Ne no Kami: Love, Innocence and Ayakashi

The narrative of Ne no Kami: The Two Princess Knights of Kyoto has a number of different threads, all of which intertwine with one another to create a rather compelling whole.

We have the very personal story of the protagonist Len, as she attempts to come to terms with a new world that is vastly different from everything she has ever known. We have the story of humanity’s hidden struggle to protect the world against horrors that most people will never know about. And we have the story of lifelong feelings of love that, although based on a misunderstanding, have grown into something genuine that transcends traditional societal norms.

There’s a lot going on, in other words — even though the work as a whole is a single-route kinetic novel with no choices for the player to make. In many ways, though, that’s an entirely appropriate structure for the story Ne no Kami is trying to tell: more than anything else, it’s a tale of being swept along by fate, seemingly unable to deviate from the plan the Universe has for you despite your best efforts to find alternative solutions.

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Ne no Kami primarily unfolds from the perspective of protagonist Len, an outsider to the central conflict of the overall narrative between humanity and the ayakashi. This is, of course, an entirely sensible decision on the part of writer Fenrir Vier: by casting someone “normal” who knows nothing about the situation in the lead role, they are in the same position as the player at the beginning of the story, and both the player and Len learn more and more about what is happening at the same rate.

Len herself is a likable, relatable sort of character. She’s short for her age and rather self-conscious about this fact; she’s embraced her femininity since a rather tomboyish childhood — though her somewhat feisty attitude at times shows that she’s never been able to quite abandon this aspect of her personality completely; she’s interested in fashion, TV shows, manga… In other words, Len is an eminently normal sort of teenage girl who has never known anything other than an everyday life of going to school, hanging out with friends, reading magazines and… well, just living life as you’d expect.

Len’s life changes forever one day, however, when her mother springs a surprise on her out of the blue: a visit from a girl named Shinonome (or “Shino” as she tends to be referred to) that she used to play with as a child.

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“Just how many years has it been since we last saw one another?” ponders Len as she waits for her estranged friend. “She’s from a village deep in the mountains. I think, during spring or summer break, my dad used to take me there by car pretty often. She and I would meet several times each year.”

When the pair first meet, both make the natural comparisons between now and the last time they saw one another.

“Really, it’s almost shocking how little she’s changed,” muses Len, looking on her friend for the first time in years. “She feels like the kind of girl you’d turn out to be if you were ‘brought up right’.”

“You’ve certainly changed,” says Shino to Len’s face, with characteristic directness. “Back then, you were quite the tomboy.”

“I’ve changed, huh?” replies Len. “Well, yeah! I’m a lovely lady now!”

“Indeed, your appearance has changed,” notes Shino. “But I’m relieved that your height and other things are still very much the same.”

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Shino’s visit, it transpires, isn’t a purely social call. Rather, as she encourages Len onto a two-hour hike to the very same village Len remembered from her childhood, she drops the bizarre bombshell that she “would have you abandon this city, along with your life… for the sake of all humanity.”

Len, understandably, is confused by this curious outburst and begins to wonder exactly what she’s getting herself into.

“Consider myself dead?” she wonders, strangely calm about the situation. “Like, no longer alive? For the sake of humanity? What’s with her? She comes up to me in a shrine maiden outfit and then tells me to come with her to her village by foot. There’s no way the old village I visited back then is still there… All signs point to danger.”

Sure enough, when Len overhears Shino talking on a satellite phone about having her “in custody”, she panics. “It’s one of those situations where you get abducted in a car, bum-rushed and forced to sign something against your will,” she thinks, clearly relating the apparent situation more to things she’s seen in popular media than actually reaching some sort of rational conclusion. Understandably, she attempts to take flight, but she doesn’t get far before Shino and an older woman named Mitsurugi catch up with her.

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To make matters worse, after calling her mother in increasing distress over what is happening to her, Len discovers that this situation had all been planned in advance without her knowledge or consent. Indeed, her parents have already made arrangements to send “her things” — literally all of her things, it later transpires — over to Shino’s house, seemingly for a protracted and possibly even permanent stay.

Len eventually resigns herself to the fact that there appears to be no getting out of this for the moment, so she attempts to make the best of an unknown situation, enjoying the nostalgia of seeing Shino’s home village for the first time in years, as well as the clean air of the mountains. These attempts to look at things in as positive a light as possible are typical of Len as a character, and it’s one aspect of her personality that she manages to maintain for the most part, even as many other things about herself come to change over the course of the complete narrative.

