The village itself looked spectacular. As though it came straight out of a period piece.
Yet that feeling was still in the back of Taryn’s mind. Honestly, she just couldn’t shake it no matter how much she tried too. This place must have been very old to affect her this much.
She recalled something similar when she was younger, of visiting a castle with Rachael and her uncle. Bloodshed and death were an all too common thing. Even in her own life, she had no choice but to get used to it. Same went for this place.
Even now as they were now on the village grounds as they waited for Sato who was called away for something, leaving the four of them for a moment, she then overhead Stephanie’s conversation with Rachael.
“Hey Stephanie, I know it’s really late in asking this but where exactly are we going to be staying? Is there a house that we’re renting?”
She merely smiled at Taryn. “It’s a surprise, you’ll find out soon.”
When Sato returned, apologising to the group for taking so long Taryn asked the man. “Out of curiosity, is this place from around the 1600’s?”
“You’re close,” Sato said. “These homes are from the end of the Muromachi era also known as the Sengoku period. There was the economic boom for Japan during war when many regions fought against each other. As such many people took refuge here and eventually called it home. Although they had to rebuild the village from what it once was, the village grounds are much older then the buildings themselves. One day a sudden fire burned all the original buildings, the Samurai rebuilt the village in 1509 and it has remained ever since. The only original thing that remains of the previous village is a shrine deep in the mountains.”
“Interesting,” That would explain the feeling I have. She thought to herself, partly wondering just how old this village might be but was then drawn back into the conversation.
“Do you see by atop that large hill, the gates to a building?” he asked pointing to the west of them that seemed to lead further to the mountains.
They all turned their heads to look towards an impressive building and gate, looking over the village on a hill. Something like that of a rather large home at least from what they could see with all the trees in the way. “Is it a mansion?” Taryn asked.
“Correct. During these waring times many people had fled from other villages to escape from all the bloodshed. The mansion was established when the fighting ceased in 1569.”
“So, this was like a Samurai village then?” Robert chimed in, completely invested. “Since you said before that Samurai came and assisted when the original village burned down.”
“That is indeed true,” Sato proclaimed. “But even though the original village burned to the ground, many of it’s traditions and ways have remained.”
“And that’s why you talked about the story of the priestess?” Rachael asked.
The man nodded. “Exactly, though much of what I spoke of was only given orally, much of the original documents that had been written had been destroyed with the village.”
“Any idea what caused the fire?” Stephanie asked next.
“No one is sure, but there is a story that surrounds it. It was said, that a lone woman started the fire. The demons from before no longer existed, but this woman merely stood amongst the flames as everything burned around her before she vanished almost as though she never existed. Some say she was killed in the fire, others believe that she was a spirit out for revenge.”
Taryn narrowed her eyes, she had a feeling that she knew where this was going. “Did this woman happen to look like the Priestess?”
“Have you heard of the story before?” Sato asked with genuine surprise.
She shook her head. “No, it’s just some stories I’ve heard in the past tend to be rather similar in nature, so it wasn’t hard to guess what it might be really.”
“Oh, are you into the occult by chance Lowell-san?”
She shook her head once more. “The stories I hear are interesting, but summoning spirits and the like I have no interest in that kind of thing. To me it just invites bad news.”
He laughed. “Good to know. Well, then this story might interest you, for it was not her spirit that had been seen. It was her actual body.”
The whole group went silent from what Sato said, a smile came to his face as he continued. Clearly enjoying their reaction.
“But she died.” Stephanie said, breaking the groups silence. “You said before that she ended her life to stop the demons.”
“Yes, she had,” Sato clarified. “But do you recall what happened to her body?”
Rachael answered. “Her husband turned her body into a doll, you said he did it to preserve her beauty.”
As a smile spread further across Sato’s face, he let out a soft chuckle. “Correct. That is indeed what he had done. However, I doubt even her husband believed that she would still be on this earth after so much time had passed. Some had said that it was due to having spiritual powers, others say it was a curse left on by the demons that had once walked this earth. Either way, her body remained. And moved entirely on its own. As though what was inside of that now empty shell wanted freedom and was angry to have been left forgotten underground. Then burned the village as penance. Regardless of what moved Kuronochi-sama’s body we now hold a festival in honor of her sacrifice. In the hopes that it will appease her, so such an event would never happen again. In fact, you’ll all be here long enough to see it, so I hope you can take something away from this experience while you are here.”
