As the power balance between humans and yokai change, Koga must face that sometimes things need to change.
Characters: Koga (future)
Warnings: None really, it is set in the future and is a bit angsty.
Summary: As the power balance between humans and yokai change, Koga must face that sometimes things need to change.
It was near sunset and most of the humans were dragging their weary bodies back from the fields and towards their small, grungy homes. It was the life of most humans: lowly, filthy, and filled with hard labor. It toiled on and on each day of every year, without rest, and yet they endured, were happy, and lived on. And they were multiplying.
Today was no different, they had endured again and the men were going back to their homes. The more virile ones lead the group with a quick pace despite the day’s labor, excitedly chatting with each other, sharing the stories that men share when the women folk aren’t around. The older ones, the weaker ones, and the ones less than happy with their meager existence, trailed behind, dragging feet and drowning out the noise of the men ahead of them.
Both groups were unaware of the eyes that watched them, as they usually were. The wolves by the youkai’s feet whined, their tongues lolling out of their mouths with hunger as they eyed the lagging men. Instinct drove them to single out the easiest to take down in order to satisfy their hunger. The young, youkai prince growled at them quietly. Their whining changed to a higher pitch, but their muscles relaxed.
Koga waited until all the men were at a safe distance before he took off in a brisk pace, making sure that the wolves behind him could keep up. As of late, the area around the den was becoming more densely populated with humans and, fearing the attack of wolves, they were arming themselves. Koga swallowed a growl. Ever sense his faithful meeting with Kagome, his tribe had stopped the eating of humans, and attacks were limited to only means of self-defense. And unfortunately, the self defense was getting to be the problem.
The land began to slope on his right and the woods there were still intact. The land wasn’t of use to the humans. It was too steep to build or farm on and only the most durable of animals could live there. It was to these outcrops of wood, growing smaller as the humans expanded, that the wolves were forced to hunt in. Koga stopped at the forest’s edge, letting the wolves pass him as they made their way into the underbrush. He watched to make sure of every one had made it safely, checking the village to make sure they weren’t noticed.
It was a demeaning act to have to sneak about his own lands as he was, but he had made a promise, to himself, to Kagome, and to his clan. He would see his clan live peacefully with the humans, but he wouldn’t sacrifice the safety or health of his tribe either. There was still food there to eat; they just had to be careful to get to it.
The wolf yokai entered the wood backwards, turning about to look at his tribesmen, youkai not beasts. “Where have you two been?”
“Tracking some of the herding deer on the edge of the Northern lands,” one said. His claws were dirtied with crusted blood. They had made a kill, and seeing as there were three less than they had left the den with, he assume the kill was making its way back home.
The yokai who spoke shook his head, looking gravely over at the other. “We weren’t the only ones hunting that herd,” he said. “Other tribes are having the same problems we are.”
Koga jogged down the slope, jumping from one rocky outcropping to another. The other two followed. Ahead of them he could hear the communication of the wolf beasts as they planned an attack on some prey they had found. “I wasn’t aware that other tribes were taking the policy against hunting humans,” he said.
The three made it down just above where the other wolves were lying in wait. They cautiously stooped to watch as a group of small, wild pigs feasted on the roots. As long as the mother didn’t come back, they could take several of the little piglets with them for their dinner—leaving, of course, a few to survive. If the mother came back, it was then Koga would step in.
“They aren’t,” one of the yokai whispered. Koga sent him a confused look.
“The humans are getting more powerful. The weapons they wield are getting too strong and most yokai, not just the wolf tribes, are having trouble standing against them.”
Now that the wolf prince had heard about. Every couple of weeks he would get messages or refugees telling about destructive weapons killing out whole populations of yokai and animal alike. Even more of a nuisance, they were destroying the land with it.
A squeal of a pig caught their attention. They watched as the group of wolves rounded up three of the piglets (leaving behind 4) and easily snapped their necks. A brave male piglet instinctively imitated its mature counterparts, and rammed his head against one of the wolf’s legs. The wolf stumbled, nearly dropping the kill in the dirt. He managed to keep it in his mouth and simply looked at the piglet, annoyed, before rushing up the slopes. Mother would have heard the cries and would be returning soon.
