In ancient times, the land lay covered in forests, where, from ages long past, dwelt the Spirits of the Gods.
Back then, Man and Beast lived in harmony, but as time went by, most of the great forests were destroyed.
Those that remained were guarded by gigantic beasts, who owed their allegiances to the Great Forest Spirit,
For those were the days of Gods...
…and of Demons.
Something evil was in the forest. As it walked, the grass, tree's, and every plant it touch shriveled up, turned brown, and died. It didn't care that it was killing everything. He wanted to destroy them. He wanted these things to die, just like his own forest had died.
It needed to kill humans. It had been the humans that had turned him to this writhing, horrible pile of hate. Its goal was now to destroy the humans in the village he was getting close too- destroy them, or turn them into what he was.
What he was, was Hate. He was the living definition of Hatred.
Somewhere else, walking through the same forest, was a young girl. Her face was lit up by the sun that passed through the trees and greenery all around her, revealing the features of a girl reaching her late teen years. She had long sandy brown hair, reaching her chest, which was partially pulled back into a topknot at the back of her head. If you had caught her with her hair down, her hair would have reached her waist. Her eyes were a dark shade of brown, but if you looked at them from a certain angle, they would appear dark blue or gray. She wore a short, dark blue tunic that reached high above her knees. Tied around her waist was a dark red sash, with a sword in a scabbard attached to it. She was barefoot and wearing blue fabric wrappings around her legs. Wrapped round her arms from her wrists up to her elbows were white bandages. Clutched tightly in one hand was a bow. Hanging over her shoulder was a quiver full of arrows. Her ears were pierced, and held large white disk-shaped earrings that gleamed in the sunlight. Around her head was a black circlet, and wrapped around both of her biceps were matching armbands, all of them made out of leather. The headband held a small white stone in the center of the forehead, and the armbands held matching stones as well.
This was San, the heroine of our story.
San was the princess of the Emishi Clan, a Tribe of people that had been brutally slaughtered to near extinction five hundred years ago. Now they lived far to the east, hidden carefully from any outsiders or invaders.
San smoothed a piece of hair out of her eyes. She was returning to the village from her inspection of the border - the border that hid the Emishi from anybody wishing to do them harm. The only known entrance to the village was hidden behind a waterfall inside a deep canyon. The only people who knew about the entrance were people of the Emishi, or friends to the Emishi people - and, given the fact that nobody knew that the Emishi had survived the massacre five centuries ago, the Clan didn't have too many friends.
There was an inspection of the border every other day. That day it was San's turn. The reason for the inspection was so that, should anybody not meaning well should come close to the entrance of the village, the person looking over the entrance that day would be able to either fight off the person, or warn the village of the attackers.
There hadn't been any invaders that day. What do they expect? San silently asked herself. There hadn't been any visitors to the village in years - the last person to come to the village had been Master Tanda, and that was nearly five years ago, when San had been thirteen. Still, even if there hadn't been any visitors, San couldn't shake the feeling that something was wrong - very wrong. She hadn't heard any birds or animals, and she hadn't seen any either. Usually, she saw several squirrels, some of which came close enough so that she could touch them, and heard hundreds of birds. But that day, the forest was dead silent. It was unnerving.
She held up a hand to block out the sun as she passed by the walls that made up the border between the forest and the village. There was a soft snorting sound, and when San turned toward the noise, she saw her red elk, Yakuul trotting toward her.
"I thought I told you to stay with Kaya." San said sternly, though she couldn't help but smile as Yakuul nudged her cheek gently with his nose. After rubbing his muzzle with the hand that wasn't holding onto her bow, she took hold of his reins and began leading him back towards the village.
Again, San turned toward the source of the noise. This time she saw Kaya, her little sister, and her two friends, Hana and Mei, racing towards her. They all were dressed the same as San, the only differences being that the three of them all had chin-length dark brown hair, wore hats to protect them from the sun, and held baskets (no doubt filled with herbs for the Wise Woman of the village) instead of bows in their hands.
