A "Natsume's Book of Friends" Fan-Fiction
By Ookami Kasumi
Spoiler Alert: Events occurring happen in anime episode 9, and manga vol. 02, chapter 7 'Ayakashi Exorcism'. Since there are time-line and seasonal discrepancies between the anime and the manga episodes of this particular story, I have chosen to follow the manga version more closely than the anime. Case in point, the story 'Five Day Mark' occurs Before this chapter in the manga, yet After this episode in the anime.
Adult Content: Mature (NC-17) M/M content, mild violence, and adult language.
Special note: Natsume is 17 in this story.
'Natsume Yuujinchou' characters, terms, and locations property of Midorikawa Yuki. This story was written for the intent of Personal enjoyment. No money was made from this work.
A very special thank you to YanaGoya for this version of Madara.
~ One ~
My name is Takashi Natsume, and ever since I was little, I'd sometimes see strange things. Things that wore long robes and masks from centuries ago, but weren't quite people. Things with feathers, fur, or scales, but weren't quite animals. Dark, shapeless, things that stank horribly and floated through ceilings and walls, but weren't quite...anything in particular. Things...that no one else could see.
I guess you could call them...spirits.
Just this afternoon during lunch, right outside the window, I saw a grotesque skeletal head with long greasy hair sticking sideways out of a tree. The amazingly hideous view surprised me so much I spat my drink all over my desk -- and one of the two guys standing by the window.
The one I spat on shouted in surprise.
The other whipped around to frown at me. "Something wrong, Natsume?"
I hastily grabbed my napkin to wipe my face, and the spill all over my desk. "Nothing! Nothing's wrong!" I smiled as cheerfully as I could. "Sorry about that."
The first guy, the one I spat on, grabbed for a napkin to wipe down his wet shoulder and curled his lip in disgust. "Gross, Natsume...!"
I threw up my hands. "I'm sorry! Really!"
Outside in the tree, the head slipped back into the branches, laughing.
Unfortunately, things like that happen all the time. My days are always full of surprises.
My deceased grandmother Reiko could see spirits too, so apparently it ran in the family. From what I understand, people thought she was more than a little strange for talking to things they couldn't see, so they avoided her. Eventually, the spirits became her only company.
However, I wouldn't actually say she'd been on sociable terms with them. She had a habit of challenging the spirits to games, or just plain beating them up with a baseball bat plastered with sutras. She then demanded that the defeated spirit ink their name on paper and give it to her. Every single name was bound between two wooden covers and tied with a ribbon, a collection that she called the 'Book of Friends'.
Late in the spring of my sixteenth year, I inherited Grandma Reiko's belongings -- and her book.
Only a month or so later, that following summer, I came to live with the Fujiwaras in a quiet little farming town at the foot of the mountains on the far edge of nowhere. It was then that I discovered that Grandma Reiko had been very busy in the area, and that I looked an awful lot like her. Evidently, my unusual sandy-blond hair and pale brown eyes were yet another inheritance from my grandmother.
Because of my close resemblance, I was constantly pursued by spirits who seemed to think that I was my grandmother. Apparently, spirits don't make a distinction between genders -- most likely because they change their gender almost as often as they change their forms.
Many of the spirits that sought me merely wished to have their names returned. Unfortunately, there were more than a few extremely dangerous spirits who pursued me for the power the book represented. You see, anyone in possession of the book could command any spirit whose name was in it.
One of those looking to take possession of the Book of Friends is my self-styled bodyguard and instructor in the matter of spirits. He's a monstrous, white dog spirit that wears the shape of a rotund, calico-marked ceramic 'good-luck' cat. I freed him from a binding seal by accident.
After a brief fight involving my fist and his nose, he kindly agreed to wait upon my death to gain the book. Yes, that was sarcasm, and no, I am not joking.
It was he that taught me to summon and command the spirits named in the book. However, I really don't like doing that. I honestly don't feel its right to make anyone do anything against their will. Strangely enough, he also taught me the ritual to return the names to the spirits who came to claim them. As a result, the book he plans to collect upon my death has been getting thinner as each day passes.
Sometimes, I really wonder what's going on in that creature's mind.
