Author's Note: Sorry it took so long for that last chapter, and for this one. I've been a bit busy with Fatal Frame III: The Tormented. Is it just me, or is this sequel not scary at all? It might just be me, don't worry. Anywho, where we left off, we had Itsuki pining for his lost Yae, and Mio hurrying after Mayu.
Chapter 12: Laughter in the Dark
Mio put the flashlight away in despair. She couldn't use it now, even though the house was darker than the Osaka House. The darkness seemed to spread like mist, consuming every piece of wood and crack in the hall. She sighed softly and took a step forward in the darkness, her foot hitting a stair. She slowly and carefully climbed it, being as careful as possible. Until her eyes would adjust to the darkness, she was blind in this house. At the top of the few steps, her face was hit with something and she yelped, thrashing her arms and kicking out in fright. She fell over onto the floor, crying out in pain. She looked up and in darkness her eyes were getting used to was a gray drape with the butterfly symbol in the middle. "A drape…Mio, you need to get a grip on yourself," she muttered to herself, standing up.
The twins that will become the sacrifice have returned.
Mio gasped and turned around to see a priest, a drape in front of his face and a staff in his hand. Dark robes clothed his body and he looked in Mio's direction. His figure faded slightly, then disappeared. "The sacrifice? Twins? Mayu!" she said, hurrying down the hall. If the priest had said twins, then Mayu had to be close. At the end of the short hallway were two doors. Mio tried the one on her right, but it was locked with a butterfly symbol. She then turned to the left side and found the door unlocked. She opened the door slowly.
The Kusabi is coming...he's coming…
Mio looked over and saw a man crouched behind an old kimono rack. He was shaking and hiding his face in his hands, obviously frightened out of his mind. Within a few minutes, the man disappeared. "Kusabi? That means 'wedge'…but…I don't understand…" Mio muttered. "What's a 'Kusabi'?"
She continued into the room, finding a door there. She grabbed it and was suddenly hit with a vision.
Mayu was in the hallway just outside of Mio's door, walking towards a voice that was calling her from the depths of the darkness. Three men, ghosts, ran towards her in fright. The twins are coming!
Mayu continued to walk, unhindered in her procession by anything. When she rounded a nearby corner, she heard a gentle voice call out in the night.
Yae…why did you leave me…? You promised…you promised we'd always, always be together…
Mayu saw a white sliding door nearby and walked towards it. She opened it and looked inside, finding the great hall of the huge house. Standing by the fireplace was her own reflection, a woman identical to her in every way besides her clothing. She wore a stunning white kimono, glinting easily in the darkness. Mayu walked towards this girl, hearing that voice again.
Yae…what about Itsuki? Why did we fail him? Why did you leave me behind? Please, Yae…come back to me…
As Mayu came closer to this girl, her reflection, her eyes widened. The front of her kimono was drenched in blood. The girl looked over at Mayu.
Please come back…I'll wait…I'll wait for you forever…
Mio gasped and stumbled back. "Mayu!" she called, throwing open the door and hurrying out into the hallway. She ran down the hall for a little while before a man's dying scream shattered her ears and she stopped, clutching her head. She had felt the scream, not heard it. She looked up, and slowly, a man's ghost slithered up from the ground. Mio gasped in horror at what her eyes saw.
The man's body was practically torn apart – slash marks adorned his body and he looked as if he was bleeding profusely at that very moment. Mio staggered back; she had never seen anything so horrifying in her life. She was ready to run for her life, but wanting to save Mayu forced her to plant her feet firmly into the floor and draw the camera. Taking careful aim, she took several shots, blasting the ghost away from her and into the darkness from whence it came. Mio quickly continued her run down the hall, easily recognizing the path to Mayu from her vision.
As Mio continued down the dark hallway, her only light from a candle nearby, lightning flashed outside through a window. As she rounded the nearby corner, where Mayu had gone, the candle winked out and she could hear a moaning from the wall. Mio stumbled backwards and drew her camera, staring at the wall ahead. Out of the wall came a woman looking exactly like the male ghost before her – slashed everywhere. The only difference was that this woman's arms were missing.
Mio quickly took a shot and heard the ghost scream and be flung backwards. She prepared another shot as the ghost came back, this time from the side, flinging the stubs of her arms wildly. Mio got off another shot, sending the ghost back into the darkness once again. As she reloaded her film, the ghost came from behind, and as she went for the shot, it flickered out of existence. "Huh?" Mio voiced. "Where…?"
