Kishin sauntered across the countertop before hopping off. No doubt whoever was in charge felt the burst of energy from his Tamashiryoku. What Kishin produced was called a Soul Pulse. It was a handy tool for those with powerful reserves of Tamashiryoku in the body. It could render weaker beings unconscious for several hours, just like the hostesses present.
With his sheathed sword in hand, he walked up to one of the blacked-out hostesses and opened her mouth singlehandedly. Hunching down to inspect the inside, he spotted a glimpse of small fangs. Emitting from the girl’s mouth was an unusual odor, like maple syrup with a chilling coolness as she exhaled.
“A succubus, huh…” Kishin trailed off, his suspicions confirmed.
Letting the girl’s head drop back down, he made his way around the VIP room looking for clues.
—Security shouldn’t be around for a while if they believe I’m being worked by the ladies here. Still, there’d have to be a way for them to transport bodies around the club without being spotted by patrons.
Music and the laughter of businessmen concealed his activity within the room, as did the curtains obscuring the entrance. The lack of security cameras already pointed Kishin towards the assumption this room was used to subdue victims. Whoever was in charge wouldn’t rely on human technology to aid and possibly incriminate their illegal and supernatural actions.
Looking on the floor, the black linoleum was nearly spotless but hadn’t been waxed recently. The dim lighting in the room helped to conceal any ugly scuff marks or scratches, so Kishin couldn’t rely on those. He needed to act fast. Walking up to the wall on the right side of the room, he pressed his ear against the surface.
Muffled noises and words came from the other side, but nothing clear. Kishin pressed his knuckles to the purple floral motifs on the ghastly wallpaper and began to knock on the material.
Thunk. Thunk. Thunk.
He moved along the wall, slowly looking for changes in density.
Thunk. Thunk. Clunk. Click.
The wall’s surface felt more hollow the further right he moved. This was a secret door after all.
“I still got it, hehehe~” Kishin chuckled to himself.
He didn’t feel much for finding the contraption or password to gain entry the proper way. Instead, he took his sheathed katana and sliced an opening in the wall with one fluid cross-shaped motion. Even in its scabbard, Kishin’s unholy blade was as sharp and deadly as it was without the sheath.
Kicking the triangular piece of the wall out, he gained entry into the secret room. It was barely lit, maybe by two dangling lightbulbs at the most from rafters above. The walls were unpainted and barren, with this part of the cabaret never meant for the eyes of consensual customers.
The Golden Devil saw a single hallway in front of him with an intersection at the end. Beyond his line of sight were footsteps, growing closer after hearing the noise.
“Those girls done already?” a voice said from behind the corner.
“No one opened the entrance for them. I’m gonna check it out, stay here,” a second voice replied.
Footsteps came closer within Kishin’s earshot. The Jikininki wasn’t afraid, however. He was grinning, a malevolent fire in his eyes as he gladly approached the conflict.
Walking faster with his weapon still resting in its scabbard, he rapidly met up with the curious source of the footsteps. Rounding the corner was a guard, yokai by the scent of him.
The guard’s expression became a collage of emotion within seconds of locking eyes with Kishin.
“What the hell are y-you… you…” the guard stuttered as he prepared to subdue the intruder before realizing who was actually before him.
Kishin, without a word, raised his sword to strike down the yokai. In response, the guard raised his hands and dropped to the ground,
“Don’t kill me!! I-I surrender, Lord Kishin! I surrender!” he blurted out in a rushed mess of jumbled words.
Kishin strode past the guard, knocking him unconscious by slamming the hilt of his katana into the top of the yokai’s skull. As he rounded the corner, he caught the guard’s accomplice by surprise as well.
“Are you shitting me?!” the other guard said, looking at Kishin approaching him. The guard raised his palm, preparing a spell to fire at the Jikininki.
Before he could finish beginning the incantation, Kishin was suddenly beside him. A numb, cold pain spread throughout his stomach as the guard looked down to see the demon withdrawing the scabbard of his sword from the guard’s gut.
The guard, trying to process how Kishin got to him so quickly in his final moments, collapsed dead. Kishin walked over his corpse and rounded another corner as he heard a commotion from behind a door to his left. He could hear screaming and crying from women within the closed room, most likely realizing their operation was compromised.
—Okay, I think I can have some fun with them. Sounds like they’re stuck in there.
