The Japanese name of this land, however, is not Nippon. Rather it is nakatsukuni (「ナカツクニ」?; nakatsukuni; central land), which itself is a shortened version of ashihara no nakatsukuni (「葦原の中津國」?; ashihara no nakatsukuni; Central Land of Reed Plains). This term refers to an ancient Japan, when earth kami and humans freely roamed the pure, lush landscape, and sky kami ruled from the heavens, in an attempt to purify the world below.
Even with the similarity in naming, Nippon does not have a clear placement within Japan’s history. Many attributes suggest a connection to the Kamiyo era, yet the dates for births and deaths of historical figures do not line up, nor have major cultural pieces been fully developed or imported during this time. Other parts of the world suggest that the stories both take place during a highly idealized Edo Period, but in truth, the exact timeline is irrelevant. Nippon is meant to represent the best parts of Japan throughout all of the ancient eras, making attempts to tie down the stories to one era a fruitless effort.
Regardless, Nippon shares many of Japan’s natural beauties, such as lush forests, mountains that kiss the skies, and rivers that slice through the island nation, all protected by miles and miles of deep blue oceans. The countries Amaterasu and Chibiterasu explore are largely defined by three regions: East and West Nippon, and the Northern Lands of Kamui.
Eastern Nippon (「ナカツクニ東部」?; Nakatsukuni tōbu; Eastern Nippon) is home to Nippon’s many towers of stone covered in endless numbers of trees, shrubs, flowers, and vines for the lupine gods to explore. The northern half of Eastern Nippon contains Kamiki Village and Shinshu Field, home to many of the region’s inhabitants and legends, including both Shiranui and Nagi, the duo who sealed away the terrible demon Orochi.
The River of the Heavens--based on the real world (「天の川」?; Amanogawa; Milky Way)—is the first accessible location to Amaterasu upon her rebirth into the mortal world. It is a vast landscape that appears to hang in the sky, featuring a river of stars, Yomigami’s constellation, and a small forest near the Cave of Nagi, which sports several pools of water and a small creek running through everything. The hidden secret floating among the stars perpetually remains night, even if Amaterasu uses Sunrise. The moon will remain hung in the sky regardless of any divine intervention. Use of Sunrise, however, will still create a glowing red sun, but its effects will not be felt here.
Konohana is the tree belonging to the spirit Sakuya, acting as her corporeal form in the mortal realm. She, in union with the tree itself, protects the village of Kamiki and its outlying neighbors. Even disaster strikes, the tree acts as a guardian, but not without taking some damage itself. In order to restore it to its former glory, Amaterasu embarks on a journey to heal the offshoots of Konohana, known as Guardian Saplings.
Kamiki Village is the home of the annual Kamiki Festival, legendary heroes Shiranui and Nagi, and Konohana. Normally, the town is a sleepy agricultural landscape, hidden between two mountains and guarded by the sea. However, the defeat and reawakening of Orochi more than shook up the tiny town, leaving them fearing for their lives during a festival meant to celebrate their success over the last year.
Shinshu Field is one of the larger landscapes that Amaterasu and Chibiterasu are able to explore during their journeys. The area is vastly wide and painted with green grass, dotted with rolling hills and faces the extensive lake that is Lake Harami. Here, connections to Yakushi Village, Hana Valley, Agata Forest, and Lake Harami can be found and accessed at one point or another. This massive field is also home to Tama, Mika, Nameless Man, and Onigiri-Sensei.
Wander too far near the edge of the fields and Amaterasu will find herself facing a rocky mouth that leads to Hana Valley, home to the first of many Saplings. The valley is hidden between two mountains and features a wooden bridge hung over a river that feeds a majestic waterfall, in addition to a fire to get warm by set before a tunnel of stone leading up to the grand tree.
Lake Harami is a vast body of crystal clear waters veiled by a magic only the divine and their believers can see. This is also one of the few locations sporting a silver torii, which typically is used to signify locations that only Amaterasu can see and access. The lake bears a small island in the middle, which can be accessed during low tide.
Dark and dream-like is the foliage of Agata Forest. Soaring, peacock-colored trees cloud the skies, only allowing hints of sunlight to speckles the emerald floor.
