Sengoku Youkai Taisen
Chapter 1: Chaos after chaos
All throughout history, Japan has had more than its fair share of war and bloodshed. Countless warlords, political factions, local militia, and other groups waged war either to expand their influence, to exact revenge, or any other justifications.
One of these people was one of the many children of the Emperor, who was tired of the strife and the inaction of his father. He became a member of a faction that planned to dethrone the emperor and instate another who will bring about a new era where warlords can be reined in.
Their plan included hiring a thief to steal the imperial regalia and then spread rumors laced with half-truth to destroy the people's trust in the emperor; orchestrate an uprising and then hopefully rise as the new emperor who would stop the endless war.
It was due to sheer misfortune however, that the thief, right before even infiltrating the temple where his target was stored, was discovered by the guards. The thief ran away and finally hid in a hollowed tree stump which was bound by a shimenawa, signifying it as a sacred tree. However, the tree was not bound for keeping it pure; it was bound to keep something or some things from escaping into the material world.
After hearing no the guards pass, the thief moved to stand up and retry his luck. It was unfortunate that in his carelessness, he cut his palm on a sharp section of the wood, causing his blood to drop and spill to the wood below.
Then, a bright unholy flash of black and crimson shone from the bottom of the tree, lighting the entire area like day before it died down as sudden as its appearance along with the burglar.
300 years later
Musashi province, Tokonosu city, Fujimi district
Fujimi district was a part of Tokonosu city where many commoners live. Some liken it to the city's front yard where food stalls, general goods stores, and rice fields are abundant and welcome travelers from any which way. Despite being officially recognized as a district, Fujimi was located outside of the city walls, just like other districts far enough from the city castle and was commonly recognized as a village. It was in this village a war for the fate of mankind began.
"This is boring." a scholar sighed. She didn't like the country side all that much, nor did she like the city. For her, the best place would be a library that was filled with books, scrolls, and tomes of all topics from every corner of the world. Her name was Takagi Saya, a cute looking girl with bright pink hair and orange eyes. Her hair was done in a pair of pigtails tied with white strings. She wore a frilly white dress following a trend from the Netherlands with puffy sleeves and lace here and there. In her hand was a book written in Latin, one of the many languages she could fluently read, write, hear, and speak.
At first she was excited to go to this village, but nothing was as she had hoped and the 6 months she spent here was more mind-numbingly boring than that time she watched paint dry, just to know how long exactly it took. She fell asleep standing then. When she suddenly heard a loud commotion from the street, she hoped it was time for something to break out the monotony.
"What the hell did you say, bastard?!" A man screamed to the person in front of him, whose shirt was gripped tightly in his left hand.
Komuro Takashi was not a man of many words; he spoke when he wanted to, but mostly kept quiet to himself; especially when he was angry. This local hoodlum who kept annoying him with one thing after the other was getting on his nerves and the soldier was tempted to just kill this idiot to get it over with. He was quite a handsome young man, with brown eyes and brown hair kept short. His clothes consisted of a black yukata with red lining and a picture of a wheel with six spokes embroidered on his back, tied together with a narrow red obi, and a pair of wooden geta.
"I said shut up you're stinking the whole place up with that shithole you call a mouth." He retorted with a flat stare.
In anger, the hoodlum threw a wild punch with his right hand to teach this bastard a lesson with pain. But his rage blinded him and he didn't notice a pair of hands snaking around his left arm and neck. Takashi's right hand twisted his arm while the left went for his throat and in a single motion, the 170 cm tall man had thrown the 185 cm goon to the ground and choked the life out of him.
"You will get out of here, or the next time I see you, I'll kill you. Understand?" He threatened. Seeing the blank stare of the punk who had gone unconscious, the soldier let go and straightened his clothes; ignoring his victim's followers who yelled at him, talking about getting even and whatnot. He was lucky to escape the wrath of the Hohei Taishou (Infantry general).
