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To all those who asked me to dedicate a book to them — here it is.

But mostly, to my family and the Author.

Chapter 1

Tsurugu no Kiyomori bowed low over the polished floor. “I am at your service, tono.”

“I am glad to hear it,” answered Naka no Yoritomo. “We can be only relieved by the presence of an accomplished onmyouji. Your service in protecting our household and our new wife will be greatly appreciated and greatly rewarded.”

“The thanks of the daimyou is recompense enough,” replied Tsurugu. “I am grateful that you have honored one such as myself with this trust.”

“You have been entrusted with more than this,” Naka no Yoritomo said significantly. “You will find in your room an additional token of our faith.”

Tsurugu bowed a final time and then followed a silent servant to his new room, observing the carefully-kept grounds with a casual eye. Naka no Yoritomo was a wealthy man and inclined to display it, in everything from his immaculate gardens to his hiring of an onmyouji mystic to protect his bride. Tsurugu’s stay would be pleasant, provided he pleased the daimyou.

Naka no Yoritomo believed that a local kitsune meant to work mischief upon him or his new wife, Fujitani no Kaede. There had been strange incidents in the countryside of late, with objects of value disappearing and irrational stories offered by confused laborers for missing goods and missing hours. There had even been a recent case of kitsune-tsuki in the farmers’ village below, a poor young girl possessed by a fox spirit and driven to madness. The villagers had beaten and burned her in an attempt to drive out the fox, but she had broken free and run screaming into the woods.

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