The Four Points

Chapter 19: To Mt Shumisen Once More! The Mystifying God, Taisyaku

© 2006 by Shari


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The peaks of Mt Shumisen remained covered with snow all year round. A harsh wind whipped across the wintery landscape. He shivered and wrapped his arms around himself for extra warm. His breath was clearly visible on the evening air. His feet sank two inches into snow as he took a hesitant step towards the Torii. As he did so, the wind picked up, blowing snowflakes into his eyes. They rested on his pale cheeks, melting and running a river of water down his face. Ignoring this he continued on, climbing the white marble steps and came to the shrine itself. He knelt down beside the basin and quickly dipped his hands in; bring his wet palms up to wash his face before drying himself on the towel, which was also present. He had no money offering and satisfied the collection box by taking out his green stud earrings and placing them inside. Yet he did not reach up to ring the bell and make a wish.

Instead he felt drawn to the doorway to the shrine and he hesitantly slid the rice paper screen back and looked inside.

A man sat on his knees in front of a charcoal fire. He appeared to be in his early forties, but already his hair had turned grey with age. It hung down his back in a ponytail, the tips just brushing the floor. His eyes were the most startling blue, they shone like polished sapphires, yet were not as hard as the stone. The lines around his face were soft and more appeared when he smiled and bid him to enter. He was wearing a Yukata.

He kicked off his boots and entered the shrine, kneeling down opposite the man on the Tatami mat.

"Welcome back, Zocho-ten" he spoke again as he reached forward and handed the startled youth a steaming bowl of green tea.

"Welcome back?" Zocho repeated uncertainly, "Have I been here before?"

"Of course, though I do not expect you to remember at this time. It is not done yet."

"Where are we?"

"Mt Shumisen, your home."

"My home?"

Zocho frowned, taking a sip of the tea. As he did so an image came to mind. He could see himself standing upon the wintery landscape. He had been here before, a long time ago.

"I did not expect you so soon, Zocho-ten. It has been but a thousand years since I last had the pleasure of your company."

"Who are you?"

The man laughed and set down his own bowl, "I think you know."

He did, his eyes widened and he almost dropped the bowl in his haste to set it down and bow to the man seated opposite him, "Master?"

"Zocho, get up!" Taisyaku ridiculed with a hint of amusement, "There are no Masters here. Not in this place."

Zocho did as he was told, feeling slightly embarrassed and as his cheeks flushed red, Taisyaku laughed.

"What is so funny?"

"Nothing" his Master forced away the jest and continued in a gentler voice, "I have missed you, Zocho-ten."

"I don't understand? Why don't I remember anything?"

He picked up his bowl once more and took a deft sip before replying, "You always were so curious, even before our paths forked out into two and you went your way and me mine."

"Then you are going to explain, are you not, Master?"

Taisyaku shook his head, "If you look deep inside yourself you shall remember what truly came about a thousand years ago."

"If I look inside myself? What if I don't like what I see?"

He shrugged, "It happens sometimes, but you will be fine, Zocho-ten, I know you will."

"Will you be here when I return?"

Taisyaku enjoyed that question, "Why? Are you afraid?"

"The Shitennou fear nothing, Master."

"Then look inside yourself. I shall be here when you return," he added, if only to calm the thumping in Zocho's chest. Despite his assurances to Taisyaku, he was afraid. He was terrified at what he might see...

Zocho, the guardian of the South was said to have healing powers and was able to relieve mortals of their pain and suffering and humans were known to take their dying to Mt. Shumisen and pray to the God asking him to heal their loved ones.

It was true. Each day the guardian of the South would see many hundreds of mortals struggling to the foot of his mountain home with their dying, all of them seeking a miracle. This saddened Zocho, especially as it was forbidden that he should help any of them. It was not the way, Taisyaku had told him when the younger king had questioned this ancient law. The Gods would not meddle in the affairs of mortals.

"I don't understand" Zocho continued to say, seeking advice from his fellow kings as well as his Master. What use were his powers if he were unable to help people? Whereas his healing abilities had been of use in the past when fighting Asuras, there has not even been any wars between the Gods in the last thousand years or so and Zocho, easily being the most rebellious of the four kings, was starting to grow restless.

