The dorms are empty, and so is my LINE inbox. Yuu Yamaguchi has returned home to pack for America. He’s busy preparing for his future while I sit in the passenger seat of a rental moving truck, loading the last of my meager possessions to take to my remote holdings in the mountains. I have no family to return to and I have no University to attend, yet. I just want to sit on a mountain and look over the landscape and think. Think about what I might do with my life… or not do.
I wish I could just fly there and be away from that crazy stalker, but I don’t want to lose these few things I own. Kaze floats by the open window of the truck as the moving hire shuts the back and moves around the front to hop in.
‘You’re going to miss him, aren’t you?’ he asks. We both know who he is referring to.
“Iie.” [No,] I say flatly. There is no point in getting attached because I knew he was going away. That’s what everyone does. I frown at my phone as the game I was playing ends.
‘Failure’ the game rings. I shut it off as the man climbs up into the driver’s seat of the truck next to me.
“Ikimashou!” [Let’s go!] he says with a smile.
The rest of the trip is silent and uneventful as I evade every chance he takes to strike up a conversation. He’s nice and all, but I don’t feel much in the mood for chatting with a stranger. I play on my phone until reception becomes spotty, then I put my headphones on and listen to music as we climb higher into the mountains of Nagasaki prefecture.
It’s a good three-hour drive before we reach the place where my mountain home is. This is the place one of the priests gave me when I left the shrine to enter high school. It’s an old traditional Japanese home with the clay slatted roof and sliding window doors for walls. It’s very aesthetic, in my opinion.
The truck comes to a stop at the top of the driveway and the driver climbs out. I exhale exasperatedly as if I’d driven for much longer than I have and then switch off the music, pulling the headphones off my ears and climbing out of the truck.
The driver has already set to work on unloading my things onto the wrap around porch.
“Koko de, hitori dake ni sunde imasu ka? Samishi ne?” [You live here by yourself? It must get lonely.] He says as he pulls a box from the back and sets it down on the porch.
“Iie, hitori ja nai. Daijoubu desu.” [No, I’m not alone. It’s fine.] I respond, stepping onto the porch after slipping off my shoes and unlocking the front door. I pass into the house, unlocking the panels and sliding them open to let the warm spring breeze in, and to make it easier to bring my things inside.
The house is large and spacious with its full tatami matt floors and slide shoji panels. In the hot summer one can take out the panels and let the breeze in while in the winter, you can close them, creating a warm bubble with a space heater to keep out the cold.
The man sets the last of the boxes on the porch and sets pulls off his cap as he pulls out the receipt for the move. I’m amazed it doesn’t cost more. I hand him the cash and take the receipt, stamping my inkan on the paper before he replaces his cap.
“Arigatou gozaimashita! Odaiji ni!” [Thank you very much. Please take care of yourself!] He calls before getting back in his truck and pulling away.
The mountain falls silent as he descends the mountain. Kaze Sama returns, buffeting the surrounding trees as he descends from above and settles in front of the porch.
‘Home sweet home. How I’ve missed this place.’ He smiles, holding his kyosendo (fan).
“Senshuu, koko ni imashita. Ichi nen mae no koto mitai ni itte iru,” [We were here just last week. You make it sound like we’ve been gone for years.] I say grouchily.
‘No, I merely meant we can finally relax. You’ve worked hard, and that incident with the figure in black seems to have passed so we can relax,’ he smiles, hovering over the porch and through the house. I hear the shoji rattle lightly as he passes.
“Ano koto ga omoedasenai de kudasai.” [Please, don’t remind me of that incident.] I groan. I begin unpacking; the mundane and uneventful part of any move. Slowly the boxes empty and the house begins to look more like my dorm room back at the school, except more spread out.
When I finish, I slip into the kitchen to boil some water for tea while I watch the trees sway from the porch. The kettle starts to whistle, so I switch off the stove and pour it over the tea leaves.
I put the kettle back on the gas stove. I jump suddenly as a faint crack sounds to my right. I look at the kettle curiously, but it doesn’t seem to be broken. The hair on the back of my neck begins to rise and I shiver. Did the wind just get colder?
I pick up the tea and blow on it, second guessing my choice to sit outside. Perhaps the weathers changed. I hear the crack again, jumping as I look at the window and gasp. A curious pattern is spreading across the glass, like frost in the winter. The feather-like pattern trails across the glass, growing until it covers the entire span. I’m amazed at how quickly it spreads.
“Nani kana?” [What’s this?] I touch my finger to the glass and pull it away with a sharp intake of breath. The glass is ice cold and it felt as if it bit my finger. I step away, forgetting the tea on the counter. The icey pattern begins to move into the room. The kettle cools as it covers the sides in feathery frost, then it consumes the steaming cup of tea. I pick up the mug to find it frozen solid.
My ears ring with alarm as I move away from the window, walking backward out of the kitchen space and into the tatami room. “Kaze sama,” I whisper. “Nanikagaokashii.” [Something’s wrong,] I say, turning my gaze from the window to him.
‘Something’s here,’ he says, drifting towards me.
The cracking grows louder and I turn around in horror as thick ice grows along the open shoji, forming a wall of ice. The breeze shifts and I dash through the room to the other wall where other shoji are open. I feel the sudden urge to run.
“Kaze Sama, watashitachiha yūgō shinaito.”[Kaze we need to meld!] I shout. The ice grows quickly, blocking my escape before I can reach the wall. I try again, running across the room to the last open spot but it too freezes over.
