The First Oni

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It had been a year since the incident, and I was recovering well.

After the fire incident of my tree village, I was taken in by the Tsukahara family, a Buddhist family living just outside of Bellingham, a human city near my old tree village. They were very understanding of different types of beings living on the earth and were more than happy to house a tengu and help her adjust to human society.

Of course, it was easier said than done. I mostly helped them with the temple, but I had not socialized with humans at all before, so I was painfully awkward. I knew English because my tengu friends had taught it to me, but I hadn't spoken it before, so my accent was clumsy. I had to study a lot harder than lessons among friends.

Luckily, I spoke Japanese, as most tengu in my village learned in our primary school in history lessons, since our ancestors spoke that language. The Tsukahara family, being Japanese-Americans, were able to communicate with me through that language, and this way, I was also able to teach them Northwest Oni, the modern youkai dialect of our region. I always found it ironic that we spoke Oni, yet my kind spoke so ill of the youkai of the same name.

This thought crossed my mind when I was busying myself with genmaicha in Woods Coffee, a coffeehouse of Bellingham on the waterfront. I liked to sit on the second floor and look out to the Bellingham Bay out the window as I studied English. But what was normally a quiet study session aside from the light chatter amongst the college students and indie-folk music in the background was interrupted by the door swinging open so loudly it made the room go quiet. Even the track had finished at the same time. I could hear chairs creaking to see who had entered.

Two oni had stormed in, drenched from the rain outside. One of them was tiny and built boyishly, with her ginger hair a wild mop beneath horns that looked more like antlers. The other was tall and muscular, with horns looking as though they had scales, her ash blonde hair windswept and almost as messy as her redheaded companion.

They were also holding hands. Were they a couple? I had no interest in dating, so I was rather new to the idea, but tengu tended to not be physically affectionate. I had never met oni before, though, so maybe they were? As far as I knew, humans tended to hold hands if they were courting.

"Can I help you?" the human at the front counter, Kelsey, asked. She was a petite blonde girl and, as I had found out from my times here, was a Psychology major at Western Washington University. She lived a cushy life with human Christian parents that loved her very much, but she loved the Buddhist teachings of the Tsukaharas a lot more and visited the temple often nowadays.

The taller of the two looked down at her possibly-girlfriend expectantly. "Can we get uhh...two sixteen-ounce mochas? And do you guys serve, like, soups here? We're starving and you're the only place open this early 'round here."

Before Kelsey could reply, the manager, a rather-racist man named Jonathan I tried to not associate with, stepped in. "We don't serve your kind."

The redhead put her hands on her hips. "The fuck you mean, you don't serve our kind?"

"We don't serve oni," he said firmly. "Your kind are loud and destructive and a nuisance to the nice community humanity has created."

"What about her?" she gestured toward me sitting on the balcony. "She's not human."

He gave me a passive look. I slumped in my seat.

"She's quiet. She's alright enough. You two look like a mess, you smell like the dead, and your kind is not welcome here."

The ginger cracked her knuckles, but the tall oni grabbed her shoulders. "Keisa, no."

Keisa ignored her. "We're muddy because we live in the mountains, 'cause your kind is so intolerant to anyone different than you? My girlfriend, Tess here? She was—"

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