The shrine maiden, or miko, said something in Japanese. Of course, we didn’t understand. She spoke again. This time, she spoke in rough Chinese. “What are you doing here? Why did you trespass here?”
“Oh, you can speak Chinese?” I was amazed.
“I’ve read ancient Chinese books, so I’ve learned the grammar a bit.”
Although this miko could speak Chinese, her grammar was indeed weird. She raised her broomstick again and boldly said, “Answer me!”
“We are after a little fox spirit. She stole our passports. If you don’t believe me, you can ask him.” I pointed at Chuyi.
The miko skeptically assessed us. “You’re after a little fox? You’re lying!”
“Then why would we invade this place at midnight like this? Is there something good to steal in this shrine?”
She rolled her eyes at me. “We don’t have any foxes here!”
I wanted to laugh when I heard her talk, but I refrained as it wasn’t polite. Chinese was really hard to study. It was good enough that we could communicate.
“This is Inari Shrine, where fox immortals are worshipped, right?”
The miko sneered. “Then, is there always a Bodhisattva in Bodhisattva temples in China?”
Chuyi explained, “I’m a Daoist priest from Mitu Temple in Hong Kong. That little fox tried to guide us here. She should have a purpose. Can you take us for a tour inside? We will not cause any trouble.”
The miko frowned and asked, “How about you?”
“I’m a merchant of otherworldly items. I don’t think you’ve heard of this profession.”
The miko didn’t understand what otherworldly items were, but she knew the word merchant. “Why is a merchant traveling with a Daoist priest?”
“In short, we are co-workers. It’s similar to the Onmyoji in Japan.”
She didn’t quite understand, but she put her broomstick aside. “All right, I can take you in. But if we don’t find your passports, I’ll call the police to arrest you.”
“Okay!” I nodded.
The miko guided us. We walked along the mountain path, and although she was wearing a hakama with a long, loose sleeved kimono robe, I noticed that she had a good physique. She had a good body and curves. Of course, I wasn’t a pervert that had bad thoughts toward a shrine maiden.
The mountain path was long and steep. There were many red torii and lanterns that hung on them. However, the light from the lanterns wasn't bright enough. We were lucky that there was a full moon tonight.
The woods alongside the mountain path were pitch-black. We occasionally heard squeaking sounds from the night birds. There were many stone foxes of various sizes, with the biggest around half the size of an adult. They had a humanoid shape and wore ancient clothes. They brought their palms together and squinted their eyes as if they were smiling. It would be eerie to walk here alone at night.
After walking for a while, the space in front of us expanded and became bright. A red wooden gate that read ‘Inari Shrine’ stood on two cement supports, and two foxes sat on top of it. They held a bunch of rice ears in their mouths.
The miko led us through the great gate. The yard inside was spacious with pretty and clean tiles. There were big and lush trees that were neatly aligned with the rocks and springs, as well as some red Tang Dynasty styled structures. They looked new, but I knew they were built quite a long time ago.
I suddenly felt like I had traveled back to the Tang Dynasty. It was a nice place to shoot an ancient drama. I heard that Shu Qi shot some of her assassin movie scenes in Kyoto.
I noticed the geomancy of this place. Everything was arranged meticulously. An expert must have helped make this place. After all, this place was a top tier shrine in Japan.
The miko halted and turned to face us. “Where are your passports? I will take you there to get them. You can’t roam around this place.”
I thought the miko wanted to trouble us. If she didn’t let us search, how would we know where our passports were?
Chuyi said, “I can sense the monster aura. It should be there.” He raised his fingers and pointed in the direction of the main hall.
The miko looked skeptical. “Are you sure?”
“All right, I’ll take you there,” said the miko.
We needed to take off our shoes before entering the main hall. There was a statue with a red coat enshrined in the main hall. Although the statue had a human form, its face had the features of a fox. “Miss, is that Tamamo no Mae?”
“No, many Chinese tourists have asked me that question. I didn't know how to cry.”
“I think you meant ‘I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry,’” I corrected her.
Indeed, our passports were on the altar. I picked them up and checked them. There were five passports, and something was placed underneath them. It was a Ksitigarbha Talisman!
This Ksitigarbha Talisman was stuck onto a piece of wood. The miko gasped, looking at the talisman in my hand with wide eyes. Chuyi and I exchanged looks.
This talisman was the one I had given to the oden chef. The fox spirit couldn’t have touched it since she was a monster. That was why she had pried up the wooden piece to get the talisman. The little fox had tried her best to usher us here. I realized there was more to this story.
The miko asked, “Does this talisman belong to you too?”
The miko had been vigilant the entire time she had accompanied us and didn’t look that friendly. I only wanted to return to the hotel to rest. However, I gave her a nod. “Yeah, I drew this talisman.”
“You can draw this kind of talisman?” She looked stunned.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
She brought her palms together and asked in an honest voice, “Could you please give me a few?”
She then explained shyly, “These days, strange things have been happening in the shrine. We often hear strange noises at night, just as if someone was throwing bricks at the walls. Some people here have even seen a headless samurai walking on the mountain trail. Several mikos were terrified. Last month, we saw a burning head fly around the yard, too.”
Mikos were just shrine maidens and they couldn’t subdue ghosts or monsters. Some miko did have sacred powers. However, it came with their bloodline. This kind of inheritance had been long lost in the history of Onmyojis.
The miko said embarrassedly, “My grandmother was a famous miko in Kyoto in her time. But in my generation, we don’t have a bit of magic power...”
“Excuse me, how should I address you?” I asked.
“My name is Chiba Rin.”
Chuyi and I also told her our names.
“Miss Chiba, how do you know about this talisman?”
“Because we also have this Ksitigarbha Talisman!” The miko said with bright eyes.
I was surprised. The miko knew of the power of the talisman and she knew its name. This girl did have some knowledge.
“Please follow me. I want to show you something.” The miko made an inviting gesture.
My mind shook. Another business case has come to my door!Previous Chapter Next Chapter