The Woods Are Dark and Deep
by Blue Jeans
Author's End Note
If you reviewed, thank you for taking the time to do so. If you finished the story and enjoyed yourself, that's what's important.
I do want to address a few things reviewers keep writing to me about. Warning, there will be spoilers as I have played everything in this game before writing this continuation:
1. Chizuru's demon blood is not a panacea, nor the foreign demon blood. It does not cure all ills - as was the case with Okita Souji, who still had TB after he drank the Water of Life. His lungs could just heal itself from the damage of the TB at a much faster rate - and that slowed down, or stopped, the disease from killing him.
2. Okita's route also showed - if you went to the bad end - that Chizuru can be effected by the foreign demon blood, from the Water of Life, after drinking it. If you went the route of Chikage, you'd also see that the effect is less intense if the formula was "perfected" but that it would still change her. Most of Chizuru's reaction to the Water of Life can be gleaned from Kaoru's reaction to the Water of Life in Okita's route and Koudou's in Chikage's (as well as other routes, but those two are the most prominent). Since Kaoru is Chizuru's twin, I'm pretty sure I can trust in his reactions to the Water of Life.
3. Sen's offer to Chikage to breed a pure-blooded child happened on Heisuke's route. I liked to think my tie-in to that had a bit more build-up. Look, I understand how people feel about it - because that was a bit of my own reaction when I read it on Heisuke's route. But, two things: 1) A lot more people, today, have kids with someone and then go marry someone else they love - it's called life after a divorce; this baby making business (and familial survival) was also kind of the main points of marriage, for longer than the idea of modern day fairytale romance, so I'm not really introducing a new concept here. And 2) Since the Oni species seemed endangered and on the rocky cliff of dying off, which is strongly suggested in game, I doubt someone as duty-conscious as Chikage would abandon that sense of keeping his people and his bloodline alive for any personal reasons. Least of all to not hurt Chizuru's feelings. If he thought she wouldn't understand the meaning of duty, he would never have liked her, much less come to love her. She would have been no more use to him then a baby-making machine, and that wasn't what I was going for.
4. I'm still a bit baffled that people who are hung up about Chikage having a child for the sake of duty will be completely OK with Chizuru killing her own twin brother for the sake of duty. But, that could just be me.
So, for those of you who are really up in arms about this story, here's why I wrote it the way I did (and it isn't going to ever change):
1. Chizuru went through her ordeal with her twin so she could: 1) Remember where she really came from and how her life and happiness survived because of her total amnesia over the sacrifices made to keep her alive; and 2) So she could understand Chikage's burden. Chikage had the responsibilities of taking care of those he considered the last of his people and Chizuru had to experience some of that herself so I could treat them as equals in my story. Also, in my mind, killing your twin brother - the last member of your family/clan who was still alive - seemed a far worse sacrifice to make for duty's sake then having to produce a child to continue the species; but that's just my personal opinion.
2. Chikage could only fully respect and perhaps love someone who understood him. Chizuru's willingness to give up her own happiness for the safety of all, even those who would neither acknowledge or appreciate her efforts - i.e. lowly humans - would be someone that could actually catch his attention. It's that indomitable will to do the right thing, the honorable thing, that made him respect Hijikata and the rest of the Shinsengumi, despite their tainted blood and their icky humanness. It would possibly be the one thing that would make him do all he had to do in order to finally leave behind his people for Chizuru. At the end of this story, Chikage was basically saying: "I did everything I felt responsible for, and now I'm abandoning everything that meant anything to me to be with you." I was hoping I made the cost of his choice to be with Chizuru obvious (i.e. the possibility of having to kill his own children - as they did not have this thing called birth-control - as a pretty serious decision to make just to be with someone). It wasn't ideal, but I was amazed that some people chose to completely ignore it because she wasn't "The One" a la fairytale version.
3. Just want to emphasize that despite having one of the suckiest life possible (and Chizuru finally managing to understand that to some degree) Kaoru still had to be killed by his own sister, and that was the only kindness she could afford him. No one even mentions how much that must have sucked for both of them. It's all Chikage had a baby with Sen. Seriously, poor Kaoru. Even in the end, no one acknowledge how important he was. You know, he once saved the heroine from family/clan massacre... so we could write these stories. Remember that?
4. Finally, the main reason I wrote this story: To challenge the reader into thinking about how warped our ideas of romance have become.
I purposefully wrote the dichotomy between Chizuru's sacrifice for the sake of duty and the world, and juxtaposed that against Chikage's sacrifice for the sake of duty. While Chikage's sacrifice was more of the usual fare (as well as Sen's): Beget a child with someone you don't love, fulfill clan obligations one might not feel strongly about, etc.; I weighed that against Chizuru: A young women forced to do a lot of things that was not only abhorrent to her but deeply went against all of her ideals (i.e. Confront the fury monsters that put her life in danger and could reasonably give anyone nightmares; confront the massacres her adopted father and twin brother had brought onto the world; forced into recalling the loss of her entire clan, and ultimately, culminating in the killing of her twin brother - the last person on Earth who truly shared her past - for the sake of duty and keeping a bunch of ungrateful humans safe.
While I'm annoyed by most people's reaction about Chizuru forgiving Chikage as being the only big deal worth noting in this story; I guess that was also the reaction I wondered if I would receive - one of the reasons I wrote this story. I just wanted women, especially young women, to ask themselves at the end of the story, who in the end really needed forgiving?
Was it Chikage, who betrayed no ideals of his own - he did not even betray Chizuru because they were not actually together when he had a child with Sen; or would you say that Chizuru was really the one who needed forgiveness in the end? After all, she was the one who felt responsible for the mass killings that was instigated by her adopted father and continued by her brother (as she is also the only one left to truly feel responsible for this). She is the clan head, and while modern thinking might believe her innocent, I doubt that a clan head can deny such responsibilities. On top of that, she killed her own twin; even though she was willing to give up everything else if only Kaoru would give up revenge as well. Chikage might have hurt Chizuru's feelings to fulfill his duties, but Chizuru's failure to stop her father and finally stopping her brother, caused death - mass deaths. She was also willing to give up Chikage for Kaoru, before Chikage ever left her. I suspected that some people would be bothered by Chikage's choices, but not to the point where his choices would completely eclipse Chizuru's. I wasn't even being subtle about the drama and conflict behind Chizuru's choices.
If Chizuru can live with herself after she killed her twin, who Life pretty much wronged at every turn; she can most definitely live with Chikage - a man who cleaned up her adopted father and brother's mess, did what he must for his people only to abandon them for her, and pretty much agreed to stick with her even if she had insane demon children - who he will kill to make sure they didn't harm other living things if she had them. This was someone who gave her the courage to do what needed to be done, even though she had not been prepared to do it with her adopted father at the start.
I also want to bring up the question about Sen's loyalty to Chizuru. If you were Sen, would you perhaps rather Chikage go and make babies with some other demon woman. There are consequences to that (despite the initial outrage): 1) Sen knows she is not in love with Chikage and Chikage knows he is not in love with her. Neither of them would be hurt by the other's actions after the act and it is purely for the sake of duty. There is a clean break and both are willing to do what is necessary for the other to finish the duty they both need to fulfill to their people and, at the same time, eventually have a clean chance at happiness after their duties are fulfilled. If they went for other people, whose feelings were not as clear cut, other people's feelings may be hurt and there may be unforeseen consequences. 2) Sen choosing to do this means she was also, prepared from the start, to take on the responsibilities of raising the child Chikage would father out of duty. That's a responsibility she took over for him so he could go after Chizuru. That's a huge responsibility. Let's just say Sen wanted the child, she's still a young woman when this happened to her; and she had to have her baby pretty quickly to allow Chikage to wrap up everything on his end to leave. That's a huge sacrifice on her part - duty or not - just so her friend could have the man she loved back at her side, despite both sides stubbornness to do their duties in the most painful possible. 3) I wrote this story with the idea that she liked Amagiri as soon as she got to know him, and that was when they were under Chizuru's roof, after Chizuru got stabbed by Kaoru. So it's not like she did not have to give up on the possibility of maybe being with the guy she liked to have a baby with a guy she didn't. Put yourself in her shoes and see how that fits; maybe not so simple as "tried to steal Chikage away from Chizuru" is it?
And frankly, people don't belong to other people. People are not objects or property, no matter how literature and media may sometimes push us to think in such a primitive and simplistic way. While society have largely shaped and warped our ideas concerning love, marriage, and romance, frankly my story's main goal is to both entertain and make you aware the disturbing extremes we put on the importance of romance. It overshadows friendships, family, duty, and honor to ourselves. I don't want to define for you about how you should feel about Chikage and Chizuru's relationship, or even about romance and love, but I want to put more nuance on what it means to be with someone. What it means to choose someone to spend time, or even the rest of your life with. That the decisions are not just based on emotions, but a lot of sacrifice and compromise on both ends, without necessarily a promise of a happily-ever-after. Relationships are risks, and there are costs to that risk. I wanted to emphasize the friendship and the family relations as well. I did not want to overshadow their importance to Chizuru, despite her fierce desire to be with Chikage in the end. I hoped to point out, that had she the choice, she would have traded a lifetime with Chikage for a lifetime of peace with Kaoru, in a heartbeat with no questions asked, had the choice been there. He was her twin, so yes, he was at least as important as Chikage was to her, if not more so when she had killed him...
Anyway, enough ranting on my part. Until next time!