Running With Demons
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My entry in Forthright's 'Feudal Fables Challenge'. It's a dramatization of the events surrounding Rin's first encounters with Sesshoumaru.
OK, before you read onward you need to know three things: first, I'm still suffering through this block/funk; second -- and related to the first point -- this fic is only 75 of what I want it to be and, unfortunately, it refuses to be what I want it to be; and, third, the fable is "Androcles and the Lion" so it's about two unlikely characters helping each other and becoming friends.
The fic itself is odd. According to the letter of the challenge, we are to remix an Aesop fable such that it conforms to the universe of Inuyasha. Instead I dramatized a certain event of the canon to emphasize that it was already parallel with the fable. I just hope I did a good enough job getting everything across. Like I said, I'm rusty lately getting a coherent thought across let alone trying to write a complete fic.
On that note, if anyone sees things that could be improved, go right ahead and make the suggestions!
“Running With Demons” by Abraxas (07-08-21)
She was of that age when time did not exist. Years, months, days, those chains that bound the people of the village were without meaning. Only the motions of the sun and the phases of the moon signaled that indeed the world changed from time to time.
It was morning like any other morning. Yawning and stretching, she gazed about the hut wondering if her parents were back. If they were there like they used to be. Yet that was impossible. The shack was empty and she was alone.
“You awoke early,” the old woman said. “And what are you up to today?”
Like every other morning the neighbor stopped by to leave a bowl of rice and vegetables. The offering provided the girl a source of food she needed but could not afford. Since she was alone and young - too young to contribute to the village - only the charity of others sustained her day to day.
“My, my, you are a lively thing.”
The girl smiled, staring away as if daydreaming.
“They say you're stupid but you're not. Hm, where do you go, little Rin? What do you see, what do you do?”
She did not reply because she was not there - she journeyed. Through imagination she wandered far and wide and always away from the village. It was not a happy place: its adults either ignored her or threatened her and its children were cruel.
Time passed while she fantasized about animals - magical, powerful animals - that she wished visited the hut. They would be there at night and leave at morning until she begged to go away with them. They protested. They said it would be dangerous for a girl but she said she was not afraid. They said it would be hard for a human but she said life was not easy anyway. They relented and she followed them into the wilderness overjoyed by that new life, that new beginning.
Oh, the adventure!
She ate a portion of the rice then covered the food.
Satisfied by the meal she wandered out of the hut and into the edge of the village. She liked to be there because it was easier to be alone. But that day the farmers were busy about the fields. And the workers were threatening with their looks and their words. She was not welcome like a pest was not welcome since it was feared she stole food while no body watched.
She did not want to be troublesome. Slowly, step by step, she inched away from the fields to the forest. The wilderness was vast and enigmatic and to enter it was as unimaginable as a trip into space. Yet she could not resist the lure of Nature.
She stood and stared as if trapped. She studied the trees, the leaves; she gazed into the scene without as much as a smile. Everything - all of it - seemed to be alive. Like a gigantic, curled-up demon that should not be disturbed.
A tear formed and dropped.
Day by day she was understanding that what happened within imagination was not reality but was the universe that cruel that what she so longed and wished for could not happen?
How many wishes for her parent's return were not granted?
But what if those adventures she yearned could be real? And what if wishing alone was not enough? Maybe a sacrifice was demanded?
She neared the forest. She heard the farmers shout but she did not understand their words. All she knew, all she needed, was to be closer. Closer! From a distance she saw that there was something just beyond the woods. Something -
Swallowed by the foliage she realized it was a trail. It was a thin, tight path carved into the ground just wide enough to accommodate her size. And from the girl's point of view it appeared that it snaked into the very depths of the unknown.
She did not know how long she walked or how far she traveled. It was like forever. It was only after a good long while passed that she noticed the sunlight getting dimmer and dimmer. But she was not afraid. She wished what she fantasized about would be real that she could not be afraid.
Suddenly the forest cleared and an expanse of shrubs and bushes opened up under foot. She entered the space and noted another feature very much obscured by the dying, setting sun: all over the ground were bones covered by armor. Samurai armor - she remembered what it looked like because it was a vision from those days when her parents where not lost. But then they had been a few men and now they seemed to be armies.
