Okay, I'll say I'm not a person who isn't afraid to criticize something, because I am not afraid to do so. Let me start with an obvious problem. You need to separate your paragraphs, or at least do that a bit better. Looking at a massive block of text turns away readers easily. Also, the basic description, and the story itself seemed like a cliche, and mainly just plain a bit like self insertion, although you said that you and your sister imagined many things like this as children.
The things that make it unoriginal is the prophecy thing, where someone is chosen to defeat some great evil, and that the main character(s) must kill a god. Gods(as in omnipotent beings, not some certain god) are usually immortal, and basically and also literally can wipe something from existence with a single blink of their eye. One other thing that may ruin the story is the amount of Japanese influence and such in this story. It easily confused me, and so did the Japanese names. I'm not saying it's bad to make something based on a certain culture, but Japan has been overdone, and the Japanese names and plot seem more like a weaboo(I'm not calling you or anyone here one) or anime fangirl wrote this.
You could also try some spellcheck, and check your grammar a bit to see any mistakes, and you may have used some words incorrectly. Also, it'd be best to separate your story in about 4-6 spoilers if you can. And finally, the details and descriptions are nice, but it'd be nice if it didn't fill up most of the page and make it slow paced.
I apologize to the writers(and only the writers) if they feel any bit offended or upset from my criticism. I originally planned that I should've been a bit harsher, but I not only felt tired, but I also felt that you had potential, compared to most fictional writers on the internet.
There's nothing wrong with having prophesies or evil gods. They have been part of stories for thousands of years for a reason, you know. It's only a problem when an unimaginative person sticks them in and assumes it will make the story good. This story has been written with great beauty and elegance, so the fact that it has prophesies and an evil god is hardly worth mentioning.
To say that the Japanese cultural aspects of the story could be detrimental is absurd. There really is no way for a cultural setting to be "overdone," because the Japanese, like every other nation, have been telling stories set in their own nation since they first became a nation. Besides, Yaidoll actually lives in Japan, so it makes about as much sense to tell her to not set a story in a Japanese fantasy setting as it it is to tell an American or European to not set a story in a European Fuedal fantasy setting. And on that note, I don't think you can call Yaidoll a weaboo, (I'm not saying that you or anyone else did) considering that she lives in Japan.
wow, m speachless, it seems I have a knight in shining armer. lol
thnks a lot for your nice words, I appreciate them a lot and m sure my coo-writers will too as we r helping my sister make this in to her first animation demo. Thanks a lot!
I didn't mean to be so
confrontational to Coglock, but I was only saying what I genuinely felt to be true.
There is no harm int Haha, its ok, no harm in that, u spoke the true and there is nothing wrong about such thing.
Brand new year, let the adventure begin!
Don't worry Yai, we know good cuality work when we see it. We will b your loyal fans.
Always guarding your heart where ever u go.
Don't worry Yai, we know good cuality work when we see it. We will b your loyal fans.
Arigato! though u diserve a lot of credit for this work too, cause u've put up a lot of creativity for it.
Brand new year, let the adventure begin!
This is just a notice for all of u and to remind me that there r 2 weeks left for the 2nd ep to be posted, can't wait!
Pls, read and give me feed back on the story, for those of u how haven't read it yet. lol
Brand new year, let the adventure begin!
"First Divine Light Chapter 2: "Revelations.""
One hundred years ago, when darkness threatened this land for the first time, we joined hands and prayed to our god, Ame No Murakumo, for deliverance. We received power, the power to force back the darkness. We received guidance, to come to the land of Mahoroba and shape it in Ame No Murakumo’s image. We received prophecy, the truth that in a century’s time true darkness would come. From these three gifts we gained knowledge of our selves and our place. Ogami of the sun, Himemiya of the moon, relentless and strong under the august witness of heaven. So it is, so shall it always be.
The man who said that is dead. My father is dead.
I held onto those memories for a few more moments, then opened my eyes. The smooth white ceiling of the Himemiya noble quarters resolved itself into my sight. Is it possible that I am alive?
“So you’re awake. Thank heavens.”
I blinked, tilting my head to confirm what I thought I’d heard. Haruki-sama looked down at me, sitting neatly on a cushion by the head of my futon. “Haruki-sama…” I blinked, trying to push myself. I paused as pain shot through my chest.
She smiled. “Please don’t move just yet. It’s a miracle you’re alive, and I can’t allow you to hurt your body any more, you know.”
I lay back, closing my eyes. Everything was heavy, everything hurt. “What happened? Did you kill that thing?”
“It’s not possible for us to kill it. Yatsu no Onokoshizuchi is a god, after all. But with Ame No Murakumo’s blessing, we wounded it so grievously that it was forced to withdraw and go to ground.”
“So we won?” I said, trying to conceal my disbelief.
“For now, yes.” Haruki-sama looked at me, her purple eyes warm and kind. “It’s thanks to your defiance. Without you, there’s no doubt in my mind that yesterday would have ended with our catastrophic defeat.”
“Not at all.” I looked away, letting my sore eyes focus on the ceiling. “If I had fulfilled my duty, Shuu-sama would have lived and fought with you. Everything is my fault.”
“No one can shield against all things. I myself made plenty of mistakes yesterday. Uchito-sama as well. We just have to live and learn as best we can.”
“You are both great people with a higher purpose than my own,” I said calmly. “I’m just a shield. I failed in that respect. It might be proper to die, but I would rather put myself into your hands. Anything is fine.”
“I know. I am holding you to that vow, you know.” Haruki-sama cocked her head. “Can I command you to forgive yourself?”
“If it was your wish, I would do my best to put my guilt out of my mind,” I said quietly.
Haruki-sama sighed. “Well, I will leave it at that for now.”
“How are my injuries?” I asked cautiously. My head swam as I hazily recalled Haruki-sama’s face, looking down at me in anguish. It seemed so unlikely as to be a dream, but for some reason, I couldn’t shake the image from my mind. Nor our words at that time.
“Your wounds have closed and healed without scars,” Haruki-sama explained. “Even the stab wound in your right breast.”
I blushed despite myself, raising my head and tugging the top of the futon up. My upper body was naked excepted for a great length of white bandages binding my chest, shoulders and arms. My hands explored my shoulders and arms, finding almost no trace of damage except patches of sensitive skin. “Is this your power, Haruki-sama? I was sure my wounds would be fatal.”
“This is our power,” Haruki-sama corrected. “And Ame No Murakumo’s power, of course. Of course, it may take a little while longer for you to fully heal. But if you keep up the pace I’ve observed, you should be fine within the hour. It really is a miracle.”
I looked around as that sunk in, finding no one else in the room. “How long have you been here?”
“I told you yesterday, didn’t I? We will be together from now on.We owe it to the gods.” Haruki-sama nodded languidly. “Don’t worry, I had the servants lay out a futon when I was certain you were going to live. I’m fully rested. Though come to that, I should probably notify the household that you are awake. Please give me a moment.”
I rested my head again as Haruki-sama stood elegantly, walking around me and sliding open the door. She exchanged soft words with someone outside. What is this special treatment? I don’t understand. She had been the one to save me, even if she talked as if it was the other way round. If she hadn’t come to our rescue, the Himemiya would undoubtedly have fallen. But if Shuu-sama is already dead, haven’t we failed regardless? I don’t understand this at all.
“Sorry. Uchito-sama will be notified.” Haruki-sama sat down on the cushion again, folding her legs into seiza. “I’m sure you have a lot of questions, so please ask freely. I will answer everything I can.”
“Thank you,” I said, not sure what else to say. “How are the Ogami? Did they come with you?”
“We were attacked. It must have occurred at the same time as the attack on this location. I barely escaped with my life.” Haruki-sama looked down, her face lined with many cares. “It’s very likely that the Ogami as such are mostly destroyed. The one who did it was the god, Hi no Ashinazuchi. My strength wasn’t sufficient to stop him.”
“You have my condolences,” I said. Those words felt horribly inadequate in this situation.
“Not at all. My losses are yours, and your losses are mine. That’s the meaning of our banners.” Haruki-sama hesitated for a moment, her face saddened. “The Branch Head, Hideya-sama…”
“My father is dead. I saw him die to the lightning before I could reach him.” I said those words with a kind of emptiness. I couldn’t even grieve. There was too much to grieve, too many dead.
Haruki-sama nodded. “I’m sorry. The Himemiya have been decimated, but we have something left. Most importantly, we are still alive.”
I nodded weakly, before forcing myself to sit up, resting the covers on my lap. My aching shoulder muscles protested at the exertion. “What do you intend from now on, Haruki-sama? As I promised, I will lend you all of my strength, no matter what the course.”
“To fight, of course. To awaken Ame No Murakumo and destroy Orochi. The truth passed to us in prophecy has not changed.”
I blinked slowly, looking down at my knees. “I see. But… is that possible, now?”
“It must be possible. No, it is possible.” Haruki-sama looked at me, her eyes unblinking and strong. “I’ll need your help.”
I nodded, closing my eyes in acknowledgement. “Yes.”
Haruki-sama stood again, moving behind me. “How much do you know about our prophecy?”
I looked down at my lap. “Orochi will come, fighting us with terrible powers beyond human potential, and eight will be his symbol and his strength… he will destroy the world… only the Solar Priestess of the Ogami and the Lunar Priest….” I hesitated at this for a second, the profesy had now changed. “of the Himemiya can defeat him, by joining hblood laces under Ame No Murakumo’s power. For that reason, no matter not, I-” My voice trailed off into nothing.
Haruki knelt, sitting behind me. “So I was told as well. I’d expect no less from the Himemiya branch family.” She reached out, delicately touching my back. “I saw it when I was tending to your wounds. The Divine Mark of the Moon.”
“This is Ame No Murakumo’s blessing to Shuuya Himemiya’s direct blood descendants,” I said softly, looking straight forwards. “I have that power. But only the chosen Lunar Priest, his great-grandson Shuu Himemiya, could manifest the true form of the Divine Mark and so gain the power to destroy Orochi. Yesterday, on his birthday.”
I felt Haruki-sama’s warm breath brush against my neck. “When was your birthday, Sayomi-dono?”
My hands gripped the covers tightly. Why am I permitted to be this close to her? “October the 4th,” I said quietly.
“I see.” Haruki-sama touched my shoulder briefly as she stood and returned to her cushion. “Please believe in your power. Undoubtedly in that battle you were utilising Ame No Murakumo’s blessing to an extent I have never witnessed before that point.”
“I don’t know why,” I said. “I’ve never done anything like that before. But it felt like power was flowing through me in a flood, carrying my body with it. If I could conceive of it, my body could match my thoughts… that’s how I felt at that time.”
“Me, as well. There are answers to be found for these questions,” Haruki-sama said sternly. “We will find them. Putting them aside, there is one surprising matter. I was being pursued by Hi no Ashinazuchi when I came here, and yet, he has not been sighted, even though mounted scouts have been set out and have returned from half a day’s ride.”
“That’s fortunate,” I said. “Even though we have you now, Haruki-sama, surely we would have struggled to hold a second attack.”
“Yes. Undoubtedly we were lucky, as if Hi no Ashinazuchi had attacked I would have failed and died without you. But it also makes me uneasy.” Haruki-sama closed her eyes for a moment, frowning thoughtfully. “Unless the god has been defeated, which seems impossible, it may have held back once Yatsu no Onokoshizuchi was defeated. But if that’s the case, they may be more organised and disciplined than I had hoped. Our scouts can only go so far- we haven’t even confirmed the status of the ritual site.”
“Perhaps we could go,” I suggested. “With your power, you can go further into danger than others.”
“That’s true, but if this castle was attacked while we were away it would be destroyed utterly.” Haruki-sama frowned. “We are in a difficult situation.”
I resisted a blasphemous urge to snort. I’m very sure this is far more than just a difficult situation.
There was a knock on the door.
“Please enter,” Haruki-sama said, sitting back again.
The door slid open and a servant stepped in, bowing deeply. “Himemiya-sama begs an audience of Haruki-sama and Sayomi-sama.”
Haruki-sama nodded. “We will be there as soon as we can. Can you move, Sayomi-dono?”
I bowed my head. “I am fine. Please allow me to attend by your side.”
“Help her dress,” Haruki-sama instructed. The servant bowed again.
I stood uncertainly, holding my hands over my breasts. Haruki-sama walked past me, opening the outer door slightly and looking outside. She was still clad in her red and white customary garb, the ritual robes of the Solar Priestess. “It’s a strangely beautiful day,” she noted. “How inappropriate.”
I twitched as the servant picked up a dagger from the table, my vision swimming with the memory of Shuu-sama dying. “Give it to me,” I instructed harshly.
She did so, bowing to me again. She wouldn’t meet my eyes, but somehow this felt different from the usual difference.
I frowned in concentration, cutting through the bandages without the blade touching my skin. They fell to the floor where they were gathered up by the servant, leaving me standing naked and cold in the middle of the room. I passed the dagger back, frowning. “Dress me,” I instructed impatiently, raising my arms to shoulder height.
I flushed deeply, trying to cover my nakedness with my hands. “Are you offended?”
“No,” I muttered, disarmed by her tone. “It’s just… surprising…”
“Why would it be surprising? You have been blessed by the gods”
“Shuu-sama and Haruki-sama are far more deserving than I,” I said, looking down at my feet. “I am simply a warrior, not to be adressed in such a way.”
