Read Yokai Online

Authors: Dave Ferraro

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

Yokai (6 page)

BOOK: Yokai
4.69Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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Five minutes later, Yumiko led Brian
down to the only basement room. The door was solid oak, with bars
over a sliding metal plate that was firmly closed. She quickly
unlocked the door and led him inside. Along one wall, whips,
feathers, leather masks and other various torture/pleasure tools
were displayed. There were restraints on the bed, several cages of
various sizes, as well as slings. Yumiko tried not to think about
what the objects in the room had been used for, and turned to Mr.
Mathis. “The large cage again?”

Brian’s eyes darted toward a cage
built into one side of the room, bars steel and sturdy. “I think
that would be best.”

Yumiko nodded in agreement. She
approached the cage and undid the latch. Madame Mori had done this
for him the last time, but Yumiko had come in to check on him
during the night, so she knew he’d been contained in this
cage.

Turning to him, she saw that he’d
taken off his shirt, and was unbuttoning his pants. She looked
away, cheeks burning, and waited for him to slip on a robe. But she
couldn’t deny that she’d seen a powerful chest. And nicely built
arms. He looked like the action stars she’d seen in some American
movies.

After he’d stepped into the cage,
Yumiko locked it firmly behind him. She didn’t dare look at him
again, even in his robe. “Do you require anything else, Mr.
Mathis?”


Brian,” he reminded
her.


Brian,” she agreed, with a
small smile. She chanced a look upward and met his blue
eyes.

He looked like he was about to say
something, but decided against it. “No, thank you. You have been
most kind, Miss Sato. Tell Madame Mori that I appreciate the
hospitality and all that she’s doing for me.”


You appreciate that she’s
locking you away in a dungeon?” Yumiko teased.

Brian chuckled. “You know what I
mean.”

Yumiko nodded, and turned to
leave.


Miss Sato.”

She turned back to him, and he
hesitated. “Yes?”


It’s nothing,” Brian said,
then shrugged. “I just…thank you.”

She bowed her head and left
him.

***

A seven-year-old Yumiko blinked into a
dingy mirror in a shrine near her house, then she looked up at
Ame-Onna uncertainly.


The mirror,” Ame-Onna said
gently, pointing back to the mirror.

Yumiko tilted her head as she stared
back at her reflection. Then, hesitantly, she reached out a hand
and grazed the surface with a fingertip.

Ame-Onna suddenly disappeared from the
mirror, and there was a small flash of light. Or was it the scenery
shifting? Yumiko turned to see snow all around her, and no shrine
in sight, although the mirror was still there, hanging from a
simple stand. She peered back at her reflection in wonder, and as
she watched, her reflection broke out into a grin while she did
not.


Don’t be frightened,”
Ame-Onna put gentle hands on Yumiko’s shoulders and faced the
mirror.

Yumiko glanced up at Ame-Onna, just
behind her, then back at the mirror. Yumiko’s reflection mimicked
her movements again as they should. But she could see the shrine
through the mirror. And where she was now…there was no shrine. The
mirror stood alone. She was not where she’d been a moment
ago.


What is this place?”
Yumiko asked, voice trembling.


A magical place,” Ame-Onna
replied, patted her back reassuringly.

Yumiko couldn’t tear her eyes away
from the mirror that they’d just traveled through. It had been a
normal-looking mirror, but they’d used it like a doorway. It wasn’t
normal, and it frightened Yumiko, and left her feeling
unsettled.


I shouldn’t be here,”
Yumiko stated.


Oh, hush.” Ame-Onna
gestured around them. “Look at all of this! Isn’t it
wonderful?”

Yumiko looked around. It was a
beautiful mountain pass. And even though everything was covered in
snow, it wasn’t cold. The snow glistened under the bluest sky that
Yumiko had ever seen, reflecting back pinks and oranges that seemed
to wink at her. But it was strange. It was supposed to be summer,
not winter. How could there be snow here? And where had the
mountain come from? Yumiko felt disoriented, and had a million
questions bubbling up within her, but had no idea where to begin,
so she remained silent, taking it all in as Ame-Onna ushered her up
the snowy path.


