There are many wells in the world, some that have a mysterious background, others that are mysterious themselves. There are people that revere them because they are like portals to another realm, shrouded in darkness, and in some instances, even death. The land of Japan is one of those mysterious places that is engrossed with the world beyond the grave, with many wells littering the island from one end to the other.
However, there is only one well in all of Japan that emerges from the depths of legends onto the surface of the truth. A well that is thirsty for blood . . . and pennies.
Haoro Nagemi was drunk once again. His job as part of a wrecking ball crew for dismantlement of old buildings bared down on his already shambled life. In his childhood, he had always caused problems to those around him. He stole on more than one occasion, assaulted others, and verbally abused any he thought mattered not--including his wife.
Even now, he was barely able to make it into their driveway. They lived out in the country, some ways on the outskirts of Tokyo, out of the way of others. He scraped their mailbox and halted his beat up pickup right in the garage door. Upon opening his door, several bottles of beer fell onto the gravel. He groaned, hardly able to walk in a straight line.
The house lights were off, and he assumed his wife was asleep by now. She was always asleep when he came home. He fumbled for his keys, dropping them several times before he realized the door was unlocked. His face red, he burst into the small home, flicking the lights on.
“Damn it, Yoko! How many times do I have to tell you to lock the godforsaken door?!”
There was no reply. There was no scampering or the sound of the bedroom door lock clicking. The house was eerily still.
He swooned forward, belching slightly as he spotted a blurry object resting on the kitchen table. He grabbed it up, his hands shaking slightly. He squinted with his dark eyes at the piece of paper he held. It seemed to be in Yoko’s handwriting.
I am leaving for the last time. I am sick of living like a rabbit buried inside its hole, waiting for you to come home and beat me to death. I don’t deserve this. I deserve a husband that loves me, and children that don’t have to fear their father. You can keep everything. It meant more to you than I did.
Nagemi crumpled up the paper and tossed it away, the words barely registering in his drunkard state. Instead, he went to the fridge and opened it up, pulling out another bottle of beer. It was the last case in the fridge.
“Yoko!” he shouted. “Where the hell is the rest of the beer?! I told you to buy some more today!”
He popped the cap on the bottle and downed half the bottle, then collapsed onto the tile floor, passing out as the rest of the liquid exploded onto the ground.
Morning came, passed, and faded into memory. It gave way to night, and that was when Nagemi came to, the hangover gone. He got to his feet, the image of what he looked like in the shiny surface of the metal cabinets revealing a haggard man with rough facial hair and an untidy black mop. His eyes were sunken, his clothes loose and torn. He truly did look like a man that belonged at a bar.
The note from last night came to mind, and his reaction was to fly into a rage. He snatched up his keys and stumbled to his beat up truck, flying out of the driveway, flattening the mailbox. He zoomed down the dirt roads, nasty images of what he wanted to do to the woman that dared to leave him encouraging the rampant vehicle to speeds that any normal person would have feared.
She had probably gone to her parents again. Well, he wasn’t afraid of them! So her father had a shotgun? He could easily borrow an A-K 47 from a friend. But she wasn’t going to get away with this!
Nagemi’s thinking was obviously not clear to begin with, but he was either so desensitized by drinking or angry that he couldn’t see straight, and that quickly affected his sense of direction. It was eleven o’ clock and he was driving in the back roads of the countryside at night. He eventually figured out that he was lost, though it took a lot longer than usual. But instead of being sensible and backtracking, he pressed on, hoping that he could find a way back onto a main road he recognized.
He went deeper and deeper into a wooded area until he saw an old beaten path to his left ahead, and he turned onto it, disoriented. Muttering curses and dark words under his breath, he followed the dirt road down to the very end and hit his brakes.
It was a dead end.
He punched his wheel, which honked loudly, as he swore deafeningly. He popped open the truck door, a couple bottles clinking to the soft mud below, then kicked it shut. Unable to think of anything else to do, Nagemi stooped down, picked up an empty bottle and started to trek forward to the illuminated silhouette of a lone well in the ground.
He tripped over his own two feet and fell forward--almost toppling headfirst into the dark abyss. It seemed to go on and on forever. Nagemi tilted his head back and drank nothing except the air. Dissatisfied, he bashed the bottle against the well, cutting himself. Cursing, he threw it over his shoulder into the depths of the well, groaning from the headlights of the truck shining in his face.
