I had to admit, the Jade Dragon was impressive.
Not just the new Asian-themed casino on the Las Vegas Strip, but also the jade sculpture of a sinewy Chinese dragon suspended over the lobby, seemingly descending from the heavens in a corkscrew pattern. Aesthetics were everything, and the parties responsible for this casino had spared no expense.
A voice brought me back to less fanciful and celestial matters at the roulette table.
“No more bets.” the dealer called out as the little marble-sized ball continued to spin round and round.
Like it or not, everything I had was on that green felt table in the form of fancy, jade and gold embroidered high value casino chips.
I had kept it fairly simple and bet on black, hoping that-
“Red 25! Red 25….” the dealer announced before every penny to my name was scooped up.
“Motherfucker!” I snarl at nobody in particular, although I attract a number of stares from the crowd of bystanders.
Fucking fuck….who told me to bet on black, anyway?
Wesley Snipes? The guy who went to prison for not paying his taxes. Not exactly sound financial advice.
Then again, I’m taking my life’s savings to a fucking casino. The Sound Financial Advice train left the station awhile ago.
Fuck- what am I going to do now? I’m not even sure I have enough spare change or gas money to sulk back to South Dakota in shame.
I’m only faintly aware of the crowd of onlookers dispersing as I try and contemplate what I’ve just done. The elegant, stony dragon above me could only look on in indifference.
Although I’m sure I had been moping for awhile, in what seems like no time at all I feel a large red hand on my shoulder.
“Sir.” a feminine voice spoke up. “I’m going to have to ask you to come with me.”
I look up and see red oni looking down emotionlessly at me.
“Hey now- I’m not doing anything wrong now, am I?”
It’s strange. This oni is wearing what looks like men’s clothing- white slacks and a sport coat over a burgundy polo shirt- and has a short, boyish haircut. But despite the men’s attire and short hair and a somewhat imposing looking pair of horns, she’s still quite feminine. Clearly she’s not one of the working girls who prowl the Strip and various casinos. Although there’s not even so much as a badge or photo ID on her, it’s pretty clear she’s working as the muscle for this joint.
“Sir- just come with me.” the oni repeated.
I get it….my pouting and lamentation at the roulette wheel is taking up precious space, and they need to shoehorn more suckers in….
“Fine- I’m going, I’m going….” I say as I raise my hands defensively. As I stand up, I see that we’re about the same height- the oni is a little taller and I’m sure she has a more muscular frame than me.
As I get up and start briskly walking towards the exit, I notice that the tomboyish Oni is right on my heels.
I don’t see the second oni until she’s nearly on top of me. From the looks of it, they were sisters. This newer oni had longer hair, a single horn and is similarly attired to her sister save for the fact that she’s wearing nothing under her open sport coat except for what looks like bindings across her breasts. Closer to her hip and waist, I can glimpse a somewhat fanciful dragon tattoo that continues under her slacks.
This other oni doesn’t say a word, but has a tight grip on my elbow as she’s guiding me towards what looks like a huge marble pillar.
As we get closer to the pillar, I can see the shorter haired oni produce some sort of ornately decorated key card that she swipes in a fairly well concealed panel off on the side. The slightly bigger oni that’s dragging me doesn’t even break stride as it now looks like she’s going to walk me straight into the pillar- except at the last moment a carefully camouflaged door appears and quickly opens up.
Before I can even ask what’s going on, the tomboyish oni steps into the elevator and the doors close behind her.
“Yes- we’re heading up with him right now.” the one with the chest wrappings said, speaking into some sort of earpiece.
Although the whole thing went down in maybe ten seconds, it seems like forever since I had managed to find my voice.
“Care to tell me what’s going on?” I ask.
“You’ll see in a few minutes.” the longer haired one replied brusquely.
The rest of the elevator ride drags on through the awkward silence between me and my two….I’m not even sure what to call them. Captors? Hosts? Welcoming committee?
Shoot- I don’t like that last one as much. Still, judging from their sparse communication with me or each other, it’s pretty safe to say they’re working on behalf of someone higher up the food chain than them.
The private elevator eases to a stop and the doors open. After a moment’s hesitation, I step out with the two oni sisters behind me.
The whole decor of this spacious room I find myself in is Far Eastern, which isn’t too surprising given the overall theme of this casino.
There’s a long tapestry depicting a mountain partially shrouded in mist and a shelf with a few vases on each end. The floor appears to be some sort of dark marble with inlaid gold flakes.
Towards the center of the room was a large desk. One figure was sitting behind it while the other was standing rigidly upright- almost like a soldier assigned to guard Buckingham Palace. However, she broke from beside the desk and briskly approached me and my red oni welcoming committee upon seeing us.
“Arms out.” the long-haired one said as the tomboyish oni began patting me down. As the figure from the desk drew closer, I could see that she was a blue oni. She looked a bit younger than the red oni sisters and her attire appeared to be more traditional.
“Sir- for the duration of this meeting with our boss, I’m going to have to ask that you turn over any cellphones, tablets, cameras, recording devices, eyeglasses or keys.” the younger blue oni spoke up.
So presumably her boss was the one at the desk. As the short-haired red oni continued patting me down, I could make out red hair and some sort of animal ears on the figure still seated at the desk.
The red oni patting me down deftly removed my truck keys, wallet, cellphone and the key-card to my room at the Jade Dragon- putting it in a little tray the blue oni was holding. It was almost like a TSA checkpoint at the airport.
Even though we hadn’t been formally introduced, she looks familiar. It looks as though she’s resting on some animal pelts a similar color to her hair- it seems a slightly lighter, but that could just be a trick of the light. They can be seen radiating out from behind her similar to peacock feathers. Still- I can’t quite get a fix on where I had seen her before.
“He’s clean, Oyabun.” the tomboyish red oni said to the seated figure.
I’m ushered closer to the desk and I can see my hostess has fox ears. What I had earlier assumed were pelts decorating the chair behind her were actually multiple tails.
The view is quite commanding from this office. I can see the rest of the Strip, Mt. Charleston, Lake Mead and the surrounding communities from here. It must be quite a sight at nighttime.
“Ahh….Mr. Holder? Gene Holder, is it?” the vulpine woman asks me with a noticeable accent. “I see you already meet Kanabo sisters. So sorry- they not much for conversation.”
“That’s correct.” I say trying to sound composed and businesslike. “To whom am I speaking and what exactly is the nature of this meeting?”
“Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Hu Li Fang, operator of this establishment.” she said in heavily accented English.
Oh fuck me. Hu Li Fang? ‘The Vixen of Vegas’ or ‘Lady Fang’ as the tabloids called her. The Feds spent months investigating her for buying up commercial property all around Las Vegas shortly after emigrating to the US and supposedly using them to launder funds for crooked politicians, foreign dictators and organized crime syndicates.
The reason the case got so much press- even in little Bowfish South Dakota- was because the defendant was unusually attractive and charismatic. The whole time, The Vixen of Vegas maintained her innocence and claimed she was simply managing a portfolio of investments made by the Nouveau Riche in the old country. The case went to trial, but after several weeks ended up in a hung jury. The longer the trial dragged on, the more time the Youko and her legal team had to launch a charm offensive.
“And the muscle?”
“They Kaori and Keiko. These two help me with security. Keep riffraff in line. Kaede here more of a seer.”
“Is that why I’m here?” I ask sullenly.
“Not at all! I have simple proposition for you.” the fox woman says almost coquettishly before reaching into her desk. She slides across a tray with what looks like a cloth napkin on top of it, seemingly giving me permission to take a closer look with a silent nod.
Oh shit…here it comes. Because I’m thousands of dollars in her debt, I probably have to kill someone on their behalf now. Sure the two Oni sisters looked like they could snap somebody’s neck with just a sideways glance, but they were too close to the foxy bosslady here. They needed someone who they could plausibly deny ever having met, let alone working with.
Under that cloth is probably a snub nose .38 with the serial number filed off, a handful of bullets and a picture of the poor bastard I’m supposed to kill. Maybe a dealer caught skimming or a bookkeeper who knew a bit too much about Moss Foxy’s underworld connections.
Oh shit! I know about MissFoxy’s underworld connections too- or at least I can make an educated guess at this point. This almost certainly means they’ll dispose of me once I’ve carried out whatever task they have in store for me.
Shit- life really dealt me a crappy hand this time around.
Although I’m able to lift up the cloth, my eyes are still shut.
Finally, I gaze upon the little tray in front of me.
There is no snub nose .38. There is no black and white photo of my would-be target or their home address.
Just lots of gleaming.
I’m looking at a small tray laden with gold ingots, each roughly the same size as those little organic bars of soap that were in the hotel’s bathroom.
I blink in disbelief and rub my eyes. The small stack of gold bars is still there.
A closer examination shows what are presumably some mandarin characters on each loaf-shaped bar and the same serpentine dragon like the suspended sculpture above the lobby.
There’s easily ten times what I brought with me into the Jade Dragon Casino on that tray and it’s being offered up to me like it’s a couple of after-dinner mints.
Clearly there had to be a catch.
“What is this?” I ask.
“You’re in a somewhat unique position.” the shorter haired red oni spoke up. “You seem to have caught the attention of our boss…..”
“And because of her current situation, there’s a task that you’re in a very singularly qualified to help her out with.” the red oni who was wearing nothing more than a sarashi and tattoo beneath her wide open sports coat continued.
“And what task is that?” I queried, the skepticism in my voice no doubt evident.
“So glad you ask….” she said as she snapped shut a folding paper fan. “Marry me.”
There was a sustained silence as what she just said was sinking in.
“This….” I nervously chuckle. “This isn’t…..uh…..”
Words continue to fail me as my laughter becomes louder and more boisterous. My gaze shifts between the well dressed vixen and her three oni compatriots before I stand up so quickly that the chair I was just sitting in fell over backwards.
“Bravo….” I say as I do the slow mocking slow clap. “Brav-OH! I mean…..first you manage to sucker me in and blow my Army buddy’s inheritance on the floor of your casino. Then- and I’ll admit it’s my own damn fault- I convince myself I can recoup some of my own losses if I dipped into my own savings…..and before I know it, I don’t have a penny to my name and I have one foot out the door. But before that can even happen- before I can slink back to South Dakota with just a tiny shred of dignity intact- you have Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum here whisk me away to your penthouse office for a very special episode of Catfished. Well played! Nothing like kicking someone when they’re down……”
“Mister Holder….is everything all right?” the elegantly dressed vixen asks.
She seemed genuinely concerned, but when viewed through the filter of my anger after the unfolding events of tonight, it simply came off as mocking.
The two onis seemed less concerned about my well being and more that my outburst was an affront against their boss.
“Oyabun..” the tomboyish one bows. “Our guest seems to be under the mistaken impression that we are playing an elaborate trick on him.”
Her slightly less composed sister looks like she’s ready to throw me out of the vixen’s office by the scruff of my neck.