From behind, the ghost flung its stub into Mio, and the teenager screamed as pain shot through her. She felt as though someone was putting a thousand slashes into her body. Her hands tightened in her pain and fear, and her finger hit the button on the camera, getting off a close shot at the ghost. Both Mio and the ghost were flung backwards, and the pain ceased. Mio gasped on the floor, looking weakly towards where the ghost was flung. She did not see it rise again.
Slowly, Mio picked herself off the ground. Holding her side in pain, she walked down the small path to a white sliding door, just like in her vision. As she touched the door, the light sound of laughter pierced her ears for a few moments before disappearing. "Mayu?" she called. The laughter didn't sound like Mayu's. She entered the room finding it looking exactly like it was in the vision, only Mayu was not in the center of the fireplace, and neither was the other strange girl.
Mio walked to the fireplace, looking around. Strangely, small spatters of blood adorned the fireplace, but didn't go anywhere beyond. Did something happen here? Is Mayu okay! Mio looked to her right and saw a set of old paintings. She looked over at them and saw a crane and a beautiful tree on the paintings. Behind them, she could barely see another path. There was a small path behind the paintings. Mio turned and walked past the fireplace to the end of it, following the small path. As she stepped off the wooden pattern on the fireplace, a crack of lightning sounded, and flickered through a window.
Mio turned as the thunder began to die off and sighed. Turning back to her path, she took a few steps before something collided with her foot in the darkness. Mio looked down only to come face-to-face with a freshly cut body. Mio screamed and staggered backwards, nearly tripping over another body. Freshly cut up bodies of men littered the room – there was no where to stand with them everywhere. Mio stumbled backwards towards the fireplace, and turned, suddenly stopping.
Standing there before her, in a white kimono stained with fresh looking blood and laughing maniacally, was what looked like Mayu. Her eyes lit up insanely, and her lips curled back into a sadistic smile, her laughter shrieked through the hall. The lightning and thunder clashed outside the window behind her. Mio only stared in horror, slowly backing up. Could this be her sister?
As the girl laughed, a disfigured shadow began to materialize behind her. Mio continued backing up, the figure behind the bloody Mayu beginning to take the form of a man. His clothes looked as though they were slashed through, his hair was thrown back, his right arm was roped to his chest and other ropes hung around his body. His body itself was skinny and bony, barely more than a skeleton in clothes. He began to advance upon Mio, her bloody sister still laughing maniacally behind him.
Mio stumbled back against the wall behind her, and a corpse lifted his bloody head and reached out an arm to Mio for help. She gasped, her sister shrieked, and in that moment, the corpse was ripped apart once more and collapsed, dead once more. Mio stared up in horror at the terrible sight, her sister laughing and this creature advancing upon her. Her sister's laugh only escalated a moment later, as the ugly apparition of death screamed itself.
Mio's scream answered it, and she ran full tilt to the other end of the room. She ran around the corner blindly, spotting a door there. She nearly ran into it in her desperation and she threw open the door frantically. Turning around for one last glimpse, the man was just turning the corner back at the end of the room. An eerie fog followed him, covering the walls and floor with the scent of death, decay and blood.
Gathering up her courage, Mio pointed the camera in the ghost's direction, aimed well, and fired off a shot. The camera's picture blurred terribly, and the ghost neither faltered nor halted in his path. The camera had no effect!
Mio quickly ducked out of the door and slammed it shut behind her. She stumbled back a pace, staring at the door. A cold feeling fell onto her shoulder and she screamed, jumping to a side. It was raining. Mio looked around. She had entered into an open garden and it was raining terribly. Lightning flashed through the sky and thunder rumbled the house. Mio looked around in fear, her whole body shaking with fright. The sky calmed and resumed its crying of cold rain. Mio looked back over at the door. Nothing was happening.
Believing that the ghost may have either given up pursuit or just didn't follow her through the door, Mio looked up at the sky. There was a winding staircase around the garden to an upper portion of the house. Mio went over to the stairs and began to climb them slowly, cautiously, her heart still pounding in her ears.
Was…was that Mayu…?
The thought was there still in her mind, the bloody girl in kimono, shrieking with the laughter of the damned. But, could that girl really be her sister? Her injured, helpless sister? Mio shook her head. It couldn't be. How could it be? Mayu would never…ever…hurt another living being on this earth. But…
Mio still couldn't shake the thought away. She had glimpsed death, and that face was her sister. "Get a hold of yourself, Mio! Mayu…Mayu would never do such a thing. She's your sister!" she scolded herself.
