Death by Ex-Girlfriend: War Cloud
Alarmed by the thunderous voice that rattled her domain, the sun goddess, Amaterasu, stood at the row of windows in Heaven's War Room, the sunlight bouncing off of her cream-colored kimono. With a good view of the village below, Amaterasu scanned the area with her golden eyes, seeing the gods flee their homes and gather themselves in the palace. Suddenly, someone knocked upon the wooden, double door of the war room.
"Come in." Amaterasu said with a soft voice.
Another goddess stepped through and shut the door behind her, bowing before Amaterasu. "Lady Amaterasu, it's an emergency."
"It's been a while since I've heard you say those words, Uzume. What's going on down there?"
Uzume stood up straight, folding a stray strand of black hair behind her ear. She had a small, black beauty mark below her lip, a fleck upon her clear, porcelain skin. Her hair was done up in the warenshinobu style of a geisha, complete with a crown of cherry blossom petals resting upon her head.
"It would appear the day has finally come, my lady. Gekko has returned." Uzume said.
Amaterasu swiftly turned her gaze over to Uzume. "Gekko?"
Uzume nodded. "It seems Izanami is fulfilling her promise. Gekko is here to settle things with Bishamon."
Amaterasu snickered. "Izanami has impeccable timing. I was just beginning to think it was time to oust this usurper. He hasn't been of much use since the exorcist system got off the ground. Did Gekko come alone?"
"No, she brought allies with her. I believe the Shoku Twins are with her as well."
"The Shoku Twins? I see. She doesn't want a war on her hands, so she brought deterrence in case we wouldn't surrender Bishamon."
"What do you want to do, my lady?" Uzume asked.
"It would seem Izanami and I are in agreement. It's time to get rid of Bishamon." Amaterasu said. "Let's find him right now and feed him to the lion. Everyone may act like they're above it all, but nothing gets them fired up like a good show of bloodsports."
"As you wish, Amaterasu."
"One more thing, Uzume."
"Yes, my lady?"
"Any word from the exorcists about Inari?"
"She's as elusive as ever. No one has been able to find her. The search remains at a standstill. If I may ask, what's with the renewed fixation on her? She's been missing for centuries. I thought you would stop caring at some point."
"We need her, Uzume."
"Forgive my insolence, but I must ask further. Is finding Inari really about Inari, or is it about Izanami?"
Amaterasu smiled. "I'm not a child. I can tell when you're reprimanding me."
"I just don't want you digging up an old grudge from its grave when everything is going so well." Uzume said. "Izanami herself seems to have let go of her hatred for you."
"I'd like to correct something I said earlier." Amaterasu said. "Gekko didn't bring deterrence. She borrowed Izanami's deterrence. Izanami isn't enjoying her leisurely life on Earth because she has forgotten about our grudge, she's enjoying herself because she's several steps ahead. You'd be a fool to believe she's not searching for Inari as well. She intends to snatch our deterrence before we even realize where she is."
"How is Inari our deterrence, exactly?" Uzume asked.
"It's like I told you all those years ago. It takes blood to build a nation. Regardless, we're getting a little sidetracked. Even we gods have to take baby steps sometimes. Bishamon. Handle him. I'll make my appearance soon."
Uzume bowed and excused herself from the room, sauntering past the long, wooden conference table in the center of the room. She flung open one of the double doors and stepped out into the marble halls of the palace, bumping into Bishamon on the way out. Uzume gave him an oppressive, silent stare, noticing his face was glistening with sweat. Bishamon turned his head towards the opened door of the War Room, catching Amaterasu staring daggers at him as well.
"It's time, Bishamon." Uzume said.
Bishamon turned away and stormed off in a huff. He knew very well that only Izanami could've stolen his victory from him like this. Only she possessed the power to barter with death itself and raise his enemy from her grave. Just when he had thought he had finally outplayed Izanami in his game to kill Tsukiakari, he found himself faced with an assault on Heaven itself. He couldn't tell who was more insane, Tsukiakari for carrying out the assault, or Izanami for engineering such a bold move.
Tsukiakari and the others had busted through the front gates after slaying the dozens of komainu guarding the entrance. Reaching the village at the top of the steps, they were confronted by a line of swordswomen, their faces concealed with blank, white masks. Noticing their white robes and bright, red skirts, Osamu pegged them for shrine-maidens.
"I assume you have a plan for this, Tskuyomi?" Osamu asked.
"Don't you worry, Osamu. I can handle this." Tsukuyomi replied, clasping his hands.
