There once was an old woodcutter and his wife who lived alone in the Japanese countryside. Much to their regret, the couple had no children. Having no one else in life, the two were constantly at each other’s side. The woodcutter would fell some trees, while his wife would wash their clothes in a stream nearby. It was on this afternoon that their lives changed forever, when a giant peach came floating down the river, settling on the bank where the two were working. It was the biggest and most beautiful peach they had ever seen and they decided to take it home. Peach jam, peach cake, peach cobbler. There would be enough dessert for a month!
Later, having successfully carried the giant peach home, the old woodcutter got his tools to help his wife slice it up. Though all it took was one might swing, and the woodcutter struck the peach, splitting it perfectly in half. Imagine the old couple’s surprise when the sounds of a crying baby suddenly fill their home. Maybe the core of nature is the heart of man? A baby boy is inside the peach! The kindly couple cannot believe their eyes. Never having been able to bear children of their own, they believed the gods had finally blessed them with the son they always wanted. The boy’s right eye is covered by the peach pit, and fearing it might be irritating his eye, the woodcutter reaches down to pull it free - but suddenly brilliant red optical energy bursts forth from the boy’s eye, cutting a hole in the roof above. Just as experience had taught him to stand well out of the way of falling trees, the woodcutter had learned his first lesson in fatherhood, the hard way - the peach pit would stay. ‘Goo’ the baby utters as the pit is placed back over his right eye.
The couple raised the peach-boy, Hitome, as their own, and as the years passed, he grew to become quite a fine young man. As his father got older and his strength grew weaker, Hitome follows in his footsteps to become a woodcutter himself, working to provide for his now elderly parents. Hitome goes off into the woods one day to undertake the task of cutting some trees down. However, his methods are a little different and a little faster than his father’s, as Hitome would remove the peach pit from his eye, unleashing the optical energy, to cut the trees down. While he lived a peaceful and happy life, much like his parents before his arrival, Hitome was often heavy of heart and found himself feeling lonely. Until this fateful day, when Hitome will literally run into someone who will change his life forever. ‘Help me!’ a voice cries out. ‘Please, help me!’ the voice exclaims, it is an older man, rushing through the forest, away from a trio who are following him.
‘Get behind me, sir. I’ll protect you’ Hitome declares, stepping in front of the old man, and in front of the trio who were chasing him. A muscular man in grey holds a very large hammer, while a blonde man in an orange outfit holds a flaming torch, and a pale woman with red hair carries a large sword. The man thanks Hitome and asks him where his weapons are. ’Surely a woodcutter must have a blade of some sort?’ Hitome tells the old man not to worry, and declares that he doesn’t need weapons. ‘No weapons? Easy pickings!’ the woman exclaims. ‘Ha! Just how do you think you’re going to fight us, one-eye?’ the one with the fire asks. ‘With a glance, thief’ Hitome smiles, and raising the peach pit, energy bursts from his eye and shatters the large thief’s hammer. The thieves look at the destroyed weapon, ‘Yaaaahhh! A demon!’ the thief with the fire screams. ‘Run! Before it curses us!’ the woman shouts, and the trio turn and run for their lives.
Hitome turns to the old man and apologizes for startling him, but the old man smiles: ‘Amazing! Simply amazing! So the rumors are true! All that force contained within your eye… why didn’t you attack the scoundrels directly?’ he asks. Hitome crouches down to pick up some food that he dropped and replies that having power does not always mean one has to use it, before excusing himself from the old man, who remarks ‘Yet you choose to use your power for menial labor? All alone in these dark woods?’ Hitome replies that he prefers to be by himself. The old man puts a hand on Hitome’s shoulder and remarks that he has met many people in his days, and one thing he knows to be certain is that no one remains alone of their own accord. ‘Tell me, do you live by yourself as well?’ he asks. Hitome reveals that he lives with his parents in the far woods, and the old man announces that he would very much like to meet them, as they have much to discuss.
After a short trek back to Hitome’s humble home, the monk revealed he had a tale of his own to tell the one-eyed boy and his parents. As they sit around a small fire, the old man asks the woodcutter why he chooses to live so far out in these woods. ‘It must not be easy’ he points out. The woodcutter responds by telling the monk that given his profession, it was always more convenient for them to live out here on their own in the forest, venturing into town when the need arose. He adds that after learning of Hitome’s abilities, the villagers made it clear that they preferred for them to stay as far away as possible. The monk declares that it shameful, as no one need be hated or feared for simply being different. ‘And truth be told, yours is not the first such tale I have heard’ he adds, before revealing that he has actually been looking for gifted souls with abilities like Hitome’s.
