How the Twisted Samurai Saved Christmas
December 24, 2027
She wasn't going to make it to Trucy's Christmas party.
Jinxie squeezed her eyes shut. After the trial in April, she'd felt so confident. Papa was free, Mr. Demon Lawyer and Ms. Cykes were so incredible and powerful, and Tenma Taro was banished forever. She rarely had nightmares anymore. To go to the Wright Anything Agency for their party was such a simple matter. The trickiest part was supposed to be getting from Tenma Town to the city. Once there, she could just take a bus to the agency.
She tightened her grip on her tray and opened one eye. Yokai swarmed around the distant bus stop. The bakeneko still sat beside it. Occasionally it washed its face, like an ordinary housecat, but she wasn't fooled. And that umbrella resting on the bench moved from time to time. It had to be a kasa-obake. Worse yet, ikiryo and kowai glided by, mixed in among the regular people.
And the traffic! No one could tell her there weren't oni behind that insanity.
She clutched her warding charms. She had enough. She could make it through.
No she couldn't. Jinxie closed her eyes again. At the rate things were going, she wouldn't even make it home.
But she couldn't just stand there on the sidewalk forever. People kept approaching her. The yokai, she could drive away with a well-placed charm, but the actual humans—or particularly dangerous yokai, which was why she refused all of their help, just in case—were awful. They didn't believe her about the yokai. When she told them why she couldn't get to the bus stop, they acted like she was some sort of nut. Just like the kids at school did, except for Trucy.
If only they would just all leave her alone.
But they wouldn't. The longer she stood there, the more the questions came.
"Are you all right?"
"Are you lost?"
"Little girl, do you need help?"
"Where are you going?"
"Can I help you with something?"
"What are you up to, you little scamp?"
Jinxie prepared to shout that she was just standing on the sidewalk and nothing was wrong with her—she couldn't handle anyone else treating her like she was crazy—and peeked over the top of her tray. That black coat was familiar. She followed it up until she saw the dark eyes of the samurai prosecutor from Papa's case.
She lowered the tray. The bags under his eyes were less prominent, so the charm against Azukiarai must have worked. "Um. Hello." How was she supposed to address him? He wasn't a demon, but he was powerful, and he had the favor of at least one yokai. "Sir," she added, to be safe. And then there was that issue. He deserved an apology. But she couldn't bring that up, and she hoped he wouldn't, either. She didn't have the nerve.
She eyed the yokai on his shoulder. Surely it wouldn't be insulted that she didn't address it. It never spoke, after all. She didn't even know what kind of yokai took the form of a hawk.
"You never answered my question," said Prosecutor Blackquill.
It no longer seemed like the best option to lie. He wouldn't like that. And after all, he was a victim of yokai, too. He hadn't even laughed at her in court. "I'm trying to get to the Wright Anything Agency. They're having a Christmas party, and I promised Trucy I would come. But I can't get to the bus stop, because of the oni and—everything else. I didn't think there would be this many yokai on the street."
He stared at her.
She tightened her grip on the tray until her knuckles turned white. Maybe he didn't believe her, either.
He shook his head and smirked. "Hmph. It just so happens that I am also on my way to the Wright Anything Agency. Cykes-dono invited me to the same party."
"Oh." She cleared her throat. "Would you like a warding charm for crossing the street?"
"I highly doubt anything will bother me and Taka."
Taka. She glanced at the hawk again and wondered if she should ask what sort of yokai it was. No, that might offend it.
Blackquill started down the sidewalk, and she grabbed his coat to make sure she didn't lose him. Even without factoring Taka in, the yokai probably wouldn't attack a samurai. If they did, she had her charms. But all the same, it would be easier if he handled it.
He frowned back at her.
She let go of his coat. On second thought, she would just stay close.
No yokai attacked, which was amazing enough, but even more amazing was that he strode right past a whole group of them without even flinching. In fact, a number of them flinched away from him. It had to be the samurai thing. Or Taka.
Or the fact that he'd been a convict until a few days ago... but that was just silly. Yokai wouldn't be afraid of a convict.
At the crosswalk, a small group started across the street in the other direction. Several te-no-me walked amongst them, with gloves and sunglasses to disguise their nature. She caught ahold of Blackquill's coat again. Glares and frowns, she could handle. Eyeless demons, not so much.
When they reached the other side of the street, she released him and angled her tray to try to get a look at his face before she actually met his gaze.
His reflection was expressionless. "Was that really necessary?"
"You came ill-prepared for this battle, little scamp."
Jinxie shuffled her feet. At least he wasn't angry. "What battle?"
"Your struggle through this demon-infested city to reach your destination."
There was a very good chance he was making fun of her, but she decided to pretend he was being serious. "I brought my warding charms."
"Hmph. A strike as ineffectual as your fight against these demons."