“But it wasn’t actually her, right?” Robert asked drawing Sato’s attention. “I mean, even if the guy was crazy enough to do such a thing to his own wife. A doll wouldn’t be able to move on its own.”
There was another moment of silence before Sato glanced to Taryn and said. “You look like you wish to say something Lowell-san.”
Sighing, she rubbed the back of her neck. “Well, I’ve heard some stories of dolls being possessed, since they are empty to begin with. There have been cases all over the world about dolls moving on their own. There’s the Isla de las Muñecas in Mexico, an island covered in dolls of where a little girl is said to have drowned through strange circumstances. An elderly man who was the island’s caretaker found a doll and had believed it to belong to the girl, he then hung it in a tree hoping it to appease her spirit. But it seemed to have the opposite affect, and something in him changed. He began placing more and more dolls on the island as if he were possessed by something. When he died, people who visited would leave dolls of their own though some claim that many just appear on their own. The place is a bit of a tourist attraction.”
“I take it you’ve been there?” Sato asked in which Taryn responded flatly.
“No, but as for the story you spoke of, a woman whose body was turned into a doll and then became possessed. I’m not sure if you could still call that person empty. Some say when a person dies their soul leaves their body so…” She shook her head. “No, never mind. Forget I said anything I’m probably just making it worse by talking about it.”
“No harm done.” Sato said with a laugh. “I know it can be an unsettling story, even still it interests people, including tourists, to no end. That’s why I brought it up. I hope I did not frighten you at all?”
“It’s fine,” Taryn said. “It’s just a story after all.” She then turned her attention to Stephanie. “So, where are we staying? I think you’ve kept us in the dark long enough.”
“Oh, right. Well actually, it’s not much of a surprise now, but you guys can already see where we will be staying.” She then pointed in the direction of the mansion.
“For real?” Rachael proclaimed with both shock and surprise. “We’re staying over in that place? How big is this mansion supposed to be?”
“Many people have been known to get lost if one isn’t careful.” Sato said. “But no worries about getting lost, the capable staff will be more then willing to assist if you find that you have lost your way.”
“Hear that Taryn?” Rachael said in a rather joking way as Taryn merely stuck her tongue out at her causing her friend to laugh as they followed Sato through the village.
As they did, they were greeted with those passing by, with nods and hellos in both English and Japanese from the few of the villagers who were out and about. Some even willing to stop and chat with Sato, curious about those who have ventured so far to their village.
As they made their way up the stone steps, Taryn found herself stopping right before heading up the steps and glancing back. For a moment, she felt as though someone had been watching her. But there was no one, at least, no one that she could see. She did see several villagers stop and stare, but she knew that it was only because they might not have seen someone with blue eyes. It was something that she had noticed while they were in Tokyo, but it wasn’t as much as it was here.
The Unicorn Affect, as some people had called it. For a great number of Japanese people in certain areas of Japan who were not used to seeing foreigners would tend to stare as though they were looking at a creature from myth. But the feeling she had was greater then just someone staring at her from afar.
Resting her hand along her back pocket to where her compact mirror rested, she thought briefly of using it, but then thought against it. It’d not be a good idea. Not now at least. As she began up the steps Taryn saw more of the same stone carvings that she had seen along the barely visible pathway. Perhaps these were also guidance stones, for those who were lost in the forest?
Or they simply held a symbolic meaning with how Sato told the story, she gathered that there would also be a large amount at the shrine at the other end of the village.
“Hey,” Robert called out drawing her attention to him as he looked at her with his brown eyes slightly narrowed. “What’s the hold up? If you want to sight-see you can do it later when we get to our rooms. Or do you need help carrying your stuff?”
He had no ill intent or malic in his voice, she just merely looked at him, with the way he kept wavering back and forth to how he normally is to a guy who wants to start something. It honestly made her wish he’d just stick with one thing during this trip the flip back and forth.
“No,” she told him. “I’m alright. I was just thinking of the story that Sato spoke of, about the village and it’s Priestess.”