“Let’s go,” Koga said, jumping past the beasts to take lead. He would make sure it was safe for them to exit the forest once again. The other two yokai tribesmen took up the rear, watching out for the mother that would soon be near.
Again Koga looked out into the clearing, eyeing the village carefully. The sun was only a sliver on the horizon and the village was ablaze with light. From weapons, to their farm equipment, and even to how many lived, the lives of the humans were advancing progressively faster and faster, making them a force to be reckoned with. But their advancement in technology couldn’t account for everything. With keen eyes he saw the guards set up at the end of the village. They each had lanterns and powdered weapons but if they kept to the edge of the field, especially with the waning light, they would be able to pass by without being seen. He barked the order to his companions, and they all took off.
As the weeks passed, more and more refugees were streaming into Koga’s territory. They weren’t allowed in his den, but they camped in the mountain crags surrounding it. They were looking to him for safety, for leadership, and for a way to take back their lands. Amongst many of the former leaders, it was felt that Koga would know the best way to attack, but Koga would hear nothing of it.
“Who are these humans to take the land that has been ours for centuries?” an elderly wolf yelled, his voice gruff and bellowing in the tightly packed communal area of one of the lower caves.
Another wolf elder chimed in, his frustration breaking through is usual calm exterior. “They live their lives in a blink of an eye compared to us, and yet they feel they have more right to the lands? They till the fields, plants their crops and cut down our hunting grounds to make more land for their use. How are we even expected to live when the herds have become so few?”
“It is the way of nature,” yet another said. “When one species gets too numerous, they must be hunted to contain their numbers so they do not disrupt the balance.”
“I stand firm,” Koga interrupted, amidst the cheers of support for the bloodshed. “That we should not kill humans.”
“Koga-san,” another elder said. “We all respect your allegiance to the human girl from so long ago. You showed many that we wolf tribes could live differently, if we so chose, but times are changing. Your human has long passed on to the next realm and so with it, your duty to uphold your words of promises.”
“It is a matter of survival,” another spoke. “Surely you don’t expect us to all survive on the meager game left in the small outcrops of forest still left in your borders?”
“And food is even sparser in other lands.”
Koga looked around. The tribes were quickly coming to their own answer, without care to his own opinion. It wasn’t an answer he could abide by either. He had made a promise, and regardless of who Kagome chose, regardless of her death, she would always be one of his most important people. He would find a way…for her.
“The herds have moved on, they aren’t dead,” he said, his tone loud and harsh. “If it comes down to it, we follow the herds. There will be food and water, and we’ll make new places for our cubs to grow. If the beasts of the forest can survive in such manners, then so can the yokai.”
“Are you saying that our noble species should be reduced to act like mere /animals/?”
“No, I’m saying we should remember the animals in which we are connected and how they would act.”
“They would act by killing the humans!”
Another loud outcry echoed throughout the cave, deafening the fine ears of the more sensitive yokai. Most were too pumped with adrenaline to even care. Koga looked around, surveying the yokai gathered. To his right, somber and serious, were his the men of his tribe. They looked around in distaste, showing in their posture and expressions that they supported their Prince’s opinions.
“We are the greater of the species. The more hardy. It is us who can survive in the lands that the humans cannot cut down.”
“It is too late,” one of the younger, minor princes spoke up. “We know what we must do and you…must lead us.”
Koga scoffed, sitting down cross-legged. Several of the pups from his tribe came up to him, scared from the anger that permeated the atmosphere, and sought protection in his warmth. He deafly reached down and petted the small animals, combing his fingers through their soft fur. “I will do no such thing,” he said. “I wouldn’t know how to fight their weapons and I will not risk the lives of my tribe on a suicide mission.”
Growls of protest sprung up across the room, putting Koga’s tribe on edge and ready for a brawl. “You cannot abandon your people.”
“I’m not,” he spoke matter-of-factly. “But I also won’t bend my tribe’s principles for your pride. Fighting the humans is not the only option and until it is, then I will not be part of this.”
“Then where will you go? They will hunt you. They’ll take away what little you have. All of this land will be cut down for their farms and villages and there will be nothing left.”