“Is that so?” Himeko-sama said doubtfully. “I hope I haven’t offended you. I know there are better times than this to appreciate the simple things in the world and the mear fact that our leyend has proven to be a complete hockes.”
“I’m not offended,” I said hurriedly.
Haruki-sama nodded, turning away again. “I’m glad.”
I gratefully accepted the undergarments the servant dressed me with, trying to calm myself down. The Himemiya are warriors before all else. Certainly, no one has ever addressed myimportance . Undoubtedly, this is Haruki-sama’s kindness, but it surprised me. That I should ever been seen as a lunar pristess is a novelty in itself; a disturbing but not entirely unpleasant one.
I carefully put such inappropriate thoughts out of my mind as I was dressed in another kimono. I am a sword. Now, more than ever before, I must think of that and only that.
Finally, I was dressed. The servant bowed as she passed me my bow and quiver. I fitted both into place, frowning as she stepped aside. The Moon sword rested on a square of purple cloth on the floor, fitting snugly into its sheath. I looked down at it hesitantly.
“Take it,” Haruki-sama said softly.
I was cut off when Haruki-sama touched my shoulder again. “You are the most suited to using that sword. Please take it.”
“If that is your wish, Haruki-sama.” I knelt and bowed to the revered blade before taking it, sliding the sheath into my sash to allow for a fast draw. Even if it is blasphemy, I will take that weight onto my shoulders, since it is her wish.
Haruki-sama smiled gently. “Let us go.”
I followed her out, reminding a step behind her. “Yes, Haruki-sama.”
Haruki-sama looked back at me. “Please don’t make me repeat myself, Sayomi-dono.”
I blinked, momentarily unbalanced. Then I stepped forwards, uncertainly walking alongside her.
“Thank you.” She looked forwards again, her expression contented.
I swallowed. Undoubtedly, I am being blessed far beyond my station and honour. I wish I could understand Haruki-sama’s reason, but I don’t dare to ask. Undoubtedly, she knows what is best.
It wasn’t a long walk. Only the left side of the castle was habitable, ever since fire destroyed the entire eastern wing. Two lesser nobles bowed before us, opening the doors to the dojo. We stepped inside, the weak light of autumn flowing through the open screen doors and across the wooden floor.
“Welcome, Haruki-sama, Sayomi-sama.” Uchito-sama bowed deeply, his forehead touching the floor. His wife and my mother both bowed as well, their faces grief-stricken.
I stared at him without understanding, before falling to my knees and bowing myself. “Please raise your head, Himemiya-sama. I am your humble servant.”
“No, it’s alright, Sayomi-sama,” Uchito-sama said softly.
“So I wasn’t mistaken,” Haruki-sama said coolly, still standing. “Please explain, Uchito-sama.”
I raised my head, looking between them. I knew by now exactly what they were saying. No, perhaps I had realised even before this point. When I fought the Orochi, I may have realised. But it was beyond my understanding. Even now, I cannot credit it.
“Please forgive us,” Uchito-sama said. “In our hubris, we have made a terrible mistake. I only pray that it is not too late.”
Haruki-sama just nodded, narrowing her eyes.
“Sayomi-sama, we have deceived you. For long years, we have deceived you, ever since you were born. My son Shuu was not born alone. He had a twin… that twin, born in the same hour of the same day, was you.”
I stared. “That’s impossible.”
“He is telling the truth, Sayomi,” my mother said softly.
“So you are Sayomi-dono’s father,” Haruki-sama said. “And her claim to be the promised child is strong as Shuu-sama’s. Why? What meaning was there in such a deception?”
“No,” I said. “He isn’t my father. Hideya Himemiya was my father. I was Shuu-sama’s shield.” I looked down at the ground. “I don’t understand. If… if you want me to play the role of the Lunar Priest, to inspire our men and defy Orochi, I will do so, but-”
“Stand, Sayomi-dono,” Haruki-sama ordered coldly.
I stood numbly, looking at her for an answer. “Haruki-sama.”
“You are the true Lunar Priest… or rather, the Lunar Priestess. Since yesterday, I was almost sure of that myself.” Haruki-sama smiled weakly. “I know this must be hard to understand, but please accept my words. Your power is as great as my own, your strength and determination real. The radiance I felt when you answered to my words with your power is undoubtedly the true and awakened form of the Divine Mark of the Moon., thus the bonds that unite us are even stronger than those that would have united Shuu-sama and I, for we share the true bond, the sibling bond that the true gods shared.”
I opened my mouth to argue, but couldn’t find any words. Every sensation, every feeling flowed through me once again. Above all, I recalled that sense of strength and purpose, and even superiority. Fighting Mamiko, I could not think of her, the servant of a God, as my superior… no, I was struck in the end only by her inferiority.
“We believed that the other self of Haruki-sama would undoubtedly be Shuu-sama,” Uchito-sama said, his voice thick with regret. “Since it was the man Shuuya Himemiya who founded our family. And for that reason we were struck by a great fear when Sayomi-sama was also born. Twins are a single soul cleaved in two, and the bond of those born of the same womb within the same moment was surely close enough to threaten the infallible connection between the Ogami and Himemiya necessary to summon Ame No Murakumo. For that reason, we regretfully began this deception, thinking it the only way to break that connection…”
“In order to protect our duty, you did such a thing,” Haruki-sama said. “Certainly, it was the height of hubris, to interfere in Ame No Murakumo’s will. But heaven’s providence is with us. The Lunar Priestess is still alive because of your mistake.”
“But Shuu… my son, Shuu…”
“He was also worthy of Ame No Murakumo’s blessing. But this was a sacrifice necessary to protect the world. Have you forgotten, Uchito-sama? Ame No Murakumo is a sword god, and we are sworn to sacrifice everything to destroy his enemies.”
Uchito-sama closed his eyes, bowing again. “Yes, Haruki-sama. I will not question Ame No Murakumo’s judgement. I am your sword.”
“And raise your face as well, Sayomi-dono.” Haruki-sama looked at me, her expression firm. “Shuu-sama died protecting your life. As things have turned out, that was the correct order of things.”
My vision blurred with angry tears as I turned and slapped her.
“Sayomi!” Uchito-sama shouted, shocked.
I myself stared in horror at Haruki-sama’s bowed head. Her hand had caught mine around the wrist and was gripping it tightly. “F-forgive me… Haruki-sama…”
“No, thank you. What I said was indeed unforgivable.” Haruki-sama looked up, smiling despite the tears in her eyes. “So please understand why I will no longer allow you to wish for death as a result of Shuu-sama’s death.”
I nodded weakly, stepping back as she let my hand fall.
“The grievous loss of life is a tragedy,” Haruki-sama said, turning to address the room. “But we must live and fight without regret. No one’s shoulders are broad enough to bear responsibility for the deaths of this time. We must simply struggle for as long as we have strength.”
“Yes, Haruki-sama,” the three said.
“We should be presented to the men,” Haruki-sama said. “When will that be possible?”
“Unfortunately, the robes we prepared were intended for Shuu-sama,” Uchito-sama said bleakly. “We have nothing appropriate for Sayomi-sama.”
Haruki-sama nodded. “Please leave, and bring the most able tailor who remains to wait here. We will pray to Ame No Murakumo for guidance.”
The three bowed to us again before leaving. I watched them go, feeling tense and uneasy. “Such revelations… I can’t accept them,” I said weakly.
“I know. It isn’t something I wish on you. But these are the burdens we bear.” Haruki looked away. “I also lost my parents.”
I closed my eyes, remembering that disaster. An armed band that ambushed the Ogami heir family as they travelled to pray at the ritual site… from that day forwards, the pureblood main line survivors of the Ogami name was Haruki-sama alone.
“I knew, even at that time. It was my fault they died. My title and my name, my duty, they died for that reason.” Haruki-sama sighed. “I know this is unforgivable of me, but please put your guilt aside. We must be stronger than anyone else.”
I nodded, feeling my resolve strengthen with her words. “Yes, Haruki-sama.”
“Haruki-dono,” Haruki-sama corrected. “You are my equal from now on. Please address me appropriately, Sayomi-dono.”
I swallowed. “Yes… Haruki-dono.”
That doesn’t feel right at all.
Haruki-sama smiled. “Thank you. Now, let us pray, and discuss tactics.”
“Discuss tactics?” I queried, following her lead in sitting down.
“That’s right. In my experience, Ame No Murakumo’s blessing descends to those who have their own will. We must address the remainder of the Himemiya with that authority, while having many useful things to say.” She glanced across at me. “You understand, right?”
“Haruki-sama!” I said, shocked.
Haruki smiled. “Haruki-dono. Now, shall we begin?”
We were ready to address them by early in the afternoon. Somehow, they had managed to piece together clothes that almost matched my own… just as long as no one noticed the lack of tassels. I had almost cut mine off before Sayomi-dono stopped me. They hadn’t managed to find blue cloth of the right quality, either, so Sayomi-dono had ordered them to take up and cut the large purple cloth used to cover the floor before the family shrine. It’s certainly sacred. Thankfully, white cloth had been plentiful, and the tailor a genius. Provided no one looked too closely, we would be fine.
The ranks of the castle had been thinned by the massed deaths of the soldier and then a trickle of desertions, then swollen by a steady stream of peasant refugees coming in from all directions. A large group of dependants who would only take up food and not enough soldiers to defend an already-ruined castle… in conventional warfare, this would be a nightmare. In this situation, it would be fatal if we didn’t step carefully. And all of them were formed up in the garden, the well and badly fed, soldiers and peasants, servants and nobles. All of them needed hope.
I glanced across at Sayomi-dono, giving her an encouraging smile. “Are you ready?”
Sayomi-dono nodded absently, not verbalising a reply.
I looked away, feeling worried. Another consequence of that monumental mistake was this- Sayomi Himemiya was raised to be a warrior and a bodyguard, not a leader. The truth of this story is unlikely enough in itself. Though I can’t say it, I’m extremely worried. If she doesn’t convince as the Lunar Priestess, morale will plummet.
“Shall we go, Haruki-sama?” Uchito-sama said, glancing at me.
I frowned. Even he looks only to me. “Yes. We should begin.”
Servants opened the doors and we stepped out into the garden, looking at the watching crowd. Both of us stopped and stood at the top while Uchito-sama descended and kneeled. “With the power and wisdom vested in me by Ame No Murakumo, I acknowledge Haruki Ogami, Priestess of the Sun, and Sayomi Himemiya, Priestess of the Moon. We bow before them, the chosen sword priestesses of the sword god.”
A ripple of confusion raced through the crowd. Slowly at first, they began to kneel and bow, more and more following as they noticed the others doing so. Uchito-sama unfolded and began his explanation- his modified explanation, in which all of this was a plan to protect the true Priestess of the Moon. That sin I’ll take onto my own shoulders. We have no choice but to do this if anyone is to believe in us.
Finally, Uchito-sama fell silent and I stepped forwards. Watch me, Sayomi-dono. I looked at the crowd, feeling fear and excitement mingle and rush through me. This is how a priestess must carry herself. “I am Haruki Ogami, daughter of Chikashi Ogami and Seria Ogami. Yuka Ogami’s blood is in my veins, and her spirit is in my heart. I am Ame No Murakumo’s sword and servant, the Solar Priestess. I will protect you all.”
I fell silent, letting my eyes move across the crowd. Now, Sayomi-dono. It has to be now. Even acknowledging your true parents… it has to be now.
There was a moment’s pause, then Sayomi Himemiya stepped forwards. But when I glanced sideways without moving my head, her head was bowed and her eyes closed. For a long moment, she said nothing at all. I bit my lip, resisting the urge to say something. Please, Sayomi. You have to do this.
Her eyes snapped open and she looked up. “I am Sayomi Himemiya. Daughter of Uchito Himemiya and Kiyumi Himemiya. Shuu Himemiya was my twin brother.” A strong, decisive voice. “Shuuya Himemiya’s blood is in my veins, and his spirit is in my heart. I am Ame No Murakumo’s sword and servant, the Lunar Priestess. I will strike down your enemies.”
She looked across at me. I nodded, and we spoke as one.
“We will defeat Yamata no Orochi.”
There weren’t any cheers or shouts. No one was really in that kind of mood. Even so, we both smiled. We had done what we had to do… no, it was Sayomi-dono who exceeded all expectations. Truly, she is of her family line.
“Please, lend us your power,” I said. “We will need the support of you all if we are to triumph. It will not be easy, nor will it be simple. But we will struggle, we will fight and we will win.”
They bowed again, this time as one.
“We have prayed,” Sayomi-dono said. “Prayed and received the guidance of Ame No Murakumo. Our god is watching over us still, lending us great power. We must have faith and be strong. That belief will bring us through the darkest night and back into the first light of a new and better world.”
I blinked slowly, preparing myself. Uchito-sama would not expect what came next. “Ame No Murakumo has spoken. This great and venerated ground will protect us no longer. We must trust in our faith and move to sacred ground. We must all travel to the ritual site!”
Another murmur rippled through the crowd. Just as I’d expected, Uchito-sama looked shocked and dismayed. I tried not to wince.
“One day!” Sayomi Himemiya shouted, as sharply and harshly as a sword slashing down. “We have one day to prepare! From that moment on, Orochi’s dark carrion demons will surely descend on us. We will travel together. We will leave no one behind. It will be a hard march, and our enemies will surround us on all sides. But we will succeed. We will survive. Ame No Murakumo is with us.”
