“The Hairpin” by Kathryn Thayer

(Fan fiction in honor of “Mushi-Shi”, a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Yuki Urushibara)

A small hairpin sat pinched between Ginko’s fingers. At first glance, the hairpin looked like any other he’s seen. Decorated with small, painted wooden flowers, it was something that could have been spotted in dozens of young ladies hair.

Yet…on further examination, a shiny iridescent sheen could be seen if Ginko tilted the pin just right. Almost… as if the pin had been dipped in a river of light. Definitely a mushi’s influence.

“Ahh, I’ve seen that pretty hairpin has caught your eye, young man!”

The shopkeeper, previously occupied with another customer, came walking up to Ginko. She gestured to the hairpin, a great big smile on her face.

“That’s a special hairpin right there. It’s said if it’s gifted to a lady, her beauty will increase by tenfold and her household will enjoy ten years of good luck.” The shopkeeper winked. “Have a lady in mind you think would enjoy it?”

Ginko’s mind briefly brought up the image of the intended recipient of the hairpin and almost laughed.

“Hmm, no, not really.” Ginko shook his head, smiling. “I do have a doctor friend down by the coast who likes collecting this kind of stuff. Has an entire shed dedicated to ‘touched’ items. It’s been a while since I’ve seen him, so I figured I better come bearing gifts. A hairpin with special properties would be perfect for him.”

“A wonderful idea!” the shopkeeper exclaimed while clapping her hands together.

She led Ginko over to the register so she could wrap the hairpin up in a nice sturdy cloth. Ginko choose a green cloth that reminded him of his lone green eye, and the shopkeeper tied it up with a lovely yellow string.

“That’ll be 500 ryō.”

 Ginko shrugged off his wooden pack and shuffled through the drawers for the bag of money he kept stashed away in one of them. After finding it and digging out 500 ryō, he handed it over to the shopkeeper and stashed the hairpin in an empty drawer in his pack.

Ginko bowed goodbye to the shopkeeper and thanked her for her time.

Ginko lingered in the village for a couple minutes after leaving the shop, stopping to light a cigarette that repelled mushi and to kick up some of the dirt in the outskirts of the village.

Glowing mushi wiggled their way out of the ground where he kicked into the dirt, in the shapes of glowing white worms or oversimplified scorpions. Harmless and nothing he hasn’t seen before.

He blew some of the cigarette smoke down to the ground and watched as the mushi disperse where it touched. Good. He can leave without worrying about the village’s health.

Sighing, Ginko made his way out of the village.

It was a two days trek from here to Adashino’s village by the coast and if he didn’t hurry he was about to make it three. (Not that he wouldn’t mind stopping to linger in the mountain forests and taking the opportunity to check out some of the more interesting mushi living among the trees.)

Slow and steady steps he took, measured to be a slow yet efficient pace. Ginko had learned over the years that in order to get anywhere on time, he had to walk slower than he would like so he wouldn’t wear himself out and end up taking a lot of breaks to sit down and catch his breath. Especially since the mountain path was rocky.

Each stone that dug into Ginko’s already wornout shoe reminded him that he was just a little bit closer to his destination.

After a while, the sunset. However, Ginko needed no lantern light to light his path. Despite there being absolutely no light, Ginko was able to walk for two more hours after the night had reached its peak pitch black before he had to settle down for the night. Fetching out his winter coat, he gathered up leaves in a pile and laid down his coat, and fell asleep.

When he awoke, he continued on his journey. He arrived at the peak of Adashino’s mountain at midday and estimated he’d soon be able to see Adashino’s house in a couple of hours. He took the opportunity to take it slow and he’d stop every now and then to poke at glowing worms in the soil or to watch as jellyfish-like mushi floated through the air. Ginko followed one of these mushi till the mountain path became much more traveled and Ginko could see the tip of Adashino’s house through the tree’s leaves.

Ginko approached Adashino’s house and opened up one of the doctor’s doors.

“Oi! Adashino!” he called out.

Silence.

Ginko strained his ears and could hear soft snoring. It would seem Adashino was in the middle of a nap. Ginko kicked off his shoes and entered the house. He peeked into a couple of the rooms in Adashino’s house before spotting the doctor sprawled out on his porch, the medical scroll in his hand haven fallen out his slack grip and unrolled itself.