Curious about what it meant she ventured further.
A rustling, a stirring issued from within the clearing.
She blinked - like a spider trapped by its web, amid the remains there was a man alive. She approached. Cautiously. All of the adults she knew could be cruel and menacing every now and then. Yet she crept onward toward the figure that remained against the base of the tree at the center of the clearing silent and still. Almost afraid.
His appearance was striking and unusual. His hair was long and white. His ears were pointed. His face was feminine and inhumanly - no - supernaturally beautiful. Only his garments were normal though battle damaged his armor and bloodied his kimono.
The man's eyes, a vivid and electric shade, followed the girl's movement through the undergrowth. When she realized the effect she stopped. Then he growled and his eyes turned red and his teeth grew long and sharp. He lurched forward as if to strike but withdrew as if pained.
She smiled at last knowing why the man was different - yet she could not bring herself to think about those hopes and dreams.
She wanted to meet that demon but she knew she could not be empty-handed. A gift was required. She left confident that he would be nearby when she returned. He appeared to be weak no doubt because he was the fight's only survivor.
Without fear she retreated through the trail. But the sun was sinking, falling below the tops of the trees. The skies were already fading into black and she was not yet near the village.
She reached the farms. The fields were empty. The houses were quiet. The lamplight about windows mimicked the starlight. It was very late but, of course, no body cared. No body watched her fetch the rice and vegetables out of her hut. And no body watched her approach the pond by the fields.
Beneath the crystal-like surface the pond was as black as the sky. It was jeweled not by stars but by fish with their patterns, their colorations, from white to black. She watched while a crowd formed by the edge of the pond. She waded into the pool and caught two of the larger, slower fish.
She placed the fish into a bowl and covered it.
Eagerly she retreated into the forest. Now that she carried the food - no - a sacrifice for a man who was not a man she was careful not to be too fast out of the fear of tripping. Although the trail was clear and well kept through most of its run, at night it was just too perilous.
Then, again, the foliage thinned and she stood within that clearing. The canopy vanished and with its passing a new and unknown vista emerged. A view where the stars blinded and the moon washed the earth with its eerie, ghoulish luster.
The demon was by the tree, still, and continued to follow and study the girl with his eyes. She came nearer now than before but he did not protest. She knelt and offered the bowls of rice and fish but he did not accept the gift.
Sighing, as if annoyed, he resisted the urge to lash out. Instead he uttered, “Demons do not eat this food.”
She was not put off, however, she smiled grateful just for words.
“Why do you smile?”
But she did not answer.
If food did not suffice then what? There must be a way to please the demon. She studied the figure to gauge the answer. The broken armor. The torn and bloody clothes. The frail appearance.
Then he reached for the food with the right arm -
She realized there was a problem with his left arm - it must have been injured during the fight.
Again she sauntered away confident that she knew the answer.
If it had been very late before it was extremely late now. The village was as quiet as a tomb. And that just seemed impossible. All memories of it were full of life and action. What she stumbled into was frightening by its indifference. More and more she felt the weight of alienation.
Despite the excitement of her mind, her body was tired. She delayed the search for the medicine until morning. She slept within the hut, under the blanket, dreaming of traveling far, far away. Of adventure. Of life free from that village and its sadness.
When the sun arose she discovered that the old woman already paid a visit. A bowl of vegetables awaited upon the table. She devoured it.
Then she looked about the hut for materials and supplies that the demon required. Bandages could be fashioned out of clothes so she ripped a blanket and she shredded a kimono. Dressings and the like were easily produced from other scraps of clothes. But items like leaves and roots had to be collected from the field. She gathered everything into a bag rushed out of the shack.
While she gathered the medicines a group of angry men and women surrounded the girl. Could it be? How could it be? That they knew of the fish she took from the pond? Then the fists and feet launched. And she struggled to free herself of the mob until of the farmers pinned her down while the rest beat.
She did not scream.
When she bled the farmers stopped and dispersed. Battered and disoriented, she thought only of the bag. It had been taken from her during the ordeal and she lost track of it as it was swallowed by the hands of the mob. But after a panic she found it. Its contents had been spilled yet she recollected a fraction of what there used to be. The medicines were damaged but were replaced while no body watched.
