A serpent In its pious want Would be truer to Heaven Than a Dragon itself - Unnamed servant of Echigo residency
Betwixt the tributaries within nonexistent borders, there lay the village of fog, hidden in the recesses of eroded plains where greenlands and wildlife dwelt in even the barest of rain. Those of the misty plains had no shamans, no priests, no monks but revered those more tangible: They worshipped the love of others, the rain that befell them, the cycle of nature, and one whose existence founded new life: the Imugi of the River.
Though no god, the divine serpent Imugi was, to the plainsfolk, as auspicious as a real deity—or even more so, as his goodwill towards them reflected a companionship that was more than a god to his people.
The Imugi had loved humans as much as he did his own kin and bestowed their rainless land with blessings of the seasons. Not once did he ask for their faith, rather, those who followed the Imugi would come to serve of their own accord. In return, he granted his people and their descendants prosperity in years to come. Their crops shall never lie fallow, their descendants shall never discover disease, and their village shall find permanent shelter from the elements.
The humble Imugi of the River spent many hundreds of years loved by the plainsmen—yet he found base joy in seclusion, studying parchments that he was gifted by many a scholar and missionary who had lost themselves in the plainsmists. Though dated, he spent his private moments writing texts in amalgamated Hanja and Chinese until Hangul spread far enough to be absorbed into his territory, where he had happily adopted modern literacy. It was by this time that the Imugi discovered his love of language and had resolved himself to learn another: one whose origins extended far beyond the homely peninsula of Korea.
His efforts would inevitably come into fruition. In his ninth century, the divine serpent stumbled upon another wanderer—one that was afflicted by terrible wounds. The lost travelswoman had many foreign effects and wore a strange robe: one similar to a hanbok but also not. He, as delicately as an Imugi could, hoisted the traveler onto his back and flew to his village. The Imugi, powerful as he was, did not have the ability to cure wounds, so instead, he requested that his people tend to the woman. They obliged without question, for their divine serpent’s requests were few and deliberate.
On the day following, a grim discovery was made—the wanderer was a Kumiho: A malicious fox-demon that set out to devour the souls of men. Within her golden hair were two fox ears, and from her back were undeniably five fox tails.
The serpent was curious: The wanderer hid them not and instead had her robes proudly demonstrate her tails; even more unusual was that she was missing four of her nine tails that marked her as a Kumiho. Nothing about the Kumiho was ordinary—even her blonde hair was distinct from the silvery-maned foxes that roamed the provinces of Inje. He must know more. In his own scholarly interests, the Imugi reassured the concerned plainsmen that he would watch over her while she recovered so that she could pull no tricks on them.
The Imugi of the River stood ever vigilant over the comatose fox spirit. But it would be many moons before she would fall out of her slumber. In the meantime, the Imugi would regale her with the tales of the plainsmen in the hopes that she was listening. It brought him small comfort that, were she listening, the spirit would be able to relieve her tedium with his stories.
It was not until autumn’s end that the spirit had finally opened her eyes. It was a morning among other mornings for the Imugi: He had since ran out of stories for the Kumiho, so instead he described the days in passing. On that day in particular, he told her of the winter air and how it felt against his grayed scales as he flew across the plains—that was, until she had opened her eyes. They shined, though tinged with weariness, like unpolished amber stones. He cut his words immediately, stopping to stare, mostly in shock, at the fox.
“Dragon. Are you… the one who saved me?” she murmured, though the Imugi took more than a glance’s time to understand what she had said, as it was in full Japanese.
“Yes,” he replied softly in Korean. Many thoughts raced in the serpent’s mind. The first was that he was exuberant that the spirit had survived her ordeal. The second was that she may not have been a Kumiho at all, but rather one of different spiritual descent. The third was—
“Am saved you, fox.”
—that he must swiftly practice his Japanese, lest he look like a foolish Imugi.
Mankind, even amongst the fantastic and insurmountable, proved to acclimate themselves far beyond their prejudice.
Months had passed since the Imugi first chanced upon the fox-spirit. In her early days with the plainsmen, she was met with wary stares, but the humans eventually fostered a taciturn fondness for her after she had proven herself not to be a Kumiho, but rather, a Kitsune. The nuance was lost on the plainsfolk as they hadn’t a clue what a Gi-da-sooneh was, but they were relieved that their fears were left unanswered.
The Imugi had initially thought to shelter the Kitsune until she was fully recovered, but he did not realize how mortal—nor how frail—she truly was. He was not ignorant, no; though in the peaceful eternity that was the plainsmists, it was effortless to abandon the thoughts of fatal affliction as they had no place in his domain. So the fox did reclaim her health but at the cost of her left leg’s use. And though she could walk, her own efforts took her no less than a halves’ distance around the village.
It was one innocuous, spring afternoon when the Imugi asked the Kitsune if she would continue on her travels. She, who held on stoically for many moons, finally broke.
“I have no place to go. Not anymore—and not especially with this shameful leg that can carry me no more than twenty paces. And,” she continued, gripping the hems of her robe tightly, “they would not have me back. I failed them.”
His heart was crushed. The divine serpent, who seldom drew conflict in his incorruptible plains, found deep sympathy for the teary-eyed Kitsune’s struggles even if he could not understand them.
“I carry you far.”
“They presume me, and all those who had disappeared at Ulsan, dead. I believe that’s for the best.”
“What in Ulsan happen?” asked the serpent.
“Horrible things.” The Kitsune, with her eyes, pleaded him not to continue.
He obliged. “You could join me and live in the plainsmists. And you may call these humble grasslands of Seoyang home… if you would have it.”
The Kitsune furrowed her brow. The Imugi had a habit of defaulting back to Korean when his Japanese failed him. But her Korean was as lacking as the Imugi’s Japanese.
“With us, you can home in plains Seoyang,” he reiterated, with the best of his ability, in Japanese.
“Truly?” she asked. “And you would not abandon me?”
“Never. Those of the plains are always under my wing,” he replied, hoping that the Kitsune would understand. She did not. So he sighed and more curtly reiterated: “Wouldn’t.”
“Then… I’ll be under your care.”
And she, who was once lost, had found a home: by the Imugi’s side.
Canto II A tree whose roots lay deep Sways not in the wind And blooms To bear fruit in abundant harvest. With water deep from the spring That never dries from drought Flows towards the river And returns to the sea.
The great, venerable Imugi of the Seoyang plains was reduced to a Kitsune’s walking assistant. He, who rarely took human form, had now chosen to remain as one for matters of convenience—so long as he was escorting the Kitsune by the arm. In his other form, the Imugi’s grayed scales moved to the sides of his neck and flank. Instead, his colors were more exposed by his silver hair and boyish face that was younger than his demeanor. Were it not for his slitted, golden eyes, many outsiders would assume him to be another human.
That was also the case for the Kitsune, who chose to hide her ears and tails. Though prideful, her being mistaken for a Kumiho by wayward travelers served only to dissuade her from exposing her youkai extremities. What remained was a beautiful young woman with regal-golden eyes and matching blonde hair.
