The dark skies above the yoshiwara district were alight by the bright celestial lamps surrounding the place. From the inn, voices and music playing could be heard as yokai patrons seemed to be enjoying the company of their companion. The kurokumo “dark cloud” inn, was well known among the yokai as an establishment which catered to the unique needs of all who went there. The Kaze no Yuki “faded purity” who have been trained from an early season to bring great pleasure to anyone who pays homage to the kurokumo inn. Among whom, was Hikari, who seemed to be well known for his frequent visits to the place.
The upper level of the inn was reserved for those of noble birth who were given the privilege of having their very own Kaze no Yuki attend to their needs, among them, was one whose beauty was highly spoken of. As a result of this, she became the companion of Hikari, she was known by the name, Kayo.
In one of the rooms was a kitsune, with pointed ears sticking out from long, platinum lavender-blue hair, with matching eyes of dark piercing pupils. He had razor-sharp claws that seemed to extend from slim well-tended hands, dressed in a pink and gray flowery pattern kimono with feet clad in a geta “wooden slippers”. Hidden within layers of kimono was a specially made sensu “hand fan”.
The kitsune seemed to be lying on a well-made, multicolor futon that was laid over the tatami “wooden floor” while sipping sake from a sakazuki “wine cup”. His eyes lazily followed the movement of his companion, watching her head slightly bent while playing on the koto with her fingertips dancing all over the strings; causing the room to become alive with notes which seemed to emanate from the instrument.
Kayo was one of the few yokai with delicate feminine features closely resembling those of a human; with silken raven hair held in a finely crafted kanzashi “hairpin” and soft eyes the color of sapphire. She was dressed in a flowery red, black, yellow and blue yukata with well-tended slightly long claws, her feet were clad in white sock and geta.
After a while, her fingers stopped playing as she raised her head and turned to her patron. “Please, Hikari-sama. Forgive me if you would be so kind, I would like to change my clothing so that I can always look my best for you.”
“Do as you wish. I do not see the need for you to change what you are wearing but if it would please you, then get on with it,” He replied as he dismissed her with his hand.
Standing up from the small wooden stool she was sitting on, slowly she bowed her head to him as she said, “Please excuse me, Hikari-sama. I’ll be back very soon.”
Hikari watched as she left the room while he allowed his mind to be filled with the thought of his family, he remembered not seeing Taiki in almost three seasons. The only ones that were within reach was Ayumu and Himiko, who were always busy with so many duties.
Thinking back, he remembered his friend, Ritsu-no-kami of the Inari Shrine; who had promised to pay him a visit also, but he hadn’t seen him in almost a season either. “Was life as guardian of the humans that hard?” He wondered to himself, not too long after a familiar presence was felt in the room.
“Hikari-sama, haven’t I told you to always put up a barrier, you never know where your enemies may
attack from,” said a yokai with hair of golden hue, streaked with a hint of brown with the length reaching half of his back. He had eyes of emerald hue which were filled at the moment with amusement. Well-trimmed claws protruded from his hands, and he was dressed in a plain kimono of inner white and outer blue color.
“Ritsu, I just thought of you not too long before you appeared before me, be rest assured, for I never leave myself unguarded, unlike some.”
“As a friend, I’m just showing my concern for you, now, let me come to the main reason why I’m here.
Word has reached me that your mother wants you to take over for her as the supreme leader, is that true?”
Ritsu-no-kami asked as he watched his friend closely for any sign that he may be hiding something from him.
“Mother has yet to tell me that, although word has also reached me about it. But for now, I just want to see it as mere idle talk.”
As Ritsu-no-kami was about to speak, they heard a knock at the door as a voice spoke, “Sorry for the disturbance but I have an urgent message for Hikari-sama from Chiho-sama.”
Wondering what it was, Hikari responded, “You can come in.”
On entering, the messenger bowed his head as he reached into the side gathering of his kimono for the letter issued by Chiho-sama. Bringing it out, he handed it to Hikari who then read the letter, through it all, no one made a sound as they watched him; who at the moment seemed very annoyed.
“Please excuse us for I’ll like to speak with Ritsu alone,” said Hikari to the messenger who, on hearing this bowed before them as he made his way out of the room.
“Ritsu you know that you and I have been friends for a long time. It is on this ground that I ask a favor from you, please allow me to take your position as guardian among the humans for a season. After which, I’ll take over from mother as the next supreme ruler.”
“So, it is really true, is that what the letter was about?” asked Ritsu-no-kami.
“You know my mother is never direct when she says things, according to the letter, she says that I have to take over before I celebrate my fiftieth season which to my knowledge, will be very soon.”
