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Known Unknowns

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Taki Tooru knows that her parents disapprove of her continuing her grandfather’s collection of items related to Japanese folklore and spirits. She knows that they see it as best utter nonsense and at worst; it makes them feel uneasy and superstitious.

She found it frustrating as a child; how could they not be filled with wonder at the possibilities and history represented… But now that she has experienced so many things thanks to these items – she understands their concerns, even as it makes her even more determined to hold onto these items, to understand them further.

Ignorance isn’t any form of protection at all from the danger, and there are no guarantees that she wouldn’t have stumbled into similar problems regardless, according to the tales that Natsume and Tanuma have been kind enough to share. Tanuma more easily than Natsume, although she’s sure that Natsume has far more stories within him – both for good and bad.

The only defence she has is to learn more, learn enough to avoid danger – and just maybe, learn enough that she can help and protect her friends the way that they have helped her.

But if she’s to learn more, she needs to find more resources. Which is why, she is now determinedly drawing circles around all of the walkways. It’s not much, but maybe it will help give her a hint, when dealing with this party, she only knows from letters sent to her household, about his interest in her Grandfather’s scrolls. She’s told him quite firmly that she’s not interested in selling, but he’s replied quite quickly, with his interest in seeing what she has documented and indexed so far, and that he’d love to have a copy of the photographs she has taken so far.

Natori tilts his hat further down as he carefully wove his way through the crowd of people, towards his destination, of where the last known location of a very valuable set of scrolls could be located – and apparently there are a lot more now as part of the collection, than the ones he already knew of.

The owner is explicit in their wishes not to sell, but it’s worth the opportunity to read the information at least, and being able to see the scrolls will let him know if it’s worth the effort trying to persuade them otherwise. Although there seems to have been some exorcists in that family’s past, the recent generations have been completely mundane… They probably don’t have any real understanding or appreciation of the items in their collection, so it may still be possible to convince them otherwise. Also he now has access to some excellent forgers.

His thoughts jump again, really it’s quite interesting how familiar he finds this pathway, much more so than he had originally thought when he carefully jotted down the instructions, which were now nestled in his pocket. It’s true that Hitoyoshi is not far from his home in Sakaki, as well as the fact that he has been spending a lot more time in Hitoyoshi recently, due to various things of interest, such as the delightful Natsume and his intriguing fat cat, as well as researching some of the aspects of Matoba and trying to limit Matoba’s influence in this area.

But he finds these pathways in particular familiar, more than he thought he would, given that it has been several years since he has come to the place – and he’s only been here once with Taki Shinichirou who acted polite and interested in what Natori had to say, but was quite keen to maintain his own collection.

Natori at the time hadn’t felt comfortable pushing the matter further, although he had become inspired by the man’s poker face. There were several youkai, hanging on his shoulder and the man didn’t even blink – not even when one of the smaller ones started having a silly argument on the window sill about what type of tea was being served, and another came to investigate. He had felt hope, that maybe there could be peace between youkai and humans – with the trust the man must obviously hold with the spirits in his household as they carefully watched over his oblivious grandchild, drawing and colouring strange circles. A preliminary to learning sealing techniques, Natori had been sure of at the time, and the information on “an interesting researcher, that you should talk to”, that was being given to him was a roundabout way of pointing him to a new teacher for himself.

It was only until much later on, after realising that the researcher in question was strictly mundane – a collector of folklore who found “the kind of nonsense that the human mind can dream of, absolutely fascinating”; that Natori realised that the old man probably couldn’t see youkai at all and it hadn’t been a test.

It was bitterly disappointing for himself, after having been briefly filled with hope, that perhaps this meant that there was a member of the household who held talents similar to himself…

He hadn’t visited himself a second time, but instead had sent one of his shiki to confirm for him the situation. The analysis from his shiki was not promising. No member of the household has the ability to see youkai – or even sense them, and there are a lot around the house. There are quite a few circles surrounding the place which, looked like they could have been derived from one of the older seals used for when you wanted to entice a spirit into becoming extra talkative, but didn’t wish to risk offence… But the patterns were wrong; it was corrupted and wouldn’t work correctly.

Sasago was pretty clear in her assessment at the time, “It’s harmless to spirits now – there’s no way it could influence their actions now and it was always a very weak technique – used for spirits that were already inclined to be friendly. There’s no focus either – even with a failed seal you can sense intent – this is absent minded scrawling.”

