Chapter 9: A Time to be by Her Side
The surroundings are dark. Kousei couldn’t see anything in the pitch-black darkness.
Oh, though he could see himself perfectly well.
Where is this?
… Is what he’d like to say, but it’s another dream, huh?
Kousei was… well, he wasn’t exactly used to this, but it wasn’t something he hadn’t experienced before.
The so-called lucid dream… although he couldn’t control what happened in these dreams at all.
The best that Kousei could guess was that these dreams were influenced by the same thing that caused him to be able to see youkai and the like, whatever it was that caused it.
They were… what do you call them… visions?
Although people who had visions usually had the [Oracle] Blessing… well, Kousei had long since decided not to mind it.
Or at least, Kousei had long since come to terms with the fact that he couldn’t figure anything out about it, and thus should not mind it.
Suddenly, there was a rustling sound, like walking through brush, and then a voice spoke.
“So you’re back. What are you up to?”
The voice was raspy and deep. A man’s voice? Or something like that.
“I’ll do it. I’m going to find a partner who will make me strong!”
A young … girl – boy(?) – most likely girl responded to the first voice quite cheekily.
…Hm? The scene is still completely pitch-black.
Normally the sounds and images both fade in at the same time, but this time there’s only audio.
Visual input error?
Thinking that kind of stupid thing, Kousei felt restless.
Without being able to move, he could only listen to the conversation between the deep, raspy voice and the young, childish one.
“I see, I see… but just running around hoping to contract with any old youkai isn’t really a good idea, you know? It’s dangerous, for one, and it’s going to be hard to find something really strong.”
The deep voice said.
“I already know where I can find one that’s strong, and one that will make them recognize me. It’s just, the youkai is under a strong seal.”
The child sounded very frustrated.
“Oh… a seal? Are you sure that’s the best idea? Sealed youkai are dangerous. Can you handle one?”
“Even if it’s a dangerous one, I can do it! My [Invocation] is Level 5!”
“Oh my, I see. I think it would be hard for most who haven’t finished their training and induction ceremony, but I see… Oh? But if you cannot break the seal, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine it would be difficult to subdue the youkai within. It would take an equivalent power to that seal, after all.”
“I’m not that dumb! But it’s hard to practice breaking a seal, compared to contacting youkai…”
“Are you interacting with youkai without letting your grandfather know? Goodness, what a reckless girl.”
Somehow, even though the deep, raspy voice sounded concerned, Kousei felt it was kind of unpleasant.
“Well now, if there’s a way to break any seal, it would be to summon Raijin-sama’s lightning down. It could even break the seal of a kami. It just so happens that the typhoons have wandered into town currently… well, even if I say that, it’s a dangerous trick. I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone.”
“Hmm… I see.”
“Sorry I couldn’t be of any help.”
“Uh-uh, thank you, mister! I gotta get back now, though, before they come looking for me.”
Energetic footsteps sounded off into the distance.
Kousei really was getting chills from that voice…
Un… my chills have followed me into the real world – Of course that’s not it!
…I wonder when I fell asleep.
No, texts! ARGH!
Where is my phone-
I forgot, I was on the couch, and there’s a coffee table there…
“Double-combo… x2 damage…”
I finally find my phone.
Triple texts from Daiki-san…
He’s not coming home after all?
I only now notice that there’s a river falling from the sky.
Its currents sound like it’s going to tear the roof tiles off!
Uwaaaah… it’s going sideways! The river – I mean, rain is going completely sideways!
A brilliant flash of lightning lights up the window, and not 10 seconds later, as I’m trying not to scream from the pain of the bright flash to my eyes,
Hng! Ah, the thunder shakes the house and hits all the way into the pit of my stomach.
“WHAT IS THIS?!”
Typhoon?! This is the apocalypse!
Aaaah! The world is ending!
“Oooh, you’re finally awake. I’m amazed you can sleep through this… I mean, even I can feel the violence of this storm where I am!”
“I’m amazed I can sleep through this too! Ah, Daiki-san, understood, please don’t come home!”
I quickly respond to Daiki-san’s texts.
The storm doors are… ooh. They’re holding.
I’m so touched that I kind of want to applaud them.
“…Eh? If you can tell we’re having this storm, what is this? It’s not a normal storm…?”
“Ah, un. If it’s to this degree, I think Fuujin-sama and Raijin-sama are … what’s it called… having a jam session?”
… No. Stop. Hang on.
“Was that the wrong term? Um… rave? Dance party? Unn… I don’t really know how else to put it. Basically, they’re having a big party to relax before they have to return out to sea.”
“This violence is relaxation!?”
“The kami have different scales of things, see.”
