Souji felt uncomfortable in his suit as it was, but there was something about the day that caused him unease. He’d thought doubly so when one of the neighborhood cats who frequented the garden hissed at shadows, rather than Souji himself as he went out for his morning exercises.
The day was turning out to be a good one.
The Medicine Seller smiled to himself thinly as he walked down the cobble street in high oaken geta- Or was it a smile? His upper lip was painted with a vibrant purple that curled up at the corner, giving the permanent illusion of a smirk.
The world was busy today, humming and thrumming. He had passed many people on the streets that had openly stopped and stared at his garb and painted face. The few that had been brave enough to ask him why he was dressed so obtusely and carried the large apothecaries chest on his back had all recieved the same answer. He was a simple foreign medicine seller, and that his brightly coloured costume and makeup were a good way to attract customers. No one questioned his smooth and easy voice, and a few had even asked to see his wares before letting him move on.
No one bought anything, but he hadn't expected them to. In this day and age, the average human had no interest in 'Snakes blood to make the life longer'. It didn't bother him. There were much more important things to attend to.
As soon as he had set foot on the island he had felt the despairing and deadly presence of spirits. Angry spirits, sad spirits, spirits that were greedily feeding off of the humans they had tricked into serving them.
An actual smile that bared many small, childlike teeth as he stopped in front of a large and important looking building. Despair and insanity practically flooded through the front doors- drawing his attention immediately. He couldn't read the english on the sign, but it didn't matter. He would go there first, his curiousity was piqued and the long ship ride had bored him. Whether there were Mononoke or not, he couldn't help but meddle from time to time.
Geta clicking against the concrete steps loudly, he walked into the building and bowed his head to a woman near the door. He could feel the bad energy, and ignoring any pursuit- Started down a random hall.
As luck would have it, Inspector Lusk found himself walking toward the Embassy at that very moment. The nightmares, which had been increasingly stubborn since that bedazzled letter, had begun to take their toll on him. He needed someone to talk to and, completely unaware of what would await him upon his arrival, had surmised that he trusted no confidante more than Counsilor Okita at this time.
"The Counsilor is a keeper of wisdom beyond the reach of western medicine", he reasoned to himself as he rounded a corner, "Surely he will know what all this means..."
But as he saw the frightened woman on the embassy steps calling out to him, his expression changed from one of contemplation to one of concern.
"I say! What's all the trouble?!"
The woman ran over, nearly collapsing from the force of her sprint before she reached him. Even so, she clearly did her best to retain her composure. "Inspector! Counsilor Okita has requested your presence immediately. Please follow me."
The woman led him up the staircase inside and down the hall to the room of the Ambassador as quickly as she could, nearly risking losing her balance in the attempt. But now was not the time to worry about such things.
"Beyond this door, Inspector Lusk."
Of course, as the Inspector entered, nothing could have prepared him for what he saw. The very same thing that Counsilor Okita, still in the room, had been watching all this time.
What was once the noble-blooded Ambassador, who structured sentences like an architect structures a cathedral, had been reduced to a raving lunatic. He sat shivering and muttering in the center of the room.
"Help me. Help me, please! THEY'VE COME FOR ME!"
The former first captain of the Shinsengumi didn't get angry often. He could be annoyed or unhappy, but anger was not a feeling he was used to. When the stupid woman (and he had thus decided she was stupid for not following his very clear, simple instructions) brought Inspector Lusk, and not Susumu to the Ambassador's room, he turned his anger on her. He would have struck her if it would not embarrass them both.
"What the hell are you doing?" He demanded, pointing at Lusk. "I told you to bring him to my Office! The Ambassador is not a zoo to be gawked at! Do you want the outsider to see your leader like this?"
Still infuriated he took hold of her arm and flung open the door, shoving her out ungracefully and without gentlenss. "Now go find me Yamazaki-san. Immediately." He ordered.
Still quite angered, but with the source of his anger retreating into the halls, he turned to Lusk. "You've seen what you shouldn't have seen." He said in his accented english and barely controlled anger. It wasn't Lusk's fault the girl was an idiot. Wether it was female incompetence or the ambassador's condition wasn't clear.
"It will save me time explaining, but will not save our Ambassador his dignity. Please wait for me in my office. I need to discuss things with my security, and the doctor." Souji said, holding the door open. "I would not like to be gawked at by strangers in this state. You've seen enough here."
Lusk nodded, "Quite."
Retreating from the room, he made his way to the office. His mind was swimming with a thousand new questions, the old ones still disturbingly present as well. What happened to the poor devil? Had he suddenly gone and flipped or, more likely, had something driven him to this...?
What an interesting place this building was turning out to be.
