Hello and thank you for waiting, everyone. Here's the first chapter
FINALLY. Finally I had the chance to finish this! I've actually written the concept for almost a year now and I have to say this fic will be... a bit different? From my usual NagiUha fanfic. I guess. What and where, I'll let you see for yourself after reading.
Chapter 01: Kami-iro Awase ~Drowning in The Color of God
“Mom! Mom, mom listen!”
“What is it, dear?”
“We have a guest!”
“Is that so?”
“Yes. Ryouha saw him at the front door; there's this funny old man with his head stuck on a wooden wheel. And the wheel was on fire!”
“Oh oh and this old man, you see, he doesn't have a body! Did he forget it somewhere? Should Ryouha help him find it? Should I?”
“Ryouha... Come here...”
“Close your eyes and repeat these words together with mommy, okay?
'It's not real.”
“It's not real... it's not real... it's not—“Oh yes, it's real. It's very veeery real.”WHACK!
The girl yelped. A small dulling pain was on her head and she reached both hands to cover the spot. She opened her eyes.
“Good morning, Kitagawa. How's your little nap?”
A woman dressed in green jersey was standing in front of her desk, arms crossed and a rolled-up book on one hand. The smile on that face somehow looked familiar. The girl blinked, her senses slowly returning to her.Oh, it's Miyazawa-sensei.
The realization slapped her fully awake.
Kitagawa Ryouha sat upright on her chair, frantically fixing her hair and straightening her gray school blazer. She heard giggles coming from somewhere around the class and her face quickly heated up.
It was the first day of school.
And she had fallen asleep, face flat on her desk, for she didn't know how long.
On homeroom session of all times.
“Y'know, Kitagawa,” The homeroom teacher, Miyazawa Sae, lightly said as she unrolled the attendance book in her hand. “I've heard about your reputation of dozing off at any possible time but I'd like you to refrain from doing it in my class. Unless you have a good reason for it, hm?”
Ryouha darted her eyes away in a nervous tic.
Luckily the school bell rang before the girl reached her breaking point.
“Oh, saved by the bell! I'll let it pass this time but don't you dare falling asleep on my P.E. Class, got it?”
“...yes. I'm sorry.”
“Cool. Okay class, let's wrap it up for the day!”
Ryouha kept her head down as she listened to Sae's energetic shout and the sound of the class rep calling to bow, before the class was finally dismissed. She closed her eyes, her body frozen in bowing position as the other students started to tidy their belongings and leave the room. She slowly raised her both hands to her face.GYAAAAAAH----!!!!
The girl internally screamed and slumped back to her desk. Why? Why!? Why did she have to fall asleep right on THAT time!? Ryouha wouldn't care if she was caught sleeping in other classes but not homeroom! And perhaps P.E., though there's close to zero percent possibilities of falling asleep while doing sports.
“Whoa, Ryouha... yer still alive?”
She heard another familiar voice and raised her face, peeking from behind her arms.
It was Matsumoto Chikako, one of her close friends, an awkward smile on her face as she approached her desk. The kansai girl seemed to try hard finding the right words to say before she finally gave up and settled with a pat of condolences on Ryouha's shoulder.
“Don't worry. It could be worse.”
The kind gesture made her feel a bit better, at least until a small figure shoved itself in front of her face.
“No way, no way~ Ryouha-tan's had a crush on Sae-sensei since first grade, there's nothing worse than dozing off on her class and
got caught~ Kyahahaha~~”
The small doll let out a high-pitched cackle.
Ryouha stared at it with a blank expression, just for a few seconds, before she drew herself back behind her arms, curling even smaller into a ball.
“Don't rub salt on her wound, Kanon.”
Kimoto Kanon pulled back her doll and changed her voice back to her normal pitch. People might think that the tiny girl was an incarnation of evil with that sneer on her cute face, but she didn't mean real harm. She just liked teasing her shy friend once in a while. Or maybe a lot while. Which could
end up a bit harmful sometimes. That's why it was up to the last person in the group to stop her, or mommy Azuma Rion as the other three would sometimes called her.
“You too, Ryouha. Stop being so depressed; this is only the first day of our second year. Come on, get up and let's go home.”
“No way, let me sleep...”
“I know, I'm a sloth in my previous life... So let me sleep, that's the only thing I'm good at...”
Rion put one hand to her face. There's no use talking once Ryouha went into sulking mode and Kanon laughing from the situation didn't help either. She stole a glance at Chikako, who in turn gave her a salute in affirmation.
“Yes, ma'am. Commence operation ice cream paradise.”
The word 'ice cream' perked her ears and Ryouha raised her face, still peeking from behind her arms like a suspicious kitten.
“Well.” Rion quickly said before she lost the girl's attention. “You'll have to step out of class if you want to eat one.”
“Or you can just sleep here and we'll eat without you~”
Kanon played along smoothly, pushing Rion and Chikako toward the door. Ryouha stared at the three, a huge pout on her face, before she gave up and stood. She put her belongings into her bag, letting out a huff as she walked past her friends.
Kanon let out another snicker from the response while Chikako grinned, catching up with Ryouha on a small run. Rion smiled and followed suit.
The blooming cherry blossom gaze down at them as the four girls walked toward the nearby convenience store, and Ryouha sighed as she saw that, feeling a bit better from the beautiful scenery. Rion was right. This is no time for her to feel depressed. It's still spring and her second year of high school had just began. She got her three best friends in the same class and Miyazawa-sensei as her homeroom teacher. Surely there would be more fun to come. If there's one thing to hinder it that would be her habit of dozing off on various occasion.