"You found him!" Hana said, sounding relieved. She was obviously talking about Yakuul, given the fact that San had left him in the younger girls care. "He wandered off a bit before we had finished our gathering - Mei was terrified that we would have to be the ones to tell you he had disappeared!"
"I was not!" Mei said instantly, looking irritated.
"Was there anybody at the border?" Kaya asked, purposely changing the subject.
"No." San shifted her quiver back into a comfortable position on her shoulder. "There never is."
"Well, it's better to be safe rather than sorry, isn't it?" Mei pointed out.
"I suppose so." San sighed, tilting her head back and letting her earrings flash in the sunlight at the movement. "Let's go, it's time to head back to the village."
The girls nodded, and the group of five (including Yakuul) set off across the grassy field. After a few minutes of walking, they passed a tall watchtower, a roof covering the top to protect the watcher of the day from the sun. San leaned against one of the wooden posts, calling up to the top. "Ji-San!"
An old man peered over the railing of the watchtower, looking down at the girls and the elk. "San! Did you see anything at the border?" Ji-San called back down.
"No, there was nothing!"
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, I'm sure. Why?" San asked, frowning slightly.
Ji-San didn't answer at first, but then he yelled, "The Mountains are strange. Just hurry back to the village, will you?"
"We will!" Kaya yelled up to the old man. "San, let's go." She added in a mutter to her sister, who looked like she wanted to go up there and demand to know what was wrong with the forest right that second. Kaya seized the older girl by her arm and began to gently pull her along, until she was sure that San wouldn't try to demand an answer from Ji-San.
When they were a distance away from the watchtower, but still had it in view, Mei was the first to speak up. "The forest did seem a bit odd when we were gathering herbs."
Hana nodded in agreement. Kaya gave a small "hmm" in thought. San opened her mouth and was about to say something, when she was cut off by -
San's face instantly became emotionless when she heard a male's voice. Kaya gave her a quick side-glance, before turning her attention to the source of the voice. "Chagum!" She yelled, raising her hand in a greeting.
Racing towards them, making his way through the pathway on his own red elk, was Chagum, San's fiancée. There was no doubt that he was a handsome man, but San wasn't fond of him in the slightest. The marriage had been arranged between his parents before San's parents had died ten years ago. San had no say in the marriage - which was to be expected, really, but she still hated it. Chagum wasn't smart or wise, nor was he that interesting a person. He was one of those people - that, unfortunately, seemed to be numerous these days - who divided the world into good and bad, and friends and enemies. San didn't like anyone who thought like that - she didn't hate them, she just had a very low tolerance for them.
And, unfortunately, as soon as she turned nineteen, she was going to be married to him.
"Good that I found you." Chagum commented, riding up to them and bringing his elk to a halt. "The Wise Woman says that everyone is to return to the village immediately."
"Ji-San said so too." Hana said.
"Ji-San?" Chagum's eyes quickly found San. "What did he say, San?"
"He said that the mountains were strange." San replied, though she wasn't looking at him. She was looking back, at the forest, her eyes narrowed, as if she was trying to see what was wrong with the forest. "And I couldn't hear any birds or animals on my way back from the border."
"Alright." Chagum nodded, still staring at San as though he thought she would look back at him and actually smile at him for once. She never did that. "I'll go and ask Ji-San what's wrong. You four, please hurry back!" And he set off, racing away on his elk, leaving behind the four girls and Yakuul.
"San, come on, let's go." Kaya murmured, nudging her sister gently. San didn't respond, but she gave a small nod and turned back around.
The rest of the walk back was completely silent. San kept glancing around, one hand clenching her bow tightly and the other hand switching between holding the hilt of her sword and touching the strap of her quiver. Kaya kept glancing over at San with a faintly worried expression. Hana and Mai tried several times to start a conversation, but it always fell flat, and they lapsed back into silence.
