A Tale of Two

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
Japan, Edo Period; we follow the story of a 1000+ year old Jikininki mercenary forced to work together with another mercenary. Will these two get over their differences and become great partners? Find out in 'A Tale of Two'.

Submitted: September 01, 2016

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Submitted: September 01, 2016

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Chapter 1

If one was to ask about the most famous mercenaries of Nagamachi, then most people would reply with the name 'Naohiro Matsumoto'. This human male was known for his ruthless and cruel killing methods, as well as getting rid of the bodies of his victims by eating them. Now, this was all honestly said to be a rumor, and that this so-called cannibal maybe didn't even exist, but he definitely did. The only thing that most people seemed to misunderstand about him was that he was not human, sure, he looked about as human as one could look, but he is oh so far from human.

Naohiro is what is known as a Jikininki, a demon that looks exactly like a human and feeds off human corpses. While feeding, their teeth grow about as sharp as a shark's teeth to make it easier to rip the flesh apart. He comes from a long lost line of royalty, but has never once before talked about his so-called 'family'. His actual age, while he looks to be around his early to mid twenties, is in the thousands.

He can still be very intimidating despite his short height of around 5'7, with his naturally narrowed eyes and scarred body. His skin has a natural tan to it, and a tattoo of a snow leopard with teal eyes, that looks to be only a few months old at the least, has been inked into his skin. Weighing an average of 65 kilograms, Naohiro's light body and not too bulky stature allows him to make use of his demonic speed much easier. He's always seen in a red or black kimono with his katana sheathed and the sheath hanging from his shoulder next to his hip. His eyes are of an emerald hue framed by pitch black hair. A few locks of hair hang loosely over his eyes while most of it is styled upwards.

- x -

"Matsumoto!"

Emerald green eyes flickered open from their resting position, and their owner slowly sat up from where he had been lying down, irritation flickering over the man's features for only a split second as loud knocking was heard from outside. The black haired man looked out of his open window, the slightly illuminated sky hinting that it was relatively early in the morning, maybe around 5 or 6 am. He always wondered why people loved to push their jobs on people at 5 in the morning. Blowing air out of his lips in what was known to be a sigh, the man called Naohiro Matsumoto pushed himself up from his futon, a naturally tanned hand moving to his hair and brushing some loose strands out of his eyes as he stood up still half asleep.

"NAOHIRO!!" The voice came back twice as loud, and the addressed male cringed, bringing a hand up to his head to massage his temples in an attempt to get rid of the headache that was threatening to ruin his day any more than it already was. He languidly trod over to the door that was in the room next to him and opened it harshly, an unreadable expression on his features.

"What is it that you want, you bitch?" Naohiro drawled out as he shifted his eyes up to meet the eyes of the woman standing in front of his door. As much as he hated having to look up at people, he really couldn't do anything about his own height.. He could cut the legs off of every single person taller than him but he was honestly not bothered with that.

"That's no way to talk to your boss! Ugh, whatever. Forget it. I'm here because you have a job to do..." His boss seemed to trail away from her sentence and just stared at her mercenary for a few seconds before looking away with a sly smirk.

"Put some clothes on, bastard. I'm not going to wait more than 5 minutes for you." Naohiro's eyes moved to where his boss had paused for a few seconds, and he placed one of his arms against the doorway, pressing the palm of his hand against it. He stood there with one of his legs visible, in nothing but a yukata, pretending to ignore the woman's devious smile. It wasn't like Jikininki lacked libido or anything; they were still demons after all.

"What? You don't like what you see?" Naohiro joked, snickering quietly before disappearing into his house again and coming back around 3 minutes later with a proper attire; a pitch black kimono, tightened around his waist with an obi, as well as a hakama and a pair of split toe-socks under his zori. His boss looked him over and rose an eyebrow in mock judgment.

"Alright, let's go then." He was pulled away before he could even lock up and just furrowed his brows in annoyance. Well, it's not like he had anything worth stealing anyways. Naohiro shook his arm free and easily caught up to his boss, folding his arms over his chest and staying quiet for the rest of the way. A few minutes later, the two arrived at a building that didn't look all too stable nor incredibly safe, to be honest. The demon mercenary was about to point this out, but he was interrupted by an unreadable expression on the woman that was his boss' face. Nao froze, giving his boss a look that said 'spit it out or I'm leaving'.

