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The wandering soul


This is one of the stories from the old Buddhist manuscript, Konjaku Monogatari,
written in the 12th. century.

There was a lovely maiden by the name of Kiku Akaiwa who lived in Yamada, a small village in Sanuki.
She was a cheerful, good-natured girl, always working for the village's festivals and celebrations and well-liked by all the people.
One day Kiku suddenly felt seriously ill. She had a severe pain in her chest, followed by a high fever which made it difficult for her to breathe. The physician had given up all hope, telling her parents that she might not be able to survive for long.
Kiku told her mother that she had a dream in which she saw two devils, Aka-oni andAo-oni coming to take her away.
"Mother, I don't want to die! I saw The Great King of The Dark, Enma, ordering two devils to take me away.
They are coming soon. Please make offerings of the best food and drinks to the devils at the gate of our house.
They might be delighted and let me stay."
Her mother who knew that it was her daughter's last wish, did as Kiku told her.
She prepared all kind of delicacies and served them with bottles of sake that she arranged at the gate.

The red and blue devils, Aka-oni and Ao-oni, soon appeared wearing tiger skin, carrying iron spiked rods in their hands. They came straight to the house:
"Akaoni,this is Kiku's house, isn't it?"
"Yeah, let's take her away, look, she's lying there!"
" Wait a minute, don't you smell something delicious? "
Akaoni went hurrying to the gate and was very delighted to see all the tasty food and sake there.
"Hey, what a treat! Sake! And all those delicasies! "
They both crouched down and grabbing the food with their rough hands, they ate and drank to the full.

"Well, let's get our work done" Akaoni at last said, heading to Kiku's bedroom through the window.
They approached the sleeping Kiku and started to separate her soul ."By the command of The Great King Enma,
we came to fetch you and take you to His Kingdom. Now, get up and follow us."
Kiku answered in a frail voice: "I've been sick for a long time, and I'm getting very weak. Please let me walk slowly, I can't walk as fast as you do."
The two devils saw that Kiku was very thin and weak, they supported her and helped her to get up.
Kiku was trembling all over, she looked so pale and helpless that even the two devils felt sorry for her.
After thinking for a while, Ao-oni came up with a bright idea:
" Do you know of anybody with the same name in town? We can take her away instead of you." he said to Kiku, letting her rest for a while. "We want to thank you for the nice food."
Kiku answered:" Yes, there is a woman with the same name , she lives in the town of Utari, on the outskirts of this village."
The devils asked Kiku to take them there.

They walked through the small sreets lined with pine trees, crossed a few bridges, and arrived at a grocery store.
A widow with two children, by the same name, 'Kiku' owned the shop. She was a shy, hard-working woman popular with the people in Utari.
The devils looked into the store and saw her walking around arranging the goods on the shelves.
They nodded at each other, grabbed their steel rods and started to attack, hitting hard on her head.
The poor woman fell to the ground, and the devils took her soul away with them.
"Come on, let's hurry on to the King of The Dark, Enma". they said, pushing her soul on and on till they arrived before the throne of Enma.
The King fixed his sharp look on the poor woman, then turned to the two devils and shouted:
"This is not the person I wanted! I ordered you to bring the girl Kiku from the village of Yamada.
This is Kiku from the town of Utari. Now hurry back and bring the right soul here, you fool!"
The two devils realized that they couldn't easily deceive the Great Enma. Ashamed and frightened, they turned away at once, and in an instant dashed back to the village of Yamada, leaving the poor soul of the wrong Kiku right there in front of Enma.

Soon the devils came back with the right Kiku, and Emma was pleased to see her: "Yes, yes, she is the one I wanted. From the time she was born, it was written in the Book of Death that she should die at the age of eighteen. Now, take the wrong Kiku back."
So it was that Kiku came back to the town where she lived, Utari.
Three days had passed since she was supposed to be dead, her body had already been cremated. The returning
soul of Kiku had nowhere to go. Crying, she went back to see Enma in Hell:
"Great Enma, thank you for sending me home, but my body is already cremated. How can I get back
to life?"
Enma was quite perplexed. He stroke his black long beard with his rough hands, and after a while, he
called his servants, Aka-oni and Ao-oni, and asked them:
"Is the body of Kiku from the village of Yamada still kept in her house?"
The devils answered: "Yes. Master, the cremation will be held tomorrow morning."
Enma turned to the helpless Kiku: "Good! You can use her body to get back to life."
Then Enma ordered the devils: "Aka-oni, Ao-oni, take her to the village of Yamada and show her where the body is. Help her get into that body."
Kiku thanked Enma for saving her life, and escorted by Aka-oni and Ao-oni she hurried to the house of Kiku of
Yamada.

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