“Hey kid, wanna get lucky?”
The voice startled him because it seemed to come from nowhere. It caused him to drop full of sawdust he was carrying. The fine wood remnants spread across the stone path, submerging some stones under a sandy cover.
“I’m guessing that you do, right?” The voice asked, a clear tone of amusement underpinning every word.
He recovered enough to look around, to search for the source.
A flash of pink to his right drew his gaze. It was a chance encounter.
“There’s no one I’ve ever met that hasn't wanted to get lucky.”
He had to lower his gaze to make out what it was he was looking at.
“Who are you?” He asked, his voice still a bit shaken from the shock. The girl in pink was grinning wildly, hands clasped behind her back.
“I asked you something first. Do you want to get lucky?” The girl teased, black messy short hair contrasting wildly with her pink dress and white ears.
...white ears that stuck out from the top of her head, flopping down to the front. Something that should have been fake, but he felt was very real. If he reached out and touched them he bet imagined that they would feel soft and velvety. He was half-tempted to do so, but the girl’s widening grin made him think that she almost expected him to do so.
“I...don’t know what you’re talking about,” He finally replied, eyes transfixed on the small girl.
“Oh, so you haven’t heard
?” Her eyes lit up, drawing his attention further to her. “I’m talking about the best chance you’ll have in your life to get lucky. You’ll have enough fun for a lifetime too. Imagine winning over and over again all day and all night.”
“I should clean this up.” He bent down to pick up the bucket. “The others will probably be upset if I leave this mess here.”
“The others others are all getting lucky already.” The girl said with an alluring smile. Her pendant dangled on her chain as she leaned in further forward, closer to him. “Come now kid, you don’t want to miss out now, do you?”
He found himself letting go of the bucket as the girl grabbed his hand firmly. Before he knew it, she was leading him away from the path and deep into the bamboo maze. It was almost ridiculous how she was able to guide him along, her small hand almost lost in his palm.
After only a few steps into the verdant labyrinth of shafts and leaves he felt completely lost. The path, the mill, the village could have been anywhere and no where it seemed. Even the sun had a hard time making itself seen, peeking gingerly here and there into small clearings. He know almost at once why this place was known as the Bamboo Forest of the lost. It made anything that entered get disoriented and lost amidst the tall and endless stalks of bamboo.
His guide, however, seemed to be perfectly at home. She navigated sagely through the foliage. It was clear she knew where she was going judging from the relaxed and confident expression exemplified through her smug smile. She led on quickly, her barefoot form stepping clear of all rocks and other obstacles. She tugged with enough force to make him have to trot to keep up; His legs moved awkwardly to her rhythm. He stumbled more than once, managing to recover each time quickly enough to be tugged with ever increasing zeal.
By the time they finally stopped he was basically out of breath. He gasped for air, keeling over and supporting himself with hands on knees. He couldn't help but heave a little as he struggled to keep his racing heart from bursting out from his chest. A good five minutes passed as he regained his composure – five minutes that the girl used to stare at him with an expression of devilish amusement. He saw that she wasn't winded in the least.
“...” He thought to say something about her abductor but instead found himself distracted. In his exhaustion he hadn't bothered to look around. Or even listen really. A dazzling array of lights and a tempest of sound engulfed the area. It seemed to drown most of his senses, something which his body had assumed was due to shortness of breath at first. Little Mokou's Palace
The sign was made from a bright projection of purple neon lights, each letter bigger than a door would be. They glowed proudly on top of a large building, the building adorned with gaudy signs and a spectacular current of lights and additional signs. Flashes of icons representing bottles of liquor, dice, and rabbits were but a few of the garnishes placed on the huge structure. Most prominent of all was a large representation of a fiery bird; The lights would flicker and change and so create a simple animation of wing movement and fire. It was loud in more than one way.
“What is this place?” He asked with a meek tone. Most sound was drowned out by the cacophony of music and cheer that seemed to be coming from the interior of the so-called 'Palace'. He saw through transparent doors out front throngs of men, most still in their work clothes, chattering excitedly amongst themselves.
“This is it.” The girl mouthed, grinning wildly.
Again she grabbed his hand. They walked this time, coming upon the massive entrance of glass doors. Bright adornments decorated even the ground he realized, seeing as how intricate patterns were made on the stone floor. The theme of money and coin was prevalent in all decorations and gold seemed to the be preferred color to represent that.
The giant doors slid open as they approached and cool air rushed to the outside as they passed.
A great hall greeted them.
A central depression was the focus of the room. A statue several stories tall rose up almost halfway to the domed ceiling above. Around it, a ring of tables and benches stretched out. As the circular depression ended, rows and rows of machines (and men occupying them) extended as far as the eye could see. He couldn't see the far end very well at this distance, but he guessed that food stations lay there judging by the large engravings of snacks on the walls. All of this was overwhelming to the senses. For someone who had never seen a building taller than two stories this was a profound shock.