“Someone call for the Big Bad Wolf?” he shouted gleefully next to the door. What came from within the room were more terrified screams. “Well he couldn’t make it! But not to worry… I’m a lot more practical~”
Kishin kicked open the door; causing it to nearly break off its hinges and shatter the deadbolt locks like glass. Inside was a lofty room, complete with many different paintings, fine wallpaper and ornate wooden furniture. The scent of perfume lingered in the air, most likely coming from the two crying half-naked girls in the center of the room.
“P-Please, save us!! The bad people kidnapped me, I just wanna see my family again!” cried one girl with brown, long hair.
Kishin walked inside the luxurious room, looking at the blonde girl next to the pleading one.
“S-She’s right! I was captured too! They just killed a third girl yesterday!! Please, you have to save us!” the blonde stuttered as runny makeup ran down her cheeks.
Kishin smiled at the two girls with a friendly grin. His crimson eyes flickered briefly at the two females as Kishin felt a blip of Tamashiryoku within the vicinity.
Without hesitation, the Jikininki took his katana and cleaved both of the girls in half with his weapon. They screamed and cried as blood flew across the room and caked the freshly-vacuumed carpet.
“You’re really gonna try to fool me with a crappy power like that, Grafter?” Kishin scoffed, flicking the blood off his scabbard.
The screams from the girls became more distorted and unnatural as their skin and features melted into a beige jelly that pooled on the floor in a bloody puddle. A single beige tendril, now visible to the naked eye, appeared where each girl had been kneeling; coiling and bleeding from being sliced.
The girls weren’t human. They weren’t demon or yokai, hell, they weren’t even alive. It was the Tamashi Genkai of the Goetia Grafter present in the room with Kishin. She had transformed her arms into a separate humanoid, capable of mimicking emotion and luring in the vulnerable. Kishin had sensed something was amiss, as succubi only target males. Captured female humans would serve no purpose to their causes.
“H-How could you see past my Angler ability?!” the Grafter screamed in pain.
“Maybe if you made your arms into some boys, it’d have been more realistic,” Kishin said back as the monster’s tendrils transformed, shrinking back into stumps.
It appeared like this demon had the power of an invisibility spell also, a rather advanced variant: making her arms visible while her body remained hidden in plain sight. Now that she had been wounded however, the spell had worn off entirely.
The Grafter stumbled to her desk located at the end of the room, trying to reach something in vain with the arms she no longer possessed. Kishin couldn’t see the lady’s face, only that she was cloaked in a sleeveless black dress that obscured her legs and feet.
“Surrender and you’ll be facin’ a minimum of four life sentences in DIS. Trust me, dyin’ is much worse.”
“Goddamn imperial swine! My superiors will kill you for this!” the maimed Grafter said, still leaning over her desk. Her voice was raspy, mature. Something Kishin didn’t expect.
Kishin approached the lady, pulling her up by the back of the dress so he could turn her around and look the criminal he’d been hunting for all night in the eyes.
He immediately noticed she was older in age, her face slightly wrinkled and her hair clearly dyed a platinum blonde. Her eyelashes were thick and black from freshly-applied makeup while her lips were pale and flat; a sad deterioration from the luscious pair they likely once were.
“You think you’re real smart coming here and uncovering my operation, don’t you? Well, speak up, Jikininki! You have me here, bleeding out!! So just get this over with or just kill me already!”
Kishin smiled, impressed by the woman’s guts. She had clearly done this gig for many decades and knew this day might come. It was a possibility all Goetia members had to accept.
“State the location of your brand and name for the record,” Kishin said, his joyful voice dipping briefly into a stern formal tone.
“My name… is Forneus. The workers call me Ankōbaba. My mark is… was, on my left palm,” Forneus growled in spite.
“Good, now—” Kishin spoke, holding her throat roughly. “Tell me everything about your operation here.”
Forneus coughed and sputtered.
“C-Can’t you heal me first?”
“Maybe if you tell me something worth my while. Judging by how fast you’re bleeding’ all over this expensive-ass carpeting, I’d suggest you hurry.”
Forneus nodded, her wrinkled skin sagging as her head wobbled up and down.
“Okay, damn you! I run a sex shop here, alright?? I provide the limbo walkers with something to take their mind off—“
Kishin punched the lady in her bleeding stump, causing some of the ruby-colored liquid to squirt out from a severed artery.
“Shit!!! Alright, alright, it’s a trafficking hub! We snag lowlifes and remove their souls, pack them off and s-sell them to Shitidama… But that’s all, I swear!”
Kishin dropped the woman, letting her fall to the ground as he walked casually to the other side of her desk.
