Two endings, the Frozen Butterfly ending and the Shadow Festival ending, have been added for this game; out of various possibilities, there were many twists and turns when it came to putting these two in.
The Butterfly ending, which would explain the butterfly's meaning; the Hellish Abyss ending, in which you hear Mayu and Sae's voices as you fight Sae, and see what you shouldn't; the Promise ending, in which they take each other's hands and go on with life - out of all of them, the answer to what else we should add was not a simple one.
The world of Akai Chou, born from a dream I had one night, feels as though it was interpreted from that dream as we created it.
And I also think that an image of it, derived from various interpretations and substories, including what the "true ending" was, was painted by those who have played the game.
The depth and meat of it all is extreme, so it surpassed my own interpretations and visions of the dream.
Due to this, I think the proper stance to take with Shinku no Chou was to leave the original endings alone, and add new ones like an alternative work by the same people.
These endings were made with the wish to expand the world further, rather than contradict the self-created images scattered throughout the game, or to say that the players' beautifully-imagined visions are wrong.
Mayoiga - story
With the Old Tree mechanism working, Mio opens the door to the old Underground Passage behind the altar inside Kureha Shrine. As air flows through from the passageway, all of the pinwheels begin to turn simultaneously.
"I'm sorry... I can't keep my promise..."
Mio turns back to the village once and, as if shaking herself free from it, walks towards the stairs to the passageway.
Mio desperately runs along the narrow, dark path, like the inside of the womb.
"Are you leaving me again?"
Hearing a voice from behind, she instantly comes to a halt.
The voice is muffled, seemingly warped. Turning her attention to what is behind her she notices footsteps coming towards her. They sound like the unsteady footsteps of a bad leg.
Is Mayu following me...?
As Mio turns, she hears a voice by her ear.
"Don't turn back!"
As Itsuki's earnest voice rings out, Mio spontaneously stops moving.
"We promised, Mio... That we would be together forever..."
It is definitely Mayu's voice!
Mio turns around. She sees Sae running towards her.
Mio blacks out.
Mio awakens alone at the mountain stream of her memories. The languid summer sun rays shine down on her.
She can't see Mayu anywhere. Mayu's warmth she had felt at her back was gone. She seems to have fallen asleep at some point. As she remembers the painful events of her childhood, her mind wanders. She hadn't realised that Mayu had gone missing.
Was what happened in that village a dream, or...?
Mio calls out to Mayu, but there is no response.
"I'll wait... forever..."
"Since that day, Mayu has been missing."
"But I know."
"I know that Mayu is still waiting for me..."
Placement of the ending
This is an ending in which Mio escapes from the village alone. It feels more like a suspension than an ending, but we created it because we thought that choosing to do something you shouldn't is a horror-type ending. We also came up with it I think from the way that losing everything due to turning back while returning from the world of the dead is in the famous myth of Izanami and Izanagi, and also Orpheus and Euridice.
(I say "I think" because this was part of my dream.)
A result that returns to the opening scene
As Mio remembers during the opening while sitting back-to-back with Mayu in a butterfly pose, she recalls Mayu falling from the cliff. The background is that in truth, Mio doesn't notice Mayu being led into the forest by a butterfly. The title of the opening chapter doesn't appear in the game, but it's called "Mayoiga", so the name of "Mayoiga" denotes the meaning of this ending returning to the opening.
Amongst the staff were people who interpreted the ending as Mayu having died when she fell from the cliff when she was young, and the Mayu in the opening is the Mayu of Mio's desires, an illusion, which I thought was interesting. Perhaps, because Mayu is so scared in the game, they thought, "Mayu is already a ghost," or, "She must already be dead."
Another "Suspension" Ending
We had thought of one other suspension ending. The ending of the short horror novel "Zero ~Akai Chou~", published in Sankei Sports in 2003, was very similar to it.
In Chapter 8: Half Moon, you open the door to the storehouse Itsuki is confined in with Mayu.
Mio obtains the key to the storehouse in the Tachibana house. Opening the storehouse door, Mio and Mayu finally meet with Itsuki. Getting the better of Mio, who wants to talk about various things with him, Itsuki warns her to get out of the village quickly. Leaving the villagers' settlement, the two are led into the forest.
"You two, run on from here. You mustn't turn back!"
Itsuki sees them off as Mio and Mayu run with grim determination through the forest. The sound of taiko drums echoes throughout the forest, and they see braziers scattered here and there. They run desperately. But Mayu's leg hurts, and she gradually falls behind.
"Mio, my leg..."
What Mio sees when she turns around is not Mayu, but a blood-covered Sae grabbing at her.
"Are you leaving me again?"
In shock, she tries to run, but Sae's form changes into that of Mayu.
"Are you leaving me again?"
Sae takes over several times as Mayu suffers. To Mio, Mayu seems to be asking for help as Sae, accompanied by the villagers, attacks, and the villagers move to capture her. As she cries, Mayu calls out to the upset Mio, "Run away by yourself! I'll forgive you, Mio!"
Acting on these words, Mio turns on her heel and runs with all her strength as though shaking Mayu off. As soon as Mayu can no longer be seen in the darkness of the forest, Mio's foot slips, and she falls from the cliff.
Mio regains consciousness to the sound of cicadas. She is at the bottom of a mountain cliff, lit by the bright sunlight. As she tries to stand, Mio moans at an intense pain in her right leg. She somehow manages to get up. In the light of the sun, blood drips from the leg of the dumbfounded Mio. The wound is in the same place as Mayu's.
