Note, I am studying Japanese, so I wanted to write a character who is culturally Japanese. For chapter one I wrote the Japanese and had a friend edit it. I may or may not continue to do so, though this takes a long time. Please enjoy learning about Japan through this character! (Both of these characters speak Japanese. Hitomi speaks only a little English, so please bear with her bad language skills.)
The wind is cold… and warm. The wind is sharp… and gentle. The wind is rough, but he is also my best friend. I only have him, and he, well, he only has me.
I lay on my futon listening to a Japanese pop artist on my blue Beebop headphones. I listen to the discord of the guitar to the intense vocals. This artist sings true music. My fingers tap to the beat of the drum on my chest and my foot bounces with the bass, but my mind is elsewhere.
I feel a gentle breeze on my exposed forearms and a tingling feeling crawls over my skin and up my spine. I shiver. My eyes flutter open and I sit up proper, turning to face the window. The shoji [sliding paper doors] are open to let the air into my otherwise stuffy tatami room.
At first, there is nothing there, but then, ever so slightly, the ghostly image of a man appears. He has a square jawline, long flowing black hair that reaches his elbow, and a permanent mischievous grin.
Hitomi hime, may I come in?
I watch him closely without saying anything. He has this strange manner to him. He always asks for my permission first and he insists on calling me hime sama even though I most certainly am not. Though, I entertain the idea of having him wait there for my reply. I find myself craving his affection.
“Douzo onegaishimasu,” [Please do.] I gesture for him to sit near to me. He steps into the room, doors rattling gently as he passes. He wears nothing on his feet and he is garbed in a plain white kimono with a blue sash tied around his waist, a samurai blade at his side.
He seems to glide over the tatami mats as he approaches and sits seiza on the floor next to me.
How have you been Hitomi hime? I pull my headphones off my ears and listen to his breathy voice.
“Daijoubu desu.” [I’m fine] There’s an awkward silence between us while I look at him and he smiles back, no words.
Hime sama, you know you can tell me anything right? he says, reaching out his hand for my shoulder.
“Sou desu, kedo … ” [I know…] I am not one of many words. I can’t express myself. My training was ridged and restricting. I always feel uncomfortable showing my feelings. I don’t know why that is. With Kaze sama it should be different. He’s been with me since as long as I can remember, even before he brought me to them… but still, I cannot bring myself to emote.
He lifts his hand and gestures gently, as if waving someone to pass. I feel a gentle breeze pick up the ends of my hair and nudge them off my face. The breeze caresses my pale clear skin, like a hand. I briefly blink my eyes and covet the comforting feeling it offers.
“Yamete kudasai.” [stop, please] I beg. I open my eyes and see his frown. It saddens my heart and I regret being so cold, but I cannot help it. I feel nothing.
Something is on your mind Hitomi hime. You should not let it dwell there too long. You know what the Kannushi [shinto priests] would say to that. His voice becomes hard and cold. I turn away, ashamed and frustrated that he is right; I am wrong.
“Kaze sama…” I start, not knowing how to say what I feel. The tension in my heart is a tight knot. I spent years at the jinja on Minoh mountain. The Kannushi raised me from infancy and I owe them a great debt. I did not want to leave my mountain home, but I had to, in the end. If I had stayed, I would have destroyed them, as I did my own parents. That I am sure of.
Now I am 17. My 18th birthday looms with the coming sunrise, and I know I cannot continue as I have been, but what is there in this world for me? I wonder, but I never find the answer.
He looks at me, watching my face intently as I say his name. I can feel his pain in my heart as we are linked; spirit of the wind to his primary master, Shinto priestess to the Kaze kami Shrine, master of Kotodama and a Miko Shrine maiden. The baby born with rainbow eyes, marked as the master of the elemental gods. I can command them, but at what cost?
“Gomen nasai, Kaze sama. Watashi wa anata o futōna atsukai o ukete kimashita.” [I’m sorry, I’ve done to you a great wrong.] I wilt under his gaze and I feel a single hot tear burn down my cheek.
He drops his formal posture and jumps toward me, taking me in his transparent arms. His warm grip cradles me and I lose my self-control. I am shameful. I am weak.
He holds me until I stop; hiccups all that remain of the episode. Then he pushes me out to arm’s length and looks into my eyes, a serious, strong and determined look holds me still.
You could never do me wrong. If you are troubled it is my fault for not noticing it sooner, Hitomi hime. Gomen na. [Forgive me.]
I reach out my arms and wrap them around his upper chest. Despite being the embodiment of the great god of the wind, he is warm and strong and very solid in my feeble embrace.
“Arigatou. Kaze sama.” [Thank you.]
What is it that troubles you? he asks again.
“Watashi wa 10-nen mae no toki ni watashi no hontō no kimochi wo tsutaeru gimu ni shippai shimashita.” [I failed to tell you my true feelings 10 years ago.]
Do you mean about not wanting to leave the mountains and the jinja? he points out bluntly.
“Zutto shitteita?” [You mean you knew? All this time?] I ask in disbelief. He nods.
