A/N: Well, here's something different. I thought about writing his since September and I'm glad I did. For those who have seen Higurashi (When They Cry), it's got similarities to that Series. How? Well, you got to read and find out! Don't forget to leave a review!
Chapter 1 - Dawn of the beginning
No matter how much she wanted sleep, the loud whistling of the train kept her awake. She had been on board for the past 4 hours, since early morning. What was taking so damn long? With boredom rearing its head, the girl began to sort through her backpack to look for her CD player. But she ended up dropping a picture frame, instead. The teenage girl picked it up and looked at the picture with a wistful look.
It was a family photo, featuring herself and her parents, four years prior. It was during the simpler, more carefree times of her life. The days that the lonely girl desperately wanted to gain back. She'd do anything to be with her father again. Sadly, life had other plans, plans that all but shattered her once happy life.
"Dad…" She brushed off some dirt on the still face of her father. "I wish you were here."
Her brown eyes wandered to the left side of the picture, where the mother was standing with the father. The girl's eyes narrowed in disappointment and frustration. That woman was the cause of all this trouble. The one responsible for the void in her heart.
"How could you choose that ugly creep over me, mom?"
Not wanting to look at the photo another second, the brown-haired teenager stuffed it back into her backpack. She went back to staring off into the windows. The evening sun was gliding past the trees like a meteorite, due to the velocity of the train. All that was in view were green fields and trees. Not a single skyscraper in sight. Perfect…
It was only a matter of time before the girl had to arrive to a new home, whether she liked it or not. The time of unease occurred at another loud tout of the whistle and a quick notice over the intercom.
"All passengers prepare to depart. We have now reached Kuroshima. The train goes no further. I repeat…"
The brown eyed girl quickly fixed her luggage and got up from her seat. She brushed off her dark blue jacket.
"About time," she commented to the air.
And so, it had begun. Her new life in an unfamiliar place started at this very moment. As the train doors opened, the teenage girl waded through large crowds pouring out. The congested, clustered air only irritated the girl as she managed to find her space and head outside of the station. It was still evening, as the sun continued to fall away.
"Well," she considered, "I better get a move on before it gets dark."
She produced a crumpled piece of paper, which was the key to telling her where she needed to go next.
"Dear Kazumi," she read flatly. "I'll be gone for a while, so, don't count on me coming back. In the meantime, your loving grandmother is waiting for you at Koi street. Don't keep her waiting. From, mom."
The girl, Kazumi bit her bottom lip as she stared at the letter bitterly.
"What a load of bullshit…!"
As much as she wanted to tear apart the letter, she knew it wasn't the option. Not yet, at least.
Kazumi began walking down the station steps and onto the dirt road. The only thing keeping her company was a light autumn breeze that danced with her short hair. Eventually, she would soon come across a pathway of trees. They were so tall and big; Kazumi could've sworn they were almost moving on their own. If she went through there, she would already seal her fate. She glanced behind her, where the station resided.
"Well, I can't turn back now, huh?"
Swallowing a hard lump in her throat, the brown-haired teen continued onward. Her brown boots stepped forth into the shaded pathway. It seemed like an endless road. Her heartbeat was beginning to pick up pace as Kazumi heard distant cawing from above. Her eyes traveled to the cause of the noises.
All she could hear was deadly silence.
Curiosity getting the better of her, Kazumi snatched up a big rock and threw it at the tree. As soon as it disappeared, a scream of a crow echoed, startling the 16-year-old. A group of crows flew from out of the trees, cawing in unison. With a racing heartbeat and her forehead coated with sweat, the girl ran at an Olympic athlete's pace. She escaped from the jungle of large trees and continued to run further down.
Run away. Run away. Run away. Run…!
One of her feet got caught in a she stumbled and fell face first into the ground.
But, it wasn't the dirt upon which Kazumi collapsed. As she opened both eyes, she found herself in the comfort of a garden of red flowers. When the brunette looked a little closer, the flowers were shaped like spider legs. She stood up on her feet after gaining her composure.
