A/N: How long has it been? Thank you for sticking with me for two years!

Hello, I'm back and anyone notice the new cover art?

Once again special thanks to Hanamuguri who has patiently answered my ceaseless barrage of questions and aided me in my research for Shinto and Buddhist Funeral rites. Hanamuguri-san, I apologize for being so annoying and relentless. And of course to you, my readers, once again thank you for the support and patience. I hope none of you will be put-off with this chapter due to its length.

Please pardon the lengthy Additional Info and Translation Notes which will expand up to the 16th and maybe to the 17th chapter; there are over 20 steps in the Shinto/Buddhist Funeral rite and there are a lot of terms involved. I have omitted some terms and skipped some steps in order to be a little more concise; all steps of the rites will still be included and explained in the most concise manner for information sake. There is meaning behind every ritual and so I need it in order to develop the story and characters.

I am imbuing culture and religion into these chapters; writing all of these steps and the reasons behind them is my way of avoiding any misconceptions. This is my way of respecting a culture I am not born into.

Disclaimer: No, I don't own Tekken. I am simply researching and speculating for fun; I am also learning along the way and at the same time appreciate Japanese culture. I hope you readers are too.

Brace yourselves! A loooooooooooooooooooong chapter awaits!


It was already daybreak when the snow started falling again. Asuka was sitting beside the window, her arms wrapped around her knees and her forehead pressed against the cold pane; the temperature had made her eyelids heavy, yet she was unable to sleep. The grief was starting to manifest itself into every object in her room and it kept her awake simply thinking.

The color of the snow loomed a vision of a kosode* that must have already been garbed on Master Kazama… could the moisture on the cold glass antagonizing her hot breath be enough to revive Master Kazama or confirm his departure from the world during matsugo no mizu*? And the pillows…she wondered what kind of pillows were used for makura naoishi no gi*…was it the same like the ones on her bed? Were they soft? And where was north again?

The images raced through her head and when the luminous arms of the alarm clock struck six, Asuka got up from her seat and exited her bedroom; she couldn't bear another minute reliving those last moments of Master Kazama. She quietly went to her parent's bedroom to see whether her mother was still asleep. When Asuka creaked open the door a few inches she saw that the bed was empty. It looked like it was hardly slept on and it prompted her to proceed downstairs.

A large salt bowl was already at the genkan and Asuka saw her mother walking towards the gate clutching a white-boarded paper; large characters of kichū-fuda* in black ink were written on it. Something furry suddenly brushed against her legs and she saw Hachimitsu apparently attracted to the pile of salt. The cat cautiously sniffed the fine grains before pawing it.

"Don't touch that," said Asuka, striding over and scooping Hachimitsu up in her arms; the moment she straightened up she saw Jin holding a white paper lantern.

"Excuse me," he said. He walked past her and hung the lantern on one of the beams.

"When did you and Mom start putting those around?" asked Asuka, gesturing at the lantern and salt bowl.

"A few moments ago," replied Jin.

"Didn't hear any of ya," she said blankly and she suddenly felt irritated that she was left out.

"Aunt thought that you were asleep."

"I wasn't." said Asuka and then she added in a stronger voice that enunciated her exasperation. "You and mom didn't even bother to go to my room and ask me if there was anything I could do. Jeez, just because you saw me mopin' around last night doesn't mean I can't do anything anymore!"

Jin looked at Asuka sideways; he still looked expressionless as ever yet she could tell that he was a little surprised of her outburst. Jin apparently thought that at this time Asuka would be more muted.

"Aunt said that you don't have to do everything on your own." He said very quietly.

The vexation disappeared the same way how it had surfaced only to be replaced by awkwardness. Last night's conversation felt quite surreal; Asuka had never imagined Jin would be cordial towards her and she scowled at him. She had grown accustomed that he would simply ignore her assertions and deem her as something repugnant or annoying. Then Asuka suddenly remembered that Jin had also lost a parent, but in the most abrupt and cruel manner left Asuka to feel something towards Jin.

That feeling was dissimilar to the one last night and she could not categorize it; whatever that feeling was, Asuka was certain it was neither pity nor apologetic. It was something else….Or maybe it was just the need for comfort and someone who understood. The longer Asuka was scowling at him, the more she realized that she could no longer meet Jin's eyes without that aura coaxing her to go nearer to him. Hachimitsu remained still as though he had detected a mouse; his ears were erect and his eyes probing, clearly attempting to read this newfound aura he had detected.

"Ohayō, Asuka-chan." came Asuka's mother's genteel voice. It snapped Asuka and even Hachimitsu out of that rather hypnotic state. Hachimitsu leapt from Asuka's arms and started rubbing himself against Asuka's mother's legs. "I haven't made breakfast yet so I'm afraid you'll have to wait."

"It's alright, I can get it on my own," said Asuka quickly. "Is there anything I can do?"

"Well then can you get the things that we need while I'm out?" her mother requested. "I have to go to the temple and also get our mofuku*."

"I'll do it. Besides, it's too cold out and it's supposed to be my job."

"I know, but you have a much more important role just being here," said her mother thoughtfully. "You have to call the students so that they can all say good-bye."

The words caught Asuka off-guard and for a fraction of a second her eyes stung and her throat was tightening. She did not want to look at anybody; Asuka stared fixedly at the salt bowl and forced the tears back into their ducts. Her mother swept past them and took her coat from the peg.

"Asuka-chan?" Asuka's mother called quietly as she dons her coat.

Asuka drew herself up and spoke so lively that it didn't sound like her voice at all or even if the tone was appropriate for the circumstances at hand. "Alright. No problem. Piece o' cake."

"Well then, Jin"—Her mother inclined her head into a bow at Jin— "Asuka-chan… Ittekimasu…"

"Itterasshai!" called out Asuka after her mother with the same lively tone and waving energetically after her.

She watched her mother walked up to the gate, crossing the threshold and finally disappearing from view and Asuka was then left to examine her mother's footprints left on the snowy pathway. How her mother said that she had to call the students to bid their last farewells to Master Kazama was unpredicted; just mere days ago she was in a delirium in refusal to acknowledge his death. Now, however, she addressed it directly that it was now Asuka's turn for repudiation.

Asuka bent as low as possible, momentarily pressing her face against the sleeve of her sweater as she scooped Hachimitsu in her arms once again so that Jin would not be able to see the tears. Despite that he had already seen her cry, she now felt conscious of being seen weeping and she silently vowed to herself that being clingy and teary will never happen again.

"C'mon, let's get goin'. We've got loads of stuff to do." said Asuka briskly. She set Hachimitsu on the floor and marched away from Jin. Traditionally, the funeral arrangements are the responsibility of the eldest child and now she better live up to it.

The flap doors of the dojo's kamidana* were already closed and covered with white paper. Kamidana-fuji* was one of the things Asuka had done last night before retreating to her bedroom. Announcing through prayer to the spirits of their ancestors that Master Kazama had already passed away during kiyu hokoku* wasn't so dismal; she could not observe any reaction to the news. Asuka now wondered how she was going to tell everyone…to tell Master Kazama's death to someone with facial expressions and emotions….

She approached the sword rack. All the bokken* and shinai* were covered with thin film of dust; it had been over a week since they were last used. She took down one of the mounted bokken, gripped it tightly and assumed a fighting stance, but Asuka felt no vitality in her grasp; she kept thinking how she will ever regain the mirth in fighting.

The person…the mentor …the one who gave her majority of her identity…her father …was gone forever and her happiness seemed to have vanished along with him…

Dad's gone… thought Asuka, her arms and shoulders going limp and her grip slackened. Mom's just trying to be strong like she always does, but I know she's messed up inside.