“I see, I see….” the copper-haired vixen mused. “Mr. Holder- please, sit back down.”
There was a harsh undertone to her simple, polite request that had me second-guessing the wisdom of another outburst.
“There are no cameras in here, Mr. Holder. I see to that personally. Perhaps Kaori can explain my request to you more clearly.”
“Fang Sama is a legitimate businesswoman with a sterling reputation.” Kaori began.
That simple sentence was setting off my bullshit detector.
“However, a few weeks ago, she was approached by an agent from Immigration and Customs. It seems that due to a fairly minor oversight on her part, Ms. Fang had accidentally overstayed her visa and is looking at deportation back to her native country.”
“I see.” I said- probably in a manner that possibly indicated that no- I in fact did NOT see.
“Stinky, scaly busybody bureaucrat come sniffing by in last few weeks- says I get kicked out of country soon. I have many enemies in old country- very bad.” the vixen lamented. “Make good life for myself in America- they can’t harm me here. But if I get deported, I as good as dead.”
“That’s why it’s important Fang Sama stays where she is.” Keiko spoke up.
“And best way to do that is get American husband…” Ms. Fang said as she pointed her folded up paper fan at me. “Which is where you come in!”
Many others would have no doubt jumped at the chance at matrimony with the elegant fox woman. But I was still wary.
“We had the opportunity to do a comprehensive background check while you were taking advantage of the Jade Dragon’s amenities. You fit a number of criteria that Fang-sama considers desirable.” Kaori spoke up again. “Blonde hair, blue eyes, decent build for a human your age, no prior convictions…..”
“In debt to her to the tune of the average year’s salary in your home state” her sister scoffed.
“Country boy from Midwest.” the blushing bride-to-be spoke up.
“What’s that got to do with anything?”
“Ms. Fang considers individuals from the American heartland- especially humans- exceptionally honest and thrifty. Do not underestimate the appeal of those characteristics for her.” Kaori oni explained.
Well now- I guess one good stereotype deserves another.
“We run background on you. Never married, no children. Not perfect, but certainly viable candidate for husband. Seems like you have very little to go back to in Blowfish.”
“Uh…Bowfish.” I correct. “And I think that’s pretty subjective.”
“Well? How about it, husband-to-be? You like girls from Far East, yes?” Ms. Fang purred sensually as she deftly unfolded the fan in a single fluid motion and began daintily cooling herself off.
My eyes shift from her to the gold bars. Last time I checked, gold was trading at about $1700 an ounce. I’m not sure exactly how many gold bars on the tray before me- I lost count after 30. Still, even if she was willing to hand over all those gleaming ingots sight unseen, the amount could very easily be wiped out by my losses while-
“This is on top of cancelling your debt to the Jade Dragon.” Hu Li spoke up- as though she were reading my mind.
“It’s a very generous offer….” I say, pointing out the obvious. “Beautiful, wealthy wife in Sin City, my own hoard of enough gold to make some dragons jealous. Still- Where would I live? What would I do about work?”
This prompted a guffaw from the vixen. It wasn’t lost on me that her oni bodyguards were quietly chuckling as well.
Still laughing, my rather assertive would-be fiancée utters a few words in Mandarin to them before turning her attention back to me.
“We choose very well, I think.” Hu Li says. “I offer you a small fortune and you still concerned about working and bring home bacon?”
“Work ethic is another one of those intangible traits that Fang-sama finds quite desirable.” Kaori clarified, clearly pleased that my line of questioning was providing some form of amusement for her boss.
“You gotta understand, this is a lot for me to wrap my head around. I mean we’re talking about a major, life-altering decision being sprung up on me from out of nowhere.”
“I understand, Mr. Holder. That’s why compensation so generous….” Miss Fang countered.
I’m starting to think that she doesn’t understand. She could plunk down the contents of Fort Knox in front of me and the fact would remain that I’m being rushed into a huge decision with pretty dire repercussions if things don’t work out.
I mean….what does a messy divorce from a triad boss look like? It can’t be pretty.
I’m not sure about their willingness to take ‘no’ for an answer, either. The lady does deal in real-estate; she probably knows where to find some prime acreage in the desert for shallow graves. Right now, my best bet is to stall.
Perhaps things will work out as advertised- she gets to stay in the country and I get to be the husband of an incredibly wealthy and attractive vixen. But I’m so used to reality never meeting expectations.
“Can you at least come out from behind that desk so I can get a better look at my future wife?” I ask. “I mean….if I’m going through with this, it seems only fair.”
Oh damn- the look Keiko is shooting me seems to confirm that I do not have much of a choice in the matter.
“Ohh….already want to check out goods, yes?” she titters as she stands up from her desk and stretches before fanning herself with that ornately decorated paper fan.
Even in her dimly lit office, she’s quite a sight as the reddish tails behind her ripple.
She’s wearing a dark blue cheongsam with a silver trim. Although the chest of the garment has been tailored to accommodate her breasts somewhat, I can see the silk is still straining to contain them. The Chinese-style dress also highlights her pale, slender legs thanks to a slit along each side as she gracefully strides towards me.
Long lashes, ruby red lips, high cheeks, captivating emerald eyes- and that’s on top of her animalistic features that my eyes are almost continuously drawn towards.
Standing in front of me, she does a little quarter turn so I can get a better look at each leg. I suppose she could’ve done a full turn, but her tails would’ve blocked the view.
If that little display was meant to further entice me, it certainly worked.
An idea quickly starts formulating in my head.
Is it possible to have this same conversation outside of her comfort zone? Will she be just as charming and alluring away from the protection of her private office and oni enforcers?
There’s one way to find out- although it’s a gambit that borders on insane.
But then again, this is Vegas. Nothing like raising the stakes.
“You make a very persuasive case, Lady Fang.” I say. “I’m on board with your proposal, but if I may- can I retrieve a few items from my room before we get started? You can send one of your bodyguards with me if you’re worried about me running.”
Well….here goes nothing.
“Very good- Kaori can accompany you. I start making arrangements….” Hu Li said.
As the blue oni holds out the little dish containing my truck keys, I see my smartphone along with three others as well as two more swipe cards with the Jade Dragon’s logo on it. Behind me, Kaori has used her own swipe card to open up the private elevator.
“Thank you…” I murmur while fishing out my truck keys.
The more ornately dressed Blue Oni says nothing as the elevator doors slide open behind me.
“Hey….Kaori, is it? What’s this?” I ask the red oni as I point to something else in the dish.
Unsure of what I was referring to, she leans in for a closer look.
There’s my opening.
With a speed that surprised even me, my hand shoots out and grabs the left horn growing out of the crimson ogress youkai’s temple. I can feel her tense up, but instead of lashing out at me, she tries prying my hand off her forehead. The red oni’s attempts are surprisingly feeble and I’m able to effortlessly snatch the bowl with everything in it from the surprised blue oni.
I guess it’s true what they say about an Oni’s weak spot being their horns.
The blue oni may not have specifically been employed as muscle, but she still looks big enough to take me in a fair fight. Taking advantage of her surprise, I relieve the stunned Kaori of her key card for the elevator before roughly shoving her into her blue cousin. The two go stumbling a few paces away from the elevator.
“Kaede!” the more muscular one calls out.
My vulpine hostess’ eyes widen. Before she can say anything, I roughly grab her wrist and pull her into the elevator with me.
There’s what looks like an emergency phone in Hu Li’s office next to the elevator. As the doors start closing, I quickly grab the receiver and jerk it free from the cord connecting it to it’s cradle.
While it’s not much of a plan on my part, I’m amazed at how well things seem to be falling into place so far. However, if any of the Kanabo sisters get their hands in between the elevator doors before they shut, then I’m sure it will be all she wrote for me.
Speaking of the red devils, I spy a furious Keiko shoving aside her disoriented azure cousin and lunging right at us.
She’s not going to make it in time, I realize.
My triumph is short-lived as I hear what sounds like point blank cannon fire on the other side of the door as the elevator starts to descend. The Kanabo sisters are pissed and I can’t hide from them forever. With any kind of luck, their boss will be able to smooth things over by the time I’m through with her.
“Bring her back, you bastard!” I heard Keiko shout amid the pounding. “Oyabun!”
I hastily begin rifling through the tray I snagged and quickly inventory the contents as I find my truck keys. Besides my own smartphone, there are three others there along with three swipe cards which I presume are needed to operate the private elevator up to Miss Vixen’s office.
“What are you thinking?” she hisses at me, her tails now rippling in agitation. “You insane or something?”
“I’ve decided to give your proposal some consideration, but first I’d like us to get to know each other a little better. I’m thinking a date….nothing too formal. ”
“A…date?” Hu Li asked, clearly bewildered as a flush crept into her cheeks.
“Unchaperoned, of course. There’s this place I know a little north of here-”
That’s as far as I got before the vixen threw me up against the wall of the elevator. In one fluid motion, the fiery haired youko unsheathed a hidden dagger from her paper folding fan and had it up against my throat.
Miss Fang was muttering something- presumably in Mandarin- as she looked ruefully around at the elevator while keeping the blade pressed against my windpipe.
“Give me one reason not to kill you right here, Laowai.” she spat.
Holy crap, she’s strong! Maybe even as strong as her oni bodyguards.
“Well- we still have yet to go out on our date.” I replied as calmly as I could.
She said nothing for a moment, but then backed away before opening up a little panel next to the elevator door.
Oh shit! How could I have forgotten? There’d almost certainly be a second phone in her private elevator. My heart sunk as she spoke up.
“Hello? Security?” she said, her emerald eyes locked on me.
“Yes…it’s me.” she continued after a lengthy pause. “I will be touring facilities with VIP shortly. See to it that I am not disturbed.”
Although she sounded quite stern while instructing her security staff, her expression had softened for the first time since I dragged her into the elevator with me.
It seems as though my heart and mind are having a hard time keeping up with the rapidly changing situation I find myself in. Abducted by some well-dressed gangster’s goons and asked to marry her in a supposedly mutual beneficial arrangement before I turn the tables on her and snatch her away from her muscle right in her headquarters. And now she’s aiding in our escape?
“This better be good, Farm boy.” she snapped as I led her by the hand out of the elevator once it stops in the lobby.
My little stunt may have bought me some time, but I figured it would only be a matter of time before the Oni siblings would figure out a way down from Ms. Fang’s office without their access cards.
“This way.” I said as I took her by the hand.
As a gesture, I suppose it was unnecessary but for some reason I wanted to do it. Perhaps because it fed into the illusion that we were making some sort of a dramatic escape together instead of her being responsible for this whole situation to start with.
Anticlimactically we were simply heading for my truck- although I probably would’ve attempted a getaway via taxi or rideshare with her if she hadn’t called off the casino’s security.
We briskly make our way across the floor of the casino- I make sure to glare daggers at the roulette wheel where I lost my life’s savings before all of this went down. People have spotted Hu Li and seem to be talking among themselves, but nobody seems to be making a move to impede our progress.
