Last volume: evil teacher Nachi was the one who basically sent Aoi to Momochi House, wanting to capture and control the power of the Omamori-sama. He was also the one behind the paper seals, one of which harmed the dragon god Ryujin. Thanks to the residents of Momochi house, Nachi is defeated but it seems Aoi can’t transform back from the Nue!
We start off with Himari having breakfast but she doesn’t seem to have much appetite. It’s been three days since the the shikigami ushered the Nue away and kept him isolated in a part of Momochi house. Himari asks Yukari if she can go see the Nue which is okay for little while.
The Nue is kept in a part of the house Himari’s never seen before with these special ropes to seal him in the room. For his peace of mind, the Nue says. When Himari visits him, the Nue explains that when Nachi was defeated, Aoi’s memories should have returned right away. Only they didn’t so Aoi’s memories of his past still haven’t returned and that human part of him that he lost is being filled by an ayakashi.
The void in Aoi
Himari resolves to find out about Aoi’s past and get the Nue to turn back. After she leaves the room, Kasha appears through the rear screen to give his two cents. He remarks how Himari never even asked the Nue if he wanted to turn back. Kasha’s scheming again and the Nue pretty much tells him it’s none of his business and not to touch Himari.
Kasha sneaking in
At school, Rui comes up to Himari and tells her she found the Nanamori house in a town on the other side of the mountain. Handing out candy for the children’s association, Rui ran out before she could give some to the Nanamori house. She gives a couple of bags to Himari to take and tells her that Nanamori family had lost a child.
Himari goes to visit the family with Ise, who came along per the Nue’s orders. As they’re walking, Himari suddenly gets splashed with water!
Turns out it was Mrs. Nanamori who accidentally got Himari. While drying her clothes inside, Himari talks to her a bit and offers a bag a of candy for her child. Mrs. Nanamori assures that it’s just one bag that’ll do. Himari notices a there’s no resemblance between her and Aoi.
Aoi’s family, pt 1
Her uniform dry Himari takes her leave. As she’s leaving, a little girl comes home. Her name is Akane. Her mother admonishes her for walking home alone but Akane assure her that her dad had picked her up.
Aoi’s family, pt 2
Mr. Nanamori walks through the gate and thanks Himari for stopping by. Himari notices that Aoi looks like his dad.
Aoi’s family pt 3
Akane unwraps her gum and wins a prize. She decides to catch Himari before she gets too far and thank her.
Up ahead Ise and Himari are discussing whether or not that was Aoi’s family and Ise tells her that Akane is an ayakashi, which Akane overhears. Alone in some bushes, Akane is muttering to herself about how they know about Aoi. With a frightening look on her face, she decides that she’ll just devour them.
Kasha and the Nue are watching Himari with Kasha assuring the Nue that he won’t lay a hand on her as she’s insignificant. He asks if they should make a wager.
Of course, the Nue is not about to something as foolish as that. Kasha tells the Nue to play a game with him, saying neither of them will interfere with Himari’s search. Kasha says that if Himari doesn’t find Aoi’s past he’ll just take it for himself, whatever that means.
Meanwhile Himari is trying to get Ise to tell her what he meant about Akane being an ayakashi. Ise’s not budging though, and Yukari comes in and tells Himari that as Aoi’s shikigami they can’t tell her anything that Aoi won’t.
Later that night, Himari’s lying in bed thinking about how she’s hit a dead end. She knows that Aoi is on the verge of forgetting his human self and becoming a full ayakashi. She wonders what she would do in his situation.
Suddenly she hears a clattering sound coming from her drawers. It’s the winter cherry lantern Nekobaba gave her last volume. It’s lighting up and is showing Himari a path.
Light the path
Kasha and Nue watch as Himari enters the spiritual realm. While Kasha tries to interfere, the Nue keeps distractions off her path. Then Himari is led to a gate and meets its guardian.
Watching the board
At first, the guardian of the gate wants to devour her but as it turns out he ran out of sake. Since Himari doesn’t have a pass to go through the gate, the guardian will have to accept her soul in exchange.
Guardian of the gate
No wine with dinner
The guardian says anyone’s soul will do if she doesn’t want to give hers up or he’ll take the next best thing: her name. He can’t take the Momochi name from her so he looks at her first name, Himari.
What’s in a name?
I’m assuming Himari doesn’t know the kanji (Japanese characters) that spell out her name so she spells it with hiragana like this: ひまり
The guardian can see the kanji for her name and decide to take a kanji from it. Suddenly, the cherry lantern breaks and the guardian takes its light instead as payment. The Hi in her name means “light.”
The gate is opened and Himari is led to the place she wishes which turns out to be the drawer of thought. The guardian of the gate wishes her farewell and hopes he has some sake the next time they meet which Himari doubts they’ll see each other again.
Drawers of Thought
The record keeper asks for her name and Himari tells it to her and that she’s looking for Aoi’s past. Himari is led to Aoi’s drawer but before she can do anything she’s warned that only one soul can open one drawer. She’s shown her own drawer which contains all her memories, karma, and who her parents were.
Himari thinks back to what the guardian said about her name, how she doesn’t know what the ma and ri mean. Why her parents chose the name they did and what kind of people they were.
Even so, Himari decides to open Aoi’s drawer anyway. She opens the drawer and a young Aoi comes out and proceeds to tell her about his past.
Back to the past
Aoi lived in an ordinary house with a dad who was often away at work and sickly mom and seven “siblings.” He can also see ayakashi but is told by his big sis to pretend they don’t exist so he can survive on his own. His mom dies and the siblings disappear and is shocked when his dad tells him he’s an only child.
