After I finally requested some trades from fellow members of the Q*Bee as well as setting up/organizing my Q*Bee Quilt, I decided to move further with the Q*Bee’s activities, events and features to further enhance my new experience as a member of this awesome, creative and fun friendship online club. I joined four of their activity groups, in which the Authors Group is one of them.
In the Authors Group, there are writing workshops set up with no due date or anything like that, so being a “late” member, I decided to take on these workshops. It would really help improve my creative writing skills, especially with writing fiction (and fanfiction while we’re at it). Anyway, proceeding. :D
The first writing workshop introduces us to different styles of narrative modes. Although there are many different types from first person to third person modes, the workshop requires us to use a random number generation to determine which one of the modes that we’re assigned to write. The random number generator gave me Choice #1: Third Person Subjective.
Though I’m still writing chapter 2 of my Yongseo-Kahosaki/Fatal Frame fanfic at my Tumblr1, I decided to write a short scene that I haven’t written yet in the fanfic itself for this workshop. It will appear in the fanfic itself eventually, though I can’t guarantee that this will remain the same once I finally get to that part.
Without further ado, here is my workshop exercise! :D
Japan is well-known as one of the countries around the world for its state-of-the-art technology that makes every average Japanese person make their lives a lot more easier and convenient. This included the TV broadcasting industry, where many of the crew and the public figures on camera wore inconspicuous lapel microphones and voice communicators without the distraction of using any cellphones. In this case, the horror-adventure survivor TV reality series of WITS & GUTS had found these light and hidden communication equipment among the cast and crew very useful.
The physical test already begun, with all eight participants of the test, all scattered around random starting points all about the mountains in which the Himuro Family Mansion, the objective point, should be nearby somewhere along the way. So far, the participants stuck to the rules, in which they were allowed to communicate with their respective teammates and to the moderators of the test, but not allowed to communicate with anyone on the opposing teams.
For university classmates and best friends Kaho and Hyun, the two girls already began communicating via their hidden lapel communicators, being careful of not revealing too much that may break the rules or may even be leaked to the rest of the participants. They were being monitored, after all, plus their every movement were being captured via highly-sophisticated satellite cameras.
“Kaho, how’s it going on your trail?” The petite, long-haired, bespectacled twenty-year-old Japanese girl heard her Zainichi Korean best friend’s soft voice speaking through her bluetooth-powered headphone on her left ear.
“I’m just taking things slow right now, Hyun. Even with all these highly-sophisticated communication gears we’re wearing, I still feel that I’m not alone here.” Kaho paced herself, shifting her eyes slowly from side to side and about, exploring her wild surroundings with lines of pine trees here and there and a clear dirt trail right in front of her.
“Just relax, Kaho. I’ll keep talking if you’re feeling nervous.”
“Thanks for the comforting words. I owe you big time if the two of us find the gateway to the Himuro Mansion and be part of the final four.” Kaho slowly lifted her hiking backpack and then checked her compass to be sure that she was heading at the right direction, according to the instructions given to them, of course.
From her starting point, she already walked about a mile ahead. She still haven’t found any marker around her surroundings that were unusual but still continued to keep up her pace. She couldn’t afford to jog her way forward, knowing that areas like these should always have something unusual that would help her find her way. A mile and a half later, she still couldn’t find anything unusual.
As she continued to stroll forward, she closed her eyes, just to feel the cool, gentle mountain breeze that blew through her face and her hair, along with the simple sounds of nature; the swaying leaves, the whispers of the wind blowing through the trees and the various chirps of birds whistled here and there. In her mind, she thought to herself, this must be the Japan that my ancestors lived and enjoyed their lives to the fullest.
While she imagined seeing herself being a young and innocent maiden in white yukata back in the early 1900s, she also reminded herself of the test’s rules once more. The participants were allowed to gain assistance from the locals, should they ever run in to one, but they were not allowed to ask the locals about the Himuro Mansion straight out as the locals themselves would refuse to speak of it in the first place. Instead, they should ask them with a few hints without being conspicuous that they are looking for the trail leading up to the mansion gateway.
