Ayako Orihara is frustrated, in more ways than one.
She’s frustrated at the fact her school’s Occult Research Club, of which she is the only member and current president, is likely to be dissolved if she doesn’t find some new members. She’s frustrated at her relationship (or lack thereof) with her mother. And by God, is she sexually frustrated.
Little did she know how much taking matters into her own hands would change her life over the course of just one week…
This article has some mildly NSFW content after the jump.
Lilies Project’s Seven Days with the Ghost is a visual novel set in a curious, modern-day fantasy world in which magic is commonplace and coexists with science. In an unusual twist on the typical approach to this kind of subject matter, however, there is a third field: the “occult”, which refers to anything which cannot be explained either through magic or science. This distinction forms an important part of the backdrop to the story as a whole, so it should be kept in mind throughout the narrative.
The main setting for the story is Keisei Academy, an all-girls boarding school that includes both magical and traditional subjects on its curriculum, and we join the action seven days before the live-in students are required to vacate the dorms temporarily to allow the school to prepare for the new academic year.
We’re first introduced to Ayako, the novel’s protagonist, as she is hunched down in the cold outside her classmate’s window, ostensibly in an attempt to track down the truth behind one of the seven mysterious occult legends that surround her school. She has just seven days to achieve this in one form or another before she has to go home, but what she actually ends up doing on this occasion is listening to said classmate, one Anna Amishiro, having sex with another girl, and not quite being sure what to make of the situation.
“‘Colt-Kicked to the Grave’,” explains Ayako, trying to justify her apparent voyeurism to the reader. “This occult occurrence is referred to by this ludicrous title based on an old saying: ‘May he who stands in the way of love, be kicked by a horse into his grave.’ I don’t know who first spoke of it, but it’s an insane rumour that basically states that a ghost will appear in places where couples are making out with one another. There probably aren’t many people who have managed to do a first-hand study, either.”
Ayako’s feelings about the situation are somewhat conflicted, primarily because she knows Anna as a friend, and is not sure how she’d react to catching someone “peeping” on her, regardless of the justification.
“Anna Amishiro,” reflects Ayako. “If I were to evaluate her personality, it would be audacious and arrogant. Also, her marks in Practical Magic are always at the top of our grade. I’m certain that any attack she launches against a suspicious character will be no laughing matter.”
Much to Ayako’s surprise, it’s actually not all that long before she discovers that there apparently was some sort of truth to the rumour, because she finds herself face-to-face with a semi-transparent, beautiful woman, seemingly floating in the air and lacking legs in a traditional manner. A ghost, in other words. Unfortunately, the shock of the situation is such that she lets out a cry loud enough to allow herself to be noticed by her quarry — and, as Ayako correctly surmised, it doesn’t take long for Anna to subdue the suspicious peeper with a well-placed magic spell.
Ayako awakens on the floor of Anna’s dormitory room only to find herself confronted with the proud young woman herself, along with her timid-looking partner for the evening, one Komaki. She also finds herself bound up with ropes — a fact which her groggy mind initially finds somewhat confusing and oddly arousing before she feels the need to convince herself internally that she is, in fact, straight.
After finally escaping her interrogation, Ayako finds herself consciously having to deal with a number of different internal conflicts. The crux of the story is on her feelings towards the apparent ghost that revealed herself — who subsequently visits her again and reveals that her true intentions are… somewhat more down to earth than one might typically associate with a restless spirit. Introducing herself as Miyabi Aoto, the mysterious figure — “an entity beyond the scope of modern magical science,” as Ayako puts it — reveals that she was just there because, frankly, she enjoys peeping, and had revealed herself to Ayako on the assumption that she was a “kindred spirit”.
“No, no! This won’t do!” cries Ayako, even after attempting to delude herself that Miyabi had a far darker backstory than she actually apparently appears to. “The truth is stranger than fiction! I don’t need this kind of flip in the script! I hyped you up as this big deal, just to have any sense of reality go right down the drain! You have to have something better, right? Something with more gravitas! You can’t just stiff me like this!”
Regardless of the backstory of the entity with which she finds herself face-to-face, Ayako feels she now has a lead she can pursue in order to attract some new members to the Occult Research Club. But just her say-so isn’t going to convince anyone; she needs other witnesses, primarily because, as Ayako says, “the story that Miyabi herself subjected me to is far too ludicrous to hold water”. And so it is that she finds herself returning to the scene of her “crime”, this time to directly ask Anna and her partner if she can hang out while they have sex with one another in an attempt to reveal Miyabi’s existence to them both.
