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Yanshan Part 4

The truth revealed…

illustrated by The Haunted Bar

If Nori had been really 20 years old, the signature wouldn’t have been effective




Back to the last episode of Yanshan

If you haven’t read Yanshan part 1 until part 3, please go to the previous post and catch up or you can also click here.

Then the next day, Yamane died…

His mother was screaming “WHY! WHY!” Her screams could be heard throughout the entire floor. Nori couldn’t even understand the fact that Yamane died. This wasn’t the person I grew up with. This was someone else.

These are the facts. And what I’m going to tell you are the assumptions of me and my brothers, based on our observations and gathering the little info that my grandma slipped out here and there.

Since our grandmother was a shaman, we suspected black magic. None of our friends outside this family knew our suspicions. We kept it to ourselves. And I want you to keep it to yourself too.

We sneaked into her study, and found this exact notebook, and found the numbers.

We knew from grandma that some of the black magic, especially big ones, require sacrifices. Could be dolls, animals, but human sacrifice is the most powerful. And back in the old days, Japan had a practice called “Hitobashira”, it literally means human-pillar.

It is a live human sacrifice buried alive at the time of natural disaster or prior to building bridges, dums, tunnels and other large constructions. It was believed that the sacrifice would prevent/stop natural disasters, and ensure the safety in the construction process and operation afterwards.

Human sacrifice was very common and believed to be effective. And usually young people were used as sacrifices. Normally some offer was made to the parents of the sacrifice, and the child wouldn’t have the right to choose once the parents made the decision.

In Nori’s case, we thought it happened like this.

Yamane’s mother had come to my grandma, the most reputed-shaman in the area after the accident. She had begged grandma to save Yamane. But he was in a very critical condition and had only a few days to live.

Grandma refused the mother’s request saying it would take another person’s life to save his life, and nobody’s going to sacrifice their lives for it. Yamane’s mother did not give up. She asked grandma if she could find a person who was willing to sacrifice a life for her son, would she save his son.

Seeing how desperate Yamane’s mother was to save her son, and her painful face, my grandma agreed, but only if someone was really willing to do it.

When Nori’s mother went off at Nori, Yamane’s mother saw the chances with Nori’s mother. She followed Nori’s mother and asked her to give up Nori’s life for 2 million yen. Nori’s mother said yes, and signed the paper.

If Nori had been really 20 years old, the signature wouldn’t have been effective. But at that time, people counted age differently. Speaking wise, it was common for a lot of people to start counting age from 1 instead of 0.

So you become 1 year old the day you are born. People would say, “My son is 10 by counting, and 9 by full age”. Yes, it was very confusing. If you just hear a number, you wouldn’t know which one they were referring to. Nori was 20 in speaking, but legally, he was 19. Unfortunately, a parent’s signature was able to represent Nori’s will.

My grandmother did not expect Yamane’s mother to find someone who’s willing to sacrifice themselves, or their childrens’ lives before Yamane’s death. This was many decades after the time of Hitobashira and people’s value had changed.

Besides, she knew everyone in town. No parents with kids under the age of 20 would be willing to do that. But Yamane’s mother came to my grandma with a signed paper. My grandmother saw who signed it. Shocked. She thought Nori was 20.

He was in the same hospital as Yamane. She forgot his mother was capable of selling her son. What a bad timing. What a coincidence that they met. I saw grandma crying in her room around this time. As a shaman, she is not allowed to break a promise. She must keep any promise that she made, or she would lose her power. So she kept her promise.

But this ritual failed. It couldn’t take Nori. But it only disabled Nori. And Yamane died.

My grandmother returned the money to Yamane and stopped practicing as a sheman after that.

Yamane’s mother couldn’t accept her son’s death and kept asking my grandma to bring her son back, even as a spirit. But of course, she didn’t say yes. What grandma didn’t tell her is that her son’s spirit was indeed still here, attached to Nori, continuously trying to take over his body, whispering to his ear to give up his body the same way Yamane’s mother did at the hospital.

Yamane was trapped in this world and couldn’t pass over. He couldn’t leave Nori’s side. Against his will, Yamane is forced to whisper those things to Nori and try to take his body, because his mother is obsessed about it and keeps praying and wishing for it. Yamane had already forgotten who he was. He was now a haunting spirit who functions solely for his mother’s purpose.

Grandma was deeply sorry for Nori. Before her ritual failed, Nori’s mind was already broken by Yamane’s mother. I guess Yamane’s mother tried to break Nori and make his mind weaker so that the ritual would work on him better.

The morning I walked into Yamane’s mother talking to him with a smile, and Nori looking blank and pale, I think she was telling him what his mom agreed on. He always loved his mother and believed in her, despite the way she treated him. But it completely broke him inside, and made him feel worthless.

What’s inside Nori is not him. It is what was cast in the ritual stuck inside his head, continuously trying to take Nori out and put Yamane in. And Nori has been trying to fight it off since that day, by shutting himself down. It is a type of defense mechanism in humans.

Nori had to turn his mind back to that of a child’s because an adult mind couldn’t take it. Nori had to shut down his cognitive skills in order to protect himself. But doing that also meant he completely lost control over his own mind, just so he wouldn’t be “taken out”.

For years, little by little it cost him his intellectual ability. You know, you are fighting for your life, but you’re losing yourself, your mind, your personality. I can’t think of anything worse.

My grandma said rituals doesn’t just work on anybody. Sometimes, when your soul is so pure and strong, black magics fail.

Typically, the people who wanted her services were the ones who obviously had huge egos; the people who wanted what they couldn’t get by their own effort, those who weren’t willing to make the effort by themselves, those whose grudges were so strong that they wanted revenge, and those who wouldn’t hesitate to change the course of another person’s life to their satisfaction.

In a way, they are all greedy, selfish, jealous.. And most of the time, people who would get in trouble with this type of people: their targets were more or less the same types. In Nori’s case, he was far from this level.

He was a bright, positive person with a kind soul to forgive. The magic failed him. But it didn’t leave him unharmed. It got trapped inside Nori, breaking him from the inside till the day he dies. And It trapped Yamane to this world with a mission, too.

In her last days, grandma said to us that she had to “end the pain”.

At the same time grandma died, there was a house fire in the next town, and a woman named Yamane died. I think grandma spent years convincing Yamane’s mother to stop obsessing, but she wouldn’t give up.

She held onto it for so long that it had become the only purpose of her life. In the end grandma knew that as long as Yamane’s mother was alive, and wishing for her son’s return, his spirit wouldn’t be free.

Though it might be too late, grandma ended what she had started by taking her own life, and at the same time, with the last power she had left, she took Yamane’s mother with her. This was her last resort. Nobody wants to be a murderer. My grandma often said to us that when she dies, she would burn in hell and that she deserved that.

In Japan, it is believed that if you take your own life, you wouldn’t go to heaven. If you kill someone, you’d go to hell. Besides staying here as a haunting spirit, hell is the only place that Yamane’s mother could go.

As much as we don’t want to believe that’s where grandma went, we knew she wouldn’t hesitate to take Yamane’s mother down to hell with her, just to make sure Yamane’s mother wouldn’t dwell in this world as a haunting spirit and continue to suffer her son and Nori.

We all wanted to send grandma off on a positive note at the funeral. We wanted to celebrate her well-lived life, instead of thinking of all these. And we never wanted anyone else to know the dark side of her death.

But the truth is, we all knew how much she felt responsible for Yamane’s mothers behavior and Nori’s suffering. We all knew she chose to fall into hell with Yamane’s mother by killing herself and Yamane’s mother. That’s the punishment she gave to herself.




End of Story

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    Yanshan Part 3

    A Letter