Ryouha let out another sigh and paid her share of ice cream by the counter, opening the wrappings around the cold treat as she walked out of the store. She found her friends sitting by a bench just outside and she took a seat on the empty spot beside Chikako, popping the ice cream into her mouth.
She didn't always have that habit. And it's not like she lacked any sleep at night. It's just, her consciousness tend to shut down whenever her mind started wandering around. Or, if she wanted to be more honest, it's a self-defense mechanism to stop her eyes
from showing whatever her mind had wandered to.
She couldn't even remember when it first started. She would always see them, those hallucinations
, if she absentmindedly gazed on one space for long enough. Things other people couldn't see, voices other people couldn't hear; it was bad enough that as a child she couldn't distinguish which was real and which was not. But once she got older she started to realize.
There's no way an old man with no body, with his head stuck on a burning wheel, could be real.And neither is that severed red hand that was waving at her from up the cherry tree1
. Ugh, not again...
Ryouha crunched her face and looked away. Her free hand reached toward her bag in reflexes to retrieve the plastic container sleeping in the deepest part of it.
“Here, Chika. You can have the rest of my ice cream.”
Chikako sloppily said as she nibbled her spoon, taking the vanilla popsicle from Ryouha.
Kanon chirped. The girl was sitting on the other end so she had to bend forward to take a look.
“It's drugs time already, Ryouha-tan?”
“I-it's medicine, I'm telling you!”
Ryouha said in a panic hush. She knew Kanon was just teasing her but she always fell for it. The girl sighed and rolled one of the white capsule onto her palm, before putting it into her mouth.
Rion handed her some water to help swallowing, and Ryouha handed the bottle back with a quick 'thanks' afterwards. A dizzy spell hit her after a few seconds, like it's always been, but likewise it was quickly replaced by a familiar feeling of sleepiness.
Ryouha had known, that her habit of dozing off most likely stemmed from this medicine, but she couldn't deny how effective it was from curing her hallucinations. The number of strange occurrences she experienced had lessened and even if she did saw something they're almost transparent now. Compared to how real they looked back in her childhood.On side notes, the unnerving hand have now disappeared too.
Ryouha quietly thought as she gazed at the previous tree on the other side of the road. She let out her breath in relief. Kanon blinked as she saw the reaction. Her lips stretched into a playful smile.
“Come to think of it," Kanon absentmindedly said as she finished the last bit of her ice cream.
“Club won't start in another three days.”
Ryouha and Chikako glanced at her as they heard that, while Rion didn't seem interested much. Or maybe she already know where this would be going.
“You know, I'll be busy with drama club by then. So is Chika with kendo club and Rion with her student council duty. Ryouha-tan will also return to her going home club.”
Ryouha let out a dry reaction, and Kanon continued.
“So let's hangout together before that. Like, how about, now.”
Chikako's eyes lit up as she heard that while Rion gave her a face that simply said 'I knew it'.
“Me, me! Pick me!”
The kansai girl swung her hand in front of her, as if she was hitting a bell in a quiz show, before raising her index finger.
“Let's go to the game center at Akihabara!”
Kanon puffed her cheek and made a cross with her both hands.
“Since Chika's idea is so bad, I propose going to a cafe and do some shopping in Shibuya.”
“But we just had ice cream~”
Chikako loudly whined.
“Now that you mention it...” Rion, who was sitting between the two, joined in.
“How about we do a group study at Minato public library? I'm sure it's good to relieve on our grade earlier before we're busy with clubs. Especially you, Kanon-'senpai'.”
Kanon flinched. Rion smiled as she saw the reaction.
“Remember, the only reason you can continue with the drama club despite failing a year is because of my petition to the council body. What will you do if you fail another year?”
“Curse you, azumarion...”T-this is getting dangerous.
Ryouha thought in panic. She's not opposed to hanging out with her friends, but not when the two powerhouses were arguing like this. And she was getting sleepy from the side-effect of her medicine too. The girl raised her hand.
“Umm, how about going back to our respective home for today—“DENIED.”
Kanon and Rion yelled in perfect unison. And Ryouha shrunk back in her seat.
“Fine then, if you decided to push me to this end—“
Kanon stood and clenched her right fist.
“--we have to settle it with a battle.”
Rion finished for her, mimicking her pose.
Ryouha drew up her knees and folded her arms above them, planting her face to the white sleeves of her shirt. Chikako let out an awkward laugh and petted her head in condolences.
…I wanna go home...“PON!!”
When talking about her hallucinations, Ryouha remembered, though she never wanted to think about it, there's certain rules to their occurrences.First, they're easier to manifest in a place with lots of people.
There also seemed to be a different stage of representation; the more people there is, the more monstrous and unnatural the image appeared before her eyes. So, let's say, it's easier to see one when she's at school than when she's alone at home. And the form also tend to be more gruesome, like that bloody little girl in red skirt she found in the third stall of the school's bathroom2
. It's unnerving, but she could still deal with it. Because these kind of hallucinations would just be there like a layer of movie playing before her; it wouldn't interact with her in any way. But then came the troublesome kind of hallucination, which lead to the second rule.The more mental stress she accumulated, the more realistic her hallucination would become.
