Chapter 2: THIS kind of place has THAT kind of effect.
Minemoto Tsurumi clutched the large, paper department store bag to her ample chest and looked up towards the stormy sky worriedly.
Although she had wrapped the bag in plastic, she wasn’t certain the dry cleaning she had just retrieved would stay safe if the rain suddenly fell.
It couldn’t be helped; Tsurumi made up her mind and decided to cut through Tsunato Park to shorten the distance.
Even though, on days like today, it would be better to avoid it.
Despite the heavy, still atmosphere that seemed to guarantee a storm, there was a contented silence amidst the perfume air underneath the wisteria.
The soft jingle of the bells on her keychain echoed mysteriously along the pathways as Tsurumi hurried on her way. The humidity in the air seemed to suppress all other sound, including her footsteps, but the bells did not seem to be effected in the slightest.
As she passed close to the base of the wisteria, Tsurumi almost shrieked.
There, a boy about her age was sleeping, nestled in the roots, near the Sealed Stone.
That scared her, she thought it was a dead body!
Ah, but this isn’t the time to be worrying about that. The rain was going to fall any moment now!
“Um… Excuse me… are you alright?”
He didn’t even stir.
“Um… The rain… it’s going to start raining soon…”
Slowly, the boy opened his eyes, then gazed up at her with unfocused eyes.
Tsurumi’s breath caught in her throat.
It was like, at that moment, something inorganic took breath and became alive.
This boy… is he … human?
Tsurumi felt chills run down her spine.
And in the next moment…
“Shit! The laundry!”
And before she could blink, he had snatched up his convenience store bag and, with a “’Scuse me-!”, he had darted away before she could think.
When she finally reached her house, Tsurumi was lost in thought.
“Welcome home, Tsurumi.”
“I’m home, Obaa-sama…”
Tsurumi’s absent-minded greeting caused her grandmother’s eyes to sharpen, and she paused to watch her granddaughter struggle with her sandals.
“What are you thinking about, Tsurumi?”
Tsurumi tilted her head to one side.
“Obaa-sama, do youkai these days do laundry?”
And her grandmother could only think, What IS this girl thinking about now?
Haa, haa … phew.
Alright, I got home right before the rain started and pulled all the futons and blankets back in from where I hung them to air them out after pulling the bedding out from the boxes.
Aaaaah, and they said it was going to be a typhoon, so now I have to get the storm doors up along the rear garden!
Rustle rustle rustle, thud, thump, thud!
I collapse in a heap on the back porch that’s now all fenced in with storm doors. Uwaaa, I was really panicking there~.
Daiki-san had sent me a text saying, [I’ll put up the storm doors when I get home.], but I figured that the doors had to go up now or else … or else…
I mean, the sky’s gotten really dark, and the harsh, humid wind is swaying the trees violently, and I can now hear fat raindrops beginning to splatter on the ground.
I’m so glad my past-life’s experiences have come in handy!
Even though I lived in an apartment all my life (this life), past-life me had a grandmother who lived in a traditional Japanese-styled house, so Dad and I had to drive over all the time to board up the house when a typhoon came in.
Ah, how nostalgic…
During one particularly nasty typhoon, my father and I dressed up in garbage bags, and, yelling things like, “Left, no up, no, what are you doing!?” and the like at each other, we wrestled the doors in with the rain already pelting down on us … We got so mad at each other in the end, to the degree where Grandma gave us both a big scolding and sent us to different rooms in time out.
But it’s a good memory now.
“OooOh? You done now?”
“Yeah, no thanks to you! You could have woken me up, or said something!”
“Iyaaa, sorry, sorry. I fell asleep too, see?”
“Yeah? The intelligent ones do, though the frequency is different from personage to personage.”
“…What’s with that.”
“I knew a dragonness who was said to sleep once a millennium. With some others, it might be easier to count how often they wake instead, hahaha!”
Eh. There are dragons. Heeeh… –tte, oi!
“… My head is starting to hurt.”
“Pukukuku! Such a young human you must be, to not know of something so commonly known!”
“This ain’t common knowledge!”
“Eeeeeh. How much did human intelligence regress…”
Seriously, I’m going to go crazy from listening to this chick!
Aaaah, no, it’s more like, I might be crazy because I’m listening to this chick.
“So what are you going to do now? It’s afternoon …”
“I’m going to finish unpacking and cleaning up the kitchen.”
“Boo… Jun Peace is going to be on soon!”
“Just to let you know, we don’t have satellite TV.”