“Yoko, you wench,” he choked, his voice slurred. “You just wait until I get ahold of you . . .”
He dug his hand into his pocket and withdrew the only thing it contained--a single nickel. It gleamed in the bright light.
“You happy, Yoko?” he demanded to an empty clearing. “I’ve got nothing! Nothing left to my name except this damn dime! How the hell am I supposed to live on a dime?! Go to hell!”
He tossed it over his shoulder and it vanished inside the well. He leaned against the wood, breathing heavily. There was a sudden shift in the atmosphere, one that he didn’t notice. The sky was cloudy and the air cold. A strange wind blew through the trees, and the sound of whispers filled the air.
The truck’s engine sputtered and died. The headlights flicked off. Nagemi was irked at it. He got to his feet, swaying from side to side as he took a couple of steps in the direction of his vehicle.
“Useless piece of garbage . . .” he muttered. “She didn’t even bother to take it to get fixed? She’s lucky I even want her back, ungrateful broad.”
It was then that he noticed the green grass was shining with a white light that didn’t belong to the headlights of the old truck. It took him a minute to figure out that the light was coming from behind him--from the well.
He whirled around, his mouth dropping at the sight of a figure hovering just above the opening of the well. From the silhouette, Nagemi could tell it wore long black robes that fluttered in the wind. There was a great skull staring back at him with hellish red eyes.
The man collapsed where he stood as the moon peeked out from the clouds momentarily, illuminating the figure. It was a single man with long white hair spattered with blood. He wore a golden headdress on his forehead. Around his neck and exposed shoulders were wrappings like that of a mummy. The rest of the arms were covered with long black gloves. The great skull that Nagemi had seen was actually a chest plate, and smaller skulls with twisted expressions draped around to the back. A light blue cloth hung around his waist, and somehow twisted itself around his body on its own above his head, and the other end around his feet--which were to be seen under the robes.
But the icy blue glare that penetrated Nagemi was what terrified him about this entity. That glare was like that of a Gorgon.
“Who are you to dare disturb me with your drunken ramblings?” the man demanded coldly.
“Wh--what the hell--?!”
“You dare to toss your garbage into my resting place?! Is it not insulting enough that I was disposed of here like garbage myself, and you would like to remind me of that?!”
“Stay away!” Nagemi cried, his hands over his head.
“I? Stay away? It is you who should leave me!”
A loud voice echoed over the sound of the apparition’s ghostly whispers. It said in a clear tone, though no one else was in sight,
“Are you trying to dismiss a customer without explaining the rules first?”
“Honor Mazal!” the spirit of Shizuka growled.
“Regardless of what he did or didn’t do, his blood was offered and he tossed a coin into the well. You must explain the rules. Do your job, Spirit Slayer.”
The loud voice vanished, but the ghostly whispers of death remained in the clearing, as they always did in the presence of the spirit.
He turned his icy blue pools angrily upon the quivering frame of Nagemi and snarled like a cornered fox.
“So be it! Dejected man, you have spilled your blood in my grave and thrown money to my corpse! In doing so, you have called upon my spirit to do your bidding. I am a reaper, a Shinigami, an angel of hell! Since you have cast a currency worth that of five souls, you may damn five souls of your choosing. However!”
His voice was like thunder, his expression frightening. Nagemi couldn’t bear to make eye contact.
“If you damn these five souls to hell, then you forfeit half of your miserable life, and must serve a period of one hundred years in hell for each soul you damned! And after that period, you will be reincarnated for five hundred years in desolate lives in order to atone for what you have done!”
“Wh--what are you saying?”
“Five souls! I will drag them to hell to spend eternity! They will never escape and will spend forever and ever burning in the lake of fire!”
“Y-Yoko . . .” Nagemi’s voice quivered. He got to a stand, clenching his fists together. “You’re--you’re saying I can get back at Yoko?!”
The spirit said absolutely nothing.
“Tell me where I can find Yoko!”
“Your wife left you!” the spirit bellowed. “Yoko Nagemi is to be married to another man, one that she will lead a happy life with, including his three children!”
Nagemi’s eyes widened. “My wife . . . left me . . . for another . . . man?”
