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Messages - OhGodHelpMe

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1
Develop Your Story / Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (COMPLETED)
« on: Today at 12:51:49 AM »
Wow, 30k...

2
Develop Your Story / Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (COMPLETED)
« on: February 15, 2018, 09:36:57 PM »

Actually, I kind of need opinions on this chapter, as well as the last. Trying not to reveal too much too fast.

Fragments of Your Broken Mind
Spoiler

With the moon high in the sky and the smell of blood rising from the corpse-littered ground, Tsukiakari and Taeko dragged their feet around the village, slowly walking around as their troops gathered up the bodies of the slain villagers. The war goddess felt like a lifeless puppet on that walk as her mind was haunted by the image of Noriko, dying before she could even see her child. The blood in her wrists and stomach pricked as if it were biting away at her flesh, and her eyes were circled with some sort of strange darkness, as if she hadn’t slept in years. Taeko, leading the corpse disposal operation, remained as pragmatic as possible, focusing only on the dreadful task at hand.

She had tied her hair in a messy ponytail, making no effort to hide her face from the soldiers she trained. A suffocating miasma of shame surrounded every one of them as they cleaned up after their own mistake. Each one, young and old, had to look into the faces of the slain men, women, and children, and accept that their lives were taken in the name of the Senkumo clan. Much of the clean up crew were lightly armored women, some of them just young teenagers, others well into their 30’s. Just like the men, the gleam of shock and horror broke through their clouded eyes.

Tsukiakari: They’re all silent...

Taeko: Of course they are. It’s not really a mystery, is it? Even you can feel it.

Taeko stopped in her tracks, her eyes aimlessly focused on the ground.

Taeko: Bound by our duties in the war, we all found solace in this one thing, this banner of ours. Senkumo is the name of our family. Many of us, especially the young ones, thought that horrors like this only existed outside of the clan, deep within the depths of a cluttered and blackened battlefield. But now...they’re seeing that not only can those horrors penetrate the safety of the Senkumo clan...but we can be the perpetrators as well. That reality haunts them like a merciless phantom. War no longer makes any sense to them.

(Oh Taeko...how she could just see right through me.)

Taeko: Though we don’t necessarily have any rules against taking the lives of noncombatants, we make our money and spread Bishamon’s influence by allying with certain clans during their campaigns. That means that their rules regarding villagers and the like become our rules. We’ll risk compromising our relationship with our allies if they know that our own troops were responsible for this.

Tsukiakari: I understand. Do what you must. I don’t know how the others will take it, though.

Taeko: It doesn’t matter how. They’re just going to have to take it.

Their slow walk took them to the village center, a bleak shell of its lively and colorful phantom. A massive, dead tree stood in the very center of the village square, it’s twisted, black branches sprawling towards the super moon. From its wicked branches hung the struggling, dying perpetrators of the crime, the ropes around their necks choking the ones hung on the lower branches while those hung up high had already had their spines snapped. A small team of Senkumo shinobi oversaw their deaths, sitting in silence until all of them had passed from this world.

Neither Tsukiakari nor Taeko even knew what to feel anymore.

Taeko: They were out on their regular trip to the other Senkumo mansions, sharing intelligence and checking the condition of the other branches. Their convoy was ambushed along the hillside road to the south. The attackers were unseen.

Tsukiakari: A ranged ambush?

Taeko: The men and their horses were covered in arrows. Feathered, serrated steel tip, and quality wooden bodies. Definitely not the kind of arrows you would see a village militia using. We think it’s either an organized military, or perhaps a band of brigands that deserted their own. As for how they knew....

Tsukiakari: When we return, prepare a few teams to scout the areas around the roads. I won’t stop sending out our convoys, but we will reinforce them with extra troops. If the attacks continue on the other roads, we can be sure that it wasn’t the villagers that gave us away.

Taeko nodded as she looked on at the swinging bodies of their own troops, shafts of moonlight dazzling between the branches of the black tree.

Taeko: We’re all gonna feel it, you know. Every single one of us.








By the time the sun broke first light through the sky, the village was cleaned of any signs of a massacre. The bodies were gone, and their blood washed away. One final thing remained, a coffin containing Noriko’s body. The troops surrounded it in silence as Mayumi hammered in the nails to seal it shut, her shadow elongated across the ground as the sun rose over the hills. Tsukiakari and Taeko approached from behind as the final nail was secured, the three of them standing before the result of their mistake.

Mayumi: It’s finished.

Taeko: I can find a nice place for her, Gekko. Somewhere nice with-

Taeko suddenly cut herself off, much to the confusion of her comrades. She got onto her knees and put her ear against the coffin, gasping in shock.

Mayumi: Taeko? What’s wrong?

Taeko: Don’t you hear that? Something is moving inside the coffin!

The others hushed themselves, and they too could hear some sort of thud and light banging in the coffin.

Taeko: Gekko, open it!

Tsukiakari drew her blade, slashing across the nails. As soon as the nails were cleared, Taeko and a Senkumo shinobi lifted off the coffin’s top

https://youtube.com/watch?v=w71N7MX9HcQ

Their faint hopes that something might still be alive within those tiny, wooden confines of the coffin before them were met with a crushing, disgusting sight. In death, the baby they had failed to deliver safely was pushed out from Noriko’s body, lying between her legs face down, cold, pale, and lifeless. Many of the women around the coffin shrieked in horror, breaking down into guilty tears and frustrated screams. Tsukiakari’s heart boomed and thundered inside of her tightened chest, her breathing labored and deep. Mayumi walked away from the coffin with tears in her sunken eyes as the men re-sealed the coffin, their hands shaking from what they saw.

Taeko laid a hand of comfort upon Tsukiakari’s shoulder, but was unable to look her, or anyone in the eyes.

Tsukiakari: Did she...

Taeko: Coffin birth.

Tsukiakari turned her head to Taeko, knowing full well what kind of grief shadowed over her own face. Taeko too walked away, letting down her black hair from its ponytail. Now, she was desperate to hide her face despite her earlier resolve. The recollection of that terrible day faded away into the white emptiness that surrounded Tsukiakari, but the pain that was suppressed remained. It had always been there, waiting to hurt again. 

Noriko stood before her, her face bearing the sweetness of endless empathy.

Noriko: You remember now, don’t you?

Tsukiakari’s heart sunk as she nodded. That feeling of her own blood biting at her flesh returned to her after all those years.

Noriko: So that’s what you’ve been feeling all this time. No wonder I remained as a phantom trapped in the well.

Tsukiakari: You must’ve been itching for revenge...

Noriko: Revenge? Not at all.

(What? She...didn’t want revenge?)

The war goddess was all too curious to stray her eyes away any longer. She was forced by her curiosity to look Noriko in her eyes, at her smiling face.

Noriko: See? You’ve figured it out now, haven’t you? No matter how much you try to cloak it in blood soaked anger, no matter if you kill this god or that god, no matter if you burn the whole pantheon down, you’ll still have to face what you discarded.

Tsukiakari took a few steps back, as if she were terrified of Noriko herself.

Noriko: I’ll disappear as all phantoms are supposed to, and I’ll rejoin you as any lost fragment of a broken heart is supposed to.

With a smile on her face, Noriko waved goodbye to her woeful other. Somehow, some way, she was able to see what the war goddess had been trying so hard to hide all of that time. The endless void of white began to take in form and color once more, their encounter collapsing in on itself.

Before she could say anything, Tsukiakari found herself in the village again, the moon high in the night sky as it was before. All of the petrified villagers she found, that she thought she had touched with her own two hands, were nowhere to be found.  The cries that echoed from the well were no more. The village ruins were just that. Village ruins. Silent, eerily peaceful beneath the moon.

Tsukiakari: ...Can you still hear me?

They can still hear you.

It is you who can hear me, Gekko.

Tsukiakari: Why didn’t you want her to come out? Why were your goals aligned with the other phantoms?

I simply did not want her to go loose into the living world, though it seems such a concern wasn’t necessary. This phantom was of your own making.

Tsukiakari looked all around her, tracing her eyes over every spot of the village ruins. It was like she could still see it all, the corpses that  ravaged the air with their pungent putrescence. The blood that gave the dirt ground a muddy and congealed texture. The coffin being sealed by the Senkumo shinobi again after everyone recoiled from the sorrowful sight inside.

The wind lapped up, blowing against Tsukiakari with cold, suffocating intensity. The raging winds pooped her ears and forced her to cover her face with her arms as the phantoms of the past faded away into plumes of black smoke once more. As the flurry of rigid winds simmered down, Tsukiakari’s back side was met with a comfortable warmth, a familiar sense of desperate yearning. She turned around, coming face to face with a smiling Noriko. A black hood lied gently over Noriko’s tied up hair, still keeping her face and haunting grin in perfect view.

Unsure of what to say, and yet, wanting to say a thousand things all at the same time, Tsukiakari gazed into Noriko’s beautiful, brown eyes with a vulnerable tenderness in her own. Tsukiakari watched with an unbearably heavy heart as Noriko reached out to her, as if she were inviting the embattled war goddess to take her hand, to accept everything she has chosen to forget up until that point.

With a trembling hand, Tsukiakari reached out in return, coming so close to touching the soft skin of Noriko’s fingertips before the wind returned, blowing into the War goddess’s face again. She instinctively shielded her face once more, peeking open her whitened, blinded eye. And from that blinded eye, somehow, Tsukiakari could see with overwhelming clarity, a flock of forest wagtails fly right past her, dozens of them singing as they passed by. She watched through that single eye as they all fluttered away, traveling on the calming winds towards the pale light of the moon. All except one.

A single, small wagtail circled back towards Tsukiakari, landing in her extended hand. As if to capture it, to keep it close to her heart forever, Tsukiakari gently clasped her other hand over it, bringing it closer to her chest. In silence, she slightly opened up her hands to peek at the little bird once more, this time with both of her eyes open. But once her hands opened up, the bird was gone, as if it was never even there to begin with.

Tsukiakari...

Her eyes lifted sadly towards the seemingly omnipresent moon. Her fist clenched so tightly that her dirtied nails dug deeply into her skin.

Tsukiakari: We’re going to go silence the other phantoms. We’ll do it before sunrise.

A tall task, to silence the Tempest Flame. Do you not realize how dangerously amb-

Tsukiakari: It’s not about that! I don’t know what the Tempest Flame is, but I know that something here isn’t right. Noriko has no traces of this flame on her. She didn’t have an ounce of vengeance in her heart, and yet...

It is as I said. Noriko’s phantom existed only in your mind. You feel things that don’t exist, see things through an eye with no vision. Your heart and mind are already fragmented.

Tsukiakari: And yet, you picked up on her presence before I did. You led me here. You’re lying.

You don’t know what’s real or illusion anymore. Only the light of the Tempest Flame will lead you back towards reality

Tsukiakari: I chase your precious flame no longer. I’m only looking for answers. For now, that horseman and his damn maiden are next. Let’s go.







The moon was also watched by the gentle, red eyes of Inari Okami, who sat cross-legged on seaside boulder, far off from the country’s mainland. Waiting for Izanami’s arrival, she swayed her tails in harmony with the salt-scented winds pushing and pulling the ocean away from the bed of sand that stretched all along the shore. This small island was untouched by man, and unseen by most of the gods. Inari was captivated by the moonlit island and everything around it, for far off from the shore we’re half-sunken, colossal statues of what she assumed to be gods of some sort. The statues could contest any mountain with their stature and height, the moonlight extending their looming shadows over most of the island.

They seemed like they were once alive, with their arms extended and their faces turned toward the heavens, as if they were trying to embrace the sky itself. Parts of the three statues were chipped away, probably from the wear and tear of their old age. It was hard to tell if each statue was depicting a male or a female, for their faces could’ve belonged to either, with no depiction of any physical characteristics to point to either gender. Even with the gods depicted naked, it was still hard to decipher.

The ambiguity of the statues in the far distance only emphasized the ambiguity of the island itself, making the wait for Izanami feel even longer. Inari folded her long, voluminous, snow-white hair behind her ears, directly contrasting with her shadowy kimono.

After a wait that felt much longer than it really was, Inari’s eyes lit up and she leaped off of the boulder as Izanami made her appearance, walking out of a vortex of distorted light and space.

Inari: Izanami!

Wearing a similar, black kimono, Izanami smiled as Inari ran up to her, a smile that almost immediately died away. She knew she had much to explain to Inari.

Inari: Izanami, I did everything you asked. But...why here?

Izanami looked towards the statues across the shimmering, moonlit sea.

Izanami: Because in an era long passed, I gave birth to all of the islands that make up our country. I have form to this earth when it was nothing but a festering pool of uncontrolled chaos. As such, I know these islands better than any other god. Some of these islands, the gods don’t know about at all. That makes this the perfect place to bury one’s secrets.

Inari: Not even Amaterasu knows of this place?

Izanami: Besides for you, all of the gods that knew of this place are long dead. Those are just three of them over there, the first three gods to ever exist in this pantheon. My ancestors.

Inari: The statues?

Izanami: Statues? No, Inari. Those are their corpses.

Izanami walked onwards towards the foliage-covered plateau centered on the island, leaving Inari breathless with shock. She pulled her eyes away from what she now knew to be corpses, opting to stick close to Izanami. The plateau seemed to have an entrance, revealed as Izanami’s presence forced the boulder blocking the cavernous opening to move out of the way, as if the island itself was responding to her. Just outside the entrance, largely hidden by the thick foliage, was a small, sealed crypt of sorts.

Inari: Izanami, this crypt...

Izanami: Let’s go, Inari.

Again, Inari peeled away, following Izanami into the wide open interior of the plateau. It was like Mother Nature had her own ballroom, with three doors down center, left, and right.

Inari: She was wounded when I found her, so she didn’t put up much of a fight.

Izanami: That’s the best we could’ve asked for. Does she remember anything?

Inari: She hasn’t spoken a word since she arrived. Naturally, it’s hard to get her kind to talk at all.

The two entered through the central door, leading them down a descending, spiral staircase. The torches lined against the wall set themselves alight with flames as Izanami passed by.

Inari: You’ve seen this before, haven’t you?

Izanami: No. I’ve only been expecting it ever since she was ‘sealed’ away. Not even Izanagi succeeded in killing her.