"Well... you see, since our client has requested specifically for two people to do the job, you're going to have to work together with one of my acquaintance's mercenaries... We-" Naohiro spoke instantly, without even letting the older woman- who was actually younger- finish her sentence.

"Absolutely not." he was about to turn around, but he was stopped by a hand holding on to his arm and keeping him there. If Nao wanted to, he could easily cut the woman's arm off for even daring to touch him, but well, he didn't particularly feel like losing his job, it paid well and kept him fed without having to spend any money.

"We really can't decline this request, the client is one of our most trusted and we can't afford to lose him because you are too much of an idiot to work together with someone else." Nao let out an exasperated sigh, easily freeing his arm from the other's hold and shoving his hand against his face instead, letting his fingers run through the strands of black and allowing the hair to fall back in place.

"Is this a one time thing or will this fucking client of yours keep asking you to partner me up with some shitty stranger who will probably only get in my way?" he asked as he turned his eyes to stare at his boss with spite and animosity written all over his face. The look his boss gave him was all he needed to understand and with another sigh, the Jikininki dropped his arm to his side, resting his hand on his katana. He could kill her so easily right now, have her for breakfast and then move on to the next city or town.. but was that really the best option?

"Fine... this acquaintance of yours better be worth my fucking time." he drawled out, all emotion from earlier gone from his face again, and the only visible thing was something vaguely resembling displeasure, as he leaned against the wall of the beaten down building with his boss standing near him. His boss seemed to be exhilarated that her ronin had accepted it.

Oh, but how it was so incredibly not thrilling. Naohiro was against working together with anyone, they'd always give him strange looks- that didn't necessarily bother him- and most of the time got in his way, either by fucking up the mission completely or just asking him as many questions as one could possibly ask. Now, it wasn't like he couldn't ignore those people but he just really, really, preferred to be alone.

So when his eyes fell upon a figure in the not-so-far-off distance, Nao could only assume it was the person he was going to have to work with. His eyesight was relatively better than those of your average human, and he could see that the guy, at least he thought it was a guy, was about just as happy to be here as he was. He could already feel the almost obvious clashing that would happen between the two of them and he was itching, so excruciatingly excited, to get started on the mission.

Naohiro Matsumoto was definitely not a sarcastic person.

It was actually pretty funny, how the two mercenaries that the client had asked for would most likely dislike, if not hate, each other because, after all, most mercenaries liked to go solo. It wasn't necessarily the hatred of other people, though in Nao's case it definitely was one of the reason, but rather the possibility of the idiot of who was to be their partner to get in their way during the mission.

The mercenary wanted to sigh, and sigh he did, as the lone guy walking towards them slowly came closer and closer. He gave his boss a glance, and in turn, he was given one of those chilling looks- not that it affected Nao in anyway whatsoever- that basically told him to "shut the fuck up and let the 'big boys' talk". Naohiro lifted his shoulders up in a shrug, the muscles gained from centuries of sword fighting rippling slightly in the movement, and he looked off to the side, glaring daggers at the next closest thing to him; which happened to be a poor innocent birch tree.

Was he, the Naohiro Matsumoto, sulking?
No, absolutely not.

When the man who would end up being his partner for God knows how long finally came close enough to them, Nao decided to do the only thing that came to mind, and that examine him.

The man was lithe of structure, not too thin not too muscular, somewhat like him, but just a bit thinner. He had soft and slightly feminine features and probably looked a shit ton nicer than he actually was. People had reason enough to underestimate the guy, Nao supposed. Those green eyes, much like his own, were framed by black hair, except that it was much longer than his, that seemed soft to the touch. The man seemed to be of a shorter stature than Nao at first glance, and this caused him to feel relieved, if only for a few seconds.

Once the other mercenary got close enough to distinguish his features perfectly, though, Naohiro could tell that the male was taller, even if only for a few inches. The tiny bit of relief he had was smothered instantly and he held the sigh that threatened to rip itself out of his throat. He already wasn't happy, and now he had to work together with a guy who was infinitely prettier than him- he wasn't sure he meant that as a compliment, honestly he probably didn't- AND taller than him?

