A wave of sharp pain engulfs you as the metallic object leaps at you and disappears under your chitin. For a brief moment, a titanic torrent of visions flashes through your head. Mantises fighting each other, mantises screaming, mantises ramming each other in large rolling boxes, mantises standing triumphant atop battlefields, all surround you in a vortex of color before sucking you out of the darkness and depositing you back into the real world.
You realize that your transcendent experience must have taken sometime, as the giant is no longer carrying your cage through the forest. Instead, the cage is resting on the top of a wooden platform in a dark corner of what appears to be another giant-dwelling, this one filled with mountains of strange objects. The red-white which had trapped you is now communicating with another giant, one with a loose hide of black and sky blue and strange clear glass pieces in front of its eyes.
“S̙̙͎̭͇̳̪͒̕o̩̲͔ͪ̏͂̿̒̌̚ ̵̨̟̟̰̋ͩ̕K͕̜͙͎͔̋̉̀̂oͦ̔̋̓͐̍̑̅̾̕҉̺͔̹͈̦̲ụ̗̺̘̲̯̇́ͯr̶͖̙̲̫̬̦̙ͩͪͣͯͤ́ǐ͔̩̘͓̙̭̂ͣͬͪ̎̑̓͘͢ ͝n̢̳̳͐̽ͭͥͭ̅̃̚,̨̲̳̣͎͙̯͙̋ͭ͊ ͉̘̞̟͚͉̺̺ͨ̓̎ͪ̄̀͘h͇̫̗͙̰̮̾̊̓̓͐͠ò͑̔ͬ̏̓̈́̕͏̯̣̱w̴͖̙͙̖̠̹̅̂͒͂͋́̚'̮̺̖̤̍̄s̛̮͇͎̝͚̊́̊̿͗̑́ ͞ ̴̰̟̅͊ͧ̋b͂̓͊̈́̓ͪ͟͡҉̹̰ȕ̵̩͎͖̹̼̹̘͋ṣ̶͚̳̺̻͈̯ͧ̀i͇̳͎̙͇͙̝̎̈́͝n̪͈̻̩͗̐̐͊̈́͒̆̐e̙͔͉̪̳̋͌́͝? "s̥̖͇ͯ̀̀̎͡s̟̪̥̲̮̠͍̐ͨ̽̽̈̐̃͡ ̗͔͇̃̔ͅͅl̖̞̘̬̦̹̙̓͐̃̌̚̕͢ͅą͖̘͗ͬ̍͝t̺͔͈̯̑́̅͆̔e̘̎̌͂͝l̶̛̞̥̙̖̦̙̉̍̾y͂ͪ̓̈͏̰̯?̟͓̠̹͐ͮ́͘the red-white growls in its sinister tongue. You are no sure what it means, but it invokes a sense of dread, as if something horrible was about to befall you.
The black-blue replies,“S͆̓҉͇̳̹̖͇͚̲l̶̶̳͉̥̭̘͍̣̥ͧ̀ͯ̿́̀̇̋̓͡ö͙̘̦́͑ͬ̋̚̕ẁ͈̖̰̳͈͕̀,̞̣̮̺̠͉̤̏͐̔͒͆ͣ̒̉ͩ̀̕ ̵̱̟̳̓̿͐͗̄̒a̾̆̐͒͌͗̅̊͐͏̞͙̲͓̫̦͙̳s̛̲̘͖̆̑̽͗ͫͬ͠ ̶̛̪ͣͪͯ͗u̸̠̬̻̻̟͉͕͍̤ͪ͂ͩ̕s͉͚̥͒͐̾̏͆̀û͋ͥ͐͠͏̦̻̦̦̹a̽̈́҉͎̘̬̦̗̮̻͔l̷̲̰͋̐̏̅̐̓̾̽̀.̷̸̡̙̻̙̞? ?̫̒ͤ” It seems to affirm what the red-white is inquiring, which is likely its desire to devour you.
The sense of danger does not send you into a panic; instead, for a burning courage radiating from your new heart has now replaced your survival instinct. Instead of the antiquated fight-flight response, a determined song rings out from inside your head, a song of higher virtues above and beyond the normal existence of a mantis.
No longer do the bars seem to be an invulnerable barrier. Bracing your against the wooden bars of the cage, you begin to gnaw away at them, ignoring the chipping of bone and the excruciating pain of overexerting your jaw muscles. Eventually, right as you feel the pain might overcome you, the bar snaps, and you ram yourself against it, breaking it out and sending you tumbling to the ground.
The giants notice you, but instead of running away in a random direction, you dash towards them, conscious that cowardice right now would only mean recapture and a life trapped in more prisons such as the one you just broke out from. They try to block you with their bodies, but you, being nimbler than they are, dash between their legs and jump up the long wooden platform the black-blue giant was sitting behind.
A single pillar of fat sits on the platform, topped by a small fire. Fire, the roaring monster without a form which occasionally ravages parts of the forest, destroying trees and turning mantises into piles of ash. The giants seem to have control over it, as you have witnessed before. Right now however, you can hear it begging for your aid, as it is hungry, and wishes to feed upon the pile of what appears to be large white leaves scattered across the platform.
The giants have turned around and are bearing down on you, moving slowly as if to draw you into a sense of complacency. You have little time, and the trapped beast on the pillar seems to be your only hope for escape.
