Unless you’re some uncatchable criminal or the gloryhound after her, you’re in for a bad time.
Say it’s 1920 in Boston and you own a deli or whatever. She comes in, orders a pastrami sandwich, and not ten seconds later, Hell itself plows through the walls of reality right into your shop. Naturally, she animates your entire stock into some sort of meat behemoth, fully capable of laying into a Fifth Circle devil on its own.
Oh, you don’t understand what that means? It’s kind of a stupid system that works differently for heavenly and hellish forces and dammit, quit distracting me! It’s like a five on the Richter Scale as far as geographic impact.
So anyway, Mega Meat has it out with a few weaker devils, the building collapses, and the owner gets steaked through the head. Kind of a shitty way to die, that. So then, his confused, pissed off soul goes to be judged and he gets to go back into the cycle. That’s how it works, right?
Dunno if you know it, but you should if you ended up here. No? Really? Ah, that sucks. Well, the system isn’t really workable with some people. They’ve hacked out their karma or mortality or whatever. They wind up as these dead zones where the gears of reality stop running reality and turn into a taffy factory of imprecise non-stuff.
It defies the Natural Order or whatever their damn excuse is. They have some sort of autocorrect in place, but that just causes calamities around the dead zone folks. Then its demons and hunters of whatever pay grade they can afford to toss at the problem.
Oh, right. Why they bother. The flexible Taffy-Reality is contagious. Some witch’s lunch break turns into a grudge match and the poor bystander gets his soul tainted. Sorry buddy, best we can do is raise your next of kin a rung when they die, assuming they don’t total out negative. You go in the trash chute so you don’t gum up the system and cause a soul overflow.
And that’s how they meet me.
Where is he now? Oh, his tale was a bit too mouthwatering for me to handle. Memories of a good sandwich are almost as good as the real thing. The souls are filling enough, if a bit bland. Ah well, a meal’s a meal.
How about you? What’s a live one doing down here?
Very interesting. I imagine she died at some point. The boundaries of my, our, prison changed awhile back. You might be able to take out her descendants, if you still have the strength.
Ah, wait. You’ve been changed too. That’s convenient.
Oh, me? I’m no one special.
Really. I eat the souls that the ministry throws away. I’m just a chained monster that works as a garbage disposal.
Fine, if you insist, I’ll tell you.
You ever hear of Napoleon? Conqueror general guy, the picture with the horse, hugeass bodyguards made him look like a dwarf? No? Ah well.
So, his army is up in Moscow, wrecking face. The Russians, they’ve got some damn fine ice magic on their side. General Winter and all that. The witch from my earlier story is there, having a mad science fling with some ice mage. Shit’s all kinds of chaotic. Only way it could be better is with some hunters breathing down the couple’s neck.
This time, it’s hell against two, not one. When shit gets real, it gets real. About two years of off and on warring later, the pair has the afterlife’s balls in a vice. They piss off for twenty years or so, the couple doesn’t lay waste to half of non-magical Europe.
With that straightened out, the witch left. Have a nice twenty years while I disappear from the grid, hon. The demons came back in force in about eight. And no one had a damn clue where she went.
Oh, right. Me.
That was, ah, some time in that first two years. Pretty sure I developed in a gel-filled vat. No idea if they contributed any of their stuff to the process.
Yes, I know how it normally works. I’ve eaten enough memories to know that much.
Anyway, that sword’s kind of shitty as a digging tool. You said you were one of those, whatever you call them, priestess types. The seals are here, here, here, and here. Let’s get to breaking out of here.
What? Oh. I could’ve eaten you at any time. I just figured you’d like to get with getting your revenge on. I could do with flipping the damn system as well. Mother needs a smackdown. Pops is probably in a hole like this one. And I can’t forget the Ministry. I’ve got about two hundred years of back payments they’re due for.
Oh, the speaking thing? Mental Contamination’s a bitch and a half. I can think of ways to deal with it later, when we’re out of here.
Now, get to breaking that seal. I can dig a way out after that.
Ran Yakumo prided herself on the ability to remain calm when stressed. Being the shikigami of Yukari Yakumo required that she be able to handle anything. Sometimes that might mean she had to deliver messages to the powers residing in other Border Worlds. Other times, she had to take a trip to an Outside city because her master was having a craving for a particular kind of ice-cream. Such was dealing with Yukari.
Today’s duties were a bit different.
While she was loath to admit it, Ran was on edge. This was not something she had experience dealing with. Her mind, normally a force to be reckoned with, was currently occupied with worsening her already frayed nerves. It had decided to calculate all of the ways things could, would, go catastrophically wrong.
As such, she was throwing open doors with a bit too much force and not bothering to close them as she crossed the Yakumo residence. She had already taken far too long to fly back from her reconnaissance and time was of the essence.
“Good morning, Ran.” Yukari was seated at the kitchen table, a mug of coffee in one hand and the day’s copy of the Bunbunmaru in the other. “It seems to be a rather slow news day.”
“Lady Yukari! There’s an emergency! The Border is-”
Yukari sipped her coffee. “I know.”
Naturally, she would know immediately, Ran thought. That was no doubt why Yukari was awake so early in the day. After all, it would not be inaccurate to say that Yukari Yakumo was the Border.
“What are your orders, master?” Ran’s shikigami training had engraved those words into her instincts. That ever-persistent question helped to calm her mind, to give a sense of normalcy.
“Please have a seat, Ran.” Yukari’s tone was even and calm, but her voice had a certain authority. Ran found herself seated through no power of her own.
Yukari stood, making her way into the kitchen. “You seem stressed, Ran. Would you care for some tea? Of course you would.”
“Lady Yukari, I-” Ran’s words caught in her throat as Yukari stared at her.
“Don’t worry, we’ll talk as soon as this boils.”
Was Yukari being… motherly? Ran hadn’t seen this side of her master in a number of years. Yukari only showed this part of herself when she thought Ran truly needed it. She was right to do so now.
“Here,” Yukari handed Ran a mug. “I made it with milk, just how you like it.”
Ran squinted into the tea, as if trying to find her reflection in the opaque liquid. Her shaking hands made it completely impossible.
“Everything will be fine.” Yukari said, her gentle words filled with absolute confidence.
Ran closed her eyes as she inhaled the tea’s warm aroma. No longer shaking, she asked, “What is to be our approach? Each moment we delay, more come through.”
“Your report, please.” Yukari said, assuming the formal tone of a general.
Ran quickly recounted what she had witnessed.
“I do not believe they can understand us. My power is not such that I may comprehend their interactions.”
“Shall we terminate them, then?” Ran did not much care for fighting this sort of opponent.
“You are to depart for the other border worlds and notify them of this incursion. They must be vigilant. Some will doubtless send assistance with you. Together, sweep the Outside for fractures in the dimensional barrier and repair them. Any incursions are to be contained but not dealt with aggressively.”
“Yes, Lady Yukari.” Ran said, her voice wavering slightly. “What will you do?”
“I have a visit to make.” Yukari replied, “Do finish your tea before you go.”
“A visit to the shrine?” The Hakurei and the witch would no doubt get involved.
“This situation requires a lighter touch. I have a diplomat to recruit,” Yukari said, opening one of her gaps.
Ran was not sure what to make of that, but was granted no time to ask.