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Die Ruhmredigen; Closed;Chizu
Topic Started: Jan 11 2018, 07:05 AM (601 Views)
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Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Starting the New Year in a foreign country was a strange feeling. He'd never been out of the country before and suddenly here he was, in the midst of a celebration that seemed utterly alien to him. Abel had never considered himself to be close-minded. Traditionalist, for sure, but he'd never realized until now just how much he relied on those familiar surroundings; his friends, his country, all of it. Now he had none of that. Still, he had no reason to be discouraged. After all, he was here only by the will of the Lord.

And his mother.

Abel adjusted his coat in the cold, his white hair blowing cooly in the evening wind. It seemed unnecessary for a temple or shine to have this many steps just to teach the top. Perhaps it weeded out those who weren't truly devout. The weak in spirit wouldn't make such a journey. He was certainly not lacking in that department. But it had definitely been several minutes since he started on this path, and he had been able to hear voice in the distance for awhile. Surely it was just a bit further.

Of course, finding it was one thing; he still had to figure out what it was his mother had asked him to find. Digging around in his coat pocket, he pulled out the note he'd written down, mentally kicking himself for not looking it up before he left the dorm. In all the commotion he must've set his phone down amongst the clutter of his luggage, so that was out. With any luck, his sub-par Japanese would see him through. His warm breath obscured the note a bit as it turned to cold mist in the early winter chill. Not that he needed to see it, he'd read it a dozen times over already.

And he still had no idea.

"What... exactly is a Kadomatsu?"
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"It's a traditional shrine decoration for New Year," a voice responded, coming from the steps just above Abel."They're considered temporary housing for the kami. A place for spirits to rest when they come to visit the shrine."

If Abel looked up, he would see that the speaker was a young man, about his age, perhaps only slightly older. Dark-haired, with deep blue eyes, dressed in a kimono so dark blue that it was almost black. He held a sheet of paper, the fortune he had drawn from the shrine, in his hand.

The traditional dress grated on him in a way that Rei didn't understand, although to Abel, it would seem as though Rei was completely comfortable with it. The truth was that Rei had gone back and forth on whether or not to dress traditionally. He'd even changed a few times, resulting in a long delay before he'd actually left his dorm room to go to the shrine. But at the end of the day, he'd decided to bow to tradition. He did it so rarely nowadays, after all, even though it had been a large part of his childhood growing up.

It was odd being here for the new year. Visiting a shrine instead of living in one. Sitting in his dorm room instead of assisting his grandfather with the various new year ceremonies. Buying omamori and fortunes instead of selling them and manning the till. Normally, he would be home by now, but his grandfather had insisted that he stay at school. The situation in Kyoto was too volatile for now, apparently, and his actions in the summer hadn't helped. He was certain that Tsukuyomi, their shrine's patron deity, wouldn't mind having only one attendant this New Year, not when he had so many other shrines across the country. But the thought of his grandfather managing the shrine alone gave him a twinge of guilt.

Mostly because he couldn't shake the feeling of...relief he felt at being released from his duty. Relief that only made him feel more guilty.

But none of that would show on his face as he stood in front of Abel, offering the other boy a smile.

"Is this your first new year in Japan?" he asked. "I can show you around, if you like. We aren't far from the top."
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He was shaken quite suddenly from his private moment by that unfamiliar voice above him, nearly dropping the slip of paper in his hands as he glanced upwards at the source. The lights of the shrine framed a pale face and curly, dark hair. A soft smile from a soft, white countenance. For the briefest of moments he appeared to Abel like Raphael's Michael, wrapped in robes as deep and blue as his eyes.

It was almost comical, the sheer contrast between them. Abel was hardly any darker, but with much lighter hair, and pale, shrewd eyes. Bundled up in an assuming, black pea coat, the shadow of the man above him cast a dark visage over him, like the foot of Michael on his throat. In that moment, Abel lost his voice, finding himself utterly unsure of his words. As the sounds from the shrine fell back into focus, his eyes drifted back to the scrap of paper in his hand.

That's right, his mother had asked him to...

