Screw the Omega
A strong wind brushes the streets as the young man makes his way down an empty sidewalk. It’s late, too late for anyone to be out without a good reason. He sees empty shop after empty shop, peeking at his phone periodically to suss out the route. Nothing should be open now except the shop he’s looking for. It was cold, dry, but cold. The kind of cold it only gets when the clock crawls past the witching hour. Why is he even here? There was class tomorrow, homework hadn’t been done, and he’d already lost enough sleep from other tasks he’d carried out for this “side job”. Surely there’s no real reason to be out this late, especially not off some tip from an errant forum post. Problem was, if it wasn’t just a prank, if this was real, if this was what he was looking for, then fuck a sleep schedule.
He finally makes his way to his destination. “Takarajima Antique Shop” just like the post said. It was a tiny place, but it was very visually distinct from the outside. Bright lights on the displays of ancient-looking vases & fineries. As the boy makes his way inside, he’s met with a gruff elderly voice greeting him in Japanese.
“ Irashaimase!” Said the shopkeep. “Welcome! You are here very late!” The shopkeep let out with a laugh. His accent was definitely forced, his command of English was better than he was letting on. Probably to ease Japanophiles into a sense of comfort.
“You’re open very late.” The young man responded with a wry smile.
“How can I help you? We have very good deal on authentic samurai armor, yes? You like samurai?”
“Oh yes, I do. I’m actually here for something that belonged to a Samurai. My ancestor.” The young man responded.
The shopkeep looked confused and began to let out a chuckle. “Heh heh, my friend, you have Japanese ancestor?”. “Never knew they let Yasuke have kids”. He muttered in Japanese.
“You’re wrong there, he never took a wife, but he got plenty of castle girls pregnant.”
“You speak Japanese?” asked the shopkeep, his eyes narrowing as he began to drop the jolly old ojii-san act.
“A little” the boy said while tinkering with a set of Kunai.
“Pardon my shock. Plenty of young boys like you come into my shop and play with swords. None of them have the gall to say they’re descended from a Samurai”. The shopkeep's accent had all but evaporated. Still unmistakably Japanese, but much less cartoonish.
“Young boys like me? What do you mean by that exactly?” The Young man was slowly making his way through the sword collection as he spoke. “How many of those boys swing by at 3 in the morning?”
“You’d be surprised how much business I get at this hour. Mostly people who trade in black market materials. No black people though” They both chuckled. “This sword you are searching for. Its name?” The shopkeeper asked.
“Hyoukiri” The Young man responded blankly. “I heard from a source that you have it.”
A silence took the room. The kind that happens after a tasteless joke.
“I’d like to know what kind of source that is.” The shopkeep said, his gaze unbroken, affixed on the young man as he perused. “The name of that blade-”
“-Isn’t something one of those other ‘boys’ would know about is it? Name your price, oyaji” The young man interrupted as he turned to face the shopkeep.
“It’s not for sale. Not unless I know you’re not bluffing your lineage” The shopkeep said sternly. “Truth be told I only have the thing because the post-war government sold every antiquity they could find. It’s been in my family’s care for 60 years. If you truly are a samurai, I will relinquish it gladly.”
The young man reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a tattered piece of cloth. Once unfurled it revealed an insignia. Two birds facing each other wrapped in a wreath: The crest of clan Date. upon seeing the crest, the shopkeeper lets out a laugh.
“Is that the best you’ve got? A torn-up cloth? Any otaku off the street can make such a forgery.” the shopkeep said angrily.
“Look closer.” The young man said.
At that very moment, a presence took the room. A foul, vicious energy began to ooze from the banner in the boy’s hand. Upon closer inspection, the Date clan crest began to move, the birds flapped their wings, the wreath flowed as if a breeze was blowing. The shopkeeper’s eyes narrowed once again.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve seen one of those” The shopkeep now spoke purely in polite Japanese. “Pardon my rudeness till this point, these days it’s so easy to be duped by crooks and con artists. Please, may I ask your name?”
“Neji. Neji Okalu.” The young man responded.
“Okalu Neji dono. You are correct, you aren’t just any boy, are you? How does an African descend from devil hunters?” The Shopkeeper asked in a formal, yet quizzical manner.
“It’s a long story. Longer than I have time for. The blade, you have it don’t you?” Neji asked. His patience wearing thin from the chanbara routine.
“Yes, right this way, Okalu dono,” Said the shopkeep.
“Neji is just fine thank you,” Neji said as he wrapped up the banner and stuffed it back in his jacket.
