Deep in the mountains, there was an unvisited villege at the border between the Human world and the Orient. Ever since the village was built, humans and youkais had been fighting each other. To protect their hometown, both sides were reluctant to surrender. The war between the two races lasted until the intervention of the Kingpin of Youkai, Shuten-dōji, and, the onmyōji, Shigeharu, so the two clans started their new lives in the village.
The humans were worried about living with youkais at first, but as time passed by, they gradually realised youkais were not as vicious as they had imagined. The two groups finally accepted each other and coexisted in peace. Suzuko was one of the residents there. She had been close to an inuyoukai since her childhood. The two were thick as thieves. They could not sleep without each other. They were closer than family, as the villagers jokingly described.
Suzuko: Woofy! Do you want to play hide-and-seek?
Woofy: ’Yea! Let’s do it!’
Facing the wall, Woofy started counting down in Woofys. Suzuko immediately searched for a perfect hiding spot. She found a large wooden box, and quickly went inside and closed the lid silently……The barking stopped. Suzuko’s blood was pumping vigorously. People in the village thought this kind of peaceful life would last forever, but no one was aware that a strange youkai power was spreading in the village……
Futakuchi-onna: ......Humans…..must…...die…...Human s and youkais can never coexist……
Villager: Help, help me! Youkais have gone mad!
Suzuko: ’Woofy, what took you so long? What’s happening outside? I heard a lot of screaming.’
Suzuko stayed in the crate, waiting for Woofy to spot her. The continuous screaming outside was unsettling her. She carefully moved the lid and peered through the gap. Fire was everywhere. People were running for their life and battling youkais. Suzuko, who lived in peace all her life, had never witnessed a fight between a human and a youkai. Fear froze her to the ground. Suddenly a white shadow came and bit the lid off.
Suzuko: Woofy! Where have you been! What happened to everyone, Woofy?
Woofy glared at Suzuko fiercely. It growled at her, and gnashed its teeth. She had never seen Woofy like this. The intense fear was urging her to run, but she had nowhere to go, because Woofy was right in front of her. Afraid of hitting its nerve, she did not want to do anything reckless, but as soon as Suzuko took a step backwards, Woofy struck towards her with its bare teeth!
Woofy’s voice resounded through Suzuko’s head. She slowly opened her eyes. Woofy was frozen, its whole body was shivering. It appeared to be fighting against something.
Woofy: ’Suzuko…...Go…...Suzuko…..Hurry… ...Go……’
Suzuko: I will never leave you behind! Never!
Suzuko gathered her courage and hugged Woofy’s giant body. Woofy howled, and a puff of dark energy vaporized away from its body. Woofy’ s glaring eyes became normal again. It lowered its head to rub Suzuko to comfort her unsettled mind.
Suzuko hopped on Woofy, and charged back home under its protection. On the way, they were shocked to see all of the houses burning. There were corpses everywhere. The horrific sight was too much for Suzuko, so she digged her face into Woofy’s fur.
Back at her home, Suzuko desperately called for her parents, but she would never see them waiting at the door again. What awaited her were her parents' cold, dead bodies. She cried. Tears gushed from her eyes. Woofy stood next to her, and whimpered.
The moment Shuten-dōji and Shigeharu heard about the Douman Ashiya’s attack, they sprinted all the way back to the village. Still they could not prevent the tragedy. The village was burning, and there were corpses everywhere. They tracked down Suzuko and Woofy, the only survivors, by the sounds of their sobbing. Shigeharu felt compassionate for her loss, so he brought her back to the shrine to decide what should be done with her.
Shuten-dōji: How horrific…...Douman Ashiya that sick bastard! He’s the only one who could come up with this nightmare!
Shigeharu: He is a man who would do anything to satisfy his selfish desires. Failing to predict the attack was my fault.
Shuten-dōji: That’s not your fault. I didn’t see him coming either…...By the way, what are you going to do with the girl?
Shigeharu stared at Suzuko. Suzuko had just been through a horrible experience. All she could do was hug Woofy tight with her arms and legs. Her lost eyes could not focus. Shigeharu could sense immense energy inside Suzuko’s body, stronger than any ordinary person.
The whole situation had convinced Shigeharu that they could never enjoy living in a normal human community again, so he accepted Suzuko as his disciple. He brought her back to his shrine, and began teaching her the practice of five elements.
