Chapter 03 - Shrine
It was a busy day on the streets of the Everything Market, as usual. A mother and daughter walked beside each other, holding hands and buying the things they needed. After a while, the daughter pointed towards a shop named Kage no Ya. The mother hesitated to go, but she ultimately gave in to her daughter's wishes.
Inside the shop, an old woman was sitting on the counter with a creepy smile. The mother was still unsure if the decision was right or not. Her daughter asked for a particular book that was placed on the shelf. It was a dusty book with a picture of a shrine on the cover page.
The old woman took the book out and gave it to the daughter after dusting it. The daughter asked her mother to sit alongside her on the bench in the shop and started reading it. It was a picture book about a particular shrine. The daughter was curious and asked, "Mamma, where is this shrine?" To which the mother replied, "It's far, far away where you can't go."
The daughter became sad and closed the book, but the old woman said, "No, no...it is actually located in the nearby Kageboshi city's forest." After hearing this, the daughter became happy and asked her mother to take her there, but her mother scolded her and said, "No, you can't go there," and they left the shop.
They both returned home, but the daughter was still sulking. However, she later found the book in the shopping bag and sneaked it into her room to read it again.
Later that night, when the family was sitting at the dinner table, the daughter's brother, Kazuki, asked their mother and father for permission to go on a picnic with his friends, which was organized by the school. The parents agreed as it was probably the last year he would be on a school picnic since he was already in his second year of high school.
The destination for the picnic was Kageboshi's famous hot springs and zoos. The mother hesitated a bit upon hearing this, but she finally agreed to it.
1 week passed since the night of discussion and the upcoming day was the day for the picnic. Kazuki was preparing the bag for the picnic and her sister gave him a book saying it might be helpful, take it. He patted her sister's head and kept that book without seeing the contents.
Kazuki also shared his excitement on Discord, and the next day, he left for the picnic. He had heard rumors that no person could stay for more than 5 months on the server, but he never believed it or, you could say, he never wanted to believe it. As it was his 5th month on the first day of his picnic, he was excited to see the hot springs and the zoo.
The next day, while traveling, their bus punctured, and they had to wait for it to be fixed. Meanwhile, Kazuki took out the book that his sister had provided and started reading it. He was shocked to see that the location in the book was almost the same as where their bus had gotten punctured. Soon after their bus was repaired, they reached the hotel, which also had hot springs.
While bathing in the hot spring, he was thinking about the shrine and how to get there. When he got out of the hot spring and changed his clothes, he stepped out of the changing room and found himself in front of a jungle. He was confused and had his phone in his pocket and the book in his hands. He turned back to get to his room, but there was no room, only bushes. He was now getting scared, but soon the book in his hands opened itself, and he started following a path by himself.
After a while, he reached a shrine. As soon as he placed his first step onto the ladder of the shrine, he became confused. Was he hypnotized by that book? He wondered what he was doing here. Just a moment ago, he was in the jungle. His torch started to flicker, and he turned back to see what was behind him, but there was only pitch-black darkness. Even after pointing his torch, it was like an invisible wall. He started climbing the ladders as he saw no other option. He reached the shrine gate, and then a Discord notification popped up saying, "Welcome To Abandoned Sanatorium." He was already scared, and he didn't know what was happening to him.
As Kazuki reached the shrine hall, he looked around and saw a wall with something written on it. He moved closer to the wall and saw that it was covered in tons of names, with the last name being "Kurogami". When he looked at the top of the wall, he was shocked to see the heading: "Staff Members". He felt scared as he saw someone else's name starting to appear on the wall too, "Asa...". He stepped back in fear and bumped into someone. Looking back, he realized that it was a man wearing a suit with gloomy eyes and a tall stature. He was Kurogami, but Kazuki didn't know his face or real name but by the name "Kugo". To him, he was just a random creepy person who bumped into him.
He took a step back and realized that the man had disappeared. He sighed in relief. He was looking for an exit gate, but he couldn't find one. The torch was flickering too much now. He was about to move forward when he heard a voice: "Can you really leave this place?"
Chills ran down his spine. It was still pitch black and the only way to see was through his flickering torch. He roamed around the shrine hall, wondering about the man who had bumped into him earlier. He found a gate leading to the Shinza (the place where the deity is kept) and when he saw the face of the god, he was shocked. The statue had been slashed from the right shoulder to the left hip, and blood was dripping from it.
When he tried to go back, he found himself in a black room where nothing seemed to be working. All he could see was darkness, and even his torch had stopped working. He walked and walked until he found something he could grab onto - a doorknob. He opened it and found himself in a hall filled with blood, with multiple doors scattered throughout.
He looked around and realized that there was a girl there, trying to cover her ears with her hands. He approached her, his feet dripping in blood and feeling creeped out by the sight. But he couldn't bear to see the girl in pain, so he moved closer to her. Upon seeing him, the girl screamed even louder. He was confused and didn't understand what was happening. He was about to ask her, but her condition was becoming critical.
He couldn't think of what to do, so he opened the gate in front of him to take her somewhere else. The girl resisted and screamed, begging him not to do it. But it was too late, he opened the door and the drumming in her ears stopped. She dropped to the ground, feeling relieved. After a while, she said thank you.
"Who are you?" she asked the guy who had saved her from the pain. He replied, "I am Kazuki. I am a bit confused about what's going on here. I also received a message which said 'Welcome to Abandoned Sanatorium.' Do you know what that means?"
She introduced herself as Asami and said that she didn't know what was going on either. She had been trying to go to her room but had somehow ended up there. Kazuki asked if she was on Discord too, and what her username was. She replied that it was "Misa," which shocked him. "Aren't you the 18-year-old girl with whom I was chatting yesterday?" he asked.
Asami was confused and asked him for his Discord username. Kazuki said that it was "Kwon," and asked if she remembered anything. Asami awkwardly smiled and said that it was nice to meet him, but the truth was that she had lied about her age. She was actually 22. "Come to think of it, you look younger than you told me. You told me you were 23, but you look nothing like it," she said. Kazuki finally admitted, "Well... I am 18. After the awkward moment, they both laughed at each other for a while.
Kazuki helped Asami up and they walked through the open door. He also mentioned, "While I was coming here, I saw half of your name appear on the wall of staff members, but then I bumped into a gloomy middle-aged man who disappeared." To which Asami replied, "I wonder who this staff member is." They talked as they walked into a dimly lit room.
After a while, flame torches started igniting automatically on the left and right sides of the room. The room was still dim, and what was in front of them was not visible. Then, a person came out of the darkness, and his footsteps resonated throughout the room. It was the same man who had bumped into Kazuki earlier. He was wearing a suit and had a creepy, smiley face now. It was Kurogami, and he said, "I am the newly appointed staff here. Let me introduce you to the concept of the 'Abandoned Sanatorium'."