Miyoko no Naku Koro ni
Escape Chapter (4th Arc)
Episode 15: The Spy
At first, Fumie, Eriko, and Sayuri had no idea what to say. Eriko had indeed been considering an escape plan. Fumie had her own ideas. Sayuri wasn’t aware of the plans or intentions of either of them. To her, the idea sounded brave but doomed to fail. Who knows what would happen if they were caught and punished? Fumie decided to keep quiet at this stage. But Eriko came forward.
“I’ve also been thinking about trying to break out of here,” she said, looking intensely at Miyo. “You understand I’ve just taken a risk by saying so. We all have the right to be cautious of you now. You could be an agent sent in by someone to stir up trouble from within and help the staff root out the rebellious kids. Your sudden move here and your eagerness to join both seem suspicious. Nevertheless, I told you just now I am thinking about an escape plan. What do you make of that?”
Ah, thought Miyo, I hope I haven’t slipped up too badly here. This is a test Eriko is giving me. She had planned to be completely honest and bare the truth, or at least part of the truth, that a Witch cursed her and was trying to kill her. But one of the side effects of the curse, Miyo would say, is that she knew a lot about everyone in Sky House in advance. Well now, that story just wouldn’t fly. Rather than being able to believe such a ridiculous story, Eriko would assume Miyo knew things in advance because she was a spy for the staff. Now Miyo had that dilemma to consider as well as how to answer Eriko’s question.
She didn’t want to lie. But when she thought about the alternative of not having these girls for allies, a little lying was no big deal. So, speaking with a calm she didn’t think she had, Miyo said, “I’m kind of surprised, actually. I thought I’d say ‘I have an escape plan’ as a bad joke, but you all took it so seriously. It’s like you’re really planning something. Are you guys seriously trying to escape? That’s really dangerous. And I mean, I want to escape as much the next kid, but only because of things I’ve heard about this place. I haven’t been treated badly yet like in the rumors.”
“Hmm,” said Eriko, smiling, and seeming impressed with that answer. “You’ve pretty much won back my trust. But there’s one other thing. If you were a spy, you’d definitely have some idea of what the big, bad Penalties are here. Mostly the ones given out by the Master of Penalties. Now guess what each of these three punishments mean. The Fresh-Caught Goose Penalty. The Duck Who Can’t Drink Water Penalty. The Workman’s Ox Penalty. Well?”
At least Miyo could be honest about this much: she didn’t know what those were. She’d never stayed long enough in Sky House to find out by word-of-mouth, nor had she gone out of her way to ask the other kids directly. “I really don’t know what those are.”
“Just guess,” Eriko urged her.
“Alright. Uh… the Goose Penalty is when you get stripped and beaten… like de-feathering a goose and tenderizing meat? Um, the duck. Maybe being made to drink something gross? And the ox… well… maybe–?”
“That’s good enough,” said Eriko, leaning back against the wall with a little sigh. “Obviously you don’t know what they are. I don’t think you’re lying. Not knowing those Penalties. Yeah, I guess I should expect that of a kid who just got moved here. I’m satisfied, then. Fumie, Sayuri. Let’s treat Miyo-chan like one of us. I don’t think she’s been sent in as a spy.”
Miyo felt relieved. “I’m sorry to worry you like that,” she told the other girls. “Um, Eriko, since you are thinking of an escape, what do you have in mind?”
In the end, Eriko had no solid plan. That meant she hadn’t yet had the idea of testing the birdcage key, and the key hadn’t been acquired by Sayuri impulsively setting the birds free. If none of that had happened, it followed that Fumie couldn’t have told Ebina anything. That was good. Miyo wanted to control the situation carefully. She’d keep a watchful eye on Fumie. She’d go with Sayuri to the birdcage later that day and suggest letting the birds go. On her own time, Miyo would test the key to make sure it still unlocked the back door. And most importantly, for this to work, she needed to somehow enlist Ebina’s help.
The rest of the day was uneventful. Fumie didn’t sneak off anywhere and wasn’t called to meet with anyone. Sayuri said she’d rather look at books with Miyo than see the birds that day. Miyo decided she needed to get things moving by herself. So the next morning, when their group was allowed to play outside, she tried to get some time alone with Fumie.
