“Trash!” she shrieked, hurling another rotten fruit in Aiko’s direction.
After a month of this, you’d think her aim would have improved, even a little, Aiko thought as she loosened the hold between the broken china and bent cutlery that made up her body. The pieces of herself rearranged to fit between the gap between the wall and the restaurant’s industrial freezer. They didn’t resume their normal configuration until she got to her nest in the crawlspace in the wall.
Once inside Aiko examined the filleting knife that served as her sword. Satisfied her weapon was as sharp as ever, she laid it down and examined herself. She hadn’t lost too many chips this time, but the crack on her breastplate had gotten bigger. Aiko could swap it out any time she liked, but couldn’t bring herself to do it. It was a gift from the original owner of the restaurant.
Aiko kept the restaurant free from pests, from hobgoblins to roaches, for a decade. Of course she didn’t expect the new owner to salute her, or even sit and share stories and sake with her. But to have her cracks and dents earned through battle mocked! She didn’t have any other place to go, but she refused to linger where she was disrespected.
She was contemplating which of her personal effects to take with her, when she heard a rapping on the wall. Aiko picked up her knife and went out. Tucked into the space between the freezer and the wall was a paper cup with sake, and a note. “Dear General, please stay.” It was signed by all of the kitchen staff.
Aiko folded the note as tightly as she could and tucked it in the crack of her breastplate. She took the sake home, and placed the paper cup in a place of honor among her things.
Seto-taisho by Matthew Meyer
Find more of his amazing art and fun facts about yokai
Song Choice: Woman Warriors by Soldier Hard
Process Note: Aiko is a type of of yokai (Japanese faery creature for lack of a better translation) known as a seto-taishoo, a little soldier made of broken kitchen things.
This short story was inspired by the prompt given at Imaginary Gardens With Real Toads: Mythical Prejudice, where we were asked to explore prejudice from the point of view of a mythical creature who is part of our modern world.