Shortly after Len’s arrival, it becomes clear that the “Kunai Organisation”, a hidden branch of the government that resides in Shino’s hidden village, has taken an interest in her primarily because of a strange power she seems to have possessed since her childhood.

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“I can sense things,” explains Len. “When we’d play hide and seek as kids, I was the best when I was ‘it’. No matter how well the other kids hid, if I just focused a little, I could clearly see — sense, I guess — where they were. It’s like everyone is a fuzzy light and I can tell which belongs to who, even with my eyes closed.”

Len discovers that the one who requested she be brought to the village was one Tsuchimikado, a young man who describes himself as “middle management” in the organisation, despite also claiming to be a descendent of the legendary onmyouji (expert in magic and divination) Abe no Seimei, albeit one without any powers of his own. (“I apparently lack the talent for it,” he admits.) Moreover, he confirms Len’s suspicions: that all this was arranged in advance — even further in advance than she could have imagined, though.

“This is something that was decided on when you were a child,” explains Tsuchimikado. “I feel bad about it too, but your parents had already given their consent. The reason lies with the power you were born with.” He goes on to explain that the reason for the organisation’s existence is to “help protect the capital from all the big, evil youkai” — something of an oversimplification of the situation, but not entirely inaccurate.

Len, understandably, is baffled by all this, and her first reaction, once again, is flight from something that she doesn’t understand.

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“In an age where commercial space travel is on the verge of realisation, where some kinda nanotechnology can heal diseases via regenerative healing, there are also evil gods sealed away, but the seal has been undone, so the youkai are unleashed upon Earth,” Len muses to herself. “And there’s an organisation on the side of justice to fight them. They’re acting so stupid, even though they’re all adults. I bet they just play too many video games.”

Len’s initial reaction to all this taps into one of the core themes in all of Ne no Kami’s narrative threads: the idea of clashing cultures, and how we can come to understand one another despite what might seem like completely irreconcilable differences. The culture of the Kunai Organisation, which Tsuchimikado explains has been in existence in one form or another since the “era of the gods”, is so completely alien to the eminently normal Len that she has absolutely no idea how to process it. And the natural reaction when confronted with something seemingly beyond your comprehension is fear — which, in turn, leads to a primal “fight or flight” response.

Len, to her credit, doesn’t immediately give in to her baser instincts, though she does resolve to try and get out of this situation as soon as she possibly can. Her naturally curious nature overrides her desire to flee, however — she’s particularly curious to meet up with Shino’s sister Uzume, with whom she recalls she had something of a connection as a youngster.

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Uzume, Shino explains, has her own duties to perform on behalf of the organisation, and lives in a “Sanctuary” that is cut off from the “visible world” via seemingly supernatural means. The Sanctuary itself is actually a portion of Takamagahara, or the “high heavenly plain” of Shinto myth, where the gods once resided. Now, the various Sanctuaries are used as hidden places to protect people like Uzume as well as the “Seal Stones” that keep the evil gods trapped in the Afterworld, or Ne no Kuni.

When Len reunites with Uzume for the first time since her childhood, we see another example of culture clash. Uzume, having lived her whole life in the Sanctuary, knows nothing of the outside world aside from what the young Len told her — and is initially shaken by the fact that the “Len-kun” she knew as a child was not, after all, a boy, but the girl now standing before her.

“Before, whenever you came, you always taught me so much about a world that I know nothing about,” says Uzume wistfully. “Even if you are a girl… you’ll always be my knight in shining armour!”

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Uzume’s outburst is a reference to an encounter between the two of them in their youth, when the tomboyish young Len proudly proclaimed that “he” would protect his “princess” Uzume as her knight, then kissed her on the hand. As her sole connection to the world outside her Sanctuary — and outside the village — this particular incident left quite an impact on Uzume and lit the flame of what would become a lifelong love.

The young Len, meanwhile, had no such intention when the event originally took place — she was actually rehearsing lines from a play she was in at school and had thought nothing of it in the intervening years. As a result, she is rather surprised to discover quite how obsessive Uzume has become over this apparently defining moment in her life.

