The red haired man was promptly entangled by a stream of white thread that seemed to fly out of nowhere. “What…what the hell?!” he screamed. The other two men whirled around as more threads appeared, wrapping around them and binding their arms to their sides. “Damn…it’s not tearing! What the hell is this?!”
Through eyes clouded with tears, Kanako could make out a vague shape behind the man with red hair. The man managed to turn his head around and let out a scream. “You…you…!” The man let out a gurgling scream as soon as his head was separated from his body, bringing forth a spray of blood as the shape tore into him.
“Ah…ah…AARGH!” the mustached man shrieked until the shape moved towards him and silenced him by ripping him open. The last man, having lost any form of bravery and being reduced to screaming mindlessly, had his life ended when the newcomer grabbed his face. Kanako couldn’t see what was going on, but the sudden cutting off of his screeches told her enough.
‘Oh no…please don’t kill me, please don’t kill me, please don’t kill me…’ were the last thoughts that went through her head as her body finally gave up and succumbed to exhaustion, losing consciousness quickly and only aware that the mysterious shape was heading towards her.
Saki lay down on the bed in her room, holding the shivering and sweaty body of Shiori close to her. “Shiori…you were wonderful…” she said, slightly out of breath. She ran her fingers through the younger girl’s hair, eliciting small whimpers from Shiori. Saki frowned a little at this response. “Are you still frightened of me? Is it because you couldn’t forget what happened that night?”
“U….u…” Shiori moaned, pulling feebly on the bindings that tied her to the bed. Her breasts rose and fell in rhythm with her breath and her eyes were closed in her exhaustion. “N…no…”
“Please don’t be like this,” Saki said with a soothing voice. “You know I would never hurt you. I love you too much to do so. So please don’t act so scared around me.” Her hand reached over to gently grasp Shiori’s chin as she leaned in for a kiss. Shiori didn’t resist; she was too exhausted at this point to do more than whimper.
Saki looked up at the ceiling. ‘Soon…’ she told herself. ‘Soon, you will have everything you wanted in life. You just need to be patient…’ Her thoughts were cut off as a knock on her door was heard. “What is it?”
“The first girl is nearly done; it is time to select the next girl.”
“Alright, I’ll be right there.” As Saki got up and began to dress, she leaned down and gave Shiori a small kiss on the cheek. “I’ll be back soon, my love.”
Rie could hear the uproar downstairs; morning had come and things had quickly gone downhill the moment the teacher realized that none of the female students were around. Handa-sensei had initially suspected that they snuck out of the inn to get another glimpse of the village, but there was no sign of them anywhere. Realizing now that there was something seriously wrong, Handa-sensei was nearly hysterical with worry.
Rie could hear her mother expressing worry about the girls’ welfare. ‘You’re the reason why they’re gone, you liar!’ her mind screamed out furiously. But no matter how enraged she was, she was too frightened to confront her mother about it. According to her mother, many of the villagers belonged to the same ‘religion’ as her; what if she accidentally told someone who was also part of the kidnapping scheme?
‘Wait…there is one person I could talk to…but I’ll need to wait until my mom isn’t around…’ With that, Rie slowly made her way downstairs to get a better idea of what the teacher was saying to her mother.
“I’m sure that they’re safe…” Masako was saying. “I’ve already contacted the police; they’re doing all that they can to find them…”
“That’s not the problem! I thought this town was supposed to be safe! The only time so many girls disappear is when criminals are around! How could…”
“W-wait…” another voice piped up, a voice that Rie assumed belonged to one of the male students. “Does…does that mean that they could’ve been captured by slave traders? Oh…oh god…”
“Calm down, calm down!” Masako urged. “I’m sure that they’ll find those girls in no time! In the mean time…” She was interrupted by a knock on the door. Rie could hear her mother hurrying over to answer it. “Oh, Mihara-san! Did you find any information on the missing girls yet?”
“Not yet,” the voice belonging to Mihara said. “But I have urgent news for you. We need to talk in private.” Rie peeked around the corner to see her mother walking out the front door. Seizing her chance, she hurried down the stair and grabbed Handa-sensei by the shoulder, causing the surprised teacher to whirl around.
“I can’t talk long, but I know who did it,” she hissed urgently into the teacher’s ear. “It’s going to sound crazy, but my mother is part of a cult that’s responsible.”
“What?” Handa-sensei’s eyebrows raised. “How do you…”
“Sh!” Rie looked towards the front door to make sure that her mother wasn’t coming back yet. “Trust me on this…I think they’re being held in the old temple. But I think the policemen might be part of the group as well…”
“Then what should I do?” Handa-sensei asked, worry in her voice.
“I’m not sure…” Rie said, the disappointment evident. “But I think something strange is going on, something not natural…all I can tell you is to be careful and do not trust my mom or any of the other villagers…” She hurriedly drew away as the front door opened and Masako came back in, a disturbed look on her face.
“What’s wrong?” Handa-sensei asked anxiously.
“Oh, it’s nothing,” Masako said, a nervous smile on her face. “Anyways, rest assured that we will do what we can to find those students.” With that, Masako strode up the stairs toward her room. As she walked past, Rie could almost swear that she heard her mother say “Who could’ve torn those three in half like that?"
