Characters: Bobby, Amaterasu, OMCs
Summary: The first time Bobby Singer met Amaterasu. Set in the Okamiverse, wherein I add the Shinto pantheon to SPN mythology for my own amusement. Written for and dedicated to clearlyapigeon .
Okami is a video game released in North America in 2006. "Set sometime in classical Japanese history, Ōkami combines several Japanese myths, legends and folklore to tell the story of how the land was saved from darkness by the Shinto sun goddess, named Amaterasu, who took the form of a white wolf. It features a distinct sumi-e-inspired cel-shaded visual style and the Celestial Brush, a gesture-system to perform miracles." - wikipedia
Kyoto, Japan. 1995.
The thing was, demons didn't come to Japan. Ever. Not since Amaterasu had taken it upon herself to smite any that tried, and that had been over three thousand years ago. Their very existence offended her. Black clouds of Lucifer's twisted souls, corrupted beyond recognition. They left a stain on everything they touched, like the lingering smell of rot and mold, and Amaterasu would not tolerate them on her land and near her people. So this...situation...annoyed her. A lot.
She'd noticed the second the first demon set foot on the island, oozing out of Kyoto Airport. It was wearing a pretty young girl in business casual; to the goddess the girl's face was twisted and misshapen, reflecting the evil that looked out of it now. (She was just out of college in New York and looking forward to seeing her parents again, and how dare this thing touch one of Amaterasu's people?) The creature had stopped on her arrival and smirked. Clearly this one was not very smart. Amaterasu had reached out to burn the demon out of the girl - and felt her power pass straight through.
The demon's smirk grew. “Welcome to the new world.” It dropped the girl's purse on the floor and pulled up both sleeves to reveal intricate runes carved across the girl's arms. “We thought we'd take your country first.”
Amaterasu knew those runes. They were gone; obliterated from existence by Zeus when they'd finally chased the fae from Earth. “How did you-?” But the demon was chanting now, and Ammy felt a millenia-old thrill of fear as she realized she was surrounded by more runes. It was a trap. She'd walked right into a trap.
She woke up in a basement; alone and completely human.
* * *
It didn't end with that one demon. It never did – they were like locusts. One quickly turned into a swarm. And humans. Humans were such weak, limited creatures. They needed to eat, they needed to sleep, they couldn't even really see other people. This latest body was swarming with cops, reporters and just a few passersby. Any of them could be a demon, stuck around to gloat. They could be anything, and she couldn't tell. She couldn't even contact her family for help – knowing them it'd be weeks before they noticed she was missing.
Her feet hurt from standing so long, and she was cold. This was the fifth unexplained body and no trace of a hunter anywhere. That she could see anyway. (She'd always liked hunters. Sometimes she fancied herself their patron, because they kept Japan clean of the more violent monsters and because none of her brethren cared to sponsor a group of humans). She scanned the crowd again and – there! That pair of detectives, was that a spell tag peaking out of the younger one's pocket? They were pushing their way through the onlookers and out to the street, and this was her chance. She adjusted her (new) jacket and mussed her hair a little, then ran across the street and grabbed the arm of the older hunter.
“You! You're hunters, right? You have to help me.” He stared suspiciously at her for a second. Right. Hunters. Paranoid, jumpy, and also paranoid. She always forgot that part. Ammy fought to keep eye contact, searching his face to see if he was sympathetic. She couldn't even tell what his name was, what he was like, anything, and it was driving her crazy. All she was getting was a man with worn skin, close-cropped hair and probably battle experience. He motioned to his partner – a kid, really – and assumed a concerned-cop persona.
“Why don't you tell us what happened, miss.”
She nodded and mentally organized her story. “I don't- I was walking home. And then – and then I woke up in this alley and I don't know where I am but I remember this voice in my head saying awful things and it knew that you were hunters and I'm not crazy, please, I'm not.” She was crying now, projecting desperate/confused/distraught as hard as she could. Honestly, it wasn't that hard. She was stuck as a human.
