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1. In Japan there’s a belief that ghosts and hauntings can have physical weight.
e.g. If your shoulders are heavy it might be that you’re possessed.
2. Françoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart, Marquise of Montespan, was the most celebrated maîtresse-en-titre of King Louis XIV of France, by whom she had seven children.
Long assumed to have been involved in the infamous Affaire des Poisons, Madame de Montespan has never been conclusively implicated. Gabriel Nicolas de La Reynie, Paris’ first Lieutenant General of Police and the chief judge of the court, before whom the famous poisoning cases were brought, heard testimony that placed Madame de Montespan’s first visits to the so-called witch Catherine Monvoisin, known as La Voisin, in 1665. According to this testimony, they repeatedly carried out rituals that would create a special potion for the King.
The witch and the Madame de Montespan would call on the devil, and pray to him for the King’s love. As a way to express her gratitude for her request, they sacrificed a newborn’s life by slitting its throat with a knife. Next, the baby’s body would be crushed, and the drained blood and mashed bones would be used in the mixture.
Louis’s food was tainted in this way for almost thirteen years, until the witch was captured after a police investigation where they uncovered the remains of 2,500 infants in La Voisin’s garden. No evidence that the garden search ever actually happened has been found. In 1666, Madame de Montespan supposedly went so far as to allow a priest, Étienne Guibourg, to perform a black mass over her nude body in a blood-soaked ceremony, which was also said to have included infant sacrifice.
Whatever the truth in these allegations, in July 1667, Madame de Montespan became the king’s new mistress even though Louise was carrying his child, Louis de Bourbon, comte de Vermandois.
I somehow managed to impart the dangers of pyramid schemes to her, so at least she wouldn’t be undergoing suspicious miko training for the moment.
Since Fuyuko-sama was the type to disappear into her own weird little world, recently I’d been doing my best to actively include her into our conversations during breaks or lunchtime.
As it turned out she was still a little out of beat with everyone. That said, compared to the days when she would smile passively on the side, she’d progressed to being able to chat happily with the other girls now.
Today the two of us were enjoying tea together in the salon when I brought up that faith healer.
“How did you even meet such a person to begin with?” I asked.
Fuyuko-sama lifted her teacup in hand and tilted her head in thought.
“Well,” she hummed, looking up into the air. “I do believe that I was going to meet with a fortune teller rumoured to be very accurate when I happened to run into her. That was our first meeting. I’ve always been interested in dark magic, unexplained phenomena, ghosts stories and the like. Unfortunately not many people shared my interests so I felt that it was very fortunate to have bumped into a kindred spirit.”
Hmm? She just casually dropped the words ‘dark magic’ didn’t she?
“Umm, Fuyuko-sama. Surely you have not ever taken part in a Black Mass, or a Witches’ Sabbath or…?”
“Of course not,” she laughed, much to my relief…
I was starting to worry that Zui’ran had its own Marquise de Montespan.
Just to be sure, I added in all seriousness, “You must absolutely never take part in such a thing, all right?”
“Oh, don’t worry. I might like stories about these sorts of things but I’d never be able to shower myself in the blood of a dying animal. It would simply be too frightful. Besides, if I had to choose, I’d much rather try my hand at astrology or séance necromancy.”
Oh, right. She was always inviting me to mess around with a ouija board, wasn’t she?
I suppose it would be a challenge to find someone who’d do that with you of their own accord. It’d have been nice if Zui’ran had an Occult Club or something like that.
Although I suppose such a suspicious club might never be approved…
“But yes. Back then I was troubled by a personal matter. Lady Lyuleiah helped guide me through it.”
“My… Fuyuko-sama, should it please you, I would be happy to listen to anything you had on your mind. I might not be of much help but perhaps we could think through the problem together.”
I’d be troubled if it was anything too heavy, but listening never cost anyone anything! Not that I thought I’d be of any help though!
Her almond-shaped eyes went wide for a moment.
“Thank you very much,” she said as her expression settled into something happy and bashful. “In that case, would it be alright if I told you about it?”
“Of course,” I assured her with vigorous nodding.
People our age tended to be very worry prone, after all.
I was a little curious about what it was.
Was it some kind of family problem? Maybe some trouble at school?
Again, given our age, perhaps it was a romantic problem?
Just to be sure I’d hear her, I moved next to where Fuyuko-sama was sitting and leaned in towards her.
I’m ready now! Shoot!
“The truth is, I sometimes hear a rapping noise in my room late at night.”
A ghost problem!?
“So you have a… rapping noise problem…”
…As expected of Fuyuko-sama.
