Byakuren peeks over her brother’s shoulder, hunched over his own hands.
“Byakuren? I’m practicing some new magic for the upcoming journey. Some of the monks have been wondering what to do if some of the men in the village get lost.”
Stretching his prayer beads over his two forefingers for Byakuren to see, he wraps the beads over his ring finger and pinky. Then, he lets go of the beads with his other hand. The beads seem to jump from the first two fingers to the others.
Byakuren laughs. “That’s just a silly trick, isn’t it?”
Her brother does, too. “That might be. But this isn’t.”
Clenching his hand as though grasping something, a light begins to form.
“Blessing of the sun take form,” Myouren chants, “and blessing of the land guide the light to its followers.”
Byakuren’s eyes glow just as bright. She laughs again.
“I don’t think anyone will ever be as good at this as you.”
“I’m sure you can.” Myouren scratches his head, chuckling with his sister. “I just happened to find it first.”
Securing his clothes tight around his body, he stands.
“Well. I’m sure you’ll show me something even more amazing by the time I get back. I might have taught you in the beginning, but you’re pretty good at learning on your own.”
“Only if you’re around, Myouren.”
With that, her brother laughs once before hugging his sister.
However, this time, her brother would not return.
“I’m sorry, Lady Hijiri. Your brother, Myouren….has passed away. My sincerest condolences.”
In the palm of her hand, the prayer beads shake and knock together. Byakuren’s prayer hums throughout the room. Shou, several youkai, and many more humans chant the prayer in unison with the head nun.
Byakuren’s heart thumps. Clearing the mind. Clearing the spirit. Clearing the heart’s desires and the body’s need for the material. Opening her eyelids, the nun breathes once.
“That is the will of our prayers.”
“That is the will of our prayers.”
Nodding, youkai and humans alike stand to end the session.
A hand pats Byakuren’s shoulder.
“Thank you for all of your work, Hijiri.”
A comforting hand. Shou’s hand. Byakuren lifts her subordinate’s hand from her shoulder. It is hard work, but nothing too stressful for three hours of sitting down. Is that not natural for someone like them?
“Now then, Shou.” Byakuren leads the way forward. “Let us check on everyone, shall we?”
As the words leave her mouth, the nun stops in her steps to avoid running into a black figure. Nue nearly spins to avoid her.
“Oh, Nue. Is something the matter?”
“No.” The nue grumbles, eyes shifting as though something is going to appear around the corner.
Byakuren, Shou, and Nue (hanging her head down) watch as Ichirin rounds the corner, Unzan following behind.
“Return my ring now!”
Byakuren steps between the bitter Nue and the angry Ichirin. She smiles apologetically at Unzan. It is somewhat amusing, but this matter still should be resolved. The nun lifts her hand in front of Ichirin’s chest.
“Why, if you’re looking for your ring, it’s right here.”
As though it had appeared from nowhere, everyone but Nue and Byakuren spot the ring that’s hanging by a thread around Ichirin’s neck.
“I told you I didn’t have it.” Nue steps out by Byakuren’s side. However, Byakuren turns and smiles at the nue.
“I believe an apology is in order.”
“What for? I didn’t do anything.”
“I believe an apology is in order.”
“I said I didn’t….”
Only Nue could see the expression on Byakuren’s face, who is turned away from the rest.
“I believe an apology is in order.”
Byakuren chuckles under her breath as she motions for Shou to follow. The nun listens in to make sure the nue apologizes before walking away.
“Ah,” Shou groans, “that person is quite the troublesome one. Why can’t she just play nicely?”
“It’s her nature.” Byakuren’s smile doesn’t fade. “Pranks are normal to her. However, because of that, it is up to us to correct her. Otherwise, the problem will only become worse.”
Byakuren gazes at the open ground of the temple. Seeing everyone hard at work is a nice sight to see. Oh, what’s this?
“Minamitsu? Nazrin? What are you two doing?”
The mentioned two jump, before turning to the nun from beyond the shrubbery. Minamitsu wipes the sweat from her forehead.
“We’re looking for my anchor. It disappeared somewhere.”
“Was it Nue?”
A shiver runs down everyone but Byakuren’s spine.
“No…I think I just lost it while doing some work outside of the temple.”
“You can’t locate it?” Shou says to Nazrin. The mouse shakes her head, sighing.
“I’ve called everyone I could to find it.” Nazrin nods to one of her mice. “But we can’t seem to pinpoint where it could be.”
“Should I assist you?”
“Oh, no!” Minamitsu raises her hands to Byakuren, then jumps as she realizes what she’s doing. “Hijiri, don’t push yourselves for my sake. Nazrin and I should be able to find it. It has to be in the temple somewhere.”
