遡の巫女

Entry Writchal #4

Theme: Fireworks


遡の巫女

The Sakanoboru family has been managing and attending the local shrine, to which it also named conveniently as Sakanoboru Shrine. The shrine, atop of a hill, stood dauntingly and shrouded in mystical energy of heavenly origin.

Or so it should have been, according to the tale passed down by Mother and other old folks. It now resembles a generic, uninspiring, old Japanese-styled building of which nothing remarkable can be seen. My home, and I, as one of the daughters of Sakanoboru, have the duty to attend it as a shrine maiden.

“Mo-chan! Come on, hurry up!”

A lot of the shrine maiden’s duty included ceremonial work, shrine cleaning, also rituals ranging from monthly to yearly, on top of several types of worshipping rite including the shady ones. Though these days, only the shrine cleaning duty remains. To be precise, it’s just daily housework. The customary rituals have dwindled down, and the remaining few rituals held only as formality—only if there’s enough manpower and fund, anyway.

Mother said that the duty of the Sakanoboru Shrine Maiden right now is to live as a normal girl. The old customs weren’t important nor convenient in terms of practicality, neither do it held any form of power in entrancing people into believing in the God residing within our shrine. ‘It comes down to live on with the teachings left by our ancestors, and learning from their mistakes.’

“Alriiiight, a little bit!”

Even if there is a lot of work, I wouldn’t complain any way. Since my generation have two person taking on the role of Sakanoboru Shrine Maiden.

Sakanoboru Saki.

Sakanoboru Moto.

We are the identical twin daughters of Sakanoboru family. And we both, share the burden of committing the duty of Sakanoboru Shrine Maiden. And as though our Mother have an inkling of what we will go through in our life as one, we are trying to our best to live as a normal girl.

Because the daughters of Sakanoboru bloodline inherits an ability related to temporal sight.

“Been up all night, and forgot to set alarm too. Sorry, Sa-chan.”

“Muuu…I’ve got to see your cute sleeping face so whatever.”

“Ah, so that’s the reason you didn’t wake me up until the last minute?!”

“Well, there’s still enough time to walk to school together. Take it easy.”

—Foresight. To be precise.

They can catch a glimpse of the future within their mind. And whatever they see will inevitably occur. Compared to reading a possibility of what will happen, on the contrary, the ability seems to set the future in stone. This ability seemed to be the main reason why our bloodline runs the shrine and (according to Mother) revered by the local community as messenger sent from Heaven.

It manifested on Saki.

She have been catching glimpses of future since childhood, and Mother was the least bit surprised when it happened. That was also the day we were taught about the Sakanoboru Shrine Maiden. Mother never replied on whether she still have her ability or not, and we lost her at the tender age of 25.

Though it happened a long time ago, and we never really looked back on it much since we have each other to worry and enjoy life together. Mother, with her absurd knowledge of Sakanoboru history and teaching, would probably say that the reason our ability manifest is because in life, we have to look forward, not backwards.

“Oh right. The summer festival is coming soon, isn’t it?”, Saki interjected.

“The one with plenty fireworks in the end? Yeah, in five days.”

“Hmm, I wonder if this time we should come…”

“I’d rather play some games, really. Or do something unusual, like going someplace far away.”

“So that you could be alone?”

“No, because the fireworks were loud. It’s held near our shrine every year. It’s getting irritating, to be honest.”

“But we have the best spot to look at them all exclusive to us, you know?”

“You seem to enjoy it every time, even though we didn’t go to the festival.”

“Duh. I’m plenty with just the fireworks.”

“Well, then maybe I should try going to the festival. See if I could have fun.”

“Heeee, on your own?”

“…I’m not saying you couldn’t join.”

“Ho, then.”

Saki ran ahead and turned back to face me.

“Promise me you’d take me along on the night of the festival?”

She beamed a smile filled with expectation. Her invigorating eagerness almost made me smile in return. How noxious her liveliness is.

“I haven’t said anything on what I will do, though?”

“And the promise was to take me along on whatever you will do, so?”