No sign of casino security or her oni bodyguards so far.
The glare of the afternoon sunlight hits us as we make our way to where my not quite twenty year old F-250 is parked.
Yes- I drove to Vegas from South Dakota. You’re damn right I worked in some side-trips, too.
“Ho ho….naughty boy- so eager!” she teases as I start up the truck. “You should’ve said something if you want to marry me this quickly. I make other arrangements, but if you in such a hurry up by Fremont, there’s 24 hour chapel-”
“I never said ‘yes’, though.”
And just like that, her voice loses it’s teasing, playful tone and edges to something harsher.
“Than what we doing? Where are you taking me?”
“You’ll see- it’s a surprise.” I say as I maneuver the beat-up truck onto traffic on the Strip. A few blocks to the west is the interstate out of town and after a few minutes we’re heading north.
“This better be good.” she mutters.
“It will be great!” I try and assure her, although she’s not really buying it.
“It’s a little bit of a drive, but while we have this time, I wanted to get to know you a little better.” I tell Lady Fang as I merge into traffic.
My heart sinks as almost instantly, a Nevada Highway Patrol cruiser pulls up behind us. Would the Kanabo sisters get the police involved over this little stunt? Given their trade and the nature of our encounter, I had almost completely dismissed the idea of them going to the cops. But then again, I did just spirit away their boss and they sounded pissed.
However, instead of hitting the lights, the marked cruiser simply slips into the carpool lane and accelerates past us.
That little scare notwithstanding, traffic is moving pretty smoothly on the interstate as we accelerate northbound. Hu Li must’ve seen me tense up at the sight of the police car and seems mildly amused now.
“So Hu Li…..now that we’ve got some alone time, how about you tell me a little more about yourself?” I ask as the cityscape outside the window rapidly gives way to rugged desert terrain.
“Oh- I Miss February and Playmate of the Month last year. Turn ons include rolling around naked on big pile of $100 bills, having tails groomed and polite guys. Turn offs include Federal prosecutors, deportations and rude men who kidnap me.”
I can’t help but chuckle. Lordy she’s a feisty one.
“C’mon…” I plead halfheartedly.
“OK Farm Boy…..if you really want to know.” she sighed. “Long time ago, I grow up with no family in city called Heixin. Life very difficult for me at first, but soon I learn I very good at games of chance. I make good money playing, but I just snot nosed little street kit….some people I beat accuse me of cheating- say they cut off my only tail.” she says forlornly.
“Boss of local triad hear about this- offer me protection in return for some of my winnings.” Hu Li shrugs as she watches the desert scenery roll by. “I figure that the end of it, but he say he never see anything like me…calls me Yingde Huli- ‘Lucky Fox’. Before I know it, I helping triad organize underground tournaments and pay off local officials to look other way.”
There’s a silence as the truck continues barreling north on Interstate 15.
“I think…” Hu Li said with a wistful sigh. “I think triad back in Heixin closest thing I had to family over there. Boss very old- he pass away after few years. I still in charge of gambling, but things start changing in old country. We can take our funds to buy things like real-estate, stocks, precious metals, luxury goods…..lobby for legalized gambling. But….”
There’s something captivating about the way the sunlight filters through the window and illuminates her while I’m still in the shadow, even though I’m right next to her.
“But….Central Committee decide we getting too big, too powerful. Local officials we bribe get thrown in jail and replaced with real hard-ass types from capitol. Then one by one, others in triad end up in jail….then executed. I had to flee…”.
I say nothing- it seems to genuinely painful her to recount this. But she also seems to accept that if I were to marry her, I’d find about this chapter of her life at some point regardless.
She turns and gently clasps my elbow. “I come here….America. You might think it’s silly, but even after big trial, I still so glad to be here. In old country, if they accuse me of something? It off to jail and enchanted bullet to back of head for me. Here? I have a public trial, lawyer and can even speak out on my own behalf….”
“I remember that….seems you were quite eloquent.” I tell her, absently remembering bits and pieces of her trial when it made headlines even in rural South Dakota.
A few more moments pass by in stony silence before I speak up again. “It can’t be easy telling me all this. I really do appreciate it, Hu Li.”
“How about you, Farm Boy?” Hu Li asks. “Why you do this?”
“Like I said….getting married is a pretty big commitment and I want-”
“No….not this. Why you go to Vegas with more money than you know what to do with?”
“Oh man…..” I chuckle. Fair is fair and I guess it’s my turn now. “In order to do that, I guess I gotta tell you about this guy I served with- Sgt. Sullivan. Except we called him Sgt. Sully or Sgt. Southie coz he was from Boston. Fucker’s accent was so thick we sometimes joked that we’d need two interpreters- one to translate Arabic from the locals and another to translate whatever the fuck Sully was trying to say.”
“We did a rotation through the NTC down in Fort Irwin together- I’m not even old enough to rent a car, but when we’re just about done with our Desert warfare training, he decides to rent a car from an office on base and go off to Vegas. Turns to me and asks- ‘How bout it, Holdah? You in?.”
“So we go to Las Vegas….there’s some gambling, we go to a titty bar, we eat pretty well and go to this place north of the city- it all leaves a favorable impression. Sully knew we were getting thrown into the fire- I think that was his way of making sure the new guy had some fun before we got deployed to the Sunni Triangle.”
“We were in Ramadi together….and during this one time the locals were particularly restless.” I sigh. “Insurgents were trying to spring one of their buddies from a local jail and we got the call to go help the useless-ass IP….”
She looks at me bewildered.
“Iraqi police.” I explain. “Except these guys thought ahead and set up some IEDs and guys to ambush reinforcements. We’re in a humvee and next thing I know…boom. One in front of us gets taken out, one behind us gets taken out….I remember getting out with Sully and I hear him yelling ‘Not today, Holdah! Theyah not punchin’ our ticket today….’ before he fucking tackles me and I hear another explosion. Turns out there was another bomb almost right next to us, but it misfires. Sully got some shrapnel in the back of his neck and his right ear ripped off, but that thing was designed to blow our Humvee clear into the next province.”
“So you stay close with your Army buddy?” Hu Li asks.
“Unfortunately, no.” I sigh. “Hadn’t talked to Sully in years, but out of the blue a few weeks ago I get a certified letter from this law office in New Hampshire. It’s an attorney representing the estate of the late Brendnan F.A. Sullivan. Jihadis couldn’t kill him, but smoking five packs a day eventually did. Turns out he had no family of his own- when passed away and left me a good chunk of money….and here’s the kicker. It stipulates that if I’m married or have kids, I gotta put that towards the young one’s college fund. But if I’m single, ‘Go back to Vegas and treat yourself to a hell of a time, Holdah!’.”
“Turns out he picked some bank stocks that really took off and did nothing but pay dividends that were used to buy more stock and compounded the whole time he was deployed. He didn’t say anything about it at the time, but I got a hold of some of the other guys in our company on social media. Turns out Sully sent them some money with the same stipulation, but they were married with kids now, so it had to go into the college fund.”
“Your friend sound like interesting person….I’m sorry he’s gone.” Hu Li said apologetically.
“Yeah- he’s one of those guys you didn’t fully appreciate until he was gone.” I sigh as I remembered the boisterous NCO frequently professing his devotion to the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins-often with a cigarette dangling from his lips. “There’s a Hebrew saying about the departed- ‘May his memory be a blessing’.”
My train of thought is interrupted by a phone ringing. In my haste to leave the Jade Dragon, not only did I take all the Kanabo Sister’s key cards, but also their phones along during my dramatic departure from Hu Li’s office.
Although it’s not really safe or legal to talk on the phone while driving, I pick up the phone.
“Listen here, you little shitstick! If you harm so much as a single hair on any of Oyabun’s tails, I am going to rip off your head and feed your intestines to some wild boars….”
I hold the phone out a little further away.
“…….and chop that into a thousand little pieces before I take what’s left and use it for a fucking puppet show….” Keiko continues to bellow.
“It’s for you.” I deadpan as I hand the phone off to her.
“Oh….Keiko, hi!” Hu Li said gleefully.
Well now…how’s that for timing. Our exit is coming right up.
“No no….just spending quality time with future husband.” she says reassuringly into the phone.
“I haven’t made a decision on that yet.” I remind the vixen.
“Pretty sure we eloping now- Farm Boy gonna pop the big question somewhere romantic like a proper gentleman.” she continues, but not before playfully sticking her tongue out at me.
“Are not!” I yell.
“Are too…” she snaps before calmly addressing Keiko over the phone. “You girls no have to worry about me, I’ll be fine.”
At first blush, there’s nothing around this exit but a solitary truck stop as we pull in.
I slide into a parking spot by the front entrance.
“Right, of course.”
Hu Li is still on the phone.
“No- I understand perfectly.”
I look over at her. She says a few words in Mandarin using the same calm and reassuring tone.
“OK then- I’ll see you later.”
Hu Li then hung up and sighed.
“That was Keiko. She say she going to flay you alive, scalp you, stuff you in barrel full of broken glass, then roll barrel off top of mountain…”
“She seems to be taking this rather well.” I muse.
“So why we stop here, husband?”
I cringe upon hearing that.
“I told you not to call me that….”
“Just getting warmed up.” she teased.
The truck stop wasn’t our intended destination, but this was our last chance to get some provisions before we got to where I had in mind.
“Why we here again?” Hu Li asked impatiently as we went up and down the aisles.
“Well- I wanted to surprise you…”
“Kidnapping me from office certainly a surprise, husband.”
“This place we’re going to- it’s a state park. I planned on having a picnic there.” I reply, this time ignoring her calling me ‘husband’.
“A picnic? You do all of this for a picnic!?” the fox lady asked me incredulously.
She doesn’t say anything, but before I know it I’m wrapped up in a tight hug.
“Oh husband! I knew I choose well….so romantic and willing to go through all of this trouble for me.” she gushed.
“Didn’t I tell you not to call me that?” I ask- my exasperation ebbing as I see that each of her seven tails appears to be doing a little wag.
The problem with this particular stop was that it billed itself as a place one could get smokes, booze, ammo and fireworks tax-free because it was situated on an Indian reservation. It wasn’t particularly well-stocked as far as groceries went- and it was the only place around for miles.
Plenty of adult beverages to wash down our picnic lunch with, but not a lot of makings for lunch itself. They had ready made sandwiches, but they didn’t look particularly appealing. I wasn’t going to risk my health or my aggressive fiancée’s health on a gas station sandwich.
Assuming Keiko doesn’t make good on her threat to end me painfully, that would make for a hell of a story to tell the kits years from now: Say- did I ever tell you girls about the time I kidnapped your mom so I could take her out to the desert for some Lunchables?
Salvation comes in the form of a cloying hint of garlic wafting through the air. While this place didn’t have much in the way of groceries, I could see a little Vietnamese café and lunch counter on the other side of a partition
It’s a damn truck stop- so of course they do to-go orders.
