Not unlike Humans, Tengus are social creatures with the inherent social hierarchy. The more powerful Tengus have a higher place in the system. The ones at the top would be titled “Ootengu”, and there were the individuals who would also be able to compete for the head of the clan. Therefore, whenever the clan head nears retirement, the young Tengus would be unusually nervous.
The reigning head was benevolent and powerful, prompting extra expectations for his three sons...His elder son possessed a strong physique; his second son excelled in myriad youkai-jutsu; but his youngest son was neither as strong as the eldest, nor as clever as the second. Hence, he became the black sheep of the family.
Both in his family and in the outside world, Karasutengu was the bullied. Gradually, he lost faith in himself, questioning the purpose of his very existence. He gave up on himself in despair, and regardless of who tried, none were able to persuade him to leave his room. One morning, his father could no longer stand seeing him like this and opened Karasutengu’s doors, dragging him onto the training ground.
Karasutengu: What are you doing? Let me go!
Father: Lift your sword. Attack me!
Karasutengu: What is the point? I am not like my brothers. I am no match for you, and you...
Father: I say again. Lift your sword!
No matter how Karasutengu attacked, his father stood unfazed, as durable as a mountain. On the contrary, Karasutengu was left panting. The audience all ridiculed the child; he felt humiliated and hence, angrily hurled his sword onto the ground and left without looking back.
Karasutengu ran to the back of the mountain, his only shelter. Animals here were close to him and he could feel his value only when staying with them. He frolicked with the animals; patting their warm and soft body soothed his heart. Just then, a giant shadow blocked out the sun. The animals were frightened off, leaving only Karasutengu alone, lifting his head and staring at the source of the shadow.
Karasutengu: Father? How did you know I am here?
Father: I noticed that you like to come here when you are upset.
Karasutengu: Sorry, father. I have disappointed you.
Father: Yes, you have. But not because of your weak strength or under-developed youkai-jutsu, but because you give up easily.
Father: A strong body, profound knowledge of youkai-jutsu. All these can be attained through hard work, but...
Father: ...Benevolence and virtues cannot be trained. Yet, this empathy is inherent within you..
Karasutengu: Do you mean if I train hard, I will be able to look after everyone like you?
His father nodded, and a smile finally spread across Karasutengu’s face. He had always thought himself replaceable, never knowing his father had such high hopes in him. Since then, Karasutengu trained his body and studied youkai-jutsu harder than others. He also kept in mind his father’s doctrine — empathize with others.
Through constant assiduity, Karasutengu had mastered youkai-jutsu and became one of the most exceptional students in school. Like with his brothers, he was now admired by other Tengus and many had great expectations of him.
However, another Tengu, one who also came from an upper class family and just as well trained in both physical strength and youkai-jutsu, was jealous of him. He spread rumors about Karasutengu, saying that the sole reason for his achievements was his relationship with the clan head. He fully disregarded Karasutengu’s efforts and tried to use the rumors to lower his self-esteem.
The rumors soon reached every corner of the campus. However, Karasutengu paid no attention to them and his performance became more outstanding. The culprit was, therefore, enraged and challenged Karasutengu to a duel...
Tengu’s Sidekick: Hey you! Stop walking! Boss is looking for you!
Jealous Tengu: Hmph! I don’t believe you’re that good. Everything you’ve got comes from your blood!
Karasutengu: Kindness does not mean weakness; being benevolent does not mean I have to be bullied.
Karasutengu triumphed with ease. Even though he had the upper hand, he did not further harm his opponent; instead, he helped him up. The Tengu was startled by the gesture. He was unwilling to admit it, but Karasutengu did show extraordinary altruism.
Tengu: Next time I won’t lose again! Just wait and see!
Karasutengu: I look forward to it. But by then, I will only be stronger than I am now.
After Karasutengu helped the Tengu up, they clenched their fingers and had a fist bump, showing each other recognition. The audience clapped in admiration. Karasutengu had fully inherited his father’s strength and benevolence. Though he was slandered, he chose to forgive. This had brought yet more respect from other classmates.
This Tengu often challenged Karasutengu to duels. Yet, this was also why the two then started to appreciate each other, even to the extent of becoming sworn brothers.
During the selection of individuals to send on expedition, both were selected. Their cooperation was smooth and they trusted each other. It was as if the two could solve anything as long as they stayed together. To Karasutengu, this Tengu was his right-hand man, a companion not to be lost...
Time soared by, and Karasutengu had grown and was now known as Ootengu. Moreover, he had become an important member of the expedition team. The team’s duties were to observe and record the lives of villages around the snowy mountain, thus ensuring Tengus and Humans would not encounter each other.
