The tour bus moved down the road, a lone vehicle speeding past a vast field under a sunny sky. Sixteen year old Miyama Kanako was looking outside until she was startled by the feeling of someone tapping on her shoulder. The orchid-hair girl turned around to see a girl about her age with short dark blue hair grinning at her.
“Hey, didn’t think I’d see you here, Miyama-san! You’re on the tour too?”
“Oh…hello, Watanabe-san,” Kanako stammered. Watanabe Tsugumi was a classmate of Kanako’s and one of the most well-liked girls in the school as well. Although Kanako had never personally spoken to Tsugumi, she had often heard how friendly Tsugumi was with other people.
“That’s great! Most of the other students here are older, and I’m glad that there’s another first year on the trip!” Tsugumi smiled, her expression beaming.
“Um…thank you?” Kanako managed a nervous smile.
The trip was one that had been planned by Yaesaka High School. The school had offered to let a select number of students go on a tour to the countryside, primarily to visit Fushigumo Village. The village was one that had supposedly been around for quite some time and the old customs were still practiced by the villagers. The school hoped that the students on the tour could learn a little about the older cultures of Japan.
“Um…so, you’re friends with Tsugumi-chan?” The speaker was a girl that seemed about a year older than Tsugumi and Kanako. She had long brown hair with a blue ribbon tied in it; she also seemed to be about almost as shy as Kanako was.
“Sachi-nee, you sure you’re feeling alright?” Tsugumi asked in concern. “You’re looking kind of pale…”
“I…I’m fine,” the girl, Takano Sachiho, said in an attempt to reassure the younger girl. “I’m…I’m just feeling a little dizzy, that’s all…”
“Wait…” Kanako suddenly spoke up. “Watanabe-san…how come your brother isn’t here with you?”
Watanabe Takahiro was a name that elicited many cries of delight from the girls of Yaesaka High. He was a second year student as well as the student council president. Strong and smart looking, he was easily one of the most popular boys in the school.
“Oh, he couldn’t come,” Tsugumi said, looking rather disappointed. “His kendo competition is in Kyoto and the kendo club will be there for a week.”
Kanako suddenly found Tsugumi leaning over once again. “Hey, Miyama-san, did you ever hear the rumors about Fushigumo Village?”
“Tsugumi-chan…” Sachiho said, a slight warning in her tone.
“Well, they’re mostly about creatures from mythology,” Tsugumi said. “But there was one that was especially popular, let’s see, which one was it…?”
“The Spider Princess,” a male voice rang out. The girls turned around to see a short blonde-haired boy with a cheerful grin on his face. “The Undying Spider Princess if you want the full title…”
“So Ayukawa-ken knows the story too?” Tsugumi asked in surprise.
“Well, not all of it,” the boy, Ayukawa Keita, laughed. “All I know about the story is that the village was said to be terrorized by a gigantic spider. I think the village sent a group of warriors into the forest to find her but…”
“But none of them came back,” Tsugumi finished. “Yeah, but did you know archaeologists recently found a cave filled with human bones and a bunch of really big spider webs? Now they think the legend might’ve had some truth to it…”
“Tsugumi-chan, please stop…” Sachiho begged.
“So what did the villagers do to the spider?” Kanako asked, morbid curiosity getting the better of her. “Did…did they drive it away?”
“Apparently not,” Keita said. “I heard they sent a priest over there for an exorcism, a priest that went by the name Shirogane. They found him dead and tied to a tree. The legend said that he had his innards sucked out of him by the spider.”
“I…I see…” Kanako turned away, feeling a little sick.
The bus was slowing down, finally halting completely. “We’re here!” the teacher called out cheerfully as the doors to the bus opened. The students filed out of the bus, admiring the scenery and the nice weather.
“Ah~! It feels so good!” Tsugumi exclaimed.
“Hey, there’s the village!” another student called out. “Wow, they have Western-style houses here too! I thought all the houses would be traditional!”
“Ah, you must be the students from Yaesaka High!” The voice belonged to a young woman about twenty-eight years of age with long black hair. “My name is Tanaka Yuriko, and I welcome you all to Fushigumo Village.”
“Thanks for having us here!” all the students called out.
“Oh, everyone is so polite! Come on, let me show you where you will be staying for the night!” Yuriko led the students over to a traditional Japanese building. “This is the local inn; I hope that you all find it cozy here! Let me see, your rooms…”
The students soon found themselves relaxing on the futons of the room. There were some like Sachiho and Kanako who were a little worried about only one sliding door separating the boys from the girls, but most of the others could care less. After sitting in a bus for so long, many of them wanted to explore.
“Alright, let’s see where we can go!” Tsugumi said as she threw her arms around Sachiho and Kanako. “I want to go to the shrine first! Maybe they’ll let us pray there and it will give more luck than the shrines back home!”
“Um…am I coming with you two?” Kanako asked.
“Of course, why not?” Tsugumi said cheerfully. “The more the merrier, right?”
“If you’re going, I’m coming too,” Keita said as he got up. “I want to see if the shrine says anything about the Spider Princess…”
“Oh, the Spider Princess is real indeed…” an old voice suddenly cackled out. The students saw an old woman hobbling into the room with some sheets in her arms. “Don’t worry about me; I’m just here to bring you some clean sheets. Wouldn’t want your first night to be uncomfortable, would we?”
“Wait…what do you mean by real?” Kanako asked shakily.
