Note: This was written as a set of ten ficlets. It was named for someone's unfortunate glitch where Miku gets stuck in the wall between the Cherry Atrium and the Abyss.

Forever Stuck in the Wall
by Estirose
c 2012

His hair was being petted.

Mafuyu opened his eyes, not sure as to who would be petting his hair. He'd had no girlfriends, because it had never seemed right. He couldn't see Yuu, Kei, or Miku petting his hair, either.

He shifted so that he could see who it was, and his eyes widened in astonishment. "Kirie?"

"You remember!" She was the same being that he'd last seen, Malice floating up over her shoulders, her own form fuzzy and distorted. But she was smiling, like she had when he'd collapsed. "I never thought I'd get you back, Mafuyu."

Had he told her his name? He didn't remember.

"But now you are, and when Miku remembers, we'll all be a family. Nobody can take you away from me, not anymore."

"Miku?" He still felt fuzzy. "My sister? What's happened to her?"

He should feel horrified, but something wasn't quite working right. Was he alive? Was Miku?

Experimentally, he reached out towards a nearby stone. His hand passed right through it.

"The same thing I did with you, Mafuyu. You were reborn as what you were meant to be." There was a serenity in her voice as if she'd found peace, and Mafuyu wished she genuinely had.

But instead, she had killed him and Miku, him under the impression that he was her long-lost lover, and Miku for the reason that she was his sister. "I'm not your lover." The sooner she learned that the better. He'd still be there for her, because it was his fault that he'd gotten himself killed, but he should be honest.

He would have probably been sick to his stomach, if he had a stomach.

"I know." She held out her hand and he let her help him sit up. "But you're him reborn, come back for me. I remember now. He was killed because he loved me. But he found a way to me. It just took you, him, a while."

"And Miku?" He supposed it was better than her dying like Kirie's other victims, but he wasn't sure he liked the idea that she was as he was.

"Is your sister. We're a family." She was smiling. "I know you won't betray me."

Something in him wanted to shiver. He was sure he couldn't do that anymore. "Where is she?"

"Wandering." She shrugged. "She doesn't remember. Until she does, I let her wander every so often." She looked at him. "I let you do that, too. You kept being more and more awake, until now."

His gaze shifted to the Camera Obscura, sitting there innocently. How far had Miku come? Had she come to this place, had Kirie held her like she'd held him? Somehow, he didn't see her dying so placidly as he had.

"But now you're here, you can be with me." Kirie was lifting him to his feet, giggling like a schoolgirl. He wondered how much she'd gotten to giggle, growing up in this grim place.

He wanted to help her. He wanted to be with her. He wanted her to be at peace.

And Miku had paid the price.

But there was nothing to do now, just let Kirie almost shyly hold his hand and carry him to the surface above.

*  *  *

"What are you thinking, Mafuyu?" Kirie asked as they stood by the tree. It was dark, and there was the woman, Yae, hanging from it.

"I was thinking about taking a picture. With my camera." He wondered if cameras existed when Kirie was alive.

"No!" He was surprised by Kirie's reaction. "Mafuyu! That camera is meant to be used against us. It could destroy you, in the wrong hands!"

He stared at her. "You know about the camera?" He'd thought of at least saving Miku through it, saving her from an eternity with him and Kirie. She shouldn't have to suffer.

But at the moment, he mostly thought of Yae, hanging from the tree. From the clues, she had to be his great-grandmother, and he hated the thought of her hanging there for eternity. She was family; he couldn't let her suffer, either.

"You told me about the Camera Obscura, you and Miku. In the wrong hands, I could lose you. I won't let that happen. Anybody who would hurt you would, and they would have to die for that." She sounded like a particularly overprotective mother, instead of a ghost tortured to death and infected by evil.

"I'm used to having it." He thought longingly of it. Even if he couldn't use it, he still wanted it.

"Imagine it in your hands, then," she nodded, having thought of something. "That's what Miku does, unconsciously. I've seen it in her hands when she wanders about. If she could do that, you can, too."

Mafuyu thought about that, imagined the Camera Obscura in his hands. And it showed up, causing him to almost drop it.

It felt as solid as the real one to him, but he knew it wasn't. It didn't feel the same. And yet as he aimed at the hanging woman, he felt comfort in using it.

