In a cold, foreign land far, far away from the mountain village where he had dropped off his young follower, a stately figure walked among some cliffs. Katsuya looked like a well dressed, beautiful young man except for his savage, effeminate features. He wore an elegant kimono and silk slippers when he traveled, often on a two headed dragon, a collar on his chest with dog fang teeth and two swords belted onto either side. His hair reached well past his waist and was a shining silver-white. It was an indication of his demonhood, alongside the marks on his face and forehead. His beautiful angled face never exchanged expression and his cold, violet eyes only hinted at the incredible cruelty he was capable of.
Massive rock projections rose to dizzying heights on either side, and to the left of the ridge he was traveling on, was a sheer drop down to a barren valley. He traveled alone, on embroidered silk slippers, his pretty clothes standing in direct contrast to the gray wasteland around him. As he walked along the ledge it broadened until it could fit several carts side by side, and he started seeing stairs connecting different levels of the mountainside. Caves appeared, like entrances to the lairs of hostile entities. It was a city built by demons, and he seemed to be the only one in it.
He passed the first few holes without incident. He walked deeper into the deserted city and ascended a small, obscure stairway that brought him halfway to the top of the mountain. The small opening it put him in front of cleared his head by only a few inches. He spoke into the darkness. "I'm looking for Azuka."
There was a living presence in the tunnel. Katsuya could sense it approaching. A young woman appeared, walking forward through the darkness of the interior of the cave. "I am Azuka." She stopped inside the cave. "You have come specifically to see me, and you have traveled a long way. Not many can find my home...who are you?"
"Katsuya, son of the infamous dog demon? I have heard of you, even in these parts. This is a strange place to come if you're looking to rebuild your father's reign of terror."
"That is not my intent. I want a dragon."
"Come inside." Azuka had a placid, seductive voice. The demoness retreated into the dark and Katsuya followed. The cave entrance continued to be narrow for the next several yards, but abruptly the demoness turned into a side passageway and they entered an enormous, lighted cavern. It was ornately adorned with varying sizes of ivory furniture, and bed in the corner. Tables and chairs of every size were scattered all over Azuka's residence, and even attached to the ceiling. Cabinets carrying jars of all shapes and shimmering scales plastered the walls.
"This is where I did business." The shimmering warmth of the cavern seemed to provide the best setting for Azuka's seductive beauty. She had long black hair, as long as Katsuya's, and black eyes. The dress she wore swept the ground and was made out of tiny scales that flashed green, yellow and blue.
"It is large."
"Some of my costumers were almost as big as the dragons they sought." She said. "You must wonder how such large spirits could fit into the hole we came through. The other opening I closed with the arrival of Cetsah, the dragon whose poison cleared this valley of everyone save I. My protective shield keeps him from knowing I'm here. It usually keeps everyone else out as well, but you were able to see through it. I had heard you've been wandering the earth, what brings you back to the spiritual world?"
"I need a dragon. Mine died awhile back."
"It must have been old indeed, dragons live for eons."
"It fell into a holy warrior's trap. I need a means for travel that is a little hardier."
She examined a few scales he held out to her. "I see that it was a poor dragon indeed. Why did you not replace that lizard a long time ago? Such a low caliber dragon, this must have been a tame pet for a demon like you."
He did not answer. That was the dragon he had ridden on as a demonling, a puppy. He originally intended to get rid of it as soon as he was strong enough to handle a different one. He reached that strength decades ago, but he'd gotten into a private war with his brother and then before he had a chance to win the war and find another dragon...something had happened. That something was now holding him back, he had to get rid of it.
He stood. "I will recompense you duly of course. How long will you need?"
"All the dragons have long since fled the area. I need time to concoct the right magic to lure them back, and find one suitable for you."
"As you wish. You will hear from me again." He left and found the plateau in the mountains. He sat down and closed his eyes.
All these memories his mind absorbed, but half heartedly. It wasn't recognizing any of his actions as weakness, so what if he allowed the human girl to travel with him? That didn't mean anything. This wasn't working. He had to try something else. He mentally switched tactics.
He was back in the meadow, his hand in someone else's. But instead of claws and sinewy hands, he had the blunt, rough hands of a farmer and the short, dark hair of an unremarkable human. In this version of his thoughts he was a human caretaker. He went through the whole process, all the sadness and loss and memories a human could go through that he could think of. He imagined Momoko stolen by raiders, kidnapped, killed.
He imagined himself not being able to protect her, vividly. He saw her getting lost, falling, getting hurt, dying, being killed, starving to death, becoming sick, shriveling down to a skeleton, all the time looking at him with those eyes. He came upon her deserted, with blank eyes, dead by war or dead through natural causes. Time and time again he reached for his ogre fang and then his life-defending sword as he came upon her dead form. They weren't there.
He felt human emotions bleed into his face. He didn't like that. He didn't like having other people see what he was feeling. This must be the ultimate weakness, he thought, everyone can tell I'm hurting because I bleed it out like a wounded bird. It says, come take care of me, use me, finish me off. Then he breathed deep, allowed a purifying air to fill his mind, and expelled it with all his memories, thoughts and possibilities.
So that's what humans feel, he thought, at least that's over. Feh. Taking care of a human on earth, being a human on earth must be the worst thing possible. His eyes were still closed when suddenly another image sprang to life. He had been a peasant farmer, a lord, a doctor, countless other things. This time he was a warrior. He was envisioning his whole squad killed in battle, and his escape. He became a ronin, a samurai gone bad. He raided countless villages, farm folk, peasants, and carried away everything his horse could hold. He would return then, to a little hideaway deep in the woods where a tiny girl was waiting. She greeted him with outstretched arms and a kiss.
One day she climbed up behind him, brandishing her own weapon and in her own suit of armor. They swept down on travelers, at night together, and slew them. One night they were pursued by some soldiers and cut down before they could get back to their house.
He had reached the peak of his séance just before relinquishing it all, but to do a thorough job he reverted straight back to the deepest part of his mind. Momoko received an arrow in the neck and fell. Katsuya reined in his horse and wheeled around, leaping down to get her. The horse was slain by more arrows and as the soldiers rode upon them Katsuya slit his own throat. Messengers of darkness came and took his soul away to the realm where demons and bad spirits go.
Hell's gatekeeper greeted him with a leer. "Katsuya, time to pay for all you have done."
I can do that. He thought. This was another part of an imagined human's life he'd instilled on himself, this annoying boisterous nature. I could do anything while I was alive, I can...he was overwhelmed with pain, reliving a thousand deaths, soul punishment for what he had done. He was powerless, something he had never experienced during his centuries on earth.
"That's not the worst of it..."
What? Katsuya wondered as his face melted and all his nerves popped in exquisite agony.
"You've brought someone with you..." Through the flames and burning darkness he caught a glimpse of a small, tortured face...
His demonic scream pierced his reverie and brought it to an end.
Japanese Demons 3Azuka the Demoness.
By yellowpaper 3