McCree wasn’t entirely sure why he was in Japan. All he knew was that Reyes had sent him, and that boats didn’t agree with him. Apparently there had been rumors of werewolf sightings on some of the settlements run by America, which were causing the residents there to become iffy. McCree didn’t blame them. Werewolves made him iffy too. The only strange thing to him were the lack of reports from Japanese citizens, who didn’t seem concerned with the sightings of a dangerous wolf in the area. “Whatever” Jesse thought, shrugging as he slipped his crossbow onto his back. It wasn’t his duty to think about things like that. It was his duty to kill and that was it.
Stepping off the large cruise liner, he resisted the urge to kiss the ground beneath his feet, choosing instead force himself to keep walking, past the long queue. Being a hunter had its perks, such as free access between countries. His kind were in high demand but in low supply, leaving restrictions loose. Approaching the inspector at the front of the line, all he had to do was flash a piece of paper with the hunter guild seal on it to be let past everyone else. McCree had to admit, the feeling of angry eyes burning into his back made him feel good. Powerful.
McCree knew his first port of call was the American embassy located at the heart of the town, which even if Reyes hadn’t told him where he was, he would have located easily. After all, it was the gaudiest, tallest building he could see, proudly waving American flags all over itself. McCree wasn’t sure whether to salute or gag. Patriotism won over as he saluted at the flags before making his way in, taking off his black hat as he entered. “Well howdy” he said, nodding at the receptionist, an uninteresting man. Pulling out his seal, smiled as the man sighed. “Let me guess, big boss isn’t so happy I took so long huh?”
“Unsurprisingly, they don’t like waiting.”
“Next time tell them not request someone specifically when they’re in the middle of a hunt.” The receptionist jumped slightly. They always seemed jumpy when McCree lowered his voice slowly. It showed his nature, that of a hunter. Gesturing at a set of closed doors, McCree went, leaving the man alone. Pushing open the doors, he got ready for a long meeting, detailing all of the reports. He needed all the information he could gather in order to successfully hunt down whatever was terrorising people.
Everything he needed to refer to after the meeting was presented to McCree in a manila envelope marked “TOP SECRET”. Not that McCree saw the reason for it. A dirty secret like a werewolf in your midst was easy enough to spread through word of mouth alone. If anything, the lack of information to the general public made it easier for false rumors to spread, making his work harder. Still, he knew he was being big bucks to sort out the whole mess. Which meant wading through lies to find the truth.
Sitting in a room provided to him by the embassy, Jesse poured over the information provided, picking out discrepancies, compiling all the reports that followed a similar story. When he was finished, he had a rough idea of what to look for. The werewolf occurred regardless of the moon’s phases. That struck McCree as odd. He didn’t know any werewolves who could shift without there being a full moon. “Perhaps” he mused, smoking a cigar as he read “Japanese werewolves are different? But even the texts I read at home didn’t mention such a thing.” Jesse thought back to the large tomes at his guild, mentally flicking through the pages for any mention of the difference between American and Japanese werewolves. Sighing, he flicked the butt of his cigar into an ashtray, continuing to look over the papers in front of him. “Also, all mentions of this werewolf show it simply being mischievous. No lives have been lost, but things have gone missing. Food, clothes, jewelry. All from Americans.” Leaning back in the wicker chair he sat in, McCree continued to think. “Well, there were sightings of claw prints at the scene of the crime. Sometimes scratches embedded into the wood.” Pulling out the map the embassy had provided, he began to mark the points that were hit with charcoal. “Whatever this werewolf is, it’s in the temple” he finally concluded, noticing how everything was within a 2 mile radius. “Maybe one of the... staff?” The one thing stopping him making a proper conclusion was the cultural barrier. Making an assumption based on his own culture seemed inappropriate. But, he still had a task to do. Grabbing his gear, he set out to the temple, mentally preparing himself for what was to come.