She didn't disappear, of course. It wasn't the Camera Obscura. It couldn't get rid of ghosts.

But it was a start.

Kirie laid a hand on his arm. "It's strange," she said. "That a device you know could destroy you brings you such... comfort."

"It can't hurt you or me," Mafuyu said, "But it can take pictures." It probably couldn't, but he could pretend, couldn't he? "I invented one that can't hurt." Or imagined it. But did it matter anymore?

She smiled. "Then take a picture of me, Mafuyu."

"Stand by the tree," he said. He should be alive, exorcising her. But he'd lost his chance, and he wouldn't have another one. So all he could do is take a picture, make Kirie not fear it.

And someday, maybe, someone would use the Camera Obscura to end everything, purifie Kirie, let himself, Miku, and everyone else leave the place.

In the meantime, at least Kirie smiled.

*  *  *

The camera flickered out of existence as Mafuyu looked at it. "Don't worry," Kirie said, leaning against his arm. "It will come back."

He supposed that it was something he was going to have to get used to, just as he was getting used to sitting on the porch like he was, with the railing passing through his body as if it didn't exist. Behind him, a blinded woman, blood running down her face, felt for walls that weren't there.

At least things weren't worse. He was keenly aware of the Malice above Kirie, which would have consumed him if Kirie hadn't been - wasn't - protecting him from it. It was why he'd been careful, trying to keep Kirie happy.

"Beloved," Kirie said, "What are you thinking?"

He couldn't be honest with her. He wished he could. "I'm worried about Miku."

To one side of the porch, the blinded woman cried of loneliness and despair. She seemed unable to hear them, however, coasting into a wall to look for her lost eyes. Mafuyu really didn't mind, because she'd come the closest to nearly killing him, if he hadn't been so good at staying still.

"She's not far," Kirie assured him. "You're a good brother, Mafuyu."

He gave her a small smile. "Miku was all I had." Was still all he had, not that he could say that out loud. "I had to protect her."

"As I will protect you, now," Kirie told him. "You're so good at easing my pain, I could never let you go."

"I don't know if anybody besides Miku would come looking for me," he confessed. He hoped nobody would, given Kirie's Malice-influenced thoughts.

Kirie sighed, watching Tomoe-san's ghost coast by. "I've had to protect you once from those who would take you and Miku away."

"You… what?" He forgot that she was leaning on him, nearly springing up before he remembered that she might not take that well.

"I'll show you, beloved. You have nothing to fear." She got up, still holding onto his arm, and took him down the hall. Ahead of them, Tomoe-san retraced her last day of life.

She took him through the hallways, through the walls and stairs, until they came to a room that Mafuyu recognized. It had given him the chills, because so many ghosts seemed to like to walk through it every time he came through.

Ahead of them, Tomoe-san disappeared into the far wall.

"There." Kirie was pointing. Mafuyu forced himself to look, even if he didn't want to.

There was a ghost solidifying, looking away from them, calling their names, his and Miku's. As the ghost turned around, Mafuyu almost lost his balance, having to take a step back, and suddenly glad he couldn't fall in the water. And it wouldn't get him wet anyway.

"Yuu," he breathed. He wondered what would happen with Yuu's girlfriend, what anyone would think when so many of them had gone missing.

"He wanted to take you from me," Kirie said simply. "He saw Miku; I had to act."

First himself, a loss he could accept. Then, because of what he'd done, Miku was bound to this place, too. And Yuu, too, mindlessly spending eternity looking for them. He was discovering how badly he'd messed things up, coming to this place. "He isn't… here, is he? He doesn't remember."

"No." Kirie was looking at Yuu as well. "But he'll be a good reminder to anybody else who thinks they can take you away from me."

Mafuyu shivered, and was glad that he couldn't feel the cold anymore.

*  *  *

Kirie seemed content to leave Mafuyu alone for a while, telling him to come down to the gate when he was ready.
 
He supposed that the room was his home now, that he would spend eternity connected to it. But for the moment, he wanted to explore the mansion. Why, he wasn't sure, because it wasn't like he didn't have eternity.
 
Or less, if he figured out how to break Kirie's curse.
 
"I'm sorry," he told Yuu's ghost. The ghost ignored him, unable to hear him. None of the ghosts besides Kirie could hear him now. His friend walked down the final plank and across the last path, disappearing through the door and leaving him alone, for the moment.
 