The image that look transparent at first would suddenly gain its density. At some point she could even feel them staring at her with their hollow eyes, like a predator searching for its prey. Sometimes they would approach and mumble incoherent words to her ears, and by then she could only whisper the magic words her mother taught her while trying to ignore the chill creeping up her spine.
Kitagawa Ryouha had led this kind of life for seventeen years.
And though her medication helped to reduce these occurrences, everything would deem to be ineffective once she's exposed to an environment where the number of people and amount of stress-inducing situation is too high. That's why the only thing Ryouha could do was praying for the safety of her mind when Kanon emerged victorious from the rock-paper-scissors game. Oh no, she could already felt her sanity slipping bit by bit from that black shadow of a giant towering over the sea of people at Shibuya crossing, which was the most crowded place she ever known in the country, or even the world, if it's not stretching it.Oh wow, it's a Godzilla... Or maybe a Daidarabotchi3, ha ha...
“Err, Ryouha? Something funny with the billboard?”
Chikako hesitantly asked as she saw the creepy smile on the girl's face.
Ryouha simply answered before covering her eyes with both hands, chanting the usual spell. Okay. It's alright, I'm still fine. The hallucinations are a bit thick today, that's all. I can still recognize which is real and not. I have to focus on reducing my stress level and having fun.
The girl let out another dry laugh, and Chikako took a step away from her.
“Uh-oh, Ryouha-tan broke.”
Kanon stifled her laugh as she said that, and Rion glared at her.
“Thanks to you
. And I thought we're doing this to cheer her up?”
“Stop being so uptight, the fun is only starting~ Come on, Ryouha-tan!”
Kanon looped one hand around the girl's left arm and dragged her out of the train station, running toward the crowd of people. Rion and Chikako following after them. Ryouha could only smile bitterly.
Ignore the hallucination. Ignore everything unnatural.
Yes, even though how human they look at times.
They're not real.
That goes for that girl
The one with wavy brown hair and a black beanie atop her head. And a sloppy blue jacket with black accents and yellow stripes.
There's no way a girl would perch atop the Hachiko statue like it's a normal thing to do, one hand drawn to her left eye as she peered through the circle between her thumb and index finger. While nobody seemed to give a care at all.
Of course that absurd sight couldn't be real.
And she's the only one seeing that absurdity.
“What's up with that girl?”
Ryouha glanced at Chikako as she heard the whisper.
“What do ya mean 'eh?' There, on top of Hachiko—“
Rion quickly slapped Chikako’s hand down.
“It's rude to point like that.”
“Hmm... But that's kinda cool.”
Kanon added as her eyes wandered around the crowded area.
“Are they shooting a movie or something? I can't see the crews or their equipment anywhere. How can they get a good shot?”
“M-maybe it's hidden.”
Ryouha blurted out without much thought, still feeling a bit uneasy.
“Let's just go.”
She pulled Kanon on her arm but the girl didn't budge. Her eyes locked on the strange girl.
“Come on Ryouha-tan, if it's a movie then I want to see the acting. Maybe I can use it as a learning material for the drama club. Let's wait until the next cut—whoa, she's looking this way!”
Ryouha froze. Her eyes met with the girl's for a while, before she quickly averted them; she could swear the eye glowing red from the distance. She gulped and pulled Kanon’s arm again, a bit stronger this time.
“I'm begging you Kanon, let's leave—“Hey.”
A voice she never heard.
A voice that sounded so far yet so close at the same time and somehow she knew, by pure instinct, that it was coming from the previous girl. She gathered her courage to glance back at the statue on the station front, only to find that the girl was no longer there.“What an interesting quality~ Yer soul, that is.”
Ryouha nearly screamed.
The girl had materialized in front of her, her face only a few inches away from hers as she smiled, as if amused by the fear in her eyes. A familiar chill ran up her spine. If it wasn't for Rion pulling her away Ryouha thought she would've fainted from the shock, but she managed to shake herself back to reality, swallowing her saliva as she grabbed her friend's hand tightly. The girl pulled herself away.
“What— when— how??”
Ryouha could hear Chikako stumbling with her words, seemingly as shocked as she was.
“I-it's CG. It's gotta be a CG trick!”
Kanon declared in awe, nodding to herself. The girl blinked and looked at Kanon for a while, then to Chikako, before switching her eyes back to Ryouha. She scratched her head.
“Huh? I thought humans couldn't see me save for a few potentials. Did I make a mistake? Wait, could it be that all of those humans have only been ignoring me as well? What a disaster...”
Ryouha stared back at her in silence. The way she talked did sound like a script for a movie. Her three friends could see the girl as well. Perhaps everyone too. Is she just being paranoid? Ryouha thought as she saw the girl hit her own head a few times as if scolding herself.
“Um, excuse me...”
“Ah, yeah. Back to our previous topic.”
The girl quickly regained her composure. She cleared her throat and, as if in pride, offered her right hand to Ryouha with a big smile.“Do you want to be mine?”“...eh?”
.. EEEEEEEEEHHH??? GRAB--
Kanon and Chikako simultenously grabbed the girl on each of her arms.
“Okay, now speak.” Kanon spoke in a threatening manner.
“For what movie or TV show are you shooting?”
“Movie? TV? What's that?”
The girl tilted her head, and Chikako growled at her.
“Whaaat? So yer just hitting on girls?”
“Dunno what you mean. I'm just asking if she wanna be my property, ha ha~”
Ryouha felt another chill ran up her spine; a different kind of chill from the fear she previously had. She took a few more steps back, hiding behind Rion. Kanon snapped her head toward them.