Where are we going?”
Yumiko wondered, tilting her head to the side. The whole world
seemed silent, like it was holding its breath, making her voice
sound all the louder. She frowned as she realized that there was no
noise here. She couldn’t hear other people, or animals scavenging.
She didn’t hear the wind howling or a breeze spray snow over the
path. In fact, she didn’t feel any wind either. Everything was
still and quiet. Static. If it weren’t for the breathtaking
scenery, Yumiko would call this place…lifeless.


I’m taking you to see a
very important person here,” Ame-Onna told her. “He’s the king of
this place, and he wishes to meet you.”


Meet
me
?”


Of course.”


But why?” Yumiko asked,
eyebrows drawing together. “I don’t know anyone.”


Well, he knows you. You
see, Master Kagami sees everything that takes place in the world,
through mirrors. Every time you look into a mirror, or walk past
one, even when you don’t notice one is there, he sees
you.”

Yumiko felt a chill run up her spine
at her words. “What does he want?”


Why, to meet you, of
course!” Ame-Onna said, eyes crinkling as she smiled. “Aren’t you
excited to meet a king?”

Yumiko considered. “Okay, but then I
really need to go home. Mommy will be mad.”

Ame-Onna nodded and walked her up the
path until a castle came into view.

Yumiko stared at it, her eyes wide. It
was a huge, sprawling building, snow white and five stories high,
with several tiled roofs that illustrated its depth, and turrets at
corners of an immense wall, that seemed to scrape the sky. It
jutted out of the rocky mountain as if it had grown there, a wide
drawbridge lowered to allow entrance into its vast walls.
“Wow!”


It’s breathtaking, isn’t
it?” Ame-Onna asked, delighted by her reaction.

Yumiko didn’t reply, but allowed
herself to be escorted within. She felt like she was floating, in a
dream, as she walked through a tiny town, with cobblestone streets.
There were stores and bars, and houses and inns. There were stables
and beautiful fountains that sprayed water that didn’t make a
single sound, when Yumiko would have expected a loud splashing
noise. It was eerie, but the effect was kind of dazzling. But, she
realized, she didn’t see any people. It was as if the castle
existed only for them.

At the end of a large courtyard,
Ame-Onna stopped and knelt before a building with a low roof. Stone
komainu sat on either side of a raised floor, dog guardians, and
Yumiko wondered if this was a shrine.

But then a paper door was swept aside
and a man stepped out. He paused to regard them for a moment.
“Welcome,” he said cheerfully.

Yumiko squinted at the face of the
man, but it was hidden in the shadows of a jingasa of lacquered
wickerwork. She caught glimpses of his features, but was never able
to recall them following her encounter with him. He wore a black
robe, a sword at his hip. And his voice was soothing, yet
gravelly.


Is she not beautiful, my
lord?” Ame-Onna asked, bowing deeply. “Did I do well?”

The man stepped forward. “Yes, you
have. And what is your name, girl? I am Kagami.”


I’m Yumiko Sato, sir,” she
replied. “Are you really a king?”

The man chuckled. “That, I am. A
lonely king, looking for companionship.” He swept his arms out. “Do
you like what you see, child? Is my kingdom not
beautiful?”

Yumiko looked up and swiveled her
head, taking in the beautiful sights, and nodded. “It’s beautiful,”
she agreed. “But where is everybody?”

Ame-Onna sucked in a
breath.

The man took another step forward. “I
see anyone I wish to see, at nearly any time. Through my mirrors.”
He gestured for her to approach, and she obliged, stepping up onto
the raised floor. He turned his back on her and walked through the
door he’d opened a moment earlier. She took this as a sign to
follow him, and stepped into a bright room. It was a long hallway
that seemed to go on forever. And along the hall, mirrors hung of
every shape and size. In those mirrors, Yumiko saw different
people, in different places. They were doing all sorts of different
things, and obviously came from different countries and
continents.


