Once, while picking night jasmine, I asked Mama if there were ever anyone as beautiful as the moon.
"Yes, Kohana," she replied, sinking to the cool ground and looking up at the night sky. "There once was."
"Was she tall?" I questioned, joining her.
Then Mama laughed, and her clear voice echoed through the still air. "Well, he was tall. Yes."
I suppose I looked confused because Mama laughed again and then pulled me to her side.
"Kohana, look up at the moon and tell me what you see."
Doing as Mama said, I tilted my head back and looked up at the night's light. "I see white."
I nodded, my eyes still locked on the moon.
"Moonbeams." I chewed my bottom lip thoughtfully for a moment before turning to Mama and adding, "And lots of light."
She smiled at me warmly, her brown eyes crinkling at the corners. "Tell me what you see on the moon."
So, I looked up again and thought for what I deemed at my young age to be a decent amount of time. "I see a bunch of marks."
"That's right. You do," Mama said, nodding her head while another smile graced her lips.
Then Mama seemed to get lost for a moment. She grew quiet and stared up at the moon, her face wistful and sad but also happy and content.
At the age of eight, I did not know much, but during this moment, I knew that Mama was remembering something far away from anything that I ever knew. And it was something special to her. She would smile and then frown for a moment before hers eyes suddenly lit up and another smile spread across her mouth.
I chose to sit still, content to know that something was making my mother happy at the moment, even though I did not share the secret of hers that was making her smile.
"You're absolutely right, Kohana," she finally said, breaking the silence. "The moon is white, has lots of light and moonbeams, and it is covered with marks."
"But, Mama," I asked, bewildered, "what does that have to do with the Moon Man?"
"Moon Man?" Mama laughed, and then pondered my name for the man I had never met. "I do suppose that it fits him."
I grinned. Mama liked the name I gave him.
"So why does it fit him, Mama?"
"Well, I will tell you!" Mama, forsaking all decency since we were alone in the night, turned to me and folded her legs over each other before pulling me to sit in the hollow of her lap. With my back pressed to her chest she pointed up at the sky. "Do you see those moonbeams, Kohana?"
I nodded, entranced as Mama's story began.
"Well, the Moon Man had long, thick hair. Hair that was as long as those moonbeams and as silvery in color."
I turned my face to look at her, my eyes wide with awe. "He did?"
She nodded sincerely. "He did."
"What else did he look like?"
Mama smiled radiantly. "The Moon Man had skin that was so pale, it was almost white. And he had markings on his face and arms. There was a blue moon on his forehead and two red stripes streaking each of his cheeks." She pinched my cheeks playfully and I giggled. "And more red stripes started on his wrists, traveling a little ways up his arms."
"Just like the moon," I added proudly with a firm nod.
"Tell me more, Mama."
"The light the moon casts off doesn't compare to his eyes."
My own eyes grew wide. "Were his eyes white too?"
"No," Mama said, shaking her head with a smile that told she knew a wonderful secret. "His eyes were gold."
"Gold. And they shined so brightly that one could even see them in the dark."
With a content smile of my own, I settled back against Mama as I tried to picture the Moon Man in my head. In my mind I pictured a man perfect in every way with a brilliant smile and kind eyes, his long flowing hair blowing in the night breeze as he stood silhouetted by the moon. I liked this Moon Man.
"Was he strong, Mama?" And I felt her wrap her arms around me, resting her chin atop my head.
"He was so very strong."
Mama paused for a moment. "So strong that he could save a person from death."
"From death?" I asked, turning to look at her again.
She nodded sagely. "From death."
Satisfied with her certain answer, I picked up my small bouquet of night jasmine and settled back against Mama. "He sounds like a nice man."
"Ah, but the Moon Man was not a man, Kohana," she whispered.
"But I thought you said the Moon Man was not a woman," I countered, utterly lost, and Mama giggled.
"Not a man and not a woman. He was youkai."
"Youkai!" For a moment, I thought that Mama had lost her mind. Youkai were dangerous and had horrible teeth that could tear a person to shreds. Youkai were not beautiful and kind like the Moon Man was. Youkai were ugly and to be feared.
My perfect image suddenly disappeared.
"Moon youkai? I asked tentatively and then crinkled my nose. "I think Moon Man sounds better."
Mama's musical laughter once again filled the night. "I agree." Then she fell silent.
A youkai. I had only once seen a youkai, and it was a horrible beast ready to devour our entire village with its numerous rows of teeth, and it would have had not a gifted miko been nearby.
"Did he have fangs, Mama?" I left her lap to stand and face her.
"Sharp and as white as snow."
"Claws that were tougher than marble and dripped with poison."
"Poison!" The friendly image of the Moon Man that I had had only a few moments before was forever erased from my mind. "Did he have a nice smile at least?"
And Mama shook her head. "I don't think that he ever smiled."
I pouted. "You said that he was beautiful. He sounds dangerous to me."
