[x] Divert your course, we’re going to die if something goes wrong
[x] Sanae, can’t you speak to your patrons?
“Look, Sanae, none of us are in fighting condition. If Rigel so much as sneezes at us it’s game over. Come to think of it, can’t you use the bond with your gods to see what’s going on?”
She seems to tense up, then shrugs, “They’ve probably figured out about my little killing spree already though. But fine. Sir Pyrus, lower the stealth field. Awyrgan, fly away from the mountain.”
As you execute the aforementioned tactical retreat. Sanae puts her hair ornaments back on, and begins praying. “Lady Kanako, Lady Suwako, if you can hear my voice, please respond.”
You see the traces of light converging to form an image, much like how you’d expect a god to appear in spirit. The image coalesces into a long, slender shape.
A sword that flies straight at you and spears you in the chest.
“Oh look at that, I’ve been impaled.” You blankly state as you feel absolutely nothing while the purely divine projectile dissipates. “Sanae?”
She stares at you, half apologetic and half confused, “That wasn’t supposed to happen.”
“Rigel’s interfering with the divine energy in that area, being a massive battery of it himself.” Castor states in a seemingly calm tone that is undermined by his visible shaking, “ He saw us during that prayer, but good thing we didn’t get far yet. Milady Awyrgan, if you would randomwalk please.”
“What?” Sanae shouts in disbelief? “He’s strong enough of a hero to intercept the prayers between me and my goddesses!”
“Aren’t you glad we didn’t go in face-first?” You remark.
Awyrgan flattens her wings and the traces of energy under her scales glow brighter as she begins a complex random flight path over Gensokyo.
“I really like how he threw an attack at the one person it wasn’t going to affect,” You say, with a shiver as you realize what would have happened if he did that against Awyrgan.
“Like I said, master tactician, but in the process of breaking down.” Rigel sighs, then suddenly sits up straight in alarm as he notices a red glow coming from his sister’s armor. “Oh, oh no. Ming, you promised to get my sister treatment, right? Get us that, now!”
You grit your teeth. “Awyri, remember Eientei?”
“Doth thee doubt mine memory?”
“No, get us there, now!”
She flips around and begins heading straight for the Bamboo forest. You turn around to check on the turncoats, “What’s wrong, did something happen?”
“That link also allowed him to remotely excommunicate our blessed armor. She’s going to die in the next hour or so without treatment.”
“I’M SORRY!” Sanae cries, “I...I didn’t mean to, I just...”
“Chill.” You pat her on the shoulder as Awyri plunges straight into the bamboo thicket, “We’ve got somebody who can cross Gensokyo in a few minutes, time isn’t an issue. AND she somehow knows where Eientei is without a guide.”
“Tis simple, really. Magnetic disorientation works naught on a beast such as I, so suffused and and shimmering with the regular movement of molten metal. I shall land within their courtyard and...tis that...”
She swerves sharply out of the way as a circle of brightly shining pale orbs surround her, before bursting apart into a spray of blue bullets, rather pretty against the setting sun in the distance. As you struggle to regain orientation, you then notice something coming from behind, something big and flaming.
She barely dodges out of the way of a crumbling piece of spacecraft, which looked to be a replica of a Lunar landing module, as it streaks passed you and dispersed into silvery magical residue. Residue which is quickly cleared by a hail of arrows flying towards you. Non-magical arrows, but they are coming unusually fast.
Awyrgan batters them aside with her wings with ease. “Thou depleted of swords, foe?”
An explosion rings out to your right, ringing your ears and dimming your vision for a moment. You turn, and dumbly note for a moment that half of Awyrgan’s right wing has been blown off, smoldering silver.
You then notice that you are falling, and subsequently the feeling of restraints on your legs disappearing as Awyrgan disintegrates, reverting into her mana-light humanoid form as she falls. Turning around, you see Castor grab ahold of his sister, and try futilely to activate the defunct wings on her back.
Without a moment’s hesitation, you throw the broken wings you were carrying to him. As the knight catches them on reflex and his divine energy suffuse the device, he looks at you with a mix of gratitude and sadness as you wave at him with a smile, falling down to earth with no armor protecting you.
