A Midsummer's Festival of Horror

A/N: I must apologize for taking this long to write a new chapter for practically nine years. As always I ran the usual gamut of problems writers are plagued as well as being outstripped by the times, chief of which is the disaster-and-upheavel-laden year of 2020, with the danmned pandemic and political horseplay. Also I saw an alarming trend frequently encountered in FFN: fics removed by authors on selection/authors removing themselves entirely without so much as an explanation, the latter as if they want to erase any evidence of having been on FFN. It's how the brilliant Fatal Frame and Bleach crossover, The Village, by SpatulaCastle and its supplementary fic, was lost to all of us. I managed to contact some of these ex-authors, the reasons vary, some have hit the wall and wanted to go out completely while others have been disillusioned with the site and/or have moved to greener pastures, notably Archives of Our Own (AO3). I don't blame them honestly, I respect their decisions and reasons, especially the ones on FFN which are legit, with a decline of admin support which doesn't fix issues like plaigarism of fan material, rampant trolls and poser "critics," and the odious Google ads that mar reader experience.

Still, I wish for better days to return to FFN, a place where our imaginations are unleashed freely once more. But enough of my ranting, please R&R this wonderful fic. Stay healthy, stay safe.

Disclaimer: Lucky Star is the property of Kagami Yoshimizu and Kyoto Animation(producers of, K-On CLANNAD, Full Metal Panic? Fumoffo and Second Raid and Haruhi Suzumiya) and the Fatal Frame franchise is the property of Tecmo. No copyright infringement intended.


Chapter 2: Welcome To Minakami

"What singing?" Kagami asked as she tried to make sense of their new surroundings. She let her sister go and looked at the collection of houses from their high ground. This wasn't supposed to be here! she thought. The houses below were constructed of mainly wood, paper, and straw, only a few have slat tiles further from the village proper to the parts further uphill where the better-off lived apart from the rest; they were of feudal architecture from which the more palatial homes stand out as the most ornate examples alongside the humble peasant huts, all of which had long since gone out of style.

The collection of buildings below were dusted and aged, yet appeared abandoned not to long ago. To say that they've seen better days was an understatement. There was no sign of wear from the elements, which would have left them collapsed and and ruined, yet they looked they could. No riot of vegetation growing among the buildings, the foliage felt not dead but rather... lifeless. Their vitality leeched away. In fact she couldn't help it but she felt like she was seeing the whole place in a palette between sepia and gray. The clouds above were leaden, the moon shone on the clouds, looking like a pearl whose brilliant luster was dulled into a derelict pale. A wind blew but it was not welcoming, swaying the bushes and trees around them. The entire effect was one of a cemetery, an empty land of the dead.

"Onee-chan," Tsukasa whispered, her voice quaking. "I-it's... it's..."

"Minakami... The lost village... I never thought I'd see it." It came out as a low whisper. Kagami could not believe this was the place! Blinking twice to see if she was dreaming. This was the lost village tgey talked about! A few torches and braziers were lit around the streets. There was very faint lighting filtering through the paper screens. They only serve to obscure than illuminate.

"You think anybody's home?" Tsukasa asked timidly, a beacon of reality in this absurd situation.

If this was abandoned, who left the lights on?

She had enough sightseeing for one night. "We need to get back." Still holding Tsukasa in tow, she turned around to see that in the place of the path they came in was thick brush forming an impenetrable wall. Kagami had to blink her eyes again to see what she's seeing.

"What the- Where's the path!?" She tried to part it, wedging her fingers into the foliage but it didn't yield. There was no path, no clearing, only the thick green wall stood against them. "This wasn't supposed to be here."

She tried again, pushing her hands deeper and grasping what purchase she can, then with a heave tried to pry it loose. It took a full three minutes with grunting before she gave up. She tried again twice, each attempt lasting a minute longer than the last.

She panted, letting go of the thicket and looking at it in disbelief. With a burst she shook the foliage in anger. "Fuck!" That sudden swear made Tsukasa jump. She dug deeper, trying to part it, shaking it loose. After a few minutes of strenuous effort it ended futilely as before. She banged the bamboo thicket with her clenched fist. "Damn it!"

"We can't get out?" the timid twin asked uneasily.