Another odd thing is that the creature's luck-cat form is perfectly visible. Because of the way he constantly followed me around, everyone assumed he was my pet cat. Rather than try to explain the unexplainable, I merely nodded and smiled. For convenience sake, I called him Nyanko, Cat, or when he was being sensible Nyanko-sensei, Master Cat -- which wasn't often. He has a real name; Madara, I just don't like using it. As the Book of Friends so clearly illustrates, names have power.
When I first introduced Nyanko-sensei to Mr. and Mrs. Fujiwara the older couple I lived with, they thought he was a little odd-looking, but other than that, they thought it was nice that I'd acquired a pet. They saw it as a sign of me "settling in" to my new home.
Sometimes, I really wonder what's going on in their minds too.
Seriously though, the Fujiwaras were the kindest people I'd ever stayed with -- and I've lived with a great many people. My parents died when I was very young so I ended up getting passed around -- a lot. No one wanted to keep a strange boy who told scary stories about invisible things, so I was forever being shunted from relative to relative, each more distant than the last.
I did not mention that I saw strange things to the Fujiwaras. I had absolutely no desire to alarm them or burden them in any way. Instead, I kept a smile on my face, stayed quiet, and did as I was told without question. When I had spirit situation to deal with, I left the house -- often by the bedroom window.
Anyway... For the longest time I was convinced that no one else could see the spirits the way I did. The autumn following the summer that marked my first whole year spent in one place, and shortly after my seventeenth birthday, I discovered that I was wrong.
It all began one Sunday afternoon in early October when I was down in the kitchen helping Mrs. Fujiwara, Touko in the kitchen.
With her gray-streaked hair bound up in its usual bun and her hands covered in bright yellow rubber gloves, she was washing the lunch dishes at the sink before the wide kitchen window.
Armed with a dishtowel and my white wool sweater sleeves pushed up to my elbows, I was drying and putting the dishes away in the cupboards. Truthfully, I enjoyed helping Touko. She seemed pleased to have the company and I felt like I was contributing to the household and not quite a total burden.
Smiling as she scrubbed, Touko rattled on about some child of the neighbors who had gotten themselves into trouble by climbing another neighbor's peach tree.
I nodded and smiled in the appropriate places.
The floor suddenly trembled under our feet and the glasses in the strainer rattled.
Touko stilled plate in hand, and blinked. "Oh my, was that a tremor?"
I turned to look toward the kitchen doorway.
The rotund cat was thumping across the floor hard enough to make the floorboards creak -- and the walls shake. Normally, his shape is rather round with an over-sized head and undersized feet. At that moment, he was so fat that his feet weren't even visible.
I scowled at the cat. "No ma'am, it's just someone that needs to go on a diet." In truth, he needed to stop raiding the Fujiwaras refrigerator in the middle of the night.
The Fujiwaras had mentioned the occasional thing missing from the refrigerator, a few boiled eggs, some hamburger, some leftover fish, a dish of thawing shrimp, and a wedge of cheese. However, I hadn't realized just how bad it really was until then. The cat was so huge he could barely move.
Touko turned and stared at the cat. "Oh dear, I see what you mean."
The cat looked up at me, blinked, and spoke in his creaky little-old-man's voice. "What was that, Natsume?"
I didn't reply. I didn't want to seem odd in front of Touko. While people could see the cat, only I could hear him speak -- unless he wanted to be heard. That didn't stop me from aiming a glare at him.
Touko looked over at me. "You know, he's been cooped up in the house an awful lot. Perhaps he just needs a bit of exercise?"
I nodded firmly. "Good idea, I'll take him for a walk." A really long one, all the way out to the temple in Eight Fields. A spiritual defense sutra stuck to the bottom of the refrigerator's crisper drawer ought to put a stop to his thieving ways. Bodyguard or not, I would not have that creature inconveniencing the Fujiwara's in any way.
The cat blinked. "A walk...?"
Three hours later, the cat and I were on the far side of town walking down one of the gravel farm roads bordering the forest. On our right, a broad grassy field with waist-high grass sloped down toward a distant patch of woods.
The cat toddled at my side, a grumpy scowl on his tiny mouth. "So, what are we doing all the way out here, Natsume?"
I scowled right back. "We're out here because you need to work off some of that fat." I was not about to mention that I was aiming for the temple only ten minutes down the road to get a sutra to keep him out of the fridge.
