September 14, 2010

Okurokami - part 12

Teruro pushed off of the Portuguese ship and started to navigate the small fishing boat through the moonlit bodies.

“You don’t have to go around the bodies, you know.” Takeko said, “They aren’t really there.”
“Eh? Hmm… Is that so?” Teruro tried to poke one of the pale bodies with the oar and watched the image ripple the way a reflection on the surface would.
“You know, Takeko, I have some questions for you…” he said as he sculled.
“Why don’t you start by telling me what happened on the ship?”
Takeko shrugged, “Nothing much, a guy with a crooked club tried to bash my head in, but I kinda hit him first.”
“Yeah, my blow passed through his face. He wasn’t really there. Then, he ran away through the side of the boat, onto the water, and vanished.”
“…” Teruro looked pensive.

Drifting clouds dampened the moonlight and the ghostly image of the bodies faded from view.

“I understand that your master was cast out from his order for being more devout as a follower of the way of the blade than that of Buddha. Clearly he has trained you in way of true battle.”
Takeko nodded and shrugged.
“But why is it that nothing seems to faze you?”
Takeko sighed, “I guess I was going to have to tell you sooner or later. As you know, I have visions… I experience those visions from the point of view of a person in my vision. Everything they feel, see or hear, and, to some extent, think- I experience as well. But the real kicker is that while, to the world, my visions last anything from a few seconds to up to thirty minutes, their duration is unrelated to how much time I experience within it.”
“Eh? So then…”
“Yes, By the time I was twelve I had already experienced several lifetimes worth of visions. The highs of human achievements, the low of human weakness, and a great amount of everyday human activity. But then I figured out how to control it and only had visions when I chose to…”
“How did you get control over it?”
Takeko looked at Teruro, as if gauging his soul, and shrugged as she decided to trust him… “The secret is in my hair… When people look into my hair, they see truths about themselves. Sometimes people don’t want to hear the truth about themselves. When I look into it, I have visions…”
“So the cloth in that box you carry is woven from your hair… And that’s why you keep your head shaven.”
Takeko nodded.
Teruro frowned, “Hmm… Well, I guess that leaves me with just one question.”
“Ok…What is it?” Takeko said guardedly.
“We’ve been traveling together for a few day now. How is it that your pack seems three times bigger now than when we left?”
“Oh, I just I picked some stuff up along the way…”
“Yes… Well… When we stopped at that teahouse I got some rice, some dried fish, a pot of miso, and another of umeboshi… I picked up some chestnuts in that forest we walked through… in the galley of the ship I got…”
“Ok, ok I get the picture…”
“Hey look we’re coming to shore… I smell food!”


“You again.” Teruro said tersely as he leapt off of the boat and started pulling it onto the beach.
The young man’s hale and unshaven face split into a winsome grin. “Yep me again.”
“Oh hi, it’s you! Do you have enough for us too?” Takeko enthused.

The muscular young man blinked in surprise and then chucked softly.
“As a matter of fact, I have! Right this way miss. My name is Ingen by the way.”
Takeko followed Ingen into one of the nearby huts… Teruro frowned, checked the surroundings, and shrugged as he followed the other two.
“I have a pot of Shijimijiru* going and there are a half-dozen Sanma** roasting next to the fire.”


“Hmm… You were clearly expecting us. How long have you been here?” Teruro asked.
“I’ve been here for two days, I came straight here from the tavern where we first met.”
“Ha. I told you going through mountains would take longer!” Takeko exclaimed triumphantly.
“Apparently so… But that’s not important. What I’d like to know is, who are you? Why did you come here? What do you want?”
The young man shrugged dismissively, “I’m Ingen.” After a dramatic pause, he went on to conclude, “And I’m going to kill the man you are after.”
“Hey guys, since you aren’t eating your fish… Can I have them?” Takeko asked, pointing at the four remaining fish with the bones of two she had eaten.

*Shijimijiru = Miso soup with clams 
**Sanma = Pike Mackerel

September 6, 2010

Okurokami - part 11

The ship was silent - eerily silent- a black monolith hulking on an impenetrable pane of mirror-like obsidian.

In the captain’s cabin Teruro swore under his breath as he meticulously searched through drawers and cabinets looking for a clue. He was slowly coming to the realization that his was a fruitless task and that being able to read Portuguese would have been useful.

In a completely different part of the ship.
A random assortment of items flew over her shoulders as Takeko rifled through cabinets and barrels. "Aha!" She exclaimed triumphantly, stuffing salted herring, some cured pork, half a dozen apples, and mid-sized sack of rice into her increasingly large pack.

Abruptly a sound like horse-hooves over a wooden bridge echoed through the ship.

Takeko asked herself, “What was that?” but shrugged and resumed her busy looting. A shadow loomed behind. Pale moonlight glinted off of a crooked raised golden club. An evil-looking grin flashing white under the brim of a plumed hat.

A moment in time crystallized… then shattered as Takeko whirled, slamming two feet of club-like chorizo through the face of her attacker. Takeko seemed unphased that her attack had no effect on her intangible attacker. On the other hand, its face registered first shocked bewilderment then fear. It turned in a panic and frantically fled, its golden getas hammering against the floor.

Takeko shrugged, hiked her heavy pack over shoulder and jogged after it, but it quickly vanished into the gloom of the hall… its presence marked only by the sound of its metal shoes against the floorboards. Then there was a great crash and the sound of splintering wood. Takeko came to a stop in front of a gaping hole in the hull of the ship. Looking out of it she could see the figure of her attacker bounding away over the water, barely touching the glass-like top, each step leaving small concentric rings of ripples that quickly disappeared.

A shift in the clouds changed the light and the figure vanished like a shadow. The opaque glassy surface turned clear, revealing the pale bodies of the crew just under the surface…

Teruro’s voice called out from above, “Ok… Come up to the deck, I think it’s time for us to leave.”

Image composed from stuff found online...
Takeko's assailant is an homage to Satoshi Kon's shonen bat. 
Satoshi Kon died recently and the world lost an original story teller.