Rusty had gone to work so I was feeling a little bit bored. I decided to go to Rotokia on the off-chance that the Night Travellers had returned.
When I arrived in the green room of the Manor Clandolin, Autumn and Dylan were playing on the PlayStation.
'When did you guys get back?'
'This morning, before sunrise.' Clandolin answered without looking away from the TV screen.
'What about those stone troll thingies...' I asked, 'did you manage to stop them from killing people?'
'Yeah, Geordie sorted them out.'
'So um... where's Yoshi?' I asked, unable to keep it in much longer.
The three Travellers looked from one to the other but no one answered.
'Hello! Earth to Cland!' I said, impatiently, 'Where's Yoshi-kun?'
After another short pause Clandolin finally decided to answer.
'Yeah... um... about Yoshimitsu...'
It was obvious there was something wrong and I braced myself for the news that he had decided not to stay in Rotokia, or he had stayed in the Middle-Worlds to fight some righteous cause in some far off troubled world.
'He's in room 20.' Autumn jumped in.
'The first floor?' I gasped.
I must have gone pale. The rooms on the first floor (or ground floor, though we don't use the ridiculous British system of numbering floors in Rotokia) are only used for three types of resident; those with hooves who cannot climb stairs very well, the elderly or disabled and those who are very, very sick or injured. I guess it's sort of like our 'intensive care ward' Yoshi is quite old but there's no way he could be considered 'elderly' and he's definitely no ungulate.
Clandolin elbowed Autumn in the side.
'What did you tell her that for? He specifically asked us not to tell her yet.'
'Did he now?' I snapped, running from the room.
As I dashed over the black and white marbled hall to the west wing, I noticed the black statue of the Goddess between the stair cases was covering her face with her hands. Clearly, she knew what was coming.
Room 20 was at the very end of the corridor, there are actually 40 residents rooms on the first floor but the rooms sometimes move around for no good reason. It was far worse in the early days of Rotokia. In fact, it was really difficult to do anything when the manor was empty because the room moving was so annoying but once the residents began moving in, the rooms settled down. The only down side of this is that now none of the rooms are numbered in chronological order and the only way to find your way back is to remember the directions and hope your room stays where it is. Though we help by having pictures on the walls and we also put residents' names on their doors if they request it.
When I reached the door I banged on it furiously.
'Yoshi it's me, let me in.' I demanded. I couldn't be bothered with his usual nonsense.
It was a short while before he answered.
'What do you mean you can't? You can speak can't you? Tell the door to open'. I demanded, panic was welling up inside me.
'Kimi o mitakunai.' he said rudely.
'Why don't you want to see me? I just want to make sure you're okay. Let me in NOW!' I began thumping on the door aggressively.
I have to admit I was making quite a scene.
'Yamere!' growled Yoshi impatiently, 'Daijoubu de shimpai shinaide zo!'
I stopped hitting the door, not so much because I had calmed down but because my hands were beginning to hurt. I leaned my forehead against the door and pressed my palms against it.
'What's happened Yoshi?' I said in a soft voice and chocking back the tears, 'why are you in here? Why don't you want to see me?'
'Shitsumon bakkari ne' he chuckled sarcastically, 'demo... omen ga kowashita dake.'
'LIER' I yelled, thumping the door again before remembering why I had stopped in the first place. 'no one gets this floor for a broken mask! Now let me in or I'll kick this f**king door down.' I screamed, kicking the door (it hurt less).
'Ashi mo te mo kega shite...' he paused mid-sentence, then simply said, 'ii zo!'
'If everything's fine you'd let me in. Yoshi stop with the 'big cold ninja' act, I'm sick of it. I've done nothing but try to get close to you, to offer you friendship and you just continue to treat me like an outsider. I hate it. I HATE YOU!'
I then began to throw myself against the door and several residents had opened their doors to see what was going on.
I turned around at the sound of a familiar and very sexy voice. It was Gorten. Gorten is a strange centaur-type creature with snake-like facial features and a skeletal horse's body. His skin is thin and scaled and his bones show through it sharply. He has a thick muscular tail like a snake's body and his hooves are missing. He walks on narrow fetlock bones. His scaly head is bald and highly domed but despite his appearance, he has a very attractive voice and a beautiful accent (English is not his native language and I have a soft-spot for such things. Though I don't think his native language exists in the World As It Is).
