Chapter 1: The Voice and I
“Ok, I’m heading off, Kousei-ku-, I mean, Kousei!”
“Daiki-san, you don’t need to force yourself to call me without an honorific.”
“… Kousei-ku-, Kousei, calling me Daiki-san is too cold … We’re family, you know. You can at least call me Oji-chan (Uncle).”
“… Then Ojii-san (Grandpa), please hurry up and don’t be late for your first day at work.”
“…Daiki-san is fine …”
The energetic 20-something looking Daiki-san lowered his head in defeat and struggled to pull his shoes on. After he finished, he gave a sly glance sideways at the teenager who was coming down the front hallway towards him.
“You know, Kousei, for someone who doesn’t really like socializing, you’re actually quite cheeky.”
“Does not liking to socialize really have any bearing on it? Here.”
The teenager, Kousei, held out a small bundle towards Daiki.
“Lunch. Is it a bother?”
“No, no, I’ll take it! Waaah, a lunch by Kousei! Lucky!”
If it sounds like talk from an overly-doting relative, for the record it’s not. At least not completely; maybe just 30%. Kousei’s cooking is just really damn tasty. And naturally, since he’s been honing his [Cooking] Blessing.
Somehow or other, Kousei’s [Cooking] had soared to Lv6.
A professional level cook at the age of 16 … Kousei couldn’t see much good coming out of adding this to his list of abnormalities. … Ah, if only he could have cooked this well in his past life, his last girlfriend wouldn’t have left him. Oh, but then he died, so maybe it was better that she left him before then.
Luckily for Kousei, Daiki didn’t see the problem with a high-schooler having [Cooking]Lv6. Daiki was a carefree guy who never thought too deeply about why things were the way they were.
All Daiki knew was that the things Kousei cooked were delicious because he had the [Cooking] skill. He accepted that anything made by anyone who had any Level of [Cooking] would be tasty.
It would be especially tasty compared to Daiki’s non-Blessing, bachelor level of no domestic skills whatsoever.
Daiki had tried really hard to cook once, but well, even Kousei had to admit that it was hard to stomach compared to his own cooking.
Anyway, Daiki soon left in high spirits, biking towards the downtown.
With the noisy Daiki gone, it was really quiet in the house.
“Hoooi~! You still there? Lalalalala!”
Or, it should have been.
I draw weird things to me.
Whether that scrambled Blessing is the result of this or not, I don’t know, but the fact remains: I, Kousei Ishikawa, seem to be cursed in drawing weird things to me.
Like this persistent, annoying voice that just won’t go away!
“Boo, are you going back on your word now? I know you’re awake! Ne ne, talk to me!”
How annoying. This voice is really annoying!
Honestly, I’d really like to NOT get any more involved with this voice coming out of nowhere that apparently only I can hear. I’m already able to see youkai, now I’m hearing a disembodied voice. Aren’t I one step closer to getting put in the psycho ward?
Or like, my past self would totally avoid this kind of creepy weirdo who claims to have supernatural powers. It’s totally along the same lines as those people who go, “There’s a gate to hell sealed in my left hand!”
… Ugh. It’s ok to cry, right? Right?
“.. If you don’t respond, I’m going to start singing that K○tam○ri Da○cy song nonstop! You’ll never be able to get it out of your head!”
Ok, that’s actually kind of a serious threat. Please spare me from it! Or like, you know the K○tam○ri Da○cy song?!
“Ah, mou, I get it, I’m listening! So don’t do that!”
“Wai~! You responded! I’m so happy! I was wondering what I’d do if you couldn’t hear me anymore.”
Did I just get tricked into answering her again?
I hold my head in both hands. It hurts.
I started hearing this voice when my Uncle, Daiki-san, and I moved to Tsunato. To be exact, Daiki-san is … my Uncle-in-law? He’s my father’s sister’s husband’s little brother.
[Father] – [Aunt]+[Kenji] – [Daiki-san]
Anyway, while we were unloading our boxes,
“Haa … I wonder what’s going to happen in the next episode of Jun Peace… ♪fufunfun, gathering our dreams, going to search for our desires~♪”
Um, what? That, am I just hearing things?