And then not one second later Sanae snatches you up, before diving down and grabbing the unconscious Awyrgan up with her other hand. You smile wider as the knight shakes his head.
“Well that was expected. I knew that Gensokyean heroes are strong enough to fly and carry people even when exhausted!”
“Eh...I can’t. You two are pretty heavy.”
Looking at the movement of the bamboo leaves, you see that you are still losing altitude. Slower, but still losing altitude at an unpleasant pace.
You then look down and see the ground rising up to greet you for the third time today. Your smile goes away.
“FUCKING DAMN IT WE’RE---” You are interrupted by Sanae’s erratic descent smashing you into a bamboo stalk.
Eventually the three of you come to a abrupt, but not too much so, stop on the forest floor. Face-first. You spit out a mouthful of leaves as you roll around and stare up. Awyrgan is still out cold with a broken wing, and Sanae is groaning in pain in a fetal position after crashing into a stalk like you did.
Angry voices can be heard coming from a steadily closer source, and you look up to see a woman with almost feet length black hair and the white-robed assassin Tsuki no Iwakasa shouting at Eirin, who is unusually nonplussed. Her hair’s undone and her clothes are dirty, and she looks as if she hadn’t slept in days. Your ears are still ringing, so you can’t tell what they are saying in Japanese. Your vision is similarly blurry.
A pink shape looms over you, with a blacking topping and white ears. You then feel a stinging pain in your right arm, as Tewi grins at you and shows you what looks to be a two pronged hypodermic needle. The pain then fades away, along with the rest of the exhaustion in your body.
“...I told you!...Friendly fire!...”
“...at least...be sure...”
You struggle up to see Tewi patch up the other two on the ground. Needle into Sanae’s arm, needle out of Sanae’s arm. Needle into Awyrgan’s....needle snaps.
“At least you did not kill your own employee, Eirin.” An unfamiliar voice says, “Just let Iwakasa go on watch next.”
“Princess, I’m sorry, but I can’t...”
“Focus your attention on cleaning up the mess you made, Eirin. Shooting down our allies is not good form and not your usual style.” Judging by the formal Japanese and assertive tone, the other voice must be Kaguya.
Somebody helps you up, “Kiddo, you have got to stop getting yourself into these situations. Wait, are you actually conscious?”
“Whaaat, we didn’t exactly make a very hard landing.” You grumble as you pretend that you didn’t lose all feeling in your legs.
“As the person responsible for this accident,” You turn to see Eirin, with dark circles under her eyes and a genuine look of depressed confusion on her face, “I sincerely---”
“Eirin...” The woman that you now recognize as...damn, she is very pretty without the warbeast goo over her, the game art and even the best fanart you’ve seen fail at doing her justice...Kaguya Houraisan nudges her companion.
The doctor dutifully bows deeply, “I sincerely apologize for opening fire without provocation or checking the target.”
“Me and Sanae are probably fine. It’s Awyrgan you need to apologize to.” You answer as you walk over to the motionless dragon. Holding her up, you check her neck for a pulse, only realize the fault in your reasoning when you feel unfamiliar writhing movement under her humanoid facade “Yeah, that shot didn’t kill her, what spellcard was that?”
“It was not a spellcard. That was a purely physical shot from my daikyu.” You notice that Eirin is holding a variant of the all-metal bow you saw earlier in Eientei’s archery range, “Her name is Awyrgan? Who is this girl?”
“The Lowe-model tank that was acting unusually friendly to me.” You say has you pick her off the ground, quite easily even without armor as metal tends to be lighter than bone and water, “Turned out to be an incubating western dragon, as you can see by the wings, the tail, and the scales that serve as clothing. Hmm...doesn’t feel like she lost much energy at all...Awyri, are you awake?”
“Princess...I smell the scent of...princesses...” She groans, a bit of sizzling drool leaking from the side of her lips. You sigh in relief. Some metal and she’ll probably be as good as new.
A ruffling sound comes from the leaves above, then a soft *puft* as the brown skinned defector lands onto the ground with his sister cradled in his arms. “Null Fi--Ming, is this where your promised medical facility is located?”
