By Ysabet
(Hiya! The Holy Disclaimer: Yadda, yadda, yadda, Ushio & Tora don't belong to me, & if they did there'd be more episodes to watch & a LOT of translated manga. Sigh. I'm MUCH too broke for that! So instead I play in somebody else's playground……. Viva Otaku Prost!!! (That's garbled Japagermaspan for "Long Live Otaku who Drink Beer.) Enjoy if it's enjoyable, and please review; this is ment to be a companion piece to another fic of mine, 'Mere Wickedness'. By the way, as I understand it, a 'sempai' translates into 'social equal' or 'comrade', as in somebody in the same boat with you. Also, for future reference, Pokysticks are Japanese cookie-sticks, like pretzel-sticks, covered with chocolate or other stuff, and extremely popular.)

He's watching me again.

Here I sit, doing my damnedest to finish this drawing, and it just won't come out right. I had this idea stuck in my head, and if I don't put it down on paper or canvas I won't be able to sleep. So I'm at my table, trying to squeeze out what I can see in my head through my fingers onto paper--- and I feel this prickling sensation right between my shoulderblades. So I know he's out there, watching me.

Why the HELL does he do that?

It's not that I mind that much, not really….. I'm not afraid of him anymore (just careful.) He doesn't intimidate me like he used to, not like he did when I first pulled the Spear from his shoulder and let him loose on the world. But, y'know, even then….. Even when I was sure he was going to eat me or rip me limb-from-limb, I don't know--- there was something that kept me from being completely terrified. Something almost familiar about him.

Maybe it's in my blood. If the story my dad has harped on for my whole life is true (and, at this point, how could I doubt it?), then my ancestor the Great Invincible Killer Samurai was the one that stuck the Spear through him. The way Tora tells it (when he talks about it at all, which isn't often), my forefather was *this* close to becoming Samurai-Pokysticks when he fiendishly stabbed the Terrible, Invincible Bakemono through with the Kemono No Yari and condemned him to five hundred unfair years of imprisonment. And all just for eating a few humans…….

I'm not sure how I feel about the eating humans bit. I mean, obviously I think it's horrible and all, and if I met a monster that ate humans (what do I mean 'if'? They *all* seem to eat humans…..) then of course I'd kill it. Can't fault my ancestor for that. But…… It was a long time ago. I know, I know, that doesn't make it any better; but murderers get sent to prison for their crimes, don't they? And isn't that what happened to Tora?

Or am I trying to justify the fact that I seem to have a monster for a friend?

I can just see him, perched on the old temple roof. In the darkness he's the color of sienna mixed with a little burnt umber, shading to charcoal. Funny; I can't help but think in painting terms sometimes. Tora's eyes would be the most interesting thing to paint--- they're silver, really silver, like shining glass. But you can see into them too, like you can into deep water. When he gets really pissed off, they burn white. Terrifying but cool.

Not that I'd ever tell him that, of course.

As monsters go, he's pretty good. No tentacles, no slime or ooze dripping all over the place; and he can fit through doorways (if they're wide enough) or windows without too much trouble, when he doesn't just slip through the wall like a ghost. No multiple eyeballs, either (a lot of youkai seem to have those). He rips up the floor pretty often, though; those claws of his. Last week I heard this horrible crackling sound and looked out the window--- and the idiot was sharpening his claws on the gate doors! Big, huge doors that've been around probably since my ancestor put him down, and he reduced them to splinters in a few minutes. He sheds, too.

And the way he goes through the groceries; man, for something that doesn't really *have* to eat, he always seems to be thinking about food. He likes junk food--- pizza and chocolate, hamburgers, anything new. Hates soda, though. And I guess that if I'd been stuck in a cellar for five hundred years I'd want to make up for lost time too. But I wish he'd keep his claws the hell out of *my* lunch! Every damned time I eat something, there he is, fishing 'his' share from my plate, right in front of me! I've started buying bigger portions just so I can manage to eat *something*…..

