Monday, December 13, 2010

Demon City – Chapter 5

It was 3:00 PM in Asukamura, Nara prefecture. Bathed in the burning rays of the sun, the green of the trees was bright enough to pain the eyes. Blissfully unaware of what was going on in the capital, the hikers treading the gravel road were drenched in sweat.

"Hey, want to head to Okadera next?" The college-age girl with the bob-haircut spoke coaxingly to the man with her.

"We're still a far clip from Tonomine Hotel. If we make too many detours the sun will go down while we're still in the mountains." Taking off his sunglasses, the man pointed toward the mountains nearby.

"We'll be fine, the sun is still high in the sky. Ah, a car."

At the woman's voice, the man sluggishly moved to get out of the way.

"Hmph, a Cadillac out in the sticks like this? Wish they'd give us a ride." Watching the car kick gravel aside as it drove out of sight, the man turned and followed the woman.

"Can you let me out here?" Nakajima asked to the black man driving the car as soon as he saw the stone tumulus. Opening the rear door of the car as it slowed to a stop, he jumped out onto the ground of Asuka.

"Good luck!" The driver showed his white teeth in a smile, and then turned around, waving his hand.

Narrowing his eyes as he emotionally looked at the far-off scenery, Nakajima sighed deeply and started walking toward Shirasagi Mound. The rays of the sun pulled Nakajima into a sense of surreality, like his feet were not touching the ground. By imagining Yumiko trapped inside the fleshy pillar of Set's body, he was able to pull himself back with effort from the strange sensation.

Will I really be able to find Izanami again? The road between here and Yomi should have been sealed ages ago!

Nakajima pictured himself standing dumbfounded in the stone room, unable to find the pathway into Izanami's burial chamber. Even as he stepped onto Shirasagi mound, he could not seem able to convince himself that his memory from a month ago was not just one big hallucination. The traces of Kerberos' previous passing had been completely concealed by overgrowth. Nakajima stepped into the cool air blowing out from the Kumazasa-covered tomb entrance. As he saw the small hole within the stone burial chamber that the cold originated from, Nakajima's eyes finally lit up with a purpose.

For several hours, he gradually climbed down the long, sloping passage. At the end of the long burial pathway, the silver relief marking Izanami's burial chamber was glowing. But the walls bore clear marks of just how ferocious the battle with Loki had been. The shattered fragments of the pots in the room lay there as before.

Nakajima stepped up to the side of the white granite dais. Taking some of the pomade from one of the few unbroken pots, he sprinkled it over the human-shaped ash on its surface.

With a feeling of awe, Nakajima put his palms together and closed his eyes. He soon sensed the scent of the pomade being blown by a fresh breeze; before him stood the unmistakable form of the goddess Izanami.

"I've been waiting for you." Though her voice was laden with the kindness of a mother greeting her child, Nakajima clearly heard her anxiety.

So Izanami doesn't know exactly what is going on in the human world...

Nakajima briefly told the goddess of his brief reunion with Yumiko, the battle with Set, and the banishment project that Feed had secretly been working on.

"I feel sorry for what happened to Tsukuyomi," Izanami said as Nakajima finished his tale.

"Tsukuyomi...you mean Narukawa? Was there some sort of deep connection between me and him?"

"Tsukuyomi is the god of the evening light. In an earlier life, he was one of your most powerful children."

For a moment, the two were silent. Nakajima felt a deep sense of guilt for Tsukuyomi, killed by demons without any chance to be glorified in his reincarnation. But there was no time to be held back by sorrow.

"Izanami-sama, if Professor Feed's plan succeeds, what will happen to Yumiko?" That more than anything was what Nakajima wanted to know.

"Nothing like that has ever been tried before. Unfortunately, that lies beyond the bounds of my knowledge." Izanami sighed softly.

Without any other sort of plan of action, if Feed managed to convince the American government, the demon summoning program would be activated on the satellite in orbit within a day or two. Somehow, Nakajima had to rescue Yumiko before that happened.

"Please, I beg you. Give me the power to defeat Set. Even if it costs me my life, I have no regrets."

"I have no other power to give you. However...." Izanami, taken aback by Nakajima's concern for Yumiko, hesitated for a moment, then quietly removed her robe and handed it to him.

"Wear this robe. With it you will gain the ability to race through the heavens."

Averting his eyes from Izanami's pure, shining, white naked body, Nakajima gently took the robe. It was as light as feathers and had the warmth of human skin.

"That robe was given to me by my husband Izanagi. It is also my connection to the human world. If you take that robe, then I may never be able to appear in the human world again. Not even to possess Yumiko..."

Nakajima stiffened at Izanami's unexpected words.

"But that is also the soul of Izanagi. Truthfully, it would be most fitting if you wore it."

Izanami's voice became fainter and fainter. Looking up timidly, Nakajima saw her white skin lose its form, melting away into the darkness.

"Now go. Please take care of Yumiko..."

"Izanami-sama!"

Nakajima instinctively extended his hand. It passed through Izanami's holograph-like body and clutched the air. Only a small amount of ash remained in his grasp.


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