The Yōsei - Chapter 4

Spending the morning shopping with my mom and sister was an exercise in patience. We started off on the lower floors of a large department store, looking at makeup. Several women were there to help explain why one color base was such a better choice than the other. Glancing at the price tags, I was shocked that anyone would pay that much money for what I considered colored dirt.

After what seemed like an eternity, we moved on to the clothing section a few floors up. Mom and Jules walked the aisles, grabbing various skirts, shirts, pants, and other articles of clothing till their baskets were filled to the brim. The entire time they chattered and laughed.

Shopping was one of the rare times I saw my sister truly animated. She seemed to forget about her insecurities and focused entirely on clothing. She would hold up various shirts and ask Mom what she thought. Of course Mom loved everything, so each item would be added to the heap.

After their buggies were filled, it was off to the changing area. This was the worst part. Dad and I sat outside as the ladies began trying on everything they had gathered. This was going to take forever. Maybe I could sneak away and chat with Chan again.

“Hey, Dad,” I said, standing up. “This may take a while. Mind if I go outside and get some fresh air?”

“Sure, son. Good call. This shouldn’t take too long.” Dad shrugged and smiled. He had his favorite pocketknife out and was carefully cleaning his nails, like he usually did when he was waiting for Mom.

“Wow, Dad, you said that with a straight face.”

We looked at each other and grinned. We both knew how it was.

“Don’t go far.”

“Right, Pops. Be back in a bit. And hey, Dad, keep a close eye on them. San Francisco can be a dangerous place.”

He gave me a funny look. “I’m sure they’ll be fine in those treacherous dressing rooms.”

I grinned and tried to play it off. “You never know. They took a lot of merchandise in there.”

I made my way through the various displays of clothes and back toward the front of the store. As I walked, I held Chan casually over my shoulder.

“Yo, Chan.”

Yes, Master. I chose to ignore the sarcasm that literally dripped from his voice.

“I have some time alone to talk while my mom and sister try on a whole bunch of clothes they have no intention of buying. I have a question for you.”

What is it?

“What can I do to save Jules?”

What do you mean?

“I mean, if I don’t know when she is going to die, and I don’t know how, then what can I do to actually stop it?”

A security guard was staring at me.

I told you before. You must intervene. Chan sounded impatient.

As I walked past the guard, I heard a type three voice from over near where he was standing. The young man isn’t shoplifting. No way this store would carry a paper umbrella like that.

Glancing over in his direction, I couldn’t see anyone except the guard standing there, and yet the voice hadn’t come from him.

“Did you hear that?” I asked Chan as we walked out into the bright sunlight of Union Square.

Yes. Just a minor cherub. Nothing to worry about.

“A what?”

A minor cherub. A good angel. They won’t hurt you.

“A good angel? That voice was a good angel?”

Yes. They are found all over. Anytime a mortal-human has a thought to do something nice or kind it is usually because a cherub has whispered to them.

“So that’s what I’ve been hearing all this time?”

Possibly. There are lots of the unseen whose voices you could have been hearing.

“Right. Ok, back to my sister. I get that I need to intervene, but could you be a little more specific?”

When the death mark covers her entire body, she is closest to death. You have until then to determine what threatens her and how to stop it.

“I can’t see any death mark on her, so how does that help me?” By this time I was crossing the square. There was a tall stone pillar in the center with a statue of a woman holding a trident on top. Several homeless people were hanging around, some leaning against the monument and panhandling, and some lying down.

One of them stood out to me. I wasn’t sure if it was a woman or a man. Whoever it was, they were curled up in a fetal position beneath a thin blanket in spite of the summer heat. The face was hidden beneath the dirty cloth.

Here, kid. I’ll show you. Open me up and look at the mortal-human over there.

I didn’t pause to think. I just held the umbrella out in front of me and pushed the small button that would make it spring open. As I did, the pink paper opened tight and became transparent. Once again I could see through it as plainly as if I were looking through a glass window.

