I lived in the countryside during elementary and junior high school and knew nothing of the world. I was good friends with two people in particular, A and B, and we spend our days playing and messing about. Both my and A’s families basically ignored what we did, but B’s mother always stuck her nose in his business. She was always strict on him, but no matter what she said, she always did it for him.
In the third grade of junior high, B and his mother got into a big fight. He didn’t say what it was about, but he did say that he hurt his mother emotionally. He got scared and hit her, right as his father walked in the door. He could tell at a glance what was going on, and ignoring B, he walked over to B’s mother. Seeing her staring at the floor in a daze, her eyes glazed over like a dead fish, her clothes and hair a mess, he spoke to B.
Father: “How many people are you going to tread on? Look at the type of person you’ve become. Do you even know how much your mother thinks of you?”
He spoke to B without looking at him, holding his wife close.
B: “Shut up. Do you want me to kill you? Huh?”
B had no desire to listen to him any further. But his father showed no reaction to what he said and continued speaking with indifference.
Father: “You think there’s nothing out there that can scare you, huh?”
B: “Nope. If there is, why don’t you show me?”
His father fell silent for a moment before speaking again.
Father: “You’re my son. I know how much your mother is worried about you. If you can’t help but keep trampling all over her like this, well I have an idea. Not as your father, but as a person. Man to man. I’ll say this first, the fact I’m telling you this story is proof that I’m resigned to the fact that you might die. So sit down and listen, unless you have any objections?”
There was an incredible drive behind those words, but B stirred his father up even more.
“Go on then, tell me!”
Father: “You know the area in the forest that’s forbidden to enter, right? Go in there, then keep going, right into the back. You’ll know it when you see it. Try going nuts there, like you’ve done here, and see how it goes. That is, if you can.”
The forest he was speaking of sat at the foot of a small mountain near where we lived. It was like a sea of trees. It was fine to go up the mountain, and the forest itself was normal as well, but there was a section inside that was labelled off-limits. Like, if you drew a square on a piece of paper, and drew a small circle inside that square, that was the off-limits area.
It was surrounded by a two metre high fence, and on the fence there was a thick rope and barbed wire all the way around. This was entwined with white paper (it was zig-zag cut) and countless bells of all sizes. Sections of the fence were also irregular in height. No matter how you looked at it, it just wasn’t normal.
Then, on special days a bunch of shrine maidens gathered at the entrance of the forest. The entire area became off-limits when they did, however, so what they did in there was a mystery. There were a lot of rumours, but the biggest one was that they brainwashed cult members in there. Besides, reaching the off-limits area was too much trouble, so we rarely ever spoke about going that far in.
B’s father didn’t wait for his answer. He took his mother upstairs. B left the house and met up with A and I as previously arranged. Then he told us what happened.
A: “Must be pretty big for your father to go and say all that.”
Me: “According to the rumours, isn’t it a cult hideout? If they catch you, won’t they try to brainwash you? No way I’d do it. What are you gonna do? You gonna go?”
B: “Of course I’m gonna go. My dad’s just full of shit.”
Half in jest, A and I agreed to accompany him, and the three of us decided to head towards the forest. We gathered various tools and got there around one in the morning. We arrived in high spirits, and with our torches shining in front of us we entered the forest. The path was easy enough to navigate in light clothes, so we wore our sandals for easy walking, but we had to walk 40 minutes to reach the problem area.
But not even five minutes after entering the forest, something strange happened. At almost the exact same time we started walking, we started to hear something from far away. The stillness of the night emphasised the sound even more. B was the first to notice it.
B: “Hey, you guys hear that?”
We listened closer at his words and most definitely heard something. Like a rustling of dry leaves being dragged, and the snapping of twigs. It was faint, somewhere in the distance. But because it was so far away, I didn’t feel scared. The first thing that came to mind was that it was probably an animal, not a person, and we continued without worry. But then about 20 minutes later B noticed something again, and A and myself both stopped.
B: “A, walk forward for a bit.”
B: “Just do it.”
With a confused look on his face, A walked forward and then returned. B watched him, pondering.
A: “What is it?”