She glanced up to see the man exchange looks with the kid, and then more concerned-cop. “Hey, shh. We believe you. And we're going to help. I am Sakurazaki Ryo. This is my son, Ayumu. Ayumu.” This directed at the kid, who started and hastily took off his coat to place over her shoulders. “Why don't we talk somewhere else? There's a cafe nearby.”
The kid, Sakurazaki junior, gave her a sheepish smile as Sakurazaki-san started off down the street. “Sorry. I'm kind of new at this. But my father is the best hunter I've ever known. Whatever did this to you, we'll find it. Don't worry.”
* * *
“So, um. What's your name?” The junior Sakurazaki-san was leaning across the table, the picture of friendly earnestness. It'd been a while, but she was pretty sure he has a crush on her. Not that she could blame him.
“Ammy.” She gave him a smile. How old was her human form? She'd always had trouble telling.
“So.” Sakurazaki-san had a notebook and pen out. He was frowning again – she was noticing a definite pattern there. “Ammy. I apologize for making you relive this, but we need to know everything you can remember.” Sakurazaki-san was smooth as silk; all solemn gravity.
Ammy cleared her throat and reminded herself to stick to character. She was here to steer them in the right direction, not arouse their suspicions. (Seriously, there was a time these people would have bowed at her feet. Damn modern era). “I know. I know. Thank you. I remember the alley. And. Um. Smoke. It was, like, this black cloud came out of nowhere and flew at me. And...and there was this smell.”
Sakurazaki-san tapped his pen on the notebook. “Do you remember what kind of smell?”
“It. It smelled like a hot spring, actually. Which is weird. Who ever heard of a hot spring in an alley?”
Sakurazaki-san nodded and made a note, but the junior Sakurazaki-san was doing mental math and lit up beside him. “Sulfur. Smoke and sulfur. That's it! It's a western demon.”
“Well, it's possible isn't it? Japan's getting more foreign visitors, maybe a demon tagged along.” Sakurazaki-san rubbed his temples and sighed, but Sakurazaki-san junior pressed on. “It's the only creature that fits, Dad!”
“All right. All right. But how the hell do we kill a demon?”
* * *
To kill a demon, apparently, they had to visit the library. And read a lot of books. To be honest, the life of a hunter was much more tedious than she'd thought. Sakurazaki-san and his son examined the evidence, poured through the literature, but there was nothing on western demons. And why should there be? The people of Japan had never needed to deal with them. Ammy had made sure of that herself.
They tried what they knew. Exorcisms for youkai. Purification rituals. Sakurazaki-san senior was quite proficient with spells for a hunter, Ammy noted. They tried to find patterns to the deaths, isolate an area of high activity. Nothing worked. And, Ammy realized with the beginnings of panic, she had no idea what would. When was the last time she'd bothered to look outside of Japan? How did the other humans deal with the demons that plagued their countries?
Finally, one of Sakurazaki-san's contacts gave them a name. A man in America who specialized in demon lore; he would know what to do. Sakurazaki-san stayed on the phone just outside the Library door for over an hour, speaking to this demon specialist through his contact. After the first half hour, Ammy and the junior Sakurazaki-san sidled over to eavesdrop. Which was fortunate: the hunter wanted to come over himself, and Sakurazaki-san had no interpreter. Ammy happened to speak all human languages fluently. It was an excellent way to make herself indispensable to the hunt.
* * *
Sakurazaki-san agreed to meet both Ammy and the foreign hunter at the library the next day. During school hours, to the other Sakurazaki-san's disappointment.
The foreigner's name was Bobby Singer. He came in with books, Christian crosses and water. Laid everything out on the table in the little group study room they'd reserved at the library. There were awkward introductions all around; Singer-san fumbled his way through a bow and gave Ammy a long look when they explained how she was involved. Ammy huffed. Really, she was going out of her way to help these people. The nerve.
He spoke to Sakurazaki-san. “You checked her?”
