Saturday, December 29, 2012

Sympathy & Mirth!

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contain spoilers about
"Higanbana no Saku Yoru ni: First Night"

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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Chapter 5 (h)

Erika: "Isn't she a pretty sight, Dlanor? What do you think? *giggle*"

Dlanor: "I believe it will be necessary to teach her some humility."

Erika: "Ah, indeed! Who the hell does she think she is? Who the hell does she think I am? Does she even know who is she up against to?"

Dlanor: "She probably does not, and we can use that to our advantage."

Erika: "Ha! Is that even necessary, Dlanor?"

Dlanor: "This is her territory, in this world she is nearly almighty. Her confidence stems from the belief that she cannot be defeated as long as we are in her domain. She is inexperienced, but extremely powerful. I advise against underestimating her, Miss Erika."

Erika: "Ha ha ha! A greenhorn like her cannot hope to seriously stand on my level. What does she even know about magic?"

Dlanor: "She believes to know magic a lot more than you do, Miss Erika."

Erika: "And that's exactly what's so hilarious! But don't you worry, Dlanor, I won't let my self-esteem cloud my own judgment. This will be extremely entertaining!!!"

Floating in this weightless environment, we move closer to the one who summoned us. When we are at about ten meters from her, we stop. She must be at least a bit surprised that I am in no way discomforted by the lack of gravity. Much to her disappointment, I am still as graceful and elegant as ever.

Maaya: "Welcome, great detective! Welcome, Erika Furudo! Welcome to my realm! Today you're my precious guest. Enjoy your stay, while you still can. Ah ha ha ha ha!!!"

What a hideous, haughty laughter! But I am not so easily swayed by such petty provocations; I answer with a courteous smile.

Erika: "I thank you for this warm welcome... but who do I have the pleasure to be the guest of? If I may ask? *giggle*"

Maaya: "Oooh? Has my appearance changed so much that you're unable to recognize me? I expected more from a great detective!"

Erika: "Your human vessel is of little concern to me at this moment. State your nature, state the essence of your existence!"

Maaya: "Very well, I guess it's only appropriate for me to introduce myself properly. You have the honor to stand in the presence of Maaya, the witch of power!"

And so she confirms it, the unforeseen and delightfully welcomed twist of this day is that Maaya Teramoto is a witch. And the being that stands before me is no other but her meta-self, the incarnation in a higher plane of the illusory image that she created to exalt her true nature.

Erika: "It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Maaya, witch of power... Your title intrigues me. Would you mind to indulge my curiosity?"

Maaya: "Is that enlightenment that you ask, human? I shall consider it the last wish of a convicted to death."

Erika: "I came to know many witches in my life, and I'm familiar with several of their different kinds, but this is the first time I meet a witch of power."

Maaya: "You've never met the real deal then, ah ha ha ha ha!"

Erika: "'Witch of power', that's quite high-sounding, isn't it?"

Maaya: "Impressed?"

Erika: "I would, if I wasn't used to the inflated ego of witches and their fancy words. Take 'witch of origin', for example. That's just an euphemism for one who creates stories out of thin air. And take 'witch of endless', that's just a title for those who can daydream forever while accomplishing nothing. So you're a witch of power, but what does that actually mean?"

Maaya: "Very amusing, do not lump me together with those failures! Being a witch of power means to be destined to command humans, create empires and rule over them!"

Erika: "I see, it makes sense. I guess it's quite fitting for your case."

Maaya: "Do you understand my greatness, human?"

Erika: "I understand that a witch of power is a fancy name for one who doesn't have any power of her own."

As soon as I complete my statement, a blue dart made of pure energy materializes in front of me. In a single instant, it bolts forward aiming at Maaya's forehead. It is as fast as a bullet, and as much as deadly, but its target doesn't flinch, she just reacts with a slightly surprised and amused expression.
The dart impacts an invisible barrier and disintegrates.
I expected that much, she won't be defeated so easily. This was just a test, I just probed her defenses.

Maaya: "Ah ha ha ha ha! I didn't imagine you would attack so quickly! If you're so eager to measure yourself with me, you just need to ask, great detective!"

Erika: "*giggle* *giggle* That was just a little demonstration."