I let Hu Li pick out a bottle of merlot while I got two souvenir wineglasses before the two of us get in line to pay. Ahead of us are some men and women in old west costumes with bottled water and soft drink- every last one of them is dressed like a cowboy or dance hall girl, including a striking blonde minotaur.
Behind us are about a half dozen bikers, each of them in leather vests with the club’s patches on the back. They seemed like they were in pretty good spirits (pardon the expression)- perhaps because each of them were carrying a 24 pack of beer.
It’s almost like being stuck in a Tarantino movie. We’re not even in Vegas anymore and still….never a dull moment.
“…..looks amazing.” I hear one of the Old West dance hall girls say.
“You think so?” My not-yet-wife nervously asks.
“Think so? Little lady, I know so.” the striking blonde minotaur in a lilac dress chimed in.
“Th-thank you very much. Husband and I going on picnic…” she seems so unnaturally timid, as though now that it’s no longer just us and her bodyguards, she’s being overwhelmed by her current circumstances.
“We’re doing a photo shoot just down the road. It’s for a website that makes western apparel and accessories.” one of the Old West cowboys spoke up.
“You look like you having fun….” Hu Li observes.
“Well- you know what they say. Do what you love and you never work a day in your life.” the gregarious blonde minotaur beamed as she slid and arm around a lanky ‘cowboy’ standing next to her- presumably her husband or boyfriend.
As far as minotaurs went, she was a bit on the petite side, but still over six feet tall. The cheery dance hall girl followed this up by giving her ‘cowboy’ cohort a chaste kiss on the lips before it was their turn to cash out their items at the register.
“You two take care.” The minotaur’s boyfriend said as he finished paying for their drinks.
“Safe travels.” the statuesque, blonde demihuman girl added cheerfully as she gave Hu Li and me a small wave before walking off arm-in-arm with her boyfriend.
Without saying a word, the two of us head to the little Vietnamese take-out place.
“Husband?” she asks quietly. “You think we could ever be like that…?”
I pause, giving her question some serious consideration. The ‘husband’ moniker is bothering me less and less now.
“That’s what we’re here to find out.”
It didn’t take long before we were back on the road. The interior of my truck smells like savory Vietnamese food- while butchering the Vietnamese language, I had managed to order some grilled lemongrass pork and rice noodles. My worldly fiancée was able to place her order in Vietnamese and had some Đậu hũ sốt cà- a fried tofu dish with a spicy tomato and onion dipping sauce. For some reason, I was glad to see she decided against the liver Gan Nướng.
Instead of continuing on the interstate, we took a paved, two lane road through the desert terrain. We weren’t far now.
I realized that if I really wanted to throw the Kanabo Sisters off my trail, I could’ve just taken their smartphones and tossed them in a trailer on any truck that was continuing north on the interstate while we were still at the truck stop. However, I ultimately decided against that since I actually did want them to find us eventually.
“Did the Kanabo sisters come with you over from the People’s Republic?” I ask Hu Li as the road starts to narrow and begin a series of sharp turns through a canyon where the surrounding terrain is almost blood red.
“No- they already here when I met them. They say they have yakuza ties, but they shake down night clubs and massage parlors in LA for ‘protection’ money. I decide their talent wasted doing small time Whitey Bulger bullshit- hire them as protection and aides not long after I come to Vegas.”
“Who else do you have working for you?” I ask before realizing that’s dangerously close to intrusive questions regarding her work from the vixen who had a dagger to my throat earlier.
“I have many people work for me at casino and other places, but I know Kanabo girls longest. We very close- almost like sorority.”
“So you could say you run a civic group that helps new arrivals to this country maintain their cultural heritage….”
“Yes- YES!” Hu says as she eagerly claps her hands together. “Like that- exactly!”
“Nice try….” I scoff. “We have something like that in South Dakota called ‘Sons of Norway’. Only we don’t have a life-size jade viking ship dangling from the ceiling at the local hall.”
“Hey….what kind of yaoguai they have in Blowfish, Farm Boy?”
“You mean Bowfish?”
“I say that, yes..?”
The vixen has a mischievous little grin, no doubt making a mental note that she can get a rise from me by mispronouncing my hometown’s name.
“Well….we’re kind of sparsely populated, but there’s thunderbirds, raptor harpies…they usually fly south for the winter, tho’…some startup dairy farms that are staffed entirely by satyrs, pan fauns and milk-bearing minotaurs.”
“Really? How come single, handsome man like you not work on dairy like that? Imagine- all those lonely, pretty girls and you the only male around for miles.”
“I thought about it. Might’ve done something like that once I got back to the Dakotas, even- but it just seemed too good to be true.”
“Like my proposition?”
How self-aware of her to notice.
“Y-yeah….There’s a farm out by Huron- 40 of them. Not a bad looking one in the bunch and nobody smaller than a ‘C’ Cup, but they couldn’t even agree on what to call themselves when it came time to label their milk or wool…..so I imagine there’s a lot of unnecessary stress and drama with large numbers like that.”
“Ah- you should be thanking me, husband! I save you from life of being surrounded by bossy cow girl, goat girl and sheep girl. You not make it to next full moon- They all nag you to death first…”
I stop the truck and kill the ignition.
“We’re here.” I tell her.
“Take a look around. This is where we’re gonna have our picnic, Hu Li.”
The vixen takes in her surroundings, quietly impressed by the crimson-hued rocky terrain with hills pockmarked by dozens of little holes.
“What is this place?”
“They call it the Valley of Flames- they say that the red sandstone here takes on the same hue as flames around sunset.” I explain as the two of us get out of the truck and head down a marked path. I have a bag with the still-warm Vietnamese takeout in one hand and the bottle of merlot in the other.
“How do you know about this place?” she asks me.
“This was one of the places I went on that road trip with Sgt. Sully. I remembered this because one day I wanted to come back here with somebody special and share this spot with them….”
“Oh, Gene…” Hu Li says, her voice suddenly wavering. I can see that her ear is twitching slightly.
I pause. Outside of reading my name off a dossier, this is the first time Hu Li has referred to me by my first name. Suddenly, I realize that I had just basically told her she was the special person I had been waiting for.
Instead of saying anything, she gently tugs my sleeve and points off to our left.
There, contentedly grazing on the sparse vegetation some fifty feet away are no fewer than 20 bighorn sheep. They seem oblivious to our presence as they casually make their way along the floor of the valley, which is intermittently dotted with cacti- most of which feature a large, blooming purple flower.
“So beautiful…” she marvels. “This is good omen.”
One particularly sturdy ram warily eyes us as the rest of the bighorn go about their grazing.
Finally Hu Li takes her eyes off the sight before her and turns to me.
“Suddenly, I have very good feeling about this.” she said as we found a nice rock to enjoy our little picnic on. “I mean….I had good feeling before, which is why I summoned you. But now I have REALLY good feeling.”
From this position, we had a good view of the valley floor adorned with cactus and wildflowers, the herd of bighorn that was slowly moving away from us, the red sandstone formations that were more reminiscent of the old Road Runner cartoons and the path that led back to where we parked.
“How much do you get out like this?” I ask her.
“Not often.” she admitted as I handed her the Vietnamese fried tofu.
“I think if we end up together, I’m going to have to drag you away from the office like this more often.” I say as I go to work on my own food.
“Mmm…” she squeals with delight. “This so tasty. Maybe see if I can have my executive chef make something similar.”
Just when Hu Li seemed to be more relatable and down to earth, she throws out that little tidbit about having her own executive chef. Still, having access to a perk like that could be one of the more underrated benefits of being her husband.
The two of us continue eating our meal in relative silence before I speak up again.
“Hey Hu Li? Can I ask you something?”
“I knew it!” she exclaimed. “You finally propose. Yes, husband! You make me happiest yougai in world….”
“No…not that!” I clarify.
“Fine…what is it?” she asks impatiently.
“C-can I touch your tails?”
The vixen’s jaw drops.
“Hu….husband!” she stammers. Her face is starting to turn the same color as her tails “Y-you can’t just ask something like that out of nowhere!!”
“Why not? We’re practically married.”
“Tails very sensitive….not just that, it means I turn my back on you for you to touch them.” she begins to explain, still flustered.
Given her vocation, I suppose I could see the potential for problems with having someone slip in behind her.
“But….I…I let you touch them.” she relents.
Gently, I slide over and cautiously take hold of the closest tail as she turns her back to me.
I have honestly never felt anything as smooth or as silky before in my life. In no time at all, I find myself absently rubbing Hu Li’s tail.
“Ah….g-gently, husband.” she yelps.
“Hey now- this is so therapeutic.” I marvel as I slow the pace of my rubbing.
“That better…” Hu Li says a little more calmly.
“Do you name them?”
“What?” she chuckled incredulously.
“Your tails- do you give each of them a name?”
“Do you stick little googly eyes on them and put on a little puppet show starring tails one through seven when nobody else is around?”
She’s laughing now. It’s a beautiful and cathartic sound after all I’ve been through today.
“No- I had not thought of it. Maybe someday….”
“We should’ve gotten some googly eyes back at the truck stop.”
“You want puppet show now?” Hu Li chuckles.
“C’mon- picnic and some live entertainment? Can’t top that.”
“Mmmm…..wedding. Feast after wedding.” Hu Li says as she lets out a little moan. It sounds like she’s really looking forward to the banquet after we get married or I found a sweet spot while I was gently stroking her tail.
“Will there be a puppet show starring your tails afterwards?”
“May I suggest a puppet show-”
“No.” she interrupts.
I can only smile as the lovely vixen tries maintaining her composure. The thing is- I’m petting just one of her tails. I have six more equally soft, silky and lustrous tails to choose from.
Not only that, I now know one of her weaknesses.
Reluctantly, I pull myself away from Hu Li’s tails and get to work popping the cork on the bottle of wine she got during our pit stop.
Except once the cork is out, I realize that I left the wine glasses behind in the truck. The day I’ve been having, I wouldn’t mind drinking straight from the bottle- but Hu Li might think otherwise.
“Shit….” I mutter before excusing myself. “Hu Li- I left the wine glasses in the truck. I’m gonna go back and get them.”
“You’re not gonna ditch me here all alone, are you?” she asks.
“Maybe.” I tease.
“Hurry back, husband.”
On the way back, I spy the herd of bighorn continuing to contentedly graze and mosey along the valley floor.
The sun is starting to sink on the western horizon, the intense light of the late afternoon giving the sandstone on the hills, rock formations and valley floor a brighter red appearance.
Talk about your Kodak moments.
Speaking of red things…..why am I lugging back the bottle of merlot? Now I look like a sad wino.
Is there even anyone else around? As I get closer to the parking lot, I notice that there’s a silver Mercedes G-wagon in the parking lot. A little more curiously is that there’s some cones set up at the entrance and exit of the parking lot- as though it was closed off after we arrived.
