Prologue: A Call to Arms
The Toppi Plains used to be wild and free, free from the blights of human civilisation, its green pastures luscious and bountiful in all manner of plant life. One could sit anywhere and see nothing but grass for as far as their eye could see. It was blessed with a equal measure of rain and sun, never once suffering from drought or floods for as long as the oldest of Men could remember. The tall grass sparkled with all manner of dew in the early mornings, bees busily collecting the fresh nectar from the overabundance of flowers under the gentle heat of the summer sun. The mounds and contours of the Toppi Plains had remained untouched for many a century, all the dips and rises precisely as they had been designed.
Of course, this was before the start of the Shuken Eki, the Supremacy War. As soon as the two forces had amassed upon their mutually agreed battleground, the side of Man knew that the Toppi Plains would never be the same again. For even as they waited for their enemy – the formidable Aburamushi and his legion on unspeakable Oni – to make the first move in this, their final bid to wipe the race of Man from the world forevermore, the grassland turned black and dead beneath their scaled feet. Aburamushi himself stood above his army, hovering thirty feet in the air upon a cloud of acrid grey, electricity coursing through his tall frame and crackling off him in lightning-like wisps. The creamy-soft clouds that usually rolled lazily across the sky roiled and twisted, as if assaulted by his mere presence.
The guttural roars and battle cries of the assembled Oni, the mere sound of which tempted the lesser men on the other side of the thousand-score army to contemplate desertion, now broke the plain's usual tranquil silence. For it was well known that the Oni spawned by their Master's will could not be killed save for dismemberment, at which point the tortured soul trapped within would be free to escape its cursed shell and seek redemption in the afterlife. And although each and every soldier of the forces of Man knew it was a great act to perform such a Releasing, and that doing so would please the Seven Kindly Spirits in favour of redeeming that man's own soul, few thought that they would survive an encounter with a single Oni to be able to attempt it, let alone a whole legion.
But there was one, a legend amongst Men, who had single-handedly dispatched more than a thousand Oni in his twenty years service to the Emperor of Men. Now Commander of the forces that stood before Aburamushi's hordes, it was he who gave the soldiers hope, and who spurred them on to face overwhelming odds – and, more than likely, their deaths. His name was simply Karasu Tenshi, the Raven Angel, although he went by many names, ranging from Hero and Saviour to Thorn and Nemesis depending on whether it were Men or Oni who spoke of him.
Standing out from the encroaching black mass of battle ready Oni and the green grass of the Toppi Plains in his regal red coat with gold trimmings and fastenings, his clothing made him an easy and effective distraction to the troops before him, their eyes inevitably drawn from their monstrous foes to this resplendent figure who – even silently – demanded their respect and obedience. As he strode the lengths of the front lines, his golden-blond hair, tightly pulled back into a ponytail, fell gently over his shoulder now that the breezes of the plains had also been chased away by the nearby evil. His face was chiselled, his jaw low yet firm. His eyes were a piercing blue, his mere gaze hinting at the experience and hardships he had endured throughout his highly eventful life. A single lock of his hair fell thinly between his brows, although too short to get into his eyes. Taller then most men that met his eye, he did not stoop, but how himself high an erect, a tall oak amongst saplings.
A master of many weapons, he was known to use as many as he could in his mission to wipe out the Oni and – ultimately – defeat his archenemy, Aburamushi. These weapons ranged from Razor-Edge, his katana to Demon Pierce, his torashuko. He had fitted the latter onto his left hand, the triple-bladed claw reaching almost twice as far as his own fingers could, and although this meant his left hand was still practically free to join the right in wielding Razor-Edge, Karasu had long since needed to do so, having become a master of the art of single-handed swordplay. These are the two main weapons he battled with, and they were present and unsheathed today as a sign that he was ready, and that the thousands of men before him should be likewise.
"Listen up!" He bellowed, his voice a beacon of light and order shining through the dark chaos of the Oni's war screams as he continued to march the length of the front line, the Army of Men having naturally filed into rows of a hundred or more. "Today, we set not only our destinies, but that off our families! For if we fail now, Aburamushi will surely have our wives and children slaughtered as he wipes out our race like he vowed to long ago. Will we be weak, and allow that to happen?!"
The roars of refusal and hatred for the Oni across the plains drowned out the enemy's own cries for a short yet great moment as the men unsheathed their own weapons in readiness for the battle to come, stamping the ground beneath their feet to beat out a rhythm with which they could all be a part of, no longer alone but as one. Karasu basked in their collected defiance, their voice fuelling his spirit, their readiness adding to his own as he swung Razor-Edge deftly in sharp, short figures-of-eight, working out the slight stiffness in his right-hand wrist as he clenched his left fist, making sure his torashuko was on tight.
"Look!" cried one of the archers to his left, pointing his crossbow out to the mass of Oni.
It was obvious what he was talking about; for far above his own army, Aburamushi raised both his dark, gauntleted hands palms-out, readying his troops to charge. The static electricity built up around his fingers until it was too bright to look at. At that moment he clapped his hands together and, with the bolt of lightning produced sent hurling to the centre of the now-marked battleground, his Oni approached at breakneck speeds, their sharp, misshapen armour and weapons almost scratching the peaceful air as they ran, tearing it up in their nightmarish wake. Aburamushi himself simply lowered himself almost leisurely down to earth once the majority of his forces had passed, and strode into battle behind them. He was no coward, but he was a great tactician; Karasu, the Thorn in his side for these last twenty years, would no doubt cut a bloody path to get to him, to commence what he believed would be their final showdown. Whether or not this would be the case was yet to be proved, but the Oni lord intended to have his nemesis tested to his limits before they met, so that he would be exhausted before the fight between them had even begun.
"Ready, men?" Karasu turned to face the oncoming monstrosities, twisting his katana until it swung upright and ready by his side. "Show them no mercy, Men of the Emperor, for I can promise you this – they shall show you none in return! CHARGE!!!"
With that command roaring his throat, and the thrill of battle already coursing in his vein, Karasu ran headlong into the mass of Oni, both weapons held high.
His blades would gorge on Oni blood, and million agonised souls would be freed before he allowed himself to be beaten, of that he swore.
Author's Note: Thanks for reading this, the first (and short, I know) instalment of "The Immortal Saga." For all you action-fans, I can promise the battle ahead won't be simply glossed over – at least one chapter will be dedicated to it, if not more (if just one, it will be long). This story will go in directions you may not expect, so please stay tuned.
Please R&R (you've already done the first half, so my thanks once again!), all comments and criticism is deeply appreciated!
Many thanks to Dice Darwin, whose awesome story "Strike Me Down" has encouraged me to once again take part in FP as a place to showcase my stories. Hope you all like them, and be sure to read "Strike Me Down," you won't be sorry you did!
Edit: Also, thanks again go to Dice for the plethora of advice he has given me to improve this prologue!
Torashuko: A triple-bladed weapon that is made to resemble a tiger's claws. The wielder dons it like a glove, the blades extending from his knuckles. For those still struggling, think more of Voldo from the Soul Calibre video games than of Wolverine from the X-Men.
Katana: A samurai's preferred sword, with a thin, curved blade.