Two miles later and still no markers or anything out of the ordinary. She thought that it may be a good idea to take a short water break. She found a good spot in between the towering pine trees and sat against one of them. She didn’t forget to let the moderators know via her communicator that she was just taking a water break and she was not in any form of trouble. While enjoying her still ice-cold water in her thermal water bottle, she also thought that it was a good time to read more of her great-grandfather Keisuke Indou’s old journals regarding his complex internship work at the Himuro Mansion. Once she untied the velvet ribbon that bound the velvet box closed, she took the first journal out, along with one of the supplement notebooks that came with the case. She found the yellow post-it bookmark that she placed on one of the pages so she would find her place of where she left off from last night.
There are five Shinto shrines that surrounded the family mansion; said to hold holy powers that would protect the mansion and the residents inside of it from any outside evil. I couldn’t exactly figure out the exact locations in the beginning since I left my compass at the mansion quarters so I wasn’t able to draft a quick map at that time, but by instinct the five shrines are most probably located on five points around the mansion that would resemble a pentagram shape. This gave me the idea of it because I’ve noticed a major commonality with the symbols and emblems displayed at the first few front rooms of the mansion which even included the gateway’s lock. Many of these symbols and emblems always featured some kind of a five-pointed facade no matter what shape they may be. Now that I thought of it, one entire pentagram almost resembled a human being with his arms and legs stretched out, with the head being the top point while the sides and the bottoms were the arms and legs. We are indeed human after all.
I took some time to purify myself and give my prayers to the Kami on each shrine I’ve visited. The priests, the miko and the locals who regularly visit and make their offerings were really nice and kind, considering that I’m just a student intern whose purpose for coming here was to learn and understand and be aware of a very different culture that was contrary to the culture I’m more familiar with.
One little thing that I’ve learned from visiting these shrines though. They sure have strange names regarding their shrines. Strange as they may be, the names also gave me major hunches that helped me sketch a quick map of these shrines surrounding the mansion. Respectively, their names were as follows: The Left Hand Shrine, the Left Foot Shrine, the Right Foot Shrine, the Right Hand Shrine, and last, but not least, the Head Shrine. After thinking some thought, I began to draw the points of those shrines according to their names and traced each of them in all directions. Just as my gut instinct told me, it did form a pentagram shape. Right at the center is the location of the Himuro Family Mansion itself.
I’ve figured it out now. There are six long stone-paved stairways that lead to the Himuro Family Estate: five leading to the shrines and one very long, ascending line of stairs leading to the gateway of the mansion itself. It certainly was a major hike, but I admit that it was good exercise for me.
Just as she finished read that particular passage, her eyes widened in shock. Great-grandfather Keisuke Indou had just gave her a clue that would help her navigate herself to the finish line. Six long stone-paved stairways. One sixth stairway longest of all should lead to the mansion itself. The only problem was that all stone-paved stairways built back in the the ancient times always looked the same, and with age and deterioration they would definitely be unrecognizable from one another. Not to mention that considering that the mansion and the five shrines all belong to the family clan itself that each of these stairways were probably constructed uniformly.
She flipped one page and found a loose folded page in between. She quickly unfolded it to find the very sketched map that he mentioned on his previous journal entry. It sure revealed that pentagram-shape of the locations of the shrines and the mansion itself, just as Keisuke Indou indicated. The only thing that was missing was that there was no indication on which point around the pentagram map was North, South, East or West. On the other hand, she did remember that her great-grandfather left his compass back at his quarters while he was touring around the estate.
Immediately she knew that even with a hand-drawn map in her hands thanks to her great-grandfather’s cartography skills, this was definitely no easy task. She may have a compass now, with the pointer currently leading towards West, but with no indication which side of the map is North, the map itself became useless to her quest. She did notice that each of the five points were also color-coded, but even with that the color-coded points still did not provide her anything useful. Nevertheless, her water break was over. She stood up from her rest point and headed back to the dirt trail. Once she began her usual pace, she gazed at the compass to be sure that the pointer was still to the West. When she began her trail from her starting point, it was always pointing West.
Three miles passed and still no cigar. It felt as if she was going in circles, but her compass was working perfectly. When she turned to the sides and at the back, the compass pointer changed directions. She had no choice but to continue going west. She then felt some signs of exhaustion a little bit, starting with a yawn and even the slight sore coming from her shoulders and legs. She had to take another water break or else she would lose all her energy. But before that, she stopped her stroll for a few moments and closed her eyes so she can easily catch her breath while feeling the rapid beating of her heart.