In the Final Chapter, without going to the Kurosawa house, go behind the altar inside Kureha Shrine, and when leaving and given the choice "Leave Mayu and run away alone?" pick "Yes".
Butterfly - story
The festival gradually heads towards its climax. Sae lies down on the pedestal by the edge of the Hellish Abyss. Yae slowly wraps her hands around her neck.
Sae throws her head back as she applies pressure. As the rhythm of the festival reaches its peak, enveloping the area in a feverish intensity.
Yae exerts pressure, and Sae leans back.
Mio exerts pressure, and Mayu leans back.
Yae exerts pressure, and Sae leans back.
Mio exerts pressure, and Mayu leans back.
There is a sound like something snapping, and momentary silence.
In shock, Mio takes her hands from Mayu's neck.
Deep red marks are left on Mayu's thin, white, tilted-back neck.
They look just like a crimson butterfly... And the handprints begin to slowly move, like a living thing being born, fluttering away as a crimson butterfly.
This was how the many butterflies fluttering around the village were born...
The mad-sounding cheers echo throughout the underground and the village.
Mio looks at her hands, dazed, not knowing what has happened.
The crimson butterfly that flew from Mayu's throat momentarily pauses by Mio's chest, then flies towards the surface.
"Mayu, Mayu!" Mio sobs as she chases after the butterfly, returning to her senses.
As she runs across the plain in pursuit of the butterfly, the many butterflies that had been flying around the village gather.
They head up into the sky.
One butterfly leaves the group and flutters around Mio, as though reluctant to leave, then returns to the others.
After all of the butterflies have disappeared into the sky, the morning sun shines through the mountains into the village that had been trapped in eternal darkness.
Mio stands for some time on the brightening hill.
Placement of the ending
Since it exhibits the meaning of "Crimson Butterfly" in the title, I wanted it to be the very first ending you see, so didn't want to change its placement in Shinku no Chou even though it had been renewed. We set things up so that it would probably be the first ending you see when you play it.
The story of Akai Chou is the story of the dream I had in the space of one night, but the first ending I saw in my dream was this Crimson Butterfly ending, so it's also the one I have the strongest attachment to. When Akai Chou was in production, I was obsessive about making it like it was in my dream, like I was driven crazy by my passion.
I feel as though my attachment to this ending scene is too strong, that it ruins the balance of the whole game, but I still think it's a good ending. I think of the journey through Minakami Village up until that point as having been created in order to see that scene.
When we were positioning the Crimson Butterfly ending, it was represented as "the ultimate bad ending", but I think that rather than the ending itself being good or bad it evolved into a traditional Zero ending, in which sense represents the "ultimate bad ending". In Zero ~zero~, the story was that even though you're willing to give your life in exchange for that of the person you are chasing after and want to save, in the end they commit suicide, but Zero ~Akai Chou~ has an even more powerful ending in which you kill the person you're pursuing with your own hands.
About the initial draft
In the initial draft, we were going to make it so that Mayu wouldn't talk about what is in her heart, but that you would be able to guess from Yae and Sae's feelings. I wanted the scene to be reproduced exactly the way it was in the ending I saw in my dream, and to be able to feel its impact. However, there were staff members who were of the opinion that it was too sudden, so it was changed into being fulfilled by the lines said while going through the Underground Passageway and when Mio and Mayu meet. To a certain extent the feeling of being forsaken remained, but it was shifted to an angle that would allow you to understand Mayu's feelings as well as possible.
About Mayu's feelings
This ending tells the story of learning of the secret ritual that must not be witnessed in which crimson butterflies are born, but I think it also serves the purpose of explaining Mayu's emotions.
A few days ago, when I appeared in a Nico Nico Live Broadcast with Tsuki Amano, I was asked whether I empathised more with Mio or Mayu, but the ending is after all there to explain how Mayu feels.
It's alright if you don't understand after only having seen it once. I think that there is something you can perceive from this ending that as they experience it repeatedly, people who watch it will find a place in their heart where feelings like Mayu's are born, and someday understand.
There are two vectors in people's hearts. One is a vector that expands as you grow. The other is the opposite of that, a vector in which you want to return to the darkness of childhood. The aspiration to return two things to one. A desire for death. I'm not exactly sure what to call it, but I think that it's a feeling everyone has.
Mayu's feelings have already been written about in the ending description from another book, but I think it would be a good idea to reread it, so it will be reprinted here.
Mayu's words when she and Mio face each other, before the Hellish Abyss ending...
I'm steadily falling... into a deep place... into a deep place... I'm melting... Mio...
Let's do it together...
Sae overlaps with Mayu, and Yae overlaps with Mio
Mio and Mayu were called to the village in order to perform the Crimson Sacrifice Ritual once more. Sae and Yae, whose ritual had not been completed, borrowed Mio and Mayu's bodies to perform the ritual again.
Mayu became melded with Sae from the time she was beckoned into the forest by a crimson butterfly, rushing through the forest as though being chased by the villagers, and Mio became one with Yae from when she saw Yae standing alone before the vanished village, crying. Not only are they the same twin, but Sae and Mayu shared the same emotions and desires.
Sae's final words (the words heard while fighting Sae for the Hellish Abyss ending)
I waited for so, so long. In a dark place
Didn't we promise that we would always be together?
"Let's be together until the end", you said
But you left me
Why didn't you kill me?
Why did you run away by yourself?
I was happy when you said you wanted us to run away together
But just being killed by you would have made me happy
You didn't come. I was killed by the priests
And then the Repentance occurred
I kept waiting for the time when your hands would wrap around my throat
Since I was a child, I've always been thinking about being killed by you
Why wouldn't you kill me?
