Onmyouji and Shikigami go hand-in-hand, and not just because they’re both hard to pronounce. Although Onmyouji by and large, practiced a form of divination arts, many believed that the truly powerful ones were capable of controlling spirits and demons.
Kaede didn’t bother to wait for us to settle down before going about her business.
“Since Wu is new and therefore unfamiliar with Shinogan, I’m going to assign a student to be his guide.” She swivelled her head to eye us like hunks of raw meat, dismissing one after the other as less than A-grade. And then she stopped at me. The corners of her mouth moved up to form a gaping smile and my stomach sank.
News traveled fast in Shinogan. By the next day, our entire class was buzzing with talk of the new student. Everyone had heard something and there were bets going on what he’d be like.
He was black, he was white, Asian, Cuban…he had green hair, three noses, one eye; odds were flung all around the room with increasing speed as the clock ticked.
“Close the door!” Someone yelled.
I slammed the classroom door shut purely out of reflex, just as a wobbly bat flew towards it, hitting the door with a smack and landing heavily on the ground.
I picked up the bat by the wing. “Tell me this isn’t a person.”
Mitsuo chattered like a chipmunk, peppering me with questions about the Inugami, what I’d seen, what I’d heard, not even really giving me any space to answer. Ahead of us, I saw a woman come out of the principal’s office. She had a guy with her, he looked to be our age but I didn’t recognize his face. It could be a new student.
Shinogan had a practice of scouting around for potential students, people who needed training and understanding, a sanctuary the school could provide.
Fifteen minutes later, the bell finally rang – thank gods – but just as I was about to secure freedom, Mr. Endo gestured me to his desk with a look that encouraged haste.
Being an Onmyouji did not mean I didn’t also have to go to school. Since most of my assignments took place at night, it was kind of a tough balance, hence my little, ahem, nap during class.
“Mr. Kanda, it’s come to my knowledge that you’ve been lackadaisical with your class work lately.” Endo pushed his glasses up his nose, tilting back in his chair to convey extreme exasperation.
I dreamt of the dog, the head slamming into my vision with a scream. There was a figure in the shadows, encased in black so only the face was somewhat visible.
At his legs, I saw thousands of hands reaching, grasping, clinging and dragging and I realized the figure was sinking down into the muck. I opened my mouth to shout something.
The figure turned his face up to me. “Subaru.”
And…called my name? “Subaru.”
Red eyes, a long, pink tongue with drool leaking from it and more teeth than an alligator. It was definitely a dog but it was something other as well.
“Hold still or I’ll bite your nose off!”
Apparently my face was enough to scare even a monster.
When I first started writing this book, I ran into a snag of what exactly was an Onmyouji (pronounced on-myo-gee) 陰陽師. There’s a lot of beliefs and religion mixed into the concept, but basically, an Onmyouji is a practitioner of magic and divination.
During the Heian era, they were government officials meant to protect the Emperor and citizens from harm. Harm being curses and youkai 妖怪, creatures that people believed roamed the streets at night. One of the most famous practitioners was Abe no Seimei.