Here's to especially long updates!
Disclaimer: I do not own the original Kamisama Kiss/ Hajimemashita manga or anime series.
"Darling, can you get Daddy for me?" Mom turned to address me nursing a swollen belly ready to pop. "Dinner's almost ready."
I simply nodded my head; leaving my old picture book on the table.
Opening the apartment door and heading outside, I took the steps down to the first floor two at a time eager to be back inside from the tingly spring air.
Seeing the familiar white trails of smoke from a cigarette, I quickened my pace only to give a pause. Dad was exchanging rushed and heated words with some man at the front of the apartment complex. Puzzled and high curious I hide behind a column as I strained my ears to hear.
"-Don't have it."
"He doesn't care. He wants it, now."
There was a frustrated curse then. "Listen just buy me some time. I'll have it soon."
There some silence as the man took in Dad's words and I could almost see his disbelief.
The man shushed him quickly. "There's somebody here."
Deciding not to get caught eavesdropping I calmly took the last two steps as if I hadn't heard whatever that was that just transpired between them both.
The man took my features in just as I took his in greedily. Turning to Dad I addressed him before going back up the stairs. "Dinners almost ready."
Mystery man's facial expression held nothing kind. I'd never seen eyes quite like his before. They were the kind of eyes I'd only ever remember reading about in stories.
Those were the darkest brown eyes with no emotion that resembled frosted wood.
Arc III: Is a Land God
I resisted the urge to curse when I saw the shady men outside of Hanako's convenience store with irritation. There was no way of telling if they were the men the landlady was talking about, but I surely wasn't ballsy enough to go find out either.
A worn-down wrinkled face flashed in my mind.
Kei, you truly are one of a kind.
A sick feeling settled in my gut; my mouth went dry remembering that man. Risking another glance at the men I quickly took in their outfits, stance, and hair cuts searing it into memory to be later reviewed. If there's one thing I learned doing odd jobs around town it's that a person's clothes, stance, and haircut speak volumes about what class they were nustled in. Even more when disguising between gang members weirdly enough. Especially with no visible tattoos.
I know that I couldn't ask Tomoe if he had any information about what gang members lurked in this large city; he'd never concerned himself with lowly humans. Too held up in that shrine waiting on Mikage…
Annoyed I slipped away with the crowd with an ache in my heart. Rubbing my hand over the aching spot, I debated whether or not I should simply call Hanako so she doesn't think I dropped off the face of the planet.
However, if we laid low long enough maybe they'd think we left with Kaito and turn their sights only to him.
My heart drummed in my chest in this foreign situation. Never have I ever been sought after by a gang or mob. I made sure Nanami and I never became entangled with such affairs. Stuff like that always had hidden agendas and I simply did not have the patience nor time to deal with it.
He ruined all my hard work in one night. The apartment, my security, and now my first real job. He'd taken it all from me and with this my heart stilled.
You'll look after Nanami, right?
"Hey, Miss you look like you could go for gyoza right about now!"
Not breaking my stride I continued on.
This time I paused and gave the man a curious glance. He was a thin man with stubbled chin behind a dumping stand. Walking over I looked at the assorted dumplings and noticed pleasingly he had all three types of gyoza at his stand.
He leaned forward. "Fine pickings, huh?" I frowned at the self-satisfied note in his voice. "Finest dumping stand you'll find for miles miss. Cooked to perfection with years of family tradition."
He sputtered, not bothering to hide his affronted expression. "I'll have you know these dumplings were cooked fresh and made from the finest natural ingredients."
I raised a dubious brow, eyeing the variety displayed. I couldn't deny his displaying techniques were masterful, everything was pleasing to the eye. From the proudful gleam in his eyes, I think he knew this too.
"If it's really so good you wouldn't mind me sampling one?" I said keeping up my perfect facade. I wanted one but I was not going to spend money buying a plate if they did turn out nasty.
Making gyoza dumplings were hard. Speaking entirely from experience.
He eyed me and for a second I thought he'd seen through me but he simply picked up one from the three assortments and set them on a saucer.
"There ya go, brat."
Giving the golden dumplings a once over again I popped the middle one into my mouth and startled at the satisfying crisp savory inside.
Seeing the thin man puff his chest up, I scowled and blushing I composed myself quickly. Coughing I quickly ate the last two with as much haughtiness as I could.
"Well?" Smug bastard already knew what my answer would be.
I was not expecting the boisterous laugh to come from such a thin man. It was so uncharacteristic from the everyday reserved Japanese male it gave me a pause.
"Cheeky brat. Flattery not gonna get you anywhere."
I deadpanned. "I wasn't trying to flatter you."
His grin only got wider and I contemplated leaving. No matter these savory chicken dumplings.
"Tell ya what. You buy two plates and I'll give ya a discount." I vaguely noted his eyes held a certain gleam to them that I couldn't place.
"Okay." I pulled out my wallet.
"Great. 2% off."
Startled I glared at the grinning man. "You big cheat! That discount sucks." I complained.
"Oi, a discount is a discount."
Turning my nose up in the air I regarded him like he was a simple peasant. "Well, I guess you can find business with someone else."