Why wouldn't you kill me?
So you've finally come. You've finally come
Kill me, kill me, kill me, kill me
Sae, who wanted to be with Yae, was truly happy when Yae said that they should run away together. For a brief period she was elated by the dream of escaping the ritual and living together.
However, on the day of the festival, while running through the dark mountains, Sae began to think. If they continued like this and got away, they would live together. In a place without the fate of shrine maidens, or the ritual, they would be together forever.
But... would they really be together forever? Now, Yae was running ahead of her. Sae's body was weak, and she struggled desperately to keep up, but the space between them was gradually expanding. In Sae's heart, one thought was spreading like a stain. If we were ever to be separated... We were born together. And you promised that from now on we will always be together. But what if one day you break that promise? If one day we begin to lead separate lives, we will eventually die apart... That... that is inevitable. I know that. I know that, but... At the moment that truth, its pain, spread to her heart, Sae's foot slipped and she fell from the cliff.
Below the cliff, Sae was captured by the villagers. Yae will come back for me, she has to. She promised that we'd always be together. She believed this, but Yae never returned. Sae was killed by the hands of the priests, and the Repentance occurred.
Thoughts like "Why did Yae break her promise? Why didn't she come back?" swirled around inside Sae. But at the same time, she strongly wanted to die by Yae's hand rather than someone else's. Since Sae's childhood, she had been raised to become a shrine maiden who would be killed by Yae. Not only that, but she had been wishing from the bottom of her heart for Yae to kill her. The Crimson Sacrifice Ritual, in which the elder sister kills the younger. Not only anyone could kill Sae - it could only be the one person with true, strong love for her. The killing and being killed resembled a deeper, stronger means of intercourse more than some kind of act. And, as a mark of her own love, she would remain as a crimson bruise on Yae's throat, never vanishing.
So, while hating Yae for not coming back, she kept within the abyss for Yae to grip her neck. Mayu also thought of the same thing.
Mayu's final words (the words heard while fighting Sae for the Hellish Abyss ending)
I wanted us to be together forever and ever
Hey, Mio, did you realise that I fell from the cliff on purpose that day?
Back then, I was scared of being separated from you
That you would leave me, and go far away
Throughout the pain, that felt like I was being torn apart, I was just happy. Because then, you were mine
You are always by my side. You're always worrying about me
You see only me. You're always thinking about me
Since then, you've always been worried about me, haven't you?
Whenever my leg hurts, it makes me happy
You won't leave me again, will you? We'll always be together, won't we?
Let's do it together
Deeper and deeper...
Mayu, unlike Sae, was not trapped by the destiny of the shrine maidens. However, Sae and Mayu held the same feelings, and while they were melded together they waited in the Abyss.
One day during childhood, the two were hurrying along the path home on the twilit mountain path. Mio ran ahead while teasing her. Mayu desperately tried to catch up, but Mio was gradually getting further away. Then, Mayu knew it clearly. She and Mio were so intimate that they were the same in every way. Each day, they would promise each other to always be together. Someday that promise would be broken. Each person is alone. Whatever they feel, they can't become one. They will live alone, and die alone. It is sad, but cannot be helped. Once something has begun to fall, it can't go back to where it originally was, and in life you begin to leave the place where you formerly were.
Mayu fell from the cliff on an impulse. She didn't fall in order to spite Mio, but jumped out of desperation. It was similar to committing suicide.
"...I survived." That is what Mayu thought when she regained consciousness.
Since then, Mio has always been by Mayu's side. Mio worries about her injured leg. Mio is always worried about her. This made Mayu happy, but also only made her feelings stronger.
Even if people live in the arms of others, they will eventually die alone. That is the only thing all people in this world share - in other words, the only thing we are promised. So, while each day repeating the promise of always being together and pretending not to realise the truth, you become crushed and broken by it.
Mio vaguely realised that Mayu had fallen off the cliff on purpose back then. But Mio didn't know why she fell. Mayu wouldn't tell her. It was fine if she couldn't get through to her feelings. Mio said not a word... While spending each day together, the two both understood implicitly that it was forbidden between them to touch upon that subject.
While heading through the Underground Passage to save Mayu, Mio realised what Mayu had been thinking. It was the same as how she had come to know Yae and Sae's feelings.
Mio and Yae's feelings
Sae and Mayu's words just before falling into the Hellish Abyss (the words spoken by Sae and Mayu simultaneously, so that it is difficult to know who is speaking)
We always promised, didn't we? That we would always be together...
But I understand now. However strongly I felt
We are different people...
We were born together... but we must live... and die... separately
So... it's okay...
Kill me, kill me, kill me, kill me...
Yae, who knew Sae's heart, accepted that they would continue the ritual. Yae finally granted Sae's wish, after Sae had waited and waited. Mio, who was descending into the Underground Path in order to save Mayu, had also accepted Mayu's feelings. Mio couldn't break herself off from Mayu's desires.
Perhaps it wasn't strictly said out of love, but Mio was fine with that. Because it was the first time she had been able to tell Mayu how she truly felt, something she had been holding back for so very long.
Mark of the emotions
In the rhythm of the violent, seemingly mad ritual, Mayu guides Mio's hands around her neck. As her hands wrap around her neck, their souls intertwine. Twins are said to share pain. Mio also feels the pain Mayu experiences at the sensation of the hands on her throat. Her feelings flow through her hands. Their souls are mingling. This union seems to draw them together at last as they get closer to death, something that can only happen once. The two are returning to a deep place. Within the warm, sweet milky-whitness, they gradually sink into place where they were born, mixing together... The Crimson Sacrifice Ritual is complete. Mio's hands have impressed their marks upon Mayu's neck. From there, a crimson butterfly is born. The eternal night covering the village is dispelled, and the ghosts who had been bound to the village vanish in the morning sun...
