The Guild – Chapter 77 – Hitomi

    I like walking the streets of my neighbourhood at night. It is relatively safe, even without so many street lights. Even if I didn’t have these strange powers, I’m sure I would feel safe. The weather is still chilly, but it is beginning to warm up here in Kyushuu. Soon the Cherry blossoms will bloom and the streets will be filled with pink flower petals and new green grass. It is my favourite season.

    I’m walking alone, down this meandering alleyway street for a couple of reasons. For starts, I became hungry, so I needed to get some food from the mart for dinner. Second, I wanted to be out of the dorms and away from all the nattering of the others. Graduation is next week and everyone is buzzing with excitement about what they will do when they no longer have to wear the school uniform.

    We practically wear the uniform all day, every day, except on weekends or holidays when we don’t have to be at the school, which is hardly ever if you don’t have a family and live in the dorms like I do. Of course, in my own room, I wear what I want and I have a few favourite styles, but I am comfortable in this uniform. I don’t want it to change.

    Everything will change.

    I don’t pass any people along this small side street as I return from the mart. I do startle a cat as I walk up alongside his house. He sits on his doorstep, watching for prey and intruders, and me.

    I’ve seen this cat before, his orange and white fur make a striped pattern, like a white tiger. He never lets me pet him, he doesn’t like me much.

    ‘Maybe it’s the way you look at him?’ he asks, buffeting against my back gently.

    “Kaze Sama,” I whisper.

    ‘You know, if you tried smiling at him, perhaps he’d let you pet him,’ he suggests.

    [sore wa nai to omou.] “I doubt it,” I say softly.

    ‘You won’t know unless you try,’ he insists.

    The third reason I am walking alone at night down an alley was to keep away from Kaze Sama. Despite being my only friend, I find him increasingly annoying. He has been constantly urging me to speak to others, to communicate, to make friends. I don’t want friends. I only need him, and he is enough to handle already.

    ‘What is troubling you this evening, Hitomi Hime?’ he asks. His long black hair is tied back into a samurai’s ponytail. He wears a white robe with a sword on his back. His black eyes watch me closely. I’m used to his gaze.

    [Anata ga] “You,” I say curtly.

    He tisks his tongue. ‘That’s not very polite. You won’t make friends that way.’

    [Tomodachi ga hoshii ja nai.] “I don’t want friends,” I reply.

    ‘What would you do if I left you? You’d be all alone, with no one to talk to. What would happen then?’

    [Nani mo,] “Nothing,” I say. He never leaves me. He’s always there. I feel him everywhere, like the air I breathe. He’s the God of the wind; he is the wind. If he left, the weather of the world would turn to chaos and the apocalypse would surely be upon us. He’ll never leave.

    ‘You never know. Maybe I’ll grow tired of your demeanor and leave you,’ he says, twirling his hand through the air.

    The breeze picks up, twisting around me, lifting my hair with it. If anyone else saw me now, they’d see me talking to myself, the wind picking up my hair as it whistles through the alley. The cat mews at me before turning it’s tail and slipping between his and the neighbours house.

    [Doshite, hoka no tomodachi ga iru no desu ka? Watashi wa korera no okurimono de umaretanode, hitobito wa watashi no ryōshin no yō ni watashi o nokosudeshou. Anatatachi ga wakarimasen.] “Why do you want me to have other friends? People turn me away, just like my parents, when I was born with these gifts. They won’t understand.” I feel tears brimming in my eyes and I sniff to stop myself from crying.

    ‘You know that’s not true, he says.’

    [Watashi to onaji mono ga hoka ni nainara, dare mo watashi o rikaidekinai to omou!] “Unless there are others like me, I doubt there is anyone who could understand!” My voice rises and so does the wind. The flowerpot beside me wobbles in its base. Kaze Sama looks at me, deep eyes, unblinking.

    ‘Hitomi…’

    I stare at him, feeling the pull of the wind. It passes through the alley, along the main street beyond, through the trees that line the peace park and up into the mountains. It spins into the sky and across the landscape. It passes by homes, animals, and people. People walking home late at night, People going to parties and having fun. People stalking other people in the dark. People who glow with the power of…

    Glow with… power.

    ‘There are others like you. If you tried, you could find them.’

    [Koko ni… nande? Dare ka?] “Why are they here? Who are they?”

    Kaze Sama shrugs, stepping towards me. He places a cool hand on my shoulder and nudges me forward. ‘We could investigate. Look but not touch. We could go and come right back. No one would have to know.’

    [Kowaii ne,] “I’m scared,” I whisper. I’m more scared than he realizes. What if they don’t like me? People are quick to judge, what with social media. School is just an academic competition for success now. It’s no longer an institution for learning. Anyone who is different is an outcast.

    ‘Come now, you worry too much. Let me show you. We don’t have to get close,’ he says, extending his arm out from behind me. It feels like I have a third arm. I hesitantly stretch my hand toward his, placing my hand in his.

