"Quickly, come this way; It's safe here…" A voice called from an unknown location, but the girl was helpless and ran towards it as fast as her growing legs under her gown could carry her. Her black dress slowed her down no matter how fast or hard she tried to run.
This forest was not a friendly place at night… not at all. After hearing rustle after rustle, movement after teeny, silent movement, the girl had finally given up. She ran faster and faster towards the kind voice that beckoned to her. It seemed to be getting closer and closer with every step. Finally reaching a clearing, she lunged toward the open lawn. She burst out from the trees and fell to the ground in a panting heap. She looked up from the ground weakly, and what she saw relieved her.
Before her stood a tall, dark, and gothic mansion. The forest surrounded the property in a complete circle. It might have looked beautiful and maybe not as dreary in the day, but it was eerie under the full moon's light. Wiping her face free of sweat, the girl pushed herself up off the ground and walked across the lawn. In the front of the house was a pond. It seemed dark and dead, and it supported no life besides the single-celled organisms and bacteria. There were two dead trees on either side of the house (it would have been symmetrical if not for the pond), but they sprouted no leaves (most of the surrounding forest didn't either, though). She began cautiously moving down the dirt path that ran up to the house. Before she could walk past the trees, though, another voice stopped her.
"Stop where you are, child," the voice murmured from the trees. The girl glanced sharply at the tree to her left. On the highest branch stood a boy, clad in a night-black tailcoat. His thick, gleaming blonde hair shined in the moonlight and covered his pale face and dark, blue eyes. "What has brought you here?" He asked, leaping out of the tree and falling daintily to the ground.
The girl's jaw fell open as he watched the strange figure drop. "M-My name is Miku. A voice called me here while I was running in the forest." The girl stuttered, and the boy grinned at Miku's obvious fear.
"Rin," the boy called, "have you caused this?" He looked at the tree above Miku's head, and, still in shock, Miku heard the sound of Rin landing softly on the ground behind her. She hastily turned around.
Rin was clad in a long black ball gown and sported short, blonde hair much like her younger brother. "I apologize, sweet Miku and Len. I only wanted to be friendly and offer her a place to rest and feel safe. I should have tidied up and let you know of Miku's arrival." Rin peeked over Miku's shoulder at her brother, silently smirking.
"I believe it will be alright to give Miku a place to stay for the night…" Len sighed, smiling in a defeated way, but still content. "In order to stay, though, you must chat with us and play a game for a while!" Len grabbed Miku's left hand and held it in between his. Miku could feel his icy, frigid skin through her gloves. Goosebumps ran up and down her entire body.
"A game…?" She mumbled. "What kind of game?"
"Oh, yes! A game!" Rin giggled, grabbing Miku's right hand and doing the same. "We will show you how to play! It's our favorite game, but we don't have many people to play with us… will you, please, stay and play for a while?"
What was she supposed to say? "I guess so… I don't see why not. If you don't mind, though, would you teach me how to play?" Miku felt in her gut that this was a horrible idea, but it did not stop her. A few hours of play and sleep in a massive mansion such as this couldn't hurt, right?
"Of course we will," Len smirked. "Just follow us!" The siblings dragged Miku into the house by her wrists. Still holding her wrists, the two pulled her up the steps of the creaking wooden patio and stopped in front of the towering front door. "Here we are!" Rin nodded, and the blonde-haired twins opened the front door. It opened to reveal, much to Miku's surprise, a bright lobby with walls painted lavender. There were two staircases on either side of the lobby that twisted into each other at the second floor. They led into an almost loft-like hallway that stretched into corridors on both sides of the house and ran in opposite directions. It was a well-lit house with a crystal chandelier in the center of the room. In the middle of the floor was a loveseat, two chairs, and a mahogany coffee table (that were, of course, symmetrical).
"What a beautiful room," Miku whispered. Rin beamed. "Y-You think so? We designed it ourselves!" "You did? My goodness, I wish I had creativity as amazing as you, Rin! I could never think of something like this."
