Content disclaimer: YOUKAI MOKUSHI is recommended only for people aged 18+, as the story contains violence, sexual themes and infrequent strong language.
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YOUKAI MOKUSHI is a work of fiction. Any connection to real events or individuals is entirely coincidental and not intentional on the part of the author.
BY L. MOONLIGHT
1ST NIGHTMARE: GHOST TOWN
Niijigoku-shi, Japan, 2121 AD…
The sound of cicadas filled the empty city streets. No matter how much time passed, one could always rely on their cries to punctuate an opening scene, I thought to myself. Although both of my parents had met in Niijigoku, I had never visited the city before. In fact, I had never even been in Japan before. I had been born and raised in the United States of America. As much as I loved these new modern Japanese surroundings, in truth I was only here to conduct research for my thesis on the mythical beings known as “youkai”, supernatural beings capable of several amazing feats or magical abilities. The superstition of youkai had never really picked up traction outside of the Asian continent and surrounding islands, so I decided to fly over and ask some of the locals to recount their possible encounters with demons firsthand. Niijigoku had the most supposed youkai sightings in the world, so it seemed best to visit for my research. Unfortunately for me, nobody was out in the streets. Odd, I thought, based on how many residential buildings lined the large and open cityscape. The last thing I wanted was to start knocking on peoples’ doors like an annoying salesman and start asking them about monsters and fairy-tales. I’d have to start looking for the hotel I would be staying in. As I stared toward the sky, I kept walking, hoping to bump into someone. A new set of clouds and stars for me to observe, I thought happily. The sun seemed to shine even brighter here than it did back in my hometown in Florida, much to my surprise. I shielded my eyes with my left hand, but that still wasn’t enough. I shut my eyes in pain, before averting my gaze from the sun by staring at the ground. Just then a bright purple leg topped with a black Mary Jane shoe entered my field of vision and…
I stumbled and toppled backwards, falling to the street on my behind. The stranger I had bumped into offered me their right hand, which I accepted, as they lifted me off the ground.
“Sorry,” I apologized, bowing before the person I had bumped into, “I should’ve been watching where I was going.”
“Ahah… I-It’s fine,” the stranger stammered, “I’m the one who sh-should apologize!”
I raised my head back up, getting my first proper look at the stranger. A girl, seemingly around my age, if not a little younger. She seemed to have a very modern fashion sense, a purple crop-top, thigh-highs and blue jean shorts topped with a black choker and open cardigan. Her deep red eyes clashed with her turquoise hair which had been styled in “drills”, but somehow I found them quite comforting nonetheless.
“Nonsense,” I said, “It was my fault entirely!” I insisted with a smile.
It was then that I noticed her monkey tail. A cosplayer, I reckoned, although I didn’t recognize the character she was dressed as. She looked at me with a puzzled gaze.
“This isn’t cosplay.” she said rather matter-of-factly.
“I, uh… never said it was.” I told her, still smiling.
She looked at me blankly. “But you WERE thinking it,” she smiled, “Isn’t that right?”
I nodded. “You got me,” I admitted, “Not many people wear tails unless they’re cosplaying.”
She sighed and shook her head. “Good luck finding people to ask about youkai,” she grinned, “They should all be in the earthquake shelter by now, like Kii-kun asked...” she said, walking off slowly.
Earthquake shelter, huh? I wondered why that girl would say such an odd thing. Maybe there was an earthquake warning in place? I doubted it. Although she seemed like a nice girl, I wasn’t sure I could believe something that someone wearing a fake monkey tail told me. Plus I had looked into Niijigoku and the surrounding areas of Kanto before my flight earlier, in order to check for earthquake or tsunami warnings. Even if there WAS an earthquake coming, I had no clue where this “earthquake shelter” even was. I also didn’t recall telling her I was researching youkai for that matter. Perhaps I had mentioned it aloud earlier and she’d overheard me? I watched her with curiosity as she shifted into a sprint, before turning back to me.
“By the way,” she called out, “I’m Rie! Satou Rie!” She waved back at me, before running off into the sunset, leaving my sight.
I looked around for any signs pointing the way to the supposed shelter, but I had no such luck. I sighed, and continued to look for someone to ask about youkai in the city center as the sky started to darken and the Moon slowly made its appearance. As night fell upon the streets of Niijigoku City, and street lights started illuminating all around me one by one, I found myself compelled to look up towards Luna, our planet’s moon. Although I had never believed in youkai, I was always a firm believer in the extraterrestrial. Aliens were out there. They had to be. Perhaps one day, I thought, humanity could be lucky enough to make contact. Oh, dearest Cynthia in the sky, what secrets do you hold? But that wasn’t important. There was still no sign of anyone else in Niijigoku apart from myself and Rie, wherever she had run off to. I resigned to the fact that I wouldn’t encounter another person tonight, and made my way toward the capsule hotel I had already booked a stay in. As I headed toward the hotel, I passed by a small barber-and-hairdresser’s. A place called Oni Cutter’s, judging by the sign above the door. A sign was taped to the inside of the window.
