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Day #27 -

Title: Coincidence
Fandom: Natsume Yuujinchou
Characters: Natsume Reiko, mystery guy from the manga (so spoiler alert for fan speculation?)
Rating: G
Words: (+/-) 1351
Summary: He warns her to be careful, treats her to manjuu, but who is he really?

A girl was being chased through the streets. Again. Nothing new there, considering this girl was a troublemaker in her own right. The thing was: not everyone could see what was chasing her. Onlookers gave her strange looks - some of pity, some of distaste - as she laughed and ran and smiled over her shoulder, seeing something that only she could.

She ran and ran, looking freer than anyone - and then she crashed spectacularly into someone who had been minding his own business, his gaze steadfast on a map. She didn’t have time for apologies or pleasantries, so she took off without saying a word, a worried frown tugging at her lips when she found what had been chasing her was closer than before. Perhaps she shouldn’t have chosen a game of tag after all, her pursuer was faster than she thought.

Caught up in the world that she alone could see, she didn’t notice the man she had bumped into was staring. At her, like all the others, but it was a look of rapt attention on his face. Not of pity, not of distaste, but pure fascination was what he looked at her with.

--

After that, they met again, coincidentally. She had been hiding in a tree, escaping a youkai with one eye, when the same man had approached her and warned her to be careful, saying it was dangerous to play in trees. Laughing, she had jumped down and she was hardly graceful, knowing nothing of personal etiquette. Politely, the man looked anywhere that wasn’t up her skirt.

This second meeting didn’t go well either. The commotion had attracted the youkai and she had to run away again, giving him a half-hearted salute before fleeing.

--

By the third time, she was starting to wonder if coincidence had anything to do with it. She had been resting by the bank of a river when he had sat down beside her, not making conversation, not saying anything at all. He just sat there, looking at the river, and she followed his gaze - finding a kappa waving at her merrily.

Snorting, she got up and dusted off her skirt. “You must really be bored,” she commented. Then she left. Not someone to wait around for a response.

Not even when he called, “Wait!” He tried to chase after her, but unlike a youkai, he was too slow.

--

The fourth time really was a coincidence, because they both were surprised to see each other again. She had gotten out of school mere minutes before and that meant she was headed for her favorite park, ready to waste time until dark. There was no one at home who would care if she came home late, but she liked to keep consistent, if nothing else.

Their meeting was much like the first - but this time he was the one that had been running from something and she was the innocent bystander that fell down, scrapping her calves and bruising her elbows. And unlike her non-apologetic behavior, the man was very sorry - so sorry, in fact, that he invited her out for dinner. She declined, flat-out telling him she wasn’t interested as she picked herself up and walked away.

She thought that was the end of it and took up a seat on a swing, idly swaying as she watched the sun begin to set. Then he was back, holding a paper bag, and she was ready to make another run for it.

That was before he called out, “Since you wouldn’t come with me, I brought the food to us!” And he was thoroughly proud of himself.

She wasn’t impressed. Rather, she was annoyed. “Leave me alone,” she kicked off from the ground, swinging higher. “I said I wasn’t hungry!” Her stomach loudly protested, much to her embarrassment. She hid behind her long hair when she finally came to a stop and he offered out the food, smiling his winsome smile. “I don’t take things from strangers.”

“Well, allow me to introduce myself.” Or so he said, but all he told her was, “You can call me Masahiro.”

“Reiko,” she grudgingly allowed.

“Great! Now then, Reiko-chan - please enjoy.” The bag was held out again, and this time she took it, indulging a little since the man had spared the expense.

--

From that point on, he made a habit of bribing her with food whenever they saw each other. She especially liked the manjuu treats, because it was something she couldn’t usually have - unless she stole it from a shrine, and that was only to infuriate an ayakashi. Manjuu tasted sweeter when it was shared, and they always did.

She was beginning to enjoy these weird, coincidental meetings - but it couldn’t last. It never did, because she wasn’t normal. She could see things that others couldn’t, and that made her - “A freak! She’s a freak!” one of her classmates shouted. The other girl had caught her whispering to her desk, trying to get rid of the strange, cat-like creature that was blocking her notes. She wasn’t going to fail because of a youkai. That excuse was more outrageous than ‘my dog ate my homework’.

“Shut up,” she hissed to the disruptive classmate, but the teacher overlooked the other girl and sent Reiko to the principal instead. ‘A worrying case,’ they called her. ‘A strange girl that needs a firm hand.’

After being dismissed early, since that had been her tenth time in the principal’s office that week, she decided to climb the stairs to the nearest shrine and lounge around. It was better than going home and getting yelled at - again. Nothing new there, either. It was the same, day after day. Nothing changing, nothing happening. Humans were so boring.

“Well, hello. What are you doing here … ah, Reiko-chan?” A shadow loomed over her and she raised an arm to her eyes, drowning out her sight. She didn’t want to see anything today. She wanted to be alone, disconnected from humans, ayakashi, the world - freer than anyone.

Something small hit her in the stomach, and she peeked under her arm to see a piece of candy lying there. “What are you doing here?”

“Me?” a too cheerful voice asked. “I’m here on a job, of course. Funny, we keep running into each other!”

Sitting up, she unrolled the candy from its wrapper and popped it into her mouth. “I don’t think it’s funny. Are you some kind of pervert?” He did like handing out candy, but worse, he always had that look on his face when they were together - too happy, too peaceful, smiling like everything was okay. And Reiko hated liars.

“Do I seem like one?” Masahiro asked, genuinely curious.

“Yes. You’re really suspicious.” She bit into her candy, snapping it in two. “What do you do for a living, anyway?” His clothes appeared ordinary - no suit, no tailored shoes, nothing fancy. Though the long coat and hat added to the mysterious feel about him, but the glasses made him look like a dork.

“I’m so glad you asked!” Masahiro could probably generate electricity with a smile like that. “I’m -”

He was interrupted by a scream, and while Reiko could careless about a human scream, Masahiro was running off, heading towards the trouble. She followed, but only because she had time to kill.

Looking back, it would have been better if she hadn’t gone after him, if she hadn’t wanted to help. Then she never would have known the truth.

He was an exorcist. And an exorcist could never know about her Book of Friends.

It marked the end of their coincidental meetings, that day. She had something to hide and he had something to protect, but they could never see eye-to-eye and she wasn’t going to force anything on anyone. They were too different, despite being able to see the same scenery, and that was scarier than any youkai.

So she ran, because no one could catch her if she didn’t want to be caught.

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off on an adventure

August 2012

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