"Fat...!" The cat laid back his ears, bared his tiny teeth, and the hair lifted down his orange and gray calico spine. "Idiot! I am NOT fat! My coat is just getting thicker for the winter."
"Your coat is made of ceramic. It doesn't grow or shed." Oddly enough, the ceramic cat's fur felt like fur, when he had a mind to let it. Other times, it was as smooth as the glass his body was actually made of.
The cat bounced on his far too tiny paws, his bob-tail straight up. "That is entirely beside the point!"
I could only roll my eyes. Denial, much?
A small brown and black dog suddenly dashed out of the tall grass to bark at the cat.
The cat caught the dog's gaze and smirked. A thick wave of his true aura -- that of a monstrous spirit dog, rolled off of the tiny body.
The small dog went bug-eyed, tucked his tail under his legs, and cowered, whimpering.
I heaved a heavy sigh. "Can't you act more like a cat?"
The cat harrumphed and lifted his nose. "I am NOT a cat." Something suddenly caught his attention and he turned to look at the grass on the right. "Oh look Natsume, a grasshopper! A grasshopper! Oh, it's getting away!" He lunged into the tall grass, disappearing in an instant.
I winced. "Crap..." Well, I wanted him to act like a cat... Me and my big mouth. I plunged into the waist-deep grass and ran down the hill after him. "You're going to end up a stray, Nyanko...!" My foot caught on something submerged in the deep grass and I tripped. Yelping in surprise, I went tumbling.
Someone wearing a long gray wool coat rose up from the grass to catch me around the waist.
Gasping for breath, and rather glad I hadn't gone face-first into the dirt, I turned in their hold and looked up at them.
My rescuer had neatly trimmed sandy-blond hair, the exact same shade as mine, and cinnamon eyes framed by long dark lashes under high arching brows. His face was very remarkable in that his cheeks were gently rounded, not rugged at all. He was...pretty, for lack of a better term, rather than handsome.
In fact, the man was so attractive, I would have thought he was a woman if not for that fact that I could feel against my chest and hip exactly how hard and muscular his slimly built body was under his long coat.
He was altogether too pretty to be human. Could he be a spirit? Had the cat switched into a different human form? His usual one was that of a high-school girl.
He smiled with lips that were full and almost feminine, but spoke with a penetratingly deep voice. "I'm terribly sorry! It was me you tripped on me. I was napping."
I blinked at him. An apology? Clearly, he wasn't the cat. That's when I noticed the lizard-shaped black mark on the side of his throat. A tattoo?
He frowned slightly. "Are you alright?"
Oh crap! He'd been talking to me and I'd just been staring. I hastily nodded and smiled. "Uh, yeah, I'm fine, thanks."
He smiled, and I swear the sun came out simply to shine on it. "I'm pleased." He pulled me upright and released me to stand.
Someone further out in the field called out. "Mr. Natori! Break's over!"
The man swept past me. "Right! Coming!"
I stared after him in complete shock. He wasn't a spirit? A human was that pretty?
I turned to see who'd called me.
Nishimura, one of the guys from my class waved and galloped through to tall grass toward me, his haphazardly cut brown hair flying in the wind. "Natsume! That was Shuuichi Natori!"
I summoned up a friendly smile and jabbed a thumb over my shoulder. "You know that guy?"
"Are you kidding?" Nishimura grinned, practically bouncing on his feet. "He's an up and coming actor! I'm out here because I'd heard that they were doing a photo shoot around here."
I looked back at the beautiful man. Shuuichi Natori...an actor. No wonder he was so pretty.
Mr. Natori suddenly turned toward me, smiled, and waved.
I had no idea how to respond.
Directly behind me several voices squealed with absolute glee.
What the...? Startled, I turned to look behind me.
To my surprise, quite a few of my fellow classmates were standing around in the tall grass, waving. Most of them were girls, but there were more guys than I would have thought.
I blinked at the small crowd. When did the fan club get here? I could have sworn I was the only one out here -- besides the cat.
As though conjured by my thoughts of him, the cat abruptly stepped into the clearing in the grass the fan-club had created.
I sighed in relief. "There you are, Nyanko-sensei." After exchanging goodbyes with my classmates, I headed stepped back on the road toward the temple.
That was not the last time I saw Mr. Natori, unfortunately.
~ * ~