TIP 002/008 – The Imperial Sword Enma
The river runs red with unspeakable horror. The fields littered with lost limbs and fleshy remannts, blades lodged in the ground, many more chipped and shattered. The cries of battle fade into the howl of the wind, and with seething rain flooding the paddies as though to wash it all away, merely three combatants remain at the valley's peak, the Furude Shrine's smoldering wreck strewn about the battlefield.
Half-cut with blood, the hulking executioner stands, surrounded by the corpses of friend and foe alike. His spear blunted, naginata splintered, bow snapped, kusarigama warped – he crushes the throat of the frail man in his grasp with his bare hand. A true arms master in every sense of the word, all that remains of his vast arsenal is the sheathed blade bound to his hip.
His face wrapped away in bandages, all his two surviving opponents can see as he turns to face them are his red eyes, peering at them through the heavy cloth with some twisted kind of curiosity.
The shrines' surviving miko stands at the ready in the freezing rain, her pure white hakama stained from her own wounds, her soaked hair clinging to her face. Her own naginata chipped almost beyond recognition, her breathing begins to steady.
Without so much as a word she charges towards the giant, kicking off the ground on her approach. Plunging the polearm down on an angle, her momentum drives her straight towards the beast at full speed.
In that moment the behemoth draws his blade – and in a single motion, cleaves the naginata in half, cutting close enough to pierce her robe and draw blood from the surface of her skin. She crashes into him full force, but all he does is simply reach out. Grabbing hold of her head with his massive hand her vision is engulfed in darkness as he slams her straight into the ground. As he hoists her into the air, she can see him through the gap between his fingers. But she won't give up. She drives the much smaller spearhead in her left hand into his arm.
He drops her, but she's still reeling from the impact. Only moments later, a flash of jade, and the clanging of blades - the arms master parries a follow-up from her companion, matching his steel with her own. But her true aim is to pull her away from certain death. She shoves her as hard as she can, enough that she just barely misses the reach of his counterattack.
But her friend isn't so lucky. The arm she'd pushed her with is caught in the arc of the blade. Her left forearm goes flying. There's a spray of blood, and a piercing cry. But she escapes the powerful swing with her life.
The miko holds the broken naginata, half in each hand, a several feet away. A moment later the now one-armed woman falls in at her side.
"Can you still fight?" She asks, her own voice ragged as she lets out a loud cough.
The jade demon grits her teeth, using the tattered scraps of her robe to stop the bleeding, tightening the makeshift bandage with her teeth. "It'll do for now." Both of them don't take their eyes off of their opponent for even a moment. "At least we know he's not immortal."
"Neither are you."
"Not with that attitude."
"Saito Benkei!" The miko calls out to him, her commanding voice echoing across the field. "This battle is over. Your army is in ruins. You cannot claim this land for your lord, even should you kill every last peasant that opposes you this day. There's no need for this bloodshed to continue."
"If you lay that sword down now..." The woman beside her joins in. "On the honor of the Sonozaki clan, you have the word of Rin Sonozaki that you may depart this land with your head on your shoulders."
But the man standing before them doesn't so much a speak a single word.
"No, this would be personal for you, wouldn't it?" Rin taunts him. "What's the matter, Kei-chan? You're not still scared of talking to girls, are you?"
"There's no justice in any of this." The miko responds in kind. "Oyashiro-sama is not some prey for your war-god. Burn this entire village to the ground and her faith will still stand."
The warrior-monk steps forward. The sword in his hand strikes the ground. The earth quivers.
"I know that sword." Rin spits up some blood. "That's the Taira's blade."
"The one from Ise?"
"The very same."
"What's it doing with the Minamoto?"
"He probably took it from Dan-no-Ura." Rin moves to receive him as Benkei charges towards them.
She meets his swing with a paltry defense – but one that doesn't break. She fends off one swing after the next with one arm, the miko carefully watching for a gap in his defense large enough to slip through.
His parries are all perfect. Rin Sonozaki's are not. The blade slides across the side of her face. But in taking that hit, she has enough of an opening to ram her blade into his right hip. At last a sound, a muffled cry of pain obscured by the wrappings on his head. She throws herself completely onto his sword arm, pulling down on it with all her weight. At last he falters, even if only for a few brief moments.
The miko wastes no time. She climbs onto his back, looking to drive the shattered naginata straight into his head. With his free arm he tries to get her off, like a gorilla swatting at a child on its back as she tears away at the wrappings on his head. Rin Sonozaki bites into his arm as hard as she can, every part of what was left of her a tool to fight back.
As though the Buddha answering his servant's cry for help, lightning strikes from above, and runs across the ground. The sword Enma in his hand is imbued with its force, and electrocutes the impish Sonozaki damp from the rain. She falls to the side, and the miko soon follows, pulling away what was left of the wrappings with her and only managing to jam the naginata into his bare shoulder.
Rin Sonozaki's body twitches as the electric current wrings her crumpled form of all the strength it has left.
Benkei stands there, his face exposed to the cold and rain. His messy brown hair, just the way the two women remembered it. But this was wrong. So wrong. And it was clear to both of them watching him, Rin nearly unconscious on the ground, and the miko barely managing to hold on, that there was only one way this bout would end.
Rin's eyes meet hers for a just moment. The miko's speak very clearly. "I'm sorry."
The miko reaches towards her chest. Her face contorts in pain.
Mere moments later her flesh bursts open and a sword emerges from her chest, inundated with blood. The rain washes away her clotting blood, but try as it might, the blade's murky steel is obscured by stains that run deep.
"I'll send your head back to Yoshitsune…!"
The sword Enma clashes with the murky blade. But unlike the Sonozaki's, the miko's swordplay is much like a dance. Even as her blood flows freely, each swing is like the stroke of a pen. The bloody sword glides about with a gracefulness that it does not deserve. And to keep up, the arms master must put everything he has into his defense.
