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"Cracked Mask" is the 7th episode of the season "Hell Girl".
This episode starts off at a party where everyone is talking and celebrating an event that was to be coming up, "Lady Detective", formerly played by the very famous theater actress, Midori Kurenai. Many commented on how Ms. Kurenai's protege and daughter, Ayaka herself, helped her a lot. Both women are introduced to one of Midori's fans, another actress named Kaoruko Kurushima, by an old friend. The young actress tells the woman that she was honored to meet her and adored her ever since she was a little girl and couldn't wait to see the remake of "Lady Detective". With that, she and Midori's friend walk off as Kaoruko gave another compliment about Midori from a distance, Ayaka stated that Kaoruko was adorable, possibly because the girl had some signs of shyness that was noticed. However, Midori tells Ayaka that, due to the fact that everyone was already talking about the upcoming show, she had to focus and make sure that they don't disappoint any of them. Ayaka agreed with a worried look on her face.
The scene skips to the "Kurenai Theatre Studio" where Ayaka falls to the ground after losing her balance while doing "The Weeping Willow Dance". Her mother angrily tells Ayaka that she is supposed to be playing a weeping willow and that what she just did was very sloppy and to do it again. Ayaka gets back on her feet and portrays the weeping willow once more. But once again, Ayaka disappoints her mother and the troupe by losing her balance and falling to the ground again. And again, Midori gives her daughter a hard time. A few troupe members stated that maybe Midori didn't want a successor and adopted Ayaka just to have someone to yell at, but then again, they all haven't a clue.
Late that night, Ayaka is shown on the computer searching for the Hell Correspondence. Once she finds it and logs onto it at exactly 12:00 midnight. She then types in her mother's name and sends it to Ai Enma, the Hell Girl. Soon Ai shows up startling Ayaka a bit. The young girl informs Ayaka that she had summoned her and introduces herself. Ai approaches the young actress and gives her a black straw doll with a red thread attached to it. The girl then explains that if she truly wished for vengeance, to remove the thread from the dolls neck and in doing so, it will bind Ayaka into a covenent with Ai and Ai would ferry the soul of Ayaka's tormentor (her mother) straight into the debts of hell. Ayaka is tempted and was close to pulling the thread, but was stopped when Ai adds that Ayaka will have to deliver on the end of her bargain, stating that there always has to be a price for her service and that once vengeance was served, Ayaka's soul would also belong to hell and when her life ends, she too, will also go to hell, never to know the joys of Heaven but only pain and suffering. Once that was said, Ai gives Ayaka a piece of what hell was going to be like for her after death, scaring the woman completely. Ai notices and states that Ayaka appears to have changed her mind, yet Ayaka begs Ai to give her time to think about it.
Ayaka is now shown on the swing sets thinking and talking to herself about how Midori only adopted her because she saw the potential within the girl. She then asks herself why her mother was being such a "bitch" to her and after insulting her mother once more, she took hold of the doll's thread and nearly pulled it off. That is, until her bozo of friends approached her to ask for money. They noticed the straw doll in her possession began to taunt and tease her saying she was too old to be playing with dolls. One, named Takeshi, went as far as to take the doll from her and wave it in the air. Ayaka managed to snatch the doll back and sighed relief. Her friends then asked if they could borrow some money from her and the actress angrily states that she wasn't a bank of some sort due to her mother being rich. Suddenly, an idea popped into Ayaka's head, an idea that would probably work. This idea involved her "friends", at least they won't charge her her soul. Ayaka tells the bozos that she will pay them if they did her a favor and they agreed.