Despite her allure, no plainsman or traveler would dare make a move for they would wrongly assume that the fox and the serpent were bound together. One could mistake the Imugi’s watchful gaze for tenderness towards the Kitsune, but his care extended to all those who resided in the plains… the Kitsune was merely its most frequent recipient. And in between the excursions amongst the two, the closeness in their distance all the while, the plainsmen assumed that it was merely a matter of time before the two would lend their hearts for one another.
This was, in part, due to the Kitsune’s efforts. Though the plainsmen revered the Imugi as their manifested deity, she believed that no other had the love that she held for the divine serpent. He gave her deliverance; he, who asked no questions for the fox-spirit in peril, promised her refuge and quickly became her foundation to continue forth. Even after her brief but fiery moments in Ulsan, when she wished that she died in the others’ place, The Kitsune lived. She still struggled to move past the memories of her time, but she would at least try—if only with the Imugi to guide her.
The Imugi, in contrast, lived under simpler desires: to bestow happiness and longevity for his people of the plains, Kitsune included. His care for the woman was initially founded with sympathy, though, unbeknownst to the Imugi himself, his sympathy eventually bore fruit to deeper affections.
It would be years hence when his feelings finally surfaced.
It was the Imugi of Seoyang River’s tenth century—a time of coming for any Imugi, for a divine serpent that remained uncorrupted for a thousand years would receive a blessing from Heaven itself: a yeouiju. It was a divine orb that transformed a lowly serpent into a true Dragon, and one that would grant its owner power far beyond simple manipulation of the elements. It fell from the stars, carried by the winds of dragons, and into the hands of the Imugi—as if fate willed it. The plainsmen called for raucous celebration—one filled with drink and merriment to the newly adorned Dragon.
Were he the past Imugi, it would have been a day as ordinary as any other. He previously had no need for such a power; it would have been wasteful for the Heavens for a blessing that would never manifest.
But his mind immediately moved to the golden-haired Kitsune of Seoyang. He could correct the events of the fateful day that he found her.
But he had to wait until the night finally quieted down. His subjects were joyful, and he understood their glee, but he was also impatient to see the Kitsune—away from all the revelry. Long past dusk, once all the plainsmen had retired for the night, The Dragon called for the fox-spirit and led her away privately.
“What is it, my Imugi?” she said with flushed cheeks. While the Kitsune could hold her liquor, she could not stop it from painting her cheeks with color. “Or, I suppose I should say, ‘My Dragon?’”
The Kitsune spoke in fluent Korean. She learned quickly through the years—more so than the Dragon did in Japanese. His improvements were measurable, but not as much as the fox’s. In some respect, he was jealous of her vast strides in Korean, but he was also proud of her quick acclimation to the plains.
“I am glad this day has finally come.” He reached out his hand. “Please, place your hand on mine.”
Without hesitation, she obliged. The Dragon channeled divine power through the Kitsune, and, unceremoniously, her leg was healed without much effort. She stood up fully straight, a feat that required assistance prior, but looked at the Dragon in shock as she did so.
“Unbelievable. I thought I’d never walk like this again.” She did a jump, gingerly as habits made her do, before laying her once-weak foot back on the ground. “My Imugi, look! Is this not wonderful? I’ve enough strength to stand again!”
“Yes. It is beautiful,” he said, heart swelling. “I could not have asked for better fortune.”
“My Imugi. Thank you. From my very soul, thank you.” The Kitsune, who normally remained ever-composed, embraced him tightly with unreserved emotion and kissed him on the cheek. In her unchecked giddiness, she came to the sobering realization that she had overstepped her boundaries. “Ah. Dragon, forgive me. I was just overcome with happiness, so please forget my mistake. I believe I… went too far.”
“No,” he said slowly with deliberate thought. “I don’t believe you did.”
This would be when the Kitsune would retreat safely to normal conversation. But she felt baseless confidence after the day-long celebration and her restored leg, so, in rare condition, she pressed forward. “My Imugi. I fear I may misunderstand if you tell me that.”
“I do not think you are misunderstanding… unless I am, that is,” the Dragon replied, keeping his composure steady. It was obvious to the guardian of the plains that this Kitsune loved him so, yet his command of his own emotions failed him at that very moment.
“Then…” she paused, hooking an arm around the Dragon’s to lean into him. “Do not let me misunderstand.”
“I would never,” he said, allowing himself to become her support.
Idle days turned idyllic nights as the Dragon and Kitsune of Seoyang spent their moments together.
Gone were the restless nights for the Kitsune, waking in panicked sweat from visions of Ulsan past. Instead, she woke in peace, cradling the Dragon’s arm in routine. From the morning, she would tend to the shrine she had erected in the Dragon’s honor; The Kitsune redistributed the offerings the plainsmen would place at the shrine and dried the shrinewood that grew damp from mist with spare cloth.
There, she would wait for her Dragon to join her. Until dark, they would bless the plainsmen who had come to visit them, and guide travelers who found themselves lost in the mists. They were small preoccupations compared to her tribulations as a divine messenger, but they were happy ones.
The Dragon would frequently take walks together with his Kitsune. Habit dictated his steps, as he would escort her from the left, the side that her lame leg was once, and allowed her to joyfully link arms with him. He knew that the fox-spirit was one to quickly grow lonely and that her physical intimacy was her means of managing it, so he let her cling to him despite his shame.
The two walking together—it was a scene similar to one when they had first acquainted themselves with one another, and yet, different. The Imugi, however polite, kept a civil, emotional aloofness as he extended his arm out to the fox, while the Kitsune held onto his arm from a woman’s distance, remaining courteous and demure during their conversation. Now, whatever distance there was before had closed to none at all.
Perhaps this was her true self: The lonely yet heartfelt Kitsune that swayed the Dragon’s heart so. And, on that day, he came to a realization. But this was no realization of sudden coming, no; this one had realized in the way that the first flower blooms to slow spring: tentatively and meticulously. What had spurred his thoughts to the Kitsune that day? Even the Dragon did not know. But what he did know was that, without her, he would not have found comfort in the most unmeaning of days.
So on that day, as they returned to the shrine, he called for rain. Rain was common in the plains: The Dragon granted the lands the blessing of water to otherwise infertile ground. But he parted the clouds to show to the plainlands new phenomena—a sunshower. In the peninsula far beyond the plains, it was known by many names, but it was most commonly referred to as the “fox rain.”
The Kitsune stared to the skies in wonder, which quickly turned to an embarrassed glance at the Dragon. “Do you know what this is called, my Dragon?”
“Yes,” he said in full confidence. He was about to continue, but he silenced himself. The Kitsune’s shoulders trembled. The vestiges of tears grew at the corner of her eyes but she dared not weep, lest she let her Dragon misunderstand. She jumped straight into his arms and held him close.
“In my homeland,” she said, “they call it the fox’s wedding.”
And, in that time especially so, the Dragon was glad that their cultures had finally intersected.
