Chapter Twenty-One: Breath Play:

The air felt thin. Anna took slow gulps. She didn’t dull her focus, however. She narrowed her eyes as she slowly walked forward. Her rival would try and kill her like this. You will not get me.

The air had a sickening sweet scent. Anna felt herself choke.

“You have to be careful. He’s watching us.”

“I know. But what is that smell?”

“I don’t smell anything.”

“Hm…” Anna took slower breaths. Her eyes began to water. Each footstep became heavier. She gulped and breathed through her nose.

“This place will be your grave,” Muraki whispered in the darkness. Anna smirked.

“We’ll see about that,” she said. Suddenly something wrapped around her neck.

“Heh?” the woman asked. She felt along the thin air. A confused look came over her face as her fingertips touched a spider thread to her right.

“Oh, don’t tell me…” she said. Her words were cut off with a tightening around her throat. Anna started to gag as laughter filled her ears.

“Well, well, well,” Muraki said above her head. “A little fly caught in my wen. Such a shame.” Despite her glare, Anna fought to stay calm. Stay still. Don’t struggle.

“How are you doing to get out of this?” he asked. The thread started to pull tighter. Anna wouldn’t crack. That sweet scent made her want to vomit. Her eyes began to blur. Muraki snickered.

“Time is your enemy,” he said. “Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock.” Anna focused on the hall ahead of her. Anna focused on the hall ahead of her. Don’t let him get to you. That’s what he wants you to do. Anna felt along the thread as it drew tighter and tighter. Where is the source? Come on, think.

Anna slowly closed her eyes.

“What are you doing?” Muraki asked. She tuned out his voice. The thread made it hard for her to fully focus. Five minutes before passing out. She couldn’t succumb. They waited for her. Tsuzuki, Kirika-chan, and Kobe. I can’t fail them.

A ringing sound filled her ears. She saw the thread floating in front of her. So thin, so red. How can something so fragile, but so strong? It looked so strange. Anna’s eyes trailed upwards. Was the thread… dripping?

Anna’s eyes grew big.

“There!” the Mother shouted.

“What?” Muraki’s muzzled voice asked.


The thread floated down to the floor. Anna’s noose fell from her neck. She sank to her knees, panting.

“Wait What? How did you do that?” Muraki asked. Anna smirked to herself.

“How you ask?” the Mother asked. “Come out here and see.”

“Why don’t you come to me?” Muraki asked.

“Heh,” she said. “Fine. You won’t win.”

“A bold declaration there, Kimoto-san.”

The woman chuckled with a sore neck. “I’m not done.” Anna leapt to her feet and ran down the hall.

Muraki needed to change tactics to best this game.