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Stories
Soul Shift
A boy and a girl connected mysteriously from long distance in Japan discover that their fates are tied up with each other. Will the two find true happiness, finally?
Author(s): Rellawing | Editor(s): Trismegistus Shandy | 2 Warnings!
Content Keywords | Status: Ongoing | To Disqus!
MyReviews: 0
Preface
Here's Midoriko again! Let's see what happens next with her!



Chapter Three : Discovering
Posted: 2018-11-01 08:40:39 | Updated: 2018-11-01 12:24:38
Words: 5493


"You know, Midoriko... you should really try smiling more often. Your face is cuter when you do." Midori hears her father's voice, and glances towards the rear view mirror. She notices that he's looking directly at her and she deliberately puts a more sour expression on, making him chuckle.

"Maybe I would want to smile more if you would stop meddling in my life," she mutters in a sardonic tone.

"Midoriko..." Her mother's tone has an edge on it, and Midori recognizes it. It means that she is pushing them too hard, and if she keeps it up, she will end up in serious trouble. Midori adjusts her tone quickly.

"Don't call me that," she says in a more sullen and less sardonic tone.

"What's wrong with the name Midoriko? It's the name you were given at birth, and it's beautiful. I really don't see the problem," her mother says, shooting a frown back at her obstinate daughter.

"You KNOW that I don't care if I'm beautiful or cute." Midori crosses her arms in front of her. Her mother sighs and shakes her head.

"A lot of girls would kill to look as cute as you do... you know that, don't you?" she says in a reasonable tone, as though she intends to make that fact sink into Midori's head and make her think differently. Midori has heard it before many times though, and it has no more effect now than it had then.

"They can have it then. I'd rather be ugly and male than pretty any day," she says with a slightly challenging tone.

"You don't mean that." her mother waves her hand dismissively. "No one really wants to be ugly."

"I mean it." Midori huffs. Okay, to be honest, if she were going to be a boy she would definitely prefer to be a handsome and strong one, but at this point she'll accept anything to get out of her situation. Not only has her mother vaguely suggested that she won't be able to wear a boy's uniform at this new school, which was probably the whole purpose of this move, but she has also as much as told her that she is going to force her to wear a bikini and go swimming in Okinawa, even though she knows Midori has problems with going swimming.

"And I'm not going swimming with you. You know I don't like to swim," she mutters, trying to cover up the real reason why she doesn't want to go swimming.

Her mother smirks at her slightly. "You don't hate to swim... when you were younger you loved the water. I know exactly why you say you hate swimming now." She reaches back and points firmly at Midoriko's chest, making her chew her lip. Her breasts are sensitive from being bound all day. It takes a while to get used to that sensation, and that still doesn't stop the swelling and pressure.

"I don't know what you're talking about," Midori mutters. A look of annoyance flickers across her mother’s face.

"Look, you can keep up this weak illusion for this week only. When we move into our new house and you go back to school, we are going to have a normal life. You are going to go back to being my sweet Midoriko, before this ridiculous tomboy phase even started. You're going to be a proper lady. Your father and I are enrolling you in an Academy. They aren't going to be as accommodating as your old schools were. Trust me." She nods to herself as though satisfied.

Midori gasps as this sudden new information sinks in. "I KNEW it! You really are going to try to force me! Well, it's not going to work... I'm not going to cooperate! This is who I am now! Why can't you just accept me and love me? You used to love me! Why are you bullying me?!" Unbidden, tears well up in the corners of Midori's eyes and she turns away abruptly. The car remains quiet for a long moment except for the sound of the engine and light traffic passing by on their right. The ride is smooth because the roads are well maintained. It is getting close to the time when they will have to stop at a hotel for the night, Midori figures. Maybe she will finally work up the nerve to run away from her parents.

"Midoriko." Her mother finally speaks in a more gentle tone. "You know... we really do love you, but this has gone on for far too long. Do you want to be strange for the rest of your life? Your father and I... well... we know that we haven't been the best parents. We've let you do what you want and we've tried to support you throughout your childhood instead of guiding you. We know it's hard, but you have to accept that we know what's best for you. If you keep going this way, you'll hate yourself when you're an adult. We don't want to see that," she says in an emotional tone as she stares straight ahead through the car's windshield. "You should at least try to be normal for a change. Who knows? You might even like it?"