“Believe in Ame No Murakumo!” I said. “We will triumph!”
Within a moment, day turned to night.
I looked up, feeling a terrifying pressure. A monstrously huge brown-feathered bird shot over us, thrashing wings that covered the entire castle in shadow as it flew past and up into the clouds. “Yokusemi no Mizuchi…”
“Another Orochi God?” Sayomi-dono asked urgently. “It’s too early.”
For a moment, I dared hope it would fly on by without troubling us, but it banked, beginning to turn. “It’s coming. Undoubtedly, it’s coming.”
Sayomi Himemiya nodded, putting her hand on her sword. “What do we do, Haruki-sa… Haruki-dono? How does it attack?”
“I don’t know,” I said, desperation tingeing my voice. “In any case, everyone must take cover inside. We have to deal with this ourselves!”
“Take cover inside the castle!” Sayomi-dono shouted. “All soldiers, take up firing positions! Prepare for battle! Uchito-sama, we’ll leave command to you.”
“I understand,” Uchito-sama said, turning and barking off orders to an extremely spooked crowd.
I grabbed Sayomi-dono’s hand, dragging her towards the castle. “Use your powers,” I instructed. “We don’t have much time.” We jumped deftly upwards, landing on the roof of the dojo and working our way upward towards the top of the keep. “Why are you involving the soldiers?” I asked. “You know they won’t be able to do anything!”
“I know,” Sayomi-dono said. “But we need them to believe they can fight. If they turn their eyes away from this battle, they’ll lose the ability to fight at all. A warrior who can sit by while peasants and children die… someone like that doesn’t exist in this world!”
“I understand,” I said. I landed on the top of the castle roof, turning my head upwards again. “Just in time. Thankfully, it takes a long time to turn.”
Sayomi Himemiya pulled her bow from her shoulder, nocking an arrow. “What do we do? The same as before?”
“No, not yet,” I said, doing the same thing. “When it moves into a hovering position, we’ll have to take a defensive stance and trust we can sustain an exchange. Charging straight in when we don’t know how it attacks is too reckless.”
“I understand,” Sayomi said, taking a broad stance and pulling back the bowstring.
Light blazed around her as she drew on Ame No Murakumo’s blessing, pouring energy into the arrowhead. I did the same thing, my golden light melding into her silver and throwing up a chaotic cloak of light behind us. Yokusemi no Mizuchi crashed down towards us, moving blisteringly fast in a straight line. Too fast. I narrowed my eyes, feeling fear slam through my gut. “Here it comes!”
A dozen giant feathers exploded from its wings as it shot overhead, crashing down towards the castle. We both fired in unison, blowing two apart. By the time we’d redrawn, they were upon us, the castle trembling to the foundations as it was struck with multiple explosive impacts. But a full six of the remaining arrows crashed down on top of us. Two were pierced by our arrows and disintegrated, then we drew our swords and jumped desperately, cutting two more in half with solid lines of light. Sweat dripped down my face as I turned, desperately trying to escape the last projectile crashing down on me. No. No way I could gather enough power that fast-
I threw my sword. The feather directed at Sayomi-dono was cut from two angles at once, yielding to a wave of golden and silver light.
I crashed down as a feather the size of a tree-trunk struck me head-on and exploded, and my sight was stolen from me.
Brand new year, let the adventure begin!
I Really like it So Far Nice Action. BUT It was kind of hard to Follow will all the grammar and misspelled words. I did get lost a few times because i really did know who was talking and some times I was like WHAT? But Overall I like the story and i can see it becoming an Anime or EVEN a Manga. ^_^
Not So Fast Mojojojo
I Really like it So Far Nice Action. BUT It was kind of hard to Follow will all the grammar and misspelled words. I did get lost a few times because i really did know who was talking and some times I was like WHAT? But Overall I like the story and i can see it becoming an Anime or EVEN a Manga. ^_^
Thnx for your opinion. It is a hard reading cause its writen on first person, kind of tricky even to put together, but m glad u like it.
I usually brake it down in to 2 parts so that the readers can differenciate, but it was over due and had no time to go over that, r the grammer, my sister kind of procrastinated this month! lol
but thnx so much for your opinion and for reading.
Brand new year, let the adventure begin!
Glad i could help ^_^
Not So Fast Mojojojo
"First Divine Light episode 3."
Yuka Ogami went up to the mountains, and there she scratched a circle in rough ground with her sword and said ‘I shall not move from this place until the strongest warrior in the land has cast me down, and I shall walk by their side thereafter’. First the mountain brought her food, and then the people who came to see her from below. And with them came countless warriors, warriors of lords who had heard of her oath and sought to cast her down to gain her great power for their own. For ten years she defeated them one after another, until she became the strongest in all the lands. At that time, a little boy came to her and said ‘I will push you from this circle, using only this stick cast from your fire’. And it was so, and he said, ‘I am always with you. Come down to earth and tell of the strongest warrior that you follow, Ame No Murakumo.’
I landed hard and turned in panic, the twinned swords blazing in my hands. Was I too late?
The explosion shook the roof, burned and battered tiles clattering down like rain. I ran straight forwards into the acrid smoke, blowing it away with one sweep of my blade, and stood over Haruki-dono. She was lying still, blood pooling about her feet. “Haruki-dono! Haruki-dono!” I cast the swords down, dropping to my knees and putting my hands on her shoulders. “Haruki-dono!”
“Sayomi-dono. You’re there, aren’t you? I can still feel you.” She moved her head slightly, her eyes firmly shut. Her face and clothes were covered with burns and small cuts, horrible to look at. “I can’t see or hear, but I know you are there. I managed to concentrate on shielding my body, so I won’t die. This will take far too long to regenerate, though. I’m sorry, it’s my fault.”
What is she saying? She protected me, and that’s why she ended up like this. Because I’m still too weak, Haruki-dono was hurt. I gritted my teeth, calling on all my power. Just like she did with me. I could also protect her.
Haruki-dono shook her head violently. “You can’t do that.”
I blinked, stopping more by instinct than conscious acceptance. “Haruki-dono…”
“We have one minute. Even with your help I won’t fully regenerate in that time. If you unwisely deplete your strength you won’t be able to stop the enemy’s next attack.”
I looked down as the truth of those words sunk into my mind. Even now, Haruki-dono can think of the situation with more clarity than I can. “What do we do, Haruki-dono?”
“It should be possible to direct my regeneration. With your help, I will regenerate my eyes and then my arms only. They are our priority. After that, you must spend the remaining time gathering all your strength for the next pass. I will back you up from here with my bow.” Haruki-dono’s voice steadied as she settled into a rhythm of clipped, precise instructions. Meanwhile, her mark began to glow. “The enemy can only use a limited number of projectiles per pass. We are their target. Their accuracy is limited, so some will miss. They are not simultaneous but come in three closely aligned waves. With these assumptions based on the first attack it should be possible to survive.”
My fingers tightened on her shoulder to signify that I understood. I invoked my divine mark, struggling to direct the sluggish flow. Only when I reigned back the intensity could I properly direct it to her upper face, which was as much as I could achieve.
“My sight is returning. Confirm the enemy’s location for yourself. I will see in a few moments.”
I raised my head and looked back over my shoulder. It was halfway through its long turn… too soon. “It must have sharpened its movements…” I knew she couldn’t hear me, of course. My fingers tightened on her shoulder again.
“Ah. I see it.” When I turned back to look, Haruki-dono’s violet eyes were open, looking across the roof and up into the sky. “Not good. Please regenerate my right arm. Anything is better than nothing.”
I nodded; watching its course nervously as it turned gradually about. Within ten seconds at most, it would have fully turned. At that point, it would charge in for another attack. I had to do something.
“The accuracy is low,” Haruki-dono muttered. “Could precision shots deflect them and save energy for the last wave? But that would endanger the castle. And if I didn’t work-”
“We could blow them away,” I said to myself.
Haruki-dono looked at me quizzically, noticing I had said something.
No time left. I moved fast, planting the two swords on either side of me. Next I ran across the roof, snatching up a bow and drawing an arrow from my quiver. I hastily poured my power into it, returning to Haruki-dono’s side and pressing my right hand into hers. Her fingers hesitantly closed around the arrow as I hoisted her up bodily, bringing the bow about her body and placing her hand on the string. She leaned heavily against me, her legs swaying uselessly as she drew on her divine mark. The golden light warmed my arms and face. “You’re using too much power, Sayomi-dono,” Sayomi-dono said urgently. “Annihilating one feather isn’t enough, and we can’t damage Yokusemi-”
I tightened my right hand’s grip round her own, cutting her off. Please, believe in me.
Haruki-dono fell silent, closing her eyes and pushing all of her power into the arrow. It pulsed with violent, angry light, beginning to cut into our hands. Haruki-dono winced, her body twitching slightly.
I looked up, narrowing my eyes as the monster completed its descend. It was coming.
I watched closely. This next exchange would determine whether my intuition was correct, and I’d be able to cross the vast distance between earth and heaven. No, I could. Survive this and I would reach this demon and strike it from the sky in one blow thereafter. Surely.
“I’m sure you know what you doing,” Haruki-dono said, almost playfully.
It screamed, arrows exploding from its wings and shooting straight towards us. My eyes flickered as they picked out and followed the first wave. In the next moment, I took aim and fired. The blazing arrows shot into the sky, flying towards a gap in the middle of the first cluster.
“No!” Haruki-dono said.
“Now!” I shouted, gritting my teeth as pain raced up and down my spine. The arrow exploded, releasing a blast of rippling energy in all directions. The blazing force consumed two of the feathers, while the other two shot in different directions, their edges burning up as they fell. I had already knocked another arrow, and thankfully Haruki-dono understood. She poured all of her remaining strength into it while I held off, aiming and firing. I dropped the bow and stepped back the moment the arrow shot away, grabbing both swords by their hilts and kicking explosively off the ground. An explosion flourished overhead as I flew towards the feathers, taking the two to my left with it. The others were on course, though. I cut through them with both swords, absorbing the energy and dissipating it in an instant. The remaining feathers crashed down. I cut another in half as they passed me, gritting my teeth and turning in mid-air. I threw my arm desperately back, raking another and knocking it off course. The third would miss. The fourth- I summoned my last reserves of strength, throwing the sword of the sun with everything I had left. Reach. Please reach!
The sword pierced the feather five meters above Haruki-dono’s head, destroying it instantly. I closed my eyes as I fell, lacking even the energy to control my fall. At the last moment I let my divine mark flare again, silver light rippling out behind me and cratering the roof. Everything ached.
I took a few moments to gather myself before I staggered to my feet, stumbling towards Haruki-dono. She looked across at me, the sword of the sun on the floor by her side. “Please don’t throw swords at me,” she said, smiling. “I had to catch it with my hand.”
“I’m sorry,” I muttered, falling to my knees by her side and looking up at the bird god. It was flying away from us again.
“That’s alright.” Haruki-dono cocked her head. “My ears have recovered somewhat. Shall we regenerate my other arm?”
I nodded, placing my left hand on her shoulder. “Yes. But after that, I really will have to spend everything regaining my power. I’m at my limit.”
“Funny. So am I.” Haruki closed her eyes as she began to glow again, golden light racing down her left arm. The blood and the burns smoked slightly, beginning to contract. Even the bloodied gash in her robes began to seal itself. “You saved us both.”
“So did you, Haruki-dono.” I raised my head again. “Have your eyes adjusted to the movement of the feathers? They’re fast, faster than we are.”
“I have. I saw them clearly.” Haruki-dono shifted her eyes across to my face. “What do you intend?”
“I think I can end this with the next pass,” I said quietly. “But if I do, you’ll have to hold your fire until I’ve made my jump and shoot down at least two arrows from each barrage. It’s dangerous for you.”
“How do you intend to reach it? It’s too far even if you use everything just on the jump.”
“We don’t have time,” I said evasively. “Please believe in me.”
“So, it’s risky, after all.” Haruki-dono blinked slowly. “I understand. I’ll take care of my side.”
“You can do that?” I asked.
She tapped my shoulder with her left hand, pushing herself up with her right. “I also have a plan, or at least an idea.”
I nodded, kneeling and picking up the sword of the sun again. “I’ll be borrowing this,” I said, striding towards the demon bird. I drove both swords into the roof again, kneeling between them and beginning to gather my power.
“Look after it.” Haruki-dono picked up the bow and imitated me.
I watched as the monster swept through its turn, raising both my arms and gripping the hilts of the swords again. Though this is blasphemy, I will accept the sin. Please give me the power to reach your enemy and strike them down, Ame No Murakumo.
Yokusemi no Mizuchi screeched as it completed its turn and dived towards us once again. Sun glanced off golden-brown feathers, as large as statues and as sharp as swords. Vaster than the castle itself, an unimaginably godly existence that descended on us to pass judgement, it descended, threw its wings forwards, and let fly. I watched the feathers shoot down towards us, scowling in concentration. The speed was higher- was it serious? But that won’t be enough!
I released the wave of power dammed up inside me, the tiles about my feet cracking as I flew straight towards the first barrage.
