World“s First Demon Lord Chapter 46: Kami and Oni
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April 17, 9:30 am, Tokyo, Japan
The rest of the train's announcement was drowned out by the sound of people alighting the train, Sakura among them. Thankfully it wasn't too crowded today, and she had been able to nab a seat for the trip.
She stepped out to the station, and noticed everyone taking out their umbrellas. She looked up, then followed suit. Dark clouds were gathering above.
A few minutes later, she was walking down the streets of Shibuya in the crowd. Raindrops bounced off her umbrella as she walked with purpose. Although the rain wasn't too unexpected, the weather had been getting uncharacteristically cold lately.Thankfully, she had worn a warm coat today.
Unfortunately, the same good decision making had not been extended to her footwear; she was deeply regretting wearing these thin, three-inch heels instead of the thigh high boots.
Always wear the thigh highs, Sakura chided herself. By the time she reached the entrance to the university, her feet were soaking wet. She took her mind off her squelching socks by taking in the university.
The main building was quite large, much larger than she was expecting from the pamphlet. From the front gate, she could see the sports field that had been heavily featured in the brochures. Surprisingly, there were some students were milling about. Sakura assumed that they were heading to and from classes, into the smaller building at the side, all with umbrellas. That building was probably one of the dorms.
Sakura smiled at the security guard. He smiled back, giving Sakura a once over. Urgh. She was already in a bit of a bad mood due to her socks and the rain. She didn't want to deal with some security guard hitting on her.
She explained her situation, and he took a few minutes to verify her claims. Once he got the okay, he gave her a temporary badge and let her in. Of course, he did so with some too-obvious flirting, which Sakura simply laughed off. Just get through this.
"Thanks," she smiled, taking the badge before turning away and scowling. He was probably watching her leave, but there was nothing she could do about that. Whatever, she had other things to focus on.
She made her way to the large building, stepping over puddles with her uncomfortably wet and high heeled feet. Thankfully, getting into the building was easy with her pass. She placed her umbrella into the umbrella holder, then immediately headed to the bathroom. Her feet were intolerably wet.
She managed to dry her shoes with tissues and did the same with her socks. It wasn't completely effective, but it was a lot better than before.
Then, she set off to the elevators.
Sakura always liked watching the number rise along with her. The elevator did not stop until she reached her level, where it opened to reveal a hallways of doors.
Sakura walked confidently, her heels tap-tapping on the polished floors as she looked at her phone. She stopped in front of a certain door. Satisfied, she lightly rapped her knuckled on the door.
Knock knock knock.
A few moments later, she heard a shuffling inside.
The door opened.
Sakura blinked to make sure she wasn't seeing things.
"You must be Sakura," said the Professor, holding the door open. "Come on in."
"Thank you for meeting me, Professor Himiuri," said Sakura. Her heart was pounding for some reason, and it wasn't calming down. It was almost like the time she showed That Person her first published article. She had to bite her fingers to stop herself from tearing out her hair in anxiety.
It was a good thing that Sakura had gotten experience in hiding her anxiety since then. She walked into the office with a mask of professional pleasantness firmly in place.
The office was small, but surprisingly neat. There was only really enough room for a desk and some seats. Behind his desk was a small window, which let in some natural light. Of course, most of the light today came from the yellow lightbulb hanging from the center of the ceiling.
There was a small filing cabinet in the corner behind the Professor's desk. On top of it was a small paraffin stove, where there was a tea kettle boiling.
"Tea?" the Professor offered, taking out some small cups from behind his desk.
Sakura graciously accepted a cup. Black tea, very English.
"I'm surprised it isn't green tea," she said, taking a sip. "You being a professor of Shinto studies."
The Professor laughed, also taking a sip of his own tea.
"Sometimes, we crave something a little more different from our usual lives," he said amiably. "Isn't that why you're here?"
Sakura smiled as she remembered the excuse she gave to get this interview; research into a particular story about the history of Shinto in Japan.
"Maybe a little," she said, taking out a pen and paper. "Specifically, I would like to know about how the concept of Kami has shaped modern Japanese society."
The Professor leaned back in his chair, thinking.
"That is an interesting topic," he said. "I actually wrote a thesis about this. But to summarize..."