His boisterous laugh was back. "You got some spunk to ya."
"It's called character."
Kaito betrayed us and unlike Nanami, I don't know if I can stop hating him.
"Ah, It feels so much better with Lady Nanami here."
"Right, right Onikiri!"
Onikiri sat at the outer corridor watching Nanami dust the shrine doors. Sipping his own tea, Kotetsu sat beside her looking serene. "Now we can finally relax."
Nanami's eye twitched before she snapped. "You two could have helped me ya know!" Nanami scowled feeling righteously played.
Keiko had left her behind in her rush to get to work. Effectively starting her day off on the wrong foot. Determined to set it right and at least switch the tones Nanami had asked the two spirits for direction.
The wrong move apparently.
Nanami felt her arms turn to jelly just thinking about all the continuous work she's accomplished so far.
Those two little demons disguised as shrine spirits had her raking the dry leaves under the guise of it "purifying the yard". Then they'd had her wiping away at the filth on the shrine walls to supposedly keep evil spirits away. After that, she'd cleaned the Hall of Worship with a damp cloth, dusted the rafter, and now they have her weeding the flowers while they sat on their butts watching.
This is not what I thought Gods had to do.
Kotetsu had the nerve to look devasted. "But we have, Lady Nanami!" Onikiri nodded along in agreement. "Advising and directing you on what to do was a tasking job indeed."
"I'm so sorry for the trouble then." Her sarcasm fell on deaf ears.
"It is no problem. Now that Master Tomoe has left us you are the only one that can protect this place." Kotetsu rambled in dramatics. "Fear not, for we the Mikage Shrine spirits will guide your ignorant ways into the light!"
Not having the heart to successfully throttle the spirit's head into the floorboards as Keiko could have, Nanami settled for narrowing her eyes at the blatant insult.
Deciding to take a much-needed break, Nanami stretched out her legs and massaged her aching arms. Ignoring the speeches dissed out the by enthusiastic spirits she looked around the shrine.
Despite her best efforts of cleaning it still lacked repairs. The place had begun to wore after so long and simply cleaning the surface wasn't fixing the problems. Holes remained unplugged, creaking boards, roof issues, and a lot of other stuff.
With renewed curiosity, Nanami turned her attention back to the spirits. "Hey," They both perked up at being addressed. She found it oddly adorable how they hung onto her words. "Who is this Tomoe fellow anyways?"
Onikiri chooses to answer her this time. "Master Tomoe is Lord Mikage's familiar."
"Familiar?" She tested the words on her tongue. Guessing she got it right because the spirits didn't correct her pronunciation.
Kotetsu chipped in, "He was originally a wild fox but was brought in to serve our Lord in place of a lion dog." Surprising her has he suddenly puffed into a small brown dog with one eye remaining closed.
"Lord Mikage is not exactly a fan of dogs." Onikiri supplied.
Thinking back to her first encounter with Mikage Nanami confirms their words. Seeing the truth in them she presses on. "I see… what exactly did this shrine look like before…" I didn't need to finish the thought.
They stumbled over each other singing praises to the vision of the shrine before Mikage's disappearance.
Smiling amusedly and feeling sympathetic for their plight Nanami sighed.
If I do stay, we don't have to worry about food or a bed… I'll do it right this time.
Standing up determinedly she went back to plucking the weeds with renewed passion. The spirits appeared to have gotten Nanami's enthusiasm confused with her accepting this position because they started cheering and went to get something. However, she'd never do that without talking with Keiko first at least.
Flinching, Nanami looked down at the cut on her index finger she'd just gotten from when she pulled the weed wrong.
Suddenly a strong gust of wind swept through the yard. With an annoyed shout, Nanami remembered her hard work getting the yard "purified" and the wind had probably just sent the dead leaves flying everywhere now.
"Oh, dear. What a pathetic sight indeed." Uncovering her eyes quickly Nanami startled at the voice she wasn't expecting to hear anytime soon. "Can not pluck the grass properly. Truly useless."
Agh, this guy just had to come back and Keiko isn't even here!
Deciding to play it smart with her nerves only slightly all over they place Nanami resumed plucking the grass. "What do you want?" Nanami couldn't believe he'd show up again simply to patronize her.
When greeted with silence, Nanami turned expecting Tomoe to have left. The mocking smirk he didn't even bother to hide behind his fan shocked her and any words she had died in her throat.
Despite his nasty personality...Tomoe wasn't ugly, in fact, he was extremely handsome. Nanami didn't know how to feel about that so she settled for irritation at his crass words. "Didn't you already leave?" Feeling officially done with him she made a dismissive motion. "I'm actually busy unlike some of us."
Nanami missed the look that passed through Tomoe's eyes. He closed his fan with a sharp snap before regarding her handiwork so far. Thoroughly unimpressed he turned back to her. "You're not fit to be a land god."
Nanami paused in her work again not liking the feelings this man was arousing in her with his cruel words. He didn't even know her.
"Humans are quite fickle." The barb had her gripping a patch of grass particularly hard. "Likely a run-away from home. Why not go back? It'll save you the embarrassment of defeat." Each word said with the intent to get a reaction out of Nanami. Just not the one he was expecting.
