Koori No Miko: I'm back! Sorry if it took a long time, I had exams last week. But here I am now; ready to deliver the next chapter of Obsolete Haphazard...
Some review answers before I start:
Jennifer60 – thank you for reading my first chappie!
Firgodes7 - I know it's boring the first time around, but it gets more interesting. Thanks!!!
Chapter Two: Mirror Image
Yae walked cautiously as she ventured deeper into the familiar forest leading to All God's Village. The last time she had been there, the path has been sealed, thus preventing her return. But now, she had a gut instinct that the path was open, waiting for her to go back to her past. She felt the humidity in the forest rising and the temperature dropping. She swore her heart almost stopped beating when she saw the familiar twin deities statues lining the path to Misono Hill.
This is it, she thought. The entrance to the village where I grew up.
She quickened her pace until she came to stand before the Shinto gate that had been the last of her home that she had seen before she lost her memory. Gathering every ounce of her determination, she crossed the gate to stand on top of Misono Hill.
"I can't believe I was able to enter", she remarked. "This pathway was sealed before. But aside from that...what happened to this place?"
Lit torches were still ablaze by the strange stone figures in the middle of the hill. Dying embers were scattered on the ground, as if someone had recently been there. Abandoning the disturbing sight, she moved on to see something even more disturbing. As she peered down at All God's Village from her place on the hill, she caught the message that all civilization had been lost. The village houses were bathed in the night fog and were obviously deserted.
I should take a closer look, she decided mentally.
Slowly, she walked down the hill path to her right. The village was very different from the last time she had remembered it. It used to be so full of life with children playing, vendors at the side streets and neighborhood ladies gossiping here and there. But all of those were absent when she reached the village. She gasped at the sight she saw, not able to contain what was in front of her. Tsuchihara House was a complete wreck. She could see into the insides since all the walls had withered away to nothing. Across it, Osaka House was quiet and empty.
"Hello?" she asked tentatively, her nervous voice trembling.
No answer. The only reply she got was the lonely echo of her own voice. Summoning her strength, she began to walk through the rest of the village.
"Some sort of disaster happened here", she observed as she walked among abandoned houses and broken structures here and there. "But what kind? What happened to Sae and Itsuki?"
Her fear was replaced by curiosity upon reaching the sector of the village where Kiryu House, Tachibana House and Kurosawa House were located. She looked up to the Sky Bridge and remembered the days when she, Mutsuki, Itsuki and Sae stayed there just to talk.
"The three of you will forever be with me", Yae whispered as she walked beneath the bridge to the part where her own house was. She noticed that the twin keys to unlock the main gates were still in their slots, so she just pushed on them to enter.
"Whisper Bridge", she said softly, noticing how scary it already looked.
She hiked up the skirt of her kimono in order to navigate her way better. The bridge was already worn with holes and the wood wasn't as strong as it was before. When she reached the end of the bridge safely, she pushed on the other set of wooden gates. She felt a wave of emotion wash over her as she set sights on her old home. Even if Kurosawa House loomed over her like a shadow of death, she still felt the heart-warming feeling she always used to have whenever she saw it. Slowly, she pushed the front door to her old home open.
"A disaster really happened here", she said sadly, as she surveyed the front hall of Kurosawa House. "Even my own house...destroyed".
Bits and pieces of chipped wood littered the hall. The old jardinière that used to be blooming with wild flowers every spring was now covered in dust and was bare. She walked toward the end of the hall where two doors were located. She looked at the one to her left and opened it. The familiar room still retained the same ambience as before, but she noticed that every single artifact bore the appearance of old age and constant use.
"I really want to know what happened", she said to herself as she continued walking through the old house. "The people here...did not die of ordinary means".
She opened the door that exited the Great Hall, leading her to the little garden. She climbed up the wooden stairs that led to the Doll Room. It had been her most favorite room in the house, and she was excited to see it again. Her only fear was that the dolls were also destroyed. But her mind changed when her hand gripped the doorknob. Pressing her ear to the door, the sound of faint crying could be heard from inside. Yae stiffened.
I am not going in there! She thought. I am definitely NOT going in there!
She stood by the door, listening to the faint crying. Curiosity got the best of her, though. She placed her hand on the doorknob again and slowly opened the door, careful not to make a sound. She saw that the dolls were still in good condition, and that pleased her. But her apprehension returned when she saw a figure concealed behind the slide screen at the end of the room.
That must be the crying person, Yae thought. A girl, obviously. But the disaster surely occurred a long time ago. Could she be a...a ghost?
Trying not to think about that, she walked very quietly toward the screen. Cautiously, she peered around it. To her shock, she saw a girl crying with her back turned. In fear, Yae let out a yelp. The crying girl whirled around to face her. They both screamed.
"Sae!" the girl exclaimed, her face growing white in fear. "Please, don't hurt me!"
"Wait, I'm not Sae!" Yae exclaimed, still reeling from shock. "I'm Yae!"
"But you're already dead!" the frightened girl screamed.
"I was, but...it's a long story", Yae sighed. "Please believe me! I'm not going to hurt you".
Her words worked to no avail. The girl was still cowering in a corner. Yae knelt next to her and gently touched the girl's shoulder. When the girl looked up at her, Yae was surprised. The girl was an exact mirror version of her, only a bit younger. But they had the same hairstyle and eyes.
"I promise, I'm not evil", Yae told the girl.
"Really?" the girl asked, calming down. "You're not like Sae?"
"What do you mean, like Sae?" Yae asked, curious. "Do you know my sister?"
"Not personally", the girl replied. "But she haunted this village as an evil spirit when I was here before. This place was full of evil spirits when my twin and I first came here".
"Evil spirits?" Yae asked, confused. "I don't understand a thing you're saying".
"Let me introduce myself first", the girl replied. "I'm Mio Amakura, a girl from the modern times. Some time ago, my twin sister and I stumbled upon this village. I learned about its history through the documents and other things that the folklorist called Seijuro Makabe left. I also found something called the Camera Obscura. It takes pictures of things that other people can't see. When I was in Tachibana House, I was being chased all over the place by Sae's ghost. She kept on possessing my sister Mayu and she would mistake me for you. She tried to kill me so many times, that's why I'm afraid of her. After all that, I was able to open the doors in the Rope Temple that led to the Hellish Abyss. I had to perform the Crimson Sacrifice...and I killed my twin".
"I'm sorry for your loss", Yae whispered, unsure of what to tell her new acquaintance.
"No, I'm all right now", Mio assured, brushing away her tears. "I just come here during Mayu's death anniversary and then to leave flowers somewhere in this village to commemorate my sister's death. I'll live in guilt until the day I die".
She tenderly touched the butterfly mark on her neck, the symbol of the Remaining.
"At least you tried to save her", Yae said softly. "I left Sae here to die and only thought of my own welfare. By the time I realized my own mistake, it was too late. I had lost my memory".
"Wait, aren't you supposed to be dead now?" Mio asked. "And aged?"
"I was", Yae replied. "But I woke up at the site of my suicide, reborn in my old body. I think it's a punishment for not completing my duty for the sake of the village".
"It'll be all right", Mio tried to reassure the older girl. "The ghosts are all gone. There's nothing here anymore. Not even...the white-haired boy in the storehouse".
"You don't mean Itsuki, do you?" Yae asked.
"Yes, him", Mio replied. "He was the only one who never hurt me. Sure, he mistook me for you, but he was always helping me until I finally realized that he was a ghost all along".
"I came here because I want to know what exactly happened to this village", Yae informed. "I want to know how it became such a desolate place".
"I'll tell you how", Mio said. "But not in here. This house is too full of bad memories..."