I suppose it's OK; after all, look at what he COULD be eating.

You know, I didn't plan on him being around for long. When I let him out, almost two years ago now, I though I had made the greatest mistake of my soon-to-be-truncated life. Oh man, he was evil. Bigger than anything I'd ever been around, furred and fanged and clawed, and with some habits that took a lot of getting used to. The biggest one had to be the way he likes to perch on my shoulders, usually with a handful of claws resting on my head. It's a good thing he can go weightless--- he'd squash me like a bug otherwise.

But it's not so bad. When he would hitch a ride, back at the beginning, we wouldn't usually try to kill each other----- sort of an armistace, for a little while.

Now I can see his eyes shining through the darkness; they look like a pair of low-hanging stars from here, but bigger. Y'know, when you're a kid and you hear legends about red and green oni and other monsters, you don't think about what they do when they're not out pillaging and eating villages or stuff like that. You never think about what they might be like at home in their lairs or wherever. That they might snore, for instance; or that they might think television is the most interesting thing to ever, EVER exist. You don't think of them having opinions about what kind of detergent you should use for washing clothes (Tora claims that the stuff we used to use smelled too strong and that it made it easier for monsters to locate me), or that they might complain when you order pizza *without* anchovies for a change. Or that they might drink ALL the milk before you could get even *one* glass of the damned stuff! AND put the empty carton back in the fridge---!

No; monsters are just supposed to eat people, terrorize the countryside, stomp on poor little houses, and be killed by adventurous samurai. Or be Godzilla, in which case all bets are off (except that you'd have to be a damned fool to live in Tokyo). I remember the first time Tora saw a Godzilla movie; man, he laughed his ass off! It was one of the old black-and-white ones (and I'll tell you, THAT took a little explaining) and the monster-costume wasn't exactly the best in the world. First he stared; then he looked at me with this puzzled expression and asked me if this was some new kind of kabuki. Then he just looked back at the TV and started to laugh (you could see the seams on the costume). By the time the monster was stomping Tokyo into the ground, we were both cheering for Godzilla.

On the other hand..... one night he came back from a little exploration trip, and he had been to Hiroshima. He told me so. But he didn't say much else that night.
I just woke up; it's sometime after 2 a.m., and I think Tora was just in the room. You'd think I would be worried, but I think I must be getting used to it. Anyway, the Spear didn't wake me, so it was OK.

Why the hell does he come into my room, though? Sometimes I can tell he's been looking at my drawings and paintings (they'll be rearranged and sometimes they have clawmarks on the corners). I drew one of the Spear once, and he ripped it to shreds. He *really* hates the Spear. I guess I can't blame him for that.

It's next to me, leaning against the headboard of my bed. If I move just a little, I can touch it, and I do that often while I'm drifting off to sleep. Sometimes I'm not sure where I end and the Spear begins..... That should probably worry me, but somehow it just----- doesn't. It's a little like gaining a new arm or hand, but one made of wood and metal rather than flesh; you don't think about it, it's just there, part of you. The Kemono No Yari. When it takes me over-----

When it takes me over, it's not so much a change (I think, sometimes) but more a simplifying of me, Aotsuki Ushio. The parts of me that aren't needed (the civilized ones, the ones that would hold me back) get..... put aside, clipped off cleanly by the Spear's edges. The rest of me gets sort of channeled, pulled into a purpose. And the way that feels........ When it happened the first time, it hurt; it hurt a lot. And every time hurts some, I suppose. But it's a little less each time, you know? And I get the feeling that, someday, I'll pass some point, some milestone--- and it will never hurt again.

It also feels *good* in a wierd sort of way..... and that DOES worry me. It's a little like sticking your finger in a light-socket, and likeing it.

Maybe the idea of being channeled isn't quite right; it's more like being forged, beaten on an anvil. Each time I change, I get heated again in the Spear's fires, and then hammered out. Yeah; that feels right.

