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There once was a young dishwashing servant, whose beauty surpassed her.
Her name was Okiku. The young maiden was in service of the cruel and brutal samurai Aoyama Tessan.
Whilst working in the dungeon beneath the Himeji castle, one of Okiku's main tasks was to clean and look after ten valuable Delfts Blue plates. The penalty for breaking or losing one such plate would mean death.
It wasn't long until the cruel Aoyama had noticed the young, beautiful Okiku and decided such beauty should not be wasted on cleaning. Instead she should be one of his mistresses. Aoyama pursued her every chance he got. But every time the young maiden would turn him down. Realizing that the girl was not an easy conquest, he would resort to one of his trickeries.
In an attempt to easily get the girl to resign and accept his proposal, he hid one of the ten valuable Delfts Blue plates.
Upon asking Okiku once more if she would be his, she yet again respectfully told him no. The cunning Aoyama then asked her what had happened with the plates, for he could only find nine plates.
In a frenzy she would count and recount the plates, only to find just nine plates. When she realized she could not find the tenth plate, she went back in defeat to Aoyama with tears of guilt running down her cheeks. The entertained Aoyama reassured her she would be safe and sound under his protection, but only if she agreed this time to be his.
Recognizing his trickery, the young girl unflinchingly refuses the proposal.
Infuriated, the insulted Aoyama, had her tied up and the refusal beaten out of her, insisting that she should be his. With determination she declined to ever give herself to him. Mad with rage, he hung her over a well and dunks her repeatedly in the water. Each time a little longer before he pulls her out. Not accepting that Okiku would never be his, he finally killed her and threw her into the well.
Not long after her death, the other servants saw Okiku as an oryo crawling out of the well with her raven black hair hanging over her white gown, making her way towards Aoyama's chamber. They would hear her quietly counting up to nine, ending with a horrific shriek for not having found the tenth plate. Every night she would go to Aoyama until finally he had been driven mad to his death.
Still one would hear the poor Okiku whispering from the well:
Always up to nine. Never ten. Never released from her shackles. A restless spirit for all eternity.