Miyoko no Naku Koro ni
Betrayal Chapter (2nd Arc)
Episode 7: Eriko
Miyo went to breakfast with Eriko, Fumie, and Sayuri as she had grown accustomed to doing over the last 4 or 5 days. Ebina came to them as they were trying to finish the slimy, tasteless rice gruel, telling them she would take them outside to play today. Eriko lingered behind for a few moments while the other girls eagerly rushed outside. If only they had known then.
After playing outside for twenty minutes or so, Fumie began to ask about Eriko. Where was she? Ebina agreed to lock them all back in their room while she looked around for Eriko. But much to the anxiety of the other three girls, she came back to their room empty-handed, saying Eriko was missing.
A sick feeling filled Miyo’s stomach and a slight dizziness made her unsteady. Miyo was the kind of girl who could sense things without knowing how or why; she just had very keen intuition sometimes. And right now, her gut told her she’d never see Eriko again. Sayuri might have felt something similar, as she began to cry. Fumie tried to comfort her. None of the girls slept much that night, even with Fumie and sharing the futon with Sayuri to help her calm down.
Ebina was the first to come to their room early the next morning, when it was still a bit dark outside. “I’ve informed the headmistress,” she said, “but I thought you girls should be the ones to know next. Eriko has been found. Rather, her body has. Eriko is passed away. I’m sorry.”
Miyo started to cry quietly despite herself, and Fumie and Sayuri were wailing and sobbing. But they didn’t just believe it that easily. They demanded proof.
“You’re essentially asking to see a corpse,” Ebina warned them. “It was disturbing enough to make me lose my breakfast. Is that really something you girls need to see?”
“We won’t believe it, otherwise,” Miyo said, speaking for all of them. “Please show us.”
If Ebina were a kinder woman, she would have insisted on denying the request. As it was, she didn’t mind having to mentally disturb the young girls if it got them to settle down and let her keep handling things on her own. So she led them all to the chapel, where Eriko’s body lay in a half-finished, unpolished wooden casket.
It was indeed a disturbing sight. There were bruises all over the body, her skin was discolored, there was a stream of dried blood from her mouth, and her eyes were bulged huge. The corpse was already showing signs of the beginning of rot, as well. But the most upsetting thing was that the chest, ribs, and part of the upper abdomen were somehow broken or disfigured. Miyo couldn’t stand to look at the corpse long enough to figure out what that meant. She turned away and gagged a few times, trying not to throw up. As for Fumie and Sayuri, they had closed their eyes after only one brief look, and were now sitting and sobbing on the cold chapel floor.
“Why?” demanded Miyo, facing Ebina with rage in her eyes. “Why did Eriko die?”
Before Ebina could offer an answer, someone else did. “Why indeed,” said Muneshige Kashima, prancing onto the scene and looking as creepy and absurd as ever with his skinny body and fully black clothes. The man quickly introduced himself to Miyo as the Master of Penalties, the one she’d heard about in rumors. “Why does death happen?” he mused. “Why must anyone die?”
“That is not what I mean,” Miyo hissed at him, gritting her teeth. She was insulted that the man was acting like a clown with a dead little girl in the same room.
“Perhaps, then, you meant to ask how she died,” Kashima presumed. “I’m no specialist, but it seems pretty obvious with some close looks at the body. Let me explain.”
“Don’t!” exclaimed Ebina suddenly. “These girls have no business knowing the details of—”
“Shut up,” Kashima said, silencing her immediately. His smile had vanished and he looked like a Shinigami that might pounce on Ebina if she said another word. All the girls froze, looking at him in terror. That seemed to gratify the man, and he quickly reverted back to his usual self, full of eerie smiles and exaggerated gestures and body language.
“It’s easy to see how Eri-chan died,” Kashima continued. “It was no accident. Someone did it to her. She was crushed. Someone wrapped both their strong arms around her chest and ribs, and just squeezed her to death. She might have passed out from not being able to breathe, but it’s quite possible as well that she stayed conscious while her body broke and her lungs filled with blood. Her ribs were crushed into little pieces and her—”
“That’s enough!” Ebina roared in a voice none of the girls had ever heard before. Even Kashima was taken aback by its ferocity. “Sick bastard, I despise you with my whole being. Don’t you ever speak to me or these girls again. Now, we’re leaving.”