The staircase dropped them off into a dark, circular room, about half the size of the ballroom of a main hall. The stone floor at their feet was carved with layers and layers of intersecting circles. Six, long chains rattled and extended from the walls to the center of the room, where their guest of honor lied cuffed by their arms, legs, and neck. Her long, dirty hair shrouded her face, but Izanami knew very well who she was.

Inari: She can’t stand. Tsukiakari cut off her foot, as well as one of her feet.

The captive’s hair suddenly glowed with flames as she faced Izanami, as if something in her was awakening with a noxious brew of rage and yearning. The chains binding her rattled and scraped across the floor as she tried to stand, only to fall back down on her face.

Inari: She’s the second piece. There’s probably more out there. You...expected her to remember something?

Izanami: Yes, I did.

Inari: What?







Izanami: A strong hatred for me.



3
Develop Your Story / Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (COMPLETED)
« on: February 06, 2018, 12:41:50 PM »
Howdy folks, just some shameless self-promotion here. I write because I love to write, and that’s about it. However, if you ever want to leave a small tip, you can do so here

It’s pretty much a digital tip jar. If you like my work, I’d be humbled by even the smallest gesture of support. And don’t worry, all of it goes directly to me. No middle man pinching away at your donations. Anyway, thank you all for making this such a popular story here and in other places. I never expected my “on a whim” side project to get so much love. A lot of good characters died for this  :sure:

Much thanks everyone.

4
Develop Your Story / Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (COMPLETED)
« on: February 02, 2018, 10:33:51 PM »
Did you just say the entire series? The whole thing? Like, all the way up to The End of Osamu Ashikaga?  :ohmy:

Well okay then, just a heads up! The fifth arc, Himushi Redemption is a side arc. Completely skippable. It’s basically Shinju fan service because Shinju is amazing and I love her. The sixth arc, Letting Go, is actually unfinished. I’ve been finishing up that one while writing more stuff for Senkumo War Stories, so you might see Letting Go chapters sprinkled here and there well beyond the arc page in this thread. The chronological end of the series, The End of Osamu, is just slightly unfinished. Just slightly.

THAT IS ALL

I won’t sooil anything for ya. Good luck on your Death by Ex-Girlfriend pilgrimage! And be ready to feel all sorts of emotions!

5
Develop Your Story / Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (COMPLETED)
« on: January 31, 2018, 07:59:19 PM »
Whew. Sorry this took so long.

The Phantom of the Well
Spoiler



A perfect dusk split the fading rays of orange and pink light coloring the sky from the embrace of the coming night and its accompanying shadow. The rain-soaked leaves of the forest trees reflected the sky’s shade of dark, dying pink, along with the gentle waters of the brook further down from the temple. Tsukiakari and the Shoku Twins met once again in the temple’s sanctuary, the war goddess holding her sheathed blade in her lap with her hair still tied up.

Omagatoki: I was named after this phenomenon by Izanami. See, Akatsuki’s name means Dawn. Simple, right?

Omagatoki constantly made all manners of hand gestures, as it helped her explain things smoothly. Though, it made it seem as if she were explaining the violent and bombastic course of a bloody battle.

Omagatoki: But then she turned to me and gave me the name, Omagatoki!

Tsukiakari: Uh huh?

Omagatoki: And see, Omagatoki refers to the time of dusk, but the characters don’t literally refer to dusk at all!

Tsukiakari: Great.

She said as she checked her nails in boredom.

(Damn. Chipped to hell.)

Omagatoki: There are two ways of writing the word Omagatoki. The first is “The hour of great calamity”, and the other is “The hour of ghosts and demons”!

Tsukiakari’s attention was finally seized as she drew out the characters for Omagatoki’s name in her head, her eyebrows sinking upon her disturbing realization.

Tsukiakari: What?! How?! Why does such a little girl have such a creepy name?!

Akatsuki: It’s her downfall, really.

Omagatoki: S-stop! That’s not what’s important!

Akatsuki: Judging by your blushing face and tearing eyes, I would say it is of great importance, Sis.

Omagatoki, young maiden of the dusk, didn’t even realize she was getting so flustered. She wiped her tears as she groaned in embarrassment, earning an amused chuckle out of Tsukiakari.

Omagatoki: You two are meanies! Big, stupid, meanies!

Tsukiakari: Okay, Omagatoki! We apologize! Really! We’re sorry! Just tell me more, alright? I need to know these things before I head out there.

The candlelight dazzling in her large, purple eyes, Omagatoki conceded her vexation.

Omagatoki: Fine...meanie.

Tsukiakari: Thank you, cutie pie. 






By the time the sun had fallen completely, Tsukiakari found herself in the middle of the forest again, making her way towards an abandoned village down the dirt road. The moon guided her way, her only light in the domain of demons and phantoms.

(Spirits come out at Dusk, roaming free in the world of mortals and wreaking havoc wherever they see fit. All manners of ghosts and demons emerge during the hour of dusk, hence why Izanami gave her such a name. Omagatoki’s job is really the most important, isn’t it? The more you think about it, Izanami placed a great burden on them. Why do you think that is? Was she just desperate to save them, offering them any position that would affirm their importance to Heaven? What secrets could she possibly still hold?)

The voice made its return as Tsukiakari sauntered through the dark forest, her sandals crunching on dead leaves and fallen twigs.

The tempest flame...it was here. Their voices echo over yonder

She cane to a stop, only able to faintly hear the voices now that she mentioned. In fact, she hadn’t noticed that the omnipresent voice she had been hearing was female until that very moment. The origin of her voice remained hazy, for not even the war goddess could remember exactly when she started hearing it, only that it had grown more frequent.

Tsukiakari: Good. Let’s put these phantoms to rest.

She cautiously held onto her sheathed blade as she waded through the trees one step at a time. Her guiding voice had grown silent, leaving her only with the crunching sound of her footsteps, the whispering wind bristling through the trees, and the legions of singing crickets. The distance ahead was difficult to scan, as some sort of haze clouded what was supposed to be a spotty view of the village in the distance. Slowly swelling out of the silence, the voices hidden in the haze guided her through the forest. Much like the nature of a cricket’s chirp, the voices seemed to whisper from multiple directions at once.

They were simply too numerous for Tsukiakari to pick out and individualize.

These ones are different. They know we’re here, but they do not covet the tempest flame. No...they want it extinguished. It seems they’re on your side.

Tsukiakari: Tempest Flame...you keep saying that, but I have no idea what you mean.

A Soul for the soulless. It’s not too different from what keeps Izanami alive.

Tsukiakari: What did you just say? Hey! What about Izanami?!

The insolent voice remained silent. Forced to continue, Tsukiakari continued down the dirt road, as guarded as she could possibly be. The further she traveled through the haze, the more it’s smoky veil revealed. A small, humanoid figure’s silhouette emerged as her surroundings became clearer, devoid of any defining features. Make or female, it was a mystery as Tsukiakari got closer, noticing it was sitting on its legs, looking very much like a statue. Its hands were clasped with its face looking towards the sky, as if it were praying. Wondering if it was even alive, Tsukiakari slowly and gently laid her hand on its smooth, stone-like body, tracing her fingers across its head and face.

Tsukiakari: This isn’t any kind of stone at all...

She looked around her, noticing even more of these stone-like people stuck in all sorts of different positions and poses, many of them hopelessly balled up, others grouped together in some sort of final embrace. Their features as indiscernible as the firsts’s, she could only take note of their sizes. Many of them were adults, and some were children. She returned her eyes to the one she had her hand on, slowly removing it.

Tsukiakari: Petrified. These poor people. It’s like they were mummified in ash. Forgive me. There’s nothing that can be done to save you now.

She continued on her way, stopping after just a few steps as the warm light of flames shined upon her back. She quickly turned around as she drew her blade, horrified as she watched all of the petrified corpses burn, like wicks enveloped by flames. The floating girl made her return, levitating above the petrified child Tsukiakari touched just moments ago.

(Her again!)

Wreathed in fire, the floating girl’s hair was lifted and toyed with by the wind, saying sparks flying up into the air. She watched dutifully as the petrified child burned to the ground, it’s body turning black as the flames ate away at its corpse.

Tsukiakari: You! You should be vanquished already! Look at me, damn you!

The floating girl met her fiery eyes with the war goddess, saying nothing.

The Phantom Maiden.

Just as quickly as she appeared, the floating girl lifted the ashes of the incinerated boy around her, obfuscating her sudden disappearance. All of the petrified bodies fell to ashes, joining the soil of the earth.

(Damn her, she disappeared! I thought coming out here would lure them out!)

Then, a familiar neigh of a demonic horse enticed the war goddess’s ears, forcing he me to turn her eyes to the massive boulder in the distance to her right. The flaming, armored horseman surveyed the whole forest as the petrified bodies lit up the area like beacons in the haze. His flaming eyes turned to meet Tsukiakari, but he too was clouded by ash before disappearing, along with his fiery horse.

Tsukiakari: Don’t insult me...

All that was left were the voices, now accompanied by the faint sound of a woman weeping. Her mournful cries seemed to echo and reverberate as if she were inside a tunnel or a large building, standing out from the cacophony of other voices assaulting Tsukiakari’s ears. Determined to end her feud with phantoms, she continued out of the tree line and into the smoldering remains of the small village, greeted by even more flaming, petrified bodies scattered across the area. The cries she heard guided her to the village well, coming from deep below the belly of the earth.

Tsukiakari: Is someone trapped down there?! Hey! Can you hear me!? I’ll get you out of there!

Going down there would be ill-advised, Tsukiakari.

Tsukiakari: Look around you! Look at what’s happened to them! If there’s even one person we can save, we’re going to save them!

So...you only selectively care about the innocent

The comment quickly boiled into rage, the war goddess clenching her fist in aimless anger.

Tsukiakari: They were NOT innocent. Not Ichiki, not her children. We’re going. That includes you too. Keep your eyes on me in the darkness, alright?

Stuck with such an infuriating war goddess. A heavy burden on us, isn’t it?

Hoping to save even one person, Tsukiakari climbed on the edge of the well and dropped down into its deep, dark depths. The cold air rushes through her hair and ears as she dropped down into the cavernous depths of the well, clearly going far deeper than any normal well should. She landed on flat, solid ground after a disturbingly long drop, the harrowing cries of the woman surrounding her. She drew her sword, wreathing it in flames so she could see around her. Looking around, she saw that the very center of the ground had caved in, and the well went deeper still.


A strange and brief jolt shook the cavern, knocking off eroded rocks from the walls and sliding them down the pit. Then another, and another, as if a giant was stomping on the ground.

Tsukiakari: What on earth is that?!



https://youtube./watch?v=gfG9aJzFPd4


Her heart nearly jumped from her chest as she could feel the source of the tremors rise higher and higher through the pit. Goosebumps formed on her skin, standing up the thin, fine hairs on her arms as a gust of breath raced around the cavern like a hurricane in a bottle. Whatever is was, it was clearly alive.

A massive, deathly pale arm arose from the darkness of the pits, it’s dirty and overgrown nails clinging to the wall right behind above Tsukiakari. She rolled out of the way and watched in confused horror as the giantess continued to arise, half of her rotten body sticking out from the pit. Her eyes were completely black, slightly covered by her long, black, wet hair that curved and stick to her back and waist. Her stomach was unguarded by her pale skin, exposing her fat-lined intestines, her wet organs pulsating with the sound of throbbing flesh, and her bony rib cage guarding her blackened heart. Seemingly uninterested in the war goddess, she continued to climb her way onto the walls, desperately clawing her way towards the top.

Tsukiakari: What is this behavior? She’s not going to attack me?

I see. It would seem this one is horrified of the dark. We will call her the Phantom of the Pit.

Tsukiakari: Why? Don’t phantoms come out at night, anyway? The dark is their domain.

It was as it’s entire body emerged that even more terrifying details of the giantess were revealed. The Phantom of the Pit, as the voice called her, still had an umbilical cord attached to her, dragging her deceased, giant infant across the jagged rocks of the walls. It was covered in blood, it’s tongue sticking out of its mouth in an ugly, post-mortem expression. A quarter of its head seemed to be missing, exposing the broken skull and browned out brain being feasted upon by swarms of flies and maggots.

Disgusted beyond words at the sight and smell of both the Phantom of the Pit, and it’s dead, putrescent infant, Tsukiakari covered her mouth and nose to prevent herself from vomiting. At the same time, she was far too amazed to look away.

Tsukiakari! Stop her! She must not reach the outside!

Tsukiakari: What happens if she does?!

We’ll have hell to pay if she gets out! Kill her now while she’s still distracted!

Tsukiakari: But I don’t understand! Why isn’t she attacking?! Phantoms are supposed to be hostile to the living!

Stop arguing and kill her, you damned fool!

Tsukiakari: Damn it!

And so, the war goddess did what she always did best, and drew her blade to wreak havoc. Wreathing her sword with winds powerful enough to cut blades of grass, she focused her aim on the umbilical cord. With a single swing, the wall exploded as if it were hit by a cannon, severing the cord and disconnecting the infant from the mother. The baby’s soft, decayed body plodded down in front of Tsukiakari, but she leaped over it and focused her attention on the giantess. Even without its baby, it continued to climb the walls in desperate search for the moon’s light, so she may be freed from darkness.

KILL HER NOW!

(Her stomach! That’s her weakest spot!)

Once again. The warmth and light of fire, far more intense than what she felt before, abruptly demanded her attention. The Phantom Maiden returned, now wrapping the infant’s corpse in her wild, flesh eating flames.

Tsukiakari shifted over to a lesser used element in her arsenal, ice, and focused herself on the Phantom Maiden, who looked more than happy to fight now that her target was in a precarious position.

Tsukiakari: I really don’t appreciate a god damned opportunist!

The Phantom Maiden summoned her fiery spear, throwing it at the war goddess like a javelin with the speed of a lightning strike. The flaming spear just narrowly missed Tsukiakari as she rolled out of the way, it’s heat instantly drying out the right side of her face as it passed by and exploded behind her.  She cut through the air with her icy sword, summoning forth a tendril of ice from the very earth that entrapped the Phantom Maiden’s left arm and right leg. Her limbs were instantly frost bitten, coated in the whiteish blue of the ice while the flesh itself was rendered a deep purple.

(Got her!)

The war goddess dashed into the air with a single step, bringing her blade down upon the entrapped limbs of the Phantom Maiden with bone-crushing strength, shattering them both into fragments of broken flesh, muscle, and bone.

