“There’s a new tenant in my room,” Neji sits atop his standing closet. Speaking aloud has become a habit with himself. For someone like him, he can speak and no one will be able to hear. Neji stares down to the said person sleeping down below with despondent eyes. “She’s been here for a week and I can’t get rid of her. It’s not because of the salt, nor red beans, nor incense, bells, strings,” his mind trails off. There are too many things this tenant has brought in with her from the outside to protect herself.
It is not because of the talisman she mounted on her door to prevent ghosts from following her inside. It is also not because of the talisman at the foot of the doorway preventing him from leaving. Neji doesn’t even know why such a thing exists here in this plane with him. Neji has no purpose roaming about anywhere outside his apartment room. Therefore, that talisman doesn’t count to him. He has tried crossing it, and he has done so quite flawlessly. It is not the handful of garlic she hangs by the door to the kitchen. It is not the cross above the only window in the room. Neji’s eyes quickly dart to the tiny hand-sewn jewelry bag with scented twigs and amulets. He glimpses past the half-opened closet to where she tucked the pesky thing. It is not that either.
“It’s because of her massive spiritual strength,” Neji finally admits. His eyes glue back to the white aura sitting on the said tenant. Ever since she moved into his apartment, this spirit of her’s has been guarding her without fail.
On the first night of her move-in, Neji believed he’d be able to chase this new tenant out with the flick of his wrist. His reputation is quite high in the underworld for how quickly he can disturb and kick humans to the curb. Several times, men and women of varying abilities have come to chase him out of his home but to no avail. It seems as if luck is on his side when this woman became his new tenant. She looked like a weak soul carrying all sorts of ghost deterrents into his home. However, he was wrong.
Before Neji can attempt to seep into this tenant’s dreams on the first night, the blinding light of her spirit takes form. She guards herself the entire night, keeping her eyes locked onto him wherever he goes. Neji is afraid that this woman’s spirit can eradicate him at the swing of her polearm. Yet for the entirety of the week that she’s been here, all that they’ve done is exchanging threatening glares. And for that, Neji does not know whether he wanted to test that weapon.
“Honestly, I’m a bit intimidated, even for a ghost.” Neji disappears from the top of the closet to occupy the distance at the head of the woman’s futon. He can see her spirit twisting her head eerily towards him. It somewhat puts him between two hard places, seeing how much fear she’s cascading down to him. His spirits have never been this low in scaring the living life out of a human before. He doesn’t know when to strike.
The night is the most optimal for any ghost to get their schemes on, seeing as it is when any person is the most vulnerable. But when it comes to this tenant, Neji knows he’ll have to step out of his comfort zone.
Knowing the little details humans like to attribute to themselves isn’t a task ghosts like to do, especially Neji. Knowing their names, where they work, what path they take, what they like to eat, or wear, or watch— it is what will make ghosts attach themselves to people. And once ghosts become attached, that person will die. Frankly speaking, Neji has heard it is because any attachment to a human means that their person of attachment’s soul will be eaten away. He doesn’t quite remember who told him, but it is a fixed rule ingrained in his brain. Regardless, a ghost with an attachment problem will grow to be a menace, a demon if they aren’t careful. And when they become a demon, grim reapers will come to collect them and bind them eternally to hell.
It sounded convoluted to Neji when he first heard it or thought of it, but he does not want to question it. He has died a wrongful death, making him eligible to roam the living in search of his wrongdoer. But in the three years staying cooped up in the place of his death, he has found no compelling reason to search for the said person. Neji doesn’t wish to be vengeful for it can manifest itself and eat what human qualities he has left. He’s found his afterlife quite amusing nonetheless, haunting unsuspecting tenants as a ghost should be doing.
But as for this new tenant, Neji knows he has to learn about her little details if he wants to get rid of her. There is no way he can co-exist in a place where he’s being threatened.
A week into their shared place, Neji already knows she is a human person with extraordinary spiritual strength. He discovered her name the second day when she left the apartment.
“Mei, Tenten,” Neji mouths, slowly circling around the woman’s sleeping figure. Her spirit continues to watch his every move.
On weekdays, this “Tenten” would jolt herself awake at the first cry of her alarm. Neji discovered she had racked the volume on her phone to the maximum to assure she’d be awake in time for whatever human job she needed to attend to. On days like these, she’d frantically thrash herself about for approximately ten minutes before bolting out the door. And when she’s frantic, worrying about anything other than how haunted her apartment is, there is no amount of fear Neji could instill into her.
However, on days where she had no human affairs outside, where her alarm wouldn’t ring, Neji found her demeanor to change. This “Tenten” is a massive scaredy-cat. She’d wake up but keep her blankets above her head. And for the next twenty or so minutes, she’d mumble verses to herself to calm her spiked sensitivity before cautiously lowering the blanket down to her chin. Neji first witnessed this on her first weekend here. She had her eyes closed when she pulled the blanket down. She faced the wall where her towel hung, where Neji sat above the lowest shelf staring at her. And when her eyes began to crack, Neji swore he just discovered her worst secret.
“This tenant can see ghosts,” Neji now stands in front of the woman’s frightening spirit. He steps back, recalling the length of the spirit’s polearm. Neji then nods, stroking his chin as if this secret is one of the firsts for him.
