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Japanese Demons 15

Momoko's two loves.
This fight with Nobuya was different from any other Katsuya had yet encountered. Nobuya was strong like Cetsah, and clever, yet Katsuya knew he could defeat him. The difference was in Katsuya himself. He could feel himself raging inwardly, apart from the bloodlust that was burning in his veins. He wasn't emotionally detached like he always was, killing because it served his purposes or because creatures, demons, spirits, humans, beasts got in his way.

This time he was angry, angry for a human. The instant he was caught up in the whirlwind he felt something being stripped away from him, his magical protective gear hurled out of the way before he fully transformed...and his transformation was stopped short. He couldn't turn into his demon form without it, so he was left as flesh and blood fighting against true spirit. The tornado picked him up and threw him against the rocks of a mountain. He sprang up the face of it on all fours and disappeared into the crags faster than lightning.

"What's wrong, Katsuya?" Nobuya taunted from the middle of the storm. "No match for me?"

"You better come in and get me." Katsuya's voice growled from inside the mountain. "Because if you leave this alone I will come find you when you're least expecting and eat you in your sleep."

"I DON'T SLEEP!" The whirlwind tore boulders off the mountain as Nobuya battered himself against it in an effort to grind his way to his enemy. In the end the tornado wouldn't hold out against the rock mountain and it dissipated with a roar as he stepped onto the cliff Katusya had hidden in. Nobuya's curling black hair flowed around his face and his pallid blue-green skin seemed to be carved from the element, the gray-green sky and the howling wind. His mouth stretched wide revealing razor-sharp, long bladed-teeth. He detested fighting in this form, but he could feel something that hadn't been there before, a vulnerability in his opponent that made him certain he could defeat the normally invincible Katsuya.

Kouhei and Isano remained outside as the clouds amassed and the thunder rumbled. Lightning struck all around and illuminated the mountain where the two kami fought. Then there was a brief pause, and Isano felt the weather's mood change. The sun, peeking above the horizon, finally threw its rays out over the sky unsmothered by Nobuya's thunderclouds. A strong wind was blowing them away and the tainted electricity disappearing from the air. Isano blew out a sigh of relief. "He won." She said.

***
Katsuya emerged from the crevice and walked away from Nobuya's smoking form. In a little bit there would be nothing left of the former wind demon except for a skeleton...he would have evaporated completely into the sky. Katsuya knew his soul was somewhere down in the depths of hell. Katsuya walked steadily across the plain towards Isano's house in the lightening gray of the early morning. His long white hair was untouched with blood or grime, but his clothes were badly ripped and stained. He had lost his embroidered shoes in the tornado, exposing for once the talons extending from the ends of his feet. He ripped the turf with them as he walked forward. It would take him a long time to regain the power he'd lost in that fight.

From where he stood in front of the house Kouhei sniffed the air. "Can you sense that?"

Isano nodded. "He's weaker now than he's ever been before."

***
Momoko stayed at Isano's house many days recovering. Katsuya eventually moved on to go live in his home, but he was there every single day. Finally one day, Shouta met him at the door. "I need to talk to you, Katsuya sama."

"About what?"

"Momoko."

"What about her?"

"I want to marry her." Shouta quailed inside at the look in Katsuya's eyes, but it only brought out his determination. "I can provide her a good life, and I will never take her away from you." He said, his voice squeaking a little. Katsuya stared down at him. Who was this runt to even consider such things. Shouta was now seventeen, and he still had his foxy ways about him. How could such a child take care of Momoko? "I've loved her for several years now." Shouta claimed. "And I know how you feel about this, but I also know you don't love her quite the same way I do. And I'm asking you as a man would ask a father, to let me take care of his daughter."

Katsuya looked past to the doorway, where he could see Momoko building a fire in the fireplace. She looked back and smiled, and he could feel hope there. "I'll consider this." He said, and walked past. Momoko came into the room and swung her arms up in the air, the joy inside her would be contained no longer. She let it all out in a shrill scream of giddy joy and shrieked "I'm so excited!"

"About what?" She froze, her arms remaining in the air for a second before she lowered them. Katsuya stood by the bookcase, waiting. She hadn't known he was there. Whatever she said next should be interesting.

"I'm going to a beautiful spot by the city." She said lamely, not meeting his eyes. She chanced a peek and saw he was looking straight through her. Oh what was the use in not telling him her thoughts? She had always suspected he could see into her mind. "With Shouta." She finished. "He asked me to go with him tomorrow, to spend the afternoon." Katsuya's eyes were half closed, never a good sign.

"Let's talk." He grabbed her arm and they walk out into the hills. "Shouta wants to be wedded to you." He said. "How do you feel about this?" Her smile told him everything. Her jaw had a bump in it from where Touya hit her. He didn't like the idea of her going with someone else, but as they talk he realized just how much Momoko seemed to like the kitsune. He also realized he can't kill Shouta for several different reasons, he's Kouhei's friend, he's Momoko's friend, and Katsuya realized he's softened inside. 'There would have been a time when none of that would have mattered, and I would have ended the little obstacle in an instant. Not so any more.' Katsuya thought.