By the time he had reached the shrine, the morning was just beginning to settle in. People began shuffling in, still tired from having to wake up so early. McCree held back, not wanting to disturb what he guessed was a holy ritual. His entire career was built on holiness, on god and on faith. Just because he was in a different country didn’t make those values any less, it just simply changed to fit where he was. McCree could feel the energy from the temple curl around him in curiosity as he made his way up the steps, greeting it like an old friend. By then, everyone had already headed up for worship, leaving McCree free to explore. The power that resided in the temple seemed to be open to him, leading him along winding paths, subverting him from the shrine altogether, leading him into the forest behind. Jesse knew better than to walk around in a forest unarmed, choosing not to grab his crossbow but instead pulling out his gun, Peacemaker. The weight of it comforted him, his gloved fingers still managing to find the runes etched into the hilt. Elemental blessings, written in the language of his ancestors. Fire, water, air and earth. Each coming to his aid in a gunfight, enhancing his silver bullets.
As he carefully picked his way through the forest, still following whatever magic pulled him, he came across a man. Dark black hair, and a look of being lost. “Ah thank goodness!” the stranger said, adjusting his shrine garb. “I was tasked with gathering some herbs for some rituals when I got lost.” The dark haired male paused, realizing McCree didn’t understand him. “My apologies, I did not realize you didn’t speak Japanese.” Jesse could see the hint of a tattoo peak out from underneath his garb. “I got lost here and I can’t seem to find my way out. Could you help me?” McCree studied the man in front of him, trying to determine whether or not it was safe.
“Well maybe you could tell me your name first. Ain’t polite where I come from not to introduce yerself.” Inside the forest light was scarce, shadows seeming to swirl around him.
“My name? Ah, it is Hanzo Shimada.” Everything seemed strange, until he noticed the shadow directly below Hanzo. A fox shadow. Without hesitation, he shot Hanzo directly in the gut. Almost in an instant, the man in front of him shifted. Instead of becoming a werewolf however, he became some sort of fox thing. Hanzo’s shrine garb had been replaced, the shirt disappearing completely and the pants raising themselves higher, revealing small paws instead of feet. “I don’t know whether to call you stupid or smart” Hanzo snarled, clutching his now bleeding stomach. “I’m particularly inclined to call you a filthy gaijin. Since you are.” Despite his confidence in shooting, he was beginning to wonder if it was the wisest of ideas.
“You don’t look like any werewolf I’ve ever crossed paths with” McCree said, tucking Peacemaker into his holster, clicking the safety back on as he did. He knew if he needed to, he could have his gun out and ready in less time than he could be hurt. Hanzo looked insulted at his statement.
“You dare call me a wolf?” His three tails floofed, in anger or in indignation, McCree didn’t know. “I am a kitsune. Messenger to the gods.” McCree pulled out a cigar from his breast pocket, cupping it from the wind as he lit it with fire from his fingertips.
“And I’m a hunter.” His cigar smelled of cloves and tobacco. Jesse could see the disgust on the face of the man in front of him. “Anyway, if you’re a messenger to the gods, why aren’t they fixin’ you up huh?” The kitsune blinked slightly, realizing he was still bleeding.
“Who says I was hurt in the first place, gaijin.” McCree heard the familiar sound of an arrow being nocked. Rather than run for cover, he continued to stand in the open, puffing a ring of smoke from his mouth. Directing his gaze up to where he heard the arrow he saw Hanzo, a bow in his hands and an arrow trained right at McCree’s head. “No matter, you will die here.” Letting loose the arrow, Jesse watched it come flying towards his head, only to stop inches away, suspended in the air. Plucking it out of the air, he twirled it, examining it intently.
“You really think a hunter would let himself be out in the open without havin’ a few tricks up his sleeves?” The arrow in his hand began to light on fire, disintegrating quickly. “Maybe you can shapeshift, but that seems about it.” McCree could almost see the kitsune’s fear as he nocked another arrow. “Perhaps you misunderestimated me.” Taking another puff from his cigar, he tilted his head, pushing his hat up slightly to get a good look at the man in front of him. “Anyway, surprisingly I don’t kill straight away.”
“You shot what you thought was me in the stomach.”
“Fair point. But that was to cripple you, not to kill you. If I had shot to kill there’d be a silver bullet in your shadow’s head. I know you’ve been stealin’ things from American homes, and I’m paid by the embassy to put a stop to it, through any means necessary. Includin’ talkin’ about it.” An arrow whizzed past his face, splitting into numerous arrows. The hunter stopped their momentum by suspending them in the air before letting them fall down. “Is there a reason you keep goin’ for houses with American settlers?” He heard Hanzo sigh, defeated for now.
