Zombies In The Mist

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Sesshoumaru and company had been circling the mountain for quite a while now.

"Um... Katsumi-nee, why is this a 'sacred mountain'?" Rin asked. "It doesn't look any different from other mountains we've seen before..."

"That's a good question, Rin. My mom taught me about Japanese customs, so I know the basics about Shintoism and Buddhism, but I don't know what could've caused this... In my religion, sometimes a specific area or item will become holy itself if it was tied to an extremely religious person, like saint," Katsumi said.

"Eh? What religion? What's a saint?" Rin asked curiously. Sesshoumaru found that he was slightly curious too. Katsumi hadn't talked about her religion before.

"Well, I'm a Catholic, and we only believe in one kami-sama, God, but the main ideas behind our religion, to cherish life and love others, are actually quite similar to Buddhism. I think we all actually believe in the same Deity, we just have different ways of worshiping him... Anyway, a saint is a holy person, religious or ordinary, who performed or was involved in a miraculous event while they were still alive. Saints can also continue to perform miracles after their deaths. Some include people being miraculously healed when they come to a place that was special to the saint," Katsumi explained.

"Hmm..." Rin said thoughtfully as she digested all the information Katsumi had just told her. "He must be really busy if there's only one of him... we have a kami-sama for everything here," Rin said seriously. Katsumi smiled at her.

"Yes, I suppose so, but they say God never gives us anymore than we can handle... although, sometimes, I wish he wouldn't trust me so much..." Katsumi said in wry amusement as she fondly patted Rin on the head.

"Hmm, this 'saint' thing you mentioned sounds very similar to the story of what happened on a small island close to here," Jaken said. "Over a hundred years ago, there was a human reputed to have very strong spiritual powers there. I believe his name was 'Haku-something-or-other.' He performed many miracles for the people in this area, and when it was asked of him, he became a 'living Buddha,' and was enshrined on the island. Before that, he had a shrine on this mountain."

"Wow, Jaken-sama, you sure know a lot!" Rin said.

"What's a living Buddha?" Katsumi asked.

"A living Buddha or 'sokushin-butsu,' is a priest, who while still alive, abstains from all food, and enters nirvana while their flesh mummifies. It's usually done by sealing the priest in a tomb of sorts that is barely larger than their own body. Their only connection to the outside world is a tube for air, and a bell that they must ring each day to let the people know they're still alive... eventually, you get a raisin priest," Jaken said.

"You'll be cursed if you talk like that," Katsumi deadpanned. "So, that means a priest is the one responsible for the barrier... Why would he let youkais through the barrier? Also... I just can't understand why they would do something like that to someone who helped them... I wonder if he's bitter because of it..." Katsumi said.

"What do you mean by that?" Jaken said.

"Well, you just said it yourself, right? He was basically starved to death. How selfish can you be, to ask the man who has saved you time and time again, to die such a painful death, just to save yourself?" Katsumi said. "Starving to death isn't as peaceful as it sounds, it's a slow and excruciating process. The average person can last without food for four to six weeks, but that's only if they're still staying hydrated. First is the endless gnawing pain of hunger. Eventually, your stomach begins to atrophy, and your sense of hunger diminishes, but it also keeps you from feeling thirsty, so you get dehydrated. When you get dehydrated and malnourished, your every movement is painful, and with such a weakened body, you're more susceptible to disease. Victims of starvation are often found with fungi growing in their throats. In addition to all of this, the priest was shut up, in darkness, all alone with only his pain and misery to keep him company, knowing that the others were waiting for his death... that can really mess with a person's mind... it would be maddening. How anyone could enter nirvana when subjected to such a hideous death is beyond me. That's why I don't understand how they could torture him like that," Katsumi said. Understanding and sympathy for the priest were clearly written on her face.

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