“Sorry, Rion. Take care of Ryouha until we bring this weirdo to the police station.”
“Please. Take your time.”
Rion flatly answered as she saw Kanon and Chikako dragged the girl away. Ryouha could still hear some of their conversation.
“Are we going somewhere? I still have a business with her.”
“Yea, yea. Say that to the cops.”
“What's a cop? Oh, and are you from Kansai as well?”
“Yes. And stop speaking already, yer shaming every Kansai people in the world...”
The voices drowned into the crowd and Ryouha sighed, finally feeling herself calming down a little. She pulled away from Rion.
Rion suddenly grabbed her wrist.
“If you ever see that girl again just run. Run away, as fast as you can.”
Ryouha gave her a perplexed look.
“I know she's a bit... 'weird'... but running is—“
“I mean it. Run.
Ryouha paused. Rion would never pull a joke on her. Especially not when she had a serious look on her face.
Ryouha said quietly, watching a sense of relief washing the girl as she released her hand. It's probably just another of Rion's overprotective moment.
“You should go home now. The incident with Miyazawa-sensei was bad enough and then there's that girl.”
Ryouha averted her gaze. She didn't notice until now but the commotion seemed to have affected her hallucination, making several creatures looming around the area. Her mental stress had probably gone through the roof. Rion seemed to realize this as well.
“It's alright, we can hangout some other times. I'll tell Kanon that I'm walking you back.”
The girl pulled out her phone and called the said girl, while Ryouha could only mutter a quick 'sorry'. The peculiar creatures faded into the busy crowds after a while, and she felt sleepiness started to kick again from the back of her mind, making her yawn.
Ryouha let out a long sigh.What a horrible day...
“Wakey, wakey, Ryouha-tan~ Time to get up~”
Ryouha groaned, moving to hide behind her arms like usual.
“Leave me alone, Kanon-senpai. It's recess, so let me sleep.”
“Hey, it's Kanon-'chan' for you!”
The girl let out another groan as she recognized the high-pitched voice and the small hands tapping her head.
“Kuuh, how could you! Even though she had saved you from that creep in Shibuya yesterday.”
“I don't want to remember about that...”
“But you should! 'cause she ran away before Chika and Non-chan managed to bring her to the cops.”
Ryouha raised her face, seeing Kanon's doll blocking her view like usual.
“Can I help you, Kanon-chan
“Good answer. Oh, but the creep did escape though.”
For real? Ryouha could only pray for her luck. Then again, she's quite confident with her speed so running wouldn't be a problem. She put the plan away for now.
“Anyways, I want to show you something.”
Ryouha blinked as she saw Kanon put her doll on the far end of the desk and pulled out her phone.
“I found something interesting. Wait, we should call Chika as well.”
She stretched her arms and yawned, waiting as Kanon called for Chikako.
“With the student council. She said she had an urgent business to attend, though she probably just wanna spend more time with her beloved Furuhata-senpai. Kehehe~”
That's probably half right. She really didn't want to bother Rion but she couldn't help feeling a bit worried right now, being left with Kanon and Chikako without a proper lifeline. Especially with Kanon saying that she found something 'interesting'. I have to stop relying on her to babysit us all the time...
Ryouha sighed, fixing her sitting posture.
“What is it, what is it?” She saw Chikako tackled the other girl and glanced over Kanon's shoulder.
“Is it that game ya mentioned before?”
“Yup. It's an occult-theme game. You have to register yourself in their site before playing though. By the way, just for trivia, I heard the game was first distributed through a secret thread in 2chan4
so nobody really know who created it. Here it is.”
Kanon put her phone down on the table between them.
The background was pure black, with only the game title and the [REGISTER] button under it. Ryouha read the words carefully.“Shinigami Playground?”
“A very dark fantasy-ish title, right? Try hitting the register button.”
Ryouha gave her a suspicious look. It’s better not be another jump scare or she swore she'd ignore everything Kanon said for the whole week. She hesitantly tapped the screen with her index finger. The image faded into the background before another pictures came out. A simple picture of a Torii5
gate, as well as a paragraph of words.
Going in is easy, but returning is scary
Give away your soul as an offering
And you may pass through
Chikako tilted the phone toward her, reading through the paragraph one more time.
“What is this? A song?”
“It's a nursery rhyme.”
Ryouha corrected for her.
“Do you know the music played by the traffic light when it's safe to cross? This is the lyrics. Though there seems to be some alterations...”
Kanon looked at her in awe and clapped her hands.
“Oh, as expected of Ryouha-tan! The amount of unnecessary information you store in your head is high.”
“Don't call it unnecessary... My mother is a writer and she mostly write about cultural stuff; I just happen to have read a lot of her reference books back at my old home in Nagoya.”
“You must have a very educational bedtime story.”
Ryouha ignored the random remarks and scrolled down the page. She found another section underneath. [HOW TO REGISTER]
1. Place your index finger inside the Torii gate
2. Wait for a few seconds until three ripples form around your finger
3. Chant the binding spell inside your head “I give away my soul in exchange for my desire”
4. The [Host] will make a contract for you and you'll be able to access the application through your phone
1. One application can only be used by one person
2. The candidate must register themselves willingly and with their own hands. A registration made by a third-party is not valid
3. The registration can't be nullified
4. One person have a quota of one game a day. Once the quota is used they can only play another game after 24 hours have passed.
