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The Queen Of Eternity

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It was the year 1218 when she was born.
Otherwise known as the last quarter of the Kempō era.

The town of Yakariko was filled with an air of tensity and fear, their village had been plagued with a series of earthquakes just two years earlier.
Despite the passage of time many still felt on edge, fearing that the earthquakes were punishments inflicted upon them by angry and malicious yokai.
It was only a matter of time before another disaster came.

Tatsuya and Eiko Ratto were two of these people.
Tatsuya was a simple shoemaking peasant, and Eiko was his very pregnant wife.
They were both incredibly superstitious, and when Eiko went into labor on the fourth of April they expected something would go wrong.

The child Eiko birthed was beyond what either could have expected.
Her hair was powdery white, her eyes looked in two different directions, and her skin was an unusual and sickening shade of dark pink.
The minute the midwife looked at her she let out a glass-shattering scream, louder than the baby's own.
~
When Tatsuyo saw his daughter he froze as his blood ran cold.
When Eiko saw her daughter she merely wept in her hands.
Their child, their own baby daughter, looked like a demon.

They messaged priests and monks of any religion they could think of about their unholy infant, they had them perform prayers circles, exorcisms, and baptisms.
But nothing could change their daughter's appearance.

Eventually they gave up, and decided to lock their daughter away from the rest of the world.
Even giving her a name they felt fit her appearance, Jaaku.
~
Jaaku Ratto's childhood was one of pure isolation.

Other girls in the village drank tea with their grandparents, or helped their parents with chores, and got to talk to each other in the village square.
But not Jaaku.

Jaaku had to spend every hour of every day inside her room.
Her room with it’s blank white walls, white ceiling and white floor.
The only furniture was her small bed, her small table where she ate her meals, and a bookcase with only the religious texts left by the priests and monks of her youth.

Her only salvation was her window.
It was the size of her face and couldn't be opened but at least it was a way that she could see people and pretend to be apart of the normal world.

Her mother and father never let her meet their guests, even if they were her relatives.
They barely spoke to her.
Her father never looked her in her eyes.
And her mother? Her mother just wept at the mere sight of her.
They only went to her room to deliver her meals, plain rice or vegetable broth on special occasions.

And as the years past and Jaaku grew bigger, so did the feelings in the pit of her stomach.

Where a normal child knew parental love, she knew disgust and antipathy.
Where a normal child knew friendship and community, she knew maddening isolation.
Where a normal child knew life, she knew an endless cycle of hopelessness...
~
Then the snow came.
A terrible, terrible blizzard that took the village by complete surprise.

It had happened at the end of the winter months, when most of the firewood and food supply had been used.

Farmers couldn't tend to their crops, and fishermen couldn't catch anything for days.
Homes were nearly buried in the snow, and many, both young and old, fell severely and fatally ill from the cold.

The villagers knew who to blame.
The yokai girl, the child that the Ratto family had tried so hard to hide had become an infamous folktale thanks to a gossiping midwife.
Voices screamed throughout an angry mob.

She has cursed us all!
She's a witch!

We have to destroy her!
She's a monster!

She must be burned!
Everyone! Gather some of your remaining firewood!

They did just that.
Once there was enough wood to spark a good fire, they marched to the home of the Ratto's.

They demanded Jaaku be handed over and her parents did so without a fight.
~

Jaaku could feel the flames on her toes now.
It felt... good.
Fire made her feel.
Feel more intensely than she's ever felt before.

She couldn't hear what the crowd was saying, and she wasn't paying attention to the faces of her murders either.
All that mattered was that the yellow fire was giving her warmth and releasing her from her hellish existence.

Jaaku Ratto died with her face in a hideous grin, until the very skin of her face burnt away, aside from a few patches on her scalp, with stray white hairs attached to them.
~

Jaaku woke up to grey.
Grey sky, endless grey fields, and visible bones that had been seared black.

She walked around this new world aimlessly, she wasn't using to having this much room to explore, even if it was dull and ugly.