The moment passed, though he could not explain what had caused it

"I see..." He said calmly. She always was taken with eccentric things like that, much to his father's chagrin. "You'd be right about that much, and you're very generous to offer so much to a stranger, but it would be more than enough if you could show me where I could purchase something like that." He felt a little guilty, not being more outgoing, but in spite of himself he didn't have much interest in staying here for very long. The move had planted an unexpected anxiety in him he just couldn't seem to shake, and at this point he was ready to just ride it out back at his dorm room.

After he got what he came for, of course.
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The white-haired boy seemed lost in thought. Rei found himself thinking as well, trying to recall if he had ever seen the boy before. He was sure he hadn't. The boy had the look of someone he would have remembered.

An interesting person. Rei was always looking out for interesting people, always fascinated by them.

He wondered why. Why was it their stories he wanted to hear, rather than any story he himself had to tell? It was an odd thing to think about that night. Perhaps it was because it was the night of the new year. The night of new beginnings.

"Hmm...I'm not sure if there are any still for sale," Rei said, in response to Abel's query. He frowned in thought, looking back up at the shrine. "They're usually placed sometime after Christmas, and burned in mid-January to release the kami." Any kadomatsu left out now could theoretically be housing a divine spirit, after all.

But he wasn't sure. Kaneshima Shrine was a much larger shrine than he was used to managing. It was entirely possible that they did things differently.

He turned back towards the boy, offering him a reassuring smile."We can have a look," he said.
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Why was he smiling at him like that?

Abel stealthily adjusted his glasses as an excuse to avoid eye contact and made his way up the steps. Really, looking at a stranger with that kind of expression made the guy seem untrustworthy. He might be fortunate enough to have the goodness of God inside him, but he was still only a person.

"Please, lead the way." He said flatly as he began to walk past the white-haired boy. Taking a few steps past him he paused, pushing his glasses up on his face once again before turning to face Rei. He definitely felt more confident looking down from up above him. Probably looked cooler too...

"Ah, forgive me, but I accepted your hospitality without even introducing myself. My name... is Abelhard Priester." He said with as much mystery as he could inject into his tone. Even the pause for effect...

Really, that name by itself was usually enough, though.
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Rei moved aside to let the other boy walk up the stairs, listening as he gave his name. Abelhard Priester. It was certainly not a common name in Japan, but Rei had met enough foreigners by now to not be surprised. Still, the boy seemed to be looking for something extra. Perhaps it was a well-known name?

Unfortunately, he didn't know it. It was a nice sounding name, though. He had a feeling that this boy might have an interesting story.

"I'm Yasukage Rei," Rei said, leaning forward in a quick bow. Rei's name wasn't one to recognize either, unless one happened to be in the exorcist business. Even then, only a few would recognize a small family out of Kyoto. "It's nice to meet you, Priester-san. Right this way. Let me know if you have any questions."

He stepped forward again, leading Abelhard back up the steps. As he walked, he realized he had fallen back into his old role as greeter and assistant. It was almost amusing to him. He had never worked at this shrine, but he supposed that old habits died hard. They reached the top of the steps, emerging into a world of color beneath the torii gate.

The shrine courtyard was filled with people for the festivities, brightly colored paper lanterns hanging from the eaves. There were people lining up to pray, and to buy fortunes, as well as people buying amulets from one of the shrine maidens. Said miko looked up from behind her table, blinking as if surprised to see him there.

"Oh, Yasukage-kun, are you back already?" she asked. "Did you forget something?"
Edited by Chizu, Jan 18 2018, 02:20 PM.
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...Did... Did it have the intended effect? He felt awash with nerves for a moment as his guide's affect didn't appear to change at all in spite of his obviously super cool introduction. Perhaps he was nervous as well...

That could explain his reaction.

"R-Right, I'm right behind you." He said flatly, following closely.

He should probably think of something to say.

"...I know a little about the religious significance of New Years in your culture, but I've never heard about trapping sprits that way before. Is that a common belief?" It seemed just like his mother to ask for something like that too. It would surely confound his father to no end. The idea of messing about with spirits made himself uncomfortable. A little too Book of Solomon for his own tastes.

