Youkai are a collection of related elemental creatures somehow connected to Spirits and found in and around their haunts. Unlike the Spirits they dwell with (but largely ignore), Youkai are sapient and possess free will.
The process by which Youkai are born may be a consequence of the same Spirit being embodied too many times or some Ancient artifact running amok. Most likely, however, it is a simple natural process related to that which leads to the appearance of Spirits in the first place. Youkai territories consist of the area around a haunt, lending this theory further credence.
Unlike Spirits, which are completely incorporeal, Youkai are tangible creatures, albeit with no meaningful biology. Youkai have no need for food, drink, or sleep, though this doesn’t stop them from pursuing all three purely for the sake of pleasure. Youkai also use tools and wear clothing (the latter about as frequently hand-made as stolen or extorted from mortals). However they reproduce, it isn’t biological. (Only Oni even possess the necessary equipment to do so.)
It is impossible to truly harm a Youkai by physical means; only magic will have a lasting effect. Youkai can be slashed, cut, or stabbed, but this will only cause them pain (and probably enrage them). Youkai are also completely immune to magic of their own element, though they don’t have any protection from its physical manifestations; Oni are immune to Earth spells but could be buried or pinned by rock. As immortal beings they cannot be affected by psionics either.
The psyche of a Youkai is a curious thing. All Youkai are sharply territorial, though whether this manifests as aggressive negotiation or homicidal rage varies by individual. (Human-appearing Youkai are as likely as nonhuman-appearing to be violent.) Only experience will tell whether the Youkai inhabiting a given territory can be negotiated with.
It does not help that emotionally unstable personality disorder is absolute among Youkai. The majority are also antisocial and solipsistic, not really comprehending or caring about the fragility of mortal life.
In other ways Youkai have the same general emotional state a human mage would during severe personality distortion from the same element. Since they live with these problems constantly and accept them as part of daily life, Youkai are sometimes better at handling them than mages are. (In practice, Youkai who find a way of coping, particularly those who design compensations into their society, dramatically outlast those who don’t.)
The mind of a Youkai is also sharply directed. Their practical minds are as laser-focused as their emotional lives, and any given Youkai can be counted upon to have hobbies bordering on obsessions. Tengu have a tendency to garden, for instance, while kappa love novel human inventions and developments. The presence of a hobby stimulus can, ironically, make a Youkai less able to concentrate, as examples of their pet subject are a constant distraction.
The singular nature of Youkai emotion can be dangerous to those who manage to befriend the creatures. The more a Youkai associates with non-Youkai and the more exposure they have to complex psychologies, the more likely they are to begin experiencing those emotions themselves through deliberate exploration or overexposure.
A Youkai experiencing emotions contrary to its elemental nature tends to panic, frequently blaming others for “tainting” or “poisoning” it. This can lead to violence and, if the Youkai continues to resist, eventual insanity. If successfully talked down the Youkai can eventually integrate the new emotion into their psyche (though it will still be uncomfortable and “icky” to experience).
This raises rather significant questions about “default” Youkai psychology, as the race is clearly capable of having a wide range of emotional experiences. Left to their own devices, though, remain almost caricatures of human traits. The similarities of Youkai “default” personalities and mages’ personality distortion may be deeper than at first suspected.
The fact that Youkai can potentially live forever makes them ’’very’’ cautious about the possibility of dying. Most Youkai can be counted on to start out overconfident in a confrontation (except possibly another Youkai) but to quickly flee any opponent with the potential to actually hurt them. The exceptions are few and far between and equally divided between the courageous and the prideful.
The one exception to the above is the protection of the haunt. While Youkai will still not fight to the death to protect it, they are much more willing to endure danger and ’’potential’’ loss of life in its defense. The haunt is the “fallback point” when Youkai territory is invaded.
Before the Second Disaster, Youkai would rarely be willing to risk their lives against large, well-defended human and demihuman cities. It was far easier to pick off small groups of travelers than to risk falling before overwhelming physical force. Now, however, populations are low enough and human and demihuman mages are rare enough that such attacks are now uncommon, not unheard of.
Youkai who have committed offenses against their race may be sentenced to exile. This sentence can be applied for good reason, such as against Youkai who smuggle humans into the Territory or murder their fellows. It can also be applied for somewhat less good reasons, such as if the Youkai allows her psychology to be corrupted by mortals.
