Sometimes, a story gives you choices. This isn’t one of those stories. In fact, it would be laughable to call this a story at all.
If you were to find yourself teleported to Gensokyo for “reasons unknown”, as Yukari would most likely put it, you’d probably be expecting an adventure filled with romance and action with a touch of comedy. You’d adjust your life to this world you were ever so conveniently dropped in.
But this is not a story about you. It’s a story about me – as selfish as that sounds. My name’s (…), but that’s of little importance. If it were any other story, I doubt I would have a role, let alone have the privilege to a name. At best, I’d be a side character that would show up in a chapter or two at most.
I digress. That’s not the point of the story. I was born a wolf tengu, though often I find myself thinking I’m anything but. As if taunting my heritage, my two clumsy ears always droop down no matter how hard I try to get them at attention. I take parcels from down the mountain to their intended recipient, most likely Yukari or Reimu. I’m a delivery boy. It’s not the proudest job I’ve ever had, but somebody has to do it. I happen to be that someone.
As I go through my own village, nobody pays much attention to me. I don’t particularly mind, but sometimes the solitude stings at my self-esteem. Nobody bothers to recognize me. Well, nobody except Momiji who is a childhood friend of mine. She manages to drop by and sing a sweet hello every day, despite her busy patrolling schedule. But somehow, she always manages to find me and sneak in a conversation, despite her insistence that she’ll be late for her patrolling duty.
I’m not saying that Momiji is a slacker. She isn’t, but she’s a bit too nice for her own good. Helping others takes precedence to her work, which admittedly exasperates her superiors on a daily basis. But they get over it, because she’s Momiji. It’s really hard to hate her. Girl’s a bit strict, but in the tender, mother-like way. She has the kind of charming smile, one that just leaves you in a daze if you stare too long at it.
“Heya, (…). Got a minute?” Ah, a lapse of thought. The aforementioned wolf tengu approaches me from the side, carrying her sheathed sword around her belt. The maple leaf shield pokes out from behind her, slung over her back. Momiji leans forward and takes a seat on a particularly uninteresting rock next to me. I should mention that I’m at the edge of the waterfall that precedes the tengu village. I come around when I feel particularly broody. Minor details.
I take a second to glance at her. “So Momiji, what brings you here?”
Her cheeks flare and her eyes light up in enthusiasm. “I had some free time to kill after the patrolling. It was uneventful as always, but afterward I helped Aya format her article.” She sighs in mock disappointment. “Or rather, she begged that I help. Really, she would be useless without me.”
I shake my head and shrug. “She’s certainly a handful. I don’t know how you can put up with her.”
Momiji pretends to pout and crosses her arms melodramatically. “She’s just horrible.”
I nod solemnly. “I don’t know what she’s thinking half the time.”
Drawing her pointer finger to her chin, she stares thoughtfully at the sky. “Yeah. I don’t really know either. One time Aya didn’t respond to me for five minutes, lost in her thoughts. Then all of a sudden she jolts up from her chair and asks me if I knew a Taro.”
Momiji glances once at the gleaming sun and plants herself firmly on the rock. Her skirt flutters against the soft wind. “I should get going for my daily patrols.” She gazes almost longingly at the horizon, still a soft blue encompassing the sky.
I wave in her direction nonchalantly, but she refuses to budge. “Well, it seems like you’re still here and, uh, not patrolling.”
She groans in response, her ears flattening. “Find me a person that enjoys a daily patrol and I’ll humor you.” Nonetheless, her diligence supersedes her annoyance. She begrudgingly stands up, dusting off the hem of her dress. “See you later?” Momiji replies in the form of a question.
I offer her a half-hearted reply. “Sure.”
Momiji sneaks one last look at the waterfall and smiles – her charming one. As she departs, I can’t help but feel that the falls aren’t very majestic today.
When the news that a human male had warped from another world spread, I wasn’t exactly shocked. It’s happened before. Multiple times. I’ve lost count of how many people coincidentally find Gensokyo. I’ve also lost count of how many times the newcomer disappears forever. Each time someone falls into the world of Gensokyo, the amount of troublesome events increase proportionally to the amount of time the person spends in this world. From the past few years alone, there have been several “end of the world” incidents, the destruction of Gensokyo, and the disappearance of the sun. I can’t help but wonder at the resilience of our little world.
