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
4TH NIGHTMARE: COPS AND BARBERS
Niijigoku-shi, Japan, 2121 AD…
The wolf narrowed its eyes, raising a paw as its claws extended. Kentarou stared at the paw, as a single bead of sweat rolled down his face.
“H-Hey, nice d-doggy…” he stammered, turning to run in the other direction.
The wolf looked to Luna and let out a loud howl, as if begging every nearby person to look at it and…
I heard what sounded like a wolf howling somewhere in the distance. I looked over my shoulder to see if I could locate the source of the howl, before shaking my head and looking back to the elderly man I was interviewing.
“What seems to be the problem, young man?” he asked scratching his bald head.
“Ah, no it’s nothing,” I said, “Please continue.”
“Eh? What were we talking about again?” he said with a confused look on his face.
“Youkai,” I replied, “What are your experiences with youkai?”
“Haha!” The man laughed. “Yer new here, aren’t ya?” He placed his hand on my shoulder. “Why, youkai are everywhere!”
“Ok, ok,” I sighed, “We’ve been over this… Have you ever had any negative experiences with youkai?”
“Well…” the man paused, “We sometimes get attackers coming here, looking for our town’s Three Sacred Treasures…” He sighed. “Most of them are youkai.”
I looked up from my notepad with great curiosity. “Oh? Why’s that?”
“Yer askin’ the wrong man, sonny!” he laughed.
“Alright…” I sighed, “Sorry for bothering you.”
I put my pen and notepad away and left to look for more humans to interview for my thesis. Everybody I had asked so far was either a youkai or had nothing unusual to report. It seemed everyone here was desensitized to youkai. I looked up again at the Moon for guidance. Would the townsfolk be so complacent if it were aliens rather than youkai that lived among them? I shook my head. No, I thought, I too would be pretty used to youkai if I lived here. Besides, it made me quite happy to hear that youkai and humans got along with one another. Well, I thought, recalling Kii angrily telling me off, MOST of them do, anyway… Perhaps I should’ve learned my lesson about looking at the Moon rather than in front of me from last night, as I once again bumped into an unsuspecting passerby.
“Whoops, sorry!” I apologized and bowed before the strangely-dressed girl.
“It’s alright!” she smiled, returning my bow. “You’re the new guy in town, right?”
I smiled, “How’d you know?”
“EVERYONE’S been talking about this annoying human asking them stupid questions about youkai!” she beamed.
“Oh,” I frowned, “T-That’s me.”
Suddenly the girl’s cheery face shifted to an almost teary expression and her tail which had been rapidly wagging drooped between her legs. “N-No, no! I-It’s ok!” she awkwardly smiled, “I d-didn’t mean it! I was joking! R-Really!”
“It’s fine.” I said, dejection in my voice.
“Urgh, you blew it again, Moonbow…” she sighed, “S-Sorry, I’ve always been bad at talking to people!” she apologized.
“Really, it’s fine.” I reassured her.
Moonbow grabbed my hand tightly and stared directly into my eyes, with strong determination. “You, me, café, right now,” she snapped, “Redo, redo… That first impression never happened, got it?”
I stared at Moonbow and raised an eyebrow. Clearly this girl was pretty bad in social situations. “Ok,” I sighed, not wanting to hurt her feelings, “Let’s go to this ‘café’ then. It’ll be my treat.”
She looked at her watch and blushed, “I’m SO sorry, I’m out of time for this interaction,” she exclaimed “Maybe some other time, please forgive me!” she yelled back as she ran off into the horizon.
She sort of reminded me of Rie, although she didn’t feel as “genuine”, if that makes sense. She seemed like she just wanted to protect her own image rather than being friendly for friendliness’s sake. That was fine too, I supposed, the reason doesn’t matter, so long as you treat people with respect, after all. I put my hands in my pockets and continued to search for interviewees.
A muscular, mustachioed man in a police uniform and fedora stepped into Oni Cutter’s Barber-and-Hairdresser’s. He hung his fedora on the coat rack and took a seat. He looked around for any signs of the owner, before unclipping his handcuffs from his belt and swinging them around on the end of his waggling index finger with a bored sigh.
“And what does this button do?” Rie enthusiastically asked, lightly pressing her friend’s mechanical arm as it started to vibrate.
“Rie-chan, careful,” Kii sighed, “I don’t want you to break it after I jus-” Kii noticed the cop and nervously smiled. “What seems to be the trouble, officer?” she asked.
The man clipped his cuffs back onto his belt and stood up.
Kii gulped. “If it’s about Duu, I’m fine giving him a refund. Really! You have my word as an-”
The cop folded his arms and shook his head. “This isn’t about my son’s haircut.” the policeman sighed.
Rie’s eyes widened. “M-Murder?”
Kii looked over at Rie, then back at Dullahan’s father. “A… murder? You’re telling me someone’s been murdered?” she asked.