He took to climbing down the mountain, to watch the humans struggling and, sometimes if he felt a pang of guilt or pity, would use his magical abilities to help them on their way. Of course, Zocho did not confide this to the other Kings or his Master, knowing how Taisyaku and Bishamon would disprove.

Zocho was the youngest of the kings, if a God could ever be aged that was. Of course, he supposed it was just in temperament as they were all birthed at the beginning of the world, as was their Master. Zocho, like any true God, could appear in whatever form he saw fit and the other Gods would recognise him regardless. The Shitennou dressed the same. They wore light silver armour even now in this most peaceful era. As the guardians of Earth and Taisyaku, they had to be prepared for a possible attack upon their Master from the Asuras at any time. Zocho supposed physically they appeared the same also, the only difference being in the colour of their hair. Bishamon's was a light blue in colour, Jikoku had chosen his to be shaded a lighter green, Komoku's hair was a dark brown, almost red in colour and Zocho's was white. These colours were the ones that mortals associated with the Shitennou and depicted in their tales. Zocho had a great respect for the humans, despite being a God and often felt some kind of empathy with them. In truth, the Guardian of the South was lonely.

Thus, Zocho continued his daily visits to Earth, helping the humans return with their dying and his heart cried out when he heard the curses that they uttered in his name. They had thought that Zocho had abandoned them.

Then one hot summer day a woman came to the foot of Mt Shumisen. Her hair was the colour of fire and her eyes almost as deep a blue as Zocho's Master. She was poor, her clothes were torn and dirty from the journey she had made from the far reaches of the Kingdom. She carried a baby in her arms. Instead of joining the hundreds of people praying right at the foot of the mountain, the women continued to walk slowly up the mountain path, until she was in sight of the stream that ran all the way down the mountainside.

The stream was a favourite place of Zocho's. He liked to sit on its banks and muse away time or take comfort at watching the fish swimming in the crystal clear water. He had cried for his people here, too, and his heart ached more than ever when the woman knelt down at the stream and dropped a single gold piece in to the water. It was all she had in the world that Zocho was certain of.

"My baby is sick, it is colic and the healers say that she will not last the week" she started, her voice was dry and cracked even as she spoke these words, "She is all I have in the world. I know I am no more as worthy of a miracle as the next person who prays to you, but she truly is my world. I would give up half of my life to make hers a whole and a happy one. If you truly to reside atop Mt Shumisen, please hear me now, I beg of you, make her well."

Zocho's heart ached even more as he saw the woman struggling to contain herself and he could bear it no longer.

Now, as healing a human being was forbidden, it was considered a bigger crime to communicate with one in any form. Zocho did not care at this point. He cared not for his own well being and only for the human and her child. He knelt down beside her and whispered in her ear the secret of his stream. The stream gave life and should she give the child water from that very stream then the babe would be well.

The woman turned, but Zocho was gone faster than her human body could react. He did not even stay to see if she took his advice, his heart was already beating ten times the normal rate as he fled back to the Torii and to his Master, knowing that Taisyaku would know what he had done.

When Zocho reached the shrine he found his three fellow kings waiting outside. The expressions on their faces said that they also knew what Zocho had done. The youngest king was not surprised that Bishamon knew. After all, the strongest of the kings was said to be all knowing and that he heard everything that went on in the kingdom. Komoku was the keeper of life and death, thus would know when someone interfered and Jikoku protected and maintained life in the world.

Zocho lowed his gaze to the ground, suddenly feeling young and foolish.

"You healed a human child," Bishamon stated coldly.

"You spoke to a mortal woman," Komoku added, just as icily. Only Jikoku remained silent as the older kings spoke.

"I..." Zocho started, but trailed off. What could he say in his defence? He knew the law as much as the next God and he had broken it anyway.

"The Master is waiting for you" Bishamon indicated the rice paper screen, "Enter. He will hand down your punishment."

Zocho trembled and for the first time he grew afraid. Whilst Taisyaku was a fair God, he knew that his wrath would be just as terrible as Bishamon's, if not more so. Yet, no one could call the guardian of the South a coward. He entered the shrine with his head held high, only bowing submissively before his Master when the rice paper screen brushed shut behind him and he could no longer sense the other kings presence.