Ginko made his way over and glanced at the scroll Adashino had been reading before he fell asleep and found it was a scroll on the treatment of broken bones. The sides had small scribbles of old notes about previous patients Adashino had seen with broken bones.

Ginko wondered if a villager had broken a bone recently and that was why Adashino was reading the scroll.

Reaching over, Ginko tapped Adashino on the shoulders.

“Hey, wake up,” he said softly. “It’s Ginko.”

The doctor stirred and slowly sat up, rubbing his eyes.

“Hnng, Ginko?” he groggily asked, fumbling around for the scroll on the floor and rolling it back up. “What are you doing here? When did you get here?”

“I only arrived here just a few minutes ago. I was in the area so I decided to stop by and visit for a couple of days.”

“Mmmm,” said Adashino intelligently. He squinted at Ginko, judging him. “What are you really here for? You don’t stop by other than to sell me mushi artefacts or to gossip about various mushi related rumours.”

He stood up and gently hit Ginko in the stomach with the medical scroll.

“Unless you’ve gotten stabbed again and need some medical assistance.”

Ginko blanched. He had only gotten stabbed one time and had gotten it treated by a nearby town doctor. By the time he had arrived at Adashino’s place it was barely a scratch in his skin, but that didn’t stop the doctor from using it to tease about Ginko’s health.

“No, I haven’t gotten stabbed again. I did, however, manage to obtain a mushi artefact from a shop in a village up north.”

Adashino, who had been putting away the medical scroll in its respective shelf, snapped his head to look at Ginko with a happy expression and gasped.

“You did? May I see?”

“Hold on a minute, let me fetch it from my pack.”

Adashino trailed after Ginko as Ginko made his way to the back entrance of Adashino’s house where he had left his pack. They both kneeled down to the ground as Ginko picked up his pack from its resting place on the ground outside Adashino’s house and opened it up. Ginko shooed Adashino’s prying eyes away from the contents of the drawers, unwilling to let the nosy doctor see what was inside them, and got out the wrapped hairpin.

Ginko gently laid it down and carefully tugged at the string that wound around the cloth. He revealed the hairpin to Adashino who looked at Ginko quizzically.

“The shopkeeper at the shop I found this hairpin at says that whoever wears this pin finds their beauty increased by a tenfold and they’ll have good luck for ten years.” Ginko paused to let this information sink into Adashino.

“I see,” Adashino said. “Is this a roundabout way of telling me I’m ugly?”

Adashino raised an eyebrow and shot Ginko a disapproving look.

Ginko just stared at Adashino and after a moment quirked his lip upward in what could be considered a slight smirk.

Adashino rolled his eyes and gestured to the hairpin to draw attention back to it.

 “So is that effect caused by a mushi? Is there a mushi that affects beauty or luck?” Adashino questioned.

Ginko nodded.

“There’s a couple that would have beauty or luck as a side effect, either making one so healthy that their looks seem to increase or that they drive away sickness and harmful mushi. However, I don’t think any of those reside in this hairpin…rather it looks to me like it’s been dipped in a light vein.”

“Light vein? I’ve heard about those….Don’t they dictate a mountain’s health and the like?”

“Mmm yes, they do that. Light veins are made up of mushi called kouki that are like life itself. You can even manipulate the kouki to grant one immortality or to resurrect someone from the dead, although using the kouki like that is forbidden.”

Ginko picked up the hairpin and raised it up to Adashino and his eye level. “This hairpin was likely dipped in the kouki and as a result has gained special properties. Here, if you move it in the light can you see a shiny coating on it?”

Ginko placed the hairpin in Adashino’s hands. Adashino moved it close to his eye and tried to catch the sunlight just right on the hairpin. Frowning after he couldn’t seem to see anything, he took off his monocle to reexamine the hairpin. He huffed after that didn’t reveal the shiny coating to him.

“I’m not seeing anything Ginko.”

