#KuroMahiWeek Day 7: Mahiru’s Book of Friends
This has got to be the third time this week, and it’s only Tuesday.
I sprint along the path, tripping over roots, pushing through branches, running, running, running, deeper and deeper into the forest. I have no clue where I am. I have no clue where I’m going. I don’t even watch where I’m going. All my focus is on the shadows behind me, floating and huge, claws reaching for me, hollow, inhuman voices calling my name.
“The book! Give me the book!”
I swallow and run even faster. I’ve left the path now. The forest is getting thicker. The shadows behind me are still keeping up. My legs are getting heavier. Breathing is getting hard. I can’t keep going much longer… they’re going to–
Bright sunlight hits me in the face. Opening in front of me is a sudden clearing, right here in the middle of the forest. It looks bright green and calm and almost unnaturally round. I don’t pay much attention. I just run up to it. The ground there looks flat… I’ll be able to speed up again. Maybe I can manage to shake them off this time…
Something catches my foot, and a second later there’s the sound of something ripping in half.
Without a second thought I turn around and look down. A rope? Here?
There’s a low rumble. Then a roar. A tremor runs through the ground.
Crap. I unleashed something weird, didn’t I? Just what I need right now! Not!
I don’t look back. I just turn around, close my eyes and start running, faster than ever, and I don’t stop until I reach the end of the clearing and stumble over a root. The youkai’s voices have faded behind me. I peer over my shoulder…
The youkai are gone. Something black and enormous is blocking the way, a giant black mass of fur…
The next moment everything’s gone, and I’m alone on the edge of the clearing.
What just… happened?
Oh well. Looks like I got out of this safe, and that’s what matters. Seriously, what the hell is up with all those spirits? Just because I can see them… And they won’t even let me talk to them? What on earth is that book they’re talking about, anyway?
With an irritated sigh I turn around and make my way home. It takes some time to figure out where I am; we didn’t move here that long ago, and I’ve only been to this forest once before. And ever since we moved here I’ve been haunted by a bunch of spirits who can’t even say what they want from me. How do they even know my name in the first place, actually?
Uncle Tooru doesn’t bat an eye when I show up scratched, bruised and late again. He’s used to it by now. I think he’s worried, and I feel bad for him, but I think he knows me enough to trust me to stay safe.
I walk up the stairs to my room, open the door, and almost jump to the ceiling.
Lounging on the floor is a guy I’ve never seen before. He doesn’t look much older than me, tired, lanky, dressed in a coat in the middle of summer, and with huge bags under his eyes. If it wasn’t for his blue hair and red eyes I probably wouldn’t know what he is.
A freaking youkai. In my room.
“You!” I shout, slamming the door, walking over and picking him up in both hands. “What the hell are you doing in someone else’s room? Who are you, anyway?”
The guy groans and gives me a very, very tired look. “What a pain,” he says. “So noisy… You sure are a troublesome kid, huh?”
I lift him even higher. “Answer my question!”
“So troublesome.” The guy slumps in my hands. “All right, fine. I’m just your friendly neighborhood youkai. Who just got released after a nice, peaceful century under a seal.” He glares accusingly. “And it’s all your fault.”
That rope… the clearing… Could it be…?
“So?” I ask, half confused, half irritated. “I didn’t do it on purpose! I was running and I tripped!”
“Take care of me.”
Is he serious? “Like hell I will!”
“Take care of me. Otherwise I’m gonna eat you, or something.” He doesn’t look like he’d actually do it. “You owe me after making me deal with the outside world again.”
A knock on the window interrupts us. There’s a shadow floating outside, the same youkai who was chasing me earlier. A hand scrapes against the glass, a voice calls my name again. “Shirota!” it shouts. “Reiko! Give me the book! Give me the Book of Friends!”
“You’ve got the wrong person!” I shout against the window. “Reiko was my mom, and she’s dead! I’m her son, Mahiru! Ma! Hi! Ru!”
The youkai in my room yawns and twinkles up at me. “You look like a girl to them, Mahiru.”
“You shut up!”
“Okay, okay.” The youkai yawns again, stretches, and gets up to his feet. “Hold on.”
There’s a flash of light, and a second later there’s a giant lion sitting next to me, glowering at the window. “Back off. I call dibs on him.”
The other youkai disappears in a second. The lion turns back into a human, who sits down and makes a face. “So troublesome.”
“That…” I gape at him, starry-eyed. “That was amazing! Thanks a lot, uh…”
“I’ve got an idea, Kuro.” It’s probably not the best idea to make a deal with a spirit, but since this guy wants to stay at my place anyway, might as well ask something in return. “I look after you, but you have to become my bodyguard. How’s that sound?”
“Troublesome.” Kuro sighs, looks at me for a long moment, then he nods. “Deal.”