"Midoriko... we really would prefer it if you could just go on being happy like you are, and it pains us to break your heart like this, but your mother is absolutely right," Midori's father says after a moment. He doesn't speak as often as her mother does, but when he does, you know he believes what he is saying. Midori remains quiet, forcing the tears back as the car continues to hum.

"I don't see what the big deal is... I really am happy this way... and my friends accepted me this way." She sighs, feeling sick and unhappy. She hates feeling emotional like this. "I tried being normal once... and you both saw how well that worked," Midori mutters, her bitterness apparent in her tone.

"Daisuke was a mistake," Midori's mother murmurs. "You should have known better than to date one of your male friends. You should have known that things would change. You were impulsive." Midori gasps, the heat returning to her eyes.

"Daisuke WAS a mistake... how was I supposed to know he would be so controlling and weird?! He was a good friend and... and... he was normal enough when he was my friend. I can't believe you're bringing this up again! Haven't you tortured me enough?!" Midori lashes out emotionally.

"Mind your tone young lady! YOU brought it up, not I..." she snaps.

"Everyone, please be quiet!" Midori's father snaps loudly, causing the two women to bite back on the rest of what they had been saying.

"Midoriko, what's done is done. If you keep pushing us on this, you'll be punished. Severely. You don't have a choice here anymore. Kumiko, please try to relax. We're on a vacation. Leave this argument for when we're settled in our new home." Midori blinks in response and lays back down on the car seat, facing away from her annoying parents. She continues to cry soundlessly for the next half hour. Her melancholy mood is only interrupted when she feels the car turn off the smooth, well-paved road and onto a dirt road.

"Darling... are you sure our car can handle this road?" Midori hears her mother ask, her concern apparent.

"I think so. The web page said the road is well maintained for cars." At this moment, the car's wheel hits a large rock in the road and the car jumps, jostling its passengers.

"Um.. maybe the website was out of date?" Midori's mother suggests, frowning.

"Oh it's not so bad... and just think... there's a nice outdoor hot spring at the end of this road, and an authentic shrine to visit. Apparently the shrine takes in extra revenue by doubling as a hotel. It's a very old building," he murmurs.

The car continues to bump down the road, and Midori's father seems to unerringly hit every pothole in eroded parts of the road. By the time the shrine begins to come into sight, all three passengers’ teeth are rattling.

"I hope you were wrong, Kumiko... it does look a little unkempt... but maybe we can stay here if no one is here," Midori's father murmurs as the car approaches the ancient looking building complex.

Midori peers out the car windshield as the car comes to a stop and frowns. The shrine is built in the old style, like you see from time to time on the covers of magazines, but this shrine seems much older. The roof is steepled and tiled with slate which is broken in several places. The grounds of the shrine are covered in tall grass. The place looks overgrown and forgotten. Amidst the grass, seven stone figures, weathered guardians for the shrine grounds, are barely visible in the diminishing light.

Midori's father opens his door first, stepping out and looking around. The other two follow his lead. Midori wanders off, examining one of the strange stone figures, human figures as well. There are several bearded faces, and several chubby looking faces, reminiscent of Buddha statues. Midori notices especially a kind of funny-looking one, not that she doesn’t find them all amusing.

"Hello? Is anyone here?" Midori's father yells loudly. His voice echoes in the quiet air. There is a slight breeze blowing through the trees, but no birdsong echoes from them. Not even the sound of cicadas can be heard.

"Hello!!!" Midori's father tries again, starting to look annoyed and upset.

"Maybe we should go to the door?" Midori's mother suggests quietly after the echo again fades without any reply.

"Alright... I suppose we can try that..." He frowns. "Let's see what we can find."

Midori's parents start walking towards the shrine, pushing through the high untrimmed grass. Midori finally manages to pull her eyes off the strange figures and quickly follows them, feeling nervous. This place is pretty creepy, and it doesn’t help that the light is fading, Midori thinks as she ascends the steps slowly, testing the condition of the wood steps and flooring carefully as she progresses. It seems to be sound enough despite its apparent decomposition. Feeling reassured, she continues up the steps and follows her parents into the shrine itself.