B: “Shut up and listen veeery carefully.”
He walked forward and then back, just like he instructed A. Two or three attempts later I finally understood why. The sound in the distance, it was in sync with our movements. When we started walking, it started walking. When we stopped, it stopped. It was like it knew exactly what we were doing.
I couldn’t help but feel the cold. There was no light around us but for those we held. The moon was out, but it was unable to break through the trees and so was meaningless. We were the ones with torches, so it wasn’t that strange that whatever else might be in the forest knew where we were. But even for us three walking together, it was so dark that we had to squint to see each other.
What were they doing out there in the darkness with no light? Why were they moving at the same time as us?
B: “Quit screwing around. Who is out there following us?”
A: “It doesn’t feel like they’re getting closer. They’ve been staying the same distance the entire time.”
Like A said, since we entered the forest 20 minutes earlier, the distance of the sound hadn’t changed one bit. It wasn’t getting closer or further away. It had kept the same distance since the start.
Me: “Maybe it’s observing us?”
A: “Seems like it… if it really is a cult, they might have some weird devices.”
Judging from the sound, it wasn’t several people but just one who was following us. After stopping to think, we decided it was too dangerous to go out there looking for whoever it was. We would continue on our way, but be more vigilant about the surroundings.
And so we continued on with the sound following us, and as the fence came into sight, we became less concerned with it. The fence before us was even more strange than the sound.
It was the first time the three of us had seen it, and it was even weirder than I imagined. Then something came to mind that I hadn’t thought of before. We were the type of guys who didn’t believe in ghosts or anything like that, but the hints the fence gave off of what lay behind it suggested something that wasn’t of this world. Something utterly dangerous. It couldn’t really be that dangerous of a place, right…? For the first time since entering the forest, I felt like we’d made a mistake coming there.
A: “Hey, you really wanna knock this shit down and go inside? No matter how you look at it, this ain’t right, man!”
B: “Shut up, you pussy!”
A and I faltered at the sight of the strange fence, but B got pissed off. He took out the tools we brought and began knocking the fence down. But rather than the sound of the destruction itself, the sound of the countless ringing bells was terrible.
But we underestimated the strength of the fence, and our tools weren’t enough. I mean, the fence was unnaturally sturdy, like it was made of some special material. It didn’t give an inch. In the end, all we could do was climb over it, but thanks to the ropes that proved rather easy.
As soon as we were over the fence, I felt an intense discomfort. Like feeling cooped up, or being trapped in a cage. It was difficult to breathe. A and B seemed to be experiencing the same thing and hesitated to step forward. But we’d climbed the fence, so that was all we could do.
As soon as we proceeded forward, the three of us noticed the same thing at once. The sound that was following us, it was completely gone. But to be honest that was the least of my concerns. My skin crawled, and it crawled even further when A started speaking.
A: “Maybe, just maybe… do you think that thing was in here the whole time? No matter how you look at it, this fence has no entry or exit, so that’s why it couldn’t get any closer…”
B: “Don’t be stupid. You can’t even see the area we first noticed the sound from from here. And how the hell would it know where we were once we got here, anyway?”
Thinking about it rationally, what B said was right. There was quite a bit of distance between the off-limits zone and the start of the forest. I said it took us about 40 minutes, but it’s not like we dawdled. It was quite a distance away.
But I made the mistake of thinking that it might not be something real, and I couldn’t agree with what A said. From the moment we saw the fence this place felt dangerous; B was the only one acting tough.
B: “I dunno if it’s a ghost or not, but supposing what you say is true, that means whatever it is can’t leave this fenced-off area, right? If so, then it’s nothing we can’t deal with.”
Then he continued forward.
About two of three minutes after we jumped over the fence, the opposite side came vaguely into view, and we saw something strange. The moment we laid eyes on it, the three of us were at a loss for words. Especially A and myself freaked out, this was more than we knew how to deal with. We were idiots. We knew what shimenawa (roped used to ward against evil) was used for, and what type of places it was used in, but even knowing that we still chose to enter the off-limits area, and that was for what was right in front of our eyes. We’d finally found what we’d been unknowingly looking for.