He gave a short laugh. “I never took you for being the superstitious type.”
She looked him right in the eye not with anger or annoyance since she knew that he would not know about this kind of thing form her. “I’m not. I just know that with stories like this, they tend to hold a lot of truth to it regardless if it’s seen as legends.”
“So, you think these demons exist then?” he asked sounding somewhat sceptical.
“In a way, but throughout history there have been people in the world who have done horrible things where they themselves would be called things like monsters or demons. Even now. So perhaps the demons that Sato spoke of were just people too far gone, and others saw them as such. But with that said I won’t discount the thought of demons once existing, since there’s already so much in the world that just hasn’t been discovered or properly explained.” She then readjusted her bag across her shoulder before picking up her suitcase and walked past Robert. “After all, I’ve just seen so much in my life that I know there are far worse things then demons. Whatever possessed the Priestess’s body is probably one of those things, and I would never want to face it.”
Robert merely looked at her with confusion, he had no clue what she was talking about. But also felt that she would say no more then what had already been spoken aloud.
Walking up the remainder of the stone steps both Taryn and Robert reached a long twisting stone laid path with tall trees lining either side before coming face to face with another large wooden gate surrounded with stone and plaster walls. When they reach the others, Sato went forwards and opened a side door next to the gate and motioned them to follow, once they did everyone now had a much better look at the mansion.
The front entrance, which was still a bit away from them, was lined with a stone walkway, a pond of koi fish on the right and a small rock garden to the left as stone lanterns lined the way to the entrance. The four of them looked at the mansion’s entrance, remaining where they stood. Japanese tiled stone roofs and glistening wooden doors that looked to be hand carved. Now it truly did feel as though they had stepped back in time.
“Wow,” Rachael proclaimed under her breath. “This is amazing, don’t you think Taryn?”
Taryn only nodded in response and merely continued to look up at the mansion from what she could see there were two floors or perhaps there were three, but it was hard to tell from where they were. She could only imagen what the whole grounds looked like. Getting lost would be incredibly easy if one wasn’t careful.
“So?” Stephanie spoke up. “What do you guys think? Will it be adequate to stay for the remainder of our trip in Japan?”
“Are you kidding?” Rachael answered as she threw her hands up in the air while Taryn went to take a photo with her camera. “This place is incredible!” she then turned to Taryn. “Don’t you think so Taryn?” but then her smile fell slightly when noticing Taryn’s slightly wary expression. “Taryn?”
This seemed to draw her from her thoughts. “Huh? Oh, sorry. Yeah it looks amazing, it’s beautiful even.” Taryn said softly with a faint smile. But this only caused worry to bloom in Rachael’s chest. Something was wrong.
Rachael went to speak but Taryn merely walked past her and with a smile simply said.
“Come on, we should head to where we’ll be staying.”
Rachael followed suite, but still giving a cautious look to her friend.
The entrance hall had two things that was instantly noticeable, one was a wall which was a place to put someone’s shoes. Since in the homes of Japan a person did not walk around wearing their shoes inside the home. The other thing looked to be the of a small office with a computer, printer and filed documents.
Then several workers joined, giving a bow to the four tourists, before guiding them off to their respective rooms, with Stephanie going on to say it would give them all a bit of a break before meeting back up for dinner.
Soon the two girls found themselves situated in a rather large room on the second floor, consisting of tatami floors, a small seating area looking out an equally small balcony of a view of the village, a small table in the center with two sitting cushions. There was also a dividing room where they would sleep behind a sliding door, another window, this one giving the view of another garden. Both girls could only speculate that there might have been a few gardens through the mansion’s grounds.
As the two began to unpack the few things that they brought with them, Rachael found herself stopping and looking back to her friend who seemed a bit too focused in unpacking. “So, this place must have a lot of… I guess residual emotions left.”
Rachael said it purposely vague, in case others were to come by. It was something that she had to learn to do by that of Taryn’s Uncle, so not to accidentally expose her friend.
“Yes, there is,” Taryn merely said as she continued to unpack her things.
Rachael on the other hand stopped as she remained sitting on the tatami floor. “How many do you think?”
Taryn was silent for a moment as she finished up her unpacking then going to place her bag near the window and sat down on its ledge as she rested her back along the windowsill. “A lot,” she said finally. “Hundreds, thousands, perhaps more.”