Just as she was about to proceed, she felt something very chill that just quickly touched the side of her neck at her right. The chill felt so icy that it almost made her jump in a startle. Slowly, she opened her eyes and turned to her right side. Nothing was there. Thinking it was just her imagination, she shook her head, grabbed her water bottle to drink some more water, and began her stroll again. Just with a few paces from her stopping point, she almost fell back when she spotted that there was someone ahead of her was also strolling down the same trail. She didn’t even bother to think as to why she was startled when she saw that particular person. Was it because of the fact that she didn’t expect that there would be a local walking along on the same trail as her? Or was it because of the fact that this particular someone had long black hair and wearing a pure white yukata?
Nevertheless, she thought, she finally had some luck in this race. She could finally ask for aid from a local. She then jogged a few paces and then stopped right at the mysterious figure’s side. With her usual cheerful smile and making sure her lapel communicator was on so the moderators would be able to listen to her conversation with a local (as per the rules), she greeted.
“Ano sumimasen ga… I was wondering if you could help me.”
The figure stopped, and with a slight gust of wind that just blew through both of them, the long dropping hair blew, revealing a rather calming, gentle yet pale face of a young girl. She looked up towards Kaho and also returned the smile. “Hajimemashite. Welcome to the Himuro Hills. How can I help you?”
Somehow the voice of the girl, though sweet and gentle to the ears, gave some chills down her spine. Even if that was the case, Kaho knew she shouldn’t overreact. She explained to this white kimono girl of her situation, about WITS & GUTS and how she is in a contest. The girl in the white kimono nodded, acknowledging her situation.
“You say that you are looking for a very long stairway around here?” The girl responded curiously. “There’s plenty around here, as it is an active and lively place. People come by and forth through these woods.”
“A very long staircase… at least if you could give me some hints, maybe I can find my way to these very long stairway, you know? It’s our finish line, you see?”
“The stairs? Just the stairs?” The girl asked again, as Kaho nodded to confirm. “Hints won’t help you very much, but I know the way. I’m actually passing by that stairway that you’re talking about. We can walk together there if you like.”
“R-really? You’d do that? Thank you so much!” Right then, the two girls made their way on the trail together, while they started conversations with one another, getting to know each other.
“Indou Kaho-san is your name, ne?” The girl in the white kimono acknowledged the college girl’s introduction. “Somehow you look a little familiar, but I’m not gonna pry.”
“Me? Familiar? This is the first time I’ve been here in these woods.”
“Hm. Maybe it’s just my imagination. However, I knew someone with the surname Indou. He was a very kind and smart young man. He was a true friend to my true love.”
Kaho blinked her eyes in wonder, along with another gentle chill crawling up her spine once more. “True love…?”
The white kimono girl nodded and then burst in to giggles, sighing like an innocent teenager in love. “I can just feel it… I feel it so much… he and I will be married soon… and he can finally take me away from this place and explore a brand-new world!”
“I’m happy for you! Congratulations! Your true love must be very kind, loving… and not to mention handsome, I bet!”
“You should meet him one day!” The white kimono girl cheered and without thinking, she immediately held Kaho’s left hand. Immediately Kaho shrieked at the very icy touch of the girl’s hand, which also startled the girl herself. “Ah, I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to…”
“Oh no, it’s just that your hands were… really cold…” Kaho gulped nervously and gently rubbed her hand to give back its warmth.
“Ah, it’s natural. It always gets cold up here. I apologize.”
Kaho felt the guilt and instead took one of her hands to make up for it. Still though, the girl’s hands were like solid frozen ice that just came out from the freezer. “I want to give you guys my blessings, at least.”
“Thank you so much, Kaho-san!” The two girls exchanged laughter and continued on with their trail and their random conversations.
Five miles past and the white kimono girl immediately stopped. Kaho became curious and turned to her. “What’s wrong?”
“We’re here. To your right side, Kaho-san.” Quickly, Kaho turned her head and just slightly hidden by the towering pine trees was the gray stone stairway that she sought for.
“A-are you sure this is it?”
“Positively sure. I’m a local, remember.” The white kimono girl winked.
“My gosh! Thank you so much! I seriously owe you big time!” The girl simply smiled at her in return. “I’m sure we’ll see each other again while I’m here.”
“I look forward to it, Kaho-san.”
