CHAPTER 2

Haruki stutters.

"M-me? Why would you need me? I'm just some guy." The mu-onna smiles sympathetically.

"My child, you are of the sky."

"What do you mean?"

"There will be time later to explain. Now, I must tell you why I need you. Have you heard of the onryo?"
Haruki struggles to remember the mythology their mother taught them years ago. "Uh- vengeful spirits? Of Shinto." they manage.

"They are rising up. They plan to escape the underworld and wreak havoc on humanity." says the mu-onna gravely.

"How do we stop them?" Haruki asks fearfully.

"You must first come with me to the palace of Fujin." Haruki's brow furrows.

"I can't leave. My father.."

"When was the last time you spoke to your father? He is wrought with the death of your mother. You are old enough now to make your own path. Come with me." She drifts through the door and down the stairs, and against their best judgement, Haruki follows. They pass through the kitchen where Haruki's father sits. As the mu-onna predicted, he does not look up. Haruki and the mu-onna leave the house and make their way down the street, in the direction of the mountains.

Haruki feels something brush against their leg. Looking down, they see a small black and white creature. As they walk past, it seems to become redder and sleeker, until it resembles more closely a fox. A haunting music floats in the air. Haruki rubs their eyes. Noticing this, the mu-onna breaks her silence.

"The mujina. Shape-shifting badgers, they will sing to deceive you. Come, my child. Do not listen to the music."

Can all this be real? Haruki thinks. Never before have I seen something so strange.
As if sensing Haruki's thoughts, the mu-onna speaks once more.

"Now that I have told you of the reality of spirits, they are visible to you. This also means that they are aware of you and may try and deceive you. This is why I am here to be your guide."

"Who is Fujin?" Haruki asks, remembering the earlier mention.

"He is the god of wind. He will help you to realize yourself."
Haruki ponders this as they walk. It is beginning to grow late, and the sun is setting behind the mountains. The pink light filters through the trees, and a gentle breeze makes Haruki's long hair float around their face. After perhaps twenty minutes more of silence, Haruki speaks again.

"When we first met, in my dream. Why did you say this is not my body?"

"You are full of questions, child," the mu-onna responds. "This is not a question so easily answered. It is for you to discover. Let me just ask you something. When was the last time you felt at home in your skin?" Once more the two of them return to silence and the day fades into night.