The Phantom Maiden screamed in agony, an agony that was almost far too real for Tsukiakari. No Phantom should ever sound so human and vulnerable. Without a clue as to why, the Phantom Maiden’s wails of Pain made Tsukiakari just briefly revisit her old Senkumo mansion in her mind. She could see it in its restored state, her underlings and soldiers tending to their various duties. As quickly as she was taken there, her mind brought her back to the cavern, leaving her with a throbbing headache.

Tsukiakari: What was that?! What’s going on?!

Taking advantage of Tsukiakari’s distraction, The Phantom Maiden disappeared into a cloud of black smoke, the cavern plunged back into darkness by the absence of her fiery hair and spear.

Cut it down! Now!

When Tsukiakari returned her eyes upwards to the climbing Phantom of the Well, she also caught a glimpse of the fiery light shining down on them from above as the flaming horseman jumped down into the well, launching himself at the giantess. His horse screamed a sort of beastly battle cry before it slammed right into the giantess, the horseman and his stallion disappearing upon the fiery explosion. The giantess, wreathed in fire like her deceased child, had her arms blown off from her body, leaning backwards until she completely fell from the wall. As she descended further from the light of the surface, it was clear to Tsukiakari that her screams were not because of any perceived physical pain. Those were the screams of a helpless phantom, deathly afraid of the dark.

With a quick roll, Tsukiakari narrowly avoided being crushed by her body, landing right besides the charred remains of her baby. It’s harrowing cry was silenced by its hard, thunderous impact. As the smoke and dust cleared from her vision, Tsukiakari could see the eyes of the giantess tear up as they aimlessly surveyed the cavern. It was still breathing, but it seemed to be her dying breaths.

The dying moments of a phantom. End them quickly.

Tsukiakari: Why did the other phantoms want her dead as well? Why attack their own?

It matters not! Just end her!

The war goddess nearly listened to the intense command of the voice, but her decision was interrupted by the sudden emergence of shadowy tendrils from the giantess’s chest. Six of them, as dark as solitude itself, forced themselves into Tsukiakari’s heart in a unified stab.

(No! No, no, no! Don’t tell me I’m going to die!)

Her vision quickly faded to black, and her hearing blocked away all of the sound around her. It was total and complete oblivion.

Until she awoke again...trapped in some sort of pure, white, empty space. The only one there with her was a woman, her presence signified by the cries and coos of the baby she held in her arms. Tsukiakari turned around to see her, a beautiful woman with an endearing smile and long, black hair.

Woman: Phantom of the Well...what a harsh name for me.

(What? How does she know that’s what the voice called her?)

The setting seemed harmless enough for them to talk, but Tsukiakari was bursting at the seams with questions.

Tsukiakari: Am I dead?

Woman: Oh, heavens no! Well...

The woman looked to the face of her baby as she gently rocked him in her arms.

Woman: We certainly are.

(Wait a minute...she’s wearing the Senkumo robes?)

Tsukiakari: Those robes...where did you...

Woman: Oh...so you really don’t remember? No, I suppose that isn’t it. Perhaps you’ve chosen to forget after all of this time. I won’t blame you if that’s the case. If I were in your position, so many deaths would pile up on my heart as well. Even I would choose to forget it all.

Tsukiakari: I...

(Why do I feel like crying? Why am I so happy and sad...and ashamed?)

Her answer came to her instantly. The voices of Senkumo troops blared from her left, forcing her to turn and witness what seemed to be a recollection of some sort, of an event that had passed long ago.

Beneath a deep blue, overcast sky in the very early morning, the woman walked the very same dirt path that Tsukiakari would walk down to find her, the voice crudely naming her the Phantom of the Well. It seemed she lived a quiet and modest life, evidenced by the bundle of herbs and flowers she collected in her lacquered basket. Her long, black hair was tied into a very neat bun, and her white pristine, white kimono was tightly wrapped around her.

It was a beautifully peaceful walk, filled with the gentle whisper of the morning breeze and the surviving aroma of the rain that passed in the night. Her peaceful return to her village became one of great horror as she emerged from the tree line, greeted by two great pillars of black smoke billowing from her home. Her eyes widened in shock as she ran towards the village, spotting the first corpse against the rear wall of of one of the homes. The corpse of the young woman was coated in blood, staining her kimono and puddling in the dirt around her. She had the foresight to slap her hand over her mouth as she saw the corpse, the first she had seen in her life. Her frightened shrieks and gasps would’ve given her away at a murder scene that was visibly fresh.  Her racing heart was ready to jump right out of her chest, or lodge itself in her throat.

The sudden blast of screams up ahead prompted her to take cover against the wall, still trying her best to keep as quiet as possible. Gathering whatever information she could, purely from her ears, she could hear a set of multiple footsteps, assessing that the people up ahead were not wearing sandals or any typical footwear common in the village. Their steps were heavy, plodding against the ground with considerable force and metallic resonance. She knew the group ahead must’ve been armored, either a band of brigands or members of a military force. Another sound she picked up was the continued sound of dragging accompanying the screams. Bodies dragged against the dirt, all of them being collected at one place, against their will.

She dared, against her instincts, to peer a little over the wall to confirm what she was hearing. The first thing she could see as she inched her face ever so cautiously psst the walk were her fellow villagers, rounded up with their hands tied behind them. Next to them were several, armored soldiers, all of them wielding spears and sheathed swords at their hips. More soldiers in the distance were dragging villagers out of their home, ripping children away from their crying mothers, killing their fathers and brothers right in front of them with their blades.

Her eyes turned back to the group closest to her, noticing her angry and wrathful they seemed to be.

Soldier: Which one of you was it?! Who tipped them off?! Was it you?! You?! Answer me, damn it!

Noriko could see with her frightened eyes the confused, helpless expressions on the faces of the villagers, unsure of what the soldiers were asking them and wanting only to be let go. Drunk with aimless rage, the spearmen each kicked a villager down to the ground, stabbing them through their backs as the dirt muffled their dying screams. Noriko immediately turned away from the slaughter, gasping through her hand as tears streamed down her pale face.

She slowly crept over to the right, peering over the edge in search of a way around the ongoing killing. Even more corpses were sprawled across the ground, her eyes scanning around for any sight of her older brother, something that was hard to make out with most of the corpses either facing the other way or face-down completely. Knowing it was imperative that she delivered those herbs to her brother, she stepped forward, one silent, cautious step at a time, moving quickly between the gaps dividing the homes so the soldiers on the other side wouldn’t spot her. Knowing that those terrifying screams in the other side could be her at any minute made her even more careful not to be seen or detected in any manner.

Having made it across to these cons building safely, she crept across to the third, stopping dead in her tracks as the door to the building flung open, blocking her from the view of the two soldiers stepping out. She quickly scuffled back behind the wooden house, just shy of the door. The infuriated swordsmen threw the civilians they captured inside to the ground, a teenage girl cowering behind her elderly grandfather.

Grandfather: Please, don’t hurt her! We don’t know anything!

Swordsman: You bastards are the only ones who could’ve possibly given out our travel route! One of you knows something! And I swear, we’re going to find out which one of you did it!

Grandfather: This is madness! The Senkumo clan said they would protect us! You regularly purchase grain from us! Why would we betray you?! We don’t know who ambushed you!

Swordsman: Enough of your god damned lies!

She couldn’t see it happen, but she could clearly hear the swordsman withdraw his blade from its scabbard, followed by the horrified scream of the young girl as the sound of ripping flesh and dying sighs echoed through the air. Soon after that, the girl’s cries were silenced as well, her blood running into Noriko’s view.

Swordsman: Lying, treasonous bastards.

She listened closely to the sounds of their footsteps growing more and more distant as they regrouped with their comrades on the other side, giving her the chance to move again. Seeing the bloodied bodies of the elder man and young girl together, she swallowed her grief and helpless regret, focusing only on finding her brother.

She crept over across to the next building, her heart stopping as one of the doors across the street flung open. The two soldiers stepping out spotted her creeping around, yelling out to her as she tried to run.

Swordsman: Hey! You! Hell do you think you’re going?!

Forced to let go of her basket, she bolted through the street as fast as she could, constantly looking back behind her as the two quickly caught up to her. The closer they got to her, the more she screamed for someone, anyone, to help her. One of the armored swordsmen tackles her to the ground, losing his grip on her as they crashed in the dirt. She quickly pushed herself back into her feet, grabbing hold of a bucket that was next to her, filled with collected rain water. She threw the bucket at the soldier on the floor, distracting him for just a moment as she continued to run for her life, and her baby’s.

Swordsman: I’ll f*cking kill you! You’re dead!

The two pursued her impetuously, and it didn’t take long at all for them to catch to her again, this time, greeting her with a hammer strike to the face, just above her right eye. She was knocked right down to the ground, screaming in blinding, bloody pain as one of the swordsmen sat on top of her and pinned down her legs. The other violent grabbed hold of her hair, screaming into her face with the bloodied hammer in his hands.

Swordsman: You think we won’t do it?! Huh?!

He passed the hammer over to the other soldier.

Swordsman: Break her f*cking ribs!

They forcefully tipped her kimono off of her body as she tried with all of her might to fight them off, to no avail. Her forlorn efforts did nothing to stop them from stripping her naked.

Swordsman 2: Hey! She’s pregnant! She’s got some nice breasts on her too! Nice and plump from pregnancy!

The both of them laughed at her as she struggled, one of them forcing her legs open while the other held down her arms.

Noriko: Get off of me! I’m begging you, please stop!

The swordsman on top of her leaned in to whisper in her ear.

Swordsman: You’re gonna die after this, so just sit back, alright?

It was then that she noticed the black, Senkumo robes underneath his plated armor, a clan that was supposed to protect the village from warring lords. She followed her first instinct, and with all her might, bit down on the swordsman’s ear, pulling it away from his head until she ripped it off like a savage animal desperate to survive. The other swordsman briefly released Noriko as he tended to his screaming comrade, holding onto the bleeding gash where his ear used to be.  She quickly got up again, her mouth covered in his blood as she ran farther down the street. The other swordsman closed in on her by the well, pushing her down on the ground and raising his hammer to strike her again.

Swordsman: Feral cunt! I knew we were right to kill all of you!

Noriko covered her head with her arms as the soldier mercilessly beat her with the hammer, striking her arms, her legs, her feet, shoulders, and even her pregnant belly. She screamed in the most horrific fit of terror, hoping that someone would hear her cries and show her mercy. Each hammer strike cracked her bones and bloodied her skin until she was covered in dirt, blood, and bruises. The swordsman wrapped his hand around her neck to snuff out her screams, undoing his skirt of armor and kimono fold with the other.

She fought desperately to kick her legs, to hit any part of him in the hope that he would budge, but he was far too powerful for her in his fiery rage. He forcefully penetrated her after beating her shins with the hammer until she couldn’t even feel the pain anymore, thrusting and groaning as he choked her more tightly.

In that moment where all seemed lost, she could only do one thing. Pray. She prayed to see her baby live through this nightmare. She prayed to see her brother again. She prayed for forgiveness of her mortal sins. She prayed for a god, any god in earth, to save her from this torture.

His hand moved from her throat over to her breasts, squeezing on them so tightly that milk flowed from her nipples. With each thrust, the pain between her legs intensified, festered, and burned. She could feel herself bleeding between her legs, the muscles in her vaginal canal sore and torn. Then his hand slithered over to the hammer as the other swordsman returned with backup, holding onto his bleeding ear hole as he pointed at the wretch that dared to defend herself from him.

The other swordsman, content with his rape if her stood her up on her feet by the hair, bringing her closer to the well before his new audience. He removed the bucket from the well and tied the rope around her neck instead, the crowd of enraged Senkumo soldiers violently cheering for her death.

Swordsman: If I drop her, what do you think will give out first!? The rope?! Or her?!

Everyone: HER!

Swordsman 2: Kill the whore already!

The swordsman pushed her feet off of the stone rim of the well, watching her as she clawed at the rope around her neck. With a simple pull of the well’s crank, Noriko dropped down into its dark depths, plummeting too fast for her to even see where she was going. Almost certain the rope would hold and her neck would break, the Senkumo troops were more than disappointed when the rope snapped, releasing Noriko without killing her. However, her hard impact on the cavernous ground at the bottom of the well sent shockwaves down her entire body, no part more affected than her stomach. Unable to move her legs, she pushed herself up with her wobbling, battered arms, her mouth wide open in silent pain and mortification. She felt around her vagina with her fingers, bringing her hand back up to view to see that it was covered in blood. Her baby was in grave danger.

The memory erupted into flame, transitioning into another.

A squad of Senkumo soldiers surrounded the well, all of them straining and groaning to pull the woman and her baby out from its depths. Tsukiakari saw herself among them, pulling away at the rope they used to hoist her back up. Mayumi was there too.

Mayumi: Takahiro! Report back to Taeko’s squad! We found a civilian, still alive! Our guys threw her down into the well! And tell her to bring the medical supplies! She’s going to need help as soon as we pull her out!

Soldier: Yes ma’am!

Tsukiakari: Noriko! Can you hear me?! You’re doing good, love! We’ll get you out soon! I promise, you’ll be fine! Just hang in there a little longer!

Seven and a half months pregnant, Noriko entered premature labor when she was thrown down the well, fighting with everything she had to keep her child alive, and to use her remaining strength to cling tightly to the rope the Senkumo troops were using to save her. Because the Well was so dark, no one could see what she even looked like. They only knew that she badly needed help. For what felt like hours, they hoisted her up further and further from the well until, finally, she emerged from its dark depths, collapsing into Tsukiakari’s arms. The war goddess carried her in both arms with a chuckle of happy relief, infinitely pleased that the worst part of it was over. Noriko’s naked and bruised body told a story of beating and rape before she was thrown down the well and left to die. Nonetheless, she prevailed, a miracle that made everyone cheer and collectively breathe a sigh of relief.

Mayumi: Her breathing! Gekko, something’s wrong!

Noriko breathing was erratic and deep, her pregnant belly visibly shifting and moving around beneath her skin. Her grip around Tsukiakari was fading and weak, and despite being thrown down a well, she was breaking out a terrible sweat.

Tsukiakari: Let’s get her inside, now!

Mayumi: She’s going into labor?!

Tsukiakari: It must’ve been the impact when she fell! We’ve got to hurry and get her somewhere safe!

