One too many blossoms have died this year.
In this glade of everlasting silence, every heavy fall of a leaf can be heard. The last of the unnamed dieties still roam free in this untouched part of the orient. The cherry trees have seen both joy and sadness, both tears and blood; but have stood strong epitomising their little part of spring. Yet another centuries old tree had succumbed to the fate of reincarnation.
Eastern mythology speaks of the six realms of the exhalted male who had attained nirvana, and Naraka is the buddhist equivalent of purgatory, divided into eight hells of ice and eight hells of fire. The last being Avici or the hell of flames bluer than any moonshine on the darkest, most complacent night.
Yama, the greatest swordsman monk the world had ever seen resided in the center of Avicii, in his own beautiful glade, exiled by the Bodhisatta in days of meditation and in nights of a long struggle for survival. He has been given the blessing of no sleep but merely a promise of salvation. His realm is the smallest of all, and every blossom that radiates in the morning sun, is crimsoned every night.
His curse was of no sleep and his realm was his only promised escape. Every night the Realm of the Hungry Ghosts collided with his, bringing on hordes abominations that he fought till the two promised hours of sunlight where he had been dammned for all enternity to come.
He was a monk of flames cursed to fight with nothing but ice. His most hated element, was his only means to survive the long night. Everyday he mastered what he despised the most, sealing his flaming heart into a casing of ice cold stone. His only companion, the Benizakura was no longer red bladed as it was aeons ago in his life time encased with a bruised faded blue. A katana made for flames now doomed to channel only ice.
The shift was approaching. The skies swirling and tearing to give way to another Night of the Hungry Ghosts. Another long night of bloodshed and no sleep. The only solitary flame that lulled the secluded shrine of Yama extinguished. The Buddha was left him with one insignificant candleflame to further taunt his spirit. But, the monk held fast to the oath he had taken to his blade.
As the last gleam of moonlight shined past the ornate hilt of his Katana, he stood up and marched towards his shrine gate. He had to protect the abode he was given. At any cost.
Amidst the softly falling snowflakes on the would-be battle field, the misshapen gnarled apparations reminiscent of the sins they may have commited in some realm somewhere had dropped from the endless dark expansive sky and were eying his shrine like they always did. Their eyes mangled and their twisted bladed limbs itching to destroy and feed upon whatever was in sight. This time something was different. At the far ends of the ranks, there stood a Ghost larger than any other Yama had seen in millenia. On his head hung the pale aura of a deva but broken in half as if signifying a cresent moon.
Yama raised an eyebrow. A deva? Why would a deva be reincarnated as a Hungry Ghost? He knew not the answer that would console the slight irrational fear that was building inside of him.
As if in a split second accompanying the loud bellow from the newly insurrected creature, the Hungry ghost had almost formed orderly ranks. Ranks as in a military manuevour that Yama had need seen them do before. In beastly speed a large troupe of Hungry Ghost ran head on towards Yama. Something was off here. These ravenous beasts are exceptionally skilled fighters, but they never came as troops. They posessed no intelligence for military action.
A slight curve appeared on the left side of Yama's face. Finally, something new to kill. Yama looked down put his right hand on Benizakura's hilt and held the sheath by his left. Staring in betwwen the sheath and the half drawn blade he did exactly the same as he always did.
He switched off his sanity.
Speeding forward in a heavy lunge he zoomed towards the potential first horde with the sheath inbetween his teeth and his body barimg his kimono held barely by his belt, which was his only salvation from the biting cold outside his beautiful glade. His legs matched the same hastened pace of his enemies as his dived into his battle ground head long. Dodging a preliminary blow from the first adversary, he regained his footing behind him and swung Benizakura in an arc. A cold steam was emanating from Benizakura's blade as it gleamed in the reflection of the torn skies.
A thrust to the midrib outflankes by an organised parry by two of the apparations working in tandem, he thrust his sheath into the forehead of the former while maiming the arm of the latter. The Hungry Ghost were acting in an organised manner. This made them even more deadly. This made Yama even more mad.
Eyeing the second approaching horde, Yama ascertained their numbers and called upon the spirit of ice from inside Benizakura. Everytime he did this he could only feel disgust towards the spirit he was reckoning forth. Benizakura quivered in anger invoking a spirit that did not agree with her. The blade shone and turned into a deep royal blue. Yama felt that same familiar chill creeping down his spine that told him that the powers had successfully graced him.
In that disgusted rage, Yama swung his Katana in two perfect half arcs from which emanated two equally sharp shards of ice that zoomed towards his enemies in a dash. One hit. The second ice arc was dodged. Yama channeled his rage into years of practice and noted that the large entity at the rear flanks with the half moon was staring intently at him. Yama ran towards the rest of the approaching troops unable to understand what had caused such an aberration.
Approaching fast on his adversary with brutal force he willed Benizakura to coat herself with an even sharper coating of ice mid swing, which effortlessly cut through the apparitions. He looked uo to survey the battle field of ice which had been stained with blood and littered with maimed organs and corpses of the Hungry Ghost he had slain. It was not enough.
Hundreds of them rushed towards him from all directions leaving no chance for him to outflank them and retreat to a safe distance before planning a counter attack. He was trapped. In midst of that his last dredges of sanity told him the only thing he could do. With full force on the hilt of Benizakura he called upon the spirits of Ice once more and planted his katana firmly on the ground. In a spilt second it was as if that his blood has frozen into clot and a shock wave ran through the still air of the battlefield. The snowflakes had morphed into Glassy Kunai Knives as it rained faster than hail from the skies decimating his enemies on all sides.