Mio sits before the lake of the dam that has submerged Minakami Village.
As she watches the late summer sunlight sparkle on the water's surface, Mio is entangled in thought.
If she had rejected, maybe Mayu would have completely broken down. Even if they had managed to escape together, like this, Mayu might have vanished somewhere... Sometimes, Mio suddenly senses Mayu for a moment, in that ethereal, empty world.
"Didn't we always promise each other... that we would always be together?"
The promise they had always repeated to each other. Mio is always thinking over the hidden feelings in those words.
(Excerpt from Zero ~zero~ / Zero ~Akai Chou fanbook, Jitsugyo-no-Nihonsha)
Miss out any of the four events in Chapter 8, and take more than a minute to defeat the Rope Man ghost during the Final Chapter.
Hellish Abyss - story
With the final blow, Sae is pushed back into the Hellish Abyss. Sae falls into the Abyss. At that moment, Sae separates from Mayu, with whom she had overlapped.
The two fall towards the Abyss, still entangled.
(Mayu is falling again...)
That day replays in Mio's head. On that twilit path, I left her, and Mayu fell from the cliff. Maybe, back then, if I had just held onto her hand...
(This time, I'll save her!)
Mio drops the Camera Obscura and rushes over to the falling Mayu.
Mayu grabs onto Mio's outstretched hand as Sae drops with a shriek. "Mi...Mio!" Mayu calls out while clinging to Mio's slender arm.
Mio desperately tries to save her sister. However, Mio's tired body doesn't have the strength.
"...Whatever you do, you mustn't look inside it."
Mio suddenly hears Itsuki's voice close to her ear.
(That's right, this is the place that mustn't be seen...)
Mio's hand begins to slip, and she opens her eyes without thinking.
Time stops. All is silent. Mio's consciousness drops to the depths of the Abyss.
As she thinks this, Mio's consciousness gradually sinks. Suddenly, from within the darkness, she sees a white mass. The moment she becomes aware of this mass, the image suddenly plunges.
This is the true form of the Hellish Abyss.
Infinite, innumerable people, covering each other, writhing around. In this world time doesn't flow, darkness is eternal, suffering, madness...
Those people simultaneously turn to Mio, and when she sees them the Abyss is seared into her eyes.
Mio, bathed in the depths of emptiness, is blinded. Mayu pulls her knee from out of the abyss and climbs up.
Blood flows from Mio's eyes.
Mayu embraces Mio from behind.
She has no memories after this point.
By the shore of the lake under which Minakami Village is submerged.
In the languid sunlight of late summer, the two sit on a bench. Mayu leans against the shoulders of Mio, whose eyes are covered with a bandage, and cuddles close to her.
Mio has lost the light. But she was able to save Mayu. She regrets nothing.
...She is glad for the darkness.
It has removed the thorns that have been in the two's hearts since childhood.
Between the girls, who could talk about anything, only that day was never spoken of. These cares no longer linger.
Until now, Mio has taken care of Mayu, with her bad leg.
From now on, Mayu will take care of Mio, who has lost the light.
Mayu tightly grips the hand of Mio, who has entrusted her body to her sister.
Mayu looks at Mio through slightly-opened eyes, and a small smile appears on her lips. Everything rises to the surface in that facial expression.
"From now on, we'll always be together."
In her gentle whisper, their innocent childhood promise continues to echo.
Positioning of the ending
This is a happy ending in the sense that they both survive, but we created it to be "the worst happy ending". The blinded Mio and Mayu, who was trouble walking, begin to walk together, which I found an absolutely fascinating situation, so we ended up putting it in as a happy ending.
In this game, there are several occasions when you peek down. Slowly looking down at Mayu when she fell from the cliff as a child, and seeing where she has gone into the hallucination when you touch her as she sleeps in the Old Tree. You see things you shouldn't in both of these peeks, but this ending completed it with the vision you arrive at when you look for the last time.
About Itsuki's line
In the scene where Mio looks at the Hellish Abyss, there are people who say it's Itsuki's fault for saying "don't look in there" that she looks, but like the way the story begins, we set things up so that she ends up looking because she's about to let go of Mayu's hand. Itsuki had no ill intentions.
About the inside of the Hellish Abyss
What Mio sees at the bottom of the Hellish Abyss is the land of the dead, where huge numbers of dead writhe and squirm. There was a scenario in which the dead turned to Mio, and her eyes met with one of theirs. When I was talking to the staff member who drew the inside of hell, we decided that this dead person was Mio and Mayu's father, Misao Amakura. Since Misao Amakura's background is that he went missing, so it fitted really nicely, but absolutely nothing about their father had been explained, and it was too sudden, so this remained a secret between the two.
Mayu's final smile
The Hellish Abyss ending ends with Mayu's smile. In the cutscene in Akai Chou, that smile looked more sinister than I had planned it to, so when we were redoing that cutscene for this game, so people could grasp the way I wanted it to look like "a kind smile at from now on having to help Mio, a smile showing that she has fulfilled her desire to possess her, something vague with various interpretations", so to show this we changed it to be "slightly more like the smile of a mother watching over her child playing in the sandpit at a park". In Akai Chou's time, if it wasn't a big smile you wouldn't see the change in her face, but since the capability of expression is greater now, it's closer to the way I imagined it.