“Okay then. But don’t hurt yourselves trying to find it. If it comes to it, we shall have everyone in the temple search with you.”
Crouching down for the menreiki, Byakuren rubs her hands against the smaller girl’s cheeks. With eyes blank, Kokoro’s cheeks bulge in and out as the nun massages her face. Byakuren finishes by patting her head.
“You will learn eventually. Good results will come with good work.”
Byakuren smiles at Kokoro’s nod. Though this child cannot quite place the expressions on her face, it is warming to the heart to know she is trying her hardest. Much like a child to her parents, she is learning from those around her.
“Thank you for your hard work.”
“Don’t mention it.” Mamizou waves her hand, rubbing her nose with a finger. “It’s the least I can do since you’re letting me stay here. Even if I’m not here all the time.”
Byakuren leads the way forward once more as Mamizou and Kokoro walk off. The nun continues greeting those who pass by, sometimes listening and responding to the problems of others. Shou speaks.
“We have gathered quite the number of followers, haven’t we?”
“It is only right. We are here to teach the proper way of living and learning the way of life itself.”
“True.” Shou looks toward the sky. ”Perhaps it helps that our lives in turn are long and prosperous.”
“A long life in itself is prosperous for the experiences witnessed. That is why the Myouren Temple allows the cohabitation of human and youkai. To know both the good and bad of both is in of itself proper. For that reason, I protect youkai scorned by humans, and punish those who endanger the peace between them.”
“If only all youkai could agree on that peace.”
“The same for humans, who tend to let their thoughts wander toward aggression.”
Shou’s eyes shift toward Byakuren.
“Are they both truly equal? Are we,” Shou’s voice lowers. ”equal, in your eyes?”
Byakuren’s eyes close as she thinks. Youkai and humans. While true that it is a youkai’s nature to terrorize humans, humans in turn are known to have the ability to terrorize all. However, the nature of Gensokyo itself is a society built on the former, where youkai strike fear into humans. There are countless factors that go into Shou’s question. But if equality is not sought after, what will remain? One side will inevitably devour the other. So is it not more righteous to build peace between the two? That which is harmonious with equality? If it were not possible, then youkai who desire peace would not live in the temple. Humans would not be willing to live in the temple with youkai. But even if that is the case….
“I do not believe it needs to be said. However, are we not close enough to know the answer for ourselves?”
“…I’m sorry. I suppose I got caught up in the conversation.”
“I understand. To reflect on one’s own is also a way to grow.”
“Still, to question our relationship….”
Without another word, Byakuren leans her head against the other woman’s shoulders.
“Fufu,” Byakuren leans her body toward Shou, “I am but a person as well. Though others call me a saint, I will always be known as `Byakuren Hijiri` to all of you. Is that not right?”
Wondering why Reimu would fly out to the temple, Byakuren prepares to greet the shrine maiden. However, Reimu speaks before landing.
“There’s been an incident, and I think you need to know.”
Flying through the air, sweat drops from Byakuren’s forehead. The wind whips across the nun’s face, furious as it is from her enhanced speed.
”I didn’t know if you knew, but that lazy shinigami came asking around looking for someone.”
No. It isn’t possible. But who else would fit that description?
”It seems like someone’s been messing around with the souls of the dead.”
Byakuren’s heart races against her chest. Who could do such a thing? Who would know about such a thing?
”I don’t know how it happened, but Yukari came to complain about it, too. Since it had to do with the outside world.”
Can everyone at the temple forgive such a hasty answer? Even Shou seemed to be stuck wondering what was happening. After all, leaving without saying anything….
Ignoring everyone along the way, Byakuren has been flying for some time. How long, the nun does not know.
Time is not important, though. How could something like this happen? No. It’s not possible. Not unless it’s seen with one’s own eyes. If someone had done such an atrocious act, then they needed to be punished. There is no question about it.
Just as Byakuren finishes her thoughts, she senses the presence. Indeed, it is nothing like one would normally feel in Gensokyo, but not strange enough that Reimu would know where to look.
No. Only Byakuren could have found it before anyone else could.
Landing in front of a wooden shack on the road, the nun takes a step forward. Here. They’re here. What should be done? Punishment is a necessity, but is that something for someone else to judge? Deciding that action is better than no action, Byakuren enters.
The shack itself is large to store the supplies of the human village nearby. However, it is secluded to avoid rampant youkai from destroying it, who are more likely to attack a village. As such, Byakuren stares at the back of a man whose back is turned to her. Had the man been crouched over the supply vases, then the nun might have thought he was blameless. But the way the man stood, as though staring at the wall, tells Byakuren otherwise.
