The More Things Change.... The more they stay the same, or so the saying goes. This diversion from my normal course of writing came along after reading the Mushishi manga. I had always wondered what happened to a particular mushi that Ginko was shown to be making a particularly obvious effort to keep with him at the end of a story. Then there was the added element of Adashino-sensei and their interesting relationship as they are brought together repeatedly throughout the stories. That just sparked my interest... While other people have proposed other pairings, to me it seemed fitting to place these two together on the path through life, both of them having their own particular personal limitations to bring to the table. Adashino, the obsessive collector of all things odd who is tied to one place by the weight of those things he has to keep safely tucked away. Ginko, the one who has to keep on moving and and travel light lest he draw more odd things to him. With these thoughts in mind, I wrote a lot about their past and a lot about their present, or rather, their future.
Hope you enjoy this piece of my effort to bring them into the modern-day, some parts of which are more difficult for one of them than the other...
Mushi Lore - A reviewer of this chapter suggested giving some background! Instead of trying to fill in the gaps for folks that are not exposed to the story line, I suggest doing a web search for "Hitotake" and "Mushishi". You should come up with a synopsis of episode 21 of the anime and that'll help you understand this a whole bunch more :)
The bells on the shop door chimed, the postman calling out into the dusty, antique-filled place, "Mail! Hello! Anyone here?"
"I'm here, I'm here… Wait a moment." Adashino got up from his cluttered desk and came out to the front of the shop, "Morning." He took the pile of mail.
"Morning, Sensei... Where is Ginko-san? I haven't seen him in a while."
"Aah, he went up to Hokkaido a week ago."
"All that way?"
"Yes. You know him… He needs to wander or he's not happy." He smiled fondly, flipping through envelopes.
"You are patient then."
Adashino shrugged, "It doesn't worry me when he goes… He can probably sense that we're talking about him right now, the thread between us is so strong."
"Hai, probably true…" The man nodded knowingly, "Say, Sensei… Could you look at my wrist? It's bothering me again."
"Sure, sure. Come sit down and I'll make tea."
In two weeks time Ginko came in the front door of their shop again, shortly after the sun went down, "I'm home!" And plunked down his backpack, "Adashino!"
"I'm here, I'm here! Do you have to be so loud?" He came out of the back of the shop to greet him, setting down the books he was carrying, "Welcome home, you."
"Good to be home." He smiled as they met in a hug, "Feed me."
"Yes, yes. I will." He sighed, frowning slightly at the usual request until the next words out of Ginko's mouth settled him.
"Always… Hey, my favorite show is on and you're making me miss it."
"Aa… Let's go upstairs then. Perhaps afterward I can tell you a story."
"Good! Lock the door and come along." Adashino released their hug enough to kiss him then turned to go upstairs, Ginko smiling after him.
Many years had passed them by. Their world was completely changed from what it had been… but still they were together. Their odd collection had grown and moved with them to the area of Yokohama this time. Adashino liked to keep their residences near the water, feeling that he would miss the salt air, sea birds and waves too much if they were far inland.
As time had slipped by, Ginko's kind was becoming rather rare. People were simply losing the ability to see what was unseen as the years passed. Those who had the light flow inside of them were rarer still. The ones who still understood the old ways would call him out for his skills quite often for he had only grown stronger as time had gone by. Everything had become quite secretive within the past 50 or so years and Adashino wasn't so sure he liked that. What used to be a normal and accepted part of life and healing was now a hidden mystery, something to be guarded carefully out of fear, spoken of as folklore and old wives tales.
Even so, Adashino had never regretted taking the chance to step off the mortal path and now he was nearly 350 years old. He would always say that he would have felt too guilty to die on Ginko and leave him alone in the world. Ginko laughed at him and said that Adashino actually couldn't stand the thought of leaving his odd collection of things behind, instead. Regardless of the length of time that had left them here in this strange and very changed land, they had remained together.
