Ghost Hunt:Volume 7 Chapter 4
 Chapter 4 August 13th 11am-3pm
“What? Are you kidding?”
Not daring to put it into words, silence reverberated between us.
“Could it be that because of the rain, the wooden door has taken up water and gotten stuck? If the door cannot open, let’s try the windows.” This was Ayako’s voice.
Thinking about it, there were many windows in this place, and the glass was already broken; there was no possibility of being trapped in this place.
“Mai, John, retreat.” Ayako picked up the empty glass bottle by her feet.
“Let’s break this glass and open it from the outside.”
“We’ll discuss who gets out of here first later.”
“As long as it isn’t me.”
Although our tones were relaxed, our facial expressions had stiffened a little. Ayako banged the empty bottle against the glass, creating a sound that put shivers down my spine; shards of glass littered the ground.
The bottle that was used to hit the glass, and the glass that was hit – the only one that shattered was the bottle.
“You’ve got to be kidding!”
I gestured to Ayako, who was slightly unsettled. “Aren’t there many other windows? Do we try them?”
Naru stopped us, who were about to make a move. “Don’t move unnecessarily.”
“I’m going to investigate it first. John, go to the second floor to check. – Mai!”
“Go with John, do not ever get separated from him. Matsuzaki-san, can you go with them too?”
“Go. Mai, go, explore forth.”
I hurried behind John and Ayako. My drenched clothes stuck heavily around my body.
Stairs were right in the center of the corridor straight from the entrance hall. If we climbed up the stairs, straight ahead would be the stage, further up were walls made from plywood, completely blocking any possible exit.
“Ah ne, there’s nowhere to go from here.”
“What a short exploration.”
“There’s a door.” There was a small door where Ayako pointed, it was locked with a small metal lock.
Although it was locked with a padlock, the lock came off the wood with a slight tug. The wood had already rotted away. Pulling aside the wood was a small doorway, we couldn’t pass through unless we bent over. Inside was a flight of stairs.
“… What should we do?” I looked towards John. Should we go down from here? What should we do if the door won’t open after we enter?
“Mai and Matsuzaki-san, stay here and keep the door open. I’ll go ahead to take a look.”
“But Naru said not to get separated.”
John smiled and said, “I’m just going a little further up, I’ll come back right after checking the state of the windows. If it’s open there I can still get out; if the windows there cannot be opened, then the rest of the windows cannot be opened either.”
I could see a window not far from the top of the flight of stairs.
“You’re just going up to that place, right?”
“Yeah, just there. I’ll test if that window can be opened and come right back.”
I propped the door open with my back, Ayako also held the doorframe tightly. John bent over and went inside. It was far dustier inside than outside.
Besides the window, there was no other light source. The light from the window was also very dim due to the rain. Inside the school building, it felt like it was already dusk.
At the top of the stairs, a corridor stretched out. Because it was a two storey building, on the first floor on the right, there were seven classrooms lined up in a row.
“Why are there so many classrooms?”
“Probably because there were so many students when this school was first built.”
“Is that so… as the number of students decreased, the second floor was not used and sealed off.”
As I spoke, my eyes followed John’s back closely. John stood in front of the window and shook the window slightly, before coming down immediately. It felt like the window couldn’t be opened, it didn’t budge an inch.
“Doesn’t it work?”
John smiled bitterly, “No. I somehow feel like the windows here are all crooked.”
Saying that, he emerged from the doorway. Only at this point did I realize how tense I was; only after John emerged fully, did I finally relax. Ayako, too, let out a breath.
After we came down, Naru and co were still testing leaving through the windows. After hearing John’s explanation, Naru’s expression turned extremely severe.
“How’s it going down there?”
“It can’t be opened.”
“Let’s use a more forceful method.”
“Let’s do so.”
Lin opened a near-by classroom and took out a chair. John thoughtfully took out a small bottle from his pocket, and gently scattered drops of water and drew them into a cross.
“Please stay further away.” Lin picked up the chair and smashed it; I hurriedly covered my ears. An ear-piercing sound was created momentarily.
