A demon in the form of a young man sat in a wasteland. He was head and shoulders taller than the normal residents of the land, and he wore the clothes of royalty. Long hair reached past his waist when he stood up, and there were other telltale signs that he was not truly human; marks on his face and forehead and violet irises, as well as talons exuded from each long, white fingertip.
He was up high on a plateau in the mountains where a cold wind blew through the arid desert, whipping his hair around his face and ruffling the white fur wrapped around his shoulders. The long, iron hard body enshrouded in silk and fur felt neither cold nor heat. His face was tipped back, and he could scent living things miles away. His ears caught the sounds of pebbles rolling down the face of the mountain to the canyon floor thousands of feet below. Silver lashes came down over midnight purple eyes.
He closed his ears to the whispering of rocks sliding down the cliff behind him, and eventually everything faded away, even the rushing roar of the wind overhead. Above him stretched only sky and around him there was only wasteland. He closed his eyes, and felt something seep from his body. The hardness of the cold ground he sat on did not faze him as he turned his senses inward.
A mental image was forming, a small girl with round cheeks, tangled hair and huge, brown eyes. The sack she wore was that of the poorest village children. His nose wrinkled, and the scent of a human child filled it. He was becoming oblivious to his surroundings as he replaced reality for the imagined. In his mind's eye an aristocratic hand with long fingers and talons reached down for her. His hand.
She took it, fixing her eyes on a face way above hers. She was around six years old.
His eyebrows bent ever so slightly, and the whole scene burst to life. A field of green grass, a blue sky overhead; cool, spring air, a village in the background, the scent of old blood.
Go back, into the forest. Get all of this so you can erase it.
The scene faded to another one. His senses took in the feel of a forest; dank earth, sparse vegetation and the chill of perpetual shadow. The scents and sounds of countless animals, great and small, were all around. He was lying supine against a boulder where he'd fallen after being thrown from a battle with his despised foe. He couldn't move. He hissed the first time she came, peeking at him from behind trees a safe distance off. The tiny girl did not run away.
The sun was setting and he lay on his rock. His body was slowly repairing itself from the scratches and fang marks received from his hotheaded enemy, his brother. That final blow had knocked him off the dragon he'd fought on and he'd landed here, immobilized for the time being.
He heard her footsteps minutes before she appeared. The path to his rock was a deer trail that only forest animals and the girl used. He moved his head until he could see her pattering up the path. She carried a large leaf with rice on it. She'd brought him food again, like she had everyday for the several weeks he'd been there. She left it there and returned down the path back to where he assumed her village was. He had never once accepted her offerings in these many weeks, yet she persisted. How stupid could a human child be?
She returned again the next day. He smelled her on the wind and saw her shadow around some trees when she came from a different direction. He felt the heat from her small self when she stood at his elbow and held the offering out to him. She was so tiny...shouldn't there be some human woman taking care of her? He flipped the leaf out of her grasp. "Go away before I eat you." He growled.
A little energy seemed to go out of her. He heard her sigh and sensed the movement of slumped shoulders. He deigned to turn his head and look down at her. She was kneeling by the rock, her head bowed. He saw the bruises on her face, her swollen eye. He looked away when she glanced up at him.
"What happened to your face?" He asked. She didn't answer and he glanced back down. Her tiny face was completely lit up with a smile that went cheek to cheek. All I did was ask a simple question. He thought. Has no one ever shown any interest in her?
"My name is Momoko!" She said.
Katsuya studied her. She always came at night, and was never put off by his hostile silence. She probably knew he couldn't hurt her, not as badly injured as he was. In a few days though...he would be able to get up and find his dragon and his vassal Seijin, and she would come to find his place empty. The mononoke (japanese shape shifting demon) figured she probably waited until everyone else was asleep to pilfer the village's supplies for him. This time, she had gotten caught.
Katsuya sat, his hair and fur stole blowing gently in the wind, and his face tipped back, his eyes closed. For hours he had been directing all his energy into himself, almost all his senses were pointed inwards now. If he had been concentrating less hard, he would have sensed he was being watched.
Gleaming, ebony eyes studied him as a cold, clear voice spoke. "So that is what he is doing. He is going through a purge, trying to eradicate his body of some weakness. What possible weakness could a great yokai (demon) like him have?"
He walked down another memory on a small, worn path, headed towards a smell. Seijin, his small servant demon was there for this memory. He could sense blood, and the smell of rogues. A figure appeared in front of them, several figures, the spirits who came to claim the dead... His brain retreated. He wouldn't go there. He'd leave that alone and go on.
Days passed as Katsuya sat in reverie and sorted through memories, scenes flashed through his brain of his traveling up to this point. Going hither, thither, riding a dragon that was well beneath his powers so that its other passengers wouldn't get hurt...
In this memory the girl named Momoko wasn't acting herself. She usually ran alongside the dragon, but today she'd gotten on him as soon as they started moving, and she'd ridden all day. It was now midafternoon and she was still riding, she hadn't gotten down once. Her head drooped and she stared at the dragon's neck with listless eyes.