“Welcome to Little Mokou's palace!” An upbeat voice snapped him back from his sheer awe. He looked around to see a bowing figure addressing him. Ears like the girl who brought him here, but longer and firmer, and a tight skimpy suit that hugged her body dearly (in particular around her generously curvy hips). The short and revealing outfit was the same color as the girl's hair – a fair lilac.
“Heya, I brought another one. How's business?” The guide in pink stated to the bunny girl. There was no other classification for her in his mind (he more than once stared at the fluffy poof of a tail that appeared just above her cute rump).
“Master will be pleased with you Tewi,” The girl in the revealing costume smiled at his guide with genuine affection.
“Not as pleased as he is at seeing you,” Tewi joked, eliciting a self-conscious blush from the girl. Suddenly she was mindful at how the thin glossy fabric was snug in all the right places and how anyone could happily imagine what was covered by the taut textile over her chest. It was something that every man in the vicinity seemed to be keenly aware of just then, their ravenous gaze turned to her like wolves eying an especially delectable rabbit quarry.
The girl was saved from her moment of embarrassment by another similarly-attired girl holding a tray full of refreshments. She whispered something in her ear that got the lilac-haired girl to regain her senses. She gave a cordial smile to Tewi and excused herself, claiming that she needed to deal with a situation.
Tewi shrugged, turning to him with another one of her impish grins.
“So, what do you think kid, is this paradise or what?”
“...” He didn't quite know what to reply to that. Until that moment he had been somewhat afraid of being chided by his peers at the village for abandoning his post. Teamwork was the only way to work, so was their way of life. But now he saw clearly the faces of family, friends, coworkers and elders spread around the premises like content dogs yipping and sniffing around and interacting with the machines and tables. That was a definite relief.
“Oh? So awestruck you can't speak?” Tewi laughed, her petite frame shaking slightly. “Come with me and I'll show you the most fun you've had in your life.”
Again she was his guide. She took him down the rows of machines and tables. Explained the premise of it all. Coin was inserted in the devices, levers pulled, and depending on the resultant combination of icons, additional coin could be won. Or just as easily lost. He observed as scores of men (and some women) deposited their coins into the slots and prayed in unison for fortune to favor them. Only a few actually had their prayers answered. But even then they looked like they enjoyed themselves, joking with peers and drinking refreshments brought to them by girls clad in alluring outfits. Money was won and money was lost.
Every nook and cranny of the place specialized in the exchange of money. Games of chance they all were invariably; Cards, machines, and more all facilitated transactions. He dared to give a machine a go once or twice, but asked to move on after finding that his relative wealth would go down quickly if he kept playing. The girl in pink obliged, remarking how he was shrewder than he looked. It was a shame that he was one of the few that realized just how low the odds were.
Private chambers and rooms squirmed to the sides of the central hall. As Tewi explained, high-stakes games and more exotic entertainment was offered there. He saw girls in even more daring getups moving to and fro, and he believed that whatever went on in there was definitely out of his league.
He was amazed at the thoroughness of it all. From the memorable crescent moon logos etched on the pillars and sides of the hall to the food sold at the many restaurants, the place projected a definite aura of completeness and majesty worthy of the moniker of 'palace'. He could understand how his fellow villagers were all swept up playing, winning, and losing. How they knocked back drinks easily and let go. They had fun. Because the place was geared into being a slick generator of entertainment.
They crossed into a large area annexed to the main building. A show was going on. Patrons sat at tables eating and drinking as a performer sang on stage.
“Chin, chin~” Her voice went as she danced around happily. She wore a long dress, satin and colorful, and long white gloves that reached up to her elbow. Her voice was projected from beyond the stage and entertained the cheering masses. It was somewhat mesmerizing and he found that he lost a bit of track of time and space. She sang several songs, all enrapturing in their own way.
It was his small guide that finally got him to leave with a few tugs. The performance went on, even after the girl left the stage to much applause. A green-haired girl was to put on a magic show. She wore a short bow tie and black top hat and waved a wand around. He had wanted to see her tricks but left before the act started. The casino was a huge place and there was much to see and do. He could hear the applause coming from the crowd as they were dazzled by displays of magic.
“Is something the matter?” Tewi asked as they bumped into the lilac-haired girl again by a flight of stairs.
“Oh Tewi, no, nothing. Just being called up by Master.”
“Mind if we tag along then?” Tewi asked, adding to him with a knowing look, “You look like you wouldn't mind being around her some more.”
“Um... I guess. Though customers shouldn't go up.” The girl objected mildly.