As they approached the top, the light that had been shining down the steps revealed its source in a sea of lights and activity. The reflection off his glasses stunned him momentarily, but as his eyes adjusted, the sight of it captured him. Rows of stalls of every variety were patronized by men and women of every age, most of whom wore similar, brightly colored and patterned robes as his host. But just as his eyes caught a stall of particular interest, a girl in strange clothes addressed his guide with clear familiarity.

Abel stepped forward.

"I'm afraid that would be my fault. I was looking for something and he offered to help me find it. Is there any chance you could help us?" He asked politely. "It's called...eh.." Abel searched his pockets, unsure of where he'd put that scrap of paper. He really should've memorized it, but Japanese was such a complicated language.

Not in those pockets either...

Abel laughed nervously, searching his back pocket with his free hand.

The other holding the paper he was looking for.
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"Hmm...maybe 'trapping' was the wrong word," Rei said, in response to Abel's question. "During the New Year, it's said that ancestral spirits and kami return to their homes, or to the shrines. The kadomatsu are temporary housing for them, placed to welcome them. They bring prosperity. They are burned to release the spirits, though, so it's something like a contract."

At least, that was how he understood it. Although, Rei hadn't really thought about it for some time. He did know that nothing in the construction of a kadomatsu forced a spirit to visit. In the case of ancestral spirits, their motives were understandable. They wanted to visit their living descendants. Other spirits likely enjoyed being with humans for the festivities, trusting that they would be freed once the festivities were over.

It certainly wasn't the strangest contract Rei had ever heard of.

His hand brushed against his side, and Rei frowned when it encountered only fabric instead of the bag that was usually there. Of course. He'd left the grimoire at home. There was no way to carry it in these clothes and still look traditional. Odd how much he noticed his absence.

Well, there was nothing for it. The grimoire would be back in his dorm room when he returned to it. For now, he could help Abel out.

"He's looking to buy a kadomatsu, Shinozawa-san," Rei said to the miko. "Do you have any of those still for sale?"

The miko, Shinozawa Mai, frowned in thought, tapping at the corner of her mouth with a finger. "Hmm...I think we're out of stock," she said. "Except..." Her eyes grew round.

"Except?" Rei prompted.

"Well, there is one..." she said, shifting uncomfortably. "But it's a little...strange."
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Right. That's what it was called. Abel breathed a sigh of relief, touching his forehead with the piece of paper he suddenly realized he'd been looking for, quickly pocketing it in the hopes he didn't look any more awkward. It was only ever like this with girls...

Moreover...

"I don't mind if it's a little beat up or defective somehow." He said calmly, adjusting his glasses. "It's a gift for an eccentric person. If anything, they might prefer something like that."

He felt a little guilty encouraging that side of his mother. Towing the line of what was acceptable and what he might consider gambling with one's faith was not something he would take lightly from anyone else. But at the same time it made him a little homesick to think about. If she were here now, he could picture her excited expression and his father's silent dismay. It nearly made him feel better about his situation.

"I'll take that one." He said confidently. To heck with it, she deserves it.
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"Ah, yes, well..." Mai tugged awkwardly at the ends of her hair, not quite meeting Abel's eyes. "The thing is, it's not so much 'defective' as...um...inhabited?"

"Inhabited?" Rei asked, his eyes widening slightly. "What do you mean, Shinozawa-san?"

"Um...well...it attracted a spirit," Mai said, with a nervous giggle. "But, um, not the sort of spirit we wanted. It's probably better if you see for yourself. Excuse me!"

Mai bowed hurriedly, then scrambled back to the table she was working at to tell people that she would be away for a while. Rei watched the flurry of activity with an inward wince. Somehow, she managed to knock over a box of amulets, and catch her elbow on the table corner when she bent to pick it up. However, she quickly straightened up and made her way back over to them, smiling tiredly as she tugged her miko clothes back into place.

"This way," she said, leading them towards the shrine.

