Yamata no Orochi and Kusanagi
Yamata no Orochi is the giant eight-headed snake from Japanese legends and the look of my Orochi was inspired by his Okami incarnation where his heads were reminiscent of a dragon, thus freeing me from trying to decide what poisonous snake he should be. The Shogun was first introduced in the story that ended with Phoenix entering the Great Desert and subsequently losing her soul. She met him just before then and he warned her against entering the Desert. His backstory is pretty interesting and (I hope) well developed for someone who’s something of a minor player in my mythos.
Orochi is described as a self-serving soul who is also as old as the world. He was created to be Genbu’s second so all snakedom would be under the High King’s rule, as Genbu’s jurisdiction over snakes only extended to the relatively harmless ones, like constrictors. Orochi’s position would put him on the level of Royeren (Suzaku’s second), Kuro (Seiryu’s former second), and Kala (Byakko’s second). He, in turn, has a second; Kusanagi. However, after the Descent, Orochi turned his back on the Almighty in the interest of ruling the shogunate he founded to be a separate entity from Genbu’s kingdom. His power to see the intangible was given to him from the start since the Almighty knew about everything that would happen. A Forgone Conclusion since He’s the All World equivalent of the Christian God. It was only awakened after the fact but Orochi, in his self-serving ways, had no intention of using it.
It took a mild implication from the Almighty to make Orochi think that his life was in jeopardy and have him fulfill his purpose. He grudgingly did so but swore no oath to the Almighty or Genbu. It was all according to plan, anyway. The Almighty knew where his future was going to go. Orochi found beings who willingly enter the Great Desert and come into contact with the Sword to be unfailingly stupid and not worth saving. It was probably more that mindset than his self-serving attitude that almost made him abandon his calling before it even started. He didn’t think that perhaps the unlucky soul’s family or friends would even mourn the loss of a loved one. It took the cursing of the East by Seiryu, driven mad by Phoenix’s fate, that opened Orochi’s eyes (all sixteen of them) to the reality that people get hurt if something happens to someone they care about. Seiryu’s madness turned everything in the East to stone, sans Orochi whose vast age alone allowed him to counteract what he calls child’s play.
Orochi alone is immune to the Sacred Sword’s power, thanks to his soul-binding power. But he’s not immune to failure. He’s lost thirty of the Sword’s victims over the ages because he failed to find the soul in time to keep the body from dying. That was before he gained life support systems from King Byakko which could keep the body alive indefinitely, allowing him to hunt down the soul with more time. After working hard to avert a long term disaster in the East (being well within Seiryu’s power to destroy it himself), Orochi came to appreciate that there was still good in the world and works harder to prevent others from entering the Desert. He’s the guardian, so to speak.
Orochi showed signs of the Lima Syndrome trope when he was working hard to reunite Phoenix with her soul. Indeed, he grew more compassionate for the Sword’s victims thanks to her and he even gained some feelings for the chimera, even saying outright to her face that he wished Seiryu didn’t hold her heart. He’s a graceful loser and stepped aside after it was all said and done. He’s still protective of her, as seen in the Spider-East War when he took a blow from Araneae, Queen of the giant spiders.
Orochi has elemental powers alongside his mission-specific ability to see souls. All his powers were also inspired by Okami’s first Big Bad of the same name. Those powers, however, have their catalyst in the eight helms he wears so they aren’t inherent powers like most magic. As he rarely gets into battles where such power is needed, he’s more of a straight example of a Lightning Bruiser, due to his speed and sheer strength thanks to his size. His elemental powers come in handy in wars and large scale battles.
Orochi was also given the gift of a holy sword in the event that he learned compassion and discipline. Fridge Brilliance comes into play when it’s revealed who the sword’s former master was: the Deceiver himself. The Shogun is pretty much everything the Deceiver isn’t, as “humanly” possible as it is for one who isn’t a true immortal. Irony comes into play in terms of Orochi gaining possession a holy sword: he has a demonic state that is only unlocked in extreme circumstance, as seen in the battle he had with the Deceiver. However, Our Demons Are Different. There are two forms of demons in All World. True demons are the Fallen Unseen (fallen angels). Then you have a wholly different and separate class that apply to beings like Orochi and Roter Stier, a demon who haunts Verboden Waair and whose appearance is Exactly What It Says On The Tin; a red fire bull.
Orochi’s second is a giant seven-headed water moccasin named Kusanagi. Until recently, he was an unseen character, barring his petrified form when the East was cursed. Kusanagi is driven by one thing and that is to overthrow Orochi, his master. He feels as though he was wronged by the Almighty who chose Orochi for Shogun on the mere fact that Orochi has eight heads. Kusanagi feels he’s more worthy of his because he has the holy number in head, seven. He makes it a habit to attack and battle Orochi every half-century but he’s stepping up his game and attacking more frequently. The Shogun’s attitude to his second’s actions may bring to mind the trope Why Don’t You Just Shoot Him? That answer is found is in the blog dealing with my near-immortals and their view on their long life.
Kusanagi made his first real appearance in Genbu’s spotlight story and it’s further explained why he’s not Shogun. The water moccasin is somewhat bloodthirsty but he restrains himself very well, thanks to his age. Coming to contact with anything with a pulse (females in particular), makes Kusanagi go off on whimsical daydreams of putting his victim’s life out. Heartbeats excite him and he physically has to will himself away before he sinks his fangs into what he calls “a lovely jugular that longs to be stopped”. It was shown with his interaction with Katrina, Genbu’s human love interest. He was in her village while Genbu was raising a mountain for Orochi’s new headquarters along with Master Fenrir of the wolves and he was.
Kusanagi is someone who sees death as an art and it’s possible that when he first killed someone in self-defense (water moccasin: bad news for people), he Jumped Off The Slippery Slope and wanted nothing more than to kill for the heck of it. Orochi keeps him in line, though he feels that if Kusanagi can be trained to only kill when necessary, the moccasin may gain the thing he covets most: the entire shogunate with the title to match. That’s probably the reason Orochi doesn’t just kill Kusanagi for his trouble.