Takayama's Nanny Dragon

This was the day that Takayama was going to die. He knew it with a level of certainty rarely found in life; at least not until the very end. Not that he wanted to die, mind you, but after the screaming and flailing and flipping it was hard to reach any other conclusion. He was pretty sure he’d wet himself, too, which in a way was darkly funny. He’d always heard that the bladder and bowels released after death, but here he was proving them wrong. Not that he’d be able to tell anybody about it…he was going to die in about two seconds.

Two seconds would take an eternity. They say one’s life flashes before their eyes as they are about to die. It’s accurate; or accurate enough, anyways; adrenaline kicks in, the senses sharpen, and the brain kicks into overdrive trying to process a way out or at least find an answer to what went wrong.

Takayama was no different, and the instant replay on the last twenty-something years was anything but satisfying. Taka was born unlucky to a less than wealthy family. A series of unfortunate events had compounded issues and led him to make bad choices. Not that there had been good choices available; sometimes it was just a matter of picking a bad choice and hoping it was the least awful one.

“Life has many opportunities for hardship,” his grandmother had quietly lamented when he was young, “but few for prosperity.” Sobo had been right on the money about that, one.

One thing had led to another and so on and so forth had the dominoes of this dreary life toppled. When he was little, Takayama thought he’d get all the power and control when he grew up. He was going to die before thirty but he’d never tasted the promised power of age; he’d only lost the comforts of childhood along the way.

Such was real life. By junior high he’d learned that most adults were just faking it; trying to look happy or at least resolved because it was the only way one could function. Money and power were given, not earned, and the only thing that didn’t cost money was dying.


He’d been hiking along the old and nearly forgotten mountain path because it was free. He’d been bored and depressed and thought the fresh air and exercise would have done him some good. He didn’t think that old ledge would give way on his way back down. It showed no signs of instability on his way up.

No such luck. Now, with his body tumbling through the air, a second or so away from being dashed on the rocks, Takayama caught one last glimpse at Machi, the city where he’d spent most of his terrible life. Its cold skyscrapers jutted up to Heaven higher than even the mountain, but lacked the natural beauty of what was about to be his doom. He thought he could make out the building where he’d just bombed his latest job interview.

If there had been any air left in his lungs from the screaming, Takayama would have laughed. He was about to die penniless. Literally penniless. He had a negative balance in his bank account and had thrown away his final few scraps of pocket change into the offering bowl at that old overgrown shrine near the top.

Call it superstition. Call it nihilism. Call it whatever you want. It’s not like he had enough to take the bus back home when he got back to town.

It’s not like he’d be going back to town ever again. Not in this life. Time to find out if reincarnation was real or not.

Takayama spent his last milliseconds in this life looking up, his body limp so that the ground would have a nice clean break. At least he’d die viewing the sky.

A serpentine blur above him, a jet stream of pure blue, like the sky getting in front of the clouds instead of the other way around. Jutting, zig zagging tree branches with no trunk to call home. A roar more fearsome and primal than any tiger’s. A gust of gold air. Then…darkness.

Birds chirping. Air stirring. What?

Power lines humming. Rail cars rumbling. Car horns honking. Huh?

Footsteps in the hallway. People talking on their phones. Walls just thick enough to obscure what is being said, but not that someone is talking, or moving, or eating, or having sex. Faint smells of mildew that the brain quickly filtered out in order to keep its own sanity. How?

Home. Takayama was home. He knew it before he even opened his eyes. How was that possible? Why wasn’t he dead? Or if not dead, why wasn’t he bleeding out on the ground or at least in the hospital? Why was he home?!

As he opened his eyes, another, more important question came to his mind. Namely, ‘who was this lovely, brown haired woman smiling down at him and why was his head in her lap?’

“Good afternoon, Takayama-kun,” she said. “Did you enjoy your nap?” It sounded so familiar in tone, as if this stranger here in his apartment cradling his head was the most natural thing in the world.

Dumbstruck, Takayama gazed up into her eyes, entranced by their unreal beauty. One would expect someone with such natural looking brown hair to have matching eyes, but two dazzling blue orbs stared down at him. The eyes captivated him for only a moment before his own wandered up to her forehead.

“Yaaaagh!” he shrieked, and jumped to his feet. His feet were bare. He’d have to deal with that later. Right in this moment, he couldn’t take his eyes off of the jutting protrusions coming out of her skull. “Horns?!” he yelled. “You have horns! HOOOOOOOOOORNS!”