She looked at Taryn with shock. “That many?”
Taryn merely gave a modest shrug, it wasn’t anything new really. “This village is old. At least from the way Sato explains. But with it, there’s much regarding what has been left behind. Anger, hatred, regret, fear, agony, despair and loss. That’s what I felt when we first came to this village. I mentioned before that what I felt was not like when we were in the abandoned hospital, because at least inside that place there was still residual signs of life even though it had been abandoned. But in this place, even though there is obvious life, it feels as though we are in a massive tomb. With the dead all over. Like the Pairs catacombs. But that’s just an assumption, I’ve never actually been to Paris, so I can only really just take a guess.”
Rachael found herself swallowing the sudden lump in her throat. This wasn’t the first time she heard her friend explain in detail about the dead, but she had never gone so far to as to say that it was like a tomb. There must have been many who died here over the many years. “And what about here in this room?”
Taryn gave a slow shake of her head. “Nothing, but if you’re not satisfied with that,” she pulled out her ornate silver compact mirror from her back pocket and held it up to her friend. “I could check for you.”
Rachael opened her mouth only to clamp it shut and gave a slow shake of her head in turn. “No that’s okay. You said it yourself, that this room is normal, and I believe you. But…”
“Are you sure that’s it? I mean, the way you looked when we came up to the mansion, it looked as though you worried.”
Taryn merely gave a confused look. “Worried? I wasn’t worried.” She then stood up and stretched her arms above her head. “Anyway, regardless of how I felt when we arrived, I’m sure it’ll taper out in time. It always does.”
“If you say so.” Then Rachael changed the topic. “So, since you’re already done, what do you plan to do? Read? Take a nap? Or explore?”
“I’m going to explore.” She said then laughed at her friend’s deadpan expression that said that she would bet that Taryn would get lost. “Come on, you know me well enough to know what I’d do first and foremost when at a new place.”
Rachael merely gave her a slightly amused stare. “Yeah, I know, I’ve seen it in action, you’re even like that when playing an MMORPG or an open world game, you want to explore everything. How do you not get tired of it?”
She smiled to her friend. “Because it’s always a new place, and new places will never be tiering to me.” She then left the room that they would be sleeping it and headed to the other door. “I have my phone, but knowing how far we are from the city, we might have some difficulty with reception. What are you going to do when you unpack?”
She thought about it for a moment before smiling. “I think I’ll draw for a bit, might go outside for it. Try not to get lost okay?”
Taryn laughed again. “Yup, I’ll try.” When she closed the sliding door and entered the hall, she let out a slow steady breath. She hadn’t been worried, no, if anything what she felt in that moment when crossing the mansion’s threshold, was sadness. Undiscernible sadness. It surprised her that such a strong emotion didn’t make her cry. But then, she hadn’t been able too.
Not for three months.
With a shake of her head, Taryn pushed herself away from the door and headed down the stairs to the main floor. If she was going to look around this place, then she would do it right by starting at the bottom and working her way up.
Walking down the stairs she noticed how there were several workers doing their own thing before noticing her and offering a bow to her and simply continued. She could overhear what some of them had to say as they passed. Talking about her pale skin or oddly coloured eyes, saying that it was very beautiful.
Funny enough, she would receive a lot of those same comments about her eyes back in her own country. Apparently, her blue eyes were vastly different from the norm. But she knew someone who had something similar, her uncle. Though his eyes were more like a blue flame, while her father had more of a rich blue sky. As small as that was it was at least good to relate too someone about it. Her uncle had explained those who have a certain trait tended to have such unique looking blue eyes. Though she wasn’t exactly sure what he meant by it.
With hands in her pockets she continued, walking silently. She noted that there were several common place rooms. Rooms where the staff lived, other rooms which held an assortment of objects and the like and others used for ceremonies. Of course, she couldn’t know what all the rooms were for. After all she wasn’t an expert, but it was still enjoyable to stop and look, just not getting in anyone’s way while doing so.
Walking along the outer hallway she found herself enjoying the outdoor scenery, the sounds of birds, the rustling of trees and bamboo leaves, while glancing into the rooms that were open to be viewed. She even saw a small room set up for a tea ceremony.