The monk explains that he comes at the behest of the Emperor himself, as last month, four evil demons invaded his palace and kidnapped his daughter, and all of the Emperor’s attempts to rescue her have been for naught, as every army he sends to fight the demons, no matter how large, is defeated by this evil incarnate. ‘Which is why we need your help. When rumors of beings with special abilities reached his ears, the Emperor dispatched me to try my best to locate you and others like you’ the old man explains. He adds that now that he has found Hitome, he must ask if he would be willing to join him, to use his power, to try as best they can to fight the demons and save the Emperor’s daughter. Hitome hangs his head asks ‘But with me not here to look after them, who will provide for my parents?’ The monk assures Hitome that the Emperor will personally see to it that they are taken care of. Hitome turns to his parents, as his mother tells him to say no more, and points out that they have always raised him to do what is right, so they understand what he must do now. ‘You were a gift that blessed our lives from the moment we found you’ she adds, while Hitome’s father tells him that it is time for him to go out into the world and use his powers to help the lives of others. Hitome and his parents them embrace.
Leaving his past behind him, Hitome sets out with the monk on what is sure to be an adventure neither will soon forget. Walking through a forest, Hitome asks why they travel these unkempt paths, for would it not be better that they stick to the main road? The monk explains to Hitome that just as he heard of him, he has heard of other magical creatures who dwell in these woods, so it would be in their best interests to have them join us, if they can find them. Suddenly, a howling noise is heard from above, and the old man‘s walking stick is snatched from above. ‘What…?’ the old man gasps, as they look up and see a blue primate in the tree above, holding the stick and laughing at them. ‘You’ve come looking for magical creatures? Well, you’ve found one!’ the creature exclaims, introducing itself as Aoi the blue monkey, but that he has no interest in joining anyone.
‘But you have not even heard what we have to offer you’ Hitome points out. ‘Seeing as I have the monk’s legs you now have even less to offer’ Aoi laughs. ‘Then you have no interest in games?’ Hitome enquires. ‘Games?’ Aoi asks. Hitome proposes a small challenge to see if Aoi is even worthy of joining them on their quest. ‘I’m sure I am more than worthy of the likes of you!’ Aoi responds, before asking ‘What sort of challenge?’ Hitome proposes that he will walk back five paces and place his hands behind his back, and if Aoi is swift enough to pull the peach pit from his eye without him catching Aoi, then they will leave him be. ‘However, if I am able to touch you, then you will join us on our journey’ Hitome suggests. ‘That is all? Ha! I accept! Prepare to lose your eye, boy!’ Aoi declares.
Hitome starts to walk backwards, and as Aoi leaps towards him, he grabs the peach pit - of course optic energy bursts forth - and Aoi falls to the ground, still holding the peach pit, which Hitome takes back. The old man retrieves his walking stick, and as Hitome helps Aoi up, he remarks ‘Now you’ve learned your first lesson for our impending journey, my blue-furred friend. One must never underestimate the element of surprise!’ ‘Well played, boy, well played. You have my respect for your cunning’ Aoi responds, before asking for a few moments for the pain to full before he joins them, ‘And wait for the chance to show you I’ve got a few surprises of my own’ he adds quietly.
Joining Hitome and the monk on their journey to save the Emperor’s daughter, the blue monkey Aoi guided them deeper into the woods. He knew the pheasant Tenshi lived therein and hoped the bird might be able to help them. Scaling the face of a cliff, Aoi informs Hitome that Tenshi is said to possess exceptional strength, however he refuses to fly again. Suddenly, a voice calls out ‘Leave me be! You have no right to come up here!’ Looking further up, Hitome and Aoi see Tenshi the pheasant sitting on a ledge before them. ‘If you fall, it will be to your death as there will be no to catch you’ Tenshi points out. Hitome and Aoi climb safely onto the ledge below Tenshi and Aoi boasts that it is not he who need worry, buyt the stupid human who insisted he come along. ‘Gentle pheasant, word of your feats has reached our ears. But why do you no longer fly?’ Hitome enquires.
Tenshi replies that when you have flown to the heights that he has, you come to realize the higher you go, the further you stand to fall. ‘And falling is something I have no desire to do’. Hitome tells Tenshi that he understands, and asks if it is fear that has grounded Tenshi. He then turns to Aoi and tells him that they have wasted their time coming here, as he thought they were coming to ask a pheasant to join them on their journey, but he sees that the only bird here is a chicken. ‘How dare you insult me in such a manner?’ Tenshi declares, spreading his wings, while Hitome whispers something into Aoi’s ear. Hitome walks towards the edge of the ledge, wearing his wooden climbing shoes, when suddenly, ‘Whoooa -’ he calls out as he slips and starts to fall off the ledge. ‘Nnoooo!’ Aoi shrieks. Aoi manages to grab Hitome and tries to pull him up, announcing that he cannot hold on for much longer. ‘Save yourself, Aoi. Let me go!’ Hitome calls back, before he and Aoi suddenly fall from the ledge, screaming as they plummet to certain doom.
