Zombies In The Mist
"Um... Katsumi-nee, why is this a 'sacred mountain'?" Rin asked. "It doesn't look any different from other mountains we've seen before…"
"That's a good question, Rin. My mom taught me about Japanese customs, so I know the basics about Shintoism and Buddhism, but I don't know what could've caused this… In my religion, sometimes a specific area or item will become holy itself if it was tied to an extremely religious person, like saint." Katsumi said.
"Eh? What religion? What's a saint?" Rin asked curiously. Sesshoumaru found that he was slightly curious too. Katsumi hadn't talked about her religion before.
"Well, I'm a Catholic, and we only believe in one kami-sama, God, but the main ideas behind our religion, to cherish life and love others, are actually quite similar to Buddhism. I think we all actually believe in the same God, we just have different ways of worshiping him… Anyway, a saint is a holy person, religious or ordinary, who performed or was involved in a miraculous event while they were still alive. Saints can also continue to perform miracles after their deaths. Some include people being miraculously healed when they come to a place that was special to the saint." Katsumi explained.
"Hmm…" Rin said thoughtfully as she digested all the information Katsumi had just told her. "He must be really busy if there's only one of him… we have a god for everything here." Rin said seriously. Katsumi smiled at Rin.
"Yes, I suppose so, but God never gives us anymore than we can handle... although, sometimes, I wish he wouldn't trust me so much..." Katsumi said in amusement as she fondly patted Rin on the head.
"Hmm, this 'saint' thing you mentioned sounds very similar to the story of what happened on a small island close to here." Jaken said. "Over a hundred years ago, there was a human reputed to have very strong spiritual powers there. I believe his name was 'Haku-something-or-other.' He performed many miracles for the people in this area, and when it was asked of him, he became a 'living Buddha,' and was enshrined on the island. Before that, he had a shrine on this mountain."
"Wow, Jaken-sama, you sure know a lot!" Rin said.
"What's a living Buddha?" Katsumi asked.
"A living Buddha or 'sokushin-butsu,' is a priest, who while still alive, abstains from all food, and enters nirvana while their flesh mummifies. It's usually done by sealing the priest in a tomb of sorts that is barely larger than their own body. Their only connection to the outside world is a tube for air, and a bell that they must ring each day to let the people know they're still alive… eventually, you get a raisin priest." Jaken said.
"You'll be cursed if you talk like that." Katsumi deadpanned. "So, that means a priest is the one responsible for the barrier… Why would he let youkai through the barrier? Also… I just can't understand why they would do something like that to someone who helped them… I wonder if he's bitter because of it..." Katsumi said.
"What do you mean by that?" Jaken said.
"Well, you just said it yourself, right? He was basically starved to death. How selfish can you be, to ask the man who has saved you time and time again, to die such a painful death, just to save yourself?" Katsumi said. "Starving to death isn't as peaceful as it sounds, it's a slow and excruciating process. The average person can last without food for four to six weeks, but that's only if they're still staying hydrated. First is the endless gnawing pain of hunger. Eventually, your stomach begins to atrophy, and your sense of hunger diminishes, but it also keeps you from feeling thirsty, so you get dehydrated. When you get dehydrated and malnourished, your every movement is painful, and with such a weakened body, you're more susceptible to disease. Victims of starvation are often found with fungi growing in their throats. In addition to all of this, the priest was shut up, in darkness, all alone with only his pain and misery to keep him company, knowing that the others were waiting for his death… that can really mess with a person's mind… it would be maddening. How anyone could enter nirvana when subjected to such a hideous death is beyond me. That's why I don't understand how they could torture him like that." Katsumi said. Understanding and sympathy for the priest were clearly written on her face.
"… You know this from personal experience…?" Sesshoumaru asked. She had a look of knowing on her face that only someone who had personally experienced such suffering could have. Katsumi smiled wryly, and laughed at herself. She hadn't meant to ramble so much.
"Yes, unfortunately, but it didn't get as bad as it would've been for the priest. When I was about six, we went on a family camping trip in another part of the country. I knew it was a bad, but I didn't listen to my intuition because my boredom won over common sense, and I wondered off on my own. I was used to the flat ground of Louisiana, and I wasn't watching where I was going. I tripped and fell into a deep hole. I couldn't climb back out, no matter how hard I tried. I screamed at the top of my lungs, everyday, until they finally found me." Katsumi said. "I was so scared that I lost track of time and hadn't even realized I'd been down there for a week. It took awhile for my stomach to recover after being starved and dehydrated for so long. The doctors said it was a miracle I had managed to survive that long." Katsumi noticed Rin looked like she was going to cry. She gently laid her hand on Rin's head, and smiled comfortingly at her. "It's alright, Rin. It happened a long time ago, and I'm better now. What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger."