Me: “This is probably what your father was talking about.”
A: “There’s no way you can mess shit up here. Look at it, it’s clearly dangerous.”
But B just puffed up his chest. He refused to back down.
B: “It’s not necessarily evil. Anyway, let’s go and have a look at the box. There might be valuables in it!”
B passed through the shimenawa and entered the hexagon it made. He approached the box inside. We were more worried about what B was gonna do than what was in the box, but we ended up following him, anyway.
Maybe it was because all the bad weather and rain, but the box was covered in rust. There was a lid on top made of half-mesh, so we could see inside. But there was another board underneath the lid, so in the end we couldn’t see anything else. Not only that, the box was covered in amazing chalk markings. It looked like a family crest or something, but all over the box, on every side, it was covered in crests, every single one of them different. Not one was repeated.
A and I tried not to touch it, but B attempted to carefully pick it up to inspect it. It appeared to be stuck to the ground however, and although it didn’t look heavy, he was unable to lift it. He checked every corner, looking for a way to see in, when he noticed a part on the back that looked like it came off.
B: “Hey, this piece comes off! We can see inside!”
He removed one side of the box, and the two of us stood behind him to look inside. There were four vases in each corner, shaped like PET bottles, full of some type of liquid. In the middle were some strangely shaped red-tipped toothpicks, about five centimetres long each.
There were six, shaped like that. The parts that touched were painted red.
Me: “What the hell is that? Toothpicks?”
A: “Hey, there’s something in those bottles. Gross.”
B: “We came all this way for toothpicks and bottles? What the fuck?”
A and I reached out to touch the vases shaped like bottles, but B grabbed one first and sniffed it. He put it back and went to touch the toothpicks. But perhaps because he was sweating, the instant he touched it, it stuck to him and the toothpicks broke apart.
Charin charirin!! Charin charin!
The bells on the other side of the hexagon, opposite from where we came in, starting to ring furiously. The three of us screamed and looked at each other.
B: “Who the fuck is that?! Quit messing around!”
B ran towards the other side of the fence.
Me: “Idiot, stay here!”
A: “Hey, B, it’s dangerous!”
Confused, I got ready to chase after him, but suddenly he stopped with his torch pointed in front of him and froze.
“Come on, man, don’t mess with us like that.” Relieved, A and I hurriedly approached him, but then we saw his entire body was shaking.
“H-hey, what’s wrong…?” I said, unconsciously looking at what he was shining the light on.
He was shining it at the bottom of a single tree, in the middle of a large row of trees. In the shadows, a woman’s face was looking back at us. She stuck half her face out suddenly and looked at us, unaffected by the bright light at all. She opened her mouth wide, showing us her teeth, while her eyes remained fixed on us.
Someone screamed, I don’t know who, and at the same time we turned and ran back. My mind went blank, but my body did its best to choose the correct path of action. There wasn’t even time to look at each other, each of us ran as fast as we could back to the fence.
As soon as we saw the fence we jumped and scrambled over it, hitting the ground and running for the entrance. But, perhaps in his fear and confusion, A was stuck trying to get over the fence.
Me: “A! Come on!”
B: “Hey, hurry up!”
Neither of us knew what to do while we waited for him.
Me: “What the hell was that? What the hell?!”
B: “I don’t know! Shut up!”
We’d entered a state of utter panic.
Charirin!! Charin charin!
The terrible sound of countless bells rang again, and the fence shook. What…?! Where was it coming from…?! We looked around, confused. It was coming from the mountain, the opposing direction from the entrance to the forest. But we couldn’t tell if it was getting closer or if the fence was just shaking harder.
Me: “No way no way!”
B: “Come on, hurry the fuck up!”
I knew our words were just spurring A into more confusion, but we had to hurry. A was totally absorbed in getting over the fence. Just when we were about to reach the top of the fence, our eyes were elsewhere. My body trembled and I was drenched in sweat. I couldn’t speak. We weren’t the only ones to notice it, however, and A turned to look at what we were looking at.
