It has been many years since I...No, "many" is a great understatement. It has been a long time since I had vanished to find what I wanted from my life, to learn more about myself, and to see the world for what it was; both the beautiful and the ugly...the ugliness more often-than-not rather brazen, but the beauty more persistent.
I have assumed several names and identities over the years; some of my own design, others given to me. As for now, I go by "Richt".
Visiting an Old Home
I arrived at the outskirts of Yamatai Village by early afternoon. It was the onset of winter, the river was already frozen over, and the only greenery supplied by the surrounding pine trees.
"Hm...I wonder how long it has been since I have seen snow...". Muttering that to myself, I kneel down and scoop up a handful, watching it gradually melt away in my hand. "I do hope I actually get to the village before nightfall...would rather not be sleeping outside again.". Standing back up, I continue walking in Yamatai's general direction. I am confronted minutes later by a pair of Samurai Elves and the tip of a blade pointed at my chest: "Halt! State your purpose!". "Hrm? Oh, you mean in life?" I quipped, the blade being raised up to eye level in response. "Yes, yes, how very clever of you. We've been watching you skulk around for the last hour or so. Rather suspicious, if you ask me." she said with a demanding tone, glaring.
Noting the other elf slowly circling around behind me, I returned my attention to my primary would-be aggressor. "Let me assure you, my fair elven swordswomen, I have no malicious intents. Rather, I am a little lost, as it were." I replied, looking her straight in her dark green eyes. "It has been many years since I last visited Yamatai village, and I can not recall where I should be headed.".
"Oh? Surely there is someone in the village that can vouch for you, then." she said, her voice still holding a demanding tone. "I am afraid not. To the best of my knowledge, I did not leave any lasting impressions on anybody." I said, smiling gently, only for it to disappear when the woman behind me decided to speak up: "That doesn't bode well for you, you know." Her hand hovered over the hilt of her sword. "...Do you honestly intend on cutting down an unarmed man?" I asked while glancing back at her over my shoulder. "Or worse: Leave him to bleed to death out in the cold?". Returning my attention to the elf in front of me, I looked at her with a raised eyebrow. "I am cold, hungry, tired. Yamatai is the only village within a reasonable range at this point...It is entirely your decision."
Staring at me with a furrowed brow, she finally sighed, sheathing her sword; the elf behind me following suit. "F...Fine. The village is in that direction..." she said, rather begrudgingly, pointing in the direction of the village. "Behave yourself, or I will hunt you down personally.". "Oh but of course." Much to her surprise, I took her hand in mine and kissed the top of it. "A-Ah..Wh-What are you doing?! G-Get out of h-here before I change my mind!" she yelled, turning away as her face turned a vivid red. "My apologies, Miss." I flashed them another small smile, then turned around and continued on towards the village.
... ... ...
"Ah...You're still blushing, Akiko."; "Wha- Sh-Shutup Yasami!".
Statues and Shrines
I finally reached the village about half an hour later. There was snow strewn everywhere, though the walkways were surprisingly...or rather, predictably clear of it. "Still as meticulous as ever..." I mutter to myself, smiling as I continue to walk around, taking note of what changed over the years. Strange as it was, not much else had changed over the years, aside from the size of the village itself. Noticing the various shrines, I decide to take a look around. "~How strange. If I recall correctly, Tamamo was initially against the construction of these shrines...What made her change her mind?~"
I decided to first pay a visit to the "Mighty Snake Shrine"...
I wandered around for several minutes admiring the architecture and various works of art depicting various lamia, then I was approached by a middle-aged man dressed in a monk's garb. "Well this certainly is a rare sight. We do not get many visitors to our quaint village this time of year." he said as he walked up to me, practically elated. "Ah...That is no surprise, it was positively frigid during the walk up here." I replied, giving him a small smile. "I imagine that a number of the local lamia are using the shrine as a means of shelter from the cold?". "Why yes, there are a few of them currently taking refuge within the shrine. Just because the warm seasons have ended does not mean that their duties have ended as well - much to their dismay." he answers, chuckling sheepishly. "In our culture, snakes represent a wide array of concepts; including protection, good luck, strength and change, and a few others as well. So, it is natural we also associate lamia with these concepts and pay our respects to them. With that in mind - If you'll excuse me for a moment.". He rushed off into a small building, returning shortly after, carrying a bowl of...noodles?
