That night, Shuten-dōji came to the realm of Humans. When he passed by a bridge, he encountered a young maiden by happenstance. A quick glance at the maiden, who was standing precariously on the edge, immediately captured his heart. Even with the shortest glimpse, her youthfulness was already palpable. When this was combined with the rosiness in her cheeks and her large attractive doe-eyes, her beauty seemed borderline supernatural.
In the Orient, there were many female youkais blessed with great beauty; yet, none he had previously seen could match the stunning allure of this maiden. Judging from her torn threadbare clothing and deadened eyes, Shuten-dōji can easily guess how she felt at the moment.
Just as she was about to step off the bridge, Shuten-dōji ran forward to stop her.
Shuten-dōji: Woman! Would you so readily accept death?
Kejourou: You wouldn’t understand...No one would understand...what I have been through...
Shuten-dōji: Hmpf! Woman, you have the courage to die, but you don’t have the courage to face all you have to?
Kejourou: My life is without value...Then, what is the point of living?
Shuten-dōji: None understands the point behind their existence! Perhaps that is why we exist: to find this answer.”
Shuten-dōji: My name is Shuten-dōji. Woman, what is your name?
Kejourou: My name is Kyoko.
At this time, Shuten-dōji slid his hand between Kyoko the Kejourou’s waist. This gesture brought great comfort to Kejourou’s heart. Although the two had never met, the sensation was one of familiarity. Shuten-dōji silently listened to her as she told her life story, and through this, he learnt of the tragedies that built her life: her father had sold her to a brothel, and this forced her to become a geisha. Still, she would only sell her artistic skill, never her body.
Yet, her innocence was later robbed by a depraved socio-political elite. Her purity had been her last remaining possession, and even that had been plundered away. Thus, she had become dreary, with nothing worth loving remaining in her life.
Shuten-dōji: Is there something you wish to do, but has yet to do?
Kejourou thought for a moment. She closed her eyes, and for a moment, it was as if she currently resided in that fantasy.
Kejourou: I have always wanted to see the bloom of cherry blossom — pink blossoms floating down in the breeze, appearing like pink snow falling from the skies.
Shuten-dōji grabbed her hand, and with this gesture, passed to her the courage and hopes she needed to continue living.
Shuten-dōji: If you have no place to turn to, then come with me. I promise you that one day, I shall fulfill your dreams.
With that, a smile finally spread across Kejourou’s face. She had finally found a place where she belonged, a place where she could live with hope. From that day onward, she had lived by Shuten-dōji’s side. She watched as he transformed from an ordinary youkai into the kingpin of all youkais. She always played the role of his support in the background. When he needed company, she would always be at his side.
Before meeting Kejourou and Ibarakidouji, Shuten-dōji was a youkai who suffered great oppression, but lacked the ability to retaliate. This did not change until a dark voice started speaking to him out of outwhere. The voice taught him that devouring youkais would allow him to absorb his victim’s pneuma. Through his, he gradually gained strength; yet simultaneously, he also became addicted to that feeling of increasing power.
Soon, ordinary youkais could no longer satisfy him. He pursued greater youkai pneuma, and so, he consumed youkais of greater and greater power. Unfortunately, he remained unsatiated. As he was lingering in the state of distressing indecision, his subordinate brought exciting news.
On a day, one of his subordinates had returned injured after a hasty escape. It turns out he had encountered a myth among the youkai — Onmyō practitioners.
Onmyō practitioners possessed mystical power and was well versed in various forms of jutsu, the ways of manifesting power. They specialized in combating all forms of demonic creatures and therefore, could be formidable foes for youkai. Yet, to Shuten-dōji, these powerful foes could actually serve as an excellent source to ameliorate his youkai pneuma.
Using his subordinate’s description as reference, Shuten-dōji traveled to the turf of a youkai named Tuchigumo. There, he actually did encounter these rumored Onmyō practitioners. The mystical power that enveloped them excited him. The mere thought of enjoying such precious “delicacies” brought great excitement to him. Halberd in one hand and youkai-pneuma infused flame in the other, Shuten-dōji charged the Onmyō practitioners!