The quota is not stackable. (*Exception only to the special game [Oni Gokko])
5. The [Host] is absolute and never wrong. The rules inside the game are also absolute. Please read them carefully before participating
And that's it. Nothing else left in the page. Not even the date of creation or who created it. She glanced back at Kanon, who turned out to have that usual evil sneer on her face.
“What are you suggesting...?”
“You've read the rules; one apps for one person. I've also heard that the link will become unusable after one registration. We have to look for a different link swimming around the net for another person to play.”
Ryouha switched her gaze to Chikako, who raised both hands in defense.
“Nuh-uh, don't look at me. If anything let's do rock-paper-scissors to decide who'll play.”
Ryouha sighed and put out her right fist. Kanon shrugged and did the same, followed by Chikako.
The three girls froze.
Two rocks and one scissors. The loser slumped back to the desk with a groan.
“Thank you for volunteering, Ryouha-tan.”I hate games... I hate this game and all games...
Ryouha childishly pouted as Kanon gave her the phone. She stared at the screen suspiciously, before putting her index finger inside the rectangle space. White circular lines formed around her finger as if she's treading on a water surface. The three ripples grow more apparent after a while and Ryouha continued the next step.I give away my soul in exchange for my desire.
The ripples glowed in soft white light as she finished the sentence, and Ryouha thought that she heard a real sound of water dropping into a lake.
“Welcome, foolish human.”
Ryouha blinked. A voice rang inside her head.
She didn't know what happened; perhaps it was another wave of hallucination, or perhaps she lost her consciousness at one point and had started dreaming, but she was no longer in the same classroom anymore.
A split second of blackout.
That was the only time needed to transfer her to this place.
A place pitch black as far as her eyes could see, cold water covering its whole ground and submerging her to her ankles. In front of her was the red Torii, a stark contrast to the scenery, and she felt a presence of another girl standing under the gate. She couldn't see her face, her clothes, or even her form. But she knew for sure that a girl was standing there. Watching her.“I am the [Host], the one who will guide you through this game. Shall we form the contract?”
Ryouha flinched. A sharp burning pain. Her chest felt like bursting apart as an unknown substance blocked her breath. She reached one hand to her neck and looked down.
A flower was there. A flower with the color of blood. It grew out of the hollow on her right collarbone, eating up her flesh and spreading its root. A beautiful red flower. She had seen this flower before in her mother's book.
The red spider lilies. The corpse flower; the higanbana6
.The flower of hell.
She gasped, her body failing from the lack of air. Her vision turned blurry.
C-calm down, it's not real... It's not real—
The girl blinked. She found herself back in the classroom, sitting on her chair as she grabbed Kanon's phone tightly in her left hand. The screen had turned black.
“Ya okay? You've been staring at the screen without blinking for almost a minute now.”
She heard Chikako asked in worry.
“...y-yeah, I'm fine.” She quietly answered, putting the phone back to the table.
“NOOOOO, MY PHONE--!!”
Kanon snatched the device and tapped the screen a few times in panic.
“What happened— is it actually a virus!?”
Ryouha ignored the outburst, reaching her hand toward her collarbone. Nothing was there. Not the red flower nor the pain left from its growth. She let out her breath in relief and switched her gaze to Kanon.That's what you get for teasing me all the time...
The girl let out a spiteful huff.
The school bell rang afterwards and her two friends returned to their seat, Kanon hanging her head while Chikako tried to cheer her up. Ryouha herself could only lament on the good nap she missed. She saw Rion coming back to class right before the science teacher came in, a troubled look on her face. Perhaps the student council is having a problem with some club’s budget? Not that Ryouha knew. She put the thought away, focusing every last bit of her attention to stay awake through the rest of afternoon class.
Gratefully today's homeroom ended without too much of a fuss, and now Ryouha had found herself strolling down the school ground with a tired face. Rion had disappeared again once class finished while Kanon had to rush to Akihabara to get her phone checked, so only her and Chikako was left.
“In the end, the four of us didn't manage to hangout together as well today.”
She heard Chikako whined as they walked out the main gate.
“Kendo club will resume tomorrow and it'll be a busy week of fighting other clubs for new members.”
“Good luck with that...”
Chikako stared at her for a while, before tackling her neck.
“I'm sorry for bringing that up, Ryouha! We'll always be with ya at class so don't be lonely!”
“I-I'm not lonely!”
“Why don't cha join a club as well so we can at least go home together?”
Ryouha didn't answer. She had talked with her three friends about this before; she couldn't risk annoying other people with her troublesome sleeping habit, and she didn't feel like telling anyone but them about her hallucinations. Chikako seemed to realize her mistake and she looked away, trying to find a right word to say.
“Okay... How about... yeah, how about track-n-field? Yer quite quick on yer feet and maybe doing some sports could help you stay awake?”
“It won't be that simple...”
“Even though Miyazawa-sensei is their advisor?”
“T-that got nothing to do with anything.”
Ryouha huffed and walked a bit faster, leaving Chikako behind.
“Come on, isn't it a good idea? Hey, Ryouhaaa~”
The girl ignored Chikako's loud whine and stepped into the train station, tapping her card on the auto gate as she did. Geez. And here she thought today would end without any fuss. She knew Chikako didn't mean it, but is having a day without teasing was too much for her to ask? Ryouha sighed. At least Kanon isn't here to make things worse.
