Shion opened her eyes. Upon opening them, she could see that her surroundings were completely white. There was no sound, and the silence seemed overwhelming.
The young woman quickly sat up, and looked around curiously, and everywhere she looked she could see white.
She looked down with a puzzled frown. What is this? How did I…
Her eyes widened as her memories of the fall came flooding back.
She examined her arms. Nothing seems broken. This is very strange. How did I survive that fall? And how did I get here?
Shion looked around again. While she could still see white in every direction, she could slowly distinguish different shapes and shades of white in the background, indicating that she was indeed somewhere, and not in a pure white void.
She slowly stood up, and it was then that she noticed she was still wearing the same outfit she had been wearing when she fell.
Shion absently rubbed the side of her head. Odd. I feel…calmer. The world doesn't seem like such a scary place anymore. I wonder what Mion would thi…
Her eyes widened. I killed Mion.
She fell to her knees. I killed old man Kimiyoshi.
She gripped the sides of her head. I killed Rika.
She clenched her eyes shut. I killed Satoko!
While she had felt some guilt for what she had done before, she had been able to largely bury those feelings under a veal of self righteousness, assuring herself that they had deserved it for what they had all done to Satoshi. Now, however, those reasons seemed feeble, her doubts resurfaced, and the full magnitude of what she had done began to hit her with full force.
Shion shook her head back and forth. What have I done? How could I have done all of that?
She tried to calm herself, taking several deep breaths. Satoshi. I did it for Satoshi. But…would he have really wanted that?
She winced, knowing full well what Satoshi would have thought of her actions.
Well, what's done is done. But, can I really live with myself, knowing what I did?
She paused, and opened her eyes. Although, how did I survive that fall? And where am I now?
Shion frowned, feeling puzzled again, and absently ran her fingers through her hair. As she did so, she noticed something odd about her arm.
She held it up to look at it more closely, and noticed that her skin seemed much smoother than it had before, without any noticeably blemishes at all.
But that wasn't all. It was also translucent, as she could see the white in the background through her arm.
She looked at her arm in disbelief. What is this? What is…
Her eyes widened. She looked around her surroundings once more, and the realization slowly dawned on her.
As she said the words out loud, she noticed that her mouth felt different. She realized that she could no longer feel the sensation of saliva inside her mouth. She pressed a finger to her wrist, and found no pulse.
Shion slowly stood up again. So, I guess I didn't survive that fall. That makes a little more sense.
She looked around. But, what do I do now? I guess, I just start walking and hope I reach somewhere.
She began walking. As she walked, her surroundings began to look more distinct. The air began to feel warmer, like she was outside on a day where the weather was warm, but not too warm.
She looked around, and though she still couldn't see anything clearly through all the white, she felt calmer. This place reminds me of the garden we had on the estate. Mion and I used to have a lot of fun back then.
She frowned. I wonder if I'll see her again.
As Shion continued to walk forward, the ground beneath her feet began to feel more solid, and before long a door appeared in front of her.
She stopped for a moment, mildly surprised. After hesitating, she slowly opened the door. The door led to a flight of stairs descending down, at the bottom of which was another door.
Shion walked down the steps, and other than the sound of her foot making contact with each step, the silence continued. As she came closer to the second door, she began to feel more and more nervous.
As she neared the door, she felt a shiver of apprehension. I don't know why, but I have a sinking feeling that something unpleasant lies on the other side.
Shion let out a sigh, reached forward, and pushed the door open.
The light was noticeably dimmer inside the room, and it took her eyes a moment to adjust. She could see that the room looked remarkably similar to the torture chamber beneath the Sonazaki estate.
Looking to the left of the room, she could see that there were no torture devices to be seen. Instead, a large podium was placed in front of the wall. It was currently unoccupied, but looked like it belonged to an important official.
She turned to look at the right of the room, and felt as though her stomach had suddenly become filled with lead.
On the right side of the room was the observation seats, and sitting on top of them were her victims; her grandmother, old man Kimiyoshi, Satoko, and Mion.