Mio began climbing the staircase again, when the sound of a ritual bell sounded. She turned, frantic. Above her, illuminated by a red glow of butterfly wings, was Mayu. "Mayu!" Mio shouted. She stopped, watching her sister pass. Why didn't she go after her? Mio still held the fear from earlier, that Mayu was that terrible devil that killed so many in the great hall…
Mio quickly shook her head and hurried up the stairs after her sister. She came to a long hallway, which she ran down until she saw a door to her left in the middle of the hall. She grabbed it then stopped. Something didn't feel right about that room. She stepped back. Thoughts flooded her mind about that room.
It's taboo to open it…Father will be angry with me…
"I've never seen this room in my life…how would I think it to be taboo?" Mio asked herself. She, nevertheless, continued down the hall, finding another door at the end. She opened it and came to a small room that must have been a guest room. A large red chest was to Mio's immediate left, and in the furthest part of the room to the left was a bookcase. Mio walked into the room and looked around. Nothing was unusual, but there was no sign of Mayu. Mio hurried to the other end of the room, past the tatami mats, to the next door.
Upon opening the door, Mio was filled with dread. The room was dark, and the only light came from something flickering dimly. Mio looked around. There was no candle, no real light. There were kimonos hanging on their racks, and a lone stool near one held a small doll on top of it. A red chest was opposite the stool and doll, which Mio wandered over to. The chest was only filled with old kimonos. "This must have been a storage room of sorts," Mio said quietly, looking in the dark. A door was just behind the doll and kimono, and she approached it slowly. As she neared it, she heard sounds of soft crying from behind the door.
Mio touched the handle of the door and pulled, but it was locked. As her hand touched the door again, she began to feel strange again. A shiver went down her spine and she took a step back. She took out her camera and pointed it at the door and took a picture. As the picture slowly developed, she closely examined it. The picture showed a door with bloody handprints on it.
"That looks like a door down a hallway I passed earlier…" Mio muttered sadly. "All that work to come here…and I have to go back."
As Mio walked back towards the door to the room, contemplating how she would get back through the main hall, she heard the shriek that was laughter. The laughter from the hall. Mio jumped back in fright and nearly screamed. Her blood turned cold and she was frozen in place for a long time as the laughter continued for a bit, then died out. It had sounded like it was in the room…all around her…in her mind, in her soul…
Mio slowly opened the door and made her way back to the garden slowly, always glancing over her shoulder to see if she was being followed by the Mayu-like apparition. As Mio began her descent down the stairs in the rain to the garden, lightning struck, and a long shadow of a girl struck the wall on the side, next to her own shadow. Screaming, Mio jumped, slipped on the wet wood, and fell down the stairs to the halfway flat. She hit her head against the wall with a cry, and she looked up. No one had been behind her. The rain was the only sound made against the wood, and the only other moving thing outside were the plants in the wind.
Mio picked herself up, wincing a bit as she felt the hurt of falling. She slowly made her way down the steps and to the door that led to the main hall. Could she go back in there? She quickly opened the door and stepped inside, then started to run. Any moment, she was afraid of seeing one of the two ghosts behind her. As she rounded the corner, she saw the ugly male ghost with the ropes on him. He lunged at her, and she sprung, barely missing his long hand. She hurried to the other side of the hall and grabbed the door. She swung it open and ducked outside. Without waiting to see if he came around the corner, she kept running, back to the hall she needed.
As she approached the hall, she heard the familiar moan of the roped ghost and jumped. He appeared in front of her, dragging another male ghost by the leg. The other ghost flailed constantly, crying out in terrible pain and agony. Mio was frozen in fear and didn't move until, at last, the two ghosts disappeared.
Mio wandered down the hall, following, until she found the bloody handprint wall. The door, to her left, was shut. Mio began to leave when the door quickly slid open. She turned back, fearful, but entered the room anyway.
Inside was a horror. Blood was everywhere, on the floor, the walls, the furniture, everything. The blood even smelled in the room, and seemed to be dripping, though it must have been very old blood. Mio saw, at the other end of the room, was a door swinging half on its hinge.
She approached it slowly, and when she touched the door handle, the door shut unceremoniously on her. The entrance door also shut. Mio yelped in surprise, looking around. The woman without arms was before her, screaming and shrieking at the top of her lungs. Mio began to back away, but her a moan from behind her and saw the man who had been cut up as well. They both struck her at the same time, and Mio screamed, but saw the worst possible thing in her mind.
