Before he became the half-demon Naraku, before he ever laid an eye on Kikyo, he was simply the wild-thief Onigumo. This is the untold story of his downfall. [Winner 3rd Place Best Original Characte...
Sins of the Brother
Ever since he was a child, Osamu had found his older brother's eyes unsettling, but it wasn't until his lungs rasped with their last breaths that he realized what it was about them that unnerved him so: Unlike the eyes of other mortals, Onigumo's had never held any remorse.
Once, when the brothers were but young boys, Osamu watched Onigumo catch a harmless fly that was buzzing about his head. And as Onigumo observed the helpless insect in his grasp, a strange gleam came into his eyes. The fly had been bothering him, annoying him, and now it was completely at his mercy. And without a word, he pulled the fly's wings from its back. It was the first time the brothers had seen a creature hurt so, and Osamu could not stand the sight of the poor deformed thing crawling around afterwards, never to fly again, doomed to die a slow, grueling death. But Onigumo saw the creature's pain, and knew that he had caused it, and felt a strange sort of power then. And once the deed was done-once the line was crossed-and he knew pleasure from the act, Onigumo had no reason to hesitate doing it again. And afterwards, whenever his hands twitched in idleness, Onigumo would occupy them by tormenting some creature smaller and weaker than he, with an eerie smile plastered on his face.
But Osamu was not like his brother Onigumo, and the passing years did little to alter their differences. And where Onigumo became a wild-thief, roaming the woods alone and preying upon the weak where he met them, Osamu was a meek man who led an honest life, and had a young daughter named Takara.
Their lives had led them in such different directions that it was many years since the brothers had seen each other when Osamu heard a noise in his home late one night. Quietly he got up to investigate, and walking stealthily into the next room, he discovered a man, his face hidden in the shadows, dressed all in black and rummaging through his finest silks.
Osamu gulped, but knew he had to get rid of the thief, and so he gathered up his courage and tried to make his voice sound as intimidating as possible. "Oi, you th-there! What do you think you're doing?"
And upon hearing this, the stranger's shoulders heaved as though he were laughing silently to himself. "Now, now, where are your manners? It's been so long. Aren't you happy to see me . . . little brother?" The intruder turned around to face him, and Osamu gasped.
"You remember me. I'm flattered." And he gave him a smile so cold and malicious that it left Osamu momentarily unnerved. But when he found his voice again, he asked, "What are you doing here?"
And feigning offense, Onigumo replied, "Why I've come to visit my baby brother, of course." And the smile dropped from his face, but the maliciousness remained. "And to see how you've been taking care of my house these past years."
Osamu frowned. "So that's how it is, is it? One would hope time would have taught you reason."
"Oh don't act all high and mighty to me, little brother. You know as well as I that my claim to this land is valid. I am after all the eldest son. You are as na-ve as you ever were if you thought I'd forgiven you for poisoning Father's mind against me on his deathbed. His possessions should have passed to me!"
But Onigumo's ravings only served to embolden his younger brother. "You're a drunken lout and you would have brought this farm to ruin, and I would not allow you to squander away all that our father worked so hard for-"
Onigumo growled, his eyes flashing red as he approached Osamu menacingly. "You sit comfortably upon the lap of luxury away from the cruelties of the world. And here I am, braving the harsh outdoors, struggling day by day as a poor beggar."
/You're no beggar/, Osamu thought, and wondered how he could get rid of his brother. Obviously in his travels he'd found himself in the area, gotten a bit drunk, and decided to come over and bring up perceived grievances of years past. Already he was yelling loud enough to wake up Takara and scare her, and it would only get worse if he started to fight, which it appeared he wanted to do. How could Osamu find a way to placate him?
"I'll tell you what, Onigumo. Since you feel so wronged, I'll make you a deal. Take anything of value that you like from my home, and leave."