Now wasn't that just great?

Surprisingly to his boss, and even himself, the human eating demon did as he was told. He stayed quiet and let the one in charge of him do the talking. It wasn't like Naohiro was a talkative person anyways.

"Great, let's start. Even though I'm certain both of you would be able to complete this mission by yourself, for the far off chance of you guys not being able to, the client has specifically requested two of our strongest and most trustworthy pieces of shit. And so," pausing for a breath, she beckoned towards both of the mercenaries standing before her, then continued, "the only obvious course of action would be sending you two. As much as we tried to negotiate beforehand, telling our client that this was just not going to work, she insisted on it..." 

Calling Nao pissed beyond measure was an understatement.
He, himself, wasn't even sure how to describe this feeling of annoyance.

"You're going to have to put a whole gang of people down.. You should be able to get rid of the corpses in your usual way, right, Matsumoto?" Green eyes focused on brown ones, and the shorter mercenary scoffed, shrugging in response before going back to his sulking.

If you thought he would ever admit that he was sulking, you were completely wrong.

" I want you, er... Katsu, yeah? Well I want you to kill the leader of the gang while Matsumoto cuts a path through the guards for you. No buts, ifs or whys. You follow my order or you don't get paid. Matsumoto, you'll tell me when... I mean; if things go wrong. I know when you hide things from me." A singular, perfectly shaped eyebrow rose up as if daring the other to question his honesty. Well... It wasn't like his boss was wrong to do so, Naohiro wasn't exactly the most honest type guy, not with his personality nor in his line of work. But even so, it wasn't like him to disobey orders. He rarely did so, and when he did it was mostly simple orders like kill one person.

Right now, he was beyond glad that he could take his anger and frustration out on bullshit gang members thinking they were hot stuff.

He shrugged again, getting elbowed in the side because of his nonchalance and complete disregard for the situation and he grumbled angrily in response.

Just why hadn't he killed this fucker already?

"Katsu, both you and Matsumoto are well known mercenaries. It's inevitable that you would be paired up eventually to deal with more dangerous problems. I'm sure the two of you can figure out your differences while completing the mission without fail."

Chapter 2

Yes, upon closer examination one could clearly see that the two of them were pissed. Well, one would expect as much from stubborn 'pieces of shit' as his boss called them. While on the outside, the two of them may look deadly, they both had something that weighed that factor down by quite a serious amount.

Naohiro Matsumoto, even though he was manly in looks, was not so intimidating in height, but anyone who was heard making a remark about his height.. well, it's fair to say they were never heard from again.

Katsu, despite his pretty exterior and soft features, was probably the most vicious of the two yet.

To say the least, they were both stubborn mules that on the outside, would kill you without a second thought, but on the inside they were still ten year old boys pouting when they didn't get what they wanted or were forced to do something they didn't want to do.

Nao assumed that their extremely similar yet still different personalities would not fit well together at all, and he wondered why his boss even thought it would be a good idea to pair the two of them up. The only rational option? In no way was that rational. Easy sure, but rational? Fuck no.

The ebony haired male brought two fingers up to his well-defined nose, pinching the bridge of it between them, and let out a slightly nasally sigh.

Well, time to go, he supposed.

Without doing so much as glancing at his contractor, Nao moved past him, the hand that was on his nose now resting on the hilt of his sword instead. Why was he forced into this predicament? Did whatever luck he might have had finally decide to forsaken him?

To be honest, probably.
Bluntly put? He probably never had any to begin with.

Naohiro wanted to get this over as soon as possible, but he was already interrupted just when passing his boss so maybe he should just kill the two of them and move on..? No, he didn't quite feel like killing the other mercenary, despite already hating his guts for multiple, childish reasons.

"Don't ignore me, you shit." Nao's arm was grabbed as he was snapped at, and his eyebrow twitched in irritation but that's all he did, he didn't move or do anything else. He just stood there, his anger growing by the millisecond. After what seemed like hours, but was in fact really a multitude of seconds, the mercenary managed to calm himself down and pulled his arm free from his superior's hold.

"If my job is to kill a bunch of people to let him kill a bastard, then I'll kill a bunch of people to let him do his job." Nao growled, his emerald eyes narrowing in something resembling rage, but he didn't seem to be that pissed anymore.