Sakurazaki-san lifted the left side of his jacket to reveal a half dozen paper talismans keyed, as far as Ammy could tell, for detection. Clever. “Detection charms,” he explained for Singer-san's benefit. The foreign hunter grunted acknowledgement and picked up one of the small vials of water.
He held up the vial. “Holy water. Could I see your hand, miss?” Ammy only hesitated a second before placing her right hand on the table. Not that holy water'd have affected her even before the human thing – deity here – but the guy could be lying. It was possible. Singer-san uncapped the vial and poured three drops onto Ammy's hand, then nodded when nothing happened. “No offense, but I'm gonna assume your wards aren't usually used to detect demons.”
“You'd be right.” Sakurazaki-san picked up a rosary from the centre of the table. “So, Singer-san. How do you propose we deal with our little...problem here?”
* * *
Singer-san examined all of Sakurazaki-san's notes on the case. “People disappearing. Huh. The bodies I get. But kidnapping? Demons don't usually have that level of restraint. Not unless somebody's organizing them. Which means they have a plan.”
“Could be coincidence.”
“I don't believe in coincidences. They're here for a reason. Something important enough to come all the way to Japan. I'm thinking ritual. What do we know about this area? Any places of power? If we can find their base we can set up an ambush.”
Sakurazaki-san considered it. “Temples, maybe. Motoisekono. Iwashimizu.”
Singer-san was shaking his head. “Temples are holy ground. Demons can't enter.” That wasn't true, Ammy knew. At least, it hadn't always been true. Back when demons had first found their way to Earth they'd desecrated hundreds of temples, just for the fun of it. Back when...
And Ammy suddenly knew where the demons were. She remembered the first purge; demons tearing holes between dimensions, swarming over the whole earth. But not Japan. She remembered the last time she had unleashed her power fully in this plane, touching the ground, the plants, the water. She remembered the satisfaction she'd felt when the demons tried to enter and realized the ground burned like hot coals and the water was like acid to them, infused the most powerful blessing Amaterasu could give it. Nowadays that magic had faded. Except in one place. “Matsunoo-taisha,” she breathed. “That's it. That has to be it.”
“It's a temple, built around a spring of water that's said to be blessed.” It was the only remnant of that purge, and it was still there because underneath that water was a door to Hell.
“It is blessed,” Ammy told them, “and they're there. They're going to defile it; take away its power.” Two pairs of eyes stared at her. “I, um. I remembered. From...from back then.”
“Right.” Singer-san looked less than convinced.
Sakurazaki-san rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “It's the best lead we have right now. Possibly they found a way to enter the temple, even if it's holy ground.”
“It's possible, sure. All right.” Bobby glanced at his wrist. “It's late. We'll meet up tomorrow and scout out this Matsuno temple, and any other likely area.”
* * *
They split up to scout; Sakurazaki-san and his son headed east to the biggest temples on that side of Kyoto. Bobby and Ammy took the west side – checking Matsunoo-taisha first. Ammy was in front, keeping an eye out for the nearest subway entrance (she was pretty sure she knew where it was – directions were harder when she couldn't call up the layout psychically), when Singer-san called out her name. He'd stopped walking; was staring out at the passing cars.
“You know, something's been bothering me about this case,” he started conversationally. “Japan gets a demon problem for the first time in centuries. And there's only one witness. Someone who just happens to remember where they are and what they're doing, and wants to help.”
He didn't believe her. Ammy glanced toward the subway once, then turned to Singer-san. “Is that so hard to believe?”
“Just seems a bit convenient, is all. You got to understand, miss. When you've seen the things I've seen, you don't trust easily. And you learn to trust your instincts. Mine are telling me you're not a damsel in distress.”
Ammy regarded him for a long moment, considering. “You could be right,” she allowed. “But Mr. Singer, I want these demons gone just as much as you do. More. I can't tell you why. Not while they're alive.”
“And why not?”
She gave him a serene smile. “Because you won't believe me.”