The spirit of Shizuka Grove reached into his armor and withdrew a shimmering mirror, which illuminated and showed an image of a rather pretty dark haired woman lying on a sofa next to a younger, more comely man, three lumps resting on the floor in front of the television.
The sight of it infuriated Nagemi, who cursed aloud. However, the spirit of Shizuka merely placed his mirror away, and stated with no mercy,
“The woman that of which you speak is happier where she is. You have no one to blame but yourself for her departure. Now speak! Five souls to damn, or walk away from me unscathed!”
Nagemi opened his mouth to speak, but the spirit spoke in a tone that stated he was severely opposing.
“Bear in mind that when you die, I will come for you. And I will remember your indifference to my remains.”
For a moment, Nagemi looked like he seriously considered getting in his car and leaving. But the more he thought about how happy Yoko was to be with another man, the more his blood boiled. He felt betrayed. And he wanted her to suffer.
“Yoko!” Nagemi shouted at the spirit of Shizuka. “I want you to kill Yoko!”
“Your own wife you would damn to hell?”
“And not just her! That sneak she ran off with! Kill him too! They both deserve to die!”
The spirit’s face grew furious. “You would take a father from his children?! What fault did he ever commit except love the woman you rejected?!”
“Then by all means, don’t break up the family!” Nagemi said spitefully. “No one’s going to miss three brats! I’m probably doing the world a favor by getting rid of them!”
The spirit’s expression was contorted with rage and disgust. A scythe of skulls manifested in his gloved grasp, and he jammed the butt of the magnificent blade of death onto a ground that was unseen.
“Motion to waive!” the spirit snapped, his ice blue eyes ablaze. “Honor Zaddakiek presiding! I request a party of three Honors and Honor Mazal present for this case!”
In a heartbeat, the scene of a peaceful grove and the night shifted to something like out of an occult film. It seemed they were in an office of sorts. There were grotesque pillars to hold the painted ceiling up. A red carpet led up to a large desk carved of bones coated in black oil-like stain. There was a blazing fire in the nearby fireplace, and all sorts of trophy-like objects hanging about. It was something similar to a regular study of humans.
A low growl from behind the desk alerted Nagemi, standing behind an unmoving spirit of Shizuka, who observed carelessly as two large black dogs emerged from behind the desk, snarling. Their eyes were red and burning, flesh rotting from the bones. Their saliva was black and sizzled on the floor.
“Spirit Slayer Annijo.”
The chair swiveled around to reveal an older looking man in his middle thirties with black hair and light green eyes. He was dressed in garb similar to that of the spirit of Shizuka, decked out in the manner of the death business.
“Am I assuming correctly when I say you’re here to protest yet another case? How much more blood do you want on your hands?”
“He would perhaps take all of hell, if possible,” a new voice interrupted from the right.
Nagemi did a double take, completely aware that he wasn’t in Kansas anymore. He had no idea how any of this had happened, much less where the four new people had come from. Three were male. The other seemed to be a female.
The first male was red haired, and it was laced with bones in a stylish fashion. The face was pale like the world beyond the grave, and his eyes were a matching color. His garb was black and crimson. The air around him seemed to match a personality of danger and bloodthirstiness.
The second man had hair like that of a plum, deep and barely recognizable as a shade of purple. His eyes were the color of quicksilver, and twice as potent. His garb was long and black dotted with images of skeletons and the like. The air around him seemed to match a personality of arrogance and impatience.
The woman was a blond. Her hair was in a bun, and her blue eyes were stunningly malicious. They scorned whatever reflected in them. She, like her fellow Honors, was decked in long garb and sported an air of pure affliction and haughtiness.
The last man was one that the spirit of Shizuka was all too familiar with. Honor Mazal stood off to the side, as if he were to observe, his navy blue hair framing his stone face. There was a cruel smile fixed to his lips, and his bright green eyes were fixed upon the glowing frame of the spirit like a predator eyeing its prey from an unseen bush.
“Honor Zaddakiek,” the spirit stated calmly, though his eyes revealed a storm underneath, “I would like to waive my case. Nagemi Haoro vs. Nagemi Yoko, Fushida Ranmaru and the Fushida minors.”
The demon lord gestured at last with a hand to the growling dogs, who fell silent, but kept their teeth exposed towards the spirit of Shizuka and the human. He straightened up in his chair, his black hair spilling over his shoulders.