Maaya: "Is that so? Then allow me to give you a demonstration of what true power is!"

With an imperious flourish she raises her eyes and right arm towards the turbulent clouds above. Her open palm seems to be ready to grasp the universe itself. I feel a bit ashamed of myself for admiring the perfection of her posture, but she literally radiates mightiness.

Maaya: "Chosen ones, heed my call! Grant me your strength, grant me your power! Enter in communion with the mystical circle and become one! Let your energies flow, let them pour onto me! Sustain me! Support me! Obey me! By yourself you are nothing, together we can move mountains and tear oceans asunder! I can take your single strengths and multiply them together. Follow my light and you shall know greatness!"

The eleven pillars react to Maaya's invocation. The magical inscriptions have started to glow of a bright red color. They pulsate at steady intervals. I hear a rumble, it is getting louder. The swirling, formless mass outside the spherical hall is raging with an impressive strength.
Then I see sparks. Electrical discharges begin to spiral around the pillars, they move swiftly like centipedes.

Maaya: "Come! Release your energies! Relinquish them onto me! Open the gates of your minds! Set yourself free from the shackles of the material world! There is so much untapped power in your spirits! Do not let it go to waste! Let it flow onto me, and with it I shall create our paradise! Follow me, and I'll show you wondrous worlds beyond your imagination! Fantasy! Excitement! Power!"

Then, suddenly, with a thunderous roar eleven energy streams trace arcs from the tips of each pillar to the center of Maaya's open hand. They are connected. A tremendous amount of power flows inside the body of the mistress of this world. She screams and laughs overflown by the excitement. The eleven streams flutter restlessly producing shrieking sounds, they look like living beings desperately trying to escape a predator's grasp.

Maaya: "Power!"

She is completely inebriated.

Maaya: "Unfettered power! Boundless power! Unstoppable power! Overwhelming power! Ah ha ha ha ha!!!"

At last she regains control over herself, and while still drawing energy from the pillars, she directs her eyes and her attention on me once again.

Maaya: "Are you observing, detective? Are you witnessing my strength? Are you still unimpressed?"

Erika: "Why? It is as I said, this is just borrowed power."

Maaya: "And what of it? The ability to draw power from external sources is a power in itself, and a great one at that! You might as well point out the fact that a human doesn't have fangs and claws, but how is that of any importance when he can wield far deadlier weapons? You might even have some kind of peculiar talent for yourself, detective, but you're just a single pathetic being, while I... I have legions at my commands! You are a maggot, a vermin! And I shall crush you like the puny bug that you are!"

Erika: "Ah ha ha ha! You might have a point indeed, the power you're playing with right now is a lot greater than anything that I can muster from my own spirit. Truly frightening! However you'll soon realize what a fragile being is he who relies on something other than his own self! But before we begin this fight, let me check one thing. You claim to be a witch, but which is the witch that acknowledged you?"

Maaya: "Oh? What are you talking about?"

Erika: "Just as I thought, you're pretty new to this, aren't you?"

Maaya: "Hmph! Spare me your clumsy attempts to insult me, human!"

Erika: "As a rule a new witch needs to be acknowledged by a witch from the senate. Oh well... considering your strong will, you're probably under the protection of the witch of certainty."

Maaya: "Ha ha! I have no need for such trivialities! But if that's really a tradition among witches, so be it. I don't dislike that: certainty! Very well, I shall destroy you with absolute certainty! Ha ha ha ha!"
Erika: "My my! Certainty sure is great, but I'm under the protection of the witch of miracles, and miracles can defy even an absolute will! Just like scissors always win against paper, miracles always win against certainty!"

Maaya: "A miracle! Ah ha ha ha! Yes, that's really the only way you can hope to defeat me! Begin to pray!"

Erika: "I wouldn't laugh, if I were you, you might be able to witness a miracle pretty soon."

Maaya: "Now I'm even more certain that victory will smile upon me. I have no reason to fear those who rely on miracles."

Erika: "Fool, you despise what you don't even understand! Do you even know what's at stake? I'm a slayer of witches, and there's one just in front of me. Do you understand what does it mean to be killed in this place? If I succeed, Maaya, the witch of power, will die. And then only an empty shell will remain, just an average student of a third rate high school, wasting her time with worthless rituals and anachronistic superstitions!"