“Land is not everything,” he replied. “Life is what matters. That was a lesson I learned a long time ago and once I will not forget. Nor should you.”
Ginta and Hakkaku entered the circle of elders and leaders, heading to stand behind their leader. Ginta had a scroll in hand. He handed it to the prince, who opened it, looked over it, and then closed it again.
“We know where the herds are going,” he said. “And my tribe will follow them. It is up to you if you will follow or go to your death.” He stood, handing the scroll to Ginta and one of the pups to Hakkaku. The other pups scrambled back to their kin at the wall.
“And this is your final decision,” one of the elders said, sighing deeply. He nodded. Many of the elders hung their head. They were aware of the truth, without Koga’s speed and knowledge of the humans, their chances of victory narrowed. The younger wolf yokai seemed not to understand…or care.
“Then you go fleeing into the mountains with your tail between your legs,” the younger prince once again growled. “We don’t need you. You’ve become weak anyway. You allowed yourself and your tribe to be tainted by that human girl and your tribe is cursed forever for it.”
Another shout of agreement. The momentum was gaining. The need for bloodshed growing. “Just you wait,” another young yokai shouted from the back. “When the tribes of wolves rein again over these lands, you will feel your own irreverence then. No one will welcome your tribe, no one will associate you, and you will forever be cursed to cower in your shame.”
Koga stood proud, looking over his fellow yokai. “I can’t tell you how much I want to sit here and punch some sense into you people,” he paused to take a deep breath. “But I won’t. My tribe will begin packing to leave tomorrow. Those who want to come with us are welcome, those who don’t…” he bowed low to the group. “We will mourn your deaths.”
The group went silent, looking at each other then back at the prostrate prince. “Koga-san,” one of the elders began. He stopped as the regal wolf stood again and shook his head. Behind the adrenaline, anger, and fear, they all knew the truth and what the only option really was.
Koga walked from the cave, followed by his tribe. They easily climbed the rocks to their den, leaving the other tribes to use the communal cave for their own devices. “I remember when you used to be the same as those hot-headed youngster down there,” one of the older members of his tribe said, laughing. “But it didn’t stop you from running off to fight Naraku whenever you got a chance.”
“That was different.”
“Is it? We were all very sure that no one could win against Naraku as well.”
Koga stared down at the wolf, then looked around to see the others. “Do you disagree with my decision? Do you think we should stay and fight?”
It was slow but heads began to shake. “We will follow you anywhere,” Ginta said. The others echoed his opinion.
“Good. I want to leave in two days. There is no telling when those idiots will decide to attack and I don’t want to be stuck in the crossfire.”
There was no opposition to his decision. There was fear and uncertainty in the faces of Koga’s tribe but without question, they began to ready themselves to leave the only home they had ever known.
It had taken two weeks to find the herds again and another two to find suitable spot for a den close enough to their new hunting grounds and water. The trek had been tough on many and Koga was still forced to fight territorial battles for their new space, but no yokai or beast of the high mountain forest was a match for the fast, hardened wolf.
The land was harsher further up in the mountains and Koga’s tribe, now doubled in numbers, had to adjust. Some of the older and weaker did not make it. They were mourned as wolves do. Their keening howls echoed throughout the mountains and valleys, letting all within hearing distance know of their loss.
It took about half a year for news of the other wolves to reach Koga. He read the scroll, his hands trembling. Most of the elder wolves had left with him, understanding that without Koga, the fight was already decided. The younger generations split—those with mates and cubs following Koga but many others decided to stay and fight. They wanted honor, pride, titles, and the prestige granted to someone who comes out victorious is glorious battles. There was no prestige or glory found in this last battle. Without the guidance of the elders or any other clear leadership, they fell apart without a plan. They attacked blindly and they had fallen as mere beasts to the superior human weapons. Not one human had even been harmed.
“Ginta, Hakkaku,” he said, his voice wavering with his grief. “Gather the others. Tonight, we mourn.”
That night even the stars cried as the wolves keened for their fallen kin. They cried for those that had been lost but they also cried for those who had lived. They had endured. They would live on, every day of every year, and they would be happy.