As that fragment of a memory faded into black smoke, another materialized in its place. With each second of it she watched, she began to remember more and more of what she had chosen to forget. The war goddess was reclaiming what she had lost.

Having rushed her inside, Tsukiakari, Mayumi, Taeko, and a handful of troops laid her down on a long table, presumably inside one of the village homes. Tsukiakari had already discarded her Senkumo robe and given it to Noriko to cover her dirty and bruised body. With a medical team on hand, Taeko managed their attempt to save Noriko and her child, all of them wearing black cloths tied over their mouths. One of the medical troops felt his hands around Noriko’s stomach as she cried out in excruciating pain, hanging on tightly to Tsukiakari’s and Mayumi’s hands.

Medic: Sergeant.

Taeko: Right. Noriko, we need you to push for us, okay? Push with everything you’ve got!

Noriko: I’ll try!

Mayumi: Hang onto us too!

Noriko managed several short pushes, so much so that the medic could feel the baby making his way down the birth canal, slowly but surely. But after several more pushes, complications already started to arise.

Taeko: Something came out?

Taeko laid eyes on the umbilical cord that found its way out of the womb before the baby did, her worry for Noriko and the child increasing tenfold.

Noriko: What’s going on?!

Tsukiakari: Taeko?

Taeko: The umbilical cord prolapsed and came out before the baby!

Medic: Sergeant! The baby’s coming in at an odd angle! I think the shoulder will get caught in the birth canal at this rate!

Taeko: Can you guide it at a better angle? I won’t be able to pull too hard on the baby’s head.

Medic: I’ll give it my best shot!

Noriko: Oh god, will it be okay? It’ll survive, right?

Mayumi: If you survive, the baby will too!

Tsukiakari: You’re doing good, Noriko. Just keep pushing, okay?

Noriko’s exhausted eyes were filled with hope when she looked upon Tsukiakari’s smiling face, giving her just a tiny no more strength to carry on. The night carried on as they all tried desperately to save Noriko and her child, but with each great effort, Noriko was losing more and more of her strength. Her strained, beaten body was at its limits trying to safely deliver a premature baby. Her voice grew weaker and weaker, her pushes becoming far less effective and sparse.

Tsukiakari: Noriko! Noriko, stay with us!

Her half shut eyes wandered around the room.

Noriko: I’m getting...tired...

Mayumi: Her pulse is weakening!

Taeko: Keep her alive! The baby hasn’t come out yet!

Noriko: Oh god...oh my god...please...I don’t want to die...my baby!

Tsukiakari: You won’t die, Noriko! You’ll live to see your baby, we promise! Just stay with us! Fight it!

Taeko: Damn it, it’s not just the shoulder! I think the umbilical cord is trapping the body!

Medic: Sergeant, should we cut her open?

Tsukiakari: She won’t survive that! She’s already high-risk! It’ll be a race to get the baby out before Noriko dies!

Taeko: It’s body is stuck, Gekko!

Tsukiakari: We are not going to kill a mother before she can hold her child! Even if it works today and they both live, she’s bound to develop complications after the delivery is done!

Medic: Sergeant, it’s Lord Senkumo’s call.

Taeko: Alright! Noriko! We need one big push from you! I know you can do it!

Gathering her strength once more, Noriko managed to push as hard as her body allowed. But despite her amazing efforts, and despite the extraordinary help of everyone around her, the push was not enough for the baby. And yet, it proved to be far too much did Noriko.

Mayumi: Her pulse! There’s no pulse! Her heart stopped!

Tsukiakari: She’s not breathing either!

Medic: Pump her chest! Keep her heart beating!

Tsukiakari got right to work, standing up with her hands placed firmly over Noriko’s chest. She pumped her chest as hard as she could, desperate to see this tragic tale have a happy, miraculous ending.

Mayumi: It’s not working!

Taeko: Mayumi, give her air while Gekko pumps her chest!

Mayumi: Alright!

Taeko: Noriko, can you hear me?! Noriko!

Those few minutes seemed like an eternity. Everyone was so desperate to save Noriko, to save her child. To atone for the grave mistake committed in the Senkumo name. But as the minutes continued to pass, there was less and less anyone could do for her. Tsukiakari soon found herself to be the only one still trying, while the others all refused to even look at Noriko’s still, pale face. The hope and optimism in the room died with Noriko and her child.

Tsukiakari: Guys!? What are You doing!?

Taeko: Gekko...

Tsukiakari: Help me! She’s...

Tsukiakari took a good look at Noriko, her lifeless face, and her and her battered, violated body. She was forced to admit the one thing she didn’t want to believe that day. She was ultimately responsible for all of this.

Mayumi walked away, covering her face as she sobbed and cried.

Silence weighed heavily upon them. Taeko especially looked dejected and exhausted, cursing beneath her breath as she too erupted into tears.

Tsukiakari:...Prepare a coffin.

Medic: Right away, my lord.

Tsukiakari: And one more thing.

Her words grabbed everyone’s curious attention.

Tsukiakari: Bring me the men responsible for all of this.

The war goddess’s anger showed through her sorrow. Nothing that happened to those villagers or to Noriko represented what the Senkumo clan was about. Regardless, Tsukiakari was their commanding lord. Their sins were her sins. The pain they inflicted upon civilians was her pain.

At last, perhaps she understood. These phantoms were hers. 




6
Develop Your Story / Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (COMPLETED)
« on: January 20, 2018, 06:58:27 PM »
Congratulations on finishing your first DbeG arc! Funny thing about the first arc is that when I started it almost two years ago, I had no idea what I was going to write for the next chapter. This issue continued for just about every subsequent chapter, but I managed to string together a story based off the characters and I thought they should be developed in that arc. Glad it worked out lol

The following arcs are much more solid, but it seems like the popular opinion is that I REALLY found the sweet spot of the series with the third arc, Dawn and Dusk. You’re on your second arc now, so it looks like you’ll be reading War Cloud! I won’t spoil anything, but I will say this. After reading War Cloud, if you’re interested in seeing the backstory of the new girl in depth, that’s what Senkumo War Stories is for. It starts on page 18 of this thread, I believe. If you do choose to read it, be aware that the final act, Book of Vengeance, spoils how the series ends after the climax. I don’t know anyone’s opinions on the arc, but it’s a long and brutal tale.

Oh and yes, the thing with Aika was a memory edit, basically.

You’re gonna hate me for this

Buutttt

The rest of the series gets far more depressing

7
Develop Your Story / Re: Chelderan Chronicles: Worldbuilding
« on: January 18, 2018, 03:13:49 AM »
Reading over this, it seems the lore is as in-depth as ever. Everything laid out here provides a great wealth of information that should be utilized in more stories related to the universe. Not sure how much of this depth actually makes it though into your story’s narrative, but I find that gently guiding people into a world and then expanding what they’ve already cone to understand over time. From the inner workings of governments, dynamic relationships between countries and peoples, to detailed looks into famous battles, the lore is a joy to read, especially so if you’re a history buff. It’s even better knowing that much of it is carried out or experienced by individual characters with their own challenges and personalities. An impressive feat, given the scale of the overall universe.

Keep up the nice work

8
Develop Your Story / Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (COMPLETED)
« on: January 16, 2018, 02:04:35 PM »


Izanami’s Phantom Heart
Spoiler
The Shoku Twins brought their guest of honor to a black, dilapidated Shinto shrine tucked away in the rain soaked woods. By the looks of it, much of the temple had been burned to the ground, probably as part of Bishamon’s clean up operation. The main pagoda still stood, albeit with its walls coated in soot and its spotty roof giving perhaps four of five too many skylights for enjoyment. Their feet constantly crunched on dead and burnt leaves covering the stone walkway as the rain came to a halt. The statue of whatever goddess commanded the shrine sat inside the main goddess, unidentifiable with its head missing. Tsukiakari stopped just outside the entrance to the main pagoda, intrigued by an empty bird cage hanging from the roof. She tapped her finger against the cold, steel cage, her slight touch making it swing back and forth ever so slightly.

Akatsuki: Don’t touch that, please.

Tsukiakari was pulled out from her trance by Akatsuki’s demand.

Tsukiakari: Oh, sorry. I was just-

Akatsuki: Do you like birds, Tsukiakari?

(Such a mundane question, so why do I find it so...interesting?)

Tsukiakari: Yeah...I like the more colorful birds that emerge in the spring and summer.

Akatsuki: I see. How embarrassing.

Omagatoki pushed open the heavy, creaky, wooden doors to the temple with all of the might in her pale little arms, straining and grunting in her attempt. An aroma of burning incense and candles drifted out from the open door, encircling their noses.

Tsukiakari: Why is that embarrassing? War gods can’t like birds?

Omagatoki: Thanks for the help, you two...

Akatsuki: No, I just don’t think the birds could ever like a war god. Please, come inside.

(Though they appear to be kids, I have to remember that they’re almost as old as me. Their bodies are merely trapped in youth, but their minds are more advanced than that. I shouldn’t take offense if they have a bit of cynical wit about them.)

Once inside, Omagatoki sealed the doors while Tsukiakari laid her sword against the wall, plopping down in front of the broken Shinto statue in the foreground of the worship area. To her, she was simply sitting where a god was expected to sit. The Shoku Twins proceeded to sit before her, finally able to relax.

Omagatoki: Is it okay for you to sit there? This temple isn’t yours, is it?

Tsukiakari: Judging by the state of it, whoever it did belong to doesn’t want it back. Besides, there’s hardly any worshippers in this area anymore. You yourselves thought this place was safe because of that fact.

Omagatoki: Yeah, I guess that’s true...






Tsukiakari crossed her legs as she withdrew a thin, red string from her pocket. She reached her hands behind her head, taking hold of her wicked, black hair and tying it into a long pony tail that elegantly curved and meandered on the floor behind her.

Tsukiakari: So, what did Oyamatsumi do to receive the ire of the Shoku Twins?

Omagatoki: How much do you know about us?

Tsukiakari: I know that, somehow, Izanami was able to convince the Heavens to allow you two to dutifully rule over time and space itself. If you two were to separate for an extended period of time, this world of ours would end. Humans and Gods alike would cease to exist. That’s far too much power for some of the youngest gods in Heaven now, isn’t it?

Omagatoki: Perhaps, but Amaterasu didn’t have a god to look over that domain at the time. We proved to be the most proficient at maintaining the world’s balance. Amaterasu is always paying close attention to the gods in her ranks, and the positions they hold. After all, don’t gods cycle out much more often now? It’s far different from the other eras, like when it was just Izanami and Izanagi.

Tsukiakari: Yeah, that much is true.

Akatsuki: My sister and I were normal mortals before all of this. We lived in the outskirts of Kyoto around the time the various wars and power struggles broke out throughout the country.

Tsukiakari: You two lived there during the war?!

Akatsuki nodded.

Akatsuki: It is as you’re thinking. Omagatoki and I were killed in the crossfire. Oyamatsumi played a role in the campaign that ended up killing us.

Tsukiakari: You were collateral damage. What role did Oyamatsumi play? Which armies were fighting that day? Do you know? It’s not the first time that rotten bastard has interfered in the course of a battle.

Omagatoki: I...well, it-

Akatsuki: Shhh. Our memory of that day isn’t all too good. At any rate, once we died, Izanami tended to both our bodies and souls. We visited her shrine very frequently as children. I suppose she had been watching our good deeds that whole time. Instead of sending us to the afterlife, Izanami requested that an exception be made for us, citing that our deaths was the direct consequence of Oyamatsumi‘s actions.

Tsukiakari: Then there should’ve been a trial, an investigation of some sort.

Omagatoki: There was, but... I’m sure you know how well those go. The investigation was inconclusive. Really, I think that the Divine Court was just refusing to acknowledge Izanami’s accusations. She’s always been above the law, and they resented her for that. If they couldn’t get justice for her sins, she wouldn’t get justice for Oyamatsumi’s.

Akatsuki: And so, the two sought to settle their conflict the old fashioned way.

Tsukiakari: A duel. A fight to the death.

The Shoku Twins took hold of each other’s hands, initiating a vision of the past. The interior of the temple faded away like smoke blown away by the breeze, and like a veil being parted, the view of a sunlit lake revealed itself beyond the smoke of the temple. The three found themselves standing among the crowd of gods encircling the lake, an audience to a killing.

(This lake...)

Tsukiakari looked around and spotted Oyamatsumi’s pagoda built atop the lake, realizing the duel took place at his shrine. The Shoku Twins stood beside her, their gaze focused on the two gods in the center of the crowd, both of them standing atop the deep, shimmering water.

Akatsuki: Look, Tsukiakari.

Of course, it was Oyamatsumi and Izanami, the two standing a fair distance from each other as they prepared to begin. Oyamatsumi seemed to have a full, grizzly beard back in this time, keeping his long, blonde hair tied in a bun. He had taken off his fur coat, sporting only his tight, black pants, seashell necklace, and his massive, gleaming halberd.

Izanami, on the other hand, wielded a deathly aura around her. That day was the first time she had worn her shadowy, black, and tattered robes since she caused the Black Death. With her scythe gripped tightly in hand, Izanami’s very presence frightened the gods in attendance. None of them would even dare whisper about her, sensing the wrathful hatred festering behind those haunting eyes of her.

Izanami: Oyamatsumi.

Oyamatsumi: Huh? What is it? You thinking about backing out?

Izanami: You should kill yourself while you still can.

Oyamatsumi scoffed at the sheer silliness of her suggestion before erupting into a fit of laughter that echoed through air.

Oyamatsumi: I see your arrogance hasn’t gone away in all these years, Izanami the Cruel! Unlike these cowards in the audience, I don’t fear you or your threats! I’ve been itching to punish you, the greatest sinner in all of Heaven! Let’s start!

Izanami: Before we do, let us agree on terms.

The wind lapped up their hair and rattled the surface of the lake, distorting their reflections.

Izanami: If I win, those two girls will be revived and made the guardians of time. You will accept your charge as a murderer, and you will be stripped of your ascension to Chief War God.

(Oyamatsumi was supposed to be a war god?)

Oyamatsumi: You rotten...fine! If I win, the twins will pass on, and you will accept one thousand years of imprisonment in the Underworld as your punishment! Agreed?

Izanami sternly nodded.

Izanami: Agreed. Let us begin.

Akatsuki shut her eyes, for witnessing the duel once was more than enough for her. As for Omagatoki, the memory of this day still seemed to invoke a sense of helpless fear in her as she hid herself behind Tsukiakari’s leg, refusing to look any longer.