“Daiki-san, do you hear someone singing anime songs?”
Diaki-san is one of the few people who takes the weird things I say seriously. He paused and listened hard for a few seconds.
“No, I don’t hear anything like that.”
“I see. I must have been hearing things.”
But there was definitely a woman’s voice singing the Jun Peace theme song … so I thought but now it was quiet again.
Just when I had about convinced myself that I’d been hearing things,
“No WAAAAY, I can hear someone! Hey, you, can you hear me?!”
Nope. Can’t hear anything. Absolutely not. I’ve watched enough horror films in my past life to know that you don’t answer voices you don’t know the origins of.
“… Hey, hey, you can hear me right? Right?”
I played dumb the entire day, but late at night she switched from anime songs to sentai ranger songs, complete with energetic yells and sfx (that she made herself).
Smothering my head in pillows did nothing.
“Please … just be quiet…”
“Ahaha, you can hear me after all! Hey, hey, c’mon, let’s talk about something.”
“Look, it’s really late, and I want to get up early tomorrow.”
“Boooo. Fine, but you have to talk to me tomorrow.”
Without waiting for my reply, the voice went quiet.
Ugh … I don’t know what I’ve gotten myself into, but finally, I can sleep …
… Is she humming anime songs under her breath?
When I woke after an awful night’s sleep, I didn’t hear the voice so I thought maybe it had gone away, but in the end …
“Fufufu, to be able to have a conversation in such a long time…!”
Kousei Ishikawa, getting involved with this voice is the greatest mistake you’ve made in your life.
The reminiscence and self-reflection time is over; back to the present.
“Hey hey, so what are you? Human? Youkai? Or …”
“What kind of question is that to ask first?”
“Beca~use no one has been able to hear me, and I haven’t been able to hear anyone else, for the longest time! Isn’t it natural that I want to know what kind of weirdo you are? Well you’re definitely not an ordinary human since you didn’t say, ‘youkai? What are you talking about?’ So are you a special human or a youkai?”
She got me again.
“Well, I guess it doesn’t really matter anyway. So hey, what’s your name?”
“If you think I’m going to give a disembodied voice my name, you’re mistaken.”
With a large yawn, I turn back towards the kitchen. Daiki-san and I have only just started moving in yesterday, so since I don’t officially transfer into school for two more days, I should take the chance to put everything away. Even though it’s a Saturday, Daiki-san has his first day of work so soon after his transfer … being a police officer seems tough.
Hm, I might be able to get to [Cleaning]Lv2 after everything that went into moving out of the apartment and into this house! Haha, just kidding. I’ve already figured out it’s not that easy to level Blessings up with experience alone…
“Ah, hahaha, that’s true, names are too important to just give away, aren’t they. My apologies, I got too excited.”
Oh, the voice is surprisingly reasonable.
“Hm … you sound kind of tired, don’t you?”
“And just who was it singing anime songs all night?”
Oops, I retorted in irritation.
“Fufufu, well there wasn’t anyone to talk to was there? I have to keep myself entertained somehow.”
“Ah… I get it, I get. Fine. Are you really that desperate for a conversation partner?”
The voice energetically shouted her answer.
I sigh and put the pot I was unpacking on the ground. I just got really tired all of a sudden …
“So why me? Actually, how did you even know I could actually hear you?”
“Fufun, because you’re the first person whose voice I could actually hear since forever ago. Since I can hear you, then there’s a good chance that you can hear me, no?”
“There’s so much to retort on, that I don’t know where to begin… but … A shut-in?”
“…That hurts, you know. Even I can feel hurt from that. Mou~ it’s not like I WANTED to be shut-in like this for 2 thousand years!”
Ok, not a living human. I mean, it was pretty obvious from the beginning, but I wanted to hang on to some sort of hope that I was normal, you know?
“2 thousand years?!”
