The Mighty Zakuro sat at the rickety table tucked in the bar's most ill-lit corner and nursed his beer. His lite beer. His lip curled, and he spun the bottle by its neck to glare at the label. To be reduced to this abomination, though it was the only cold brew in the house! Faugh.
He sighed. The sordid atmosphere and vile drink reflected his mood well, he decided. He took the next-to-last swig and grimaced—it still tasted like bear piss, eurgh—and the bottle let out a forlorn little clink when he set it back down. Zakuro ignored it. He had some serious brooding to do.
Now, where had he left off? Oh, yes.
That he, the Mighty Zakuro, expert assassin and incomparable illusionist, should be reduced to this! Chasing after a foul-tempered, foul-mouthed, too-pretty, droopy-eyed monk and his degenerate sidekicks. Pfft. Other youkai stumbled over the Sanzo ikkou every day, it seemed. But he'd been looking for weeks and couldn't find them. Weeks! All he'd found were tall tales and the carnage they left behind.
It was intolerable, he decided. He tilted his head and upended the bottle, but his tongue caught only a few sad, body-temperature drops. He let his hand fall to the table, and the clatter of the bottle on the sticky wood punctuated his dejection perfectly. He felt as flat, colorless, and as pointless as his shitty-ass beer. And as empty.
Zakuro pushed the bottle away and signaled for another. He would rise above this, this … insult. This ... infamy. He would sit here, drinking and planning, and devise a way to best all the other youkai assassins and bring down the Sanzo ikkou. Oh, how he'd bring them down.
Now he just needed his refill so the drinking could resume, to be immediately followed by the planning. And then the success. Yes, his success, the inevitable outcome. He was the Mighty Zakuro! Humans and youkai alike trembled before the power of his illusions!
As if in answer to his inner fervor, the table trembled beneath his hands, and for a glorious second, Zakuro thought it was responding to his obvious power, his intimidating splendor. But the thud of the door, loud enough to rattle a couple of glasses at the bar, dispelled that idea all too quickly.
A man, tall and with long reddish-brown hair, came in and made for the bartender, his footfalls loud and heavy on the scuffed wooden floor. The light bent around him oddly, and Zakuro narrowed his eyes. An illusion—not bad, but nothing like he could create. Well, of course not. This illusion was powered by a limiter or—Zakuro squinted harder—aha! some sort of talisman, and decent enough work. Interesting.
The man leaned forward and eyed the bartender, who popped the top off Zakuro's beer and set it aside without a glance.
"What'll it be?" the bartender asked.
"I'm looking for someone," the man said, his voice oily and serpentine. It hissed and glided over consonants and through vowels.
Oh. Ew. How unpleasant.
The bartender looked thoughtful. "Welp, you found me. I only got two other customers. Ol' Ping at the end of the bar, there," he said slowly, gesturing at an old man who'd fallen asleep on his stool, "and that young feller over there." He pointed at Zakuro. "Hey, feller! Got yer beer!"
The man turned to look at Zakuro. His eyes—the color of creepy, or maybe it was crazy; he was too far away for Zakuro to be sure—widened as he did a subtle double-take.
"That's not what I meant, but still, I'll have a sake," the man said, sliding some bills across the bar and picking up Zakuro's beer. "Bring it over." His voice had morphed into something simultaneously supercilious and unctuous, and Zakuro found that he was still repelled, yet somehow, he was at least a little bit curious, intrigued by the man's fashion sense if nothing else. He wore an admittedly fabulous coat that had a dramatic skirt and dragon-esque pattern curling up and around, toward his right shoulder, where an explosion of white feathers sat like an outsized avian epaulet. All right, no. Zakuro sniffed. It was tacky, really, despite the sublime flare of the coat below the man's waist. And if he proved too irritating, Zakuro could easily best him without even trying.
And then take his coat. Someone who relied on talismans and limiters to disguise himself would be no match for the majesty that was the Mighty Zakuro—no match at all!