Following the fence that stretched out towards the mountains, the thing was clinging to it on this side. What we thought was just a face, in reality, had a naked upper body, with three arms on each side. It skillfully used those arms to climb the rope and barbed wire, its mouth wide open, like a spider gracefully moving through its web. It was coming right for us.
Unbelievable fear gripped my soul.
A suddenly jumped over the top of the fence, landing on B and myself. Taken aback by the sight before us, we lifted A to his feet and ran all at once. We couldn’t turn back. I focused on what was ahead of us and ran as fast as I could. If we kept up our current pace, it shouldn’t take longer than 30 minutes to exit the forest, but it felt like we ran for hours.
When the edge of the forest came into sight, so did the shadow of several people. No way… the three of us came to a stop, and catching our breath we tried to see who it was. I couldn’t tell who, but several people were gathered there. But it wasn’t that thing. As soon as we confirmed that, we started running again and plunged into the group.
“Hey, they’re out!”
“No way… did they really go past that fence?!”
“Hey! Hurry up and inform your wife!”
The group rushed towards us, making a lot of noise. I couldn’t understand what they were saying to us; my mind and that of my friends was just blank.
We were put into a car and, despite the fact it was 3 am, taken to a meeting hall used for various functions and events. When we got inside my mother and older sister were there, as was A’s father, and B’s mother. B’s mother didn’t say a word, and even my own was crying. According to A, he’d never seen his father with such an expression either.
B’s mother: “You’re all safe… thank god!”
In complete contrast to B’s mother, my own hit me. A’s father also struck him. But she also spoke the warmest words I’d ever heard come from her mouth before. After we spent some time with each of our families, B’s mother began to speak.
B’s mother: “I’m terribly sorry. Both my husband and, in addition, myself, take responsibility for tonight’s incident. I’m terribly, terribly sorry. There are no words…”
She hung her head, over and over. Seeing her act like that not only in front of other families, but in front of children, made me feel bad.
A’s father: “It’s okay. In the end, they’re all safe now.”
My mother: “That’s right. It’s not your fault.”
After that the adults mostly spoke to each other, and we stood there dumbfounded. Not only was it late, but they’d confirmed we were okay, so without explanation we all went home.
I was woken up by my sister around lunchtime the next day. When I opened my eyes, I could see she wanted to continue the conversation from the night before.
Sister: “B’s mother is on the phone. Something terrible has happened.”
I picked up the receiver and B’s mother started yelling at me in a threatening tone.
B’s mother: “B is… B is acting strange! What did you do there last night?! You didn’t just go past the fence, did you?!”
It didn’t seem like I would be able to get through to her, so I hung up the phone and made my way to B’s house. A, who had received the same call, was also there, and we heard directly from B’s mother what was going on.
According to his mother, after B got home the night before, he started complaining that his arms and legs were hurting. Whether he couldn’t move them because of the pain or not, he suddenly fell over, stiff as a board. He stayed like that, writhing and complaining of the pain. His mother was unsure of what to do, but he just kept complaining. She dragged him to his room, but he wouldn’t stop, so she ended up calling us.
After listening to her, we went straight up to B’s room. We could hear him screaming from the top of the stairs. “It hurts, it hurts!” he screamed, over and over. When we entered his room, he was just like his mother said; arms and legs straight out, writhing in pain.
Me: “Hey! What’s wrong!?”
A: “Calm down! What’s happening!?”
We approached him, but he kept screaming in pain and wouldn’t meet our eyes. What was going on? Neither myself nor A had any idea. We returned to his mother, but her tone changed and she asked us quietly,
B’s mother: “Tell me what you boys did in there. Then I can understand what’s going on. What did you do there last night?”
Of course, I knew what she wanted to hear, but it was painful remembering what we saw to tell her about it, so I wasn’t able to explain very well. But then again, the thing we saw made up most of what happened there, so whatever might have been causing this was likely left out. But then she asked again not what we saw, but what we did there. That was what she wanted to know.