The shopkeeper got out from behind the counter and gestured for Neji to follow him. As they made their way through the shop, Neji was amazed by all the trinkets and weapons scattered around in the displays.
“Takarajima is right, this really is a little treasure island, right here in Brooklyn,” Neji said as he took in the scenery.
“Yes, mine is a merchant family that dates back to the Kamakura. From dead bodies on battlefields to ransacking castles after revolutions, My family always knew how to increase our collection somehow.” The shopkeep said with a slight air of pomp.
The two made their way up a flight of stairs and into a deceptively huge attic styled with a Japanese interior, tatami floors, and all. The room housed hundreds of scrolls, weapons & suits of armor that seemed much too ornate to be priced anywhere below the millions. The shopkeep briskly walked across the tatami and began shuffling objects in a large container.
“If I’m being honest, I’m glad you came. This damn thing is cursed. But I’m sure you already know, Descendant of Devil Slayers.” The shopkeep said as he pulled out a slightly above average length Katana from the box. The sword was wrapped in talismans from its tip to its hilt, and even that didn’t suppress its cursed ki from seeping through.
Neji began to smile. “How much do you want for it, Oyaji?”
“It’s not for sale,” Said the shopkeeper, as he tossed the sword across the room at Neji.
As Neji catches the sword, he catches a glimpse of something in his mind’s eye. A presence, a young-looking man, shrouded in purple flames, saying-
“Let me die,” The shopkeep said blankly. “That’s what I’m told its previous owner kept saying to himself as they tried to pull the sword off him. From what I heard he went crazy and started going on a killing spree. I expect nothing less than the work of Muramasa himself.” The shopkeeper closed the box and locked the latch. “Will that be all for tonight Okalu-dono?”
“Let me get a box set of shrunken, 25 Kunai, a garotte wire, and 1 daisho pair,” Neji said as he started trying to peel off the talismans on Hyoukiri.
“Not here, wait till you get home.” Said the shopkeep, a sense of trepidation in his tone. “I’ll go ring up your items.”
Neji makes his way up the stairs of his apartment. His roommate is fast asleep by now. He was carrying a bulk of the items he just acquired in a large trunk that the shopkeeper gave him, while Hyoukiri was in a sword bag strung across his back. As he enters his room he flips on the lights and tosses the trunk aside before carefully pulling the sword out of the bag. One by one he begins to peel off the talismans. He didn’t recognize the specific script, but he knew a sealing spell when he saw one. Problem was, the spell was old and worn, and the cursed energy was seeping out of the sword, like droplets through a filter. The more talismans Neji peeled off, the more sinister the vibe from the sword became. Neji had experience with cursed materials before. Trinkets and baubles with minor curses imbued to them, things you can find if you have the right onion links, but this, this was the real deal. Finally, he had secured his birthright.
Once the sword was unwrapped he placed it on the floor of his room and made preparations for an attempt at communing with a malevolent spirit. Incense, candles, and an offering. Once all of the parts were in place, Neji knelt down and began the incantation. Now that the sword was unwrapped, Neji marveled at its beauty. The Scabbard was a darkish purple with golden flames adorned on it. The handle matched the purple of the scabbard and had a golden tip.
“Spirit of foul temperament.” Neji began in Japanese as he slowly gripped the sword and raised it. “As I hold this blade, I hold not a weapon” He places his right hand on the handle of the sword. “As your blade is drawn, I seek entry and an audience with the spirit within,” As Neji drew the blade, bright purple flames engulfed the room, in an instant, Neji was no longer in his room. He couldn’t tell where he was. All he could see was fire, an endless purple inferno. Despite this, it wasn’t hot, quite the opposite. An unnerving chill filled the air as he heard a voice beckon.
“Isn’t it past your bedtime kiddo?” said a disembodied voice. “Didn’t your mother tell you children shouldn’t play with swords?” It continued.
“Who is that? Are you the spirit that dwells in this blade?” Neji asked.
“Mhmm, and you have exactly 1 minute to tell me why I shouldn’t possess your body and murder everything I see until noon tomorrow,” As he said this the spirit manifested in front of Neji. He stood about 2 meters tall and his skin was an auburn brown, his hair a shining silver, his eyes were bright purple much like the flames surrounding them. An athletic build, a body with exceptionally defined proportions. Atop his head were a pair of fine feline ears, with a long bushy tail flowing from his backside to match. He was dressed in a mixture of Sengoku era loungewear and samurai armor. While definitely humanoid, this spirit was no human.
“Because you’d be doing a disservice to Hitora,” Neji said calmly. “I’m the only one who can tell you what became of your first master.”