“Mou! There’s already a Jun Peace fan in this town with satellite TV! I wanted to watch it together!”
Ah. No good. I thought that was kind of cute.
I really need to go out and get a girlfriend in THIS life… wait. I’m a hardcore anti-social in this life!
… I’m going to cry. Tears are seriously going to fall if I keep thinking about this.
I pull myself together enough to say,
“… If I don’t finish unpacking, it will be a pain tomorrow.”
“Sorry, that’s how it is.”
As I start to put away the bedding I’d just tossed on the floor after pulling them off the line earlier, I can’t help but think about my current situation. And by that, I mean …
Isn’t it kind of weird how I’m just talking to this disembodied voice like there’s nothing wrong?
I mean, is it ok that I’m so used to it now?
This isn’t something you SHOULD try to get used to, right?!
Oh, but in my past life I was pretty talkative.
I mean, I wasn’t Mr. Popular or anything, but I always had a good group of friends while I was growing up. Sure, they might have changed from time to time, and people came and went, but I was pretty normal, you know?
I played games with my friends, messed around with the guys on the baseball team, dated several girls while growing up. I never didn’t have someone to hang out with … eh, well, most of the time I could find someone to hang out with, anyway.
Haaa. Is that it?
Because I didn’t want too many people to know about my creepy abilities in this life, I kept myself from hanging out with people, and so it stressed my out so much that I’m willing to chat with a disembodied voice to keep myself from going crazy.
Aaaah. Wait. I might be crazy because I’m talking with a disembodied voice.
Somehow, I’m beginning to repeat my inner tsukkomis.
“Un? What is it?”
“Ah, no, it’s nothing major. Because I fell asleep, there were a lot of things I didn’t get done this morning that I was supposed to.”
Not good, not good.
Let’s see, it’s about 2 in the afternoon – did I really sleep four hours?! – un… I need to switch on the rice cooker at 4, and I don’t need to start prepping for dinner yet.
Lunch is… well, I bought some onigiri for snacking, in case Daiki-san gets hungry late at night since he always does, but I can sneak a few for a late lunch.
Then, the other thing I forgot.
I quickly return to my room, the furniture all moved in and a lot of things already unpacked, and retrieve what I was looking for from my bedside drawer.
The cable… cable … ah, found it!
Now, plug it into the laptop, open the program…
Jajajaan-! The portable version of the Blessings hand scanner!
It’s SUPER expensive, but mine is free!
That is, it’s a rental that a certain big-name hospital is lending me on the pretense of catching anything weird going on with my Blessings, but in reality they’re totally looking at me like a lab specimen, huh?
Well, I use it every day, but I’ve long since learned to disable the wifi when I use it to avoid it transmitting information to the hospital.
As long as I let it send in the information once every month or so, they don’t seem to care much. Although they made a fuss over my [Domestic Chores] Blessing the first time they saw it, eventually they just decided that I had a god-given talent for cooking … is that ok to decide to arbitrarily? I worked really hard on that, you know?
See, I have a secret.
Well, okay. I, Kousei Ishikawa, have a lot of secrets, but THIS secret is the one that’s – er … something that could destroy the world (as Blessing specialists understand it).
See, I can tell what actions will increase the ExP needed to level a Blessing to the next level.
Of course I haven’t told anyone!
I’ve been keeping this a complete secret my entire life.
No one, not even Grandma, knew about it.
I mean, if you didn’t know exactly how something worked, and if you were the only one it occurred to, it’s not strange to think that you’d be treated like a chuunibyou – or an asylum out-patient – if you said something, right?
Or, if someone believed me, then I would be treated as a lab specimen on a completely different level than I’m already being treated.
Wow, how convenient; isn’t that a cheat ability?! are the things that only ignorant people would think! It’s … actually not at OP-cheat levels at ALL.
I mean, I call it ExP, but it’s actually “experience”, see.
What do I mean?
Well, it’s not like there’s points that fill an ExP bar or something.
Instead, I get a funny feeling after accomplishing something.
Hm… how to explain it better… ah.
It’s kind of like being an achievement-based level-up, like “Taste ‘x’ number of spices” or “Run 5km without stopping”.
It’s not like a dialogue box pops up all of a sudden with an achievement that I have to accomplish, though. It’s just a feeling that happens while I’m doing something.
Like, when tasting a plain spice by itself, suddenly I think, hey, I need to keep tasting spices and combinations of spices. And, in the course of that, suddenly I feel like my Blessing level increased.