My heart skips a beat when I realize the G-wagon is big enough to accommodate the Kanabo sisters without much problem and-
That’s as far as I got before a hand from out of nowhere clamps over my mouth and I’m dragged off the trail. I desperately try breaking free and blindly swing the only weapon I have at hand- the bottle of wine. All I succeed in doing is splashing red wine everywhere as I’m roughly thrown against a barn-sized rock formation.
“Listen, you little shit.” Keiko growls as her hand is still clamped over my mouth. “If I hear one fucking peep from you, that bottle is going straight up your ass- understand?”
I nod and she slowly removes her hand.
It seems that all my flailing around had only succeeded in getting red wine all over Kaori’s white jacket and trousers. She looks even more pissed, although her quiet, simmering rage is even more intimidating than Keiko’s manhandling and threats.
“Where is she!?” Keiko snarls.
I jerk my thumb to indicate the path I just came down.
“You weren’t getting ready to ditch Fang Sama?” Kaori asks, not even waiting for an answer before inspecting the damage to her wardrobe.
I shake my head ‘no’.
“He’s telling the truth.” the blue oni calmly declared. “Mistress Fang is unharmed down that path and awaiting his return.”
Kaede then turns to me.
“You still need something to drink those out of, don’t you?” she nods at the mostly full bottle of merlot I’m still holding onto.
Damn- I thought all this about the blue oni being a mind-reader or seer was mumbo jumbo, but I guess there’s something to it after all.
Satisfied that I wasn’t going to bail on them, I open up the passenger side door of my truck and get the two Moapa Mesa souvenir wine glasses from the truck stop.
“You damn idiot….” Kaori seethed. “You ran off before we could even present you with Fang Sama’s engagement ring.”
“There’s a ring?” I ask, absently.
“Yeah- we all chipped in and got her one.” Keiko said as she fished the velvet box out of her pocket.
“Oh whoa….that’s very nice.” I observe.
“You’re the one who’d giving it to her, dipshit.” the brawnier oni said as she pressed the velvet box into my hands.
My curiosity getting the better of me, I open the box and inspect the contents. The funny thing is that despite all the extraordinary circumstances I find myself thrust into today, the ring looks pretty ordinary and traditional.
Like the kind I might’ve saved up for to give to my high school sweetheart in Bowfish, SD if I hadn’t decided to join the army seemingly a millennia ago.
The ring even includes a diamond, not too small but not too ostentatious either. Even if I’m not the intended recipient, I can’t help but marvel at the nice gesture by the Kanabo sisters.
“You propose to her and give her that ring. Then we just happen to discover the two of you out there.” Keiko explains
“Get going…” Kaori quietly hisses as she shoos me down the path back towards Hu Li
With wine glasses and ring in hand, I trudge back to the rock where the vixen and I were enjoying our picnic.
“Ah…welcome back, husband.” she greets me cheerily.
“How are twins doing? They must be pretty grouchy after what you do to them…” she chirps happily.
“Oh….so you knew?” I chuckle nervously.
“Yes yes….they try being sneaky, but they scare off bighorn. Plus these ears not just for decoration.” she says as she wiggles her pointy vixen’s ears.
“Well- they wanted me to give you this.” I say to her as I produce the crushed velvet box. “And more to the point, I would like to give you this.”
I open the box and pull out the ring.
“Miss Hu Li Fang- would you do me the honor of being my wife?”
“Yes- I marry you!” the vixen says as she wraps me up in a tight hug.
Her tails are all over the place, wagging now.
“Oh Mr. Holder…I beginning to think you never ask.” she said as she clasped both hands together in front of her mouth.
“Well….you know. Things came up, babe.” I say as she almost delicately extends her right arm.. I gently take her hand and slide the ring onto her ring finger- it’s a perfect fit….I bet that was the end result of the Kanabo sisters doing their homework.
“I don’t care- that not important!” she squeals giddily. “Sunset proposal surrounded by bighorn and wildflowers in the desert…? So much more romantic than what I have in mind when twins bring you to office.”
As sketchy as this arrangement is, I know enough that demihuman foxes can’t fake their body language and little things like wagging tails and flicking ears are a sure sign that she is indeed happy.
“Do me a favor, though….when the twins and Kaede show up, try to act surprised.”
Of course, the Kanabo sisters and Kaede did eventually ‘find’ us in the twilight. They congratulated us on my ‘proposal’ and loaded Hu Li into their G-wagon the encroaching darkness persuading her to join them. This left a sullen Kaori to accompany me and make sure I followed them the sixty miles or so back to the Jade Dragon.
“Um…..sorry I got rough with your horns back there.” I said apologetically to Kaori. “And then spilled wine all over you.”
“Sh-shut up!” she snapped as she turned away and looked out the window.
I think attempting to apologize only put me in a deeper hole with Kaori.
“I just want to let you know that I’m not going to try anything. I got to know your boss a little better while we were out and I’m going to go through with marrying her.”
Oh shit….I realize that if I had designs on escaping, I’d probably tell her the exact same thing to get her to lower her guard.
“You’re just saying that because she dangled some gold in front of you.” Kaori said churlishly.
“Actually- I had forgotten all about that. I just wanted to see what she was like outside of her comfort zone…..y’know….away from her office and you guys.”
“Why? Fang Sama is who she says she is….”
“But I had to see for myself before I committed to something like that.”
“If you were going to marry her, why did you even put her through all that? Or us?” Kaori asks reproachfully.
“Because I wasn’t sure at the time.” I say defensively as the lights of the truck stop now appear on the horizon.
Once we get back on the 15, it should be a pretty quick drive back to Vegas and the Jade Dragon.
“Kaede was certain that you’d say ‘yes’.” the tomboyish oni argued.
“Technically she’s right….she didn’t say when I would reach that decision.”
“But why did you do it? And why take her here?”
I shrug. “Dunno. If she’s going to have me as a husband, she should understand that I’m going to want to take her out once in awhile or do spontaneous or romantic things with her.”
“Mr. Holder.” the red oni asked. “Would you say that you love her?”
I say nothing right away as I get back onto the interstate, this time merging with southbound traffic.
“I’m not going to lie to you- It doesn’t feel right to say that about someone I just met.” I explain as I give Kaori a short, withering glare. “You can’t get love at first sight through bribery or coercion.”
She scoffs quietly.
“That said, your boss is an intriguing lady and I would like to get to know her better- so I’m not gonna pass up the opportunity.” I tell her as the truck speeds back towards Vegas.
I’m still amazed at how one moment I seem to be driving along in the barren, lifeless desert and the next I round a curve and the gleaming neon lights of Las Vegas are laid out below me like shimmering gold dust on black velvet.
Sin City beckoned once more. My business was not finished there.
“The Jade Dragon doesn’t have a dress code, but Fang Sama’s wedding does- and you’re NOT wearing that to it.” Kaori declares in a huff.
We’re in the tomboyish red oni’s office, which sometimes doubles as her quarters when work at the casino is keeping her particularly busy.
Jeans and a button-up denim shirt with the logo of the local growers’ association back in Bowfish on it? I’m sure it’s been done before, but Kaori has a point.
“So what do your recommend? Is there a tux rental place nearby.”
“No time- your little stunt put us so far behind schedule, there’s no time.”
“Wait- you guys had planned on me getting married to Hu Li by now?”
Kaori says nothing but walks up to me.
“Hold on…I have an idea.” she says as it looks like she’s saluting me, but she actually extends her hand out to the top of my head.
Apparently satisfied with her rudimentary height comparison, Kaori says nothing but heads back to her closet.
“Here.” she says as she hands me a similar set of trousers, shirt and jacket. “These might be a little big for you…but it’s better than nothing.”
“No way- I’m supposed to wear these?”
“Just…put them on.” she huffs, nodding her head towards a privacy screen.
I suppose I should be glad I have the privacy screen as I slip in behind it and get undressed. The slacks are a bit loose, but a belt and rolling up the base of the trouser legs can remedy that. The burgundy shirt fits surprisingly well- the sleeves are just a bit too long. Even if Kaori was an A cup, I figured the shirt would be let out some to accommodate her chest.
“Hey- can this be considered crossdressing?” I ask Kaori from my side of the screen.
“Hurry up, already.” she sighed.
The only thing of mine that I’m still wearing are my shoes and socks when I step out from behind the screen. I can see that Kaori has been joined at this point by Kaede.
“Not bad.” I say as I look at my reflection in the mirror. “I look kinda like I should be in a Miami Vice reboot that nobody asked for.”
“Can you take him to the banquet hall while I go get changed and check on Fang Sama?” Kaori asked her blue cousin, doing little to show her impatience.
Kaeda, who was easily the best dressed among us nodded quietly as she escorted me out of Kaori’s office. The blue oni was wearing attire that reminded me of the shrine maiden’s outfits from the Ryukyu island chain, only there was gold trim and what looked like armored plates or shoulder pads on each shoulder.
“This way, Mr. Holder.” the blue oni said quietly.
I was being led from Kaori’s office to an even more chaotic scene in the banquet hall.
“What do you mean you can’t find a preacher?” Keiko snarled at another red oni- this one with glasses and long, flowing white hair.
“The dark priestess who was supposed to officiate tonight cancelled. Said she had to work a double shift at the Rooster Ranch over in Nye county.”
“And you can’t find anyone else?”
“They’re all booked solid- I can’t get anyone to come here on such short notice.”
“Even those Elvis impersonators?”
“They’re at some sort of convention…” the bespectacled red oni nervously tells Keiko. “Won’t be available for awhile.”
That lead me to wonder who the hell gets married at a convention or trade show.
“I don’t care what it takes- you’re getting married to Oyabun tonight no matter what.” Keiko snarled at me upon seeing me- as though I was being punished.
“I’m nominally a Lutheran….want me to see if I can scare up a pastor?” I offer.
“I don’t think your church is gonna have much luck with that.” the muscular oni says with an exasperated sigh.
“Why? I don’t think they forbade marrying youkai…”
Perhaps. Maybe….I guess. Truth be told, I wasn’t the most devout Lutheran and was still unsure of the church’s stance on this issue.
“Perhaps I could be of assistance.” a voice spoke up from the doorway. The gathered onis had all stopped what they were doing and were agape at the sight of this new visitor.
She looked remarkably human, although even by Vegas standards her attire was a bit provocative- an off-the-shoulder light kimono with the sash barely tied, giving the wearer the opportunity to show off some leg as well.
“Wh-who are you?” Keiko asked in a surprisingly meek tone as the mystery guest made her way into the room unhindered.
“Oh my…..is it true? Little Fang-chan is getting married?” she looked around the room. “I knew about her back when she was a grubby little kit just starting out renting vacant warehouses for underground Pai Gao tournaments.”
There was something about this new arrival to indicate she was more than a human. If I had talked about Hu Li so informally, Keiko would be in my face….yet here she is, quiet as a mouse at the sight of this new visitor. She seemed quite poised and elegant- perhaps a high roller?