Busujima Saeko's was an onna-bugeisha who was equal parts beautiful and gallant, reminiscent of a warrior princess the likes of Tomoe Gozen or Houjou Masako. Her violet hair was tied in a high ponytail and went past her shoulders while her V-shaped bangs covered most of her forehead, but did not reach her blue eyes. She wore a blue colored armor under a white jin haori. Her armor was made of multiple metal plates riveted to a layer of chain mail and leather. Her suneate (greaves) and kote (vambrace) were darker blue in color with no decorations or markings of any kind. The only identification she had was the mon (emblem) of a katana crossed with its saya drawn in blue ink on her jin haori; one on each lapels.
She crossed her arms as she stood by the wall of a small house turned into a clinic of the doctor, Marikawa Shizuka. She was born of a Japanese father and a European mother, both of whom practiced medicine. She had long blond hair that was usually tied with a black ribbon and sleepy brown eyes. She was taller than most of the women and the village and some of the men; attributing to her genes, but her greatest physical feature was her large breasts. As most of the villagers had never seen a foreigner or even a half before, they often crowd around the clinic just to see her; some of them with feigned injuries or ailments, others with self-inflicted ones which greatly troubled her, which was why she had asked the bushi to help stand guard in the clinic.
The doctor was about to rest when a villager, Ishii Kazu brought in his severely wounded friend, Okada to the clinic. Seeing the amount of blood on him, her sleepy eyes took a serious glint in them and she bade him to lie down on the bed of the clinic before she put on a white apron and rolled the sleeves of her white dress. This would take a while.
Hirano Kouta was an ashigaru that was newly conscripted; passing most of the training and excelling in ranged combat. Perhaps due to luck or maybe his parents' connection, he was trained from a young age to shoot accurately with 3 weapons: yumi, tanegashima, and chokonu (Chinese repeating crossbow). The latest of which saw minimal use in combat, but he was still very interested in the foreign weapon.
Sitting on the veranda of the house he occupied, he cleaned and maintained his weapons, inspecting every one of them for damage and repairing what he could when necessary. He was odd to be an ashigaru: a rotund fellow with black hair long enough to reach his shoulders and near sighted brown eyes to the point he needed a pair of spectacles to see clearly. Stature wise, he was slightly shorter than the mercenary who was the same age as he was and his body was slightly slouching, a side effect of constantly peering at the wooden and metal constructs for minor details. Some people commented that he would be better as a merchant, but that bore him no interest whatsoever. Besides, he was not a good negotiator, but one hell of a shot.
In this village, his only friend would probably be a young child 7 years of age with dark pink hair, purple eyes, and a small mole under her left eye that just made her more endearing. She was Maresato Alice, also a half Japanese who had a Dutch mother, as opposed to doctor Marikawa whose mother was Prussian. She was very curious about all the things lying around on the ground and began asking the young ashigaru about them.
"Kouta-chan, what's that?" she asked. The little girl had Kouta's jingasa on her head, trying it on for size.
Explaining things to children was probably one of his merits and he patiently explained to the little girl all about the things he had at length.
A miko's job was to communicate with gods and spirits, essentially becoming an intermediary between humans and the divine. One of the side jobs was probably being a good listener to octogenarians, Miyamoto Rei thought. Ever since she got to this village, many senior citizens came to her to talk about this topic and that, some of which she remembered due to the frequencies of the telling, such as: Yamada-san's grandson was 5 and he could run like a deer, he would probably be a good samurai; Kuroda-san's son in law had a fight with her daughter and are considering a divorce, Kuroda-san thought he was not a good person in the first place; and other talks like that. Currently she was listening to Tsuda-san who was complaining about back pains.
The brunette sighed a bit after her last visitor left with a thank you. She was a young woman with a homely countenance; with her hair of light brown, almost orange and long enough to reach her shoulder blades. Part of it was tied in a short pony tail and two long strands curved upwards, looking like pair of antenna. Her red eyes grew tired after all those talks and brushed her white gi and red hakama to straighten them up as she stood. Just as she was about to leave, another person came in, however this one was far from unwelcome; he was Igou Hisashi, her fiancée. A young man with long gray hair tied in a high ponytail and strong physique gained from toiling on the fields and practicing budou.
"I'm sorry, miko-sama, were you about to leave?" he asked playfully.
