It was mid autumn, the leaves were already beginning to turn and the grass was dying like it always did every year before blooming again in the spring. The wind was crisp and blew faintly as it tugged on everything in its path. Wildlife was scarce too, as most animals had retired to their homes to hibernate for the winter.
It was a strange sound, eerie and mesmerizing. The air even had a strange taste, almost like someone was cooking nearby. Then, as the man walked down the forest pathway, he saw the strangest thing:
At least, he thought it was sound, every time something moved or an animal made their unique call, he saw ribbons of light start swimming around in the air as they floated around and then upwards. It was the most magical, mystical thing he had ever seen. That wasn't to say that that was the only thing that had caught his attention.
As the man ran his fingers through his snow white hair, he tried to think of the possibilities of what might cause this sort of predicament. He was, after all, a Mushi Master and this was his area of expertise. Not that that meant he knew everything that was going on in the area at the moment but he had a general idea of what was causing it.
His sea blue eye scanned his surroundings before he continued walking in his intended path once more. As he made progress, he came upon a little village that sat by the ocean. The village itself was plain enough but a closer look revealed it to be wrapped and weaved in light; it was beautiful. Though something seemed a little off…
The Mushi Master made his way into the village—the place he had been headed all along—and looked around for an inn he could stay at. There was only one, of course. It seemed that this village must not get very many visitors traveling the country side. That was all the better, however, as if this place was infested by some kind of mushi, it would be best to have to worry about as least the amount of people as possible.
The Mushi Master walked into the inn and up to a girl standing behind a tall counter as he asked if he could have a room for the night. She greeted him with a smile as she said he could and then she pulled out a thick book as she asked for his name. "Ginko" was his reply and she dipped a paintbrush in ink to write it down in the book.
"Alright," She said when she finished writing it "Ginko, would you follow me and I'll show you to your room." He just nodded and followed her as she walked up some stairs and down a hallway before reaching an empty room and opening the door for him. "This is our best room; we don't get many visitors so I hope this will do."
"It's perfect," Ginko replied with a smile of his own as he took of the cabinet he carried on his back and set it on the ground. "Oh, I had a question if you don't mind answering." He started, stopping the girl in her tracks as she had been just about to leave. "What's up with the strange glow of color I saw around the village?" The girl looked a wary of his question but stepped into his room and shut the door behind her.
"You saw that did you?" She asked as she sat down next to him on the floor "I suppose that was inevitable," Then her voice went softer and quieter "It started happening a few months ago. These ribbons of light started appearing out of nowhere and just attached themselves to the nearest objects they could. Over time the light colors just started to grow until they had nearly enveloped the village in… whatever they are. Not long after that, a strange aroma started flowing around the town. At first people thought that just someone was just cooking but the smell lingered for days on end before leaving every now and then and then coming back not long after. People became fascinated by it, and the mysterious colors of light that had taken hold of the village." The girl then turned her head towards the sliding door behind Ginko that led outside to a hot spring—the slight from the afternoon sun seeming through the door. "Strangely enough, the color only appeared where there was sound, in any kind of quiet place they were never there. Then, one man, traced the smell back to a group of the little color strands. He said it smelled so amazing that he actually ate some of the light." The girl looked as if she didn't believe a word she was saying but she continued on with the story, pushing some of her auburn hair out of her face and behind her ear. "I don't understand how you can eat light but he said he did, seems a little phony to me. But he said it was the most amazing taste he had ever tasted. Then, one day, he fell asleep out by the docks when he was fishing and he never woke up. No one knows what happened to him." The girl stopped there, thinking that that was enough information. She wasn't even supposed to be telling anyone in the first place let alone the death of one of the village members—ex member, that is.
"Sounds like you've got a unique mushi problem." Ginko replied as he pulled out a notebook of his from the cabinet and looked through its pages.
"Mushi?" The girl asked, not understanding. Ginko went on to explain that mushi were creatures that often display supernatural powers and are described as beings in touch with the essence of life, far more basic and pure than normal living things. Due to their ethereal nature, most humans are incapable of perceiving mushi and are oblivious to their existence, but there are a few who possess the ability to see and interact with them. Then Ginko went on to ask if everyone in the village could see these ribbons of light. The girl thought about it and the more she did the more she realized that, no… not everyone could see them. It was only a handful of people in the village that could—she being one of them. But everyone could smell them when the aroma came around.
Ginko nodded at all she said and then wrote something down in his notebook before looking back up at the girl and thanking her, saying that he was a Mushi Master and he might be able to do something about this little problem. A smile spread across the girl's face as she nodded and then stood up before going to leave. She opened the door and told Ginko that if he needed anything then to just ask, then she left.
Ginko slept lightly that night, it wasn't as peaceful as he had wanted it to be but that was mainly due to the fact that he was trying to figure out what kind of mushi might be infesting the village. He couldn't think up an answer being tired, however, and so just went to sleep a little later than he had planned. When he woke up though, it was still the same time he always woke up; with the sun.
As the burning orb of fire climbed its blue canvas, the land slowly started to warm up and wake up itself. It was still a cold day however; winter was nearly here so that wouldn't change.
Ginko sat up from the futon he had been sleeping on—the mattresses that people lay on the floors—and rubbed the sleepiness from his eyes before getting up for the day.
Aside from Ginko, there was only one other resident in the inn and that was an old man who was just passing through the village. He had no intentions of staying hearing all the fancy stories that had been going around. The old man was a very simple minded man, if he didn't understand it he didn't want to know. If it wasn't something that could be explained by natural means he didn't want to know. And so on…
As such, the old man left in the early afternoon and Ginko was then the only resident staying at the inn. Not that he minded, it was peaceful so he wasn't about to complain. Besides, he thought, it was probably best that he left.
