Seiji stared in stunned shock that could have almost been awe if he was thinking straight. It had taken him a full minute to come back to his senses enough to back away with the ghost staring at him with a blank expression. The distant screams of the other patrons faded into the background as he was encroached upon by the ghost.
The bloodied woman wore a fine silk kimono in white and pale blues with a floral pattern. Blood seemed to be soaked through the entire material and dried. It covered from halfway up the chest down to the legs, where the feet weren’t present. Most of her light brown hair was tied up around her head with a couple brass hairpins.
She floated in towards Seiji a little more when he backed away. A moment later the blank expression faded away into annoyed frustration, which Seiji never picked up on. “Yes! Yes, I am a ghost. If you would stop staring at me, young man.”
“But you’re a ghost!” The rest of him was still frozen as it was counting down until it had been completely and fully accepted.
The woman gave Seiji a ruffled pouting look back. “Yes, we’ve covered that fact. Move on!”
“Ghost! Yes! Is that all you can say?”
The timer had finally hit zero on Seiji’s body and everything quickly transferred into wide eyed surprised realization before his eyes rolled back. Everything went pale on him as his legs lost their strength followed by the rest of his body. He collapsed unconscious on the stone tile path of the shrine within seconds. “…ghost…”
“For such a tough looking guy he’s surprisingly frail!”
Chapter 65 – The Porcelain Stare
A fog hung around Seiji’s head while a black empty world stretched out before him. He had thought he heard a soft voice, barely a whisper, penetrating into the thick haze. The voice started a ripple in his mind that broke through the fog. Seiji needed only a moment to understand that he was lying down.
It was the same voice that he heard before, but it didn't seem to be familiar to him. All he could tell was that it was soothing his spinning head. “Eh? Mother?” He tried to look up, but his eyes had trouble focusing. The blur didn't matter to him with the images of the ghost coming back, his arms shaking. “That’s right! There was a ghost! I swear I’m not lying mom! I really saw one!” Suddenly, a blunt force had hit him in the head forcing him to snap up in pain.
“Now I’m your mother?!” snapped the voice quickly chattering with anger.
Seiji rubbed his hands over his head massaging the bump as he tried to focus his eyes again. He started to say something, but cut himself off as his eyes widened in surprise seeing the woman from before knelt down over him. “Wait! You’re not…”
“No! I’m not!” She had her arms cross glaring at him looking like she had been insulted.
“Hrmph! I happen to only be twenty! Even though I’ve been dead for thirty years…”
“I’m sorry!” The thought of her being a ghost had escaped him as he began to repeatedly apologize for the mistake he made. ‘Wait a minute… Why am I apologizing to a ghost?!’ All of his features became very small at the realization. It was then that his rage took over and he jumped up towering over the still knelt woman. “Why the hell am I apologizing to you?! You’re just a damn ghost!”
The woman stood back up to stare fairly evenly back at Seiji. She had even put a little lean in for extra emphasis that he wasn’t frightening her. “Yes! A ghost! But ghosts have feelings too!”
“You’re supposed to be dead! You can’t have feelings anymore! You’re not alive!”
It had been more than enough for the woman to take and she slapped him sharply for what he said to her. The fierce glare in her eyes burned stronger, but Seiji held his ground with her. “Narrow minded! Prejudice! That’s it! You’re prejudiced against ghosts!”
“What?! I’ve never met a ghost before!”
“So then how do you know we can’t have feelings then?! Hm?”
Seiji had to take a second with him suddenly being cornered by the ghost woman. It wasn't a matter that he considered. He tried to avoid thinking about ghosts, period, regardless of feelings or not. “You’re dead! So how can anything be working still?!”
“I’m talking right now! So I still have a voice!”
“…well I guess so…” As he thought about what she said a different fact came to him. It was a fact that made him shrink again in embarrassment. “What the hell am I arguing with a ghost for?! You’re not real! Ghosts don’t exist! Period!”
“Don’t exist, huh?” She had had enough of his disbelief and back talking. A thought came to her that turned her expression into a smirk. The ghost reached out and grabbed his hand, putting it on her shoulder. “How’s that for not real?!”