I face Kaze, terrified. “Ima!” [Now!] I close my eyes, trying to start the meld but I feel nothing. My eyes snap open just as Kaze begins to fade. ” No…” I whimper. “Kaze Sama!”
‘Hitomi hime, run! Get out!’ his voice fades as the last of the ice blocks the only way out.
Behind Kaze’s disappearing form, I see a dark shadow appear on the other side of the ice. The figure seems to melt through the ice and step into the room without breaking it. What sort of demon is this? I take a step back, feeling utterly alone.
The figure who’s been following me for the past week or so stands before me and I realize now it is a man. A foreign man, with peach skin and blue eyes. Beneath his black attire, he wears a tweed brown suit vest that matches his messy chocolate brown hair and casual blue jeans.
“D-Dare desu ka?” [Who are you?] I ask, my voice shaky. My heart pounds wildly and I wish Kaze was here now.
“Boku wa Victor desu. Anata wo sagashite imashita.” [My name is Victor. I’ve been looking for you.]
I stare in shock at his Japanese, though I hear an accent. “Heh? Nihongo hanasemasu ka?” [You can speak Japanese?]
“Ma ma.” [Enough to get by,] he smiles sweetly. “Anata no eigo ga sonnani yokunai to kikimashita.” [I understand your English is not the greatest.]
“Na-na- Nande koko ni imasu ka?” [Why? Why are you here?] I take another step back.
He raises an eyebrow. “Mochiron anata wo tsuresare ni.” [For you, of course.]
“Heh!?… nande?” [But… why?] Kaze, where are you? I feel my hands shaking. If he was here, if only he was here, I could at least make a katana to defend myself. What could this foreigner, who can speak a decent amount of Japanese, want with me?
“Sono baka na shoudoushi wa tsutaeta deshou? Anata ga tokubestu da toiukoto.” [Surely those stuffy old monks told you, you’re special,] he chuckles.
Special? Monks? I don’t need a stranger to tell me I’m special. I’ve known I was different from others from an early age. That doesn’t explain why he wants me. Every fiber in my body screams I need to run. I peel my eyes away from him and dash through the house, looking for another way out. If I have to, I’ll jump out a window. I need Kaze Sama.
“Hitomi, jikan ga mottainai zo.” [You’re wasting your time, Hitomi!] He calls after me.
How does he know my name? I climb the steep steps to the second floor and slam into the wall as I slide on the tatami. I fumble with the latch locking the shoji over the window in place, and rip it open. Ice. I race to another and another and they’re all covered in ice. I don’t understand! My breath catches and I begin to hyperventilate.
What was it the priests told me to do when I’m in a panic? I can’t seem to remember as my hands shake and my breaths become shallower.
“Kidzutsuketakunai yo.” [I don’t want to hurt you.] Victor’s voice comes from behind me. He leans against the doorway, watching me patiently.
My knees give way and I sink to the floor, muttering. “Nande? Nande? Nande konna koto wo shiteimasu ka?” [Why are you doing this?]
He walks closer, crouching in front of me. He tilts his head with a bittersweet smile. “Gomen ne, Hitomi. Sensou ga atteirunde, anata ga sono saigo no kakera da.” [I’m sorry, darling. There’s a bit of a war going on, and you’re the last missing piece.]
“Wakarimasen! Nani wo iuteiru ka wakarimasen.” [I don’t understand. I don’t understand what you’re talking about!] I look into his clear green eyes and all I can think is that if Kaze Sama was here, I could get away.
Looking into his eye though, I feel a sense of calm come over me, like a gentle warm breeze on a hot summer day. It urges me to listen. I have to listen to him.
He stares at me for a moment, his face serious. “Ato de wakaru kara.” [You will, soon enough.]
As he looks at me, a chime from his pocket goes off. He frowns, looking annoyed as he stands up and pulls out a phone from one of the pockets in his coat.
I watch silently as he speaks in English to someone on the phone. I listen carefully, trying to make out what he is saying.
“What is it?” He says curtly.
He listens for a moment. His voice turns sour. “Complication? So, you failed again.” He rolls his eyes. “If you couldn’t handle the mission, you should have said so from the beginning. We would have sent someone more capable.”
A darkness falls over his expression as the other person speaks. He grinds his teeth and takes a deep breath. His gaze shifts, glaring down at me from the corner of his eye. “Very well. It seems I must do everything these days. You’re lucky my mission is already complete.”
I watch him, very confused at what he says. He looks angry and I shrink back against the wall. I thought Kaze said I was safe. I’ll never be safe. I should have never listened to him. I should have never sought out a friend. This is why being alone is always best.
He lowers the phone, tapping the screen to hang up. “Maa Hitomi, mou hitotsu shinai to ikenai koto ga fueta mitai.” [Well darling, it seems we will be making a detour.]
“Nande? Nani kana?” [Why? What for?] I ask in a small voice.
His lips twist up in one corner, into a lopsided smile. “Kini suru na. Koi. Ii ko dakara ne.” [You let me worry about that. Come along. You’ll behave now, won’t you?]
Slowly I nod my head yes. I feel helpless. What else can I do? My only choice is to follow him.
His smile widens. [Ii ko, Ii ko, nigeyou to shitemo muri dakara ne.] “Good. Should you change your mind and decide to fight me, or run away… Well, you won’t get far.”
I nod my understanding, slowly standing and wait for him to lead the way.
By Kayla West
Japanese edited by Rachel Blaine