Oni Komachi


           The fields of springtime. Meadows and hillsides were a haze of green as if covered in mist. New green buds appeared on the tips of all the trees, and the freshly sprouted grasses in the meadows seemed to be sighing out the gentle green that covered them.

           On either side of the path yellow day lilies grew, and speedwell dotted the ground with its little blue flowers. In places one or two plum trees still kept their flowers, but most of the cherry trees were coming into full bloom.

           "What a beautiful scene this is, Seimei," Hiromasa remarked, entranced.

"Not bad," Seimei responded, continuing to stroll along by his side.

They were climbing a gentle mountain path. Above their heads the branches of oaks and zelkova overlapped, and with the sun's aid cast a lovely pattern on Seimei's white hunting costume. A little while ago they'd alighted from the ox-carriage and left it behind, along with their retainers and companions. Tomorrow they'd arranged for the carriage to come to meet them at the same hour. The path had already become impossible for a carriage to traverse.

"Look, Seimei, you're not being honest."

"What do you mean?"

"I was just saying how beautiful the scenery is and you said 'not bad,' looking like you couldn't care less."

"I look the way I always do."

"Then you always look like you couldn't care less."


"If you see something nice, you should say that it's nice. If it's beautiful, say it's beautiful. Letting your face show what's in your heart--"

Hiromasa suddenly shut his mouth.

"What about it?"

"It's not as exhausting," Hiromasa said grudgingly.

Seimei smiled.

"Why are you smiling?"

"You're nice enough to be concerned about me?"

"Uhh-- mhh"

"You tell me to show what I feel, so I smile, and then you ask why I'm smiling. What am I supposed to do, Hiromasa?"

Needless to say this wasn't a quarrel, or even a disagreement. The two friends were just bandying words together for amusement.

"In any case, shouldn't we be arriving soon?" Seimei asked, and Hiromasa answered, "Just a bit farther." Their destination was a temple called Shikou'in. It was a small temple built to honour a wooden statue of Kanzeon Bosatsu three feet high, and a priest called Nyosui was its only inhabitant.

It was two days earlier that Nyosui had come to Seimei's residence in company with Hiromasa, who introduced him thus: "This gentleman is Nyosui Houshi, to whom I became greatly indebted in times past. He now lives alone at a temple called Shikou'in in a mountain village in Yase. It appears that something is causing him great distress, and when I asked him about it, it seemed to me that it was your territory, Seimei. So I've brought him here with me today and I hope you will be so kind as to listen to his story."

The tale that Seimei heard from Nyosui was this:

Nyosui had gone to live at the Shikou'in two years ago. The temple was originally attached to the Shingon sect of Buddhism and had once possessed a priest who could at least read the scriptures. But when the man had died there was no one to replace him. The temple had been practically falling into ruin when Nyosui took it over two years previously.

Nyosui himself had originally been a musician at court, a flute player, but at one point he became involved in an illicit relationship with a court lady of high rank. But she was married, and when the affair came to light, Nyosui was driven from the palace. He ended up at the temple of an acquaintance who was a Shingon priest, and there, by taking part in the ceremonies, he learned the sutras and became more or less able to act the part of a priest. He was thus given ordination even if in name only. At that time he learned of the ruined temple in Yase and took the decision to move into it.

And so, after effecting some repairs to the main hall and other parts of the building, he spent his days in reciting the sutras. But just when the place began to look like a proper temple, an odd thing happened.

 Every afternoon an elegant old lady took to appearing, from where he couldn't say. She would place an offering of flowers and nuts or the twigs of a tree before the main hall and then go away. Sometimes he saw her making the offering, but often when he wasn't looking the fruits and twigs would suddenly appear under the eaves of the temple as token that she had been there. This continued on a daily basis. If he saw her and greeted her, she would return the salutation, but he had never spoken to her particularly.

He felt an interest in knowing the reason for this odd behaviour, but thinking there might be some deep meaning in it that she could not tell people he dared not inquire: and so two years went by.