The Medicine Seller had stood aside as a hysteric woman had rushed to the steps, screaming herself hoarse over an unfamiliar name. It apeared something had happened.
How curious. His sleepy eyes watched the forms of a man and the shrieking woman turning down a hall near him. The building was buzzing with life and activity, he couldn't immediately single out the forms that had attracted him to this place- Or more correctly, the horrible karma he could taste one the tip of his pink tongue.
Peering down the hall aftet the two, the taint of discontent was nearly visible in the air. Discontent and panic were good, fear as well. Mononoke fed from them, becoming fat and powerful. Where there was disturbance or dischord, a demon was sure to follow.
Shouldering his pack, he turned calmly down the hall with a smile to himself and a sense of ease. The day had already become most interesting.
"Pardon me, sir", a voice called to the Medicine Man at the end of the hall. There stood a tall, well-groomed gentleman in a beige suit and hat. The aura about him was, perhaps, more disturbing than that of a mononoke. An aura as enigmatic as his cheerful smile.
"I heard you were selling wares. Might I take a look?"
The Medicine Seller had stopped in his tracks, a chill running down his spine. A chill. Despite the fact a frown had played across his small lips, the makeup still disguised his face with a painted smile.
The Medicine Seller hadn't felt a chill in many, many years. The last time he had felt such sensation, was the last time he had thought he might die.
He had exorcized many Mononoke since then. He was more experienced, stronger. However, the chill that lingered, told him that perhaps this human had no Mononoke connected to him- feeding from his regret or using him as a gateway to cause destruction.
It was something else.
"Hou, but of course sir. I have many fine products, allow me to show them to you." He knelt smoothly, despite the tall geta and set his pack of drawers on the embassy floor. There were many little compartments, he opened each one of them save one.
"Ointments for the body, scents for love and power, antidotes and salves- There is something for every person who cares to look." His smooth voice betrayed none of what he had been thinking, his face mask-like in its casual ease.
"Many a fine product", the stranger echoed in particular as he ran his fingers over a concoction supposed to increase clarity of thought, "It reminds me of my home..."
With a disarmingly casual smile that anyone but an exorcist might have missed the brief spark of something unfathomably alien behind, the man extended his hand in the standard greeting of the era, "And I have yet to introduce myself. I am Cevol T'far, and it would seem we are both in the business of selling dreams."
His fingers traced over a bottle of Oleander, simply inhaling from the bottle would kill a human. There were as many poisons within the compartments as there were remedies. However, poison could solve as many a human problem as a love potion could, in its own way.
The strange man still made him feel on edge, and he couldn't quite put his finger on why. Many humans exuded a dark aura when of evil nature or possessed by demons.. This was something else.
His eyes scanned the mans suited body, flickering from his face to his form subtly. There was something so very different about him than any other human.
Then it hit him all at once as the man spoke again, extending his hand.
The Medicine Seller stood, extending a pale hand decorate with fuschia-painted nails.
Invulnerability. All humans gave off feelings of sorrow, fear or regret. He felt nothing from this man, nothing for a Mononoke to to take advantage of. As if he wore a mask was as perfectly controlled as the one Medicine Seller protected himself with.
"I am but a simple medicine seller, but if you dream of medicine, then yes I sell dreams." Despite his inner musings, he returned the smile to the man as they shook hands.
With a smile that barely contained the flicker of amusement in his eyes, the man gestured nonchalantly in response, "Ah, but what is a dream but wish unfulfilled? Surely, you've heard many wishes. A cure to prolong his life. A potion to make him love her. Or... something stronger for the enemies of Milord? Why yes, a medicine seller is most certainly a seller of dreams, from a certain point of view."
He'd woken up covered in feathers and been arrested by the sudden feeling that Johnny Walker was nearby. Needless to say, it was not the way he'd intended to start his first day as a 'normal person.'
"Kuso," the boy named Crow muttered under his breath, not caring that the wall-ears here spoke Japanese as fluently as he did. "Omae o korosu..."
The world was radiating around him. The longer he moved, the less he could write it down to being away from his newly adopted Kafka-figure. It was almost exactly like the woods, like that horrible feeling of ripping and tearing and listening to it laugh. This time, he couldn't simply up and fly back to the other part of the toughest 15 year old in the world. He had to walk.
Something like static interference was preventing him from locking in on his new big brother. Wandering aimlessly wasn't doing particularly well for him either. And then, quite suddenly, the thing (or things) that felt like Johnny Walker was (or were) right around the corner. Crow stumbled, unable to stop himself from wheeling haphazardly around the corner, eyes shut. Not that it mattered. The sudden lack of humanity in the air nearly blindsided him completely.
"Oi! Jiji!" he called out, keeping his eyes firmly away from any faces he might not want to encounter. "Have you seen Sōji-niisama?"
