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?
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.
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.