Large brown fierce eyes openly glared at him. "It's not me," Tomoe's smirk tugged down at the edges. "Nor Keiko. It's our father." Nanami turned back to the weeds feeling sadness swell in her chest.
"The one who ran away is our father. The apartment was confiscated already...We don't have anywhere to return to anymore."
Nanami pulled the patch out with a sharp tug in a single motion. Specks of dirt came up with the harsh movement. Silence reigned again and this time Nanami was certain Tomoe had finally left.
She was not prepared for the sharp kick to the rear-end. "How would I know that?" Nanami lurched forward in shock, completely missing the hint of regret coloring his tone hidden behind annoyance.
Turning around to confront or rather chew his head off Nanami found empty air. Angry at his sudden appearance and vanishing streak she stood fully intending to get the spirits to fetch that man.
Nanami stumbled a step because that voice was most definitely not hers. "Ack!" Looking around wildly she saw nobody; not even the spirits.
Do not touch the mirror in the worship hall, please.
The color drained from her face quickly and she shrieked in horror. Kotetsu and Onikiri's hurried footfalls alerted her to their presence.
"Lady Nanami!" Both spirits shouted in unison, waiting for the enemy to show themselves. "What is wrong Lady Nanami? Where are the intruders?" Onikiri rushed out, frantically searching the yard.
"I thought you said this shrine wasn't haunted?!"
Kotetsu and Onikiri both sat down the rocks they were looking under to give Nanami a thoroughly confused stare.
"This shrine is not haunted," Kotetsu protested.
Nanami's cheeks puffed out in embarrassment. "I heard a voice whispering to me! In my head!" She pointed to her skull for emphasizing.
The spirits had the nerve to look at each other. Kotetsu leaned to Onikiri's ear and whispered not so quietly, "Perhaps Lady Nanami is simple."
"I am not crazy! I heard a voice in my head."
Onikiri, being the more mature one of the two supplied a suggestion. "Maybe it is your own, Lady Nanami."
Kotetsu looked around the yard, noticing the spotty patches of weeds and subpar handiwork Nanami has done before wincing. "Maybe you did not purify the yard correctly?" He didn't fail to miss the dead leaves spawn across the yard.
Nanami felt her eye twitch and her face flooded with shame. "Nevermind! What else needs to be done?"
Kotetsu spoke slowly as if talking to a person on the edge of a building. "Before going onto other tasks, I may be as bold to suggest finishing the ones you already know...better this time?"
"Lady Nanami please do not leave!
Struggling against the two spirits Nanami growled. "Let me go! I'm done!"
"Lady Nanami, it's time to clean the cooking area for nourishment." the spirits chippered.
Nanami turned onto her stomach. "No." She didn't care if she was acting like a brat. Nanami was not going to move another muscle. At least not until Keiko got back.
I at most expected them to help me but...they call me a god. It feels more like I'm being taken advantage of.
Huffing Nanami ignored the spirits rambling again about duty and the importance of a clean eating area.
Sitting up abruptly, Nanami startled the two spirits into silence.
Please bless my daughter's child, so that it will be born safe and sound.
Nanami dazed at hearing the woman's soft voice. Turning to the spirits with question clear in her eyes. Hoping she wasn't indeed crazy and they heard that too.
"That's the voice from the hearts of the people who pay money when they pray."
Nanami's eyes widened at the admission. People did offer money here after all…
"With that being said.."
Namai turned to find a stack of books pilled in front of her.
Kotetsu presented the pile. "Here's your next job. Please look carefully at these."
All energy seemed to drain from her body and she hunched over. "Agh, I need a break." Nanami did not want to even look at the books.
Onikiri tapped Nanami's shoulder. "Those are filled with twenty years worth of prayers from people who offered money."
Nanami held a hand into the air in a silent gesture that Onikiri accommodated quite easily. With a long-suffering sigh, Nanami flipped open the book to the first page. Immediately she was struck by the neat handwriting, not only that but the prayers were extremely detailed. Had the date, time, who prayed it, and what they prayed for.
"Tomoe did all these?" She wondered aloud, flipping through the pages. Everything was kept neatly and orderly.
As if he truly cared.
If Nanami was Keiko she would have cursed at the warm feeling spreading through her chest.
A run-down shrine like this probably doesn't even get money offerings!
"Yes, we intended to have Lord Mikage look at them when he came back." Kotetsu couldn't quite keep his disappointment from showing. "Thanks to Master Tomoe, we have managed to acquire some people to pray."
Onikiri nodded. "Since Lord Miakge's disappearance, the number of people has decreased."
Tomoe probably hates me for being gone so long.
Nanami couldn't stop the guilty arrow from piercing her heart through and through. Even though the God of this shrine had left Tomoe stayed and tried to keep it from completely falling apart… No wonder he was so upset. Mikage had left him for twenty years to run this place by himself and now after all this time, he finds out Mikage gave up the land god's mark to a teenage human.