50% discount for youkai
“Hmph,” I chuckled, “Very funny.” Now that I thought about it, I did need a haircut though. I supposed I could humor whatever eccentric individual ran the place. I went to open the door. Locked. Figures.
Open 7AM – 11PM
It was still only 10:30. There was no reason I could think of for the barbershop to be closed. I knocked on the door.
“Hello,” I called out, “Is anyone in?”
I knew Niijigoku was famed for its allegedly high amount of youkai encounters, but this wasn’t the kind of “ghost town” I was hoping for. I sighed and turned to head to my hotel.
I heard a faint cracking sound. And that was when the ground beneath me started to shake. “Wo-woah!” I groaned. Rie was right after all. There WAS an earthquake warning! I looked around left and right for anyone I could ask for directions to the shelter. Nobody. I sighed, and ducked back under the hairdresser’s doorway and braced for any violent tremors.
“Rie-chan,” a voice called out, “Do you sense anyone nearby?”
“Uh-huh,” a familiar voice answered back, “Looks like he’s…”, Rie paused, “It looks like he’s in front of Oni Cutter’s!”
“Thanks, Rie-chan,” the voice I didn’t recognize replied, before sighing, “Gimme a break…”
“W-Who’s there?” I called out, before being interrupted as a sharp object flew towards my forehead. Or rather, towards where my forehead would be if I wasn’t ducking down in the doorway. I slowly stood up and pulled the object from the door which it had lodged itself deep into. I examined the object. “Huh,” I scratched my head, “Scissors?”
An angry looking woman ran up to me and snatched the scissors from my hand with her artificial right arm. Her plaid shirt, skirt and boots were a fittingly “angry” shade of red, and her unkempt blonde hair, which had horns protruding from beneath it, almost looked as if it had been hit with an explosive. Great, I thought, another cosplayer.
“What the Hell are you doing out here?!” she demanded, “You’re supposed to be in the shelter with the others!”
“D-Did you throw these scis-” I began, before being interrupted by the woman.
“Of course I did,” the woman growled, standing completely still even as the ground beneath her red boots continued to shake, “I thought you were the enemy!”
I looked at her in confusion. “What enemy?” I asked.
Just then, Rie ran towards us, waving her arms as her long cardigan flowed frantically behind her. “He’s over there,” Rie called out, “Get ‘em, Kii-kun!”
The girl with the metallic silver limb sighed, “I’ll be back to scold you later, ningen.”* She ran off with Rie down the street, unfazed by the quaking underneath her feet. Rie on the other hand was hopping desperately, looking like she would topple over any second.
“You know,” I called out, “You shouldn’t run with scissors!” I resumed my ducking position, praying that the earthquake would stop any minute.
Rie and Kii stopped in their tracks. “Is that the guy?”, Kii asked her friend, pointing towards a man standing in the middle of the road. He was the only one outside, besides Rie, Kii and I.
Rie nodded, “That’s him, Kii-kun.” she replied.
The man stepped forward. He was incredibly tall, bald, dressed in a suit and had the tail of a fish. But his most distinctive feature was his absurdly long Dalí-style mustache.
Kii groaned, “A namazu.** I should’ve known.”
The namazu folded his arms. “I take it you would be Ibarra Kii,” he asked, “and this must be Satou Rie?”
Kii nodded. “What’s with the earthquake, namazu?” she growled.
“How rude,” the man pouted, “I know your names. Ask me mine already.”
Rie stared at the namazu intently. “His name’s Ooyama Gin.” she said looking towards Kii.
“Hmph,” Gin grunted, “So it’s true, then.” he said.
Rie frowned, “Yes. I s-suppose so,” she muttered, “And stop thinking that we’ll be pushovers. O-Ok?”
Gin lunged forward, reaching for Rie’s throat with his large hands. “Quit readin’ my thoughts, kid!” he bellowed furiously.
“Don’t take your eyes off me!” Kii said, grabbing both ends of Gin’s mustache from behind his back and carefully braiding them together.
“W-Why you?!” the namazu growled, “Let go of me!”
“Maybe this catfish should lose his whiskers?” Kii leered, taking her mechanical hand off Gin’s mustache and reaching for her scissors.
“DON’T YOU DARE!” the youkai catfish demanded, smacking the sheers from Kii’s hand.
“Tut tut tut…” Kii muttered, “Guess we’re doing this the hard way, Ooyama-san?” Kii lifted her left arm above her head, still holding onto Gin’s mustache as his legs flailed about helplessly in the air.
“P-Put me the Hell down, right this instant!” the namazu angrily yelled.
“If you insist,” Kii winked, “After all, you DID want to make the ground shake, right?” She swiftly motioned her arm downward, smacking Gin Ooyama’s body against the ground with an almighty crash.
“Great work, Kii-kun!” Rie cheered, wrapping her arms around her friend.
“It was nothing,” Kii said, her tone and expression doing a complete 180, “I’ve faced tougher opponents than him!”