Mortality was a concept that the Dragon had never fully understood. Longevity was the Dragon’s essence, and seclusion from the world beyond the plainlands served little to further his acknowledgment of such a foreign idea. He knew that every generation of humans would eventually perish, leaving behind their descendants to mourn for them. But he had never recognized the grievances of loss, only accepting wistfully that death, too, was a part of nature’s infinite cycle. Even the Dragon, whose mind was still that of an Imugi’s, felt infinitesimally small, like a star amongst the others in the winter sky, when compared against nature’s grand design.
Holding his own sentiments, the Dragon thought of his Kitsune. How many centuries would she be together in this realm with him? Though graced with youkai life, she was still painfully mortal. He had lived through his life as an Imugi without her, and yet he could not bear the thought of losing her, despite their relatively short time together. Never before had he suffered turbulent emotions as these; the Dragon, however much care he took to remain self-protected within the mist, was finally unnerved.
There was some solace to be found. The fox-spirit would be devastated without him—this much he knew, for he was reminded by her every time he left her side. At the very least, she would never know a life without him, and this brought some semblance of peace to the Dragon’s restless heart. He could not bear imagining a world where she cried in anguish, begging the Heavens for her love to return. Still, it did not quell the storm that brewed in the Dragon’s mind, but he decided that he would ultimately neglect those thoughts.
His neglect, however, was allowed to fester and seeped into the cracks of the Dragon’s resolve, weakening it from within.
It was a fateful day—the Kitsune had received divine prophecy from Inari herself. The clouds of that morning’s sky parted, and a comforting, yet forlorn ray of light shone upon the fox. It was dazzling; she clasped her hands tightly, closing her eyes to bask in the warmth of Inari’s divination. It was easy to forget, but the Kitsune, once a messenger of the divine, still held ties to the Heavens.
So was told: The fox would bear an auspicious child between herself and the Dragon, but she was to die by childbirth. Conflict stirred within the mind of the golden-haired woman—would her Dragon, gentle as he is, be overwhelmed by grief if she told him? She could not imagine him to receive the prophecy graciously, for he did not realize it, but his loneliness mirrored hers. Perhaps that was why they felt each other to be the better half of one another—they felt complete together.
The Kitsune knew. She had always known. She could not dance with Death forever. On the day the Dragon found her, she should have died. Yet the Dragon, in his ignorance, gave her momentary reprieve—one that she knew she did not deserve. But how long would she have deceived herself so that she could spend more time with him? In that way, her destiny was merely retribution for her selfish desires.
Still, she could not tell the Dragon of what was to come. In part, it was again due to her selfishness. But how could she not? How could she face the Dragon and tell him that she must perish for their child? He would torment himself in guilt. How would he look at her afterward? In regret and pity? Never would she tell him as to preserve their moments together in transient joy.
Yet, when that day had come, the Dragon himself felt ominous winds. Dragons all held celestial ties, and premonitions of divine providence would slowly reveal themselves to Dragonkind, Plainsdragon included. There was ill uncertainty that he felt when the Kitsune went into labor, and that feeling only grew in time. Something horrible would happen… that much was obvious, even to the Imugi-minded.
In that time, he prayed. He prayed to the Heavens. He prayed to nature. He prayed to even other Dragons, in the vain hopes that his ill feelings would come to pass. But they did not. And, when the midwife returned holding only his child, his heart sank deep into lamentation. He finally understood: He was left behind.
The plains of Seoyang confronted unceasing rain for ten years. The Dragon, who once flew over the lands every day, was never to be seen. The shrine that the Kitsune had made was left untouched. On occasion, he would visit the village of the plainsmen, and they would always offer solemn thanks, their empathy and compassion for their benefactor apparent. At their circle of prayer in the center of the village, they had also placed an altar of a fox in memoriam of the late Kitsune. But it was not enough. The Dragon knew, no matter what, it would never be enough for him, to no fault of the plainsmen.
Where else, though, could he direct his frustrations and his despair? He had no answer. But it would not be to the plainsmen, and neither would it be to his child. He spent his days doing nothing else but taking care of the whelp, trying his utmost to not remind himself of his Kitsune.
Seoyu was the child’s name, meaning “propitious willow.” It tied her to the lands of the Seoyang as well as the Dragon. She had her father’s features with striking, golden eyes and silvery hair but also had the gentleness of her mother’s face. And unlike her father, her eyes were soft and rounded, which resembled human eyes in appearance. She was a docile child who rarely cried in her early years, and quickly displayed maturity in later years that was deceptive of her age.
The Dragon almost hated Seoyu. He reasoned that, had the Kitsune never given birth, then he may have lived in a world where they were still together. But there was no method to obtain such a reality, and it was not as if this child had wanted her mother to die, so he withheld his anguish. He, who could not give the Kitsune happiness, would instead grant as much of it he could to Seoyu.
Time had no meaning for the Dragon. Though it flowed like a river for others, he stood at its mouth, watching idly as moments, weeks, and then years all trickled away from him. Instead, he fixated on the past: Ulsan. The Dragon took frequent trips there but often returned with nothing gained. The events at Ulsan had happened long ago and during a time where no scribes had recorded the events. It, like the Dragon, was lost to time.
The divine serpent had discarded his draconic title years past. He believed that the Heavens had forsaken him just as they had forsaken his Kitsune. So he referred to himself as the Imugi once again, as if to return to earlier, more ignorant years. But he was an Imugi no more, and his naive, Imugi-like self had disappeared. Casual apathy replaced his polite concern for the subjects of the world, and never did he intrude on others’ matters out of pure compassion.
What remained was his tenacity—he dedicated many years of pursuance to doggedly reveal the truth of Ulsan. Despite his own daughter telling him that nothing would come out of it, he remained resolute… even if he knew that he may never find the closure that he desperately chased for.
His dedication eventually reaped harvest in the form of an unexpected meeting.
A Kitsune had come to find him one day by her own volition. She went into hiding long ago and posed as a normal human, but tales of his travels in Ulsan had traveled far along the stretches of the peninsula. They said that he was looking for a Kumiho, but she had figured that what he was truly looking for in Ulsan was not a Kumiho, but rather, a Kitsune.
The Imugi looked at the disheveled fox. It was a Kitsune, yet it was not his Kitsune. The woman wore a tattered robe that hid her ears perfectly. She had silver hair, slightly matted by rain and dirt, and dark-brown eyes. In short, she was nothing like the one he constantly thought of.
“You… looked for me?” she asked in passable Korean. The Kitsune grew less wary: The man had a protective charm, weak as it was, placed on him by a fellow Japanese fox-spirit. It was a spell of conviction—one that conveyed the love that she had for him. And so long as that spell remained on his person, he was trustworthy to those who follow the Inari.
“Not for you in particular,” he said first in Korean. Then he continued in Japanese. “What I am looking for is a witness—to what had happened to the Kitsune in Ulsan.”
“There is not much to say,” she said, relieved that she could speak in her native tongue. “Why do you wish to know?”
“I had someone dear to me. For a long while, I knew Ulsan tormented her thoughts. I suppose I wish to understand what she had felt during those times.”
The silver-haired fox was in conflict. She was reluctant to divulge divine affairs to the Imugi, but she also knew that the serpent was one of very few who could be trusted in these foreign lands. Relenting, she told him of what had happened.
