“How do you know what you are? Axin told me that the linked only find out what they are after they die,” Sarah asked, easing back into the seat next to a very worried looking Mr. Takamori.
He let out a long breath and nodded. “This is true.”
“But you’re not dead.”
“I was when I was six years old.”
He looked at her. “My family lived in the Miyazaki region of Japan. Our home was close to a lake. One winter, my mother and I went out to play in the snow, and we both fell through the ice into the water. She managed to push me out of the water, but she died. The doctors said I was dead for two minutes before they brought me back. I have been linked ever since. I can change my form. That is why I live here, by the water.”
“What are you linked with?”
“Umibōzu. A sea creature that is extinct for a long time now. Ever since the day at the lake, I have needed to be close to water, especially at night. If I do not swim at least once a day, I will suffer greatly.”
“This is so fucked up,” Sarah mumbled, closing her eyes, and resting her head in her hands.
“You have no idea,” Mr. Takamori said, flipping through the pages of the large black book again.
“Is Axin really that bad?”
He met her eyes and nodded. “All the stories about him, tell of a vicious beast that eats those in Purgatory. He kills without discrimination, the way he did in the culling.”
“The culling? What’s that?”
Mr. Takamori flipped to another part of the book and moved it so Sarah could see.
“A very long time ago, a witch placed a curse on the living, forcing anyone that was linked to take their true form. Hundreds of thousands of people changed.”
“Axin told me about this.”
“Did he tell you about what they did to those that changed?”
She shook her head.
“There was no way to change them back. Nilu stopped the curse from changing anyone else, but those that had already changed needed to be stopped. Men, women… children. They were all hunted down and killed. Nilu’s army embarked on a crusade that lasted over fifty years, hunting and killing anyone that had the ability to change. That is where most of the legends come from. Werewolves, vampires, witches, all of them. Innocent people that had no choice in changing were then hunted and slaughtered like animals.”
Sarah felt sick to her stomach. Axin spared her a lot of the details, and now she could see why. He was afraid she would hate him or be scared of him, and it made sense. She felt terrified of ever seeing him again. If he knew that she had learned this about him, would he still be so nice to her?
“Axin told me that there is a darkness following me. Do you know what he’s talking about?”
He shook his head. “No. He can see into our world, so maybe he can see something that does not belong here. Something that is close to you.”
“Do you think it’s you? Because you died when you were a child. Do you think he has mistaken you for someone that doesn’t belong?”
“I hope not. But I think if it were me, he would have found me a long time ago. I have no magic to hide myself. He can see me all the time, and he has left me alone for sixty-one years.”
“What do I do, Mr. Takamori? He will come back to see me again.”
With a long sigh, Mr. Takamori met her eyes. “You do nothing. There is nowhere you can go where he will not find you. There is no place in this world where he will not reach you. He has no claim to your soul, if you are not linked, so you should be safe. Just… stay on his good side.”
Sarah grunted. “Right. What about you? Will you be in danger for telling me all of this?”
“Perhaps. You do not know the reason for his interest in you. If he did not want you to know any of this about him, then I will not be here tomorrow.”
“He said that he… fell for me.” A blush burned Sarah’s face at telling a stranger that.
Mr. Takamori’s eyes went wide and he smiled.
“Is that a good thing?”
He nodded. “Yes. A very good thing. You hold the dragon’s heart. He is at your will.”
“What do you mean?”
“Did he give you a piece of himself?”
“A piece of flesh? Did he ever give it to you?”
“Are you sure?”
Sarah thought about it for a moment. Then the car wreck flashed in her mind.
“Axin said that after he healed me when I was little, he felt us connect somehow.”
Mr. Takamori nodded, his smile growing wider. “You hold the dragon’s heart inside you. When you were a child, in the accident, you must have damaged your heart. When he healed you, he unknowingly passed a small piece of his true form’s heart to you, to let you live. That is why he is so drawn to you. He can feel it.”
“He said he can feel my emotions too. Like when I get angry, or scared, or upset.”
“Yes. He will feel your pain, as well. If you are in danger he will always come to you. You are the Chōkyōshi.”
“What is that?”
Again, Mr. Takamori flipped through the pages until he stopped on a stunning image of a woman in a white dress, standing in a field of purple flowers with a massive dragon at her feet.
“The dragon tamer. This tells of a woman, an unlinked soul that will tame the beast. She will hold the dragon’s heart, and he will bow to her, giving his life for her to command.”
“And you think thats me?”
“It must be. Nothing else makes sense. The warriors of the Shadow world do not interact with the living. Not unless there is a very important reason for them to do so. The last time someone saw or spoke to a Shadow person, was Hashi, over eight hundred years ago.”
Sarah let out a breath and shook her head. This must be bullshit!