"Ah, no... I'm just about to brew some tea, would you like some as well?" she offered with a blush.
"I would love some, if you don't mind." he replied just as shyly.
Human relations are as vague as they come, Komuro Takashi thought. He who had been close and betrothed to Miyamoto Rei was summoned to war, coming back another year later only to find out that his childhood sweetheart had promised herself to another. He had felt all sorts of pain during his life, from getting beaten with bamboo sticks during training, getting cut by a sharp blade, getting cut by a dull blade, being shot by a tanegashima, and other injuries that would kill a lesser man; but no pain could trump a heartache he believed. The feeling was as if one's heart suddenly stopped beating, being lethargic, depressed, and tired just by simply... living, like life itself had no meaning anymore.
His despair gave way to anger and it was with anger he fought in more battles with the ferocity of a wild beast; tearing through heaps of enemy combatants like they were mere straw dolls. With his kanabo he took out hundreds if not thousands of men and personally ended the lives of dozens of generals. His heart that was full of rage dulled his sense of pain and it made him the perfect juggernaut.
Takashi's power did not come for free and the fire within him continued burning wildly and destroyed anything in its path. It was until a monk who was acquainted with his father, Wakisaka offered to take care of him in the temple that he gained serenity and a sense of purpose. In the end, he stayed at the temple for over a year and learned all sorts of things: military strategy, art, history, and other fields which interested him; turning his wild inferno into a focused flame.
It might be fate that he was reunited with his childhood friend, one of them being the miko and the other, the scholar. The latter who for some reason or other followed him into his dwelling in Fujimi village, the monk's quarters of an old temple with only a single statue of Hachiman Daibosatsu.
Takagi Saya was a genius, that much was apparent since her childhood. Her pedigree was partly the reason, but her efforts and persistence in learning contributed to her intelligence more than her innate talent. Even from a young age she had learned under many teachers and read more books that adults 10 times her age, always wanting to know more and understand more until at one point she became arrogant and looked down on everyone. The only person to go against her would probably be her childhood friend, Komuro Takashi. His theoretical knowledge was subpar at best, but his practical skills were second to none. She had engaged him in countless debates from the smallest things and got her arguments broken in no time flat. It was from that fight she began thinking about him and her feelings bloomed.
She had not seen him at all during the times he had gone to war, but heard of his many exploits and achievements. And after he had returned, she made the time to visit and maybe celebrate with him, but was turned away. The first time, it was because he was said to be sick. The next time, he had gone on another campaign; and was finally able to see him after the third time, looking… serene of all things, unlike the troublemaker he had been.
Now that she was with him in Fujimi village, she would try to spend more time with him and maybe get closer to him. It was a long shot, but definitely worth a try. Which was why she had visited him in his quarters to… talk… and… play shogi or something; just to pass the time.
"What are you doing here? I thought you said religion is for fools?" Takashi asked his childhood friend.
"And I still believe so, but today I'm..." Takagi Saya was about to challenge him to another game of shougi, which she would definitely win. The words that left her mouth afterwards were muffled by a series of loud screams and the earth rumbling. There were people running and shouting, adding up to the cacophony of noise which blurred the senses. A word was heard very clearly though, it was 'youkai'.
The fact that so many people are shouting that phrase could only mean trouble. The most logical explanation would be a natural disaster; the most illogical would be the appearance of a monster. None of those could be anything good.
"Come on, we should help the villagers first." Takashi called. He ran back into the monks' quarters and brought out his favored weapon, a 180 cm long, 10 cm wide octagonal kanabo crafted out of pure steel, weighing almost 500 kg. The weapon had a 90 cm long ribbed handle that was half as thick the studded head and its pommel had a small ring from which a jade charm shaped like a magatama was hung with a red string.
"Are you crazy? We don't even know what we're up against! Hey!"
Her words fell on deaf ears as the mercenary just dashed away to the center of the chaos. Swallowing her anger, she ran to him and prepared a thorough tongue lashing for the rash mercenary. However, when she stopped behind him, she could not even say a word she had wanted to.
