Maybe I’ve presented things in too grim a light so far. The truth is that not all of our lives revolve around death and darkness. In reality, after 8 whole years, life among the slayers has taken a pace of its own- though just vaguely reminiscent of what things where like before the Awakening.
I take courage sometimes by how immensely resilient the human spirit is. It is remarkable how we’ve managed to regain a sense of normality, however faint that might be.
Our village, Utakata, is not the biggest or most beautiful of the villages that remain, but we take pride in the fact we make things work like a well wound clock. Slayers in the field wouldn’t stand a chance if not for the support of the villagers.
Their Leader- our leader- Yamato is probably the reason why we’re all alive. He and his ever-smiling daughter Yu work tirelessly with the Slayers to assess and destroy any danger that might be too close to home. Our Shrine Maidens, Kikka and Shikimi, respectively keep the village safe from harm and the Mitama appeased. And of course the strong Tatara makes sure that every blade is honed and every piece of metal turned into a powerful weapon.
It is a simple life, but a good one. In truth, even if we do win the war eventually, I don’t think I’ll ever want to leave my beautiful new home for any other place in the world.
I’ve always subscribed to the belief that no-one should fight alone. In my new life I have seen how important it is to go to battle not only prepared, but in good company.
Slayers are a little like wolves in my eyes. Sometimes wandering alone, but always hunting in packs. It is no lie that they are more dangerous that way.
They organise their hunting parties days before they leave the village. They accept a mission, do their research about the particular Oni they will be chasing down and spend a lot of time in deciding which members of their order are better suited to join them. Imps and Blazing Souls aside, it would be akin to suicide for one of them to rush of against one of the bigger Oni by themselves. The best way to fight, apparently, is in a group of four. That way they can corner the enemy and have a better chance of quickly banishing the demon to oblivion.
Team selection is only part of their preparation; they always carefully choose their weapons too. There are six different types of weapons they use, which mainly do what you’d expect weapons to do: they slash, pierce, and/or bludgeon. The Slayers’ weapons do provide a bigger variety of combinations though, and oftentimes these tireless protectors of mankind will devote a lot of thought on how to upgrade a blade, or what attributes to affix to a spear etc.
Of course, one could argue, these are the tools of their proverbial trade but I think it’s more than that. They really invest a lot, as they should, in keeping their weapons sharp and powerful and their armour strong and resilient (which always keeps the blacksmith busy). It is my belief that this is not only out of self- preservation, but also because of a deep sense of duty to their fellow slayers. If one breaks in the battlefield, then all are endangered.
As we don’t exactly have many slayers to spare these days I think that is a very prudent and admirable approach.
Over the world, all cultures have myths about demons having a taste for souls. As we’ve learned, there is no coincidence in common folk tales. If everyone has a legend about it chances are there is something there.
I’m overcome by a bittersweet laugh now that I know how true that is. Oni do have a taste for souls; most of all for heroic, powerful human souls.
From ancient times until today the essence of warriors, exalted men and heroes has been trapped in monstrous fiends; used to feed their strength and grow their destructive power. So long as an Oni is alive these souls are forced to empower them, but once it is banished and destroyed their prison walls crumble and the Mitama are free to move on.
Only they don’t. Not that you’d expect anything less from heroes.
They are free, and although they have already given their lives, they decide to stay on and help Slayers; Help us.
Much in the same way that Oni use souls to gain strength, Slayers affix them to their weapons and use their help to become more skilful in battle, more agile, luckier, stronger, faster; Better.
In a way it is a little ironic. Bigger Oni might be more difficult to bring down, but the source of their power can be used to fuel our hopes. Banishing them not only removes a threat, but allows us to prepare for battle with even the strongest amongst them.
I’ve heard there are so many souls trapped. I can only imagine the power they hold; power that might just decide to come over to our side when we set it free.
It is an encouraging thought that the past and the present can fight together.
This was our world once. I hope this way it might one day be ours once again.
Not all Oni are the same.
Some are big, some small. Some fly, some crawl, some burrow. Some look like spiders and snakes and birds and some like a sick combination of a few animals pilled together.
We’ve given them names: Manhunter, Chthonian Fiend, Windshredder, Imp, Poisonspitter, Drumble, Blazing Soul, Aurwing; to only name a few of the most horrid ones.
They might look different but they are all deadly. This they have in common.
When I think back to those first days, after the war started, I remember being surprised at the speed and efficiency of the Slayers.
For a Slayer, every strike counts. It’s not a mindless effort to make an enemy succumb under the flurry of their attacks; it’s a carefully calculated series of blows aiming at gradually weakening them before the eventual coup de grace.
To do this they employ more than weapons’ training and precision. Through years of practice and patience, each of them has the ability to see more than regular people can. Their eyes can pierce the cloak of shadows and see the truth. Using this ‘Eye of Truth’ they can decide where to strike. They can tell which parts of an Oni are vulnerable and target those first through a technique called the ‘Destroyer’, for which they harness the power of their own soul and deal a powerful single blow.
It doesn’t end there though. Most of these fiends have the ability to regenerate, so once a part has been severed from their body, it has to be banished from the world with a ‘Purification Ritual’.
After all is done and the Oni is forever banished the source of their power is free.
And a terrible source it is.
There is always something lurking in the shadows.
Every human has felt that primordial fear of darkness, even the bravest amongst us. We were taught it was a
trick of our imagination; an unsubstantiated terror only tolerated in children.
Sadly 8 years ago we discovered how wrong we were.
It started softly, as disasters often do. Monuments and places we thought lost in history found their way in to the
world again, and the thin, delicate veil between time and space warped and distorted.
Then the terror came. Through the cracks they started making the way into our world; terrible demons of infinite
numbers and sizes; the Oni.
Humanity was attacked from all sides.
How were we to know that monsters were real? When creatures of legend walk the earth, what can simple men do but run?
So we run; in vain, as it was so easy for them to find us. Anywhere we hid, they hunted us down.
It was then that some of us were lucky enough to be saved. We didn’t know it, but forever there have been cracks in time, and for over one thousand years there have been those who stand tall to protect us from the demons in the dark. They are called ‘Slayers’.
In scores they banded together for the fight; and in scores they fell. In the end, they opened their secret villages and let all survivors in as war waged between Oni and mankind.
There we still remain. Training to become fighters; helping in the battle that still rages on. Because of them not all hope is yet lost.
There is always something lurking in the shadows; and now we know what.