Akatsuki: How I hate revisiting old phantoms...

(I see now. This was the first time they ever saw it, the cataclysmic aura of hatred around Izanami. They saw her vengeful side, and it scared them, even though they are vengeful themselves.)

Oyamatsumi lowered the blade of his halberd towards the shimmering waters, adjusting his balance and spreading apart his legs. He took every formal, physical measure to prepare for his battle with Izanami the Cruel, all the way down to stance and form. In the blink of an eye, the fledgling war god zoomed across the lake, shrouding the area in a cool mist of displaced water that rained back down all around him. Before she could even see it, Izanami found herself flying and tumbling across the lake, catching glimpses of her legs and severed torso still standing upright. She had been cut into clean halves.

Oyamatsumi stopped to look back at the damage he dealt, his smug expression quickly souring as Izanami’s bottom half slowly melted away into a stew of putrescent, fleshy sludge. Izanami climbed out from underneath the lake like a zombie out of her grave, her bottom half naked and exposed, but nonetheless completely regenerated. She took a deep breath before slashing the blades of her scythe across the waters, her fiery gaze focused on her opponent.

(Knowing her, she made short work of her opponent. Oyamatsumi was a fool to challenge her like this. What exactly fueled his confidence here?)

Izanami reeled back her scythe before slashing it forward, bringing forth massive, crescent splashes of water that instantly hardened into ice. Oyamatsumi desperately dodged their icy entrapment, his eyes carefully tracing Izanami’s pattern of attack. Each icy wave brought him closer to Izanami, until the two were forced to clash blades. With their blades locked, Oyamatsumi kneed Izanami in her stomach, breaking her guard. He pushed his blade against hers, shoving her scythe out of the way and opening her up for an attack.

Oyamatsumi: Even you have your weakness, you rotten harlot!

With his bare hand, Oyamatsumi pierced through her chest, breaking through her rib cage. Izanami stood paralyzed as Oyamatsumi gripped her very heart and violently yanked the sacred organ out from her chest, spraying the lake with her blood. Shocked gasps and screams circulated among the spectating gods as Oyamatsumi held up Izanami’s heart like a prized trophy, all while she fell to her knees, painfully grabbing at her chest.

Oyamatsumi: Why do you fear this rotten wretch!? Why have you let her dominate the very heart of Heaven?! Do you not feel ashamed?! Look! I hold before you the weakness of every god! Izanami’s heart! When I crush this heart, the nightmare will be slain, and this demon will go back where she belongs! To the darkest depths of the Underworld!

Tsukiakari: He actually manages to get her heart?!

The Shoku Twins remained silent, still looking away from the bloody duel before them. Just as he promised, Oyamatsumi put a powerful squeeze on Izanami’s heart, completely destroying the organ. The audience stood in shocked silence, and the very air around them grew still. As the blood and fleshy, chunky remains of her heart dripped down his hand, all of Heaven anticipated, with unflinching eyes, the death of death itself.

Izanami did not drop dead. In fact, she giggled as the pain in her chest faded away, quickly erupting into wicked, amused laughter. No one understood what they were seeing. Not even by crushing her heart could Oyamatsumi Kill her. He backed away in fear as she stood up again, her gaping chest wound staring him tight in the eyes.

Oyamatsumi: You...you should be dead!

Izanami: You precious fool. Did you really think that a woman named Izanami the Cruel would have a heart?

Oyamatsumi: So then...that wasn’t your heart? But how are you...what are you?!

Izanami: You’ve already described me perfectly, Oyamatsumi.

The sky suddenly faded into darkness, as if the sun had grown cold and all light had forsaken the earth. And yet, the lake at their feet radiated a crimson glow, surrounding everyone in a blood-red light. Oyamatsumi thought he had bested the monster, the great sinner herself. It was his greatest mistake.

Izanami: I’m a nightmare.

(No one is reacting to this huge change in lighting? The sky just went black for Heaven’s sake! Unless...I see now.)

The clarity of Izanami’s illusion was lifted, and the reality of the nightmare unveiled itself to Oyamatsumi, as well as the divine audience. No one was sure of when Izanami put everyone under her wicked spell, or how all of them could’ve fallen for it and never noticed. Regardless, the result was the same. Oyamatsumi looked down at his chest, seeing the gaping wound he thought he had inflicted onto Izanami. He realized all too late that he had been tricked into crushing his own heart, destroying his own source of power and divinity.

All of his confidence, his sense of control had been stolen from him. The last thing Tsukiakari saw was the smile of Izanami, warm and kind in appearance, but nothing short of absolute evil in intention. The memory turned completely black, abruptly taking away the view of the lake. A few short seconds in that darkness felt like a few long hours. The next sight horrified even Tsukiakari.

All they could see in the chilling darkness with them was the colossal, severed and bloodied head of Oyamatsumi, his eyes glazed over and looking in two different directions. Even his hands had been severed and violently stuffed into his mouth. A pale, deathly hand with long, black nails held Oyamatsumi’s head by the hair, the hand of death and carnage itself. The hand of Izanami.








Though the memory had faded back to the scenery of the dilapidated temple, Tsukiakari was left with more questions than answers.

Tsukiakari: Those distortions...

Akatsuki: Forgive us. They’re the product of our difficulty confronting such a memory. It’s still shrouded in fear and nightmarish dread.

Omagatoki: We’re very sorry...

Tsukiakari: There are things you’re not telling me. Aren’t there?

The Shoku Twins remained silent.

Tsukiakari: You were already avenged that day, weren’t you? Oyamatsumi was humiliated and stripped of his right to ascension as a war god. All of that came with his death. It seems like the perfect kind of vengeance for what he did to you.

Omagatoki: His reincarnation voided any sense of closure for us. It’s like Heaven had him killed for show, and then stripped away his military authority.

Akatsuki: If what you said about Oyamatsumi earlier is true, then none of it really mattered, did it? He went back to meddling in human conflicts, even dodging legal punishment for committing an identical crime. The only thing achieved that day was the demonization of Izanami.

Tsukiakari: Izanami doesn’t need any help making a demon out of herself.

Omagatoki: It isn’t who she truly is!

Tsukiakari: And how could you possibly know that?

Omagatoki: We have-

Akatsuki: Sis.

Omagatoki stoped before she could say anything that could put Izanami in danger.

(I wonder what she was going to say. Akatsuki wouldn’t stop her without good reason.)

Tsukiakari: More importantly...how is it that Izanami doesn’t have a heart? Where does she get her power from then?

Akatsuki nodded in uncertainty, her face as still as stone.

Akatsuki: I’m afraid we don’t know either. It seems there are many unknowns today.

Tsukiakari: You mean my pursuers, don’t you.

Omagatoki: I don’t think you’ve seen the last of them, Tsukiakari. If those weren’t executioners from Heaven, then the other likely scenario is that...well...

Tsukiakari: Come on, spit it out. Speak your mind.

Omagatoki: I think...they might be phantoms of some sort.

Tsukiakari: Phantoms? As in ghosts? The dead come back to life?

Akatsuki: Does that sound crazy to you?

Tsukiakari: No, I suppose not. After all, you two are basically that. So is Izanami. It’s just...why? Why would I be pursued by the dead?

Fool. Why do you feign ignorance?

Those dreaded voices returned, as invasive and unwelcome as always. She had been hearing them ever since she murdered Ichiki and her infant children. With each syllable they spoke, her head and heart ached terribly, pulsating with maddening, dull pain.

Omagatoki: Are you alright?! You’ve suddenly gone pale!

Akatsuki: Does your head hurt?

A God’s heart is a precious thing, Tsukiakari. But what of her phantoms? There are phantoms here now, witnessing your story unfold. What of them, war goddess?

Tsukiakari: It’s nothing I can’t handle. You don’t have to worry about me.

Akatsuki sighed, as if she were disappointed.

Akatsuki: You’re such a child. We should call it a night and get some rest. We’ll worry about your pursuers tomorrow.

(Just ignore the voices for now...)

Omagatoki: Sis and I don’t sleep, since we’re responsible for fading night into day and day into night. If you need something, just call out to us, okay?

Tsukiakari: Sure. Thank you for your hospitality, and for showing me what happened.

Akatsuki blew out the candles gently burning around the broken statue, leaving only trails of aromatic smoke emanating from their warm wicks.

Akatsuki: Goodnight. We’ll be right outside if you need us.

The Shoku Twins left to attend to their duties while Tsukiakari laid down in front of the statue, resting her tired and fatigued body. Silence overtook the temple. Even the rain had ceased, and the winds calmed themselves. And yet, in this vacuum of silence, the voices left her alone. She sat up again, sitting still and silent for a long, tense minute.

Speak your mind, Tsukiakari.

Tsukiakari: I know you’re there. Yes, you. Peering into my life, my deaths, my anguish.

She knows you are watching her.

Tsukiakari: Are you...a phantom like the rest of them? No...I suppose it doesn’t really matter what you are.

Did you really believe your presence here would go unnoticed, during this banquet of phantoms?

Tsukiakari: You must think of me as a vicious wretch. A demon, perhaps. Well, like it or not, you are a witness to my life. We’re in this together, you and I. See, I don’t have much in the way of an outlet. Perhaps you can be my ears for me? You’ve already done a fine job of being my eyes.

At last, you’ve taken notice of them. Though I wonder if they’re friend or foe.

All the bastards do is watch, like beasts in the darkness.

Tsukiakari: And I shall draw you closer to the light. Say...what do you think they’re hiding? The Shoku Twins, I mean. What secrets could these children by keeping? And what of Izanami’s heart? I’m sure you already have a clue, don’t you?

How could those fools have a single clue? What do they know of a god’s heart? What do you even know of your own?

Tsukiakari: Silence. We’ll figure it out on our own. We don’t need you to mock us. I wonder what you’ll have to witness tomorrow. Be prepared in my stead. Be a dutiful specter for me.

The war goddess slumbers, and for now, the smoke rising into the air speaks not a word.




9
break Room / If You Could Talk to the Deceased...
« on: January 04, 2018, 06:54:39 PM »
Howdy folks, I’m gathering some more insight and inspiration for the Book of Phantoms. I have kind of a sensitive question to ask you if you have deceased loved ones. If, one day, you saw your deceased loved ones, what would you say to them? What do you hope they would say to you? And if you see them, would you believe that it was actually them, or would you think they’re merely a fragment of your own heart trying to soothe you? That’s a lot more than one question, but I’m interested in hearing what you have to say. Hell, if it’s any help, I’ll gladly go first.

The first one that comes to mind is my middle school friend Ashton. Ashton always got terrible grades. He just wasn’t very book smart. However. What he lacked in academic smarts, he had in knowledge gained through his own life experiences. We didn’t start off too well, as the first few weeks of us knowing each other was mostly comprised of him softly bullying me, since he was tougher and taller than most of the other students. But that ended up being how we bonded, and a sort of respect was born between us. He always dragged me and the older girls along to go play basketball or soccer, and we always played to win with all the girls in attendance, cheerleading for us in the background. Whenever I tried sitting by myself in the cafeteria, he’d crash my parade of solitude along with the girls, who had become our close friends at that point. And if I wasn’t eating anything, he’d gladly offer me money to buy lunch. He wouldn’t even ask you to pay him back.

A few years after middle school, Ashton was murdered when he was 17. He was shot multiple times and died of his wounds in the hospital. During that time, we had grown estranged and our friendship deteriorated. Really, my connection with most people in my life had strained, and I often let that happen willingly. Should I ever be able to see him again, the only thing I’d wish he’d say to me is that he isn’t mad at me, because I sure as hell am not mad at him after all this time. Perhaps we just forgot that even children and teens can die in the most vile of ways, suddenly and without warning. Your life isn’t protected just because you’re young.

Another is more recent, with a Guitar student who practiced and performed at one of my old jobs. Always energetic and lively, always eager to make music and play with the other kids. Tragically, he and his family were killed in a plane crash while they were going on vacation. 13 years old.

With him, no words are really necessary. All I’d want to do is jam one more time, come up with a cool riff, or maybe a nice chord progression. Maybe he could learn how to use 7th chords as well as open chords so he could expand his musical vocabulary.

I’m not the type to believe in spirits, so I’m sure I’d come to the realization that these visions of the dead are just whatever mournful emotions that still ache somewhere trying to resolve themselves. But I like to think that these phantoms of mine would be accurately concocted enough that I could think that our exchange is how it would really go, if I could talk to the deceased.

 :sure:

10
Develop Your Story / Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (COMPLETED)
« on: January 02, 2018, 02:08:54 PM »

Tempest Flame
Spoiler



Name your fears. Give them form. The tempest flame longs for it.

(Who’s voice is that? Is it the girl talking?)

The flaming horseman swung his fiery, intestinal whip, only for Tsukiakari to slash it short with her sword. Her counter attack left her vulnerable to the floating girl, who thrusted her flaming spear toward her chest. The spear’s tip pierced through her black kimono, lightly searing her skin before she leaped backwards, putting some distance between them. Just being around them was making Tsukiakari sweat, the heat constantly eating away at her endurance. The horse’s demonic neigh was like a warning before the rhythm of its thunderous hooves plodding rapidly on the ground, closing in on the war goddess.

Tsukiakari turned her terrified eyes towards the pursuing horseman, slamming her sword into the ground, ejecting a thick, suffocating shroud of dirt and soil to practically bury her foe alive. The horseman fell into its circular grave, sealed in as all of the soil came falling back down. Ultimately unsure of how to effectively fight her enemy, Tsukiakari bolted past the main torii gate of the Senkumo ruins, fleeing into the cover of the woods just beyond the dirt road. The floating girl looked on as she ran, gently landing on the ground with her bare feet, the flames engulfing the area immediately dying away into puffs of smoke carrying the faint voices of the dead.



Out of breath and finally able to let the cool, nightly air relieve her skin, Tsukiakari rested beside a large oak tree after running deep enough into the woods to hide away. She slouched down on the ground, her blade still unsheathed.

Tsukiakari: I came to fight...but I didn’t expect it to become two versus one.

(And if I die now, I won’t be coming back. As much as I loathe the idea of running from a fight, I need to stay safe. I won’t let them rob me of my vengeance.)

Tsukiakari pushed herself back onto her feet with her sword, marching through the woods at a hurried pace. She allowed her ears to lead her to the faint sound of running water, to the small stream further down to woods.