Maaya: "That goes for you too! What would remain of you, if the great detective Erika Furudo were to die by my hands? What kind of pathetic being would be left in her place?"

Erika: "Why don't you try to find that out by yourself? Assuming that you can, of course. *giggle* *giggle*"

Maaya: "One of us will be slain today! Will it be the witch of power Maaya, or will it be the great detective Erika? I already know the answer to that question!"

Erika: "What a coincidence! I know that too!"

Maaya: "Ah ha ha ha ha!!!"

Erika: "Ha ha ha ha!!!"

Together with her laughter, the witch of power unleashes part of her energy into a powerful electric discharge. The entirety of the gigantic spherical hall is ravaged by a violent thunderstorm. Myriads of lightnings, with erratic and unpredictable trajectories, are thrown at the speed of light all around. There are so many of them that they almost fill the whole place, and I need to give my all in order to avoid being skewered. I barely make it, literally grazing most of them. I must admit it, this is really impressive.
So this is how Maaya plays. She knows that she has energy to spare, and she doesn't shy from making use of it with unfocused multiple attacks on a large scale. Terrifying...
I quickly look behind me to check Dlanor's status. She is fine, for now, it looks like my furniture is sturdy enough to withstand such degree of power.

Erika: "Ha ha ha... This is fun! It's as if I'm against the blinded rage of the natural elements themselves! Are you fine, Dlanor?"

Dlanor: "I believe I can manage this level, somehow..."

Erika: "So this is a witch of power!"

Dlanor: "She is stronger than I had predicted."

Erika: "Strength! Sure, she's got that aplenty! But it takes more than that to defeat me. Raw power alone is nothing against my superior intellect!"

Dlanor smiles, in a way that I rarely see on her face. This is what she becomes whenever she is involved in a real battle. It is as if she turns into a different being. The usual self-restrained and analytical demeanor of my companion has been overridden by adrenaline and excitement. Nothing can move her soul more than the prospect of a fight. She is, after all, Death Sentence Dlanor. Slaying evil witches is her raison d'être.

Erika: "I think it's time to bring forth and wield our weapons. Don't you think so?"

Dlanor: "Let us give her a taste of what a true battle is!"

A single mental command, and immediately an ethereal red longsword materializes in Dlanor's right hand. Similarly a blue shortsword appears in the other. Those are my companion's favorite tools of destruction. Also called the 'red key' and the 'blue key', they are blades made of pure energy who can cut through every illusion with the power of truth.
As for me, I have a quite different taste. I extend my arm forward, and calling upon my inner power, I visualize in my mind the shape of the weapon that I wish to brandish. The raw matter of the metaworld gathers following my desires and quickly forms a long stave. Then from its farthest end a protrusion, perpendicular to it, begins to enlarge. It spreads and broadens tracing a curve and emitting an intense blue glow. A few little decorations to please my aesthetic sense and my work is complete. Ominous, splendid, and awe-inspiring, my scythe is ready to fell my enemy and drink her blood. I swing it left and right a few times to test its balance. Perfect.

Maaya: "Are you trying to impress me with your primitive tools? Oh, but I see that even that thing that you always bring with you has thorns. I almost didn't realize that she was here. You must pardon me for ignoring her until now, what a terrible host I am! Let me make it up for that by providing her with a suitable playmate!"

Erika: "Uh? What is she..."

Dlanor: "..."

Maaya changes her posture, she no longer focuses on draining and releasing energy. Instead she raises her eyes and arms above, with the palms open in the act of receiving blessing from the higher planes. With the grace of a divine being, she begins to perform strange and complex movements with her hands, in a mysterious, ritualistic manner.

Maaya: "Astrachios, Asach, Asarca, Abedumabal, Silat, Anabotas, Jesubilin, Scigin, Geneon, Domol!"

Her invocation begins. I can feel already the pressure of the spiritual energy flowing towards and all around her.

Maaya: "Spirits of the land, of the seas and of the heavens, grant me, I pray, the power to conceive in my mind and to execute that which I desire to do, the end of which I would attain by your help!"