"What are these?"
"You are looking at the lycoris radiata, better known as spider lilies," an unfamiliar voice explained.
Kazumi swung her head to the other side and her eyes saw the source of the voice.
It was a young woman of 17, with medium length light purple hair and large blue eyes. She also had hair clips towards the left side of her hair and a maid hairband. The girl wore a usual maid uniform, which only served to hug her noticeable curves.
"So, you are Kazumi? Mitsuko-san's granddaughter?"
"Y-yes…" Kazumi replied with confusion. "Umm…who are you?"
"I'm Sophie, a maid at the Kerai Inn."
"That's where your grandmother resides."
"Oh…I didn't know she ran a business."
"Please follow me."
Although apprehensive, Kazumi felt relieved to find someone who knew where she needed to go. It felt like a long time since she has seen another girl around her age as well. And so, she allowed Sophie to lead the way. As she walked behind the older girl, Kazumi heard a noise from the fields. She looked to her right to see a few crows standing on a dead, leafless tree. Their beady eyes shined a soft red glow as the black birds stared at the girls.
Growing a bit anxious, the short haired teenager picked up the pace and walked side by side with Sophie.
"Hey," she asked impatiently. "are we there yet or what? My feet are getting tired."
Sophie and Kazumi stopped their movements as they gazed at the entrance to a medium sized inn-house. It was had the look of a traditional Japanese house, with a mix of modern thrown in.
"Here we are."
Kazumi's eyes widened with surprise. She didn't expect her grandmother to have a such nice house.
"Once you go inside, be sure to give your honest first impression," Sophie suggested. "It's very important, since this is the first time you've met Mitsuko-san."
The other teen rolled her eyes with annoyance. She didn't need some stranger telling her how to socialize with people.
There was a meeting taking place in the living room. Most of the employees and managers were present. And much to Kazumi's relief, her brown eyes spotted a few teenagers present. Two girls were close together, hands clasped together. Kazumi could only assume the pair were sisters. She also spotted a timid looking boy with a bruise on his left cheek. He averted eye contact as soon as he glanced at Kazumi.
But, the one figure who stood out the most was the owner of Kerai Inn. She was a woman of 60 and her attire consisted of a black kimono with a red floral design. The adult woman also wore her greying hair in a traditional style bun, with a gold comb in the middle of her hair. At that moment, Kazumi's discomfort faded and became awe. For someone who was supposed to be her grandmother, Mitsuko had the refined and beautiful form to go with her outfit.
"Sophie, you're late," said the woman in the kimono.
The purple haired maid bowed her head as an apology.
"Pardon me, Mitsuko-san. But, she has arrived."
With the gentle ushering of Sophie, the short haired newcomer stepped inside the living room. The looks she had received were mixed at best. Kazumi tried to ignore them and greeted everyone in the room.
Mitsuko, however, smiled warmly at the new guest and stood up to offer a hug.
"Ah, you must be Kazumi! We've been expecting you."
Kazumi smelled the faint fragrance of cherry blossoms as she was engulfed in a strong hug.
"Did you find this place alright?" Mitsuko asked. "It's far into the countryside, so, I apologize if you were having trouble."
"Not really," Kazumi answered. "I'm just glad I was able to get here before it got too dark."
"My condolences to what happened to your father, as well." The girl lowered her head, the tragic loss still fresh on her mind.
Noticing her granddaughter's mood change, the elder woman touched her shoulder sympathetically.
"I can't believe my foolish daughter-in-law would just elope and leave you behind like that. But I'm so happy to know that you'll be under my care from here on out."
Kazumi lifted her head and responded with a small smile.
Just then, there was a loud rumbling coming from Kazumi's stomach. Everyone in the living room heard it. She blushed with embarrassment, since she hadn't much to eat during her traveling.
"Oh, you must be hungry and tired after that long train ride over here. Luckily, we had a warm meal prepared for you."
Mitsuko turned to her trusted maid.
"Sophie, please show her to her room."
"Of course, ma'am."
"Wait, I'm attending school tomorrow? I just got here today!"