But about this time Nyosui found he was becoming obsessed with the old woman. He couldn't guess her status, but it was no ordinary person who would come all alone without any companion, day after day without fail in both rain and snow, to a small temple like his. Or again, perhaps she wasn't human at all but some sort of demon.

Whatever she was, even though he was a priest he found his blood growing warm at the thought of her. In the end he could no longer stand it and at one point he addressed the old lady: "Excuse me, Madam. I'm truly grateful that you come every day to the temple to offer flowers and branches, but- and forgive me the question- may I ask who you might happen to be?"

At this the old lady reverently bowed her head and said, "Ahh, you have at last been kind enough to address me. I am a woman who lives to the west of here on Ichiwara Moor. I have a reason for coming here every day in my present fashion but I feared that perhaps I was being a bother to you. I was just thinking that perhaps some day you might address me to ask about this very matter, and lo! today you have indeed spoken to me." Her tone of voice and her gestures alike had a refined softness of manner.

"I assure you it's no bother at all. But- and I know it's very rude of me to ask- won't you tell me why you come here every day like this?"

"Listen to me well and I will reveal everything to you. I too have a request I would make of yourself, reverend priest. May I ask you to come to my retreat on Ichiwara Moor tomorrow at this very hour?" and she gave Nyosui precise instructions as to how to find her house on Ichiwara Moor. "In that place there are two old cherry trees of great size, and my house is built between them."

"I will come without fail," Nyosui promised. The old lady repeated with particular emphasis, "Without fail" and went her way.

The next day Nyosui went to the appointed place at the appointed time. There indeed he found two large and ancient cherry trees growing, and as he had been told, a small hermitage that joined one tree to the other. Above it spread the branches of the trees, now half covered in blossoms.

"Excuse me," Nyosui called, and the old lady came out from the hermitage as if expecting him. Her face was lightly made up.

"I'm so glad you came." She took Nyosui's hand to pull him inside the house. This action, and the coquettish flirtatiousness that accompanied it, was not the gesture of a woman of years. Her breath too was perfumed. Without thinking he stepped into the cottage. It was small but very neat. The bed was laid out in a corner and she had sake warmed and ready for him.

"Come, come, this way--" she said, urging him in by tugging at his hand. Nyosui resisted, saying "What are you doing?" At this the woman gave an oily smile. "Surely you don't intend to run away after you've come so far?" and still holding on to his hand, she gave him a frightening look. Her grip was so strong he couldn't get free.

"I suppose you have a distaste for me because I'm old. But look, suppose I do this--" As she spoke the wrinkles vanished from the face she turned to him even as he watched, and it changed into the countenance of a beautiful young woman. "Now how am I?" The woman regarded Nyosui with a small smile.

Nyosui realized she was indeed a demon. With all his strength he tried to wrench his hand away. In response the grip on his hand increased in power, passing any strength a woman could possess.

She glared at Nyosui and said, in a voice that was suddenly that of a man, "Don't want to?"

Nyosui fell backwards but the woman took another step forward.

"He doesn't want you. He says he doesn't want you. This stinking monk doesn't want you. He was itchy enough when he saw you coming to his temple but now he's here, where's all that randiness got to---" The man's voice came seeping out from the woman's red lips.

"Why don't you want to?" This time it was a woman's voice. "Listen, please listen. Don't go. Don't go away." It was still the woman's voice.

As if to mock that voice, the man's loud laughter came dripping from the same red lips. "Hahahaha!" This too was certainly a monster.

Nyosui was terrified and began to chant the Heart Sutra under his breath. "Kanjizai bosagyo hannya haramitaji..." (Avalokita Bodhisattva practises deep perfection of wisdom.) As soon as he did this the woman's expression grew dangerous.

"Ahh-" The hand that gripped his was losing strength. Hastily he shook free of it and took to his heels. But that evening a soft tapping came at the door of the hermitage where he lay sleeping. He opened his eyes and called, "Who's there?"