The ground had stopped shaking some time ago, and I had left the barbershop doorway to follow Rie and Kii, having arrived just on time to see Kii yeet Gin’s massive body onto the middle of the road. How on Earth was she able to lift such a large man? I wondered. Were Rie and Kii robots or something?
Rie looked over to me with the same puzzled expression as before. “We’re not robots.” she pointed out. “Kii-kun, he thinks we’re robots.”
The woman whose name I still didn’t know walked up to me, her mood seeming once again to change. “Is it because of this,” she grunted, shoving her mechanical arm in my face, “Well, is that the reason?!”
I gently moved the arm out of my personal space. “N-No,” I said, “It’s just that you’re super strong!” I remarked. Kii looked me up and down.
“You must me new here, ningen. I don’t believe we’ve met?” she said, “The name’s Ibarra. Ibarra Kii. That’s written with the characters for ‘oni’ and ‘living’, by the way.” *** she explained, taking a bow.
I offered out my left hand for a handshake, “Pleased to meet you. I’m You Tachibana,” I introduced myself, saying my given name before my family name, since that was how I was used to introducing myself, “You can just call me You.”
Kii looked down at my hand and scoffed. “That ain’t happening, Tachibana-san,” she said, “Come on, Rie, let’s take this fish to the police station.” Kii grabbed the unconscious Gin by his mustache before throwing him over her shoulder and heading in what I assumed was the direction of the station.
Rie flailed her hands in front of her before bowing before me. “P-Please forgive Kii-kun’s rudeness! S-She’s not great with humans,” she apologized, “I-I’m sure she’ll warm up to you soon enough, sh-should we meet again!” she said, stammering.
I smiled and offered my hand to the more polite of the two girls, “Pleased to meet you.”
I awoke in my uncomfortable capsule hotel pod the next day to the ever-present sound of cicadas. I let out a deep yawn and scratched my head tiredly. My hair was getting too long. I just had to get it cut. I changed out of my pajamas and into a black shirt and shorts with my signature sleeveless purple hoodie thrown on top. I grabbed my glasses and adjusted them on my nose before heading off to the barber-and-hairdresser’s from the previous night. About half an hour later I arrived at the door to the barbershop.
50% discount for youkai
Here goes nothing, I thought to myself. I heard a little chime as I opened the door and stepped inside.
“So Ooyama was planning to rob the bank while everyone was hiding in the shelter?” a familiar voice asked.
“Huh,” I said, “Satou-san? You’re here too?” Her hair seemed perfectly fine last night, I thought. Perhaps she was here to dye it?
Rie turned towards me and smiled widely, “You-san,” she beamed, “Good morning!”
“That’s the gist of things, yeah,” another voice I recognized answered, “Hopefully he’ll learn his lesson after some community service!”
I looked across the room to Kii, who had just finished cutting a patron’s hair, “Y-You’re the hairdresser who runs this place?!” I exclaimed.
Kii looked over to me and frowned, “Ningen. I hoped we wouldn’t meet again,” she scoffed, “You wasted my time last night and almost got yourself killed. Be more careful.”
“B-But…” I stammered, “You’re the one who threw a pair of scissors at me!”
Kii raised an eyebrow. “I’m just doing my part as protector of this city.” she growled, “Do you want me to cut that messy hair of yours, or what?” she bluntly asked.
“J-Just a trim.” I replied.
Kii looked down to her previous customer and motioned for them to leave the barbershop.
A few moments later my hair was nice and tidy. “Wow,” I smiled, “Thanks, Ibarra-san, you’re a natural!”
“Well,” Kii smiled, her mood completely shifting, “I’ve been doing this for thousands of years! It’s no big deal!”
I stared at her in shock. How, I thought to myself, could she have cut hair for thousands of years?
Rie looked over to me before quickly skipping towards where I was seated. “Did I forget to tell you?” she smiled, “We’re youkai!”
I chuckled. “Haha. Good one,” I laughed, “I’ve actually been looking for people who know stuff about youkai!” I explained, “Go on, then. Humor me.”
Kii smiled and put her hands on my shoulders, removing the tarp she had wrapped around my body in order to cut my hair. “She’s not joking,” Kii said, “I’m an oni, you know?”
I stared at her in disbelief, “N-No you’re not!”
Kii winked. “You know oni are unable to lie, right?” she asked. “Cross my heart and hope to die.”***
1ST NIGHTMARE OVER
*Ningen – “Human”, the Japanese word for human. Since I didn’t localize any youkai names (for example translating “oni” to “ogre” or “giant”), I thought it would be fitting for Kii and other youkai to refer to humans by the species’ Japanese name
**Namazu – “Catfish”, here it refers to the Onamazu, a legendary catfish said to live beneath Earth’s crust and cause earthquakes
***Kii’s first name is written as “鬼生”, which would usually be pronounced “Oninama”
Sometimes referred to as “demons” or “ogres” in English, oni are youkai famed
for their physical strength. They also tend to have an aversion toward telling