“Oh right. Lady Yagokoro, I will accept your apology if you are willing to restore the person in that armor...”
“Done.” Eirin asks with just a cursory glance made. “Mortal organ trauma, skull fracture, multiple spinal dislocations. Tewi, prep the Blessed Water Vessel. Stranger, if you would carry your wounded sister and follow the rabbit...”
“How...” You begin to ask, when Castor walks by you and mutters, “This is what I meant by intelligences that won the war for your side.”
Eirin clears her throat, “Now, if you need anything else, ask anybody else. Again, I am sincerely sorry for this incident. I do however, have work to do.” Saying all of that with a very insincere tone, she then turns around and quickly walks back into Eientei.
“I did not know Eirin acts like that after almost killing three innocent people.” Sanae complains as Iwakasa helps her off the ground, “It doesn’t seem her style, right Ming?”
You suppress the urge to correct her assumptions on this one. “Yeah, probably. Eirin did order me to not come back.”
“Ah, forgive me. I had forgotten to thank you for risking your life to help me out earlier.” Kaguya says as she gives you a deep bow, her ridiculously long hair somehow not touching the ground in the process, “Mr. Wu Ming.”
“I was just doing my job.” You slightly bow in return, “My pleasure to meet you while conscious, Lady Houraisan. Say, Lady Yagokoro appears rather unfazed about me being back here.”
“That was before you three collectively vaporized a hundred or so of their people, and the incident of thy Hunter Module feeding data of multiple lesser-god level hostiles and a single monstrosity on par with Great Amaterasu herself” Kaguya looks worriedly at Eirin in the distance, who had just shut the door to the main building, “She has been trying to reconstruct a weapon capable of slaying heroes of that caliber. It has not been positive for her health....she has already committed suicide multiple times to refresh her body.
Ignoring Sanae’s and your shocked expressions, she continues, “Regardless, as she has not raised any objections to you disregarding an order, I will permit you to rest here for a while if you do not attract undue attention.”
“You mean crashing a dragon into this area isn’t attracting undue attention?”
“If they wish to seek you, they will succeed with their copied Lunarian technology. The reason why they have retreated, judging by your exoskeleton and Hunter Module’s data according to Eirin, was that they did not wish to keep wasting lives. As far as we can discern from their troop movements, after the attack three hours ago they seem to be content on avoiding you. As the situation for now is an eye in the storm, you may be guests at Eientei for now.”
“So dinner?” Sanae grumbles along with her stomach, “Miracles take a lot of energy.”
“Of course. We’ll set aside some metal for the dragon as well when she wakes up.”
“Princess...two? Two princesses...” Awyrgan is beginning to exude smoke out of her nostrils as well.
“Are you sure about that?”
“We can handle a western drake,” Kaguya smiles as several rabbits come over to carry the unconscious anti-princess off. Sanae, seeing that the situation has been handled, rushes off into Eientei, you are about to follow her when Kaguya tugs on your ragged sleeves.
“Mr. Wu, Udongein wants to see you.”
Your brain does a little twitch, “What?! She tried to kill me last time!”
“She is preparing to apologize, hence the request. Aside from that, judging by your combat data, I find it difficult to believe that she could do so even if she tried. I shall remain nearby, if that will put you at ease.”
She does a stereotypical head tilt and smile at the end, which causes you to avert your eyes lest you show some emotion. It’s beautiful, even for you, but rather detached.
After all the crap you ground through today, she is probably right in that case. You follow Kaguya back into Eientei and its spacious Japanese corridors and thick odor of bamboo and herbs. After passing by several familiar areas, you stand in front of a door simply labelled with ‘Reisen’, etched into the wood.
“Udongein! You have been wanting to see a Wu Ming?”
Silence, and then the door slowly slides open open with nobody visible immediately inside the darkened room. Kaguya gently ushers you in, before shutting the door behind you.
Slowly your eyes adjust to the darkness. To the right of you there is a dim, covered light. You slowly walk over, careful not to trip or to bump into anything. As you get closer you realize that it is a large lump of something, covered by a blanket made to emulate the American flag.
