothing was too dark for her to consider.
"We don't necessarily have to be violent," Tatsuyoshi interjected, voice deep and low. "We could give this person the same treatment we gave the Houjou family. They would be scorned and shunned by all the villagers. The stress and emotional toll would eventually force this outsider into leaving our village."
"I will order no such treatment," Rika answered simply. "This person I speak of-perhaps it would be more fitting to call her a demon. The demon must not be allowed to set foot in Hinamizawa. The solution is simple. She must be killed."
Hearing this and knowing she was serious, Kimiyoshi gave an audible gasp, Tatsuyoshi shifted uncomfortably in his seat, and even the old Sonozaki looked mildly surprised. Nobody knew what to say. They would have done almsot anything for Rika, but murder was just one shade too dark.
It was Oryou who spoke first. "Rika-sama," she began, "I respect you as our holy shrine maiden, and I will not ignore the warnings of our God. However, times have changed since the days of gods and demons. The Sonozaki Group is increasingly involved in the crimes that make up the world of the modern yakuza." She shot a knowing glance at Tatsuyoshi before continuing. "Ordering a hit on someone would only fan those flames. Therefore, I cannot condone the assassination of an innocent outsider."
"There you are mistaken, Oryou-sama." Despite herself, Rika smiled. She was disgusted with herself on some level, and yet she smiled. "The demon is not an outsider. And although she may be innocent now, there is no question that she will bring death and chaos to our peaceful town. The demon is your grandaughter, Sonozaki Shion."
"That's enough!" cried Kimiyoshi, knocking over his tea cup as he rose quickly to his feet. "I won't stand for this nonsense anymore. You are asking us to kill a member of our own family! I think of Shion-chan as my own grandchild, you know. Mamoru-san's son, Kasai, is Shion's personal bodyguard. Killing her is unthinkable!"
Oryou sipped her tea. "I can think of it easily enough," she said.
"Oryou-sama?!" Kimiyoshi was clearly taken aback.
"Is it so surprising?" The Sonozaki family head, despite being an elderly woman, looked and sounded more dangerous than anyone in the room. "Shion," she spat. "That girl should never have been born. I would have killed her myself if my daughter and her idiotic husband hadn't blackmailed me to keep me away from the infants. When two heirs are born, only misfortune follows."
At that point, Rika understood why Shion called her grandmother "oni-baba," demon-hag. Aloud she said, "I'm glad we agree, Oryou-sama. As expected of the Sonozaki Family Head." She turned her head toward the old man on his feet. "It seems Kimiyoshi doubts me. Well then, old man, let me tell you something. If Shion comes to Hinamizawa, she will at the very least undermine your authority in the village, and at the very worst murder you. If you have any regard for your own well-being, you will meet my demands."
Silence followed again for a minute before Tatsuyoshi Mamoru spoke. "Pardon me, Furude Rika-sama?"
"What is it? Speak freely." Rika looked him in the eye unblinkingly as she didwith everyone when she wasn't pretending to be an innocent little girl. "Tatsuyoshi-san, you command the more militant members of the Sonozaki Group. You will have the biggest hand in seeing my orders carried out, so your cooperation is critical. If you have concerns, I will gladly hear them."
Tatsuyoshi bowed his head briefly. "Thank you, Rika-sama. Your predictions have yet to be wrong. I believe in you. Even if that were not the case, I follow the orders of Oryou-sama, and she seems to have no qualms regarding this matter. However, I cannot say the same for my son. Practically speaking, Kasai is the best suited to get rid of the demon for us. But I know my son. He would sooner die than harm the girl he swore to protect."
Spinning her empty teacup around on the table, Rika took a moment to respond. "I am not so cruel as you think, Tatsuyoshi-san," she told him finally. "Tatsuyoshi Kasai will not be ordered to eliminate the demon. I would like you to instead find a suitable hitman among your yazuka network and order him to do the deed. Kasai will be told nothing of this plan, and it will take place on an evening when Shion is out and about in Okinomiya without him there."
"That is a feasible plan, Rika-sama." Tatsuyoshi seemed satisfied. "One other matter," said Rika sternly. "Be sure the hired gun is worthy, according to the honor of the Sonozaki Group. He needs to be professional. We cannot have some city thug botch the mission, not for any reason. Should the hitman fail, the wrath of Oyashiro-sama shall fall upon him, and the Three Great Families of Hinamizawa shall dispose of him."
"To be sure, Rika-sama," the yakuza man confirmed.
Meanwhile, Kimiyoshi stood and wringing his hands in distress. "But to think... the child, she..."
"What is it, Kimiyoshi-sama?" asked Rika placidly. "You still doubt me? Sonozaki Shion is the one person in this whole world who is more likely than any other to murder you in cold blood. I have seen it happen. I want you to follow my orders and go along with the plan, but believe me when I say I do not mean to show you disrespect. I certainly am not threatening you. I am trying to look out for your health."
The old man ran a hand through the gray hair that grew only on the back of his head. "If Shion-chan kills me," he said slowly, "it must be because of the crimes of the Three Great families. Perhaps it is my karma to die for her sense of justice. So, tell me." He gazed at Rika intently. "Is Shion-chan a danger to anyone besides myself? If he is a threat to the village as a whole, or to anyone innocent, I'll agree with your plan."
"In my visions," Rika responded, "I have seen Shion committing unthinkable atrocities. She murders her grandmother and mutilates her corpse. She discards the corpse in a well. She furthermore murders a child, and imprisons Sonozaki Mion with the intent to kill her as well. These visions are not futures set in stone, but some or all of them are likely realities depending on the course of events."
"Such a monster must be eliminated," Tatsuyoshi stated. He took Rika's predictions seriously, as did everyone else in the room.
"Do you consent, Kimiyoshi-sama?" Rika asked the village leader.
Kimiyoshi sighed and returned to his seat. Then he said in a defeated voice, "...Very well."