“They do not provide offerings to the gods. An insult to our culture. Your people come to a land that is not theirs, and worship a god that does not live here. Meanwhile those that do rule over our lands grow angry.” McCree could understand that sentiment. But not the execution.
“Even so, why didn’t you try explainin’ it to the local Americans here.”
“Did your embassy not tell you that I did? Implored them to follow our country's traditions. And when they would not listen to a simple man from a shrine, I showed them my true form. They did not listen to a kitsune either, simply called for help. My hand was forced in order to keep our town safe. I helped build the town of Shimada, and I don’t intend to see it fall because outsiders fail to see the importance of our way of life.” It took McCree a moment to realize what Hanzo had said.
“Wait... You said your last name was Shimada. And this town is called Shimada. How long do you kitsune folk live for?” He could see Hanzo was beginning to get bored of McCree rather than weary.
“Did your masters teach you nothing of my kind?” Hanzo asked, dropping down from the tree he was in with a soft rustle. “We live to be 1000 years old. Once we gain our 10th tail, we become golden and ascend to heaven. Really even children know this. Or at least, children who attend temple.” The kitsune’s orange tails flicked, brushing leaves as they went. “I will stop stealing from the outsiders if they promise to come to temple, learn about our culture. Make offerings to the gods. We do not ask for much. Even a piece of fruit would do.” McCree frowned.
“If fruit would do, then why not take that from the ‘outsiders’?” McCree asked, putting out his cigar.
“No-one would react to fruit going missing. I needed to choose something that would spur action.”
“An almost dangerous sentiment. What if it spurred them to burn your shrine rather than attend it? Then what? I don’t think those you serve would be pleased.” Hanzo scowled, almost appearing like he was trying to drill a hole in McCree’s head through sheer force of will. “You’re just mad because you know it’s true.” Hanzo let his bow drop, it instantly dissolving into nothing.
“Says the person who came to a country he’s never been in before with no information on what he was hunting. None of the outsiders here have made attempts to learn about us. Why should a hunter be different.” McCree started to feel insulted before he remembered. He hadn’t made any attempt to learn. Despite being tasked to hunt a werewolf, he hadn’t considered other options.
“You’re right” Jesse said, frowning slightly. “We don’t even have writing on any of the creatures of Japan. Yet we have tomes dedicated to variations of the same monster back home.” Sighing, he straightened his hat and turned around. “I’ll be back, gonna see if I can’t straighten this thing out at the embassy for ya’.” Before the Kitsune could protest, he was already walking away. “Don’t know how I’ll find you to let you know how it went but I’m sure the magic here will lead me to you.”
After a long walk back to the Embassy, McCree strolled in, not even bothering to stop at the receptionist's desk, walking straight through to the head of the ministry. “Well now, next time you hire a hunter” McCree said, his voice low and dangerous. “Make sure you tell him exactly what he’s huntin’. Especially if what he’s huntin’ has already tried to contact you about stoppin’.” He could see the fear in his boss's eyes. And something else. “Did you just think I’d kill a werewolf? Then you know nothing about our guild. Despite the weapons I carry, we do try to assess if they can be cured or not. Silver bullets sting like a bitch on a werewolf, but when blessed by an element it can help cure them.” McCree was pissed at being used like a pawn for whatever reason the guys at the Embassy had. “You do realize you’re not in America anymore, right? God doesn’t protect you here.” He slammed his fist on the mahogany table in front of him, causing the head of the whole shit show operation to jump. “If anyone has even an inch of fear for god, imagine the wrath of several. All whom you pissed off because you chose not to make offerings.” The man in front of him stuttered.
“Our citizens believe in one god, and one god only. We did not see why they should be forced to believe in more.” He let out a squeak when McCree’s fist slammed the table again.
