|Visions of His Past
Author: AwkwardedOut PM
The past is explored to see what shaped Karasu into the demon he has become, to explain his search for strength, the beauty he feels compelled to destroy, and the end of his quest.Rated: Fiction T - English - Karasu - Chapters: 4 - Words: 8,181 - Reviews: 2 - Follows: 2 - Updated: 12-10-11 - Published: 08-13-11 - id: 7282762
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to Yu Yu Hakusho.
It had happened that time, too.
Night was always dark when no moon or stars lit up the sky, and they were not visible that evening. Demon World was cloaked in darkness, making it the perfect time for a raid.
A group of at least twenty demons had gathered at the base of a cliff. Each one carried a broadsword or spear in his hand. No torches had been lit so that their presence would not be detected by the inhabitants or guards who occupied the castle at the cliff's peak. Living in camps in the woods or empty caves, avoiding notice by other bandits, these demons had grown accustomed to seeing and operating in the dark. Swiftly, with their weapons either clutched between their teeth or slipped through a sash at their waist, the bandits scaled the side of the cliff. The hand and footholds in the face of the rock were plentiful, so the progress was quick. Once again on flat land, the company held their bodies low to the ground to avoid detection as they ran toward the castle gates. Only a muffled curse and two soft thumps could be heard as they disposed of the guards at the entrance. They entered the structure through a side door designated for servants and moved silently through the stone corridors.
Anyone the rowdy company came upon was slaughtered on sight. There was no reason—it was just for a spot of fun. Every room along the way was checked for people and valuables. The people were killed. The valuables were taken. It was a simple process.
A young Karasu crawled into the servants quarters located in the very back of the demon castle. The space was small and cramped; it was not equipped with windows and no artificial light shined. He received several claws to the back or backhanded slaps to the head as he stumbled over the mass of bodies to his own allotted area at the room's back. He had just returned from a thrashing at the hands of his master. This particular demon would punish his servants for the smallest mistake or simply for no reason at all. Karasu was usually beaten within an inch of his life, but that was preferable to suffering the master's more inventive punishments.
Karasu's own mother had been forced to drink a poison that literally melted her from the inside out—all because she had not prepared the meal to the master's tastes. Her screams of agony had haunted Karasu's dreams for months, but that was nothing compared to the image of his mother lying on the stone floor—blood and acid frothing at her mouth as her eyes rolled into the back of her head—that had been burned into his mind. It had gotten to be too much for the child to endure; when the lord turned his back, a swift cut was delivered, cutting off the gurgles fraught with pain and blood. The lord had only observed the freshly severed head that rolled into his foot with disdain before kicking it away.
In another instance, a demon had attempted to steal a plate of rotting human meat—a delicacy that was very rare and difficult to come by—from the kitchens. When she was caught, the castle servants had broken the bones in her limbs and hung her from the mouth of a cave on their master's order. That cave was the den of demonic carnivores, and she was not blessed with an instant death. Over the span of a month and a half, the carnivores—small and weak—feasted on whatever part of her their fangs could reach. Strips of what once had formed her body hanged from her bones in shreds, but still her demonic nature kept her alive. Her only wish was for the demons to be stronger, so that they could pick her bones clean of meat and end her suffering once and for all. If not for the storm that tore her bonds one night, tossing her into the pit at last, she would have lasted for several months yet.
Karasu curled himself into a ball on a thin layer of straw spread upon the floor and nursed his stinging wounds. The child was a quicker healer than most other demons. The large red welts and bloody gashes he sported from his face down to his feet would heal within a few days. It was one of the reasons his master, whenever he was in a foul mood, would call upon Karasu for some entertainment. Sometimes he used a blade, sometimes a whip, other times his own hands and feet. It didn't matter. The boy would always be healthy again in just a few days, and the more powerful demon could take out his frustrations on the child again.
He had only just embraced sleep when a crash wrenched him from the comfortable state. He sat up, lids heavy, brain fogged with sleep. Several dark figures stormed into the small room, paying no heed to the bodies they trampled underfoot or the cries of indignation that followed.
Karasu thought he had been the last one to turn in for the night; he didn't understand who these shadowy figures were—until the slaughtering started. Large blades were raised high in the air and brought down in great arcs, beheading two in one swing, carving another in half. Any screams were immediately cut off as the head left the neck. Others in the room met their ends with spears in their lungs, drowning in their own blood.
The remaining servants fought back to the best of their ability. The bandits had their hands full with suppressing the demons, so they didn't notice a small figure crawling along the length of the wall, melding into the shadows. Just a little farther and he would be able to reach the door left ajar, lit by a soft glow.