In the first and biggest room of the shrine, Midori sees an altar with a offering box with a pull bell, similar to those she'd seen in local shrines back home.

"It's a shinto shrine?" Midori asks, and her father nods, frowning. “Why isn’t it maintained?”

"Yes... it was supposed to have been well-known and a popular destination... but..." he trails off with a sigh.

The altar and offering boxes themselves are in remarkably good condition, even if the shrine is run down and the grass is growing high, Midori consider, glancing around. The floor is relatively clean. Maybe someone lives here, and decided to hide when they pulled up to it in their car.

"Well... let's check to see if they still have any futons..." her father says in an optimistic tone.

"Oh, no, you don't... I'm not going to wander around this creepy abandoned old shrine alone!" her mother protests. “The kami might be angry!”

"I don't mind wandering around..." Midori replies quickly, hiding her grin. "It's not so bad... it's kind of nice. Why don't you go that way." She points across the altar towards one of the two ways out of the main shrine room. "I'll check this way." She points at the other door, smiling. Her parents frown instantly.

"She's up to something..." her mother comments dryly, looking to her father, who nods in reply.

"What could I possibly be up to? We're stuck in the middle of nowhere and I can't drive. I just want a moment or two away from you two." She crosses her arms impatiently.

"Fine... go ahead and check that wing," her father responds, putting a hand gently on her mother's shoulder, who looks like she really wants to protest. "She'll be fine. The place looks safe enough to me, alright?" he smiles reassuringly at his wife. She glares at him in response and then sighs.

"Okay... fine... just be careful, Midoriko. If you get hurt, I'll be upset with you," she threatens.

"I'll be fine. See ya!" Midori grins and dashes off through the door quickly before they can change their mind.

"Midoriko!" she hears her mother call out after her, but with a relieved sigh that she’s free from them for the moment, she begins walking along a hallway she finds through the doorway. There are two doors on each side of the hallway. Midori opens the first door and pokes her head in. Unlike the main room, this room is really dusty; it seems obvious that it has not been in use for quite some time. Furthermore, it is also really empty and unfurnished. There is a single opened-up closet to one side of the room with a sliding door across the room.

Midori carefully walks across the tatami mats puts her hand on the door. With a push, she slides the door open. It balks a little, but she manages to open it.

"Wow..." Midori breathes, smiling. There is the hot spring her father has been talking about. The shrine complex is built around it, with a wooden floored covered outdoor walking area surrounding it. It has a nice and natural look to it, with seven large boulders set decoratively inside of it. Steam rises from the hot spring in the cool evening air, and she notes that the area above the hot spring is open to the sky, so that people inside of it can enjoy the sight of the clouds or stars above, and the trees and decorations around the hot spring.

As she walks closer to the edge of the spring, Midori notes also that there are copies of the seven sculptures outside the shrine here as well, their faces and forms etched into the boulders above the water line. Midori glances up from the spring and notes that the sun has entirely gone down over the mountains nearby. The stars are vaguely visible now.

"Midori? Is that you?" Midori jumps and turns towards her mother as she steps through another sliding door out of a room in the wing her parents apparently had gone down.

"Yeah... everything's okay! This place is deserted. Check out this hot spring!" she says with a smile, knowing her mother will appreciate it more than her.

Her mother gasps and rushes up to the edge of the spring with a broad smile. "Oh, it's been forever since I've soaked in a natural spring. This is going to be wonderful!" she murmurs.

"What about food?" Midori asks with a smirk. "If no one's here, we won't be able to have a meal tonight."

Midori's mother waves her hand dismissively. "I can stand to diet a little... and besides that, there are snacks in the car. We can make it through tonight and continue on our way in the morning," she says in an optimistic tone.

"I'm not sure Father cares much for that idea..." Midori shrugs. It is his fault, though, she doesn't add. They are here in this situation because he didn’t research this trip well enough in advance.

As if on cue, another sliding door opens, and her father steps out, looking around with an appreciative eye. "I found some futons. They're clean enough to sleep on tonight. We'll just stay tonight and leave in the morning. We sure were lucky, weren't we," he grins. "We get to stay here for free, this place normally charges a high rate too!" he comments in a very satisfied tone.