'Calm down.' he demanded, stepping towards me and embracing me in his arms.
'Gorten, great. You can help me with this. Will you please kick this door down for me?'
'Absolutely not.' he said snobbishly, 'I will not help you to deny a sick man his right to privacy.'
'After everything I have done for you?' I pleaded.
'What have you done for me?'
'Well... I... I taught you English.'
'You did no such thing, Peter taught me to speak English.'
'Yeah well... I helped by speaking too you in English.' I explained hopelessly.
'That must have been so much effort for you.'
'I suppose it was Peter who taught you sarcasm too? Well, if you wont kick the door down, I'll just have to do it myself.' and I started trying to wriggle free from Gorten's arms, kicking my legs furiously as though they would somehow reach the door.
At that moment, Mathew and Peter came running down the corridor. Obviously, someone had called for my guides (traitors).
'What's going on?' asked Peter, slightly out of breath.
'It is Jemma, she is hysterical. She wants to get into that room to see whoever is in there.' explained Gorten, still not letting go of me.
'Jemma, Yoshi will see you when he's ready to.' Mathew soothed as he fumbled with his keys. The door to number 20 opened and I tried again to struggle free. 'Just be patient for once will you?' he then went inside and closed the door.
Gorten began to guide me away along the corridor towards Peter.
'He's going to be fine Jemma but he really could have done without that you know.' said Peter, taking me from Gorten and into his own arms. 'Thanks Gorten, you did a good job!'
'It was not a problem.' replied the... the... oh I don't know what he is, as he returned into his room, swishing his snake-like tail as he did so.
'What are you doing to help him?' I asked, when we had returned to the green room and Peter had explained what had happened to Yoshi in the Middle-Worlds.
'We can't do much really. We have stopped the bleeding, and he obviously regained consciousness but none of our usual healing methods seem to work on him. Even herbs and drugs just don't seem to touch him. So we had to call for a specialist.'
'Dr. Boskonovitch of course!'
I smiled at the thought of seeing the doctor again and I knew he would know what to do.
'Can I please see him now?' I asked calmly, 'I won't make a scene or say anything nasty to him.'
'Jem, he just... doesn't want you to get upset.'
I stood up and walked over to the window. Rotokia didn't seem nearly so beautiful a place without Yoshimitsu. I know, before he came along everything was as it was right then but I had had a taste of something even more beautiful and by contrast, everything seemed grey.
'How could it have happened?' I asked eventually.
'We don't know but it was most likely something to do with your world. Someone, for some reason must have imagined him hurt.'
'It wasn't me!' I insisted hastily.
Peter laughed. No, I didn't think it would be Jemma. But still, whoever did this must have known about that particular manifestation of the egregore. How many people have you told about him?
I thought for a bit.
'Only a few really. Donna, Rhian, Nat, Rusty. I think that's all. That's all I can think off.' Then it clicked. 'Oh my God, Peter. I have to go...'
'Then go my fair maiden... go and put the world to rights!' he sang out dramatically and sarcastically.
'Rusty!' I demanded as I ran into his living room.
'Why did you ask me how Yoshimitsu was the other day? What had you done?'
'What are you talking about?'
'You know what I'm talking about. Remember, a few days ago you asked me how Yoshimitsu was when I saw him last and I was really confused. What was that all about?' I said urgently.
'Oh that. It was nothing. I had just been trying to find him in my meditation world...' (he has one too but it's not as complex, established or as detailed as Rotokia) 'I thought I had. I mean, it seemed real enough at the time. We had a bit of a sparring match together and it got a little bit rough. I thought I may have really hurt him so I checked with you.'
'You mean, you just imagined yourself beating him up?'
'I tried to imagine a fair fight actually... but yeah, like I'd let him win in my own world. (if you thought my 'god complex' was bad, Rusty's is near lethal!)
'so I tried again to fight him the next day. This time it was more of the same, only Blaze saw us fighting and she thought it was serious. She burned him a bit and then picked him up by the leg and threw him against a wall. He looked pretty badly beaten after that. I managed to calm Blaze down and sent him back into Rotokia.'