Tsukiakari: Engage with one, the other will try to flank. The horseman can pursue his target, so a cluttered environment like this should slow him down. As for the girl, I don’t know much about her other than she can levitate, deflect lightning, and uses that spear. She’s going to be more than troublesome.

She stopped for just a minute. Moving aside the fold of her kimono to reveal the scar on her breast, just over her heart.

Tsukiakari: She was reaching for my god damned heart...




She continued onwards, hearing the faint neigh of the flaming horse growing more and more distance. It seemed she had finally found some respite. Upon reaching the moonlit stream of water, Tsukiakari knelt down to wash her face of dirt, soot, and ash. A quick few splashes of water did enough for her, but stung her scar in the process.

Tsukiakari: Agh! Damn it!

After the initial splash, the cold air continued to sting her face even more, irritating the damaged sight in her eye. It was then that the earth suddenly jolted, frightening her with a tight gasp. She looked towards the direction of the moon, laying her tired eyes on a giant, humanoid figure cloaked in shadow rising out from the cover of the trees ahead. The figure resembled a woman, naked and pale with death. Her jet black hair shrouded her face in deep black as she stood there slouched over like a waking corpse before straightening herself out and standing tall. Tall enough to wear the moonlight as her crown, the figure turned its shadowy face towards Tsukiakari, her shining, red eyes making contact with the impetuous War goddess.

For the first time in her life, Tsukiakari couldn’t keep her teeth from chattering.

(What is that?! It can’t be a servant! What is going on!)

She sees you. She recognizes you. Her heart stirs with want.

Tsukiakari: Damn voices! Leave me the hell alone!

The floating girl suddenly appeared beside the giantess, her hair of flames illuminating her like a star in the sky. Tsukiakari paced backwards as if to get away from them, only did her eyes to be drawn to the familiar heat and light shining through the trees to her right. The horseman had returned, standing on the rocky hill with his whip in hand and vengeance burning in his fiery eyes. His horse violently neighed, as if it were calling for the blood of the war goddess.

They all recognize you. The tempest flame guides their immortal anger. They will not stop until they have swallowed your ashes.

Tsukiakari fell to her knees, holding her aching, weary head.

Tsukiakari: SHUT UP! JUST STOP TALKING!

Her executioners all charged in, lusting for her blood and yearning for her demise. In that moment of uncontrolled madness, Tsukiakari was unable to even grab hold of her sword. Outnumbered and overpowered, the vengeful war goddess was about to die at long last and become another possession of eternity.

But then...everything went silent. Even the rushing water at her feet was silent and still. Tsukiakari looked up, almost certain she had died so quickly that she barely felt it. But her eyes beheld all three of her executioners standing before her, all in pose to strike her. The horseman’s whip was just seconds away from coiling around her neck. The floating girl’s spear just inches away from her heart, and the the giantess’s pale hand and overgrown nails about to crush Tsukiakari. All of it had stopped right in its tracks. Even the voices were gone.

Tsukiakari jumped up in shock, backing away from her frozen enemies.

Tsukiakari: They...stopped? No, everything has stopped...



Akatsuki: Tsukiakari Senkumo.

She was startled yet again by the sudden call of her name from behind her. As she turned to face the source of the voice, her hand instinctively reached for the handle of her sword, but her alarm was quelled into curiosity upon seeing who called her.

The dead twins, watchers and keepers of time itself, bound together for eternity. Omagatoki Gesshoku and Akatsuki Nisshoku stood before her, both adorned in white, floral kimonos depicting the branches of budding cherry blossoms. They looked as if they could’ve been Izanami’s children.

Akatsuki: Do not fright. We have stopped time to save you. Your perception of everything being frozen is real.

Tsukiakari: No way...you’re the Shoku Twins, aren’t you?

Omagatoki smiled as she rubbed her head in embarrassment next to her stone faced sister.

Omagatoki: Are we that famous? I’m not used to being recognized like this!

Akatsuki: It’s only natural, sis. Izanami dueled Oyamatsumi in order to secure our existence. That fight is still talked about amongst the gods.

Tsukiakari: So, I take it you two intend to either kill me or turn me in yourselves. Is that it?

The twins merely stared at her in confusion. Sweet, adorable confusion.

Omagatoki: Why would we do that?

Tsukiakari: Maybe because...you know...you’re with Heaven? You do know what’s going on right now, right?

Akatsuki: Yes, we know you murdered Ichiki and Bishamon’s children. You’re a wanted goddess now.

Tsukiakari: Then-

Akatsuki: But we are on your side in this fight.

(What? They’re with me on this?)

Omagatoki: Sis and I heard much of the story from Inari Okami. We heard Oyamatsumi was suspected of a multitude of crimes, but the court dropped the charges.

Akatsuki: We know your uncle very well, Tsukiakari. Those crimes sounded just like him. Ruthless, cruel, and deceitful. He was the same way with us.

(I suppose I could tell them...)

Tsukiakari: My friend left behind a list of Bishamon’s co-conspirators before she died. She found out and they locked her in a single, solitary room for nearly a century. Oyamatsumi was on that list. That bastard lied to my face when he said he wasn’t involved with any of this. I intend to kill him first.

Akatsuki: So you’re thirsting for revenge.

Tsukiakari: Yeah, I am. It’s fine, you know. You can insult me and call me a monster if you want. I know better than anyone that this is the worst thing I could possibly do, but it’s the only thing I can do. Otherwise, I...

Akatsuki: We won’t call you a monster. If you are, then I suppose we’re monsters too.

(What did she just...)

Tsukiakari never knew it was in them, but she finally understood. The twins shared something valuable with her.

Omagatoki: We too are vengeful, against Oyamatsumi.

Akatsuki: We want to see him die for what he did to us.

Omagatoki: We want him to feel the pain of our wounds.

Akatsuki: We want him to rue the day he made enemies of us.

Omagatoki: We want him to suffer even after he dies.

Akatsuki: Tear limb for limb.

Omagatoki: Break bone from bone.

Akatsuki: Tear his body asunder.

Omagatoki: Destroy even the concept of his existence.

Akatsuki: And let both Earth and Heaven continue as if he never existed.

The thirst for revenge was everywhere, even within the kindred hearts of the Shoku Twins. Everyone yearned for it, prayed for it, and lived for it. Whatever their reasons for such a strong lust for revenge, Tsukiakari felt their conviction, their sorrow that had taken form and wished to appease itself.

Tsukiakari: Are you sure that’s what you want? You hate him that much?

Omagatoki: More than anything.

Tsukiakari looked back at her frozen enemies, then returned her gaze to the twins.

Akatsuki: Ah, yes. Before we can do that, we have to deal with them, don’t we? You have some powerful pursuers on your tail. Wherever did they come from?

Tsukiakari: Huh? Aren’t they from Heaven?

Omagatoki: As executioners? We’ve never seen anyone like them.

Akatsuki: Inari failed to mention the deployment of any executioners. She simply said that some of the gods involved with the Senkumo clan were sent down to earth to search for you.

Omagatoki: And for such a high profile killing, wouldn’t the executioners be wearing shrouds over their heads?

Tsukiakari: You’re right...to stay anonymous. But, where are they from if not from Heaven?

Akatsuki: It doesn’t matter, really. They’re out to kill you either way. Come back with us in the meantime. We have an abandoned hideout we can use. No one will find you there.

Tsukiakari took a good, long look at their faces, far too resembling of Izanami. Perhaps it was because of that that their appetite for revenge was so ironic.

(I wonder if you’re vengeance is anywhere near as powerful as hers. I wonder where exactly it all comes from.)

Tsukiakari: Alright. I’ll trust you. And if you really do trust me, I’ll make sure Oyamatsumi pays for what he’s done. Let’s find away to get rid of these three, first.

Tsukiakari took her blade and walked over to the frozen, floating girl. She paced around her, studying her every detail. None of them seemed so intimidating now that they were frozen and helpless. Without much thought of hesitation, she stabbed her sword through the girl’s heart, then slit her throat for good measure. Akatsuki watched with an expressionless face as she covered Omagatoki’s eyes with her small and frail hands.

Tsukiakari did the same with the horseman, and then slit the throat of the giantess with a wider, more powerful slash before piercing her large, glossy eyes.

Akatsuki: What are you doing?

Tsukiakari: Killing then while they’re stuck here. Seems like a pretty simple way to get rid of them, right?

Finishing up, Tsukiakari sheathed her blade and began her march through the woods again.

Tsukiakari: Now that those three are taken care of, let’s head back to that place you mentioned. I’m terribly exhausted.

Tsukiakari flashed a tired smile as she scratched her head, relieved she finally had some allies.

Akatsuki: S-sure...it’s this way.

Omagatoki whispered in her sister’s ear as Tsukiakari walked in the direction Akatsuki pointed out, troubled by what little she witnessed.

Omagatoki: Three?

Akatsuki shrugged and the two thought nothing of it. They held their hands together and caught up with the war goddess, pleased to have found a vessel for their retribution.




11
Develop Your Story / Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (COMPLETED)
« on: January 01, 2018, 02:30:21 AM »
Developed one of Dawn and Dusk chapters a little more  8) Go ahead and read if you want to relive the Isabella Feels Train

http://forums.mangaraiders.com/index.php/topic,15620.msg261086.html#msg261086

12
Develop Your Story / Re: 6 Cataclysms: Nadiya Notes
« on: January 01, 2018, 01:35:22 AM »
Just some notes written of Nadiya, Commander Katya’s mother.

Spoiler
Nadiya Ivashov, mother of Commander Katya, was a former field operative and tactician of the SOE, as well as an asset for the Deshavi Black Ops. She is infamous as a traitor to the Vevoskovian people, who built her own army and nation, pioneered the use of modern chemical weapons, and sold weapons to other nations. Despite being the most dangerous terrorist and international criminal in history, Nadiya was an advocate for world peace.

Nadiya was a dear friend of Vevoskovian Queen Kalina since childhood, dreaming of an era of worldwide peace together. When the two grew up, Kalina took the throne, and Nadiya joined the SOE, participating in the Second Kogan War against Syvia. Following  Vevoskovia’s defeat and Kalina’s subsequent, secret operations to create the Hammurabi Compromise, Nadiya and her team were destroyed by the Deshavi Black Ops as part of a clean-up operation to ensure the success of Kalina’s mission.

Or so they thought.

Nadiya was presumed dead in an incident where her ship was sunk into the ocean, killing everyone else on board. Nadiya was rescued from the ocean’s depths by her fellow Deshavi asset, Constantine, and delivered safely to the family home of her late husband in the countryside of Sankadesh. The attempt on her life put her in a three month coma. Discovering she was with child, Constantine worked with the family to keep her survival a secret, and to ensure her child would survive.

Nadiya came to, and miraculously delivered a healthy baby girl, naming her Katya, a shortened version of the traditional Vevoskovian word Katyanaishka, meaning Fire Lily. For five years, Nadiya stayed with her late husband’s family, both to recuperate her physical and mental wounds, and to draw up a plan of action. It was then that Nadiya decided what she wanted to do. Vevoskovia had become the most powerful country in the world through manipulation, betrayal, and suppression of Syvian culture. It was not the dream that she thought she shared with Kalina. And so, if no other army could stand a chance against the Vevoskovian hegemony, she would create the army that could.

With Constantine acting as the XO, Nadiya founded the Purged Angels, a privately owned military force, the first of its kind. Many of their recruits came from nations all over the world, veterans disillusioned by their country’s changing dynamics. The Purged Angels sought revenge against Vevoskovia, against the whole world for discarding them like pawns. Constantine was especially vengeful towards Queen Kalina and Commander Borealis of the Deshavi Black Ops for not only nearly killing Nadiya, but her daughter Katya and all of their comrades as well.

The Purged Angels made their money by offering their services to other countries and individuals, trading their services for industrial and luxury resources that were either used to expand their bases or sold through a back channel provided by Constantine in exchange for rare metals and jewels. It was when the Purged Angels started taking offensive contracts that they began accruing attention from the international community. But clients of the Purged Angels seemed invisible as they all wore the cloak of silence, and no amount of digging from the SOE or Asaji DAY revealed anything about them. With no choice left, Kalina left the task of investigating this private army to Commander Borealis. After collecting corpses from battles they were involved in, they discovered the multinational nature of the army, as well as the identities of some of the troops. All of them were either expelled from their country’s forces, or deserted them out of frustration.

The Purged Angels found success in a business model that made an industry out of warfare, and with that success came more recruits. Constantine brought his former comrade Ivan on board, a specialist in enhanced interrogation, espionage, and sabotage. Nadiya brought her old comrade Anna to act as her knight and bodyguard for Katya. Another unexpected recruit came, a 10 year old girl and former Deshavi agent ‘Lord of Lightning’ Shaska.

With the Purged Angels gaining power, Constantine focused their efforts on conducting missions for the benefit of Syvia, and the detriment of Vevoskovia. Nadiya and other troops gave direct financial and military support to the anti-Hammurabi faction, particularly to Sir Yandel, the would-be King who was denied his blood right by democracy. Nadiya furthered their support when she employed Nikolai, who would be known as ‘Guilty Rat’ by the Deshavi. Nikolai helped Nadiya develop bombs and rockets with chemical payloads, designed to inflict as many casualties as possible.

Nadiya first sold the initial models of these weapons to Yandel, who kept it in absolute secrecy until he attained power. Yandel was to lead a successful revolt with their support, and having already replicated the initial models, secured his position as King against the other nations by introducing the new, destructive weapon into the panoply of war. Such a move was to tip the scales of power back in balance and destroy the Vevoskovian hegemony. But to stop Syvia from establishing a similar hegemony, Nadiya also introduced these weapons to the other great nations, returning the world in a state of balance through deterrence. 

Still, in order to ensure that these nations would realize the horror of their new weapons, Nadiya conducted test fires in the capitals of each nation, exposing both the government and its citizens to the true power of chemical warfare. Tens of thousands of people were killed, and it was a decision that much of the Purged Angels were not proud of. Nikolai threatened to leave the group, feeling Nadiya has misled him about her intentions, but he was confined by Ivan and forced to develop more of them.

By now, the world knew that Nadiya had survived all those years, and that she was at the forefront of the Purged Angels. They indulged in her  forbidden fruit, her chemical weapons, and yet, they condemned her at the same time. Constantine acknowledged the position of the Purged Angels, that they were now at war with the whole world, with the era of their time itself. It was exactly what he was waiting for.

