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The Oracle's Misfortune

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“You’re treating this like it’s some silly game, Tian-Liao Lin. But rest assured that your escapades have gone unnoticed.”

 

I took a hesitant step backward, but the brunet matched my pace exactly. “Posting something like that online...hell, that’s ballsy, I’ll give you that much. But my family will not allow your continued existence, I’m afraid.” Despite everything he was saying, his serious tone, the man’s face broke into a mirthless smile. “People cannot know of spirits. This will be your final warning. Any further actions will result in your erasure.”

 

The man said nothing more before pulling a pistol from his belt. I tried to speak, but as always my voice abandoned me. It always ended like this…

 

A burning heat cut through my chest, and I woke up in a cold sweat for the fourth time that week. There was no more denying it, this wasn’t a freak occurrence. Whoever that was had been visiting his dreams for nearly a month now, but he’d only recently grown so adamant about my (or rather, Tiger’s) blog. More specifically, the deletion of said blog by the end of the week.

 

I needed to think, and the smothering heat of a spirit wrapped around me was doing nothing to calm me down. I wished I was in my own room, not in this stiflingly small hotel room hundreds of miles away. More than anything, though, I wished my Guardian Tiger and Likulau were here.

 

My college had been offering a trip abroad for an obscenely cheap price, and a month away from everything had certainly sounded fine at the time. While my English was definitely shaky at best, the school had been kind enough to send a translator along with the group so we could at least make our way around the towns we were visiting.

 

Likulau immediately rejected my offer to take him with, since it’s not like anyone else could see him sneak onto the plane, but he’d made it very clear (or as clear as he could with his broken Chinese) that travelling so far away from his village would not be acceptable on a long-term basis. He did, however, promise to visit me once a week using the Spirit Trails, which seemed a fair compromise.

 

Guardian Tiger had surprised me, though. If any of my boyfriends would have said yes, I thought it would be him. But instead he politely declined my offer, giving some vague excuse about some family in Canada he didn’t get along with that well. It sounded odd to me at the time, since we wouldn’t be anywhere near the northern border of America, and would be travelling through the center, but I’d decided not to press the issue, instead sending his statue back to my family’s home under the pretense of it needing cleaning.

 

It made sense, though, that nothing in my life could be simple, and I would start having visions the second the plane landed. At least, they’d seemed like visions at first. When I’d talked to Senpai about them, he’d went pale. “Liao, nothing you see is fake. Having an ability like yours means you should be able to see through illusions like that. In other words….”

 

His words hadn’t made sense then, and they didn’t make sense now, even as he was wrapped protectively around my chest. If they weren’t illusions, what were they? Even when Senpai tried explaining it to me, something about “Spiritual projection,” it still didn’t make any sense. Why would people be targeting me?

 

“Liao, what’s the matter?” Senpai’s voice brought me back to the present, as he snuggled himself further into the nape of my neck. His voice, now muffled, cut through the otherwise silent room. “You’re not still having those nightmares, are you?”

 

“N-no, it’s nothing like that. Just a regular old bad dream, you know?”

 

Leopard Cat made an odd noise, the vibrations in his throat tickling my bare chest. “Liao, please have a little more faith in me than that, alright? You made me promise to stop being so self-sacrificing, but that means you have to be a little more selfish too, alright?” I was saved from responding by a sudden and insistent knocking at the door. Although…? “Who could that be at two in the damn morning?”

 

Senpai bolted upright, his nose and ears twitching violently. “This is...oh, this is bad. Liao, head into the bathroom, let me handle this.” His voice was worryingly hushed. “I’m not joking right now. Whatever is outside of that door is powerful, and doesn’t smell friendly.”

 

I made to object, but seeing the concerned look on his face gave me no other option. I darted into the hotel’s tiny bathroom,as quickly as my tired body could take me. The last thing I saw before closing the door was Senpai hesitantly reaching for the doorknob, completely ignoring the peep hole set into the wood. I shut the door behind me as quietly as possible, resting up against the faux-granite countertop. I needed to breathe...but why did Senpai look so scared? His voice carried through the room, and while it was definitely muffled by the door between us, I hung onto every word.

 

“What’s up, man? Have a noise complaint or something?” His tone seemed playful enough, but there was definitely a hint of something lingering underneath it. Another voice, soft but definitely masculine, wasted no time responding.

 

“Quite the opposite, yaoguai.” My blood froze in my veins. “The oracle, where is he? I sensed power like that coming from this place, and needed to verify my theory.”

 

Senpai’s voice had lost all of his previous kindness. “Are you really willing to breach contract? Even if I did know where there was an oracle around here, why would I tell you? You couldn’t destroy me anyway. I’m a lot stronger than I let on.”

 

“I’d presume that’s why you’re currently possessing a human to give yourself power. Not only that, but a corpse, by the feel of things. Killing you wouldn’t be a breach of contract at all. Any and all exorcisms are covered by the terms of agreement.” I’m not ashamed to admit I had no idea what the hell anyone was saying at this point. “Moreover, a simple yaoguai like yourself is untenable at the end of the day. All it would take is a snap of my fingers, and both you and that poor host of yours would be incinerated. But let’s not leave that up to you, shall we?” There was a brief sound of a struggle beyond the door, followed by a massive slam against the wall opposite the bathroom. “Oracle, I know you’re in the restroom. However, it appears something, or rather someone, has put a ward on the door, disallowing my entrance.”

 

What kind of shonen anime plot was this?! Then again, I’d said the same thing when I first encountered the big cats...hopefully this would be a much easier situation...

 

“Understand that while I do not mean you any harm, that mercy does not extend to any demons or spirits travelling with you. So, I will give you exactly ten seconds to leave and confront me of your own accord, or your ally will be disassembled.”

 

Nope, definitely not an easier situation. Senpai yelled something from the other side of the door, the fairly basic “Don’t listen to him, he’s bluffing!” kind of thing you see in every action movie ever. But there was a problem: this wasn’t a movie. This was an actual situation, where one of my boyfriends could be destroyed if I didn’t do something. Of course, that could just be this stranger bluffing.

 

A sudden thought popped into my head: try calling out to Likulau or my Guardian Tiger. Both of them had promised they would be at my side if I needed them, and this certainly seemed like the right situation for something like that to be necessary. But this guy had managed to defeat Leopard Cat without any issues. Granted, he was weaker than normal being trapped in Yan Shu-Chi’s body, but still, would it be okay bringing in one of my boyfriends just to go up against someone like that?

 

I need to think about my next move carefully...