"Well, in that case, I'm going to jump into the hot spring immediately! Come in with me, Midoriko!" Midori's mother grins and grabs her hand, tugging her off towards the car. Midori sighs and groans as she's dragged away. Midori soon finds herself back at the family car and her mother has already unpacked articles of clothing that make Midori wince. She knew that this is inevitable.

"Oh, come on... no one is here, Midoriko... just relax and don't worry so much!" In her hands, her mother holds up two matching bikinis bearing similar patterns, a mother-daughter ensemble, like she always seems to have wanted to bully her into. The one she offers to Midori is smaller and green, obviously inspired by the name she gave her at her birth, but has white horizontal lines across it, and the one that she apparently intends to wear is larger in size, a white bikini with green lines horizontally slashing across it. Midori crosses her arms stubbornly as she looks at them with disgust and dismay clearly on her face.

"No! You know I hate cute girl's clothes! I'd rather go naked! It’s a bath, you know, and besides that, didn’t we just walk inside with our shoes on? Won’t the kami be even more angry with us now?" Midori tries with a scowl.

Midori's mother frowns in response. "I forbid that. You're too old to be bathing naked with your father, and we can't ask him to wait, it would be rude after he's been driving us all evening," her mother states in a firm tone.

"Then I'll bathe later. Unlike him and you, I don’t care, and I can be patient. I’m not as crazy for hot baths as you are. Anyhow, I am not wearing that matching bikini! Not now and definitely not later either!" Midori chews her lip and glares at her mother.

Midori flinches as her mother looks at her with a sad and hurt expression. "I just wanted to have some fun with my daughter... that's all... but if it's that big of a deal, then you can bathe alone." She sighs, turns away, and carefully stuffs the bikini intended for Midori back into her suitcase, with an unsatisfied expression.

"It'll be in here if you change your mind." Midori looks at her mother with a frustrated expression as her mother slips that in before she turns and walks away. Considering how hurt she apparently is, she finds herself unable to think of anything good to reply to that. If she were to speak the first things that entered her mind immediately, she would have just hurt her mother even more deeply.

Part of her wants to make her mother happy; it’s not like she hates her entirely. A core deep inside of her that is the child that she raised is still there despite how much she has changed, and how much she desperately craves for independence from her overbearing mother. The largest part of her desperately wishes that her parents can just accept her the way she is and stop pestering her about it, trying to mold her into what they want to make her.

She quickly heads away after her mother, long after she has already disappeared into the shrine herself. She walks into the shrine and towards where she thinks she will find the room her parents have chosen. Inside, her father is sitting and relaxing on the tatami floor, after having obviously dusted the floor here.

"What's wrong, Midoriko? You don't look well," her father comments with a frown of concern, noticing Midoriko’s entrance into the room with an anxious expression on her face.

"It's nothing. I just... I'm having problems with mother as usual. She wants me to wear a bikini tonight." Her eyes blaze up in anger. "And she's making me feel guilty because I don't want to, playing the victim card with me," she mutters.

Her father looks at her for a long moment, and sighs. "Your mother... she always wanted a daughter, she was very happy when you were born, as though her deepest most fond wish had been granted. She really thought that you two would be like best friends," he states with a wry tone.

"W-well... why don't you just make a new child, then. You can leave me alone and let me be who I am, then can’t you," Midori asks plaintively. "I-I can't be the person she wants me to be. I just can't." Tears trickle out of the corners of her eyes, showing her father how torn she is inside. "It's not... it's not easy being this way, father. You don’t understand how I feel! You can’t understand!" Midori sniffles emotionally; alone with her father for a change, she desperately wants him to understand her feelings.

After a long moment, Midori feels her father’s arms around her, hugging her.

"I know... that's why... we're trying to... to do what we can to fix it... we're trying to encourage you to be normal so you can be happy..." Midori continues to sniffle, tears trickling down her cheeks. Of course he still doesn’t understand it, no matter how much I try to explain it to him, how I pour out my heart to either of them, it’s futile. He just won’t understand it at all! Despite it all, she hates herself for being like this. She hates herself particularly for being so weak and emotional. Despite her efforts, part of her is emotional, despite everything she does to try to suppress it.

