In a brief break from my many notes/stories of various myths, I’ve dug up an old prologue of my novel.
This introduction brought up so many memories – some things have stayed canon-compliant, as it were. Others may change, or I might decide to put them in for later. Anyway, realistically, I couldn’t figure out where to put this – I love flashbacks, but they don’t really do much for the plot most of the time.
So here it is (and yes, it’s been tweaked. I couldn’t give you the actual original version, parts of it made me cringe. It’s very old):
“Has anyone seen my socks?” Toshiro Kanda asked.
“Dear! We’re going to be late!”
Hajime, with one brother tucked under his arm and the other hanging off his shoulders, produced a rolled-up pair of brown socks in his hand.
They had the decency to duck their heads, the little cretins, but Hajime could see the gleeful looks on their faces.
“Oh good,” Toshiro said, holding the socks gingerly between two fingers. “I wonder how much the hotel’s laundry service costs…”
“Dear!” His wife screamed from downstairs.
“Coming! Come say good-bye, boys.”
Outside in the driveway, his wife bent to kiss their sons good-bye.
“We’ll call you as soon as we get there. Be good, listen to your brother, he’s in charge and if the house isn’t standing when we get back, you’ll wish I never gave birth to you,” she said, smiling as the two younger ones went pale. “Where’s Subaru?”
Hajime looked around for a siren-red head of hair, wishing they had invested in one of those toddler leashes. “He’s probably in the forest, I’ll find him.”
“Subaru,” Hajime called, jogging past the green-leafed trees – even though it was well into autumn. He hated coming into the forest that surrounded their temple like a barrier. There was something so distinctly – alive – about it, and he never quite shook the feeling even the grass was watching and laughing at him.
It was creepy. And creepier still was how often his youngest brother would wander in here, yet never got lost or hurt, or even scared.
As curses went, the one that stained Subaru’s head a shocking red was sort of useful, especially when it came to locating him. The toddler was just sitting there, in a clearing Hajime had never noticed before, chatting nonsensically to…no one he could see.
He crouched down, somehow feeling like he was the one intruding.
“Subaru, Mom and Dad are leaving,” he said gently.
His baby brother looked up, chubby face lighting up when it latched onto him. Small arms reached up in a silent plea to be picked up.
Hajime hefted the boy in his arms, marveling at how much heavier he was. He felt like…he felt like a parent, already imagining Subaru growing up and going off into the sunset, leaving him alone with ten cats.
Suddenly, goosebumps ran up his arm and every hair on his neck shot up. Tucking Subaru closer, he whipped around, staring wildly about, but all that surrounded him were the shrubs and trees. No birds. There were never any birds or insects in this damn forest, they knew better. There was no one and nothing to be seen, but he hadn’t grown up in this family not to know that didn’t mean anything.
Every nerve in him was screaming to run, but not wanting to scare Subaru, Hajime forced his pace to remain brisk.
“Subaru, who were you talking to?” He asked, eyes darting around for even a hint of a shadow, at which point he was going to prove why he was on the track team and run like the wind.
“Tengu!” The boy chirruped as if saying the name of a centuries-old forest demon – and was supposed to be a myth – was an everyday occurrence.
“And some little ones. They were hungry. They said a lady lives by that old well next to the playground. She likes kids.”
“That’s…nice.” Hajime made a mental note to tell his parents to exorcise that well when they got back, very nearly crying with relief when he saw the edge of the forest.
“Subaru, maybe we should go back to that playgroup? You can make some –other – friends?” He said.
Subaru pouted. “No. They’re mean. And they don’t like my friends.”
Right. Children were often sensitive to evil presences like youkai.
“Then how about we go visit Mitsuo this weekend? You like Mitsuo, don’t you?” Hajime grimaced at the thought of seeing the Masudas again so soon. But putting up with the nastiness and snide comments was a small price to pay for his brother to have a friend that was human.
“I guess.” Subaru shrugged. “He’s always smiling.”
Hajime snorted. “That’s a good thing.”
And a miracle, considering the bitterness of the Masudas practically eked from the cracks in their walls.
“I like my friends better. They teach me things and they call me a favorite,” Subaru said, idly kicking his small feet.
His brother was a favorite to the youkai – that just…didn’t that just make his life.
“There’s my baby!” Their mom held up her arms and swung the little red-headed boy around, eliciting baby giggles. “Come kiss Mommy good-bye.”
Subaru was still at the age where kisses and hugs were welcome and she was taking full advantage of it before he became an adolescent and it became a chore not to strangle him on a daily basis.
Fondly watching mother and son cuddle and coo at each other, his dad sidled to Hajime’s side.
“Was he…?” Toshiro asked quietly.
Hajime nodded. “Dad, why doesn’t Mom get rid of that Tengu? He’s spending way too much time with Subaru.”
“She said he’s harmless,” his dad said. “To us, anyway. And I trust her judgment. He’s never done anything to make us think otherwise.”
“He’s a youkai. They’re unpredictable.” Hajime insisted.
“It’s – there’s a balance to this sort of thing. I’m not saying all youkai should be accepted, but you’ll understand that someday.” He said gently, watching his wife blow bubbles on their son’s belly, making him squeal.
“I don’t have to anymore,” Hajime said, carefully blank.
His dad hummed, brows scrunching like they always did whenever even the vague mention of the five-year-old Subaru as the future Onmyouji came up.
“Alright.” Toshiro turned and clapped his hands on his son’s shoulders. “It’s the first we’ve left you boys at home without a sitter, but we trust your judgment. You’re the man of the house now. You will take good care of your brothers, make sure they don’t accidentally kill themselves and if they do, make sure the bodies are well-hidden.” He yelled that last part for Akira and Shou to hear, as they screamed and ran to hide behind their mother.
“Dear,” she admonished.
“Just covering all the bases.” He grinned and grabbed Subaru in a bear hug.
“Be good, kids.”
“Bye!” Subaru cheered. Hajime had a feeling he was going to be expecting them home for dinner, and anticipated a long and painful talk about ‘working vacations’ and ‘no they won’t be back in a hour’.
The four of them stood at the top of the stairs, waving until their parents were no longer in sight.
“Who was the girl Mom and Dad brought with them?” Subaru asked as they turned to go back in.
“What girl?” Shou asked.
“I didn’t see any girl,” Akira added.
Ah, one of those ‘girls’. “I’m sure they’ll find her soon and send her back…home,” Hajime said.
The next day they heard about the accident and their world fell apart.
For those of you who’ve read my previous chapters, the mother and father are the parents of Subaru, my beloved protagonist. Written through the POV of Hajime, the eldest older brother who later on, takes up the parental role. Cheers!