Onigumo stopped, and laughed. "Now, now, I could do that anyway, little brother. You'll have to do better than that." And he leered at Osamu threateningly, and in Osamu's haste to end the confrontation peaceably, he made a rash decision.
"Fine then, how about this? Let you take three payments from me in retribution. You come back every year, for two more years, on this day, and take whatever you deem most valuable in my home. That way my success is your success. If I have a good crop that year, and so am able to afford finer things, then the benefit is all yours, and you will leave me behind as if I'd had no success at all."
And Onigumo liked the idea of taking his brother's wealth away repeatedly, and knew that Osamu was not the type of man to back down from an agreement.
"All right, little brother, you have yourself a deal." And he took Osamu's hand into his own greasy grip, and shook it.
So Onigumo turned back to his thieving, and stowed Osamu's greatest silks in his tattered old pack. "Consider this your first payment to me, little brother."
And as he made off with the loot, Osamu realized that he had been foolish indeed to invite this creature back into his home for two more years. That would not solve the problems between him and his brother; it would only serve to make Onigumo feel bolder and more entitled. Momentarily Osamu wished that he could stop his brother right here and right now, but there was no way. Onigumo was the bigger of the two, and would surely best him in a fight. But Osamu looked upon Onigumo and felt a small amount of pity grace his heart, even now as he was robbing him, for although Onigumo had always been a handsome man, he was a wretched sight to behold now. Years of living on the run had left him looking rather gaunt, giving his face a skeletal appearance. His eyes had a wild look about them, his knotted, disheveled hair stuck out like tree branches, and the clothes he wore were filthy and ragged and reeked of alcohol. Perhaps there was a better way to mend the rift between them.
Osamu sighed, and rubbed his forehead, and spoke in a calmer voice, the anger having seeped out of him like blood from an open wound. "Onigumo-Brother-wait. I'll make you the same offer I made you ten years ago. Abandon your sordid lifestyle, and come and work for me. I'll help get you back on your feet."
And Onigumo turned around slowly, as though he were considering the rationality of Osamu's words. "My dear little brother, I'll give you the same answer I gave you ten years ago . . ." And he slid his thumb between his index and middle fingers.
Osamu shielded his eyes in disgust from the rude gesture. "Fine. Just go then." He should have known it was hopeless. His brother could not turn back from the path he had traveled.
Onigumo smiled cruelly. "Don't forget our bargain, little brother. I'll be back next year," and he left with an ugly gleam in his eyes.
Life went on as usual for Osamu after that and he tried to purge the nasty meeting from his memory. After all, the life of a wild-thief like Onigumo's was uncertain. Who even knew if his travels would ever bring back him this way again? Or what if the morning after their meeting when he had sobered up, Onigumo simply forgot about the events of the night before? Osamu thought of a dozen reasons why Onigumo would not return, until he convinced himself that he would never see his brother again. And he was preoccupied that year with his farm, and with watching Takara as she grew up, and perhaps out of some subconscious desire to be happy, he forgot about his deal with Onigumo.
Osamu was a hard-working farmer, and luck seemed to be on his side that year. The weather was favorable, and he had a plentiful harvest. And so he reaped the benefits, and used his profits to buy an exquisite set of dishware to replace the old set he had that was worn and chipped. And Takara loved to trace the flowery pattern on the dishes with her fingers, the intricate designs delighting her so.
But a year passed, and Osamu found himself once again woken up in the dead of night by strange sounds in his home. And this time when he got up to investigate, he discovered Onigumo rummaging about casually in the kitchen as though it were his very own.
And furious to see Onigumo return and acting so entitled, Osamu forgot his meekness for the moment, and walked right up behind his brother and put a callous hand on his back. But suddenly Onigumo lunged at him, brandishing a crooked knife in his face, and before Osamu knew it, his brother had him subdued with the dagger at his throat. Their faces were pressed so close together that Osamu could smell the sake on Onigumo's hot breath, and feel the spit coming from his mouth as he spoke. "Have your forgotten our bargain, little brother? Do you think to stop me?"