This is an obviously ridiculous request to make of anyone, but Anna is surprisingly compliant with Ayako’s idea — on the condition that she help out Komaki with her studies in an attempt for the two of them to build a rapport with one another. While we’re led to believe that Anna and Ayako have a pre-existing relationship with one another prior to the outset of the story, Komaki’s first meeting with Ayako is just after she has been caught peeping on them, so she quite understandably makes the assumption that she is a “sex offender”.
Ayako is ultimately successful in convincing the couple to allow her to watch them — though she suspects that Anna has secretly been stringing her along somewhat, particularly since Komaki appears to derive a certain degree of excitement from being watched once the pair of them start to get intimate with one another.
The sex scene between Anna and Komaki is quite unusual in terms of visual novel conventions in that it is not unfolding between the protagonist and another character; rather, it is the protagonist observing the affair as a neutral, uninvolved third party. We already know from her detailed narration by this point that despite Ayako coming across as a bit of an airhead to people, she’s actually quite keenly observant, and nowhere is this more apparent than as she observes the two girls going at it, which she describes with extremely florid prose. This is a running pattern for the game’s sex scenes, most of which are observed rather than participated in by Ayako; the increasingly vivid language she uses with each encounter reflecting her increasing arousal and frustration at her own situation.
Herein lies something of a conflict, however. As Ayako explains:
“Even if I avert my eyes, I can still hear the smooching and smacking of them swapping saliva, mixed with the tiny ‘ahs’ and ‘mms’ that escape their mouths as they breathe. It’s enough to make me suspicious of whether they’re trying to make it audible for me. There are no other sounds occupying the room, so they’re pretty loud and clear. If I’m trying to pick up on Miyabi’s presence once she appears, then plugging my ears wouldn’t be a good idea. On the other hand, I’m not insensitive enough that I would act to unnecessarily disturb the mood here. In fact, I’ve been feeling so much pressure that I feel the need to stifle the sound of my own breathing.”
The sex scene brings up a couple of interesting points. Firstly, Ayako’s fascination with watching the two girls is such that she ultimately ends up completely failing to watch out for Miyabi at all — Miyabi later reveals that she manifested herself quite obviously, but no-one in the room paid her any attention whatsoever — and secondly, that Anna, as a lover, is very much a “giver” rather than a “receiver”. Indeed, throughout any of the sex scenes in the game, we never see Anna actually receiving any pleasure at the hands of her partner — nor do we see her undress, even as her partners expose themselves completely. The reasons for this latter point in particular become very clear much later in the narrative.
After it’s all done, Ayako feels another sense of unease about what she has witnessed — and the subsequent revelation that Komaki is not the only partner Anna has been having intimate relations with on an apparently regular basis.
“I’m familiar with the information that Anna is apparently popular among girls who swing that way,” she ponders. “So if that is a fact, then I can’t be surprised; it is entirely feasible. But, for some reason, I’m still having a hard time believing that. How do I put it? It clashes with my perceptions. Not with the idea of Anna herself, but with the person I’ve been friends with for two years.”
Herein lies one of the key themes of Seven Days with the Ghost: the difference between what you believe to be true, and what is actually true. This is explored through a number of different narrative threads over the course of the story as the whole — most obviously with the gulf between Ayako’s belief of what Anna “should” be and the reality of the situation, but, as we later discover, Ayako has also been struggling against a whole manner of other mental hangups, primarily surrounding her mother and the events of her past.
Ayako doesn’t give many explicit details about her past over the course of the story as a whole, but we can understand a certain amount.
One of the things we discover is that Ayako is not a virgin. She doesn’t tell us a lot about her first sexual encounter, but it appears to be something that left a bit of a negative impression on her. When she speaks about it, it is with an air of dissatisfaction and regret rather than fond memories of a first love.
“I was at a vulnerable point and I just so happened to feel a certain way,” Ayako explains to Anna. “He came up to me while I was feeling that way; that’s all there is to it. Every time I look back on it, it does nothing for my emotions; it’s a dumb experience of loss.”
We also learn that Ayako is very self-conscious about how people perceive her — a fact primarily down to her mother’s mysterious occupation, which is not revealed until somewhat later in the narrative. Ayako explains that she was often bullied and ostracised as a child thanks to assumptions that her peers made about her mother being a “scam artist”, and these experiences have left her with lingering insecurities about a lot of things.
