Takaaki Yoshimura / Katsuaki Yoshimura / Karuwari / Irazu Valley Church / 1989 / 16:33:08
"Personas" are psychological "masks" that take shape due to external pressures.
They create a social personality from the heart's innermost workings, in order to play the role of idealisms when personal feelings and desires are suppressed.
In order to live, people need to react to the outside world according to their own personal role in it.
In accordance with external boundaries, their personality creates a variety of expectations and wants, and each person seeks these in their own way.
"Shadows" are the second face, the behind-the-scenes personality, created by mental pressures, that each person has.
Usually, it occupies the unconscious mind, stowing away desires rejected by common sense and rationality.
Shadows are a person's "other self", possibly created by their choices in life, that is obscured by their persona.
Shadows manifest at the height of pressure from the consciousness on the unconsciousness, giving rise to a fierce struggle.
But in the end shadows are also part of a person's self, and cannot be discarded.
Shadows are the "hidden half" that is rejected and suppressed, and as such one can only truly "find" themselves when their conscious and unconscious selves merge.
He feels as though he can hear a girl's voice.
The dream he has had over and over for as long as he can remember - being called to, a cry filled with suffering and anger, echoing from out of the darkness.
The girl tries to tell him something, her voice coming and going.
--Please... don't trust that woman...
White snowflakes fall silently to the ground.
The boy looks up at the sky - in the sky, a pale grey colour, he sees countless snowflakes.
His eyes follow one as it cuts through his vision, and lets out a sigh that freezes cold and white.
The snow gradually accumulates on the oversized black robe he is swathed in.
His slender, bony hands are freezing cold, and he can no longer feel them.
The boy stands there in the church graveyard, scattered with Mana crosses.
The scene - withered, leafless trees and cracked gravestones - appears desolate.
Were it closer to summer, the red of the Midnight Pimpernels would add a drop of colour, but all there is now is white snow piling up on the ruined earth.
The backs of the villagers, huddled around the frozen soil, the black earth dug up and a coffin placed inside.
(The Guiding Priest... suicide...)
(...Idiot, don't say something like that. His body was always weak, and he suddenly just...)
He catches snippets of the villagers' hushed conversation as they assist with the funeral rites.
(I heard that Lady Miyako was born at the Kajiro house last night...)
(...A new Lady Miyako and a new Guiding Priest - everything is in order.)
Hearing the sound of someone stepping on needle ice, the boy raises his downturned head.
Standing before him is a boy who looks identical to him.
(...The Miyatas'... They look so similar. Must be because they're cousins...)
(What are you talking about? They used to be not just brothers, but twins. On the day of the landslide...)
He stands there, too.
(It's fate, isn't it? One becoming the Guiding Priest, the other going to the Miyatas...)
(But their faces are so alike... He has a true Miyata face. Look at his eyes.)
He directs a frosty stare at the villagers.
They fall silent.
The two boys' gazes momentarily meet.
He feels a sensation like pain, and closes his eyes.
The presence of the other "him" always seems for some reason to make him feel pressured.
His little brother, from whom he was separated right after they were born - another person with the exact same body.
--As my twin brother, does he have the same dream I do?
The boy considers the question that appears in his mind - a doubt he can never ask about.
"Guiding Priest, it is time to offer words of prayer for your predecessor..."
The boy comes back to reality, and says the words awkwardly.
"Those we have lost continue to live on in our flesh and blood. The gates to Paradise open, and their souls will be welcomed into a place where time flows eternal."
The area is enveloped in a chorus of low chanting. Its echoes bounce off the steep cliffs, amplifying it, making it sound like a huge choir is singing.
Dark earth covers his adoptive father's face.
His face is covered with a serene calm.
Perhaps it is relief at no longer having to carry the pressures of a Guiding Priest...
The pressure he had to bear at the same time as embodying the expectations and respect of all around him.
Watching his father as he would head, alone, for the cave behind the altar to pray late at night.
Thinking of the darkness hidden behind that altar strikes the boy with an emotion different from sadness.
Just thinking of the true form of the darkness he is forced to bear makes his body tremble.
(No, I'm scared; I don't want to know! I can't do it...)
The boy is afraid of the pressure he must shoulder, and of the darkness.
Suddenly, a white hand covers his icy shoulder.
A faint warmth slowly seeps through him, and the boy looks up to find out to whom the hand belongs.
--It is the Guiding Nun, wearing an affection-filled smile.
And yet sometimes, the boy is left helplessly lonely.
He feels as though the Guiding Nun is looking straight through him, staring at something far in the distance.
She hangs his predecessor's Mana cross around the boy's neck.
Everyone looks at him expectantly.