They were closer to antlers, in actuality. Twisted, branching, almost gnarled things, like what a proud stag might have in its first spring. Somehow, atop the slender brown haired woman, they seemed almost dainty. It was bizarre, in a way. She sat there comfortably on his futon, wearing a white shirt and a bright blue jumper dress that came down to her ankles and ended in comfortable looking white sneakers. Her plain brown hair came down to her shoulders, and framed her face in a way that made her bright blue eyes pop.

She had a beauty to her, but nothing that would drive men wild; more of a comforting girl next door, or a nurturing big sister vibe. Takayama could vaguely remember being in preschool and having a teacher around the same age. He didn’t know how old she was; when you’re three everybody that can pick you up reads as an adult. But he remembered really liking her over the old granny types and it wasn’t until much much later that he realized that she was probably his first bout of innocent puppy-love.

This strange woman sitting on his futon gave exactly the same kind of vibes.

Except for the horns….

“Hm?” the stranger said. She reached up with a delicate looking hand and touched the bony growths as if she’d forgotten they existed; much like how it was easy to forget one’s belly button until directly reminded. “Why yes, sweetie, they are,” she chirped softly. “I do have horns. Very good!” Evidently, the fact that she had them didn’t disturb her. If anything they were just a teachable moment.

Utter disbelief bubbled up inside him and what felt like a thousand questions spilled out. “Who are you, how do you know my name, what are you doing in my apartment, how did we get here, am I dead, why am I not dead-?” They all came out as one giant runaway of thought.

At the prospect of being dead, Takayama’s eyes managed to finally pry themselves away from the mysterious woman and down to himself. Just like with the fall, time slowed down for an instant while his adrenaline soaked brain processed all of the sensory data available at once. Was he bruised? Bleeding? Transparent? It was still very possible he was dead, after all. Being dead would explain the chill around his legs. But he had to pee. Dead people didn’t have to pee, did they?

In less than a breath even more information flooded his synapses yet again. He was wearing his same light red breezy t-shirt from his hike up the mountain, but he was barefoot. And not wearing pants. What he was wearing, however, was white and puffy and crinkled when he moved even a little bit. “WHY AM I IN DIAPER???”

LIke an incantation the words spoken red faced and aloud caused time to speed back up to its usual pace. Takayama found himself standing bow legged thanks to the diaper taped snugly over his hips. Not knowing what else to do, the young man did his best to cover his shame, crossing his hands over the massive diaper.

The gesture did nothing to hide the undergarment. He’d tried to close his legs, but the padding was so thick that his knees couldn’t even touch. The only thing he succeeded in doing was covering up a few of the embarrassing cartoon prints around his crotch!

How?! Why?! He didn’t even know they made baby diapers this big! He didn’t know that there were babies this big!

The strange woman giggled quietly behind her hand, as if his humiliation and shock was merely quaint; endearing even. “You don’t need to be embarrassed,” she told him. “You don’t have anything I haven’t seen before.” It was like something his mother would say when she walked in on him in the shower growing up.

“BUT WHY?!” Takayama wasn’t normally so loud, but extraordinary times called for extraordinary volumes. The fact that he had a diaper on also made him uncomfortably aware of how much he needed to go to the bathroom.

Remaining seated, and perfectly calm yet cheery, the horned lady spoke up. “My you’re a curious little thing!” she said. “So full of questions. Even for a human you’re an inquisitive little chatterbox.”

A bead of uncomfortable sweat formed on Takayama’s brow. “Human?” The designation implied that she wasn’t human.

“Oh dear,” the woman giggled. “I guess It isn’t obvious.”

“What isn’t?” Takayama asked.

Instead of clarifying, the woman opted to show him. She stood up from the futon, took a deep breath, and then…


A cloud engulfed the tiny apartment, and the smokey, flowery scent of incense invaded Takayama’s nostrils. The boards groaned with the added stress of sudden weight and a current of warm wind blew past his face as new mass rapidly expanded and pushed air particles out of the way.

Just as quickly as it had appeared, the smoke dissipated, and Takayama’s eyes beheld something even more unbelievable than a pretty girl with horns or a comically big diaper. A dragon- a massive serpent with legs and a fearsome maw that belonged on something prehistoric- now stood where the young woman once was. More than that, it was also in the tiny kitchenette in his apartment, and its tail was in the bathroom. The massive, sky blue scaled monster wound and coiled around the whole of Takayama’s apartment.

