Will and Chitose arrived pulled into the parking lot of the former Kitasaenba Elementary School in the Naganuma area of Sukagawa. The Naganuma area was on the outer rim of the city close to Lake Inawashiro. The school had closed down several years ago as the schools were consolidated into one larger school. It now served as a refugee shelter for anyone living in the exclusion zone. It’s where Chitose and Will stayed for almost a year before Will found a teaching job in Saga.
The twins went to a nearby junior high school for a year. It was not pleasant for any of them. They had hoped the twins would have some sort of normalcy in their lives by going to school but it ended up being hell for them. Bullying in Japan is unmatched in the world. The country with the closest level would be Korea. Will had admitted he was bullied in school but American bullying doesn’t hold a candle to the Japanese style. Japanese bullying is much more psychological in oppose to just being physical. The twins had to deal with the mental onslaught of terrible comments and rumors all because they had to leave their home over something out of anyone’s control. However, they stuck it out. They dealt with it and were very happy to leave once they graduated.
In the year following the disaster, residents of the abandoned towns inside the exclusion zone have been allowed to return for a short period of time to retrieve items. However, this did not include the Kiyohashi area where their house was located. It was just far enough inland that the tsunami didn’t touch them but close enough to the coast that there was no foreseeable future of returning to the house.
In the old school yard were a group of temporary housing units that were quickly thrown together to give some of the refugees a place to stay other than inside a school’s gym. It also offered more privacy than the cardboard that was used to section off spaces in the gym.
Chitose hated seeing her parents living in such conditions but her mother was stubborn as they come. Not only did she refuse to come to Saga but she refused to let Will and Chitose pay for an apartment in an area as close to Namie as possible. Part of her mother’s reasoning was she paid her fair share of taxes over the years so now it was time for the government to pay for her. She had seen hotel rooms bigger than this. It was just two very small rooms and a kitchen. They were able to decorate the inside with whatever belongings they could get from their home but even the smallest amount made the place look cluttered. Regardless, it was better than the gym.
“Have you settled in well?” Chitose’s mother asked.
“Yes, we’re close to the kids’ school, just south of the university campus. And it’s a newer residential area. All the neighboring houses look new.” Chitose saw her mother give a look as if she was trying to imagine the area. It felt odd to Chitose.
“You okay, Mom?”
That snapped her other from her thoughts. She nodded. “Yeah, I just had a feeling I was forgetting something and trying to remember it. Anyway, this was kinda a wasted trip for you,” her mother said.
“Not really,” Chitose said. “It was a nice trip to drive up here but had I known they were going to refuse us from going to our home then we would’ve flown up here.”
“You don’t have to bother yourselves by coming to see us.”
“Well, you refuse to come see us and it’d be easier if you would’ve moved down there too.”
“Fukushima is my home,” her mother said. “I don’t want to live anywhere else.”
“Your mother is right,” her father said. “It’s better we stay here.”
“It’s your choice,” Chitose said relenting. “Just figured you’d be happier in a real house and not some government housing the size of a closet.”
“It’s just the two of us,” her mother said. “We don’t need anymore than this.” Chitose couldn’t argue that logic. She would still prefer they be in a normal house where it was more relaxing and not over crowded when people came to visit.
“Anyway, we brought some gifts from Saga,” Will said placing some things on the table. “Here’s some Amanatsu jelly and Saganishiki.” Chitose’s mother’s face beamed at the gifts. The look was not missed by Chitose. It could be taken as she was happy for the gifts but there was something else to it. It was almost as if she had recognized the items and they brought back some nostalgic memories.
“Here’s some pictures of the kids in their uniforms in front of their school,” Will said. “You can keep these ones.”
Her mother looked closely at the picture and there was no mistaking it this time. That was a look of recognition. Chitose focused on her mother that she wasn’t paying attention to Will’s conversation with her father.
“Any problems at all?” her father asked.
“The only real problem we have is there’s a black cat that seems to have taken an interest in Chitose. Everywhere we go, she sees it. She even found it on the veranda one night and it took a swipe at her before running off.”
Chitose’s mother looked up at Will. “Did you say black cat?”
Will’s eyes darted to the other two before returning to her. “Yeah.”
“It knows,” she muttered.
“Knows what?” Chitose asked. Her mother shot her eyes to her daughter not realizing she had said it loud enough for her to hear. She realized the close quarters made that happen. In a normal sized room, there would be no way for her to hear her. “You know something don’t you? I’ve seen the looks you’ve been giving. You’ve been to Saga before.”
Her mother let out a sigh. “Not only have I been to Saga before but I’m from Saga.” She looked her daughter in the eye. “And so are you.”
“What are you talking about? I thought you were from Iwaki.”
Her mother shook her head. “No, that’s where we lived when you were very young. I was born and raised in Saga. You were born in Saga. You were very young when you and I left Saga.”
“‘You and I’?”
“He’s not your biological father. We met after we moved to Iwaki.”
“Your biological father is a Nabeshima.”
Will’s head snapped in her direction. “Nabeshima? You mean the Nabeshima?”
Chitose looked back and forth from her mother to her husband. “Who is Nabeshima?”
“They used to be the lords of Saga,” Will said. “They were in charge all the way until the end of the daimyo system. Their family obviously isn’t in charge any more but they are still held in very high regard.”
“You know your stuff,” her father said.
“You are the illegitimate child of one of them,” her mother said flatly. “And that cat that has been lurking around, it’s not a cat at all. It’s a demon. It’s called the Bakeneko.”
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