I am SO sorry I haven't updated for a while! School's just been hectic, but it's finally over, thank God. Anyway, I'd like to thank all of you for your reviews. Every time I get an e-mail notifying me that I got a review I just stare thinking… "Another one!" I'm very happy that you all like the stories! I'll try to get to all of your requests! This one might be a little longer than the previous chapters Enjoy!
Tomoe Hirasaka collapsed to her knees in front of the closet and vomited onto the dusty wooden floor.
"Tomoe, did you find…" Junsei Takamine's voice trailed off when he walked in and saw Koji's bloody, severed body in the open closet. "Tomoe," he called hoarsely, "Come away from there." Tomoe didn't seem to hear him. Her face was in her hands and her body wracked with sobs. Mr. Takamine walked toward her, careful not to look at the closet, and grabbed her arm gently. "Come away, Tomoe-chan," he said again a little more firmly. Tomoe looked up, tears streaming down her face. She climbed unsteadily to her feet and stumbled away from the closet before leaning against the wall beside the door and vomiting again. Mr. Takamine strode over to her and fished a handkerchief out of his pocket and handed it to her to wipe her mouth on.
"Who could have done it?" he muttered. "I'm positive we're the only ones in this house…"
"Not the only ones," Tomoe murmured. "There are others."
"But Tomoe, this house has been abandoned for years. None of the villagers would come up. They're too afraid."
"It's the people who used to live here," she said insistently.
"They're long dead. It couldn't have been them."
"…They're still here."
Mr. Takamine shuddered, but said quietly, "This is a spooky old mansion. Your imagination has probably been running wild, and after finding-." But Tomoe cut him off angrily. "I have not been imagining things! I'm not crazy! There are ghosts here, Mr. Takamine. I know it. I think I knew it before I came here but I was too stupid to pay attention to that."
Mr. Takamine sighed wearily. He was not in the mood for arguing. "Ghosts or no ghosts, there's someone dangerous here and we need to find a way out unless we want to wind up like poor Koji."
"But the entrance is locked," Tomoe pointed out.
"Yes, but there should be some other way out of here. This is a big mansion. There has to be more than one exit….Tomoe, what are you looking at?" he asked, for Tomoe was staring curiously at the kimono room door. "Check in there," she suggested.
"That's only the kimono room," Mr. Takamine said.
"I know, but I just have this feeling…." Tomoe murmured, and opened the door. Mr. Takamine followed her.
"Well?" he asked, fairly annoyed. Tomoe looked around, then approached a drawer with a mirror stand above it. She opened the drawer and pulled out two things: a small brass key and a photograph. "That key matches the lock upstairs!" Mr. Takamine exclaimed. "But…what's that photograph of?"
"It's Koji, I took it for his biography page of his magazine…Oh my…" Tomoe gasped and held the photograph up for Mr. Takamine to see. There were ropes tied to Koji's arms, legs and neck. They were faint, almost transparent, but they were there.
"Now do you believe me?" Tomoe whispered.
"I don't seem to have a choice," Mr. Takamine said heavily. "Come on. We need to find a way out."
They made their way out to the sunken fireplace room and hurried up the stairs. Tomoe stuck the key in the keyhole, turned it, and heard a satisfying click as the door unlocked. "Mr. Takamine, the door's unlocked. Let's go…Mr. Takamine?" She looked over her shoulder at him. He was peering over the railing down at the fireplace room. "It's Hinasaki-san!" he exclaimed, turning around.
"Mafuyu?" Tomoe gasped. She hurried over to look, but saw no one."
"H-he disappeared!" Mr. Takamine stammered. "He walked toward that clock and just faded away!"
"Are you sure it was him?"
"I didn't get a great look," Mr. Takamine admitted, "But I could've sworn it was him."
"It was probably another ghost," Tomoe murmured. "Let's go." She turned around, walked over to the door and pulled it open. She and Mr. Takamine entered a room with a table and a dusty coal brazier. They looked around, then Tomoe said, "Come on, this way." Mr. Takamine didn't even bother questioning her this time, but simply followed. She opened a door to reveal a hallway. They walked down it and turned the corner. Tomoe gasped when she saw someone out of the corner of her eye. She whirled around, terrified, to face whoever it was, and found herself facing a mirror. She almost laughed out loud. She reached out her hand to lean against the mirror, but as soon as her skin touched the smooth glass, her vision changed.
She was no longer looking at her reflection, at the dusty old hallway, but a temple at the top of a hill, flanked by trees. A Shinto gate stood tall at the top of the stairs in front of the temple entrance. The door slowly swung open, revealing a temple with four bloodstained Buddha statues. But there was supposed to be a fifth one. She didn't know how, but Tomoe was sure a statue was missing. And she knew that somewhere nearby was the solution to all their troubles. But where….? The temple faded away, and Tomoe was back in the hallway. She stared dazedly into the mirror for a moment, then snapped out of it and exclaimed "Mr. Takamine! You'll never guess what I…" her voice trailed off. Mr. Takamine was nowhere to be seen. "Mr. Takamine?" she called again. There was no answer. "Stupid old man, why would he leave me!" Tomoe cried, frustrated. Suddenly she felt a tingling at her wrists. She looked at them. Faint, black rope marks circled her wrists. They faded away after a moment. "I'm getting rope marks on my body," she realized. "Just like Koji…" she hurried down the stairs. "Mr. Takamine! She shouted. "Where are you?" She turned the corner and saw a shadowy figure. "There you are!" she cried. The figure turned and started walking toward her, stepping out of the shadows. It wasn't Mr. Takamine.