Suzuko was devoted to learning the Onmyōdō of five elements. Apart from exercising basic techniques, she also taught herself a new martial art with the bell as a primary weapon against strong youkais. To her, it was all for killing Douman Ashiya. Time passed by, and Suzuko was now equipped with all kinds of battle techniques. Today was the day she would take the final test to become an Onmyōji.
Shigeharu: When the Kekkai is cast open, you will face the enemy you fear most. Are you ready?
Suzuko: Yes, I am ready.
Inside the Kekkai, Suzuko saw the white shadow of Woofy.
She happily approached it, only to realized Woofy was once again filled with hatred, and the urge to kill.
Suddenly, it bared its teeth against her!
Suzuko: Woofy, it’s me. What happened to you?
No matter how hard she tried, Woofy just could not recognize her face. It continued to attack her with its full might.
Suzuko had no choice but to pull her bell out, wondering if she really had to fight Woofy……
The memory of them living together replayed in her head. She remembered that time Woofy was manipulated by Douman’s evil spell, it managed to restrain itself from hurting her at the very last second by sheer will. Suzuko smiled.
The bond between them was strong enough to take on any challenges! Woofy widened its gaping mouth towards Suzuko! Suzuko smiled and dropped her bell and charms. She opened her arms wide as if she was ready to embrace the giant Woofy.
Right before its teeth reached Suzuko, everything in the Kekkai vanished, including the Woofy illusion. She heard clapping outside the Kekkai. Her master Shigeharu and his wife came to her. The real Woofy ran towards her as well.
Shigeharu: Congratulations, Susuko. You are now an independent Onmyōji.
Suddenly red dotted light appeared between Woofy and Suzuko. A magic array shined beneath them.
Suzuko: What’s this?
Shigeharu: It’s the proof a strong relationship and trust between the two of you. Come! Enter into a Shikigami contract with Woofy!
Suzuko and Woofy looked at each other and smiled. Suzuko drew blood from her thumb to sign the contract. Woofy then shrank into small size and lay in Suzuko’s arms. She stroked its head. It replied with a peaceful smile. Since then Suzuko had been trying to hunt down Douman Ashiya. Although Shigeharu and other people kept telling her that hatred would only cause disaster, she could not forget about avenging the murder of her parents and teacher after all.
Granted the title of Onmyōji, Suzuko traveled around to exorcise evil youkais. Captured youkais who had harmed the world would be taken to Shuten-dōji for further instruction. In addition, she would use the information obtained from Shuten-dōji to investigate matters regarding Douman Ashiya.
This time she came to a village. She subdued a notorious Snake Conjurer. Suzuko believed the spiritual power of this youkai was related to Douman Ashiya. She took the youkai away, and interrogated it for Douman Ashiya’s location.
Suzuko: You sure about playing deaf?
As she spoke, the spell binding the Snake Conjurer tightened up, almost suffocating it to death. The intense agony of suffocation pulled him to the brink of death. He then screamed:
Oni: ......I-I can take you to him!
Suzuko: I will find him on my own. I need not your guidance.
Oni: You do believe…...he would see you?
Hearing the oni’s words, she could not deny the fact that Douman Ashiya was cautious about every little thing. He would not let her find him. She nullified the spell and advised the oni:
Suzuko: Do not attempt anything if you treasure your life.
Suzuko and the Oni sat face-to-face, and looked at each other. Their silence amplified the crackling sound of the firewood. The fire burned between them, The flickering flame reflected in both of their eyes
Oni: Why do you hate Douman Ashiya so much? What makes you so confident about a peaceful future between Humans and Youkais?
Suzuko: If not for him, Humans and Youkais would be living in harmony already. If not for him, I wouldn’t have lost my parents.
Looking back at the tragic events, Suzuko gnashed her teeth furiously. The oni did not continue the topic. They fell silent. In the next morning, Suzuko followed the oni’s lead to Douman Ashiya’s hideout……
Oni: After crossing this river, we’ll be there very soon.
Water Ghost: ’A living person…...Fit for a new body......'
Oni: Let go of me!
