“Do you think Sanae will come?”
“She will come! …I think.”
Renko couldn’t hold back her hesitation and was so nervous from earlier. Merry smiled bitterly as she looked at her and looked up at the sky.
That night, there would have been a full moon. It would have been also be a special full moon that happens once every hundreds of years, called Miracle Moon. Renko believed the eyebrow-raising rumor that if you look at it in a specific place and chant a wish, it will come true, so she called Merry to verify it as usual. She told her that it was a Hifuu Club activity, and she said it with such conviction that Merry wouldn’t refuse, so she reluctantly agreed that she understood, but in truth, she had a bit of a bad feeling about it.
Merry has strange eyes. She can see the boundaries of barriers. In fact, she could see the full moon that gleamed and illuminated them in the daylight. She knew it was the view on the other side of the boundary, but looking up at the full moon on the roof of the school in the middle of the day was an unsettling sight. It’s no surprise, but in this darkness, the light was even more frightening. The Miracle Moon is said to be three times bigger than usual, but looking at it like this, it’s actually much bigger and brighter. Merry’s body trembled at the light, which was beyond awe, and a sense of disaster prevailed.
It was the usual little irregularity when Renko suggested inviting Sanae too. It seems that Sanae’s somewhat of a concern to Renko. According to her, “Sanae has something in common with us.” To be honest, she didn’t feel bad about it, but she was relieved when she received a text message from Sanae to tell her that she couldn’t go out because her mother disapproved. Merry replied that she was sorry to hear that, but Renko was persistent and still believed that Sanae would come. Renko was ready to wait, but Merry reminded her that they would be home before the date changed.
While they were killing time talking about other trivial things, Merry remarked,
“Speaking of which, Renko. What are you going to wish to the Miracle Moon?”
“Oh, yeah. I didn’t think of that.”
“What!? We can’t verify that, then!”
“That’s why I invited Sanae. I figured she would have a wish, or something to ask.”
“I’m shocked. I thought I was used to Renko’s recklessness, but it seemed like there were plenty of things you could wish for.”
Renko held her hand over the moon. The moon was so big, it extended past her hand.
“There are plenty of smaller ones, though. I won’t ask the moon for the big ones; I’ll make them happen on my own.”
Then she made a fist to clench the moon in her hand. At that moment, both of their cell phones rang at the same time.
“Is it Sanae?”
When they took them out and checked them, it was her, and the text was the same. She wrote “I’m sorry” with an emoticon of forgiveness. Merry knew she was right, but she kept her mouth shut. Renko was unexpectedly disappointed.
“Huh. Too bad.”
She looked like a child, and Merry said, comfortingly, let’s go home.
The best place in town to watch and pray for the Miracle Moon was right there, at the Hakurei Shrine. The two girls have been to this shrine a few times before. There have been all kinds of rumors and oddities in the past, but for some reason, many of them had something to do with this place, and maybe it was the location that gave Merry a bad feeling.
They left the main building and went down the stone steps. After passing through the torii, a short time later, as they were leaving the shrine grounds, Renko said, “Okay, let’s pay a visit to the front shrine.”
“Eeeeh, we are going up to those staircases again?”
Merry was blatantly exasperated. Come to think of it, the moonlight has subsided a little, she thought.
“If you’re going to pay your respects, do it to this moon.”
“Oh, well, it’s a thing of beauty.”
“You usually don’t care about that at all.”
As Merry was reluctant to go up the stairs, stalling the conversation in a sloppy manner, they suddenly heard a loud voice. It was from the top of the stone stairs where they had just been, and it was a familiar voice.
“Give me back my mother! Give me back my normal, ordinary life!”
Renko and Merry looked at each other. It was Sanae’s voice. There should have been no one else in that place but them. Besides, Sanae had informed them that she couldn’t come. There was no one else climbing the stone steps. Strange. The sudden and unexpected visit of a strange phenomenon made Merry’s feet wobble. The moonlight seemed to brighten again as Sanae’s voice was the cue.
Renko turned and ran back to the shrine. When she looked back, she found Merry standing there, unable to move.
“Merry, what’s wrong, let’s go, come on!”
“No… I don’t want to go…”
The night was buzzing. Merry seemed to sense something. She hugged her trembling body. Renko knew it was not just a matter of course, but she was also worried about Sanae.
“Shall I go by myself?”
“No, no, no, don’t leave me!”