The new world was filled with weird and hideous creatures, from afar they looked like small men although with sickly white skin and patchy black hair.
But up close she noticed they looked like they were starving, their legs were unnaturally thin and their stomachs were repulsively bloated.
Their faces were small and wrinkly and their cries were pathetic and shrill.

Where am I?

It's no use asking them. The only thing a Gaki has on it's mind is where it's next meal will come from!

Jaaku jumped at the booming voice that replied, as she turned she saw something that could make a grown man cry.
Coming out of a crater in the earth was a living skeleton, a living skeleton that was nearly 12 feet tall.

Jaaku froze in shock, her face stuck in a look of horror.
This made the massive creature chuckle, then she was scooped up in the creatures mighty hand and lifted to meet its eyes.
Well.. the empty sockets that served as eyes, with pupils made of small balls of yellow fire.
She could now see it's mouth was lined with sharp teeth
The skeletal monster spoke in a deep yet androgynous voice

Hello sweetheart.

W-who a-are you? And where are we?

Sweet simple little child, you're in my realm, the realm of Gakidō! And as for me, I'm the ruler of this realm, call me Gashika.

Is this wh-where everyone goes when they die?

No sweetheart you are here because you are special. I've had my eye on you ever since you were born, Jaaku.

Y-You watched me grow up??

Yes. That's why the fire didn't hurt you, it was me bringing you here.

B-But why?

Jaaku, what happened to you was cruel, you were cheated out of a life..and so was I, when I was young myself, in a way much like yours.

I-

I want to help you Jaaku, I can give you a second chance at life, a way to make those who harmed you sorry, a way that you can see the world in ways no other mortal can. I can give you eternal life and magic of your own! But I can only give it to if you do something in return.

Do what?

Your magic will require essence to keep you alive.
And that essence comes from mortal creatures.

You don't mean..

That's right Jaaku. You'll have to consume souls.
~

Despite everything, Jaaku agreed.

She was given a staff to weld her magic, and a skull pendant to always remember the first creature that ever showed her true kindness.

Jaaku was sent to back to the mortal realm where she burnt the village that kept her prisoner down to the ground, with flames of her own creation.

The souls that arose from the massacre were plentiful and would fueled her magic for at least the next six months.

But she couldn't get lazy when it came to obtaining souls, she was warned that if she went too long without consuming a soul her magic will weaken to the point that it won't be able to sustain her body anymore, and she'd pass on to the afterlife, where she'd remain for eternity.
~

Centuries pass.
The misshapen young girl grows into a darkly beautiful young woman.

Jaaku tours the world.
Inspires artists, Meets figures that will go down in history, Sees monuments when they're still in their infancy, Visits parts of the earth that no longer exist.
Leaves entire villages burnt to the ground whenever she feels like it.
~

In 1950 Jaaku meets a man.
In 1955 Jaaku has a son.
In 1957 Jaaku leaves with him with their bouncing baby boy in tow.
~

Collecting souls is harder with a baby to take care of, her body noticeably ages but she refuses to let her beauty fade, no matter what it takes.
~

A mother who once doted upon her son with love becomes cold.
A son who once clung to her like glue becomes distant.
~

Her son buys a house.
They run a bed and breakfast together.
~

They're eventually joined by a new family member.
This one much smaller and newer.
~

Her son falls ill.
She conducts a plan that can help them all.
They build a new home where life and death meet, and dedicate their new business to helping guild those who are tired and weary of their lives.
~

Jaaku became everything her parents feared her becoming.
A witch.
A monster.
A demon.
She knows that she eventually just won't be able to collect anymore souls.
That eventually her own soul will make its way to the afterlife, where she'll no doubt suffer an eternity and a half in hell for all the blood she's spilt.

But she doesn't care.
She feels young as ever and isn't bored yet.
And as long as people want to escape their reality, she'll always have a steady stream of souls to nourish her.
She had all the time in the world
~

Jaaku’s the queen of purgatory.
The queen of the world perhaps.
An eternal flame
And as long as her skull pendant is around her neck, she knows Gashika is proud.