Something very mysterious is happening. Maaya's words are resonating with the eleven pillars. They start to vibrate and echo her words.

Maaya: "Astrachios, Asach, Asarca, Abedumabal, Silat, Anabotas, Jesubilin, Scigin, Geneon, Domol!"

"Astrachios, Asach, Asarca, Abedumabal, Silat, Anabotas, Jesubilin, Scigin, Geneon, Domol!"

Like a chorus they answer, their voices fill the entire hall.

Maaya: "Spirits of the land, of the seas and of the heavens, I entreat you to inspire the bearer of storms to manifest before me, that he may give me true and faithful answer, so that I may accomplish my desired end!"

"Astrachios, Asach, Asarca, Abedumabal, Silat..."

Maaya: "This I command, in the name of Maaya, the witch of power!"

"...Anabotas, Jesubilin, Scigin, Geneon, Domol!"

Maaya: "Answer the call! Obey the spirits that bind you, Lord of the southwestern wind!"

"Astrachios, Asach, Asarca, Abedumabal, Silat..."

Maaya: "Master of all fevers and plagues, grinning dark angel of the four wings!"

"...Anabotas, Jesubilin, Scigin, Geneon, Domol!"

Maaya: "Hear my invocation! Your name I call!"

"Astrachios, Asach, Asarca, Abedumabal, Silat..."

The spiritual pressure has increased to unimaginable proportions. A furious wind is blowing with unnatural strength.

Maaya: "Pazuzu! Pazuzu! Pazuzu!"

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Happy Higanbana to everyone!

The following images
contain spoilers about
"Higanbana no Saku Yoru ni: First Night"

Click to enlarge:

Friday, December 21, 2012

Chapter 5 (g)


I step inside my enemy's lair. I am welcomed by dozens of dancing flames. Excitement and anxiety saturate the air. The eleven first year students are already sitting around the magic circle. They left a spot for me, almost on the opposite side from where Teramoto is standing. She is just between the circle and the triangle, with the statue of Pazuzu right behind her. Surrounded by these flickering lights it almost looks alive, a true demon standing by his mistress' side. Tremendous, powerful, bloodcurdling.
An eloquent gesture of Teramoto invites me to sit down. At the same time one of her lackeys shuts the door as much as its poor state allows. We are now isolated from the rest of the world, the rules and the laws that work out there are left behind. Here, in this place, anything is possible. Nobody is saying that, but it can be felt, like an invisible shroud, masterfully woven by Teramoto and her friends, enveloping us all.
This is a lot better than I thought, in spite of the lame premises, this doesn't look amateurish at all. Under the bright light of the day, in a mundane environment, it is very easy to make fun and laugh of the occult. But here and now, in the midst of this otherworldly atmosphere, it is finally a real challenge. And I feel a chill in my bones, a growing restlessness in my nerves, and deep inside my barren heart I feel grateful.
I am so glad I issued this challenge!
I am so glad to be here!
I am so glad I can experience this ritual in person, with my own eyes!
I sit down on my assigned spot, I am now part of the spectators, and the show can begin. Teramoto nods once, with an ostensibly confident smile.

Club member: "Behold, chosen ones! Now that you are all assembled around the mystical circle, the great seer will speak! She is going to reveal the occult truth of this school. Listen with care, and remember! Do not speak carelessly of what you will hear and see. The secrets that you are about to learn are not meant for the clueless men to hear!"

Teramoto claps her hands twice, and then she extends her arms to the sides. It is beginning.

Teramoto: "My name is Maaya Teramoto..."

Her voice echoes calm and authoritative.

Teramoto: "...I am the heir of a family of Shinto priests. The spirit world is vast and mysterious, and originally it was powerful and strongly tied to this land. Spirits dwelt in every place, they were all around us and we called them kami. Our ancestors... "

I have listened to these words before. This is the same long monologue that she recited during the interrogation of two days ago. She must have repeated it dozens of times for the past two years. I don't think that she actually memorized every single word, but it must be pretty close to that. If there are differences from what I listened to before, they must be minimal.

Teramoto: "In the beginning I was unhinged, I had never perceived such an overwhelming power before..."