Though Constantine wishes to burn down the whole world, Nadiya only wished for a world that stayed afloat on peace won through deterrence. Such an idea was more viable to her than Kalina’s attempt to force peace through dominance.

A clear ideological divide formed between Nadiya and Constantine, resulting in conflict of command between them. With the whole world coming down on the Purged Angels, Nadiya formulated plans to continue her work, with the support of Ivan, Anna, and Shaska. As the world intensified their assault on Purged Angel bases, Commander Borealis led the Deshavi in the battle to kill Nadiya. They took custody of what they believed to be Nadiya’s corpse and continued hunting down her top advisors.

Though the Purged Angels believed Nadiya to be dead, Ivan privately informed Constantine that she was, in fact, alive and well, and that she had plans to continue to bring her vision to life. She was going to build something even better than the Purged Angels, and she was going to use them as a decoy in order to do it. Shaska and Anna left with Nadiya, and Ivan left the Purged Angels soon after he transferred the group’s resources to Nadiya’s new location. Feeling betrayed by his former comrades, Constantine stayed with his troops and fended off the allied army as well as the Deshavi for several years, but he was ultimately captured by Borealis, and the last of the Purged Angels were eliminated. 

During the fall of the Purged Angels, Nadiya’s new project was completed. She created a new army, and a new nation to go along with it. With additional help from her late husband’s family, Nadiya funded construction of her nation’s first city and capital, naming the county Skalda. By the time Constantine revealed to Borealis that the corpse in his possession was a fake, Nadiya already had a nation to herself, it’s strength bolstered by her arsenal of chemical weapons and her battle-ready army.

Life for citizens under Nadiya was peaceful, free, and prosperous, a reflection of her vision for the world.  Deterrence kept the allied nations from invading Skalda, but the Deshavi did all they could to kill off the final remnants of the Purged Angels. Wanting vengeance against Nadiya, Constantine reluctantly aided the Deshavi Black Ops in preparing to kill Nadiya. Soon after getting Queen Kalina’s blessing to carry out the mission, Constantine was betrayed by his own Deshavi squadron, and was taken to a remote, holding location and greeted by Ivan. Constantine was tortured and killed by his former comrade, giving Ivan information about their operation. With their plan thwarted, Kalina and the Deshavi reeled back their plans and waited for the next opportunity to take her out.

Nadiya’s operations in Syvia paid off as Yandel fully took control of Syvia, ousting the non-Syvian citizens, restoring traditional succession, re-arming the military, and keeping Syvia well armed with chemical weapons. A new age of deterrence emerged thanks to Nadiya, and through that deterrence, a cautious blanket of peace settled over the nations. However, Nadiya anticipated that a Cold War would arise between the nations. The Syvian people would want their revenge, and King Yandel would lead them.

Skalda’s GDP was largely dependent on its production of weapons, the primary buyers of which, ironically, were both Syvia and the Menlayev-owned arms distribution firm, Hammer and Sun. The world was forced into a position where, in the face of the rise of Syvia, they were compelled to keep buying from a rogue nation so they could be one step ahead in the arms race.

Amidst all the chaos and animosity between them, one thing brought Nadiya and Kalina together again. Kalina was terminally ill. It was on a dark, moonlit beach in Vevoskovia that the two met face to face for the first time since Nadiya embarked on her final mission with the SOE. Despite being enemies, the two could only cry as they embraced each other. Perhaps it was the pain of all of those missing years, or the fact that the very world they wished to change together ended up making them enemies. They saw what they had been doing to each other, with Nadiya missing both of her eyes, and disease eating away at Kalina.

Nadiya also introduced a 12 year old Katya to Kalina. Her sheer resemblance to her mother drew forth even more tears. Despite everything, Kalina was still able to celebrate the life of her best friend’s daughter. Both Nadiya and Kalina understood something that night. Nadiya wouldn’t be able to keep her activities up forever. Commander Borealis would try his hardest to bring the hammer down on Skalda. And for Kalina, her disease would snuff her life out before she’d be old enough to see her grandchildren. The two promised that when they were both dead, they would continue their friendship in the next world.

Ivan and Shaska continued acting as the guardians of Skalda and protectors of Nadiya, their spies in the Deshavi Black Ops providing them with information concerning Borealis’s new efforts to destroy Skalda. At the same time, Ivan relayed a startling find to Nadiya, about an ancient statue imbued with the power of the Marluxian Arts. Nadiya ordered the area around the statue to be sealed off, barring civilian access to allow the military to secure it. Nikolai was tasked with researching the statue’s capabilities, soon discovering it could be used as a dispenser of raw energy. Production of entirely new weapons were possible. Nadiya was going to put the greatest form of deterrence, the Marluxian Arts, on the shelves of the war market.

Along with Ivan, Shaska, and Anna, Nadiya drafted the Patriot’s Arsenal, a collection of proposed, unconventional weapons. Nadiya desired weapons that targeted something more than just human targets, that did something more than just kill living things. She wanted something capable of killing concepts, languages, the evolutionary process of peoples and groups. Weapons that killed only those of specific races, weapons that stripped away a people’s ability to speak and comprehend language, weapons that made people refuse to eat. Nadiya was going to build weapons that made the pillars of any nation and race their target, not just the people.

Nadiya’s wishes to bring the Marluxian Arts to the theater of war alarmed not only the Deshavi, but the Order of the Phoenix Demons and Zenbu’s Disciples as well. The two sides raced to destabilize the country and do away with the statue, to hide it from human access. Under orders from Zenbu, Phaedra stoke the statue away and dumped it at the bottom of the Kogan lake, far too deep for anyone to reach. Luxaura and the Phoenix Demons would be the ones to expose the details of Nadiya’s military strength to every major nation on the planet, tempting them to collaborate on an invasion plan, an attempt at getting access to the treasure chest of weaponry disguised as a noble takedown of an international criminal and her unrecognized nation of mercenaries.

Eventually, the nations would launch a united invasion on Skalda, even with the threat of her dangerously destructive arsenal. Ivan put the country on its tightest lockdown protocol, warning Nadiya of the invasion to come. It was her 250,000 troops vs their 3 million. Knowing their defeat was an inevitability, Nadiya, Shaska, Anna, and Ivan met once more in secret. The details of the meeting were not recorded. Shaska, Lord of Lightning, was to travel with Nadiya on a secret escape route out of the country while Anna was given leadership over Skalda’s forces and ring of generals. Ivan was to take Katya with Nadiya and Shaska on the same route, but the two parties would split up afterwards. Nadiya kept her destination a secret, but Ivan was to take Katya back to Vevoskovia, and surrender her to the Deshavi. Ivan may have known the reason behind such a decision, but Katya, much to her distress, was left in the dark.

As Skalda became a broken and bloodied battleground filled with troops from across the globe, everyone got into position and executed Nadiya’s orders faithfully. Ivan was ordered to leave ahead of Nadiya to ensure Katya’s safety, the three of them reluctantly and sorrowfully forced to say their goodbyes. Nadiya and Shaska stayed longer than planned, the former offering her sincerest and heartbroken apologies to Anna, who knew that Skalda would fall, and her defenders would all die. Anna gracefully exonerated her master of her guilt and anguish, stating that just as it was an honor to live by Nadiya’s side, it was a privilege to die for her sake, and for Katya’s.

The war for Skalda became one of the most destructive wars in history. It was the first large scale war to see the extended use of chemical and biological weaponry, inflicting massive casualties to all sides. Neither Katya nor Ivan would know if Nadiya was able get out of the country in time, but Ivan fulfilled his duty regardless. Parting from the young, beautiful little girl he had guarded for all those years, he urged Katya to be strong like her mother, to carry on her ideals into the shadows of the Deshavi Black Ops.

Katya, with nothing left, was taken into the Deshavi as Ivan disappeared, presumably going into hiding. Though it was reported that Nadiya was killed and her corpse captured, the truth of what happened wouldn’t come to light until the very end of Borealis’s service as Commander of the Deshavi.

The corpse collected by Vevoskovia, made to look like Nadiya, was actually Anna acting as her double. The corpse was just two inches shorter than what was written in Nadiya’s health records with the SOE. Other discrepancies such as eye color (Nadiya’s eye color faded into white) and teeth made it clear that Nadiya did not die in Skalda. Still, Vevoskovia let the world have its victory, believing they had slain her. Despite years of searching, Borealis was never able to find any trace of Nadiya, and he retired with the mystery still unsolved. Though he suspected Kalina might’ve known something, the Queen passed away from illness before he could make any connections. By then, Katya had already grown to be the Deshavi’s youngest commander at 19 years of age, and one of the most powerful agents of her time.

Throughout the years of the reign of Kalina’s son, Tokahev, Katya strategized Deshavi operations all over the world. One of her most crucial operations, Operation Guilty Rat, reunited her with Nikolai, who worked with Syvia after the fall of Skalda before defecting to Vevoskovia. Queen Amiya ordered Nikolai to continue his research of the Forbidden Statue in secret, and to bring his findings back to Vevoskovia. Nikolai was injured as he traveled through Sankadesh and taken to an overburdened hospital to receive care. Soon after, Syvia, the Sankadesh loyalists, and Zenbu’s Disciples all converged on his position, desperate to catch the brains behind many of Nadiya’s weapons.

Katya was ultimately forced to kill Nikolai and take his body back to Vevoskovia, opting to perform a thorough analysis of his memories. It was learned soon after that the corpse they brought back to them was not actually Nikolai. The body belonged to him, but his brain had been switched with one of subordinate’s. The fake Nikolai was further operated on by Inadora of the Phoenix Demons, to make him think he was the real Nikolai, even giving him many of Nikolai’s memories to suffocate his original identity.

After the failure of Operation Guilty Rat, Queen Amiya paid several visits to Katya, informing her of some crucial details she had kept secret. First, Amiya, even with incomplete research, was able to draft a final manual for the creation of the weapons Nadiya wasn’t able to finish. A bioweapon that targeted specific ethnicities, a weapon that induced severe, global aphasia, and a sonic weapon that induced aphagia, meant to prevent populations from being able to eat.

Furthermore, Amiya’s mother was Nadiya’s sister, and though she truly loved Tokahev, their meeting was orchestrated by Nadiya and Amiya’s mother. The queen carried on Nadiya’s wishes from the throne while Katya supported her from the shadows of the Deshavi, and with the finished Patriot’s Arsenal being given to her, Katya was the most powerful woman on earth. The fate of entire people’s rested in her hands.

Amiya’s final secret was perhaps the most important. Nadiya and Shaska were still alive. Kalina personally facilitated their escape and safe haven before Skalda was invaded. However, their location was to stay between Amiya and Katya. No one else could know.



13
Develop Your Story / Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (COMPLETED)
« on: December 30, 2017, 10:51:33 PM »
As I write up the second chapter of the Book of Phantoms, I’d like to share an interesting perspective from a rather keen reader regarding the frequency of dead loved ones seemingly revisiting people in this story, as I’ve accodentally made it a common theme after the Dawn and Dusk arc.

The problem that Tsukiakari is facing here in Senkumo War Stories is the same problem that Osamu ends up facing, though a tad less extreme (his phantoms never tried to kill him  :ohmy: ). Osamu, on the verge of death in Satori no Akuma, was greeted by Isabella’s Phantom in what he perceived to be a sort of limbo between the dead and the living. Then he met her again after almost getting killed a second time, accompanied by a phantom Shinju. Then there was the actual case of Rousoku’s ghost stuck in the world of the living, but he kept hallucinating her existence even after she had already been vanquished. Interestingly,  as he came close to dying in Inari Standoff, he was alone in limbo. After being saved by Inari’s sacrifice, he saw only a brief glimpse of her ghost as he sat outside. The Corpse’s Romance showed how he fell in love with Izanami, a goddess who is most certainly dead, but is indeed real. After finishing his negotiations with Hima and Annabel, he hallucinates his hands being stained by Kasumi’s blood. And in the finale of The End of Osamu Ashikaga, Osamu meets all of his personal phantoms upon his return to Kyoto, and relives his moments with them again upon his journey through limbo and death.

It became terribly obvious with Rousoku that not all of his encounters with these ghosts are actually genuine. One wonders if his meetings with Isabella, his glimpse of Inari, or if much of his encounters with these phantoms were real at all. You can interpreter Osamu’s sanity any way you please, but breavement hallucinations somehow ended up being a common thing in the story. Perhaps it was Osamu’s lack of friends in his childhood that made him want to hang onto those he loved, even after their deaths. I don’t think it matters how much of it was real or fake encounters. Osamu, Like Tsukiakari couldn’t let go of his ghosts. He loved them too intensely and regretted his shortcomings far too much

14
Video / PC Games / Re: What video games are you playing at the moment?
« on: December 27, 2017, 07:42:49 PM »
Why am I putting myself through the absolute wankfest that is Dark Souls II

15
Develop Your Story / Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (COMPLETED)
« on: December 22, 2017, 04:25:32 PM »
Alright, I said I’d write the missing book in Senkumo War Stories, and I’m doing it. Though I wonder if anyone who read all of Senkumo War Stories was able to detect that there was a section of the story missing  :noidea:

I now establish

Senkumo War Stories: Book of Phantoms


I see the state of all of us who live, nothing more than phantoms or a weightless shadow.
- Sophocles


Tsukiakari takes a brief period of respite before her upcoming war against Bishamon, but her rest is interrupted by the voices of her fallen comrades following her wherever she goes, as well as a strange onslaught of enemies constantly hunting her down. Her silent executioners are more than they appear, perhaps even too much for her to slay with any sword, no matter how divine. Humans and gods are not Tsukiakari’s only enemies. In fact, there may be no greater enemy than herself, and all the phantoms that dwell within her hollowed heart.


Theme
https://youtube.com/watch?v=4Js-XbNj6Tk


The Elixir that Makes Whole Our Imperfect Hearts
Spoiler
Bishamon: Lady Amaterasu.

The god of war humbly sighed the name of his lord, standing just beyond the door of her bedroom with his hands clasped. With his head held low, his eyes were drawn to his own, distorted reflection in her shimmering marble floors illuminated by the sunlight piercing through her open window. Amaterasu stood in front of the window, turning to face Bishamon with her stern and austere gaze.

Bishamon: I ask for your blessing, my lady.

Amaterasu: My blessing...to kill Tsukiakari, I presume?