“Haaah… So this is why there’s been typhoons all week, when it’s not typhoon season.”
So this is, like, a pre-game?
It’s so troublesome! You’re troubling the humans!
Wasn’t there something… oh. I remember.
“…Hey. Couldn’t lightning from Raijin break your seal?”
“… … … What. Wait. Where did that come from?! What kind of dangerous thing are you saying?!”
“Ooh, you’re panicking, you’re panicking.”
“Of course I am! Haa… well, theoretically yes, but you’d better not be thinking of actually doing something so dangerous! In the first place, I told you that this is my rightful punishment!”
Well, even though it says that…
“No… well, don’t you think you might have been set up? For someone to burn the fields and kill off your subordinates … and for you to have fallen asleep … there’s a chance for some foul play like that, right? So I just thought…”
“Haa… You know… I can’t just puff out my chest and say, ‘I was tricked! I’m innocent!’ in this sort of situation. I mean, think about it. If the man the shogun trusted said, ‘I was fooled, and that’s why your treasures were stolen and your storehouse was burned down’…”
“…Un. I guess he’d still be required to slit his belly to take responsibility…”
“Right? Besides, if I didn’t take my punishment, how could I face the lovers and families of my subordinates who I let be slaughtered?”
Truly, the voice is someone who was ready to bear the burden of responsibility. It was thoughtless of me to suggest breaking her out, huh?
Although I don’t know how to do that, anyway.
Even if you say “Use Raijin’s lightning to break the seal” … um… how?!
“Well, it’s not like I can actually do it, I guess, so I was just asking…”
“…Thank goodness. Any method that calls Raijin-sama’s lightning to strike a specific place won’t end well for the caster, either. And besides, even if I wanted to break out, if I do, the entire town might disappear, you know?”
“… Hang on. Back up. What do you mean the entire town might disappear?”
“How to explain… I told you the ‘air’ here was really thin, right? Well, because of that ‘thinness’, because there’s no ‘atmosphere’ here, my powers are cut off in this sealed space. If I’m suddenly broken out, into normal space, my powers will come flooding back really fast, but it’s REAL bad. Like… going on a bad trip with drugs. I’ll go berserk.”
I really have to wonder about the things the voice uses as comparisons… or like, what is human TV telling her?! But aside from that…
“Exactly… how bad would that be?”
“Fufu. I was a commander of a guardian squadron for Inari-kami-sama, you know? If we’re lucky, only a third of the town will be gone. If those who could deal with this aren’t prepared and we’re unlucky…. maybe only the wisteria will be left.”
“Oh? Are you impressed? Are you impressed by me? Wahaha! That is my power!”
“Is that something to be proud of?!”
“Mm, that’s true. I would be sad if anything happened to this town. If I ever got unsealed, I can only hope that I can be killed before I kill anyone…”
That… was kind of a painful, lonely statement.
“I’m kind of surprised. There are youkai who wouldn’t care if a couple hundred humans got knocked off, you know? But you don’t want to kill a single one.”
When I said that, the voice gave a soft, tender chuckle.
“You’ve only run into the nasty, lowbreds, after all. What can I say? Although I entered this seal willingly for my penance, it’s a horrible fate of loneliness and isolation. But, beyond what I could have imagined, the creations of humans have reached me. Although it’s a luxury that I should never have received, I can’t help but feel grateful for it. Already, I’ve fallen in love with the creativity of humans.”
“Well, if I didn’t get the audio from satellite TV, I would probably have gone so crazy that I’d want to come out no matter what, and screw the humans! Or something like that?”
“…So much for the touching sentiment.”
“Ahahaha! But seriously, even if I’m not put to death before I can regain my senses, I’ll be hunted by Inari-kami-sama’s servants, you know? I don’t think I’d run from it. It’s only a matter of time before I’m killed, if I’m ever released.”
“I see. Sorry. I didn’t really think about it when I talked about releasing the seal. Or like, I didn’t know enough about the situation.”
“Umu. It’s not really a big deal, but you would be on Inari-kami-sama’s servants’ bad list if it became well-known, so keep it to yourself.”
“Yes. I will keep your esteemed advice in mind.”
“But really, just what made you think of such a dangerous thing? Although it’s certainly true that Raijin-sama’s lightning could break the seal…”
Oh, that’s right.
“I saw it –er, heard about it in a dream just now.”
“Oh, I see… –tte! Wait! A dream? Or a vision?”
“I-I’m not sure. I don’t have [Oracle]… Anyway, I’m not sure what and who they were talking about. They were talking about seals in general, it felt like.”
The voice fell silent. Then,
“No, this can’t be a coincidence. This is bad. I can’t imagine there’s another seal in this town that would require kami-level power to break.”