It seemed to fit. Oh, Blaze by the way, is my boyfriend's great big fire-dragon. She's very protective of him.
'Oh Rusty. I think you've done something really stupid. I don't know how it's happened but I think everything you did to him suddenly happened at once when he was in the middle-worlds.' I then left and returned to reality number two.
I reached the door to room 20 and knocked lightly.
'Hello, it's me! Ummm, Yoshi. I know you don't want to see me but I think I know what has happened to you. If I can't come in and see you, will you at least talk to me through the door?'
There was a lot of whispering and then the door pushed open. It was Mathew.
'Jemma,' he said with a huge sigh, 'Yoshimitsu say's if you really want to see him then you can. But I just want to remind you that he didn't want you to see him as he is and he's only doing this for you. Are you sure you want this?'
I didn't need to be asked twice, I rushed into the room, knocking Mathew out of the way as I did so. My delight and enthusiasm to see Yoshi again suddenly vanished as I turned to face him.
'Konbanwa' came the familiar voice of my friend from the unfamiliar face.
The voice was clearer, less muffled because what was left of his mask only covered one part of his face. His mouth; perfect fleshy lips on dull, mottled, sun-starved skin and his right eye were exposed. While the old Yoshimitsu may have chosen to wear a mask, I had the feeling that he no longer had much of a choice. It was his eyes you see. The exposed eye was the most bizarre and unexpected thing I ever witnessed where Yoshi was concerned. He had no eyelids at all and his skin just seemed to fold neatly around the bone of his eye sockets. The glowing bionic eye just seemed to float in a socket that appeared too large for it. I feared that at any moment it would just roll out and onto the floor.
Then of course there was his nose; or lack of nose, as that was evidently missing too. The bridge was quite flat and only about half an inch long but the rest of it was missing, just the fleshy grooves of the separate nostril chambers remained. His hair was clogged together with blood at the back and I also noticed that his left hand was deformed as though his fingers had bled together to form a plasticy club with sharp bits of metal jutting out awkwardly. I was unable to see the rest of him as it was hidden beneath the blanket but I was relieved about that, I knew at least, that he had a broken leg under there.
'Evening.' I replied, forcing a smile, 'so... how are you?'
'Okagesama de daijoubu.' he smiled and it was awful.
It's not that it wasn't a nice smile, in fact it was really quite charming, but it was all so very, very wrong. Yoshimitsu is never supposed to be seen without his mask never mind smile at people. I had spent so long learning to read him by the flashing of his eyes, by the tone of his voice and by his highly expressive body language, that I didn't need him to smile at me. I didn't want him to. He reached out with his undamaged hand, the hand nearest to me, as though he meant for me to take it. I hesitated but stepped closer to the bed so I was near enough for him to reach and I crouched down. He then grabbed my hand. Oh I wish I was skilled enough with words to tell you how I felt in that moment but I can't. I really can't.
It was then that I noticed the two halves of his sword on the table at the foot of the bed. No one had thought to warn me about that. My heart sank as I recalled the spiritual echoes that the doctor and I had spoken to in the lab. The 'little bits of Yoshi's mind' that lived in his sword.
'Your sword! Your ancestors.' I exclaimed.
'Inai.' was all Yoshimitsu would or could say on the matter.
'When the sword was broken the spiritual energy was released.' explained Peter, 'we have no idea where it has gone or how we will ever find it. We don't even know if it's possible.'
'That means... you've lost some of your skills.' I said to Yoshi with concern.
He gave a tiny nod in reply.
I noticed that he was lying perfectly still, apart from his head, only his right hand had moved since I entered the room.
'Can't you move? Are you in pain?'
The uncovered eye flickered black for a millisecond and as it did so, I noticed the eye behind the mask appeared to blink. I had never realised that his blinking was just a trick of the light. I wondered if it felt like blinking to Yoshi or if it was just for the benefit of the onlooker. Did he actually see everything unhindered by the flickering of eyelids? I never asked him. Maybe I should next time I see him? If I remember.