"Of course," Mitsuko insisted. "But, you're still a teenager after all. Retaining your education is important."
The skeptical girl rolled her eyes at such reasoning. It was bad enough that she had to adjust to living in the boonies. Now, she had to attend a different school before she got comfortable?
This is utter bullshit. Drop dead, mom.
"Please follow me, Kazumi-san," Sophie requested.
The two girls left the living room and proceed onward to the hallways of the inn. Kazumi's feet moved at a slow pace due to the creaking of the wooden floor. How old was this inn, anyway?
Her room was rather modest, with only a small futon, a closet, and a nightstand with a lamp. It was nothing special, but Kazumi didn't care either way. She just wanted some rest from the long journey to Kuroshima.
Waiting for her in her new room was a hot bowl of ramen, and a small dish of rice. The newcomer beamed with delight.
"Ah, finally!" Kazumi cheered with joy. "Food!"
Without wasting time, the brown-haired girl dropped her backpack, took off her shoes, and sat at by the table. With a gentle blow to clear out the steam, Kazumi grabbed her chopsticks and began to consume the ramen inside the bowl of broth.
Not a few minutes later, the ramen and sushi were gone. Sophie's blue orbs grew to the size of tea saucers. She had never seen anybody eat their fill so quickly.
"You really were hungry…"
"Delicious," Kazumi sighed, rubbing her belly in content. "And far better than that train crap they call refreshments, too."
Kazumi couldn't help but feel a tiny sense of security after meeting her grandmother in person. But, it was the first time she has ever seen her. Why didn't dad tell her about Mitsuko before? Did he have a reason to conceal it from her? Perhaps both mother and son had a fall out and never reconciled their differences.
"Things are happening way too quickly," Kazumi commented sincerely.
"It's a natural feeling for a newcomer," Sophie replied. "Just give it a couple more days and I'm sure you'll get better."
"Sophie, was it? How long have you been here?"
"This is my third year working at this inn."
"Do you like it? Your job as a maid, I mean."
There was a slight pause, as if the other girl was hesitant to formulate an answer. Her azure eyes darted away for a moment, before smiling.
"Of course," Sophie insisted. "Mitsuko-san is the one who took me in after all."
"Well, I hope I can manage to like this place too."
Sophie grabbed the empty dishes and began to leave Kazumi's room.
"Anyways, I best be going. You should finish up your dinner and head to bed soon."
"I know. Thanks, Sophie."
With a soft closing of the slide door, Kazumi was alone once more.
"She sure left in hurry."
Either way, it doesn't matter for the moment. Kazumi needed to unpack and adjust to her new room. Even though she was greeted warmly, Kazumi still had to admit that living in the country was surreal. From tomorrow onward, her new life would begin.
Her first day of school was supposed to be sunny and bright out. Why do the weathermen always get their facts mixed up?!
A torrent of cold rain drenched into the streets of a small town of Kuroshima. People were scrambling to avoid the watery onslaught. Kazumi managed to take shelter near a café shop. But, she would have to keep moving again if she didn't want to be late for school.
"Come on, Riley, I can't keep up!"
"That's because you're too slow!"
Kazumi looked behind her to see two other girls taking shelter nearby the café. From the similar facial features, they were a pair of sisters. The oldest one had a mature air around her and concealed her straight dark blonde hair with the hood of her green sweater. The younger sister was smaller in height and was pulling up the hems of her pink skirt. She was using a newspaper to protect her curly red hair from the heavy rain.
"Whew, sanctuary," Riley sighed, pulling down her green hood.
"For now, at least," Julia commented. "We still need to get moving soon."
"Oh, good morning," Kazumi greeted the sisters.
The other two girls turned their green eyes to Kazumi, as if she was some rare creature from the zoo. The one named Riley averted her gaze, while Julia returned the greeting with a smile.
"Good morning. You're the new girl, right?"
"The name's Kazumi."
"I'm Julia and this is my big sister, Riley."
Riley said nothing. The redhead lightly elbowed her sister's side with scorn.