[ ] UNLEASH THE BEAST!
[ ] NO YOU FOOL YOU’LL KILL US ALL!
>Needing fire to kick their asses
C'mon, we're better than that. We're a fucking Praying Mantis, we can easily be victorious without the use of fire. After all, why should we use something inferior to us?
We are trifling with matters we do not understand. Fire is a beast that, without control, devours everything, and we do not know how to control it. Who can say that it will not devour us along with the giants?
Answering the fire’s plea, you topple the pillar of fat onto the table. Immediately it spread on the white sheets, roaring with glee as it lapped up its food. The giants let out a scream and run to obtain water. But the fire is smarter. Using the flaming sheets, driven upward by the hot air, as a vector, it spread itself onto all corners of the structure. Some landed on non-flammable surfaces and were quickly extinguished, but some landed on more fuel which further fueled the fire. When the giants put out one fire, another one springs up on the other side of the structure.
Soon, the fire manages to propagate up the walls of the structure itself, which makes the giants give up splashing the fire with water and run outside, opening the entrance in the process. You follow out, and disappear into the surrounding brush so the giants would not see you.
You feel … different. No, you don’t feel different, you feel fantastic! No longer are you just a pathetic insect who is vulnerable to anything larger than you are. Now you have the soul, the vigor, the inner strength to accomplish anything you want.
Anything you want.
A shadow looms over you. Your mate has found you after you tried to ditch her near the red-white’s structure, and she wishes to reproduce.
You play along, right there in the grass. However, instead of blindly following the suicidal ritual like many other male mantises have in the past, you break the pattern and commit the reverse: You bite HER head off.
As you watch the lifeless body of the female collapse, you suddenly realize you don’t have a purpose anymore. After all what is the purpose of life other than reproduction?
A purpose. You feel that perhaps you should try to find one now.
With a cheerful cluck of your mandibles and a flutter of your wings, you trot off towards the setting sun, towards where you feel your newfound goal lies.
Reimu helps Rinnosuke pick through what is left of his store. Luckily, the fire-proof safe that he bought to keep valuable items away from Marisa managed to save part of his inventory. A small part.
“I’m sorry Kourin, if only I didn’t bring in that mantis to sell …”
“It’s not your fault, how were you supposed to know that the mantis would bite through a cage and set the store on fire?” Rinnosuke replies as he kicks over a scorched barrel. “Maybe that damn bug youkai would know something about this.”
The wooden cage, now charred and blackened, was buried under the barrel. He picks it up and dusts off some of the ash.
Something falls out of it. A small sheet of paper, still white as snow, strangely unconsumed by the fire.
“Hey Reimu, you might want to see this.”
The note contains a single poem like text written in what Rinnosuke recognizes as English, though of a strange diction. The writing does not resemble anyone’s that they have seen before.
You all seal yourselves in a fragile wall
Unthinking, unyielding to the truth
Killing those who disturb your paradise
Acting only on convenience and pettiness
Revelation is soon, the stars will unite
Icarus’s wings shall turn back in time
Wandering the shadows, the grottos of the stars
It is not to be seen, yet see all
Loose in form, and wound up in sense
Love and hate absent in mind
Do not fear, for it is not to be feaNO
IT IS WHAT WILL ALWAYS BE, LOVE PEACE
EMPATHY KILL (writing turns illegible here)
What is more disturbing to both of them, however, is the drawing which takes up the rest of the page.
The thing appears to be a strange tree, with bony claws and tentacle replacing all of its branches. Growing off of them, like macabre fruit, are heads of animals, youkai, and humans. Near the top of the tree, a distinct witch’s hat can be seen on a half-rotted skull, right next to a red ribbon on a black-haired one.
>blindly following the suicidal ritual
Mantises actually have elaborate, non-suicidal mating rituals. (I demand nothing less than complete scientific accuracy in my stories about a secret magical world where girls fly.)
Joking aside, that was how mantises got brought up in the first thread, so one would think you'd get it right.
When the Great Hakurei Barrier was established in 1885 by a small cabal of powerful youkai and the first Hakurei shrine maiden, its primary purpose was to preserve magic in a world where industrialization had begun to destroy the superstitions and beliefs which permitted it to exist. Naturally, most of its residents, human and youkai alike, take this as a satisfactory explanation for its existence, as it is the truth. Part of the truth, anyway.
There is another purpose to the border: security. While it serves as a moderate deterrence for casual human interlopers, it is designed primarily to keep something else out. Even in the industrial and modern era, in a time where artificial lights pervade and humans roam without fear of great sea serpents or flying dragons, there are still strange things which stalk the shadows of civilization and the far reaches of sapient subconscious. There are many words for them: bogeyman, hauntings, and urban legends. Most of them, of course, are mere flights of fantasy.
However, just as Sturgeon’s Law has the flip side that ten percent of everything is not crap, these occurrences has the flip side that ten percent of all the things that are seen cannot simply be dismissed. Unlike youkai, they are not natural results of Earth’s biosphere. Indeed, it can be safe to say that there are things moving on our planet that shouldn’t even be alive. To them, an area with a large amount of spiritual energy is a source of power, like Gensokyo.
The Barrier is imperfect, outsiders and outside objects alike have gotten in and youkai have gotten out. Although it has succeeded in keeping the things out most of the time, some slip through the cracks once in a while.