I looked at the shattered chair, then at the window. At the instance the chair was flung towards the window it swayed crookedly. But that was all: neither the window frame nor the glass sustained any damage at all. I picked up a broken chair leg and flung it towards the glass. Regardless of how hard we smashed the glass, not a single crack appeared.
Without any inflexion whatsoever, Naru said,
“We have been completely sealed in.”
“What should we do?” I asked. Naru shrugged.
Everyone temporarily returned to the entrance hall and sat down.
“We still don’t know the opponent’s goals –”
“Do I have to explain to you? – It’s the opponent who makes use of paranormal strength to seal us inside this place.”
“If that’s the case, then the opponent shouldn’t be human, right?”
“Based on common sense, we are currently in this type of situation.”
“– At least we’ve found out there really is something over here.”
“Yes, I didn’t expect there to be anything.”
But the unchanging fact was, the sound of the rain continued on outside, it felt as though there was a waterfall outside.
“Forget it; then aren’t we going to do anything?”
After sighing, Ayako said, “Bou-san and co who went shopping will come back soon. They might find a way to get in from the outside.”
“But if they can’t?” When I said that, Ayako’s face was filled with dislike.
“We’ll make them do a little something regardless; fortunately they can still send a little food and water in through the places where there is no glass. I think, like this, we can survive for a while in any situation.”
Naru laughed bitterly, “The problem is how much we can hope.”
“Although we don’t know what our opponent is planning to do, I don’t think it simply just wants us to feel troubled or happy.”
Ayako was silent, John spoke, “Yes, it can’t be helped that we wait here, there’s nothing else we can do.”
– Yeah, it was indeed like this.
Naru nodded and looked at us. “Does anyone here have a lighter?”
“I brought one.” Ayako nodded. Naru took it from her, then glanced once more around the entrance hall.
“First use the shoe rack to set up a barricade in the corridor.”
“Are barricades any use against spirits? Isn’t it better to use the classroom?”
In response to my query, Naru shrugged his shoulders. “The classroom won’t do, we cannot get just a temporary reprieve, we must think of what might happen after the sun goes down.”
I felt confused, Naru immediately put on an arrogant look. “Do you want to wait around in complete darkness?”
Ah, I got it. And that was really very embarrassing, for me not to understand. With the lighter we could light a bonfire on the ground.
There were 2 footstools in the vestibule, and 2 shoe racks as well. The pieces were lined up 4 abreast – probably because there used to be many students originally. There were many more unused shoe racks piled up in the vestibule – a brief count showed there were more than 10 of them. We moved most of these onto the corridor.
“Because if anything happens, we can’t get to the other side either, so please don’t completely block it.” Lin said.
“If we don’t block it, then isn’t it pointless?”
“It doesn’t matter.”
We stacked the shoe racks on either side of the corridor up to the ceiling, with a gap in between for people to pass through. Slightly in front of that gap, we stacked up some more shoe racks. It was just like hiding the entrance with a screen.
“Is this alright?”
“It’s about there. Who brought the strap?”
“I have some – but they are plastic.”
I handed the strap to Lin; from the inner pocket of his jack, Lin took out a protective seal and stuck it side of the ‘screen’ made from shoe racks facing the corridor.
“That… may I ask a question?”
Lin didn’t reply but just looked at me.
“Why do you do this, does this not matter?”
“There is a popular believe that evil spirits can only walk straight, that’s why there’s the custom of placing a wall in front, or on the inner side of a door. It’s approximately similar to this false wall or screen.”
“Ai… is that so.”
“Although it’s only a saying that they can only walk straight, the false wall really has an effect – because the spirits perceive this as a real wall.”
“There are spirits that can pass through walls too, aren’t there?”
“There are. If we’re talking about spirits that can pass through walls, they can naturally pass through this setup easily. But if that’s the case, then blocking it totally would give the same result.”
Ah – so that’s the case.
“There’s also a door on the second floor.”
“Yeah, although it is very small.”
“Should we erect a false wall there to seal it up in advance?”
We broke the already worn and broken foot stools and lit them.
Although it had not darkened inside the school building, it is indeed true that the presence of fire is calming. Furthermore, our wet clothes were icy cold against our skin – that’s why we felt even more that it was a great thing to have fire.