"Don't be rude, sis," Julia scolded.
Riley scoffed and glanced at the brunette with indifference.
Julia rolled her eyes and smiled apologetically to the other girl.
"Please, don't mind her. She's a grump."
"So," Kazumi asked. "I guess we're heading to the same school together, huh?"
"Most likely," Julia replied.
"What's it like there?"
"It's a small building with only a few classrooms. Most of the students are younger than us."
Kazumi's jaw dropped down with shock. Just when she thought today couldn't get worse.
"You've got to be kidding me!"
"Welcome to the country side, newbie," Riley quipped.
Just then, a white car stopped by the street where the trio stood near the café. The window rolled down to reveal a handsome face of an adult man. He was bald and wore a lab coat.
"Hey there, need a ride to school?"
"Oh, thank you," Riley replied.
Riley and Julia held hands and walked over to the car. The bald man's hazel eyes turned to Kazumi.
"How about you, young lady?"
"No, thanks. I'm good," Kazumi declined. The man was a stranger to her, after all.
The car windows slowly ascended and the vehicle was on its way straight up the street.
Kazumi watched as the car drove off, but somebody wasn't pleased. Running on the sidewalk was a young man, slightly older than Kazumi.
"Dammit!" the lad exclaimed angrily. "To hell with that pedo-doctor!"
The older teen turned to Kazumi, his dark blue eyes had a passionate emotion to them.
"That's right! He's a sleazy bastard, that guy. And it's not just him, this whole town is just hiding a lot of messed up secrets. But, that won't continue for long. I will uncover the truth!"
Kazumi wasn't sure how to respond. She just wanted to get to school through the rainy weather. But, instead, she encountered four people in the same day. What's going on? Was the town always filled with odd surprises? Only time will tell.
"Who exactly are you?" Kazumi inquired. "You don't look like a student."
The black-haired male crossed his arms and explained,
"I'm Yugo, a journalist for the Wake-Up Japan newspaper. Looks like you're new here, so, I guess you wouldn't believe me if I told you the things I seen and heard."
"What kind of things?"
Yugo placed his hands on the pockets of his trench coat, contemplating.
"Nah, I probably shouldn't. Not yet anyway. I don't have enough proof to back up my claims."
"Seriously? Try me."
The 16-year-old looked back at her watch and noticed how much time had passed. Her brown orbs widened with surprise.
"Oh god. I'm going to be late on my first day of school!"
Disregarding the rain, Kazumi took a beeline down the sidewalk.
"Hey, wait- "
"We'll talk later!" Kazumi shouted before disappearing on to her left. Although she was still uneasy by her transition, the girl couldn't help but chuckle to herself. "Something tells me this is going to be an interesting town."
Frantically packing his items was a boy of 17. His red cap concealed a head of blonde hair. All he wanted as to start an honest life at a seemingly peaceful town after his mother passed away. He didn't expect to be in a situation as dire as this though. The lad's grey eyes were quivering as he looked around the hallways. He didn't want to be followed.
"Screw this inn," he hissed in contempt, "and screw this whole town!"
And with that, he took his bag and left his room and the Kerai inn.
Once he was outside, he unraveled his bike of the chains that kept it safe from theft. Then, he got up on the bike and proceeded to ride off into the cold rain.
The dirt roads were very muddy, causing the wheels of the bike to slow down. The red cap boy struggled to speed up, desperate to leave Kuroshima and its inhabitants.
However, it was easier said than done. As he continued to ride straight, the distant sound of cawing invaded his ears. He turned his head to the side and stopped his movements when he saw a group of crows. They were standing around a dead tree, staring at the escapee, like a predator to its prey. Their eyes glowed a soft glare, as if warning him of a grim fate in store.
The blonde boy's blood suddenly turned cold. One of his hands grasped at the center of his grey sweatshirt, where his heart resided. Sweat of fear began to glaze his pale face. Regardless, he pushed forward.
