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.
Shizune Hakura was numb to the world. First of all, she was standing in the middle of the Shizuka Grove in the dead of night with a fiery haired angel levitating beside her, wielding a sword.
But in front of her floated a magnificent spirit with long white hair, blood spattered. He wore long robes and skull armor, a giant scythe in his hands. And in front of him was the latest addition to this incredible spectacle. A man with black hair colored with red strips wearing armor and wearing a twin katana in his belt. He had red fox ears atop his head and a tail sticking out the back.
What was to come next?
The fox man stared at the Shinigami spirit holding the scythe, as though he wasn’t sure what he was looking at. He too, appeared to be in a state of shock.
“My--my lord? Is that . . . really you?”
The scythe dropped to the ground and vanished in a wisp of black smoke. The Shinigami raced forward. Shizune gasped, for she believed he was going to attack. But the ultimate surprise was that the Shinigami actually threw his arms around the fox man with this expression of utter overwhelm. He was crying tears of blood.
“Ixinizhi!” the spirit choked. “Ixinizhi!!”
“My--my lord!” the fox man blushed. “What--what’s happened to you? What are you?!”
The Shinigami lifted his head, the blood tears shining in the faint moonlight.
“What has happened to me? What has happened to you?! You look so ridiculous with those fox ears and tail! I always knew you were sly, but this is too much!”
Ixinizhi shook his head at the spirit. “I could say the same for you, Lord Annijo. You were always dark and tormented, but--this is painful for my eyes to see.”
The spirit of Shizuka Grove’s face turned downcast with shame.
“My lord . . .” Ixinizhi whispered, “What happened all those years ago? Why did you leave us? Why did you leave me?”
At that moment, that familiar look of absolute hatred crossed his face, and the spirit turned that countenance upon Shizune, who was standing only feet away, with only pallid skin to show for it.
“It’s because of you!!” the spirit bellowed, his scythe of black skulls reappearing in his hands. “It’s because of you that I am this way!! And it’s because of you my servant is a beast!! It wasn’t enough to hurt me, so you added insult to injury?! HOW DARE YOU TOUCH A HAIR ON HIS HEAD?! ANSWER ME, SHIZUKA!!!”
Again, the spirit had fallen into a blind rage, and once again, he was zooming towards her, his scythe already swinging for the kill. But once again, her angel that had been waiting for this stepped into the striking zone and defended her with the clash of his blade.
“I am getting so sick of your face, Archangel Michael!” the spirit snarled, attempting to twist the sword free of its owner. “You think because my scythe shattered on your armor once that you defeated me?! Never!”
The telepathic communication that Michael emitted was beyond impressive. It was like thunder booming next to their ears.
Will you not stop attacking for but a moment and let this woman defend herself? You are an angel of hell! Is it not your job as a reaper to take the accused before a court and present your case?
“You would have me call upon the court of hell, Michael?” Annijo demanded. “Then so be it!”
Not the court of hell. I bid you to take this case before the court of heaven, where it will be a fair trial. You know that the court of hell does not seek justice, but more souls for its own purposes.
“I care not what court we go to!!” Annijo’s ice blue eyes burned at the terrified Shizune. “I have all the proof I need! I was the victim! Take it before Lucifer or God--I care not! I will win!”
Then I will represent her as her defense.
Michael sheathed his sword. And quite suddenly, the forest vanished and all four beings were standing in a glorious room of white, with a great number of columns and gorgeous renderings of lacy designs on the floor. Shizune was filled with a sense of peace and wonder, something that she had lost a long time ago as a child.
Before them was a grand throne on which a magnificent rainbow arched through the air. It sparkled like a million precious gems, it was so beautiful. Around the throne were four burning lights that Shizune couldn’t look upon. They were far too bright for her eyes to handle. They were singing a resolute song to all who could hear,
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts. All the earth is filled with His Glory.
In front of the throne, guarding it, were several almost as equally bright figures that appeared both voracious to their duties and intimidating. They were in the shape of a human, but wore a thick armor that even outmatched Michael’s own bronze plating. She was amazed at how they were able to stand at all.
Peeking through her fingers at their rays of light, she could barely make out the chest plate of a lion, and the shoulder pads of an ox and an eagle. These beings had four wings instead of two.
