Read Yokai Online

Authors: Dave Ferraro

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

Yokai (4 page)

BOOK: Yokai
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Yes, two bowls of rice,
please,”

Mrs. Wada winked at her. “Coming right
up, dear.”

Yumiko liked the Wadas. They were both
heavyset and seemed to enjoy running the little bar, always
shimmying about with smiles on their faces. They were as cheerful
as Yumiko ever saw people, and they still seemed to enjoy each
other’s company after twenty years of marriage. Although they were
both in their forties, they still flirted with each other over the
cups of sake they served. And they seemed rather fond of Yumiko,
and would sneak her little treats when she was younger, even when
Madame Mori forbade them. She would still find a small treat with
her supper sometimes, even to this day.


Hello, Yumiko!” Mr. Wada
called out as he sauntered over to the end of the bar. “Keeping out
of trouble, little lady?”


Trouble is my business,”
Yumiko replied, her mouth twitching. They always had the same
interaction. It was almost a running gag at this point, it was so
customary. The Wadas knew full well that Yumiko and Madame Mori
were highly-respected in the yokai field. When people had a problem
with yokai, they would seek Madame Mori’s help, and Yumiko would be
dispatched to put an end to whatever it may be. Of course, people
didn’t believe in yokai like they used to, even though they were a
very real threat, but when a person was being terrorized by them,
the murmurings on the street seemed to reach their ears, and they
would find Madame Mori, at the back of the sake bar in the red
light district. In truth, Madame Mori owned the building, and liked
having the sake bar as a front.


Then it’s bound to be good
business,” Mr. Wada laughed, before walking away, shaking his head.
He cleaned a glass with a towel as he retreated, heading toward a
customer who was trying to get his attention.

Yumiko looked across the room to the
entrance of the sake bar. When someone entered the building from
the street, there was a little entranceway with two doors. If they
went right, they would find the door to the sake bar. If they went
left, they would walk into the entryway of a love hotel, also owned
by Madame Mori. Love hotels weren’t an uncommon sight in the red
light district, but Yumiko used to be troubled walking into the
building, for fear of being seen by someone she knew. But, of
course, if someone saw her enter the building, they were also in
the red light district, and people who visited knew to keep their
mouths shut. Bars, women, gambling – it was a part of the city made
for indulging in vices. Yumiko felt like the Wadas hardly fit in,
but their consistent business proved her wrong on that
point.

As she was staring at the
entrance, a teenaged girl stepped into the room and made a beeline
for her. “Hey, Yumiko!” she said happily. She was a thin girl with
her hair up in pigtails and dyed red. She wore a high school
uniform, which included a white blouse, navy blazer, and a pleated
navy skirt that showed off her knees, even though Yumiko knew for a
fact that she was out of school. She just liked how it looked on
her, and the way guys looked at her wearing it. Especially in this
part of town. She had a bright pink bag over one shoulder with
Asuka from
Neon Genesis: Evangelion
on it, giving the peace sign. Several keychains of
other anime characters dangled from the zipper, clinking together
loudly.


Hey, Reina,” Yumiko said,
with less enthusiasm. Reina was one of the girls who worked the
front desk at the love hotel, and she thought that Yumiko was a
good friend of hers for some reason, often barging into Madame
Mori’s space and chatting up a storm. She didn’t really take hints.
And she was utterly boy crazy. “How’s it going?”

Reina took a seat on a stool at the
end of the bar and dropped her bag to the floor with a loud sigh.
“I think I’m going to die an old maid.”

Yumiko blinked at her. “I highly doubt
that.”


Oh, what do you know?”
Reina pouted. “I went to karaoke with this guy I used to go to
school with, and after two songs, he said he had to go. And he,
like,
went
! I
totally paid for the room and everything!”

Yumiko shifted awkwardly on her feet.
She wasn’t exactly the sort of person to give out advice in the
love department. She’d never even had a boyfriend. She was too
focused on her training to make time for one. She’d even dropped
out of high school to pursue her calling. Boys were…troublesome
distractions.