She sighed her frustration. "I don't know..." she turned to the village below. Tsukasa claimed she heard singing but she couldn't find anyone or anything down there. The air was still, she noted, no way can the sound be carried here without a wind. But it was cold thus at least some sound may have carried through... Where was it? As she looked around for a possible source her eyes caught sight of that flat heavy stone ringed by rope with various votive scrolls that were hung on them like in at their shrine at home. These were held on five pillars like a claw grasping around a thick piece of fallen roof slate.

Kagami's sight was affixed on the monument. It wasn't merely the queer appearance, there was something about it that aroused a visceral fear inside her, a cold hollow howl, a siren call that asks her to come. Then as though snippet by snippet she remembered Tsukasa's assault on her, how she swatted her hand away like a fly, followed by the burst of strength that she mustered and sent her back hard on the dirt, then she was over her and had her hands all over her neck, clamping her through as she looked into her empty lilac eyes-

Kagami realized she was clutching her own neck with her right hand, that frightful sight of her own twin sister throttling her made her skin crawl, made her heart stop. She dare not look at her, fearing she would assault her again. Her heart thumped hard against her chest and she was stiff, her mind startled and frozen. She would never do this, she thought, she wasn't capable of murder-

Then she remembered! That woman whose spectral form covered Tsukasa like film. A ghastly epiphany dawned on her. Was she possessed...? It was the only thought that made sense.

"Nii-chan..." That mewling sound nearly fired the ice up her spine, bring her eyes once again on its sayer, Tsukasa, abruptly cutting off her fear-fueled musings.

"Y-yes?" Kagami's voice trembled, now brought back to the here and now of their situation, very uncertain.

"What are we gonna do now?" She looked at the elder twin with her droopy eyes, now filled with fright.

Kagami took a deep breath and shook her head, and forced herself to access the situation objectively. She was relieved that Tsukasa was normal. Could be a ghost or could be a hallucination, standard horror tropes of a haunted locale messing up someone's mind, employing fear and paranoia. She wasn't exactly a believer of the supernatural but she never expected it to be this malevolent.

"We'll try to get of here." She was more surprised by how controlled she sounded than she actually was.

Tsukasa whimpered regretfully, "This all my fault, onee-chan, I'm sorry for leading us here. I shouldn't have followed that butterfly." She would have to watch out for that.

Kagami put a comforting hand on her shoulder. "It's alright, Tsukasa, I'm here and together there's nothing that can stop us, not even some backwater haunted village." And certainly not some red butterfly, she thought.

"What about the others?" she asked worriedly.

"Hopefully, the smart thing for them would be to stay in camp and call the authorities."

"But what if they don't?"

Of course. How could I forget. Kagami felt a vein ready to pop, knowing Konata. "There's Kuroi-sensei and Kona-chan's cousin Narumi for that." She sighed, knowing that would be too optimistic. "But just in case..." She picked up a stick and began writing kanji on the loose soil. She finished her message in bold characters the size of shoeboxes.

KAGAMI AND TSUKASA HERE. WHATEVER YOU DO, DO NOT ENTER THE VILLAGE. STAY HERE AT THE OVERLOOK. GET HELP. WE'LL MEET HERE.

"That's a good idea," Tsukasa cheered. "They won't get lost in the village."

Kagami was less optimistic. "It's the only idea I have, hope she does what I wrote for once." Her eyes followed the path that curved around the treeline, overlooking the village. She took her sister by the hand and they began walking on it. "There's bound to be another exit here." The circuitous route seemed to go on, with no clear sight of the rest of the curve. It was like the rim of a rice bowl with the treeline a green trim at the edge. The scant light in the darkness left visibility just within a few meters of the twins' front. The treeline seemed ominous with the two taking furtive glances at the shadows made in the scant light spilling through the canopy and onto the underbrush. They could not shake off that feeling that the shadows where watching them. Kagami thought that there were shapes in the dark, eyes glowing- she shook her head. That's just adrenaline, she told herself in her head, it's making you jumpy. She could feel Tsukasa tugged around her arm. Her fear was up high. She picked up the pace and they continued their silent trek along the treeline. Neither ever cast glances on the village to their right, tacitly agreeing to ignore it, lest to look would trap them here for eternity.