This evening, Ginko was just a man in a relatively modern kitchen, digging about in the freezer to find something to fill his perpetually empty stomach with, "Mmmhh… Ice cream…"
"Hey. Don't fill up on that. Have a proper meal." Adashino scolded.
"I will eventually, when you cook it for me." He smiled lazily and took a container to sit in front of the TV.
"How is it that this is my favorite show and you are sitting down to watch while I am left to cook?"
"Why don't you come sit with me and share some of this ice cream? We can eat later and I will help you cook."
"Fine…" Adashino huffed and sat down beside him to share.
Adashino had been slow to come to terms with the changes that the world had made around them. It had all happened in what seemed like the blink of an eye. At times he would wake to forgetting how the world had become, believing himself to still be living in his old sea-side village. It never took long before the reality of his life came back to him, perhaps with the sound of a car passing on the street below, or the sound of a phone ringing, radio playing in one of their neighbor's homes…
Even though they lived in the 'old' section of town, it was still too new to Adashino. Lanterns had been replaced by electric street lights. Sweltering summers had been replaced by air-conditioned rooms. That, he didn't complain about quite so much. It was a wonderful convenience, just as the refrigerator had become a previously unknown necessity. Narrow streets were made narrower with cars going down them.
Traveling no longer involved long times in going from place to place. Planes would carry them almost anywhere they wanted… If not those, then cars or busses or trains, all of which could be reserved using the internet. Ginko---in spite of his mocking Adashino for not being more accepting of the massive changes in technology---had so far refused to fly. He seemed to prefer to be as close to the ground as possible.
Recently, Adashino had come to own his first cell phone after much resistance. The arrival of the telephone had been strange enough, but when the cordless phones were introduced for home use and now this further step? It gave Adashino a headache at times to think of it all. At least he no longer needed an uro cocoon to contact Ginko when he was away as he owned one of those things too.
He started to ponder it all again as they sat there watching the odd invention known as the TV. Ginko noticed as Adashino began to rub his temples.
"You look a little off. Is something bothering you?"
"Nnh… Just thinking too much again… You know, we've been in this town for a long time now."
"Getting worried we're overstaying our welcome?"
"A little… We've had the same postman for 25 years now, and while he doesn't really say anything about it, I get the feeling he understands that we're out of the ordinary... We've watched his kids grow up and go off to have their own kids..."
"I'm not worried about it… How's his wrist?"
"Bothering him a little. I've been working with him on it… There's also another little matter."
"That thing in the jar… I noticed it was moving just after you left."
"The hitotake?" He sat up straighter at the mention of it.
"Yes… Not only that, but a couple days ago I was in the storage room and I felt like I was being watched… It was awake and watching me."
"Really..." Ginko looked surprised, "I didn't think it would wake up again after being dormant for so long."
"Well it's wide awake and talkative… demanding to know where you are, wanting to speak with you."
"What did you say to it?"
"Nothing. I just threw a towel over it and told it to shut up."
"That wasn't very nice." He smiled and chuckled at Adashino's annoyed expression.
"It scares me… None of the other mushi have been able to talk to me."
"True… It developed a consciousness on its own. Hmm…" He got up then, abandoning his ice cream suddenly, in pursuit of something more interesting than filling his belly.
"Ginko… Hey! What are you going to do?"
"Go talk to it. It's been about 300 years that its been asleep." Ginko stopped in the entrance to the hallway, looking back at him, "I wonder if it had any dreams?"
Adashino got up too, "Wait… I'm going to go with you."
He put away the ice cream and followed Ginko into the locked back rooms. All was quiet save for their foot falls on creaking floorboards.
"I can hear you, human." The strange voice of the hitotake came from the covered jar on a shelf amongst many other oddities, "Tell me what has become of the mushishi. How long have I been asleep? I cannot harm you, you know."
Ginko wandered over and pulled off the covering, revealing the face floating there.