Taisyaku, outwardly, did not appear angry, but Zocho knew that looks could be deceiving. His Master knelt upon the Tatami and poured green tea into two bowls, handing one to the stunned king. Taisyaku raised the steaming cup to his lips and drank, expecting Zocho to do the same. He could not; he simply stared at the warm liquid, his hands starting to tingle, as the bowl grew hot beneath his fingertips.

"Master?" he said at last, keeping his voice low as he spoke, but Taisyaku silenced him with a wave of his hand.

"Zocho-ten" he began as the king faltered, his voice was almost tender as he gazed upon his guardian, "You have broken two of our most ancient laws. You interfered with life and death and appeared before a mortal."

"I wouldn't say I appeared before her" the king snapped back hotly, "I simply spoke to her, that is all! She didn't even turn around and as for healing... I simply told her the secret of our stream."

Taisyaku nodded, his eyes drifting closed as he continued, "That you did and now thousands of humans flock to that very stream, fighting and killing each other in their desperation to get to the water. Such a compassionate woman would, of course, share her knowledge with the others. Komoku will have to cease the flow of water. The river will run dry."

Zocho was appalled, "Why can we not help them? What is so wrong with that?"

"You cannot interfere with the balance of nature. It is not why we were placed upon this Earth."

"Then why were we? Why was I given this power if I cannot use it?" Zocho snapped.

Taisyaku smiled, "Such a temper, Zocho-ten, but I fear you forget your place."

"I know" the young king murmured bitterly, "Forgive me, Master."

His Master nodded, his eyes once more opening to focus on his guardian, "I like sitting here with you."

Zocho was confused at this sudden change "I like sitting here, too" he replied, wondering where this conversation was now headed.

Taisyaku set his bowl down and stood, turning away from Zocho and to look out of the window and out over his kingdom, "I fear this is the last time we shall be together like this."

"Why?" Zocho began and then cast his gaze to the floor, his punishment... he had forgotten. "I will accept whatever punishment you see fit, Master."

Taisyaku laughed, "Punish you? Zocho-ten, I would rather you heal a hundred mortals than punish you for healing one, but you must understand the consequences of your meddling."

With that the rice paper screen was pulled back and the three remaining guardians entered, Bishamon and Komoku sat to Zocho's left and Jikoku to his right. The latter smiled reassuringly at Zocho before focusing his gaze on his Master's back.

"Life and death is a delicate balance, one we must not interfere with. You, Zocho, were always the most rebellious of my guard and I knew that one day you would try to heal. Whereas your intentions were noble ones, you do not understand what you have done."

"What I have done?" Zocho repeated uncertainly, "I have healed an innocent child. What harm could there be in that?"

"As I said, a noble act and I have no wish to punish you for it, but our time on Earth is ending. Religion is evolving and soon we will have no place on this Earth as the beliefs become tainted with others. In a moon's time I shall retreat to the heavens."

"Abandon Mt Shumisen?" Zocho couldn't help but snipe a little bitterly, "Is this my punishment then?"

"Not a punishment" Komoku murmured as Taisyaku knelt opposite them once more, the lines of his face depicting his sadness that his next words would offer.

"I shall retreat to the heavens. I have no wish for you, any of you, to accompany me."

Zocho was the only one who reacted. The others had known his Master's will all along it would seem.

"But we are your guardians! We have been at your side since the beginning of time!"

Bishamon's hand on his shoulder restrained him from any further outbursts as Taisyaku replied:

"That you have and you have learned so much, but there is nothing more I can teach you here or in the heavens."

"I still do not understand" Zocho said, bitterly disappointed with his Master, "Why abandon us in such a way? We have been your loyal servants for so long. Am I the only one of us who cares?" he rounded on his three fellow kings. When they failed to reply, Zocho stood, his cheeks flaming red in fury, "I don't want to listen to this! I won't heed this madness!"

"Zocho" Taisyaku said his name with such tenderness that the young king paused by the door and turned. "I hear what you are saying and, yes, you have been a loyal servant for so long and that is why I must do this. There are so many things you can learn that I cannot teach you. As I leave Mt Shumisen, so will you."