Although there was an entrance facing the outside, it didn’t move an inch despite how much we tried. On the inside there were 2 entrances, both of which were sealed with protective seals. We gathered around the fire and sat on the cement floor. Although it was covered in mud, there was nothing we could do about it.
“Mai, do you want a drink?” Ayako called me.
“The one with the frog. – Ne, pass it over, Naru.”
Naru looked like he was thinking about something.
“There are seven classrooms on level 1, but there were only twenty students. How were those seven classrooms used?”
“The two at the very end had the separating wall knocked down – it was originally a staffroom, but was later turned into a classroom. The next room was originally the sickbay, which doubled up as a staffroom.”
“Did the teacher stay there?”
“No, the teacher’s lodgings are directly facing the front entrance – apparently there were houses inside there in the past. The fourth room from the inside was originally the home sciences room – some birds and animals were kept there. The remaining 3 rooms were originally a science lab, an art room, and a music room, which were by no means used at that time. It was originally a comparatively large building – one was renovated into a swimming pool.”
So that was how it was. Mentioning that, all these were mentioned during our meeting.
“What about the size of the school.”
When Ayako asked that, Naru’s face flushed with displeasure. “Did you completely not hear what was said during the meeting?”
“There were 8 villages in this area, but 3 of them had disappeared long ago.”
“The disappearance of farming villages is really serious.”
“But – two of those villages are at the bottom of the reservoir.”
“Is that so…”
Mentioning the reservoir, I recalled it. We don’t know how the work that was progressing at the reservoir was going. Although it was interrupted by this storm, they probably haven’t found it yet. – Because if they had found it, there should be someone coming here to inform us.
Looking out through the window, the rain outside had eased a little. I could see the car just outside – that was so provocative.
“The question is what the other party aims to achieve by closing us up in here. Regardless of what happens it looks like they don’t plan to let us leave so easily.”
“That’s what it looks like.”
Looking at the watch on my wrist, we’ve been sealed away for nearly two hours already. As it was raining outside, the sky should darken earlier than usual. I looked at the bonfire – if the sun goes down we’d be dependent on it for illumination.
– No! If Bou-san and co comes back, they should be a great help.
“Bou-san etc are very slow.”
Ayako nodded in agreement to my words. “Yes, - could it be because Yasuhara wanted to ask around for information?”
“They could be away until evening.”
“That shouldn’t be so. They did go out to buy lunch.”
“I didn’t hear that. – Anyway this is all we can do. It’s not like we have any other countermeasure.”
Naru shrugged uninterestedly to Ayako’s words.
“We’ve been closed in with much difficulty, so let’s see how we should go about the investigation of this building. There’s no use in being impatient to get out.”
– He actually said this so coolly in such a frightening situation.
“The people at the campsite said they never actually heard rumors about the appearance of spirits here.”
“Forget it – even if there are rumors, there are also things that people do not mention.”
“But, didn’t the helper mention the lead that there weren’t any spirits?”
“We might have been tricked, we can’t tell.”
It was Naru who spoke.
Naru started smiling forcedly again.
“Didn’t the helper mention it? That they hoped that we’d help them keep it secret? Income from tourism is a matter of life and death to them.”
“It was indeed mentioned.”
“It’s not only the presence of rumors. In reality, it probably might not be as simple as whether there are rumors or not.”
“Not only? Do you mean that in actual fact there are spirits that appear, and that they haunt as well?”
“That’s exactly what I’m saying. The probability that something major had happened is very high, that’s why the village chief came to make the request in person.”
“But tell us truthfully then. This ‘problem’ will leak out and make them feel troubled; the problem affects the volume of tourists and hence their livelihoods. – Hence the details of the situation are hidden.”
It really is dangerous enough – “Fortunately, the (people who run the) campsites are all their relatives. Hence, as relatives, they will not leak the secret.”
– Even if this was not so, the staff at the campsites depend on income from tourists for their meals; based on this point they would not speak.
That’s why I say this is a situation created by adults.
“What do you think that major incident was?”
“We still don’t know,” saying that, Naru stood up. “I’m going inside to investigate.”
Due to Naru’s resolute idea, everyone dived into the exploration of the school compound.
“Before we begin, it’s better to be a bit more cautious; no one should leave by him/herself.”