“We arrived as messengers of Inari. In the hopes of establishing a shrine here, we personally came to these lands.”
“In Korea? Far travels for religious doctrine, wouldn’t you think?”
“We had little option,” she said, darkly. “There was a great war where all sides vied for power and territory. Initially, we had thought that securing an alliance with a war god from Korea would grant us enough power to remain neutral from the war. And it worked—for a time. We had solidified an alliance with the one from Baekdu, the descendant of, ah, Gununsin?”
“The Guningshin,” he said to correct her. He was familiar with the Baekdu War God Hong Seongryo, great descendant of the first Guningshin. The Imugi had heard from his kin that the god was not to be trusted, as his lust for violence could not be sated. However, he did not voice his thoughts and let the Kitsune continue.
“Yes… them. But little did we know, they wished for more than just an alliance. They tried to usurp the power of Inari. We resisted, but we were little in number and in unfamiliar territory. And our refuge in Ulsan quickly turned to flames. Ultimately, the War God of Baekdu failed to take our power, but it had cost the lives of many Kitsune.”
“And what happened to the god?”
“I don’t know,” she admitted. “Last I’ve heard, he swore vengeance against the ones that follow Inari and fled to a realm in Japan. Gensokyo, I believe.”
“I see,” he said. The Imugi, as much as he wished to rush to Gensokyo, bode his time. He wanted certainty. As meticulous he had been many years, he could surely wait a little longer. In unexpected fashion, he asked her, “Do you wish for retribution against him?”
She drew a long breath, furrowing her brows in contemplation. Deeply exhaling, she replied, “I can only hope that he gets what he deserves.”
The Imugi, obtaining what he had wanted, left promptly. The Kitsune missed her chance to tell him about his protective charm; the one who placed the spell on him, she must have been a Kitsune of the ruined Ulsan shrine. The current Kitsune must have known her, once. The silver-haired fox sighed in regret—that one must have loved the serpent deeply for her charm to have lasted this long. Was it fate to lead the Dragon to the warring lands of Ulsan or to bring him to this very moment? She would never know.
The once-Dragon, though slow, was methodical. Upon many months, he embarked on frequent visits to the mountains of Baekdu. There, he would investigate the abrupt disappearance of Hong Seongryo, who had seemed to have vanished into thin air. It was simple enough to be given entry to the war god’s realm—he was, after all, still a divine being. As much as he wanted to discard his title of Dragon, it was not as if he could simply leave behind lineage. And the war god’s people, oblivious to his true pursuits, welcomed the man with open arms.
He was now certain that Hong Seongryo had left to the land of Gensokyo, and it was only a matter of time until the Imugi would follow. He had discovered a piece of tattered parchment in the god’s quarters. Much was rendered illegible, but there was one thing that had stood out: “The Hakurei Shrine” listed in dark, blotted Japanese.
Gensokyo was no secret, even to secluded beings like the Imugi. Every divine being knew of the realm: A Dragon of the highest order had created it, after all. The Dragon of Gensokyo, or more commonly known as the Great Dragon of Water, was shaped by the Heavens to rule over the sea. And the Imugi, who had only the rural plains of Seoyang, was but a droplet in the ocean that the Great Dragon of Water commanded.
It was set. The Imugi of Seoyang would find Hong Seongryo. He started preparations to leave for Gensokyo thereafter.
On the day of his departure, he revealed his intentions to his daughter, who seemed less than enthused.
“Father,” she said sternly. “Do you really believe that what you are doing shall bring your grief to closure? Pursuing Seongryo to a faraway land?”
“It may, and it may not. Regardless of my own interests, I will finally put what had happened at Ulsan to rest.”
“Father,” she said again, though this time with a more earnest voice. “I never knew Mother, so forgive me if this is out of line. But is this truly what Mother would have wanted? To succumb to vengeance?”
“...No,” he said, knowing fully well that his Kitsune would never approve of it. She, like he once did, had only wanted to live in peace together with their loved ones. But that was simply a memory of the past.
“It is not too late to abandon the chase. Father, forget all about that bastard Seongryo and live a happier life.”
“If only that were possible.” The Imugi, however much he wished to forget, could not. His obsession ate away at his thoughts until it consumed his every desire. He needed to find Hong Seongryo, for his own sake. “But I will not be away for long. I shall return soon.”
His daughter sighed. “Then I won’t stop you. And, I do not mean to be rude, Father, but perhaps you should rest after your… business with Seongryo. I have heard the sights in Japan are something to behold, should you look for them. And I believe it would do wonders for you to stop and think about nothing but idle scenery for a while.”
“What about Seoyang?” he asked.
“Do not worry about Seoyang. In your stead, I shall take care of the land. Understand that I am your daughter, so please leave it to me.” With firm resolution, she added, “I will protect our home.”
“Then,” he said, albeit with hesitation, “I shall trust you to do so. Thank you, Seoyu.”
“I won’t disappoint you.” She, against her usual disposition, hugged her father. “Take care.”
The Imugi, not expecting such sudden affection, slowly reciprocated. “Be well.”
>A Dragon of the highest order had created it, after all. The Dragon of Gensokyo, or more commonly known as the Great Dragon of Water, was shaped by the Heavens to rule over the sea. And the Imugi, who had only the rural plains of Seoyang, was but a droplet in the ocean that the Great Dragon of Water commanded. Lunarian disinformation strikes again!
The Imugi did not linger. Though he appreciated his daughter’s sincerity, his mind had already wandered to darker thoughts. What would he do when he found Hong Seongryo? The Dragon’s hands trembled at the very idea. Yet his willingness was mixed with apprehension. He knew, if he did find Hong Seongryo, that his spite would not be so easily remedied.
He traveled to the skies, where the Heavens intersected the Earth, and entered through its divine gate. Gensokyo was a realm of Japan, but he decided to make formal entry from Heaven’s realm. Loudly did he announce his presence to Gensokyo by entering from the divine plane, creating thunder in his wake. The first to greet him was none other than the Dragon of high order itself, the Great Dragon of Water.
Its voice, while gentle in tone, still rumbled through the skies like a violent storm. “A visitor,” its voice boomed, “Many ages have passed since another Dragon has come to my land.”
“I do not mean to intrude, Great Dragon, but I have outstanding business here.” He looked to the Dragon of Gensokyo, whose true self was ethereal and transcended the mortal skies. “I am looking for a god—Hong Seongryo. Do you know if he is here in Gensokyo?”
The Great Dragon paused, shifting idly among the clouds. “I do not,” it said after a moment of deliberation. “Do you remember every leaf you pass upon the mountains?”
“No,” the Imugi replied. He could not understand the Great Dragon—to reduce a descendant of the Gunungshin to a leaf on a hillside was unfathomable.
“Let that be my answer,” it said in acknowledgment. “And your matters with this individual: So long as they do not disrupt the core of Gensokyo, you are free to seek out this ‘Hong Seongryo.’”
“Thank you,” the lesser Dragon said, bowing his head. “I will do so with your permission.”
“Good. Then you may pass freely, Serpent Dragon. I welcome you to my domain.” With its words, it parted the clouds to serve as an entrance to the lands below.