The tension of the moment was suddenly interrupted by a curious mew, and a black cat came trotting around the corner. Stopping at the sight of the boy, it locked eyes with him for a long moment.
Then, as the creature's eyes suddenly glazed over, its inexplicably severed head fell from its neck along with the rest of it, a hollowed out cavity revealing a still-beating heart inside.
Rising up on the wall behind, as if to shadow the corpse, was the silhouette of a man in a top hat. The shade turned to face forward at the boy and waved a hand, "Long time, no see."
A smirk tugged at the corners of his straight lips, at the mention of wishes.
The wishes of humans were gateways for Mononoke. Whether they were born from guilt or hate, Mononoke came from what was deep within a human- Their inner most desires. If a woman wanted to be free and wished for it every day while looking out of a window, one day she might see a figure there- offering her release, at the low cost of her soul.
They would find her body the next day, sprawled with a cut throat in front of the very window she had been so sadly watching. Mononoke granted wishes.
The Medicine Seller granted solutions.
Solutions hurt more than wishes, from his experience, but wishes were for the most part a temporary and cowardly fix.
Did he believe in some of the wares he sold? It didn't matter, as long as the humab buying them believed they would work- they would.
"Does this mean there is a dream you would like to buy from me, sir?" His casual drawl hadn't changed, despite the strange aura and conversation from the man who had apeared from nowhere.
His eyes left the suited man a brief moment as a boy stumbled around the corner. Another human with a strange aura. The day was getting more complicated by the moment. How interesting.
The boy was also Japanese, from the Medicine Seller's own homeland. Give or take a few generations.
Before he could answer the boy, the cat had apeared.
If the cat was real or a figment of someones imagination, it didn't matter. The Medicine Seller was a crosser of planes and times. Things that humans didn't see were obvious to him, and they became more so as his strength increased with the passing of time.
Bakeneko. Ghost cat? He had fought two in his lifetime, but he doubted this was the same thing. The first time had nearly killed him, the second time had killed many others. Cats held grudges like no human ever could.
He watched the horror of an animal unblinkingly for a moment before returning his gaze to the boy.
"I have seen no other Japanese down this hall as of yet."
The cat did its job, and did that job well. For a long moment the boy was transfixed, skin crawling until the materials finally fell away, leaving only what was needed for the flute. It sent a shiver through the 'fifteen year old's slight frame. On the bright side, it had also served to prepare him for hearing that voice again.
It took all of the boy named Crow's concentration to keep his eyes on the floor and his attention on the... whatever it was that wasn't the infamous Mr Walker. There was a moment when he was fairly certain he was going to lose his cool completely, could already feel his skin itching like feathers and his features going angular. The moment passed, and another inhale later he was solidly a very young (and, at least outwardly, very human) boy scowling resolutely at the floor.
"Oh." His voice crackled a little, but a slight cough got it back under control. "I guess I'll look somewhere else." His body wasn't moving. That was probably the worst part about being human. Best to play it off as naturally as possible. "...I didn't know you were here, 'tou-san."
The boy was as strange as the man, though didn't nearly give the Medicine Seller the same chill. It had felt like fingers of death creeping down his spine, and what he supposed might be a slight inkling of fear. If he could feel such a thing.
"Hou, are you sure you weren't perhaps looking for a cat instead?"
He had seen the boys reaction, staring into what would of been nothingness had there not been a strange illusion or manifestation of a creature there.
It was perhaps cruel to bait the boy in such a way, but the Medicine Seller was curious as to how much the boy could see- or knew. After all, he fancied himself a detective of sorts. Human minds and emotions were all clues, clues that led to a bigger picture..
Mr. T'far stopped short of continuing their conversation at the sight of the boy, whose clearly shaken physique was indicative that he, too, might have business unfulfilled. Perhaps the business of a wish...
"I say, young man. Are you quite alright?"
Although his voice would be heard by the anyone else as the common tongue of Her Majesty's Empire, the boy would have heard these words in Japanese. Curiously, to the Medicine Seller's opened ears, both languages were spoken, along with many others.
The voice was infuriating, nagging at him and clinging to what he'd assembled of a mentality until finally, at the last second, the boy's eyes snapped up to catch the last glimmer of Johnny Walker fading away. He could feel his heart racing (that last remnant Kafka had never been able to get rid of completely), and so decided to focus his anger on that which was currently more tangible.
"Of course I wasn't looking for the cat," he half-snapped, half-whispered at the man with the potions. "The old man's just decided to be a jerk today." His hand gestured rather sweepingly over the spot where Johnny had just stood, encompassing slightly the man the medicine seller had been talking to.
After all, foreigners never spoke Japanese without a blimp of increased mental activity. Obviously not to be trusted.