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Enshrined - 1

Crumble-Kun Nov 19th, 2017 (edited) 590 Never
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  1. The wind blows softly through the clearing. The pink trees sending petals cascading through the courtyard of the local shrine. Through the red archway lies a small building of elaborate design, standing for hundreds of years without disturbance. Until now. You place your pack down at the entrance and slowly approach the closed doors of the shrine.
  2.  
  3. The wooden box, used to hold monetary donations, lies empty. The wooden bars that were meant to protect it from thieving hands have long since been discarded to the four corners of the construction. You shake your head at the lack of respect. Ever since they appeared you realized how much these shrines meant.
  4.  
  5. Before then nobody gave them much thought. A curiosity to waste the time of tourist and local alike. People would come and gaze at their rigid architecture, to absorb that little bit of Japanese culture spread across the world. Now they mean so much more, but often you feel like you’re the only one who realizes. You pull out your map and mark another red X among an ever-densifying number of other X’s.
  6.  
  7. You wonder if anybody is home.
  8.  
  9. You crouch down and take a deep breath, listening to the wind rushing through the trees. Not many of these shrines are inhabited any more. People are like magnets, they like to be around each other. These old towns, full of rusting houses and rusting people don’t attract the crowds like they used to. As far as you know, only fifty people live here now. And without people, there’s not much reason for the enshrined to stay.
  10.  
  11. You were more likely to find an Inari working in an office in London than out here. Which is why the appearance of a silhouette at the shrine’s doors surprises you so much. You stand and dust yourself off as the door is slowly peeled open. Behind it is an Inari, a woman with fox ears and many tails. She has white hair and red eyes, an atypical appearance for a race that usually has fairer colours. She wears a flowing dress decorated with similar colours, depicting crashing waves and blooming flowers. Like other monsters, she is incredibly beautiful.
  12.  
  13. Her eyes widen at the sight of you. She stares for a moment, as if you could disappear at any time. She takes a step. Another, until she’s positioned behind the box a few feet from you.
  14.  
  15. “Good morning,” you greet her with a bow. This snaps her out of her stupor.
  16.  
  17. “Hello human,” she states. Her voice is cold, in contrast with the amount of red you see. “What business do you have with me?”
  18.  
  19. “With you specifically?”
  20.  
  21. She nods.
  22.  
  23. “Well, not with you specifically. I didn’t expect anyone to be here,” you explain.
  24.  
  25. “Then why do you come to this shrine?” she stares, unblinking.
  26.  
  27. You pull out the map and unfurl it, revealing your pet project to her. “Well, I really like shrines. So, I travel the country and look at them.”
  28.  
  29. She blinks, as if not understanding the statement. “To… look at them?”
  30.  
  31. “They’re very beautiful,” you continue. “What’s a good building if you can’t come and appreciate them?”
  32.  
  33. The Inari frowns, “I should have suspected as much. It is only coincidence that could bring a human here.”
  34.  
  35. “And sometimes, I run into the enshrined,” you motion to the Inari, “Like yourself.”
  36.  
  37. You fold the map up and place it into your back pocket with a smile. Although the Inari doesn’t look like she wants to smile. This isn’t unusual, many of the enshrined are upset about being left behind.
  38.  
  39. “Forgive me asking, but when was the last time somebody visited here?”
  40.  
  41. The Inari ponders your question for a moment, “Too long, long enough for me to not remember clearly.”
  42.  
  43. You nod, “This town isn’t in good shape. Perhaps you should move on.”
  44.  
  45. “This is my duty, I must work for this township!” the Inari protests.
  46.  
  47. “There is no town without people. This isn’t a town, it’s a village at most.”
  48.  
  49. “How many people are here? What of them?”
  50.  
  51. “I’m not sure, but few enough for them to not bother keeping the roads nice for cars,” you comment, remembering your battered car’s tyres. It was a pain coming out here, everywhere you went it was getting progressively worse.
  52.  
  53. “People move, all the old folks, who grew up here stay here as long as they can. The kids go off to work in the city. There’s not much out here for them.”
  54.  
  55. “Car?” she asks.
  56.  
  57. “How long has it been since you left this shrine?”
  58.  
  59. “I do not know.”
  60.  
  61. You remain silent for a moment before sighing. You’ve never met an enshrined monster so out of touch with what’s happening in the outside world before. You can’t believe that she’s even survived this long. But to you, it doesn’t seem that she’s… entirely here. The physical damage may be minimal, but there’s no telling what’s going on inside her head.
  62.  
  63. “But as long as the sun shines, I know there is yet more for me to do. Mortal, would you entertain my curiosity and teach me of this world as it is now?”
  64.  
  65. “Well, I can start by getting you out of this shrine if you’d like?”
  66.  
  67. She seems conflicted. Obviously, she’s been here for far too long to up sticks and leave at the suggestion of some random guy who likes sightseeing. She turns away, giving you a full view of her nine bushy tails. From your limited knowledge about Inari, that must mean that she’s ancient and incredibly powerful. Such a force reduced to such isolation, is there anyone safe from such a fate?
  68.  
  69. You head back to the archway and pick up your bag, slipping it over your shoulders. The Inari reaches out with her delicate hand as if she believes that you’re leaving. She meekly retracts into herself as you approach once more.
  70.  
  71. “I can’t force you to leave. But… I’ve seen lots of enshrined monsters like yourself. Some of them hope that things will go back to the way they were, but others just move on. I know my word probably means nothing to you, but I don’t think things will ever be the same again.”
  72.  
  73. With that you turn on your heel and walk away, seeing the indecision tugging her face in different directions. It’s cruel, but as you’ve seen many times before, forcing them to make a sudden decision is the only way to get them to leave. You descend the endless steps, heading through a cave, a wooded area and even an old café stop before finally coming out to another archway near the road.
  74.  
  75. It’s only when you stop at the bottom that you hear the footsteps coming from behind you. You turn to see the Inari peeking meekly from behind a tree, her eyes darting every which way but straight as she takes in the new sights of the world that she’d hidden from for so long.
  76.  
  77. “Would you like to come with me?”
  78.  
  79. She nods.
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