High above the forest green sits Hitoshio Spring, a cold, crystalline pool of water, perfect for use in the creation of sake. The spring boasts an unobstructed view of the bright blue sky and a withered tree that still stands as proudly in death as it had in life, even promising some of the spring’s deliciously cool waters itself.
Carved into a cliff wall hides the massive gates to Tsuta Ruins, an ancient structure that appears to be long forgotten. The lack of care and upkeep has allowed for an infestation of demons that has begun to plague the forest it resides in. The ruins themselves, however, are a complex network of bridges and ledges that continue in a maddening manner. However, the further one ventures into the ruins, the more one can find how nature ultimately reclaims her right to rule. A grand waterfall spills over the edges of a water-filled chamber back into a hall where an old, beaten statute still proudly stands, looming over the rest of the mysterious place.
Covered in bamboo and weary with travelers, Taka Pass stands between the border of Eastern and Western Nippon, providing access to nearly all of its key economic districts. The skies are always a crystal clear blue during daylight hours, rarely obstructed by anything but trees, which can be surpassed by climbing up one of the numerous jagged cliffs or sitting atop any one of the endless mountain peaks. Traveler’s paths are marked on dirt roads, and journeying has even been made easier with the installation of bridges and establishment of tucked away resorts for rest and recuperation and tea shops where visitors can obtain a small treat and some company for a short time before pressing on..
Perhaps Taka Pass’ best kept secret is a little onsen-slash-hotel run by the Sparrow Clan known as Sasa Sanctuary. This little place for rest and recovery is only accessible to those who are pure of heart and otherwise tucked away behind cliff-covered walls of stone and in between scores of bamboo stalks in what can only be called a forest. Adding to the avian-inhabited home are its many mysteries, one of which has ties to the mysterious people of the moon.
Atop the highest peak lies the windy city on a hill, Kusa Village. This town is heavily dependent on constant blowing breezes for both energy and day-to-day functions, given how many of the citizens structures and businesses take advantage of this natural powerhouse. The village is home the Gale Shrine, dedicated to the god of the winds, and its guardians: former priest Yatsu, his beautiful wife and current priestess Princess Fuse, and their Canine Warriors.
Situated where the winds blow the best and the strongest lies the Gale Shrine dedicated to Kazegami. The shrine itself is an elaborate maze of passages leading outward to a massive windmill constructed from bamboo and Washi that elegantly captures the powerful gusts of air bustling about high in the sky.
The Moon Cave is perhaps one of the most confusing and still intriguing areas in Eastern Nippon. The cave itself is inaccessible to mere mortals, but gaining entrance is not difficult feat for those bearing the ability to see the dark mountain and the Serpent Crystal needed for easy access. A legion of demons and their terrible leader make their home here, having built base-like structures and a terrifyingly regal throne room in which an eight-headed snake resides.
Eastern Nippon, as mentioned before, is primarily covered in mountain ranges and other rocky natural structures, much like eastern parts of Japan. The landscape bears few opportunities for easy farming, and flatter fields often bear insufficient soils, making cultivation difficult or impossible. Even in spite of the total refusal to be tamed by man, the East maintains a regal emerald beauty. Many lush landscapes are sliced at by gentle and raging waters alike, each of which laps at the edges of solid shores.
Nearly two hundred years before, the peaceful fields of Eastern Nippon were caught up in the affairs of the heavens and dragged into a slew of tragedy and demonic curses that plague the land for 100 years to come. The demon they face is one seeking to become an eternal force of wicked evil by devouring the souls of its 100 victims. The goddess who dragged the beast to the mortal realm must wait, guided by the word of a prophet, with the hopes that the Chosen One will be born before it’s too late. However, despite having nothing but the best intentions for the people plagued by this demon, they mistake her for its familiar, fearing and despising her, for they believe she chooses the demon’s next victim.
During the annual Kamiki Festival, at the peak of the Chosen One’s maturity, the goddess and the swordsman unite to slay the eight-headed terror, but even this powerful duo’s punch lacks the force it needs. The goddess, weakened by the demon’s venom, summons the light of the moon from the darkness of night in a last attempt to defeat the beast. Her efforts are somewhat effective, allowing the Chosen One to seal the demon away in its lair but costing the goddess her life in the process. The villagers, now made aware of their unfounded fears, lay the mighty warrior to rest and erect a statue in her honor. In the century that follows, the land is blessed with peace, and the people are well.
