Shiva’s auntie comes back for her and is horrified to find an Outsider chasing after them! Town guards load the two into the back of a wagon and shoot arrows at Teacher, which do nothing but stun him, and they manage to get away. Shiva and her aunt set back up in their old house in the eastern village of the town, but Shiva misses Teacher. Shiva doesn’t have any signs of having been touched and cursed by an Outsider, but that isn’t true for other folks in the town. She runs away from the king’s men once again and finds herself in the forest with Teacher. The two go back to their house but Shiva is so exhausted she falls asleep on the floor of the hallway, unable to make it to her room.
Mogumo just wishes they could have some friends to truly understand them. When Tetsu seems this wish from his classmate, he invites Mogumo to work at his family’s cafe. The workers there are otokonoko - they are boys who dress as girls, maids on this instance. After some initial consternation about introducing themselves as an otokonoko, the staff conclude that everyone can identify how they wish, and Mogumo doesn't have to offer up any gender in their introduction. Tetsu and the rest of Mogumo's coworkers work towards understanding Mogumo's feelings about gender, and this prompts a few others to start exploring their own identities -- maybe it's not just as simple as dressing up in clothes of the opposite gender ... maybe there's a bit more to the feeling they get from wearing these outfits.
In the previous volume, Chise stopped a little dragon from going on a destroying an auction house and killing lots of people, but the cost is that she is now suffering from a dragon's curse. According to Elias, there are no known ways to break the curse. Chise tries to console him by reminding him she has a shortened life as a Sleigh Beggy anyway, but Elias is consumed with trying to find a way to save her. The two are visited by Marielle, a witch with a very special coven who claim they can break Chise's curse, but there's a price: Chise will have to join the coven. Chise visits the witches to figure out if they're telling the truth or not, and Elias is consumed with worry that he might lose her forever.
Hanako's love for her favorite author moves her to travel from Japan to England in the early 1900s, in search of more information and potentially studying under him. To her disappointment, the author is extremely secretive, and the publisher won't release any details. Alice Douglas, a noblewoman, takes pity on Hanako's plight and offers her a job as her personal maid. They both share a love for this hermit of an author, so Alice offers Hanako a place to stay and employment while she waits for the author to make contact. Alice is also betrothed to a kind English gentlemen, but that doesn't stop the rumors from flying. Many warn Alices' fiancé to intervene between Alice and Hanako before there becomes a repeat situation - Alice becoming too close and too friendly with her maidservant.
Another Outsider has broken into the house and threatens to curse Shiva. Teacher takes an ax to it and chops off its head, but that doesn’t kill it. The stranger mutters some things about Shiva’s soul, and its “mother,” and it intrigues Teacher. The now-headless one teases Teacher, saying he knows how to lift the curse, and he brings Teacher to “Mother,” who is under the water in a deep lake. Teacher only learns of more disturbing news rather than a cure for Shiva, so the two head home in defeat. Strangely though, Shiva doesn’t show any of the classic signs of one who is cursed. Inside, a Father sets into motion the plan to bring back the girl from the other side for some unknown purpose.
Zaha Sanko is cursed - one bone from his body will grant the bearer any wish they desire, so you can imagine how many people are after him. When some junkers catch Zaha floating in space, they realize who he is by his injuries and his special dark paggy (special space backpack). Sanko and his skeleton friend, Avakian, overpower the crew with their special “Dark Flesh” armor and weapons. We then saunter down memory lane as Sanko recounts his time on an elementary school station where he made friends with a creature of death named Shimada, who feeds off of souls and finds Sanko amusing. Shimada, fortunately, is a perfectly content being, and thus has no reason to try and take one of Sanko's bones.
In this kingdom there are two sides: Inside and Outside. Those on the Outside are cursed and can infect those from the inside. Those living on the Inside live behind tall walls and search for anyone who may be “infected” in order to banish them to the Outside. Shiva is a young girl who was suspected of being infected, and now lives Outside, eagerly waiting for the day her aunt will come retrieve her. She lives with Teacher, an Outsider who is very careful not to touch Shiva or allow her to touch him. The two forage for food, chop firewood, have tea parties, and read stories to pass the time. Teacher knows no one is coming for Shiva and struggles with how to keep her alive and happy.
The friends continue to get letters from their future selves that warn them of choices and events that might lead to a tragedy. In the future, we see some speculation about how they can send letters to their former selves. The friends in the present and in the future worry about Suwa, whose future might completely change if they are successful in helping their past selves. The sports festival is coming up, and the letters warn how this event shaped their futures, and offer suggestions on how to stop the bad future from coming to pass. Later, the friends go to a shrine for New Years, and Naho is extremely worried. This outing is where everything can change in the battle make everything right, and one little misstep could ruin all of their hard work.
Chise accidentally puts Elias under a strong sleeping spell, and she seeks counsel from Angie to brew a counter-potion to wake him up. The process of making the potion tires Chise out, and she sleeps for two days to recover! In her dreams, Chise connects with the powerful menace, Josef, who is searching for a way to successfully recover or replace his severed left arm. Meanwhile, two dragon chicks from Linden's aerie find themselves in trouble after wandering away at night, and they are kidnapped by dragon poachers. Chise, Elias, and three alchemists agree to help find the chicks and bring them back to the aerie. Chise's skills at making "friends" helps the group locate one dragon chick at a rarities auction house. They enter as potential buyers and plan to pool their money together to buy the chick, but the panicking young dragon escalates the situation to a dangerous level.
Chise and Alice Christmas shop in London, and both are stuck when it comes to finding a present for their masters. While walking around, they run into two men from Alice’s past, which prompts Alice to share some of her tragic backstory with Chise. When Chise returns home, she finds Elias is fairly miffed about her leaving without asking, but it turns out, he has been keeping tabs on her through her necklace and a contraption that can see her but not hear anything. Chise initially admonishes Elias for spying on her and not trusting her, but she comes to understand his fears for her safety and wellbeing.
I've been reading manga and comicbooks for years. Now, I write reviews and other helpful things for School Librarians, teachers, parents, and students.
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