My foot hit the first feather, crumpling it as power surged through me and threw me onwards. “Shoot!” I screamed, throwing my left hand back and cutting the feather I’d stood on in two. I just managed to catch another with the sword of the moon, taking a slice away and dissolving it, as I barely caught the edge of the feather above. I kicked off, explosions buffeting me as something caught the projectiles below. The last one- too soon! I flipped in mid-air, desperately driving the point of the sword of the sun against it. Silver light rippled down my arm, throwing me upwards and away from both. I completed my flip while bringing the lunar sword into a two-handed grip, pouring my remaining power into the blade. Yokusemi no Mizuchi’s golden eyes fell on me as I shot towards its face, screaming in something like rage. Feathers exploded from its ruff, taking me by surprise. If I took the hits, I could still-
Eight golden bolts of light shot from nowhere, barely deflecting the projectiles away from my body. I slashed upwards with two hands, ripping the left side of its face away as it shied desperately to the right. I looked down with a wavering consciousness. If I could just reach its back, this would be over. But it thrashed its wings violently, expelling a dozen more feathers wildly. I was forced to block, the explosion throwing me back to earth. Dark blood spiralled from my sword in strands as I fell, desperately gathering a trickle of power to cushion my landing. It wouldn’t be enough, not from this height. I knew that from the start.
Something snatched me a foot from the roof, flinging me ten meters to the right before landing with a thump. A warm, comfortable force cushioned my fall before dissipating, leaving me wrapped in strong arms.
“Making me catch you in this state,” Haruki whispered in my ear. “I had to throw myself with my hands, you know. You’re always so reckless.”
“Sorry,” I whispered, for the want of anything better to say. I was utterly drained, almost beyond thought. “Your sword…”
“We’ll find it. Things that rise to heaven will then come to earth. As you learned.”
I nodded, closing my eyes. “How are your injuries?”
“Manageable. I’ll begin to regenerate my lower body now.” Haruki-dono’s voice was quiet, laden, tired, just like my own. “And you?”
“I’m not sure,” I said. “The last explosion tore me up.”
“I’m sorry. I couldn’t stop that.” Haruki-dono’s arms shifted slightly to a more comfortable position. “Though I achieved what I set out to do… firing arrows without arrows. Since we’ve only just gained the true form of the marks, will we be able to do even more amazing things with them in future, I wonder?”
“That would be convenient,” I said, lacing my hands together. Maybe I was hurting her, but she would say something. I was so tired I didn’t mind remaining just like this.
“What about Yokusemi no Mizuchi?” Haruki-dono asked. She sounded like she’d just remembered the demon bird existed.
I forced my eyes open, looking up at the sky. The demon bird was spiralling upwards in a circle, flapping its wings. “It looks like I used overly strong words…”
“We have time now. I don’t think it will approach again until it has repaired the damage you inflicted.” Haruki-dono released her divine mark, golden light flowing down her body. “We have to hope we do that faster. I have another idea.”
“I’ll do everything I can,” I said. “What do you have in mind?” I drew on my power, thrusting it down into Haruki’s body.
“Prayer.” Haruki pinched my shoulder. “Don’t do that. Tend to your own wounds.”
I found myself too tired to argue with either statement.
Above us, Yokusemi no Mizuchi settled into a long, slow circular flight, holding its position. Its vast presence cast a dark, roving shadow on the castle below.
I sat in a lotus position on the roof, closing my eyes and concentrating hard. I’d healed my legs and most of my minor injuries, so now I was simply trying to regain as much of Ame No Murakumo’s grace as possible. Using my new technique was extremely draining, even relative to everything else. If I’d tried this two days ago, I’d have fallen into unconsciousness long since.
Four notable warriors stood guard on all four corners of the roof, watching the brooding shadow of Yokusemi no Mizuchi on my behalf. Just as I’d feared, the monster hadn’t gone anywhere. Like this, we would be pinned down in the castle; unable to escape… that would be fatal in the long term, no matter how many times we turned the bird itself aside. Somehow, it had to be destroyed.
There was a slight scrabbling sound as another believer clambered up to the roof, approaching me slowly. This one was a stronger, more defined point in my consciousness than the average- probably a marked member of the Himemiya family. “We have retrieved your sword, HAruki-sama. And a message from Sayomi-sama- she believes things are going as you anticipated, though she can’t be certain how far the process will go, or how long it will take.”
“I understand.” I opened my eyes and stood, holding out my hands to receive the sword of the sun. “Thank you for your message.”
She bowed, passing me the sword. Long blue hair fell down her shoulders over a snowy white kimono. Two swords were sheathed at her belt, one long and one short. “Ame No Murakumo be with you, Haruki-sama.”
“He is always with us,” I said automatically, frowning slightly. “You… you’re Sayomi-dono’s mother, aren’t you?”
“I am Asuna Himemiya, Haruki-sama,” the woman said, kneeling and bowing again. “Though she was for a long time my adoptive child, Sayomi-sama is not my daughter.”
I smiled softly, looking down at her. “Please raise your head. I would like to see your face.”
Asuna Himemiya stood and stepped back, carefully returning my gaze while keeping her face slightly lowered. “Is there anything I can do to help you, Haruki-sama?”
“I am fine, for now,” I said. “But you are bearing a heavy burden of grief. I wish I could do something to help…” I forced another smile, lowering my head slightly. “Though I know life is not that simple. Your loss isn’t something words can replace.”
“My husband died honourably, as is expected of a warrior of the Himemiya blood,” Asuna Himemiya said clearly. “And my dau- Sayomi-sama has been elevated beyond all expectations. Everything is in accordance with Ame No Murakumo’s intentions, I am sure. It is not my place to question that.”
“You’re right, of course,” I said. “Even at a time like this, he is with us. Thanks to Sayomi-dono’s power, we have been able to achieve victories that would be impossible for me alone.” I tilted my head, trying to find the right words. “I also know that Sayomi-dono hasn’t changed in her heart, though she professed other sentiments aloud. I am sure that for her you remain the only mother she can acknowledge.”
“It is best if she forgets me. That is her place now. Her true place in this world.” Asuna Himemiya looked straight at me for the first time. “Everyone has lost someone, and those deaths will not stop. If I, a noble warrior of the Himemiya, falters, who will stand?”
Just like her daughter. I nodded. “You are wise and dutiful. Please continue to be such an exemplar hereafter.”
“Yes, Haruki-sama.” Asuna Himemiya bowed her head again.
“Can you use it?” I asked quietly. “The divine mark?”
“Of course. It is an ember compared to your august power, Haruki-sama, but I am a descendant of Shuuya Himemiya.”
“Then please remain here. I may need your power to protect Sayomi-dono and the others below us, if it comes to that.”
“As you command, Haruki-sama.”
I’m beginning to feel Sayomi-dono’s power rise clearly below us. I can only hope Yokusemi no Mizuchi can’t feel the same thing. But increasingly I can also pick out the mote-like presences of the hundreds of people praying below, tangled together and still. Not even the bird-god’s shadow blots them out. Is this because they are praying? Or have my senses simply become sharper and finer? It’s difficult to understand my new self, now that Ame No Murakumo’s blessing is flowing through me so surely and strongly. I’m capable of many things.
I drove my sword of the sun into the centre of the roof, twisting it to hold it in place. Then I closed my eyes and clapped my hands in prayer, gathering power from my divine mark. My hands clasped the sheath and I fed a large amount of Ame No Murakumo’s strength into the blade. It pooled and gathered, before spreading out in accordance with my will, filling the cracks between the tiles with a faint golden radiance that lingered. The sentries shifted uncomfortably, apparently aware of the change. I realised with a start that I’d casually and unthinkingly put more strength into the roof than would even be possible for an ordinary believer, or even a marked family member. This power is completely different, after all.
“It’s diving!” I looked urgently upwards in response to the shout, seeing Yokusemi no Mizuchi begin a steep descent. “The demon is moving to attack!”
I nodded sharply, taking my bow from my back. “I understand. Please don’t attack until there is no other option. Leave this to me.”
“Understood,” the five warriors said in unison.
Was it because of Sayomi-dono’s ever-rising presence? Or my trap with the sword? Or has it simply finished regenerating? It’s impossible to know. Perhaps the Orochi disciple became impatient or wondered what we were planning. In any case, I have to hold it off until Sayomi is ready, by myself this time. That won’t be easy. But I can do this.
I began by drawing a solid arrow and charging it, waiting for the first volley. This time it let fly from a far greater distance, abruptly turning up and away as fast as it’s lumbering body could move. I focused, letting fly and blowing two of the feathers away. I’d already drawn my bow back when the first arrow hit, this time round a narrow bolt of golden light. If I discipline my mind properly, I can create the charge without the weapon. I fired several shots in succession, gritting my teeth as I deflected five more feathers from their paths. Two more of my shots missed. My breath came fast as I brought the bowstring back one more time. This time, I formed a large, thick beam and sustained it, firing it while maintaining a tail of golden light joining its base to my fingers. Twenty meters from the feathers the tail snapped and it split into eight, shooting upwards. Six of the shots hit, deflecting most of the feathers, but one remained just on course enough to shoot down towards the corner of the roof. I gritted my teeth, using an actual arrow and pouring my power into it. Too late to deflect it, I’d have to destroy it outright. I pulled the string back, taking momentary aim.
There was a flash of light a moment before I fired, the feather splitting into four pieces and exploding a few meters above the roof. Asuna Himemiya landed gracefully, sheathing both her swords. “Please rest easy, Haruki-sama. I can handle a single projectile of that level myself.”
I lowered my bow, retrieving Ame No Murakumo’s power from the arrow and wiping the sweat from my brow. “That jumping slash technique, it’s just like Sayomi-dono’s style.”
“Of course. I did teach her it myself.” Asuna Himemiya lowered her head. “Please do not be offended if I say that I had the advantage in our spars even to this day. Of course, now she is far beyond me.” Her breathing was heavy, despite her bold words. I hope she wasn’t forcing herself.
“As I would expect of the Himemiya family,” I said politely. “You are truly skilled.” Inwardly, I was surprised, though. I’ve only really seen her fight using the true form of the divine mark, but Sayomi’s technique is truly excellent. No, if it’s swordplay we are considering, she may have a small edge even on me. If Asuna Himemiya can match her daughter, she is skilled indeed.
Another messenger scrambled up to the roof. “Sayomi-sama says she is ready,” he said urgently. “She doesn’t believe she can control the gathering power much longer.”
“I understand. Tell her I will open the way in one minute at the latest. Everyone else, please vacate this area now. Even you, Asuna-sama.”
I looked up as the warriors scattered, jumping back down the sides of the keep. In an ideal world, he would come to us, Yokusemi no Mizuchi. I will do everything I can to encourage him. I raised my bow and arrow again, strengthening the shot as much as I could. My golden light flickered uncomfortably, growing ever harder to control as points of light were stolen away by the monstrous amount of Ame No Murakumo’s force beneath me. If it or the Orochi disciple notices that, things will become even harder. I did everything I could to block the presence out, radiating everything I had into the arrow, which began to tremble. Gritting my teeth, I fired a shooting star that slammed towards the demonic bird high above. It rolled aside with surprising grace, the shot catching it at the very edge of its left wing. Then it turned and dived towards me.
I smiled as beads of sweat rolled down my face, shouldering my bow and placing both hands on my sword, impaled in the roof. I waited as long as I dared then twisted, releasing the accumulated power. The roof exploded, tiles disintegrating and swooping inwards. I descended gracefully, landing on the ground just behind Sayomi-dono. “Fire when you like,” I said, releasing the last of my golden aura and weaving it into the monstrous pillar of light.
Sayomi-dono nodded, shifting her stance slightly. Blood and silver light streamed from her right hand, thick threads of energy feeding into a vast spiritual weapon. A white bow the size of the castle gates embraced and barely controlled a projectile as large as a forest god’s tree. The collective faith and will of the castle’s remaining occupants, shaped into an incandescent spear of light. The floor and walls around us cracked violently, pieces of stone breaking off and sliding into the glowing mass. “Yes.” Her voice was weak.
Yokusemi no Mizuchi released its feathers before twisting, thrashing its wings with a sudden urgency.
Sayomi released the attack. It surged upwards at a blisteringly fast speed, dragging the giant spiritual bow in its wake and plunging upwards. The feathers disintegrated the instant they were hit by the rising wave. Yokusemi no Mizuchi screamed loudly, desperately trying to twist out of the way. The beam struck it in the left wing rather than the chest, tearing most of it apart and exploding chaotically in all directions. I screamed as a sudden, agonising pain shot through my head, swaying on my feet. The bird god fell from the sky, spiralling hopelessly towards us before veering off and crashing down somewhere beyond our sight. I breathed out as the pain in my head lessened, smiling with relief. Undoubtedly, it would dissolve just like its compatriot, if not dead, then at least beyond our sight and care for now.
“It worked. As I’d expect of you, Sayomi-dono.” I turned to congratulate her.
Sayomi swayed on her feet then toppled. I ran to her side, catching her just in time. Sweat and blood mingled on her face, and her hands were ruined with vicious cuts and burns. I laid her carefully down, laying my hands on her shoulders and preparing to heal her, only to sway light-headedly myself. It looks like I’d also gone a little further than is healthy. I managed to lie down on the floor besides her before I lapsed into a deep, heavy sleep.
It was late in the evening that day, after we’d rested and healed ourselves, that we met with Uchito-sama and the other leaders of my family in the dojo. Once again they bowed to us. This time, I didn’t bow back. Whether that was tiredness or a growing hubris, I can’t say. I’m still uncomfortably aware of the degree to which my world has changed, but nothing and no one will wait for me. I need to move on with my own strength.
