Yamiko: Edge of Humanity

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Once Upon A Time...

‘What. The. Hell.’ Yamiko thought while staring into the mirror, speechless. That morning, Yamiko was a somewhat androgynous, but fully male and otherwise ordinary teenager. However, the one staring back from the mirror was definitely female. And that was not even mentioning the pair of small pink horns protruding from her forehead.

“Why is this happening to me?” Yamiko muttered, trying to brush her hair forward to hide the horns. After a few moments she was satisfied, glad that she hadn’t gotten her hair cut recently. Frowning at that thought, she checked mirror again, and grumbled, “Yep, my hair’s longer too.” Indeed, while Yamiko’s hair hadn’t exactly been short before, it now hung down to her shoulders. “Well, at least my eyes are still the same.” Yamiko went on, staring into the reflection of her unusual golden eyes, which she had always taken pride in.

Sighing, Yamiko went to get dressed, before leaving for the dining room. Her family was hardly rich, but still well-off enough to maintain a small house. As she drew closer to her goal, Yamiko smelled the curry her mother had prepared, and she was greeted by the sight of her mother dishing out the meal as she entered.

Yamiko’s mother was named Hikarino Maruka. She was an undeniable beauty, with hair the same vibrant red as Yamiko’s, but long enough to reach her waist, a shapely figure, a beautiful face and exotic red eyes. However, she did not flaunt her features, wearing a conservative kimono, and keeping her hair tied back in a practical braid.

“Are you hungry, dear?” Maruka asked without looking up.

“Starving.” Yamiko replied honestly, the stress of the evening catching up with her. Sitting down, she made sure to hunch forward to make her chest less noticeable. Yamiko knew she would have to tell her mother what happened soon, but didn’t want to deal with it that night.

As Maruka sat down as well, she looked to her ‘son’ with a frown. “You should really start brushing your hair if you’re going to let it grow out, Yamiko.” Maruka chided. “It would be terrible if it started getting tangled.”

Yamiko couldn’t help but smile at that. ‘If only my hair was my biggest problem right now. Still I’m glad at least Mom hasn’t changed, she always did fuss over me.’ Yamiko thought, before replying. “Sure thing, Mom, I’ll take care of it later.”

Maruka tilted her head in thought for a moment, before asking, “Are you alright, dear? You sound a bit… off.”

“Uh, n-no, I’m fine!” Yamiko replied, thinking, ‘Dammit, I didn’t think I sounded that different. I guess if anyone would be able to tell, it would be Mom, though.’

However, Maruka was now scrutinizing Yamiko more closely. Suddenly, Maruka’s eyes narrowed, and her voice grew strangely calm. “Yamiko… where’s the cross your father gave you?”

Yamiko felt a chill go down her spine. Her mother was always kind and happy. Even when she scolded Yamiko, the teen could heard the concern in her voice. Now however, her mother sounded almost threatening. “I, uh, must have lost it somewhere. Besides, it was just a trinket, it’s not like it was that important, right?”

Maruko slowly stood up, never taking her eyes off Yamiko. “Actually, it was very important, which is why I put a Compulsion on it to make sure Yamiko always kept is close.” As she spoke, Maruko began to move around the table, and her eyes began to glow with a strange red light. “So I’ll ask you this only once; who are you, and where is my son?”

“Compulsion? Mom what are you talking about?” Yamiko said in confusion. Seeing the red glow coming from her mother’s eyes, and being reminded of the creature from earlier. Jumping to her feet, she cried, “Wait, does this have something to do with that demon-thing from earlier?”

This gave Maruka pause. “What do you mean, ‘demon-thing’? What happened?”

‘I didn’t want to deal with this tonight, but if something’s wrong with Mom…’ Yamiko thought. Taking a deep breathe, she began to relate everything that had happened since she left school, her mother watching her closely the whole time. When she finished, Maruka shot forward.

“Oh, why didn’t you tell me, dear?” Maruka asked in a relieved tone, as she hugged her son-turned-daughter. “That explains everything!”