Ignoring the black birds for now, the boy looked ahead and smiled with hope. A pathway of tall trees. It was the only entry and exit out of Kuroshima. The last hope of departure. It was only a matter of time before he obtained freedom.
Suddenly, the bike wheels gave out. Once it hit a loose stone, the bike swiveled to the left and boy couldn't control it. He fell off and rolled down into the marsh, his sweatshirt and pants drenched with mud and water.
Trying to gain his footing after the nasty fall, the blonde lad heard cawing again. This time, it was closer than he thought. His grey eyes widened with frightened surprise as he found himself surrounded by crows. The screeched and flew around, forming a circle around the runaway.
"Get lost! Shut up!" shouted the boy, waving his hands to shoo the birds away.
But then, his ears picked up another sound. It was the sound of approaching footsteps on the marsh. The blonde teenager didn't need to think twice about who it was. His eye caught a glimpse of the figure; a black mask and a machete.
Without hesitation, the boy ran out of the swamp and desperately began to climb up the hill. Unfortunately, he didn't get too far. Greeting him from above was another masked figure, who ran down and kicked him in the face, hard.
The boy fell again on the marsh again and was soon surrounded by a group of menacing shadows. His hopes of escape dashed. And with nothing to defend himself, the blonde teen's eyes began tearing up. All he could do was scream as the machete lunged at his heart.
Julia wasn't lying when she had informed Kazumi about her new school having very few teenagers. Most of her classmates were indeed younger, between 9-12 years of age. Back in Tokyo, her high school was a large academy, bursting with kids her own age. The fact that she has transitioned into a rural, low-budget school was akin to an insult.
Just run away. Just leave this behind. You didn't ask for this.
But, of course, the brown eyed girl couldn't rebel against her predicament. Kazumi had to accept her new surroundings gracefully, despite a few flaws here and there.
When the girl went into her classroom for the first time, all eyes were on her, watching her with blank stares.
"Good morning, miss," the teacher greeted. "Please introduce yourself to the class."
The stoic expressions of the students was somewhat unsettling for her. Perhaps it was just that she was new. With a sigh to calm herself, the weary girl smiled, albeit nervously.
"Hello, I'm Kazumi. I just moved in the country side. So…I hope we get along."
After she said her piece, the students were expressing interest through friendly, curious smiles. The rest of the day moved along like a breeze. Soon enough, lunchtime had just begun. During this time, the students could eat anywhere, whether it be the gymnasium or the classroom.
Since it was her first day, Kazumi decided to eat at the cafeteria. It just felt natural to her. And much to her surprise, there was not a lot of activity going around. The girl took a seat and was ready to munch on her rice bowl until someone sneakily sat right next to her.
"So, we meet again."
Kazumi looked to her right and nearly jumped in surprise. The person sitting near her was the trench coat lad from earlier that morning.
"H-how did you get here!? You're not even a student!"
"Never mind that," Yugo replied. "So, I see you're not use to being here. You're a newcomer here, correct?"
"What if I am?"
"Well, let's just say that I'm very observant."
After a moment, the teenage girl recognized the trench coat wearing figure.
"Wait, your name is Yugo, right? You mentioned something about knowing the secrets of this town." The black-haired journalist shushed Kazumi, his eyes peering around cautiously.
"Not so loud, alright? I don't want any unnecessary attention on me."
"Is it true, though?" Kazumi questioned.
Yugo scratched the back of his head as he contemplated his options. It seemed clear as day that he was in a bit of a bind. Could it be that he was the only person questioning the town?
"Well, you seem to have some sense in you, so, I guess I'll let you in on a secret."
Kazumi leaned in, intently.
"This cozy little town is a façade. It may not look it at first, but there's some freaky stuff going on around here."
The girl gave a puzzled and unsure expression, as if the journalist was speaking a foreign language.
"What? How can you tell?"
Yugo sighed, knowing that he needed proof to back his claims.
The journalist searched his pockets. He revealed in his hand a bundle of old, scrunched up notes.
"What are…?" Kazumi asked.
"These are letters I found. They were buried underneath the school grounds."