“Exactly. The shiny coating on it is hardened kouki and you won’t be able to see it unless you can see mushi. Although you might be able to see it at night, in the moonlight when the shine will be prominent enough that those who can’t see mushi will be able to see it.”

Adashino hummed in a way that Ginko knew he was pleased with his gift, and to his surprise, Adashino raised it up to his hair to put it in.

“Ta da! How do I look?”

Adashino removed his hands from his hair and did jazz hands, showing off the pin in his hair. The pin was extremely lopsided and looked like it was going to fall to the floor at any moment. He wasn’t sure how Adashino managed to make the hairpin stay in place.

“Like you need more hair,” Ginko snorted. “I don’t think you can pull a hairpin of that type off with that short of a haircut.”

“Mmmm, yeah, kind of hard to wear a hairpin if you don’t have that much hair.” Adashino agreed.

Ginko watched as Adashino carefully took out the hairpin and placed the pin back into it’s cloth and wrapped it back up with the string.

He got up as Adashino exited the house as they both made their way to the shed that contained the doctor’s mushi artefact collection. Adashino opened the door and beelined towards a shelf near the back with similar items to the hairpin, like small bracelets and beads.

Ginko looked around to see if the doctor had acquired anything else since his last visit and spotted a couple of new items, but nothing with obvious mushi influence. He inspected one of the new vases the doctor had gotten while Adashino scribbled in his catalogue the new addition to his collection. A bug mushi was curled up in the vase, hibernating, and Ginko recognized it as one that attracts beetles to crops. It was lucky that Adashino was a doctor and not a farmer or that one would have ruined any nearby crops.

Ginko felt a hand on his shoulder and glanced up to see Adashino’s face.

“I finished cataloguing the hairpin. Let’s go over to the kitchen and I’ll make us an early dinner. You haven’t had anything to eat yet, right?”

“Hmm, not since this morning.”

“Thought so. Well, dinner will be filling at the very least. Some of the fishermen came around early today to drop off some extra tuna they caught, so we’ll eat that.”

Ginko nodded and followed Adashino back to his house.

____________________________________________________________________________

Ginko awoke to the sounds of birdsong and gulls screeching.

He spent a few minutes laying in his futon just to listen to the sounds of morning.

A small crowd of mushi emitted light in one corner of the ceiling he was staring up at and reminded Ginko he would have to keep an eye out for more mushi popping up in Adashino’s house as he stayed. Since he attracted mushi, he had to be careful around Adashino and his collection of mushi artefacts, since he could never predict the rate at which mushi would start to congregate in Adashino’s walls and ceilings. Sometimes Ginko could stay for a week or two at Adashino’s place and other times Ginko would have to leave the day after he arrived.

After rolling up his futon and placing it into the closet, he walked to the house’s front porch where Adashino seemed to have already have visitors from the village despite the day having barely started.

As he got closer, he was able to hear what the doctor and villagers were chatting about.

Apparently, a young girl and her little brother were here to pick up more medicine for her older brother, who had broken his ankle after he got it caught between some rocks while wading for sea urchins. Currently, the young girl was commenting on Adashino’s appearance.

“I swear, you look just a little bit healthier than you usually do doctor!” the young girl exclaimed. “It must be the tuna the fisherman brought you.”

“Perhaps! Tell the guys down at the dock thank you and that Ginko and I enjoyed a nice dinner last night.”

“Oh is your friend visiting again?” she asked.

“Yo.” Ginko interjected, now standing over Adashino.

Adashino jumped at the sound of Ginko’s voice and the girl laughed at his reaction. The girl’s little brother hid behind his sister’s legs and stared at Ginko with wide eyes, checking out Ginko’s white hair and his lone green eye. The kid wasn’t familiar to Ginko so he probably wasn’t related to one of the families that had their children affected by the kumohami a while back.

“Ginko! I didn’t realize you were up just yet,” Adashino exclaimed. Ginko inspected the man and found that oddly, the girl was right and Adashino did seem healthier. The slight weariness the doctor often had was gone and he looked like he just came back from a vacation.

“I only just woke up. I was trying to sleep in but your birds are loud.” Ginko jabbed a thumb at the offending birds up in the sky, still making a racket.