Rei frowned, exchanging a glance with Abel before following her."Who do you need the kadomatsu for, Priester-san?" he asked, out of curiosity.
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Inhabited?

It was bad enough left ambiguously hanging in the air like that, but the worst implication was realized when she elaborated upon it. The thing was possessed.

Abel felt his body tense instinctively at the thought. His father had told him to be wary of such things while staying in a country with strong pagan roots. Would he be able to give such a thing to his own mother of all people? No, that was unthinkable...

He'd just have to deal with whatever spirit had made its home in there. Or buy his mom a keychain or something. He'd never fought a physical battle with a spiritual entity before. Perhaps if he invoked the name of the Lord it would leave peacefully...

Abel hardly noticed the clumsy priestess, so deep in thought was he over this problem, and followed alongside him quietly as the Miko led them away.

He was pulled from his serious thoughts by Rei's sudden inquiry.

"Huh? Oh, well actually it's for... my mother." He was a little embarrassed to say so, but kept a straight face. It wasn't that he was embarrassed by her, quite the contrary. As a high school aged boy, it just didn't seem very... masculine, maybe. "She's still back home with my father in Leonberg." Abel's gaze lifted skyward as he thought of them, the faintest hint of a smile curling at the edges of his lips. "Both my parents are very good and kind people, and I become...
erm, Heimweh, when I think about them."

He grinned openly, with a goofy, embarrassed smile, realizing he wasn't sure of the Japanese word for that feeling. "Like when you are ill from missing your home." He corrected. "Although both of them are very stoic about it, I know they miss me, too. That's why I'm not surprised she sent me on an errand like this." He glanced over at the young man beside him and suddenly felt his face redden.

"Entschuldigung, forgive me, I got carried away talking about myself... Are you... Is this island your home?" He asked, happy to change the subject.
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"Leonberg?" Rei asked, as conversationally as if they were strolling down the street, instead of about to see what was wrong with an 'inhabited' kadomatsu. "Is that where you're from?" He didn't understand the language that Abel was using, but he thought he recognized the cadence of it. It was certainly not English, so...German? He found himself nodding at Abel's description of the feeling.

"I think the word you are looking for is 'homesick'," he said. "I feel it too, sometimes." Although, he had to admit, he didn't feel it as often as he should. Or for the right things. It felt, to Rei, that home wasn't necessarily a place. It was the people he was with that he missed. "If the kadomatsu is for your mother, then I'll do all I can to help. You should be able to give it to her."

Although, Abel might notice that Rei was being surprisingly vague on how he could help.

Rei blinked as Abel asked him if the island was his home, looking back at him. "Oh, no," he said. "I'm only here to attend school. I'm from Kyoto. My family actually--."

"Here we are," Mai said, drawing his attention away from Abel. The miko had led them to a storeroom just off the shrine grounds, away from where the crowd had gathered. From here, he could still hear the sounds of the celebration, but the space was dark and relatively quiet. Mai had fumbled with a key, and was now opening the door. "We kept it in here. It's not really...um...bad or anything, but we can't put it out on display. You might be able to do something about it, though, Yasukage-kun."

The smile Rei gave her was slightly melancholic, slightly bitter, although Mai didn't seem to notice. "I'll do what I can, Shinozawa-san, although I'm not a real exorcist." He looked back at Abel. "Should we see how bad it is, Priester-san?"
Edited by Chizu, Jan 29 2018, 12:37 PM.
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"Ah, yes excuse me I should have said so. My family comes from Leonberg. In Germany." He said, apologetically. "I guess my vocabulary and my manners could both use some work." He said with a small tongue-in-cheek smirk.This seemed too normal given the circumstances, but he had to admit he felt strangely at ease with this person. Abel found himself listening with some level of interest about his family until their sudden arrival at their destination.

He actually felt a twinge of disappointment that they'd arrived so quickly. Even so, he wasn't really fond of the idea of some kind of Eastern or mystical exorcism. Perhaps he should...