It didn't matter. He'd be back. Mafuyu could always come back and he'd find his friend.
 
He walked back to the other door. Kirie had said that Miku was nearby. She was traveling in her own patterns, living through her own last days, just as he'd apparently done before he became conscious. He peeked into room after room, slowly becoming comfortable with the fact that he could just walk through the walls instead of worrying about doors.
 
Miku was in a room full of dolls, inspecting a piece of paper. Mafuyu walked up to her. "Miku?"
 
She probably couldn't hear him, but it wouldn't hurt to try.
 
"Miku? Can you hear me?" But she didn't respond. He peeked over her shoulder, recognizing his own handwriting.
 
His sister was reading one of his notes, the one about not being able to save Takamine-san or the others. "He's alive! My brother's alive!" Miku said to the wall.
 
And then she ran off, camera in hand, flashlight in the other. Mafuyu sighed. He wasn't alive, and neither was Miku, but it wasn't like she would know that at the moment. He doubted she'd noticed that she went right through the door without opening it first.
 
Traveling in circles, in patterns. That's how most everyone in this mansion worked. He and Kirie were probably the only ones who didn't do that.
 
Maybe he should get back to Kirie. Nothing was likely to change here; nothing seemingly did.
 
"Help me..."
 
He looked down. The little child ghost. He'd forgotten about her.
 
"You must help me...."
 
Kirie, as a child. She'd helped him around the mansion when he'd been lost, and he had no doubt she'd done the same for every other living person.
 
"I'm dead."
 
She shook her head. "I've forgotten my duty...."
 
It was entirely strange, he thought, to be talking to Kirie-that-was. "I can't touch anything." As much as he'd like to, he couldn't.
 
"But you can show others how to help me." She looked at him with wide eyes and a worried expression.
 
He could do that. Miku, too, once she woke up like he had. He could help people, keep them from being killed. "The Camera Obscura. I can't move it, but...."
 
Kirie might be upset if it was moved to somewhere where it could hurt him and Miku, but it was his best chance.
 
The girl, Kirie-who-was, merely nodded, and disappeared.
 
Maybe there was hope, after all.

*  *  *

Mafuyu leaned against a wall. It might have been more accurate to say that he perceived a wall to lean against, and he was leaning against it, for he had no problem walking through it if he needed to.

He was watching Yuu negotiate the backyard on the way to the shrine, having felt a strange need to watch over his friend even as he knew that Yuu was never coming back like Miku would, someday.

"Mafuyu!" Kirie screamed, emerging from the nearby wall.

"Kirie? What's-"

She didn't give him a chance to finish the question. Drawing his sister out of the wall beside her, she thrust Miku's hand into his. His sister looked at him blankly, as if he was a piece of the structure instead of her older brother.

"Take Miku down, where you'll both be safe." There was no room for negotiation in Kirie's words.

He tried anyway. "But you-" if he could stop her, maybe someone could get through and save them all.

She glared at him, and then softened a tiny bit. "Down."

"Intruders?" he asked. That could be the only reason for her worry.

"Yes. They need to be dealt with." Her tone was grim. "Take Miku down where you'll be safe."

He nodded. There wasn't much he could do. He wasn't ready to help someone find their way down and fix Kirie. He sank into the ground, trusting that he could find his way to the gate room, or at least somewhere. He couldn't afford to lose Kirie's goodwill, not yet.

The two of them emerged into the small well room, next to the mummified body. He knew that Kirie would be expecting him to take himself and Miku to the gate, so he did, hauling her down that way.

When they were in the gate room, he let go. "Miku? Do you-" He was going to ask if she remembered, but she was looking blankly at him again.

And then, suddenly, she had her arms up as if pushing off someone who had her in their arms, trying to get away and struggling violently against them, before she collapsed and faded away.

Mafuyu sat down suddenly, staring at the spot where she'd fallen. Was that how Miku had died, struggling against Kirie as Kirie killed her?

He had plenty of time to think about it, as it seemed like forever before Kirie reappeared, a satisfied smile on her face. "You're safe now, beloved."

"Miku…." He looked down, intending to ask her what happened.

"Beloved?" Kirie screeched, grabbing his arm. It shouldn't have hurt, but it *did*.