    I feel the exhilarating rush of wind as we meld. The surrounding earthenware falls over, rolling away in the strong gust of wind we create as we lift upwards. We slip through the dark night, my groceries, forgotten on the ground below. I’ll have to pick them up later. They’ll be there when I get back.

    We flow North East, towards Fukuoka. I wonder for a moment, who they are.

    ‘Curious now?’ Kaze Sama asks.

    [Zenzen,} “Never,” I lie. We flutter down through the tall hotels and buildings coming to rest atop the tower that is Hakata Station. I’ve been here before, on a school trip as we took the train to Honshuu, to see Disneyland in Tokyo.

    Kaze Sama and I separate and I look for the source of this power. It comes from nearby, from one of the adjacent buildings perhaps. We stand on the edge of the station building. If anyone looked up, I’m sure they’d think I was a suicidal maniac instead of a curious wind charmer.

    Kaze Sama tilts his head South, towards the Kitte Plaza. I nod. I feel the breeze shift as Kaze Sama sends his awareness, and mine, towards the South tower connected to the station. A lone figure in black sits atop the tower, unmoving. Their legs are draped over the edge carelessly, despite the queasy sixty meters tall.

    I frown at the figure, their energy pulses and I see an aura surround them, an obvious sign they have magic. What are they doing here, I wonder.

    I look to Kaze Sama, but his face looks stern and wary. ‘Don’t move,’ he warns me.

    I turn back to the figure as they stand. I can’t make out if they are man or woman against the dark sky. They set off the building and I flinch, but as I do, a black circle appears before them and they disappear into the darkness. Their energy with them.

    Kaze Sama releases his breath, even though he doesn’t need to breathe to live. ‘Let’s return.’

    [Dare deshita ka? Nande? Kama Sama, doshite?] “Who was that? Why? Kaze Sama, please tell me!” I say as he turns to me, frowning.

    ‘That was danger. Let’s go.’

    We meld and return home, my thoughts racing. [Karera wa watashi no yōna mahō o motte ita. Karera wa dono yō ni kikendesu ka?] “Kaze Sama, they had magic, like me. Why are they dangerous?”

    ‘Yes, but… something wasn’t right. Something felt… sinister. Next time we won’t unmeld when we watch. It’s too risky,’ he says, worry thick in his tone.

    [Wakatta.] “I understand,” I reply, but he was right. Curiosity now has a hold on me. There ‘are’ others like me. Do they know of me? Or am I different, somehow…

    We come to rest at the mouth of the alley where I left my groceries. It’s been a few hours, but my bag lays there on its side, undisturbed. Looks like no one’s been through here since I left, otherwise it’d be hanging on the poll or something.

    ‘We should return you home,’ Kaze Sama suggests. My stomach growls in agreement.

    [So desu ne.] “Alright.”

    When I make it back to the dorms I immediately begin making my midnight dinner. It doesn’t take long, it’s a simple Nagasaki style nabe (noodle pot), with enough for two nights. I switch on my music, Bluetooth headphones already in place as I work.

    Kaze Sama drifts around my room. The window stays open, the way I like it, no matter the temperature. This way his breeze can come and go as he pleases. When I’m finished cooking I dish out a serving and sit on the zabuton in front of the TV, switching it on to the NHK News. Nothing interesting is shown, so I change it to a late night airing of a Japanese game show. Usually, these are entertaining and unpredictable.

    The night goes by, uneventful, so I clean up and prepare for bed. As I step out of the bathroom, hair, damp from my bath, I spot Kaze Sama, lingering beside my futon. I hang my towel up and cross the room, pulling the duvet back and switching the space heater to silent mode for the night.

    I look up at him, as he seems lost in thought and see his expression creased with worry.

    [Nani?] “What is it?” I ask him.

    He looks down, shaken from his thoughts. ‘Hitomi.’

    I frown. He never calls me just Hitomi, unless it’s serious.

    ‘I’m worried about who we saw this evening. Don’t misunderstand. Friends are good to have, but please be wary of the figure in black. I do not believe they intend to be your friend.’

    [Doushite? ] “How do you know that?” I ask, pulling the duvet over my chest and laying back on my pillow.

    ‘It’s a feeling. Like the change in the direction of the wind when a storm is coming.’ Kaze Sama does not usually use references to the wind like this, but it makes perfect sense. I nod in understanding.

    [Sou desu ne. Jaa, Oyasumi, Kaze Sama.] “Mm, ok. Well, Goodnight, Kaze Sama.” I close my eyes and let my mind drift into sleep. I have to be up in a few hours for exam prep. My dreams are filled with a torrential wind and a figure in black, unseen face smiling maliciously at me.

~*~

    Indeed the pressure did change that week for I awoke to a thunderstorm on Friday. The winds were quite strong, but not typhoon level, so our school day continued as normal. Most of my classmates complained of headaches due to the weather, but it never bothers me. I am practically the source of that change, well, Kaze Sama is.