"Hi there, hitotake." He smiled at it, "Or should I say, good morning? Did you have a nice sleep?"
It was quiet, regarding him evenly and expressionlessly for a while, "Mushishi, you are alive after all."
"Yep." He brought the jar off the shelf, placing it on the nearby desk instead.
"I thought the human might have killed you and taken me among your possessions."
"Nope. You fell asleep a day before I could introduce you to Adashino, here. You've been sleeping for a very long time."
"Some 300 years." He nodded, pulling up a chair, "How do you feel?"
"I am afraid."
"That's not what I expected you to say. I thought you would start talking about your seeds again."
"If it has truly been 300 years, why is the human still alive?" It looked over at Adashino who shifted uncomfortably, "I can understand why you might be…"
"I had a little to do with that." He nodded.
"He is not mushi…" It's observation continued.
"No, but he does have a lot of kouki in him now… Say, what are you so afraid of?"
"There are things…" Its eyes turned to Ginko again, "I feel things that I do not understand."
"The world has changed a lot. That's probably what you are picking up on."
"What will become of me now? I am awake. Will you kill me now?"
"What would be the point? I could have killed you centuries before. You no longer have seeds to protect since you separated from the main body. You're not a threat to humans." He shrugged, "What do you want to do?"
Again it looked at Ginko for a good while before answering, "If I were to form again, would you protect me, mushishi?"
"Hang on! What does it mean by that? Form again?" Adashino came closer now.
"Take on human form. Right now he's just a floating scrap in a jar."
"You wouldn't be considering that??"
"Why not? It can't hurt anyone. I haven't seen or heard of any watahaki in probably 200 years so there are likely no more seeds anywhere. Even if there were, the hitotake of one will not defend the seeds of another. They only want their own 'genetics' to survive."
"Then what would happen??"
"Calm down, Adashino. I would have thought you'd be intrigued by this." He chuckled.
"I don't like mushi who can talk to me." He frowned, "I prefer the perfectly quiet ones that just sit peacefully on a shelf. And why would you have to protect it?"
"Because he is still just a child, really. The last time he was just a child, the world was completely different."
"We would have to live with it??"
"That's the idea, yes."
"I know that we had talked of adopting children one day but this??"
"You speak as though you are his mate." The mushi said to Adashino who turned bright red.
"He is my mate." Ginko said and crossed his arms, "So we'd both have to agree and raise you together."
"That makes no sense. How can he be your mate? You cannot reproduce." The mushi stated.
"Yeah, yeah. Like we haven't heard that before." He took out a cigarette and lit up, "It's not only to reproduce. We prefer each other's company over any other. We are not as driven by the purpose to reproduce as you are. We love each other."
"I do not understand."
"Maybe one day, if you are fortunate enough, you will understand." He looked up at Adashino, "Do you need some time to think it over?"
"It could kill us in our sleep!"
"Nonsense. I lived amongst 5 of them and the only one I had to worry about was the human that decided to be their mother."
"I have no reason to kill the mushishi. He would be my source of protection. I want to live. Please let me live, Adashino-san."
"Sensei! Adashino-sensei!" He yelped as Ginko held his hand to try and calm him, "I don't like that it knows my name!"
"If you are this upset then I will say that the hitotake must stay in the jar… but I can't kill it."
"This is insane." He gulped, pulling his hand loose and storming out of the storage room.
"Your mate does not like me." The mushi noted.
"Yeah… Seems that way. I'm surprised actually. He is usually so fascinated by all things unusual… It appears that the fact that you can interact with him is rather upsetting. He's never gotten clear feedback from any of the things that we keep."
"And you will not release me to re-form if he does not agree?"
"Nope. Sorry. I'm the only one that can take care of you so I can't give you to anyone else to raise… and if he is so upset then I won't do it."
"Because of love?"
"Correct. You're learning already. I care more about his well-being and emotional state than yours. It is far more important to me. I have to protect him before all else and if I feel you would be a danger to him, I would have to kill you."