However, 100 years after the demon is sealed away, it mysteriously reawakens and lays a curse over the whole of Nippon, Threatening to destroy the beauty and nature of the land, the tree spirit of Konohana throws her life on the line to protect the village she inhabits while calling upon the goddess to help restore peace once more to the land. Thus begins the journey of a wolf and her flea-like companions.
Despite being merely the eastern half of a larger country, this region has a noticeable lack of larger political institutions and influence from the West. Rather, this region is left to govern itself without significant regard to many of the assumed established rules. The people of these areas depend upon their own skills or the combined skills of their communities to survive and maintain their day-to-day lives. What this also means is that any loss of even one person can destroy the society entirely.
Even in spite of the rigid social structure, each community has a leader of sorts, with more closely packed villages having more definitive leaders. For example, the leader of Kamiki Village is none other than the wise old Mr. Orange, often consulted during major events that affect all members of the village. In Kusa Village, this responsibility is handed to the head of the shrine, formerly Yatsu and now Princess Fuse. These communities all, however, maintain a unique independence. The power rests in a single set of hands, yet the people are largely permitted to do what they see fit within their existing social structure.
Contrary to the hustle and bustle of the West, Eastern Nippon is more in tune with nature and relaxed. Though faith in the gods has long since been abandoned, the people still perform god-related traditions and rituals, such as the construction and maintenance of various shrines and prayer to gods in times of need or struggle. In this way, they have not completely forgotten the ways of their ancestors, but rather have found difference occupations to fill their time.
The average diet of a citizen dwelling within the East typically consists of whatever that person is able to grow with their own hands or obtain from their neighbors. Trade is slow and can be dangerous, making imports expensive and exports even more unlikely. However, foods are typically vegetarian in nature, containing Japanese staples such as rice, seaweed, and anko—a red bean paste used in many traditional foods—in addition to fish meats as additives for extra flavor or sustenance.
The general attire of the people in the East is more practical, generally reflecting one’s specific profession or career within a community. Clothing is simple, plain, and usually not adorned with any jewelry or elaborate patterns, giving the impression that the people do not have much money, and what little they do possess goes into the funding of their various tools of the trade, whether those are seeds for planting, plows for tilling, or axes for cutting down stalks of bamboo. The few Merchants found here purchase the completed wares and sell them in the West if the craftsman doesn’t do so themselves.
Western Nippon (「ナカツクニ西部」?; Nakatsukuni seibu; Western Nippon) is all of the regions contained in the lower half of the island nation. The climate is warmer, and more landscapes are dotted with fewer trees and painted with sandy beaches running alongside a crystal turquoise ocean. The region has a more notable presence of economic and governmental centers, being home to both the capital and largest fishing industries in all of Nippon.
The crimson bridge straddling across a mighty chasm and a rushing river is none other than the City Checkpoint, separating East and West Nippon, in addition to serving as a protective barrier or false border. Strangely enough, only the entrance to the West is heavily guarded and only its travelers much be vouched for before being granted passage. The entrance to the East has no obvious monitorization, suggesting that the checkpoint is a one-way passage. Below the bridge are docks where boats can be found tied to the docks, presumably following the river’s current out to sea, where travelers could meet a larger ship and return to their home or sellers in the East.
Where mountains meet sands and white sparkles meet blue waters, one can find Ryoshima Coast. An unstructured fishing society, Ryoshima takes on the role of helping to feed the hungry people in the capital and act as a first layer of defense in the event of an attack.
One of the few Buddhist relics in an predominantly Shintoist world, Ankoku Temple stands as a proud testament of the dedication of Zen Buddhism’s many followers in pursuit of access to a divine realm. The head priestess is a beautiful woman name Rao, often called upon by the ruler of the nation from her palace in Sei'an City. Although he is never seen here, Komuso is one who would find himself very much at home in a place like this, surrounded by the majestic manufactured beauty that comes with the decorative temples of Japan.
