Translated from Japanese by Polly Barton

 

I am a beautiful woman.

I am a beautiful, intelligent woman.

I am a beautiful, intelligent, sexy woman.

I am a beautiful, intelligent, sexy, kind-hearted woman.

I am –

‘That’s the left side done. I’ll start on the right now, okay?’

The beautician’s voice came from right beside my ear, cutting through the affirmations with which I was busy filling up every inch of my headspace. I thanked her automatically.

‘Oh yes, sure. Thanks very much.’

The woman draped a towel over me that reached to my chest, then moved to stand on my left. She pressed some buttons on the machine, and it bleeped twice. Bip. Bip. Thinking it wouldn’t do to stare too hard at whatever was going on, I looked up at the ceiling. Soon enough, I began to feel a faint, tingling pain running up my arm. The machine bleeped again. Bip. \Bip.

I am a beautiful, intelligent, sexy, kind-hearted woman with fantastic dress sense.

I am a beautiful, intelligent, sexy, kind-hearted woman with fantastic dress sense and unique tastes in other areas like furniture and accessories.

I am a beautiful, intelligent, sexy, kind-hearted woman with fantastic dress sense and, unique tastes in other areas like furniture and accessories, and I’m a superb cook to boot.

In time with the rhythmic bip-bipping of the machine, I went on adding to the list. My assets flowed past me in a steady stream, like a line of cans moving down a factory conveyor belt. Or, to be more precise, assets that belonged to the ideal me. The future me.

I am a beautiful, intelligent, sexy, kind-hearted woman with fantastic dress sense and unique tastes in other areas like furniture and accessories, and I’m a superb cook to boot, one who sometimes rustles up delicious cakes and sweets in no time at all.

Bip. Bip. Bip. Bip.

I am a beautiful, intelligent, sexy, kind-hearted woman with fantastic dress sense and unique tastes in other areas like furniture and accessories, and I’m a superb cook to boot, one who sometimes rustles up delicious cakes and sweets in no time at all, and everybody loves me.

Bip. Bip. Bip. Bip.

I am a beautiful, intelligent, sexy, kind-hearted woman with fantastic dress sense and unique tastes in other areas like furniture and accessories, and I’m a superb cook to boot, one who sometimes rustles up delicious cakes and sweets in no time at all, and everybody loves me, and my skin is so soft and smooth that people just want to touch it the moment they lay eyes on it.

I am –

‘Right, you’re all done! I’m just going to cool it down for you now, so don’t move, okay?’

The beautician’s slightly dated-looking make-up was immaculately applied, and her beige-slicked lips were thin as an archer’s bow. She parted them to smile broadly at me. A saying that I’d read or heard somewhere came back to me: You can change your destiny simply by lifting the corners of your mouth. Good luck comes spilling out of every smile. I began to process the details of the open-plan hair-removal clinic: the beautician’s perfect teeth, her uniform so white it was almost blue, the potted plant in the corner of the room, the melancholy sound of a synthesized music box churning out well-known melodies. I suddenly became aware of the fact that the towel under my head was cruelly crushing the perm that I’d had done at the hairdresser’s three days ago. Lifting my head slightly, I slipped a hand underneath to check the extent of the damage. The flattened spread of thin, slightly warm hair felt as fragile as that of a baby’s.

The department store was still open when I came out of the laser clinic, so I went in and browsed the new range of colours in the cosmetics section, bought a selection of slightly pricey delicatessen items for dinner in Dean & DeLuca, picked out a baguette to go with them from the bakery and then, feeling half-intoxicated by this new me, got on the train. A pleasant song by a Western artist was playing on my iPod. I couldn’t understand what she was saying at all, but I supposed that a song that fantastic must have been a love song of some kind. On the album jacket that shone out of the screen, her long hair glistened like that of a fairy princess. Why hadn’t I been born blonde? I wondered to myself, reaching a hand up to touch my jet-black hair. In my next life, I wanted to be blonde. Then I would meet a gorgeous man with blond hair that matched mine, and we would fall in love, and talk in English.

I walked down the street with a spring in my step, practically skipping. I passed straight by the supermarkets that would by now have started to reduce their prices before closing, and the shop selling Japanese sweets run by a wrinkly old man and a wrinkly old lady whose shutters were already half down, and the barbers in which I had never seen a single customer, only the owner reading his newspaper by the window, and the ripped posters for some bazaar that was happening or had happened. Those things had no part to play in my world.