Smiling tentatively down at the notes, before finally taking a close look at things and calling on her memory; Nanami noticed that there hadn't been any dust pilling up in the shrine despite its appearance.
"Lady Nanami, we need Master Tomoe. He did all the duties you have been doing for the shrine." They spoke in unison. "We must go and retrieve him right-."
Nanami remembered how he'd looked at her in the yard. "Can you just put us up for the night? Kotetsu. Onikiri." Her hair shadowed her eyes and somehow she felt right about her decision. Sure Keiko was going to be mad at her for deciding without her after all but she had left Nanami behind this morning.
"Tomoe was right. I can't be a god. I'm just a normal high school student with no powers." Bowing slightly Nanami apologized.
I wish I had said this from the start. I was so desperate for a home I almost destroyed someone else's home.
Nanami lifted her head. Looking at Kotetsu she asked, "You mentioned we'd have to get Tomoe, right?"
Kotetsu nodded his head unsure of what she where she was going with this.
"I would like to apologize to this Tomoe myself."
Both the spirits quieted at this and Nanami did not miss their pain but there was nothing she could do for them. She was just a human, not a god.
"Nanami I'm back and you'll never believe what I saw." I paused upon entry. The shrine was oddly enough quiet as I walked down the hallways. I waited and listened for the familiar sound of footsteps but they never came.
At first, I'd just assumed the two spirits must have Nanami busy doing chores around the house and my lip twitched upwards at the image.
"Onikiri?!" I tried inside the Worship Hall and my voice echoing was my only reply.
I tried Kotetsu inside the kitchen area but came up empty.
"Nanami!" I shouted feeling every fiber in my body go into overtime. She wasn't answering back and neither were the spirits. With dawning horror, Keiko vividly remembered that Nanami was supposed to go to the Other World in hopes of apologizing to Tomoe.
Dropping my bag of chicken gyoza dumplings I felt my heart stutter.
Nanami's first time in the Netherworld was certainly something. What struck her first was the smell. Like something moldy and rotten was decaying nearby. Not only was it there when she first arrived but it persisted. Even gotten stronger in some areas making her recoil and shield her nose. Secondly, the scenery left much to be desired and Nanami could have sworn it came right from a horror movie. The spirits insist they're going the right way but...No matter how far they've walked there has been no grass. No leaves on the twisted lumpy trees either. The darkness seemed ever-present. This fact kept Nanami close to Onikiri and Kotetsu who were both holding lanterns.
The dirt even felt strange beneath her boots. Almost rubbery and too rough. If that made any sense.
"Lady Nanami, this is too unsafe." Kotetsu tried to reason coming to walk beside her. "You are too weak to be here without Master Tomoe as your familiar."
Flexing her arm Nanami put on a brave face. "I'm not completely hopeless, I know a few things from Jujitsu class."
Looking at Nanami's not thin but certainly not beefy arm Kotetsu sweatdropped. "Of course."
"Why do I get the feeling you do not believe me?" Nanami questions peering down at him with scrutiny.
Nanami dunked Kotetsu over the head this time unable to resist.
"We are here Lady Nanami." Onikiri piped in over Kotetsu's whines.
It was a festive looking town. Warm red lights flooded the streets from lanterns and the air took on a different stench. Certainly not good but not as bad as the road to this place. Almost smelled like some type of fish. If they were just inside Tokyo and not in the Netherworld, Nanami would assume this was just an average looking portion.
There was no activity on the streets. "Where is this?"
"The red-light district for demons, Lady Nanami," Onikiri answered and Nanami choked on her spit, stumbling she steadied herself against the gate surrounding the tow-district.
"No time. The sooner we return the better." Kotetsu replied grabbing her hand. "You are quite pale."
Nanami was left to take in everything as they went further in before entering a building. The lady behind the counter barely spared them a glance but stared openly at Nanami. She was pretty despite having a fox's face. She didn't seem to be lacking either.
She felt her urge to apologize slowly beginning to fade.
They stopped outside a room where the sounds of happy women were coming from. Nanami severely hoped they weren't the same type as the majority of the other rooms.
As Kotetsu made to barge into the room Nanami slipped her hand out of his tiny grasp and hide behind the wall just out of sight.
"Master Tomoe! Master Tomoe are you here?" Kotetsu asked. Something shocked Onikiri. "Master Tomoe!"
Nanami resisted the urge to peep into the room.
"You're entirely too loud, Kotetsu, Onikiri." Hearing his nonchalant voice didn't shock Nanami this time. It was still deep and husky, she didn't know why she expected it to change. "What purpose do you two have here?"
"Master Tomoe." The two spirits stormed into the room disapprovingly.
"How saddening! You're a familiar and yet you're hanging around the red light district in broad daylight!"
"How sad will Lord Mikage be if he knows if this." Onikiri chided.
Nanami could almost taste the change in Tomoe.
"Unfortunately, Mikage is no longer around is he?" There was a rustle of clothing. "Whether I get drunk with alcohol or turn barbarous it is entirely up to me." There was something almost rueful hidden behind his blase tone.
Nanami didn't care though. How stupid she'd thought. Coming all the way to this terrible place just to be disappointed. Anger bubbled into her chest turning icy.
