The Collected Records of the Mysteries – Solving riddles with the help of demons - Chapter 0
“Don’t go any further.”
It was at that moment, when Shouma Hanashima first noticed the presence of the man.
Shouma had been playing in the garden of his grandmother’s house.
Both his parents had been called overseas to attend a relative’s wedding and until they came back he had to spend a few days assisting his grandmother at her house since she has bad legs and hips.
It was a wide garden of a one-story house primped with a black tiled roof. There was a small pond close by full of swimming koi carps and several Kurogane holly trees, along with a few Japanese White Pines that had been planted there.
Surrounding the house, as far as the eye could reach, one could only see paddy fields. To get to the nearest house, one had to walk at least five minutes. The shop, which sold his favourite waffles that always came with little stickers, was even further away, one needs to walk more than twenty minutes to reach it.
In a countryside like this, while playing in this needlessly spacious garden of his grandmother, Shouma heard the voice of a man.
That man must have been talking to his grandmother a while ago.
The stranger stood close to the entrance, staring at Shouma firmly. He was the kind of man who bore a rather dismal aura. If one were to take a look at him, one had the feeling that he was probably in his mid-twenties.
He wore a black kimono with a black haori. The kimono’s collar and the cord of the haori had an ashen-like shade, but there wasn’t any prominent color on it either. His hair was brown, but even that was darker than usual, paired with a strangely white skin. It was like he had just jumped out from a monochrome picture.
There was only one part of him, which radiated brightly. It was his red eyes. It didn’t look like the kind of reddish when one’s white of the eye got congested after crying. No, it was the pupil which had been tainted by a deep red color. Even though the man’s eyes couldn’t be of a human’s, it strangely wasn’t frightening. Just like the fruit of a Heavenly Bamboo, thought Shouma stupidly with the mind of a child.
“If you go there, you won’t be able to get back.” said the man with a monotonous voice.
His fingers pointed to a pale blue ball, which had been bought by his grandmother for Shouma.
The ball had been hiding inconspicuously in one of the shadows of the house. A short while ago, Shouma had been practicing lifting with the same ball, mimicking the movements of his favourite soccer player. When he tried to retrieve the ball, which had been accidentally rolled away in the distance, he heard the man call out to him.
“What do you mean by I can’t get back?” inquired Shouma while turning his head to look at the stranger.
The man’s long fingers suddenly scratched the sky. If one took a look at it closer, one could see that his nails were sharp like a blade. The man gripping and turning Shouma’s jaw, whose attention up until now had been attracted by the long claw-like nails, now returned to the ball.
But long gone was the pale blue ball. Instead, a white stone-like clump took the place of the boy’s toy.
It was a white skull.
Black eye sockets, which felt like it could absorb anything and everything around it, looked back intensely at Shouma. Seeing those bottomless dark holes, one could feel the chills running down one’s spine.
“Aaaaa” Shouma screamed, then fell on his backside.
With a thump, he fell into the sludge made by the heavy rain the day before, soaking through both his jeans and trunks with mud. The skull laughed, the clacking of its teeth ringing, but then as abruptly as it began, the rhythmical clicking vanished. It was a laugh similar to a child who has been caught doing some mischief.
Shouma’s teeth began to clatter as well, but with fear instead. What kind of thing is that, he thought. I’ve never seen something like that thing before.
“Now, here is the real ball.”
The man pressed the blue rubber ball to the belly of the shivering Shouma. Then covered the eyes of the boy with his hand.
For some reason, Shouma was unable to resist.
Part of it was that he was so astounded, that his body became stiff like a trunk but there was another thing which attracted his attention. Because the man’s wrist emitted a sweet, fruit-like fragrance. It was similar to the smell of a ripe melon. It had a fresh and luscious aroma.
Then, near his ear, came a sound as if something was crawling.
“I just erased it, but it’s quite troublesome to do that immediately.” From the opening between his fingers, Shouma could see the man’s head.
“Then, let’s make all this fuss look like a temporary dream …” said the stranger.
At close quarters, Shouma could see that on the man’s forehead, two small horns stood out.