“You…you’re a jorougumo too…” Hatsune growled as her true form was starting to force itself out. “That explains how you could command the Kumobito…”
“Please don’t resist the magical surge,” Saki said softly as she dropped her kimono robe, revealing strange moving bulges on her back. “Allow yourself to show your true form; it will all be over soon…”
“Augh…” Hatsune gritted her teeth as her spider legs forced themselves out, tearing through her clothes as her eyes started to glow a fierce red. Saki too was starting to forcibly transform as well, the spider legs ripping through the bulges streaked with emerald green stripes in contrast to Hatsune’s yellow stripes. The Kumobito were trembling, seemingly stricken with both fear and awe.
Sadako collapsed onto the ground, her arms wrapped around Sachiho as she stared at the magic circle that was now glowing a sinister blue color. “She’s going to appear now…” she whispered with excitement. “The Princess shall appear!”
The girls that were on the magic circle let out a muffled scream as they futilely pulled at the chains. A strange whistling sound started to emanate from the circle, culminating in a shriek as the glow became more intense. The Kumobito, most of which had been muttering to themselves in fear and ecstasy, started to make the clicking sounds once again. “She’s coming! She’s coming!”
Meanwhile, Hatsune glared at Saki as she flexed her claws. Struggling to stand up against the massive spiritual pressure, she glanced over her shoulder to see how Kanako and Rie were doing. The two girls were holding onto each other as wave after wave of demonic energy buffeted everyone in the room. “H-Hatsune-san…” Kanako whimpered as the circle suddenly stopped glowing. The humans and Kumobito inside of the temple room watched in apprehension, waiting to see what would break the lull.
“ARRGGGH!” Hatsune suddenly screamed as her human form twisted and morphed in a transformation that was frightening to behold. Her two eyes became eight and her mouth became mandibles; the lower part of her body swelled into a massive abdomen and soon in her place was a monstrous spider, her shrieks sounding like some sort of ancient monster whose cries were long forgotten.
“Hatsune-san…?” Kanako’s voice was small and filled with fright. The spider responded with another shriek that shook the room. The eight-legged monster reared up and crashed down once again, her eight eyes glaring around the room.
Saki stared at the spider, her eyes wide with wonder. “Why…why did she turn into her true form? The energy backlash wasn’t that bad for me…why…?”
A sudden scream from the girls brought everyone’s attention back to the circle. The circle had started glowing once again, and there was a strange hole appearing in the middle. Large spider legs were forcing themselves out, the legs streaked with blue stripes as whatever beast they belonged to struggled out.
“Urgh…” a voice seemingly emanated within Kanako’s head. “Why…why was I forced into my true form…?”
“Hatsune-san!” Kanako cried out. “Are…are you okay?”
“Kanako? Ah…I’m fine…but this…this demonic energy…seems so familiar…” The giant spider suddenly tensed up as she caught sight of the thing pulling itself out of the ground. “Wait…”
The thing that pulled itself out was a monstrous spider as well, but far larger than Hatsune was. The thing had golden eyes that seemed to burn with fierce flames. The mandibles of the monster opened up as the creature let out a screech. The thing’s blue stripes were like those of the ocean streaked across the black exoskeleton of the beast. The monster was soon completely out, filling up a large part of the room. The giant spider let out another shriek, a sound of a terrifying bygone age.
A sudden clanging sound managed to reach Kanako’s ears despite the screaming of the giant spider monster. It was the jade key-like object that they had picked up at the shrine. As the spider that was Hatsune hissed at the colossus in front of her, Kanako hurried over to grab it. Clutching the object close to her, she swore that she could hear some sort of hum coming from it…
“She’s awake…she’s awake!” Saki whispered with glee. “Behold, sisters! Standing before us is the legendary Spider Princess herself! All of you in this crowd, welcome her Highness, Fushigumo no Setsuna!”
Handa-sensei looked up in fright. “What…what was that sound?”