“…sigh. Can’t be helped then.”

“…Hehe.”

“…What? Don’t you have anything better to do by then?”

“Mmn,” Saki shook her head lightly, “I’ve got nothing better to do than being with you anyway.”

Though I’m already familiar with her antics, and she usually spent most of her time with me either way, her tone seems to be odd.

“Saw another future again?”

“Mmm…maybe? Sort of? I can’t really tell.”

“…sigh. Come on, you.”

Saki’s footsteps halted and she smiled dubiously. Saki always do this whenever she has something she wanted hidden. A poor liar, or an expressive girl, I don’t really know which. And as a follow-up I stretched both her cheeks flippantly.

“Uweueeeeh, shtop id~”

It sort of became a habit. And I never truly pursue the matter further if she never wished for it.

“One of these days I’m gonna become a loose girl because of you, Mo-chan.”

“Phrasing!”

…Honestly, I have an idea on what she saw. But whichever action I take, nor hers, the outcome would always come out as per her vision. That much is certain, so we don’t dwell on it much.

As for me. I have no ability of the sorts Saki experienced.

I inherited none of the Sakanoboru bloodline’s ability.

…is what I’d like to say. I do, in fact. own an ability, though less defined and vague than Saki’s foresight.

The ability to send my heart back in time.

Ugh, even saying it internally still made me uneasy. I have no precise idea on how nor what truly was sent back in time. The term “heart” was simply a term for…a strong feeling accompanied by an indistinct premonition.

It definitely isn’t memory, consciousness, let alone my physical body that went back in time. That much for certain. For once, if I send my own back memory in time, then I would have knowledge on what will happen, or at least supposed to happen.

But I carry no memory of those. Just, a vague feeling that I went back in time to fix things. For example, if one day I broke a glass important to someone, I would send my “heart” back in time, and by then I would have a premonition to be more careful around the time the glass broke back then. No memories attached, I presume.

How I came to realize this was just another part of the mystery. Akin to a sudden surge of relief? Feeling of ease? “An unwanted future avoided”-kind of realization, though with exact reasons unknown. The feeling that I went through both sequence would remain vague as sometimes I couldn’t recall which was the one I went later to fix. Like how you would not remember the plot of a manga you have previously read.

You have certain remembrance you have read it. But not how it went.

In short, this ability doesn’t really do me justice. Heck, could this even be called an ability? Not even the user have a clear understanding, or even let to understand it.

So I just shrug it off, and think of Saki as the inheritor of the Sakanoboru bloodline’s ability.

Mother told us to live our life as a normal girl. And I’m here to help her become one.

“Mo-chan, see you after school!”

“Yeah. Later, Sa-chan.”

For one, I know well enough Saki is burdened by her ability all this time. The duty of Sakanoboru Shrine Maiden. The destiny of Sakanoboru bloodline’s daughter. The inevitability of their foresight. She must have a lot on her mind, despite her carefree and easygoing personality.

And for two, it pained me to no end knowing full well I could never understand a shred of what she have to go through—despite us being identical twins.

===

Four days went by almost too leisurely. Saki showed signs of resignation here and there, probably another future she saw came to pass. And I could do nothing but console her with a head pat or a cheek-rub. For some reason, she kept asking about our previous promise, and I had to reaffirm her every time that I’m going to be there for her.

This night, though, she seemed a bit more reluctant than usual.

No, not a bit. She’s dejected, perhaps forlorn. Like losing something important to her, though not as depressed as when we lost Mother.

Just as I was about to sleep, a knock came over to my room. Saki slid it over, her gaze downcast.

“…Mo-chan.”

She looked frail, and her body slightly trembled. Did she saw another unpleasant future? It has been so lately. Seeing such future come to pass surely would bring unease, no matter who.

“Can I…sleep with you tonight?”, Saki timidly asked.

“No night-visit this time? Usually I wake up only to found you right beside me all the time.” I tried to ease her tension by cracking a joke, but she only slant her gaze slightly, as if realizing a fault she never thought about doing.

“…I’m not mad about it. It’s fine, really. Let’s go to sleep, then?”