There was a tenant with a hideous bowl cut who had the ability to see ghosts. As Neji had heard, the landlord did not warn this bowled-cut individual that the room he was staying was haunted. Neji did not know what this bowled-cut person had said to the landlord after witnessing Neji crouching over him one night. However, all that he knew was that there were fewer and fewer new tenants willing to move in. It was a grace period, allowing Neji to have his place to himself. That was until shamans, priests, and monks started coming by on the regular to chase him out. Of course, they all had failed for he still occupied his room.
Neji stepped back from the woman’s spirit until his back hits the windowsill. He snaps his fingers, realizing how easy it will be to mess with her on the weekends. “What will she do when she realizes all these gimmicks on her walls don’t affect me?” Neji chuckles to himself, earning a slight eyebrow raise from the spiritual guardian. He resumes his disdained look and crosses his arms, “This will be an easy win.” Neji smirks at the sleeping tenant’s massive spirit. He will follow this person tomorrow wherever she goes to learn more about her.
Today is the first day of the tenant’s second week here, Neji does as he’s told himself he’d do. He followed her out of his apartment. He stays just three walking steps away from her, trailing behind her like a wagon. Neji isn’t sure if she knows he’s there. She hasn’t made it known although she is quite stiff. In the short walk from his apartment to the bus stop, Neji finds little to no ghosts walking about in the daylight. Those whom he can spot are more than a mile away. They don’t seem to want to be close to this tenant of his’. Nonetheless, he shrugs. Conversing with other ghosts isn’t his forte. It is one of the reasons why he has stayed in his apartment ever since his demise. On this day, Neji learns that his tenant employs herself as a bogus tarot card reader. She shares a workplace with an equally bogus woman shaman.
Ghosts don’t sleep; they merely rest their eyes.
Neji gives up on being the night ghoul for this new tenant of his’. After a hearty day following this woman, he returns back home to rest his eyes. He occupies the wide floor of his room, spreading his limbs carelessly. At some point in which he lost his sense of time, Neji is awakened by a light poke to his arm. The sight of his new tenant staring right back at him with her cattish eyes scares the dead soul in him. Neji shrieks loudly, popping himself like a bubble into nonexistence. A human just touched him and no human is supposed to be able to physically interact with an apparition.
“I can hear you screaming,” the tenant advises him.
Neji gasps, “Oh no.”
“I can see you too,” she adds. “I can touch you, smell you, I can probably taste you too.”
She is quite relentless. Neji shrinks himself into the kettle fixated on the dish rack. He has never encountered anyone who is able to treat him as if he is human.
“Can you come out?” she is looking everywhere for him.
“You’re out of your mind!” Neji curses. Hastily, he sees her stomping into the kitchen. She reaches for the kettle, prompting Neji to thrust out and onto the top of the standing closet. A tiny beam is his trail and her eyes catch his speedy escape. Somehow, she has cornered her house ghost. Neji cradles his knees and stares down at her, somehow shaking in fear. It is almost probable that she can be the one to send him either to heaven or to hell. “Why are you doing this?” he asks her whilst cowering.
Neji can tell she is afraid of him as well with the way her lips and knees are trembling. Slowly, her spine straightens up with each vertebra. Her eyes are on him like a cat to a target. She then parts her lips, “Because you’re not a ghost.”
The glimpse of certainty in her golden eyes almost convinces Neji she’s correct. He frowns at her for a few seconds until it dawns on him how ridiculous this situation is. Neji begins to laugh. His hair falls down to darken his face. It is then that his tenant cowers and steps away from him. “If I’m not a ghost, then what am I?” Neji slips down from the top of the closet. He approaches her with a threatening demeanor. In his mind, he wonders if his ghoulish tactics are scaring her enough to drive her out.
“I- I don’t really know,” she shakily resounds. Her eyes seem to regret approaching him.
The tenant is a conundrum Neji can’t really understand. When she’s awake, she’s a spineless human who’ll jump at every sound. And when she’s asleep, she’s formidable, being capable of sending him back to life and to death again. “What exactly are you?” Neji asks.
The tenant’s eyes avert to the ground. From there she closes them for just one second before they’re back on him. And when they glue themselves onto him again, Neji gets a feeling she has something up her sleeve. She parts her lips and speaks, “If- if I tell you, you have to promise to help me.”
Neji draws back, squinting his eyes at the ludicrosity, “You’re kidding.”
“I- I am serious,” she rustily stands her ground.
“I want you out of my home,” Neji quickly disregards her request.
“I’ll do it if you help me.”
Neji scoffs, “You’re a sly person!”
“Please help me-”
“Get out of my house-”
“I’ll do it as soon as you help me.”
“You don’t get to interrupt a ghost!”
The tenant flinches with the light above them flickering. She rubs her right ear with a knuckle.
Neji almost worries for her but recalls that it is she who is being unreasonable. “What, got your ear ringing?” The tenant glares at him just like her spirit throwing knives with her stares during the night. Neji steps back, being reminded of her extraordinary power.
“I- I really don’t want to ask her to kill you.”
Neji’s mouth runs agape, “What?”
Before he can further his concerns, she continues, “Please enter an agreement with me, Neji.”
Neji feels as if he should disappear into thin air again. He has forgotten his own name in the years he spent alone, not hearing anyone use it. However, this person somehow knows his name. Not even the shamans, priests, nor monks who have visited him can even put his name on their tongues.
“What are you?”