A/N: Although I am a Japanese anime and manga fan, the only myths/works I've seen about ancient Japan are Princess Mononoke and Dream Hunters. So obviously there are large gaps in my knowledge. I've been studying the history and culture of Japanese on the Internet, but I would still appreciate your help, so if you have anything at all to share or correct, please let me know! Thanks muchly. ^_^

And now. story.

Amaya ran her slender fingers over the stone lantern, and smiled to feel the rivulets of water streaming down. She liked the rain season. It was a time to indulge her senses - with the heady scent of lotus, with the music of clouds. And there was little of the mocking sun, that painted mosaics of light before her eyes.

The girl rose, walked through the driving rain and into the house in which she lived. Some might have called its curving lines and its sloping roofs beautiful.

Inside, in the kitchen, Amaya stood on a mat woven of bamboo reeds, wringing out her hair. The long strands fell heavy and black around her, catching the light and gleaming, thirsty for more. So stood the girl, listening, until finally a voice crackled:

"Hello, child."

"Evening, elder," Amaya replied calmly. "You breathe as loudly as a dying horse."

"A dying horse, eh? Maybe so." The man chuckled. "I remember you as docile and quiet. You have changed."

"Do I know you?" Amaya hesitated, searching through the dark shafts of memory. She could not place his voice.

"Yes, or did once. When you were a child with beautiful green eyes."

Frowning, Amaya tightened her grip on her hair. "What is your name?" she asked coldly.

"Sakuran." He paused. "An old healer, serving the Buddha. And the one who saved a young girl with pretty eyes from the death fever."

"A fool." Amaya sounded sad. "A fool who made a mistake."

She stepped lightly over to a wooden cabinet that hung on the wall, and from it she took a pot, two cups, and several green leaves. There was water already in the kettle, so Amaya took it to the corner hearth, where she lit a fire to boil. The movement of her hands was practiced, sure, as she brewed the tea.

After a long while, she said, "My parents will not welcome you. You did them no great favors."

Sakuran grunted, and accepted the cup that Amaya had pushed tentatively in his direction. "I know all about that. It's why I've come."

"I don't understand."

"They are destroying you," Sakuran said gently. "Last year, when the rice crop failed so miserably, it was your fault. When the hogs escaped those fragile fences, it was your fault. The death of your father's concubine, that too was laid at your feet."

"I am the curse of their luck," Amaya answered, and her voice was curiously devoid of any emotion. "Their blind streak."

Sakuran scowled. "You do not believe that, I hope. If you do, my journey has been for nothing." He leaned forward, a barely perceptible motion which Amaya could not see. "You see that I have a certain duty. I gave you life; I can not allow that life to continue in misery."


"Yes, child?"

"My eyes are white. Empty. Please leave this house, and go to your temple of memories, and do not return here."

* * *

Nari was dancing.

She was dancing in a narrow street, and she was dancing with sweat coursing down her body. She was dancing without music or laughter, and each step was a gamble for her life. But for all that she was still dancing; the rhythm pulsed through her aching body, manifesting itself in the flash of curving metal.

The pattern was woven with four parts. She and her katana, Tear, were one half: her opponent and his blade the other. Nari was focused only on keeping the balance between them, weaving the dance, sustaining her life.

There was a clash, the rough sound of ripping fabric, and then a blade lay at Nari's bare feet. She blinked; after a dazed moment, she realized that Tear was still in her gloved hand. A streak of blood smeared its tip, the only mark of a touch briefly made but deeply felt. Nari was the nimbler dancer.

"So that is why they call it the weeping sword." One of the spectators who had gathered to watch the fight advanced, kneeling before the fallen. "He is not dead."

"Good," Nari said softly. "I never wished him death."

"No, I did not say you did." The man reached towards Nari, inviting her closer, but the girl remained aloof. She did not trust benevolence easily; it was a near foreign thing to her. And the white band on his wrist indicated that he was a healer, who seldom approved of streetfighters. Particularly Nari's kind.

He laughed, showing red teeth. "I should fear you," he said. "It is you who holds an animal inside."

Nari said nothing. His words were meant to shock or sting, but she had heard them before, and so they did neither.

"You fight with instinct, like a beast. You have grace, but no reason."

Slowly, Nari began to wipe the blood from Tear with the hem of her black tunic. She wished the healer would leave, and be taken by the moving, shifting mass which dominated the city. But the voice droned on, a fly's persistent hum.

"Such demons are not content to stay inside for long," it was saying.

The healer sought Nari's eyes, shaded a luminescent brown, and saw that they were distant. Abruptly he turned, striding into the throngs of people. When Nari saw that her wish had been granted, she calmly sheathed Tear; soon she also was lost to a city of human filth and spatial beauty.