From the cell she was being held in, she could hear the monstrous shrieks echoing down the halls. The shrine maidens guarding her immediately looked up, strange looks on their faces, looks that resembled a mixture of terror and ecstasy. “She’s here…” one of them whispered. “Her Highness is here…”
The shrine maidens hurried off, presumably to see whatever was making those terrifying sounds. As soon as they had left, Handa-sensei felt around one of the inner pockets of her jacket, a look of relief coming to her face as soon as she grasped onto the object within. ‘Thank god they didn’t take this…’ she thought to herself as she pulled out the skeleton key she always carried with her. She had found it when exploring the attic of her grandfather’s home and had carried it around as a good luck charm ever since she was a junior high student. ‘Guess it really is lucky…’
Making sure that none of the shrine maidens were around, Handa quickly reached out of the bars and tried putting the key into the lock. Once the key was inside, she started to wiggle it around a little, trying to find some way to jimmy the lock open. After a minute of struggling, she was finally rewarded with a click as the lock opened and the door started to swing open slowly.
‘Now…I’ve got to find the others and get out of here…’ she thought to herself. ‘But, how do I do that…? Anyways, the priority is to get out of here first…’ She looked around for some sort of weapon to arm herself with, but the only thing in the room was a large candlestick of sorts. “Better than nothing, I suppose…”
As she made her way through the halls, she noted with a bit of apprehension that the place was deserted. As if to hammer the point that something was definitely not right, another bestial scream echoed down the halls. “Oh god, what’s going on out there?” Handa-sensei asked herself. She could feel cool beads of sweat starting to form, trailing down her head and leaving a chilling feeling on her skin. ‘This place…it’s a breeding ground of monsters…’
Sudden footsteps soon reached her ears and she hid around a corner. Her eyes widened as she recognized the voice of the person coming; Masako the innkeeper. “Looks like we should get more girls in case the Spider Princess isn’t satisfied with those we already gave her…perhaps that teacher would be good? She seems to be young enough to satiate the Spider Princess’s tastes…yes, she will do.”
Handa-sensei gave a rather grim smile as her grip around the candlestick. ‘This one pays for all you put us through…’ she thought to herself just as Masako rounded the corner. The innkeeper only saw a flash before the blunt object collided with her face and stars exploded in her head.
Handa-sensei looked down at the unconscious Masako; the woman was wearing some sort of ceremonial mask made of black metal with rubies set into it. The mask resembled a rather crude spider face and was a little unsettling to look at. Other than that, Masako had been wearing some sort of blue robe over her regular civilian clothes. Handa-sensei reached down and pulled the mask off; although it had cushioned the blow of the candlestick somewhat, the force that Handa-sensei had used was still sufficient to achieve what she wanted. Pulling the blue robe off as well, she hurriedly put it on and the mask as well. ‘Hopefully there will be too many people there to recognize me…’ she thought as she leaned against the wall to catch her breath. What she didn’t expect was for it to give way and she let out a startled cry as she fell through.
“Setsuna-sama, Setsuna-sama…” the shrine maidens and Japanese Kumobito chanted, their eyes filled with wonder and admiration.
“She’s here, she’s here…” Sadako whispered. “She’s so magnificent…”
“So that’s Lady Setsuna…” Elizaveta said as she gazed up at the beast.
The monster spider, apparently beginning to calm down, stopped its shrieking as it gazed around the room. As its eight eyes met the many pairs of terrified eyes in the room, the beast started to click its mandibles, occasionally letting out a rattle-like warble. The girls on the magic circle, far too frightened to scream, could only emit small whimpers as the gargantuan stared down at them and everyone else in the room.
“I…I’m free? After all those years imprisoned beneath the earth, I can finally roam free again?” The spider seemed to lift her head up and emit a victorious screech. “Free again! Free again!” The spider then turned her attention to the students that were on the magic circle. “And what do we have here?”