“Ah yeah, the little buggers are so loud at this time of year. And daring! I was eating my breakfast on the porch one morning and one swooped down and stole my food.”

Adashino laughed and then turned back to the girl and her brother and handed her a small packet of medicine he had been holding.

“Here you go Hana, make sure your brother takes one every week and that he goes easy on his foot. I’d love for you to stay here and chat, but I’ve got to make sure Ginko and I get something to eat for breakfast before we forget. I bet your mom is waiting for you. Tell her I said hi!”

Hana bowed and waved goodbye to the doctor with her brother and started down the trail that led further into the village below Adashino’s house.

Ginko and Adashino had breakfast together, and neither of them talked much, but they both enjoyed each other’s presence.

___________________________________________________________________________

Throughout the day, various people from the village would come up, either for medicine, or because they were injured, or just to chat. All of them made some sort of comment on Adashino’s appearance from what Ginko could hear as he stayed inside, away from the sun so he wouldn’t burn. He was slowly going through some of Adashino’s collections of writings of incidents involving strange creatures that Adashino wanted Ginko to read through and see if they were mushi related when one comment about how Adashino was “glowing” with health caught his attention.

It was late afternoon so the comment seemed a little odd since everything was basked in light, which would make anything that was glowing look normal. Yet, as Ginko turned to look at Adashino, he really was glowing.

Huh.

Wait.

Adashino wasn’t supposed to be glowing.

Ginko scrambled up from his position on the floor to get a closer look at Adashino without interrupting the conversation the man was having with a couple of villagers. As Ginko looked closer, he realized the glow wasn’t evenly spread on Adashino. It wasn’t even being emitted from his skin. There were fine, hair-like strands originating from a spot on Adashino’s head that Ginko was sure was where Adashino had put in the hairpin Ginko had given him last night. The strands clung to Adashino’s skin and clothes, except for the ends, which were loose and alive. They stretched from where they were, clung to where they was and continued all over again.

Was it a mushi that came from an egg that came from the hairpin and grew on Adashino? Or was the mushi simply an effect of wearing the hairpin for the short few moments Adashino had it on?

Ginko quietly grabbed the scroll from his pack and his inkstone and brush. He unrolled the scroll and started to take notes of what he could observe about the mushi on Adashino’s head. He noted that the strands had a gradient to them, a golden glow near the top and red near the bottom.

He watched closely as one of the ends of the strands was reaching down and latching itself. If he strained his eyes, he could see the strands attach themselves to Adashino and gain a red hue.

The strands were feeding off Adashino’s blood.

As the blood went up the strands (were the strands hollow? Or were they composed of Adashino’s blood?) it turned golden, like the kouki that could be found making up the river of light.

Was this some kind of parasite like mushi that had latched itself to the river of light and had ended up on the hairpin when someone dipped it in the river? But the mushi seemed to be turning Adashino’s blood into kouki essence, which would actually be beneficial to the host. Perhaps that was the effect of the hairpin, a symbiotic relationship where the mushi from the hairpin mooched off the host’s blood while providing the host with kouki essence?

The amount of blood actually being taken by the mushi was nothing to worry about, the strands were hair-thin and there weren’t that many coming from the origin on Adashino’s head.

Ginko made sure to sketch how the mushi seemed to be like a flower sprouting from the back of Adashino’s head and how the strands were like a plant’s runners.

Ginko was in the middle of contemplating how likely it would be for the mushi’s runners to spread to another person once they got long enough before he realized Adashino was done chatting. He shoved the scroll he was writing on behind his pack to hide it from Adashino’s eyes.

Adashino called him in to eat lunch.

Ginko picked at the fish with his chopsticks while he thought about what to do next.

Obviously, the hairpin and the mushi on Adashino were connected, but Ginko needed to figure out if the mushi came from the hairpin or if the kouki that covered it allowed the mushi to latch onto Adashino before he could decide on either letting the mushi stay on Adashino or attempting to remove it

“Hey, Adashino.”

“Hmmmm?” Adashino said with a mouthful of food.

“I think we should look at the hairpin again. I think there’s a little bit more to it than what I originally thought.”

Adashino swallowed before speaking.

