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“I must look strange, wearing this kimono…”
“Don’t worry. Even if you stand out, people will just think you’re cosplaying.”
Our train had left Iidabashi station on the Sobu line and was heading towards Suidobashi. Tokyo Dome came into and I could see the Kanda river on the left. The river around here used to form part of the outer moats of Edo Castle, which protected the Shogun during the Edo period. The train then arrived at Ochanomizu station. The next stop was our destination: Akihabara.
I invited Kuzuha to join our Manga Club and come with us to Akihabara. I made the suggestion as I was recovering from my injuries, sustained after being sucked into the manga. Our Manga Club was open to anybody, not just students at the school. What’s more, she could draw manga for our dojinshi. I was impressed with her drawings when she tried to help me with the gigantic fox. I knew Jasmine and Ryoya would be happy if somebody with such illustration skills would join us.
I already knew what she was going to say.
“I’m a Shikigami invoker. People fear me. I must stay away from their everyday lives because I’m different. Everybody who was born as a Komyo must live like that. Therefore…”
I understood her hesitance… I’m sure she has been hurt too many times. However, I had no intention of giving up.
“You know, I’m different, too. I’m a foreigner here. There are hardly any foreigners at my school.” She seemed to contemplate this. I continued with my attempts to convince her,
“Jasmine is a foreigner too. She’s been living at a children’s home ever since her parents went missing. Ryoya is a girl trapped in a boy’s body. They’re both a bit different from others as well. But…”
Kuzuha looked me in the eyes and finished my sentence for me.
“We are all human.”
Tears came to her eyes and started rolling down her cheeks.
“H-hey, what’s the matter?” I asked her perplexedly.
“Because… no one has told me such a thing before…”
Kuzuha kept crying like a child until Fude came to tell us it was time for dinner.
We got off the train at Akihabara station and headed to a ticket barrier at the Denkigai (‘Electric Town’) exit. I had already visited this district several times before as a tourist. Despite Kuzuha living quite close by for her whole life, this was her first time visiting the geeky paradise of Akihabara. Bemused by the massive crowd, she couldn’t suppress her curiosity. Pointing to the Yodobashi Electronics building she asked me, “Kiriya, what’s that?”
“It’s a major electronics and home appliances store. They sell all kinds of electronic stuff, from electric fans to internet contracts.”
“Inter… what?” She repeated with confusion.
“I’ll tell you what it is later.”
Before I finished my sentence, she was now pointing to a billboard with an illustration of a beautiful girl and asked me, “What is that?”
“I’m not quite sure but I guess it’s an advertisement for a new light novel.”
“Light…novel…”, she repeated my answer absentmindedly. Her eyes were still fixed on the girl on the billboard.
“She looks like you. Very cute.”
I’ve come to know several things about Kuzuha. She could be childish sometimes and painfully shy. She blushes easily and tries hiding her embarrassment by pouting.
“I can’t keep up with people from other countries…!” That was exactly what I expected her to say.
Our plan was to meet up with the others in front of a commercial building called Atre Akihabara. It often runs tie-up promotions with anime and games, and now a huge illustration of fatal/Great Order covered its wall.
“Hey, Kiriya!”, I heard Ryoya and Jasmine shouting and saw them waving their arms wildly. Jasmine looked at the kimono-clad Kuzuha and exclaimed,
“Wow! I love your cosplay! It’s Shiki Ryogoku from The Garden of Spinners, isn’t it? You look so cool!!!”
“Oh, hello…” Kuzuha seemed to be overwhelmed by Jasmine’s positive energy.
“You must be Kuzuha Komyo. I’ve heard about you from Kiriya. I’m Jasmine Gondo. Call me Jasmine. Nice to meet you!”
“Hi. I’m Ryoya Osaka,” Ryoya introduced herself. Although she was wearing a boy’s uniform at school, I learned that she stays true to her heart in her private time and was wearing feminine clothing.
“I’m really happy to hear that you’re joining our manga club.”
“That’s it for our self-introduction session. Let’s go to Melon Books to check out their adult dojinshi shelves!”
“Jasmine, if you sneak any funny books in my bag next time, I’ll call the police.”
“No way. You’re too serious, Mr. Gaijin.”
Ryoya mediated between us with a bitter smile.
“Let’s go to Gamers first. I want to have a look at the newest otome games.”
Kuzuha’s voice made even Jasmine go silent. We all looked at her and waited for her next word.
“I—I’m a Shikigami invoker of the Komyo clan. I’m wondering how you feel about being with… um… me..today.”
“Well, to be honest with you, a Shikigami invoker sounds a bit scary…” Jasmine answered.
“I’ll get scared if evil spirits attack us when we’re with you”, Ryoya follows.
Kuzuha hung her head in shame as the answers fell on her ears. She had an upset look on her face. I was just about to crack a joke to change the atmosphere when Jasmine said:
“But you aren’t going to curse us or kill us to eat us up, are you?”
“Can you protect us when evil spirits turn up?”, asked Ryoya.
Kuzuha lifted her head and nodded while looking at them squarely in the eyes.
“So, there’s no problem with us being friends!”, Jasmine said with a big smile on her face and added,
“Anyway, we are here in Akihabara!”
From Animate to the Sega club games arcade, everything in Akihabara was new to Kuzuha. She seemed astonished by the sheer number of manga volumes on the shelves and admired the elaborate character figures. We took purikura pictures together. When she found a billboard at the Sofmap storefront with the character Kiriya from her beloved phone strap, a pleased look spread across her face…
However, her good mood suddenly changed when someone approached us on Mansei bridge. He seemed to be the same age as us but had an air of elitist snobbishness to him.
“What a coincidence”, he said.
“Who are you?”, I asked him.
“You’re the international student. Kiriya, was it? My name is Haruaki Shinoda. I go to the same school as you. Nice to meet you.”
He leered at Kuzuha while shaking my hand. Could he be an acquaintance of Kuzuha?
“It’s a funny sight to see such strange creatures wandering around in a zoo like this.”
“What do you mean by that?” I asked him, my annoyance leaking into my tone.
“Nothing”, he sneered.
“By the way, are you going to the school camping trip, Kiriya? I’m sure that Miss Komyo won’t, for obvious reasons.”
Of the many events that take place at Japanese schools, one of them is a camping trip to the mountain forests. Students stay in lodgings on the mountain for several days to experience nature and learn about forestry and agriculture.
“Hey, mind your own business.”
“I’m just giving you some advice, Mr. Foreigner. In this country, anything could happen.”
He had a cold smile on his face as he made to leave… He gave one last disdainful glance at Kuzuha and said, “Kuzuha Komyo, I’m the genuine one.”
Go to Shikigami Girl Chapter 6: Anxious Night →
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