Satoko was clinging onto Mion's arm, looking at Shion with undisguised fear. Mion and Kimiyoshi were looking at her with a mixture of sadness and pity.
Her grandmother, on the other hand, seemed rather annoyed.
"So, she finally joins us. It took you long enough."
Her grandmother pointed at her with a stern frown. "The others filled me in on what happened, and I must say I'm very shocked. To think my own granddaughter was capable of such things…"
Shion avoided making eye contact with Kimiyoshi, Satoko, or her sister, still reeling from the shock of seeing them and having no idea what to say to them. Instead, she focused on the person whose death she felt no remorse for, despite being the only one which had been an accident.
She glared at her grandmother. "Well, I suppose it runs in the family, seeing what you did to Satoshi even after I showed responsibility."
Her grandmother returned the glare. "So, it's true, you did all of it for the sake of that damned Hojo brat. Are you out of your mind?"
"I'm no more out of my mind than you, you murderer!"
"That's rich, coming from you! You insolent, ungrateful…"
Her grandmother immediately fell silent.
Shion flinched at the unexpected voice. She turned around, and saw that the podium was now occupied. A purple haired girl with two short horns protruding from her forehead stood at the top of the podium overlooking the five deceased souls. She was wearing an outfit similar to Rika's shrine maiden outfit.
But the thing that Shion noticed the most about this girl were her eyes. They were dark and tinged red, and stared with an intensity that frightened her.
Shion quietly spoke. "Who…who are you?"
The girl looked at her. "I have many names. One name you might call me would be Oyashiro-sama."
Shion's eyes widened.
The girl shook her head. "But I find that I do not like that name. You may call me Hanyuu. I am the local god, and while I have limited influence in the human world, one of my duties is to guide souls that perish in Hinamizawa into the next world."
She glanced at the people behind Shion. "I have already judged the people who came before you, and based on the weight of their sins and virtues determined what will happen to them. It is now your turn. Ordinarily these judgments happen just between myself and the person being judged, but given the nature of your sins, they have been allowed to bear witness. Do you understand?"
Shion nodded numbly, feeling a horrible, cold feeling of dread enveloping her like a blanket that had been soaked in icy water.
Hanyuu gestured at a chair directly in front of the podium that had just appeared. "Please sit."
Shion obeyed, and sat gingerly at the edge of the chair, trying hard not to think about the people who were sitting just a few feet behind her.
Shion looked up, and the feeling of dread increased as Hanyuu stared back at her with those deep intense red eyes, as if she was looking into Shion's very soul. Which, Shion reflected, she very well could be, though that thought didn't comfort her.
Hanyuu began to speak. "Shion Sonazaki, born July 10, 1966. Died June 23, 1983. Like all humans, you have done both good and bad in your life. In your case, the bad is what must be examined most closely. You are guilty of causing the death of five souls, most of them murdered in cold blood by your hands. You are also guilty of attempted murder, and of causing damage to countless other souls who remain among the living."
Shion winced as she heard the charges against her, though she felt a little better upon hearing one of them.
Attempted murder? That must mean I didn't succeed in killing Keiichi. That's good. Why did I even do that to him? What was I thinking?
"Outside factors will be taken into account. For instance, at the time you committed these murders, you were suffering from the later stages of Hinamizawa Syndrome."
Shion blinked uncertainly, and could hear the people behind her murmuring. "Hinamizawa Syndrome?"
Hanyuu nodded. "A disease which causes fear and paranoia in its victims, and in the later stages it can induce massive delusions and even hallucinations."
Shion's eyes widened. Delusions? Hallucinations? But…that could mean…
"Furthermore, your family's cruel treatment of you and their needlessly secretive behavior also contributed to the circumstances that led to this tragedy."
Shion's grandmother scowled, but said nothing.
Hanyuu's gaze became stern. "However, even accounting for these factors, that still does not change the fact that you are guilty of ending the lives of five people, and negatively affecting countless others through your harmful actions."