“Did you know that Uzume kept every single thing you ever gave her?” explains Shino. “Letters are one thing, but she even kept the snacks and sweets, refusing to eat them.” Her most treasured possession is a floral hair ornament that she has worn ever since Len gave it to her; Len, meanwhile, has likewise always subconsciously maintained a connection to Uzume by wearing a moon-shaped hairpin that she believed she received in exchange. Uzume, however, has no recollection of giving her the hairpin in question; since she is unable to leave the Sanctuary, any gifts she gave to Len in exchange would have been bought on her behalf, and consequently she wouldn’t have known exactly what they were.

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Len was ready to leave the village immediately after reuniting with Uzume, but something holds her back from fleeing right away, and the members of the Kunai Organisation take this opportunity to try her with their collection of “divine swords”. These are weapons supposedly from the gods that may only be wielded by certain individuals — anyone else attempting to lift one will find it far too heavy to do anything with.

Len initially shows no reaction to any of the divine weapons until she comes to the last one: an unusual, seemingly broken weapon that combines a sword blade with an integrated shield of sorts. Having grown accustomed to the apparent extreme weight of the other divine swords, Len puts far too much effort in and flings it up into the air — those chosen by a sword will find it all but “weightless”. Upon recovering it — with extreme apologies to everyone around her, as she mistakenly believes she has done something incredibly disrespectful rather than something that is simply incredible — she experiences a vision of the past.

In her vision, someone named Uzume — not the Uzume she knows — is apparently trapped in a desperate situation with someone named Utano. The two are seemingly very close with one another, but the vision concludes with them apparently sacrificing themselves in the name of some sort of greater good. Len later learns from the older members of the organisation that these events actually happened back in 1923 during the last uprising of the evil gods’ ayakashi forces, and a time when, despite heavy losses, the organisation succeeded in sealing them away.

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“Utano, the former Uzume, myself and the old man all fought the ayakashi together,” explains Yoshimura, one of the two oldest residents of the village, and a divine sword wielder in her own right. “Instead of Uzume, Utano was the one who took on the attack. The sword that you held was indeed damaged when that happened.”

“I’ve only been in this village for a day or so,” thinks Len after listening to Yoshimura’s story. “But I’ve seen and learned so much about a world that I’d never have known.”

“That sword chose the current Uzume-chan and Len-chan,” continues Yoshimura. “And it let you hear Utano’s last moments. It must think this is destiny of some kind.”

Indeed, the situation appears to bear a considerable number of parallels to the situation in 1923 — particularly the uprising of the ayakashi forces and the sword responding to both Uzume and someone close to her. Len remains overwhelmed, however.

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“What everyone here wants from me is just a little too big-picture,” she confesses to Mitsurugi. “Whenever I think about Morita-san and him using the divine sword, and that barrier, and everything else I’ve experienced… it’s like, wow, it’s all real — all believable. I can’t be the only viable option, though. Just look at Japan — no, the world! There’s gotta be someone else out there who’s stronger, like a martial artist or something, right?”

“This is exactly why you’ve come to us,” replies Mitsurugi. “The timing, your ability to wield the divine sword… such an opportunity only happens once every thousand years.” She eventually convinces Len to stay in the village for a month in an attempt to learn more about wielding the divine sword — and sweetens the deal somewhat with the offer of a million yen per month stipend for her troubles. “I won’t tell anyone that you were lured in by the pay, either,” adds Mitsurugi with a wry smile.

In offering such a generous pay package to Len, Mitsurugi demonstrates that, despite being a longstanding member of the organisation, she’s thoroughly familiar with how the outside world works — particularly its emphasis on capitalism and consumerism. Sure enough, Len’s thought process is predictable enough, though she at least attempts to rationalise it to herself in terms of practicality rather than greed. Appearances are important to Len.

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“My friend works part time,” she considers. “If I remember right, she gets 40,000 yen a month. One million yen is like two years’ worth of part-time work. In a single month. I’ve been wanting to freshen up my summer wardrobe, I need a new jacket for fall, and I could use some boots for winter, too… One million yen’s a huge amount. And it’s not like the ayakashi are definitely going to show up. They were all sealed by the Taisho era, right? It… should be alright, I’m sure. Luck’s usually on my side, anyway.”

So begins Len’s adventure, and her natural first response to becoming more involved in the situation is to seek counsel from Uzume, whom she has quickly grown to trust and care about after their reunion.

“My name, Uzume, is the name of one of the legendary gods,” explains Uzume, referring to the mythology of Ame-no-Uzume, the goddess of dawn who, legend has it, lured sun deity Amaterasu out of her cave after she retreated from storm god Susanoo.  “For generations, one of the members of the Sarume family has had to inherit the name. Were something to ever happen in the visible world, then I carry the responsibility of conducting the sealing.”