Primarily, this is what led to her initial interest in the occult — her dreams see her frequently recalling a time when she’d continually cry “Ghosts do exist!” as an attempt to assert herself, even as her peers and former friends shrank away from her — but this is also why, as the story progresses and it becomes more and more apparent that Ayako is gay, that she refuses to accept this side of herself, even as she continually sees Anna as a clear example of a homosexual woman being fully accepted and even embraced by the community of which she is a part. This is also why she gets along so well with Anna; there’s an element of admiration and aspiration there.
“She is the type of individual that can sit there calm and composed no matter when, no matter what the dilemma, no matter who is criticising her,” muses Ayako. “That is my assessment of Anna. Hence why I’ve been able to make such good friends with such a self-assertive classmate. She never flips out, she never criticises others without good reason, and neither does she ever disparage anyone unjustly. That sense of stability brings with it an irreplaceable sense of tranquility.”
Ayako is deeply conflicted by the feelings she notices stirring within her. When Miyabi reveals that, while having the appearance of an incorporeal spectre, she is able to touch people and things — a fact that she demonstrates by kissing and caressing Ayako in her room late at night — Ayako is frightened and bewildered by how she is feeling, for a number of reasons.
“I’m afraid that a part of me might end up hooked on the mood and think, ‘okay, fine,'” she thinks to herself. “Even when I lost my virginity, I ended up consenting in a similar vein. I don’t have the same kind of uncompromising personality that Anna does. I have no convictions. Considering that I’ve bathed in rejection on a daily basis ever since I was young, I don’t carry myself in a very strong manner.
“That’s why I am afraid,” she continues. “To do the deed with a member of the same sex, that is. I can’t imagine being satisfied by simply fooling around. My weak values which lack solid footing might find themselves easily shaken by a single act. Unless I show a strong enough refusal otherwise, I’ll start finding it hard to believe that I’m actually heterosexual. That is what I’m afraid of. I’ll start finding it hard to believe that I’m not a heretic. I’ll find it hard to believe that there is no reason anywhere for me to be ostracised.”
The core of Ayako’s conflict here is her assumption that what she is feeling is “abnormal” — she even describes the way her mind is as such on a number of occasions — and that, having already experienced rejection and being ostracised at an early age through no fault of her own, she would only make the matter worse were she to come out as gay. She is finding it increasingly difficult to deny this, however, given how much her sexual frustration grows over the course of the week — a feeling compounded by the fact her awareness of Miyabi’s presence, even when she isn’t “there”, means she feels unable to masturbate and relieve herself.
But Anna gradually has an impact on Ayako’s attitude towards this. It’s a slow process, a little bit at a time, but she gradually does change over the course of the week in which the story unfolds.
Perhaps the most significant moment in this regard comes during a scene where Anna, Ayako and Miyabi — who has, by this point, been accepted by and revealed herself to Anna — are attempting to track down some information on what Miyabi really is and how to deal with her, since she is seemingly not a normal “ghost”. Delving into the Occult Research Club’s archives from years gone by, most of which consists of fake, worthless artifacts supposedly from battles with demons, the group comes across a book that, it transpires, had sealed up a succubus princess known as Fatiette.
Fatiette, being a succubus, naturally draws energy from sexual activity, and we learn that in the world of Seven Days with the Ghost, succubi are able to adapt their sexual organs according to the situation. Being in something of a weakened state and confronted with two apparently helpless young women — Miyabi has, by this point, made herself scarce — Fatiette naturally assumes that what both Anna and Ayako are desperate for is, not to put too fine a point on it, a good deep dicking, particularly as her demonic powers infuse the room with intense sexual energy.
Ayako falls for Fatiette’s trap immediately, primarily thanks to the sexual frustration she is experiencing as a result of all the sex she has witnessed thus far, and the lack of any outlet for her to relieve these feelings. “For lack of any roundabout euphemisms,” she explains unabashedly to the reader as she gazes on Fatiette’s formidable-looking and recently sprouted male member, “well, honestly, I want to get my pussy decimated by that thing. Desperately.”
Anna is seemingly affected, too, being unusually compliant and submissive to the demon princess — though it turns out, it’s all a ruse, and it’s not long at all before Anna has the upper hand.