Bishamon said not a word. He waited anxiously under her deafening silence as she contemplated the notion of signing her daughter’s death warrant. All of her fury as a sickened mother came into conflict with her responsibilities as a queen like two armies in a bloody battle. The wrinkles of such contemplation revealed themselves on her brow as she sealed her eyes.

Bishamon: The things she did to Ichiki...to my infant children...they were pure evil. They were heinous and cruel beyond belief! I will not deny that this is personal for me, but my feelings aside, a murder will always be a murderer! She’s no different than her bastard father! I-

The god of war stopped himself and lowered his tone.

Bishamon: Forgive me for my comment about Tsukuyomi, my lady...

Amaterasu: Now I see. You asked for my personal blessing, my blessing as a mother, not as a queen. Tsukiakari has doomed herself already. You don’t need me to tell you to kill her.

Bishamon: That is correct.

...

...

...

Heavy, unbearable silence permeated through the room. Bishamon’s ears were ringing out of mere anticipation for the sound of her words. 

Amaterasu: Even with all of her sins, her self-exile from Heaven, all the shame she brings to her lineage...she is still my flesh and blood. I can never personally condone the murder of my own child. But as a queen, I can permit you to punish those who have proven themselves to be irredeemable criminals. As your queen, I shall always admire you for doing just that. As her mother...I know I will despise you. Half of me will always hate you.

Bishamon: I’m sorry, my lady.

Amaterasu: Don’t be. A criminal is the creator of their own punishment, but a mother’s passion shall always be with her child. You have my legal blessing and nothing more. Be gone.

Bishamon: As you wish.

Bishamon stood and bowed, turning to exit the room just as Izanami entered. The two of them stared off like old enemies, the friction generated between them brushing off on Amaterasu as well.

Bishamon: Izanami...

Bishamon respectfully bowed his head, a gesture the furious Izanami ignored.

Izanami: Groveling at Amaterasu’s feet, are we? It didn’t take you long after Ichiki’s funeral to come here in search of justification for your own vengeance.

Bishamon: She murdered my entire family!

Izanami: Your family was a farce!

Amaterasu: Izanami!

Izanami: We’re all vengeful! We all want retribution for something! But Amaterasu, this is madness! You know Bishamon and Oyamatsumi are guilty, but you and the Divine Court let it all come to this!

Amaterasu: That is enough, Izanami! I implore you to take a few deep breaths and think about what you say next. Bishamon, you’re excused.

Bishamon bowed once more and silently left the room, his hatred for Izanami brushing off of her as he passed her by and shut the door. Izanami could only glare at Amaterasu with wrathful tears in her eyes.

Izanami: Who are you? She’s your daughter!

Amaterasu: The things she has done-

Izanami: Shut up! You make me so sick! My own daughter murdered me and kicked off one of the worst periods of my life! She ruined me, but I still loved her! I chose her over the world, and you sick, incompetent bastards dared to label me ‘Izanami the Cruel’!

Amaterasu: You chose your daughter over the world. That’s a kind of love none of us could fathom. I know that, Izanami. You’re right about that. But that’s exactly why I am queen and you’re not. If you stood in my position, your Love would’ve ended the world a dozen times over. Because in the end, nothing has changed from the days you ruled this world. Everything you touch dies. Your woeful curse remains affixed to your soul. Even now, you can’t possibly say that not a single part of you doesn’t wish for vengeance against Kagutsuchi. Hatred and death live inside of you. 

Izanami nodded her head side to side as she bit her lip, dressing Amaterasu down with disdainful eyes.

Izanami: And so, the solution was to appoint an empty vessel as a queen? Someone who operates off of laws and pragmatism? I won’t deny that your rule has practically created the pantheon we all enjoy so much, but when it comes to personal matters...you always succumb to these colossal errors in judgement.

Amaterasu folded her black hair behind her ears and returned her gaze to the light of heaven outside.

Amaterasu: Then I suppose...you can be my light, and I will be your shadow.

Izanami: What? What are you saying?

Amaterasu: Gekko is my daughter. I know her strength very well. In the end, Izanami...

Izanami knew exactly where she was going with her words. She knew the terrible insinuation she was making and recoiled in disgust.

Izanami: I refuse to be the clean up girl for a disaster that happened under your watch!

Amaterasu: Iza-

Before she could say anything else, Izanami stormed out of the room, leaving Amaterasu to her view of heaven below.

Amaterasu: You may have to be her executioner...

Visions of Tsukiakari’s young, smiling face clouded Izanami’s mind as she marched through those massive palace halls of gold, marble, and blessed sunlight. She passed by dozens of servants and fellow gods, all of them drawing their eyes towards her for a brief moment before their gazes recoiled out of fear. As much as she hated the name, “Izanami the Cruel” was her title in Heaven.

Those visions only served to hammer home a loathsome reality. Not a single god in Heaven wanted to spare her life, and they had good reason to feel that way. There was no hope of her ever being able to return to those happy, childhood days, where she was proud of her lineage, her pantheon, and herself.

Inari: Izanami!

Inari’s voice suddenly pulled Izanami from her thoughts. With her nine tails fluttering about, Inari gave a half smile as she clasped her hands. At the very least, Izanami could sigh away her anger when she was with Inari.

Izanami: Inari? Are you here for the War Council meeting?

Inari: Was. It just ended. Come on, let’s go find a place to talk.

The two moved outside the palace, sauntering through the various offices, gathering places, and guarded hallways to reach the courtyard. Flowers of every vibrant color filled the air with their sweet fragrance, and the shade around them was tinted green as the sun bled the color of the leaves around the area. The two rested on a quiet bench in the middle of it all, the breeze gently coming through their hair.

Inari: Bishamon was given command of Heaven’s forces in preparation for the Second Great Holy War. We’ll be ready for battle within a few months.

Izanami: Him?! After what he’s done?!

Inari: The reality, Izanami, is that Bishamon’s scheme bolstered the strength of the Shinto pantheon and saved quite a few veteran gods from being cycled out. We’ve retained the number of gods necessary to fight the Vampires. That’s all they see. Not the manipulation of orphans, not the battles fought for the sole benefit of deities, and not the waste of human life.

Izanami: And Gekko?

Inari: She’s not quite considered a priority right now, but the council does want her to be dealt with if she continues to pose a threat. As you know, the last time I spoke to her...she seemed like she was ready to make any and all sacrifices to attain vengeance. Hatred and rage is all that guides her, and Ichiki and her children are proof of that.

Izanami could make no excuses for what happened to Ichiki. It was an undeniably cruel and vile act, one she committed with full awareness of what would happen next.

Inari: The attendance this time around was weird, though.

Izanami: How do you mean?

Inari: Well, it seemed like Bishamon ordered Oyamatsumi and a few others to be booted from the council and remain on earth for security reasons.

Izanami’s eyes widened with contempt as she heard those words. The council so readily accepted such an odd order, almost as if they had been planning it. Bishamon’s actions, the court’s compliance with them, and even Amaterasu’s negligence in the matter started to piece themselves together in Izanami’s mind.

Izanami:...Damn him. He didn’t do any of this to save anyone from cycling out. He did it to consolidate Heaven’s power. They all did.

Inari grew worried as she watched Izanami clench her fist in helpless rage.

Inari: Izanami? Are you...

At last, everything began to make sense to her.

Izanami: We’ve been had all along...



*N O I R*



(You humans are lucky.)

Away from the clean, pristine aura of Heaven, Tsukiakari Senkumo sat with her legs hugged to her chest, watching the rain beat upon the few remaining leaves of the trees. The forest sheltered her with its darkness and obscurity, and the mud at her feet dirtied her sandals and nails.

(You have gods to pray to. You have deities to lay your burdens upon. We wipe away your tears and swallow your sins.)

The fire she made crackled besides her, it’s divine embers slithering out of its glowing grip and towards the clouded sky. The warmth of those waltzing flames was comforting, but as Tsukiakari traced her fingers against the burnt half of her face, it felt more like the flames were making it ache. The skin was tender, pink, and sensitive to the touch. Or at least, Tsukiakari merely thought she could still feel what was taken from her.

(I covet your mortality, your ignorance, your foolishness. Humanity’s curse is also its blessing, you know. You’re freed from your mortal coil after just a few, short decades. A god must endure their sorrows for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Being in pain that long, losing everything that I did...you start to feel as if it’s all still there. The years loosen your grip on what’s real, and what is long dead, ruined, or scarred beyond recognition.)

Tsukiakari closed one of her eyes and held up her hand, testing out the vision of her scarred eye with a disappointed sigh.

Tsukiakari: Blurry. It’s gotten worse.

She picked up her sheathed sword from the ground, pulling out the base of the stainless blade that bore her ghostly reflection...and so much more. She couldn’t help but smile as she lost herself in her sword’s reflection, laughing at what had become of her. It became a laughing matter just how cruel it all was, a comedic break in N otherwise drab and draining tragedy.

But just as the most enchanted of flowers fade and wither, her brief moment of catharsis died down and turned into tears, falling from her eyes before she even realized it. In silence and stillness, she continued to gaze into her reflection, her heart set ablaze by a flurry of emotions.

(Katsumi, Ebina, Taeko. All the others...old and young, big and small...their lives are all gone.)

Tsukiakari stood up, swiftly unsheathed her sword, and snuffed out the flame with its edge, her hands guided by a resurgence of her anger and rage, her unyielding thirst for the bitter elixir known as vengeance. Bitter as it was, she knew no better choice for an anodyne for her sorrow.

Cloaked in darkness and dampened  by the rain, she watched as the dying embers of the silenced flame rose along its aromatic trail of smoke. Seemingly emanating from the smoke, Tsukiakari could just faintly hear the voices of her fallen comrades and friends. Their laughter, their mundane conversations, their hopes and dreams, it was all a powerful haunting.

Tsukiakari: I know I failed you all... but why must you follow me? Do you truly hate me that much?

But alas, the dead would not answer her questions. She sheathed her blade again and turned her back to the dying flame, continuing on her path. Tsukiakari’s long trek through the rain brought her to a painfully familiar place. The black, charred ruins of her Senkumo mansion, the gravesite of her compassion and mercy. Just the sight of the mansion’s black skeleton and ash coated courtyard made her heart race with anxiety.

(Calm yourself...don’t look away from it. Don’t shiver or shake.)

Tsukiakari: I’m home, everyone.



*R O U G E*



Tsukiakari carefully, cautiously walked through the mansion ruins, hardly able to even recognize any of the buildings. Thick ash covered the ground like sheets of snow, turned into a grainy sludge by the rain.

(I came here for a reason. Not to gain any courage, or to make a nostalgic trip. Rather, I came to vanquish a formidable foe.)

Once more, the faint whispers of the dead enchanted her ears as she reached the courtyard, the curvaceous trees burnt to cinders, and the ponds diluted with soot and dead lotus flowers. She came to a stop, realizing that those whispers were rising in volume.

The laughter she heard before turned into cries of agony. The fury of vengeance rumbled in the cacophony of voices that now flooded Tsukiakari’s ears. The screams were far too overwhelming and forced her onto her knees, holding her head from the pain.

She suddenly felt a great warmth around her, and the crackle of fire joined the assault on her ears. The ash at her feet slowly levitated off the ground like snow falling in reverse. As she opened her eyes, she saw her elongated shadow produced by an intense, orange light. The light of flames. She turned around, facing a dreary repeat of the day the mansion was burned. The flames were lit anew on each building, and it seemed she was no longer alone.

Out of the wall of flames in front of her emerged a fiery and naked horseman, riding a flaming, hellish stallion. The horseman’s body was coated in flames as if they were his royal robes. His eyes glowed like stars that focused on Tsukiakari with unyielding focus. A single spear had been stabbed through his heart, the handle protruding from his chest, and the blade from his back.

Despite everything she had told herself, Tsukiakari’s heart raced around in her chest, her breathing growing more and more desperate. Her eyes were fixated on the majestic horseman before her. Terror coiled around her like a demonic serpent.

(Remember! You came here to destroy him! Don’t let Heaven’s tricks scare you! It’s them who should be scared!)

Tsukiakari drew her sword, standing firm in her position.

Tsukiakari: Heaven sent you, didn’t they?!

The horseman remained silent. He stabbed his bare hand through his stomach, grabbing hold of his large intestine and yanking it out from his body. Sparks and embers flew out from his wound, seemingly in place of blood. The intestine too caught fire, morphing into an intestinal whip.

Tsukiakari could only chuckle as she imbued her blade with lightning, drawing forth the booming drums of thunder from the sky. Her divine lightning dragon roamed the clouds above her, ready to strike at her command. A showdown was under way.

Tsukiakari: Be gone!

With a mighty scream to the heavens, her dragon of lightning struck down from the sky, booming and clashing all around in a flash of brilliant light and ear-bombarding thunder. But the show of light and deafening sound came to an abrupt end for some odd reason, as if something had cancelled out the lightning. Tsukiakari kept her eyes peeled on her target, swinging her sword to split apart the white cloud of smoke that veiled over the area.

After the smoke had parted, Tsukiakari stood horrified as yet another executioner appeared before her. The horseman’s movements were greatly restricted as the flames around him simmered down, reducing themselves to a thick cloak of gray smoke that continued to shroud his body. Levitating in front of him was what appeared to be a young girl, her shadowy hair extending down to her bare feet. Even her face was completely cloaked by a mask of darkness, revealing only her glowing, yellow eyes. Her hand pulsates with lightning, the remnants of Tsukiakari’s attack. Only thin trails of smoke lifted off of her blood red and tattered kimono, showing her attack did little to damage her.


Tsukiakari: Another?

Tsukiakari’s hands trembled with a weak grip on her sword. Every nerve in her arms shook and shuddered, and her stomach felt as if it were ravaged with flames itself.

(I shouldn’t be this...terrified...)

The floating girl turned her attention to the nearly paralyzed horseman, levitating behind him. She placed her hand around the handle of the spear that pierced his heart, pulling it from his chest as he wailed and roared in pain like a wounded lion. As soon as she removed the spear from his body, her black hair ignited with flames, glowing like the light of sunset. The horseman’s screams of agony turned into vengeful sails of anger as he too regained his flame.

It was now two against one.

(I see now. We’re the same, aren’t we? Yes...I can feel it. You’re hungry, starving to death. The only thing that can satiate your hunger is vengeance.)





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