Both youngsters ran outside the temple towards the village proper and saw a scene of carnage. Houses and trees were toppled, corpses littered the earth and blood was spilt like fallen leaves. The smell of death hung thick in the air as if all the corpses had been left in the open for weeks, yet oddly no flies nor scavengers were present. Shouldn't the smell of rot and decay attract them as much as repel the humans?
"What the hell?" Saya cursed. She was not used to such sights, being the daughter of a high ranking bushi turned governor, she thought she would never in her lifetime witness the scene of carnage. Nauseous as she might be, she was stuck beholding the morbid aftermath of an unknown's attack. And by the looks of it, that unknown had already made its way elsewhere.
Miyamoto Rei had once been close to Komuro Takashi, they had promised themselves to each other when they were young. Those were probably her happiest days and fate was kind to her. However fate could also be cruel as in the same year that Komuro Takashi went to war, her father was falsely implicated in a series of scandals that left him out of the Shogun's favor. Her family was stripped from its privilege and her father, Miyamoto Tadashi almost lost his status as a samurai and was almost forced to commit seppuku. The only thing that saved them was probably the intervention of Takagi Souichirou who had defended him in court against slander and put his own reputation on the line for him.
Her father was finally demoted from an imperial minister to only the magistrate head of Tokonosu city which was governed by Takagi-dono; still it was better than having to cut his belly open. She was heartbroken when her father cried in front of her for the very first time and it was then that she decided she would exact vengeance on the snake who slandered her father: the Kanpaku's (imperial advisor) son, Shido Kouichi.
Komuro Takashi could be said a collateral damage during her time of weakness. After her father's demotion, she desperately needed someone to talk to, but was unfortunately he was away due to the war. In the end, it was his friend, Igou Hisashi who filled that gap. Unlike the young soldier who kept to himself, the gentle Hisashi was a better conversationalist. His words had not meant to captivate the girl, but she fell for them anyway. As such, she had broken off the betrothal with Takashi and promised herself to Hisashi.
Such action was viewed as a great insult the groom's family and normally demanded recompense. But the Komuro family head regarded the betrothal between the two as just childhood promises and held no clout.
So now here she was, in the miko's quarters of the local temple having tea with her fiancée. The relationship may had not started under the best terms, but she believed it could work out in the end.
As the water boils enough for tea, Rei was about to pour it into the cup when a rumble jostled her hand enough to miss the cup and into the tatami. She though it was a small tremor, but again the earth rumbled; this time with a loud thump as if a great tree had been felled. Then another and another in longer time before everything was silent.
"What was that?" she asked in bewilderment.
Hisashi shushed her and told her to get her weapon: a 160 cm long naginata with a 60 cm straight blade forged like a katana. Its circular tsuba was made of brass with a decorative sakura carved into it. The meter long hilt was made of lacquered oak and affixed with a bronze pommel shaped into a diamond.
They both crawled slowly to the door, carefully avoiding being seen by whatever creature made the loud noise and peeked outside. Nothing was out there, not the small forest critters that usually loiter on the temple grounds, not even the sound of insects were heard. However, the bad feeling was still there, the feeling as if being stared down by a predator, like their lives could be forfeit with even the slightest twitch. There was nothing to be done, staying in the temple would do them no good either. It would probably be better to go to the village square and see what was wrong.
Hirano Kouta was born in a merchant's family and was showered in wealth from his youth. His grandfather who had succeeded as a merchant ship captain had married his pianist grandmother and took all their collective wealth to Japan. His parents who also made their living from trade had gone to the Dutch republic and France to practice their trade. The young Kouta had no interest in learning anything about trading or merchants, but was very interested in military arts. His grandfather's connection had allowed him to learn of many weapons and strategy from the best teachers.
However, any hopes, aspirations, and ideals for the military he had went up in smoke. His superiors were haughty self-centered idiots who had known nothing about military leadership. They did not hesitate to sacrifice as many soldiers as they thought were needed for a fleeting victory; they slander, belittle, and took undue credit from anyone to promote themselves.