“I had to take another form so I could fit into your home.” In another bizarre twist, the same dainty, feminine voice came out of the dragon’s mouth. The jagged, branch-like horns seemed more appropriate to this form. “I’m Kurai, by the way.”

“Kurai?” Takayama echoed. He reached around in the back of his brain. Why did that seem familiar? That was the name of the trail he’d just watched. No… “That’s the name of the mountain!”

“Mhm,” the woman chirped. “That’s right. I’m the spirit of that mountain.”

The embarrassed color drained from Takayama’s face. The great beast surrounding him, staring did not look like a ‘Kurai’. “Oh,” he whispered, suddenly very, very quiet. What else could he say? He could deny it, and shout that dragons were not real, but why deny his senses?


The smoke coalesced around the serpentine spirit beast and collapsed in on itself. A second later, standing in front of the futon in her plain white shirt and blue jumper was the same pretty brown haired woman before. “So I think that answers that question,” she said. “What were the other ones?”

Seeing the impossible happen right in front of his eyes had an oddly calming effect on the young man. His mind gripped even harder to the calm and rational to counterbalance the existential panic that was looming up in the back of his mind. “Why are we back here?” he asked again. “I thought I was going to die back on that mountain.”

The dragon-woman (wow that was so weird thinking of her like that) nodded patiently and smoothed out her dress. “Why wouldn’t I save you?” she asked. “You left an offering at my shrine. So I caught you.” Something so amazing and impossible spoken so casually.

Takayama nodded, feeling so overwhelmed that he was oddly calm. “And my apartment?”

“Your wallet had your address on it,” the dra…-Kurai, she had a name- said. “I took you home. Next time, your Mommy should just pin a note to your shirt.”

The sudden burst of gratitude burst past his pride and bewilderment concerning his state of dress or little jests implying he was a child. Instead, incredibly bravely considering the circumstances, Takayama waddled up to the woman and threw his arms around her shoulders. “Thank you,” he almost sobbed. “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! You saved my life! I’m so incredibly grateful!” The Buddhist proverb about the tiger and the strawberry came to mind. His life wasn’t much, but it was still his, and knowing how close he’d been to losing it all made him.

Kurai petted his hair and quietly guided both of them back to the couch that doubled as Takayama’s bed. When he’d calmed down enough, he had the wherewithal to physically separate himself from his mystical savior. “Sorry,” he said. “I don’t usually get so emotional.”

“It’s okay,” Kurai replied with absolute care and kindness. “Emotions can be hard at first.” She added, “You’ve had a really eventful day.”

She had no idea. Literally. How rare was it for a human to meet a real life dragon? Rare enough that they were considered mythical fairy tales. The stuff for children’s puppet shows and storybooks. His eyes tried to dart down to his feet, but zeroed in again on the diaper instead.

“Why the diaper, though?” he asked. “And where’d you get it?

Kurai cocked an eyebrow. Her beautiful blue eyes unblinking. “Hm? When I caught you I saw that you’d had an accident,” she said simply. “Your pants were soaking wet. I thought you’d wriggled out of yours or something so I decided to help you.” She smiled and said, “It was no bother at all. I just had to pop into a store. They didn’t have any in your size but I fixed that.”

To illustrate her point she reached over the back of the futon and pulled out a package. It was vaguely rectangular and covered in flimsy plastic. The package had a picture of a smiling baby on it, and the label indicated that there were meant to be twelve diapers total inside. It was just a travel pack, the kind sold in gas stations and convenience stores for emergencies.

Unlike something meant for babies, however, the package was so large it could have doubled as a large throw pillow or a small couch cushion.

That was because much like his horned savior shortly before, the package’s contents had dramatically increased in size. The top had been shredded open and two diapers wilted out of the hole like tissues in a box. They were still tightly packed in a glance, but at least one was missing and it didn’t take a genius to figure out where it was.

Takayama’s jaw almost came unhinged. So this really was a baby diaper he was wearing! He wouldn’t have believed it but moments ago the woman sitting next to him had been covered in blue scales and could have crushed him beneath her claws or gored him on her horns. “What do you mean ‘pop into a store?” he whimpered, cursing himself for asking.

“I carried you in and asked.” Kurai shrugged. “There was a nice older lady who helped me pick them out. Told me everything I needed to know. Helped me get the most absorbent and comfy brand. She told me those are the kind her grandchildren wear. No safety pins needed. Isn’t that just neat? She walked me through changing you and said you looked very peaceful and cute after I put it on.”

