Still, the *event had been noticed. Bulbous eyes, much larger than my house, opened as if awakening from a deep sleep. The ridge blinked slowly.

Reizei waited for several moments. “Master?”

I gulped. Despite earlier rehearsals, my mind blanked.

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I couldn’t *feel the wind rushing by, but I could hear it. Seeing *lush forest below took my breath away. My own perspective had been limited as a ground dweller.

Reizei quietly landed across the river from the remote mountain.

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What makes Dr Aya say the bar Banzai Izakaya is "Hands down, the best drink establishment in Okayama Prefecture."? (Be sure to read the team secrets!) His wings flicked open to slow his descent. My tree’s leaves flutter wildly in the gust.

“I have news! The historic society dug up an obscure reference. They say *telltale sign of the mountain’s location is that it sits directly in the river.”

Show thread I certainly didn’t want to *tangle with it, if didn’t wish to share its story. But surely, it wouldn’t mind a single *question.

My rumination halted when Reizei returned, diving from the sky at full speed to meet me on the veranda.

Show thread Was there a *relation between the uptick in yokai activity and the story of the Mountain with Eyes? Would it be wise to *disturb such a large yokai? It may wish to be left in *solitude. Mountains’ moods changed with the weather.

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Reizei’s peculiar tengu and Nonogawa *dialect was sometimes hard to understand. But he never *stewed over it. He slipped on his sandals to hand deliver the message.

Show thread Reizei drafted a *letter for me to the Nonogawa River Valley Historic Society inquiring about who might know the tales of the Mountain with Eyes. Undoubtedly, the group would put the letter in the *circuit of the group’s folklore archivists.

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Reizei shuffled his feet. “I’m not yet an *expert in transporting you unseen. And I don’t wish to *strain your capacity.”

I shook my head. “I am kodama, tree spirt and echo. Where you go, my kind will repeat what they see and hear.”

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“You collect yokai tales. I was one who asked you to collect our local stories. Might I suggest studying the *haunted houses popping up?” Reizei said.

“The rumor of the mountain with eyes also intrigues me. Which should we *visit first?”

Show thread Haruki, my bakeneko friends, and I had *solved the mystery. But we had work to do. Even after we shut down MagiSecurity, we weren’t safe. Something else was out there. I was determined to bring it down.

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The *enigma wasn’t that ex-mobsters were victims, but how the company had kept this hidden. My bakeneko companion clued me in. He pointed, unable to *tear his eyes off the security cameras. MagiSecurity had spies all over town via recordings.

Show thread One of the *troupe, in human disguise, accompanied me inside. I looked at many aspects. A change of employees every few months was glaring. Those former ones were on the police record’s missing persons list. Haruki’s *logic was spot on.

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Returning to Tech Magi to finish the audit at MagiSecurity took *gall. Even my boss seemed hesitant to pursue. The *fall out from this could be costly. I ensured I had backup. Fellow bakeneko waited in the shadows.

Show thread Tell me this isn’t what’s left of Haruki! My heart was in my throat as I unwrapped it. Inside was a similar ring and a note that said, ‘Underground for own *welfare. Got too close. *Isolate list of victims by disappearance from payroll.’

Show thread I slapped my forehead. The 'Taking care of it' *story line meant he did something stupid like go after the kitsune alone. Now, I’d have to *rescue a yakuza. Che.

When I returned home, I found a carelessly tied bundle on my doorstep.

Show thread “What was his name?” I held out my handkerchief.

He took it to bind the wound. “Taka. Thank you for asking. I’ll get this taken care of.”

He didn’t show up the next day for an assignment. The hospital had no record of anyone with his description.

Show thread The blood welling from his hand only *magnified his pain. Perhaps I should have spared him the truth. “Haruki-san, you need to see a doctor for those cuts.”

He muttered as stood, “No one cares what happened to my son.”

Only a few would.

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“You haven’t put it on, have you?”

Haruki-san leaned in. “No.”

“Good. This ring may *lead us to dark enough places. My *assumption is a binding. A specific one. To an oni.”

The yakuza’s eyes scrunched shut, his hand crushed his sake cup.

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I kept his sake cup filled as he vented his grief. His motive now? *Revenge. “This happened before we met, didn’t it?”

A *vein protruded from his forehead as he nodded and tossed the ring to me. “Will this help? Is it cursed?”

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