"First, take this" he said, pushing the bowl into my hands. "Ah...Of course, but what is it fo-"; "When you enter the shrine, you are to offer this to Shirohebi, the head of this shrine." he revealed, cutting me off. "Tradition dictates that one presents their offering in a way similar to this.". Suddenly, the monk claps his hands twice then bows. "Oh Mighty Snake! Please accept this humble offering so that I may receive your blessing!". "Uhm...Is that truly necessary? It seems a bit..." I trail off. "Brash? Yes, I suppose it is. ...But between you and me, it is really more of a formality these days. However, it does seem to make the lamia happy." he replies, chuckling again.
I stare down at the bowl of noodles in my hand for a moment. "Is something the matter, sir?" he asks. "Well, as you can imagine, it has been a rather arduous journey and I consumed my last scraps of food earlier this morning. I do hope I am not imposing, but could you possibly spare some of these noodles for a hungry and tired traveler?" I ask, smiling gently again. The man rubs his beard for a few moments before conceding. "Ah...hm. Seeing as how these are made specifically for the lamia, it is rather unconventional...but I suppose I can make an exception this once." returning the smile, he hurried back to the small building, returning with another bowl of noodles. "Think of this as your welcoming gift, for taking the time to visit our village during the unforgiving winter." He bowed towards me, smiling still. After returning the bow, I headed into the shrine...
" 'Ora! Hurry up and close the door, you're letting the cold air in!" a voice rang out from the back of the shrine, clearly irritated at the sudden drop in temperature. After closing the door, the temperature quickly rose. "Positively swiltering now..." I mutter, making my way to the back of the shrine. "Ara...? A human? I don't recognize you from the village..." the lamia makes her way over to me, nearly coiling around me on the spot. "So I would assume you are a traveler?" she asks, obviously taking notice of the noodles. "We don't get many visitors during the winter months.". "So I have heard. I assume you are the Shirohebi?" I ask while looking her over. "I am~" she replies, gesturing to the two bowls. "My, are both of those for me~?". "Unfortu- Ah...One of them is. I have not eaten a thing since this morning, so whichever one is left is for me.". Letting out a small, short hiss, she made her way back over to the back of the shrine. "Very well...". She resumes her previous position, glancing down at me expectantly.
"...Oh! Of course." Setting one of the bowls down to the side, then placing the other between her and myself. "...". After sighing quietly, I clap my hands twice then bow towards her; "Oh Mighty Shirohebi, please accept my humble offering and bestow your blessings unto me!" This elicits quiet giggling from the other lamia in the building; the Shirohebi herself obviously attempting to stifle her own. Gingerly picking up the bowl, she appeared to be mulling it over, then proceeded to eat...
"Hmm~ Request denied~"; "...I beg your pardon?"; "Mm~? I said 'Request denied'~"; "But you have already eaten everything in that bowl."
She merely shrugged, smiling coyly. "However, I suppose I could be enticed to change my mind if a certain someone were to come around at nightfall~ It just gets oh-so cold after the sun has set...~". "...I suppose you think you are being very clever..." I mutter under my breath, stuffing my mouth with noodles. "Very well, I will consider your...generous offer." Noticing my sarcasm, she lets out another small, short hiss.
"How impertinent. If you do wish for me to accept your offering, you will come by tonight."; "...Just say it."; "...Say what?"; "Say that you want me to come by tonight so you can have a personal heated body pillow."; "Hmp. Don't be absurd. It is simply in your best interest if you were to come by."
She looks away, apparently done with the conversation.
Sighing quietly again, I walk towards the shrine door. As I leave, I am sure I can feel that lamia staring holes into the back of my head.
... ... ...
"~I hope I do not wake up with a broken spine tomorrow...~"
Next, I make my way over towards the several smaller shrines, such as the one honoring the various Nekomata in the area...or so I had planned, but "Due to the destruction ensuing the chimera invasion, the [________] Shrine is under reconstruction and is off-limits until further notice"
So, with my self-guided tour drastically shortened, I end up going to the largest shrine...which obviously honored the "Mighty Fox Spirits", whom made up at least a third of the village's monster population.
~Sheesh. I wonder how large this shrine can possibly be.~...I suppose that is no surprise. They do proliferate like...well...
Something...Something about this statue...Why does it look so familiar?...Dasemi.
