It was a testament to the yokai's Fear that Ame could sense him despite the forest fire. Ame hadn't had much contact with civilisation, but even he knew that the strange fires those humans wielded doesn't mean good for the mountains, so he had led them away from Mononoke-hime's lake. But the chase ended with Ame getting injured, and the wolf shapeshifter was disinclined to join the ranks of ghost hound spirits. It was foolish to enter another confrontation but he didn't know if the arriving yokai was a friend or a foe.
No, not yokai, a fellow halfling.
Despite his exhaustion, Ame stayed on guard as he tried to put the fire out with rocks and dirt, waiting for the halfling to show themselves. After a moment, his nose picked up two more scents indicating full-blooded yokai.
"Kappa, put out the fire," a voice spoke. Ame didn't tense as the yokai's Fear intensified as he was relieved to receive aid. Bodies of water formed above the fires to put them out. Although Ame mourned the senseless destruction of the fire-wielding humans' collateral damage, he was thankful that they'd eventually recover. Turning around, Ame took a long look at the group.
He recognised the Kappa easily, the yokai's hand was outstretched, dealing with the fires. Standing beside him looked like a human donned in a beautiful white kimono, but her rippled golden-ringed eyes reflected her nature. In front of them had all the signs of a human if it weren't for the potent Fear cloaking his person. Amber eyes glanced around their surroundings languidly. Ame was going to express his gratitude before leaving but the yokai spoke his name. "Ame? Kohakunushi informed me."
Ame relaxed his feet, releasing the pressure he put on them. As the river spirit vouched for them, Ame figured they were an ally, one that should be watched. "Yes."
"Who was responsible?" The halfling asked.
Ame lowered his head. "And the one asking?"
"Sandaime of the Nura Clan."
Ame stilled, surprised to find himself facing someone from the top of Japan's supernatural food chain. There was no hint of a lie in the mixed-blooded yokai’s voice or heartbeat. "This mountain is not your territory. May I enquire the reason for your presence?"
It was his female companion who answered. "Several ayakashi baited the Karasumori Kekkaishi heirs to our territory and retreated here. We just finished dealing with them.” She delivered a frosty glare as if Ame had asked for a kidney. “Now answer the Master's question."
Judging on the frost creeping from the ground she stood, Ame figured it was to his benefit to not test her patience. Knowing the Nura Clan's notorious pranks, they might lock him in a butcher's shop, or worse, dump him into one of those Mononokean rooms. "Humans were responsible for the fires, Sandaime-sama. Humans who wield coloured flames."
The Sandaime didn't so much as raise an eyebrow. "Dying Will Flame users? No wonder the mountain took such a beating. Collateral damage is the least of their concerns." At Ame's curiosity of the generalisation, the Sandaime continued, "The underground humans collectively known as the mafia have hoarded Dying Will Flame users for many centuries. Any users born nowadays must have had ties to the mafia at some point. Preserving nature wouldn't usually register in their minds," he mused. "Only humans?"
Ame nodded. "But they're not the concern. It's what they talked about that led to the fight." Ame's tail showed his agitation. "They mentioned the awakening of the Nogitsune."
"Nogitsune," the Kappa's hiss was like water steaming. "We've heard of his work half a century ago in the western lands before he was put out of the picture."
Some of the humans were foreigners. There's a possibility. "They have no other reason to speak of the yako."
The Sandaime sighed. "And here I thought we'd be done after the mess left by the Sousei no Onmyouji. We'd best prepare then. Kappa, go ahead and send out feelers. Yuki-onna, considering our mutual friends have the worst of luck, best tell Hanako-kun to keep them occupied," Nurarihyon's grandson then looked at him. "Do you need any assistance for recovery?"
Ame considered it but declined. The Sandaime accepted it and turned around. "Farewell. Oh, and be wary of True Cross exorcists scheduled to scour this mountain tomorrow. They're a rowdy bunch this time, I hear."
Ame bid the Nura yokai farewell, "May you remain elusive from the Shinigami." Then he disappeared into the forest.