What stops the nun, however, is not his posture. It is his appearance.
Byakuren’s body refuses to move. Even his back is enough to send a tremor through her legs. With her mind blank from the shock, the nun gathers the only reason within her to resolve the situation to form words.
“Who are you?”
The question holds none of the authority that should come from the head nun of the Myouren Temple.
“You don’t recognize me?”
As soon as she hears the man speak, the courage to face the person in front of Byakuren returns.
“You…are not him. I ask again, who are you?”
“Hehehe…Ha ha ha ha.”
As the man turns, something lurches in Byakuren’s throat. No. This is not him. This is an imposter in his form. Taking a confident breath, Byakuren speaks again.
“Who are you? Answer me!”
“Well, no point trying to fool you. It seems I already messed up. It would have been great for a laugh, though.”
As the man turns, Byakuren pauses for a moment. His likeness is too much. But it isn’t him.
“You want to know who I am?” The man turns a hand up in the air. “I don’t think it really matters. You’ve probably forgotten about all the humans you’ve met up until now anyway.”
“You think…adopting my brother’s appearance will unnerve me?” Byakuren takes a step forward. “I do not think you understand what it is you’ve done.”
At this, the man barks out his laughter.
“Me? Not understand what I’ve done? It’s you who should have been asking that question a thousand times over.”
The muscles in Byakuren’s arms tense. This man is truly a lunatic. For what other reason would he have dared do such a thing? Oh, Bishamonten, have mercy on this poor fool who has lost his way so!
“I do not know of what you speak. But I know now that you are unaware of your mistakes.”
“Again, something you should say to yourself.” The man shakes his head. “But maybe you’re too blind in your emotions to understand what I’m saying. Should I make it clear? The reason I’m here?”
Byakuren doesn’t move. Although the quickest way to resolve this matter is to incapacitate him now, it would not do to not listen to his reasoning. If not to completely understand the incident and act accordingly, then because listening to youkai and humans—no matter how lost they may be—is the right thing to do.
“Then speak. But if you resist in any way, I will not let you go easily.”
The grin falls from the man’s face. He places a hand on his chest.
“Do you know what it is you’ve done so far?” He clenches his hand, clawing into the skin. “I don’t think it needs to be said. But Myouren…he was—” He stops for a moment. “…is, a great monk. One many would dream of being if they were given the chance.”
Byakuren stares. If this is a ploy to lower one’s guard, then one cannot respond. Even if the man’s words are true.
“So I don’t think it needs to be said that what you’ve done is an atrocity to the name Hijiri.”
“How dare you.”
The words spilled from her lips. The nun’s fists shook against her sides.
“What?” The man laughs once. “Did I touch a nerve? But I’m right, aren’t I? You think your brother would approve of what you did back then?”
“You have no right to say that!” Byakuren’s anger pours from her breath. “My brother…Myouren was a righteous man who had his life stolen from him!”
“So you should know how absurd it is that his older sister turned to youkai magic out of fear she would follow him one day!”
“You cannot speak for him and you hold no credit to what you say. You cannot possibly understand.”
“Don’t avoid the obvious! Your weak mind is what caused you to become what you are today!”
The words stung her chest. But this man cannot be allowed his satisfaction in knowing that. If not, confirming what effects he thinks his words have.
“So what of it?” Byakuren’s eyes narrow. “What point is there in speaking of the past? Regardless of my mistakes and blessings, what purpose do you have here?”
The man does not relent in his gaze. He stares at his hand.
No, he stares at the hand of someone he is not.
“You seem to be doing well in your absurd quest for peace between youkai and humans. But I’m not interested in that.”
The man looks at Byakuren again.
“No. What I’m interested in is what you choose to do with me. It’s why I worked so hard to be where I am now.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’ll have to take me for my word.” The man goes on. “What I’ve done to take your brother’s appearance….No. To become him. It was no easy task. In fact, because of it, you can say I am him, now.”
“You are not him. You will never be who he was.”
“No?” The man laughs. “I say otherwise. You see, I’ve looked a bit into the so-called magic you desperately love. And after a lifetime of studying, I’ve done something I would have never dreamed I could. I called forth and have infused your brother’s soul within me.”
Anger and shock run through Byakuren’s body. Absurd. That’s what it is. How and why would this man ever do such a thing? Unforgivable.
“In short, I am Myouren. I have all of his strengths and powers. I have his appearance, as I’m sure you’re able to tell. And with it, I can do whatever I please.”
