The story continued as Okiku received cold treatment from all around them, except for the one who has taken her heart, Lord Shusen. But her absent-mind would only invited bad fortune…
Banchō Version: a Tale of Jealousy, Cruelty, and Revenge (continued)
After crying in the dark, Okiku went to wash the treasure Nanjing plates one by one, but even then, the thought of the night that Lord Shusen hugged her tightly invaded her mind. In that short moment of absent-minded, a large cat sneaked into the room and attempted to make off with the leftover fish on the dish, jumping onto the dish itself. Panicked, Okiku tried to shoo the cat away, but she dropped the dish she was holding to the floor, breaking it into pieces.
dish breaks sound
Okiku’s face turned pale with fear. Even worse, the incident was seen on the site by none other than the person whom she wished not to be seen by the most.
“Kiku… what have you done… you foolish thing!”
Shusen punched Okiku as he spoke.
“Lord Shusen, please, I beg your forgiveness!”
The mistress who was with him gave Okiku a cold glare and spoke up.
“She did such a horrible thing. I don’t think just taking this woman’s life would be enough. You might have to cut yourself as an apology, or this might become the cause for our household’s tie to the upper-”
“I don’t care about that matter just yet! Right now, … I just cannot stand this woman anymore. I told you how important the plates are, and yet you still break your vow. How dare you!”
more punching sounds
Shusen kept on beating Okiku.
“Please… Spare me… I beg your pardon… I do not have any excuse to say…”
Okiku tried her best to speak while being beaten by Shusen.
“You horrendous fiend!” Shusen unsheathed his sword and waved it around Okiku’s face. Okiku fell back, trying to protect her face with her hands. The sword hit Okiku’s right wrist and cut off the middle finger.
“Get out! I don’t want to ever see your face again!”
“A ha ha ha, Ah hahahahahahaa” the mistress’ sinister laughter continued.
In all the sudden, Okiku felt sorrow, loneliness, pain and terror. She lost sense of what happened around her.
After Shusen left, Okiku did not tend to her wounded hand, and gather the pieces of the broken dish. All the other maids did not even lend a hand or help her, during and after the incident.
“That is so satisfying. Just go to hell like that.”
Okiku started to count the remaining plates with her hand that just lost a middle finger. And so, the night is over.
“One plaaate… two plaaates… three plaaates… four plaaates… five plaaates…”
“Oh poor thing, she lost her mind already.”
But Okiku kept on counting the plates, dying the plates in her red blood.
“six plaaates… seven plaaates… *sniff* eight plaaates… nine plaaates… *sniff* my lord… it is missing one plate… *sniff* lord Shusen!”
“I don’t want to be like that. Oume-san was horrible, and now even Okiku had become like that. I don’t want to be in this manor anymore!”
And just like that, at night, one of the maids gathered her belongings and sneaked out of the manor. Then later, without anyone realizing, Okiku also disappeared from her usual place near the plates.
A sound came from the well.
“What was that sound?”
Shusen woke up and walked to the well. There, a pale blue spirit ball came out.
Shusen brought the sword and went to the well again, but the spirit ball vanished.
“I was seeing things huh… Mistress! Where are you?”
“I am right here, milord.”
“Can you go check on Kiku?”
The mistress told the maids and servants to search for Okiku. But no matter where they searched, the did not find Okiku at all.
“We searched every nook and cranny in this manor, but we could not find her.”
Hearing so, Shusen thought that Okiku might have left the manor, and felt relieved.
But strange things had not yet stopped there.
Every night after her disappearance, an unnatural voice of a woman can be heard from the well.
“One plate… two plates… three plates… four plates…”
“Ah! A fiend! I heard a voice of a fiend! Someone helps me!”
“My lord! What ailed you?”
“The well! Go look at the well! There is someone there!”
“… five plates…”
“…six plates…seven plates…eight plates…nine plates”
“Lord, there is no one there!”
“That can’t be! Can’t you that that… that is… Kiku? It’s Kiku!”
As Shusen went to look at the well once again, Okiku was there. Her face was so pale; blood dripping from her mouth, her right hand dyed in red with blood. Moreover, her cold, vengeful stare fixated right on Shusen.