“We are packed and ready to leave,” Uchito-sama said. “If you think it wise. I have planned the route of march and the logistics to the best of my humble abilities. I must warn you, it will be difficult to travel with the old and the young alike. It might be better if the civilians remain under a moderate guard here at our castle while the soldiers march with you both to the ritual site, priestesses.”
“While I have a very great respect for our soldiers, this is a battle only we two can truly fight,” Haruki-dono said. “That’s why we must stay together.”
“The attacks are targeting you, however,” Uchito-sama said. “It is possible that distancing yourself from the civilians may protect them.”
“That would underestimate the enemy’s ruthlessness and resolve,” Haruki-dono said. “I suspect that any such place, potentially a safe harbour for us, would be destroyed out of hand. They have the power and the intent. Remember, our enemy wants nothing less than to end the world.”
“I also agree with Haruki-dono,” I said calmly. “Without intelligence on safe locations or enemy movement, splitting our forces is unwise.”
“As Ame No Murakumo commands,” Uchito-sama said. “But I do intend to leave a skeleton garrison behind, in order to deceive the enemy that we are still here for as long as possible. In addition, they will be able to redirect any more refugees arriving at the castle or at the least to protect them with their own power. Any objections?”
“That is a good idea,” Haruki-dono said.
I also nodded. “Provided it is no larger than necessary.” It’s a strange thing, to be assenting or blocking suggestions from Uchito-sama. Two days ago, no, a day ago, his words were my law.
“Then it shall be so.”
“I am commanding the skeleton garrison,” a voice said quietly.
My heart twisted at the voice. “Mother!”
My mother bowed deeply. “I volunteered for this duty, Sayomi Himemiya-sama. Please allow this humble servant to enact your will.”
“But…” I tried to find words to frame my objection, looking to Haruki-dono for assistance.
“Are you sincerely volunteering for the good of our quest, and not because of family pressure or other secondary concerns?” Haruki-dono asked quietly.
“Yes, Haruki-sama. As the only remaining member of the Himemiya branch family, it is only natural for this duty to fall to me.”
Haruki-dono looked down, frowning softly. “I understand. I approve of your choice.”
“Haruki-dono!” I said, staring at her.
“We already agreed to the principle of this sacrifice,” Haruki said. Her eyes were unwavering despite the regret in her voice. “It’s not permissible for personal feelings to interfere any more.”
“That’s dishonest!” I said, finally managing to find words. “Hiding this from us can only be deliberate, so-”
“Please. Let me do this, Sayomi-sama.” Mother closed her eyes. “It is my duty to die to protect the child of the head family.”
I bowed my head, overwhelmed by it all. “I won’t express an inappropriate opinion. Do as you will.”
“Then it shall be so,” Uchito-sama said quietly.
Brand new year, let the adventure begin!
Shuuya Himemiya crossed the lands, and there he brought his house and his army and conquered all who came before him, saying ‘I shall not rest until a great leader blessed by heaven has defeated my soldiers, and that man I shall serve thereafter, his imperial sword.’ And he fought countless battles, defeating great men and routing all that challenged his host as they coveted his power. For ten years he bestrode Japan, an undefeated titan who refused to take the throne. At that time, an old woman came to him and said ‘I will rout your great army, using only the ribbon that ties my hair.’ And it was so, and she said ‘I am always with you. Ascend to heaven and tell of the wisest leader that you follow, Ame No Murakumo.’
“Why did you let something like that happen?”
“We had no choice.”
“We had a choice,” I spat, feeling passion tremble through my body. “We’re the Miko. We always have a choice. But you left me in a corner by deciding that all by yourself.”
“And if we’d interfered? What then?” Haruki shot back glaring at me. “We can’t back down from our decisions for personal reasons. We have the confidence of leaders far older and wiser than us because of Ame No Murakumo’s blessing. That’s all. If we undermine that-”
“What will happen? Nothing.” I slammed the door behind us shut, walking forwards. “That’s all a sham. I believed it, you know, but you’ve never believed. Uchito-sama doesn’t believe. If we acted for personal reasons, they’d believe we’re just teenagers, not the voices of a god… those leaders believe that anyway! Just keeping up this play-act is all they do!”
“I believe!” Haruki said, stepping backwards defensively. “My belief is different from yours, though! I’m sincerely trying to be a good priestess. If you’re the one who is questioning our best decision for your own human emotions, you’re the one whose faith is weak.”
“Yes! Yes, my faith is weak. It was so strong when I was a designated pawn in the right place, protecting Shuu-sama’s place.” I stepped over the place where’d I’d slept, and been nursed to health, twice now in two days. The thought almost gave me pause. “Wouldn’t it have been convenient for you if things had worked out right? But I know what your leaders do… they just manipulate us. Even you. Getting me to go along with you, and deceiving all our proud warriors, that isn’t the way of the Ame No Murakumo I believed in!”
“This and that are different,” Haruki said. “I know it was a horrible thing, but I had no place in that! What is, is, and we have to live on and fight no matter what with what we have. That is Ame No Murakumo’s way! And I’ll lie for that cause, and deceive people. My deceptions give your family hope and the strength to fight. I won’t apologise for that.”
“He did! Uchito did. He abandoned me to his brother, and now he needs me back. So he’s killing off my mother for that cause! And you’re telling me this and that aren’t connected?” I slammed my palm against a wooden beam, cracking it. “Don’t screw with me! You’re just allowing yourself to be manipulated by him.”
“Uchito-sama would never do anything like that! This is just what we have to do! Your mother is strong, amazingly strong, and there’s no better choice. You agreed yourself that this is necessary. And we’re all promised to Ame No Murakumo, without exceptions to that rule. Won’t you hurt your warriors more, leaving them all to die except for your mother? Naïve!” Haruki looked straight at me, eyes trembling. “Your family exists to lead from the front, not the reverse. That’s the way of Ame No Murakumo.”
“So what about Uchito? Why is he always standing behind us?” I demanded. “He should have the pride and dignity to fight his battle himself.”
“He’s still necessary as a leader. To protect his life, the branch family exists for that reason.”
“I’m sick of it,” I said, turning away and facing the door. “Your ‘reasons’, your ‘meanings for existence’. ‘Necessary’ and ‘unnecessary’ people neatly split like that. I’ve had more than enough of that. I was an unnecessary person too, and now I’m not. I finally understand what you were saying. I’m the Lunar Priestess. There isn’t anyone left to bow to. Just Ame No Murakumo.” I closed my eyes. “The God I believe in doesn’t think of people like chess pieces. No one would worship that God. Nor was it that banner I fought for.”
“Then can you do it? This power alone doesn’t make you a worthy priestess. Can you really protect everyone while holding onto such soft, easy ideals? It’s not possible. Sacrifices are necessary! You know that too.”
“I’ll bear them all myself,” I said, gritting my teeth. “I can do that much with my power.” I moved to leave.
“What are you going to do?” Haruki demanded tautly.
“I’m still holding my promise to you,” I said shortly. “That hasn’t changed, I’ll remain by your side. We’re still destined to fight and destroy Orochi. But I won’t play at being equals while deferring to your every decision any more. There are some things that must be protected, no matter what you say.”
“That’s fine,” she replied, her voice terse. “Do as you like. Just act responsibly. Don’t use your authority to assert a worse whimsy than Uchito-sama’s commands.”
“Is that even possible?” I snapped, stepping through the sliding door and slamming it behind me.
I managed to get halfway down the corridor before I collapsed against a wall, breathing heavily. I leaned against it, closing my eyes and trying to regain my composure. My world’s been broken slowly, but this evening was the last raindrop to fall, shattering stone. My parents, my lost brother, my twin, the deceptions of the Head Family, my sudden elevation and sudden battles, everything… the world, the god and the people I believed in are altogether different from what I had thought them to be. No, I had believed in them, and they had betrayed me. Uchito-sama- as if I could accept that man any more. My reverent respect has turned to ash, and continuing to pretend I believe in him is just a hollow act, put on for the convenience of how things should be. Yes, that’s the worst part of all this. I’ve always been earnest. I’ve always been serious. I’ve always been honest. I’ve always believed. They encouraged that in me, bred it into me, forced it into my parents who shaped it in me. I sincerely felt that the Head Family was the same, that such a sincerity was the quality of the Himemiya and Ame No Murakumo. I was wrong, and now I stand by their side- no, above them- the Head Family is asking me to do the same thing. To maintain that pretence. To tell small lies to please the earnest people. To do to my subordinates what was done to me and smile. I’m sick of it.
I pushed myself up, and went to find my mother. Eventually, I found her, standing in the ruins of the keep’s top floor.
She looked serenely up at the sky, watching the sun setting slowly in the sky. “What is it, Sayomi-sama?”
“Don’t call me that,” I said, approaching slowly. “I’m still your daughter. I’m not right or worthy for my role. I’m sick of being exalted.”
“It is far worse to be powerless,” mother said, turning and looking at me with cold blue eyes. Her swords shifted slightly as she moved. “You are what you are. You must bear with it.”
“I know,” I said, composing myself. “But that’s why I can say this without hesitation. I’m not going to let you stay behind.”
“I thought that was already a decided matter,” mother said coolly.
“I’m overturning those decisions,” I said. “Whether you consider that my word as the Lunar Priestess, or my own selfish emotions, either is fine. There isn’t anyone who can stop me, so I won’t let Uchito-sama use you as a sacrifice. That’s all.”
“Using me? I volunteered for this duty myself,” mother said. “I said that already. This is my duty.”
“Your duty to the main family? That’s only another way of being used. They used us at their convenience, forcing me on you and taking me away. I went along with that as well. But not any more.” I narrowed my eyes. “Uchito, the Priestesses’ wisdom, our disdainful superiority and cold sacrifices, I can’t believe in those things. The Ame No Murakumo I believe has never been a god of such lies.”
“So your heart’s wavering,” mother said, turning her head away. “That’s natural. You’ve come a long way these past two days. Why don’t you tell me clearly, then, why do these marks on our back exist?”
“They’re the marks of Ame No Murakumo’s blessing,” I said automatically. “They show we are chosen in his eyes and that his power flows through him.”
“No. At least, not in my opinion.” Mother turned to face me again. “These marks are brands.”
“Brands?” I asked, momentarily confused.
“Yes. You should know it better than anyone else does, our power only brings greater expectations. You and that girl are the ones who can fight the demons. Trapped by destiny, thrashing, struggling, expected to fight and bleed with your own power to protect everyone without wavering or hesitating, even for a moment, and without ever losing. That’s why you have fought until your body broke, even though you weren’t prepared for this destiny. You are carrying that brand.”
“For that reason, my power exists?” I asked cynically.
“Yes. This is a divine duty.” Mother frowned, her hair blowing slightly as wind swept round us. “As nobles and as the chosen of Ame No Murakumo alike, we must all accept the mantle of leaders. That includes bearing the heavy weight of those who die for us, believing in us and everything we fight for. Birth and blood, the power fused with our bones, all of it can only have meaning in that way. That is what I believe.”
“I used to believe the same thing, but that’s only what they want us to think,” I said. “Now I know how the main family have toyed with us and lied with us! They treat our sincerity was contempt and use us freely. I can’t accept them as worthy leaders.”
Mother sighed slightly, smiling and closing my eyes. “Certainly, they have used us. But that is also a burden that rests heavy on their hearts. I know that well. And I don’t mind being used.”
“If that’s the case, I have no choice,” I said, putting my right hand on the hilt of my sword. “I don’t know very much about what is and isn’t wrong, but I know there are some things that can’t be forgiven. I won’t let you die for their convenience. Not even for my convenience.”
“I see. Then come.” Mother put her hands on her swords. “I will have one last chance to beat discipline into your unruly frame.”
“Don’t mock me!” I drew my sword and charged, releasing a thick wave of power from my divine mark.
Mother simply stood with her hands on her blades, lowering her stance. Our blades clashed in an instant, silver light flashing through their air between us.
My sword flipped into the air, rotating slowly before impaling itself quivering in the floor. I stepped back, my expression thick with shock, as my mother returned her swords to her sheaths. “How… how could this be…”
“How can you be surprised?” mother shouted. “Charging me with such a purposeless sword, you didn’t even put your blessing into the blade! I don’t recall raising such a half-hearted, weak daughter!”
I fell to my knees. “I don’t understand.” I thought I was determined. I thought my mind was made up after the argument with Haruki. But, why? Why can’t I shake these doubts that grip my heart, doubts and regrets that hold me back?
“Is it heavy, Sayomi?” mother said more quietly, watching my face. “The weight of trying to bear everything? Leaders need subordinates, and everyone needs people to trust and believe in. You’re this weak fighting by yourself. Even if you found conviction, deciding everything for yourself and walking alone would be unbearably lonely and dark.”
I put my hands on the floor, bowing my head and staring at the broken tiles. Yes, it was here I fought to control that bow, bleeding and fighting through the pain, because I could feel everyone’s spirits with me. And even now, this isn’t my real self… fighting with Haruki, fighting with mother, despising my family… how could I ever be wholehearted about that? It would be much better, if only they could be people I could smile about and believe in again.
Mother knelt, offering her hand. “Rise. You aren’t cutting a very dignified figure, Sayomi-sama.”