She grabbed Fumie and Sayuri’s hands and hurried out of the chapel with them. Miyo followed behind, breathing heavily and feeling nauseous again.
Fumie, Sayuri, and Miyo were too grieved and disturbed to even react when Ebina told them she knew about their escape plan. She even knew the secret about how it was supposed to work. The key to the birdcage also fitted the lock on the back door of the house. The girls planned to use that key to open the door in the middle of the night and flee. But now, with everything that happened, Sayuri wordlessly handed over the birdcage key.
Ebina told the girls they’d have to stay in their room for a full day without eating as punishment for having a dangerous escape plan. It really wasn’t punishment at all, as far as the young girls were concerned; none of them had any appetite for food, nor desire to leave their futons.
For most of the day, Miyo stayed curled up in one corner of the room with a battered old blanket around her shoulders. She shed a quiet tear now and then. Fumie spent time trying to calm Sayuri down, and eventually it worked. But then Fumie returned to her own bedding and cried, cried, and cried herself miserably to sleep.
Sayuri came and sat next to Miyo. “Eriko was our everything,” she confided.
“I know that,” Miyo whispered back. “And I know she was special. I’ve only been with you all for a few days, but I can tell. I wish I had comforting words, as your senpai, but I can’t think of a single thing. I’m really sorry.” Though she tried her best to not to cry, tears and quiet sobs escaped from her again. “I feel like this might be my fault.”
“Huh? What do you mean?” Sayuri asked.
“Well… the night before last,” Miyo sniffled, “I told her about something. About I girl I met who is a Witch. She’s so pretty and interesting, but she’s an evil Witch. I think she caused my parents’ deaths and sent me here. And after I talked about that with Eriko, she… she…!”
Sayuri looked unusually serious. “It’s not your fault Eriko died. It’s not any of our faults. It’s just this place. This terribly messed up place called Sky House. I doubt real Witches exist, but if there is a powerful being like that, I don’t think she’s would bother with our little lives.”
Miyo realized something suddenly. “You’re right,” she said. “It’s not my fault.”
There was a far more logical answer to this mystery than anything involving a Witch. Miyo had overlooked it because she was so depressed and troubled all day. Someone found out about the escape plan: one of the staff members. He or she took Eriko aside and killed her out of rage. It was the ultimate punishment for the other three. Their friend was brutally murdered because they tried to escape Sky House. Soon the staff all knew about the escape plan. That had to be it, Miyo thought to herself. Everything happened because the escape plan was leaked.
That could only mean one thing. There was a traitor in the room. Either Sayuri or Fumie chickened out and told a staff member about the escape plan. Perhaps they were tortured until they talked, but either way, Miyo thought, this couldn’t be forgiven. A betrayal like this was too cruel and too unfair. Anger and hate filled the child’s tiny body. Long after Sayuri went back to her futon to sleep, Miyo stayed up, sitting in the corner, brooding over which girl betrayed the group, and which of the staff members actually did the deed of killing Eriko.
Meisa Ebina crept into the girls’ room that night. She left some food – vegetable stew with salt and seasoning – for the girls. Then approached Miyo, who was still awake, and glaring.
“This is the perfect opportunity for your group,” Ebina whispered, her green eyes alight with intent. “Listen, Miyo. Tomorrow, Fumie and Sayuri can finally escape, and you can go with them. I’ve planned for this for a long time. It’s cruel to say, but Eriko’s death gives me the chance to distract Kashima, the headmistress, and most of the staff at our meeting tomorrow. I’ll reveal it was a murder and everyone will be in a fuss. Meanwhile, you girls can get out of here at last. You’ll have to deal with Hosoda, but if you can do that, you’re all set.”
“I don’t understand,” said Miyo.
“I’ll explain it all now. Listen, tomorrow morning the three of you will all be…”
As Miyo listened to the whispered plan, she regretted her hatred of Ebina, and thought that just maybe, this time, flight from Sky House would be achievable.
To Be Continued
Episode 6: Their Plan