"It's the woman from Ichiwara Moor. Open for me, please," the woman's voice said.

"It's that female demon come to possess me and kill me!" Terrified, Nyosui drew the covers over his head and began to recite the sutras with all his might.

Next it was the man's voice that sounded outside the house. "Nyosui-dono, open the door!"





The woman's voice and the man's continued for a while calling his name, and at last ceased. Even when he no longer heard those voices Nyosui, more dead than alive, continued chanting the sutras until dawn.

This continued for two more nights. In the daytime the old woman no longer appeared at the temple, but at night the woman's voice came knocking at the door. And so, he said, when he could no longer stand it he'd gone to see Hiromasa and ask him for advice.

"There it is, Seimei."

Hiromasa stopped abruptly and pointed ahead. The roof of a temple was in view, hidden among the zelkovas.



           Round straw mats had been laid out on the wooden floor of the outer chamber, and Seimei, Hiromasa and Nyosui sat on them facing each other. In the sanctuary the statue of Kanzeon stood enshrined, looking down at Seimei and the rest with a gentle expression.

           "I suppose she came last night as well?" Hiromasa asked.

           "Yes," Nyosui nodded.

           As always, he'd heard two voices, a man and a woman's alternating; and while he'd recited the sutra they'd suddenly disappeared.

           "What did you do with the fruit and twigs the woman used to bring?"

           "When a bunch had accumulated I used to burn them all together, but I still have the bits that didn't burn."

           "May I see them?"


           Nyosui got up and went out, and soon came back carrying some tree branches that he laid on the floor.

           "Ahh-" Seimei picked up a branch. "This is a persimmon, yes?" he murmured. "And this is the acorn from a yellow oak." One by one Seimei picked up the things laid out on the floor. A chestnut. The branch of an orange tree.

           "That orange tree branch used to have blossoms on it," Nyosui said.

           "Hmm." Seimei cocked his head in thought. "It's a really difficult puzzle."


           "Um-hmh. I feel I almost understand it but not quite. A little longer and I think I'll have it."

           "You know, Seimei, this is exactly like when I look at a poem I've received and manage to work out its meaning."

           A spark kindled in Seimei's eye as Hiromasa spoke. "Hiromasa, what did you just say?"

           "I said it's like when I manage to understand a poem."

           "A poem!"

           "Yes, a poem. What of it?"

           "Brilliant, Hiromasa!" Seimei cried. "Of course, a poem--" Seimei went on, with the expression of one who's succeeded in swallowing something caught in his throat.


           "It's obvious. It's a poem. Of course--" Seimei nodded to himself.

           "Seimei, I don't understand a word you're saying. Could you explain in simple language?"

           "Wait-" Seimei said, with no indication as to whether he'd heard Hiromasa or not. "Nyosui Houshi, could I ask you for paper and inkstone, and ink and a brush?"

           "Certainly." Nyosui was as much at sea as Hiromasa. Looking dubious, he laid the required objects out before Seimei. Seimei ground the ink with a cheerful expression, saying as he did so, "You know, Hiromasa, you have a rare talent. Maybe you were born into this world in possession of something that men like myself will never have."


           "Indeed. That talent which is Hiromasa, or that magic, is one that the magic which is Seimei can never equal. If the Hiromasa magic didn't exist, the Seimei magic doubtless wouldn't exist either, just in the course of nature." Seimei sounded quite cheerful.

           "Look, Seimei, I'm happy that you'd say so, but really- I still don't understand anything."

           "Well, wait a moment..." Seimei laid aside the ink and picked up the brush beside it. He picked up the paper in his left hand and expertly ran his brush down it while Hiromasa and Nyosui watched in deep interest.

           "There- done." Seimei put the brush down and laid the paper on the floor. Written blackly thereon, in ink that was still wet, was the following:


           If you of the fourth rank are above this poor poet

           Still I will recall the scent of the orange blossoms


           "Well, it's something like this, in any case," Seimei said.

           "Oi. I don't get it, Seimei. What *is* this?"