"But you would allow me to re-form?"
"I would… You'll have to convince him…" He smiled again, "that you would be a good child for us to raise and love."
"Then you would also love me one day?"
"That's usually how things work in a family. You were in a family when you first lived, but before you developed much consciousness. Your mother loved you all very much, and wanted to protect you from me. It didn't matter to her that you were mushi. To her, you were her beloved children… even though you were just using her love for your own ends."
"I did not know about love."
"Try not to stare at him so much. That is the best advice I can give you at the moment."
Ginko got up from his seat at the desk and picked up the jar, placing it back on the shelf it had come from, "For now, I have to go calm him down and make dinner. Good night, mushi."
"Good night, mushishi."
A few days later Adashino ventured into the store room for a few things, avoiding the area where the talking mushi was. He didn't feel it watching him for a change, so curious, he wandered over. Its eyes remained turned away from him.
"What are you doing, mushi?"
"I do not understand your question."
"Why are you not looking at me?"
"The mushishi tells me that it is upsetting to you if I look at you, so I am not."
"I see. So you will listen to his advice."
"Maybe you should go back to sleep."
"I am not sleepy. I want to re-form and learn more. I liked learning."
"Oh? What are you doing in that jar all day long if you don't sleep?"
"I think of things that I remember, I look at things in this room, I feel the things that are happening outside of this room and do not understand… It was quiet when I was awake last. It is so noisy now."
"We live near a very large city now." He nodded.
"Sensei… Could you let me read something? I liked to read. I see there are books on that shelf over there."
"You can read?"
"What do you want to read?"
"Something that will help me understand 'love'."
"Why would you want that?"
"I believe that it is important that I learn of it. It is a strong power. One that I now understand has kept me alive. One that makes a powerful mushishi listen to the desires of a human male that he has considered his mate regardless of your inability to reproduce."
Adashino scowled, "You can't learn about love in a book. You have to experience it yourself." He said and grabbed a tourist map of Tokyo off of the desk, shoving it between the jar and the side of the shelf, "Read that if you want to. Stupid mushi…" He tromped off.
"He is very sensitive about his relationship with the mushishi…" The hitotake turned toward the map to begin to study it.
The next day Ginko visited it while consulting a few scrolls at the desk.
"You've upset Adashino again…" He mentioned after lighting a cigarette.
"What did you say to him?"
"I have noticed that he is sensitive to the subject of your relationship. I have decided not to make any observations about it to him any longer."
"Sounds like a good idea." He chuckled, "You're starting to understand him already!"
"Would you mind giving me something to read? Perhaps one of the books on the shelf over there? Or one of the scrolls you are reading?"
"Hu huuu… No. Adashino was very specific that he does not wish you to attain any more knowledge than necessary. He is worried that you are already too smart. The things in this room, I cannot let you read."
"What is this?" He got up, pulling the map out of the shelf, "Tourism? Are you planning a vacation?"
"It is what Adashino-sensei would allow me to read. Is this city close by?"
"Yes, it's pretty close." He put the map away and exchanged it for another.
"What is this?"
"A map of the world. This is where we are. This is where Tokyo is."
The mushi looked shocked, "The world…"
"It's much more than just Japan. Amazing, isn't it?"
"It is. Japan is so small… Is that possible?"
"Yes. The world is a very big place. These days, it is also a very small place. There is very little unknown about it. That gives people great comfort, that they know and understand so much about this world."
"No. That is part of what we call the 'hidden world'. There are not many left that understand it any more."
"But you do."
"True. There are still many things I do not understand about the hidden world. More mysteries that are left to be solved. So, for a while, just absorb the size of the world in which you exist."
"I will. Thank you."
Within a month, Adashino was getting used to the mushi and began to talk to it quite regularly.
"Why should I believe that you won't kill us if we let you re-form?"
"Ginko-san is the only one who can protect me and teach me. I want to live. I need him."