“Again, and let me spell this out clearly for you. The god you know and believe in has no power here. That kitsune that you tried to have me kill wanted to let you know that the more you ignore the gods, the more they will grow to hate this place. And unlike having one angry god, it’s much harder to contend with several. You’re a port side down. What makes you think they won’t just make waves big enough to flood this entire town. Lightning to burn it to the ground. All because you were too thick to follow the culture of a place you live in.” Jesse adjusted his coat, allowing the glint of Peacekeeper to show. “So I’d suggest you tell everyone to get with the program. Go to the shrine, follow some ceremonies, leave an offerin’ of fruit or rice, and you’ll be fine. Of course, I’m not gonna take no for an answer. I’m going to wait in Shimada to make sure you follow exactly what I’ve said. After all, gods aren’t the only thing you should fear here.” To illustrate his point, he lifted up his hand, allowing a flame to appear in his hand, before promptly snuffing it out. The embassy leader looked almost ready to burst into tears, nodding as he wrote down everything he needed to do. McCree knew it would take a few weeks at least to make sure everything went properly, giving him ample time to gather information about creatures his guild didn’t know about while he waited. And he knew just the place to get them. Whether or not the kitsune would be receptive enough to tell was a different matter entirely.
As McCree approached the temple again, he spotted a young man in a temple outfit with a shock of green hair. It took him a moment to realize that green was not a natural color, causing him to wander over. A quick glance at the boy’s shadow told him all he needed to know. “A kitsune?” McCree asked, not bothering to try and attempt to beat around the bush. The green haired boy nodded, almost too eagerly.
“That I am. Genji Shimada, at your service.” He did a playful salute, grinning as he did. “You seem new to Japan, how long have you been here?” McCree couldn’t help but get stuck on the Kitsune’s last name. Shimada, same as Hanzo.
“I’ve been here for about.... A day?” he said, unable to exactly remember what time he had landed. “I have to say though, with a name like Shimada. You don’t happen to be related to Hanzo do you?” Genji seemed mildly bewildered for a moment.
“You’ve been here for a day and are already on first name bases with him?”
“Oh, uh, no. Just felt weird sayin’ ‘the angry Shimada who was actually rightfully angry’. Bit of a mouthful.” After all, Hanzo did have a strong case against him. Shooting his... whatever that thing was. Genji nodded, like it was common occurance for Hanzo to be angry. Made McCree wonder how many people tried to shoot at him. “Anyway, I’d be much obliged if you could point me his way.”
“Ah of course!” Genji gestured up the stairs, giving McCree vague directions to where the other Shimada brother was. Jesse nodded along, realizing that the magic in the area was a much better indicator than the muddled mess Genji provided.
“Thanks, I think I’ll be able to find him now.” McCree said, more out of politeness than sincerity. He hoped that Genji couldn’t tell. Heading up the stairs, he found the now almost familiar energy as it curled around him tugging him towards Hanzo. He appreciated that it didn’t perceive him as a threat, despite being loaded down with weapons. Magic could always sense intention, and it sensed that he didn’t want to use his weapons if he could help it. Letting it guide im, he eventually found Hanzo in the temple, meditating. In that moment, everything seemed serene, calm. A warm breeze flowed through the shrine, carrying a few leaves from outside. “So I talked to the head of the embassy” McCree said, breaking the silence, walking further into the shrine. The kitsune before him sighed, turning his attention to McCree. “I think they’ll be more receptive to following your traditions now.” He watched Hanzo’s face shift from his seemingly normal blank expression to that of confusion.
“They.. Listened to you?”
“I think anyone’d listen if they came face to face with a ‘witch’. A little flame here, the fear of god there, and you have a winnin’ combination. I’ll be staying for a couple of weeks to ensure they follow through.” McCree shifted, suddenly out of things to say. Hanzo seemed to be mulling things over, unsure how to reply.
“Why... go through so much trouble for us? I assume that those weeks will be times when you won’t be paid, yes? I doubt your embassy would be willing to pay for your accommodation while they sort things out.” McCree shook his head. Of course they wouldn’t pay. Why would they. “Well, perhaps you could work here while you fix things.” Jesse laughed.