As he started speaking, Sakura began taking notes. She had learned early on that while she could do this with her phone or tablet, most people wouldn't take to kindly to that. Furthermore, she liked the sensation of writing words down with a pen. Typing just wasn't the same.
Not that she was really writing anything now. She was too shocked for that. Once again, experience really was the best teacher. She managed to pay enough attention to ask pertinent questions when permitted, which made her seemed engaged. The Professor, in turn, seemed glad that someone was interested in his thesis, and elaborated with enthusiasm.
Inside however, Sakura's emotions were a hurricane of mixed emotions.
When she had first seen his picture on the university website, she had been shocked. She knew, instinctively, that she had seen this person before. That she had spoken with that face before.
However, when she called and spoke with him again on the phone, she had been less certain. His way of speaking was off. It wasn't at all like what she expected. She had set up the interview, but had hung up on the call uncertain.
"Just go along anyway," Michi had told her. "Maybe you'll find something you didn't know you were looking for."
But from the way he was speaking, as well as the information she had…
Sakura suppressed a sigh. She didn't think she was going to get what she came for. She felt the frustration build as she listened more to the Professor.
The problem was that even she didn't know exactly what she wanted. Which made her frustration at the Professor even more irrational, which irked her even more.
She was getting caught in a cycle of irritation. She needed to snap out of it.
"It sounds like you've done a lot of research into Kami," said Sakura, still maintaining her pleasant facade. "What exactly made you interested in researching them?"
The Professor went quiet. Sakura looked up, surprised to see him looking quite pensive. He opened his mouth, then closed it again.
"You know, you're the second person to ask me that in the past few weeks," he chuckled. "I don't think I gave a satisfactory answer to the other person."
"But after that conversation with her..." he continued, looking into the distance. "I had a dream I wasn't able to forget."
Sakura raised an eyebrow. What did this have to do with her question?
"In my dream, I watched as another version of me debated with a young woman about the nature of Truth," he said. "In the end, the woman made a point that the other me could not refute. And then..."
The Professor frowned as he tried to remember, then shook his head. He turned to Sakura and smiled.
"Sorry, I'm not sure what came over me," he said. "But to answer your question-"
"Do you remember anything else?" Sakura asked sharply. "About the dream?"
The Professor looked surprised, and looked down. Sakura followed his gaze, and to her horror, found that she had grabbed his wrist.
"Oh, I am so sorry!" she said, letting go and bowing in her seat. "I was just...it was a very interesting dream..."
Sakura bit her lip, cursing her stupidity. She could not let this chance pass her by.
She knew now why her heart was beating like a drum; it was because she and this man were connected. By the dream.
As soon as the Professor mentioned the dream, about the debate and the other version of himself, Sakura remembered it too. It was still quite hazy; she couldn't remember all the finer details of the debate.
But she remembered the gist of it. And how it had gone.
Professor Himiuri was surprised, to say the least.
"W-well, I don't remember much..." he laughed awkwardly. "It was a dream, after all..."
"N-no, the question was weird," said Sakura reflexively. "It's just, I have a hobby of collecting interesting dreams…my apologies for bringing my hobby into work..."
Professor Himiuri reflexively apologized as well, stating that it was fine, but he looked a little uncomfortable. Sakura bit her lip. She had built up a lot of goodwill by listening so far...
"Well, I think that's enough for-"
"Just one last question," Sakura interrupted. She was owed at least this much for listening for so long, right?
Professor Himiuri hesitated for a moment, then nodded. Sakura's mind went into overdrive.
What question did Sakura need to know the answer to before she left?
"Is there any precedent of a Kami giving a human supernatural abilities?"
The question left her before she could stop herself. It hung in the air in silence as Professor Himiuri and Sakura watched each other.
On the one hand, Sakura was here, watching to see if Professor Himiuri would react in any special way to this question. It was a stupid question, right? So the normal thing would be for him to laugh at her, right? So if he didn't laugh, that meant that he knew something, and could help her.
On the other hand, there was Professor Himiuri who was completely bewildered by this lady. First, she comes into his office and is completely pleasant, interested in his lectures, and even asked some very good questions. She would have been a great student. Then, she started asking about his dreams, which instantly made her a little weird.
And now she was asking this question? How was he supposed to answer this question?
They sat in silence for a moment. Them, Professor Himiuri made a decision.