“The Spider Princess really existed…” the old woman smiled. “She’s a dangerous one, oh yes she is! Everyone who tried to kill her always ended up either eaten or insane. She’s been alive for hundreds of years and she’s still alive even today…”
“Mother, what are you talking about now?!” a young woman cried out as she hurried into the room. She had long brown hair that nearly reached her waist and judging by the apron she wore over her blue kimono she was an employee here. “I’m sorry; my mother tells strange tales sometimes…”
“They’re not strange tales, Rie, they’re completely true!” the old woman said. “Why did you think there weren’t many men in this village for a while? It was because they wanted to be heroes but ended up as food for the Spider Princess instead!”
“Mom…” Rie said with a warning tone in her voice. She smiled apologetically at the other students. “I…I’m really sorry about this…I hope you enjoy your stay here.” She hurriedly ushered her mother out of the room while the students watched them leave.
“Whoa, now I’m really interested…” Tsugumi said.
“Watanabe-san…” Kanako looked rather panicked upon seeing the gleam in Tsugumi’s eyes. “I…I don’t think it’s a good idea…”
“Th-that’s right, Tsugumi-chan!” Sachiho quickly agreed. “What…what if something bad happens…?”
“Come on, we’re just visiting a shrine!” Tsugumi laughed. “It’s not like we’re heading into the forest to find a giant spider! What harm could possibly come to us in a shrine?” She got off of the futon, stretching her arms. “Come on, let’s go!”
“We ended up coming here after all…” Kanako sighed in a resigned manner. “Are we even allowed to be here? What if the villagers don’t want people to come in here?”
“It’s okay as long as we don’t touch anything right?” Keita smiled. “Hey, look; they have drawings there.” He pointed at a couple of wall scrolls hanging on the shrine walls. “They look pretty old too…”
The wall scrolls showed a girl in a white kimono standing among a forest of webs with her hand up to her mouth and her tongue licking her hand. Although the painting was rather simplistic, the image of the girl still seemed rather vivid. There was blood staining the kimono and the expression on the girl’s face was one of cruel amusement, almost as if she got a kick watching humanity’s futile attempts to master her.
“Wow, so this is the Spider Princess?” Tsugumi said, looking at the scrolls. “Whoever built this shrine was obsessed with spiders…” She shuddered a little as she looked at the corners of the shrine; cobwebs were seen all over the place. “I guess people haven’t been using this for a while…”
“But there’s not much dust in here,” Keita observed. “That means at least someone’s used it recently…”
“Tsugumi-chan! Come here!” Sachiho said. “Look at this!”
The four students gathered around what looked like an altar of sorts. There was a picture of a large black spider with yellow stripes on its body standing on a hill of skulls. On the altar was a small statue carved from some form of black rock that was in a crude shape of a human with spider legs coming from her back.
“Wow…really obsessed…” Tsugumi repeated. She pulled out her cell phone and started to take pictures. She suddenly leaned forward to examine the statue. “Hey, come look! There’s some sort of strange marking on the statue!”
Kanako, Sachiho, and Keita hurried over. “Over here,” Tsugumi pointed at the front part of the statue. “It looks like a spider of sorts…”
“You’re right…” Sachiho said uneasily, looking at the red spider mark on the statue. “How is it doing it? I…I don’t like this, Tsugumi-chan…”
“She’s right…” Kanako said. “Please…let’s just get out of here…” She thought that her mind was starting to play tricks on her; the glow from the symbol seemed to be pulsing like some sort of heart…
“Alright then…” Tsugumi took one last look at the shrine before the four students hurried back to the hotel.
A woman wearing the outfit of a shrine maiden watched as the four kids moved away from the shrine before going inside, dragging a large crate behind her. She got on the floor and bowed down in front of her altar. “Oh, mighty Spider Princess, your advent is soon approaching. The preparations for your return are being finalized as we speak, and soon the awakening festival shall be held.”
Standing up, the woman lit an incense stick and placed it a small urn on the altar. She put her palms together in prayer and bowed three times before stripping off her kimono. As she stood in the shrine half-naked, she closed her eyes as if in concentration. The skin on her back rippled and strange growths started to appear. These growths stretched themselves until there were four of them sprouting from her back. These growths eventually hardened into silver-colored spider legs.
Her transformation complete, the woman walked over to the altar and picked up a jar. Opening it, she dipped her fingers inside and drew out some thick red liquid. Lowering her fingers to the temple floor, she began to trace a pattern on the ground, a large circle with a crude spider shape in the middle. Finished, she stepped back a little and, looking the symbol over to make sure it was correct, reached for the crate.
Inside was a young girl, sixteen years of age. She was naked and her arms were tied behind her. The girl’s moans and sobs were stifled by cloth stuffed into her mouth. The woman reached in and pulled the girl out, laying her on the pattern.
“Now, Princess, I offer you the nectar from this young maiden, as a gift before your awakening!” The woman leaned over the frightened girl, one hand reaching out to stroke the girl’s cheek while the other one grabbed one of the girl’s breasts. “Don’t worry,” she said to the girl. “I’m not going to kill you. All you need to do is cooperate; it will be over before you know it. And afterwards, you will not need to worry about anything anymore. You will belong to our Princess for eternity when she awakens…”
The girl could do nothing more than sob as the woman leaned down and pulled out the cloth. “No…” the girl whimpered before her mouth was sealed shut by the woman’s lips. The woman pulled her hakama off and lowered herself onto the girl’s body as the painted pattern started to glow in a sinister fashion.