I should probably be worried. But I'm not, not really. And it's not like I'd ever give up being the Spearbearer. I've been this way too long, too hard, too much; it really *would* be like cutting off my arm. Or my head.
Ha! I just did something I've never done before. Tora headed off somewhere----- I could see him soar off like some big furry ghost towards the city----- so I slipped downstairs and over to the old temple. It was an easy climb onto the roof, really; nothing like some of the things I've had to do while fighting (there was a tree nearby that helped a lot). He invaded MY space, so now it was my turn.

It was pretty interesting, too. He *collects* stuff! Little things, all kept in a piece of what looked like a silk table-runner: a bowl of rocks, an old comb, some money, a monster's tooth (I wonder which one it was?), things like that. I never knew he collected stuff! But the wierdest thing of all was this: The tiles on top of the roof-ridge had DRAWINGS on them! All sorts of pictures; mountains, monsters, people in wierd costumes, and a lot of drawings of the sun and the moon and stars. Those last few were doodles, sort of; cruder than the others, and scattered around all over. One thing that was really interesting was that he had traced around each of his hands with a claw, so the outlines were right on the center-top of the ridge. Kind of a claiming territory sort of thing?

I wonder what he'd do if I drew MY handprints up there next to his? Have huge, furry hysterics all over the place, probably. Broken walls, broken windows, smashed trees, more scars, that kind of hysterics. No thanks. He's going to have fits about my being up here anyway--- and he'll know I was, he'll be able to smell me. Huh. Well, it was only fair; he looks at MY stuff, doesn't he?
I got back into bed just in time; it's beginning to rain, and it looks like it'll come down hard. Good; that should wash my scent from Tora's 'stash.'

Not that I was worried, really; but I felt a little guilty..... It was like reading somebody's diary. For all that we've been together for more than a year now, there's a lot we don't really know about each other. When we fight, when we've traveled, we've always sort of lived in the present moment; I don't ask him about his past, he doesn't ask me about mine. I guess mine's pretty bland, though; but his.....

I wonder how old he is?

Does it matter? He spent the last 500 years in a pit. Ancient bakemono or not, that's got to make this like a whole other life for him. Look at what he missed: The arrival of all those Europeans, the end of imperial life, World Wars I and II..... the atom bomb.....

This must be like another planet for him. Oh yeah, the 'Space Race' stuff, too. I tried to explain that man had landed on the moon, and I think he thought I was lying. He gave me this look like 'Yeah, sure' and laughed.
Sometimes I wonder what life would be like without monsters, without the Spear, without Tora. Losing the monsters, well, hell! That'd be great..... wouldn't it? I mean, who likes to get bitten, clawed, and otherwise mauled on a regular basis? Yet, I can't really imagine not fighting *something* at this point!

As for losing the Spear: No, and no, and no. Wouldn't work.

And Tora? My first impulse: Great! No more lost food, rude comments that only I can hear, no-one poking into my stuff without permission; yeah. But......... You know, he's the only--- person?--- that really knows what this is like: hunting, fighting..... killing your enemy. I'd rather not kill, but there's not much choice when something is trying to disembowel you. Tora may not be human, but he *does* understand. And I can talk to him about what we do, even if we don't always agree on things. He's there, and I *do* talk to him.

Maybe..... he'd be even harder to lose than the Spear.

Or am I just an idiot? He sure seems to think so.
It's barely morning, and I'm sitting at my desk drawing. Burnt sienna, umber, charcoal, silverpoint. Tora's face looks out at me from the paper, eyes slitted and teeth just showing, that mass of hair of his blowing around him where he's sitting on a wall. It's one of my best drawings; and I'll bet it will dissapear sometime in the next few days. So I'll spray it with fixative to waterproof it; it'll last a lot longer up in his 'stash' that way.

Time to go downstairs for breakfast. I'll leave this where he can find it tonight.