“Very well. On what grounds?”
“Yes, let’s hear it, Spirit Slayer,” the woman snickered. “This sob story had better be worth my time if I’m wasting it here listening to what you of all people have to say!”
The spirit’s eyes flickered at her. “Honor M’alice? As I recall, I asked merely for an audience of three Honors. There was no reason you had to answer if you did not want to come. I can easily have someone step in for you.”
“How dare you talk like that to me?!” she growled at him, her eyes flashing. “Like I can be replaced?! I am the lord of the fifth plane!”
“I care not what plane you lord over. There are those above you who would listen to my words, even if they don’t want to hear them either.”
Before she could argue, the spirit of Shizuka continued, addressing the small crowd, “The five defendants are guiltless in my eyes, and in the eyes of the Mirror of Malignance. Therefore, I would like to plead on their behalf that--”
“You want the Penalty transferred, don’t you?” Honor Zaddakiek sighed.
“See!” Honor M’alice grunted, crossing her arms over her chest. “He always gets his way! For once, why don’t you just do what the human says? What do you care about five stupid humans?! There are five billion more to replace them! They’re expendable! A waste of materials!” She shot a wicked grin at Nagemi. “Or just hand it over to me. I’ll find a use for him.”
“Not even he deserves your company, Honor M’alice,” the spirit of Shizuka said flatly.
“Regardless of that, I agree with Honor M’alice,” the red haired man stated, looking the Spirit Slayer straight in the eye. “How many times have we been called to this place since your ascension to the rank of Spirit Slayer? As many times as there are blood flecks in your hair!”
“Honor Nazarrik.” Honor Kaddakiek cast him a stern look, as though to warn him to keep in line. “It is not your place to question the rules of the Spirit Slayer regime.”
“You can’t honestly expect us to appear every time this Spirit Slayer wills it so,” the plum haired man glared. “I have important duties to attend to! I run the eighth plane!”
“Honor Hichov is right!” the woman’s blue eyes narrowed. “This may be your idea of spending your time, Honor Zaddakiek, but His Supremacy likes it when we do our jobs!”
Zaddakiek pounded his fist on his desk, his normal light green eyes changing into something more demonic. His teeth were bared, and an unearthly snarl emitted from his throat made Nagemi jump and squeal behind the spirit of Shizuka.
“Silence! ” Zaddakiek bellowed. “Have you not forgotten that it is His Supremacy that set these very procedures?! So while you stand there complaining that you have jobs to return to, mightn’t I remind you that this is part of those duties?! ”
Satisfaction crossed the uneasy mind of the Spirit Slayer, but he would not relax. He was not out of the woods until it was all settled. Even now, Zaddakiek was returning to himself, regaining composure. He sat back in his chair and spoke directly to the spirit of Shizuka.
“I must say that to a degree, Their Honors are right. Whenever you present yourself here in my study, I already know what you will say, what it is you wish to be done. There is no doubt in my mind that the defendants in question are indeed innocent of crimes, but it is my duty to remind you that you are only damning yourself if you pursue this senseless quest to save everyone around you. You are dead, Annijo. You are an angel of hell. You drag souls to hell. It is not your place to be the hero. Let angels of God worry about salvaging.”
“I know I am not an angel of heaven,” the Spirit Slayer acknowledged. “And dead or alive, I am indeed responsible for the people I once protected. Surely you, being ruler of the sixth plane of hell, would understand this, Honor Zaddakiek?”
“Any ruler--evil or benign--understands this principle,” Zaddakiek nodded.
“Then you know that I will push for the transference of the Penalty.”
“So be it.” Zaddakiek waved his hand in Annijo’s direction, and a black seal appeared before him. It glowed vibrantly red, then vanished. Before everyone’s eyes, five more bloodstains appeared in the snow white hair of the Spirit Slayer.
“It is done,” Zaddakiek muttered.
Honor M’alice made a derisive noise, but smiled evilly afterwards. “You’re so stupid, Spirit Slayer! Every speck of blood in your hair is an eternity’s sentence to the deepest pits of hell to be burned into nothingness! Is it worth it, Spirit Slayer? You get to save all those pathetic creatures that call themselves the children of God, but what do you get in return? One day, one day you’ll be thrown into the fire and nothing with be left of you! It will be as though you never existed!!”