Suddenly, Yakuul came to a stop. The elk looked around, his ears twitching very faintly. San stopped walking as well, and turned around, her eyes narrowing. Something's there… She looked over her shoulder at the three other girls. "Can you three keep going? I'll stay here, you just keep walking."
Hana and Mai slowly nodded in agreement, though they looked a little worried, while Kaya cast one last worried look in her sister's direction before continuing to walk. San stayed where she was, keeping one hand on her bow and the other on Yakuul's horn, in case she needed to make a fast getaway.
Silence in the forest. Nothing was wrong.
San let out a gasp when suddenly a blur of red fur and blue clothing darted out of the forest. It was Chagum, and he was trying to get away from something.
Then, the trees around an area of the forest's edge turned brown and shriveled up, dying instantly. Suddenly, some kind of creature, looking more like a mass of tentacles with a pair of red glowing lights for eyes, burst forward from the forest. It crawled out of the forest on its four tentacle legs, chasing after Chagum, sprouting at least four more legs as it did. San, for her part, didn't scream, but her eyes widened even more.
It's a Demon!
The monster suddenly started slowing before It came to a complete stop. It turned to the left, then to the right. And, of course, It saw San. It looked like It jumped in surprise, and then started wildly scrambling across the ground toward the Princess. San instinctively pulled an arrow from the quiver strapped to her back and nocked it into her bowstring, took aim, and fired. The arrow sliced through the air, before embedding itself into the ground a few feet away from the Demon. The projectile successfully caught the Demon off guard, and It halted Its charge momentarily.
"San!" Chagum yelled, taking notice of her. "Out of the way!" The boy was already circling back around, racing toward her. San ignored him, and instead seized Yakuul's antler and hoisted herself onto his back, and the elk began to break into a steady run. The Demon seemed to have recovered from Its shock, and now had begun to chase after San and Yakuul. San glanced over her shoulder briefly, and saw the Demon had no intent on stopping his rampage any time soon. Slowly, she held out her hand toward It, in a "stop" gesture, and began to speak, slowly but loudly. "My Lord of the Forest! Please, stop your rampage! Leave our village in peace!"
"San, what are you doing?" Chagum shouted, looking both shocked and angry at her.
San ignored him. Chagum was the kind of person who thought there was only one way to solve problems: with violence. She, however, always tried to settle things without bloodshed - unfortunately, that way of solving problems was almost impossible to do most of the time. "Chagum, where's Ji-San?" She prayed to the Gods that the honorary grandfather of the Emishi village hadn't been killed by the Demon monster. He had helped the Wise Woman raise her and Kaya when their parents had died.
"He's alive." And that was all Chagum had time to say before the Demon let out a roar and suddenly turned and started charging off in a different direction. When San turned and looked to where the Demon was now racing, she saw with horror that the monster was now heading directly towards Kaya and her friends, who had frozen in place upon seeing the monster.
"Chagum, you get Kaya and her friends out of here!" San ordered, already racing after the Demon and barely hearing Chagum start yelling at her from behind. She felt some of her fear disappear as Kaya and her friends began to run as fast as they could back towards the village. San managed to get Yakuul in front of the Demon, and began to speak to It again. "Go back! Please! Why do you attack our village? What have we done to you?" San screamed at it, trying not to show any fear. "Stop it! Leave us alone!"
The Demon continued charging at the three girls. To make matters worse, Mai suddenly tripped over a rock and fell flat on her face into the grass. "Get up!" Hana yelled, the two other girls skidding to a stop. As Hana tried to get Mai back to her feet, Kaya turned to face the demon and pulled out the sword hanging at her waist. She pointed it directly at the monster, a determined expression on her face.
"KAYA!" San yelled. "OUT OF THE WAY!" When Kaya made it clear she was not going to move until her friend was safe, San realized she had no choice. She drew an arrow and shot it directly at the Demon's red eye. It pierced deeply into the eye, and the Demon came to a halt, giving Chagum enough time to finally run out from behind the Demon, reach Kaya and her friends, leap off his elf, pick Mai up in his arms bridal style, and he and the girls ran back to the village as fast as they could.
