Death by Ex-Girlfriend: War Cloud
Osamu sprinted out of the house like a track star training for the Olympics. He ran so fast that he worked up a mean sweat beneath his black hoodie and jeans. Izanami trailed behind him, finding it difficult to keep up with Osamu’s hurried pace.
(Please survive! Please survive!)
“Yoko!” Osamu called out.
A blue ray of light shot down from the clouds and onto the earth, causing a great explosion that rocked the streets. Tsukiakari emerged out of the ensuing plume of black smoke, her unsheathed tanto tightly gripped in her right hand. Yoko lied on the ground covered in blood and concrete rubble, struggling to get up as Tsukiakari sauntered towards her.
“Come on...is that all you got? You think you can kill me like this?” Yoko teased.
Tsukiakari was bored stiff by Yoko's bravado, remaining silent as she pressed her tanto into Yoko’s neck, causing her to bleed. Then, Tsukiakari pulled back her tanto by a few inches, preparing to pierce Yoko's throat with a strong thrust
“Tsukiakari! Don't do it!”
That familiar voice took over the woman's body and stopped her from killing Yoko. Her eyes shifted to Osamu, who stood before her out of breath and caked in soot from the smoke. It took the war goddess a moment to recognize Osamu. It had been a decade and a half, after all. Once she recognized him, her scarlet eyes glistened with joy.
“Osamu, my love! It really is you!” Tsukiakari sang. “It’s been so long!”
“Listen, that woman right there is my ex-girlfriend. I can’t let you hurt her.” Osamu warned.
“Damn it, Osamu, I don't need your mercy pleas!” Yoko protested
“Shut up! I'm trying to save you!” Osamu roared.
Tsukiakari stole a glance at Yoko, then looked back at Osamu. “Osamu, how much does this woman mean to you? Do you love her?”
(The answer to that question is a reluctant ‘Yes’, but there’s no telling what this girl will do to Yoko if I say that. Unlike Yoko, Tsukiakari seems like she’s actually ready to kill people.)
Tsukiakari lowered her head and smiled. “It matters not. Either way, this woman will repent to me with her blood. Just for the record, Osamu, she started it.”
“No, stop!” Osamu screamed.
Tsukiakari thrusted her tanto forward, prompting Osamu to shut his eyes to shield himself from the sight of Yoko’s throat being pierced. For a moment, his mind drifted away into a peaceful and quiet darkness.
(Please…I don’t want to lose anyone else…)
Osamu eyes peeled open, not to the sight of a dead Yoko, but to the sight of Izanami blocking Tsukiakari's tanto with her scythe. Scythe? Now that Osamu had thought about it, this was the first time he had ever seen Izanami’s scythe, or Izanami brandishing any kind of weapon at all. The color of the scythe’s blade was a deep, dark black, quite literally capable of delivering black death. The gentle, ditzy Izanami showed Yoko and Osamu that even she had enough combat prowess to stand up to a war goddess.
“Izanami!” Osamu sang in relief.
“Geez, Osamu! How many ex-girlfriends do you have?!” Izanami asked.
“Far too many…” Osamu groaned, kicking a pebble of rubble as his gaze wandered off to the side.
“Gekko, this really isn't how I wanted this to go. Why can't you ever just be a good girl?” Izanami nagged. “How many times have I told you not to engage in fights?”
“Don't lecture me, Izanami! I've come to reclaim him! If I have to cut down a few mortals and a goddess to do it, so be it!”
“Wait a damn minute! You know each other?!” Osamu asked
“I’ll explain in just a second, love.” Izanami said.
Izanami put Tsukiakari on the defensive, swinging her scythe and forcing her to fall back. Izanami leaped in the air after her, clashing blades with the war goddess to keep her on her toes. Osamu took the opportunity to carry Yoko, her blood getting all over his arms and hands.
“Yoko! Are you alright!?” Osamu shouted.
“I...I hate you! Why did you have to go out with a damned war goddess?” Yoko growled.