He went a little pale from a ghost touching him. “That’s impossible!”
Nothing made sense anymore. Seiji’s brain flipped into a loop. “G-Ghost!”
The woman could not help but sigh loudly upon hearing him. “Back to that? Thought we already covered that fact! Yes! Ghost! Can we move on?” She dropped her hands back down to her hips and leaned over to Seiji, however it was more than he could take causing him to speed off. “I didn’t mean it literally…”
Half of the shrine was put between them before Seiji looked at his surroundings. Until that point he didn’t know what was happening, having been almost in a bubble isolated from the world. Seiji slowed down when he finally started to take things in. “What the hell is going on?!”
Nearly surrounding him were more than twenty creatures of the undead. Seiji had never studied the undead or mythology behind it, but he knew they were more than just ghosts. There were some ghosts, but the rest were corporal in form. He even saw a couple of skeletons clattering along looking very lost.
There didn't seem to be any of the patrons around anymore confusing Seiji since it used to be too crowded. He looked around the grounds. No one alive remained in the area. Worse, it looked like more undead appeared.
Unfortunately for him, the initial confusion started to wear off of him and he realized that he was being flanked by ghosts. These ghosts had a darker aura about them in purple with eyes that seemed to be glowing. Regardless of intent, ghosts were still ghosts and he quickly went into a dumb shock. “…so many…ghosts…” Seiji checked the hell out.
“Is someone there?” a deep panicked voice called. “Help me!”
Seiji heard the man and came back alive. The call for help awakened his courage. He sharpened his senses to focus on the sound of the voice. “I’m coming! Hang on!” There were too many undead wandering forcing him to start pushing through them.
It wasn't until he began to make contact with them that they detected his presence. The closest to Seiji shifted their attention to him trying to grab him. He was strong enough to keep out of their grasp, but they refused to give up. “What the hell’s wrong with you?”
The push through finally revealed a middle aged man lying on the ground with two undead creatures pinning him. There was an unnatural sense that he got from what the two beings were attempting to do to the man. It increased his urgency to reach the man in time. The middle aged man flailed about the ground trying to get free. One of the creatures pressed its horrifically disfigured face up to the man’s own face. A strange white glow started to be emitted from the creature that slowed the man’s movements down. ‘There’s too many of them!’
Seiji stopped caring about trying to avoid or fight off the damn undead. He plowed straight through yelling from his lungs. The noise pulled in even more trying to drag down Seiji. A fierce glowing fury surrounded Seiji. He charged through colliding with the last few causing the undead to explode to powder.
While he was still in motion Seiji transferred his strength into his legs and kicked the creature’s head. The second undead immediately drew away to Seiji only to receive a crushing kick that cleaved vertically down the creature’s body. A crumbling mass fell on either side of the man. “Sir! Sir!” Seiji knelt down trying to snap him back to reality. A weak bony hand on Seiji’s neck from behind changed his mind.
“I’m sorry, sir…but there’s no other way!” Seiji lifted the man up, throwing him over his shoulder and re-ignited his rage to start creating him a path. Running like an enraged bull, Seiji was unable to be stopped by the feeble attempts.
Coming around the front of the shrine it began to clear out some. “Big Brother?!”
Hearing Shoji shout out to him stopped Seiji. “Shoji?! Are you safe?”
“Yeah, Seiji! Come in here!” Shoji motioned to him quickly from the top of the stairs. He seemed to have avoided any harm from the creatures.
Seiji nodded back as he fixed the man trying to slide off his shoulder. When he reached near the top of the stairs there was an electrical feeling that ran through him. It felt warm and inviting rather than painful leaving him a little unsettled. He didn't let it stop him until he reached the spot next to his little brother.
The moment that Seiji turned around, to see if he was being followed, a nearly transparent yellow screen with a small opening appeared before him. The hole didn't last long as it closed up completing the screen that ran around the entire house perimeter.
“All done!” Shoji exclaimed before jumping up with excitement. “I’m starting to get a hang of it now, Big Brother!” He looked over to Seiji with a proud expression that Seiji could only return with complete confused shock. “What’s wrong?”
“What’s going on? That…that thing… You did that, Shoji?”
“Yup! Pretty cool ain’t?”