           "You don't know?"

           "I don't understand either," Nyosui said.

           "I myself don't understand it completely. But if we know this much, it will serve as a clue to the next part."

           "Ohh-- listen, Seimei. I don't understand a thing. You've got this bad habit of grudging explanation. Could you please tell us without acting all mysterious and superior?"

           "I already told you, Hiromasa- *I* don't completely understand it myself. So just wait."


           "Well, it'll be tonight, I think."

           "What'll be tonight?"

           "That woman will come again. And when she does we'll be able to ask her directly."

           "Oi, Seimei--!!!"

           "Just wait a bit." Seimei looked from Hiromasa to Nyosui. "Nyosui Houshi, you wouldn't possibly have some sake hidden somewhere about here? I was thinking Hiromasa and I might drink together until this woman shows up."

           "Well, I'm not saying I don't..."

           "Oh, good. Why don't we spend this evening talking over the wine and admiring the cherry blossoms as a side dish."

           "Hey, Seimei-!"

           "We've already decided, Hiromasa."


           "We'll drink."


           "We'll drink."

           "Ah- umm-"

           "We'll drink."


           And so they did.



           While he was drinking with Hiromasa, it came on full night. Naturally they didn't drink in the temple itself, but in a small house built at the side that could be mistaken for a hermitage, which Nyosui used as his sleeping quarters. There was an oven in the unfloored part, that they used to warm the sake. They themselves sat in the wooden-floored portion, their round straw mats laid out to surround the fireplace. The door of this floored room led directly into the temple.

           "I keep this wine for visitors," Nyosui said. He didn't partake himself, but Seimei and Hiromasa certainly did. However much he drank Hiromasa still resented the fact that Seimei wouldn't tell him the secret of the poem. Instead of the usual finger food, Hiromasa had the twigs and fruits laid out before him. He picked them up and put them down on the floor, staring at the poem Seimei had written, while taking sips from his cup.

           "I just don't get it..." he muttered, and drank some more.

           A small breeze had come up and whistled a little in the darkness outside.

           "Pretty soon, I think," Seimei said, looking up at the dark roof. As the fire wavered the ceiling too flickered in red. Their shadows stretched up the wooden walls almost to ceiling height.

           "Seimei- I think I do understand the poem," Hiromasa said suddenly.


           "I have the feeling that this person who visits at night, is a very lonely old woman."


           "I mean, living at that age in a countrified place like this, all by herself."


           "With some kind of purpose, she comes every day to this Kanzeon shrine to offer her fruits and flowers, yes?"


           "And so when Nyosui Houshi addressed her for the first time, what she heard in his voice was 'Oh lovely lady, what is your name?'"


           "So she must have tried to get Nyosui-dono to come meet her at her cottage so that he'd learn more about her. And then when he ran away, in her misery she came to his house every night."


           "And I think she comes only at night basically because she's not human but a demon of some sort or something like that. But I think that makes her all the more to be pitied."


           "That's the impression I got when I was trying to understand that poem and looking at those twigs and fruit."

           "Hiromasa," Seimei said, "I think it likely that you've understood the heart of this poem better than someone like myself can do." He spoke with a surprising seriousness.

           The wind was growing stronger. And then they became aware of someone tapping lightly on the door.

           "Hello, Houshi-sama, hello...?"

           A woman's voice, thin and seeming about to fade away, but carrying clearly to them.

           "Please open the door. It's the woman from Ichiwara Moor..."

           Seimei stood up, signalling to Nyosui with his eyes as if telling him not to be concerned. He stepped down onto the unfloored portion of the room, approached the door and stood in front of it.

           "Hello, Houshi-sama...?" As the voice came Seimei loosed the prop that barred the door and pulled it sideways open.

           Someone was standing there. At her back the wind roared into the cottage, along with innumerable cherry petals. Seimei's hair blew back in the blast, and the candle's flame wavered as if about to go out.