“The hearing is over,” Annijo said coolly. “Why are you still here?”
“You just wait!” she snapped, an ugly expression on her countenance. “I’ll be there! I’ll watch it! And I’ll laugh at you while you writhe in eternal pain!”
She vanished from sight, followed promptly by the red haired Honor Nazarrik and the plum haired Honor Hichov, leaving only Honor Zaddakiek, Annjio, Nagemi and Honor Mazal behind in the room.
“Temper, temper,” Honor Mazal tsked, speaking for the first time since his arrival. “Really. She should see someone about her anger issues. And the violence!” He smirked at Annijo. “We can’t have her maiming my favorite Spirit Slayer, isn’t that right, Annijo?”
“Don’t talk to me.”
“Oooh! Angry, are we?”
“Honor Mazal?” Zaddakiek said to the navy blue haired demon lord. “It is my opinion that Spirit Slayer Annijo is a unique specimen that Hell has yet to conquer. There has never been a recorded event such as this before. How many eternities are stained in your hair, Spirit Slayer?”
“Five thousand four hundred thirty-two, Your Honor.”
Honor Mazal gave him another proud glance. “He is indeed an exquisite creature that I had the pleasure to introduce to Hell myself.”
“He would do well to watch where he places his feet from now on out,” Zaddakiek said firmly. “The lords of Hell are growing short on patience. I am sure that Honor M’alice has complained to His Supremacy already. Consider yourself lucky that nothing has been heard in reply to your actions, Annijo.”
“There is nothing lucky about my existence, Honor Zaddakiek.” The Spirit Slayer closed his ice blue eyes. “Now if you’ll both excuse me, I have duties myself to attend to.”
Honor Mazal’s laughter faded into black as the Shizuka Grove suddenly manifested around only Annijo and Nagemi, who was never more happy to see the grass as he was then. He would’ve kissed it were it not for the fact that the spirit was hovering above him, scythe still in hand.
“Are you familiar with being on your knees?” the spirit said to Nagemi.
“You will spend the majority of your long, long life on your knees, pleading for food, for shelter, for care,” Annijo glared down at the human below. “But no one will give it to you. You will feel the fear, the despair that the woman you married felt.”
“Wh--what?!” Nagemi jumped to his feet, his face livid. “You! You didn’t say anything like that before! You said I could kill Yoko!”
“Were you not listening with the ears God gave you at birth?” Annijo replied coldly. “The Penalty was transferred to me. I sacrificed five eternities in the pits of Hell so that innocent lives would not yield the same fate as the worst abominations Earth has ever laid eyes on!”
“You did what?! But why?!”
Annijo’s pools glinted. “Because once, a person very much like you came here to this grove. And she tossed a precious human life away like you tossed your bottle to the bottom of the well. For that, I will never forgive you. I would never allow what happened then to happen ever again, even if that means selling my soul so far into the depths of Hell that I am burned from even the memory of God.”
“She will live! She will live a long life filled with many children and grandchildren. She will die with her new husband in the late future with no regrets, and you will be nothing more than a footnote to the life she experienced. But you!”
Annijo swung his scythe up into the air, the clouds in the sky breaking to reveal the night sky.
“Your life is doubled and filled with nothing but endless pain! On the day you die, I will come for you, and I will drag your soul to Hell where it will burn for all eternity! And no one will remember or recall you. So this court rules! Defendants are found not guilty, and the Penalty is paid for! Case dismissed!”
He struck his scythe against an invisible ground. The whispers in the air formulated into a blaring howl, bending branches in the trees, the beat up pickup truck rocking and groaning from the velocity of the gust. Annijo burst into a silver trail of smoke and vapor, and all was silent.
Nagemi was all alone. And this time, he truly had nothing.
Haoro Nagemi was evicted from his home and forced to travel for work. He was jailed on several occasions, and attempted suicide multiple times. All failed. Nagemi was finally sentenced to a mental institution after he attacked and killed several people as a homeless man. He spent the remainder of his life locked in a padded room, repeating over and over again that he was going to burn in hell and that he could see reapers.
Nagemi mysteriously vanished from the secure padded cell at the age of one hundred two. The night before he vanished, a guard heard him talking with “a reaper.” He is presumed dead.