“Ne, before I head there… I didn’t even get to ask your name.”
“Ah, of course,” the white kimono girl nodded. “It’s Karen.”
“Karen-san. Once again, thank you so much! How can I ever repay you for leading me here?”
Once again, Karen placed her icy cold hand right on Kaho’s shoulder: “Just one thing. Please be careful and return safely with a smile on your face. Promise me that, Kaho-san.”
“I will. I’ll definitely will.” Right then, the girls exchanged their goodbyes as Karen made her way back to the trail. But before she reached for the covering the opening to the stairway, she felt that same icy cold feeling grabbing on her left wrist and softly hissed at the frigid chill. She turned to see Karen holding her once more, but this time with a worried face.
“I-I’m sorry,” Karen first apologized and then sighed. “But… can I ask you a few questions?”
“S-sure… what is it?”
“I know this is out of the blue but… are you sure?”
“Hm? Sure about what?”
“A-are you sure you really want to climb those stairs? E-especially on your own?”
“I… I’ll be having some colleagues who will be waiting for me up there.”
Karen gave a short nod. “Then, since you won’t be alone, let me ask you a second question.”
“Are you currently in love with someone?”
Kaho was thrown back slightly with a nervous chuckle on her face. “W-well, I don’t have a boyfriend if that’s what you’re asking… and I’ve had a few crushes here and there… I guess in short I’m not really in love.”
Once again, Karen acknowledged her answer wit a nod. “Final question then.”
“W-what’s with all these personal questions, Karen-san?”
“P-please… just answer this for me, Kaho-san. And I’ll let you go on your journey.”
“Well… alright. Final question.”
“Do you believe in destiny, Kaho-san?”
Kaho blinked in curiosity with that question. “D-destiny? In terms of what?”
“Oh… let’s just say this final question is related to the second question I asked you.” Kaho’s eyes widened, still curious as to why a stranger girl like Karen would ask her questions pertaining to true love. On the other hand, she did feel within that taking on the Himuro Mansion was a personal destiny after all.
“I do. I wholeheartedly believe in destiny… even with true love.” With that, with no other questions asked, Karen finally released her wrist and gave that same nod.
“Well, Kaho-san. Then I will say this about you. You’re completely united with your mind and your heart. I believe you really are destined to be in that place— the place at the end of that stairway. I will visit all the shrines around the hills everyday, praying and requesting the Kami good blessings for you and your colleagues. Your destiny awaits you at the end of that stairway.”
The two ladies bowed to each other, showing their usual thanks and courtesy for each other’s company. “Thank you very much, Karen-san. I promise I’ll leave this place alive, well, and like you hoped, a smile on my face.” With that, the girls parted their ways, with Karen making her way forward West on the trail. Kaho, on the other hand, turned towards the woods and right to the stairway. Still with that ecstatic smile on her face, she turned back to see Karen make her way forward on the trail.
Instead, once she turned, she noticed that Karen was no longer there. Right then, she heard another voice from her communicator. This time, from Hyun. Kaho explained to Hyun about Karen and her discovery of the stairway that should lead to the gateway of the mansion. Hyun’s reaction became this instead:
“Karen-san, huh? You know you’ve left your communicator open and I can hear you loud and clear. Are you sure you’re alright?”
“What’s with the doubt, Hyun? I’m perfectly fine!”
“I hope so because throughout the entire conversation that you have with this… Karen-san person… it sounded like you’re talking to yourself. I didn’t hear this Karen girl’s voice at all. I could hear you and your footsteps and the birds chirping and the trees shaking but no Karen-san’s voice, Kaho. I swear to god I’m not hallucinating and my communicator’s not acting up.”
“Well, whatever— I’m not gonna waste my time standing around here. I’m climbing up the stairs now.” Quickly before anyone else from either side of the test hikers arrive, she began to jog at her usual slow pace again, climbing the very lengthy, hilly set of stairs leading her upward to the top of the mountains. With that, she watched her compass suddenly changing from West to Northwest. Without even noticing the stairs winding path, Northwest became North.
“I don’t know where they dropped you off, Hyun,” Kaho said through her communicator, “but I’m heading North now. “
“Good. Keep climbing up, don’t look back, Kaho. I’m having some gut feelings that I’m going the right way too. But I’m heading South at the moment. Whatever you do, keep climbing up. Don’t turn your head. I’ll see you there and hopefully I make it to the final four.”
