The two of us managed to hulk her not-exactly-lightweight husband out the door.
She put a facemask and a long trench coat on him so no one would recognize him in this state, sparing him some dignity, and between the two of us, we managed to get him out of the building complex.
Then there was a problem.
The nearest river from the building was still something of a trek, which wouldn’t be a problem in normal circumstances but Mr. Ando’s muscles weren’t cooperating, and his wife wasn’t exactly athletic. We stopped for a short break and just as I was wondering how the hell we were going to do this before the sun came up and people started coming out to see what looked to be two people hauling a dead body, I saw a familiar sight.
For once, I was happy to see the floating dog head that was practically glowing in the dark. Wu must enjoy doing late-night shopping, but beggars can’t be choosers.
“Hey,” I called. When they caught sight of me, the wariness that flashed through was plain.
“Hello.” Wu adjusted the plastic bag that seemed to be filled with beef jerky packets.
“Midnight snack?” I asked, adjusting the rambling man on my shoulders.
Wu shrugged, turning his head towards my client with a questioning tilt.
“He is possessed,” Wu said quietly, and accurately.
“Yep. I’m taking him to the river banks.” He nodded somewhat approvingly.
“Mind helping?” I let out a grunt when my arms started to burn.
Wu stopped nodding and started blinking milky eyes at me. “Excuse me?” He said, looking both affronted and puzzled.
“The man’s not exactly a homunculus,” I said, nodding at him. “And his wife’s tired, so…”
“Oh, come on. Ten minutes out of your life. Think of it as karma deposit.”
Extremely reluctantly, Wu took the other shoulder from Mrs. Ando and we shuffled our way towards the riverbanks like a small parade of skulking rats.
Once we got there, I placed the man on the banks and stood up. I took out a piece of paper and drew the kanji for water on it with big strokes. Then I traced the kuji-kiri – the nine symbolic cuts over it – five horizontal and four vertical lines for a man. I tossed it into the water, watching as the paper dissolved in a flash of light.
“What did you do?” Mrs. Ando whispered.
“Protection ritual,” I said, “on three now.” I took Mr. Ando’s legs and Wu slowly grabbed the arms. “One…two…heave!”
And in went Mr. Ando into the water. There was kicking, splashing and a considerable amount of screaming. Then I saw it, the small figure of fur with the limbs all crossed together and five fingers on each appendage. It gave a shriek, coming out of Mr. Ando’s mouth and tried to escape, but I was ready.
I grabbed a dagger, biting down on my thumb for a drop of blood to well up and dragged my thumb along the flat blade. I threw the dagger at the youkai and it emitted a high-pitched shriek and exploded. The dagger fell to the ground, smoking slightly.
“What…what was that?” Mrs. Ando breathed.
“Izuna.” I said. “Rice bowl demon, possesses a person, makes them talk gibberish and develop a massive appetite for rice. It was summoned to possess your husband. Probably would have driven him crazy in another week.”
“Oh my – but who would do that?”
“You tell me.” Then I turned to Wu who was already inching his way out.
“Thanks!” I called. “I’ll give you a cut tomorrow!”
He waved a dismissive hand at me while his Inugami panted in my direction. I’d like to say it was a friendly sort of panting, but for all I knew he was wondering if red hair made a human head tastier. Meanwhile, Mr. Ando had gasped and paddled his way to the banks, shuddering furiously with the cold, his clothes absolutely drenched.
“What the fuck was that?!” He yelled. “What the h-hell d-do you think you were d-doing?” His teeth chattered noisily while I pulled him onto the bank. Then he paused, closed his mouth in wonder and opened it, breathing noisily.
“I can stop.” He said, astonished, and sneezed.
“That was the only way to get rid of the Izuna.” I said. “And I took precautions so you wouldn’t drown.”
“It’s winter! You threw me into a freezing river!”