The Yokai of Guenii

Sto­ry and art by A.F.

I was in Guenii for the last two weeks. Nor­mal­ly, for many tourists the Guenii so­ci­ety seems to be quite se­cre­tive, even if they al­ways act with ex­treme po­lite­ness and cour­tesy to­wards for­eign. One can pass years and years just study­ing their most open and com­mon tra­di­tions, but the more pri­vate as­pects about their cul­ture can be tremen­dous­ly dif­fi­cult to even aboard.

This isn't my first time in Guenii, I have vis­it­ed with sev­er­al diplo­mat­ic groups be­fore, even as a per­son­al com­pan­ion of many en­voys, and even if those po­si­tions have proven to be quite use­ful to me to get ac­cess to sev­er­al Guenii se­crets, there is one of them than I par­tic­u­lar­ly find in­trigu­ing; the Yokai.

To be hon­est, at the be­gin­ning I thought than those crea­tures were just part of the Guenii's folk­lore, just part one the many leg­ends that peo­ple around the world tell to each oth­er. But at this point, I'm a per­son who has al­ways con­sid­ered than leg­ends are not lies, but sto­ries about re­al facts than have been dis­tort­ed through time, so even in a so­ci­ety like Guenii, in which tech­nol­o­gy is reach­ing great ad­vance­ment, leg­ends are still re­main­ing as a way to sta­b­lish his­tor­i­cal and cul­tur­al val­ues through a so­cial nar­ra­tive.

How­ev­er, I have to add than de­spite Guenii's tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ment, the so­ci­ety is still be­ing high­ly tra­di­tion­al in terms of their po­lit­i­cal and so­cial struc­tures).

So Guenii's leg­ends are not just those epic sto­ries that any­one can hear in places like Sh­oldor, or those weird tales of Ki­gash.

So, in those days, I con­sid­ered that the Yokai were leg­ends, de­scrib­ing, with the com­mon veil of se­cre­cy and mys­ti­cism of the leg­ends, the or­ga­ni­za­tions and ori­gins of the se­cret nin­ja so­ci­eties and clans that have ex­ist­ed in Guenii for cen­turies, af­ter all, great part of the Yokai sto­ries sug­gest these crea­tures have the mag­i­cal abil­i­ties to dis­ap­pear and to con­tort them­selves in­to the most dif­fi­cult hide­outs, the ex­act abil­i­ties that nin­jas seek to im­prove.

How­ev­er, what is im­por­tant to note, is that in­side the nin­ja clans, the Yokai are be­lieved to be re­al crea­tures, ca­pa­ble to do what the nin­jas just want to copy. Be­sides, in con­tradis­tinc­tion with oth­er Guenii tra­di­tions, the sto­ries and leg­ends about the Yokai are open­ly shared with strangers. Peo­ple of sev­er­al vil­lages, even if they re­mained sus­pi­cious of the tourist, gen­er­al­ly changed their mood when the Yokai sto­ries start­ed to be told.

Since my first vis­it to Guenii, I have been quite in­ter­est­ed in the Yokai, of course con­sid­ered them, as I said, to be just leg­ends… how­ev­er, dur­ing this last vis­it I was a wit­ness of a quite strange event.

It was late in the night when the peo­ple start­ed to walk out­side the hos­tel where I’m be­ing host­ed (the vil­lage in which I’m stay­ing is a town of a quite re­spect­ed size in the bor­der of the moun­tain, I have stayed here be­fore, so the place is not com­plete­ly un­known to me and some peo­ple are used to see me here, so I’m not a com­plete stranger to them), the tu­mult in­creased rapid­ly, so my cu­rios­i­ty over­came my own lazi­ness and in the end I took a robe and joined to the crowd.

At first I had lit­tle, if any, re­al in­ter­est in the sit­u­a­tion, in fact I had no idea of what's go­ing on, but af­ter a cou­ple of min­utes I found one of my friends from the vil­lage.

“What’s go­ing on?” I calm­ly asked him. His re­sponse, how­ev­er, sur­prised me enough to force me to run faster than every­one else.

“A Yokai,” he said, “the po­lice has a Yokai in the sta­tion.”

The news spread quick­ly and in just twen­ty min­utes the whole town was aware of it. Ap­par­ent­ly, a Yokai was cap­tured that night.

Thanks to the gos­sips (I have to say that the Guenii peo­ple are good at pass­ing in­for­ma­tion when they want to do it), I dis­cov­ered than the “crea­ture” (I’m not sure if still nam­ing him a “crea­ture” is okay) was vic­tim of one of the traps that some Guenii kids put in some ar­eas to catch each oth­er, and ap­par­ent­ly to main­tain their nin­ja train­ing mean­while they play with oth­er kids in the area.

