This series manages a tricky balance of the creepy, unsettling, and even heartwarming with its third volume. It’s biggest surprise turns out to be relevant to the plot in ways you wouldn’t expect as the old woman introduced at the end of vol. 2 turns out to actually be Shiva’s aunt. Yes, the same one who abandoned her Outside where she was found by Teacher has now come to bring her back Inside with the king’s guards providing backup. The “rescue” is successful and Shiva and her aunt are allowed to go live in a village on the periphery of the Inside while the king awaits further divine revelation from the head of the church as to how the little girl will be able to save them from the curse of the Outsiders. So Shiva and her aunt have some time to renew their bond and enjoy the comforts of civilized human life. That is, unless the curse of the Outsiders decides to make itself known on the Inside once again.
Even though the opening chapter of this volume is heartbreaking in that it shows Shiva and Teacher being forcibly separated, it’s actually kind of nice to see the little girl get to know her aunt again. Auntie genuinely cares for the little girl and tries her best to shield the girl from the unpleasantness she has had to endure at the hands of the monarchy and church. All this eventually leads to some of the creepiest and most dramatic imagery that mangaka Nagabe has rendered yet in this series as the town descends into chaos for fairly spoilerific reasons.
If there is one thing I have against this volume, it’s that it doesn’t provide any answers to the many questions its narrative has raised so far. In fact, vol. 3 ends with an even bigger question being raised in regards to Shiva’s origin. This is annoying, but not a dealbreaker. It’s clear from this volume that the real heart of the series is the relationship between Shiva and Teacher as it remains compelling even when they’ve been separated.