“What is this place?” Shizune asked of Michael, fearful.
Congregations of angels were starting to converge upon this incredible room, and she couldn’t believe the sheer numbers. They were clothed in white with pearly wings like that of Michael. There were all different kinds with all different colors of hair, eyes and skin. Were there truly this many? This was too much for her to take in.
This is my home, where my Father dwells. This is heaven, Michael replied.
Shizune was floored. Her legs gave out under her, so weak was she.
“Heaven? So . . . does that mean . . . there really is a God?”
Michael did not answer her. Instead, he addressed the angels all around him, like a long lost brother speaking to his sibling.
I am glad to be able to see you once again, and to be in the presence of the Heavenly Father. But I have come here to conduct a trial in the presence of our Heavenly Father. I would like to request twelve of my brothers to act as a jury.
An array of twelve angels rose up from the crowd and settled down before Michael, Annijo, Shizune and Ixinizhi.
These are the archangels that which I’ve called, Michael murmured without ever moving his lips. Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, Chamuel, Jophiel, Metatron, Sandalphon, Ariel, Zadkiel, Raguel, Azrael, and Jeremial.
Shizune was astonished at the names she heard. She had never been a religious person, but she still knew the names of Gabriel and Raphael. These were archangels that had been selected. But why was she on trial? What had she done? She didn’t know this man!
And of course, Michael stated, our Heavenly Father will preside over this case. Is this fitting for you, Spirit Slayer Annijo?
“Fine,” the Shinigami replied acidly. “Just get on with it!”
Then make your opening statement before the court of heaven.
Without the slightest bit of hesitation, Annijo jabbed a finger directly at Shizune, a vengeful glare in his ice blue eyes. They were like the Arctic Sea.
“Five hundred years ago, my life was extinguished, taken from me! And she is the one that killed me! She is a murderer! ”
Shizune’s jaw dropped, and Ixinizhi directed his scarlet eyes at her, gasping.
“She did!” Annijo snapped at her, turning his vicious gaze upon her. She quailed at the sight of such a fearsome death stare. “You killed me, Shizuka! My blood is on your hands, and it is only fair you pay the price for the precious life you threw away!”
“My lord . . .” Ixinizhi whispered, his throat dry. “Tell me . . . that you didn’t--even after I warned you . . . !”
“Take a good look at me, what kind of a monster I’ve become because of you!” Annijo trembled, not so much with anger anymore, but his voice was shaking with something. “It’s all your fault! By the end of the this trial, I will accept my fate and burn forever in a hell where nothing of me will remain--but you will burn with me. I’ll see to it myself.”
The angels were exchanging small telepathic chatter with one another, obviously disturbed at such a loathsome being standing in the midst of the Loving Creator. The jury of twelve archangels did not make any movements, but the expressions on their shining countenances revealed a rather blank impression.
If your statement is over, then I would like to present the defense’s opening statement. Michael stood before her solidly, like a brick wall, like an impenetrable shield. Shizune was moved at the comfort she felt with this being as her protection. Already, she trusted him with her fate.
This woman that You created, Father, as You undoubtedly know, is Shizune Hakura. It is true that her family can be traced back to Hajime Hakura, the vassal of the servant of the Spirit Slayer, Annijo. However, let it be noted, Brothers, that Shizune Hakura, is in no way responsible for the death of the Spirit Slayer.
“Tch!” Annijo growled.
Michael paid him no mind. Please, if you are so eager to prove your case, by all means, present your evidence for heaven and the Father to see.
Shizune’s violet colored eyes landed on the Shinigami gliding forward in his ghastly armor and black robes. He was so foreign in the company of such pure beings. He was unsightly in the crowd. But that wasn’t what had her attention. The thoughts racing through her head were even more bothersome.
For instance, that Shinigami kept referring to her as Shizuka. Who was that? He seemed convinced she was this woman. And on top of that, he kept accusing her of killing him five hundred years ago. How was that even possible? She was human! She wasn’t even born back then! He really had to be nuts! And then the five hundred years itself sent chills up her spine. She swore she’d heard that somewhere before--and just recently! What had it been?!
“I’m upholding the royal decree that was dictated to the Hakura family five hundred years ago.”
Shizune gasped, remembering the conversation she’d held with her grandfather at the family shrine.
