The celestial being known as Byakko laid his head upon his paws as he watched the battle unfold in the glittering black seat in front of him. Both sides were suffering heavy losses and Byakko already knew it would take centuries to build up their populations again. The ones losing their lives did not know it was a pointless endeavor. Byakko had seen many wars the same as this one and he knew the outcome even before it had really begun. Both would retreat, claiming they were the victor and it was the people of the lands who would suffer.
The Others had long since stopped watching the human wars. They happened so often and all of them spread across the land. But Byakko could not turn away from this one.
Byakko had no interest in the war or the rulers who willingly sacrificed their own people to it. He was a celestial being after all, ageless and ancient. The lives of man had very little impact on his own.
Then a small human child had visited one of his old shrines, rusted and taken over by nature. He held the hand of a dying woman, his mother who was teaching him how to lay out the offerings because she was too sick to see to it daily as she had been. The little boy had mispronounced Byakko’s name and had left the offerings in the shape of a smiling face.
Byakko did not learn the names of humans. Sometimes they came to him after death because they were virtuous and the heavens decided for him. They were his immortal warriors, though none of them had fought in centuries.
The little child was no longer a boy, though by Byakko standards his life was still short. He was pulled into the war because of his gender and his strong body. They had tried to beat his ideals out of him, make him part of the group but Byakko saw past his facade. Saw the man beneath who burned brighter than those around him.
He was dying on the battlefield. He had been strong and brave and true, but none of that mattered when a sword is thrust through ribs. He was bleeding out, surrounded by mud and bodies and blood.
Byakko felt a swirl of emotions inside him, felt his tail lash out angrily behind him as he watched the once-boy struggled to breathe. He was dying alone, the only sound around him was clashing weapons and the death moans of others around him. It was a horrific death by human standards, though Byakko usually did not care one way or another about death. He could not die and it had been a long time since he had even been injured.
“Is that Sawamura?” Yukie was one of his immortal warriors though others referred to her as a handmaiden. He cared not what others thought, Yukie died protecting a younger sister and therefore she was a warrior in Byakko’s eyes and who was to tell him differently? Who would heresy a god?
“He’s dying.” Akaashi sat on Byakko’s other side. Most stayed away from Byakko when he got into his moods and he knew this one had lasted at least a century in human terms. Akaashi and Yukie never minded his shift of emotions.
“You should bring him here.” Yukie suggested while she leaned against his side. Byakko shook out his head.
He was a celestial being.
He did not favor one human over any others.
A wheezing gasp caught all their attention, blood bubbled out of the man’s mouth as he stared into the dark sky. It felt as if he saw Byakko, as if he was looking directly at him, which was impossible. There were those born with a sight but this man wasn’t one of them.
He was ordinary. Plain. Simple. He was nothing like Byakko’s chosen immortal warriors. He had died a senseless death following orders. He had killed others simply because someone had pushed a sword into his hand and told him to do so. He was not virtuous. He did not deserve Byakko’s attention.
“He’ll die in agony, that wound will take a while to kill him.” Akaashi said in that same soft-spoken tone that revealed nothing of his true emotions.
Byakko stared at the dying mortal and thought of the little boy who brought an old shrine offerings every day because his deceased mother had asked him to. Byakko had watched that boy grow, had seen every moment of his life.
“I bet he would love being taken in by a celestial being such as yourself.” Yukie said, a smile obvious in her voice.
“He would be honored.” Akaashi agreed, though there was nothing obvious in his own tone.
Byakko preened. It would be an honor to be brought to the heavens by a god such as himself. He could shove it into the Three’s faces, they would be envious of him because of the devotion his little human would show him.
Decision made, Byakko reached out and pulled the spirit and soul from the dying human body. He wasn’t quite sure what to do beyond that point so he appeared in his room. He was a celestial being and this was his domain so technically all rooms were his room, but this one had a bed in it and he curled up with the tiny, flickering orb. It felt warm against his chest, still terrified from his death struggles but he calmed down gradually as Byakko commanded him to rest .
Byakko did not sleep or dream so he moved amongst the mortals. Though he was no longer mortal anymore. Sawamura Daichi was the name he was given, though Byakko just thought of him as his . He kept trying to dream of the war, of the maggot infested food and the rampant diseases but that was no good for the healing spirit so Byakko pushed those aside and created a new dream.
When Byakko pulled himself back out of the dreams, the spirit had healed enough for a body to form. It wasn’t like his mortal body. This one would never age nor succumb to disease. All scars and marks were gone, though Byakko kept the freckles that spread across his cheeks and shoulders. They reminded him greatly of the stars he lived upon and he could feel himself grow excited once more because he had so much to show his Sawamura, so much for him to share and experience. Byakko had experienced and saw all but he could live through Sawamura’s eyes.
Byakko got out of the bed as he felt Sawamura start to wake. He left a trail of stars to follow out of the room and down the hall. His domain shifted to suit his needs, building an outdoor garden with a towering cherry blossom tree. Byakko held power of autumn but he didn’t think Seiryu would mind too much if he borrowed this one thing. He laid beneath the tree, spread out on the soft green grass beneath him.
He did not have long to wait as Sawamura stepped out onto the grass with a deep inhalation. Byakko’s tail twitched as he watched the emotions flash across Sawamura’s face, bare of blood and grim that he had become accustomed to since Sawamura was dragged into the pointless war.
Finally Sawamura’s eyes landed on Byakko, they grew large as he took in the sight and then he seemed to recognized what white tiger laid before him. Sawamura dropped down to his knees, forehead pressed against the grass.
“Lord Byakko,” Sawamura’s voice was pleasant to Byakko’s ears, deep and warm. The cherry blossoms began to fall around them as Byakko pushed himself to his paws and strode over to Sawamura’s bent over form. Byakko changed form between one breath and the next because he thought hands might be better suited to his. He lifted Sawamura’s head by placing a gentle hand under his chin.
“You called me Bokuto when you were a child.” Byakko smiled, it felt like centuries since he had last done so. “You don’t have to fight any longer, you are welcome here.” Tears ran down Sawamura’s face. He had been strong and true when his mother had died, pulled himself together to take care of his grieving father and younger siblings. He hadn’t shown any emotion when the soldiers had come to take him away, agreeing to go so they wouldn’t take his elderly father or younger brother. He didn’t break when he killed for the first time, Byakko had felt his horror when he stared down at his bloodied sword. He hadn’t even cried when he had laid dying on a filthy field.
Byakko cupped Sawamura’s face in the same way he had seen countless mortals do, to lend comfort and to wipe away tears with his thumbs.
“Call me Bokuto.” Byakko had gone by many names but he felt that one was special. Only for his Sawamura to call him.
“Am I really here? Will I not wake and have to go to battle once more?” Sawamura asked. Byakko pulled him into a tight embrace.
“You never have to battle again.” Byakko promised as he gently rubbed Sawamura’s back as he sobbed into his neck. “Unless you wish to. Sometimes there are tournaments we Four hold but you can choose to watch if you wish.” Byakko told Sawamura of all the wonderful things he would experience now and how they could even visit the mortal realm if Sawamura wished it, it was not all endless battles and death. Sawamura’s sobs subsided as he rested against Byakko, who found he very much enjoyed the human form of embracing and physical contact.
“Thank you Bokuto.” Sawamura mumbled as he fell asleep once more. This time when Byakko looked into his dream there was nothing of pain and heartbreak, Sawamura sat back at that old rundown shrine, resting his back against a large white tiger.