This day, just as Ootengu was about to leave after his work, a pained cry for help came. The team and he nervously looked to the direction and saw one of their members snared by an ascetic’s trap! Ootengu dashed forward in hopes of rescuing his companion, but was dragged away by other teammates. They had stopped only after flying to a faraway place and started discussing solutions.
Expedition Leader: It has never happened all these years! How come Humans would set up a trap to get us?
Scared Teammate: Maybe they have been scheming for a while but hid the traces, so that we would not suspect them!
Scared Teammate: What, what should we do now?
Expedition Leader: There is nothing we can do. Let’s head back up the mountain!
Ootengu: You guys go back first! I will go save him.
With that said, Ootengu rose to his feet and was about to leave, but the leader pulled him back.
Expedition Leader: Are you out of your mind? If we go now and expose ourselves, we’d be breaking the rules we have followed for years!
Ootengu: I do not care. All I know is that my companion is more important than rules! If I do not save him, how can I claim to guard over the whole clan?
Ootengu shook off the leader’s hand and flew to the village without looking back.
Kunlun Taoist: Black wings, long red nose...This must be it. This is one of the Tengus recorded in the books! We’re gonna be rich!
Ootengu: ‘Why do they know of our existence? And they are planning to sell us for money?’
Ootengu spread his giant wings and flapped them at the village, creating a fierce sandstorm. Vision suddenly blinded, villagers and ascetics alike were nervous and scared. Ootengu seized the chance and dashed to the captured companion.
Captured Tengu: You shouldn’t have come. This is against the rules!
Ootengu: Forget about the rules and come with me! Now!
Ootengu and the Tengu hurriedly flew to a bush nearby under the cover of the sandstorm. They hid there, awaiting a safe moment to escape. When the sandstorm gradually abated, the ascetics noticed that the captured Tengu disappeared, leaving all those present astounded! Villagers thus deified Tengus and deemed the sandstorm God’s wrath. This led to the villagers’ expulsion of the ascetics.
Ootengu and his companion waited until dark when the light of fires were extinguished, before they flew out from the bush. Having returned much earlier, the expedition leader and other teammates paced at the door, waiting. It was not until they saw Ootengu and their missing companion did they feel relieved. From that point on, all of the expedition members had absolute trust in Ootengu; they believed that the clan’s future would be ever brighter under his guidance.
Since Ootengu brought Yuki-onna back to his home, criticism abounded; yet, he insisted that she stayed. He believed that everyone would understand and accept her someday.
No matter how much effort Yuki-onna paid, the others avoided her, deeming her an outsider. Ootengu’s family and his good friends knew she was not an evil youkai. However, for the clan’s safety and to ensure Ootengu’s potential candidacy for the clan head position, they asked him time and time again to send her back. Gradually, Ootengu stopped arguing with them, knowing that they would not understand.
Ootengu: Why can they still not accept Yuki-onna?
Ootengu’s Good Friend: Our clan has never accepted any outsider. They will not let her stay.
Ootengu: Then maybe there is only one way out...
Ootengu decided to leave with her to live a life they both wanted, even that meant disappointment from the family and accusation of treason. As long as he was with Yuki-onna, he had no regrets. However, they were tracked down.
Ootengu’s Good Friend: I have expected you to leave with her, but please, think about the consequences first.
Ootengu: If you are truly my friend, step aside!
Ootengu’s Good Friend: Your candidacy for the clan head position would be over. And your father will be disappointed...
Ootengu’s Good Friend: You would have ruined everything you have worked for all these years; is that really worth it?
Ootengu: You know how I think, my friend.
His friend could not help bursting into laughter. They understood each other too well; Ootengu is far too resolute after he has reached a decision, and would be dissuaded by none. The friend reached out his fist. That was the proof of where their friendship started, and it contained a meaning only understandable to the two. Ootengu also reached out his fist. They bumped their fist against each other’s before the friend shrugged:
Ootengu’s Good Friend: Hit me! Or your escape would put me at risk with my superiors.
Ootengu: Sorry. And. Thank You.
Ootengu’s Good Friend: There is no need to thank me. You’ll need to repay me someday.
Ootengu: It is good to have had you as my friend. Please take care of everyone for me, especially my father.
Ootengu punched his friend in the stomach, the pain of which dropped his friend onto his knees. At the same time, pursuers had arrived. Ootengu did not have the time to say another word. He hurriedly grabbed Yuki-onna and left.
Yuki-onna: You truly have no regrets?
Ootengu: My only regret would come if I choose not to live with you.
A smile spread over the two’s face. They interlocked their fingers and were determined never to let go again no matter what. As long as one knows what the heart wants, one would never feel lost.