About the added scene that was dropped
I wanted there to be lingering doubts, such as was it Mayu who Mio saved, or was it really Sae? Or what if Sae and Mayu, who you thought had been pulled apart, were still melded together...? However, it's difficult to say that we would've been able to do that justice. I regretted that, so I considered adding a scene after the credits after meeting the conditions of a high difficulty level to explain Mio's unease in Shinku no Chou, but the scene felt pointless, so I thought it would be best to show everything through Mayu's final smile. However, now there is finally the chance to do so, the dropped additional scene will be described here.
"The Edge of the Abyss"
Plays after watching the event in which Mio and Mayu break apart (dropped), after the credits.
Mio and Mayu's house. Mio sleeps with Mayu in a twilit room facing the decking.
They have overslept, napping for a long time.
"U...uhhh..." Mio groans in her sleep.
The image she saw just once, the inside of the Hellish Abyss. She has had many flashbacks of this scene, writhing in agony and covered in sweat.
It is dusk on a summer day. Mio, having at some point fallen asleep, awakens due to her fear.
Mayu, who had been by her side, holding onto Mio tightly, sits up and gently wipes the sweat from Mio's cheeks.
"...Forget about it. All of it. I'm with you now."
Mio nods, clinging to Mayu as she tries to catch her breath.
Mayu returns the hug and then stands, saying, "I'll bring you some water," then heads to the kitchen.
The strong rays of the setting sun flood in and illuminate Mio in the dusky room.
Mio can't see the sun, but she can feel its warmth on her skin, and aces the garden.
When Mayu had held her before, something had felt strange, making her heart freezing cold.
A faint doubt begins to bloom within Mio.
Was it really Mayu she had saved back then?
Had it really been Sae?
The scene Mio is most afraid of appears in her mind.
Mio, facing the edge of the Hellish Abyss, reaches out her hand and takes Sae's. And Mayu falls into the abyss...
No, that is impossible. Mayu is definitely here. Even though she can't see, Mio is certain of this.
But that coldness - could it have been...?
Sae, who had promised to be with Yae forever, waited for a long, long time in a dark place until they could fulfil that promise.
Mayu, who had promised that they would always be together when they were young, was scared of accepting the truth that she and Mio would one day lead separate lives.
Perhaps the darkness in their hearts was so tightly connected that it was difficult to separate, and Mayu and Sae were still joined together...
An image appears in Mio's head.
Mayu sleeps by Mio's side in the dusky room. However, it is not the Mayu who held her while smiling kindly, but a bloodied Sae who clings to her, laughing...
Mio feels on her skin the setting sun being blocked from her face, and looks up.
Mayu has been standing on the decking, but for how long she doesn't know.
Backlit by the strong light from the setting sun, Mayu's facial expression is hard to see.
Mayu looks down at Mio coldly as she holds the cup of water.
Mayu's eyes narrow slightly.
The sound of cicadas in the room becomes so intense that it is painful. The camera gradually becomes more distant...
See all four events in Chapter 8, and during the Final Chapter defeat the Rope Man ghost within 5 minutes, which will cause Chapter Zero to occur. Defeat Bloody Kimono during Chapter Zero while she is in Dark Return, with the final blow being a Fatal Frame shot.
Promise - story
Mio descends the steps.
Mayu and Sae's words echo together in the area of the Hellish Abyss.
"Why did you leave me back then...?"
"You promised we would always be together..."
As she descends the steps, priests line up around the sides of the abyss, slowly banging their shakujo on the ground.
The rows of priests face towards the centre of the sacrificial abyss, and Mio sees Mayu from behind at the head.
Mio stumbles as she pushes her way through, peering over the priests' shoulders as she goes.
Mayu: "I'll wait... Until the end..."
Boosted by her voice, Mio hardens her resolve and rushes on.
The moment she charges through the priests and passes under the torii, the impact causes Yae to appear from Mio's body.
The surrounding priests vanish, and all sounds of their sutra chants and staves vanishes with them.
Yae parts from the shocked Mio and steps towards Sae.
Sae slowly turns. She seems happy, but suddenly in disbelief.
Sae and Yae finally face each other.
"...You came... You came after all..."
"I'm so sorry... Even though we promised we would be together forever... Back then..."
"I know. I know..." Sae answers, cutting her off, her expression contented as though she is no longer crazed.
The Mourner standing on the other side of the Hellish Abyss slowly points inside it.
As though talking to herself, Sae murmurs, "Now, we can finally do it..."
Sae faces the Abyss, and Yae moves to stand beside her.
Sae and Yae smile as they look at each other's faces.
The two join hands, and a crimson cord appears between them, wrapped around their waists.
Viewed from behind, they have the symmetry of a butterfly.
They take a step closer to the Abyss.
Yae speaks to Sae in a calm voice.
"We'll be together forever... we promised."
Startled, Mio leans forward.
The two throw themselves into the Hellish Abyss.
In the nick of time Mio runs over and clings to Sae, and Sae and Mayu separate.
Yae and Sae plummet from the edge of the Abyss.
They disappear into the darkness, side by side.
As her white silhouette becomes more distant, Yae's voice can be heard.
"I won't let go of your hand again..."
The moment they vanish into the darkness, they appear as though a crimson butterfly.
Mio holds Mayu from behind as blue light spills down on them at the edge of the Abyss.
"Mayu... Mayu... Thank goodness I made it in time..."
Mio covers her face as she repeats this tearfully, and Mayu looks as though she is not fully conscious.
