Because nothing has changed, none of us want anything to change.
I’m still confident of that. I’m still afraid.
But then, when I look at her...
The mansion grew quiet. The guards were few.
As he and his fellows neared the inner sanctum of Eientei, it felt almost as if guards were no longer necessary; the sense of rejection from the environment itself had become absurdly palpable.
His Mistress did not care for it.
She led her humans with a thoroughly grumpy look upon her face, immediately firing down the very few rabbits that ever came to fly in their way. Little over a dozen did so, though they also seemed very determined to stop the intruders now...
“... Water,” his Mistress eventually said. He and Sakuya looked at her when she said this, and asked with their eyes if she’d misspoken. Without returning any glances, Remilia replied, “We’re going to be there soon. You’ll see what I mean.”
Shortly, the hall surrounding them began to waver. The walls fell away again, and the floor began to transform into a pier: winding yards out before them, and over what seemed to be a vast and truly unending pool.
Sapphire... cerulean night. Had they left the mansion...? It seemed so, although space still felt notably contained. Remilia soon began to descend, and so her humans followed. They stepped into the water, and found it to be strangely still, and also hardly enough to reach their soles. Surreality had fully supplanted the norm. They were not on “Earth”, nor were they in the cosmos as any of them knew it. What was here was something ancient, and special, and within this off-world all of them felt young.
Here was only the strange water, the night sky, and, of course, the full moon above.
Surrounded by glittering stars, gigantic and powerfully luminous, the moon was here. And, before it was the silhouette of an otherworldly princess, adorned, it seemed, in a dress. It had to be the Daughter of the Moon: The Princess “Kaguya”.
Kaguya turned her head. She’d been watching that moon, and basking in its golden glow. She looked down at them now, and it was clear that she was smiling. The smile was not otherworldly, the smile was perfectly polite.
“Hi there,” she said, “you’ve gotten through absolutely everything without a scratch. I’ve heard that you two haven’t gotten into any trouble here though, huh?”
“I am a diamond,” replied the Dead Princess Remilia, smirking lightly to herself as she put her hands on her hips. Her servants stifled their laughter. “I’m beautiful, strong, and I cannot be scratched, even if you try it.”
“Ah, then... you can be crushed,” answered Kaguya, and she began to descend as Remilia seethed. She slowly landed in the water twenty feet off from them, casting perfect ripples out from her feet as she did so. She closed her eyes, lifted her skirt, and curtsied. “This is your custom, no?” she asked, looking back when she was done.
Remilia, who was glaring at the other princess, momentarily closed her eyes herself... took up her skirt, then curtsied in return. Kaguya giggled.
“You haven’t gotten any kind of pleasant welcome. Allow me?” the princess of the moon offered. “Welcome to Eientei. Nice to meet you. My name is Houraisan Kaguya.”
Remilia let go of her skirt and crossed her arms. She breathed in, long.
“My name is Remilia Scarlet!” the vampire abruptly boomed. “A Departed Princess, and Master of the Night! Master of the Moon! You, who have grotesquely had your way with my moon... Houraisan Kaguya—I have come to thrash you!”
“Wow...!” Kaguya breathed. She lifted her hand to the sky behind her, and to the celestial body watching over them. “This moon?” she asked. “Then, I am your princess...!”
“That’s right!” Remilia agreed immediately. Gen raised one of his eyebrows. “Didn’t you know? I struck that moon and left my mark against it just days ago!”
Or, had she...? After his Mistress had fought his partner, it did look to him like the moon had one more crater on its surface, but... Truly?
Furrowing his brow and still watching her, he thought, Incredible...
“You see,” the vampire went on, “that moon is—”
Her face contorted with concern, and she gasped. Suddenly, she put out her arms and spread her wings wide, and Sakuya and Gen each took a step back as their Mistress covered their faces. “You two...!” she snapped, turning slightly. “That’s the true moon...! Be careful!“
What? thought Gen.
“Those two are humans?” Kaguya asked. “Then yes, its light really would be dangerous. Maybe they’ve already gone insane, in fact? I don’t actually know when it last was that the Moon’s true light bathed the Earth.”
Gen frowned. Nothing at all seemed amiss to him, and supposedly Sakuya shared this experience.
“I feel fine, Mistress,” said the Maid. “Gen? Are you alright?” she asked him.
“I don’t feel anything strange either,” he said.
“Ah...” Remilia uttered, sounding relieved. “Right, you’re very well-disciplined Sakuya... and Gen, you’re... You’re...”
She stood up straight, and turned partway to look at him.
“Are you really alright?” she asked, cocking her head.
“I’m totally fine,” he insisted with a smile.
“Well... if you’re fine that’s what worries me,” she replied. The she shook her head, and looked back to the Princess of the Moon.
Gen decided to look as well.
Kaguya was a youthful girl... She looked younger than he was, and she was, perhaps, more beautiful than Yuyuko. It was difficult to say, but... at the very least, Princess Kaguya struck him as the most ideal manifestation of a Yamato nadeshiko. Her hair was pure black, perfectly straight, and stretched out behind her thighs. Her eyes were dark, her face was pale, her hands were hidden within long and bountiful sleeves. She hadn’t dressed herself in a kimono, but... she had put on a rather fanciful blouse: pink in hue and festooned with white ribbons down its center, frilled in pillowy fabric past its cuffs. Her skirt did for her feet what her sleeves did for her hands, ending in a similarly hefty under-layer of cloth waves. The skirt was otherwise a deep red, and decorated gold with designs of flowers and bamboo. The Moon Princess looked... comfortable. She certainly shared this, too, in common with the Ghost Princess he knew.
“I should let you know,” Remilia spoke again, breaking him from his observation, “even if I haven’t got Gen or Sakuya, I myself am invincible under the full moon.” She seemed to be talking to Kaguya.
“Don’t say that, Mistress,” Sakuya beat him to speaking. “Rely on me. I’m here to be relied on.”
“I as well, Lady Remilia,” Gen urged.
“As you can see my humans are becoming reckless and uncontrollable already,” Remilia spoke in a light tone of exasperation. “It seems that I have to defeat you quickly, before they go completely insane.”
“That’s a shame, I wouldn’t mind talking more,” said Kaguya.
“What is there to talk about?” Remilia asked. “This is cut and dry: you’ve stepped on my toes, so I’m going to throw down a glove.”
“A duel... you mean?” asked Kaguya, hiding her mouth behind her sleeve.
“Of course! Have you been blind while you’ve stagnated in this embarrassing little pure land of yours?” Remilia bit at the moon princess. “A spell card duel! It is the latest fashion, and it is how I will be done with you... through power! Through cleverness! Through grace!”
“Mokou may have mentioned those...” Kaguya muttered. Before Gen could interrogate her on that statement, Remilia spoke up again.
“What is this, anyway?” the vampire pressed, casting a gaze around the strange area they found themselves in. It was sincerely quiet aside from their speaking, and the space almost tricked the eye to see how it all extended. And, of course, that stillness... No “land” within Eientei seemed purer than this. Remilia therefore asked the moon princess, “If you want the moon so badly, why not just return there?”
For a moment, Kaguya looked askance. Behind her sleeve, it was clear to them that her smile had faded. She answered, a little softly, “I... can’t go back to the Moon. I’m not at any liberty to move around arbitrarily on the Earth, either. I have no allies here, and... I have no allies there.”
“You must have done something quite terrible,” Sakuya interjected coolly, “to be forbidden from the Moon, and to have no place on the Earth.”
“Is this about whatever Mokou-nee drank?” Gen asked. The other princess perked up, and he continued. “Yagokoro Eirin mentioned something about that... and shortly after, I heard the word ‘Hourai’. Is it the same ‘Hourai’ within your name?”
“Do we really have the time to keep talking?” Remilia asked him. Kaguya ignored her.
“‘Nee‘, is it?” she said. “That’s interesting... Well yes, these ‘Hourai’ are the same. We’re all ‘persons of Hourai’, for all our own reasons... You. What is your name?”
“Itou Gen,” said Gen.
“I’m Izayoi Sakuya,” offered Sakuya without being asked.