Rin was elated. "Did you hear that, Len? She loves it! What a sweet child! She really loves it!" Rin giggled, running her fingers gleefully through Miku's long blue hair.
"Thank you very much, Miku," Len added modestly. "I'm glad you think so; It's much different from modern taste nowadays." Miku turned and flashed a friendly grin. "At any rate, come in and make yourself at home."
Rin and Len led Miku to the center of the room. Miku now found that there were two corridors stretching in opposite directions on the first floor, also. "Come and sit as I make us some tea," Rin offered. "It will only take a moment. What kinds of tea do you like, Miku?"
Miku thought for a moment. She didn't drink much tea, but she did have a favorite. "Would you possibly have Oolong tea?" Miku asked. She always tried to drink Oolong tea when she could; she was the only person in her family who enjoyed drinking it. Everyone else preferred Earl Grey tea, green tea, or black tea.
"Absolutely!" Rin exclaimed. "I'll bring out some milk and honey, too. Oolong tea always tastes best with milk and honey."
After Rin had set the tray of tea on the table and served it to everyone, the trio sat down to chat.
"I made this tea with spring water, Miku!" Rin declared. "I was told by the man who sold the leaves to me that, when you boil the leaves, you should always use spring water. That way, there's more flavor."
"I have been told the same, but I have never tried it," Miku noted. She added a few drops of liquid honey to her tea and sipped. She tasted it in silence for a moment. "Well, he was certainly right. It tastes much better with spring water!"
"Yay!" Rin cheered. "I'm glad you like it!"
"Are you ready to play our game after tea?" Len asked. He set his cup down on a saucer. "We could teach you how to play now, if you'd like."
"Please do," Miku nodded, sipping her tea.
"Alright, here it goes." Len cleared his throat. "It's like a game of tag. Someone is 'it', and they chase the people who aren't 'it'. The other players have ten seconds to run before 'it' is released and chases after the other two." Miku understood. It was like a simple game of tag. It actually sounded like fun!
Len pulled a cinnamon stick from a cup in the center of the table. "The person who is 'it' will have their hands bound together." Len continued. "They'll hold a cinnamon stick in between their hands and run around, blindfolded, to find the other two people." He demonstrated by pressing his palms together, holding the cinnamon stick in place without bending his fingers.
"That sounds challenging…" Miku added. "But it sounds like fun! Is that all there is to it?"
"Pretty much," Rin replied. "It's a fun game if you really know how to play! There are a few tricks to it, but we'll teach you so it's fair!"
The three children stood at the top of the staircase. In Len's hands were a cinnamon stick, a silk blindfold, and a thin, soft rope. It was much like a string, but it was too thick to be considered one.
"Miku, would you like to be 'it'?" Len asked, holding out the objects in his hands.
"Of course! I would love to." Miku took the cinnamon stick from Len and held it out in front of her with two hands. "It might be a bit challenging to run, though…" Wearing this black dress with red ribbons and a matching black capelet isn't the best thing to wear for a game of tag. "I understand completely, Miku…" Rin sighed, smiling. She lifted her ball gown up and displayed the black fabric, heavy material and yellow ribbon. The two giggled.
"Here, Rin," Len suggested, "you put the blindfold on Miku while I wrap her hands." He handed Rin the silk blindfold, and she eagerly took it from him. "Tell me if it's too tight, okay? And make sure you are holding the cinnamon stick tightly." Rin reminded, and she covered Miku's eyes with the silk. She crossed one end of the silk with the other and pulled. "Too tight?" Rin asked. Miku shook her head, and, satisfied, Rin tied the ends once more as Len secured her wrists. "If something gets too tight, just shout and we'll fix it." Len reminded. "That's a rule; remember that." Miku nodded. "I understand." She responded. Rin turned Miku so she faced straight down the left corridor.
"I already opened the last four doors of each hallway, Len." Rin added. "We can't close the doors when we run into them, okay? Tell Miku the remainder of the rules so she understands."
Len coughed. "Alright, listen closely. Here are the other rules: We can only hide in the last 4 rooms of each hall, you may not peek through the blindfold or lift it up, and if you get hurt by running into something or tripping, call for us and we'll come running. Other than that, there's nothing else we need to go over." Len sighed and sharply inhaled. "Rin, is there anything else?"