Footsteps were within earshot and they were heading towards the dojo. Asuka immediately assumed rigidity in her stance and grip. She lunged and thrusts the bokken into an invisible opponent with emphasized strength. The mounted mirrors on the wall revealed that Jin was standing at the dojo's entrance; at the corner of her eye, Asuka saw setting a salt bowl near the ingress.

I'm not like other girls, Asuka reminded herself as she slashed through the air, exhibiting how much power she can deliver in one blow. She was now wearing the helm as the new dojo master and she was supposed to show grit, not turn to the nearest male and let him handle the situation.

One final slash cut through the damp air and Asuka held her weapon still. Moping around won't change anything. It's not going to bring Dad back. I ain't a kid anymore that needs to depend on Mom all the time. You'd better get a grip of yourself because someone has to run the dojo.

Hachimitsu appeared, emitted a soft meow and rubbed himself against Asuka's legs which prompted her to stop her kata; she lowered the weapon and turned to Jin. Asuka knew that he was able to predict and read what she was feeling, but she didn't mention anything. She did not wish to discuss anything with Jin even though he knew exactly what she was going through at the moment. Asuka wanted to distance himself from him for that feeling of being drawn to him was implying that she was a weakling.

"It's getting a little musty in here," said Asuka, putting back the bokken and wiping the remaining dust off with her sleeve. "I suppose we should clean up a bit even if we're gonna be staying in the funeral hall for the next few days."

Jin remained silent. Asuka did not expect a reply, but continued regardless, "I have to go look for a photograph of Dad for the altar. Could you keep Hachimitsu off those salt bowls? He'll be messing it up if you don't."

Talking in a business-like manner helped Asuka concealed her sorrow; she did not expect Jin to reply as she left the dojo. Asuka felt as though Jin detected that sense of obscure affinity too and had mistaken it for a reticent cry for help. She dashed upstairs to her parents' bedroom to avoid any more interaction with her cousin.

Asuka only entered her parents' bedroom on rare occasions and with no intention of rummaging through their personal belongings. Despite with the guiltless purpose of searching for articles strictly belonging to Master Kazama, Asuka was very careful not to pry in her mother's personal effects; she proceeded to look into the Master Kazama's closet.

Master Kazama's tantō* was carefully stowed away in the closet shelf. Asuka took it and unsheathed the blade. It was very sharp and not to mention very beautiful; Master Kazama once mentioned that it was an heirloom. Asuka turned it over and saw the Kazama family kamon* was forged onto the blade near its hilt.

I'm sure Dad's gonna need this, Asuka thought.

She slid the tantō back into its sheath and carefully placed it on the bed and resumed rummaging in the closet. Asuka removed some hanged clothes to make her search easier and, as she did so, noticed a chest at the bottom of the closet; she bent down, pulled it out and opened it. The chest's contents were comprised mainly of Master Kazama's old aikidogi and some hakama which were probably he had used in his younger years and a large yet immensely old photo album. Asuka took it out, sat down on the bed and flipped it open.

It contained numerous family pictures; some seemed to have been taken not so long ago for they still retained their vibrancy while some were browned and faded with age. Most of them were kept in envelopes for there was no more space to accommodate them. Asuka never saw this before and she spared a couple of minutes scanning through its pages, scrutinizing every face in the pictures.

She then came across her parents' wedding picture. There was Master Kazama standing beside her mother, both beaming at the camera and faces alight with happiness. The people who surrounded them were presumably friends and relatives. Asuka turned to the next page and saw the picture that also depicted the same ceremony, but this time only a woman was standing beside Master Kazama.

Asuka turned another page; it was a different picture where Master Kazama and the woman were looking over their shoulder, giving an impression that it was a moment captured out of the blue. She flicked through more pages only to see the same woman with her father. They seem to do everything together: eating watermelons, watching fireworks, drinking tea and walking up on the stone steps towards a temple…she was everywhere. Asuka flicked through the album, to the very back and saw a portrait of that woman.

The woman had bright brown eyes, short raven hair and fringes that were rather identical to Master Kazama. The more Asuka stared at the woman, the more she came to a realization that she had seen her somewhere…

Asuka slammed the album shut and placed it beside her; she reminded herself that she would need to get things ready before her mother comes back. She then resumed her foray and that was when she noticed something odd.

At the bottom of the chest there was a box and the way how it was concealed gave a foreboding intuit. The box did not look old or dog-eared like the rest of the contest; it looked new. The image of the box piqued her curiosity. Asuka picked it up and opened it.

It was full of plastic bottles. Asuka picked one, turned it over in her hand and read the labels; they were medicines and when she saw the dates on the receipts, she picked up the box and immediately left the room with a terrible feeling of dread. She found Jin coaxing Hachimitsu away from the salt bowl from the dojo's ingress.

"Is there something wrong?" asked Jin when he saw Asuka's ashen face.

"Jin…" started Asuka breathlessly. "Did Dad ever tell you that three years ago he got beaten up so badly he had to be sent to the hospital?"

"He did," Jin admitted.

"He didn't mention anything about being sick and all?"

"I'm afraid not."

"Did you really believe that he would've gotten beaten up so easily?" she pressed, desperate for anything that Master Kazama might have confined something to Jin.

"He's always been telling me that he's getting old, that was it," he answered.

Asuka presented Jin the box. She pointed out the dates to when they were purchased and explained how they were surreptitiously kept at the bottom of a chest that was opened exclusively by Master Kazama.

"Dad's been…Dad's been sick for quite some time…and he didn't tell anybody…" concluded Asuka in a hollow voice. She turned over a bottle in her hand with a receipt wrapped around it. "Why..?"

Jin paused before giving his reply. "I'm afraid we'll never know."

Why hadn't she had noticed Master Kazama was already sick? As a matter of fact, why hadn't Master Kazama told Asuka or her mother anything at all? When she had always pried into other people's business, she could not even pry what was really going on with her father. Master Kazama has hidden his pains and ailments behind his bright smile…

Asuka suddenly felt cold; she felt cheated by what Master Kazama had done. Grief was steadily sinking while anger was gaining buoyancy.

"Uncle must have had his reasons not to tell you." Jin spoke calmly, noticing the troubled look on her face.

"Then what do you suppose is the reason why he didn't tell anybody?" demanded Asuka.

"Maybe he—"

"It's just a bunch of maybes," she interrupted, throwing the bottle back in the box. "I want to know exactly why Dad was keeping things from me and Mom. Why hadn't he told anybody? We could've done something."

Sorrow and despair fought anger and regret. The turbidity of the mix of emotions rendered Asuka speechless; she paced the entrance, massaging her knuckles and breathing as though she had just sparred. Jin watched her without uttering a single word, but despite his composure, Asuka felt that he was trying to look for reasons to comfort her.

"Maybe it was to protect you." He finally said.

Again, a 'maybe'. Asuka's grief amalgamates with her frustration.


Asuka stopped abruptly; she realized how she struggled articulating the last sentence. All the words tumbled out of her mouth before she could stop it, momentarily forgetting who her audience was. Asuka was already used to Jin's impassiveness, but she detected that reservoir of emotions stirring within him. She wanted to shout more, to verbalize what she felt, but she could no longer do so; her voice cracked from the strain after shouting for the first time in weeks.

"I don't know how to tell this to Mom…I don't know what she'll do when she finds out…" said Asuka, her voice slightly trembling. Her mother's breakdown worried her of the outcome of this newfound information; watching her mother articulating in thin air to her dead father was unbearably painful.

"What you are worrying about now could be the reason why Uncle Junichiro never told any of you."