She recalled what her father told her about this place before it was flooded; what Miyuki shared at the camp tonight. This was no coincidence, she thought. She can't deny it, but she put that out of her mind dor now. Tsukasa made not a sound, so she didn't as well, no point in fearmongering by discussing the whole thing. The faster they can get out of here, the better, and hopefully before her friends found themselves in this predicament.

Along the way the treeline was gradually receding, giving way to a clear sight of a ravine, revealing a piece of clear land at the other side of the crevice. Though startled to see the chasm, the promise of freedom getting to the other side spurned them on. What's more, they can hear crickets and cicadas. They must be close! They saw something around the bend on the edge of the woods, two wooden stakes with rope... a bridge! They both looked at each other, smiles bright at deliverance at hand. They both dashed for it, a weight off their shoulders at last! Even Tsukasa's subpar form was subdued by the elation she felt at reaching safety. They stopped at the bridge to catch their breath.

"I can't believe it," Kagami exclaimed between breaths. "We're actually getting outta here."

"I know," her sister said in relief, panting. "We might actually see everyone again."

"Yes, we...," Kagami was bothered by that. She realized the others might be looking for them.

Tsukasa gasped at that realization. "Oh no, Konata-chan, Miyuki..."

"Don't worry, they're safe," the elder twin reassured. I think. "Hopefully, whatever opened the path to here has closed behind us. They can't follow us here, which I know leads to the lake." It was a lie, she wasn't certain it was but anything to keep Tsukasa from freaking out was most welcome.

"I hope you're right," she said uneasily, wanting to believe it's true.

Kagami faced the bridge and the hope that they previously had suddenly vanished. The bridge looked rickety, sagging with threadbare rope and rotting planks, with gaps in some places in its length. The whole thing looked fragile, one touch would all needed to fall apart.

You gotta be shitting me, she thought in bewilderment. She looked below. The ravine below was far from inviting, the murky darkness obscured the bottom. She can't tell if there was any water below like a creek. Leaping over it, even with a pole, was out of the question. The sheer cliff face offered no means of purchase to safely climb down.

"This doesn't look safe to cross." Tsukasa's voice seem to rang in the still world they tried to escape from.

"It's not," Kagami replied. Then it hit hear, and repulsed her in equal measure. I gotta see what's in the village. "Not in this state." She felt her hand squeeze on her shoulders. Tsukasa's soft grasp comforted her, prompting her to clasp hers and squeeze back in warmth. "We're getting out of here together, I promise."

"Onee-chan, who are you talking to?" That odd question prompted her to Tsukasa beside her, whose eyes drooped in worry. And she was still holding the hand on her shoulder. In alarm she turned swiftly and was greeted with a sudden cold blast. It sent her off-balance, pushing her backward and before she knew it she stepped on a bridge plank and it splintered right away.

Kagami screamed! It seemed the earth suddenly collapse beneath her and only her quick grab of the rope saved her. The sagging bridge became taut at the girl hanging on for dear life.

"Onee-chan!" Tsukasa screamed.

"TSUKASA!" Kagami shrieked with a shrill cry enough to wake the dead.

Without hesitation the younger twin scrambled to her sister, seeing her literally hanging for dear life. The bridge suddenly shuddered, one of the ropes snapped, lowering Kagami further downwards. She bent over and reached out her hand. "Grab my hand, Kagami!"

The bridge tilted down, bringing Kagami three feet below the edge. She was holding the rope by both hands. And he can hear stretching sounds, the rope was at its limit, Tsukasa was on her knees extending her hand for Kagami.

Kagami looked at Tsukasa and for a brief moment she saw another figure misting behind her. It was the same sinister figure that had hovered over Tsukasa. Horror seized her heart, her hands fortunately tightened rather than release the rope. It didn't help as her feet was dangling in the air, cold breeze swaying her slightly. She can feel her hands sweating and as well as her forehead as her eyes went back and forth at everything she could see, her hands clinging for dear life, her sister's hand, and the foggy abyss beneath her. She panicking, truly facing primal fear for the first time in her life. Nothing made sense, her eyes uselessly scanning for choices that seem offer nothing but her worst fears. She thought she heard low murmurs speaking rapidly in hushed whispers and thought she saw shapes flitting beneath her, shifting into anything from manic grins, hollow mournful frowns, and hands seeming to reach for her ankles.