'Karada no choushi ga warui node ugokashitakunai.' he said softly, as though saying it quietly would somehow make it less difficult for me to take.
'Jemma chan, kore wo shita hito wo shitte'ru ka?'
'Yeah I think so. I think it was my dumbass boyfriend. He didn't mean to do it though. You must understand that. He's just...' I was going to say stupid but he's not, he's a sweet guy but just very immature at times, like myself I guess. 'he just doesn't understand how these worlds work. He was just trying to spar with you. So he sort of imagined this to happen. You see... the human mind. I mean, the mind of the living, is a very powerful but undervalued tool. Most people don't realise how much they can influence the world just with the power of imagination and if they don't realise they have power, then they don't realise how to use it responsibly. Sadly, those affects are felt so much more powerfully here.'
Peter put his hand on my shoulder. I had barely even registered that he was there until then.
'But you have full control here. You can protect the egragores of Rotokia. That's what you do.' he said dramatically.
'But Yoshi's not really a Rotokian character, not yet anyway. He doesn't even know if he wants to stay or not. How can I protect him? The others I can protect because they're Rotokians, they're mine.'
'You don't need Yoshi to belong here to make him a part of this world.' Peter began, 'You just need to write about him.'
'Write about Yoshimitsu?'
'Yeah, about how he came here and the events which unfolded as a result. Once you do that, his tale will join the others as a genuine Rotokian saga and he'll become a part of this place forever.'
I thought about it for a while. It is true that once I write about a new character they become part of the fabric of Rotokia, but other than Smeagol, I have never had to deal directly with a genuinely famous egragore before. Sure I've met some in passing (I won't name drop), but while many of the characters of Rotokia are from other fictional worlds, they tend to be unnamed, or they're from art, or the living manifestations of song lyrics, feelings or ambitions. An egragore is not necessarily an actual character from fiction but I make them so, I make them part of Rotokia by believing, imagining, writing. But Yoshimitsu...?
I looked at the guy in on the bed. The strange jumbled up egragore that no one really knows anything about but which my own mind had attempted to pin down. What had I done by doing so? I had meant no harm by bringing him to my astral world and yet harm is what I had caused. If there was a way to put it right, I was willing to give it a go.
'Once upon a time...' I began dreamily, imagining how my story might go, 'a silly little girl with an active imagination invited a video game character to her imaginary world for a tea party...'
'Yeah, and some tea party that turned out to be.' remarked Mathew ironically.
'Sore wa daibu omoshiroi monogatori de kaitara yomitai.' said Yoshi with a little chuckle.
'Ha, well sorry but you won't be able to read it. Only people from The World as it Is will be able to and you're just a collection of pixels over there.'
'You're just being sarcastic aren't you?'
He didn't answer but we were interrupted by a loud humming sound from outside. I walked over to the window.
'Hey Yoshi, does your doctor friend have a sort of small aeroplane thing?'
'What colour is it?'
'Shiro ya kiiro nado. Chotto hade da. Naze?'
'Does it have a sort of red line on the white bit, underneath the yellow?'
'Great, then I had better go and let him in.'
Um... okay reader, I have a confession to make. I have sort of changed this bit to save time. What actually happened is that I flipped out (as usual) because the doctor took so long to arrive and so I went looking for him but it would take up at least an extra page of writing space and the fact of the matter is, I found him. So lets just continue to pretend I casually went to let the doctor in.
'Something cradle but over these such shouting mainly.' came the shrill gibberish of Bizgut as I approached the door.
I heaved open the heavy doors and sure enough, there was the doctor on the other side carrying two large duffle-bags.
'So Jemma, we meet again, somewhat sooner than we had anticipated.'
'Yeah,' I smiled, 'Still, it's good to see you again. Here, I'll carry one of those for you.' I offered though when I took the bag from him I instantly regretted my offer.
'What have you got in here?' I exclaimed, buckling under the weight.
'You wouldn't believe me if I told you.'
'Nice to meet you Dr. Boskonovitch!' announced Mathew with a sweet smile once we had reached room 20, 'I'm Mathew. Normally I am the physician here at the manor but I'm at a total loss. Even the anaesthetic I gave him didn't work.'