"Good, I'm glad I got through your thick heads, you bastards. Now take this map and go, you have a week maximum to complete this mission, but I know you'll be able to complete it in a day." Nao tskd, grabbed the map from his boss and shrugged in response. He then walked past the other mercenary, not saying anything but just looking straight at him with narrowed eyes before stretching the map out and looking at where they were supposed to go.

After a second look, to make sure he read it correctly, Nao decided he just couldn't pronounce the name of the location. Was it even Japanese? Sure didn't seem like it. It wasn't like he only knew how to speak Japanese either, he spoke many languages, one of which was his mother tongue, the language all Jikininki like him spoke. Not like it had a specific name or anything. The writing on the map was unlike anything he'd seen though and with not a single word uttered and a lot of hesitation, he stuck his arm out to the taller, shoving the map close enough so that the other could read it. His eyes didn't meet those of the other though, because he was even too stubborn to admit he couldn't read it.

If one was to ask, he'd probably just glare angrily at the person who questioned him and make up an excuse like 'What? You can't read it?' and walk away without another word said between the two.

Nao would be lying if he said he didn't at least have an idea about why he got paired up with the other. If he was to attempt this alone, his target would probably get away while he was killing his underlings. Now, see, nobody expects two mercenaries, so the leader would probably underestimate the first and not run too far nor too fast, and while Nao was busy distracting the guards, Katsu could easily sneak inside and catch up to that disaster of a man that called himself a leader.

Even though Nao understood this, it didn't mean he had to like it. He'd been used as a trash can of some sorts before, sure, but never had he been as a decoy. It was easy to say that he didn't like it one bit.

“Che. Of all places it has to be there. Fuck.” 

This caused Nao to listen to the other for once.

 “This place is used to be an old temple. It’s been abandoned for centuries, possibly millennia. The language this is in is one that’s not used as much outside of rituals and ceremonies. This roughly translates to ‘Place of Hidden Purity’. Some think it’s ‘Center of Hidden Purity’. If it’s translated to Japanese, it would be ‘Ichizoku no Atsumari’ or 'Gathering of Clans’. It is literally a place where the leaders of various celestial clans would gather for meetings. Mine included. Part of the place is actually under ground and it’s massive. The actual temple is your average temple in case some human discovered it. To think it would resurface like this with a bunch a hooligans dwelling in it like rats in a barn.” 

Katsu growled, a low guttural sound that vibrated deep in his chest. It was the sound of a very pissed off wolf.

 “I don’t want to waste anymore time. These fuckers have got to go.”

Upon hearing the other's words, and his arm starting to hurt after a multitude of minutes of holding the map up, Nao let it drop down and just rose a single eyebrow, as if questioning why the taller man even knew what was written. No words were spoken though and he rolled the map up neatly, clutching it in one of his hands.

As much as Nao hated letting anybody lead him around, it was honestly better than getting lost and having to spend one second longer than he had to spend in this godforsaken predicament. He was a bit taken aback by the feral growl the other had made, but other than that his expression was as blank as always.

"Assuming you know how to get there... Lead the way."

His boss couldn't hold in a snicker and after realizing what she did, she scurried away like a frightened rabbit that had smelled a predator nearby. Fortunately for her too, because Nao would have literally sliced her head off had she not done so.

Clicking his tongue, the ronin, whose katana was now unsheathed and on the spot its wielder's boss had been just seconds ago, lowered his arm and let the sword fall to the ground with a soft clink. His eyes scanned the environment around him for his boss, and when he could not find her he clicked his tongue to his palate once again.

With deadly and nearly invisible speed, the katana was sheathed once again and a tanned hand rested on its hilt.

"Let's not waste any more time." Naohiro stated, the venom oozing from his words making his irritation about as clear as a crystal ball. His boss would not get away unscathed next time.

The mercenary set off after the other, emerald eyes memorizing the area around them, on guard and ready to slice up just about anyone who dared pose a threat to him. Nao could only trust the other to lead him to their destination for now. It seemed like Katsu was actually legit pissed off at the temple's current situation so the shorter of the two deemed it safe enough to spare his 'partner' some trust.