"You! Whorelets remove yourselves!" Nanami almost gasped at hearing that word come from Kotetsu.
"Why you little…" Suddenly Kotetsu was whining and Nanami just knew he'd been hit. Nanami wanted to storm in there and help him but her legs remained rooted in place.
"Master Tomoe, don't you care if the shrine breaks down?" Onikiri asked with hope in her voice.
"Return to the shrine and become Lady Nanami's familiar!"
"No." The room became quiet as Tomoe spoke. "It's not my business if the shrine falls or not. In fact, I feel relieved after quitting such a troublesome job as being a familiar." the sounds of pillows being squished filled the silent space. "From now on I'll indulge myself every day; living in lust."
Something snapped in Nanami she couldn't place. Really she felt utterly stupid, Tomoe was not who her heart made him out to be.
"But...Lady Nanami said she wished to see you…"
Nanami pivoted once and she was in the doorway; completely visible. Tomoe's eyes widened upon seeing her. Onikiri turned to her with an imploring gaze Nanami could not return.
"Please say something.." Onikiri pleaded.
Nanami liked to think her glare was almost as mean as Keiko's and she certainly hoped it got her point across. He'd made a fool out of her and thoroughly mislead her. Nanami noted she wouldn't let her ignorance blind her again.
"I have nothing to say. Nothing." Looking down her nose at him, she narrowed her eyes. "Sorry for my intrusion."
Nanami speed-walked as fast her legs could take her. Making large strides, embarrassment and anger being her source of fuel. That stupid Tomoe had made a complete idiot of her. Sure she was embarrassed and felt completely beside herself down here in this rotten place but more so than anything Tomoe confused her.
She just couldn't understand the guy. His actions indicated he cared but his words said something different literally. He'd sounded so haunty and above it all and yet...he still waited twenty years.
So caught up Nanami missed the hand shooting out from the dark until it had grabbed her hand. Reacting entirely on instinct Nanami twisted her hand towards the thumb effectively breaking its hold. Nanami shrieked as more hands began to grab at her. She wasn't fast enough and one hand came scarily close to her forehead until something wheezed past.
Nanami fell back onto her butt, using her momentum to get back up onto her feet.
"Someone like you is a free feast to these lots," Tomoe said once again holding his fan. Nanami humped. "Go back to where humans should be." Her adrenaline must have been still pumping through her veins.
"Get over yourself!" The words had left her mouth and there was no taking them back, so why stop now? "You are the one who should go home!" Tomoe narrowed his eyes at her tone.
He closed his fan with a sharp snap. "You're clearly becoming soft in the head." He all but growled out. "Come here and I'll take you back." Nanami broke the hold he'd made on her wrist.
"Is that shrine truly something you can abandon so easily?" She shocked, not caring what heard her. "Is it not your precious home?!"
Tomoe seemed momentarily shocked at her passionate outburst. She seemed to care so much about what he'd done even though she didn't even know him that long. She knew nothing of him and that shrine yet she dares to tell him.
"What did you say?" A normal person or demon would have been cowed at his tone but it only served to piss Nanami off more. "Someone like you, who can't even protect herself, dares to act so cheeky?"
"You're the cheeky one!"
Onikiri and Kotetsu watch them yell at each other with a certain expression on their faces. Kotetsu rubbed his bald head. "Not what we expected but it will do nonetheless."
"You're like a duck waiting with onions figuratively speaking…" Tomoe mocked before turning his nose up at her. "But that has nothing to do with me."
Stomping her foot Nanami exclaimed back at the incredulous claim. "If I'm not involved with you I wouldn't meet such bizarre phenomena!"
Onikiri and Kotetsu were swift spinnings in a confusing whirlwind at both of their abrupt silence. Kotetsu being the braver of the two broke the silence. "Um...are we going back soon?"
"Hurry and take her back. I don't' even care if she cries and clings to me." Tomoe commanded the spirits more than annoyed at the gale of such a tiny human.
Nanami snapped at him, "I would never do that!" Before addressing the two spirits herself positively fuming at the mouth. "Let's go back quickly. It's time for my bus!"
Both spirits were lost for words but scrambled to tug Nanami away after Tomoe glared particularly hard at them.
My heart was going to burst out of my chest I could feel. Any minute now, the suspense of waiting was going to kill me before she got back. So many what-ifs ran through my mind at lightning speed. Only serving to make me panic more until I was a gasping mess on the shrine corridor.
With a purpose, Nanami scrolled to the bust stop with irritation oozing off of her in waves. However, when she saw she'd missed the bus she practically wilted on the ground. "I'm late for the bus. The next one doesn't come for three whole hours." She whispered in utter despair.
Onikiri became frustrated. "If you bind him with the contract for familiars, he will have to absolutely obey your every whim."
Nanami paused before she turned with a sweetened smile on her face that seemingly dripped with sugar. "My every whim you say?" Onikiri didn't like the glint in her eyes but pressed forward all the same.
"Y-yes, Lady Nanami."