“It is missing one plate… my lord… my looorrrddd… MY LORD!”
“Argh! A horrendous woman! A fiend!”
“What happened to you!” asked the mistress.
Shusen unsheathed his sword, “Horrendrous women-fiend!”
“That is very dangerous.”
“My lord, please calm down.”
“Argh, horrendous woman.”
“That…is… very… dangerous…”
“Don’t you dare!”
Shusen started to swing the sword widely, intended to kill the apparition.
But the one there was not Okiku, but the mistress.
“A, my mistress, mistress!”
“My..lord…ugh… I will haunt you…”
The mistress fell into Shusen’s arms, her vengeful glare met him as her life faded away. Shusen hastily pulled the blade out of the mistress and started to swing widely again. One by one, the maids and servants started packing and silently leaving the manor, except one. Oine went to Shusen to speak her mind.
“Lord Shusen, Okiku is not in this world anymore, the mistress has just gone now, Ine right here is willing to take care of your heart, my lord.”
Oine slowly approached Shusen, her face appeared in his sight.
“Ah, my lord, my lord! I love you! Lord Shusen!”
But when Shusen take a closer look at her right hand, he saw it bloody red with middle finger missing. When he looked at the face, it was that of Okiku with blood dripping from the mouth.
“Ahh! Please! Stop! Stop!”
“My lord… I…love…you…Lord Shusen…”
“Stop! Get away from me!”
“My lord… one plate…it is missing one plate! Lord Shusen…”
“You! Kiku! Fiend! Go away!”
“Aaaaagh! My lord! I will haunt you!”
“Wah! Aaaahhh! Uuuuuh…Okiku… forgive me! Please forgive me… It was my fault… hahaha! Ahahaha! Uhhuhuhuhaha!”
Shusen confessed then started to laugh maniacally. Did it work, or did it not, no one knew, But the councilor Sakai Tadakuni was passing by the Aoyama Manor. The Councilor entered the manor, saw the miserable scene and spoke.
“Officially, it would be right to take this man as a criminal and sent him to the court. But it would be too lenient. It would be best to let him live and be tortured by his own conscious of the crime he committed rather than to end his suffering now.”
Having said so, Sakai went to look inside the well. There, Okiku looked back at Sakai, and quietly nodded her head.
According to Hatamoto, who work under Councilor Sakai, Aoyama “Harima no Kami” Shusen was taken out of his work by the council and was put under a house-arrest at his kin. The house of Aoyama, which had a long-standing connection with the upper class, was cut of all ties. Finally, Councilor Sakai requested to meet a monk Ryoyo Jonin and asked.
“I have a favor to ask from you, my dear friend.”
“What would that be.”
“Can you go to Aoyama Manor for me? Once you are there, what to be done… if it were you, surely, you will know what should be done, what I want you to do.”
Ryoyo then went to Aoyama Manor at once. There, he found two lifeless bodies of women, a garden full of pupae on dried leaves, and a sorrowful voice from the well.
“I…cannot find a word…”
Ryoyo Jonin put two bodies in proper posture and begin praying in a ritual for them to find peace in the afterlife. Then, Okiku appeared out of the well and started counting the plates in sorrowful, painful voice.
“huuu~ one plate… two plaaates… three plaaates… four plaaates…”
Blood pouring out from the wounded lips, Okiku kept on counting while looking at Ryoyo Jonin with a face writhed in agony. Once she reached “nine plates”, she would say one missing, starting crying in tears, then started counting again from one. Observing her, Ryoyo Jonin gathered the broken tenth plate, handed them toward the well and chanted.
“Okiku-san, the tenth plate is this. It is here. Please, find peace and rest.”
As he did so, Okiku smiled kindly and said.
“Oh… I’m glad!”
And then, her apparition vanished. Suddenly, a smell of musk surrounded the garden, and the countless number of pupae turned into black butterfly and flew away all at once.
And that was how the story of the ghost of Okiku ended.
To appease the spirits of all the other slain maids, Ryoyo Jonin built a shrine somewhere by himself. And he said that he would wait for their spirits…