An hour later, Elena sat at the foot of a long raised walkway made of wood, its surface lacquered to a lustrous shine. The walkway, a hanamichi or “flower path”, ran, left of center, from the back of the hall to a large stage at its far end, cutting through the length of the main floor. Elena sat on her knees where the walkway met the stage, Eiry at her side. He had brought her to the last place Elena had expected to be, an old Kabuki theatre.
The spaces to the left and right of the hanamichi—smaller on the left than the right, and set lower into the ground than the walkway—were lined in tatami and curiously gridded with wooden planks that divided the space into open squares, forming box seats. Raised platforms, also lined in tatami, formed viewing balconies that bordered the left and right perimeter of the two-story hall on each floor. Paper lanterns dotted a coffered ceiling and garlanded the spaces between the balconies’ wooden columns, bathing the hall in an otherworldly light. Beyond the balconies on the ground floor, Elena could see screens made of shoji, which separated the hall from the corridors that surrounded it. On their way into the hall, Elena had noticed several rain shutters lined the outermost walls of the corridors, some of which were propped open to let in the night air.
Facing Elena and Eiry, at the head of the stage, was a raised dais framed by a large curtain that spanned the length of the stage’s back wall. Of black silk and embroidered with clusters of red spider lilies woven in crimson and argent thread, the curtain provided an eerie backdrop to the company on the stage. A solitary man sat on the raised dais, dressed in a black kimono lined in white, with black hakama—loose trousers worn over the bottom half of his kimono. His obi was also white, and his haori, or kimono jacket, an icy pale green. He had a mane of jet-black hair that fell just past his shoulder blades. His eyes were steel-gray, and structured wisps of chin-length hair swept over his right eye framing an angular face. He was an extremely handsome man and looked only a few years older than Eiry, his seeming youth jarringly juxtaposed by the unmistakable age in his gaze.
In front of the dais, along the sides of the stage, were seated a conclave of creatures unlike any Elena had ever seen, beings that made it impossible for her to dismiss Eiry's assertions of the existence of the supernatural and the divine; they were the Hyakki Yakō, the Night Parade of One Hundred Demons, which according to Japanese folklore would take to the streets every year during summer nights—a story familiar to even the youngest of Japanese children. This nightly parade was made up of demons, spirits and monsters known as yōkai, and their leader was one called Nurarihyon. Eiry sought to hide Elena among them and for this purpose had brought her here, to a long-forgotten theatre in the mountains outside of Kyoto.
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