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Uzume seems to believe what she is saying, and Len trusts her, so despite continued misgivings about the whole situation — particularly the more fantastic-seeming aspects of it — Len chooses to at least continue with a reasonably open mind, if not accept things outright. She proceeds to accept her new comrades’ challenging training regime and quickly discovers that her divine sword outfits her with considerably greater strength and stamina than she would be able to conjure up on her own.

Len’s relationship with Uzume continues to develop from hereon, too, initially with the two of them simply sharing friendly yet intimate moments such as feeding one another sweets, eventually escalating into feelings that go beyond simple friendship — though it takes Len some time to realise this, and it also takes her some time to realise that she is clearly drawing strength from her feelings for Uzume as much as she is from the divine sword itself.

Len’s culture clash with the organisation continues as she begins joining them on active duties. Her first reaction at seeing a fox-type ayakashi — built up to be the most dangerous and cunning of all their foes — is not one of fear, but instead a simple, honest feeling that the young-looking animal-eared girl before her is “cute” and, moreover, that she is in possession of rather more in the way of “humanity” than her comrades seem to believe.

Len urges the organisation not to jump right into fighting, but instead to consider discussing matters with the ayakashi. This is not something that the organisation had ever considered before, but Len is adamant.

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“They didn’t come to attack when they chased us the other night,” explains Len, referring to an incident on patrol where she met the young fox Haku for the first time. “The girl, Haku, said they wouldn’t show any mercy if we got in their way. That means if we don’t get in their way, they won’t attack us, right? I’ve also got something I wanna ask that girl, so I’d like to talk with them.”

The group eventually acquiesces to her suggestion. Len remains uneasy, but staunch in her beliefs.

“It’s not like I enjoy putting my life on the line like this,” she explains. “But if we wage war over some kind of misunderstanding and that kid gets killed, I don’t think I could forgive myself for that. If only they all looked like monsters instead.”

For sure, conflict is always easier if we can dehumanise our opponents into simple monsters. But of the ayakashi forces, it’s only their footsoldiers the oni that can really be described as such. Even the seemingly demonic dogs that occupy the next “tier” of their forces have sentience and the ability to communicate. And it becomes clear to Len not only that the foxes in particular are fully capable of rational thought, but also that the reason this conflict is happening may not be quite so simple in the first place.

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“Our master has done no evil thing,” explains Haku to Len in her slightly broken, impeded speech. “But even so, they imprisoned our lord in the Afterworld. Forbade to return to the visible world. Whenever he return to the visible world, as long as there is no bad done to him, he doesn’t attack anyone, either.”

“But I heard he fought with his fellow gods or something,” asks Len.

“Fellow… gods?” asks Haku, apparently with some confusion. “There was the other gods, from… outside.”

We later learn that these “other gods” from “outside” are the ancestors of the gods that humanity now follows and worships.

“Divine beings once ruled this world in days of yore,” explains the village’s resident “teacher” of sorts, Miyata. “However, a time came when similar beings made their way here from beyond the planet, resulting in a massive war between the two. All but one of the previous rulers were wiped out, and its incredible power means that it had to be sealed away in the Afterworld as an evil god.”

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This interpretation of gods from beyond our planet — and cataclysmic battles between deities — draws inspiration from a number of sources, most notably the Norse mythological concept of Ragnarok, which concludes with the death of many major god-like figures and the “rebirth” of the world, as well as Lovecraft’s depiction of the “Old Ones” as beings from beyond conventional time and space. This actually raises some interesting questions over exactly who it is that humanity supposedly worships nowadays, since it’s never made absolutely explicit in the main text of Ne no Kami, and is arguably a little ambiguous from Miyata’s descriptions.

“Norse mythology is likely another adaptation of what really took place,” she explains. “Especially when Ragnarok is such a focal point of their beliefs. The gods who fought in the war are said to have left afterwards, leaving their descendants in charge of ensuring that the evil god remains sealed. Those that remained remade the world from inside the Sanctuary, which is how humanity and other creatures came to be.”

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“There’s gotta be a way for us to compromise so we don’t have to fight,” continues Len after Haku’s explanation of her perspective on the situation. “I’m sure you don’t want to fight us humans either, do you?”