Canto III Those of nature hath shed their scales Moving alongside the river. They fear not the torrent, For it will guide them to life. With water that threatens to end prosperity, They shall begin anew Like leaves upon the spring tree.
He drifted from Heaven, slowly taking in the lands. It was similar to the plains of Seoyang, serene and untouched by the greater world. When he looked over Gensokyo, he was immediately overwhelmed. Now that the Imugi had arrived, a sudden rush of loss and aimlessness overtook him. However premeditated the Dragon’s goals were, they were lacking in motive. Still, he pressed on. Adopting his Draconic form, he landed upon foreign soil.
On the footsteps of the Hakurei Shrine, Komano Aun was sweeping stray leaves off the cobbled road when, unless her eyes deceived her, a Dragon swooped down from the sky and gracefully settled—right next to her. As a self-proclaimed guardian to the Hakurei Shrine, Aun had seen many strange passersby, but she had yet to see a Dragon… until now.
The Imugi was grateful that the first resident of Gensokyo was a familiar sight: Haetae were protectors of good, and to see one at a shrine was an auspicious sight.
“You may relax,” the serpent said, noticing that the haetae has frozen up.
“Dragon!” she howled. “Goodness me, we have a Dragon visiting! Oh gosh, what should I do? Do I need to provide a sacrifice or something?”
Wearily, the Imugi replied, “Settle down, haetae.”
“Okay. I’ll, um, settle down.” The green-haired girl indeed took a long breath to still herself. “But what’s a ‘haetae’?”
“Is that not what you are?”
“I’m a koma-inu,” she said, correcting the serpent.
The Dragon paused to look at the girl. It was no mistake; she was a haetae, and he knew that to be the truth. But she was adamant that she was a koma-inu.
[ ] Out of politeness, he simply referred to her as such. [ ] He attempted to clarify the situation.
The Imugi, while ignorant, was not as slow-witted as to understand the discrepancies. He supposed that they, the haetae, were called koma-inu outside of Korea so, out of politeness, he would simply refer to her as such. However, he could not help himself from clarifying the situation. “I apologize. Where I hail from, I believe that the koma-inu were called haetae. Is it true that your kind are also protectors of divinity?”
“Well, I wouldn’t exactly call myself a protector, but I guess you could equate me to something like that. I’m more of a, um, volunteer protector, of sorts.” She slumped her shoulders in dismay. “Though, in Gensokyo, I’m about as useful as a miniature guard dog. It’s a tough world out here.”
“Nonsense,” the Dragon said, matter-of-fact. “You are a guardian of the righteous. Hang your head up high and be proud of your own merit, as your mere presence bestows those around you happiness and prosperity.”
“I’m not too sure about that, but… thanks anyway. I appreciate the kindness.” In embarrassment, she ran an idle hand through her light-green hair. “So, ah, what brings you here to Gensokyo? I just saw you soar straight in like nobody’s business, and that’s got me all curious.”
“I’m looking for someone. Have you heard of or seen a ‘Hong Seongryo’?”
“Never heard of them. But I think I overheard Reimu—oh, that’s the miko of the shrine we’re at—talking about something happening near Youkai Mountain. Maybe that’s something?”
“Any information is welcome.”
“I could let you know if I hear about anything else. Just stop by the shrine whenever you’re free, um…” she trailed off. “Sorry. What should I address you as, Sir Dragon?”
[ ] He adopted the name of his plains, Seoyang. [ ] He had no name. He was simply an Imugi.
He is the Imugi of Seoyang. That is what he is, therefore that is who he will be. But she may call him Seoyang for short. For if that name spreads in this foreign land; the wretch Hong Seongryo will know his judgement has come.
[X] He adopted the name of his plains, Seoyang. -[X] The Imugi of Seoyang.
Take away the "the" article and it actually sounds like a regular, if antiquated, name; like Mokou's: Imugi of Seoyang That sounds like misunderstandings waiting to happen; especially since japanese doesn't use articles in the first place. Perfect.
Also, if the hanja I found from a cursory DuckDuckGo — 璃目 — are correct, then I guess his 'name' would be rendered something like 'Rimoku' by Japanese pronunciation. Considering there are a few ways 'Seoyang' could be represented, I couldn't guess at that one; the most obvious hanja are, of course, 西洋, but that's kind of dumb as far as a name. If instead we took a random Seoyang 瑞陽 as an example, then the full 'name' 'Imugi of Seoyang' would, based on a wild-assed guess of name readings, become something like 瑞陽璃目 タマアケノリモク Tamaake no Rimoku.
The Imugi was against the thought of the haetae referring to him by title, but he had no name; he was simply an Imugi. Being called ‘Sir Dragon,’ however, did not sit well with him. He did not deserve to be called as such. After much deliberation, he slowly came to terms.
“You may call me Seoyang,” he said to the girl. “Seoyang from the peninsula of Korea.”
“Ah!” she gasped in a moment of realization. “Your Japanese is very good!”
With a halfhearted smile, he replied, “I’ve had much time to practice. But enough of me. What is your name, koma-inu?”
“Pardon my rudeness. I’m Komano Aun.” The lion-dog does a short bow. “A pleasure to be acquainted with you, Sir Seoyang.”
“Likewise.” While the Imugi would prefer not to be addressed as ‘Sir,’ he was certain that he’d only make her feel uncomfortable if he asked her to omit it. He left it to the girl’s judgment. “Now, would you do me a favor and guide me to this ‘Youkai Mountain’? I am still yet unacquainted with these lands.”
“Gladly!” the haetae eagerly said, happy to be of assistance. “Allow me to lead you there.”
>>204977 Rather than picking a kanji that looks similar, you could just pick kanji phonetically. It's what the Japanese did for foreign words in the past. The system is called Man'yougana; it's also what kana evolved from.
>>204965 璃目 for "imugi" seems a bit suspect, since "imugi" is a native morpheme. I see one source that indicates 璃目 as being read "Imok", the name of a specific imugi; the same source gives 蟒 as the "sinograph that represents" the latter species. So maybe something like 瑞楊の蟒, read "Suiyou no Imugi"?
>>204977 "Mitsunagi"; "Tamanagi"; "Mitsuyana"; "Mitsuya"? Nanori ain't really my field. "Suiryuu" would be funny, though.
As promised, the haetae guided the Imugi to the footing of the Youkai Mountain. The path that led through its hills was carved by time and traveler alike. Misguided by the mountain’s name, the Imugi assumed the hillsides to have been crowded by youkai. Instead, he only found quiet as he usually did in the rural wayside. It reminded him of Baekdu, and consequently, Hong Seongryo. The act of simply standing upon the mountains, as he observed the falling leaves from stray trees and the gentle river that flowed down the hills, tested his resolve.
“This is about as far as I can take you. I’d love to travel further, but I can’t be gone from the shrine for too long. But you are always welcome to stop by the Hakurei Shrine, should you want to visit! I’m sure the residing miko would be delighted if you do.”
“I’ll consider it. For the time being, I have matters to tend to, but afterward, I may stop by,” said the Imugi, though more out of politeness than actual intent.