No- there’s something else about her. As she gets closer, can see that she has what looks like ink stains on her kimono and the front of her body. Except the ‘ink’ seems to be moving around on it own volition- and it seems to be emanating from a long, slender pipe she’s holding.
“Nobody thought she’d be the type to settle down since she was already married to her work” the visitor chuckled. “So tell me- who’s the lucky groom?”
“That would be me…” I say as I raise my hand.
Now that she’s this close to me, I can see the ‘ink’ is actually some sort of odorless black smoke. I’m also filled with the overwhelming sensation that this is someone who belongs here and shouldn’t be questioned or challenged- probably the same thing all the onis are feeling right now.
“Oh my- not bad. A bit too Ward Cleaver for my tastes…” she says as she eyes me before gently putting a hand on my chin. “But answer me this- are you going to make little Fang-chan the happiest fox in the world?”
Oh damn. It dawns on me that this gal is a Nurarihyon, and perhaps the only reason I’m realizing this is because I witnessed the effect she had on all the onis before she had addressed me.
“I’ll do my best, ma’am.”
“Fu fu fu…” she titters as she crosses her arms, pushing up her rather impressive and barely concealed bust in the process. “That’s what I wanted to hear. I think if anyone’s earned themselves a little happiness, it’s Fang-chan.”
“Y-yes, milady.” the bespectacled red oni spoke up- as though she were under some sort of spell.
“Very well- I’ve decided!” the temptress shrouded in floating ink declared. “I shall officiate this wedding. Now where is our bride?”
“Right here- I finally ready!” Fang calls out with Kaori standing next to her.
“Lady M…Masako?” she asks incredulously before kneeling and prostrating herself before our Nurarihyon guest.
“Please- stand up, Fang-chan. You’re no longer in Heixin.” the nurarihyon told her as the put her slender pipe to her lips. “You’ve come a long way since then.”
“O-of course, Lady Masako”
Whether she was simply confused or fell under the nurarihyon’s sway, Kaori stood there looking bewildered and…..
Holy shit– is that even Kaori?
Standing next to my wife is a red oni bodyguard with a similar hairstyle and about the same height as Kaori. There were also two horns jutting out from around her temple like Kaori. However, instead of slacks and a sport jacket, Kaori is squeezed into tiny little black cocktail dress that came down to maybe a third of the way down her thighs. A pair of soft, enticing-looking crimson breasts seemed to wobble and jiggle with even the slightest movement on Kaori’s part- even exhaling could threaten the integrity of the top of her strapless little black dress. I could only guess triple ‘D’ or ‘E’ cup- which wouldn’t be atypical for an ogress demihuman her size. The only ‘blemish’ if you want to call it that is a small dragon tattoo on her right shoulder.
These are probably things I shouldn’t be noticing about Hu Li’s bodyguard moments before I’m supposed to be walking down the aisle with my vixen wife, but damn….
And now that my eyes finally find their way to Kaori’s face, she seems more embarrassed than anything.
Partly because I’m distracted by Kaori’s newfound but apparently reluctant exhibitionism and partly because she threw herself down at the sight of our visitor, I didn’t notice Hu Li’s wedding dress right away.
It’s not a traditional wedding dress in the western sense- it’s an opaque shroud or hood over her head with earholes cut out to accommodate those vixens’ ears. Oh shit….I never got a chance to play around with those on our little picnic. Still- the honeymoon is right around the corner.
She slowly removes the shroud as she stands up. Although it appears to be made from silk, the dress she’s wearing isn’t a cheongsam- although I’ve already seen Hu Li rock one of those and I’m quite pleased with how it looks on her. It’s an off the shoulder crimson gown with gold trim with little gold pendants on each end where it tapers off just below her shoulders.
The neckline plunges and I’m treated to a view of Hu Li’s prodigious cleavage- something I was actually denied when she was wearing her rather enticing cheongsam earlier. With a cursory side-by-side comparison, it seems to be roughly the same size as Kaori’s, which is pretty impressive considering the Oni is a half a head taller than her.
On her waist, she seems to have some sort of crimson bodice that’s embroidered with gold thread and has a few pearls attached by the holes where the string was threaded through with a long, flowing skirt beneath that.
Time seems to stand still as she walks towards me, with Kaori as the bridesmaid sheepishly clasping her by the elbow.
“Is there anything the bride would like to say before we get started?” Lady Masako asked everybody gathered.
“Husband…” Hu Li began, tears welling up in her eyes. “In my culture, color red means joy and great fortune. I know we only just met, but all the signs were there today showing me a wonderful pathway towards new life together. Red truck, Red hills, red wine, red oni…..”
“Red 25…” I muse, recalling how this all started with that seemingly unfortunate bet that I placed at the roulette wheel.
The bespectacled red oni standing by Keiko and Kaede was starting to sniffle.
“I know every day not be like this.” Hu Li continued. “But now I can wake up with you by my side and know we have chance to make every day better than today.”
“Well said, Fang-chan.” the nurarihyon teased. “Let’s get started, shall we?”
The ceremony breezed by as Hu Li and I exchanged vows. I may have misremembered things, but I’m pretty sure our nurarihyon mistress of ceremonies may have quietly worked in a ‘to ravage’ into the vows along with the usual ‘to love, to hold, to cherish’.
My first act as a married man was to take my wife by the hand and walk under the ‘spiked club arch’- an Oni variation on the ‘saber arch’ you’ll sometimes see at military or royal weddings when the couple walks under a canopy of sabres held be people on each side of them facing one another and the blades raised so that the tips are nearly touching.
The Kanabo sisters, Kaede, the bespectacled, white haired red oni along with a couple of more mature looking oni who could’ve been their aunts or mothers joined in with their iron clubs upraised as me and Hu Li walked underneath with plenty of room to spare while a few Ren Xiongamo office ladies from the Jade Dragon’s marketing department gleefully tossed rice at us. I thought it was a neat little bit of improv on the onis part and certainly appreciated it.
Technically we never left the room- a partition was set up where we were married with Hu Li’s bodyguards and subordinates acting as witnesses with a buffet and tables for dozens of guests- including some of the Jade Dragon’s regular employees- being set up on the other side.
It seemed like a pretty good turnout, although most of the attendees looked like they were Jade Dragon employees who were invited at the last minute.
I had a few people wish me well and others cheerily talking to me in what I had to guess is Mandarin before helping themselves to the buffet that was set up. Hu Li said she’d rejoin me in a little bit after she broke away to discuss something with three of the more mature looking Oni women.
“I regret that I was unable to bring a conventional present to the happy couple.” a voice spoke up next to my ear as a hand landed on my shoulder. “But there should be a little something amazing arriving for the two of you shortly.”
Startled, I turn to see the Lady Masako standing next to me.
Geez, she’s a sneaky one. At times it seems like she doesn’t even walk, but floats instead.
“That’s all right- I mean…hell….I didn’t even think I’d be getting married today.” I laughed nervously. “Th-thanks for doing the ceremony, by the way.”
“It was my pleasure.” she beamed. “But I do hope the two of you will enjoy my gift. You’ll certainly know when it’s arrived.”
Before I could ask her what she meant by that cryptic remark, she began to walk away.
“Hey.” another voice spoke up to my left as soon as the nurarihyon took ler leave. I turned and was immediately rewarded with the sight of a blushing Kaori in her scandalous little black dress. “Fang Sama wanted me to make sure you didn’t go too far while she greeted some of the guests.”
Wow- I shouldn’t be saying this as a married man, but little black dress Kaori looks even more amazing up close.
“I…I’m sure the two of you can’t wait for the honeymoon, but she has some matters to discuss with my aunt and cousins first.” the super-feminine tomboy continues nervously.
“That’s all right- looks like her staff went all out for the feast. It would be a shame to just ignore all this food. Care to join me?” I offer.
Kaori nodded quietly and followed me to get a plate and some utensils.
My only experience with Chinese food was occasionally dining at Chinese restaurants in some of the larger towns back home like Watertown or Huron when I was on the road. While they were fine restaurants in their own right, the spread before the two of us blew them out of the water.
Steamed dumplings, Peking duck, stir fry pork, scallops and water chestnuts, some sort of soup with a fish’s head in it that smelled amazing even though I found the fish head off-putting.
Standing immediately behind this sumptuous feast is a petite mouse girl dressed in red with a chef’s hat. Upon seeing my wife, she bows deeply and begins speaking excitedly in a high-pitched, almost squeaky voice in what I assume is Mandarin.
Whatever she’s saying, it’s interspersed with a lot of gestures. My wife nods assuringly and occasionally interjects.
“What’s she saying?” I ask Kaori.
“That’s Fang-sama’s executive chef. She’s a bit of a perfectionist….” she whispers cautiously.
The high strung hinezumi continues addressing Hu Li before bowing her head.
“Sh-she says she used too much sesame seed oil for the ginger garlic shrimp. It’s….garbage that she wouldn’t feed to a pack of mangy dogs…and deeply apologizes for this affront on her most auspicious wedding day.”
The excitable Hinezumi utters a few more words to my wife before deeply bowing.
“She also wants to congratulate Fang Sama on this most auspicious day of her wedding.”
“Hey now.” I speak up to both my wife and the chef.
All eyes are on me now. Shit….I was never any good in situations like these.
Without saying another word, I grab a plate and begin scooping some of the offending ginger garlic shrimp onto my plate along with some steamed rice. Using the plasticware laid out for everyone, I take a bite.
It’s pretty damn good, actually. I’m not so sure what the hinezumi chef was so upset about- although if this is her idea of ‘garbage’, I wonder how much more sumptuous a dish that turned out as she intended would be.
“Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good…” I say to the mouse-girl, hoping that she can understand at least some English.
She looks like she doesn’t.
Shit. I’m just standing here spouting new-age fortune cookie psycho-babble on my wedding day. At least the shrimp is halfway decent, though.
After an awkward silence, Kaori bails me out and translates my comment into Mandarin for the mousy chef.
The hinezumi simply stares blankly at me for a moment before she bows.
“Shie Shie….” she murmurs deferentially.
“She says ‘thank you’…” my wife says as I have some more shrimp.
For whatever reason, that seemed to calm the hinezumi. Kaori and I went back to our table to wait for my wife to return after her discussion.
I had to be careful not to overdo it- after all, I’m supposed to consummate my marriage with Hu Li after dinner.
Our honeymoon suite was- perhaps unsurprisingly- the Jade Dragon’s penthouse suite. The two of us were treated to an even more amazing view of Las Vegas at night- something perhaps Hu Li was used to, but I still considered it pretty novel.
“Husband? Gene?” Hu Li’s meek query tears my eyes away from the neon, pyramids, palaces and arenas lined up further south along the Strip.
Holy shit- she’s not wearing anything, but is using some of her tails to cover herself up. It’s both sexy and adorable all at the same time and I feel as though I’m going to melt.