Everyone slowly walked out through the false wall, and then firstly we went to the first floor’s classroom, which was filled with stuff. Tables and chairs were piled in a corner of the disused room, just like a gym storeroom stacked with vaulting boxes. The atmosphere was slightly different in the fourth classroom. The fourth classroom was arranged neatly. Here, the bird cages, enclosures, and water troughs had already ceased operation. Although it was neatly arranged, the thick layer of dust gave one a desolate feeling.
“It really makes one feel uncomfortable.” Ayako glanced at the parched water trough and pulled a face; a black, mud-like substance stuck to its inside, a mild stench of rotting permeated the classroom.
“Shibuya-san,” John called. He was squatting by a small mountain of dust.
In the corner of the classroom…
In the corner of the classroom was a mountain of rubbish the size of a chest of oranges. Looking closely, there really was a chest-like something there, it had rotted away so it looked like it was going to fall apart soon. Apparently there was something placed in it; it was covered with a thick pile of rubbish. Furthermore, a chain peeked out from amongst the rubbish.
The rusted chain extended from the chest to the wall of the classroom, engaging a large nail on the wall.
“—What is this?”
When Naru pulled it, a faded, red something was dragged out of the pile of rubbish immediately.
“– This shouldn’t be a ring, should it…?”
“It’s probably a collar for dogs or something.”
I let out a breath.
“Lin, is there any –”
Before Naru finished, Lin had already handed over a ballpoint pen. Naru took it and started searching through the rubbish.
“What are you looking for?”
As I spoke, I realized that the collar looked like it had not been unfastened at all; it was just the size that would fit the neck of a cat or a dog. – But, why wasn’t it unfastened?
This was an abandoned school, so if animals were kept here they should have been brought by somebody. Otherwise, who would bring animals here and leave them alone? Even if someone brought animals here, they couldn’t have left the collar. And the one left behind was still unfastened. Somehow it felt like there was something up here.
Naru picked up a grey fragment from the pile of rubbish.
“—this is –”
“It’s probably something’s bone.”
It shouldn’t be –
Naru placed the bone into the chest, and clapped his hands to get rid of the dust.
“It looks like the village chief and co are really a bunch of sly foxes.”
John nodded his head in agreement.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“What with the school ceasing operations – I think the reason shouldn’t be due to the reduction in student numbers. If the school wound up operations following proper procedures, they wouldn’t have left animals on their own like this. Furthermore –”
The collar we found in the chest – it was like the animal died on the litter with the collar around its neck.
“That chest is a paper chest, it’s a very light item. If an animal found out about this, it would move it. But it quietly stayed in the corner of the classroom; it didn’t even look like it had been toppled before. The cloth sewn at its base is also in good condition. I think this dog died in a condition without hunger or noise.”
“—I don’t know.”
The unpleasant tone of voice and the sound of the rain outside blended into one.
Neatly arranged on the table were 3 water troughs, 4 bird cages, and a cage that was just suited to keeping rabbits or some similar animals. A thick layer of dust covered every item. Beneath that pile of rubbish, small grey bones were buried.
I suddenly felt chilly, but the reason I felt chilly could no longer be due to my wearing wet clothes.
Although the next room was said to be a spare staffroom, it was practically a storeroom.
The room following that was another classroom.
The one that was most recently used as a classroom was the original staffroom. Inside, there were 18 little tables, all lined up at the front.
“So there were 18 students.”
“According to the information from the Village Chief, because 14 of the 18 students moved away all at once due to the construction of the reservoir, it resulted in the termination of the school operations.”
“Was that really the case?”
I looked round at the tables in the classroom, then quickly checked the insides of the tables.
“—Ne, there’re things still left inside the tables.”
John and Ayako also came over to look inside the tables.
“Hn, here too.”
“There is on my side too.”
Drumming up some courage, I pulled out the things inside the table. There were ancient textbooks that had gone slightly moldy, their pages practically glued together.
Looking around again, practically all 18 tables had something or other left inside.
“The school clearly stopped running, why are these things still left?”
It had already progressed to this stage before Ayako realized it.
I knew it too. –Almost none of the words the Village Chief or his helper said could be believed.
