This mess all started in the Land of the Clouds, where the tengu lived. You see, the previous king of Mythworld—our world, which is filled with what you readers in Realworld call 'mythological creatures'—lived in the Land of the Clouds, and was a kind and compassionate soul. However, one day, the Tengu King grew ill for unknown reasons and soon after passed away, leading to unbearable sadness throughout Mythworld.
The news of the Tengu King's death, however, also reached the Land of the Demons, a place full of the vilest of criminals and most dangerous of creatures. The leader of this forsaken place, an Oni going by the name of Tsuyoi, decided it was time to set a plan into motion that he had been formulating since the Tengu King's rise to the throne. Among his highest ranking assistants were a bat youkai known as Himitsu and a ghost known as Aria.
The oni quickly took the throne in a terrifying show of power, destroying the previous castle in the Land of the Clouds, leaving the tengu in a state of panic. He then ordered the many creatures of the Land of Demons to build a new castle in his homeland, which they did quickly after seeing his destructive power. Once it was finished, the Oni King ruled Mythworld with an iron fist, getting rid of the old leaders of all of the separate domains and instilling his own. Some creatures fought against him, but were either destroyed on spot or kept in the dungeon.
My name is Aria. This is my story about betrayal, friendship, and a heroic jiang shi.
My adventure started shortly after Tsuyoi took charge of Mythworld. I was perfectly fine with Tsuyoi's command, but I had recently learned what the next step of his plan was. He was planning on draining the life force out of the domains that make Mythworld, including his leaders and even the Land of Demons outside his castle, if only to ensure that he would never face any opposition.
I couldn't just sit back and let that happen; back at my house in the Land of Spirits, I had friends living with me, including Fay the plant fairy, and I would lose everything if I let Tsuyoi continue with his plans. I spoke with Himitsu about it, but she surprisingly was unaffected by the second step of the plan we had been working to achieve. She simply stated that she trusted the Oni King's judgement and left the room.
Despite my brain trying to convince me to let it be, I decided to voice my opposition of the plan to Tsuyoi himself, which, admittedly, was incredibly stupid of me.
"Your Majesty, I have some concerns about step two of your plan. Sapping Mythworld's life force is a terrible idea, and I can't continue working to achieve this end goal."
He looked at me as if I were an ignorant child. "Then leave the Land of Demons and share the same fate as your precious Mythworld. I have no need for anyone who is not willing to stay loyal to me in the face of adversity."
I was shocked by this reaction. I didn't expect him to essentially kick me out of Oni Castle, and that angered me. If he was going to throw me out, he would have to use force. I angrily leered at him and said, "You wouldn't kick me out. I'm necessary for this operation to continue!"
He guffawed at me, surprising me again. I had never heard Tsuyoi laugh before. "What's so funny?!" I asked.
He stopped laughing, stood up, brandished his large kanabo, and held it over his head menacingly. I knew what was coming next and stood there, flinching. He spoke to me in a terrifying manner. "Foolish girl, I never needed you. There are dozens of spirits who would do unspeakable things to take your place in a heartbeat." He held his kanabo up to the sky, which had grown dark, just like his mood had. His kanabo was struck by lightning, boosting Tsuyoi's speed and giving him the ability to fire lightning.
"You could have done so much, Aria. Unfortunately, my limited patience does not allow opposition to flourish under my nose unchallenged!" With that, he fired the lightning at me, sending me hurtling out of Oni Castle in an unconscious state.
I woke up back in the Land of Spirits, which was a very long way from the Land of Demons. I woke up after a while and noticed a cat-like creature near me, waiting as if expecting me to be there. After I noticed that, I noticed that my skirt and jacket were frayed and burnt in numerous places. I was worried about the skirt being full of holes and burnt for a second, but then I remembered that my ghost tail nullified those concerns and got over it. After floating upwards and getting my bearings, I returned to where the cat was. It meowed at me, sparked with electricity, and then left as if wanting me to follow. It was then I realized that the "cat" was actually a raiju. I wondered who it belonged to while following it.
Eventually, the raiju stopped behind a large gravestone, very common throughout the Land of Spirits. I wondered why it stopped here when I noticed there were demons and other creatures brandishing the Oni Kingdom mark somewhere on their bodies. This gravestone was cover according to the raiju; if I was spotted, I'd be destroyed for what I know and the opposition I represented. I would have to sneak through carefully or I'd risk dooming Mythworld with my destruction. Following the raiju, I was able to sneak through unchallenged and eventually reached a clearing with a smaller gravestone occupying it. The raiju stopped in front of the grave and curled up on top of the dirt mound where the body was buried, purring, as though somehow satisfied.
