This is both more serious then my normal writing, and more stark in style I think. However I think that fits the mood a little more.
Once again a thanks to all the reviewers.
Tenshi sighed as she looked down from heaven. "I'm bored."
Tenshi was often bored.
If fact the last time she remembered having some real fun was last summer, when all the humans and youkai were running about challenging her. She'd even gotten someone interesting in heaven when Suika moved in. But the oni had finally gotten bored of heavens monotonous lifestyle herself, and had started roaming about.
And so Tenshi was bored. Bored, bored, bored.
It looked like there had been another incident or two while she'd been in the clouds. Reimu had wandered off underground, then a giant ship had been floating about before finally settling down as a temple. All that excitement down below, and Tenshi had missed all of it.
"That stupid shrine maiden's so lucky, to have so many youkai seeking to test her. I wish I had a real challenge..."
An idea floated into Tenshi's head. It was so simple really, anyone who had dared challenge the shrine maiden had to be a good fight! Thus, there must be someone in that temple worth battling!
Tenshi looked around quickly to make sure Iku wasn't watching, then slipped through the cloud cover to descend to Gensoukyo.
The Celestial considered how to make her challenge as she landed. Destroying the temple would work, but it'd be kind of lame to pull a repeat performance so soon after her first appearance. Insulting the local god worked for shrines, but the Buddha didn't really care. Maybe just walking in and hitting someone would work. It did have the advantage of shock value.
Tenshi's thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a funeral prayer. Tenshi frowned. Whoever had the audacity to die today had really put a wrench in her plans. Still, it was far beneath her to interrupt a funeral. Tenshi sighed again. It seemed a good brawl wasn't in the cards.
Still, even with the funeral she could take a look at the people here and pick out which one was the strongest. That would save her some time later when she busted in and started operation 'punch someone in the face'. The celestial summoned her powers, and silently flew to one of the trees nearby to get a view of the ceremony.
The event itself seemed like a poor affair. The only mourners seemed to be a young woman and a small child, probably her own. The nun, Byakuren from what Tenshi had heard, was doing the ritual, aided by another nun, and a nyuudo of all things. Tenshi looked around for the rumored avatar of Bishamonten, but she couldn't see anyone that fit that description. It was too bad. A disciple of the fortune of strength would be a good opponent.
There was a rustle from a nearby branch as a white thrush landed on the tree. Tenshi was about to ignore the bird, but her celestial senses noticed something off about it. She reached for her sword just in case.
"Ah, sorry. Didn't mean to disturb you," the bird said quietly. As Tenshi watched it seemed to shift into a young woman in a short dress with strange asymmetrical wings.
Nue grinned sheepishly. "Sorry. I'm always drawn to funerals. Guess that's one of the benefits of living at a temple. Doesn't quite make up for the amount of floor there is to polish, but there's free food too."
Tenshi gave the youkai a look. "You might find funerals enjoyable but they're dull to me." The celestial sighed. "I can't even find out who's the stongest fighter around here. What a waste. Why couldn't they have the funeral at the village temple?"
Nue frowned. "Well for one thing they're too poor. That's his wife and kid there. Only surviving relatives." She stretched then continued. "She was an orphan, and his parents drank themselves to death, leaving him with serious debts. Their farm failed last year, so he was hunting to try to get food when he ran into a pack of wolves."
"So no money, and a corpse that needs a proper burial. Since Byakuren's the only priest who will do the full service for free..." Nue shrugged.
"Sucks to be him," Tenshi remarked offhandedly.
Nue nodded. "Yeah. What were the chances he'd get hit with snow in July? Much less a tornado. I didn't think Gensoukyo had the right terrain for that kind of weather."
Tenshi's stomach seemed to drop at those words. "When did that happen again?"
"Hm... I think the people said it was last summer. There was all kinds of strange weather." Nue grew silent to hear the last funeral chants before continuing softly, "It's all the talk in the village. 'All those youkai about and freak weather does the most damage. Kinda ironic.'"
Tenshi saw the woman burst into tears again, the child following his mother soon after. The Celestial felt sick, a sensation she barely remembered from her human days long ago.
"Well I should leave," Tenshi said hastily before flitting back up towards the clouds.
"Goodbye," Nue called out after her. She then turned back to study the funeral, knowing that her call would be altered by her powers to sound like the chirping of birds.
Tenshi couldn't sleep.
The gnawing and churning in her belly had subsided a bit with food, but not that much. And she didn't feel hungry at all.
Finally Tenshi slipped out into the peach orchards of heaven and picked a bag of the fruits. They were boring as all get out, but they'd keep you alive.
She checked to make sure no one was spying on her once again before sneaking back down to Gensoukyo.
As the Celestial began creeping towards the edge of the human village she found her steps begin to lighten. The shroud over her mind faded away.
Soon she was even looking forward to the meeting. She could play the role of a helpful stranger and everyone would end up happy. It played out beautifully over in her head, each repetition adding new details.
The farmhouse itself failed to disappoint when it came into view. Obviously built with care, but rickety due to lack of maintenance, it showed the perfect spirit for the 'deserving family aided by heaven.' That was important, if someone like Iku yelled at her for interference later.
Tenshi composed herself at the door, making sure her hat was placed properly. The wind had picked up a little, and she didn't want to look foolish during her entrance. After she was certain she was projecting the proper authority she knocked proudly on the door.
