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