Author: cmaej PM
A pack of 6 half-breed warriors set out on various missions to keep the peace between humans and inukonjous, canine-like spiritual beings whose purpose is to protect the earth's six elements. Each mission leads the friends closer to uncovering a sinister plot to overthrow the Divine One, the all-powerful queen of the inukonjous. Updates on the 1st & 15th of each month.Rated: Fiction M - English - Adventure/Fantasy - Chapters: 17 - Words: 43,071 - Reviews: 23 - Favs: 4 - Follows: 3 - Updated: 05-15-13 - Published: 02-24-13 - id: 3103859
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A lone traveler walks through the dense forest of Japan. Upon a second glance, however, it appears this particular "traveler" has no evidence that indicates traveling; no sack to carry his necessities, no weapons to protect himself from predators or bandits, no boots for the treacherous hike, and not even a hat to guard against the light rain.
The wanderer (that's a better term) wears a simple, black hakama with a gold obi. He doesn't seem to be bothered that his upper body is not sufficiently protected from the elements; for his black keikogi covers his left shoulder. A small portion of leather protects the soles of his feet and wraps around his ankles, but leaves his heels and toes uncovered. Indeed, this mysterious man appears to be at home in the thick, wet forest.
But he is not alone.
A canine-like creature, an inukonjou, stalks the man. The wanderer is a relatively large person with a moderately muscular build, but the great beast is at least three times his size. The creature's red-brown fur stiffens and black-tipped ears twitch at the sight of its prey. Using the tall, dense trees as cover, the canine skillfully intercepts the unfortunate man. The inukonjou plants its paws into the ground in a menacing stance and gives the wanderer a threatening snarl.
Surprisingly, the man doesn't show any sign of fear. He looks up at the inukonjou and gives it a smirk. The animal catches a glimpse of the man's golden eyes through his long, brown fringe. Most of his hair is tied into a spikey ponytail, but some is left to drape down the back of his neck. The strange man kneels to one knee for the great beast.
"Good evening, Your Grace," the wanderer says. "I am Haruki of the Elemental Warrior's Society. You have called for our assistance, have you not?"
The inukonjou suddenly transforms into an elegant and noble-looking woman clad in a white gown. She gracefully walks towards Haruki and offers her hand, giving the warrior permission to rise.
"Thank you for responding to the summons, Haruki." The woman returns the smirk with one of her own. Although the pair's words are very formal, the warmth in her emerald-colored eyes seems to indicate that they know each other well.
"I understand that there is an urgent matter I must tend to," Haruki says. "How may I help you, Your Grace?"
"Stop with the formalities," the woman orders with a haughty toss of her short, red-brown hair. "I've known you since you were a pup. Call me 'Kori'."
"Whatever pleases you, Kori." The elemental warrior is secretly relieved that he can abandon his manners.
"Follow me," Kori says as he turns away from Haruki. "The source of the problem is this way; at the mountains."
Haruki and Kori make the trek eastward towards the base of the mountains. With no trail, the journey would have been nearly impossible for ordinary humans. Fortunately, Kori is not a human and knows her turf very well. Oddly, the warrior doesn't have any trouble keeping up with the canine-like being. While travelling, Kori fills Haruki in on the approaching situation.
"I have received a message from my tengus that the citizens from the sorcerer village have sealed a monster in a cave," the woman says with a look of concern on her face. "I went to investigate myself, and there's definitely something sealed there. The sorcerers are pretty powerful. Even I can't penetrate the magical seal. That's why I called the Society for assistance."
Haruki raises a single eyebrow. "So you called a half-breed like myself to break through a seal that a full-blood like you can't penetrate?"
"Don't be coy," Kori retorts. "I know you already have a plan in mind. You are well-known at the Society for your resourcefulness, after all. Have you made alpha, yet?"
"You're right," the warrior admits with a small chuckle. "I stopped at the village before I came here. I told the elders that if they release the seal at sunset, I will rid them of the monster. They were quite happy to fulfill my request. And no, I haven't made alpha yet."
"I'm sure you don't have long. Ah, there it is."
Kori points to a small cave at the mountain base. The pair carefully approaches the dark, dank structure. The rain has gotten heavier, but the warrior is able to peer through the transparent, magical seal. He is surprised to not find a "monster", but what appears to be an adolescent girl. The raven-haired youngster is laying on the bare ground in a fetal position. Her condition is disheartening to say the least; for her hair is matted, and her clothes are worn, dirty, and tattered.
"She's just a child." Haruki gives Kori a confused look.
"I know," Kori says matter-of-factly. "At first, I was upset to think that the villagers had the gall to dump their trash in my forest. I was going to pay them a visit, but when I saw the poor girl, I changed my priorities."
"That's a good thing," Haruki says. "Otherwise, I would've been called here for a different reason."
Kori folds her arms and turns away with a haughty snort.
"Besides," Haruki continues, ignoring Kori's fit. "How would you attack a village if you can't even break their seal?"
"Easy." The woman gives Haruki a backwards glance. "Half of them will be eaten by the time they put one up." Kori smiles playfully at her own harsh words.
"Speaking of eating, she appears to have been here for a while." Haruki can only make a visual examination from the other side of the seal. "Did she get any food at all?"
"The seal only prevents those with yōkai from penetrating. My tengus were able to put food in. It startled her at first, so I think she can't see through the seal from the inside."
The heart-broken tone in Kori's voice is evident. Even Haruki, a warrior who has seen many despicable actions, can't hide the sorrow in his eyes.
Kori breaks the silence. "I think I know why they dumped her." She grabs Haruki's forearm and points through the seal. "Look at her right arm. She has the mark of the beast."
The warrior's eyes follow Kori's gesture. Sure enough, the black image of a canine's profile is on the young girl's right wrist. It's an interesting phenomenon that occurs randomly in half-breeds. Perhaps it's a genetic mutation from mixing human blood with inukonjou blood. No one knows for sure. The mark of the beast is very special, but when someone who is unaware of their inukonjou lineage develops the mark, it can pose a problem such as this.
"I get it," Haruki says. "The sorcerers didn't know she was a half-breed until now."
"She's a dark-type, too," Kori says, noting the girl's eerily violet eyes. "They're strong and poisonous. It's a miracle that she didn't have accidental envenomation with the humans. They would have likely killed her."
Every inukonjou, full-blood and half-breed, represents one of the earth's six elements: wind, earth, water, fire, light, and dark. Each one gives the inukonjou certain, but not necessarily exclusive, characteristics. The quickest ways to determine a beast's element is through eye color or yōkai. Haruki, a light-type half-breed, has golden eyes. Kori, an earth-type full-blood, has green eyes. Wind-types, water-types, dark-types and fire-types will have silver, blue, violet, and red eyes, respectively. Only the Divine One, the queen of the inukonjous, represents all six elements.
"The sun is setting," Kori says.
As the sun begins to set, the seal becomes noticeably weaker. Once it completely dissipated, the girl inside suddenly becomes aware of the strangers in front of her. She lets out a weak gasp and attempts to sit up, using her arms as support. Haruki crotches to the frightened child and extends a hand.
"Don't be scared. I will take care of you from now on."