"Is this what you want?" He asks Momoko. "What about all that talk about yokai husbands not sticking around because human women get old?"

She thinks about this. "Well, maybe I don't want to marry him." She says. "But I do want to stay here."

Katsuya digests this. "You don't want to travel around with me anymore?"

"I would if you asked me to."

Katsuya nodded. "Maybe someday I will ask you again, but for now you can stay as long as you want." He concedes.

So Momoko stayed, and when she was with Shouta she seemed to form a bubble of happiness that Katsuya couldn't quite enter. So he watched over them like a hawk, but didn't intrude. She and Shouta often ran into the hills for time together alone, and while Katsuya respected Shouta and Momoko's time together, he was always waiting at the door when they got back.

"Does he wait there the whole time?" Shouta asked Ichiro once.

"He gets up the moment before you two arrive, and goes to the door. I don't know how he knows, he just does." Ichiro replied.

Sometimes when Momoko saw him she would leave Shouta to put her arm around Katsuya and walk in with him. It always made Shouta nervous when they walked off like that to spend time together, because he was afraid she might someday leave with Katsuya to roam the world like they used to, and he would lose her to him. Even though the truth was, she would never be able to stand such rigorous journeying again, not with her broken jaw and worn down body. Katsuya could see that, and tried to make it up to her by spending as much time with her as possible. Knowing that he had come so close to losing her made him cherish her all the more, and all the attention made Momoko glow. She felt absolutely safe, knowing she was loved by Shouta and Katsuya, and that she was surrounded by friends.

But this same attention made Shouta jealous. "Who do you love more," Shouta finally asked, "Me or Katsuya sama?"

"I love you both." She replied. "In different was." 'But who is number one in your life?' Shouta wondered, afraid to ask.

So he intercepted Katsuya when he came to visit one day, trembling as he did so but not willing to back down. "I think you should leave us alone for a while. You don't feel about her the way I do, and she will never love me back the way she would if you weren't here." Shouta stated. At first the mononoke growled and his hand went to the black blade at his side, but then he paused. He thought about Azuka and her deadly beauty, her perfect features, her obsidian eyes and hair, and the dark fire she had awoke in him. Then he thought about Momoko, her soft features, her bubbly personality free of seduction, her chubby innocence as a mute at four, and knew Shouta was right. Katsuya didn't feel the same way about her that Shouta did. He couldn't get past the human child who had loved him, and whom he fed and protected.

The half drawn sword went back into its sheath. "If you ever do anything to hurt her, I'll know about it. I will kill you." He said, but as he turned to leave Momoko came out of the door and saw him turning away.

"Katsuya, wait! Let me walk with you a little way before you go!" She cried, not knowing he was about to leave for good. Shouta frowned as she chased after him, but didn't stop her. Katsuya didn't say anything for a while and they walked in companionable silence away from the house, out of Shouta's sight. Finally he looked down at her.

"You said you would come with me, if I asked you to?" He said.

Her face fell a little. "Yes." She answered.

"But you like it here, and want to stay."

"Yes!"

"For how long?"

"As long as I can."

He nodded, satsified she'd found a place to call home. "Good. I might go for a while, and leave you here with Isano and Kouhei. I'll still come and visit, but not as often. I have to go on and live my own life again." He said. As she bit her lip Katsuya sensed the presence of the most powerful holy warriors he'd ever come across and whipped around suddenly. "Amatsu-kami!"

The creatures appeared, striding towards them on sandal-shod feet in bright shining clothes. "Katsuya. Time to pay for the evil you have done on earth." The two amatsu-kami were as tall as he, experienced warriors from heaven. He remembered some holy warriors aren't too particular about people in their quest for demons. Rather than fight he transformed quickly into a dog demon, grabbed Momoko by her dress and started to run away as fast as he could. Before he could get far holy arrows pierced his side, causing him to transform back to human form.

Katsuya heard the warriors' voices floating through the trees. "The time has come Katsuya...even the life-giving sword won't save you now."

Katsuya grabbed Momoko's hand and told her if she ever had to run fast, now was the time. They run and just make it to the house where Shouta is waiting, worried because Momoko is alone with Katsuya. He thrusts her into his hands and tells him to take care of her. Then he turned and drew his sword, walking forward to meet the amatsu-kami.

Even weakened from his fight with Nobuya he was almost a match for them, but not quite. The holy warriors sent from the Jade Emperor fought with and killed the wounded Katsuya and direct his soul down to hell, telling his spirit that he is banished from the world. From where Shouta and Momoko stood by the city, they could see his soul linger on the hill a second, see him gazing back at them. Surprisingly it's the form Momoko is most familiar with; a tall and handsome man with silver hair and violet eyes on a cruelly callused, beautiful face. Then he disappeared.
By
Published: 5/26/2010
Bouquets and Brickbats