“‘Itou’...” Kaguya repeated, lowering her sleeve. Then, she smiled once again, and laughed. “What a funny night...!” she quietly exclaimed.
“A frustrating night! Are our pleasantries done!? Let’s get on with it, already!” Remilia growled.
“Hm... I’ve been avoiding the earthlings, and any powerless people...” Kaguya muttered again to herself. Or, Gen felt it had been a comment to herself; his Mistress and friend took it differently. His Mistress and friend took offense: the former visibly (crossing her arms and glaring once again), and the latter vocally.
“An invincible lady and two invincible humans...” Sakuya spoke to the princess of the moon, crossing her arms now, “would you like to test that claim that we’re powerless?”
The princess seemed to remember who was before her. Straightening her back, she reached into one of her sleeves, and drew out a short branch... a branch Gen had most certainly seen before: on the night he had met his immortal cousin. Jewels seemed to have been born off the branch’s ends... unspoiled, full-colored spheres that shined with a strange power that already he could feel.
Houraisan Kaguya began to return to the air, lifting slowly, and measured. Water dripped carefully from the hem of her clothing. As the drops fell into the pool below, they seemed to ring out like music... The Apprentice, witnessing this, suddenly felt chills.
“I have always made five requests to humans who would have something of me, and so many humans have failed them in the past,” said the girl.
She once more situated herself before the full moon, now becoming illuminated and almost, it seemed, divine. There she asked:
“HA! What?” laughed Remilia. She planted her feet apart, stomping down and making a splash. She let her wings out again, picking up a gust and a wave of water. “Whatever you’ve got in store for us, you must understand... there is nothing that myself and mine can’t have done! Impossible requests!? Say nothing of them! Throw whatever you want at us... it isn’t going to matter!”
She began to glow scarlet. Rather, her power was now emanating off her body like slow and curling flames. Gen felt a smile growing on his lips. Remilia met the immortal’s eyes, grinning broadly.
“Houraisan Kaguya...!” she bellowed. “I’ve had enough of how you talk! If you won’t return to the moon... then I will drag you down to Earth!!”
A strange and lavender crystal began to glow near the Undying Princess’s feet. Seeing it, Gen noticed four other artifacts orbiting the girl. Before he could comprehend them, the awe of an unknown age erupted out from the Princess’s back, and his Mistress took flight.
It was light that reminded him of refraction, and it fired out with the intensity of cannons. Keeping up with his Lady would ordinarily be impossible, but as his Vampire Mistress took stock of the lights their opponent was casting, he realized that she was keeping her movements slow. He was an anchor.
But, his Mistress looked thrilled still. She was not bothered by the weight he saddled her with.
No... if anything, as she’d said before they’d entered this inner place: she needed him.
He looked at the Moon, and thought of the time.
Kaguya showed no hesitation, and though she still had an air of pleasantness about her, her first spell was purely aggressive. Its pursuit put them over water, flying past as beams split it aside below and behind them. It almost seemed to stake the ground with light when it struck, and it shook everything around them. Did Mokou come head to head with this when the two fought?
It was in every sense majestic. It was in every sense awesome. His Mistress seemed impressed... almost, appreciative. She showed this in how she returned favor to Kaguya: with her own devilish power—bullets, blood, and hellish barrage.
While Kaguya dodged what Remilia bombarded her with, Sakuya spoke to him behind their Mistress’s back.
“She’s caught on—I’m certain of it,” the head maid whispered. Though she kept an eye steady on their Mistress, he gathered that his friend was referring to Kaguya.
“Is that something you can feel?” he asked.
“No,” she replied, shaking her head a touch, “it’s something I’ve figured out. Would she be looking at the moon for this long if she’d been forsaken from it? She has to have realized, or perhaps heard from a rabbit, that the night isn’t ending.”
“... And? Can she do anything about it?”
The three of them split apart as a laser marked a path of power between them. Gen looked over to see a veritable dome of spotlights surrounding the princess of the moon. Her hand was raised, and presently she seemed amused. Her stadium of lights was followed by an avalanche of crimson stars. Over her shoulder, a queer and ugly bowl was billowing what seemed to be smoke.
They all reconvened soon enough, with Remilia looking behind herself to be sure where her humans were... and of what they were saying. Sakuya chose to whisper.
“I can’t know if she can, but that’s what I feel,” she told him. He squinted, and leaned a bit forward—trying to ask her to explain what she meant. “She feels a little familiar,” Sakuya said, “I believe she may be able to undo this.”
Another volley of lasers came, casting them all apart once more, and as it did Gen’s heart pounded. Not for narrow avoidance, not for the might of Kaguya’s spell, but for utterly unsettling fear.
Gen landed in the water on his own, flying backward as a beam of light sought him out. Water flew up all around him, the battlefield reflected in every drop that he could see. The moon, too, was there. Time... they already did not have any time. If they were “outside”, and if time ran out... it was obvious. It was very obvious what would happen.
Gen continued to fly in reverse, minding the magic chasing him. Kaguya had them all in a dance, and was lackadaisically directing her second spell at each and every last one of them. He gathered: it wasn’t that she didn’t see them as a threat, rather it was clear through her posture and poise that she respected the lot of them who had made it unscathed to her. She, at the moment, was having fun. So was his Mistress, in fact. His Mistress actually seemed very absorbed and now, as he remembered the time he had seen her wing taken by fire on the balcony—
He took to the air again as a hail of stars came upon him and then collided into Sakuya, bringing his back against hers. It was no crash—she had meant for them to meet there. Below the two, their Mistress landed with flair. She brought her hands before her chest, and began to summon a grand cross of red light. He struggled to process all that was around him, however.
His colleague gripped at his sleeve, and tugged him to attention.
“Lady Patchouli prepared you,” she said. “Don’t let any harm come to the Mistress...! You and I are here, and we are here out of devotion!” He looked into Sakuya’s face, feeling that his own was pale. Hers was sincere, direct, and invigorating. “I trust you, Gen!” she said, and before he could blink he found himself, and Sakuya, behind their Mistress’s back again.
For the red Remilia summoned, Kaguya summoned more red in return. Fire blazed around her, and a small bit of cloth began to shudder beside her. It looked like a forest fire in the air—the Princess seemed to know no limitations, and while she aimed a stream of flame toward them – and his Mistress aimed her own scarlet might right back – he remembered again the night he had first seen this girl. They had never explained the rules to her properly... and Kaguya was not at all beholden to the whims of the Shrine Maiden.
This torrent of fire burned with true flame. The magic she used was undoubtedly designed to bring about death.
The water below them burst and steamed as bullets and columns of flame pounded into it and erupted from it. He found his hand on Remilia’s left shoulder and Sakuya’s hand against Remilia’s back as the three of them, as a unit, navigated the moon princess’s third “request”. Remilia fired back unceasingly, and he could see that she was deliberately keeping to Reimu’s rules. That pride of hers greatly ebbed his fears.
Her wings spread again. He and his companion let go of her briefly. Any and all fires died for a moment around them with the might of her devil limbs... A card was betwixt her fingers, and a spear was soon summoned to her hand. She held it aloft, and threw it at once.
And for once, thrill flashed across Kaguya’s face as well.
The spear – avoided – collided into the ground below and cast up another wave. Kaguya’s fire had followed her where she had moved out the way. Her stream, briefly interrupted, now returned redoubled. He grabbed hold of Remilia’s shoulder again, and Sakuya again put her hand to their Mistress as well. And so, the parties traded blows.
Now he found his heart pounding from exhilaration. Remilia was moving with something a bit closer to her natural speed, and Kaguya seemed sincerely engaged. The air was always trembling, and both Princesses found themselves struck in the ensuing chaos on multiple occasions. Neither were deterred. They fought like monsters—and of course, at least one he could say was. Still, even what he’d seen when the sky had been shattered could not compare to what he was witnessing—feeling now.