Mayu's eyes follow a single crimson butterfly as it rises from the Hellish Abyss.
"Thank you..." say the voices of Sae and Yae.
Countless crimson butterflies fly out of the Abyss.
Mio and Mayu look around them as they are surrounded by the butterflies.
The swarm of butterflies fly from Misono up into the night sky.
And in the village, as they look up at the butterflies, the villagers, children, Miyako and Masumi, Itsuki, Mutsuki and Chitose vanish as though melting.
Holding hands, Mio and Mayu head to Misono.
They look up at the butterflies.
Mio looks away and looks straight at Mayu.
"Mayu... I've always thought, that back then... if I had held your hand, you..."
Mayu, having been watching the butterflies, closes her eyes and looks down, then shakes her head.
"You've always been with me since then, Mio."
"I... was afraid, when you left me back then. It was crushing, knowing that we would someday live and die apart."
Mio squeezes the hand she holds.
Mayu turns to Mio.
"We might not be able to become one..."
Mayu looks sadly at Mio. They gaze at each other.
"But I won't let go of your hand again..."
The morning sun floods in and illuminates their faces.
They look at the rising sun.
The sun engulfs them as they hold hands.
They look like Yae and Sae, who became a butterfly as they held hands.
Positioning of the ending
This ending was added for the Xbox version. We had the concept that the Crimson Butterfly ending was the best bad ending and the Hellish Abyss ending was the worst happy ending, but this was planned to be the best happy ending. We'd had an idea for this for the PS2 version as well, but it would have taken so long so the idea was dropped. I was also afraid that as a horror game ending it might wrap things up too neatly. However, since having the Promise ending makes the other endings more prominent, it's an important ending.
Becoming a butterfly by joining hands
The Promise ending shows more clearly that Mio becomes possessed by Yae when she approaches her from behind in the introduction. It's an answer to Itsuki calling Mio Yae when he sees her. Mio's role is to carry Yae as far as the Hellish Abyss where Sae awaits.
The image of letting go and taking of hands is an image repeated several times in the game. Letting go in the crowd at the festival, letting go on the way home...
And by taking their hand again, the separated twins' hearts can truly become one, and they turn into a crimson butterfly. In that sense, the crimson butterfly that is born in the Promise ending comes from a different ritual from the one in the Crimson Butterfly ending. The scene at the very end with Mio and Mayu holding hands has the same symmetry as Yae and Sae, and makes Mio and Mayu also look like a butterfly.
Meaning of the "Promise" title
"Perhaps everyone relives the past by making countless promises to others throughout their lives." - Julusmole (From "The Heart of Thomas" by Moto Hagio)
The ending name of "promise" was taken from this line. The world of the Zero series is a world in which nothing is certain, where there is no villain, but rather losing the one you love, the breakdown of what you believed in, being wounded by disagreements, or vanishing without a trace, no one knowing about you... (I suppose perhaps it's like the real world...)
Even if there's something you think strongly, alone it's either a creed or a delusion. However, if perhaps there are two people who share the thought, it becomes a promise, does it not? In a nihilistic world, as far as they are concerned, the promise is the only certain thing. As long as the other person in the promise believes this, it won't disappear.
Even if you have lost so many things and are in such despair that you would choose to end your own life, if you have a promise to rely on you can recover. By remembering the promise, you can go on without taking that final step. If you have a promise, it becomes your reason for living, and I thought about that as I created the ending.
"We always promised that we would be together forever."
Their promise that appears many times in the game. This youthful promise may have been shaken and broken, but it didn't disappear. Through the events of Minakami Village, it becomes stronger when they confirm it to each other.
After this ending, they are able to move on together due to their belief of this promise.
Miss out a single one of the four cutscenes in Chapter 8, and in the Final Chapter defeat the ghost of the Rope Man in under a minute.
Shadow Festival - story
Mio, her body and mind both worn out after a long fight with the Kusabi, hurries to Mayu.
The Repentance approaches, and the Hellish Abyss begins to rumble.
Priests flee from the Abyss.
Mio, pushing her way through the priests, heads for Mayu.
Mayu sits alone at the edge of the Abyss, waiting for the end.
As Mio staggers forwards, she and Yae overlap.
Yae has finally arrived, but Sae's heart, having waited for such a long, long time, is trapped in the darkness.
"So... you didn't run away by yourself, this time..."
Mayu, having melded with Sae, has thought over the moment when she fell alone over and over, wounding her deeply, and she doesn't look at Mio.
"You could have been saved, had you run away by yourself," Mayu murmurs coldly.
Mio uses the last of her strength to reach Mayu's side, and collapses.
"If it meant being alone... If it meant living on with the pain of being the only one to survive... I'm with you, Mayu."
Mio embraces Mayu, exhausted.
"So... even if it's just for a little while... until the end... because it's the end... I want to be with you."
"Shall we fall together, this time?" Mio murmurs as darkness erupts from the Hellish Abyss and engulfs them.
The two see a single vision.
It is the Shadow Festival of Kureha Shrine they went to as children.
Mayu lost sight of Mio in the crowd, the moment at which she realised that she was truly alone.
But it's different now.
Even amidst the bustle of the festival, they hold hands tightly, not letting go.
They hold onto each other as they move through the row of night shops.
The festival reaches its climax, along with cheering.
Fireworks are let off, and butterfly lanterns are released into the sky as one...
Mio and Mayu simultaneously think how pretty it is. At that moment, the two truly return to being one...
The vision ends there.
The exhausted Mio, and Mayu who embraces Mio as though protecting her, are enveloped mercilessly by the darkness, and melt into it.