This is the part where she describes the first time she came to this school, allegedly perceiving the presence of the demon Pazuzu. Once again she claims that she fell ill, and that she had to stay home for a while. That part must be true somehow, it would be too risky for her to state something that her classmates can deny, but of course it was probably just a flu or another mundane disease.
Damn, I feel this strange 'pull' again... I don't know how else to define it. It is like a gravitational force slowly dragging me away. Away from where? An towards what? This is ridiculous! And yet it is getting stronger...

Teramoto: "And in that fierce attack many perished, including several students of this school!"

Am I the only one who is noticing this? I take a quick look at the other girls sitting around the magic circle, and I almost choke. They are... raptured. Is this Teramoto's true power? This is way too abnormal. I understand that this is a very suggestive setting, and this is the place where a true murder occurred. This must have a very strong effect on them, but the way they are reacting is too much. Why? They should be giggling and sneering at this pathetic story! It makes no sense, it is full of holes, and it isn't even that interesting! Can they really start believing in demons and spirits so easily? This is the third millennium, and they are not kids anymore! How is this possible?!

Teramoto: "The demon of the southwestern wind!"

Suddenly a rumble, a sort of quite vibration, can be heard. It is as if the demon reacted to Teramoto's call, and in fact I am quite sure that it came from that statue that stands right behind her. Did I just imagine that? Teramoto keeps talking as if nothing happened. I see no reactions from the club members either, but as for the other young girls, the chosen ones of today's ritual, it seems that they noticed. They look a bit confused, they must be wondering just like myself: 'did I really hear that? Was it real or just my mind playing tricks?'

Teramoto: "And once again he was back to the material world!"

The material world. She uses different terms, but perhaps her cosmology isn't that different from mine. She says 'material world', I say 'world of humans'. She says 'spiritual world', I say 'metaworld'. Could it be...?

Teramoto: "His revival was at hand, after thousand years of oblivion!"

The way she speaks is different from that other time. She is a lot more passionate, like a leader from the past talking to the masses and inflaming their spirits. Indeed, she is like a modern Joan of Arc. Yes, this is a fitting comparison, I must say. Does she know what kind of fate awaits her? Perhaps she does, she is no fool, not completely. Maybe her hubris persuaded her that she can defy karma itself.
This dragging force is driving me mad! It is a vortex now, a maelstrom! My head aches!

Teromoto: "Mysterious incidents occurred, chaos and discord spread among the students..."

Is it me or the lights are changing? Aren't they dancing in a less erratic way? No, it isn't even a figure of speech anymore. They are... literally... dancing...
They are wobbling and wavering and bouncing synchronized to a silent tune. Or perhaps it is Teramoto's flow of words that to them sounds like some kind of music. They are swirling merrily around the vortex, ring around, ring around... kagome kagome!

Teramoto: "And this is why we need to perform the ritual. This is why your power is necessary!"

Are we already at the end? Wasn't there more that she needed to tell? Or did I miss it? Am I losing perception of the passing time? I can no longer concentrate. What in the world is happening, right at this crucial moment? Stop circling around me! Stop pulling me!

Club member: "Everyone raise your hands!"

Teramoto: "Lend me your power! Together we can defeat the demon! Together we can bend him to our will!"

Lies! You just want to harness his power! It is your will that you want him to bend to: the demon, and all of us! All of us!

Teramoto: "Let the ritual begin!"

Club member: "Behold! The great seer is about to reveal her true self!"

She is going to take that cloak off. Two of her lackeys get to her sides to assist her. What exactly did she hide until now? What is this true self that she is about to reveal? What kind of significance has that outfit that she is wearing? Something comes to my mind, and yet it is hard to focus.

Dlanor: "She once said that she is not a Shinto priestess."

Right! She pointed that out, and she wanted to make that clear. I didn't give to that too much importance back then, but now I wonder: what is she? What does she define herself as? The garments she is wearing will reveal it. If she was a Shintoist shrine maiden, she would be donning a red hakama.

Dlanor: "She is wearing full length gloves, violet in color."

That doesn't fit with anything from Japanese folklore, nor from anything of Asian origin, as far as I can tell. Is she a medium? A demonologist? A summoner?

Dlanor: "..."