I looked at the figure beneath the dirty blanket and suddenly his image was magnified to where it was almost as if I were standing right in front of him. His form filled the umbrella screen. He was an old man. There was a light glowing faintly from the center of his chest, but the rest of his body was surrounded by a dark shadow that covered him head to toe. The darkness was somehow oily and seemed to slither and glide around the old man as if it were alive. The only place the darkness hadn’t reached was the faint light in his chest.

“What’s wrong with him?”

He has a disease. See how his reiki is almost extinguished? Once the shadow covers his spiritual light, he will die.

“We have to do something to help him,” I said quietly.

There is nothing that can be done for him. Now, look to the right.

I swung the umbrella and looked. There was a brilliant white light approaching from a few steps away. Through the light, I could make out the form of a young woman. She wore a white robe. Smiling as she looked down at the old man, she didn’t seem to notice anything else going on around her.

That is his shinigami. She waits for him to pass. The shadow has reached his reiki and he does not have long now. She is of his line, probably his daughter or maybe his wife. She has received the assignment to be his personal shinigami and invite him to his ultimate destination.

“Can she see us?”

Yes, but we do not interest her. You have no death mark on you, and I cannot die like mortal-humans can.

I turned the umbrella toward a few other people, but immediately it clouded over and returned to its regular pink paper background.

That is enough for now. So, you understand how to tell how close your sister is to death?

“Yeah, I got it.” Closing Chan, I turned back to look at the department store. “So, how big is the death mark on Jules?”

Go and see.

Walking back into the building, I glanced over at the security guard. I wanted to open Chan to try and see the good angel, but I figured that Chan wouldn’t show her to me. Instead, I returned to where I had left my dad. He sat in the same chair with his pocketknife, still picking at his nails.

“Hey, Dad, how’s it going?”

“Swell. You weren’t gone long.”

“I got some air. It’s all good. They still in there?”

Without looking up, he nodded.

“Ready for us?” I could hear my mom’s muffled voice from within the dressing area.

“Yes, dear. Come on out.”

The door opened, and my mother emerged wearing a beautiful red dress, followed by Julie who was wearing new jeans and a white button-up blouse.

“What do you think?” Julie asked Dad.

He raised his head from his nails and looked at the two of them. “You both are stunning.”

“You’re so beautiful I have to shield my eyes!” I called out as I quickly opened Chan and looked through him at my sister. Immediately the pink paper became transparent. Julie stood there staring at me. In the center of her chest was a bright white light that must have been her reiki. Along her right leg, from her toe to her knee, was the death mark. It was as plain to see as the surprised expression on her face.

Looking at the slick, black, oily mark on my sister’s leg made me sick to my stomach. For some reason that image made everything seem much more real to me.

That’s not good, Chan said quietly.

I quickly closed the umbrella and forced myself to smile. “Just joking around. Seriously, you look great.”

“Are you ok?” Dad asked.

“Yeah, fine. Just getting tired of shopping, I guess.”

Mom looked at me coolly. I knew that look. She wasn’t pleased with the umbrella antics.

“Don’t worry. We only have a few more items to try on.” Mom winked at Julie as they casually strolled back to the dressing rooms.

“Might as well make yourself comfortable,” Dad said. “This could take a while.”

You will need to keep a close watch over your sister, Chan whispered to me as I held the umbrella across my lap. Yesterday the death mark was only on her foot. It is growing rapidly. At this rate, she probably has less than a week.

My grip on the pink paper umbrella tightened as I nodded. “I understand,” I said, my voice barely above a whisper as I stared ahead of me.

Dad glanced over at me and, thinking I was talking to him, tried to reassure me. “Don’t worry. Time will go by fast.”

“That’s what I’m afraid of.”

The spot was growing and I had less than a week to figure out what was going to happen to Jules and how was I going to stop it.

*Stay tuned for more information on when The Yosei will be released!