Jin's statement took Asuka aback; she opened her mouth furiously, but couldn't find any rebuttal of that statement. Asuka's shoulder's slumped, scowled and dropped her gaze to the medicine bottle. He continued.

"There is a choice of doing what is right and what is easy. It's easy to simply tell, that you are basing it on pure intentions, but you have to consider whether it is right to do so."

"I don't want to hide things from Mom," stated Asuka bluntly.

"I know that your intentions are not to cause more distress, but you have to think more of the consequences," said Jin gently. "Now is not the time. You can tell Aunt Chieko when the right time comes."

She raised her head looked into his eyes. Asuka then realized who that woman in those photographs was. Jin had her eyes.

"When do you think is the right time?"

"I can't answer that. It's only you who can decide when it would be right to do so."

He always spoke gently and it might have been his peacefulness that soothed her distress, grief and anger. It was like a balm to the unseen wounds; that feeling being drawn close rose within and she simply wanted to lean against him and—

There was a loud clang, a ceramic rim dancing around in circles against wood and finally settling down with a final clangor; Hachimitsu had toppled the salt bowl over and salt grains were strewn across the floor. The sound brought back Asuka's cognition.

"I said don't touch that!"

It was already noon when Asuka stood in front of the gate already donned in her mofuku; the students gaped at her the moment they saw her. With the lanterns and notice, she did not need to say any more words to convey what had happened to Master Kazama; Asuka simply told them when they could pay their last respects to the late dojo master and the address of the venue. The students left without another word, grief-stricken at the news.

Akemi arrived a little later than the students; she was quite shocked at the news and offered her condolences. Asuka gave the address and when Akemi can visit.

"I'll bring my old man too. My dad liked your dad; he actually wanted to visit your old man back then, but he just didn't find the time to do it. Today he was hopeful that he could talk to your dad again."

"Really? I didn't know; my dad didn't say anything." remarked Asuka with a feigned pleasantly surprised tone. She wondered if there were more secrets Master Kazama kept from her.

"Where's your mom?"

"She's out again; she went back to the temple to set the date so that it won't fall on a tomobiki*."

"I see. Well...later," Akemi turned and walked out of the gate; she pulled out her cellphone, flipped it open and started texting, possibly informing her own father of the news.

It had been over a week since she last saw Akemi, but their conversation had lasted only for a few seconds and once again, there was something that Asuka didn't know about Master Kazama. She stayed in the snow for a few more minutes wishing for her mother to be with her as she retold Master Kazama's passing; the cold was starting to nip her nose and cheeks and she walked back to the house. Even from the genkan Hachimitsu's yowl could be heard all the way from the living room.

"I'm really sorry, but until you lay off the salt bowls, I can't let ya out," she said, kneeling down, pushing her duffel bag aside and peeking through the cover. "And anyway I'm going to bring you to the hall later, so you better behave now. If you don't behave now you'll be alone for tonight…and that means no food and no belly rubs."

Hachimitsu stopped yowling; Asuka straightened up. Jin was in the threshold of the living room and his eyes moved from the carrying basket to the duffel bag.

"Are cats allowed in funeral halls?" she inquired at Jin.

"I'm sorry, but I'm afraid I don't know what to supposedly bring."

"You've never been to a funeral before?" asked Asuka in disbelief. "I thought, you know…with your mom and all."

Jin shifted his gaze away from her. His reply was quite constricted. "There was nothing left of her for me to hold a service for."

"Sorry," said Asuka quickly, "I didn't mean it that way. What I meant was—" She couldn't continue, remembering how his mother suffered an unjust demise.

"No, it's alright," He said, shaking his head. Asuka noticed that Jin had obviously had no intentions of going with her to the funeral hall.

"Uhm…aren't you coming along?"

"I don't think it's wise for me to be there," Jin commented sincerely. "I don't want to dishonor Uncle's wake with any unnecessary commotion."

Jin's eyes were slightly downcast as though disappointed that he wouldn't once again able to see off a kin. His eyes rekindled the woman in the photographs Asuka saw earlier. She remembered that her name was Jun; Master Kazama had mentioned her before and Asuka had vague memories of some relatives dropping by and staying over in her younger years. Admittedly, even back then she was only acquainted with the relatives from her mother's side who reside in Yamagata.

Maybe…through Jin's eyes her Aunt Jun will see that she'll soon be seeing her sibling again…they would finally see one another again, chat, catch up on how one had lived…Probably her Aunt Jun would both be saddened and happy to finally see her sibling in the World of the Dead…

"I think you should come…" started Asuka slowly. "Dad would like you to be there and besides, it's not like the neighbors are always there; it's just you, me, Hachimitsu and Mom in the important events."

Jin shifted his gaze onto her; he seemed to be thinking it over.

"Thank you for considering." He finally answered.

"Why on earth did you bring Hachimitsu for?" her mother demanded. "You know that you can always go back early tomorrow to feed him."

"I can't leave him all alone in the house," answered Asuka indignantly. She set the carrying basket down, hitched open the lock and Hachimitsu darted out. The cat jumped onto one of the seats and purred audibly at Asuka's mother.

Her mother sighed in resignation. "Fine, but make sure Hachimitsu doesn't cause any trouble."

The hall was finally set up; there were already offerings at the saidan*, lanterns aglow and the flowers arranged in wreaths that enclosed Master Kazama's portrait. A handful of people from the kumiai* were present and they were already donned in black dresses and suits. Despite all that black attire, it was only Asuka and her mother whose relationship was discernible due to their mofuku. When the kannushi* waved around the harai-gushi*, it immediately gave a solemn atmosphere and it was so powerful that even when Hachimitsu's wide eyes followed the paper streamers in avid interest, he remained glued to his seat.

After the rites of purification, Asuka and her mother bowed at the priest and the members of the neighborhood association. Facing the altar once again, Asuka took out Master Kazama's tantō from her obi.

"What's that?" her mother inquired.

"Dad's knife," replied Asuka, presenting the blade at eye level. Her mother tilted her head to scrutinize the blade before a memory dawned onto her.

"Ah, yes…" said her mother. "Your father once said that you should keep it. It's yours now."

"But what's Dad going to use?"

"It's an heirloom, Asuka-chan, and besides the funeral director had provided him with one," replied her mother, smiling. She placed her hands over Asuka's and pressed them against the blade, against her chest.

The first night of tsuya sai* would only be exclusive to family members hence the empty space echoed every movement made. Asuka saw Master Kazama's coffin up at the front; she had not seen her father since she had left the hospital and now she wondered how he looks like now. Asuka walked up the aisle and looked down at the open casket.

Master Kazama's head was still wrapped in bandages as the result of the brain surgery he had undergone prior to his death. His kosode was crossed over in the opposite way how it was usually worn in observance to sakasagoto*. His stiff hands nestled on his chest and a white juzu* encircled his entwined fingers; his shinishozoku* truly made him look like a pilgrim depicted in history textbooks. The nōkansha* or hospital staff had done a good job in dressing Master Kazama up that he really looked like he was just sleeping; back then he seemed to be in immense reticent distress.

Saw your medicine bottles today. What else did you hide, Dad? Asuka thought bitterly. You always looked happy as if nothing's wrong and right now you don't look bothered that you'll be leaving me and Mom.

Prayers were recited, elegies sung and tamagushi* was offered; though how to offer the sacred item was hard to grasp, Asuka's mother handled it without difficulty. When it was Asuka's turn, she nearly dropped the offering, but at least maintained her aplomb for the entire duration of the ritual. After a few more purification rites, the kannushi bowed, and Asuka and her mother followed; the priest then left the hall silently followed by the kumiai. She then looked at her mother and noticed that she determinedly kept her gaze away from the saidan.