It was for this reason he didn’t push very hard when speaking on the phone to Taki Shinchirou’s daughter in law. She was very polite but clear, that although she thought it was all nonsense and would rather it left the house – her daughter had absolutely doted upon their grandfather and was quite keen to keep all items that reminded her of precious time spent with her grandfather.

Natori remembered the little girl who had naively scribbled circles, while surrounded by spirits… It generally became harder to see spirits not easier, so it was unlikely she could be like him. Still he understood the wish to hold on to previous memories of a family member. At the time he had thought it was unlikely, given how spiritually unaware the family was, that it could be anything particularly valuable.

Natori’s grown up a lot since that point and he knows just how easily families can forget generations of knowledge now, having seen even in his own generation, exorcist families being hit hard and forced to forget, as part of their way of escaping the revenge of youkai fixated upon their ancestors… Regardless of what happens, he plans to do a little scouting on the side to make sure nothing too terrible is lurking around nearby.

Although when he sees the giant circles etched by the entrance, he can’t help but feel a little hope. These look far too certain and practised to have been drawn without some level of determination. Perhaps this time, he will meet someone a little like him.

Tooru notices a flicker of something, just to the side of the circle, as Natori-san comes through the entrance to the front of her house. It doesn’t necessarily mean much, Natsume’s advised that there are lots of spirits that were fond of her grandfather that like to hang around the place, and her grandfather always claimed that he never saw anything solid himself… But it makes her feel hopeful that something useful might come out of this meeting.

She wonders if the tattoo of what looks like a lizard leg, she can see peaking just underneath his sleeve as he raises his hand, near the doorway, standing in another of her circles, means anything.

Natori looks vaguely familiar, and is utterly charming. It’s really easy to talk with him, although she can see his eyes skimming the works, greedily storing away knowledge, he always shows interest in the history that she has to share and expands upon little gaps in her knowledge. They’ve been sticking clearly to discussing from a mythology point of view and not “I’m worried that something will threaten to eat my friends again”, but it’s been quite informative, he’s directed her to some books that talk a lot about making protective amulets, and she thinks the momentarily flash of seriousness on his face was genuine.

There’s a moment where he’s talking about finding random items on his holidays, such going to a hot spring with a friend – and there’s just something, a phrase that rings bells in her mind, before she gasps, her mind racing with opportunities.

Natori stops for just a moment, his expression questioning? It’s been a very pleasant afternoon and there’s been some interesting things mixed in the scrolls. The high resolution photographs Taki has promised him should be sufficient for his needs, and Urihime and Sasago are both roaming for further information.

“Oh I just realised where I recognise you from.” Taki-san smiles, and Natori started preparing his most beaming and shallow smile, this happens on a regular occasion and folklore merely adds to his ‘mysterious air’ that contributes to his popularity. The reason for her recognition though is uncommon though, “You’re a friend of Natsume, right? We met briefly once, near his house.”

“Ah yes”, Natori smiles, watching her cheeks go adorably pink. He doesn’t remember seeing her, although he doesn’t always pay attention to the people who flitter near but don’t appear too close to Natsume. “Natsume is a good boy”, he starts raising a hand to his face, wondering how he should explain their friendship. Taki-san hasn’t paid any attention to is shiki floating around, and Natsume isn’t the sort to talk about the spiritual world – or appreciate being brought up in conversations about the spiritual world – but finds himself interrupted, when she stares at his wrist. He looks at it from the corner of his eye, but he’s not sure what she may have seen. He had seen his birthmark on his face in the reflection not too long ago, and she’s never startled at it moving previously…

“Sorry”, she interrupts him, her face suddenly shifting in expression “I thought I heard something by the window – would you mind coming with me?”

“But of course”, Natori smiles, secretly pleased by the interruption, he must have been mistaken, but he will try and use caution going forward.

There’s another one of the circles drawn near the window, but Taki-san steps into it easily, the youkai sitting on the sill, move easily out of her way. “Oh, she calls out. There’s a beautiful bird in the garden – you really must see it, stepping to the side allowing him to go through. He’s sure that she’s watching him as he looks easily out, noting that the lizard is on his face once again from the reflection in the glass on the window, but he’s not sure what she’s looking for... since her eyes are downcast, and when he comments he can’t see the bird, she looks out first, saying “oh it must of flown away”, before she turns back to face him – and gasps.

Well, that’s certainly interesting. This afternoon's conversation has been pretty interesting, but perhaps this evenings will be even more so.