His squad was repeatedly pushed around with the sons, nephews, cousins, brother, or whatever bullshit connection from prominent military families went "You gunners sure have it good, always hiding behind us samurais. So the merit for killing the enemy soldiers should go to us too, right? We did cover you…"
In short, they were disgusting bastards. He asked for a reassignment to his commanding officer to get away from all the politics and now here he was, being a volunteer to help the Fujimi village. The governor of Tokonosu was worried about this particular village for some reason and as a soldier, he was not going to question his superior. Having a friend like Alice was a very nice bonus; she liked talking to him and didn't belittle him like some of the soldiers. He didn't even talk that much to his companions because he was sent the last as an additional member.
When the loud noise came, he stopped cleaning his musket and loaded everything into his wooden backpack. It might not have been necessary, but he would be damned if he were caught unprepared. He just hoped that little Alice had gone home safely.
Busujima Saeko had studied the way of the sword since childhood and continued to do so until today. Having lost her mother during childbirth, she was raised solely by her father who was a samurai of great fame. She was fascinated by stories of the heroes of old, who fought for their lords and country, fighting against impossible odds and emerged victorious. This became the reason of her insistence at her father to teach her the ways of the sword, which he agreed to. Under her father's critical eye, she practiced, honed, and perfected her skills and became a formidable samurai in her own right.
Having been a war veteran, she gained enough experience and knowledge about combat. However, there was something missing in all her battles; she was bored. Nothing excited her anymore. Facing formidable enemies with insurmountable odds gave her joy and nothing pleased her more than fighting with her life on the line where a single mistake would cost her life. But there was nothing like that; in the dojo or the battlefield. This assignment as a village guard was nothing more than a short sabbatical she took to rest her mind.
It was probably a godsend or a coincidence that the corpse that bespectacled village boy brought in rose up after a short series of shuddering and convulsing. She grinned then slowly unsheathed her uchigatana. This might not be the life threatening battle she was looking for, but it sure would stave off her boredom for the time being.
Marikawa Shizuka was born in a long line of medical practitioners. Her grandparents and parents before her were doctors, midwives, or physicians. For every generation, they were to record and pass down everything they know about the illness and ailments they had seen, heard of, and especially treated. After years of documenting, renewing, and adding their own experience, the Marikawa Isho (Marikawa Medical Compendium) was probably the most comprehensive tome for information about known ails and their treatments.
Seeing that patient brought in with a critical wound, she knew he would die and any effort done by the good doctor would only go to waste. The young man, Okada was brought in with a large stab wound in his abdomen and several bite marks here and there, his breathing was shallow, sweat poured out of every pore he had, and if she wasn't mistaken his eyes had rolled upwards. Her guess, the young man was gored and bitten by wild animals. Either way, if the blood loss didn't kill him, the infection sure would.
Sure enough, after some partial treatment was done, Okada lay flat on the clinic bed; still and stiff akin to a statue, or in this case, corpse. So imagine her surprise when a few moments later the corpse convulsed and began shouting unintelligible noise while black mist-like…. Thing came out of his mouth and covered him from head to toe like a black gassy cocoon. When the miasma subsided, he fell flat on the bed, sat up straight and turned its bleeding neck towards the three living people. An undying person… this should be interesting.
In the other side of the village, Komuro Takashi and Takagi Saya was facing another unknown creature. However, this one was far from human; its body reached 2.5 m in height, great bulging muscles covered almost every single inch of its hunching pale gray body. The creature's arms which almost touched its knees had long sickle-like claws, while its fetlock legs ended in strong bony feet. Its head was lean with a long snout like a bull's skull and was adorned with two pairs of horns.
"What the hell is that?" Saya gasped out.
"I don't know and I'm not staying to find out, we're getting out of here." Takashi replied.
They turned to run from the decimated building and stepped on a stray branch with loud 'crack'. The creature, which would be named 'Kamazume' (Sickle claws) turned its head towards their direction while sniffing the air. It then spread its arms wide and unleashed a loud roar, showing its rows of sharp needle-like fang. Its skin color turned into a darker, almost brown hue and it dropped down on all fours and broke into a sprint.