“You’re here.” A pair of rabbit ears emerge from the blanket, and then the rest of Reisen emerges like a snake, crawling on the ground, her voice oddly detached and empty. “Wu Ming.”
“So, er, why do you want me here? Are you in the middle of something?”
“Just a bit of remembrance treatment for me.” You notice an astronaut’s helmet and an opaque sack buried in the blanket. “I wanted you here so I can apologize for my insane actions a few days ago, not with platitudes, but with some forbidden info.”
“Master did not wish for you to know this, but currently she is distracted and I have waveproofed this room. Sight and sound do not pass that door.”
“Can you turn on the lights then?”
A light whir, and the soft glass lamp in the room flare to life. You can see now that Reisen’s room is furnished in a quite comfy manner. A padded armchair next to a sleek, modern looking desk made of polished wood, next to a thick futon that she is currently on. The cabinet, closet, and other assorted furniture are well-designed with a curved feel and layers of embroidered cloth.
“Nice room. So, what is this forbidden information you speak of?” You sit down next to her, “I’m rather excited.”
“A severe aberration in your medical report when we salvaged you from the missile impact.” She slides open a drawer, and pulls out some papers from the bottom of the stack within. “Here’s the full copy if you want to read it, but other than minor prior weight issues, everything else was normal save for the aberration.”
Reisen lowers her eyes, “Under both the mundane and magical sensors, you looked normal, like any human would after suffering severe force trauma and burns, but then Lady Yagokoro decided to have a look at you herself out of interest at your alleged drug resistance, she wore a set of frozen lenses crafted by Suijin herself from the deepest water in the sea, and saw...she saw what appeared to be a human corpse, in an unnaturally stalled state of putrefaction consistent with three weeks of decay. This did not change after you were healed.”
“That...that makes no sense.” You say as you pull on your own skin, bewildered. “Here, touch me! Do I feel like a dead body? That literally makes no sense! Even in Gensokyo!”
“This is why we hid this from you, as even for Master, this was a novel problem. However,” Reisen opens another drawer, removes a glasses case and hands it to you, “Here is a pair of goggles with those lenses implanted. What you will see is..grotesque, to say the least.”
You put them on and turn to the mirror. A rotting, maggot hole-ridden effigy of yourself stares back, making you gag slightly and avert your eyes on instinct from the implication of disease. Across your upper body, dotted across your arms and torso, are oddly lively blood vessels pumping...something across your body. You trace a hand across them, and feel the line of a painless burn scar. At their intersections, where you feel the iron card’s clearest imprints, you can see human hearts...no, fragments of something that once was a heart, beating with regular rhythm.
You turn to look at Reisen, and see no difference on her.
“Master did not see any difference in you with just her own eyes, so whatever form of glamour you have on you, it is something only penetrable by divine forces dedicated to some form of truesight like Suijin. I cannot see anything wrong with you either, regardless of how I manipulate the wavelengths into my eye.”
“This makes no sense, at all.” You repeat. “By no other metric am I anywhere near dead. Though...those iron cards being body parts of a magical or divine being of some sort makes sense since they directly gave me control over spells I never learned.”
“About those powers, Ming.” Reisen perks up, “Have you gotten any sort of new memories in your brain? Some spontaneously occurring information?”
“Ugh...other than distant internal dialogue that is no different from mild schizophrenia? I had an adversal feeling to some old iron arquebus Lord Tenma had shown me...oh, and when I decided to violate the bodies of two tengu soldiers, I started adding invocations about some rivers to my ‘spell’ casts...Greco-Roman underworld rivers, I think, like Cocytus and Acheron. Dunno why, I thought I just improvised on the spot.”
Reisen remains silent for some time, fidgeting in her seat, before timidly asking, “...That sounds like either repressed memories resurfacing, or implanted memories taking effect. While a certain Lady Komeiji would be ideal in resolving this issue, in her absence, I can massage your brain to unlock them.”
You stare at her glowing red eyes, “Will it hurt?”
“Not as much as what I did to you already.”
“Go for it then,” You declare as you lean in to her, “It’s not like I have anything to hide.”