"Don't forget, she can only tag people with the cinnamon stick! It's a wonderful magic stick, so if you tag someone with any other part of your body, it doesn't count. Besides that, Len, I think you got it all covered!" Rin affirmed. "Just count down from ten, Miku, and we'll run. That starts the game."
"Alright," Miku inhaled. "Ten… nine…" She could already hear the siblings fleeing in opposite directions, giggling all the while. "Eight… seven… six… five…" Miku grinned. She couldn't wait to find Rin and Len! "Four… three… two… one!" Miku darted straight down the left corridor. She had heard Len go into one of the rooms. As she reached the end of the hall, she began to slow down. She felt around for an open door with her clenched knuckles and ran into the first one she found. "Aw, man!" She heard Len moan from the inside of the room. She heard him flee past her. "Hey, wait up!" Miku called, chuckling as she chased him down.
"Hey, Miku!" Len called back, panting. "If you imagine people in your mind with your eyes closed, you can chase them better!"
As Miku began to try this, she imagined the corridor and Len running ahead of her. It all seemed so real that it startled her.
"Imagine you're drowning in the sweetest of syrups!" Rin shouted from a room at the other side of the house. "It enhances your ability to imagine! It may slow you down just a bit, but it improves your hearing and vision ability ten-fold!" How much more vivid could the images in her head get? But, without considering the results, she tried anyway. She found that the colors in her mind were brighter and clearer as she drowned in the enchanted, imaginary syrups. She grew closer to Len, but as she tagged him with the cinnamon stick, the figure of Len in Miku's mind suddenly disappeared, and the image went black. She felt nothing as she had tagged him with the stick, and it left her completely confused. The hallway went silent, and she was blindly stranded.
Once minute after minute had passed of the same results, Miku sat down in the center of the hallway. "I must be really bad at this game," Miku sighed. As she proceeded to take of the silk blindfold, she felt cold, delicate fingertips shielding her eyes as the blindfold fell to the ground. "You were supposed to follow the rules, Miku!" Rin whined. "It was a deal! How have you already given up…?"
"Y'know…" Len added, "dreaming relieves you of all of life's little sorrows." Miku's senses told her Len was in front of her, but she couldn't be sure. "Once you take your blindfold off, all the visions and wonderful hallucinations disappear!" As the two laughed together, something soft swept across her mouth and nose. It smelled sweet and warm.
"You should not have cheated, Miku!" Rin exclaimed, giggling between words. Miku fell into a deep sleep.
The sound of soft, mumbled chattering filled the room. The sound was muffled and indistinct. Miku could feel a blindfold on her face, but this one was rough and much different from the previous one. She felt as if she were lying on a bed. There were stuffed animals all around her. Her head was tilted, and in the direction she faced, she heard Rin and Len chatting in front of her. She heard short clanks of silverware against porcelain. There was a small hole in the blindfold, and, much to Miku's advantage, she saw the two sitting in dim candlelight from jack-o'-lanterns, eating cakes together on the floor. It truly was bad lighting, but the shadows left on the wall were grotesque and frightening. The shapes that appeared from the shadows scared her, and she quickly shut her eyes, trying to hide the fact that she had been peeking through an opening in the blindfold before anyone noticed. But, sure enough, it failed.
"My, my, look here, Len!" It seemed Rin had gasped. "The child has woken up too early. I have not prepared for this. The tea, the games, and the smells were supposed to keep her asleep. Why have we not planned for this? Should we have blinded her instead?" Miku panicked. Her breathing was heavy and quick. She had been caught. "If the blindfold doesn't do the job, what will?"
Miku began to laugh nervously, silently. Was she going insane? It all had to be a dream!
"She's laughing, Rin!" Len chuckled. "How cute. Should we go back to playing? She seems happy and eager. I think it's about time we played some more!"
