Densetsu: A Beautiful Day
The golden sun arose like a baby, painting the darkness into light; the layers of white remained motionless upon the green; and soon the fork in the road would change his life forever.
Comfortably cuddled in his blanket, the instrument of time rang a song of capriccios. Brows adjusted before a pillow was placed over his head. The sound wouldn’t stop.
“Kotaro, breakfast is ready!” echoed a serene voice across the hallway.
He arose from his bed, yawning gloriously, and his arms raised in the air. His eyes were met with a paper portraying a courageous man pumping his chest forward. To his left arrayed a set of three wooden boards with a collection of movies, including books. Kotaro walked up to his working desk, retrieving all of the unfinished homework and shoving them into his folder, and then into his backpack.
Exiting his room, he progressed through the hallway on his left. He continued on his way to the halls, passing the living room to his right, and heading straight to the kitchen.
It seemed to be a normal day. A typical morning routine. Breakfast.
“Thanks for the meal, mom!”
After finishing his breakfast, he proceeded to the bathroom. One final spat into the sink, Kotaro picked up his backpack before heading out to school.
“Have fun in school!” said Amanda.
As the morning chill swept through the bustling city, from its steel skyscrapers to its smallest home, its icy touch kissed Kotaro’s cheek as he maneuvered through the quiet streets.
Vehicles drove by as the cold wind blew about, and the white snow fell upon the earth. One of the neighbor’s homes bore a bell hanging on the porch where it constantly chimed by winter’s breath.
Nothing could go wrong until he encountered a fork in the road. Darkness lurked in the alley. No one touched the path before. Even his friends dared him to enter it.
Kotaro was too scared to move. However, he lost a bet. He had to check what was behind on the other side. On his own.
He extended his right leg forward. The young man felt the strong chill breathing down his spine.
Nonetheless, he continued. There was no turning back at this point.
His heart raced at a fast tempo.
“Hm?” A dim light shone ahead. Whether it was an illusion or not, the snow was no more.
He couldn’t stop himself falling into a trance by the colorful avians soaring through the environment of life, vibrant trees with branches having multiple pink spots on them, or even the entire tree itself becoming the color of the sun itself.
“So pretty!” Like a tourist in a different country, Kotaro strolled through the forest and turned his head from left and right.
A slithering snake with wings of a butterfly flew past Kotaro. A shy, crimson skinned, and sharp-tipped squirrel picked up a piece of nut left on the ground before retreating straight into the forest. He continued onward, encountering a large silver cat with curved horns. Its menacing appearance intimidated the young man, but he was lucky the cat had zero interest in him.
Embracing this world’s heat, he carried his winter jacket to the side. He wandered the forest like a child. Then, he remembered. School. He only came here to check, so he turned around.
However, to his surprise, something was out of place. How long he spent walking in this path, he wasn’t sure. One thing he knew was that he continued a single path. Yet his footprints seemed to imply that he had taken several turns.
“Where am I?”
Returning would be impossible. No, this must’ve been a dream. This had to be an illusion.
He could hear the peaceful chirps of birds distort into sounds of metal scraping against another metal. Anxious, Kotaro followed his footprints briskly. He covered his ears and increased his pace at which he was traveling through the forest.
No matter how fast he ran or how hard he tried not to perceive the hellish chirps, his eyes caught the upcoming trees growing larger in size, and the bark slowly shaped into murderous grins. Crowds of ghostly waves of laughter manifested within the forest.
His eyes shut. Kotaro refused to stop moving his legs. Blinded by his fear, he tripped on a stick—or a rock. Heavy breaths were released. Sweat poured down his forehead, and his hands dug into the soft ground.
A rough growl quickly caught his attention, so he raised his head. He was startled by the sudden appearance of a dark figure.
“Meat…meat…meat!” The dark image became clear, and Kotaro saw the sight of a shirtless man, his ribs showing and his wrinkled face almost seemingly about to rot in any second.
The sight to behold was grossing; its grotesque form wanted Kotaro to vomit in disgust.
The man seemed hungry, so the frightened Kotaro tried communicating with him.
“Are you h-hungry?”
His ravenous growl spooked Kotaro, forcing him to maintain a safe distance from the old man.
“D-Do you want some snacks?” Kotaro offered.
The stranger had different plans. He swiftly charged towards the young man, but Kotaro was quick to push him away.
“Meat!” the old man grinned, revealing his large canines. He wasted no time on his prey.
Attempting to defend himself, Kotaro threw his fist at the delirious human; however, the stranger managed to catch it before throwing him into the ground. Despite his puny appearance, the old man was rather strong.
This was no ordinary human. Crimson eyes stared into Kotaro’s soul. The hungry man howled, and then he started leaping at the young man. Only death awaited poor Kotaro.
Suddenly, moments before Kotaro would meet his end, a young lady in red-and-white robes kicked the aggressor away from the young man.
The old man quickly picked himself up, screeching in a pitch that was no longer human. “Shrine maiden! Me want to eat!”
His heart pounded vigorously. Everything was happening all too quick, Kotaro wasn’t sure what was happening.