"Who else can possibly teach me as well as my Master?"

It was Komoku that answered him, "Ones self is the greatest teacher. We are to be reborn upon the Earth as mortals."

Zocho was horrified. Though he respected humans and even pitied them, it did not mean he wished to become one. Human lives were full of pain and suffering.

Taisyaku sensed his disgust, "It is a honour that no God in a thousand years has ever received. The last deities to do so now have their own celestial court upon the Moon."

Zocho nodded, knowing that his Master was referring to Selene, the Greek Goddess of the Moon Kingdom, Silver Millennium. For centuries her off-spring ruled the once barren satellite and guarded over the people of Earth. Unlike the Gods, they chose to interact with the Earth Kingdom's royalty and Taisyaku had openly disproved of this many a times.

"You will be born on Earth with no memories of your former existence, even your powers will be muted somewhat. You will experience six things whilst on Earth; birth, death, rebirth, good and evil. Only once you have experienced all of these things, will you return to Mt Shumisen."

"And the sixth?" Zocho prompted, "You only mentioned five things."

The God smiled, "The sixth is something that you will have to find yourself, Zocho-ten."

He frowned, "I do not like this, Master. I do not wish for this."

"You will learn a lot more from the people of Earth than you will do from me, but I want you to be happy. I will not force you to leave my side."

"But you will be disappointed if I refuse?"

Taisyaku nodded slowly, not being able to speak a lie.

Zocho sighed and looked nervously as Bishamon, "If that is my path, then I fear I must except it."

"I will miss you, all of you" Taisyaku conceded. "Now go, from the moment you step out of this shrine you shall be reborn on Earth. Fear not, it is a great time to be alive for Earth will undergo many changes. Of course, you shall not all be born at the same time. Your ages are as they stand; Bishamon will be the oldest, the Komoku and Jikoku and finally you, Zocho as the youngest."

Zocho pouted, "Why?"

His Master's reply stunned him, "It is as I see you."

He had no answer for this and turned away.

"Go" Taisyaku urged them, "Leave this place and live."

Komoku was the first and Jikoku followed him, leaving Zocho and Bishamon last. The youngest king looked shyly up at his superior and smiled, "Are you angry with me, Bishamon-ten? I would hate it for us to enter our new lives as enemies."

The strongest king shook his head and smiled, "You will meet her again, the babe you saved. You think her life is so small and insignificant. She is not so innocent as you will come to realise."

Zocho dared not breath as they paused on the threshold and Bishamon spoke a final time, "Her name is Beryl, remember that name, Zocho-chan, you will hear it again and then perhaps you will finally understand why you should have left her to die."

Zocho wanted to ask more, but no words escaped his lips as they stepped, as one, out of the shrine and in to the unknown.

Taisyaku was right. Zocho did not remember, not for a long time. He saw the world, through his mortal eyes, crumble into nothing and death of the Goddess Selene, all at the hands of the babe he had healed. The babe had grown into a terrible woman. She hated the Silver Millennium with a vengeance and wanted to take the Earth's Prince for her own. As one of Endymion's royal guard the attack on the Earth Kingdom took Zocho's life and yet, as Taisyaku had explained, he did not die. He was reborn to serve his killer.

Zocho opened his eyes and could only stare at his Master, his heart thumping loudly in his chest as the memories threatened to overwhelm him. His head hurt. He fell forward slightly, this movement causing Taisyaku to stir.

"Did you like what you saw?" he asked, a glint of mischief in his eyes and his mouth tugged upwards in the beginnings of a smile.

"I don't know" Zocho replied, struggling with the memories. When he could find no other words to match his confusion and almost disbelief, he simply shrugged and lowered his gaze to the ground.

"Zoisite" Taisyaku whispered gently, "That was the name you were given on Earth. You experienced birth when you were born in to this world for the first time, you experienced death when Beryl killed you and rebirth when she had the demon Metallia revive you. You experienced death and rebirth once more when Beryl killed you in a fit of temper and you experienced evil when fighting for Metallia's army. You experienced good when your soul merged with Eternal and you fought against Metallia to make amends. Do you feel that you have learned everything I wanted you to on Earth?"