"Where were your parents when this happened?" Sesshoumaru asked. He decided he was going to have a talk with Tsukihime.
"Well, they were looking for me of course. They were only human, so they had to find me the hard way." Katsumi said. "My dad's actually the one that found me. He didn't bother waiting for the rescue team to pull me out, he just jumped into the hole and stayed with me until the search party came back with the equipment they needed to help me."
"Wow, your dad sounds cool, Katsumi-nee." Rin said in admiration. Katsumi beamed with pride.
"You bet! My dad's awesome! He wasn't always around a lot because he's an important surgeon, but when he was, he'd spoil me rotten. He's the one who taught me how to fish, cook, and swim. We'd sometimes drive out to an open field and set off fireworks, just for the fun of it! You would've really liked him!" Katsumi said.
'I see… so, she must have inherited her father's personality… that explains how she survived Tsukihime's influence.' Sesshoumaru thought.
"I wish I could've met him." Rin said wistfully. "What does he look like?"
"Well, I actually take after him in looks." Katsumi said. "We have the same hair and eye color. He's also pretty short for the average man, I got my shortness from him, but to make up for that, he's extra tough. One time, he got hit by a car, and instead of calling for help and whining about how much pain he was in, he dragged himself to the hospital—a place where the doctors are and also where he works—and checked himself in. When I found out about it and asked him why he did it, he said it was just a broken arm, and he didn't want to be late for work."
"Wow! He was pretty strong for a human, huh." Rin said in admiration.
"Yup. Dad never let anything hold him back." Katsumi said proudly.
'At least she had one good role-model… aside from that recklessness of his…' Sesshoumaru thought. 'Speaking of not being held back…' They had come to a valley.
"Wow! Look at this valley!" Rin said. Katsumi whistled.
"That's quite a drop…" Katsumi said as she peered over the edge.
'Even though we're not that close to the mountain… I still feel sick.' Jaken thought miserably as he leaned on his staff for support.
'The purifying aura that keeps out anything demonic reaches all the way here. What are you up to, Naraku?" Sesshoumaru thought. This was getting tedious. Sesshoumaru leapt over the edge and down into the valley.
"Sesshoumaru-sama!" Jaken cried in alarm.
"Ah… he's really done it now…" Katsumi said. She wasn't worried. Katsumi knew Sesshoumaru wasn't stupid or suicidal. The holy energy in the air crackled a bit as he floated down, but he didn't even flinch.
"So cool!" Jaken said in awe. Sesshoumaru passed through a cloud of mist and out of their sight. "Sesshoumaru-sama!"
"Time to go. Come on, Rin!" Katsumi said as she leaped after him. She removed her haori and used her wings to slow her descent.
"Hurry, Ah-Un!" Rin said as she shook the dragon's reigns and they flew after them.
"Rin, don't leave me behind!" Jaken yelled indignantly. Ah-Un's tail came up in front of him, and Jaken quickly grabbed on. "Don't go too fast, I'll fall!" Jaken cried. He yelped when he was zapped by the crackling sacred energy.
"Please don't scream like that, Jaken-sama." Rin chided the imp. Rin didn't know how painful it was since she was human, and the others were acting as though they were perfectly fine.
"I can't help it!" Jaken shouted and yelped as he was zapped again.
"Be brave, like Katsumi-nee's pa!" Rin said.
"I can't take this…" Jaken whined.
Sesshoumaru landed and looked around. He was now standing in front of a bridge that connected the other side of the ravine.
'The sacred energy is slightly weaker here…' Sesshoumaru noted mentally. Katsumi landed beside him and put her haori back on. Rin, Ah-Un, and Jaken joined them as they too landed.
"I can't feel anything at all here… What about you?" Katsumi asked.
"It's weaker here, but the barrier isn't completely gone." Sesshoumaru warned her. Though she had never felt anything more than a minor irritation, the barrier had still almost turned her human before, albeit temporarily. In away, it was more dangerous for her to approach than for him, since he had more of a warning. A new scent was in the air.
"…" Sesshoumaru said as he turned away from the bridge and faced the small wooded area behind them. "They're coming."
"Huh?" Jaken said.
"Graveyard soil… another zombie." Katsumi said when she too caught the new scent. Sesshoumaru drew Tokijin and pounced.
"Er, Sesshoumaru-sama!?" Jaken yelled in surprise, thinking they were being left behind again. A flash of silver came crashing towards them, but Sesshoumaru deflected it. Katsumi's eyes widened in surprise when she saw what it was. It had been a sword, but it had a type of blade that she had never seen before. Instead of a single blade, there were multiple crescent shaped blades that were hinged together.
"Wha…" Jaken said in surprise.