There was soon a tunnel of flame surrounding them. They barreled through it and passed the Princess by, and after they did so Remilia threw at her another spear. It took away the fire and took a great deal of cloth from Kaguya’s sleeve. The fire returned soon, however, and a tunnel again arrived around them. As always when his sense of risk was at its zenith, Gen now could feel the pounding of his heart hammering into his throat. He had never moved like this before. He had never really experienced the power of a youkai so directly, so vicariously. He afforded himself a small glance at Sakuya. Sakuya... afforded a glance at the moon. Knowing that he would soon need to use that moon, he put his hand to one of his tomes, and focused on the battle raging around him.
The night was “over” a long time ago.
Outside the House of Eternity, past the forest and near the Lake—in the shadowed and now smoke-filled halls Scarlet Devil Mansion’s Library, Patchouli Knowledge remembered that.
The night had ended, and what was happening now was a struggle to hold on to the dark.
Around her on the ground—around her in the air, the maids and her red-haired summon were hurriedly following the directions she had given them. There was not much that she could do—Remilia hadn’t returned, and her own grasp of temporal magic wasn’t... ideal. It was never ideal for those without some kind of innate ability to control it. Time was always a force that refused to be brought to heel.
But tonight, it needed to be.
Sakuya can do some to hold the day off in my absence, but it won’t be enough, thought the Magician as she peered out over the ritual she had prepared to stop the night. Fairies were pulling materials from other parts of the library into a void circle at its center—the magic holding the dawn back. That shrinking hole, surrounded by dimming crystals and fading fires, was all that was left for her contribution. That frustrated her... however, as she counted the minutes and hours, she thought on who she had sent with her dearest friend.
Sakuya alone would not be enough, but with her student... there was some safety.
Patchouli stepped to the middle of the magic she had made, and thought only this as she stared into the starlight shining out from the void circle now below her:
Please, Gen. Please, Sakuya.
The Sun was unceasing. The Moon was fleeting.
Above the pool of Eientei’s inner sanctum, it was a rush of bullets and heat; and both warring parties found themselves moving with flame at their heels and called from their hands. And, each of their spells finally cut out. The Princesses had kept up their most red spells for what may have been an hour, and may have been more. What remained, at any rate, was certainly little. Falling down into the water below them again, the one Dead and the other Dying both found themselves kneeling in tattered, torn, and skin-baring clothing. Kneeling, yes... but only Houraisan Kaguya was panting.
The pool rippled and shimmered around them. It had been quite thoroughly damaged already. Now, Houraisan Kaguya spoke up as the echoes of their powers faded out.
“Heheh,” she chuckled first. Her hand was over her chest. “We of the moon turned some on the Earth into monsters, to regulate the Earthlings’ impurity. But, that’s all over now.”
“What are you talking about?” Remilia fired back. Her voice was still clear.
“The Earthlings have sealed the monsters by themselves,” Kaguya said. “Now, all that’s left of them are creatures who don’t know how to do anything but attack humans as part of some old contract.”
Gen felt shaken. He could tell that his fellow human felt the same.
But as always, their Mistress remained firm.
“Our current daily life of drinking tea is much more enjoyable,” she replied. “I don’t see what’s wrong with that.”
For a moment, Kaguya was silent.
“Gradually, the Earthlings lost their fear of the moon and its night,” she continued. And, she looked into their eyes. “They became more and more arrogant,” she said. “The night no longer requires the light of the moon. The shorelines have no relation to the tides’ ebb and flow. And they even say they’ll invade the moon itself in the end, don’t they?”
“Hmph. I’ve got no idea what those worthless humans are doing,” Remilia dismissed her. “But you’re from the moon, right? You seem bothered by it, but also too afraid to return against the moon’s will and stop those humans yourself.”
Kaguya fell silent again, and reflected.
“I know when a person faces fear,” said Remilia. “I’m insulted that what you’re fearing right now does not seem to be me, but...” Remilia smiled toothily, and began to stand again. “I’m getting there, aren’t I...?”
The Princess of the Moon grit her teeth.
“Stand up,” said Remilia. “You still have two more requests I need to fulfill.”
So, Kaguya stood. A shell floating at her feet made an unnerving sound.
Above them, it looked like a dream catcher had formed—one to catch the dreams of giants. It seemed like daylight was cast from the formation, and it angled down to try and take the vampire and her companions. Remilia once more beat her wings, and the beams gave chase.
Looking up through the new lattice that shone over his face, Gen began to speak to the moon.
Be careful of the moon’s light, his Master had said before they’d left. But not too careful... she’d insisted.
She’d told him that, a magician was a person who commanded the world, and on one’s dark path light should ne’er dissuade him.
With the moon’s true light filling his pupils, he felt he understood all that had been said about the Lunatic night.
However, he could not be afraid.
He continued to call to the moon, and time began to bend around Sakuya’s body.
“It’s you who’s stopping the night, isn’t?” Kaguya asked while her light dogged them. She was standing straight, and unflinching, as Remilia’s return magic beat into the ground surrounding her, cratering and disrupting the waters. “A shoddy, half-spell if I have to admit. With my spell to manipulate eternity, I’ll tear it all away.”
Try it...! thought Gen, and a clone of the moon came to his hand as a bubble of time formed around himself, Sakuya, and the Mistress Remilia.
A bullet struck near Kaguya’s feet and forced her to take flight. The brilliant light of her fourth spell made the night glow as day—reminding him of the Master Spark his Master had made to save him. A perfect reminder. He swore that he would do everything he possibly could to shield his Mistress, and began to feed his spirit to the miniature moon.
While they rolled over and under those full and vibrant rays of power, he noticed that perhaps his Mistress had been putting on a show on the ground. She was a bit slower. She was almost steaming. Rather, a bit of smoke was lifting from her skin. The moon above was beginning to break, and she had also been awake too long.
The haggard immortal and haggard undead continued to slug at one another with everything that they had, impressing both humans with their preternatural endurance. They were spilling each other’s blood now. They were truly obliterating the artificial earth below, now. Although the cascade of Kaguya’s magic was certainly trying, Remilia gave not an inch with the might of her own. With sweat dripping off their noses, they settled in the sky with the fractured moon betwixt. Sunlight was undoubtedly bleeding through, and warded off by the shield of Remilia’s maid and the night of Remilia’s ward. Remilia herself only saw the end in Kaguya’s eyes.
... had grown terribly hot.
A haze had filled up the air between them. While the end was visible, too, in Kaguya’s eyes, something else was there too. When she looked at Remilia Scarlet, she could swear that she saw fire. Her heart was beating. Remilia’s was not. Calmly, the vampire spoke to her.
“You won’t come down without a fight,” said Remilia, her voice now plainly heavy, plainly slow. “I had a little hope that you wouldn’t bring me to daybreak.”
“Are you... afraid, too?” Kaguya asked her, and Remilia shook her head.
“I only feel disappointment,” said Remilia, “in this fellow princess’s stubbornness.”
Kaguya winced. And, after a moment’s hesitation she lifted the branch she had always been holding above her head.
“Do not... look down on me...!” the Princess shouted.
And, Remilia frowned.
“You idiot,” she said, “it’s plain for anyone to see that I’m looking straight at you.”
“Branch of Hourai...!” yelled Kaguya, and her final artifact gave light. Like a river, magic flowed out of that branch, and quickly filled the air. The moon then split.
And Gen stared transfixed.
This aura was...
Was it “purity”...?
Heaven’s light surrounded them as day began to break. Gen huddled nearer to his Mistress’s back, and saw Sakuya’s fist gripping against it. Their Mistress never faltered, even as the smoldering of her flesh spread all the more.
Had he ever seen such a rainbow...? The Princess Kaguya painted the sky with a broken prism... A hundred and a thousand spheres and more rebounded the floor and firmament. When it all came—When they all turned swift and practiced through the chaos of Royalty’s strength, Gen came to realize that he and Sakuya had kept themselves undamaged until now and praised himse—
As he thought that, he took stock of his Mistress’s body once again.
... Had she not only served as their sword, but their shield?
... The heat in Sakuya’s face gave him the answer.
They followed her wherever she went, and defended her in return as she continued to fight, a new and overpowering spear in her hands.
And the moon was fully sundered, and Day broke through with glory.
Their Mistress halted, took their attention, and she screamed out—
With her teeth together—
But her teeth not grit—
She grinned and commanded them with only two words: “GO ON...!”