"But not me…"
"If I harmed you in any way, he would kill me immediately. I know this... I have no wish to harm you, Adashino-sensei. I believe I could learn from you… Do you hate me?"
"I don't hate you… I just don't like what you are."
"It's not my fault. I simply am. I cannot help it… any more than you can."
"You're right." He sighed.
"Please let me live. I want to live. That is all. Even if I must be this way."
"Can you promise you will not harm humans?"
"I will not intentionally harm humans."
"Not good enough." He scowled.
"I cannot make that promise. You cannot make it either. You do not know what might happen. You could hurt someone accidentally at any time."
He sighed again, "What was your name when they thought you were human?"
"Interesting… Did you like that name?"
"I do not know. It was what I knew to refer to me. Do you like your name?"
"I suppose I do."
The building began to shake suddenly, Adashino quickly reacting by bracing the jar in the shelving where it was perched instead of taking cover. The mushi let out a little wail of surprise. Outside, car alarms began going off. As the shaking stopped, emergency sirens started to join the car alarms. Adashino sighed with relief but the mushi kept whining.
"Hey, hey. It's okay. Calm down. It's just a little earthquake."
"It happens every now and then… It's already over." He huffed and let go.
The mushi whined and rolled up into a trembling ball, floating to the lowest corner of the jar.
"I am frightened!"
"It's no big deal. They're pretty normal. That was a little one. Come on… Stop being rolled up."
"Please protect me!"
Adashino frowned, gave up, took the jar off the shelf and headed back to the main part of the house.
"Ginko! Hey, are you okay?" He called ahead.
"I'm fine. You?"
"Fine…" He tromped down the hall, "Hey…"
"Hm? What've you got the jar for?"
"The earthquake scared the hell out of the mushi… Ginko, let him re-form." He held out the jar to his obviously surprised partner.
"I hope I won't regret it later… Just do it."
"All right." He got up, "Mushi… You want to re-form, still?"
"Will there be more of these earthquakes?"
"Yes. They're perfectly natural occurrences."
"You will protect me?"
"Didn't I just protect you?" Adashino interjected, "I made sure the shelf didn't fall over and you didn't fall off."
"Yes…" It unrolled a bit, "I will re-form."
"Good." Ginko smiled his lazy smile, tapping his fingers on the lid of the jar, "This may take a while. Be patient."
Over the course of the next day, Ginko made a horrible mess of their soaking tub by filling it with all kinds of pond weeds from a nearby park. Adashino lost track of the number of trips his white-haired partner made back and forth with this and that to complete the concoction. Then at last he opened the jar.
"Any last minute changes of heart?"
"I am ready." It said to him in its strange, even voice.
"Very good. Then in you go…" He poured the scrap of mushi, along with the light-infused water he had been topping off yearly in its jar, into the mess and it disappeared.
"What now?" Adashino inquired.
"It will start to re-form using the energy I've provided here… Just watch."
Eventually a head wearing that familiar face immerged with a gasp, taking in air.
"There we are…" Ginko smiled, "Well on his way." It blinked and looked at them, transparent and not fully formed yet. "Is it enough?" He asked
"Yes. Thank you."
"That's amazing… He looks like he's made of green water." Adashino blinked in awe of the process.
"That's what he mostly is right now. It will take a while to complete the process. We'll leave you alone… There's a towel and yukata there for when you are finished." Ginko got up from his crouch, "Let's go make dinner. We have an extra mouth to feed now."
"Yeah… Sure…" He trailed out of the bath after Ginko, wondering what a re-formed hitotake would even eat.
In just another hour the mushi had fully re-formed and came out of the bathroom, trying to tie the yukata clumsily.
"Hey… How are you feeling, Wataru?" Ginko asked, using the new and more modern name they had decided upon for their strange mushi child.
"I am fine." It said in a much more defined voice, wobbling a little on its new legs.
