“Hold still or I’ll bite your nose off!”
Apparently my face was enough to scare even a monster.
The thing froze mid-squeak. When I had been younger, I was told of my duty as the Kanda Onmyouji. I had a legacy, passed down from generation to generation; my hair was naturally red, which was caused by a curse and I was expected to keep it long for tradition; I even had an enemy to swear revenge on. Then came the training and the jobs started and here I was. Carting a huge rat monster under my shirt like I had a teenage paunch that squirmed and squealed like a pig for slaughter. And there were claws digging into my stomach. It was my third assignment involving an oh–nezumi – a rat youkai that was much harder to kill than say, an actual rat, and was the size of a small dog. The first time I’d encountered one of these things, the rat had scratched the hell out of me. This time I came prepared with a tennis racket and oven mitts. I backhanded the rat with the spell-enforced racket into the wall and the mitts had extra padding. Now I just had to get rid of it.
I couldn’t exactly hand these things over to pest control, they’d freak out if they saw the size of these things and think genetic mutation and bring the media and the scientists and…all hell would break loose. That left the natural way. Cats. And I knew this small roadside shrine. The shrine was really more of a wooden shack thing with a stone Buddha statue inside and some stale offerings from faithful patrons. It had become the nesting area for wild cats. There were always a few that could be found lounging lazily around the statue or even draped over the stone head. I’d expected to hear a least a few protesting yowls when I intruded on their sanctuary. But when I opened the door, there was nothing. Silence. In my line of work silence meant one of two things: something bad or something really bad. I was kind of hoping for the former.
Even with a wriggling rat in my arms, I managed to jostle out a small flashlight and flash the light around. I could see traces of the cats, but no actual signs of them.
They’d vacated the area. That wasn’t good. The rat, that had up to this point been curiously complacent, made a sudden vault out of my grip.
“No, you don’t!” I felt sharp claws digging past cloth into skin as it frantically moved its haunches in an attempt to break free. Damn it, now I was going to have to buy Neosporin.
“Would you…” High-pitched squealing. “Ow!” Freaking rat youkai with the abnormal strength. The little bugger threw its not inconsiderable weight against me and my head hit wood. For a minute, I saw pretty white fireworks before the pain ripped its way through my skull. Clutching my head with one hand, I kept my arm wrapped around the rat and tried to will the headache away. I was scuffling with a giant rat on the dirty floor of a small shrine and that was definitely a cobweb in my hair. My life had just hit an all-time low and I was only fifteen.
I took out a long strip of yellow spell paper and wrapped it, probably tighter than necessary, around the struggling rat. “Last time I’m accepting anything to do with any of you. If they want an Onmyouji, they can damn well hire another one. Except, oh wait, I’m the only one left. What the hell am I even gonna do with – gah! Son of a…!”
Right before my eyes, visible even in the dark because of the sheer power that it eked out, was an enormous dog’s head – hovering – in mid-air. This was so not my night.