Osamu tensed, wide-eyed, hardly daring to breathe let alone move for fear of the blade at his neck. But despite himself, a whimper escaped his lips.
"Hah," Onigumo spat and threw him to the ground, walking away as Osamu landed on his knees. "As weak and cowardly as ever. That's what I thought. You're nothing to me, little brother. You're no more than a bug to squash beneath my feet."
And as though to illustrate his point, he motioned toward a nesting spider sitting nearby in a dusty corner, and then to Osamu's disgust, rammed his dagger swiftly through its bloated black body. Its guts oozed out from beneath the blade, and Onigumo proceeded to pluck each of its long, spindly legs from its body, slowly and one-by-one, a disturbing gleam in his eyes, until the helpless thing lay as though paralyzed, unable to move yet somehow still alive.
Osamu watched in horror, and when it was done he looked with revulsion into his brother's glassy eyes. "You're depraved."
Onigumo smiled, a fierce macabre grin, his twisted face looking skeletal in the dim moonlight. "Consider yourself lucky, little brother. It could have been you."
And without another word, Onigumo made to leave the house, shouldering his pack. "What a fine set of dishware I see you've come into this past year. I'll get a good price for it." And Osamu stood there sweating, feebly, his heart sinking, not for his own loss, but because he dreaded seeing the sorrowful look on Takara's face when she learned that the lovely dishware was gone.
Just one more year/, Osamu thought, /Just one more year, and Onigumo will be out of my life forever.
And so, this time Osamu relished the day that Onigumo would return, for he knew that then the ugly business would be over and done with for good. But luck was not on his side that year. A drought struck the land, and his crops fell to ruin. Osamu had to rely on his meager savings, and even sell some of his possessions, in order to get by. He could afford no new finery that year.
And so, when the allotted time came and Onigumo returned and searched the house for what he would deem the most valuable object, he found only scanty offerings. And with each room he searched he became angrier and angrier, convinced that Osamu was hiding some secret treasure from him.
"There's one room left I haven't checked," Onigumo growled and made to go inside it. But Osamu ran and blocked the way from him. "You can't go in there. That's my daughter's room. There's nothing in there you'd want."
"I'll be the judge of that," and pushing Osamu aside, Onigumo thrust his way into the room. But it was even barer than the others, practically empty except for a fireplace in the corner, lit and revealing a young girl lying asleep on the floor.
"Don't wake her," Osamu pleaded in a whisper. "Just take something and go."
Onigumo frowned, his forehead creasing, deliberating within himself what was the most valuable item he could take, what loss would hurt his brother the most. Finally, a gruesome smile came over his face. "All right, little brother, I've decided. I'll take but one treasure from you, and then you'll never hear from me again."
Inwardly, Osamu breathed a sigh of relief. "Thank you. Now go."
And suddenly Onigumo yanked Takara up off the floor by her hair, and slung her across his back, while she screamed, startled awake.
Osamu yelled, "What are you doing?!" But Onigumo only grinned wider.
"Why, I'm upholding my end of the bargain and taking the most valuable thing in your home, of course. Obviously you have no material goods I can get a good price for, so instead I shall take your daughter and sell her as an indentured servant. That should do nicely."
"Papa! Papa! Help! Help!" Takara cried over and over again, thrashing about on Onigumo's back, trying to get loose, while Onigumo sneered.
"Quit your squalling and stay still, you little bitch!" And Onigumo slapped her hard upside the face.
And in that instant, Osamu saw red, and some base instinct lying hidden and dormant inside of him to protect his flesh and blood rose up like water boiling over, and for the first time in his life, he lashed out against his brother and wrestled him to the ground.
And as soon as Takara got free, Osamu yelled to her to run to the village and get help, and the little girl hurried as fast as her scrawny legs would carry her. /If only I can hold off Onigumo till help arrives/, Osamu thought, struggling against his brother.