She was hiding in their bedroom, waiting for her husband. He had gone out to see why one of the servants was screaming. But she heard it…her husband screaming and yelling, and she looked out the window. She gasped. A man in white was dragging her husband along the ground. Her husband was cursing and yelling at the man in white.
"No! Don't you go in there! No! Leave my wife alone!" he shouted.
His wife grabbed a large wooden block where they set small things down. She threw it at the man holding her husband, but it passed right through him. He grabbed her roughly by the arm, and she felt both pain and icy cold. She shrieked…she could feel the slashing, the cuts, and then…nothing. Her arms were light.
She looked down. Her arms were gone.
Mio fell to the floor in utter agony. She felt their pain as though she were them…just like the girl at the lake. She slowly stood up, camera in hand. Tears began to burn into her eyes. "I'm…I'm sorry…"
The camera's light flashed. Flash. Flash. Reload. Flash. The ghost's screams were loud, but she could hardly hear over the beating of her own heart and the pounding in her head. Soon, the spirits had vanished, and there was a loud sound of something hitting the ground. She looked down and saw a small key there. This was it! The key to the room she needed to get to. She grabbed the key and hurried back to the main hall.
She took a deep breath. She knew that the roped ghost would be there. She had to be quick. She flung open the door and ran inside, practically sprinting across the room. The rope ghost was too slow…he would never catch her. She got to the other side unscathed and went out into the garden. With a heavy sigh and her heart pounding in her ears once more, Mio went back up the rain-soaked steps and back to the room.
As she entered the first room after the long hallway, she heard a soft voice and turned. A man was there, a past spirit. Munakata…did you find Itsuki? the spirit asked.
"Itsuki?" she asked. The white haired boy?
She walked over to the bookshelf and was almost hit by a falling book. She reached down to take it and was hit by another vision.
The twins looked over where they stood behind their father and waited for the two men to come closer after they closed the large doors to the house. One of them was much younger, maybe 18 or 19 years. The other was much older, around 30. The two men walked closer to Ryokan and the girls. The older man bowed. "My name is Seijiro Makabe, and this is my young assistant Ryozo Munakata. We have come to study this village."
Ropes. Pain. Cutting.
"Of course, gentlemen," Ryokan said, bowing.
A huge hole in the ground. Candles. A ritual not to be spoken about.
Ryozo, the younger of the two, glanced over at the young teenage girls with black hair and almond eyes. Sae gave a slight smile, then bowed her head. Yae looked up at the young man. He reminded her of Itsuki, before his hair turned white. She gave him a frightened and anxious look, then bowed her head as well, beside her sister. As Yae glanced out of the corner of her eyes, she saw a blossom fall from the tree and land on Seijiro's shoulder.
The older man being cut.
His blood hitting the ground.
Being thrown into the dark hole.
"Come, Mr. Makabe and Mr. Munakata. We have rooms for you. Yae, Sae, show these gentlemen to their rooms. I need to speak with someone about the Kusabi…," Ryokan quietly said, walking past them. The young girls took the men to their rooms.
Kusabi. The wedge.
The ritual that cannot be spoken about…it is here…
Mio came out of the vision, her head reeling. She shook her head fiercely. "I have to find Mayu," she said, and hurried into the next room. As she made her way to the other end of the room, where the locked door was, a sudden body began to appear on the ground. It was motionless, and blurry. A spirit.
However, when she approached it, the spirit did not move. Mio shrugged and unlocked the door, quickly going inside. There was a huge display of small dolls all lined up. Two of the dolls' heads were missing. As Mio inspected them, a voice startled her.
"We didn't want to perform the ritual…" the voice moaned. "So we ran away…" Mio looked over and saw a wooden drawing that was used to conceal others over at the other end of the room. In a reflection of candlelight, Mio could see a woman in a kimono…holding something round in her hand. Like a ball…or a head.
Mio approached the screen slowly, her heart pounding. "But everyone…died…" the voice moaned.
A hand on her camera, Mio turned the corner around the screen and gasped. "Mayu!" she said, kneeling. Her sister was there, laying on the ground. Mio gathered her up in her arms.
Mayu looked up at her sister. "Mio…" she mumbled.
"What happened?" Mio asked, panic in her voice.
"Something was calling me…" Mayu said, dreamily. "Telling me to come back…and perform the ritual again…"
"The ritual?" Mio asked. Mayu suddenly pressed her face into Mio's breasts. "Mayu…"
"Stay with me! Forever…and ever…"
Mio nodded. "Of course…we promised. Now, let's get out of here," she said, helping Mayu to stand up. They had a long night ahead of them, but at least they were together again.