The darkness erupting from the Hellish Abyss engulfs the village, surpassing the barrier and swallowing the forest and the girls' memory-filled stream...
In the impenetrable darkness, Mio and Mayu embrace, holding each other's hands tightly.
As they confirm each other's final emotions, they are slowly sealed away...
Positioning of the ending
If the battle with the Kusabi takes a long time, this ending will play. The concept was for them having to do the ritual before darkness spills from the Hellish Abyss, but the player (Mio) is too late, and so they both die when they are swallowed by the darkness, so it is a true bad ending.
The keywords we came up with were "not understanding -> understanding", "confession", "double suicide", "festive feeling", "memories of a childhood festival" and "everything is hopeless". Written like this it appears to be a simple bad ending, but Mio reaches Mayu, who has been waiting for so long, and Mio confesses her dependency on Mayu to her and they die together, so you could also take it to be a happy ending. If Frozen Butterfly is "murder-suicide", then this one is "double suicide", so I think I would call it a happy ending.
As earthquakes occur and the disaster finally seems to be beginning, Mio desperately heads towards Mayu, but Mayu's heart has been locked away in the Hellish Abyss. However, at the moment darkness erupts from the Abyss she murmurs, "Shall we fall together this time?" which moves her heart a little.
In this game, the motif of falling and peering down appears several times. When Mio and Mayu were young, Mio ran ahead and so Mayu fell from the cliff. And Sae fell alone when she and Yae fled the village. Falling alone was the cause of their relationship breaking, but Mio's line begins to resolve this grudge.
The meaning of the titular Shadow Festival and what was put into it
The moment they are swallowed by the darkness, just before they die, they have a vision of the festival they went to together when they were children.
The titular Shadow Festival refers to a festival that was performed while the main ritual was taking place. Minakami Village's crimson butterfly ritual is the main ritual, and in the villages at the foot of the mountain a festival based on it became called the Shadow Festival, so paper lanterns resembling crimson butterflies were released into the sky like balloons.
Our concept was that when they were young, Mio and Mayu lived in a town near Minakami Village, and they went to the Shadow Festival at Kureha Shrine, which had spread to the foot of the mountain along with the religion of Minakami Village. Mayu lost sight of Mio in the crowd at the festival, which was when she realised that "we are separate people", "we can't be together forever", and "we're separate people, so we're not the same. We can't understand each other completely."
In the vision of the festival, they stay together, holding hands. Mio and Mayu again join hands during the festival. They see something beautiful, and simultaneously think "that's pretty", so the ill feelings about being different people and therefore not understanding each other fade, and at the end, just before they die, Mayu holds the exhausted Mio. We created this scene of the grudge disappearing right at the end thinking of things like them being surprised at the same time as snow falls, realising how beautiful the moon is, or noticing the beauty of a rainy landscape... things where they would simultaneously see something beautiful.
In this game, the festival is one of the artistic themes we thought about. It was eventually scrapped, but we had planned to have Mio and Mayu wearing yukatas and playing mini-games such as goldfish-scooping or target practice, and we incorporated the haunted house into it.
The Shadow Festival ending, an answer to the Crimson Butterfly ending
This ending paints a picture of Mio's feelings towards Mayu. If the Frozen Butterfly ending is an ending that paints a picture of the darkness in Mayu's heart, I wanted the Shadow Festival ending to show that Mio is also attached to Mayu, dependent upon her, and feels an emotion greater than love for her. These are, of course, the same feelings Yae had towards Sae. Since Mio is the player, I don't think we could really represent those feelings very well in terms of the protagonist, but in this game, since the variation in the endings has increased, I really wanted to try it out.
I wanted Mio to confess to Mayu. And I wanted Mayu to be able to accept the truth of those feelings. It's also a reply to Mayu's confession in the Crimson Butterfly ending. Their true feelings come out before they die, so maybe the tie between them of accepting each other's feelings strengthens the Promise ending.
In the opening, Mio says, "Back then, I..." The continuation from this line was meant to be, "Back then, if I had held your hand, you wouldn't have been hurt." In the Shadow Festival ending, however, the line is meant to be, "Back then, I wish I'd fallen with you." Mio is reacting to the strong emotions she feels from Mayu. Her confession is about the pain she feels at knowing how much Mayu suffered from falling alone, how much it hurts her knowing that they can't be together forever, her sadness at them becoming more and more distant every moment, and if that were the case wanting to fall with her - in other words, confessing to wishing they had died together. Mio was prepared to accept any response from Mayu, and in response she went to the forest with the intention of committing suicide with Mayu - I wanted an ending to show that this was how strong her feelings were, but I think I let myself run too wild with that one. It would have given you a lot of empathy for Mio.
About the girls naked under a haori
After they are swallowed by the darkness, they die, which is represented by an image of them sitting together in the darkness. I wanted to represent the image of them being in shut away in their own world by having them naked in nothing but a kimono in the darkness. It was based on an image of Miku, naked, wearing only a kimono in an image created for a tapestry for Zero ~zero~ and added to it, with elements from "Promise" which was created to be used as a poster for Akai Chou. I'd wanted to do this with Mio and Mayu since the beginning with Akai Chou, and finally managed to get it in. I might also have done it with the faint hope that if it were turned into a film, Mio and Mayu's actresses would say, "They're both naked under a haori at the end of the original ending, so I guess we've got to do it..."
See all four cutscenes in Chapter 8, and take more than five minutes to defeat the Rope Man's ghost in the Final Chapter.
Frozen Butterfly: story
Mio deals the final blow to Sae with the Camera Obscura.