Her gaze finally have enough courage to lock with my eyes, and she nodded ever so slightly. Abrupt as it was, I couldn’t ignore how dark the circles on her eyes were, nor how it glazed with tears waiting to burst.

“Lights off, okay.” I went over to turn the lights off and was about to take out another futon. Saki grabbed my hand from behind before I could do it. I turned back and saw her shaking her head in a hurried manner.

“Let’s sleep together.”

“…Sure.”

Casting aside whether it would be comfortable or not, if she wished for it, then I’m up for it. It’s not like I have particular dislike on sleeping in tight space either.

“…”

I went to the bed first followed by Saki snuggling up from below, forcing her way to my embrace. Our bodies are so close to each other, the bed is still quite wide on the other side.

Saki’s downtrodden face changed into one frightened. It’s right in front of me, around 10 cm apart, so I can’t help but look at it trembling uncontrollably.

“What, are you afraid of me leaving you?”

“…Un.” She nodded once.

“When did I ever leave you, really. I won’t, okay? This is my room too.”

“M-Mo-chan, are you really fine with us sleeping together? Am I troubling you?”

“Come on, how many times did you snuck inside my bedsheet without asking me. This time you just did it with consent.”

“It’s okay. Open your eyes. I’m not going anywhere.”

Saki stopped trembling and slowly opened her eyes. It’s dark, yet I can tell how her eyes interlocked with mine. When was the last time Saki have been this nervous? She would only get this nervous if some awful foresight came to pass. And by awful, I meant the one involving the loss of someone.

Describing her frail-looking face and teary eyes as cute wouldn’t call it justice. How come I, the identical twin of her, feel so inferior in terms of cuteness and lovability? God, this girl was really wasted on someone like me.

“E-even I’m a bit excited to sleep together with you, o-okay.” Though I told her to look at me, I’m the one who sided my glance. Augh, her gaze is plain destructive to my reasoning, I might not be able to sleep for real.

“Hmn?”

“I never felt troubled nor annoyed by your midnight antics, okay. But sometimes I think to myself, ‘if only she asked me beforehand, then we could have sleep together even longer~’ and such since…well, you never really asked, and I felt childish for asking one.”

“…”

“Err, point is. Even I, your identical sister, want to look at your sleeping face too, just so you know.”

Mustering up the little reasoning left within me, I couraged myself to look at her eyes while saying that.

Crap. She smiled.

“Moto. I love you. Take me along tomorrow, okay?”

“Mmn. I love you too, Saki. Let’s sleep before tomorrow comes.”

Saki snuggled up even closer and embraced me tighter ever so slightly. I was not joking when I said I want to look at her sleeping face and how I felt a little excited to sleep together with her.

But, contrary to my expectations, Saki’s peaceful breathing, relaxed rhythm of movement, and heartbeat that reverberates through lulled me into deep drowsiness with ease. As if to let my body remember in exchange, I unconsciously did the same thing as her before falling into sleep.

===

I arrived at a land of endless white. I stood, yet could not see the ground below me. Wind blows through the crevices of my hair and flutter my clothes, yet there’s no sky above me. I think I have arrived at the “Passage of Time”.

It has to be a dream, one I have a hunch will be forgotten by the time I wake up.

It is a sacred place only the shrine maidens of Sakanoboru could perceive and arrive at.

According to Mother, anyway.

What a weird feeling. It truly have no description other than a land of endless white, yet I feel confident that this was the place Mother had once described in detail.

A girl came up to me, donning a neat cloth of shrine maiden outfit of ours.

From which generation, I have no idea. She resembled Saki, but younger. Though my gut feeling told me she could not have been Saki.

“Moto, you unmistakably are one daughter of Sakanoboru, that I assure.”

“Why am I alone in this space?”

“There is me, is there not?”

“No, you are supposed to be a fragment of my imagination. I must be dreaming since lately Saki…or the whole Sakanoboru duty attached to us have been weighing on my mind.”

“Correct, yet still further from truth.”