Zocho shrugged his slender shoulders and toyed with a stray piece of coppery hair, "I do not know, Master. You said that there were six things I would experience yet you list only five?"

The God nodded, "That I did. Did you enjoy your time on Earth?"

The guardian of the South smiled, "I did, but I would like to know a few things, if I may, Master?"

"What are they?"

"Why were we not given our true memories and powers? We could have saved the world and the Silver Millennium the first time around."

"I wanted you to live on the Earth as a human. Had you known that you were a God, then you would not respect the mortality of the humans. You would have known that you were invincible and the whole experienced would have been wasted. As for saving the Silver Millennium, it was not your place. Had you done so you would have upset the balance."

"Then if Beryl was destined to fuse with Metallia and destroy the Earth and Moon, then why was me healing her so wrong? And why did we retain some of our powers?"

"How else could you become the Shitennou of the Earth Kingdom? You retained enough to defend the Prince of Earth, as I wanted you too. Destines are a funny thing. They can change. You healing her was not wrong. A terrible mistake, yes, but never wrong."

"Then what about this?" Zocho indicated his human form, "Is this how you see me?"

Taisyaku laughed, "I had warned you that you were the youngest of the four."

Zocho pouted loudly, "I still don't think it was very nice"

"Are you dissatisfied with your Earth form?"

"No... it's just that I am supposed to be a God and I looked like a temperamental pretty boy!"

His Master's laughter became louder, "Zocho-ten, it is how I see you. I cannot help that."

A small smile played on the King's lips now, "And the others? Was that how you saw them? Will I know them when I see them?"

"I think you already know the answer to that."

"Jadeite and Nephrite are Jikoku and Komoku? Kunzite-sama is Bishamon?"

"Yes."

Zocho exhaled slightly and he trembled as he uttered his next question, not sure if he wanted to hear the answer, "What of my relationship with Kunzite-sama? Was that a part of your plan as well?"

"No" Taisyaku admitted, "But all humans have physical needs after all."

"I do not think it was just physical, Master."

This interested the God, "Really? Then what was it?"

Zocho lowered his gaze, "I loved him. That is, Zoisite loved him... I don't know. Am I truly that different from my mortal self?"

"You are one and the same."

"We cannot love in this realm, can we?"

"Gods do not love other Gods, no. We love life, the simplicity of the human race and all things in this world."

"I loved Bishamon."

Taisyaku paused, his gaze meeting Zocho's own, "Are you sure of this?"

"I am positive. I just did not recognise it as love before we were born on Earth. I have loved him since the beginning of time."

"Zocho-ten?" Taisyaku reached across and placed a comforting hand on his shoulder, "Do you know why you are here?"

"Because I'm dead?"

He nodded and Zocho started to weep.

"Why are you crying? I told you that once you were done you would be with me."

"He isn't here. I don't want to return to Mt Shumisen without Kunzite-sama."

"Then you have finally learnt all there is to learn on Earth, Zocho-ten. Do you know what the sixth experience was?"

"Love."

"Yes. Now you have come home. You are once again my guardian and protector, yet I see that this is not where your heart truly lies."

Again Zocho could only nod. His honour hated him for wanting to desert their Master once more, but his heart still lay in the hellish caverns of the Dark Kingdom. Tears stung at his eyes.

"There is no choice, Master, I am dead. It is done now."

"Only if you wish to be. Zocho, you have been on Earth to long. You can go back. You are strong enough."

"But I died?"

"You did, but forget you are the guardian of the South. You can heal your body if you desire to. I am not saying that the journey will be easy. You could still die, but if you wake up, you have a chance."

"Will I see you again?"

"I am the God of the Centre. You will see me again in many humans. I might even come to Earth myself one day."

Zocho nodded and as he did so a great wave of pain over took him. He doubled over, his head in his hands as tiny red and black stars danced before his vision.

"Go. Live... if you can."

Zocho did not hear any more. When he next became aware he was in the Dark Kingdom once more. His time with his Master nothing more than a half recalled dream...


To Be Continued


Disclaimer: Once again I own nothing - if I did I would not be here but making my ficcies into anime, something that will sadly never happen *cries*


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