“Right,” replies Haku, “Because there are many kind humans like you, Len-san.”

Indeed, even upon the arrival of Haku’s sister Inari — a powerful, fearsome fox with wings, and the apparent leader of the ayakashi’s forces — it remains clear that the forces of this supposed “evil” god have no interest in fighting for the sake of fighting.

“We wish to avoid pointless fights, Lady Len,” explains Inari. “However, the sacrifice of a human life is necessary. Besides, they appear willing to give themselves up.”

Inari is referring to a group of cultists that have been on the rise in the background during the events throughout the story, who are more than willing to give up their lives in the name of their beliefs. On her way back from her meeting with Haku and Inari, who let her go on her way without further incident, Len finally encounters the one these cultists regard as their “god” — a formidable, seemingly inhuman giant known as Tsuchigumo who has apparently been collaborating with the ayakashi forces.

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Tsuchigumo refers to himself as “the ruler of all those forsaken by this world” and explains his position at the head of the Japanese aboriginal clans originally ostracised by the first Emperor and his followers — a group who were collectively referred to as Tsuchigumo, or “dirt spider”.

“Such clans exist even now, ostracised as they were back then and forced to conceal themselves from society,” he explains. “Folktales refer to them as the Mountain Clans and Sanka — they are my people. We’ve lived, confined to the mountains, struggling to acquire provisions that will let us survive another day. Electricity is a foreign concept to us, let alone the modern medicine needed to treat those who fall ill. Those who wished to make even the slightest of earnings had no option but to sell themselves. Others resorted to scrounging for money.”

Here we encounter several more examples of cultures clashing. Tsuchigumo’s “people” clashed with the societal norms of the period when they were originally ostracised and refused to swear allegiance to a ruler that they hadn’t asked for. Len, meanwhile, clashes with Tsuchigumo’s culture both from the perspective that her relatively privileged upbringing makes her almost unable to imagine what it’s like to live without access to things we take for granted like electricity and medicine — and also in the sense that she finds it impossible to believe that anyone could just “give up” on being able to be part of the modern world in the way she perceives Tsuchigumo to have done.

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“That doesn’t exclude anyone from the right to a normal life, though!” she exclaims at his description of his “people” living in the mountains — apparently voluntarily. “Things will work out if you try hard enough!”

“And try we did,” continues Tsuchigumo. “A number of times, in fact. The unfortunate reality is that our pleas fell on deaf ears. Those from the government see no profit in helping such a small clan, after all.”

Len is sympathetic to the plight of Tsuchigumo and his people, but ultimately refuses to accept his methods — and those of her comrades, too.

“I’m more annoyed at how selfish everyone involved in this whole thing is than anything else!” she cries. “It’s not just you and the ayakashi, either. Even the Capital Branch is guilty! You’re all trying to push for what you think’s right without ever considering the innocent people you drag into it! You said Kyoto would become yours if you succeed? Well, here’s the thing: I’ve got friends and family there. What did they ever do to deserve being dragged into this? And that’s not all! I really mean it when I say I want to help you. And then there’s Haku, too. She’s an ayakashi, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to spend more time with her! I care about everyone involved, and that’s why I don’t want to see them all fight each other!”

Len doesn’t mention Uzume at this point, but we can clearly infer from the passionate nature of her reaction that there’s someone in particular that she “cares about” and wants to protect more than anyone else; this doesn’t make her words any less genuine, however, since at this point she’s still yet to realise her feelings for Uzume on anything more than a subconscious level.

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Len’s feelings prove to be a rather complex matter. She understands with each visit to Uzume that there is a clear connection between the two of them, though she initially brushes off Uzume’s obsessive interest in her as being a bit of fun between two girls who are friendly with one another. She doesn’t even contemplate the matter of two girls being anything more than close friends with one another until, by chance one day, she stumbles across Shino and another girl named Ruka, whom she’d previously simply been introduced to as one of the few other young people in the village, sharing a passionate kiss on the steps up the mountain.

“Just remembering how much those two seemed to be enjoying it drives me crazy,” Len recounts to Uzume, unable to quite understand her own emotions on the matter and even more confused after she found herself getting excited when they took a bath together. “It makes me want to try it out for myself, just to understand how they felt.”

Len continues to be somewhat uncomfortable with the concept of homosexuality, but spending some time alone with Ruka allows her to discuss things and organise her thoughts a little.