“Okay, we can do that. We were already going to check up on it tonight to see if it glowed like you said it might.” Adashino paused, taking another bite of food. “Although might I ask what brought the sudden need to see it now?”

Ginko set his food down, trying to buy some time to compose a decent half-lie to his friend. No need to get Adashino hyped about the mushi before they learned exactly what it was.

“I noticed a mushi in here that wasn’t here before. I’ve never seen it before and I need to find out if it came from the hairpin before I decide on letting it stay in your house.”

“Oh? There’s a mushi in here that you’ve never seen before? What’s it like?”

Ginko glanced up at Adashino’s face to respond and realized that the strands had multiplied since he first saw them, making Adashino’s exact features hard to see. It was like trying to see a person’s face but seeing their reflection in the water instead. The strands distorted the doctor’s features when they flowed gently in the breeze as the light bounced off their golden glow.

“Hmmm, the mushi is a little odd. It’s one of the bigger little ones I’ve seen. Complicated too. Based on what I’ve observed, it could either be helpful to humans or harmful, but I don’t want to wait until something bad happens before deciding on whether or not I should allow it to stay in your house.”

“Wow,” Adashino breathed. “Sounds cool. Where is it.”

“Right behind you,” Ginko said pointing to behind the doctor.

‘Right behind you, in front of you, and on top of you, actually,’ Ginko thought.

Adashino spun around as if he could do it fast enough that the mushi would make itself known to his eyes. He turned around, obviously disappointed when he didn’t spy anything out of the ordinary.

He moped a little bit until they were both in front of the shed that held the hairpin. They both took a deep breath as they went in. The little window on the wall provided barely enough sunlight to illuminate the way towards the back of the shed where the hairpin laid.

As the pair made their way towards the hairpin, the air seemed to get heavier and more humid-like.

The air was saturated with life energy emanating from the hairpin.

Adashino handed the wrapped hairpin over to Ginko, who noted it was slightly heavier than what it was before.

Ginko untied the yellow string that kept the cloth closed and examined the pin as the cloth fell away. The shine was stronger than it had been, and there seemed to be veins all over it that seemed to be very similar to the strands that covered Adashino. Ginko tapped on one of the wooden flowers experimentally.

After a few seconds, a small jellyfish-like flower bloomed next to a wooden one and a small white cloud came out of the fluffy center of the flower. His eyes widened and his hand moved to shove Adashino out of reach of the cloud, but Adashino had noticed Ginko’s sudden change in body language and had leaned in closer to ask what was wrong and the cloud was sucked up by the strands.

“Ginko what’s wrong? Is there something on the hairpin?”

“HeeEy, Adashino, quick question: how do you feel right now?”

“Huh? Same as always,” Adashino said, crossing his arms. He tilted his head back and seemed to think for a moment before opening his mouth back up. “Actually now that I think about it I do feel a bit dizzy. I think I need a glass of water.”

Adashino’s arm reached out for the shelf behind him to steady himself and missed. He stumbled but managed to steady himself before he could fall.

Ginko shoved the hairpin in his pocket, not caring that the string tangled itself up with the hairpin, and grabbed Adashino by the legs and flipped him up onto Ginko’s back.

“Woah, what are you doing?!” Adashino panicked, clinging to Ginko.

The strands on Adashino tentatively reached for Ginko before shying back away. Ginko started walking as fast as he could towards Adashino’s house.

“You need to rest, and I can’t trust that you won’t fall as we go back to the house.”

“Hmmm, you could have chosen a better position to pick me up in,” the doctor grumbled, unpleased he was being carried. “This is possibly one of the worst ways to pick someone up if you think they’re sick.”

Ginko hummed in acknowledgement. He let Adashino back down in the main room and went to prep Adashino’s futon in his bedroom. He got Adashino from the main room and into his bedroom to get him into his futon and went about making sure Adashino was all right.

Adashino had a slight fever when Ginko went to press his hand against Adashino’s forehead, and Ginko noticed the strands had thickened where the cloud from the hairpin touched it.

“So….what did you find out about the mushi by looking at the hairpin? Was it making me feel faint?” Adashino asked while Ginko was checking his temperature.

