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Summer Challenge Week 5: Belief

Title: Belief
Length: One-shot
A/N: Written for the gacktjob_fics Summer Challenge 2013, week 5. Prompt is symbolic.  I sort of blame watching Kamisama Hajimemashita for this, but it isn't actually the same as that.  Just, sort of, like it's in that universe.

Summary: On one particular day at the shrine, Chachamaru meets someone new and has an interesting talk about what’s real and what isn’t.


Chachamaru paused in his sweeping to brush his long hair out of his face.  The paving stones outside the shrine had to be clean—it was just one of the many daily chores that kept the whole place running smoothly.  Everything seemed to be in order, just as usual.  The only noise was the chirping of birds and the faint clack of the ema—wishes hung on wooden plaques—swaying in the breeze.  No visitors again today, although, he reminded himself, it was still early.  He went back to his sweeping.

Watching the leaves flutter away from the gentle scraping of his broom was somehow soothing.  He almost didn’t notice a new sound invading the stillness of the day, so engrossed was he in his task.  But he did notice it—a sound like water, being poured.  Too quiet to have been heard by ordinary human ears at this distance, but then again, Chachamaru was far from ordinary.

He looked up.  There was a young man, an ordinary human, down the walkway, at the font doing the motions of temizu, carefully pouring the water onto his hands as proscribed.  Chachamaru smiled, it was always nice to see someone, especially someone who was following the traditions.  He waited to greet the young man, however, watching him turn away from the water and slowly walk up the pathway, looking curiously at the stone lanterns on either side.  Not wanting to seem rude, Chachamaru continued his sweeping in an attempt to direct attention away from the way he was closely watching the young man.

“Hello,” Chachamaru greeted the man when he had gotten close enough, his voice punctuated by brisk strokes of his broom.

The other man nodded at him, seeming to take in his traditional clothing and the broom with which he swept the paving stones.  “Hello.”

“Welcome,” Chachamaru added for good measure.  Despite observing the ritual purification, the young man seemed somehow standoffish.  “May I help you with anything?”

The young man hesitated, chewing on his lip.

“Would you like to hang an ema?  Offer a prayer?”  Chachamaru suggested.

“I just wanted to have a look.”  The young man admitted.  “I’ve never seriously taken the time to.  I’ve only been to a shrine on big holidays, when it’s really crowded.”

“Nothing wrong with wanting a look.”  Chachamaru reassured him.  “Since you’re here, perhaps you want to ring the bell?  It calls the kami.  Brings power and wards off evil.”

The young man gave him a skeptical look.  “It’s just symbolic, though.  It’s not real.”

Chachamaru quirked an eyebrow at him.  “Isn’t it?  There has to be a reason for a symbol to be created.”

“I don’t believe it.”  The young man said, but it was only half-hearted, and consequently didn’t hurt nearly as badly as it would have if he’d really meant it.  As it was, Chachamaru managed to keep the discomfort from showing on his face.

“Why did you wash up, then?”

The other man looked at the ground, and Chachamaru sighed quietly.  “Come, I’ll show you around.  You wanted to really see a shrine?”

Seeming almost reluctant, the visitor nodded.

“Alright then.  I’ve just got to put my broom some place.”  Chachamaru said.  He hurriedly deposited the broom by the shamusho—of course, the administrative office wasn’t where the broom actually belonged, but he could take care of it later.  He turned back to smile at his guest.  “There.  I’m Chachamaru.”

“Kurosaki You.”  The other man said, and trailed after Chachamaru, listening to the other man point out spots.  He listened quietly for a few minutes, and Chachamaru was pleased.  It wasn’t the sort of quiet that indicated boredom—it was more the sort of quiet that suggested the listener was thinking about what you had to say.

“What’s in there?”  You finally ventured a question, pointing at the honden, the main hall, at the back of the shrine.

“That is where the the kami is enshrined.”  Chachamaru told him.  “I’m afraid only priests are allowed inside.”