Nanami suddenly sprang to her feet with renewed vigor, intent to make that idiot pay. "Oh, oh, oh and how do I get him to sign this contract?" Nanami asked overly eager. The spirits could almost see flowers bloom behind her.
"It is quite simple really." The spirits perked up. "You just have to kiss him."
"If you do this he will become your faithful servant!" Onikiri cheered mistaking Nanami's silence for speechlessness. Kotetsu made confetti rain with an exclamation, "There's nothing you can't make him do!"
Coming down from their own little world, the two spirits were dumbstruck at their lady's disappearance before they began to panic.
Nanami was finally certain those spirits had lost their minds. The scary part about it was the fact that she'd been close to going along with their little plot. No possible way Tomoe would even agree to do such a thing. They'd almost tricked her into making a bigger idiot of herself.
Nanami peaked from behind the tree she'd hidden behind in her haste. The spirits seemed to be getting further away from her spot if the volume of their loud shrieking was anything to go by.
Deciding eventually that just walking the distance would be more beneficial than just staying and waiting running the risk of getting caught; Nanami turned with the full intention to high tail it from this creepy place. Nanami had walked further distances with Keiko before in her life.
Nanami paused at the voice. Turning curiously towards the sound, she furrowed her brows at the sight before her.
An elderly woman had collapsed onto the side of the road with a large sack on her shoulders. The woman had on colored traditional clothing that contrasted her entirely white hair.
"I'm so sorry but..young miss can you help me?" Nanami looked at the woman's frail fingers clenching her bag. "I've sprained my leg because of the bumps." Nanami felt her brows unfurrow at the explanation but still found it strange how far out this woman was living. The spirits did mention that this part of the city was especially close to the Netherworld because of it's deserted dark areas.
No place for an elderly woman.
Nanami nodded her head resolutely, "Of course ma'am."
When Nanami went to offer to carry the elderly woman a chill had gone down her spine and Keiko's disapproving face popped into her head.
Taking this has a sign, Nanami grabbed the load off the woman's back and marveled at its weight. It wasn't too much for her considering the weight training they'd done at the dojo but too much for this old woman.
Looking closer at a sharp edge of the bag Nanami eyes narrowed in suspicion. It looked oddly familiar but she couldn't place it.
Snapping out of her thoughts, Nanami looked to see the woman leaning heavily against a tree having gotten her own self up from the ground. Feeling embarrassed that she'd spaced out, Nanami hurried to help her to lean against her.
"Ma'am, do you live close to here?" She heard herself ask.
With a nod, the woman pointed down the path she'd been going up. "Yes, it's just down this road, deary."
"Nanami I know how you just love helping people out, but don't go into their houses okay?"
"Even if it is big and pretty?"
"Especially if it's big and pretty."
This wasn't even a house, it was more of a hut Nanami concluded. It was nestled into a nice hidden spot in the forest. Extremely easy to miss if not being guided. The walls were cracking up the sides, grass grew steadily up the house. Straw covered the roof and haphazard bricks laid in the ground leading up to the doorway.
"Thank you very much young miss." the woman spoke taking Nanami's attention from the surroundings. "You really helped this frail woman out." The appreciative smile looked so genuine Nanami almost let her guard down.
She was smarter this time around.
Putting on a smile of her own, Nanami placed a hand over the spot where a bruise had long ago healed. "It was nothing much ma'am."
The woman's smile widened. "You're too kind, dear." Just then some wind blew past pushing Nanami's bangs across her forehead. The temperature seemed to drop slightly as the elderly woman paused. The woman's eyes opened slightly, accenting her wrinkled face even more. "How lovely…"
Nanami blinked confusedly at the woman.
"Oh, nevermind me, dear." She waved Nanami off before resting a hand to her back. "Could you set that bag onto my doorstep, please? It'd make it so much easier to move it from there."
Her alarms bells were starting to go off double time. Maybe it was because Nanami was so close to the entrance to the Netherworld or she was still on a high from her argument with Tomoe.
She made up her mind that she'd set the bag down and leave. It wasn't the kindest, but it was what she was willing to give.
"Yes, ma'am." Taking the pack off of her shoulders, Nanami walked forward towards the house. Setting the bag down on the last brick right before the door she suddenly threw herself to the left.
Looking to her right Nanami saw a bladed knife still rattling in one of the wooden beams holding the extending roof up. Her eyes bugged out of her head and she got up quickly.
"W-what are you doing?" Nanami exclaimed feeling rightfully pissed off. Looking heatedly at the woman, she started to change.
Not in the way one would catch easily either. The tender smile she'd once wore was replaced with a darker one. The wrinkles on her face had deepened with the sinister grin she wore. Her extended hand that had thrown the knife flexed experimentally. "I must be weaker than I thought."
Nanami took a few steps back into the hut door. "What are you talking about?" Fear seized her heart and Nanami wanted nothing more than to be back at their apartment with Keiko; worrying about homework and free time.
The woman cupped her sagging check in one hand and spoke as if she was talking to a simple child. "That knife should have been faster than a mere human like you could have dodged. Ultimately piercing that undoubtedly delicious heart of yours."