“Ah. I didn’t think about that.”
“Think about it! This is something that should be obvious for exorcists and invokers!”
“I’m just a normal high school guy!”
“A normal high school guy wouldn’t be talking to me!”
I can’t refute it!
“Ugh, that must have been close… The thunder occurred only a few seconds after the lightning…”
“… Come to think of it, it feels like it’s been coming closer and closer…”
Shoot! I forgot the park was close to my house!
Eh?! So the lightning is being drawn to the park?!
“Hey… this is…”
“… Yes. Even if we are being paranoid, this is…”
“Where do you think the person trying to break the seal would be?”
I kind of don’t want this town to go poof right after I moved in!
“They would have to be close to the target, so…”
“Then-! I will go-“
“NO! No, don’t approach the seal, the rock underneath the wisteria, or even the park at all! Even if you can stop the seal from being broken, do you have the confidence you can defeat someone who was challenging a seal a kami set?”
“N-no… that’s true…”
“Besides, they’re calling down Raijin-sama’s lightning, you know?! If THEY’RE not careful, they’ll be fried along with the seal! Just stay away and be prepared to run-”
The ground shakes, and there’s a feeling like the entire world is splitting.
It’s so bad, I can’t remain standing.
My head is pounding, and a sound like rushing water fills my head.
“Wh-what… what just happened?”
I hear the sound of grinding teeth. It’s, the voice?
Just barely over the background noise, I can hear the voice, talking like it’s in pain.
“It … actually happened…!”
“You mean… the seal is broken?!”
“If… I can keep my sanity… at least…!”
“You can do it! Fight-o! Fight-o!”
“Gu… Guwhoaaaaaar-! No… Gaaar…!”
This, it doesn’t sound like it’s possible.
Every now and then the voice turns into a guttural growl.
“Guuuu – No, it’s… impossible. You! My name … is [Yamiyo-no-Fukahi-de-Tenmei-no-Hikari].”
That pointlessly illustrious sounding name hit something deep inside me, feeling like it resonated with my very soul. It can’t be…
“Wait. Is that your true name–“
“It’s useless in this… situation, when I lose my mind… but at least, calling it should stop my movements… for a moment.”
So take that opportunity to run, is that it? I’m having a really hard time hearing her, now. She’s talking really slowly, deliberating, and biting back the bestial undertone in her voice.
It hurts. You can tell she’s losing her sanity.
What can I do? Can I say anything that will bring her back?
As if to mock my sentiments, the sound that’s as deafening as a waterfall has gotten even louder, threatening to cover up her voice.
“… your name…?”
Eh? What did she say?
“K-kousei! My name is Kousei!”
I don’t know if it got across to her.
“Is… so? Kousei….thank…..for…”
The roaring become beyond deafening, and it reverberated painfully inside my head.
All I could see, for a moment, was white.
It couldn’t have been even a full minute, but I had gone unconscious
“Ugh… Hey. Hey! Hikari! Tenmei-no-Hikari-san!”
There is no response. There won’t be a response anymore.
Somehow, I want to scream, but my strength seems to have gone off somewhere.
What can I do?
I can’t do anything.
“Shit! What’s with her?! Selfishly going off and deciding what she wants to do!”
Before I knew it, I was already outside.
Splash splash splash
The rain is so heavy, I can’t breathe!
I crouch down, pulling the jacket I had somehow remembered to grab up around my face.
Not now! This stupid trauma!
It’s okay. If I stand almost completely hunched over, I can still breathe. I won’t drown.
I squeeze my shoulders, where I can feel the phantom nails from my aunt’s hand biting down on them.
It’s okay. This is just a memory, a hallucination.
With my back into the wind and my face down, I can catch my breath.
Fuuu… … gk!
Now I’m cowering for another reason…
What is this pressure?!
Every ounce of my being wants to run away!
It’s truly the pressure of a predator who could devour the city.
What am I doing?
I’m not anywhere near the park, and that aura has me almost immobilized.
Am I crazy? What do I think I can do in this situation?
Against that… that monster…
Even though I just want to turn around and run, I can’t stop my legs from walking in that direction.
It’s wet, it’s cold, I can barely keep upright from the wind, the rain is just streaming down around me like a curtain, and it keeps bringing back old traumas.
Ahead of me is a terrifying pressure that requires me to fight through it with all my willpower, and even now, armed with her true name, there’s absolutely nothing I can do.
Even if she’s taken down with no casualties, or comes to herself immediately, she said she’d be killed.
There really, is absolutely nothing I can do for her.
Even so! Even if I can’t do anything, I feel like it’s my obligation to be there.
Even if it’s just to watch.
I have to be there.