“…I-It does?” Yamiko asked in genuine surprise.

“Of course!” Maruka said happily. “Although, I suppose that means it’s time for me to tell you a few things.”

Yamiko tried to keep asking questions, but her mother refused to say more until they had finished eating. When they were done, however, Yamiko couldn’t keep silent any longer. “Mom, what’s going on? What was that creature from earlier? What’s a ‘compulsion’ and why were your eyes glowing?”

“Well, that ‘creature’ was a demon.” Maruka explained calmly. “Likely an Incubus, or rather some sub-type of such, since it tried to eat your flesh, rather than forcing itself on you. As for the rest, perhaps it would be best if I started at the beginning. Or at least, the beginning of what matters. That would be almost twenty years ago now, when your father gathered a group of demon slayers, to stop a cult from summoning a Greater Demon into Tokyo…”

It was a bright and sunny day, but there were five people who could not stop to enjoy it. The first was a middle-aged man uttering a prayer. He was the head of the Domeikuni Clan of Onmyouji, exorcists specialized in the use of sealing tags and shikigami. The second was a young woman in the garb of a shrine maiden. She was named Kangoko, and had been born with the power to heal those she touched. The third and fourth members of the group were father and son, the Head and Heir to the Tsuyoi Clan of Demon Slayers, Mujihimaru and Ketsui. They were garbed in black silk, and skilled in the use of the weapons they carried, the father a pair of tonfa, and the son dual tantos.

However, the final member of the group truly stood out. From his bright blond hair to his golden eyes, from his shining European-style plate armor, to the ornate broadsword he easily held in one hand, nothing about Hikarino Kandai was subtle, and being outspoken and honest, his personality matched.

After discovering rumors of the cult and their plans to summon their master to take over Japan, Kandai had dedicated himself to stopping them, travelling all over the country, defeating numerous monsters, demons, and cultists, and gathering together the group with him in the process. Domeikuni, who saw himself as Kandai’s Sensei in regards to knowledge of monsters; Kangoko, who was smitten with the oblivious Kandai; Ketsui, who saw himself as Kandai’s Rival; and Mujihimaru, who felt it would be foolish to leave the fates of millions in the hands of “children and an over-the-hill onmyouji”.

Finally, they had tracked down the cultists’ headquarters underneath an office building in the middle of downtown Tokyo.

However, the cultists were not caught unprepared, and their defense was fierce. That said, what the group lacked in numbers, they more than made up in skill.

The cultists initial defense was little more than initiates of the cult that had been armed to slow them down. However, while they were numerous, they were also unskilled, and the group easily broke through. While the rest carried on, Tsuyoi Mujihimaru stayed behind to keep them from getting flanked. As a master of Muay Thai and the Tonfa he carried, as well as the Ninjutsu-like techniques his clan had developed, he alone was more than a match for his opponents.

That was only the beginning. The next defenses came in the form of demons summoned by the cultists, and let loose.

Knowing that the summoning would happen soon, and that they had no more time to waste, the group once more broke through and continued on. This time it was the head of the Domeikuni Clan that stayed behind. His sealing techniques and shikigami made him perfectly suited to face the low level demons the cultists had conjured.

Thus, it was Kandai, Ketsui, and Kangoko who breached the cultists’ inner sanctum. However, they were too late. They arrived, only to see the Cult Leader complete the summoning of the cult’s object of worship; the Succubus Queen, Mar’kanteto.

What happened next, none of them expected. The Cult Leader pointed at them, and ordered Mar’kanteto to destroy them… only to disappear in a burst of crimson flames, as the demon queen incinerated him instead.

In the conversation that followed, it was revealed that the cultists had acted without Mar’kanteto’s permission, and that the demon had no plans to follow through on their intended conquest. Finding out that this was the case, Kandai held back his allies from attacking, offering to let her simply return to the Abyss unharmed. Mar’kanteto agreed…

…but said she would only do so after having a chance to see the modern world.