"You look tired, Mom," commented Asuka thoughtfully.

Her mother closed her eyes, opened them once again and smiled at Asuka.

"I woke up very early and I was walking around the entire day. I suppose I should take a nap before the vigil."

Asuka grinned. "I think it's better if ya sleep. It's not good to skip on your beauty sleep, ya know."

Her mother gave a small laugh and agreed to her suggestion. Once her mother retreated to the spare room of the hall, the emptiness that resonated across the silent hall whispered the grief into Asuka like seeping torment so powerful that it somewhat made her skin crawl. She spared a few moments beside Master Kazama's casket before taking her seat at the front. After an hour, Asuka crept to the room, opened the door and saw her mother sitting on the couch with her eyes closed.

It wouldn't be prudent to wake her mother up for the intention of accompanying Asuka during the vigil. Though Asuka wondered how her mother could have slept in that posture when she had once commented that she could never sleep sitting up. The first night of tsuya sai wasn't only about vigil, but for the family to talk about the future the deceased would want for them. It seems that talking about what Master Kazama would want was a matter that Asuka's mother would avoid if it can be helped.

Maybe Mom's really tired, thought Asuka, observing her mother's features.

Her mother indeed looked tired and it had been a long day after all. Asuka entered the room, pulled a blanket from the bed and threw it over her mother's form. The light from the hallway illuminated her mother's face; even with all the stress she had gone through lately, Asuka could still see the radiance she sported in the wedding picture taken more than twenty years ago. But the wrinkles…the slumped shoulders…the strands of white hair mingling with the brown ones…

She's getting old too

Asuka then exited the room; she determinedly kept her back as she crossed the room for she thought she sensed her mother opening her eyes. She closed the door behind her silently and went back to the hall. Hachimitsu remained in his seat ever since the priest left. He shifted his position, stretched and purred as Asuka sat down beside him.

"Thanks for keeping me company, sweetie," said Asuka, smiling at Hachimitsu.

The main doors of the hall slid open and someone walked inside. Hachimitsu raised his head, turned towards the doors and meowed loudly. Asuka turned around in her seat and saw Jin striding towards the front. He was no longer donned in his purple jacket; he was all clad in black, even the suit underneath his jacket.

"Aunt bought them for me," said Jin, noticing Asuka's look. "She said that I need more clothes."

"I see."

"She's been very kind to me," he added.

Asuka could only silently nod as a reply. Jin sat down beside her. Hachimitsu stretched, purred and strode over to Jin. He circled several times on Jin's lap before curling up like a large furry tabby rug.

Despite that it was the only two of them during the vigil, Asuka and Jin hadn't exchanged any words or even glances at one another; their focus were solely at the saidan. They haven't even touched the food and beverages reserved for keeping the watchers awake. Hachimitsu seems to be the only one who had the energy to move about; he would occasionally stretch and groom himself and he got up and stretched once again, but this time he burrowed himself into Jin's jacket.

At least someone's enjoying himself, thought Asuka, as she watched Hachimitsu poking his head out. "He's treating you as his sleeping basket,"

"I don't mind," replied Jin.

Hachimitsu started to entwine his paws on the strings of Jin's jacket; the cat gnawed the end of the string, pulling and fraying it.

"Hey, stop that," said Asuka.

When Asuka was disentangling Hachimitsu's claws off, her hand accidentally brushed against Jin's. The moment it did, that feeling of being drawn was rekindled, but it didn't feel odd or anything unwelcoming; it was rather warm and from her fingertips it spread throughout her body. She couldn't explain what it was, but it felt like some sort of electrical current charging her body and its magnetic field was pulling her towards him.

Jin must have felt it too. When Asuka felt that strange sensation, her head snapped up and their eyes met for a whole second; they remained immobile, trying to comprehend that event. She realized that she was so close to him and immediately dropped her gaze to Hachimitsu.

It gave all the more reason for the both of them to stay silent until dawn.

The number of guests increased as it progressed later in the second day of tsuya sai; even the coldness of the weather didn't deter anybody to pay their last respects to the late elder Kazama. The students came, the neighbors, even some of Asuka's old classmates who she had invited to their household years ago and, surprisingly, some delinquents that Asuka had roughhoused before. Their appearance had always irked Asuka, but for now, she was grateful that they came in the most prudish manner and even bowed at her mother politely.

Akemi arrived early in the evening with her father; they wore matching black suits. Asuka gave a small cry of surprise when she saw Akemi.

Asuka noticed that Akemi had removed most of her piercings on her face, but the ones on her ears seemed to sport the same amount since the last time Asuka had seen her. The dyed braids were gone leaving her hair in a jet-black shade and tied back in a high ponytail; she looked a cleaner now unlike the image Asuka had grown accustomed to when they were still attending cram school. This was probably her way of sobering her appearance for Master Kazama's wake.

"It's finally good to meet you, Asuka-kun," said Akemi's father, bowing.

Asuka returned the bow. "Thank you for coming, bengoshi Sawatari."

Akemi and her father bowed politely at Asuka and her mother before handing the koden* to Asuka and she was surprised at how thick and heavy it was in her hand; she had grown accustomed to the koden that were light. Asuka opened a tiny slit, peeked inside and saw how many notes there were in the envelope. Her attention snapped to Akemi who had her arms akimbo.

"This is way too much," whispered Asuka.

"Take it or I'm throwing it outside the gutter," responded Akemi in a low voice.

"Did you do something illegal to get this amount of cash?"

Akemi scowled and jerked her head at her father who was now exchanging bows and offering his condolences to Asuka's mother. "Blame that bloke over there. It's his idea to give that much and he doesn't mind burning his money like there's no tomorrow."

After the senrei sai* the lights were switched back on, and during settai* Asuka personally handed Akemi's bento and they went at the back of the hall where they could talk without too much interruption and while everyone was distracted by the food. Asuka didn't waste time in retelling how Master Kazama passed away, but she avoided the topic that he had been sick for years and hid it from Asuka and her mother. This information seemed to be so delicate; even Asuka's mother wasn't aware of this.

"Everything's cool though," said Asuka, brushing off the concern. "My mom and I are doing fine."

"Are you really sure about that?" asked Akemi, completely undeterred by Asuka's collected expression; she was narrowing her eyes at her, scrutinizing.

"What the heck is that supposed to mean?"

"You're not a good liar."


"I'm only telling you that you don't have to go lying at my face saying that you can all handle this on your own," said Akemi, folding her arms. "If you think you can't do it all on your own, then feel free to ask for help."

"What are you talking about?" said Asuka sharply.

"I lost my mom so suddenly. I know what it feels like when you see your remaining parent all broken"—Asuka shifted uncomfortably; the image of her own mother articulating and gesticulating in thin air surfaced in her memory—"and seem like a spineless bum."

Akemi took a deep breath before speaking again. "I already knew my dad was a workaholic, but when my mom died it got worse; he wouldn't be home for days. Before I knew it he was drowning himself with alcohol. He overlooked me and I was cleaning up after him. I hated him at some points. I thought I wasn't a reason for him to keep on living…it was like he wasn't thinking that he wasn't the only one who lost somebody very important. It was like he was gone already."

Akemi paused again and she shifted her gaze at Asuka's mother who was at the front row, speaking in low voices with some of the neighbors. "She's human too. She might've just masked how she can handle this loss. She might not even be as strong as she seems to be and when the time comes that she's beginning to show her shortcomings, you have to see past them. But when the time comes that she's making up for it, give her that chance."

