This is the first published fanfic story for Mushishi that includes material from the second season. The second season concluded without an ending, so I gave Ginko one. It is a happy ending, and I hope you enjoy it.
I do not own Mushishi. This is a work of fan fiction.
Chapter 1: Lost Memories
"Go away! Shoo! Get out of here!"
Ginko stood in front of the kuchinawa and blocked it. He knew the large serpent could not travel under the riverbed or under any other moving water source, and being an earth mushi it could not swim across it. So he used the icy river's fork as a choke point. That way the creature would be forced to crawl above ground at the river's edge and appear before him.
And it did. The great white wyrm reared up its massive head as it made its characteristic deep sinusoidal 'bong' noise, like a great bell.
Ginko detested the creature. Kuchinawas were indiscriminate destroyers who consumed not only the great and gentle spirit guardians of the mountains but even the memories of their existence. Whenever a kuchinawa killed a mountain guardian the results were often devastating for the surrounding villages that depended on the mountain's beneficence for their livelihood: its freshwater springs for drinking, the snowmelt that irrigated the rice paddies, and the lush plant and animal life that surrounded it. He knew that all that would end if the kuchinawa slew the mountain's guardian.
And so Ginko waved his hands in front of the large serpentine creature like a matador in front of a bull. "I have taken away your mugura*! Get out of here! Leave this place and never return!"
He knew the creature would not attack him, at least not directly. It targeted only mountain guardians, the near-immortal mushi entities of enormous power that ruled the mountaintops and stood athwart any large hilltop or mountaintop that had a strong light-vein flowing deep under its roots. Those light veins, sometimes called 'rivers of light', were underground paths of pure energy that were the primary source of the mushi's power. And so kuchinawa rarely bothered with humans and usually ignored them completely.
But not this time.
The serpent stopped and looked at him. That was odd. Then Ginko sensed its murderous intent against him.
The giant serpant charged at him. It charged directly at him.
Wait, why was it attacking a human? There was no reason for it. Ginko was no mountain guardian. He wasn't even a mushi. There was no cause for it to attack him. Granted, he had just taken away the creature's mugura, the tiny vine-like mushi that served as the nervous-system of the mountain, in order to prevent the snake-entity from flowing through the mugura to locate and find the guardian, but that should have only annoyed the creature, not throw it into a mad fury.
But this was no time to idly explore such academic imponderables. Adashino might have paused to wonder about it, but Ginko knew better. His life was in danger right at that moment.
He started to run. He knew the creature was faster than him.
It's going to catch up to me soon. I have to find a way to slow it down.
Kuchinawa cannot cross moving water, at least not easily. They could not burrow under a riverbed, only go over it. And being an earth-based mushi they could not swim. If the water current was strong enough and fast enough it was possible that it would fall through the ice and be carried away by the river.
Ginko knew that crossing the ice over a river was always fraught with peril regardless of how cold the air temperature was. The moving water currents under the ice tended to make the thickness of the surface highly unpredictable as the currents continually eroded it away in eddies and swirls. He knew that falling into the icy river would almost certainly be fatal to him.
He dropped his backpack and ran as fast as he could over the ice to try to reach the other side. The ice started to crack beneath him. Then he heard the 'bongs' of the kuchinawa behind him and the loud crunching of ice.
He was only 6 feet from reaching the far shore when his legs finally went through the ice. Although the river water was only a foot deep here, his feet felt as if steel daggers were stabbing into them.
He could hear that the 'bong' sounds were getting close, only a few yards behind him now. He could actually see the white glow of the kuchinawa's body starting to envelop him. Then he stumbled and fell onto the shoreline.
And then he knew no more.
Then he heard a woman's voice.
You made a promise to me. I intend to make you keep it.
Then he heard a man's voice.
This is not your time. Don't worry, I'll make the arrangements.
Then he heard an older woman's voice make an exasperated sigh.
Yoki, you idiot. What possessed you to challenge a kuchinawa for control of the hill?
Time passed of unknown duration.
Then he heard a young girl singing a tune that he did not recognize. He slowly opened his eye. As he blinked against the bright light that was streaming in from a sunlit window he saw that he was laying on his back in a small wooden bed. A pair of heavy wool blankets were tightly wrapped around him.
He slowly turned his head to face the direction of the song. The girl was not unpleasant to look at. She was young, perhaps age 16 or so. She had a wide mouth and long flowing hair that was pure white. But her most striking physical features were her eyes.
Those eyes were bright, alive. And emerald green.
He saw that she was using a needle and thread to finish darning a rather large tear in the left pantleg of his slacks, one that he did not remember making.
As she completed her sewing task, the girl finally noticed him staring at her and stopped her singing. She stood up and approached him. She put her hand on his forehead and spoke softly, "Your chills seem to be gone. How do you feel?"
Ginko tried to sit up and winced. The girl firmly but gently and pressed him back down again. "Don't try to get up. You have two cracked ribs, and you can't walk. Your feet must have fallen into the water. They were like ice-blocks when I found you."