Gen at once threw his coat around her—
Sakuya at once held her own heart—
A black and undying night was born between all three, and like that they faced the encroaching dawn.
Kaguya’s face broke its pain and worry at the sight. She looked upon the trio with her brow constricted, her mouth open—breathless. What she now saw was what she had never seen before.
And, Remilia only continued to grin as the long-awaited day threatened to bathe her, every ray of light unsuccessful in its attempt through the night.
The princess of the moon grew once more determined, and lifted her branch up again.
The Devil would not be brought down; no matter what she sent her and her followers’ way, they dodged it all within unison—with all care—and with total precision. Remilia would keep her promise. Her spear was taking her magic—building in size and destructive power. And the Princess knew: that would be the tool to drag her down to Earth.
She fought while her lights and the Sun’s mixed and grew so bright as to be blinding. The Dead Princess continued. Her companions remained steadfast.
And what was more, suddenly a knife was in Kaguya’s left shoulder; a bullet of sunlight had struck her right.
Peering through the glare, she saw the maid and manservants’ free hands outstretched, and a barrage unique to each readying behind them—extending out above. They had once more all three settled down to the waters below, and their aim was very clear.
Remilia pointed her spear at the sky; at the Sun; at the Princess of the Moon.
Was that the Spear of Odin which never missed its mark...? She’d missed with others in their fight but this... This felt much like “fate” to the immortal.
It was unsettling. It was... awful, to her. There had been thousands of years that no such thing as fate had played any part in her life. Her time had stopped, and so the ends of time ordained by fate were altogether foreign for her.
To meet it, here—
To not want it at all, but face it all the same—
Tears in her eyes, she wanted to scream, but found she couldn’t shout out anything.
The vampire pushed her left foot back, and spread her wings to further fix herself. She held her red spear steady, and a ray of crimson light sparked off of it.
The volleys of the other two came on either side of their target, and Kaguya felt at once walled by bullet and blade.
Without a word, Remilia gripped her weapon firm, winds rushed by wild and free... and from the rod a great blast to reach the sky was sent out, collided with the girl forsaken by the moon, and flew beyond to meet the Morning Star.
It was as if that very star had collapsed. Their world was bathed in red, and all auras and bullets and blades were burned entirely away. And, in the sky that was left, a scarlet spot could be seen clear upon the Sun.
Sakuya was silent.
Gen was silent.
The red all faded, and Princess Kaguya began to fall, plummeting finally down. She landed in a heap of cloth, crags, and water.
Gen looked down at his Mistress. She had easily donned his coat; and though it was much too large for her... he’d thought her very cool to be seen in it in those last moments as it had danced mad around her. Her spear was gone, and now she was retreating more into his robes. The Sun was shining, after all. He offered the vampire his arms, and she accepted: allowing him to pick her up, in his robes, and have him carry her for now while nested in the oversized article. Helpfully, Sakuya put it closed for them, and he left the sleeves unfilled to keep his Mistress secure. His reproduced moon, and Sakuya’s bubble of time, were for now still manifested—but it was, of course, only for now, and he at least knew little magic was left within him. Now his Mistress turned and looked to the radiant morning from under his chin, peeking out from his collar and from beneath the brim of her cap.
“That’s two,” she said, as she got comfortable against him.
“For day and night, I have left my mark in the sky.”
>>68387 Thanks for commenting, and I'm not sure! I know that I want to use Eiki in this story if only because I love Eiki a lot but we'll see how. I do know that post-IN is where I intended for the story to start getting "stranger". That is, less times where "something which canonically happened" happens to interfere with Gen's life. The story of the moon nudges up on Suika's own experiences with it, and that's meant to open up her life more to Gen. She does love Gen, but she's a super hag and thus there's sincerely just so much of her life he doesn't know about yet. This unlocks a great deal.
>>68388 Thanks as well! Indeed not only is SSiB a thing that really has to happen (although I'll say, Gen's involvement would likely be about the same as Patchouli's at the time--that is to say, "helps make the thing, but does not go on the trip") but there was IIRC at least one other attempt Remilia made before all of that. It's like a whole obsession with the moon for her that starts here with IN--just beat her story in the game to see her and Patchouli getting all hyped about it (and Sakuya being exasperated). Direct aftermath should be fun. I like, for instance, where Remilia literally is right now. It amuses me.
Once more apologies for how long this all took. I've had a loooooooooooot to do. Not only other writing obligations but newbies at work sucking my free time away without any regard for my sanity. I actually wrote most of this update over two sleepless nights because I was so annoyed that I hadn't been able to write my own stuff for so long. More will come here, and over in /at/ for that one Youmu story I started if anyone's still wondering about that. GOD THERE'S TOO MUCH TO DO
Somehow, suddenly, everywhere felt like the “Earth”.
One child of the earth, Ibuki no Suika, thought on this while laying on a hallway floor. She had abandoned her left leg during her previous fight—detaching it to avoid its complete dissolution against what, at the time, looked to her like a supermassive bullet. Now, she was waiting for it to slowly return as smoke. And to speak of the supermassive: the ordinarily massive and radiant Sun was shining down on her now. She couldn’t see it; at the end of the hall, and she supposed “behind” her, the hall was broken off and showed the sky. The false moon that had originally been fixed above them all was now replaced by the day.
Could she say that she’d won that fight?
Along with the familiar impurity of her home filling her body again, her “oni” sense of pride was broiling inside of her. Had she won? What, exactly, did it mean to win?
The battle was over, because another battle was won.
Suika propped her dirtied and wounded body up on her elbows, and turned her head to look back. A calm wind blew over her.
One immortal. Two immortals. Two immortals; two with white hair.
Fujiwara no Mokou had lost more of her shirt. She was staring out to the daylight, standing straight, holding her hands in her pockets.
Yagokoro Eirin had long ago lost her patience. She, too, stared out to the day. She was half-propped up on her longbow, and just like Mokou her expression was obscured by her back.
Suika’s leg finished reforming, and she got to her feet.
“Feeling frustrated? Feeling sad?” Suika asked as she began to approach the nearer, older, and slouching immortal. The oni slightly opened her mouth to a smile; the immortal said nothing. “You fled here, didn’t ya? The rest should be coming after you, then... I still dunno what you did, but... you’re too obvious with how desperate you get the Moon to stop watching you.”
“... You’d mock me? Now?” Saying this, Eirin turned her head to lay her hollowed eyes on the little, less ancient girl. She smiled, too. “Well, don’t I deserve it?”
“Do you?” Suika asked.
“I do,” said Eirin, in a tone that insisted truth. It was easy for an oni to catch, and so the oni’s smile turned over.
“So... what DID you do that got you stuck down here? You Moon punks usually think everything down on Earth is scum, right? You still do, right...”
Eirin looked toward the Sun.
“Turned traitor,” she said after a little time, “left another forsaken.” She paused, and thought before saying, “Regular, unforgivable things.”
“... Anyone can forgive. Well, everyone here...” Suika spoke, almost under her breath.
Eirin met her eyes again. “Oh, now you’re trying to comfort me? You, a youkai?” she asked. She paused again, and quietly judged: “I don’t like it.”
Suika kicked the bow the Lunar Sage was leaning on out from under her.
Once Eirin fell, the youkai brought her foot down on the Sage’s back and set about the motions to ensure the making of a point.
She jammed her fingertips through the wood below them—below, precisely, Eirin’s face—and tore it away, thereupon gathering earth beneath it. Once she’d done this, the oni tossed the broken boards aside, and with her other hand forced Eirin’s head down, into the dirt. Gripping her skull, Suika roughly thumbed the Sage’s hair out the way of her ear and leaned down to speak directly into it. From a distance, the other immortal began to watch.
“Feel that?” Suika asked. “That's where you are now.”
Eirin’s right eye was halfway open. She used it to stare into the foundation of Eientei.
“I think it’d do even an old bat like you some good to learn something about respect,” spat Suika. “Listen up, closely. This is where you are now: under the Sun, underfoot. The Moon isn’t here. Your old home isn’t here. So... what? You gonna keep pretending this is back there...? You gonna head back up with your head hanging down? Last I heard, you and your lot weren’t the types to not keep your heads high. So... Are you listening?”