The foreheads of the shrine maidens began to burn as the symbol of a crescent moon branded itself onto their heads. The women fell over, screaming and writhing in pain. Suddenly, they stopped, got up, and followed Tsukuyomi's every command.
"Fellow residents of heaven, an unforgivable thing has happened. A god among us has lied. Walk with us, fight with us, and help us bring this liar, this deceiver, to justice. Though our methods may seem extreme, we are only acting on what is right!"
The shrine maidens formed a line in front of Tsukuyomi and the others, acting as a wall between them and Heaven's defenses.
"I guess you really do know your way around, huh?" Osamu asked, amused.
Tsukuyomi smiled. "Even after all these years."
More shrine maidens positioned themselves in the bell towers surrounding the palace, firing arrows at the intruders. Many of the hypnotized shrine maidens were able to keep pushing through, but Tsukuyomi and the others decided to split away from them and take cover by the surrounding homes. Arrows flung past Osamu's ears and eyes, scaring him away from going out in the open.
Suddenly, Tsukiakari broke out into a fit of laughter, clearly relishing in the chaos. "This is familiar, isn't it?"
"Are you enjoying this?!" Osamu recoiled.
"Of course I am! I haven't fought a battle like this in ages!"
Tsukiakari pointed her sword at the sky, her right arm pulsing with electricity. "Sorry, Osamu. Your ex girlfriend is a psychopathic war goddess that just can't get enough of a good battle. Hope you don't mind, sweetie!"
"Hey, what are you about to do?" Osamu questioned.
The clouds hanging above their heads began to blacken and boom with thunder. Flashes of lightning coiled around the clouds like snakes. Tsukiakari's lightning dragon emerged from the clouds and lapped up a ferocious gust of wind with its roar. The hail of arrows stopped as the maidens tried to get out of the bell towers, realizing they could easily be struck by attack. The lightning dragon dispersed into a hail of thunderbolts that fell upon heaven like rain, destroying the bell towers and countless other buildings around the area.
Amaterasu watched from afar as she made her way down the steps of the palace. "It really is her..."
With the way clear, the hypnotized maidens continued their march.
"That was fantastic, Gekko!" Osamu shouted, experiencing the adrenaline rush of a lifetime.
Tsukiakari smiled as she ran back onto the street and rejoined with Tsukuyomi. "How was that, Dad?"
"Beautiful, Gekko. Let us continue! Heaven will hear you roar!"
Their next obstacle was that of a massive wall, like the ones used to defend a town or castle. Archers were lined on top of the wall, the gates were lowered and defended by line of spear-wielding shrine maidens. As intimidating as the wall may have appeared, Tsukiakari possessed more than enough firepower needed to simply blow through it. With a flick of her sword, she could easily command the lightning dragon to crash down upon it, clearing the way to the palace. However, portal of fire appeared before Tsukuyomi and the others. Their target, Bishamon, stepped out from it, answering Tsukiakari's challenge.
"Bishamon." Tsukiakari growled.
"The humans have a term for this. I believe it's 'déjà vu'" Bishamon said. "The past is playing itself out again."
"This time, it'll end with you dead at my feet." Tsukiakari said.
Bishamon's eyes drifted over to Osamu. "So, you're back from the dead, Osamu? You have quite the balls to be participating in this fight."
"This is my revenge, too." Osamu replied. "No one kills me and gets away with it, not on Izanami's watch."
Bishamon also noticed the Shoku Twins hiding behind the masked Tsukuyomi. He realized Tsukiakari's plan was much more thought out than he initially believed.
"You and I are going to have a duel, just the two of us." Tsukiakari demanded. "Unless they want all of Heaven to be obliterated, I suggest the other gods stay out of it."
"With the Shoku Twins, you'd destroy much more than just Heaven." Bishamon said. "Surely, you two realize that what you're doing is treason."
"You know just as well as us that your title is illegitimate." Akatsuki chided. "Your rise to power was fueled by the blood of humans and gods alike."
"You're a liar, a cheat, and a mass-murderer!" Omagatoki added.
"Am I?" Bishamon scoffed. "Then I wonder what Izanami is to you."
"Don't you dare speak of Izanami like that!" Tsukiakari roared.
"If I'm a villain to you, Izanami is evil incarnate." Bishamon said.
"I said stop!" Tsukiakari shouted.
Osamu smiled and hung his golden sword over his shoulder. "Trying to psych us out? Too bad we all know you've gotten weaker."
"So it was you." Bishamon muttered. "You went around destroying my shrines? Vandalizing a god's property is a terrible sin, Osamu."