“I gotta say,” she says to Ruka, “seeing you two kissing surprised me more than when I saw ayakashi for the first time. I mean, two girls kissing wasn’t something I’d even thought could happen, so… I mean, don’t get me wrong! As long as you both love each other, I’m totally cool with it! My head’s been in a weird place ever since I saw you two kiss, to be honest… that’s why I ended up unloading on Uzume.”

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Here we have yet another example of clashing cultures — or perhaps more accurately, Len discovering another aspect of the world that she had previously given no thought to whatsoever. These feelings are new and unknown to Len — she even claims that she didn’t know that two girls kissing “was something that could happen” — and so it’s understandable that she’s confused.

Her confusion is only compounded when, while out with Ruka, she attempts to pay a visit to her parents’ house, only to discover that it was completely abandoned almost immediately after she went to the village. This effectively traps her “between worlds” — unable to return to the world she once considered to be normal, and her mind filled with questions and doubts about the new world in which she finds herself. Her natural response is, of course, to once again run to Uzume for support.

“I’m not even sure what’s going on with my life right now,” she confesses. “I feel like I’ve even lost track of who I am. I don’t even get a say in anything that’s happening… first I’m abandoned, next I’m killed off without any consideration for my feelings about it…” Here Len is referring to a condition of her participation in the Kunai Organisation’s activities: the wiping of her from all official records, effectively making her “dead” to society at large.

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“You’re still the Len-chan I know and love, regardless of what happens,” says Uzume, attempting to reassure her. “Believe me when I say I’ll always be by your side, no matter the circumstances. I’ve been living a solitary life here, cut off from the rest of the world. I would be lying if I said living away from my family wasn’t lonely, but… if it’s all for your sake, then I have no qualms about it. Accepting my fate is a simple task as long as you exist.”

By this point, Len is beginning to understand quite how deeply Uzume’s feelings for her run, but is still unsure as to whether or not she is able to reciprocate them. She’s still hung up on whether or not two girls being together is acceptable — or indeed if it’s something she really wants in the first place. But ever since she witnessed Shino and Ruka kissing, she finds herself unable to stop thinking about the prospect, until one day, wracked with frustration and lust, she summons up the courage to proposition Uzume.

“I hate that I’m seeing this an an ideal opportunity,” Len says to herself, but unable to hold back. “I hate that I’m completely setting her feelings for me aside. What’s wrong with me? I know I shouldn’t be saying it, and yet I can’t stop myself. I’m so sorry, Uzume, just say no, otherwise… I’ll follow through.”

“Will we kiss first…?” asks Uzume, having immediately agreed to the prospect.

“We can hold off on that for now,” says Len. “Kissing her now would mean that I’ve accepted her feelings for me,” she adds to herself.

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Uzume gleefully and enthusiastically pleasures Len, and Len finds herself greatly enjoying the experience in the moment, though she also feels pangs of guilt about “tainting her childhood friend and getting turned on by it”. These pangs only grow as she finds herself unable to complete the utterance “I love you” as she approaches orgasm, and overwhelm her completely once it’s all over, causing her, once again, to flee from a new world she doesn’t understand.

“I’m beyond vile,” she says to herself. “I used my own friend like a tool to satisfy my lust. My own friend who’s in love with me. How could I do something so awful to her? All that excitement’s come crashing down hard. Now I just feel horrible. Why did I even do that in the first place? I completely disregarded her feelings and used her for my own lustful reasons. Who knew I was such a filthy piece of garbage? What’s it like to love someone who isn’t family? I don’t get it, I just don’t get it. Sorry, Uzume… I’m too naive to understand.”

Uzume, however, understands exactly what happened.

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“She most likely succumbed to her darkest desires, allowing her lust to take precedence over her feelings towards me,” she thinks to herself. “There’s no doubt that she’s wracked with guilt at the moment. But little does she realise just how happy and fulfilling an experience that was for me. Remnants of her slightly bittersweet taste linger in my mouth. Her pained voice and expressions have yet to leave my thoughts. Just thinking about it sets my heart ablaze. Did you notice, Len-chan? My feelings have, without a doubt, made an impact on you through intercourse.”