“I...” Eirin exhaled, “am listening.”
“What are you gonna do?” Suika asked.
“What I... What?”
“Let me give the Brain of the Moon some options if it can’t think for itself...” growled Suika. “Are you going to move on, and deal with it—live with it—accept your new life and fight to keep it? Or... are you going to stall in your self-made Hell?”
Eirin did not answer, and her eye slowly narrowed.
“You can’t accept the new world?” fired Suika. “Don’t you get it? It’s always going to be here.”
Silence hung between the two of them. Eventually, Eirin attempted some struggle, and Suika firmly kept her down. Eirin then said, “I believe you told me before we fought... that ‘respect’ wasn’t something you really wanted from me, Ibuki-douji.” Her words were strained.
“The thing you ought to respect right now...” Suika answered, “isn’t ‘who’ or ‘what’, it’s ‘where’ and ‘when’.”
She let go of the Sage’s hair, and took her foot from the woman’s back.
“From what I know about you jerks from the Moon,” the oni said, “‘when’ is the thing you’ve got to care about more.”
Eirin began to stand, soil crumbling from her cheek. She looked at the oni. The oni had turned her back to the Sage, and was now posed defiantly in the sun. Eirin reached up to her stained face and gently padded a bit dirt from her skin—taking a little in-between her fingers.
She stared into the earth.
“I’d like to ask... Suika,” Eirin began, slowly turning her eyes onto the oni again, “were you listening...? To yourself, just then.”
Suika turned partway, and met the Sage’s eyes from over her shoulder. In the morning glow, the oni’s eyes seemed to shine crimson.
“I know of a story humanity might’ve forgotten, told and left behind in a rush,” said Eirin. “A history erased, like what has been erased of our Princess and a certain bamboo cutter; telling of Mountain Kings who fled from their thrones.”
Suika let her arms down, and faced the Lunarian completely.
“They fled to a home where they might not be seen, and would make sure that forgetting was inevitable...” Eirin continued, looking to the dirt between her fingers once again. “... I’ve sometimes thought that story rather familiar.”
“If you need a story of failure to succeed yourself,” Suika replied in a steady voice. “then you can take mine.”
“... What for?” Eirin asked, locking eyes with the youkai. She spoke to the younger girl straight and sincere.
“Because...” Suika started, her upper lip rising in a snarl, “you were really pissing me off.”
Eirin blinked, and after a moment erupted in a peal of laughter. “... This hallway is full of angry old women, then,” she answered, in a moment between her laughing. “...But in your story...” she eventually went on, “it seems you took neither choice that you presented, and came back to the home you left. I’m afraid that’s out of the question for us.”
“What’s wrong with your ears? You only half-listened because I was pressing one of ‘em to the ground?” snapped the oni. “I faced this place again, and I did it without backing down. I lost a thousand years from Earth, and I’ll admit this ‘time’ a thousand after isn’t what I’m used to at all... but I am an oni, and the last thing an oni oughta be is a coward. I guess, sure, I can’t say the same for Lunarians...”
“Hmph.” Eirin smirked.
“You left because of humans,” Mokou suddenly interrupted the two. They both looked back at her. “But... didn’t you come back here for the same?” she asked the oni. “That’s what Keine told me.”
And Suika grimaced all the more, her eyes shifting in thought.
“...You guys wanna just... talk about it all? Good grief...” Saying this, Suika grumbled, and put one hand to her hip—the other behind her head as she shut her eyes in consternation.
“You brought pasts up yourself, oni,” said Mokou gently. Suika opened her eyes to that.
“I did?” she asked. The two immortals looked at her, and knowing onis would not lie knew she had, genuinely, already forgotten. “Well... if that’s what you girls want. Why not? Come here, Fujiwara. Sit again, Yagokoro.”
Suika sat cross-legged beside Eirin, who came to kneel beside her as Mokou approached. The oni found and expanded three sake cups from her pockets, handed one to each immortal, and held the last in her hand. She lifted her violet gourd first over Eirin’s cup.
“Let’s drink,” she said, and after pouring she moved her hand to the other immortal’s vessel, “let’s drink,” she repeated. When done she made to fill her own cup, and as she did so she said, “Let’s wait for my boyfriend to get back here, and in the meantime not talk around things anymore.”
She put her gourd aside, and raised her sakazuki.
“Immortals, let us now speak of what hasn’t been written.”
Gen noted that when his Mistress said this, she merely sounded half-convincing of her interest. Glancing at his coworker, he saw that Sakuya seemed to feel the same.
“Oh? Would you really like to know?” asked Kaguya, sitting and soaking in the shallow waters below him. “You don’t seem to be very interested, Miss Vampire.” Despite how worn down and quite literally beaten she had been, the Undying Princess of the Moon still managed a rather gorgeous smile in her tattered clothes and with her disheveled hair.
The Undead Princess of Scarlet got more comfortable in her ward’s robes. Her ward held her more snugly, and resisted the temptation to rest his chin on her floral-scented hat. “I am tired,” said the vampire, “it is past my bedtime, after all.” Gen knew that wasn’t quite the truth for his Mistress. “I may yawn, I may close my eyes, but no, Houraisan Kaguya, I shall not sleep. I’ve never seen or heard told this tale of yours, and now that I’ve trounced you I’d like my reward to be that forgotten history.” In Gen’s coat, he could feel his Mistress lightly batting her wings. Was that to wake herself up? “Continue!” she commanded.
“There isn’t very much else to say, as a matter of fact,” Kaguya relented, turning her eyes to nowhere. “Like your wizard boy said, an old couple found me in bamboo, and rumors of my beauty spread. I had suitors. I refused them, very politely.”
“My wizard boy did not explain that first part. Are you made out of bamboo?”
“Bamboo is quite beautiful, but the comparison falls short doesn’t it?” asked Kaguya, unabashedly. Gen frowned.
“I heard you were sent down to earth for a crime, actually,” said Gen. “Or was it as a refugee from some war?” He twisted his eyebrows.
“I heard she came down to farm bamboo, and to become an ideal farmer she chose to become bamboo herself.”
So was Sakuya’s theory. Her companions looked at her.
“You never heard that,” said Remilia. At this, Sakuya pleasantly smiled.
“Right,” she said, “I made it up.”
“I have taken up a little gardening,” Kaguya admitted, somewhat moving past the maid’s detour. She touched her lower lip with her sleeve, and tilted her head in thought. “But no, I was sent down as a punishment for a crime, like Gen’s first theory.”
Hearing her say his name, Gen blushed.
He also swore at himself in his thoughts.
“The magic I used to enter bamboo is one way to the Earth from the Moon. I can’t be changed... physically—not truly changed, at least. It was something like... I think Gen would call it a package? Maybe you would too, Remilia. I was conveyed to earth in a small, small, and very small size. I know I must have looked unusual, but the couple who found me still treated me very kindly, even when I grew quite fast back to this ordinary shape.”
“Alright,” said Gen, “so what was your crime?”
Kaguya innocently met his eyes.
“I drank the most forbidden elixir,” she said, “and I became a Person of Hourai. I became an immortal.”
“Miss Mokou can probably understand it: why, precisely, that concoction is so forbidden. I made it because I could make it. The Princess asked if I could make it, and I gave it to the Princess even though she’d asked to drink it.”
Eirin looked at the Sun reflected in the sake of her cup. “For that,” she said, “she was executed.”
“‘Executed’?” Suika repeated in disbelief, even reeling back somewhat upon taking this statement at face value. “Can’t Hourai Immortals not die? I mean, like, when you talk about normal immortals... they’ve usually got a way—the Kishin.”
“Correct,” answered Eirin. “We cannot die—I’d never make a medicine that did not work as intended. Once you’ve drank enough of the Hourai Elixir, your soul is tied to your form, and that form is forever permanent, so ultimately...” Eirin paused, then, in consideration, “she was exiled to the Earth instead.”