Immediately, Takayama knew he’d be spending the rest of his life hiding his face around little old ladies in convenience stores. The only words that he could muster were a stammering “I…I…I…I…”

Oblivious to his emotional distress, Kurai’s head started turning as she carefully scanned the room. “Though I’ve been looking around and I haven’t found any more since we got here. Do you not have any more diapers, Takayama? Are you out?”

Mortified, Takayama rose to his feet and stood as straight as he could in an attempt to salvage his dignity. “I don’t wear diapers! I’m not a baby!”

“But you were wet…” Kurai countered. Again, she said it so simply, so much like it was a matter of fact; a minor inconvenience at best instead of something he should be ashamed of.

He wasn’t ashamed, but not in the way she was implying. “I fell off a cliff! Who wouldn’t pee themselves?!”

Brilliant blue eyes blinked and Kurai stroked her human chin. “Hmmm, I guess that’s a fair point.” She looked around the tiny, admittedly cluttered room. “But why is this place so messy? She asked. Are you sure you’re not a little boy who’s just playing house?”

Not for the first time since he woke up, did Takayama feel intense shame. He was never the most organized or particularly cleanly. “Ummm?”

“Even if you’re not a baby,” Kurai said, “you’re definitely having trouble taking care of yourself.” He felt the full weight of her gaze on him and looked away. She gasped and the sharp intake of air turned into another girlish giggle. “Look at you!” she explained, “You say you’re not a baby, but you’re already wet!”

“Huh? No I’m-…” Takayama looked down at the diaper. He suddenly realized that he hadn’t felt the urge to pee since Kurai had transformed into a giant horned monster. She’d scared him so badly that he’d wet his pants again.

“The-line-turned-blue!” Kurai said in a sing-song voice. “I-know-what-that-means! The lady at the store told me.” She rose and started taking steps toward him. “Looks like a lot, too. Let’s get you changed, okay?”

Changed? Takayama did not like where this was headed. “Um…that’s okay,” he said, taking a step back. “That’s not needed Miss dragon lady ma’am.”

“Please,” she said, still coming closer. “Call me Kurai. How about you lay down? We can talk after you’re dry and clean.”

His apartment was so small that he had no hope of getting away from her. His back was pressed against the door. “Th-th-that’s really not necessary, Kurai.”

“Oh?” Kurai said, clearly not believing him. “Do you mean you’re really okay with sitting and talking and playing in a wet diaper?”

“What? No!”

“That doesn’t sound like something an adult would say,” she teased. “For a second I thought you might be a big boy and that you didn’t have any diapers left because you were potty training. But if you’re so determined to stay wet…”

The young man felt his heart jackhammering inside of him. “That’s not what I mean at all!”

“We can keep playing and talking,” the horned woman said firmly. “After I change you.”


The pounding from the other side of the door was so hard that Takayma felt his sternum rattling around. “Takayama!” a growling, deep throated voice thundered, “open up! You’re three days past due!”

“It’s my landlord!” Takayama yelped.

“Land? Lord?” Kurai frowned, as if the very concept was foreign to her. Being a dragon, it very well could have been. “I thought you humans would have been done with feudalism by- Hey! Where did you go?”

Takayama poked his head out from behind the futon. “We’re not here! Hide!” He shouldn’t have been able to sneak past the dragon in humanoid form, especially not in a bulging, sagging, sopping wet diaper. It’s miraculous what can be accomplished when one is afraid and the rent is due. The diaper itself was providing extra incentive. “I can’t let him see me like this…” he hissed.

“Oh silly!” Kurai shook her head. “Wanting to play hide and seek?”


“Takayama!” His landlord shouted. “I can hear you in there! Come out or get thrown out!”

“Hmph. Someone needs to learn some manners,” Kurai said. She reached for the doorknob and Takayama’s blood ran cold. What was she going to do to his landlord? Eat him? Set him on fire? Put him in a diaper, too? Takayama was pretty sure any of those options were illegal.

“No,” he called from his hiding spot, not brave enough to step forward, “don’t.”

Too late. The door flung open, revealing a balding middle aged man with a beer gut and a bowling shirt, stinking of cigar smoke. “Takaya-!” The landlord stopped when he saw Kurai. “Who are you?”

“I’m sorry,” Kurai said, folding her hands in front of her, politely. “Takayama can’t come out to play right now. He just woke up from a nap after almost falling off a cliff.”

The landlord looked flabbergasted, hearing his tenant referred to, as if he were a small child, understandably caught him off guard. “Huh?”