He slowly laid back down into bed again. She re-tucked the blankets around him. Then she bent down and pulled up his slacks and showed the stitch-work to him. "I just finished repairing the tear in your slacks. Do you approve?"
She allowed him to hold the cloth and inspect it. Ginko noted the expert darning job. "This repair is perfect. These slacks look like new."
She gave him a gentle smile. "I am a seamstress. My father was a rather well-known tailor. Our village was difficult to reach, but people would come from miles around for our family's tailoring services because of our reputation."
Ginko saw that she wore a simple tan cotton dress with a cloth belt that was tied around the waist. The pleated tan skirt just covered her knees. Because of the belt, the skirt flared outward slightly to give her elfin figure a more hourglass shape, and the front of the dress was criss-crossed to accentuate her rather modest bustline. Ginko guessed that she had probably sown the dress herself. He had to admit that she did a wonderful job in making it.
"I see. So you are from a family of tailors. I must say that your dress looks very nice on you."
Did she blush a bit? "Thank you. I made it myself."
"So your family lives here, then?"
She looked down. "I lost my whole family. Most of my village. I live alone now."
Ginko's face showed concern. "What happened to them?"
She looked away. "Something drew them away. A monster. They never returned."
"I'm sorry." An awkward silence followed. Finally he asked, "What is your name?"
"My name is Shuuri Irui."
"I see. May I ask how long have you been living here all by yourself?"
She looked down again. "I'm not sure."
"But, don't you at least have any visitors?"
Instead she changed the subject. "Why do you have one eye?"
He decided to keep the explanation brief. "I lost it to a mushi when I was young."
"You are a mushi master."
"Yes. Uhm, may I ask how old you are?"
She said evasively, "Old enough. And you?"
He told her his age.
She tsked tsked. "You do not look it. You have the cares and weariness of a man who is much older. I would have guessed that your age was well over 40."
Ginko was annoyed by that estimate. Then he said, "You still haven't asked me my name.."
She gave him a mildly condescending look. "That is because there is no need. You are Ginko the travelling mushi-master. Your name has become rather well-known in these parts."
"Well, thank you for saving my life."
She folded her arms and gave him a disappointed look, "You did your best to try to end it. My word, challenging a kuchinawa.. Are you mad? That was practically suicidal."
"What? I was only trying to shoo it away.."
"I think the kuchinawa begged to differ with you. You are lucky it fell through the ice before it could eat you. The kuchinawa is weak when travelling over water. That fact probably saved your life. Still, you didn't need to drown it and kill it."
"Hmm. You seem to know a thing or two about mushi, young miss."
"I know quite a bit, actually."
Ginko tried to sit up again. "Aren't you a bit young to be claiming that? You are too immature to be a mushi-master. You must be an apprentice. Who is your master?"
She remained silent.
Finally she said softly, speaking almost to herself, "All memories are taken by the ginko, but for one name..."
He blinked his eye at her in confusion. She was talking of the ginko, the white glowing salamander-like creature that dwelled in the pond of the tokoyami. She was referring to when Ginko nearly died at the hands of that dark monster. But instead of dying he was effectively reborn: when he arose from the pond his hair was pure white, his right eye emerald green, his left eye blinded and hollow. He had no memories of his past save one, the name 'ginko'.
And so he took that name for himself.
"Wait, how could you possibly know about my name?"
She said simply, "Because I was there, how else?"
"Oh..?" He was confused. He had no memory of the girl. He did not recall seeing her when he arose from the pond.
The young girl continued to watch him in silence.
Ginko started to think. Then he nodded to himself. Finally he said, "Look, obviously I can see that you were someone who must have been important to me in my past. Someone that I have forgotten after the ginko stole my memories."
He looked at the young girl carefully. "Your face looks like mine. A bit younger perhaps, but the resemblance is remarkable. You must be a close relative of mine."
This time the girl blinked her eyes. "What? A relation? You and me?"
He looked at the young girl in earnest. "Are you my sister? Or perhaps my daughter? Our physical resemblance is striking. Don't try to deny it."
She was speechless. Finally she said, "Oh, Yoki, you adorable idiot."
"Yoki is my real name?"
She looked at him sadly, "Yes, it is."
"I don't remember it.."
"I gave you several of hints about who I am just now, but I can see that you remember nothing about me. I told you that I am a seamstress**. Does that ring any bells?"
"So? Your name matches your occupation. That's fairly common."
Should I tell him? Should I tell him that his own mother died right in front of him? No, what purpose would that serve? That I took him in as an orphan only to tell him that I despaired and waited to die as well?
She finally said, "Ginko, we are not related. But I do know you. Rather well."
"Hmm.. were you my apprentice at one point?"
She stared at him, then she started to titter, then laughed aloud.
"Me? Your apprentice? Oh, that is rich." She doubled over from laughing again.
Ginko rolled his green eye in mild irritation. "Fine. Wrong guess then."
She wiped the tears from her eyes. "Oh Yoki, I have so many memories of you.."
"Yes. And trust me, they are not flattering of you. You were curious and inquisitive, but reckless and foolish. You nearly got yourself killed repeatedly. And you're still doing it now with that kuchinawa. How in the world did you live so long?"