Another shrill call from her desperate twin made her look up, she then heard a slight tearing on the fabric. The rope will not hold her for long! Her heart raced.

"Onee-chan! I can't reach you! You need to grab my hand and don't let go!" she pleaded desperately, already on her belly as much as she can manage.

RIP!

The sagging bridge shuddered and it almost shook her loose. Any moment longer would mean the death of her or her sister. "Tsukasa!" she finally shouted. "I want you to grab hold of something! I'm gonna jump for your hand!"

"B-but y-you will fall!" she said in shock, fearing it will fail.

"It's my only chance! Get ready!" At that Kagami let one of her hands reach out for the hanging planks to ease tension on her rope. Tsukasa looked beside her to see the rope around one of the bridge posts that had snapped loose. She pulled the rope and curled it around around her arm until it stretched between them, anchoring her in.

"I got it!"

"Alright!" She took a deep breath. "In the count of one! Two!" She tensed up. "Three!" She bounded against the cliff face, leaping from it and letting go, and grabbed Tsukasa's arm with both hands.

Tsukasa whelped, the force almost threatening to pull her arm from its socket. "I got yah!" Kagami cried. "Pull me up! Now!"

With a strength normally unknown to her, Tsukasa lifted her sister up with a mighty pull, grunting and straining all the way with her rope anchor and she tugged Kagami away just in time as the rope supports snapped completely, falling into the ravine in a thunderous roar. Clearing away from the edge, they both sank on their backs and gulped the air like fish on a deck. It was all over. They're saved!

They both laid on the grass, not quite believing what had just happened to them but relieved to have escaped death.


Tsukasa could not help but think of what happened earlier. Onee-chan almost fell to her death, she thought glumly as the aches of her body became slowly apparent, especially her arms. It just took one step on that nearly sent her plunging into the ravine. I'm scared now. We have to get out of here. But how? She almost got her killed. And now we're trapped in the lost village because of me, because I followed that red butterfly. The recollection crushed her. She curled up and began to sob quietly in guilt and shame.

Kagami stared blankly at the dull, starless sky as the fresh memories played in her mind. She can hear her beating heart and long pantings she had which served to calm her down. The adrenaline was ebbing away now. Her body arms felt sore from clinging over at the bridge. Feeling limp she raised her hands to look at them, seeing the imprints of the rope she held on to with a layer of dust. Something pushed me, she thought. It had to be. Otherwise, she would never had stepped into the rickety bridge. And what was that figure around Tsukasa? As she lowered her hands to push herself up, she saw it that made her heart drop: across the ravine were the bridge once spanned was a plot of land marked with wooden posts.

A graveyard. It was overrun with weeds and brambles. The wooden markers bore the names of those interned beneath them, she knew, in spite of their ineligibility.

Shit... She was taken aback, founding herself sitting up. This place wants them dead. Looking around in alarm, she saw her sister curled up. Quickly, she crept over to check her and found out she was crying. Concern drove away her fear and she laid beside her.

"Tsukasa," she said softly, gentling nudging her, "Tsukasa, are you alright?"

Her soft pleas got Tsukasa to turn to her reluctantly, eyes red with tears streaking down her face. "I-I'm sorry, I'm sorry."

The sight of her crying sister, especially in the wake of everything, almost tore her apart. She brought her sister up in an embrace, laying her head against her chest, the tears pouring warmly against it.

"There's nothing to be sorry about," she assured her softly. "You saved me, remember?"

"B-b-but I led us here!" she choked, "T-to t-the lost village. Now we can't escape."

The memory of her pursuit and entry melted away from the front of her mind. Her sister needed her. She pulled her in a little tighter. "No, it's not your fault. It's whatever haunts this place, that's their doing, not you."

She didn't reply except stifling some sniffles and wiping her face. "I'm scared. Please, don't leave me."

Kagami felt her eyes glistened. She held her closer. "No way in hell I'd leave you, Tsukasa. We're getting out of here together." It took a while for Tsukasa's crying to subside. She lay there still with Kagami. She made no attempt to move, not wanting to startle Tsukasa, not wanting to part from this warmth they both had. It was like infinity when she came to her senses, she had no idea how much time had passed when she finally took stock of their surroundings again. The dread returned but it wasn't as foreboding as before.