“Like I care what happened to that jackass. His pompous self-righteous stink is all over your soul too, so I’m guessing you’re a descendant or something. Hmph, samurai, all the same, trying to jockey favor with bloodlines and connections. You humans are BORING!” Hyoukiri’s anger was matched by the flames in his domain. They crackled and burned with the intensity of his screams.
“What do you want, Hyoukiri?” Neji asked, trying his hardest to remain unfazed by the flames.
“What do I want? I want to die.” Hyoukiri said, inching closer to Neji as he spoke. “I want you to sheath me, and destroy me. Or at least have the decency to throw me in a chest and never disturb me again,”
“I can’t do that,” Neji responded. “I worked too hard to find yo-”
As he tried to utter the sentence Hyoukiri’s flames erupted once again.
“Boy, do you know what I am? I’m a demon. Why in the flying FUCK. Should I care what some brat has worked for?” Hyoukiri snarled.
“Why do you want to die?” Neji asked, his tone was calm, patient. This wasn’t anything he had a frame of reference for dealing with, so he figured his best shot was to be polite and non confrontational.
“A samurai boy like you wouldn’t understand. Your kind views death as honorable, as some tawdry performance. I am no samurai. I am also no common Yokai. I’m something more than you can possibly comprehend, boy.” As he monologues, the flames continue to bounce viciously with the rhythm of his cadence.
“The Aragami of Death and Despair. The Winter Leopard. The Fang of Frost & Flame. I was able to comprehend all the bedtime stories, trust me.” Neji responded dismissively, finally getting used to the purple fire.
“Mere fractions of my limitless capabilities.
“Yet you’ve been cooped up in a katana for half a millennia, and now you’re so wound up about it you’d rather die than have a decent conversation with anybody willing to listen,” Neji said in a blank, yet bitingly pointed tone. Nonconfrontational didn’t mean he wouldn’t tell the truth.
The flames dulled.
“You really are Hitora’s litter aren’t you,” Hyoukiri said, his eyes fixed on Neji as he began calmly circling him. “You’re right. Where are my manners? What year is it?”
“2019,” Neji said with a slight sense of befuddlement.
“What Clan do you represent? What are your motives? If I’m to be shackled to another layabout with a grudge you might as well get ready for a possessing.” Hyoukiri snarled arrogantly, manifesting a gold throne studded with purple crystals out of the flames in his domain.
“I’m not a samurai, times have changed since the days of Hitora. And they’ve changed even more since the 70s, which was the last time you were awakened.” Neji said calmly. “My motives are complicated. All I can say for now is that I need your strength to hunt demo-”
Once again Hyoukiri interrupts Neji with a burst of his flames.
“Ok that’s getting pretty aggravating,” Neji said angrily, “I’m not asking for control, I’m asking for a contract.”
“Yea no that’s not what irked me." Hyoukiri sighed lazily. "The contract is fine. What I take issue with is you somehow thinking times have changed. Needy human with a birthright and a deathwish knocks on a demon's door for some spare power. Like I said, another layabout with a grudge." The Demon king stretched in his chair with an almost feline-esque dexterity. With these movements, Neji was forced to a knee. Hyoukiri was flexing his cursed pressure. “Your ancestor was a tad more interesting. He was a simple, but honest human. No schemes, just a powerful warrior who took on all challengers. But look at his lineage, some common rogue who makes backdeals with graverobbers for his own family’s property.”
“I made no such ‘backdeal’. The guy tossed you without a care in the world. Because you’re THAT cursed, you’re THAT, dangerous to the normies. Me taking you off his hands was an act of public service. Me putting you to use is the same.” Neji said confidently, while forcing his way back to his feet.
“Public service you say? Hmph. I may not know much about you, litter of Hitora, but I can smell your soul.” Hyoukiri said softly as he ascended from his throne and strolled towards Neji. “I smell alot of things on you, self righteousness, typical sense of justice, resentment, bitterness, a lot, I do mean a lot of hate. But no love. Justice without love is a blade with no sheath. Destined to cut recklessly till either everyones dead, or it’s dulled with rust.”
“Then let me be that blade. I’ll be the tool that brings every demon in my path. Nothing more, nothing less. I don’t need love to do that do I?” Neji said smugly.
“This is no game kiddo, You can stop the act too, you’re no good little demon slaying samaritan. You’re not Hitora. If I’m being honest, you give me a villain vibe, and while I don’t object, I want to know who my strength is gonna be pointed at.” Hyoukiri said earnestly
“Oh, so you’re not so keen on dying anymore? Is kitty gonna play nice?” Neji responded with an inverse amount of sincerity.