A few more yards. Karasu's mouth was drier than a desert, but his entire body was drenched in sweat and fear. Unable to take the anxiety any longer, he made a run for it. Nearly there… nearly—"Ah!" Someone had grabbed him by the arm and wrenched it back until flames erupted in his shoulder. Tears of pain and fear dripped from eyes that watched the open doorway moving further and further away. A shiver ran down his spine as a broad blade was held before his face; he could feel cold emanating from the steel. With the sharp edge approaching his throat, Karasu's limbs moved of their own accord—beating, punching, kicking against the solid form that held him. Nothing worked. With one final, desperate cry, one small hand pounded behind him—a trail of pain burned down the length of his arm. When the sensation escaped from his open palm, something detonated behind him.
Without warning, Karasu met the stone floor painfully. He didn't know what had caused his captor to drop him, but it didn't matter. Giddy with freedom, he raced for the light, the mad slaps of his bare feet playing in accompaniment to the furious scream that followed him from the servants quarters. Several times, he had to deviate from his course to seek refuge behind a curtain of human skin or fold his body into a shadowed hollow in the stone. His body was small, so it easily fit into all the little nooks and crannies the old castle offered—the advantages of being a child.
Hands clamped over his mouth to keep his breathing stifled, the child waited for the danger to pass. When the raiders could no longer be heard, he would scramble out and pelt down the hall once more.
Cautious feet stepped into the kitchen, quiet upon the cold stone. Violet eyes rolled wildly, searching for the smallest sign of movement. He was alone. Quickly, the door was opened. The boy plunged into the nearby woods, fueled by fear, running until his short gasps could no longer fill his lungs. Knees hit dirt as he gasped for air.
While he regained his breath, he noticed there was a weight clinging to his arm. Looking down, he saw a large clawed hand wrapped around the small limb. It belonged to the demon who had caught him in the servants room. The boy grabbed the severed hand around its burnt stump and pried it off; successful, the extremity was tossed into nearby bushes. The sound it made falling through the dry leaves startled the young demon—nerves still on edge—into running further down the forest slope.
His night vision not entirely developed, the world seemed to turn upside down as a rock tripped his scurrying feet and he was sent hurtling down the hill. Stones and twigs left their marks on his flesh in his plunge until his momentum came to a jarring halt at the trunk of a tree.
The air is so clean… Hazy with pain, he wasn't sure where the thought had come from, but it didn't matter; his mind fell into blackness.
The wind of Human World was so light, so clean compared to the smell of slaughter that blew through Demon World. He still remembered that much—amidst all the pain and suffering that obscured the memories of his childhood, there was the scent that accompanied it all. There was fresh blood and oozing pus that had flooded his senses—attacked his nose with their smell, filled his eyes with their image, invaded his ears with their sound—on a daily basis. However, underneath the new scents, there was always that one pervasive odor that was constantly in the background. It had been there so long that no one took notice of it anymore. Life. It was the scent of life. Or death. But to a demon, the two were not separate.
Opening his eyes, Karasu was greeted with green foliage, a light blue sky and floating white clouds. With a groan, he raised himself on his elbows, feeling jarring pain shoot from his midsection. Just as he was about to collapse back onto the grass, the sound of rustling caught his attention.
He stopped, breathing shallow. Was it the Toguros back for another round already? Perhaps they had decided to rescind the offer from the previous night and had come back to finish him off. The moment of panic played out, and Karasu returned to his senses. Calming himself, he raised his nose into the air and inhaled, grimacing at the pain that even a deep breath evoked. Willing his mind to focus, he determined that the air was pure and clean; it carried with it no traces of death and decay. Not a demon, then.
"Whoever you are, come out," he called, injecting his voice with a threatening tone despite the burning in his lungs. The sound of a twig snapping reached his ears. After some more rustling, a human woman stepped into the open. She was still a good measure away from him—too far for him to reach with his claws, too far for him to pounce upon with his injuries.
"Are you hurt? Do you need help?" A quiet voice asked. It came from her.
"I'm fine," Karasu said, carrying an arrogant tone. He would have added that he didn't need help from a human, but he didn't think he was in the condition to brag. If the woman decided to inform nearby villagers of a demon in the vicinity, he wondered if he could outrun the lynch mob that came after him. Possibly—but his body wouldn't take to it kindly. No, what he needed was a few more days of rest.
"I see," the woman replied. Without another word, she turned around and disappeared back into the foliage.
Well, that was easy, Karasu thought as he gently lowered himself back onto the ground, dizzy from just the small exertion. Violet eyes watched as the clouds drifted past, one after the other. This time when crackling leaves disturbed the silence, he didn't bother getting up. It was the same woman whose scent he had picked up before. Suspicious eyes flicked to the approaching form that knelt at his side. Without a word, the woman began to clean his wounds. He slapped her hand away, leaving an angry red mark on the white skin.
"What the hell are you doing?" He snarled menacingly.
"Helping you," she replied, rubbing the stinging portion of her hand.
"I told you I didn't want your help," he reminded her, none too kindly.