“You will do no such thing.”
“I would, but to be honest, I can’t. As the fusion has not completely finished yet, I can’t quite do everything he did. Not yet.”
“And so what will you do once you have my brother’s strengths? What possible use could you have?”
“Simple. Kill youkai.”
A cold sensation like water flows through Byakuren’s blood. If he had all of Myouren’s powers…no, even just his appearance. Numerous possibilities spring to mind. Whether in Gensokyo or the outside world, the re-appearance of Myouren Hijiri, even if he is a fake, would cause no end of trouble.
“What, is that surprising?” The man shrugs. “Is that not what your brother did when he was alive?”
“You speak with a much more malicious intent. You are not saving humans as he did, but simply planning to murder youkai. Is that not your meaning?”
“Ha ha! You caught on quick, didn’t you?”
How repulsive. This man cannot be allowed to do as he pleases. Especially not with Myouren’s appearance.
“Then do you understand? What you have to do to save the youkai you love so much?”
“…No. I do not claim to understand a fool’s words.”
“Then you will, since it’s your duty to.” The man grins. “You think I’ll just be let off by that shrine maiden who’s looking for me? You’re probably right. I’ll either be captured and held prisoner, or if they’re really nice, they’ll send me back to the outside world. But you know what will happen? Sooner or later, I’ll kill someone. It might not even have to be youkai.”
Byakuren turns toward the voice behind her. But just as she does, the man’s arm shoots past.
Grabbing the man’s arm, she punches the man in the stomach.
Vases clatter and break as the man’s body smashes into them.
Now, the anger burns inside of Byakuren’s chest. This man truly attacked with the intent to kill. She strides toward the man, who is rising to his feet.
“Do you understand?” The man makes out. “This is what will happen—”
“Hijiri, what’s going on?”
The man’s body goes flying again as Byakuren kicks him toward the side wall. The wood crunches, and the man’s fallen body kicks up dirt as he falls once again.
“Stop right there, you crazy nun.”
“Do not speak to me, Reimu.” Byakuren whispers to the shrine maiden, who had landed behind Shou. “I will resolve this matter myself.”
“Yes. Resolve this matter.” The man coughs blood as he laughs. He stands again. “It’s what you want to do, isn’t it? No, it’s what you NEED to do—”
Byakuren’s fist follows through the man’s face. He crashes into several vases, but laughs as he struggles to stand.
”You could give a care less about humans, because from the beginning, humans did nothing for you. It’s the youkai who give you your power. It’s the youkai you’ve come to love. It’s the youkai you’re FIGHTING for!”
The nun thrusts her arm on the man’s throat, pinning him against the wall. Byakuren raises her fist at the man’s face.
“You will return what you’ve wrongfully stolen.”
“You think that’ll work? I’ll kill everyone you love. You have a temple here, don’t you? I see you’ve got some youkai following you.” His eyes track Shou for a moment before returning to Byakuren. “You think I mind dying if I fail to kill her instead?”
“You will touch no one.”
“Then you’ll turn me in to the shrine maiden? You could end it right now if you kill me. Your brother’s soul will return to beyond in the outside world. It’s how this works.”
“Don’t do it.” Byakuren can hear Reimu come closer. “We’ll take care of it.”
“Will they?” The man answers. “The life that is infused with one who is a human becomes trapped until forcibly removed. Seeing as you’re his sister, you’ll have no problem separating his soul from me because of your close relation. I’m sure you know how this works?”
Byakuren’s hand lowers, now wavering toward the man’s heart. It is a forbidden magic. There is no use for it for one who seeks the life of a saint. Much less, to dishonor Myouren’s soul if there had been a use after his death. But for this man to sully Myouren’s name…it would not do.
Shou’s voice echos in Byakuren’s mind. It would be more just to hand this man to Reimu. But what then? Even if there was a way to separate Myouren’s soul from this man, could Reimu be trusted to make the right decision? Or thoughts forbid, Yukari to be in charge of their fate?
“You might live forever,” The man gasps out a laugh, as though answering the nun’s thoughts, “but you’ll never find the peace you’re looking for if you let me go. But it’s what you should do, isn’t it? Spilling unnecessary blood isn’t good for peace between humans and your beloved youkai. It’ll make people wonder if you’re really impartial to youkai and humans. You might not think so, but someone will.”
One of the main flaws of the soul infusion is indeed the confrontation of one who is closely related to the person. Because the person is not recognized as the one the soul belongs to, the soul’s identity rejects the body it is infused to. Theoretically, had it been infused with Myouren’s remains, Myouren would be revived. However, that is not the purpose of this magic. So to release Myouren’s soul would require someone close to separate it. Death is a separation. So it would only follow that Myouren’s sister, Byakuren, would be the most appropriate to do so.