The group ended up spending an entire day chasing the Succubus Queen all over Tokyo. However, every time they caught up with her, Kandai refused to let her be harmed, as she was not harming anyone either, holding true to her word to merely take in the sights.

Kandai’s unusual behavior left Mar’kanteto intrigued. In all her experience as a Greater Demon, Demon Slayers would try to kill her as soon as meet her, simply because of what she was. And so, rather than return to the Abyss, she decided to stay and observe him. Despite his companions urging him to refuse, Kandai agreed to let her stay, convinced that if he kept an eye on her, he could keep her from harming anyone.

Mar’kanteto fully expected to grow tired of the human quickly, and return to her realm. That never happened, though. Kandai liked to think of himself as a Monster Hunter, rather than a Demon Slayer, and this intrigued his demonic guest. Kandai didn’t restrict himself to demons, but rather dealt with any supernatural problems. And rather than killing any non-humans he met, Kandai tried his best to find solutions that helped every party involved.

Days turned into weeks, and weeks into months, until two years past. Mar’kanteto had grown accustomed to living with Kandai, and he with her. However, when a demon attacked Mar’kanteto, only for Kandai to risk his life to protect her, the demon found herself faced with feelings she had never experienced before, similar to yet different from the simple lust she was used to.

After realizing that she had fallen in love with him, Mar’kanteto confronted Kandai about it. Kandai was surprised at that, but unable to deny that he had started developing feeling for her, as well. However, while Kandai wanted to believe her, his friends were convince it was a succubus trick. Determined to convince them, he offered a solution to Mar’kanteto; a seal to completely suppress her demonic powers, effectively making her human.

Although reluctant, Mar’kanteto agreed, knowing that it would also help keep the two of them from being harassed be demons that would see her as a traitor, or simply wanted to build their reputation by killing her.

And so, the unlikely pair of Demon Queen and Monster Hunter were married. Mar’kanteto dropped the ending from her name, and used the Japanese pronunciation for it, and nearly a year later…

“-you were born, dear.” Maruka finished her tale.

Yamiko simply sat there in stunned silence for a moment, trying to process everything she had just heard. Oddly enough, the first coherent thought to go through her head was, ‘I’d better apologies to Seigi, he was right.’ After thinking about it though, there were only two major questions she had left. “What was so special about the cross I always wore? And why did I change into a girl?”

“The cross was your father’s idea, though I agreed with it and help create it. It was a lesser version of the seal your father gave me. As a half-demon, you were bound to show signs such as horns or even wings, but the cross would seal your power to let you grow up as normally as possible. That said, it had a fail-safe to release your power in the even that you were ever in serious danger.”

“Is that what that compulsion thing was for?” Yamiko asked.

“Compulsions are a weak sort of mind control. More of a suggestion than a command.” Maruka clarified. “That part of it was just to make sure you didn’t simply decide to stop wearing it on a whim. Your father grew up on the road, and I never really had a childhood, so we wanted you to enjoy it while it lasted. As for why you turned into a girl…” Maruka paused in thought for a moment. “Well, succubi are natural shapeshifters, so perhaps it was the result of your powers being unsealed after having been suppressed for so long.”

Feeling a surge of hope, Yamiko asked, “So, wouldn’t that mean I can just change back whenever?”

“Eventually yes, but it will likely take some practice before you can perform a full gender transformation.” Maruka said. “If we start training tomorrow, though, you’ll probably be able to change back in a couple of months.”

“MONTHS!?” Yamiko cried, “But I have to go to school tomorrow!”

“Oh come, dear, would it really be that bad to go as a girl?” Maruka asked, before giggling at her daughter’s resulting glare. “Alright dear, I’ll put some thought into it, and see if I can come up with something. Now, it’s been a long evening, so why don’t you head on to bed?”

As Yamiko settled into bed, she couldn’t help but dwell on the coming day. As she drifted off, one last thought occurred to her, ‘If Seigi was right about demons, then does that mean he was right about how our dads died, too?’

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