These traps are harm­less and easy to break, I was a vic­tim of a cou­ple of them in the past, so I was sur­prised by the thought than a mag­i­cal be­ing could be trapped by one of them but when I ar­rived to the po­lice sta­tion I could un­der­stand how this hap­pened.

I have a cou­ple of friends in there, so I could reach the in­te­ri­or of the po­lice sta­tion rather eas­i­ly and get di­rect­ly to the cell where the Yokai was locked, and I have to say that my first im­pres­sion was bor­der­ing on dis­be­lief. In front of me there was a small be­ing, so slen­der and frail that I thought it was just a kid. One of the chil­dren of the nin­ja clans that of­ten train at night.

But among all those com­mon traits I ini­tial­ly saw, there were strange as­pects that I couldn't ful­ly ex­plain.

The “sub­ject” as the po­lice re­ferred to him, was cov­ered in some kind of tight clothes, it was sim­i­lar to the clothes that some nin­jas use, which cov­er al­most their en­tire bod­ies. But the “Yokai” suit was quite dif­fer­ent in par­tic­u­lar de­tails.

As I could see, there weren't any seams on it, and when he moved, there were no folds ei­ther. Be­sides, the clothes had some shine. The suit was so well adapt­ed to his body that for a sec­ond I thought he was just us­ing body paint, but a quick re­vi­sion dis­card­ed this idea im­me­di­ate­ly.

Be­side the suit, he was wrapped with a com­bi­na­tion of straps, all of them made with a ma­te­r­i­al I have nev­er seen, it looked like some kind of fab­ric, but it was light and ex­treme­ly durable. The “sub­ject” was in pos­ses­sion of sev­er­al strange thing stored in­side the many pock­ets on these straps.

I wasn’t ca­pa­ble to see them all, but among the “de­vices” he had, there was some kind of “elec­tric dart-throw­er”. The Guenii have some sort of ad­vanced alche­my (which they call “chem­istry”) that al­lows them to pro­duce small but pow­er­ful “hand can­nons”, ca­pa­ble to throw met­al pieces with great pow­er, how­ev­er the “Yokai” de­vice wasn’t made of met­al and it was al­most weight­less.

And in­stead throw­ing rough met­al pieces through ex­plo­sions, it launched two tiny met­al wires at great speed to an ob­jec­tive be­fore send­ing a small but painful elec­tric wave.

How do I know that? Well, when the “sub­ject” de­vices were re­vised, one of the po­lice agents ac­ci­den­tal­ly ac­ti­vat­ed the dart-throw­er to one of his part­ners, noth­ing se­vere oc­curred, but at that mo­ment all were fright­ened when we saw the man col­laps­ing in to the floor, shak­ing.

How­ev­er, the most im­por­tant thing was the “sub­ject's” fea­tures. As I said, he looked like a child, but even if his face was quite soft, his ex­pres­sion was tough look­ing, be­sides his hair was sil­ver and his eyes were blue, some­thing com­plete­ly un­com­mon in Guenii.

As I man­aged to dis­cov­er, when the sub­ject was cap­tured, he was wear­ing some sort of a mask than re­sem­bled a “spi­der-like” face, how­ev­er, dur­ing the dis­cus­sion at the sta­tion, there was this oth­er the­o­ry that the Yokai can ac­tu­al­ly ma­nip­u­late peo­ple's sight in or­der to ap­pear like hu­mans, and that the “mask” was ac­tu­al­ly his re­al head (the two “the­o­ries”, how­ev­er, didn’t con­vince me, not then, not now).

Now, his at­ti­tude was se­ri­ous, and af­ter sev­er­al ques­tions he just replied with the same strange an­swer.

Shi­ro. Sar­gent. ID num­ber 1001110” (I was lucky to keep a note­book in the robe. Just in case).

I think “Shi­ro” means “white”, some­thing I con­sid­er fit­ting with the “sub­ject's” hair col­or and gen­er­al as­pects, how­ev­er, this is just my own im­pres­sion. Be­sides, I not­ed that even if the voice of the “sub­ject” was soft, there was a no­table rough­ness on it, as if he was old­er than he looked.

As the night con­tin­ued, every­body was in­vit­ed to get back to their hous­es, or in my case, to the hos­tel. All the peo­ple obeyed, even if some want­ed to stay, so I have learned that in Guenii, in­vi­ta­tions are noth­ing more than po­lite or­ders.