“I was about to change him and get him an afternoon snack,” Kurai said. “Come back later with a note from your Mommy and you can play if you want to.”

The man’s face fell for an instant but he quickly recovered. “Look, lady, I don’t know who you think you are, but I’m here for Takayama’s rent. I heard you and him talking and if he doesn’t pay me my rent I’m throwing his deadbeat ass out on the street.”

“Rent?” Kurai said, curiously. “What is rent?”

A landlord being asked what rent is is like a baseball player being asked what a bat was. It’s such a part of their daily lives that the concept of people not knowing the word was confusing to him. “What do you mean ‘what is rent’? I own this place, and if that loser doesn’t pay me what he owes me, he’s in for a world of hurt and a night of cold air!”

The horned woman nodded. “Pay?” she said. “You want money?”

“Yes! Pay!” the landlord barked. “Money! Now!”

“Can I pay you the money instead?”

“I don’t care if the friggin’ Queen of Sheba gives me my money. I just want my money!”

“And you’ll leave us alone if I give you money?” The dragon didn’t sound afraid or angry; more like an adult trying to understand the rules to an overly complicated and nonsensical children’s game.

The landlord smacked his forehead. “For a month, yeah. Then the rent is due again.”

“Ooooooh!” Kurai said, seeming to finally understand. “Okay. I can do that.” From behind the futon and inside the hallway, respectively, Takayama and his cantankerous landlord watched as Kurai’s mouth opened wide. “Ug…ug….ugh…” Both men stood and watched, perplexed while uncomfortable gagging noises came up and out of the girl’s mouth.

“Hey…what are you?” but the landlord cut himself off when Kur reached down her own throat down to the elbow. There was a sickening wet sound when her arm came back up, and in her hand was a gleaming white pearl the size of a ping-pong ball.

Takayama’s landlord looked like he was about to have a heart attack. For the first time that day, his countenance was of someone who had just witnessed the impossible, yet his gaze was fixed solidly onto the massive pearl in Kurai’s dainty hand and not her horns or mouth. “Is…is that thing real…?”

Kurai placed the still wet pearl in his hand. “Yes. Will this be enough so that Takayama doesn’t need to play rent this month?”

The landlord looked down at his palm and back up to the woman who had just regurgitated. “Uh…yeah…”

“Good,” Kurai said. “See you next month.” She didn’t wait for a reply. Instead she slammed the door right in his face. If the grouch objected, he didn’t say anything.

Takayama jumped back over the futon, not caring how ridiculous he looked “What was that?!” he asked.

Not understanding, Kurai restated the events that had just transpired. “He wanted money, so I gave it to him so he would go away.”

“Yeah, but where did you get that money from?!”

The brown haired woman with antlers waved the question off. “Oh, I have lots of pearls. They form naturally in me, so it’s no trouble getting rid of them. I hope it makes him happy.”

“But that pearl must have been worth a fortune!”

“Silly Taka-chan,” Kurai laughed. “I’m a dragon. A spirit. Spirits don’t care about money.”

“Then why did you care about the money I left at that shrine?!” he demanded.

Kurai laughed again. “It’s not about money, it’s about sacrifice. People who have a lot must give a lot. An emperor has so much, he’d have to give up his country for someone like me to notice. But the poor and unfortunate have so little to give that they lose so much more when they do.” She walked towards him and tickled him under his chin with her index finger. “Those coins were among your last worldly possessions, so it was a very big tribute!” Her voice went squeaky and she pinched his cheeks. “Yes it was! Such a big tribute! One that I’m enthusiastically honored and bound to repay!”

Takayama pulled back away from her pinching fingers. “How big?” he rubbed his sore cheeks.

“Honestly?” Kurai said, grinning. “I thought you might have been a child at first. Usually those are the only ones that have tributes even close to that level, since they don’t own anything. Yours felt much much bigger, though.”

“See?!” Takayama said. “That proves I’m not a kid! So all this talk about babies and diapers is unnecessary.
Kurai leaned forward and gave him a playful, mischievous grin. “I know you’re not a child. Not just any child. I figured it out.”

Takayama allowed himself a sigh of relief. “Oh. Good.” A weak smile started to form on his face.

“You’re an orphan!”

The twenty something man was so taken aback that he fell down to the floor, his fall broken by the fluffy padding taped to his bottom. “Wha-?!”