“You do know that humans are very different from us. Some are as terrible or if not worse, but they have a great capacity to show love which goes beyond their limitation as a lesser being. Take heed never to break the rule that binds us, yokai. You must never fall for a human or lay with one. It is forbidden which is punishable by barring your entry into the yokai world; to be condemned to spend your life among the humans as one of them, although I doubt your mother would kill you for doing that even if you’re supposedly immortal.”
“Finally, avoid humans who possess powers like us for they are called “onmyouji”, who go about sealing yokai. I was able to live among them without detection because of my unique ability to suppress my aura, making me appear human.”
“Don’t take me for a fool, of course, I know the rules and I’m not one to be swayed by such fleeting emotions. There are duties waiting to be fulfilled as the next supreme leader.”
Ritsu-sama agreed to relinquish his position as guardian of the Inari shrine to his friend; then he went on to explain the duties expected of a guardian.
He remembered his friend’s warning to avoid the night of the Tsuki no mangetsu “night of the lunar moon” for on that day, the onmyouji go hunting kitsune and other yokai.
Unknown to them, Kayo had overheard what had been said as tears slowly trailed down her cheek, reaching to her face and seeing tears on her fingers, made her realize how much she loved Hikari. With that came regret, for she knew it was a hopeless love. It was forbidden for a Kaze no Yuki of the kurokumo inn to fall in love with their patron, for they are only tools to bring pleasure to their owners.
Slowly making her way away from the room where Hikari was, she dried her eyes with the sleeves of her yukata. Kayo resolved never to reveal the love she had for him; most especially to one who was from the strongest noble family in the yokai world.
Once Ritsu-no-kami was done speaking with his friend, leaving the same way he came as his body slowly disappeared until there was no trace of him left in the room. After which, Hikari rose from where he sat to leave on a journey into the unknown world of the humans, for a moment, he felt a slight regret for not waiting to bid his longtime companion goodbye.
“I hope she can forgive me one day.”
With that thought in mind, he left the inn to begin his journey.
An immense yokai aura seem to announce Hikari’s presence into the world of the humans. He came in through a tori gate located at the entrance of the Inari shrine that connected the world of the yokai and the humans. On reaching the human world, he began to observe the brightness of the sky and his surroundings, watching as the humans passed by going on with their activities. Wanting to know more, he allowed his senses to flare out seeking as much as he could without physically going to those places.
As a creature of the night, he was not yet used to the intense brightness of daytime. Deciding to come out later in the night, he swiftly headed straight for the inner room of the shrine to assume his duties as guardian. On entering the shrine, he noticed that his friend, Ritsu, left the place looking unattended.
He saw ancient mystical scrolls, books and spiritual ornaments lying carelessly around, as one used to refinement and neatness, the whole place struck him as odd. Reaching down, he began picking the things lying on the tatami and arranging the place.
“If I keep going at this pace, I’ll never finish until sundown.” With that said, he released his kitsune no maho “demon fox magic”, not too long after, the place was looking sparkling clean.
Making his way out, he saw a grown blooming senbonzakura “cherry” tree, not too far were small jizo statues erected to the east of the shrine; while to the west, was a Shishiodoshi with a zen garden.
“At least he was able to take care of the shrine surroundings,” he mused within himself.
Walking to where the senbonzakura was, it reminded him of home. Closing his eyes, he allowed his kitsune no maho to fill the air. As though with a life of their own, they began wrapping around the blossoms as they danced in the wind as the sun shone brightly.
Once his turbulent emotion was under control, he made his way back to the shrine to wait for night to come.
As a fully realized kitsune, he had reached the point where he could assume the form of a human;
without his tail neither sticking out, nor having to resort to using a kitsune no ha “demon fox leaf” to appear human.
On the night when Hikari decided to take a walk among the humans, unknown to him was this was the night of the Tsuki no mangetsu, when the moon becomes the color of peach with the absence of stars from the sky. As head of the onmyouji clan, Kamo no Yasunori, would call his men to perform a special seal to renew the ritual that warded off yokai from entering the human world; to maintain the balance between the human and that of the yokai world.
They placed a special barrier in the area where yokai are most likely to be by using a seal binding spell.
This places the yokai in a special barrier sucking their spiritual energy, then sending them to jigoku, where they ultimately become soulless spirits stripped of spiritual powers to break free. It has been said, that none had ever escaped jigoku and lived to tell about it, the only ones that can come and go are those who are endowed with tremendous yokai power.