Shuten-dōji: Are you the Onmyō practitioners I have heard so much about? Then, let me see if your power is truly worthy of your reputation!
Fubuki: This youkai has substantial youkai pneuma! Shigeharu, be careful!
Shigeharu: There is more to it. A familiar sense of darkness is radiating from his body...
Just as Shuten-dōji’s halberd was about to pierce the Onmyō practitioners, a massive shape dropped from the skies, blocking the path between Shuten-dōji and the practitioners.
Shuten-dōji: Tuchigumo, don’t get in my way!
Tuchigumo recognized that it could not hope to defeat Shuten-dōji. At the critical moment, it shot threads of silk at Shuten-dōji in order to distract him. Taking opportunity of Shuten-dōji trying to shake off the entanglement, Tuchigumo along with the Onmyō practitioners quickly escaped. Although discontent with the result, Shuten-dōji had no way to pursue them.
After this battle, Shuten-dōji’s desire for power further increased. He believed that his failure to devour the Onmyō practitioners was because he lacked strength. He had become obsessed, losing control to the darkness; no longer could he control his urge to consume youkai pneuma.
Both Ibarakidouji and Kejourou tried dissuading him for his path, but to no avail. He went as far as throwing them out. Shuten-dōji, unable to repress his desires, was eventually abandoned and left to himself; his former companions had all left him in fear...
Shuten-dōji held the dying Kejourou in his arms. After struggling to pull out her protective amulet and handing it to him, Kejourou took her last breath. The drop of her arm brought on the shattering of his heart. The commitments and promises of the past drained away like the temperature in her body. No matter how powerful he was, none can reverse the course of life and death.
Shuten-dōji conjured youkai pneuma, directing into her body. Yet, nothing could reverse death. Her eyes and lips remained tightly shut, never to open again. For all of his unwillingness to accept the truth, it remained — she had truly left him. The pain of having lost his beloved had snapped him back to senses, but this was only temporary. The darkness surged back after the shortest respite.
???: ‘What are you waiting for? Devour her! This is the only way to enhance your strength!’
Shuten-dōji: Shut up! That was my Kyoko...the love of my life!
???: ‘What are you thinking? Do you not want more strength anymore? Do you not seek more power anymore?’
Shuten-dōji: If acquiring it means the sacrifice of those important to me...well, power taken this way is not something I need!
Suddenly, a dark shadow emerged from Shuten-dōji’s body. On its face was an expression of pure shock; it was in complete disbelief of Shuten-dōji’ s ability to expel it with his mere determination.
Shuten-dōji: My body and life belongs solely to me! You will never gain control over me! Not even in your wildest dreams!
???: ‘Hmpf! I have taken quite a bit of youkai pneuma. I wouldn’t need to rely on you anymore!’
The dark shadow left with parts of Shuten-dōji’s youkai pneuma. This, combined with the successive battles, left him weak and devoid of power; drained, Shuten-dōji collapsed into unconsciousness. By the time he woke, someone had tended to his wounds. Ignoring his injuries, he ran out of his room in search of her. When he dashed into her room, he found the depressed Ibarakidouji and upon seeing him, Shuten-dōji realized this was not a nightmare.
Ibarakidouji was sobbing mess; tears streamed down his face as if the dam holding them back had broken. Shuten-dōji, too, felt as if grief was closing his throat, but his proudness stopped him from crying in front of anyone. Thus, he approached and patted Ibarakidouji’s shoulder, speaking in melancholy:
Shuten-dōji: I can never repay my sins; I have far too much blood on my hands.
Shuten-dōji: Perhaps this is the great punishment the skies have decreed for me; only through the loss of the my beloved can I begin to make amends.