“I appreciate you bein’ honest finally, but thing is, I already knew that from a customer of yours earlier in the day.”
Forneus, rolling over on her side, began sweating at seeing Kishin inspecting her desk. She couldn’t hide the evidence before he arrived, all she could hope for was that he missed it somehow.
“Tell me somethin’, granny,” Kishin started again, looking at the framed photo on her desk of a young man. “If you can tell me where to find the Poacher known as Shuten or his accomplice, a girl in a black mask, I’ll let you live. Tell me their human contractor, I’ll even make sure you get off with a light sentence. Get’cha some surgery for those arms. The Empire rewards loyalty handsomely.”
Forneus sputtered and coughed, but not from pain but laughter. She cackled like a witch at Kishin’s proposal, right to his unamused face.
“That’s your ultimatum?? Please, you can do anything to me, Jikininki. I’ve lived as a demon for nearly six thousand years, born here on this wretched Earth. Ostracized and branded for trying to bring my family into Yomi, their ancestral land. Your Empire has no inkling of what loyalty is! The only thing they reward are bootlickers and those born into privilege or prestige. This syndicate, Goetia… That is true loyalty. They will avenge my death should you kill me, Golden Devil. They’d do far worse than kill me should I betray my brothers and sisters… that, I can tell you for certain. Serve those weaker… smite those stronger...”
Kishin reflected over the old Grafter’s words before blocking them out of her head. This was his enemy. He had to remind himself that only through servitude to Mara, to the Empire, could he repay his debt and learn the truths he sought.
Opening a drawer in her desk, he found a dirty sack tied together with a beaded drawstring overtop several organized papers and a box of cigars. He picked up the bag and shook it, listening to the jangle of whatever was inside.
“What’s this?” he asked.
It didn’t seem like a trap, just a typical magic-sealing bag. He sliced the top off the sack with his sword, turning it upside-down and letting the contents spill out onto the mahogany desk.
“Spinal discs… Imbued with souls,” Kishin muttered to himself. He turned his attention to Forneus who was breathing raggedly. “Planning to make these into Thralls? How many completed one do you have ready for shipment?”
“Four crates… We… We smuggle them out as antiques, sell them to others. I can’t tell you my supplier… Jikininki…”
Kishin picked the photo off her desk and held it in front of the woman’s pale face. Tears welled in her eyes as she saw the picture being held by her attacker.
“P-Please… no, I… Not my son… You can’t be that heartless.”
“I can. I gave up such a charade long ago. Tell me who gave you these and I won’t kill him.”
“You bastard… Damn you. Damn you to the void…” she spat venomously. “I’m good as dead if I tell you… he will come to collect me.”
“Who will?” Kishin asked.
“The supplier you seek…” Forneus said, ignoring Kishin’s new question. “Her name is Kuchisake, she’s a yokai. Roughly fifteen. They’re hiding out in Ema… her and Shuten. I don’t know their contractor, but I know whoever hired them has two more targets left.”
With that sentence uttered, Forneus squirmed and struggled to get onto her knees. Finally managing, she looked up at Kishin with tears in her eyes. However, those eyes were absent of fear. Instead, they were filled with defiance and determination.
“I told you everything I know, and no one will be safe from them. Not even DIS… So I ask you for one request. Kill me here.”
Kishin’s eyes widened, her demand catching him offguard. His demeanor relaxed after a few seconds of silence passed.
“Your bravery is commendable. Very well… I will give you the honor of a death by the same blade that killed our progenitor…”
Kishin took his sheathed katana in hand, moving his fingers over an arcane seal on the hilt. With a faint glow, an unlocking sound could be heard. With a chilling click, the air grew cold and Forneus found it harder to breathe suddenly. Kishin slowly unsheathed Ame-no-Ohabari, letting the material the blade was constructed from shine. It was silver like a full moon, yet with a tint of red like a single drop of blood in a pool of water.
Holding the exposed blade completely still, he looked Forneus in her eyes.
“I’ll find your son, Forneus. I’ll find him… and I’ll bring him home.”
A faint smile spread over the old lady’s crinkled face.
“Thank… you…” she cried softly. “That charade of compassion… I wonder if it’s truly abandoned by you?”
Holding the blade a meter in front of her throat, Kishin shifted it slightly to the right.
Forneus’ neck, along with the furniture, wall and everything else within five meters of the sword's radius was sliced clean through. The wreckage would more closely resemble a laser beam cutting across the room than a mere antiquated sword.
“I wonder that too…” Kishin whispered, sheathing and locking his katana once more.