I got home to my flat, a single-bedroom apartment on the first floor of a three-storey concrete block. When the doorbell rang, I’d just managed to arrange the selection of deli items on top of my Scandinavian-style table and pressed play on the DVD I’d rented, a romantic comedy starring Michelle Williams.

Life is full of dangers for a woman living by herself. I crept to the door silently so that I could pretend that I was not at home if necessary. I peered through the peephole, but there was nobody there.

The doorbell rang again. Who could it be? A pushy door-to-door salesman, somebody soliciting for this or that organization, a burglar, a rapist, a pair of rapists, a whole gang of armed rapists . . . and then another possibility occurred to me, attaching itself to the end of the list of terrifying thoughts, and I found myself opening up the door without having meant to.

My aunt was standing outside.

‘Auntie! What are you doing here?’

‘Lordy, what’s happened to you? You look dreadful.’

Narrowing her eyes as she peered into my face, my aunt kicked off a pair of sandals that looked like they’d come from a cheap outlet shop. They landed right on top of my Fabio Rusconi pumps and Repetto ballet shoes, before she declared in a high-pitched voice, ‘What a cramped doorway you’ve got!’

She clomped through into my flat. ‘Your posture’s a disgrace too . . . But that’s nothing new, I suppose. Come on, come on, stand up straight, that’s it.’

My aunt patted my back lightly with the back of her hand, and I straightened myself up, staring in disbelief as I did so at the ugly scratches on the heels of the shoes that my aunt had deposited in my doorway.

‘Your hall’s tiny too!’ she exclaimed, before continuing, ‘Your mother was the same, you know. Terrible posture, ever since she could walk. You can tell a person’s character by looking at their body, you know. Oh heavens, look at all this!’

Without a moment’s hesitation, my aunt sat herself down at my perfectly laid dinner table. The chair, which matched the Scandinavian table, groaned as something three and a half times heavier than itself landed upon it. I remained standing, looking on incredulously at the hole in the terrine where my aunt had stuck in her finger, pulled it out and licked it. The DVD continued playing. The hair on Michelle Williams’s arms shone beautifully in the sunlight, and I felt another pang of jealousy towards blond people who didn’t need to bother with removing their hair.

‘Ohhh, it was hot out there. I’ve worked up a hell of a thirst. You don’t have anything to drink, do you?’ The loose skin on my aunt’s neck flapped around as she spoke. Underneath her synthetic see-through jumper, upon which sequins had been stitched into the shape of a cat with slanted eyes, I could see her greying vest. My aunt was decked out from head to toe in items from discount fashion retailers. She watched me as I went to open the refrigerator.

‘Goodness, even your fridge is tiny! I don’t know how you can fit anything in there,’ she sniggered.

‘I’ve only got perry,’ I said, holding it out to her.

‘Perry? What’s that, then? Is it like sherry? Haven’t you got any wine?’

She took the drink that I held out to her.

‘What a thin little bottle! This won’t go very far,’ she said as she took a big sip. ‘Ooh, it isn’t bad, is it?’ She opened her mouth wide in apparent satisfaction.

My aunt stayed with me for dinner.

Her eyes roamed around my room, inspecting every corner. She didn’t seem to show much interest in the DVD, but as soon as the scene where Michelle Williams and the other characters showered in the nude came on, her mouth fell open.

‘You know, that’s something I’ve always thought was strange, the way that the hair on foreigners’ arms and legs can be so pale that you can barely see it, when their hair down there is as dark as ours.’

‘You’re right.’

‘I heard once that the colour of people’s hair down there is always the same as the colour of their eyebrows, but that can’t be true, can it? I suppose that’s the place that needs the most protection, so the body puts all its power into making the hair there as dark and strong as it can.’

No sooner had I stopped the DVD at the ending credits, my aunt rested an arm on the table, leaned in diagonally towards me, and said, as if she had been waiting all night for this moment, ‘I think it’s about time we got down to business. Tell me, young lady. What were you doing today?’

‘Huh?’

‘Don’t pretend you don’t understand me. What do you think you’re up to, eh? You can’t just go about deliberately weakening the power of your hair.’

‘The power of my hair?’

‘I was so worried about it that I came rushing over here. And then what do I find? Everything’s all swish and swanky. It’s horrible. And what’s with all this pink tat you’ve got strewn around the place? It sticks out like a sore thumb in this room, you know.’