Shion's clasped her hands together in an attempt to keep them from shaking, and tried to remain calm even as Hanyuu's gaze made her want to run far away.
"And despite what you may have led yourself to believe, you are the only soul here who is guilty of the sin of murder."
Shion looked up sharply. "What? But how is that possible? Grandma and the Sonazaki family, they were behind the disappearance of Satoshi and others, weren't they?"
Hanyuu shook her head. "It is true that the Sonazaki family is behind some rather shady affairs, and Oryo Sonazaki does have a number of sins that she must atone for. But murder is not one of them. I am not all knowing, but I can say with absolute certainty that the Sonazaki family had nothing to do with Satoshi's disappearance."
Shion frowned. "Then who killed him?"
Hanyuu sighed. "No one."
Hanyuu continued. "His spirit has not yet departed the realm of the living. I do not know where he is or what his condition is, but I do know this: Satoshi Hojo is still alive."
Shion remained as still as a statue, her mind racing.
He's still alive…
In her mind's eye she saw an image of herself strangling her sister...
She saw herself whipping her grandmother's corpse...
She could see Kimiyoshi struggling to breath...
She could see Satoko crying out in pain as the knife plunged into her arm...
She could hear the thud her sister's body made as it hit the bottom of the well...
She could see Keiichi's eyes widen in disbelief as the blood began to seep out of the wound, the knife embedded in his abdomen...
He's still alive!
Shion gripped the sides of her head and screamed. She kept screaming, as the full horror of what she had done continued to course through her, tearing her apart.
Eventually she stopped, and began to sob uncontrollably. She fell to her hands and knees before the podium.
"I'm sorry! I'm so sorry! I'm the worst person in the world! Grandmother, Kimiyoshi, Satoko, Sister, I'm so sorry! I'm horrible! I should never have been born! I deserve to have all of my fingernails ripped out! I deserve to rot in hell! I'm sorry!"
She continued to sob, but stopped when she felt a hand pat her on the head. She looked up to see that Hanyuu had left the podium and was standing right next to her. Her eyes were no longer red, and her face now held a kind expression.
Hanyuu smiled softly. "It's okay."
Shion sniffed. "What?"
Hanyuu took a step back. "There are three places human souls go once their life on earth has ended. The first is Heaven, where those who have been virtuous and strived to better themselves and the world around them go to receive their reward. The second is Purgatory, where those who lead imperfect lives may purify and improve themselves, and perhaps eventually make it into Heaven. The third is hell, where those souls that are evil and unrepentant are condemned for all eternity."
Hanyuu smiled. "Because you showed remorse, because you recognized the severity of what you had done, you showed that you still have good in you. So you qualify for Purgatory, where you may eventually earn the chance to get into heaven."
Shion rubbed her eyes, feeling a little calmer. "Really? But…but how can that be? How can I possibly atone for what I've done?"
Hanyuu explained. "While your sins are serious, you were not in your right mind at the time, and redemption will always be available to those who seek it. There is no sense in dealing out an infinite punishment for a finite crime."
Shion let out a breath. "I see."
Hanyuu glanced at the other four souls. "Your sentence shall be determined by that which you took. If you had not killed Oryo, she would have lived for another three years. If you had not killed Kimiyoshi, he would have lived for another ten years. If you had not killed Satoko, she would have lived for another 79 years. And if you had not killed Mion, she would have lived for another 84 years. In total you stole 176 years from them, so that will be how long your sentence in Purgatory will be."
Shion bowed her head. "I suppose that's fair."
She froze. "But wait, what about Rika? Where is she?"
She looked around, only just now realizing that one of her victims was missing. Mion and Satoko looked down at the ground sadly.
Hanyuu glanced to the side. "Rika is a special case. I waived the time you stole from her, because if you had not killed her, she would have only lived for one or two more days."
Shion's eyes widened. "What? But why? How?"