The gleaming, bustling capital of Nippon, center of all trade, commerce, and craftsmanship, Sei’an City stands proud and tall atop a massive lake, whose waters serve as guardians should the capital be invaded. The city itself is divided into two major centers of activity: the home of the common man, where all exchanges take place, and across the puzzle bridge hovering over the lake, the quiet quarters belonging to the exclusive and wealthy elite.
In addition to being the largest source of freshwater in all of Nippon, Lake Beewa's grand body of water is home to the capitol of Nippon, providing fresh fish and water for the many water canals used for travel by the everyday people.
Shorter buildings and less complex designs dot the soil and walls of the Commoner’s Quarters in Sei’an City. Here, the people travel about on foot when necessary, but typically, a ferry runs through the network of canals found throughout this part of the city. This grants easy access to citizens and visitors alike. This part of the city also features many local businesses, such as a kimono shop, woodworking business, run-down bank, weaponry store, apothecary’s, and a local restaurant, run by the talented Yama. Each of these buildings blends in with the homes where people take residence. However, no one seems to take too much notice to the island hiding way up in the sky, the base for all Tao Trooper activity, run by their often unaccounted leader.
Though common citizens have no true business in the neighborhood of elites known as the Aristocratic Quarter, many still make the journey across the bridge over Lake Beewa to seek out spiritual advice from Rao if she is not away caring for her home temple of Ankoku. Beyond her Buddhist center of worship, however, lies the many, seemingly endless towers where the royals and elite make their home. Here, one can find twin palaces and many zen gardens, suspected to be well-kept by their owners.
One of two palaces found within Sei’an’s walls, the Imperial Palace is home to none other than Emperor Takara, a man concerned not so much with the affairs of the nation so much as his personal desire to have a vast collection of Demon Fangs. The palace overlooks the edge of the city walls, demonstrating the beauty of nature beyond the border, featuring lush mountainsides and picturesque skies. This palace is also the smaller of the two in Sei’an, being that it is meant purely to serve as a living quarters for the Emperor, rather than as a center of government.
The second and more luxurious of the twin palaces in Sei’an City, Himiko’s Palace is one of grand beauty, meant to tower over the buildings and people she ultimately rules over and protects. The palace itself is structured somewhat like a shrine, with the first level elevated off of the ground featuring two wings, one of which bears a secret passage connecting Ankoku Temple to the palace itself. Behind the palace, one can relax and gaze out at the depths of Lake Beewa’s waters, all while admiring the smooth, stone towers that protrude from the deep blue waters.
Inside the main building, one can find an elevator that will take Amaterasu and friends up to a lake of fire, which when successfully navigated, will grant access to Queen Himiko’s temple-like throne room from where she watches over and rules all of Nippon. The placement and style of the room suggests a parallel between the role of the heavens and Himiko’s particular style of leadership.
A rare sight to see is the Lunar Lagoon when blessed by divine moonlight. The waves part to form a perfect circular ring around which Amaterasu can run around on the ocean floor unobstructed and explore the sunken wonders of the underwater world.
During the terrifying reign of the Water Dragon, a ship carrying many valuable goods to the shores of Nippon was torn away from the surface and dragged down into the depths of the churning, murky waters. Only when divine moonlight blesses the lagoon it sleeps in can anyone have hopes of exploring and retrieving goods from below. However, at dawn, the spell is broken and the ocean reclaims its quarry.
Home to the West’s central seaside fishing community, North Ryoshima Coast over looks the sea from towering cliffs speckled with light beach-side foliage. The majority of North Ryoshima consists of various islands erupting from the surface of the sea, with a hidden palace beneath the sea. Towards the gates leading back to central Ryoshima, one can find ruins of an ancient structure, appearing to be Greek in origin and promising views of the Whirlpool Galaxy and a gateway to the heavens.
Somewhere far out at sea lies an island of tiny feline creatures, climbing all over and around Catcall Tower. According to legend, a lonely at climbed way up in the sky and turned to stone in order to watch over the world below. The top of this tower features a massive stone cat, causing one to wonder whether legends are merely tales we tell ourselves or history long-forgotten.
Situated atop one of the lower cliffs of North Ryoshima is the time-forgotten, weary gates of Watcher’s Cape. Here, Amaterasu can clearly see the beauty of the night sky and guide others to help reveal the Whirlpool Galaxy, a spiraling swirl of purple and pink stars dancing in the sky.