"A sword?" Rin said.
"I've never seen one like that before…" Katsumi said. It looked dangerous. A man, Jakotsu, stepped out of the bushes, and the sword recoiled and snapped back into place, like a snake after striking. It now looked deceivingly normal compared to its true form. Katsumi felt like something was familiar about the man, or rather, corpse in front of them.
"One of Naraku's agents, eh…?" Sesshoumaru said.
"Hehehe, you're good…" Jakotsu said.
"Like that poison user… you have the same corpse smell." Sesshoumaru said.
"Ooh, you've got a good nose. Just what I'd expect of Inuyasha's Ani-ue-sama!" Jakotsu said as he launched another attack with his sword.
'He just had to say that of all things…' Katsumi thought, shaking her head. Sesshoumaru gave Jakotsu a sharp look, and effortlessly deflected his sword again. Sesshoumaru pounced.
"Oh my." Jakotsu said in surprise when Sesshoumaru was only a few inches away from him. Sesshoumaru swung Tokijin straight down. Jakotsu just barely managed to dodge. "Uwaaaah! That was close…"
"Wahahaha! Stupid human. Give it up and die!" Jaken said. Katsumi sweat dropped.
"What're you so excited about? Sesshoumaru-sama's doing all the work…" Katsumi said. "Rin, if it gets too scary for you, feel free to hide your face in my haori."
"Okay, Katsumi-nee, but Rin's not scared yet." Rin said, smiling.
"…" Katsumi said. 'We're a bad influence on this girl… she's already way too desensitized to violence…' Katsumi thought. She saw a flash of silver coming at them. Katsumi grabbed Rin and yanked Jaken out of the way, just as Jakotsu's sword struck the ground where the imp had been, and debris from the collision landed where Rin had been.
"Dweh!" Jaken cried in surprise.
"You say something? Eh?" Jakotsu asked, annoyed, and sporting a comical looking pissed of expression as his sword recoiled back into place.
"Ah! I remember now… why you look so familiar!" Katsumi said, thinking out loud. "You remind me of my gay friend, Cody. You have the same expression when you're pissed too."
"What…? Who the hell are you?" Jakotsu said as he turned his attention to Katsumi. "... You know, if you were a guy, I think you'd be my type… What a waste." Jakotsu said, sighing. Katsumi laughed.
"Hahaha, that's just what Cody said!" Katsumi said. The similarities were just too uncanny… although Cody hadn't been a homicidal corpse…
"!" Jakotsu said when Sesshoumaru suddenly appeared behind him.
"Jaken!" Sesshoumaru said sternly.
"Ah. Y-Yes!" Jaken said. "We're leaving here, Rin."
"Eh? But…" Rin said, sounding disappointed. Jaken herded her over to the bridge.
"We're in Sesshoumaru-sama's way."
"O-Okay…" Rin said reluctantly as they walked onto the bridge. Jaken said. "You too, brat." He said to Katsumi.
"Is that supposed to make me want to do as you say?" Katsumi asked sarcastically. Katsumi frowned at the imp, but followed since it was true, and she wanted to keep an eye on Rin. The old wooden bridge creaked as the made their way across. 'Wait… aren't we getting closer to the barrier…? Why did Jaken choose this way to escape…?' Katsumi thought. Sesshoumaru positioned himself between Jakotsu and the bridge.
"Ooh… so you didn't want those girls getting caught up in this, eh? How kind." Jakotsu said.
"Hmph… you talk a lot for a corpse…" Sesshoumaru said.
"Now then, will you fight freely!?" Jakotsu shouted as he launched another attack with his sword. Sesshoumaru dodged the attack.
"Sesshoumaru-sama… will he be okay?" Rin said worriedly as she glanced back at the fight.
"It's alright, Rin. Just keep going. Sesshoumaru-sama won't lose." Katsumi said.
"That's right! How could Sesshoumaru-sama lose to a measly human!?" Jaken shouted indignantly. Katsumi felt a wave of vibrations run through the rope bridge. It wouldn't have been that unusual, seeing as that was a typical occurrence when walking on rope bridges, but it had come from the opposite direction. Someone was approaching them.
"Wait. " Katsumi said as she stepped in front of Rin and held her arm out to stop the girl.
"What's your…?" Jaken started to ask when a figure emerged from the mist on the bridge before them. "!" Jaken said. The man was dressed in armor, and he wore some kind of hand glove/gauntlet that had claws sticking out of it… he looked like Wolverine, and he had tattoos on his mean-looking face.
"!" Sesshoumaru said as he glanced in their direction when he smelled another corpse. It was strange that he hadn't been able to sense the presence of another corpse until just now.
"You're wide open!" Jakotsu yelled as he swung his word.