The man came and sat down across from Zakuro, between him and the door, and then he scooted his chair around the table's curve, much closer than Zakuro wanted. His eyes were indeed a distinct shade of disturbing, with bright flecks of unhinged scattered throughout the irises. Zakuro stiffened slightly. He would hate—well, no, he wouldn't hate to destroy the bar with death and carnage, but he really wanted to finish that second beer, as shitty as it would be. Death and carnage would interfere with that. And his
brooding planning. Death and carnage would interfere with his planning.
"Hello," said the man. He slid the beer in front of Zakuro and drew the tip of his index finger around the rim before trailing it down the bottle's neck and label. He swirled it through the fat beads of condensation clinging to the glass and then brought his finger to his mouth and licked the water away with a lasciviously thoughtful air. He held his hand out to Zakuro and raised an expectant eyebrow. "I'm Go Dougan."
Zakuro eyed the hand the way most people would eye gently used toilet paper and drew himself up.
"I am the Mighty Zakuro!" he said. He paused dramatically, the exclamation mark in his voice ringing in the air between them.
Dougan blinked and put his hand down. "Zakuro. The illusionist?" he asked. He looked Zakuro up and down, flicking his glance sideways when the bartender brought him a bottle of sake and two cups, and then returned to … ogling. That was the only word for it. His gaze was doing to Zakuro what his finger had done to Zakuro's beer.
Well, all right. Who could blame him? Zakuro thought as Dougan's eyes fixed somewhere in the vicinity of Zakuro's chest. Zakuro looked down. Aha. Yes, this was a particularly nice vest, and no, he never wore a shirt under it. Why would he? His pecs were perfectly sculpted, gleaming curves of manly beauty. His abs rippled and quivered in masculine splendor. And his nipples—Dougan was clearly staring at Zakuro's left nipple now—were symmetrical, dusky brown, and deliciously taut at all times: the absolute pinnacle of macho eroticism. Zakuro heard a phantom bow-chikka-wow every time he got dressed or disrobed, and he was pretty certain everyone else in his vicinity did, too. His whole body was mesmerizing.
Zakuro took a deep breath, gratified by the way Dougan's eyes widened as his chest expanded. Perhaps this Dougan character was worth a minute of his time after all.
"The same," Zakuro said grandly. He picked up his beer, and when Dougan briefly made eye contact, he swiped the mouth clean with a discreet twitch of his thumb and then rubbed his thumb clean on his trousers. There was no telling where this Dougan fellow's finger had been, and Zakuro didn't trust the alcohol content in a lite beer to kill any cooties that Dougan may have introduced. "Were you looking for me?"
Dougan stared at Zakuro's mouth as he spoke, and then he looked away to pour the sake. He tilted the bottle at Zakuro and licked his lips. "Sake?"
Zakuro shook his head.
Dougan looked disappointed, but he raised the cup and said, "To new friends." He licked his lips again as Zakuro lifted the beer and said in a huskier voice, "To new, intimate friends."
Zakuro blinked, and Dougan smiled. It was a smile as oily and serpentine as his voice.
And yet? Dougan's expression at the way Zakuro's lips kissed the glass curve of the beer bottle's opening … . Well. "Avid" wasn't too strong a word for it. If the universe and karma wouldn't show him a little love and put him on the right track, perhaps he should accept adoration—his rightful due!—wherever it appeared. Even if its vehicle was
more than a little creepy.
Zakuro could handle creepy. Or, more accurately, he might allow creepy to, ah, handle him. With a firm grip and a steady rhythm, and a little flick of the thumb at the top of the upstroke.
Oh, yes. That might—
A drop of sake quivered on the edge of Dougan's cup, and his tongue, pink and glistening, flexed in a sinuous curve to catch it.
Oh. That might, indeed. And when it got awkward, as it inevitably did; mere mortals all too frequently found the Mighty Zakuro's luscious body too intimidating, once he granted them the gift of his nakedness and the great boon of an orgasm—well, then he had only to exert his marvelous powers and make his escape, leaving them with memories of a night so magical that it rivaled the most magnificent dream. They didn't need to know that the bewitchment and alchemy of the Mighty Zakuro's unbearably sexy self were real and not a dream at all.
So. He was decided. Appreciation culminating in orgasm, and then he would finish his planning.
Zakuro raised his beer in salute. "To new, intimate friends," he said.