Seeing Izzy begin to flounder for an answer, Riley piped in, "A child without a shadow or a shape. No existence, and -until yesterday- no name." Having caught Izzy's attention with the last part of his explanation, he elaborated, "Yeah I was sitting around yesterday and figured I'd give him a name finally. It'll make him more stable as an aberration, plus we won't have to keep saying 'him,' or 'that,' or 'you over there.'" Riley grinned proudly and puffed out his chest, obviously patting himself on the back for being so clever. "I name him Damien. Damien Riley, specifically. It sounds sort of like Damocles, and sort of like 'demon,' as well. And if I gotta name a kid, the kid ought to have my name after all. I think it works pretty well."
"Well, if it's unimportant, I'll ignore it." Holden said, cutting through Riley's nonsense. For being so tightly-wound, he seemed pretty unconcerned by what would normally be rather perturbing circumstances. "More importantly, Mister Riley, I've been told that you can help me."
"First, Mister Riley is my father. Just Riley, please. And second, I can't help you. Impossible. You can only help yourself."
Holden's eyes narrowed and he glared daggers at Riley upon hearing this. "Five people have said that to me before, and they were all cons. You're the sixth, so are you among their number?"
Riley laughed obliviously. "You sure are energetic. Did something good happen to you?"
Holden's brow furrowed deeper and his lips pursed in a sneer as Riley exacerbated his suspicions with his usual nonsense. Izzy groaned internally, as Riley was making the situation worse by being so dense. There are people that his usual cheap lines worked on, like Trevor, and those that didn't, which clearly included Holden.
In contrast to the tense situation, Riley clicked his tongue and said offhandedly, "Well, in any case, we won't get anything done if we don't know the situation. I'm not much good at reading minds, so why don't you explain to us the heart of the problem. I'm good at keeping secrets, so don't worry."
Holden sat, and as the sun set over the abandoned school, he told Riley his story.
As he concluded, Riley nodded in what was probably supposed to be a sage manner. "Sounds like a folk legend I once heard in the mountains of Kyushu, when I was studying abroad. Some called it the Crab of Burden, others the Heavy Crab, or the Deadweight Crab. In some places it's a god instead of a crab, too. 'Kami' is god and 'kani' is crab, so it's an easy mix-up. Either way, the common thread is that they take away your weight. People that meet them -the wrong way I should say- don't exist the same way they used to."
"Exist?" Holden questioned.
"They become... fragile. More delicate. Perhaps more beautiful in cases. Some cease to exist entirely."
"A crab legend from the mountains?" He still seemed skeptical.
"Well, there's something called the Rock of Burdens in other places, but that's a rock, not a crab. The way I see it, it's easier to make shit up about things you don't know about. So mountain folk made a legend about a crab. The place doesn't really matter, just that the conditions are met. There are other forms it may have taken, maybe a rabbit or a woman or something. But if you say it was a crab, we'll assume it was a crab."
Holden groaned, growing impatient with Riley's rambling. "I really don't give a damn what you call it."
"You should. Because the 'kani' was once a 'kami,' at least according to my theory. The God of Burden became a Crab of Burden, but was still no less a god for it. Most would assume it went the other way around, or the two became one, but not I, sir."
"I don't think I met a god." Holden said flatly.
"Oh but you have," Riley said, and his sly smile spread on his face. "And it's still with you."