I raised my face, managing to smile. “Yes.”
She lifted me up. “Uchito needs us. Undoubtedly, too, he would die for you. If it all possible, please use your power to prevent that from becoming necessary.”
“Even after everything he’s done to us?” I said. “I find that hard to accept, even now…”
“Yes. We have always protected him, after all. Shall I tell you a secret?” Mother crossed the floor, stopping in front of my sword. “Your father was always the more blessed one. Ame No Murakumo’s power was undoubtedly stronger in him.”
I stared. “That’s impossible. Then-”
“Your father told your grandfather clearly when we married. Uchito is undoubtedly the most suited to lead the Himemiya family, because Shuuya Himemiya’s true nature is stronger in him. So he said.” Mother pulled the sword of the moon from the ground. “We are promised to Ame No Murakumo, but we are not defined entirely by Ame No Murakumo. Remember that, Priestess or not.”
Mother approached, offering me the sword. “He can be arrogant, and he makes mistakes. He is only human, after all. But he has vision and determination, and his intelligence and subtlety are vital to our family. Compared to him, I have been the first to abandon hope, even though he lost his precious son.”
I took the sword, staring at her. “What do you mean, mother?”
“This castle is as far as I can go,” she said enigmatically, turning away. “I understand that now. Ever since Nijiya died, I’ve rediscovered my own limits.”
“You have to live,” I said, sheathing my sword. “Even if it sounds childish, since you’ve made me turn back, you can’t betray me any more. No matter what it takes, no matter what you have to do, you have to live, mother.”
“Don’t worry. I will live on, for your sake at least.” Mother closed her eyes. “This world won’t change for me, though. Please make a better world with your power, Sayomi. A world where we aren’t necessary.”
I bowed and walked away, leaving her to her thoughts. I knew she still wanted to be alone. So we walked back with a heavy heart, still burdened by my troubles. If she herself accepts it, I have no choice, and I’ve certainly made mistakes. I’m going to have to begin by apologising to Haruki-dono, at least. I said too much. No, far too much. She’s going to be very angry with me.
I paused before the door when I arrived, swallowing nervously. My fists balled. Just bow down and apologise. That was enough, right? We didn’t have time to hate each other. My stomach twisted at the thought. I pushed down my hesitation and slid open the door.
I froze as I caught a sob, abruptly cut off. No way.
I stepped through, closing the door behind me. Haruki-dono was crouched in the corner, her legs sprawled untidily across the floor. She looked up at me, smiling weakly and looking down. “Sayomi-dono… I didn’t particularly want you to see this face…”
Tears were running down her cheeks.
I walked hesitantly forwards, falling down and leaning against the wall next to her. “Haruki, I’m sorry.”
“No, I’m sorry. This is all my fault.” Haruki’s hands closed about her knees, crumpling her robes. “Thinking I was treating you as an equal, when all I was doing was patronising you and taking your subservience for granted… never considering your feelings… trying to decide everything for myself just like that, it’s all my fault. Saying I owned you, too. It makes me sick to think about it.”
“I was the same, though,” I said softly.
“I’ve been too weak and naïve, leaving everything difficult to you and then complaining about your decisions just to gratify myself. If I’d told you my ideals clearly at the time, I know you’d have listened. I just wanted to leave the burden of leading just to you.” I looked up at the ceiling. “It’s not true that I can’t do anything… but I can’t do everything either… I’ve been doubly selfish, first in not caring about myself, then caring only about myself. I’m the worst.”
“That’s not true at all!” Haruki said urgently. “You’ve been fighting so hard to protect everyone else, and you’re the one who remembered their feelings! Compared to that, I-”
I let my head slip sideways, resting it on her shoulder. “That’s enough. I’m tired. We’re both just teenage girls, right? Haruki-dono, too.”
Haruki relaxed slightly, leaning back as well. “Mm. I always try to forget that, though.” She wiped her eyes on her sleeve, before looking down uncertainly. “Um. About your mother. I still don’t think it’s for the best, but if you insist, we can talk to Uchito-sama. We have an important duty, but your feelings are important as well.”
“It’s fine,” I said weakly. “Mother already beat that out of me. But, she also promised to live.”
“I see.” Haruki looked at me. “I think it’s for the best.”
I closed my eyes.. “We should sleep. We’ll be moving in the night, after all.”
But we didn’t move from there for some time, even so.
We began the march several hours into the night, frustrated by the difficulty of getting everyone moving coherently. Even with Uchito-sama’s guidance, the majority of the column isn’t trained for this. Sayomi-dono slipped off early on, presumably to see her mother off, and I let her go. The quarrel was still unpleasantly fresh in my mind. We both have a long way to go. It’s worth being reminded of that. But now we’re travelling in the centre of the column, ready for battle. We’ll definitely fight together again.
We were marching by torchlight along a forest path when I first felt something like a presence. I stopped my Estelle suddenly, looking at Sayomi-dono. “Can you feel it?”
Sayomi-dono nodded. “Yes. One of the Orochi Gods?”
“Maybe.” I turned and looked forwards. “Uchito-sama! We’ve detected a malignant presence. It’s possible it belongs to the enemy, but it’s currently distant and faint.”
Uchito-sama nodded. “I understand. Please tell me if it comes close to us.”
We concentrated and tracked its movements as best we could as it progressed. It seemed to be moving around in front of us at great speed, almost as if it was zigzagging… but undoubtedly, it was also moving forwards, straight towards us. It came closer and closer. Within half an hour, it was crossing the forest in front of us, radiating darkness.
“Control your mark,” I advised, gritting my teeth. “It’s coming, Uchito-sama.”
“I understand,” Uchito-sama said, raising his hand and signalling with his hand. The signal passed between the soldiers across the column and it split, racing for cover on both sides of the forest. We rode to the left, reaching the cover of the trees as it approached fast.
“We should identify it, if we can,” Sayomi-dono suggested, dismounting and touching her horse briefly to still it. “That would help us, no?”
I nodded, following her and telling Estelle to wait before turning to face one of the trees. “We’ll be right back.”
We jumped up the nearest tree, landing close to the top and taking cover under the branches. Within seconds, the evil presence intensified, rushing straight towards us at great speed. It felt like an overwhelming pressure. Sweat dripped down my face. Surely we’d already been discovered, we should hide, no, flee. Defiance was useless, and it was naïve to think we could hide from such a monstrosity. This was a hopeless situation. And then it came into sight, a massive humanoid demon with glowering eyes, dark skin and white teeth, long, twisted pinions jutting from its back and propelling it rapidly through the air. Green light pulsed visibly through thick veins across its body, the only clear sight as its huge bulk blocked out moon and stars, casting us all into darkness. Then it was gone almost as soon as it had come, flying past us and onwards beyond our sight.
I wiped sweat from my brow. “Take no Yamikazuchi… but what an overwhelming force of presence…”
“It definitely feels different from the others,” Sayomi-dono admitted hoarsely. “Is it much stronger?”
“It shouldn’t be,” I said doubtfully. “They are all equal in myth, all tamed by Orochi.”
“Probably, it’s heading to the castle,” Sayomi-dono said quietly.
I looked at her, and couldn’t find anything to say to that. I settled for touching her shoulder silently.
“It’s fine. Let’s go.” Sayomi-dono jumped down the tree and I followed her.
“It’s Take No Yamikazuchi,” I said, looking down at Uchito-sama.
He stood uncertainly, shaking his head. “A true demon. We must hurry.”
“When we reach the edge of the forest, though, we won’t have any further to run,” Sayomi-dono said. “Even though this seems to prove they can’t sense our presence alone, it will be able to find us on the plain and attack.”
“There’s nothing else we can do, though,” Uchito-sama said sharply. “We can’t stay here forever!”
“Do you have an idea, Sayomi-dono?” I said more calmly.
Sayomi-dono nodded. “If it was possible for the column to pray, I should be able to create the great bow again. Undoubtedly, that would give away our presence, but it would also give us a chance to fight on our terms. Hopefully, I could destroy it in one shot again.”
“And if you missed?” Uchito-sama said. “We would be in great danger!”
“Haruki-dono would still be able to fight,” Sayomi-dono said. “She should be able to hold it off long enough for me to recover. But in any case, I wouldn’t miss.”
“That technique is very dangerous,” I said. “Will you be okay?”
Charuki-dono nodded. “I should be better at it this time. Please leave it to me, Himeko-dono.”
I closed my eyes, considering. Even if Uchito-sama hasn’t realised, I know well Sayomi-dono’s real reason. By turning the enemy back here and now, this is the best way to protect the castle. But it’s true that a clash with this enemy is inevitable before long, and fighting with a concrete plan of attack may be for the best. No, this is the first time we’ve had such a chance. If we really could cripple it with one shot, that would give us precious time to reach the ritual site. I opened my eyes and nodded. “Very well. I understand. This time I will be able to support you with my powers, too.”
Uchito-sama nodded. “Fine. I’ll order the message passed along the line. Ame No Murakumo be with us.”
“He is always with us,” we said together.
It took longer than we’d hoped to get everyone ready. Apparently, everyone had been shaken by the demon’s presence. But when we began, the bow took shape and grew fast. Whether that was the desperation of the prayers or Sayomi-dono’s growing skill and power or my own golden light woven deep inside the construct, I’m not sure, but it was everything we could hope for. As we felt the presence turn about, racing back towards it, it had grown into a towering column of light, bound by a smooth, powerful ring of fiery energy. Sayomi-dono gritted her teeth in concentration, her face and arms still torn up by the radiance as it crumpled everything around it. “I’m almost ready.”
“Here it comes,” I said, releasing all of my aura and turning my head to see the demon approach. “In one shot, C Sayomi-dono. We believe in you.”
I looked up, feeling the malignant presence focus on us. This was all as we planned, so why was I feeling apprehensive? My eyes snapped open suddenly. What was this- golden-yellow force, there and here, all around us? As if mortal eyes were staring at us-
“My, my. That’s quite a weapon you have there.”
I spun, drawing my sword and staring at the figure that had stepped out of thin air in the middle of the forest. Dark hair fell to the shoulders across a muscular, kimono-clad back. He raised his right hand, clad in a dark metal gauntlet, and struck before either of us could react, smashing into the overwhelming power of the great bow. It exploded in Sayomi-dono’s hands. Not good! With that radius- I broke for it, concentrating my power into my sword to disperse the explosion as best I could.
It was gone before I was there, absorbed harmlessly by another punch from those gloves. Sayomi-dono collapsed to the floor, gasping for breath. I stopped short as the Orochi Disciple looked back over his shoulder, blue eyes radiating an overwhelming evil presence. “It’s dangerous to use that around mere civilians. In any case, let’s try and settle this cleanly.”
“Who are you?” I demanded, stalling for a time while I brought my sword to guard and gathered as much of my energy as I could. I was still tired from supporting Sayomi-dono. How could things have turned out like this?”
“Sorry, sorry.” The Orochi disciple turned to face me, lowering his gauntleted arms. A strip of white cloth was tied across his forehead. “I’m Rishou, Rishou Arai. Orochi’s Seventh Neck, and the master of Take no Yamikazuchi. You are the Solar Priestess, no? Haruki Ogami?”
I simply nodded, still gathering power. If I can defeat him here and now, I should have more chance against the dark god. But I’ll wait for as long as I can, though he could attack at any time…
“This may sound unusual, but I’m not in favour of unnecessary violence,” Rishou said calmly. He gazed at me with a piercing intensity. “I’ve ordered Take no Yamikazuchi not to attack. But since it’s an impatient god, I will have to be brief. You priestesses are co-dependant, right? So if I kill only one of you, leaving the other alive is fine, isn’t it?”
“We don’t intend to die,” I said firmly. Inwardly, I was confused. Was this an Orochi trick? They’re disciples of the ending world, there’s no meaning in them showing mercy.
“I know, but this can’t be helped,” Rishou said, widening his stance and raising both his gauntlets. “It is necessary. I challenge you to a fair fight to the death, using all of our power.”
I narrowed my eyes, feeling Ame No Murakumo’s blessing flow through me. Sayomi-dono had eliminated a disciple while she was wounded. I should be able to deal with this. “I accept, as a priestess of the sword god. I will kill you here.”
“I return those words to you.”
I stepped forwards, springing off my back foot and beginning to charge. Within a moment, he had reached me, his right fist thrown back for a punch. My eyes widened as I desperately blocked, forcing more golden light into the blade. Green light exploded from his weapon, cutting me across my body and throwing me violently back into a tree. Just blocking won’t work! I ducked desperately as he rushed in, barely avoiding his second blow and rolling aside. The tree exploded, falling down behind me. I slashed at his feet but he jumped deftly back, diving towards me. I rolled aside again, springing away and bringing my sword up as I moved back. He flipped up and charged me head-on, sending a rapid-fire barrage towards my chest from both sides. I gritted my teeth, trying to follow his incredibly fast attacks with my eyes as I dodged and weaved, barely keeping my body out of reach. His range is low, but his speed compensates and the rapidity and power of his blows is incredible. I slashed towards his face but he batted my attack aside as if it was nothing, taking the chance to throw a punch towards my open chest. I jumped back, barely escaping, only to find my back slamming into a tree again. I desperately raised my sword again, heart thundering in my chest. He began his charge.