Later that same night, Midori comes home, possibly from the theater, and attempts to close the door when two masked thugs walk in unexpectedly, demanding for money. Midori informed the thugs that if they did not leave her house at once she would scream so loud the neighbors would hear and-one thug cut her off by making as if he was going to punch her in the face, and tried to scare her. Midori grabbed the thug and flipped him onto the floor on his back. The other thug then pulls out a knife, informing Midori that it wasn't a game and that she should give them money immediately. Suddenly, Ayaka comes to the rescue by hitting the knife-wielder with an umbrella and knocking the mask off his face, it was obvious that it was the bozos of Ayaka. Once Ayaka threatens to call the police, the men left stating that they would remember this night. Ayaka asks her mother if she was alright and Midori answered she was fine. The young actress told her mother that she would call the police and while placing the umbrella down, Midori asks if she knew who those men were. Ayaka then makes up a story stating that they were the ones who had been following her for a few days threatening to tell the press lies about her time at the orphanage, but they crossed the line when they threatened to harm her mother. She then told her mother that she would go to the police first thing tomorrow morning to see that the thugs would be brought to justice. Midori asks if Ayaka was sure she has the courage to do such a thing and Ayaka reassures her that she was. Midori then asks why Ayaka was up so late and she answered that she had been practicing "The Weeping Willow Routine" but to her mother's dismay, she hadn't perfected it. Then she tells her mother that she would perfect it just for her mother because she wouldn't expect anything less than a poor act. With that, Midori tells her daughter to call it a night and go to sleep. Ayaka agrees and proceeds to go upstairs. Little did she know that Ai's assistance, Ren Ichimoku and Hone Onna, were watching the whole event from a distance. Ren informs Onna that Ai might want to know what had occurred. Onna asked what would Ai do if she hears this, Ren hadn't a clue.
The next day, Ai arrives at the "Kurenai Theatre Studio" dressed as a tomboy (baseball cap, hair in ponytail, shirt and pants) there, a member tells her about the play and how excited everyone was to find out who will be playing the lead role that Midori Kurenai once played. Ai began to asks questions, one was about Ayaka taking over the studio after Kurenai retires. It sounded strange to the member but answered that Ayaka was perfect for the studio and the main reason why she was adopted was because Miss. Kurenai saw so much potential in the young girl. Another member comes into the room and tells the one answering Ai's question that "Boss Lady" had an announcement to make. The troupe, including Ayaka, watched Midori walk into the room and stand before them with a clipboard in hand ready to announce the one who was to play another "her" in the show "Lady Detective". Ayaka, who stood in front of everyone and before her mother thinks she has gotten the role and her acting from last night paid off. However, Midori calls in a familiar face. The young actress, Kaoruko Kurushima, walks into the room and is introduced to the troupe as the one who be taking on the lead role of Lady Detective. Members of the troupe whisper in disbelief of the replacement of Ayaka. Ayaka becomes infuriated and full of rage. While in Midori's office, Ayaka demands why her own mother would replace her with another actress it, asked if she wasn't good enough and wanted an answer. Midori tells Ayaka that she didn't believe her and brought up last night's incident. Ayaka pretended she had no idea what her mother was talking about. Midori informs her daughter to stop her acting and she was dismissed.
Ayaka couldn't believe that her mother saw right through her telling herself that her performance last night was perfect. She assumes Takeshi and the other bozo ratted her out, which is why her mother replaced her. She then sees Kaoruko practicing in the recital room and with that, Ayaka came up with an idea to force Kaoruko to give up acting for good. Ayaka is seen on her cell phone, Takeshi's voice able to be heard, telling her that there was no way he and the other bozo would rat her out. Ayaka shrugs it off and offers to double the amount of money she would let the boys borrow if they did her one last favor. Kaoruko is seen putting on her shoes and she drops to the floor in pain, for there were tacks placed in them, obviously by Ayaka. Ayaka walks over the girl and begins to yell at everyone demanding the one who stooped to such a low level as to putting tacks into Kaoruko's shoes to step forth. Then in a calm nice tone, she assures the troupe that she wasn't bothered by the show at all. Both actresses are seen in a cafe, Kaoruko thanking Ayaka for standing up for her in the locker room. Ayaka tells the girl that it wasn't a problem that Kaoruko deserved the lead role more than she did herself. Though secretly, she was pissed. Once again, Ren and Onna are seen tables away looking at the innocent one and the sneaky one. Both agree that the plot in this story is thickening and it will get a lot thicker. Ayaka and Kaoruko are then seen at a crane machine and Ayaka won a toy. She asks Kaoruko if she was having fun and the girl answers yes but then states that it was getting late and she should head home. However, Ayaka begins to stall the girl by saying that she should stay a couple more minutes and that they were just becoming friends. Suddenly, Takeshi and his buddy arrive and Ayaka leaves Kaoruko to fend for herself telling two boys to have fun. Kaoruko begs for Ayaka to come back but is dragged off to an unknown area. Kaoruko begs the men to let her go home, that there was rehearsal tomorrow and she had to be there. Takeshi says they'll let her go home if she drinks a mysterious tonic fluid. Kaoruko tried to refuse, but was held from behind and had the fluid forced down her throat. What else happened to Kaoruko was unknown for Ai was seen from afar, her eyes glowing red within the night.