How do you see them?”
Yumiko asked, in awe as she watched a little blonde-haired girl
lick a chocolate ice cream cone at a birthday party, her party hat
tipped precariously on her head.


Magic,” came the
reply.


But they aren’t
here.”


No, they are
not.”


Don’t you want them to
be?”

The room darkened and several
creatures suddenly appeared, as if rising from out of the floor,
which suddenly looked like water to Yumiko, even though she could
stand on it as if it were solid ground. They were green creatures,
slimy like salamanders, but with a shell over their bodies that
they wore like armor. Their leathery faces were wide with jaws that
formed powerful beaks, and beady black eyes that blinked calmly
from beneath flat heads, slightly indented and wet with
water.


I have friends,” he said.
“The kappa do everything I wish. But they aren’t lively. They don’t
fill these corridors with the sounds of their voices. They just
aren’t very good company.” He cocked his head. “I think you might
be.”

Yumiko took a step backward, eyes
glued to the kappa. They didn’t make any hostile movements toward
her, but they were monstrous, and she didn’t like them. “I think I
should go now. My mother will be very worried.”


Your mother,” the man
repeated, looking her over. Then he nodded. “Perhaps you are too
young yet. But you already have a keen mind. I sense a fire within
you, and I believe that your mind will only grow sharper. Yes, I
believe that you are the companion that I seek to break me from the
monotony of this place. I will return for you when you have
matured. On your eighteenth birthday, I will take you to live with
me in my world. Then, we can be together.”

Yumiko shook as she stumbled from the
room, the man chuckling at her back. She tripped over Ame-Onna, who
was still bowing.


He will consume you, body
and soul,” Ame-Onna said in a raspy voice, not looking
up.

Yumiko scrambled away from her and
tore out through the castle gates, only pausing once as the
drawbridge lifted behind her, chains pulling it upward steadily
until it finally snapped closed like a dragon’s mouth. It was an
eerie sight, as it made no sound as it closed. She felt like she
were underwater or had earplugs in her ears. But she’d heard the
voices clearly enough.

Slipping and sliding, she made her way
down the mountain path, until she was sure she’d arrived at where
she’d entered this strange world. But no mirror waited for her. She
stopped and stared, wondering if perhaps she’d gotten turned
around, but there was only one path.


See what sort of a life
you can make for yourself out there,” a man’s voice said from
behind her, and she turned to see Kagami standing there, arms
crossed. “I think that by the time you come of age, you will come
with me willingly. You will beg to be mine.”

He waved his hand and a mirror
appeared beside him.

Yumiko swallowed hard, and approached
him slowly, hesitantly.

When she was nearly beside
him, he leaned forward and stared into her face intently, shadows
making his face dark and sinister. “Go on, then! Get out, you
ungrateful creature. But remember, I will come for you, and
you
will
be
mine.”

Yumiko leapt through the mirror, and
tumbled out of a mirror in a shrine. The same one she’d entered
with Ame-Onna earlier. She breathed hard as she stood up, and
looked behind her, half-expecting Kagami to give chase. But no one
was there. She swallowed hard and stared into the mirror, but only
saw herself reflected back at her.


Every time you look into a
mirror, or walk past one, even when you don’t notice one is there,
he sees you.”

With a shudder, she turned and ran
home as fast as her legs could carry her.

And seventeen-year-old Yumiko opened
her eyes, allowing the dream to fade away. But the images of the
kappa, disgusting creatures she’d dealt with several times since,
filled her head. She sat up and looked around the room, realizing
that she’d fallen asleep in Madame Mori’s library. She had a kink
in her neck and stretched it carefully as she stood.


Yumiko?”

BOOK: Yokai
4.69Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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