“It’d be a good sign if no one’s there once I arrive at the gateway, Hyun.” Right then, the two decided to turn off communications with each other, as Kaho narrated her path to the moderators.
“You’ve actually chosen the right stairway, Indou-san,” one of the moderators, one with a rather high-pitched female voice, replied to her via her lapel communicator. “According to the map indicator on the screen right now there’s no one else who’s behind you, however we’re now safe to say to let you know this one little update.”
“Oh? And what’s that?”
“You’re the second person to arrive at the finish line, Indou-san. Someone is already there waiting for you and two more.”
“W-what? I’m second? That’s impossible! Can you tell me who that person is?”
“We can’t reveal you any names yet until you reach the finish line, Indou-san, but we’ll give you two clues. The individual who got there first to the gateway happens to be a male celebrity— tall, quite lanky, young and fresh, very popular among the young celebrities in Japanese showbiz, extremely handsome and deadly attractive. He’s also won eight awards for his different roles in several award-winning movies, a very accomplished, serious, elite-level actor.”
“Say what? A celebrity? I can’t believe a celebrity just beat me— an avid cultural anthropology student— beat me to the top!” Was this for real, she began to ponder. She expected that history and culture buffs like her would be the first to reach the goal, but of all people in this second test, a celebrity?
“Indou-san, let me remind you one thing, just because this hot ikemen guy may be a celebrity, doesn’t mean he’s stupid and uncultured. Remember, he holds one of the highest eight scores that lead him to this second portion of the test. You’ve reached the finish line at second place, so eventually you will be working alongside him and two more people who will be coming after you. Aren’t you a lucky girl!”
Kaho simply shook her head and changed the subject. “Well, whatever, I’m still climbing up these long and winding stairway. Good grief, why so far up? Is this family manison that important that it had to be all the way to the top so they feel like the own the world? Anyway, I’m cutting off connections now, I’m getting tired already.” Right then she switched off the moderator channel of her communicator and switched back on the channel which she used to contact her best friend. After resting for another water break for a few moments, eventually finishing up her entire bottle, she continued on with her climb.
How many set of stairs did she climb up already? Four sets of twenty steps already? Maybe thirty steps? She reached for her journal again to find any more clues through his diary, most notably his great-grandfather’s vivid descriptions of the estate’s exteriors, interiors and the overall area. Luckily for her her answers were only laid on the next page after the five shrines descriptions.
When the professor and my intern friends began climbing up the long and winding stairway leading to the entrance of the Himuro Family Mansion, approximately counted around 350 steps divided in five sets of 50 steps. I even had a feeling that we’ll be climbing another set or two of 50 once we pass through the gateway.
As long as the numbers doesn’t involve four or nine, we’ll all be safe. Hopefully…
350 steps? Great-grandpa, what on earth kind of an internship expedition you and your pals have gotten in to? This is nuts! Kaho sighed, shaking her head, as she continued on, she could already feel the sores on her legs getting a lot more aggressive than the sores she earned during her long trail walk. With her being second place in mind and having a celebrity beating her and Hyun, she really could not afford to stop any more. Not only that, she ran out of water.
She ended up sitting down at the third step before she reaches another platform. She then began to speak through her microphone.
“Hyun, better hurry,” Kaho panted, trying to catch her breath. “I hope you’ve still got some energy in you.”
Few seconds later, Hyun replied: “Are you still at the stairs?”
“I’ve got some alarming news to tell you. The moderators said it’s okay to aid fellow teammates once we reached the finish line, so I’m going to give it to you now.”
“Okay, better hurry because I’m… jogging right now, so to speak…”
“Hyun, why are you jogging? You’re gonna have your energy depleted before you can even find the stairway to the mansion’s gateway!”
“Don’t worry about me, I can manage. I’m an athlete too, remember? What’s the update?”
“Okay. I just read a few passages from my great-grandfather’s journal regarding the stairway to the mansion. The moderators are sure, since they’ve got homing devices hidden in our communicators so they can moderate our movements on their screen. My great-grandfather counted the steps just leading to the gateway at 350 steps total—“
“350?! Are you friggin’ insane? I’d be dead tired by the time I’ve climbed the first twenty!”