The old man attempted to move around the priestess, hoping to find some sort of opening for his prey. She kept her eyes on the aggressor, paying close attention of his body language and any antics he was planning to pull.
It was clear he was limited in what he could do. The only option he had: to attack the girl himself. And so, he did.
The old man leaped forward with his sharp claws and teeth. He was faced with the priestess’ hand. A mere hand caused him to retreat and rethink his actions.
He crouched on all fours. “Me knows what shrine maiden can do. Hand scary! Hand bad!”
“But shrine maiden no good if she don’t see!” His hands dug into the dirt.
Before he gained the chance to act, the shrine maiden manipulated the earth with a simple stomp to the ground. The earth was materialized from underneath, and it struck the old man’s stomach.
He laid lifeless on the dirt. The young woman slowly approached him.
“Who are you?” Kotaro stopped her.
The girl took a quick glimpse—both their chestnut eyes interlocking and trading glazes. He saw two matching crimson tubes on her sidelocks.
Their staring contest didn’t last long as the old man quickly recovered. Learning the might of the shrine maiden, the old man retreated into the forest.
She sighed in irritation. Narrowed brows, she turned her sight away from him.
“If you don’t want to die, follow me…” Then she began walking.
“Hey wait, who are you?” Kotaro followed her. “Are you even listening?”
“Because you distracted me, that man will wait until you’re alone and attack.”
“So where are we going?”
“Taking you back where you came from,”
“So, shouldn’t we turn ba—”
“The portal you came from is closed. It’s not going open anytime soon.”
He comfortably followed her. It was safer that way. Occasionally, the two exchanged a couple of stares, but most of the time, the two sauntered the unknown trail.
Walking through the mysterious woodland, Kotaro encountered many creatures in different shapes and forms. He even came across this world’s greatest abomination.
A titanic-sized arachnid passed by. Kotaro picked up a stick and went into a defensive stance; however, the girl walked past him and caressed the spider. It hardly reacted.
Then he noticed the stick crawling within his hand. Dropping the stick, he watched it slithered into the nearest bushes.
A sudden giggle caught his attention. “What’s so funny?”
She immediately stopped laughing, turning her sight back to the trail. Kotaro could see a slight smirk on her face. Progressing through the forest, Kotaro discovered more unusual things; flowers had birch stems while some plants radiated in multiple colors; trees had venus flytraps as leaves while other trees bled the color red.
“We’re here…” the girl announced. The wind blew behind them. Two leaves danced along the skies; one of them, black and withered, faded away into the ground, and the other leaf, green and fresh, continued flying into the azure skies.
A path of cobblestone stairs awaited them, ascending to the very top. At the end mark, a tall scarlet gate stood as a rock. A familiar energy slowly returned to him.
That gate…where have I seen it before, he recalled. Memories of two boys emerged from his thoughts as they raced each other to the top.
Smiles. Joy. Laughter. Lost in thought, he found himself at the top, meeting a sacred house, with small stairs ascending to the entrance to the house, and a large rectangular box laying in front of the house. The roof was triangular in shape, having two other roofs intersecting from the sides of the triangular roof. To his left and right, two standing stones evenly spaced glowed azure.
The rain of nostalgia returned him. Have I been here before? Why does it feel so familiar?
“Welcome to the Kamiyama Shrine,” the girl announced. “My name is Riku Kamiyama, the Kamiyama Shrine Maiden.”
“Kamiyama Shrine Maiden?”
“That old man who attacked you? He was a yokai, disguised as a human. It’s my job to protect humans from monsters like him."
Kotaro widened his eyes, “Wait! That person wasn’t a human?”
She nodded, “Recently, monsters have been emerging and attacking careless humans in the Forest of Nothingness. They’ve become more ruthless and deadly as the days—”
Riku stopped herself. Kotaro was a mere human outside of this world’s comprehension. “Forgive me, but this world doesn’t concern you. I will…send you home right away.”
“But, I have more questions!”
“You don’t belong here, K—,” she turned her face away, “Outsider…”
“What if there’s some way I can help?”
Riku froze. Her pupils dilated. The history of words flickered like a flash of a lightbulb, endlessly repeating itself. No matter how it changed, words of time remained the same; and history would soon repeat.
How many times had she heard him say those words? More than twenty times.
“I will fix it!” Riku murmured.
“What did you say?” Kotaro leaned closer, unsure what she said.
“You must return, Outsider. Densetsu is not a safe place for people like you.”
“Densetsu? What’s that?”
“This is Densetsu, the world of the Legends. Now, this world isn’t safe for you. Follow me, and I will send you back to the Outside World,”
“Wait, I have one more.”
“I promise it’ll be the last one!”
She sighed roughly, waiting to hear him.
Kotaro had seen them in the movies—individuals traveling into another world. His curiosity was dying to know this answer. “Has anyone like me ever come to this world before?”
“There were plenty of them, but one of them stood out the most. His name is Joe Jones. Like you, he’s from the Outside World.”
“What’s he do—”
“No more questions! Do you want to go home or not?”
“Then, promise me something…don’t ever come back…”