Asuka returned her gaze to her mother and Akemi spoke again, "Always remember that when someone is offering you to be happy or to comfort you, you should take it. You have every right to."

The kannushi finally left followed by the guests. One by one, Asuka and some members of the kumiai bowed at them as they left. Master Kazama's students were one of those who were the last to leave and when they finally got the chance to be curtsied by Asuka, she noticed that they were all taking quick glances or peering at her face as though searching for something.

"What?" she said loudly, finally annoyed. "What the hell is everybody staring at? Is there something on my face?"

Satoru blushed and mumbled, "We're just worried about you, sensei…"

"We thought you've been crying," piped a small girl. The rest of the students shifted uncomfortably and averted her gaze.

Asuka rolled her eyes. "I'm fine. Now get going before your parents get mad at me for holding you back this late!"

The students bowed, left and she turned her attention to the last guest.

"Hibiya-baasan, thank you for coming." said Asuka, bowing at the elderly woman to which she returned.

Hibiya-baasan peered into Asuka's face thoughtfully before looking over at Asuka's mother. "You've grown so much since last I saw you up close. You've gotten even prettier than your mother."

Asuka smiled sheepishly. "No, not at all."

The old lady looked at Asuka's mother sadly. "All married couples are separated by death, but it's tough being the one left behind," she returned her attention to Asuka and smiled. "Not everyone will understand how one feels...you take care of your mother now, alright?"

"'Course I will."

"You're always the strong one," said the old lady benignly. Asuka tipped her head in a bow once more before Hibiya-baasan left.

Beyond the tinted glass doors, the last of the guests were preparing to depart and Asuka saw Akemi and her father donning their jackets with cigarettes protruding from their lips; she saw Akemi flicking a lighter and lighting her father's cigarette before hers. Akemi clung on her father's sleeve as they turned and walked away. Asuka couldn't help but smirk at the sight of it. Akemi looked like an overgrown kindergarten. However, as she looked on, she realized that it had been years since she had clung on Master Kazama's sleeve.

When Asuka watched them walking away, she saw Akemi's lips form the word 'Dad'….

Asuka turned her attention to the saidan; the ihai* on the altar was now engraved with a different name. The priest had finally inscribed Master Kazama a kamiyo*. He was no longer 'Junichiro' or 'shishō' or 'Dad'…

Right now even if she would utter either of those names in a form of address to Master Kazama's soul, he would never turn back. Tomorrow afternoon would be the cremation and he was already ready for the journey to the other world wherein Asuka could never make him turn at the sound of his name so she can cling on his sleeve…

They were already in the crematorium and as the minutes progress, Asuka could feel her heart beating like a drum as she and her mother and Jin waited. They were going to perform kotsuage* soon.

After almost two hours, the steel tray slid towards them. The remains were still smoking; clumps of ashes and several charred bones were all that was left of Kazama Junichiro. It was quite unbelievable that these ones moved, trained and spoke to Asuka once…

They had only picked two bones together when Asuka's mother suddenly dropped the large chopsticks and strode out of the room without another word; Asuka raised her head and she saw her mother closing her eyes and facing the opposite direction, where she wouldn't be able to see what remained of her husband.

Her mother left her all alone again. She should be with Asuka now. But this was no longer the first time…

Her mother had abandoned her and instead sheltered herself in hallucinations as she conjured a fantasy wherein her Master Kazama was still alive. Her mother had abandoned her at the time when the doctors switched off Master Kazama's respirator. Her mother abandoned her when she was going to tell her students that their master had passed away. Her mother abandoned her when she should have been there during the vigil so that evil spirits won't snatch his soul away. Her mother abandoned her now when she had to pick his remains.

She should have been there facing reality with Asuka and accept the truth. She should have been there to see her husband alive for the very last time. She should have been there with Asuka standing at the gate delivering the news. She should have been there keeping her husband company in the first night of the wake. She should be here with Asuka now.

She's human too. She might've just masked how she can handle this loss. She might not even be as strong as she seems to be and when the time comes that she's beginning to show her shortcomings, you have to see past them.

Asuka's grip on her chopsticks slackened and prompted the memories wherein her mother had mollycoddled her and all those times when Asuka refused all of her help; it served as a palliative on the anger induced by her desertion. However, the fact remained that it was all in the past and Asuka's defense of not wanting to think ill of her mother ignited a battle within. Even dislike was such a powerful emotion to feel towards that frail and gentle woman.

But right now, Asuka faced a task wherein she has to ensure Master Kazama's proper rebirth to the World of the Dead alone…

Jin moved closer to her; she momentarily forgot about him.

Asuka looked at him for a moment before dropping her gaze back onto the remains and spoke tonelessly, "Let's get going."

Jin nodded once and they commenced the ceremony. The smoke stung and the smell was awful, but Asuka remained impassive as they gently shifted through the ashes, picked bone by bone and placed each piece carefully into the urn. They didn't exchange any form of communication, but they worked in coordination nonetheless that they were almost done.

"There's still the head," said Asuka shortly after a few moments.


The distinguishable triangular Adam's apple was finally picked; they carefully held it with their chopsticks and placed it inside the urn. A few more skull fragments were distinguishable amongst the ashes and they picked each with controlled speed to conclude the ceremony. Asuka could already feel her hands shaking as she shifted through the last discernible bones of Master Kazama.

They were finally done and the overseer swept the ashes in a pan and placed them carefully in a separate urn; both containers were then wrapped in white cloth separately. The kannushi present took the urn that contained the bones while Asuka took the one that contained the ashes. Bunkotsū* officially signaled the completion of kotsuage.

Asuka exited the chamber and searched for her mother while holding the urn in her arms with utmost reverence. She found her mother standing in the corridor; she had her eyes closed and her hand was over her heart.

"Mom," she called, her voice resonating in the corridor; her mother raised her head and looked at her. "It's all over."

Try as she might, Asuka could no longer give a comforting smile to her mother.

Asuka kept her distance from her mother as they returned home and during kika sai* when they expressed their gratitude to the kumiai and several neighbors for their help. Asuka left her mother's side and went straight to the dojo. Thankfully no one was there; she finally gained privacy. Slowly, Asuka succumbed to the thoughts and the events that had occurred.

Master Kazama's grave clothes…his bones…his ashes…the urns…his medicine bottles…her mother's recent reclusive behavior…the students…Akemi and her father…

It seemed impossible that a few weeks ago, Asuka had just spoken to Master Kazama about strawberry cakes and entrance exams.

Asuka thought she should've ransacked Master Kazama's belongings years ago and drag him to the hospital for treatment. The guilt inside swelled as she remembered her mother is still oblivious to the fact that Master Kazama's death could have been prevented and the resentment she felt toward her mother right now was fighting with compunction. Asuka wanted to yell out the emotions that plagued her, but she was unable to do so. Pressure was suddenly building up behind her eyes and with every air she took in her esophagus tightened; it was as though there were invisible bands around her chest.

All the physical and emotional stress she had undergone in days finally burst out of her. She was at her limit. She was hyperventilating.

Asuka's mind fumbles to shout out for oxygen and help, but instead she willed herself to bit into the sleeve of her mofuku in order to muffle any sounds; her mother might hear her and Asuka didn't want to let her see that.

I'm not weak! I don't need her help! She felt lightheaded, her heart pounding wildly and her extremities numbing. Asuka couldn't breathe, her vision was suddenly changing; despite the darkness of the dojo, she knew that her peripheral vision became severely limited and the objects directly in line with the eyes can be seen.

Damn it! Asuka fell forward and she threw her hands in front of her in order to avoid colliding with the wooden floor. However, the awaited impact never came for someone caught her just seconds before she was going to hit the floor.