“Behold!” Annijo shouted at the jury, shooting a hand at them. A mirror appeared out of thin air for the entirety of heaven to see. “The Mirror of Malignance! It shows the crimes committed on the Earth, much like your precious Akashic Records, but on a lesser scale. Now see! See for yourself!”
But Shizune was unable to gaze upon the mirror’s reflection. She couldn’t see what its contents held. She glanced at the jury of twelve angels, wondering if they could see. They appeared affixed to something. So she looked at the angels, and saw that their eyes were also glued to the mirror. She turned her gaze upon the fox man called Ixinizhi, but he didn’t seem to care what was in the mirror. He was staring at her.
“Wh--what?” she stammered, defensive. “Why are you looking at me?”
“Why did you do it?” he asked, his vermillion eyes gazing at her from underneath his black and red strands.
“Do what?” she said sharply.
“Why did you kill my lord? He cared so much for you.”
Shizune gritted her teeth.
“He defied his father,” Ixinizhi stared coldly. “He dared to defy his father so that he could love you instead. And this is how you repay him? I was so stupid! I had this feeling that something was wrong with you, but my lord was so blind with love that--”
“What are you talking about?” Shizune hissed, well aware that her trial was still going on before her. “Hasn’t it occurred to you that I’m a little young to have lived five hundred years ago?!”
“Don’t you patronize me!” He retaliated just like a cornered fox, his upper lip curling, showing his teeth.
“You’re the reason!” Ixinizhi growled. “You’re the reason that the Emperor’s son is dead! You’re the reason he has to burn in hell!”
Shizune’s insides froze over. “The--?”
“The Hakura Shrine was originally a temple built to honor the Emperor’s son in the year 1510. He declared that unless his son found a suitable woman to marry and ascend the throne with, not even the lad would claim the throne.”
Her grandfather’s words came back to her, like a distant dream. And suddenly, all of this was starting to make sense. Her grandfather’s story and what was unfolding even now. Shizune was moved to turn her violet pools back towards the Shinigami that she had come to fear and hate so much. The mirror faded from sight, and every eye in heaven was upon her, including Michael’s. Shizune Hakura was in the spotlight of heaven.
“You murdered me in cold blood,” Annijo glared maliciously. “I threw myself at your mercy--you took it all away. Not just my life, but my money, my clothes! You stripped me of everything that night and threw my body away like yesterday’s trash!!”
Shizune’s mouth was open, and she was barely able to choke out a reply.
“I--I wasn’t even alive back then--! I--I can’t even bring myself to kill a simple spider! What makes you think--?!”
Again, her grandfather’s words came floating out from the back of her memory, as though to clue her in about what was going on.
“Some say it was disease, others say he ran away. But whatever the reason, the Emperor’s son simply left the face of Japanese history.”
“You killed me, Shizuka.” Annijo’s icy pools were piercing hers like a knife through an apple. “My servant killed himself because you took me away from him. His blood is on your hands. My blood is on your hands. And you can’t hide it, Shizuka. This is your fault, Shizuka. Shizuka, aren’t you going to answer for what you did? Well, Shizuka? Shizuka? Shizuka! Shizuka!!!”
She couldn’t take it anymore. She exploded, her voice filling up the intense atmosphere with her emotion.
“MY NAME IS SHIZUNE!!! SHIZUNE, YOU BASTARD!”
Annijo growled, that being the only sound that any being around her produced. The angels of heaven and God Himself were listening to what she had to say. Whatever they had seen, whatever they thought, they were waiting to listen to what she had to say for it.
“I was born April 15, 1993 in the town of Kurakama!! My parents’ names are Mitchell and Izuna Hakura! I’m afraid of heights and I don’t like killing animals! I’m only seventeen years old and everyone is saying that I can go back in time, murder somebody, and that I am someone called Shizuka! How many damn times do I have to repeat myself?! My name is ShizuNE!! Shizune, Shizune, Shizune!!! Get it through your heads!!”
No one said anything for the longest time. She stood in the middle of the elegant room, panting heavily at her shouts, her body trembling from the release of pent up anger she’d been saving for just the right occasion.
“I don’t believe you . . .” Annijo scoffed at last. “I can’t believe how in denial you are. You saw it yourself!”