A woman approaches me from behind, casting a shadow over me. "Hello there! I haven't seen you around the village, are you a tourist?" she asks while leaning over slightly, showing off a rather generous amount of her cleavage. She was a four-tailed Kitsune, with raven-black hair that hung just above her tails. "Uh..yes, I suppose you could call me a tourist." I reply, smiling back at her. "Call it strange, but I feel as though this woman has a story to her..." I trail off, standing up and motioning towards the statue, hoping to lead her into a conversation. "My, that's rather intuitive of you~ Yes, as a matter of fact, she played a large role in saving this village when a group of barbarians attempted to pillage and destroy it." she continued, looking up at the sky for a brief moment. "There are a few variations to this story, but the original , more popular version tells that a human male she had adopted as her son led their forces in, and the two ultimately ended up killing each other." She eventually returned her attention to me, smiling gently. "It's a rather sad tale, really..."
"Yes...that sounds...like it would have...been a positively horrifying experience for her..." I mutter, staring up at the statue's face.
... ... ...
And suddenly I was there again.
The smell of freshly spilled blood and burning bodies polluted the air. Fires were burning wildly. People were dying. It was the same as before.
My focus is shifted onto a young man being surrounded and attacked by multiple assailants. He is bound to falter at any second...
No, wait. One of his attackers fall to the ground, his throat having been cut open.
Then another, being impaled up through the chin by...a shard of a shattered sword?
And another, ravaged by several severe lacerations to his abdomen.
This boy apparently ignores his own condition, pulling out of his body weapons that he himself had been impaled with. How could he possibly continue moving? No. How is he even ALIVE?
He is bleeding profusely...He really should stop...
Fire. Death. Blood.
... ... ...
... ... ...
... ... ...
Death is in bloom.
I snap back to reality, being shaken by the same woman from before. Her ears are pinned back against her head and she's looking at me with a scared expression. Terrified, even. She looks like she might begin crying out of fear.
"A..A-Are you o-okay? Y-Your body went completely p-pale, a-and y-y-you got a ruh-really sc-scary look..." she says, her voice clearly trembling.
"..." I look down at myself. She is right. My skin is incredibly pale, and I am shaking. Not trembling, but shaking. Am I sweating? I can not tell, but I feel as though I am.
"M..Muh..M-My apologies... A bad m..memory decided to resurface..." I reply. I take several deep breaths, each calming the shaking until it has stopped completely. My skin, however, remains pale.
"D-Do you need s-some medical help?" she finally asks, having calmed down a bit as well. "N...No, I a-am sure I will b-be fine..." I reply, feeling a bit ill. "B-But...perhaps being accompanied around the shrine by an attractive woman would help me take my mind off of it." I say while smiling, attempting to reassure her. Her ears immediately perk back up. "O-Oh? Attractive, h-hmm~?" she mutters, smiling and blushing, twirling a few strands of her hair. "Alright, where do I start~". She then grabs onto my arm and proceeds to lead me around the shrine.
"~Thank goodness I did not wet myself. That would have been incredibly embarrassing.~"
[~~Placeholder for Potential Snu-Snu Segment~~]
Confronting the Wanderer
It was the morning after and it was pleasantly brisk out. I had found and was sitting on the edge of a cliff that overlooked the village. The sun had barely started to rise, so there were not many villagers awake. The silence, in addition to the crispness of the winter morning air was...soothing.
Unfortunately, the quiet serenity of the early morning did not last long: I was approached from behind by a rather large group of samurai and kunoichi elves. Most of which had their weapons drawn. Surely I did not break any laws...?
"You there! Get up slowly!" one of them commands, her sword drawn and pointed at me. I comply and slowly rise from my sitting position, glancing back at the group "~It seems she is not the same elf I encountered yesterday~". Ask I think that, I spot those exact two from yesterday further back in the group. "Oh my. Is there a reason I am being confronted by so many capable and beautiful women?" I ask, my back still facing the group. "Silence! Flattery will not be getting you out of this!" she barks back at me. "Well, do I at least get a reason as to why I am being...'apprehended'? That is why you all are here, is it not?" I ask as I turn around to face them.
They all take a step back.