In the end, the two cremated Kejourou before scattering her ashes into the lake — her favorite place before her passing. Ibarakidouji having gone off to give him sometime, he sat alone on the lakeshore, fiddling with the protective amulet Kejourou had left him.
Suddenly, he saw there was a piece of parchment in the amulet; on the parchment were the words, “May my heart forever accompany yours.” A drop of tear landed on the parchment which Shuten-dōji immediately wiped off, in fear of her last words to him would dissipate.
He gripped the protective amulet in his hand and shut his eyes tight; his mind drifted back to all he had experienced by her side. A soft wind blew by... It was as if he could hear Kejorou speaking from just behind him.
Kejourou the Bloody Geisha: ‘Lord Shuten-dōji, I will guard over by your side, always and forever.’
Shuten-dōji’s eyes snapped open, but his beloved was not there. Still, he leant back and smiled, as if feeling Kejorou’s last gift to him.
After Kejorou’s death and much effort, Shuten-dōji and Ibarakidouji gathered the youkais again under his command. Together, they were determined to fashion a new Orient out of the old. With their endeavors and decades of war, Shuten-dōji finally united all of the Orient, forming the various fiends and youkais into a single united youkai clan.
Even though some youkais’ loyalty remained skin-deep and there were occasional uprisings, Shuten-dōji and Ibarakidouji were both certain that they could fulfill their dream one day.
Whenever he had any free time, Shuten-dōji would visit the lakeside; he would silently think, his mind revisiting each scene he had spent with Kejorou. Although Shuten-dōji was the Kingpin of Youkai, a hole remained in his heart. Ibarakidouji would worry too whenever he saw his brother like this.
Ibarakidouji: Sigh, I have found you here again, brother. But then of course, where else would you be...
Kingpin of Youkai - Shuten-dōji: Hmpf! I have nowhere else to go. You, on the other hand, should take advantage of the current stability.
Kingpin of Youkai - Shuten-dōji: Go and spend some time with your brothers and sisters.
Ibarakidouji: Brother, you need not worry. I know what I am doing.
Kingpin of Youkai - Shuten-dōji: Well, if you do not intend to go home, I am going to go cultivate my powers! On my way, I can also check on the Orient.
Ibarakidouji: I will go by your side, brother!
Kingpin of Youkai - Shuten-dōji: Don’t be silly! I need you to take care of everything here for me.
Shuten-dōji gripped the protective amulet as he talked. With the protection of the one he loves, he was confident he would stay on the right path. But it was only with Ibarakidouji’s promise to stay and take care of everything did Shuten-dōji leave without worrying.
Throughout his journey, he noticed that the Orient was changing bit by bit. Although there was still some bullying and oppression, it numbered fewer than it had in the past. Perhaps it would take more time to truly change how various youkais thought and acted. Still, any change was better than no change. Suddenly, he ran into two gangs of youkai arguing by a riverside...
Tofu-kozo: If it wasn’t for your sudden swirling of the waves, how would I have lost all of my fish haul. You better compensate us now!
Kappa the Child of Rivers: This river is our home! I have held my tongue to complain about you affecting our lives, and you dare demand compensation?
Kingpin of Youkai - Shuten-dōji: That is enough! Since both of you have wronged, why don’t you just apologize to each other!
It was with Shuten-dōji’s mediation that the two youkai gangs finally learnt of the difficulties the other faced. Hence, they sincerely apologized to each other while promising they shall be more attentive in the future. Shuten-dōji was quite satisfied with the positive outcome. Leaving the river side, he continued with his journey.
By mere happenstance, he came to a cherry tree; the sight invoked his memory of Kejorou’s saying that she loved cherry blossoms. She had hoped to see the day they would dance through the air, but unfortunately, she had passed away before she had seen this. Her unfulfilled dream had become Shuten-dōji’s lifelong regret. Suddenly, he felt a youkai approaching him. When he turned in that direction, all he saw was a silhouette clothed in a pale yellow kimono...