“Shut up!!” Shizune barked, suddenly not afraid of the Shinigami anymore. Why should she be? She was innocent. What did she have to fear? “Are you blaming me for your servant’s death because my last name is Hakura? My last name wouldn’t even be Hakura if my American father hadn’t changed his name for my mom! It should have been Schilling!”
“This has nothing to do with the Hakuras!” Ixinizhi replied thickly. “Hakura was my vassal, and he disobeyed my last wishes when I instructed the temple to be built into a shrine for the Emperor’s son! His act of disrespect will be dealt with, but later! Right now, it is your fate that must be determined!”
“MICHAEL!!” Shizune bellowed at the archangel, holding back her tears. She bit her lower lip and tried to keep a steady voice as she spoke. “Prove it! If you’re really my guardian angel, then you would know! Tell everyone the truth! Tell them!! It wasn’t me!!”
Now all of heaven’s eyes switched to the fiery red head, who turned to face the magnificent throne of rainbow, where the seraphim danced and danced around the Almighty, exuberant and unable to be looked upon, even by other angels.
Father . . . Brothers and Sisters . . . I have many, many humans in my care. But that does not stop me from answering them when they call. Shizune Hakura is one of my humans, and she has asked me to prove that what we saw is false. I need not. You saw for yourselves that my human is innocent.
“What?!” Annijo snapped, whirling upon the archangel. “What are you talking about?! Of course I know that the true Shizuka died all those years ago! But I also know that she reincarnated!” He jabbed a finger at Shizune, calling to the veiled being sitting on the throne of the seraphim. “The truth is that the woman Shizuka died--and reincarnated herself in that body! Because you let her!! Your forgiveness allowed her soul to resurrect in that body while it was in the womb of its mother!!”
Shizune’s throat went dry.
“Of course she proclaims she is innocent!” Annijo continued, his blood spattered white hair paling in comparison to the type of bloodlust in his eyes. “Upon reincarnation, the soul forgets its previous life while in the mortal world! Shizune or not, she is Shizuka!” He glared at her. “I can see you through your disguise. I knew it was you the minute I saw your violet eyes! Shizuka had those same eyes! And even that same raven black hair! Even your names are off only by one syllable! You are Shizuka--you just don’t know it!!”
Shizune’s hope was sinking--and fast. Was it true? With reincarnation in the picture, suddenly, yes, it was possible for her to have been existent five hundred years ago. But why? Was she really capable of murder?
Annijo saw the conclusion that was forming, to his satisfaction. “Look at you. Even you are beginning to wonder! This is proof of your involvement! If you really were innocent, you’d dare not second guess yourself!”
That is enough.
Annijo, Ixinizhi, Shizune, and all of the angels were locked onto Michael, who stood resolutely, a sharp stare aiming directly at the Shinigami.
“You’re still struggling to keep up your defense?” Annijo scorned.
To the contrary. You are the one that is struggling, Spirit Slayer. How tall will you stand after I speak? You will have no pedestal on which to stay your feet.
“Go ahead, archangel. I’m waiting.”
Michael’s fiery red curls matched his opposing spirit. His emerald eyes turned upon the court and he said in a clear, firm tone,
It is impossible for Shizune Hakura to be the reincarnation of the woman Shizuka. Because the soul of the woman Shizuka has been condemned to spend an eternity in hell. She has been judged.
Now it was Annijo’s turn to be stunned. For once, he had been rendered close to speechless, but able enough to choke out, “That’s--impossible. I work in hell . . . how is it I could not know if her soul was there?”
You are blind! Michael thundered at the Shinigami. I have said this before, Spirit Slayer, and I will say it again. Only one more time. Are you listening closely? Hell’s only purpose is to collect more souls for its own end. We are well aware of your contract with hell, Spirit Slayer. The woman that slew you . . . you sold your soul to hell so that you may hunt her down. Explain before the court of heaven what was to happen once you did find this woman?
“I--I was to kill her, and to drag her soul to the darkness pits of hell . . . where we would burn until we were forgotten . . . by everyone and everything . . .”
In other words, your existence would end, yes?
“My lord . . .” Ixinizhi murmured, clearly in pain to hear this confession.
“Lies!” Annijo choked at last. “Lies! I work on every level of hell! How could I not know that Shizuka was there?!”