“Does that mean I get to wear one of those outfits you and your brother were wearin’?” McCree grinned as he was shot a dirty look. “Don’t worry, I’ll wear whatever I’m told. I was also hopin’ you could teach me about your culture while I’m here. Means I won’t accidentally shoot another god messenger while I’m here.” Hanzo sighed.
“That joke almost seems in poor taste. Even if it is accurate. What about your superiors.” McCree opened his mouth to reply that the idiots in the embassy weren’t his superiors before being cut off. “The ones from your guild.” Jesse’s smile seemed to change, from being light hearted to dangerous.
“Well darlin’ I don’t ever remember mentioning a guild.” At least, he didn’t recall mentioning it. Hanzo scoffed.
“I’m a messenger to the gods. Did you think they stayed quiet.” His expression, once hard, softened. “The gods said despite my... Opinion of you, that you’re someone to trust. We will aid you with whatever you need, and out of the kindness of my heart, I will teach you our ways.” The hunter nodded, rolling his shoulders.
“Well, I’m going to have to tell my superior I’m stayin’ in Japan for a bit.” McCree looked around, looking for a still body of water. “Do you have a pond or somethin’ I can use. I need to contact the leader of our guild.” Hanzo pointed to a barrel in a corner in the room, curiosity on his face. Jesse walked over, stretching his fingers as he did. When he came to the barrel, he whispered a spell under his breath before touching the surface, disturbing the serenity. What formed out of the ripples however was a face. That of Reyes. With a blond man in his lap. “Hey Gabriel, I thought you said you weren’t dating Jack.” He grinned, watching Jack scramble off Gabe, falling over in the process, leaving a very angry Reyes in view.
“Jesse McCree what have I told you about calling without alerting me first?” There was a sigh, and a weak ‘I’m okay’ in the background.
“Well Reyes maybe if you didn’t hide things it’d be less awkward. Anyway I’m actually calling for business. The werewolf contract in Japan turned out to be a Kitsune.” McCree could see Reyes frown, trying to figure out what that word was. Behind him, Jesse could feel Hanzo, wondering if he was curious about his use of a bucket.
“What the hell is a Kitsune? We haven’t had much time to find out and catalogue every creature there seeing as America’s occupation of Japan has been short.” McCree knew the best way to explain the first part. Dragging Hanzo over, he pointed at him.
“Reyes, this is a Kitsune. Messenger to the gods here.” Hanzo seemed almost nervous of the water, hesitantly staring at the person shown in its waters. However, pride quickly won over.
“I am indeed as this man says a ‘Kitsune’. We are a mode of contact with the citizens and the gods that rule our lands.” McCree watched him run a hand through his hair, his fingers brushing up against his fox ears. “And surprisingly, one of your hunters, the one next to me, managed start the process to have your American settlers believe in our gods, not yours.” Reyes nodded thoughtfully, seeming to understand the situation. “In return for his help, I will be helping him... catalogue some of the creatures that inhabit our realm, perhaps to help you in the future. He will also be insuring that the Americans here start to believe, rather than fail to do so once he is gone.”
“Fine. Just make sure he comes back in one piece Mr....?”
“Then make sure he gets back in one piece, Mr Shimada. I’m counting on you.” With that, the connection faded, leaving their reflections in its place.
“Dammit old man didn’t let me say good bye.” McCree sighed, looking at Hanzo. “Looks like you really are stuck with me for a few weeks.” Taking off his hat, he bowed, one arm extended outwards like he was courting Hanzo. “I’ll be a pleasure to work with you, Mr Shimada.” The kitsune sighed.
“It will be interesting to work with you as well, McCree-san...”
The two months seemed to pass by quickly. McCree managed to surprise Hanzo by being a quick learner, and Hanzo surprised McCree with his gentler side. In the two months while McCree stayed in Japan, people had begun to believe, some resistant but most fearful. Much to their surprise however, they found that the gods in Japan were a lot more personal, sometimes showing up during the Japanese equivalent of mass. Most concerns for turning their back on their old god were soon quelled, when they realized that he didn’t reside in Japan. Better to follow the ones that did than the one that didn’t.