           The woman was beautiful. As Seimei watched, both her eyes slanted upwards. The corners were cut open and blood welled from them like tears, trickling down her face in a thin line. In each corner of her forehead horns started to swell and break through the flesh.

           "Damn you, Nyosui. Were you plotting to have this onmyouji exorcise me--" the woman screamed, but Seimei stepped in front of her.

           "Read this," and he gave her the paper with the poem on it. She took it and ran her eye over it.

           "Ohh..." she said. The horns began to shrink and vanish from her forehead, and her eyes returned to normal.

           "This is... oh, it's my... hey, that's my-  it's my-- ohh ohh, what does this mean? There's someone- somebody got it- someone who understands..." A woman's voice and a man's came from those red lips, alternating in an eerie fashion. Still holding the paper and moaning to herself, the woman started to twist madly amid the storm of cherry blossoms; and then in a blink she was gone. Right after the wind began to blow violently from the place where the two of them had been standing. The blossoms whirled rushing into the air and drove inside the cottage



           "It's like this, Hiromasa."

           Seimei was drinking wine and, at Hiromasa's prodding, about to explain the meaning of the poem.

           "The persimmon (kaki) refers to Kakinomoto no Hitomaru-dono. The chestnut is Yamabe no Akahito."


           "Everyone knows that the surname Kakinomoto (source of the persimmon) comes from the persimmon tree that grew at the front gate of Hitomaru-dono's residence. And the story of the chestnut that grew by Akahito's grave is also well-known. When I realized that these two objects were words referring to Kakinomoto no Hitomaru-dono and Yamabe no Akahito-dono respectively, I grasped that there must be some connection to poetry."

           "And the acorn?"

           "The 'nut' from a 'yellow oak'. (Nut is ko no mi, a pun on kono mi, 'this person.' Yellow oak is shii, a pun on shi i, fourth court rank.) The acorn was saying 'the rank above mine is the fourth.'"

           "I see."

           "Based on this, it was natural to conclude that the orange tree must have some connection to poetry as well. 'A poem about an orange tree', well, there's one you think of immediately:


When I smell the orange blossoms that wait until May

I remember the scent of the sleeves of someone I once knew,"


Seimei recited in a well-trained voice. "So I used that as a basis for the last line of my own poem, but in fact any poem that mentioned the orange tree would have done as well."


           "Taking Kakinomoto no Hitomaru-dono and Yamabe no Akahito-dono together to mean 'a poet' I composed that poem."

           "And the poem's meaning?"

           "Ah, that," Seimei murmured, and began to explain.

           "We usually use 'poet' to refer to one person, but on occasion it means 'everyone who composes poetry.' So here we have: 'I am a poet in possession of two natures." At the very start the poet is making the facts of her existence clear. Next, she talks about someone of the fourth rank, meaning a rank higher than her own. That would probably be a man's status. Then at the last the woman speaks of the feelings she has entrusted to the orange blossoms. So it must be an old lover--"

           "What is this? Seimei, how did you figure out such a complicated thing from a few twigs and acorns?" Hiromasa said, sounding less admiring than, by this time, utterly confounded.

           "Well, but, all of this is thanks to you who gave me that terribly important clue, the word 'poem.' If you hadn't been there I doubtless couldn't have understood those nuts and branches..."

           "Seimei, do you always have such complicated ideas every time you look at something?"

           "Nothing complicated about it."

           "Don't you get tired?"

           "I do indeed," Seimei agreed, laughing. "Shall we go tomorrow, Hiromasa?"

           "Go? Where?"

           "To that woman's cottage on Ichiwara Moor."


           "Given what she said, there are a few things I need to ask her."

           "Like what?"

           "Well, like why she used to bring nuts and twigs to this temple every day, and what her name is, and how two souls became one the way we saw- things like that."


           "The fact is that I don't understand any of that yet myself."

           "That makes me feel better- that there are things you don't understand."

           Seimei turned to Nyosui and said, "Tomorrow will you take us there?"




