Normally, he liked the rain, welcoming it with open arms, as one would a beloved brother. Today, however, when the storm above was not one of his making, when the storm was so intense that humans and lesser youkai had retreated into their homes for fear of incurring it’s wrath… today, the rain was not appreciated. The canopy shielded him from the worst of the storm, but he was still soaked to the bone, his sodden robes clinging to his body and squelching wetly with every step, geta sinking a half-inch into the muddy earth. In a way, he supposed he was grateful that the storm had driven everyone else from the area; he didn’t want any witnesses to his current condition. That was the end of anything positive he could say about the storm, though.
"A god… last of the divine dragons…little rain won’t stop me…" Half coherent, barely audible mutters left the lips of the miserable figure resolutely putting one foot in front of the other, trudging along beneath the trees, barely protected from the worst of the elements by a simple straw hat and a thin kimono, by now dripping wet with accumulated hours of relentless forging through the raging rain. Despite the cold, despite the fatigue clawing at him, he pushed on, desperately searching for the entrance he knew had to be in the area.
It’s so close… so close, I can feel it. Why… why won’t it open?
He knew, he just knew the entrance had to be near. He could hear it, his head thrumming with the subtle hum of magic used to seal the paradise away. He could feel it, a slight pulse in his bones that ebbed and rose like a foreign heartbeat.
But the entrance would not open. The entrance would not open.
An hour passed. The rain did not abate, nor did the winds. Another followed, and yet another, fruitless searching and frustration causing alien helplessness to well up within his chest, the crooning call of fatigue pulling his limbs down with all it’s might. Desperate, eyes no longer filled with resolute determination but a deep seated fear, he tried again and again to find the gateway.
The stormy afternoon dragged on into evening. Evening lapsed into night. All the while, the storm raged, and the man searched.
The next morning found him slumped against the base of a large tree, shivering and half delirious, mumbling to himself. He was so cold that his limbs had lapsed into numbness, the heat leeched from his body; one might have been excused for thinking he’d been carved out of marble, so cold and white he was.
This was a mistake. I never should have come here. But it was the only way… risk it all, or slowly die as the humans poisoned my river.
He closed his eyes, letting out a long, shuddering breath.
But not like this. Not like this.
"To… to any god out there who can hear me. Please." he rasped, choking out the words past a hoarse throat.
"Please. Let me die in combat. Let me fight. Not like this."
Not like this.
For a few minutes, there was naught but the light splatter of raindrops on the leaves above, and the sound of his own breathing. A sudden sense of lightheaded-ness assailed him; for a few seconds, he felt as though he were falling, stretched and compressed at the same time. And then the feeling was gone, as quickly as it had come,
The rain had ended. No longer could he hear the pitter-patter of the rain, nor the slight rumbles of thunder. Despite his impending end, he felt… peaceful. Content, even. As if the strife and conflict and pain had been left behind in his last hours.
I never had many friends. He realizes, as the sound of light footsteps reaches his ears. The shinigami is coming, is on his or her way. Too late to worry about that now, he chuckles internally, struggling to open his eyes, to catch one final glimpse of the last being he would ever see.
Far too late.
The tiniest gap opened, but all he could glimpse before the effort became too much for him was a brief impression of red and blue and white, and his eyes closed again. This time, he relaxed, and let the darkness take him.
Maybe, if he had managed to keep it open for just a little more, he might have noticed that the scattered trees on either side of the dirt path….
….had been replaced with a forest of bamboo.
Imagine the surprise that the physician Eirin Yagokoro encountered when she came across an unconscious form in the middle of her passage through the woods. Of greater interest was the fact that he seemed to be completely soaked in his unconscious state, even thought there was no large source of water anywhere nearby. Still, her first concern was to determine that he was at least alive and able to be moved. A quick check of his vitals determined that the man was at least breathing all right and not in any immediate threat, though there was some concern for exposure and perhaps even hypothermia as indicated by how cold he was to the touch. Well they could work on that as necessary.
Setting her burdens aside, Eirin slowly pulled her bow from her shoulder and slid an arrow up into the string before firing it off into the dense bamboo. A minute or two passed in silence as the doctor positioned the man in a proper stance to be moved safely, then down the path came some rabbits bearing a stretcher in a considerable hurry. Once they arrived, it took the three of them no time at all to move the patient to the cloth and the whole group quickly returned to Eientei.
Once they had arrived at the clinic proper, there was little time wasted as the sage had the man moved to one of the patient rooms. The cold, damp clothing was removed and heated pads were prepared on fired stones before being placed carefully around his body. All the while Eirin monitored his vital signs to ensure that he was not going to slip into shock or that his condition was going to worsen. “For now he is stable, at least. Let us hope that his mind returns soon with his body.” The rabbits were thanked kindly and dismissed to go about their chores as normal, and the woman settled back into her duties, checking in on the unconscious patient every little while to monitor his status.