"Well...?"; "Grr...You are being apprehended on the suspicion of being a potential threat!"; "And what would be the reason for that?"; "A number of Yamatai's citizens had reported feeling a rather malevolent aura eminating from a man whose description you match perfectly! In addition to this, according to the villager's elders, your appearance is also extremely similar that of a figure in ancient artworks depicting the destruction of the village shortly after its founding!"; "...As fascinating as that is, I have to say: That is rather presumptuious of them...and you."; "Quiet! If these accusations truly do not concern you, then you should have no issues complying!"
I look at each individual within the group once more - at this point, all of them had their weapons drawn, and the majority of them in a fighting stance. "...It would seem each of you have already made up your mind...Very Well." I say out loud, sighing as I unsheathe my cutlass. "I will indulge you all. But...you will fail."
I was then rushed at from all sides.
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... ... ...
... ... ...
Approximately ten minutes had passed since the beginning of their attempt. They now lay strewn across the snow-covered field...alive. Damaged, body and pride, yes. But very much alive. Most of them are unconscious, and the ones that were still awake are simply too pained to move.
Including their leader, whose back I was currently sitting on.
"Y-Y...You won't geh-get away w-with this...!"; "With what, exactly? If I recall correctly, you all provoked me."; "Y-You just w-wait! Ta-Tamamo or Yao will get huh-here s-soon enough!"
"Now why would I wait for anyone else to show up?" I ask, plopping a fistful of snow down onto the side of her face. "~Hm. I have not heard those two names in a long while. I would not particularly mind Tamamo arriving here, but Yao...~". I sigh as I think that, shaking my head and standing up. "H-Hey! Wuh-Where do you th-think you're going?!" she yells as I begin to walk away. Sighing again, I turn around and look down at her. "I 'think' I am leaving. But you do not have to worry. Tell whoever that shows up; and the villagers...and the elders; that I do not plan on coming back.". "Y-You think I'm ju-just going to lie here and luh-let you get away?!" she shouts, struggling to get up.
"I think you do not have much of a choice now. Goodbye." And with that, much to her surprise, I burst into a cloud of - what appears to be - smoke that seems to simply vanish after traveling a fair distance from the group of defeated elves.
Roughly half an hour passes. After the first fifteen minutes or so, some of the elves were able to stand and move around once more. After that, those who were still conscious began checking their comrades to make sure they were still alive, and began moving them back to the village.
Yao arrives on the scene within the last seven minutes to get a report from the "leader".
"Jeez, all of you taken out by one man! I hope you all aren't slacking off just because the war is over~" Yao remarks half-jokingly. "B-Be quiet! We were horrifically outmatched!" the elf shouts back at Yao, the word "failure" running through her mind over and over; her frustration clearly visible on her face. "Oh lighten up! I'm sure he couldn't have gotten that far. And even if he did..." Yao trails off, glancing at the elf expectantly. "I'm sure you have something I can use, yes? A piece of his clothing torn off, or a bit of his blood...?" she asks. "W...Well yes, but I don't know if it will be enough for you to go on..." The elf answers, offering Yao her sword.
"How many times must I tell you not to underestimate my tracking abilities, hmm~?" Yao says in an almost-teasing voice, taking the elf's sword and running her index finger along the sword's flat edge, gathering what little blood there was onto her finger. "Now let's see where you're hiding~" she quietly chimes, proceeding to smell the blood to get a scent.
Her ears pin back after a few moments. "~No. That's not possible. He's dead. He's been dead, as a matter of fact.~".
"Is something the matter, Yao?"; "...I don't remember you giving me a description of what he looked like. If you would be so kind as to remind me..."; "O-Oh, of course! Well, to start, he is apparently similar in appearance to the young man that incited the destruction of this village all those centuries ago...according to the elders, at least. But, to give you a more detailed descrip- ...W-What's wrong?"
Yao was staring off into the distance in the direction the man had gone, her ears still pinned back against her head. "Nothing. The person you are implying was here simply could not have been. He's been dead for centuries." she finally answers, sucking the blood off her finger. "I...I know that! But that doesn't mean-!" the elf is cut off when Yao dashes off in the direction of the man's scent.
"~...It's just not possible. No human has lived to be anywhere near this old. Brother...If it truly is you, and someone has disturbed your rest, I will personally see to it that you have a proper funeral this time.~"
A Bittersweet Reunion
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I knew what I wanted to type all along, but I just didn't feel like typing. Simple as that.
And I do plan on filling up that Snu-Snu Segment.
Among other things. Uuhuhuhu.