“Maybe. I’ve lost count. It wasn’t until humans started developing radio waves and stuff that I could keep track of the years, you know? Ah, satellite TV is great, it’s all I can hear.”
“Eh? Cho-, wait, time out. That was way too much information at once! You, are you a sealed youkai?”
“Ooh, bingo! As expected, you are quite knowledgeable about this type of thing!”
A sealed youkai. It’s … that, right? Like, an evil spirit that was sealed away so it can’t do anything else bad?
WHY can I hear her?! I mean, if I can hear an evil youkai, then this ability to see youkai is definitely a curse, right?
“Fufufu, you’ve gone quiet all of a sudden. You think I’m an evil youkai, right?”
“I don’t think it’s something to be all that surprised about.”
“Fufufu, fwahaha, MWAHAHAHA! That’s right, I’m an evil youkai! If I am unsealed, this town will be doomed.”
Ah, the tension suddenly fell. What’s with that? Evil demon-lord play?
“No, if you’re going to play that up, at least make it ‘the world is going to be doomed’ or something. That totally makes you some small-fry villain.”
“Eeeh… but something like ‘the world is doomed’ is too big scale, isn’t it? It’s not really believable.”
Oooi. You’re a youkai that did something that made people seal you away. You’re a DISEMBODIED VOICE for crying out loud. Are you really in a position to be able to say something’s not believable?
“Ah… ok, I’ll bite. Why were you sealed away?”
“Because I’m a ruthless mass-murderer! Would you believe that?”
“5:10 score. If you said a psychotic mass-murderer, I’d believe that.”
“Boo. You’re too strict. But I don’t really want to talk about it, is that ok?”
Suddenly going all meek like that with a cute girl’s voice is unfair, you know?
“Maa, well I guess as long as I don’t get cursed from it, it won’t really make a difference.”
“Hm, cursed? Well I guess that IS a worry … hm. Let’s just say I was sealed as a punishment and it wasn’t a seal to subjugate me. Will that make you feel better?”
“I don’t know. But I guess there’s no point worrying about it.”
I don’t really get the difference, but she bothered trying to make me feel better about it, so it should be fine? Or like, how desperate is she to make sure I stay her conversation partner?
Or am I getting tricked again?
Whatever. It’s not even 9 am yet, and I’m already feeling this tired. I’ve only emptied this one box for the kitchen yet; this is going to be a long day.
“Ah. Not good.”
“? What is?”
“Oh, sorry. Just talking to myself. We’re out of dish soap.”
“Dish soap? Ah … there should be a convenience store near you.”
“Fufufu, sorry. I just wanted to say it. I don’t actually know how the town’s changed from when I wasn’t sealed, but I’ve never said ‘convenience store’ to anyone before.”
… I’ll just look it up online.
“Oh, there really is one close to here.”
“Oooo~! I was correct!”
Yes, yes, you were correct. Even though you haven’t been around for 2 thousand years. … Hm?
“Hang on, how do you know what a convenience store is? There’s no way one existed before you were sealed, right?”
“I heard it all on TV. Didn’t I tell you? I can hear things broadcasted through radio waves and satellite TV. You’re the first thing person I’ve heard in a long time that wasn’t pre-recorded.”
“Wow, I didn’t know those things could get through spiritual seals.”
“Yeah, I didn’t either. Well, I didn’t know these kind of things could exist when I got sealed! Iyaaa, it was super boring before humans made all those things. I’m really grateful!”
What a cheerful person in forced isolation.
Hm? Hang on. Why am I happily responding to her? Shouldn’t I be trying to minimize contact with this voice?
… Maybe it’s been a really long time since I’ve had a frank conversation with someone too.
Dammit, and it’s with a creepy disembodied voice from a sealed youkai! Well, the voice kind of sounds like a cute girl though, no, I can’t have gotten this desperate already!
Ugh, I give up. Resigning myself to my fate, I ask,
“So what do you like the best, from all the stuff you’ve seen from TV?”
“Ah, I don’t see things, I can only hear them … but anime! Definitely! The sfx and voices are really fun!”
