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thinkin bout dark fantasy/Japanese demons #sheith since watchin The Handmaiden...so here's a thread.

Once upon a time in a pretty little forest near the sea, there lived a creature too beautiful to be kind who lured men into his den & ate their hearts when he was done with them.
Many a man had vowed to slay the creature, but every one of them met the same fate as the last. Over the centuries, the pretty little forest was known as cursed, and no one, man or woman or child, ventured into it, for fear of death by the creature who had killed so many before.
It was by accident then that after 100 years of solitude, a lone survivor of a terrible shipwreck washed up on the shores of the pretty little forest, barely conscious & badly injured, with a length of rope tangled tight round his right arm, turning the flesh numb & necrotic.
He had been adrift at sea for many days, & when he at last felt wet sand against his skin and smelled the warm lushness of the earth, he thought he must have died at last.

He lay there til a shadow fell over him- a young, pale thing with inky hair & eyes like the sea at sunrise.
The creature was clothed in a single black garment like liquid shadow, and knelt in the sand before him, lifting up the dying sailor’s head by a fistful of hair, which turned white as bone where his slender but strong fingers touched it.
“Who are you?” the creature asked, his beautiful face turned sharp by anger. “Why has the sea brought you to me?”
The man stared at him, remembering, distantly, tales of a creature too beautiful to be kind who lured men into his den and ate their hearts when he was done with them.

“Takashi,” he rasped, and closed his eyes, for the creature’s face was so lovely it nearly hurt.
“Takashi,” the creature repeated. The air between them shivered, a magic that tugged strong & vicious at his chest, wrenching a gasp & a splatter of sea water from his startled lungs. He toppled face-first into the sand once more, shocked by the warm body that caught him halfway.
The creature held him fast and smiled without sweetness nor sympathy. “You have given me your true name; a wise choice. Your death will come more swiftly than the less obedient others. I am not without mercy, despite what the stories say.”
And Takashi fainted to the sound of the creature’s laughter, dark and high as a hundred ringing bells, echoing through his head into strident nothingness.

(more in the morning....😌)
When he awoke, he was not yet dead. The surface below him was no longer wet sand, but soft dry silk. A cool draft passed over him & he shivered, jolting into waking when he discovered his saltwater-drenched clothes had been stripped from his body, leaving him naked save for the
thick black blanket draped over him, which smelled of cloying incense.

His second discovery was that he was missing an arm. He sat up, slowly, for his head was filled with a strange fog not unlike drunkenness, and examined the scarred stump where his right arm had once been.
The rope had been wrapped a few inches above the elbow, but the entire arm had been removed. It did not hurt. It did not feel like much of anything at all. He stared at it, swallowing back the lump lodging in his throat, thinking he ought to feel more.

“Lay down.”
Compelled by an unseen force, he did, though gently, as if coaxed, not pushed. He lay there on his back, head cradled by a silk pillow, and stared at the dark ceiling, which was strung with little lanterns like dozens of fireflies. Gradually, he became aware of a presence
crawling over him, weight settling atop his hips & milk-white thighs spreading on either side of his waist. The creature peered down at him, brushing his rough cheek with satin fingertips, & looked at him through dark lashes, pink lips curved in a vague approximation of a smile.
“You’re awake,” the creature said, voice more human than he remembered.

“Yes,” Takashi said. “You saved my life.”

The creature’s beautiful face pinched and crumpled. “I did not save you,” he snapped. “Merely prolonged the inevitable.”
“My death?”

“Nevermind death,” the creature said, and grabbed Takashi’s hand, pressing his remaining palm to a milk-white thigh. “I know what you want.”
Takashi blinked up at him, head still foggy, transfixed by the creature’s fierce gaze. “I want to thank you,” he said earnestly, and the creature bared its teeth at him. They were ivory knives, carved as finely as any Takashi had ever seen.
“Do not,” the creature gritted out, “thank me.”

“But I owe you a great debt,” Takashi protested, and the creature recoiled.

“A debt! No!” The creature scrambled off of him. “You owe me nothing but blood — !”
“If blood is what you wish of me, then I will gladly give it,” Takashi told him. “You saved my life, and so if ever you are in need of the same, I will save yours. This, I swear to you.”
“No!” screeched the creature again, backing away as if Takashi might lunge and strike him at any moment. “How dare you make such vows to me! They mean nothing! You will break it!”
“I will not,” Takashi said, frowning deeply. “Who has broken vows to you in the past? They must have very little honor.”
“Men do not have honor,” the creature spat. “You will be no different.” But he looked rather uncertain.
“Is that why you killed them?” he asked the creature.