“That’s why your gift was so good!” Kurai explained. “You’re not just a baby, you’re an orphan baby! You don’t have anyone to take care of you or love you. No toys or allowance. You probably had to beg in the streets for those few coins that you gave me. It was so precious and sweet!” She was starting to tear up with joy.
“My parents are both alive!” Takayama insisted, feeling quite offended.

The river of tears pouring from Kurai’s sky blue eyes suddenly doubled. “Oh no! An abandoned orphan! That’s even sadder! You poor thing! It all makes complete sense, now!” She was more than just a spirit or a dragon. She was also a crazy person. Her tears stopped as quickly as they’d started. “Don’t you worry now, little Taka-chan! You’re not alone anymore. You’ve got Nanny Kurai to take care of you!” Her playful grin turned evil. “Now let’s get you changed.”

Pride and panic coalesced into a moment of inspiration. Takayama looked towards a laundry basket a few feet away. Then he looked to the open bathroom door. “Um…okay,” he said. “But do you have baby wipes?”

The dragon lady standing over him tilted her head? “You mean those flimsy rags that you throw away after wiping?”

“Yes!” he yelped. “Those!”

Kurai snapped her fingers. “Darn it. You’re right! I forgot to get some at the store. They seemed very convenient, too.” She leaned over, but at least her hands were aiming for his armpits and not his diaper. “You’re wet, but your diaper will hold for a quick trip to the store.”

“Or…” Takayama said, finally a step ahead. “You could just use a washcloth.”

She followed his gaze over to the bathroom. “Yes,” she smiled. “That’s a very good idea for the short term. So clever!” Kurai stood up, leaving Takayama on the floor and she walked towards the bathroom. “I’ll make sure to warm it up, too,” she clucked. “I’m sure that will feel much nicer.”

She found a wet washcloth at the bottom of the tub and rinsed it in the sink, adding a healthy amount of soap. A slight puff of air from her lips warmed the water enough so that it would be pleasant on his delicate skin. She rang the rag out, careful to use only enough force so that it wasn’t dripping. “Okay,” she called. “Let’s get you sorted-” But when she turned around and exited the bathroom, the boy was nowhere to be seen. The only clue left was an open window leading to a fire escape. “Hm? Where did he go?”

Out on the streets, Takayama was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. “This is all crazy,” he said to himself, running as fast and as far as he could while still trying to seem inconspicuous among the milling crowds of people going about their business. “I’m hallucinating. This is a fever dream.” Even he didn’t believe the words he was saying. On some fundamental level he knew everything that had happened was real. Denying helped.

“Or I’m dead and this is Hell.” He took a moment to stop looking over his shoulder, and down at his pants. “Maybe not Hell. Limbo?” That didn’t sound quite right either. “Maybe this is one of the Samsara Realms and I am preta…”

He sounded crazy. Felt crazy, too. He certainly looked crazy enough. His hair was disheveled, and he was running around on hot asphalt completely barefoot. The baggy red shorts he slipped on over the diaper weren’t baggy enough and anyone who looked at him with any kind of scrutiny could likely see just how puffy and round his crotch and backside were compared to the rest of him.

He’d been too hurried to grab his shoes, and too afraid that the crazy dragon lady would hear him ripping the tapes off his diaper. Velcro was very loud and dragons probably had excellent hearing. So he was left ducking, weaving, and waddling, while looking over his shoulder looking every bit the toddler who had run away from his mommy.

“Mom!” Takayama said to himself. “I can go to my parents’ place! They can hide me!” He looked back over his shoulder anyways. “But where do I go,” he wondered, “to take off my dia-?”


For the third time that day, Takayama fell. This time it was because he’d smacked himself straight into a brick wall in human form. For the second time that day his fall was broken by the cushion of pulp and padding he’d been forced to wear. “Hey!” the stranger said. “Watch where you’re going you…! Takayama?”

This was no stranger. Splay legged on the ground, Takayama gazed up at who he had just collided with. A mountain of a man with a chiseled chin and a scar on his face. Beside him were young men close to or only slightly older than Takayama, dressed much more nicely than he or most people his age could afford to.

Just as he had with Kurai’s horns, Takayama couldn’t help but stare at their left pinkies; each one missing the tip down to the first knuckle. These were not friends.

“Hey Itsuki,” Takayama gulped. “It’s good to see you.”

The men circled around Takayama, wolves cutting off a prey’s escape. The biggest one, Itsuki, reached down and yanked Takayama up to his feet. “You too, bud. You too.” He held Takayama close to him, draping his tree trunk arms over Takayama’s shoulders. “We were just over at your place but you were out. Let’s catch up.”

