Chapter 10-1: Assignments

My supply of spell scrolls was running low, but staring at my ink and brush pen set and a stack of pencil-trace scripture paper, waiting to be completed, all I wanted to do was curl up in a fetal position and cry. Not necessarily in that order.

The smell of wood varnish crept a trail up my nose as I tried to press my face against the desk. My room, now that I thought about, had absolutely no personality. My reading material was kept in our basement where it was dry, cool and dark so the old scrolls could be preserved. The only movies I had were old Japanese ones that dealt with their own version of the supernatural, and instead of centrefolds, I had one scroll painting of the kuji-in: the nine hand seals that called upon your own powers as well as the power of the gods. Each seal represented a syllable of meaning and each had its own mantra, which was also written on the scroll.

I had nothing but all the teachings and training of Onmyoudo to represent myself. I was always the Kanda Onmyouji. I had nothing besides my name and title to represent myself. Who was I? Was my entire purpose in life just to be an Onmyouji or was I just doing what was expected of me?

Apparently, an identity crisis felt a lot like the beginnings of a panic attack.

“Subaru!” Hajime called up. “Mail for you!”

His face was grim when I came down and even before I saw the crisp, brown file envelope I knew what it was. The address was neatly typed in flowing Japanese script, my name was underlined twice, and it was closed with the red candle wax seal of the Underground Assembly.

The letter was short and sweet. I was to take care of this assignment tonight. The client’s name and contacts were included, as well as the fee. Hajime sat on the couch, pretending to read the newspaper while I folded up the letter.

“Are you taking it?” He knew what the letter meant. It was late nights and coming home ripped up or bleeding or both and sleeping-in in the mornings.

“Yeah.”

He didn’t say anything else, but it was a heavy, implication-filled silence.

“I’ll be back as soon as I can.” Just because I was going through something didn’t mean there weren’t still responsibilities to take.

“We’ll be here,” He muttered.

I went to my closet first and dug out my Onmyouji outfit. It was dark blue to blend into the night and designed after the kariginu fashion in the Heian era, a robe with a stiff, round collar that fastened closed in the right side of the neck with a frog and huge, billowing sleeves with inner pockets. The sleeves were attached to the upper back for a few inches and gaping open at the top. I wore a robe underneath and used a belt to tie it close so it hung to mid-thigh. I wore a sashinuki – a kind of hakama pants that ballooned over the leg with the fabric fastening down the calves. The last part came with thick two-toed socks and plastic-soled sandals. Surveying my ‘hidden’ cache of weapons, I slipped daggers inside the pockets of my sleeves, the spells, charms, and amulets went into my belt attaché and I tucked a few paper Shiki’s inside my robe.

The outfit made me feel archaic, like I was stepping way back in time when there were still oxen-pulled carriages and high-class women had to talk through shades so men wouldn’t see their faces. It had been passed down the Kanda’s for generations, altered over the years to suit the fashion of the times. When it came to me, I added pockets.

The clothes were only as comfortable as habit could form and I wouldn’t normally wear them – like I didn’t get enough weird looks already – but appearance was everything. I was fifteen, and looked it. The last time I’d gone to a client in my regular clothes it had taken an hour and a personal phone call from the Underground Assembly for the clients to let me into the house.

I had yet to hit any kind of growth spurt despite constant reassurances from my brothers that it was right there, just around the corner, swear to god.

Liars. But with this outfit, I looked authentic. Or crazy.

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