I know, Dlanor, I am running in circle, like those many dancing flames.
I am one with them, swirling and closing in, to the center.
She is going to reveal, what she is, her true self.
The black cloak is removed, the curtain is being raised.
The opening of a new dream, a new world.
The truth that I have been waiting for.
She is what I should have expected.
A fitting master for a demon.
Just like my hated enemy.
A beautiful western dress.
A pointy hat.
Twisting, spinning.

Dlanor: "Reality alteration detected. Rationality limits have been breached. Anchorings to the physical world have been severed. Impossible to restore."

Erika: "Prepare for battle, Dlanor, this is a declaration of war."

Dlanor: "I am unable to identify the source, this is not a registered identification code."

Erika: "This place is different..."

Dlanor: "Current location confirmed to be somewhere in the sea of fragments... I am unable to provide further specifications."

Erika: "I've never seen a metaworld like this before. The attacker isn't Beatrice, not this time."

Dlanor: "Agreed. It is probably her."

Erika: "To think that she had already reached this level. Isn't this a pleasant surprise?"

Dlanor: "Miss Erika, the fact that she was able to create her own world on this plane of existence can only mean one thing."

Erika: "Of course, Dlanor, I know. At this point there is no longer any doubt."

There are no walls, ceiling or floor. This is just a swirling pulsating mass, a storm in the fabric of the sea of fragments. I am finally at the center of the vortex, at last. This is what has been trying to drag me in for the last few minutes, and it succeeded. As I float forward, to an unspecified destination, the foamy mist surrounding me slowly clears up. I start to see in the distance a vaguely discernible space. It is a sort of giant spherical hall, with no visible boundaries. I can tell it is a sphere, because the nebulous raw matter of the metaworld is swirling all around it. If I had to compare this to something existing in the world of humans, this would be a quasar. In other words this is a primordial existence, a potential universe still in the making.
There are objects down there, some kind of pillars. As I get closer I notice that they are covered in cuneiform inscriptions, most likely magical formulae of some sort. There are eleven of them, and they are displaced all around the perimeter, forming a circle.
There is someone at the center, the mistress of this world. She is waiting.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Follow your desires!

The following images
contain spoilers about
"Higanbana no Saku Yoru ni: First Night"

Click to enlarge:

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Joyful music!

The following images
contain spoilers about
"Higanbana no Saku Yoru ni: First Night"

Click to enlarge:

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Chapter 5 (f)

I swear, if they repeat their rules another time, I am going to scream. And they were even mad at me because I was late. When will this pathetic ritual start? It is almost 6:00 pm, we should move already.
At least the eleven first year students aren't chitchatting and giggling anymore, the four occultism club members did a good job at scaring them. I bet they were properly trained for this, their expressions are dead serious. This is yet another proof that Teramoto isn't simply an amateur. She must have learned the tricks of the trade somehow. I am suspecting more and more that what her club really is about is not occultism itself, but the strategies and techniques to create successful cults. I cannot even count the many new sects that have plagued Japan for the past years. The lack of a truly dominant religion makes it easier to manipulate weak willed individuals into joining new religions. There is never a shortage of fools in this world. If my hunches are correct, Teramoto's ambition is to create her own cult, and considering her personality, I am sure she is a lot more pragmatic than what her crazy talks suggest. So, in other words, she must have studied how all those new religions were made, how they spread, and how they prospered.
There is still light, the days are becoming longer, but the sun is already close to the horizon. It will be night very soon, and darkness is the occultism's best ally. The upcoming fight is going to happen in the worst possible conditions for me, but that only makes it more exciting. I think it is only fair to give some kind of advantage to Teramoto, she is by far the most inexperienced between the two of us.
The tense and yet disturbingly still atmosphere suddenly livens up as soon as a dark human figure is spotted moving towards us. The first year students immediately start whispering between themselves again, but the authoritative voice of a senior club members promptly silences them.
The one who is coming is Teramoto herself, but I can only tell with certainty now that she is close enough. She is strangely clad in a black cape that covers her whole body from the head to the feet. I can barely see her face. No doubt this is all part of her show, and that is very impressive.
Teramoto comes to us walking slowly, without saying a word, without any unnecessary movements. She radiates an otherworldly presence, and that noticeably causes uneasiness on the young girls. She always had that proud air about her, but now she is almost terrifying, as if she wasn't even human. That is certainly the kind of impression that she wants to give, and from the look of it, it is working.