Yes. Ending this man’s life would be honorable to Myouren. A brother who was, and will always be, loved. Byakuren’s fist turns into an open hand, fingers trained at the man’s heart.
“Those youkai you’re so fond of will never understand.” The man’s voice grows weaker. Accepting. “They don’t understand a human’s pain. They don’t really understand what family means.”
The man winces in pain as Byakuren crushes the man’s throat.
“Here. Take it. It’s yours, after all…Haha. Ha ha ha ha!!!”
A shadow casts over the nun’s eyes. Byakuren grabs the man by his shirt.
I'd like to think Buddhist have some concept of doing the greater good when faced with a choice like this. Wouldn't this world be a better place for everyone if we just killed all the psychotic, homicidal individuals? I think most rational people, to include Buddhists, would agree that it would be.
Would any Buddhist not choose to kill, or at least contemplate killing, a man who openly threatens to murder people close to him? I have no idea about deep, Buddhist philosophy and whatnot, but maybe there's just something I'm not seeing here. Or maybe I'm trying too hard to apply logic to fiction.
So let me get this guy's motives straight. He's saying he hates Hijiri's notion of human-youkai peace, so he's challenging her ideals somehow? And he doesn't like her choices in the past? That's what I'm basing his motive from.
I'm guessing this guy is trying to challenge Hijiri's notion of equality by forcing her to lift her hand against a violent human when she probably wouldn't do the same if he were a youkai.
She can deflect his accusation if she simply kills him out of a selfish desire to free her brother's soul - an action she can claim we would have done regardless if he was youkai or not.
Actually come to think of it, he's already tainted his humanity by dabbling in youkai magic. So she really wouldn't be killing a human.
I think the intruder has a misunderstanding in Hijiri's philosophy. Youkai are by nature chaotic - Hijiri has given them discipline and order to overcome their natural urges (See Nue, Kokoro). Humans have achieved that by themselves. If both sides have order, then there is peace.
This jerkface is confusing Hijiri's methods to promote peaceful behaviors with favoritism.
Furthermore, I'm pretty sure the temple's inhabitants regard each other as family, contradicting the man's words.
If it were only a misunderstanding, he could be reeducated. But this fucker has her brother's soul, so...
[X]Negotiate a guarantee for your brother's soul with Reimu if you hand him over.
If you can't get it...
[X]run him over with your motorbike, then do wheelies on his nuts to demonstrate feeling a human's pain.
[x] Rescue Myouren's soul from this hate criminal. Byakuren is someone close, so she should be able to separate the soul from the thief without killing anyone.
[x] If killing him is necessary, see if you can make him clinically dead just long enough to take the soul out, then resuscitate him. If Byakuren can perfect her body, she can control a body well enough for medical work.
A Saint's Cornelian Solution!UVSuwVzKfA2016/03/08 (Tue) 17:10No. 39230▼
This was first. So it's up first. Lots of things happened. But here you go.
Byakuren looks up at the man's face.
“Do it.” A trickle of blood drops falls from the corner of the man's mouth. “I'm ready.”
A needle stabs at the inside of Byakuren's mind. What this man has done is unforgivable to Myouren.
“Come on. Come on! Do it!”
Yet, even so.
“Do it! Come on! DO IT!!!”
Byakuren's hand lowers.
No. It can't happen.
The man snorts. “How pathetic. You're in an even worse state than I thought. I would like to hope Myouren is disappointed with your decision.”
At this, Byakuren's fist speeds forward.
The man grunts while his head whips to the side. The skin on his cheek reddens in moments.
“Hijiri!” Reimu calls from behind the nun.
“Don't worry, miss shrine maiden.” The man claws at the wall as he stumbles to his feet in the nun's grasp. “This poor woman can't kill me. She can't do anything to anyone.”
“If you'd like someone to kill you,” Shou's growl cuts through the air, “I'd be more than happy to fulfill the role of a youkai for you.”
“Shou. I will not allow you to do such a thing.”
“Yes. Continue trying to understand the ways of a delusional, self-proclaimed saint. And ruin her chance at recovering her brother's soul while you're at it.”
Byakuren's tightens her grip on the man's shirt, balancing him on his feet.
“You think no one has heard the stories?” The man stares up at the nun, head lowered. “About Byakuren Hijiri, who became a youkai sympathizer trying to promote peace between them and humans? Why you were sealed by fellow humans in the first place? But I understood. The reason you are who you are today. We both share the same reason.”
