Sun beat down on the grounds of the secured kingdom, nothing penetrating its walls nor disturbing its peace for years at a time. Any meager attempt at hostility was warded off by the trained soldiers to protect the princess and her disciple civilians. The princess who sat atop the throne was Izayoi, a woman with unfathomable beauty and a warm, empathetic heart. Her status was not caused by royal blood flowing through her veins, rather than the insurmountable amounts of wealth her family owned that set them apart from the rest. Despite the amount of money she had that would often be considered a bragging right, she chose not to use that opportunity to further exclude her from the civilians.
Regardless of any of Izayoi's attempts to make herself feel on the same level as the people who surrounded her, it was obvious that everyone in her kingdom had pushed her up into that position because of her money.
The princess emerged from her castle, which in general terms, was a slightly bigger and more glorified house in the middle of the kingdom, gloriously separated by a moat around it with a bridge connecting her to the rest of the land. She was accompanied by two self appointed guards and followed by two more women who frequently stayed around her, granting her company. Izayoi knew that the only reason they were so eager to remain around her was that she was earnest enough to pay them for their work and company. She didn't particularly mind it, but inside she wished that these people chose to be around her for reasons other than money.
The loneliness of the situation slowly gnawed at her heart.
"Princess Izayoi!" a voice called for her.
She was surprised by the sudden need for her attention. Often people would wave at her presence, and if matters were important enough, someone would come into the castle. A man near her age raced up to her, her guards not at all wary due to the young man’s familiar face. In his grip, he carried a bouquet of flowers, obscuring his face with the brightly lit carnelians. Izayoi blinked a few times, surprised at the kind gesture.
Looking past the flowers, she saw the man’s flushed red face briefly, before he disappeared onto the ground.
“Takewaki, what are you doing?”
He shuffled to adjust himself, his legs tucked underneath him and placed his hands on his thighs.
“Princess Izayoi, from the moment my eyes befell your adorned face and body, I knew that Musubi had granted me a fateful visit,” he yelled with his eyes shut, slamming his head into the ground after.
Musubi? The god of marriage? I don’t think I was paid a visit in return… Izayoi thought, cradling the bouquet of flowers as she watched Takewaki.
“Princess Izayoi, please marry me!”
Izayoi was silently flabbergasted at the request, her head tilting to the side slightly.
The young man did not raise his head for a few seconds, lifting it up after being curious by Izayoi’s lack of response. She merely looked down at him. Her eyes were not filled with any sort of malice, just confusion and an ounce of harmless amusement in the situation. A smile cracked on her tiny lips, and she let out a soft and short-lived giggle. Takewaki raised his head and whimpered in confusion and slight defeat.
Izayoi covered her mouth with her hand but removed it to say, “I’m sorry. I’m currently not looking for any husband at the moment…”
Takewaki slumped in disappointment and dropped his head with a sigh.
He raised his head, a hopeful smile on his face.
"May I keep these flowers? I find them to be beautiful…" she asked wistfully, looking at the flowers in her hand in bliss.
“O-of course,” he said, dejected that there was no consideration to marry him.
“Princess Izayoi! Princess Izayoi!”
Please not another proposal.... she thought, looking to see the new people approaching her now. She and her four accomplices walked past Takewaki who mourned the decline up to the new guards who met up with them.
“Princess Izayoi, it’s urgent. There’s someone outside the walls of the kingdom, they wish to speak to you.”
“They won’t speak to anyone else.”
Izayoi looked down to the ground and sighed, before nodding at the guards. Turning on their heels, the guards led Izayoi to the entrance of the kingdom, spears tight in their hands. The women following behind Izayoi whimpered in fear of the threat that was lurking outside of their kingdom.
“Open the gate!” one of the guards accompanying Izayoi shouted.
About ten people by the door urgently got to work on pulling the chains that functioned with the gate, pulling it up. The opening of the gate revealed a small battalion of people, with their leader standing proudly in front of them.
They were clad in black armor, and wore a cloth to obscure their face and hair apart from their eyes. All that Izayoi could see was this intruder’s light grey eyes, the right one heavily scarred over. They carried around two wakizashi, dull and chipped from prior executions.
“You own this place?” a slick voice came out, it was hard to tell if the speaker was a man or a woman. Their build didn’t give away much either hidden underneath that armor.
“I wouldn’t say own…”
They clicked their teeth and rolled their eyes. “Well missie, I assume you’re a big around here. Otherwise they wouldn’t have brung ya out here.”
“I’ll cut to the chase. You surrender your kingdom over to me, hand over every coin of money you have here, and I let you live.”
Everyone’s breath hitched, Izayoi’s heart starting to pound despite her trying not to show it on her face. Everyone around her was very anxious by the threat.
After pondering a response since she knew that a quick answer could land her and everyone else into more trouble, Izayoi closed her eyes and said, “I’m sorry, but I decline.”
“Eh? Decline? Don’t know the meaning,” they said. With the bat of an eye, the armored tyrant had blazed past the guards standing in front of Izayoi, now holding one of their wakizashi up to her delicate neck. They managed to get the blade through the strands of hair, not having cut anything. Her grip tightened around her flowers.
The guards gasped and the women behind her shrieked, but the enemy only said, “Tsk, tsk, tsk” to make them freeze from attacking. “Touch me, and your pretty princess gets her head chopped off.” The blade pressed onto Izayoi’s neck, her anxiety raising.