Reisen breathes in, and her eyes blink in a rapid strobing pattern. Your vision slowly fades in to the red and your other senses dull, before all becoming overwhelmed. As you fade out, you hear the rabbit whisper.
“Lunatic Red Eyes: Mind Inversion”
2016, April 12
You crack the door open and peak in to the sunlit office.
“Professor, what did you call me here today for? I wasn’t aware of any ongoing experiments.”
“Ah, Zhenguo, have a seat, close the door behind you please.” You dutifully close the door and pull up a chair in front of the smiling professor, “I just wanted to chat a bit about your records, that’s all.”
“Geez, ” You pretend to scratch an itch on your neck while giving a large, sheepish smile, “My attendance hasn’t been good, hasn’t it?”
“No, no, no. Not your academic records.”
“Then what?” You ask, confused, “My job record, criminal record? I’m pretty sure they are all clean as a whistle.”
“Not...exactly.” The man in front of you sighs as he takes off his glasses, “You see, not all records are written down, per say…”
“C’mon, that’s the very definition of records, what is this, a trick question?”
“July 4, 2004.” His smile remains even as his tone drastically lowers, “You lit a bundle of Roman candles in front of a cage of rabbits, burning them alive.”
You smile as well, but only because you are too shocked to change expressions.
“February 13, 2007. You shot and killed a stray cat and her kittens with a pellet gun while they were sleeping in a box. November 25, 2008. You caught a fox and gouged out his eyes before removing each limb while he was alive...”
“Those are just animals nobody will miss...”
“January 9, 2013. You beat a homeless man over the head with a baseball bat after he begged you for money. He died of the wounds that same night...”
“NOBODY WOULD MISS THAT USELESS SHITSTAIN!” You yell as you stand up, having lost all control. The professor just keeps smiling.
“May 14, 2015. While visiting family in China, you lured a lost, dirty looking child into an alleyway, where you strangled her to death because you felt like it was fun. Do you have another excuse for me to keep reciting your crimes?”
You sit in silence, stewing in in disbelief and anger, for a few moments, “You can’t prove this...YOU CAN’T!”
“Oh but I can.” Spinning around in his chair, he turns on the TV and begins flipping through videos. There, in grainy looking CCTV footage, is a recording of you and that feeble wretch in that alley. You watch with horror as your recorded avatar throws the child onto the ground, shoves her face into a puddle of mud, and grasps her neck for three whole minutes until the child finally stops flailing.
“Wu Zhenguo, do note that there are beings watching you, even when there are no cameras to be seen. And don’t try to attack me.” He sharply kicks you under the desk as you feel for your pocketknife. “It will not help.”
“So what do you want? Money? Or do you want to punish me for my crimes to fulfill your sick desires?” You grit out.
“Calling justice a sick desire. Colorful. But no, the material and physical do not concern me. Though you cannot see, Mr. Wu, I am exhausted of my repetitive existence, and an utterly despicable monster like you, would make an excellent shell to bear my burden.”
You turn and run backwards, only to slam face-first into a closed door. Trying the handle, you find with horror that it has been covered by some odd black sphere, that your hands cannot breach.
“I do not need your life or property. I need everything else. Wraiths of Acheron, the woeful horde. Hear my Call. Obey my will.”
Sickly, faintly glowing hands emerge without warning from behind his desk, grasping your limbs and dragging your prone form to the center of the room. You shake some off, only for your limbs to suddenly go dead, and for you to see the same black spheres on the handle covering them. You try to scream, but your lips go numb as well.
“The Ice of Cocytus, such wonderful tools to stop movement. Now,” His smile finally goes away as he produces a large hunting knife from under his coat, “This won’t hurt, honest: Flames of Phlogiston, Hew and renew.”
Some pink energy effuses the blade as it stabs down into your chest. But even as it tears apart your shirt and cuts a deep, heavily bleeding gash in you, you feel no pain even as you struggle to scream with no mouth.
“Don’t bother struggling, fella. It won’t help. ” He then turns the knife in upon himself and does the same to his own chest. Grunting as he bends his ribcage outwards, he reaches in and slowly tears out his own...heart? It looks oddly dead and rotten, but is pulsating far more than what a heart should be, so much that it looks as if it is about to jump out of his hand at any moment.