But, Tenshi swoops down and grabs them both with his clawed feet, and flies them up onto the ledge, where the monk has climbed to. Than you, my feathered friend. If not for your efforts, Aoi and I would have plunged to our doom’ Hitome calls out. ‘If I didn’t know any better I might think you provoked me and then purposely fell…’ Tenshi responds. ‘And would that have changed anything? Be spreading your wings again, you saved our lives. That’s what matters and we’re forever in your debt’ Hitome announces. Tenshi admits that it felt good to put his wings to use again. Hitome remarks that there is always the possibility that you will fail and fall in life, but that there is also the chance that you can oar to even greater heights by putting your fears behind you. Tenshi remarks that Hitome seems wise beyond his years, and finds this intriguing. He wonders if he might learn more remaining in Hitome’s company, before announcing that he may well join them on their journey, if they will have him. ’We welcome your wings with open arms, Tenshi. Thank you’ Hitome replies, while Aoi winks at Hitome - their plan worked.
A short time later:, ’Snow? But how could this be? It’s the middle of summer!’ Hitome exclaims as snow starts to fall around the four travelers. Perched on the monk’s shoulder, Tenshi announces that control of the cold is the ability of the one they now seek. ‘And they say his heart is made of ice as well’ Aoi remarks. As ice starts to form around his feet, Hitome hopes that if this Kori has a heart, hopefully a little warmth will help thaw it, when a voice calls out ‘The only things that will need thawing…are your friends!’ Hitome turns around and sees the monk, Tenshi and Aoi covered in ice. ‘No! How could you…?’ Hitome asks. A regal white dog sits in the snow nearby, and announces that he has always found friends to be more trouble than they are worth. ‘Man or beast, everyone looks out only for themselves. You’d best trust yourself…and no one else’ Kori declares, before approaching Hitome, he tells him that he finds humans are usually the worst, always ready to betray those who have placed their faith in them. ‘It’s best you’re kept on ice, where toiu can do little harm’ Kori adds.
‘Such distrust… you’ve obviously been wronged in the past, and for that I’m sorry’ Hitome tells Kori, adding that he believes Kori will find that lack of faith in one’s friends, is the last thing his have to worry about. He removes the peach pit from his eye and an optic blast strikes the ice freezing his friends, removing them from the thaw. ‘You would free your friends before you free yourself?’ Kori asks. ‘What kind of friend would I be if I placed my wellbeing before theirs?’ Hitome asks, putting the peach pit back. Kori asks him why he doesn’t break his own bonds as well, to which Hitome explains that he wants to stay here and talk with him. ‘And why would you want to do that?’ Kori asks. Hitome tells the dog that he thinks he is in need of a friend. ‘Think of friendship as ice. Once it’s broken or melts away, it’s a hard thing to re-form. Unless you have the right conditions…then it’s easy to start over and make more’ Hitome adds, holding himself to keep warm. ‘Well put, one-eye. It’s been a while since I’ve warmed to anyone, mistrusting all who have crossed my path. But as your words have “broken the ice” between us, I’ll hear you out’ Kori announces, while Aoi starts to punch the ice around Hitome, ‘And speaking of breaking the ice…’ he jokes.
With Kori agreeing to join Hitome and his friends, their team was now complete, and the for new allies followed the monk to rescue the Emperor’s daughter. Something much easier said than done, though. Especially where demons are concerned! As they walk through the forest, Kori declares that the evil in the air here sends a chill up his spine, while the monk reveals that they are approaching the demons lair. ‘Let’s stand tall and hope these creatures prove more myth than magic’ Hitome suggests, when suddenly, the four demons appear. One, tall and menacing in purple and red. The female demon in scarlet glows with energy. The blue demon with bolts of white lightning across his body, and the green demon whose tongue flicks out in front of him. ‘I hate to disappoint, but I believe you will find we are far from fiction and a force to be feared!’ the demon in red and purple calls out.
Energy starts to glow around the large demon, who asks ‘Are there no warriors left to face us? The Emperor has opened the gates of his zoo to save his daughter!’ He grins and tells them that they will all make fine pets, before the battle commences, as Hitome, Aoi, Tenshi and Kori rush forward to confront the demons. Hitome strikes the large demon with his optic energy, while the short green demon extends its tongue, however Aoi is able to bounce on it. Kori breath ice over the scarlet demon, trapping her, as Tenshi flies straight into the blue demon, knocking him backwards. However, the large demon releases energy around himself which knocks back Hitome’s optic blasts. The green demon manages to wrap his tongue around Aoi’s body and tosses him into the air, while the scarlet demons smiles as she melts away the ice Kori trapped her in, and the blue demon moves swiftly, around and around Tenshi, trapping the bird in a whirlwind.