Uchito-sama charged him from the side, sword slashing down. Rishou turned the blade almost idly and batted him aside, throwing him down instantly. Other warriors of the Himemiya attacked from all sides. I took the chance to drive my sword into the ground and draw my bow, gathering energy. Rishou blurred between targets, disarming them and knocking them down without ever inflicting a lethal blow. “Leave me,” he shouted. “I fight her only.” He turned towards me, raising his gloves again.
I let fly. His eyes widened as a blazing arrow shooting straight towards his chest. He tried to dodge too late, ending up engulfed in a violent magical explosion. I breathed out, sweat pouring down my face.
He stood as the smoke cleared, lowering his gloves. His face was blackened and cut, but his eyes still radiated the same killing intensity. “I couldn’t fully block even with both gauntlets,” he said, shaking his hands out. “As expected of the Priestess of the Sun. But-”
He was cut off as a sword plunged through his chest from behind.
Brand new year, let the adventure begin!
Update on First Divine light.
Chapter 5 will be posted in 2 weeks, from then a new chapter will be posted every Sunday. The story and animation series are both completed, I just need a discent computer because mine died of old age. lol But for that I will have to wait till I get home in about another week.
Brand new year, let the adventure begin!
Here is chapter 5.
The manga and anime demo have been finished since the summer, but i ran in to some complications, so now m going to pick it up and post as often as i can. enjoy!
And they were brought before Ame No Murakumo again, and the God spoke. “I am your sun and I am your moon. I will teach you, and you will teach your peoples, and my divine blessing will flow through you and give you the power of the gods. Together you must go, between the mountains of the earth and the rivers that mirror the heavens. Travel for thirteen days and thirteen nights, then pray to me under the full moon and face the first light of dawn. There you will see Mahoroba, the land I promised you. Go forth there; your second sons can till the land and tame the rivers and forests and make of all you see what you will, for you are those I have chosen. But remember that you are swordsmen, and I am a sword god. It is your strength I shall witness; I will always watch over you.”
I grimaced, holding my torn hands tight about my sword. Blood began to drip down the blade. “I have you.”
“This was a duel,” the Orochi hissed, sounding disbelieving.
“This isn’t a game,” I said, twisting the blade. He grunted in pain. “It’s a desperate war.”
Haruki-dono threw herself forwards, pulling her sword from the ground and charging. “As if we’d hold back!”
He shifted just before her sword struck, disappearing into thin air. My sword, covered in blood, fell to the ground and I gasped for breath, my knees folding under me. I shook my sword free of blood, purifying it with a wave of light, then sheathed it unsteadily. I wiped my sweaty brow. “That was… close…”
“You saved me. I don’t have any confidence in what would have happened if you hadn’t been able to do that.” Haruki-dono knelt before me, putting her hands on my shoulders and smiling wanly. “Though you’ve forced yourself too much again.”
“Wait!” I said hurriedly, pushing her hand away and looking up. “The battle’s not over yet. Take no Yamikazuchi’s still up there, right?”
Haruki-dono looked up, frowning. “It’s flying upwards. Whether that’s to retreat or attack, I don’t know…”
“I could try the bow again,” I suggested dubiously. “Now that we’ve killed him, there’s nothing that’s going to appear out of nowhere and punch me over.”
“You’re in no fit state to use it,” Haruki-dono said. “If I used it and missed, we wouldn’t have anything left. I’ll just protect this place until you’ve recovered. Concentrate on regaining your strength.”
“I understand.” I closed my eyes, doing my best to regain my energy. It’s a strange relationship, the mark and us. The blessing heals our wounds. The blessing wounds us. Undoubtedly, the limitation holding us back now is the shortcomings of our bodies, not Ame No Murakumo’s power in us. Is there any way to overcome that limitation and seek a higher form of strength? Or is this as far as any human can come, even with the divine blessing coursing through us? I don’t know.
I opened my eyes, blinking in surprise. “Uchito-sama.”
“Am I breaking your concentration?” Uchito-sama asked quietly. “There are things I should be doing, as well.”
“No, it’s fine,” I said, returning my attention to the sky.
“I thought it might have been possible to do something,” Uchito-sama said. “You’d been thrown down, and Haruki-sama was in a difficult situation. But the difference between us and the Orochi Disciples isn’t bridgeable, after all.”
“The mark works differently for us,” I said distantly. “For them, as well, I assume. It’s best if you don’t try to fight them from now on. That one behaved strangely, but I doubt the others would be kind enough to use non-lethal attacks on you again.”
“I understand.” Uchito-sama bowed his head and closed his eyes. “What is the plan? Is there anything we can do?”
“Right now, we’re simply observing,” I said. “In any case, it’s best if you don’t worry about anything but protecting the march. Letting us fight without having to look back is all you can do right now.”
“I understand. I will attend to it, Sayomi-sama.”
“Please do.” I frowned as he glanced at me for a second before standing and walking away, the other warriors following him. Even now, I have no idea what is going on in his mind. That distance between us hasn’t changed at all.
After a few minutes, Haruki-dono returned, sighing softly. “Take no Yamikazuchi has retreated… if that is the right word. It is moving towards the castle again. I don’t know why.”
“We’re here, aren’t we?” I said, confused. “And we’re the targets. What meaning is there in attacking the castle under this circumstances?”
“I don’t know. Perhaps it intends to destroy the castle then return before we can get moving again.” Haruki knelt before me, placing her hands on my shoulders. “That may even be possible. Right now we need to put everything in getting you back on your feet.”
“I’m almost healed anyway,” I said patiently. “I just need to rest a little, that’s all.”
“Me too. Even so, stay still, okay?” Haruki released her aura, letting a gentle trickle of light flow down my body. “I’m not sure, but I think the result of combining our blessings is greater than the sum of its parts.”
“Is that so?” I looked at her face, very close to mine, and found myself slightly threatened, somehow. It was a peculiar feeling. “I’ve worked out that my body is what’s stopping me in battle, not the mark,” I said to cover myself, looking away. “It’s the opposite of my time before I gained the true mark. I can’t think of a way to stop that.”
“Maybe there isn’t one. But we’re still adapting. I’m sure we can get stronger.” Haruki stood, offering me her hand. “If it’s possible to fight using only reasonable attacks, I’m sure we could do so indefinitely. The problem is that we can’t win like that against our current enemies.”
I stood, brushing my rough robes off. “I’ll think about it. There has to be a way.”
Haruki-dono smiled. “That’s the spirit expected of us.”
I walked towards the middle of the column again. “What about the Orochi’s abilities? His ability to appear and reappear at will was beyond my expectations.”
“Just a little,” Haruki-dono said. “But I’m sure it has limitations. He wasn’t using it during the flow of combat. Whether it lags in activation, or only works over long distances, or takes a lot of energy… I’m not sure.”
“I think it should be possible to copy it,” I said. “The second time, I almost saw it. Any of their attacks so far I’ve been able to see three times, I can always read them. From there, it’s just a matter of time.”
Haruki-dono giggled. “You’ve changed a lot, these past few days.”
“Have I?” I said, raising my eyebrows. “Only a little, I think.”
“No, I think a lot. Before you were very deferent and doubtful. You only talked about doing everything you can. Now you’re forceful enough to make strong declarations like that.” Haruki-dono looked sidelong at me, her expression playful. “Of course, I don’t think that’s a bad change.”
“You’re mocking me again,” I said wanly.
“I’m always serious,” Haruki-dono said, not very convincingly. “It worries me that you have such a light-hearted image of me.”
“That’s not what I mean,” I said, feeling frustrated.
“It can’t be helped.” Haruki-dono dropped the subject with a graceful smile. “My feelings are the same as yours, though. Just like you, I can almost see that… golden place. If another Orochi uses that ability, we should be more prepared this time. I’m more worried about his speed and power. We can’t rely on him being an exceptional individual.”
“Is it possible he survived?” I asked doubtfully.
“You stabbed him through the chest,” Haruki-dono said. “It’s impossible to survive a blow like that.”
“Impossible for a human. I’m sure I pierced his heart, but I’ve survived something almost as bad.” We stopped in the middle of the path, refugees watching us from all sides. I’d already learned to block out the gazes when I wasn’t paying attention to other people. “Isn’t it worth thinking about? Take no Yamikazuchi wouldn’t be merciful on its own.”
“When you survived, you had my help, and it was a very close matter,” Haruki-dono noted. “But I suppose it’s possible. I can’t say I welcome the prospect.”
“I have an idea,” I said carefully. “Depending on whether this works, and how much time we have left… I may be able to track his high-speed movements. Even when he leaves my line of sight. Could you-”
“Take him down using that? Of course. Don’t think you were the only one with something planned.” Haruki-dono smiled. “If he comes, things will be different. We change and grow. That’s always been Ame No Murakumo’s way.”
“Just as long as we don’t regret letting him escape, if he’s done that, and doing a little changing and growing himself,” I said cynically. “We haven’t even seen Take no Yamikazuchi’s attacks. We haven’t dealt with Hi no Ashinazuchi, either.”
“Now that is worrying rather more than we can afford,” Haruki-dono said, smirking. “We should go up and down the column and reassure people. Even I was intimidated by that monstrous presence.”
“Together?” I asked hopefully.
“We’ve cover more ground if we split up. I’ll take care of the left side, okay?” Haruki-dono smiled, waving at me as she walked away. “Just a few words to remind them they are alive.”
“Easy for you to say,” I said, looking around awkwardly. Haruki-dono acts as if she’s born to all these things. Perhaps she is. To me, peasants are just distant existences who revere you and pay rent. Undoubtedly, they are valued and must be protected, but that means administrating responsibly and keeping the enemy back. Soldiers are closer, but in both cases, it’s still almost the same thing. A distant way of living, to be dealt with as an abstract cause and an aggregate problem.
Looking around at these dirty, haggard, tired and scared faces, that seems like a rather inadequate approach.
I toyed with my aura as I walked towards the nearest group, trying to create what I’d visualised. What I needed was a circle. But nothing happened until I gritted my teeth, threads of light beginning to pour uselessly from my body. That wasn’t helpful at all. When I think about it, I’ve only been using the blessing in large and violent ways. Another kind of shortcoming, on a day seemingly full of them.
“Sayomi-sama.” The family bowed deeply, looking at the ground.
“Good night,” I said awkwardly, momentarily trying to concentrate on the mark and the conversation at once. I quickly gave that up. “Please don’t worry. There isn’t any danger, since we’ll take care of all the enemies.”
“Thank you, Sayomi-sama.”
I frowned slightly. This didn’t feel very right. More like gathering another kind of homage than reassuring them. Looking back over my shoulder, Haruki-dono already seemed to be laughing about something. And that approach was impossible, as well.
Something occurred, though. I looked back to them. “Did you pray for me?”
“Of course, Sayomi-sama. The shadow is gone now.”
“Yes.” I frowned uneasily. “Most likely, it will be back. I’m relying on everyone’s power. Please continue to pray, when you can. I’ll fight with all my power, but it won’t be an easy battle.”
“We will support you from the bottom of our hearts. Please win, Sayomi-sama!”
“I will.” I smiled awkwardly. Undoubtedly, Haruki-dono would touch his shoulder, or do something else in that sincerely spontaneous way of hers… but I’m not Haruki-dono. “Good night.”
“Good night, Sayomi-sama.”
I walked on to the next group, biting my lip. Yes, even if this is tiring and hard, this is also something I must do. What I do by rushing in only has meaning because of these people I’m fighting for. If they’re just a cause to me, that’s still enough to protect them. If I can just remember them, then I will remember why I can’t afford to lose.
It took half an hour to get the column marching again. Sayomi-dono stayed by my side, working on something silently. For the first hour, she gave me a headache with erratic circles of light, but they eventually tuned out into nothing. For my part, I forced my aura into my sword, my bow, my arrows, other weapons, everything I could find and think of. Feeling the shape. Remembering the shape. Several hours later, we stopped for the rest of the night and slept while the warriors kept watch. At some point, Take no Yamikazuchi returned and patrolled over the forest in great, uncoordinated sweeps. We were up for half an hour, waiting for any sign of attack, before returning to an uneasy sleep. We marched again with the first light of dawn, heading towards the edge of the forest. It wasn’t possible to move beyond without giving our position away. We didn’t have any other option, though. Waiting and losing time while more of the Orochi moved towards us across the country would be worse than being forced to confront Take no Yamikazuchi. That’s what we decided.
And now this. The demon god flew straight for us, and we gathered all our power in preparation for battle. But it spiralled downwards without making a move, forcing us to a halt, before landing at the head of the column. There it squatted, glaring and cowing the march with its presence alone. We pushed to the front, closely followed by Uchito-sama and the other believers.
Rishou sat on a rock at the monster’s feet, his gauntleted hands on his knees as he looked at us. “Hi.”
“So you really are still alive,” I said, narrowing my eyes. “You’re certainly resilient.”
“Rather than you making a mistake, as far as I can tell you can’t kill us. Not unless you hit this.” Rishou pulled up his bandanna, revealing a vivid square purple mark, radiating a heavy malignant light. “The First says this is our only weakness, and never to reveal it to the enemy. I’m telling you mine clearly, since I know yours is on your chest and Sayomi Himemiya’s mark is on the small of her back. Judging by where that power radiates from, I’m not wrong.”
“What do you want?” I asked. “If you just intend to fight, we should finish this now. We’re ready.”