Way up in the night sky are tiny glittering shards of pink and purple diamonds swirled around a blanket of black velvet forming the Whirlpool Galaxy. Swirling the stars around with a brush reveals its earthly twin below and the gates to an underwater world whose beauty knows no rival.
Placed precisely in a pearlescent sea shell, the Dragon Palace, home to the Dragonians sits beneath the churning waves of North Ryoshima Coast. The palace resembles more of a mansion adorned with colorful coral and sparkling pearls, all surrounded by the natural beauty of life beneath the sea. As soon one turns to face the doors, the crest of the royals can be seen, greeting all visitors before entering this regal marvel of architecture. Once through the round entrance, one finds that the rooms are illuminated by glowing spheres of light, resembling the biolumescent tips of underwater creatures.
To the left, one finds the garden of the Water Dragon, a place for rest and recovery before returning to protect its people. To the right, Amaterasu can find the Mermaid spring and the Palace’s maiden dancers, practicing for their next performance. However, one will almost certainly be drawn towards the grand staircase and into the box hung by a wire that will pull the lupine goddess up into the throne room to face the leader of the Dragonian people, Otohime.
Keeping up the facade of a terrible demonic face looking back at the land, Oni Island is the impenetrable fortress of demons ruled over by a fox that fancies itself as a god. The inner workings of this dark lair are powered by the dazzling bolts of lightning stolen from the eternally surrounding storm clouds. A labyrinth of confusion, frustration, and torture, this island is meant to be a hell on earth for its wicked inhabitants. Its position changes daily, making locating it a pointless effort.
Western Nippon, unlike its Eastern sister, is speckled with more bodies of water, both fresh and salt. This region is also the center of trade for the entire nation, causing nearly every civilization to be built somewhere along the coast or near another body of water. However, the majestic mountains of the East are not forgotten in another land, rather they find their end, much like a rainbow finds its own. Mountains disappear into tall and jagged cliffs, rolling hills, and everything in between, still bearing the regal greens seen in other regions.
While the history of the west is a little more difficult to trace as far back as the east, it is known that the Tao Troopers were established nearly 200 years ago, leaving one to assume that the capitol—or at the very least, the foundations of such—were already set into place but not immediately present elsewhere. With the founding of such a protective and investigative organization, one can only assume that there was some approval or alliance between the current leaders of the time that permitted them to do so.
Beyond the capitol city’s walls lies the ruins atop Watcher's Cape, once said to have been a gateway to return to the heavens. Whether this referenced the heavens a divine wolf and prophet had come to call home is unknown, but highly likely. What caused the destruction of this location is also unknown, but often speculated to have had some relation to events taking place around the time of the divine wolf’s descent to earth. During this catastrophe, a powerful evil was dragged along with her, causing many local landscapes to become permanently altered.
However, at the time of this demon’s defeat, the entire nation of Nippon experienced an era of peace, only broken by the curse of the same demon’s release 100 years after. Such brought on a toxic cloud that slowly tried to poison and kill innocent civilians in the capital, stole the life of a local priestess, and released an evil that manifested itself as both a menacing island and a fox that fancied itself as a god. From its impregnable fortress, it would continue to wreck havoc on the people both on land and at sea and cause the sea people’s god to slice through ships, churn the once calm waters, and terrorize the people both above and below the waters. Only the gentle stroke of a divine wolf’s brush could restore the long-beloved peace to this land.
In the West, both a stronger presence of religion and monarchy can be felt right from the start. The region itself has notable Buddhist influences in its architecture, and a more organized flow to its layout. Every place has something, and something is always in its place.
Here, the capitol of Nippon can be found in Sei’an City, from where the empress resides over the land atop her palace tower. The emperor is notably more lazy and concerned with different, more personal affairs, so much so that he has passed along his rights to rule to his wife, who does a astronomically better job than he ever could. Her style of leadership is one of an absolute monarchy, but she is is not a tyrant. Instead, she employs common people and those with ties to the temples scattered throughout the landscape to hear the voices of her people and make decisions that are in everyone’s best interest.
The empress herself even has a strong connection to the religion her people believe in. She often prays for their well-being, and openly accepts assistance from divine beings who show promise in restoring peace to her home. Also notable, is her lack of formal attire. The empress chooses to clothe herself much like a temple maiden, bearing none of the decorative and extravagant attire of her husband and elite peers.