Takashi peered at him with hazy defiance, the confused fog of his mind leaving no room for fear. All his survival instincts were used up in the shipwreck; if death wanted him it would have taken him already.
But the creature looked very afraid indeed, & tried to disguise his fear with a cold sneer. “I killed them because they brought me pleasure & blood,” he snarled, “but you have brought me nothing. Go. Now!”

All at once the fog melted away from Shiro, & so did the creature’s den.
So the one-armed sailor, whose true name was Takashi but who was called Shiro by all who knew him, wandered through the dark trees which seemed to part before him, making a path to lead him to the nearest village; re-forming into tangled branches & thorns as soon as he was out.
All of the villagers, who feared the pretty little forest and the cursed creature who called it home, saw Shiro’s white hair, scarred body, and missing arm & told him, with much wonder & awe, that he was the only man who had escaped that place with his life.
Months passed, & as Shiro settled in to life in the village, the other men of the village began to plot revenge. If a man had survived the creature in the forest, then perhaps the creature was mortal; perhaps it could be killed. And if it could be killed, they intended to do so.
Eventually, Shiro learned of their plans, for they were boastful, loud men, & made a show of sharpening their swords & fashioning a net of thick rope studded with cruel iron spikes.

The men asked Shiro if it was a hideous demon or evil spirit, but he claimed he had not seen it.
“What will you do with it if you catch it?” Shiro asked the men.

“Whatever that thing did to our fathers and grandfathers, we will do ten times over,” the men swore with grim and vengeful resolve. “Only when it is good and dead will our village be truly safe.”
“But it has been a century,” Shiro said, “and it has harmed none of you.”

The men willfully ignored this. They had grown up with tales of the terror of the forest, & seized the chance to claim power over that terror at long last. They wanted the forest & its demon for their own.
The men left the village for the pretty little forest on a night bright with moonlight, carrying torches & swords & axes & their cruel net. Shiro watched from a window, hesitant. Perhaps they would fail. Perhaps they would not find the creature with the sunset eyes & sharp teeth.
He clung to this hope though dread coiled like a cold serpent in his belly, & lunged into waking when a high, terrified, furious cry split the night at half past midnight.

The men returned to the village with their wriggling prey in the cruel net. Shiro watched from the window.
The men brought the struggling, crying creature into the temple & gathered outside, scheming amongst themselves as they decided how best to make the creature pay.

Shiro slipped away from his window & crept in through the back of the dark temple, which echoed with awful screams.
As soon as Shiro entered the temple, the screams ceased. Golden eyes stared at him like twin suns from the darkness. The tile where the creature lay under the cruel net was slick and dark with its blood; the net had cut its milky skin in a hundred places.
“I owe you a debt,” Shiro said.

The creature said nothing. Its golden eyes burned with a hatred drenched in bitter, centuries-old sorrow, so that the longer Shiro looked, the less it looked like hate, and the more it looked like heartbroken grief.

Shiro reached for the net.
The iron caught on his hand as he fumbled with it, & outside the men’s voices grew louder. The creature trembled, glancing between the great temple doors & Shiro’s attempts to free him with one hand without injuring him further.

“You are too late,” the creature whispered. “Go.”
But Shiro had never been one for empty promises.

“I will not leave you,” Shiro said firmly. “They will hurt you, humiliate you, & kill you.”

“I know,” the creature said, face so young yet eyes ancient in their sadness. “They have done it before.”
Shiro did not understand, though as he stared at the bloodied creature he remembered a tale his mother had told him as a child, of ghosts trapped between realms, souls burdened by the unjust tragedies of their deaths, twisted into demons by their festering desire for vengeance.
But the creature did not look vengeful. It looked resigned. It stared at the temple doors & bowed its head, tangled black hair falling over its pale cheek as a rivulet of red ran down its fine jaw.

Shiro paused. “Wait,” he said. “I offered you my blood. I offer it again, now.”
Golden eyes lifted to Shiro’s face, & widened when Shiro extended his forearm to where the creature’s claws were caught in the rope. “If it brings you strength, then take it,” Shiro said. “Take what you need to free yourself.”

The creature hesitated, then slashed his arm open.
Shiro’s blood stained the creature’s claws & face but Shiro felt no pain, for he was transfixed by the brilliant silver light swirling from the stump of his right arm, forming a new limb, glowing like moonlight. His cut arm healed, & the creature slumped into unconsciousness.
It was easy, then, to toss the net away, for the moonlit limb was unharmed by the iron. Shiro at last worked the creature free of the cutting ropes & gathered its crumpled body close in his arms, carrying the creature out of the temple and into the night as the doors flung open.
Shiro did not stop running until he felt the cold sea wind stinging his face, & when he reached the black cliffs he picked his way down through the boulders with the limp creature held tight to his chest, until he found a cave tucked away just above the high and hungry tide.
He lay the creature down gently on the pebbles & untied the sash around his waist which drew his yukata closed. He wet it with saltwater in the small tide pools to clean the creature’s many cuts. Shiro was nearly done washing the red away when a clawed hand caught his left wrist.
The creature blinked up at him, taking in his surroundings silently, the secluded cave, the bloodied cloth in Shiro’s hands, his clean skin, the open front of Shiro’s yukata.