To think that even her worries were of the occult world…
She was without a doubt a woman true to her path──
“I’m not sure how many years it has been. When I get into bed and try to sleep, I hear an ominous rapping noise from the corner of my room, and then I end up paralysed…”
Rapping noises and then being paralysed? Maybe this really was supernatural…
This was certainly a heavy subject, but maybe more literally than I’d expected.
And maybe I was imagining things, but I thought I saw a person behind Fuyuko-sama just now…
Uuuuuugh. This was sending shivers down my spine.
“…Ummm, would it not be prudent to invite a monk or a priest to exorcise your home for you?”
“Yes, I thought of that too, so I discussed it with Lady Lyuleiah who graciously introduced me to a famous spiritualist.”
“A master medium to be precise. Her abilities were truly beyond my imagination. Even though she’d never seen my house before, she used clairvoyance and found out that there was an old well in our garden!” Fuyuko-sama recounted fervently.
“Well, that certainly is something…” I hedged.
“Isn’t it just? She also said that there was a large pine tree in my garden, which was spot on. I was so shocked. Anyhow, that master spiritualist told me that in the past a young fiancée fell into the well and died before she could get married… Back then they treated it as an unfortunate accident, but the truth was that it was her fiancé who…”
She was killed!? Oh no no…! I hate scary stories!
I’m sorry, Fuyuko-sama, I don’t think I’m up to this!
“After that she used her spirit sight to find out that the rapping noises and paralysis was because I was the closest to the woman in age, and she couldn’t pass on because of her resentment and grief…”
Huh. For some reason my shoulders were starting to hurt…
“And so she tried to exorcise my home for me, but because the grudge had been around for so long, the well in my garden had already been transformed into a hellgate.”
“Like the one in Kyoto, you know? They say that in the Heian period, Ono no Takamura would climb down a well into Hell. Apparently the well in my house has become the same thing.”
“That sounds incredibly problematic!”
“Yes. But the master used a talisman to seal the well for me so it isn’t too big a deal. That said, she hasn’t been able to stop the rapping noises or the paralysis.”
…Oh wow. I casually said that I’d help her, but what was I supposed to do about a spiritual problem?
To begin with, I wouldn’t be able to endure it for a second if my room had a ghost in it.
It was unbelievable how Fuyuko-sama didn’t mind at all. Ah, wait, no I guess she did mind. That’s why we were having this conversation.
But my shoulders felt heavy.
Hey, don’t tell me I’d really been possessed!?
“Is something the matter?” she asked.
“Ah… Well, my shoulders feel a bit…”
“My! How terrible! Please wait a moment.”
Fuyuko-sama reached into her pocket and produced a pink magatama.
Holding the magatama in her hand, she began to brush it against my shoulders while chanting a Buddhist mantra.
“Om khili khili…”
“Fuyuko-sama, is that magatama some sort of evil-warding talisman?” I asked.
“No, I got this from a marriage shrine. It’s for blessing people with luck in romance.”
What was the point in that!?
Still, after a while my shoulders did start to feel better. Thank goodness…
“Returning to our previous subject,” I began, while she continued her work. “I suppose your problems will persist as long as that hellgate remains…”
“Yes. But I’ve already sort of given up on finding a solution. Sometimes I invite the spiritual master over to purify our estate, and I’ve been learning spiritual healing from Lady Lyuleiah to purify my surroundings myself, but…”
Fuyuko-sama moved from my shoulders to my back.
“What the hell are you doing?” someone suddenly asked.
Surprised, I looked up to find Kaburagi looking queerly at us.
To clarify, right now the two of us were huddled together in a corner of the salon, me sitting on a chair, and Fuyuko-sama scrubbing me with great ceremony and concentration.
I suppose it did look a little queer.
I sat a little straighter in my chair.
The first course of action was to smile and pretend like nothing happened.
Unfortunately the suspicion in his eyes just deepened instead.
Tsk. Somebody teach this guy to let things go.
“…Umm. We were actually discussing something of great importance to Fuyuko-sama,” I tried.
“Yes. Reika-sama was kindly listening to my problems,” she agreed.
Kaburagi squinted at us.
“Y-Yes. And so we were actually still in the middle of that,” I continued.
Unspoken was the request for him to piss off, but for some reason Kaburagi dropped himself onto the couch.
“Alright. Let’s hear it then.”
“I’ve actually got a bit of business with Kisshouin here. Let’s get your problem sorted first,” he said to Fuyuko-sama.
Eh-, did he just decide that on his own?
Also I already had a bad feeling about this ‘bit of business’ he mentioned.
“Well, that is…”
Kaburagi was urging us on with his expression, but I was hesitant.
“Does it look like you’ll find a solution to this problem of hers?” he pressed.
How the hell was I supposed to find a solution to a hellgate?