“Well, the mushi on you is definitely connected to the hairpin. I believe on the hairpin there must have been a tiny mushi embedded o-”

“WOah, on me? You said it was behind me when we were eating in the main room, not on me!” Adashino exclaimed.

“I wasn’t technically lying,” Ginko shrugged, “it’s behind you but also on top of you and in front of you.”

Adashino yelped when he heard Ginko’s statement and brushed at his arms and face quickly and broke some of the strands on him. They floated peacefully back down and reattached themselves.

“What’s it doing on me?” Adashino asked panicked.

Ginko moved to brush off the mushi strands on Adashino’s forehead to place a cold wet cloth on Adashino. Brushing off the strands felt like when you pulled a plant out of the ground and the little ends of the roots refused to let go of the soil.

Luckily, when the strands were pulled off Adashino, no blood flowed from the tiny openings in Adashino’s skin.

“I’m not quite sure. All I know was that it must have latched onto you when you put the hairpin on and then mooched off your blood to grow bigger over the course of the day.”

Ginko grabbed his pack and opened the drawer that held his cigarettes and his mushi repelling herbs. He poured some into a small bowl and lit the herbs on fire.

Soon the smoke was wafting through the room, carrying out tiny mushi from the corners of Adashino’s room and keeping the ends of the strands of the mushi on Adashino from latching onto more skin.

“Based on what the shopkeeper said, the mushi latched onto you is likely to be responsible for the supposed effects of the hairpin: beauty and good luck. For right now, it looks to be converting your blood into life energy, similar to what is produced by the kouki. This can give a false impression of glowing “beauty”. In actuality, the mushi is just keeping you insanely healthy and the presence of life energy is enough to make anything radiant. Good luck might be because of that health, or maybe it actually influences your chances of good things happening to you? I can’t ever be sure about things that supposedly bring good luck.”

“Sooo…if it’s a good mushi, then why am I sick now?” Adashino asked quizzically, head tilted back to look at Ginko in the eye.

“It could just your body getting used to the mushi’s presence,” Ginko slowly said, “…or this mushi is not the cause of the hairpin’s effects and tomorrow you’ll wake up with significantly less blood than you should have and the mushi will have moved on to another person.”

Adashino paled at those possibilities.

“Let’s hope it’s none of those,” he said weakly.

Ginko nodded and stood up. He walked to the door before turning to say one last thing to Adashino before he was going to start mushi-proofing the house.

“I’m gonna set up mosquito nets over all the entrances and windows in your house in case the mushi does actually detach from its place on your head, so we can catch it if it tries to escape the house so we won’t have to worry about the villagers. If anything weird happens, tell me when I get back. I’ll be writing out notes on the mushi so I will need to know about that kind of thing.”

Adashino agreed and told him he could find the nets in the closet in the hall outside the kitchen.

Ginko thanked him and made his way to the hall. He grabbed as many as he could stuff into his arms and went to the first entrance into the house he saw.

The doorways were particularly hard to attach the nets to, and Ginko kept messing up the knots and they would fall down to the ground. Eventually, Ginko managed to attach them in a way that they were sturdy, but also able to handle pressure on it if it needed to catch an escaping mushi. Ginko was incredibly grateful the mosquito nets were so much easier to attach to the windows.

Peering up at the ceiling, Ginko also checked around some of the corners of Adashino’s house to see if any was out of the ordinary with the mushi population that tended to hang out in Adashino’s house as permanent residents of the doctor’s house. The only thing odd about their behaviour was that they seemed to congregate the closer they got to where Adashino was, but that was probably because of the life energy Adashino was currently emitting.

Ginko entered back into Adahsino’s bedroom and sat back down and took out the scroll he had been scribbling notes about the mushi in earlier and set back to note-taking. He occasionally asked Adashino questions about how he felt, if he could feel where the mushi was latched onto him, and if he had any reactions to when Ginko gently tugged at the origin point of the mushi.

Ginko decided to stop taking notes once he noticed that Adashino had fallen asleep for some time and that night had fallen hours ago. Ginko carefully packed up his scroll of notes and inkstone and put them back in his pack.