Miku gasped, ripping off the dark, rugged blindfold with her hands, still bound in front of her. This caught Rin off guard, and she pulled a double-edged knife from her pocket. In her haste, it slipped from her hands and fell to the floor. Miku dove to the ground and snatched the knife from the floor before the siblings could get it. She turned the blade towards her and rubbed it against the rope around her wrists. It broke without delay. She pointed the end of the knife at the two children with her freed hands, still a bit stunned. It had all happened so fast! But before Miku could react, Rin appeared behind her and grabbed her by the shoulders. She began to shake her violently, but Miku kept her grip tight around the knife.
"Why, Rin…" Len smirked, "she's trembling like a scared, little mouse."
"Oh, do not worry, Miku. This house is as warm as any other," Rin falsely assured. "Would you like some warm milk? No sweets, of course. Sweets are a sign of fake hospitality, you know." She pinned a rose to Miku's dress in a spot right over her heart, and it still smelled fragrant, although it had been cut from its stem long ago. It was a sweet, warm smell that made her sleepy; she did not usually grow drowsy from such a smell, and she shook herself awake in fear of sleep and darkness. "Hey…" Rin tried to grab Miku's attention, "would you please give that weapon back? I need it; don't ask why, but it's not for a bad cause… I promise." Rin reached out over Miku's shoulder to retrieve the weapon from her.
"What lies!" Miku shrieked, yanking herself from Rin's grip before she could touch the blade. "What horrible lies! I should have known from the moment I arrived that your grotesque, sick minds would have tortured and manipulated me like so!" She spun on her heels and fled the room. As the grim room's door was swung open and Miku darted out of the small doorway, she found that the room was at the end of the hall; it was the same room she had chased Len through hours ago. She swerved to her left and ran down the dark, expansive corridor.
"Come back, you fool!" Len shouted, darting after Miku. "Give us that knife! You don't even need to know how; just give it to us and we'll let you free!" But Miku didn't listen as she kicked off her high-heeled shoes and flew down the stairwell.
"Foolish little girl!" Rin spat. "You don't know what you're doing!" The twins were right on her tail. Miku leapt from the bottom step and barreled towards the door. It took her a moment to open just a small crack in the door that she could barely walk through, but it also slowed down Rin and Len who were just steps behind her. Miku dashed across the lawn, heading straight for the dead forest. Hours ago, it had been the most terrifying thing Miku had ever experienced, but now nothing frightened her more than that wretched house. As she went step after step across the lawn, rocks, twigs, and other sharp things dug into the bottom of her feet with every step, and along with them brought sharp blasts of pain in her soles. She could hear the quick footsteps of the blonde siblings behind her growing closer.
"Stop, child! Give us that knife!" Len screamed, grabbing Miku's neck in mid-run and yanking her back. She lost grip of the knife, and it flew forward as she was pulled back by Len's hold. Rin rushed past, grabbing the knife and slowly pulling it from the ground. She cleaned the blade off with her dress skirt. Her face looked grimly down upon the dirt-smothered knife. Rin shook her head in dismay, chuckling at Miku's foolishness. As she finished cleaning off the sharp knife, Rin cocked her head. She glared at Miku who had fallen on the ground. Len made sure Miku couldn't escape his grasp by wrapping his arms completely around her waist. Rin flashed a evil, creepy grin. She's not human, Miku thought. There's no way she's human. She's evil.
"This could have ended better for you, Miku…" Rin murmured, smirking, "… but you chose to end this the hard way." She let the knife dangle at her side as she closer to the defenseless Miku. "No! Stop!" Miku begged, struggling to escape Len's grip, but she failed. She clawed desperately at Len's arm. "Goodbye, Miku," Rin sighed. "Please, no! No!" Tears rolled out of Miku's eyes, but Rin's expression was less than unsympathetic. She raised the knife over her head, ready to dig it into Miku's skin. Miku let out her last cries, begging Rin to let her free, but Rin didn't listen. She swung the knife down into the rose on Miku's chest, and it dug deep through the dying rose into her skin. Miku howled in pain, but Rin laughed and laughed as she rammed the knife into the rose. Rose petals scattered everywhere as Miku fell back. "No…" she murmured one last time, watching Rin's pleased, blood-splattered face fade into the darkness of the night. She was gone. She was alone. She was dead.
