RECOMMENDED FOR MATURE READERS
The air was thick with the blood of something inhuman. I could smell it from miles away; it reached inside and pulled, stirring depths of hatred that I’d never known. To allow it to live was a sin.
By my side, the wolf lifted itself and stood back. From its jowls it dropped an object; a lock with a key.
“Take this,” it hummed, “and release.”
My fingers inched toward it; the rest of my body did not follow. The agony had stopped being an obstacle. What was pain next to wrath? Yet my limbs and muscles would not obey, like a dog who’d known helplessness and nothing more.
“Open the lock,” the wolf commanded. “Shed this flesh, Yamaguchi Chiyoko, and do what must be done.”
My grip rounded the object and drew it to my chest. What value did this lock have that I should be commanded to open it? Yet I didn’t doubt the wolf; the warmth of the object spoke the truth of his intention.
I turned the key and from the lock came power unknowable.
Heat spiraled in my chest, coursing through every nerve and shooting into my mind. Hate, the kind that was mine and more, fell over every thought like a mist, saturating corners even I’d forgotten. It was like being drunk, and yet my senses had never been so sharp.
The beast inside swallowed the pain, and my flesh shaped into something new; soft yet firm, tall and proud. As I rose to my feet the centre of weight shifted; I could feel something hanging from my chest, as silver hair draped from my crown and fell over my eyes.
I had been more than healed; I had been changed. The cursed form of Yamaguchi Genkai was melting away and had been replaced. Was this Chiyoko’s true form?
“Don’t just let it happen,” the wolf instructed. “Take control. Command it!”
Yes, he was right. Fate had given me this boon, but I could not be passive. More than a gift it was a tool, for my enemy’s scent still lingered and there was much that had to be done.
Slowly, and with the aches in my bones snapping loose I found my feet. I whispered, then roared with the mouth of a hurricane. “Transform!”
Streaks of silver broke free and seared the last of my shell. They contorted around me, burning on my skin like irons, pressing to new flesh the fire that raged within, and bringing me to life as if for the first time. Moments later they cooled, softened, and draped over my body as a black uniform with a pale bow and short skirt.
What was happening to me? Perhaps I should have been afraid, though fear was the furthest from my thoughts.
“Go into the night, Yamaguchi Chiyoko,” the wolf mused. “No; go into the night, Platinum Doll!”
Platinum Doll; the name suited.
The scent nipped at my nostrils once more, soiling perfection.
Instantly I turned and ran toward its source, my legs a flurry that could outrun a speeding car, in strides that covered entire blocks. As I neared the city I leaped into the sky, glided over houses and buildings, and bounded across the first rooftop to land between my feet. In seconds I had covered miles, but I was still not close enough to my target.
Then I saw; the imp shuffled along the stream of humans wandering like zombies in the witching hour. How did they not see? It shifted from one body to the next, erratically and with glee, like a child given free reign in a sweets shop.
What was it doing? It didn’t matter; my only concern was to see it die.
I danced across the tops of cars, flipping and turning with a grace that would have once been impossible. Gravity was but a suggestion, and every motion was fluid, a part of instinct, as though this supernatural body had been mine forever.
The imp hissed and lunged; the moment we met eyes it knew who I was, that we were born to be enemies. Surely it knew that to charge me would be its end, but did such beings know fear at all?
It was defiant to the very end. From the moment we met it lashed out, and was unconcerned by the blade I drew from my side. An underhand cut moved from its belly to its head, shredding the wraith and sending it on the path to oblivion.
From where I landed on the top of a bus I could hear every word around.
“Did you see that?”
“Some kind of a monster-”
“Who’s that girl?”
Questions with answers that did not belong to them; some that even I did not possess.
I jumped for the moon but fell short by the upper ledge of a skyscraper. When I had climbed as high as I could go I lingered, sniffed the air, and waited.
By some means the wolf had also come to this place; perhaps the same way as I.
“What are you, really?” I asked. I didn’t turn to face him.
“I am as you see me,” he explained, “a wolf, and more.”
“A wolf spirit bound to the flesh of a man,” he continued; “a bastardised version of what you would call a ‘werewolf.’ My name is Grenier, and I am here as emissary to King Yenma.”
King Yenma; the mythological keeper of the dead. Was there really such a being? Had I any doubts they had dispersed, for I knew the words of the wolf to be true.
“What do you want from me?” I pressed.
The wolf huffed. “A contract,” he said. “King Yenma requires agents on Earth to collect evil spirits. In exchange for one thousand he has authorised me to give you a reward.”
I turned to him. “What manner of reward?”
The animal grinned. “Why, that which you desire most, of course; your true form, the womanhood you possess now, and more.”
“My… true form…”
I clutched at my breast and massaged the softness therein. It was real; not a dream, not a prosthetic, but a part of my own body. This skin was new, and yet it had always been a part of me; it was more natural than any shape I had ever worn before.
“One thousand evil spirits,” I echoed.
“Do we have a contract?” he asked.
I gave him my answer.
To be continued…