Author's Note: I've returned with a new Nightmare Inspector mystery! I was actually planning something different and got it halfway written before I realized I had no clue how to end it... But hopefully this one will make up for me entirely wasting my time! I got the idea/premise of this from and episode of my favorite anime of which I am too ashamed of to mention the name of. I don't own (let's just call it Guitar Ninjas) for the idea, or Shin Mashiba's awesome nightmare Inspector series!
…Under cover of darkness…
…They come to the Silver Star Tea House…
The waitress Mizuki was lighting the lamps in the Silver Star Tea House, preparing for another long night of nightmares, customers, and Hiruko. The sun was just setting and the baku would be leaving his room shortly. Although he could not drink it, Mizuki began to make him tea out of habit. It was deathly silent, as Hifumi had gone to bed early, complaining of sickness. Honestly, she would be glad to have a simple, quiet evening with the baku.
She lit the final lamp and softly blew out the match, turning to polish the counter. Hiruko had appeared behind her, and she jumped just a little in surprise.
"I'm sorry, Mizuki, did I scare you?"
The landlady blushed and fiddled with the sleeve of her kimono. "N-no... it's just that-"
There was a light tinkling sound as the silver bell signaled a customer.
"Is this the residence of the baku Hiruko?" asked a soft, feminine voice.
Hiruko stepped away from the counter. "I am the one you seek. Did you come on account of a nightmare.
"Yes... you can help?" She woman stumbled into the light, fully revealing herself. She was a beautiful, radiant woman with golden hair and bright eyes. She was very slender, but also very shapely, and Mizuki couldn't help but feel jealous of the woman's glow. She wore a kimono of finest quality and craft that seemed to shimmer in the lamplight. All this almost overwhelmed the image of her broken arm, visible at her side in a cast.
Hiruko took in all the detail and seemed content. "I take it you're from a wealthy family, Miss...?"
Mizuki blinked in puzzlement as she laid down a cup of tea for the customer. "You're related to Hifumi?"
"You know Hifumi-san?" asked the woman.
"Of course! In fact, he lives-"
Hiruko coughed lightly. "Excuse me, Miss. Do you wish to tell me of the nightmare? Does it have something to do with your broken arm?"
"I'm not sure... I don't know what it's about!"
"Start from the beginning, then."
The young woman took a breathe to steady her nerves and began her story. "You were right about one thing, I am from a very wealthy family. But something happened, and they all started distancing themselves from me."
"He left a while before this started happening, it think. I don't remember much, you see. My memory is very messed up... After a certain point, I can't remember anything, and the rest is blurry, except for some nights."
Hiruko fiddled with his hair, starting to get a little impatient. "And the dream itself?"
It started a bit after I broke my arm. All I saw in my dream was darkness, with a few spotlights lighting my family members. There was also a voice shouting riddles at me. I've always been terrible at riddles- I can't solve the simplest. This same setting lasted a few nights, but soon a light started going out with each night. And the riddles only continued. Finally, all the lights were out and I was left in total silence with only the voice and the riddles.
Hiruko, please help me bring back that light! And help me solve the riddles!"
The baku looked thoughtful. "Well... I do think the riddles are the key to discovering your memory, who you are. I am quite curious about the riddles too." He raised Formalin. "Sleep now... leave this world behind."
There was a flash of light.
Then, there was darkness.
"I assume this is it?" asked Hiruko, calling a glow into Formalin's dream collector and using it as a torch. He found his customer crouched in what appeared to be a corner.
"Yes... with the light I can see more..."
The baku looked at the walls. "Wood. Peculiar... I'm going to check out the other side. Will you come with me, now that you can see?"
Ranpu was silent for a little. 'I forgot to mention this part. I can't move from this spot."
A quick, slight smile appeared on Hiruko's face as something clicked in his thought process.
"What dies as it stands and grows lonesome as it sits?" boomed a voice.
The dreamer stuttered, "A- a person? They age when they are awake and get lonely really easy?"