She abruptly sat back up as the door to her bedroom flew open, and her mother darted in. Her expression was panicked, and Miku was sweating profusively, confused and startled by the previous events. "Child, whatever is the matter? Your screaming woke everyone up!" Her mother sighed, but Miku could not respond; she was not getting enough air and was breathing heavily. "Did you have a nightmare?" She asked. "Calm down, hon. It's all over."
The light that came in from Miku's windows blinded her. "Close the shades, please…" She coughed, lifting her blankets from her lap and hopping out of bed. "Don't worry about it, mother, but thank you for being so concerned. It was just a bad dream." Oh, yes, a very bad dream, Miku though. She opened her closet doors wide open and looked around at the colorful array of dresses. "The party is today, correct?" She questioned. "I want to look nice for the missus that you have been talking about so fondly. She seems like a kind lady." She pulled out dress after dress, looking for a nice gown for the occasion. "Oh, yes, she is," Miku's mother assured, drawing the drapes closed. "Would you like me to help you find a dress, Miku?" Her mother came up behind her, examining the row of dresses. "Please, do," Miku nodded, but she didn't need to tell her that. She had already started anyway.
The mother-daughter pair sifted through the evening gowns, sleeping gowns, and ball gowns until her mother stopped them both. "Look at this one!" She gasped, pulling out a black dress with red ribbons and a matching black capelet. "It's absolutely adorable!" She exclaimed. "Do you like this one?" Miku had never seen the dress in her closet before, but it looked like the one in her dream. It frightened her to find it suddenly in her closet, but she didn't want to be rude. "It's lovely. I'll wear this one!"
"Is the missus here yet?" Miku asked frantically, excited to meet the woman who was so widely acclaimed all around town. "Yes, yes," Her mother nodded. "Call her Missus Kaga. She's requested that of you." Her mother straightened out Miku's capelet. "Be polite, of course, and use good posture." Miku straightened up and opened the door of the ballroom for her mother. People were dancing and spinning on the glimmering floor. Out of the corner of her eye, Miku saw Missus Kaga observing the partygoers. Miku, stepping behind her mother, walked towards Missus Kaga.
"Ah, Miss Hatsune, so nice to see you again!" Missus Kaga warmly shook hands with Miku's mother. "Is this the child you told me about? What a beautiful dress! What long, lovely hair!" Missus Kaga beamed, petting Miku's long teal locks. Miku blushed. "Thank you, madam. I've been anticipating our meeting all day. It's a pleasure to meet you!" Miku curtsied, and Missus Kaga curtsied politely back. "What a polished young lady you have here, Miss Hatsune." Miku's mother straightened up, pleased with her daughter. "Miku," Missus Kaga continued, "I would love for you to meet my son and daughter, Len and Rin Kagamine." The twins came out from behind their mother. They had been watching the dancers, and were not paying attention.
Miku gasped. She recognized the hair color, the clothes, the names, the faces… How could this have happened? The siblings grinned, trying to be friendly. Miku smiled back, trying not to be disrespectful while still hiding her fear. "You should go play tag together in the courtyard, Rin, Len." Missus Kaga looked down at them as she listed their names. "They made up quite a creative way to play. I bet Len would love to teach you how." She ruffled Len's hair.
"T-Tag…?" Miku stuttered.
"Yes, of course!" Len chuckled. "We could go down to the courtyard and play now, if you'd like. I have all the pieces to play, and I can teach you the rules. They're very simple. You chase people with a blindfold, bound wrists, and you tag them with a magic cinnamon stick!"
"It's a delightful game!" Rin added. "It's a fun game if you really know how to play! There are a few tricks to it, but we'll teach you so it's fair!" The two laughed together, but Miku didn't dare speak or interrupt. She was terrified.
"Oh, but you musn't take off the blindfold!" Len warned gleefully. "Once you take your blindfold off, all the visions and wonderful hallucinations disappear!"
And the two delightfully laughed.