"Kirie… what happened to Miku?" he asked. "I got her down here, and she… disappeared."

The grip on his arm relaxed. "It's okay, Mafuyu. She's just reliving her death, as you do when you wake up."

He couldn't imagine himself doing that, but apparently he did.

"I'm sorry to have worried you." It seemed the good thing to say. "I just… Miku…." Realizing that compared to her death, his was so peaceful, he added, "I know it's such a small thing, but I worry about her. And you."

Kirie relaxed even more. "Oh, Mafuyu… she'll be back, and we'll both be safe. I took care of the intruders. You have nothing to fear." She leaned her head against his shoulder, and the Malice brushed at his head, wanting to possess him as it did Kirie.

"Did she fight much?" he asked. It was probably an odd question to ask, but he had to know. Besides, he'd always been the curious sort.

"Your sister?" Kirie looked up at him. "Yes. She thought I was an enemy and not an ally. She didn't want to take the gift I gave her." She sighed. "You didn't struggle at all."

He didn't tell her that he hadn't struggled because he'd realized too late what she was doing to him. He doubted that she'd given Miku any more warning than she had him. But he'd chosen his path, and he would stick to it. "You needed me."

It was the truth; Kirie needed him and Miku. She needed family, people to love her, until she could be purified and the Malice driven away.

She dropped her gaze, settling her head back on his shoulder. "I did. I waited for so long…"

Mafuyu didn't move, letting Kirie relax against him. It felt strange, plotting against her for her sake, and wanting to be there for her at the same time.

And then Kirie tensed up again. "Kirie?" he asked, alarmed. He followed her gaze, not sure what had made her so worried.

"Your Camera," she said. "It's gone."

*  *  *

Mafuyu watched Kirie coast angrily down the pathway. She had reluctantly allowed him to come with her, and he wasn't sure he should. But he had to find where Kirie-that-was had thought to put the camera.

"Something in me tells me I shouldn't trust you," Kirie had said, and Mafuyu had to think quickly to convince her that he was loyal to her.

He didn't know if she could destroy him, but she could probably make him regret coming down. Other ghosts still suffered from the Rope Curse, and she seemed to think she could inflict it on him and Miku as well. At least the Malice hadn't touched him, seemingly content to cause pain instead of infecting him.

Mafuyu had no doubt that when it got bored with causing pain, it would touch him and he'd be as Kirie was.

"Where do we start looking?" he asked, trying to keep Kirie focused. The sooner they found the Camera, Kirie might calm down. Getting the camera to someone who could use it was a good idea, but it had to wait until Kirie wasn't so sensitive about it.

Until she forgot, it wasn't safe to take the real camera anywhere.

"Upstairs, most likely," Kirie growled.

Mafuyu nodded, catching up with her. "Then let's find it. Together."

Her grimace lightened into a grim smile. "Yes."

"I don't want to be destroyed either," he said. "I love my camera, but...."

"I'm going to destroy it," she said. "It needs to be, Mafuyu, before it can hurt you."

"And Miku," he reminded her. His sister hadn't rematerialized yet, but he was sure from Kirie's reaction that she would. Or, he hoped, she wouldn't, but that wasn't likely to happen.

"Yes. You'd miss Miku." Her tone told him that she had more on her mind than Miku's continued existance.

Which was good, in a way. It wasn't quite a war yet, but he and Kirie-that-was would do anything to fix Kirie. And the Malice would do anything to keep Kirie causing havoc.

"We're going to be together forever, aren't we?" he asked. Unless he could figure out how to curie Kirie. "Can I become strong enough to protect you, too?"

"I almost absorbed you," she said, ignoring his second question. "Maybe I should have, just to keep you safe."

Mafuyu had to shiver at that. "I'd rather be able to touch you." He didn't want her to get the idea to do that; he couldn't save her stuck inside her.

She'd stopped at that, turning to him and suddenly embracing him. "I like that, too." But after a moment, she stepped away. "But I don't want to lose you."

"So you'd absorb me."

"If I needed to." She looked up at him. "I'd rather have you inside me than lose you."

"And Miku?" he asked. He hoped she couldn't absorb both of them and if she'd absorb Miku if she had a choice.