“I'm very sorry! I didn’t know she was a goddess! I haven’t even seen her since kindergarten!”
Osamu ran away with Yoko in his arms as Izanami continued to battle with Tsukiakari.
“Just stop this, Gekko! There's no point in wreaking this much havoc over one mortal!” Izanami pleaded.
“Why are you taking her side? She started the damn thing! Now let me through!”
Tsukiakari inhaled deeply, sucking in enough hair to fill her lungs. She then blew the air out in the form of a swathe of fire, scorching the petrified Izanami. Putrid smoke lifted off of Izanami’s bubbling skin and burnt hair. Remarkably, Izanami did not die. Her burns instantly began to heal themselves until no blood or exposed, melting flesh remained.
Fed up, Izanami got serious. “You’re not giving me any choice here, Gekko.”
Izanami took hold of her scythe, waiting for Tsukiakari's next move. The war goddess simply smiled as she pointed her index finger towards the sky. A blue light shone through the clouds as the sky coursed with lightning. A colossal band of lightning took the form of a serpentine dragon and descended upon Izanami like a missile. Osamu looked back at the ensuing chaos, every nerve in his body telling him to go back and rescue Izanami.
“Don't do it.” Yoko said, grabbing Osamu’s sleeve. “Izanami is a goddess. She’ll make it through. But if I lose you…"
Tsukiakari's ferocious yell pierced their ears as she clashed with Izanami. A large explosion rocked the neighborhood, its black clouds pulsating with electricity.
“Izanami!” Osamu shouted, receiving no call back.
Izanami successfully survived the ordeal. She laid alongside an unconscious Tsukiakari in the rubble of a ruined, but thankfully vacant house. With the clouds resettled in the sky, rain began to pour through the massive hole left in the house’s ceiling
Izanami gently stroked Tsukiakari’s cheek and sighed in relief. “Idiot…”
The next morning, Tsukiakari awoke in Yoko's house, in bed. Her body was too sore for her to move an inch. She could hear the voices of Izanami, Osamu, Yoko, and Isabella downstairs. Yoko had her head, chest, left arm, and right leg covered in bloody bandages, her badges of honor for picking a fight with a war goddess.
(After that fight, Izanami brought Tsukiakari with us. Yoko was too wounded to protest. We rushed them both into the house so that Isabella could treat Yoko's wounds. Tsukiakari was confined in one of the rooms until she recovered. Izanami ensured us she wasn't that much of a threat anymore, and it only took one look at her to understand why.)
“You shouldn't love a woman so recklessly, Osamu.” Izanami scolded.
“Love?! I met her in kindergarten! You can't call that actual love.” Osamu protested
“But it seems like she hasn't forgotten you at all.” Isabella said.
“How as I supposed to know the little girl I met back then was a freakin' war goddess? There aren't any shrines in her name.”
Izanami plopped herself down on the couch next to Yoko. It was clear she had a lot to get off her chest. “Tsukiakari…she’s definitely a wild flower. She was born during the final years of the Ashikaga Shogunate. She fled from her home in Heaven and grew up during the Onin War leading up to the Warring States period. She’s the daughter of Amaterasu and Tsukuyomi, so she’s a pretty big deal in Heaven. After those two split apart, she was taken into Bishamonten's care and raised to become a war goddess. Given her lineage and her upbringing by Bishamon, it's no wonder how she got her name, is it? Tsukiakari was also called Gekko, but her name nonetheless is written as ‘Moonlight’, the phenomenon that occurs as the Sun's light bounces off of the Moon. Bishamon is the one who gave her Senkumo, written as ‘War Cloud’.
“And I thought Yoko was scary…” Isabella shivered.
“Izanami, if she's a war goddess, then that means she's killed people. Right? Even when she fought Yoko, she looked incredibly natural dealing with violent confrontation.” Osamu examined.
“Don’t you compliment that bloodthirsty bitch!” Yoko complained.
