Something belies your expectations.
Something just won't go your way.
Something leaves you at a loss.
Occurrences like these are hardly rare.
For instance, let's consider a common purchase: some buy brand named articles only to find out that they were ripped off, others purchase something on the Internet and get something entirely different from what they were expecting. Stories like these are a dime a dozen.
Everyone has had such experiences more than just once or twice, and dealt with them them either by just leaving things as is or by returning the article.
But if that article happens to be a Relic, that won't do.
If it merely turns out to be fake, that's one thing.
But if it's real and its power turns out to be wholly different than expected, then it's no laughing matter.
Absolutely no laughing matter.
A child lay in bed, breathing painfully.
Not even 10 years old, she had apparently been suffering from a high fever for three days. The heat had flushed her face, and on her forehead sweat beads kept appearing no matter how many times her mother wiped them off. From time to time, she coughed with pain, only to groan afterward, with her head aching from the sudden movement.
There was no doctor in the village. The only profession there among the fields was farming.
There was no medicine in the village, either. While sometimes wandering medicine sellers came by to spend the night, the villagers hadn't any money with which to buy from them. From time to time the villagers could get some medicine in exchange for a bed and a breakfast, but nowhere near enough for everyone.
Thus, rest was the only cure available.
Thus, whoever aggravated his illness would die.
We became aware of these dire circumstances on the day we arrived.
"I beg you, please save our child!"
It was no wonder that the child's parents relied on us, given how things were in the village. For we had played doctor in the past.
Yes, you could say that we had played doctor.
But that was not quite accurate.
In fact, we did not use any medicine nor perform any operations.
His touch was all there was to it.
It was just my master touching the sick.
"You needn't worry anymore," he whispered softly and touched the child's forehead with his right hand.
A moment later—
Her wild breathing started to calm down bit by bit. The high fever that had made her cheeks red and had brought the sweat to her brow disappeared into oblivion. The endless cycle of painful coughing was broken and the child opened her eyes as if nothing had happened.
"Mm? What's the matter?"
These were her first words after three long days of high fever.
Her parents burst into tears when they realized that she had survived after all, and embraced their wondering child.
The onlooking villagers were speechless with admiration at first, but then started to overwhelm us with words of appreciation and admiration.
His touch would heal any disease on the spot.
His touch would heal any wound on the spot.
It was a miracle that could hardly come from a human hand.
Divinity dwelt in his right hand—
With a casual greeting I, Tokiya Kurusu, entered the shop.
The interior was stuffed with miscellaneous items such as accessories, jars, portraits and whatnot. "Stuffed"—not "stocked"—for it looked much more like a storeroom than a store. Though many storerooms may, in fact, be tidier.
And this deserted backstreet shop, the Tsukumodo Antique Shop (FAKE), was where I worked part-time.
Normally, a rather curt girl all in black was supposed to be standing there behind the counter, but she was, apparently, in the other part of the building.
I opened the door at the back and went further inside. The shop was directly connected to the residence of the two.
I entered the living room and, instead of the people I was looking for, found something strange on the table.
It was a potted plant and a doll of a dog. Some sort of weed was planted in the pot and tied to the doll by some cord. Moreover, there was a clock face on the pot with a hand indicating the time.
Upon closer inspection, it appeared to be an alarm clock and it was set to 5pm.
In fact, it happened to be just one minute before 5 o'clock. The dog opened its eyes and started to stroll about on the table, pulling the weed slowly out of the pot.
By all appearances it was some kind of automaton clock, although I didn't quite get its purpose. ?
As the weed was being pulled out, its brown root slowly became visible. Watching the root closely, that part started to look to me like a human head and gave me the shivers.
I was, however, unsurprised. After all, the owner of this shop was a sucker for such gimmicks.
But wow, that's one grotesque alarm clock. I wouldn't want to wake up to that thing every morning.
These thoughts crossed my mind, while the dog kept moving away from the pot step by step, revealing more of the head-like root.
That alarm clock kinda reminded me of something.
Let me think...
Wasn't there some tale or legend where dogs were used to pull up some kind of plant?
What was it called again...? Mm...
"Ah. It was a mandrake."
When a mandrake root is pulled up, the plant screams and kills all who hear it, which is why dogs are used to do the picking...
"...Oh no, please not."
It was just when a bad premonition struck me that the clock hand pointed at the five and the dog doll made the last step.
The head-like root slipped out of the pot and raised a scream while pulling a face like The Scream by Edvard Munch.
I knocked over the mandrake clock.
The clock fell onto the floor and continued to groan there.
"Tch, just a fake," flicked a woman as she appeared as though she had been watching the whole time.
It was the owner of this shop as well as my employer, Towako Settsu.
She was probably best described as a cool beauty. Well-formed eyebrows adorned her face, a strong will shone in her eyes, and smooth black hair of a brilliant luster reached down to her waist. She had a slender build and was a wee bit taller than me, whose body size was equal to that of the average high-schooler, making her appearance quite provocative. The same could be said for her clothes: she wore a skin-tight shirt with a jacket and slim leather pants that accentuated her long legs.
However, her behavior was far removed from her looks.
Not only did she collect bizarre oddities, but she also found it funny to test them on me like a kiddie.
That said, it was not like she collected those oddities just for a hobby.
In fact, what she collected were known as Relics.
Not antiques or objects of art, but tools with special abilities created by mighty ancients or magicians, or objects that have absorbed their owners' grudges or natural spiritual powers.
In tales and legends, there are often tools that have special powers; for instance, a stone that brings good luck, a doll whose hair grows night after night, a mirror that shows your future appearance, a sword that brings ruin to anyone who draws it.
Everybody has most likely heard of their existence.
However, people consider them mere fantasies because they have not seen them, they do not notice them even if they are right before their eyes, and they believe in some sort of coincidence if something mysterious occurs.
Some feel unconcerned, while others are certain such things do not exist.
Regrettably though, Relics are closer to us than we may think.
Her hobby was to collect those Relics.
Well, most of the times, like this time, she was conned into buying fakes.
"A lot of cash went out of the window for this mandrake clock..." grumbled Towako-san after switching off the still-crying clock.
"Just for the record: what would happen if it were real?"