"You always answer that," replied the voice, and faded away.
Hiruko listened for a little more, to make sure it was gone, and addressed his customer. "Are you sure that's the answer?"
"I- I think so... I mean, it's a pretty straightforward riddle, right? Right?"
"... a what?"
Hiruko sighed. "The wick of a lamp... as it burns, as it stands, it grows short."
He continued, determined to bring this dream to its resolution. "As it sits... once it's burned down, or it sits turned off, the people in the room will leave."
Ranpu's eyes widened. "I... I remember. I understand now." She reached out to the baku. "Hiruko... I was happier not knowing..." her eyes began to water.
The baku knew it was time to end this, and lifted his cane. "It's time to wake up."
Back at the Silver Star Teahouse, Hiruko was holding a fine, but broken, lamp.
Mizuki was silent, and stared.
Hiruko brushed himself off a little and looked at the dream he gained. He then turned to the waitress. "Don't think anything of it, Mizuki. We've had weather vanes, wooden posts, and rivers... what's so unusual about a lamp?"
"What- what happened?"
He sighed. "I could tell parts from the beginning, but only after the dream could I tell the whole story."
Mizuki took the lamp from Hiruko's arms and began to polish it. "The poor thing... so what was it?"
"Ranpu- or, shall we say, Lamp- belonged in the Misumi family drawing room. They would use it every night over dinner, and it thought itself part of their stories and conversation.
"Then one day, it was dropped."
Mizuki winced at the sharpness in his voice, and turned the lamp. Sure enough, the arm was broken.
Hiruko continued. "Hifumi had moved here by this time, I think. Anyway, they still tried to make it work for a while- it is such a pretty lamp, after all, but to know avail. They put it in the attic where the lamp wanted nothing but to light its family and see them again, but its memories began to slowly fade away in the darkness. Now it remembers, but I'm afraid the memories will hurt more."
"Hiruko! That's horrible!"
He remained stoic. "At least I got dinner out of it." he popped the nightmare into his mouth. "...tastes like oil."
Mizuki sadly looked at the lamp. 'It's so sad... it just wants to be used. Well, I'm afraid we have no place for it."
"There's no use for a broken lamp, Mizuki. End its misery. I'm going to bed- it's almost sunrise."
As the baku strolled up the stairs, Mizuki gave the lamp one final look, and gently laid it in the trash.
Mizuki awoke, and descended the stairs to the Tea House kitchen, like she did every morning. She had gotten used too little sleep and getting up early, relishing the small hours of the morning to spend to herself.
But not, apparently, this morning.
"Hifumi! What are you doing up?"
He was beaming. "Look at this lamp I found!"
She paused. "But its broken... It can't be used."
Hifumi continues to smile and rub the gold-encircled glass with a cleaning cloth. "Who cares? I used to have one just like this in my house! I wonder what happened to it?"
He looked up from his work. "What? Is it really that weird to keep a lamp that doesn't work on my nightstand? It would still be a pretty decoration. Plus it reminds me of home!"
"Fine, I'll throw it away.' We walked over to the trash.
"No!" Mizuki shouted, quickly covering her mouth after she realized the noise she made. Then she smiled warmly. "Keep it, as a memory. Things like this are meant to be used by people who love them."
Author's Note: Le gasp! Nekoraven, did you just write a Nightmare Inspector story that ended happily? Well, the last one I wrote was so much of a depressionfest I figured it needed to be balanced out. Besides, sometimes the stories end happy! I do, however, think this could be one of the few fanfictions out there about a lamp... Anyway, this was very loosely inspired by episode 8 of my favorite anime which I will not admit to liking in public, but I've you've seen this you'll recognize it! As always, I tried to do a good job foreshadowing when the character is introduced, but still keep it subtle. My goal with these stories is for it to be not obvious at all the first read, but painfully obvious in hindsight. I hope I was able to do that. Please review! Reviews fuel me!
Oh, and thanks to Meda Princess for all her reviews, the last gave me the heart to actually finish this.