Hanyuu closed her eyes. "I do not know. Rika is currently reliving the same few weeks over and over again. She is in this time loop because I initiated it. I did this because I wanted to give her the chance to live beyond the June of 1983, and to one day have a happy and safe future."
Shion gasped in shock. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see that Mion and Satoko did not look surprised by this information, so she concluded that Hanyuu must have already told them.
Shion put her face in her hands. "Does this mean…have I been killing her over and over again?"
Hanyuu shook her head. "No. In this particular world the tragedy that befell Hinamizawa was your doing, but this is not the case in all of the Hinamizawas. In some worlds, Keiichi develops a strange paranoia because of the Hinamizawa Syndrome, and ends up killing some of his friends, usually Mion and Rena."
Shion looked up at Hanyuu in disbelief.
"In other worlds, Rena is the one who falls victim to the disease, and ends up holding the entire school hostage. And in a few worlds, Mion develops an intense and irrational jealousy because of her feelings for Keiichi, which leads to yet another tragedy."
Shion looked at her sister uncertainly, who shifted uncomfortably at Hanyuu's words.
Hanyuu stepped forward. "Whether Rika will find happiness one day, I do not know. For now, it is time to send you on your way."
Hanyuu gave them a few minutes to talk. During this time, Shion profusely apologized once again, and Kimiyoshi, Satoko, and Mion forgave her, though her grandmother said nothing.
Hanyuu gestured for them to follow her. They stepped through the far door in the room, and Shion saw that once again they were in an environment that was almost entirely white.
A few yards away, there were three doors. On the right there was a bright white door, that shined with an intensity that made it hard to look at for too long. On the left was a door that was a dark black, an ominous air surrounding it. In the middle was a gray door, that looked rather unremarkable and boring next to the other two.
Hanyuu waved her hand in the air. The white and gray doors slowly opened, while the black door remained closed. The doors opened up to a long, white corridor that seemed to stretch away forever.
Hanyuu turned to face them. "The white door leads to Heaven. The gray door leads to Purgatory. The black door leads to Hell. Kimiyoshi, Satoko, and Mion have qualified for Heaven, while Oryo and Shion have qualified for Purgatory."
Oryo huffed. "Well, I suppose this is goodbye for now."
Oryo gestured at Shion. "You'd better have learned some manners next time I see you!"
Shion smiled weakly. "Yes grandmother."
Oryo stepped through the gray door and disappeared.
Shion bowed her head, and began to walk forward, but stopped when she felt a hand on her shoulder.
She looked back and was surprised to see that it was Mion.
Mion looked past her twin and at Hanyuu, a determined look on her face. "Hanyuu, does Shion have to go by herself? Couldn't I go with her?"
Shion's eyes widened. "Mion…"
Hanyuu tilted her head. "You could go with her if that was what you truly wanted, but you would have to shoulder part of the burden of her punishment. Are you willing to do that?"
Shion protested. "Sister, no! You're allowed to go to Heaven, you don't need to stay behind for my sake!"
Mion smiled. "But I want to. You may have killed me, but as Hanyuu said, you weren't in your right mind. And from what she said about these other worlds, it could have been me who ended up being a murderer. We're sisters, and we need to stick together. I couldn't enjoy heaven knowing that you were suffering all by yourself, with no one to keep you company or help you."
Shion trembled. "Mion…"
Shion broke down and hugged her sister, sobbing into her shoulder. Mion gently patted Shion on the back, and nodded at Kimiyoshi and Satoko.
They returned the gesture, and after a brief pause the older man and the young girl stepped through the white door, and disappeared.
Once Shion had calmed down, the twins faced forward, looking straight at the gray door.
Hanyuu spoke. "Since you have agreed to share your sister's burden, Mion, Shion's sentence will be split between the two of you, and you shall both remain in Purgatory for 88 years. Do you understand?"
Mion and Shion nodded.
Hanyuu stepped aside. "Very well. Good luck to you both."
The twins grabbed each other's hand, and after bracing themselves for a moment, stepped forward through the gray doorway and disappeared.