The next day, within the afternoon, Ayaka overheard the conversation between the troupe that Kaoruko lost her voice possibly due to the pressure of the studio. Ayaka goes to the studio to talk to her mother. She pretends to be sad telling her mother that Kaoruko was so enthusiastic and what could have possibly happened to her. Midori told her daughter to gather the troupe for she had an announcement to make. Ayaka turns her back and grins, thinking that she got the role after all. Yet, Midori stops the girl and asks her why she isn't curious about what she was going to announce. Ayaka becomes curious and learns that 1: Midori was cancelling the show, 2: Midori was disbanding the troupe, and 3: She was refusing to finalize her adoption. Ayaka was shocked and in disbelief. Midori told her that she knew that she had something to do with Kaoruko's lost voice. However Ayaka tries to maintain her innocence by telling her mother how she was grateful of Midori adopting her, showing her the way and (as she rushes over and hugs her) how she loved her. Midori, disgusted in Ayaka, pushes her away telling her that she already contacted a lawyer and this was good-bye. As Midori walked away, Ayaka angrily calls her a "fucking hag" hurting the woman deeply. Midori tries to reason with Ayaka, giving her a chance to admit to what she's done, but Ayaka refuses and tells Midori that she didn't care about her and that she only wants her fame and fortune. Sadly, Midori had nothing more to say but sorry. Ayaka, unforgiving and angry, tells her to spare her the pity then rushed to the locker room, opened up her locker and began searching for the straw doll, stating that even though she'll send her mother to hell before cancelling her adoption and she'll end up in hell too, at least she will die rich.
However, Ayaka pulls out an ordinary straw doll. Ayaka responded with disbelief and a voice informed her that she didn't know. Ayaka turns to see Ai sitting in a chair. Ayaka asks why she was there and what happened to the thread. Ai tells her that somebody else got to the thread first. Wanting an explanation, Ayaka demanded what she was talking about. Ai tells Ayaka that someone went to Hell Correspondence late last night and pulled the thread moments ago. That someone was Kaoruko. When asked by Ayaka what it meant, Ai tells her she shouldn't have waited because it was too late. Ayaka tells Ai that she had the tread first and went after Ai stating she was talking to her. Yet Ayaka ended on stage and her interrogation began.
First, Wanyudo asks Ayaka if she felt like confessing to her sins. Ayaka back sasses him and is informed that she would go to hell if she doesn't confess. Not wanting to go to hell, Ayaka tries to act her way out. However a bunraku puppet representing her true self interrupts her acting, scaring Ayaka herself, causing her to mess up her "apology". Both Ren and Onna gives her a hard time by saying she's messing up the scenery, it was nothing if she didn't speak from the bottom of her heart, and her acting was terrible. Ayaka begs that she could do better. Suddenly, Ayaka is turned into a type of puppet and her arms are pulled off after she is repeatedly shaken and pulled. However it wasn't real. Ren stops the play in disgust and Ayaka is surrounded by Ai's assistants and urged to stop acting and be her true self. At first Ayaka tries to tell them that this was the real her, but they weren't buying it. So she confesses, telling them she didn't care about acting and that she worked hard on acting to get what she wanted. She then bragged about how she could be whatever or whoever she wanted to be. The interrogation ends with Onna asking Ayaka if there was a real Ayaka within her. Ai appears on stage, wearing her kimono, says her lines and tells Ayaka that it was time to die. Ayaka awakens on Ai's ferry-boat. Ai tells Ayaka that her performance was a masterpiece and it was something an actor would die for. Ayaka is ferried to hell, satisfied. Later, Kurenai Theater Studio is seen being closed down by Midori who walks away sadly and Kaoruko is seen lying on her bed with the fire symbol tattooed onto her chest. A candle with her name is placed in a row with the other users of the Hell Correspondence as Ai states: "Your grievance shall be avenged."