Soon she had found herself near the far end of the mansion, or at least what she assumed it too be when her attention then turned to that of a nearby garden, and what she saw caused her to stop. In the distance there were some vey tall hydrangeas but what caused her to stop was the mere fact of the colour they had.
They were dark red.
Odd, that wasn’t something a hydrangea plant could have in the way of colour, at least not naturally. These days if you had a certain dye, you could turn a hydrangea almost any colour, but that could go with any flower really.
Yet she couldn’t help but wonder why the people here would go to such trouble. but intended to leave it at that and had merely taken a single step towards the back of the mansion when suddenly struck with a sudden feeling of nausea.
She went down on her knees and clamped her left hand over her mouth as her right arm wrapped around her stomach. Something was wrong. The feeling she had, it wasn’t right. It was as though something deep inside of her was trying to force its way out of her body.
“Oh!” the sound of a woman drew her attention as she and an older woman both holding looks of concern on their faces. “Are you alright miss?” the younger of the two asked in English with a rather thick Japanese accent. With a round face and large eyes, her dark brown hair held up in a clip. While the other looked to be much older with a narrower face and black hair streaked with grey showing her age.
“Yes,” Taryn said softly in English, her voice rather hoarse as she cleared her throat. “I just felt nauseous is all, sorry. Please don’t mind me.”
“No, it’s no problem.” Said the younger woman. “Do you perhaps, need to use a restroom? The mansion has several, or if need be, I could go and retrieve some medicine if you’re not feeling well?”
“No that’s not necessary,” Taryn said as she tried to stand. “I’m fin---” the rest of her words fell short as she clasped her hand around her mouth once more. Her body clearly disagreeing with the current situation.
The younger of the two helped to support Taryn to stand while saying. “Hold on, we’ll get you to the nearest rest room.”
The two in question practically rushed her to one that thankfully wasn’t too far off from where she was. And much to Taryn’s own surprise she did end up expelling most of the contents of her stomach. That had never happened before. Was it really because she was sensitive to this place? She couldn’t fathom as to what the cause might have been other wise. But she had been to very old places before where death was common, and she never had this type of reaction.
“Do you feel a bit better?” the younger woman asked.
“Yes,” and she did, yet still finding herself apologizing to the women. “Sorry for being such a bother, I’m sure you both have more important things to worry about then helping some stranger like myself.”
“No, it’s fine.” The younger woman looked to the older switching to Japanese. “Could you stay with her Yoko? Just for a moment? I’ll get her some bottled water, so she can clean the pallet of her mouth.” When the older woman named Yoko nodded, the younger looked back to Taryn and spoke in English. “I’ll be back shortly with some bottled water, stay here okay?”
“Yeah sure, not like I have anywhere I need to get to anyway.” As of now she honestly felt better then she did moments ago but wasn’t sure if it was due to vomiting or moving herself away from whatever caused her to be sick.
With a nod of understanding the younger woman got up and quickly left to get some water. Taryn merely remained where she sat, on the floor with her back pressed against the wall as she closed her eyes and simply breathed. That was when the other woman spoke.
“You understand Japanese, don’t you?” Yoko asked in her language. Causing Taryn to merely look up at her. “Your expression tells me you do; most foreigners tend to have a faint frown when they don’t. Trying to figure out what we might be saying.”
“Is that so?” Taryn responded in Japanese. “Sorry, I guess I should have answered back in your language. I just wasn’t thinking straight considering the situation.”
“No, that’s for the better. In fact, it’d be good if you didn’t tell anyone here that you know the language.”
Taryn looked at the woman with confusion. “And why is that?”
“So that they won’t hide things from you.”
She frowned, not really knowing where this woman was going with this. “Okay?” was all she could say in response and nothing more. With how earnest the woman looked Taryn felt like she couldn’t anyhow.
“Good, and…” she stopped to glance around before kneeling near her to speak in a hushed voice. “You and your friends should leave this place; other wise the demon of this place might spirit you away.”
Before Taryn could respond the younger woman returned. “I’m back,” she said in English. “Sorry, that took longer then expected!” she then handed Taryn a bottle of water as Yoko moved away. “Drink it slow, alright?”