San stayed behind, watching the Demon retreat into itself, forming a ball of wildly squirming bloody black and dark purple tentacles. Suddenly, several stalks of the snakes shot upwards, and it startled both San and Yakuul enough to cause San to send Yakuul running away. All of the stalks began to chase after her, although the Demon stayed in Its place.
Despite Yakuul's speed, one long arm of the Demons tentacles managed to catch up with the two and seized hold of San's right forearm. They clenched her arm firmly in their grasp, and she screamed in pain.
San ripped her arm away from the snakes, leaving only about a dozen still clinging to her arm. As soon as she was free, San doubled back and readied another arrow. She waited until she was close enough, before she let go of the string, and let the arrow soar.
The projectile hit the monster in Its already injured eye, making It squeal in pain again. Two more long, twisting and turning arms of squirming tentacles chased after her again, but this time San was wiser. She refused to let Yakuul slow down until the tentacles fell back.
When the tentacles stopped chasing them, San went back. She found the Demon, in Its true pitiful form. The tentacles had started sliding off the Demon, out of its injured eye even, revealing a huge orange-coloured boar underneath, nearly three times the size it was supposed to be. When the last of the tentacles tentacles had slid off and pooled at Its feet, the boar stood still.
For a moment, there was silence. Then the boar fell over with a loud THUD.
It was dead.
San suddenly felt an intense burning feeling in her arm... the one the Demon had touched. She looked down, and immediately regretted doing so. Her face contorted with pain as the last of the tentacles melted off her skin, leaving behind utterly charred and burned bandages that she had just wrapped around her forearms this morning. San felt almost faint, and she slid sideways off Yakuul onto the ground on her side. She could hear the people in the village yelling, but she couldn't hear what they were saying. She suddenly heard her sister's voice, whispering to her. "San, are you alright?" Kaya managed to get San partially off the ground, so her sister was now on her knees, clutching her arm. Chagum had materialized by her side, and had one arm around her shoulders, and murmuring words of comfort into her ear. At least half or more of the men of the tribe had formed a circle around their eldest princess, all of them looking horrified.
"Don't touch it, Kaya." San ordered, sounding like she was in pain. The two girls started clawing at the ground, pulling up dirt to cover San's arm, and in the process ripped off the ruined bandages, revealing angry red coloured skin.
The Wise Woman rode on another man's back and approached the scene. She was ordering them to stay back, that it wasn't safe for them to get any closer to their princess. The man set the old lady down on her feet, and Chagum stood up.
"She's hurt!" He nearly yelled at the old woman.
The Wise Woman handed Chagum a jug, filled to the brim with holy water. "Pour this slowly over the wound." Kaya got back on her knees and started to pour the water over her sister's injury. The wound was so hot it turned the water to steam, and San sucked in a breath at the pain.
The Wise Woman then approached the dead boar. She bowed her head at Its body, and began speaking in soft tones, using the ancient Emishi language. It was said that only the God's still spoke this language. The Wise Woman had learned the language early on in her training as the village Oracle, and so spoke to the dead Boar in the Ancient tongue. Whether it was God or Demon, It deserved her respect. San watched, not understanding the language, but knowing that the Wise Woman was blessing the Demon into the next world.
The corpse suddenly started speaking. His voice was deep, and filled with hatred, and he spoke in the native Emishi language, so they could all understand him. You damned filthy humans… You will all feel my hate and suffer...
As It spoke its final words, blood started pouring out of Its mouth, and the Demon's skin and muscle melted of him, leaving only the huge skeleton alone in the large puddle of blood. The air filled with the smell of burning flesh, and bile rose to San's throat as she stared at her arm in horror.
What have I gotten myself into this time?
Author's note: When referring to Nago, AKA the Demon, 'Demon' and 'It' had their first letters capitalized on purpose, because I can do that. Just saying so.