Oh. Michael’s voice was full of sarcasm that stung the ears. You mean to say that hell did not inform you of this?
“What?” Annijo lifted his head at Michael, and for the first time in a long, long, time, there was fear in his eyes.
You don’t say! Michael continued, lashing back at the very person who, during all this time, had been lashing at them. But why wouldn’t hell tell you? After all . . . you are an elite Shinigami! And, you’d think they’d be eager to take your soul at the very first chance! But no . . . nothing. Why do you suppose that is, Annijo?
The Shinigami remained silent because he didn’t know why. He just listened because he wanted to know. He had to know.
It’s because you serve your purpose well as a Spirit Slayer! Michael boomed. You’re just a tool! You’re filled with rage and contempt for the one that wronged you, therefore, you would stop at nothing to get what you want, isn’t that right? That’s why you’d make the perfect candidate for a Spirit Slayer! Don’t you see it now? They’ve been using you! This entire time, you’ve been doing their dirty work and collecting souls for them while they lead you on the false pretense of either finding her and burning in hell with her, or giving you that ridiculous leniency of collecting enough money to free your soul! Isn’t that really what Blood Pennies is all about?!
Annijo flinched as though he’d been inflicted with a burn.
“How did you know . . . about my title?”
What? The Blood Pennies Spirit Slayer? That’s what they call you in hell, isn’t it? Behind your back? You’re famous, don’t you remember? Tell me, did you really believe what they told you? A penny for every drop of blood she spilled . . . and then your soul was free to leave? Never have the angels played the harp so sweetly!
“It’s not a lie!!” Annijo shouted. “I signed the contract! I signed it! Honor Mazal came to me and said that he could guarantee that I would find Shizuka if I became a Spirit Slayer and I could take her to hell with me to burn forever. He said that if I didn’t find her within the next five hundred years, if I had traded enough pennies or currency equal to that of my blood spilled, he would let me go free! But only if that currency had blood on them--or rather, that they had been traded for a human soul. He clearly stated that donations were out of the question. They were useless to me.”
My heart wrenches for you. Five hundred years . . . tell me, Spirit Slayer. What do those blood drops in your hair symbolize?
Shizune had noticed that the trial didn’t seem to be about her anymore. Michael had completely taken all attention off of her and directed it at the Shinigami. It was unbelievable. She was right to trust him. Not only did he have the Shinigami on the ropes, but near tears as well!
“They--they symbolize the people that I believed were innocent . . .” Annijo said quietly. “The people that I thought didn’t belong in hell.”
Interesting! So you save lives that you believe aren’t worthy of hell? That must come at a high cost. What is the price?
“I have to take their place and burn for an eternity.”
The angels of the court actually emitted audible gasps, ones that Shizune could hear with her ears. It startled her. They must have been terribly shocked to have heard such a thing for them to make an audible sound. Even the archangels’ face had betrayed some sort of hidden emotion. Some had frowns, others had slightly agape mouths. And still yet, others just shook their heads.
And just how many eternities are you sentenced to?
“Five thousand four hundred forty-one.”
Again, negative reactions from the angels. Shizune wondered how this was affecting Ixinizhi, the fox man who had once served under this Shinigami as a samurai under the Emperor’s son. He wasn’t taking it very well at all. Sometime during Michael’s retaliation, he had collapsed onto the floor, wracked with grief. He wasn’t even there in the room anymore.
It was really sad . . . this entire thing. Though Shizune certainly didn’t like the Shinigami, hearing all of this and seeing someone who loved him as deeply as Ixinizhi made her feel depressed.
Why do you do it, Spirit Slayer? Blood Pennies? You know you’re only sinking further and further into a hole in which you’ll never see the light again.
“Because!” Annijo choked with a wry laugh, “Because, I’m too proud! You think that because you’re dead, your duties end? I was the Emperor’s son!! I was supposed to protect the people of the land! When I fell in love, I betrayed that duty. So in death, it only seems fair that I pay it back, and protect the land of Japan from those who would destroy it. I may not be Emperor, I may not hold any power at all in the eyes of the mortal realm, but it is the least I can do.”