In most cases the Youkai is simply expelled from her home Territory and told that she will be destroyed on sight if she tries to come back. The expectation is that the Youkai will spend some time wandering and eventually find acceptance with another Territory, hopefully having learned her lesson.
Repeat offenders, or those who commit crimes that are absolutely unforgivable, may be sentenced to a broader exile. Not only will their home Territory destroy them on sight, but other Territories will also be informed of their identity and their crimes in the hopes that they will follow suit. It’s not just possible but common for a Youkai to be fired upon for entering a Territory she didn’t even know she was exiled from (or didn’t know existed!)
There are occasional reports of apparent Youkai exiles using unknown powers and even magic based on nonexistent “elements” (Time Youkai, Flower Youkai, Cloud Youkai). If these creatures exist, they may be cross-elemental hybrid Youkai, ancient creatures from when the Melody was wilder, or an entirely separate species bearing only a coincidental resemblance to exiled Youkai.
Youkai possess the following powers:
- Partial Immortality. A Youkai is born in its final form, and they do not grow, age, breathe, or get sick. They do not thirst, hunger, or tire, though they may engage in drink, food, and sleep for reasons of pleasure. They have no meaningful biology. They are also immune to magic (but not physical attacks) based on their element.
- Limited Telekinesis. Youkai may levitate any object within reach that meets certain element-related criteria and manipulate it with their full normal strength. There is no limit to the number of objects affected. Youkai can also throw levitated objects as though they were being held in the hand, though as soon as they leave the Youkai’s reach they can no longer be controlled.
- Psionic Flight.
- Psionic Illusion. Youkai can create visible illusions within their field of vision, though these visions must always be somehow in contact with the Youkai’s element. Since Faerie can generate their own elements with magic, however, this is not much of a limitation.
- Spellcasting. Youkai may use mortal-style magic freely as though they had embodied an unlimited number of their corresponding Spirit. The effects produced cannot exceed those that a mortal could perform with four such Spirits, however, and Youkai cannot embody Spirits or use any off-element magic.
Youkai do not have any intrinsic vulnerability to elements that work poorly with their own. They are only affected as much as a human would be (so Vampires are not harmed by sunlight).
Types of Youkai
The types of Youkai match six of the the seven types of Spirits. Youkai vary greatly in appearance, but probably 80% of each element’s Youkai correspond to the description given.
There are no known Youkai of Fire.
Magic and Technology
Youkai are inherently magical, but due to their single-element nature they can neither use human-style Spirit magic nor make use of Scores. Within their fields of expertise, however, they are virtually unstoppable, and have encyclopedic knowledge of their own element and the ways in which it can be employed.
Those Youkai who dwell near civilization (generally Kappa, Oni, Tanuki and Vampires) keep at least something of an eye on local technological developments even if they don’t make use of such things themselves. There is no particular reason they don’t aside from pure social inertia. That, and except for Tanuki, most Youkai would have no way to duplicate technological artifacts without extensive dealings with humans.
The big exception are the Kappa. While other Youkai races may only see technology as toys, Kappa are fascinated by anything new and communicate with distant Territories frequently. As a result the Kappa are probably the most technologically advanced race on Kadyel … but most of their actual devices have been traded for or stolen.
Knowledge of Other Races
Youkai consider humans and demihumans to be inferior beings, pathetically weak and out of touch with the natural world. How they treat these “inferiors” depends on the individual, though there are some tendencies (Kitsune paternalism, Oni exploitation, etc.) Some individual Youkai consider humans and demihumans to be prey animals, but this point of view is not pervasive.
Surprisingly few Youkai are aware of the existence of Angels. Smart Angels who know what they’re getting into can pass themselves off as fellow Youkai from a different Territory.
Youkai are as in the dark about the continued existence of the Ancients as anyone else, and rarely put too much thought into the reasons for the ruins of Kadyel. Even Youkai who did find out about the Ancients would probably just consider them a kind of demihuman.
Youkai also don’t know much about Dolls as a race, though individual Youkai have encountered newly sapient Dolls within their haunts. To them, Dolls are some kind of artificial Youkai; this fascinates Kappa and Tanuki and horrifies most other Youkai. To date, those Youkai who have encountered Dolls have assumed them to be the result of unique circumstances, not part of a race.