You’re probably better off
without him,” Yumiko said, slowly. “At least he didn’t waste your
time, and you can date other guys now.”


But what didn’t he like
about me?” Reina whined.


Here’s your rice, dear!”
Mrs. Wada appeared in the window, pushing a tray with two steaming
cups of rice, and chopsticks, her way.


Thank you,” Yumiko said,
bowing her head before grabbing the tray, and thanking her lucky
stars that she’d been saved from answering Reina’s
question.

But Reina wasn’t going to
let her off the hook that easily. She followed Yumiko up the hall
to Madame Mori’s library. “I mean, I’m pretty, right? Like,
really
pretty.”


Of course,” Yumiko
murmured.

Reina looked away. “I mean,
I’m not pretty like
you
, but few people are. I’m totally above average, though. And I
diet like crazy for this figure.”

Yumiko paused at the
statement.
Pretty? People thought that she
was pretty?


If nobody wants me anyway,
what am I counting calories for, right?” Reina babbled on as Yumiko
slipped off her sandals and stepped through the beaded curtain. “I
should just eat chocolate and be fat and happy then.”

Yumiko turned to Reina as she reached
the opening to the library. “Reina. You’re going to find someone
else. He was just a dumb guy. There are plenty of others, and I’m
sure there’s a perfect guy out there, made for you.”


Really?” Reina asked, eyes
wide, as she clasped her hands together, as if wishing very hard
for Yumiko’s words to be true.


Really,” Yumiko said
firmly, then lifted the tray in her hands. “Now, I need to have
dinner.”

Reina nodded, looking relieved.
“Thanks, Yumiko.” She touched Yumiko’s elbow. “You’re a good
listener.”

Yumiko frowned. “You’re
welcome?”

Reina leaned into the room and waved
at the desk in back. “Good evening, Madame Mori!”


Good evening,” Mori
replied, without looking up.

Then, with another smile in Yumiko’s
direction, and a little bounce in her step, Reina skipped back
across the foyer and out through the curtain.

Yumiko let out a sigh of relief and
walked the tray of rice to the back of the room. Madame Mori stood
and pulled aside a sliding paper door that led to a small
antechamber, this one with a table low to the floor, with cushions
on either side, as well as several more cushions against the wall.
When a client called on Master Mori, she would serve them tea here
to discuss their yokai problem. But most of the time, they used it
as a dining room for just the two of them.

Setting down the bowls and chopsticks,
Yumiko kneeled on her cushion across from Master Mori, and bowed
her head. “I humbly receive,” she said, in unison with Master
Mori.

Yumiko smiled up at her sensei, then
lifted her chopsticks and began to eat.


Something smells
good.”

Yumiko glanced up as a pile of
cushions tumbled over the floor, and a little brown furball rolled
to a stop beside them. As it righted itself, it shook itself out,
and blinked up at Yumiko from the dark patches that surrounded wide
eyes, like a raccoon. But it resembled more of a fox, in Yumiko’s
opinion, with a strong, slender body, although it was small for a
tanuki, or raccoon dog, as some people called it.

Madame Mori looked up sharply, a frown
lining her face. “Is it that tanuki? He only shows up when there’s
food involved.”


Your sensei wounds me,
little cherry blossom,” the tanuki said to Yumiko, feigning pain.
“She doesn’t yet realize that it’s your flowering beauty that keeps
me here, does she? I wouldn’t want to spoil the fun by letting her
onto us.”

Yumiko rolled her eyes. “And here, I
thought it was the sake.”


Sake?” the tanuki perked
up, then realized she was teasing, and pouted.

