–Toyohime no Mikoto.
At this time, she was the Protector of her people, the 《kegai》, who were being pursued by Yamato.
Later, she would become the master of the heavens where the 8 million gods gather, wielder of the divine power of the sun and responsible for her country’s defense as the founding god of divine Japan, gathering deep faith from far and wide.
Yet that great goddess is, at this time, nothing more than a degenerate, powerless deity.
Her worshipers amount to nothing more than a small tribe of less than a thousand.
But, a short while before she meets a certain young man and her fate begins to change…
Cradled in Imari’s arms, Toyo headed towards the camp’s center, to the side of a blazing bonfire.
“Good morning, Toyohime-sama.”
A young guard, Molbe, turns away from the flames, bowing deeply. He is a youth with a large frame and muscular physique. He was dressed in armour made of red elk’s hide and wore a precious iron sword at his hip. His chest was thick, as were his wrists and ankles.
Anyone looking could see he was blessed with a powerful frame. He was tall enough to stand alongside Imari, but seemed to have twice the mass. Toyo, sliding out of Imari’s arms, gave a weak smile.
“–? Toyohime-sama…is something the matter?”
Looking at Molbe’s dubious expression, head tilted to the side, Toyo fought down her amusement.
“I was just thinking about how big you’ve grown. Just a little while ago, you were nothing more than a child.”
“–I believe it’s just the natural way of things. After all, ten years have passed already since inheriting this sword from my father.”
At Molbe’s formal reply, Imari’s response seemed somewhat sad.
“I can’t believe it’s been that long already. That long, since I came to serve Toyo-sama…”
“I can’t believe how big the two of you have grown since then. I never would have imagined it. At first, it seemed like I was looking after two infants.”
“I don’t recall us having been that young…”
“Oh believe me, when you and Imari first came, I was really out of my element.”
Yes, just like little children.
A Shrine Maiden – a female who defends their god through service; A Guardian – a male who fights to defend their god. Imari’s mother and Molbe’s father died while fulfilling their duty. They died fighting against the troops of Yamato in order to protect their goddess and her people.
They left behind Imari and Molbe, two young children who didn’t know their right from their left. A fast ten years passed since then, and they both became outstanding youths, taking over the work of their parents. Thinking of times long past, Toyo’s chest grew hot.
“Please spare me the rest…”
Molbe said, distraught, to which Toyo responded with a bitter smile, before sitting down on a carpet spread out beside the bonfire. Imari poured the contents of the pot simmering over the fire into a cup, before handing it to Toyo.
It was milk from the red elk, and warm enough for steam to drift up. She tried sipping it, but the cup’s edge was hot and nearly burned her lips. After blowing on it to cool it down, she finally took a drink. The milk was sweet, and smelled faintly of grasses.
The warmth spread from her mouth throughout her body, and she felt strength well up. After draining the cup of milk, Toyo took a deep breath before speaking.
“I feel that battle will come today.”
At those words, Imari and Molbe’s faces grew taught.
“I have already told you the reason I had for coming to this land, to Hakone, yes?”
“Yeah…that we’re seeking a place for you.”
“Uhh, it was to start a village, I think.” Imari searched for the right words before continuing. “To build houses, cultivate the fields and live here forever…either way it’ll become a country.”
“Yes, that is part of it.” The goddess said gently. “If we keep on living in a nomadic fashion, we won’t be able to support the population when it grows. There is a limit to how much food can be produced in a hunter-gatherer society. To tell you the truth, the population is already overcrowded, and while we’re using red elk’s milk to supplement things, it’s approaching the limit, right? So before we fall destitute, we need to secure land and water sources for cultivation. And it needs to be soon. –…Are you following so far?”
“Uh, Uhm, in other words, we’re running out of food, right?”
Imari and Molbe responded, their expressions a bit restless. The goddess looked far away. …Even these two, who were the closest to her among the people, and who sometimes acted on her behalf, were responding this way, so there was no mistaking what the others would say.
In other words, they didn’t understand things very well. The population of a thousand or so was not currently experiencing the crisis they were in. The issue was, they were being taken care of by Toyo’s divine protection–and because of this, the burden of the population on Toyo was not declining, but increasing.
