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...and god, I know I'm one

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Naomasa is not a stupid man, no matter what some people might like to believe. He’s got a degree of logic behind every move he makes, even when those moves may not make sense to most people. 

It’s one of the few things he thanks his many years in the field for. Investigative journalism is a deadly game, especially when it takes a turn for the occult. Making sure that near-deaths have that oh-so-important adjective before them is key to making sure that Naomasa doesn’t end up having to deal with a coroner trying to track down a next of kin to identify his mangled remains. Who knows who’d they even find for that. Naomasa's pretty sure any living relatives of his won’t have many nice words to say when it comes time for the funeral. 

“Oh my, my. What terrible luck you’re having this game.”

He does make stupid decisions here and there; even he has the humility to admit as much. His empty wallet, an expired teaching license... 

“How much will this make it? Have we passed ¥15,000,000 yet? I’m afraid I grew rather bored about three rounds back. I must have fallen asleep.”

….a ring gathering dust in a drawer he doesn’t open, a gravestone marked with a jizo….. 

 “Ban! Baaaaaan, are you ignoring me? How rude! No wonder you’re so lonely. Women don’t appreciate it when you just ignore them for a lost cause. It really shows how dreadful your personality is.”

....and one grinning demoness playing back-seat driver to a poker game Naomasa really shouldn’t be losing.

...Actually, the demoness might be his worst decision yet. 

Perhaps because it was one of the few moves he’s made that, even with hindsight, he can’t manage to find the logic in. He sees himself like it’s a movie: a rugged journalist, down on his luck but certainly not his looks, stumbling (a little drunk) on a tome in a language he barely understands. What little he could make out seemed a lot like, “You’ll get rich quick if you just make a few little circles and spill a teensy-weensy bit of blood and say a few haaaaarmless phrases in an arcane language you certainly are going to fuck up the pronunciation for. 

It was, frankly a terrible idea. Pretty much the start of all shitty horror movies in the past decade. The first thing they warned you about when you decide to add Paranormal onto that Investigative Journalist title.

And yet.

Next thing he knows, he was laying out sheets of spare wallpaper he was pretty sure his landlord wouldn’t miss considering where he found it, guesstimating a summoning circle from memory, picking at a scab until he got the requisite amount of blood, and stumbling through some Latin (or what he thought was Latin) phrases.

Yeah, spare him, rent was due soon and he hadn’t had a case in months.

The world seemed to grow hazy beneath his feet as he somehow managed to speak the words he’d scribbled down onto a notepad with the kind of gravitas he hoped would convince the universe he knew what he was doing. It sometimes worked with the people he ‘interviewed’, but he wasn’t sure if scummy drug dealers were quite on par with whatever cosmic being was overlooking this shitshow.

The lights above him flickered, buzzing with electricity and threatening to pop at any moment. A paralyzing cold crept in as though someone had opened a window, though it started instead at his fingertips and slowly began to envelop his whole body. He felt a pain on his face, as though his skin was cracking and peeling away, revealing the gore beneath. Slowly, his vision grew darker, like hands being placed over his eyes, waiting to tear the blindfold away with a grand-

-Ta da!

The darkness receded from Naomasa’s vision, and when his fingers returned to the right temperature, he could feel nothing more than rough stubble on his cheeks. A young woman wearing an expensive velvet black dress, that surely cost more than Naomasa could even dream of, sat propped up on her knees where before there had been nothing. One arm was placed against the smudged outline of the summoning circle for balance; the other, rattling with a dark ruby bracelet, came to rub circles along her temples where horns protruded just before her light brown hair started. Her eyes (dark, darker than anything he’s seen before until suddenly they were nothing more than a lovely shade of brown) flickered up to meet him, and Naomasa felt as though, for just a moment, that pain from before was back.

“Bonjour, mon ami,” she said in greeting, a smile bright enough--and wicked enough--that Naomasa could almost mistake her for a model. Her tail flicked back and forth, back and forth with an even tempo. Naomasa stood still, shocked enough that he didn’t even notice the paper he’d drawn the circle on was starting to catch fire. “My name is Mulan Rosé.”

“Oh, no,” he remembers thinking once his brain finally started connecting the pieces of what had just happened, “She’s French.”

The Frenchness had died down with time (turns out the last poor fool who’d summoned her had been some Parisian dandy with a loose wallet and sticky fingers), but every other annoying detail had only grown worse as the months passed.

Exhibit A, B, C….. and frankly the whole damn alphabet.

“Shut. Up,” Naomasa hisses or at least tries to. There’s some difficulty in getting across the correct level of fuck-offed-ness in a whisper to avoid looking like a man who has lost so many bets he’s starting to lose his marbles as well. He’s pretty sure they could throw him out for that, and he hasn’t hit the win he so desperately needs. If the look his neighbor gives him is any indication, he isn’t doing so hot.

Certainly, no thanks to Rosé pressed up against his cheek. Her horns--which Naomasa is all too aware are dangerously sharp--are far closer to his eyes than Naomasa is personally comfortable with. Not like she cares, of course. She’s got her arms slung over his chest, and he can feel her sharp claws tracing strange symbols into the inside of his arm. He’s stopped trying to figure out what they mean when looking at them started giving him migraines. He knows they can’t mean anything good, but honestly, at this point in his life? It can’t be any worse than what he’s already gotten himself into.

 She’s a heavy weight against his back, even though he’s seen her hovering in the air as though she weighed as much as a feather before. He swears he almost hears her annoying voice making a sharp comment about a lady’s weight in the back of his head, and he can’t tell if its a sign he needs to start looking into an exorcist or a shrink. Honestly, Rosé having telepathy is both entirely possible and something he doesn’t want to think about.

He tries not to shiver when he hears her chuckle practically into his ear. “Oh, so you haven’t lost your hearing with old age?” 

He side-eyes her and catches her “cat-that-caught-the-canary” grin, teeth sharp enough to draw blood if she so much as pleased. The skin below Naomasa’s collar proved that she pleased plenty. “I’m not even that old, I’ve got plenty of life left in me,” he mutters under his breath. Then, as an afterthought, he quickly checks around him. Nothing. Good.

Rosé scrunches up her nose, “You sure are spending it wisely, huh? Make this is your last round at this table; watching you try to bluff with this hand is starting to get pathetic.” He feels a scrap of teeth against the shell of his ear--a threat or a promise, he isn’t sure.

“Maybe a certain someone could help with that?” 

“A certain someone isn't interested."

Naomasa peaks down at his cards. They're not the worst, but they're certainly not the best. All five other players are still in the game, and none of them did so much as flinch when Naomasa raised the pot by a few zeros. He’s been checking for tells, but it seems he’s stumbled into a group of professionals even better than he is. The turn had won him a pair, but if he was lucky, the river could land him a straight flush. He’d have it in the bag if Lady Luck decided to smile upon him.

“Oh, you’re impossible,” he hears Rosé grumble. Her hands slide from where there were wrapped around his neck to press against his shoulders. He can almost feel her lips burn into his cheek. “The man just across you? He’s on his way to a royal flush. He won’t back down. He’s already planning to go all in. Fold and step away. I hear roulette is feeling generous. If you’re quick, I can promise a hefty sum, and only a little of it will have to go to buying me a bottle of Château Pétrus.”

“Who says I’ll buy you anything?”

“Don’t be silly, Ban-” Naomasa feels a small tug on his hair, and he resists the urge to lean into it, “-we both know you’ll do it.”

Naomasa grits his teeth, but when the dealer turns to him, looking for his next move, he can do nothing more than grumble out a defeated, “Fold.”