"You were just too proud to admit it," she told him with a knowing air. She then proceeded with her task, mindless of his warnings. Karasu would have normally just slit the person's throat open and left his or her body for the beasts; however, he didn't have the strength yet to flee any persecutors who may give chase upon discovering the savagely mutilated body. Instead, he decided to bide his time, wait until his recovery was complete. In the meantime, he studied the woman who was now applying a thick green paste to the many injuries.
Her hair was a unique color—an enticing shade of red, like the wild roses he had seen growing by the river. As he surveyed the face beneath the red strands, he thought that humans were truly hideous creatures. Even the most unattractive females in Demon World bore prettier faces than a human. Still, the hair was a captivating color. Red—not quite like blood—but he thought it was close enough. His hand gravitated towards those strands that trailed down her back—easily within reach.
Her voice interrupted the demon's musings, causing the stretching hand to drop to his side. "I think you have a few broken ribs. You should see someone about those. There's a village nearby—" She was cut off before the suggestion could be finished.
"It's fine. They'll heal in a few days." He knew they would; this wasn't so different from his injuries back in his life of service. There was something about that life that was trying to push itself to the surface of his thoughts, but he suppressed it; those were not times he cared to recall. The woman bore an expression of doubt; however, she did not pursue the matter. Instead, she changed the subject.
"Were you in a fight?"
"Yes," he replied. It was an obvious enough fact. Really, humans could be so stupid.
"You lost?" She asked.
"Obviously," he answered dryly, indicating the cloth in her hand, red with his blood. Some of it was fresh, from when she had rubbed through the dried blood caked on his skin. Even as her careless ministrations broke the thin, newly formed scabs, his thoughts were otherwise occupied. The mixture of pink and red that spread on the white cloth—he thought it complimented the tint of her hair nicely, and wondered what life the sunlight would bring to the strands.
"At least you're alive," she said, taking his idle thoughts down a vengeful path. Karasu growled low in his throat, startling the woman.
"The next time I see those bastards, I will be stronger, and I will tear them limb from limb," he promised himself vehemently. The woman seemed to consider his words for a while.
"Sometimes, beauty can be more powerful," she said with a small smile. Seeing the look of indignation mingled with confusion on his face, she elaborated. The forest, the river, the flowers, nature at its best—they were all things of beauty. Each year—through the heat, the rain, and the snow—they survived, and their beauty thrived. Once she had finished binding the bandages, she rose and left the demon to himself.
Her words struck him. Beauty. It was not a concept recognized as anything significant in the demon world. In fact, it was a completely foreign idea to Karasu, who had never experienced a beautiful moment in his life. Until recent years, his life had been filled with servitude and beatings. Except maybe when he had stumbled into the human world and grasped the freedom that it afforded him. He remembered it had been a liberating moment when he knew that no bloodthirsty demons chased after him anymore, that he wouldn't have to bow down to those more powerful than him, or lower himself to being a punching bag simply for the amusement of the master of that castle. No, beauty was not something he understood, for he had learned at an early age the harsh laws that governed his world.
In the demon world, everyone strived for power, and power got one respect. Beauty had nothing to do with demons. It was useless. It had to be. After all, what was he supposed to do? Dazzlethe Toguros to death with his beauty—his smile? They'd die of laughter, probably, and his pride would perish right along with them. No, strength was the only thing worth pursuing for a demon. That was what Karasu thought—what he had always thought—but as he watched her in the following days, coming to that same spot beneath the trees in order to tend to his wounds, he wondered if he still believed in that concept.
Karasu was a young demon, an adolescent in human terms, and had crossed over into Human World at an even younger age. He knew that in Demon World, strength was the deciding factor in a battle. Sometimes cunning could turn the tide in a fight, but that wasn't so important when one was strong. Even though, he had to admit, the woman had planted a seed of doubt in his mind. Perhaps because he had been separated from his demon brethren at merely twelve, he was not so set in his beliefs. Perhaps, he could believe her words.
As the days passed, he continued to observe the person who cared for his quickly healing wounds. She was not strong. In fact, she was exceptionally weak. She had not a violent bone in her body, and clearly had no spirit awareness, or she would have known not to let Karasu—a demon—within striking distance. He could have easily snapped her in two.
Food was offered on several occasions, but he had refused them; he had not sunk so low as to eat from a human's palm like a dog. She always left a basket of fruit and bread by the tree before leaving, but he never so much as glanced at it. It didn't matter. In a few days, the pain would recede completely, and he would hunt.
During her visits, she would talk to him for reasons he couldn't comprehend. Why would he care about the pathetic humans and the tales of their worthless lifestyles? So long as they were not pursuing him with bows and arrows or torches, they were inconsequential. Another few days, and he could outrun those foolish humans. Until then, his eyes would follow the sway of red locks in the shade and scrutinize the glint of gold patches in the light.