Club member: "The great seer has come! Everyone salute her as you were instructed!"

Following that command, all the girls respectfully bow, while joining their hands to form a triangle in front of their chests. This is another fine touch from Teramoto. I feel a little stupid by performing this pointless greeting, but, as they say, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. It doesn't hurt, it is just very lame, but if I tried to disrupt her 'magic' at this point, I would look like a loser, just like Nagaoka. I need to defeat her inside her own territory, that is the only way. Satsukawa awkwardly mimics us, while showing a decidedly disconcerted expression.

Club member: "Great seer! The twelve chosen young maidens are ready to partake in the mystical ritual, please grant us your protection!"

Teramoto reacts with a barely noticeable smile. She then extends one of her arms, bringing it outside of her coat. Her hand is holding a dozen of protective charms, but that is not what catches my attention. I knew already about this part, those trinkets are supposed to protect us from the evil influence of the demon or something. Garbage.
Rather, why is she wearing full length gloves? It makes me wonder... what else is that coat hiding? Is this some kind of cosplay? Another of her personal touches?
She must be wearing some kind of strange outfit, which explains why she is donning that black coat. She probably doesn't want to be seen wearing that outside, but I bet she will take it off once inside the shed.

Club member: "These protective charms were imbued with a powerful magic. As long as they are with you, the evil presence inside the shed won't harm you. All of you, take one, and don't let go of them for any reason! The consequences will be dire, should you be careless!"

If she usually wears that costume... then one of the mysteries that bugged me for the last few days suddenly can be explained. With those gloves she is not going to leave any fingerprints. No wonder we didn't find any, and no wonder she never worried about that. This is quite convenient for her, but I guess this is just a fortuitous coincidence. This girl isn't just clever, she is also very lucky.
I take the charm that is being offered to me, and, just as I imagined, it isn't anything particularly elaborated. This is probably just one of the cheapest charms that Teramoto's family sells. Mixing Japanese and western folklores... Beatrice would probably turn on her grave, if she was in one. And yet this isn't exactly wrong from the perspective of a proselytizer. Syncretism is fairly common, and it is especially effective on the most superstitious individuals.

Club member: "We will now proceed to the haunted place. Follow the great seer quietly!"

Teramoto nods slightly. She still hasn't opened her mouth. Everything about her is pretty unsettling, and the young students are visibly affected by that. They are not going see any spirits nor demons today, but this figure clad in black, to their eyes, is probably as much as scary.
Finally we start walking towards the abandoned shed. Teramoto guides us through the deserted school grounds, under a bright red sky. She is the pied piper and we are the rats, but the only sounds that can be heard are those of our footsteps.
There is something in the air, I can smell it. This is the 'smell' of magic, and it is strong. This is the strange sensation that I feel whenever a lie is elaborated enough to challenge rationality and common sense. I would have never thought that I would experience it again, and this is merely the beginning. If this gets stronger, it might break the boundaries between reality and illusion... Just like when Teramoto narrated that strange story in the gym, I feel like I am being pulled inside her world. There is a whirlpool around her, and it is calling me. I am moving towards its center, slowly but surely. It looks calm now, but it will get stronger later; it might become too much for me to handle. I must not get close, I must stand my ground. This is the world of humans; magic, spirits, demons, do not exist.
We have arrived, the abandoned shed is just before us. This is supposed to be exactly like every other gathering that was arranged in the past, but something is clearly different. In order to proceed, we need to trespass the police tape. In addition, I probably won't see the 'open sesame' trick, today. The door is still broken and there is no nothing to unlock.
Teramoto and the club members stop and look in the direction of Satsukawa.

Club member: "Do we have your permission, Satsukawa-san?"

Satsukawa: "Strangely enough... you do."

That place was analyzed and combed enough, after all. There is nothing important to preserve anymore.
Teramoto and the club members nod to each others, and then they proceed, passing below the tape.
I can't help giggling when I think that normally it was the demon who allegedly made possible to enter inside the shed. Today that role fell on Satsukawa.
Teramoto lingers for a while in front of the half-opened door. She moves her hand forward, as if probing for some kind of invisible force, and concentrates.