We searched our memories of the night, trying to find the cause of the problem. If it was something we saw, then we’d be having the same problem B was. But what did we do? Well, we all did basically the same thing. I mean, I touched the box as well, and we all touched the bottles inside. Other than that it was just… the toothpicks…
We both realised at the same time. It was the toothpicks. B was the only one who touched them, and when he did, he destroyed the shape they were in. Not only that, he hadn’t put them back in the same position. We told B’s mother. Her expression changed before our eyes, trembling. She immediately ran to a nearby shelf and took a piece of paper out of the drawer. Looking at it, she went to call someone on the phone. We could do nothing but watch.
A short while later she returned, and her voice trembling, began to speak to us again.
B’s mother: “It would seem that he would like to meet you as soon as possible, so I’d like you to return home at once and prepare. I’ll call and let your parents know. I think they’ll get everything ready even without you needing to say anything. Then the day after tomorrow I’d like you to come back here.”
I had absolutely no idea what she was saying. Who were we going to meet, and where? She avoided my questions and sent us home quickly. For the time being we just went straight home, but when I asked my parents about it all they said was “make sure you go.”
With no idea what was going on, two days later myself, A and B’s mother headed towards this place she wanted to take us. B apparently already went there the day before. I wondered if the place was far away, but it turned out to not even be in the same city but another prefecture entirely. We took the bullet train for several hours, and then from the station we went by car for another few hours. She took us to a village deep in the mountains, like it had been ripped straight out of a painting.
We were guided to a mansion even further past the village. It was large and old, with its own cellar and detached house. It was amazing. B’s mother rang the bell and an old guy and a young girl came to greet us. The old guy was wearing an awful patterned suit and looked kinda buff. The girl was younger than us and wearing white clothes with red hakama pants. She looked just like a shrine maiden.
It turned out the old guy was her uncle, and he introduced himself with a fairly normal, common name. The shrine maiden, however, introduced herself as something like “Aoikanjo” (at least, that’s what I heard), some name I’d never heard before in my life. Even though she introduced herself, it seemed to be something entirely different to what regular people would recognise. Like, there was no way for me to tell her family lineage or anything.
In reality, we didn’t know anything about the house or the girl, but at any rate I’ll just call her Aoi here.
We were shown to a large tatami room, and as the mood turned serious, they began to talk.
Uncle: “Your son is resting right now. These boys were with him at the time?”
B’s mother: “Yes. The three of them went there together.”
Uncle: “Is that so? Boys, would you mind telling us what happened? Where did you go? What did you do? What did you see? Please be as detailed as you can.”
I was bewildered at them getting straight to the point, but we told him what happened with as many details as we could. Then, when we mentioned the toothpicks he interrupted us with a threatening voice. “What, what did you just say?” We were becoming increasingly more confused by the situation.
A: “I-I’m sorry?”
Uncle: “You’re not telling me you little shits moved those things, are you?!”
He raised his voice, leaning forward like he might grab A at any moment. Aoi held him back, she began to speak in a small voice, like that of a mosquito crying.
Aoi: “Inside the box… there should have been small sticks aligned in a certain shape. Did you touch them? And if you did, did you change the shape in any way?”
Me: “Aahh, yeah, we did. I think the shape was broken up.”
Aoi: “Who changed the shape, do you remember? Not who touched it, but who changed the shape?”
A and I looked at each other and told her it was B. The old guy leaned back and sighed. He turned to B’s mother.
Uncle: “Mum, I’m terribly sorry, but there seems to be nothing else we can do for your son at this point. I didn’t hear the finer details, so judging from his symptoms I thought it might be something else. I never once thought he might have moved that.”
“It can’t be…”
Although she looked like she wanted to say more, B’s mother swallowed her words and for a while hung her head. I couldn’t voice the words out loud, but I felt the same way. What exactly did he mean that nothing could be done for B now? What on earth were they talking about?
The three of us went to see B, and the old guy spoke to us between sighs. Finally he told us all about the thing we saw.
Its common name was “Narijara”/”Naridara,” although it used to be called “Kankanjara”/”Kankandara.” The name changed depending on the age and family lineage of the people who knew of it. At present it was mostly known as just “Dara,” and the old guy’s family in particular called it “Kankandara.”
The story he told us was just like a myth or legend right out of folklore.