“Watch your tone, baby tiger. I don’t remember saying I was gonna be your pet. If you’re serious about this partnership, tell me what your actual aims are. You’re no simple demon hunter, and I don’t appreciate being lied to.”
Neji, whilst keeping his eyes locked with Hyoukiri, slowly raised his hand and stretched his index finger upward.
“What, you want me to look up or something?” Hyoukiri said quizzically whilst glancing upwards.
“No. You asked for a target. I’m telling you who.” Neji said with a blank smugness.
“Huh? Target in the sky- Wait… “ Hyoukiri let out a vicious shriek of laughter. “You can’t be serious! You are a demon hunter correct? Why would you?... What would you gain from-”
“Killing God?” Neji interrupted. “You said it yourself. Alot of hate in my heart. See, unlike you demons, we’re not born with our senses of selves built wholesale. Our hearts are the product of lives we’ve lived” Neji began to monologue calmly.
Hyoukiri’s ears perked as he began to hear the young man out.
“People always tell me I’m too young for all the death that’s been around me. I don’t even really remember my parents, and the only father I’ve ever known died last year. You’d have liked him. He was a big fan of your master. Would probably have gotten better milk for an offering.
“Yea I wasn’t gonna say anything” Hyoukiri said, materializing the bowl of soup Neji left as his offering. “This is very spoiled.” He said, sniffing the bowl and grimacing.
“Apologies… I’m lactose intolerant, and my roommate doesn’t like going out for groceries…” Neji muttered.
“You don’t own a cat? Where’s your familiar?”
“I have a cat in Philly, but I don’t know how she’s doing these days.” Neji said sourly. “But Like I was saying… I’m not a stranger to death. I don’t know if that means I’m cursed, or what. But I look around and shit isn’t much different for a lot of people I know. We live in FUCKED times. Oh man, the fuckin Edo period is nothing compared to this. You wanna talk about demons bro? You wanna talk about fuckin devils spreading curses, humans are outpacing the fucking demons my dude!” Neji was emphatic, he was angry. He felt like someone gave him a soap box and he could finally let it rip. “I’m sick and tired of the world the way it is. I’m sick and tired of my history, my people's history being what it is. I don’t have a time machine, so I can’t change anything that’s happend. But I can kill who made it happe-”
“Oh please, even if your so-called purpose for summoning me was possible, which it isn’t. Doing that would destroy all known reality,” Hyoukiri barked at Neji, mere inches from his face.
“You don’t know that” Neji Said
“You don’t know that” Hyoukiri jinxed him. “Oh but I do. Listen here you litter runt, I’m older than you think. I remember a time before humans cooked up cognitions strong enough to keep the other side in check.”
“You mean the BackSide?” Neji asked calmly.
“Oh so you know about it? Well then maybe you’re not bluffing about your background.” Hyoukiri sneered sarcastically. “Tell me what you know”.
“I know it’s where demons come from, it’s where people’s thoughts are given physical shape and presence,” Neji responded confidently.
“Passable.” Hyoukiri said unimpressed. “They call it the “Gyaku” in Japan. The myths over there point to it being the back facing portion of reality. As your world looks towards the heavens, the reverse world faces towards Hell.” Hyoukiri continued. “Before Mankind found a common set of myths and legends to maintain a society they were slaves to the whims and machinations of the denizens of the reverse. Not to get philosophical on you, but that could only change, when the minds of humans changed.”
“You’re not saying anything new, get to the point” Neji said hurriedly
“The point, jackass, is that god, gods, the divine above, the whole reason for it to exist is to keep this world from descending into the Gyaku, and to stop certain denizens of the Gyaku from building kingdoms that could challenge the heavens.”
“I’m confused, isn’t there a chicken & egg paradox there? If the heavens were built with human cognition to keep the backside at bay, why did humans need to dream up god in the first place? You’re making it sound like there are beings older than human cognition who’ve been at odds far longer than life on this planet.”
“Friggin moron, do you think humans are the only beings in the known universe with thoughts?” Hyoukiri said, chuckling condescendingly. “Fear, pain, passion, these things have existed in the primordial sense, for longer than your brain can comprehend. The Gyaku isn’t a ‘separate world’ it is just the other side of this one. One didn’t start before the other, they have existed in tandem since the dawn of creation. And for some reason you want to bring it down. Why?”