Hitome grimaces as his optic blast is sent back at him, striking him in the shoulder, while Aoi lands with a SPLOP on the ground, covered in the green demon’s saliva. Tenshi falls to the ground with a thud, missing several feathers, and Kori runs from the scarlet demon, his ail on fire. ‘It’s no use. The demons are too powerful’ Tenshi declares as the heroes regroup. ‘We’ve come on a fool’s errand’ Aoi exclaims, wiping the spit off of his body. Hitome puts out the fire on Kori’s tail, and Kori points out that even the monk has fled, so they had best turn tail and run. ‘Which I still now have, thanks to you, Hitome’ Kori adds. Hitome announces that the monk has gone to look for the Emperor’s daughter, and it is up to them to hold off the demons while he saves her. As the demons start to close in around the heroes, Kori asks ‘But how?’ Hitome asks him if he has learned nothing on their journey. ‘Just remember what I’ve told you…now!’ Hitome calls out as the demons launch another attack.
The green demon’s tongue flickers straight towards Aoi, whop leaps backwards, while Tenshi swoops down and grabs the demon’s tongue, ‘Fly higher than you ever have, Tensih! Drop the demon to its doom!’ Hitome calls out. ‘I will not fail. I will not fall’ Tenshi utters to himself as he pulls the demon high. The scarlet demon attacks the wall of ice that Kori has erected around the heroes, ‘Allo me to handle the flaming female, my friends’ Aoi offers. ‘What do you propose?’ Hitome asks him. ‘You’re not the only one with a trick up your sleeve, peach-boy’ Aoi replies, and as the ice melts, the scarlet demon is met by Aoi, whose form is now several times larger than he usually appears. ‘How’s this for an element of surprise?’ Aoi grins, before smacking the scarlet demon aside with a WHAP.
Hitome turns to Kori and tells him that he believes he knows how to defeat the remaining demons. ‘Will you follow my lead, Kori?’ Hitome asks.’Let’s send these villains back where they belong!’ Kori replies, and as Hitome rides on Kori’s back, they speed towards the woods, with Hitome instructing Kori to freeze the truees. The dog opens his mouth and blasts freezing ice at the trees. Hitome removes the peach pit and his optic blast strikes the frozen tree, rebounding off in several different directions, one blast heads straight for the approaching blue demon, who screams as the blast strikes him, ‘No, you fool!’ the leader of the demons exclaims as the blue demon falls back into the red and purple demon, knocking him into a ditch where the scarlet demons lies. As the red and purple demon tries to get to his feet, he is knocked over when Tenshi returns, dropping the green demon onto the others, they collapse. Kori and Hitome go over to the pile of demons as Aoi and Tenshi stand nearby, and Kori freezes the demons in a solid block of ice.
With their foes now vanquished, the heroes are reunited after the battle with the monk, who has found and freed the Emperor’s daughter. ‘Love the new look’ Tenshi calls out to Aoi in his larger form. ‘What can I say? Danger brings out the beast in me’ Aoi smiles. The Emperor’s daughter turns to the heroes and thanks them all, adding that she will be forever in their debt for joining her father on this dangerous journey to rescue her. ‘Father?’ Aoi asks, surprised. ‘But you’re the Emperor’s daughter’ Kori points out. ‘Then that must mean…’ Tenshi begins. ‘You’re not really a monk after all. You’re the Emperor!’ Hitome gasps. ‘Yes, my friends. I am. And I hope you will forgive me for my deception’ the “monk” replies. Hitome and the others kneel before the Emperor, as Hitome asks ‘But why go through all the trouble? If you’d simple asked -’ he begins.
The Emperor explains that he has commanded armies and have already ordered soldiers to fight at his behest, to try and save his daughter, and though they fought nobly, their hearts were filled with fear - they gave their lives for a cause not their own. The Emperor tells the heroes that it was important that he find companions who were willing to look inside themselves and face their own fears, to band together of their own accord to join his crusade. The Emperor and his daughter smile, as the Emperor states that friends bonded by heart and soul are the most powerful allies once can hope for. ‘Which is why I would not ask that you all join me as my royal guard’. Hitome and the heroes look at each other with excitement. ‘Us? Your royal guard? That will certainly be something new and different!’ Hitome exclaims. ‘We’ll be amazing!’ Kori declares. ‘Astonishing!’ Tenshi calls out. ‘Uncann…um, I mean… awesome!’ Aoi adds.
And it was with hearts full of pride and joy that Hitome, Aoi, Tenshi and Kori accepted the Emperor’s offer and became protectors of his kingdom. Their adventures together had just begun….