“Fushigumo no Setsuna-sama!” Saki cried out, causing the giant spider to turn towards her. “We are glad that you have been freed! The girls you see there are tribute to you, for you to use in whatever way pleases you!”
“And you are…?” Setsuna asked.
“I am Saki, your humble servant,” Saki said as she bowed down.
“Saki, huh?” Setsuna mused. “I thank you for freeing me from my prison. And what is this? Many spiders have gathered here for this occasion? I am flattered; to think that so many still remember me!”
The spider suddenly froze as her eight-eyed gaze landed on Hatsune. The spider took a step forward, bending down to inspect the black-haired girl who still did her best to keep Kanako safe behind her. “Hatsune? Is that you, Hatsune?”
“How do you know me?” Hatsune asked suspiciously.
“What is this? Don’t tell me you have forgotten your own older sister!” Setsuna cried out, hurt in her voice. “Perhaps you might remember me if I did this?” The spider was suddenly shrinking in size, its eight eyes merging into two and two pairs of legs retracting into her body. The other remaining legs split into five ends on each limb while the abdomen started to shrink. The mandibles disappeared to form a human-like mouth. Black hair sprouted from the spider’s head and the exoskeleton started to take the more familiar soft look of human skin.
Kanako gasped as soon as the transformation was done; standing in front of her and Hatsune was a beautiful girl who looked like an older version of Hatsune who had just reached the age of twenty. Her hair was longer than Hatsune’s, actually trailing on a little on the floor. Her golden eyes seemed just as fiery as when they had been spider eyes. Her naked body, although thin, seemed to give a feeling of great power underneath its seemingly frail appearance. “Now do you recognize me, dear sister?”
Hatsune stared at Setsuna, trying to recall her from her fragmented memory. Setsuna seemed a little saddened when Hatsune didn’t respond. “No? Oh well; we will have plenty of time to enlighten each other, I guess…” Her eyes suddenly settled on Kanako, who instinctively hid behind Hatsune as she felt the gaze of the golden eyes. “And you’ve found yourself a mate as well?”
“And what of it?” Hatsune asked.
“To think that you would’ve finally settled with a mate,” Setsuna said, a hint of a teasing tone in her voice. “To think that Hatsune, the terror that devoured and raped many villagers would finally settle down! You make your older sister so proud…” Setsuna let out a sigh. “However, we can talk later. First…”
Setsuna turned towards Saki and the rest of the Kumobito. Even the two Takagi sisters seemed frozen in awe as the Spider Princess walked towards them. Snapping her fingers, a black kimono and a blue hakama materialized around her body as she finally stopped in front of them. “You, Saki, the one who set me free…you have my thanks. I shall grant you a wish. What do you want?”
Saki was silent for a while, though Kanako noticed Saki’s hand had reached over to her belly. Setsuna, noticing it, cocked her head to one side. “You…you were wounded by a magic weapon?”
Saki looked up. “Yes, but that was a long time ago,” she said. “It was dealt by a man who tried to take Shiori away from me.” Shiori gave a small moan as Saki spoke up, clearly upset by whatever she was saying.
“Is your wish for me to heal that wound?” Setsuna asked softly. She reached over and placed her own hand on Saki’s belly. “That wound prevents you from creating eggs. Do you wish for me to heal it?” Saki was quiet for a while as her eyes wandered over to Shiori. Finally, she nodded a little and Setsuna smiled. Her hand stared to glow red and Saki gave a gasp as the glow became brighter and brighter. Suddenly, the glow disappeared and Setsuna stepped back. “It’s done; your wound shall no longer bother you, and you can have children now.”
Saki looked up at Setsuna, tears of gratefulness starting to form. “Thank you, Setsuna-sama…thank you…”
“It was no problem,” Setsuna said. She turned towards Hatsune. “Now, let’s see if we can do anything to jog your memory…” As she said this, her eyes suddenly fell on the thing in Kanako’s hands. “Hm…perhaps it may be easier than I thought…”