There was a great silence in the court of heaven. And finally, Archangel Michael turned his emerald eyes upon the shining throne and stated plainly,
Make no mistake. What the Mirror of Malignance showed was indeed the truth. The woman Shizuka did indeed murder this man in cold blood. However, Shizune Hakura cannot be held responsible for this, because she is not the reincarnation of Shizuka. She is her own person that merely resembles her greatly. I think it obvious what is happening in the mortal and world of hell.
In the case of Shizune Hakura vs. Spirit Slayer “Blood Pennies” Annijo, how do you, my Brothers, find this woman?
In complete unison, the twelve angels stated telepathically, Not guilty.
It was then that Shizune’s trembling legs gave out and she slumped with a sigh of relief. However, the sobs coming from behind her made her glance over her shoulder at the broken Ixinizhi, his fox ears pressed against the side of his head, tears flowing out of his eyes like the Nile River.
“My lord . . . what have you done . . . ?”
Michael nodded at the twelve archangels, then turned back to Annijo, who had also started to weep with tears of blood.
You will return to your repose in hell and inform your Honor that heaven will be suing them for damages on the behalf of my human.
Shizune, Ixinizhi and indeed, Annijo, were jolted out of their states of extreme sentiment at the archangel’s words.
“What?” Annijo gasped.
You are to inform them that my Father’s wrath has been stirred. I do not know what punishment hell will offer you, but our demands will be simple. Now go and tell this to hell.
Annijo slowly summoned up his strength and turned away, not looking at Shizune. He vanished from sight in a puff of smoke.
Michael turned to the sparkling rainbow one last time and said his farewells.
I will be back in a moment for further instructions, Father.
Then, he pivoted and began walking in Shizune’s direction. He stopped before her and told her to get to her feet, that it was time to leave.
“Am I going home?” she asked quickly.
She threw her arms around him, squeezing him tightly. “Thank you! I just want to go home so badly!”
The beautiful room of angels faded, and they were standing in the middle of Shizune’s room. She was ecstatic to see all of her belongings and the familiar atmosphere. Shizune was so happy that everything that made sense was back together once again--until she spotted a lump on her bedroom floor.
“Michael . . . what is that?” She pointed.
It is the Heavenly Father’s wishes that you take care of this man while the Spirit Slayer is away.
Ixinizhi’s body was sprawled out on the rug. He appeared to be either asleep or unconscious. Immediately, Shizune began to argue.
“Now wait a minute! I can’t keep him here! He’s a fox! And I start school next week! How am I supposed to do this? I’m seventeen and I have a life! I can’t babysit a moocher!”
He is not permitted in heaven, Shizune. He was only allowed there, as were you, because you both were involved in the trial. And he must stay close to the shrine, or hell may come to claim him.
“Claim him? But why?”
Now that the Heavenly Father has provoked hell, they will surely find some way to keep Spirit Slayer Annijo. And since Ixinizhi is precious to Annijo, he must not be allowed to become their hostage.
“But Michael, why would hell want to keep that Shinigami so badly? He’s just one person.”
If Spirit Slayer Annijo was freed from hell, then all of the souls he either saved or condemned would be freed as well, because the contract he made with the demon would have been nullified.
She gasped. “And then . . . hell would lose all of those souls!”
Michael spread his white wings, as though ready to leave.
“Wait!” Shizune outstretched her arm. “Wait a second! I thought I heard you say earlier that--the soul of that woman he kept calling me by . . . Shizuka. You said that I’m not her, right? You said she was in hell.”
Correct. This is the truth.
“And--he said he had no idea, right? He never knew? So he sacrificed his life and soul all those times . . . when he didn’t have to?”
Michael said nothing.
She made a very loud gasp. “You don’t mean to tell me--!”
Do not speak of this to Annijo. He is not to know that you know. Not until the time is right.
And with that, Michael vanished in a ball of bright light and was gone. Ixinizhi moaned on the floor, but did not wake up. Shizune Hakura remained frozen to the spot, the full understanding of everything that was going on racing through her mind.
“That Shinigami made a deal with hell to kill Shizuka, or to free his soul at the cost of every blood penny to equal his blood that was spilled. But if hell already had Shizuka locked away somewhere suffering, then the contract is--!”
She lifted her head to stare at her bedroom ceiling.
“You planned all of this, didn’t You?”