Jin grabbed her wrist in time and pulled her close to him. Instinctively, Asuka tried to push him away and snatch herself away from him, but he held on to her. The tightening sensation was so unbearable that she thought her insides were already burning from the pain of being depraved of oxygen.

The moment Asuka clung onto Jin she felt that affinity surge within. It was so strong that the tightening bands around her chest loosened; the burning sensation ceased and Asuka could breathe again. She rested her head on his shoulder and slowed down her breathing.

What the hell was that? What the hell did he do?

Jin never spoke much, but Asuka could hear what his actions had been telling her for the past days when she thought she was alone. Despite not actually verbalizing those words, she could perceive it without actually hearing it. Usually, she could hear her mother's voice saying those words, but Asuka heard those words in Jin's quiet deep voice regardless of his taciturnity.

It's alright. I'm here.

A/N: I made two cover arts, actually. I decided for the second one since it's a scene I randomly picked in the chapter. I'll post the both of them in my dA and Pixiv.

My readers, do you favor the idea that I make a cover art for every future chapter I publish? If so, then expect the updates to come more slowly than what you are experiencing now. On the art: for my standards, it's not exactly the best (proportioned sucked, I know) and I find Jin difficult to draw, but I exerted the capacity of my skill and not to mention I unintentionally sacrificed a good grade in one of my subjects for I was concentrating on the drawing and halfway through, I had to listen to the doctor (I just needed one more point! Damn it!). I drew these a couple of months ago on a sketchpad; I have no time to practice on my tablet, but hopefully when by the end of May, I can squeeze in time to do so. Practice makes perfect, after all.

Calling out to those proficient artists who are reading this fic, make a good Jisuka. :D

With all the terms and rituals involved, now every one of you have a fair idea how Obsessive-Compulsive and a freak to details I am. (*insert insane laugh*)


Without Hanamuguri's help I wouldn't be able to write this chapter as it is now. I'll never stop repeating my thank you's to you, Hana-san! Thank you so much for bearing with me even when it's already three in the morning, even when you have to walk your dog, even when it disturbs you that I'm drinking so much coffee that it's already unhealthy, even when I'm repeating the same questions over just to get it all right and even when you have to cook your dinner. I know that the topic of funeral is taboo and avoided in your culture and yet you still stuck and answered all of my questions. Thank you. Thank you so much! I learned a lot from you!

Once again, don't expect me to update quickly and produce fan arts, but thank you for sticking with me for two years, to those who have just recently favorited/followed this story, I hope you enjoy your stay and I hope you still have the energy to leave a review for every chapter published.

Author's Speculations:

The Kazama family's religion seems to be hinted throughout the game: Jun's stage in TTT2 has an intonation of Buddhism; there are lotuses in Jun's stage and one of three meanings of the lotus in Buddhism is purification or purity. Hanamuguri told me that Asuka's and Jin (Devil Jin's) movesets in original Japanese texts give hints of their religion as well.

Here are some examples:

Asuka's movesets:

-Iwato (u/f+3) is the cave wherein the Shinto's principal deity and the Goddess of the Sun, Amaterasu hid.

-Amano-uzume (in the English version this is called 'Spinning Jump Kick'; f, f, f+3) is the goddess who stripped off her clothes for entertainment in order to lure Amaterasu out of Iwato and bring light back to the world.

-Hibokono kagami or hikaneno kagami (f,F+2+1) is the mirror hung on a sakaki tree outside Iwato in order to lure out Amaterasu; this is one of the treasures passed into the possession of the Imperial House of Japan.

Devil Jin's movesets:

-Rikudou (b+1+2; in English this is translated to 'Infinite Power') is the name of Hell in Buddhism; there are six levels.

-Nehan (1+2 during Fly; in the English version this is named 'Infernal Destruction') is the Death of Buddha.

-Amara (3 during Fly) one of the concepts of Buddhism; if I'm correct this is a city in the time of Siddbatha Buddha. I'm not so sure about this fact, but it is connected to Buddhism.

It is common that a religion's philosophies can influence the style of a martial art. It seems that Asuka is Shinto while Jin is Buddhist.

It should also be taken note in Tekken 6 that Jin and Asuka's family ties are mentioned yet not specified. In Scenario Campaign when you use Jin in Asuka's stage, Alisa mentioned "a relative", not exactly giving further details; the instance is also similar to Asuka's storyline prelude. Harada also had not mentioned to what degree their blood relation is. Judging by Jun's profile back in Tekken 2, it is assumed that she is the only child; it is highly plausible that the Jin and Asuka aren't closely related or that Asuka might be from the 'off-branch' of the family or vice versa. In the 'semi-official' Tekken manga, Asuka's father mentioned that she should act politely around the Jin and Jun as they are the 'head family'.

However, all of this is done purely on speculation. As I have mentioned that I am merely researching and speculating for fun and enjoyment…it seems like the way of thinking I am immersed in school is starting to rub myself on a daily basis. I would just like to share my thoughts and deductions.

This is a fan fic anyway, so don't take it seriously; I hope you enjoyed this information and deductions as you have this chapter. :D

Additional Info:

Japan is a secular nation despite their adherence to traditions and philosophies.

Shinto is the indigenous religion of Japan while Buddhism arrived through political delegation from Korea at around 538 C.E. The word Shinto, which literally means 'the way of the Kami' (Kami means 'mystical', 'superior', or 'divine', generally sacred or diving power, specifically the various gods or deities; commonly translated as 'god'), came into use in order to differentiate indigenous Japanese beliefs from Buddhism. Shinto has no founder, no official scriptures in the strict sense and no fixed dogmas, but it has preserved its guiding beliefs throughout the ages. Shintoism consists of the traditional Japanese religious practices as well as the beliefs and life attitudes that are in accord with these practices. Shinto is more readily observed in the social life of the Japanese people and in their personal motivations than in a pattern of formal belief or philosophy. It remains closely connected with the Japanese value system and the Japanese people's ways of thinking and acting.

There is a saying in Japan that goes 'Born as Shintos, Die as Buddhists'; the reason behind this is that Shinto funeral rites bend more towards Buddhism since the Shinto view death as an abomination and impurity hence they have no rituals for it. Due to this concept of impurity, funerals are held in funeral halls instead. Shinto temples should never be desecrated by death, while dojos are a sacred place to martial art practitioners so holding a service there is completely unacceptable. Most of the rites are more strictly implemented in the rural areas, but those who live in the cities leave some rituals to the hospital staff.

Shintoism may be simple in nature, but it is extremely complex in terms of ceremonies; rites are lengthy, complicated and mostly focus on purification. The customs leave no room for personalization; everything has to be done in a certain way at the right time, hence there is no leeway or deviation from the rituals. The Shinto offer food and pray to their ancestors at least once a day so it is very hard to forget about them. It should also be noted that their anniversaries are held on the first, third, seventh, 13th and 33rd years following someone's death; the status of the deceased will now be an ancestor or a Kami and hence they are worshipped. Among all other customs, four make up the core funeral rituals namely Kichū-fuda, Koden, Kotsuage and Bunkotsū.

The use for salt is to ward off evil spirits and also cleanse the living from the impurities of death.

Translation Notes:

*Kichū-fuda – literally translates to 'mourning' or 'Period of Mourning'. White lanterns and salt bowls are placed around the house of the deceased and a whiteboard paper with the characters of Kichū-fuda is placed thereon outside the house or genkan; this is an effective way to notify neighbors of bereavement. This is the period of intense mourning and it only lasts for one day.