Wait, was she supposed to be fighting him? That was not an appealing thought at all.
"Would it not have made more sense to have your father take you to the party, or to have Wright-dono or one of the others pick you up? Why would you venture out alone into a battle you aren't ready to face?"
"Papa kind of thinks I'm over my fears. So does Trucy." She bit her lip. "You won't tell them about this, will you?"
His silence was unnerving. He could probably exorcise demons just by staring at them.
"Please? I—" Tears sprang up in her eyes, and though she tried to gulp them away, they ran down her cheeks anyway. She shielded her face with her tray. This was horrible. Not only couldn't she make it to Trucy's party, but she was crying on a street full of yokai, in front of the one person who could protect her from them.
"Whatever is the matter with you?" Maybe his silence wasn't so bad, after all. "You're acting ridiculous."
Jinxie snapped the tray to her side and glared at him. "I am not ridiculous!"
His eyes widened slightly.
The words came before she could bite them back. "I'm not stupid, you know. I know what people think of me. Everyone laughs at me. Sometimes, I'd rather face all the yokai in the world than them! So think whatever you like, but don't laugh at me!"
He almost smiled. "Perhaps you're better equipped for this battle than I thought."
She blushed. What was she thinking, shouting at Prosecutor Blackquill?
"I still fail to understand why the thought of me telling your father or Trucy about your fears caused such a scene."
"They don't laugh at me," she said, "but they feel sorry for me. I don't want them to pity me. I don't want them to know I'm a coward."
"You aren't a coward."
This time it was even more likely he was making fun of her, but there was something oddly serious in his tone. Jinxie frowned at him. People called him the twisted samurai, but he couldn't be so crazy as to think she was brave. Some sort of tsukimono had to be attacking his mind. He didn't look possessed yet, but such confusion was a definite sign.
She readied a charm.
Blackquill narrowed his eyes. "You aren't planning to slap that thing on my forehead, are you?"
"Of course not." Best to throw the evil spirit off. "I just feel braver with it in my hand."
He didn't act like someone who was under attack. For that matter, Taka was calm, too. There were two possibilities. Either it was a very powerful yokai after him—very probable, considering it was Blackquill—or there was no yokai at all. The best way to find out was to question him and see if his answers added up.
Mr. Demon Lawyer would be so proud.
"Why did you say I'm not a coward?" she asked.
He continued to give her a suspicious look for a moment, but then he shook his head. "Hmph. An inmate once told me that no one knows how they will react to fear and danger until the day that they face it."
"Was he a soldier?"
"Actually, he was a dentist."
Oh no. She swallowed hard. That didn't make sense. It was a very powerful yokai, after all, trying to take him over. It probably wanted revenge for what he'd done. She would have to tell Mr. Wright, Mr. Demon Lawyer, and Ms. Cykes to watch out, too. But for the moment, it was up to her to save him.
Jinxie gritted her teeth and smacked the charm onto Blackquill's forehead. "Begone, wicked spirit! Leave him alone!"
Three things happened at once. The bus pulled up with such an awful screech that it was clearly possessed as well, Blackquill yelled, and Taka lunged for her.
Such a tricky tsukimono! It was turning them against each other.
She ducked behind her tray and screamed, "No, help me drive out the spirit! Begone from him, evil one! Begone! Taka, help me! Begone, begone, begone!"
Blackquill whistled, and Taka returned to his shoulder. "What was that about?!"
Jinxie peeked out. He sounded like he always did, but he kind of looked possessed. His eyes flashed as he removed the charm. Then again, he sometimes looked that way in his trials. She straightened and gave him a serious look so he would understand the gravity of the situation. "You were almost possessed by an evil spirit, but I drove it away just in time."
She nodded. "I realized it when you said I wasn't a coward. Then when you started talking about dentists, I knew it was true. You were confused, because your mind was under attack. It was a very crafty and powerful yokai. I probably haven't made it go away for long, so we need to be very careful. Worse yet, I think another one came with the bus. It hasn't left. And those people at the bus stop staring at us are probably yokai, too. I'm not sure I have enough charms, but—"
She yelped and jumped backward.
"Your blade is swift, but you must hone your perception if you are to survive a true battle." He shook his head. "I was not possessed, or even confused. I meant what I said. You would do well to take that inmate's words to heart, Jinxie. The people who call you a coward do not see the things you do. You see demons around every corner."
That wasn't quite true. She opened her mouth to protest, but he cut her off with a glare.
"No more jabbering. Let me finish. If those people who laugh at you saw the same demons, would they go to school, or work, or anywhere at all? No, they would hide in their homes like sniveling cowards. They wouldn't have the courage to leave safety, particularly for something so simple as a Christmas party."
Her jaw dropped. She'd never thought of it that way before. It even made sense.
