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The flame of a candle flickered. A grimoire was propped open. Kuzuha Komyo stopped her reading and stared distantly up into nothing.
She was thinking about her lost miniature doll which had a little chain attached to it. It was given to her as a gift from a girl whose family had made a request for Kuzuha’s protection against an evil spirit. She must have lost it when she saved that foreign boy on her way home.
Kuzuha is a member of the Komyo clan, which practices Shikigami ceremonies. The members of the clan scribe spells onto paper in order to conjure spirits called Shikigami. They then control these Shikigami to subjugate evil spirits who rob the identities of humans. Her family uses their supernatural powers for the ceremonies, and are therefore feared and alienated from society more than the spirits they fight.
The little girl from that time had smiled at her, thanked her, and handed the doll to her, fearless to even a Shikigami invoker of the Komyo family. She was very disappointed at the fact that she had lost it.
“Even if I search for it, I shan’t be able to see that doll again…”
Yoh the white owl looked away. Tsuzura, the white cat, yawned indifferently.
“You’ll see it pretty soon.”
I walked up to Kuzuha, dangling the little anime character between my fingers.
“Is this what you were looking for?”
The girl picked up the short sword beside her and pointed it at me.
“It was I who invited him in.”
Fude Katanosaka, an elderly kimono-clad housekeeper for the Komyo family, gently corrected the girl.
I had picked up the little figure at the shrine after she had dropped it there. It was a small figure of Kiriya from the anime Sword World Online. He was the strongest swordsman of the show, protecting his beloved Asuka as they explored a gaming world together.
As an out-and-out otaku who learned Japanese and came all the way to Japan to study here, it was a given that I would be able to figure out the character’s identity.
My otaku knowledge also told me that the strap wasn’t ever put on sale but was actually only given to a small number of fans who were lucky enough to win one in a special raffle.
I was able to hack into the list of winners on the internet (I’m so sorry. I was really desperate!!) and managed to get hold of the contact information of a girl living near the shrine who had won the strap. I paid the girl in question a visit, and she told me that she gave the prize to a Shikigami invoker of the Komyo clan. That’s how I learned Kuzuha’s name, as well as where she was living.
The Komyo residence was a large, historical house in the traditional Japanese style.
When I rang the bell at the entrance, an old lady answered the door. This was my first meeting with Fude.
I showed her the strap and explained the situation to her.
“That’s very kind of you. Please come in and you can give it back to Kuzuha-sama directly.” She said to be, using the extremely respectful honorific suffix ‘-sama‘ on the end of Kuzuha’s name.
She seemed to have a tone of enthusiasm to her voice and let me into the house. The room I was invited to was a traditional Japanese room, with a floor of tatami mats. There was a recessed alcove at the corner of the room. This kind of alcove is called a tokonoma in Japanese and is often found in traditional Japanese rooms. As expected of a tokonoma, which is used to display and appreciate Japanese art, a hanging scroll of Japanese calligraphy with soft, flowing characters was on display. I recognized the cursive script, but couldn’t read it as it is illegible even for most Japanese people without special knowledge.
“Kuzuha-sama is studying right now. Would you mind waiting here for a moment?”
Fude brought me a cup of steaming green tea. I love green tea in Japan. The fragrance reminded me of a forest during fall and began to relax me.
If I am relaxed, I am able to easily strike up conversation. I began to chat with Fude, and she told me about Shikigami invokers and Kuzuha. That’s how I gained my knowledge about them.
“It’s unfair to not be appreciated after saving people from evil spirits…”
“She is appreciated. It’s just…”
Fude failed to finish with ‘they fear her.’
I learned that Kuzuha knows deep down how people see her, and she rarely leaves the mansion other than to perform exorcisms. No friends. No school. No internet. Just shutting herself in this old house day after day.
“Where are her parents?”
“They are both very busy and hardly come back here”, Fude replied.
Silence fell between us.
We then both opened our mouths at the same time-.
“Can I ask a favor?” “Perhaps you could fulfill my request.”
“You want to live here?”
Kuzuha seemed flabbergasted by our proposal.
“My name was stolen by the evil spirit, right? My passport is blank and I have no ID. I was meant to live at a student dormitory but was refused because I couldn’t prove my identity. I have nowhere to go.”
That was exactly how I had explained my situation to Fude after gathering the courage to ask her my favor. She kindly accepted my request, adding that she was just about to ask me to become Kuzuha’s friend. She believed that an outsider like me would not be filled with the same fear of her power that others were…
“…Is that a no?“
“Obviously you cannot. It is quite rude to ask something like that.” she replied bluntly.
“Despite my looks I’m actually quite strong. I can help you to carry water or do wood-chopping.”
“This house may be old but it at least has water and gas supplies.”
“I know a lot about the internet. I’ll help you to set up an internet network in your house. You can get a lot of information about the world out there without going outside. And also…”
I closed my mouth.
“I need no sympathy from anyone. I hate that hypocritical humanitarianism you foreigners seem to have.”
I could not find any words with which to reply.
“I will find the evil spirit who stole your identity. So, leave this house this instant.”
“I can’t leave now, because…” I thought to myself.
Instead, I stated, “It’s not sympathy. It’s not humanitarianism. I just want to be your friend.”
Kuzuha was quiet.
“I want to know more about you.”
“We have only just met. Mind your manners.”
“I want to help you.”
“I don’t need your help.”
“It’s because I want to.”
“Why do you want to become friends with someone like me?”
“You saved me.”
I looked her squarely in the eye.
“And I think you’re really cute.”
Even in the dim, candle-lit room, I could see a bright-red blush spread across her face.
“T-this is why I can’t understand people from other countries…!”
Fude quietly chuckled to herself, and the white cat Tsuzura seemed to grin. Only the white owl, Yoh, cocked its head in a quizzical way as though he didn’t understand.
Kuzuha looked at me angrily and slammed the sliding paper fusuma doors right in front of my face when she left the room.
I was wallowing in disappointment at this outright rejection when Fude turned around and said to me ”If you were to stay here, what would we do for bedding? I think we have a futon for our guests…”
“He can use one of the guest ones. I think there is a new one.”
To my surprise, it was Kuzuha behind the fusuma doors. She mustn’t have heard what Fude said, or did she?
Continued in Shikigami Girl Chapter 3: Japanese School Life →
← Go to Chapter 1: Stolen Name
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