"You feelin' alright, Tsukasa?" she asked during their moment of calm.

"A bit," she replied, her voice more settled, more upbeat now. "My arm hurts a bit onee-chan."

"I'm sorry," she apologized. "Shouldn't have been anywhere near that bridge." Then memories of Konata's dumb fat jokes entered her mind. Of course, she thought wryly.

"It's alright," she said absently. "I feel bad about leading us here."

"You did pretty good over there. If you hadn't done what you did, I'd be at the bottom over there."

"Really?" The younger twin's voice sounded hopeful, yet doubtful.

"Yeah, you're a regular hero. I knew I can count on you." This was more than cheering up her sister, she was truly thankful for her sister's actions. "And you can count on me. We're twins, what one person can do we do double. And we always have each other's backs. Together we are unstoppable and we will go home."

Tsukasa nodded against Kagami's chest.

Then she saw a change in the scenery.

There were patches of eerie red glimmers across their vista- fires. The hills overlooking the village had previously been a darker silhouette at the back were lit - but not lit enough. Braziers and torches dotted randomly across the area. And much of that light she could see was around the entrance of the village, lighting the whole place up. She saw that Tsukasa look up and gasped, seeing some of the torches and braziers irregularly tracing their path back to the entrance.

Then something made her heart stop, made her cold again. She's hearing it now!

"Kagami, the singing is starting again," Tsukasa gasped.

"I know," she replied, now hearing it now for the first time.

"It's a funeral march."

Kagami wished her ears can shut off at that point. She can hear the deep, mournful chorus rolling the lyrics as they sang, the clashing cymbals and slow-beating drums, each thump was like a heartbeat for a lost soul, the whole symphony echoed loudly. At each rhythmic slap of the drum skins made her heart erupt, almost like it wanted to escape from her chest and into the darkness. Both turned their heads to the source of music. They can clearly see torchlight through the woods, a collection of fist-sized fireflies bobbing slightly about. And they certainly weren't! The crowd, with their torches, seemed to be coming their way, the orbs of flame growing as they inched closer in rhythmic regularity. Kagami made her decision.

"Looks like we're gonna have to circle back."

"You mean the village?" Tsukasa gasped, her face stricken with terror.

"We don't have a choice." They both got up. "Whatever happens we stick together no matter what."

Tsukasa nodded as they doubled back to the overlook. To keep the fear at bay Kagami mused about bringing a two-by-four to the ad company that published the brochure for Minakami Lake and expressing her customer dissatisfaction by shoving it up their places where the sun doesn't shine.


The forest was a riot of sound as the gang marched into the woods. The beams of flashlights cut across the air in search of the twins, in hopes of finding clues or the twins would see their lights.

"Kagami! Tsukasa! Where are you!?" Konata's cry echoed loudly, her voice was loud as she was making herself heard in a noisy anime convention, briefly drowning out the forest noises.

"Tsukasa just ran off like that?" Misao asked in bewilderment, keeping apace with the surprisingly energetic bluehead.

"I know Tsukasa but I never thought she'd just go off randomly," she replied. She made no pretense to any sort of wit or affect casual nonchalance. This was serious! Even without the story of the place Kagami shared to everyone back at their camp this place was no park but a freakin', honest-to-goodness forest, where loosing your way was no laughing matter. "She wasn't made for this, she's hardly athlete material."

"If that's the case, they shouldn't be far," the fanged girl pointed out, "and they would've heard us by now."

"How about you help a bit by singing?" Konata bit back, sounding very crossed, which was out-of-character for her but not beyond the circumstances.

"Okay, okay!" she quickly placated, "I'll help." She cupped her hands around her mouth and hollowered, repeating Konata's call for the twin while the worried otaku called and scanned on.

The whole thing disconcerted her. They shouldn't be this deep in the woods. She last saw Kagami in pursuit of Tsukasa north of the camp, in a route that skirted the lake in the rougher edges of the woods. She struggled to keep contact but the undergrowth impeded her run and she was forced to slow down, watching the darkness swallow the elder twin as she dashed headlong among the trees, and the last thing she heard was Kagami pleading her sister to come back. They couldn't just disappear, right?

Certainly not in the direction which led to the lake because there was no sign of them along its banks and she didn't see them in the water or they would've seen them sopping wet. And they weren't that far to begin with, having camped within sight of its waters. They made a turn right further inland, it was the only logical conclusion.