Renko hugged Merry, who was squirming like a child, tightly, and told her she understood.
“…Well then, touch my eyes. I want to know what’s frightening you right now.”
That way, Renko could borrow Merry’s magical power. Merry nodded and gently covered both of Renko’s eyes with her palms.
She could see Sanae. She could also see Sanae’s mother, whom she had greeted a few times before. There was also another woman they didn’t know. And all three of them were wearing strange clothes, as if they were in cosplay. Sanae wasn’t dressed in her usual sailor suit, but rather she was dressed like a shrine maiden they had met in a dream world they had visited together sometime ago.
Sanae was taken away.
This time Renko took Merry’s hand and ran.
“No, Renko! I don’t want to!”
“No, Merry, you saw it, didn’t you? If we don’t do something, Sanae…”
“You are wrong.”
Then, as they passed through the torii gate, the air in the vicinity changed, as if something had popped. The buzz of the night became deeper and deeper, revealing its shape, and it felt as if it was coming at them. They heard laughter from unknown sources. Many, many of them. They were invading their eardrums like a ripple, a rejection, an invitation. Wanting to shake them off, Renko frantically ran up the stone steps. She didn’t have time to look back at Merry, so she didn’t notice the change in her, and soon they were back to the main shrine where they had been earlier.
“There is… No one…”
This is what they mean when they say there are no shadows or shapes. The noisy voice that had been bothering them a while ago had disappeared and there was only the cold moonlight here. Renko shook her head – she was under the illusion that if the light, which was becoming more sickening, became darker, then of course the shade she could create would also become darker, and something would come out of it. Come to think of it, Merry was quiet. When she turned around, she was out of breath, but calm and collected, her fright before she climbed the stairs nowhere to be found. It was as if she was a different person.
She asked. Merry laughed.
“What are you talking about, Renko, who do you think I would be but me?”
Sanae was nowhere to be found. Where did she go? Renko took her hand away from Merry, who was unconcerned.
Who was this woman?
“Hmm, maybe it was just a dream. Maybe I just heard Sanae’s voice in the dream we had together.”
What Merry sees on the other side of the barriers in her dreams is real to her, and she knows it better than Renko. And yet, Merry was trying to keep Renko from thinking about it, as if it never happened.
“The date has already changed. Let’s go home, Renko.”
Merry pushed Renko’s back firmly and made her head towards the stairs. Renko tried to turn around and say, “Hey, wait a minute,” but she instantly felt an overwhelming pressure and couldn’t move. She was afraid of the moonlight. She was afraid of the woman behind her. She was going to be crushed. Merry’s hand crawled over her shoulder and down her neck.
“…It was just a bad dream, okay? Let’s forget it.”
She sighed, and gasped. This was the first time Renko felt someone’s murderous spirit so close to her. Hesitant to speak out, she nodded her head, and descended the stairs quietly.
As they passed through the torii, the moonlight eased. The tense air loosened as the sharp-edged, knife-like silver changed to mellow gold.
“Oh, that was so scary,” said Merry.
When Renko turned around, Merry was already back to her usual self.
“Merry, you are here!”
“What’s wrong, Renko? You look terrible.”
Merry worriedly touched Renko’s cheek. She freaked out for a moment, but she told herself that she was already Merry and that she was fine.
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine. Come on, let’s go home.”
The torii seemed to be the boundary of the barrier, and she glared at it as she came through. That might be partly because of this moon – not always, but at any rate, Renko was thinking that she didn’t want to come to this shrine for a while. And now that she had her wish in mind, she stopped and prayed to the moon.
“Please don’t take Merry away.”
Merry, who was a little ahead of Renko, turned around. She looked at Renko, who was praying with her hands folded and her eyes closed, and laughed.
“Hey, in the end I didn’t ask anything. What did you ask for?”
“It’s a secret,” replied Renko, trying to keep this smile on her face.
The two girls arrived home safely, but when they went to school the next day, they found that no one knew about Sanae. After school, they went to her house, but they found it to be empty and with no nameplate. It’s too big a deal to have been tricked in a big way. Renko and Merry ran immediately, feeling something a little more complicated and terrifying than confusing. However, Renko had another vague presentiment. Sanae must have gone to the other side of the barrier. If so, surely they would meet again one day – as long as the two of them continued the activities of the Hifuu Club. Renko had another rumor to verify today.
“The Hifuu Club is now active!”
Merry laughed and accepted it, just like she did back then.