The people of a certain village were troubled by a rather large snake that was eating them. They went to the home of a certain shrine maiden’s family, full of generations of power gifted from the gods, and begged them to help with their problem. The family agreed and picked one shrine maiden who was especially strong. She set out to subdue the snake.
The villagers watched over the shrine maiden from the shadows as she earnestly risked her life to face the snake. But in the blink of an eye the snake attacked, devouring the lower half of her body. Yet the shrine maiden continued to try to protect the villagers, using everything at her disposal as she fought with all her might.
Even so, the villagers feared that the shrine maiden, now missing the lower half of her body, had no chance of defeating the snake. Instead, they offered her to the snake in exchange for the safety of their village. The snake, who found the powerful shrine maiden most unpleasant, agreed to their terms. In order to make her easier to devour, the villagers cut off the shrine maiden’s arms, and left looking like a daruma doll with no limbs, the snake ate her.
Then, for a short while, the villagers experienced peace.
It wasn’t until later that the plan the shrine maiden’s family came up with was brought to light. At the time, there were six people in her family.
A disaster soon befell the village. The snake no longer showed its face after that day, and despite the fact there was nothing assaulting them anymore, villagers started dying one after the other.
In the village, in the mountains, in the forest.
The dead bodies were all found missing both their legs and arms.
18 people died (including the six from the shrine maiden’s family). Only four people remained.
The old guy and Aoi explained the story to us in turns.
Uncle: “I don’t know from when or where this story started being told, but a service is held at regular intervals for that box, from where it’s then moved to a new location. Depending on the time, the person in charge of the box is different. There are things that look like family crests all over the box, right? Those show all the families that have held services for the box up until this point. A meeting is held with families just like ours to decide who is next although occasionally there are stupid people who volunteer themselves as well.
Outside of the caretaker, they are forbidden to mention it to anyone else. Only in cases where there is a good reason or it cannot be avoided must they discuss it first, and then they can inform others of it. In the case of needing to explain the box to someone, the caretaker will be matched with someone from a family like ours, so they may understand the pretext of it all. We’re not the current advisors, but we were the ones to receive the urgent call yesterday.”
It seemed whoever B’s mother called the day before was someone else, and after a discussion about what to do, they brought B here. B’s mother appeared to have been informed of some of the details while we were already on our way there.
Aoi: “In general it’s moved to mountains or forest areas. As you saw for yourselves, the six trees and six pieces of rope represent the villagers, and six sticks the shrine maiden’s family. The vases placed in the four corners represent the four villagers who survived. And as for the six sticks that formed a certain shape inside the box, that represents the shrine maiden herself. You are perhaps wondering why the sticks take that shape. You are perhaps wondering about the box itself, and when this all started. Including my own family and those to whom the story of the box has been passed down, there is perhaps no-one who knows the finer details anymore.”
Apparently the story that was most commonly told now was that the four people who survived had tried everything to appease the rage of the shrine maiden’s family, and they discovered that shape alone had any effect. As for the fence, only the bells were required, the ropes and such were the caretaker’s own design.
Uncle: “Several members of our family have exorcised Kankandara in the past, but all of them died within two or three years. Just suddenly, out of the blue. They were generally unable to help the person concerned in each instance as well. That’s how difficult it is.”
Having heard all this, the three of us were completely put out. We couldn’t do anything but stare blankly. But then the situation was turned on its head.
Uncle: “Mum, you understand just how dangerous this thing is now, correct? Like I said earlier, if he hadn’t touched the sticks then we would have been able to do something for him. But this time there is nothing we can do.”
B’s mother: “Please. Isn’t there anything you can do? It’s my fault. Please. Anything.”
B’s mother refused to give up. Even though we didn’t think she was responsible for a single thing, she continued to take the blame and hang her head, asking for the old guy’s help repeatedly. But she wasn’t crying, her expression said she was prepared for anything.
Uncle: “We also want to help you out. But not only did he move the sticks, he saw that thing… you boys saw it as well, didn’t you? What you saw was the shrine maiden that was devoured by the snake. You saw her lower half, right? Do you understand the meaning behind the shape of those sticks now?”