They were already walking into an alley. Itsuki’s lackeys in front and behind them, providing a screen. “Sure,” Takayama mumbled, feigning that he had a choice.

Getting the attention of a magical spirit beast was beginning to look very tempting right then. So was falling off a mountain cliff. Life was filled with opportunities for hardship, and too often the best choice still wasn’t a particularly good one.

Getting in deep with loan sharks so he could pay rent and still eat had been one such choice. It would have been fine, he’d told himself, as long as he kept his job. The company had decided to make cutbacks a month later, leaving Takayama to pay the loan back with part of their own money. There was always the matter of interest.

A cinderblock of a fist made its way into Takayama’s gut the second they were all in the alleyway. “That’s for making us look for you,” Itsuki said, his voice glacier-cold. Takayama almost collapsed but the other thugs held him up.

A second fist upside his head made Takayama go deaf for a moment, leaving him unable to hear the mean spirited snickers of his assailants. “That’s for bumping into me.” Itsuki said some more but it was hard to hear it past the sudden ringing in his ears.

Stupidly, Takayama turned his head this way and that, hoping for a miracle. To his right was the way he’d been dragged in. To his left was a dead end. That was fitting.

“Yo,” one of Itsuki’s little henchmen snickered. “Is this guy wearing a diaper?” Takayama wasn’t given the benefit of a rebuttal. No sooner was the question posed than it was answered the old fashioned way, leaving his shorts puddled around his ankles.

He was hurting too much to feel humiliated, and was too dizzy and weak to look away. He couldn’t even pull his shorts back up as his arms were being held.

“Doesn’t the Kageru gang run one of those weird kink brothels?” Another of the street toughs asked his friends. “How much you wanna bet he was there?”

The man mountain, Itsuki, shrugged. “Hey kid, no judgment. You can get your kicks however you want.” He wagged a finger that was the size of Itsuki’s nose. “But you should be paying back what you owe first. With your interest you can’t afford to be getting your ass powdered.” He grabbed Takayama’s face and started pressing the back of his skull up against the alley. Takayama thought he could hear his bones cracking. “Can you?”

“No, Itsuki,” Takayama said. “I can’t. I’m sorry!”

“‘Sorry’ don’t pay my bills, kid.” Through the spaces between the gangster’s fingers, Takayama saw his assailant reach into his pocket. The knife he produced looked more like a scalpel in the man’s ham hock fists. “‘Sorry’ don’t keep your kidneys, either.”

Takayama slammed his eyes closed. Falling off that cliff would have been better…

"Yo guys,” one of Inati’s minions said. “We got company…”

Standing in the alleyway, head held high, wearing a white shirt and blue jumper dress was a pretty brown haired woman with the most piercing blue eyes and oddly enough a pair of horns protruding from out her forehead. One fist was tightly clenched. The other held a new pack of baby wipes.

“What is this despicable display?” Kurai demanded, marching forward. She was fearless, because of course she was.

“Who are you,” Itsuki asked. “His mom?” It wasn’t funny but it got a laugh from the assembled underlings. “Nah,” Itsuki said. “You’re too young and pretty. His girlfriend?” That earned even more laughter from his band of sycophants.

He took his hand off of Takayama’s face and swaggered over to her. “Let me guess. Little punk skipped out on paying you, too.”

“If you must know,” Kurai spat, “he ran away from home when I was about to change his diaper.”
The alleyway erupted with laughter; so much so that Takayama was allowed to slink back down to the alley floor.

The horns started to pulsate with crackling energy, but the gangsters kept right on laughing. TheWhy did no one but him seem to notice the horns? More importantly, why hadn’t anyone noticed her shadow? There in the alleyway, with the sun spotlighting her perfectly, Kurai’s shadow did not match her silhouette.

Itsuki waved the knife tauntingly. He was a head taller than her in her present form and had no idea that she had others. “Look lady, I don’t know what he owes you, but I”m damn sure he owes our boss a lot more. So why don’t you piss off and let the men talk? We’re not gonna kill him this time, but he needs a reminder to keep up with his payments. You can have what’s left of him after we-”


Itsuki didn’t get to finish his sentence. With a single, openhanded slap thundered like a cannon and sent all three hundred pounds of Itsuki’s pure muscle flipping end over end like dime through the air until he left a man mountain sized dent in the dead end wall. The only thing that signaled he might be alive was the low rumbling groan he emitted while his body skidded down to the floor.