Rishou sighed. “So unreasonable. I just want to talk right now. Unlike you, I’m not going to attack anyone from behind, or take hostages using Take no Yamikazuchi’s power to threaten you. You know, we’re not so different. We just believe in different things. I sincerely think we can end this without killing each other, if only we talk about that. About everything.”
“Perhaps I didn’t say it clearly last time,” Sayomi-dono said. “This isn’t a game to us, and we aren’t playing around. We’re just going to seriously fight you with the intent to kill, that’s all. There’s nothing to talk about.”
“I’m also deadly serious,” Rishou said coldly. His aura expanded outwards, a heavy and overbearing presence dripping malice.
“There’s a dissonance between your words and your nature,” I said, stepping forwards and doing my best to ignore the pressure. “However you dress it up, you’re an Orochi Disciple pledged to destroy the world. You intend to kill everyone, not just us. There’s no need to play around with that.”
“Don’t use overly strong words. What do you really know about usRishou ? What Ame No Murakumo told you? Don’t make me laugh.” Rishou pushed himself up, standing on the rock and looking down at us. “We’re enemies, and I don’t mind you conducting yourself based on that. But don’t generalise about us, and don’t pretend to know things about our intentions that you don’t. We Heads are different, though, from what you think we are.”
“The number of people you Orochi have killed is the only truth we need,” Sayomi-dono said. “Are you stalling while others arrive? Distracting our attention? Gathering power? You should be more honest.”
“That is what I fight. Such a hateful and suspicious mindset. I’m not responsible for the other Heads. You aren’t responsible for the sins of your father, or your brother, or the woman you call you mother.” Rishou narrowed his eyes. “This world is trapped in an imperfect cycle, the hell of war that doesn’t end. Successions of sins, accusations, sins and regrets without ceasing. Ame No Murakumo represents everything wrong with that world. You glorify the madness and dignify it in the name of divinity and pride. Your philosophy of swords understands clearly how man is made a tool to cut and be cut by war, but you embrace it as a perverse duty. Your exalted warmongering founder, your killer who lived only for strength, both of your families embrace the perversity of this world! For that reason, you were chosen. Isn’t it a bitter prize?”
“This world doesn’t change for your convenience or your values,” I shot back. “There’s heaven and earth, the stars and the sun and the moon over us, the ground beneath our feet, these things are as they are. And war is. We only want to live peacefully here in Mahoroba, but the world is wide and dangerous. Existence, life itself, these things aren’t so casual you can simply live without struggling. You struggle to protect yourself. That’s why our power exists!”
“The same, again. You, you who stand in heaven under Ame No Murakumo’s wings, you accept the world as it is, as if it is inviolate and unquestionable. I’m not so complacent.” Rishou spread his arms, narrowing his eyes. “I can change this world. To save this world, it is necessary to destroy it. From that fire and storm shall come a new world. A world shaped by the Heads of the Orochi. I wish for that world to be a world of eternal, undying peace. It is possible. It can be realised, if only someone dares.”
“Sacrificing the world makes the end meaningless by default,” Sayomi-dono said firmly. “How many people do you intend to kill with your hubris?”
“Consider the scale! The glory! A transitory suffering now to usher in ten thousand years of peace. A sacrifice. Your religion understands the value of sacrifices all too well.” Rishou kicked off the rock, landing just in front of us. “With your power, it’s possible. Join me and I can overthrow the other Orochi Heads without difficulty. You already stand in heaven, so accept the profane duty of questioning the very nature of this world. Know that your marks, your power, that is your own. Know that everything is, not for good reason, but for itself, written darkly and heavy with malice. What world do you see through those eyes?”
“A world without you,” Sayomi-dono said as we both drew our swords and slashed towards him.
“That’s all,” I said, lowering my blade. “We know our place.”
Rishou sighed as he slid out of range, unharmed. “I had feared you wouldn’t understand. One more thing, then. You can’t defeat Take no Yamikazuchi and I here. Even if you get closer to the ritual site, you’ll only come across the Third and Hi no Ashinazuchi. They’re a lot less nice than I am. Even without that, there are four Orochi you haven’t defeated including the First… who could kill you both by himself, without using Take no Yasukunazuchi. I’m not saying this to demoralise you, or to prove a point. It’s just that you can’t win. Go back to the castle. I haven’t totally destroyed it. Just sit out the end of days there. It’s for the best.”
“I’m touched, but we can’t give up here,” I said, raising my sword and gripping it with both hands.
“We don’t anything until we’ve given our lives trying!” Sayomi-dono said.
“Yes, yes.” Rishou stood, raising his arms. “Please die for a better world.”
I saw him clearly as he stepped backwards into the golden-yellow world, rippling around him as it swallowed him whole. My sword swung round, blocking his fist as it materialised several inches from my chest. Sayomi-dono’s sword was thrown back over her head, protecting her back from his other hand. I threw my left hand up as he stared at us in disbelief, golden light racing down my arm and forming an ethereal dagger. I stabbed towards his face. He kicked backwards at high speed, barely escaping our swords. I reversed the dagger and threw it at his face, running sideways while Sayomi-dono charged headlong at him. Rishou blocked my dagger with his glove, blowing it apart then shifting his stance to rain blows at Sayomi’s chest. She pulled her sheath from her sash, holding it in her off-hand and wrapping it in her aura as they traded five blisteringly fast attacks. I grounded my feet and broadened my stance, raising my sword and pointing it straight forwards with both hands. Golden light raced down its length. He leapt sideways, throwing a blow towards the side of her head. She barely blocked with her sheath, staggering sideways from the force of the attack.
I aimed towards his head, exhaling violently. The golden light exploded from the blade, lengthening and forming a hazy, crackling line of force plunging straight towards his face. He ducked back urgently, the blade sinking into his cheek and drawing blood. He rolled and kicked away just before I slashed, escaping as I let the blade collapse. My breath came fast. No, not yet. It needed to be faster. And it should be more powerful than this, as well.
We both exploded into motion, rushing towards him from both sides. Fighting us both at full power head-on will only ever be suicidye.
Take no Yasukunazuchi roared above us, thunderously slamming its palms together and pulling them apart. A giant green sphere of light formed, crashing into the ground before us. Sayomi and I leapt ten meters backwards as the ground around the attack disintegrated, racing upwards and dissolving into thin air. Rishou landed by the demon’s feet, leaping up onto its waiting palm. It held up its other palm, pointing it straight at us.
My eyes met Sayomi’s, a message flying between us without words. Now.
We both ran straight forwards at top speed, our hair whipping out behind us. Green light rushed towards us and we cut through it without slowing, absorbing the energy with ease and crashing out the other side just as the demon leapt upwards. We followed smoothly; driving our swords into its legs and planting our feet on them as it rushed up into the sky. I pulled an arrow from my quiver, driving it into the mottled dark skin and throwing myself up to its shoulder blades. Sayomi-dono appeared opposite me, her own blade raised, while Rishou looked between us. “Arrogance is a sin,” I advised cheerfully.
Rishou narrowed his eyes. “That’s my line. Take no Yamikazuchi!”
He grabbed onto its massive horns with both hands as the creature sped upwards then began to dive. I drove my sword into its shoulder, holding on with both hands and screaming as my legs flew out beneath me. Rishou pointed the palm of one of his gauntlets at me, green light forming there. I raised my left hand just in time, forming a golden sword and cutting through the attack. A moment later I gritted my teeth. It should be possible, but it’d be dangerous. I didn’t have time for doubt. I threw the sword atRishou , forcing him to block and destroy it, then raised my left hand. Golden light exploded from my chest, pouring down my hand and shooting into the air. It crashed down in the form of dozens of shimmering golden sword, impaled in the monster’s back. It screamed in pain. Rishou looked straight at me and kicked off the horn, flying straight towards my face.
I forcibly created another golden sword, desperately blocking his first strike. Unlike us, even if he falls, he can teleport back. He span deftly, green light wrapped round his gauntlet as he prepared for a second, decisive blow. “Sayomi!”
Sayomi-dono leapt in from behind, landing on one of my golden swords and stabbing towards his back. He disappeared just in time, landing back on the horn and panting for breath. “Thanks for the assistance,” Sayomi-dono said, dropping and grabbing the hilt as the demon turned in mid-air again. “I’ll fight the Disciple.”
“I’ll take down Take no Yamikazuchi.” I smiled. “Just like before.” I raised my left hand, drawing on all my power and releasing it one burst. The swords solidified into metal, a score of copies of Uchito-sama’s weapon.
Sayomi-dono turned into Rishou’sshot with her sword, cutting through it. She leapt towards him. I flew towards the demon’s face.
I clashed with the Orochi in mid-air, pouring all my power into my sword and sheath and crossing them into the attack. Even with that, I was thrown back slightly, spinning in mid-air and landing on one of Haruki’s swords. I slid my sheath back into my sash, kneeling and gripping the hilt as the demon screamed and thrashed. I looked across the vast space of the demon’s back, meeting the Disciple’s eyes. Haruki-dono has created something amazing. Compared to that, I don’t have anything so spectacular. Rishou took a stance, preparing for me. I closed my eyes.
I can only trust in what I am able to do.
Dozens of imperceptible ripples emerged from my body, travelling outwards in every direction. They mapped themselves in my mind, conveying the battered, bleeding surface of Take no Yamikazuchi’s back in all directions. The leathery wings, the curled horns, the spots of fur on its head, everything. Even the slight expression of disbelief on Rishou’s face. I could see it all. This was another form of Ame No Murakumo’s power.
He leapt straight towards me. I felt the ripples distort as he closed, incredibly fast. I leapt backwards, aiming for another sword I could see three meters back. In that second he landed and kicked off, passing me and pushing himself straight for my flank. I thrust sideways, blocking with the hilt of my sword then kicking back, flying out of the reach of his other hand just in time. The ripples shifted as he jumped off again before I’d landed, flying for my chest. Eyes still closed, I lashed out with my sword wrapped in silver light, barely blocking both attacks. The third smashed hard into my, breaking my guard open and sending me flying backwards. I flipped in mid-air as the monster thrashed again, catching the hilt of another sword and holding on tight. Rishou grabbed my sword with his right hand, dragging it clear then slamming his fist straight into my arm. I let go involuntarily, flying backwards and slashing my sword into the demon’s back to slow myself.
My left arm was numb. It had probably been broken into pieces. But my eyes snapped open, blazing with determination. His strength is hard to deal with one-on-one even using this technique. But breaking an arm is a small trade for mastering it, and I can see him clearly now.
He struck at me with both hands. I twisted my body between the blows, driving my hilt into his chest and sending him flying backwards. I pulled my sword from the monster’s back as Rishou landed, holding his gaze.
That was not just a momentary reverse.
Rishou raised his palms, racing towards me while shooting blasts of green light. I slashed through them all with deft, efficient strikes, jumping gently sideways as he threw several punches and landing on the monster’s back. The ripples flickered. My eyes focused on his fists as he turned and rained down blows on me, trying to stifle me with the sheer weight of his punches. I dodged rapidly backwards, stepping deftly between each blow using the minimum necessary amount of movement. This way, I can overcome that overwhelming speed. I blocked another strike with my sword extended at its point. He took the chance to grab my blade, thrusting towards my face with the other hand. I jinked sideways, using my sword to throw him off-balance then pull three, bouncing backwards again. He tried to flank me but I turned effortlessly, continuing to dodge. Almost. I could almost see it. He switched to powerful, explosive blows, forcing me to speed up my dodges and mixing up with short-range blasts. I read each move effortlessly. It was coming. He threw a powerful punch. I hit his gauntlet with the side of my blade, turning the attack aside. It barely brushed past my face, rippling as it went.
He stepped forwards, slamming his palm towards my face. I sidestepped then slashed out, cutting him from hip to shoulder.
Rishou upulled back too late, blood splashing upwards into the air as he screamed in pain. I charged forwards, sword slashing towards his forehead. He disappeared in an instant, leaving only the blood dripping from my blade.
Sweat ran down my face as I panted for breath, my sword slipping downwards in my grip. Constantly using my divine blessing for the ripples, and the concentration required to use them and my sight at once… if there’s a way to overcome the limits of this body, I’m not there yet. But I forced myself up, running across the monster’s shoulders and driving my sword into the top of its face. A dozen swords were there, piercing its eyes and mouth. Looking sideways as I slid down the side of its neck, scores more had been thrust into the palms of its hands and driven into its chest. My blade drew blood as I descended to Haruki-dono, twisting my sword and suspending myself in mid-air. Sweat and blood dripped down her face as she stood on two more swords, holding onto a third with her hand and raising her solar sword upwards. I tried to reach out for her shoulder with my left hand, forgetting momentarily. It didn’t move at all, but agonising pain did lance up my arm and into my shoulder.
Haruki just smiled at me, then looked upwards, her expression determined. Her divine mark radiated a scorching hot light that burned everything it touched as her sword seemingly extended, a line of golden metal punching through the demon’s face and out the other side.
It screamed its last, falling to earth and bringing us with it. We leapt clear just in time; barely avoiding being crushed under its enormous weight as it cratered the ground, thrashed once, then began to dissolve. My legs folded under me. My sword clattered from my suddenly nerveless right hands. Stripped of its armour of my adrenaline, my left arm blazed with agonisingly hot bolts of pain. Biting back a scream into small, violent exclamations, I looked down enviously at an unconscious Haruki before I, too, passed out.
Brand new year, let the adventure begin!