“…”

“The duty of Sakanoboru, ours, as the ones graced with the responsibility to bear, is penultimately—the prevention of disaster.”

“That does not answer my question.”

“Originally, one would inherit the ability to venture into the future and past willingly, albeit metaphorical in nature. ”

“…”

“The duty, or so it conveniently named after, is for us to see the future which lies ahead, and return in time to prevent both the event and the premonition itself from happening in the first place. An occurrence unhappening, a deed unrewarded.”

“And your point is?”

“That you still have no idea what the point is.”

“Then tell me straight. I’m not one with the ability proper, Saki would be the person you look for.”

“Did you hear me not? You unmistakably are, Moto, a daughter of Sakanoboru.”

“Yea-”

“Including that so-called ability of yours to go back in time.”

“…Huh?”

“Though it may be far from calling it a proper usage of what Sakanoboru daughter could wield. Still, for one with half the whole, you surely have a knack for guessing it quite accurate.”

She took a sit on an empty white space. Cross-legged, establishing both mature and childlike disposition through her gesture. I did the same, but with the manners taught to me as Sakanoboru Shrine Maiden.

“Well-taught, ain’t ya?”

“Forgive my impoliteness. May I have you elaborate the meaning of this encounter?”

“That part would be you on your own. The fish can only be counted after you are done fishing, right?”

…Meaning there’s no meaning if it’s not done yet, I presume.

“You were correct about you, yourself, climbing upstream in time to prevent an undesired future. Down to the part where you couldn’t remember a thing, since it is meant to be that way.”

“…Not even us, would remember what could have been nor why we go back in time, is that it?”

“Correct. I told you, an occurrence unhappening, a deed unrewarded. That responsibility shouldered by us, daughters of Sakanoboru, as one graced with inhuman perception.”

“Then, since in my generation a twin is born, the power was partitioned so that only one of us could see what the other cannot?”

“Half-correct. though I would never absolutely ever say the reason lying behind my words.”

It’s harder to deal with a child(?) with strong personality than I had thought. My feeling told me to be cautious of her though, reflected by both her gesture and manner of speaking which assert an indifference to my presence, really.

“Is that all?”

“Sadly that is all.”

“Then I should go back.”

“To where?”

“To wake up. I have to take Saki along wherever I go today.”

“But there’s no place to go back?”

“…Excuse me?”

“This place is where one goes “back”, the start of the past. Not a soul could go further back than this, not even a Sakanoboru daughter.”

“It’s one only you can arrive at, Moto.”

All of those conversation thrown seems to make no sense at all. I couldn’t tell whether she said those metaphorically or literally. Still, an inkling of answer crossed my mind which I won’t hesitate to say.

“Then I’ll go see Saki. To the future.”

“…Right, she’s ahead of you, isn’t she?”

I stood up quite politely. Only by then did I realize I donned the same outfit as that child(?), as though midway I admitted that I am truly one of the Sakanoboru daughters.

I strongly wished to see a future with Saki, and put both my hand and eyes in prayer.

===

I woke up to find Saki no longer in my embrace. No idea when or how she managed to get up without me realizing. I felt like I was in a very vivid dream either…perhaps sleeping with Saki made me think about all of the Sakanoboru stuffs too much.

Today, I promised to take Saki along with me wherever.

I am not one particularly keen on promising things, but for Saki, I could never ignore it.

The old folks said Saki went ahead without telling them where she’s going. With her shoe gone, phone left, and bag remained, I have no way to reach her other than to look for her.

I spent the whole day strolling and searching for Saki around the town.

Not in the place she’s usually in, nor anywhere she hangs out with me or by herself.

Weirdly, none of the people I asked seem to recall ever seeing her today.

The sun was setting, and the festive mood began to burst within the town as the summer festival gained momentum from its flooding participants. All my attention, on the other hand, seems to get even more unsettled with each passing second.

“Where are you, Saki…”

I muttered a question no one could answer except Saki. A little bit of hope in my heart wished she would surprise me from behind in a joking manner like her usual antics. But I’m greeted with despair with every back that I turn to look for her.