           "There it is." Nyosui pointed up ahead, and Hiromasa at his side said without thinking, "Ohh--" The huge old cherry trees were indeed splendid. All the blossoms were out on both trees, filling their sight. The branches seemed to bend down under the weight of the close-packed flowers. There was no wind but the petals dropped and fluttered from the branches without pause. The clear air seemed to be concentrated in that space under the trees, where a small cottage stood.

           As the three of them walked slowly closer to it, an old woman came lightly from inside. The hem of her gorgeous silken robe dragged gently along the ground.

The three men stopped.

           The old woman stopped.

           Seimei took two steps forward and paused. As if to greet him, the woman sank to the ground and sat back on her heels. Her face was made up- white powder on her cheeks, red colour on her lips. Under the cherry tree Seimei and the woman faced each other.

           "Your name is Abe no Seimei-sama, I think?" The woman spoke softly.

           "And what is your own?"

           "A hundred years and more ago, in the collection called Konjaku Wakinshuu, there was a poem that goes:


The flowers withered

Their colour faded away

While meaninglessly I spent my days in the world

And the long rains were falling.


That poem was written by myself."

"Which is as much as to say--"

"I am that girl called Ono no Komachi, who is this old woman of a hundred years."

"And why do you dwell in a place like this, Komachi-dono?"

"This is the place under the cherry trees where Komachi died at the age of a hundred."

"Is there a reason why your soul has lingered on in this world?"

"I am not one who can reach salvation."

"And why not?"

"Ah, you may laugh at what truly sinful and contemptible wretches we women are..." The old woman Komachi rose slowly to her feet.


The former Buddha has passed away

The later Buddha has not appeared in the world.

We are born into the middle of a dream

What should we think of as real?


She sang in a low voice, and as she sang she lifted her forearm and began to dance. Cherry blossoms fluttered and fell on her hands.


My body is a floating weed. No stream invites it-

My body- no stream invites this floating weed

And therefore I grieve.


"My body is like weeds that float and drift on the water. Ahh, in days gone by my hair was brilliant as a kingfisher's plumage and waved like the tendrils of a willow in the wind. My voice was like a nightingale's song--


far rarer than the flowers of the slender bush clover

soaked with dew, that scatter at a whisper;  


Ahh, once I was proud and arrogant, and for that reason all the more beautiful, and pierced the hearts of noble lords--"

As the old woman danced the wrinkles left her face and it changed to that of a lovely young woman. Her back straightened, her hips lengthened: and from far above the cherry blossoms danced and showered down upon her.

"I laid my skin against that of noble men, made poems of love and passed the days in pleasure, but that was but for a moment--" Komachi's movements stopped.

"Ah, the clouds have changed their shape: men's hearts are like butterflies' wings that dance in the breeze- oh that time, that time now past- they change their affections one after another; but why is beauty alone able to stand still? As my years piled up all beauty fled from my face, and when beauty disappeared so too men passed from me. Ahh, there's nothing sadder for a woman than to have no one to seek her out..."

Komachi's face slowly changed back to that of an old woman. Above that face, above the white hair, the cherry blossoms fell unendingly.

"When you live long enough, suddenly before you know it, even the low women of the world look down on you as something disgusting, and your shame is seen by men who laugh and say 'Is that the famous Komachi?' As days and months go by the years pile up and you become an old woman of a hundred years, and die in this place- and that was what happened to me."

Seimei said nothing.

"Just once, just once again, I want someone to cry 'How beautiful'- I want them to say 'How like Komachi!' in all seriousness; even if it's the dream of a night only I want to press my skin like a mad thing against that of a man- and these desires are what keep me from Buddhahood."

Having said this much Komachi's face became fierce and turned up to the sky. A man's voice gave a bellow of laughter: Kukakakakaa!

"Ohh, ohh, ohh, Komachi! Komachi! Komachi! My beloved lady Komachi, what are you saying? What foolishness is this? Aren't I here now? *I* seek you. I'll kiss those withered breasts of yours!"