“They’re divided in to five sets of stairs, so you’ll be reaching five platforms before you can get to the next set of stairs. There’s five sets total of 50 steps.”
“Still… 350? This Himuro Family are a bunch of insane wackos to have that many steps leading from the real world towards their house? Great… just great. I guess I have no choice but to walk from now on. Anything else?”
“Second piece of alarming news is kinda bad.”
“More of like… risky bad.”
“Alright, what is it?”
“The moderators just told me while I was climbing the first steps that I’m the second person to reach the finish line. There’s already someone already up there who beat both of us already.”
“What? No! We can’t have that! Now I seriously have to find my way there! I don’t want to be beaten by some creepy anime otaku and that wanna-be Visual Kei Chongryon creep— I can’t have destiny fail me now!”
“That’s what I’m saying. In fairness, it’s a male celebrity who got up there first.”
“What? A celebrity? And he’s also male? Frickin’ hell! Is he Korean or Japanese?”
“Based on the moderator’s description of tall, slightly lanky, young, fresh, extremely handsome and deadly attractive, has won eight awards for his roles at award-winning movies that got him into elite-level of accomplished actors in Japanese showbiz, plus the situation that we’re in right now, he’s definitely Japanese. You’re more familiar with showbiz in general so maybe you could give me a hint on who this guy is…”
“Don’t you want to find out for yourself, Kaho? I think it would be better that way.”
“Ne, Hyun! Why am I having a feeling that you know this guy’s name? Can you give me a hint?”
“You gave me clear and concise description of what the moderator told you about this celebrity, and with the last bit, I already know who he is.”
“Hyun, come on, give me a hint!” Kaho sighed deeply while she could hear Hyun breathing hard due to her hiking.
“Give me some space to find my way to the stairway. You’re already there at the finish line. At least continue until you reach the gate and meet that guy. I’m already having some hunches about him already but I could be wrong.”
Kaho sighed deeply, knowing that even in this case, there was no way that her best friend would even break the rules. On the other hand, the thrill of anticipation would disappear if she was being told rather than discovering herself. “Alright then. I’ll be hoping and praying for you that you would find the stairway, Hyun.”
“Thanks. See you there, win or lose.” The two best friends turned off their communications, as Kaho gave an exhausting sigh, leaning herself on the last two steps leading to a platform without even looking forward. “This is not cool! No wonder back in those days that there were only guys in that internship assignment. No wonder this is a physical-intense second test. This is… this is… I don’t think I could go on anymore…”
Just as she was about to close her eyes, desiring to take a short nap until she can re-energize herself again, a deep, husky and rich male voice suddenly spoke to her at her right side: “You won’t have to because you’re here.”
Quickly Kaho got up and shrieked in a scare. Along with that, she scooted herself further left, using her arms to block herself against the owner of that particular voice. Right after the two calmed down, she slowly lowered her arms so she could take a good look at the young man’s face who simply answered her exhaustion plea. Just as she caught his youthful, angelically handsome face, along with his rather unusual towering height. Like the moderator’s description of this particular male celebrity, he was a definitely tall, slightly lanky built, extremely handsome and deadly attractive young hot ikemen. In short, Kaho’s favorite actor— and have had a slight crush on this particular actor— happened to look a lot more attractive in real life than in those idol magazines.
“Sumimasen!” Quickly she bowed to him to show her apology for the rather startling reaction.
“Hajimemashite,” the young man responded with a rather charmed smile, bowing to her in return. “Are you alright?”
Kaho placed her hands immediately over her mouth, keeping herself from screaming or saying anything that may embarrass this particular ikemen standing right in front of her. “I… Well… I’m really exhausted and all…”
“Can’t be helped.” Right then, the young actor climbed up to the platform, reached for his backpack and took out a fresh, ice-cold bottle of a sports drink. He then handed it to her as he sat at the empty space of the third step next to her, as the energy-depleted college girl freely accepted the bottle. She quickly opened it and began to drink. While drinking, she used this time to find ways to start a short conversation with her secret celebrity crush, 22-year-old award-winning actor Masaki Okada.
“H-how long have you been here?” Kaho promptly began their first conversation after many years of harboring a typical teenage girl crush on him ever since he debuted at a tender age of fourteen in showbiz. “I mean… here at the gateway.”
Masaki gazed at his watch to look at the time. “About fifteen minutes. I’m a little surprised I got here first.”