“You understand nothing." Byakuren pushes the man against the wall, still holding onto his shirt. "Myouren would never take a life if he had the choice. Your reason is simply a petty acceptance to the nature of things. My reason for my actions lie in a purpose more noble than everything you have done thus far. In addition, you plan and say you will murder youkai for no other reason than a personal vendetta against me.”
“Don't talk as if you were truly a saint. You're not. You're simply a sad woman who had her life directed and influenced by the existence of youkai. Like me.”
The man clicks his tongue when he laughs once.
“I know you don't think all the humans who follow you believe in your peace. And I know you don't think all the youkai who follow you think the same. The interests of humans and youkai are destined to be divided for eternity.”
“And you refuse to believe in the peace between human and youkai? That there is no hope in something better?”
“Didn't I say that wasn't important to me? As meaningless as I think your ideal is, it's not the point. The point is that you're becoming someone you could never hope to be. If you were still human, you'd have done it. The Byakuren of the past would have killed me. But now you're not even that. You and I,” The man stares at himself and back at Byakuren, “we're relentless in our desires. The only difference is that mine is achievable, and yours is not.”
“That is where you are mistaken. Not that you were ever correct.”
“And this is where we disagree.”
“Hijiri, are you done now?”
Reimu's voice cuts into the tension between Byakuren and the man. The latter of the three leans his hand against the wall.
“That's right. This is the choice you've made. So arguing won't do anymore good now.”
The nun turns her head towards the shrine maiden. “And what will you do with him? You heard him, didn't you?”
“I exterminate youkai. Humans aren't exactly my specialty.” Reimu walks by Byakuren's side. She crosses her arms as she stares up at the man. “But annoying people are annoying. We can't exactly let you go back to the outside world as you are now.”
“Oh. So you're going to lock me up somewhere, then?”
Byakuren's hand doesn't release the man. So was this to be the outcome? Knowing well this was a possibility, it is still troubling to accept. The alternative, however, didn't fare better. Even without factoring in the ideal to give mercy, the man's lack of care for his life was unusual for a human. Bluff or not, one could not doubt something was strange. The nun still keeps her hold on the man.
Reimu places her hand on Byakuren's elbow. “Hijiri. I'll take care of it. Do you think I'd let someone like him run around Gensokyo killing youkai at random? Even the other humans might think this man is a youkai if he did that, and that'd just be a pain to go deal with.”
“What of my brother?” The nun looks down at Reimu. “What will you do for him?”
“I'm not in a position to take care of that. Though do you think that his magic isn't irreversible?”
“Are we assuming you are to partake the task?”
If Reimu didn't know how upset Byakuren was before, the nun's questions made her irritation clear. However, the red-white shrine maiden doesn't look at Byakuren when she answers.
“Well, although I'd understand if you felt murderous, I wouldn't be comfortable with it. If we can't find a way to separate your brother's soul from this man, then we may hand him to you to do as you please. Of course,” Now Reimu turns to look at the nun, “without killing him.”
Would the man have a second chance if he was brought to the temple? Byakuren released the man before the thought could continue.
“The shinigami will want to talk with you.” Reimu grabs the man by his elbow. “We'll need to clean this mess up and resolve this as quickly as possible.”
Byakuren doesn't know how she stares at the shrine maiden, but Reimu lifts an eyebrow when she catches the nun's stare.
“Hijiri, believe me. I don't like this any more than you do.”
“Of course she doesn't.” The man shakes his head. “You'd understand, wouldn't you shrine maiden? You're human, at least.”
The nun raises a hand to calm Shou.
“Please, Shou. It would not do to cause any harm to this poor being.”
“Yes. Stay leashed like that by your master, Toramaru Shou.” The man begins to chuckle. “But it's like you to be attracted by power, isn't it? Maybe you enjoy being dominated, maybe you enjoy that sort of relationship—”
As Byakuren steps between Shou and the man, Reimu strikes the man on the head with her gohei. She leads the way toward the door around the nun and the youkai.
“Move.” Reimu turns her head toward the man behind her. “I don't want to listen to you any more than I need to.”
Byakuren doesn't make a move to watch the two leave. However, as she hears them step outside, she hears the man laugh one more time.
“You should have killed me.”
The nun opens her eyes. Her legs stay folded as she breathes deeply. In the middle of the room, Byakuren turns her head toward the open door. A crowd of people stand outside, with Shou shuffling into the room first.
“I assume there is news?” Byakuren stares at the ground.
Shou does not respond for a moment.
And for that same moment, something crawls inside of Byakuren's stomach. If there is bad news to be heard, then....