“What is your name?” Shiro asked in the disbelieving quiet.

“I was named Keith,” he whispered, “once.”
“Keith,” Shiro murmured. Keith shivered, drawing his strange black robes closer, though they were hopelessly torn up, exposing long swathes of skin to the cool cave air.

“You should have left me there,” Keith said, & turned his face away, closing his eyes as if pained.
“I couldn’t,” Shiro said, brow furrowing. “You saved my life. I owed you a debt.” He shook his head. “Even if I hadn’t...”

“That is a debt you could never truly repay,” Keith sighed softy. “My life was lost long ago, to a man very much like you, Takashi Shirogane.”
Shiro sat down beside him against the stone, & carefully took Keith’s cold, curled hands between his own. “You don’t feel like a ghost.”

Keith’s eyes cracked open. “Not a ghost,” he said. “Worse.”

“You don’t feel like a demon, either,” Shiro told him, & kissed Keith’s knuckles.
Keith’s lower lip trembled, revealing teeth that were no longer jagged knives.

“You look like he did,” Keith whispered, clawed hands clasping Shiro’s slowly, “but you don’t make me feel like he did.”

“He hurt you,” Shiro said.

“He killed me,” Keith replied, and kissed him.
Keith tasted like blood and saltwater & Shiro couldn’t stop kissing him, eager hands exploring each other’s bodies with sudden urgency. Shiro managed to slip a hand inside Keith’s robes & Keith growled against his lips, leaning into the warmth of Shiro’s palm on his chest.
“The villagers will surely find us by morning, for this island is small,” Keith gasped, “so let us be quick, I want -“

“They will not find us,” Shiro said, drawing back and pointing to the back of the cave. Keith followed his gaze to the kayak there. “I can take us home, Keith.”
Keith’s lovely, deadly face crumpled; he slumped in Shiro’s lap, helpless against his shoulder. “Home,” he repeated, disbelieving. “Oh,” he said, half to himself, “you do not make me feel like he did at all.”

“How long has it been,” Shiro whispered, “since you felt cared for?”
Keith did not, could not, reply; he grabbed Shiro’s face in both hands & kissed the very breath from his chest, kissing harder when Shiro’s arms wrapped around him, harder still when Shiro dipped him down to the pebbled earth and sank his moonlit hand into Keith’s ink black hair.
“I will care for you,” Shiro promised in the hollow of his throat, dragging hot lips over cold collarbones. “You have been alone so long, alone & angry & afraid & hurt -“

“I don’t want to hurt anyone else,” Keith gasped to the night, a plea Shiro answered with his tongue.
“Hush,” Shiro said, tracing kisses down his chest as he eased the torn robes open. “I will not hurt you. I will let no one else hurt you.” He kissed each cut & stroked Keith’s thighs apart, admiring every inch of him. “Let me take care of you,” Shiro said.

“Yes,” Keith breathed.
Later, when Shiro’s face was wet and flushed & Keith was a pliant, writhing mess below him, he looked up, resting his cheek on Keith’s thigh, & asked, “Did you kill the man who took your life?”

Keith hiccuped on a sob. “He was the first,” he said, pushing Shiro’s head back down.
“Good,” Shiro said after Keith came with a ragged cry of his name, only to wrestle Shiro down with a fierce & endearing determination, until Shiro was throwing back his head in a shaky gasp as Keith dragged clever claws over his neck, cooing curses & riding his cock til daybreak.
“It has been awhile,” Keith murmured against the shell of Shiro’s ear as sunlight crept into their cave, “since I have had anyone to take care of, either.”

Shiro ached with exhaustion, yet satisfaction rippled through him like ocean waves. “Then we will take care of each other.”
“I could still kill you, as I did to all the others,” Keith reminded him idly. “I have lured you into my den; your heart is ripe for the taking.” His claws framed Shiro’s chest, over where his heart beat, & Shiro hummed as if in invitation.

“You could,” Shiro agreed. “Will you?”
Keith shook his head after a moment, relaxing atop Shiro and closing his eyes. “Take me home,” he said, “far from this island of ghosts and blood and men.”

“I will take you anywhere you wish,” Shiro promised, & kissed him as the rising sun kissed the endless sea.

the end.
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