Read Yokai Online

Authors: Dave Ferraro

Tags: #urban fantasy, #ghosts, #japan, #mythology, #monsters, #teen fantasy, #oni, #teen horror, #japanese mythology, #monster hunters

Yokai (21 page)

BOOK: Yokai
7Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads


But I know what I’m
getting myself into,” Brian insisted.


Boss, let her fight,”
Tanuki spoke up. “It’s who she is. If you don’t let her do this,
she’ll never forgive you.”

Brian looked at Tanuki warily, then
turned to Yumiko. “Miss Sato, you can do whatever you wish. I won’t
stand in your way. I just…hope that we can work together and be
smart about strategizing.”

Yumiko glanced over at the kappa,
still on their knees and staring forward, but obviously hanging on
every word. Enenra made no show of pretending. He was enjoying the
exchange with a cocky grin on his face.


I will work with you to
get Shou back,” Yumiko said carefully. “After that, I want you
gone. I…will do what I must when I turn eighteen, but not a moment
sooner.”

Enenra scowled. “Foolish girl. If you
marry now, this whole thing will be over.”


No, it won’t,” Brian
clarified. “I can have her in my domain until she turns eighteen,
and keep her protected from attack, but only at that age will she
be free to make her intentions clear by yokai law.”


We have to keep her safe
until that day,” Ame-Onna said, stepping out of the ante-chamber
and bowing to Yumiko. “Or we will suffer dark days.” She walked up
to Yumiko. “Madame Mori is on the phone. She wishes to speak to
you.”

Yumiko nodded, and swept past her. She
paused beside Brian. “Whatever your intentions, never do that
again, or I won’t marry you, consequences be damned.”

Brian nodded weakly and looked away as
Yumiko proceeded to the antechamber.

Once inside, she slid the paper door
closed for privacy and took a calming breath. She almost felt sorry
for Brian. She understood why he’d done what he had, but she had to
make it clear that she wouldn’t allow such behavior again. She had
to be able to trust that he wouldn’t up and stow her away at any
hint of danger.

It was odd to see so many yokai in the
library, when she’d spent so much of her life tracking them down
and dispatching them. She felt a flutter of panic in her stomach as
she wondered how Mori would react.

Licking her lips nervously, Yumiko
picked up the phone and touched the receiver to her ear. “Sensei,”
she said, by way of greeting. “It is good to hear from
you.”


Yumiko,” Mori said,
sighing. “Who was that on the phone before?”

She decided that truth was the best
option. “Ame-Onna.”

Mori was silent for a moment. “So,
Brian is Kagami, after all.”

Yumiko bit her lip. “Yes. Why didn’t
you make me aware of your suspicions?”

Mori chuckled. “I had to make sure. I
could tell how you felt about him.”

Blushing, Yumiko was glad that Mori
couldn’t see her. Yumiko had assumed she’d kept her feelings hidden
well, but obviously that hadn’t been the case. “Yet you told
Shou.”


I felt it best to keep
someone informed who could watch over you,” Mori explained. “And I
confirmed my suspicions shortly after I landed. I…have other news
to share, but I would like to discuss them with you when I’m back
in Tokyo.”


We have things that must
be done here anyway,” Yumiko said carefully, deciding that she
wouldn’t worry Mori with Shou’s abduction for now. “When will you
arrive?”


I will be boarding a
flight back shortly. Please, Yumiko, stay safe until I arrive. I
hesitate in saying this, but perhaps it would be best to let Kagami
see to your safety.”

Yumiko blinked, then pulled the phone
from her ear and stared at it for a moment. Was Mori really telling
her that she should entrust a yokai with her life?


Yumiko?”


I will discuss our next
move with Mr. Mathis,” Yumiko told her. “I will see you
soon.”


Yes. Be
careful.”

After Mori hung up, Yumiko slowly
replaced the receiver and sat, thinking for a minute. It was
strange the way things had turned out. She never would have
imagined her life being thrown into such chaos a month ago. Her
whole life had been upended once, but this was something else
entirely. This had worldwide consequences. This meant life and
death for countless people. She was starting to feel the pressure,
when she’d been completely ignorant of her role a few days
ago.


