A/N: Originally completed October 31st, 2004. Not much to say about this one, beside that it's weird. Comments and criticism welcome.
Who are you?
Who are you?
A memory of what?
And what is this you remember?
I remember . . . that I cannot bear these memories.
I take that away from you.
And for that I am grateful, Naraku.
Go now, taijiya. They are approaching.
Today I am hunting. The ground is muddy and wet, and I can feel it between my toes, beneath my heels.
I am Kohaku. I live in the taijiya village. My father is the headman, the okashira, the leader of our group of fighters. My mother is a beautiful warrior, as is my sister, because she was the happiness of our family, with my father's spirit and my mother's grace. She was their pride, and I am her brother.
A few youkai die as I bring them down, their blood, in various pigments, staining my clothes, my hands, my weapon.
Why am I doing this?
I'll tell you soon. For now, run.
I remember running.
Through fields of thick grass, bending beneath my feet.
Through a shallow brook, sending droplets of water through the heavy summer air.
I remember running to greet someone, laughing, with excitement coursing through me.
But what is laughter? Happiness? Pride?
Most clearly, I can remember running away.
It is spring and I am born. I grow up amongst hearty laughter, stories of skillful exterminations around a bonfire, and fireflies in the dusk. I catch one between my hands, showing my amazement and letting it go. My sister had taught me how.
I feel swift and skilled as I hold the insect in my palms. A strange sort of superiority writhed within me.
The firefly was set free as my sister instructed.
"You shouldn't hold it for too long. Within in your grasp, you are an endless chasm and it is full of fear."
Do I have no mission tonight?
You are on a mission. A very important one.
Shall you be successful, I will reward you.
You are a fine warrior. You are skillful and swift.
Because I feel no remorse, no pain, when I kill.
You've dreamed of such praise, such flattery.
You lived in a taijiya village with your family.
You stood in their shadow. Your sister's shadow.
Is she a great warrior?
Don't you want to be her equal?
I can never be --
You are better.
If she was greater than me, how can I be better?
I have taken away your weaknesses.
My . . . remorse?
Father is teaching me how to properly wield my kusarigama. I cut myself by accident. I missed the target. I hear my sister -- my dear, dear sister -- tell him to lighten up on me. After all, I'm going to my first extermination tonight.
What do we lose in wanting? Wanting to remember?
What is it you want me to do?
Are you confused, taijiya?
Do not call me taijiya.
A taijiya, is the title of one who works as an exterminator.
That is what you do.
There is a difference. There is a difference between calling me taijiya, calling me Kohaku, and calling me Death.
I will let you know. I will let you know soon.
Will you tell me why I still live?
Will you tell me what I want to know?
But do you want to know, taijiya?
Do you want that memory?
Do I want to remember?
I'm a little less apprehensive. Every clay cup is struck through with my blade. It wouldn't be so bad tonight . . . perhaps even a bit exciting?
"Do youkai really breathe out fire and poison?"
"Sometimes . . ."
I hope I don't look as nervous as I try not to sound.
"I see. Kohaku, are you . . . scared?"
"It - it's not that."
"You'll be fine. The only things we'll be fighting are giant snakes and spiders."
She says that as though it is nothing. But it is nothing, to her.
"Chichi-ue told me that the scariest youkai are those ones who look like humans . . ."
She shudders. Does that thought make you uneasy, Ane-ue?
"He also said that if those types get their hands on the Shikon no Tama it would be terrible . . . "
Power is terrifying.
I wander still, but I do not question my motives tonight, for I know that he always has a reason, a purpose, for everything.
I am but a slave, I know it inside of me, but was I always a slave? I do not remember.
He is a million things. A million demons, a million hatreds, a million magnificent evils.
And he is a genius beyond imagination.
My father says to the lord of the castle, "we are the most experienced in the whole of our town."
He retorts, "you call them experienced, but . . ." He looks towards my sister, with a dubious glare lining his face. "She appears to be a girl, and . . . " He now looks at me. "There's even a child."
The leader insists firmly, "these two are my own son and daughter. In our town they are the best and second best experts at fighting."
My sister looks to me, her calm face no comfort. "There you go." An encouraging smile. "Do your best, Kohaku."
Chichi-ue, you liar . . .
With a rumble overhead, the village men begin to disperse.
"This is about the time it appears."
"We'll leave it to you, taiji-ya!"
My arm tenses as my blade cuts through thick branches that obscure the path, making it easier for my small frame to maneuver forward. A splinter is embedded into my cheek, and I do not flinch as I pull it from my skin.
What am I hunting?
What is my prey?
No. I refuse.
You say that, taijiya, but you are chasing, you are pursuing your memories.
I don't want to remember.
My body, a tool begging to be used. My mind, an empty space waiting for an order to fill it.
Your past is useless.
