Chapter 3: Visiting a God and Giving Him a Precious Gift
70- Does your character have a role model or someone they aspire to be like? Draw or write them interacting with the person they look up to most.
Word Count: 1494
The piles of gifts that Kyanoko had brought back with her were appreciated. They ranged from neat textiles to tasty snacks not found on Kyanoko’s home world. But Mama was just appreciative of her daughter’s visit. Mama had cooked Kyanoko dinner with some of the fun meats and spices and it was delicious. But as with all nice things, Kyanoko’s time with Mama would have to end.
But before she left her world, Kyanoko had another important trip to make. She made her way into the public square where humans and human-friendly yokai walked the streets together. Kyanoko made her way to the shrine of her favored god- Unkaneko. The tanuki would usually offer her prayers and some expensive spice to the god of merchants and fortune. But on this visit, she had something that the god might find a little more interesting.
Kyanoko waited patiently and respectfully for her chance to offer her tribune to the god as others made their quiet prayers. Surrounding and maintaining the shrine were dozens of calico cats, the choice shrine guardian of Unkaneko. They ushered the crowd to keep traffic steady and moving smoothly. Soon, Kyanoko reached an area where she could see the god’s avatar.
A cat, easily a man and a half long rested on comfortable cushions in the middle of the shrine. Several coins bobbed and twirled around the cat in a beautiful glittering display. The coins came from all eras and all zones. Every coin had a history to be told. From an oval bronze coin, aged green with a stamp of a long-dead emporer to a golden circular coin with a square hole punched in the middle. The god-avatar watched people come into the shrine and pray, offering a slow blink or a nod to acknowledge their presence as they basked in its divinity.
Then came Kyanoko’s turn as a shrine guardian, sensing her intent to offer, ushered her to a corner close to the avatar. There, she could pray and place her offering into a bronze bowl before her. It was already occupied with coins, gemstones, beads, and marks of success for a business. But Kyanoko was certain Unkaneko would take interest in her offering.
Before now, the giant god-cat had only given Kyanoko a passing glance and a moment of eye contact. But after she finished her prayer and ended it with her offering, she opened her eyes to see the cat had sat up and almost looked as though it was trying to peer into the offering bowl. One of the shrine guardians standing near it bowed and the cat turned to talk to it. They spoke in a language unhearable by undivine ears. The cat bowed again and scampered away.
Kyanoko spent her visit after the shrine the traditional Kyanoko way- enjoying dango. A vendor set up shop near Unkaneko’s shrine, outside of the most divine area, but still inside sacred ground. There, those looking to visit the shrine could purchase dango, where the proceeds after maintaining the business would become donations to shrine maintenance.
The tanuki had bought herself a skewer of lucky kitten dango- a specialty dango skewer where the dumplings are stamped with edible ink to look like cats. They would taste the same as other dango, but they’re stuffed with a sticky savory filling that’s unique to the lucky kitten skewer. As Kyanoko chewed on her sticky dango, she felt something tugging at her sleeve.
She looked down to see a small bipedal calico cat pulling on her clothing. The cat was holding a staff that reached well over his head. Dangling at the end was a bell that the tanuki had long since tuned out. Kyanoko swallowed what was in her mouth, a bigger task than initially anticipated.
“My Divine Lord, Unkaneko, has requested your presence, merchant Kyanoko Haru.” the cat bowed and gestured for the tanuki to follow.
“It would be my honor to accept.” Kyanoko bowed. It was a formality to accept, of course. No one who wanted to stay in the favor of gods would deny their summonings. And Unkaneko was particular about his company.
The divine messenger brought Kyanoko through the streets and lead her back to the shrine. They would take a secret and guarded entrance to below the shrine. It was well-lit with paper lanterns that shone with a radiance uncharacteristic of fire. They came to a sliding door and the calico tapped at Kyanoko’s sandals, telling her to leave them here. She obeyed and the cat brought her into the room. In the middle, there was a kotatsu table resting on top of a cushioned blanket. The table was adorned with a small banquet of foods appropriate for the hour.
“My Divine Lord wishes that you make yourself comfortable.” the messenger said. “He will be with you shortly.”
Before Kyanoko could say anything, the calico left. And so, slowly, she made her way to the kotatsu table and brought her legs underneath. She sighed happily for its warmth. She was in the middle of sipping a tea when the door opposite where Kyanoko entered slid open. Two calicos, both gold, entered the room first.
They declared to the room even though Kyanoko was the only occupant that the Divine Lord Unkaneko was approaching. As such, Kyanoko left her comfortable position from under the table and readied herself to bow. When the cats bowed, a figure entered the room. Kyanoko wasted no time on inspecting who came, knowing immediately it was divine, and went through the motions of a bow for a divine presence.
“You may rise.” the figure said, his voice smooth and warm. And Kyanoko did so, finally able to look upon divinity. She wasn’t surprised to see it was another avatar of the god but was surprised that it was a personable form.
Unkaneko mostly mimicked a human, but couldn’t resist his divine flairs. Most notably, he replaced the odd flat ears of a human with those of a cat, added a cat tail, and his eyes were slitted. His hair was tricolored and his skin looked like that of a human with vitiligo. Around him, of course, were his signature coins. This was a different collection from the divine avatar resting above the shrine. It was smaller and Kyanoko assumed these were some of his favorites.
He held one hand behind his back and in his other hand, he held up a coin. One that Kyanoko immediately recognized as the one she gave to him as an offering. He was inspecting it, soaking in every detail of the engraving and seeing how it caught the light. The avatar of Unkaneko lowered his hand and make eye contact with Kyanoko, a curious spark in his eyes.
“You have brought me a rather interesting gift, merchant Kyanoko.” he finally spoke again. He gestured for her to sit and join him at the table. “I can sense this has value to a civilization. But one that is foreign to me. How did you come across it?”
Kyanoko shared her story with the god. She talked of Pavia and the interesting world separate from their own. Of the Paperverse and its unique system of several worlds being connected with one another. Every world had offered something special and Kyanoko wanted to take her time on each one. She had found some success on Pavia as a merchant, surrounded by like-minded folk. The tanuki had simply wanted to give back to the god who she had prayed for success.
During her story weaving, the Divine Lord had gestured for her to eat. She ate and occasionally the avatar of Unkaneko would take a scrap of food here and there and pop it into his mouth. He didn’t need to eat, but it was awkward for mortals to eat alone in the presence of another. Kyanoko appreciated his joining.
When Kyanoko was finished explaining Pavia and how she received the coin she wrapped up by telling him why she wanted to offer her off-world coin. All the while, the very Pavian coin was resting on the table to her left. Having been touched by the divine, it lustered in a holy glow. Unkaneko picked the coin back up in a delicate motion of his hands and inspected it once more. There was a subtle, but proud smile on his lips that made Kyanoko feel warm.
“To think that there are worlds beyond our own.” he sighed, lovingly and longingly staring at the engraving of a chlorosaur on the back. “And to think someone capable of travelings to these other worlds thought to bring me such a kind gift. Thank you, Kyanoko.”
Unkaneko flicked the coin into the air and in a wink, the coin disappeared. But with close enough inspection, Kyanoko could find her offering resting in the small cloud of coins that surrounded the god.