In those two months, something else had happened. Hanzo had become comfortable around McCree, even allowing McCree to call him Hanzo, a feat which had Genji gibbering about it for the last week. “You know Hanzo, I’m eventually going to have to leave.” McCree said one day as he helped tidy the shrine grounds. “Gonna miss this.” The leaves had changed from a vibrant green to a deep orange, almost reminiscent of flames. Hanzo’s tails flicked, his back turned to McCree.
“I... Will also miss this. You shocked me with how quickly you learnt. You’re surprisingly receptive to knowledge.” McCree smiled, knowing Hanzo meant it as a compliment rather than an insult. “And you seemed to have a deep caring for getting things right. It made me think perhaps not all outsiders are... Terrible.” It was another compliment. Jesse felt like he was being showered in them.
“Aww Hanzo if you keep that up, I’m gonna blush. Really, I’ll go beetroot red. It’s not all that pretty of a sight.” The yukata McCree wore rustled slightly as he moved, a breeze tickling his neck since his hair was in a ponytail that Hanzo insisted he wore. “You’re a good teacher though. And that’s not somethin’ I say lightly. Had a couple of teachers in my day and some of them were just terrible at it. You understand how to guide though. Thank you.” Moving his broom off to the side, he bowed respectfully. “You helped me navigate life here, and helped me get a ton of information on the critters here.” McCree straightened up, a soft smile on his face. “I appreciate it.” Hanzo turned bright red, quickly poofing into a cloud of smoke, showing his truest form, that of a fox. “Did you just get so embarrassed that you shifted?” Jesse struggled not to laugh, enjoying the sight in front of him. “Seems someone isn’t used to bein’ complimented.” The small fox in front of him seemed to huff, before turning back into his humanoid self.
“Not a word about this McCree. Not. A. Word.” The hunter made a zipping motion with his fingers, a sudden feeling of sadness washing over him. He would truly miss this. Being with Hanzo, learning about a new culture, living an almost peaceful life helping in the shrine... But, reality was a bitch. He had kept his word, had gathered everything to know on creatures living in Japan, and was a highly sought after hunter. The world didn’t stop just because he wanted it to. Hanzo seemed to sense what McCree was thinking, approaching him. “McCree...” A gentle touch on his arm caused McCree to focus on the shorter man. “As much as we would all love to keep you here, we can’t.” Jesse knew what he meant by we. Genji, the gods.... Hanzo himself. “You have helped more than we could have foreseen. Which means we cannot let you be stuck here. You have more people to help.” McCree swore he saw a sad look in Hanzo’s eyes. He just didn’t know what to do about it. “Jesse McCree... From all of us, we thank you.” Hanzo did not bow, instead pulling the hunter in for a hug. “Thank you.”
The boat ride back to America was one filled with a bittersweet feeling. One one hand, McCree couldn’t wait to go home, having missed his room while away for so long. On the other hand... He missed his friends from Japan. More so Hanzo, who he felt so close too it almost seemed like more. His heart ached every time he thought about him, his smile, the way he took time to help McCree understand something he wasn’t sure on due to the language barrier. The way Hanzo had looked when he curled up asleep in his lap one time, both exhausted from a long trek into the mountains. But, duty called, something he couldn’t ignore anymore. There was only one saving grace in it all. Moving over to a bowl of water on the coffee table in his cabin, he uttered a spell, then touched the water, watching the water change, showing him Hanzo. “Hey Hanzo. Miss me yet?” The kitsune was unsurprised, a smile on his lips.
“Perhaps. Though this mirror method you have proposed seems impractical.” McCree raised an eyebrow, the sounds of the ocean filling the brief silence. “After all, I cannot touch you through this.” Jesse grinned, laughing slightly.
“I’ll have to make sure to come back then. There are a couple of contracts waiting for me back home. Once I finish those up, I’ll try to race back to you.” The idea that Hanzo should visit McCree formed and died on his lips. Even if Hanzo had his brother there to care for the shrine, McCree figured there were consequences for leaving, ones he didn’t want to put Hanzo through. “Then, when I come back, I can try to learn Japanese. After all, I have a great teacher, and I think I’ll need it on my next few trips.” McCree was surprised to see a wistful look on Hanzo’s face, not used to such a sight.
“I would like that. I’ll hold you to that, hunter.”
“Well then, I best get busy.”