"Y-you just don't understand..." Midori mumbles as her father soothes her. After a long moment, the door to the room slides open and Midori jerks back away from him, biting her lip and looking away.

"I want to sleep alone tonight. Can I, father?" Midori asks quietly, angry again. Both her parents remain silent, exchanging looks of concern. Finally, her mother nods.

"Go right ahead. Take your futon to another room you choose. It’s not like it will inconvenience anyone else. We'll be in the hot spring," her father murmurs in a gentle tone.

Midori nods and avoids meeting their eyes. She gathers up a futon roll and leaves the room, quickly sliding the door shut behind her with her backside. Once outside, she walks down the hallway around the corner, and through the shrine and around the corner again, she makes her way to the far room in this wing. All she wants is to be as far from her parents as she can be tonight.

Midori opens that door slowly, looking around the room. This room is the same as every other room she's seen here, being the same size and dust-filled, otherwise in relatively good shape. Midori sets her roll on the tatami, and kneels down as she unfolds the futon quickly. Once it's unrolled, she drops down on it and rolls over, staring at the far wall with a sigh. It's quiet now that she's escaped temporarily from her parents, and she appreciates that fact. She has needed the peace and quiet after the stress of the moving earlier this morning, and the torturing car trip. Her mother has been trying to engage her in conversations the whole day, to relieve her boredom, but Midori usually ignored her, preferring to remain silent, losing herself in her thoughts. She's lost her composure far too many times today, not that anyone could blame her for it, as far as she can see. She's had a really horrible time altogether.

Midori falls asleep despite the noises coming from outside, and remains sleeping long after the noises have faded and the sun is gone completely.



Later that night, the door to Midori's room slides open, and a figure in white robes steps inside. They grip a long staff, the metal bits at the end jingling in a soft musical way as it sways with each step they take.

The figure glances at the futon, noting that there's a cute girl occupying it. They pause for a moment and then kneel down beside her, placing their hand gently on the forehead of the girl. After a long moment, the figure seems to nod to themselves as they stand over her prone form.

"Your days of despair are over, young one. The kami will surely bless you this night... if you are able to wake and bathe in the moonlight," the voice murmurs quietly. They stride slowly across the room through the doorway back into the hallway. The door silently slides shut behind them.



"Mmmmphhhh..." Midori stirs from her sleep, glancing around her with bleary eyes. "Was someone just here?" she mutters as she sits up onto her knees. She rubs her eyes and a look of annoyance flickers through them, troubled by the sensation that her room has had more than one person in it recently. Was my mother or father spying on me while I slept? she wonders.

"They couldn't resist checking on me after all after they said they'd leave me alone! I can't believe those two!" she mutters, and stands up, stretching. She at least had a nice dream, though. She doesn't remember much about it, but she was at the spring here, and once again she saw those seven stone faces.

Midori strides over to the window of the room and gazes outside pensively, gazing up towards the sky. It is a beautiful night. She smiles. There is a slight breeze stirring the tops of the trees surrounding the spring, and the moon is bright, directly above the spring. She glances down then at the spring and blinks, noticing something peculiar happening outside the window tonight.

Is the spring... glowing? She gapes, rubbing her eyes. To her eyes, it seems to be pulsing slightly with some internal light rather than simply the light shining down upon it from the bright moon. Midori shrugs then with a sigh.

"After the day I've had, it's no wonder that I'm thinking that I’m seeing strange things... I'm a stressed-out wreck." She chuckles at her idle thought that something peculiar could truly be happening, perhaps something spiritual, even. The more she gazes outside at the spring, the more a strange desire to go swimming begins to consume her. She tries to shake off the desperate need mounting quickly inside her, but then an answer as to why she doesn’t need to fight the desire anymore occurs to her.

"There is no one around to see my naked body... no one's around! I never do this kind of thing, especially not with my friends. I used to when I was younger, but not anymore. I mean, I can't just go topless when my friends are around like I used to, even if what is down below differs from my childhood friends. But those people I grew up with won’t be around anymore," she adds with a sad tone.