“Thank you so much… f-for the drink. It was very refreshing. I finished up all my four bottles of water on my way here.”
“No problem at all.” Kaho continued to sip on her sports drink bottle when Masaki stood up from his spot. “You’re at the finish line right now. Can I carry your stuff up or are you okay climbing up?”
“W-would you?” Quickly she removed her backpack and handing it to the towering young actor. She wanted to leap for joy and shout out “Okada Masaki-kun and me— together— alone!”, however she was firm to stick to the fact that she is in a popular adventure reality show as a potential occult investigator rather than an avid fangirl of Masaki Okada. “Thank you so much. I… I’m Indou Kaho, by the way. Sorry I didn’t introduce myself properly.”
Masaki chuckled at her reaction. “No worries. I get that a lot from everyone even if they’re not fans. Even guys my age act like that when they first encounter me.” Kaho nervously chuckled in return as he lead her up to the platform, where in just about ten paces from the final step stood the very old, intricately-designed gate. With its distinctive architecture, she identified it quickly as a kouraimon.2
“The kouraimon may be very old but still looks good architecture-wise,” Kaho stated her first impression of the Himuro Mansion’s intricately-designed gate. Right then she saw a single white ofuda3 that was placed over some kind of a flower-shaped emblem at the center of the wooden shut gates. She then stepped forward to take a closer look.
“The ofuda is on the way of some kind of a keyhole… or a key mechanism,” Masaki added, standing right next to her, gazing towards the ofuda itself. “I have a feeling this would take more than two weeks to complete this project, sorry to say to the producers of this show.”
Kaho nodded in agreement. “We need to have permission from the shrine who placed this ofuda to remove it so we can enter. I mean it’s ridiculous they would place this on a keyhole like this. How on earth are we supposed to proceed with this whole investigation project when the gate is sealed with an ofuda?”
“Indou-san, calm down,” Masaki warned the somewhat impatient college girl to calm down. “Let’s wait for the next two to arrive, then we’ll figure out what to do with this ofuda problem.”
“Well, I guess we really don’t have a choice at the moment.”
The two individuals backed away from the gate and sat on the top stair to relax while they wait. Kaho, even if she went back to her primary focus of her participation, still felt the tightness inside of her just by realizing that her hidden long-time celebrity crush was now one of her two celebrity-leveled teammates in the final four investigators of this mysterious mansion. She couldn’t even look at him in the eye even if they simply talked casually regarding the gate problem just now. However, just remaining silent isn’t going to help as she would become more nervous than she was now.
“Ne… Okada-san… I was just wondering…” Kaho broke the ice right then. “H-how’d you find your way to this stairway? Did a local help you?”
Masaki gave a slight grin after hearing the question and then turned his head to her. “That’s a good question.”
His answer immediately forced her without realizing it to turn her head towards him, facing his angelic-looking face. “What exactly do you mean by that?”
“I don’t think you would believe me if I told you how I found the stairway. I didn’t have any help from any locals.”
“So then, how did you find the stairway then? I mean for one who arrived here first, you must have some kind of a strategy to find this place— hidden behind a bunch of pine trees and all that.”
“Well, if you insist then, Indou-san.” He cleared his throat as she waited for him to answer. “I dreamed about it on the way here. It’s hard to explain, but I dreamed about it while I was napping inside our SUV on the way here in the mountains.”
“But… how could you just… dream about it? That’s just impossible. You can’t just dream about something that may happen in the future and then it becomes reality, don’t you think?”
Masaki sighed deeply, then answered. “Well, I guess this is the time that you and I start to get to know each other more, ne Indou-san?”
Somehow, with that response, Kaho couldn’t help but smile in excitement.
On the sidenote...
- I do plan on moving them here or even at the Bunnda Channel. [↩]
- A type of Japanese gate (mon) architecture that consists of a tiled, garbled roof on two pillars, plus two smaller roofs over the secondary pillars (hikaebashira) on the rear of the gate. Ironically for this fic, kouraimon is literally translated as “Korean gate.” [↩]
- Paper talismans with the name of a god written in bold text and the name of the shrine at the side where those paper talismans were purchased from. They are used to protect homes and other areas of a building from evil spirits. Anyone can purchase them at a local Shinto shrine, as well as vending machines located in these shrines. [↩]