“I’m sorry again, but I really must preserve the peace in this village… Your presence inside our walls will utterly disturb that.”
“Missie, I’ve got your life here at the end of my blade.”
“I still will not cooperate with you willingly,” she said with a raised tone, screwing her eyes shut and scrunching up her face.
The swordsman just squinted at her before slowly drawing back their sword and stepping back.
“You’re… stubborn,” they said, clicking their teeth. “But I don’t make exceptions for anyone. I’ll be back for you, missie,” they said, turning on their heel and letting out a loud laugh from the gut of their stomach.
Their cronies stepped apart to let their leader through, congregating back together when they passed. Soon enough they left into the distance, Izayoi and her civilians watching them off. Izayoi’s legs gave out underneath her, crumpling to the ground hunched over. She held the bouquet of flowers close to her body as she took in deep breaths through her mouth.
“Princess Izayoi!” her guards cried, crouching down to help her back up.
I’ve been spared… How lucky have I been…?
Night befell the kingdom, and Izayoi gazed out of the window into the large moon that hung in the dark sky. She began to get lost in her own mind as her eyes danced across the sky with the stars. She unconsciously ran her fingers over the hardened streak of blood that had congealed on her neck many hours ago after the threat to end her life. She herself wasn’t even aware that the blade grazing her did any damage, yet her fingers went there anyway.
“Lady Izayoi…” someone said quietly, tapping her shoulder and bringing her back to attention.
“Tatsumi? What is it?” Izayoi asked, turning to the woman who frequented around her.
“Lady Izayoi… what will you do?”
“You are allowed to call me solely by my first name. But, what will I do about what?”
“That ruffian from earlier! He— he nearly killed you earlier!”
Izayoi sighed wistfully. “I’m aware, and for sure, the threat still lingers. But worry not, I have no fear.”
“No fear? How can you remain so calm?” Tatsumi asked, clearly panicked.
Izayoi just gave a soft smile. “I feel as if I am being watched over, and whatever may be watching me will protect me.”
Three anxious filled days passed by the peaceful kingdom, until the following night. Izayoi was at peace in her castle, having already sent herself to rest for the night when she was harshly awoken by screaming and a voice calling her name outside.
Izayoi was jolted to her feet and rushed outside, Tatsumi and the other woman trailing behind her.
“The swordsman! Bandit! They’ve returned, with a much larger army! You must find somewhere safe to hide!” the guard yelled, resting his hands on her shoulders.
Izayoi was too startled to respond, instead getting dragged away from the castle by the two women as the guard went back to fight.
“They— they’re climbing up the wall!” Izayoi heard another guard say.
Looking behind her, she could faintly see their armored body overpowering guards stationed on the wall, quickly coming down to the ground.
“Princess Izayoi! Pardon my impudence but please use your feet!”
Izayoi gained traction on the dirt below her, running on her own feet instead of being dragged around.
“Tatsumi, Haruko, please let me go,” she said.
“Huh?” Haruko asked, both her and Tatsumi’s paces slowing.
“I don’t want to run. I still feel as if… I’m still being watched. As if I will be saved. But if you want to flee, then go. If I’m wrong, then you may save yourselves.”
The hostile enemy that breached the wall easily slashed through any guards or bystanders who were unlucky to have been in their way, happily staining their swords with blood. They quickly approached the castle Izayoi resided in, spotting her outside of it. They spread a grin, though only their eyes glowing with excitement could be seen.
“Stop!” the guard who alerted Izayoi yelled, trying to charge at his target with his spear. He missed, and a deft sword cut through his throat with no hesitation. They only stopped in their tracks when a large figure leaped over a wall and into the kingdom, right in between Izayoi and the intruder. The figure took the form of a massive dog, a blue streak carved into each cheek, with bloodshot eyes and thick white fur.
It faced Izayoi, staring down at her in the face. Haruko shrieked, trying to keep herself from passing out. Though it didn't help as Izayoi collapsed onto the ground, her female accomplices tumbling with her as they watched the spectacle before them.
“It’s… it’s a god…!” Tatsumi cried.
Izayoi watched the ginormous dog in amazement, mesmerized by its massive size and glistening white fur.
“This… is no god.”
It looked down at her with burning red sclera before turning its head to snarl at the visitor who threatened Izayoi’s life. It was obvious they were cowering internally at the massive dog before them, yet they still raised their blade to attack. Trying to charge at the dog, they only managed a few steps before the demon’s jaws opened up, trapping their head in it went it slammed it shut. The dog demon went with the momentum of lunging forward, running with the now limp body hanging from in between its teeth. Stopping with a skid once it was sure they were dead, it swung its head to one side then sharply in the other direction, the speed of it tearing the body off of its head and letting it fly into the distance, some of their armor falling to the ground.
The dog then lowered its head and opened its jaws, hanging out its tongue to let the decapitated head fall off of it.
Tatsumi and Haruko had shifted to a tight grip on Izayoi’s sleeves, trembling in fear. Though Izayoi’s fear that arose from this situation was not from the menacing dog that showed up from seemingly nowhere more than it was from the now deceased swordsman.
The dog demon briefly glanced back at Izayoi before averting its gaze. Crouching down, it leapt into the sky and away, its stride so large it looked as if was flying away. She just watched it disappear into the distance, though she felt as if it had never left.
Izayoi’s lips parted before she whispered, “I feel as if this was what I felt was watching over me.”