“Fortunately I replaced my ribs with metallic substitutes. Unfortunately for you though.” His voice grows faint as he reaches into your chest cavity and begins snapping out ribs, all while you scream silently from the sight and the lack of sensation. Tossing them aside like discarded machining fragments, he then tears out your heart, tosses it aside, and plops his own in. “Hew, hew, hew… that should do the trick. ”
It is at this point that you suddenly shift perspective into a third-person one.
“It’s not beating...aw crap. Fecking...I killed him, didn’t I. Call!” Your perspective then gets jerked back into first-person, but in a blurry, abstract sort of way. “Damnation. Well, good enough. Don’t really need him to be alive anyway. Vapors of Lethe, dust of thought. Rise as Mist, twist the minds. Revert the end. Born anew”
You fade, every part of you. Your memories become undone, chopped up into little pieces, and glued back together. Your mind dulls even further than the numbness of death, and the delights, the values...all, who are you again? What are you again?”
“You are Wu Zhenguo, a perfectly normal if cold person. You value no life, not even your own, but will defend others for personal reasons. There, shouldn’t be too much of a difference that they can tell. Now, to make you last until the handoff is complete after I goad you there: Styx, where all rivers flow. Styx, where all lives end. Let your waters consume this body. Let your embrace blind the gods….”
You fade out completely.
“Ha, ha, Zhenguo, you alive?”
“Whaa…?” You look up and see the counter in front of you laden with bottles, a rough hand slaps you on the back.
“You were jabbering on about how you wanted to visit Japan just to see if some fairy land is real. Ha ha ha! You had way too much to drink, seeing how you passed out for a little bit there.”
Seeing the smiling faces of your professor and school mates around you, you remember that silly thing you’ve been mulling over and how you blurted it out after you tongue was loosened by three bottles of vodka.
“Hey Zhenguo, don’t I recall you passing out after one glass of wine!” One of the freshmen calls out from down the bar as he admires the evidence of your bar tab, “Wow, how did you stay up for that much?”
“Practice and a bit of conditioning, ain’t that the pie?” Your professor laughs as he pats your back again.
“What are you saying,” You sigh, a bit annoyed, “I’ve always been like this, Professor Conner.”
You remember some of it now.
Your false memories falter, and the memories of your old self resurfaces. You remember the delight of the killings that still cast a shadow on your feelings now. You see your past self through the fragments of a broken TV screen. And it absolutely disgusts you.
From his lack of professionalism and pride.
What purpose is there mutilating, torturing, and killing small, entrapped animals? They cannot flee, they cannot fight back, and the world doesn’t care if they die or not.
Similarly, what purpose is there stalking and murdering vagrants, street orphans and wandering mental cases? You spit at your past image. They are already suffering, to which someone as heartless as you could say that death is a mercy for them. The world had already turned its back to them, and does not care if they die or not. In fact, given how everyone else treats them, you could say that murdering them is even conforming to society’s will.
SO WHY? WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS? There are so many...so many others out there. Gutter scum in suits and ties. Feces piles in uniforms and peaked caps. Glittering gold, silver and bronze covering utter filth that preen and mince among the world’s crust, stomping on those below.
All ripe for the taking, but your past self did not have that ambition and contented himself on the blood of the weak and cheap.
Your true memories, your true self, are all similarly worthless.
Your jerk awake.
“Ming? You passed out.”
“It worked.” Your recovery time from trances and unconsciousness is almost zero at this point. “Thanks. I really mean it.”
“So,” Reisen had begun curling back into her blanket. “Wanna share what you remembered?”
“How I was trash. Also who to go find for more answers.”
“Don’t you want to elaborate?” Once again, long waves bombard your brain, and you slowly back away from the rabbit.
“No thanks, it’s not a savory tale, nor is it something I really want people to know.”
The waves cease as Reisen edges closer, still wrapped in the blanket, “I will tell you my secret if you tell me yours.”
[ ] I’ll trade your story for what I’ve got so far. Secrets shared are friendships made.
[ ] Let’s keep our stories to ourselves. Secrets shared are liabilities made.