However, following the death of the empress, the nation continues to run, leaving one to assume that there are unseen levels of government in place. It is also assumed that the emperor resumed his former role of leader, but it is also possible that he simply passed it along to another person, allowing the government to, again, be placed in better hands.
Being at the center of everything, the West is blessed with wealth and all its spoils. Imports and exports flow through the seaside ports on a daily basis, allowing even the importation of the religion that would eventually become Zen Buddhism. Popular with the royals and elites, eventually this new religion spread to even the most common of people, allowing them all to practice their own ideals in their own right. Temples, while not a terribly common sight, dot the countryside, adorned with only the finest tiles, jewels, and elaborate architecture.
The people themselves, enjoying the wealth of their home, sport more complex patterns upon finer made silks. Even the most common of people appear to be more affluence than those in the east. In addition to finer attire, the professions required in a land such as this are more diverse and produce a larger pool to draw from. The loss of a single person is not quite as devastating as it would be in the smaller communities of the east, especially given how versatile each person’s skill sets are. The people here are more educated overall, being much more readily able to read and write and understand ancient religious scripts or a menu at a local restaurant.
As far as industry goes, however, the West returns more to its roots. Industries primarily rely on fishing and trade to both feed the people and draw in wealth to the island nation. Rare goods are transported to the West, while exported goods start their lives in the East before completing them at the ports of large trade vessels, such as the ship that lays out past the harbor, unable to return home ever again. Fishing communities are more loosely organized, resembling the agricultural ones of their Eastern neighbors, yet these are again, less likely to collapse should one person die or leave. Fishing is an industry very much in demand, as feeding half a nation is a difficult task.
Even providing raw materials alone is not enough, though. Many local chefs have devoted themselves and enlisted their skill sets to help produce some finer cuisine in addition to providing some much need relaxation for those who would otherwise cook for themselves after a long day’s labor. These tiny shops are far and few between and primarily visited by the common people. Elites and royals alike share the concept of an in-home chef to produce all of their elaborate meals.
The Northern LandsEdit
The Northern Lands (「北方の国」?; Hoppō no kuni; Northern Lands) refers to the island nation of Kamui, inhabited and protected by the Oina, who have known this land as their home for generations. Though it may be covered in ice and snow, the hearts and spirits of its people are fiery and bright, always prepared to defend themselves and survive in this harsh, ever-lasting winter.
Kamui is the main island of the Northern region. Others appear to exist but are never explored. The region itself is susceptable to bouts of icestorms and blizzards. However, the inhabitants manage to keep warm through reliance on their unique traditions. The region itsels is cut off from mainland Nippon, leaving it feeling more like a separate nation rather than a soon-to-be-annexed island off the coast of Honshu.
Wep’keer, the village of legends in Kamui, is home to the majority of the native people living in the reason and acts as the center or community and culture for all of Kamui. Many structures are built out of wood as much as they are from ice and snow, each sporting a chimney to allow for the easy release of smoke. Many of the people do not venture far from the village or even leave at all, leaving them all the more uncertain and wary of outsiders.
Ezofuji is the name used to refer to the twin volcanoes that the native people of Kamui view as their guardian deities, or kaskamuy. The peaks are home to the Twin Demons Lechku & Nechku, who have laid at rest for longer than anyone alive can recall, even through legend.
Every year, the member of the tribe possessing the most spiritual power is trained and sent to perform a special ritual at the alter placed near the base of the twin peaks. This allows for immediate flow of life-giving lava, responsible for helping to keep the natives from freezing to death during the harsh winters.
Laochi Lake, meaning “the lake of rainbows” in its native language of Itak, is a body of water guarded by mountains and perpetually covered in thick sheets of ice, never fully thawing even during the warmer months. In the center of the murky waters lies a steel ship that is said to have fallen from the heavens. However, the rest of the story has been lost to time.
Kamui (Ezofuji) refers to the area surrounding Laochi Lake and reaching up towards the mighty gates of Wawku Shrine, sitting in the valley of the twin Ezofuji mountains. Tuskle’s smaller shrine placed beside the gates of Wawku Shrine and overlooks both the steel ship in the lake below and the alter at which offerings to the twin demons can be offered or rituals performed.
