"The spirits of the recently dead who have not yet achieved the sorei [purified] status, however, have not travelled far enough to be close to the world of the dead, nor moved far enough from the world of the living. These aramitama float insecurely in the world in-between. For this reason, it becomes extremely important for family members to offer undivided prayers and offerings. If they fail to do so, the spirit may linger around the home longer than it should, and it may haunt the members of the family and cause adverse consequences."
--Akira Y. Yamato, Japanese Ghosts and Demons
Shaman, Chapter 6
released 26th September, 2004
Subaru frowned from where he knelt on the ground, ungloved hand stretched above the bloodstain all the water in the world would not be able to clean away. He could feel the roiling malevolence of the spiritual energy in the area, but the ghost itself was not there. Until he got to the base of the murder, he sensed, it would remain the same, and the accidents would continue. Sighing, he straightened.
"I'll need to call in assistance," he told the policeman who had brought him to the murder site.
Sakon entered the crime scene with care. Subaru had called him earlier, asked for his and Ukon's help. It seemed that solving murders was more their line than their teacher's.
Subaru awaited him, leaning against one wall, black coat over black shirt and jeans. It was as if, Sakon thought, the two of them were shadows. As if Subaru, too, was a bunraku performer, hidden from the audience in plain sight. The onmyouji straightened as Sakon and Ukon approached, gesturing at the spot where a stain spilled across the carpet. "What do you see?"
Sakon approached and knelt. "It's a few days old," he remarked.
"Heh, we usually have more to go on than this," Ukon agreed. "This is just blood. Doesn't say much."
"No." Subaru knelt down next to them. "I asked, what do you see,?"
Sakon's eyes widened as he suddenly understood what the onmyouji had meant.
Taking a deep breath, he closed his eyes and reopened them.
Where the dark stain of blood had been there was now a tangle of threads, many of them red, a few blue or green, leading off in several directions.
"A knot?" he questioned. He reached out to the threads. His hand passed through them and suddenly they all glowed white. He felt pain, like they'd cut him, and light-headed as though his blood was draining away--
A hand snatched his back.
"If you touch them, sometimes they'll try to take you with them," Subaru cautioned. "Particularly when they have that much hate in them."
"That's... a tama?" Ukon asked, wide-eyed.
"No, it's where the tama should be," the onmyouji corrected. "It's been stolen. Those," he said, nodding at the threads, "are the karmic bonds that should be tying it to this spot."
Sakon looked at him. "How can you steal a ghost?"
"There are ways," Subaru admitted, "but none like this. If it was a soul-eater, the knot in the threads would be ripped apart. As it is, it's as though a thief--" His lips quirked. "--Twenty Mensou, for example--had simply held the threads long enough to extract it."
"So you think the murderer's this thief?" Ukon queried.
Subaru looked back at the knot. "I don't know," he replied.
The person who called himself Aya looked up from his book. It was between their usual noon rush of lunch customers and the afternoon rush of schoolgirls, so his coworkers had left him to run the shop on his own while they went out to pick up lunch. He didn't mind. It meant that it was peaceful enough for him to get some reading done in between helping the odd customer who wandered in off the street.
The two men who had just opened the Koneko no Sumu Ie's door, however, did not appear to be interested in chrysanthemums. To Aya's eye they were either plainclothes policemen or private investigators in search of some information. Why else would they be here?
Unless, his inner voice reminded him, it was something to do with the flowershop "mistakenly" being thought the base of the "terrorist" group Weiss last year....
Aya pushed the thought down and away. It was over, Takatori was dead, and the government had publicly apologized for their misidentification. "May I help you, gentlemen?" he asked, putting his book down and standing.
"You work here?" one asked shortly.
He refrained from the urge to point out his apron and rolled-up sleeves. "Yes."
"We need some information on a flower arrangement that came from this shop a week and a half ago," the other man said with a smile. "It went to the home of Matsukaze Yoshirou last Monday." Aya raised an inner eyebrow, identifying an attempt at playing good cop/bad cop.