“Please do! It was nice meeting you. And good luck with whatever you’re doing!” Waving goodbye, the haetae departed shortly after.
He was then alone once again. The Dragon of the plains found momentary peace as he traveled the path toward the mountain crest, but it only lasted as long as the road before him. Before long, the way had split into two parts. Though indistinguishable by physical trait, the two paths had major distinctions.
The one northbound had traces of youkai—perhaps a council of birds and beasts, heavily intersecting with one another. The one southbound had traces of humans and divine alike.
[ ] He traveled northbound. [ ] He traveled southbound.
He traveled southbound towards the most obvious path. As he continued into the woodlands, the Imugi tasted blood in the air, faint as it was. He ventured away from the trodden road, guided by the scent of iron. Conflict drew the scene: Trees were felled in the wake of previous violence; the creatures of the lands remained quiet as if in hiding.
He followed where the blood took him. The marks of divinity grew ever stronger, and they converged to a singular point: towards the stairs of a shrine. He flew to the top, and at its peak, was a green-haired girl, idly lying down on top of the donation box. She scrambled to her feet when she noticed the Imugi and dusted off her blue skirt.
“Oh, a visitor! Have you come to pray? Or perhaps donate? Ah, right. Let me introduce myself. I’m the shrine maiden here, Kochiya Sanae.”
“I am Seoyang of Korea.” The Dragon stared at the girl in mild curiosity. While human, she held partial divinity within her soul. Curious as he was, the Dragon dismissed her as irrelevant to his pursuits—she was not the one who smelled of bloodshed.
“Seoyang-of-Korea? Odd name. Reminds me of this one person… her name was kinda like that, too.”
He decided to move on from this girl, who seemed of little use to him. “…Is there anybody else from the shrine I may speak to? I believe they and I have relevant business together.”
“Sure! I think Lady Kanako is still here. Let me go fetch her real quick.”
The girl left the man in wait, running off into the shrine grounds. Immediately after, she was dragged out by a purple-haired woman who, upon sighting the man, shoved Sanae’s head into a bowing position.
“Please pardon her rudeness. She did not realize that she was talking to a Dragon.”
“He’s a Dragon?”
“Hush, Sanae,” the woman said, letting go of the girl’s head. The shrine maiden slowly lifted her face up, sneaking a glance at the Dragon.
The Imugi did not realize he commanded such respect.
[ ] He used this as leverage. [ ] He forgave them, though there was nothing to forgive in the first place.
[X] He forgave them, though there was nothing to forgive in the first place.
As mentioned, he doesn't really consider himself a dragon yet. But also, he is in no way duplicitous or scheming; even if he was these folk did nothing to deserve falsehoods or manipulation. Only the miscreant Hong Seongryo is deserving of his wrath.
For the Imugi, respect was a merit only deserved to those who earned it. To them, he was merely a passing traveler, no more than a stranger to their land. They bowed to show subservience, and, for the divine serpent, this did not sit well with him, for he too was a servant of Nature and Heaven. So he forgave them, though there was nothing to forgive in the first place.
“You need not bow your head to me. I am simply a humble serpent. If anything, reserve your fealty for the Great Dragon of Gensokyo.” During this time, the Dragon observed the woman, who was presumably Kanako. She was undoubtedly a god. But the scent of blood was not on her, no; it traveled deeper into the shrine grounds.
“If you say so! You hear that, Lady Kanako?” Sanae returned to a full stand. “The Dragon himself says we’re cool.”
“Dragon or not, you’re still being incredibly rude.” Kanako slapped the girl upside the head. The goddess shook her head in disappointment. “Again, excuse her. She’s, ah, how should I put it… lacking in sensibility.”
“But you said that common sense is—”
“—not always common in Gensokyo,” the goddess said, finishing the shrine maiden’s sentence for her. “I did not say to disregard it completely.”
“I’m looking for someone. Hong Seongryo.” The Imugi interrupted the two before they could squabble further. “He and I hail from the peninsula of Korea, and we have… matters to settle.”
The goddess remained aloof, though her shoulders tensed at the name. “What business do you have with this ‘Seongryo’ person?”
[ ] The Imugi spoke truthfully: He had been chasing Hong Seongryo for judgment. [ ] The Imugi did not readily reveal matters to those who were not party to it.
[x] The Imugi spoke truthfully: He had been chasing Hong Seongryo for judgment. I don't think being circuitous is going to gain anything. If Kanako's allied with snake-dragon-kun's enemy, then it's best to just set it all out on the table. The alternative is trying to bullshit and probably ending up running afoul of Kanako anyway.
We chose this path the moment we chose to be Seoyang. That name shall be an omen to signal the blackguard Hong Seongryo that his divine punishment is nigh. The declaration will be made; the indictments known.
[X] The Imugi spoke truthfully: He had been chasing Hong Seongryo for judgment.
“Hong Seongryo has committed severe grievances against the followers of Inari. I have been chasing him so that he may receive judgment,” said the Imugi.
“What affiliation do you have with Inari?” the goddess asked, though she could hazard a guess based on the charm that a Kitsune had left on him.
“I’ve no formal association with Inari, but…” He paused in wistful recognition. “Someone I once knew was a divine messenger for one of the shrines in Ulsan, Korea.”
“And you wish to pay him back?”
“He’ll be shown proper retribution for his deeds,” replied the Imugi in vain attempt to mask his own misgivings.
“Then I suppose my hands are tied.” Kanako aired out a sigh. “To be frank, I was losing my mind about this Seongryo debacle in the first place, so you’ve provided me a convenient opportunity to wipe my hands clean of the matter.”
“What matter?” Sanae, who was but air prior, joined the conversation.
Kanako waved a hand dismissively at the shrine maiden. “Matters that you and I shouldn’t think too hardly about, my dear Sanae. Now, go tend to the shrine and keep yourself busy.”
“Fine.” The green-haired girl sulked away, but otherwise did what she was told.
The goddess waited a moment before Sanae was out of earshot, and then she continued their conversation. “I was reluctant to deal with Seongryo personally, since I didn’t want to incur the wrath of the Korean War Gods. But… since you’re here,” she said, nodding in realization, “we could resolve this internally—I’d happily give him to you. That is, so long as you appease the Moriya goddess of this shrine.”
“And what would I have to do?” the Imugi asked.
“Nothing, ideally.” She smiled ambiguously. “I believe your goals overlap with Moriya Suwako, who’s currently holding him custody. Anything you do to the War God, I’ll be none the wiser. And, unless you were planning on pardoning Seongryo, Suwako would not stop you either.”
“The reason being?”
“I’m merely playing accomplice to Suwako, so I have nothing to say. It doesn’t concern me, after all. For the Moriya, however, she has her own personal interests in this affair. See, she is more closely acquainted to Inari than I am, and… let’s say that she has more than just debts to settle. I’ll speak no more than this, though. You may ask her yourself if you are interested in the finer details.”
Kanako directed the Dragon to deep within the shrine grounds. There, Imugi recognized the scent of spilled blood: It was certainly Hong Seongryo’s, however mixed with the smell of earth and clay it was. As he drew closer still to the trail, the traces of divinity grew ever prevalent.
