A Day to Anticipate
It was a small voice, but clearly heard, even over the sounds of metal work.
"I heard the seagulls,
I heard the seagulls crying
I heard them calling
as I walked the winding road,
"Looking up I saw
White snow upon the mountain,
Tall the white mountain
The land of the cold country.
"Beyond the mountain,
Past the cold country so white,
My love waits by night
By the seashore just for me."
The singer hopped up and down as he danced on the shoulder of his companion, ignoring the foul air touched with volcanic fumes.
"Lovesick, are you?" asked the old man bent over the anvil. He hit the piece of heated metal he was working with just the right amount of force, tapping it over and over with sure hands and practiced ease. From time to time he would breathe on it, to reheat the metal, bringing it up to just the right bright yellow-orange color and intensify the magic that he was working into it.
The singer crossed two sets of arms and plopped down on the old man’s shoulder. He was no young thing himself, with a shaggy head of gray hair. He might have been flea-shaped, but was also well dressed, like a mid-level official in the house of a samurai lord. “The woman who taught it to me, she was lovely. And her blood was sweet,” he said. “Sweeter than present company.”
“Heh,” the smith said. “The things you say about your own friends, Myouga.”
“But true,” said the flea-youkai. “Your blood tastes like the air here.”
“That’s what you get for trying it out, flea. Could have told you that.” The smith held the blade he was shaping up to the light, and sighed, and put it back down on the anvil. “Well, tell me the news you heard while you were flying around on that crow of yours.”
“Like what, Toutousai?”
“Don’t know, Myouga,” he said, wiping his forehead and looking up from his metalwork. “Something feels unsettled. Don’t know what it is. Just tell me what’s up.”
“Ah,” said the flea. “Lots of soldiers on the road.” He sighed. “Not as bad as two years ago, though. Still plenty of open tea houses.”
“I remember that year. I could barely get you out of here.” Toutousai scratched his head. “Now where did I put that?” He reached for a cloth and wiped his forehead. “Lots of the daiyoukai didn’t like it either. Too many ghosts and too many low-level youkai hanging around the battle sites. Made a lot of swords that year.”
He pulled the flea off his shoulder. “You been to see the young’un lately?”
“Not in a while. He and his family seemed to be settling down and not in much need of an old flea like me.”
“Squished you one time to many, eh? Hmm . . . Maybe it’s not about him. Maybe it’s about his brother.” Toutousai picked his hammer back up, shook the kinks out of his neck. “Sesshoumaru ought to be able to handle anything anybody wants to throw at him, though.”
The old sword smith took a deep breath, and his cheeks puffed up to incredible proportions. Slowly, he blew fire onto the strip of metal he was working on, heating it until it met his satisfaction, then carefully began to fold the heated metal with his hammer.
“I did hear something, interesting, though. There was talk about people seeing a flying castle near the mountains,” the flea said after a bit. “I was sitting at a tea house in Annaka . . . ”
“Drunk on sake and the blood of pretty teahouse girls, I suspect, learning new songs,” Toutousai said.
“Ah, lovely Eriko . . . ” said the flea. “Anyway, you think it could be her castle?”
“Hmm,” said the old smith. “Gettin’ mighty close to where her son stays. Still, Sesshoumaru’s a big boy.” He grabbed the flea off his shoulder. “Wonder what the old lady wants from her pup?”
“Maybe it because he’s soon to be a father?” said Myouga.
“What?” Toutousai exclaimed.
“I forgot to tell you,” Myouga confessed.
The old smith chuckled. “Didn’t think he had it in him. Don’t tell it was that little human girl he took up in the mountain?”
“She’s not so little any more,” Myouga said, with a wistful note in his voice. “Nearly as lovely as the Lady Kagome.”
“My, my,” said Toutousai. “Now that’ll be a day I’m looking forward to.”
“What day?” Myouga asked, hopping on his friend’s nose.
Toutousai brushed him off and picked up a pair of tongs. “Why the day he has to come here and give up a tooth to seal his child’s blood. Same as his father did for InuYasha. Oh yes, I’m going to enjoy that day.”
Myouga brushing himself off from landing in the dirt, gulped. “Maybe I ought to see if the Lady Kagaya needs a retainer at the Inu castle.”
Toutousai just laughed and went back to his work.