    I push through the day listening to everyone’s complaints, eagerly waiting to get out into the storm with Kaze Sama. When the last bell rings and we pack up after long homeroom, I head out into the storm, racing for the dorms.

    [Nijiyama San! Matte! Matte!] “Nijiyama San, wait! wait!”

    I stop in the rain, turning back to see my classmate, Yamaguchi Yuu kun.

    [Hayai desu ne.] “You’re fast,” he says, dashing up to me, holding up his umbrella. [Anata no kasa ga wasureta na?] “Did you forget your umbrella?”

    [Hai, demo, heya ga chikaku.] “Yes, but, my place is close,” I answer stepping in time with him.

    [Sou desu ne.] “So it is,” he blushes as a silence falls between us. [Eiken wa, dou shimashita ka?] “How did you do on the English exam?” he asks me.

    [Mada wakaranai.] “I don’t know yet,”I respond.

    He nods. [Nnn, sou desu ne. Ano… nani daigaku ni ikitai n desu ka?] “Right. Umm, what university do you want to go to?”

    I look at my feet, it’s not the first time I’ve had this question this month. [Waka-] “I don’t-” I go to answer

    [Ano, Watashi wa, kaigaidaikaku ni iku.] “Umm, I’m… going to an overseas university,” he sputters before I can answer.

    [Eee? Honto ni? Nande?] “Eh? Really? Why?” I ask him.

    [Ano, Eigo wa jouzu ni naritai.] “Umm, I want to improve my English,” he states.

    [Anata no eigo mada jouzu desu yo ne. Doko ni?”] “Your English is already good. Where are you going?”

    [Ano… Amerika desu.] “Umm… America.”

    [Wow, sagoi ne!] “Wow, that’s amazing.”

    [Ma ma, demo, watashitachi ga… tomodachi desu ka?] “Not really, but… we’re… friends aren’t we?” he asks uncertainty.

    I stare at him, wide-eyed, forgetting to move. He stops and holds the umbrella over me.

    [Tomo-dachi?] “F…friends?” I repeat.

    [Hai, tomodachi. Watashi no LINE wa anata ni agetai, daijoubu desu ka?] “Yes, friends. Can I give you my LINE?” he says, holding out his phone.

    Next week is graduation and after that everyone moves around the country, or in this case, around the world. People become busy with their new study or work lives and it becomes harder to keep in contact with your friends.

    Friends… I still can’t wrap my head around the word. Yuu kun called me a friend. I’ve never really seen us that way. We’ve been classmates for three years now, but he’s an active member of the English club, where I decided to hang back and just study in my after-school time. It’s not uncommon to not join a club in high school, but not popular if you want to build your resume.

    Friends… are we really friends? Is this what Kaze Sama meant, by having someone other than him to talk to? I mean, sure, I’ve spoken to Yamaguchi kun a few times here and there, we’ve studied in the library on the weekends and he’s helped me with my English homework.

    [Nijiyama san, Daijoubu desu ka?] “Nijiyama san, are you ok?” he asks, leaning towards me. I lean back in response, surprised to see his face so close.

    [Ahh, hai, sumimasen. Ano, LINE wa… anmari tsukanai.] “Ahh, yes, sorry. Umm, I don’t… use LINE much.” I say, pulling my phone from my bag.

    [Daijoubu desu. Itsudemo ii. Tabun, Amerika kara, anata no eigo wo tetsudai dekiru.] “It’s ok, whenever is good. Maybe, in America, I can help you with your English.” he smiles, holding out his phone with the QR code on the screen.

    I open the app and have him show me how to add him as a friend. It takes but a few seconds and my phone dings as he sends me a cute bunny sticker waving.

    [Yatta! Arigatou! Nijiyama san, ano… gambatte!] “There! Thank you! Nijiyama san, umm. Good luck!” he smiles.

    [Gambarimasu.] “I’ll do my best,] I say softly, putting my phone back in my bag. Yamaguchi kun walks me to the dorms and stops at the entrance when I pull out my key.

    [Ahh, yasai ya ni ikitai. Itsu wa shirimashite doko ni iku, watashi ni LINE suru!] “Ahh, I want to go to the market. When you know where you are going, LINE me!” he says, adjusting the strap of his bag.

    [Hai. Yamaguchi kun, arigatou.] “Ok. Thank you, Yamaguchi kun.”

    [Yuu kun. Yuu, daijoubu desu. Mata ne!] “It’s Yuu, please call me Yuu. See you!” he waves.

    [Hai! Itteirashai.] “Ok, hurry back!” I stand on the doorstep to the dorms watching him walk down the street with his black school umbrella and school bag. I’m in shock at how easy that seemed to be. I mean… I have spoken with him before and he does most of the talking. But still…

    ‘That wasn’t so hard now, was it?’ The breeze swirls about me strongly, blowing rain into my face. I frown and push my shock aside, turning for the door to unlock it. Kaze Sama chuckles as I dash inside to dump my school supplies and climb out the window to join him in the skies. I’m never going to hear the end of his rants tonight. I just know it.

By Kayla West

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