“Reimu has given her observations on that person. The magic used is much more complex than it appears to be. And it wasn't long before the shinigami came to ask for the person in question. The shrine maiden was forced to leave matters in the yama's hands. That is the situation at a glance.”
Byakuren remains silent. Shou speaks when the nun doesn't respond.
“The shinigami has informed me of the specifics. Because jurisdiction of the matter belongs to powers outside of Gensokyo, the yama cannot act upon what has been done. At the same time, she can withhold that person for a period of time because of the intent of the actions performed. During that time,” Shou takes a step into the room, “that person will be unable to escape nor cause any more harm.”
“So. It is as futile as that, I see.”
How foolish. What a sense of regret. Or was it truly mercy? A brave stand for ideals? This torrent of emotion welling up from within is quite the force to keep still.
“You haven't spoken a word since we returned.”
“We...We were worried you might not be of the right mind.”
The silence pierces the room even as Byakuren stands. She spots Shou approach from the corner of her eye.
“You did the right thing.” Shou's head lowers. “I was also not of the right state of mind. To give that...kind of thing mercy, despite its deeds. I wouldn't have been able to hold back.”
Byakuren's mind empties. Yet the nun clenches her hand.
“I'm sorry, Shou. Everyone. I simply did not expect such a thing to happen—”
Shou pulls Byakuren into an embrace. The nun doesn't even realize it has happened until she feels the youkai's cheek rest on her neck.
“I might not be human.” Shou squeezes her arms tighter onto the nun's back. “But I know that you're troubled. I hope you don't mind.”
“Those youkai you’re so fond of will never understand.”
As Shou hugs her, Byakuren faces the rest of those who followed Shou. Ichrin steps forward.
“I was once human too. Though I am now considered a youkai for some long years, the only family I consider my own are you and the rest who are here. I'm sorry for being rude, but Shou gave word of what transpired to us.”
Minamitsu stands beside Ichirin.
“You're the one who saved us. You made us who we are now, and I don't regret...being with you. Whatever that bastard said, you're a true saint to me.”
Nue scratches her head, but doesn't speak. Mamizou rests her arms on the nue's head.
"It's true that you're our benefactor, however small it may be to some of us here.” The tanuki ruffles Nue's hair, and the nue scowls. “You haven't done anything personal for me like you did the rest of these guys. But I think I have some say as a half-neutral party. Out of everyone I know, you're one of the only people who'll be willing to give me a home. You'll fight for youkai who are being picked on, no matter who picks on 'em. And the same for humans, of course. Everyone standing here agrees with that."
“I've never had a family.” Shou pulls herself away from Byakuren, her hands on the nun's shoulders. Her fingers dig into Byakuren's shoulders.
“But, I'm sorry. I'm sorry.”
Nazrin comes forward to place a hand on Shou's side. The mouse looks up at Byakuren.
“Like you heard, Master told us about what happened. She...was very upset. I was worried, too. We all were. But Master. If only I could describe how she was then....”
Byakuren looks back at Shou, who grits her teeth. Tears form in the youkai's eyes.
“They don’t understand a human’s pain."
With a small shudder, Byakuren begins to cry as well. Leaning her nose into Shou's shoulder, tears fall from her cheeks onto the other woman's clothes. The nun sniffles, but doesn't close her eyes. Shou also rests her head on Byakuren.
Kokoro comes out from behind the small group. The menreiki makes an expressions as though she had eaten something sour, but then her face returns to its blank state. Instead, she takes out a mask, which depicts an old man whose eyes are squinted. Wrinkles crease at the corner of the eyes on the smooth mask, a serious and solemn gaze at what seems to be the ground. Then, after wearing the mask, Kokoro walks around Shou and brings herself close to Byakuren's waist. Kokoro hugs her.
"They don’t really understand what family means.”
And the saint called Byakuren continues to cry.
"Would you kill everyone in your way if it meant that you could save me? From, say, a fate worse than death itself?"
Myouren stops cleaning his beads, not turning to his sister.
"What?” His eyebrows lower and his forehead creases. “Is something wrong?"
"I'm just curious. Sorry if I'm scaring you.” Byakuren kicks her legs back and forth on her chair. “But it's something I'd at least like to ask once sometime."
“And you decide now is the time?”
“Would you prefer it to be at a more awkward time?”
The younger brother takes a deep breath. He begins cleaning his beads for a couple of seconds before answering.
"Well, I think it's a very human-like thing to do. After all, emotions are part of what makes humans act the way they do."
"So you would?"