My aunt held out up the pink cushion that she had been leaning on, pinched between her thumb and forefinger, as if it was something utterly repulsive.

‘Pink increases your romantic potential!’ I shouted. My aunt had hit a nerve. I clenched my fists tightly to hide my pink varnished nails.

‘What’s the point talking about romantic potential when you go around with a face like you’re sucking on a lemon?’ my aunt said. ‘Are you trying to pretend that you’re happy with your life? Is that it? I know all about that boyfriend that dumped you, you know. I know everything. He was two-timing you all that time, and you didn’t even notice. What a sorry state of affairs. You must be stupid. Totally and utterly stupid.’

With as much care as if she was barging into a closing-down sale at one of her favourite discount stores, my aunt had torn off the lid of the Pandora’s box I had inside me.

‘So what’s your plan, then? You’ve suddenly decided to start visiting these beauty salons, wasting your money on new clothes and make-up and all the rest so you can become beautiful and have your revenge? Pah! You’re far too easy to figure out. It’s tragic.’

My aunt grinned at me. With the tears in my eyes distorting everything, it looked to me like the cat on her sweater was grinning along with her.

‘You think it’s okay just to barge into people’s houses and say whatever the hell you want, do you? I didn’t say anything before because I was trying not to hurt your feelings, but you certainly don’t seem to care about hurting mine so I don’t see why I should bother.’

I got to my feet, ready to launch my counter attack. My aunt cocked her head haughtily, as if agreeing to take me on.

‘I mean, you’re dead, right? You died two years ago. Hanged yourself. Shigeru found you when he came home from training. He was in terrible shock for a long time. Still is, in fact. You shouldn’t underestimate the kind of trauma you inflicted. What do you think you’re doing, turning up here? If you’re going to appear as a ghost – I mean, if you can appear as a ghost, then go and visit Shigeru!’

Judging that my outpouring had ended, and that no more words were likely to emerge from me for the moment, my aunt scrunched up her nose and, waving her hand, answered quite calmly.

‘There’s no need to worry about Shigeru. He’s got his head screwed on straight, that one. Though he does still insist on visiting my grave each month. He should concentrate on getting a girlfriend or two, rather than wasting his time doing that. He always brings some kind of food that I used to like with him to the shrine. It’s enough to bring a tear to your eye, honestly. Maybe you could do me a favour next time you see him and pass on a message from me? Tell him he doesn’t need to come so often.’

‘How on earth am I supposed to say something like that to him?’

Totally worn out, I practically fell into my chair. From that position, I summoned up the courage to ask my aunt something I hadn’t been able to until that moment.

‘Why did you decide to die, Auntie?’

My aunt suddenly put on a wheedling voice. ‘You don’t have anything sweet to eat, do you?’

Reluctantly, I made some tea and got out some biscuits I’d been saving for a special occasion. Only after she’d tasted them and found them to her liking did my aunt begin to answer my question.

‘I was sick of it all. You probably know this already, but I was having an affair with a married man. That was Shigeru’s father. We met when we were in our early twenties. I fell head over heels in love with him, but he was already engaged. So things just went on like that, for thirty years. I was happy, you know. And then one day, he announced that it was time to call it off. He told me, “I’ve bought you an apartment and set you up with your own bar. Of course, I’ll keep supporting you for a while, but I think it’s about time to call it a day between us.” Can you believe it? And his tone of voice, as if he was this generous, good man. I can’t tell you how furious I was.’

As my aunt continued talking, she seemed to remember more and more of it, as if it had all happened in the last twenty-four hours, and she grew increasingly enraged.

‘So I hanged myself. I didn’t really think about what I was doing. I regretted it afterwards, but at the time, I thought that was the thing that would cause him the most damage. I was wrong. It wasn’t. I was stupid.’

Looking at my aunt’s face, I remembered what she looked like when she had worked at her bar. It hadn’t been a particularly classy place, and she hadn’t worn a kimono or anything like that, but she was always properly made-up, and paid attention to her appearance. Even when she didn’t get it quite right, she had none of the air of the discount store about her, and she always wore a thick coat of bright red lipstick. She turned to me suddenly now, an alert expression on her face.

‘Hey, you remember the time that we went to watch the kabuki together, with your mum? I think you must have been still in primary school. Those bento boxes that we ate at the interval were so pretty. Anyway, do you remember the play we saw then? The Maid of Dojo Temple.’

