As usual for the season, it was a bright and sunny afternoon in Dallas. Midori found herself alone – again. She was starting to realize that solitude was actually something quite wonderful. So much of her first twenty-years (okay, nineteen) had been dedicated to pleasing her parents or her clients or whoever else that she’d never really just been able to enjoy solitude.
Claret had woken up after lunch and was now off and about the city enjoying her (apparently) newfound freedom. Erica-chan had gone back to Conor’s to book a few more hours in the Danger Room. The Fortress of Estrogen had only a single defender.
The installation crew had just left and so she restored the apartment’s magical wards before returning to her now “complete” room.
She opened the door and walked in, having to take off her shoes in the genkan – a tiny “niche” formed just on the other side. Her door had been reversed to open into the hallway instead of into her room. Within the genkan there was room for her slippers at the base of the two steps that led up to a raised floor. The room was elevated about a little over a foot up from the now bare plywood. Tatami mats rested atop a gridwork of wood covered by hinged doors, this allowed Midori to put many things under the floor surface – basically turning her entire floor into storage.
The room’s light fixtures had been replaced with a track LED arrangement that uniformly bathed the room in cool white light diffused through rice paper covers. That was what the crew just finished installing. All her other closets and doors had been covered with more rice paper (and sometimes white plastic) and woodwork to look like Shoji – the rice paper and wood-work grid most people associate with Japanese walls. Between the floor storage and all her hidden storage, it turned the space into something very, very tranquil… in other words, her own – Washitsu – a traditional room from her land of her parent’s birth. Of course, it came at the expense of vertical clearance… an eight foot tall room is an eight foot tall room. Luckily, Midori only knew a handful of individuals taller than six feet.
It would be fairly expensive to put the room back into its original state when and if they ever moved out again, but one must live in the moment….
Now that everyone had left, she began the work of putting everything back in place. Since she would sleep on the floor on a futon (and that was stored UNDER the floor) there was actually very little to be put back. Really the only piece of furniture was a small chabudai – the low table that in a Japanese home served for family dining. However, for Midori’s needs – the table would act more like an altar than anything else since she didn’t plan on hosting any Japanese dinners in her room. Onto it went her sword stand and Ninjatō… actually she preferred the term Shinobigatana but whatever. Then a handful of other things, including her Ōnenju beads. She retrieved out of a box in the floor, nine ornate wooden statues of Japanese Buddhist “Gods.” Each was placed, very carefully, and in a specific order, along the back of the low table (but in front of the sword stand). These were the most important decorations, this was after all to be her dōjō.
After gathering up a handful of miniature black and red bowls, she went into the kitchen. She filled the small bowls with rice, sake, and pickled daikon. She placed all these on a tray and returned to her room. She said a prayer in front of each statue as she placed down a symbolic offering of rice, drink, and pickles for each. Though she was hungry, she ate nothing. She placed the tray under her altar, left upon it was a single empty regular sized bowl, a full sized sakazuki cup, and a pair of chopsticks.
Then, the final decorations in the room would be for the walls. She hung up a handful of Kakemono – hanging scrolls – with calligraphy. Each scroll had meaning to her, each served as a reminder of an aspect or tenant she needed to internalize. Finally she opened the two “hidden” panels to her wall altar. This had been expensive to install. An entire section of sheet rock had been removed and the area in between the 2×4s filled with ornate wood, shelving, LED track lighting, and of course the doors that concealed it all. Upon the wall at the back of the altar was her most valuable Scroll – detailing the principles of Onmyōdō. It was alongside a black and white framed photograph of Ōjisan and a very small brass “cauldron” shaped bowl filled with sand for holding incense sticks. She lit three sticks, saying a prayer as she did so. Part one, complete.
She bathed, a deep, hot, and soaking bath with lots of jasmine and sandalwood oils. Midori then put on a white cotton shōzoku – her “ninja clothing” – minus the mask and tabi boots (though she did wear socks). After kneeling down in the center of the room in front of her alter, she tied her long hair back with a plain white hachimaki – headband. She then meditated to clear her thoughts and focus her energies. After a time, she wasn’t sure how long as there was no clock visible (deliberately), she felt ready. Part two, complete.
She opened another storage panel and withdrew a paper box. Inside was a lot of folded black silk. Roxie-san had brought it over. Though it might not mean much to non-supernaturals… the silk was powerfully important to Midori. These sheets had previously decorated Conor’s king sized bed. It wasn’t simply a matter of a girl’s hormonal crush for an older and powerful man (though that was certainly there). The specific night these sheets were used was their first ‘date;’ when the matter of Midori’s Mizuage had finally been… resolved. Roxie had indicated that some “biological remnants” had been left intact. Old Midori would have blushed furiously after realizing what this silk contained, current Midori knew that there was tremendous magical potential in this little box. Not for just any Thaumaturgist perhaps, but for her personally on a deeply intimate level. She placed the box on the tatami floor between where she would be kneeling and the altar. She said another prayer hoping the silk would be acceptable… though she was sure it would be.