On the other hand, Prosecutor Blackquill giving words of encouragement? Maybe he really was possessed. She glanced down at her charms and then at him. No, she'd trust Taka's judgment on this one. Blackquill was fine, and she… she was brave.
She managed a smile. "Th-thank you."
"You're going to march bravely into each new battle, aren't you?"
March bravely into battle. That had a nice ring to it. "Yes!"
"And you're going to defend yourself against the weak strikes and broken swords of the fools who call you a coward."
Defend herself against the fools. That was even better. Maybe she could be a samurai someday, too. "Yes!"
"And you're going to get on that bus and go to Wright-dono's Christmas party."
Get on the… She hid behind her tray.
Blackquill narrowed his eyes.
Jinxie gulped and headed for the bus.
He stayed right behind her, although Taka fluttered away.
The demon possessing the bus made no move to attack her as she climbed on board, and the o-nyudo driver even smiled as she paid her fare. If his benevolence lasted for the entire journey, that would be an unexpected burst of luck. Other yokai would think twice about crossing a giant, even one close to human size. So far so good.
Then she turned and looked down the aisle.
Of all the buses in the city, she had to get on the one packed with yokai. Iso-onna and yuki-onna—if the one didn't drink her blood, the other would eat her soul. Even worse, there was a shiryo behind them, one of the most malevolent of ghosts. And there were more still. Row after row of them. All staring at her. This was a terrible idea, and they were going to attack, and it really would be much better to get off and take the next bus or maybe go home and tell Trucy she'd try again next year.
She spun around and crashed into Blackquill.
He put his hands on her shoulders, turned her around to face the busload of yokai again, and propelled her down the aisle.
When they reached an empty seat, and he let her go, she studied the aisle and calculated how fast she would have to run to dart around him and get back out to the street before any of the yokai got her.
From the look on his face, Blackquill knew exactly what she was thinking. "Sit down."
She sat, and he took the seat beside her. The bus started moving, and she struggled to breathe. She was trapped on a possessed bus filled with yokai, with only her charms and an admittedly intimidating samurai to protect her.
And the yokai kept staring. If she'd ever wanted proof that she wasn't crazy, there it was. They didn't look out the windows or talk to one another like normal people. They twisted around and stared at her. A couple shifted as if to move toward her.
They were going to kill her. She tried to make herself as small as possible in her seat.
Blackquill glared back at the yokai. He flicked his finger so fast it was a blur, and sliced the air in front of them even though they were half a bus away. They drew back and stopped staring.
Jinxie held her tray up to keep her movements a secret and flicked her hand at the cowed shiryo.
She glanced at Blackquill and was about to ask if that was a special samurai thing, or if anyone could learn to do it, when the yokai in the seat in front of them turned around.
"Hey," he said, despite the stony look from Blackquill, "little girl, are you all right?"
Oh no. She cowered. It was him. He might have taken a human form, but there was no question of who he was. "Shuten-doji!" she cried. "The king of the oni!"
"Hmph. The oni will not have much use for a king that's been sliced to pieces."
Jinxie's hands shook so violently that her tray dropped to the floor. Blackquill didn't know what he was getting into. Shuten-doji was one of the most evil yokai ever. He might even be able to defeat the twisted samurai! Then he and his oni clan would take her away. They'd drink her blood and eat her organs!
The demon lord continued his pretense of concern. He jabbed a finger at Blackquill. "Is this guy bothering you?"
Blackquill slammed his hand down on the seat. "What are you jabbering about?"
He'd really done it. He'd picked a fight with Shuten-doji.
Jinxie took a deep breath and snatched up one of her most powerful warding charms. "Begone, Shuten-doji!" She slapped it against his forehead.
The demon reeled back. "What the—"
Of course it would take more than one charm to banish him. "Leave us alone!" She whipped out a second charm and smacked it next to the first.
"All right, all right, I misunderstood, I—"
Would even three be enough to vanquish one so powerful? She hit him with the charm, and followed up with a fourth before he could retaliate.
Shuten-doji jumped up and hurried up the aisle to a different seat.
It worked! She'd driven back one of the most powerful yokai ever. She was almost out of charms, but at least this would show the rest of them that they shouldn't attack Jinxie Tenma.
Beside her, Blackquill sat turned away from her and his entire body was shaking.
"It's all right," she said. "I banished him." She leaned around to look at him. Eye contact worked wonders if someone was frightened.
Impossibly, there seemed to be a smile on his face, but it vanished as he straightened in his seat. "I may have underestimated your skill, or at least your enthusiasm, Tenma-dono."
Jinxie ducked to retrieve her fallen tray to mask her shock. Did he even realize what he'd just called her? "I… Th-thank you." She hesitated. "Um, B-Blackquill...d-dono..."
He gave her a sharp look, but didn't say a word. If anything, he seemed amused. She relaxed. This wasn't so bad after all.
