The holy mirrors kept at five shrines in this area are denoted in legend as the "five holy mirrors". This seems to have originated in the legend that five gods who came to this region each created a mirror into which they sealed their power when they left, sacred treasures to protect the village from disaster.
Another mirror features in some tales. In order to prevent a large disaster (whether or not this is the Calamity is unknown), the five mirrors' concentrated power was used in some kind of ritual. It is unclear how relevant this ritual is to the ritual of the Himuro family, but since the Himuro family ritual also mentions the use of mirrors I believe that there is most likely a deep connection.
However, the existence of the Holy Mirror (as the mirror in the legend is described) is unconfirmed, and it is unknown to what extent the legend is based on reality.
Used in the Himuro family's rituals are several masks with a significant meaning. One of them, called the Blinding Mask, is used in the Blind Demon Ritual. The Blinding Mask is a mask with two stakes in place of the eyes, and is used to literally "blind" the demon for the Blind Demon Ritual.
According to legend, "While the demon is blinded, enter the Rope Temple and perform the ritual" - perhaps this means that th Blinding Mask is the key to the "Rope Temple"?
The mask worn by the Himuro family master for rituals is known as the "Simulacrum Mask". Local legend says that "the face can change into that of a demon, or that of a Buddha", which seems to mean that the mask's facial expression changes depending on the wearer's true self.
Theere is a room somewhere inside Himuro Mansion where the masks used in the rituals are stored, and it seems as though the Simulacrum Mask doubles as its key. There is an account of the mask during into a demon mask when the master wore it during the final ritual, but that may have been taken from a similar legend.
The Ceremony of the Ropes and the Blind Demon Ritual were performed by the Himuro family master. Descriptions say that the time of a ritual he would put on a mask to perform it. I believe that this may have been a tradition put in place to sever the shrine maiden's worldly connections.
In the Himuro family rituals, the family master, the shrine maiden and the demon were all from the same family. In other words, the one who was to be sacrificed and the one performing the sacrifice may on occasion have been direct relations. Perhaps the masks were worn so that during the ritual the shrine maiden would have no emotional ties to her family, or so that her family would not show her their emotions through their faces.
Perhaps the blinding of the demon in the Blind Demon Ritual had the same kind of meaning behind it.--From the research notebooks of Ryozo Munakata
The voice Miku heard was the voice of a young girl.
"If you circle through sakura tree courtyard, the preservation room is there. If you go ahead from the garden with a well, and go through the shrine path in the forest, there is a shrine. I would like you to go there and save her..."
Miku's head shot up. At some point, the candles along the wall had been lit. In the shadow of a Japanese-style chest of drawers, where the candlelight couldn't reach, she could faintly see a small shadow.
"You're... that girl from earlier..."
She was doubtlessly the young girl in a white kimono who had helped her out when she had been attacked by the ghost of the blinded woman. Even now, as she stood in the darkness, her eyes were clouded with tears.
"She has done terrible things, but she is suffering. So, please..."
"Who is in the shrine?" Miku asked.
The child knitted her brows and pouted. She seemed to be thinking deeply about how to answer Miku. But finally she began to murmur as she sobbed, the tears falling: "I think she's really angry. You may not listen to what I say. But there isn't anyone other than you I can ask. So..."
The girl's misery and pain was conveyed in her words as she spoke. This girl's heart had been deeply wounded. Miku knew that she was no longer of this world. But now, even after her death, the wound in her heart was so profound that she was unable to sleep in peace. Her small heart was in so much pain that it was irrepressible, suffocating. That feeling was firmly conveyed to Miku.
Just standing opposite her made tears fall down Miku's cheeks. She knew the child's pain. She'd had a sixth sense since childhood, had been distant from the other children, and could sense how the girl felt.
"I'd like to go to the shrine and comfort the person there," Miku said kindly.
Hearing this the girl seemed surprised, looking at Miku with wide eyes. Miku smiled as she bowed her head, and the girl wiped away her tears with a small hand, smiling brightly.
"What's the person's name?"
"Kirie," the girl answered.
Miku felt as though a lump of ice had been pressed against her spine. The ghost of the editor had said that the little girl's name was Kirie. The notebook of Hirasaka's that she had picked up talked about how the mansion was infested with evil ghosts that originated with a woman called Kirie. But the child in front of her was asking Miku to comfort Kirie.
"I guess you won't do it after all," the girl said, sensing Miku's disturbance.
As she spoke, the girl's sad, downheartedness washed over Miku. She was scared, afraid. But Miku wasn't going to run away. If she turned her request down now, the girl would be endlessly shrouded in grief, unable to be at peace, continuing to wander the mansion. She was so young and all alone, unable to make friends, by herself forever...
"It's okay. I'll go see Kirie. I'll do my best to comfort her," Miku said, both to the girl and herself.
The child's face glowed even more brightly than it had before. But right away, with a stern expression, said, "There might be things on the way that will scare you, but don't give in to them. I might be able to help you out..."
"It's fine. I won't give in."
Because I have this, my mother is protecting me, Miku added mentally, gripping the Camera Obscura tightly.
"Thank you. I haven't met anyone like you before."
The girl's voice was distant, echoing. And then suddenly, even though there was no breeze, the candles went out.
It's the first time I've met anyone like you, too. I've never had friends before.
Relying on the beam of her torch, Miku left the fireplace room.
"Miku, stop, it's dangerous!" I said.
"This is an event that didn't happen in the game I created. I can't believe that girl is asking Miku to save Kirie," Mr. Shibaguchi said, like he had been waiting for my shock.