The Seven Siblings
Looks like Aoi inherited his ability to see ayakashi from his mother as she could see the children too. Those children were called zashiki warashi, child spirits that bring good fortune to the home they inhabit.
Aoi’s dad marries his secretary who’s a kind woman but it seems like the ayakashi want to ruin the relationship. He stills sees ayakashi which causes his stepmom to wonder if he’s making up stories because he hates her and wants to drive her away.
Realizing the ayakashi show up because of him, he tries to distance himself from everyone. His stepmom becomes pregnant with Akane and the difficulty of the pregnancy makes her anxious. The ayakashi start to influence her and she takes it out on Aoi which explains the bruises Nachi notices in his flashback.
Aoi thinks about Nachi telling him to go to Momochi house but he remembers his stepmom yelling at him about how worried she was when he didn’t come home on time.
He rushes back home to apologize to his stepmom (he just calls her “mom” actually) and tell her he’s looking forward to having a new sister. Aoi finds her sleeping at the table and just as he’s about to tell her a voice coming from her stomach tells him he should just disappear.
Rosemary’s Baby: In the Womb
That part made me mad right there. Stupid ayakashi possessing an unborn baby and then telling Aoi he should disappear? Grrrr. Well, we find out why in the next volume.
Blaming himself for his unborn sister becoming an ayakashi, Aoi runs into the forest to Momochi house which concludes the flashback.
Aoi’s negative karma tries to trap Himari in the drawer, but the record keeper comes to her rescue. Himari notices her body getting younger as the keeper explains that because of his powers, Aoi is destined to have weak ties to his blood relatives. Himari starts to look back as the young Aoi pleads for her to stay with him only for the record keeper to tell her if she does she’ll never get home. More children show up and the keeper is revealed to be Aoi’s big sis and the rest of his siblings help Himari home and tell her to look after Aoi for them.
Siblings to the rescue!
Himari ends back where she started and after a silent thank you to Aoi’s brothers and sisters rushes to find Aoi.
The Nue is still in the room he’s confined to, not transformed back into Aoi. Himari goes into the room to tell the Nue all she discovered. The Nue teases her a little bit before pulling her closer asking her if she dislikes his ayakashi form. He calls her a bad girl (*giggle*) and says that maybe she’s already entranced by him.
There’s a spelling error in the book. It says, “Perhaps you’re already entranced be me” instead of “you’re already entranced by me.” Irks me a little but what are you gonna do? *shrugs*
Ise finds a letter addressed to Himari from Akane and opens it, which reads that Aoi is dead.
Letter from a Thief
A little but a rewind shows Kasha and the Nue after Himari finds Aoi’s past. Kasha says since the Nue won the wager he’ll grant him a wish but the Nue tells him to get out before he can finish the sentence. He remarks how the Nue still hasn’t changed back.
Present time: Himari is being drawn in by the Nue who says “I should just make you mine.” Himari manages to regain her senses (good job!) and get the Nue back on topic.
She notices the hourglass left behind by Kasha and the Nue confesses he knows everything that happened in the drawers of thought since he and Kasha were watching the whole time.
Himari asks if Aoi blames himself for Akane being an ayakashi which his silence confirms. She tells him she visited the Nanamori house where Akane is living as a normal child. The Nue tells her that Akane’s home is not like Momochi house and reminds her of how Hidaka suffered at his house with the kitsune spirits.
The Nue says that humans and ayakashi can’t coexist together. Himari realizes that Aoi’s feelings of guilt are what’s keeping him from accepting his past and changing back. She resolves once more to bring him back to his original form.
Later, Himari heads back to the Nanamori residence after reading Akane’s message with Ise in tow. On the path, they run into a sinister-looking Akane who accuses them of looking for Aoi.
The area starts to become part of the spiritual realm and Akane runs off with Ise in pursuit. Himari hears a scream and rushes to the Nanamori house as Mr. Nanamori comes outside. He tells her Akane is missing and his wife is naturally upset. They go looking for Akane since her dad keeps get lost near the house and can’t make any phone calls.
Mr. Nanamori asks why Himari came and when she says she got a letter from Akane asks if she came alone. He says Akane told them Himari was with some boy but he and his wife only saw Himari. He believes Ise took Akane and explains that before they moved to their current home a man came by to visit their old house after Akane was born.
Mr. Nanamori can’t remember the man’s face but knows he was otherworldly. The man cleaned the house of ayakashi and after, the Nanamoris moved to another town. Soon after they discover their former house was hit by lightning and burned down. Thanks to the mysterious man they survived but his parting words disturbed Mr. Nanamori.
As he left the man said he was taking something they had lost. Because of that, Mr. Nanamori and his wife are terrified that man will come back and take something from them again.
Himari asks if he remembers Aoi and Mr. Nanamori is shocked she knows about Aoi. He tells her Aoi is dead.
Pheew, that was a long one! Sorry about that, but a lot happened in this book. There are two sides in this volume, one about a play on Kabe-don (which is the act of cornering someone by slamming your hand on a wall above them) and a little alternate universe short called “Momochi Private Academy.” Schoolgirl Himari wants to give Valentine’s chocolates to hot teacher Mr. Nue and is snagged in a triangle with sweet classmate, Aoi. Eventually, it’s just a dream Himari is having but totally funny.
So who’s the mysterious man? My first thought was Kasha but he would’ve collected by now and that was too nice for him to clean house and walk away. So who is it? And what do the Nanamoris mean that Aoi is dead? Do they somehow remember him? All will be revealed next volume!!