"Not denying it, huh?" Osamu teased.
"If you know what's good for you, you would drop your weapons and surrender. Heaven may decide to be merciful on you." Bishamon ordered.
Tsukiakari stepped forward and stared Bishamon down, her sword still pulsating with electricity. "Betraying me and making my life a living hell is one thing, but trying to wipe the man I love from existence is the worst sin a god could ever commit."
"You could've found peace if you just decided to stay dead. Didn't you two kill each other a year ago? Why then...how can you stand together as if everything is okay now?" Bishamon asked.
"I'll have you know that this man knew, when we woke up in the House of Souls together, that we were going to be obliterated. Despite everything I did, despite the fact I nearly killed his friends, he held me tight and embraced oblivion with me. There wasn't a drop of hatred in his heart. And thus, there shall be no hatred in mines." Tsukiakari explained. "After our duel, I am going to tell the truth about you to all of Heaven. I am going to recite the names of all the children who died under your watch! I will tell them how you abused me and abused your power as the god of war!"
Bishamon's short temper caused him to draw his blade with the intent of silencing the stray goddess "Haven't I told you before, Gekko? Everything a god does is just. We are always righteous."
Tsukiakari stepped back, extending her arms open. "Exactly. Come then, Bishamon. Strike me down with all of that righteousness."
Osamu held Tsukiakari's left hand and stood with her in the face of death once more. Tsukuyomi placed his hand on her shoulder, nodding to her through his mask.
"We gods are anything but just." Tsukuyomi said. "We're capable of greater evil than the humans who worship us. We're also capable of great good and compassion."
Osamu pounded his fist upon his chest. "It may sound like a contradiction, to be imperfect and pure at the same time, but just because we humans are flawed, it doesn't mean you can get away with toying with our lives!"
Angered beyond belief, Bishamon raised his sword. "Enough!"
Tsukiakari threw herself over Osamu, prepared to use her life to protect the man she loved. Bishamon's move was so sudden that she couldn't think of anything else to do. Just in the nick of time, Amaterasu appeared between both parties, halting the swing of Bishamon's sword with her bare hand.
"Amaterasu?" Bishamon gasped.
Tsukiakari smiled as she realized who had intervened. "You sure took your sweet time getting here, Mom."
(Mom? So that must be Amaterasu. She's...pretty?!?!)
"You, with the mask. Remove it." Amaterasu coldly commanded.
Tsukuyomi dropped his mask and revealed his face and flowing white hair. "Guess I can never hide from you, right darling?"
"Tsukuyomi!? You were cast out of heaven ages ago!" Bishamon said.
Someone else finally made their appearance in that critical moment. Ascending from the steps leading into the village, Izanami had finally returned after her year-long absence. She stepped into Heaven wearing black jeans and a denim jacket over her white blouse and black scarf. While Osamu and the others raised their eyebrows in elation, Bishamon's face wrinkled in vexation.
"Of course..." Bishamon groaned. "The mastermind rears her ugly head."
"Oh my, this is quite the reunion." Amaterasu said. "My old husband, my daughter, my old servants, and my mother."
"Izanami!" Osamu said, amazed by her timing.
Izanami seemed to ignore her Osamu and the others, focusing most of her attention on Amaterasu. "Amaterasu...Bishamon has made a mockery of Heaven. His rise to power was based on trickery and treason."
"And what kind of trickery would justify an assault on heaven? Where is your proof?" Amaterasu asked.
Hearing them speak, Bishamon knew he had been set up. The two goddesses were putting on a performance for everyone. Together, they had written out how Bishamon's life would end as if it were a chapter in a book.
"The proof is within the memories of your own daughter, as well as Osamu. I suggest you take a look." Izanami said.
"And what about Tsukuyomi? Why is this traitor here?" Amaterasu asked.
"I needed him in order to revive those two." Izanami tersely explained. "Bishamon tried to get both of them obliterated in order to bury the truth. He was the only one who could help me."
Amaterasu took a deep breath, stifling her surprise at Izanami's reasoning. "Normally, I would just kill all of you for the intrusion. Banished gods are not supposed to show their face in heaven, and humans especially shouldn't be here. However...there is my daughter too."
Tsukiakari locked eyes with her mother, petrified by the sight of her. A million different questions and emotions swirled around in her head, turning all of her thoughts into incomprehensible mush. There was so much she wanted to say that she didn't know what to start with at all.
"Gekko. You've really grown up." Amaterasu said. "You look beautiful."