- x -

It took them longer than Nao would have liked to reach their destination. They had come across some 'trouble' along the way, it was nothing too bad, though. In fact, the idiots had been easy enough to get rid of, and Nao had dragged a few of the corpses away to feed off of them and regain some much needed energy. He didn't really care what Katsu had done to the other corpses, but by the time he got back, the remaining corpses were gone. It was troublesome enough to deal with bodies, while the two of them honestly just wanted to get this shit over with.

When they finally arrived, Naohiro's katana was already out and ready to slice up some shitty goons. Upon closer inspection, the sword was actually a work of art. The hilt in itself was finely crafted out of a material that Nao himself wasn't even sure of, and the metal that made up the blade seemed to shine with the brilliance of the sun at just about every angle one looked at it. Despite having murdered an absurd amount of people with this blade, there was not a single sign of blood on it at all.

The shorter kept himself from making a sound that vaguely sounded like a tsk and instead he tightened his hold on the hilt of his katana, green eyes narrowed as their owner studied the environment for any sign of people other than the two mercenaries. It didn't take long for him to slow to a stop, whispering words of a language only known to his own kind, and one of the corners of the ronin's mouth twisted up into a smirk as one of the figures a few good hundred meters away instantly slunk to the ground.

"Since you get to have the privilege of getting rid of the leader of these 'fuckers', as you so called them, don't mind if I have some fun with them. You deal with your target however you want, I suppose." With that said, the naturally tanned male was gone in a split second, the blade of his katana driven through the chest of one the men and a foot brought to the side of another's head; emitting a sickeningly loud crack as it snapped to the side. All this happened before one could even blink.

Naohiro had managed to kill about 1/3rd of the goons in the area before anyone had even noticed him, and if one was to look closely at the mercenary, they would see the smile that was so blatantly obvious on his features.

"Send someone to t-" one of the men started, being silenced almost instantly as a blade was pushed into his throat, and with a few unrecognizable sounds and a splatter of blood onto the black haired man's face, the man's breathing halted painfully and Nao closed his eyes in disgust, bringing the back of his hand up to his eyes and wiping at them in an attempt to get the blood of his face.

- x -

It didn't take too long for the soft clunk of metal hitting gravel to be heard, and the blood that was slowly dripping from the katana was suddenly thrown onto the ground as it was shaken up and down vigorously.

That had been the last of them, and as hard as it was to admit it, Nao didn't exactly have the easiest time of his life dealing with them. He'd been hit a few times, but hewas greatly outnumbered after all. While his boss had told him to distract them, and only kill a few, the ronin had just been having too much 'fun' to keep even just one of them alive. They were just humans too, even if Nao had tried to take it easy on them, they probably would have died to a simple poke from the Jikininki sell-sword that had been hired to get rid of them.

Slumping to a crouch, his katana was sheathed once again, but only after cleaning the blood from it by licking it off. Nao was not really one for caring much about cutting his own tongue. Grabbing the arm of the corpse closest to him, he ripped it off way easier than it should have been. Bringing the ripped arm to his mouth, the man opened the cavern that was his mouth and revealed his teeth that were slowly expanding into shark-like fangs before they were suddenly sunk into the limb. It didn't take long for the appendage, and the remainder of the corpse, to be completely devoured. And when it had been, the Oni mercenary wiped his mouth clean with the back of his hand, the blood smearing onto the tanned skin that was his body.

By now, the blood on his face- and basically everywhere on him really- didn't bother him anymore. Nor did he even remember why he had been here to begin with, but it wouldn't take too long for it to come back to him. After feeding, he'd always become more of a monster than 'human', but it wasn't like it ever lasted longer than five minutes.

After a few minutes- it couldn't be much more than three-, Naohiro's eyes, that had ended up closing during the feeding, opened up again to reveal those all too familiar emerald eyes. Looking down at where the corpse had been just seconds ago, he them movedn to examine the other, possibly hundred, corpses all around him.

It'd take him much longer to get through that amount than he'd expected. Sure, he could chop and bag them up for easy transport, but was it really worth the effort? It'd be easier to just burn the whole place down, he doubted the mercenary he came here with would just let that happen though. It seemed like the temple meant something to him, and as much as Nao didn't care for other people, he didn't particularly want to get on Katsu's bad side either.


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