Koori no Mamono no Monogatari

Story by Sugiura Shiho
Summary by Amparo Bertram

Lie is the charismatic leader of a group of mountain bandits. His specialty is the bow and arrow. Since he became the leader, they have made a name for themselves as the "gentleman bandits" from their courteous treatment of their targets; they steal, but they don't kill. One night, after a successful raid, the bandits are companionably chatting around a campfire when they notice an old man on the ground. They take his money and the map he was carrying, believing it to be a treasure map.

Lie, the son of his father's mistress, had been raised by his father's young wife. Everyone in the village considered her a saint for taking care of the bastard child, but her sweetness was only an act. Although Lie longed for her love and attention, she devoted herself solely to her two sons, treating Lie as an outcast. When Lie grew old enough, and after his father had died, he denounced any claim to his grandfather's fortune and left home. He couldn't stand the way his "mother" always smiled so happily while degrading him. Even now he is constantly visited by nightmares about her.

One day, he was summoned to the family mansion by a messenger. Lie's two half-brothers had both died in an accident. His grandfather, in failing health, wanted to leave half of his fortune to Lie as the only person left with whom he shared blood ties. The mother, who had married into the family for the money, pretended as if she had loved Lie all along and invited him to live in the mansion with her as family. Considering her false smile to be a sign that she was a demon, he grabbed a bow and aimed an arrow at her. Yet even after trying to convince himself that it was okay to kill a demon, he couldn't bring himself to shoot her. The arrow hit the wall next to her.

Lie awakens to find the strange old man casting some kind of spell on him. The man comforts Lie, telling him that the tiny spatial difference between the arrow hitting and missing translated into a huge moral difference inside Lie's heart. Then he smiles and slaps Lie in handcuffs, calling out his reinforcements. He is Archpriest Raugul Shiah Zet, and the other priests under his command have the bandits surrounded.

Raugul had heard about the bandits who didn't kill humans. When he did a little research, he found out that the bandits also made it a habit to get rid of any demons they came across. He reasoned that they were the kind of people who would work well for the temple. Lie grabs Raugul and holds him hostage, giving his men an opportunity to escape. Most of the bandits scatter, but two--Lindou and Kagura--come back. They insist that without Lie the bandit gang would be boring, so they intend to stick with him.

Lie later adds "Raugul" to his name and becomes an Archpriest himself. (The two bandits adopt children at the temple and name them after themselves. Those become the two priests who team up with Ruugis.)

* * *

When Blood first showed up in the north, Nei had been the head demon. Nei was instantly entranced with the beautiful, pure demon and named Blood the leader. The other demons weren't happy at all with the situation, but they weren't strong enough to defeat Nei in combat, let alone Blood. Several of them decide that they will create a demonic creature that they hope will be strong enough to hold Blood so they can kill him. To create the monster, they mix together their own blood along with the blood left on the sword Blood brought with him.

Meanwhile, Nei has fallen head over heels for Blood and dotes on him constantly. When he brings Blood out of his cave to show him off to the other demons, the ones who see him are all awed. Unfortunately, the rebel demons have succeeded in making their monster, but it rages out of their control. Only then do they begin to wonder exactly whose blood had been on Blood's sword and realize that it must have been Kauzel's. Luckily for them, Blood is able to destroy the evil blob with his magic. From that point on, the demons all recognize him as their leader.

Years pass. Blood admits that he had come north in the hope of finding a demon powerful enough to kill him, but Nei can't do it, so Blood just sits around bored. Decades pass, and nothing changes. After over a century has gone by, Nei begins to get irritated, believing Blood to be nothing but an empty doll. When the baby Zaha is brought into the demon pack after having been abandoned by humans, Nei notices that the child tends to smile a lot. It occurs to him that he has never seen Blood truly smile.

A hundred and fifty years after Blood joined them, he is captured by the temple priests and taken away. Nei is furious, at Blood for having been nothing more than an unfeeling doll who found life itself boring, and at himself for being deceived into caring so much. He decides to make a clone of Blood, figuring that, clone or doll, it made little difference. As he does so, he puts all his rage and desperation into a curse: he hopes that, if the real Blood is still alive, that someone will make that poor doll bleed. He curses Blood to feel heartbreak and to shed tears, to burn body and soul with emotion, so that he will finally understand life. Then that beautiful demon will smile at last.

* * *

Eija had a normal family and a normal life on a normal farm...and he found it all deathly boring. Then one day the entire family dies of a plague. Eija, the last one to succumb, agrees to become a demon in order to survive.

Wild is returning to his tower when something grabs his foot. It's the spirit of a person who has died, yet who still refuses to give up on life. For amusement, Wild puts a kekkai around it and gives it the chance to grow into a demon if it really wants to live. When he gets home, the young Rapunzel beamingly announces that a bird brought a present, and that soon Wild will be able to see it.

The next day, Wild notices that the spirit has gotten slightly stronger. It reminds him of himself, when he had been lying on the floor of his house, surrounded by the dead bodies of his family members. He heard a voice asking him if he wanted to live, and that if he did, he would have to give up something in exchange. His life had been terminally boring, and yet he didn't want to die. He agreed to the bargain the voice offered him. He became a demon--in exchange for the flesh of his family.

He comes home to find Rapunzel asleep under the bed along with two flowerpots. A bird had brought two flower seeds, and Rapunzel raised them. The child gives the flowers to Wild, one to express gratitude at everything Wild does, and the other to put on the grave of Wild's family. Wild is reminded of what he had been like back then. At the time, he hadn't a second thought about becoming a demon. He already had the personality of a demon; once he had the body to go with it, he was thrilled that he could live a life of excitement. But now, he has grown accustomed to Rapunzel's sweetness. He finally realizes how comforting it is to have someone welcome him home every day. If he had never met Rapunzel, he would never have realized how good it felt just to hold someone.

Wild goes back to the spirit that he had been raising. He kills it so that it will die before completely losing its humanity and becoming a soulless monster, then plants the flower on the spot where it had been. He decides to go out and pick some more flowers to bring back as a present for Rapunzel.

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