"...I get my looks from you, Mom." Tsukiakari said, tears welling in her eyes. "I also inherited your cruelty and your vicious heartlessness. I couldn't begin to explain to you what I went through with the Senkumo clan all those years ago. The constant battles...the deaths...I died multiple times, I was raped and maimed..."
"It's all that man's fault." Osamu said. "He used your daughter and her clan to manipulate the Warring States era so that he could rise to the top of the pantheon. Or at least, that's how I understand it."
"I assume you've come with proof of these allegations if you're challenging Bishamon here to a duel." Amaterasu said.
Angered, Tsukiakari dropped her sword to the ground and undid the folds of her cloak, disrobing herself in front of everyone. Osamu had no idea what suddenly possessed her to bare herself naked, but upon seeing her scar-riddled body, he understood.
"I still have the litany of lacerations from when Bishamon punished be for being unable to kill Ebina, a comrade of mine." Tsukiakari explained. "I have two scars around the ankles of my feet. I got them when I was held captive alongside another friend named Yachi. An adversary of our clan had abducted her, and I set out to find her during the winter. I ended up getting kidnapped, and our captor drove bolts through our ankles so that we couldn't walk. He killed me, but I reincarnated. Yachi continued to suffer for two more weeks until he killed her as well. I have a scar on my stomach from when Raijin killed me with a lightning bolt. I had discovered Bishamon had killed my friend, Taeko, and that he was plotting the destruction of the clan. See these tiny little scars here? Those are entry wounds. When Bishamon came to destroy my clan, I was still in a coma after Raijin killed me and I reincarnated. My clan helped me escape the massacre, giving me to Izanami and Inari. When I awoke, I was having hallucinations of our clan's enemies, and of the man that once kidnapped me and Yachi. I chased my friend down thinking she was my kidnapper. I killed her thinking the same thing. I blew her apart in my hallucination, and I was punished with shards of her bones and teeth embedding themselves in body. To this day, I have her remains inside of me. They were never removed."
Amaterasu looked on in awe at the myriad of scars riddling her daughter's body, her heart shattering with each story behind them. "I...I didn't know."
"That's why I swore vengeance." Tsukiakari cried. "I killed Oyamatsumi, Hachiman, Raijin, and Fujin for being Bishamon's co-conspirators. All of them had a hand in killing my comrades and exploiting our suffering so they could live longer. You want proof of what I went through? Look at me! Look at your hideous daughter! That man ruined me! He took away everyone I loved back then! And now, all of these years later, he's tried to kill me and the man I love. He failed. I cannot let him live after all he's done to me, and for fear of what he'll do to others. Dad and I, we may be called traitors, but at least we were honest about our reasons. This man would rather lie to you now and stab you in the back later!"
Izanami stepped forward. "Amaterasu, we also have Tsukiakari's own memories to back her story up, as well as testimony from the Shoku Twins."
"That won't be necessary." Amaterasu quickly replied. "I've seen enough."
"You would throw away all we've worked for? For a gaggle of traitors?!" Bishamon shouted. "This the enemy, Amaterasu! Tsukuyomi murdered a god in this very realm! Tsukiakari and Izanami are nothing short of mass-murderers themselves! You know that what I did wasn't wrong! Why else would you have kept me around all this time?!"
"If it's a duel you want, Gekko, it's a duel you'll get." Amaterasu declared, ignoring Bishamon. "When would you like to host it?"
"Right now, right here in Heaven." Tsukiakari answered. "I want him to die at my hand. I want him to see my home, knowing he couldn't subvert its power."
"Your wretched mother knew the whole time!" Bishamon yelled.
"How the dying delude themselves." Amaterasu chided. "You would say anything to escape this fate, wouldn't you. If you insist you're not guilty, why not take this opportunity to kill the girl who is smearing your good name?"
"Amaterasu!" Bishamon pleaded.
"Do you accept the duel or not?" Amaterasu asked.
Realizing his efforts were useless, Bishamon bowed his head in anger. "I accept."
Amaterasu smiled. "Very well then. I hereby authorize a duel to the death, fought between Bishamonten, the god of war, and Tsukiakari Senkumo, my daughter. The fight shall be held here in Heaven and is effective immediately. Let's take this into the valley, away from the village. I believe you've all caused enough property damage."
"Holy crap, we did it." Osamu said. "They're really going to have the duel."
"Don't celebrate yet. Tsukiakari still has to actually win the duel, and we can't offer her any help during the match." Tsukuyomi explained.
"I won't need any help. I've been waiting for this day for centuries." Tsukiakari growled. "Let's go, Bishamon! It's time for you to pay for what you did!"