This is a treatment I wrote up for a personal take on the Japanese legend of Momotaru, the Peach Boy who expelled the Oni from Japan.

The Japan we know is a juggernaut of concrete spires a-glow with neon sigils, a bustling center of technology and fashion that the rest of the world claws and struggles to keep up with, but this was not always so. In times long past, man did not enjoy unchecked hegemony over the land, he struggled and fought against primal forces that stalked the land in fantastical shapes; animals, demons, ogres, and even some forms that defied description of the written word. There was a time in history, long buried under shame and embarrassment to be forgotten when the great nation of Japan was dominated by these forces, the shogun’s very castle occupied by marauding oni who swam from their island to Edo in search of conquest and sport.

The shogun’s men fought valiantly but were swiftly crushed, as many as a dozen falling at once to the mighty beasts’ kanabos. Within a fortnight the army was routed and the oni descended on the shogun’s castle which they transformed into their personal den of iniquity after murdering the shogun, ravaging his wife, and imprisoning her in the dungeon below.

Unknown to the oni, the shogun’s wife was impregnated. Whenever the oni passed out in drunken torpor, her former servants attended to her, and on one such night they delivered her baby son, whom they concealed in a giant peach imported from the oni’s island. The baby was then secreted over the castle wall and floated down the river, hopefully to find a better life.

The next morning, an aging woman out in the country side was doing her wash, when she saw the peach floating down the river. Amazed at the sight, she waded out to retrieve it and brought it home to her husband. Once inside, they heard the baby boy crying and opened the peach to find him concealed inside. They named him Momotaru as an homage to his origin and raised him as their own.

Momotaru grew up to be an incredibly strong and hard working young man, who did the work of four men out in his parents’ small rice paddy, which he was able to extend to the largest in the prefecture through hard work and accumulation of wealth. Unknown to Momotaru was the fact that his parents were forced to pay a hefty tribute to the occupying oni. He was kept out working in the paddies whenever the oni came, as his parents knew he would never bow to such creatures no matter how troublesome the results could prove to be until one morning when his father had fallen ill and he was left to tend the household.

When the oni came around to collect his regular tribute of rice and coin, Momotaru slew the beast with his bare hands and took it’s kanabo for his own, slinging it to his waist from a sash. When his mother chastised him for his actions and declared that more oni would surely follow, Momotaru told his mother to make him enough millet dumplings to last him on a trip to Edo, as he planned to travel there to overthrow the oni once and for all.

On the morning of his departure, Momotaru was met by a dog who began to follow him. When he questioned the dog, she answered that her pups had been eaten by the oni, and for the price of one of his dumplings, she would sniff out any oni hiding along the way for him. Momotaru agreed and they traveled on until they met a pheasant who called to them from the air. She begged for help, her eggs were being stolen by a marauding oni looking for a treat. The trio were too late to save the eggs, but Momotaru and the dog struck down the oni and killed it.

He then offered the inconsolable bird one of his dumplings if she would scout the path ahead from the air for oni riding out to meet their advance, and she agreed. The trio continued on until nightfall when they came upon a village, where they stayed the night at the inn. In the morning, they were woken by the local yakuza and the village elders, who had already heard about Momotaru’s feats in battle against the oni.

They begged him to find and apprehend a scurrilous monkey who had robbed them of what little riches the oni had left them with, and Momotaru agreed on the condition that in return he could take the young woman of his choosing as his wife in return. The men hastily agreed, and so the trio set off in search of the monkey, whom they pursued to a cave in the foothills of mountains not far from the town.

Cornered, the monkey pleaded for his life. He offered his services in stealth to help them defeat the oni in exchange for his life and one of Momotaru’s millet dumplings. The foursome then returned to the village along with the stolen goods, where Momotaru was faced with the decision of choosing a wife. He told the women to go home and bake him a batch of millet dumplings. Whoever baked the best, he would marry.

And so Momotaru, his new wife, and the animals all depart for the final leg of their journey. They stop on the outskirts of Edo and wait for the pheasant to see what they’re up against. The pheasant returns to say that the oni have retained about a hundred samurai that they keep in their service by threatening to kill their families should they attempt seppuku. The monkey then suggests that they wait until nightfall, at which point he left on his own and stealthily stole every one of the hundred swords without anyone stirring.

So when Momotaru arrived to the shogun’s castle to do battle with the oni, the human samurai panicked and were forced to come out brandishing kitchen knives, wooden practice swords, and boat oars. He then declared that all their swords belonged to him, and thus their service. He took the swords to prevent them from committing seppuku once the oni were defeated and their families were safe. They pledged their loyalty to Momotaru as the new shogun should he survive the coming battle, and the monkey led them to their swords while Momotaru, the dog, and the pheasant went on to fight the oni.

But the monkey led the samurai to the wrong place and revealed that he was an oni shapeshifted as a monkey to kill Momotaru and take control once Momotaru had killed the leader of the oni. The monkey oni slew all of the samurai and returned to the castle to await his chance. Unfortunately for him, the leader of the oni could see quite well that he would not escape Momotaru alive and hid himself as a rat in the castle. Frustrated and angry at his disappearance, the pheasant and dog revealed that they two were really oni as well and they attempted to kill Momotaru. He bested them easily, then continued on to free the prisoners in the dungeon below, with the rat oni following close behind. Momotaru found a dying woman in one of the cells who revealed to him that she was his mother, and his father was the leader of the oni with her dying breath.

The leader of the oni retreated back to Oni Island with this information secreted away while Momotaru anguished at the secret truth of his parentage. Still he became the new shogun and raised a son, hoping to put time and distance between himself and the truth. However as he aged and his hair thinned, he began to notice that his skin was becoming redder and redder, which he countered by secretly having his face powdered like a geisha and wearing heavy robes everywhere to conceal the rest of his body until one night his wife noticed that there were horns growing through his thinning hair, proving his worst fears true.

In a panic, Momotaru murdered his wife and sawed the horns off, leaving nothing but nubs behind. He bundled her body and the horns in a sack and threw it over the wall and into the river as he had been as a baby. He then ordered his son, now a man, to take fifty samurai and conquer Oni Island, knowing his son would not return. He reasoned that he was doing his son a kindness by sending him to a heroic death, rather than let him grow old and eventually become a full oni like his father.

Momotaru’s ploy worked, and his father sent the head of his grandson, Momotaru’s son, back to him in the hands of a single survivor. Momotaru then set off to Oni Island alone, swimming out to the island with nothing but his kanabo slung at his waist. Oni fell by the scores to his wrath and he beat a bloody path up to and into his father, who expressed a smug kind of glee at his son’s final embrace of his true nature. Even so, Momotaru murdered his father and swam back home.

Returning home to his bedchamber, Momotaru was greeted by a shadowy figure. His dead wife returned as a twisted hanya. She fell upon him and slashed his throat, killing him while his eyes were still open wide in surprise.


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