Izanami nodded. “Countless. She’s been killing ever since she was a young girl. Well, these days, it’s more accurate to say that she’s a retired war goddess. She hasn’t actually fought a war since the final years of the Warring States era. A lot happened back then, but I was able to get Tsukiakari out of that life. I had a friend, a fox goddess named Inari, that helped me do it, but no one knows where she is these days. She disappeared centuries ago.”
“This Tsukiakari girl fought in the Warring States period all by herself?” Isabella asked.
“No, not alone.” Izanami corrected. “Senkumo was the name of the clan she became the lord of. Bishamon filled Tsukiakari’s head with this wild dream of forming a sovereign state free from the feudalism that helped fan the flames of war. The Senkumo clan was going to create a stratocratic state, in which its military government could bring in its own revenue rather than taxing its population. It was going to be a state where soldiers lived like a family under the rule of Tsukiakari. Ultimately, it was Bishamon that betrayed the Senkumo clan, right when the war was dying down. When Tsukiakari found out that all of her men were murdered, she lost it. She went on the warpath and ended up murdering Bishamon’s co-conspirators before she was defeated by Bishamon himself. I took her in after that whole ordeal. The war came to an end soon after, Japan returned to a state of peace, and Tsukiakari had to grow accustomed to normal, peaceful life.”
“So, why was she a little girl when I met her fifteen years ago? Surely she wasn’t a little girl during all of this, right?” Osamu asked.
“Well, I really wanted her to get a modern schooling. I thought it would be good for her, so I helped her reincarnate as a younger version of herself, in a sense.” Izanami nervously laughed.
“And of course, Osamu just so happens to meet her most recent reincarnation in kindergarten! You suck, Osamu! You suck!” Yoko hissed.
“What did you do to her, you jerk?!” Isabella said.
(As always, I'm the bad guy)
“How am I supposed to remember?! I was little!” Osamu cried.
“At any rate, it's important that we try to steer Tsukiakari on the right path.” Izanami declared.
“Screw that, let's just kick her to the curb!” Yoko suggested.
Isabella raised her fist in agreement. “I’m with ya!”
“We cannot do that.” Izanami groaned.
“Look, I know it's the most morally detestable option, but…” Yoko began.
Izanami stood up. “It’s not about morals, though I won't deny the moral nature of my objection. The real problem lies with the fact that this is not the Warring States period anymore. She has no shrines, no one prays to her, and no one even knows she's a goddess. Everyone who used to worship her is long dead. The only one who's been allowing her to reincarnate is me. I always kept her in my mind, always kept her in my prayers so that she could learn to live a normal life. But I don't know how much longer I can do this for. If Tsukiakari dies again, I don't know if I'll be able to keep her reincarnating.”
“So...she'll die? Permanently?” Osamu asked, his eyes widened.
Izanami nodded her head. “Yes. I probably won’t be able to bring her back if she dies.”
“...What's the problem with that?” Yoko asked with a smile.
“Yeah, I'm not seeing the issue here.” Isabella added.
(Have you no empathy?)
“The issue is that neither Osamu nor Tsukiakari would've learned anything, and Amaterasu would probably wreak havoc if she finds out her daughter was permanently killed while she was under my care!” Izanami explained.
Isabella released the loudest gulp in the history of mankind. “Amaterasu herself?”
“Damn it! This is the kind of crap you get us into, Osamu! If I wasn't sure it would tear open my wounds, I'd rip you're eyes out!” Yoko roared.
“Not just us, but humanity could be doomed if you don't fix this!” Isabella said.
“I get it, I get it! I'll fix it!” Osamu groaned.
(This isn't fair! Girls tell you if they have diseases or a child you don't know about, so why can't they disclose the fact that they're a deity!)
(That voice...is there a little girl in here?)
Everyone turned their heads to Tsukiakari, who looked far younger than she did just an hour ago. Her yukata was now way too big for her, and she had the cutest, chubby cheeks a little girl could have. Her hair was undone, and was so long that several inches of it laid flat on the floor Osamu's jaw fell to the ground as Isabella swooned over her.
“Does anyone mind telling me why I'm a little girl now?!”