Komachi shook her head sideways, right, left, so that her hair swung in either direction and struck her in the face.

"*I'll* seek you out, for a hundred years, a thousand, ten thousand, dying and being reborn again, and even after all that, I'll tell you that your wrinkled face is beautiful. I'll kiss your mouth that shows only three yellowed teeth inside it. I won't let you go. I won't let you go."

As the man's voice issued from her mouth, Komachi clicked her few teeth together with a clacking noise.

"Who are you?" Seimei asked, and Komachi answered, still in a man's voice, "You don't know? I'm that man who waited at Komachi's door for ninety-nine nights and died of love on the hundredth, the one called the Fukakusa Captain-"

"Ninety-nine nights?"

"You haven't heard of that?"

"Mh, well-"

"I fell in love with this Komachi here and sent her a letter. I sent her more letters than I can count but never received more than a single reply. Many men loved Komachi but no man was more deeply in love with her than this Fukakusa, captain of the fourth rank."

Seimei was silent.

"She answered only once, in jest, with the Hundred Nights Passage. She said that if I came to her house every night in succession, no matter what, on the hundredth night she would give me my desire. That was the Hundred Nights Passage. But though I came for ninety-nine nights on the hundredth I failed to come, for I was dead. The vexation and regret of that keeps me bound to Komachi and prevents me from achieving Buddhahood."

"Because this man possesses me, I cannot find a quiet place to live--"

"Ohh, and thus I became a hound of evil passions and possessed this woman, swearing I would not leave her even if I was beaten out."

"How contemptible I must seem-"

As the man's voice and the woman's issued slowly in turn from her mouth, Komachi began to dance again


Then I'll become a hound of passion

That you can beat but never drive away

Oh what a terrifying sight!


She was mad. In the old woamn's face, in Komachi's face, there was no sign of sanity left. As she raved, she danced. The branches of the huge cherry trees trembled and blossoms fell in drifts: and in the midst of them, Komachi danced.

"Seimei-" Hiromasa said, but Seimei was silent.

"I was possessed by this woman, so I possessed her in turn and killed her. After all that how could I ever leave her--"



           "Who was it promised me, if I took those nuts and twigs every day to the temple and someone appeared who could read their riddle, that he would let me go?"

           "I did."

           "Then why won't you?"

           "How could I? Even when you fell in love with that priest. Who would part from this low-born woman? I'll show you how thoroughly in love with you I am. A thousand years, ten thousand years, until the very end of time. Listen, Komachi- though this land changes, and your beauty changes, my feelings alone will not. Ahh, I love you with all my heart, you low-born woman--"

"Damn it!"


"Damn it!" Tears were pouring from the old woman's eyes, but it was impossible to tell whose tears they were.

Above her head the great branches groaned.

Komachi danced amid a fierce and whirling snowstorm of cherry petals, and as she danced she wept. With a small sound twisted horns appeared on her forehead, splitting the flesh.



The laughter of the two arose from within the petal storm, and the trees groaned deeply.

"Seimei!" Hiromasa cried, tears running from his eyes. "What's the matter? Why don't you do something?"

Seimei remained silent, while the demon danced among the cherry petals, laughing insanely.

"Seimei!" Hiromasa's cry was almost a scream. "Why?? Surely you can do something for them?"

Seimei shook his head in silence, still watching the dancing demon. "I can't do anything."

"You can't!?"

"I can't save them," Seimei said. "It's not just me. No one can save them."

"Why not?"

"Because they can't be saved, Hiromasa..." There seemed to be a deep tenderness in Seimei's voice.

"Seimei, I..."

"I'm sorry, Hiromasa. There are things even I can't do," Seimei said, as if biting a blue flame between his teeth.

Amid the whirling cherry blossoms there was nothing to be seen. Only the sense of a demon, dancing.


'And so I have spent my heart again and again in bed after bed'

(Kayoi Komachi)


'I love her, oh, I love her!

I love her, oh I love her!

(Sotoba Komachi)