Neither A nor myself understood what he meant. Her lower half? We only saw her top half.
A: “Um, when you say her lower half… We only saw her top half…”
Both Aoi and the old guy were surprised.
Uncle: “Hey hey, what are you saying? You moved the sticks, right? If so, you should have seen her lower half.”
Aoi: “The girl who appeared before you had no lower body? Well then, how many arms did she have?”
“She had six arms. Three on each side. She didn’t have a lower body,” A and I confirmed with each other and answered. Suddenly the old guy got up and drew close to us.
Uncle: “Are you sure? You really didn’t see her lower half?”
The old guy turned to B’s mother and smiled.
Uncle: “Mum, perhaps there is something we can do.”
We held our breath, waiting to see what he would say next. Aoi and the old guy explained what he meant.
Aoi: “There are two ways to bring about the shrine maiden’s grudge. The thing you mustn’t do is change the shape of the sticks. The thing you mustn’t see her figure as represented by those sticks.”
Uncle: “In practice, if you move the sticks it’s over, because this will lead to you inevitably seeing the shrine maiden’s form. But for some reason you didn’t see it. You guys would have seen the same thing the boy who moved the sticks did. If you saw nothing then that means he likely saw nothing as well.”
Me: “What do you mean, ‘didn’t see anything’? What we saw…”
Aoi: “That was indeed the shrine maiden. But it wasn’t Kankandara. She had no desire to steal your lives away. She didn’t appear to you as Kankandara but as a shrine maiden. That night was perhaps just a game to her.”
So, what she was trying to say was that Kankandara and the shrine maiden were the same existence… but also separate.
Uncle: “If Kankandara didn’t appear that night, what attacked the boy was just like Aoi said, just the shrine maiden playing a game. If you leave him with us, it may take a long time but perhaps we’ll be able to do something for him.”
The strain in the air dissipated for the first time. It was enough to know that B could be helped, and the expression on his mother’s face at the time was truly amazing. It was like all the worry and anxiety she’d been holding in for several days came apart at once. It was that type of smile.
Seeing her like that, both Aoi and the old guy’s moods were alleviated as well. Suddenly they looked like regular people.
Uncle: “We’ll officially take the boy in. We’ll explain it all to you later. As for you two, Aoi will cleanse you and then you can go home. Try not to be so reckless in the future.”
After that he spoke a little more about what would happen to B, and leaving his mother there, we were purified and allowed to go home. One of the family’s rules was that we were unable to see B, so we don’t know what they did with him. I don’t know if they treated it like he was moving schools or something, but after that we never saw him again. There was no word that he died or anything, but apparently he fully recovered and is now living somewhere peacefully.
On that note, after being the person to put all these events into motion, B’s father never once showed his face. I have no idea what he intended to happen out of all of this.
As for A and myself, things calmed down rather quickly. There were several reasons for it, but the biggest thing for us was B’s mother. It’s a bit of an after story, but she had it the roughest. It felt like it really made me think about what the meaning of the word ‘mother’ was. After that, both myself and A tried to get closer to our own parents, little by little. Not only that, but we naturally stopped doing such stupid things.
Other than that, this is what we learnt. The shrine maidens who gathered on specified dates are advisors from certain houses. They understand how dangerous Kankandara is, and her existence is likened to that of a god. The large snake of the story was apparently a god of the mountains and forests. As such, once a year they perform songs and dances and recite Shinto prayers for her.
As for the sounds we heard when we entered the forest, that was apparently Kankandara walking around the fenced-off area. But the hexagon and the box were like a seal, so as long as no-one destroys those, she rarely shows herself.
According to the rules for the place to hold the service, this was restricted to a certain part of the mountain or forest that was chosen with the utmost care, right down to the smallest number. In general, she didn’t leave that area, but if there was a fence around it, then like we saw there were times where she might hang from the exterior as well.
That’s about all I know.
It seems she’s been moved from where we live now. I don’t want to go there ever again, so I haven’t been to check, but after a year they started to take down the fence, so I think she’s probably somewhere else now.