The goddess opened the door to a room laden with charms and talismans. In its center sat a youthful-faced, golden-haired woman, channeling divine energy in her blood-soaked robe. In front of her was a conflicting sight: There lay Hong Seongryo, bound by ethereal chains that were linked to white, snake-like beings. The snakes held residual celestial power, similar to the power emanating from the blond woman, yet the Imugi would not classify them as divine. In recognition and deference, the snakes bowed slightly when the Dragon observed them.
Hong Seongryo was a miserable piece. His dark-brownish hair was matted in blood and dirt, and his once meticulously polished armor was now shattered, broken apart by rust. Due to the weight of the chains, he knelt in half-prostration, struggling to keep himself dignified. This was Hong Seongryo the War God, the one who had slain over a thousand men in a single battle, the deliverer of death, the tide-turner, the very Hong Seongryo of Baekdu.
To think he was so easily defeated. Though, judging by the state of the woman in the room, the Imugi had figured it to be less decisive than he had initially surmised.
“Ah,” the blond woman said, barely turning her face towards the direction of the Imugi. Her voice, while naturally high, echoed throughout the room in a raspy tone. “It seems we have a guest.”
“Surely it isn’t another Korean War God. If it is, then I’d think you’d be stabbing me in the back, Kanako.” The woman was met with a cold stare by the purple-haired goddess. “It was a joke,” she added after she was met with icy reception.
Kanako decided to ignore the woman’s japes altogether. “Be at ease, Suwako. We’ve a Dragon that could settle our problem for us.”
“Settle?” The blond woman stood up. Though lacking in height, she was no less imposing than the goddess who spoke to her. A sharp scowl adorned the woman’s face as she lifted a bloodied sleeve to wipe the sweat off her brow. “Is there anything we need to even settle? I don’t mind killing the bastard who dared to disrespect Inari’s Ukanomitama this instant.”
“That’s because you aren’t this shrine’s god anymore,” Kanako snapped. “You kill him now, and you know that I’m the one who has to deal with the repercussions, right?”
“And you thinking bringing in another Korean is going to magically solve our problems?”
“It just so happens that he was in search of our Hong Seongryo.” The goddess cut off the blond woman’s words before she could speak. “And before you ask, no, they are not on friendly terms.”
“If you were curious,” the Imugi addressed Suwako, “I planned on giving Hong Seongryo what he is owed for his unjust violence against the followers of Inari.”
“And what stake do you have in our business?” The blond swung around, turning her full body to face the Dragon. Her expression darkened as she laid eyes on him and, by extension, the charm placed on him. With a deep sigh, she said, “Well, I suppose more of a stake than my own. My apologies.”
“I’m glad you two can come to speaking terms. Because whatever you two agree on, it is officially none of my business as of this moment.” Kanako nodded as she headed to back to the shrine grounds. “And settle down with the prickliness, Suwako. You’re always like this when it involves matters adjacent to Toyoke.”
“Don’t you dare bring up Toyoke,” Suwako spoke, but she only replied to empty air. “God! ‘Prickliness’ my arse! What I would give to choose her times of silence!” With spiritedness in her eyes that ill fit her current, bloody attire, she gave the Dragon a wry smile. “Nothing I can do, though. And you, Dragon. What can I do for you?”
[ ] He’d allow her to accompany him in his judgment of Hong Seongryo, if she’d like. [ ] Delivering Hong Seongryo to him was all he required. She may leave at her discretion.
By her own admittance is the Imugi's stake in this greater than hers. However, that does not mean she has none. To deny her the justice she seeks herself for the villain Hong Seongryo's misdeeds would be wrongful. Therefore she may join us. If she so wishes, of course.
[X] He’d allow her to accompany him in his judgment of Hong Seongryo, if she’d like.
“You may stay here and be witness. Though,” he said, pausing, “how well versed are you in Korean?”
“I don’t speak a lick of it, sorry. Language isn’t my field of expertise, if you understand.” She waved up a bloody sleeve in emphasis. “Besides, I don’t need to listen to a single thing that lowly beast’ll say. So long as he disappears into the earth…” she said, throwing the incapacitated war god a disdainful stare, “I’d be satisfied regardless.”
The Imugi figured that the goddess would expect such a result. Yet he still had reservations about committing such an act personally. In his mind, he knew that his anguish and directed indignation at the Korean War God was merely adjoined to the true issue that blemished his thoughts. The Imugi wondered. Would he have met his Kitsune, were it not for Ulsan? And would he have been happier, had he not met the Kitsune, only to grieve for her afterward? Would such a chasm in his heart ever fill? The Dragon’s thoughts ate away at him. But he brushed those worries away; today, he would kill Hong Seongryo.
“Then let us begin.” He called to the snake-like beings that bound Hong Seongryo. “Serpents. Release the man.”
The white snakes were confused, being commanded by one other than their master, but ultimately relinquished their hold on the Korean War God, who toppled to the floor. Seongryo bore the weight of his body on his forearms, struggling to keep himself upright.
Suwako eyed the Imugi with concern. “The Mishaguji aren’t yours to control, Dragon.”
“You are still their master,” he replied offhandedly. “Lift your head, Hong Seongryo.”
The god did not reply. He dug his feet into the ground, coughing violently into the floorboards. It was a pitiful sight that was almost deserving of compassion.
The Imugi had little to spare, however. Again, he repeated his words, but now in Korean: “Lift up your head, you bastard descendant of the Gunungshin.”
Even in his mortal stupor, he recognized words from his homeland. Hong Seongryo jerked his head up to see the fabled Imugi of the Misty Plains, who looked none too pleased. There was vicious coldness in his eyes that was unlike the rumors of the gentle serpent.
“Take me back to Baekdu,” the god pleaded, “else I’d be stranded in enemy territory.”
“You do not yet realize, Hong Seongryo, that I am to deliver judgment upon you.”
“For what?” he shouted hoarsely. “Tell me what I did wrong.”
“You lied, went against your own alliance, indiscriminately murdered, and fled from Ulsan to perpetrate violence against Inari’s followers, to sum it up succinctly.”
“And what of it? Do you not agree that it was the perfect opportunity to get back at the Japanese? They were using us—I was merely retaliating before they could exploit us further. You know how shrewd and fiendish they are. Inari was merely the catalyst that could spur war… to our benefit, that is.”
“Jang-gun would be disgusted,” the Imugi said. “To all those you killed in Ulsan… what would he have thought?”
Slowly, the war god came to realize that the Imugi was not here to simply judge him. “Oh. I see. Even a Dragon can be corrupted by the damned Japs. You race traitor. You’d turn your back on your own country. Damn you! I hope the High Heavens makes you suffer in the most gruesome way possible. I pray that you and your descendants shall experience a hell greater than hell itself. You, your descendants, people of this realm, that blond woman, everyone.”
Aware of the god’s growing mania, the blond goddess asked the Imugi: “What did he say?”
Though the Dragon could interpret for the woman, he opted to simplify, if only because he’d rather not relay the words the war god spoke. “He wished damnation upon the two of us.”