"Well, as far as I know, Kami have only ever gifted humans material possessions," he said, straightening his glasses and sitting up. She had listened to him intently this whole time, the least he could do was answer her questions seriously.
"The greatest example of this would be the legend of Amaterasu gifting her grandson, the eventual emperor, the Imperial Regalia."
He went on to talk about the legend of Amaterasu, and how her grandson Ninigi used the Imperial Regalia to establish a kingdom of Justice and Harmony.
"Eventually, Ninigi's great-grandson Jimmu became the First Emperor of Japan," he said. "With the power of the Imperial Regalia, of course."
"But they never give...power directly?" she asked.
Professor Himiuri thought about it for a moment.
"No..." he said slowly. "The most direct way Kami have ever helped people is with bountiful crops and harvests. However, humans still need to work in order to reap those rewards."
"For direct power...most of the time it would be demons and oni who offer that sort of deal," he said.
Sakura's heart went cold. A demon…
She lay back in her chair, and looked up at the ceiling. If...it was a demon…
Things would make sense, wouldn't it?
She was on the verge of death there, wasn't she? And on the verge of death, she was offered a deal with a demon…
No. She frowned. No, the Professor appeared there to...take her away, wasn't he? He was telling her to go to the other world, but she convinced him to let her stay. And he even let her have some sort of power…
Wasn't that what happened?
Or had she been tricked by a demon into selling her soul for another chance to live?
In that case...why hadn't the Professor taken something from her? Shouldn't he have taken something from her?
If anything, it seemed like the Professor had been urging her to her death…
"What about shinigami?" she asked suddenly sitting back up, causing Professor Himiuri to spill a bit of his tea.
After accepting her profuse apologies, Professor Himiuri decided to answer.
"Shinigami...Kami of Death...they do not usually work with humans," he said.
"In late Edo classical literature, as well as in some folk religions, it is said that shinigami have possessed people and caused them to commit suicide," he went on.
This...Sakura's eyes narrowed. If she were to interpret the beginning of the dream as...yes, one could think that the Professor had been trying to lure her to her death. He may have even possessed her; Sakura suddenly remembered the feeling of her body moving without her will.
"However...there is no record of any legend where a shinigami has helped humans," he concluded. "At least, none that I am aware of."
But Sakura was already lost in thought. If the Professor had been a shinigami, that was trying to take her soul...and she argued for her right to live…
Was it possible that he helped her? After all, like Professor Himiuri said, there was no record of a shinigami ever helping humans. Could it be that she had shamed one into helping her? Into helping humanity?
"Y-yes?" said Sakura, jumping in her seat.
Professor Himiuri smiled.
"I think I need to prepare for my next lecture," he said. "I don't think I will be able to see you out."
After stammering out a thank you, and apologizing once again, Sakura left. She had a lot to think about.
On her way down, she pondered a little more about her dream. It was still quite fuzzy, but she remembered more of it. But nothing she remembered gave her the answer she wanted.
As she stepped out the elevator, she was struck by a certain thought.
Maybe that was the point. She rememebred what the Professor had said about Truth and how it had no power to change people unless they believed it.
But would people really accept the truth if it isn't something they want to believe?
Most people would believe in something that makes sense of the world to them. Something that will make the world fair and just, that will explain the inconsistencies away in their life. To them, this limited viewpoint would be the lense from which they would view the world, coloring everything in this 'truth.'
Wasn't that what she was doing now?
She didn't want to believe that she made a deal with demons, so she tried to see if she could twist the truth and make it so she was helped by shinigami?
Did she really make a deal with the devil?
Before she could spiral into an even deeper depression, Sakura was pulled out of her reverie when she looked up outside and realized that the rain had gone from 'annoyingly heavy' to 'possible typhoon.' There was no way her umbrella would help in that weather.
She watched the water come down with impatience. It wasn't like she had anywhere to be but...this was really killing her already souring mood.
Suddenly, her phone rang. Michi. She frowned; normally he texted. Then again, he did call for big news. Her eyes widened as she realized that Bunta may have cracked the USB, and had some big news. She picked up the call eagerly.
"Yes?" she said.
"They're here," said Michi, sounding more afraid than Sakura had ever heard in her life. "They're asking for you. And they've got guns."
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