Katsuya walked ahead, but he could sense her subdued attitude from behind. It annoyed him because he knew he was forgetting something. He turned his head to the side on the pretense of watching a fly, and studied her from the corners of his long eyes. What was it that humans needed on a regular basis?
A fly buzzed by and he flicked it away, into a spider web. The yellow marked garden spider leapt out to the middle of web, eager for its meal and Katsuya had a revelation. How often did humans eat, once a day? They'd left the last town the day before yesterday, and he suspected she hadn't eaten since then. Usually he didn't bother making sure she ate, because she always managed somehow. They were only a day away from another village, but he thought that might be too long for a human child.
"Seijin, go get Momoko food."
Katsuya's little demon vassal grimaced. The little girl was about his height and he had no love for her. She competed for his lord's attention. Not that the great demon paid much attention to either of them, but still, Katsuya sama (sama=sir) never ordered her about like he did Seijin. He allowed her to come toddling after them, something no self respecting demon ought...
Seijin's thoughts were interrupted when Katsuya half turned toward the bemused Seijin and held out a long, aristocratic hand in his crony's direction. Sharp, curved nails protruded from the ends of his sinewy, white fingers. Seijin had seen them slash demons many times more powerful than himself to pieces with ease. Katsuya bent his fingers into a claw, and all his knuckles cracked. His face betrayed neither anger nor malice; he didn't even look at Seijin. The small demon was now hurrying to obey and Katsuya let his hand drop.
"Momoko. Get off the dragon and let Seijin use it." He started forward again. As always, when he gave a command, Momoko obeyed immediately. Her sky colored kimono swished around her as she slid down and she glanced down at it briefly.
Before Katsuya sama came along, she never wore beautiful clothes like this. He was walking on again. He rarely addressed her. Hearing her name from his mouth made her happy. She shook off the listless feeling and slid off the dragon, and started towards him. Despite his long legs and fierceness in battle, he didn't stride like a warrior...he glided like a prince with his two swords hanging from either side of his elaborate belt. She ran to catch up with him and he felt a small, hot hand in his cool one. He neither looked down at her, nor took his hand out of hers.
The first time she saw him kill a holy warrior she'd hidden behind a rock and didn't come out, even when the battle was over. Seijin came in after her grumbling, after Katsuya was ready to leave.
Momoko's hands were over her ears. "I don't think I'm going to come out." She said. The child's voice was just barely over a whisper, but still Katsuya's sensitive ear heard it. She started speaking a few days after traveling with them.
"Stupid child. The spirit's gone, it's not coming back. Katsuya sama decimated him, as always. No spirit can get the better of him."
"I know." She sniffled. "But, I think I'll just stay here."
"I get it." Seijin humphed. "Idiot, the holy warrior's not gone forever." Seijin told her.
"Katsuya sama destroys their bodies so that their souls couldn't return unless they were reincarnated."
Momoko took her hands off her ears. "Where is he then?"
Seijin shrugged, distaste written all over his toady features. "Heaven."
"That's right." They'd looked up to see Katsuya looking down at them. Momoko emerged and saw the messy remains of the once fierce some warrior spread out over the meadow. She turned her head away.
"No match for Katsuya san." Seijin bragged. "As always."
"Is this not him then?" Momoko asked quietly, peeking at the scattered remnants.
Katsuya answered her. "That is just his body. His soul is in heaven, where it will stay, unless he messes up and gets sent back down into a different body. However, unless his consciousness in the new body reawakens from a past life he won't remember any of this." The powerful demon in a young man's body bent down to put his hands in a stream. The clear water turned red as he rinsed the blood from his hands. The black blade he'd used throbbed once and all the blood on it was absorbed. It was as if it had never been used at all.
"Will we ever go to heaven?"
"Stupid brat." Seijin spat, "We're demons, there's only one place in the netherworld for us."
"I'm human!" Momoko pointed out. But the other two either didn't hear her or chose not to respond. They were already walking away. "Wait for me!"
"Don't talk about such things." Katsuya said to Seijin. "She wouldn't be able to go anyway, because of the human stain. Look at humans, at how weak they are, at how incapable they are of escaping from their own fallacies. How deeply they're mired in their own muck. They can't do anything but fight battles, and even then they need the help of the demigods they call guardians. To do the least goodness or to absolve their evil deeds, they need to pray to someone else to help them. Even the most 'holy' of them is harboring some stain and is not good enough. They are a weak race, and heaven is a place of perfect purity. The best of their efforts won't allow them in. The monks and the priestesses may have some inkling of this, but they try anyway. Of course none of them are getting in."
"I know heaven does not just have holy warriors and the Jade Emperor. There are some humans in there. How do they get in at all?"
Katsuya turned away. "I don't know."
Japanese Demons 1A Human Weakness.
By yellowpaper 3