Kirie turned to him with a sudden bright smile. "Of course! I should absorb you, and be with Miku. That way I can make sure we both have our family all the time."

She ran a hand gently through his hair as he stiffened. "Of course," she said, "Maybe I should wait until you're in danger. I'd rather look at you longer. But I'll keep you safe, no matter what. Nobody is allowed to take you from me."

The Malice, he noticed, seemed to approve. It could hardly torment him if he'd been absorbed into her, could it? Or use him.

"Let's go find the camera. I don't want you to worry."

"Of course." She let go of him. "I knew you were loyal to me, Mafuyu."

Mafuyu only wished he was.

*  *  *

Mafuyu sat and watched his little sister reappear for what seemed like the hundredth time, but he was sure it was only the sixth or so. He himself found closing his eyes relaxing, though he'd apparently alarmed Kirie the first time he did that, becuase he'd faded out.

He'd lied, telling her that his death had been so peaceful, why shouldn't his body go through the rest of the motions? He didn't want to tell her how his death actually had been; he didn't want her upset.

So she allowed him to fade out as often as he wanted, because she wanted him to be happy. He'd argued, also, that it was a way of defending himself, of protecting himself in case she wasn't able to, so that he'd be around when she needed him.

She'd protested that she'd always defend him, that it wasn't necessary for him to do that, but if it helped him, she'd allow him to do that.

Miku sat up. He knew it would take time for her to be herself again, because it had taken him a while to do the same. Still, he waited each time to see if she remembered him, or if she was going to rush off to chase ghosts.

"Mafuyu?" she asked, looking around. But she'd asked that before, and then rushed off, so he didn't move. Better to wait and see before being disappointed.

She turned his way, and he tensed up. Just because she was looking his way didn't mean she saw him.

And then she was launching herself into his arms, and any debate on whether she was back or not was moot. "Mafuyu! Are you okay?"

"I'm... um." He didn't know how to bring it up to her that they were both dead.

"What's wrong, Mafuyu?" she looked up at his face. "You're pretty good at talking...."

"Look down." It seemed the easiest way to tell her that she was standing in a rock.

Miku did, and shrieked, just a tiny bit. She stared at the ground. "Mafuyu, what happened?"

"Kirie killed us both, and because it was here...."

His sister's eyes widened. "I tried to fight her, but...."

"I know." He sighed. "You've been repeating your death every time Kirie brings you down here."

Miku looked confused, and Mafuyu didn't blame her. It had been a lot to take in for him, and it couldn't be any less for her.

"Anyway, she thought I was her boyfriend and then realized I wasn't, but by then she decided I was an acceptable substitute. And she decided that since you'd come here for me, you were worth keeping around as well." He hoped Kirie would get back soon. If Kirie got back, he could convince her to let them upstairs.

"I kept reading on how much she appeared, but she never showed up for me," Miku said, perhaps remember her own experience. "I saw you several times, but...."

"I also saw you," Mafuyu confessed. "But you couldn't see me, either. I left you a note about that...."

She nodded. "Are we here for eternity?" she asked.

"We're keeping Kirie company forever," Mafuyu told her. He didn't want to say more, not there, not next to the hellgate. "It's why she killed us like she did. So we could be her family for eternity."

"Forever?" she echoed, and he could tell she was as happy about it as he was.

"I'll tell you more after Kirie returns," he said. "She's family now, remember."

"My sister-in-law, then?" Miku asked, as anybody would who was trying to figure out how to deal with this.

"I don't know." He shook his head.

Kirie floated in then, grimacing as she saw them. "You're awake?"

Miku nodded, as if not sure what to do next.

"Miku asked if we were married, you and I," Mafuyu said, thinking that was the best way to start the conversation.

The grimace somehow became a smile. "That's a wonderful idea! I'm glad I brought both of you here."

"Does anybody know how to hold a wedding?" Miku asked.

"It doesn't matter," Kirie said. "Mafuyu and I are now married."

"Shouldn't we celebrate... or something like that?" MIku added.

"We should say our vows under the tree," Mafuyu added. It would give Kirie something to do while he thought of how to get around this. "With Miku as witness."

Kirie laughed. "If that's how you want it...."

"I want to say my vows to you," Mafuyu said, hoping that she'd stop hovering around them if she wasn't worried and let them plan on how to get everything fixed.