Taryn did as she was told using the water to rinse out her mouth before swallowing the water. “Thank you,” she said then continued to drink the water from the bottle.
The younger woman then surprised her and sat down the proper Japanese way, with her legs tucked underneath her. “Just take your time, there’s no rush.”
Taryn found herself staring at the young woman, she looked to be around her age, but she felt it was vastly incorrect. “I didn’t expect anyone to be this forward in assisting someone. I had been told that most Japanese tends to not push into other people’s problems.”
“Well, it’s not completely untrue, but I’ve always been a bit of a busybody when it comes to people’s health.”
“People’s health?” Taryn repeated.
The woman nodded. “Yes, I intend to be a nurse, but due to circumstances I had to put a hold on my studies. It’s expensive and I’ve been tight for money. So, when I heard from my cousin that there was an opening here, I applied.”
“So, you’re not from the village then,” Taryn said, then found herself asking. “What’s your name if you don’t mind me asking?”
Her smile brightened. “It’s Kurosawa, Kurosawa Mei.”
“Mei Kurosawa,” Taryn smiled to the young woman. “It’s nice to meet you, my name is Taryn Lowell. Thank you again for helping me. Both you, and Yoko.”
“Lowell Taryn, that’s a particular name you have Lowell-san, it’s rather lovely.”
“So, I’ve heard.” Taryn said and went to drink more water.
“If you don’t mind me asking, where are you from?” Mei asked. “I’ve only been here for a month, but I always wonder where foreigners come from, some believed you and your group might be from America, but you don’t have an American accent.”
“I’m from Canada,” Taryn merely said simply her gaze glancing to the older woman, noticing how she seemed somewhat on edge. “I’m pretty sure whatever documents you have would tell you that.”
“A few of the workers tend not to read it, they only wish to serve the guests and that’s it, only ones who really know would be Sato-san, the head mistress who governs the workers Ayako-san, and the master of the Mansion. But I’m told he hasn’t looked at any of the documents, he’s been rather secluded this past little while.”
“Maybe he’s shy?” Taryn said taking another drink. Finding that her energy had finally come back. “I haven’t seen anyone else around that much. Are there other guests?”
“No, it’s the end of summer and many people have gone back to work or their homes. I think it’s only you and your friends. So, you all get the mansion to yourselves so to speak!”
“Huh, that’s a bit of a surprise.” It made her wonder why that was the case. With how historic this place was there should have been countless tourists, foreigners or otherwise.
Mei shook her head. “I think it has to do with how rural this place is. It’s not on any modern map either.”
“There are a lot of places that aren’t on maps these days. Even new places. It gets a bit out of hand I think.” She said as she went to stand up and gave a slight bow of thanks. “I’m actually feeling much better, so again thank you Kurosawa-san.”
“Oh, it’s no problem but are you sure that you’ll be alright?” Mei asked, her voice still filled with concern.
Taryn waved a dismissive hand. “Oh yeah, yeah. I’ll be alright, old places tend to have an affect on me from time to time. I should have expected it…” she stopped short when looking at a near by mirror and sink. It looked out to the forest. And from what she could see it looked to be as though someone was watching her from the trees. She whirled around to look out to the forest but saw no one there. Same for when she looked back to the mirror.
“Is something wrong?” Mei asked in English.
“No, it’s nothing. I thought I saw someone.” She then turned to face both women and offered another bow of gratitude. “Thank you again for the help. I believe I should be fine now.”
“All right,” Mei said as she stood. “But if you feel like your going to be ill again, you’re more then allowed to ask for help. You are our guest after all.”
“I’ll be sure too if I need it, have a good afternoon.” She then headed down the hall, this time going further into the mansion then outside. But not before casting one last look out into the forest. She could have sworn to have seen someone, a woman perhaps but it was too far to know for sure if that was what she saw.
“Bye for now Lowell-san.” Mei then turned to Yoko and spoke in Japanese. “She seemed nice don’t you think so Yoko-san?”
Yoko remained quiet. “We should get back to work, you don’t want Ayako-san to be angry with you again.”
The woman gave a nervous laugh. “Right.”
Yoko cast a glance in the direction the girl had gone but said nothing further as the two headed back the way they came.