Koji looked at the assorted items he’d gathered and hoped it was enough. He’d never attempted magic before. Pushing down the feeling of panic that was threatening to burble out of his stomach and into his throat, he shouted the words to finish the rite.
Koji blinked and looked around him. Where was the powerful kami the ritual should have summoned? He hung his head, about to limp away, until he heard a tiny cough followed by a slurping noise. He looked down. Sitting in front of him was a tiny yokai with a bird’s beak and three fish tails drinking a bowl of tea. It gazed up at him with its large eyes. He could not decide if it was more adorable or grotesque. Either way, he knew he should still be polite.
“Hello,” he said.
“Hello,” she trilled. “Would you care for some tea?”
“No, thank you. I’m sorry to have bothered you. I was hoping to summon someone, er, bigger.”
She blinked at him again. “Why?”
Koji flushed and looked away. “I had hoped they could train me. To be a strong warrior, like my brother was.”
“I wouldn’t be much help there. Are you sure that’s what you wanted?”
“Yes! He saved so many, like a hero in a story. I want to be one too, even though—”
“Oh, I see now. I can help you.”
“You can teach me to fight?” Koji’s eyes widened.
“No,” she said. “I’ll help you save lives.”
“I’ll give you knowledge.”
“How will that help?”
“Have you heard people wishing they could go back to such and such time to do something that would have made a situation better? The moment to act is now. I’ll tell you what actions to take. But they will be simple, not the stuff of stories. You’ll get no praise or reward from anyplace other than your heart. Will that do?”
Koji thought of his brother and nodded. She told him of a coming plague and how to stay safe. When she finished, she gave him her tea bowl, which grew to fit his hands.
“Share the knowledge as you would share tea,” she said before disappearing.
"Thank you," he replied.
Liner Notes for This Groove: This short story was created for Poetry and Storytellers United's Weekly Scribblings #13: All the Small Things. It was inspired by an Atlas Obscura article about a healing spirit known as Amabie. You can also find out more about Amabie at Yokai.com After reading about her, I couldn't help by try my hand at drawing her too.
Song Choice: The Next Right Thing from Frozen II