The scene between Anna and Fatiette is an interesting allegory for homophobic assumptions that gay people can somehow be “cured” by providing them with a more “normal” sexual encounter — in this case, someone attempting to convince a lesbian that she’s only been attracted to women because she hasn’t had the “right” penis inside her.
Anna makes short work of this homophobic assumption, however, by making Fatiette completely helpless with desire while paying no attention to her penis whatsoever. Giving her numerous vaginal orgasms but not a hint of allowing her to ejaculate — “I read it in a book; they said that orgasms through the vagina and orgasms through the penis are completely separate things. How envious I am; you have so many places from which to feel pleasure,” she explains — Anna ultimately subdues Fatiette completely by weakening her will so much that she pretty much has no means to relieve herself but by masturbating, a symbolic gesture of “giving up” and yielding to Anna’s superior strength of character.
“Might you be under the impression that any girl would be attracted to the symbol of male fertility?” says Anna with a wicked grin on her face. “How very cute. Perhaps it would do you good to study up on humans a little bit better. There are just as many human views on morals as there are on humans, you know.”
Ruminating on the day’s events prior to going to sleep, Ayako comes to a few realisations.
“I can’t help but consent to, or rather, accept the fact for what it is,” she muses, thinking of Anna’s apparent promiscuity. “I get the feeling that, in retrospect, it’s something Anna would be likely to do. In fact, I’m the strange one here for being unaware of it this entire time… I don’t know when I started acting this way, but it’s probably because of my slightly complicated upbringing that I have apparently developed into someone who pushes anything they don’t want to see completely out of sight.”
This admission here is Ayako showing a certain amount of self-awareness for perhaps the first time in the narrative — or rather, acknowledging an aspect of herself that she has always known, on one level or another, to be there. It’s a natural impulse that many of us can likely relate to — no-one likes to dwell on negative things, after all — but in Ayako’s case, we have ample evidence by this point that it’s been negatively affecting her overall wellbeing to quite a significant degree.
This is brought further into focus when Ayako pays Anna a visit the following morning, only to discover an apparently docile Fatiette happily sitting around drinking tea — though it’s not long before she starts to taunt Ayako about her relationship with Anna, and the fact that it’s becoming increasingly obvious that Ayako is infatuated with Anna from a romantic perspective, even though she won’t admit it to herself.
“Are you under the impression that if you just keep your eyes averted, then the truth will get rewritten and usher in some convenient version of the future for you?” asks Fatiette. “Come now, child, that is preposterous.”
As it happens, that’s exactly what Ayako has been thinking on numerous occasions. She didn’t want to let Miyabi touch her because she was worried she’d like it. She didn’t want to admit that she wanted to peep on Anna’s sexual encounters. She didn’t want to admit that Anna was a promiscuous lesbian, apparently enjoying sex purely for the sake of it rather than wanting to develop a meaningful relationship with someone.
“While not even sure as to what is or is not wrong, my mouth repeatedly utters phrases of denial,” Ayako explains as she falters at Fatiette seeing entirely through the situation. “Neither checking the meaning of my words, nor making sure of my motives. Because… I shouldn’t think of them. Yes. I shouldn’t think of them. Because if I think of them, I admit them. I know the truth, which is exactly why I don’t want her touching Pandora’s Box.”
It’s Miyabi who brings this episode to a surprising and sudden conclusion before Ayako is forced into confessing something she isn’t ready for — or locking it up for eternity. She reveals herself to have a surprising degree of power — even claiming that she is capable of taking on a Demon Lord, supposedly some of the most powerful creatures in existence — and manages to pacify Fatiette before things escalate any further. Ayako is unsurprisingly grateful, but in some ways this incident acts as a catalyst for her to at least attempt to resolve the things swirling around in her mind.
Core to Ayako’s discomfort is the dissonance between the image she has held in her mind of Anna for the last two years and what the reality appears to be. And, as an extension to this, the dissonance between what she thinks she should be feeling about all this, and what she is actually feeling about the whole situation. It takes the surprise intervention of a girl named Marino, another of Anna’s partners, for Ayako to come closer to some answers to both questions.
Marino is in love with Anna, but knows that she will never be her “number one”; it’s seemingly quite commonly understood that prior to a sexual encounter, Anna typically states outright that the girl she is about to get intimate with will “never be her number one”. But Marino doesn’t resent this fact; she’s happy to have the opportunity to spend time with someone important to her, even if it doesn’t mean what she wants it to.