'No, it wouldn't. Yoshimitsu's body isn't affected by poisons, it's very efficient.' he said, completely blanking Yoshi and opening up one of the large bags.
He pulled out something long and thin, like a hypodermic needle though there was no syringe attached. He also took out a small metal torch. We all watched, Peter, Mathew and I, curious to what he was doing. Still without having said so much as a 'hello' to Yoshi, he stepped onto the bed, over Yoshi and sat down on the pillow beside him.
He then parted Yoshi's weird synthetic hair and shone the torch, which turned out to be UV by the way, onto the back of Yoshi's head as though looking for something. Yoshimitsu said nothing, clearly not at all bothered that his friend had not even taken the time to speak to him. I then watched as Dr. B gently pushed the needle into Yoshi's scalp. It was weird but if Yoshimitsu wasn't bothered then neither was I. I looked at Mathew for an explanation but he just shrugged at me.
'There you go Jemma, your darling Yoshimitsu can't feel a thing now.' declared the doctor proudly.
'What did you just do?' I asked.
'Trade secret I'm afraid. If I told you, I'd have to kill you.' he joked, at least, I hope he was joking.
He then clambered over Yoshi and off the bed (he is incredibly agile for his age) and then sat cross-legged on the floor so that he was almost eye-to-eye with Yoshi.
'Well then Yoshimitsu my friend, yet again you have managed to turn into a pile of scrap metal.' he said.
'Boku no sei ja nai yo!' Yoshi protested lightly.
'Well, I suppose I had better start putting you right...' the doctor paused and his expression changed to a scowl, 'Yoshimitsu! What on Earth happened to your hand?' he exclaimed,
'Have you any idea how long it will take me to build a replacement? Jeez, you're hopeless.'
Peter opened the door.
'I guess we should get out of your way?' he offered as Mathew walked to the door too. 'there's a buzzer on the wall. If you need anything just press it. There's always someone in the green the room listening out for it.'
They then both left the room.
'Thanks, but I'm sure I'll be fine.' smiled the doctor, before the door had closed behind them.
'Well...' I walked over to where the doctor was sitting and stood at his side facing Yoshi, 'see you then Yoshimitsu.'
Yoshi's eyes went dark.
'Nemui.' he said to himself sleepily.
'Awww, isn't that sweet?' I grinned, 'he says he's sleepy!'
I stood up and headed for the door.
I stopped and turned around.
'...as Rotokia's resident Yoshimitsu obsessive, I thought you would like to do something special for me.'
'Will it help Yoshi?'
'Of course it will.'
'Then yeah, I'll do it.' I said not actually knowing what I had to do but knowing whatever it was, I would do it gladly. 'Though if it involves blood I should warn you I could puke!'
Yoshi 'opened his eyes' again and he actually looked kind of fearful.
'Ha ha, no, it shouldn't involve blood. We're going to be busy right through the night, Yoshimitsu is tired but I need him to stay awake. I thought you might like the job of keeping him entertained while I work?'
I was absolutely delighted to have been asked that and I looked to Yoshi for his reaction. He smiled approvingly.
'I'd love to. It'll be so much fun. I'll go and get some DVD's and games and snacks...'
'Yoshimitsu won't be doing any eating I'm afraid.'
'Oh, then neither will I. Forget the snacks.' I said as I hurried from the room, 'be right back!'
It was a weird night but very enjoyable. We started by watching 'Pom Poko' which is just bizarre and then we played battle ships. I gave up because Yoshi was winning too easily, so must have been cheating. He denied it of course but I was convinced something fishy was going on and refused to keep playing. After that I asked him to help me with my Japanese though he's a rubbish language teacher so I didn't really learn that much. He kept drifting off to sleep so I'd nudge him awake again. The best thing of all was the times between movies, games and language lessons when we would just talk. Well, I would just talk mostly. He was such a patient listener, true he had no choice and was in no hurry to be anywhere else, but still, I felt as though everything I said to him mattered. It was nice.
'This was my absolute favourite anime in the whole-wide world!' I announced as we finished watching 'Tsukuyoumi -Moon Phase, 'The little vampire girl is a lot like me. Don't you think?' I said to Yoshi who was already, after only 3 hours of Dr. B's efforts, able to sit upright on the bed.