While Sayuri and Eriko were relaxing in the sun and playing shiritori, Fumie went to tend the miniature garden the girls were growing. Miyo joined her, thinning the new daisy sprouts and pulling up weeds. She was about to say something to Fumie, who was busy among the tulips, but then Miyo noticed her left hand again. She’d seen it in another world line, but had forgotten. Fumie could barely use that hand because the pinky and ring-finger as well as some of the hand bones had been crushed and destroyed and could never heal right. Someone did this to Fumie when beating her.
“Did Hosoda do that?” asked Miyo in a low voice, hoping it wasn’t too insensitive.
Fumie saw where the new girls was looking, and slowly nodded. “It was about a year and a half ago. Things have been much better for us this year, though.”
“Still,” said Miyo, “with things like that being done to kids, it’s hard to think we could pull off an escape. Someone is always patrolling, even at night, right? I don’t see how it’s possible. Unless we had a staff member on our side or something. Ha! Keep dreaming, right?”
“It’s not a foolish thought,” said Fumie, obviously treading carefully. “It would certainly be best to have one of the grown-ups working with us. You’re very bright, Miyo-chan.”
“Now would be the best time for an escape, don’t you think?” Miyo continued to hint and press, trying to get Fumie to reveal herself. “If we could convince a staff member of that, we’d be all set. I mean, it’s better to get sooner than later. Hosoda is so unstable and impulsive, he might kill one of us any day, even by accident. And I heard a rumor that the Master of Penalties is named Kashima, and that he’s killed a child before. Some of those penalties he gives are life-threatening, right?”
“Do you really want to know?” asked Fumie, pausing the gardening work and looking at Miyo squarely. Her voice fell to a serious whisper. “Listen. The Goose Penalty is where Kashima used a tie or sometimes his hands to choke kids. Since he knows how to keep choking people without killing them or crushing their windpipes, you can suffer for hours on end. It’s what happened to Sayuri. She lost her voice for a while.”
Miyo felt sick suddenly, but Fumie continued, “The Duck That Can’t Drink Water is where you’re naked, tied up and placed in a tub of water. In the that thing used for Christian baptisms. You get left there for a whole day and you get so thirsty you can’t stand it. But because of the way you’re tied up, you can’t drink any of the water in the tub. You can get so cold you go into shock. That’s what happened to Eriko. She got pneumonia from it and almost died again. Do you want to know the Workman’s Ox Penalty? It’s not as bad as the others, but I’ve been through it three times. Heavy chains are used and—“
“You don’t need to tell me,” Miyo said, putting one hand up to tell the other girl to stop. “I’m sorry I brought up the penalties again at all. I shouldn’t talk about them when I haven’t even had a light punishment. But,” she added, wiping the cold sweat off her brow, “this proves my point. Those Penalties could kill any kid at any time now. We need to escape now and not wait to plan anything too long-term. Of the four of us, I’m most worried about Sayuri. She’s so fragile.”
That was what finally broke Fumie and convinced her to reveal her secret. “Miyo, it’s funny you should talk to me about this. Because there is a staff member more or less on our side. It’s Ebina-san. And…” she looked down nervously. “…I’m already in contact with her, secretly. I’m sort of like her agent in this place.”
“I had no idea.” Miyo feigned surprise. “That’s perfect then. Will you talk to the Ebina woman — I mean to Miss Ebina — and tell her now is the time to escape?”
“I can try to convince her,” Fumie answered. “Miyo-chan, please don’t tell the others about this yet. It’s hard for me to talk about. So let’s keep it between us, for now.”
As reassuringly as she could, Miyo replied, “Yes, I understand. I’ll do as you say.”
Fumie smiled weakly, but the half-ashamed frown took her face back in only a moment. The black-haired girl looked at Miyo. “Aren’t you going to ask me? Don’t you wonder why I became a shifty spy for one of the grown-ups?”
“I didn’t ask because I trust you. But… well, yes. I am curious. It makes me wonder.”
“Well, it’s because….” Fumie took a deep breath to collect herself. Then she whispered to Miyo, “It’s because I’m actually Ebina’s daughter.”
To Be Continued