*Kosode – a cotton undergarment and the word literally means 'short sleeve'. This is smaller than the modern kimono. In modern times the deceased is usually dressed up in a suit, but there are some families who opt for traditional ones.

*Mofuku – a traditional mourning kimono that is plain black silk and five kamon over white undergarments and white tabi (socks). Mofuku items are reserved in Japan for funeral use only. This type of kimono should not be worn for anything else.

A full mofuku ensemble is reserved only for family members who were close to the deceased; the mother, wife, daughter and sisters of the deceased may wear the kimono, obi and accessories. As the relation gets further away, the less mofuku is worn. Wearing more mofuku than would normally be expected may give the wrong idea. It would be odd to find a woman outside the family (a neighbor, for example) to wear a mofuku for it would give an impression that she was a mistress or had a long-standing affair with the deceased.

*Kamidana – altar of the Shinto which can also be found in traditional martial arts dojos. This is different to the altar for the deceased, but yet it is placed with offerings after the funerals. The Shinto has many gods and so this altar is not specific to a Kami it dedicates to, but this is a place for putting offerings daily.

The kamidana is situated above and never positioned on the ground or at even eye level. The altar should not also be situated over an entrance; it should be in an area where people cannot walk beneath it. These rules are followed by households and martial arts dojos. When an ofuda (a type of lucky charm) is enshrined in the kamidana, after removing the pouch it's customary to leave an offering an offering of water, liquor and food in front of the altar which should be changed regularly.

*Kamidana-fuji – the flap doors of the kamidana are closed and covered with white paper in order to keep out the impure spirits of death.

*Bokken – (Bok(u) = 'wood' and ken = 'sword'; may also be called Bokutō) a wooden sword used for training and it is strongly associated with kendo, but it is also used in other traditional Japanese martial arts. It is shaped like a katana, but sometimes it can take shape that of a tantō or wakizashi. This should not be confused with shinai.

*Shinai – like the bokken, this is a weapon popularly known for its use during practice and competition in kendo and other traditional Japanese martial arts as well. This is more flexible than the bokken for it is made up of flexible bamboo slats and so considered to be safer to use.

*Tantō – lit. 'short sword'. A traditional tactical knife. Some martial arts that use the tantō are aikido and daitō-ryū-aikijūjutsu; both fighting styles are imbued in the Kazama-style traditional martial arts (the latter style is very primary)so it is highly plausible for Master Kazama to possess one. The reason for a knife beside the deceased is to use against evil spirits as they journey to the World of the Dead.

*Kamon – this is translated to 'crest' or 'emblem'. This word is similar to 'mon' which also has the same meaning. While mon is an encompassing term that may refer to any device, kamon and mondokoro refer specifically to emblems used to identify a family.

*Tomobiki – this is superstitiously translated to 'pulling friends along' (tomo = 'friends' and hiku = 'pull'; however the prime implication was different). The term tomobiki is one of the six basic labels printed on traditional Japanese calendars that indicate the auspiciousness of a given day: sensho, tomobiki, senbu, butsumetsu, taian and shakkō. Tomobiki is a day on which it is thought that the bad luck of family could affect their friends, so it is avoided in the scheduling of funerals. Tomobiki is a terrible day for a funeral but a good day for a wedding. As the translation suggests, no one would want to 'pull their friends along' to the grave.

*Kumiai – a neighborhood organization. The association is a subunit of a neighborhood or village of five to fifteen households, and it is used to be involved not only in funerals, but also conducting weddings, building houses and organizing festivals. Although most funerals nowadays are carried out by undertakers, the kumiai still plays an important role in overseeing the entire mortuary ritual process. For instance, its members consult with the deceased's family and the undertakers about the funeral arrangements. The kumiai also negotiate with undertakers when they have different opinions about dealing with the deceased and ways of performing mortuary rituals. The kumiai are also stationed at the entrance of the funeral halls to greet guests, receive monetary offerings, and distribute gifts in return.

*Kannushi – lit. 'god master'. They are also synonymous to shinshoku. This is a person responsible for the maintenance of the Shinto shrine as well as for leading worship of a given kami; they are commonly known as Shinto priests. Originally the kannushi were intermediates between the Shinto gods and could transmit their will to ordinary mortals. The kannushi is capable of miracles or a holy man due to his practices of purificatory rites and serves as the line of communication for a kami. The name has become synonymous to shinshoku since it's also a person who holds religions ceremonies at the temple.

*Harai-gushi – purification wand. The wand may be a branch of a sakaki tree or a plain stick with paper streamers. The Shinto priest waves the wand for it transforms a secular building into a sacred place that demands purification before entering.

*Saidan – coffin-altar. This is where the portrait of the deceased is placed and also several offerings.

*Sakasagoto –inversion of daily life. The first idea is that the people do the opposite to the dead because in the World of the Dead everything is opposite from the World of the Living. The second idea is that people do the opposite to the dead to draw a line between life and death. Some say that sakasagoto is done to ward off evil spirits.

Following this practice, people do things in reverse during a funeral; for example putting on the kosode with the right side overlapping the left, pouring hot water into cold water to make it lukewarm, and putting a quilt over a dead person in reverse. People don't want death to give unhappiness to those who are still alive, so they execute these practices, though these practices are taboo in daily life.

*Shinishozoku – 'A dress for a journey to eternity'. The deceased is put on grave clothes or the kosode, a hood and a money pouch containing six pieces of money that is needed to cross the Sanzū-no-kawa (Sanzū River) or also known as the River of Three Crossings (equivalent to the Greek mythology's Styx River).

*Juzu – Buddhist prayer beads, but commonly called as Buddhist Rosary. This kind of rosary has 108 beads that should be handled with great care in order to get rid of the 108 evil passions.

*Nōkansha – funeral director or morticians. In Japan, these people are involved in dressing up the deceased.

*Tamagushi – literal translation is 'jewel skewer'. This is a form of offering from a sakaki tree decorated with white strips of paper, silk or cotton. This is usually presented in weddings, funerals and other ceremonies at Shinto shrines; it is ritually presented to the Kami by parishioners or kannushi.

Christians offer flowers, Buddhists offer incense and Shintoists offer tamagushi. Offering tamagushi takes only a few seconds, but based on the attention it receives handling it is something to worry about. When the mourners are called upon to present tamagushi at the altar of the deceased, they are on stage. Handling the tamagushi is hopelessly complicated; most mourners, unlike the kannushi, have done this before and hence have no chance to practice.

*Koden – monetary offering of the mourners to the family of the deceased in order to help them with the expenses of the funeral.

*Kaimyo/Homyo – a posthumous name inscribed by the priest. This name differs from that which the person had been when alive. The purpose for this is to help prevent the person from returning to the World of the Living whenever his or her name is uttered.

*Ihai – Mortuary tablet. In Japanese culture, it is believed that spirits do not exist in daily living environment and rather they see the living when they are called in memorial rites performed in honor of ones ancestors. The spirits have been thought to appear with the aid of a certain medium such as the ihai, dagoba, tombstone and the like. The plain wooden tablet will then be replaced with a black lacquered one when the mourning expires.

Ihai is for Buddhism, reiji is for Shintoism, but Hanamuguri told me that it doesn't really matter; the Shinto rite is copied from the Buddhist, anyway.

*Bunkotsū–Burying parts of a person's ashes or bones in separate places. According to the teachings of Buddhism, on the day when Buddha entered Nirvana, his ashes through cremation was buried in eight places for holding religious services by the respective followers. The ashes of the deceased is partially kept buried in a grave in his/her native place or, in the case of Shinshu sect of Buddhism, it is partially kept in a mausoleum of a head temple.