"Beautiful and deadly, Kohana," Mama said, her eyes drifting to the distance. "He was both."
"But he was a youkai!"
Mama smiled, but this time I could see the fatigue lining her face. "Remember this if not anything else, Kohana. Just as all humans are not good, all youkai are not bad."
"Was he a good youkai then?"
But Mama did not answer immediately. Instead, she remained silent, thinking what it seemed only her mind knew as she tried to come up with an answer for me.
Finally, she spoke.
"He was not good, and he was not bad, Kohana. But in his own way, he was kind and he cared. He protected."
Not good and not bad? I let out a frustrated sigh and flopped to the ground beside Mama. "I can't picture him anymore, Mama."
Lifting her hand, Mama brushed my dark hair from my eyes. "He's too beautiful to simply picture, Kohana. You would have to see him for yourself."
"Will I ever get to see him?" I asked, my eyes hopeful. Deep within, I wanted desperately to understand this anomaly that Mama seemed to know.
But Mama simply smiled. "Maybe, Kohana. Maybe."
It was not until three years later while picking the night jasmine again with Mama that I thought of the Moon Man again, and I asked her why I had not yet seen him.
"He goes where he pleases, Kohana, and he visits those that he desires to visit," she told me.
Of course, I did not like the answer, and I huffed and sat on the ground with my arms stubbornly crossed over my chest. "He sounds arrogant."
Mama simply smiled. "That he was, dear. That he was."
"Is he still alive?" My stubbornness lapsed momentarily so that I could ask my question.
But again, Mama's answer was unsatisfying.
"I do not know."
"But you've seen him?"
Mama's kind smile lit up her face. "Many times."
I sighed. "Will I ever get to see him, Mama?"
Her answer was the same as it was the last time I asked that question. "Maybe, Kohana. Maybe."
The next year a sojourner came and visited our village.
He was old, with long white hair cascading down his back and striped scars on his face and along his arms. He was so old that he had ceased trimming his fingernails, and they grew far longer than those of many women that I knew.
And he was a guest in our house because my father was an important man in our village, so I was able to spend much time considering him. When he first came to our village, the elders claimed that he held strong spiritual powers, but I had only seen a feeble, old man. Kind and senile, he was simply an old man.
"Look at his hair, Kohana," Mama said to me on the night he left as we watched him continue on his way. "What that the Moon Man?"
And I shook my head sadly. "No, Mama. That was not the Moon Man."
Warm arms wrapped around me, and I felt Mama smile into my hair. "You are very right, Kohana. That was not the Moon Man."
He was not the Moon Man. I will admit that at first glance I thought that it perhaps may have been the Moon Man, simply having aged with time. But in my heart I knew that it was not. The old man had been kind, and I had been at ease around him. My heart told me that with the Moon Man it would be different. The man that Mama described seemed simply too ethereal to be seen so passively.
How I wished to see him.
"Will I ever get to see him, Mama?"
And I knew the answer before she spoke.
"Maybe, Kohana. Maybe."
Picking night jasmine seemed to have become a permanent part of our lives.
"Kohana, there's a full bush over there."
Another four years had passed, and I was now sixteen. And how I looked like my mother did when she was young! Long, black hair, deep brown eyes, and the same smile that Mama said always got her into trouble – I was her, but younger.
I liked being so similar to Mama.
"The moon is certainly bright tonight, Mama," I called to her, scooping up a bunch of the sweet flowers. A thought popped into my head and I laughed freely. "Maybe we'll see the Moon Man tonight."
Bent over a bunch of flowers, Mama turned sparkling eyes to me and laughed. "Maybe we will, Kohana. Maybe we will."
I do not know if it was the effect Mama had on me or the crisp weather, but I laughed giddily and spun in a circle before flopping haphazardly onto the grass. "I think that I would like to see him tonight."
"Would you?" Mama asked, bundling up more of the jasmine.
"Why, yes, I would." I stood and walked out directly into the moonlight. "You said that he was a protector, right?"
"Yes, he was a protector," Mama answered laughing as I spun again and dropped to the ground. "Kohana, you're being silly."
I grinned. "There's nobody here, Mama, and I don't think that you mind my falling in the dirt."
"Now, why would I mind?" Mama inquired innocently as she herself fell purposefully to the ground.
So, we both remained on the forest floor, laughing in the quiet night. It felt so good just to relax with Mama, knowing that she understood that sometimes one just needed to let go of everything else in the world and worry about what was here and now.
And at that moment, there was just Mama, me, and the forest.
I turned on my back and stared up at the moon. It's lurid beams filled the clearing where I lay and were so bright that they even lit the edge of the forest behind me where Mama rested. That beautiful moon. And I still had not seen the being who matched its beauty.
"Mama, will I ever get to see him?" I asked the age-old question.
I remained still waiting for Mama's clear voice to reach my ears with her usual answer, but it never came. Minutes passed, and I grew worried. I sat up.