Or, for run 5km without stopping, I got this feeling like I have to build up my endurance to run 5km without stopping while running the long-distance marathon in high school. Of course, that means training myself up for it, exercising everyday and … ok, so even though I’ve felt that urge, I haven’t actually done it…
But anyway, it’s not much different from my other world. You have to do things through training to build up your abilities. If you’re not improving on a Blessing after some period of time of doing the same thing over and over again, that just means you should try something new.
Of course, having a level-up game-like system like Blessings makes it easier to persevere than blindly groping about like in my old world, so all in all I should be happy about having the possibility of being a super-good-at-everything-human, right?
It’s just, no one else gets those types of feelings. Seeing my classmates stuck on their Blessings and unable to increase them, blindly groping around to increase their levels – ah, having this level-up system is both a “blessing” and a curse, is what I thought.
So why do I get such CLEAR feelings about it, like a weird Blessing Level-up intuition?
It honestly makes me feel a little mental.
I mean, more mental.
ANYWAY, since I have my own personal (rental) scanner, I can confirm that I’m not just crazy, and have indeed leveled up when I think I have.
It’s a good feeling, looking at my documented tasks that (I think) have increased my Blessing levels, but really, there’s still too much I don’t understand about Blessings.
Like, sometimes Blessings will increase even if you don’t do anything.
Mundane Blessings, like [Calculation] and [Domestic Chores] seem to increase through effort, but I’ve heard of other Blessings increase without anything done at all.
And so, I’ve been monitoring the state of my Blessings every day. Once in the morning, and once at night.
You know, just in case something changes … what? I’m overdoing it?
It never hurts to be cautious, you know? If you check it this often, then …
Ah, whatever. What I mean is, basically I’m terrified of the gibberish Blessing increasing and plunging my life into unholy chaos without any … warning…
Ah, the air went out of my lungs for a second.
Ahahaha. I must be tired. My eyes are…
Ah… you know that famous painting with the little man, hands clasped to his face and his mouth in an “o”?
Yeah. That’s how I feel right now.
After scanning my hand, something suspicious has popped up in front of my eyes, looking like some shady foreign film download file appeared at the bottom of my Blessings.
Name: Kousei Ishikawa Sex: Male
||> [Logical Reasoning]Lv2
[¥ë¶Ã¥©à?¥ª ÃÜß‘ï] Lv6
Eh? Ah. Let me point it out again for you.
[¥ë¶Ã¥©à?¥ª ÃÜß‘ï] Lv6
Nonononono. What is thiiiiis?!
Why did I level up? What is that high leveled unknown?! Is this like catching a glitch? Will I never be able to save again!?!?
What’s with that list of corrupted files?!
“Eh? Eh? What happened? You screamed all of a sudden, hahaha.”
You bastard disembodied voice! Delighting in my agony!
Or like, I actually screamed out loud… ah, no good. I have to sit down for a second…
“… No, it’s no…thing …”
Hm? Isn’t this … kind of an amazing opportunity? Couldn’t a youkai decipher this mysterious phenomenon?
“… So … what do you think about curses?”
“… You know I’m a youkai cursed to be sealed in a stone, yes?”
Oooh … well, I remember it now.
A kind of awkward silence follows.
“Haa… well, for now, tell Onee-san what you’re worried about. There’s a reason you asked that, right?”
‘Who’s Onee-san’ is what I want to retort, but I endure it.
Koso koso koso
“Hm. I don’t really understand what you mean by corrupted text, but, maa, you mean it’s a Blessing you can’t understand, right?”
“Hm… hrm… uuun…”
“… If there’s nothing you can think of, you don’t need to keep trying.”
I’ll admit it, though. I feel completely let down. If Disembodied Voice Youkai-san can’t figure it out, who could?!
“…Aaaah! Well, this is just a guess, but maybe it’s written in the Language of the Gods. Can those computer things translate that?”
What’s scary is that she’s seriously asking. There isn’t an ounce of sarcasm at all.
“… I… I don’t think so. So, if that’s true, what would it mean?”
“Dunno~. It could be anything, just in a different language, ne? Maa, if it really was the Language of the Gods, it’s probably something to do with THAT realm, so it makes sense it would increase after coming to this town, and visiting the wisteria.”
“Iyaa, this town is THAT kind of place, after all.”
Somehow, even though I don’t really understand, at the same time, I kind of do.
I suppose this is the point in time where I should somehow learn to give up all hopes of a normal life.
The wind whipping the rain around in the storm outside isn’t too different from how I’m feeling right now…