"Hm." Kirie thought about that. "That sounds good! Let's go, both of you." She floated upwards.

Mafuyu looked at Miku, reaching out and taking her hand. "You heard her." He hoped that she would follow his lead, because it would take too much explaining otherwise.

He floated upwards with her.

*  *  *

"Mafuyu, what are you *thinking*?" Miku exclaimed quietly, so that Kirie couldn't hear. They were standing on the porch of the Cherry Atrium, semi-obscured from Kirie.

"The happier she is... the easier she can keep the Malice from absorbing us, and maybe it'll be easier for the next person to free all of us." Mafuyu closed his eyes. Looking at him, Miku could well believe that he wanted to save all of them; he was that kind of person. "She destroyed the Camera, but there might be more like it out there."

Miku thought of the parts of the Holy Mirror she'd collected on her way to save Mafuyu. "Or if they get the Holy Mirror together... but I only had four of the five parts when she... when she...."

She remembered arriving in the chamber and Kirie actually smiling at her as she grabbed her. It reminded her creepily of Mr. Munakata, who kept telling her not to be afraid even as he was trying to kill her. A lot of the ghosts were interested in shaking her to death just to get her to help them.

Kirie hadn't let Miku slip out of her grasp, no matter how much Miku had struggled. She'd somehow known that it was the end, that she was going to haunt the place like everybody else had.

"Is anybody else here conscious?" she asked.

Mafuyu shook his head. "You, me, and Kirie." He sighed. "She killed Yuu.. you remember him. He was trying to find us and she killed him for it."

She remembered Yuu well. "Then we're the only ones that can end this."

"Us and somebody else." He gave her a smile. "But let's go do this before Kirie gets worried."

Indeed, the ghost was frowning. "What took you so long?"

"Big brother was explaining how much he missed me and how he hoped that I'd be happy with his marriage to you," Miku said, thinking fast. "And we were trying to figure out the vows."

"We thought about a Western ceremony," Mafuyu said, "But you wouldn't probably know what that was, and I thought you'd had enough of ceremonies anyway."

"Yes," Kirie said, sounding mollified. "You two think so much of my happiness...."

"Let's stand below the tree," Mafuyu said, taking Kirie's hands. "There's no priest here, but...."

So, they did. Miku looked up at the woman hanging from the tree, and thought of how she'd rather not see her brother getting married to a murderous ghost, no matter what his intentions. His kindness would probably get him killed, or permanently destroyed.


"We don't need a priest," Kirie said simply.

"I wouldn't want any of them here anyway," Miku said, thinking of how awful they'd been to fight. She gazed upon the grave of the one in the atrium, who seemed the kindest of the lot.

"Nor would I," Kirie said approvingly. "Mafuyu?"

"Kirie," he said, and Miku hoped he knew what to say. "I knew something was pulling me here. I thought it was Mr. Takamine, but it turns out it was you. I didn't know until I came here of what I was missing, but you filled in that part of my life." He looked down at her face. "I'll be with you, for I was born to come here, to forsake my search for new lands in order to be in your arms."

Miku wondered how much of that was genunine and how much of that was his folklore studies and making things up.

"And Mafuyu," Kirie said, looking up at him, "You came back for me, even as they tried to separate us forever." She was smiling. "I will protect you and Miku forever."

Miku thought she should say something. "You're married now?" It came out far less confident than she wished.

"Thank you, Miku." Kirie let go of Mafuyu's hands. "We're truly a family now."

"Kirie," Mafuyu said, "The reason I wanted to say my vows here... this is my great-grandmother, in the tree."

Kirie looked up at the woman, and Miku had to look at her too. "This is our great-grandmother, Mafuyu?" She remembered fighting the woman, running around the grounds to get a good shot. She'd been tough and hadn't gone down easily. To think that she was their great-grandmother was amazing....

Mafuyu was nodding. "Munakata Yae, our great-grandmother. Great-grandfather's here, too. He found the Blinding Mask and opened the tunnel...."

"He was trying to comfort me when he was throttling me to death," Miku said. It made a certain amount of sense, though maybe he would have done that to anyone.

"So, we unite my family and yours properly at last." Kirie was satisfied. "Someday you will be able to avenge my pain as I do, but in the meantime, we are together and have our kin around us."

