Kagome never expected the auction house to be half so busy. People were everywhere with their pamphlets, eyeing various antiques for their value, attraction, and eccentricity. Georgian furniture with its dark stains competed with African tribal pieces, and amorphous modern art. The noise was tremendous, but walking the aisles, her feet knew the route to her purpose for attending this particular sale.
Her fingers ached, gliding a hair’s breadth across every surface her eyes absorbed. Classic, traditional Japanese furniture, tea sets, and ephemera lay neatly stacked and numbered. Kimonos, yukata, and obi hung on wooden dowels displaying their fabrics and their mon. Bowls, buckets, even shishi odoshi sat holding memories of time past. For the first time in eight years, Kagome breathed.
Silken wood, coarsely embroidered silk, the coolness of porcelain, the rough edges of bamboo, each touch elicited memory and feeling. Life poured from inanimate objects, bringing echoes of the past and future promises.
Jii-chan couldn’t stop gifting her with his random finds in the old storage sheds. Her small home appeared to be a preserved piece of history. Traditional furniture, tatami rooms in traditional styles, even traditional kitchenware and furnishings. Tokyo’s Edo museum had nothing on her home! Small doses of modern comfort peppered her home, but otherwise it was a replication of the past. The ease with which her grandfather moved within the space echoed her own need to shed her modern skin.
Her eye caught on wood and iron. The tansu she’d been eyeing since she’d heard it was for auction. She had two at home already, a step tansu for her storage access and a kusuri to store small treasures and her beloved teas and herbs. But this was unique – a katana-dansu. Not just any tansu, but one that had multiple locking compartments. Which were still locked.
No one knew what they contained, but only that any attempts to open them were met with failure. Aside from tearing apart the unique antique, (which thankfully no one desired to do) those drawers would remain a secret. The thrill of finally spotting the thing gave Kagome little shivers in the otherwise humid summer air. As she seemed to be the only interested party for the moment, she rushed to the piece to see if it really was all she’d hoped.
546. Item #546: 5 drawer katana-dansu, suspected to be late Edo period. Takahashi estate. Unique for its 4 locking drawers without visible locks. Attempts by previous owner to open its doors have failed and today it is being auctioned as a conversation piece.
Reserve 215,000 ¥
A waterfall of relief fell from her shoulders as she was struck with another shiver. Her bank account could handle the loss, but something was off. The room was too warm for these chills. Gingerly reaching, Kagome sought to touch one of the locked doors.
“Ouch!” Electricity or something like it zinged up her arm as the nearly forgotten feeling injected adrenaline into her system. Youki.
Price, style, condition, none of that mattered now.
Collecting her paddle, Kagome paused for just a moment before conferring with the organizer in charge.
“Excuse me, but could you explain more about the Takahashi estate and how their pieces came to auction today?”
“Hmm?,” the middle aged man paused to take stock of the young woman addressing him. Gathering his book and pushing his glasses back up his nose, he flipped to a page and answered.
“Oh! Yes, miss. The Takahashi estate was from an old family dating back beyond the Sengoku Jidai. Many of the pieces had been in storage for years, but the youngest son committed what you see here today to auction and pay off familial debt.”
“Apparently, he is off to university and couldn’t be bothered as the last of his family to maintain the massive estate. The full property is for sale next month if you are interested.”
“Ah, not at the moment, but thank you for your help.”
Turning away from the table, she maneuvered her way through the growing crowds to a seat where she could see the piece before auction and as it went on stage. No point in not being at least a little cautious. For all I know it could be another Noh mask.
Huffing gently, she watched the audience ebb and flow as individuals and larger groups arrayed themselves across the seating. Rich old ladies, antiques sellers, families and representatives of elites all took their places and chatted as they waited for the auction to begin.
A kindly looking older woman sat to Kagome’s right while her left was flanked by ropes and the antiques further beyond. The heat started to rise in the room as the gathering crowd congregated into the space. Kagome started to fan herself as her patience grew thinner waiting for the event to start.
“First time?” a sweet voice chimed in her ear.
“What? Oh! Yes,” Kagome said softly, turning to the grandmotherly figure. “Is it obvious?”
“Only because you’re using your paddle dear. Be careful not to fan yourself once things begin or you may bid for every item that comes up!” the older woman giggled.
Carefully setting her paddle in her lap, Kagome switched to using her program. “Are things usually this warm?”
“Only if they want to move things quickly,” her new friend said. “They have a lot to go through, and the warmer it is, the faster everyone bids so they can make it to a break,” confided the older woman. “I don’t complain though, the warmth feels good to these old bones.”
Kagome smiled, but politely angled her fan away from the woman, allowing her to enjoy the heat that stifled everyone else and set Kagome’s nerves ablaze while exhausting her energy. Now, she only had to make it through 545 items before she could finally make her bid.