“H-husband….I’m very nervous.” Hu Li begins.
“Why is that?”
“I…well….I’m what you call ‘late bloomer’. “ she explains. “When I first work running matches in Heixin, everyone think maybe I boy fox.”
“That’s hard to imagine- I mean- baby, look at you now. You’ve got seven tails, for starters.”
“They have supplements for that. ‘Artificial Spirit Energy’….specially formulated for my kind.” she sighed.
“Let’s have a look at you.” I try to encourage her.
She slowly withdraws one of her tails and then another. At first I think she’s working on some sort of tease to drive me wild, but she seems genuinely nervous. She finally manages to position all of her tails behind her, although her right arm is draped across her voluminous bosom while her left hand is attempting to cover up between her legs.
It’s kind of cute- I’m not so sure why she’s so self-conscious. She has a much more voluptuous figure than I anticipated- it wasn’t quite as evident when she was wearing the cheongsam earlier.
As I ponder this, I suddenly realize I should be removing my clothes (which are technically Kaori’s) as well.
“Mmm….I wanted to do this at our picnic this afternoon, but then the sisters came along and made us take separate rides back.” I say, closing in on my bashful new fox wife.
I pull her close to me, but instead of kissing her on the lips, I go to work on her neck- making a little trail of kisses up from her shoulder blade to the base of her pointy right ear while my left hand is exploring her tails.
“Husband…” she gasps. “I can call you that for real now…..HAAH…”
“Mmm….now that it’s official, I kinda like hearing you say that.” I whisper in her flicking ear as my hot breath spills down the side of her neck. My other hand is exploring the small of her back near where her tails are growing.
“Mrs. Holder.” I almost growl for emphasis. Her response is a delighted little whimper.
Maybe I’m taking liberties and pushing my luck with the ‘Vixen of Vegas’, but I just don’t care. I give her right ear a playful little nibble as I pull her naked body close against me. Each little sound she makes is getting me harder and harder.
“AAAH!” she squeaks. “T-that feel strange…” she looks away with her cheeks blushing “But I kind of like it.”
More- I must explore my loving wife’s body some more.
I kiss her on the lips and before long feel her give way to accommodate my tongue.
“Mmm…hmmm….” she moans.
This is more than I could have ever dreamed of. Where to keep exploring? Her scarlet locks? Her tails? Her cute little vixen’s ears, her large bosom that’s jiggling and heaving with her heavy breathing? Her belly with just the slightest bit of chub on it? Her hips? Her thighs? Her well groomed snatch? Her bubble butt even though it’s concealed by all those tails?
“I must be the luckiest man in the world…” I tell my wife as I gently guide her to the suite’s king sized bed
Quite the turnaround from losing my life’s savings at the roulette wheel this afternoon.
Taking off my tighty whiteys, I join her on the bed, scooting back until my back is up against the headboard and I’m in a seating position.
Hu Li decides to join me by getting down on all fours at the foot of the bed and crawling towards me like a wild animal- I’m a little surprised I didn’t shoot a load at the very sight of her doing that.
It’s dim in the room, but not completely dark- I can see an emerald gleam in my wife’s vulpine eyes as she closes in and puts her arms around my shoulders.
This is more than I could have ever dreamed of and she’s just getting started. I can feel her warmth as she straddles me, positioning herself so that I can enter her.
“Ah…yes. Let’s be one together…” Hu Li whispers as she adjusts her legs. Instead of trying to wrap them around me, she instead tucks them so that she’s sort of kneeling while straddling me. In this position, she actually has a little elevation and is looking down at me intently.
“Husband….Gene- I want your mana.” she growls as she lowers herself onto me- slowly at first.
My shaft is sheathed in an almost velvety warmth as it makes its way further inside of her. It’s my turn to be making noises…..none of which I find sexy at all, but it doesn’t seem to bother Hu Ling, either.
“Give me your mana…” she says a little more assertively before I end up hilting her. Hu Li replies with a little gasp, but looking right at her I can see a wicked smile as she starts rocking her hips with me inside.
“I’m your beloved wife….give me precious your mana, husband…” she orders a second time as she picks up the tempo of her rocking.
With a wicked little smile, she realizes that now that they’re pressed up against my face, her breasts have my undivided attention.
“Mmm….you like? Maybe suckle like baby.” she teases as she deliberately arches her back a little further
Don’t mind if I do.
“I tell you….I late bloomer…AH!….but before I flee, I had to special order underwear from Hong Kong since bras in stores too small for me once I grow.” she brags while slowing the tempo of her rocking. “90 G.”
“Ah….hah….I’ll have to….remember that…for our….anniversary.” I pant as I get back to work thrusting further inside of her while using my mouth to explore her rather impressive tits.
“I no use spell or anything, either. All natural.” she brags.
“Mmm….you didn’t say anything about marrying a holstaur with fox ears.” I tease as I reach up and start to knead and fondle her left breast which so far had been untouched by me.
“Ah- husband like big tits? I glad.. They seem to like you.” she said as she picks the tempo back up while her hand and fingertips are playing with her erect right nipple that’s now lightly coated in saliva.
“Yes- you trying to say something, husband?” she teases as she’s now riding me like a racehorse in the Preakness.
“I…I’m going to cum…” I almost whisper as I bury my face in her heaving breasts again.
“Good, good….” she says with a predatory grin as I feel her walls clench a little tighter around my shaft. “I want your manna NOW husband…”
As I’m getting ready to climax, I see a thousand little pinpricks of light explode into view and quickly fade as my diamond-hard erection twitches and shoots a sticky hot white load of jism into her.
I pant as I bury my face into the crook of her neck, my deep breathing taking in the fragrance of the perfume she’s wearing, the shampoo she uses and the incense she uses at the office.
“Ah…..HAH…..Hu Li…..” I say, struggling to form words. “I….I…..want you to know….I love you.”
She smiles as she gently brushes an errant lock of hair away from my face with the back of her hand.
“I love you too, husband…”
“But I want to let you know…” I say as I suddenly have found my second wind. I grab her and playfully flip her over so that I’m on top now. “I’m going to paint every last inch of your womb white and I won’t stop until they build a fucking colony on Mars and can hear you reach orgasm from there.”
“Ah….husband!” Hu Li said in shock, playfully pretending to struggle as I pinned her arms above her head. From our little elevator ride, I knew she was much stronger and could’ve easily broken free if she wanted to. “Do as you please….” she said, deliberately arching her chest again so that it was right next to my face.
Well, it’s not like I needed any further invitation.
I lost track of time, but I did manage to make my newlywed vixen of a wife orgasm three times. If only there were a space colony that could’ve heard it.
Instead, in the early morning hours there was a gentle rapping on the suite’s door.
“Come in…” my wife said groggily. The only other people allowed on this floor tonight were her oni bodyguards.
“F-fang sama?” a feminine voice called out.
It was Kaori.
Oh my God, she was still in that tiny little black dress from the wedding. But she was carrying something with her- it looked like a ceramic bottle or gourd attached to a string.
“Ah- Kaori. What is it?” My wife asked, genuine concern in her voice.
“I…it has to do with Aniki.” she said nodding towards me.
“Y-yes….now that you’re Fang Sama’s husband, we’re almost brother and si…(hic) sister.”
I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, but she had been drinking. Still, she seemed pretty lucid for a drunk.
The conversation shifted to Mandarin as the tomboyish red oni continued talking to my wife.
“I see- this displeases me greatly.” Hu Li said sternly.
“Wh-what? What did I do?” I ask defensively.
“You naughty boy- you know what you did.” Hu Li playfully chastises me.
“No, really- what did I do?” I ask, confused and more than a little confused.
“The Oni’s horn is the most sensitive part of her anatomy.” Kaori said. “You can’t just simply grab it and play around with it and expect zero consequences.”
“I agree.” Hu Li nodded. “Husband- this situation needs remedy. How do you plan to make things right with her?”
“I……I….um….I’m really really sorry?” I can only stare as I’m locked in the gaze of two powerful women.
“Death by seven tails, Fang Sama?” Kaori asked deferentially.
“Yes. I think that may be the only remedy at this point.”
“Nice knowing you, Aniki” she said as she stepped out of her little black dress.
Just as I had thought- beneath the boyish haircut and penchant for men’s clothes, the younger red oni was all woman.
“I’m so mad at you right now. First you grab my horn like I’m some cheap succubus whore, then you run off with Fang Sama, then you get wine all over my good suit. If that isn’t enough, I have to give you my last remaining good suit and dress like a slutty bimbo for Fang Sama’s most important day.”
My wife’s tails are starting to run up and down my body while Kaori has stripped down to her panties removed her bra before pinning me to the bed..
In half a nanosecond, both Kaori and my wife are going to discover how incredibly ticklish I am. This is bad for me, but if the gleam in my wife’s vixen eyes and Kaori’s devilish grin are any indication, this is just the start of their fun with me.
“Ladies, please….be gentle.” I plead almost silently.
They were. For a little while, at least.
Breakfast was something else.
While my wife had abstained, Kaori and I shared whatever sake she had remaining in that clay gourd after their prolonged and sensual torment of me. As a result, we both had a bit of a hangover.
I was sitting in a cordoned off café not too far from the floor of the casino working on some scrambled eggs and undercooked steak while my wife was working on a bowl of fruit, some sticky sweet rice and fresh squeezed juice.
Kaori had slipped back into the clothes she lent me for the wedding while I was able to get my old jeans and denim shirt back.
The red oni was watching over us when she was approached by a blonde reptilian woman in rather snappy business attire.
She said something to Kaori and let herself in past the velvet rope that was supposed to cordon this area off and headed straight for us with the red Oni hot on her heels.
“Excuse me- I’m Agent Narrasti. Customs and Immigration.” the blonde lizardwoman said as she quickly flashed a badge. “I hope I’m not catching you at a bad time.”
“What you want now, Junior G-Girl?” the exasperated vixen sneered. “You no have dishwasher or ditch digger to hassle?”
“I just want a few words with you, Mrs…..Holder.”
There was a pause and the fact that my ‘wife’ didn’t immediately respond to her new surname seemed to further increase the lizardwoman’s suspicions.
“Too bad. I very busy….come back some other time.”
“We can do this now or I can come back with a federal subpoena, Mrs. Holder.” the well-dressed lizardwoman said.
The red oni with the shorter hair and sport jacket gave my wife an apologetic nod that seemed to indicate that it was better to humor this rather irritating agent now rather than have an even more acrimonious conversation after she returned with dozens of other agents and my foxy wife’s computers and personnel files seized and hauled off to the federal building.
“How can we be of assistance?” I speak up, hoping to de-escalate the situation. As I get closer, I can see why my wife’s nose scrunched up as soon as this lizardwoman approached. Seems like it had less to do with her being in law enforcement and more to do with the fact that she apparently applied her perfume by the gallon. It wasn’t an unpleasant fragrance, but it was quite overwhelming once she was this close.