And she did, bursting through the woman's hut door with a fierceness; intent to get the hell away from the old woman that'd tricked her. Lady Luck must have been on her side that day because the indoors had a simple layout.
Finding the back door wouldn't be hard.
However, getting to the door was another story.
"Such stamina! Your heart is a healthy one aye!" The hag's maddening laughter followed, filling the small spaces.
Nanami tore through another door expecting to burst outside but instead found herself in another room. Looking around wildly, Nanami was not prepared for the knife that came hurtling at her head. Her reaction time was the only thing that saved her neck from running through. A handful of her hair had gotten cut off, alerting her to how sharp it was.
"Oh, that was faster than before!"
Deciding to risk it, Nanami kicked out the room's window before jumping through it. The weak material at the center gave under the sudden pressure. Tucking inward, she rolled before getting to her feet and kicking up loose dirt with hurried steps. The hags angered exclamation had Nanami weaving through trees faster than before. Her boots snagged against twigs.
Onikiri stood up ahead of Nanami and she could have cried at the blessed sight of the spirit. With hopes that the spirit could help her out, Nanami grabbed Onikiri's hand as she ran past her. Nanami didn't have time to explain what was going on to the spirit before the old woman was back.
"You're not getting away that easily girly!"
Onikiri gave a shout as she took in the old woman. Looking to her mistress, Onikiri felt fear swell in her chest. Running alongside Nanami, Onikiri had to explain quickly. "Lady Nanami, you have come across the demon witch!"
"D-demon?!" Nanami stumbled. "I thought she was just a demented old lady!"
Onikri didn't know much about the human world but she figured her lady's first assumption was well placed. "Nevermind that. I was able to follow your lingering scent and I had feared the worst. Well placed indeed, I have sent Kotetsu to get Master Tomoe."
"Fat luck that will do. That jerk won't come." She felt sure of her answer. Onikiri didn't have time to answer before the witch made herself known.
"Lady Nanami, use these!" Onikiri passed a huffing Nanami three talisman and a brush with special ink coating the tip.
Nanami honestly believes it was the situation that made her snap at the spirit. "Great, just what I needed. Paper to write my will and a dying message!"
"They are charms."
"It is one of the Land God's powers. If you write letters on those charms and stick them on objects, the letters will gain power and become just like what you wrote." Onikiri shortened the explanation but decided it was still good enough for now.
Quickly writing kanji on the first talisman, Nanami slapped it onto Onikiri's forehead. "Turn into a Warrior God!" With a dramatic declaration.
When nothing happened, Nanami looked at the talisman and Onikiri as if the spirit had just sealed her death warrant.
"...The commands can not surpass those of your ability, Lady Nanami."
Nanami's foot caught roughly in a tree's root and she started to fall. Thinking quickly, Onikiri pushed them into a tall bush and slapped her hand over Nanami's mouth.
The hag zoomed past in a frenzied search not even a full five seconds later.
For a wrinkled, sagging woman she sure knew how to move.
Bamboo groves. Nanami hadn't noticed them until one was pressing up against her back uncomfortable. The trees gave way and little light from the moon made the situation even more terrifying. The night sky wasn't even blue, it was black, no stars, just a crescent moon.
Breathing heavily, Nanami spits bamboo leaves from her mouth. "How do we get out of here?"
Pointing to the black sky, "It's that hole right there, Lady Nanami." Onikiri said breathing just as heavily.
Nanami choked on a mouthful of air. "Eh? That's the moon…"
Onikiri, not having time for any more questions, gestured to the remaining two talismans and ink brush. "Lady Nanami you should use one of the charms to summon Master Tomoe."
"He won't do it."
"Stop being so stubborn! If you bind him with the sacred contract- I said no dammit!" Nanami interrupted hissing with a vein throbbing on her head. There was no way she'd kiss that jerkface idiot.
"Found you, you little bi-."
Nanami and Onikiri had taken off before the hag even had a chance to finish her sentence.
Nanami could feel her legs tiring out. Her side stitched painfully, her feet ached, and her stomach felt as if it was swallowing itself. She couldn't keep this up, she'd barely eaten anything since last night. She'd never had to run like this before, she wasn't ready.
Onikiri fretted as Nanami began to lag behind her.
Feeling the hag's hot breath on her neck, Nanami thought fast. Shoving one talisman into her coat pocket, she wrote her name down on one.
The demon hag lifted her knife with excitement, believing it was finally time to finish things off. Nicely too because all this running had worked her up an appetite. "Your flesh is mine girly!"
Just as the witch lunged for the teenager's head, Nanami pivoted sharply with fast footwork. Placing her foot around the witches, Nanami put all her weight onto her left foot. Moving her upper body at the last moment. Almost perfect execution of the stepping method Ein had taught her after a particular incident. Sticking the talisman to a random bamboo tree and sprinting off the opposite direction, Nanami almost cried with relief when the hag fell for it.
Running until she finally came to some trees again, Nanami began to climb, fully intending to hide in the thick leaves at the top.
This was not real. Why is this happening to me?
Those words repeated inside Nanami's head as she clung to the bear thick tree with all her might. She'd kicked the demon hag on the head, buying her some time to reach the branch Tomoe rested upon.