“Lighten up Reisen. You heard what Eirin said before, 'our objective is to provide entertainment to our valued customers.' we'd be doing that by bringing him up. He's not the type to be swayed by slots.”
They went up a flight of stairs and reached a locked door. Reisen produced a card (where she had kept it in that form-fitting outfit, he couldn't imagine ) and inserted it into a small slit on the wall. The door unlocked and revealed a drab corridor with doors on either side. They proceeded through, and he saw what went on out back. Girls with floppy ears sat at desks, writing down notes and reading files, occasionally conversing amongst themselves. Administrating.
Their destination was beyond that, past another secure door. And another secure door that required a code to open. More important-looking staff occupied these inner areas, working and occasionally laughing amongst themselves. They went past all that. Into a small room that transported them several floors upwards quickly. He stared in awe at how the contraption made the walls scroll past until they reached their destination a couple floors up.
The atmosphere up there was completely different. It was quiet – the first time he could hear himself truly think since he had gotten there – save for the pleasant sound of running water in the background. A hard wood floor made every footstep echo, and he tried to move quietly just behind the other two girls up to a simple sliding door at the end of the hallway.
Hearing a reply come from within, she opened the door. They went in.
It was a bland and sparsely decorated room. A single desk and a set of chairs sat in the middle. The far end was a wall of tinted glass.
A tall woman dressed queerly in black stood staring out at the window.
She turned slowly and deliberately, her silver hair shining with the light coming from outside. Like Reisen, she wore a tie. But unlike hers, it was a comparatively more serious red and white pattern. It was the only color in her otherwise completely black attire.
“Udonge,” The woman spoke with familiarity, cool piercing eyes directed at the party. “I'm glad you're here.”
“Yes Master, I came as soon as I could.”
“As expected. I see that you're not alone.” She raised an eyebrow, ostensibly objecting to his presence.
“Ah yes, well Tewi said that he was special and wouldn't be entertained with the machines and you said we should um... try our best to entertain-”
“Yes, yes. I did. No need to fret, I'm not upset.” The woman smiled, her expression showing delicate beauty. She addressed him, “Not every customer is the same, I understand that all too well. Not everyone is entertained by the same methods.” She chuckled to herself, predicting with a reserved smile, “I trust you'll find your share of amusement before the day is done. If not I may have to entertain you personally.”
He was mesmerized by her throaty chuckle and elegant ways. The mere fact that this woman was captivating enough to make him ignore everyone in the room but her spoke volumes. Just earlier he thought that he would never see anything more enticing than the adorable wiggle Reisen had as she walked. He nodded.
“Well then Udonge,” The woman addressed Reisen again, who stood stiffly in deference, “There's a reason I called you here. Apparently there might be a little incident soon. It's as we discussed. The Princess is about to meet her apparently.”
“Oh. I see,” The taller rabbit seemed to understand all at once.
“Look out there,” The woman indicated, pointing to the massive hall below them, “Can't you feel all that energy? We should keep things in check lest they become messy.”
From this room, the view extended to most of the casino. Several stories below masses of machines and card-dealers kept patrons coming and going. From here, the tall woman could key an eye on everything and everyone. She was like a god up on a mountain looking upon daily life with cold calculated distance.
“Understood Master. I'll do my best.”
“See that you do keep things civil... though I suppose I can see where this is headed.”
“She means that there's going to be some real
fun soon.” Tewi whispered to him, the mischief bubbling up in her voice.
There certainly was all sorts of excitement, he realized that.
He went back downstairs along with the two girls, off to nip in the bud whatever was going to happen. They hurried through down to the central depression, to the feet of the statue.
Sure enough, excitement was brewing. As they got closer to the epicenter he could feel an increasing heaviness in the air. Like static charge building up, accumulating for some inevitable end.
A girl wearing vibrant red trousers was protesting loudly to a dark-haired beauty. A third woman, the schoolteacher he realized from a distance, stood by the first and appeared to try to mediate the situation.
“...worst!” The girl with red pants bellowed. There was a fiery aura about her, perfectly matching the red of her trousers and of the myriad of ribbons affixed to her long hair. Her light hair was different but similar to Reisen's, the large ribbon on top bobbed as she spoke passionately.
“I have nothing to apologize for.” In the middle of all the noise coming from the machines and patrons the girl in the dress' voice was steady and clearly audible.
Their trio got closer to the commotion, enough to overhear the argument in full.
“The hell there isn't! Just look
at that!” The girl in red pointed to the statue. Her pants ballooned a little, and rustled and tugged at her connecting suspenders.
“What of it Fujiwara?”
“Perhaps your coddled pea-sized brain needs a little bit more help understanding, princess
, but that statue is horrendous! Just look at it!”