While raccoon-dogs were certainly to
be found around Japan, this particular tanuki was a yokai, albeit a
harmless one. Thus, the talking. Since she’d returned from being
spirited away those ten year ago, she’d come back altered in many
ways. Since she’d been touched by the spirit world, by yokai, she
found that she was forever connected to it. She could see yokai
everywhere, when ordinary people could not. Yokai allowed people to
see them when they wanted, but Yumiko could see them all the time,
something that normally only other yokai could do. It’s what made
her such an accomplished yokai hunter. Humans normally made easy
prey for them, given that they couldn’t detect the yokai until they
were upon them. Yokai were unable to get the jump on Yumiko,
however, what with her special abilities.

Of course, some yokai liked that she
was able to see them, such as this tanuki. She’d decided to name
him Tanuki to keep it simple, and because it seemed to annoy him
that she didn’t bother to come up with a proper name. And while he
could be an irritating presence sometimes, flirting shamelessly
with Yumiko, and getting into the Wadas’ sake, she kind of enjoyed
his company nonetheless. He was sort of a reassuring presence in a
way, despite what he was.


Tell that mangy mutt he
needs to cut down on the sake,” Mori said, pausing. “The Wadas have
been asking questions again, and I won’t be covering for him
anymore.”

Tanuki sniffed. “And you tell your
sensei that I’m doing the Wadas a service and drinking their
terrible watered-down sake before their patrons have a chance
to.”


I’m not getting in the
middle of this,” Yumiko said, returning to her rice.

Tanuki sighed, and there was a brief
golden glow that signaled to Yumiko that he was making himself
visible to the human world. Yumiko thought of it as a radio signal.
She was attuned to the yokai station following her experience, and
sometimes the yokai tuned into the frequency that humans lived on,
to interact with them. Otherwise, they chose to remain apart, like
ships passing in the night.


Madame Mori,” Tanuki said
in a sweet voice as he went to sit beside her. “You look simply
beautiful in that kimono. Is it new?”

Mori chewed thoughtfully as she
regarded him. “You’ve the devil’s tongue on you, rodent. You could
charm a snake out of its skin.”


Oh, Madame Mori, you make
me blush with such compliments.”

Yumiko hid a smile by holding her
chopsticks in front of her mouth for a moment. Then, she set aside
her chopsticks and placed the bowl next to Tanuki. “You can have
the rest.”

Tanuki’s eyes gleamed with pleasure,
but then he squinted up at her, unsure. “Really?”


Really.”


You don’t have to tell me
twice,” Tanuki said, before digging his paws into the bowl and
slurping rice loudly.

Madame Mori looked away in disgust,
meeting Yumiko’s eyes. “You aren’t feeling unwell, are
you?”

Tanuki paused in his meal to listen to
her response.


No, no,” Yumiko assured
her. “I had quite a feast on that captain’s ship last night. I’m
still pretty full.”

Mori didn’t look quite convinced, but
nodded and continued eating, as did Tanuki.

The truth was, Yumiko had just turned
seventeen two weeks ago, and since then, she hadn’t felt much like
eating. It made her sick to think that her eighteenth birthday was
approaching so quickly. It seemed like she was barreling toward it
at top speed, and couldn’t put on the brakes, no matter what she
did. And she would never be prepared for the day when it
came.

Because when she turned eighteen, in
less than a year’s time, her life as she knew it would come to an
end.

Chapter Three


Um, hello?”

Yumiko looked up to see a man in his
early twenties standing in the doorway awkwardly. He was wearing a
crisp white dress shirt, and black dress pants, his hands stuffed
into his pockets shyly. He was an American, with messy dark brown
hair, who always seemed to boast a five o-clock shadow. But it
suited him. He was a handsome guy. She knew from her last encounter
with him that he was half-Japanese, but having grown up in America,
he seemed a little out-of-place and unsure of himself in this
environment.


Mr. Mathis!” Yumiko
greeted him, standing up from her desk. “It’s a pleasure to see you
again.”

Mr. Mathis bowed his head stiffly,
then smiled at her. “Please, call me Brian.” He paused. “It’s, uh,
the full moon. You said to come a few hours before, to
prepare.”


Right, right,” Yumiko
agreed, stepping around her desk. “It came so suddenly.”

BOOK: Yokai
5.87Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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