"We should try to awaken the other ghosts," Miku said. She didn't know who Mafuyu had mentioned before Kirie had gotten impatient. "I'd like to get to know my great-grandparents, and if we could get those children awake, we could enjoy them being around too...."

Kirie was beaming. The thing attached to her was writhing - in agony or ectasy, Miku wasn't sure. "I made the right decision, bringing you both to this state," she said. "Together, we'll do it. We'll have family that cares for us."

Miku just hoped that she was making the right choice. If there were more awake, the more they could help end Kirie's curse.

It just might take some time.

*  *  *

Miku folded her hands as she watched Kirie. There was an absolutely scary smile on the other ghost's face as she hovered around the background well.

Kirie had gone on and on about how big an innovation it was to make a family out of ghosts. She'd elected to go for one of the children first, and while Miku had suggested the one in the clock - she'd kind of liked him - Kirie had elected to go for the one in the well. "She's the most gruesome," Kirie said. "And then I think I would like to awaken the Blinded maiden. She could go after our enemies so much better if she was aware of them!"

"I... think that she does pretty well without being awakened, actually," Miku said. "I had a lot of trouble with her. And one of Mafuyu's notes said the same thing."

Kirie was beaming. "Which ones gave you the most trouble, Miku? That way, I know which ones that I should awaken!"

"Um." She thought about that. "The headless priests, but they gave you so much grief that I wouldn't want to cause you pain. And Mafuyu's colleage, Tomoe-san, and his boss, Takamine-san...."

"Ah, so the new arrivals." Kirie nodded in satisfaction. "I'll admit that there would be some satisfaction in waking up the priests. I could torment them better that way...."

"I, um, wouldn't mind that either." Did that sound evil? It was probably so. Kirie hadn't even been the one to kill them.

"Then we'll try one of them next." Kirie was nodding in satisfaction. "Which one should we try, Miku?"

Miku pointed at the grave near the well. "That one?"

"Excellent." The creature on her back seemed satisfied as well. "Miku, you're progressing so much faster than Mafuyu. I fear that Mafuyu is too kind a soul to understand what needs to be done."

"Mafuyu would help anyone," Miku said. "He's better at comforting, and I'm more practical. But let's try one of the kids, first, so that you and Mafuyu can have a family."

Much as it appealed to her, she wasn't into torturing people, even people who had done evil things long ago. She would leave that to Kirie, not allow herself to become affected.

But Kirie was gazing at the priest's grave. Which made sense. The girl had died years after Kirie had, and she had nothing to do with Kirie's death. The priest did. "Or do you think awakening the priest would be easier and more satisfying?"

"Hm." Kirie looked at the grave. "I'd prefer the priest. That way, if it only partially works, he can be in even more pain!"

"Let's try him, then," Miku said, and wondered if she was being touched by the evil. She'd have to ask Mafuyu - he'd have a clearer head on that.

In all of her life, Miku couldn't have imagined being this way and causing such pain. But she really had no choice. Mafuyu really had no choice. If they couldn't figure out how to break the curse, how to get themselves free, they'd be spending eternity at Kirie's whim.

"Very well. How do you think we should start?" Kirie asked.

It felt like being in school again, working with others. Except she didn't have to worry about her sixth sense because it went with her body.

"Try... dragging him down?" she asked. "Maybe to where we died." She had no clue. But if it worked for her and Mafuyu, it might work for him. "I'd try my camera, but..."

"It's destroyed." Kirie said, with satisfaction as she grabbed the priest. Or his body. Who knew where his head was. "It contained a part of the Holy Mirror, and it will never be able to harm you again."

So that was where the last piece was, she thought as she followed Kirie down. She'd have to talk to Mafuyu about it.

But in the meantime, she had to follow Kirie. She had to convince Kirie that she was loyal to her. Because if she didn't, this would all be for naught.

*  *  *

"My head," the revived priest muttered as he looked at the two of them in bewilderment, his head floating a few inches above his neck. "My head."

"I'm sorry," Mafuyu said, reaching out. There wasn't much he could do for the priest, who at least wasn't doing anything other than trying to push his head back to his neck. He couldn't imagine how much pain the man was in, and winced at the thought that it was his sister's idea to do this.