The sage now put her free hand to her forehead, and her posture deteriorated until her free wrist—and her cup—were rested poorly on her lap. “I regret...” she spoke with a fractured voice. “I regret it... still, today. I saw no punishment... though it was I who made her crime possible.”
“I can’t say I get humans and youkai who want real immortality—want the elixir,” Suika said as she sipped from her cup. “But I get the Lunarians even less, with how they react to it. Yeah... it’s an affront. Those souls of yours are stuck, but that was your choice to make while alive. It was a freedom you were free to choose.” Suika thought the idea over, and soon after concluded: “I shouldn’t expect Lunarians to care about being free.”
“I can’t say that I understand the desire myself,” Eirin admitted, to the surprise of the other two with her. “Truly choosing ‘life’, and in doing so showing your fear of ‘death’... for us people of the Moon, we know that submerges us in impurity. That was why I drank the elixir myself. I wanted to clear that sin from myself, in one part by having Kaguya no longer be alone. If anything was my choice, it was that: taking her away from whatever it was my fellow Lunarians had planned for her. She deserved none of it. With her, I hid away.”
Suika tilted her head. In a moment, she asked, “Wait, but how exactly did you get away with her in the first place with the Moon knowing damn well where you all were?”
“Eirin killed the other emissaries of the moon she had arrived with to take me away,” Kaguya explained. “We eventually found this forest. She and I eventually crafted Eientei to... make an eternal time and place, and it all—the forest and mansion both—eventually became a part of Gensokyo. Eventually, a rabbit found us and... I suppose you could say she offered us help to better hide. There were a few other things... Reisen came down and we took her in, a ragamuffin who had also drank the Elixir found me and often tried to kill me—though I’ve always, properly, killed her in return, also...”
Mokou-nee... thought Gen, growing dour. He blinked. “Who’s Reisen?” he asked.
“You met her in the entrance hall,” Kaguya replied.
Maybe the purple-haired rabbit...? She seemed enough like a stage boss...
“You’ve been killing somebody?” Sakuya asked, lifting her hand thoughtfully to her mouth. Squinting, she judged: “A bloody princess, then. Hardly pure.”
“Well, I’ve been impure ever since I drank the elixir,” answered Kaguya lightly.
“I followed when you spoke of it earlier, Mistress, but...” Gen spoke into Remilia’s hat. Remilia lifted her chin. “I don’t really understand ‘purity’ and ‘impurity’,” the boy admitted, a little sadly. “I’ve been feeling fairly lost ever since that special elixir was brought up in the first place. Purity, impurity, pure land... What is all of that?”
“Can’t you ask Patche?” asked Remilia.
“I can’t now,” he answered.
Sakuya pointed at him, and informed him: “She means that she is about the same as poop.”
To which Kaguya followed, “Yes. About the same as poop.”
Feeling a little thrown, Gen merely gave a somewhat fluttering “I see...”
“It’s filth, ‘foulness’... the ‘bad’ of the Earth. Death, Earth, and life itself,” the Moon Princess clarified. “We of the Moon rose quite literally above it. It makes us superior.”
That arrogance is unbearable... thought Gen. I miss Miss Suika...
“But you know, Earth...” Kaguya started again, but seemed to abandon the thought. After a few seconds, she told them, “I did think the Earth had its own attractive qualities. The suitors were certainly an aggravation, but the couple who found me... their motivations may have been clouded—I’m still not sure, but I did grow fond of them...”
She paused again, the other three waiting for her to continue.
“I do have to admit it, before Eirin found me...” she eventually said, “... I really started to love the Earth.”
“... I really started to hate her.”
“Gahaha!” Suika laughed at what Fujiwara no Mokou had grumbled into her drink. The oni slapped her knee, and couldn’t stop feeling amused.
“I’m being serious...! I’ve hardly ever told anyone about this!” Mokou snapped.
“I guess I can understand it—I’ve met plenty of oni who’ve held grudges over far less!” Suika bit her teeth together, trying to stifle her laughter. It was a silly and human story—of unfaithful lovers, and beauty’s temptation. “That ‘Kaguya’ caught your father’s eye,” Suika repeated, “and you went to defend his honor?”
“Her father already had a wife of his own, of course...” Eirin muttered.
“Who she turned his eyes away from!” Mokou roared, slamming her cup down on her thigh. “And that stupid, insane, impossible request...! What was with that!? She humiliated him!”
“Now now, now now,” said Suika, refilling the now-spilled cup, and topping Eirin’s cup as well. “A grudge is a grudge~. It isn’t easy to let go. It isn’t easy turn your back on family.”
“As I’ve heard it, Lord Fujiiwara viewed you, his child, a bit... carelessly, didn’t he? Or was he too careful?” Eirin prompted. Mokou kept her glare fixed on the sage.
“I was a Lady of a Noble house. I just spent most of the time inside...”
This is pretty sensitive, ehh... thought Suika with her eyes closed and her own cup to her softly smiling lips. She soon looked at the younger immortal, and then the older, quietly. Hmm...
“You stayed because you wanted to?” asked Eirin. “Or were you told to? That aside you don’t have the grace of nobility. Perhaps you lost it, but Kaguya says you received your immortality through rather uncouth means, and that was very long ago, no?”
“My house was divided,” Mokou replied. “I just wanted to do anything I could to get back at her for that, and now, for the curse of being undying from that jar she left behind. I still... I still do. I’d do anything.”
“That’s why she killed a man,” said Kaguya, “to steal the elixir I’d left behind before my hiding.”
Gen’s blood ran cold.
“Her father came after me on his own, abandoned his wife—his entire family all on his own, and when he couldn’t bear the rejection self-destructed.”
Kaguya thought for a moment. Then, with a smile she said:
“Isn’t she stupid?”
Remilia gave a quiet hum of consideration.
“So she began to kill you after you met again, because of her own grudge?” asked the cozy vampire.
“That’s right,” said Kaguya with a nod.
“Gen, isn’t this girl related to you?” his Mistress asked, lifting her head again. “Would you kill for me like she kills for her parent?”
“Since when were you my mother, Lady Remilia?” he asked, cocking an eyebrow.
Sakuya interjected, “Right, Mistress; his mother is Lady Patchouli.”
Gen pretended to not notice his own blushing.
“Sorry to say, I’ve already sworn tonight that I wouldn’t kill for you, Mistress,” Gen replied, exasperated.
“It’s morning!” answered Remilia with vigor. “Your answer now...!?”
“Is the same,” he said.
Gen furrowed his brow.
Mokou-nee killed over this...? Was it for immortality? Was it just her grudge?
...I feel like I’d ought to pay attention to everything here.
“Let’s not talk about Mokou,” said Kaguya in a polite tone. “Let’s talk about the Inaba of the moon! Isn’t Reisen so cute!?”
“After losing my mind for so long... finding Kaguya again ‘focused’ me,” said Mokou. “I have to admit, I really needed her.”
Suika blinked as she stared at the wrath-filled immortal and drank more alcohol.
“That about brings us to date,” said Eirin bluntly. She met Suika’s eyes. “Is the oni the only one among us who isn’t going to share?”
Suika smiled behind her cup. “Of course I’ll share!” she boldly declared. “I may be the youngest here, but my story’s longer than both of yours combined...! You’d better be ready for it!”
Gen would hear that story as well...
 In fact, having just escaped tales of rabbits with his Mistress and friend and found the hall from where prior he’d been ejected, he would hear all of it.
 Although, Princess Kaguya’s ramblings kept him so long that he would merely hear half of it.
 Though sadly, having been too polite to reject frivolous tales from the lonely Moon Princess, he would only hear the end of it.
[x] In fact, having just escaped tales of rabbits with his Mistress and friend and found the hall from where prior he’d been ejected, he would hear all of it. JUICY. DETAILS. I want them, you have them. Anyway, I really like Suika POV moments. It's interesting to see her in these events she's not supposed to be a part of.
[X] In fact, having just escaped tales of rabbits with his Mistress and friend and found the hall from where prior he’d been ejected, he would hear all of it.
“Actually huh... where should I start? Where’d be... I ain’t ever actually told this story before!” Suika rocked a little as she spoke. Gen, who had been making to step through a doorway, stopped himself—a bit to his companions’ confusion.
