Chiba took us to the chamber behind the main hall where they stored the offerings. This warehouse was neatly arranged. A strong smell filled the entire place. Exquisite costumes, small drums, fans, and other items were neatly stacked on the bamboo shelf.
She went deep into the warehouse until she reached a red wooden cabinet. She brought her palms together and prayed for a short moment before pulling the drawer.
Inside the drawer was a wooden box with copper handles on each side. It looked old. She took out the box. We recognized that the box was tied with a red rope and a few tattered Ksitigarbha Talismans. I was surprised. “Where did you get these talismans?”
“These talismans were from my grandmother’s time. At that time, there was a ghost that troubled this box. A master from China came and subdued it. He was the one that left these talismans.”
There were different ways of drawing a Ksitigarbha Talisman. Different people would perform the same set of moves differently. I checked the talismans and found familiar traces of my grandpa.
Could it be my grandpa? But my grandpa had never been to Japan. Perhaps it was someone else from the Zhang family in Jiangbei.
“Can I look inside the box?” I asked.
“Yes, you can.” Chiba nodded.
I moved the box in front of me. The seal on the box looked interesting. It was a hexagonal seal formation, and the Ksitigarbha Talismans reinforced the seal. It was a masterpiece created by an expert. However, the talismans weren’t intact and the red rope was torn. The seal had been broken.
“Have you kept this drawer locked the entire time?” I asked.
“Only the Kannushi and I have the key of this cabinet,” answered Chiba.
Chuyi found a small broom and swept away a small pile of dead houseflies.
Chiba looked startled. “What happened?”
I checked the bottom of the box and found a hole there. Then, I pinched a fly and brought it under my nose to take a sniff. It smelled of blood.
Chuyi and I exchanged looks. We understood the cause. Someone ruined this box deliberately!
I explained to Chiba, “These flies were fed crow blood, so they all have thick Yin energy. Someone drilled a hole at the bottom of this box and put them into the box. The seal itself has thick Yang energy. Since Yin and Yang oppose each other, the houseflies would instinctively break the seal. Although a fly isn’t strong, many flies could nibble the seal and break it in the end.”
It was also a smart idea. I had a feeling that the trouble-maker was familiar with Chinese magic techniques.
Chiba didn’t understand the teachings of Yin and Yang. She blinked and asked, “What will happen if the seal is broken?”
“The ghost or monster sealed inside will escape.”
“Mr. Zhang, can you seal it again?”
I shook my head. “You can’t take back the water you splashed away. The thing inside has escaped. There’s no meaning in sealing this box again. By the way, can we open this box to check?”
“Yes!” Chiba untied the red rope and opened the box.
My eyes brightened. A fox statue was carefully put inside the box. It was protected by layers of silk.
Still, I was puzzled. “Miss Chiba, we saw a similar statue this evening. It was put on a float during the parade. However, this one has a thick layer of dust. It seems it has been locked for quite a long time.”
Chiba just smiled. “Ah, the statue that we use for the festival every year is just a copy. We asked a master to create it. The real statue is precious, so even a low-rank Miko isn’t eligible to see it.”
I wanted to pick it up to observe.
“Hold on, I’m going to get you a pair of gloves,” said Chiba.
This fox statue was made of pure silver. It felt so heavy. The surface was oxidized and had a dark color. Chuyi and I wore gloves and carefully lifted the statue and placed it on the silk cloth. The statue had the shape of a squatting fox with pointy ears. It looked a little lanky, like a dog. At the same time, the statue was cast beautifully, with realistic fur.
It wasn’t a normal item. After all, items forged under an Emperor’s rule would often have something else inside when they were cast. For example, it could be a great monk’s relic, the Emperor’s blood, or even monster bones.
However, there wasn’t even a wisp of Yin energy. It was strikingly different from the copy I saw in the evening. Back then, I felt threatened.
“Why did they make these places empty?” Chuyi pointed at the fox’s eyes.
“The Silver Fox-sama’s sockets are empty all the time, aren’t they?” Chiba didn’t get it.
“No, there should be two eyeballs,” said Chuyi.
“I don’t know. I’ve seen Silver Fox-sama three times, and I have never seen the eyes.” Chiba was puzzled.
I made a guess. “We encountered a fox spirit that turned into a teenage boy wearing white clothes in Osaka. Earlier, we met the little foxy girl. Are they this Silver Fox’s eyes?”
If so, the fox statue we saw this evening during the festival was the little girl. She had attached herself to that statue, which made us think that it was an otherworldly item. She also saw me give the oden chef a Ksitigarbha Talisman. She later took it from his food cart and tricked us into coming to this shrine. I didn’t understand why she had to do that. It didn’t seem advantageous for her.
I told Chuyi my assumption. He answered, “Perhaps she wants us to help Miss Chiba here?”
“In other words, that boy’s assisting bad people. The little girl wants him to come back, but she’s not strong enough. So she did those things to bring us here. But that white-clothed boy is in Osaka... Should we really go back there? The Yamaguchi group may be still looking for us.”
“Jiulin, who do you think broke this seal?” asked Chuyi.
“That boy?” I got it now. “You mean, he will come back here?”
Chiba didn’t understand, so I briefed her about the situation we had encountered in Osaka and what the little girl did this evening. After listening to me, Chiba covered her mouth in surprise. “You mean, they are the incarnations of our Fox Immortal?”
“I think so,” I told Chiba. “I don’t want to hide it from you, but my job is to deal with otherworldly items.”
“What are these otherworldly items you speak of?”
I explained to her what otherworldly items were. Afterward, Chiba said, “It’s pretty good then. Mr. Zhang, please help our shrine. I will tell the Kannushi to repay you!”
“Our price is high, though!” I smiled.
Chiba frowned and said in a serious tone, “We don’t have many properties in the shrine. Mr. Zhang, I hope you’ll give us a reasonable price…”
Seeing her face, I couldn't bear to tell her the rules of my business, that we were supposed to take away the otherworldly item after the case was solved.
However, the thing in front of us was a national treasure. Chiba couldn’t make this decision and the Kannushi of this shrine would never agree.
I shot Chuyi a glance and asked for his idea. He gave me a faint answer. “We accept this case.”
I thought it was a good deed to maintain a good relationship between the two countries.
“That’s great!” Chiba was delighted. “Thank you, thank you, Mr. Zhang and Mr. Chuyi!”
At this moment, Yin Xinyue called me. “Brother Zhang, why aren’t you back yet?”
I noticed it was 11:00 PM already. We bid Chiba farewell and left.Previous Chapter Next Chapter