Reiji Makino / Karuwari / Irazu Valley Church / 1976 / 19:00:03
Their aliases include "women of the night", "celestial women" and "mothering birds".
Classed as demons, they often consume human souls.
It is said that when wearing its feathers it turns into a flighted bird, and when it sheds them it becomes a human female.
As they originated as women who died during childbirth, they have breasts on their chests.
They apparently enjoy stealing human children and raising them as their own.
As a rule, homes with young children should not put out their children's clothing at night.
The ubumedori flies through the night, dripping blood on them as its mark.
If it does so, the child will become ill.
Also, this birds are always female; there are no males.
They fly through the night in July and August, seducing people.
The bonfire flickers in the darkness.
A group of shadowy figures surrounds the huge, towering rock that stands on the sandbank of the Mana river.
--Something is missing.
Feeling as though he has lost something very important, anxiety floods him.
What do I do...?
He is tormented by a sense of unease.
Suddenly the earth shakes, and his vision swims.
An eerie sound begins to ring out, like a woman's scream - or a siren.
The band of light moves wildly before him.
He feels pain, a sensation like he is being torn apart, and his body twists like clay.
The air all around him is dyed a deep red, and he falls into darkness as though flung in.
Down into the pitch black, where things writhe around beneath the earth...
Kicking them down desperately he crawls upwards, seeking the light of day.
May I not come with you?
Makino awakens in the dim light of the empty church.
Exhaustion is etched into his face, his ritual robes caked with mud.
The earthquake struck in the middle of the secret ceremony.
It had triggered a landslide, the ground unstable after a long period of rain, causing serious damage.
This is how the disaster, caused by the elopement of the bride and disappearance of the goshintai, materialised.
Makino gathers together his memories from the previous evening.
He had received word of the bride's elopement as he had been making preparations for the wedding rites.
He was unable to hide how much the unforeseen event startled him.
If he, as Guiding Priest, was in such a state, it would spread to those around him, too.
Someone had muttered the ominous words, causing unease.
Then, finally, his first error was discovered.
The goshintai is gone.
Despair filled the air all around.
Coming to his senses, he noticed a strong, fishy smell wafting around him.
This smell... Could it be the harbinger of a flood?
But by the time he thought it, it was too late.
The ground shook violently, then rumbled. In the blink of an eye a landslide hit, flowing like a river.
--It felt as though a siren were sounding.
His memories after then are hazy.
Miraculously he had been found face-down amidst the landslide and rescued, before being brought to the church in the morning.
--Are the villagers still looking for survivors?
Sensing no one around him and being all alone like this makes Makino uneasy.
He still hasn't seen the Guiding Nun.
--I hope she's alive...
Even as he prays, his hopes are faint as he considers the extent of the damage to the village.
Perhaps she was swallowed up by the landslide... Makino shakes his head to dispel the terrible thought.
--Why in my generation...?
The rite of holy matrimony, performed once every few decades, secret even from the villagers.
If the Guiding Priest fails in the ceremony he is replaced, as is custom.
--Will I be replaced for making such a mistake...?
The thought pains Makino.
He cannot imagine himself as anything but a Guiding Priest.
Even still, if he is unable to fulfil his mission he has no choice but to vacate his position.
He has led a life whose only purpose was praying day in, day out, as per his post in the village's faith.
Had he accomplished his duty he would have had no regrets, but...
The evening sun long since set, the darkness has grown thicker. He lights a candle.
A figure appears, illuminated by the faint light.
Sitting in the corner of the church is a woman in Japanese clothing.
He stares at the woman. She is Makino's younger sister, Ryoko, wife of village doctor Miyata.
"Is that you, Ryoko...?"
"I have come on behalf of the Kajiros. Miyata has his hands full with a patient, so I came in his stead..."
--It's about my replacement.
Makino hides his unrest and speaks to Ryoko.
"...I see. Is everything alright at home?"
Ryoko sits in the corner where the light can't reach, her face shrouded in darkness that makes it impossible to discern her expression.
"Shiro is dead. I left him with his nurse last night. Her house is in Arato, so..."
He remembers someone saying that morning that Arato had been hit particularly badly.
Unable to think of anything that can soothe Ryoko in this state, he simply says, "Let's head to the Kajiro house..."
Makino drives the church's K-car, with Ryoko in the passenger seat, along the road that passes through the fields.
Its headlights illuminate the rural path. Not a single human is nearby, nor a passing car.
Collapsed earth and fallen trees are strewn about due to the downpour and the previous night's earthquake.
Makino surveys the damage in despair, seeing its terrible extent.
"Isn't it awful? I suppose the ground was unsteady because of the rain..."
Ryoko sits perfectly still in the passenger seat, silent.
In the ten years that had passed since marrying into the Miyata family at the age of 23, Ryoko had not been blessed with a child.
Makino couldn't pretend he hadn't heard the rumours about the suffering faced by wives who were unable to bear heirs.
So, upon hearing that she had been blessed with a son this year, he had been relieved as her older brother.
However, in exchange for the birth of her child, Ryoko was no longer able to have children.
As successor to the family business, Shiro was spoiled with so much love and attention that it was almost painful to witness.
Not only that, but it had been caused by his own careless hand.