Then she took off her juzu from around her left wrist, placing it down on the silk. The one she wore on her wrist was the smaller kind, with only 18 koshu beads. She then took her 108 koshu long Ōnenju from off her altar table, also placing it on top of the silk, forming as best as possible a circle. Now… the request. She got out her calligraphy set and special paper. She wrote down her “request” upon it, summarized in two large Kanji – “power” and “vision.” It was difficult because she wrote with her left hand and the writing wasn’t as pretty as she would normally like. However, it had to be the left hand – she was not asking for destructive magic. When she was satisfied, she put the brush and ink well back in its case, and put the paper into the circle. Part three, complete.
She cleared her thoughts. As she kneeled before the altar, she let the smell of incense fill her senses. After taking in a deep, cleansing breath, she did the complex set of hand gestures that indicated she was calling upon ancient powers.
Midori formed her fingers into the first of the Kuji-In – the gesture for Rin – strength. She looked at the statue of Bishamon-ten, speaking clearly “On baishiramantaya sowaka … Ōm.”
She closed her eyes for the last word, the “Ohm” sound that, these days, was much more famous thanks to Yoga and Hindus. She wasn’t sure if she’d ever get used to the feeling of magical power flowing through her as she began her spell.
Then, turning her gaze to the statue of Gonzanze Myō-ō, she formed the symbol fo Pyō – to channel power. “On ishanaya intaraya sowaka …Ōm”
She repeated the process with each of the great spirits and with each of the hand gestures and mantras. With each repetition, she felt the power and energy of her spell growing.
After many long minutes, going through each of the nine symbols and mantras each time, she felt herself nearly bursting with magical energy – Ki. She picked up the paper with her “request” upon it with her right hand. Then, she crossed the first two fingers of her left hand – like a Western schoolgirl might when saying something she didn’t believe in – and did a horizontal “slash” across the surface of the paper, saying “RIN!” with force.
Then a vertical slash, “PYŌ!”
She alternated gestures – vertical then horizontal forming an imaginary “grid” across the surface of the paper – the “tenth symbol.” With each slash she went through the rest of the Kuji-In sounds – “SHA! KAI! JIN! RETSU! ZAI! ZEN!”
As she said the last syllable, with her right hand that had been holding the paper she slammed it down on her circle formed by the beads. She let roar with a “KIAI!” that came from the core of her soul. She felt all the energy that she had built up release in a single burst. When she looked down, the paper no longer had writing upon it, replaced instead with an outline of her hand that appeared to be slightly charred as if by intense candle-flame.
Midori felt drained, both literally and figuratively. She picked up the piece of paper and looked down at her thought beads – her Ōnenju – and they seemed to throb with energy.
She picked up the smaller beads, wrapping them around her left wrist. Then she took the longer beads and placed them around her neck, tucking them under her robes.
Even as Midori did so, she knew something was different. Her room suddenly changed colors and she was able to see everything. No… EVERYTHING. She could see both the walls and within the walls, the tatami floor mats as well as what was beneath. Visions and images fought for logic within her mind and she felt it all slipping until she refocused. Then, looking at the low table that formed her altar she saw “Them” … the nine great spirits … they were looking back at her with various emotions from wary respect to annoyance to pride.
She bowed deeply, face to the floor, saying a prayer of the deepest respect and thanks. When she lifted up her torso and again opened her eyes, the room again looked normal. The spell worked. Final part, complete.
She tried to move, her legs having gone to sleep she just slumped down to her buttocks… resting would be a good idea. She said a gratitude prayer to each of the nine great spirits, taking their rice, sake, and pickles off and placing them on the tray again. Then… she dumped all the rice and pickles in the empty bigger bowl and ate. The great spirits had taken their share already… and she was famished!
Once that was consumed, she combined all the miniature sake cups into her own sakazuki (a traditional saucer just for rice wine) and had a drink, toasting the spirits as she did so “Kampai!” … Actually there was enough sake to have three drinks.
Midori was immensely pleased with herself. She reached out and touched the black silk. It was very heavy and of sufficient thread-count that she was certain it was expensive. Now that she was done with them, she toyed with the idea of washing them and giving them back… but there was just no way that conversation wouldn’t be odd. She could give them back to Roxie-san of course but… also odd.
Then she grinned… black silk.
She looked down at her white cotton shōzoku that she used for ritual magic.
Inwardly she chuckled, Ninjas wear black Midori… you need to learn how to sew.