Kamo no Yasunori, master of onmyou magic and spells, praised alongside Abe no Seimei as a highly skilled onmyouji, had dedicated many years to studying the act of demon slaying and use of spells to protect the human world from the influence of yokai. Dressed in a pink and gray flower print kimono he watched the humans walking by.
The whole place was alive with noise and activity, he suddenly felt a sense of unease, as though he was being watched. He found it strange that the humans avoided walking towards and around where he was, not knowing he was already in an onmyou barrier.
He saw some men dressed in black kimono with some strange talisman pointing towards him and uttering words that felt powerful, despite his lack of knowledge about what was been said, it dawned on him that he was already under the control of the onmyouji, as he watched in defeat while the onmyouji completed the sealing ritual.
“Hurry, do not let the kitsune escape. Use the spells I taught you to bind him!” Kamo no Yasunori commanded, as he rallied the men to gather around the yokai as they chanted in unity, “Watashi wa anata ga futatabi kono ji o arukimawaru geretsuna ikimono kara tochi o tame ni Kotoamatsukami o yobidashimasu.”
Afterwards, a shining blue light emerged from the seal; binding the kitsune and shutting off the flow of yokai energy from within the barrier as he was taken into the world of no return.
On seeing he was surrounded by a wall of blue light, while being whisked away to a very dark place, in anguish he said, “I brought this on myself. Had I not assumed human form, this would not have happened. In my foolishness, they saw the chance to prey on my weakness,” he said closing his eyes in defeat.
He cursed himself for his carelessness by not sensing their presence before it was too late to act, drifting into an unnatural sleep, waiting for the time when he will break away from the powerful barrier and take his revenge.
ONE YEAR LATER…
In her dream, Murakami Miyako saw a person dressed in a pink and gray flowery kimono with lavender-blue hair and pointed ears sticking out from it. Nails that appeared almost like claws and slim feet, covered in white socks and slippers made of wood. Each time she slept, her dream seemed to be the same. On waking up, whenever she tried to remember, it all seem hazy in a way.
At the early age of three, she grew up in an orphanage because of a car accident that claimed the lives of her parents, leaving her as the only survivor. Upon checking her into a hospital, the doctors saw no bruises or bleeding, so she was discharged and sent to the orphanage; since no one showed up claiming to know her.
Life at the orphanage was hard as she lived off scraps of food, hand-me-down clothing and used schooling materials as those were the things she was privileged to have. One of the things that made life more difficult was the unusual color of her hair; as one born with blood-red hair, no one understood why she would have that color. So, this caused her to be treated harshly.
She was often teased by other children in the orphanage as an ainoko “mixed blood”. Some had dared to whisper that she must have been a bastard child of some foreigner as she passed by; even the matrons of the orphanage avoided her as much as possible.
Feeling frustrated and lonely at such a tender age, she learned to shut down her emotions; never allowing what she heard from people to affect her way of life. Even when she got into high school there was not any difference. She was treated as though invisible and by the age of sixteen, she was told to start looking for jobs so that by her eighteenth birthday she would have left the orphanage.
Luckily, she found a part-time job at a food café and a grocery store, with both jobs close to the orphanage; she began saving money. As soon as the time came for her to move, a representative of the orphanage stood as a guarantor by providing the falsified document showing she was twenty-one to meet the apartment renting requirement.
Lately, her dream was starting to bother her as it no longer looked as if it was just a dream. This time, she saw that he opened his eyes, which were lavender-blue with piercing dark pupils, as he called to her to rescue him.
“How can I save you? Where are you? Are you real?” She began to feel agitated with tears gathering in her eyes.
Lately she didn’t know why she was beginning to think her ‘dreams’ were real, because it was as though they were communicating face to face. He told her he was held captive in a barrier by magic spells, which was used to bind and seal him away.
She remembered asking him how she was able to talk to him, for which he replied that he didn’t know, but what he was sure of, is that she appeared to have some sort of powers which seemed to be similar to those of a priestess and that the power was strong enough to break the seal and release him.
“You’ll have to allow me to perform the kitsunebi “demon fox possession” technique on you so that I can use your body to locate where I am. You utter the sacred words to break the barrier keeping me captive, once that is done, I’ll be free.”
“How does it work?” she asked while trying to stay calm.
“I’ll have control over your body and guide it to where I am, then take something from you that would be strong enough to weaken the barrier. After which once I break free, I’ll release you from my hold.”
“If I don’t agree, what will happen?” she asked.
“This is the only time that I have ever asked a human for help, I am putting my pride on the line by pleading with you to come to my aid, just this once and I’ll never ask anything of you.”
“I’m not a wicked person. Of course, I’ll help you, just let me know when you’ll be performing this technique that you speak of.”