He laughed shortly. “I've seen a lot in my day.”
“So have I.” She hesitated. Then: “They took something from me, Mr. Singer. Something I want back very badly. If you help me, I will tell you everything. And take you out for coffee. I know this great place in town. We could talk.”
Singer-san reached into his jacket and retrieved a flask. He pointed it at her. “I'm keeping an eye on you. This thing works, and I'll take that coffee.”
“I'm looking forward to it.” Ammy gestured towards the subway. “Now, shall we go find our demons?”
* * *
The temple, when they found it, was closed for renovations. Two men in uniform were guarding the main entrance. Singer-san and Ammy stopped a ways down the walkway and watched them, using the crowds to avoid detection. Theoretically. Singer-san stood out like a sore thumb.
“Hard to check a place out when it's closed. Should have come at night.”
Ammy shook her head. “It can't be a coincidence.”
Singer-san nodded. “Maybe not.” Before he could say more the guards glanced around the street. Their eyes were pitch black. Singer-san grabbed her and started backpedalling back up the street. “That is definitely not coincidence. Let's go!”
“What?” She let herself be pulled around the corner and then yanked her arm from Singer-san's grip. “Wait. They can't have seen us. What's the problem?"
Singer-san's face was grim. “I'm no sure yet. But this is way more organized than it should be. I don't like it.”
Neither did Ammy, but what else were they supposed to do? The demons by the gate were wearing long sleeves; she had no idea if they wore the same runes as the one at the airport. 'Tsukiyomi, this would be a great time to check in on me.'
Singer-san was still talking. “You knew they were here. Do you have any idea what might have made these things target the spring?”
Well, yeah. I was there. “There's a.... legend. It's said that long ago demons came to Japan to wage war, The gods rose up against them and turned every drop of water on the island holy. This temple is built around the last remaining spring of that water.”
“Legend, huh. And if I asked your hunter friend about this legend, would he know what I'm talking about?”
She didn't try to deny it. Ammy met his eyes head-on, chin up. He'd either trust or he wouldn't, but she had a good feeling about Singer-san.
Singer-san sighed. “All right, then. Why set up shop in the one place that'll hurt them most?”
“Revenge. They hate the spring. To defile the symbol of their defeat so long ago – I can see them doing that. Before they take this country.” Ammy voice was shaking with emotion. “I will not stand around passively while they defile my spring.”
“We're not going to let that happen.”
On the way back, she caught him watching her thoughtfully.
* * *
“Here's the thing. You can't kill demons. Never been done. But you can send 'em back where they came from and hope it's a long time till they get out again.” Singer-san looks down at the table, then back up. “I won't lie to you. This is bad. Back home, demons are rare. They never travel in groups and they don't plan; and even then most hunters won't touch them. Something like this... we can't win in a head-on fight. We've got to take them all out at once.”
Ammy was watching the guards at dusk two days later. She couldn't tell them apart from normal humans like this. Probably they couldn't tell what she was, either. The other three were elsewhere on the property perimeter – the spell needed four grounding points to work.
She went like she was a tourist, giggling and doing her best impersonation of an airhead (or a drunk Loki). They stopped her; told her the temple was closed. She went wide-eyed. “Really?” Sidled up to the wall and slipped the paper behind a bush. “When will you open again?”
“If that spring is as powerful as the demons think it is, we can use it to our advantage. Draw out the blessing, maybe. Make it airborne. We can burn them out.”
The spell was clever. Hastily put together, but powerful. Ammy had to give Sakurazaki-san props for talent. ('Powerful' being a relative term. Normally she could do a better one in her sleep, but it would require the essence of a god to activate. Honestly, who came up with those rules? (Her, actually, but that was beside the point)).
She felt the pulse as the spell activated. Seconds later, the guards were screaming and choking up clouds of black smoke. Mission accomplished; Ammy let out the breath she hadn't known she'd been holding. She was shaking. Adrenaline, she thought distantly. Humans had that. She had to get inside before the humans. She had to destroy those marks and reverse the curse on herself.