Ginko crossed his arms. He did not appreciate being lectured by this girl. "Are you sure you're not my bratty younger sister heaping abuse on me?"
"Very funny. And for the record, no, I am not your sister." She gave him a look as she scolded him, "You are a reckless fool, practically suicidal. First you go charging into the tokoyami's pond and let yourself get light-zapped, then you grab me and get yourself pulled in to the tokoyami***..."
"Yes, about that. You've obviously been exposed to the ginko's light. But you have two eyes."
She re-crossed her arms, both eyes shining bright. They had an unearthly sheen. "That is right. I do."
"Consider it a test for you, a test for the high-and-mighty mushi-master. I'll wait."
He furrowed his brow. It was at times like this that he really wished he could have a cigarette.
She had laughed in his face at the idea of her being his apprentice. So not that then. But.. wait. She was far too young to have gained all her knowledge of mushi on her own. Then the thought struck him.
"Tell me your age, and don't avoid the question this time." His first clear memory was when he staggered away from the tokoyami's pond and met the kind peddler who took him in shortly thereafter. Ginko had just turned 11 years old. And all that had happened 18 years ago.
She said simply, "I am 18 years old."
Ah. So. He smiled. "I see. You are the reincarnation of my mother."
Her arms remained crossed.
She simply said, "Wrong."
"Yoki, I swear I don't know how you can even remember to breathe sometimes. Think. A reincarnation is a new life. In a reincarnation most of the memories of the former life are lost. The rest are vague, like a feeling of deja-vu. And I will tell you right now that I have a perfectly crystal-clear set of memories in my mind of every single foolish, stupid, reckless act that you ever did in my presence, clear as a bell, as if they all happened yesterday. Baka shonen!"
Such rudeness. Wait. Could she be? She couldn't. But with that attitude, yes, she could.
"You were.. my.." He hesitated to speak it aloud. ".. my master?"
She addressed him like a befuddled student in a classroom. "Congratulations, Yoki. After guessing just about every possible wrong permutation possible you are finally, by a process of dogged elimination, are actually, amazingly enough, gradually approaching the truth."
Another eyeroll. "Enough for today. You still need to build up your strength. I'll make you some green tea and steamed rice. Then I'll change your bedpan. Just sit back and rest." She walked out.
With her out of the room he finally was able to think clearly. Argh, why did she fluster him so much? He was a mushi-master with all his years of skills and experience, and yet she had just made him feel like a stupid child.
Hmm. He began to reflect her behavior towards him. He thought he was starting to understand Shuuri. She was full of bluster as she mercilessly disparaged him. But the lady doth protest too much, he thought.
If anything, he thought, she acted around him more like an exasperated but devoted wife berating a henpecked husband. If she was truly upset with him she would have complained loudly about changing his bedpan, but she didn't. She had flatly denied being his mother (or any relative of his for that matter). And yet she was actually taking good care of him, very good care in fact, as best as she knew how.
So what was her real relationship to him anyway? It was clear that she knew him and did not entirely dislike him. She had even called him 'an adorable idiot'. Indeed, she was interacting with him more like they were an old married couple. Or was this the bluster of a tsundere? And if so, was she in fact secretly in love with him? He thought it might be possible.
Finally he shook his head. Eventually she would reveal to him their relationship in the past. Or he would figure it out on his own. Either way he would know.
He sighed to himself. Then he turned his head towards the door.
Shuuri instantly returned with a tea tray. She set it next to him briskly. There was a haughty expression on her face.
He suppressed a grin. As soon as he had turned his head to face the door she had spontaneously marched into the room. It was obvious to him that she had been secretly gazing at him from behind the door for at least a minute, probably by spying between the door hinges.
After she dropped off the tray she returned a few minutes later with a bowl of steamed rice. He thanked her politely and ate it heartily. She left the room in a prim march, then she turned and peered at him again through the door hinges, thinking that he didn't notice the slight change in shadows that revealed her hiding place.
She watched him in secret with a strange mixture of compassion, sadness, hope, and worry.
Oh Yoki, I'm so sorry. I don't know if I believe Adashino or not, but sooner or later I will be forced to tell you what happened.
Why, oh why, did you go after the kuchinawa? The guardian here could have defeated it without your help. But now because of your foolish act I will be forced to do the hardest thing that I have ever done. And your life will change forever because of it.
Yoki, oh Yoki, please don't hate me. Please.
This will be even harder than when I saved you the first time..
.. when I died.
Shuuri Irui is listed as an OC for reasons that will become more apparent later in the story.
* See Season 1 Episode 11, "The Sleeping Mountain".
** The kanji for the word seamstress ('one who sews') is Nui (縫う). This is not a coincidence. The kanji for the name Shuuri Irui (修理衣類) means 'one who repairs' (Shuuri) clothing (Irui), which is more-or-less the same thing. Basically, Shuuri was testing Ginko's memory to see if he remembered Nui's name and he failed the test.
*** See Season 1 Episode 12, "One-Eyed Fish".