One after another. A clash of steel, a streak of blood across the sky. Rhythmic, relentless, marching forward, without ever looking back.
The sword Enma is not just drenched in the blood of its enemies and the will of the land, but the sprawling and hazy history of the Heian Period. This was achieved in no small part thanks to the story of King Enma himself, the would-be devil who presides over the souls of the dead, and the means by which his story took shape and spread.
Enma sits at the very center of the Buddhist hell, Jigoku, and passes judgment on all souls that prostrate themselves before him at the end of their time on Earth. Jigoku in of itself is a foreign concept – an idea that propagated slowly at first, from the words and teachings of a far off culture. As the world began to expand and a more unified Japan started to take shape, Buddhist teaching spread rapidly to provide stability and structure, to create a more streamlined single line of thought. And before too long, the traditional Shinto beliefs became mired in a more modern way of thinking, and as the centuries waned on one after the next, Shintoist belief and Buddhist mantra became inseparable.
During this time, long before the years of Tokugawa's Red Army, the Buddhist priesthood was not just a form of faith, but a form of structure and administration across all of Japan that was both a source of authority and militaristic strength. In many ways, the views of the Buddhist faith that became thoroughly intertwined with the Japanese practice of it reflect this – in how this Japanese view of hell itself was greatly expanded upon and used as a means of greatly reinforcing, among many things, the concept of a moral center, of right and wrong, established by the teachings of a higher power, a way of enforcing authority.
Enma lies at the heart of that morality – the idea of one's identity in the eyes of god being comprised of one's worldly deeds. Unlike the traditional view of Yomi as a hell of punishment, Jigoku is a hell of judgment, with Enma its judge, jury, and executioner, where at the end of the road, a human soul is weighed in both good and ill.
Though the exact origin of the blade is unknown, the blade was bestowed upon the Taira clan by Go-Shirakawa, the 77th Emperor of Japan, whose consorts birthed many of their number. The sword was a sign of trust - a symbol of honor and authority for a clan of bastard sons. During the power struggle of the Genpei War long after his time as emperor had ended, Go-Shirakawa's grand betrayal of the Taira clan concluded with the loss of the sword as well.
By the time the sword Enma came to reside with the Furude clan, it is believed that the undying fury of the slaughtered Taira in their quest for authority had irreversibly merged with the imperial divinity of the blade.
How the sword is seen, how the authority it represents is interpreted, the true nature of the sword's power, the very material from which the blade and the hilt are made – in the end, the sword Enma is comprised entirely of contradicting ideas, fused together in perpetuity.
A single record of the sword past this point exists in the Kimiyoshi administrative collection, one that indicates that the hilt was broken in an altercation between the head of the Furude clan and the Sonozaki clan more than half a century later in 1250. Starting from the 20th century the sword has seen greater and greater use, culminating in the farce of 2017 we bear witness to now. In the present day, the hilt of the sword Enma has been refashioned from the remnants of the judge's bench of a courthouse that was destroyed in 1995, the hilt once again destroyed that same year.
For the purposes of this game, the sword Enma serves a very precise purpose, and behaves a very specific way. The Imperial Authority of the sword Enma resonates with the will of the earth itself, and carries with it the power to change the very foundation of the game. The Imperial Authority imposes its own infallible laws, and at the same time, the Taira's Despair demands a blood sacrifice in exchange for allowing those laws to become a reality.
The power of the sword Enma is defined as follows.
1. The sword Enma creates rules through blood sacrifice in Hinamizawa.
2. Thus, the sword Enma can only be used to create rules if Hinamizawa exists.
3. The sword's rules once created will remain in effect regardless of whether or not Hinamizawa exists.
4. The sword Enma must be used by a shinobi for a rule to be created.
5. The sword Enma must be used to land the killing blow on another piece currently in play for a rule to be created.
6. The rule created is dictated by the shinobi's clan, not the shinobi as an individual.
7. The sacrificial piece must be executed without creating a losing condition for the shinobi's clan.
8. The stronger the piece killed, the more encompassing and specific the rule created is permitted to be.
9. In a massacre condition, the average value of all pieces slain is used to determine the permitted strength of the rule.
10. No two rules that are created by the sword can contradict each other.
11. No rule established by the sword can be used to rewrite existing history.
12. No rule established by the sword can contradict any of the principle rules set by the game master.
Most of the story from here on out (and a lot of the already prevalent themes in it, really) will greatly involve the contents at the end of this TIP, so I highly recommend coming back to this point as the story progresses.
Now that the curtain's been drawn back, there's quite a bit I can say about the story now.
I'll say that it's very much intended to be, in so few words, a "melting pot of the law". A huge aspect, possibly the defining aspect of the original Higurashi is the depiction of social issues and criticism of the authority that struggles to remedy them. Ultimately, Higurashi is a story with a very pacifistic nature despite the ultra violence often depicted in it, and seeks a peaceful unifying solution in spite of the nature of the world around it, no matter how long it takes or how hard it is, with some arcs like the original Tatari bringing it front and center.
Night Parade is here to re-contextualize that idea the way things are today, no matter where in the world you live, shred it into pieces, and make the most of what's left of it by the end in what will somehow be a happy ending. And that's really the whole story in a nutshell.
All the stories in this "series" have really been dedicated to taking an aspect of Higurashi and making fun of it in this fashion. Cicadas Vol.1 was about making fun of "Hinamizawa Syndrome". Cicadas Vol. 2 was about making fun of "Matsuribayashi" as a direct continuation of that. This final story doesn't follow directly from those two because the focus is drawn much further back. Night Parade is making fun of "Higurashi" itself, of the core principles that make up the entire story.
If any of that really makes sense.