Hally had a response to her letter by the next morning suggesting that she meet with Master Ito at a small coffee shop on Quarry Hill, the Carpe Diem. It was a small place that Hally had never patroned before. It was quaint, nearly overshadowed by the soon to be reopened Cocoa Java, but its homey feel was accentuated by the thick aroma of coffee that wafted from everything in the tiny cafe.
When Master Ito finally arrived he was something of a surprise. She had been expecting a man of learning and dignity, but while he held himself proudly, he wore a grey kemono and had a long face with an unkempt beard and greasy hair. The only thing he appeared to be a ‘Master’ of was chasing the dragon and finding the green fairy. She smiled, planning to contact him the next time she decided to get drunk, before inviting him to join her.
He took his seat with no signs of any drunkeness and Hally was starting to think she might have misjudged him, which was both a relief and mildly disappointing. After they both placed a quick order for coffee and cookies he turned back to Hally to discuss the matter at hand, “Your message was a little lacking. I understand you wished to speak of yokai. Was there something in particular you were researching?”
“I would love to hear about all kinds of yokai,” She said it simply, lacking the emphasis that Master Ito used. Instead of other worldly beings she thought of them as just another species of animal that could be tamed. “I’m interested in any that would make wonderful pets.”
Master Ito furrowed his brow in deep thought for a moment as he began to speak idly, “Yokai are generally ill suited to being kept as pets. Many are as intelligent or sentient as you and I. But there are some that readily liken themselves to serving or even following after humans. Not many as most seem to prey on humans, though not as we eat cattle or vegetables. Some eat fear or emotions or nightmares.”
He paused as their order had arrived, Hally watched him, getting annoyed at the delay as they had just gotten to the best part. “That sounds like a useful friend to have, eating all your bad dreams.”
“They can be, yes. Though the Baku are hard to find and nearly impossible to trap, if you believe in spirits and monsters that is,” Ito smiled coyly as he blew on the steaming coffee.
“Oh, I’d love a little monster around the house.” Thinking of her precious pets that her uptight neighbor despised she added, “Especially a cute one that no one else seems to love.”
Master Ito chuckled, setting down his cup as he recovered from his good humor. “A yokai is a very dangerous thing to keep close at hand. A very big responsibility. Even cats are not taken lightly in Japan. They cannot be allowed to have a tail for fear that if a cat’s tail bifurcates the cat will become a monster. It will have two tails and be able to take a great and powerful form that hunts humans as it once did mice.”
Hally felt a squeeze on her own tail, she looked down and realized she had clutched it protectively. She couldn’t imagine walking around without her own precious tail… “They wouldn’t cut a cabbits tail, right?”
Ito laughed lightly as he leaned forward with interest, resting his elbows on the polished wood table, “That might depend… Do you consider yourself monstrous, Ms. Xiang?”
“Not at all!” She took a moment to recompose herself, all this talk of tail cutting had her on edge. She took a moment to sip her own coffee to calm her nerves, though it was still too hot, before she continued, “I might call myself a lover of what some might call monsters. I couldn’t live without my giant venus trap or the hyenas. Poor things can’t really get out much though.”
Master Ito seemed to think about that a moment before he reached for one of the cookies on the table, breaking it in half and then offering it to something in his pocket, a small rat came out and nibbled on it to Hally’s surprise. “Indeed, the city isn’t a good place for many animals.”
While she secretly wanted a pet rat for her pocket, Master Ito continued to muse aloud, “A yokai that would make a good pet. That is an interesting query. Sunekosuri would be ideal except for the problem that you would likely find yourself landing on your face often and hardly ever be able to see it-”
This train of thought continued for a long time as the Master seemed to be debating with himself alone. This until a small japanese boy arrived, who answered to the name Mizu, and then it became a discussion that went nowhere between the both of them. She wondered aloud if Mizu was his son, but they both denied it despite the fact both had heterochromia.
Finally, after Mizu had mistakenly used ‘erotic pet’ instead of ‘exotic’, Hally asked Master Ito directly, “Do you have a special little friend right now?”
“I might… if nationality of origin is not a concern.” Master Ito interjected. As she nodded enthusiastically he grinned wryly, “Then I may have something suitable in my wares from China. Though it does come with some very particular needs and care instructions.
“It’s a type of mo guaiwu. A little monster of so called magic. It does come with strict rules in it’s handling.” Master Ito raised three fingers. “You must keep it away from water. Keep it away from lights, and sunlight will kill it…and it’s also important to never feed it after midnight until dawn.”
“Hydrophobia and photophobia?” Hally Xiang thought about the giant water tanks with her special fish, but those weren’t likely to break. “Afraid of lights and water shouldn’t be an issue. It’s not like there is a sun in Babbage anyways, how much for the Mo gwai…Mogwai?”