“They really are all left behind, it’s just as though the people here all suddenly died.”
On the black board, ‘May 18th, Wednesday,’ was written in large lettering. It was easily understood from the written date; beneath it was written, ‘On Duty’, and ‘Takeuchi Ai’.
“It looks like the date the school stopped operating was in May.”
The date it stopped was May 18th.
The back wall of the classroom was stuck with practice pieces of calligraphy and art. Whichever piece one looked at was dirty due to the dust and a little moldy as well, it made one feel exceptionally painful.
Next to the teaching platform was the teacher’s desk, books and paper were placed just like that on it, and were all covered with dust.
Without meaning to, I used my finger and touched it. Basic texts were placed vertically on the tabletop – these were probably the syllabus texts used by the teacher. On the side were a few bundles of paper, probably the scripts for a test. In the center of the table were 2 notebook-like books.
“It’s the class register.”
When they heard my words, everyone gathered around me.
Although it could be opened, due to the numerous blotches it could not be read. But we could tell that of the 18 students, not a single one was absent. On the last page, ‘May’ was written, but the day the present or absent marks stopped appearing could not be told.
“It is the 18th.”
John said, looking at the blackboard.
“That’s not for certain. It could be that the student on duty that day had written the next day’s date at the end of the day.”
“Then in that case it could be the 17th.”
“Yeah, if the 18th is a Wednesday, then the 15th would be a Sunday.”
Looking from the place where the present/absent marks stopped, counting back based on the number of days in a week, the marks had stopped on the 16th.
“Ah ne, it’s only at the 16th.”
“So it is.”
Ayako looked at the ceiling and spoke,
“After taking attendance on the 16th something happened. Bags and the kept animals were all left behind, it’s like the school was suddenly abandoned.”
“Yeah… sigh, there’s also a journal here.”
“Ah… can it not be read too?”
As expected, this was moldy as well. But at least it could be opened, and was not completely illegible. The last page could be seen clearly.
“—May 16th, Monday. Student on Duty: Michiyama Ayumi.”
“As expected, the 16th was the last day.”
“We’re finally going on a trip.”
“So that’s how it was…”
Ayako snapped her fingers.
“The 17th was the day of the trip, and they were to gather outside the school. Because they did not enter the school, the duty roster for the 18th was written first.”
“So that’s how it was. After that did something happen on the trip?”
“It looks like it did… look here.”
Ayako’s coral colored fingernail pointed to the journal.
“It says here that there was a little squabble about the seating arrangements on the bus.”
“They took bus to go on a trip…”
Could it be… It shouldn’t, right…
“Did this bus get into an accident?”
A possibility that arose was: an accident happened to the bus the students were taking, hence many of the students died. Could all 18 have died? That’s why this school, which had lost all its students, stopped operating.
“Was it really like this…?”
John said achingly, looking around the classroom.
In contrast, Boss’s voice was incomparably cool.
“—Even if it was like that, why would all the bags be left…?”
I inclined my head in thought.
“Indeed. Talking about it, if these are the remains of the dead, the family would want to collect it.”
“First, it’s not possible to leave the kept animals all alone even if all the students died.”
Because it was Ayako who spoke, I could only nod in agreement.
– The school stopped operating because of an unfortunate accident; because of the drifting spirits of the children… although all this was comprehensible, this was not all there was to it – there should still be something.
If it’s just the spirits of the children that appeared, the Village Chief and the others couldn’t possibly hide it.
“Are those words true?”
Ayako suddenly asked.
“That a holiday village is going to be built near this place. Just looking at this school, I don’t think that this place has the geographical conditions needed to build a holiday village.”
“The words those foxes speak are not to be trusted.”
“Yeah… indeed. If that’s the case, then why would the Village Chief himself come forth to make a request? Could it be explained if there are facilities for a holiday village near to this place? But if such a plan does not exist, then simply because there are some spirits that appear here, they stop psychics who are just travelling nearby to investigate – is there really this necessity?”
“Could it be because - there are others - who, like us, can get in but not out?”
“If that’s the case, then wouldn’t it be faster to nail up or block up the entrances and exits?”
“It is indeed like this…”
At this time, we heard a minute sound mixed into the sound of the rain.
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