While crossing the river, Suzuko and the Oni encountered wraiths who died in the water. They were trying to pull the oni into the water to drown him, so they could take over his body. The oni managed to repel a few strikes, but as their number increased, the Oni could not hold them back any longer. Just before the oni was dragged into the river, Suzuko pulled out her bell and dove in the water. Baited by Suzuko, the water ghosts released the oni right away.
Oni: Suzuko! Answer me! Suzuko!
The water was too murky to see through, so the oni and Woofy could only wait anxiously. Spots of light sparked underwater. Moments later, the river became smooth again. The water ghosts had vanished, along with Suzuko.
Oni: Dang it! What a troublemaker!
Diving into the water, the Oni caught the figure of Suzuko. He quickly transferred a breath of air and spiritual energy to her. After regaining consciousness, Suzuko floated up with the oni. The puzzled oni looked at her and asked:
Oni: Why…...did you save me? I’m supposed to be your enemy.
Suzuko: Even an enemy has a precious life. Ignoring someone in danger was not the right thing to do.
Woofy: ’Besides, we need you to guide us to Douman Ashiya!’
Oni: What a fool……
Suzuko: Same goes to you.
They continued their journey to Douman Ashiya, but something had changed inside the oni and Suzuko. The oni hesitated about bringing Suzuko to ‘that place’......
After crossing the river, they found themselves in a foggy jungle. As they set foot on the ground, an extraordinary youkai energy flooded the area. It was so thick that Suzuko had to cover her face. She was worried breathing it in would mess up the circulation of her spiritual energy.
Oni: The night is falling. Our clothes are soaked. Why don’t we take some rest and call it a day.
The sky turned dark. Suzuko was exhausted after spending too much stamina and spiritual force. She lay down on Woofy and shut her eyes.
Oni: What if I attacked you, or escaped while you were asleep?
Suzuko: If you wanted to, you wouldn’t have saved me in the river. You wouldn’t be able to run very far from Woofy…..
Then Suzuko fell asleep. The oni sighed speechlessly. He took a glance at her innocent face, and then stared at the jungle. He anxiously scratched his head, wondering what to do next.
At dawn. Suzuko and Woofy followed the oni through the jungle. In spite of the heavy mist, Suzuko could tell that the oni was moving towards a certain direction. She regretted doubting the oni’s allegiance. After walking for quite a long while, the oni suddenly stopped his pace. When he turned back and started speaking to Suzuko, youkai energy surrounded them!
Flaming Zombie: Master Oni is indeed the best! We can finally take care of this annoying Onmyōji!
Suzuko: It was all a set up? You’ve been leading me to this trap all along?
Despite Suzuko’s remarkable battling skills, she could not handle so many of youkais at once, so she lost eventally. The youkais tied her up, and planned to carry her to Douman Ashiya. It had all been a trap since the oni promised to lead her to Douman Ashiya.
She did not let her guard down, but the hatred against Douman Ashiya and the developing trust between her and the oni had blinded her about this possibility. Consequently, she had been captured by Youkais, and would probably be used against her master and Shuten-dōji.
The thought bred wrath and remorse inside her. She gnashed her lips until they bled. ….She glared at the oni. He avoided looking into her eyes, because he could not bear with the guilt, nor forgive himself for lying to Suzuko.
Oni: Leave them to me! It’s MY credit.
Douman Ashiya was near. Suzuko could feel his immense youkai power, along with the grief of the wraiths who were caged here by him. Their lament struck Suzuko’s heart. She had always longed for the death of Douman Ashiya, though she did not expect such intimidating power and horror. Suddenly she felt a warm breath on her neck, and heard the voice of the oni..
Oni: I will untie you right away. Look for an opportunity to get yourself and Woofy out of here.
Suzuko: Why would you……
Oni: Don’t get me wrong! I’m simply curious about whether Humans and Youkais could live together.
The rope broke, Suzuko and Woofy immediately knocked down all the nearby youkais, and . She looked back at Oni, only to see him brawling with other youkais…...
Oni: Leave me be! Just go! Douman Ashiya is not far from here! Just keep moving forward!
Suzuko nodded quietly and ran away with Woofy. After she disappeared in the corridor, the oni put on a treacherous smile. The youkais jumped at him. He gathered his youkai power to fight against them. Even two-headed snake, his old friend, became his enemy. Several youkais circled him. His youkai energy almost depleted. When he was ready to die, a red shadow popped out, and stood between the oni and the other youkais……