Shuei, the abbot's clerk, finds himself obsessed with a certain blonde apprentice and starts his journey down a bloody, tragic path. Based on episodes six and seven.
Rating: PG-13 (brief descriptions of gore, shota-ish musings)
Beauty harsher than a thousands suns
Broke into my house, asked "How is your heart?"
His robe of glory trailed the floor; I said
"Pick up your robe; the house is floored with blood"
They asked him about the beads that morning before the attack, watching the way he stroked them like the most pious of priests. Each bead shone large and round, like plump berries on a string, and the man's fingers wandered over them constantly, almost possessively with an absent expression on his face, as if he knew not what he was doing.
Shuei was clerk to the abbot, a comfortable position with enough authority to have his way. But he was also a strange man characterized by bursts of cheerful good nature and long spells of sullen gloom. He was easy to talk to but difficult to get to know and the only person he really seemed interested in was the boy.
Even when all the other monks called the apprentice a demon and a monster and a traitor to his master, the clerk would remember hair like sun-bleached wheat and big, solemn eyes that seemed dyed the richest purple. They called him many things, but to Shuei, the boy appeared as an enigma, a sort of uncommon riddle, the kind that begged to be solved.
He had been afraid of the blonde child, with eyes too old for his youthful face, who watched the falling rain with a vivid concentration. The boy had powers that none of them could understand and his sole loyalty belonged to the great Koumyou Sanzo, the highly respected priest he served. Kouryuu they called the boy. River child.
Staring out into the falling droplets without expression, the boy blinked twice, his imperious gaze never wavering as Shuei stepped halfway through the doorway and found nothing to say. He wanted to take that wise young face in his hands and look into the quiet power of those eyes. What are you looking at? he wanted to say. Why are you looking away? Of course, the boy was unnatural and unearthly; he was probably even the monster the other monks spoke of. But Shuei only knew that he had never seen so beautiful a monster.
Lust was one of the many great pitfalls marked by Lord Buddha and for a monk, the emotion showed a disgustingly unclean spirit. Lust for a person of the same gender only damned one further and the desire for a child was an inhumanity.
So, Shuei decided, he was surely destined for hell because of Koumyou Sanzo's strange young apprentice and he accepted this with a measure of peace. The boy seemed perfectly made, from the thick, bright hair hanging over his serious, well-formed face, down to the tips of his soft, temple sandals. The way he held himself drew attention without effort, so strong, composed, and indifferent to the world, the lines of his small form showing through the cool fabric of his yukata.
With the death of Sanzo, the child showed no grief at all in the presence of the monks' council, only a calm, straightforward request for vengeance. He gave Shuei a circlet of simple prayer beads and left the temple forever without looking back. But Shuei knew he would never look back, even if he had to walk into hell.
For the longest time, Shuei held the beads between his fingers; they were red and large and smooth. He rubbed one over the callous of his thumb, wondering. The boy had told him that he rarely gave anyone anything, that the beads were a rare circumstance, an unusual act. And Shuei wondered.
Oddly enough, he did not feel any grief over the child's departure, only a peculiar numbness under his ribs. Later in the day, he realized that he had trouble concentrating on his duties and deciding what to do next. Normal sounds rang strangely hollow; the clanging of the copper bell sounded more like someone hitting wood. Everything surrounding Shuei seemed curiously flat, even the trees were cardboard against the sky.
He had seen the boy once watching Koumyou Sanzo fold orange paper airplanes and launch them into the air with a graceful flick of a wrist, a strangely alluring scene, the carefree young man and his composed apprentice watching the flight of orange against blue. And the death of the priest sent his pupil sailing away on a firm breeze like an agile paper airplane dipping confidently into the clouds, growing smaller and smaller as it slid away.
It was only later, in the midst of the fire and blood, that Shuei finally felt grief. Men lay around him in the rubble of the temple, their faces torn open, their arms ripped off, eye sockets oozing thick fluid, and he touched the necklace of beads with his blackened hands. The boy was gone, gone, gone, gone, as if a river had swept him away. And the man's sorrow swirled together with his anger so that he loved and hated at the same time. Beautiful, merciless purple eyes...
He screamed something harsh and meaningless into the smoke-blurred air. A demon snarled nearby, furious in its inability to find the Maten scriptures. He wants to die. He wants to live and kill until his soul is forfeit. Demon child, river child, are you the only thing that kept me from this, from this insane hatred? How ridiculous that a young boy could be the only thing to hold the charred remains of his broken self together. The child with scornful eyes had been his pass to hell and the very gate that kept him from entering it.
If only it had never been/, he said. /If only, I could have fallen, fallen into this...
He is no demon, but he is gone. The talisman tears his mind apart even as the crimson beads hold his soul together. He hates as he loves, this creature of misplaced grief. He is no demon but he has fallen...and no purple eyes can save him from hell.