Since he seemed to be in unusually high spirits, no doubt due to their triumph—the corner of his mouth twitched every time he looked at Shuten-doji—it was as good a time as any to broach that topic.
She studied the tray and her reflection stared wanly back at her. It certainly looked like the old cowardly Jinxie, not the warrior who braved possessed buses and banished powerful demons. Not someone brave enough to apologize for such a terrifying oversight.
But on the other hand, Blackquill was pushing her onto buses and fighting demons with her, for no apparent reason. He deserved an explanation in thanks.
"I'm sorry," she said.
He smirked. "Remember, I was on my way to Wright-dono's party anyway. I must say, it's already been more interesting than I expected."
"No, not about that." She hung her head. "During Papa's case… during the investigation and when I was in court, I… I mean, I can usually tell… I thought it was a ghost for a while, but I never suspected what it really was…"
"You are jabbering again."
She clenched her fists. "Ever since I've heard about the trial, I've wondered why I didn't know. I keep thinking that I should have known, and when I gave you the charm to ward off Azukiarai, I could have slipped in one against the noppera-bo."
He frowned. "Noppera-bo? The faceless yokai?"
"Yes." She shuddered. "When I think of how close I was to it for only those few instances, I can't even imagine what you went through."
"Oh." His voice went cold. "You're talking about the phantom."
She nodded. The phantom. And the spy, the other name tossed around by people who didn't understand what a noppera-bo was. "I have nightmares about it."
At least she hadn't attended the trial. She just knew she would have caught a glimpse of it beneath its final mask, and that was more than she could bear, particularly if it upset even Blackquill this much. He seemed quite put out.
Then, to her surprise, he smirked. "Well, it will never bother anyone again."
"And," he said, as the bus slowed, "I believe this is our stop."
She followed him out of the bus and gave Shuten-doji a triumphant glare, although she held up one of her charms just in case. He averted his gaze. In fact, none of the yokai seemed very threatening anymore. The few who got out of the bus first even edged back to give the two of them a wide berth, which became even wider when Taka swooped down to join them.
They walked the rest of the way to the Wright Anything Agency in silence, but Jinxie couldn't have been happier. It was going to be a great party.
To think, she'd almost given up on getting there.
As soon as they walked in, they were greeted by a huge grin and a shockingly loud shout. "Merry Christmas!"
"Hmph. Merry Christmas, Justice-dono."
"Merry Christmas, Mr. Demon Lawyer!" She slapped a charm on his forehead.
The attorney stared slack-jawed at the two of them for a moment, then backed away from the door.
Jinxie frowned. "Our combined demon-fighting might must be too much for him. We need to remind him we know he's not a bad demon." He would just run again, though. If only there was another demon, or at least a yokai, to talk to him… Wait. She snapped her fingers. "Maybe Taka should reassure him that everything's all right. Do you think that would work?"
Blackquill gave her a serious nod. "I'm certain of it."
At his quick command, Taka darted after Mr. Demon Lawyer. Jinxie beamed at his scream of delight at reuniting with one of his own kind, and hurried over to tell Trucy all about her exciting morning.
Glossary of yokai, in the order that Jinxie mentions them:
Bakeneko – supernatural cat yokai
Kasa-obake – a living umbrella yokai
Ikiryo – the spirit of a living person, moving around outside of its body
Kowai – a ghost that thinks only about eating and will eat any food it finds
Oni – demons
Te-no-me – a yokai that looks like an elderly man, but has its eyes on its hands instead of its face
Tsukimono – an overall label for possession spirits
O-nyudo – an overall label for various types of giants
Iso-onna – a water vampire that appears like a beautiful woman
Yuki-onna – an ice yokai that appears as a beautiful woman and feeds on life energy
Shiryo – malevolent ghosts of the dead
Shuten-doji – the king of the oni and one of the three great evil yokai
Noppera-bo – a yokai that can create the illusion of a face to blend in, but will wipe it away to reveal its faceless nature
Author's note: Merry Christmas, everybody! It's been far, far, too long since I've written fanfiction, so here's one for the holidays. I'm obsessed with Dual Destinies, and I love the little exchange between Jinxie and Simon about Azukiarai, so I came up with the theory that they become friends afterwards and get together to talk about yokai. That line of thought led to this story, and I had so much fun writing it. (If Capcom ever makes a spin-off starring Simon Blackquill with Jinxie Tenma as his sidekick, I will be the first in line to preorder it.)
I'd like to thank my wonderful friend for this cover art. You can find him on deviantart as Stein999. If you go to his gallery, you can see the FULL version of the picture, since I sort of forgot covers had to be certain dimensions and stuff... *cough*
I also have to thank him for mentioning Fulbright as I was working on this story, which inspired all the noppera-bo stuff.