Where are they holding
Shou?” Yumiko asked as she stepped back into the
library.

Brian turned toward her. “There’s one
way to find out.”

Yumiko frowned, wondering what he was
alluding to. And then she recalled that he could see everything
happening around the world through his mirrors.


The Hall of Mirrors,”
Ame-Onna stated. “You will find your answers there.”

Yumiko nodded and met Brian’s eyes
before quickly looking away. Since she was seven-years-old, she’d
prepared to fight Kagami, for the right to live, for her immortal
soul. And now she’d come to find that she wouldn’t have to do that.
But never in a million years had she thought that she would
willingly return to the place where she’d been spirited
away.


Very well,” Yumiko said,
the slightest wavering audible in her voice.

Brian continued to watch her, but she
refused to look up into his eyes and let him know how he affected
her. “Alright, Miss Sato. Please, lead us to a gateway.”

Yumiko turned on her heel. “The
restroom mirror will do.”

Chapter
Seventeen

Yumiko’s first meeting with
Kagami when she was seven-years-old ran through her mind as she
stepped through the mirror. Looking up into the face of the man
from her memory, she now clearly saw Brian’s features in the
shadows of the jingasa the yokai king had worn: the planes of his
cheekbones, the curve of his lips. His face suddenly fell into
focus, like the image in a telescope sharpening. A decade of fear
lay behind her and now she walked alongside the man who’d instilled
such fear in her. And to top it off, she felt…
something
for him, deep in her breast.
Things had not turned out as she’d imagined they would. But then,
they rarely did.

When she came out of the mirror on the
mountain path, she didn’t dare breathe. She stood frozen as her
eyes absorbed the area. It was covered in snow, as before, and the
winding path was worn down with muddy slush. Again, she had no
sense of temperature, and she didn’t hear a sound aside from the
breathing of the others as they followed her. But it felt so
surreal to be there, like she’d stepped into a dream that shouldn’t
exist. Everything looked nearly the same as she remembered
it.


I’ve been so afraid of
this place,” Yumiko breathed.


You needn’t be afraid,”
Brian said softly from beside her.

She looked up into his kind blue eyes
and felt her heart stutter. She was trying very hard to stay mad at
him, but he was so well-intentioned, and just so damn cute. She
lowered her eyes. “I was always afraid when I passed through a
mirror that I might end up here someday. But instead, the mirrors
always brought me to the most beautiful places.”


I…wanted you to know that
there was beauty here. I wanted to show you that this place was
nothing to fear. Obviously, I failed.” He stepped away from her,
and Yumiko almost reached out to stop him, to tell him that she
should have seen it. But she didn’t. She let her hand drop and she
looked back as Tanuki shook his fur out.


I hate that way of
traveling,” Tanuki murmured.


So, this place exists in
the real world then,” Yumiko said, gazing around at the sky. “I
mean, it must if my apartment exists here.”


Yep. It’s Shuten-Doji’s
castle on Mount Ooe.”


Of course,” Yumiko nodded.
Why wouldn’t Shuten-Doji’s reflection occupy the same place in the
mirror world? It probably seemed only natural to Brian that he
should settle down here. “Is that where they’re holding
Shou?”


Doubtful. Shuten-Doji’s no
fool. He doesn’t have mirrors on Mount Ooe. And if he’s using Shou
as bait, he’s going to want to show him off.”


So, it’s a
trap.”


Of course.”

Yumiko processed this, wondering what
Brian was thinking for a plan of attack. She looked up the slope to
see him walking ahead of the kappa confidently. She stared at his
back, as if she would be able to read his mind that way.


Wow!” Reina breathed
behind her as she stepped out of the mirror alongside Ame-Onna. “So
pretty!”

Yumiko turned to see the girl looking
around with rapture, then narrowed her eyes as a pair of kappa
stepped through. “How come the kappa can walk through the mirror
without a guide?”


They are water-based
yokai,” Ame-Onna answered, sidling up to her.

Yumiko glanced at her. “Like
you.”

Ame-Onna bowed her head in
answer.


Because water can cast
reflections?” Yumiko hazarded a guess.