“’Fraid so.” the cop grimly replied, placing his right hand on his heart, “Bless his soul.”
Rie started to shake. “K-Ke…” she stammered, “Ke-Ke-Kent-Kentarou…”
Kii placed her hands comfortingly on Rie’s shoulders as the satori fell to her knees. “Kentarou-kun?!” Kii yelled, “Who… Who the Hell would do that?!” She looked over at Rie, who had passed out. “It’ll be ok, Rie-chan…” she said, picking her friend up and laying her on the couch that the officer had been sitting in.
“We, uh…” the cop began, “We’ve got eye-witness testimony.”
Kii crossed her eyebrows and looked the man straight in the eye. “Let’s hear it.”
“A large brown wolf, about the size of an adult human or youkai,” he began, “It let out a howl and then chased Yagi Kentarou down as he tried to run away.”
“An ookami ningen?” Kii asked, taking a seat next to her unconscious best friend and stroking the satori’s hair.*
“It certainly seems that way,” the officer affirmed, “It’s going to be hard to track them down.”
Kii scoffed. “Just question every dog youkai in Niijigoku then.”
The man shook his head. “Ibarra-san. You should be aware… ookami ningen, yamabiko, inugami…” He sighed. “Canines make up roughly twenty-percent of our youkai population.”** The man in blue walked over to the coat rack and grabbed his fedora, putting the hat back on his head. “Ibarra-san…” he lowered his voice, “Keep an eye out. I know we ask a lot of you and Satou-san, but…”
Kii shook her head. “Finnegan-san,” she placed her newly-replaced hand on the policeman’s shoulder, “You can count on us. We’ll find this criminal and bring them to justice!”
He tipped his fedora and smiled. “I knew we could count on you.” He opened the barbershop door to exit. “One more thing,” he called out, “I do expect you to refund my son!”
Kii stared down at Rie and sighed. “Yamata no Orochi…” Kii stood up and looked out the window toward the full-moon. “It’s finally time, then?” She crossed her arms before flashing her robotic middle finger to Luna. “Hmph.” She walked over to the window, flipping over the opening hours sign.
SORRY, WE’RE CLOSED
Quietly, she unbuttoned her plaid red shirt and carefully placed it on top of her sleeping companion.
“Sweet dreams, Rie-chan,” the oni smiled, “Will this nightmare be over when you awake?” Kii reached into her skirt and pulled out a keychain. “Lock up shop when you leave, alright?” she said, placing her keys beside Rie.
Kii stealthily removed the door chime, and placed it in her pocket, before hitting the light switch and exiting the building.
“Hey, Ibarra-san,” I greeted her, “Closing early?”
Kii looked at me. She frowned, although much less aggressively than I was used-to. “Ningen…” she spoke with a grave tone, “Leave this town.”
I stared at her in disbelief. “W-Wha?! What about my thes-”
Kii quickly smashed her palm against my mouth, her usual scowl returning, as she muffled my speech. “Quiet. Rie-chan’s trying to sleep.” Kii looked around, before leaning in close to me. “You’re going to be in danger, if you stay here.” Carefully she lifted her hand from my face, and folded her arms in frustration.
“Don’t care,” I smiled, “I’m not leaving until my thesis is finished.”
Kii grinned. “Then perhaps you can repay us for last night?” she asked.
I raised an eyebrow. “Sure, I’m always happy to help.”
“Tell me if you see anything strange,” Kii whispered, “We’re looking for a murderer.”
My eyes widened in shock. “A m-murderer?” I stammered, before my eyes drifted to Kii’s right shoulder, visible as she wasn’t wearing her usual shirt over her purple and white polka-dotted tank top.
Kii followed my gaze and smiled. “So, uh…” she smiled, “Whatcha think of the new arm?”
“It’s fine,” I replied, “But what’s this about a murder?”
Kii frowned. “Don’t tell Rie-chan, but…” she furrowed her brow and leaned into my face, “I think Niijigoku City is in trouble.”
“Trouble?” I asked.
“Just report back to me or Rie-chan if you see anything unusual, ok?”
“So…” I began, “Does this mean I’m welcome to hang out with you?”
Kii gritted her teeth and growled. “Whatever,” she snarled, “I’m sure Rie-chan would be happy to get to know you, anyway…”
“Be sure to help me with my thesis, ok?” I winked, making Kii visibly shudder.
“Don’t write anything bad about me and you have a deal,” Kii sighed, putting her hands in her pockets and walking off, “Later!”
I stared through the hairdresser’s window, finding Rie sleeping on the couch. Cute, I thought. What, I pondered, do youkai dream about…?
4TH NIGHTMARE OVER
*Ookami ningen – “Wolf human”. Gender-neutral term for a werewolf in Japanese. Ookami otoko (wolf-man) and ookami onna (wolf-woman) are other variants
**Yamabiko, inugami – Two different kinds
of youkai believed to be, or to resemble, canines