She hoped to find them soon, at least before having to give up and wait for sunup, but Konata wasn't one to wait once fired up, be it for her otaku hobbies or, for the first time in her life, a grave situation concerning her friends. With just being in these uncharted woods alone Minakami was already a dangerous place. And she said people sometimes vanish here but that was long ago, she thought. Then she shook that thought from her mind, the supernatural wasn't real, thus not her concern. The twins being lost and injured was. She regretted make light of getting lost in here back in the morning. "Kagami! Tsukasa!"

Not far behind them was the rest of the gang trudging through the undergrowth, also contributing to the search. Or rather followed her mad dash into the woods to stop her.

"Konata! Slow down already!" Kuroi cried from behind, panting as she and Yui caught up with the other two. After the commotion that roused everyone Konata just flew off after the twins with such speed that the rest of the party was caught flat-footed. However, the undergrowth and darkness also slowed their progress and forced caution, evening the odds for Kuroi's pursuit. The two girls stopped as the teacher and police officer leaned on a tree to catch their breath. "My God, Konata," she finally said, "you can't run off like that, especially not in the woods and into the dark."

"Yeah, Konata," said Yui between puffs. "How'd you get through this without tripping I wouldn't know."

"But Kagami and Tsukasa are out there," Konata protested. "We can't stop now!"

"I know but we can't just recklessly swoop in after them. We gotta call in the proper authorities. You've got your cousin Yui."

"I was just about to do that," the policewoman said, breath back. "We could've lost you as well."

The bluenette wanted to counter it, wanted to continue the search. She looked deflated. On one hand she knew they were in trouble as she had not seen either of them. On the other she can she deny the undisputable fact that her teacher and cousin brought up: in her haste to save them, she would inadvertantly join them. Yet...

"Would they get here in time?" she asked reluctantly.

"Probably not," she admitted. "We just have to wait."

That won't do, she thought. "Would it hurt to look some more?"

"Konata, you might get hurt," she said seriously, "and anyone else near you if you pull that stunt again."

"But you're here now, you can at least supervise the preliminary search." Konata looked at her, hoping that dropping the obvious up front would surprise her into the otaku's favor.

"..." Kuroi was indeed taken aback by her suggestion, her face and eyes set in blank surprise. She can't refute the sound logic.

Yui dialed the emergency number of a nearby ranger station. She had waited for a reply for thirty seconds. No reply. She raised an eyebrow at this non-reply. Some should've picked up by now. She dialed again and she waited for a minute. The same result. Yui tried some more a few times, each coming with nothing.

"Come on!" she snapped in annoyance, in her head popped a vein expressing her frustration, as she dialed the numbers yet again. The screen flashed the same response.

"NO RESPONSE, TIMED OUT!"

"Dammit!"

Something rustled the bushes, causing her to whip around face an ominous dark figure.

"Ahhh!" she squeaked.

"Eeeep!" shrilled the figure in panic.

In terror they tried to get away but the dark-obscured roots caught their feet and sent them tumbling against the forest floor, twisting into a writhing mass of bespectacled moe.

"Miyuki!?" cried a shocked Narumi.

"Narumi-san!" chirped the pinkette in befuddlement. "I didn't know it was you!"

"Megane pileup~!" Konata chirped at the moe-worthy sight of her friend and cousin atop one another as she cast her flashlight on them, feeling blessed.

"Knock it off, Izumi!" Kuroi scolded. "Help them up, will you? It's no time for horseplay."

The otaku blew a puff of hair at that as she helped Miyuki and Yui up. It just wasn't the same without Kagami doing the same. One thing's for certain was that it lightened up the mood in the woods.

Yui got up and patted away the dirt and loose leaves on her person. "Are you alright? I'm sorry I bumped into you," Miyuki apologized.

"Good thing it's just you, Miyuki-chan. For a second there you could've looked like a serial killer stalking the woods for all I know."

Misao heard of that and asked, "Speaking of that, did you bring your gun?"

"No, I'm off-duty, of course I can't bring a gun," she pointed out matter-of-factly. Then she whipped out her cellphone and looked crossly at it. "On the other hand, someone's sleeping on the job!"

"What's wrong?" Konata asked.