“Just the man I wanted to see.” the lizardwoman agent said matter-of-factly. “I just had a few quick questions for you and your bride, Mr. Holder.”
“All right- can you make it quick, then?”
“As you may have heard, Miss Fang-”
“Mrs. Holder.” I interrupt.
“Hu Li Fang may have overstayed her visa and was facing deportation prior to this marriage.”
“I heard something along those lines.” I say.
“Awfully convenient, wouldn’t you say?”
I guffaw. “Convenient isn’t necessarily the first word that springs to mind when describing my wife.”
“How exactly did you meet your wife, Mr. Holder?” The lizardwoman asks.
“Oh- she mistook me for a high roller and offered me a VIP tour of the facilities. Then I decided to surprise her by getting her away from the office and taking her out on a romantic picnic.”
I mean….it’s technically not a lie if all of those things actually happened.
“When did you consummate the marriage?” Agent Narrastii asks- almost as though she has these questions prepared for her.
“Last night, over and over.” I tell her, no doubt beaming like a Cheshire cat.
“It true- he give me one orgasm for every tail.” Hu Li affirms. “You can ask Keiko- she there too.”
“I…I was assigned to watch over the penthouse suite.” the tomboyish oni stammered. “I heard lots of noises indicating a certain level….enthusiasm.”
“If I may continue-” the agent tried speaking up.
“How about you, Junior G-girl? You have yourself a man?” Hu Li asked, her tone taunting.
“M…my private matters are of no concern to you.”
“Ah…..no man. How sad for you.”
“I’m single, yes. My busy schedule prevents me from-”
“Funny how my busy schedule prevent me from spending time with husband, you think I big fraud and liar.” my wife interrupted. “But you blame not having man on your schedule. Funny thing- I go to courthouse many times. Lots of strong, handsome young men in your profession.”
“A number of my colleagues are, in fact, already married.” the flustered lizardwoman said as her blush intensified.
“So sad, so sad…” Hu Li mocked as she waved her sleeve dismissively at Agent Narrasti. “You have pretty nice face, but small boobs. All that perfume not help either.”
“Small boobs can be nice and perky, though.” I offer diplomatically.
Boy, was that ever a mistake.
“We’re not here to discuss my bust size.” the agent said through clenched teeth.
“Husband….you saying I have saggy old lady tits?” Hu Li asked angrily.
“What? No- I dated a gymnast in high school. Got a full ride gymnastics scholarship to Purdue if I remember correctly. I doubt she could have done it if she was a ‘D’ cup…”
“Oh husband…..why you always bring up past girlfriends?” Hu Li lamented.
Damn it- my wife was really laying it on thick.
“OK- I’ve seen enough.” the lizardwoman huffed.
“Agent Narrasti?” I ask.
“I came in to this interview fully expecting the Vixen of Vegas to be participating in what is clearly an obvious immigration scam to prevent deportation….. Do you have any idea what the penalty for that is?”
“Uh….no.” I say, although chances are I’m not going to like it.
“Time in the federal penitentiary for you….” she points a scaly, clawed finger accusingly at me. “And Lady Fang here would be bundled off to the first flight back to the People’s Republic.”
“You can’t just barge in here and threaten my wife-”
The lizardwoman bureaucrat holds her hand up to shush me as she resumes speaking.
“And after all of five minutes of the most basic questioning, I get this….” she swept a clawed hand to indicate the both of us. “Instead of fawning all over each other like newlyweds, I see the two of you bickering like an elderly couple.”
“But….” I try to interject.
“Shut it.” she snapped. “You’re a horrible, mean individual.” she said, pointing at Hu Li. “And YOU, I don’t know what your deal is but you’re going to end up as twisted and warped and petty as her….count on it.” she said, pointing at me.
“Agent Narrastii….” I begin.
“This concludes my interview, Good day.”
The lizardwoman agent gathers her paperwork and is set to leave in a huff.
“Are you sure you don’t want to stay for some brunch…?” I offer
“I said ‘Good Day’…” Agent Narrastii huffed as she stormed off.
The three of us watch the federal agent storm off in a huff- not something you see every day.
“She….she looked like she was going to cry.” I said.
“If you worried that much about her, maybe chase her down and give her some of that tender loving since you like girls with small boobs so much.” she huffed.
“C’mon now….I like you, right? I know you had a adversarial relationship with her, but you don’t have to be like that all the time.”
“You forget she was working overtime to deport me?”
“Well- there is that. Still, I can’t get too mad at her.”
“How come?” Hu Li asked indignantly.
“Because without her, we never would have met.”
My wife’s facial expression softened as she looked at me.
“Oh, Gene….you always know right thing to say-”
I cut off whatever she had to say next with a gentle kiss.
“Plus I could eat an ice cream sundae off that ass.” I continue.
“I mean….I hate to see her go, but I love to watch her walk away- y’know?” I tease.
“Shit…did I say that out loud?”
“Maybe you die death by eight tails tonight? You like?” she taunts. “I check Keiko’s schedule- see if she available to help.”
“I….I may be available.” Kaori offered meekly.
Gulp. Keiko still seemed pretty pissed at me for kidnapping her employer and fondling her sister’s horn.
Later that afternoon, somewhere in the stairwell leading to the Jade Dragon’s underground garage, Kaori moved quietly with a small carrying case.
She knew the casino well enough that this was one of the few places that weren’t under video surveillance. To those that knew her, she looked a little different this afternoon. Instead of her slacks and men’s shirt ensemble, the red oni was wearing a blue floral print sundress, sandals and a pair of gold earrings.
“There you are.” she said as she spied Agent Narrasti.
“If I had known your boss had already gotten married, I probably wouldn’t have stopped by today.” Narrasti said to the oni.
“It helps if she thinks you’re still suspicious of her, even after the wedding.”
Without another word, the oni handed off the case to the lizardwoman. Only after a few seconds, the lizardwoman ceased to be a lizardwoman as she disappeared in a puff of smoke, replaced by a slightly shorter tanuki with a leaf on her head.
“Man- your boss lady must be something fierce if she’s getting dicked regularly and is STILL that bitchy.” the raccoon-dog complained. She was something of a small-time grifter named Eri who leapt at the opportunity to fool a high and mighty fox youkai- the oni’s fairly generous payday was almost an afterthought.
“As we agreed upon.” Kaori said as she handed off the small case to the tanuki who was in the guise of a lizardwoman immigration agent not even 30 seconds ago.
The ring-tailed trickster eagerly opened the case and her face immediately soured.
“What is this? You’re not thinking of paying me in tiddlywinks now, are you?”
“Calm down. These are chips from the VIP High Stakes poker room.” Kaori explained. “Each one is worth $25,000.”
The red oni smirked. True to form tanuki’s eyes lit up at the mention of the true monetary value of her round, plastic bounty.
“I hope you included a little extra. If the Feds ever got wind I was impersonating one of them, I’d be looking at some hard time- not just a couple months in the statey crate-ey, but full on spending my golden years in Club Fed” the tanuki complained.
“Plus that perfume was something awful. Was it really necessary to wear that much?”
“I couldn’t chance Fang-sama being able to sniff out an impostor. Her nose may actually be better than yours when it comes to detecting these things. If you’d like, my cousin recommended a spa where they can get that smell off of you.”
“Certainly- I’d appreciate that.”
“I already notified the cage. You should have no trouble cashing those out- just be sure to use this face when you do.” Kaori said as she held up her smartphone.
“Why’s that?” Eri asked.
“Can’t have you show up on the floor undisguised, and your Immigration agent persona cashing out a case full of $25K chips would certainly raise suspicions.”
The tanuki figured she made sense.
“We staged a game in the VIP Poker lounge. The individual in the picture took his winnings off the books as part of the arrangement.”
His ‘off-the-book’ winnings actually took the form of a few thousand in cash plus some liliarune nectar and manticore venom sent to his suite along with some professional ‘entertainment’ in the form of a kakuen escort and Ren Xingmao pole dancer.
“One more thing….” the Tanuki said.
Kaori figured the little ring tailed trickster was pushing her luck already, but decided to indulge her.
“Even after slathering on this Maou-awful perfume, I can catch a whiff of the human’s spirit energy on your boss. But now that I’m this close, I’m pretty sure I can catch a whiff of his spirit energy on you. Would you care to explain that?”
“Fang Sama loves her new husband. But Fang Sama also loves us and trusts us with her life…..so she felt it was important that she see for herself that her closest aides and beloved husband are capable of loving each other……”
“I see…Over and over while in a variety of positions?” the tanuki asked salaciously.
“I…it’s not like that.” the oni said bashfully. “F-Fang Sama merely requested I simply hold down her husband while attempting an unorthodox position. And today Aniki, Fang Sama and I went shopping so I could update my wardrobe…”
“You crafty little devil- you just wanted your bosslady to get married so she’d be so busy getting the ‘D’ that she’d eventually hand over day-to-day operations to you.” Eri pondered.
“Far from it.” Kaori said defensively. “My cousin Kaede is a fairly gifted seer who’s capable of seeing and reading the aura of other youkai.”
“Is that so?” Eri asked, outwardly impressed at that tidbit. Reading the aura of ‘demihumans’, ‘youkai’ or ‘monstergirls’ was exceptionally more difficult than gauging a human or elf’s aura and very few were capable of doing it.
“Not long after Fang Sama’s trial concluded, Kaede came to me. Fang Sama’s ki was weakening and her aura was turning darker… like that of a wounded animal. She didn’t want to admit it, but the trial took a lot out of her.”
“So we decided that Fang-sama needed to find happiness. The whole time we had known her, she had never had a boyfriend- she was so committed to the Jade Dragon and she rebuffed our matchmaking efforts. Still, she wasn’t getting any better….” Kaori sighed. “That’s when Kaede and I decided to fabricate some sort of immigration infraction-”
“And that’s where I came in.” Eri realized.
“I hate going behind Fang-sama’s back like this, but I haven’t seen her so happy in ages. Deep down, Aniki is a good and loving man….”
“And your bosslady likes to share her good fortune, eh?” Eri asked with a suggestive wink.
“Fang Sama is most generous…” Kaori blushed.
“Well then….have fun.” Eri said as she changed into the likeness of the VIP gambler in another puff of smoke.
She didn’t want to admit it, but she was a bit jealous of the short-haired oni as she walked away. When Kaori had first approached her, she was basically an emotionless slab of meat in men’s clothing- a lonely, brooding child in the body of a brawny brute. Now she looked like a lovely, surprisingly normal, happy-go-lucky young lady- it was a pretty remarkable transformation.
There was that old saying: The Kitsune has seven disguises, The Tanuki will have eight.
As fleetingly jealous of Kaori as she might’ve been, Eri couldn’t put a price tag on the ability to use that eighth disguise to fool the high and mighty fox spirit.
With a light chuckle, the tanuki headed up to the cashier’s window to collect her earning.