"Lady Nanami! Just say the words!"
Tomoe smiled amusingly. "Foolish girl. Admit defeat and you will be saved."
Nanami never gave much thought to how she'd die. Really she hadn't. Nanami found that she only ever thought of 'what comes next' and 'what to do now'. Never did 'what if I die?' cross her mind. It was so strange and there's nothing she could think of to answer that question.
Nanami Momozono decided she wasn't going to die.
Grabbing Tomoe's outer kimono robe, Nanami loosened her grip on the tree. Stunning the demon Hag and everybody else has they began to free fall.
His eyes widened in shock. "You will die because of your pride!"
Nanami heard the two shrine spirits shout her name and the hag call her a 'crazy bitch' but she didn't care. She'd been so relieved when Tomoe actually showed up, thinking he was actually going to save her. Her heart had frozen at his words.
I came here to observe idly.
Pulling a stunned Tomoe to her swiftly she crashed her chapped and worried lips against his. Tomoe's eyes widened in anger at what Nanami had done but it was too late.
"Save me right now!" She commanded scared that the next few seconds of her life would end with a splat.
The darkness of the night gave way to Tomoe's spectacular light. Nanami had to shut her eyes from the harshness but she snapped them back open when she felt the sudden lightness. Tomoe had gently lowered them both to the ground safely.
Nanami would have thrown up at the abrupt change if she had anything in her stomach. Slapping a hand over her mouth she scowled at Tomoe. "I said save me, not make me sick, dummy!"
Tomoe's eyes seemed like they were going to pop out of his head. His clawed hand flexed dangerously and for a second Nanami thought he was actually going to make an attempt at her life.
Then he flicked a ball of hot fire at the hag still in the tree.
Nanami flenched at the pained shriek the hag let out and felt even sicker as her bony body hit the ground from the height of the tree they'd been in.
She wanted home. Tucking her head between her legs, Nanami tried to take calming breaths. She ignored the spirits once again, the world kept spinning and she wanted it to stop so badly.
It was all too much too soon.
Her head hurt so badly. Focused on making the pain go away she didn't notice Tomoe until he'd grabbed her arm and pulled her up in one fluid motion.
"Come...We must return you back quickly." His expression wasn't gentle, but understanding appeared in his eyes. He turned his head quickly before Nanami could see any more.
I was sitting on the outer corridor of the shrine when a strong gust of wind forced me to shield my eyes. I uncovered them sluggishly but perked up immediately afterward.
The second Nanami came through the door with the two shrine spirits and Tomoe following close behind, I was already on her. I clenched her close to me as if to absorb her into myself. My body shook uncontrollably with frayed nerves. The thought of losing her had disoriented me down to my core. Nanami was my anchor, I wouldn't know what to do without her.
She'd been here this morning when I left then she wasn't.
Fat tears rolled down Nanami's eyes as she gripped me back tightly and I noticed that I wasn't the only one shaking. Pulling my head from my butt, I rubbed soothing circles on her back whispering sweetly into her ear.
By the time I was brave enough to lift my head from Nanami's hair, Tomoe had disappeared along with the spirits.
"I brought back chicken gyoza...it's probably cold but…"
Nanami had stopped shaking long ago, we stood content to relish in the other's presence. She was silent until her stomach let out a monstrous growl, and I offered a weak chuckle.
"Eat then bath?" She didn't object and let me pull her into the main room of the shrine were the plastic bag of gyoza sat on the table.
I let her hair fall down onto the water's surface with a weak splat. Ripples of fragranced water lapped weakly against my stomach. I knew how much having her brushed relaxed Nanami, so I had offered.
She'd been silent ever since she'd finished her retailing of the events that had taken place. Many times I had paused, but never did I ask questions. She didn't deserve to have to think anymore about that.
Letting my fingers slip from her silky strands I relaxed back into the water.
"He saved me." Nanami's hair floated freely in the warm bath. Her eyes were hooded and thoughtful. "Despite how much he obviously hates me."
I blew bubbles in the warm relaxing water. The scent of soft lavender and mint filled the bathhouse as I closed my tub was big enough to fit both of us comfortably
"No close contact in baths," I said pushing Nanami's bare shoulder off mine. I know she needed physical contact right now but I refuse to touch someone closely in the bath. Even doing this was strange; we hadn't taken a bath together in years.
Nanami shot me an affronted look to which I shrugged.
Her severe look lessened into a small frown before it quirked into a smug smirk.
"Two weeks and more gyoza."
And I was forgiven.
This chapter was originally meant to be longer but by the time I stopped to look at the word count, I realized it was becoming too long.
Writing in Nanami's POV was actually quite fun! But writing the scene with Nanami and the demon Hag was taxing; I'm out of practice. : P
I know inside the manga or anime it never showed the effects that Nanami's adventure has on her mental wellbeing, so I'm going to touch on them some. This is supposed to be semi-realistic fanfic after all. : )
Question: Do you think Mikage notices something strange with Keiko's spirit given she's not actually from their world? And what did you think about the subtle ripples Keiko's influence is making?