“How? What?” The words coming out of Seiji had to be kept short as he was having difficulty taking it, as opposed to Shoji (who thought it was natural). He had to let the man he carried down, resting against the outer supports of the house.
“It seems to be keeping those creatures at bay,” bellowed their grandfather’s voice from the house. Once he had their attention, he opened the door the rest of the way, revealing the countless patrons behind him. He stepped out onto the porch that surrounded the house staring at his grandchildren. “I don’t understand fully, but it seems Shoji was able to erect a divine barrier using those talismans that he’s been throwing around the shrine all morning.”
Seiji turned towards their grandfather, still unable to accept things. “How is that possible? None of this is possible!” It seemed to be completely beyond imagining, like a dream. He shook his head thinking that he just had to wake up.
Then his mind suddenly jerked back to a memory that felt familiar to this situation. ‘Yuki?! Is this Yuki’s doing? Like before when he did that strange stuff?’ Seiji looked around in the house quickly trying to check his theory. He stepped back out catching his family’s strange looks. “Either of you see Yuki this morning around here or in the house just before all of this?”
“No,” his grandfather said gravely as the name immediately turned his rough mood foul.
“Oh, so this is where you ran off to!” a soft voice said before appearing to hang onto Seiji. The ghost woman from Seiji’s encounter returned. She was still grinning widely, enjoying how much Seiji was already being freaked out.
“What are you doing here?!”
“I was so lonely out there when you left me! That was very rude of you!” The woman poked him in the cheek as she pouted to accent her displeasure.
Seiji grabbed her by the waist to rip her away from him and set her a more comfortable distance apart. She quickly ignored it and floated back up to him. “That’s not what I’m asking! How’d you get through the barrier?” He had to stop looking at her to keep his fear from overrunning him again. Seiji turned down to look at Shoji and his grandfather. “I thought you said this kept the undead out!”
She jumped up on his back and leaned in with her face brushing up against the side of his head. There was a playful look in her eyes. “Oh that little thing? I can answer you that, my fearful priest. You see that barrier only wards off spirits with negative emotions or intent. So I can slip on through like it’s not there!”
“What?! All you have is negative intent!”
“The nerve of people!”
Shoji came up behind Seiji and tugged on his sleeve. “Hey Seiji… Who’s this pretty lady?”
“Oh my!” the ghost said, starting to blush at the compliment. “Seiji you have such a cute little brother!”
Seiji was caught between the two becoming conflicted on who to answer with the woman’s responses becoming even more annoying to him. He had to turn back to deal with her first. “Enough from you!”
“Is she your girlfriend, Big Brother?”
The word girlfriend had hit Seiji hard enough to turn him a few shades of red. At his side the woman laughed loudly, having more fun. She moved in around the petrified Seiji and wrapped her arms around him looking a little seductive at him. “Oh we’re more than just that! We’re lovers!” Anything that might have been holding Seiji together was gone as he shattered to pieces with the words echoing in his mind.
“Hey! Wait a da–minute!” He glared over at the woman, who was still hanging from his shoulders. “Stop putting weird ideas in my brother’s head! We’re nothing of the sort!”
A rumbling cough came from their grandfather as he forced himself into the conversation and interrupted it. “I’ll have a talk with you later about this Seiji…”
“Old man!? Not you too!”
“But we have a more important matter at hand.” Their grandfather raised his hand out towards the shrine grounds. There was a horde of undead amassing around them only being held back by the barrier from Shoji. “We can’t stay here forever, especially with so many people inside. This problem needs to be dealt with first.”
The seriousness of his tone changed the entire mood and straightened up Seiji. It cleared his head, putting it to focus. Seiji stepped away from the woman leaving her forgotten behind him. “Leave them to me, old man!” He pounded his hands together to get himself psyched up for the fight. His grandfather approached Seiji from his right giving him a questioning look of concern for his safety, knowing it was pretty much suicide. “Worried about me, old man? I’m touched, but I can’t let you go out there with me. Can’t have you breaking a hip with your age!”
“Well let’s get this party started!” Seiji shouted with a smirk pulling up across his face. “It’s been a while since I’ve had a worthy challenge!”