Try as they might, they could not outrun the beast that dashed faster than a warhorse. Its power was no joke either as every step it took left deep gashes on the ground while any tree it stepped on was crushed and anything it touched with its claws were cut apart to pieces. As it neared, the Kamazume lunged to kill the two fleeing humans with its sharp claws.
"Sorry about this." He mumbled lowly. She didn't even register his words when she found herself on the ground. The young man had already turned around, hefting his weapon to his right shoulder.
Gambling on his luck, Takashi slammed his kannabo down on its head. It stopped the creature in its track, but did not give the necessary damage to kill it. With small, yet powerful heaves, the Kamazume pushed itself upright despite the mercenary's best efforts to completely crush its head. Takashi lifted his club quickly, making his adversary overcompensate and lost its balance. His preparation complete, the young man swung his weapon to the beast's head and splattered its skull and the contents to the ground.
Saya was not sure what had happened when she was suddenly pushed down, but that didn't mean she was oblivious of what happened afterwards. She saw her friend's retaliation and its effects in which an unknown creature was effortlessly dispatched. However, she also spied an unusual sight on his head, was that a horn?
"Come on. We have to go help the villagers and prepare an evacuation." He held out his hand to pull her up, but got his hand smacked away.
"I got it." She stood up and fumed at him. He might had saved her life, but that didn't mean she wasn't angry being roughly shoved down. She was a lady after all, and she would not stand to be treated like that.
As they ran to another part of the village, she quietly pondered on what she saw. She might had seen it wrong, but she was sure her glasses was neither dirty nor scratched. She would get to the bottom of it. Not now, maybe not tomorrow, but she would.
How unfortunate that in their haste they did not notice the felled beast's razor sharp claws twitch a tad bit.
The creature that stood before Miyamoto Rei and Igou Hisashi was different to the one that Komuro Takashi and Takagi Saya encountered. The Kamazume was built with speed as its main trait, with most of its destructive power coming out of its high velocity. The one before them was an odd amalgamation of rocks, dirt, moss, and grass. Its height was far superior to normal humans, almost reaching 3 m with long, yet stocky limbs each thicker than a pillar. Its head was nothing more than a large blob The general appearance was akin to a giant tailless monkey and walked on all fours; it would be named 'Tsuchizaru' (earth monkey).
The Tsuchizaru displaced stones and destroyed the road as it walked. Every step it took shook the earth like a small earthquake. Truly, if this beast were the one that destroyed the village chief's house, none would doubt it. It stopped in the center of the temple's courtyard and raised both its boulder sized fist and slammed it down, sending a strong shockwave around it, ripping apart all the bricks on the courtyard.
Rei and Hisashi decided that running would be a better option than scouting the enemy. They slowly and quietly went to the side exit of the temple. It was very fortunate the Tsuchizaru didn't even glance at them with its lifeless dull yellow eyes, but they also didn't see what it was doing as dark gray roots spread across the ground and from parts of the courtyard, small bumps grew at an alarming rate.
One of the few people Hirano Kouta respected from the military was probably Komuro Takashi. They were both of the same age, yet he had attained the rank of general through 2 campaigns. Some of his comrades complained that it was due to connections and whatnot, but he had seen the way he fought in the battlefield. Always on foot, he took on any challenges from enemy generals without a shred of doubt.
However, it was more akin to respecting the samurais of Genji during the Heian period or even the warriors of Sangoku (Three Kingdoms) period. He respected the action and mindset, but criticized the method.
"Firearms are the future of warfare," he often commented. "The age of samurai will soon pass and arquebus will dominate the battlefield."
The young ashigaru was peering from behind a house when he saw it. Some 30 odd people were laying on the ground with various wounds and blood pools near them. As he was about to offer them a prayer in his heart, black mist came out of their mouths while their bodies convulsed and slowly envelop them. Within moments the corpses were completely covered by the miasma and after it dissipated, they stood up as if they were still alive and turned his way with their dead unseeing eyes. Each one of the corpses rose earlier than the other; the ground under them where the miasma touched turned a sickly gray, slowly spreading every which way until it was completely black and emit miasma on their own.
"This is ridiculous." He said in disbelief.
He never noticed a hand reaching for him from behind.