It would take the others several minutes to circle back around to the entrance, but they were hunters. They might not take the door. She bent to the closest body and carefully rolled back the left sleeve to find smooth, unmarked skin. No runes. (Did they have that low an opinion of her relatives?) She only had to find the ringleader, then. She stood up and ran, following half-remembered blueprints in her head to the heart of the spring.
The body of the ringleader was alone, lying discarded next to a half demolished wall. They'd been digging to get closer to the gate? The walls and floor were covered in the flowing script of the fae, more secrets that should have been lost long ago. Ammy didn't have time to think about that, though. Not when there were three hunters behind her. She pried an ornate knife from the body's right hand and said a quick apology to the girl's spirit, in case she was still around. With two quick strokes she sliced the skin of both arms, nullifying the runes' power. She searched the body with trembling fingers for a stone, anything, that might be a container for her divinity. The demon would have kept it close. There, around the neck, a necklace with a single pearl. The gem hummed slightly when she touched it and she knew. This was hers.
“Ammy?” She glanced up sharply at Singer-san's voice. When had he come in? The hunter was standing in the doorway with a shotgun held loosely in one hand, taking in scene. He did not look happy with what he saw. Ammy looked back at the pearl in her hand and decided. She dropped it on the ground and stood up, hands out in the air. As she stood, she found the pearl with her foot and crushed it.
It was like someone exploded a small nuclear bomb in her chest. Ammy gasped, choked as her lungs stopped expanding, and collapsed to her knees. She whited out for what couldn't be longer than a couple seconds. When her vision cleared the world was back as it should be, layers of reality unfolding themselves under her gaze. That was much better.
“Christ.” Singer-san was still in the doorway. She could see the whites of his eyes and the hand on his gun was shaking. “Shit. You.” And then he visibly pulled himself together. (She was kind of impressed. The last mortal she'd done that to had cowered for two days). “What are you?”
Not the most encouraging question, but they were playing on her field now. He couldn't hurt her. She sniffed. “That's a bit rude, don't you think? My name is Amaterasu. You may call me Lady Amaterasu.”
Singer-san paused then, mouthing her name to himself. Of course he'd done research on some basic mythology before he'd come. He knew who she was. Ammy grinned quietly to herself. She was an awesome judge of character. “My apologies, your Ladyship.” He bowed – properly, too. She inclined her head in acknowledgement.
“It's not a problem. You have my thanks for your efforts against our little demon infestation. And for...my situation. You could have told the others I was lying. You didn't.”
“I almost did. What can I say? I hate demons more than anything you might have been.”
“That makes two of us. Now, I believe I promised you coffee.”
* * *
She took him to Sakurazaki-san's coffeeshop. Placed Singer-san and herself on the edge of human perception, so they registered as two generic customers.
“Ah. This place feels so different when I'm not human. The tea is better, too, I bet. Do you want coffee?” She snapped her fingers at the waiters, who brought her a perfect cup of green tea and a mug of black coffee for Singer-san without being asked. The benefits of deity-hood. She'd missed this. Bobby took the coffee without comment, watching her warily. She wasn't worried. He'd come around.
She stirred her tea. “Out of curiosity, what did you suspect I was? Before I regained my power, I mean.”
“Honestly? River spirit. Maybe connected to that spring. If you were willing to work with hunters I figured you weren't violent. Was going to wait and see what happened.”
He let out a huff of laughter. “I may be a hunter, but I ain't stupid. I know better than to mess with a goddess in her own home.”
“And that,” she told him, “is why I like you. I have a proposal for you, Mr. Singer. I would like you to remain in Japan for the time being. I will handle all expenses, retrieve any materials you need from America, and grant you access to any literature here that you wish to read. In return, you will teach a group of hunters of my choosing everything you know about western demons.”
She leaned forward. “It's a good deal, Mr. Singer. What say you?”