In Dreaming Time
When a mysterious package arrives at the Ichinomiya house, Kantarou falls under a curse, one that drags them through the limits of reality.
See the end of the work for notes
iThere are stories for listening, and stories for telling;
Stories that transport you and stories bearing dreams.
But some stories only exist deep in our marrow.
They stir with each breath, sing with each pulse,
And in the darkest hours they color our lives./i
It starts with a book. Youko nearly trips over the unobtrusive brown paper package as she heads out to work that morning. She picks it up, moving to untie the hemp cord around the parcel, when somethinf in her stops. It smells old, like dust and mold and instead, she moves back into the still dark house. She sets it down in Kantarou's office, perched precariously atop a half-finished manuscript about the sunning habits of kappa. It seems like the kind of thing Kantarou would spend their precious funds on, she rationalizes, and as she steps back into her geta, she promptly forgets about it.
It stays there until an hour before noon, when Reiko, emboldened by Youko's absence, steps into the house to wake Kantarou and demand that he at least work on the chapter that was due last week. Kantarou makes a good show of dragging his feet, but Youko's already shrinking their food portions and even he has moments when he is an adult. So Kantarou spends the next hour doodling rivers and kappa-maki and munches on a cucumber while shuffling his papers, until, inevitably, an afternoon breeze comes in, scattering the sheaf of paper and dropping the square package into his lap.
Kantarou unwraps it mindlessly, but as he runs his hand over the faded crimson binding, the bells on his wrist give out a soft chime. Sighing, he sets it down and calls for Haruka. "Do you know what this is, Haruka?" There's a rustle of feathers, the one that always heralds Haruka's appearance, even when he tucks his wings away.
"A book." The taller man deadpans, leaning on the door frame. Kantarou pouts at that, before Haruka relents, and reaching past Kantarou, hefts the book into his hands. It isn't a very substantial text, consisting of two flat bamboo panels sandwiching yellowing paper, but somehow, it is a warm, heavy weight in Haruka's palms. Haruka narrows his eyes, and pulls out his shakujou, ready to burn the book.
"Ah! Wait, Haruka, that could be valuable!" Kantarou sounds panicked, though not enough to put the weight of a command behind his words. There's an instinctive repulsion when he stands up and tugs the book out of Haruka's reluctant grip, like a spark of static electricity. It almost makes him want to hand it back to Haruka and ask him to destroy it. However, Kantarou's curiousity as a folklorist wins out in the end.
"I think this might date back to the Kamakura Era..." Kantarou trails off as he touches the worn red silk cord binding the bamboo slats together. Though darkened from centuries of handling the woodblock letters still stood out in clear, black letters.
"The Book..of..wishes..hmm-no, that's Dreaming" Kantarou mutters as he traces the archaic kanji. Haruka is almost forgotten as Kantarou settled himself back into the fortress of papers that was his desk. A little irritated, and unsure why, Haruka clears his throat and sharply rebukes,
"I don't care if you want to work on that, but don't you have paid work that you have to finish for Reiko-san?"
"Oh. Right." Kantarou say, a little sheepish, and he puts the old book off to the side. His easy acquiescence is unsettling for Haruka, so instead, he turns sharply to head up to the roof. Kantarou doesn't call back for him.
When Youko finally returns from work, cheeks flushed from the cold, she is greeted by an eery silence and she tenses, hackles rising. Kantarou's house should never be so quiet-between the man's vocal pursuit of Haruka, and the stream of youkai parading in and out, any silence immediately sets off warning bells. She toes along the corridor in fox form, and smelling nothing out of the ordinary, knocks on the shoji separating Kantarou's study. She interprets the muffled response as consent, and enters the room. It's west facing, and the last rays of the sunset silhouette Kantarou, hunched over a pile of papers.
"Kan-chan! What are you doing?" It comes out a little shrill, but she's really worried now. The last time Kantarou worked without someone watching over him was when Haruka left.
"I'm just finishing up this chapter of Kappa, Youko." The response is bright and cheerful-distinctly Kantarou.
"Kan-chan, are you feeling okay?" Youko doesn't want to question a good thing, since she's been after Kantarou to do his work since forever, but this ungrudging productivity is just...weird.
"Mou, Youko, I can totally be responsible about work." There's a familiar pout edging out of the words, and it makes Youko relax.
"No you can't, Kan-chan, that's why we don't even have any fish to eat today! You should have finished that essay a week ago. I can't believe Reiko lets you get away with this!" She puffs out her cheeks a little while she rants and stomps down on the small sense of unease she's feeling.
As the shoji slides closed behind Youko, Kantarou exhales a small sigh of relief and pulls out the book he had hidden in the folds of his robes. He feels briefly puzzled at the urge to hide the book-it was harmless enough, and Youko would hardly do anything to it. He gets up to light a candle, and reverently opens the book and begins to read.
This is going to be a long one. I'll post ~once a week depending on my workload and my inspiration.
Kantarou and Haruka are more hinted at than explicit, but the rating is just to be safe.
Please give me feedback. I don't yet have a beta reader so it's always nice to hear back from readers.