After a quick breakfast, Ginko went around the village to try and figure out what kind of mushi were infesting this place. So far, all he found out were things he already knew. Nothing gave him so much as a hint as to what might these mushi be. Just then, an idea stuck him and he went back to the inn and pulled out a scroll he had gotten from a friend. He lit one of his cigarettes as he studied the scroll.
The scroll told him exactly what he needed to know, though that wasn't to say that he knew how to deal with the problem just yet. Just then, the innkeeper—that girl—knocked on his door and Ginko called her in. She had brought him some tea and now set it beside him. "You'll kill your health you know?" She said as she looked at him with her green eyes.
"Yeah, that's what I hear." He said like it was automatic. And in truth, it was automatic, he had heard dozens of people tell him his smoking would eventually kill him one day but he never cared. It helped him with what he did and as such, he liked it too much to stop.
"What'chya got there?" She asked as she sat on her heels and looked at the scroll he was holding.
"The answer to your mushi problem," Ginko said. "I think you have a type of breed of mushi called Ranpu, which simply means light. They're rare but are greatly attracted to the ocean and to any kind of sound. Every now and then they'll emit an appeasing aroma to attract their prey. The ones who eat the mushi because of the smell don't know that they've fallen victim to the mushi trap and so are killed within a couple days. The mushi feed on the body heat of living animals and sound so no doubt that man you told me about yesterday died deaf." Ginko explained.
The girl was a little taken aback at the news of these strange mushi, more so the fact that the sweet smell that filled the air every now and then was simply because these creatures grew hungry and were attracting prey. It was… odd…
"So what do we do about them?" She asked as she stood up from her crouching position. Ginko just shook his head at her as he looked into her eyes.
"At the moment, I can't really say." He said "Dealing with mushi like this, and in these numbers, I may not be able to do anything but ask that everyone leave the village. But don't worry; if it comes to that I'll let you know." She just nodded and then left, saying that lunch would be ready soon.
Ginko studied his scrolls and notes over the next couple of days, trying to find anything that might help. Right now he was walking the country side looking around at the native mushi and few animals. It seemed that here, in this village, the mushi came out more the colder it got. If that were the case, it wasn't so good that it was nearly winter, especially if these strange Ranpu mushi came out more in the winter.
All Ginko could do was try to figure out what to do about the problem at hand…
It was about then that the smell hit him and he looked over to his side to see the strangest thing, and possibly the most worrying thing. Down at the village, the rainbow color of the mushi had turned red, Ginko didn't exactly know what that meant but it worried him. As such, he headed back to the village to check up on everyone.
When he got back, however, he found out that three people had eaten some of the Ranpu. He sighed in irritation as he made a mental clock to himself. By the end of the day these three would be feverish and bed ridded, by tomorrow they'd be deathly ill from being so cold, and then by the morning after that they'd be dead. Ginko didn't have a lot of time to think or act.
Then the answer came to him…
Ginko ran back to the inn, dug out a couple viles of liquids and a few herbs and started mashing them together. The process would take about a day and a half so he had no time to waste.
Carefully Ginko mixed the ingredients together, grounding the herbs and adding a few drops of the strange liquids he had. The innkeeper visited him later that day asking him what he was doing, the smell of whatever he was making was horrible and she didn't know how he could stand it. He just replied calmly that he was going to save those villagers. The girl stared at him in disbelief but held onto the hope that he was telling the truth. She asked what all he was putting into the strange concoction and he simply named off a few herbs that she had never heard of and some she had. Altogether, she didn't know how a vile smelling thing like that would save anyone but she left the room not wanting to disturb him from what he was doing.
She didn't quite believe him, but a strong part of her did.
It wasn't long before Ginko finished and then asked the innkeeper to take him to the homes of the ones who had become ill from eating the Ranpu. She nodded her understanding and did so. He offered the foul smelling liquid he had created to each one of the three people. At first they all angrily refused, saying that nothing that smells that bad could possibly make them feel any better. But when Ginko provided the information that they had eaten mushi that were about to kill them and this would save their lives, they all reluctantly agreed.
They gagged as they drank the stuff but as they settled back down once it was all gone, a strange light swarmed out of their mouths. It was long and in an array of colors as it wiggled out of the mouths of the poor victims. As the ribbons of light exited their victim's bodies, they immediately jetted under the cracks of the doors and to the outside to join the rest of their kind.
After the medicine was distributed, a couple hours later everyone felt fine. Ginko was thanked but he still didn't know how to stop the full horde of the problem. Eventually, after another week, he ran out of the herbs he used to cure the people. That didn't stop the poor fools from continuing to make the same mistake and eating the Ranpu.
Despite all Ginko's warnings, they still continued to ignore them. It seemed they didn't care whether people died in the village or not. Though Ginko understood the constant need to eat the Ranpu. The aroma that they gave of was enchanting, amazingly mouth-watering. Though Ginko held back his own urges to follow suit as everyone else by eating fruit he brought in the market. Of course he didn't eat it until he made sure none of the Ranpu was hiding in it.
Then, one day, something miraculous happened. The Ranpu, they just… disappeared. No warning or explanation, it was just like they disappeared off the face of the planet. There wasn't even any explanation as to where they might have gone.
About two weeks later, Ginko, no longer needed in the village, decided it would be best to leave. He hadn't seen any more of the Ranpu and it didn't look like they would come back. So, packing up and giving his thanks and best wishes to the innkeeper, he left. Traveling like he always did to a different place.
As he walked out of the village and up the country side, Ginko passed one last look over the place to make sure there was not more light haunting it, and then he was gone. He never did return to the little village though, that was the last time he looked at it.
Though, now that he was gone, he didn't see what happened exactly one day later…
The light returned…
And it was brighter than ever…