It felt a bit illicit...
But still, he chose to listen.
“Ehhh... better not worry about it,” Suika said, slouching a bit and looking into her cup with a tired smile. In a cup of sake, the moon and sun looked hardly dissimilar. The moon had been gone for a while... but the sight of the heavens’ reflection in her cup still manage to bring her memories back...
To a forgotten night... to the sight of a beast which would always remember, and which a person could never forget.
“I’d guess you both know it, but... we once ruled The Mountain.”
“You have seen to a kingdom steeped in justice eschewing all the blood for which your people stand always ready and wont to spill. You have no right to a crown by your people’s ordinary measure, and so your bearing it tells all. You, Ibuki no Suika, are the only one who I will speak to.
It is an honor.”
The rare, white beast bowed its head. Ibuki Suika looked straight at the creature in silence—frozen as she stood before her throne.
The moon hanged cold and high above them. Behind her and beside her throne, three lower seats sat empty. She could never have imagined being alone here.
“You really called me here by myself,” the oni said, hardly able to breathe. Her eyes, wide, were shaking. To her words, the hakutaku raised its head and met her eyes with nine of its own. Bending slightly, Suika’s lips curled upward involuntarily and she went on to say, “... I’m not a human, beast of White Marsh... Maybe you got confused.”
“I know you know why I am here,” it replied. Suika lost her smile, and swallowed. “We will discuss what it is of late which keeps you from sleeping.”
Suika did know the purpose, and she did know a reason... for her restless nights and days.
However, although she had gotten here...
Although she had vowed to the land, and vowed to heaven...
... what had brought her here was, always, the strength of friends.
Or so she wanted to believe...
For the first time in her life, Ibuki Suika felt the true weight of her crown.
—That night there had been a party. Few nights went by without a party on Yatsugatake. She was brought back in her memory, thus, to every happy gathering before this, every drink, every meeting and every embrace in sadness.
She was brought back to what might have been any other day, save for a meeting—save for a single and spiraling choice. A night of dancing fire, the stench of sweat and oni’s blood. Fighting, lust, joy, rapture: she oversaw it all. She, who had thus far long been King. Two Devas ruled the Mountain and she, Ibuki Suika, was the deuxième and premier—her friend, the premier/deuxième—they were intertwined; they had given themselves to none other but themselves. To no woman—to no man had she ever shown passion, slavish loyalty, or romance. She swore instead to her whole people, but her otherwise most powerful and only dearest bond was with her sister through oath: the Hoshiguma-douji and given the title “Yuugi the Strong”, just as she herself was titled in a manner only illustrious to her kind: “Drinking Lad (Shuten-douji)”.
She was prideful for she had every cause to be proud: Ibuki, oni, young, powerful, honest, and dynast.
Suika went down from the summit into the smoke and stench of jubilation lower on the Mountain. She had been watching, and wanted to beat somebody’s face in. Shortly after she walked into the storm of pleasures, she did just that to whoever it was that drunkenly wandered into her first. She drunkenly slugged this man (or woman?) down to the ground. She grabbed and tossed who came at her next down into the Great Forest. She laughed raucously, and threw the chaos further into mania.
She found Yuugi—big, buff, blond and blissful—and stole and drank from her cup. She bashed heads with her compatriot, only just avoiding the other oni’s brilliant red and one-starred horn. She sang and threw down with one Ibaraki-douji. She loved this life. She roared into the night sky: a roar of the sincerest terror-bliss of the greatest youkai.
This was Ibuki-douji, at a fresh and youthful one-hundred years.
“AAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHA!! WHAT A NIGHT!”
Her scream became laughter. She grabbed and pushed a younger oni’s face into the earth, and used his now-unconscious form as a seat. She rested her elbow on her knee—her chin on her knuckles. Grinning darkly, she called out—
“Yuugi! Start a fire! I wanna see the Sun tonight!!”
“Get a cup of sake and use it to watch the moon....!” her friend, who had another woman in a headlock, called back, “If you’re drunk, they may as well look the same!”
“What!?” Suika growled back in reply, stomping her foot. “Are you talking back to me!? Huh!?”
“Are you telling me to do something...?” Yuugi replied, smirking. She chokked out the other oni she’d been holding, and let the girl drop to the earth.
“I’ll spark a fire off your horn, you oaf! Listen to your friggin’ friends!” rumbled one King of the Mountain, leaning forward and glaring intensely.
“Yours look more like firewood, Suika,” answered the other.
“Break em off, see what happens!” fired the smaller oni. The larger opened her arms and beckoned, and to a chorus of cheers Suika launched forth and joined her fist with Yuugi’s stomach.
They hugged, after rolling halfway down Mount Yatsugatake.
“Gahahahaha! Suika! I love you!” With this said, Yuugi squeezed her sister close, bending the smaller oni’s ribs.
Suika returned the gesture, matching her friend’s strength and trilling out a, “Yuugiiiiii~~~...!”
They rolled out of one another’s arms, and side-by-side stared up through the canopy of the Great Youkai Forest, at once counting the stars in the sky in warm, thrilled silence.
... Though shortly, Yuugi sat up quite suddenly.
Suika slowly rose up as well, eyeing her friend curiously.
“You smell that, right?” Yuugi said, her eyes listlessly crawling past tree after tree. Suika did smell what Yuugi must have meant. The taller oni began to stand up, and as she did she said, “I’m getting hungry after that. Smells like a human.” She glanced back at her friend. “You want any?”
“You know how this works,” Suika answered. “You want human blood instead of a bird’s or a boar’s, you either do it outta my sight or you earn the blood by spilling some of mine.”
Yuugi looked at a red streak on her knuckles. She then looked at Suika. “This yours?” she asked, and she grinned brightly, closing her eyes and scrunching her nose.
“Who cares,” Suika answered as she stood. She first patted dust from her skirt, and then gathered all the dirt from her clothing with her will and power. She tossed the filth aside, and looked across the woods as her friend was doing.
That smells like a human, but something’s wrong with it... Suika thought to herself as she dully gazed around the forest. There’s a youkai, too... I’m not sure on that scent though. Kappa, tengu, satori, beast... no.
She slowly blinked her eyes.
 Take out Yuugi right now to protect the human.
 Join Yuugi and find the human together (Yuugi isn’t hard to dissuade from eating.)
“Hm... Let’s see who can find this one first, then, Yuugi,” said the smaller matriarch with a light tone and half a smile, slouching forward and looking at her sister through her falling hair. “Loser bathes the winner.”
“It’s not really fair, huh?” Yuugi replied, her arms crossed and her tone frank. “You can just gather the human before I even find it!”
“Nah... I’m not actually sure this is a human in the first place. And besides, I wouldn’t cheat.”
“Of course you’d cheat.”
“Okay, then don’t worry: I won’t cheat.” Saying this, Suika grinned at her friend.
Yuugi brought her palm down fiercely on her sister’s skull, looking her in her eyes as the earth trembled beneath them. “You’d better not, Suika. It’s a deal,” Hoshiguma said. Unfazed by Yuugi’s strength, Suika freely nodded within the larger oni’s grasp, and soon that oni walked off into the woods, sniffing at the air.
... A hundred years prior to this, she’d found conflict between her own way of thinking and that of an “oni’s”.
She was a living contradiction. She was a true anomaly.
She felt true respect for freedom, and so found that she could not steal away any human’s.
A youkai’s meaning was the meaning humanity gave to it. Ergo, Ibuki Suika should have had, along with the violence inside her, an understanding that she was humanity’s “enemy”. Not a playful, rival-like thing, but truly...
She was a monster. She reveled in this—in spreading terror, in fighting, but she could not reconcile with the aspects of what truly defined a beast: bringing death, spreading misery, being an absolute “threat”...
Did being an “oni” mean that she had to do all of these things? That she could befriend no human but the rarest sort, and had to drape herself in malice, in evil?
One morning after her sister in all but blood had nearly taken her life over these grievances, and she too had nearly taken Hoshiguma Yuugi’s, she made a vow whilst standing on a face of Mount Yatsugatake where she had never stood before. She knew an oni to be a being that represented “freedom” and “strength”. She would be a figure of both, even if the world itself stood against her.
