Nozomi rubbed her eyes, and rolled over onto her back, staring up at the light bulb. She loved to read, and she’d been reading all day, but these books were very heavy going – even the Kami book, aimed at kids, was dry and completely devoid of any illustrations to break up the endless blocks of text. More importantly, she’d found nothing useful.
She rubbed her eyes again, and rolled back to face the books. She leaned on her shoulders and rested her cheeks on her wrists. Maybe she was overthinking it all. After all, the Mayor had visited the school before. It was part of her job. And that bit of conversation she’d overheard could have meant anything. That ‘plan’ could have just been about the new Shrine. In fact, now she thought about it, it was most likely. She rolled her eyes, cursing herself for being so silly. I’m just looking for clues where there are none…maybe I should just give up this whole search…
She picked up a chunk of pages and flicked through the pages idly. Then she stopped. She could feel a strange groove under her thumb, where the smooth edges of the pages seemed to skip for just a moment. In it’s place there was…well, nothing. There’s nothing where there should be pages.
She flicked through to the strange gap. Her heart gave a thump: there was the ragged edges of four or five pages torn out quite violently. The tear lines were crisp and white: this had happened recently. She gulped. Okay. So this is a pretty good clue.
She shook the haze out of her head and focus on the page just before it.
Kami have long been tied with traditions, but in the days of Feudal Japan, they were a fact of life. During the great war of the shoguns, Kami were said to have been awoken and recruited, supposedly tamed into submission by the might of the great Shogun. Of course, such tales are now regarded as part of myth and legend, and yet the writings and tales from that era are remarkably consistent and detailed, even when told from different sides of the battle. The greatest concentration of these stories seem to come from the Kanto Plain, with an unusual amount mentioning the mountain of Kasayama.
Kasayama! Nozomi’s jaw dropped.
Of course, virtually all mountains were seen as the abodes of a Kami in those days, with one stark exception: Kasayama. No Kami resided in the shrine atop this peak, and it allegedly never has, therefore making the Shrine’s existence something of a mystery. Why build a Shrine dedicated to nothing? But then
The page ended there, and Nozomi thumped a fist on the book in frustration. This was key, she just knew it. Someone else knew it too, and had torn out the key pages to stop anyone else from reading them. And now the Mayor had sent Hayato off up that very same mountain. It was just too much of a coincidence.
She looked at the fresh tears again, and shuddered. Now she had seen her first piece of real hard evidence that something strange, perhaps even sinister, was going on. For the first time, she was scared. What have I got myself into? It’s not too late. I could walk away now. I could put these books back and not speak of it again…
Nozomi shook her head once more. What was she thinking? She was no coward! And what sort of friend would she be if she abandoned Hayato now, just when she learned he might be heading into danger? No, she would see this through no matter how scared she was.
She jumped up and grabbed a small piece of paper and a pen. She scribbled a note to Hayato about her findings, promised to keep him updated, and was about to sign it but then thought better of it. Best not. Just in case. He’ll know who it’s from anyway.
She folded the note over and over until it was a tiny block, and she tied to a small strap of leather. She opened Shisha’s cage. The pigeon remained calm and still as Nozomi tied the strap to its leg. Then Nozomi picked the pigeon up and opened the window.
“You know the way, right?” Nozomi whispered.
The pigeon cooed.
“Alright then. Fly straight, and stay safe.”
The pigeon spread it wings and launched into the night sky. Nozomi watched Shisha go, fading into a tiny speck against the night sky. Then it was gone. Nozomi shivered, and closed the window.
She looked at the clock. Twelve-thirty, and it was a school night. She closed the books and turned out the lights. It was cold tonight. She hoped Hayato was staying warm.