"I'll have to check the record books. Just a moment," Aya excused himself, unimpressed. He went to the Koneko's back room, where he and Omi kept the books that logged inventory and orders. He pulled out the newest order journal and took it out to the shop. He had already recognized the name. It was one of their fake orders, a delivery from an anonymous buyer to let one of them familiarize themselves with a target's home. Ken had been the delivery boy this time. Aya himself had gotten the target, though. The police officers were checking back on that delivery to see if they could find a lead.
They wouldn't. The Koneko's system for the fake orders was very good.
Aya set the book down on the table in the center of the shop, opening it to the most recent page, then thumbing back two sheets to the date of the delivery. "Here you are." He pointed out the entry. In one column was the delivery information; next to that were the details of the desired arrangement, then price, and finally purchaser information. That last box was blank.
"What does this mean?" the taller partner asked, pointing at the blank box.
Aya shrugged. "She didn't want a name on the card, and she paid cash. We often make anonymous deliveries. A lot of people don't want the recipients to know who sent the flowers." Which was true.
"Do you remember anything about her?" the shorter detective asked.
Birman had been the one to deliver the mission tape. "She had black hair and brown eyes. Not too tall." He indicated a height with his hand. "She didn't really stand out." The woman didn't; Birman was practically a human chameleon.
"Hmm. Nothing else you can give us?" The taller policeman seemed to be the "good cop" of the pair. Aya shook his head. The man produced a card and handed it to him. "If you remember anything, or she comes in again, give us a call, okay?"
Aya nodded, then picked up the orders book as the men headed towards the front door. "Please come again," he said automatically as they left.
Subaru leafed through police reports. In his line of work, he had to do this a bit too often, so skimming them to find the information he needed had become necessarily easy. Sakon, also, didn't seem to be having a hard time of it. Ukon was sitting in the puppeteer's lap, snoring softly. Subaru suspected he'd wake up the instant either of them found something.
"Is it bad for you to be missing your work to help me with mine?" Subaru asked quietly, examining Matsukaze's cook's shopping trips for the past month. He flipped a page.
"Not really," Sakon replied. "We're taking a few days' break before starting on rehearsals for the next production."
Subaru finished the report and sighed. "Everyone who's been on the estate in the past year has worked for the family for at least ten years."
Matsukaze had been murdered late at night in his own study by a mysterious killer who had managed not to trip a single alarm.
"Do you think the killer was something... supernatural?"
Subaru shook his head. "There is something odd about the way his spirit is bound, but that could be attributable to other forces. He was definitely killed by a blade weapon. Even if it was a kamaitachi, the closest spiritual force of which I know, the injury would have been much more precise." He remembered seeing Aoki use his powers that way. Conjured of will, the wind's defining edge was literally an atom's width of air. Even conjured or mystical swords were in the end made of metal; Matsukaze had definitely been killed by a mundane force. Which still left the problem of the murderer's entry. "What concerns me the most is how the killer got in and out without setting anything off."
"There was mention of a few deliveries," Sakon said. "A plumber, a florist, and an... online porn store?" The puppeteer's pale skin began to flush. Subaru kindly bit back a smile. After Karen, little could fluster him. Sakon, it seemed, couldn't yet claim the same reserve.
"Hey, maybe we should do our own investigation on those deliveries," Ukon suggested, waking suddenly. "Police miss things, y'know?"
"Don't let Kaoruko-neesan hear you say that," Sakon advised his partner.
Caveat: The crossover just crossed further. The title of the Weiss Kreuz manga is "An Assassin and White Shaman," which, along with Subaru's theories on purple eyes, is inspiring a three-series melee. And, yes, there is a line in there which is a reference to two of Leareth's wonderful TB/X stories. ^_^Back to Chapter 5 On to Chapter 7 Tales From a Ramen Stall page Send comments to author