Things had developed into a vicious cycle. And nobody among the people was aware of it. …It wasn’t like they were foolish though. Understanding how to move the population, and secure a labour force. Calculating the food consumption of the total population, recognizing how to predict food shortages and seeking a means to solve it –Basically, this was politics. It was natural that they not think of it, as it was a god’s duty.
“…It’s fine.” Sighing, the goddess shook her head. “Anyway, I need this land. But…within Hakone live things that were here before us.”
“Um…you’re talking about the 《demons》, right?”
At Imari’s words, Toyo nodded her head.
They were a race of humanoid beings that were said to prefer living in the fire-spewing mountains. Horns grew on their heads, their skin was dark, they had claws like beasts and were said to drink flame and eat iron. It seems that in the past they used to live in the west, but even for someone as long-lived as Toyo, she had never seen them before.
Ages ago there were tales of them having migrated east, but it wasn’t definite.
Even so, stories relating the strength and terror of their higher-beings were still passed down.
They were incomparable with those beasts that developed over time or spirits who could do no more than make sounds. To a certain degree, they were a kind of Mononoke on par with a deity.
“There’s no avoiding contact with them if we’re going to be living in this land.”
“In other words, by battle you mean subjugating those creatures? To show this land should be Toyohime-sama’s; a display of your majesty?”
“Not exactly.” With a bitter smile, the goddess denied Molbe’s guess. “It’s nothing as barbaric as annihilating or chasing them away. I don’t like doing things that way anyway, and besides, they live in the mountains, and we want the plains.”
…Well, even if we tried to challenge them with all our might, it would be us who were annihilated. The goddess swallowed those thoughts without speaking them, before continuing.
“I’m planning on working together with them.”
“Working together…with those 《demons》!?”
“Yes. That’s exactly right. This higher class of Mononoke are far more intelligent, and stronger, than humans. 《Demons》 especially have the capability of speech, live in groups and have a humanoid form. I think it’s possible to communicate.”
“B, but, to what end!?”
“To resist Yamato.” Clenching her fists, the goddess responded. “–Yamato is still working on conquering the east. In order to force them back, we need to be building our strength.
This is the same for the 《demons》. It’s not the time to be fighting amongst ourselves.”
I don’t want to lose anything ever again.
Toyo was aware of her helplessness.
Though they were of the same kind, Toyo had come to know how she was nothing more than a leaf that could be blown away by the gods of Yamato. Right now, her people raised red elks, hunted beasts and gathered fruits from the trees. But in the past, they had built and settled in houses, cultivated farmland and lived as an agricultural society.
Theirs had been a population of 300 thousand, and shrine maidens like Imari had numbered a thousand. They had been a great country, influential among their neighbours. …But all those who knew of these times were gone now. All of her people now lived wandering the wilderness as though it were natural.
Even so, Toyo remembered. There was no forgetting it, the past glory, the lost splendour, the stolen lands–. Thinking of them…she saw herself now as wretched. That’s why she didn’t want to lose anything else. In order to protect what she has now, she’d do anything. No matter what.
《Demons》 weren’t the only ones. She would plant roots here in Hakone, grow her people, and eventually assimilate the surrounding settlements and Mononoke under her care…!
“In short, this is a step to take before battle–a battle of words.”
It goes without saying that they wouldn’t be taken seriously if they weren’t prepared to fight from the outset. In order to talk, in order to negotiate as equals, they needed to show their strength. To that end, she needed Imari and Molbe to fight for her. …But, even so.
“Allying with the 《demons》, founding a country in this land, and preparing for Yamato’s invasion of the east.”
The young goddess clenched her small fists as she spoke.
This was the plan she had devised–It was the only way to protect her people.
“This battle will be the first step.”
I’m a few days late, as I was planning on having this chapter out by Sunday. A few things came up, and I decided to start processing the text differently, so I could translate in a way that will make it easier for me to get “parallel” sentence data when I’m finished, for the machine translation system I’m working on.
Anyway, I hoped you enjoyed it, and keep looking forward to more 🙂
I plan on doing another equal-length segment, before finally returning to “Aiming to Be an Orc Gentleman” for a few updates there.
I also want to thank all those supporting me on Patreon and those who gave donations via Paypal. I’ll be updating the credits page soon.