"Kohana, stay still."
I froze just a Mama ordered but followed her gaze across the clearing to the other edge of the forest.
How I wish I had never looked. Fear instantly took control of my body as I stared into the bloodthirsty eyes of a large bear youkai. Its massive body quivered with hunger and large pools of saliva dripped from its fangs as it glared at me. I could see its razor-sharp claws tapping the ground in the moonlight while it held me enchanted with its gaze.
I was going to die.
"Kohana, get up and move toward me very slowly," Mama commanded quietly.
She was lucky I heard her. I stood up shakily as fear pulsed through my body, my eyes still locked with the youkai's.
The giant bear took a step forward and growled.
Swallowing, I took a cautious step back and watched as it moved forward again.
"Mama," I choked, licking dry lips.
An angry roar erupted from the youkai suddenly, and it charged forward.
"Kohana!" I heard Mama scream as I turned toward her and ran. The look on her face told me that I would never make it.
I clenched my fists and ran harder as the thundering steps of the youkai grew closer, causing the ground to shake beneath me. I never looked away from Mama's fear-filled face.
But Mama stopped looking at me. I thought that surely it was the end when I watched her close her eyes and take a deep breath.
All of a sudden, as the vibrations caused by the youkai's steps began to make me stumble, Mama let out that deep breath and shouted at the top of her lungs.
Sesshoumaru-sama? If I had not been running for my life, I would have stopped dead in my tracks and asked Mama about who this Sesshoumaru-sama was.
But as it were, I was not even given time to ponder about it long. One moment my mother was shouting, and the next I felt something grab me and saw pieces of that bear youkai falling to the ground.
My eyes were still locked on the fallen youkai in surprise when I was lifted by the back of my kimono and literally placed into the arms of my mother. Mama cried quietly and clung to me.
"Are you alright?" she asked, pushing me back to look me over for any injuries.
I nodded, still stunned at the speed at which things had happened.
Mama suddenly smiled. "Of course your alright. Sesshoumaru-sama saved you."
"Sesshoumaru-sama?" I mumbled, trying to regain any coherent train of thought. "Who is––"
Mama spun me around before I could even finish.
"This is Sesshoumaru-sama," Mama whispered proudly.
From what I could remember, for the first time in my life, I was speechless. In front of me was the most beautiful man I had ever seen. The Moon Man. Mama was right. It would have been impossible for me to have pictured him.
His long, silver hair fell to his knees in silken threads as those intense golden eyes stared unexpressively down at me. I looked up at the moon quickly and then back at him, taking in his unique markings and the ethereal quality of his skin.
"The moon," my voice finally creaked.
The being called Sesshoumaru turned a blank stare to my mother, and she shook her head with a smile, seeming to understand what he did not say. Without changing his expression, he turned his attention back to me.
Something deep inside told me that I should feel honored at having to much of his attention focused on me. Something deep inside told me that I should be terrified, and a part of me was. But another part of me, a larger part, wanted to know more about the being standing in front of me.
"Thank you," I finally muttered.
He said nothing.
"Sesshoumaru-sama!" a raspy voice croaked, and Mama and I both turned to it.
"Jaken-sama!" Mama cried and ran to the edge of the forest as a small toad youkai emerged.
The beast's large eyes grew even wider if possible as he looked at my mother. "Disobedient Rin, is that you?"
Mama laughed and nodded her head.
I looked on in confusion.
Suddenly, I felt the figure beside me shift and when I looked up, Sesshoumaru was walking away.
"Come, Jaken," I heard his deep timbre say.
His voice. Mama had never told me about his voice.
The little toad cast one more glance at my mother before gathering up his kimono and taking off across the clearing. "Wait–wait for me, Sesshoumaru-sama!"
And for some reason, as if enchanted by the beautiful youkai, I took a step in their direction to follow before catching myself. Confused, I stopped and turned to Mama, a thousand questions racing through my head. But Mama only smiled with tears in her eyes and motioned for me to turn around and follow.
I looked back over my shoulder at their retreating figures and wondered why I was even considering it.
I turned back to Mama.
"Go, Kohana," she whispered. Then she smiled.
I was torn. Part of me told me to go to Mama, and part of me screamed that I should follow the youkai.
Smiling at Mama one more time, I threw abandon and my confusion to the wind and gathered up my own kimono and took off running toward where their figures had disappeared into the forest.
"Sesshoumaru-sama, wait for me!" I screamed.
As I disappeared into the woods and left everything that I had ever known, I heard my mother's musical laughter echoing joyously through the clearing.
Somehow that reassured me that everything would be all right.
A/N: I hope that you all enjoyed this. I enjoyed writing it immensely, but I'm not sure if I should continue it or not. That aspect is still undecided. Please review as I did take the time to write this. Your opinion does matter to me and I would love to hear from you. God bless you all.