“Just to be sure, you know that most of that stuff is completely fiction, right?”
“Of course, what do you take me for? There’s no way magical girls or angels or evil organizations trying to take over the world exist in reality!”
A reality check coming from a sealed youkai who’s a disembodied voice. Oh my normal life, where have I ended up?
“Oh, but you can’t see the pictures, huh. Isn’t it hard to tell what’s going on?”
“Umu, that’s true. But you can understand the general idea of what’s going on, and there’s a few of them, like that Jun Peace, that explain everything that’s happened in the last episode in the beginning of the next episode. Those are definitely my favorite!”
“Most fans hate it when that happens though…”
“Hmm… Hey, if you need to go out and get stuff, you should do it before evening. According to the Weather Onee-san, there’s a typhoon coming in the evening.”
“Eh? Oh, the weather … is the report over already? I missed it.”
“Umu. If someone with satellite TV is watching something, I can hear it.”
“So all the sound is coming in at once from everywhere? That sounds pretty noisy… but I will gratefully accept that advice to go out soon since there are some things we need.”
“The noise IS intense, but it only comes from around the limits of the town, I think. And, well, it takes some getting used to, but it’s amazing what your brain can block out when you’re concentrating on something else. Ne ne, if you’re going out, tell what the town looks like, ne?”
“Um … I’m not going to talk to you when there are people around.”
“Eeeh… tch. You must be human then. If you’re so worried about something little like that. Ahh, and here I was thinking you were some weird youkai.”
Nngh. She keeps finding stuff out about me, but I don’t know anything but what she tells me. Am I maybe kind of dense when making conversation? Give me a break, it’s been a while!
“… Sorry for being human.”
“Ah, I didn’t mean it in a bad way! I think. I didn’t meet many humans before I got sealed even, so it’s kind of interesting. Y’know, it’s kind of weird for a human to be the one I can finally talk to.”
“Sorry for being a weird human.”
“You’re kind of moody, aren’t you?”
“I’m a boy at a delicate age. We’re all like this.”
And I’m kind of sensitive to being a “weird human”, because, well, I am one.
“Hm, is that so? And what kind of age are you at?”
“None of your business. Anyway, I’m going out now, so I’m not going to be talking to you.”
I kind of have to laugh that I thought that would work.
“Ne ne, are you at the convenience store? Do they have kara’age? Or rice balls? Chocolate? Oh, there’s a magazine rack, right? Are there people standing there reading the magazines without buying it?”
When I finally got out of the convenience store, my cheeks were hurting from the stiff-smile I had on my face the entire time. A, mou, I probably looked like some super weirdo!
“Didn’t I say I wouldn’t talk to you outside?!”
“Eee… but that doesn’t mean I can’t talk to you. Anyway, you’re talking to me now, right?”
“Ugh, that …”
Well, there are a lot less people around in this town than in the city, so it’s surprisingly a lot easier to talk to yourself without looking like a complete idiot. The shops and buildings aren’t placed as close together, and there’s still a lot of older Japanese styled architecture. Even the new buildings, like the house my father bought for me and Daiki-san, had a lot of older-feeling elements in it. I really like the back porch, that doubles as a hallway, opening up into the living room with sliding doors.
Compared to the bustle of Tokyo,
“This town really has a good feeling to it.”
Though I only whispered it, the voice heard it all the same.
“Oh, so you ARE new to this area, then. Hehen, then I should show you around!”
Hah? I bowed as I passed an old lady walking her dog, going the opposite direction, and waited until she passed out of sight before responding.
“How is that even possible? You haven’t seen the town in 2 thousand years.”
“Fufufu, it wasn’t even a town 2 thousand years ago!”
… Oi. What’s with that self-satisfied tone? That means you’re even more worthless as a tour guide, right?
“It’s fine, it’s fine. There’s this famous park in town, since they talk about all the time. I think it’s closer to your house, since you’re voice sounded closer then.”
“That’s some damn fine hearing you have.”