As far as I have researched, the ashes are kept by the family while the bones are given to the priest for services which later on will be buried or vice versa. I believe either will do.

The Rituals:

*1.) Matsugo-no-mizu- literally translates to 'Water of the last moment' (Matsugo no= 'the last moment' and mizu = 'water'). The first step of the funeral rite. The deceased is given water by cotton or leaf enough to wet the lips and mouth, starting with the eldest relative.

Symbolically, this last offering of water is the final chance to revive the deceased since they will no longer drink the water of the living; this water is both an offering to the deceased and proof that that person is truly dead. In addition to providing hope of revival and proof of death, this water is the first in a long series of offerings of food and drink made to the deceased in his new status as an ancestor. To the Japanese, this is a reversion to a condition of infancy where the need to be fed by the living. This role reversal (children feeding the adults) casts the living as maternal nurturers of the dead; the living provides the dead with the food they need in their new existence.

In Buddhism the last water offering is strongly linked more than the Shinto; Buddha asked for water before he passed away. However, it is thoroughly integrated into Shinto funeral rites. In former times this is done by the family, in modern times however, it is left to the hospital staff since it would require a person to handle the corpse directly which is very unsanitary.

2.) Yukan – The second step; the washing of the remains and need placing cotton in every orifice of the body. Both Buddhist and Shinto practice this in order for nothing impure to come out of the deceased's remains; it is also now done by the hospital staff or the nōkansha.

*3.) Kiyu hokoku – The third step. 'Announcement of the Death'. The bereavement is announced through prayer to the spirits and family shrine.

The Shinto death is reported to the Kami (either in the kamidana or at a shrine). If the deceased or relatives had prayed for a cure at a certain shrine, then a visit should be paid to that shrine in order to announce the death. If the shrine is far away, then a representative can be sent or the family can "pray from afar" (yohai). The death may also be reported to the ancestors, who are Kami after all, at the place within the house where ancestral rites are conducted (usually the ancestral altar, but sometimes the kamidana).

*4.) Makura naoishi no gi – The fourth step. 'Pillow Adjustment Rite'. The head of the deceased is faced to the north and there are offerings which are the things that the deceased had been fond of in life.

5.) Nokan no gi – The fifth step. 'Encoffening'. This is where the remains are placed inside the coffin along with offerings. This is quite a complicated step to explain concisely, but as the name of the rite suggests this is when the family places the remains inside the coffin. Again, in cities, this is no longer done by family members and is now left to the hospital staff or the nōkansha.

6.) Kyūzen nikku –daily offerings to the deceased are twice daily offerings of food to the deceased. The offerings are placed on a table near the funeral altar.

7.) Ubusuna jinja ni kiyu hokoku – the seventh step. Announcement of the return of the spirit. The announcement to the local shrine that the deceased spirit has returned. This rite is considered redundant for there is already Kyūzen nikku and so there are some families who omit this step.

8.) Bosho batsujo no gi –the eighth step. 'Earth purification ceremony'. The purification ceremony for the grave site; Shinto priests purify the ground with water, prayers and sutras. After the grave has been made, another purification ceremony is performed. The area to be purified is marked off with a bamboo rope. One Shinto priest waves a purification wand (ōnusa) while another sprinkles salted hot water (entō) over the designated area.

9.) Kessai – ninth step. The priest purifies himself for the funeral, usually by washing up. The family attends to the remains of the deceased; keep in mind that death is impure and so Shinto priests abstain from getting in contact with the remains.

*10.) Tsuya sai – the tenth step. 'Wake'. The Shinto wake, like the Buddhist wake, is usually held the day before the funeral ceremony. In some cases, the wake is a gathering of relatives and close friends without a special program of activities; the first night is usually exclusive to close family members. In other cases, the wake is structured very similarly to the funeral and yet in others (increasingly the norm, so it seems) the guests attend the wake very briefly in an almost assembly-line fashion. The priest performs rituals duties as before, but the only audience is the close family of the deceased.

In the first night of tsuya sai the family holds a vigil to watch over the deceased against the evil spirits (a custom that's practiced worldwide).

Majority of the rituals involved are focused on purification. This is also when the tamagushi is offered and where settai and senrei sai occurs.

*11.) Senrei sai – the eleventh step. 'Transfer of the spirit'. This is a crucial step for this is where the spirit of the deceased is now transformed into a divine to which the family will soon worship. The priest will transfer the deceased's spirit from the body into the ihai. The tablet is held over the deceased while the priest offers a prayer.

The lights are extinguished when this rite is performed for it sort of limits the line of vision of the deceased and hence their souls will quickly be installed into the ihai/reiji which is held close to the deceased's face.

*12.) Settai – The twelfth step. 'Refreshments'. The meal is served to the guests, equivalent to the tsuyaburumai at a Buddhist wake. The Shinto family, however, is careful to ensure that the guests will not violate the ancient taboo against eating food cooked on the fire of a home polluted by death. Therefore, food is ordered.

13.) Shinsosai. The thirteenth step. 'The funeral service'. This is taken place usually two days after death. The room is purified, offerings are made and eulogies are given by the priest. Shinto funerals naturally vary according to the local shrine customs, the status or personality of the deceased, and the influence of folk tradition.

14.) Kokobatsu shiki – The fourteenth step. Farewell ceremony. This rite provides an opportunity for people less close to the deceased (friends, colleagues, neighbors, students and so forth) to bid their last farewells. With the priests out of the hall, this is the time for more people to go to the front of the room and offer tamagushi.

15.) Hakkyu sai no gi – The fifteenth step. The departure of the coffin; the preparation of the coffin for removal to the grave site. Banners with the name of the deceased are set around the coffin and a sword placed within so that the deceased knows that they will be moving soon.

16.) Soretsu – the sixteenth step. The funeral procession which transports the coffin to the crematorium. The procession involves a lot of items each that symbolizes an object that will be useful for the deceased when they travel to the World of the Dead. The items carried during the procession are a photo of the deceased, the ihai, banners of the deceased, brooms, (unlit) torches, feathers, sakaki branch and a whole lot more.

17.) Hakkyu-go batsujo nogi –the seventeenth step. Purification of the house; priests and relatives purify the house with cleaning after the coffin leaves. The funeral altar is removed and a new altar is set up. I believe that even if the service was held in a funeral hall, there is still need of purification of the house of the deceased.

18. )Maisosai –the eighteenth. The burial rites. Family assembles at the crematorium with the body. More offerings are placed with the coffin.

*19.) Kotsuage – the nineteenth step. The picking up of the bones; they are removed from the crematorium and placed in an urn. The Shinto kotsuage is similar to the Buddhist one.

This is the only time when it is appropriate for two people to hold or pass an item at the same time with chopsticks. At any other time, say during meals, it's considered as a major social faux pas; this is a reminder of a funeral to all who are witnessing this. This is why passing food during meal times is never done from chopstick or chopstick and instead it's from the container to chopstick.

In one way following sakasagoto, the bones of the dead are reformed in the urn, like a fetus within the womb, but in reverse: bones from the lower extremities are placed in first while the Adam's apple is placed in last, making it the opposite of the World of the Living's birth position. The reason for this is that the dead will be reborn in the World of the Dead.

The Adam's apple is put in last for it has a special significance in a Buddhist context due to its triangular shape that looks like a meditating Buddha and is called 'throat Buddha' (nodo botoke).

*20.) Kika sai –the twentieth step. The return of the ashes to the home. The family thanks the people who helped with the funeral and places the ashes in the family shrine. The main religious purpose of the kika sai is to inform the spirit of the deceased that the funeral has been completed.