As the sky began to darken, stars began to emerge whenever I look up. The day almost ended, and the festival approached its main event—the fireworks.

A slight hint of resignation dwelled inside me. Perhaps, she will return just fine, or through some sort of miraculous misunderstanding, we just missed each other barely. With dejected footsteps, I return back home.

On my way back, everyone seemed to go with the flow and towards the festival. Expectations and joy radiating out of their face haphazardly. Saki should be teeming with such happiness too, if not for the fact that I couldn’t find her.

Saki, similar to me in a sense, uphold promises in high regards. To the point where she would feel guilty even if the other person was the reason it goes unfulfilled. And today, I promised to take her along wherever. And all day long I was by my own. Saki must be ridden with guilt.

Tired, I took a breather near the base of the stairs leading to the shrine. The hill, somewhat misplaced amongst all the western-styled housing, felt like a place where time is frozen in place. The stairs, one where I have been used to seeing, seemed to be so tall and far than usual.

My gut feeling told me this won’t end well.

For one, I’m exhausted. There’s no lamp either. Only me and the stairs leading up to the shrine.

“…No choice about it.”

My feet went upstream and I climbed.

Each step, a bit louder than usual since I put more energy into it.

The surrounding sound drowned out, as if I’m the only living thing.

What was it that I try to do?

Yeah, finding Saki.

Only she has the key to go into the future.

The duty of Sakanoboru Shrine Maiden.

A disaster about to happen.

I could go back in time to fix things.

And Saki should be the one to see it happen before.

If one future pass.

And I’m not there to fix it.

She…what was it?

Have we been taking our abilities for granted?

The term duty seems to be heavyhanded for just a trivial ability.

Or might there be a price to be paid due for not committing the duty? I don’t know.

But I have to find it first.

The way to look into the future.

So that I may change the past.

Even if unrewarded.

Even if nobody realized.

Surely a future will come to pass where we could be happy.

And even if it won’t.

I will see it.

And I will return to make it so it will.

At the second last step of the stair, I felt terribly exhausted. Like going through a similar experience thousands of times waiting for a result I wished for to occur. It should have been an experience I have no trouble going through though. Yet cold sweat ran down all over my body.

As I gently took the final step leading to the shrine grounds, a flash of brilliant light casted a shadow in front of me. Mine. And with it a loud booming sound reverberates through the night skies.

I looked back.

The fireworks bloomed in the night sky.

It colored the starry canvas with bright colors you don’t usually see. The sound of each round being shot into the sky heighten your anticipation for the explosion. And with each explosion, a flash of light blinds the eye for a brief moment. It was very brief, yet very beautiful. And the next moment, came another.

A sequence of never ending, brief, beautiful scene played out in front of me.

I stood alone right below the torii leading up to the shrine. Somehow it felt natural for me not to stand in the center of the road. Someone else might just come up to pass beside me. Or maybe I want someone else to enjoy this scene together with me. Though nobody really pays this shrine a visit.

Another round fired, and another part of my memory were lost in its brilliance.

Aah.

That’s why they always said, ‘It’s beautiful, isn’t it?’.

They can’t really put a word into what those were. The feeling of having something important taken away from you. The feeling of regret for losing so much. The feeling of helplessness over the inevitability of an end.

A huge round was fired and a myriad of blooming flower painted the night sky bright. A presence appeared besides me. Tears began flowing down immediately as I felt another hand grasping mine.

It must be the magic of the fireworks.

For a brief moment, I just want to enjoy this moment together with her.

“Don’t go back, Moto.”

I know.

The only way out is for me to not go back in time.

Were you clad in so much pain all this time, and not even once shed a tear in front of me?

Do you carry all the burden we ought to have shared together?

I don’t know.

But I promise the next time I will try to understand you better.

So that we can figure a way out.

Together.

“I’m going, Saki.”

I wished dearly inside my heart.

As the final round erupted, we were enveloped in brilliance. Two shadows casted on the ground, hand-in-hand with each other.

I closed my eyes, and return back in time to fulfill our promise.


Writer: AJIBEH

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