Disclaimer: YuYu Hakusho belongs to Yoshihiro Togashi

For those who don't know, Karasu means "crow"

The Heavenly Executioner

Enma Daiou (Daioh)- I believe this is what I've seen translated as "the Great King Enma."
Oni- a traditional, ogre-like Japanese demon
Sanzu River- "The River of Three Crossings," dead souls must cross it to get to heaven/hell, and the ferry girls guide them across
Geta- wooden sandals
Shoji- sliding rice paper door
Kitsune- fox also, fox demon
Owari- the end

The Judgment of Enma Daiou rumbled through the throne room, a thunderous sentence, or possibly damnation, for those who did not immediately make it to Heaven. In the Halls of the Reikai palace at the Gates of Judgment, the rushing flow of oni who hurried to the lord's bidding abruptly stopped, pausing to bow in respectful silence for whichever poor soul's fate being decided. A few of the ferry women sent up silent prayer, not only for the deceased, but also for the girl who was now in that room, witnessing the condemning of the one she'd guided from life across the River Sanzu.

Every act a mortal had ever committed, every thought conceived and intention made, was recorded in a file and stored deep in some secret place until their time of death arrived. All of this Lord Enma carefully weighed and considered, the scales tipping and adjusting for each measure of an individual's life. Then he spoke, the words falling from his lips like a hammer blow.

"To atone, before you may pass on, for what you have committed, you will serve for five centuries in the Reikai prison, without purpose nor pleasure. When your time is finished, your final destination will be decided—be glad the fires of Hell have been denied the prize of your soul.

"Judgment is final: the demon Karasu is dead and now resides in Purgatory."

Footsteps rang out through the narrow halls of the prison quarters. This jail, however, appeared more to be like a maze of some formal home's sparsely furnished corridors rather than the cells of a dungeon. Geta clattered against the wooden floor, and the light steps, quick and with a short stride, suggested a woman's gait.

The footsteps stopped as a figure appeared outside his door, materializing as an indistinctive shadow upon the shoji's screen. The shadow blurred with movement as a rustling of fabric ensued, obviously searching for the key. Several wards were already plastered to the rice paper to prevent damage and escape by the prisoner, but this one would be written in Enma Daiou's own blood.

The door slid open, revealing a young woman. Her dark hair, pulled into a bun, coupled with an ebony kimono gave the impression of a stately raven. He recognized her as one of the ferry girls, the one who had guided him across the Sanzu. He raised an eyebrow slightly at her presence.

"Time flies when you're having fun, but surely Enma flatters himself if he believes I've finished my time already."

She slipped off her sandals and closed the shoji before approaching him. There were no pillows to sit on in the prison, so she knelt on the bare floor before him. "I have an offer to make you, Karasu."

"Enma doesn't know you're here, then," he observed idly. "But why would you defy his wishes? I've no interest in mutiny." Lazily, he twirled a few strands of his dark hair, paying lackluster attention at best.

Ignoring it, she regarded him calmly. "You do realize which mistake of yours tipped the balance and sent you here?"

"Perhaps I shouldn't have gone after the redhead," he admitted ruefully. "But the fox was alluring."

The boy had caught his eye, captivating him like a shining silver trinket. He wanted to snatch him and guard him jealously in secret, but as a crow's domain consists of the remains of the dead… he'd take it upon himself to bestow authority on the death of the kitsune. It hadn't been well received.

The oarswoman meditatively traced the embroidery of her kimono sleeve with slender fingers. "It's pointless to continue to cage you here with no purpose."

"I'm not interested in charity."

"If you keep listening, you'll realize I'm not offering any."

Death comes when a person's body no longer functions. The soul is forced to leave because it can no longer be inhabited or sustained. A ferry girl comes to lead the departing spirit to the final place it belongs.

But what of the body? It must go back to where it belongs as well—a part of the earth. The Christians have a saying, "From dust you came, and to dust you shall return." In Japan, the deceased are cremated until only ashes remain. For those who receive no funeral rites, nature claims them with crows that feast on carrion.

When one's purpose is understood, a person cannot be hated for what he is.

"We can't all be chipper like Botan. She consoles herself with the fact that the souls she leads are going to a better place. But I am attached to those left behind, abandoned. No one asks that we have compassion—simply that we do our job."

Crows do not kill—to assume death's job is to violate their own. They cannot touch the living, but their realm lies in the preservation of the memory of those frozen in an eternal moment, in death's timeless grip. These are their treasures. Still, it cannot be much of a life, being a crow. To have to live off decay, plumed black as death, with their only voice a harsh, rasping caw.

Everyone is given a task in this existence; the only question is, will you fulfill it?

Ayame fixed sapphire eyes, cool as ice, into Karasu's narrow violet. "What I want is a crow. For the souls I take whose bodies will not be given proper care, I want someone to consume the body, with flame or explosion, to return it to the earth. I offer no pity—only a job to be done."

Karasu smirked behind his mask.

"It's good to be back."


-Windswift Shinju