"Yui's trying to call the ranger station that patrols these woods," Kuroi answered for Narumi. "So far nobody's answering."

"The small hut perched on the hill with a satellite dish we saw on the way here?"

"Yup."

"You think it because we are out of signal range?" Ayano asked dropping besides the rest.

"Heck yeah, we are," Misao casually pointed out. "That dish isn't for decoration, ya know, unless they're streaming premium subscription satellite TV, that is."

Ayano sweatdropped. "That was oddly specific," she noted wryly.

"We do have a strong signal here." Miyuki held out her phone to indicate the strength of the signal for all to see. "In fact there's a cell tower that services the area opposite across the lake. The station just isn't picking up her calls."

"If we get a no-call, do we have to walk?" The question broached by Misao. It would be a hoofing pain in the ass to get to the station. The delay would cost them any chance of finding the twins.

At that moment Yui had dialed the number yet again, looking impassive. Sweat glistened her forehead in the somewhat humid summer night as she expected the same response-

Her call was answered!

"Hello, this is Minakami Forest Service, how may I help you?"

"It's about damned time!" she snapped. "I'm here to make an emergency, were where you!?"

"Hello, who is this?" the voice asked.

"This is Traffic Officer Yui Narumi of the Saitama Prefectural Police! I'm off-duty and with my camping party, two of our members are missing. I'm requesting your assistance."

"May I know the state of your emergency? Is anyone in serious need of medical attention?"

"No, we don't know, we haven't found them yet, that's why we request your assistance."

"I need you to stay still, we can't have any further complications. Shall I get the police?"

"We can't just stay still," she asserted, "you're talking to one. If we don't find them in a few hours, call the local police for more search assistance."

There was a pause. "May I know where you are?" In reply she gave the location of their camp and after fumbling with the phones of the others have given their current location, thus their trajectory in their search. "Ah, thank you. If you're not giving up on the search I can't stop you, but I need you to move cautiously. We'll meet up here on this ridge a kilometer due east of your position. The rest of your party will have to return to camp once we arrive."

"Will do, why didn't you answer my call? I've been trying to reach for fifteen minutes." The officer was slightly placated.

"We had a problem of our own," replied the ranger, "serious technical difficulties we have to attend but rest assured I heard you loud and clear, I'll make sure to pass your message through and send help."

"Alright, thanks for your assistance. I'll meet you there." She hung up. She turned to the rest of the gang. "Thank God help is on the way."

Everyone cheered and clapped, as finally they got some help at last. It was the first bright spot that happened that night.

"Way the go, Yui!" Konata cheered.

"Settle down, guys," she added, "I need you to get back to camp."

It was followed by groans. "I know you all wanna help but I can't risk all of you."

"Come on, Cousin Yui," Konata begged, "you're a bit shorthanded."

"Look, I can't just risk you guys here. Besides, Yutaka is with Minami right now back at the camp."

"They're my friends out there too." She looked up with a puppy-dog expression. "What harm possibly be done with you around?"

"Konata, this would soon be police business. You have to go back with the others." Her tone was serious.

"But Yui-"

"What will I have to say to your father if anything happens to you, the twins gone happened on my watch."

Konata saw that her cousin would not be swayed, her reason beyond refute. The look on her face sapped any will from the bluenette to force the issue in her favor.

"Alright. I'll go back to camp." She started drifting for the rest of the gang just as Kuroi started gathering everyone back. She turned to Yui one more time. "You will find them, right?"

Yui thought she might've been a little hard on her cousin. She said softly, "Yeah, I'll find them and I'll make sure they're alright." The rest were already down on their way.

"Okay, thanks Yui." She went on her way to join the return to camp while Yui continued to the ridge. Konata had a glimpse of something amongst the underbush. She stopped and tried to make out of the thing in the scant light. Then she heard voices. Where those-

"Konata, no lagging!" Kuroi shouted. "Get your ass over here now!"

The sharp command prompt her to quicken the pace before she could make out the statue of twins on the ground, one of which has its head has been carved out.


A/N: The conception for this chapter actually took place two years ago. I never thought I'd revisit this fic thanks to writer's block, real life obligations, and competing projects. I sure hope your reading experience was great because I've been quite rusty handling the girls of Luck Star. I wish update waits would not be too drastic.