Fleeing into the wilderness, which became safer than the village, her thoughts turned to the demon. Did he wait? Did he leave? She did not know what she would do if he was not there anymore. Maybe she would have slept and dreamed him back into being - as if he was imaginary after all. Maybe she would have found and followed his trail deeper and further into the unknown beyond.
A fragile, little fantasy became like a world she could not live without.
But there was nothing to fear - he was still there, he was still there!
And she wept when she saw him. She was happy. She could not help but cry at the sight of the demon.
She smiled though as she approached. She offered the bag whose contents she displayed about the ground. He looked at the bandages and at the medicines. His face was too beautiful to be vexed by emotion yet his eyes betrayed a glimmer of something new and different.
He could not fathom it, that alien feeling.
The demon looked at the girl and noticed a change.
“Where did you get those bruises?” he asked.
Again she smiled only.
She imagined that a new life awaited but she was not yet ready to go away with the demon. She needed to bring along another item. She would have come with it earlier but she dared not be that hopeful. But now there was no reason to delay the matter. So for one, last time she dared venture back into the village. Into the hut where that orange and white kimono her mother sewed remained.
But as she neared the village she became aware of the ruckus of a calamity. There were sounds of smashing and breaking - and screaming. Men and women and children yelled agonized. Then there was the heat of a fire.
She paused, paralyzed by the intensity of the fight. Ahead, through the forest, she gazed across at the farms. The fields were ablaze. People struggled through the fire. And she noticed the animals. A pack roamed about the village. Then two of the big, violent wolves gazed back -
She screamed then turned and fled. She ran. And then came the sounds of the pack chasing. Then came the stabs of the wolves breathing against her skin as if devouring her body through their breaths. But she raced blindingly toward the one who would be her protector….
Lord Sesshoumaru was up by the time Jaken arrived. It was sunset and the skies attained a vivid red hue. While out of the trees there echoed an equally limitless yet onyx void. Everything was quiet. Everything was still.
But as he was walking out of the clearing the great dog demon paused.
Something was wrong.
He was frustrated that he could not determine the source of the feeling. It was not an absolute sense, like sight and sound. Rather it was instinct. Fuzzy and vague like doom.
Mixed with the unease were thoughts of that girl. He could not escape the image of her smiling through tears. He was haunted by the memory of her kindness. He was not prepared and could not cope with it.
Maybe if he saw a glimpse of her again the illusion of that purity would be shattered and he would be freed.
Without thinking about it he found the girl's tracks. Mindlessly he followed her scent. But as he traced the path he became aware of a danger invisible from the safety of the clearing. The smell of wolves. Then fire. Then fear. And blood - her blood.
“No,” he started but did not finish. “No. I would have noticed -”
the realization induced another reaction that caught him by surprise.
“What happened to me without my knowing it?” he wondered.
Instantly, and to Jaken's unease, Lord Sesshoumaru sprinted across the trail.
At the end he stumbled into a pack of wolves. With a loud, singular growl, a show of eyes and teeth, he scared the group away. As they scattered they uncovered the remains.
“It looks like a girl,” Jaken said. “The wolves left only - er - Lord Sesshoumaru? Do you know the girl?”
His master was silent.
The eyes of the demon did not leave the face of the girl.
Laughter, joy, why would it be denied that girl while a dog and a spider breathed life? Would there be no smiles anymore? Would there be no eyes to look and wonder anymore? Would there be nothing, nothing, nothing?
She was running to him when she tripped with the wolves and - and she was running to him!
Again the gaze that betrayed the soul crept into the demon's eyes.
Jaken staggered aback - what monster awoke within Lord Sesshoumaru?
He unsheathed Tensaiga and swung the weapon at the body. The dropped the sword and knelt by the girl. He propped her body into his arm, cradling her head against his chest. Her limbs dangled limp yet alive.
“What does this mean, Lord Sesshoumaru?” Jaken was confused by those turn of events. “What happened while I was away?”
Suddenly it seemed life with Lord Sesshoumaru would not be the same….
And the moral of the story is: “Gratitude is the sign of noble souls.”
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