A/N: And, at long last, we finish in the month we started...
Dusk settled early on the western coast as only glimmer of scarlet sunshine remained to dance upon the waves. Like a small colony of ants, clusters of men – sailors, merchants, mercenaries of every creed and occupation – loaded the last of their little bobbing boats before shoving off to the main ship.
Catching a barrel of gunpowder in his arms, a skinny, young mariner hollered if that was it for his boat.
"Nah, got ourselves one more!" rang the reply. "Got ourselves a passenger!"
The first sailor took one look at the blubbering mess at his feet. "Can't we leave him?"
His comrade shrugged, shoving the sad excuse for a man into the little boat. "Cordoba's orders: no one a' us gets left behind." He indifferently scratched the back of his neck. "Still…creeps the hell outta me. The so-called captain just stares off an' keeps repeating that one strange word. Wonder what them villagers coulda done t'im?"
"The people here are not the cause."
At the light, gentle voice, both sailors looked up. "Father Xavier."
Shuffling his robes, Xavier inclined his head by way of greeting. Then knelt before Antonio. The captain had hushed some, but he still whispered his one-word mantra.
"I cannot say you are guiltless." Sun-tanned hands ritualistically crossed their subject. "May there be mercy, even for the merciless."
Antonio didn't hear the blessing. He couldn't over the pounding two syllables in his mind.
Just behind his master, Yajiro swallowed dryly. So this is what a demon can do when it does not kill.
Yajiro surveyed the surrounding expressions; the sailor's bemusement, Master Xavier's pity, and Antonio's dread. Suddenly, Xavier's attendant started as a little jolt raced up his own spine. It was a feeling he had hoped to be rid of since his callow boyhood.
He searched for the source and, there on a rocky ledge overlooking the beach, loomed the definition of Antonio's drivel. The massive, white dog-beast that peered back, ruby eyes glinting, was no bigger than Yajiro's thumb if he raised a hand and squinted with one eye shut. But the fact that the yokai was visible from so far away meant it was large enough to consume each ship in single snap. Yoki, the lightning-hot energy, radiated powerfully enough to be felt down to the shore.
Yajiro gaped at his impassive teacher. Though he didn't miss the way Xavier slipped his hands into his sleeves, rubbing down the raised hairs on his arms. But if there was any sign of disturbance beyond that Yajiro never saw it.
Xavier turned away from Antonio and to one of the empty rowboats. "Coming, good Yajiro?"
"Yes, master." He took one last look at the hilltop, willing the figure to fade. It didn't. "Please don't leave without me."
And, as if indulging in some private joke, the monk laughed.
So here I am once more.
Sesshomaru had always been aware of his own strength, keenly so since last decade's change in company. But he had been aware only to check his power. Not too fast, never too forceful…just within the realm of his own tolerance.
Back in his truest shape, Sesshomaru uncoiled his power and relished the unbound strength that rippled through every canine muscle and charged him from tip of nose to tail.
At last they were leaving. But Sesshomaru wasn't naïve enough to believe that these were the only people of the sort on the islands. Scattered here and there as once the Shikon shards were, namban still wandered and traded off their goods, their languages, their customs, their beliefs.
Just no longer in my domain.
Sesshomaru snorted. Perhaps within the next century, if the warring times produced a true ruler, a human lord with half a brain would sense enough to drive the foreign devils out of this pure land and settle matters as humans did with blood and ink rather than the teeth of a…The great white tail stilled.
Rather than a fairytale.
Giant claws dug into the earth. The trenches they left were real enough. There was no trace of fantasy to the daiyokai's memory either: death, loss, carnage, rivalry, smiles, fear, warmth and new-found family. All just as valid as the power swelling in the daiyokai's chest. He couldn't determine the future, but he could always protect the present.
This Sesshomaru does not depend upon a feeble human mind to exist.
He growled softly in the direction of the departed ships at humans who would never hear him. A token's resistance to the pestering thought at base of his skull.
So long as one person believed there would always be at least one yokai left in this world.
The dog-demon stared out to the ocean long after ships had disappeared beyond the horizon. Finally, like so many yokai before and hundreds to come, Sesshomaru turned tail and vanished into the night.
A/N: So there we are.
I'm not sure what I want to say about Xenophobia that hasn't already been written. I did my best to integrate little pieces of history into the story. Francis Xavier, for instance, actually did travel to Japan in the mid-sixteenth century. He lived there for about three years, but was never terribly good with the language (which made writing dialogue both fun and a pain at times). Xavier also did take on an apprentice named Yajiro, allegedly rescued by the clergyman after a rough life as a small-time thief.
And, of course, the "human lord" alluded to in the end is none other than Tokugawa Ieyasu who gated off Japan to the rest of the western world (or until Matthew C. Perry would stumble upon it again in 1851 – leave it to an American, heh).
I suppose I could say that I wanted to write this story for months before "publication." The wonder of what happens to yokai and the introduction of people from across the globe was too much to resist. I never found time 'til I finally said to heck with it and just wrote the first chapter. Not sure if that was a good thing or a bad one since it did make the writing process take a little longer, but then I'm struck by the fact that it may to have been written at all at that rate.
Thank you all who have read this story over the year's duration or happened across it. Your reviews, visits and encouragement have kept this story and its characters going.