Takayama looked up and over at Kurai. The woman’s bright blue eyes glowed hot red and her horns sparked with lightning. Before he lost consciousness, Takayama heard the dragon lady say one word. “Unacceptable.”

Takayama was falling again, tumbling through the air. Any second now his body would be dashed upon the rocks. But as time slowed down he realized how miserable his life had been up to that moment.

Instead of the sad acceptance of his fate, a different, almost content feeling washed over him. Something warm and cozy. Pleasant even. It was almost as if he was swaddled in warm comforting blankets.

“Come on,” a now familiar voice coaxed him. “Can’t have you sleeping all day, now.”

Takayama opened his eyes and saw a perfectly cheery and content Kurai smiling down at him. His head was back in her lap with her deadly yet delicate fingers running through his hair. “That’s right. Two naps is more than enough for one day, I think.”

“Where am I?” Takayama asked. That’s what he’d meant to ask, but the massive rubber bulb of the pacifier he’d been suckling on impossibly slurred his speech beyond recognition.

Kurai seemed to understand him, anyway. “It’s okay,” she cooed at him. “You’re safe back home. Your Nanny Kurai made those awful men go away. They won’t be bothering you anymore.” She sat him up enough so that she could wrap her arms around his torso and pull him in for a hug. Unlike Itsuki’s embrace, this one had no malice behind it.

“Fankoo,” he mumbled. Looking down at himself, Takayama realized that he was no longer in a diaper. Correction: He was no longer in just a diaper. He was also wearing a light blue onesie that matched her jumper, a yellow bib was tied around his neck, too. Then there was the pacifier. Interestingly, he noticed, his tiny apartment looked cleaner than it had ever been; possibly cleaner than it had before he’d moved in.

“Your life is very troublesome, Taka-Chan,” the dragon in human form said. “I think you need someone to look after you.” She hugged him a little harder and that warm cozy feeling washed over him again.

Takayama hugged her back. What choice did he have? It might be nice to have a pretty Nanny Dragon to help him keep awful people away while he put his life together. “Mkay,” he slurred over his pacifier.

Like his impending doom, that moment of contentment stretched out longer to him than was scientifically possible. Also like his earlier brush with death, it was not meant to last. Takayama’s nose twitched.

THAT SMELL!!! Only one thing smelled like that! And it was coming from Takayama!

Kurai stood up from the futon, and brought Takayama with her. She was so strong that she held him out away from her, keeping his feet dangling. “Uh oh!” she cooed. “I think I’ve got a stinky silly baby on my hands!” She looked absolutely proud and ecstatic just in saying it.

The humiliated young man spit out his pacifier. “What? Why?!” Then he asked, “What happened? What did you do?!”

With no effort, she transported him down to a changing mat on the floor. She’d done even more shopping while he’d fainted. “You seemed really stressed. I just wanted to help you relax,” Kurai told him. “And then I realized that somebody tried to teach you to go potty before. That’s why you’re so confused and fussy.” She laughed, mostly to herself. “How silly! A baby doesn’t need to know how to go potty!” With one hand she reached for a fresh diaper. With the other she popped open a package of baby wipes. “So I just did a little magic and pop, pop, pop,” each utterance of pop accompanied the unfastening of his onesie, “and bye bye potty training!”

“Why?!” he asked.

His indignation did nothing to stop her from shimming the onesie up past his belly button, revealing a thoroughly used diaper. “Why would it be a problem? You don’t use the potty anyway.”

“My potty training was one of the few things I had!” Takayama shrieked. “Practically the only thing!” To his horror and frustration, Takayama realized that he couldn’t even remember the steps used in going to the bathroom. He was a literal blank slate as far as toileting went.

“It was!” Kurai agreed. “That’s what made it so sweet!” She blew raspberries into his tummy. Much to Takayama’s, he felt a little more pee sprinkle out of him. “Don’t worry. You’ll get it back when you’re ready. Until then, my widdle Taka-chan is gonna have his Miss Kurai to take care of him.”

The sound of giant velcro tapes coming undone could be heard through the paper thin walls of the apartment complex. So could Takayama’s ensuing tantrums. Some little ones just hated getting their diapers changed, Kurai supposed.

That day was the day Takayama experienced a very strange backwards form of reincarnation? In a figurative sense, it felt that everything before today no longer mattered in Takayama’s life. He was starting life from the beginning again. Everything before this moment no longer really mattered, and that there would be many more changes- both literal and figurative- to come.

(The End)

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