Benizakura was almost resonating from the amount of spiritual discharge that had been called upon her. Yama took up the blade by the hilt and set his eyes on the entity which was currently being guarded by a handful of Hungry Ghost Sentries.
Yama's body was torn. He did not have any more energy to call forth, but in that state of insanity he started a mad dash towards the last adversaries and pounced upon the frontguards like a rabid beast and tore them into shreds with the cursed blade he toted. Then he stood and looked upon the unsightly entity that was once a deva.
His crown had fused with his forehead and his third eye had blackened with an iris that was turning bloodred in his frenzy. Three of his faces had been gradually twisted into something horrible while the last face stared blankly bereft on the left eye which had been torn out. His body was a far cry from the beauty of a deva and has retrogressed into something putrid. Sensing Yama's approach he jumped into a frenzy approaching his adversary by killing his own rear guards in his frenzy.
An would-be Asura, that's what the corrupted deva had become. It had to be from the beginning of time that Asuras had been eliminated by the Devas themselves. This particular entity was not completely one but at the very brink of becoming one. Yama stood unable to speak at this approaching mangled convulsion for a moment. Yet, he readied his stance and lifted his blade to his eye level and waited to encounter this ancient evil head on.
The would-be Asura uncoiled his bladed tail and dashed towards Yama at such incredible speed unknown to Yama. The world had stopped for a split second as Yama heard something fall into the soft bloodied snow below.
His sheath previously in his left hand was lying there. Slowing, in an unblinking horror he looked towards his left to see that his left arm had been completely cut off and had been flung a small distance behind him. The would-be Asura laughed as his horrible beastly laughter was drowned Yama's noiseless scream.
The putrid entity looked dead into Yama's eyes. "So, the Buddha had taken much more than your element it seems. Maggots void of speech should die with the same noiseless yelp that you were cursed with".
No sound emanated from Yama like always. "I will slay you. And I will ensure you die a horrible death", screamed Yama inside himself.
It was as if the entity could read his mind. "You? A caged runt like you wished to slay the Adi Bodhisattva? You should rejoice fool, because I have come to take your Realm as the Kingdom of the Dead as it should have always been." Yama stood without words for a minute as he could not believe why one of the Oldest Devas was infront of him vowing to re-establish the old significance of the realm the Buddha had gifted him.
"We have long lived under the tyranny of the one who calls himself the Eka-purusha. I shall not bow down to someone who is millenia younger than me no more.", bellowed the would-be Asura. " It is my time to resurrect the old ways, and to take for myself the entire Karmic realms one realm at a time. Beginning with the pathetically requisitioned realm of penance that you have been spending your time at", added the entity in a vile breath.
With another slash with Yama could barely parry with one hand, the entity skidded behind the monk and slashed his back with a deep upper cut. Yama unable to keep his balance clasped Benizakura even tightly in his right hand and feinted an uppercut while slashing behind him. This loose sword movement of his was easily predicted by the entity and in a flash of lightning the entity dug his blackened nails into his chest. Yama fell backwards with his pallid body unable to move anymore. He eyes fixated on the Asura's black Trinayana with its now completely red iris. He had won. The Deva was now a complete Asura, there was no coming back.
Yama was preparing to close his eyes, as he heard the golden fluted voice of the man that he had learned to despise from the beginning of his existence. The ruler who had enslaved him, taken his memories, his sleep, his element. "Monk", Said the voice," Your penance is over. Go reclaim your blade Inutsuzakura.". Yama did not understand for a while. His blade was Benizakura, or the "bloodied cherry leaves" but why would his blade called Inutsuzakura all of a sudden. Why would he wield the blue blade of gloom?
Then it all came back to him. He never was trapped. His element never was fire. His sword never was Benizakura. Only his memories had been taken away. He was the one and only swordsman of the Ice flames.
And this was his realm that he had once ruled upon with an iron fist, not as the Realm of Penance, but as the Realm of the Dead itself.
The king of the dead painfully stood up and picked up his sword that had been forced on the ground. "Inutsuzakura, how many years has it been before I called you by that name?", he said to his blade inside his mind. The blade resonated with such joy as never before and instantly turned a deeper midnight blue as it never had before.
The entity had not yet felt his presence behind him, as he internally said a silent invocation to the spirits of the ice. This time it felt as if his body was on fire. It was no more the disgusting blood clot that he felt everytime he did the same before.
With an enormous spiritual pressure he invoked the Hand of the God, and encased his left arm in a golden facsimile and ran at the entity who was drunk on his victory. Too drunk to sense his death approaching.
The blade ran right through the forehead of the Asura through his Trinayana and slashed upward ridding the demonic aura. The entity instantatenously retorted with his bladed tail which was easily parried and deflected by Yama's God hand and the last thrust was through the heart of the Asura.
As the Asura fell and as his cresent aura behind his head decayed and fell to the ground, he asked,"Monk, who are you?".
The monk looked dead into his eyes and spoke.
No sound came out from his mouth, but it was as if the torn skies spoke for him.
"I am O-Yama. The King of the 14 realms of hell".