I was curious as to why the raiju brought me here of all places, but my questions were answered when two sleeved arms came out of the ground and started petting the raiju. The raiju didn't react at all, in fact, it started purring louder. Once the raiju's purring got quiet again, the arms bent at the elbows and started pushing against the ground, revealing a green hat, a talisman, and a smiling face. He pulled himself out of the ground about to his stomach, took off his hat, and shook the dirt out of his hair, putting the hat back on after he was done. He started talking with the raiju first.
"There you are, Dendo, you silly raiju. I was wondering where you got off to, buddy!" The raiju seemed to be the boy's pet that had wandered off. That didn't exactly explain why he was underground, but that could wait. He had just noticed me. "Oh, did you follow Dendo here?"
"I did. He actually helped me get past the Oni King's patrol back there, so I suppose I have to thank Dendo for that."
"What's your name? Dendo obviously thinks you and I should've met for some reason."
"My name is Aria."
"Aria?" He looked at me with a raised eyebrow and squinted eyes. "Wait… Aren't you one of the Oni King's subordinates? Why did you need to avoid the patrol?"
"I was one of his subordinates until recently. We had… a bit of a falling out, and I was forced out of Oni Castle on grounds of insubordination. He probably sent the patrol out here to make sure my opposition was kept in check."
"Opposition? Opposition of what, exactly?"
Finally, I could tell somebody willing to listen about Tsuyoi's plan. This would be the first step of many to change the level of support. "The second part of the Oni King's plans. He plans to drain the life force of all of Mythworld."
"Wait, what?! Whoa whoa whoa, wait a second!" He pulled himself completely out of the ground and stood at about my height from where I was floating. "Drain the life force of all of Mythworld?! How does he think he can get away with that?"
"That's what I wondered. I asked him about it and he struck me with a bolt of lightning from his kanabo. That's why my clothes are singed and full of holes."
"That's just despicable. No wonder Dendo found you so quickly; you must have been covered in excess electricity from the lightning bolt, and he probably drew it in so he could get my attention from underground."
"Yeah, about that… Why were you underground, anyway? You obviously aren't a new zombie."
He pointed his finger matter-of-factly. "I prefer the term jiang shi. Traditional zombies don't have the talisman, so there's quite a difference."
"Oh, I apologize. I didn't mean to offend, if that's what it sounded like."
He waved his hand as if brushing off the comment. "Ah, you didn't, just setting the record straight. Anyway, I was underground because of the sudden patrol. I'm not exactly on the best terms with the Oni King's patrol right now, since some of my friends and I are pretty avid opposers to the regime."
"Oh, really? Well, I'm trying to stop the Oni King, too, but we aren't going to get anywhere without any help."
"What do you mean by help?"
"I mean we need to convince the leaders of the domains. They can convince people of the Oni King's treachery while we go convince people all over Mythworld."
"Hmmm… That's not a bad idea. Changing history by travelling the world?" He chuckled a little. "I'm down with that."
"Okay, well, I suppose we should start here in the Land of Spirits then, huh?"
"That sounds like a great idea, Aria."
"All right then, um…"
"Oh, I never mentioned my name! Sorry about that. My name's Kojin."
"Kojin? Well, Kojin, I think we're going to make a pretty good team together."
"Well, are we gonna get started on changing the world for the better or not, partner?" Kojin gave me a big grin.
"Yep, we sure are! But I need to hide somewhere before we do anything. Hmmm…" I snapped my fingers, an idea formed in my head. I phased into Kojin, disappearing into his chest area.
"Aria, what are you doing?!"
I came out entirely except for my ghost tail, which stayed in his midriff. "I think it'll be easier for travel, and plus, if I'm spotted by the patrol, I'll be destroyed outright. You aren't that level of opposition to the Oni King yet."
"Oooooh. That makes sense, I suppose."
"Exactly! Now come on, we have to get through the Land of Spirits."
"Right! Come on, Dendo, let's go!" The raiju jumped up onto Kojin's shoulder and let off a meow. "All right, let's go!" He started running in the direction I had come from.
I stopped him by exiting his midriff minus the tail. I smiled at him in a friendly way. "Other way, Kojin. Besides, we need to go to my house first."
Kojin scratched the back of his head, embarrassed. "Right. Sorry about that, slightly rotted brain makes for no good direction skills."
"See, aren't you glad I'm here now? You would've run RIGHT into the patrol." I smiled, disappeared, and Kojin turned around.
He took off with boundless enthusiasm, and with that, our partnership to stop the Oni King, as well as our friendship, started on a long and difficult path.