“I don’t know if you’ve noticed but it’s not much worth keeping afloat out there.” Neji said in his usual blank downbeat tone. “Shits fucked, the BackSide is full of foul ass cognitions, demons are killing more people now than ever before, Demon Hunter society is corrupt as fuck, and that’s BEFORE I get to Frontside related matters. Even if I wanted to ‘save’ the world, I’d get killed by one of my own in the process. But not with you.”
Hyoukiri sighed. “What is your plan exactly? We’re not talking about Santa Claus. You can’t just kill a singular cognition and be done with it. Plus atheism already kinda put a dent in the whole religion thing, so none of the old cognitions are as strong as they were”
“I’m not worried about any religious deities right now. First we need to deal with the secular. The cognitions with the most power over the BackSide are usually secular. I want to kill the desire for dominance that turns righteous men corrupt. I'm going to kill Thanatos and destroy the death drive" Neji said calmly, his words coming off as almost comical due to how straight-laced his diction was.
“Thanatos?” Hyoukiri began to laugh wildly. “The fucking grim reaper? You fished me out so you could goose chase for Death itself!? Are you fuckin kidding me here?” Hyoukiri continued mockingly, flames bouncing wildly as he bellowed.
“Would you stop with that? I know what I said. And I know how to do it. I’ve got a plan.” Neji said, arm over his face to shield from the fire. “You probably wouldn’t know this! But for the past century Thanatos has moved from human host to human host, making contracts to aid black magicians and sorcerers!” Neji said loudly. “He’s due to change hosts soon, and if I can infiltrate and kill whoever bonds with him, he’ll go too!”
The flames stopped.
“Are you aware of what you’d be doing?” Hyoukiri said plainly. “You’d effectively be ending the world.”
"Man I don’t give a FUCK about what you’re saying right now. The KuroRyoushi have been around ever since Yasuke, and they've done NOTHING. The Acolytes of Crowley, the Templars, the 9 Dragons, the American Occult Society, all of them are just bureaucratic shit shows. Some of the strongest families don't even hunt anymore, they're either too scared, too weak, too spoiled, or just too plain useless to fucking do anything! Like I said the BackSide is out of control, and the Hunters don't care, they're taking bribes to LET things stay this way, get worse even. If I do nothing the world ends regardless. You want to keep the Gyaku in check? I'm the only demon hunter in 50 FUCKING years who cared enough to do something about it." Neji hadn't spoken so many words in a row in years. Especially not about demon hunting. He didn’t know what it was about the domain of a many millenia years old demon within his ancestor’s sword that made him so talkative.
This was the first time Neji ever said his plan out loud. He knew destroying the Death Drive was tantamount to trying to fight a tornado bare handed. Even if he were to succeed, beyond becoming the man who ended the world, he’d never get it done without replicating the same destruction that put him down this path.
“Your Ancestor would be ashamed of you.” Hyoukiri said, chuckling once again.
“‘You think I care what that jackass thinks?’” Neji said mimicking Hyoukiri’s voice.
“Why end it? Why not fight to fix the systems that govern you?” Hyoukiri asked.
“I’m 19 years old. I just graduated high school, and I’ve seen half my family die trying to ‘fix’ those systems. First thing they teach you about Demon Hunting is that we aren’t superheroes. We don’t save, we hunt. I still live by my family’s creed. I still respect the old ways, fuck man, I might be the last one who still respects them. All I’m doing here is hunting a demon, the worst one of all.” Neji said confidently.
“I’m starting to like you, Baby Tiger.” Hyoukiri said softly with a smirk. “Ok, I’ve heard your request, Okyakusama.” Hyoukiri did a playfully mocking curtsey as he spoke. “You get the full package kiddo, just be sure you can handle it.” Hyoukiri said, his eyes slowly glowing bright and brighter.
“Full package? What?” Neji said, confused.
The flames that had dulled for a time were now beginning to roar once more.
“You’re going to be equipped with the full extent of my strength. Just like Hitora. He was interesting. You seem the same, Neji. It warms my heart to know the Kuro haven’t all died out, even more so to know my master’s lineage lives on. Even if you're obviously insane… But... a human that wants to end the world? I won’t lie, you’d have to break me to a million pieces to keep me from seeing how this shit turns out. I was right about you, a treacherous villain indeed,” The flames around Hyoukiri were more intense now than ever before. “You better do right by this power, Baby Tiger. If you don’t, It’ll possess you.”
“Wait, aren’t there terms or conditions? Other demons make contracts, doll power out based on a word, or a ritual, hello? Excuse me?” Neji said, a slight tinge of panic filling his tone.
“It’ll all make sense once you wake up, kiddo.” Hyoukiri said playfully, his physical presence dissipating into the flames.”Oyasumi”
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