But the only thing Osamu had going for him was the element of surprise, and that soon wore off. Onigumo had not expected his cowardly brother to attack him like that. The two of them were locked together, tearing at each other like animals in front of the fireplace, which colored their bodies a hellish orange-red. But no sooner had Takara left the house than Onigumo gained the upper hand. He gave a striking blow to the side of Osamu's head that left him half-unconscious. And with his brother lying limp and beaten underneath him, Onigumo began to laugh. He licked his lips hungrily, savoring his brother's blood upon them, and it tasted sweet.
And with his brother helpless before him, Onigumo had the time to draw his dagger out and hold it in front of Osamu's bloodied face. "I could kill you now with but one stroke of my hand . . ." but then, to Osamu's great surprise, he threw the dagger away and it skidded across the floor to the other side of the room, out of reach. A small glimmer of hope flickered across Osamu's eyes, thinking that his brother had decided to take mercy on him.
But then a truly savage smile crossed Onigumo's face. "But I'd rather kill you with my own bare hands!" And he gripped Osamu's neck tightly, his nails digging into the other's skin like claws, while Osamu choked and gagged, helpless beneath him. This was the greatest moment of Onigumo's life; this was a vengeance better than any he had ever felt before. His hands surged with power built from a lifetime of hate and jealousy as he strangled his weak, despicable brother.
And while Osamu felt the life dripping out of him, Onigumo bared his teeth in delight, laughing viciously. "How foolish you were, little brother. You should have just upheld our bargain. At least then you'd have your life. Now I can kill you, and just as easily go after your daughter when I'm done."
And at those words, Osamu's slowing heart found a moment of strength again. He would never, ever let harm come to Takara, no matter what. And with his last breath, right before his life slipped fully away, he kicked out at Onigumo with the last of his strength.
But Osamu's body was too weak to hurt Onigumo with that final blow. The only harm it did was force Onigumo to stumble back a bit. Already Onigumo was beginning to laugh at his brother's feeble attempt when suddenly his foot found an unfortunate groove in the flooring and, arms flailing, he fell backwards into the fire.
And the last thing Osamu saw was Onigumo running for his life, howling unintelligibly in an inhuman voice, his entire body engulfed in flame, the fire ravaging away hungrily at his alcohol-soaked clothes. But somehow, through the flames, Osamu saw clearly his brother's eyes, burning mad with fury, and finally he understood that Onigumo had never known in his whole life remorse.
It was days later when the village priestess Kikyo came across the body while she was walking through the woods on patrol. She was tired after working all week to find a suitable foster family for the little girl who had come running to her crying for help. When the girl led her back to her home, her father was already dead. The image of his lifeless body had been haunting Kikyo's thoughts all week, and at first she thought she was imagining him when she noticed the corpse lying in the woods. But as she got closer to the body, she realized it was no mere vision; and it was a horrible sight indeed. The corpse was blackened and charred, its clothes all burned away. Kikyo knelt down beside it, and gasped as she examined its mangled, distorted face. Its one remaining eye was still moving, zigzagging wildly as though trying desperately to get her attention. This man was alive!
She brought him to a cave where he would be safe from the elements, and bandaged his scarred body, and fed him, for he had been slowly starving since he fell to ruin. But no matter how much she treated him, she could not cure him fully. He had been damaged too deeply, and would never regain the use of his limbs. All she could do was try to make him as comfortable as possible until his life gave way.
Often as she tended him, she wondered how he had come to be that way, and why Fate chose to spare the life of a man who had come so close to death. What purpose did he have left to serve in this world?
And Onigumo looked up at the beautiful priestess who tended him, and he thought of his brother, and how easy it had been to kill him, and how wonderful it felt to grip his throat between his hands.
And Kikyo looked down upon the wild-thief, and wondered why the look in his eyes unsettled her so.
Author's Note: Osamu means "law abiding" and Takara means "treasure".