“It wouldn’t be the first for me,” she said, returning back to silent watch.
As the Imugi of the Plains, he was not accustomed to such vitriol. Yet the only response he could muster was weak indifference. Every word that Seongryo spat at him, he truly did not care. It was this coldness of his own that terrified him.
“I believe you’ve said enough, Hong Seongryo.” In the end, it did not matter what the war god had said. Regardless of the conversation, there would be no Hong Seongryo afterward. It was merely an act; the Imugi could keep peace of mind after proving to himself that Seongryo was undeniably a target worthy of hatred.
“Then kill me already,” he barked, using his full strength to kneel halfway.
Hong Seongryo, being a mixed descendant of the Gunungshin, was a god of war. But mortal blood ran through his veins, and thus he could easily be killed. Both the war god and the Dragon knew this: Even if he hadn’t been mortally injured by his bout with the blond goddess, he would have still perished under the Dragon’s might.
“May you find peace,” the Imugi said, though, to his own ears, his words rang hollow.
Rain fell, signaling the coming of the Imugi, as he shifted to his true Draconic form. He lay his divine claw upon the war god, and separated the soul from body. The ethereal spirit, now without life, was sent to the High Heavens, where he would find himself in the cycle of life once more.
All was still at the Moriya Shrine. Save for the pattering of rain, quiet filled the air deep within the shrine grounds. The Imugi did not find peace upon laying eyes on the corpse of the war god. Instead, turmoil stirred deep in the Dragon’s heart, but disinterest reigned over his other superficial emotions when he stood beside the body. Hong Seongryo was but emptiness; his mixed-mortal body was then unceremoniously eaten by unending soil. The emptiness reflected the Dragon. He remained in his Draconic form, silently rejecting his own sentiments.
“So? That’s it, then?” said the blond goddess. “He falls over and dies like a weakling, and we move on with our lives? That’s just, so… frustrating. Maybe we weren’t on the same page, but didn’t you want to make him suffer? To overcome him with burden? Because I know that’s what I wanted. Killing that rat immediately left me with the want of something more.”
“Then what would you do after you satisfy yourself with pointless torture? Would that bring back the ones who have passed?” he snapped. “It may bring one temporary joy to watch evil suffer in the same manner it has wrought onto others, but that feeling shall never quell the emptiness in one’s heart.”
“Of course it won’t. But I would be more at peace, knowing that they got what they deserved. The least you could’ve done was to let me slap him until he was an inch away from death.”
“I tire of needless strife.”
“And you think I enjoy almost being beaten to a pulp and walking around caked in dried blood? I was only going to give to him what he has given me.” She motions to her entire bruised body. “If I had the power to bestow endless peace upon the world, we’d already be living in utopia and not swearing recompense to people like that bastard war god.”
“Recompense was indeed paid—with his life. Hong Seongryo had committed unforgivable atrocities against those in Ulsan. For the sake of those who had perished there, and for those who were victim to his schemes, I ended his life so that no more shall follow the same suffering as they did.”
“A noble effort.” Suwako begrudgingly nodded, though through her fatigue, her words sounded more sarcastic than she had intended. “I’m privy to what had happened by way of Inari. But couldn’t you have spared some slack to give him some, ah, comeuppance?”
Expression unchanging, the Dragon replied with a stoic, “No.”
The blond goddess realized that she would not produce any more meaningful conversation with the divine serpent and retreated. “Fine,” she said curtly. “In any case, I’ll be licking my wounds and retiring until tomorrow. Should you be here then, I’d be happy to continue this conversation when I’m… more presentable. For now, good day. And should you require anything, speak to Kanako, the ‘real’ goddess of this shrine, and not me. Thank you.”
And, as she left, so too did the Imugi—to the skies above.
The Dragon soared past the clouds, tracing the border of ethereal stars where no mortal would dare pass. The sky was a grateful barrier to the Imugi—in its vastness, he sought comfort. He basked in the sun’s unchanging glory as he stared below at the world. The Dragon had felled Hong Seongryo that day, and yet, he felt no gratification… only emptiness. He knew his pursuits were baseless, and that they would not fill the void that he so desperately wished to escape from. However temporary, bringing down the war god gave him a reason to continue. What then, after his futile success, could he find meaning in?
In his barest moments of grief, he thought such acute pain was momentary. And it was: His hurt had dulled to a more muted form. It, however, did not disappear. It never disappeared. Instead of his own pain consuming him in one fell swoop, it ate at him slowly like carrion birds to a carcass, and his only choice was but to endure.
How he longed to accept death, just so that he could reunite with his Kitsune, to finally embrace each other once again and be in fulfilled company. The Imugi dreamed of such a circumstance more than he could count.
But he could not disappear. Not while the last vestiges of his Kitsune remained in this world. So long as he still had Seoyu, he would not let her mourn for him, as he did for her mother. For many years, he had let loose his anguish to the world, and still he had no means to pacify it. He fully understood his grief was unreasonable. It was an introspection the Dragon always avoided until he had slain Hong Seongryo, his first act of malintent onto another.
It was change that drove the Dragon to sever the life of another being. The Imugi of Seoyang only appreciated change in small increments—the greatest change of all being his chance encounter with his Kitsune. Since then, constancy dictated the Imugi’s world. Anything greater, and he feared he would ruin the happiness he was blessed with. But the Imugi did not realize at the time that life, much like change, could not be held in permanence. Time was impartial to all. And, as he lived, he, too, was prisoner to time. He, despite his unwillingness, had changed.
The rain ceased, and the clouds parted. For the first time since his Kitsune’s passing, he did not send rain upon the world to demonstrate his anguish. No; simply, he cried.
The Dragon descended below the clouds, returning back to mortal soil. Peace touched the landscape and drew soundless winds that billowed softly past his Draconic self. He rode the current aimlessly, silent as the winds that carried him.
He had much time to think to himself, and, now that Hong Seongryo was no more, he was left roaming the earthly, Gensokyo sky. But there was not much else to ponder—what was done has been already been done, no matter how much deeper the Imugi sank into his own mind. So he remained at his vantage point and watched life from above.
The village of humans was similar to his own, though its influence extended far beyond the humble plains. Whereas the plains was more self-sufficient and contained, the Gensokyo village operated more as a collective—many humans interacted with one another, and trade was common practice in the open streets. It was wholly different from what the Imugi had always known. Curiosity pending, the Imugi flew downward to take a closer look.
This proved to be a miscalculation on his part. When confronted with a Dragon parting the clouds to observe their village, most humans opt to gawk and make a commotion. This was true for the village of Gensokyo, and Seoyang’s idle watch quickly turned to an incident.
[ ] He chose to leave, as to not disturb the residents of the land. [ ] He remained, thinking back to his daughter’s words about sightseeing and whatnot.
MC would probably assume the dragonbro he met earlier hangs out around town sometimes. He probably woulden't know Gensokyo's heavenly dragon just sat around beating his dick and being a homeless NEET during all the major calamities that hit Gensokyo.
[x] He remained, thinking back to his daughter’s words about sightseeing and whatnot.