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 do realize you are a special case, the principal has informed us all of such.” He sniffed in a way that showed how much stock he put into that ‘special case’ opinion. “However, you are a student. A student’s job is to study. And you being one of the elite in class A means you must be set to a higher standard than most.”
I was placed in class A because my abilities made sure I was never going to be one of those Gifted who could fake a normal life, thanks very much. ‘Elite’ was just a nice way of saying ‘freaky’.
“I expect better from you, Mr. Kanda. Much better.” He said severely. “Your conduct aside,” And here he cast a look at my less-than appropriate state of uniform with the dirty shirt, crooked tie and the blazer tied around my waist. “Your conduct aside, the least you can do is maintain a façade of attention during class. You are not above studying like regular people.”
Endo was one of those teachers who enjoyed being able to tell the students who reminded him of the bullies that used to steal his lunch money and stick him in the trash, that he was the authority now. Receding hairline and permanent bad breath aside, he wasn’t exactly a commanding presence. But I’d learned to play along with worse.
“Yes, sir. I’ll do better next time.”
“Good. I hope to see an improvement soon, you do know this is for your own good?”
“Yes, sir. May I go now, sir?”
“You may.” He said magnanimously. Satisfied with the flexing of his muscles, metaphorically speaking, he didn’t bother to follow up on my lackadaisical performance. “See it doesn’t happen again.” I bowed and left.
Outside the classroom, I found Mitsuo leaning against wall, waiting for me. When he saw me, he sniffed. “You were so faking.”
“All that ‘yes, sir’, ‘may I, sir’.” Mitsuo rolled his eyes. “If Mr. Endo were smarter he’d know you were playing him like a cheap accordion.”
Mitsuo and I had known each other since we were in diapers and never adopted the habit of referring to the other by our family names. Short, freckled with permanently smudged glasses and light-colored hair, Mitsuo Masuda could give Opie a run for his money.
“I’ve got cleanup duty in the shrine today.” He said cheerfully. “And Mom got me a new tutor. He’s a new priest for the Ise shrine.” Mitsuo was a practicing Shinto priest and his family, of the famous Masuda shrine was one of the larger and more well-known shrines in Kyoto, mostly because the family did a lot of political ass-kissing. Mr. Masuda was a big, blustering man who grew a beard to cover a weak chin and Mitsuo’s mother was a shrill, bird-like woman who liked to look her nose down at a lot of things, which happened to include me. Mitsuo thankfully, was nothing like his family, some weird recessive gene in action, probably. He was almost chronically optimistic, endlessly patient and always seeing things sunny side-up. If I didn’t like him, I’d have been tempted to kill him.
While we walked to class, I decided to brooch the subject that had been nagging me. “What do you know about the Inugami?”
“The usual. Possessing spirit, head chopped off, that sort of thing. Why?”
“Do we still have any in Kyoto?”
Mitsuo’s head scrunched up in concentration. “No, I think the last family that had one was the Hotori’s. Five years ago, the youngest daughter dug up the bones of the Inugami to show off to her friends and violated its shrine.”
“The house burned down. With the family in it.”
That was the way most Inugami stories ended. Owners of the Inugami could be rich, famous, they could have everything; but the Inugami was one of those wrathful beings and got ticked off easily which usually ended in death in the family. And it wasn’t like cable where you could cancel the contract or anything, Inugami only left when the entire family bloodline had died out.
“Why’d you ask?” Mitsuo said.
“Let’s say I saw an Inugami last night…”