"Of course. After all, if I can't even save my sister, what right do I have to try saving other humans in the first place?"
"Hmmm. Thank you, Myouren."
Myouren takes another deep breath.
"If you were gone. If I were gone. I think it's different."
"Oh? How so?"
"Humans are sometimes obsessed with the notion of life, that it is something that can be controlled on a whim. Whether it be killing others, reviving those near death, or ruling over many across the land. Magic has given me great power, but has also taught me much about life itself.”
“And what could that be? Something that would make you reconsider saving me from disaster?”
“No, not that, exactly.” Myouren lies on the floor, cleaning. He looks up at the beads. “I would never choose to abandon you, Byakuren. But I would certainly have my reservations about killing others.”
“And why is that? What if you have no choice but to choose?”
“That's why I've learned magic, and will continue to do so. So that I may prevent inflicting others with unnecessary pain, or death. For even humans will attack humans, and since my goal is to protect humans, I will do so without breaking my own promises. Whether youkai or otherwise, I will do my duty. But I also live for what I love in my life. Family and duty. And I will refuse to accept that there are only the two choices that are presented to me by someone else.”
Myouren lifts his beads toward his sister.
“Here. For you. I hope I will never see the day that such a decision has to be made. But if so, then the right choice is obvious, isn't it?”
“I see. You're quite the wise one aren't you, Myouren?” Byakuren takes the beads from her brother. “I assume you have your own?”
“I'm not as wise as you, Byakuren. And of course I do.” The younger brother pulls another set of beads from his clothes. “After all, if you're going to be learning magic, then you too should use it for what you think is right. The treasures I'll keep, though.” He laughs.
Byakuren laughs along with her brother.
“Your younger brother. So that's who he was.”
“Yes. He...is a great person.”
With eyes still red from earlier, Byakuren drinks the tea offered to her by Shou. Some of the others drink from their cups, aware that this is an exceptional moment where the nun has allowed them to drink sake or alcohol in her presence. At least, that's what can be assumed from the lack of reprimanding. Nue raises her cup while lying on her side, head resting on her other hand with her elbow supporting her weight.
“So he must have slain his share of youkai, huh?” The nue drinks, then allows Mamizou to pour another cup (of unknown alcohol) to drink. “I mean, youkai were pretty big back then.”
“Yes.” Byakuren sips her cup. “But as was the nature of the time, humans were terrorized to a much greater extent than they are here in Gensokyo.”
“Aaah. I wish I could meet him now.” Minamitsu lies atop of Nazrin and Kokoro, who squirm under her body. “Myakuren's younger brother, huh? I mean, Byouren. Baaah.”
“If nothing can be done for your brother, what shall we do, Hijiri?” Shou stares at Byakuren. The nun places her cup in front of her.
“Personal relations aside, it would only be right to perform a separation.”
“But then you'd have to kill that person?”
Byakuren's eyes close. That would be the simplest way. But. That man has only spent a lifetime to perform that magic. Countless human lifetimes have passed to learn even greater. Nothing that reverses a soul infusion comes to mind. However, is that not the point of learning this magic in the first place? To grant eternal life is no simple task. So the separation of a soul from a body—especially one that is incompatible—should not be too difficult.
“It will be no easy task. If that man is not given to us as Reimu said would be done, it would be an even greater complication. But even so. If you will be willing to assist me,” Byakuren smiles at Shou, “then perhaps it can be done?”
Seeing the light return in the saint's eyes, Shou nods while returning the smile.
“Of course, Hijiri.”
In the darkness there is a sigil of red. The circle expands and illuminates the darkness, of which appears to have no end. In the middle of the seal is the man. Kneeling, he laughs to himself.
“Spare me, huh? Now that's interesting. But still a shame.”
It is indeed a room of sorts. But as it is, it is more like a cage. A prison. The yama decided that it was necessary to use such a high security method. Had it been someone from Gensokyo, this would not have been needed.
“I'll be waiting for the time we meet again. And if we don't, I hope your brother will be able to see you. It'd be too sad if that much didn't happen.”
The soul inside of him, although infused, rests without disturbance. However, it pulses and beats much like a heart. Whether it knows of its condition, the man does not know. But one thing is certain. Something will be done about it.
“And if I don't end up dying somehow, I will wait an eternity until something can.”
So the incident for a saint ends. A shrine maiden lives her daily life. A yama and her shinigami continue their jobs. A man is bound and imprisoned. Humans and youkai live in harmony in the temple. The followers of the saint practice their beliefs, and the saint herself does the same. Life must continue in Gensokyo, no matter the events that pass. But in the back of all their minds, however deep, lies that truth.