“Oh yeah, quick question: what brought you down here, Tetsuya?” Lenya asked me as we were walking through the cave.
“Oh, you know, this and that. I was thrown down here and the rest is history.”
“Wow, I don’t remember how I got here. I just remember waking up and boom! Here I was, mew!”
She didn’t remember? It sounded like there was a story there somewhere.
“I want to leave,” she continued, “but it hasn’t been easy, meow.”
“Look! We’re almost outside!”
We were nearing the cave’s exit. As Lenya ran out, I briefly wondered to myself why she’d had so much trouble leaving in the first place, but figured that was a question for another time.
As soon as we exited, I noticed it was a bit darker outside than earlier. Dusk must’ve been setting.
“Meow!” Lenya exclaimed. “Oh no, we’ve got to get back! Fast!”
She looked a bit panicked when she saw the sun was setting, and she suddenly set off into a run, leaving me to chase after her.
“Does something bad happen when the sun sets?” I asked her.
“My teacher said that the ghosts start roaming around when it gets dark!”
Who was this teacher of hers, and ghosts? Seriously?
“I’ve never actually seen them before, so I’m not super sure, but I heard they’re really, really scary. We should never be out after dark.”
They sure sounded scary, but ghosts really came out after dark? For sure? I felt like I could probably beat them with my current skills, but if I couldn’t… I’d be in a really tight spot.
“Oh, we’re here!” she announced, pointing at a place in the rock wall.
It wasn’t like there was a hole anywhere, so I didn’t know what the hell she was talking about. Just as I thought that, though, I noticed the handle. It seemed like the door had a sliding mechanism to it that would allow entrance. Was it designed like that to keep out the ghosts?
Lenya went up to it, and with all of her might, tried to pull at the heavy door while grunting aloud. It didn’t seem like it wanted to open though – she was struggling pretty hard with it.
“Ugh, but why?! It always opens like this!”
“Maybe you haven’t gained back all your strength, you think?”
“Meow,” she muttered. “That could be it.”
“Your home’s behind the door, right? Let me help.”
“O-oh, thank you so much, mew!”
I worked together with Lenya to get the door open. It was heavy as hell, but we got it open.
“Yes! It’s open!”
“Geez, that was heavy,” I said. “Why’s it so heavy anyway?”
“My teacher made it heavy to help with our training.”
I frowned. “Is this teacher living here with you, too?”
“No! This place has always been here. My teacher’s wise, so she knows a lot of stuff. She’ll probably even teach you something nice as thanks for helping me. Oh yeah, could you help me close it again, too?”
We closed the door together.
“Okay,” Lenya said. “Let’s go in!”
I followed up behind her as we both went inside. If I really stopped to think about it, this was a girl’s place that I was being invited into. Well, considering it looked like some kind of safe house, I wasn’t too, too nervous about it, but still. That aside, my heart was pounding just a bit from the idea of meeting Lenya’s teacher. I’ve never been particularly great at talking to others.
Lenya, being younger than me, made it feel easy to talk about things with her. Even though I did find her on the cuter side at first, I no longer felt my heart racing when I was near her. However, the teacher was another thing entirely. She would have been older, and being a woman, I wouldn’t know what to say or how to say it, to be honest. If the teacher was as wise as Lenya painted her out to be, then there were a lot of things I’d like to pick her brain about, though. There was just too much about this world that I didn’t know or understand.
When I stepped into Lenya’s home, I noticed it was pretty narrow and a bit dim inside. Walking through the entranceway led me to a much larger room, although I didn’t see this teacher Lenya was talking about.
Hm. Was there yet another room that I wasn’t privy to? Maybe she was in another room entirely?
“I’m back, Teacher!” Lenya called out, greeting the empty room.
Uh? Had I missed something?
I looked around the room more closely.
Inside the room was a somewhat large white teddy bear, about the size of a toddler. Lenya had been facing the doll when she gave her greetings.
Ah, I could see what was going on.
Lenya, in living alone in such a depressing place, had grown quite lonely and tricked herself into thinking this doll was an actual human being. It was a terrible thing to experience, but she was only 15-years-old. I’d bet she just couldn’t do it anymore on her own, and this is what happened as a result. Just as I’d come to terms with this truth –
“You’re late! Just what time do you think it is, Lenya? Haven’t I told you not to be out at dark because it’s dangerous?”
It was a woman’s voice, and it was coming directly from the white, little teddy bear.