The first thing Kanako was aware of as she opened her eyes was a gray ceiling. ‘I’m…I’m alive…?’ she thought groggily. ‘Where…where am I?’ She suddenly bolted up as she remembered what she had seen last night: the mysterious assailant that had slaughtered three men near the torii gate…
“What…what happened?” she asked out loud, breathing harshly. She looked around; she appeared to be in a small house of sorts. Someone had laid her on the floor and covered her with a simple blanket. ‘Where…where am I?’ she wondered. ‘What happened to those men? I…I haven’t been kidnapped as well, have I?’
“Ah, you’re awake,” a voice called out from the hallway. Kanako turned around and saw a tall girl with long black hair and red eyes that almost seemed like blood drops. She was wearing a simple dark blue kimono and was carrying a cup filled with warm tea. “Here, drink this,” she said as she handed the cup over.
“T-thanks…” Kanako said as she took a drink; the tea wasn’t especially good, but it was alright. “Where am I? Who are you?”
“You’re in someone’s house; it’s abandoned and I don’t know who it belongs to. As for me, call me Hatsune. That’s the only thing I can remember, really…”
“The…only thing you remember? Could it be amnesia?”
“A…am…amnesia?” Hatsune looked like she was having problems pronouncing the word. “What is that?”
“You don’t know?” Kanako asked in amazement. As Hatsune continued to look bewildered, Kanako flushed red. “I…I’m sorry…I didn’t mean to be rude.”
“No harm done,” Hatsune said. “But I would like to ask you…what were you doing lying near the torii gate? And with three dead bodies as well…”
“I…I was…” The fear was returning to her; the fear of not being able to help her friends, the fear that all she could do was run away and leave the others at the mercy of the kidnappers, the fear that she was going to be raped and killed…
“You’re not comfortable with talking about it?” Hatsune asked. “It’s fine; no need to force yourself…ah, I never asked your name…”
“It’s…it’s Miyama Kanako.”
“Kanako…that’s a nice-sounding name,” Hatsune mused. “Anyways, you should get some rest; wouldn’t want you passing out again, would we? It wouldn’t be good for you.” She chuckled at this as she took the cup away from Kanako and walked off, leaving the younger girl to her thoughts.
‘I didn’t get a look at what the kidnappers looked like…I can’t go back to the inn because they might come back to look for me…oh…what should I do? Who can I trust in this place? That Hatsune girl…what if she’s one of them? But it doesn’t look like she’s handed me to them…maybe I can trust her after all…’---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Sachiho watched in terror as a struggling Tsugumi was dragged onto the circle. Like the other two girls before her, Tsugumi was soon stripped and the Priestess was once again drawing the mark on Tsugumi’s chest.
“MMGGGHH! MMMGGHH!” Tsugumi screamed through her gag, thrashing around and desperately trying to break free from the restraining hands of the shrine maidens. However, the four in charge of standing in the magic circle had soon taken their place and soon began to chant once again. Saki pointed her finger at Tsugumi’s mark and, with a whisper, caused the mark to glow.
The other two girls that had previously gone through the rituals were placed nearby. The mark that had spread across their skin had disappeared by the end of their ritual and now they lay naked but unbound on the floor. Some of the shrine maidens were watching them, making sure that they would not be able to run for it.
The marks were spreading on Tsugumi’s body, causing the girl to moan in fright. Although the other two girls that had gone through the ‘ritual’ weren’t dead, they seemed to be shivering quite a lot, though not the kind of shivering you’d expect from someone who’s feeling cold. No, it was more like…
“Ah…Ah…AAAHH!” One of the girls that had been lying on the ground started to scream. “My…my fingers…oh…ah…These…these aren’t my fingers…MY HAND! OH GOD, MY HAND, MY HAND…!”
The other girls’ eyes widened, and their shrieks tried to escape through their gags. The other girl that had gone through the ritual tried to move away, but apparently she was too weak to do so. The girl that had cried out continued to scream in pure terror as the other girls watched in horror at the nightmarish scene before their eyes. “MY HAND! OH GOD, MY HAND DOESN’T LOOK LIKE THIS! OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD…”
Kanako had no idea how much time had passed, though she thought that it was probably around noontime. Hatsune had periodically stopped by to see how she was doing. Luckily for her, no one had stopped over at the house; she was still safe.
Hatsune had brought lunch over, a simple meal of rice with chicken meat on top. “I’m sorry, I’m not much of a cook…” Hatsune apologized.
“It’s…it’s okay!” Kanako reassured her. “I’m just grateful that you would do something like this for me…”
“Is that so?” The relief on Hatsune’s face was unmistakable. “That’s good to hear. I hope you enjoy your meal.”
“Have you eaten yet, Hatsune-san?” Kanako asked as she picked up the chopsticks that Hatsune had brought along with the food.
“Don’t worry about me,” Hatsune said with a smile. “I’ve already eaten.”
“Oh, I see…” Kanako said as she started to eat. When Hatsune walked out of the room, Kanako thought about what she should do next. ‘My cell phone is back at the inn so I can’t call for help…is there any way I can contact Handa-sensei? Oh, I hope everyone else is alright…what is wrong with this town?'
She got up and looked down the hallway of the house; she needed to use the restroom. 'Where is Hatsune-san? I thought I saw her somewhere around here...' Moving down the hallway, she was about to call out until something caught her eye. One of the doors in the hallway was open and she had happened to peek inside. She let out a small gasp as shock as she realized what was inside of the room...