Teramoto: "E-nu-ma e-liš la na-bu-ú šá-ma-mu! Šap-liš am-ma-tum šu-ma la zak-rat!"

The first words Teramoto speaks are in some kind of language that I don't recognize. For all I know this could be just gibberish, but it is elaborated enough to sound authentic. I have no idea where did she get that from, nor what is the actual meaning of her utterances, but it further strengthened the otherworldly atmosphere that surrounds her. Even if nobody understood her words, everyone was fooled into thinking that Teramoto spoke to the demon, and that is the image that she wanted to convey.
She is breaking the barriers of skepticism and common sense one by one, and she still hasn't showed us anything yet. All that she needs is a bit of doubt. A small crack can turn into a giant hole and eventually cause the destruction the whole wall.
Teramoto enters first, and she is soon followed by three of her lackeys. The remaining stays behind, probably to give us instructions. She is the one who spoke before and ordered us around.
I am very curious to see how Teramoto is going to react now that she is back to the abandoned shed, after all that has happened. It has been more than week and it lost its red color, but the blood stain is still visible there right at the center of the magic circle. It is a rather morbid view. I have seen it already, but if this is the first time for her, she can't really remain unfazed. They say that the killer always returns to the scene of the crime, and in a cliched detective story, that is usually when he makes a fatal mistake. I don't think that is quite realistic, but it would be quite fitting for Teramoto to betray herself in this place during her ritual, if she was the murderer. Certainly there would be quite a lot of powerful emotions struggling inside her heart. However, I now realize that I can't reach any conclusions. I see her hesitating for a while, looking at that blood stain, but nothing more than that; I can't see her face well enough. I guess I can't even conclude with certainty that she has never seen this place since the day of the crime. She might have wanted to check the state of the shed, before starting the preparations for this last ritual.

Club member: "Enter inside, quietly, one by one. Sit down around the magic circle, and don't touch anything!"

The three club members inside are lighting the many candles scattered all around. The room brightens, and it almost looks like a different place. This is the first time that I see it well lit. It is an eerie light, but with so many flames burning, it is quite luminous.
At this point the young girls have completely lost any trace of hilarity. Even if not all of them believe that a demon is residing in this shed, this is still the place where one of their senior schoolmates was killed, and that is not something they can carelessly laugh about. I mostly see fear and uneasiness in their eyes now, but they know they can't turn back at this point. They reluctantly enter inside, and timidly sit around the magic circle as they were instructed.

Club member: "You cannot be allowed inside!"

Satsukawa: "Huh?"

Club member: "You would disrupt the balance required to perform the ritual with your presence."

Satsukawa: "Why?"

Erika: "You're a man, that's why."

Satsukawa: "I was never informed about this..."

Erika: "You should've imagined that, seriously."

Satsukawa: "Well, what am I supposed to do now?"

Erika: "As long as he remains outside, it's fine, right?"

Club member: "Yes."

Erika: "You heard her. Just remain here in front of the door. You might still be able to listen."

Satsukawa sighs and shakes his head.

Erika: "Come on! I'll tell you everything afterwards. This is the only entrance, anyway, it's not like I can go anywhere!"

Satsukawa: "I guess I don't really have a choice, do I? Just promise you won't do something crazy."

Erika: "Define crazy."

Satsukawa: "Do I really need to explain? Rather... now that you asked that, I'm worrying even more than before..."

Erika: "That was just a joke, relax! Did you forget? The door is broken, if there's an emergency you can go inside."

Satsukawa: "All right, all right! I'll stay here..."

Club member: "The ritual is about to start, all the chosen maidens must take position around the magic circle..."

Erika: "Yeah, yeah, I'm going. See you later, Satsukawa-san."

Satsukawa: "Don't get eaten by a demon."

Erika: "Very funny."

It is somehow comforting the fact that he didn't lose his humor in spite of the situation. This proves that Teramoto has still a long way before she can impress adults with her strategies. I feel a bit stronger now.

Erika: "Well then, this is going to be exciting. Don't you think so, Dlanor?"

Dlanor: "I am ready."

Erika: "And so am I! Let's go!"