There was no response. The only sound was the wind as it rustled through the leaves and set the house to creaking.
Tenshi frowned. She had to be at the right place, and it's not like they'd be out and around at this time.
She knocked again louder.
There was no response.
Maybe the woman and her kid had gone off to Byakuren's temple, or one of the other small human temples to beg for food. Well that pretty much shot down her grand entrance. Still, she could leave the basket. And it might still considered a miracle. In fact this might be better. A bag of peaches, mysteriously appearing every night. Maybe it'd be a kabuki play some day!
Tenshi pushed open the door and summoned a small light so she wouldn't trip over anything in the dark.
The wind picked up again, and with it the creaking noise. Tenshi's smile died. She dropped the bag of peaches.
The Celestial stood there for some time, her mind blank.
Finally she turned and slowly walked out the door, leaving the two hanging bodies swaying slowly as the wind blew through the cracks in the house.
"The second stone is for my mother..."
Komachi sighed as she turned away from the kid. This one hadn't listened either. Komachi wondered why the rock piling story still lingered in the realms of the living. Perhaps it said something about the human mind.
Well she could give the speech again when she came back from this job. She turned towards the other ghost. "Come along. It's one per boat anyway. I'll promise I'll pick him up on the next trip."
Komachi began stepping towards the boat when a massive rock plummeted from the skies. Komachi just barely kept her balance as the earth shook.
As the dust cleared Tenshi Hiwanai readied her sword. "I'm here to take that ghost off your hands," Tenshi said.
Komachi's blinked. She hadn't thought that the celestial could look this serious. Still there was no way she'd just hand over a ghost she was in the middle of ferrying over. She readied her scythe. "Sorry, but this one has a meeting with the Yama, and those can't be put off. Even for your games."
"This isn't a game," Tenshi snarled, "I'm..."
"Seeking to atone for your crimes with a greater crime."
Komachi instinctively flinched at Shikieiki's harsh tone, even though it wasn't directed at her. The yama hadn't sounded that angry in her presence since the time one of the Shinigami had been caught harvesting souls for fun. A look at Shikieiki's stern face as the judge of paradise hovered over the river only scared her more
Tenshi however didn't seem to be worried at all. "What! Should I just sit here and let you sentence them to hell? I have power here, and I'm going to use it as I see fit!"
Shikieiki's frown deepened. "Foolish child! Listen closely. Yes I will judge this woman. And she will be sent to hell." The yama pointed at Tenshi with her rod of judgment. "And after she atones there she will be born again, to improve her life. True, should you use your sword she will become enlightened. However!" This time the yama's powerful voice caused both Komachi and Tenshi to take a step back. "Her mind will be unable to fully understand that enlightenment. She will move past the self without understanding what the self was. Enlightenment without experience is the same as nothingness!"
Tenshi stood their trembling as Shikieiki continued. "As a celestial performing your duties, may bring suffering to others, just as my work does. However, your actions have not been for the sake of duty or responsibility, but due to your own desires for entertainment. Even now, your act of contrition is more due to your need to feel you did something good, rather then out of a true understanding of your sins and a desire to repent."
There was a long pause. Finally Komachi coughed. "Well I better get started on my work. I'll meet you on the other side boss."
Shikieiki nodded to the Shinigami. "Of course. I'll be waiting there." Turning back to the celestial, Shikieiki pulled out her mirror and held it up. "As for you, perhaps you will understand better when you view your own sin."
There was a flash of light and suddenly there was another Tenshi standing there. The copy pointed at Tenshi. "You better not bore me! I've been looking forward to a fun battle." The copy grinned darkly. "If you don't keep me entertained you just might die."
The true Tenshi took a deep breath and stood up straighter. "Fine. Let's do this then."
Komachi lightly tapped the celestial with her scythe. "You dead?"
Tenshi groaned and tried to stand. "That's a stupid question from a Shinigami."
Komachi shrugged. "Shikieiki said that I should bring you next if you had died. So if you want to sail across the river just tell me. Otherwise you'll have to stand up on your own." The shinigami sat down on a rock to wait. "I imagine there are some guys in collections who'd be real happy if I just dragged you along, but that's not my style. The yama's big about personal choices."
The celestial muttered something unintelligible then slowly rose to her feet. After a couple more minutes her legs stopped shaking. "I'm not going to die here, so you can just buzz off."
Komachi sighed. "Darn. I was hoping for an easy trip. Well I guess I'll go fill my other promise then."
"What other promise?"
Komachi tossed her scythe over her shoulder. "The usual. A kid thinks that he needs to make a pillar of stones before he's got enough karma to cross the Sanzu. I keep telling them it doesn't actually work like that but..."
"Which one?" Komachi looked back at Tenshi's question. "Which one am I responsible for?"
"You should know already. You're a Celestial. You control the very foundations of the earth, and determine the cycle of want and plenty." Komachi looked straight at Tenshi. "You're responsible for all of them."
"Tch. Isn't this Jizo's job? Fine." Tenshi gave a grim smile. "I hope you're ready for a lot of rowing, because I'm good with rocks."
She walked through the mists until she came across one of the small ghosts. "Hey kid, lemme give you a hand." She summoned a keystone and slammed the massive rock into the earth. "The first stone is for your father!..."