Even if her own people stood against her.
“Oh...? It’s close...” Suika muttered as she moved through brush. It couldn’t be a youkai, could it...? Feeling the presence of an oni, and what was more a Sovereign... no youkai on The Mountain would ever have the gall to not show themselves and show reverence—even an amanojaku, if only out of the instinct to survive.
Even if her own people stood against her...
She’d made such a promise, but a funny thing happened, and happened soon after she’d become self-assured:
She earned her people’s respect and, as said, in time she came to rule them.
Suika stopped her search, and dispersed into mist.
She reformed and settled above in the high branches of trees, taking care to mimic sound of birds amidst leaves as she landed.
She widened her eyes, and gathered the light of the night to them.
There was a girl a little ways out from where she now perched. By sight, there was no telling whether she was human or monster, alive or apparition-dead. Yuugi was not nearby.
Suika decided to approach as silent smoke. When she next became whole, she was leering above the new visitor to her mountain.
A flare of mischief kicked up inside of Suika. She smirked, and began to speak.
“Human there...” she bellowed, deepening her voice through her command over density. In the dark, she saw the young girl shiver. She finished her words with a question: “have you any name?”
She had thrown her voice around the forest. That so being, the likely-human below her threw her head around in confusion, unable to discern the source.
Suika grinned a little wider, but... where was the fear? This human was sweating, frantic... Suika could even hear how heavily her heart was beating and yet, “fear”... the most fundamental and ephemeral essence which fed into a youkai’s existence... that “energy” was completely absent.
Once again, Suika became unsure what this young woman was, and her smile faltered.
“Well...” she followed, “you are indeed a human, aren’t you...?”
“You aren’t going to show yourself? You aren’t going to attack?” the girl answered her, and answered with an accent Suika was not familiar with. Before continuing, the girl put a hand to her chest. “That’s a little surprising,” she said. “A civil youkai?”
“Don’t call me civil,” Suika retorted. “And aren’t you bold? For my questions, you’re giving me questions?”
“It isn’t often that youkai speak to me, to put it lightly.” And now, albeit nervously... the girl below Suika smiled. “Could you tell me where I am?”
“This is Yatsugatake,” Suika replied, “the greater Mountain of Yamato.”
The girl blinked, a little rapidly. “You changed your voice,” she remarked. Suika narrowed her eyes. “... Did you say ‘Yamato’?”
“Oh. Pardon, human; you’ve all decided to call it ‘Japan’ for some time, haven’t you?”
“... As I thought.”
“What did you think?”
The girl continued to smile.
Tears then began to well in her eyes, before rolling down over her cheeks.
In shock, Suika flew down to the earth.
As leaves and dirt erupted from her landing, Suika crouched at a distance from the girl—keeping her eyes wide. She stood, and straightened her back.
Why are you crying? the oni thought, frowning as she stared across at the girl. She then glared, and looked around the forest. Her ears perked up. As the girl before began to sob, Suika glided forth, and took the girl’s head into her arms. She brought the “human” low, rested her hand on the the girl’s back. “You can’t be weeping here,” Suika told her as the girl shook against her front, wetting her clothes. “Monsters lurk in this forest, you know?”
In reply, the girl’s sobbing deepened. Suika grit her teeth in annoyance. The girl was gripping now at the oni’s clothing, her nose pressed in, running as freely as her tears. She shook, and shook, provoking the oni more.
So weak.. Suika thought in disgust. How could she make it up this way without dying? She’s so fragile, stupid, and defenseless.
Suika narrowed her eyes again.
I’ve half the mind to let Yuugi have her. Only...
...intrigue. Only intrigue is staying my hand, “human”.
“A-Aren’t, you, a m... monster!?” the girl managed to say. Suika opened her mouth, but did not want to answer. “What... a-are you?”
The girl lifted her head as she spoke. Golden eyes met Suika’s, and gleamed under the moonlight. The girl’s pretty face was wracked with grief. Memory in mind, Suika turned away from it, pinching her lips together.
“Look!” Suika commanded at length. “I can only be one thing.”
“Ha... haha...” the girl laughed. Suika looked at her again. “An oni,” the girl said. “A little... oni.”
Suika shoved the girl to the earth.
Dust filled the air. The girl curled into herself.
“Would you like my grace, or would you like to die?” Suika asked. “Show respect, and watch your tongue or I will tug it from between your lips before you can even think to wag it at the Yama.”
With the word “tug”, Suika showed with her hand and a jerk just how that would go about.
“Hahaha... oh... ahh... dying, I...” the girl muttered in the dirt, as grass and sand moved from her breath. “I could... I could die, that’s right...”
Suika’s eyes widened. She became filled with revulsion, and bared her fangs, appalled. The oni lifted her clawed hand, and swiftly struck down toward the back of the human’s neck.
Within her own hair, beneath the bow holding her locks together, something pricked at her skin—at her nape. Confused, she glanced behind herself, then stared down at the girl. She had meant to scare the lass. What she saw now underneath her was her own hand diving through a perfectly flat, bound-shadow—suspended above the girl’s neck. It was bound by a milky white and sickeningly pink thread, and two red bows fastened either side of it. In the shadow, crimson and disembodied eyes gazed back at her. Suika turned to look behind herself fully, and saw another shadow bound above her back, and the unmistakable shape of her own, shackled arm, tapping at her own nape with her own sharpened nails.
She split her arm where it met the shadow, and was unsurprised as both shadows went taut, shut, and left only wisps of herself behind before vanishing.
Suika grabbed her falling right hand with her still-whole left, and connected herself to herself. Dauntless, she stood above the youkai on the ground and glared at her. It was a sudden, vicious kind of retaliation the girl had plotted...
Mm... hm. That’s right, Suika thought.
Slowly now, Suika crouched low and grabbed the girl by the back of her shirt. She was crying again. Suika dragged her upward, and brought the both of them to stand.
Suika let the girl go, and watched her a little longer, and severely. Eyes closed, the youkai girl continued to sob. The girl, taller than Suika, carelessly let her tears fall, even as Suika stepped underneath her face and allowed the drops to fall upon her own cheeks as she watched the distorted countenance closely.
... Too right—
The memory Suika had first recalled had been wrong... this was not a reflection of her own face, and the pain of weakness. Therefore...
... What Suika mirrored now was her act after she had met the young, and once-human child “Kasen”.
As the pink-haired and newly born oni had sobbed within the filth where she was found, Ibuki Suika had brought her palms slowly to the girl’s sorrow-bent face. She did this, too, to the youkai before her now, bringing her their foreheads together. She closed her eyes, and took the now-kneeling girl, tightly, into a caring embrace. The girl was quick to embrace her back.
The oni offered no apology. In the warmth of this new youkai’s face, she felt “understanding”: that the girl’s words had been fast and foolish, and that the oni’s lunge was only meant to show her only that. Though, the oni could apologize for her earlier shove, perhaps... For that, she pat the girl’s back and began to gently rub it.
The girl from somewhere else had to have lost her humanity.
Though Suika had seen it only once before, that agony and confusion were completely unmistakable. “Why”... and what it now meant to “be”...
Suika could not quite understand that specific pain, but she would recognize and nurture whatever soul found itself facing such woes.
Though this is no magic I’ve quite seen before... Suika thought while the girl cried, now, against her shoulder. Are you from across the sea...? What was that space you made...?
 Bring this young youkai somewhere secluded (and secret) for now. That would be a repeat, like stealing a cup and taking it to a wounded and rose-haired orphan in the past. Perhaps in sensitivity what she needs is quiet and time.
 Call Yuugi here. Someone’s won the bet. And besides, Yuugi’s head is quite level. No other knows how best to be a youkai. Perhaps I don’t know what best to do.
There's still a long way to go before the edited version is caught up: over 140,000 words, but after I re-engaged with the pipeline that past me set up for quickly formatting AO3 updates, I remembered how streamlined it was. I'll keep on updating it! For me, it's also interesting to see how much I remember writing, and how much slipped my mind.
>>68589 btw, thanks! It's hard to believe it's been years now...