My life, the product of a shard's power and the corrupt hands that hold it.
Naraku looks down upon me. I kneel. I am his slave. The buzzing of bees is faint and I am dejected. I failed.
"You failed to kill Kagome," he says. I cannot tell if he is angry.
I cannot answer. He is my mind, and he is my thoughts.
But I vaguely hear an angry voice. It is saying I still possess a human heart.
"Did you want to regain your human mind, even now?"
He knows. Master, he is the one who took away my human mind. What was it like to feel human? I can faintly recall. He is speaking, and I am silent.
"In which case . . . do you want to try remembering . . . about everything . . . ?"
His fingers are long, twisting and flexing like the legs of a spider, as they rest upon my head. I fall to my knees as a surge of energy passes through me from where he is touching my scalp, bringing with it visions, moving pictures, all of blood and bodies. I cannot take it, I can't . . .
That is not . . .
I am . . .
He withdraws his fingers from my head, along with the threads of memories he has shown me. "Good." A tiny smile graces his lips and I am in pain.
"I'll let you live a little while. Forget everything."
This is not living. This is . . . the equivalent of being a ghost on earth. But to make this more bearable -- let me forget.
Everything slowly becomes transparent . . . until there is nothing.
She is strong, she is crying, and she is about to kill me. I see her for a split second before I am plunged into thoughts of dark rooms from which I try to escape, and neverending trails of blood.
But . . . that person's face . . . doesn't fade.
Someone sharply says my name from behind, as I am mulling over the thoughts of her. Who is she?
Do you know her?
No . . . I don't. But I always see . . . her face.
Do you know why?
You are hunting.
What am I hunting?
I don't understand.
A flash of red and a playground of bodies.
I wander, wanting to revel in my innocence, splash and kick in the puddles not bourne from rain, but from a horrible, crimson fluid. One that I recognized as pouring from my comrades.
I laugh and play, and the sounds echo into a red sky. I am, for a moment, but a happy child, until I see that there is a girl watching me. Should I ask her to join me?
I don't talk to strangers.
But then again, I'm the one who struck her.
We've met before?
Then do I know her?
Perhaps in another life . . .
Stop! Stop, I don't want to remember!
Then kill her.
"Kohaku," she is saying. "I knew I would find you here, in the center of a slaughter and covered with the stench of blood, dripping from your fingers."
I can only mildly acknowledge her, faintly realizing that yes, my clothes were darkened and moist, clinging to my cold skin.
I'm only playing.
It was as if my own blood had frozen.
I am thinking vaguely of my hands. I look at them and realize, she is right. She is always right.
Do you know what she is, Kohaku?
She is bringing that blood back onto your hands, the blood of your family, your friends, do you want to remember? Do you know who killed them?
I am pleading.
Stop, please, stop.
The order of the words changes, the intensity, the volume of my voice. But always the same words.
But this girl, this memory, will not leave you at peace.
I will never be at peace.
A temporary quiet, perhaps.
How can I make it stop? The screams? The voices?
She is alone, and I rise, an assassin, to purge myself of the memory.
I wondered why she would come alone.
She had friends, companions. They wouldn't let her come alone, would they?
A flash of red, and I remember. She was the greatest warrior in the village, our pride and joy.
By surpassing her, I would be the sole survivor and the greatest. Incomparable.
And when I was done -- for I felt it had happened so quickly -- I lay down beside her, coating sharp blades of grass in her blood - no, our blood - and leaned my head on her shoulder.
Sadly, in what was supposed to be the greatest triumph of my cursed existence, I could not remember how I moved, which part of her bled first or the struggle between us.
Maybe she had mistaken me for my brother.
Maybe she had let me win.
She had always let her brother win.
The stars were at my fingertips, and I could drown in the navy swirl of night. It was so close, that I could move with those stars, find the brightest one and make a wish.
This image, of us, I know will soon fade to nothing in my head, turning yellow, then brown with time and neglect.
And I will wonder, if the sky is blue, and grass green, and clouds white, why is everything, to me, so red?
A child's heart will make a wish, forever diseased by Death.
To the firefly, I am the nightmare, life flashing before your eyes and the question of what will become of me?
I either let it escape, flickering in the dark in relief and urgency.
Or when she is not looking, I crush it between my palms.
In sight, we are family.
In mind, she is the prison and I am the insect held in her grasp.
Before she crushes me between scratched skin and sweaty palms, the way I do to the flies when she is not looking.
I wonder if they are afraid, like she says.
For we are brother and sister again, and I am waiting for her to awaken so that we can return home.
A temporary quiet.
Who are you?
A memory of what?
That is what I was.
I took that away from you.
And with that, you took away everything.
You still live.
This was my mission, wasn't it?
And so I reward you.
In death, I am innocent again.
By what name shall I call you?
Kohaku is who I was.