Originally posted on 29 July 2012
Zero Novel: Chapter 2-4

Mafuyu Hinasaki

"That's different from the world of the game I made," a voice suddenly said, and I looked up. I was in the mansion's courtyard. I could hear a creaking sound. A huge waterwheel revolved. In front of the waterwheel was Mr. Shibaguchi.

Beneath the waterwheel, there should have been a stream... how was Mr. Shibaguchi standing there? Thinking it strange I looked at his feet, but the moonlight was hazy, and I couldn't be sure. Come to think of it, I couldn't see his face properly, either. But I knew it was Mr. Shibaguchi standing there.

"Where on earth did you go?" I asked.

But I doubted that Mr. Shibaguchi even heard my voice, as he muttered in a hollow voice: "The Miku in the game I created wanders the mansion with a camera called the Camera Obscura in hand. But the Miku you experienced simply ran away. That doesn't happen in the game, does it?" Mr. Shibaguchi seemed somewhat indignant. But I had no explanation for it.

By involuntarily disappearing, then suddenly throwing out words I could only think of as words of blame, what did he hope to achieve? Calling it a complaint would be an exaggeration, but even scolding him for his unkindness at suddenly vanishing like that would be no punishment. Thinking this, I turned back to look at the waterwheel, with the intention of replying to Mr. Shibaguchi. But no one was there.

At that moment, I was trapped in a feeling that felt like awakening from a dream. To begin with, Mr. Shibaguchi, who should've vanished, blaming me itself was unnatural, and I had already felt a sense of discomfort at the time. But why did I think of scolding him?

I looked at my hands. I moved my fingers, and looked at the creases on the palms of my hands. I wanted to know why something like that had happened, and see if my own hands appeared as hazy as Mr. Shibaguchi's had just a moment before. The strange power my sister and I have - the ability to see the dwellers of this world... I was afraid of losing sight of whether the things I had inadvertently experienced were reality or not.

In this case, looking at my hands, I wondered if perhaps I was dreaming. I'd been having a dream that was so realistic that I couldn't distinguish it from reality. I spoke with Miku while getting breakfast, and suddenly noticed the chop, chop sound from the use of a knife in the kitchen. I went to see what was going on, and seeing my mother chopping pickles, called out "Good morning" to her. When I calmly retuned to the table, I realised that the world I was in was all a dream. I had too many experiences like that to count.

But this time didn't seem like a dream. My hands felt plainly real. If it had been a dream, I knew that from somewhere I would be able to sense a thin, diluted sensation, like the way in which ghosts and apparitions aren't accompanied by a feeling of realism. And I existed now in reality... From this, I knew that I had really been left behind, and had to get out of there. It was fact that I had gone to an old mansion in Tohoku with Mr. Ioka and Mr. Shibaguchi for research.

Then what had happened to Miku? It was such a strange experience. My consciousness alone had entered Miku, and our minds and bodies had acted as one. Was the experience real, or had it been in my imagination? Suddenly, Mr. Shibaguchi's words popped into my mind.

In the game, Miku has a camera called the Camera Obscura. But the Miku I saw had no such item with her. The suddenly appeared Mr. Shibaguchi had pointed this out to me. How did he know what I had experienced? As I thought about it, everything was confused in my mind, and I tried to separate it out.

First of all, Miku. If the actions of the Miku I experienced weren't in the game, then it meant that Miku had actually come to this mansion to search for me.

I spoke, calling out to Miku. There was no response. I raised my voice, repeating this several times, but all with the same outcome. But wondering if maybe I would hear Miku's reply from somewhere, I held my breath and listened. After the echo of my own voice, the silence seemed more profound. It was quiet enough to make me wonder if I had lost the ability to hear.

If I could at least hear the leaves on the trees rustling in the wind, I might relax. As I thought this, I heard a pitter patter-ing. Children were running barefoot around the mansion. That's the way the noise sounded. Then the laughing voices of kids was added to the mix, and I could faintly hear a calling voice.

"Are you reaaaadyyyy?"

"Demon tag," I murmured with a sigh.

At that moment, I remembered about the Miku I had observed earlier, and a certain thought occurred to me. The game's chaotic reality. Both me and Miku were caught up in it. If that were the case, perhaps I should begin by following the game's plot, so I could figure out the quickest way to resolve the situation.

I took off the daypack I'd been carrying, and took the game data out of it. Since I'd only played a little of the game when we left to go on research, I had no idea what happened after that. I was ashamed by my lack of preparation, but this isn't the time to say such things. I found the plot summary from amongst the data, and quickly skimmed through it.

Using her brother's note as a clue after she loses contact with him, Miku arrives at Himuro Mansion. There, she sees the Camera Obscura her brother should have had with him. When she touches it, an ominous vision flashes through her mind.

Mafuyu flees. Further in, she can see the shadow of a woman in a white kimono. Mafuyu is backed up against the wall...

Miku, having learned what happened to her brother, begins to search for him when she encounters the ghost of a woman with crushed eyes. She desperately tries to escape, but can't get away. A girl in a white kimono suddenly appears, pointing towards one end of the hallway, murmuring, "Over here... over here..." Miku determinedly runs in the direction indicated by the girl. And there, she sees...