Miku looked at the priest with a mix of pity and satisfaction, and Kirie, had she not been going off to deal with some intruders, would have been cackling madly at the priest's pain.

Mafuyu had to admit that he didn't feel much pity for the man, but Kirie's choice was plain cruel. It turned out she enjoyed pain far more than having people around her, at least people who weren't him and Miku.

And how long would it be before he and Miku fell prey to that?

"Let's go out to the corridor," Mafuyu suggested. "Maybe you'll feel better."

The priest looked at him doubtfully, but didn't resist. Mafuyu led him up the hallway to the chamber where Kirie had been executed, deciding that it was the best place to talk.

"You're dead," the priest said, staring at him. "We killed you ourselves." He let go of his head and stopped trying to squish it down. "You made Kirie want to stay in this world."

"Actually, you killed a past me," Mafuyu said, figuring it would be easier to explain that way. "And then I was reborn to come back to her." He sighed. "We're trying to purify her so that the Malice disappears - will you help?"

Kirie had made sure he'd had the symbol without having to fight this man for it. Miku evidently hadn't been so lucky. He wondered if that was why Miku was corrupting far faster than he was.

And why he had to move as fast as he could to save his sister. The sooner they could fix Kirie, the sooner they could move on. All of them.

"Another sacrifice - one that isn't attached to this world." The priest's head was nodding in satisfaction. "One that isn't tainted by love."

Mafuyu was going to point out to him that there would be no more sacrifices, but then again, who would close the hellgate once all of them left. "That won't be our concern. We'll be gone to the afterlife."

"We should educate the next generation of priests." The man was off in his own world, and Mafuyu wondered if this was a wise idea.

"They can figure it out themselves." Maybe the hellgate would close and none of this would be a worry. "Our duty is to make sure Kirie gets purified and goes on so that she stops spreading the Malice."

"Very well," the priest said, looking at the platform where Kirie had died. "What do you need me and my fellow priests to do?"

"There's only one of you right now," Mafuyu pointed out, wondering how he was supposed to organize a rebellion under Kirie's nose with what he had. "And the only reason she brought you back was to torment you."

"Then you should get her to awaken others. There is another that would be sympathetic." The priest folded his hands. "It must be done, even if it causes pain…."

Words from someone who had helped tear an innocent maiden apart in this very room. Mafuyu wanted, for a moment, to tear him apart, but stopped himself. "Yes." He looked over at the man, hoping that he'd leave so that he didn't have to deal with him. "Go to your grave, until you're needed."

The priest bowed, and floated upwards.

Mafuyu returned to the room. "Big brother?" Miku asked, looking at him. "What did you do?"

"He was causing you pain," he said. Right at the moment, he wasn't sure if he could trust her. "I sent him back to haunt near his grave."

"You couldn't have had him haunt the Moon Shrine?" Miku asked.

He shrugged. "I didn't think about that…." He didn't want to deal with the priest more than he had to.

Kirie appeared back in the room, smiling in satisfaction. "There are no more intruders! I feel like celebrating. What should we do?"

Miku looked deep in thought, and then smiled. "We could wake up more priests!"

"As long as it makes you happy, Kirie," Mafuyu added. "Or one of the children…." He didn't want to tip his hand. He didn't want to give anybody else over to the horror that was Kirie.

"What do you want, Mafuyu?" Kirie asked, walking up to him and running her hands over his chest. She looked up at him, smiling. "What would make you the most happy? Who should I wake up for you?"

"I can't decide whether I want a family, one of the kids, or to torment someone for what they did to you," Mafuyu said. It covered things well. "When we were going through the passageway, that priest and I, he was talking and I thought of how much pain he'd caused us."

The Malice writhed, and Kirie laughed. "You're taking longer than Miku, but you're starting to see things as they should be. Come, Mafuyu. Let's pick out a priest to torment!"

"And this time, can we have him stay in the Moon Shrine?" Miku asked.

"If it causes him pain, yes," Kirie said cheerfully. "Come, Mafuyu, your choice."

"The one in the garden next to the Buddha room," Mafuyu said, finally. He hoped that he guessed right, that it was the one the other priest had in mind.

They had a long way to go before they could stop Kirie. She would be stopped, Mafuyu was sure of it. But in the meantime, there were things to be done.

It was only the beginning.

-end


Fatal Frame fics