She thought to herself as she took the stairs up toward the platform. Chikako following behind her.
“Fine, I won't talk about Miyazawa-sensei anymore... huh?”
The kansai girl paused as she saw Ryouha stood there without a word, her eyes locked on the other side of the train platform. She approached her carefully.
“Ryouha? You okay?
“That girl who?”
“T-the one we met... at Shibuya yesterday...”
“What, that weirdo again!?”
Chikako quickly snapped her head toward the direction.
“Where is she? Ooh, I swear I'll bring her to the cops this time!”
Ryouha raised her hand, pointing at the figure sitting on the floor with her legs dangling on the edge of the platform. The figure smiled happily as she peered through her fingers like before.
“T-there. S-she's sitting on the platform edge.“
“Eeh!? That's crazy— what, where!?
“C-can't you see, she's right—
Ryouha suddenly froze. Her arm limply fell to her side. No way...
She finally understood what happened.
“You can't... see her...”
The girl stood. Her smile stretched into a full grin as their eyes once again met.
A huge howl resounded as a train passed between the two platforms. And Ryouha took the moment to rush down the stairs, heading toward the station exit. She could hear people yelling at her as she ran past the gate but she kept on running.W-why? Why is she here? And why can't Chika see her anymore!?
She pushed through the crowded street, trying to lose the girl among the sea of people. Nobody seemed to recognize the girl's presence anymore, even when she pushed them away to her side like she owned the whole street. Ryouha bit her lip. She didn't know what happened anymore. But her instinct kept telling her to run. Away from that girl.
She took a quick turn on the next intersection, taking small roads and shortcuts only known to few people, before arriving at the different train station on the next block. If the schedule didn't change the train heading for her home would arrive on the third platform in a few minutes. If she could jump inside before that girl caught up with her—
Ryouha pushed herself through the small gap of the train's door before it closed silently into a perfect shut. She gasped, trying to catch her breath as she rested on her knees, ignoring the cold look people giving her as they moved away from the door. She could see the girl watching her from outside the window.I-I made it...
Ryouha turned around and rested her back on the door, letting out her breath in relief. Ah, right. She suddenly ran and left Chikako alone on the previous station. She should apologize and tell her what happened. The girl stood and walked away from the door, taking out her phone. She blinked. New messages were already on her inbox. One was from Chikako, and she quickly replied telling her that she's fine and is on her way home. The other one, though, sent another chill up her spine.
Thank you for participating in Shinigami Playground. We have downloaded the application to your phone.
The special game [Oni Gokko] will start tomorrow on the third division of the hour of the rooster7.
Please make sure to have a good preparation before your death.
Enjoy your last game!
Ryouha clenched her phone tightly. She felt like puking, both from her fatigue and the absurdity of all this. She quickly deleted the message and turned off her phone. Only two days had passed since her second year of high school began. Yet, she already felt like giving up that something good would happen for the rest of the year.
A mysterious girl chasing after her...
A hallucination that felt more real than ever...
A sickeningly bizarre message...
She sat down and rested her head on the windowsill, staring out to the darkened sky.
“Give me back my peaceful days...”
“And so? You don't look so well, Ryouha-tan.”
Ryouha didn't answer. She only stared at Kanon blankly, both sleepy and irritated at the same time. She had locked herself in her room yesterday right after coming home, but still she couldn't get a good sleep at all. An unknown application had been downloaded to her phone and she couldn't erase it. And she had been hearing some eerie scratches and knocks on her window, even though her room was on the second floor. Of course she wouldn't be well. Kanon gave her a worried look.
“If you're sick you don't have to—
Ryouha cut her off.
“I want to do it—no, I NEED to do it... I don't feel like coming home alone right now... I could end up meeting that girl again... or worse...”
“Ryouha-tan, you've started mumbling to yourself.”
Kanon gave her a pitiful stare, before sighing.
“Okay, fine. Just don't tell Rion or she'll accuse me of bullying you again.”
Ryouha nodded, feeling a huge load leaving her shoulders as Kanon gave her the thing she needed.
Today marked the start of club applications, and like everyone else the drama club had been trying hard to reel in newcomers. They decided to walk around in their costumes while handing out flyers throughout recess and after school. Ryouha had promised Kanon to help, or was actually tricked to promising her help, but now she felt like it was the best scam Kanon had done to her. She now had a reason to wait for her friends and walked home together. Even better; the costume she borrowed was a full body costume of a corgi dog, that technically would hide her completely inside its soft doll-like material. Ryouha didn't have any idea what the drama club usually used the costume for, nor did she care actually, as long as she got what she needed.
Kanon tapped the doll's head a few times with no response.
“Geez, she's asleep already? How could she do it while standing like that? Is it even comfortable?”
Kanon could only wonder. She shrugged and took out one flyer from the piles she had, before pasting one on the doll's torso. She snickered.
“Perfect. Right, time to get my own costume and start my round.”
And that all there was. Ryouha spent nearly two hours sleeping while standing like that, until Kanon came to wake her up again with a stronger slap to her head. She opened her eyes to meet the small girl with Chikako on tow, but again Rion wasn't there. She seemed very busy lately...
Ryouha sighed and took off the dog's head, before walking inside the clubroom to change back to her uniform.
“Err, ya still look pretty drowsy Ryouha.”
“Of course I am...”
Ryouha let out a long yawn and rested her head on Chikako's shoulder. Kanon smirked.