I can’t tell if there’s a difference in hearing the voice here and hearing the voice in the house. But, maa, yeah I think there was a park that sounded kind of famous there. I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to check it out. It’s pretty close, either to the house or the convenient store.
“Tsunato Park. Was the park named after the town, or the town after the park?”
“Hm… more like they were named together? If it wasn’t for the park there wouldn’t be the town, that kind of feeling to it?”
“There was a 30-minute documentary on the town recently.”
She’s like a walking TV directory.
“Ok, in the park, there should be a giant rock landmark underneath a wisteria. It has a sacred rope around it.”
“… Do you see it?”
“Underneath the wisteria … where?”
“Ara? Is there something wrong?”
“No, well … half the park is covered in wisteria.”
A beautiful pink wisteria, so old you could feel the weight of its years. The townspeople had put up archways and framework to keep the weight of the wisteria from dragging the flowers to the ground. It was HUGE.
“Oh… I suppose it was a small plant 2 thousand years ago, huh? Hahaha…”
The voice sounded sheepish.
“Man, it’s really quite the sight, though. This is a 2 thousand year old wisteria? It’s amazing. Ah … that rock, huh? Let’s see… if it was under the wisteria 2 thousand years ago, it should be close to the base?”
“Ooo, you’re quite clever in the end, aren’t you.”
“For some reason, I’m not hearing that as a compliment.”
So it wasn’t a compliment after all. I head into the center of the wisteria. It’s become kind of a maze, with the archways and poles lining the walkways, wisteria flowers draping down to graze the top of your head as you pass by.
“? What’s wrong?”
“Ah … no, I got a little dizzy. The scent of the wisteria is pretty strong, I guess.”
“… I wonder if that’s the case…”
“What do you mean?”
“Hm… no, just thinking to myself.”
What the heck, that’s just going to make me more nervous. Ooo, there’s a rock over there with sacred ropes wrapped around it. It’s about several hundred meters away from the trunk of the wisteria.
“I think I found the rock. It’s kind of sunk into the ground. It’s pretty old, huh? What kind of landmark is it?”
“Fufufu! It’s the rock I’m sealed in! You definitely found it, because you sound super close!”
I don’t know why I didn’t suspect this. In retrospect, it was totally obvious, wasn’t it?!
My weird yell sounds throughout the park, but it’s soon muffled by the wisteria. Lowering my voice, and hoping that no passersby had heard that, I say,
“What the heck?! Why did you guide me to where you were sealed? You better not be asking me to break the seal; no matter how well we’re getting along, there’s no way I’m TOUCHING that.”
“Hmph, you’re being kind of rude. I didn’t trick you into coming, you know, you came of your own accord. But it’s the only place I REALLY know where to guide you. Hmph.”
… Um… damn. How can a disembodied voice of a sealed youkai make me feel so guilty?
“Fufu, don’t mind it. And don’t worry, there’s no way you can break the seal a god set anyway. I really did just want to show it to you, and the wisteria. It was pretty back then, so I guess there’s no surprise that it got even prettier now.”
“…Hang on. Back up. You were punished by a god?”
A silent drifts over us, broken only by the sound of birds and the wisteria swaying in the wind. And I’m not even sure the other party can hear that.
This is so awkward. What am I supposed to say now? ‘What exactly did you DO?’ or ‘So, you really were pretty evil, huh?’
Even if it’s a youkai that I haven’t seen, it’s still a girl’s voice you know? It’s not my hobby to make girls upset. What do you say in this situation?
“Ne, how does the wisteria look now? How big is it?”
In her voice, I can hear a tinge of loneliness.
Maybe I’ve become a huge softy in this life, but I can relate to that loneliness. I can’t imagine a girl (youkai, though) who really was cursed by the gods for 2 thousand years, living alone in isolation, only hearing vague things about the world changing.
Maybe I just wanted someone who didn’t care who I was or about my weird Blessings or whatever to talk to.
Maybe that’s why we ended up talking for several hours in the park, underneath the giant wisteria.
A/n: And this is all I have for now…