A winding maze of trees and confusing spores leave visitors to the forest of Yoshpet helplessly lost as they freeze in the winds that almost seem to blow stronger here. It’s no use looking to the starts or even the sun for guidance, for the thick canopy of evergreen needles block all light. Stick to the paths carved out in the snow by those who have lost their lives marking them, and place faith in the gods with the hope that you’ll come out alive,
The warm village of Ponc’tan is concealed within the remains of a wooden tower. Home to the miniature, glowing Poncles, many homes and structures are fashioned from leaves, twigs, flowers, berries, mushrooms, bugs, and other smaller items found scattered throughout the forest. The people are somewhat reclusive, barely daring to wander too far into the forest of Yoshpet, lest they too find themselves lost in a freezing maze with no hope of escape.
The Spirit Gate, found only after navigating through Yoshpet’s daunting and confusing maze-like woods, promises a unique journey to all those who dare to venture through the gate. Its origins and purpose are unknown, yet it bears a striking resemblance to other pieces of Moon Tribe technology.
A century before the return of Amaterasu, she lived on as a white wolf known to the horrified villagers of a young Kamiki Village. Its people were plighted with disaster, year after year, during a time in which they were meant to be celebrating their success, rather than mourning their beloveds. The height of their festival evokes a terrible sense of dread and great dependence upon their deities for guidance and protection from the terrible demon that seeks to consume their souls.
In the century before, Shinshu Fields was a largely different place. Paths to Agata Forest and Hana Valley had not yet been carved out of stone, nor had its present residents’ ancestors yet taken up residence in the vast plain. Lake Harami, however, still sits proud and grand, looming over the neighboring village with its dark shadow.
The temple, built on layers of ice and snow to enshrine the Twin Demons who sleep atop the twin peaks of Ezofuji, is none other than Wawku Shrine. Despite the neighboring village being more simple in design and construction, this temple is a labyrinth of ice, gates, gears, and flurries infested with cold-loving demons. The top of the temple boasts a towering platform upon which worship to the Twin Demons may be pursued. However, the infestation of demonic bodies suggests that this temple has long been sealed off from common use and remains a relic of the people, not to be forgotten but not to be employed.
Buried beneath a layer of ice, the Ark of Yamato remains a cold, steel-y coffin for the people of the heavens. This rescue boat serves as the point of origins for all the demons scattered throughout Nippon. Deep within the bowels of the ship lies an unimaginable, indescribable evil that threatens to destroy everything when the sun is unable to shine.
Much like its sister to the south, the Northern Lands—better refered to as Kamui—are freckled with mountains and rolling hills. However, the region is in a constant state of winter, with very little time spent in what resembles spring. The island itself consistently rises upwards away from the shore and cuts off at the twin peaks of Ezofuji, an object of worship for many generations among the native Oina.
Surrounding the edges of the island is the vast sea separating the north from the south. The ocean is deep and wide enough that travel across it is as much difficult as it is dangerous for a native people who do not typically engage in warfare nor possess large ships for trade or other forms of commerce. The sea and jagged mountains encircling the island also act as its barrier, helping to discourage invasion from other sovereign nations or particularly, the people of Nippon.
How the people of this land came to be is unknown, but for as long as anyone alive can remember, this island has belonged to the Oina and always will. Some nearly 200 years ago, a great steel ship fell from the sky and planted itself into Laochi Lake's thick layer of ice. From there, demons began to sprout, including the twin demons who now lay at rest atop their alters on Ezofuji. However, this eruption of demonic activity made a harsh landscape's winters even more frigid and threatened to freeze over the land entirely, effectively killing its people.
Through both faith and fear, the people of Kamui with the strongest connection to their inner spirits and the gods were able to discover a ritual that when performed, guaranteed the eruption of Ezofuji's twin volcanic peaks and the subsequent warming of the landscape as a whole.
In the south, after the great demon was laid to rest alongside its opponent, the Northern Lands too experienced an era of peace and prosperity right up until its reawakening 100 years after its defeat.
The people of Kamui—both small and large—have a society set up around there being a village elder who acts in the best interest of the community as a whole. Age alone would appear to be the determining factor, but as seen when Kemu's life was in a questionable status, a strong and independent person like Samickle can take over the role.