The Guenii so­ci­ety is quite or­der­ly and even if they are still quite far from be­ing like It­lan's “au­toma­tons”, they are tremen­dous­ly dis­ci­plined and quite re­spect­ful of their au­thor­i­ties, so there weren’t any com­plains mean­while the crowd dis­persed.

In the morn­ing, I rapid­ly put my clothes on and ran to the po­lice sta­tion, where to my sat­is­fac­tion I found the “Yokai” to be still there.

I was told that the “sub­ject” was try­ing to es­cape the whole night, so the po­lice was forced to tie him up. To their sur­prise, the “sub­ject” was in­cred­i­bly ag­ile and quick, but al­so equal­ly weak, so af­ter the ini­tial trou­bles to hold him, he was eas­i­ly sub­dued.

When I en­tered to the sta­tion, the “Yokai” im­me­di­ate­ly stared at me, as if I was just as strange to him as he was to me. I had the in­ten­tion to ap­proach him with some ques­tions, but in that mo­ment a cou­ple of of­fi­cers en­tered the sta­tion. They re­sem­bled reg­u­lar po­lice agents, how­ev­er, their uni­forms were all black and be­cause of their com­plex­ion, slen­der but ath­let­ic, I could in­fer they were the gov­ern­ment's agents (nor­mal­ly se­lect­ed from the nin­ja clans).

I was giv­en a sign to re­main qui­et, so I did (the gov­ern­ment's agents aren’t the kind of men you want to both­er).

The agents then or­dered the po­lice chief to open the “sub­ject's” gate and, to my sur­prise, they ap­proached him and put their right hands, fin­gers straight­ened with the palms fac­ing the floor, next to their fore­heads, and held that ges­ture un­til the “sub­ject” did the same. I sus­pect that was some kind of a salute, used by the Yokai.

Then the gov­ern­ment's agents es­cort­ed the “sub­ject” to the back of the build­ing, where a car­riage was wait­ing for them. The last thing I could see from my po­si­tion was the three of them en­ter­ing the car­riage be­fore it start­ed mov­ing in the di­rec­tion of the cap­i­tal and then dis­ap­peared from sight.

I looked at those present, but all of them were equal­ly sur­prised, so we all stood in si­lence.

The fol­low­ing hours I spent in the hos­tel, ar­rang­ing my stuff with the idea to go to the cap­i­tal in or­der to in­ves­ti­gate more about the event, but as soon as I left my room I bumped in­to a po­lice of­fi­cer wait­ing for me in the hall. He was a friend of mine, so my ini­tial sur­prise quick­ly wore off, but as I ap­proached him, he sud­den­ly grabbed my arm and forced me back in­to my room.

I asked him what was the is­sue, and he told me that it was bet­ter for me to stay away from this case (ap­par­ent­ly, he is quite aware of my cu­rios­i­ty), and just be­fore I could say a word, he hand­ed a note to me, which I opened at once. To my sur­prise, the whole case was just closed. The “sub­ject's” iden­ti­ty, the na­ture of the event, all the strange de­vices, all was just ig­nored, and the Guenii gov­ern­ment de­clared than the in­ci­dent was “ir­rel­e­vant”.

I was shocked, I have to say. The whole thing was just “closed” by the gov­ern­ment and I know that once the Guenii gov­ern­ment takes a de­ci­sion, it's fi­nal. So, my trav­el was can­celled even be­fore it be­gan. How­ev­er, I ac­cept­ed that. I had more places to vis­it, and this case was good enough for my notes just be­cause of the mys­tery around it.

So, I wasn’t both­ered, how­ev­er, my friend then took a piece of pa­per from his jack­et and put it in the bed be­fore he opened the door and said good­bye to me.

At first I want­ed to catch him up, but I stopped and grabbed what he had left. Among Guenii's tech­no­log­i­cal mar­vels there is a box than can ab­sorb light and put im­ages in­to pa­per; these box­es are ex­pen­sive, but the Guenii gov­ern­ment has the habit to use them in sev­er­al pub­lic ser­vices, which in­clude po­lice ac­tiv­i­ties. For my joy and sur­prise, the po­lice sta­tion in this vil­lage had one of them, and they used it to “cap­ture im­ages” of the sub­jects they catch.

So, per­haps the in­ci­dent is now “closed”, but thanks to the friend­ship, or po­lice cor­rup­tion (ha!), there is a piece of ev­i­dence that it tru­ly hap­pened. A tiny im­age than per­haps is go­ing to re­main in the notes of a com­mon­ly drunk trav­el­er.

See al­so