“What’s the matter? Is it something you can’t talk to me about?”
Hmmmmmm. I mean, was this something we could discuss?
If things went poorly, the Haginokouji Estate could drop in real estate value because of a reputation for being haunted…
I glanced to the side at Fuyuko-sama. Our eyes met and she gave me a small nod.
I guess it was fine then.
Or rather, I had no choice but to explain now.
“It would be best if we kept this amongst ourselves,” I hinted, before I began.
“Got it,” he nodded.
With that confirmation, I began quietly explaining the situation.
“The truth is that Fuyuko-sama has been troubled by some supernatural phenomena…”
“Supernatural phenomena?” Kaburagi frowned.
“Yes. Specifically, at night she’ll hear a rapping noise in her room, and sometimes she’ll wake up paralysed. Is that not so, Fuyuko-sama?”
“It’s true…” she smiled helplessly.
In her place, I began to explain that this had been happening for years now.
Kaburagi glanced over at Fuyuko-sama.
“Is your house wooden?”
“What you’re hearing is either some wooden furniture in your room, or the building itself. Changes in the humidity can cause wood to contract, which is known to make the noises you describe.
“It’s a harmless natural phenomenon, but if it’s the house that’s making the noise that could spell trouble. When you get home, put a marble on the floor in the middle of your room. If it starts to roll, you need to get in contact with an architect and have them do an inspection sooner rather than later.”
“A natural phenomenon…” I muttered.
“A marble…” she muttered.
And that was how Kaburagi casually solved the rapping noises.
“Termites can be real trouble,” he added.
“But, the paralysis…”
“You’re probably not sleeping well. Did the sleep paralysis happen when something changed in your life?” he asked.
“There was a funeral around that time,” she admitted.
“That’s not what I mean. I’m asking if you changed your pillow, or if you were sleeping less soundly because of stress.”
“My pillow…? Come to think of it, when I became a high school student we remodelled my room from a tatami one to a western-styled room. Since that was the case, I replaced my futon with a bed.” Fuyuko-sama continued with a hint of embarrassment, “Ever since I was little, I’d always wanted to try sleeping on a bed.”
“That’s probably it,” nodded Kaburagi. “It’s probably the new materials you used during your renovation. The sleep paralysis was because of the poor sleep you were getting after changing your sleeping environment. Once the wood has finished shrinking, the rapping noises should stop. As for the sleep paralysis, it should get better if you try sleeping on a futon again.”
“She wasn’t used to a bed…” I muttered.
“So I should sleep on a futon…” she muttered.
The girl with a Heian-era face was apparently not well-suited to sleeping on a western bed…
“Was that all?” Kaburagi asked after standing up.
“But, the master spiritualist…” Fuyuko-sama muttered.
Aahh, he just had to ask.
Kaburagi sat back down onto the couch.
Was she planning on telling him the story about the well?
“What’s this about a spiritualist?”
Fuyuko-sama and I shared a glance.
“Umm, it’s a person who can see things that we can’t…”
“See things that we can’t?”
His expression turned grim.
“That might be a rare condition known as Charles Bonnet syndrome that can cause visual hallucinations. I’d recommend that she head to the hospital for a full check-up as soon as she can.”
“Visual hallucinations…” I muttered.
“Charles Bonnet syndrome…” she muttered.
Kaburagi gave her the name of a hospital with a famed ophthalmologist.
“Umm, but that spiritualist really did know about the well and the pine tree at her house…”
Fuyuko-sama nodded in agreement.
“It’s true. I never told anybody about the well, but she somehow knew about it. Could it be that this isn’t a hallucination but actually…”
“You can find that stuff out by checking your real estate registry, or through aerial photographs.”
“Real estate registry…” I muttered.
“Aerial photographs…” she muttered.
“They call it hot reading when you do research in advance and then unveil your findings like you just found out with magic.”
What a realistic and grounded answer. And what persuasive power.
The rapping noise was because of the materials used during renovation.
The paralysis was a sleeping disorder because she wasn’t used to her new bed.
The clairvoyance was actually just Charles Bonnet syndrome and aerial photographs. And hot reading…
I glanced over to see how Fuyuko-sama was doing.
“So he says, Fuyuko-sama…”
“Eh-, ah… Yes.”
She looked dumbfounded.
“Then, about my shoulders feeling heavy and painful…”
“Kisshouin, that’s muscle pain because of poor posture.”
He settled my concerns with one phrase.
“Is that all then?” he asked.
When he left his seat this time, he stayed standing. And then placed a hand firm hand on my shoulder.
“Well then, looks like it’s time for my concerns.”
Now there was a new ghost on my shoulder…!
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