Quite right,” Ame-Onna
replied, smiling as she looked up at Yumiko. The yokai was more
beautiful than she remembered. She had smooth skin and kind eyes.
No wonder Yumiko had been so trusting of her as a child.


It’s weird,” Reina said as
they began to follow the procession up the mountain slope. “It’s
like one of those sensory deprivation chambers here. I can’t feel
the cold. I don’t smell anything. And aside from our voices,
there’s nothing. Just a big vacuum.” She tilted her head. “But it
is beautiful.”


Made ever the more
beautiful by your lovely presence,” Tanuki added, looking up at her
with a sly smile.

Reina rolled her eyes. “Don’t think I
forgot what a perv you are just because you got us out of that
mirror building.”


You’ll be won over by my
charming personality soon enough, my sweet water lily.”

Reina turned to Yumiko so that Tanuki
couldn’t see and stuck her finger down her throat mockingly. Yumiko
ignored the both of them and turned her head to the side to find
Enenra staring at her.


Enenra,” she said
softly.

He grinned at her, continuing to
stare.

Yumiko frowned. “What is
it?”


I’m just trying to figure
out what makes you so special,” he said bluntly. “You have a rather
pleasing humanoid figure, I suppose.”

Reina snorted. “She’s probably the
prettiest girl I’ve ever met.”


She’s definitely the
prettiest I’ve met,” Tanuki said. “Can you blame me for hanging
around?”


Hey, what about me?” Reina
protested, stopping to glare at Tanuki. “I thought I was
pretty!”


You are! Just not
Yumiko-pretty.”

Reina crossed her arms and
scoffed.

Tanuki rubbed his torso against her
leg as he passed by her. “But don’t worry, my little tulip, you’ve
captured my heart.”

Reina pretended to try to kick him,
but Yumiko could tell her foot intentionally went wide. “I think
what you’re trying to say is that you’re not picky.”


Ah, you understand me so
well,” Tanuki grinned up at her. “We’re going to make quite the
pair.”

Yumiko felt her hair catch on
something and put her hand up to find fingers near her temple. She
flinched and pulled back to see Enenra rubbing a strand of her hair
through his fingers. “What?” she demanded, yanking it away from
him.


It’s strange,” Enenra
said. “Why does your hair only grow on top of your
head?”

With a sigh, Yumiko turned her back on
him without a reply. His hand had felt solid enough for someone
made of smoke, so he must be able to change his mass as well as
shape. Probably a good thing to keep in the back of her
mind.

Soon, the castle came into view and
Reina grabbed Yumiko’s arm. Yumiko thought that the sight of it had
instilled fear in her friend, but when she turned to Reina, her
eyes were wide and sparkling, admiring. Yumiko recalled having a
similar initial reaction, but it had been so lonely and foreign
within its walls that she’d wanted nothing more than to go
home.

As they passed over the drawbridge and
swept through the courtyard, there was a notable difference from
the last time she’d been there, a decade ago. It wasn’t merely a
silent, beautiful tomb. It was bustling with people. Everywhere she
looked, Yumiko saw people strolling the cobblestone streets and
stopping at little stores, or going about their business, sweeping
and gardening, or sitting at one of any number of fountains,
enjoying the day. The sounds of their voices breathed life into the
scene, even if Yumiko couldn’t hear the water burbling or doors
closing or people pushing wheelbarrows over the rocky
road.


What?” Yumiko found that
she’d stopped, looking around in awe. And then she realized who
these people were. Yokai. She saw monks without faces walking
together, women with heads floating over their bodies conversing
with one another, cats chasing each other through the legs of the
crowd, heckling loudly. And then she saw The Funa Yurei, their dark
forms drifting through the throngs of people, somehow more solid
than when she’d seen them days earlier. She even recognized the
captain she’d dispatched, with his eye patch, as he nodded her way
politely, burning green briefly.

BOOK: Yokai
7Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Scabbard's Song by Kim Hunter
The Perfect Suspect by Margaret Coel
Murder in the Smokies by Paula Graves
Til Death (Jane #5) by Samantha Warren
Ghost Legion by Margaret Weis
Suder by Percival Everett
The Wretched of Muirwood by Jeff Wheeler
Far Harbor by Joann Ross
Down the Aisle by Christine Bell