During a delivery to Ms. Knowledge, I stumbled upon Gensokyo’s newest resident. I was transporting a book-shaped parcel. Skillfully, I deduced it must have been a book. I paid too much attention to the parcel and not the road, so I ended up colliding into something. Or someone.
“Ah, sorry. I wasn’t paying attention to the road. My apologies.” Evidently the new newcomer, but he’s unfazed by the wolf youkai in front of him.
He seems like any other human upon a quick glance. The brown and disheveled hair is notable, though it isn’t too wild. I check my package to see if any visible damage erupted onto the book in its book-shaped parcel. None. “No big deal. The package is fine, so I’m fine.”
“…Are you really?” He asks with a troubled frown on his face. Extending his hand towards me, he pulls me up from the ground.
I bat the dirt off of my pants nonchalantly, giving him an unconcerned look. “I’ve been through worse.” I give a non-committal response, ready to resume my delivery.
He bows in apology. “Forgive me, it was my fault. Please, let me make it up to you!”
I skeptically eye him and his outlandish display of sincerity. “But how can you do that when I don’t even know your name?”
“Ah! My name’s (____). Pleasure to meet you.” He grins unabashedly.
“A good name.” I wonder if he came up with the name on the spot. “I’m (...).”
He looks towards me assertively. “I’ll make it up to you, I promise.”
I’m taken aback by his naivety and his audaciousness to make a promise to a stranger he just met. I recover and respond. “If it makes you sleep at night, then sure. Just not now. I have some business to take care of.” There was no time for idle chitchat. I had an agenda to fill. It’s standard working procedure. But I wonder why I had walked through the path instead of flying over it. So I fly.
As it turns out, the book with its book-shaped parcel is not a book at all, as Ms. Knowledge had dutifully informed me. ”It contained not a book, but actually a novella renowned by tengu literature scholars and romance enthusiasts alike.”
And so, I learned not to trust book-shaped parcels.
There is some sort of magical attraction to the newcomer, especially if one is of the opposing gender. Of our existing residents in Gensokyo, anything female gains the sudden urge to swoon (mostly in secret) over (____).
Due to “circumstances”, it was decided that the tengu village would take him under its wing. Upon the moment of his arrival in the village, female tengu clamored for his affection. And they didn’t even know his name yet.
Even Aya and Hatate were victims of this harem-reminiscent debauchery. Hatate was justified in the sense that she was almost naively innocent and could pull off the maiden-in-love persona. But the memory of Aya fidgeting and blushing is something that I can only hope that I’ll forget one day.
…Time heals all wounds, hopefully. I take a break from my extensive daydreaming to examine my surroundings. Today, I’m further up from the waterfall and now skirting the crest of the mountain. The oversight of the sloping mountainside and crimson sky drew a faint hint of night in the air.
A foot from behind kicks a stone from the top of the cliff. Momiji sits down, throwing her legs off the ledge. She kicks her feet idly, staring at me with her round, curious eyes. “Got something on your mind?”
I nudge another rock off the cliff, watching the poor thing fall out of view. “Nothing much, why?”
Momiji sighs, folding her arms in obvious disappointment. “If it were nothing, I wouldn’t ask.” She twitches her ears and flashes her tender smile. “Right?”
I don’t know if she’s doing this on purpose or not, but she takes advantage of my greatest weakness. How cruel. “I guess so.” I turn my attention the waterfall down below. The rapids flow down the mountainside and into obscurity. Third rock. Plop. “A lot of things are on my mind right now.”
“Oh? Like what?”
“Everything.” I say bluntly.
Momiji scratches her head with a weary smile. “E-Everything, huh?”
I exhale slowly. “Everything,” I repeat once more.
She frets, pouting slightly. “You worry about a lot of things.” Momiji puts her index finger on her lips, the usual for when she’s lost in thought.
“And you don’t?”
“W-Well…” She cuts her response short, blushing slightly. Momiji clasps her hands and rests them idly on her lap, thinking of a retort. She finds none.