"A-Actually, I'm sorry but do you think I could give it a try myself, first? I have a little experience with this sort of thing..." Well, he hoped he did anyhow. He'd be leaning fairly heavily on Father God for this one. "Besides, it'd be too much trouble to ask you to be my guide and my personal exorcist." He steeled himself, making sure to push up on his glasses in typical cool-guy fashion. He turned to face Rei for a moment.

"...Just don't stay very far behind in case I'm about to get killed. Please."

Very cool.

Turning back to the open doorway, he stepped inside...
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Rei blinked at Abel in surprise and concern when the boy asked to go first, but who was Rei to tell him otherwise? Without knowing Abel's abilities, it was entirely possible that the other boy was more suited to dealing with the situation than he was, especially since Rei didn't have the grimoire. And yet, the way that Abel phrased that last line...

"Um, I don't think that will really be necessary..." Mai said, waving her hands quickly as Abel walked past both of them, stepping in through the open door.

"Get the hell out of here, whippersnapper!"

The voice that spoke up was a man's, a very drunk, ornery old man. Rei peered into the darkness of the room, behind Abel. The kadomatsu, a small one that likely had been meant for sale rather than for decorating the shrine, stood alone in the center of the empty storage room. And next to it was a faint, translucent spirit in the form of an elderly old man, hunched over, wearing traditional clothes. Empty bottles of the shrine's famous sake were strewn all over the floor, and the old man had a sake cup in one hand.

With the other, he shook a cane, drunkenly, at Abel. "Can't an old man enjoy the New Year in peace? No respect from young people these days! I'm telling you! No respect!"

Mai gave them both a sheepish smile, lowering her hands. "Well..." she said. "You see how it is..."
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"Not necessary? But w--" he heard the old man's voice before he could ask, the answer coming before the question.

This was... the possessing spirit? Abel stumbled for a moment, partly due to his surprise at the strange sight and partly because of the bottles scattered about his feet as he entered the shrine. He took little offense at the man's words, feeling actually a bit guilty for intruding on an elder like this. Even if that elder was a displaced soul. It was too late to just back out now though, right? He'd already come this far so...

But just what exactly... was he supposed to do? Sure, Abel had a sword, but he couldn't honestly see himself attacking some old man with it. To be honest he'd been expecting something more like a demon or some sort of monster. This was...

"Er..." Abel cleared his throat, composing himself and ridding himself of the dumb and confused expression on his face. Pushing his glasses up on his face, he stepped forward, sweeping the empty bottles away from his stride. Before he spoke, he swallowed hard.

"O-Offending sprit, why do you inhabit this... decorative house plant? What is your purpose here in the world of the living? I... uh.. I bid you kindly, answer me, im Namen Jesu."

That... That sounded pretty good, didn't it?

... He had no idea what he was doing...
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"Don't you go bringing foreigners into this, sonny boy!" the old man said, pointing his cane at Abel and waving it slightly for emphasis. "You want to know why I'm here? In this middling gods-forsaken shrine in the middle of nowhere--?"

"--middling?!" Mai broke in, outraged.

"You don't even have a real goddess!"

"A-Aqua-sama--"

"--is about as divine as a puddle! You want to know why I'm here?" The old man downed his cup of sake in one gulp. "I'm here because young people have no respect! No respect at all!"

This...seemed like an opportunity for Rei to try and get a grasp of the situation. He stepped forward, clearing his throat. "E-Excuse me..." he began.

"You stay out of this, shrine boy!" the old man said, rounding onto him. "You think just because you own some big city Kyoto shrine, you can come in here and deal with Kaneshima problems? What, Kaneshima's not good enough to take care of themselves? That's what I hate about Kyoto priests! Always have to stick their nose into everyone's business."

Rei coughed. "Technically, I'm not a priest..."

"Apprentice. Heir. Whatever!" The old man poured himself another cup of sake and downed that too, then let out a harrumph folding his arms. "Coming in here, strutting around like you own the place, invoking big names like that and whoever the heck your shrine's devoted to--Amaterasu? Inari? Ebisu?"

"Tsukuyomi."