You frowned at the closed doors.  “So you’ve been inside?”

Chachamaru didn’t bother to correct him on the assumption that he was a priest, it was, after all, close enough.  “Yes.”

“There’s a lot of symbolism in this place.”

“Even the stone lanterns lining the approach have another meaning.”  Chachamaru acknowledged.

“Is there really a kami living in there?”

“I believe so.”

“What does that matter?”

“It’s all about belief, isn’t it?”  Chachamaru smiled at him.  “People see what they expect to see.  If you believe something doesn’t exist, you probably won’t see it.  It’s the way people are.”

You grunted an agreement.  “Maybe I will make a prayer today.”

“Doesn’t hurt to give it a try.”  Chachamaru agreed.  “Sure you don’t want to ring the bell?”

“Not today.”  You said.

“Perhaps another time.”

They circled back around, through the grass, towards the front of the haiden, where You stopped to offer a silent prayer, bowing twice, then clapping twice and holding his hands near his heart at the end of the second clap as he prayed, clearly knowing the form of the rituals, even if he was unsure about the substance behind the symbols.  Chachamaru couldn’t help but wonder what he wanted to ask.  After a moment, he finished and turned back to Chachamaru.  “Do you live here?”

Chachamaru nodded.

“What’s it like?”

“Peaceful, usually.  Occasionally very frustrating.”

“Why frustrating?”

“I can’t really do anything if people don’t believe.”  Chachamaru said, gesturing at the shrine vaguely with one hand.  “I mean, it’s nice when people visit just because it’s tradition, but it’s much nicer when people really care.  And belief is even rarer.”

“So, it’s nice to see me, but it could be nicer?”

“You’re not doing too bad.”  Chachamaru smiled at him.  “You might not believe, not yet at any rate, but you do care.”

“What about those stone lions?”  You pointed at the pair of statues guarding the hall where they stood.

“What about them?”

“What are they for?”

“They’re mostly symbolic.”  Chachamaru told him glibly, and was pleased when the other man groaned at his humor.  “In all seriousness, though, they’re the guardians of the shrine.”

“Don’t seem to do much.”

“Hmmm.”  Chachamaru didn’t outright disagree.  “You never know.”  He walked back down the walkway with You, stopping at the top of the steps.

“Goodbye,” You said, awkwardly scuffing the ground with one foot.  “I don’t know when I’ll be back."

“Goodbye.”  Chachamaru said fondly, and watched the other man descend the stairs until he passed beyond the gate.

He smiled as he turned, knowing who was waiting for him.  Gackt was giving him a fake irritated expression, one that he would pretend to be intimidated by but actually wasn’t at all.

“You should have tried harder to get him to ring the bell.”  He said.

“I didn’t want to drive him off.”  Chachamaru pointed out.  “It’s so nice having a visitor.”

“I’d yell at you for not introducing me, but...” Gackt said, and Chachamaru waited for him to finish.

“But what?”

“He’ll be back tomorrow.”

“Ah.”  Chachamaru turned back to gaze down the stone steps again.  “It must be nice being a kami and knowing all these things.”

Gackt narrowed his eyes at him.  “It must be nice being a familiar and not having to practice that ritual dance.”

“Ah, but you’re so much better at dancing then I am!”  Chachamaru said with a laugh.

“The bells get me.”  Gackt grumbled.  “It’s not my favorite dance.”

“Well, as much as I’d love to distract you from your duties, kami-sama, I’ve avoided mine for long enough.  The walk won’t sweep itself you know.”

“Fine.”  Gackt said, “But tomorrow, you get him to ring the bell.”

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
midori_masari
Aug. 4th, 2013 01:07 pm (UTC)
It's like Kamisama Hajimemashita with the kami and his familiar! I love it!
pirate_mozart
Aug. 7th, 2013 04:39 pm (UTC)
Yeah, it is~ Thanks ^^
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )