Disclaimer - I will never own Dais or any of the other characters mentioned in this story. Everyone belongs to his or her respective voice actors, producers, artists, etc. I am not making any money off this fan fiction, nor should I receive money for any such reason. The title of this fan fiction is taken from the song, "The Living Years" by Mike & The Mechanics. "The Living Years" belongs to its respective song writers, singers, performers, and all such people associated with "The Living Years."
The Living Years
Obligation is the basis for a strong, healthy society. I can't recall all of the times my father drilled that lesson into my head while I was growing up, but if you can remember it for more than four hundred years, then the lesson either stuck or became today's convenient memory. I don't like to think about my father because I was young and selfish. After going to your memorial ceremony a couple of days ago, during this past autumnal equinox, I feel that I have failed not only you, but my father as well.
When I was human, my father actively encouraged his brother's ashigaru to train and use guns. Of course, the gun was a barbarian invention that didn't work well when it was first introduced. But by the time I became a man, I had learnt not only how to use a sword but a gun as well.
However, I found this weapon loud and tactless. Yes, guns would produce a high body count for the enemy, but I found the idea of handling such a bulky thing crass and uncultured. Still, my father insisted that I train with the men.
It wasn't just our differences over the gun that made our relationship tense. Our largest disagreement came from how to deal with our enemies. I was expected to be subordinate to my father and go along with his ideas. When he died, I was expected to take his spot among my uncle Mototaka's war advisors. Like every member of a daimyo family, I was expected to honor the code of Bushido. In spite of that, when I turned nineteen years old, our clan became entangled in several battles against supporters of the Rokkaku clan. As vassals of Oda Nobunaga, we had access to the most up-to-date weapons and intelligence. Yet, we couldn't break the deadlock even with firepower and my uncle's strategies. We were winning some battles but the cost was causing us to lose ground.
Everyone was desperate, and I felt that the best thing I could do to help my clan was to hire a ninja to quietly kill the toughest of the Rokkaku clan's allies. I was pleased with the results; the idea of killing someone by poison was more pleasing than firing a bullet from a loud gun. Soon after my first success, I kept looking for more reliable ninja to continue my plans. It felt good to hear my father read reports about our dead enemies. Naturally, I feigned ignorance about their convenient deaths. Seeing my father happy made me feel happy - and powerful.
Then again, power is an addiction, and soon I was penning death warrants every night. At first, it started out as merely business, but I didn't want to stop. To know that I was doing my father - no, my clan - a favor enhanced my sense of pride. I enjoyed it so much that my dark dealings affected how I interacted with my family. I missed war council meetings, and my mother began asking questions when I started skipping family dinners. I only kept up sword practice to avoid rumors among our soldiers.
If there was talk about me having a double life, my father never brought attention to it. Besides, he had no business in lecturing me; he owed me everything for dispatching our enemies. But one night, as I was sneaking out of the house to meet my most recent hire, I was seen by one of my father's servants. The servant didn't stop me but he did tell my father where I had gone. When I returned home around sunrise, Father was waiting for me.
As you could expect, the fight was loud. The shouting, the arguing; I told my father that he should be grateful for my double life. I ordered our enemies dead instead of going through an elaborate process of strategizing for an actual battle. Father said that I had lost my mind. He told me that I was a warrior, and that I had to behave as such. I told him that his ideas were ancient. Times had changed, and no one practiced the so-called virtues of honor, sacrifice, and courage anymore. Then I pointed out that he had been pleased when he received the results of my nighttime plans. He didn't complain then, so why should he complain now?
The next night, I was still angry at my father for lecturing me. As he slept, I rose from my futon, snuck out of the house, and met my ninja informant. By morning, Father and Mother became two corpses for the eta to handle.
I was twenty-one years old when those killings took place. Before my cousin and new clan leader, Yoshitaka, could discover the person responsible for my parents' deaths, Talpa had whisked me away to the Nether Realm to become his first warlord. The golden sky and black sun of this new world were a place of beauty and horror. It was the perfect setting for an illusion master; weaving webs of lies and deceit as I had done in the past. By then, any form of loyalty to the human world vanished. I was rejected by the clan who owed me for helping them. Humans were no different; ungrateful people who benefited from the darkness that makes their society evolve but would be quick to publicly condemn it.
As the weeks turned into years, I watched Talpa add Cale and Sekhmet to our ranks. Their ruthlessness only proved that human ideals didn't exist in our dark world. I could admire Sekhmet's ability to create poisons, especially the one that attacked the heart while leaving no sign of visible damage on the skin. Cale, on the other hand, I could respect for how quietly he could weave his way in and out of the shadows. He seemed more like the expert ninja I would have hired than a man who wore samurai armor.
Then Talpa introduced us to you, our youngest warlord. My first impression was mixed. You had a short temper and fiery attitude, but you still clung to those old codes and beliefs. It seemed like naïveté and pride would mold you into another failure, meaning that I would have to kill you before you became a cancer towards the rest of the group.
It never happened. I was amazed at how you could strike a balance between morals and reality on the battlefield. Bloodthirsty but honorable, efficient yet brave. Slowly, I began to respect that balance you seemed to have found. Granted, I would have never said it in your presence.
After centuries of preparation, we began our first invasion of the Human World. Our attack was swift and sudden. No one stood in our way, and mortal technology couldn't cope with our advancement. Victory seemed within our grasp if it weren't for those five Ronin Warriors. Our battles against them soon grew desperate as we struggled against their rising strength. Later, and I don't know how, you got captured. When the three of us found you at the park after your talk with that monk, it seemed like something had changed inside of you. You still looked the same and your eyes still had that same fire in them, but somehow I knew you had changed.
You had become my enemy. After all the times we had shared together, I would be forced to accept that you wouldn't fight alongside me. I was right: you had become a cancer that I would have to kill. Once we withdrew back to the Nether Realm, I should have picked up my wounded pride and ordered an underling to slit your throat.
Though, for some reason, I never penned the order for your death. I didn't want anyone else to kill you. It made no sense to me at the time, but I had to be the one to slit your throat. I had the responsibility to end the pain you had caused me; the betrayal you left in my heart when I discovered you weren't the same person I thought you were.
On the other hand, the emotional pain I endured after you turned traitor was nothing compared to the repeated humiliation of having Lady Kayura openly insult our skills. During that time, Talpa announced that there would be a shift in battle plans. We were to gather the Ronin Warriors' armors and siphon off their powers. We succeeded in capturing Halo, Hardrock, and Torrent, but couldn't capture Strata and Wildfire. As the two free Ronins kept pushing deeper into the castle complex to find their friends, you managed to return to the Nether Realm and aid them. I was happy to see you alive. You should have been a good victim after Cale, Sekhmet, and I found you outside that abandoned temple, but the stubborn old pride that you were famous for proved to be fatal.
Following Talpa's demise and the war's end, our hard-won peace seemed to cause a shift in personal priorities. I realized that just as you weren't the same man I thought you were, my father must have felt the same way when he discovered the darker, unseen side of his child. Was this my father's revenge? His attempt to teach me how to empathize and accept people despite the many faces they wear? Did this lesson mean that my father still loved me? Even though I turned out to be a different child than he believed? I can't answer those questions. Five years after your death, Anubis, I think I should try to answer them.
So after I finish this letter and set it on top of your grave, I'm going to the Mortal Realm to find my parents' graves. I will wash and scrub their headstones, offer incense and flowers, chant Buddhist sutras, and tell my father that now I understand how he felt when he was told about my secret activities.
After all, I was too stubborn to listen to him when he was still alive.
End Notes - There are a few Japanese terms that might be confusing to the readers. I have clarified the most common terms...
Ashigaru - Japanese foot-soldiers who were used by the samurai class of feudal Japan. In Dais' clan, the ashigaru mostly employed the use of Tanegashima or Japanese Matchlock Guns.
Eta - In the feudal era, this was the name of the Burakumin or "outcast caste." These people worked as executioners, undertakers, in slaughterhouses, as butchers, and as tanners. According to Shinto, these jobs are considered unclean and polluted.