Momiji leans forward slightly. “So…” She trails off, slightly jutting out her lip. “What are you going to do?”
What am I going to do? Thought. “Nothing probably.” I answer back after short deliberation.
A breeze from the north blows into our faces, eliciting a shiver from me. Momiji curls up and wraps her arms around her knees. “…That’s your answer to everything.” She slightly lowers her voice.
Integration has always been a difficult situation in the tengu village. Apparently, (___) never got the memo. Fitting in was a challenge at first, but he indeed found his niche. Working with Momiji, they formed an “incident resolving team” for the occasional hiccups that Gensokyo has now and then. It’s hard to believe that he wasn’t born into the village, since all the residents regard him as naturally as they would another tengu.
I couldn’t even bring myself to despise (___). The human is surprisingly humble and appropriately chaste to the female attention. Had he been a tengu, I’d have no qualms with him. Yet he isn’t, and I’m still trying to find reasons to hate him.
Maybe I’m the one to be despised.
…But still, I’m drinking sake in a dimly lit stand in the dead of night. My introspections may be a bit self-depreciating if I take that into account. I take a moment’s respite to think. But nothing comes to thought. I feel silly. I don’t even like sake.
Momiji, barely illuminated by the light, takes the seat next to me. Her brow is creased in worry as she pensively crosses and uncrosses her arms.
I tap Momiji lightly on her shoulder. “Well, don’t you look absolutely serene?”
Her cheeks glow a light pink. “Ah.” She was caught off guard.
“Are you okay, Momiji?” I ask, despite wallowing in my sake. The bottle runs empty in a few seconds, but I don’t feel the alcohol running through my body.
She nods her head up and down rigidly. “Yes.”
“I believe you.”
Momiji stares, wide-eyed. “R-Really?”
“Nope, not even. Go on. You can tell me.” I encourage Momiji, who seems to be teetering between yes and no.
She shuffles anxiously on her seat, looking down at the floor. “Well, let me ask a question first. Have you ever been in love?”
The question catches me off-guard. Have I really? Should the answer merit thinking about it? The answer can’t be that complicated, almost as if it were right in front of me. Wait. “Oh.”
“Oh?” Momiji inquisitively parrots back.
Momiji. Right in front of me. I shake my head. “I’m not sure.” I give her an unenthusiastic answer. Professing my sudden confession of love right now would probably be considered horrible timing. She has enough problems to worry about right now. “Why do you ask?”
She rests her arms on the table, laying her head down on them. “…I’ll be completely honest with you.” Momiji stares past me and through the stand. “I think I love (___).”
“Too fast, too fast. Back up for a moment here.” Not something I was exactly expecting. “Do you love him, as in a ‘I care for him’, or a ‘I want to romance him’ kind of love?”
She doesn’t answer verbally, but instead bows her head with a resigned and very red face.
“Okay.” I heave a sigh, one filled with disappointment and faint regret. “Then what’s the problem here? Is it because he’s a human?”
“What? No!” Momiji indignantly responds with a frown. “It’s just…I don’t know.”
“Very helpful.” I comment. She glares. I get back to the conversation. “There’s only one question I need to ask. Are you happy with him, Momiji?” She isn’t listening. Instead, she stares at the empty bottle of sake with a forlorn expression. I doubt she’s asking for alcohol, so I wave a hand in her face. “Hello? Is Momiji there?”
“Oh, me!?” She asks out of surprise. Momiji keeps her bewildered look focused on me.
“Well yes, you are the only Momiji here.” I ask her again. “Are you happy with him?”
“I am.” She reaffirms confidently with a sober tone.
Back in the corner of my mind, I still have this lingering feeling of regret. But I don’t want to back down now or hurt Momiji. So I won’t. Or try not to.
[x] Support her
“Alright. Make sure that you have no regrets. Get your blessings from your friends and family. Take that step.” I feel like I’m falling slowly. It’s probably not the sake either. “You’d better act on your feelings now, lest you regret it when someone snatches him up.” The words taste bitter.
“…Right.” She nods, as if convincing herself. “Then…then could I get your blessing?”