I had been successfully ignoring what the doc was doing because I'm really squeamish but there was a weird smell of burnt hair mixed with turpentine in the room. I opened a window to let some air in because my eyes were watering. Oh, and Yoshimitsu wore no mask at all at that point. It was sort of creepy seeing him like that to tell you the truth. But I was getting used to it.
'Jemma-chan...' began Yoshi tentatively.
'Kimi no sekai ni wa boku ga ninki ga aru ka?' he asked shyly as though it had been playing on his mind.
'By 'in my world' I'm guessing you mean The World as It Is? Where you're a video game character?'
'Well, yeah, you have loads of ninki there. You're one of the more popular Tekken characters that's for sure.' I answered. Oh, um, in case you're wondering, 'ninki' means popular but in Japanese they word it 'to have popular' so maybe 'popularity' would be a better translation, anyway, you get what we were talking about.
'Buraiyan-kun yori ninki ga takusan aru n' deshou?'
'I don't know Yoshi, it's hard to tell but I think you're probably more popular than Bryan. You see, you have very demonstrative fans it would seem. What they may lack in numbers they make up for in passion. In fact, I'm starting to like your fans almost as much as I like you! You're well loved in The World As It Is that's for sure. It's a damn shame you can't exist there really. Though you'd probably hate it.'
'Tabun kirai to omou ka? Doushite?'
'Because you'd be famous and everyone would be trying to find out everything about you. I mean you ARE famous, but not in your reality so you don't have to worry about it.'
'Aa, wakatta. Yumei ja nai no hou ga ii da ne.'
'If you want a quiet life.'
Eventually I began to get very tired and I felt sure I was going to slip into sleep at any moment. Yoshi too was struggling to stay awake, the lights of his eyes were very feint and getting increasingly dark. Not to mention the fact that we kept making each other yawn. Doctor Boskonovitch zipped up his bag and I turned around with a start. I hadn't even noticed he was behind me.
'I think we should call it a night.' He said with a gentle smile, 'You both did well to stay awake this long.'
'Have you finished? Is he fine now?' I asked enthusiastically.
'Oh heavens no. Sorry Jemma but it's going to take a little bit longer than that you know. I'm only one man. Though maybe...' his eyes narrowed with thought.
'So when you say 'a little bit longer' what sort of time scale are you talking about?' I asked.
'Maybe a week.' he shrugged; 'I have to build him a new hand and that won't be so simple'.
That was disappointing news but I didn't get a chance to challenge it as I fell asleep at that point.
Shaking with rage, Mitsurugi sat upon a fallen log and watched the smoke rising from the remains of his loyal horse. Despair was setting in and the will to fight was slipping from his grasp. He recalled that first encounter with a spirit in the dreamworlds; the young tengu that had scratched his shoulder. He had known in that instant that these worlds would try to break him and now, Mitsurugi was broken.
'Amaterasu' he shouted to the trees, his voice echoing despite there being nothing to cause an echo, 'What more do you want from me? Won't you give me something? A clue? A sign?'
He did not expect an answer of course but he was full of frustration and lost for ideas.
Mitsurugi turned at the sound of a comical voice behind him. Looking up, he noticed a strange green apparition sitting on a tree branch. The spirit had a body like a man but his head was oversized and he wore a mask that resembled the face of an oni (ogre) from traditional Japanese art. He was also only several inches high.
'Yoshimitsu.' The spirit repeated.
'No, you have the wrong guy, I'm Mitsurugi.' said the samurai submissively.
He stood up and began to walk away. The spirit appeared before Mitsurugi's face, hovering in the air with it's drangonfly wings. The masked face had changed and wore scowl.
'Yoshimitsu!' demanded the creature again.
'Can you say anything besides 'Yoshimitsu?' asked Mitsurugi, swatting the creature away with his hand.
The little creature fell towards the ground but then caught itself mid-fall and began to fly back upwards. This time, it hovered just out of range of Mitsurugi's hand.
'Yoshi.' said the creature nodding its head enthusiastically.
'Let me guess, you can also say 'mitsu'.'
