Kaede didn’t bother to wait for us to settle down before going about her business.
“Since Wu is new and therefore unfamiliar with Shinogan, I’m going to assign a student to be his guide.” She swivelled her head to eye us like hunks of raw meat, dismissing one after the other as less than A-grade. And then she stopped at me. The corners of her mouth moved up to form a gaping smile and my stomach sank.
“Kanda.” I jerked. “I think you’ll do just fine.”
“Wu, you’ll take the vacant seat by him. If there are any questions, you ask him. And if by the end of the month, you don’t know everything about Shinogan, you tell me and we’ll come up with a suitable punishment.”
My eyes narrowed. Vindictive old bat. This was all just because I had been a little late for her classes on divination – for the past two weeks. It couldn’t have been helped. Some of the cases I’d gotten had been long and complicated, so I overslept. I didn’t do it just to avoid the divination classes that I always sucked at.
I watched as the Inugami possessor walked past me to his desk. Mitsuo was practically vibrating in his seat and Dominic had the first distinctly uncomfortable expression I’d ever seen on his face since his first day. Seriously, that dog was freaking huge. Its red eyes stared and I could have sworn it gave us all a good sniff before its master sat down on the desk. For a while, an awkward silence settled around us. Mitsuo was the first to give in to the urge to fill it.
“Hi, I’m Mitsuo Masuda.” Mitsuo had always been friendly. And just a little oblivious.
Wu didn’t look at him, although the dog did. He nodded slowly, eyes seemingly unfocused. Up close, I noticed they looked weird. His eyes were milky white, no irises, and melded with his face.
“Hello.” He said slowly. I jolted a bit, thinking ‘it talks!’
Actually, he had a nice voice, I thought stupidly, lyrical, and his Japanese accent was flawless.
“And this is Subaru Kanda.” Mitsuo introduced me. I gave a wave, still looking from dog spirit to master.
“I’m Dominic Giles. Just call me Dominic.” The blond added, since he was within the circle of conversation, staring wide-eyed at the dog spirit when the big head swivelled towards him. “Um…not to be rude, but it won’t eat me, will it?”
“Not unless he’s hungry.” Wu said in a quiet voice. I got the feeling that wasn’t his idea of a joke. Dominic managed an incredibly weak laugh and tried to lean out the window.
I noticed Wu’s left arm was heavily patched with bandages and seals, forming an unnatural bulge. I recognized a few of them. They were seals meant to control tremendous amounts of power that a person wouldn’t ordinarily be able to manage. His right arm was unadorned, which meant this was the arm that the Inugami possessed, so it was a partial possession. I hadn’t even known that was possible, the questions were just racking up.
When break started, Wu was predictably surrounded by curious students while the rest went to collect out winnings. I’d put down five thousand yen on Asian, thinking Wu would be someone else and even though I was relieved to be wrong, Wu brought a whole new problem.
Mitsuo hissed, “That was an Inugami. Isn’t that an Inugami?”
“It’s an Inugami.” I said grimly.
“Not to be ignorant, but what’s an Inugami?” Dominic’s mouth was permanently set to ‘open’.
“A dog spirit. There’s a famous Japanese legend based on it. The spirit survives by possessing the person who summoned it.”
“They’re wicked powerful.” Mitsuo said excitedly. “They can do all sorts of things.”
“Then why doesn’t everyone have one?” Dominic asked.
“They’re also impossible to get.” I said.
“It’s not impossible.” Mitsuo protested. “You just can’t really get one and…not be dead.” He finished, a little lamely.
“Hence the impossible.”
“Dead?” Dominic interrupted, sounding alarmed.
“The legend of Inugami starts off as an actual dog,” I said. “You bury the dog until only its head is exposed and starve it to death, leaving food where it can see but not so that it can eat. After it starves to death, you saw the head off, preferably with a bamboo saw and bury it in the road with all the human traffic and that intense mix of hatred and vengeance produces the Inugami. Supposedly, you can control it with food.” At least, that’s what the books claimed. In reality, it never worked out quite that perfectly. Things borne from cruelty tended to be cruel in nature.
“They aren’t like most summoned spirits, they’re capable of independent thought and have been known to possess the possessor. Survival rate is low.” I said.
“Really, really low.” Mitsuo nodded.
“Oh.” Dominic looked ill. “Then how did…”
“I don’t know. That’s why it’s so amazing!” Mitsuo bounced on his chair. “I don’t think he’s an Inugami-mochi, but…”
“Inugami-mochi?” The blond repeated.
“An Inugami-mochi is a person capable of reining the Inugami and survive and prosper, even sending it to attack others in an act of vengeance. They’re the Inugami owners. The spirit is passed down the family through generations and it helps you, grants wishes and it feels like a guardian angel, but you have to treat it well, cater to its needs, and be careful not to disobey or insult it in any way or turns on you. And there’s no going back, Inugami don’t leave until the entire family line is dead.” I said.
By now, Dominic had gone an interesting shade of lime. “Your legends are always so colorful.” He said.
“They’re supposed to be, to teach you not to meddle in stuff you don’t understand.”