“Apparently, one has to undergo rigorous training to obtain these abilities. My friend laughed and slacked off, thinking it was foolish.”
The listener could tell from the speaker’s enthusiastic tone that they were close friends with the person who trained for these abilities.
“I heard that the family were originally monks who lived in seclusion in the mountains of Kishu, but they were targeted by the daimyo of the Sengoku period who feared their heretical powers. Those who barely escaped changed their names and settled here. …It’s hard to believe, but who knows,” said the former mayor, speaking earnestly but then showing his teeth as he laughed like a child.
It might be better to take the story with a grain of salt.
“There are also villages said to have been founded by descendants of former ninja or samurai who fell from grace. So, it might actually be true.” my senior said, causing the former mayor to briefly widen his eyes.
“Even if my friend pretended to scoff, deep down, he may have believed in it. Psychic abilities are romantic, aren’t they? Any man should understand that.”
The former mayor winked and posed a rhetorical question.
He was quite mischievous for an elderly person.
That’s very interesting, but do you have any other memories or stories about the village?”
“Well, let me see… Oh, they were actively recruiting people from other prefectures and even foreign countries, despite having no connection with other villages.”
My senior tilted his head and clapped his hands.
“Foreign countries? That’s unusual, especially for a closed and exclusive village.”
It’s not uncommon for villages to be unwelcoming towards new residents and even drive them away, so my senior’s question was understandable. However, this village seemed to be eager to attract new residents, even from overseas. It would be strange not to wonder about their motives.
“Is it because of a shortage of personnel that there is a demand for foreign workers? Recently, there has been an increase in the number of foreign laborers even in urban areas.”
“Well, that’s been the case since before the Showa era (pre-World War II).”
From that long ago? The more I listened to the story, the deeper the mystery became.
“Did they have a specific purpose?” my senior asked, busily jotting down notes in his notepad like a true reporter.
“My friend said that they were gathering people with strange abilities, similar to psychic powers, regardless of their gender or nationality. They were aiming to incorporate their blood, talents, and knowledge to gain the power of the Six Divine Arts with all seriousness.”
The low and quiet voice of the former mayor, which was different from before, pressured me, leaving me breathless.
To be honest, I had been listening to the interesting story with a sense of curiosity, taking it with a grain of salt. But now, I could feel a chilling sense of blind belief in the clan’s obsession.
“It seems that as a result of their efforts, there were rare individuals in the village who possessed mysterious powers that they could wield,” said the former mayor in a low, grave tone.
“I can’t believe it. If that’s true, it would be quite interesting,” my senior replied.
“If that were the case, then that Tooru King was not just a magician, but a real psychic…now that would be interesting,” the former mayor chuckled while slapping his knee.
Perhaps he had embellished the story he had heard from his friend and was now enjoying retelling it to others. Regardless, it was a well-crafted tale that had been carefully thought out.
“If that’s true, it would be quite a scoop, wouldn’t it? Oh, by the way, do you know this person? He seems to be from the village,” said my senior while pulling out a photograph.
The man in the picture appeared to be in his thirties to forties and had a gentle look about him. Despite not recognizing his face, there was something familiar about him.
The former mayor frowned and stared intently at the photo, while the accompanying villager peered over his shoulder from behind.
“Do you know his name?”
“It’s Nanakagami Tsu, right?”
“Oh, so he was introducing himself as ‘Tooru’.”
“It seems like you have some idea.” He narrowed his eyes while stroking his white beard.
“Do you know the person?”
“What do you mean ‘know the person’? We’ve been talking about them this whole time.”
The former mayor made a significant statement, but it didn’t quite click. This was the first time he brought up Mr. Jin’s father as a topic of conversation.
Perhaps it was due to his age and he was mistaken about something?
“That big one over there. He’s not looking at me with a kind eye. What, did you all not notice and continue the conversation? My, my,” he said, with a malicious grin and assessing eyes.
It’s difficult to understand what emotions he’s expressing.
“I’m sorry, I don’t quite understand,” I replied.
“I see. Let me give you a hint then. The villagers’ surname is Nanashitagami, which also means Rokushin, but they changed it after fleeing to this land. Do you know why they chose this name?”
It was an unexpected quiz. The listener thought about the unusual name Nanashitagami, which had been changed from Rokushin. The number had increased from six to seven, but what did it mean? And why was “down” and “up” included in the name?
The person next to them was twisting their head, trying to find the wise answer while their senior raised their voice.
“Oh, I see. That’s what it means.”
Wait, do you already understand it?!
“As for the name ‘Nanashita(gami)’, it means six gods in total. The ‘shita’ (下) in Nanashita means one less than seven, which is six. And the ‘kami’ (上) means god. Therefore, it is ‘Nanashita(gami)’ that means six gods. What do you think?”
“That’s the correct answer. You’re surprisingly sharp-minded.”
The former mayor and the villagers are clapping their hands and praising.
“However, if they were trying to escape pursuers, wouldn’t it decrease their chances of being found if they had chosen a more common and ordinary name like Suzuki, rather than a unique and memorable one like Nanakagami?”
Senior’s question is valid. Unforgettable and unusual names may not be suitable as aliases when trying to hide from pursuers.
“It might be a matter of pride and honor. Even though they were being pursued, it would be a shame to abandon the name that had been passed down from their ancestors for generations. They may be in hiding now, but they wanted to show their unwavering determination to eventually master the Six Divine Arts.”
Although it was just an imaginary story, the speaker was so passionate that it seemed as if he was a part of the story.
Perhaps he was recalling the way people talked back then, since he was just retelling a story he heard from a friend.
“Now, returning to the topic at hand, the head of the Nanakagami family has a name that has been passed down through generations. It is ‘Tooru’.”
“I see…wait, could that mean…”
Senior suddenly realized something and his face showed it.
It took a moment, but I also understood what he meant.
“The Magician, Tooru King. Even as a stage name, those from that family would never use the name ‘Tooru.’ That person is the leader of the Nanakagami family,” I explained.
A gulp could be heard, but I couldn’t tell if it was from the senior or myself.
That name was also proof of being the head of the family.
“So, it may be a little early to be surprised. When you write the name ‘Tooru’ in kanji, it’s this,” said the senior, taking the notepad and pen he had and writing a single Chinese character in large letters.
“It’s still a bit too early to be surprised. When the name ‘Tooru’ is written in kanji…” the senior interrupted and borrowed a notepad and pen, writing a single character in large letters.
“通.” – (Tsu –in Japanese (pronounced “tsuu” or “tou”), it can also be read as “tooru” in Japanese.