‘The made of what?’

‘You know, the story where a woman gets betrayed by the man that she loves, so she turns into a snake and climbs onto the temple where he lives and just dances and dances. You loved it at the time. Have you really forgotten it? Pah!

A figure floated up in my mind, accompanied by the sounds of kabuki flutes and drums. The figure was swaying, gliding, tilting, spinning around and around, never still for a second.

Back then, still only in primary school, I didn’t understand a word that they said in the kabuki, to the extent that I suspected it wasn’t really Japanese that they were speaking. In the first play of the programme, middle-aged men with their faces painted white came onto the stage one at a time, talking at length in language I didn’t understand at all before going off-stage again, perhaps to return again or perhaps not. I was bored silly, my bottom hurt, and when the play finally finished, I felt nothing but relief.

During the interval, as they rolled the rubber bands off their bento boxes, my mother and aunt discussed how good or how sexy this or that actor or scene had been. I tried telling them how tough it was for me, not understanding anything, but neither of them would take my complaints seriously.

As the curtains went up for the next play, I comforted myself with the thought that if things got really bad, I could always slip out halfway through and take refuge in the foyer. Towards the back of the stage, I saw a group of middle-aged men playing shamisen and drums and singing. It was just then that a woman in a kimono – though really it was a man in a kimono, made-up like a woman – slipped out onto the stage and began to dance. That was Kiyohime.

Kiyohime was extraordinary. At first, her dance was a pretty, ladylike affair, but as time went on, her movements gradually grew more powerful. There was something weird, almost other-worldly about it, and she went on dancing non-stop for about an hour. She was actually wearing several kimonos on top of one another, which her assistants would whip off with perfect timing so that, as she danced, she twirled from one beautiful kimono to another. I leaned right forward in my seat so as to watch her as closely as I could. In the final scene, Kiyohime uses her power to possess the enormous temple bell. The play ended with her standing brave and magnificent on top of it, her silver kimono sparkling in the light.

After the play had come to an end, I found my aunt staring at me. I was still reeling from the performance, and she seemed intrigued by the change in me. ‘Here you are,’ she said, placing a dorayaki into my small palm. ‘Did you see that silver kimono Kiyohime wore at the end? The glittery one?’

I nodded.

‘Snake scales,’ she said.

‘Kiyohime was wonderful, wasn’t she? So persistent, so dynamic . . .’

My aunt rested her chin on her hands, as though she was putting on a performance herself. Her eyes all dreamy-looking, she went on rapturously, ‘I should’ve done the same thing, you know. I should’ve stuck in there, like she did. It was thirty years we were together, you know. I don’t know what I was thinking, trying to look unfazed when he told me, then going home and hanging myself. I mean, really. It was pathetic. I’d have been better off placing a deadly curse on him. There’d have been nothing wrong with that – it was only what he deserved.

My aunt began to nibble away on one of the biscuits. Then, still munching, she continued, ‘So that’s why I’m developing a special skill.’

‘A special skill?’

‘I figured it isn’t too late, even now. It’s taken me two whole years to learn to appear like this.’

‘This is a skill you learned?’

‘You bet! All the fruit of my own labours.’

‘I think this is quite enough.’

‘No, no. This is far too ordinary. There’s nothing exciting about it at all. I know you thought so too, when I first turned up. You wondered why, if I was a ghost, I was showing up just like a normal visitor. I want a special skill that’s truly awesome. Something terrifying enough to scar him for life.’

Not knowing what I was supposed to say, I shoved a biscuit into my mouth. It was delicious, but somehow I felt as if the taste was a little bit too refined for me. I wondered if I’d eaten that dorayaki that my aunt had given me in the theatre.

‘I’m sure you understand what I’m getting at, don’t you? You can’t let the power of your hair just slip away from you. I know you think you have to spruce yourself up a bit after getting dumped by that two-timing idiot, and that’s why you started going to that permanent hair-removal place, but you must see that it’s pointless. Your hair is the only wild thing left of you. Your sole crop of wildness. I want you to have a proper think about what you could do with it. Rather than getting all sore because you got dumped by some worthless scumbag, I want you to fight, like Kiyohime did.’

Thinking how unbelievably annoying and unbelievably odd my aunt was, I started to recall that she’d had these kinds of tendencies before she’d died too. I began remembering all kinds of things about her – how she’d kept talking about the force of nature, making handmade soap in huge volumes, and dying her hair a dirty reddish colour with henna. She had been an interesting person. Why had she had to die, I wondered.

‘But Kiyohime turns into a snake, right? Snakes don’t have any hair at all,’ I joked.

‘That’s not what I’m saying.’ My aunt was totally uninterested by my pedantry. ‘Did you know that in some performances of The Maid of Dojo Temple, they have two dancing maids?’ She gave me a great big sassy smile, as if she was once again wearing the bright red lipstick of bygone days. Then she suddenly adopted a serious expression, and took my slender hands in hers, pink varnished nails and all.

‘Let’s become monsters together,’ she said, looking straight into my eyes.

 

*

 

‘When my special skill is ready, I’ll come and see you before I try it out for real.’

Those had been my aunt’s parting words as she left. Through the door. But you’re a ghost, went the thought that ran through my head. I tried speaking it out loud. The dampening effect of the dense steam that filled the bathhouse masked my softly spoken words. But you’re a ghost. And yet my aunt had been nothing like how I imagined ghosts to be.

Compared to me – a comatose coward who had spent two months cramming her head full of all kinds of strange affirmations so as to pretend to be doing all right when in fact she was anything but – she was full of life.

Vigorously soaping my skin with the organic soap I’d brought to the bathhouse, I thought about what my aunt had been harping on about. She wanted me to think long and hard about what I could do with my hair. What on earth did that mean? It was hair, just hair. When I gave it a moment’s consideration, though, I soon realized that I didn’t think about it as if it was ‘just hair’ at all. It was a problem that I carried around with me constantly. However much I shaved or plucked, it would grow back again. There was no end to it. It wasn’t just me either – all the women I knew were prisoners to their body hair. The image of all the women waiting in the laser treatment clinic earlier that day came back to me. Even here, in the public bathhouse, it was the same. The ladies’ bath was heaving with women of all ages, several of them sliding a razor over their arms or legs as they washed themselves. Bits of black hair swathed in foam went sailing off down the plugholes.

The plastic washbasins and chairs scraped along the floor, producing comedic squeals that echoed all about the room. I could see women with smooth, hairless skin, women who had not shaved in a while, and old women who didn’t seem as though they paid any attention at all to what little hair was still left on their bodies. Why was hair such an inescapable problem for us? Realizing that I was fixedly examining the hair of the other women in the bathtub, and worried that people would take me for some kind of pervert, I picked up the shower handle, and began furiously massaging shampoo into my head of wet hair, thus ensuring my gaze was diverted.

On the day that he dumped me, I had forgotten to shave, and as soon as I realized I began worrying about whether he’d notice, debating with myself whether or not I would get away with it, cursing the fact that I’d worn short sleeves, trying to remember how long the hairs on my fingers were and casually checking to see – and that was what I was doing when he mumbled something on the other side of the table, something I couldn’t hear because he was speaking so quietly, so I just said, ‘What?’, and then the next thing I knew he began apologizing.

Clinging onto the strap on the train home that day, I was unable to take my eyes off the hair-removal-clinic ad that was right in front of me, even though I’d never even given it a passing look before. The advert showed a picture of a beautiful woman in shorts, smiling and stretching out her long, smooth legs. Her shiny, white, hairless legs – now I think about it, they were just like white snakes. Looking at that advert, I started to think that what had just happened had happened because I didn’t have my hair removed. It was because my arms, my legs and the other parts of my body weren’t perfectly hairless, because I was just an unkempt sort of person who went about life as if there was nothing wrong with being hairy. That was why I had been dumped, cheated on – because all the time he had been comparing the state of my hair with hers, and reached his decision accordingly. Those kinds of thoughts came flooding into my head with tremendous force, one after another.

If I made myself pretty enough, I was sure to meet a nice, new man. Why did my aunt have to come along especially to pour cold water over nice, optimistic thoughts like that? She was just getting in the way. As I waited for the conditioner to sink in, I inspected my arms one after another, both hair-free as a result of the day’s treatment. You see, Auntie? See how good they look? All smooth! Not a hair in sight! As I stroked each arm in turn, I felt tears running down my cheeks. I quickly turned the shower onto my face, disguising my tears with the running water.

What an idiot I’d been. All those stupid, selfish things he’d said, like how his feelings for the other woman were bigger, as if they were something you could measure with a ruler. And what did I go and say? Oh, I see, well, if that’s the way it is, I guess there’s nothing to be done. That’s what I said. I could at least have got angry. If I’d really thought about it, I’d have seen that everything he was saying was a load of shit, but instead I just bore it as best I could. And why? Why? Had I been brainwashed or something? As all the tiny boxes where my memories had been stored were opened up one by one, the memories came together to form a big black, hazy mass, which grew bigger and bigger. I’m coming, the black mass told me. I opened more boxes. I kept on opening them, but there were always more. Still more. I groped about, trying to find every last one. I’m coming, I’m coming, I’m on my way, the black mass kept telling me. Not many left to go now, I had nearly got them all. The insides of my body had become pitch black. I could hear it beginning to rustle. Just three left to go, no, four, now three, two, and this, this is the last box right here. I’m coming, announced the mass, which was now right underneath my skin, like someone thumping me right between the shoulders. The black force overtook me, launching itself out of my body.

Feeling something strange beneath my hands, which were resting in my lap, I opened my eyes and looked down. My thighs were black. Through the steam on the surface of the mirror in front of me, I could see something that looked like a black demon. I reached a hand up to touch my face. It felt no different from the hair on my head. My body was covered, from tip to toe, in hair. Glossy, pitch-black hair, not a single split end or damaged strand. Before I knew it, I was standing with my arms held out in front of me, staring in fascination at my own hair. To think that all along my body had contained hair this strong, this black, this splendid was an amazing thing – I was an amazing thing! I looked around to discover that all the women in the bathhouse were staring at me in horror. I must have seemed like a hairy monster of unknown origin that had appeared out of nowhere in the public bath. Uh-oh, I thought. I stood up quickly, kicked the chair away from me, and ran out of the bath. I grabbed my bag from the locker in the most casual way I could, while all the while the women around me in the changing room were screaming and whimpering. I left the bathhouse quietly and ran as fast as I could down a deserted shopping street. My speed and the night breeze worked together like a hairdryer, blowing through the wet hair covering my body and beginning to dry it.

When I got back to my flat, I stood in front of my full-length mirror. What was reflected before me was neither bear nor monkey, but some other kind of glistening hairy creature for which there was no name. The hair, still slightly damp, was like Sadako from The Ring’s, cut to half its length, and covering my entire body. Actually, when I thought about it, Sadako was a pretty impressive character. Not only could she emerge from wells, she could even come out of the television. That was a special skill and a half. Being able to appear as a ghost at all means you have a will of iron. Suddenly, I noticed something terrible that startled me out of my reverie. On both of my arms, in just the place where I’d had the permanent hair-removal treatment, was a patch of hair that was much thinner than the rest, and clearly much weaker. Strength, shine, body: it was inferior in every category. What had I gone and done?

 

*

 

From the following morning onwards, I began devoting my energies to building up the power of my hair. I have started eating as much liver and seaweed as I can, as well as beans and eggs, which I have heard are good also. I carefully rub horse oil into the patches on my arms, apologizing over and over in my head as I do so. Now that I have developed an understanding with the black mass inside me, I can retract it freely at will, so it doesn’t interfere with my work. Just like my colleagues who spend their free time taking courses to get this or that qualification or pursuing various leisure activities, I pour my energy into fostering the power of my hair.

Every day before bed, I transform, to check how my hair is coming along. Then I brush it using a luxury boar-bristle hairbrush. Quite possibly thanks to the horse oil, the patches on my arms are getting close to their natural condition. I’m now planning what to do next. I thought for a minute about exacting my revenge on my ex, but decided that that wasn’t the way. My hair, this precious hair of mine, isn’t worth wasting on people of his sort.

I intend to keep racking my brains until I find out what it is that I can do with my hair, while continuing to take good care of it. That way, when the opportunity arises for me to unleash my special skill as dramatically as Kiyohime did, I won’t have any problems. Kiyohime was free of hair and I am full of it, but I think our ambitions are the same. I want a special skill, a power that I can wield with all my force when the time comes. I don’t mind what kind of creature I am. It doesn’t bother me if I stay as a nameless monster.

My aunt hasn’t showed up again, so it seems as though she hasn’t managed to perfect her special skill yet. I really hope she comes back soon. In the meantime, I’ll continue to hone my special skill, always keeping at the forefront of my mind the image of my aunt and me dancing together, our kimonos twinkling.

 

Photograph courtesy of banlon1964

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