The man had decaying yellow skin, thin, greasy hair, beady dark eyes, a scowling mouth, and inhumanly long arms. He reached toward her, flexing his long bony fingers. "Give back…" he rasped angrily. He grabbed Tomoe's shoulders, shaking her violently, and she screamed. It felt as if thousands of ice cold knives were piercing every square inch of her body. She pulled away and ran down the hall, running into the first room she found. She looked around. A long table stretched across the length of one wall, candles and scrolls scattered all over it. Ignoring it, she ran out the next room- and found herself outside. She leaned against the wall, nearly crying with relief. She breathed in the fresh night air. Suddenly a voice broke the silence. "Tomoe!" She looked up to see Mr. Takamine running up the porch steps toward her. Before he could say another word, she cried, "Why the hell did you leave me?"
"I thought you were right behind me," he explained. "Honestly…are you all right? You look horrible."
"I was attacked," Tomoe answered, shaking. "A man with long arms…" she found she was too exhausted to say anymore and sank to the floor, still leaning against the wall. Mr. Takamine crouched down, put her arm around his neck, and hoisted her back to her feet. "Whoa, you really did take a beating. Let's get you somewhere safe. I feel a little uneasy out here." He half carried her to a well lit room with two long tables on two opposite walls, covered with dolls. A royal looking crimson paisley rug covered the wooden floor with a matching cushion in the center. Mr. Takamine set her down on the rug and said, "I'm going to see if I can find the exit. I'll come back for you."
"No!" she said weakly. "There was…temple…Buddha statues…escape…"
"You've been through a lot," Mr. Takamine said soothingly. "Get some rest. I think you'll be safe here." Tomoe was too tired to argue anymore. She rested her head on the cushion, and the last thing she heard was Mr. Takamine closing the door as he left before she drifted into sleep.
Tomoe was standing in front of a large door. She looked around. She must be underground, she thought. She felt someone tug at her sweater and she turned around, looking down at a little girl with long dark hair. "Who are you?" she asked the little girl, who said nothing, but pointed to a large stone in front the door. A small mirror was set into it. "What are you trying to say?" Tomoe asked. The girl then pointed to the door. It shook, then burst open. An unseen force flew out of it, pushing Tomoe back. The mirror shattered into five pieces. Tomoe was overcome with a sense of dread. The scenery swirled around her, and suddenly she was in the temple she saw in her vision. A box on the altar slowly opened…revealing a shard of the mirror. "We need to find all the pieces," Tomoe realized.
She woke up and looked around. She stood up quickly. She needed to find Mr. Takamine and tell him! She hurried out of the doll room, and was about to run down to the door at the end of the porch when she noticed someone standing under the large tree in the clearing. No…two someones. There was a young woman wearing a white kimono. She looked like an older version of the little girl in Tomoe's dream. The other person was…Mafuyu? Tomoe looked more closely. No. This young man wore old fashioned clothing, but he looked uncannily like Mafuyu. "Kirie," Tomoe heard him say. "Why won't you run away with me? I love you. You know that."
"I just can't, Akiyama. There are reasons for me to stay here that are more important than my love for you," the young woman-Kirie-answered sadly. The two faded away, leaving Tomoe utterly bewildered. What was that all about? She shook her head and made her way to the door. She didn't have time to linger. She entered the room, looked around, and screamed. Severed heads were strewn all over the floor. Their eyes were open and glazed with fear. The worst part was they were all howling, their screams for mercy, screams of fear echoing through the room. One head, a young female's, rose from the floor and floated toward Tomoe. Tomoe screamed and ducked past, running down the hall to the next door. She found herself in a flooded room with makeshift bridges made of wooden beams. She carefully made her way across them and opened the door to the backyard. She felt a powerful force coming from somewhere behind a grove of bamboo trees. Was a piece of the mirror somewhere nearby? She made her way forward…and saw a fuzzy white figure making its way out of the tree grove. What was it? It became clearer. It was the woman in the cherry atrium, Kirie. "What…?" Tomoe began, but then a feeling of ice cold dread washed over her. There was something about that woman. Something evil. Slowly, dead looking grey arms reached out from behind Kirie, who glided toward Tomoe. Two of the grey hands reached out and grabbed her wrists, letting go after a moment. She looked down. The rope marks were back, along with a terrible, ripping pain. Tomoe stumbled, then ran toward the door to the fish tank room. She ran across the beams, trying to ignore the pain in her wrists. She made her way through the staircase room out to the cherry atrium. She ran into the clearing, noticing a door past the tree. She hurried toward it. Where was Mr. Takamine? She needed to warn him about Kirie, about the curse. Suddenly she heard her name called. "Tomoe!" She looked up. Mr. Takamine was standing on the porch steps. "Where are you going? Why did you leave the doll room?"
"Kirie...she's coming!" Tomoe sobbed.
"What are you talking about?"
Tomoe was about to answer him, when two grey hands reached up from the ground and grabbed her ankles. Tomoe screamed in pain, and Kirie rose from the ground. "Mr. Takamine!" Tomoe rasped. "Save me!" She pushed the door open and stumbled in, sensing Kirie right behind her. Where to run? She had barely made it past the water wheel when Kirie glided in front of her. She simply floated there for a moment, watching Tomoe suffer. Tomoe felt as though her limbs were being ripped off. She was tugged this way and that by some unseen force. She was dimly aware of Mr. Takamine running in, standing a few feet away, looking unsure about what to do. Finally, Kirie reached toward her. Tomoe sensed something new. Cold, blank, darkness. Death. Kirie put her hands around her neck.