Mount Otomori. He was sure it was in front of him. The haze of his vision swimming with doubt. How had he gotten separated, he wondered. His troupe had been travelling along the same path. The same one left to them by their ancestors.
A traditional rite of passage was this journey. But yet he had found himself alone. There were four of them in his tribe that had yet to prove themselves. Aisha, Sansi, Hotte and Dago.
Maybe Hotte convinced them to leave him behind. Alone in the camp. Or perhaps Sansi was getting back at him. For telling Dago her secret love for him.
But Aisha and Dago were his true friends. They would not turn on him. He wondered even longer. He sat upon the golden grains of sand, running them through his fingers. His hunger suddenly protesting with a growl of which echoed throughout the open heavens.
"Easy now, we can find food I'm sure." He told himself while rubbing the aching belly.
He wish that a basilisks would come so that he may blind fold himself and lure it away from it's home. To train it and mount it. For sure the beast could sense the way back to his tribe. But it was just a fanciful tale his mind was spinning as he got up to trudge again.
The world at its edge looked distorted. And he could swear he could see them beneath Otomori. His parents were waiting for him.
He would punch Hotte and scold Sansi for sure. He was beginning to hate them now for the suffering he was being put through. When he heard a roar so devastating it sent him to his knees in fear. The basilisks was coming for him.
He turned around. The dark shadows of its scales and redish glow of its eyes begin to mesmerize him. Turning away, Neita scrambled upon all fours. It felt as he continued to run that the world was slanting beneath him.
His mouth so dry and cracked. His stomach rumbling with fear as he knew the basilisks came near. But what was he to do. He stopped. Stood upright with eyes closed. Trying to calm himself and escape this world.
He could see the faces of his friends again.
"Hey Neita, show us the thing you can do." Aisha goaded happily as they drank of goats milk and cheese.
Neita smiled and lifted his arms dislocating both to wrap them around his back. To the chorus of oohs and ewes.
"Ha! I can do better." Hotte boasted as he got up. He was a big boy. He gulped and let out a mighty belch that sent them all down laughing.
"That's gross." Sansi said. As she secretly shot looks over to Dago.
Dago was the leader of their little group. He had a red scarf and his name stood for blood. It is said he made a blood oath with the demons to protect the tribe.
And he turned to Neita. In the midst of this memory and spoke words that swallowed him whole and spat him out again.
"Do not give in to fear Neita, Do not hide. Do not fall. Do not falter. Stand and fight it if you must. We believe in you. You can come home."
Neita opened his eyes. He wanted to live. Turning to face the basilisk. It came upon him with such ferocity. Scratching his face and broken skin with slashes. It dashed around him, over him and about him. With his dagger he struck feverishly at the beast, but he was blinded.
"Come you coward, you will not petrify me." Neita yelled out.
Holding to his dagger he fought through out the night. Fighting upon his knees. Fighting his thirst, his hunger, his fear. Fighting his memories that would only bring tears.
He did not know when he had finally drew the beast away. But he had found himself laying their upon his knees. Deep in sand.
And before him was Otomori.
He got up and began to cry. He had finally made it. Questions came flooding in again. Why was he alone? Where had his friends gone? They had to be here.
Waiting for him.
With bittersweet salt of his tears touching his lips. He made his way forward. Otomori opened up as a hollow mountain.
And their at its lip was the entrance. His friends and family eagerly awaiting his return.
Sansi, Aisha, Hotte and Dago were all there. Sansi and Aisha made it first to him. He grabbed on to both of them smiling from ear to ear. Aisha kissed him on the cheek with tears in her eyes. And Sansi was rubbing the sand from his head and face looking upon him admiringly.
Hotte clambered along and gave them all a giant hug. Threatening to break his ribs and theirs. He tapped to submit as the big lug let them down. There were many questions thrown his way and he had the same for them.
"How did you get separated?"
"How did you survive?"
"How long have I been wandering?"
"What was the last thing you remember?"
"Do you need any water or food?"
At that they smiled. Their parents brought before them a feast. And for the second time that day. Neita shed tears again. His parents held to him. His mother kissing him upon his crown.
"You've made it. We are very proud of you."
Embarrassed at being held so, he said his thank you's and dived into the meal. Half of him still thought this was all a dream and the basilisks had eaten him alive.
But if this was the afterlife, he was happy for it nonetheless.
"It seems you have gained quite a following." Dago complimented as he sat next to him. "I'm glad my words could reach you."
"So it is true then that you were blessed by the demons."
"You tell me. I think they drew you away from us upon the path. For what purpose I'm not sure."
"You mean..." He took a bite of snakes meat and tore it away with his teeth munching heavily. "I am blessed by demons as well?"
"Maybe. We shall see. And believe you me. You're really did survive."
Dago smiled knowingly at Neita then patted him on the back before leaving. Dago did not know how relieving his words were to him. But his hunger kept him from thanking him immediately.
Neita surveyed all that was before him beneath the sacred sanctuary of Mount Otomori. He realized he had everything he would ever need. And wondered...
What can demons really offer more than this life.