"Fire Dancer" Preview
The name on the plaque said Miyu's Sorcerous Emporium. The shop wasn't exactly what one would describe as noticeable from the outside. It was a little traditionally-designed shop in between two modern shopping buildings in Akihabara, with nothing about it that you'd really think would stand out apart from that – and let's face it, more than one shop has tried to look anachronistic in hyper-modern Tokyo as a marketing stunt. It gets old after a while. I suppose the name should have been some manner of dead giveaway, but I live in Tokyo, where strange English names are practically required reading. You'd never actually expect one to be named accurately without knowing that was the case beforehand if you knew anything about the language. As you can probably imagine, I spent a long, long time slapping myself in the face. I'd spent the better part of a year trying to find information on the mystical and the unknown, passing by that exact shop on a daily basis. I could have skipped running errands for my cousin Aki the whole time and just walked in! Then again, I'd never have actually known to walk in if I hadn't traded almost a year of running errands for her in exchange for the knowledge that the shop even existed, let alone what I'd find inside. The first thing I realized was that the patterns on the doors were not conventional. Most places of the sort, along with private residences in the same style, used blank ones, with a distinct lack of ornamentation to serve as the ornamentation – blessed sleek minimalism! No, instead I find that there are patterns there, but not of the natural scenes or family crests you'd expect. No, Miyu's Sorcerous Emporium had gears and machinery and pipes and industrial imagery on the paper. It was like looking at some vast nondescript factory that you could tell made something, but you couldn't see enough of the whole thing to tell what, exactly, was being made. And I swear – I swear – I heard them move and click as I went inside. Smoke assaulted my senses as soon as I stepped inside, like someone had done a lot of fancy smoking in there. The kind of smoke you can only get when you've got someone exotically, impossibly beautiful smoking out of a fancy pipe and it might not have been mixed with something I felt that I didn't want to know about at all. It all came blowing out like some great wind pushed them out of the interior and into my face, which in retrospect might have actually been the case. It took a few minutes before I finally caught a glimpse of the one behind all the smoke. For some reason, the first thing I noticed was the wall behind her. It was much like the doors, down to the same strange industrial designs rather than nature scenes I expected. Fascinating, I remember thinking, but I wasn't there to discuss artistic deviations from age-old traditions. I approached to get a better look at the woman sitting on a dais in the most elaborate and most dull kimono I'd ever laid eyes on. It was perfect white silk, unimaginably high-quality, but ruined by the dull gray pattern of machinery, cogs, gears, and industrial implements. She sat there, wearing that, and with every slow and deliberate gesture, I could see the cogs and gears moving on the silk. An optical effect or a delusion caused by the smoke earlier, but it all seemed so real at the time. I don't know why, but I felt certain that they were moving and that was not only the explanation for it, but the only reasonable one. She was quite lovely. Fair-skinned, with small lips in tasteful red, little blue eyes you keep being told you should fall for, and just enough of an air of allure about her that kept you from looking away. She had a flower pinned in her hair, but I can't even begin to tell you what it was. It certainly didn't look like anything I'd seen before. The gears and cogs and machinery on the kimono moved but blissfully made no sound as she turned her attention from the saucer of sake in her left hand to my presence in her shop. I should point out now that, for something calling itself an 'emporium' on the plaque above the door, the place looked rather empty. There didn't seem to be anything in the shop other than the mats, the dais, some clay jars of sake, and myself and the woman I assumed was the proprietor. For a place that claimed it was 'sorcerous' it didn't feel all that magical either. Well, unless you count the turning gears on the paper and kimono patterns, of course. There were no sources of light inside but the room was bright, but I didn't notice that until later, mid-conversation. I had begun to suspect Aki had misinformed me, which was unlike her. "I assure you, your cousin did not misinform you." Those were the exact first words to come out of the woman's mouth while she motioned for me to take a seat on one of the cushions. "This place is indeed where she believes you will find what you seek, but only at a cost. I trust she has provided an explanation of the rules?"