When he had vanished earlier he looked so confused, but now his face was calm. But I couldn't be calm. I couldn't calmly stand by and watch him treat not only me but also Miku like a plaything. I moved closer to Mr. Shibaguchi and grabbed him by the collar. His eyes widened in shock.
"W-wait a minute. That's not Mafuyu Hinasaki's personality. He's cooler than..."
"That kind of personality, everything, that's just what you say it is."
I forcibly rejected Mr. Shibaguchi's words. I had never been pursued so vigorously by someone before. But still, everything has limits. I drew even closer to Mr. Shibaguchi, his face contorted in pain.
"What's the matter, Mr. Hinasaki? Please, calm down."
Mr. Ioka cut in through the space between Mr. Shibaguchi and I. Mr. Shibaguchi's continued surprise and Mr. Ioka's unexpected appearance, as well as my heightened emotions, suddenly diverted my anger.
"It's not nice to suddenly grab people like that," Mr. Shibaguchi complained to Mr. Ioka as he fixed the collar of his messed-up jacket.
"There there, doesn't look like you're injured."
Mr. Ioka turned his back to me and put his hand on Mr. Shibaguchi's shoulder, desperately trying to calm him down. Mr. Shibaguchi took a few minutes to calm down, and Mr. Ioka came over to me.
"What happened? I only took my eyes off you for a minute."
"'Just a minute'...?"
"Yeah, that's right. I went outside for three, four minutes at most to have a pee, right? Then, when I came back, you, who I thought was so gentle..."
I stared at Mr. Ioka, my forehead creased. Wondering why he was looking at me like that, I returned his mystified gaze. He didn't seem in the slightest like he was playing a prank on or teasing me. This time it was my turn to be puzzled.
"You said you were only gone for a few minutes?" I asked Mr. Ioka as a reminder.
"What are you talking about? Hey, Mr. Shibaguchi," Mr. Ioka said, turning to Mr. Shibaguchi, as though seeking his reinforcement. Mr. Shibaguchi nodded.
"Yeah, the longest it could've been was five minutes."
"What happened in that time, between you and Mr. Hinasaki?"
"That's what I'd like to know, too. I was just taking a minute to get the data in order, and he suddenly grabbed me."
As Mr. Shibaguchi spoke, while Mr. Ioka's gaze left him and settled on me, his lips curled into a grin. In a second the blood rushed to my head and I got closer to Mr. Shibaguchi. Before I could make contact with him, Mr. Ioka grabbed me and held me back.
"What are you doing, Mr. Hinasaki?"
In Mr. Ioka's expression as he looked at me, I sensed anger more than bewilderment. Seeing his eyes close up, I could tell that I thought I was the one causing trouble.
"Alright. Let's calm down and talk it through." I spread my hands, showing no hostility towards Mr. Ioka.
I took several deep breaths, quieting my emotions, and turned to Mr. Ioka to question him. "I'm sorry for asking the same thing over and over, but do you really think you were only away for that short amount of time?"
Mr. Ioka didn't seem to understand why I was asking him this, perhaps even doubting my sanity, but did his best to act humble and listened to me. According to him, the three of us hadn't even been in the mansion researching for an hour. We'd got tired while we were exploring and taken a break here, and Mr. Ioka left for a few minutes to urinate.
When he came back, the place itself seemed uneasy, and he arrived right as the tussle began between Mr. Shibaguchi and I, who had never been on very good terms.
The only part of it that was correct was the last part. The rest of it was complete nonsense. No, perhaps "nonsense" isn't the correct expression to use. As I looked at Mr. Ioka's sincere manner, he really seemed to believe it. But Mr. Shibaguchi was clearly lying. Since Mr. Ioka appeared, his behaviour towards me had flipped completely.
It was clear from the way he peered at me, sticking out his tongue slyly. But I didn't know how to show Mr. Ioka that. I chose my words with discretion, telling Mr. Ioka of the events that had happened so far. About how after he vanished I heard Mr. Takamine's voice, and then Mr. Shibaguchi also disappeared. And how my sister Miku had come to the mansion, and how I was suddenly able to tell what was happening to her...
"Hahaha. I'm glad you're passionate about your work, but you're going too far with this game," Mr. Ioka said, laughing.
I had no faith that I could hold back my irritation and explain that that wasn't the case. I watched Mr. Shibaguchi's face as I smiled bitterly, waiting to see what he would do. As he looked at us, Mr. Shibaguchi spoke smugly. "Maybe someone, somewhere, reset the game."
"Yeah, was there a way of doing that?" I said reflexively.
Mr. Shibaguchi had definitely done something to reset Mr. Ioka's memory. That would also explain why Mr. Ioka wasn't aware of how much time had passed. But while I wondered what what happen if it were true, I was hit by a new fear. If it was true, the world I was in was the world inside the game; was I doing just what Mr. Shibaguchi wanted me to?
Mr. Shibaguchi passed by the shocked Mr. Ioka and got closer to me. "It's just as you're thinking. Now you can't deny what I tell you."
Regardless of what I wanted to say I bit my lip and looked at Mr. Shibaguchi. Calmly eluding my gaze, he murmured, "Miku will be reaching the shrine soon. I look forward to seeing what'll happen."
"What are you talking about, Shibaguchi? We should get back to rese-"
Mr. Ioka suddenly stopped moving midway through the sentence. The colours here and there on his body began to blur, crackle and spark.
"How irritating, he's vanishing again."
Mr. Ioka suddenly disppeared. Looking at my shocked face, Mr. Shibaguchi grinned.