“I’ll be doing it now, just be prepared for you will have no control whatsoever over your body, for your will would become mine.”
“That sounds scary! I think I’m about to have second thoughts.”
“I promise you this, that no harm shall befall you. You have my word on that. Kyosei kitsune suimin,” he said.
Hikari uttered the sacred words from his mouth; using his mental link to the human who was finally under his control. He sensed the emotions from her past life and current life; seeing the pain she endured, the grief as a child for the loss of her parents, her uncertainty about the future, the deep loneliness of growing up in a strange place with people who clearly hated her.
He felt some remorse for using her to bring about his release but at the same time, he was happy to have someone with powers strong enough to break the seal.
He found her to be a fascinating human who didn’t know that she possessed a power that rivaled those of a yokai. “Was it possible she was a real priestess?” He thought, as he kept leading her out of her house to the place where he was sealed away.
Miyako kept walking as though in a trance, feeling a presence within her as she watched people pass by; without really seeing them as though she was observing them from afar.
On getting closer to where she worked at the food café, her body suddenly stopped at a particular spot; she noticed people were not looking at her. It was as though she wasn’t even there. A strong urge overcame her as she bit into her palm, watching in dismay and horror as blood began flowing from the wound.
“Akuma no shoheki wa watashi ga mujitsu no seinaru chi o kaiho shimasu.” She spoke strange words she didn’t know, she uttered and smeared blood on an invisible wall that she could only sense, but not see.
Suddenly, she heard a sizzling sound as a dark spiraling hole appeared, the opening kept getting larger and larger until she saw something emerge from it. She realized she just released the creature of her dreams. As soon as he was completely out, the opening disappeared.
Walking towards her Hikari held her hand close to his mouth as he spoke some healing spells to close her wound after which he released her from his technique.
“You were of great use today, I thank you for that.” He bowed slightly to show his gratitude.
“What did you think you were doing, making me bite myself? Why didn’t you tell me that you would do that to me?”
“If I had told you, would you have heeded my pleas for help?”
On hearing that, Miyako knew that if he had told her, then she would most likely not have gone out of her way to help him.
“You really are real,” she said while looking at him from all sides. She was surprised when she saw a tail protruding from behind him.
“Can I touch your tail?”
“As you please, just once and that will be all.”
She ran her finger over his tail and she felt it twitch slightly from her touch, she noticed it had a fluffy feel. She wished she could touch it more, but remembered he told her just one touch. Straightway she took her hand off, not wanting to annoy him.
“If I may ask what are you? And why do I have the power to release you?”
“I’m a kitsune from a strong noble family, as to why you were able to release me, I saw that the spiritual energy you possess closely resembles those of a priestess. You seem to share the same color of hair as those of an ancient priestess clan. I think they were called the Miko clan.”
“My name is Murakami Miyako, if I may ask, could you please tell me your name?” “Hikari, is my name. Nice meeting a human who isn’t really human.”
“What do you mean by that?! I’m human you know?!” she replied angrily.
“If you would permit me.”
Stepping forward, he brought her closer to himself. Tilting her head towards him, he bent to seal his lips with hers to replenish some of the energy he lost while sealed away. He knew that she had no need of the immense power dwelling within her, for he perceived she had no knowledge of how much power her body held. After taking in his fill of her energy he slowly released her.
Miyako knew that one moment she was standing away from Hikari, and the next, she was swept into his arms as her mind went blank when his lips touched hers. She didn’t know for how long it lasted, but the feeling of been held close lingered on as she struggled to regain her voice “Why…did you kiss me?”
“You call that a kiss? I was merely nourishing my body.”
For a moment, she felt a strong emotion swell up within as the feeling of discomfort washed over her. She couldn’t believe that he callously dismissed what she knew to be her first kiss, instead, she quietly whispered to herself, “Stupid Hikari.”
Hikari kept looking around trying to feel the air for threats to him and the human, while glancing towards her from time to time as they talked, since the last encounter with the onmyouji nearly caused him to be completely drained of spiritual energy.
Seeing he wasn’t really paying her much attention, Miyako continued to look at him fascinated by the unknown being that stood by her, feeling as if she was in a dream not wanting to admit that all this was real?
“Let’s go human, before the onmyouji get here. I do not want you to be in harm’s way,” Hikari said as he waited for her to follow him, he knew that there was no way the onmyouji would come out to challenge one as old as him; except on the night when he unknowingly blunted the effect of his powers by assuming the form of a human.
Thankfully, his mind unconsciously sought out a highly skilled Priestess who according to his observation of her, seemed to be unaware of how much power she possessed.