Uzume is remarkably rational about the entire situation considering it was effectively the culmination of a lifelong dream for her. But it’s understandable when you consider quite how long she has been considering Len to be her “knight in shining armour” — an inherently honourable sort of individual who does the right thing, even if they don’t necessarily know the reasons for it at the time. In other words, Uzume recognises that Len acknowledging her lust — and allowing Uzume to be the one who satisfies it — is an important step in their relationship. Len has misinterpreted the situation as having “used” Uzume, but the fact is, Uzume had repeatedly said to Len that she was willing to indulge any of Len’s desires at any time — and, moreover, trusts her.

While Len’s initial reaction to what happened is shock, revulsion and guilt, she gradually comes to realise that her strong feelings are symptoms of the fact that she has come to think of Uzume as something extremely important to her. Uzume occupies her thoughts constantly, including during an important operation to protect the Seal Stone housed in the Kyoto Imperial Palace. When we see her finally manage to manifest the full power of her divine sword in another battle against Tsuchigumo, we can infer that it’s the power of her feelings that allows her to do so — particularly as we see Shino do the same when thinking about protecting Ruka in their previous battle against the “god”.

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And when she once again encounters Inari during the same operation, and subsequently discovers the one thing the organisation hadn’t been telling her — that Uzume would likely have to give up her life to perform a sealing ritual if their defensive efforts fail — she starts to understand how much she wants to protect Uzume.

“I’ve made my decision, Uzume,” Len eventually confesses having taken five days to muster up the courage to face her again. “Truthfully, the idea of getting into a relationship with another girl scared me before. That’s why I couldn’t say anything back. I’ve thought things through, and in the end, gender and stuff like that doesn’t matter. I’d never be able to do what we did with anyone else.

“I love you, Uzume. I really do,” she admits. “So, if you still feel the same way as you did before, I’d like to make up for my mistake. I realise that’s selfish of me, but I’ve done nothing but think of you these past few days. Both out of guilt and out of love. I just can’t hold these feelings back any more. I love you, Uzume!

“I want to protect you,” she continues. “And this isn’t me just spouting lines from a play, either. I mean it from the bottom of my heart. You’re the princess who supports me when I need it, so it’s my turn to be your knight. I’ll protect you as long as I live, so don’t leave my side.”

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The two make love, this time with Len acknowledging her own feelings fully, but their happiness is short-lived as Len comes to realise that having taken these steps into this new and seemingly wonderful world, she now risks having it all snatched away from her if Uzume ends up having to sacrifice herself. The situation mirrors that of the events from 1923, after all, when the previous Uzume’s personal protector — who was in love with her — gave up her life to protect that Uzume and her sealing ritual, but that Uzume ended up losing her life regardless. And Len’s Uzume herself confesses that the situation now is actually far worse than it was back in the Taisho era.

Len, sensing a seemingly unwinnable situation, begins to grow desperate; having finally admitted her feelings to Uzume and come to understand exactly “how to love someone who isn’t family”, she doesn’t want to lose her. More importantly, her own feelings of doubt over how the situation with the ayakashi is being handled mean that she still doesn’t fully believe in the organisation’s cause — and consequently most definitely doesn’t want Uzume to throw away her life on its behalf. She attempts to convince Uzume to run away with her, but Uzume, having occupied this world a lot longer than Len has, understands that her responsibilities and duties come ahead of her personal feelings, and instead pushes Len away, asking her to leave and never come back.

And thus begins Len’s final flight from a world she doesn’t understand.

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“All I managed to do in the end was make Uzume hate me,” she says to herself, tears streaming down her face. “I thought I could do anything after becoming a divine sword wielder. I was so sure that I could protect Uzume and everyone else… but that couldn’t have been further from the truth. I don’t belong here any more. If Uzume wants me to leave, then I’ll leave. The last thing I want is to burden her more.”

This first part of Len’s story concludes with her, now cast out from every single “world” she had ever been part of, seeing no option but to seek solace in the only remaining place that might accept her: among the ayakashi, and specifically, with the young fox girl Haku, with whom she had successfully struck up a genuine friendship over the course of their encounters.

Things are about to get complicated for everyone involved, it seems… but we’ll have to wait until the upcoming Part 2 to find out where things go from here. For now, Ne no Kami nonetheless remains a thoroughly compelling exploration of love, innocence, ayakashi… and, of course, glorious yuri.


Thanks to Eve at Denpasoft for supplying the review copies. You can purchase the 18+ version of the game or the 18+ patch direct from Denpasoft. An all-ages version is available on Steam.

If you enjoyed this article and want to see more like it, please consider showing your social support with likes, shares and comments, or financial support via my Patreon. Thank you!

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