"Come here…" Adashino beckoned and the mushi came toward him, watching as the human tied the yukata properly for him.
"Thank you, Adashino-sensei."
"Are you hungry, Wataru?"
"Or is it too early for him to start eating?" Adashino looked toward Ginko.
"It's fine." He poured some tea and pushed the cup across to Wataru, "It's hot. Be careful. Your internal systems may not be fully formed yet."
"I will." He nodded, shakily taking up the cup. Adashino helped to steady it in his small, trembling hands.
"Is he going to be shaky this way for a while?"
"A couple days until things solidify properly and he becomes used to controlling a body again." He nodded and started to serve their dinner, "So don't get too worried about it."
"Are you angry, Adashino-sensei?" The mushi looked at him, still wearing that same flat expression.
"No… just worried. This changes everything. We've been very used to having just each other to worry about… We've been discussing how to handle you as part of us."
"What do you mean?"
"You're going to have to have a history. We decided that we will tell people you are the child of one of Adashino's distant cousins, come to live with us because of a difficult home life. That is how we will explain you and add you to the registry so you will be a properly documented citizen."
"Is that important?"
"Very. These days you can't just be wandering around as a homeless child with no name. A lot has changed over these many years."
The mushi nodded, "I feel this is true." And then caught himself by grabbing the edge of the table before toppling over.
"Aa!" Adashino grabbed the boy and put him in a chair, "Sit there until you can really stand on your own."
Wataru blinked at the man.
"You detested me. Now you protect me."
"We decided you'd be our family. I guess I'm taking it too much to heart." He scowled, "Would you rather I let you fall down?"
"I am content. Thank you."
Ginko just laughed, "You can't be wandering around telling people you are a mushi either. As I have been trying to explain to you, people seem a little less understanding of such things these days. More concerned about the unseen, yet less interested in it until it might frighten them." He set plates down on the table by the two of them, "So just like before, you will pretend to be human."
"You will call us both 'uncle'. Obviously, we are not able to be your biological parents. People generally know that Adashino and I are a couple." He brought over his own plate and sat down across from the two that comprised his growing family.
"So they understand that you will not reproduce…"
"Exactly." He started to dig in along with Adashino, "Eat up."
"Yes." He watched them for a moment then picked up a fork for the first time in his life. After a few tries he was able to feed himself.
"Well done… for having never seen a fork before."
"It was much easier than learning chopsticks."
"I imagine it is… So… for the next few weeks Adashino and I are going to be teaching you some basic things about this time period and what you will find in it so you won't be quite so surprised by how things have changed once you go out of our house."
"Un." He nodded.
"Do not leave this house at all. Understood?"
"I understand and will obey."
"We will begin to take you on short trips outside once we've taught you a bit. If you are able to cope, we will take you on longer trips."
"You are being very careful, mushishi." Wataru noted.
"It's going to be a big shocker for you to see what's beyond these walls. So yeah, we are being very careful… Little by little I plan on teaching you the ways of a mushishi, too."
"I still think that is a poor decision." Adashino mentioned.
"You will teach your enemy your ways? I do not understand you. Why would you do such a thing?"
"Because… you're the perfect one for the job. You can sense the mushi just as easily as I can, if not better. You will be ageless. You will be a permanent record of all of our knowledge. Once you learn, you never forget. Isn't that right?"
"Yes, it seems to be that way."
"It is my belief that now that you are an evolved mushi, one that is now separate from its main body and purpose to reproduce, one that has attained thought and reason and self-awareness, one that is based in part upon human genetics… you will be less inclined to fight humans, to feel you have to defend yourself from them. You will also be less inclined to wipe out your mushi brethren. I have never been fond of killing mushi, myself. I prefer to find ways to coexist. I believe that you would be a perfect mushishi in this sense."
"You are truly an—"
"Inscrutable being. Yeah, yeah. I think I explained myself pretty well."
"Or, I could take all of this knowledge and wipe out humanity."