Marino reflects on Anna’s reasons for behaving the way that she does, noting to Ayako that in a typical heterosexual relationship, things are pretty straightforward to get started, aside from the whole “getting up the courage to confess” thing — it’s a simple matter of one looking for a chance and confessing when the opportunity arises. But when homosexuality enters the equation, if you don’t know the other person’s orientation, things become somewhat troublesome.
“You couldn’t tell them, right?” says Marino. “I’m pretty sure I couldn’t do it either. Or rather, even if the person wasn’t a good friend, I couldn’t tell a girl that I am in love with them. There is just one condition that flips this whole thing on its head. It is simple. All you have to do is understand the person in question is someone who will accept homosexual love. If you ask how you’re supposed to do it, you proudly declare that you are gay. You say you’re a lesbian with your head held high. That is how you live. You never get down on yourself no matter what anyone tells you. You never let it shake you. With the strength to walk a path all your own.”
Marino is well aware that this is what Anna has been doing with her apparent promiscuity, and the fact that her homosexuality is a well-known fact across the campus. Moreover, Marino’s perceptiveness based on just a few meetings with Ayako and Anna in the same place has led her to one natural conclusion: the one that Anna is waiting to “notice” and “accept” her is none other than Ayako herself — a fact which Ayako all but confirms during a tense, but non-specific conversation with the girl herself during a “date” the next day. Here, perhaps, too, is the reason why Anna remains at something of a distance during her sexual encounters with her various partners: her heart’s not quite in it because it’s not with the “right” person.
So where does Miyabi fit into all this? It’s a complex affair, and it’s to do with the intersection between magic and the occult that she appears to represent. Explaining her century-long existence as the culmination of her own research into a unique form of magic that blends both human and demon techniques together — a power that could potentially lay waste to the world should she desire it — she notes that she deliberately stepped back from the world and chose to exist as the “ghost” she is now. As cheery and mild-mannered as she seems, it’s clear that she wants her existence to end, but is unable to move on by herself.
“No-one is invincible,” she says. “No matter how much fortitude they may have, no matter how much absolute faith they have that no-one will tread on them, it’s all the same. Even if you were to have the power to destroy the world at your disposal, so long as you remain human, you cannot escape from that fact. A frigid heart is strong and hardened. However, even if it doesn’t break, it will get whittled, chiselled and wear away. Then, one day, it might just decay into a deplorable shape, losing all of its former lustre. Just how much more sound is a heart rusted to its breaking point than a heart that’s broken?”
Things start to make sense to Ayako. Miyabi didn’t stumble across her “peeking” on Anna by chance that first night; she had been watching her for some time, having seen a certain amount of herself in the haughty young woman. The main thing they have in common, she determines, is the fact that they both live by strict, self-enforced codes of “rules” for themselves — and Miyabi knows that living one’s life in that way for too long leads to a seeming eternity of loneliness. She has all but reached a point of no return by the time we encounter her in the story, but it’s not too late for Anna. At the same time, it is not up to Anna to fix things for herself; she’s taken all the steps she is able to — Marino’s “proudly declaring that you are gay” — and is now waiting to see if anything will ever come of that with the one person that is actually important to her.
“I’m weaker than you,” says Ayako. “I’m weaker than Anna. I’m much, much weaker. Despite that, because of that, I know how tough it is to be alone all too well. As a kid, I was bullied, left all alone, and it was so tough I wanted to just die. I wanted to die, I wanted to kill. That’s right. I know. I know just how tough, sad and hard being all by yourself can be all too well.”
And so, there’s seemingly only one thing left to do. Will Ayako go through with it? Will Miyabi be able to find peace? Well, that’s where the one and only choice in the whole game comes in… so you’d better make it count!
Seven Days with the Ghost is ultimately a story about learning to accept yourself — and to let other people into your life. Ayako has remained so staunchly self-reliant for most of her life — primarily due to circumstances beyond her control — that she finds it difficult to do both of these things. But through a combination of seeing Miyabi as the ultimate consequences of self-absorption and extreme loneliness, and her discomfort at seeing how Anna is living her life — along with an awareness that she might be able to help her in some way — she has the potential to create a brighter future for herself.
Will that happen? Well, that’s up to you, really, isn’t it?
More about Seven Days with the Ghost
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