The Enchantress Princess and the Mysterious Child
by Massimo Soumaré
Translated by Toshiya Kamei
That night, the full moon was veiled by clouds whose contours were tinged with a milky hue. A small, solitary figure advanced in the middle of a clearing while the grim howls of forest animals echoed through the air.
It was a young woman.
An air of dark sadness hovered about her.
She had long, raven hair, now disheveled, a pale face, and soft, ruby lips. Her attire indicated high lineage—and indeed she was a princess—but it was soiled and frayed in several places. If she had worn makeup and put on clean clothes, she would have undoubtedly been beautiful. What made her ugly, more than her shabby appearance, was the sinister flame of an inextinguishable hatred that burned in her soul and reverberated in her jet-black eyes.
She was a survivor of the great Taira clan, defeated by the imperial forces of the capital, Kyoto. She had lost her beloved father, her family, and all her possessions. Almost overwhelmed with grief, she had finally learned the subtle art of enchanting yōkai, supernatural creatures that populated the Land of the Rising Sun, and had sworn vengeance on her adversaries. They too would suffer the same fate! With her spells she had terrified the enemy warriors who, one by one, had fallen before her.
Just that evening she was about to face the powerful wizard Ōya no Chūjō Mitsukuni.
She gritted her teeth.
“I’ll defeat him, too!” she murmured, as if to encourage herself, because that man, truth be told, frightened even her.
It happened at that moment. A single beam of blinding light flashed before her.
Princess Takiyasha immediately extended her arm before her eyes to protect herself, expecting a surprise attack from her enemy. After that, she prepared to invoke one of her monsters to defend her.
What she saw left her amazed.
She didn’t finish her spell.
A boy of about ten years was looking at her, smiling. His complexion was radiant, exuding luminosity like the moon, and he had full cheeks. He wore simple clothes. The woman noticed that he had no upper right canine tooth. In its place there was a small empty space in a row of teeth as white as ivory. Takiyasha sensed right away that he wasn’t a normal human being, but she was equally certain that he wasn’t even a yōkai.
Maybe he was a god?
“Hail to you, Princess Takiyasha!”
The boy knew her name. And knowing someone’s name meant having power over them because words contained great strength.
“Who are you?” asked the princess, trying to gain control over him.
“Of course I won’t tell you!” The boy stuck his tongue out at her. He was too shrewd to fall into a simple trap like that.
The young woman wasn’t intimidated.
“Get out of my way! An important challenge awaits me tonight!”
“What if I didn’t?” he teased her.
“I’ll eliminate you without mercy!”
The child let out a scoffing hiss.
“I’m serious!” Takiyasha insisted in the most ruthless tone she could manage.
“Ooh! So show me you really are a wicked woman and kill me here and now. C’mon! What are you waiting for?”
The princess, in response to that blatant challenge, moved her hands, tracing magical signs in the air, ready to hurl a spell at him. But then, suddenly, she broke off without completing it. Her arms fell inert at her sides.
“I can’t harm an innocent child,” she admitted in a whisper.
“What if I told you I’m a member of the imperial forces?”
For a moment, a terrible expression clouded the princess’s face, but that too soon vanished. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t bring herself to turn her rage against a child—not even if he was one of those she hated more than anything else.
She shook her head in denial.
“I knew it. I’ve watched you from above at night for a long time. You know something, Takiyasha? You’re not cut out for revenge. Deep down, you’re too nice. Look for some other way of life that suits you and makes you happy. Because we’ll never meet again, I’ll give you a prediction as a parting gift. If you fight tonight, you’ll lose! You’d better run away.”
Takiyasha examined him intently. She realized that he was telling the truth.
“Thank you. But I won’t run away. Perhaps, as you say, there’s still good in me, but it’s also true that I’ve committed many wicked acts. If I walked away from this battle, I could never, even if I wanted to, redeem my violent past,” she replied in a calm voice.
The boy vanished into thin air just as he had appeared. Hearing the princess’s answer, he had formed on his face an expression that was a mixture of melancholy and joy.
The gleams of countless fireflies swirled about the young woman.
She hadn’t done so for a long time, not since she was still called Satsuki-hime, or Princess May, and played, as a happy child, on her father’s lap. She was the daughter of the great warrior Taira no Masakado, who had anointed himself New Emperor.
The clouds were completely gone, the stars shone bright, and the moon embraced her with its warm welcoming beams.
She clenched her fists and then released them.
She sighed. It felt as if a great weight had been lifted off her shoulders.
She raised her face, now wonderful, to the sky.
“If I’m destined to fall by the hands of Mitsukuni, maybe that’s not so bad…”
The following stories tell that Takiyasha fought bravely against that wizard-warrior familiar with the ancient magic of yin and yang, and that in the end, before she succumbed, she repented of the evil deeds she had committed, leaving this world serenely. Nevertheless, you now know that in reality what defeated the darkness in her heart wasn’t Ōya no Chūjō Mitsukuni, but rather the princess herself, with the help of a mysterious luminous child.
Ultimately, she herself had determined her own fate.
Because even in defeat, there can be the most brilliant victory.
Yes, although Takiyasha lost that day, she conquered her own wickedness and thus regained the goodness of her heart at the same time.