Yugo gave them to the confused girl.
Without any protests, Kazumi did as she was told. The girl unfolded the scrunched-up paper and began to read its message.
This place isn't right. I can't explain it but something is wrong. I hear strange noises in the hallways while staying at the inn. Was someone screaming? It must have been a scream. I've been here for 4 days and I practically being forced to work under Mitsuko-san. Everything must be spotless for the guests who visit there. Don't stand out too much. Don't make mistakes.
I had to watch firsthand what she does to those who make a slight mistake. It's…too horrible to put into words. I'll be next if I don't get my act together. Gotta work hard. Got to move faster. I WILL SURVIVE!
"What the hell is this?" Kazumi asked, a hint of worry laced in her voice. "This is a joke, right?"
"I'm not in a joking mood today, kid," Yugo answered, a serious tone resonating in Kazumi's ears. "It's a note from one of the town's victims."
Kazumi's face went pale as a sheet. She couldn't believe what she had learned. Still, something didn't seem right about it.
"Wait, if she was really in trouble, then, how come she didn't try to ask for help or leave?"
Yugo looked down at his shoes. His silence said enough to her.
"You don't know?"
"Well, that's what I'm trying to figure out myself."
"So, what were you planning to do?" Kazumi asked.
"Well, with your help, I might be able to expose the town."
"Tomorrow, I want you to ask around at school during the day. Strike a causal conversation about Kuroshima." The brunette girl raised an eyebrow of apprehension.
"Won't that raise a little bit of suspicion?"
"You've just moved into this island," Yugo reasoned. "I'm sure the other kids won't be too bothered by it."
Kazumi wasn't sure if it was a good thing to take Yugo's word for it. But, Yugo also knew there was some weirdness going on in her new home. She also sensed a bit of it today and yesterday. The least she could do was assist him to the best of her abilities.
"If you say so. But this doesn't mean I fully believe you." A grateful Yugo smiled and shook Kazumi's hand.
"You won't regret this! Count on it."
The rest of the school day went off without a hitch. Kazumi managed to go through the rest of the classes smoothly. It irked and amazed the newcomer. She didn't pick up any negative vibes from other students and teachers. Perhaps Yugo was being too paranoid? But, if that were the case, what about the letter he found? The scribbling looked frantic. It was buried underneath the earth. Somebody was desperate and wanted to make sure their message reached another.
Kazumi rubbed her forehead, sensing a small headache. She couldn't focus straight when she was thinking too much. All she could do was head back to her new home. A time of rest and relaxation was in order.
Before the teen knew it, night had fallen. She was in her room, sorting out finished homework and studying. Just then, her studies were interrupted she heard a loud thud.
"Where did that come from?"
Kazumi got up and quietly opened her door. She peeked outside the hallway. It happened again.
The girl left her room and looked around. It sounded like it was coming from upstairs.
Without her consent, her feet began to climb up the stairs. One after the other.
Kazumi kept climbing. And climbing. And climbing.
THUD! THUD! THUD! THUD! THUD!
A trembling hand reached out toward the doorknob. The door opened to reveal…
An attic of boxes scattered all around. An errant tree branch hitting the small window. The Burnette didn't know what to think. The loud noises couldn't have been the tree. She tried to go further inside…
The girl swung her head and her grandmother right behind her. Her obsidian eyes peered down upon Kazumi's startled brown orbs. Peered down upon her soul.
"What are you doing in here?" Mitsuko asked calmly. Eerily calm.
"I h-heard a loud noise up here," Kazumi explained shakily.
The tree branch from outside keep tapping at the window. The teenage girl shook her head in disbelief.
"No, it was louder than that. I-!"
"It's late," Mitsuko cut her out. "You should go to bed soon."
The girl looked back at Mitsuko and noticed a strange gleam in her eyes. She wasn't sure if it was her imagination or not. She didn't want to find out, either way. So, Kazumi decided to leave the attic.
"Yes?" Mitsuko slowly turned her head back and softly glared at the already unnerved granddaughter.
"Don't come up here again."