In the immediately lower ranks of both Oina and Poncle societies are the warriors, people trained to protect and defend the village, such as Oki of the Oina tribe and the guard surrounding Ishaku in Ponc'tan. These are people who are typically adorned to some extent in armor and bear various weapons—usually swords.
Mostly on par with the warriors are the spiritually gifted, a rank that appears to exist only within Oina society. These people often double as leaders to better be able to protect the village, while still relying on the warriors to defend the village as a whole and scare off intruders. However, some like Lika and Tuskle are part of this class yet do not bear any further special statuses. Instead, they are both responsible for aiding their leader in the protection of their village.
The most common class for both the Oina and Poncle races, however, is the middle class, made up exclusively of common folk who hold no extra special role in society. However, the bulk of the workforce is made up of this class. Many of these people hunt, fish, create goods, perform services, and generally assist their fellow villagers in day-to-day life. Both societies have a notable lack of agriculture due the soil being insufficient for such. This makes both societies extremely dependent on trade.
The lifeblood and amazingly least valuable rank to fall under is that of a merchant. Merchants are those who take all of the raw materials and finished goods produced by the people and sell them at ports in mainland Nippon. However, because these people willingly choose to leave society and often are influenced by outside cultures, they are shunned to primarily maintain cultural purity.
The culture of the Oina and Poncle communities shares some similarities, having been developed relatively near one another and within the same landscape. Both are spiritual people, with the Oina holding faith in their protective spirits, whereas the Poncles place their trust with gods such as Amaterasu from the southern nation.
Within the Oina community, outsiders are largely unwelcome, yet can be adopted into society gradually. This is seen with the permission of both Kokari and Onigiri-Sensei, who have made their homes outside of the central village of Kamui. However, this does not mean that they are allowed to roam freely. Onigiri-Sensei is largely kept to his own home, and Kokari is only permitted to fish in a specified location. Even then, the two are watched over carefully by the strongest warrior of the village, Oki. This is not the case with the Poncle community. Rather than discouraging the idea of travel altogether, it is largely encouraged as a method of pilgrimage and an opportunity to better one's artistic abilities.
Regardless of differing ideals in regards to immigration, both tribes shares a similar clothing style, often resembling stylized variations of Ainu clothing. The attire of the Oina tends to be more complex, with embroidered fabrics bearing a striking resemblance both to Ainu clothing and a standard kimono, in addition to featuring both a family crest and other decorative patterns. Within Poncle society, however, clothing is more simple and tends to resemble a single-layered robe. Both have an affinity for both jewelry and animals.
The Oina, for reasons unknown, wear a mask that represents their innermost personality and spirit. The mask entirely obscures their face, leaving one to wonder what they truly look like. The Poncles, being a smaller race, wear bugs as hats—butterflies and moths for women, and beetles for men. Use of insects in their clothing is nearly as common as the same usage in architecutre.
Many bridges and stairwells in Ponc'tan are constructed from fully extended insects. Their homes are often carved right into shoots growing through the protective walls of the tree stump, but occasionally can be mushrooms as well. The village itself is rather small and easy to navigate. However, guardrails and other barriers do not exist despite the obvious danger of falling, further demonstrating the durability of this tiny tribe. In contrast with the Poncles, the Oina build smaller, single-story structures from wood and use the wealth of Kamui's ice and snow to create an outer layer around the house to help keep heat inside. Each home also bears a chimney to aid in the removal of smoke from the eternally burning fires. Within some homes, one can find textiles, dried meats, and other raw goods.
The Oina, having little to no natural resources to draw upon, make do with what they have, that being an endless supply of snow and a massive forest from which trees can be felled. Despite many of the cultural ties to the forest, it has been at the very least somewhat altered to create an artificial entrance to the forest in addition to the barrier requiring a special key. The Oina, also being a shape-shifting people, use both their skills as humans and wolves to hunt for the meats they dry in their homes and gather the plant matter used in medicine, general construction, and dyeing of fabrics. The Poncles, however, are believed to struggle with the manipulation of their natural habitat, and instead require others to do so for them or must use smaller resources unknown the the significantly larger humans of the world.