Ashiya Doman rushed toward the cave, which was their meeting place. He cursed his faith in the demons. What had that devil Vatapi done? The day seemed extraordinarily dry, and he was relieved when he finally veered off the road and started into the wooded area. The trees made it dark and brooding. Fear began to tamp down the rage that was bubbling in his breast. He realized that he could do nothing against the demon, but just remembering his helpless anguish as the demon quaffed the contents of the vial made his anger blot out his sanity.
He had concealed the opening of the cave with branches and leaves. As he snatched them away, he smelled the vile odor of the demon. It was a stench similar to that of a snake, but with undertones of decay and something indescribably worse. He heard the demon’s rasping breath and rage welled up in him.
“Explain!” he screamed.
The oni Vatapi was leaning against the wall of the cave eating the leg of some animal—or was it a human? He scratched the place between his massive horns with a hand that sported horrifically long and sharp yellowing nails. He wore bright red hakama trousers and a sort of vest that was decorated with what appeared to be human nails and teeth. He smiled, letting the blood drip from his fangs.
“Ah, so you come to complain. Well, I did what you wanted and gave Abe no Seimei the poison.”
Doman was trembling with rage. “Then why does he live?”
The oni shrugged. “It is poison for us demons. Abe no Seimei is one of us, you know, but he is also one of you.”
“What do you mean by that? What did you give him?” Ashiya sputtered.
“I thought the nectar would kill him. It kills demons. I told you, that is why I did not take it for myself. You wanted him dead, and that was the only way, but it seems that he is equally human. The nectar made him immortal. You should have considered that.”
“But the nectar was for me! It was so that I could become immortal, not him! And then why did you drink the poison?” Doman’s voice was sore from screaming.
“It is poison to humans and animals. Demons can drink it and it will extend our lives at least twice. It was really quite good.”
“If you suspected that Abe no Seimei might survive drinking the nectar, then why did you not give him the poison, so that I might have the nectar still? You idiot!”
The demon’s rumbling laughter filled the cave. He roared with amusement. “Poor Doman, you are the idiot. Did you think I would trust you to live up to your agreement? You scheme and plot against an innocent man. How can I have faith that you would not do the same to me? Look at you! You are so feeble that you can barely stand. Your teeth are falling out and your balding head shines in the sun like a polished copper pot. If you had drunk the nectar, it would not have made you young. You would have had to be immortal in your present body—an eternal geezer. I was doing you a kind of favor. Anyway, we demons feel a sort of kinship with the half demons like Abe no Seimei—mostly because you humans despise us so much.” He took a savage bite from the leg he’d been gnawing on, and spit a large piece of cartilage in Doman’s direction. He beat his chest and roared, causing Doman to flee for his life.