"Hah!" the old man said, pointing his cane at Rei and Abel both. "You think they don't have better things to do than listen to your whining? That's exactly what's wrong with the youth!"

"I-If you could just tell us what the problem is..."

"The problem? The problem is my damned grandson!" The old man took another draught of sake. "No respect..."
Edited by Chizu, Feb 5 2018, 03:18 AM.
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Abel felt a bit dumbstruck, simultaneously not wanting to interrupt the elder, but feeling compelled to intervene. He was surprised to catch that bit of information about his guide though. He'd almost missed it at first, but now he was sure he'd heard right. So Rei's family owned a shrine? He'd be lying if he said it felt like anything less than providence. It would be up to him to find out what God wanted him to learn from this pagan priest.

So for now, at least...

Abel stepped up, vying to be next in the conversation.

"Beqerev elohim, Gott steht in der Gemeinde Gottes und ist Richter unter den Göttern." He said, quoting Psalm 82 from memory. Actually, just then he thought it might be a good idea to start learning some key verses in Japanese...

"Excuse me for interrupting, elder. As a humble Saint in the Body of Christ, and in the name of the Most High, please, er..." Actually he might've overdone it, was that too dramatic?

"Please, could you tell us what's going on with your grandson?" He ended meekly, anxiety getting the better of him.
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The old man, once again, did not seem too impressed with Abel's quoting of scripture. "Eh?" he asked. "Speak plain Japanese, boy! Are you making fun of me? It's because I'm from the countryside, isn't it?"

He scoffed, making it clear what he thought of that, but it was also clear that he was more than happy to talk about his grandson, despite what his words said. "There's nothing to say about that ungrateful brat!" he said, letting out a 'hmph' and looking away. "Two years now, I've tried to visit him, during Obon and New Year's like a good relative does. Has he been there? No! He hasn't left out any offerings for me at Obon, he hasn't left out a kadomatsu for me at New Year's. Now that I'm dead, it's like I don't exist to him. I practically raised the boy, and this is how he treats me?"

"Could there have been a misunderstanding?" Rei asked, with a glance at Abel.

"No misunderstanding!" the old man said. "I know what I saw!" He raised his cup to his lips, taking another gulp of sake.

"No respect..." he mumbled.
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Abel felt himself shrink under the old man's chastising, his face falling into a genuine frown. Getting yelled at by an old man reminded him of his grandfather, who always knew how to make him feel guilty. More than that, though, he felt bad for his situation. An ungrateful grandson...

Abel's face hardened a bit as he and Rei shared a glance. Maybe everyone's family is different, but no matter what, Abel couldn't imagine himself disrespecting his parents, let alone grandparents, in such a fashion. If it was a misunderstanding, it would hardly be simple. It seemed God had more in store for him here than could be solved by a simple invocation of His name.

"Forgive me for asking, sir," he asked cautiously, pushing up his glasses, "but who exactly is your grandson? Does he work at the shrine here? Or live nearby, by chance...?" Come to think of it, he'd really just come here for a kadomatsu, was it ok to suddenly start running around the island trying to reunite someone with the soul of their deceased grandfather like this?

Japan was... kind of a weird place.
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The old man snorted at Abel's inquiry, although it seemed to have mollified him somewhat. When he spoke, there was less invective in it. Although he still seemed annoyed at Abel, he lowered his cane.

"The shrine?" he asked, scoffing. "I'd like to see the day that delinquent starts working at a shrine. He works in...sales, or something like that. He lives down in the town--although thanks to that school, I suppose it's a city now. More like a zoo if you ask me."

Rei decided that this was a prime opportunity to interrupt another tirade. "Perhaps we could check on him?" he asked.

"You'd do that?" the old man asked, blinking in surprise.

"Hold on a moment, sir," Rei said, nodding respectfully towards the old man. He motioned Abel aside, turning towards the other boy and speaking in a low voice, so that the ghost couldn't hear.

"I'd like to help him out, but you shouldn't feel obliged to help if you don't want to. If you'd rather leave and try to find another kadomatsu, I completely understand."
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