"I don't think you will."
"Why would you think that?" Adashino grunted.
"Because, like I said before, they don't have a desire to defend other mushi's lives. Just their own. There is no reason for him to want to kill humans. Better to coexist… You want to live, don't you?"
"Of course I do. I desire to live and be safe. I desire to learn… I will learn your ways but I will not kill mushi to save humans. I will not kill humans to save mushi."
Ginko nodded, "As I thought."
They spent the rest of the evening going over some basic information that Wataru would have to understand, then introduced him to television which caused him to cringe in fear, hiding against Adashino and whining.
"It's just TV." Adashino sighed, starting to warm to their strange new child.
For the next few weeks they took turns leaving the house to get food and also clothing for Wataru, never leaving him on his own. He didn't object. He never insisted upon being outside of the house. In fact he seemed less than eager to even venture outside the upper floors of the house after watching the television to see how things had indeed changed… but he liked to read. Adashino taught him how to use the internet and he spent hours upon hours reading after learning a lot of strange katakana words and asking question upon question. Ginko participated as well, watching the soft spot that Adashino grudgingly had for the mushi growing daily… and it being reciprocated.
Wataru woke one morning to find that his adoptive family had already gotten up without him. He sat up and listened intently, hearing them talking in the kitchen. Padding down the hall and yawning, he found the pair in an embrace. He watched until Adashino felt the eyes on them and looked, stopping stiffly and pushing away from Ginko.
"It's rude to stare!" Adashino blustered and Ginko laughed at his embarrassment.
"He's just curious."
"You do this 'kissing' a lot. I've seen it before… but never quite so long a period."
"You've cut into our love life, you…" He scowled.
"Wataru needs his own room. We'll start shopping for some things for him so we can get our own room back." He tugged Adashino close again, kissing his forehead, "There's nothing to be upset about. You embarrass so easily even after all these years."
"Yeah, I do…"
"So… Wataru… Today we will take you out to the shops to get things you might like for your room. We will clear out the room at the end of that hall and that will be your space."
"I will stay here while you go out." He said and went to the cabinet to get his morning cereal.
"You're coming with us this time."
"I do not want to go outside." He shook his head.
"Why not? You have to, eventually. It's been two months."
"I do not want to. I feel safe here. I understand what the world outside looks like from the photo and video images. That is enough. I will stay here."
Adashino went over and took the cereal bowl from their odd child, causing him to look up, "You need to go outside like a normal child. You cannot spend your life hiding in this house. You don't even go downstairs to the shop. It's not right to live your life this way. Why bother to re-form if you just want to stay in this one place? You may as well have just stayed in that jar."
Wataru's eyebrows knitted up, causing Adashino to back down. He looked upset rather than the usual rather blank expression he wore.
"Maybe you are right. I should go back to the jar." He turned and walked away.
"H.. Hey! I didn't really mean it! I was just trying to make a point!"
Ginko took Wataru by the arm to stop his departure then hefted him up into his arms, "You don't mean that. You're just frightened." He told the boy.
He nodded, laying his head on Ginko's shoulder.
"We are your family and we are here to protect you. We won't abandon you outside of this house for any reason. All you need to do is stay close. You will be fine."
"Why must I go outside?"
"Because that is what being alive is all about. Going and seeing things. Doing things with others."
"I am not like them though… Will they know?"
"They will see you as a nervous human child. Nothing more. Soon you will not be so frightened and just be curious. When it changes to that, be sure you are holding to one of our hands so that you do not wander away from looking at things."
"Come on. Today you're eating breakfast downstairs."
He carried the boy and his cereal bowl down to the lower level, the air filled with nervous whimpers and Adashino tagging along to make sure everything was all right.
"There's nothing to be afraid of. We're still in the house." He set Wataru down at the counter where he was usually working with herbs, "Just in the shop part of it. You can see the street from here… There are people passing by… You see?"