The spirit spun around on the spot, turning its face away from the samurai. When it's mask was visible again the oni's face bore a wide grin, smiling eyes and large apple-like cheeks.
'Well, if it's Yoshimitsu you want, he was in a place called Rotokia the last time I saw him. But you're a long way from there.'
'Yoshimitsu.' the creature took hold of Mitsurugi's sleeve and began to pull him back the way he had been travelling.
'Oh no you don't' he pushed the spirit off, 'I'm not going back that way. I know what you are. You're just another spirit sent to hinder my quest.'
The green man shook his head vigorously.
'Yoshiiiiiiimiiiitsuuuuuuu.' It said pleadingly.
Its face was still smiling so it quickly flew behind a tree, re-emerging seconds later with a sad, wide eyed expression on its mask. It grabbed the sleeve again and began to pull.
'You know, you're almost as irritating as Yoshimitsu himself. Won't you just leave me alone.'
Mitsurugi swatted the creature again with the back of his arm and knocked it so hard that it was sent flying several meters and struck a small sakura tree.
Just as the creature was about to hit the ground, a pair of hands caught it. Startled, Mitsurugi realised that the tree itself had transformed into a beautiful young lady wearing a blue kimono adorned with sakura petals. Her hair, in a traditional bun, was also decorated with blossom. She raised the creature towards her and cradled it in her arms.
'What did you do that for?' she scowled.
'Who are you?'
'You may call me Sakura, if you like. Now tell me samurai, why did you ask Amaterasu for help only to ignore the first thing you saw? Don't you trust her?'
Mitsurugi's brow furrowed.
'Are you telling me that She sent this thing?'
'I'm not telling you anything. That's for you to decide. Do you trust her or don't you?'
There was a silence while Mitsurugi thought and Sakura placed the green man on the ground who then sat among the fallen petals, rubbing his arm as though it had been injured while his dragonfly wings flickered behind him.
'You're lost right?' Sakura began, folding her arms in front of herself, 'Well he iss lost too and he can not get home without you.'
'So? What is in it for me?'
'You cannot get home without him.' the girl announced.
'I do not want to get home. Not without the shards of Amaterasu.'
'Did you think about asking him where they are?' she pointed at the small green creature.
'he's just a simple shikigami isn't he?'
And then the girl transformed back into a tree and Mitsurugi was left alone with the creature again. It lifted it's face towards the samurai.
'Yoshimitsu!' it said enthusiastically.
'Fine then, if you find the shards of Amaterasu for me, I'll take you home with me.'
The creature leaped up and took flight on his tiny insect-wings and his arm was miraculously better. Once again it took hold of Mitsurugi's sleeve only this time, the samurai followed.
Through the woods, the unlikely duo travelled until they reached a sight that took Mitsurugi's breath. A wolf-god, larger than a horse and as regal as a lion, his fur whiter than snow, stood upon the path before them.
Mitsurugi dropped to his knees and bowed his head.
'My Lord.' he began, 'I have come from afar to seek out the lost shards of Amaterasu and restore her to her original glory. I am weak, injured, fatigued and without a horse. Please, I beg you, assist me on my quest.' he asked humbly.
The wolf-god walked slowly towards the samurai and when he reached him, he nuzzled his head with the tip of his giant snout as though instructing him to raise it. When he did so his eyes caught sight of his little green companion who motioned with his hands for Mitsurugi to stand. Once he was on his feet, he watched as the creature flew up to the wolf's back and sat on it, patting the wolf as though gesturing for him to do likewise.
'I can't ride upon a god!' exclaimed Mitsurugi. That's blasphemous!'
The shikigami shook his head and patted the wolf again.
'Yo-shi-mi-tsu!!!' it ordered impatiently.
With a nervous glance at the wolf, Mitsurugi stepped forwards.
'Forgive me.' he breathed and then climbed onto the large animal's back. The wolf-god instantly leaped into a run and took the samurai, and the strange creature, through the many terrains of the Shinto dream worlds. Covering miles at a time with several bounds. At times, Mitsurugi noticed that other, smaller white wolves were joining them, running along behind them. He had no idea what was happening or why but it was the first sign he'd had of progress and so he chose to flow with it.