“Uh-oh, Ryouha-tan spoiled side is showing~”
“It's because mommy Rion is not here to spoil me...”
“I dare you to say that in front of her face.”
“No way, I won't survive her earful lecture.”
The three girls let out a quiet laugh and continued their walk. Ryouha waved her goodbye to Kanon and Chikako as they reached the train station, heading toward a different platform. Everything had returned to normal today, much to her relief. And somehow her hallucination hadn't been appearing at all. If thing continue this way maybe I'll consider joining the track and field club...
The thought made her a bit giddy and Ryouha stepped into the train, sitting on the empty seat on the corner. She let out another yawn. It would take around fifteen minutes to her next stop, then after changing platform it would take another forty minutes to her last stop. That would make a good time for nap. The girl closed her eyes.
Next stop, Ebisu station--
Four more stops.
She felt her consciousness started to fading.
Next stop, Shibuya station--
Three more stops...
Next stop, Harajuku--
Two... more... Next stop-- SLID—CLANK!
Ryouha flinched from the sudden movement, her eyes snapped open. A sudden stop? She shook her head and looked around. Nobody was there. Strange.
“Where am I now...?”
She stood and walked toward the door, finding it to be open. She could see the station name from there.
Did she doze off and miss her stop?
It wouldn't be much problem since Yamanote8
is a loop line but it seemed like the train she took had experienced some kind of technical difficulties. She should ask the nearby officer when the next train would depart. The girl heaved her bag and left the train.
The station was empty. Empty, as in completely empty. But it wasn't like it was deserted. It was just empty, with no one else but her. Not even one officer. The girl gulped. She had a bad feeling about this. Perhaps she had started hallucinating again? She walked down the stairs toward the main area. Beside the row of ticket machines was a screen that usually showed notices and train schedules, and on the bottom right corner of the screen was a clock showing the current time.
It stopped there. Not even a second ticked at all. Was it broken? She took out her phone from her bag, checking the time.
6pm. The third division of the hour of the rooster.
Exactly the same.
“W-what's going on here?”
This was nothing like her usual hallucination. Something was definitely wrong. As if to add her worry Ryouha found another message in her inbox. If she's right, it must be another of that unnerving message. She hesitantly tapped the icon.
The first round of [Oni Gokko] has finally started.
You are the [Human].
Ryouha gasped. She snapped her head toward the source of the voice.
“Ya even manage to enter the barrier? What the heck are ya?”
It was that mysterious girl again, the one she met in Shibuya. The girl laughed and approached her, one eye closed as she peered through her fingers like she always remembered them.
“Oh well, the more reason I wanna make you mine. Ha ha~”
Ryouha took a step back.
It was just like the previous time. Whether it was the trick of her eyes or the girl was too fast, in a split second the girl was already standing before her, gripping her right wrist tightly. The girl cooed.
“Stop running fer a while and listen—hm?”
The girl suddenly stopped. Her expression turned grim.
“You... Why are you—”
Ryouha yelped. The girl suddenly yanked her collar, staring at the exposed skin of her collarbone.
A red mark that resembled a flower was there. “The mark of [Seed]...”
Ryouha swung her bag and slapped the girl's face with it as hard as she could. She felt the grip on her other hand faltered and she quickly shook it off, breaking into a run. The girl didn't chase after her this time, but still she ran, listening to her own footsteps that echoed inside the empty station. She ran and ran and ran, all the way until she reached the surface. The whole street was empty the moment she got there, and she kept on running, trying to find any sign of life in the usually so bustling part of the city.
The electronics store.
The game center.
The maid cafe.
Nobody was there.
As if she was the only human left. Together with that girl.
“Outside... Maybe if I go outside of Akihabara...”
She could give it a try. She wiped away the sweats running down her cheek, ready for another round of sprint, but then a certain sound stopped her. There was some rustles behind the building beside her, and the girl carefully approached it.
No response. She walked closer toward the small road. There was a silhouette of someone crouching on the sidewalk, as if they were searching for something on the asphalt. And the silhouette didn't look like that girl.
“Excuse me, can you tell me what... happened...”
What was standing before her wasn't human at all.
It was a rotten humanoid creature that resembled one, with no eyes and a huge mouth that stretched until the far end of its face, its razor sharp teeth protruding out of the hollow space. Its four arms weren't searching for something, but were clawing on a bloody remains of something. Or someone.
Ryouha took a step back, feeling like she's about to puke. N-no, it's not real... I have to calm down...
She assured herself, trying to ignore the sickening sounds the creature made as it tore and chomped down on the remains. She put one hand to cover her mouth, forcing herself to stay calm as she slowly backed away.
The creature suddenly stopped eating.
It raised its head and slowly, very slowly, turned its blood smeared face toward her.“KCCRRRHHH—!!”
The creatures let out a loud strangled screech but Ryouha stood her ground, trying to stop her trembling.N-none of this is real!! I don't need to—SQUELCH...
Ryouha blinked, feeling a gush of wind blew past her. Her body suddenly felt a bit lighter.
The creature was holding something.
What was it? An arm?
A right arm.
Why did it look so familiar?
She felt like had seen it countless times before.
Why of course.
Because it was her arm.Her own right arm."-----!!!”
Ryouha fell to her knees, trying stop her scream as tears ran down her eyes. Her right arm was torn from her shoulder and blood was freely pouring from missing part. The pain was unbearable. Mismatched footsteps approached her and she shakily raised her head.