"Un…" He grasped at Ginko's sweater as he moved away, "Do not go."
"I'm staying here. I'm just getting a chair."
Adashino came over and stroked the boy's hair, "Don't worry. The shop's not even open today so no one will come inside. You've heard voices down here when we're open so you know that nothing scary happens. People just talk."
"Have I made you angry, Adashino-sensei?"
"No. Maybe I get too easily frustrated… You are extremely intelligent so it's hard for me to understand why you want to hide in this house. You said you want to learn. There's a huge world out there waiting to let you learn about it."
Wataru nodded and started to eat his cereal while Ginko pulled up a chair.
"When you were originally born, the world was a much smaller place, ne? All you knew was the land surrounding your family's home. It was a secure and isolated place outside of a little village. You didn't know about anything other than the area. Nothing about Japan being a country or that it is a very small one compared to the rest of a very large world filled with many different types of people."
"It will be stressful for a little while but you will become used to things. I promise."
"You will stay with me?"
"Of course we will. You like reassurance, don't you?"
"Your reassurance should be that we have not yet abandoned you. Why would we now?"
"I do not know. I only know that there are many things about you that I cannot understand. You are a complicated man, mushishi."
"Not really." He smiled.
"You like cereal, huh?" Adashino tried to change the subject to something lighter.
"Yes. It tastes good."
"The sugar is good for him, unlike for regular kids. Maybe while we're out you can pick some other cereal to try."
"There is something different?"
"Oh, yes. Plenty of different things to try."
After eating, Wataru wandered around down in the shop for a while, looking at everything, taking mental notes of all the antiquities crammed onto the many shelves, the titles of the dusty books. Then he followed his parents upstairs for a bath before being fit into something other than a yukata to go out. Ginko picked him up again to carry him out the front door of their shop, the bells on the door chiming. That sound in itself was reassuring to Wataru. It meant quite often that one of his protectors was coming home.
Outside it was a sunny, crisp fall day. Wataru whimpered again as the door to his safe haven shut, Adashino locking up.
They first went to a local grocery shop to let Wataru get used to the neighborhood.
"Aa, Ginko-san. Is this the new little one that has come to your house?" One of the women working there asked.
"Yep." He smiled, "Wataru."
"Hello, Wataru! Welcome to our neighborhood." She cheered and just got a blink or two in response.
"He's a little shy… In shock, I guess."
"A rough life, ne?" She sighed, "But you and Adashino-sensei will make him feel safe, won't you?"
"We're doing our best."
"Would he like some candy?"
"Yeah, he loves sugar."
Wataru got his first taste of candy then and found he enjoyed it. Much as his parents had told him, very quickly he was not afraid but curious instead. Still, he clung to Ginko while he gawked at everything, trying to absorb it all.
"They accept you though you do not look like them." Wataru said.
"You do not look like the rest of these people."
"Yeah. I'm still a little surprising to people who haven't seen me before. So in a way, you're more normal than I am. You look completely Japanese."
"Yep. That's why we're saying you're his relative."
"You also use his family name but most people are calling you Ginko-san instead of Adashino-san."
"Right. I had to take his family name in the registry. I don't remember my own family line's name."
"You have been together for a long time."
"Yep. Wanna be with him for a long time yet to come." He smiled toward the place where Adashino was picking through some fruit.
"Un… Can I be with you too for a long time?"
"Yeah, sure you can." He said and with that, he set Wataru on the ground to stand on his own two feet, "You're heavy…" He bent, smooched Wataru's forehead and gave him another candy, "Hold my hand instead. All right?"
"Un. I like these."
He took a firm hold and let Ginko lead him around after Adashino, eyes taking in everything as fast as they could.
That's it for now... There is more, but I'm not sure how this will be received so I'll leave it as-is for the time being until I see what you have to say :) So... please review! Thanks for reading...
Update- Posted a second chapter as thanks for the reviews for the first. Keep 'em coming!