Ginko had been travelling when his friend fell dangerously ill, dangerously quickly. As the town doctor of an isolated little village Adashino had quickly gone untreated while a message was sent to find Ginko, explaining the situation. He had been so far away, so hidden within mountains and swamps, that the message never reached his hands and by the time he returned to the village what was left of his friend had been buried six feet beneath the ground.
Or at least that's what everyone told him was supposed to have happened. Children had gone missing and men and women alike would wake in the morning soaked in blood, sometimes their own, sometimes not and in the night many claimed to hear lone footsteps echoing around the streets and seeing someone moving in the collector's supposedly empty home. After a week of this all of the bodies of the dead had been exhumed for a blessing to exorcise any evil spirits and Adashino's corpse had not been found.
After hearing this story, the grieving friend could not help but feel some semblance of hope that he might be able to save Adashino and had asked the villagers to leave and camp along the shoreline for some time so that he could find his friend. When asked about what had happened to the kind, eccentric doctor, Ginko's simple explanation was that the man had been possessed by one of the creatures that he had always been so curious about.
Mushi rarely tampered with dead organisms, it was a simple fact that the creatures could not feed off of the qi of things that no longer possessed the vitality of life. The kyonshi were no exception, their hosts had to be alive in order for them to survive, though most of the time this wouldn't seem the case. Adashino had never been looked over by a doctor to verify that his corpse was, indeed, lifeless and sometimes a simple touch to the chest or neck would not find a pulse even if it was there.
So Ginko prepared eagerly for the night as he filled bowls with vinegar, found a handbell in one of the now-empty homes and a large mirror he had broken to hang the pieces from the ceiling of Adashino's home. Sitting down in the dining area of the expansive building, the white-haired man prepared himself a cup of tea and sat, waiting, for the mushi to arrive with his friend in tow.
Against his will, his mind wandered to memories, dangerous places in his past where he had spoken to his friend about things that he had not felt comfortable voicing aloud.
"You're going to live forever, why can't I do the same?"
The voice of his friend, haughty and so very spoiled, especially by Ginko himself, rang through his ears and the albino sighed as he rubbed at his turquoise eye.
"I don't want you to suffer eternity."
"It wouldn't be suffering if it meant that I never had to leave you behind."
He had been scared of telling Adashino about one of the other reasons he didn't want to give the young man eternity. In three hundred years he had survived so many harsh times, the mushi that flowed in his own blood leaving him no other option but to do so, and had loved enough to know that while men and women accepted his aid, when a mushishi took interest in their daughters – and occasionally sons when the urge struck him correctly – that he was a freak and had to be thrown out. He hadn't seen how Adashino could simply say such things aloud at the time, but he had caved after a while and promised the other man eternity.
He had promised it too late, it seemed.
"One more trip, Adashino."
"No, no time for you to change your mind."
"It's not to change my mind. I need the mushi that will do what it has done to me, to you."
He had been so happy when Ginko had left, hugging him and laughing and smiling as he let his dignity fall. When he had pulled away his monocle had been crooked and he had tried to compose himself, but his wide smile had betrayed him. That was the last time Ginko had seen him before his apparent death and burial. He had been turning over the image, the entire memory, in his mind, trying to keep himself sane with the thought that Adashino would be so happy when he was given the mushi that would grant him eternal life.
The night was still, silent, dead almost and for a few moments the mushishi was uncertain as to whether he had been correct in his assumption as to the identity of the mushi infecting his friend. When he heard the slow, rhythmic footsteps above him, however, he knew that he was right, racing up the stairs and throwing open every door before he found what he was searching for.
Adashino's skin was so pale that his skin glowed green in the moonlight, his eyes rimmed with red as if he hadn't slept in years. His long fingers had thick, curving black nails on the tips and he was dressed in a black kimono with a pattern of white cranes flying across it. The possessed man turned and Ginko stared as he limped forward, arms stretching out and fingers twitching towards the man's neck.
"Adashino." Ginko called softly. "I know you can hear me in there." A low, long groan and Adashino limped forward on stiff legs, following Ginko as the older man backed down the stairs, the possessed man pressing his palms to the wall as he dragged himself down the stairs. "That's it, come on, love, almost there."
The monster that had possessed Adashino snarled and lunged, tackling Ginko to the ground, the man's skull cracking on the hardwood floor in a painful and dizzying manner. Drool dripped from Adashino's mouth and the monster grinned, pupils dilated as he leaned down to open his mouth and let his teeth graze the pale throat of the albino.
Ginko kicked Adashino off of him, turning and racing away as the mushi possessing the doctor making him stiff and awkward. The mushishi raced into the room he had stored the supplies in, grabbing the handbell and ringing it as he picked up the bowl of vinegar. Adashino screamed, clawing at his ears as he moved onto his feet, stumbling.
"No!" The doctor wailed, looking at Ginko. "Ginko, please!"
This made the other man pause, staring at the other man as Adashino began to look more like himself. "Love?"
"Please… No…" The stiff body approached, arms outstretched. "Love, please…"
Ginko dropped the bowl, holding out his own hands to Adashino. "Come here, Adashino… I'm sorry…"
The doctor stiffly wrapped his arms around Ginko's shoulders, pressing his face to the pulse in the older man's throat. "So… Hungry…" Clawed fingers dug into shoulders and Adashino opened his mouth, unhinging his jaw so that his thick, black tongue to press to the flesh.
Ginko shoved his lover away in shock, picking up a bowl of vinegar and throwing the fluid at the monster possessing his love. Adashino shrieked, clawing at his face as the mushi seeped through his pores, dripping and evaporating on the ground as the doctor collapsed on his knees then his side, whimpering and gasping as he felt the mushi leaving his body.
Ginko knelt beside his lover's body, stroking the doctor's face and smiling when blurry brown eyes met his own gaze. "Hey, hey, how are you? Feel nauseous? Short of breath?"
Adashino groaned and shook his head, staring at the albino for a few seconds before he gently, uncertainly touched his lover's face. "No, I'm fine… Just… Tired…"
Ginko smiled and kissed the brunette, holding him close while he gently stroked the pale face of his lover. "Relax, I have you now…"
"I was so sick, Ginko… I've never been sick before…"
"You were possessed by a mushi when you were buried."
"I was buried? I was dead?"
"No, no, you weren't dead, people just thought you were."
Adashino nodded, pressing his face to Ginko's side and sighing softly. "So tired… Can we go sleep?"
"Of course." Ginko stood, lifting Adashino as he did so, carrying the younger man to the bedroom and laying their bodies down on the bed. As they sprawled on the futon, Adashino brushing away the shocked white hair from Ginko's missing eye. "I love you, Adashino."
"I love you, Ginko."
They laid like that for the rest of the night, enjoying only the heartbeats of one another as the lovers gently held one another.