He filled the bowl of herbs back up, lit them on fire, and then smothered it so the smoke would waft in the room as Adashino slept.

Ginko carefully tiptoed out of his room and slid the room’s door closed. He cracked the door open an inch after a moment of thought, just in case. There was a lot of mushi that depended on closed spaces and most of those closed door mushi cases didn’t end up well for humans.

He continued his silent walk over to the closet that held the guest futon and rolled it out so he could go to sleep. Tired from worrying all day about Adashino, he fell asleep almost as soon as his head hit his pillow.

___________________________________________________________________________

“Ginko! Ginko!” Adashino’s voice called out to Ginko in his dreams. “I feel a lot better! Is the mushi still there?”

The hands on Ginko’s shoulder were gently shaking him. He could hear Adashino’s voice but was too sleepy to fully comprehend what he was saying. Shrugging off Adashino’s hands, Ginko rubbed his eyes and asked Adshino to run that by him again. Adashino repeated himself and this time Ginko was awake enough to recognize human language.

Ginko made a small note of surprise. The strands that had emanated from the origin point of the mushi on Adhsino’s head had fallen off or possibly retreated, leaving only the flower-like structure on his head that was similar to the one on the hairpin.

In addition to this, Adashino was back to his healthy self. The mushi turned out to not be harmful at all! Ginko sighed in relief.

“It’s not fully gone,” he told Adashino, “but it looks a lot better than it had been. It looks like I was worried over nothing. You just got sick because your body wasn’t used to the mushi.”

Adashino’s shoulders slumped in relief, a weight seemingly lifted from his shoulders. He then made Ginko hurry out of his futon and started taking down the mosquito nets from the windows and doorways.

By the time Adashino was back in the kitchen making breakfast and Ginko was setting out dishware on the table for the food, a lazy energy had entered the air. Adashino took longer than usual with making the food and Ginko sat at his seat looking out to the sea after he was done. A sea breeze flowed through the house and was refreshing after yesterday’s events.

This time while the two were eating breakfast together, there was more small talk and jokes than yesterday’s quiet meal. It was a nice contrast. Too often did Ginko walk into bad situations and walk away as soon as it was fixed. It was nice to revel in how great the feeling of relief was for once.

The pleasant atmosphere was interrupted when Ginko and Adashino could hear a villager’s voice call out from the other entrance.

“Guess I better get that huh?” Adashino remarked from his comfy place at the table. “Ahhh I don’t want to move from my spot, but I guess I have to.”

Adashino stood and walked over to the sliding door and opened it up, and was not prepared to see what was on the other side.

“I’m coming Mrs. Tanaka! Sorry, I slept in today. I was feeling off yesterday, but I’m good to go now,” an identical Adashino called out, stepping out of Adashino’s bedroom and closing the door behind him. He was exactly the same as the Adashino staring wide-eyed and opened mouth at the entrance of the main room.

Other Adashino turned to look at the sliding door Adshino just opened and murmured, “Huh that’s strange. I thought that door was closed just a moment ago. Did Ginko open it? He’s all the way at the other end of the table though.”

Other Adashino shook his head and walked right into, and then through the still in shock Adashino. Adashino turned around to look at Other Adashino in bewilderment and then to Ginko.

“Ah, I didn’t know you made breakfast without me Ginko! I hope you saved some for me!” he said cheekily before he headed out the main room. Adashino and Ginko followed him as quick as they could over to the entrance where Mrs. Tanaka was waiting.

“Ah, Mrs. Tanaka, how are you? Is your son doing ok?” Other Adashino asked Mrs. Tanaka.

Adashino swept his hand about Other Adashino as he spoke, and each time his arm should have hit Other Adashino it went right through him.

Adashino made a strangled sound and looked to Ginko for guidance.

“Sorry to interrupt you Mrs. Tanaka and Adashino, but do you see that?” Ginko pointed to Adashino.

Other Adashino and Mrs. Tanaka looked at where they should have seen Adashino and frowned.

“No, we don’t see anything Ginko. There’s nothing there,” they said in unison.

“Ah,” Ginko said. Adashino slumped to the floor in a daze. It seemed they had a new problem on their hands caused by the hairpin mushi.

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