"It's alright. I'll watch over you, forever and ever..."
From somewhere, he feels as though he hears the calling of the girl in the dream.
--Please, don't trust that woman...
Suddenly, doubts surface in the back of his mind. Like he has forgotten something incredibly important...
He is tormented by an inexplicable unease.
(Forever and ever...?)
The Guiding Nun whispers into his ear.
"You mustn't think wicked thoughts. Forget it all and do as I say. There is nothing to fear. Trust me, Guiding Priest..."
The Guiding Nun's words envelop the boy, comforting, warm, soft, stealing away his thoughts.
The nightmare plunges into the depths of his mind and vanishes.
--What is there to be hesitant about? As long as the Guiding Nun is here always, there's nothing to be scared of.
--As long as I let her guide me, they can keep looking to me...
The boy's anxiety and fear melt away, losing their form.
He no longer hears the calling from the darkness.
When he becomes aware of himself again, his other self with the cold eyes is gone.
The short-lived winter sun has set, the sky sinking into the colour of ink.
Only the piles of snow retain a faint glow.
The boy follows the road that leads home.
He passes through the gates with "Miyata Clinic" written on them, brushing the snow from his shoulders.
Opening a door from which a "closed" sign is hung, he sees the empty waiting room.
He stops in front of the mirror placed in the passage.
He stares at the reflection of his face. He feels a strange feeling of discomfort prickle inside his chest.
This face - the eyes, nose, mouth, cheeks, forehead: each part of it has a counterpart.
--Another with an identical face... Does he have the same dream I do?
The whispering of the girl calling out to him from the pitch blackness, in the nightmare he has had ever since he can remember.
In the darkness, he intermittently hears the girl's sighs and pleading.
--Please, listen to my voice... Someone, please... Notice me...
The boy understands the despair of the imprisoned, sharing the same lonely soul.
--Since we're twins, does he have this dream, too...?
Climbing the stairs to the second floor, he comes to a halt in front of the private room at the end of the hallway.
He catches his breath, steels himself and opens the door.
"It is me, Shiro. I'm home."
His sickly mother gets out of bed.
She has beautiful, porcelain skin, appearing forever young.
Her delicate features, black eyes staring intently as she smiles, somehow remind him of a bird.
"Thank you for going to say goodbye in place of Mother..." his mother says, glancing at the snowflakes that remain on his shoulders.
"Was it cold...? Your hands are freezing..."
She takes his hands in hers and warms them.
She pays no heed to the way the boy's body stiffens, standing still on the spot.
"Shiro... How did the new Guiding Priest seem?"
"...He performed the funeral splendidly, and accepted the previous priest's Mana cross."
"I see... Then you must become a wonderful doctor too, okay?"
All the while, the boy has been staring at the pieces of paper scattered by his mother's pillow.
They are torn fragments of a letter, ripped over and over into thousands of pieces.
His mother notices his gaze and speaks in a whisper.
"I told you not to go along with those filthy children, didn't I? Why do you attract people like them? It's shameful for your dear mother. The Guiding Priest is such a good boy..."
The letter was from the girl who is always watching him. He remembers the girl's face, smiling at him blankly.
The boy feels a twisted hatred, like black flames, inside.
--And along with it return memories of when he was young.
Walking around with that treasured doll, never separated from it. For some reason, it made him feel calm.
One day, his mother had thrown it out of the second floor window.
The doll got stuck on a tree branch and rotted away in the wind and rain.
Each day, she would look at it through the window and whisper, "Look, it's your fault that it's become like that. Because you thought of it as more important than your dear mother... You must treasure your mother. Forever and ever and ever..."
Her arms tighten around his shoulders.
"Become a fine doctor and make your mother happy, okay? If children don't look after their mothers they get thrown away, okay? Why are you so quiet...?"
His mother applies more pressure, her nails biting into his shoulder.
"...Stubborn child. He is such a good, honest boy. But good boys go to the church. You're a bad boy, so you were chosen to go to your dear mother, to the Miyatas, isn't that right...?"
She whispers this over and over into his ear, persistently, like a spell.
--The rotting doll is me. Trapped, stuck, rotting away like that doll...
At the memories, the boy's face hardens further.
"Look at you, so cold. Mother will warm you up."
His mother pulls him towards her.
The boy buries his face in her chest. She smells sweet, her fragrance enveloping him, almost choking.
An intense hatred and strange pleasantness intermingle, making him feel nauseous.
He puts on a mask, suppressing the emotions welling up inside him - the mask of a good son and heir.
"I must go. I have to study..."
Before his hatred can break through the mask, the boy leaves his mother's sickroom.
He passes through the hallway before the director's office, careful not to make a sound.