It was the creature, one hand still holding onto her severed limb.
It opened its mouth.“Ouuuut of the waaaaaay--!”
The blue-clad girl suddenly jumped into the scene, stomping the creature's head with her black boots and sending it crashing to the nearby building. She landed on the ground.
“Aah, I'm not in a mood for a fight and this thing appear? I really have a bad luck—hm?”
The girl tilted her head. And her huge smile that had disappeared suddenly returned.
“It's a Tatari~! Scratch that; this is my lucky day, ha ha ha~”
She laughed and pumped her fists to the air, leaping in joy.
“Wait, but its regenerative ability can be troublesome. Imma need a vessel and call out my reaping tool. Let's see...”
She looked around the area, until her eyes fell on Ryouha. Her face didn't look amused.
“Whoa. She's dying.”
Ryouha stared at the girl with wide eyes, watching her crouching in front of her with chin resting on her palms. She tried to call out to her but her voice wouldn't come out. Her consciousness started to fade and she fell to the ground, breathing into her own pool of blood.
“What should I do; I'll get into a trouble if I help a [Seed]. But I'm also running out of time and there's no other potential vessel around. Hmmm...”
Ryouha couldn't understand what happened anymore. Who is this girl? How can she stay so calm? A person was dying in front of her and a monster was out there to kill her too, but she didn't seem to care at all. She only stayed there. Looking down at her as she whined like a little kid.
“Let's ask for yer opinion then. I don't know how long it'll take but you will shortly die; whether from the loss of blood, or the impurities spreading from your wound, or being eaten by that Tatari. I can also kill you right here if that's what you want.”
“Ya finally talk~! Hurry hurry, which one will you choose? We don't have much time until the Tatari recover. But hey, rather than feeding it how about giving yer soul to me? Yer gonna die anyway
; I promise I'll take a good care of it~”
She would die.
She's going to die.
In this strange place, by this strange turn of event.
Alone. Not known by anyone.
No. That couldn't be true.
She's just having a nightmare.
But what if she'd never wake up?
Would she never see everyone again?
Her parents... Her family...
No...Kanon... Chikako... Rion...
Ryouha clenched her fist.
“I... want to live...”
The girl tilted her head.
“Really? Even if that means you'll cease to be a human?”
Ryouha choked out the words one more time, glaring at her.
She heard the girl laughed.
“Aha ha ha~ I was right, yer so interesting~”
The girl removed the black glove on her left hand, showing the red skull mark hidden behind it. Ryouha could only see everything in blur. She could barely see the girl traced a finger over her left palm, splattering blotch of red from the swing, before clenching the palm over her mouth.
A warm liquid touched her tongue.
Ryouha did as she say. It tasted like salt and iron, and as soon as the liquid went down her throat, she felt her whole body shook. Painful.
Everything was painful. As if the foreign substance had took over and replaced her insides. Drowning her."O’ child of man, heed my call."
The girl's voice rang in her head.
“You shall be my flesh... My eyes, my bones, and my limbs.”
“The vessel of [Death]; The devourer of [Life],
with this oath I shall grant you the power to sever that line.
...err, what's the next verse again?”
Ryouha couldn't believe her ears. She opened her eyes to a pitch black room, floating, as if she's underwater. “Aah, whatever. Call upon my holy name—!”
She really didn't know what happened anymore. She could only see a faint light seeping from the surface and she glared toward it, reaching out her hand.
Stop... kidding with me...! Heaven Reversal[Amanozako]
Ryouha whispered the name under her breath.
She opened her eyes, finding herself back on the deserted road of Akihabara. The pain around her body had disappeared. She glanced to her right, finding her severed arm back in place and holding onto something.A pure white halberd.“Huuh... I kinda screwed up the Oath but looks like the pact's a success.”
Ryouha flinched, hearing the girl's voice echoed inside her head again.
“What is—““Save yer question for later, we have something more important to do.”
Another screech pierced the air right after and Ryouha clenched the halberd tighter, snapping her head toward its direction. The previous black creature stormed out of the rubble.“Ya ready?”
She gulped. Ryouha couldn't see where the girl was, but somehow she knew that the girl was smiling.
Her laugh echoed in the far corner of her head.
“Time to reap some souls~”
Shinigami Playground : Chapter 01 // END
--Shinigami ☆ Q&A Corner--
1Akateko. An Ayakashi that resembles the red hand of a child descending from a tree.
Sometimes accompanied by the ghost of a young woman at the base of the tree. Maybe his mother?
2Hanako-san. A popular urban legend about the spirit of a young girl who haunts school bathrooms, but is actually an Ayakashi.
She's just a lonely child though, not dangerous at all.
3A super old and super gigantic Ayakashi.
Sometimes said to pose as a mountain range when sleeping.
42ch/2channel. A Japanese textboard.
Known for its absolute freedom of anonymous posting.
5A traditional Japanese gate usually found in Shinto shrine.
The symbol of transition from profane to sacred.
6Taken from the kanji higan- (afterlife) and -bana/hana (flower).
Believed to have guide souls toward the other side.
7An old Japanese way of telling time. A day is divided to 2 hours space and each assigned to 12 animals zodiac.
Rooster governs 5pm-7pm. Divide it by thirty minutes and you'll find the third division on 6pm.
8Yamanote line. A railway loop line in Tokyo.
It connects all of the major stations and urban centers. Always busy.