“Hm, looks fine to me,” The girl remarked calmly. “It's fitting given our name.”
“I never gave you permission for that either! You went ahead and stole my name just to mock me, didn't you?!”
“It's a joke, a sign of affection. I assure you.” The girl smiled, looking as if she was incapable of doing any harm to anyone.
He looked up to the statue, taking his first proper look at it. Standing with a bag of money in one hand and a drink in another was a scaled up replica of the girl in red. She wore in her stone form much less clothes (less than the rabbit waitresses) and several areas of her figure were embellished... greatly. Definitely not a depiction of 'little” Mokou, It was appealing to the male customer base for certain but there was nothing regal about it, certainly nothing that was appropriate for 'her' palace. It did look like something made specifically to irritate her.
“Now now, let's all just take a deep breath and discuss this like civilized folk.” The schoolmarm interjected, trying to defuse the situation. It was no use of course. Mokou continued to bombard the other girl with accusations of ill-faith and usurpation. Keine tried her best, sounding as sweet but firm as she did when concerning her students. She was a strong woman he realized, but he didn't know if strong enough to stand steadfast between the heated exchanges. The other two were frightening in their own way. The crackle of energy between the parties was almost visible and any onlooker could tell that things were reaching bursting point.
Tempers flared. And even as Reisen tried to put an end of it (quite ineffectively and as meekly as the schoolmarm) they continued to get more viscous. Soon the argument became too heated for both sides. Onlookers formed a ring, unwisely. As things reached a climax a new show of light and sound erupted. Something way louder than the background music or chattering of the masses. Hundreds of thousands of projectiles came from either girl, aiming to hit the other. The dark-haired girl smiled as Mokou attacked with a combination of relish and frustration.
Tewi dragged him into cover as all hell broke loose. Machines were broken, people fled and scattered in fear, and the great hall was torn up. It was pandemonium. A dazzling display of light and chaos that engulfed everyone present. He had no idea what to do but stick close to the girl in pink and he saw how Reisen seemed to be genuinely upset at how things had gone down. He felt like consoling her, but was at a complete loss for words.
They eventually crawled out of the building and watched well into the evening the spectacle. The damage and disorder was overwhelmingly comprehensive. Sections of the structure had been damaged to dangerous levels. After the literal dust had settled and the rubble seemed to stay still, they dared to look around. At some point the schoolmarm had joined them, looking on aghast. All the villagers had dispersed hours ago, and the rabbit girls vanished. They were the only ones around.
They went back inside, mindful of the widespread damage to everything. Nearly every flashing sign had been destroyed as was the case with the machinery. The impressive place he had come to know in the morning was little more than an ugly ruin by evening. The columns were chipped, the tables overturned, dishes smashed and coins spilled everywhere. Cleaning up would be an almost impossible task he figured.
In the center, by the pulverized statue, the two combatants lay next to each other. Sweat penetrated their clothes and dust caked them. They were perfectly still, collapsed from exhaustion. Yet they still somehow had the strength to laugh. Laugh maniacally, loudly, and proudly.
“Guess there's no more statue now, huh Kaguya?” Mokou said in between bursts of laughter.
“Nope! Not much of anything now!” Kaguya laughed as hard as her former opponent. It was as if all that chaos and destruction had all just been a trivial affair.
He didn't know whether they were insane or absolutely insane. After all that destruction, all that madness, they were laughing. Even as the tall silver-haired woman watched from the shadows with arms crossed and a disapproving look.
He looked around. He saw that the two girl were smiling as well. As was the schoolmarm. He stole a glance back to the shadows, and saw the tall woman smiling as well. They were all insane.
But somehow he found himself smiling as well. At the ludicrousness of it all. He was a stranger, but it just felt right that amidst all the chance and gambling things end like this. It was a sure bet he realized. Tomorrow all of that would be gone, the building displaced and the path to it obfuscated. The profits made used for some other venture.
“Thank you for bringing me here.” He spoke assertively, his voice rising up through the laughter. He turned to his small guide, “I was thoroughly entertained. And though I wouldn't have imagined it, it seems that I got lucky after all.”
He grinned, feeling himself the part of something unique.
Everyone, at once, grinned back, understanding completely how something beyond luck had made all this happen.
Sorry but as far as an actual update is concerned, I'm still in the same place I was last time I posted. That is to say, written nothing for pretty much the same reasons. This is a way to say I'm not dead. >>19992
Just the usual. Touhou arranges, classical music, etc. It's all good for different reasons. >>20040
Watched it and it certainly didn't have that much of an effect on me. As much as it pains me to admit it, a Reisen route is a far-fetched dream given the speed of updating. Besides which, I'm more partial to other characters, like Keine