Hitomi hime, we are connected more than just my spirit. I know when you are not telling the truth, he admits.
“Ima made, naze ni iwanakatta nodesu ka?” [Why did you not tell me?]
Because you were not ready to admit it. It would have don’t nothing if I had told you earlier. You would not have believed me.
I knew he was right, again. So wise he was. I forget that I am only 17 years, where he is centuries old. Millenia. Perhaps, Eons.
Tell me now, Hitomi hime, tell me what’s on your heart.
I pull away from him, reposition myself into seiza and place my hands on the floor before me. I bow my head to touch the tatami floor performing dogeza. “Kaze kami, totemo mōshiwakenaku omotte imasuga, watashi wa ie wo hanaretaku arimasendeshita. Watashi wa shisai tachikatsu watash wo okuridashite. Watashi wa yama de okotta koto no tame ni anata o semeta. Watashi no urami wa, watashi ga sute rarenai minikui kaibutsu ni natte imasu. Kono akuma kara watashi wo sukutte kudasai.” [Kaze kami, I am deeply sorry, but I did not want to leave my home. I blamed you for what happened on the mountain. My resentment has become an ugly demon that I cannot cast aside. Please, save me from this demon.]
I remain in dogeza, hoping he understands my plea.
Suddenly I feel a strong gust of wind roll me over, facing the ceiling of my room. I stare up into his piercing blue eyes, brighter than the sky they reflect despite being indoors.
You’ve dispelled your demon on your own. You have never needed me Hitomi hime. Come with me. I will show you something wonderful and you will hate me for it. His face splits into such a mischievous grin that I cannot refuse. A rueful laugh escapes my lips and I comply fully.
Suddenly I feel the rush of the wind in my soul and it feels as if my skin is peeling from my bones. I struggle against the currents, bringing my hands together in a prayer position and speak the word for wind god. “Futen.” The torrents abate and my soul is lifted, floating with the ribbonous currents. Upwards we fly and over fields and mountains and forests we soar until we flutter down upon the cap of a mountain with a quaint jinja built into the summit. Kaze no kami jinja.
We flutter down to the ground and Kaze sama disconnects from me. I stand on the summit, hands together, blinking into the setting sun. I turn to face the Torii gate of the kaze no kami jinja. It has been 10 years since I last saw this place.
My mouth falls open in astonishment. “Nande watashi wo koko ni tsurete kita nodesu ka? [Why have you brought me here?]
You need to complete the circle. Go on, he urges me toward the gate. I slowly approach the tori and bring my hands to my sides, bowing to his shrine home. I step through the tori and suddenly I see them, the priests, new priests, but they tend to the shrine as diligently as ever. They notice my presence at once and immediately bow. I flush red with embarrassment.
The moment passes too quickly as they welcome me into their newly restored home. I cannot believe the resiliency of these people. Despite the horror of what happened, they continue to live on, to move forward. Why is it that I cannot?
That’s when I notice something is off. Hidden from view, it hides from me. It knows what I am and it wants me. I cannot have me.
The Kannushi doesn’t look directly at me. If I concentrate on its energy I can sense where it is. As it moves about the jinja ground it seems awkward and delayed. I frown hard.
“Use saru!” [Be gone!] I command. The Kannushi morphs before my eyes into a grotesque, misshapen akuma [demon]. I grit my teeth and steel myself. I am too close to this situation, and it knows it. It comes at me, and I am ready.
“Kaze no kami shokan suru!” [God of the Wind, come to me!] His human guise dissolves and he comes raging toward me as a gust of mighty wind. “Korera no akuma o jigoku ni oku.” [send this demon to hell.] My voice is bitter with rage.
Kaze sama swirls about me like a tornado, forcing the akuma back and throwing it crashing into the trees, away from the stone tori. I pull out a folded blue paper with a single kanji written on it. I whisper a prayer, powering the talisman and then spread my arms wide. A surge of power releases form the talisman and the akuma begins to burn.
Its retched screams peel across the mountainside until the last rays of sun dip below the horizon. I sink to my knees.
Kaze sama materializes, suddenly at my side.
Hitomi hime? Are you ok? he asks, hands up as if afraid to touch me lest I break.
My eyes closed, I look up at the darkening sky empty of stars tonight. I feel hot tears stream down my face. “Watashi wa mōshiwakenai to wa iikiremasen.” [I will never be able to say sorry.]
I’m sorry, I should never have brought you here, he says, resting his hands on my knees and bowing his head.
I place my shaking hand on his head, still crying. “Iie, arigatou.” [No, thank you.] I say. Now comes the grizzly task of burying the dead. Those that remain shuffle away, hiding from me, scared of me. They are always scared of me. I cannot be loved.
Long after the moon has risen and the darkness grips the mountaintop, Kaze sama and I join once more and return to my room. It’s unlikely I’ll ever return to the mountain again. I must continue on with these demons of my own. Amaterasu willing, I will succeed in the coming storm.
By Kayla West
Japanese Edited by Matthew Sueda and Akiko Ozeki