"Okay, I'll go bathing in the hot spring just this once! If I'm quiet, Mom and Dad won't see me and make me feel awkward." She smirks. As she strips off her tee shirt and jeans, she fails to consider the fact that she doesn't have a towel of any kind for after her bathing. After her tee shirt and jeans are stripped off, she reaches back and loosens the bandages binding her chest, quickly unraveling them. When they’re removed, she sighs, glancing down at herself. Whenever she takes the bandage off, her chest always sticks out three times more, and it’s covered by creases and red marks from where the bindings dig into her flesh.

She hates seeing those breasts, but she doesn’t have any choice in taking the bindings off periodically. She can bathe with them on, but on top of the routine irritation and swelling, she will likely end up with a bad rash and they likely would swell up even further. It is way too much trouble, and not at all worth the effort, and the inevitable result. Midori pulls off her boxers, and then slides open the door to the hotspring and heads outside, closing the door quietly behind her. She sneaks carefully over to the hot spring, glancing around to make sure that no one else is around; thankfully no one else is in sight, nor does she hear anything unusual. My parents are definitely sleeping by now. She sighs in relief. Midori pokes her toe into the water to test it and smiles at how pleasantly hot the water is; it feels wonderful!

It will perhaps feel a bit too hot as she sinks into the hot spring. It will take some getting used to, but when she does, she feels that it will feel nice. Midori climbs in, and bit by bit, she acclimates to the hot water. Soon she's up to her neck and sighing contentedly.

Midori wades slowly towards the center of the pool, and glances up at the moon. It is particularly pretty high above her tonight, far outshining the stars in the skies. Midori finds herself examining the boulders next, which are bathed in the moonlight. They hover amidst the fog, rising from it in a rough circle around the center of the hot spring, and she notes with satisfaction that they were definitely sculpted to look like the figures she saw in the high uncut grass outside the shrine.

Midori finds herself wandering closer to a particularly kind-looking figure amongst the statues. He has a cheerful face and a large paunch. He looks a little like an Asian Santa Claus to her. Midori laughs softly at that silly comparison and sighs to herself about her foolishness. A memory is tickling at the edges of her mind, but she just can’t focus on the thought at the moment. She knows who these figures are supposed to be, but it won’t come to mind. She's seen these figures already a few times before, at other shrines similar to this one, but those far better-maintained than this one. She sighs and her head shakes from side to side.

"I can't remember; it’s something to do with Shinto," she murmurs. Her parents are among the gradually growing numbers of more modern people in Japan. Forsaking their heritage, Buddhism or Shinto. They became Christians, and because of that she has been raised with those beliefs. They celebrate Christian holidays, and rarely celebrate traditional Japanese holidays. Although Midori enjoys the festivals like Obon and Setsubun very much, she usually attends to them by herself, not bothering to purchase a yukata or kimono to attend, though she considered buying a men's yukata or kimono, hopefully as bland in colorations as possible.

Midori sighs softly again, musing about how her parents will never understand her. They really won’t ever get it, and the worst part is that they hardly try. They think that they know what is best for their daughter, taking all of her choices and identity away from her. Despite their assurances that it is for her sake, all it really is is just selfish desires in regard to what they want for her, how they want her to be.

How can I ever be happy with things so hopeless like this? She chews her lip. How can I be happy when I would rather be a boy? It’s a futile desire! There are no miracles! She despairs silently. Midori feels tears well up in her eyes again and she sinks down in the water entirely, crying quietly, suspended in the hot water. Her pride won’t allow her to cry loudly, where anyone can see her. She doesn’t want her parents to peek in on her and see her crying, even though they’re her family; she doesn’t want even them to see her naked body, of which she is ashamed and loathes.

Her eyes closed, Midori fails to notice that the faint pulsing glow has started again, and more astonishingly, the seven boulder statues that surround her have started to glow and pulse with that light. As her eyes open and she resurfaces, splashing the hot mineral water around her, the light around her brightens to an intensity that makes her shield and close her eyes again, wondering if the moon somehow has become brighter even than the impossible level of luminosity it already possessed when she woke up. She huddles there in the hot spring, frightened for a moment. As she worries, she suddenly feels a wrenching sensation as the light sears her eyes and body. She experiences a painful sensation, and the light around her abruptly winks out.

Postface
Oooh another cliffhanger. :D


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