His father, who should have been back before him, wasn't in his mother's room - so he must be in the director's office.
His father's scrutiny tires him mentally.
He realises that aside from his crazed mother, to his father he is simply something foreign to be swept away.
--If I don't want to cause unnecessary trouble I should just stay out of his way... He doesn't feel any familial love for me.
For a moment, the boy feels something like a sharp pain... but quickly shakes it off.
He takes a small bunch of keys from his pocket - the stolen key to the basement.
He walks into the basement room, a place that it is firmly forbidden to enter.
As he opens the door he smells the scent of decay and chemicals, mixing together to create a unique perfume.
In the dim light is a row of sickrooms shut away behind an iron fence. From the other side of the fence cries the voice of the one imprisoned there.
He feels someone staring at him.
He casts his gaze to the other side of the bars. A black mass writhes there.
Turning the light of his torch on it, the form of the one watching him emerges from the darkness.
A thin old woman moves closer, crawling on all fours like some kind of beast, wearing stained clothes.
Her bloodshot eyes stare at him, aimed in impossible directions.
She opens her mouth. A strange fluid emitting an odd smell drips out from between the gaps in her teeth, sprouting like fangs.
She approaches, the chains tied to her legs rattling. She breathes heavily, smiling an eerie smile...
The boy's body prickles with an instinctive fear and hatred.
--What is that? What is it doing? Why?
The boy hears something, a hallucination.
"Shiro... You're different from the Guiding Priest. If he is in the light, you will be in the shadow. You have to study harder. And then you will live as the Miyata Clinic's successor. Even if it means dirtying your hands, being stained with blood..."
As if shaking free from a spell, the boy desperately covers his ears with his hands.
Suddenly, he feels a sharp pain.
Slipping through the bars, the old woman has driven her sharp nails into the boy's arm.
Red blood flows from it.
He plummets back to reality.
A voice calling from the darkness - the girl's voice returns.
--Listen to me... Find me... Stop this unending world... With this...
Along with the girl's voice, a band of light rises up from the depths of his mind, like a pair of statues.
--The role that was given to me...? Why is he there, and I'm here...?
The boy picks up the scalpel lying on the ground and stares into the darkness.
Unstructured thoughts gradually begin to take shape.
Flashes of hazy, fragmented consciousness appear and then vanish.
Suddenly it returns - the sensation that "I" am there.
It feels like dreaming about an old memory.
The previous Guiding Priest's funeral, and the events of the day I first accepted the Mana cross of the Guiding Priest.
The other "me" staring at me... my little brother, my other half.
That's right - that was the moment it all ended. My other self vanished.
A gunshot rang out, and "my" mind was shut away in darkness.
"I" vanished - at least, I should have.
What am "I"? What defines me as being "me"...?
Since then until now, I have always been guided, with no will of my own.
Though I realised that both a world of light and a world of darkness existed, I never saw anything but the light.
Like an egg embraced by a mother bird, I never desired to be born, wanting only to feel that warmth forever.
Now that my egg has been destroyed and I have lost my mother bird, I am as uneasy as a newborn baby.
In this vast, expansive world, loneliness is my only companion.
A lonely wind blows.
I concentrate, trying to hold on and prevent my consciousness from dispersing.
Now that "I" have returned like this - is this my reward? My reward for having lived without concern for my other half?
--Where am I?
I look around, my vision blurry.
Where am "I"? Is this where I - the real me - lives?
I don't know. I simply stand by myself for the first time.
I have to look for something that shows me that I am "me".
I try to stand - my arms are weak.
All I have is the will to move, but nowhere to go.
Suddenly, a strange irritation wells up within me.
I focus my mind, checking the feeling in each of my fingers one by one. I put my hand to the earth, digging in my nails, and try to stand.
Suddenly, I am filled with an insuppressible, indescribable fear.
Eddying dregs of memories float to the surface of my mind.
Those writhing, concealed, forbidden things inside the cave behind the altar.
Wriggling, entangling, melting together, amidst that chaos, their pain-filled voices echoing.
Tangling, trembling... Now only "things" with no form, simply writhing around...
I let out a choked breath.
--Could it be...? But no... Why?
"I" had returned in an incomplete form that could not be called human.
Cursed to live forever, unable to return to myself - a pitiful mass of flesh.
I let out a scream of despair.
The scream simply makes my formless mass of flesh tremble, unvoiced.
Vinyl, torn by rotten wood sticking out of the rubble, flutters in the aimless breeze.
From somewhere the ground begins to rumble, a sound like distant thunder.
It is a sign that this world is coming to an end.
The eternal circle has come to a stop, the pitiful sheep wandering around in confused endlessness.
Until the day the world begins playing a new tune...