Sae, who has been possessing Mayu, shrieks and vanishes.
Mio is relieved to have been able to save Mayu.
"Thank goodness, Mayu... Don't go off again..."
"I'm not going anywhere. We're going to be one," Mayu whispers sweetly into her ear.
"You know what you have to do now, right?"
Mayu guides Mio's hands to her neck.
But Mio won't strangle Mayu.
Inside the rejected Mayu, something explodes loudly.
However much she wants it, Mio won't wrap her hands around her neck. Mio won't kill her.
But she likes Mio that way.
Mayu, torn apart by the two emotions, begins to laugh madly.
Mayu cries as she laughs.
Seeing this, a flash shoots through Mio's head.
Wasn't Sae, when she saw her laughing in the Great Hall, crying? And when a young Mayu fell from the cliff and was holding her broken leg, under the rays of sunlight, she was laughing as she cried...
Maybe Sae hasn't vanished from inside Mayu due to the Camera Obscura, but been tied even more strongly to her while trying to pull her out...
Mayu gently wraps her hands around the shocked Mio's neck.
"It's okay to suffer forever. It's okay to be in hell forever..."
A crimson butterfly flies weakly through the darkness, like a butterfly in winter.
The butterfly stops on Mio's shoulder. Mio's eyes are slightly open.
Mio's head rests on Mayu's lap and she constantly strokes her cheek lovingly.
It is the Kurosawa house's Great Hall. A momentary flash of lightning illuminates the sea of bodies around them.
The doll stand room. A silhouette of a head being stroked through the screen.
Happy-sounding whispering can be heard.
Mayu applies rouge to Mio's lips.
It is their secret game, played where no one would find them.
With an innocent expression on her face, Mayu carefully mixes the rouge.
At that moment a tear begins to spill from Mio's eye as Mayu holds her face in both hands, stopping at her lips.
Mayu, finished mixing the rouge for her lips, holds Mio's head as though playing with a doll, and begins to talk to her...
Positioning of the ending, and the experience that led to it being created
The producer, Kikuchi, requested that I make an additional ending that was depressing. The idea behind "misery" was "an ending that is so sad you don't like it when you finish watching it, and want to play it again." Perhaps it's a simple bad ending, implying that Mio loses to Sae. You're surprised, thinking you'd beaten Sae, but... I thought that was the kind of flow it should take as a horror.
Also, in this game, we'd decided to add a style of gameplay where you can reach out by pressing a button, so I considered using this to make it so that if in the Butterfly ending Mio didn't reach out - in other words, didn't kill her - the ending would change. In other words it's the opposite of the Crimson Butterfly ending, varying in that Mayu is the one to strangle Mio. The story is that Mayu decides to keep living in the village with Mio. The keywords I came up with were "laughing while crying", "murder-suicide", "together in hell" and "darkness of childhood".
About "laughing while crying"
The ending starts when Mio wins the fight against Sae. Sae, who has been possessing Mayu, is defeated, and the relieved Mio hugs Mayu, but Mayu guides Mio's hands to her neck and tries to get her to perform the ritual. However, Mayu is torn apart by the emotions of being rejected by Mio. Her anger towards Mio for not accepting the way she feels, and the feeling of loving Mio for not wanting to hurt her, mix up and this is represented in the way she laughs as she cries. Mio sees this tearful laughter, and remembers how Sae did the same. Sae was torn apart by the same feelings towards Yae, holding a grudge against her even while waiting for her. And Mio's distant childhood memories surface. When Mayu fell from the cliff, she laughed at the pain from her broken leg, and the joy that Mio would only care about her from then on. When Mio remembers this, Mayu strangles her. Her hands are gentle.
The meaning of the title
The Great Hall, bodies scattered throughout, is filled with a cold air, and a single butterfly flutters through it and lands on Mio's shoulder. This is the frozen butterfly from the title. Winter butterflies fly weakly before becoming unable to move and stopping, and this is that kind of image. The title was chosen from the image of a crimson butterfly unable to move in the cold air, unable to fly. Furthermore, "frozen butterfly" is also a phrase used in haikus.
"The frozen butterfly flies around, chasing a soul" - Kyoshi Takahama
This one is famous, but there are other good ones.
"Until the frozen butterfly and the sky's smile are torn apart" - Kogarashi Hatta
"The frozen butterfly and the butterfly of memory lose their wings" - Takako Hashimoto
"The butterfly ends its dance on Amitabha's shoulder" - Mitsuki Kato
About the doll stand room scene
After the credits end, there is a scene in the hina doll room. Mayu holds Mio's head, playing with make-up like when they were children. Mayu wants to go back to their childhood, when they weren't conscious of their being separate. It's the image in her mind's eye of the darkness before she gained self-awareness. The storyboard had her mixing the rouge with an innocent, child-like expression on her face, but it was quite difficult to do the CG and so eventually unfortunately the scene showing her expression was cut and the scene became shorter.
The scene where Mayu licks Mio's tear away is her laughing while crying... with this tear, she has made Mio's emotions her own - this is the kind of scene I wanted it to be.
Also, it ends with the silhouette of Mayu holding something like a head on the screen; this scene is tied to the mysterious silhouette Mio sees he first time she enters the doll room.
See all four cutscenes in Chapter 8, and in the Final Chapter defeat the Rope Man in less than five minutes; Chapter Zero will occur after clearing the Final Chapter. In Chapter Zero,deal the killing blow to Bloody Kimono Woman either without her entering Dark Return, or using a shot other than a Fatal Frame while she is in Dark Return.