[x] Bless her
“Of course. You didn’t even need to ask. I wish you the best of luck out there. It’s not easy being in love.” To dispel my conflicted emotions, I make a show of motioning outside. “Now, go on. Don’t wait!”
“Ah, w-well…” Momiji stammers, hugging herself. “It’s in the middle of the night and, um.”
“I didn’t mean barge into his residency.” I shake my head in disappointment. “Go back to your home. I need some alone time right now.”
“O-Of course.” She obeys my order, slowly rising from her seat. Momiji fades away from the dim lighting and out of my vision.
I call the stand owner from the back of the shop. “Sake, please.” I need some more to wash the bad taste out of my mouth.
What came after wasn’t really a huge surprise. Momiji took her chance and it all worked out. For her, at least. Since Momiji won, that meant others had to lose. It’s only natural.
I come upon my usual spot, the little view from the waterfall, to find Hatate curled into a ball, sniffling from under her arms. “Hey,” I call out to her.
“…Hi.” She mumbles, hiding her face from me. The waterfall almost drowns her out, but I manage to overhear her faint whisper.
I take a seat next to her, listening to the waterfall splash and roar. I breathe the cool air in and exhale. A mute voice calls out to me saying, you can still leave, you can still not hurt yourself. But to hell with it. “You okay, Hatate?”
She rubs her eyes, trying not to let her tears run down her face. “…No.” The brown-haired crow tengu barely lifts her head up, just enough for me to see her crestfallen eyes.
“Well, that was refreshingly direct.” I sardonically blurt out. But I scoot closer to Hatate so I can actually listen to what she’s saying. “Want to talk about it?”
She lifts up her head and glances at me, finally showing all of her face. “Yeah.” She wipes her eyes with her wet sleeve and sits down formally. “But can I ask you something?”
“Have you ever been in love before?”
I smile, but I’m not sure what kind of smile it is. “Yes.” I answer with no hesitation. “It’s hard, isn’t it?”
Hatate murmurs something, but I couldn’t hear it.
So I stand, facing her. “Want to take a walk?” She shakes her head yes, so I extend my hand out to her. Wordlessly, she takes my hand and pulls herself up. The autumnal trees drop leaves from above. The creek, more gentle than at the base of the waterfall, flows freely down the mountain. Her hand still holds mine.
I open my mouth to speak but she looks up at me with watery eyes, breathing softly. And at this very moment in time, she is only Hatate. Not the reporter, not Aya’s rival, but Hatate.
“Is it still okay to cry?”
I pull her into a light hug. “Go for it,” I softly comply.
She tightly clutches the shoulder of the coat, trembling with her tears. Her eyes wet my robe, but I just pull her closer.
“I’m sorry.” I say. But what am I sorry for? Am I sorry for myself? No, not really.
Sometimes, a story gives you choices. This isn’t one of those stories.
The main character of this story isn’t so much interesting, nor does he do anything of importance. There isn’t even the luxury of a bad end, or going back to previous choices. In fact, the real story is out there as another tale: one of a man finding himself in Gensokyo. In that story, I might as well be known as “Tengu Messenger A”. It doesn’t really matter to me.
Momiji took her own share of conflicts and obstacles to overcome. She cried, she fought, she promised, she won. Others lost.
Hatate took the news rather badly. Who consoled her wasn’t important. Aya handled it better, but she had her moments. She printed out five copies of her newspaper instead of the usual couple hundred the day when Momiji told her.
I still remember the night at the stand, despite trying not to. It’s not a lie when I say that I’m happy for her. So as long as she smiles, I don’t think I can do anything else. It’s just that there were a lot of “could have been” and “what if” situations that I have thought countlessly about. But the past doesn’t change, no matter how much I hope for it to do so.
>>1197 Not the author but I think the moral of the story is about the fact that there isn't always a choice and, even if there is, it may not work as you expected at all.
Well that and the CYOA NPC parody.
>>1199 I find it to be a bit different. I find it more as a regular "You don't realize what you have until its gone" kind of story. He had choices, he just never acted on them. It was even made quite apparent in the story itself.
>What am I going to do? Thought. “Nothing probably.”
>“…That’s your answer to everything.” She slightly lowers her voice.
Take action, lest you have regrets about paths not taken, is what I see.