It saddens him to think what position his sister will hold in the Miyata household from now on.
A depressing silence fills the car.
As Makino opens his mouth to say something to his downcast sister,
Suddenly, a strong impact hits the car from above. A black shadow flops down onto the windscreen.
Hurriedly slamming on the breaks, Makino brings the car to a sudden halt.
The second it stops moving it lurches, as though something has climbed on top of it.
Without knowing what is going on, Makino reverses the car and stops the engine.
In the passenger seat, Ryoko keeps staring straight ahead, eyes still wide from the sudden incident.
Makino follows her line of sight. A man lies on the ground.
He is covered in mud, as though having just been out in a heavy downpour, and tread marks from tyres can be distinctly made out on his back.
"What's going on...?"
Makino gets out of the car and walks over to the collapsed man, his gait unsteady.
The man's mouth opens slightly, as though he is trying to say something.
Makino moves his ear closer.
The man suddenly tries to raise one arm, perhaps trying to point up at the sky, but runs out of strength and his arm falls back to the ground.
The next moment, Makino is hit by even fiercer rumbling from the sky behind him and the sound of an impact.
Turning around, he sees a partially-destroyed family car, covered in mud.
The car, having suddenly appeared from the empty sky, continues as if leaning to the side along the small river flowing through the fields until it reaches the riverbank, then comes to a stop.
Makino looks between the man and car, neither of which had existed until just a moment ago.
--Am I dreaming...?
Opening the passenger side door, Ryoko gets out of the car.
Paying no attention to Makino, standing there dumbfounded, she heads for the car by the bank of the river.
--He can hear the faint crying of a baby.
Makino chases after Ryoko, stopping before the broken-down car. The car is also covered in sludge.
Peering into the car, he sees a woman cowering in the passenger seat. The woman holds two babies close to her chest, as though trying to protect them.
Perhaps sensing a presence, the woman suddenly looks up. Dark red blood flows from her forehead, dripping down onto the babies' faces.
"The light is so, so soft! So, so soft..."
A warped smile of joy spreads across the woman's face, a strange twinkle in her eyes.
Turning to Makino, she holds out the babies cradled to her chest. Makino accepts them in a fluster.
--Their faces are identical.
They are twins.
As soon as she lets the children go, the woman's face goes blank.
Makino passes the twins to Ryoko and climbs inside the car, trying to help the woman get out.
However, the car's body has been warped by some strange force, and her lower body is tightly wedged under it.
"I can't do this by myself... Please hold on. I'll go and call for help!" he says to the woman, who simply stares up vacantly at the empty sky, and accompanies Ryoko, still holding the twins, back to his car.
Panicked, he opens the car door and gets in.
"S-should I call for the fire brigade, or maybe the hospital...?"
Perhaps due to the incomprehensible events he has just witnessed, his hands tremble on the steering wheel. He struggles to start the engine.
The exact opposite of the confused Makino, Ryoko calmly gazes down at the twins she holds in both arms.
"I'm taking this baby home with me in Shiro's place," Ryoko murmurs, as though dreaming.
"Ryoko? What are you talking about?"
Makino has been worried about his sister's odd calmness for a while now.
"Reiji - if the Kajiro family is looking for a replacement, why not have this child be your successor? Then you can continue as Guiding Priest from behind the scenes until he grows up..."
Ryoko smiles, trying to show the face of the quietly sleeping baby to Makino.
"You want to be a normal person rather than be known as a sinning murderer, don't you, Reiji?"
"Murderer...? No, that was an accident! T-t-that man just fell right out of the sky!"
Makino's voice trembles.
"...Who will believe a story like that?"
Ryoko fixes Makino with a cold stare.
"Wouldn't it be nice for you to have saved a little baby? These children were abandoned in the church..."
One of the babies suddenly begins to cry, and Ryoko soothes him with practised movements.
Ryoko looks down at the child and whispers in a gentle voice, "It would be terrible for the Guiding Priest to be a murderer, wouldn't it? I suppose everyone is wondering whose fault these disasters are..."
"Are you saying it's my fault!? I-I haven't done anything wrong! I..."
"This child is a gift from God... Given to me in place of Shiro."
Slipping one of the babies, sleeping soundly, into Makino's arms, Ryoko cradles the other, wailing baby in her arms and gets out of the car.
Still holding the child, Makino hurriedly gets out of the car and chases after Ryoko.
--The Guiding Priest, a murderer.
But Ryoko's words bring Makino to a halt. He watches her slowly grow smaller as she runs away.
--Seeing her run through the darkness, the sleeves of her kimono billowing as she goes, makes her look like a bird in flight, he thinks suddenly.
He turns around, and sees that the man's body and the broken down car are still there.
(I... What... What do I do...?)
Covered in a thick sweat, Makino stands there, still holding the baby.
4 August 1976, evening edition
Body Discovered at Site of Landslide
The search began on the morning of the fourth in Hanuda Village, Misumi County, which was caught in a landslide, and just before 8am two bodies were discovered on the banks of the Mana river. They have been identified as Harayadori residents Toshio Yoshimura (31) and his wife Ikuko (26).
It appears as though the Yoshimuras became trapped in the landslide while out driving their car, and rolled down to the river. There are currently 31 people from the village missing due to the disaster.